Are Lutherans wrong?
Well, if you’re a Protestant then you probably won’t say so. If you’re a Catholic, then you are required to believe that Lutherans are wrong. And if you’re Orthodox, then you are required to reject Lutheranism as well.
But these responses are all motivated by the answerer’s loyalty to their religious group, and they are not motivated by a desire to answer the question correctly.
So it would be better to find a Christian who did not belong to any of these three identity groups, preferably one who was already a trusted authority on countering falsehoods, and learn what they had to say on the matter.
Fortunately, such a Christian exists: St. Athanasius.
Athanasius is a saint in the Lutheran, Catholic, and Orthodox churches. He existed before these divisions arose, and he was famous for subduing the Arian heresy. He also left behind a great body of work regarding the Arians which we can use to discern if the Lutherans are wrong.
So, what did the saint believe?
Lutherans are wrong. They are wrong because they do not follow the teachings given by Christ and the Church Fathers. Instead, they follow the teachings given by Martin Luther and his followers. The fact that they named themselves after Martin Luther shows where their allegiance lies.
Now, St. Athanasius left behind a large body of work condemning the Arians, and the arguments he advances are just as valid when set against Lutherans. I present and address the first of these below.
Four Discourses Against the Arians – Athanasius – Discourse I
The first major heresy which threatened the continued survival of the Christian Church was Arianism. Other sects had arisen before this one, but the Arians were the most dangerous.
Now, the church leader who was most instrumental in suppressing Arianism was probably St. Athanasius. He lived during the time when the Arians were establishing themselves, and he spent years suppressing the heresy after their leader had died. His efforts led to the commencement of the First Council of Nicaea and the creation of the Nicene Creed which catholic and Orthodox Christians affirm today.
Athanasius and the Lutherans
Now, Athanasius is a saint in the Lutheran Church. So if St. Athanasius would believe that the Lutherans are wrong, then this would mean that one of their more famous saints would denounce them as heretics.
And it happens to be the case that St. Athanasius was famous for quelling the Arian heresy. Moreover, he left behind a great body of work in which he explains his objections to Arianism.
So if the same arguments which St. Athanasius used against Arianism, arguments which the Lutherans accepted when they canonized him, are just as valid against Lutheranism as they are against Arianism, then the Lutherans are witnesses against themselves.
Now, let’s explore if Athanasius’ arguments against Arianism hold up against the Lutherans.
And the arguments which I will be reviewing are those which the saint presented in his first chapter in his first discourse against the Arians. I am also presenting the chapter in its entirety. It is for this reason that the accusation that I am cherry-picking things that suit my interests may not be used against me. I needed to start somewhere, so I started at the beginning, and I included it in its entirety.
The italicized writing comes from Athanasius, and the writing below it is my commentary.
Chapter 1. Introduction.
Reasons for writing:
- Certain persons indifferent about Arianism
- Arians not Christians
- Sectaries always take the name of their founder.
Heretics Have Departed from Christianity and Become Irreligious
Of all other heresies which have departed from the truth it is acknowledged that they have but devised a madness, and their irreligiousness has long since become notorious to all men.
For that their authors went out from us, it plainly follows, as the blessed John has written, that they never thought nor now think with us.
Are heretics Christians? According to St. Athanasius, no. Heretics have left the Christian community in order to follow strange and novel teachings. these people are not “not real” Christians. They are simply not Christians at all, and they follow a new religion of their own devising.
Of course, not heretics ever believes that they’re the heretic. No, it’s always the other people who have got it wrong. This is the way that heretics look at the world, and they continue to call themselves ‘Christian’ on that account.
Christ on the Heretics
Wherefore, as says the Saviour, in that they gather not with us, they scatter with the devil, and keep an eye on those who slumber, that, by this second sowing of their own mortal poison, they may have companions in death.
Christ subtly gives us a way to identify heretics. In the gospels, Jesus acknowledges that His goal is to gather people together. This implies that the devils would try to scatter them tot he wind. It is for this reason that heretics can be recognized by their fractious nature.
