The Demonic Beliefs of Martin Luther King Jr.

Growing up I never had much exposure to Martin Luther King Jr and his life [from this point being abbr MLK.] I knew that he was a Baptist minister, a civil rights giant of the 1960′s, that he delivered a famous speech about his dreams for the nation, and that he was assassinated in 1968.  Whenever I did hear from him however, the context usually involved a Christian-bent. That is to say that he was lauded and praised as a legitimate Christian leader who stood up for the marginalized, outcasts, disenfranchised and stood  for equal rights to all people everywhere. He was pointed to as the poster-boy for faith in action, and that even atheists and agnostics had to begrudgingly admit that his behavior was emulative of Christ in action. In short, he was and is revered as a modern hero of the Christian Faith.

However, through a series of circumstances I began to question the veracity of those claims.  Orthodoxy in the black church has never struck me as particularly strong, for several reasons, and I was interested to see to what degree MLK had adopted any of those specific beliefs and weaknesses. It didn’t take long to be enlightened. I quickly discovered  that MLK came from  Crozer University, a  bastion of Christian liberalism that would have only served to intensify what could be described as already tenuous beliefs [he stated that when he was 13 he denied the bodily resurrection of Christ and that from that point "doubts began to spring forth unrelentingly."]  He and his wife Coretta attended a Unitarian Church for a while  until he eventually settled in as Pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, a place he flourished for the next six years under the ideas of the social gospel and progressive black theology/  liberal theology.

Finding most secondary sources to be generally unreliable, what I found most helpful in much of my research was delving into primary sources at the Martin Luther King Jr Research and Education Institute. From here I was able to read a collection of papers, sermons, articles, speeches and discussions that he wrote or delivered, specifically  “The Humanity and Divinity of Jesus”  [29 November 1949 - 15 February 1950] and What Experiences of Christians Living in the Early Christian Century Led to the Christian Doctrines of the Divine Sonship of Jesus, the Virgin Birth, and the Bodily Resurrection” [13 September-23 November 1949] and “The Weakness of Liberal Theology” [1948]. In these papers we see that  MKL, for all his claims of being a legitimate  minister and faithful Christian, despite his decision to inexorably tie the civil rights movement to his faith in Christ and proclaimed that faith , possessed some extremely destructive  and outright satanic views on God. In the interest of providing primary sources,  they can all be accessed in full from the aforementioned site.

Throughout his writings we see that he believed that the Bible was mythic in nature and that many of the stories were either fabrications, symbols, allusions, or were borrowed from other mystery religions.  The Bible was as an ever-shifting, ever-fluid  library of thought that served to be the best way that pre-scientific men could explain the world around them, and was certainly not meant to be the infallible, innerant, inspired word of God. For example, in his paper on the weakness of liberal theology, he believed that one of his primary functions of a pastor and religious leader was to to marry and reconcile Biblical  theory with concrete meaning. In it he states his belief that Jonah was not swallowed by a whale, that Jesus never met John the Baptist, and that Jesus was not born of the Virgin Mary.

“It is certainly justifiable to be as scientific as possible in proving that the Pentateuch was written by more than one author, that the whale did not swallow Jonah, that Jesus was not born a virgin, or that Jesus never met John the Baptist. But after all of this, what relevance do the scriptures have? What moral implications do we find growing out of the Bible? What relevance does Jesus have in 1948 A.D.? These are questions which the liberal theologian must of necessity answer if he expects to influence the average mind. Too often do we find many of the liberals dodging these vital questions.”

MLK believed that much of the doctrines of the early Church  grew out of the Greek mystery religions and cults which flourished at that time, whereby a host of the specific beliefs and practices of the early church were in imitation of Mithraism and were not unique to the Christian Church. He would suppose that concepts such as being buried with Christ in baptism or eating the flesh during communion certainly originated in mystery religions. In another article entitled “The Christian Pertinence of Eschatological Hope,” MLK played around with several other important doctrines, rejecting  the idea of a second coming of Christ and that people were either destined to heaven or hell. He did not believe in the orthodox view of hell and denounced the second coming of Christ, as well denying a  final judgment from God.

