Monday, August 03, 2020

Luther: Every week I preach justification by faith to my people, because every week they forget it.

Did Luther say, "Every week I preach justification by faith to my people, because every week they forget it"? Sometimes the quote is stated as "we need the gospel every day because we forget the gospel every day."

This is a murky Luther quote that seems like something he would have said, yet finding an exact reference isn't easy. A couple of people have searched for this quote uncovering interesting clues and theories of its origin (see for instance, About That Great Luther Quote and also the discussion here). Piggybacking on their efforts, I have my own theory of how this quote became popular: it's in the form it's in because singer-song writer Derek Webb was quoting Charles Spurgeon quoting Luther... whether he knew it or not!

Derek Webb, The House Show 
It was posited by this blogger that the quote popularly stems from Derek Webb's, The House Show CD. That seems possible. In this 2003 article from the Christian Post,  Webb is quoted as saying, 
Martin Luther was once quoted when a member of his congregation came in and said, "Pastor, why is it week after week you preach to us the Gospel? We've read your books, we know you to be a brilliant man. Why do we never move on? When do we get past this, on to something else?" And he said, "Beloved, because week after week, you forget it. You will never be without your need for the Gospel, so I will never cease to preach it to you."
In another version, Webb states:
There’s a great quote by Martin Luther in the sixteenth century. He had a church that he was the pastor of and some came to him and said, “Pastor, why is it that week after week after week all you ever preach to us is the gospel?” – implying that “we’re ready to move on to something else. Certainly we know this by now.” Luther’s response was, “Well, because week after week you forget it, because week after week you walk in here looking like a people who don’t believe the gospel. And until you walk in looking like people who are truly liberated by the truth of the gospel, I’m going to continue to preach it to you.” And, until his dying day, he did.
The blogger who uncovered Derek Webb's use states, "...what I think has happened is that Derek Webb put a bit of a story to an actual Luther quote...". He's right that the story was "jazzed up a bit," but I don't think Webb was jazzing up Luther directly. One year earlier, this 2002 author states, "A frustrated parishioner once asked Martin Luther why he preached the gospel of grace every Sunday. Luther replied, “Because every week you forget it.” Was this 2002 book on "Devotion for Dating Couples" the source Derek Webb used?  I don't know. I suspect one  (or both) of these people may have been "jazzing up" Luther via Charles Spurgeon.  

Charles Spurgeon
I've been through a few popular Luther quotes that are the result of Charles Spurgeon. This doesn't surprise me. Spurgeon's writings were widely published in English, he's still widely read, and he's extremely quotable! Spurgeon alluded to or quoted Luther from memory, though he typically did not quote Luther verbatim but rather summarized something from Luther in his own words. 

From an 1855 sermon, Spurgeon is recorded as saying, 
...the whole Bible tells us, from beginning to end, that salvation is not by the works of the law, but by the deeds of grace. Martin Luther declared that he constantly preached justification by faith alone, "because," said he, "the people would forget it; so that I was obliged almost to knock my Bible against their heads, to send it into their hearts." So it is true; we constantly forget that salvation is by grace alone.
The question then becomes: what source did Spurgeon use? Spurgeon's primary language was English. During his time period, there was only a limited pool of Luther's writings available in English. During Spurgeon's lifetime, one of the most popular of Luther's writings available in English was his commentary on Galatians. This blogger rightly identifies a comment from Luther's commentary that seems very likely what Spurgeon had in mind. Luther states,   
Bur here will some men say, the law is divine and holy. Let the law have his glory, but yet no law, be it never so divine and holy, ought to teach me that I am justified, and shall live through it. I grant it may teach me that I ought to love God and my neighbour; also to live in chastity, soberness, patience, etc., but it ought not to show me, how I should be delivered from sin, the devil, death, and hell. Here I must take counsel of the gospel. I must hearken to the gospel, which teacheth me, not what I ought to do, (for that is the proper office of the law,) but what Jesus Christ the Son of God hath done for me : to wit, that He suffered and died to deliver me from sin and death. The gospel willeth me to receive this, and to believe it. And this is the truth of the gospel. It is also the principal article of all Christian doctrine, wherein the knowledge of all godliness consisteth. Most necessary it is, therefore, that we should know this article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually. for as it is very tender, so it is soon hurt. This Paul had well tried, and of this have all the godly also good experience. 

