Luther defends his "saved by faith alone" doctrine at the Diet of Worms
A revolution is where an institution, tradition, or country is obliterated, and a new institution, tradition, or country is created. A reformation is where an institution, tradition, or country is brought back to its original principles. Luther's actions were definitely a revolution, as new ideas, dogmas, and beliefs were created 1500 years after Christ. In NO WAY was the Church brought back to its original principles by Luther. Therefore, it is more appropriate to label Luther as a revolutionary, rather than as a reformer.
Martin Luther was the very first Protestant. He was born in 1483, and died in 1546. He was raised by 2 very strict parents, who used to beat him physically, a lot. He once said that his mother caned him for stealing a nut, until the blood flowed. This formed Luther’s thinking concerning God the Father. He believed that when the Bible spoke about God’s righteousness, it referred to God the Father being very judgmental and strict to those humans who did not measure up to God’s perfection. This caused him to not only perform many penances and devotions, in order to please God, but also caused him great depression as well, because he knew that he could never attain perfection.
One day he was walking home and he got caught in a terrible thunderstorm, with lightning all around. He prayed to St. Anne, the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to save him from being killed, and in return for the favor, he would enter the priesthood. He was saved from the lightning, and totally against the wishes of his parents, he vowed to become an ordained Catholic Priest in the Augustinian Order. His parents wanted him to become a lawyer, and they were depending on young Martin to support them financially in their old age. The Augustinians were a very strict and austere Catholic order, with lots of self-mortification and fasting for penance. Martin Luther swore in front of God to be obedient to his superiors and to be celibate his entire life. When it came time to perform his first Mass, he made sure his overbearing father was on hand. At the consecration, Luther hesitated, because he truly believed in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, and who was he, such a weak and unworthy sinner to be holding the King of Kings in his hands anyway? He somehow managed to complete the Mass, and he then went to his father and asked him if he was pleased with his new vocation. The father threw it back in his face, telling the new priest that he had abandoned his parents in their old age, and he was therefore disobeying one of the commandments, that being to “Honor thy father and thy mother.” He tried to explain to his irate father that he could help them more with his prayers and penances by being a monk, but once again, Luther had failed to convince his father, who departed angrily. Luther said on more than one occasion that he hated God, because God was so judgmental towards him. Luther was mistakenly replacing his understanding of God with his relationship with his overbearing Father. After Luther kept confessing this sin over and over again, his confessor told him that Luther had it exactly backwards – God wasn’t mad at Luther; rather, Luther was mad at God!
Later on, Luther went to Rome on assignment, and he was very enchanted with the idea of visiting all of the holy sites there. He fully expected to gain some indulgences by visiting some of the churches and holy relics there. However, at that time, the Church and Rome were in crisis, and very worldly, to say the least. Luther became very disgusted when he heard Roman priests mocking the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Even Pope Adrian VI, called the antichrist by Luther, admitted that the Roman Curia was corrupt and needed to be swept clean. However, a corrupt Roman Curia does not mean that the whole Catholic Church is evil, just as a corrupt Congress does not mean that America is bad. During his stay in Rome, Luther crawled up Pilate’s steps, saying an Our Father prayer on each step, which the Church said would help to free a soul from Purgatory (gain an indulgence for the soul undergoing purification). At the end of his climb, Luther wondered if it was all true, or just an invention of the Church. The seed for the Protestant Revolt known as the Reformation was now germinating in Luther’s mind.
When he returned to the monastery in Erfurt, Luther was informed that he was being transferred to the University in Wittenberg, and that he was to get his doctorate in Scripture and teach young students. So here we have the situation of a depressed priest teaching others about the joy of Christ! In other words, he was to be healed of his affliction by healing others. Luther taught the Psalms to his students, and when he heard Christ say in Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me,” Luther wondered why the perfect Jesus would say such a thing to His Father. Luther began to identify with the crucified Christ, because Luther also felt abandoned by God the Father, due to his own unrighteousness. It wasn’t until Luther started teaching Romans in 1515 that the light came on for him.
Romans 1:16-17: For I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, "He who through faith is righteous shall live."
