Martin Luther and faith alone

I was recently thinking about Martin Luther’s concept that we are saved by faith alone. He came up with the concept while reading bible passages. What I am wondering is why did he conceive this? The Catholic Church has never taught nor believed this, so why would he go there? It seems as though he thought the Church did teach this, so where did it come from?

Subrosa

Satan?

Martin Luther was an extremely scrupulous person, to the point of going to confession several times each day re-confessing sins he’d already been absolved of. This had a significant influence on his views about certain Bible passages and Church teachings. At some point, he decided that he knew better than the Church and started forming his own theories, born of his malformed understanding of sin and salvation. After he decided to ignore the Church and look only to himself, he no longer had a grounding point from which to form sound doctrinal theories. Without a foundation to build on, he developed unbiblical theories to support his personal views and opinions rather than allowing the revealed Truths of the faith inform them.

Essentially, when you disregard the Authority of the Church, you can arrive anywhere because you are no longer connected to the whole Truth of God’s revelation.

Also, Satan. Because you -know- he had a hand in it.

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Luther also wanted to remove a few books from the New Testament. With James being one of them. Why? Because in the second chapter of James it says that we are NOT saved by faith alone.

A certain spirit taught Luther in an appropriate place, the toilet over a cesspool. He wrestled with devils, slung feces to protect himself. He fancied himself the prophet Isaiah. And this is heralded founder of the New Christian with a new truth?

When Doctor Justus Jonas had translated the book of Tobit, he attended Luther therewith, and said: “Many ridiculous things are contained in this book, especially about the three nights, and the liver of the broiled fish, wherewith the devil was scared and driven away.” Whereupon Luther said: ”‘Tis a Jewish conceit; the devil, a fierce and powerful enemy, will not be hunted away in such sort, for he has the spear of Goliah; but God gives him such weapons, that, when he is overcome by the godly, it may be the greater terror and vexation unto him. Daniel and Isaiah are most excellent prophets. I am Isaiah—be it spoken with humility—to the advancement of God’s honor, whose work alone it is, and to spite the devil. Philip Melancthon is Jeremiah; that prophet stood always in fear; even so it is with Melancthon.” Martin Luther (1483-1546), William Hazlitt, Esq. (Translator), Table Talk, p24.

Grisar suggests that Luther was pathological considering himself a prophet, the prophet of Saxony.

The time spent in the Wartburg brought him his final conviction in his calling as a prophet and his divine commission, but if we are to understand Luther aright we must not forget that this conviction was a matter of gradual growth (cp. vol. iii., xvi. 1). Hartmann Grisar, SJ., Luther, vol. 3, P 92

“No one save a prophet could dare condemn the whole of the past in the way he was doing”. (ibid, p93)

It is my opinion that Martin Luther wasn’t ‘all together collected’ nor was his theology. Irony is an epiphany flushing Christian insight into a new era where men see themselves as the Everyman-is-the-New-Prophet-John-the-Baptist. Hours of sitting in anguish brought fourth a special illumination for Luther.

And like all good prophets, he fought the devil single handily defeating him with a single handful of sh**.

For Luther the bathroom was also a place of worship. His holiest movements came when he was seated on the privy (Abort) of the Wittenberg monastery tower. It was there, while moving his bowels, that he conceived the revolutionary Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone. Afterward he wrote: “these words ‘just’ and ‘justice of God’ were thunderbolt to my conscience… I soon had the thought [that] God’s justice which justifies us and saves us. And these words became a sweeter message for me. This knowledge the Holy Spirit gave me on the privy in the tower”

Well, God is everywhere, as the Vatican conceded four centuries later, backing away from a Jesuit scholar who had gleefully translated explicit excretory passages in Luther’s Sammtiche Schreften. The Jesuit had provoked angry protests from Lutherans who accused him of “vulgar Catholic polemics.” Yet the real vulgarity lies in Luther’s own words, which his followers have shelved. They enjoy telling the story of how the devil threw ink at Luther and Luther threw ink back. But in the original version it wasn’t ink; it was “Scheiss” . Feces was the ammunition Satan and his Wittenberg adversary employed against each other. This is the Wittenberg faculty colleague Philipp Melanchthon: “Having been worsted…the Demon departed indignant and murmuring to himself after having emitted a crepitation of no small size, which left a foul stench in the chamber for several days afterwards.”

Again and again, in recalling Satan’s attacks on him, Luther uses the crude verb bescheissen, which describes what happens when someone soils you with his Scheiss. In another demonic stratagem, an apparition of the prince of darkness would humiliate the monk by “showing his arse” (Streiss). Fighting back, Luther adopted satanic tactics. He invited the devil to “kiss” or “lick” his Steiss.