The quote in its current popular form does not appear to be an exact quote from Martin Luther, but rather a quote that was originally from his Galatians commentary, used extemporaneously by Spurgeon, and then picked up by a few people in the early 2000's. The only exact way to connect these dots is to specifically ask Derek Webb or the authors of Devotions for Dating Couples about it. Till then, here is Luther from one of his sermons:
The devil is ever on the alert to insinuate all kinds of wickedness into our hearts, and would fain make them as cold as ice. Where God’s Word is not repeatedly proclaimed in sermons, in hymns, in private conversation, so that we may not forget it or become callous towards it, there it is impossible for our hearts, which are burdened with many an earthly pain and sorrow, with wicked purposes and the devil's malicious instigations, not to fail and to fall from Christ. Thus it is an urgent necessity that the preaching of the Gospel continue among us, that we may hear and retain it, otherwise we would soon forget our Lord. 

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Luther: Lord Jesus, You are my righteousness, I am your sin. You took on you what was mine; yet set on me what was yours. You became what you were not, that I might become what I was not

Did Luther say, "Lord Jesus, You are my righteousness, I am your sin. You took on you what was mine; yet set on me what was yours. You became what you were not, that I might become what I was not"?

This quote has a healthy cut-and-paste life throughout cyberspace. Unlike many of the spurious sayings of Luther covered on this blog, this one is genuine! The only minor debate about the quote is whether Luther intended it to be part of prayer or praise. There are a number of websites (and also books) that say it's a prayer written by Luther. We'll see, it was not intended as a prayer, although it certainly would function as a good prayer!

Most often the quote is cited without documentation; fortunately, there are exceptions, making this an easier investigation. There are two frequent references. The first is to Luther's Letters of Spiritual Counsel, a collection put together by Theodore Tappert (Louisville: Westminster Press, 1955), p. 110 (Library of Christian Classics series). The second is to Luther's Works 48:12 (LW). The original English translation was done by Tappert. LW utilized it with "minor changes." Tappert is the one who translated it as a prayer.

The context is a letter from Luther to the Augustinian friar George Spenlein, April 8, 1516. The original Latin text can be found here. The text reads, 

Now I should like to know whether your soul, tired of its own righteousness, is learning to be revived by and to trust in the righteousness of Christ. For in our age the temptation to presumption besets many, especially those who try with all their might to be just and good without knowing the righteousness of God, which is most bountifully and freely given us in Christ. They try to do good of themselves in order that they might stand before God clothed in their own virtues and merits. But this is impossible. While you were here, you were one who held this opinion, or rather, error. So was I, and I am still fighting against the error without having conquered it as yet.
Therefore, my dear Friar, learn Christ and him crucified. Learn to praise him and, despairing of yourself, say, “Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, just as I am your sin. You have taken upon yourself what is mine and have given to me what is yours. You have taken upon yourself what you were not and have given to me what I was not.” Beware of aspiring to such purity that you will not wish to be looked upon as a sinner, or to be one. For Christ dwells only in sinners. On this account he descended from heaven, where he dwelt among the righteous, to dwell among sinners. Meditate on this love of his and you will see his sweet consolation. For why was it necessary for him to die if we can obtain a good conscience by our works and afflictions? Accordingly you will find peace only in him and only when you despair of yourself and your own works. Besides, you will learn from him that just as he has received you, so he has made your sins his own and has made his righteousness yours. (LW 48:12-13)
Tappert's original translation reads slightly different, making the quote a prayer:
Therefore, my dear brother, learn Christ and him crucified. Learn to pray to him and, despairing of yourself, say: "Thou, Lord Jesus, art my righteousness, but I am thy sin. Thou hast taken upon thyself what is mine and hast given to me what is thine. Thou has taken upon thyself what thou wast not and hast given to me what I was not."
Tappert translates, "disce ei cantare et de te ipso desperans dicere ei" as "Learn to pray to him and, despairing of yourself," whereas LW says "Learn to praise him and, despairing of yourself." LW appears to be a more accurate translation.

