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Section 8B ... Controversial Issues

 

003white Index To Section 8B... Controversial Issues       >    Martin Luther Part II

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Martin Luther
 

Martin Luther - Part II
Much of Lutherís Doctrine Was Not Far Removed From Catholicism. His
Vitriolic Polemics Against Those He Considered to Be 'Enemies' of The Faith.

Carol Brooks

Part I:
 Martin Luther [1483-1546] Background. Theses, Indulgences, and A Man Named Tetzel. Wittenberg Church Door Posting - Fact or Fiction?. The Intention Behind and Reason For The 95 Theses. Popular Fallacies About The Theses. Rome's Reaction and Luther's Counter Reaction. The Five Solae of The Reformation: Luther's Theology - Salvation By Grace Alone and Faith Alone OR Salvation Through Grace AND Baptism. Luther's Reasoning Behind What We See As a Blatant Contradiction.


Part II
 Luther's Doctrine Remained Preeminently Catholic
Introduction
Infant Baptism
Consubstantiation
Purgatory
The Ten Commandments!

Luther's Vitriolic Polemics Against Those He Considered to Be 'Enemies' of The Faith
The Jews, Catholic Bishops and The Anabaptists
includes how Nazi Germany Viewed Luther

The Peasants War

Summary and Conclusion


PART III
Luther and Mary (Will Open in a New Page
Unfortunately, in order to prove Luther was an impostor who worshipped Mary until he died, numerous people quote him out of context which is dishonest and deceptive. In reality, Luther disagreed with the Catholic position on almost every count except for one. He retained a lifelong commitment to Mary's perpetual virginity.

 


 Much of Luther's Doctrine Remained Preeminently Catholic
Luther not only opposed the extravagant claims of the indulgence preachers, but argued for many other reforms - Priests could marry if they wished but had to stop feeding off the common people and pay taxes like everyone else, the mass should be said in German not Latin so it could be understood by everyone, and everyone had the right not to have their beliefs dictated to by Rome but decide for themselves what to believe from the Scriptures.

And all the reforms championed by Martin Luther led the way to getting people out from under Rome's jewel bedecked thumb.

Having said that, for the most part Luther's theology did not markedly differ from that of the Catholic church. Note, and this is very important, if Luther had been preaching against all Catholic doctrine, he would never have said the following in his commentary on Galatians.

    If the Pope would concede that God alone by His grace through Christ justifies sinners, we would carry him in our arms, we would kiss his feet. But since we cannot obtain this concession, we will give in to nobody, not to all the angels in heaven, not to Peter, not to Paul, not to a hundred emperors, not to a thousand popes, not to the whole world. [26]

Note the commentary on Galatians was based on forty-one lectures given by Luther in the second half of 1531...  The original edition of this Commentary "was prepared for the press by George RŲrer, one of Luther's most assiduous and reliable reporters" who began to write out the lectures the next year. The first edition was published in 1535. [27]

 But he didn't oppose all Catholic doctrine.


Luther & Infant Baptism
For instance, Luther upheld infant baptism,

    teaching that although infants are unable to exercise faith, God through His prevenient grace, works faith in the unconscious child. He [Luther] based the baptism of infants on the command to baptize all nations (Mt. 28:19)" [28] 

The Anabaptists whose name derived from the Greek ana ('again') held that infants are not punishable for sin and baptizing them was, at the very least, a waste of time. At worst it was a blasphemous formality. The only baptism that counted was when a person became aware of good and evil, repented and, exercising their own free will, were baptized. First generation converts repudiated their own infant baptism and were baptized a second time as adults.

Although their doctrine regarding baptism was without fault, the Anabaptists were considered to be an extremely heretical movement of the Protestant Reformation. Because infant baptism had been the accepted mode of baptism throughout most of Christian history, baptizing only adults who chose to be baptized was a radical idea punishable by death, with the result that Anabaptists were  persecuted by both Protestants and Catholics. In Table Talk Luther stated that because the Anabaptists "reject" baptism "therefore they cannot efficiently baptize" [29]

In fact, Luther called them devils... (Emphasis Added)

    For the Papists and Anabaptists are to-day agreed on this one point against the Church of God (even if their words disguise it), namely, that the work of God depends on the worthiness of the person. According to the Anabaptists, baptism is nothing unless the person is a believer. From this principle (as it is called) it must follow that all the works of God are nothing if man is not good...

    Who cannot see here in the Anabaptists, not men possessed by demons, but demons themselves possessed by worse demons? So also the Papists still to this day insist on works and the worthiness of the person, contrary to grace, thus giving strong support (in words at least) to their brethren the Anabaptists. For these foxes are tied together by the tails, even though their heads look in opposite directions. While they outwardly profess to be great enemies, inwardly they think, teach and defend one and the same thing against our one and only Savior Christ, who alone is our righteousness. [30]

(Please note: I have not found the above quote in the more recent abridged translations of Luther's commentary on Galatians that I have access to. The entire text of the version quoted above has been compared with the original Latin.


