Updated: Mar 8, 2022
People who obtain their history mainly from sanitized and hagiographical Protestant sources will often have a very inaccurate view of the theology of the reformers. Whatever the alleged “brave” reformers saved, they did NOT save the gospel in their era or any other. The message of God has never been lost (Lk 1:70). The old fable that the Roman Catholic Church extinguished the light of the saving gospel and hundreds of years later the Reformers renewed it again, as is often heard, is a gross untruth! The reverence I often find for the so-called reformers is really strange. It is odd, like a modern day case of cognitive dissonance.
Some of these men were not godly. Some were war profiteers, murderers, Jew haters, baby sprinklers, false gospel enablers, and Christ deniers in words or actions. I would certainly have no fellowship with these men if they were alive now, and might even be in fear of my life if I lived in their countries. I think of three of the most popular men in particular: Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Ulrich Zwingli. I don’t think its presumptuous to say that men who believe in baptismal regeneration or murdering believers and others who refused to submit to infant baptism or their views, serve another god, not the God of the Bible, but a god who sanctions the murder of those who rejected the church\state machine, and who needed men's works to complete the process of regeneration.
But Firstly, Why I am a Baptist, an Unaffiliated and Historic Independent Baptist, and Not a Reformer.
For the following reasons, not excluding the above:
1. The history of the Baptist/Anabaptist (synonymous terms) is not reformed. That might rile reformed Baptists, but true Baptists never needed reformation. I don't trace my history through the reformation. Our doctrine was never lost. I don't believe in that at all. True churches have always been around since Christ and though they may be in the great minority among professing Christians, those are my forefathers.
2. I take a literal interpretation of scripture, that is, I interpret scripture literally, and believe in premillennialism and am a dispensationalist, which is nothing more than a structuring of what already existed, the literal interpretation of scripture. These first two relate. If you are a true Baptist, you predate the allegorical interpretation that characterized the state church or Roman Catholicism, which is also amilennialism. God the Spirit doesn’t teach allegorical interpretation of Scripture. It is heresy in the highest order.
3. Doctrines were not lost to be found. They weren't altogether perverted to be reformed or regained. I'm less than reformed in that my doctrine isn't reformed, but I'm also saying that I'm more than the reformed, because my ecclesiology and eschatology are literal and historical, true to the Word of God. I take the prophetic passages grammatically and historically. I am not state church and never have been. I am also not denominational.
4. The truth was not preserved in Roman Catholicism, which is the Great Whore and Mother of all Harlots (Rev 17 and 18), or its popes which are antichrists. The true local and autonomous church has always existed, the preserver of truth and habitation of the saints, though it may be very very scarce today.
5. The true and pure gospel of Christ opposes reformed doctrine. I’ll look at this in further detail below, though there are other reasons.
Consider now some of the evidence that these men were heretics and wolves in sheep’s clothing. No, we do not put their good and bad doctrine on some scale. People that teach false doctrine are false teachers.
Many people gullibly accept the myth that Luther was regenerate because he allegedly embraced “justification by faith alone” and came out of the Roman Catholic Church (which he did "physically" in 1517). Neither are true. He in fact embraced a works salvation and continued to embrace many Roman Catholic heresies until his death, both of which I will easily prove below. The label might have changed for him, but his heresies hadn’t. He came out physically, but not spiritually. The evidence for this is so overwhelming, one would need only a fraction of it to make this clear and determined conclusion. Even his 95 thesis are loaded with scriptural error and false doctrine (you can read about that here: Were Martin Luther's 95 Theses's True to Scripture, or Heretical?)
1. Luther embraced a false gospel of faith plus works, the same type of false gospel as Rome, specifically baptismal regeneration and maintenance of salvation by the Lord’s Supper, which is a “damnable heresy” (2 Pet 2:1) and “another gospel” (Gal. 1:8-9; 2 Cor. 11:4). He continued this heresy in spite of leaving the Catholic Church and for the remainder of his life. Although Luther claimed that “his salvation is utterly beyond his own powers, counsels, efforts, will and works,” he in fact trusted in his water baptism and sacraments to secure his salvation.