The Heretic’s Extended Family
But, whereas one heresy, and that the last, which has now risen as harbinger of Antichrist, the Arian, as it is called, considering that other heresies, her elder sisters, have been openly proscribed, in her craft and cunning, affects to array herself in Scripture language, like her father the devil, and is forcing her way back into the Church’s paradise.
Whenever a heresy arises, Christians may oppose and defeat it. If they succeed, they they will have triumphed over the heresy on account of some weakness in that system’s views.
Later on, a new heretical sect may arise, and it will possess knowledge of how the former heretics had fallen. The new heretics will repair the weak spots in the previous system and then advance their own. In this way, the failures of one generation of heretics becomes the strengths of the next.
This means that successive generations of heretics gradually increase in effectiveness. It may be that this increase can persist indefinitely. If this is the case, then it is inevitable that the heretics would eventually become to formidable for the true believers to hold back.
Now… Christianity is 2,000 years old. Which means that the heretics of today have 2,000 years of learning to support their lies.
That with the pretense of Christianity, her smooth sophistry (for she lacks reason) may deceive men into wrong thoughts of Christ.
The fact that an idea is wrong does not mean that many people will not adhere to it. People make decisions for all kinds of strange reasons, and ne can often exploit the errors common to the human brain in order to spread falsehoods.
Why Heresy Is to be Confronted
Nay, since she has already seduced certain of the foolish, not only to corrupt their ears, but even to take and eat with Eve, till in their ignorance which ensues they think bitter sweet, and admire this loathsome heresy, on this account I have thought it necessary, at your request, to unrip ‘the folds of its breast-plate,’ and to show the ill savor of its folly.
So while those who are far from it may continue to shun it, those whom it has deceived may repent; and, opening the eyes of their heart, may understand that darkness is not light, nor falsehood truth, nor Arianism good.
Heretics say that lies are true and that truth is a lie. It is for this reason that heresy is to be confronted. Those people who hear the heresy may be corrupted by it, and this illness can then proceed to warp and wind through every vestige of their life wherein the truth may be found. This heresy acts as a virus, and a person who has been long-infected may never be able to return to truth.
Even more, that person who bears the heretic’s lie may then go about spreading the falsehood to others and destroying the light of truth within them. So to confront a heretic is an act of mercy to those whom the heretic would destroy.
To Call a Heretic a Christian Is an Act of Ignorance
Nay, that those who call these men Christians are in great and grievous error, as neither having studied Scripture, nor understanding Christianity at all, and the faith which it contains.
One should never call a heretic a Christian. Heretics are not Christians, and when you call them so, you validate their errors.
Heresy Is Inherently Evil
For what have they discovered in this heresy like to the religious Faith, that they vainly talk as if its supporters said no evil?
This in truth is to call even Caiaphas a Christian, and to reckon the traitor Judas still among the Apostles, and to say that they who asked Barabbas instead of the Saviour did no evil, and to recommend Hymenæus and Alexander as right-minded men, and as if the Apostle slandered them.
If a Christian is on the side of truth, and he must believe that he is, for Christ himself told Pontius Pilate that He was the truth, then anyone who is opposed to Christianity is opposed to the truth. Therefore, they spread lies.
And lies are not Christian, they do not come from God or adherence to His word, and so they must arise from devilish designs.
This means that heresies, which are complexes of lies, are evil in and of themselves. Moreover, a person who seeks them out and quashes them is on the side of truth and justified by what they do. Yet those who spread lies will often pretend that they are being treated unfairly by the people who spread truth. These liars are the wolves in sheep clothing whom Christ has warned his followers to beware.
A Proper Christian Will not Call the Heretics ‘Christian’
But neither can a Christian bear to hear this, nor can he consider the man who dared to say it sane in his understanding.
Some Christians will not refuse to call heretics Christian after their deviation is known. This is a mistake. The tendency to pretend that heretics are Christian often comes from a place of cowardice. The Christian is afraid of conflict with the heretics, so she goes along with their lies. In doing so, this Christian sacrifices the truth in favor of lies out of cowardice.
