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I've heard popular retellings of the Lutheran view of pope as Antichrist that range from:

  • a delusion that Pope Leo X was the incarnate figure of prophecy, to
  • a slur (like calling George Washington a communist), to
  • a conviction that it's a simple statement of the doctrine of justification: no one is "ante" (stands before, between Christ and sinner) in the mechanism of salvation

A previous question focused on the role of prophecy in the idea. But my question is to what extent this concept is not a mere slur but rather a necessary consequence of the doctrine of justification. Both bases may offend, but one is unavoidable consequence of there being two different denominations. Quotes from Reformers and prominent Lutheran theologians are of interest.

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Despite my love for Martin Luther and the doctrine of justification, I believe the answer to your question is (for the most part) yes.

While I don't believe that most modern Lutherans believe that the Pope is the Antichrist, Martin Luther did say it as a criticism of papal supremacy and the sale of indulgences. So as you put it, a conviction that it's a simple statement of the doctrine of justification: no one is "ante" (stands before, between Christ and sinner) in the mechanism of salvation might be most correct for the original view held by Luther himself.

"This teaching [of the supremacy of the pope] shows forcefully that the Pope is the very Antichrist, who has exalted himself above, and opposed himself against Christ, because he will not permit Christians to be saved without his power, which, nevertheless, is nothing, and is neither ordained nor commanded by God." --Martin Luther

Some Lutherans may still have strong views regarding the Pope, but most do not. The WELS webpage about this topic may give you additional insights into the view of some Confessional Lutherans, or at least some within WELS.

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From what I had read in Roland Bainton's "Here I Stand", there were strong emotions between Luther, his followers, the Catholics and the Vatican. The very concept of secularizing and commercializing the Catholic Church and its belief system (i.e. selling indulgences) brought the money-changers, dressed as the clergy, into the temple. The Pope, being the head of the Church and condoning this activity, was seen by Luther as the Antichrist. This in itself would have also compelled Luther to write his 95 Theses.

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  • Welcome, and nice answer! Thanks for contributing. One thing that would be helpful would be to provide the relevant chapter/page numbers in Here I Stand. If you haven't already done so, I hope you'll take a minute to take the tour and learn how this site is different from others. – Nathaniel is protesting Feb 17 '16 at 21:29
  • Welcome to Christianity.SE, and thanks for offering an answer. For some tips on writing good answers here, please see: What makes a good supported answer? – Lee Woofenden Feb 17 '16 at 21:40
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    Your chronology is a bit off on Luther. He still had hope of reforming the Church and getting the Pope's support when he wrote the 95 Theses. His later conclusions on the Pope as Antichrist had no bearing at that time. – Joshua Feb 17 '16 at 22:09
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I was originally raised in a conservative Lutheran church and household (Missouri synod split off church and later Wels). Your speculations on Justification is a big part of the picture, but there are other elements as well especially the other "Solas". Besides having major issues with Catholic Soteriology, Luther had major issues with the Magisterium, the pope as "Christ's representative on Earth" etc. Luther very much believed that the Pope was leading people away from the truth of the Gospel.

Having given my testimony I proceed to take up the bull. Peter said that you should give a reason for the faith that is in you, but this bull condemns me from its own word without any proof from Scripture, whereas I back up all my assertions from the Bible. I ask thee, ignorant Antichrist, dost thou think that with thy naked words thou canst prevail against the armor of Scripture? Hast thou learned this from Cologne and Louvain? If this is all it takes, just to say, “I dissent, I deny," what foo1, what ass, what mole, what log could not condemn? Does not thy meretricious brow blush that with thine inane smoke thou withstandest the lightning of the divine Word? Why do we not believe the Turks? Why do we not admit the Jews? Why do we not honor the heretic if damning is all that it takes? But Luther, who is used to bellum, is not afraid of bullam . I can distinguish between inane paper and the omnipotent Word of God.

http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/FTrials/luther/againstexecrablebull.html

"This teaching [of the supremacy of the pope] shows forcefully that the Pope is the very Antichrist, who has exalted himself above, and opposed himself against Christ, because he will not permit Christians to be saved without his power, which, nevertheless, is nothing, and is neither ordained nor commanded by God”.

Smalcald Articles, II

"nothing else than the kingdom of Babylon and of very Antichrist. For who is the man of sin and the son of perdition, but he who by his teaching and his ordinances increases the sin and perdition of souls in the church; while he yet sits in the church as if he were God? All these conditions have now for many ages been fulfilled by the papal tyranny."

Martin Luther, First Principles, pp. 196–197

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