Steve's Lutheran Pages

My Lutheranism FAQ

After leaving Pentecostalism, I continued to participate for a while on a Web discussion board run by people from one of the Pentecostal churches of which I was once a member. I wasn't shy about posting my reasons for returning to the Lutheran church. The participants there were likewise not shy about, to put it politely, asking me a lot of questions in return about Lutheranism, so as a result I developed some stock answers to the questions with which I was most frequently challenged by Pentecostals. These are given further below.

The questions below are in fact pretty much the same questions that led me out of the Lutheran church more than thirty years ago. At that time, I was not patient or mature enough to investigate, or even to seek, whatever answers to those questions Lutheran teaching might have held for me; I instead accepted at face value the answers given (either explicitly or implicitly) by various Pentecostals I encountered in person or in my reading. After nearly twenty years, after life had very thoroughly taught me the inadequacy of the Pentecostal approach, I finally became willing to go back to investigate the answers Lutheran teaching could have given me. The fruit of that effort was eventually a very gratifying return to membership in the Lutheran church.

These questions have been taken nearly verbatim from Web discussions I have had with Pentecostals. The answers are expanded versions of my postings in reply to those questions. (Click on the questions to go to my answers futher below on the page.)

  1. The Lutheran church does not fully understand the Bible—it's a church 500 years out of date. For instance, it's completely at a loss as to what 1 Corinthians 12-14 means; so do you really think that what Luther taught in the 1500's is the end all and be all of Biblical doctrine?

  2. The Greek word used for "to baptize" (baptizo) in the scriptures means only "to immerse." Why do Lutherans disobey Jesus' command by instead using sprinkling or pouring to baptize?

  3. How can Lutherans believe both in salvation by faith and in infant baptism? How can an infant have faith?

  4. Isn't Lutheran theology Calvinistic? I heard that they don't believe in free will.

  5. I grew up in a Lutheran church and never even knew a person could be born again and have a personal relationship with Jesus until I heard it at a revival another church was having in our town. Then I went forward in response to an altar call to accept Jesus, and my life has completely changed! Why don't Lutheran churches teach people to be born again?

  6. Good grief. With Lutheranism, one settles for a lifeless, dead "churchianity." Can't you see that Lutheran theology results in whole churches full of people who do nothing, but who think they're saved anyway just because they were baptized as infants?

  7. In Luther's time, his followers persecuted and put to death Anabaptists. Blood was shed in the name of the doctrine you defend. How can you possibly justify that?

Q. The Lutheran church does not fully understand the Bible—it's a church 500 years out of date. For instance, it's completely at a loss as to what 1 Corinthians 12-14 means; so do you really think that what Luther taught in the 1500's is the end all and be all of Biblical doctrine?

A. Pretty much, but then Luther never claimed that what he taught was his own doctrine but was only that which the Bible taught. Speaking from my own experience, I've got to say I've found that claim substantiated, and that Lutheran teachers in general understand the Bible a lot better than Pentecostal teachers do, and are a lot more consistent in basing their teaching only on it.

The passage in 1 Corinthians regarding spiritual gifts is a good example. 1 Corinthians 12-14 shows Paul trying to bring some degree of order to the Corinthian church of the day. That church was confused about the way the Holy Spirit works, the gifts He gives, and who has them; as a result it was doing things in a very disorderly and fanatical fashion. Lutherans seem to have understood the lessons Paul teaches in that passage quite a bit better than Pentecostals, who still seem to want to follow the original, fanatical customs of the Corinthians and as a result are still in rank disorder and confusion. If Lutherans are 400 years out of date, then Pentecostals are 1,950 years out of date. It was by studying 1 Corinthians 12-14 on the gifts of the Holy Spirit that I first begin to see what that passage really says (and, perhaps more importantly, what it doesn't say) and how Pentecostals have twisted it to their own detriment.

