I found this quote in the book Martin Luther: Rebel in an Age of Upheaval by Prof. Heinz Schilling.

He made a promise of salvation to Christian soldiers that is reminiscent of the fundamentalist vision of paradise held by Islamic holy warriors: ‘If you die, you will never find for yourself a more blessed death. For you die in obedience to the word of God and God’s command (Romans 13:4ff) and in the service of love that saves your neighbor from hell and from the shackles of the devil.’ Here too, however, he distinguished between the earthly and heavenly kingdoms. Force can be used only in the conflicts of this world and must be directed against the pope or the Turks, so not against their religion but only against their claims to authority in this world; the soldiers who thus fight do so ‘not as Christians, but as servants and subjects of the emperor’. This battle is a good and Christian work that can secure the soldiers’ salvation, yet not because they are fighting for the kingdom of God, but because as Christians they must be ‘upright, obedient, and loyal subjects’ who ‘owe to their secular ruler . . . obedience and such service’87

87 D. Martin Luthers Werke. Kritische Gesamtausgabe (Weimarer Ausgabe) Schriften [Writings]. 73 vols. Weimar, 1883–2009. Vol. 30/2 pg. 180

Where is the source of the quote in Luther's writing or any other place?

  • 4
    Heinz Schilling 1942-present (retired) held two Professorships in Early Modern History (1979-1982 and 1982-1992) and was thereafter appointed to the newly established chair of early modern European history as part of the foundation of the Institute of Historical Studies (Instituts für Geschichtswissenschaften) at the Humboldt University, which he held until his retirement in 2010. One has to assume that such a person's quotations are thoroughly reliable as peer review would ensure authenticity of his references. The source is as cited, above.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 11:47

2 Answers 2


The quote provided by the OP shows where the author (Schilling) makes his own comments / conclusions / assumptions, and the inverted commas show the actual words of Luther. There is some alarming disparity between the two in the short clip provided. If the entire book was read, those apparent disparities might melt away, but given what little has been supplied, the following comments may be worth making.

First, "He made a promise of salvation to Christian soldiers" followed quickly with "This battle is a good and Christian work that can secure the soldiers’ salvation".

Those are not Luther's words. Until someone finds actual writings of Luther that plainly state such words, they cannot be taken as a fair summary of his meaning. On the contrary, Luther's writings abound with his stress on a person not being a Christian (even if he or she thinks otherwise) unless they have come to saving faith in Christ alone. But when Luther speaks of soldiers who are, indeed, Christians and find themselves in that vocation, he encourages them to do their duty as soldiers. That is not a promise of salvation, however. If they are Christians, their salvation is assured by virtue of what Christ secured for them, not because of engaging in warfare!

When Luther spoke about soldiers who were Christians, their salvation was already assured by soldiers with such faith, and those soldiers would have confessed and repented before baptism. There is not even a slight similarity here with Islamic promises of a virgin-filled paradise for soldiers, irrespective of anything other than them killing enemies of Islam in war.

Second, in Luther's time, he wrote according to the grievous political situations that led to war, and the religious situations that divided Christians on the matter of warfare. Here is a snapshot of a growing dilemma for Luther:

"In 1525 the Anabaptists in Zurich were subjected to the death penalty. Luther was not yet ready for such savage expedients. But he too was appalled by what to him appeared to be a reversion to the monastic attempt to win salvation by a higher righteousness. The leaving of families for missionary expeditions was in his eyes a sheer desertion of domestic responsibilities, and the repudiation of the sword prompted him to new vindications of the divine calling alike of the magistrate and of the soldier." Here I Stand, p.268 Roland Bainton, Lion, 1978 [bold emphasis mine]

Now, in light of the foregoing, view the following points Luther held to, regarding the state, politics, and soldiers who were Christians:

"When Luther came to construct a theory of government, he relied, as in theology, on Paul and Augustine... Luther was perfectly clear that coercion can never be eliminated because society can never be Christianized.

The world and the masses are and always will be unchristian, although they are baptized and nominally Christian. Hence a man who would venture to govern an entire community or the world with the gospel would be like a shepherd who should place in one fold wolves, lions, eagles, ,and sheep. The sheep would keep the peace, but they would not last long. The world cannot be ruled with a rosary.

The sword to which Luther referred meant for him the exercise of restraint in preserving the peace both within and without the state. The police power in his day was not differentiated from war, and the soldier had a dual function. In the use of the sword the ruler and his men act as the instruments of God." (Ibid. p.238) [bold emphasis mine]

Finally, your actual question is, "Where is the source of the quote in Luther's writing or any other place?" Martin Luther's words will be given source references in Schilling's book. Look for a small number following any quotes directly attributed to Luther, and find the corresponding number either at the bottom of the page, or the end of each chapter, or in "Notes" for each chapter at the end of Schilling's books. The number 87 is given for a few of Luther's own words; get Vol. 30/2 of the book reference stated, and go to pg. 180.

