Martin Luther, Book Burning, and Suppression Of Dissent In Our Day

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We recently started reading Eric Metaxas’ new book about Martin Luther; not at all for the recent 500th anniversary of the Reformation, mind you. We just thought it sounded interesting.

Anyway. I am struck by something.

Martin Luther challenged the status quo by bringing the Scriptures to bear on the social and political issues of his day. And because he openly questioned and rebuked the abuses of the Roman Catholic Church, he faced incredible pressure to recant and back off.

Luther was an extremely polarizing figure. Many peasants loved him and appreciated what he had to say. Yet many of the clergy and ruling powers were greatly offended because he was undermining their legitimacy to act as they did. Not a few authorities wanted to burn him at the stake. Unable to accomplish this, they resigned themselves to burning any of his writings they could get a hold of.

And so it has been since before the invention of the printing press. Writings and speech which threaten the status quo are gathered up and burned when they cannot be overcome with better arguments.

Yet in our day and age, it has become easier than ever to suppress dissent. If the powers-that-be in this present world decide they do not like the content of this blog, for instance, or your Facebook page, all they need to do is push a button and our content will become invisible. If Google or Facebook or WordPress want to silence us, they have the power to do so. And we will probably not even know they have used it!

Realizing that, how then should we proceed?


Martin Luther And Perseverance

Is there any point to writing something no one will read? What are we trying to do? And what does success look like? We have been wrestling with these questions since at least the summer of 2015.

It occurred to me this week that, of the past six articles I have published, three only garnered 30-views combined. Granted, one of the other three had over 100-views, and the other two had almost 40. Yet still, the anemic reception for half my recent articles has been discouraging.

Did I waste my time if those articles each only reached 10 people? For that matter, was the time wasted when only 40 or 100 were reached? Or what about 1,000?

How many times do our articles need to be read or liked or shared on Facebook for us to feel validated? Or are such questions beside the point?

I really think they are. Using web traffic – or the lack thereof – to measure how much service we are doing for God – since that was our original aim in starting the blog – says nothing for whether we are saying the sort of things he has called us to say, or whether we are being faithful, or whether others are being positively influenced with the truth of God’s Word.

If we had millions of hits per blog post – and book deals, and invitations to speak at graduation ceremonies, and were guests on radio and TV programs – that would not prove we were doing as we ought. So also, the lack of those things does not prove we are failing. And who’s to say? Perhaps we are exactly where God wants us.


Their Opposition Be Damned

Again, it occurs to me that this blog may some day be suppressed by those whose secular Progressive agenda we actively oppose. If Facebook hid our content on its platform, if Google listed our articles at the 1,000,000,000th page in search results, or if WordPress stopped hosting our content, it would become extremely difficult to continue blogging. And what could we do to stop them?

Again, we would not necessarily even know it was happening. It could all be done quietly to avoid anyone making a fuss.

Indeed, much of why Luther became such a problem for the Roman Catholic church is that Rome’s attempts to silence him became public. That is when his popularity really took off. Yet if the bishops and cardinals and pope had been able to quietly snuff out his light before it caught the attention of the public, we might never have heard of Martin Luther. The Reformation would not have happened, or else would not have started how, where, and when it did.

But that would not have changed Luther’s responsibility. The rightness of his cause would not have lessened if his objections had not led to the Reformation, or if he had not made it into the history books.

So then, what does it change of our responsibility here at On The Rocks if our writings never take off, or if the powers-that-be someday silence us with the mere flip of a switch? The short answer is: ‘Nothing.’ So what if the powers-that-be oppose us? If God is for us, their opposition be damned.

“I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.”

Martin Luther

Follow Garrett Mullet:

Christian, husband to a darling wife, and father to seven children - I enjoy pipe-smoking, playing strategy games on my computer, listening to audio books, and writing. When I'm not asking you questions out loud, I'm endlessly asking myself silent questions in my head. I believe in God's grace, hard work, love, patience, contemplation, and courage.