Luther vs. Pope Leo

A Conversation in Purgatory

By Paul R. Hinlicky Published
Luther vs. Pope Leo
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The seeds for a new Reformation in an afterlife conversation.Martin Luther and Pope Leo X awake in the afterlife. It is 2017, and they have been asleep since the posting of the Ninety-Five Theses in 1517 and the imagined execution of Luther and the death of Leo in a strange accident. Naturally, they are disoriented upon waking. To their mutual chagrin not only does each discover the other face to face in heaven but they learn that by divine decree they are roomed together indefinitely. The popes first reaction to the news is to gather that this is his purgatory for the sins of the Medicis. Luther despairs that he is in hell: It was works after all, he surmises.

Discussing the key issues that divided Catholics and Protestants and birthed a Reformation 500 years ago, this book tells a story: the authors imaginary reconciliation in heaven between Martin Luther and Pope Leo X, who work through the issues that divided them in their historical encounter. Luther and Leo become the creative instruments of a renewed commitment to Protestant-Catholic ecumenical reconciliation (as signaled by the Joint Declaration on Justification by the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation in 1999 and subsequently subscribed to by The United Methodist Church). They even get a little help from John Wesley.

This fantasya genre chosen for its teaching potential and popular appealis a well-grounded one, rooted in the authors deep understanding of the salient historical and theological issues. Exploring and ransacking the memories of both Luther and Pope Leo, Hinlicky calls both to the griefwork that leads to a meeting of the mindssurfacing the deep ideas that pressed both figures into conflict and mining these convictions as a fertile source for this-worldly reconciliation.



"What an imagination! Paul Hinlicky goes to the heart of the tragic beauty of the Lutheran movement. And along the way he invites us to reimagine the way the gospel is calling us to faith and hope right now. What an extraordinary book!"

Richard Graham, Bishop, Metropolitan Washington, DC Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

A fascinating thought experiment into how Martin Luther and Pope Leo might be forced to confront their differences, air their grievances, and inch toward reconciliation. Hinlicky sets up the purgatory scenes with illuminating historical backdrops that help us better understand each mans motivations for his words and actions. As we come to appreciate more fully their views and their flaws, finding space for shared convictions becomes more possible.

Deanna A. Thompson, Professor of Religion, Hamline University in Saint Paul, MN; author, The Virtual Body of Christ in a Suffering World (Abingdon Press)

Paul Hinlickys imaginative construction of dialogue between Luther and Leo X bound together in purgatory is at once thoroughly engaging, theologically clarifying, and frequently amusing. The book should be of great interest to those who continue to be scandalized by the divisions in Christs body, especially as it suggests ways to reinvigorate the ecumenical conversation.

Fritz Oehlschlaeger, Emeritus Professor of English, Virginia Tech

About the Author

Paul R. Hinlicky

Paul R. Hinlicky is the Tise Professor of Lutheran Studies at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia. An internationally-known theologian who has published more than seventy articles and many books, he is an authority on the theology of Martin Luther and how Luther's theology has played out in history since the time of the Reformation. He also works on the reintegration of Reformation and Patristic theology, and ecumenical and interfaith dialogue. He is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and has served congregations in New York and Virginia.