An interesting aspect of this letter and quote is its date of 1516 (previous to the posting of the Ninety-Five Theses of 1517). Many probably do not realize there's been a long debate as to the exact dating of Luther's evangelical breakthrough and his understanding of Romans 1:17-18. It's not uncommon to find Luther's detractors putting forth the myth of Luther discovering justification by faith alone on the toilet. More meaningful and scholarly debate focuses on the year. There are three main perspectives:

View A: 1514 or earlier
View B: 1515 or 1516
View C: 1518 (after the Ninety-Five Theses).

Some years ago I listened to lectures by Dr. Kolb. He stated that Luther discovered something about the grace of God quite early (perhaps in his early lectures on Peter Lombard's Sentences in 1509). One finds a strong emphasis on the grace of God in these early lectures. Dr. Kolb said that Luther's theology finally came together in 1518 and 1519 with his solidifying his concepts of promise, faith, justification, and the proper distinction of the law. Dr. Kolb said the contemporary debate on this topic originated with Roman Catholic historian Hartmann Grisar, and was furthered by the scholarship of Saarnivaara, Bizer, and Green.
The dating of Luther’s discovery and its meaning for his theology have been the subject of wide discussion and debate. In his Road to Reformation (Philadelphia, 1946, pp. 87–117) Heinrich Boehmer says that Luther’s discovery took place in April or May, 1513. Uuras Saarnivaara argues that the great discovery took place as late as the autumn or winter of 1518–1519. He makes this assertion in his book, Luther Discovers the Gospel (St. Louis, 1951, especially pp. 92–120). In Luther’s Progress to the Diet of Worms (Greenwich, 1951, p. 39) Gordon Rupp says, “It is clear, in all essentials, his [Luther’s] theology was in existence before the opening of the church struggle in 1517.” Robert Herndon Fife, siding with Boehmer’s dating, provides documentation, bibliography, and discussion of Luther’s discovery in The Revolt of Martin Luther (New York, 1957, pp. 197–202). For introductory and interpretive material, cf. WA 54, 176–178, and Ernst Stracke’s Schriften des Vereins für Reformationsgeschichte (Leipzig, 1926), Vol. 44, No. 140: “Luthers groszes Selbstzeugnis 1545 über seine Entwicklung zum Reformator historisch-kritisch untersucht.” (LW 34:326)
Whichever date it may be, the quote in question from the young Martin Luther certainly highlights Luther's grappling with sin and the righteousness of Christ as the possession of a sinner!

Friday, July 24, 2020

Luther: A Christian is never in a state of completion but always in a process of becoming.

Did Martin Luther say "A Christian is never in a state of completion but always in a process of becoming"?  The picture to the left is one of many found on the Internet popularizing its link  to Luther. The attribution to Luther has gone beyond seemingly endless cut-and-pastes of cyberspace and also finds its way into published books. Let's take a look. I don't think he said it.

In my cursory search, of the scores of web-pages using this quote, no documentation exists other than the simple attribution to Luther. The oldest use of it I found was to a Lutheran publication: Kent Gilbert (ed.), Confirmation and Education (Fortress Press, 1969). In a chapter entitled, The Purpose of confirmation Education, Richard Evanson writes on page 48,
Grow in the life of the community and its mission. Christians have always understood that God works with man through other men. Through his experience with the pastoral and educational ministry of the congregation, the confirmand is to gain such learning as:
a. Understanding that the that the church is the people of God and that it has the following God-given functions: worship, witness, education, service, fellowship.
b. Understanding that Christian growth is a lifelong process and that the Christian is never in a state of completion but always in a process of becoming.
c. Understanding that all believers in Christ are members of the Body of Christ and are joined in a fellowship that transcends race, nationality, age, and time.
d. Feeling that he is genuinely a part of the body of Christ and experiencing the fellowship which this implies.
e. Finding those tasks within the church for which he is fitted and accepting responsibility to fulfill them.
It's interesting that almost the exact wording is used (except, "the Christian" vs. "a Christian"). Evanson doesn't document the quote, but presents himself as the author of the words; that Christian growth is to be understood as "a lifelong process and that the Christian is never in a state of completion but always in a process of becoming."  It's within the realm of possibility that Evanson simply arrived at the same formula independently of the current Luther attributed quote, or that someone mis-attributed to Luther what was original to Evanson.  

This is yet another "Martin Luther" quote best classified as apocryphal. No, Luther probably did not coin this phrase in this form.  The sentiment is so popular, that virtually anyone from any religion could have said it. In fact, "We are always in a process of becoming" is popularly attributed to Bruce Lee! Unfortunately, I was not able to determine who first attributed the quote to Luther.

The concepts of "process of becoming" and "state of completion" are not unique to Luther. The sixth century B.C. Greek philosopher Heraclitus saw all of reality in the "process of becoming" while Parmenides delved into examining the state of "being." In more recent times, Process Theology views all of reality, including God, in perpetual process unto a final goal.  

In religious parlance,  the paradigm of becoming and completion are almost thoroughly ingrained into whatever system one looks at.  In Christian theologies specifically,  a Roman Catholic could just as easily say "A Christian is never in a state of completion but always in a process of becoming" as a Protestant, but with different nuances: Roman Catholic theology sees sanctification unto eventual justification, whereas typical Protestant theology sees justification unto eventual complete sanctification. Eastern Orthodoxy has its emphasis on theosis and apotheosis, similarly seeing the Christian life as a process of becoming to eventual arrival.

It wouldn't be at all uncommon to find the notions of becoming and completion in Luther's writings.  On the other hand, what makes Luther unique is the concept of simul justus et peccator, that at the same time, a Christian is seen covered in the righteousness of Christ, but yet still a sinner, in the process of becoming

In commenting on the inherent sin within the church, Luther speaks of judgment day "when we shall then rise pure," then in passing, mentions "the Aristotelians say, we are in process of becoming holy and not in the state of having become holy" (LW 12:243, "Luther’s phrases are in fieri and in facto"). In one of his early responses to the papal bull exsurge domine, he states,
This life, therefore, is not godliness but the process of becoming godly, not health but getting well, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way. The process is not yet finished, but it is actively going on. This is not the goal but it is the right road. At present, everything does not gleam and sparkle, but everything is being cleansed (LW 32:24).
In Luther's Disputation on the Works of the Law and of Grace (1537), Luther says, "Our justification is not yet finished. It is neither something which is actually completed nor is it essentially present. It is still under construction"  (WA 39.1:252 (LW 71); cf, Paul Althaus, 245, fn 96), but is finally completed in the resurrection ("Sed complebitur tandem in resurrectione mortuorum").

Addendum: simul justus et peccator
Sometimes simul justus et peccator is misunderstood as a Christian being 100% sinner and 100% saint at the same time, in which case, a Christian would not be, in essence, in "a process of becoming," but rather simply awaiting to shed off the sinful man at death. Such Christian anthropology can veer towards antinomianism, seeing any doctrine of sanctification abhorrent.  This link presents a fascinating study of Luther's simul justus et peccator.  The author quotes Luther saying, "we die unto sin and live unto righteousness, beginning and growing here on earth and perfecting it beyond" (LW 41:113-114).

Monday, July 20, 2020

Luther: "Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long, does not sin; whoever does not sin, enters Heaven! Thus, let us drink beer!"

Here's a Luther quote pulled from a Lutheran discussion group:
Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long, does not sin; whoever does not sin, enters Heaven! Thus, let us drink beer!
This is another one of those Luther quotes splattered all over the internet.  It appears to be particularly an obvious favorite of beer websites and beer enthusiasts. One site states,  "I not 100% sure that the following quote is truly from Martin Luther; however I’ve seen it attributed to him enough that I willing to do the same." One page considers the quote one of 50 Profound Martin Luther Quotes About Faith.  A basic book search reveals it's gone to print as well. Let's take a closer look. No, it wasn't Luther, but it is surprising to find out that one of Luther's closest associates was using a version of it.

Typically, there is no documentation other than attributing the quote to "Martin Luther." Others have sought to verify this quote. This author claims the quote "seems to have appeared suddenly in 2007 on a blog" but doesn't provide a link to substantiate the claim.  An intriguing clue is found on Wikipedia, dating the phrase in Latin to 1658:

Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long, does not sin; whoever does not sin, enters Heaven! Thus, let us drink beer!
  • Widely attributed to Luther, but actually is an example given in 1658 book Ἑρμηνεια logica of faulty logic. In Latin:
    • Si vero termini in sorite sunt causae subordinatae per accidens, sorites non valet; ut ia hoc, Qui bene bibit, bene dormit; qui bene dormit, non peccat; qui non peccat, est beatus; ergo: qui bene bibit est beatus. Vitium est, quod bene bibere sit causa per accidens somni.
  • Translated via Fauxtations:
    • If, however, the conclusions in the sorite are subordinate by accident, the sorites is not valid; as in this one, He who sleeps well, drinks well; he who sleeps well, does not sin; he who does not sin, is blessed; therefore, he who drinks well is blessed. The problem is that to drink well is a cause of sleep only by accident.

The 1658 book / page cited by Wikipedia can be found here.  Wiki, as admitted, absorbed this information from this source, a blog entitled, Fauxations, because sometimes the Internet is wrong. Kudos to this source for at least determining the quote has an old pedigree that need not necessarily be linked to Martin Luther. Unfortunately, while 1658 may appear at first glance to be the oldest use of the quote found via Google Books, this does not determine if its the actual origin of this quote or if Luther originally said it or not.

An interesting clue that Fauxations points out is the aspect of the "syllogism"... that the quote was not intended to be a cute saying, but rather an example of a logical problem.  This nineteenth-century source refers to it as a "classic canticle" citing it as: Bene vivit. Qui bene vivit Bene dormit. Qui bene dormit Non peccat. Qui non peccat In cælum venit. Ergo qui bene bibet In cælum venit. Another nineteenth-century text refers to it as "the syllogism," another, "the formula."  This text refers to it as "a profane syllogism obtained by Lord John Russell from an old Spanish priest": Qui bene bibet bene dormit, qui bene dormit non peccat, qui non peccat salvatus erirt (the incident appears to be recorded here and here).  This text puts the syllogism in a narrative form. The one thing these texts at least have similarly in is that the syllogism existed as common knowledge.

Philip Melanchthon?
One can go deeper than 1658 and find the syllogism being toyed with by none other than Luther's associate... Philip Melanchthon!  In a Google book from 1529 from Melanchthon one finds

This text reads, Qui bene bibet, bene dormit, Qui bene dormit, non peccat, qui no peccat erit beatus, ergo qui bene bibet erit beatus. There appears to be correlation of this Latin syllogism to the German jingle, Zu nacht wohl essen, macht wohl schlafen, und wohl leben, macht wohl sterben.

I doubt Luther coined the phrase in it's typical logical formula or in the form Melanchthon presented. It is fascinating though that Philip Melanchthon, a close associate, was using it in his logic textbooks and Luther was well aware of his publications.  It is therefore, not out of the possibility that Luther could have repeated it, or a version of it, say in a Table Talk (my cursory search though didn't find anything). It would be interesting to determine if the syllogism existed previous to Melanchthon (I suspect it may have) in a book on logic.

The version that currently circulates the Internet is the obvious work of an editor, perhaps unintentionally or humorously, making the syllogism specific to beer and specific to Luther.   But hey, maybe tacking on "Luther" can actually generate $$$.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Luther on the Papists: "Why do we not rather assault them with arms and wash our hands in their blood?"

In going through the Beggars All archives, I came across a series of old posts examining Martin Luther's call for the deaths of Roman Catholics. Luther is quoted as saying,
It seems to me that if the Romanists are so mad the only remedy remaining is for the emperor, the kings, the princes to gird themselves with force of arms to attack these pests of all the world and fight them, not with words, but with steel. If we punish thieves with the yoke, highwaymen with the sword, and heretics with fire, why do we not rather assault these monsters of perdition, these cardinals, these popes, and the whole swarm of the Roman Sodom, who corrupt youth and the Church of God? Why do we not rather assault them with arms and wash our hands in their blood?- Martin Luther June 25, 1520
Other English versions of this quote, typically shorter, exist as well. It's not uncommon to find snippets of this quote on amateur apologetcs web-pages... but also in many books, some done by respected authors. Realizing that my older entries are a bit top-heavy, let's take a concise and fresh look at this quote. We'll see that Luther went on to explain he was speaking rhetorically, not literally.

Back in 2008 I went through a detailed footnote from a defender of Rome documenting this quote. This time, simply, the quote in the English form above originates from Roland Bainton's Here I Stand.

Bainton cites WA 6:347The quote comes from Epitoma Responsionis ad Marinum Lutherum. It was originally a book published by one of Luther's Roman Catholic opponents, Sylvester Prierias. As a response to it, Luther republished it with his own annotations, introduction and conclusion. The quote in question comes from Luther's conclusion. To my knowledge, no official English translation of the entire work is available.  However, It is scheduled to be released in an upcoming volume of Luther' Works.


