|Called to Common Mission
Visible Unity through Grand Deception
|Luther on Lies|
For Luther, the word of God is truth and promise. All other words are false and deceptive. As Scripture says, "All human beings are liars" (see Ps. 116:11, Rom. 3:4).
To reform the church, the Lutheran Reformers summoned the fellowship of believers to faith alone in the word of God alone as given to us in Christ alone. Jesus Christ as the word of God is the sole foundation of the church and of its unity. Consequently, human words and traditions and ideas by their nature lead the faithful away from God and cannot be a necessary element for the church's true unity.
Called to Common Mission (CCM) intentionally mixes and confuses the word of God with fallacious human words and traditions. As such, CCM is contrary to Lutheran theology and contrary to the Lutheran Reformation.
Luther has much to say on lies, deceit, fraud, and the like. Some of his sentiments thereon have been collected and collated under the following topics. Click on the following topics to explore what Luther has to say.
(Please be advised. When Luther speaks on lies, it is often difficult to keep in mind that he is not talking specifically about CCM.)
"But we see that the godless and blind world is so steeped in its nature, its mischief, and its disgraceful vices that it rejects any criticism and reproof of its vanity, its religious fervor, good works, its wisdom, its self-elected spirituality, its sham holiness, and idolatry as error, falsehood, lies, and deceit, as something by which it only increases the wrath of God and strays ever farther from the truth. Yes, the world upholds its error with all its might and persecutes and murders all who oppose it. Today we find this exemplified in the papists" (LW 22: 131-131).
"Well, here they have been caught in open lies, yet they will not yield or admit their error so as to honor the truth in obedience to God" (LW 37: 206).
"See, then, how much toil, danger, and misfortune is his lot who tries to make lies into the truth and lead them to market in opposition to the truth" (LW 37:3 45).
"I consider no vice on Earth to be more damaging than lies and disloyalty, which rip all human community apart. First, lies and disloyalty tear first the hearts apart. After the hearts are torn apart, then the hands part company. When the hands part company, then what can one do or make?" (WA 51: 259).
"Lying and guile need only to be revealed and recognized to be undone. When once lying is recognized as such, it needs no second stroke; it falls of itself and vanishes in shame. That is the meaning of Psalm 10 [:15], 'Only seek out his wickedness, and his godlessness is no more.' It needs only to be sought out and recognized" (LW 45: 60).
"Their doctrines he [St. Paul] calls "doctrines of devils." This also must follow where faith and the true Spirit are lacking. There the devil gives them the spirit of error and leads them on with brightly colored doctrines and works, so that they imagine themselves to be altogether spiritual. Since the doctrine does not originate in the Scriptures, however, it can be the doctrine of no one but the devil" (LW 35: 137).
"They are liars. For they quote the Holy Scriptures and the sayings of the fathers and at times also force them into agreement with their doctrines, as we see then doing every day. But this is deceitful and untrue, since the Scriptures are diametrically opposed to them" (LW 35: 137).
"... there is quite a difference between false action and false teaching, and a bigger difference between simple teaching without the word of God and false teaching embellished with God's word. Whoever thus lies in teaching and quotes God's word for it makes the devil into God and God into the devil, as though God spoke the devil's lies, and seduces me to honor and worship the devil in God's name, and regard the lies as truth" (LW 41: 307).
"Thus human teaching is a desperate, deep, devilish poison when it really grasps the conscience, especially when long habit and God's name are falsely added so that God's commandment falls by the wayside in comparison with these iron chains of human, devilish teachings" (LW 41: 341).
"God is different from man; therefore we owe Him honor, worship, and reverence. But the monks come along and place a jester's cap on our God, vowing chastity, obedience, and submission to the monastery's prior. And if we prod them with questions: "Is this knowing God? What prompts you to do this?" they reply: "In our opinion it is a good practice." But one's opinion is not sufficient" (LW 22: 151).
"We censure the doctrines of men not because men have spoken them, but because they are lies and blasphemies against Scriptures. And the Scriptures, although they too are written by men, are neither of men nor from men but from God. Now since Scriptures and the doctrines of men are contrary one to the other, the one must lie and the other be true" (LW 35: 153).
"From these and many similar sayings it has been clearly and convincingly enough proven that God has strictly and sharply forbidden the doctrines and works of men in the church, as being contrary to faith and leading men away from the truth, that is, they are sheer lies and fraud before God. And where the devil has gotten involved - that one embellishes them with God's name or the apostle's names, and sells them under these names - then they are no longer simple lies and fraud, but also horrible blasphemy, idolatry, and abomination. For then the devil makes God a liar and deceiver, as though God has spoken such lies or done such [p. 303] works; and the people fall for it, believe it, and depend on it, as if God had said and done it, and thus they give their trust and honor, which is due to God alone, to lies and to the devil" (LW 41: 302).
