Martin Luther's Struggle for Perfection in John Osborne's Luther

Essay by -eQuinOx-High School, 11th gradeA, March 2004

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John Osborne's Luther tells the story of Martin Luther, a Christian reformer of the 16th century, who fails to achieve his required perfection. One flaw which hinders his striving for perfection is his arrogance. Moreover, scrupulosity is another flaw which emerges in Luther's character. Luther's arrogance and scrupulosity gives him the idea that he is a superior individual. His failure to fulfill his task of reforming the Church makes him a tragic hero. Luther's shortcomings produce an indelible stain upon his image, therefore falling short of his desire for the perfection that God requires of him.

One of Martin's most evident flaws is his arrogance. "I beg you, Martin, not to believe that you, and you alone, understand the meaning of the Gospels. Don't rate your own opinion so highly, so far beyond that of many other sincere and eminent men." (103) Martin makes it quite obvious in his arguments that he believes that only he has the true interpretation of Scripture.

"Unless I am shown by the testimony of the Scriptures--for I don't believe in popes or councils--unless I am refuted by Scripture and my conscience is captured by God's own word, I cannot and will not recant." (103) Regardless of the opposition, Martin shows the inability to admit that he is wrong. Martin shows complete disregard for whatever papal decrees there be, for as far as Luther is concerned, the Scripture is the be all and end all of Christianity. By doing so, he shows a certain distaste and ignorance for all authority except his own, for only he has the true interpretation of Scripture.

Scrupulosity also emerges in Luther's character. "But what if I do, just one mistake. Just a word, one word--one sin." (30) Martin is absolutely adamant not to make any mistakes of any kind...