Martin Luther has for centuries been touted as a champion for Biblical Christianity, a reformer who wanted to bring the Church back to its original roots and eschew the “traditions of men.” They often show how much Luther referenced the Church Fathers — especially Augustine —, with the intent of restoring their interpretation of Scripture and keeping them away from Roman Catholic corruption. But recent scholarship, based on perusing notes written by the German reformer, reveals a gnostic Luther who was adversed to the orthodox view of the Trinity, the Humanity of Christ, and Augustine’s refutations of gnosticism with sentiments more in favor towards the Manichaean heresy than orthodoxy. While it is true that Luther wrote many true statements on Christ — that would be anti-gnostic — such as that Christ is “that holy ladder by which we ascend to the knowledge of God,”
We cannot ignore what has been discovered in the thousands of notes written by Luther himself on the margins of books written by reputed theologians such as Augustine and Peter Lombard.
The notes were written within the time periods of 1506 to 1516, and 1535 to 1545. But, they were much overlooked until the 20th century when the German scholar Theobald Beer enduringly read through the notes, studying the patriarch of Protestantism for thirty five years. Beer’s research on Luther was eventually published in his 1980, 584 page publication, Der fröhliche Wechsel und Streit, in which he exposed and discoursed on the heretical gnostic beliefs and teachings of Luther. In fact, Melanchthon, a very close colleague of Luther and one of the head figures of the Protestant Reformation, criticized the German reformer as having “Manichean delirium”.
The central belief of Manichaeanism is that there are two principles — one good and one evil — existing co-eternally, and eternally opposing each other. The evil principle — Satan — created humanity, and thus humanity unto itself is evil; and the good principle — the god of Mani — created the spiritual world. This doctrine places humanity and God not in an intimate relationship, but rather sets them up in war against each other. By making God co-eternal with the devil, it places Satan’s power at an equal level with God’s. It is reminiscent to the Mormons — who are just modern day gnostics — when they say that Christ is the brother of Lucifer; the teaching makes Christ just another son of God, and Lucifer as also another son of God.
The doctrine enables a high esteem for Satan, and a decayed view on God, and in numerous cases open devil worship. Hilaire Belloc wrote that gnosticism “bred all sorts of secondary effects. In some men it would lead to devil worship”.
One of these men was Luther. This gnostic precept, and its decayed and diabolical hermeneutics, is seen in Luther’s words:
“the devil must be granted an hour of divinity and I must attribute fiendishness to God”
Luther, in his glosses, did not affirm that Christ was murdered on account of humanity’s sin — which is in accordance to orthodox doctrine — but that Christ was guilty of sin Himself. As we read from the quote just presented, Luther believed that Christ submitted to the devil. For Luther, there is no reconciliation between humanity and divinity, since the former is too evil to be worthy of union with the latter. This is why Luther rejected the hypostatic union of orthodox theology, which signifies (for lack of better words) the unification of the two natures, Humanity and Divinity in Christ. Christ is very Man and very God, and He is one, in a beautiful and sublime harmony and perfect theandric. The divinity and humanity did not mix into a composite — they were not compounded, but became one, with the flesh maintaining its own nature, and the divinity its own nature, while at the same time remaining in union in the person of Christ. In the words of St. John Damascus:
“He became hypostatically united to the rationally and intellectually animated flesh which He had from the holy Virgin and which had its existence in Him. He did not transform the nature of His divinity into the substance of His flesh, nor the substance of His flesh into the nature of His divinity, and neither did He effect one compound nature out of His divine nature and the human nature which He had assumed.”
Luther went against the just quoted words of St. John of Damascus. Luther held that Christ was a compound nature. Instead of saying that Christ is a person, He called the Holy One a compositum. Now you may think, ‘What is the big deal with this? So what if he calls Christ a compositum and not a person!’ But this is very pertinent. Even Melanchthon tried to correct such errors after Luther’s death, saying: “The formulas to be rejected are: ‘Christ is composed of two natures’ and ‘Christ is the fruit of creation.’”
Christ is one, both very God and very Man, without any of these two natures mingling together or mixing, but remaining the same unchangingly. Luther on the other hand believed that Christ composed of both divinity and the diabolical, because humanity unto itself is evil and of the devil. Hence, Luther said that Lucifer “must be granted an hour of divinity”, with Christ — in His sinful Humanity — submitting to Satan in guilt of its sin. Since humanity is evil, then Christ’s humanity is evil, and thus the Word of the Father became evil, in the warped theology of Luther. In regards to the personhood of Christ, Luther writes, “[The term] ‘person’ in God is a term common to many and signifies the substance of the divinity.” This goes against the orthodox teaching that says that the person of Christ signifies both His Humanity and Divinity, and not the substance of divinity. To isolate the person of Christ to just His Divinity is to disregard His Humanity.