A man who had battled the foulest of fiends in der Abort and die Latrine was unlikely to be intimidated by the vaudevillian Tetzel. Yet Luther’s reply to the jubilee agent was not as dramatic as legend has made it. He did not “nail” a denunciation of the pope on the door of Frederick’s Castle Church. In Wittenberg, as in many university towns of the time, the church door was customarily used as a bulletin board; an academician with a new religious theory would post it there, thus signifying his readiness to defend it against all challengers. William Manchester, A World Lit Only By Fire, The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance (Boston, 1992), pp.139-140 books.google.com/books?id=Ku2PNGO5Y6sC&dq=William+Manchester%2C+A+World+Lit+Only+By+Fire%2C+The+Medieval+Mind+and+the+Renaissance&q=Luther+adopted+satanic+tactics#v=snippet&q=Luther%20adopted%20satanic%20tactics&f=false

We can deduce that Luther’s “Evangel” was likely hallucinogenic aberration induced by carbon monoxide. This becomes evident understanding old roman castle architecture, along with the knowledge that Luther’s privy was located above the hypocaust. In a cold winter, most of the castle’s inhabitants would have been, well, just a bit loony.

And, this is the der führer, the new prophet?

JoeT

I think it is simplistic to say that Luther came up with the concept while reading Bible passages. There’s a lot more to it than that.
My sense is that few Catholics would recognize as Catholic teaching what Luther was taught at Erfurt. I’ll let others smarter than me speculate on how that might have impacted his understanding of early Church teaching the way it did.

As modern day Lutherans, however, what we believe, teach, and confess regarding soteriology is, in our view, consistent with scripture and the early Church: that salvation is only possible by the Grace of God, that we access grace in only one way - by faith (itself is a gift), which justifies us, and frees us to do the good works He has prepared for us to do, with His help.

Jon

You might be surprised to learn that this is also Church teaching. We are completely incapable of meriting redemption and salvation by our own power. It is only when we join ourselves to the power of Christ’s sacrifice that we are brought into the family of God, through the Holy Spirit. The difference comes from the understanding of works and the role they play in our salvation once we have received that gift. Whereas Lutherans believe that good works are good, but not necessary; Catholics believe that once we receive the gift of Baptism we have an obligation to perform them, and that failure to engage in them may forfeit our salvation because we do not enhance and return Christ’s gifts to us (a notion born in part from the parable of the three servants in Math 25: 14-30).

I think it is telling that some Lutherans try to distance themselves from their apostle and founder. So much ugliness is now known of Luther and his motives, that any spiritual person is almost forced to disown him in the sense of being his disciple, and instead view him as a sort of catalyst for some nebulous church/doctrine that would find its final and perfect form in the latter day LCMS. Interestingly, they are drawn to Catholicity, while retaining their Lutheran boundaries based on a modern understanding of the Lutheran Confession. Of course we can safely suppose that Luther himself would have disowned the LCMS in return. :wink:

But Protestantism is nothing if it isn’t ever splitting apart and “denominating.”

I don’t think I’ve distanced myself at all from his basic understanding of sola fide. But if you’re talking about his personal flaws, why would we not distance ourselves from poor behavior? I have often heard Catholics say the same thing about the personal flaws of popes past. I think it a good thing to recognize the flaws of even the Saints, and learn from their mistakes.
As for the terms apostle and prophet, I’ve never held that to be the case, and it has nothing to do with his personal flaws. It has to do with the fact that he was one priest, and only one member of the Reformation movement known now as Lutheranism. There are things he said we agree with - many of them. And there are things he said we disagree with, some we outright reject.

Interestingly, they are drawn to Catholicity, while retaining their Lutheran boundaries based on a modern understanding of the Lutheran Confession.

I appreciate this. the sad part is that not all Lutherans are drawn to Catholicity, because that is the roots of our faith.

Of course we can safely suppose that Luther himself would have disowned the LCMS in return. :wink:

Perhaps so, perhaps not. But its an interesting speculation.

Jon

I’m not surprised by this at all. I’ve been here long enough to recognize this. Where we might differ (or not) is in our view that even when we, as you say, join ourselves to the power of Christ’s sacrifice, it is by the grace of God that we are drawn in this way.

The difference comes from the understanding of works and the role they play in our salvation once we have received that gift. Whereas Lutherans believe that good works are good, but not necessary; Catholics believe that once we receive the gift of Baptism we have an obligation to perform them, and that failure to engage in them may forfeit our salvation because we do not enhance and return Christ’s gifts to us (a notion born in part from the parable of the three servants in Math 25: 14-30)

I think it depends on what one means by necessary. Our confessions claim that good works are necessary.

We believe, teach, and confess also that all men, but those especially who are born again and renewed by the Holy Ghost, are bound to do good works.