Luther & Consubstantiation
The Catholic church believes in transubstantiation, i.e. during Mass, the priests have the exclusive power to literally change bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. A miracle has taken place without any visible sign - the bread and wine look, feel, and taste exactly the same as before.

Many of the reformers, including Luther, did not believe that the bread and wine changed into the body and blood of Christ, but co-existed with His body and blood. They were bread and wine and, at the same time, the body and blood of Christ. The switch from trans (change) to con (with) was probably formulated to explain why there was no physical evidence of change during the Mass.

However, it is to be noted that during the reformation many held that the Lord's Supper is a commemoration of Christ's sacrifice and that the bread and wine are purely symbolic. This was the major point of contention between Luther and Ulrich Zwingli - a leader of the Reformation in Switzerland.

Luther's position was closer to that of the Catholics than otherwise. Although he rejected transubstantiation, He accepted that Jesus Christ is physically present in the midst of his people during the Lord's Supper - His  body and blood united to the consecrated bread and wine for all communicants to eat and drink. Believing this and partaking of the sacrament brought grace and forgiveness of sins. In his Large Catechism, Luther wrote (All Emphasis added.)

    The Sacrament of the Altar: The Simple Way a Father Should Present it to his Household.

    I. Q. What is the Sacrament of the Altar?

    A. It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under bread and wine for us Christians to eat and to drink, established by Christ Himself.

    III. Q. What good does this eating and drinking do?
    A. These words tell us: "Given for you" and "Shed for you to forgive sins." Namely, that the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation are given to us through these words in the sacrament. Because, where sins are forgiven, there is life and salvation as well. (Emphasis added.)

    IV. Q. How can physical eating and drinking do such great things?
    A. Of course, eating and drinking do not do these things. These words, written here, do them: "given for you" and "shed for you to forgive sins." These words, along with physical eating and drinking are the important part of the sacrament. Anyone who believes these words has what they say and what they record, namely, the forgiveness of sins. (Emphasis added.)

In his 'Table Talk' Luther made it clear that receiving the Eucharist from a sacramentarian (someone who maintains that the Eucharistic elements only have symbolic significance), counted for nought, unless one was unaware of the persons beliefs.

    Does he to whom the sacrament is administered by a heretic, really receive the sacrament? Yes, replied Dr. Luther: if he be ignorant that the person administering is a heretic. The sacramentarians reject the body of Christ... yet if a person apply to a sacramentarian, not knowing him as such, and receive from him the sacrament, himself believing it to be the veritable body of Christ, it is the veritable body of Christ that he actually receives. [31]


Luther & Purgatory
Although he was very vocal in condemning the doctrines he opposed, Martin Luther never came right out and contested the idea of purgatory.

In his original theses he stated that nothing can definitively be said about the spiritual state of people in purgatory, and that they cannot be assured of their own salvation (18-19). Also if, indulgences were preached "according to the spirit and intention of the pope", the doubts raised by the laity and the enemies of the church (outlined in theses 82-89), would be readily resolved or would not even exist.

What he did challenge was the common beliefs about purgatory. For instance, he argued that the pope was unable to remit any penalties except those imposed by his own authority or that of the canons (thesis 5). He could grant remission to souls in purgatory, not by the power of keys that he did not possess, but by interceding for them" (thesis 26) He added that people are deceived by "indiscriminate and high-sounding" promises of release from penalty" (thesis 24) [32] 

Even later in life, Luther didn't deny the existence of purgatory. In his commentary on Titus, he said

    Many depend upon purgatory, living as it pleases them to the end and expecting to profit by vigils and soul masses after death. Truly, they will fail to receive profit therein. It were well had purgatory never been conceived of. Belief in purgatory suppresses much good, establishes many cloisters and monasteries and employs numerous priests and monks. It is a serious drawback to these three features of Christian living: soberness, righteousness and godliness. Moreover, God has not commanded, nor even mentioned, purgatory. The doctrine is wholly, or for the most part, deception; God pardon me if I am wrong. It is, to say the least, dangerous to accept, to build upon, anything not designated by God, when it is all we can do to stand in building upon the institutions of God which can never waver. The injunction of Paul to live rightly in this present world is truly a severe thrust at purgatory. He would not have us jeopardize our faith. Not that I, at this late day (when we write 1522), deny the existence of purgatory; but it is dangerous to preach it, whatever of truth there may be in the doctrine, because the Word of God, the Scriptures, make no mention of a purgatory. [33]


Luther and The Ten Commandments
Several verses in the Old Testament expressly state that there are ten commandments or "words" (Hebrew d‚b‚r)

    So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did not eat bread or drink water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 34:28 NASB)

    So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone.  (Deuteronomy 4:13 NASB)

    He wrote on the tablets, like the former writing, the Ten Commandments which the Lord had spoken to you on the mountain from the midst of the fire on the day of the assembly; and the Lord gave them to me.  (Deuteronomy 10:4 NASB)

The problem is that although Scripture clearly tells us that the Commandments are ten in number, it doesn't tell us how to demarcate them. Thus this has long been the subject of much debate and disagreement - individual groups number the Commandments in different ways.

