From some of Luther's quotes shown by his critics (such as Peter Hermann Wehner's book, Martin Luther: Hitler's Spiritual Ancestor), it seems Luther had an aversion to reasoning and free will. These famous quotes are said to be from the context of responding to the alleged heretics and "fanatics" on the topics like water baptism. What did he mean by such teachings, and how do the modern Lutheran followers respond to this reasoning, which appears to be self-refuting and irrational?

“Reason is the Devil’s greatest whore; by nature and manner of being she is a noxious whore; she is a prostitute, the Devil’s appointed whore; whore eaten by scab and leprosy who ought to be trodden under foot and destroyed, she and her wisdom … Throw dung in her face to make her ugly. She is and she ought to be drowned in baptism… She would deserve, the wretch, to be banished to the filthiest place in the house, to the closets.” [Martin Luther, Erlangen Edition v. 16, pp. 142-148]

And again

But since the devil’s bride, Reason, that pretty whore, comes in and thinks she’s wise, and what she says, what she thinks, is from the Holy Spirit, who can help us, then? Not judges, not doctors, no king or emperor, because [reason] is the Devil’s greatest whore. [Martin Luther’s Last Sermon in Wittenberg … Second Sunday in Epiphany, 17 January 1546. Dr. Martin Luthers Werke: Kritische Gesamtausgabe. (Weimar: Herman Boehlaus Nachfolger, 1914), Band 51:126, Line 7ff]

It is one thing for Luther to attack his enemies, but the constant, filthy abuses to reason itself seems to me to show he naively rejected all logical reasoning or what we call as the correspondence theory of truth and rationality itself, as he also abused Aristotle. I say "naively" because nobody can rationally condemn reason without employing reason itself, as Luther did throughout in his writings.

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    The subject matter of the question is good, but I think you should remove your interpretation of what Luther meant; it's not a charitable reading, and it's not necessary for the question. The first chapter of this journal explores what he meant. TL;DR: Luther was writing about what we now would call the noetic effects of sin, and those who place human reasoning above divine scripture (in a gross imbalance of the Wesleyan quadrilateral).
    – curiousdannii
    Jun 23 at 11:40
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    There's really no doubt that Luther did say this, so what about changing the question to ask "What did Luther mean when he called reason "the Devil's greatest whore"?"
    – curiousdannii
    Jun 23 at 11:41
  • The context and overall teachings of Luther don't show it is an isolated attack to some sinners; rather it was his philosophy to attack reason, logic and freewill itself, perhaps since he could not defend his positions rationally. This pro Luther blog gives context beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2015/04/… - and beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/search/label/Free%20Will Luther consistently forbid and abused reasoning (or whatever he disagreed with) as sinful from the devil.
    – Michael16
    Jun 23 at 12:17
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    That's patently false. Read pages 2-4 of the article I linked to, quoting Luther: "[I]t is certainly true that reason is the most important and the highest in rank among all things and, in comparison with other things of this life, the best and something divine." And recall his famous words that he would not recant unless "convinced by the testimony of scripture or clear reason." We can't just apply his use of "reason" to refer to all that we think of as reason, any more than we can naively interpret "the writings" to refer to anything written rather than the scriptures.
    – curiousdannii
    Jun 23 at 12:23
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    . . . in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe, 1 Corinthians 1:21. It is clear what Luther meant, in the context of Paul's epistles. What the question seems to object to is Martin Luther's style of writing and manner of expression.
    – Nigel J
    Jun 23 at 12:35

Luther seems to have recognized that a mind not given humbly to God will find things to be "reasonable" that are completely outside of God's will and wisdom. Paul concurs along these lines: And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, (Rom 1:28) And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom 12:2 NASB95) So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, ... and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, (Eph 4:17, 23 NASB95)

Remember that the Gentiles spoken of here are those that had the tradition of Hellenism and its "rationality" as their basis for worldview. Nothing has changed really in the intervening millenia.

  • Excellent response. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Jun 23 at 12:30
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    The first sentence of this answer is okay, but much too generic; any Christian who is not Luther (including non Protestants !) would have said it. The rest of the answer misrepresents what Luther's core issues were, doesn't quite vindicated the "whore" rhetoric Luther was using. See first article in this journal issue where it lists several reasons in its "Bad" and "Ugly" sections. Jun 23 at 14:34
  • My answer was intended to address the first part from an aerial viewpoint, and the second part in a little more detail, expressing one Protestant's view of Luther's comment (that is, my own), and so address part b) of the question. Anyway, thank you for the link; Jeffrey Mann's article was well written and a pleasure to read. He certainly took a deep dive into part a) of the question. Having read his thorough and thought-provoking essay, I would say that my answer is a pretty good one-sentence summary of Luther's thinking. (It must be kept in mind that Luther was a master of hyperbole.)
    – Provy
    Jun 24 at 23:51

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