Truth Pursuit Fail
My child’s October 2017 Clubhouse magazine contained an article titled “A Faith Like Martin’s” by Janice Miller which was apparently written in honor of the Reformation’s so-called 500th anniversary (commemorating an event which itself is considered historical fiction). Besides this popular inaccuracy, the article contained several other misleading statements. I sent them the following letter in which I limited my criticism to the Top 10 most obvious or easily-researched falsehoods.
- First, it was Luther’s understanding of the book of Romans (specifically 1:16-17), not Galatians 3:11, that prompted his initial change of heart.
- Second, the author’s description of the religious problem Martin addressed with his 95 Theses is far off. Indulgences were not “escape from earthly punishment for sins” – rather they refer to purgatorial suffering after death (and their purchase had nothing to do with “eternal salvation”!).
- Third, Luther’s nailing of his 95 Theses did nothing to “change world history.” The event (if it even happened at all – many scholars doubt it) was merely a standard notice of debate frequently encountered in Luther’s time (Church doors functioned like kiosks do today).
- Fourth, Martin Luther did not write “Sola scriptura! Sola fide! Sola gratia!” (nor their English equivalents) in his 95 Theses. In fact, these phrases were invented by Luther’s Protestant successors to describe their theological presuppositions.
- Fifth, Luther was not ordered by church leaders to appear at the Diet of Worms. Rather, he was called by the Emperor who had been pressured by local princes who wished to strengthen their political power.
- Sixth, it has been well known by Lutheran historians for some time that the phrase “Here I stand, I can do no other!” is a later embellishment of Luther’s actual words.
- Seventh, Luther also did not say, “Until I am convinced by Scripture alone…” What he said was, “Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason…” Of course, it should not be shocking that a writer in favor of Luther would illegitimately add the word “alone” to a quote, since Luther himself did it in his translation of Romans 3:28 (apparently what counted as “plain reason” was simply Luther’s thinking).
- Eighth, the implication that the German people could not read the Bible until Luther translated it for them is false. German Scripture translations existed well before Luther. Distribution and education were the real issues, and Luther did not resolve these.
- Ninth, Luther actually did “stop going to church” when he had problems with it. When the Church would not bend to his thinking, he refused to recant and was excommunicated. Then, rather than repent and submit to the proper ecclesiastical authority, he rebelled, repudiated his vows, and started his own religious movement.
- Tenth, as to Luther’s reading “God’s word closely and constantly, looking for verses that either supported or challenged church traditions,” what Luther really did was look for verses that supported or challenged his own thinking. This is clear from the fact that Luther was more than willing to get rid of books of Scripture with which he did not agree (such as the book of James).
These issues are not matters of mere oversimplification for the target age group. Rather, they smack of hagiographic falsehood in defense of the prime culprit behind the worst schism the Church has ever experienced. For an article with the heading “Truth Pursuer,” this is simply inexcusable.
Focus on the Family responded to me. Here it is:
I find it rather humorous that they affirm the article’s “essential historical accuracy” even while admitting that my historical points are “veritably accurate”. Oddly, they then blamed the indulgence blunder on their readers not knowing what Purgatory is (but apparently think they’ll know the solas in Latin!). It’s not that difficult to explain – certainly no harder than other items in the article.
Basically all they can really contest is that I assigned false motives to the author (when in truth I only pointed out what the article’s falsehoods made them appear to be so). Of course, they then go on to question my motives since they figured out I was Catholic…haha.
Anyway, it was a fairly worded response, and their continued insistence on Luther’s value is no surprise. Without Luther unwittingly opening the door for giving ultimate religious authority to private interpretation, “openly Protestant evangelical organizations” like Focus on the Family couldn’t exist.