What did Luther believe?

I grew up Catholic but, after talking to a couple protestant friends, I only recently started really looking into why we do what we do. I realized it was easier to understand the church’s teaching by looking up the history of the church. So after I had read up on the history of the Catholic Church I decided to read up on the history of the reformation and was shocked by what I read about Martin Luther. Apparently, his beliefs were always changing, was an antisemitic, believed in predestination, and focused only on the parts of the bible that he deemed to be valid. While yes he did bring to light some of the corruptions that was being practiced at that time, shouldn’t we reject his teaching such as the five SOLA’s because he did preach something other then what the apostles preached and didn’t have sound doctrine? Wouldn’t that classify him as a false teacher? If I have inaccurate information please help to clarify too.

Thanks!

=owoeizme;11003401]I grew up Catholic but, after talking to a couple protestant friends, I only recently started really looking into why we do what we do. I realized it was easier to understand the church’s teaching by looking up the history of the church. So after I had read up on the history of the Catholic Church I decided to read up on the history of the reformation and was shocked by what I read about Martin Luther.

First, welcome to CAF.
Second, don’t believe everything you read about Luther, or an other figure as controversial as he was for that matter. So, initially, my advice is to read what Luther wrote, not what others wrote about him.

Apparently, his beliefs were always changing, was an antisemitic, believed in predestination, and focused only on the parts of the bible that he deemed to be valid.

On these. Yes, his beliefs in certain areas evolved. I think that is true for a lot of people.
He was not antisemitic, though he did display some rather harsh antijudaism later in his life. While not making excuses for him, this was not unusual in his era, among Catholics, as well.
Well, the Catholic Church believes in predestination, too. If you mean double-predestination, there are some who interpret some of his writings that way. What is important from a Lutheran perspective is that Lutheranism does not teach it.
What do you mean by focusing on some parts? If you mean that Luther saw, essentially law and gospel, and that he tended to focus on Gospel, then yes.

While yes he did bring to light some of the corruptions that was being practiced at that time, shouldn’t we reject his teaching such as the five SOLA’s because he did preach isomething other then what the apostles preached and didn’t have sound doctrine? Wouldn’t that classify him as a false teacher? If I have inaccurate information please help to clarify too.

Well, when it comes to the five SOLAs, other than by grace alone, Catholics do, essentially reject them. As a Lutheran, however, I would contend that our understanding of grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone is apostolic and reflects the teaching of scripture.

Jon

He was wrong about things thats for sure.

Hi, Jon my name is Dennis and thanks for responding! By the way I’m not questioning Lutheranism but rather Martin Luther himself. My questions arose just when I was reading about the major reformers themselves. Anyway to answer the questions about my post:

  1. Predestination- from what I could find it seems that Martin believed in single predestination, where the CC teaches predestined plan for salvation. If there is single predestination wouldn’t that minimize what Christ did on the cross?

2.By focusing on several parts of the bible- didn’t he call the letter of James the epistle of straw, which he later apologized for and hold the gospel of John above all the rest?

The reason I posted on here is because your right I can’t believe everything I read online, I thought this would be a great place to ask my questions and get some good feedback from people who know probably a lot more then I do.

=owoeizme;11003621]Hi, Jon my name is Dennis and thanks for responding! By the way I’m not questioning Lutheranism but rather Martin Luther himself. My questions arose just when I was reading about the major reformers themselves. Anyway to answer the questions about my post:

Nice to meet you.

  1. Predestination- from what I could find it seems that Martin believed in single predestination, where the CC teaches predestined plan for salvation. If there is single predestination wouldn’t that minimize what Christ did on the cross?

I’m not sure that the Lutheran and Catholic understanding of predestination differ all that much. Christ’s death on the cross is atonement for all, not a pre-elected few. God’s plan and desire is for all to be saved, even though that doesn’t happen.

2.By focusing on several parts of the bible- didn’t he call the letter of James the epistle of straw, which he later apologized for and hold the gospel of John above all the rest?

