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Lutheranism

Although John Wesley had learned German on his way to Georgia, there is no evidence that he read Luther except in translation. Luther's commentary on Galatians and his Preface to Romans played a key part in the conversion experiences of Charles and John Wesley respectively in May 1738. But it is interesting that there are none of Luther's hymns among John Wesley's translations from the German and nothing from Luther's writings was included in the Christian Library. Wesley's knowledge of Lutheranism was mediated through Moravian pietism; as he himself put it in a letter of 22 Aug 1744: 'I love Calvin a little; Luther more; the Moravians, Mr. Law, and Mr. Whitefield far more than either.' This involved some degree of distortion, e.g. in his charging Luther with two of his chief bugbears, antinomianism and mysticism. Harald Lindström identified a difference of emphasis between them, Luther focusing on justification, Wesley on sanctification. However, Archbishop Nathan Söderblom provocatively suggested that Wesley might be seen as 'the Anglican version of Luther' and Methodism as the English equivalent of the Protestant Reformation. Not until the twentieth century was Methodism's understanding of Luther deepened by the studies of Franz Hildebrandt, Philip S. Watson and E. Gordon Rupp.

Sources

  • Thomas F. Lockyer, in London Quarterly Review, July 1911
  • Thomas F. Lockyer, 'Luther and Wesley' in WHS Proceedings, 8 pp.61-66
  • John T. McNeill, 'Luther at Aldersgate', in London Quarterly and Holborn Review, 1939, pp.200-17
  • Henry Bett, 'Wesley and Luther', in London Quarterly and Holborn Review, July 1946
  • Franz Hildebrandt, From Luther to Wesley (1951)
  • Methodist Recorder, 13 January 2017

Entry written by: JAV
Category: Denomination

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