Note: Biblical chapter and verse numbers were not part of the original writing, but were added much later for convenience - sometimes in very inopportune places. For example, one has to wonder why in the world the opening words in Exodus 20 ("Then God spoke all these words, saying, "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery") were divided into two verses. Similarly, verses 4-6 follow one single thought and should never have been separated.

Most Protestants, following this line of reasoning, consider the first two verses of Exodus 20 to be a foundational prologue. Exodus 3 is taken as the First Commandment, verses 4-6 that emphasize not making graven images is the Second and so on. 

    1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

    2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

    3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain.

The Jews of the time would have well understood the prohibition against making and worshipping idols or images in Exodus 20:4-5 because, in the world around them, false worship always included idols. However, although related, surely the prohibition against making and worshipping idols or images (Vs. 4-5 ) is different from the command "You shall have no other gods before Me" in the previous verse. After all, we can make "gods" of many things that do not involve idols.


Lutheran. In his Large Catechism the first three commandments listed by Luther are found in Exodus 20: verses 3, 7, and 8.

    1. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.

    2. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain.

    3. Thou shalt sanctify the holy day. [Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.]

After a longish commentary on the First Commandment, Luther wrote an "Appendix to the First Commandment" which began with the second half of verse five and all of verse six. As shown below, this effectively eliminated verse 4 and the first half of verse 5.

    (3) You shall have no other gods before Me (4) "You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.  (5) "You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, (6)  but showing loving kindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. (Exodus 20:4-6 NASB)

In other words, the commandment about making idols or likenesses of anything on earth and not worshipping or serving them is not found in either Luther's exposition of the First Commandment nor in his "Appendix to the First Commandment". It was completely ignored.

Because the omission left the Commandments one shy of ten, Luther split the last commandment (verse 17) into two. This is a very clumsy attempt to bring them up to the right number. However, each of the Commandments covers a separate subject and verse 17 is no different. The entire verse deals with just one subject - coveting something that is not yours. There is simply no justification for splitting it in two.

    The Tenth Commandment: You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his cattle, nor anything that is his. ("You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor." (Exodus 20:17 NASB)

Additionally, if you read Luther's exposition of and Appendix to the First Commandment, he said nothing about actual idols or images. Instead his words take us back to the idea that we wrongly look to other things for help and consolation rather than relying on God's grace and willingness to aid us, which was the theme of his original battle over indulgences. In his words,

    Therefore the heathen really make their self-invented notions and dreams of God an idol, and put their trust in that which is altogether nothing. 21] Thus it is with all idolatry; for it consists not merely in erecting an image and worshiping it, but rather in the heart, which stands gaping at something else, and seeks help and consolation from creatures, saints, or devils, and neither cares for God, nor looks to Him for so much good as to believe that He is willing to help, neither believes that whatever good it experiences comes from God. (To read it for yourself, copy and paste http://bocl.org?LC+I+20 into your browser).

There is little question that Luther was right in what he wrote. However, my question is what happened to God's prohibition against physically making idols/images and worshipping/serving them?

According to William Cole, Luther declared that only idolatrous pictures are forbidden - defined as those "in which man places his trust". He added

    "let the others remain. If I have a painted picture on the wall and I look upon it without idolatry, that is not forbidden to me and should not be taken away from me" WA 28, 677f [34]

The idea that one can construct statues and paintings and not worship them hasn't really worked very well. The common argument you will hear from many Catholics is that the statues and pictures etc. made and displayed in their churches are merely there to inspire admiration and (hopefully) imitation. Exodus 25:18-20 is often referred to because, in these verses, God commands Moses to carve two cherubim that would spread their wings over the Ark of the Covenant.

Unfortunately, this falls flat on its face the minute one walks into any Catholic Church in a number of countries. The statues and icons are not just admired - they are clearly worshipped. People light candles, bow, kneel, and pray to them.

I should know - I was born and brought a Catholic up in one of those countries.

There is a whole world out there that has to be taken into consideration. We simply cannot judge by what we personally do or don't do, or by what happens or doesn't happen in the church down the road. God knows has always known how people different from different cultures would react to statues and images, which is why He said no idols.