But more importantly for me personally is the fact that at one time thirty years ago I believed all that stuff about Lutherans being 400 years out of date and Pentecostals being the ones "moving on with God into new revelation." The only place it got me was into increasing uncertainties, doubts, and disillusionment. I've thoroughly explored that direction, determined it to be false, found something better, and wouldn't trade the peace and stability in the Lord, in His Word, and in His church that I have now for anything else in the world.

I too at one time believed Luther was out of date, didn't understand either the Scriptures or the Holy Spirit very well, and didn't really have very deep "revelations" from the Word of God. However, experience and further study proved it was me, not Luther, who was wrong about the Word of God. Anybody who bases their beliefs on Scripture alone can never be out of date. God's Word is eternal and doesn't change.

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Q. The Greek word baptizo translated as "baptize" in the scriptures literally means "to immerse." Why do Lutherans violate scripture by using sprinkling or pouring instead?

A. Lutherans do not violate scripture—intentionally or otherwise. Instead we believe the Bible shows us its use of the word "baptizo" does not dictate immersion as its only method in spite of the etymology (origins, or root meaning) of the word. Good hermeneutics (rules of interpretation) tell us the meaning of a word—in any document, sacred or secular—is not determined primarily by its etymology but rather by its context and usage. Therefore we believe a truly scriptural picture of baptism, one that takes into account everything the Bible says about the subject, is one that shows that sprinkling or pouring water upon the one being baptized is just as acceptable a method as immersion.

In other words, we are not saved by obeying rules, following a method, or correctly performing ceremonies. We are saved when we get cleansed from our sin in the eyes of God. Just because the word used in the scriptures for that cleansing has a root meaning of "immersion" doesn't mean we are bound to the method of literally immersing the person.

I say this for two reasons:
  1. The word means "washing" because immersion was a common way of washing something. In Christian usage, baptism is the way we are washed from sin (Acts 22:16) in Christ's blood. Its effectiveness is due to the living Word of God, which gives us both the command to baptize as well as the faith by which we receive baptism's benefits. 1 Peter 3:21 explicitly says that the effectiveness of baptism is not due to any literal washing of the body. Washing from sin is also symbolized in other ways in the scriptures. Consider the following verses:

    Exodus 24:6-8: And Moses took half of the blood, and put it in basons; and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient. And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you concerning all these words.

    Compare this with Hebrews 10:22: Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.

    In this regard, note also these interesting OT prophecies:

    Ezekiel 36:25-27: Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.

    Isaiah 52:13-15: Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.

    As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.

    So sprinkling has just as much Biblical symbolism behind it as does immersion.

    As for pouring, note Titus 3:5-6: But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed [literally, "poured out"] on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour.

    The reason the word "baptism" (immersion) was used of this rite was not because the method must always be literal immersion. It was because of its symbolism as a washing, as well as to its symbolism of being buried with Christ in his death (Romans 6:3-4). However, this cleansing from sin in Christ is also referred to in several other symbolic ways in the New Testament; that is why the rite has come down to us in the church in several forms. In Christian Dogmatics, John Mueller comments, "...our Lutheran catechism rightly holds that 'to baptize' means 'to apply water by washing, pouring, sprinkling, or immersing.'"

  2. We have an explicit source that shows what the word "baptizo" meant to Greek speakers, dating to the generation after the apostles, showing that to them it did not literally mean to immerse. The Didache, dated perhaps as early as A.D. 65 but no later than A.D. 120, says this:

    Now about baptism, baptize this way: after first uttering all of these things, baptize "into the name of the Father and of the son and of the holy Spirit" in running water. But if you do not have running water, baptize in other water. Now if you are not able to do so in cold water, do it in warm water. Now if you don't have either, pour water three times on the head, "into the name of the Father, and of the son, and of the holy Spirit." Now before the ritual cleansing, the baptizer and the one being baptized should fast, and any others who are able. Now you will give word for the one who is being baptized to fast for one or two days beforehand.

