ADVERTISING
 
Sunday, December 17   Sign in or Register
 
Evangelical Focus
 

 
ADVERTISING
 
 
FOLLOW US ON
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google +
  • Instagram
  • Soundcloud
 

Newsletter
Newsletter, sign up to receive all our News by email.
 

POLL
'... Christian'
I would define myself as...





SEE MORE POLLS
 

 
TOP 10 MOST VIEWED



Leonardo de Chirico
 

Martin Luther and the Papacy

Luther's critique is not confined to his contemporary experience of the Papacy, but draws on historical and theological arguments. 

VATICAN FILES AUTHOR Leonardo de Chirico 11 MAY 2015 10:07 h GMT+1
Luther. Martin Luther. / Wikimedia.

This is an excerpt from my book A Christian’s Pocket Guide to the Papacy (Fearn: Christian Focus Publications, 2015).



Luther and the Pope have long been perceived as representing the two enemies within Western Christianity. Their persons embodied the religious conflict that took place in the XVI century giving rise to the Protestant Reformation and the Counter-Reformation. Before Luther rejected the Pope, the Pope had already rejected Luther by condemning him first in 1520 and then excommunicating him in 1521. So it is difficult to establish who first broke fellowship with the other.



In fact, before burning the 1520 Papal bull Exsurge Domine that contained his condemnation, Luther was a devout Roman Catholic and highly esteemed the Pope. His acceptance of the Papacy was totally uncritical. He believed that the problem lied with the curia around the Pope, not with the Pope himself. Even after nailing the 95 theses in 1517 he had hopes of finding a hearing with the Pope concerning the need to correct certain moral abuses and doctrinal errors. In the Theses Luther is chiefly concerned with limiting the powers of the Pope, not considering them self-referential and unlimited, but instead under Gospel standards (e.g. Thesis 5). For example, Popes have no power over the souls who are in Purgatory, only God does (Theses 22 and 25). Popes cannot give absolution if God has not granted it (Thesis 6). Popes can only act within the boundaries set by the Word of God.



At this stage, Luther begins to counter the absolute claims of the primacy of the Pope or of the Councils with the primacy of Scripture. In writing against the Catholic theologian Johannes Eck in 1519 Luther develops his critical approach towards the Papacy with a fuller set of arguments (Resolutio Lutherana … de potestate papae). The authority of Popes and Councils should be subordinate to that of the Bible. The Papacy was not instituted by Christ, but was instead established by the Church in the course of its history. So it does not come from “divine law”, but is instead a human institution. The “rock” of Matthew 16 is not a reference to Peter, but is his confession of Jesus on behalf of the whole church or Christ himself. He alone is the solid foundation of the Church. The Roman Popes have nothing “petrine” about them, nor is there anything “Papal” in Peter. The Papacy is not commanded nor foreseen by Scripture, and therefore obedience to the Word of God must take precedence over obedience to the Pope. If the Pope disobeys the Scripture, the faithful Christian should follow the latter without hesitation. Christians are not obligated to obey an unfaithful Pope.



Although the debate was becoming hotter, it was only after his definitive excommunication in 1521 that Luther elaborated his even more radical critique of the Papacy. At this point, Luther became convinced that the supreme adversary of the Christian faith was its supreme representative, i.e. the Pope. The Papacy had become a power structure and could no longer serve the cause of the Gospel, but served instead the carnal interests of the Church. In his response to Ambrogio Caterino (an Italian Dominican monk who had written a defense of the Pope and against what Luther had published on the topic) the German reformer turned his opposition to the Papacy into an apocalyptic argument. In commenting on Daniel 8:23-25, Luther identifies the ferocious king of the passage who devastates the saints as the Pope. Playing with the double meaning of the Greek word anti, Luther argues that the Pope is against Christ and takes his place by claiming to act on his behalf. He is a counterfeit Christ. He is therefore the Antichrist. According to Luther, his times were marked by the imminent end of the world; this then demanded that the situation be painted in black and white. The Pope and the Turks were the representatives of the Antichrist and were focusing their final attack on the Church of Christ.



In 1534 Luther drafted the Smalcald Articles, which are a summary of Christian doctrine from a Lutheran perspective. In art. 4, Luther speaks of the Pope’s power as “false, mischievous, blasphemous, and arrogant” mainly interested in “diabolic affairs”. His critique, however, is not confined to his contemporary experience of the Papacy, but draws on historical and theological arguments.



In the same article he writes: “it is manifest that the holy Church has been without the Pope for at least more than five hundred years, and that even to the present day the churches of the Greeks and of many other languages neither have been nor are yet under the Pope. Besides, as often remarked, it is a human figment which is not commanded, and is unnecessary and useless; for the holy Christian [or catholic] Church can exist very well without such a head, and it would certainly have remained better [purer, and its career would have been more prosperous] if such a head had not been raised up by the devil. And the Papacy is also of no use in the Church, because it exercises no Christian office; and therefore it is necessary for the Church to continue and to exist without the Pope”. A church without the Pope captures Luther’s vision at this point.



In 1545, one year before dying, Luther wrote his final fierce thoughts on the Papacy. In his work Against the Papacy at Rome, Founded by the Devil, he is aware that the final, eschatological hour is at hand. The Pope is a child of the Devil who wants to destroy the Church through the sword  of the Turks and through the lies of the Pope. It is an eschatological emergency reaching its final stage. No compromise is possible under these circumstances and evil is to be denounced and fought against relentlessly.



Luther’s views of the Papacy developed over his life from an initial acceptance to a final and total rejection of it. His apocalyptic views served to shed a sinister light on the Pope and shaped his harsh language against him. Yet Luther, the superb Biblical scholar he was, was also an excellent Christian theologian who easily dismantled the superficial Biblical and theological arguments in favor of the Papacy.