Christ’s Humanity remains the same; His Divinity remains the same, and they both are one, yet both are unchanged.
In fact, Luther split Christ’s two natures and made two separate christs, one human and the other divine, writing:
“So one is the Abraham who believes, one is the Abraham who works, one is the Christ who redeems, one is the Christ who works…distinguish between these two things as between heaven and earth.”
This statement of Luther is absolute Nestorianism, the heresy — founded by Nestorius — that severed Christ into two persons, one human and the other divine. One must understand that when we say that Christ is a person, that the word used signifies the union of His two natures. The person of Christ is not one nature, and nor does it signify one nature, but rather conveys the hypostatic union of His two different natures — Humanity and Divinity. St. John of Damascus wrote:
“Moreover, the Word makes human things His own because what is proper to His sacred flesh belongs to Him; and the things which are His own He communicates to His flesh.”
In Luther’s compositum Christ’s Humanity is belittled to the point that it is deemed as merely an accident. Commentating on the words of Christ, “Before Abraham was, I am,” Luther wrote:
“This is what happens in all names regarding accident, but not substance. Christ did not say, ‘Before Abraham was, I am Christ’; He said simply, ‘I am.”
In other words, Christ did not say, ‘Before Abraham was, I am Christ,’ because His human nature is an accident mingling with His Divinity, humanity being irreconcilable to God. Thus there is no hypostatic union, but an accidental humanity merged with a divinity.
Christ’s Humanity, because it is evil, only protect’s us from the Father’s wrath, but nothing beyond that, there being no profound union with Christ’s Divinity and His human creatures through His own Humanity. Theobald Beet explained Luther’s idea of Christ as our shield:
“The first… is the function of shielding us from divine wrath and the second that of giving us an example. This is twofold justification.”
Christ’s Humanity is only a shield. Mortals cannot become in union with Christ’s Divinity through His Humanity, because His flesh unto itself is evil. This is why the concept of works in the journey of humanity’s salvation is viciously rejected in protestant theology. It comes from the gnostic hatred for humanity. Since humanity is evil, then his works mean nothing, even if they are righteous. Luther wrote that when Christ died on the Cross, “the devil had free access to Christ, and the divinity had withdrawn its power and left the humanity to fight alone.”
The Humanity of Christ is tormented by Satan, while the Divinity of Christ combats the dark powers. This is utterly contrary to the Catholic teaching which says, in the words of St. John of Damascus, “Nor was He [Christ] ever deserted by His divinity — on the contrary, it was ourselves who were left behind and overlooked. And so He appropriated our appearance and prayed these things.”
And in another line, this great Doctor of the Church writes: “And so, even though as man He did die and His sacred soul was separated from His immaculate body, the divinity remained unseparated from both — the soul, I mean, and the body.”
In the Diet of Augsberg — a council between Catholics and Protestants — the Catholics present used the verse in Galatians 5:6, “faith working through love”, to expound on how faith is demonstrated by works under the Law of Love. Luther responded to this by writing:
“The relationship between God and man is like a line touched by a sphere; the sphere only ever meets the line at one point and it is at precisely this point that Christ is sited. We are always on the same path but the sphere only ever touches us at one point.”
This is taken, not from Scripture, but from the gnostic figure Hermes Trismegistus:
“God is an infinite sphere whose center is everywhere…God is a sphere with as many circumferences as there are points.”
The gnostic description of God as a sphere, done by Luther, evidences his own gnostic beliefs
When Luther read St. Augustine’s words, that “It was said that the Father invisible, united with the Son invisible with Him, sent that same son and rendered Him visible”, Luther, not being agreeable, wrote as a note to this: “Look, what a strange conclusion!” Luther could not see the Humanity and Divinity of Christ as being in harmony, but rather in opposition.
Luther held that it was the Divinity of Christ that saves us, but not His Humanity, writing: “Christ works for our salvation, but without the cooperation of human nature.” This goes along with the gnostic view, that humanity is evil and therefore the Humanity of Christ must also be rendered useless in the redemption of mankind.
