Luther on the Issue of False Unity

Here are a couple of outstanding quotes from our dear Luther concerning the problem of pastors “looking the other way” and ignoring doctrinal differences with regard to the Lord’s Supper. I lifted them from a little book that I found in my personal library by Carl Manthey-Zorn called “Questions on Christian Topics.” Luther is quoted in the section on the United Church:

“And, in a word, lest I linger too long upon this point, I am horrified to hear that in one and the self-same church, or at one and the self-same altar, both parties should receive one and the self-same Sacrament and one party believe it is receiving mere bread and wine, while the other party believes it is receiving the true body and blood of Christ. And oftentimes I have my doubts whether it be credible that a preacher, or minister of souls, should be so hardened and so desperately wicked as to keep mum and allow both parties to depart each with its own opinion that they are both receiving one and the self-same Sacrament, every man according to his own belief. But if such (a pastor) there be, he must have a heart harder than stone, steel, or flint, he must indeed be an apostle of wrath. Give me a turk or a Jew in preference to such a preacher. For they disown our Sacrament and do it openly, and thus I am in no danger of being deceived by them and of being drawn unawares into their idolatry. But these fellows must be the real, exalted arch-devils, who would give me mere bread and wine and allow me to believe it to be the body and blood of Christ and thus deceive me so shamefully. That were too galling, too exasperating. God will shortly wreak terrible vengeance upon those fellows. Wherefore let them that have such pastors, or that suspect their pastors of such dealings, beware of such knaves as of the very devil himself” (Luther’s Works, Erl. Ed. 26, p. 304).

Commenting on the Gospel of John 8:31, 32, Luther writes in addition:

“A man that holds his doctrine, creed, and confession to be the very truth cannot stand in line with such as teach, or are given to, false doctrine; neither can he smile for ever and aye at the devil and his minions. A teacher who holds his peace in the face of error and yet insists that he is a teacher of the truth, is worse than an open enthusiast and does more harm with his hypocrisy than does a heretic and is unworthy of any man’s confidence; he is a wolf and a fox, a hireling and a belly-servant, etc. One need not be surprised to see him set at naught doctrine, word, creed, sacrament, church, and school and surrender them to the enemy. Aye, either he is secretly at one with the enemy, or he is a doubter and a weather-cock, waiting to see which way the wind blow, whether Christ or the devil will prevail. Or he doesn’t know his own mind, and is not worthy to be called a discple, much less a teacher. He is afraid to hurt any one’s feelings, neither willing to stand up for Christ nor to hurt the devil and the world.”

This is an enjoyable little volume by Zorn. He has a pretty meaty section on marriage and procreation, as well as some very helpful writing on church discipline. I’m not sure what Zorn’s background is, but he definitely seems to fit into the confessional camp of the Lutheran Church. This book was published by Northwestern in 1931. I know he was a member of the Synodical Conference…probably a Wisconsinite. I haven’t read too much of his stuff on the more practical issues that were being debated at the time (insurance, etc.) I don’t know if he’s legalistic or not. We’ll see.


About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Ph.D student at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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