Incidentally, stained glass, which has become universally accepted in most churches the world over, never seems to inspire worship or devotion - only remind us of various events on the Bible (and occasional admiration for the skill of the artists). Idle thought.

Finally, Luther is said to have been following Rome's numbering of the Ten Commandments that, I believe, was first formulated by Augustine.. However, on the Vatican site it reads exactly the same as the Protestant version. I have no idea whether this was a recent change. Copy and paste http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/command.htm into your browser. 


Luther and Mary
As far as Mary, the mother of Christ is concerned, Luther disagreed with the Catholic position on almost every count except that he retained a lifelong commitment to the idea that she was a perpetual virgin.

Unfortunately, in order to make their case that Luther was an imposter who worshipped Mary until he died, several Catholic and anti-Luther Protestant websites and books put forth numerous quotations that are said to be taken from Luther's own writings or sermons.

Most are not.

They are quoted from secondary sources that usually have very shoddy and sparse, often incorrect, documentation (eg. "Sermon 1522").

Even the statements genuinely made by Luther Most of the suspect ones that people cheerfully copy and paste and are 2) horribly wrenched from their original context.

At worst, this is a dishonest and deceptive way to make it seem that Luther had an entirely different opinion than the one he actually held. At best, it is shoddy cut-and-paste job without the slightest attempt to ensure the validity of these quotations. See Lutherís Mariology  


Luther's Vitriolic Polemics Against Those He Considered to Be 'Enemies' of The Faith.
It is hard to imagine how a man whose life was devoted to freedom of religion grew more and more intolerant of those who thought differently or, heaven forbid, disagreed with him.

The Jews
Initially, Martin Luther hoped for the conversion of the Jews. He even published a pamphlet in 1523 entitled, Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew in which he tried to show that Jesus was the promised Messiah. When this came to nought, Luther completely reversed his attitude. In 1543 he wrote "On The Jews and Their Lies" in which he expressed very antagonistic, virulent and hateful views towards them - for some 200 pages. For example, Luther said the Jews were,

     boastful, arrogant rascals who to the present day can do no more that boast of their race and lineage, praise only themselves, and disdain all the world in their synagogues, prayers and doctrines. [35]

    a defiled bride, an incorrigible whore and an evil slut, with whom God ever had to wrangle, scuffle and fight. If He chastised and stuck them with his word through his prophets, they contradicted him, killed his prophets, or, like a mad dog, bit the stick with which they were struck"....

    David and other pious Jews were not as conceited as the present-day, incorrigible Jews. However wicked they may be, they presume to be the noblest lords over us Gentiles, just by virtue of their lineage and law. Yet the law rebukes them are the vilest whores and rogues under the sun.  [36]

(Please note the words "as conceited" in the above quote. Is this a result of a mistranslation or did Luther really consider David conceited even though there is no evidence of conceit in the Scriptures and the Father called David His "friend").

    Luther also wrote that the Jews were a "base, whoring people, that is, no people of God, and their boast of lineage, circumcision, and law, must be accounted as filth" [Pg. 31] and "nothing but rotten, stinking, rejected dregs of the father's lineage". [37]

    Why, even today they cannot refrain from their nonsensical, insane boasting that they are God's people, although they have been cast out dispersed, and utterly rejected for almost fifteen hundred years. By virtue of their own merits they still hope to return there again. But they have no such promise with which they could console themselves other than what their false imagination smuggles into Scripture. [38]

Regarding the last quote above, I guess Luther never took Isaiah or Ezekiel at their word. I wonder what he would say if he knew that the Jews have indeed returned to their land and, in doing so, have fulfilled several Biblical prophecies. Moreover they have, against all odds, successfully defended Israel against the neighboring more powerful states.

See The Return Of Israel To The Land and The Flourishing of The Desert In Palestine

Although he never advocated physically eliminating the Jews, later on in the book, he went as far as to say "We are at fault for not slaying them," [Pg. 126]. In any case, had his advice been followed, they would have been left destitute. On page 165, Luther asked what Christians are to do with this "damned rejected race of Jews.... who cannot be tolerated if Christians "do not wish to share in their lies, curses and blasphemy". He went on to say "We must prayerfully and reverentially practice a merciful severity, Perhaps we may save a few from the fire and flames". [39]

    They [rulers] must act like a good physician who, when gangrene has set in proceeds without mercy to cut, saw, and burn flesh, veins, bone, and marrow. Such a procedure must also be followed in this instance. Burn down their synagogues, forbid all that I enumerated earlier, force them to work, and deal harshly with them, as Moses did in the wilderness, slaying three thousand lest the whole people perish... If this does not help we must drive them out like mad dogs.

