Martin Luther on War

In his book, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, William L. Shirer makes a quantum leap in logic by blaming Martin Luther for advocating unswerving obedience to earthly authorities which somehow caused the German nation to blindly follow Adolf Hitler. For the record, Luther never advocated blind obedience to the state. Luther often reminded Christians to follow the dictates of their consciences when dealing with authorities. Remember, that at the time of the Reformation, the southern borders of Germany were being threatened by the Turks or Moslems. The following are some quotes from the book, What Luther Says, about what this often maligned reformer really thought about waging war.

"What the proverb says is true: 'War is pleasant to those who have not experienced it.' For young folk--who still have young, hot blood--consider nothing finer than the glory and the victory of war, by which they can shine. These carnal inclinations are easily extinguished later on, when such folk have experienced their own and their relatives' calamity. But before these calamities strike, the world is ignorant of the blessings of peace, and war truly is pleasant to those who have never experienced it. Histories show this. In them seditious people often denounce peace. Since men usually become sluggish and coward in times of quiet, they desire war as a sowing for glory and an opportunity for showing their courage." [1]

"Fighting is soon begun, but to stop fighting whenever we please does not lie in our power." [2]

"War does not gain much, but it loses much and risks all. On the other hand, gentleness loses nothing, risks little, and gains all." [3]

"If the children of men were sound in all other respects, would not the one lust to engage in war fairly prove that one and all of them is insane? How great, friend, this fury is! How dense the darkness of men even to rejoice at, to sing about, and to praise the defeat, the butchery, blood, murder, and the whole chaos of evils which war brings in its train, when it would be fitting to weep about all these things with tears of blood, particularly when war is waged not at the command of God but because of the insane lust for power and possession . . . . " [4]

"It is not right to start a war whenever any frantic lord takes it into his head. For at the very outset I want to say, before saying anything else, that he who starts a war is wrong and that it is just for him who draws the sword first to be defeated or at least to be punished in the end." [5]

While Luther could not be considered antiwar by contemporary standards, it appears that he did favor war mostly as a defensive means to protect oneself from invaders. As a general principle, he absolved those who fought in wars who were ignorant of their leaders evil intents. Luther did not condemn all war. However, even in his time, he witnessed princes who may have wantonly engaged their subjects in needless campaigns. One type of war that no one from medieval Europe ever witnessed was that 20th Century version known as the World War. Will the history books record our government as the aggressor which began yet another World War?

What would Luther say?


1. What Luther Says. 4613. Concordia Publishing House, 1959

2. ibid. 4614

3. ibid 4615

4. ibid 4617

5. ibid 4608

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Randall Schultz is a recent convert to paleolibertarianism. He recently went through a mid-life crisis. This crisis was not a string of extramarital affairs, but was a denunciation of a neoconservative ideology. His thinking is influenced by an array of heroes who include Confessional Lutheran theologians and dead, white guys like Murray Rothbard and Ludwig von Mises. He is also an avid fan of the gifted and talented writers at the Anti-State, Antiwar, Lew Rockwell and Strike The Root websites, among others. For this, he is grateful to Al Gore for inventing the Internet. Randall and his child-bride of 23 years are blessed with five children and reside in the state of Wisconsin. He earns a living as a lowly electronics technician for a huge, evil, greedy, multi-national corporation. His hobbies include studying Austrian economics, amateur radio, playing with Linux, riding bicycles with his wife, and arguing with statists.