In Luther’s preface to the book of James in the first publishing of his NT translation comes the oft misquoted phrase. Luther believed that the book was not of apostolic writing, an often held position throughout the history of the Church. Luther was making a comparison of James to the universally attested Pauline epistles. Luther also said he praised the book, even though it was rejected by “the ancients” ( meaning at least Eusebius), because it promulgates the law.
While he withdrew the preface in later publications, I don’t know if he ever apologized. I can’t see why he would need to, frankly.

The reason I posted on here is because your right I can’t believe everything I read online, I thought this would be a great place to ask my questions and get some good feedback from people who know probably a lot more then I do.

There are lots of resources out there. Most have a bias one way or another. James Swan, of Beggar’s All, provides well researched information. There are Catholic apologists who do as well.
Hopefully, I helped a little.

Jon

There may be some conjecture out there about what Luther said about this or that book, but it does seem according to my research, at least with regard to the book of James, that he would like to have nixed it from teaching use if not throw it out of the canon:***We should throw the epistle of James out of this school **Wittenberg], for it doesn’t amount to much.*It contains not a syllable about Christ. Not once does it mention Christ, except at the beginning.*I maintain that some Jew wrote it who probably heard about Christian people but never encountered any.*Since he heard that Christians place great weight on faith in Christ, he thought, ‘Wait a moment!*I’ll oppose them and urge works alone.’*This he did. He wrote not a word about the suffering and resurrection of Christ, althought this is what all the apostles preached about. Besides, there is no order or method in the epistle. No he discusses clothing and then he writes about wrath and is constatntly shifting from one to the other.*He presents a comparison: ‘As the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.’ O Mary, mother of God!! What a terrible comparison that is!!!!LW, 54, 424-425
*Elsewhere he explicitly said James had errors in his theology:*James argues in his letter (Jas. 2:21) that Abraham was justified on the basis of his works. Because the text says:Now I see that you are righteous', he wants to conclude from this that previously Abraham was not righteous. . . . .Abraham was righteous by faith before God acknowledged him as such. Therefore **James*concluded falsely that now at last he was justified after that obedience**,*for faith and righteousness are known by works as by the fruit. But it does not follow, as James raves:Hence the fruits justify’ just as it does not follow: 'I know a tree by its fruit; therefore the tree becomes good as a result of its fruit.Therefore let our opponents be done with their James, whom they throw up to us so often(Luther 4:134).**I believe that last quote is from Luther’s Works.Saw these quotes here a while back. I’ve also seen part of the latter quote cited as LW 4.26)

P.s. you can see the epistle of straw quote in this same link
matt1618.freeyellow.com/james2.html

But the above quotes give you his rationale. He had doctrinal problems with James.

I like getting “source material” quotes if I can. In other words, get actual quotes from Luther, and not someone saying “Luther said so-and-so.” Catholics have been misquoted or misrepresented too. So there’s an empathy we can have in trying to accurately present what someone else’s position may have been.

As to the mention of Mr. Swan - he is perhaps one of the more charitable bloggers that has problems with Catholic theology. He does visit here from time to time as well. However, I would caution accepting anything he says about Luther too, based on some of what I have read of his–what comes to mind is an encounter on Luther and Purgatory he, I, CatholicDude, and some others had a while back (see posts 29 and following; my major post is 54). Swan posts as Tertum Quid. That being said, I’ve found some useful source material from his blog now and then anyway. Otherwise, stick with JonNC for Lutheran doctrines. :o

Once on the radio show “A Prairie Home Companion” they did a parody of the Beach Boy’s tune “Surfin’ USA” They called it “Lutheran USA” and it went something like: If every body was Lutheran, across the USA, then ev’rybody’d be Lutheran like Minn-a-so-tia! I don’t remember the rest of the song but it was a riot!:smiley:

Welcome to CAF!

Hopefully I do not appear biased as I am Catholic (and not Lutheran), but I, too, was shocked at several of the things I read of Martin Luther (although I never admired him, I am always shocked to learn of the “dark side” — for lack of a better term — of people and their beliefs).

On the subject of his beliefs changing — I do not see an issue with his beliefs changing, as beliefs change often (including to me, which brought me to my cradle Catholicism). However, I do understand your confusion at this, particularly on Luther’s views on the Immaculate Conception; in 1532, Luther wrote of Mary being born with original sin, but in 1544 (two years prior to his death), Luther stated:

God has formed the soul and body of the Virgin Mary full of the Holy Spirit, so that she is without all sins, for she has conceived and borne the Lord Jesus.