Luther called baptism “a new birth by which we are . . . loosed from sin, death, and hell, and become children of life, heirs of all the gifts of God, God’s own children, and brethren of Christ.” (Luther, Works, 53:103).
“To put it most simply, the power, effect, benefit, fruit, and purpose of Baptism is to save. No one is baptized in order to become a prince, but as the words say, to 'be saved.' To be saved, we know, is nothing else than to be delivered from sin, death, and the devil and to enter into the kingdom of Christ and live with him forever." (Larger Catechism, 1529).
“Moreover, it is solemnly and strictly commanded that we must be baptized or we shall not be saved.” (ibid, pp. 80-81). “Now here in Baptism there is brought free to every man's door just such a priceless medicine which swallows up death and saves the lives of all men . . . And if I am baptized, I have the promise that I shall be saved and have eternal life, both in soul and body. . . . No greater jewel, therefore, can adorn our body and soul than Baptism, for through it we obtain perfect holiness and salvation, which no other kind of life and no work on earth can acquire.” (ibid, pp 85-86).
“Thus we see what a great and excellent thing Baptism is, which snatches us from the jaws of the devil and makes God our own, overcomes and takes away sin and daily strengthens the new man, always remains until we pass from this present misery to eternal glory. . . . As we have once obtained forgiveness of sins in Baptism" (Larger Catechism, p 90).
“What does Baptism give or profit? It works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, & gives eternal salvation to all who believe this.” (Small Catechism, 1529).
The binding Lutheran symbol, the Augsburg Confession, states that “baptism . . . is necessary to salvation” and “condemn[s] the Anabaptists, who reject the baptism of children, and say that children are saved without baptism” (Article IX).
He also believed that communion was necessary to maintain ones salvation; that through communion, one received forgiveness of sins that threatened one's relationship with Christ:
"For here in the sacrament you receive from Christ's lips the forgiveness of sins, which contains and conveys God's grace and Spirit with all his gifts, protection, defence, and power against death and the devil and all evils" (Large, p. 98).
Luther believed repentance on its own (without faith) was conversion, and that salvation is gradual.
All these points reveal a false gospel. It is evident that Luther was greatly deceived, denying salvation by grace and faith alone in favour of water baptism (or by beer, as stated by him) for regeneration/salvation, that one can only become a Christian through these means, and then the salvation had to be maintained through the sacrament of communion.
Not sure how much clearer it could get that Luther was never “justified by faith” but rather embraced a works-salvation, which is “another gospel” (Gal 1:6-9; 2 Cor 11:4). Naturally, an unconverted estate will produce further leaven, confusion and heresy, and so we see.
2. Luther embraced other terrible heresies apart from baptismal regeneration, including: Consubstantiation; Idolatry; That Christ was the greatest of sinners, and Catholic heresies on Mary and infant baptism. In further detail:
(a) Luther agreed that Philip of Hesse could have two wives to help the prince stop committing adultery; the second marriage just needed to be kept secret. After the secret got out, Luther lied, denying his role in the bigamy.
(b) Luther upheld infant baptism, teaching that although infants are unable to exercise faith, God through His prevenient grace, works faith in the unconscious child. He based the baptism of infants on the command to baptize all nations, perverting the truth of Matt 28:19.
(c) Luther continued to embrace the same heresies on Mary as he had while a Catholic, including that she was conceived without sin as Christ was, preaching that “It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary’s soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God’s gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin.” (On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God, 1527). He also believed and taught his entire life she was a perpetual virgin and always kept a graven image of Mary in his study.