He went on to advise that their synagogues be set on fire, and their homes that perpetrate the same doctrines, "be broken down and destroyed". The Jews should be confined under one roof or in a stable so they would realize they were not, as he accused them of boasting, "masters in our land", but "miserable captives". He also said they should be deprived of their prayer-books and Talmuds and their Rabbis should be forbidden to preach under pain of death.

However, Luther was not alone.

Although the Catholic Encyclopedia writes about Luther's principal adversary - the Catholic theologian Johann Eck, they neglect to mention his numerous anti-semitic statements. This is an article about Luther not Eck, but the latter's vicious diatribes against the Jews can be read in his Refutation of a Jewish Booklet


How Nazi Germany Viewed Luther
Although nothing can be said that even remotely begins to explain or justify Luther's horribly abusive language against the Jews, one has to bear in mind that his

    anti-semitism was not the "Gentile" or Aryan racism of German National Socialism... Even his treatise entitled On the Jews and Their Lies (1543) contained mostly exegetical discussions of disputed messianic passages in the Old Testament. That does not make the anti-semitic remarks or his abusive language any less repulsive, but it does demonstrate that the bulk of Luther's opposition to the Jews was theological anti-Judaism rather than anti-semitism. [40]

In other words Luther's diatribes against the Jews were theological, not biological. He was anti-Judaism not anti-Semitic and not a precursor to Hitler.

Unfortunately, this distinction was lost on the Nazis, who took Luther's words at face value. While one cannot doubt that the Holocaust would have occurred without the influence of Luther's book, there is little question that his vile statements contributed to Germany's attitude towards its Jewish citizens.  As I understand it On The Jews and Their Lies was displayed at Nazi rallies in Nuremberg, and Hitler listed Martin Luther as one of the greatest reformers in Mein Kampf.

One of the most distinguished and well loved sons of Germany provided the Nazis with a good excuse.

In Martin Luther's dirty little book: On the Jews and their lies A precursor to Nazism (https://www.nobeliefs.com/luther.htm), author Jim Walker quotes Richard Steigmann-Gall's The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945 that documents how many of the Nazis viewed Luther and what they perceived as his anti-semitism. Here are some quotes... (All Emphasis Added)

Hans Hinkel, a Nazi who worked in Goebbel's Reich Chamber of Culture said:

    Through his acts and his spiritual attitude he began the fight which we still wage today; with Luther the revolution of German blood and feeling against alien elements of the Volk was begun. [cited from Richard Steigmann-Gall's The Holy Reich]

Bernhard Rust served as Minister of Education in Nazi Germany. He wrote: (Emphasis Added)

    Since Martin Luther closed his eyes, no such son of our people has appeared again. It has been decided that we shall be the first to witness his reappearance.... I think the time is past when one may not say the names of Hitler and Luther in the same breath. They belong together; they are of the same old stamp [Schrot und Korn]. - Volkischer Beobachter, 25 Aug. 1933, [cited from Richard Steigmann-Gall's The Holy Reich]

Hans Schemm became Bavarian Minister of Education and Culture. Throughout the Reich, Germans particularly knew Schemm for his slogan, "Our religion is Christ, our politics Fatherland!" He writes: (Emphasis Added)

    His engagement against the decomposing Jewish spirit is clearly evident not only from his writing against the Jews; his life too was idealistically, philosophically antisemitic. Now we Germans of today have the duty to recognize and acknowledge this. - "Luther und das Deutschtum," Bundesarchiv Berlin-Zehlendorf (19 Nov. 1933: Berlin), [cited from Richard Steigmann-Gall's The Holy Reich]

Julius Streicher (one of Hitler's top henchmen and publisher of the anti-Semitic Der Sturmer) was asked during the Nuremberg trials if there were any other publications in Germany which treated the Jewish question in an anti-Semitic way. Streicher put it well:

    "Dr. Martin Luther would very probably sit in my place in the defendants' dock today, if this book had been taken into consideration by the Prosecution. In the book 'The Jews and Their Lies,' Dr. Martin Luther writes that the Jews are a serpent's brood and one should burn down their synagogues and destroy them..." 

And this was not all. Violent polemics were also directed at the papacy and Anabaptists.


Catholic Bishops

In a pamphlet published in July, 1522, Luther wrote

    It were better that every bishop were murdered, every foundation or cloister rooted out, than that one soul be destroyed, let alone that all souls should be lost for the sake of their worthless trumpery and idolatry. Of what use are they who thus live in lust, nourished by the sweat and labor of other?... If they accepted God's word and sought the life of the soul, God would be with them... But if they will not hear God's Word, but rage and rave with bannings and burnings, killings and every evil, what do they better deserve than a strong uprising which will sweep them from the earth? And we would smile did it happen. ... All who contribute body, goods and honor that the rule of the bishops may be destroyed are God's dear children and true Christians."  [41]


The Anabaptists

Similarly, in 1536, Luther published "The Duty Of Civilian Authorities To Oppose Anabaptists With Corporeal Chastisements", in which he approved of the repression in the city of MŁnster when it was captured in 1525 and where John of Leyden had instituted a Theocratic and polygamous regime". [42] While not very much good can be said about John of Leyden, this is just another example of Luther' violent attitude towards those he considered enemies of Christianity. 

