Guest / Limited Access /

"All pilgrimages should be done away with," Martin Luther wrote in 1520. "For there is no good in them, no commandment, but countless causes of sin and of contempt of God's commandments. These pilgrimages are the reason for there being so many beggars, who commit numberless villainies."

This quote—and the Reformer's many other warnings against pilgrimage—seem to be missing from the government and private materials promoting the Luther Trail, a 170-mile route from Wittenberg to Mansfeld, his childhood home. See Luther's ink stain on the wall at Wartburg Castle! Feel the cold wind that nearly killed him at Unterrissdorf! Buy "Here I stand" socks in Erfurt!

"Luther would probably have been horrified," says British theologian and Luther scholar Graham Tomlin. "He even hated the idea of people being called 'Lutherans.' Though maybe he might not have minded [the trail] if the purpose was to remind people of the rediscovery of the gospel by retracing his steps." After all, Tomlin notes, Luther himself often retold the story of how he rediscovered the gospel.

It would be easy to dismiss the Luther Trail—and similar Reformation pilgrimage routes in John Calvin's Switzerland, John Knox's Scotland, and elsewhere—as the savvy marketing of tourism boards. But even the most Reformed evangelicals are now talking openly about spiritual travel. True, Protestants have long embraced the language of pilgrimage, but almost exclusively as metaphor, as in John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress or the old gospel hymn, "I Am a Pilgrim."

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Al Mohler isn't using the word ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this Issue
Subscriber Access Only Storming Young-Earth Creationism
But is Genesis 1 the only text at issue?
Current IssueAjith Fernando: How Church Leaders Can Serve God's Family Without Neglecting Their Own
Subscriber Access Only Ajith Fernando: How Church Leaders Can Serve God's Family Without Neglecting Their Own
'It's a huge balancing act, and I don't think anyone in the world is perfectly balanced!'
RecommendedThe Real History of the Crusades
Subscriber Access Only
The Real History of the Crusades
A series of holy wars against Islam led by power-mad popes and fought by religious fanatics? Think again.
TrendingDied: Tim LaHaye, Author Who 'Left Behind' a Long Legacy
Died: Tim LaHaye, Author Who 'Left Behind' a Long Legacy
Jerry B. Jenkins: 'Thrilled as I am that he is where he has always wanted to be, his departure leaves a void in my soul.'
Editor's PickThe Real Cost (and Power) of Seeking Justice
The Real Cost (and Power) of Seeking Justice
The murder of Willie Kimani can rally the global Body of Christ for an end to impunity.
Christianity Today
He Talked to Us on the Road
hide thisApril April

In the Magazine

April 2009

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.