Sunday, December 9, 2012

December 09, 2012

Andreas Karlstadt: Radical Visionary

If you’ve studied Martin Luther’s life or seen any of the movies concerning him, either old or new, you might be familiar with controversial theologian Andreas Karlstadt. Karlstadt, who approved of Luther’s ideas but believed Luther did not take the idea of reformation quite far enough, took it upon himself to put his own spin on newborn Protestant doctrines. He wasn’t interested in diplomacy either with Catholicism or with Protestantism. Though he insisted that he was willing to “play nice” with others, both Luther and the Duke of Saxony found him distasteful and banished him from Saxony in the early 1520s.

Perhaps the authorities sensed the interest he took in Anabaptist beliefs and took note of many similarities between him and his Anabaptist counterparts. The 2003 movie “Luther” shows Luther coming upon a church where Karlstadt has ordered his men to tear down and destroy statuary. There is an argument, whereupon Karlstadt is offended that Luther cannot see his point of view and does not advocate his radical actions. Though this particular scene might have been adapted for cinema, it is likely that there were such altercations between the two men.

Karlstadt remained busy. Like John Calvin and other Protestants who saw the Catholic iconography of the day as idolatry, he took the more Calvinistic stance that advocated destroying statues, images, and relics. His tendency for showing force in such regards put a further chasm between himself and Luther, who had never ordered such destruction. During the tempestuous 1520s when Protestant believers were just beginning to separate themselves from Catholic orthodoxy and there was a great amount of fervor and ill-feeling on both sides, Karlstadt took advantage of the chaos to further his church purges. This man so well-known for controversy suffered a fate not unusual for the time but unusual among reformers; he died of plague on Christmas Eve 1541. He was 55 years old.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

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