MLK JR Birthday

The radical religious beliefs of Martin Luther King, Jr.

MLK JR Birthday

If he were still alive, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would turn 86 today. The man best known for his leadership in the Civil Rights Movement, was deeply spiritual. He and his father were both originally named Michael, but when Jr. was just 6 years old, his father decided to change both of their names to Martin after the famous Christian Protestant reformer, Martin Luther.

Martin Luther King, Jr. studied Theology and earned his doctorate at Boston University. He became a scholar of his faith after his mentors at Morehouse College, President Benjamin E. Mays and professor George D. Kelsey, encouraged him to view religion as both “intellectually respectful and emotionally satisfying.” While studying the faith, he developed some controversial opinions on Christianity, most notably a growing skepticism in the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. He believed that early Christian authors felt the need to explain the spiritual nature of Jesus, but they did not understand the science that we now know in modern times. “They [early Christians] only knew that they had been with the Jesus of history and that his spiritual life was so far beyond theirs that to explain his biological origin as identical with theirs was quite inadequate. We of this scientific age will not explain the birth of Jesus in such unscientific terms,” he wrote in his essay on the topic.

He also held a radically different view of how Jesus was divine. In his essay  “The Humanity and Divinity of Jesus,” Martin Luther King, Jr. claimed, “To say that the Christ, whose example of living we are bid to follow, is divine in an ontological sense is actually harmful and detrimental.” He believed that to simply label Christ as divine on a supernatural level, rendered that goal unachievable, like an excuse for humans to not live as Jesus did. “The true significance of the divinity of Christ lies in the fact that his achievement is prophetic and promissory… Christ was to be only the prototype of one among many brothers.”

Unsurprisingly, after devoting so much of his life to his faith, Martin Luther King, Jr. became a pastor at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.


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