But to a theological liberal, those denials  did not mean that the Bible was unimportant, or in a way any less true. From a liberal mindset, the scriptural texts were true and accurate in what they were meant to portray, convey and express, even if they were not factually true. They were true in being an accurate barometer of the mindset and culture in how people related to God, even as they were not true to give an objective basis for certain elements happening in history. In a way, it was true-ish.  This understanding is what lets him argue later that as it pertains to the resurrection of Christ- that Christ was resurrected in the eyes of the apostles due to their belief in who he was, even if factually his body laid rotting and decomposing in a tomb. Both can be true at the same time.

NOTE: Up to those point, while those beliefs are very important, it can be argued that they are secondary issues, and that that those in itself are not damning. With the exception of the Virgin Mary I am prone to agree, though I find those progressive liberal beliefs bizarre and untenable. That is why it is a shock to see MLK  categorically deny most of the primary doctrines of the Christian faith, including the virgin birth of Christ, the divinity of Christ, and the bodily resurrection of Christ.

In rejecting the divinity of Christ and the idea that he was fully God and fully man, he writes in “The Humanity of Jesus” ;

“As stated above, the conflict that Christians often have over the question of Jesus divinity is not over the validity of the fact of his divinity, but over the question of how and when he became divine. The more orthodox Christians have seen his divinity as an inherent quality metaphysically bestowed. Jesus, they have told us, is the Pre existent Logos. He is the word made flesh. He is the second person of the trinity. He is very God of very God, of one substance with the Father, who for our salvation came down from Heaven and was incarnate be the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary.

Certainly this view of the divinity of Christ presents many modern minds with insuperable difficulties. Most of us are not willing to see the union of the human and divine in a metaphysical incarnation. Yet amid all of our difficulty with the pre existent idea and the view of supernatural generation, we must come to some view of the divinity of Jesus. In order to remain in the orbid of the Christian religion we must have a Christology. As Dr. Baille has reminded us, we cannot have a good theology without a Christology. Where then can we in the liberal tradition find the divine dimension in Jesus? We may find the divinity of Christ not in his substantial unity with God, but in his filial consciousness and in his unique dependence upon God. It was his felling of absolute dependence on God, as Schleiermaker would say, that made him divine. Yes it was the warmnest of his devotion to God and the intimacy of his trust in God that accounts for his being the supreme revelation of God. All of this reveals to us that one man has at last realized his true divine calling: That of becoming a true son of man by becoming a true son of God. It is the achievement of a man who has, as nearly as we can tell, completely opened his life to the influence of the divine spirit.

The orthodox attempt to explain the divinity of Jesus in terms of an inherent metaphysical substance within him seems to me quite inadequate. To say that the Christ, whose example of living we are bid to follow, is divine in an ontological sense is actually harmful and detrimental. To invest this Christ with such supernatural qualities makes the rejoinder: “Oh, well, he had a better chance for that kind of life than we can possibly have …” So that the orthodox view of the divinity of Christ is in my mind quite readily denied. The significance of the divinity of Christ lies in the fact that his achievement is prophetic and promissory for every other true son of man who is willing to submit his will to the will and spirit of God. Christ was to be only the prototype of one among many brothers. The appearance of such a person, more divine and more human than any other, and in closest unity at once with God and man, is the most significant and hopeful event in human history. This divine quality or this unity with God was not something thrust upon Jesus from above, but it was a definite achievement through the process of moral struggle and self-abnegation.

The appearance of such a person, more divine and more human than any other, andstanding and standing in closest unity at once with God and man, is the most significant and hopeful event in human history. This divine quality or this unity with God was not something thrust upon Jesus from above, but it was a definite achievement through the process of moral struggle and self-abnegation.”

In “What Christians…” concerning the development of the theology of Christ and Sonship of Christ, writes

In this paper we shall discuss the experiences of early Christians which lead to three rather orthodox doctrines–the divine sonship of Jesus, the virgin birth, and the bodily resurrection. Each of these doctrines is enshrined in what is known as “the Apostles’ Creed.” It is this creed that has stood as a “Symbol of Faith” for many Christians over the years. Even to this day it is recited in many churches. But in the minds of many sincere Christians this creed has planted a seed of confusion which has grown to an oak of doubt. They see this creed as incompatible with all scientific knowledge, and so they have proceeded to reject its content.

