’s Mistakes Essay, Research Paper
It s All Our Fault: Where Martin Luther Went Wrong
How much has religion really changed since the days of Martin Luther? Is the church still stealing money? Are clergymen still sexually deviant? Is the church still exerting political influence? Yes to all these questions. So what went wrong with the reforms that Martin Luther tried to start hundreds of years ago? One must look no further than the works of Francis Bacon and Thomas Hobbes to find the answer. People are what went wrong with Luther’s reforms. Humankind was simply neither good nor virtuous enough to carry out Luther s principals. In the end, it was not the church that needed reforming, it was human nature itself.
One must look no further than the evening news to see the proof that Martin Luther has failed. For example, take the case of televangelist Jim Baker, who was caught stealing money from donations that were to given him in the name of God. There are of course the numerous stories of priests molesting little boys. There s also the Christian Coalition, which is little more than a special interest group, founded in the name of God, which uses campaign contributions to control politicians on keynote issues. Luther identified all these kinds of corruptions hundreds of years ago, yet they still exist today. Even the evils that Luther managed to change are being abused today. A perfect example is Luther s assertion that people should have the right to interpret Scripture for themselves because the church slants the Scriptures in a way that is beneficial to itself.
He writes, They (the church) assume sole authority for themselves and would persuade us with insolent juggling of words that the Pope, whether he be bad or good, can not err in matters of faith (Luther 15)
Now that people have the right to interpret Scriptures for themselves, take this passage from the KKK web site into consideration,
Jeremiah 13:23 stresses the fact that we cannot make white people out of Negroes in these words: Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? This could be interpreted as a warning that Negroes breed whites down to mongrels but that we could never breed them up into Whites. (KKK 1) Needless to say people are doing the same kind of word bending that the church did in Luther s day.
This begs the question, is it human nature to be corrupt? Francis Bacon would certainly agree. In the example of people interpreting Scripture for themselves, Bacon asserts that men naturally will twist information to way that is in line with their thinking. He writes, the human understanding is like a false mirror, which, receiving rays irregularly, distorts and discolors the nature of things by mingling its own nature with it. (Bacon 340) This passage basically suggests that whether Martin Luther, the Pope, or some schmuck on the street is reading the Bible, the interpretations that will arise are going to be in harmony with how each of those three individuals think.
Bacon goes on to write, everyone has a cave or den of his own, which refracts and discolors the light of nature. (Bacon 340) Martin Luther accused the Church of building three walls around themselves and of hiding behind the power of the papacy (Luther 15)? The charge Luther made was simply a product of people being people. In fact, did Luther himself hid in his own cave, holding up faith as his protection.
Thomas Hobbes paints an even poorer picture of human nature that explained more of Luther s charges against the church. Luther was appalled by the practice of indulgences, the trading of money for absolution of sin. He felt that it was a greedy and immoral thing to do. However Hobbes would term that practice as the part of human nature that he called Competition . He wrote that it maketh men invade for Gain and that it pushes men to make themselves masters of other men s persons, wives, children, and cattell (Hobbes 22) As far as Thomas Hobbes is concerned, it is only human nature to be greedy, and if this is so the church couldn t really be blamed for it.
To put it plainly, Martin Luther s charges against the church were largely misdirected. The church s shortcomings back in 1520 are the same that humankind has had since Adam and Eve to today.
Bacon, Francis. The Four Idols. A World of Ideas. Ed. Lee A. Jacobus. New
York: 1998. 379-389.
Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan. Sources of Western Tradition. Ed. Marvin Perry. New
York: 1999. 22-24.
Interracial Dating Destroys Our Civilization. 27 September 1999.
Luther, Martin. On Papal Power, Justification by Faith, The Interpretations of the Bible,
and The Nature of the Clergy. Sources of Western Tradition. Ed. Marvin Perry. New York: 1999. 15-16.