George Bailey, Clarence, and Martin Luther

So we are watching the outstanding lecture series on Martin Luther, by R.C. Sproul. It's on Amazon Prime. A 10 part series, 24 minutes each.

Along about part 6, Ol' R.C is on a roll about how Luther's knickers are in a twist over indulgences. R.C. cites Tetzel's famous jingle, "As soon as a coin in the coffer rings / the soul from purgatory springs," which apparently drove Luther right up the wall.

This recently being the Christmas season, we re-watched that old fave, "It's a Wonderful Life!" I had never made the connection between Tetzel and the twist on his jingle - "Every time a bell rings, it's an angel getting his wings!" until R.C. brought up the jingle in his lecture. The recent watching of the flick banged right in with the jingle and made it click.

It dawned on me at that moment that the flick is a fine piece of Roman propaganda; the real star of the flick is not George Bailey, but Clarence, the poor soul in Purgatory struggling to get out. Though he has faith, he needs the works. George becomes his project. The whole flick is a understated theological statement in support of the Roman church's position on faith, works, justification and sanctification, and the natural order of those things.

It never dawned on me, because I'm a recovering Catlick and the whole storyline makes perfect sense in the context of the One True Church's teachings.

What surprises me, however, is the number of Protestants who miss it completely. It's a Catholic flick, through and through, though not one priest or preacher do you see, and IIRC, George, in his desperation, makes but one reference to God. Apparently Protestants do not make the connection between Clarence (played by Henry Travers) being in a sort of limbo, not yet having his wings, and the entire concept of Purgatory, a concept which usually drives them up the Lutherian wall.

R.C. does a fine job of explaining the real focus of the Reformation in Parts 8 and 9. Though ol' R.C is a staunch Reformed theologian (read that 'hard core Calvinist) he is a great speaker, and despite the obvious Calvinist errors-of-theory is otherwise right on the money, this series is really a 'must watch.'