Heretics Find Themselves in Bad Company
For with them for Christ is Arius, as with the Manichees, Manichæus; and for Moses and the other saints they have made the discovery of one Sotades, a man whom even Gentiles laugh at, and of the daughter of Herodias.
If one compares modern Protestant sects to the heretics of the ancient world, they will recognize a great amount of similarity between modern and ancient views. This is one of the reasons why religious ignorance is so common within Protestant communities. Protestants need this ignorance to persist in order to distance themselves from known heresies.
For of the one has Arius imitated the dissolute and effeminate tone, in writing Thaliae on his model.
“Things which are too stupid to be spoken are sung.” -Voltaire
When people have bad ideas which they want to spread, they will never clearly state what they believe. This would make their error obvious and easily defeated. Instead, they resort to roundabout methods for spreading their falsehoods.
Of these tools liars use, one of the more effective is the song. People will often say ridiculous things without realizing it if those things are expressed in a catchy tune. Then their desire to remain consistent with what they have said will compel them to go along with the silly idea after they have spoken it in song form.
Arius knew this, and he created a ballad, the Thaliae, to express his views in order to gain support for his teachings.
The Word Games of the Heretics
And the other he has rivaled in her dance, reeling and frolicking in his blasphemies against the Saviour; till the victims of his heresy lose their wits and go foolish, and change the Name of the Lord of glory into the likeness of the ‘image of corruptible man,’ and for Christians come to be called Arians, bearing this badge of their irreligion.
Liars try to convince people to believe their lies, and their attempts to do proceed in two stages: infection and reinforcement.
The infection stage iw the one in which the liar tries to convince people to go along with their falsehood. This is the harder of the two.
The reinforcement stage is the one in which the heretic tries to integrate their lies into the psyche of a newly-infected person.
And one of the tactics that liars use to reinforce their deceits is by paying around with definitions and words.
We use words to structure and convey our thoughts. So a person can control the way a person thinks by manipulating the words which that person uses. If a person becomes accustomed to using certain words, then the thoughts that person is able to bear become constrained by the person’s preferred word choice.
So cunning liars will often try to play around with language in such a way so that people will start to think in patterns that are conducive to the liar’s ends. They do this by inserting words seemingly-innocent words into the popular lexicon.
Much fo the opposition to politically correct language is driven by a subtle awareness of this.
The Deceitfulness of the Sectarians
For let them not excuse themselves; nor retort their disgrace on those who are not as they, calling Christians after the names of their teachers, that they themselves may appear to have that Name in the same way.
Nor let them make a jest of it, when they feel shame at their disgraceful appellation.
Rather, if they be ashamed, let them hide their faces, or let them recoil from their own irreligion.
Heretics who call themselves Christians are not Christian, and that they would call themselves by the Lord’s name is a disgrace.
Christians Do not Name Themselves after Their Leaders
For never at any time did Christian people take their title from the Bishops among them, but from the Lord, on whom we rest our faith.
Thus, though the blessed Apostles have become our teachers, and have ministered the Saviour’s Gospel, yet not from them have we our title, but from Christ we are and are named Christians.
A Christian must take his name from the Lord. Anything else is idolatry. This is the example set by the earliest Christians, and we would do well to remember it.
But for those who derive the faith which they profess from others, good reason is it they should bear their name, whose property they have become.
Arians named themselves after Arius. Marcions named themselves after Marcion. Sabellians named themselves after Sabellius.
And Lutherans named themselves after Martin Luther.
Meanwhile, Christians name themselves after Christ.
The Behaviors of Past Heretics Provide a Precedent for Interacting with Present Ones
Yes surely; while all of us are and are called Christians after Christ, Marcion broached a heresy a long time since and was cast out.
And those who continued with him who ejected him remained Christians; but those who followed Marcion were called Christians no more, but henceforth Marcionites.
In ages past, heretics would be expelled from the church, Christians would stop calling them brothers, and the followers of these sects were named after their leaders.