  • Any chance that quote might exist on archive.org? Do you have the URL for it?
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Dec 1, 2022 at 5:28
  • Sorry there are many quotes here, I meant the one from the Muslim author. You said that the site is gone now, but there's a chance it might have been archived somewhere.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Dec 1, 2022 at 13:38
  • @curiousdannii I can only narrow the date down to after September 2011 but before December 2012. Sorry.
    – Anne
    Commented Dec 1, 2022 at 15:08
  • In consultation with SE staff Peter has edited this answer.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Dec 13, 2022 at 1:43
  • @Peter Turner Your edit accepted and I understand the reasons for taking that bit out. Thank you.
    – Anne
    Commented Dec 13, 2022 at 11:03
As to the question, "where is the source", Nigel J has given an apt answer. As to the other question, "any other place", please allow the following as an answer.

If one would like to know Luther's view on soldiers and their role in this world, it would be good to acquaint yourself with Luther's doctrine of *Vocation*. Here are some places/avenues to grow in your understanding of that:

  • Vieth's description of vocation
  • 4th commandment in the Large Catechism
  • Finally then, with that as a foundation, you can take up Luther's letter, WHETHER SOLDIERS, TOO, CAN BE SAVED. There is much to consider in that letter. But, for our purposes here, let's consider this section:

    In the first place, we must distinguish between an occupation and the man who holds it, between a work and the man who does it. An occupation or a work can be good and right in itself and yet be bad and wrong if the man who does the work is evil or wrong or does not do his work properly. The occupation of a judge is a valuable divine office. This is true both of the office of the trial judge who declares the verdict and the executioner who carries out the sentence. But when the office is assumed by one to whom it has not been committed or when one who holds it rightly uses it to gain riches or popularity, then it is no longer right or good. The married state is also precious and godly, but there are many rascals and scoundrels in it. It is the same way with the profession or work of the soldier; in itself it is right and godly, but we must see to it that the persons who are in this profession and who do the work are the right kind of persons, that is, godly and upright, as we shall hear.

    In the second place, I want you to understand that here I am not speaking about the righteousness that makes men good in the sight of God. Only faith in Jesus Christ can do that; and it is granted and given us by the grace of God alone, without any works or merits of our own, as I have written and taught so often and so much in other places. Rather, I am speaking here about external righteousness which is to be sought in offices and works. In other words, to put it plainly, I am dealing here with such questions as these: whether the Christian faith, by which we are accounted righteous before God, is compatible with being a soldier, going to war, stabbing and killing, robbing and burning, as military law requires us to do to our enemies in wartime. Is this work sinful or unjust? Should it give us a bad conscience before God? Must a Christian only do good and love, and kill no one, nor do anyone any harm? I say that this office or work, even though it is godly and right, can nevertheless become evil and unjust if the person engaged in it is evil and unjust.

    Martin Luther, The Christian in Society III, ed. Robert C. Schultz, vol. 46 of Luther’s Works. Accordance electronic ed. (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967), 94-95.

    In the first paragraph, Luther outlines his doctrine of Vocation (which he does numerous other places.) His thesis is that when someone is chosen by God (usually through a legitimate authority), doing something by the command of and in God's place, that person is able to take on actions and duties that would normally belong only to God:

  • A mom forgives her rebellious child (Only God can forgive)
  • A doctor sees naked people (normally we are not supposed to see naked people)
  • Here, a soldier kills in defense of his Savior and his country (normally only God holds the right to bring to life and put to death)
  • To Luther, when someone is doing this sort of work (at God's command, authorized by a legitimate authority, and in God's place), that person should be consoled and content because he/she is acting as an arm and instrument of God.

    The second paragraph is important too. Notice that he says that he is "not speaking about the righteousness that makes men good in the sight of God". The only righteousness that makes us forgiven and worthy in God's sight is given us "by grace alone" and is only God's work and not our own. Here is where Schilling badly misrepresents Luther by concluding that, to Luther, being a soldier is the same as being "Islamic holy warriors". In Islam, one can earn his way into heaven by works, and in some contexts, jihad, a holy war. Clearly and obviously, that was not Luther's view. As Luther outlines here in these paragraphs, in the rest of the letter, and in the rest of his writings, serving in one's *vocation* does not gain or get you heaven. Only Jesus does that.

    Hope this expansion on your question helps.

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