Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther

“The knowledge that God has loved me beyond all limits will compel me to go into the world to love others in the same way. I may get irritated because I have to live with an unusually difficult person. But just think how disagreeable I have been with God! Am I prepared to be identified so closely with the Lord Jesus that His life and His sweetness will be continually poured out through Me?”

~ Oswald Chambers

If you’re new to the “Shocking Beliefs” series, I’ll open this post by quoting from the preface to the first installment on the Shocking Beliefs of C.S. Lewis.

This explains why – precisely – I’m producing this series.

A well-known Christian author whom I greatly respect encouraged me to begin a series on the shocking beliefs of some of the great Christians who have impacted church history.

Every follower of Jesus is a rough draft. Over time, the great Editor – the Holy Spirit – shapes our lives and views. But until we see the Lord and “know even as we are known,” we’re are in process.

This is also true for those Christians who have gone before us.

Therefore, one of the mistakes that we must guard against is to dismiss a person’s entire contribution because they may hold (or have held) to ideas that we find hard to stomach.

Speaking personally, if I demanded that a person’s views on every subject under the sun be identical to mine as a condition to be helped by them, then if I had met myself 20 years ago, I’d have to disfellowship myself!

The truth is, my views on some topics have changed over the years.

And so have yours.

Point: we are all in process. None of us gets everything right all the time. That stands true for every Christian who has ever breathed oxygen.

So my purpose in highlighting some of “the shocking beliefs” of those upon whose shoulders we all stand is not to burn these folks in effigy. Nor is it to dismiss their positive contribution to church history.

Rather, it’s to demonstrate that even though they may have held to views that would raise the eyebrows of most evangelicals today, that doesn’t overturn nor negate the valuable ideas they contributed to the body of Christ.

Unfortunately, many evangelicals are quick to discount — and even damn — their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ over alleged doctrinal trespasses, even if those same brothers and sisters hold to the historical orthodox creeds (Apostle’s Creed, Nicene Creed, etc.). Such discounting and damning can always be avoided and it serves no one on the Kingdom side of the aisle.

When diversity within orthodoxy is encountered, grace should be extended. Just as we would want grace extended to us, seeing that none of us sees perfectly (Matthew 7:12).

The words of Paul of Tarsus contain thunder and lightning for us all, “Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete . . .” (1 Corinthians 13:9, NLT).

Today, we’ll be looking at some of the shocking beliefs of Martin Luther.

luther

For many Christians, Martin Luther is a household name. He was a monumental reformer–the father of the Protestant Reformation.

300 years after Luther’s passing, Ralph Waldo Emerson said of him, “Martin Luther, the reformer, is one of the most extraordinary persons in history and has left a deeper impression on his presence in the modern world than any other except Columbus.”

While in his early 20s, Luther became an Augustinian monk. But he wore himself out with prayer, fasting, and excessive confessions, trying to earn God’s favor. Later, he had a revelation of God’s grace and justification by faith while reading the book of Romans.

(This revelation is alleged to have come to him while he was sitting on the toilet. However, the word translated “toilet” in Luther’s account more probably means “in the sewer” or “in the pits.” So Luther may have been referring to his depressed state rather than to the latrine. On the other hand, Luther left behind a candid catalog of his battles with constipation. Therefore, who knows.)

Luther’s reformation began when he opposed John Tetzel who was selling indulgences to raise money to finance the building of Saint Peter’s Cathedral. Luther felt that the sale of indulgences was a perversion of the gospel. So in reaction, he wrote his famous 95 theses.

It’s commonly held that Luther posted his 95 thesis on the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, inviting scholars to debate the issue. But some historians doubt that he actually posted the thesis on the door. Nevertheless, with the advent of the printing press, Luther’s 95 theses were printed and distributed widely.

Luther was rebuked by the leadership of the Catholic Church and given space to recant and repent. Luther refused, and as a result, he was condemned by the Church, branded a heretic, excommunicated, banished, and even condemned by the Emperor. He was to be captured and killed on sight. Luther survived, however, because he was kidnapped and protected by Fredrick III, Elector of Saxony (“Frederick the Wise”).

