While We’re Talking about Luther…

OK, now that I got your attention, we weren’t really talking about Luther. However, the old boy comes up every now and then, at least his movement does.

Now, we Orthodox got our own problems but I fervently believe that they are jurisdictional, not doctrinal. The same can’t be said of the Reformation.

I found this short video on YouTube (admittedly from a Catholic site so take that for what it’s worth) but it’s very enlightening. It’s worth watching. You’ll be amazed at how internally contradictory some of Luther’s famous 95 Theses are and how some of them stand out in stark difference from what modern Protestants believe.

Purgatory for instance. And the Papacy (believe it or not). And the ever-virginity of Mary (Luther believed in it, most Protestants don’t.)

So why the disconnect? In my opinion, it’s because Luther unleashed a great proletarian (so to speak) revolution which tore the German-speaking lands apart, dividing the different classes. The violence was horrendous. I believe it presaged the French Revolution and all subsequent Red Terrors.

What began as a “reformation” of certain unfortunate Catholic practices became a completely different paradigm, one that was rationalistic as opposed to a sacramental one. Materialism –and thence atheism–became inevitable. Once set in motion, it could not go back to being a simple reformation but had to be a complete break from the old order.

Admittedly, that’s a gross oversimplification but I think that’s why modern Protestantism had to jettison some of Luther’s theses.

Anyway, take the time to watch it. You’ll be surprised at what you learn. I view it as a necessary palate-cleanser, to remind us who are Orthodox what has been lost and why we are (despite our many foibles), the true Church of Christ.


  1. Tim R. Mortiss says

    I quit about a minute in, where the narrator tells us that, as a young professing and newly ordained Catholic priest, Luther knew nothing of Protestantism, nor did the rest of the world!
    Amazing revelation! The things they hid from us in Sunday school!

    Surely you could find a better-done polemic, George. If it wasn’t for Catholicism, there would have never been a Reformation, which is pretty much self-evident. It was no accident Orthodoxy didn’t have one. The Reformation failed because there was never any way to return Catholicism to Orthodoxy, as it turned out. The RC church just continued to pile up innovations, even more since the Reformation than before.

    As has often been recognized, Roman Catholicism and Protestantism are two sides of the same coin.

    It’s a complex subject, to be sure.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Of course. We all know that. I chose not to concentrate on the inevitability of Protestantism via Catholicism choosing instead to concentrate on Luther’s Theses.

      • Tim R. Mortiss says

        Well; Protestantism. Roman Catholicism for that matter. Are we just going to deplore them, or are we going to do something about them?

        There are a lot of finger-wagging scolds here (and nearly everywhere, of course) about any number of subjects, but one never hears many constructive suggestions from them.

        When all else fails, cast anathemas!

        • Michael Bauman says

          Timor, We don’t have to do anything about the RCC. There has been a “filial letter” made public accusing Pope Francis of promoting heresy in regard to marriage.

          We need to educate our own people about the errors of other so-called Christians because otherwise the apostasy will spread. It is likely that many will prefer the errors.

          The sad thing is that there are many lovers of God who do not know any better. So we also need to preach the Gospel and prepare to suffer the consequences.

          I am to the point, finally, where I can say that the Orthodox Church is the only avenue to salvation. That is sad too considering the shape we are in.

          But there it is. That is where we need to spend our time and energy. Anything else is tearing down barns and building new ones.

          Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Enter here.

          Lord have mercy on my sin filled soul.

          • Tim R. Mortiss says

            You are right, I am tongue in cheek. My point only being that we so often deplore these others and I wonder why we don’t look more to our own house.
            Again, not to say we don’t deplore much about “our own house”, but what do we do about it?

