Then who, Luther? You?

I’m currently reading “Luther the Reformer: The Story of the Man and his Career” and I’m about halfway through. Martin Luther has just had a debate with Johann Eck concerning Luther’s latest stance on papal authority (that the pope has no authority). During the debate Luther also came out saying that a council of the church doesn’t have authority either. He seems to have based this on them making decisions that are against his own understandings of the Scriptures, in particular, the Council of Constance. He goes on to say that only Christ is the head of the church, in need of no “vicar” even here and now on Earth.

Luther tells Eck, “I give St. Peter the highest honor, but not the greatest power. For he does not have the power either to create, to send forth, to govern, or to ordain the Apostles.” From the context, he seems to be talking about appointing successors to the apostles.

My immediate reaction to this is to say, “Then who has this power, Luther? You?” Christ is gone until he returns at the end of time. Eleven men ordained by Christ did not reach all the Earth with their teachings before they died. Those of us who have come after need guidance. I have often heard Luther’s assertion that Christ is the head of the church even now defended by saying the Holy Spirit is our liaison with Christ, and the Bible is the sole authority because people are unreliable. Honestly, every unreliable person depending on their own individual understanding as opposed to that of a structured, trained, and blessed leadership seems a lot more flawed.

Any person who’s half awake can see where sola scriptura has led to. Every person “led by the Holy Spirit” has interpreted the Bible very literally and very differently. Protestantism has fallen into disarray, with over 25,000 denominations. Each new denomination or even non-denomination becomes more fractured and more permissive. None can recommend themselves except by impressing that their theology or service feels right or is the closest match to a given Christian’s individual interpretation. The body of Christ needs a head, lest it fall into disarray.

I assume that Luther wasn’t calling for an all out anarchy of the generalized church, so it seems to me as if Luther wants to put himself in the place of Christ, the very thing he accusses the pope of doing. It also occurs to me that in the Lutheran church they do indeed create, send forth, govern, and ordain ministers. Maybe it makes them feel better not to call them apostles. What we are left with is that no matter what Luther’s intentions may have been, in effect, he replaced the current authority, Pope Leo X, with himself because he thought he was better read and more intelligent.

Did Luther not realize that someday he would die too? Maybe not all heads of the Lutheran church would be quite as well studied as Luther, or make the same decisions that Luther would in their place. Did it disturb him on his deathbed that he would have to relinquish control of his institution as well? I wonder.

Protestants generally don’t like the authority of the Pope. I’m not a Catholic yet, and I still have difficulties accepting it. But I can’t think of any system that could even work, much less work better. So I find myself standing where I never thought I would. If you believe that Christ was the son of God and died for our sins, giving us the way to salvation, then where can you turn but to the Catholic Church?

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9 Responses to Then who, Luther? You?

  1. Irenaeus says:

    Yup. Welcome to the club. Sola Scriptura doesn’t work at all, and Rome is the default.

  2. Ragamuffin says:

    I struggle with similar anxieties. I haven’t worked it all out in my head, but I’m thinking along close to the same lines.

    Not to push my own blog, but give it a look. I think you and me are dealing with many of the same issues, but you’re further down the road than me.

  3. Theocoid says:

    It might help to compare Isaiah 22:20โ€“23 with Matthew 16:17-19 to get an idea of the Pope’s role in the Church. The Pope isn’t a king but a steward, and he exercises Christ’s authority, not his own, so it’s really a position which the holder of the office should take up with great humility. (I think modern Popes have been of this mold.)

    During the period leading up to the Reformation, the dual role of Pope as leader of Church and a monarch in his own right probably made it difficult for these men to operate with sufficient humility. But, then, there’s no guarantee of the personal impeccability of the Pope, only infallibility in the teaching of faith and morals.

  4. christopher says:

    You seem to be doing well on your journey Stacey. Keep praying and remember that there are quite a few who will be praying right along with you.

  5. KathleenLundquist says:

    Hi, Stacey – found your blog through a link from Mark Shea’s blog.

    I converted from evangelicalism to Catholicism 10 years ago, and you seem to be asking the same sorts of questions (and getting the same answers) I did… I admire your commitment to following the truth wherever it leads.

    I can tell that you really desire to follow Christ and to know Him and His Church as closely as you can, and so let me recommend one book that I found most helpful on my journey, out of the many that are out there: _Four Witnesses: The Early Church in Her Own Words_ by Rod Bennett. Here’s a link: http://www.amazon.com/Four-Witnesses-Early-Church-Words/dp/0898708478

    Also, feel free to drop by my website: http://www.mystagogia.net. Lots of pretty music, and some links to stuff I’ve written that you might find of interest. You can contact me through the website with any comments or questions, or just to say hi. ๐Ÿ™‚

    God bless you and your husband this Advent and Christmas season, and into the New Year!

    Christ’s peace to you, Kathleen

  6. Tod Torrent says:

    ROCK ON girl!

    As a former non-denominational evangelical myself, I can related to every dot and tittle of your journey.
    For me it took 5 years of study, but how fun it was ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’ll keep reading your blog so keep the comments coming. Today was a great one!

    God bless,
    http://www.todtorrent.com

  7. Tod Torrent says:

    P.S. Why don’t you post a picture of your family in your profile for all of us to see ๐Ÿ™‚

    Tod Torrent
    Corporate Entertainer
    http://www.todtorrent.com

  8. Stacey says:

    Thanks for the encouragement, everyone! I’ll definitely be visiting blogs and asking questions ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Stacey says:

    Tod,

    I’m a little shy! Especially since many of my acquaintance and family don’t really approve of my lines of thought here. I’m waiting to see where this goes before I break it to them. It’d be a little awkward if they happened upon this blog and recognized me!

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