Luther translated the New Testament into German so that the common people could understand it. During his lifetime, he wrote 60,000 pages of text. Yet he hoped that “all my books would disappear and the Holy Scriptures alone would be read.”

After 1521, Luther spent the rest of his life as an outlaw. He was subjected to a barrage of slander and rumor. One of the rumors was that he was the child of a bathhouse liaison between his mother and the devil.

Yet despite the persecution, between 1520 and 1521, Luther rose to rock star status in Germany. Posters of him and single sheet wood cuts sold out as soon as they went on sale. Many Germans pinned up the posters in public places.

At the same time, cartoons were made of him, shaming and condemning him. One cartoon portrayed him as a monster with 7 heads. His reply to this was, “A cartoon has appeared of me as a monster with 7 heads. I must be invincible, because they cannot overcome me when I only have one.”

In 1525, Luther married a former nun who was 16 years his junior, Katharina von Bora. Luther felt that beer and wine were God’s gifts. He possessed a mug with 3 rings on it–the first ring represented the 10 commandments, the second represented the Apostles Creed, and the third represented the Lord’s prayer.

There’s no doubt that Luther recovered some wonderful truths that were lost to the body of Christ. He stood as a prophet against a corrupt Church, regardless of the consequences. He restored the great doctrine of justification by faith, freeing God’s people from legalism and the need to go through human mediators to get to God. He gave the Bible back to God’s people. He also had a strong hand in restoring music and singing to the congregation of all believers.

Sadly, however, Luther often clashed with his fellow Protestant reformers. He accused Thomas Muntzer of having “unfruitfulness of the spirit and lying” in establishing wrong doctrines.

Karlstadt was a professor at the university of Wittenberg who promoted Luther to the doctorate in 1512. But both men had a heated exchange at the Black Beard Tavern. Luther tossed a guilder at Karlstadt, a sign of an open feud.

Thus began a blood-letting doctrinal war between the two men. In Luther’s Against the Heavenly Powers in 1525, he mocked Karlstadt. Theirs was largely a dispute over the Lord’s Supper, disagreeing over the meaning of the words “this is my body.”

Luther would link Karlstdat and the Swiss Reformer Zwingli as willful liars, sect leaders, and novices in the sacred Scriptures. Luther once said of Zwingli, “I have bitten into many a mutt, believing it to be good, only to find it wormy. Zwingli and Erasmus are nothing but wormy mutts that taste like crap in ones mouth!”

The bad blood between Luther and the other reformers set an example of uncivil dialogue and noncooperation between Protestant leaders that continues until this day.

Luther’s vehemence was even greater toward the Anabaptists. He castigated them as “spiritual know-it-alls,” calling them a “seditious mob.” In 1532, he commented, “The Anabaptist rejects baptism almost entirely. The Pope, who distorts it, at least allows baptism to remain.”

Before you read on, keep two things in mind:

1. Luther lived in the 16th century. Life was cruel and harsh, and people were generally violent. So remember this when you read what follows. To bring this point home, imagine this scenario. Suppose that Christians 200 years from now discover that some of the items we use on a daily basis were destroying the planet. So they may think, “How could those Christians in the 21st century be so selfish and sinful!?” Again, we have to understood Luther, Calvin, etc. against the times in which they lived.

2. The point of this article — and this entire series — is NOT for you to conclude, “Oh my, these guys were really off!” It’s the opposite. If the great theologians who shaped evangelical Christianity could be so right on some things, and so off on others, then certainly we need to be more tolerant, civil, and gracious with our fellow brethren today when we disagree. In other words, it’s hypocritical for a fan of Calvin to condemn someone over a non-essential doctrinal difference when you understand the crazy stuff that Calvin believed. The same with Luther, Lewis, Wesley etc. Get my point?

So this series, rightly understood, should cause us to tread softly with our fellow brethren and sistren in Christ. If it doesn’t produce that effect within your own heart, you’ve missed the point by a considerable distance.

With that said, what follows are some of the shocking beliefs of the great Protestant reformer, Martin Luther.

