Monday, December 26, 2016

Luther, Corrupter of Law and Politics

Column of Juan Manuel de Prada for ABC (Spain), November 5, 2016

The Truth About Luther

Five hundred years after Luther's protest, we can become Swedish to gain the applause of the world, or else we may dare to analyze with intellectual rigor what that event has substantiated. This second attitude, which is a cause of scandal in a world where becoming Swedish is something cool, is the one that it’s offered to us in an excellent book called "Political and Legal Consequences of Protestantism” written under the supervision of Professor Miguel Ayuso, in which a select group of jurists provide the conscious reader with a series of approximations to the thought of Luther and point out the political flaws that come from him. Celebrating the centennial of the Lutheran protest is as if someone with syphilis celebrated the day he contracted the disease.

It would be necessary to begin by pointing out, as Professor Juan Fernando Segovia does in one of the most important contributions of the book, that in affirming salvation by faith alone Luther denies all authority to the Church, as well as its mediating role between the believer and God and the efficacy of the sacraments. The Church, for Luther, is an oppressive organization; and the Papacy, the seat of the Antichrist. But the book we recommend today is valuable above all because it reveals how Luther's obscure theological notions (depravity of human nature, denial of free will, etc.) corrupt and destroy political and social institutions. If man is evil by nature and his reason is corrupted, power will have to be erected in pure exercise of force that represses its evil tendencies. Thus, before the peasant revolt of 1525, Luther can celebrate that "the avenging sword" rises against the princes; and when the peasants are defeated, he can petition the princes: "Persecute them and kill them like rabid dogs. God will reward you.” For a civil power understood in the Lutheran way can change of titular as of jacket. On the other hand, as Joseph Luis Widow reminds us in another passage of the book, having established the deranged premise that human nature is completely corrupted, Luther logically thinks that reason is "blind, deaf, foolish, impious and sacrilegious"; in such a way that it is not capable of wanting good, and it is incapacitated for moral judgment. Justification by faith alone leads inevitably to the emancipation of moral judgment consciousness over our actions; and thus pure subjectivism is enthroned, until the natural tendency to disorder requires the intervention of a human law that imposes itself as an exercise of power. But, as Professor Segovia points out, in affirming the absolute corruption of human nature, Luther denies the value of the law: for by ordering to do this or that work, the law (in Luther's words) only "reveals the disease, the sin, the wickedness" of man, who inevitably is "assaulted by sadness, feels afflicted, and even falls into despair." That is, in fact, the last station of man conceived in the Lutheran way.

In "Political and Legal Consequences of Protestantism," other calamities originate in Luther's thought, such as the reduction of the political to the state, nationalism, unbound capitalism, or the establishment of a freedom which is not guided by reason, but by a "self-determination" whose only limit is not to harm third parties (a limit that, of course, is ultimately infringed, when such damage benefits the owner of power). And in this way unveiling the truth about Luther that others prefer to ignore by becoming Swedish.