“Pope is God”? Similar Rhetoric from Luther & Bullinger

“Pope is God”? Similar Rhetoric from Luther & Bullinger December 6, 2015
Anti-Catholics repeatedly fail to understand how language is used.


2 Peter 1:3-4 (RSV) His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, [4] by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature.

Romans 5:2 Through him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

Romans 9:23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for the vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory,

Ephesians 3:16-19 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man, [17] and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, [18] may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, [19] and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fulness of God.

Hebrews 6:4 . . . partakers of the Holy Spirit,

See also: Biblical Evidence for God Sharing His Glory With His Creatures


The argument herein presented is an example of reductio ad absurdum, or (in popular lingo) “it proves too much”. If remarks made by popes about speaking for God, etc., are absurdly taken as equations with God, then the same must apply to Protestants who speak in similar terms, including the founder of Protestantism himself, Martin Luther: who actually assumed far more authority for himself (as did Calvin, Henry VIII and many other Protestant leaders; so-called “reformers”) than any pope ever dreamt of claiming. I’ve been pointing this out for over twenty years now.

The fundamental error is inability to understand the range of how language is used, and to grasp the context of the statements themselves, and how they fit into the overall picture of Catholicism.

* * * * *

A Protestant who actually believes this pope-as-God stuff, named Gregory Mathew Kuglin, came onto the combox and expressed himself (on 2-18-11). I appreciated his cordiality, if not his ideas:

Hi Dave,

I found your site through the ‘stats’ section of my blog. Someone had come from your site, directly to my blog. So I checked it out, and found that you linked to my blog (The Roman Catholic Church’s Shame) in your post about the Holy Sees self proclamation of divinity.

I did not know that the commonly used quotation of Pius V is inaccurate. I’ll take your word on this one, because admittedly I’ve never read that book by Barclay, not even Chapter XXVII, p. 218.

Your post however did not touch on the other quotations I posted in the same article. These are from other sources, written at different times.

Even if the popes and those involved in the Catholic system never proposed that the pope “is as God on earth,” (papa est QUASI DEUS IN TERRA), as Pope Boniface VIII did, there is still abundant evidence from the Holy Bible, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, that the papal position is one totally apart from the God of truth, and is an attempt to usurp his glory.

For example, Paragraph 882 of the Catechism:

The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter’s successor, is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful. For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.

Is this not saying that the pope holds the position, power, and influence of Jesus Christ, God on earth? But the Bible says all things, and every name that is named are under the feet of Jesus (Eph 1:17-22). This would include Peter, and every ‘successor’ after him.

Then paragraphs 890, and 891 of the CCC mention infallibility. Only one was perfect in faith and morals, and that was and is Jesus Christ, who lived without sin. Peter proved he was fallible when he ignorantly tried to persuade Jesus against conquering sin and death; and Jesus rebuked him as Satan (Mt 16:21-23).

Thank you for link to my blog. Further discussion on any Catholic topic is definitely welcomed by me.


Greg Kuglin

I replied:

Infallibility has to do with being error-free in proclaiming a doctrine, not being impeccable in morals. This is a common mistake, but a very basic one.

The pope represents Jesus on earth. That no more makes him equal to God than being an ambassador of the United States makes a person the same as the United States.

It’s just silly.

You seem like a sensible person. Can’t you see the logical distinctions here?

Another esteemed regular on my blog, “Jordanes 551” also commented:

In addition, as for those few times when Catholic theologians have spoken of the pope as “quasi deus in terra,” how is that any more objectionable than Psalm 44 (45):7-8, where the Davidic King of Judah, a mere mortal, is addressed with the words, “Thy throne, O God, is forevermore; a sceptre of uprightness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou dost love justice and hate iniquity: therefore God, thy God, has anointed thee, with oil of gladness above thy fellows”? Or Psalm 81 (82):6, where God addresses human, mortal judges with the words, “I have said: ‘You are elohim, and all of you, the sons of the Most High.”

If He called them gods to whom the word of God was addressed (and the Scripture cannot be broken), dost thou say of him to whom Christ hath given the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and granted unto him royal power as steward of the House of David and servant of the King, “Thou blasphemest,” because it has been said of him that he is like God on the earth?

