Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 26, 1970

Is Martin Luther Re-Incarnated?

Robert C. Welch

A Roman Catholic bishop has written for a Catholic paper that the Catholic Church should give up her claims to infallibility of the pope and the church and should accept the sole authority of the Bible. This is according to an Associated Press article of October 3, 1970. This is precisely where Martin Luther came on the scene four hundred and seventy years ago. He was in the clergy of the Catholic Church and sought for a reformation involving a return to the Scriptures as authority. He failed to reform the Catholic Church; but he took from her folds a large portion of her membership. Maybe this bishop will be of sufficient ability, influence and tenacity to effect such a reform, though Luther failed. The Catholic Church no longer appears to have the superstitious hold on people which she had in Luther's time. If there is ever a time for it to be done, this seems to be most nearly ripe for such a revolutionary reform. The great monster is in the throes of change, from the clergy down through the laity.

If she gives up her claim to infallibility it will be a thing beyond observation and history. It would mean that she no longer exercises the authority which she has usurped for many centuries. What dictatorial power has ever voluntarily abdicated? Such powers seek to increase their dominion and secure it, rather than to decrease it. Besides that, if they should accept the Bible as authority, their hierarchal clergy system would be completely eradicated. There is no place for the pope, the cardinals, the archbishops and their whole system of government in the Bible. I seriously doubt that the pope and clergy will give the bishop's plea so much as a respectful glance.

The bishop asserts that it is only through adopting his suggestion that the Catholic Church can "halt the onslaught of the new modernism that...denies all the supernatural elements of the Christian religion." If they would really do what he says it would indeed go a long way toward halting modernism. But if it be only a nominal and not a real claim to accepting the authority of the Bible they would do no more than other religions have done. Others, even the spiritual descendents of Luther, have made the nominal claim to the complete authority of the Scriptures, but they are the very ones who have actually perpetrated the new modernism in religious society.

The entire catalog of denominations balk at really, actually, practically accepting the inspired statement: "Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness: that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work." (2 Tim. 3:16, 17).

Many of my brethren cringe when asked to show by the Scriptures that what they practice and call good works are authorized by God. They know that they have forsaken such authority and are partially operating on the Roman Catholic theory of the infallibility of the church; that is, the church has done it, is doing it, and it works, therefore it must be right. They have a hard time applying the previously cited passage to their practices. They become very squeamish about applying another passage to their systems and institutions of human origin: "Seeing that his divine power hath granted unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that called us by his own glory and virtue." (2 Pet. 1:3).

Luther was not ready to go all the way in the path he set forth. He could not go, and could not take his people, all the way back to the Bible. He established another denomination, based upon another set of rules and regulations. Perchance the bishop, Francis Simons, wants to go all the way back. If so, he needs to start by throwing off the entire Catholic system; and he can do that now, showing the rest of the Catholics how it is to be done. He can obey the gospel, and begin working and worshipping just as the Bible directs, whatever the Catholic Church does.

On the other hand, if my brethren can bring into the church any thing unauthorized by the Scriptures, no matter how insignificant, or how right or good, it may appear, the entire Catholic system with all its doctrines including infallibility can be brought in at the same gate. If there is something for us to do without a scriptural pattern, then the Catholic Church can by equal right practice her system without scriptural pattern.

— 2019 Locust Street, New Albany, Indiana 47150