But if we delve into the deeper meaning of these doctrines, and somehow strip them of their literal interpretation, we will find that they are based on a profound foundation. Although we may be able to argue with all degrees of logic that these doctrines are historically and philolophically untenable, yet we can never undermind the foundation on which they are based. Davis corrected “undermind” to “undermine.” As Dr. Hedley has so cogently stated, “What ultimately the creed signifies is not words, but spirit.”…

The first doctrine of our discussion which deals with the divine sonship of Jesus went through a great process of development. It seems quite evident that the early followers of Jesus in Palestine were well aware of his genuine humanity. Even the synoptic gospels picture Jesus as a victim of human experiences. Such human experiences as growth, learning, prayer, and defeat are not at all uncommon in the life of Jesus. How then did this doctrine of divine sonship come into being?

We may find a partial clue to the actual rise of this doctrine in the spreading of Christianity into the Greco-Roman world. I need not elaborate on the fact that the Greeks were very philosophical minded people. Through philosophical thinking the Greeks came to the point of subordinating, distrusting, and even minimizing anything physical. Anything that possessed flesh was always underminded in Greek thought. And so in order to receive inspiration from Jesus the Greeks had to apotheosize him. We must remember that the Logos concept had its origin in Greek thought. It would {was} only natural that the early Christians, after coming in contact with the Greeks would be influenced by their thought.

In a paper entitled “A View of the Cross Possessing Biblical and Spiritual Justification,” MLK describes the various different views of the meaning of the cross throughout history and then concludes:

“Any doctrine which finds the meaning of atonement in the triumph of Christ over such cosmic powers as sin, death and Satan is inadequate…. If Christ by his life and death paid the full penalty of sin, there is no valid ground for repentance or moral obedience as a condition of forgiveness. The debt is paid; the penalty exacted, and there is, consequently, nothing to forgive.”

I touched on this a bit earlier, but when he traces the development of the virgin birth of Christ, he rejects the idea the the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary. He believed it to be unscientifically untenable, and instead was a doctrine that necessarily developed as a way for the early Church to demonstrate how highly the valued the uniqueness of Christ. Someone had sex with Mary prior to her conception. She was definitely not a virgin. Jesus had a human father.

“A more adequate explanation for the rise of this doctrine is found in the experience which the early Christians had with Jesus. The people saw within Jesus such a uniqueness of quality and spirit that to explain him in terms of ordinary background was to them quite inadequate. For his early followers this spiritual uniqueness could only by accounted for in terms of biological uniqueness. They were not unscientific in their approach because they had no knowledge of the scientific. They could only express themselves in terms of the pre-scientific thought patterns of their day. No laws were broken because they had no knowledge of the existence of law. They only knew that they had been with the Jesus of history and that his spiritual life was so far beyond theirs that to explain his biological origin as identical with theirs was quite inadequate. We of this scientific age will not explain the birth of Jesus in such unscientific terms, but we will have to admit with the early Christians that the spiritual uniqueness of Jesus stands as a mystery to man.”

Perhaps most damning of all however, is that MLK rejected the bodily resurrection of Christ. After all, if Christ was not born of a virgin, and was not divine, how could he rise from the dead?  He writes in the “What Experiences …”

“The last doctrine in our discussion deals with the resurrection story. This doctrine, upon which the Easter Faith rests, symbolizes the ultimate Christian conviction: that Christ conquered death. From a literary, historical, and philosophical point of view this doctrine raises many questions. In fact the external evidence for the authenticity of this doctrine is found wanting. But here again the external evidence is not the most important thing, for it in itself fails to tell us precisely the thing we most want to know: What experiences of early Christians lead to the formulation of the doctrine?

The root of our inquiry is found in the fact that the early Christians had lived with Jesus. They had been captivated by the magnetic power of his personality. This basic experience led to the faith that he could never die. And so in the pre-scientific thought pattern of the first century, this inner faith took outward form. But it must be remembered that before the doctrine was formulated or the event recorded, the early Christians had had a lasting experience with the Christ. They had come to see that the essential note in the Fourth Gospel is the ultimate force in Christianity: The living, deathless person of Christ. They expressed this in terms of the outward, but it was an inner experience that lead to its expression.

