In a discussion with a Protestant on this forum, he challenged me to prove that Luther (and Calvin, but we’ll stick to Luther in this article), wanted to be seen as the new infallible Leader of Christ’s Church.
Well, let’s see. Can anyone disprove that Luther uttered these words?
“My word is the word of Christ; my mouth is the mouth of Christ" (O'Hare PF. The Facts About Luther, 1916--1987 reprint ed., pp. 203-204).
That very much sounds to me as though Luther saw himself as replacing the Pope.
Some might say
Some might say that Luther meant that God spoke through him the way that God speaks and works through the rest of us. But, that doesn’t square with his behaviour.
If he did not consider himself the replacement for the Pope, if he did not consider himself the authority over the Word of God, then why did he think he had authority to change the Word of God? Consider that Luther went on to challenge many books of Scripture. It is well known that he removed seven books from the Old Testament. It is not as well known that he also wanted to remove the books of St. James, Hebrews, Jude and Revelations from the New Testament.
St. James' epistle is really an epistle of straw…for it has nothing of the nature of the gospel about it" (Luther, M. Preface to the New Testament, 1546).
Up to this point we have had the true and certain chief books of the New Testament. The four which follow have from ancient times had a different reputation. In the first place, the fact that Hebrews is not an epistle of St. Paul, or of any other apostle (Luther, M. Prefaces to the Epistle of the Hebrews, 1546).
Concerning the epistle of St. Jude, no one can deny that it is an extract or copy of St. Peter's second epistle…Therefore, although I value this book, it is an epistle that need not be counted among the chief books which are supposed to lay the foundations of faith (Luther, M. Preface to the Epistles of St. James and St. Jude, 1546).
“to my mind, it [the book of the Apocalypse/Revelation] bears upon it no marks of an apostolic or prophetic character…Everyone may form his own judgment of this book; as for myself, I feel an aversion to it, and to me this is sufficient reason for rejecting it.” (Sammtliche Werke, 63, pp169-170, ‘The Facts About Luther’, O’Hare, TAN Books, 1987, p203)
Obviously, he assumed authority over Scripture and the Church, for himself. So much so, that he had no qualms about adding or taking away from the Word of God:
You tell me what a great fuss the Papists are making because the word alone is not in the text of Paul…say right out to him: 'Dr. Martin Luther will have it so,'…I will have it so, and I order it to be so, and my will is reason enough. I know very well that the word 'alone' is not in the Latin or the Greek text (Stoddard J. Rebuilding a Lost Faith. 1922, pp. 101-102; see also Luther M. Amic. Discussion, 1, 127).
So, by his actions, Luther proves that he thought he had replaced the Catholic Church and the Pope. He denied the infallibility of the Pope and the Church. And claimed it for himself.
Against the Spiritual Estate and the Bishops Falsely So Called in 1522:
…I now let you [bishops] know that from now on I shall no longer do you the honor of allowing you — or even an angel from heaven — to judge my teaching or to examine it. For there has been enough foolish humility…and it has not helped… For since I am certain of [my teaching], I shall be your judge…so that whoever does not accept my teaching may not be saved — for it is God’s and not mine. Therefore, my judgment is also not mine but God’s.
What actually happened, though, is that Martin Luther opened a box more dreadful than Pandora’s. And he couldn’t put back in, the evil spirits he unleashed. Therefore, he had to settle for becoming one of the leaders of his movement. Not the only and supreme leader.
In truth, it is difficult to understand Luther’s writings. He contradicted himself continually. However, if we put together his writings and his actions, we see that he truly considered himself the infallible leader of God’s Church. Otherwise, there is no explanation for his attitude towards God’s written Word.