Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Martin Luther should be excommunicated
[Photo from Wikipedia]
Some years back a Lutheran pastor friend of mine presented me with a gift. I expressed my gratitude in an appropriate manner and put it on a shelf. The gift was a small statue of the one Lutherans consider their founder and the closest thing in Lutheranism to a saint.
While this is neither here nor there, the statue is very well done and may have accrued some value. I'll keep it a little longer.
Ask most Lutherans what they know about Martin Luther (1483 - 1546) and if you get anything at all it will consist of a few pious phrases about the great piety of Pastor Luther and how he began this thing called Protestantism, posting 95 theses on a church door, and that the Lutheran churches are named after him.
Ask many Lutheran pastors what they know about Martin Luther and based upon my experiences from years past, I'd guess you'd get comments very similar to those expressed by the laity. Luther is spoken of in reverential terms, as worthy of emulation and adoration, and if by chance his shortcomings are mentioned, they are hushed over with some fanciful mental gymnastics which usually involve phrases such as "Well, he was a man of his time, and a man of his culture," which is used to excuse the fact that not only was he a raging anti-Semite, but ignorant of the Bible in the most profound sense, and filled with bile and hatred for those who disagreed with him. Luther had no scientific leanings, but abhorred the use of reason as a means of determining the truth. He believed in magic, in witches, and in evil spirits.
Martin Luther is known best for his notion of "salvation by grace, through faith" which he had stumbled upon while reading the New Testament. It resonated mightily with him because he had always felt unworthy before God; that he could never live up to what God demanded of him.
Aha! Here was his answer. He didn't need to worry anymore. All he needed was faith and God would accept him. His "works" -- those things he did or neglected to do -- didn't matter so much relative to his salvation status.
Then there's the story of him nailing his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenburg (the story may be more legendary than real.) He opposed the Roman Catholic practice of granting "indulgences" for the payment of money and his "theses" were arguments against the practice. An indulgence was thought important for it could take years off a person's time in purgatory. Luther thought this practice could not be supported by scripture.
Maybe he was just looking for an out. He was headstrong and willful and didn't bow easily to authority. There were many other practices current in the Roman church which could not be found in Scripture to which could also have objected. The notions of "mortal" as opposed to "venial" sins is not found in the Bible. The idea that a priest can forgive sin is not found in the Bible; nor was the doctrine of purgatory.
Whatever, it was his belief in salvation by grace through faith, that became the core of his "protesting" system.
Certainly, Luther was a man of his time. We cannot expect him to know of Biblical criticism, historical criticism, literary criticism. He would have no knowledge that Paul's letters are the earliest books in the New Testament and that the Gospels come much later. He would not know that a number of the books or letters attributed to Paul were not from his hand at all, but from other, unknown writers.
Furthermore, Paul believed in seven heavens. I've always been curious as to why that fact is supremely ignored by ancient and current theologians and religious historians.
What follows are some quotes which put into bold relief why it is correct to say Luther was a man of his time. These were collected from his writings by the Freethought
"Idiots, the lame, the blind, the dumb, are men in whom the devils have established themselves: and all the physicians who heal these infirmities, as though they proceeded from natural causes, are ignorant blockheads."
"I myself saw and touched at Dessay, a child of this sort, which had no human parents, but had proceeded from the Devil. He was twelve years old, and, in outward form, exactly resembled ordinary children."
"In Switzerland, on a high mountain, not far from Lucerne, there is a lake they call Pilate's Pond, which the Devil has fixed upon as one of the chief residences of his evil spirits...."
"The fool [Copernicus] wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy. But sacred scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still and not the earth."
"No gown worse becomes a woman that the desire to be wise."
"We may will lie with what seems to be a woman of flesh and blood, and yet all the time is only a devil in the shape of a woman."
"When I was a child there were many witches, and they bewitched both cattle and men, especially children."
"As to the common people, ... one has to be hard with them and see that they do their work and that under the threat of the sword and the law they comply with the observance of piety just as you chain up wild beasts."
"Some [demons] are also in the thick black clouds, which cause hail, lightning and thunder, and poison the air, the pastures and grounds."
"The winds are nothing else but good or bad spirits. Hark! how the Devil is puffing and blowing..."
"A large number of deaf, crippled and blind people are afflicted solely through the malice of the demon. And one must in no wise doubt that plagues, fevers and every sort of evil come from him."
"An earthly kingdom cannot exist without inequality of persons. Some must be free, some serfs, some rulers, some subjects."
"I feel much freer now that I am certain the pope is the Antichrist."
Yes, Luther was a man of his time. Not many today would agree with the sentiments expressed above (although there are some among us who probably agree too readily!). For most of us, Luther speaks nonsense. His words have no meaning. We know that what he believes is simply not true in any sense.
So, when Luther speaks of deaf, crippled and blind people as if their afflictions were caused by a "demon" or the Devil, we cringe for we know he is full of shit. (By the way, he was quite vulgar and often used the word, "shit," in his sermons).
So by what irrational strangulation of our mental faculties do we conclude on the one hand that his interpretation of the Bible is correct and should be a foundation stone of our faith (if we are Christians) but the rest of what he believed is pure shit?
If Luther's ideas about the world and the universe and people were full of shit, why does anyone give credence to his notion of "salvation by grace through faith." What makes him "right" in this belief and not in his other beliefs, other than our wish that it is so?
If truth be told, this is a terrible doctrine that makes God into a horrible monster. It means that a person who spends his or her life doing good, making the world a better place, saving lives, etc., but rejects Luther's notion of faith, will spend an eternity in torturous hell fire, whereas a Hitler, whose life is committed to killing many millions of people and destroying entire countries, can be welcomed at the Pearly Gates if, at his last breath, says "I believe. I have faith in Luther's Christ."
What utter nonsense!
The title of this essay speaks of Luther being excommunicated. That's nonsense, too. The Christian church still reveres this corrupt and ignorant fool. He belongs, he's one of them.