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 as a metaphor when he talks about his pilgrimage to Jonathan Edwards's grave in Princeton, New Jersey. In August, Mars ...

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
RecommendedHow God Became Jesus—and How I Came to Faith in Him
How God Became Jesus—and How I Came to Faith in Him
Bart Ehrman’s narrative suggests the more educated you are, the less likely you are to believe. My life proves otherwise.
TrendingFive Errors to Drop From Your Easter Sermon
Five Errors to Drop From Your Easter Sermon
If you want to help people see Holy Week with fresh eyes, start by dropping these familiar fallacies.
Editor's PickGod's Hot Pursuit of an Armed Bank Robber
God's Hot Pursuit of an Armed Bank Robber
After I surrendered to the FBI, I surrendered to the Holy Spirit.
Leave a Comment

Use your Christianity Today login to leave a comment on this article. Not part of the community? Subscribe now, or register for a free account.

hide thisApril April

In the Magazine

April 2009

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