Martin Luther (1483–1546) was a leader in the Protestant Reformation, a man used by God to call the church back to His Word. Luther defended the Bible as the highest authority in all matters, and it is because of this that he believed in Christian education. Luther is a fascinating character gifted in his use of words, and we therefore do well to spend time reading his works.
Reforming the Universities
One of Luther’s famous treatises is his 1520 work, An Appeal to the Ruling Class of German Nationality as to the Amelioration of the State of Christendom—also known by the title, To the Christian Nobility. In this work, Luther called upon the ruling class to bring reform in Germany. One of the things Luther addressed as needing reform was the university, which could be corrupt in ways similar to our modern universities:
The universities need a sound and thorough reformation . . . Loose living is practised there; little is taught of the Holy Scripture or the Christian faith; the blind pagan teacher, Aristotle, is of more consequence than Christ.
How much greater is the immorality of the universities of our day, not to mention their neglect of Scripture. Most of our institutions of “higher learning” have no regard for Christ but give far greater honor to the secular academy.
Luther argued that the universities needed reform because he knew the impact they have on future generations. Universities shape and mold future leaders, including Christian leaders:
For Christian youth, and those of our upper classes, with whom abides the future of Christianity, will be taught and trained in the universities. In my view, no work more worthy of the pope and the emperor could be carried out than a true reformation of the universities. On the other hand, nothing could be more wicked, or serve the devil better, than unreformed universities.
If Luther is right (and I believe he is), the church should put significant effort into establishing Christian universities. I realize many of our historic Christian institutions have abandoned the faith—this just means we have to start new ones.
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