Martin Luther’s Big Mistake

Anyone who knows the smallest amount of the history knows about Martin Luther.  He is either seen as a hero, by some protestants, or, as a corrupting force that left behind the true faith, by some Catholics.

Luther made his name by criticizing the Pope in the 1500′s.  His writings spread far and wide because of the newly invented printing presses.  The Pope, Luther said, took money from the poor to use for excessive buildings.  The money was collected by the church in exchange for the forgiveness of sins. 

It was the Catholic clergy who had the exclusive authority to interpret scripture and collect this money.  Luther challenged this exclusive authority and said that ordinary people should seek guidence directly from the Bible, not through the Catholic Clergy.

In doing this, Luther was making two assumptions.  One was that Catholic Clergy would let their own personal interests influence how they interpreted scripture.  The other was that the men who wrote the Bible would not write it to serve their own interests.  The first assumption was a good one.  The second was not.

The Bible has much to do with the self interest of those who wrote it.  It is a manual on how to control people toward the writers’ own ends.  Wives as property, the stoning of children, salvery and the details of how to control people are all there.

Why Luther had such an accurate insight into the minds of the Catholic Clergy of his day but was oblivious to the motives of the Bible’s authors is a mystery.

Avatar of Jon Lindgren

About Jon Lindgren

I am a former President of the Red River Freethinkers in Fargo, ND, a retired NDSU economics professor and was Mayor of Fargo for 16 years. There is more about me at Wikipedia.com.
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24 Responses to Martin Luther’s Big Mistake

  1. Brad Campbell says:

    Martin Luther questioned the Catholic church’s doctrine. Salvation can be attained thru faith in God–thru his son Jesus.

    All men (men and women) are created equal. The references you made about the writer’s motives and what the Bible professes are inaccurate. To a non-believer, it is easy to “cherry pick” parts of what happened in the Bible to paint a broad stroke in reference to today. I challenge you to read the New Testament and prove to me that what you said is approved or acceptable in the Bible.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Thanks, Brad, for visitng by blog and taking time to comment. If one is able to set aside the assumption that the Bible is “the word of God” and recognize its writing as being done by human beings, these questions arise: Why were they writing? Who were they writing to? What did they want to accomplish? The New Testiment has many quotes from Jesus. Yet, no one who wrote these quotes had ever known Jesus. They were written long after he died. There are no written records of his writings or speeches. So, the questions about the motives the writers and/or the many who added to and crossed out things that were written arises. One of the interesting patterns is that when a writer wants to drive home a point, a quote from Jesus pops up making this identical point. This is an approach that I find interesting, but I certainly think it is fine if others take exception to it.

      • Brad Campbell says:

        You are right about the Bible being written after Jesus’ death. Some of it was written with 1st-hand accounts by apostles or people knowing him.

        But as a believer, I have faith that what is written is truely the word of God.

        But what is a believer? Catholics believe what the Pope says is the word of God….I don’t. There have been some awful popes in the Catholic church throughout time and I don’t think their actions or words were the word of God. Did the angel Gabriel give the word of God to Mohammed in the Arabian desert?…..I don’t believe so, but over a billion other people do.

        I guess an atheist is also a believer. They must believe in something but just cannot prove it, or get their hands around it to say….yes, I do believe.

        • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

          On your 3:39 am comment, statistically we are all in agreement on 99.999% of the religious views that humans have ever had. I base that on an estimate that there have been perhaps 10,000 invisable gods since the beginning of human kind. All of us would agree that 9,999 of these were simply products of vivid imaginations–they were in peoples’ minds only. Nonbelievers and Chrisitians only disagree on one of those gods–nobelievers don’t think it exists outside the mind and believer that it does. We’re pretty close to 100%.

          • Brad Campbell says:

            Yes, I cannot argue with that.

            But it makes me wonder who is right?
            The Jew thinks he is right….Christian, he is right; Muslim, he is right; Buddhist, he is right; Hindu, he is right; non-believer……and so on.

            Some day we will find out.

            We all should be thankful that we can worship or chose not to in this counrty and not be persecuted or killed for it, like in many other countries.

  2. Barry Wolfe says:

    Mr. Lindgren, I assume your self-description as a “freethinker” implies an adherence to rational thought and inquiry. In the spirit of rational defense of your proposition, therefore, I would be interested in seeing your evidence that the Gospel writer John endorsed stoning, for example, or that Mark advocated “ownership” of women.

