Was Martin Luther King, Jr. Headed toward the Roman Catholic Church?

Quotations from his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” suggest he may have:

One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.

After all, most roads in the West lead not merely to Rome but to Vatican City.


2 thoughts on “Was Martin Luther King, Jr. Headed toward the Roman Catholic Church?

  1. David VanDrunen is Professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics at Westminster Seminary California. He did his doctoral work on Aquinas and teaches an elective course on Aquinas at the seminary. He is co-editor with Manfred Svensson of a collection of essays on Thomas, Aquinas Among the Protestants.

    DVD: “Lutheran formulations lies in the application of the law-gospel distinction. Lutherans have often associated the kingdom of God’s left hand (generally analogous to the Reformed conception of the civil kingdom) with the law (that is, what God commands) and associated the kingdom of God’s right hand (generally analogous to the Reformed conception of the spiritual kingdom) with the gospel (that is, what God promises). To many Lutherans this meant that areas of the church’s life that bore the character of law—such as ecclesiastical government or discipline—belonged to the kingdom of the left hand, and thus in many Lutheran lands the civil government took oversight of them. In distinction, the Reformed typically saw ecclesiastical government and discipline as vital aspects of the identity of the church, the present institutional manifestation of the spiritual kingdom. The church was to take full responsibility for its government and discipline and not cede jurisdiction to the state. For the Reformed the church as the spiritual kingdom of Christ was characterized by both law and gospel (though by the law primarily in its “third use,” that is, as a fitting response to the gospel).”

    Why can’t the baptists and the Reformed become Lutherans instead?

    Bobby Grow—For Luther the indulgences weren’t the real driving force.  What really motivated Luther had to do with Aristotle’s categories infiltrating Christian theology—primarily through Thomas Aquinas’s synthesis.

    Frost–Muller seems to shift the touchstone status for measuring orthodox theology from Augustine to Thomas Aquinas. That is, Muller makes the Thomistic assimilation of Aristotle-which set up the theological environment of the late middle ages-the staging point for all that follows in orthodox doctrine. It thus promotes a continuity between Aquinas and Reformed theology within certain critical limits-and this despite the fact that virtually all of the major figures of the early Reformation, and Luther most of all, looked back to Augustine as the most trustworthy interpreter of biblical theology after the apostolic era. Thus citations of Augustine were a constant refrain by Luther and John Calvin, among many others, as evidence of a purer theology than that which emerged from Aquinas and other medieval figures.


  2. I suppose Russell Kirk would be pleased (or is pleased?). You wonder whether some of these conversions will stick, though. And where the youngsters were before.


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