            Two weeks ago, we went to an “estate sale” in a big old Scottish Rite masonic temple that many decades ago became the home of a splinter congregation of Presbyterians, one of the countless Protestant sects. This is the Bible Presbyterian Church, founded in the ’30s by Rev. Carl MacIntire, one of the offshoots of the fundamentalist controversies in Presbyterianism several generations ago.
            The whole experience was a step back in time, but the point is that there are only about 30 BPC congregations still in the US. This one has occupied a corner of this immense quasi-abandoned building and now is going to a small space somewhere. Yet, they still support two missionaries in Africa (from their little congregation) as they have for decades.
            That small Protestant congregations heavily support the mission field and have for generations is standard practice. Yes, we Orthodox have missions, but nothing like what the rest of the Christian world has done.
            I know a little about it, having been a Protestant myself for 66 years….so nitpicking Luther to me seems like missing the boat, again….

    • Alitheia1875 says

      Why concentrate on Luther’s Theses? Luther came out of Roman Catholicism. He came out of a spoiled recipe. How many know that Luther and Patriarch Jerimias the Great (also sometimes called the Illustrious) of Constantinople carried on a correspondence? Luther could not be convinced about the rightness of Orthodoxy because he was mired in Roman Catholicism. Let’s not forget that he didn’t want to start a new church, he wanted Rome to correct what he thought were deviations from the faith. But the faith, even in the purity Luther wanted Rome to return to, was already fruit of the poisonous tree. He just didn’t understand that and Patriarch Jeremias couldn’t convince him otherwise.

      • Many years after Martin Luther’s death, ‘Lutheran’ theologians from the university of Tuebingen visited and corresponded with Patriarch Jeremiah ii of Constantinople. The Orthodox welcomed these men and conducted cordial conversations with them. But, once the Patriarch realized that the ‘Lutherans’ , in their rejection of Roman practice, had — let’s say — overcorrected their western inheritance and would not ever return to Orthodoxy, he told them that they were always welcome to come for tea, but not to discuss theology.

  2. Peter A. Papoutsis says

    Amen and amen!

  3. Ronda Wintheiser says

    It has always amused me to remember that Luther was Catholic, not Lutheran. 🙂

  4. George-when you become your own apologist; may I suggest the delete key?

  5. Father John Whiteford did a good job with sola scriptura:


    It really all did start with the papacy, though. The diabolical nature of the Double Procession and Rome’s insistence on it based on the Petrine claims gave birth to both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. Probably, it was just a matter of time until the glitches in the heretical program produced enough cognitive dissonance to generate the reaction we know as the Reformation.

    “Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive!”

  6. “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” – Matthew 10:14-16


    Is it just me or is world culture, particularly in the United States and Western Europe, moving dramatically toward the Right?

    So very many signs . . .

    I never dreamed that I would live to see this happen.

    • P. Antonio Arganda says

      Neither to the Right or to the Left, not up or down.The way to understand it is to study its “logos”. That is much more difficult but avoids the mistake of branding which so often happens in the
      western mind.

  7. Luther’s biggest error was not leaving the Roman Catholic Church, but not joining Eastern Orthodoxy. Thus the greatest Protestant tradition began:
    Hey dude I can do this church thing better than you!

  8. Sean Richardson says

    Before we Orthodox get too ‘high and mighty’ we should take a few moments of self-reflection. While Orthodoxy maintains correct doctrinal beliefs, Orthodoxy in the USA has been weak in sharing that belief system. While there are isolated locations of real growth and conversion, the great body of Orthodox Churches in the USA is shrinking (if it were not for immigration). Honestly, we need to look at ourselves and ask why are we finding it so difficult to grow, share the faith/evangelize, and make our presence a significant force for good in the USA? For my part, I have been a member of two Antiochian parishes that grew very rapidly under the leadership of a dynamic convert priest. I have also been a member of several parishes, OCA, ROCOR and Antiochian that were stagnant at best (thanks to immigration), or at worst mired in a death spiral.

    Perhaps before we cast aspersions on Protestant churches that are often growing and converting (yes I know there are several denominations that are in their own death spiral), we should ask ourselves why are we not growing as we should be, despite having the correct Faith and Doctrine?

