A scholar once called Luther as a man between God and the devil. There are many harsh and vulgar words which he had spoken, which a man of his stature should have taken care to utter. While studying his life his flaws are not to be neglected. In this last part of his life, we will highlight his good and bad philosophy. We will see the words for which he is applauded and the words for which he is criticized.
Criticism of Luther over the Peasant Revolt
The Holy Roman Empire used to tax every country. This caused much pain not only to the poor but also to princes and noblemen. This economic pressure of taxation led many princes (which ruled over states) to break away from the Catholic Church and established German churches under their control by saying “German money for German churches.” They introduced Roman civil law to gain more wealth for themselves and gain more control of lands. The gap between the rich and the poor, the taxation, and the formation of unrest between the centre and the state were instrumental in the political-economic unrest. Religious divide added fuel to the fire. Poor peasants who were oppressed by noblemen sought support from protestant reformers like Luther and other reformers like Thomas Muntzer. Martin Luther initially sought the middle way. He criticized the use of violence and also lashed at injustices and oppression of poor under hands of noblemen. But later he sided with the ruling class. Luther believed that role of nobles is to maintain peace and the role of peasants is to work. Each must maintain his role. He believed that the Government and Authorities are appointed by God (Rom 13). There are other evils about which we need more attention. Luther used very harsh words for which he is criticized even today. For example, he said, “(the peasants) must be sliced, choked, stabbed, secretly and publicly, by those who can, like one must kill a rabid dog.” He also wrote, “I Martin Luther during the rebellion slain all the peasants, for it was I who ordered then to be struck dead.”
Criticism of Luther for his anti-Semitism
Luther had many flaws. He is rightly criticized for his awful words which he spoke. He is highly criticized for his sinister words about Jews. One Jewish Rabbi notes “Among all the Church Fathers and Reformers, there was no mouth more vile, no tongue that uttered more vulgar curses against the Children of Israel than this founder of the Reformation.” Luther never encountered any Jew in his lifetime. He lived in a place where Jews were expelled 90 years before his birth. The primary reasons for Luther looking down upon the Jews were
- The Predatory Lending practices of Jews, which induced much poverty and suffering upon the masses
- The Crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ by the Jews
Luther’s Opinion of Study of Biblical languages
In Luther’s age, the Bible was in the Latin language. It was not allowed for people to translate the bible into the English/German language which was the common language.. Common men were not even allowed to keep a copy of the bible at their homes. The Roman Catholic priests, who knew Latin could understand the bible but a common man could not. In one sense it appeared right to the Catholic church that giving liberty to each man to infuse his own interpretation and read scriptures with his own emotion-based lens will create a schism in the church. But there was another way than banning it. Rules of interpreting bible should have been laid as they are laid in theological colleges and seminaries of our times. Principles of hermeneutics could have been a better option than keeping control in the hands of the pope. The denial of liberty to verify, to dissent, and ask the question was sinister indeed.
Concerning learning the original language of the Bible, Luther said, “Do you inquire what use there is in learning the languages?”
Languages are the baskets in which the loaves and fishes are kept to feed the multitude. No sooner did men cease to cultivate the languages then Christendom declined. It fell under the undisputed dominion of the pope. As soon as this torch re-ignited then this papal owl fled with a shriek into congenial gloom. . . . people who think language isn’t of any use have often erred in the real meaning of the sacred text; they are without arms against error, and I fear much that their faith will not remain pure. If the languages had not made me positive, I might have still remained a chained monk, engaged in quietly preaching Romish errors in the obscurity of a cloister; the pope would have remained unshaken.Martin Luther
It is a sin and shame not to know our own book or to understand the speech and words of our God; it is a still greater sin and loss that we do not study languages, especially in these days when God is offering and giving us men and books along with every facility and inducement to this study. He desires the Bible to be an open book.
Luther’s Opinion regarding the Study and researching the Bible
Luther says, “Some pastors and preachers are lazy and no good. They do not pray; they do not read; they do not search the Scripture. There is great danger, in thinking we have ever gotten to a point when we fancy we don’t need to study anymore. Let ministers daily pursue their studies with diligence and constantly busy themselves with them. . . . Let them never cease until they are sure that they have taught the devil to death and have become more learned than God himself and all His saints”—which of course means never.”
He observed, “All our study is futile without the work of God overcoming our blindness and hardheartedness.”
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.2 Tim 2:15
Luther’s opinion on trolling against him
Luther said, “If the Devil can do nothing against the teachings, he attacks the person, lying, slandering, cursing, and ranting at him. Just like the pope, Beelzebub did to me when he could not subdue my Gospel. He wrote that I was possessed by the Devil.”
Luther’s Opinion on Freedom of Human will
In his book, The Bondage of the Will, published in 1525, as an answer to Erasmus’s book, The Freedom of the Will, Luther explains that human will is “FREE” to move to action, but beneath the human will there is a bondage that can only be overcome by the free grace of God. According to Luther, man has freedom of the will to do or not to do works, but man cannot by his own power purify his heart and bring forth godly gifts, such as true repentance or sins.
Note: We do not know whether all of the accounts published in various Christian literature concerning Luther is factual or not. We believe some of it can possibly be propaganda as there are controversies surrounding them. We at fromtpm cannot verify the authenticity of events related to his early life. Nevertheless, we are making available things which are commonly believed to be true.