Paralleling this view, the Albigensian gnostics of southern France taught that the Christ of the Gospels was evil, because He came in the flesh, while the Christ Who Paul saw was good because He came in the spirit and not the flesh. While Luther did not teach this, it is reminiscent to his adversity to the Humanity of Christ. What we do, our actions, are part of our salvation; for since God became one with the whole of Humanity, it is the truth that humanity’s righteous actions participate in the Humanity of Christ.
There is a duality in Luther’s false christ. Just as the Cathars saw an evil god and a good god living co-eternally and in constant warfare against each other, Luther saw the two principles of evil humanity and good god in perpetual opposition. Although Luther did not subscribe to the Cathar teaching of two gods, he — just like the Cathars — saw God as evil and cruel. When St. Paul writes that in Christ “dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9), Luther responds by noting: “It is good that we have such a man, because God in himself is cruel and bad.”
Luther was also in agreement with the Albigensian Cathars in that most deranged and demonic belief, that Christ fornicated with Mary Magdalen. Luther taught:
“Christ committed adultery first of all with the women at the well about whom St. John tell’s us. Was not everybody about Him saying: ‘Whatever has He been doing with her?’ Secondly, with Mary Magdalen, and thirdly with the women taken in adultery whom He dismissed so lightly. Thus even, Christ who was so righteous, must have been guilty of fornication before He died.”
This was a belief strongly held by the Albigensians in Southern France, and it does not surprise me that a heretic is in accord with them, for he, too, was a gnostic. Luther actually supported gnostic dualism against Augustine. When Augustine wrote in his Confessions against the Manichaean belief in two deities constantly warring against one another, Luther writes in the margin:
“This is false. This is the origin of all Augustine’s errors.”
The nature of Christ is very specific, and at the same time mysterious, and while its majesty perplexes our mortal minds, we cannot let our pride overtake us with the desire to redefine its wonders or force it under the scope of callous sciences, but to only stand and behold in awe its ineffable beauties. For it is when we begin to change the nature of Christ for the sake of our egos, that the spirit of the diabolical enters. Leave Christ under the opinions of men, and you will no longer have Christ, but another christ — an antichrist — and you will fall to the devil. Christ is, He is the I Am; He never changes and nor does humanity have the authority to alter His majesty. For Christ unto Himself is majesty; Christ unto Himself is Life Itself, “ in Him all things consist” (Colossians 1:17); all those who hate Him are not in life but death. What useless opinion of man can change the very reason for existence itself? And to think that this wicked heretic, this corpulent bag of bile named Luther was presumptuous enough to go against the holy precepts explained and exclaimed by the holy fathers of the Church, and the councils of Christendom!
While the gnostics before him taught that the devil created the physical world, while God created the spiritual realm, Luther made God and the devil as one person, making God both the author of good and evil. But not only this. Luther would further affirm that God forces man to do evil, and that it is not of his own choice or will. He wrote: “Man, when he does what is evil, is not master of himself”; “Man does evil because God ceases to work in him”. Following his gnostic predecessors, he held man to be so evil that he had no control over himself, which is akin to the Lollard and Cathar position, that Satan is the autocrat over the earth, even over all human actions. Luther called free-will, “a mere empty name.” In his treaty, Slave Will, Luther wrote: “The world has allowed itself to be seduced by the flattering doctrine of free-will which is pleasing to nature.”
Luther taught on what he called the “captive will,” which he described as the “most sublime mysteries of our faith and religion, which only the godless know not, but to which the true Christian holds fast.” Luther took the evil god and the good god of the Cathars and made them into one single deity, with his god forcing man to do evil as he does good. This very observation was made by the scholar, Patrick F. O’Hare, who wrote thus:
“In the most shameful manner and without a blush, he revives the old Persian idea of two eternal principles of good and evil contending continually for the possession of man. With a slight variation of the ancient debasing doctrine of Manes [Mani], he declares that man is the merely passive subject of a contest between God and the devil.”
In accordance with the gnostic view, God and Satan are merely fighting over control of man, over who will enslave humanity, and humanity is left with absolutely no choice as to whose will — that of God or Satan — he will obey. “Man,” wrote Luther, “is like a horse. Does God leap into the saddle? The horse is obedient and accommodates itself to every movement of the rider and goes whither he wills it. Does God throw down the reins? Then Satan leaps upon the back of the animal, which bends, goes and submits to the spurs an caprices of its new rider. The will cannot choose its rider and cannot kick against the spurs and caprices of its new rider. It must go on and its very docility is a disobedience or a sin. The only struggle possible is between the two riders, who dispute the momentary possession of the steed … God is the author of what is evil in us as well as of what is good, and, as He bestows happiness on those who merit it not, so also, does He damn others who deserve not their fate.”