    My point is not that everything the Didache says lines up with the scriptures. Rather, I am pointing out that this is a work written in the same language and circulated in the same culture as the apostles among people who had sat under their teaching, or whose parents had. In fact, the document purports to be written by the apostles - it was also called "The Teaching of the Twelve" (the Greek word didache is related to "doctrine," "didactic," etc.). Whoever wrote it wanted Greek-speaking Christians to think that it was written by the apostles.

    If the Greek word baptizo meant only "to immerse," and if Greek-speaking Christians who had sat under the teaching of the apostles knew that any other use was a blatant violation of not only what baptism was supposed to be, but also of the Greek language itself, then the above passage would have immediately labeled the authors as frauds - completely ignorant of the meaning of their own language. That fact that the authors could write of baptism in this way show that in Greek the word baptizo was not restricted to cases of literal immersion. This is strictly a linguistic point, not an endorsement of the theological or doctrinal content of the Didache.

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Q. How can Lutherans believe both in salvation by faith and in infant baptism? How can infants have faith?

A. The same way that adults do - the Holy Spirit creates it in them when they hear the Gospel:

And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.
(Luke 1:41-44 KJV)

If the Holy Spirit can move a baby in the womb to respond with joy to the proclamation of the coming Savior, then it is not in the least bit difficult for me to believe that He can move an infant to respond with trust in that Savior to the promise of the forgiveness of sins offered by the Word in baptism. It is worked in infants through the Word spoken by the minister who baptizes them and also by the Word commanding him to baptize - he is acting in obedience to the Word that tells him to baptize all nations, and also that which tells him to bring little children to Jesus (Matt. 19:14, where the Greek word for "little children" is paidion, "infants"). If the Holy Spirit can use the spoken word of the news of Christ's advent to move a baby in the womb to the appropriate response to that Word, then we have proof that the effectiveness of the Holy Spirit is not necessarily tied to articulate intellectual knowledge in the one in whom he works.

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Q. Isn't Lutheran theology Calvinistic? I heard that they don't believe in free will.

A. Lutheran theology does teach that man cannot choose freely in spiritual matters prior to his regeneration by God. In that state, humans are spiritually dead with their wills bound completely by sin and therefore they of course have no ability to choose to be born spiritually. Just as in physical birth, it is something in which our own will does not and cannot have a part. Calvin and Luther came to this realization separately by studying the New Testament—they knew very little of each other's theology. Their teaching on the inability of man's will to cooperate with God in conversion was in opposition to the Roman Catholic teaching that held man's will to be free and to be able to cooperate in conversion. Luther regarded his rejection of that doctrine to be very nearly the core of the Reformation and of his disagreement with Rome. The doctrine that man can and should cooperate in his conversion was the root of the Roman system of works-righteousness that he came to despise.

Of his own works Luther thought his book The Bondage of the Will was the best and most significant. It was a response to the work Diatribe or Collation Concerning Free Will, written by Erasmus on behalf of the Roman church. I recommend reading Luther's work, if only to get an understanding of the issue of free will as he saw it.

Calvinism is usually defined with reference to the familiar TULIP acrostic:

Total Depravity
Unconditional Election
Limited Atonement
Irresistible Grace
Perseverance of the Saints

Of these, Lutherans accept only the first, defined on one Lutheran Website (Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, Lexington, KY) as follows:

Calvin correctly taught that because of original sin, all human beings are conceived and born totally corrupt (depraved) in spiritual matters. In other words, all people are born spiritually dead and blind, and therefore they are unable to seek God or contribute anything to their salvation. People do not have freedom to seek or choose God. This agrees with our Lutheran teaching (see Gen 6:5; 8:21; Ps 14:1-4; Mt 19:25-26; Mark 7:21-23; John 6:44,65; Acts 26:18; Rom 1:18-21; 3:9-19,23; 8:7; Eph 2:1-10; 1 Co 2:14; 12:3; 2 Co 4:4).