1. Luther despised Jewish people, believing that they deserved persecution.

In 1523 earlier Luther accused Catholics of being unfair to the Jews and treating them like dogs, thus making it difficult for Jews to convert to Christ. But 15 years later, rumors of the Jewish effort to convert Christians greatly disturbed him, and he changed his tune entirely on the Jewish people.

He concluded that converting a Jew was a hopeless pursuit. He felt that God deserted them, leaving them to wonder homeless without land or temple. If this was God’s feeling toward them, then (he surmised) one might with good conscience ignore the Jews.

Luther’s best friends begged him to stop his anti-Jewish rants, but Luther continued his attacks. He came to agree with the Catholics that Jews were dogs. Shortly before his death he wrote, “We are at fault for not slaying them!”

Church historian Roland Bainton once wrote that it would probably have been better if Luther had died before he wrote his onslaught against the Jews. In his On the Jews and their Lies, Luther stated,

“Let their houses also be shattered and destroyed . . .  Let their prayer books and Talmuds be taken from them, and their whole Bible too; let their rabbis be forbidden, on pain of death, to teach henceforth any more. Let the streets and highways be closed against them. Let them be forbidden to practice usury, and let all their money, and all their treasures of silver and gold be taken from them and put away in safety. And if all this be not enough, let them be driven like mad dogs out of the land.” [1]

And again,

“In sum, they are the Devil’s children, damned to hell.” [2]

Luther’s issue with the Jews didn’t appear to be racial, but theological. He was frustrated that that they had rejected Jesus and he couldn’t convince them otherwise. On this score, he wrote,

“Just as I may eat, drink, sleep, walk, ride with, buy from, speak to, and deal with a heathen, Jew, Turk, or heretic, so I may also marry and continue in wedlock with him. Pay no attention to the precepts of those fools who forbid it . . . A heathen is just as much a man or a woman—God’s good creation—as St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. Lucy . . .” [3]

Luther also opposed the Jews because of his historicist eschatology, which viewed the Turks and Jews as part of a great end-time coalition designed to wipe out Christians under the leadership of the Pope. [4]

2. Luther hated the Anabaptist practice of every-member functioning in the church, which is envisioned in 1 Corinthians 12-14 and Hebrews 10, asserting that it was from “the pit of hell.”

Luther and the other Reformers violently denounced the Anabaptists for practicing every-member functioning in the church.

The Anabaptists believed it was every Christian’s right to stand up and speak in a church meeting. It was not solely the domain of the clergy. Luther was so opposed to this practice that he said it came from “the pit of hell” and those who were guilty of it should be put to death.

The Anabaptists both believed and practiced Paul’s injunction in 1 Corinthians 14:26, 30-31 that every believer has the right to function at any time in a church meeting. In Luther’s day, this practice was known as the Sitzrecht—“the sitter’s right.” [5]

Luther announced that “the Sitzrecht was from the pit of hell” and was a “perversion of public order . . . undermining respect for authority.” Within 20 years, over 116 laws were passed in German lands throughout Europe making this “Anabaptist heresy” a capital offense. [6]

In addition, Luther felt that if the whole church publicly administered the Lord’s Supper it would be a “deplorable confusion.” To Luther’s mind, one person must take on this task—the Protestant pastor. [7]

3. Luther made dramatic statements about sin in order to magnify grace.

Consider this quote from a private letter:

“If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly . . . as long as we are here [in this world] we have to sin. . . . No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day.” [8]

In the same connection, he said:

“The Christian or baptized man cannot, even if he would, lose his soul by any sins however great, unless he refuses to believe; for no sins whatever can condemn him, but unbelief alone.” [9]

At the same time, Luther bemoaned that despite all of his preaching, he saw very little change in the lives of his congregation. He was discouraged that despite his continuous preaching, his congregation remained godless. “In annoys me to keep preaching to you,” he said in 1530 and even refused to preach for a time.

