Most likely a hyperbole, and what Luther really means is that compared to reading Scripture, the Church Fathers aren't too valuable.
Anyway, here is what one commentator said about this:
In many respects, a decision about the role of the Fathers seems, in fact, to have been reached today. But, since it is more unfavorable than favorable to a greater reliance upon them, it does nothing to lead us out of our present aporia. For, in the debate about what constitutes greater fidelity to the Church of the Fathers, Lutherâ€™s historical insight is clearly proving itself right. We are fairly certain today that, while the Fathers were not Roman Catholic as the thirteenth or nineteenth century would have understood the term, they were, nonetheless, "Catholic", and their Catholicism extended to the very canon of the New Testament itself. With this assessment, paradoxically, the Fathers have lost ground on both side of the argument because, in the controversy about the fundamental basis for understanding Scripture, there is nothing more to be proved or disproved by reference to them. But neither have they become totally unimportant in the domain, for, even after the relativization they have suffered in the process we have described, the differences between the Catholicism of an Augustine and a Thomas Aquinas, or even between that of a Cardinal Manning and a Cyprian, still opens a broad field of theological investigation. Granted, only one side can consider them its own Fathers, and the proof of continuity, which once led directly back to them, seems no longer worth the effort for a concept of history and faith that sees continuity as made possible and communicated in terms of discontinuity.
Guess who said that?
My thoughts on this:
While the Church Fathers are still important and are useful for growing in Faith and deepening our understanding of theology, they shouldn't be made into the decisive factor in dialogue for what makes Catholics/Protestants "right". It's clear that they are definitely Catholic in their essence, but it's too easy for either side to cherry pick from them to suit their own liking (one of Luther's criticisms). In dialogue between Lutherans/Protestants and Catholics, it's best to go straight to the Scriptures, especially St. Paul.
What do you guys think?
The problem is, your opinion and mine of scripture is based mostly on the great minds that came before us. We study, and research, and often are swayed by our prejudices.
The Father of the Church are human. They all at one time or another held opinions which may or may not have agreed with the Church during the period they lived. This is where the "cherry picking" you describe comes in. The Fathers and Saints are not infallible in matters of faith and morals
Given man's tendency towards relativism, the Church, as a deposit of faith, is absolutely needed. It is beyond imagination that Christ would have not left an instrument to guarantee the Truth of the Gospel be maintained. Are you willing to bet that the instrument was Luther? Calvin? My bet is on the Church.
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