Beyond that point of agreement, however, Lutherans cannot be described accurately as "Calvinistic." Lutherans explicitly reject double predestination, Calvin's teaching that God has already elected before the creation of the world every person specifically either to salvation or to damnation, which is implied by the other four points of the above acronym. In the confessions of faith that the early Lutheran teachers recorded for posterity, they affirmed the Biblical statements of universal grace - that God wants all men to be saved and none to be lost, and that Christ died for all (for example, John 1:29, 3:16ff; 1 John 2:2; 1 Tim 2:4-6). Calvinists, however, reject such statements by their doctrine, reasoning that because not all men are in fact saved, God cannot have ever intended his grace to extend to all. Charles Hodge, a leading Calvinist theologian of the 19th century, wrote in his Systematic Theology, "It cannot be supposed that God intends what is never accomplished - that he adopts means for an end which is never to be attained. This cannot be affirmed of any rational being who has the wisdom and power to secure the execution of his purposes. Much less can it be said of Him whose power and wisdom are infinite."

Other very important differences between Lutheranism and Calvinism are these two:

  1. Lutherans say the Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit works to create and maintain saving faith only through these means: the external Word (the Word of God given to us in the Scriptures and as preached by God's ministers), baptism, and the Lord's Supper, the latter two of which are really secondary because it is only the Word of God that gives them their power as means.

    Calvinists (that is, the Reformed in general) say that the Holy Spirit does not need means and can work directly in men's hearts without them to create and maintain faith. This doesn't mean they don't accept the Scriptures as the Word of God, but rather that they claim the Holy Spirit can work outside of the Word. Lutherans say that there is no such thing as a Wordless Spirit or the Spiritless Word.

  2. Lutherans believe in the physical "real presence" of Christ's body and blood in the Lord's Supper while the Reformed believe only in a spiritual "real presence." The Reformed say that those with faith partake spiritually in some way of Christ's body and blood, which is limited to one place, now in heaven, but Lutherans say that even those without faith are taking into their mouths the human body and blood of Christ, which is now, in his glorified state, supernaturally present everywhere (Luther: "the right hand of God is everywhere") because of His dual nature as man and God, when they partake of the bread and wine of the Supper. This is why it is important not to partake of it unworthily.

    Lutherans point to Reformed teaching on this as another instance of rationalistic axioms taking precedence over the Word in Reformed theology, for the Reformed take as an explicit axiom when they teach on this that "the finite cannot contain the infinite," while Lutherans are willing to live with the paradoxes (from a human, earthly perspective) with which Scripture sometimes presents us, if there isn't a way out of them without denying or tampering with the words of Scripture. Lutherans are completely comfortable in saying there are some Scriptural truths that reveal things beyond human experience and therefore also the ability of human language to explain fully.

The reason Lutherans look like Calvinists to most modern Americans outside of either heritage is because the dominant strain in most other forms of American Protestantism is a theological tendency named Arminianism that arose within the Reformed churches in a reaction to the five points of Calvin's teaching that are summarized by the TULIP acronym. Groups that accept any part of TULIP therefore tend to look "Calvinistic" to Arminians and to those influenced by Arminianism.

Arminians believe that man before salvation is not spiritually dead but only very weak or corrupted. They believe that when they were saved they needed grace, but they see their salvation primarily as the right decision they made to believe or accept the offer of the gospel of grace—God saved them not solely because of his grace in Christ but also because they made the right decision and were able to walk the right path as a result.

This belief represents, however, a very old tendency of human pride and self-righteousness. It was a reversion to something very like the Roman Catholic notion of grace. Roman Catholics, like the Arminians after them, reject the statement that we are justified (saved) only because of God's grace in Christ through faith. They, again very like the later Arminians, will grant that both grace and faith are necessary, but RCs believe that grace is something infused into man by God that then gives man the ability to do the good works that are what really merit the salvation made possible by Christ.

