So there's a hymn called A mighty fortress is our God (Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott), written by Martin Luther; there's also a famous version by J. S. Bach. It is a call to arms against the devil, and is particularly associated with the Reformation.
The lyrics are full of references to Satan (der alte böse Feind, der Fürst dieser Welt, der Teufel); the Bach cantata has a few more (zum Kriege wider Satans Heer, treib Welt und Satan aus). That's all fine. What I was wondering about was the extent to which these should be read as references to the Catholic Church and the Papacy. After all, Luther wasn't shy about that in his prose works - calling the Pope an Antichrist, Devil, Satan, Satanissimus, etc., and speaking in martial terms about the conflict between them, where Rome is presented as being part of the devil's captured territory.
- Were the devil-references in the hymn originally intended to be about Luther's Catholic opponents?
- Does the hymn come across today as anti-Catholic? (And therefore, to be avoided.)
For context, in my congregation we are perpetually anxious about martial metaphors and sectarian divisiveness. We did do Onward Christian soldiers last year, but only after an explanation/rationale from the pulpit. We'd be happy to sing about the devil being our enemy, but not at all happy to sing against our brothers and sisters in Christ.
“And though this world, with devils filled, Should threaten to undo us; We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us.”