Luther also stated elsewhere that:

Mother Mary, like us, was born in sin of sinful parents, but the Holy Spirit covered her, sanctified and purified her so that this child was born of flesh and blood, but not with sinful flesh and blood. The Holy Spirit permitted the Virgin Mary to remain a true, natural human being of flesh and blood, just as we. However, he warded off sin from her flesh and blood so that she became the mother of a pure child, not poisoned by sin as we are. For in that moment when she conceived, she was a holy mother filled with the Holy Spirit and her fruit is a holy pure fruit, at once God and truly man, in one person.

Despite his contradictions, I can understand how Luther may have simply contemplated on Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception and found his (rightful, may I add) belief in it. On his beliefs of other aspects of Marian theology, you may be interested to read here.

I was surprised (admittedly) upon my discovery of Luther’s treatise, On the Jews and Their Lies, written in 1543. Within the treatise, Luther writes:

[The Jews are] base, whoring people, that is, no people of God, and their boast of lineage, circumcision, and law must be accounted as filth.

In his early years, however, Luther wrote the essay That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew, in which he criticized the antisemitic treatment of the Jews, and urged Christians to treat the Jews with kindness (Luther desired Jews would be moved to convert to Christianity if they were told the Gospel clearly).

Rabbi Josel of Rosheim, a shtadlan, asked (through an intermediary) for audience with Prince John Frederick, Elector of Saxony, but Luther refused to grant him audience. In his response, Luther refers to his unsuccessful attempt(s) to convert Jews to Christianity:

…] I would willingly do my best for your people but I will not contribute to your obstinacy by my own kind actions. You must find another intermediary with my good lord.

It is considered this refusal to Rabbi Josel is the “turning point” of Luther’s initial friendliness to the Jews to his later hostility (i.e. On the Jews and Their Lies). In his memoir, Rabbi Josel wrote that the antisemitism the Jews suffered from was “due to that priest whose name was Martin Luther,” and some time after the refusal, Rabbi Josel was only granted his request that Luther’s anti-Jewish works to not be circulated in Strasbourg when a Lutheran priest argued in his sermon that his parishioners should murder Jews.

Shortly thereafter, Luther wrote On the Jews and Their Lies in 1543, and within the treatise, he writes:

[The Jews are full of the] devil’s feces …] which they wallow in like swine. …] [The synagogue is an] incorrigible whore and an evil slut.

Within the treatise, Luther suggests “advises” Christians seven remedial actions against Jews; such as for Jewish synagogues to be burned (and the remnants to be buried), for the houses of Jews to be destroyed (and the owners living within to be forced to live in agricultural outbuildings), for rabbis to be forbidden to preach (and if they do so, to be executed), for their religious writings to be confiscated, for safe conduct on the roads to be abolished for the Jews, for usury to be prohibited, and for all gold to be removed ("[and] put aside for safekeeping"), and for the Jewish population to be put to work as agricultural slave laborers.

On the Jews and Their Lies was said to have exercised a major influence of Germany (and the antisemitism within the country), and four hundred years after it had been written, Nazis displayed On the Jews and Their Lies at the Nuremberg Rallies.

While Luther may have expressed sympathy towards Jews early in his career, he became heavily antisemitic in his later life, following their failure to convert to Protestantism, which he had desired (the latter explanation being the most prevalent explanation of the antisemitism of Luther in his later years).

(to be continued…)

(…continued)

I could find little sources on which to draw upon research of Luther’s beliefs in predestination. However, some Lutherans (I cannot definitively say all Lutherans due to my outsider view of the denomination) do believe in predestination, and that the elect are predestined to salvation, however they discourage predestination being placed as the source of salvation rather than Christ’s redemption through His Passion, and disagree with Calvinists in that they do not believe in predestination to damnation.

