Friday, January 04, 2013

Were the Reformers Heretics? Appendix Part 2

Luther also confused the cross-work of Christ by going beyond the truth that the Savior bore the sins of mankind, and thus suffered the judgment that the world of sinners deserved, adopting instead the dangerous idea that Christ Himself became the sin of men.  He wrote:

All the prophets of old said that Christ should be the greatest transgressor, murderer, adulterer, thief, blasphemer that ever was or ever could be on earth. When He took the sins of the whole world upon Himself, Christ was no longer an innocent person. . . . So the Law judged and hanged Him for a sinner. . . . I am told that it is preposterous and wicked to call the Son of God a cursed sinner. I answer: If you deny that He is a condemned sinner, you are forced to deny that Christ died. It is not less preposterous to say, the Son of God died, than to say, the Son of God was a sinner. . . . Being the unspotted Lamb of God, Christ was personally innocent. But because He took the sins of the world His sinlessness was defiled with the sinfulness of the world. Whatever sins I, you, all of us have committed or shall commit, they are Christ’s sins as if He had committed them Himself. . . . . By stripping Christ of our sins, by making Him sinless, [false teachers] cast our sins back at us, and make Christ absolutely worthless to us. . . .
Our merciful Father in heaven saw how the Law oppressed us and how impossible it was for us to get out from under the curse of the Law. He therefore sent His only Son into the world and said to Him: “You are now Peter, the liar; Paul, the persecutor; David, the adulterer; Adam, the disobedient; the thief on the cross. . . . Holy Writ does not say that Christ was under the curse. It says directly that Christ was made a curse. . . . Although . . . passages may be properly explained by saying that Christ was made a sacrifice for the curse and for sin, yet in my judgment it is better to [conclude that] . . . Christ was made sin itself; Christ was made the curse itself. . . . .
To finish with this verse: All evils would have overwhelmed us, as they shall overwhelm the unbelievers forever, if Christ had not become the great transgressor and guilty bearer of all our sins.[i]

Luther’s confusion on the work of Christ, his deliberate rejection of the fact that Christ suffered the penalty for the world’s sins to affirm instead that He Himself became a sinner, is another dangerous heresy.

Luther also agreed that Philip of Hesse could have two wives to help the prince stop committing adultery;  the second marriage just needed to be kept secret.  Luther was joined in this immoral counsel by Philip Melanchthon, Martin Bucer, and other lesser Reformers.  They stated that “We declare under an oath that it ought to be done secretly . . . It is nothing unusual for princes to have concubines . . . and this modest way of living would please more than adultery.”[ii]  Luther wrote, “I cannot forbid a person to marry several wives, for it does not contradict the Scripture.”[iii]  After the secret got out, Luther lied, denying his role in the bigamy.  He and the others who agreed to the second wife later were sorry that they had counseled Philip of Hesse as they had done—after they had already been exposed and the Lutheran cause had been damaged.

General Lutheran antisemitism and widespread complicity in the Holocaust under Hitler is also not surprising, in light of Luther’s affirmations about the Jews, such as:  “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.”[iv]

The Lutheran view of the Lord’s Supper, consubstantiation, is a well known heresy.  The idea that one actually eats Christ’s real human body and drinks His real blood in the Lord’s supper was retained in Luther’s split from Rome.  To support the doctrine that Christ’s humanity is actually eaten in the bread of the Supper, Lutheranism also developed the doctrine of the ubiquity of the human nature of Christ, which claims His humanity is omnipresent, rather than localized in heaven at the right hand of God the Father (Mark 16:19; Luke 22:69; Acts 2:33-34; 7:55-56; Colossians 3:1; 1 Peter 3:22). Since, by definition, a real human body cannot be omnipresent, or in countless numbers of pieces of bread all over the world at the same time, the Lutheran doctrine of ubiquity, invented to defend Luther’s heresy of consubstantiation, denies the genuine humanity of Christ (as does the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation) and so is antichrist (1 John 4:3).