Luther by contrast pointed out that everything the Bible describes as necessary to man's salvation is a gift that originates outside of man. It describes nothing in man, not even faith or any work produced because of the faith given us, that merirts salvation or constitutes the righteousness we need to stand innocent before God. Only the merits of Christ—his life and death for us—constitute the righteousness that counts in God's eyes. God's grace consists in his putting all of our sins on Christ and all of Christ's righteousness on us—in declaring us free of guilt and fully righteous independently of anything found in us, because even the faith we need is given to us by the Holy Spirit through God's Word that tells us of Christ.

This is important in daily Christian life because it determines where we look for assurance—that is, what we really have faith in: Are we going to look to ourselves—to things we can feel, experience, or do—to give us hope and to tell us we've got the kind of righteousness we need for life in God's presence here and in eternity, or are we going to look to God's Word, to Christ, and to what He's already done for us? One way represents frustration, pretence, and inevitable failure, the other represents our only hope for life and salvation.

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Q. I grew up in a Lutheran church and never even knew a person could be born again and have a personal relationship with Jesus until I heard it at a revival another church was having in our town. Then I went forward in response to an altar call to accept Jesus, and my life has completely changed! Why don't Lutheran churches teach people to be born again?

A. Lutherans believe it best to teach people the Biblical meaning of being born again instead of leading people to believe it comes by their own decision to "accept Jesus." In its Biblical context, being born again is a result of the Holy Spirit working through the Word and baptism, as shown by John 3:3-5:

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.

Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?

Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

Even before I began my return to Lutheranism, I began to suspect that most if not all "decisions for Jesus" made at revivals were induced by manipulative or emotionalistic preaching rather than by a work of the Holy Spirit through the pure preaching of the Word of God. I think that because some Biblical truths are preached at revivals, the conversions that occur at them are probably genuine, but that the people who are converted there are given an unstable foundation by the leaders who are in fact preaching a religion based on emotion and experience rather than on the Biblical Christ. The believers saved in their meetings are immediately led astray, for having started by believing they were saved by their own decision to "accept Jesus," the validity of which was proven by the intense emotion surrounding the moment, they constantly depend upon their own works, feelings, and experiences to prove the validity of their continued faith and life in Christ rather than depending upon the means shown in the Bible - the Word and sacraments given to them by God through the ministers of His gospel.

I believe (based both upon observation of several different types of revivalistic Christianity and upon personal participation in one) that relying upon one's own works, feelings, and "spiritual" experiences is unstable and uncertain, and leads eventually to burnout, cynicism, and despair.

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Q. Good grief. You've settled for a lifeless, dead "churchianity." Can't you see that Lutheran theology results in whole churches full of people who do nothing but who think they're saved just because they were baptized as infants?

A.First of all, if any Lutherans think they're saved just because they were baptized as infants, they have disregarded Lutheran teaching. Luther never taught that baptism saves people apart from faith. He taught that the Holy Spirit, through the Word that is proclaimed in baptism, has the power to produce faith in infants just as John in his mother's womb was able to respond with joy to Mary's news concerning the coming Savior.

Secondly, Luther did not discount the importance of believers doing good works in obedience to God. What he did was to distinguish between obedience that is required in order to merit salvation (not possible) and the obedience that comes from gratitude for the salvation we've already been given (if not present, shows we are not really saved.) But who are we to judge whether another's obedience and works are good enough? That is not the basis of God's judgment. He judges on what cannot be seen - on whether the believer is truly trusting in Christ and his merits, or in human merit.

It should be clear to any Christian that obedience to God's laws is good, but that it is not the means of salvation, for nobody can completely fulfill those requirements except Christ. Being in him is the only way we obtain the righteousness needed for eternal life. If both faith and obedience are required, we are just as lost as the rich young ruler, because the "requirements" of God are not any more simple in the NT than they were in the OT.

And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.

And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.

Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.

And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved?

And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.

(Mark 10:17-27 KJV)
We can't obey our way into salvation. Obedience is the fruit that follows salvation, not a requirement of salvation, not the way we get there. God has to give us salvation and righteousness as a free gift of his grace in Christ, then obedience follows out of gratitude.

