The Download—The Fall of Luther

by Church Militant  •  •  April 7, 2016   

Pride comes before the fall

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By Peter O'Dwyer

Martin Luther's fall came from an disproportionate confidence in his own strength and a lack of childlike obedience and trust in God's mercy. While we hold Luther's actions in contempt, it is very easy to forget that we may fall just as he did.

Luther had a troubled life up to his time in monastery, but it was there that his own psychological and spiritual weakness would come together to ruin him. Praying the daily breviary was binding on all Augustinian Monks under pain of mortal sin. But Luther would put it off for weeks, in order to have more time to study. Then, overcome with guilt, he would punish himself harshly.

Luther trusted in his own distorted sense of guilt rather than the guidance of his confessor and the teachings of the Church. This led him to do away with his community's ascetical practices and substitute his own, harsher ones in attempt to purge his feelings of remorse. This homegrown penance reflected his warped psyche and his out of control emotions, and were subsequently extreme, and drove him further down the path of despair.

Since nothing he did could ease his pain, he began to curse God and desire to never have been born. Eventually, he concluded, based off his own experiences, that man must be utterly depraved and wicked. Since Luther couldn't stop sinning, nobody must be capable of not sinning. Everything everyone did must be a sin, he concluded, and salvation therefore came by simple faith in God:

Be a sinner and sin on bravely, but have stronger faith and rejoice in Christ, who is the victor of sin, death, and the world. Do not for a moment imagine that this life is the abiding place of justice: sin must be committed. To you it ought to be sufficient that you acknowledge the Lamb that takes away the sins of the world, the sin cannot tear you away from him, even though you commit adultery a hundred times a day and commit as many murders.

Ironically, Luther in his pride had cast aside the work and penance aspect of faith because his own self-prescribed works had failed. But while he was making himself his own master, he had disregarded the disciplines of his order and the Church. The Church's way was dumped in favor of Martin Luther's way and when Martin Luther's way failed, the Church was blamed.

Martin Luther's fall is a cautionary tale. Luther had taken his faith seriously, but he was undone by excessive emotionalism and a willful disregard for the merciful guidance the Church provides. To live out our faith, we must do penance, work hard, and strive not to sin, knowing that when we fail, God will raise us up again so we can try harder in obedience. In the end, it is an arduous journey, but compared to the alternative, the yoke Christ offers us is indeed light.

For more on Martin Luther's role in the destruction of civilization, watch "The Download: Martin Luther Plants the Seed."


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