And I am far from done. Luther was also harshly criticized for taking the side of the nobles in ...


The Peasants War
The short lived Peasant's War that started in 1524, reflected deep-seated social discontent. The peasants or serfs were burdened by heavy taxes and duties,  had no legal rights and had no opportunity to improve their lives.

    With the authority of church prelates challenged by Martin Luther and others, the peasants saw their cause supported by the Protestant emphasis on individual faith. empowered in their religious views, and pressed by crop failures that threatened starvation, they saw an opportunity to overthrow the feudal system, in which they were bound to the estates of the nobles and forced to give up the produce of the fields in which they worked. [43]

The revolt won the support of Huldrych Zwingli, but was opposed by Martin Luther for which he has been rightly criticized. Although, in his Admonition to Peace Luther upbraided the princes and lords who as temporal rulers did nothing but cheat and rob the people so that they might lead a life of luxury and extravagance, he also argued that work was the chief duty on earth.. The duty of the peasants was farm labor and the duty of the ruling classes was upholding the peace. He could not support the Peasant War because it broke the peace, an evil he thought greater than the injustices the peasants were rebelling against. Therefore, he encouraged the nobility to swiftly and violently take out the rebelling peasants..

In May 1525, Luther wrote Against the Murderous, Thieving Hordes of Peasants, in which he upbraided the peasants on three charges: that they had violated oaths of loyalty, which makes them subject to secular punishment; they had committed crimes that went against their faith; and that their crimes were committed using Christ's name which was blasphemy: (Emphasis Added)

    The peasants have taken upon themselves the burden of three terrible sins against God and man; by this they have merited death in body and soul... they have sworn to be true and faithful, submissive and obedient, to their rulers... now deliberately and violently breaking this oath... they are starting a rebellion, and are violently robbing and plundering monasteries and castles which are not theirs... they have doubly deserved death in body and soul as highwaymen and murderers... they cloak this terrible and horrible sin with the gospel... thus they become the worst blasphemers of God and slanderers of his holy name".

Luther felt that the peasants could be punished even by violence because they had "become faithless, perjured, disobedient, rebellious, murderers, robbers, and blasphemers, whom even a heathen ruler has the right and authority to punish". He even venerated those who fought against the peasants, saying  "anyone who is killed fighting on the side of the rulers may be a true martyr in the eyes of God".

While violence is never right, Luther condemning the peasants was a classic case of extreme hypocrisy. He condemned the serfs for attacking the monasteries and castles, but encouraged the nobles to put down the rebellion by any means at their disposal.

It is estimated that anywhere between 60,000 and 100,00 peasants were mercilessly slaughtered.


Summary and Conclusion

With the exception of Christ Himself, more books have apparently been written about Luther than any one else in the history of the world.

There is little question that one has to appreciate Luther's courage and tenacity in opposing the false doctrine of indulgences, taking on all of Rome in the process. There is little question that Luther's views, made widely known by means of his sermons and published books, helped take down the idea that one could buy or perform ones way into heaven. One has to recognize the magnitude of the events that Luther's reforms set into motion and marvel at how God used this man to literally change the course of history. We have to be grateful for the major religious and even political changes that eventually resulted from the idea of freedom.

However, none of this qualifies Luther for all the accolades we tend to lay at his feet. He was not the miracle figure that arose and corrected all the excesses and doctrinal errors of the Catholic Church. In fact, Luther's ideas of Sola Gracia and Sola Fide actually fell far short of what the Bible teaches. Contrary to what most of the Christian world thinks, Luther never ever taught salvation solely by grace and faith, but believed and taught salvation by grace and faith, along with baptism without which one could not be saved.

It was a gigantic step forward but not altogether correct.

And that is far from all.

The fact also remains that so much Catholic doctrine (with the exception of Mary) was very firmly ingrained in Martin's Luther theology. He was forever convinced that baptizing infants was right, to my knowledge never definitively came out against the doctrine of purgatory, and his belief in consubstantiation differed only slightly from the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation.

Nor can we ignore the fact that Luther's numbering of the Ten Commandments effectively eliminated Exodus 20:4 - the commandment that forbids man from making an idol or image, and the first half of verse 5 that says we cannot worship or serve them. In fact, he combined the second half of verse five with verse six and called it an "Appendix to the First Commandment". So what happened to the missing verses?