4. Luther believed that lying in some cases doesn’t offend God.

Luther wrote,

“To lie in case of necessity, or for convenience, or in excuse, would not offend God, who is ready to take such lies on Himself. ” [10]

And again,

“What harm could it do if a man told a good lusty lie in a worthy cause and for the sake of the Christian Churches?” [11]

5. Luther wasn’t a fan of Moses’ Commandments.

Note his words:

“Now if anyone confronts you with Moses and his commandments, and wants to compel you to keep them, simply answer, ‘Go to the Jews with your Moses; I am no Jew. Do not entangle me with Moses. If I accept Moses in one respect (Paul tells the Galatians in chapter 5[:3]), then I am obligated to keep the entire law.’ For not one little period in Moses pertains to us.” [12]

“Faith alone is necessary for justification. All other things are completely optional, being no longer commanded or forbidden.” [13]

6. Luther made an attempt to remove the books of Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation from the biblical canon.

He did so because he believed these books went against certain Protestant doctrines such as sola gratia and sola fide. In his preface to the New Testament, Luther ascribed to several books of the New Testament different degrees of doctrinal value saying,

“St. John’s Gospel and his first Epistle, St. Paul’s Epistles, especially those to the Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, and St. Peter’s Epistle-these are the books which show to thee Christ, and teach everything that is necessary and blessed for thee to know, even if you were never to see or hear any other book of doctrine. Therefore, St. James’ Epistle is a perfect straw-epistle compared with them, for it has in it nothing of an evangelic kind.” [14]

In another place he wrote,

“I think highly of the epistle of James, and regard it as valuable although it was rejected in early days. It does not expound human doctrines, but lays much emphasis on God’s law…I do not hold it to be of apostolic authorship.” [15]

In Romans 3:28, Paul wrote, “We account a man to be justified by faith.” However, in Luther’s translation, Luther added the word “alone” to make the sentence read, “We are justified by faith alone.”

When challenged with this change, Luther responded,

“If your Papist annoys you with the word (alone), tell him straightway: Dr. Martin Luther will have it so. Whoever will not have my translation, let him give it the go-by; the devil’s thanks to him who censures it without my will and knowledge. Dr. Martin Luther will have it so, and he is a doctor above all the doctors in Popedom.” [16]

7. Luther believed it was justified – and evenly divinely ordered – that the peasants be slain during the Peasants’ War.

At first, Luther sided with the peasants. He made this plain in his Admonition to Peace. In it, he blamed the unrest on the rulers who persecuted the gospel and mistreated their subjects. He felt that many of the peasants’ demands were fair. And for the sake of peace, the rulers should accommodate them.

But after he observed how the peasants were behaving — causing chaos, violence, and anarchy — he changed his position. In his treatise Against the Robbing and Murdering Hordes of Peasants, he urged the princes with these words,

“Therefore let everyone who can, smite, slay and stab, secretly or openly, remembering that nothing can be more poisonous, hurtful or devilish than a rebel. It is just as when one must kill a mad dog; if you do not strike him, he will strike you, and a whole land with you.”

As a result, the peasants were brutally suppressed.

The Protestant historian H. A. L. Fisher wrote,

“The manner in which he [Luther] dissociated his movement from the peasant rebellion . . . and the encouragement he gave to a course of repression so savage that it left the German peasantry more defenseless and abased than any social class in central or western Europe, are serious blots upon his good name. The German peasants were rough men and rough fighters; but their grievances were genuine, and their original demands were just and reasonable.” [17]

Here are some other quotes by Luther on the matter:

“Like the mules who will not move unless you perpetually whip them with rods, so the civil powers must drive the common people, whip, choke, hang, burn, behead and torture them, that they may learn to fear the powers that be.” [18]

“Peasants are no better than straw. They will not hear the word and they are without sense; therefore they must be compelled to hear the crack of the whip and the whiz of bullets and it is only what they deserve.” [19]

“To kill a peasant is not murder; it is helping to extinguish the conflagration. Let there be no half measures! Crush them! Cut their throats! Transfix them. Leave no stone unturned! To kill a peasant is to destroy a mad dog! If they say that I am very hard and merciless, mercy be damned. Let whoever can stab, strangle, and kill them like mad dogs.” [20]

