Capsule on Lutheranism

Author: Fr. William Most


1. Luther's own test: "If this article stands, the church stands, if it collapses, the church collapses." Luther was talking about justification by faith in his Exposition of Psalm 130. 4.

2. The collapse: Luther misunderstood two key words, "justification" and "faith."

He thought faith means taking Christ as one's personal Savior, confidence that the merits of Christ apply to me. After this, he said: ("Epistle" 501): "Even if you sin greatly, believe more greatly." In other words, you may sin as much as you want--it is all outbalanced by the merits of Christ. So you are infallibly saved. In another letter: "Even if you commit adultery and murder 1000 times a day, it will not separate you from Christ"

Fatal flaw: By faith St. Paul means three things: 1) If God speaks a truth, believe it in your mind (as in 1 Thes 2:13; 2 Cor 5:7). 2) If God makes a promise, be confident in His promise (cf. Gal 5:5; Rom 5:1; 1 Thes 5:8). 3) If He tells me to do something, I must do it, must obey (cf. Romans 1:5: "The obedience of faith", i.e., the obedience that faith is." The large Protestant reference work, "Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible," Supplement, p. 333 explains faith the same way. --Therefore, faith which includes obedience, cannot justify disobedience -- as Luther thought!. So in Luther's system, one is not infallibly saved. If he commits mortal sin, does nothing but thinks it is all right, that will not cancel out a mortal sin! St. Paul surely took Christ as His Savior, yet in 1 Cor 9:26-27, he says he has to be hard on his body to tame it, or it might lead him into sin and he would fail to get salvation.

Another fatal flaw: He thought justification means we remain totally corrupt (cf. his "Bondage of the Will"). But St. Paul says the Christian is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who would not dwell in total corruption ( 1 Cor 3:17; 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16). And a Christian is a "new creation", made over completely: 2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15).

Another fatal flaw: He depended on Scripture alone. But he had no means of knowing which books are inspired. He thought if a book preaches justification by faith strongly it is inspired -but most books of Scripture do not even mention justification by faith! 2 Tim. 2:2 called for oral transmission of teaching.

Born again: This builds on Luther's error. In taking Christ as Savior, one must have an [emotional] experience. Otherwise he is not Christian. So Mother Teresa goes to hell. What a "God"!

Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 says we must keep vows. Luther broke all his vows.