9] 4. In this sense the words necessary, shall, and must are employed correctly and in a Christian manner also with respect to the regenerate, and in no way are contrary to the form of sound words and speech.

10] 5. Nevertheless, by the words mentioned, necessitas, necessarium, necessity and necessary, if they be employed concerning the regenerate, not coercion, but only due obedience is to be understood, which the truly believing, so far as they are regenerate, render not from coercion or the driving of the Law, but from a voluntary spirit; because they are no more under the Law, but under grace, Rom. 6:14; 7:6; 8:14.

11] 6. Accordingly, we also believe, teach, and confess that when it is said: The regenerate do good works from a free spirit, this is not to be understood as though it is at the option of the regenerate man to do or to forbear doing good when he wishes, and that he can nevertheless retain faith if he intentionally perseveres in sins.

Bound, in this sense, is both liable to, and required to.
And further we are not permitted the option to not do good works, as that is perseverance in sin!

Additionally, Luther makes clear that works are necessary, as he says in his commentary on Galatians 5:6: For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love.

Faith must of course be sincere. It must be a faith that performs good works through love. If faith lacks love it is not true faith. Thus the Apostle bars the way of hypocrites to the kingdom of Christ on all sides. He declares on the one hand, “In Christ Jesus circumcision availeth nothing,” i.e., works avail nothing, but faith alone, and that without any merit whatever, avails before God. On the other hand, the Apostle declares that without fruits faith serves no purpose. To think, “If faith justifies without works, let us work nothing,” is to despise the grace of God. Idle faith is not justifying faith. In this terse manner Paul presents the whole life of a Christian. Inwardly it consists in faith towards God, outwardly in love towards our fellow-men.

Jon

[quote=JonNC]I appreciate this. the sad part is that not all Lutherans are drawn to Catholicity, because that is the roots of our faith.
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Thank you Jon, for not taking umbrage at my comments, and always interpreting them in a positive light. You sir are a true Christian! :slight_smile:

If ‘faith alone’ saves, then why is ‘agape’ – love – esteemed greater than faith by Paul (1 Corinthians 13:13)? I would think that which justifies us and saves us (alone), would be the greatest. The whole of 1 Cor 13 is a chapter on the primacy of agape.

Why would you think that we believe that faith excludes love? Again,

Galatians 5:6: For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love.

And Luther,
“**Faith must of course be sincere. It must be a faith that performs good works through love. If faith lacks love it is not true faith.” **

A faith that has not love is not a true faith.

Sola fide is an attempt, in its primary sense, to reject pelagianism, or semi-pelagianism. The intent is to state that, it is by grace that we are saved. We access grace via faith, and not by anything we do.
No Lutheran I know of would ever claim that a true, saving faith can be void of love, or trust, or hope.

Jon

Thank you for the kind words.

Jon

Yes, but my contention is that the Scriptures do not talk about ‘faith without love isn’t true faith’ it is possible to have actual faith, but not have love. That is the point that Paul is making in 1 Corinthians 13; he doesn’t say ‘that this faith isn’t real’ he says that ‘all faith, so as to move mountains’ without agape ‘avails nothing’ meaning that having ‘faith alone’ doesn’t save anyone and likewise James, in his epistle, says that faith without works is ‘dead’ not that it isn’t ‘true faith.’ It is possible to truly believe and not be saved (even the demons believe and tremble) it is even possible to ‘trust’ and not be saved – we call that presumption and that is precisely what James is arguing against in his epistle. It is also quite evident from the Scriptures alone, that it is possible to be cut off from Christ through commission of sin, not only through a loss of faith.

We would agree that no ‘saving faith can be void of love, or trust, or hope’ but this is not ‘faith alone’ (unless you propose to conflate all of these virtues together under one name) and in particular not the fiducial faith that Luther and the other Reformers espoused. We believe that we are saved by Faith, Hope and Charity and chiefly Charity – the love for God and neighbor (without which all faith is dead and all hope is vain). It is true, all things flow from Faith (who can hope for or love what he doesn’t believe in?) but it isn’t ‘faith alone.’ Faith, unless it is accompanied simultaneously by Charity (something separate from Faith), cannot save anyone. Furthermore, I am sure we will disagree on this point as well (though I am less familiar with how the Lutherans believe on this point vs my former Calvinist brethren), but we believe that the instrumental cause of Sanctifying Grace (i.e. infusion of Charity into the will) is Baptism (which is firmly established in both Tradition and the Scriptures) and the other Sacraments.