"But to return to our point: They must themselves admit, whether they like it or not, that the church of Christ neither lies nor deceives... Therefore the holy church cannot and may not lie or suffer false doctrine, but must teach nothing except what is holy and true, that is, God's word alone; and where it teaches a lie it is idolatrous and the whore-church of the devil" (LW 41:214).
"And when, over and over this, the hue and the cry is raised: "The church! The church!" this dismays one most of all. It is difficult to subdue one's own ear in these matters, to deviate from people who are so highly respected and who bear such a holy name - indeed, from the church herself - and no longer to have any confidence and faith in the church's teaching. I mean, of course, that church of which they say: "Lo, the church has decreed that the precepts of SS. Francis and Dominic and the orders of monks and nuns are proper, Christian, and good." This truly bewilders and dismays a person. But after all is said and done, I must say that I dare not accept whatever any man might say; for he may be a pious and God-fearing man and yet be mistaken and err" (LW 22: 256).
"Therefore no matter how long anyone shouts: "The Christian Church and the fathers have ordained and instituted this or that; therefore it must be observed!" tell him: "Yes, yes, dear brother, I will regard her as the holy Christian Church and them as holy fathers; but with the reservation that Christ is supreme and that they must follow Christ. This is reasonable, as they wish to be Christians in name and in fact. Otherwise, holy people, whether the pope or councils, are likely to stray."
"Here it will do them no good to exclaim: "The church, the church and many fathers, St. Gregory, Bernard, etc., have said such a mass!" For we cannot trust or build on the lives and works of the fathers, but on God's word alone, because Christ himself has most assuredly admonished us in Matthew 24 [:22, 24] that such deception would occur and that even the elect might be led astray" (LW 38: 159).
"So too, if you wish to keep the fathers on your side, as you boast, and not completely disavow them, do not get into such a position that you simply gloss them at will, but press and squeeze their words well to see if they will yield such a meaning. You need not teach us that the sayings of the fathers may be twisted or turned this way or that, but show whether it is certain that they shall and must be so turned" (LW 37: 146).
"Indeed, they will come trudging along with the words "church, church, custom, custom," with which they also answered me with I attacked indulgences. Yet now they themselves find that neither church nor custom can preserve indulgences, the less so since others have perpetrated worse errors in the name of the church. But St. Peter says: Whoever speaks in the church should speak the word of God [cf. I Peter 4:11]" (LW 38: 164).
"Yet they severely reprimand the Lutherans and also take an oath that they would let themselves be torn apart before they would believe otherwise than the church does. Because they do not believe in a God, they think that such an oath does them no harm. At the same time they mock the entire Christian religion and regard us as great fools who believe such odd and whimsical articles of faith" (LW 38: 167).
"To err does not harm the church, but to remain in error - this is intolerable" (LW 38: 171).
"The church's intention is what it holds up to us and teaches us on the basis of God's word; we should follow that. But here we are told that the church should follow what you and I prescribe for it and teach apart from God's word. That is putting the cart before the horse? How could such a vehicle go astray or miss the road to heaven? Do you now at last see the true color of the devil and his masquerade, and how, in the name of and according to the intention of the church, he has introduced and confirmed all his abominations as an excellent sophist and master of every kind of deception and lying? Continue to listen. We want to take a still better look at him" (LW 38: 173-174).
"The lies would not be so crude and the disgrace so great if they have discordant and dissimilar interpretations to a single word in different passages, or dissimilar interpretations to various words in a single passage. But when they give dissimilar and contrary interpretations to a single word in a single passage, in a single sentence, they are (if you will pardon the expression) soiling themselves and clapping the devil naked into the pillory. For no language speaks in that manner. A child would have to say that it is impossible" (LW 37: 165).
"Indeed, to see God spiritually is far more dependable than to see Him with your physical sight. And I would not wish for a different sight either! This is the reason for my preference: The devil is cunning and versed in the black arts and can easily conjure up a phantom before my physical eye to make me think I am seeing something which in reality I do not see. He can delude me into believing that I am beholding a beautiful angel, although, in fact it is a coal-black devil. There are many examples to substantiate this. In the Gospel he even made himself God when he tempted Christ in the wilderness and suggested that Christ fall down before him and worship him (Matt. 4:9). But the devil cannot deceive the spiritual sight in this way, for it relies on and clings to the Word of God. The Word enables one to see through the devil's designs; it puts up with no hocus-pocus. For the Word is certain. Our physical eyes are much too weak to see those beautiful spirits, the angels. But the sight faith has is so keen that it pierces through the clouds and heaven; yes, it penetrates to the heart of God. This is the sight we want" (LW 22: 204).
"...whoever trusts and builds on lies is a servant of the devil" (LW 41: 236).
