Martin Luther on Vowed Religious Life

Note: Throughout the month of October, leading up to the 500th anniversary of the legendary date of the outbreak of the Reformation on October 31, 1517, Pray Tell is publishing writings of Martin Luther reflecting his beliefs at various points in his life.

“Pretentious lives, lived under vows, are more hostile to faith than anything else can be… I would suggest to those in high places in the church, firstly, that they should do away with all vows and religious orders; or at least not speak of them with approval or praise… This kind of life finds no testimony or support in Scripture, but has been made to look imposing solely by the works of monks and priests. However numerous, sacred, and arduous they may be, these works, in God’s sight, are in no way whatever superior to the works of a farmer laboring in the field, or of a woman looking after her home… Vows only tend to the increase of pride and presumption.”

(On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, 1520)

“And so, if you vow to take up the religious life, and if you live with men of like mind, with a clear conscience that in monasticism you seek nothing to your advantage in your relationship with God, but because either your situation has brought you to embrace this kind of life, or it appeared to be the best way of life for you, without your thinking thereby that you are better than he who takes a wife or takes up farming, then in that case you are neither wrong to take vows nor wrong to live in this way, insofar as the propriety of the vow is concerned.”

(Judgment of Martin Luther on Monastic Vows” 1521. Featured Image: Martin Luther as a monk, Lukas Cranach, 1520)


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