Bizzaro Martin

This post is to illustrate that Lutherans better not “believe in” Martin Luther.  We better not hold that everything he said, even from the pulpit, is a true exposition of the Word of God.  It also points out the dangers of anthologies.

In the massive, in excess of 1,600 pages, What Luther Says, you will find Bizzaro Martin.  Like Superman’s Bizzaro world, everything is turned on its head, but first the Martin we know and love. Here are some quotes about angels from the aforementioned volume:

“Therefore we should learn that our best and most loyal friends are invisible” (23).

“Whatever evil happens comes to a far greater extent from them [evil angels] than from those whom we can see with our eyes.  On the other hand, if anything good happens, it is brought about entirely through the good angels” (24).

“The good angels bring terror, that is, they come with a certain majesty…so that the people to whom they come are frightened….But an evil angel creeps along smoothly and gently, like a serpent, until he has lured men into security and sin; then he departs, leaving horrible fear behind” (25,26 only the second set of ellipses are mine).

Now for Bizzaro Martin:

“On the other hand, children should also be told about the cunning devil and the spirits of evil.  My dear child, one should say, if you will not be good, your angel will run away from you, and the evil spirit, the black monster (der schwarze Popelmann), will come.  Therefore be good and pray.  Then the angel will come to you, and the monster will go away from you” (24-25, from a September 29, 1533 sermon on St. Michael’s Day).

Here Bizzaro Martin makes of a good angel what that joke of several years ago did of Jesus.  A burglar breaks in and an old lady says to him, “Jesus is watching you.”  The burglar says he doesn’t care.  She repeats, “Jesus is watching you.”  All of a sudden a pit-bull rushes into the room, and the old lady says, “Meet Jesus.”  Actually, it’s worse.  Bizzaro Martin uses good angels like misguided Christians use the real Jesus.  They tell their kids Jesus won’t love them if they do this or that.  Contrast this with the better theology of the country music band Confederate Railroad, “Jesus and Mom would always love me even when the Devil took control.”

Anthologies of Luther’s words are like The Physician’s Desk Reference to a non-doctor to those not well read in Luther or falsely grounded in him rather than in Scripture.  I had always wanted a copy of the PDR for myself.  The wife of a doctor remembered I had said that, so when he got a new edition she gave me his old one.  There are surely things in this book that I could use to my harm without meaning to.  And note well that book isn’t a Bizzaro listing of drugs.  It’s my own non-medical reading and understanding that does the twisting.

Remember this 7 years from now when the 500th anniversary of the Reformation occurs.  I’m quite sure it will be as it was for the 500th anniversary of his birth.  Every wrong, shocking, or hateful thing Luther ever said will be put in the spotlight.  In most cases we won’t be able to deny Luther said them, but we can attribute them to Bizzaro Martin and confess what he did: You can burn all his writings but the catechisms, his lectures on Galatians and Genesis, The Bondage of the Will, and his three writings on the Sacrament of the Altar.

About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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One Response to Bizzaro Martin

  1. Jim Craig says:

    I’d like to offer my two cents worth of ” Bizarro Martin,” the scientist. During the height of the Catholic Church’s purge of Copernicus for debunking the Ptolemaic theory of the solar system, Luther thought it necessary to weigh in. To paraphrase his opinion of Copernicus and his theory- “Copernicus must have had too much to drink. Any fool can see that the sun goes around the earth.” Fortuntely we don’t consider Luther’s words as Holy Spirit inspired!

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