Luther's Purgatory

Luther's Purgatory
Hendrik Schmidt/dpa via AP

Radical. Renegade. Rebel. Revolutionary. Friends and foes alike have applied such labels to Martin Luther during the last year, the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. I won't begrudge anyone's use of these titles, but one neglected title deserves attention: Conservative.

Luther was so conservative that even after his evangelical breakthrough, he continued to believe in purgatory. He wrote in one of his Church Postils:

[The Holy Spirit] kindles a new flame or fire in us, namely, love and desire to do God's commandments. In the kingdom of grace this should begin and ever grow until the day of judgment, when it shall no longer be called grace or forgiveness, but pure truth and perfect obedience. In the meantime He continues to give,

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