In short, for someone who is revered as a great Christian leader, I see him as anything but. He did great and lasting things for civil rights and race relationships in America, and for that I am grateful and applaud him. I would also suggest that his bibley and christianish beliefs played a massive role it in, especially as it pertains to the social gospel. But a legitimate pastor? A legitimate Christian leader? No way. Not only was his theology disjointed and inconsistent, playing the same games that Mormons do when they use the same words as evangelical Christians but load them with completely different meanings, but his personal life was in shambles too. It is well documented by Ralph David Abernathy, who was a leader in the civil rights movement , a minister, and a close friend of  MLK. In his 1989 biography And the walls came tumbling down that MLK was a serial adulterer and had a “weakness for women”, having numerous affairs and having made it a practice to cheat on his wife and break his marriage vows. It was not a one-time thing, but rather a chronic, persistent choice that he made and sustained for years.

Such ongoing behavior should be weighed carefully in light of what the scriptures say, not the least is that he would be disqualified as a pastor and at the most his soul would be in dangers of hellfire for that reason alone.

As it were. the reality is that MLK had numerous opportunities to express his understanding of Jesus, the Bible, and Christianity with his many sermons, books, interviews, and writings. If at any point he changed his views and became an orthodox Christian, he might have at least once claimed that Jesus was his savior, that Jesus was divine, that Jesus was born of a virgin or  that the Bible was the literal word of God. But there are no statements either during his educational career or in his work as a civil rights leader and preacher that would suggest he ever changed his liberal views of the doctrines. He still spoke of God and Christ and used biblical examples in his speeches and sermons, but his view of the Bible enabled him to do that, being ” true” while at the same time not being “True.”

Instead we get a man who believed the doctrine of demons, and for that reason he should not be lauded and exalted as a Christian leader

9 Responses to “The Demonic Beliefs of Martin Luther King Jr.”

  • Christa

    Very Enlightening! Thank you for doing all that research and taking the time to educate us, Dustin. I appreciate it. You’re awesome!

  • Liz

    You need to take into account the climate of the time. This isn’t shocking at all simply because in the fifties and sixties and into the seventies Liberation Theology was rampant in black culture (and to some extent latino culture, though that didn’t explode until a bit later). It’s a result of how they were definitely treated as a different class of people. All they wanted was to be free of that.

    I’m not saying we should accept it, and it’s certainly out of the orthodoxy, but I’m just saying it’s not all that shocking. I would venture to say that most of the black churches in that time believed some form of Liberation Theology.

  • paperthinhymn

    I agree with you Liz, which is why I said that “Orthodoxy in the black church has never struck me as particularly strong,” There were reasons for that including the sad fact many conservative seminaries, to their great shame, would not seek out or in some cases admit potential black preachers. Liberal seminaries, on the other hand, were actively recruited them.

  • mike

    Good job Dustin, great read…..

  • Liz

    That is very true. Liberation Theology is fascinating though. Currently, it’s still hanging on in a lot of Latino cultures. Feminist theology is also interesting, especially because you can see how it’s just another incarnation of liberation theology. A good read about both those is in 20th century theology by Olson and Grenz.

  • Roger Allen Burns (@rogerallenburns)

    Excellent research. Thanks. Duly noted.

  • WoundedEgo

    It is fascinating to me that the one thing Xians find non-negotiable is “The Doctrine of the Blessed Trinity” – which defines Xians and yet is not in the scriptures! He denies that which, in the scriptures, *is* the core of justification, but you say “if only he would have left the Trinity alone, he wouldn’t be damned!”

    What Losers Xians are!!

  • Mark

    One of the problems with blaming King’s beliefs solely on the liberal seminaries is that he admits that he denied the resurrection of Jesus at 13. I believe this would have been prior to his seminary education. Also, this denial shocked his Sunday school class which leads me to believe that his church did not hold to such heresy.

    Some thoughts…

  • Michael Snow

    The dates of the resources give pause: “November 1949 – 15 February 1950.” This may tell us little or nothing of his beliefs almost 20 years later. Maybe he still held the same liberal beliefs; maybe he grew. But that cannot be answered by what he wrote two decades before his death.


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