Problems and Inconsistencies

I show the problems and inconsistencies of Martin Luther's teachings using quotes from his own writings.

Side-effects of Luther's doctrines
Categories of Believers
Biased Bible Translation
Uses Vulgar Speech
Luther Teaches Salvation by Works
Luther's Message (Catechism) the "True Gospel"
Contradictions with Sola Fide

   The New Testament Church

I should mention — Martin Luther was a great man of God. I admire his courage to oppose Catholic abuses and corruptions. Catholics should be outraged at the unholy conduct of some Catholic popes, bishops, and priests throughout history and even into modern times.

Side-effects of Luther's Doctrines ...

Luther's doctrines and teachings have some undesirable side-effects not usually considered by Protestants. A typical response of Protestants when confronted with these is to deny they follow Luther's teachings but, rather, that they follow the Bible. But this is a weak response when considering that Luther's doctrines form the basis for Protestantism.

Luther was the first to successfully promote the following doctrines (although Protestants will typically wrongly ascribe some of them to Church Fathers such as Augustine):

These Protestant doctrines form the core of Protestantism. If you take these away there is not much left of Protestantism.

Categories of Believers ...

Luther has inadvertently created two categories of believers:

  1. Those with strong faith who should be allowed complete freedom, and
  2. Those with weak faith who need rules imposed upon them so they don't live wicked lives and fall away from true faith.

The problem with Luther's system is it implies the amount of faith necessary for salvation is too small to result in good works. Therefore, the ministers have to fill the gap through their strong leadership by imposing rules of conduct and regular exhortations to be good.

You might object to this complaint by saying Luther can't guarantee everybody will have strong faith. The reason this is a problem: in Luther's system of Sola Fide (only faith) he separates faith from works and claims that saving faith will always result in good works. When these good works are not present we must question whether these people really had sufficient faith for salvation.

The end result of these difficulties is that there is a category of believers with strong faith who impose rules on those with weak faith and who regularly exhort them to be good. We see this today in Protestant churches in which people who have been believers for years must sit through long sermons in which the preacher seems to assume they have weak faith and need to be encouraged to be good that week.

Quotes from Luther's writings:

The minister of Christ must be prudent and faithful in so ruling and teaching the people of Christ, in all these matters. . . that they may not lose the faith. . . . This is a thing which easily happens, and defiles very many.

Concerning Christian Liberty, 1520 A.D., Letter of Martin Luther to Pope Leo X

Note it is the ministers' job to rule the Christians who have weak faith so they don't lose their faith altogether. But there is no consideration of providing the same protection for the ministers who presumably have strong faith and therefore don't require this sort of assistance. Nor is there any provision for people who become strong in faith. They must still endure long weekly sermons exhorting them to be good even after their faith has become strong and they no longer require it.

Hence in the Christian life ceremonies are to be not otherwise looked upon than as builders and workmen look upon those preparations for building or working which are not made with any view of being permanent or anything in themselves, but only because without them there could be no building and no work. When the structure is completed, they are laid aside.

Concerning Christian Liberty, 1520 A.D., Letter of Martin Luther to Pope Leo X

Those with strong faith no longer need ceremonies as those with weak faith do. Luther's assumption is that mature believers don't need these things as Christians with weak faith do. Thus we have two categories of believers; (1) Those who need ceremonies, and (2) those who don't.

Such men must be urged by laws and hemmed in by teaching and exhortation.

A Treatise on Good Works, together with the Letter of Dedication,
1520 A.D, Section XIV, Paragraph 2.

The "such men" Luther is referring to are those with weak faith.

Biased Bible Translation ...

Martin Luther translated the New Testament into German and translated Romans 3:28 as follows:

We hold that the human will be justified without the works of the law but only by faith.

The NIV translation is as follows:

For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.

The King James version is as follows:

Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

The Catholic Church objected to Luther's translation of this verse prompting Luther to write a letter to defend his translation. The name of the letter:

An Open Letter on Translating, 1530 A.D.

Luther admits to adding the word "only" in the text but insists his reasons for doing so are good ones. Notice he used his doctrine of Sola Fide (faith only) to guide his translation rather than being faithful to the text. His words:

I was not depending upon or following the nature of language when I inserted the word "solum" (alone) in Rom. 3 as the text itself, and St. Paul's meaning, urgently necessitated and demanded it. He [Paul, the apostle] is dealing with the main point of Christian doctrine in this passage — namely that we are justified by faith in Christ without any works of the Law.

I also know that in Rom. 3, the word "solum" is not present in either Greek or Latin text — the papists did not have to teach me that — it is fact! The letters s-o-l-a are not there. And these knotheads stare at them like cows at a new gate, while at the same time they do not recognize that it conveys the sense of the text — if the translation is to be clear and accurate, it belongs there.

Uses Vulgar Speech ...

As a side point, in this letter Luther is very disrespectful to the Catholic Church leaders. A few quotes:

If I, Dr. Luther, had thought that all the Papists together were capable of translating even one passage of Scripture correctly and well, I would have gathered up enough humility to ask for their aid and assistance in translating the New Testament into German.

If your Papist wishes to make a great fuss about the word "alone" (sola), say this to him: "Dr. Martin Luther will have it so and he says that a papist and an ass [donkey] are the same thing."

Please do not give these asses [donkeys] any other answer to their useless braying about that word "sola" than simply "Luther will have it so, and he says that he is a doctor above all the papal doctors."