A List of Heretics Whose Names Were Given to Their Followers
Thus Valentinus also, and Basilides, and Manichæus, and Simon Magus, have imparted their own name to their followers; and some are accosted as Valentinians, or as Basilidians, or as Manichees, or as Simonians.
And other, Cataphrygians from Phrygia, and from Novatus Novatians. So too Meletius, when ejected by Peter the Bishop and Martyr, called his party no longer Christians, but Meletians.
We can add Lutherans to this mix.
The Choice & Alexander
And so in consequence when Alexander of blessed memory had cast out Arius, those who remained with Alexander, remained Christians. But those who went out with Arius, left the Saviour’s Name to us who were with Alexander, and as to them they were hence-forward denominated Arians.
Behold then, after Alexander’s death too, those who communicate with his successor Athanasius, and those with whom the said Athanasius communicates, are instances of the same rule. None of them bear his name, nor is he named from them, but all in like manner, and as is usual, are called Christians.
When a person is kicked out fo the Church for their false teachings, their followers are left with a choice. They may either follow their leader or stay with the Church. Those who follow their leader are no longer Christians because they have committed apostasy.
And we Christians should not call ourselves after the leaders of our various churches.
Christians Are United because of Their Common Belief
For though we have a succession of teachers and become their disciples, yet, because we are taught by them the things of Christ, we both are, and are called, Christians all the same.
But those who follow the heretics, though they have innumerable successors in their heresy, yet anyhow bear the name of him who devised it.
Protestants often pretend that Christians are unified according to something called the Branch Theory. They assert that there exist many different Christian sects which may all be called Christian. They must believe this in order to justify their tendency to found novel denominations.
Yet the Branch Theory cannot be true because many Protestant groups spread mutually exclusive teachings. Some Protestants say that Christ is God, and others say He is not; they can’t both be right, yet the Branch Theory holds that they are.
Christians are instead united by their adherence to a common teaching, and that teaching is the one which Christ taught, the Apostles spread, and their successors kept. If a faction rejects something that Christ taught, then it ceases to be Christian.
Heretics Die, but Heresy Remains
Thus, though Arius be dead, and many of his party have succeeded him, yet those who think with him, as being known from Arius, are called Arians.
Christ warns his followers that we struggle not against flesh and bone.
I cannot help but suppose that this is what he was referring to.
Truly, awful ideas are far more pernicious and enduring than the people who spread them. It is for this reason that Christians are better off attacking ideas rather than those who possess them.
What’s In a Name? The Greeks Knew
And, what is a remarkable evidence of this, those of the Greeks who even at this time come into the Church, on giving up the superstition of idols, take the name, not of their catechists, but of the Saviour, and begin to be called Christians instead of Greeks.
When Moses encountered God on Mt. Sinai, he might have asked for anything. And he chose to ask for God’s name,a dn the revelation of God’s name was so important that it needed to be accompanied by a commandment not to take it in vain.
So the Bible clearly attaches a massive importance to the name of God. We may then extrapolate this to assert that name sin general are valuable things.
So it is of little surprise that modern people, being so secularized, treat names with little regard and often name themselves and their kids something stupid.
Consider the following name which a nurse once reported to me:
Do you know how this name is pronounced?
It has the letter ‘s’ four times, and these are followed by a ‘t’.
The fact that modern people curse their kids with stupid names is proof of their malevolence.
But I digress.
Anyway, names are enormously important, and you can expect a heretic to play fast and loose with them.
The Sectarian Idol-Worship
While those of them who go off to the heretics, and again all who from the Church change to this heresy, abandon Christ’s name, and henceforth are called Arians, as no longer holding Christ’s faith, but having inherited Arius’s madness.
How then can they be Christians, who for Christians are Ario-maniacs?
Or how are they of the Catholic Church, who have shaken off the Apostolic faith, and become authors of fresh evils?
Who, after abandoning the oracles of divine Scripture, call Arius’s Thaliae a new wisdom?
And with reason too, for they are announcing a new heresy.
Heretics tend to form cults around their leaders and worship those teachings which the leader espoused. Oftentimes, these cults will disintegrate shortly after the leader’s death, but this need not be the case.