Luther suddenly had an inspiration! The righteousness of the believer is not dependent on his own goodness, or lack thereof, but rather, the righteousness of the believer is that of Jesus Christ! Of course, this was not big news to the Catholic Church, which never preached otherwise. Previously, in Luther’s mind, his own sinfulness and unworthiness would be judged by the righteous God, and that ensured hell forever for his soul. His view of this, of course, was because of the severe beatings he got from his father and his mother. Now, thanks to Romans 1:16-17, Luther believed that all one had to do was to believe in Jesus Christ through faith, and he was saved by faith alone. The 1000 pound weight around his soul that he had been dragging around for so many years was now gone!
But this “salvation by faith alone,” the way he taught it, was fraught with errors. Many people erroneously believed that they didn’t need the sacraments anymore, because they already believed in Christ, so why the need for liturgy and sacraments from an outdated Church anyway? And once the need for a teaching authority in a church was removed, then all anyone needs is the Bible, and the Bible alone to be saved. And since there is no more authoritative interpreter of scripture from the magisterium of the Church, then everyone becomes his own interpreter of scripture, right or wrong! But all of that is not biblical, since Jesus did not leave us a bible, and he never said to print one out, make sure everyone gets a copy, have them figure everything out for themselves, and whatever they come up with is OK! No, Jesus left us a church, with his apostles and his authority, to go forth and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and which is protected by Christ Himself from the gates of hell triumphing over. And this same Church gave us the Bible as we know it today in the late 4th century. To jettison the Church is to jettison Christ, because Christ is the head of His Church, according to Ephesians 5:23.
Luther took it upon himself to add his own German translation to sacred scripture. The myth is that he was the first to do so, and his actions allowed the bible to be read by the common man, instead of only the learned who understood Latin. But St. Jerome, in the 4th Century, beat him to the punch by 1100 years! Previously, the bible was only available in Hebrew and Greek: St. Jerome translated all of the 73 books of sacred scripture into the common European vernacular of the day, Latin. This allowed just about everyone who could read, to read the bible, and the bible was read at every Mass everywhere a Mass was said! St. Cyril and St. Methodius also translated the bible into the Slavonic language in the year 863. A previous German bible, the Koberger bible, was PRINTED in 1483, and was commonly available. The first book ever printed, the Gutenberg Bible, printed in the century before Luther, assured the availability of the Bible to all who could understand Latin, and at a much reduced cost than the hand-transcribed bibles of Catholic Monks.
Luther’s protestant reformation set in motion the fragmenting of Christianity into over 30,000 different denominations, all claiming to properly interpret scripture. This totally violates John 17:20, where Jesus Himself prays for unity, as a sign to the unbeliever. Luther’s new religion, named after himself, the Luther-ans, is based on a much different interpretation of scripture, which he also altered based on what he thought scripture should be. He added the word “alone” to Romans 3:28, to make it read “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith ALONE without the deeds of the law. This was to buttress his new philosophy that we are “saved by faith alone.” He also kicked out 7 books of the Old Testament that he didn’t like – Sirach, Wisdom, Baruch, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, Judith, and Tobit. These books were all included in the very first printed bible, the Gutenberg Bible, in the century before Luther was born. He also changed the nuanced meaning of other verses to make them more “German,” and more in line with Luther’s thinking of what God should have said. Imagine if some Pope did this! The Protestants would be up in arms, and rightly so. But because Luther did it, and stuck it to the Catholic Church in the process, he gets a pass.
So let’s take a look at some of Mr. Luther’s words and deeds, and see if he really is such a great man.
The catalyst for Mr. Luther’s revolt was the selling of indulgences. The Vatican was trying to modernize itself, and several monks in the German Diocese of Mainz, especially one Jonathan Tetzel, were going around the countryside collecting money for the Vatican, while telling donors that this would free their souls, and the souls of their loved ones, from purgatory much sooner than otherwise would be possible. Mr. Luther rightly called this the “selling of indulgences,” which is simony, or the selling of holy things (Indulgences are merely a blessing from God for performing a charitable act, and the strength of the indulgence totally depends on the heart of the penitent, not some mechanical action that forces God’s hand into blessing them). But Mr. Luther went even further, claiming that purgatory didn’t exist, and therefore even the Catholic doctrine of indulgences was in error, even though the tombs in the catacombs in Rome ask people to pray for them. After this it was a downhill slide to calling the Pope the “antichrist” and the Catholic Church “the whore of Babylon.” He nailed his 95 theses of Catholic teaching errors on the door of Wittenberg Cathedral, on October 31, 1517. Luther was given the chance to recant his teaching and his disobedience to the Church, but said no. He was soon excommunicated by the Pope. Mr. Luther burned his writ of excommunication in a public ceremony. He wound up also violating his vow of celibacy in addition to his vow of obedience, by marrying a nun.
