Did Martin Luther screw up Christianity?

As an atheist I have no dog in the “faith alone” versus “faith with acts” fight. But I read the Bible quite frequently for ammunition and entertainment. I just don’t see the ‘faith alone’ concept supported by what I’ve read.

I understand that Martin Luther “recovered” the doctrine from the teachings of Paul. But it seems clear that the acts of the law which Paul spoke of were the ceremonial acts of the Jews.

When Paul spoke of justification by faith he could not possibly have been speaking of simple belief. The example he gave was of Abraham: “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”

“Believing in” God was never a question for Abraham since he had a face to face relationship with God. The ‘faith’ issue was whether Abraham ‘trusted’ God to act according to his belief.

Paul had a problem with Jews who claimed salvation by the fact of their Jewish ritual, he certainly thought that people should do good deeds.

With the Catholic indulgence business the Protestants took Christianity from one extreme to another. They threw the baby out with the bathwater.

The Gospels are replete with the idea that men must follow the commandments of Jesus/God. Consider John 15:13-14: Jesus said “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are my friends if you do whatever I command you.”

So Jesus wasn’t a sin sacrifice for everybody (only potentially), He was a sacrifice only for those who follow all His commandments. That is what ‘faith’ means: acting on your professed belief, even when it is frightening.

The expression “Lord and Savior” is a succinct expression of the New Covenant. If you become Jesus’ slave you will be saved. A “lord” is someone whose commandments you are bound to follow. Jesus asked “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?”

A covenant is a contract. You do this for me and I’ll do this for you. Just as the covenant of Mosaic Law promised a land to the people only if they kept all of the commandments, the judgments, and the statutes of God. When they didn’t the deal fell through, null and void.

The New Covenant is the same way, people have to do the things Christ commanded or there is no deal. Period.

Martin Luther’s false doctrine was popular because it was easy and compatible with societies based on self-interest.

The amount of literature, of sophistry, to circumvent the clear teachings of Christ, is staggering.

How many damned souls is Martin Luther responsible for?

One of the bedrock bible passages used to support “solo fides” (faith alone) as necessary for salvation is Ephesians 2:8-9:

“For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith: and that, not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, that no one should boast.”

This verse seems to be saying that salvation comes through faith, which is given by God’s grace. In other words, it is not anything we have done on our own merit. God by his grace has given us faith, and through that faith we are saved.

Of course, the very next verse says:
“For we are His workmanship, created for good works in Christ Jesus.”

I’ve pondered this question on and off since college, but it’s mostly academic. “Faith without works is dead” — they’re inseparatable. It’s been a while since I read Luther, but I think he agreed that true saving faith would always - always - be accompanied by good works. So, although he was saying that salvation was a result of faith and not works, he acknowledged that good works would also always be a result of this faith. If someone was not doing good works, you would have to question the validity of their faith as well.

Most diversions from God’s truth are due to a misunderstatnding of the text(s).
One must reconcile ALL of the scriptures to arrive at the core meaning.
Abraham’s faith was completed of made perfect when he was ready to sacrifice his only son Isaac on the alter on God’s instruction when God stayed his hand and provided the ram. A Study of Genesis, Romans, and James should help.

All ‘Christians’ agree that Faith is necessary, but stop short with the so called ‘Sinners Prayer’ and forget to complete their obedience to God’s word.
Other agree the works are necessary but are sufficient.

Few are willing to study the matter to satisfy themselfs as to the Necessary And Sufficient conditions to achieve salvation aka remission of sins.

I have this verse underlined since several people have quoted verse 8-9 to me but fail to mention 10.

The problem I have is with people who use grace to excuse themselves for not following Jesus.

I operate from the position that Jesus never contradicted Himself.

I believe Matthew 23:10 is the cornerstone of interpreting Christ’s doctrine. He said “And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ.”

So anybody who contradicts Christ is false. Even an apostle who came after Christ cannot gainsay an explicit teaching of Christ. (“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8)

The last instruction Jesus gave to the eleven remaining disciples after His resurrection was to go to all the nations “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.”(Matt 28:20)

Interesting point. I’m a believer myself but reject many traditional christian teachings as a total distortion of what Jesus taught. Of course we have little reason to believe that the words attributed to JC in the bible are actual quotes, but when dealing with people who do accept it they can be used to help them examine the validity of their beliefs.
I like the point you make here about the words of JC but some people believe the entire bible to be the inspiried word of God. They won’t differentiate between the words of JC and other verses. It’ll be interesting to see the reaction to this arguement though.

This is an absolutely beautiful assertion of the Anglican doctrine of salvation through grace, and needs no comment from me. But in Luther’s defense, it needs to be said that he was making the case against the medieval abuses of Catholicism that suggested (contrary to actual Catholic doctrine) that one could buy or win one’s salvation by acts of merit without faith in God or moral behavior, and that he would probably be horrified by some of the modern excesses founded on his sola fide / sola Scriptura doctrines.

There’s plenty of passages in the bible to indicate action is required as well as belief…

There are many passages to indicate we are judged according to our works and rewarded according to our deeds. How is this reconciled with belief in Christ being the only thing nessecary.

