There have been any number of articles and posts from Roman Catholics of late suggesting, perhaps even insisting, that Pope Francis was becoming a Lutheran. He has been more than favorably compared with Luther himself by those inside and outside Rome. But that is really a joke, or should I say insult both to Luther and to Lutherans! Rome should be so lucky if Pope Francis was like Luther. In fact, he is not and therein lies the real problem with this Pope. Yet some of his detractors and admirers insist that he is like Luther or Lutheran in his thinking when it betrays the fact that they do not know Luther nor Lutheranism at all.
Francis is more like a liberal than he is a Luther. In fact, he has more in common with generic liberal Protestantism than with Luther who really only wore that name when it meant something. Protestant today means little except the rejection of most doctrine, the skeptical view of the Scriptures and its truth, and the affirmation of a general love and goodwill that is the Gospel (minus the suffering and death and resurrection of Jesus).
Carl Trueman put his finger on it. If Pope Francis is a reincarnation from the 16th century it is not Luther but someone whom Trueman considers much worse: Desiderius Erasmus. Though the most famous clash between Luther and Erasmus was on the matter of free will, there are many other points of difference worth nothing. In effect, it was a distinction not only on free will or the bondage of that will but on two completely different ideas of man;s capacity to effect some or perhaps all of his salvation. It is the difference of a Christianity rooted in Scriptural truth and dogmatic certainty versus a hopeful idea of human creativity and redemptive work under the power of love.
It was not Luther who could be looked to as a voice to set aside the shape of humanity in male and female and the marriage created by God for as long as man and woman shall live and especially for the sake of procreation. It was not Luther who questioned the legitimacy of Scripture's prohibition of homosexual behavior. It was not Luther who opened the Table of the Lord to those who felt they had a place even though they did not agree with what was confessed and received at that Table. It was not Luther who promoted confusion to confound critics (his was a clarion call for clarity in all matters of faith and life!). No, Virginia, Francis is not Luther and Luther was not a forerunner of Francis.
In the end I am amazed at the ignorance of those in Rome who would claim Francis and Luther are pretty much the same or that Francis' revolution is the same as Luther's reformation. Perhaps those years of formal dialog have only touched the barest few involved and the rest of Rome lives on the strength of stereotypes and epithets. If Rome does not want to be characterized falsely as worshipers of Mary who kill Jesus all over again at every Mass so that people can be placed in Purgatory until they or their families and friends contribute enough works to finish the job Jesus couldn't, then why do Roman Catholics persist in foolish errors with respect to Luther and his heirs? You cannot look at Protestantism today and find your way back to Luther. The radical reformers have shaped the bulk of Protestantism, to be sure, and some, even too many, Lutherans have followed their dead ends but if you judge Lutheranism by what we have confessed formally, you can see Lutherans are not Protestants (the way that term is used today by all sides) nor is Francis a Lutheran or even a Luther wannabe.
Francis seems to say to all -- homosexuals, divorced, spouses of Roman Catholics, and everyone else -- pray and do good. Luther would surely insist that prayer is good and good works should be done (for the sake of the neighbor and not to contribute to salvation) but Luther would never shrug his shoulders and say "who am I to judge" or "pray and do good" to those seeking certainty about their salvation or unrepentant in their sins. Nope, the comparison may be fun to make but it contributes nothing to understanding either one of them.