While Luther was so right about the state of the Catholic Church in his time, his remedy was just as wrong. The Council of Trent, which convened in later years, in what is known as “The Counter Reformation,” fixed the problems that Luther had pointed out. So in one respect Luther accomplished a lot of good. However, because of his remedy, so many souls never got to consume the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ in the Eucharist, they never got to experience the healing power of Christ in the Confessional, and they never got to understand the fullness of truth that only the Catholic Church has in its understanding of scripture. Rather, these souls were taught that every man gets to interpret scripture for himself, right or wrong. Every man’s salvation is dependent on faith alone, and baptism, the Eucharist, and good works, are somehow either symbolic or unnecessary. “The Bible Alone” theory has led to people almost worshiping the bible in book form, while at the same time ignoring a lot of the things the bible says are necessary for salvation. It has resulted in the unification of protestants in their stance that all things Catholic are evil, including the Pope, good works, statues, Mary, authority, etc. And this kind of thinking is nowhere to be found in any of the writings of the martyrs in the Coliseum. Instead, those writings are all Catholic in their approach to Jesus. The modern protestant believes that all of the early Church Fathers (the Coliseum martyrs in most cases) all got it wrong, and only until Martin Luther came along 1500 years later did worship of Christ become right. Luther condemned the need for good works as a component of one’s faith, but in doing so, Luther made a grievous error. The Bible does condemn works of the law, but works OF THE LAW are Jewish works of the law, like circumcision, ritualistic hand washing, kosher foods only, etc. Good works, on the other hand are indeed necessary if we are to enter heaven, and that is plainly stated in Matthew 25:31-46.
So many people see Martin Luther’s great awakening in shaking off the shackles of the Catholic Church and inventing his own religion named after himself like they see St. Paul’s great awakening on the road to Damascus, when Jesus struck him blind, which allowed him to see the truth of Christ in comparison to the ways of the Old Covenant. But that is so wrong. Luther’s revelation that Christ loves us and doesn’t hate us due to our sinfulness had always been the teaching of the Catholic Church. Luther just couldn’t understand it due to the relationship he had with his father.
Here are some quotes of Martin Luther, along with what the Bible teaches:
On adding the word “alone” to Romans 3:28:
Martin Luther - "If your Papist annoys you with the word ('alone' - Rom. 3:28), tell him straightway, Dr. Martin Luther will have it so: Papist and ass are one and the same thing. Whoever will not have my translation, let him give it the go-by: the devil's thanks to him who censures it without my will and knowledge. Luther will have it so, and he is a doctor above all the doctors in Popedom.", from J. Dollinger, La Reforme et les resultants quelle a produits. (Trans. E. Perrot, Paris, Gaume, 1848-49), Vol III, pg. 138.
Sacred Scripture – Revelation 22:18-19: "For I testify to every one that hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If any man shall add to these things, God shall add unto him the plagues written in this book. And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from these things that are written in this book.”
On committing sin:
Martin Luther - "A person that is baptized cannot, thou he would, lose his salvation by any sins however grievous, unless he refuses to believe. For no sins can damn him but unbelief alone.", from "The Babylonian Captivity"
"Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides... No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day.", from Dr. Martin Luther's Saemmtliche Schriften, Letter No. 99, 1 Aug. 1521.
"Do not ask anything of your conscience; and if it speaks, do not listen to it; if it insists, stifle it, amuse yourself; if necessary, commit some good big sin, in order to drive it away. Conscience is the voice of Satan, and it is necessary always to do just the contrary of what Satan wishes.", from J. Dollinger, La Reforme et les resultants qu'elle a produits. (Trans. E. Perrot, Paris, Gaume, 1848-49), Vol III, pg. 248
Sacred Scripture – 1 John 3:8: “He that commits sin is of the devil: for the devil sinned from the beginning. For this purpose, the Son of God appeared that He might destroy the works of the devil.”
Revelation 21:8: But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death."
