In the early 16th century, nearly a hundred years after the conquest of Constantinople by the Turkish Sultan, the Turks had overrun much of the Balkans and recently subdued Hungary. The Germanic principalities in Central Europe were threatened by the Turkish advance, but their customary fractiousness — and the advent of the Protestant Reformation — had made it that much harder for Christendom to unite and repel the invaders.
In 1528, Martin Luther had no way of knowing that a century and half later the Christian states of Europe would unite long enough to drive the Turks back from the Gates of Vienna. In his day, Europe was up for grabs.
Here are some excerpts from what Luther had to say about Islam, and the necessity for a robust military defense of Christendom, from Vom Kriege wider die Türken (On War Against the Turk):
I have some pieces of Mohammed’s Koran which might be called in German a book of sermons or doctrines of the kind that we call pope’s decretals. When I have time, I must put it into German so that every man may see what a foul and shameful book it is. In the first place, he praises Christ and Mary very much as those who alone were without sin, and yet he believes nothing more of Christ than that he is a holy prophet, like Jeremiah or Jonah, and denies that he is God’s Son and true God. Besides, he does not believe that Christ is the Savior of the world, Who died for our sins, but that He preached to His own time, and completed His work before His death, just like any other prophet.
On the other hand, he praises and exalts himself highly and boasts that he has talked with God and the angels, and that since Christ’s office of prophet is now complete, it has been commanded to him to bring the world to his faith and if the world is not willing, to compel it or punish it with the sword; and there is much glorification of the sword in it. Therefore, the Turks think their Mohammed much higher and greater than Christ, for the office of Christ has ended and Mohammed’s office is still in force.
From this anyone can easily observe that Mohammed is a destroyer of our Lord Christ and His kingdom, and if anyone denies concerning Christ, that He is God’s Son and has died for us, and still lives and reigns at the right hand of God, what has he left of Christ? Father, Son, Holy Ghost, Baptism, the Sacrament, Gospel, Faith and all Christian doctrine and life are gone, and there is left, instead of Christ, nothing more than Mohammed with his doctrine of works and especially of the sword. That is the chief doctrine of the Turkish faith in which all abominations, all errors, all devils are piled up in one heap.
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In the second place, the Turk’s Koran, or creed, teaches him to destroy not only the Christian faith, but also the whole temporal government. His Mohammed, as has been said, commands that ruling is to be done by the sword, and in his Koran the sword is the commonest and noblest work.
Thus the Turk is, in truth, nothing but a murderer or highwayman, as his deeds show before men’s eyes. St. Augustine calls other kingdoms, too, great robbery; Psalm 76:4 also calls them “fastnesses of robbers,” because it is but seldom that an empire has come up except by robbery, force, and wrong; or at the very least, it is often seized and possessed by wicked people without any justice, so that the Scriptures, in Genesis 10:9, call the first prince upon earth, Nimrod, a mighty hunter. But never has any kingdom come up and become so mighty by murder and robbery as that of the Turk; and he murders and robs every day, for it is commanded in their law, as a good and divine work, that they shall rob and murder, devour and destroy more and more those that are round about them; and they do this, and think that they are doing God service. Their government, therefore, is not a regular rulership, like others, for the maintenance of peace, the protection of the good, and the punishment of the wicked, but a rod of anger and a punishment of God upon the unbelieving world, as has been said. The work of murdering and robbing pleases the flesh in any case, because it enables men to gain high place and subject everyone’s life and goods to themselves; how much more must the flesh be pleased when this is a commandment, as though God would have it so and it pleased Him well! Therefore among the Turks, too, they are held the best who are diligent to increase the Turkish kingdom and who are constantly murdering and robbing round about them.
All fanatics, as a rule, when the spirit of lies has taken possession of them and led them away from the true faith, have been unable to stop there, but have followed the lie with murder and taken up the sword, as a sign that they were children of the father of all lies and murder…
Summing up what has been said: Where the spirit of lies is, there is also the spirit of murder, though he may not get to work or may be hindered. If he is hindered, he still laughs and is jubilant when murder is done, and at least consents to it, for he holds it right. But good Christians do not rejoice over any murder, not even over the misfortunes of their enemies. Since, then, Mohammed’s Koran is such a great spirit of lies that it leaves almost nothing of Christian truth remaining, how could it have any other result than that it should become a great and mighty murderer, with both lies and murders under the show of truth and righteousness. As, therefore, lies destroy the spiritual order of faith and truth, so murder destroys all temporal order instituted by God; for where murder and robbery are practiced, it is impossible that there should be a fine, praiseworthy temporal government, since they cannot think more highly of peace than of war and murder, or attend to the pursuits of peace, as one can see in soldiers. Therefore, the Turks do not regard the work of agriculture highly.
The third point is that Mohammed’s Koran thinks nothing of marriage, but permits everyone to take wives as he will. Therefore, it is customary among the Turks for one man to have ten or twenty wives and to desert or sell any of them that he will, when he will, so that in Turkey women are held immeasurably cheap and are despised; they are bought and sold like cattle. Although there may be some few who do not take advantage of this law, nevertheless this is the law and anyone can follow if he will. Such a way of living is not marriage and cannot be marriage, because none of them takes a wife or has a wife with the intention of staying with her forever, as though the two were one body, as God’s Word says, in Genesis 2:24, “The man shall cleave to his wife and they two be one body.”
Now we have heard above what kind of man the Turk is, viz., a destroyer, enemy, and blasphemer of our Lord Jesus Christ, who instead of the Gospel and faith, sets up his shameful Mohammed and all kinds of lies, ruins all temporal government and home-life, or marriage, and, since his warfare is nothing but murder and bloodshed, is a tool of the devil himself.
Just so Mohammed treats the Gospel; he declares that it is indeed true, but has long since served its purpose; also that it is too hard to keep, especially on the points where Christ says that one is to leave all for His sake, love God with the whole heart, and the like.
Therefore God has had to give another new law, one that is not so hard and that the world can keep, and this law is the Koran. But if anyone asks why he does no miracles to confirm this new law, he says that that is unnecessary and of no use, for people had many miracles before, when Moses’ law and the Gospel arose, and did not believe. Therefore his Koran did not need to be confirmed by wasted miracles, but by the sword, which is more effective than miracles. Thus it has been, and still is the case among the Turks, that everything is done with the sword, instead of with miracles.
We hear a lot these days about the necessity for becoming more educated about Islam, as if a fuller acquaintance with the Islamic faith would make the Legions of the Prophet seem less threatening and dangerous.
We can see from these excerpts that the opposite is the case. Martin Luther was very well-educated in the scripture of the Mohammedans, and it only served to confirm to him that their religion was in fact demonic, a worldly manifestation of pure evil.
We would do well to heed his words.
Hat tip: Kepiblanc, in the comments.