“I, Martin Luther, have during the rebellion slain all the peasants, for it was I who ordered them to be struck dead. All their blood is upon my head. But I put it all on our Lord God: for he commanded me to speak thus.” [21]

8. Luther believed that the Pope was the Antichrist.

In his reply to the Papal Bull of Leo X, he wrote,

“But whoever wrote this bull, he is Antichrist.” . . . “Whether this bull is by Eck or by the pope, it is the sum of all impiety, blasphemy, ignorance, impudence, hypocrisy, lying – in a word, it is Satan and his Antichrist.” . . . “I call upon you to renounce your diabolical blasphemy and audacious impiety, and, if you will not, we shall all hold your seat as possessed and oppressed by Satan, the damned seat of Antichrist; in the name of Jesus Christ, whom you persecute.” [22]

9. Luther believed that heretics should be put to death.

By 1531, Luther believed that blasphemy was punishable by death and he included “false teaching” into that definition. In 1536, Melanchthon drafted a memorandum demanding death for all Anabaptists and Luther signed it. [23]

10. Luther believed that the Bible wasn’t always literally factual.

On this point, he wrote:

“When one often reads [in the Bible] that great numbers of people were slain–for example, eighty thousand–I believe that hardly one thousand were actually killed. What is meant is the whole people.” [24]

He also argued that not all the events in the book of Job actually happened as reported. [25]

11. Luther believed that writing in anger, using profanity, and shaming his enemies by name-calling was justified.

If you ever got on Luther’s bad side, you’d be wise to run for cover.

He wrote,

“Anger refreshes all my blood, sharpens my mind, and drives away temptations . . . I was born to war with fanatics and devils. Thus my books are very stormy and bellicose.”

Luther scholars are well aware of Luther’s unkind and course tone as well as his penchant to be angry and bull-headed. In addition, name-calling wasn’t beneath him. On this score, Luther wrote,

“I cannot deny that I am more vehement than I should be . . . But they assail me and God’s Word so atrociously and criminally that . . . these monsters are carrying me beyond the bounds of moderation.”

And again,

“We should take him—the pope, the cardinals, and whatever riffraff belongs to His Idolatrous and Papal Holiness—and (as blasphemers) tear out their tongues from the back, and nail them on the gallows.”

Luther felt that foul language was appropriate to combat evil as well. He dismissed the Jewish rabbi’s interpretation of Scripture as “Jewish piss and shi*.”

He reprimanded his Catholic opponents saying “How often must I cry out to you coarse, stupid papists to quote Scripture some time? Scripture! Scripture! Scripture! Do you not hear, you deaf goat and coarse ass?” [26]

In this regard, Erasmus said of Luther that he was “a harsh, severe physician” for an ill world.

His books, Hans Worst and Table Talk contain unseemly and lascivious expressions and sentiments.

The Swiss Protestant reformer Bullinger said of Luther, “Alas, it is as clear as daylight and undeniable that no one has ever written more vulgarly, more coarsely, more unbecomingly, in matters of faith, and Christian modesty, and in all serious matters, than Luther. There are writings by Luther so muddy, so swinish, so vulgar and coarse, which would not be excused in a shepherd of pigs rather than in a shepherd of souls.” [26a]

Luther once described a treatise he had written saying,

“I wrote it after dining–but a Christian can speak better inebriated than a papists can sober.” [26b]

Luther’s collaborator, Melanchthon, admitted that he could “neither deny, nor excuse, or praise” Luther’s coarse writings. That said, in all of Luther’s work there are only a few pages of vulgarity.