On the sexual purity of Christ:
Martin Luther: “Christ committed adultery first of all with the women at the well about whom St. John tells us. Was not everybody about Him saying: Whatever has He been doing with her? Secondly, with Mary Magdalen, and thirdly with the women taken in adultery whom He dismissed so lightly. Thus even, Christ who was so righteous, must have been guilty of fornication before He died.”, from Trishreden, Weimer Edition, Vol. 2, Pg. 107
Sacred Scripture: 1 Peter 2:22: He committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips.
Martin Luther: “What harm could it do if a man told a good lusty lie in a worthy cause and for the sake of the Christian Churches?”, from Lenz: Briefwechsel, Vol. 1. Pg. 373.
Sacred Scripture: John 8:44: “You are of your father the devil: and the desires of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning: and he stood not in the truth, because truth is not in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father thereof.”
On the Jews:
Martin Luther: "My advice, as I said earlier, is: First, that their synagogues be burned down, and that all who are able toss sulphur and pitch; it would be good if someone could also throw in some hellfire... Second, that all their books-- their prayer books, their Talmudic writings, also the entire Bible-- be taken from them, not leaving them one leaf, and that these be preserved for those who may be converted...Third, that they be forbidden on pain of death to praise God, to give thanks, to pray, and to teach publicly among us and in our country...Fourth, that they be forbidden to utter the name of God within our hearing. For we cannot with a good conscience listen to this or tolerate it..."
"He who hears this name [God] from a Jew must inform the authorities, or else throw sow dung at him when he sees him and chase him away".
"Burn their synagogues. Forbid them all that I have mentioned above. Force them to work and treat them with every kind of severity, as Moses did in the desert and slew three thousand... If that is no use, we must drive them away like mad dogs, in order that we may not be partakers of their abominable blasphemy and of all their vices, and in order that we may not deserve the anger of God and be damned with them. I have done my duty. Let everyone see how he does his. I am excused."
"If I had to baptize a Jew, I would take him to the bridge of the Elbe, hang a stone round his neck and push him over with the words I baptize thee in the name of Abraham."
"The Jews deserve to be hanged on gallows seven times higher than ordinary thieves.", all anti-semitic quotes above are taken from "The Jews and their Lies
Sacred Scripture: Matthew 22:39: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Romans 11:25-29: Lest you be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brethren: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles come in, and so all Israel will be saved; as it is written, "The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob"; "and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins." As regards the gospel they are enemies of God, for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.
On killing peasants:
"Peasants are no better than straw. They will not hear the word and they are without sense; therefore they must be compelled to hear the crack of the whip and the whiz of bullets and it is only what they deserve.", from Erlangen Vol 24, Pg. 294"
"To kill a peasant is not murder; it is helping to extinguish the conflagration. Let there be no half measures! Crush them! Cut their throats! Transfix them. Leave no stone unturned! To kill a peasant is to destroy a mad dog! If they say that I am very hard and merciless, mercy be damned. Let whoever can stab, strangle, and kill them like mad dogs.", from Erlangen Vol 24, Pg. 294
"I, Martin Luther, have during the rebellion slain all the peasants, for it was I who ordered them to be struck dead. All their blood is upon my head. But I put it all on our Lord God: for he commanded me to speak thus.", from Tischreden; Erlanger Ed., Vol. 59. p. 284
Sacred Scripture – Matthew 5:6: “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.”
James 2:11: “For he who said, "Do not commit adultery," said also, "Do not kill." If you do not commit adultery but do kill, you have become a transgressor of the law.”
Martin Luther: "If the husband is unwilling, there is another who is; if the wife is unwilling, then let the maid come.", from "Of Married Life "
"Suppose I should counsel the wife of an impotent man, with his consent, to giver herself to another, say her husband’s brother, but to keep this marriage secret and to ascribe the children to the so-called putative father. The question is: Is such a women in a saved state? I answer, certainly." from " On Marriage "
"It is not in opposition to the Holy Scriptures for a man to have several wives.", from De Wette, Vol. 2, p. 459
"Know that marriage is an outward material thing like any other secular business. The body has nothing to do with God. In this respect one can never sin against God, but only against one’s neighbor.", from Weimar, Vol. 12, Pg. 131
"As to divorce, it is still a debatable question whether it is allowable. For my part I prefer bigamy to it.", from "On Marriage"
"The word and work of God is quite clear, viz., that women are made to be either wives or prostitutes.", from "Of Married Life "
"In spite of all the good I say of married life, I will not grant so much to nature as to admit that there is no sin in it. .. no conjugal due is ever rendered without sin. The matrimonial duty is never performed without sin.", from
Weimar, Vol 8. Pg. 654
Sacred Scripture: Matthew 19:4: “For this reason shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be in one flesh. Therefore now they are not two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder. . . Moses by reason of the hardness of your heart permitted you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, commits adultery: and he that shall marry her that is put away, commits adultery.”