(d) Luther’s confusion on the work of Christ, his deliberate rejection of the fact that Christ suffered the penalty for the world’s sins, to rather affirm instead that He Himself became a sinner, is a very dangerous heresy. He believed that Christ Himself became the sin of man rather then bearing the sins of man as Scripture teaches, claiming “All the prophets of old said that Christ should be the greatest transgressor, murderer, adulterer, thief, blasphemer that ever was or ever could be on earth. When He took the sins of the whole world upon Himself, Christ was no longer an innocent person.” (Comment on Gal. 3:13 in Commentary on Galatians, 1535). It is Luther that is the great blasphemer!
(e) Luther’s view of the Lord’s Supper, consubstantiation, is also a damnable heresy and practically identical to Rome’s transubstantiation. In his Catechism he taught that communion “is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under bread and wine for us Christians to eat and to drink, established by Christ Himself.” (Formula of Concord, 1577), “We believe, teach, and confess that in the Lord’s Supper the body and blood of Christ are truly and substantially present, and that they are truly distributed and taken together with the bread and wine. . . . That the right hand of God is everywhere; and that Christ, in respect of his humanity, is truly and in very deed seated thereat.” (Articles I, V).
3. Luther’s spite towards Gods Word and rejection of the inerrancy of Scripture. Instead of trembling before the inspired books of the OT and NT (Is 66:5), he maligned and slandered them so bad, it practically makes the devil look like a princess. He either attacked or denied the canonicity of Hebrews, James, Jude, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, and Revelation, as well as several OT books, providing a foundational basis for apostasy and the rise of theological modernism in Germany a century after his death. He had a particular hatred for James, writing much toxicity against the book he called an “epistle of straw,” even claiming that “Some day I will use James to fire my stove” (Weimer, “Tischreden” (5) p. 5854).
His venomous views towards these books could be read up till the early 1900’s in their respected preface in the German Bible that bears his name. He also corrupted the Ten Commandments, removing the 2nd, and then dividing the 10th into two, then renumbering 2 to 9. He carried this on from Rome, since this blasphemous error is EXACTLY as found in the Catholic Catechism. It's easy to understand why popery altered God’s Word to no prohibition against idols, statutes, and images but why Luther? Unsurprisingly, Luther explicitly rejected the warning of Rev 22:18-19! Instead of attacking God’s Word, he should’ve considered more carefully that “Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed” (Pr 13:13).
4. Luther had a vicious and wicked hatred for Gods chosen people the Jews and would’ve gladly killed them all given the opportunity. He said, “First to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. This is to be done in honour of our Lord and of Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians, and do not condone or knowingly tolerate such public lying, cursing, and blaspheming of his Son and of his Christians . . .” He suggested that Jewish “houses also be shattered and destroyed . . . Let their prayer books and Talmuds be taken from them, and their whole Bible too; let their rabbis be forbidden, on pain of death, to teach henceforth any more. Let the streets and highways be closed against them. Let them be forbidden to practice usury, and let all their money, and all their treasures of silver and gold be taken from them and put away in safety. And if all this be not enough, let them be driven like mad dogs out of the land.” (Will Durant, About the Jews and Their Lies, 1543, pp 211-212). Evidently, the anti-Semitic charge against Luther is not anti-Lutheran propaganda. In light of his hatred for the Jews, his widespread complicity and role in the eventual Holocaust a few centuries later under Hitler (a Lutheran who read Luther and orchestrated the evil Jew-killing machine), is unsurprising.
5. Luther hated and severely persecuted those who disagreed with him, including professing Christians. Luther taught that dissenters should be banished and said that, “The peasants [involved in the Peasants’ War] would not listen; they would not let anyone tell them anything; their ears must be unbuttoned with bullets, till their heads jump off their shoulders. . . . On the obstinate, hardened, blinded peasants, let no one have mercy, but let everyone, as he is able, hew, stab, slay, lay about him as though among mad dogs, . . . so that peace and safety may be maintained . . .” While Luther was not the cause of the Peasants’ War, he did contribute to it by his unwise, ungodly and wicked statements.