I know quite well how much skill, hard work, understanding and intelligence is needed for a good translation. They know it less than even the miller's donkey for they have never tried it.

There are brazen idiots among them who have never learned their own art of sophistry — like Dr. Schmidt and Snot-Nose.

Luther Teaches Salvation by Works ...

In emphasizing the importance of raising Godly children, Luther inadvertently admits God judges our works. Notice he refers to this as a salvation issue by using the word "salvation" and the phrase "eternal punishment."

Thus it is true. . . that parents. . . could attain salvation by training their own children; if they rightly train them to God's service, they will indeed have both hands full of good works to do.

Parents cannot earn eternal punishment in any way more easily than by neglecting their own children in their own home, and not teaching them the things which have been spoken of above. Of what help is it, that they kill themselves with fasting, praying, making pilgrimages, and do all manner of good works? God will. . . not ask them about these things at their death and in the day of judgment, but will require of them the children whom He entrusted to them.

A Treatise on Good Works, together with the Letter of Dedication,
1520 A.D, Section V, Paragraph 1 and Section VI, Paragraph 1.

Luther's Message (Catechism) the "True Gospel" ...

While Luther claimed to place the scripture as the highest authority (Sola Scriptura), in actuality he placed his interpretation of scripture above scripture itself. He wrote a Catechism which he claimed embodied the essential doctrines and practices all Christians should believe and follow.

Christians, but Especially to All Pastors and Preachers, that They Should Daily Exercise Themselves in the Catechism, which is a Short Summary and Epitome of the Entire Holy Scriptures, and that They May Always Teach the Same.

The Large Catechism, 1530 A.D.

In other words, Luther believed his interpretation of the Bible was the correct one and that Christians should learn it. Not only should they believe his interpretation but they should meditate on it daily. This includes pastors and preachers as well as the common (lay) people.

And what else are such supercilious [arrogant], presumptuous saints, who are unwilling to read and study the Catechism daily, doing than esteeming themselves much more learned than God Himself with all His saints, angels [patriarchs], prophets, apostles, and all Christians.

The Large Catechism, 1530 A.D.

Actually it is Luther who considers himself more learned than God since he wrote the Catechism. In this passage Luther seems to regard his Catechism very highly, even higher than the scripture from which it is derived. It contradicts Luther's doctrine of Sola Scriptura (scripture only) to require a Catechism at all, especially if it is to be read and studied daily.

Then follows the sermon, on the Gospel of the Sunday or Holyday: and I think that, where the German Postills [homily collections] are in use throughout the year, it were best to order the Postill of the day, either whole or part, to be read out of the book to the people; not merely for the preacher's sake who can do no better, but as a safeguard against fanatics and sectaries,—a custom of which one may see traces in the Homilies at Mattins. Otherwise, where there is no spiritual understanding, and the Spirit himself speaks not through the preacher (though I set no limits to the preacher; for the Spirit can teach better than any Postills or Homilies) the end of it will be that every man will preach what he likes; and, instead of the Gospel and its exposition, they will be preaching once more about blue ducks! There are further reasons why we keep the Epistles and Gospels as they are arranged in the Postills, because there are but few inspired preachers who can handle a whole Gospel or other book with force and profit.

The German Mass and Order of Divine Service, 1526 A.D., Section 3,iii,h

Luther gives several reasons why all preachers should preach from the Postills:

Contradictions with Sola Fide ...

Luther's writings demonstrate that his doctrine of Sola Fide has severe problems.

Luther constantly asserts that good works will always automatically follow from saving faith. I will emphasize this important point by providing many quotes from Luther himself:

What is the proof by which one may know that this heavenly bread is his and that he is invited to such a spiritual supper? He needs only to look at his own heart. If he finds it so disposed that it is softened and cheered by God's promises and is firm in the conviction that it may appropriate this bread of life, then he may be assured that he is one of the invited; for as one believes, even so is it done unto him. From that moment on, he loves his neighbor and helps him as his brother; he rescues him, gives to him, loans to him and does nothing for him but that which he would desire his neighbor to do for himself.

A sermon of Luther, Section II. The Bread Of Heaven, Paragraph 20

It is impossible that faith ever stop doing good. Faith doesn't ask whether good works are to be done, but, before it is asked, it has done them. It is always active. Whoever doesn't do such works is without faith; he gropes and searches about him for faith and good works but doesn't know what faith or good works are.

That is why faith alone makes someone just and fulfills the law; faith it is that brings the Holy Spirit through the merits of Christ. The Spirit, in turn, renders the heart glad and free, as the law demands. Then good works proceed from faith itself.

This kind of trust in and knowledge of God's grace makes a person joyful, confident, and happy with regard to God and all creatures. This is what the Holy Spirit does by faith. Through faith, a person will do good to everyone without coercion, willingly and happily; he will serve everyone, suffer everything for the love and praise of God, who has shown him such grace. It is as impossible to separate works from faith as burning and shining from fire.

Even as Abraham's circumcision was an outward sign with which he proved his justice based on faith, so too all good works are only outward signs which flow from faith and are the fruits of faith; they prove that the person is already inwardly just in the sight of God.

Thus we have established that faith, without any good works, makes just. It does not follow from that, however, that we should not do good works; rather it means that morally upright works do not remain lacking.

Preface to the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans

Luther notices that believers often do not do the good works resulting from saving faith. He explains this in a variety of ways: