"I worship and follow the Roman church in all things. I resist only those who in the name of the Roman Church strive to erect a Babylon among us; they desire that whatever they think up, so long as they can move their tongues to pronounce the words "Roman Church," be immediately and unreservedly received as the opinion of the Roman Church, as if Holy Scripture were not supreme" - Martin Luther Acta Augustana (WA 2:22.23-27).
These words were written after Luther's interview with Roman Catholic apologist (and Romanist official) Cardinal Cajetan in 1518. The indulgence controversy was in full swing, but the discussion and argumentation began to heavily shift into the area of authority. At this point, Luther still had a kind of respect for the institution of the papacy, but yet detested the abuses perpetrated by the papacy, and obfusaction perpetuated in the indulgence controversy.
Those Romanists who were responding to Luther eventually sought to use arguments from authority to justify indulgences.
Luther actually at this point argued for a way in which the authority of the papacy could be salvaged from the hands of the Romanists. He wrote a treatise entitled Explanation of His Thirteenth Proposition Concerning the Power of the Pope (WA 2:183-240). The treatise was a response to point 13 made by Eck in his Contra novam doctrinam scheda disputoria.
In this document Luther claims to be concerned with the office of the Pope. He argued there was indeed a way to defend papal primacy.
Argument For the Papacy
1. The belief that God established the papacy must be abandoned.
2. Since all temporal powers are ordained by God, the Roman pontiff could still be the de facto head of the church.
3. The papacy is to be tolerated by God's permissive will (de voluntate Dei). It is improper to establish the papacy by divine law (de iure divino).
Argument Against the Papacy
1. The rock of Matthew 16:18 refers to Peter's confession of faith.
2. The keys to the kingdom were promised to all the disciples, not Peter alone (Matt. 18:18; John 20:23).
3. "Tend my sheep" would have been demanded of all the disciples, not Peter alone. History shows the other disciples likewise shared Peter's ministry.
4. "Tend" suggest Peter's primacy was to be of love and self-sacrifice, not power.
5. The decretals from history establishing the divine right of the papacy were blasphemous, unscriptural, counterfeit, and contradictory.
6. The Greek, Russian, African, and Asian churches have never accepted the superiority or infallibility of Rome.
I think it's safe to say that Luther's arguments against the papacy established by divine right have had a long history of usage.
On the other hand, Luther's argument in favor of the authority for Rome was met quickly with opposition from Romanist apologists. In a future post, I'll be outlining the ways Luther's opponents responded to his arguments. I'll be using David Bagchi's book, Luther's Earliest Opponents, which also served as the basis for this post.