"I earnestly wish, however, that even if these fanatics refuse to fear God, they would at least feel a little abashed before the people and not write such shameless lies. They say there should be peace, but they themselves do not cease to increase strife, as everyone sees and hears; and the more it continues the more they rejoice. Again, they say it is a minor matter, yet there is no topic that they so diligently promote and cultivate and espouse; all other topics lie dormant" (LW 37: 24).
"What kind of spirits and people have we here, who malign the good ancient doctor [Tertullian] before the world, to mislead and confuse the common people's consciences with lies and deception, and then boat that it is the pure truth, and thereby blaspheme God and the Holy Spirit besides? It would be much better for them frankly to repudiate the holy fathers than to try with such deception and fraud to lure them over to their side and seduce the world under the name of the fathers, to whom before God and the world they are doing an injustice" (LW 37: 115).
"I trust I shall accomplish more with one book than they will with ten. For lies require much babble and prattle; truth can be stated briefly" (LW 37: 102).
"In the church, the succession of bishops does not make a bishop, but the Lord alone is our bishop" (WA 53: 74).
"For this reason [poor preaching] the whole world is filled with so many religious foundations, monasteries, churches, and chapels that now one could not erect half of them with the possessions and power of the whole world. False doctrine, however, erected them quite easily and gladly. So mighty and wealthy an express is lying or false doctrine in the world. Beside it truth and the gospel have 'nowhere to lay' their 'head' [Matt. 8:20] and in their thirst and hunger have 'to drink' vinegar 'mingled with gall' [Matt. 27:34], finally receiving as their reward the cross and disgrace. All this the holy place derived from its disorderly sacrilege; for the pope, bishops, and clerics did not check such abuses, but saw them with pleasure and assisted in perpetrating and maintaining them" (LW 38: 190).
Christ "has begun again to destroy their chrism and private mass [sacramental consecration or ordination and sacramental mass], to assist in removing such offense from the kingdom of God, and to assure and make available to the church once again the call or true consecration and ordination to the office of the ministry, as it possessed it from the beginning, but which the great bishops arrogated to themselves alone and took away from the small bishops or pastors. This is and must be our foundation and sure rock: Where the gospel is rightly and purely preached, there a holy, Christian church must be" (LW 38: 211).
"Now a kindhearted man (as they say) might ask, 'What harm is there if one holds to the word of God and yet lets all these matters, or at least those that are bearable, remain as well?' I answer, 'They may be called kindhearted, but they are wrong-hearted and misled, for you have heard that it is impossible to teach any word other than God's word, to serve anyone other than [p. 215] God, to light any light other than that which has been placed by God in the darkness" [Matt. 6:24]. It is indeed an error and a will-o'-the-wisp thing, even if it were only one single thing, for the church ought not and cannot teach lies and error. If it teaches on lie, then it is wholly false,' as Christ says in Luke 11 [:35-36], 'Be careful lest the light in you be darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no dark part, it will be wholly bright.' That is to say, it must be all light, without any darkness in it. The church must teach God's word and truth alone, and not error or falsehood. And how could it be otherwise? For God's mouth is the mouth of the church, and vice versa. God cannot lie, nor can the church" (LW 41: 215-216?).
"Now the purpose of all this is to show that the church must teach God's word alone, and must be sure of it. The church is the pillar and bulwark of the truth, built on the rock, and called holy and irreproachable [Eph. 2:21]. Thus one rightly and truly says, "The church cannot err, for God's word which it teaches cannot err." But whatever else is taught or whatever is not with certainty God's word, cannot be the doctrine of the church, but must be the doctrine, falsehood, and idolatry of the devil" (LW 41: 217).
"Where has God taught or commanded this? How do you prove that the church offers and provides you with such an intention to perform your own illegal action? However, if people have said this apart from God's word, then it is altogether false. Indeed, you are then perpetrating a fraud in the name of the church, and accordingly your entire abomination should be called the intention of the church. Furthermore, do not try to teach me what the church's faith and intention are. The church does not believe and intend anything beyond Christ's intention and ordinance, much less anything contrary to his intention and ordinance of which I have spoken above. For Paul says in I Corinthians 3 [2:16]: 'We have the mind of Christ'" (LW 38: 155).
"For we must believe and be sure of this, that baptism does not belong to us but to Christ, that the gospel does not belong to us but to Christ, that the office of preaching does not belong to us but to Christ, that the sacrament [of the Lord's Supper] does not belong to us but to Christ, that the keys, or forgiveness and retention of sins, do not belong to us but to Christ. In summary, the offices and sacraments do not belong to us but to Christ, for he has ordained all this and left it behind as a legacy in the church to be exercised and used to the end of the world; and he does not lie or deceive us. Therefore, we cannot make anything else out of it but must act according to his command and hold to it. However, if we alter it or improve on it, then it is invalid and Christ is no longer present, nor is his ordinance" (LW 38: 200).
"As in those days the liars were exposed and destroyed, so shall it be today, so that Christ and his word may yet abide" (LW 46: 236).
LW: Luther's Works (American Edition)
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