12. Luther believed that human free will didn’t exist.

While Calvinists won’t find this idea shocking, many non-Calvinists will object. On this subject, Luther wrote,

“With regard to God, and in all that bears on salvation or damnation, (man) has no ‘free-will’, but is a captive, prisoner and bondslave, either to the will of God, or to the will of  Satan.” [27]

And again,

“We do everything of necessity, and nothing by ‘free-will’; for the power of ‘free-will’ is nil . . .”  [28]

13. Luther held controversial views on marriage.

Note his words,

“As to divorce, it is still a debatable question whether it is allowable. For my part I prefer bigamy to it.” [29]

“The word and work of God is quite clear, viz., that women are made to be either wives or prostitutes.” [30]

“I confess that I cannot forbid a person to marry several wives, for it does not contradict the Scripture. If a man wishes to marry more than one wife he should be asked whether he is satisfied in his conscience that he may do so in accordance with the word of God. In such a case the civil authority has nothing to do in the matter.” [31]

Two closing historical notes for those who are interested in the origins of modern church practices.

These aren’t “shocking” beliefs, just interesting points of history.

(1) Luther didn’t use the word “priest” to refer to the new clergy of the Reformation, but the ministry was essentially the same.

He wrote, “We neither can nor ought to give the name priest to those who are in charge of the Word and sacrament among the people. The reason they have been called priests is either because of the custom of the heathen people or as a vestige of the Jewish nation. The result is greatly injurious to the church.” [32]

However, not much changed between the Catholic priest and the Protestant pastor during the Reformation. The “priest” was transformed into the “preacher,” “the minister,” and finally “the pastor.”

Catholic priests had seven duties at the time of the Reformation: preaching; the sacraments; prayers for the flock; a disciplined, godly life; church rites; supporting the poor; and visiting the sick. The Protestant pastor took upon himself all of these responsibilities—plus he sometimes blessed civic events.

The famed poet John Milton summed the idea up by saying, “New presbyter is but old priest writ large.” Milton was saying that the Protestant pastor under Luther was little more than a Reformed Catholic priest.

(2) Luther detested the word “church” as a translation for ekklesia. Emil Brunner writes about this saying,

“Of all the great teachers of Christianity, Martin Luther perceived most clearly the difference between the Ecclesia of the New Testament and the institutional church, and reacted most sharply against the quid pro quo which would identify them. Therefore he refused to tolerate the mere word ‘church’: he called it an obscure ambiguous term. In his translation of the Bible, he rendered ecclesia by ‘congregation’ . . . He realized that the New Testament ecclesia is just not an ‘it,’ ‘a thing,’ an ‘institution,’ but rather a unity of persons, a people, a communion. . . . Strong as was Luther’s aversion to the word ‘church,’ the facts of history prove stronger. The linguistic usage of both the Reformation and the post-Reformation era had to come to terms with the so powerfully developed idea of the church, and consequently all the confusion dependent upon the use of this ‘obscure ambiguous’ word penetrated Reformation theology. It was impossible to put the clock back one millennium and a half. The conception ‘church’ remained irrevocably moulded by this historical process of 1500 years.” [33]

WARNING: Our beloved Blog Manager say that anyone wielding accusations like “Martin Luther is the mouthpiece of Satan” and other such sentiments, will not see their comment approved.

So to the both of you who found this post on the Web somewhere and are starting to march toward the comments box with pitch forks, blow torches, and blunt objects in order to delegitimize, castigate, or marginalize Luther beyond repair, your remark will vanish into the electricity after the Blog Manger hits the DELETE key.

In the comments below, share one of your favorite Luther quotes or contributions.

Other Posts in the Series – The Rest will Appear in the Upcoming “Shocking Beliefs” Book

Shocking Beliefs of John Calvin

Shocking Beliefs of Jonathan Edwards

Shocking Beliefs of John Wesley

Shocking Beliefs of C.S. Lewis

Shocking Beliefs of D.L. Moody

Shocking Beliefs of Augustine

ShockingBeliefsBook

SOURCES

[1] This quotation is an assembly of quotations scattered over 23 pages of Luther’s Works. See  LW 47:269-270; LW 292. Cited in  James Swan, “Martin Luther’s Attitude Toward the Jews,” June 2005.

[2] Martin Luther, the Bible, and the Jewish People: A Reader, p. 179; Luther’s Works, Vol. XX.

[3] Quoted in  Carter Lindberg, “Tainted Greatness: Luther’s Attitudes Toward Judaism and Their Historical Reception,” in Nancy A. Harrowitz (ed.), Tainted Greatness: Antisemitism and Cultural Heroes (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1994), 20-21.