With respect to Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism, we reject both of those also. We cannot earn our way to heaven of ourselves; we do not deserve the grace of God. As Christ says “without me you can do nothing,” the Church still teaches this and has always taught this. Only works done in a state of grace (already in friendship with God) can avail us any merit (and then only because God has promised reward to those who serve him). Ultimately the works which we do that are pleasing to God are motivated by the grace of God. Coming to faith, coming to the fount of regeneration (Baptism), doing good works, avoiding sin, and finally, persevering in faith and good works is all by the grace of God. It’s all from God, everything that is good, yet we must still co-operate with that grace – i.e. it is in our power to reject it.

Pax Domini

=PulvisEtCinis;12940823]Yes, but my contention is that the Scriptures do not talk about ‘faith without love isn’t true faith’ it is possible to have actual faith, but not have love. That is the point that Paul is making in 1 Corinthians 13; he doesn’t say ‘that this faith isn’t real’ he says that ‘all faith, so as to move mountains’ without agape ‘avails nothing’ meaning that having ‘faith alone’ doesn’t save anyone and likewise James, in his epistle, says that faith without works is ‘dead’ not that it isn’t ‘true faith.’ It is possible to truly believe and not be saved (even the demons believe and tremble) it is even possible to ‘trust’ and not be saved – we call that presumption and that is precisely what James is arguing against in his epistle. It is also quite evident from the Scriptures alone, that it is possible to be cut off from Christ through commission of sin, not only through a loss of faith.

I don’t see where we are disagreeing. Paul, in all of your references, is telling us what saving faith is, what it looks like, how it acts, as does Galatians 5:6. As for the demons, they do not have faith. They may believe, an intellectual acknowledgement in their case, but we would not recognize that as true or saving faith, since it lacks trust and hope

We would agree that no ‘saving faith can be void of love, or trust, or hope’ but this is not ‘faith alone’ (unless you propose to conflate all of these virtues together under one name) and in particular not the fiducial faith that Luther and the other Reformers espoused.

There is no “conflating” here. Read what I posted already from Luther himself, and more importantly, our confessions. “Faith, of course, must be sincere”, etc.

We believe that we are saved by Faith, Hope and Charity and chiefly Charity – the love for God and neighbor (without which all faith is dead and all hope is vain). It is true, all things flow from Faith (who can hope for or love what he doesn’t believe in?) but it isn’t ‘faith alone.’ Faith, unless it is accompanied simultaneously by Charity (something separate from Faith), cannot save anyone.

Again, read what I post as quotes. Paul tells us what justifies, in numerous places, but as Luther says, faith without love serves no purpose. And our confessions tell us that choosing not to do good works is sin. Repeated, unrepented sin leads to loss of saving faith.

Furthermore, I am sure we will disagree on this point as well (though I am less familiar with how the Lutherans believe on this point vs my former Calvinist brethren), but we believe that the instrumental cause of Sanctifying Grace (i.e. infusion of Charity into the will) is Baptism (which is firmly established in both Tradition and the Scriptures) and the other Sacraments.

From the Augsburg Confession:

Article IX: Of Baptism.

1] Of Baptism they teach that it is necessary 2] to salvation, and that through Baptism is offered the grace of God, and that children are to be baptized who, being offered to God through Baptism are received into God’s grace.

With respect to Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism, we reject both of those also. We cannot earn our way to heaven of ourselves; we do not deserve the grace of God. As Christ says “without me you can do nothing,” the Church still teaches this and has always taught this.

Agreed, and I understand that this is what Catholicism teaches, but my understanding is that this is not what Luther was educated in at Erfurt, where Occam and Biel were the teaching.

Only works done in a state of grace (already in friendship with God) can avail us any merit (and then only because God has promised reward to those who serve him). Ultimately the works which we do that are pleasing to God are motivated by the grace of God. Coming to faith, coming to the fount of regeneration (Baptism), doing good works, avoiding sin, and finally, persevering in faith and good works is all by the grace of God. It’s all from God, everything that is good, yet we must still co-operate with that grace – i.e. it is in our power to reject it.

Other than the idea that WE merit in any way, I have no disagreement with this.

Jon

[quote=JonNC]Other than the idea that WE merit in any way, I have no disagreement with this.

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That is not the Catholic belief. While it is true that there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man (CCC 2007)

Filial adoption, making us partakers by grace in the divine nature, can bestow true merit on us as a result of God’s gratuitous justice. This is our right by grace, the full right of love, making us co-heirs with Christ and worthy of obtaining “the promised inheritance of eternal life.” (CCC2009)

For this reason is the Virgin Mary exalted above all of the Saints, for the merits she won, by grace. For this reason are all the Saints also exalted. We too can earn merit in God’s economy of grace. In fact we are CALLED to a life of holiness (merit) in grace. This holiness will be increased (by grace) through our meritorious works. :wink:

I do not have the opportunity to make a detailed reply right now, but I will get back to you soon; probably tomorrow if possible.

Pax Domini

No. Only mortal sin separates us from God. Nothing else, including “not doing enough good works”.

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