[movie] "Higher Ground" & Martin Luther (non-spoiler)

Has anybody seen this movie about a woman who gets involved with an “Evangelical Christian” group in the 1970’s? (It’s un-reviewed by the Catholic Bishops Conference and un-reviewed by Decent Films Guide.) Early in the movie, the pastor makes a comment that Martin Luther didn’t believe the word of God was limited to the Bible? Has anybody who has seen this movie clarify what he meant? Here’s the IMDB link to the movie:


It’s too bad nobody has done a “guest review” for the Bishops Conference. What a very provocative, thoughtful movie about Christian faith. :thumbsup:

(Note: It’s rated R for some possibly non-gratuitous dialogue about husbands tending to their wives’ needs - other than that, it could have been PG-13.)

I saw Vera Farmiga in Source Code and I was impressed. This is her directorial debut film. She was born to a Ukranian Orthodox family and went to a Ukranian Catholic school, then her family converted to Pentecostalism.

I haven’t seen this film yet but it’s waiting in my Netflix queue for disc release.

First, a summary about Lutheranism is in order, then we can dig into the five solas. However, I would strongly recommend studying the history of the Lutheran church to every Catholic. This history stands as an example of how heresies arise and evolve.

Have you read the synopsis of Luther and his heresy on the newadvent site? It is quite good, though the attempt to be extremely just wanders just a bit over the line. While I am both sympathetic and loving towards the man, he was the author of one of the great heresies, and we should not allow ourselves to be frightened by some kind of PC fear into silence. A loving but rational, reasonable disputation on the flaws of Lutheranism is not an attack on Luther himself. But, that said:

Luther believed that the Canon of the Bible should have been St. Jerome’s, which means that he moved a number of books in the Old Testament into a third category (Apocrypha), as well removing parts of Esther and Daniel (This third category was intended to mark these books as “valid for learning and teaching by example, but not scripture”).

I suspect that most people, however, don’t know that Luther wanted to remove entire books from the New Testament as well. These included Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation. He wanted them gone because he could not find Jesus in them. For political reasons, and with the assistance of friends, he was made to understand that that move would not have been accepted by the masses.

Now, some Lutheran’s (and by that I mean some of any of the adherents to the 26,000 branches of Luther’s Church) will argue that it is slanderous to state that Luther “removed books from the Bible”. The problem here is one of cultural confusion. Catholics and Lutherans both have a group short hand, and when the charge of removal “from the Bible” is made, it runs into this cross-cultural confusion. The statement does not mean physical removal, but the removal of books from the category of scripture.

The effect of declaring some books as “not scripture” was that, to save money, many publishers started printing “bibles” that did not contain the “Apocrypha”. By their lights, since the “Apocrypha” were the equivalent of, say, Dr. Scott Hahn’s excellent “The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth”, then they did not need to be included. And thus the philosophical “removal” became actual removal.

And in point of fact, they were probably doing the right thing by their lights, as once Luther had removed those books from the category of scripture, Lutheran ministers very quickly stopped using them for learning or teaching. Why include a bunch of books into what, at the time, was an EXTREMELY expensive product that nobody would read or use?

So now let’s look at just one of the Sola’s of the Lutheran Church: Sola Scriptura. The Wikipedia entry on this topic is mildly wrong in places, but the first paragraph is both admirably concise, and basically correct:

Sola scriptura (Latin ablative, “by scripture alone”) is the doctrine that the Bible contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness. Consequently, sola scriptura demands that only those doctrines are to be admitted or confessed that are found directly within or indirectly by using valid logical deduction or valid deductive reasoning from scripture. However, sola scriptura is not a denial of other authorities governing Christian life and devotion. Rather, it simply demands that all other authorities are subordinate to, and are to be corrected by, the written word of God. Sola scriptura was a foundational doctrinal principle of the Protestant Reformation held by the Reformers and is a formal principle of Protestantism today (see Five solas).

So if by “Word of God” you meant Scripture, then no, Luther did not believe that. If by that you meant any communication with God, then yeah, prayer is a way by which God can give his word to man, but by Sola Scriptura, this word must be in accordance with in conformance to Scripture.

Unfortunately for Luther, Sola Scripture is easily falsified. For those not used to plowing through the writings of philosophers, that means that a valid process was used to test a theory or statement, and that process has proved the statement false. Thus Lutheranism is based, at least in part, on a false belief.

Hope that helps, and any factual errors are mine, not the fault of my sources. :o

Luther was known for having a bit of, um, bombast, if you know what I mean…

His opinion of his own opinions could hardly have been higher. When challenged by contemporaries on his inclusion of “alone” in a verse he believed justified his “faith alone” theory, he virtually cited himself as divinely appointed authority for doing so.

The text (I can’t remember the book and verse) arguably contains context that implies faith to the exclusion of works of the law, but the word “alone” could not and still can not be reasonaby argued to have arisen form direct translation. Nevertheless, Luther stood his ground and refused to hear criticism about the liberty he had taken in translation.

Perhaps this is the sort of thing the OP was referring to?

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