    Just because a writer relates facts does not make him a de facto supporter of the subject. The fact that Matthew describes Herod’s slaughter of the infants after Christ’s birth does not make him a proponent of infanticide. “Free” thinking is all well and good, Mr. Lundgren, but your anti-Christian zeal has caused you to abandon rationality.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Thank you your comment, Barry. You are certainly correct that reporting facts is not in itself an endorcement. However, it seems to me at least, that when a writer does not endorce something, we cannot automatically assume the writer condems it. The Ten Commandments refer to wives as property. Are you saying that the Ten Commandment writers may well have disapproved of wives as property when they obviously considered them so and did not include them in the “honor” commandment with “father and mother”? Your reference to “an adherence to rational thought and inquiry” is a good one. It has always seemed rational to me to question authority, whether it be politcal or religous. That is why in seemed rational to question the motives of those who wrote the Bible. Luther was correct to question the motives of the Catholic authorities for their choices of interpretation. It seems rational that he would have also questioned the motives of those who wrote the Bible. Do you think is it wrong to question the motives of those who wrote the Bible?

      • Barry Wolfe says:

        Jon,

        I wouldn’t say it’s “wrong” to question the motives of the Biblical authors; I’d say that, absent any evidence that one should, it’s a waste of time. How far do you take that kind of inquiry? Let’s discuss Watson and Crick’s “motives” for positing DNA, shall we? Or how about John Jay’s motives for writing 6 of the Federalist papers? Honestly, that starts getting silly.

        Luther was in love with the Bible – except of course, for those pesky books that contradicted his innovations (he sneered that the Epistle of James was “of straw” for saying that “faith, without works, is dead”); as he asserted its supremacy over tradition, I don’t see any reason why Luther would have questioned the motives of the Bible’s authors.

        There is no evidence that any of the authors of the books of the Bible held any kind of temporal or religious authority; therefore, again, without a valid reason for doing so, I don’t see at all why you should consider it reasonable to question the motivations of the Bible’s authors.

        • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

          Thanks, Barry (6:54). Certianly, we would have to conclude that the Biblical writers were among the elite of their little region at the time because they were literate. Since there is no evidence that the Biblical writers were given instructions by a god, or, that there was or is a god, I’m left wondering what their motives were for commanding people to behave in certain ways and to believe certain things. To control them seems logical to me. I’ll admit that often after I think I have figured something out, a better explanation comes along and I have to eat crow–maybe that will happen here as well.

          • Barry Wolfe says:

            Jon, two points:

            First, don’t confuse the status of literacy rates in the Middle Ages with those of the ancient world – literate slaves were pretty common, and plenty of temple and government scribes were purely functionaries with no power worth talking about. So I’m afraid the fact that the Bible authors could write allows no reliable inference about their social status.

            But more importantly, as to your comment that there is “no evidence…there is a god,” come on!

            Consider the following arguments from reason (which I of necessity must leave you to look up): From change, from efficient causality, from time and contingency, from design, from miracles, from consciousness, from truth, from the origin of the idea of God, the ontological argument, the moral argument, from conscience, from desire, from aesthetic experience, from religious experience, from common consent, or from Pascal’s Wager.

            As for physical evidence, here’s a link to a brief article. There’s better out there, but this should intrigue anyone truly committed to reason and free inquiry:

            http://www.everystudent.com/wires/Godreal.html

            Now, you can say you don’t agree with the evidence, but you cannot say there is none. Enjoy!

          • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

            Thanks, Barry. I did look at the site you provided. It is, unfortunately, a variation on the argument, “The human eye to too complex to be the result of evolution.” Except, in this case the same argument was used for DNA. I will conceded I should have said there is no evidence of a god that meets the criteria needed by a student of evolution. Evolution explains the origin of both the human eye and DNA. There is “evidence” if on believes in creationism. I, of course, am one of the former, not the latter. All of these various views are what make for interesting discussion.

  3. Barry Wolfe says:

    Jon, thanks for looking at the link: but I’m puzzled as to how you could equate that observation about DNA with the eye’s development as positied by evolution. The point about DNA is that it is a code to be read – and that requires an encoder.

    I’m sorry to see you hanging on to evolution. The “explanation” evolution gives for the eye, to be sure, is laughable. And there remain so many problems with it, not least of which is simple fact. It is unarguable that most all the animal phylae did not emerge as Darwin and you freethinkers still so desperately hope they did; they all appeared in the Cambrian explosion that took a mere 5 to 10 million years. Even Darwin acknowledged this as the fly in his evolutionary ointment, and no one has helped him out of it since. In addition, chaos theory makes complete hash out of the whole concept of “randomness” – nothing happens by chance because “chance” is just a term we use to describe the interplay of forces we don’t understand. And still, still, there is no fossil produced of a creature in transition. Modern science has produced an estimate of the odds that life developed according to evolution as one in one with forty thousand zeroes, and you consider that a more reliable theory for the existence of the universe than a creator?

    In any case, Jon, I’d be remiss if I didn’t express my appreciation for your site, and your courtesy through this exchange. Your avoidance of invenctive does you real credit.

    • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

      Barry (4:25) Thanks for the thoughtful comments. The problem between creationists and evolutionists is about, it seems to me, what is called “the scientific method”. This, as I know you know well, is about forming hypotheses, developing a testable theory and proceeding with observation or experimentation. To gain ground in the argument, creationists need to attack successfully that method of argument. Because if it remains the prevailing approach to these matters, and the approach of creationists does not rise to these standards, it can never rise to compete on an equal basis. Both of the issues you so addressed so well, the DNA and the “missing link” arguments, have been addressed and dismissed by all the phycial scientists I read about. I’m aware there are some who feel there are great holes in the evolutionay arguement, but, so far as I can tell they have not gained any traction in their respective fields.

      • Barry Wolfe says:

        Jon,

        Thanks, but I’m afraid I’d say your requirement has it exactly backwards. A “creationist” view (which I enclose because, for the record, I’m a Roman Catholic, not a fundamentalist creationist) doesn’t need to undermine the scientific method; after all, it was the Judeo-Christian worldview that posited a rational God who created a rational universe governed by laws knowable by his creations (another reason why faith and reason are perfectly compatible). Rather, it is evolution that does not lend itself to the scientific method, because (rather conveniently for its proponents, in a way) it’s not reproducible in laboratory conditions any more than it is observable in the fossil record. You can’t reconstruct the “primordial soup” because no one knows what it would consist of, because it never existed in the first place. That’s why, 150-some years after its proposition, evolution remains a theory and always will.

        If you have a peer-reviewed article that has reproduced the evolution of DNA through random processes under laboratory circumstances, please post it here. James Crick himself would have loved to read it. A self-described “agnostic who inclines toward atheism,” he could not explain how it would have happened. His best answer to the question – and I am not making this up – was that life was “planted here” from some other world. Instead of acknowledging the perfectly reasonable inference that some superior intelligence created life on Earth, the scientist resorted to fairy tales! That desperation, more than anything, explains why the reasonable objections are, as you say, “dismissed” rather than answered.

    • Avatar of seaofstories seaofstories says:

      “The point about DNA is that it is a code to be read – and that requires an encoder.”

      Barry, that’s a very clever use of vocabulary. And some accuse the government of grammar mind control.

      • Barry Wolfe says:

        Sorry, seaofstories, but that’s not semantics, it’s just fact. DNA is an organized sequence of information, a set of instructions that dictate how something is to act. If you have an example of a message spontaneously creating itself, please post it. Otherwise, it’s only reasonable to acknowledge that nowhere do instructions just create themselves. Messages have authors; and codes have encoders.

        So which government agency is responsible for the Grammar Mind Control Initiative (no doubt called GMCI), anyway? I’m happy to continue the discussion with you as long as my time permits, but in the future please spare me the silly Orwellian hyperbole.

        • Avatar of seaofstories seaofstories says:

          The Interior Department of Barry Wolfe is the agency responsible for GMCI. :)

          DNA is not a code. It’s just really, really complex organic chemistry. The same chemistry that removes stains from your clothes or transforms the $0.05 pack of powder from the corner store into a crystal garden when your 7 year old poors it into water.

          It’s profound, complicated, beautiful, and awe inspiring but it’s not proof of a higher power.

    • Avatar of Grandma Grandma says:

      Barry, yours are standard creationist arguments, I’m afraid to say. You talk about the eye: did you know that there are many types of eyes? That is exactly what evolution would predict. And after all the scientific discoveries in the past 100 years it’s interesting that creationists still think that if they can debunk Darwin that somehow all of evolutionary theory — which includes biology, botany, much of anthropology, chemistry, physics, and all the other sciences which buttress it. Oh, and about the transitional fossil bit — horribly old, bad, and wrong. I suggest you check out the evolution of therapsid reptiles, for instance. The problem with calling for a transitional fossil is often in the definition of what is transitional. An organism does not change in total from one type to another and that’s why they’re transitional. Hope this helps

      • Barry Wolfe says:

        Grandma,

        It’s always amusing to see the two standard evolutionist replies to any objections; 1) that’s an old argument (though as yet an answered one), and 2) this (insert objection here) was predicted long ago, and then move on quicky before having to provide a response. Regarding the eye, any eye, we’re still waiting on a conclusive explanation for a photosympathetic cell.

        I cited those two precisely because they are old, and still unanswered. So let’s try a few more:

        Evolution does not explain how inanimate cells became animate.

        Evolution does not explain how sexual reproduction developed. There is no evidence of living organisms “developing” sexual reproduction. The entire system, in all of its beautiful complexity, came into being at once.

        Evolution does not explain the emergence of consciousness. Karl Popper, by the way, considered that an even greater question than how life evolved at all. I don’t believe you could cite a serious philosopher who posits the notion of self residing in anything material – i.e., that we have developed “consciousness cells.” So where exactly does Grandma exist? Reason demands evolution provide an answer; it cannot.

