by Fr. William Most
In 1530 the Emperor asked the Lutherans to prepare a statement of their
beliefs for comparison with Roman Catholic Teachings. It was given to the
Emperor at Augsburg, not accepted by the Catholic Church. At least many
Lutherans still accept it. (Hereinafter= )
In many respects is sounds like a Catholic creed. But there are two
great reasons why it is unacceptable to the Catholic Church.
1. Faith: The idea of faith at Augsburg is still the same as that of Luther.
in 20. 23: "Faith does not mean knowledge of an event.
. . it means faith which believes. . . also in the effect of an event,
namely, the remission of sins, e.g., that we have, through Christ, grace,
righteousness and remission of sins."
No, St. Paul has a different definition of faith. It includes three
things. The third, and most vital, is omitted in the Augsburg Confession. For
St. Paul requires 1) We believe what God says. Augsburg Confession would not
disagree. 2) We have confidence in His promises. hardly
would disagree 3) The "obedience of faith" - from Romans 1:5. A standard
Protestant reference work, , says in
its 1976 Supplement volume, p. 333, in the article on faith, in the section
on St. Paul: "Paul uses [Greek words for faith and
believe] to mean, above all, belief in the Christ [proclamation or
preaching], knowledge, obedience, trust in the Lord Jesus. Commenting on Rom
1. 5 the same article says: that we must respond,"by the 'obedience of
faith', (Rom 1:5), 'the obedience which faith us'". Notice
that it is not said merely that faith produces obedience. Rather, it speaks
of the obedience that faith IS.
Here Luther contradicted most strongly. In his of August 1,
1521 to Melanchthon (This translation is taken from the official Lutheran
American Edition of his complete works, vol. 42, pp. 281-82: "If you are a
preacher of grace, t hen preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace
is true, you must bear a true [p. 282] 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." So if a
man after a sex orgy would go out and kill a thousand people with an
automatic rifle, and then kill himself, he would go instantly to the eternal
embrace of God. Yet In Malachi 3:2: "Who can stand when He appears? For He is
like a refiner's fire." That fire would have to burn all that rot out of him.
If there would be anything left, He might finally reach heaven. If not, it
would mean the fire would keep on burning him forever.
So, sadly, we have to say: Luther did not really know what St. Paul meant
by faith. Yet he built his whole system on that error. In his Exposition on
Psalm 130. 4, speaking of justification by faith. he wrote: "If this article
stands, the church stands; if it falls, the church falls". He also wiped out
the Holiness of God, of which Isaiah speaks over and over, the attribute by
which God loves all that is good, and hates all sin. Luther thinks a thousand
fornications and murder per day leave a man still right with God.
He said the same thing in his 501 to Melanchthon.
He also said, as cited by the noted Lutheran scholar, De Wette (4. 188):
"We must remove the [ten commandments] out of sight and heart."
He also said in (cited in P. F. O'Hare, The Facts About
Luther, Tan, Rockford, 1987, p. 315: "I sit here in idleness and pray, alas,
little, and sigh not for the Church of God. Much more am I consumed by the
fires of my unbridled flesh. In a word, I who should burn of the spirit, am
consumed by the flesh, and by lasciviousness."
Lutherans would like to believe the Catholic Church taught the wrong way
to salvation for most of 15 centuries, and that then God sent so grossly
immoral a man to rectify it, a man who did not bother to read St. Paul
carefully to see what St. Paul meant by faith. He just jumped to a
conclusion. But: What would become of the promises of Christ if they had
failed for so many centuries?
2. The principle of teaching authority makes an impassible gap. The
Protestants make two mistakes here: 1) They think Scripture is clear and easy
on the essential things. Justification by faith is of course most essential.
But was not clear as we have seen. Luther did not know what the word faith
meant in St. Paul. Nor did he understand the word justification. He thought
it meant something merely extrinsic and legalistic: it left the soul corrupt.
In thinking the essentials are clear, he contradicted 2 Peter 3:6 which said
that in St. Paul, "There are many things hard to understand, which the
unlearned and the unstable twist, as they do the other Scriptures, to their
2) Still worse, Luther had no right to appeal to Scripture at all, for
he did not know of any way to determine on his own which books are inspired
and part of Scripture. In 1910 a Baptist theology Professor from the
University of Chicago, Gerald Birney Smith, gave a paper at the national
Baptist convention. In it he went over every means he could think of to prove
which books are inspired. He said none of them was any good. He also said the
method Luther tried to use was no good. Luther thought if a book preaches
justification by faith strongly it is inspired. How foolish! Most books of
Scripture do not even mention the subject! But that Professor did say that if
there were a providentially protected teaching authority, that would settle
it. He did not believe there is such a thing. We know there is, as our
apologetics shows easily. So the Professor concluded his paper saying no
wonder we do not hear the word infallible much today: we cannot be sure if
Scripture is Scripture. A sad case of that emerged in a book by Gerhard
Maier, , published by the great
Lutheran house at Concordia, in 1974. In it, on pp, 61 and 63, he said: "Only
Scripture can say in a binding way what authority it claims and has. . . .
Scripture considers itself as revelation." This is a shocker, a perfect case
of lifting self by the shoelaces. Scripture cannot prove Scripture is
inspired until we know Scripture is itself inspired. And it definitely does
not say it is inspired. Nor does it say Scripture is the only way in which
God communicates to us. It is as if he said: Scripture is Scripture, because
Scripture says Scripture is Scripture. The article just mentioned was
published in 37, pp. 19-29.
Further, all Protestantism assumes Christ told the Apostles: Write some
books - pass them out- tell people to figure them out for themselves. Books
were too expensive at the start, so many were illiterate, and as we said,
this notion contradicts 2 Peter 3. 16 saying St. Paul is not clear. Christ
did not say such a foolish thing. He told the Apostles to teach, and
promised: "He who hears you, hears me."
Even worse, most Lutherans have no notion of what Luther really taught.
He himself considered his book, as his chief work.
Here are references from it (in a Lutheran edition, translated by James J. B
Packer and O. R. Johnston, F. H. Revell Co., Old Tappan, New Jersey, 1957).
On p. 273 he insists strongly there is no such a thing as free will. On pp.
103-04: "Man's will is like a beast. . . if God rides, it wills and goes
where God wills. . . . If Satan rides, it wills and goes where Satan wills.
Nor may it choose to which rider it will run. . . ." Therefore a man has
nothing to say whether he goes to heaven or hell, he cannot choose the rider.
Yet on p. 101: "He saves so few and damns so many." And on p. 314 those who
are damned are "undeserving."