Luther published his translation of the New Testament into German in 1522, and completed the Bible in 1534 with the translation of the Old Testament. The Bible had been translated into German by others, but Luther had translated scripture tailored to his own doctrine. He was criticized for his inclusion of the word “alone” after “faith” in Romans:

For we account a man to be justified by faith.Douay Rheims

Thus, we conclude that a man is justified …] through faith alone.Luther Bible

Luther attempted to remove the Books of Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation from Biblical canon (due to his belief they contradicted the Protestant doctrines of sola gratia and sola fide), but was unsuccessful (Luther later moved them to the end of his translation of the New Testament).

Luther moved books not found in the Masoretic Text of Judaism into the Apocrypha section of his Bible translation, between the Old and New Testaments. Luther initially attempted to move the Book of Esther into the Apocrypha to no avail; however, Luther did move the Books of 1 and 2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, Epistle of Jeremiah, and 1 and 2 Maccabees, as well as the additions to Esther and the stories of the Song of the Three Children, Story of Susanna, Bel and the Dragon, and the Prayer of Manasseh.

By believing in Catholicism, we do reject his teaching. As Catholics, we do not believe in Lutheran doctrine; if we did, we would be Lutherans (:p). In some things, Martin Luther was a false teacher, but in other ways he retained the Truth he was taught (such as his belief in Mary’s Immaculate Conception, her role as Mother of God, etc). Martin Luther did bring light to the corruptions that were ongoing in the Church at that time, and when brought to light, the Church reformed and again defined Christianity with the Council of Trent. However, he brought the corruptions to light in a flawed way, leading to his excommunication.

I must apologize for the length of this post (it took quite a while to write!), as well as an apology if I am misinformed (I read from several sources on Martin Luther), and an apology if I appear biased (as I am Catholic, and not Lutheran). Hopefully I was able to answer your question!

Indeed.

Well, from my perspective, yes [he was a false teacher]. Even as far as Christianity is concerned, I think his understanding of the Bible was questionable. Luther believed that one is saved by faith alone, but I don’t see how that idea could be made consistent in light of James’s epistle. James says that even the demons believe, but they’re certainly not saved.

I watched a biography on Luther’s life just a little while ago (the one in black and white). It was thoroughly enjoyable; evidently, he had a sharp sense of humor and I admire his courage. I do consider him a false teacher, though.

Catholics as expected are biased against Luther and for Lutherans while we do not hang on every word that he said, he spoke the truth about the Catholic Church in his day and to a certain degree the way thing are still in the Catholic Church today. For instance indulgences which can not be backed up Scripture.
The Vatican earlier this month announced, as it does ahead of every World Youth Day, that participants in the July 22-28 Rio edition would be eligible for indulgences. The criteria are tough: Catholics in Rio must go to confession, receive Communion, pray and “be truly contrite.”
This supposedly will lessen your time in Purgatory.

I think Martin Luther would be Catholic in todays Day. Personally, What I deciphered was he wanted to get married and not go to confession. We are all imperfect and have some kind of prejudices. :thumbsup:

If I recall that “encounter”, I was basically expected to do all the work and research in order for others to comment and critique. I stand by the bulk of my comments, particularly #68and #69, and #74. The discussion reiterated to me a valuable lesson- that, if a fruitful historical discussion is to happen in a forum like this, one person should not be expected to do hours of research for everyone else.

This quote isn’t from 1544, it’s from 1532. The quote in context isn’t about Mary being sinless, it’s about Christ being sinless. Luther’s view is that at Christ’s conception the Holy Spirit sanctified Mary so that the child would be born with non-sinful flesh and blood.

This quote is from 1532 as well, and is not in contradiction to the previous quote. The quote in context isn’t about Mary’s conception in her mother’s womb, it’s about Christ’s conception in Mary’s womb.

This wasn’t “shortly thereafter.” The Josel Of Rosheim controversy was in 1537. On The Jews and Their Lies was written in 1543.

I would be interested to know who thinks this. Gordon Rupp, a Luther scholar points out: “Nobody took Luther’s programme seriously, and the new mandate of John Frederick in 1543, though severe, was on other lines. Three years later, as we shall see, Jews were still living unmolested in the Mansfeld area.” The editors of LW also point out: “Already upon its first appearance in the year 1543, Luther’s treatise caused widespread dismay, not only among contemporary Jews but also in Protestant circles.”

The Nazis used whatever they could find for their propaganda. That is, they selectively used Luther, using some of his harsh conclusions at the expense of his theology.