Plain Speaking Vs. Violent, Vicious Polemics
Finally, I have absolutely no argument with Martin Luther's rather 'plain-speaking'. For example, he apparently called Henry VIII "a damnable and rotten worm", and Dominican inquisitor Hoogstraten an "unsophisticated ass" and a "bloodthirsty enemy of the truth".

They were!

It is said that when Spalatin (a theologian, German secretary to Frederick the Wise, and an articulate and eloquent spokesman for the Reformation) found fault with Luther's language in a letter to the bishop of Meissen, Luther admitted that he had been "more vehement than seemly" but asked whether Spalatin would forbid him to "bark at wolves. He also asked whether Christ was a slanderer when He "called the Jews an adulterous and perverse generation, the offspring of vipers, hypocrites, sons of the devil", and Paul "used the words dogs, vain babblers, seducers, ignorant" etc. [44]

He had a point. Our never-step-on-anyone's-toes generation perpetually worried about offending someone subscribes to the politically correct, liberal view that we, as Christians, are not to judge anything or any one. To say that Christians are not to use any form of strong language when publicly warning against false teachers flies in the face of numerous Biblical examples, including that of the Lord Jesus Himself. In fact, Scripture commands us to reprove, rebuke, and earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints. See Judge Not

However, Luther went far beyond this.

The book of Romans says,

     Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "vengeance is Mine, i will repay," says the Lord. "but if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:19-21 NASB)

And, in his commentary on Romans 12, Luther apparently concurred when he wrote,

    In chapter 12, St. Paul teaches the true liturgy and makes all Christians priests, so that they may offer, not money or cattle, as priests do in the Law, but their own bodies, by putting their desires to death. Next he describes the outward conduct of Christians whose lives are governed by the Spirit; he tells how they teach, preach, rule, serve, give, suffer, love, live and act toward friend, foe and everyone. These are the works that a Christian does, for, as I have said, faith is not idle. [45]

It is a pity he did not pay closer attention to Paul's words or to Christ's instructions to His disciples repeated in 3 of the Gospels, i.e. if someone did not receive them or heed their words, they were to shake the dust off their feet as they left that house or city, which would serve as a testimony against the unbelievers. (Matthew 10:14 , Luke 9:5, Mark 6:11).

The Jews did not convert. Frustrated by this Luther declined to heed Christ's instructions and wrote "On The Jews and Their Lies" in 1543 in which he expressed such antagonism towards them that even the Nazis identified with Luther.

And Finally - Us
However, I have to wonder at Christians who show enthusiastic and unstinting support for heretics like Origen who taught the pre-existence of souls, the final reconciliation of all creatures (possibly even Satan), and the subordination of the Son to the Father (regarding this last subject, there is still some disagreement as to what exactly Origen taught). And that was the least of it. Origen has indirectly influenced a false belief that virtually all Christians hold today. See Footnote I

We also seem to show no hesitation in honoring and revering men whose behavior and speech are so completely, not only un-Christian, but shockingly so. On the one hand most of us are unfailingly disgusted by racism and racist statements made by the man on the road and decried the recent racist demonstrations in Charlottesville. VA. Yet we applaud Martin Luther whose hatred for the Jews was well beyond the pale - documented by the numerous malevolent and poisonous statements he made. Doesn't tolerating or overlooking Luther's violent attitude towards those he considered enemies of Christianity (Catholic bishops, the Jews and Anabaptists) make us extreme hypocrites?

Christians continue sweeping what we don't want to know or acknowledge under the carpet. We did it with Martin Luther and we continue doing it with Trump a man who probably cannot even spell 'conservative'. So called Christians gloss over his lecherous behavior, his unseemly comments, his insulting people who are either handicapped or of the wrong color etc. The list is endless. Yet we went ahead and voted for him and, even worse, continue to support him.

This is not about Martin Luther or Trump. This is about us. About our absolute inability to make accurate and Biblical assessments of people - what they say, what they do, and what they teach. This is about bout our absolute inability to stop glossing over things that the Bible would condemn in no uncertain terms.

This is about how claiming to be Christians, we fall on our faces with amazing regularity.


Footnote I
As said by John R. Franke on the Christian History Institute website

    Few figures in church history have stimulated the level of debate and controversy that surrounds Origen of Alexandria (ca. 185 Ė ca. 254). To some, he was a brilliant intellectual as well as a passionately committed disciple of Christ, the most influential and seminal thinker in the early church. Others regard him as a dangerous heretic whose interest in philosophical speculation unleashed a string of teachings that stand in stark opposition to orthodox Christian faith (p. 2). Still others affirm the truth of both positions. [46]

There is little question of Origen's commitment to the Bible as the word of God. However, he maintained that the Bible contained three levels of meaning, corresponding to the three parts of humans, i.e. the tangible body, and the intangible soul, and spirit. Thus he held that it was profitable for Christians to study Greek philosophy and make use of its spiritual/allegorical approach in interpreting the Bible.

