Was Martin Luther unjustly excommunicated

This was from another thread.

You can start a thread on this, but I don’t know how much I can contribute.

First we would have to establish the historical flow of events leading to the excommunication, what happened at the excommunication, what caused the excommunication, and what the results of the excommunication.

This is very interesting, but way over my head. But I would sort of like to see smarter people than myself have at it on this one.

Since, Martin was the guy who started the Reformation, he would be the one I would choose. Plus, there are a few very smart Lutherans here who I’m sure would be more than willing to defend Martin on this one.

Hey, I’ll start it.

So I’m starting this thread so that the very smart people here (of which I am not one of them) can either defend or bash Luther with respect to the excommunication.

Well, he was a heretic, so no, it was not unjust.

Is that what he was excommunicated for?

Yes I believe so.

I didn’t think that Lutherans cared about Martin’s excommunication. In fact, I get the impression they are pretty happy about it.

To best discuss this, and I was hoping CAlvin would be first but ML will do, we should look at exactly what he was charged with.

First, a little background from History.com

On January 3, 1521, Pope Leo X issues the papal bull Decet Romanum Pontificem, which excommunicates Martin Luther from the Catholic Church.

Martin Luther, the chief catalyst of Protestantism, was a professor of biblical interpretation at the University of Wittenberg in Germany when he drew up his 95 theses condemning the Catholic Church for its corrupt practice of selling indulgences, or the forgiveness of sins. He followed up the revolutionary work with equally controversial and groundbreaking theological works, and his fiery words set off religious reformers all across Europe.

In January 1521, Pope Leo X excommunicated Luther. Three months later, Luther was called to defend his beliefs before Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms, where he was famously defiant. For his refusal to recant his writings, the emperor declared him an outlaw and a heretic. Luther was protected by powerful German princes, however, and by his death in 1546, the course of Western civilization had been significantly altered.

If you note, the bull was issued after the Diet of Worms, showing that he had a day in court.

This is from this site

The time limit of 60 days set by the Bull Exsurge Domine, during which Martin Luther was supposed to make an act of obedience to the Pope, expired on the 27th November 1520, after copies of the papal bull had been put on the doors of the Cathedrals of Meissen, Merseburg and Brandenburg, and after the German friar received the original document, he burnt it with contempt. Since Luther decided to proceed along his way (in suo pravo et damnato proposito obstinatum), the Pope had no other choice than to carry out the threat clearly announced in the document of the 15th June 1520.

So he had been given more than one chance to recant and defend his actions.

Now, did the Church have the authority to do this? Yes. Even without any Scriptural evidence, one must allow the Church the ability to choose who is a priest and even a member of it. Even Protestant Churches would conceed that point

And the specific heresies were “faith alone” and “Bible alone” I would presume.

If you are correct in your assertion, then I would agree that Luther was justly excommunicated in relationship to the Catholic church.

However, that is not my interest at this time.

My interest is more whether Martin Luther was unjustly excommunicated with respect to the Lord God almighty.

If the facts of the case are as you presented, then the issue becomes whether “faith alone” and “Bible alone” are correct or false with respect to the Lord God almighty. I already know that these are false with respect to the Catholic church. And these must be defined in the same way that Martin Luther defined them, not defined according to the strawman definitions given here too often.

Not that I am interested in debating “faith alone” and “Bible alone” at this time. I just want to understand the facts of the case and the logical flow.

Hi:
I agree that the excommunication was just with respect to the Catholic church. But as I said, my interest is whether the excommunication was just with respect to God almighty.

I chose Luther because without Luther there is no Calvin. And because I’m not a big fan of Calvin anyway.

Oh…I see he was excommunicated before the Diet of Worms. I did not know that.

Yes and no. He was issued the warning prior to it, but it did not go into effect until after. Had he recanted there, it would have been enough.

Now, as far as God goes, this is where we get into theological issues. If we set aside the actual particulars of this case, which have been argued for 500 years, we must ask if the Church has the authority to determine what is correct teaching. What do you think?

Well now you get into the definition of church.

But just one comment on the word “authority”. Just because the church may or may not have the “authority” to determine what is correct teaching, it does not necessarily follow that the church will get it right.

For example, I look at real life. I have the authority to make moral choices. I have the responsibility to get my moral choices right. However, if I do not use what ever authority I have with responsibility, I can mess up my moral choices.

Having authority does not preclude the possibility of error if I do not exercise authority with responsibility.

But given that the excommunication of Luther was over his theology, then the question of whether it was just or unjust in the eyes of God ultimately depends on whether what he taught was correct in the eyes of God relative to what was taught in the established church of his time.

In other words, the stuff that has been debated ad nauseum.

BTW, I seem to have recall reading that the Catholic Church of Luther’s time misunderstood what he was teaching, thus the excommunication. I don’t know if that is correct though.

