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Luther’s theology was rooted in his anguish

The traditionalist blog Rorate Caeli republished an account by Bishop William Adrian of Nashville – originally published in the Wanderer 50 years ago – of the life of Martin Luther. Bishop Adrian argued that the heart of Luther’s thought was the denial that man can avoid sin. He quoted the historian Mgr Peter Guilday as saying that Luther was obsessed with his own inability “to overcome sin”, and so launched a new theology in which man’s efforts were nothing and God’s will everything.

As a young monk, Luther struggled with anguish at the idea of losing his soul. He overworked, and wrote to a friend: “I seldom have time for reciting the Divine Office and celebrating Mass.”

Reading William of Ockham, a medieval thinker condemned by the Church, was a turning point for Luther: there he found the idea that God’s will was supreme, and unpredictable. God could as readily command a man to hate God as to love him. So, Luther said, one can do nothing to avoid sin; all that counts is whether God chooses to save us.

In defending his new theology, “Luther became more bold, more proud, more vulgar. He thought himself inspired – that only he spoke the truth. When he was excommunicated by Leo X in 1521, he became very bitter toward the Papacy, and called it the agent of the devil – the anti-Christ.”

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