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Martin Luther… The Man And The Myth

July 15, 2018 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM

Part 2

(Editor’s Note: As this October marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Raymond de Souza is taking a break from his usual apologetics to correct the popular image of Luther.)

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In the last article, I quoted from the excellent work about Martin Luther by the renowned author Frantz Funck-Brentano, a respected historian of the French Academy who, in spite of being a Protestant, was not afraid to unveil the truth about Luther.
The fact is that Luther was a blasphemer.
Let us go directly to the point: “Christ,” said Luther, “committed adultery for the first time with the woman at the well, of whom John speaks. Did they not murmur around him: ‘What then did he do with her?’ Later, he did the same with Magdalen, and shortly thereafter with the adulterous woman, whom he absolved so lightly” (Propos de Table, n. 1472, Weimar Edition 2, 107; cf. Funck-Brentano, p. 235).
Having read this, it is not surprising that Luther thinks, as Funck-Brentano points out, that “certainly God is great and powerful, good and merciful…but he is stupid — ‘Deus est stultissimus’ (Propos de Table, n. 963, Weimar Edition 1, 487).
“He is a tyrant. Moses was moved by his will, acting as his lieutenant, as his hangman, and was neither surpassed by anyone nor even equaled in scaring, terrorizing, and martyring the poor world” (ibid., p. 230).
This is consistent with another of his blasphemies which makes God the one really responsible for the treason of Judas and the revolt of Adam: “Luther,” comments Funck-Brentano, “goes so far as to declare that Judas, in betraying Christ, acted under the imperious decision of the Almighty. His will (that of Judas), was directed by God; God moved him with His omnipotence. Adam himself, in the earthly paradise, was constrained to act as he did. He was placed by God in such a situation that it was impossible for him not to fall” (ibid., p. 246).
In his book titled De Servo Arbitrio (or on the Bondage of the Will) Luther affirms that sin has corrupted mankind to such a level that it is impossible for a man to do anything good. Man’s will is a servant of sin, is in bondage to sin. Therefore, to sin is normal, and the only way out of this tragedy is simply to accept the redemption offered by Christ, but it is not necessary to stop sinning.
In short, authentic Lutheranism amounts to the license to sin. That is how Luther justified his life of sin, rebellion, and hatred of the Church.
But let us hear him a little more about the necessity of committing sin, and ignoring the voice of conscience. I have drawn several passages from the magnificent work of Fr. Leonel Franca, SJ, A Igreja, a Reforma, e a Civilizacao [The Church, the Reformation, and Civilization] (Rio de Janeiro, 1934).
A uniquely characteristic element of Luther’s teaching is the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Put more simply, this means that the superabundant merits of Our Lord Jesus Christ, alone and by themselves, without our cooperation, ensure the eternal salvation of man, so that one may lead a life of sin in this world with neither remorse of conscience nor fear of God’s justice.
For Luther, the voice of conscience was not that of grace, but rather that of the Devil!
For this reason, he wrote to a friend that a man vexed by the Devil should occasionally “drink more abundantly, gamble, entertain himself, and even commit some sin out of hatred and spite for the Devil so that we may not give him an opportunity to disturb our consciences with trifles. The whole Decalogue should be erased from our eyes and our souls, from us who are so persecuted and molested by the Devil” (M. Luther, Briefe, Sendschreiben und Bedenken, Ed. De Wette [Berlin, 1825-1828]; Franca, pp. 199-200).
Along the same lines he also wrote: “God only obliges you to believe and to confess (the faith). In all other things He leaves you free, lord and master to do whatever you will without any danger to your conscience; on the contrary, it is certain that, as far as He is concerned, it makes no difference whether you leave your wife, flee from your lord, or are unfaithful to every obligation. What is it to Him if you do or do not do such things?” (Werke, Weimar ed., XII, pp. 131 ff.; Franca, p. 446)
The incitement to sin given in a letter to Melanchthon on August 1, 1521, is perhaps even more categorical: “Be a sinner, and sin strongly (esto peccator et pecca fortiter), but believe and rejoice even more firmly in Christ, the conqueror of sin, of death, and of the world. During this life, we have to sin. It is sufficient that, by the mercy of God, we know the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. Sin will not separate us from Him, even though we were to commit a thousand murders and a thousand adulteries per day” (Briefe, Sendschreiben und Bedenken, II, p. 37; Franca, p. 439).
In short, the more you sin the more you trust in Christ’s redeeming sacrifice that saves you. Period.
This doctrine is so bizarre that even Luther himself could scarcely manage to believe in it: “There is no religion in the whole world that teaches this doctrine of justification; I myself, even though I teach it publicly, have a great difficulty in believing it privately” (Werke, XXV, p. 330; Franca, p. 158).
Luther himself recognized the devastating effects of his admittedly insincere preaching: “The Gospel today finds adherents who are convinced that it is nothing but a doctrine that serves to fill their bellies and give free rein to all their impulses” (Werke, XXXIII, p. 2; Franca, p. 440).
And Luther added, regarding his evangelical henchmen, that “they are seven times worse than they were before. After the preaching of our doctrine men have given themselves up to robbery, lying, imposture, debauchery, drunkenness, and every kind of vice. We have expelled one devil (the papacy), and seven worse ones have come in” (Werke, XXVIII, p. 763; Franca, p. 441).
Therefore, when the German bishops described Luther as a “Gospel witness and teacher of the faith” and as “a religious pathfinder, Gospel witness and teacher of the faith,” whose “concern for renewal in repentance and conversion” had not received an “adequate hearing” in Rome (Catholic Herald, August 12, 2016), they were talking absolute nonsense, to put it charitably.
Next article: Luther’s self-proclaimed infallibility.

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(Raymond de Souza, KM, is a Knight of the Sovereign and Military Order of Malta; a delegate for International Missions for Human Life International [HLI]; and an EWTN program host. Website: www.RaymonddeSouza.com.)

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