Luther also said of RCC leaders, “If I had all the Franciscan friars in one house, I would set fire to it . . . To the fire with them!” When we truly understand Martin Luther (verses the false historical representation of him), his false works-based gospel, hatred for Jew and true Christian alike and for much of the Bible, its not difficult to see why he is exalted by false religious institutions and neo-evangelical’s, nor why he became so popular. “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.” (Lk 6:26). To understand Luther is to understand the Mennonites/Amish who have done a full circle to his false bondage-bound religion, which is essentially still tied at the hip to Rome.
More info on Luther may be read here: Martin Luther - A True Born Again Believer or a Wolf in Sheep's Clothing?
1. Calvin, who had no testimony of a new birth, continued to embrace baptismal regeneration after leaving the RCC and for the remainder of his life — which must be unequivocally repudiated and anathematized (Gal 1:6-9)—a clear indication that he also was a false teacher peddling a false gospel (Gal 1:6-9; 2:4-5; 2 Jn 1:9-11).
“God, regenerating us in baptism, ingrafts us into the fellowship of his Church, and makes us his by adoption . . . whatever time we are baptized, we are washed and purified . . . forgiveness . . . at our first regeneration we receive by baptism alone . . . forgiveness has reference to baptism. . . . In baptism, the Lord promises forgiveness of sins” (Institutes, 4:17:1, 4:15:3-4, 15).
“We assert that the whole guilt of sin is taken away in baptism, so that the remains of sin still existing are not imputed. . . . Nothing is plainer than this doctrine” (1547 Antidote to the Council of Trent, Reply to the 1st Decree of the 5th Session).
Concerning the absence of any testimony of salvation, Calvin stated the only testimony he could’ve had was what he copied from Augustine: “Augustine is so wholly with me, that if I wished to write a confession of my faith, I would do so with all fullness and satisfaction to myself out of his writings. (Calvin, The Eternal Predestination of God).
2. Calvin continued to deceptively embrace Catholicism, after leaving the RCC. Naturally he would have, considering his mentor and idol was Augustine, a Catholic Bishop and father of many Catholic heresies. It is noteworthy that during the two year period Calvin wrote the Institutes, which period of time this man is held to such a high esteem by many Christians today, he helped a young woman gain entrance to a nunnery and kept himself on the payroll of the Catholic organization for at least a year (Dave Hunt, What Love Is This?, p. 38).
3. Calvin was a vicious murderer. He hated the Anabaptists with a demonic hatred, calling them “henchmen of Satan,” and, in agreement with Luther, advised that “Anabaptists . . . should . . . be put to death.” He was wicked and vicious toward his enemies, behaving like the devouring wolf he was, and nothing like a harmless sheep or dove. In the year 2000, author Bernard Cottret a great admirer of John Calvin, published a book entitled, “Calvin: A Biography.” This book is based upon a favourable portrayal of Calvin and gives credit to the reality of no less than 38 executions recorded therein, all of which are also recorded in most secular encyclopedias. He documents the dates of each of John Calvin’s despicable acts, showing that Calvin's methods included imprisonment, torture, and execution by beheading and by burning at the stake.
For example, four Anabaptists men who disagreed with Calvin on who should be admitted to the Lord’s Supper were beheaded, quartered, and their body parts hung in strategic locations in Geneva as a warning to others.
He burned Michael Servetus (for rejecting infant baptism and for denying Christ’s deity). Calvin wrote about Servetus, “One should not be content with simply killing such people, but should burn them cruelly.”
Consider the example of Jacques Gruet, a known opponent of Calvin, who was arrested and tortured twice a day for a month. Then, on July 16, 1547, he was tied to a stake, his feet were nailed to it, and he was beheaded. Calvin wrote on the 26th: “With God and His Sacred Scriptures before our eyes we say, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen: . . . We condemn you, Jacques Gruet, to be taken to Champel and there have your body attached to a stake and burned to ashes and so you shall finish your days to give an example to others who would commit the like.” Gruets critical book was later found and burned along with his house while his wife was cast into the street to watch.