Relating Christian teaching to Greek philosophy blurred the lines between the two.

Origen believed that Genesis was made up of fictitious stories of things that never actually happened. He asked, for example, whether anyone could be so unintelligent as to think that God made a paradise somewhere in the east and planted it with trees, like a farmer. He taught that the stories were not meant to be taken literally since they never actually happened. Instead they figuratively referred to certain mysteries. In fact, so much of Origen's theology was so far removed from what the Bible teaches, that there is little doubt that, more than the Scriptures, Greek philosophy played a major part in determining his views on life, God, and religion in general.

What is even worse is that the doctrine of the trinity, which has remained virtually unchanged to this day, was given explicit shape at the Second Ecumenical Council largely due to the part played by three ancient theologians from Cappadocia, jointly known as the Cappadocian Fathers. All three were Greek philosophers and mystics who claimed that Origen was the stone on which they were all sharpened

In fact, Gregory of Nyssa based his conception of the Trinity on Origen's ideas saying that "we would have no content for our thoughts about Father, Son, and Spirit, if we did not find an outline of their nature within ourselves". In other words, Gregory found the key to the trinity in the triple nature of our soul stating that you learn "the secret of God" from the things within yourself... a "testimony above and more sure than that of the Law and the Gospel".

None of his ideas are to be found in Scripture. See Is God a Trinity?

 

Luther - Part II End Notes

[26] Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians. Chapter II. Christian Classics Ethereal Library.
https://www.ccel.org/ccel/luther/galatians.v.html

[27] Philip S. Watson. Handsworth Methodist College, Birmingham. A Commentary On Saint Paulís Epistle To The Galatians. 1535. From the preface to this old, but precise translation. http://www.lutherdansk.dk/1%20Galatian%201535%20-%20old/A%20COMMENTARY%20ON.htm.

[28] Paul Enns. The Moody Handbook of Theology, Pg 481

[29] Martin Luther. Table Talk. Christian Classics Ethereal Library.CCCXLVIII. Christian Classics Ethereal Library.
https://www.ccel.org/ccel/luther/tabletalk.v.xiii.html

[30] Martin Luther. A Commentary On Saint Paul's Epistle To The Galatians. 1535.
http://www.lutherdansk.dk/1%20Galatian%201535%20-%20old/A%20COMMENTARY%20ON.htm.

[31] Martin Luther. Table Talk. Christian Classics Ethereal Library.CCCXLVIII. Christian Classics Ethereal Library.
https://www.ccel.org/ccel/luther/tabletalk.v.xiii.html

[32] Disputation Of Dr. Martin Luther Concerning Penitence And Indulgences. https://www.ccel.org/ccel/luther/first_prin.iv.i.ii.html

[33] Martin Luther's Church Postil. The Christmas Postil of 1522. http://www.lutherdansk.dk/Web-Julepostillen%20AM/Jule.htm. Or see Luther's Christmas Sermons. Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. Pg. 127. Note: A postil (Latin: postilla; German: Postille) was originally a term for Bible commentaries. It later became synonymous with homily - a commentary that follows a reading of scripture

[34] William Cole. "Was Luther a Devotee of Mary?Ē (Marian Studies Volume XXI, 1970, p.131). Or see
http://ecommons.udayton.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2656&context=marian_studies. Pg. 191

[35]

[36] ibid. Pg. 30

[37] ibid. Pg 101

[38] ibid. Pg. 38

[39] ibid. Pg 165

[40] Scott H. Hendrix. The Controversial Luther. Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, Columbia, South Carolina

[41] Martin Luther. Against the Falsely Called Spiritual Order of the Pope and the Bishops. 1522. As quoted on page 377 of The Reformation (Story of Civilization) Publisher: TBS The Book Service Ltd; Book Club (BCE/BOMC) edition (December 1957). Authors -  Will and Ariel  Durant.

[42] Martin Luther, his written works. © 2017 Virtual Museum of Protestantism.
https://www.museeprotestant.org/en/notice/martin-luther-his-written-works/

[43] Martin Luther, his written works. © 2017 Virtual Museum of Protestantism.
https://www.museeprotestant.org/en/notice/martin-luther-his-written-works/

[44] Arthur Cushman McGiffert. Martin Luther, the Man and His Work. Pg 153.

[45] http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/luther/romans/12.html

[46] John R. Franke. Origen: Friend or Foe? Christian History Institute
https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/origen-friend-or-foe/  

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