Back in 2008 I provided a detailed explanation of this quote. It's enough to simply know that Luther's Roman Catholic opponent, Sylvester Prierias was an advocate of papal absolutism. Prierias was a high official in the Roman Church. He charged Luther with offending the Pope's majesty in questioning indulgence preaching, in essence, questioning the authority of the one who granted indulgence preaching. Against this position of papal absolutism Luther declares:
"If these opinions and this teaching prevail at Rome, with the knowledge of the Pope and the Cardinals, I pronounce that Antichrist sits in the temple of God, and that the Roman Court is the synagogue of Satan. If the Pope and the Cardinals do not demand a retraction of these opinions,I declare that I dissent from the Roman Church, and cast it off as the abomination standing in the holy place."
"When the Romanists see that they cannot prevent a Council, they feign that the Pope is above a Council, is the infallible rule of truth, and the author of all understanding of Scripture. There is no remedy, save that Emperor, Kings, and Princes should attack these pests and settle the matter, not by words but by the sword. If we punish thieves by the gallows, and heretics by fire, why not attack Pope, Cardinals, and the brood of the Roman Sodom with arms, and wash our hands in their blood?" [source]
Not too long afterward, Luther explained exactly what he meant in response to another Roman controversialist, Jerome Emser. Luther explained it was a rhetorical argument: since heretics are burned, then it should be fair as well to physically attack the papists. He goes on to elaborate he didn't approve of burning heretics, so he wasn't advocating killing the papists.  In LW 39: 172-174, Luther states:
Emser’s second lie is that I wanted the hands of the laymen washed in the blood of the priests. His holy priesthood and Christian love seek nothing but fire. If I were dead he could spread such lies as truth, just as happened to Huss. This is the way I have written against Sylvester, “in contrast,” as this noble poet and rhetorician well knows: if heretics are burned, why should we not much rather attack the pope and his sects with the sword and wash our hands in their blood, if he teaches what Sylvester writes, namely, that Holy Scripture has its power from the pope. But since I dislike burning heretics, or killing even a single Christian, and since I know full well it is against the gospel, I merely indicated what they deserve if heretics deserve the fire. Nor is it necessary to attack you with the sword. The nobility and worldly powers, if they just despise your tyrannical shamming and false ban, can certainly advise you womanish and childish people with a single letter and command. They can say to you, “This is the way it must be,” and you have no choice but to obey. The way you react to it, with burning, banning, raging, and raving against the clear truth, it seems you would really like to have a Bohemian example made of yourselves and fulfill the prophecy which says that the priests should be slain. If this should happen to you, you cannot blame me. Just continue as you are, you are on the right track! Where advice is not possible, help is not possible. You will very soon find out if you can end the game in that way, even if it rains and snows nothing but bishops, Emsers, Ecks, and popes. I trust you have foreseen that no one will destroy the pope but you yourselves, his own creatures, as the prophet says.
But tell me, dear Emser, if you may write that it is necessary and right to burn heretics and think you do not thereby soil your hands with Christian blood, why should it not also be right to strangle you, Sylvester, the pope, and all your sects in the most scandalous way? For not only do you write in the manner of a heretic and of the Antichrist, but you also say what all the devils are not allowed to say, namely, that the gospel is confirmed by the pope, its power is dependent on the pope’s power, and the church has done what the pope does? What heretic has ever so completely condemned and destroyed God’s word in one stroke? That is why I still say, “If heretics have deserved the fire, you and the pope should be killed a thousand times.” Still I do not want it to happen. Your judge is not far off. He will find you in good health and nimble. Do not get bored in the meantime. Yet I would prefer you to come before him with remorse and penance. God help you to do this, Amen. Nevertheless, I would like the Roman courtiers to be repelled with force just like other thieves and robbers, if they cannot be stopped in any other way.
So that I may not be ridiculed along with you I shall ignore your babbling that I put the priesthood to shame and your claim that St. Paul was consecrated by the apostles and St. Peter had a tonsure; I shall also ignore all the useless talk you spew forth about consecration and priestly estate and the threefold meaning of “spiritual”-spirituale, ecclesiasticum, religiosum-and that not all Christians are spiritual, spirituales. You probably also would like to say that the laying on of hands on the head meant more than consecration. Who can stop you if you intend to do nothing but lie and preach, as some do, that St. Bartholomew prayed the rosary and the psalter of our dear lady? I do not need any logic here: I call spiritual spirituales, devout Christians ecclesiasticum, and do not know religiosum in this context. I thought that for once the naked sword would strike me with the blade, but neither sheath nor sword nor man is at hand. You also lie that I have made all laymen bishops, priests, and spiritual in such a way that they may exercise the office without a call. But, as godly as you are, you conceal the fact that I added that no one should undertake this office without a call unless it be an extreme emergency. And what shall I say, since there is almost one lie after another in your book? I am afraid you will lie, blaspheme, hate, and rave yourself to death. In previous times it was easy to write against heretics. For even though they erred, as honest people they did not need to lie and stuck to the heart of the matter. My persecutors let the matter drop and, like knaves, rely solely upon lies. But to keep you from being displeased at hearing nothing but your lies, let us deal again with something good-the Spirit and the letter, which is the main theme of your book.
It depends on where  you fall on the "I hate or Love Luther" spectrum as to whether or not one grants his explanation.  Roland Bainton says, "The disavowal was genuine." I suspect for many of Rome's defenders, it isn't.

In the entries of 2008, I highlighted the various ways Rome's defenders use this quote. Since that time, I've come across some of Rome's defenders using it against current ecumenical trends in their own church (see here and here). They are concerned with current Roman authorities having positive interaction with a group whose founder appears to have hated their very existence and called for their deaths.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Luther Didn't Know What an Indulgence Was?

This was posted by one of Rome's defenders via social media:
Luther, in his thesis number (35), referred to indulgences as a way of “buying souls out of Purgatory or to buy confessional licenses.” Years later, Luther admits the fact that he didn’t actually know what an indulgence was. “In two different places in his pamphlet entitled “Hans Worst” written about 1541, when he [Luther] was blinded by rage against the Church, he solemnly declared that,
‘As truly as Our Lord Jesus Christ redeemed me, I did not know what an indulgence was’” (The Facts About Luther pg. 77 – Erlander, 26, 50, 51).
This has been covered previously here at Beggars All. It's still making the rounds.  Leslie Rumble's use of it works as a popular cut and paste source. uses itThis article, claimed to be written by "an expert in Catholic apologetics" (I've never heard of him!) uses it... to name a few. Let's take a fresh look.

