The new issue of Credo Magazine is here: The Reformation of the Family.
It’s feature interview, “An Uncommon Union,” is a conversation between Herman Selderhuis and Matthew Barrett about Martin and Katharina Luther’s marriage and family, and why it was so revolutionary in the sixteenth-century.
Herman Selderhuis is Professor of Church History at the Theological University Apeldoorn in the Netherlands and director of Refo500, the international platform focused on raising awareness for projects related to the legacy of the Reformation. He also serves as the director of the Reformation Research Consortium, president of the International Calvin Congress, and curator of research at the John A. Lasco Library in Emden, Germany. He is the author or editor of several books, including John Calvin: A Pilgrim’s Life and most recently Martin Luther: A Spiritual Biography.
The interview begins:
In your new “spiritual biography” of Martin Luther, one of your chapters describes Luther the “Father.” Many biographies focus on the controversial events of Martin’s life, but you have helped readers understand Luther the man as well, taking us into his home. Tell us, what kind of father was Luther?
There is nothing extraordinary about Luther as father, except for the fact that he was one. He broke with his vow of celibacy, married a woman who had done the same and the two even had children. It was shocking to the church, but a joy and relief for many. Luther was away from home quite a bit, but kept in written contact with his children and these letters demonstrate his love for his children as well as his concern for their spiritual well-being. Just as most fathers he had to deal with problems of health and of school results. In letters in which he writes about these issues we see how much of a father Luther was.
Did any of Martin’s children die, and what was his reaction?
Luther and Katharina first lost their eight-month-old daughter Elizabeth. That was in 1528, three years after their marriage. After her death Luther wrote: “My little daughter Elizabeth has passed away. I am so overwhelmed with sadness, that she has left me behind with a somewhat motherly heart. Before this, I would never have believed that the heart of a father could become so tender when it concerns his own child.” In 1542 another daughter passed away. Magdelena was thirteen when she became seriously ill. During her illness Luther did what he could to comfort her. Luther knew what was coming and wrote, “My daughter Magdalena is almost at the point of death, and shortly she will go to her true Father in heaven, if God hasn’t decided differently.” And an eyewitness wrote, “When Magdalena lay close to death, and wanted to die, her father fell on his knees by her bed. He wept bitterly, and prayed if God would release her. Then she died resting in the hands of her father.” …
Read the rest of this interview today in the new issue of Credo Magazine: “The Reformation of the Family”