    • Michael Bauman says

      Sean, here is the problem the RCC and the Protestant communities are in heresy at best if not out right apostasy. There are many fine people caught in that web but it still not just our lack of outreach that is the problem. People have been innoculated against the truth. We are not really Christians don’t you know? But even if we are allowed that it is the same Jesus every where so it does not matter where one goes. Shoot even Mormans are considered Christians.

      No the only Gospel that might get through is Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

      People who really want God will find Him and we are the only place left frankly. I do want converts who are here for the right reasons.

  9. Will Harrington says

    The most interesting thing to me, from a historical perspective, is what a call for dialogue can do. Remember, these 95 theses were not statements of faith, but offered as an opening to debate the topics. The Roman Catholic hierarchy could not tolerate even an academic debate and many, many Germans were unhappy enough to turn that into an excuse to launch war and reformation. What are the topics that the power elite will not allow to be debated today and what kind of social pressures will erupt because of it?

  10. Warren Caterson says

    I like this site, but once again, folks hop on the bandwagon of Catholic or Protestant bashing and I’m so tired of it. Man, I’ve lost friends, fellow parishioners, and even children to the ‘enemy’ camp. Why? Cuz it was there that they saw the gospel preached and lived…on a broad scale…as if it was part of their DNA. Us? It’s ‘supposed’ to be part of our DNA but…where are our missions, schools, universities, hospitals, orphanages, nursing homes, or…gulp…churches…in any major metropolitan area (let alone rural areas) in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, Asia…? Listen, I know some things are being done (I worked in a SCOBA org) but we’ve barely scratched the surface. Perhaps we should focus on the log in our own eye and pour more of our energies into rectifying it instead of focusing on the mote in others? Just a thought…

    • George Michalopulos says

      Mr Caterson, you should be aware by now that 95% of all ecclesial criticism that has appeared on this blog has been directed at the Orthodox churches. Monomakhos has not now, nor has ever been, a cheerleader for the state of Orthodoxy in America.

      Indeed, I have gone out of my way to heap praise on both Protestant and Catholic faith traditions. When I could not, I have strived mightily to not say anything at all.

      This latest video about Luther’s 95 Theses was put up because we Orthodox have suffered mightily from the anti-Orthodox screeds in the past. It was time to call a spade a spade: is the Reformed sect the true Church of Christ? Because if it is, I’ll need to shut down this blog and convert.

      We Orthodox are not triumphalists. At least not the Orthodox I know. But it’s not triumphalist to proclaim that which is true, no matter how decrepit our situation. That’s all.

  11. Tim R. Mortiss says

    “Reformed” is the general term (within Protestantism) for the Calvinist-tradition churches; Presbyterianism, Congregationalism, and Dutch Reformed are the standard examples.

    “Lutheran” is, of course, for the Lutheran strain of the Reformation churches. The third big stream is the Anglican/Episcopal one. There are, of course, many others and many mixes, but, at least in the old mainline, these were the big distinctions.

    For the Reformed, the Lutherans and Episcopalians were “too Catholic.”

    Among Anglo-Americans, “Reformed”- – “Episcopalian” was the big “establishment” division. We austere Presbyterians rather looked down upon Episcopalians. Sure, we descended from Roundheads, with a big sober Scots leaven, but we were the aristocratic intellectual Roundheads. Too many smells and bells amongst the Cavalier Episcopalians. Latitudinarian. Horses and country clubs. However, all in all, they shared equal status. Lots of both had signed the Declaration of Independence, after all.

    We Presbys were closer to the Methodists, though they derived from the Anglicans. They were like us, except they were “heart” and we were “head”. We accepted them as somewhat emotional little brothers.

    Lutherans were respectable, but that’s because Germans and Scandinavians were respectable. Nobody from outside would actually become a Lutheran. Naming a big branch of the Faith after a person seemed rather declasse’.