1) Martin Luther, Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, compiled by E. Mueller, translated by P. Anstadt, York, Pennsylvania: P. Anstadt & Sons, 1899, p. 335:

[John 10] 33 The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not, but for blasphemy ; and because thou, being a man, makest thyself God.

34 Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?

35 If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the Scripture cannot be broken;

36 Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sandtified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?

37 If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not.

38 But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works; that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.

Thou, being a man, makest thyself God. Nature knows that there is a God who helps, but who that God is, she knows not. Christ has God’s work, and speaks God’s word, yet the Jews can not know him through their reason.

I said, Ye are gods. In Exodus xxii. 28, the judges (Elohim, not Jehovah,) are called gods on account of their office, because they sit in God’s stead and are God’s servants; so also all Christians are called gods, as Christ here shows from Ps. lxxxii. 6.

2) Heinrich Bullinger [16th century “reformer”], The Decades of Henry Bullinger, vol. 5, edited by Thomas Harding, Cambridge University Press, 1852 , p. 95:

For this cause ministers are called saviours: they are said to convert men: their word is called, not the word of man, but the word of God; he which despiseth them, seemeth to despise God himself. It is also said, that they themselves do bind and loose, and retain and forgive sins. For Abdias the prophet saith, that saviours shall ascend into the mount Sion; which many interpret of the apostles. Paul, pleading before king Agrippa, and rehearsing the words of God which came unto him in a vision, . . . Moreover, the apostle to the Thessalonians [1 Thess 2:13], “We thank God (saith he), because when ye had received of us the word of the preaching of God, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is indeed, the word of God, which worketh also in you that believe.” Again [1 Thess 4:8]: “He therefore that despiseth these things, despiseth not man, but God, who hath even given you his Holy Spirit.” For the Lord saith in the gospel: luke x. “He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me.” [Lk 10:16; cf. Matt 10:40; Jn 13:20]

3) Martin Luther, Against the Spiritual Estate of the Pope and the Bishops Falsely So-Called (July 1522):

I now let you know that from now on I shall no longer do you the honor of allowing you – or even an angel from heaven – to judge my teaching or to examine it. For there has been enough foolish humility now for the third time at Worms, and it has not helped. Instead, I shall let myself be heard and, as St. Peter teaches, give an explanation and defense of my teaching to all the world – I Pet. 3:15. I shall not have it judged by any man, not even by any angel. For since I am certain of it, I shall be your judge and even the angels’ judge through this teaching (as St. Paul says [I Cor. 6:3 ]) so that whoever does not accept my teaching may not be saved – for it is God’s and not mine. Therefore, my judgment is also not mine but God’s. (From: Luther’s Works, edited by Jaroslav Pelikan (volumes 1-30) and Helmut T. Lehmann (volumes 31-55), St. Louis: Concordia Pub. House (volumes 1-30); Philadelphia: Fortress Press (volumes 31-55), 1955. This work from Volume 39: Church and Ministry I (edited by J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, and H. T. Lehmann); pages 239-299; translated by Eric W. and Ruth C. Gritsch; excerpt from 248-249)

4) Martin Luther, Against Henry VIII, King of England (15 July 1522):

Whoever teaches differently from what I have taught herein, or condemns me for it, he condemns God, and must be a child of Hell. (From: Henry O’Connor, Luther’s Own Statements, New York: Benziger Bros., 3rd ed., 1884, 15)

Ye will have Luther as a she-bear in your way and as a lioness in your path. He will attack you on all sides, and will give you no rest until he has broken in pieces your iron necks and brazen foreheads, either for your salvation or for your destruction.
* * *
For my teaching is in no particular contradictory, nor can be contradictory, because it is Christ’s. (From: online translation, translated by E. S. Buchanan, and published in New York by Charles A. Swift in 1928. It is hosted on the Project Canterbury Anglican website)

5) Martin Luther, Reply to the Answer of the Leipzig Goat (1521):

I have said repeatedly: Assail my person if you will, and in any way you will; I do not claim to be an angel. But I will allow no one to assail my teaching with impunity, since I know that it is not mine, but God’s. For on this depends my neighbor’s salvation and my own, to God’s praise and honor. (From: Works of Martin Luther, Philadelphia: A. J. Holman Co. and the Castle Press, 1930; reprinted by Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1982 , Volume 3, 293-294; translated by A. Steimle)


(originally 2-24-11)

Photo credit: [PublicDomainPictures.Net / CC0 Public Domain]


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