Luther’s later anti-Jewish tracts were written from a position different than current anti-Semitism. Luther was born into a society that was anti-Judaic, but it was not the current anti-Judaic type of society that bases it racism on biological factors. Luther had no objections to integrating converted Jews into Christian society. He had nothing against Jews as “Jews.” He had something against their religion because he believed it denied and blasphemed Christ.

See Luther’s treatise, The Bondage of the Will.

Luther’s intention was to translate the Bible into an easily comprehended form of popular German. His translation at times employed forms of dynamic equivalence, as many translations do. Word-for-word translations can be cumbersome and awkward, and not appealing to average readers. Rather, many translations seek to maximize readability with a minimum of verbal distortion by translating according to “concept.” In translating Romans, Luther tried to present the “impact” of what the original Greek had on its first readers, and to present the German style and idiom equivalent for his readers.

Luther freely admitted the word “only” does not appear in the original Greek at Romans 3:28. He never sought to have the word added into any ancient manuscript. Luther did not add the word “alone” to Galatians 2:16, nor did he remove “alone” from James 2. Even in his revision of the Latin Vulgate, Luther left the Latin of Romans 3:28 as it was, because the contrast was apparent.

Luther certainly questioned the canonicity of these books, but included them in his translation of the Bible.

No he didn’t. There is no evidence for this.

A lot of the material posted appears to be cut-and-pasted from Wikipedia.

JS

I think this thread should be closed. It’s spun out of control and all sides are a bit uncharitable.:shrug:

If you believe Luther did teach things that were not true, then you must characterize him as a false teacher.

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Exsurge Domine, bull of Pope Leo X (A.D. 1520).

I apologize, I had thought it was said in 1544, but I was mistaken.

I was not using the following quote as a contradiction. I was simply stating what he stated elsewhere.

I apologize. My assumptions often get the better of me, and in an attempt to segue into the next section of my (quote-unquote) essay on Luther, I simply added “shortly thereafter.”

I again apologize, but from my sources I had felt the Nazis had drawn upon Luther’s influence in his antisemitic works as further propaganda, which I have read they did. Luther did grow up in an anti-Judaic society (there were certainly many Catholics that were antisemitic), and he seems to have written several anti-Judaic works, which I consider him to be anti-Judaic (as I do with anyone, even Catholics, that were antisemitic).

I had read of it, but I could not find any specific instances (that I could fully understand myself). I again apologize.

I was simply stating that upon translating the German from Luther’s Bible (from 1534) into English, the word “only” is added, which is not included within the Douay-Rheims Bible. I apologize.

I was stating that he attempted to remove them (which he did), but in the end he left them in his translation (although at the end of his 1534 translation of the New Testament). What is the issue with stating he attempted to remove them (which he did)? I am stating facts.

Again, I read that he attempted to remove Esther from his canon (into his Apocrypha) due to his questioning of its canonicity (as he questioned the canonicity of the four New Testament books above). I may have been misinformed.

I indeed read many of my sources from Wikipedia, but I did not copy-and-paste anything (other than specific quotes from Luther himself).

I apologize if I seemed misinformed. I have an outsider’s view of Lutheranism and thus I would not know everything about him. I simply stated what I read (after I had verified it through other sources).

I agree with Michael57 in that this thread should be closed as it seems to be spiraling into being uncharitably towards others.

I hear this allegation often on CAF, but never substantiation. If someone has a link to something from Luther’s own words that he wanted to remove the Antilegomena from
scripture, I would love to see it.
Until then, I am dubious of the charge since Luther not only included them in his first NT translation, but also included all of the deuterocanonical books, as well as the Prayer of Manasseh. This doesn’t sound like the actions of an “excluder”.

Jon

I was unable to read of any sources of Luther attempted to remove the books, but I was able to find words of his substantiating of his “low” (I am unsure if that is the correct term to use) opinion of the canonicity of those four New Testament books.

In his preface to the Book of Hebrews (the first book of the Antilegomena), Luther states (in his 1522 translation of the New Testament):

Up to this point we have had to do with the true and certain chief books of the New Testament. The four which follow have from ancient times had a different reputation.

I found this site an interesting read on Luther’s Biblical canon.

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