[4] Cited in James Swan, “Martin Luther’s Attitude Toward the Jews,” June 2005, Section III.

[5] Peter Hoover, Secret of the Strength, Benchmark Press, 1999, pp. 58–59. Hoover points out that Luther and the other Reformers despised the Anabaptist teaching of listening to their spiritual instincts (“inner word”). That is, the Anabaptists believed the Spirit still speaks to God’s people today. Hoover says that Luther “violently denounced” this as well as their practice of “the sitter’s seat.”

[6] Peter Hoover, Secret of the Strength, Benchmark Press, 1999,  pp. 59, 198. Hoover clearly states that Luther and his friends believed that the practice of “the sitter’s seat” — the open sharing for mutual edification they envisioned in 1 Cor. 14 — was to be “dealt with only by fire, water, and the sword . . . Luther gave his blessing to the death sentence upon the Anabaptists . . . for the preservation of the public order” (p. 59). In addition, Hoover points out that “Martin Luther and his colleagues met at Speyer on the Rhein in 1529 . . . At that time they passed a resolution: ‘Every Anabaptist, both male and female, shall be put to death by fire, sword, or in some other way'” (p. 198).

[7] Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966), 323.

[8] Letter to Melanchthon, August 1, 1521, Luther’s Works, vol. 48, pp. 281-82. This statement came from a letter fragment, most likely from Luther to Melancthon. Luther’s was given to overstatements and hyperbole. Nevertheless, if Luther is the source of this letter, as many believe, he wasn’t advocating that everyone go out and sin big league. Rather, he was emphasizing how far grace reaches us even in our sins. In other writings, Luther made clear that good works demonstrated real faith.

[9] Martin Luther, The Babylonish Captivity, C. 3.

[10] Enserch Conference, July 17, 1540.

[11] From Lenz: Briefwechsel, Vol. 1., p. 373.

[12] Luther’s Works, 35:164-165.

[13] Luther’s Commentary on Galatians 2.

[14] From Luther’s Preface to the New Testament.

[15] Martin Luther, as quoted by William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, The Letters of James and Peter, Revised Edition, Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY, 1976, p. 7.

[16] Amic. Discussion I, 127, quoted in The Facts About Luther by Partrick O’Haire. For further context on Luther’s translation of Romans 3, see http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2006/02/luther-added-word-alone-to-romans-328.html. (Note: we do not endorse O’Hare’s book as it’s largely a character assassination of Luther. However, some of the Luther quotes in it are authentic.)

[17] A History of Europe by Fisher, p. 506. Durant includes more shocking quotes from Luther on the Peasants’ revolt in The Reformation, Chapter XVII.

[18] Quoted by O’Hare in The Facts About Luther, TAN Books, 1987, p. 235. (Note: we do not endorse O’Hare’s book as it’s largely a character assassination of Luther. However, some of the Luther quotes in it are authentic.)

[19] Tischreden (Table Talk); Erlanger Ed., Vol. 24, p. 294.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Tischreden; Erlanger Ed., Vol. 59. p. 284.

[22] Cited in Roland H. Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, pp. 153-155.

[23] Christian History, Issue 39. (Issue 34 covers Luther’s early years.)

[24] Luther’s Works, Vol. 54, p. 452.

[25] Ibid, pp. 79-80.

[26] Quotes in this section were taken from Christian History, Issue 39.

[26a] Quoted in The Facts About Luther by Patrick O’Hare.

[26b] Quoted in Luther: An Experiment in Biography by Harry Haile.

[27] Bondage of the Will, Martin Luther: Selections From His Writings, ed. by Dillenberger, p. 190.

[28] Ibid., p. 188.

[29] From Luther’s On Marriage.

[30] From Luther’s, Of Married Life.

[31] Luther in De Wette II, 459.

[32] Luther, “Concerning the Ministry,” Luther’s Works, 35, 40.

[33] Emil Brunner, The Misunderstanding of the Church (London: Lutterworth Press, 1952), pp. 15-16.

About Frank Viola

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