Luther and the False Brethren

Luther and the False Brethren

Luther and the False Brethren

Luther and the False Brethren

Excerpt

Few men have had a greater or more lasting effect on Western thought than Martin Luther. He initiated a successful revolution against a system that had endured for centuries. His reformation of the Christian message profoundly changed men's minds, providing them with a new understanding of their religion and consequently a new understanding of themselves and their society.

As happens with most revolutions, the initial attack was directed wholly at the old order. But as also happens with most revolutions, when the new order became established and the danger of an immediate and overwhelming counterattack receded, internal differences began to appear. Members of the new order disagreed on subsidiary issues, and Luther soon found himself engaged with the Roman Catholics on one flank and with fellow evangelicals on the other. Luther called the Roman Catholics "papists," and his evangelical opponents "fanatics" and "false brethren," and despite the wide disparity in their views, he saw them as having much in common. Both groups were wrong, both were hypocritical, and both were lying minions of Satan who were wantonly violating their consciences. And so, with a considerable sense of righteousness, he condemned and attacked them both.

One's first impression of Luther's polemics against evangelical opponents is that they are very similar to his polemics against Catholics, but a closer look reveals some striking differences. For example, in formulating his doctrinal position and polemicizing against Rome, Luther pointed to the different assumptions and authorities on which he and the Catholics based their doctrinal positions. They argued . . .

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