Martin Luther: Now the turning point of the Reformation and of Church history as a whole is the experience of an Augustinian monk in his monastic cell – Martin Luther. Martin Luther didn’t teach other doctrines – that, he also did; but this was not important, there were many others also who did; cf. Wyclif. But none of those who protested against the Roman system were able to break through it. The only man who really broke through, and whose! breakthrough has transformed the surface of the earth, was Martin Luther. That is his greatness. Don’t measure his greatness by comparing him with Lutheranism; that’s something quite different, and is something which has gone through the period of’ Lutheran Orthodoxy and many other things – political movements, Prussian conservatism, and what not. But Luther is something different. Luther is one of the few great prophets of the Christian Church, and even if his greatness was limited by some characteristics he had, and by his later development, his greatness is overwhelming. He is responsible – and he alone – for the fact that a purified Christianity, a Christianity of the Reformation, was able to establish itself on equal terms with the Roman tradition. And from this point of view we must look at him. Therefore when I speak of Luther, I don ‘t speak of the theologian who has produced Lutheranism – there are many others who have done this, and Melanchthon much more than Luther – but I speak of the man in whom the breakthrough occurred, the break through the Roman system; and that is he, and nobody else.
This breakthrough was a break through three distortions of Christianity which make the Roman Catholic religion what it is. The breakthrough was the creation of another religion. What does :religion” mean here? “Religion” means nothing else than another personal relationship between man and God – man to God and God to man: that is what the difference is. And this is why it was not possible, in spite of tremendous attempts during the 16th century and sometimes later on, to produce a reunion of the churches. You can compromise about different doctrines; you cannot compromise about different religions! Either you have the Protestant relation to God or you have the Catholic, but you cannot have both; you can ‘t make a compromise.
The Catholic system is a system of objective, quantitative and relative relations between God and man for the sake of providing eternal happiness for man. I repeat: The Catholic religion is a system of objective, quantitative, and relative relations between God and man for the sake of providing eternal happiness for man. They are quantitative relations, which must come together – here a piece and there a piece; they are relative: none is absolute, each is relative; and they are objective, in the sense of being things and not personal relationship.
Now this is the basic structure – objective, not personal; quantitative, not qualitative, and conditioned, not absolute.