During the first five years of Calvin’s rule in the small town of Geneva, 13 people were hanged, 10 were decapitated, and 35 were burned to death. But Jesus spoke a different language than Calvin. He said in Matt 5:44, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” A citizen could even go to prison for smiling during a baptismal service or sleeping during a church service! I can assure you of one thing about John Calvin with absolute certainty. The god he served was definitely NOT the God of Heaven and the Bible!
You can read more about Calvin here: John Calvin's False Gospel, and Persecution and Murder of Opponents and Others
He was the better of these three, but not by much.
1. Though he was earlier in life closer to the Anabaptist position, that baptism, like the Lord’s supper, was not a means of receiving salvation, he still retained elements of the Catholic and Protestant connection of infant baptism and forgiveness, and later compromised even greater on the matter, even agreeing with killing Anabaptists who opposed the practice. As he saw it, baptism in the full sense embraces the inward baptism of the Spirit (which would then also make it a means of salvation) as well as the outward baptism of water. Though he made it appear he did not believe in baptismal regeneration, the association of infant baptism and salvation was not absent in Zwingli’s Zurich, since “The initiation [of baptism] was into the church as the family of God, or the body of Christ. The sacramental entry taught clearly the divine adoption and sonship. Baptism was not merely the historical sign or badge of external church-membership. It was an entry into the people of God.” (Bromiley, Baptism, p 17). A connection between baptism and salvation was maintained by Zwingli’s successor at Zürich, Heinrich Bullinger, who “described baptism as ‘the seal of the righteousness of faith’” & said “Baptism is a visible sign and seal of our ingrafting into the body of Christ.” (ibid, pp 12, 17).
2. He believed that if infants were already members of the Christian community by baptism, they never need to come to a point of personal admission of an unconverted state and an experience of personal conversion. This also fit in with Zwingli’s personal life; he gradually moved to his position of reformation doctrine, without having a personal point of conversion. Zwingli also held that “noble” heathen who had never heard of Christ would be in heaven, and only maintained the salvation of unbaptized infants by vitiating the Biblical doctrine of original sin (Rom 5:12-19) (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church).
3. He did not oppose the decree of the magistrates of Zurich in 1525 that all who would not have their children baptized were to be exiled, nor the drowning of the Anabaptist Felix Manz in the Limmat River in 1527. His angry outburst, “Let those who talk of going under go under indeed!” gave rise to the method of death by drowning for Anabaptists (Robert Sargent, Landmarks of Church History, vol. 1, p. 229).
4. Zwingli embraced Catholic heresies on Mary. “I firmly believe that Mary, according to the words of the gospel as a pure Virgin brought forth for us the Son of God and in childbirth and after childbirth forever remained a pure, intact Virgin.” Zwingli used Exodus 4:22 to defend the doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity (Ulrich Zwingli, Zwingli Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Volume 1, 424)
Concluding now, though they are long dead, their doctrine, practice and beliefs continue marching unfortunately forward and influencing people. Hence the critical necessity to warn. None of these three men were saved. All were wolves in sheep’s clothing and Jesus warned, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.” (Matt 7:15-17). These were ungodly wolves evident by their false gospel (Gal 1:6-9; 2:4-5), hatred for Christ (1 Cor 16:22), hatred for believers and hatred for their enemies (1 Jn 2:7-11; 3:11-15; Lk 6:27-36), etc.
Those who believe or teach a false gospel will be eternally damned (Gal 1:8-9), and heretics must be rejected (Ti 3:10). They must also be exposed:
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” (Rom 16:17).
The Protestant Reformers and the movements they originated constitute no exception to this declaration. The next time you hear these men positively quoted or mentioned, remember what they truly believed, and practiced, and then wholesale reject them in obedience to Gods Word (Matt 7:15-20; Rom 16:17-18; 2 Cor 11:4, 12-15; Gal 2:4-5; 1 Tim 6:3-5; 2 Tim 3:1-9; 2 Jn. 1:9-11; etc). Feel free to share this information with them.