        The use of language did not “evolve.” Cuniform sanskrit displays all of the essential systemic and ideographic elements as any Indo-European language. The system – like, say, protein folding – appears at once, cut from whole cloth.

        Similarly, all the mammals of the 30 or so phyla that exist now had eyes when they appeared. Their genes all functioned as they do now.

        As for useful random mutation: You’re surely aware of Hawking’s statement about enough typing monkeys creating a Shakespeare sonnet given enough time. Step that one through. “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day” has 488 characters without spaces. The chance that a monkey will type “s” on line 1 is, to be generous, 1 in 26 (not counting the non-letter keys on a keyboard). The chance that he will next type “h” is 26 x 26, or 1 in 676. Thus, the chance that a monkey will correctly type all 488 characters is thus 26 to the 488th power. In base 10, that’s 1o to the 690th power. Unfortunately, the total number of particles in the universe has been estimated at only 10 to the 80th power; thus the entire universe does not contain enough matter to hold all of Hawking’s trials! Clearly, this is preposterous.

        Sorry, but it’s hard to say the disciplines you cite are buttressing evolution at all. Rather, each new advance in science knocks out another bastion (to continue your metaphor). With all due respect, your adherence to evolution in face of these truths just makes you look like you’re clinging fanatically to a dogma that has become quite outmoded.

        I don’t propose a God-created universe because I’m a Catholic; I do so because, on the basis of the evidence, it is the explanation that is the most reasonable.

        • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

          Barry–I would respectfully ask whether you have taken advanced classes that involve application of the scienctific method? If one applies it to all the issues you raise, the argument for creationism is dissolved. The reason creationism is not considered to be at an equal level with evolution is that it is not a scientific explanation. It is always possible that there is another explanation out there for anything and everything. But, when one comes along, it has to meet the same standard of scientific inquiry as the one it replaces. If some other explanation were to replace evolution, it would have to be one that meets the standards of the scientific method. Creationism is a religious concept and does not.

          • Barry Wolfe says:

            Jon,

            Unfortunately, evolution does not meet the standard you yourself set. For one thing, a viable theory comports with observable reality. Evolution posits gradual changes over many years. The fossil record, however, shows dramatic, sudden introduction of species and then no appreciable change at all. Neither is evolution reproducible in laboratory conditions. It cannot be proven, ever. Evolutionists say anything is possible given enough attempts and enough time. But see my comments to Grandma above about Hawking’s typing monkeys. We can see mathematically that there isn’t enough matter, and there isn’t enough time.

            Of course we can’t prove the existence of God with science, but then again, that would be a misapplication of the discipline. For example, suppose I were to ask you to write me geometric proof demonstrating the existence of New Mexico. Your reply would be that it cannot be done. But what would you think of my reasoning ability if I were to reply, “Aha! Then clearly, I can’t believe in New Mexico since its existence can’t be proven geometrically.” The point is that all of truth and reality are not subject to the scientific method, and with all due respect, only a fool would say so. (Does patriotism exist? Then quantify it!)

            I propose the argument for Intelligent Design, not “creationsim,” Jon. But in any case, it’s not fair of you to dismiss the premise as “religious.” Nowhere in our very enjoyable colloquy have I cited Scripture, or Church Fathers. We’ve spent the whole time on your turf, so to speak (which, as a human being devoted to reason and faith, is just as much my turf). The point is, evolution doesn’t just have “gaps.” As a theory that purports to explain biology, consciousness and mind reality it is deeply, irredemiably insufficient. I would claim that belief in a Creator is a more reasonable explanation. You may disagree, of course, but when you insist on adhering to a theory that just doesn’t work, it’s just blind dogmatism and I don’t see what’s so “free” about that kind of thinking.

          • Avatar of Jon Lindgren Jon Lindgren says:

            Barry (3:22) It would be my hope for yourself that you could successfully challenge evolution in the peer reviewed journals of science.” I have read replies by scientists of some “missing link” challenges. What is referred to by religious commentators as a “gap” in the record is, in turn, challenged by them. No one would dispute that we do not know everything. We don’t know, of example, about the earliest origin of the universe–about the gases and/or elements that started events that resulted in how things are today. It does not follow from a scientific point of view that if we do not know something, we then say it was due to a god. We would, instead, say we don’t know.

        • Avatar of Grandma Grandma says:

          Barry, you should know that the definition of evolution is a change in the gene pool (or, allele frequencies) over time. Evolution has nothing to do with language, or the origin of life (another scientific field), or even mathematical calculations.

  4. Avatar of seaofstories seaofstories says:

    I creationist looks at the fact that science hasn’t adequately explained the origin of consciousness yet and sees god. I neurobiologist looks at the same fact and sees a research opportunity.

    Creationists want answers. Scientists want questions.

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