The Babylonian Captivity of the Church - eBook
The second writing, appearing in July of , was by the Leipzig theologian Augustinus Alveld c. His early personal struggles with the penance and the Mass are well known and were the context for much of his Anfechtungen and spiritual trials in the monastery. Likewise, his subsequent clarity on the teaching of justification and faith quickly reshaped his thinking on the sacramental life. In all of these works, the sacrament chiefly consists in the divine promise and the faith which grasps it.
So it is in the Babylonian Captivity , where the correlative of faith and promise is the leitmotif that runs through the entire work. As Luther discusses each of the sacraments, he exhibits a remarkable combination of detailed, penetrating biblical interpretation and pastoral sensitivity for the common person.
Christians are being fleeced, coerced, and misled by those who should be guiding and caring for consciences. The errors of Rome are intolerable because they are so injurious to faith.
On the Babylonian captivity of the Church
The most egregious for Luther was how the Eucharist was understood and practiced. In this book Luther critiqued the sacramental system of the medieval Roman church.
He summarized his thought on the sacraments and laid out that which is still the confessional Lutheran stance toward the number of sacraments. The Babylonian Captivity of the Church appeared in print less than a week before the papal bull against Luther reached Wittenberg in October, In the book Luther accuses the Roman church and the papacy of holding the church in captivity.
Luther considers each one in turn.
He maintains that only three of the seven are sacraments: baptism, penance, and the bread [that is, communion]. A testament is a promise made by a person about to die.
Since the mass, being a testament, is a promise, then access to the mass and its gifts is not gained by merits or works, but solely by faith. Faith and the promise—here, the promise that stands at the heart of the sacrament of the altar—must go together. The Roman church held the sacraments captive by suppressing the promise and faith, displacing these key elements with works and merit.
By burying the promise in the mass under external rites and the idea of merit earned in the mass, Rome carried the church into a Babylonian captivity. Luther applies the diagnostic tool of promise and faith to the four remaining sacraments of the medieval church. Only faithlessness can sever humans from this.
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In the context of baptism, Luther renews the doctrine of general priesthood he developed in the nobility paper. As a whole, this paper in particular conducts a radical theological attack against the power of the pope.
Reading | On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church
Widerrufsverweigerung Worms Luther's Writings. The writings to be recanted. On the Babylonian captivity.