Luther is most known for bringing Reformation light to the Church through faithful doctrine. How better could God demonstrate that than by using a man like Luther to proclaim it? Seeing all these flaws, against the backdrop of such grace, is cause to realize this truth. God truly justifies the ungodly, lifts them up as jars of clay, and uses them, despite their flaws (2 Cor. 4:7). Such is the will and testimony of our amazing, justifying God.
Historic testimony to Luther is grand. Not only have many of his letters, books, tracts, and sermons survived, but so have his table talks. Table Talk is a collection of Luther’s sayings amongst his friends. Thankfully, they have been preserved for our benefit. There we see glimpses of the real Martin Luther. There is no biographical tampering. It is what Luther himself said; good and bad. Knowing this, it will be good to think a little on the positives and negatives of Luther’s character in Table Talk
Despite the impact of his writings and testimony, Luther was still a flawed man. Were his flaws irredeemable though?
You may already know that Luther had a reputation for rude speech. His table talks were no exception. The worst of these are, perhaps, too vulgar to write here. A more polite example is as follows: A man once came to him, representing a widow. He wanted help to find her a husband. Luther’s response was not one of fluffy matchmaking. Instead, he said: “Am I to furnish husbands for these women? They must take me for a pimp!” Surely, we can see the funny side. Regardless, his comparing this request to pimping is too much. Luther did a lot of good by speaking God’s Word. Sadly, he failed (as we all do) to temper his words with grace. The result is a blotch on his character.
Luther’s attitude to his opponents is also concerning. At one point he said: “Erasmus is an eel. Nobody can grasp him except Christ alone.” While we can accept that some men are slippery, it is uncouth to call them names. There was also no love lost towards Zwingli either. He said: “Zwingli also made the mistake of thinking that he knew everything.”