In this same book, Luther writes:
“Just in the same manner as a carpenter would cut badly with a saw-edged or broken-edged axe. Hence it is, that the wicked man cannot but always err and sin; because, being carried along by the motion of the Divine Omnipotence, he is not permitted to remain motionless, but must will, desire, and act according to his nature. All this is fixed certainty, if we believe that God is Omnipotent! It is, moreover, as certain, that the wicked man is the creature of God; though being averse and left to himself without the Spirit of God, he cannot will or do good. For the Omnipotence of God makes it, that the wicked man cannot evade the motion and action of God,but, being of necessity subject to it, he yields; though his corruption and aversion to God, makes him that he cannot be carried along and moved unto good. God cannot suspend His Omnipotence on account of his aversion, nor can the wicked man change his aversion. Wherefore it is, that he must continue of necessity to sin and err, until he be amended by the Spirit of God. Meanwhile, in all these, Satan goes on to reign in peace, and keeps his palace undisturbed under this motion of the Divine Omnipotence.”
Luther held man to be so utterly evil to the point that he has no control over his own actions. God placed a basic morality into man’s heart, what we call the conscience. But even Luther made war with this, pushing that we utterly reject the conscience and sin boldly:
“Do not ask anything of your conscience; and if it speaks, do not listen to it; if it insists, stifle it, amuse yourself; if necessary, commit some good big sin, in order to drive it away. Conscience is the voice of Satan, and it is necessary always to do just the contrary of what Satan wishes.”
Luther wanted God to be the enforcer of sin, so much so that he called the voice of conscience as something from Satan. What Luther pushed for was, in some sense, a self-fulfilled prophecy:
Man is utterly depraved, with no will to do good, and when his internal morality objects to evil deeds, he must disobey it, to fulfill the doctrine of captive will. Luther was just like the Bogomils who believed, in the words of Cosmas, that “everything exists by the will of the devil”. The god of Luther is the creator of sin, a deity with a split personality, one of good and one of evil. It is the two gods of the gnostics converged into one. It is of no wonder that Pope Leo, in 1520, called Luther a new Porphyry (a ancient gnostic heretic), writing:
“For now a new Porphyry rises who, as the old once wrongfully assailed the holy apostles, now assails the holy pontiffs, our predecessors.”
St. Augustine wrote against Porphyry for his gnostic heresy of — like that of Luther — deeming with disgust the flesh of Christ:
“But Porphyry, being under the dominion of these envious powers, whose influence he was at once ashamed of and afraid to throw off, refused to recognize that Christ is the Principle by whose incarnation we are purified. Indeed he despised Him, because of the flesh itself which He assumed, that He might offer a sacrifice for our purification—a great mystery, unintelligible to Porphyry’s pride, which that true and benignant Redeemer brought low by His humility, manifesting Himself to mortals by the mortality which He assumed.”
The scholar, Hans Urs von Balthasar, revealed information exposing the gnosticism of Luther, and so telling was his investigation, that Cardinal Ratzinger (who would later become Pope Benedict XVI), wrote to the author himself, saying:
“The influence of neoplatonism, of pseudo-hermetical literature and of gnosis which you show was wielded on Luther, casts a totally new light on his polemics against Greek philosophy and Scholasticism. In a new, significant way you also explore, to the depths of the central point, the differences to be found in Christology and the doctrine of the Trinity.”
Luther’s student — and later, enemy — Ulrich Zwingli, taught the god of Luther in his book, On Providence, on the god in whom are both evil and good:
“God leads and forces man into evil; that he makes use of the creature to produce injustice, and that yet he does not sin; for the law which makes an act sinful does not exist for God, and, moreover, He always acts from right and supremely holy intentions. The creature on the contrary, although acting involuntarily under the Divine guidance, sins, because he violates the law and acts from damnable motives.”
This same Zwingli wrote that one can murder his parents, and still the evil act would come from God, and the murderer would be forced by God to commit the evil deed:
“I will indulge my sinful desires and whatever I shall do, God is the author of it. It is by the ordination of God that this man is a parricide and that man is an adulterer.”