I like Luther because he taught me to look at everything I do and receive as a total gift and work of the Holy Spirit in me. My own ability to turn and repent, the forgiveness of my sins, righteousness, faith, salvation, and eternal life - they're all gifts given to me by God in His Word and in the sacraments he instituted in His Word, not things that I qualified for by my obedience to a set of requirements. If that's what would have qualified me, I would have failed. Now I no longer have to produce works or a "deeper spiritual life" to prove my standing before God. I do find myself spontaneously obeying God, and wanting to obey God, more than I ever have, but I don't depend upon my record of obedience for anything in particular. In the final analysis, it's imperfect and inconsistent. I will always stand in need of the Gospel - the forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ, granted to me by God's grace. And that's what I find in the Lutheran church, or at least in those that faithfully teach the Biblical doctrine that Luther taught.

Jesus' response to the rich young ruler was not to reveal a work that the young man could do in order to inherit eternal life, but to reveal that nobody is capable of earning it by works because nobody is capable of truly obeying the entire law of God required for eternal life. Remember that Jesus' words came only after the young ruler had first claimed he had perfectly kept all the commandments. However, there's always something that reveals you aren't really obeying God's law no matter how well you think you are. If it's our obedience to God's requirements that we're looking at as a means of gaining salvation, then it's impossible to get. That's why I think a Gospel that requires obedience is no Gospel at all - it pollutes the Biblical Gospel by not only viewing faith as a requirement that man has to perform from out of his own ability, but on top of that by mixing obedience into it as another requirement. That's known to be a burden that man cannot successfully bear.

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Q. In Luther's time, his followers persecuted and put to death Anabaptists. Blood was shed in the name of the doctrine you defend. How can you possibly justify that?

A. No blood was shed in the name of Luther's doctrine. What blood was shed was shed by the state enforcing state laws against blasephemy (which included heresy) and sedition that carried the penalty of capital punishment. Though long before Luther's time the church had had a hand in writing the laws against blasphemy, and in determining the guilt of offenders, violations were punished by the state. This situation was inherited, not created, by Luther and the early Lutherans. The problem was not Lutheran doctrine, but a society in which the church had been linked to the state for over a thousand years. Because Luther could not untangle it in twenty-five or thirty years is not his fault. For the first four or five years after he posted the Ninety-Five Theses, he was in danger of becoming its victim just as much as the Anabaptists were.

As for Luther's involvement or cooperation in the persecution of the Anabaptists, here is what he wrote in 1528 to two Catholic priests who had actually asked his opinion:

Since there has not been much occasion here for it, I have not, for my part, given much thought to these baptizers. But it serves you right as papists (I must call you such, as long as you are under your tyrants). You will not suffer the gospel, so you will have to endure these devil’s rebels, as Christ says in John 5[:43]: “I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me; if another comes in his own name, him you (i.e., the ones who are among you) will receive.” Still, it is not right, and I truly grieve, that these miserable folk should be so lamentably murdered, burned, and tormented to death. We should allow everyone to believe what he wills. If his faith be false, he will be sufficiently punished in eternal hell-fire. Why then should we martyr these people also in this world, if their error be in faith alone and they are not guilty of rebellion or opposition to the government? Dear God, how quickly a person can become confused and fall into the trap of the devil! By the Scriptures and the Word of God, we ought to guard against and withstand him. By fire we accomplish little.
(Luther's Works, p. 230, Vol. 40, Church and Ministry II, Philadelphia, Fortress Press)

Later, in 1535, the Anabaptist known as John of Leyden proclaimed himself king of the new Jerusalem in Muenster, Germany, took sixteen wives, instituted a reign of terror, enforced collectivization of all property, and forced all Lutheran residents who did not flee the town to be rebaptized, executing some who resisted. Luther then realized what the Anabaptists were capable of. When in 1536 his associate Melanchton recommended to the prince of his territory that Anabaptists receive the death penalty, Luther reluctantly added his signature.

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