I think you are somehow saying that by excommunicating Luther, the Chuch damned him to Hell. Jesus gave Peter the keys to bind and loose. That doesn’t mean that every decision is infallible - just authoritative. So even if the Church erred in excommunicating Luther from a theological standpoint, she had every right to do so. His unwillingness to submit to the Church’s authority was the final strike against him.

In other words, it is theologically possible for the Church to be right and for Luther to still be in heaven. (not my own opinion, but possible)

That is correct, which is why we understand that when Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would guide us to all truth, he meant that the Church would not be allowed to teach error.

For example, I look at real life. I have the authority to make moral choices. I have the responsibility to get my moral choices right. However, if I do not use what ever authority I have with responsibility, I can mess up my moral choices.

Having authority does not preclude the possibility of error if I do not exercise authority with responsibility.

Ok.

But given that the excommunication of Luther was over his theology, then the question of whether it was just or unjust in the eyes of God ultimately depends on whether what he taught was correct in the eyes of God relative to what was taught in the established church of his time.

In other words, the stuff that has been debated ad nauseum.

Yes and no. If the CHurch had authority to define doctrine, and the Church was protected from teaching errors, then Luther is by default wrong in the eyes of God.

BTW, I seem to have recall reading that the Catholic Church of Luther’s time misunderstood what he was teaching, thus the excommunication. I don’t know if that is correct though.

It is more complicated than that. Some of what he taught, had both sides discussed it rationally, would have been ok. Some of it was flat out wrong no matter what.

That is correct logic.

The key point here is “if the Church was protected from teaching errors”.

Luther obviously did not agree that the church was protected from teaching errors.

Neither do I for that matter. I just don’t believe in the idea of God protecting from free will. But that is a separate topic.

So it goes back to the point that Luther was unjustly excommunicated in the eyes of God only if his writings for which he was excommunicated was correct relative to the Catholic church.

The relative to the Catholic church covers the possibility that perhaps in the eyes of God even the teaching of Luther was not 100% spot on.

I seem to recall reading that the “faith alone” was misunderstood by Catholicism. But I could be wrong.

But it would seem to me that if you are going to excommunicate somebody for heretical teaching, that you have a responsibility of understanding what his heretical teaching is before you lower the boom.

But if the church erred from a theological standpoint, then the whole “Luther went out and created his own religion” argument you all use rests upon this error of the church.

One more question I thought about.

I know that what started the whole thing going was the 95 theses that Luther posted. I also know that these 95 theses dealt not with theology but with practice, specifically the practice of selling indulgences.

Furthermore I know that the Catholic church admits that the practices Luther objected to at that time were wrong.

So my questions are
(1) By the time Luther was excommunicated, had the church admitted that these practices were wrong?
(2) To what extent was the basis of his excommunication exposing the corrupt practices of the church at the time as opposed to his other theological writings?

I guess I have a hard time seeing whether the ground had really shifted from the time Luther posted his 95 theses to the time of his excommunication.

Faith alone was not as big an issue as sola scriptura and the denial of the primacy of Rome. Basically, ML was guilty of treason, to borrow a non-religious term. He had taken a vow of obedience and he was going against it. Yes, faith alone was one of the issues, but there were others.

The problem with proving if he was right or wrong theologically is that the Bible can be used to support both positions. Even Calvin used verses for his heresies. The question then becomes how do you determine whose interpretation is correct.

Some of the Thesis were in fact theological. If you look, the Church’s response was not 95 rebuttals long.

To answer your question exactly,
(1) To some degree, yes. Most of the correction would come later as the CHurch tends to be very slow moving.
(2) It was the theology not exposing the corruption. I will find a link to help

Check the wiki sites.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_95_Theses

Here is one with Theological issues

The pope does well when he grants remission to souls [in purgatory], not by the power of the keys (which he does not possess), but by way of intercession. .

Granted, most are specific to the issue at hand, but he still had major theological issues that he taught.

Well, for the record, I don’t think the Church did err in excommunicating Luther. I was saying IF it did, it doesn’t mean that the excommunication was unjust in God’s eyes.

But to your point of Luther creating his own religion (which I never said), that happened as a result of disobedience and lack of submission to rightful authority.

HI, All
Luther was warned by the Church in June 1520, in the Papal Bull “Exsurge Domine”. The Church did everything it could to reconcile with him but he refused, thus setting the stage for his self ex-communication. He was formally ex-communicated on January 3, 1521 through the Papal Bull ‘Decet Romanum Pontificem’.

A secular Council called the “Diet of Worms” was convened by the Catholic Emperor Charles V in April 1521, and Luther was again asked if he was going to retract, or maintain, the ideology of his many books. Luther stood firm. An Edict issued by this Council in May 1521, branded Luther as a heretic and an outlaw.

Sources for this section are:
‘Martin Luther, His Life, and His Work’, by Hartmann Grisar,
a German Jesuit, 6 volumes, 1930 Vol 4: pgs 388-389.
‘Church History’, by Fr. John Laux, M.A., 1930, Pgs 420-434

Peace OneNow1

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