Because of this rich display of Christian wisdom, his radical criticism cannot be explained in psychological terms as if he were driven by resentment only. His theological assessments set the tone for the wider Reformation movement.



 


 

 


0
COMMENTS

    If you want to comment, or

 



 
 
YOUR ARE AT: - - - Martin Luther and the Papacy
 
ADVERTISING
 
 
 
AUDIOS Audios
 
Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe Michael Schluter: Relationships are the key to build Europe

The economist summarises the manifesto “Confederal Europe: Strong Nations, Strong Union” and explains why personal relationships should be at the centre of our economy, education and democracy. 

 
Gary Wilkerson: The Bible, the Holy Spirit and the Reformation Gary Wilkerson: The Bible, the Holy Spirit and the Reformation

Pastor Gary Wilkerson talks about what all evangelical Christians can learn from the Protestant Reformation and underlines the need for more churches with both a sound doctrine and obedience to the Holy Spirit.

 
Lindsay Brown: Islam and the Gospel in Europe Lindsay Brown: Islam and the Gospel in Europe

Is the arrival of thousands of Muslims to Europe a threat to Christianity? What is the growth of evangelical churches in Eastern and Southern Europe? An interview with theologian and Lausanne Movement representative Lindsay Brown.

 
Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues Efraim Tendero: Relationship with Roman Catholicism and other current issues

The World Evangelical Alliance Secretary General participated in the Italian Evangelical Alliance assembly (Rome, 8-9 April). In this interview with Evangelical Focus, Bp Tendero talks about the need to listen to local churches and to face challenges like the refugee crisis and climate change. 

 
Evi Rodemann: Youth and mission Evi Rodemann: Youth and mission

“We want to see the youth not just being equipped, but also being multipliers”, Evi Rodemann director of Mission-Net. The European Congress took place in Germany from December 28 to January 2.

 
Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum Greg Pritchard: European Leadership Forum

Pritchard explains the vision of ELF, comments on the 2015 event in Poland and reflects on what it means to have an "evangelical identity".

 
Pablo Martinez comments on Evangelical Focus’ launch Pablo Martinez comments on Evangelical Focus’ launch

Author and international speaker Dr Pablo Martínez discusses the main challenges in Europe nowadays and hopes Evangelical Focus will be a useful tool to help build bridges between churches and society.

 
PICTURES Pictures
 
Lausanne younger leaders gathering in Budapest Lausanne younger leaders gathering in Budapest

About 70 people from European countries met at the Younger Leaders Gen gathering in Hungary (19-22 October) to discuss the challenges of the church in the continent and build partnerships. Photos: Evi Rodemann and Jari Sippola.

 
I am not on sale I am not on sale

Young Christians gathered at Madrid’s central square Sol to denounce human trafficking. A flashmob highlighted the work of three evangelical NGOs which support women who escape sexual slavery in Spain.

 
Stamps to commemorate the Reformation Stamps to commemorate the Reformation

Poland, Lithuania, Namibia and Brazil are some of the countries that have issued special stamps on the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 theses.

 
‘Reconciliation’ in the Basque Country ‘Reconciliation’ in the Basque Country

Bilbao hosted the Spanish Evangelical Alliance's annual meeting (assembly). Politicians, professors and evangelical representatives shared views on social reconciliation. The theme was also analysed from a theological perspective and in workshops. 

 
The Progress of Europe, deeply connected to Bible The Progress of Europe, deeply connected to Bible

Indian author Vishal Mangalwadi spoke about how the biblical worldview shaped the West. 300 professionals attended annual GBG meeting on faith and work in Cullera (Spain). Photos: J.P. Serrano, S. Vera.

 
Impressions of Lausanne's #ylg2016 Impressions of Lausanne's #ylg2016

Around 1,000 young Christian leaders from 150 countries are participating in the 2016 Lausanne Younger Leaders Gathering, to reflect on global mission.

 
VIDEO Video
 
How does an effective leader decide when to say “no” to something? How does an effective leader decide when to say “no” to something?

Ramez Attallah of the Bible Society Egypt answers the question. 

 
Creation Care and the Gospel, in France Creation Care and the Gospel, in France

The conference drew about 90 delegates from across Europe. Scientists, theologians, activists reflected together on the theme “God’s Word and God’s World”.

 
“It is inconsistent to say we love the Creator while we destroy His creation” “It is inconsistent to say we love the Creator while we destroy His creation”

In creation care, “we need more people who lead by example”, says well-known Brazilian politician and activist Marina Silva. 

 
Human traffickers recruit girls and boys online Human traffickers recruit girls and boys online

The new video of the European Freedom Network addresses the dangers of social media. 

 
Philip Yancey interview Philip Yancey interview

An 8-minute interview with Philip Yancey on the role of Christians in a secularised society. Recorded in Madrid, September 2016.

 
An interview with Prof. John Lennox An interview with Prof. John Lennox

New atheism, the definition of "faith", Christianity in Europe, the role of the Bible in mission, and the need to listen more. An exclusive interview recorded at "Forum Apologética" (Tarragona, Spain) in May 2016.

 
 
Follow us on Soundcloud
Follow us on YouTube
 
 
WE RECOMMEND
 
PARTNERS
 

 
AEE
EVANGELICAL FOCUS belongs to Areópago Protestante, linked to the Spanish Evangelical Alliance (AEE). AEE is member of the European
Evangelical Alliance and World Evangelical Alliance.
 

Opinions expressed are those of their respective contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of Evangelical Focus.