If the leader was a particularly esteemed man, then he may gain a legendary status among his followers after his death. His followers will proceed to erase and ignore the less-impressive aspects of his personality and exaggerate his accomplishments and virtues. They will then hold this figure up as a great ideal to which they must aspire.
The likelihood that the leader will be raised to a legendary status depends upon the quality of his successors. If the people who assume leadership after the first leader’s death are only in that position because of their relationship with him, then it will be useful for them to exaggerate his greatness. This helps them justify their claim to power.
If the current leader derives his authority from his relationship to the previous one, then the value of that relationship must be emphasized in order to justify the current leader’s rule. This emphasis is achieved by inflating the first leader’s importance and by stressing the current leader’s allegiance to him.
The Old Did Not Know about the New
And hence a man may marvel, that, whereas many have written many treatises and abundant homilies upon the Old Testament and the New, yet in none of them is a Thalia found.
The people who founded a religion could not have been heretics within that same belief system because they system is defined by the founders. Therefore, heretical views will not be affirmed within their writings, and if it appears that this is the case, then the interpreter has committed an error.
The Power of Poetry
Nay nor among the more respectable of the Gentiles, but among those only who sing such strains over their cups, amid cheers and jokes, when men are merry, that the rest may laugh.
Till this marvelous Arius, taking no grave pattern, and ignorant even of what is respectable, while he stole largely from other heresies, would be original in the ludicrous, with none but Sotades for his rival.
For what beseemed him more, when he would dance forth against the Saviour, than to throw his wretched words of irreligion into dissolute and loose meters?
“If it rhymes, then it must be true.”
This is a ridiculous way to think. The fact that two ideas might be spoken in a rhyming manner does not have anything to do with their truth value.
And if you ask someone if they believe that two rhyming sentences would be true on account of the fact that they rhyme, then that person would certainly say that they do not.
And yet people really do believe that statements which rhyme are tree on that account. Even though they pretend that they don’t.
Scammers, politicians, and other con-artists are aware of this. So they often try to spread their lies in a form that either rhymes or that has a nice rhythm to it. People who hear these falsehoods then tend to believe what they hear because it literally sounded nice.
Knowledge of God Allows One to Recognize Heresy
That, while ‘a man,’ as Wisdom says, ‘is known from the utterance of his word ,’ so from those numbers should be seen the writer’s effeminate soul and corruption of thought.
In truth, that crafty one did not escape detection; but, for all his writhing to and fro, like the serpent, he did but fall into the error of the Pharisees.
Heresy thrives wherever religious ignorance prevails. It is for this reason that heretics are most likely to be found within communities where religious knowledge has collapsed. These same heretics will then cultivate religious ignorance where they live in order to further shield themselves from detection.
So the collapse of theology and religious leadership serves as both a gateway and a safeguard for heretics.
The Pretensions to Christianity
They, that they might transgress the Law, pretended to be anxious for the words of the Law, and that they might deny the expected and then present Lord, were hypocritical with God’s name, and were convicted of blaspheming when they said, ‘Why do You, being a man, make Yourself God,’ and say, ‘I and the Father are one?’
And so too, this counterfeit and Sotadean Arius, feigns to speak of God, introducing Scripture language, but is on all sides recognized as godless Arius, denying the Son, and reckoning Him among the creatures.
We’ve all met a person like this. We’ve all encountered someone who went around saying and doing things in order to create drama, and they pretended that they were doing so because they wanted something good and that they were “simply” trying to get it.
These people never want the good things they pretend to aim for, and they are always lying when they say so. They stir up trouble and make drama out of boredom and a desire to win.
Now, while these liars ar pretending to value the truth, they will make an earnest attempt to be seen appealing to trusted sources. this is because they are desperate to conceal the fact that they’re lying.
Meanwhile, people whoa re telling the truth are not desperate to conceal their lies because those lies do not exist to be concealed.
And it happens to be the case that one of the most trusted sources within Christendom is the Bible. Therefore, we should expect that liars and heretics will appeal to the Bible much more strongly than we would expect from people who are telling the truth.