There’s an attitude or idea that I really object to connected to chiristians who preach faith in Jesus saves us not good deeds.

Part of it seems to be that once you have accepted Jesus as Savior you are only required to be a reasonably good person and those minor human flaws are just automatically covered by the blood of the lamb. In other words you’re not required to explore the depths of love, compassion, and kindness. Just be nice and say praise Jesus every so often.
The other part is that somehow the love, kindness, and compassion expressed by those who don’t see JC as savior doesn’t really count at all. It’s nice and all but it won’t keep them from burning in hell for eternity. How is this reconciled with all the scriptures that directly contradict this kind of belief?

In Mat 25 starting on verse 31 Jesus tells of judgement and describes a reward for those who fed the hungry and visited the sick, clothed the poor etc. These people ask, when did we see you Lord? and he answers, when you did it to anyone you did it to me. Doesn’t the idea that they didn’t know why they were being rewarded, indicate that they were not “born again” christians?

That’s an excellent observation. And the ones who didn’t do those good things unknowingly were sent to “everlasting punishment.” I find the parable of the two sons, in Matt 21:28-31, relevant to your idea.

"A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’
"He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went.
"Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go.
“Which of the two did the will of his father?”

I get the impression that it is more important to Jesus that people do the will of God.

Fanatical emphasis on the mere fact of Jesus’ divinity and belief in the resurrection seem to have increased as time passed without a second coming. Now the doctrine of Christ has faded to quaintness and “belief in” has become the end in itself for “Christians.”

At most, one (himself). No one is responsible for anyone else. Granted, I think his action led in small part to a great many deaths. However, I defenitely note that the “Protestant-Catholic” wars were not really Protestants versus Catholics, and about politics far more than religion.

However, I do dislike his selling out to the german princes.

Luther did screw up Christianity, but not with his theological arguments regarding faith alone vs. faith & works. Thanks in large part to Luther, there are thousands of Christian denominations today and there seems to be no stop to the creation of new ones.

Luther’s idea of a man-God relationship independent of that of the Church as the only necessary relationship and that each individual can and should interpret the Bible on their own has led to the rampant individualism of today (which was likely the true inspiration behind Weber’s protestant work ethic theory). Some individualism is good, but too much in Christianity leads to the self-righteous splintering of churches and truly bizarre interpretations of the Bible (snake-handlers, anyone?). While examples of both of these have occurred before Luther, both became much more prevalent after Luther.

While Luther was dead on in many of the indictments he made against the Church and its leaders of the time, the Counter reformation by the the Church made it even more defensive and conservative as an institution, something that continues to plague it today.

Dis Martin Luther screw up Catholicism?

Personally, I’ve always thought that Paul screwed up Christianity.

Me too. He was like the first bossy evangelist. I think he just made stuff up (eg. about women shutting up) and was a bit petulant to boot.

“Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works.” 2 Tim 4:14

Way to love your enemy Paul.

“Do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you…” JC in Matt 5:44

There really are a boat load of passages to indicate Jesus taught that action was the true indication of where your heart was. Contemporary christianity seems to focus on a handful that talk about belief in Jesus. I know more than a couple of open minded christians who are questioning many of the tradional beliefs, but most christians have a very slanted view of church history. Constantine, The council of Nicea, the selection of what writings were canonized, all exhibit the influence of man and a edparture from what Jesus actually taught. IMHO.

Um, why do you give a shit?

Why don’t use a <snip> or two?

But really, the religion claims there is such a thing as being “damned” Is it so odd to wonder about how such a thing would work in certain circumstances, once you apply logic to it?

I suppose not. Let me know when someone does that.

Because I have respect for a man who sacrificed Himself for His principles.

I believe He solved the problem of the cycle of violence. By not resisting evil, and trusting that this world is a mere passage to something better, true believers are freed from the fear of death and the fear of murder and degradation by evil persons.

But the whole concept is destroyed by the hypocrites who demand salvation but refuse to commit to the principles of Christ. Christians are supposed to follow His example, forsake their lives, not resist evil, trust in the next world.

When the false Christians use their hypocritical ideas to influence politics and law it affects atheists like me. The only way to keep their cheap ideas of mind control out of public life is to expose their blatant hypocrisy.

My point of view serves two purposes. It reaffirms the facts of a doctrine I truly respect, and it rejects the selfish political motives of the moral police.

Jesus said that His followers are blessed when they are persecuted in His name. So how does that square with the militant Christians who insist on their view being dominant in public life?

Paul did pray for his enemy Alexander, the same way Jesus prayed for His enemies in Matthew 23-25.

And my, I guess Jesus was NEVER bossy! (One thing I like about Julia “Pat” Sweeney in her loss of faith- she notes how snippy JC was in the Gospels.)

Look up recent commentators about Paul & women- he did not just command “women shutting up”. I Cor 11 speaks of the contexts of women
rightly openly preaching/prophesying/praying, while I Cor 14 speaks of
women disrupting Church meetings.

A Jesus parallel could be his putting his Mom in her proper context when her presence threatened to disrupt his time of ministry.