Faith and Good Works:
Martin Luther: “For we account a man to be justified by faith alone, without the works of the law.”, from " On Translation and on the Intercession of the Saints"
“It is more important to guard against good works than against sin.”, from Trischreden, Wittenberg Edition, Vol. VI., p. 160
"Good works are bad and are sin like the rest.", from Denifle's Luther et Lutheranisme, Etude Faite d'apres les sources. Translation by J. Paquier (Paris, A. Picard, 1912-13), VOl. III, pg. 47.
“There is no scandal greater, more dangerous, more venomous, than a good outward life, manifested by good works and a pious mode of life. That is the grand portal, the highway that leads to damnation.", from Denifle's Luther et Lutheranisme, Etude Faite d'apres les sources. Translation by J. Paquier (Paris, A. Picard, 1912-13), VOl. II, pg. 128
“He that says the Gospel requires works for salvation, I say, flat and plain, is a liar.”, from Tischreden, P. 137
Sacred Scripture: Matthew 5:16: “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your father who is in heaven.”
James 2:14-17:“What shall it profit, my brethren, if a he has faith, but has not works? Shall faith be able to save him? So faith also, if it have not works is dead in itself.”
Colossians 1:10: “to lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”
On Free Will:
"...with regard to God, and in all that bears on salvation or damnation, (man) has no 'free-will', but is a captive, prisoner and bond slave, either to the will of God, or to the will of Satan.", From the essay, 'Bondage of the Will,' 'Martin Luther: Selections From His Writings, ed. by Dillenberger, Anchor Books, 1962 p. 190
"...we do everything of necessity and nothing by 'free-will'; for the power of 'free-will' is nil.", Ibid., p. 188
Sacred Scripture: 2 Corinthians 8:3: “For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own free will,”
Philemon 1:14: but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own free will.
“I do insist on the certainty that sooner or later once we hold power Christianity will be overcome and the German Church established. Yes, the German church, without a Pope and without the bible, and Luther, if he could be with us, would give us his blessing.”
"Especially in dark days of distress, such men have the power of healing broken hearts and elevating the despairing spirit of a people. To this group belong not only the genuinely great statesmen but all the great reformers as well. Beside Frederick the Great we have such men as Martin Luther and Richard Wagner."
—Adolph Hitler (Kristallnacht, the smashing of Jewish stores at the beginning of the Holocaust, occurred on Martin Luther’s birthday)
"It is difficult to understand the behavior of most German Protestants in the first Nazi years unless one is aware of two things: their history and the influence of Martin Luther. The great founder of Protestantism was both a passionate anti-Semite and a ferocious believer in absolute obedience to political authority. He wanted Germany rid of the Jews. Luther's advice was literally followed four centuries later by Hitler, Goering and Himmler."
-- American journalist William L. Shirer
"Anti-Semitic publications have existed in Germany for centuries. A book I had, written by Dr. Martin Luther, was, for instance, confiscated. 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 this 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... "
-- Nazi publisher, editor and a writer for the German newspaper Der Stürmer. Julius Streicher
(**NOTE - In the 20th Century, after approximately 450 years, most Lutheran congregations finally repudiated Luther's anti-semitic writings. It truly is amazing at how many Jews blame Pope Pius XII for not "speaking out" against the Nazis, even though the only Papal encyclical ever written in German, "Mit Brennender Sorge," was written in 1937 and condemns the Nazis. It was smuggled into Germany and read from the pulpit at every Mass after publication, leading to the arrest and subsequent gassing of many of the Catholic priests who read it. Pope Pius XII saved almost 800,000 Jews by hiding them in the Vatican, Castel Gandolfo, and around Rome. Meanwhile, no one ever mentions the writings of Luther in a heavily Lutheran country, Germany, inspiring the Nazi's to exterminate Jews and burn synagogues!).