    The branches had some fun now and then among themselves over these distinctions, at least in the days when they all preached the core faith.

    There must be some similar subtleties amongst the Orthodox nationalities, though I’ve never heard it expressed in those sorts of terms. Russians dour? Greeks sunny? Serbs grim? Anything like that?

    Anyhow, so it was when the Protestant Ascendancy was astride the land. Now we remnant find ourselves amongst Arabs, Slavs, and Greeks. We know why we’re here, but are somewhat amazed nonetheless!

    • Michael Bauman says

      Timor, The Greeks are crazy, the Antiochians are worldly, the Slavs are morose and the OCA a curiosity.

  12. William Tighe says

    This newly-published book on Martin Luther, with the author of which I have been acquainted since he was an undergraduate at Trinity College, Cambridge, in the 1980s, might interest readers here:


    I have provided a link to the book’s publisher, Princeton University Press, but those whom the book might interest should know that there are much cheaper copies available through Abebooks.com and Amazon.com. More information about the book’s author can be found here:


    And as far as the 95 Theses are concerned, Luther was still basically a Catholic at the time when he produced them (October 1517). In his later life he initially opposed their being republished in a 1545 edition of his works, because he saw them as “popish” and coming from a period before he recognized the Pope (or the papacy as an institution) to be “the Antichrist.” If readers want to learn what “Luther the Lutheran” believed and taught, the 95 Theses is not the place to go.

  13. MidwestNorsk says

    The Lutherans and Episcopagans has a lot of jurisdictional problems…until it became heresy.

    Stay vigilant.

    • Tim R. Mortiss says

      Much is said here about the “heresy” of the Protestant denominations. But “heresy” is an anachronism; heretics are believers, and you can struggle with them on much common ground. To use the Rugby analogy, you fight with them on the same pitch, with the same rules.

      No, it’s apostasy, not heresy. The difference today from olden times is that apostasy still claims to wear the vestments of the church. So it’s false colors all the way; much worse.

      • George Michalopulos says

        Good point. I remember reading once somewhere that only a bishop could be adjudged to be a heretic and then only after his death and once a church council has adjudged his writings, sermons, etc. to be heretical. It’s an ex post facto kind of thing I guess.

      • Tim,

        You have a point. In the back and forth between the Phanar and Athos, between the ecumenically inclined local churches and the traditionally inclined, there is the assumption that at least the other side is discussing the matter in good faith to the extent that they profess theism and some adherence to historical Christianity.

        With liberal protestants, this is not the case. There is a veneer of theism there which covers a quite decided atheism and embrace of secular humanism as the Truth, a truth to be clad in the language of their particular denomination and regurgitated as “Lutheranism” or “Episcopalianism”.

        HOWEVER, if we are being completely and totally honest, we must consider the possibility that that is where Rome and the Phanar already are – atheistic secular humanism – bald faced apostasy. As a tactical matter, to normalize secular humanism as the new world religion, they need to destroy the barrier between the Church and other “Christian confessions”. They attempt to destroy that barrier by insisting on the adoption of heresy by the Church in the form of acknowledging other “churches” and accepting something like a branch theory and Protestant baptismal theology. Fr. Peter Heers has done some excellent work fleshing this out.

        What it all amounts to is simply a loss of faith on the part of the Phanar and Rome that there is a God, “some guy” out there, the Great Programmer who created and manages this great “cyber-reality” in which we live. They’ve bought into the (feminist) secular humanistic explanation for Reality. Rome and most of the West are enthralled to it. China embraces it sans feminism; i.e., just the secular humanism with a Confucian overlay. That is why the Chinese are ready, eager and willing to fill in the American role as the sponsor of Progressive International. Recall how fond progressives like Thomas Friedman of the NYT are of China. He knows a fellow traveler when he sees one.

        These are the times in which we live. The Chinese must be led through the Tao to Christ; the progressive, feminist secular humanists must be overcome in the West – and then we can turn our attention to Islam.