In the words of the confessionally binding Lutheran Formula of Concord (1577), “We believe, teach, and confess that in the Lord’s Supper the body and blood of Christ are truly and substantially present, and that they are truly distributed and taken together with the bread and wine. . . . That the right hand of God is everywhere; and that Christ, in respect of his humanity, is truly and in very deed seated thereat.” (Articles I, V).  If the right hand of God is everywhere (contrary to Scripture, which affirms it is in heaven, Mark 16:19; Acts 2:33-34; Ephesians 1:20; Hebrews 1:3; 8:1; 1 Peter 3:22; etc.), and Christ’s humanity is at this “everywhere” location, His humanity is omnipresent, and Lutherans are bound to believe this heresy by their confessional documents.  Not only does this heresy undermine the Lord Jesus’ true nature as man, but it makes a mockery of the ascension.  Did the Lord “ascend” to everywhere?  Did His body “ascend” to the earth, to the exact place where the disciples were standing looking up into heaven?  Did His body “ascend” into the heart of the earth, or back into the grave where He had been laid, or to the placemat where men wipe their feet?  What errors does a stubborn refusal to believe in the Scriptural, memorial view of the Supper bring!

The Calvinistic and Reformed doctrine of the Supper is also heretical, in that it joins the Lutheran position in affirming that the ordinance is a vehicle of saving grace, and maintains that Christ’s human body is somehow spiritually eaten in the ordinance.  Calvin and the Reformed were not willing to go all the way and agree with the Biblical, Baptist position that the Supper is simply performed “in remembrance of” Christ (1 Corinthians 11:24-25) as a memorial.  After the words of consecration, the bread is still bread and the juice is still juice, and nothing more is eaten or drunk than bread and the fruit of the vine  (Matthew 26:29;  Mark 14:25; 1 Corinthians 11:26).  The Reformers erred on much more than infant baptism alone.

This is the last post in this study of the heresies of the Reformers.  The entire work is posted on my website, where the works "Bible Truths for Lutheran Friends" and "The Truth of Salvation for Presbyterian and Reformed Friends" are very helpful in dealing with unconverted Protestants in their respective false religions.


[i] Comment on Galatians 3:13 in Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians (1535), Martin Luther. Trans. Theodore Graebner (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1949).  Elec. acc. in Accordance Bible Software.

[ii] Document dated December 10, 1539, Luther's Letters, De Wette -- Seidemann, Berlin, 1828, vol. 6, 255-265.

[iii] De Wette, vol. 2, 459.

[iv] Durant, 422; About the Jews and Their Lies, 1543; citing Janssen, III,  211-212.


d4v34x said...

Hi Thomas,

I think you're stretching quite a bit to make your first point. See Gill and Matthew Henry, respectively, on II Cor. 5:21, the text of which I'm sure you're familiar with. I do not see that these say anything substantially different than Luther. Although Henry says "not a sinner," I take that to be actual rather than imputed as Luther seems to be saying, albeit with quite forceful language.

"But...he was made sin itself by imputation; the sins of all his people were transferred unto him, laid upon him, and placed to his account; he sustained their persons, and bore their sins; and having them upon him, and being chargeable with, and answerable for them, he was treated by the justice of God as if he had been not only a sinner, but a mass of sin; for to be made sin, is a stronger expression than to be made a sinner: but now that this may appear to be only by imputation, and that none may conclude from hence that he was really and actually a sinner, or in himself so, it is said he was "made sin"; he did not become sin, or a sinner, through any sinful act of his own, but through his Father's act of imputation, to which he agreed; for it was "he" that made him sin: it is not said that men made him sin;"

"Christ knew no sin. He was made Sin; not a sinner, but Sin, a Sin-offering, a Sacrifice for sin. The end and design of all this was, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him"



KJB1611 said...

Dear D4,

While I think, and I believe that a lot of scholarship that would agree with me, that Luther actually took the view that I ascribed to him, I don't have the time to get into it further at this time.

Thanks for the comment.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Thomas Ross provides a semi-truck load of heavily documented information and you cherry pick this one point that, as Thomas says, has agreement from others besides himself, that it is a unique, false view, not to be paralleled with an interpretation of 2 Cor 5:21. Does Thomas Ross misrepresent Luther overall? Are you with Luther on what Ross has exposed and documented? Ross isn't cherry picking Luther. He's representing what Luther wrote. You grew up in Wisconsin. Did you find Lutherans to be a group of saved people there? Do they believe in salvation by grace through faith? I find them to be like talking to a Church of Christ person or even a Mormon, in their addition of works to grace. You may think that modern Lutherans are a perversion of Luther. Do you think that?

Others say that Luther was in some kind of trek, where he pulled away from Catholics, but had not yet arrived where he needed to be, but we can appreciate him for what he was. I say that we can look at God's sovereignty at that point in history, but Luther himself, he was wrong. Less wrong, but still wrong, and still condemnatory, can be more dangerous actually.