Rome's defender cites "The Facts About Luther pg. 77 – Erlander, 26, 50, 51." This reference is to an old hostile Roman Catholic secondary source: Patrick O'Hare, The Facts About Luther (Illinois: Tan Books), 1987 (reprint). Father O'Hare states,
It is interesting to note that later on, in looking back over the days that were gone, Luther had the audacity to state that “he hardly knew what an Indulgence was.” In two different places in his pamphlet entitled Hans Worst, written about 1541when he was blinded by rage against the Church, he solemnly declares that, “As truly as Our Lord Jesus Christ has redeemed me I did not know what an Indulgence was.” (Erlanger, 26, 50, 51.)
We'll return to Father O'Hare in the conclusion below, but for now, let's simply deal with the tidbits offered. First, notice O'Hare cites "Erlanger" not " Erlander" as Rome's defender did. In actuality, it's the Erlangen edition of Luther's writings (though "Erlanger" is acceptable). Sometimes this set is referred to as "Dr. M. Luthers Samtliche Werke" or "E." Here is volume 26, 50-51. The text reads,

O'Hare probably didn't translate this German text himself, he blatantly used secondary sources for the majority of his citations. The English rendering used certainly preceded O'Hare's use (see for example,  J. Verres, 1884).  

This text has been translated into English: Against Hanswurst (LW 41:179-256). The quote is on pages 231-232. This treatise was written towards the end of Luther's life. In the section under scrutiny, Luther reflects back on the beginning of the indulgence controversy.

It happened, in the year 1517, that a preaching monk called John Tetzel, a great ranter, made his appearance. He had previously been rescued in Innsbruck by Duke Frederick from a sack—for Maximilian had condemned him to be drowned in the Inn (presumably on account of his great virtue)—and Duke Frederick reminded him of it when he began to slander us Wittenbergers; he also freely admitted it himself. This same Tetzel now went around with indulgences, selling grace for money as dearly or as cheaply as he could, to the best of his ability. At that time I was a preacher here in the monastery, and a fledgling doctor fervent and enthusiastic for Holy Scripture.
Now when many people from Wittenberg went to Jütterbock and Zerbst for indulgences, and I (as truly as my Lord Christ redeemed me) did not know what the indulgences were, as in fact no one knew, I began to preach very gently that one could probably do something better and more reliable than acquiring indulgences.(86) I had also preached before in the same way against indulgences at the castle and had thus gained the disfavor of Duke Frederick because he was very fond of his religious foundation. Now I—to point out the true cause of the Lutheran rumpus—let everything take its course.
(86) See, for example, a sermon Luther preached on February 24, 1517. LW 51, 26–-31. See also two Lenten sermons he preached in March, 1518. LW 51, 35-–49.
[LW 41:231-232]
Elsewhere in the same document, Luther says something similar:
So my theses against Tetzel’s articles, which you can now see in print, were published. They went throughout the whole of Germany in a fortnight, for the whole world complained about indulgences, and particularly about Tetzel’s articles. And because all the bishops and doctors were silent and no one wanted to bell the cat (for the masters of heresy, the preaching order, had instilled fear into the whole world with the threat of fire, and Tetzel had bullied a number of priests who had grumbled against his impudent preaching), Luther became famous as a doctor, for at last someone had stood up to fight. I did not want the fame, because (as I have said) I did not myself know what the indulgences were, and the song might prove too high for my voice (LW 41:234; WA 51:541; Halle, 52).
LW 41 translates the sentence: "I (as truly as my Lord Christ redeemed me) did not know what the indulgences were..." Luther does not say: I did not know what an indulgence is. A much more practical way to read the sentence from Against Hanswurst  is that Luther was not aware of what the details were of the particular indulgences that were being hawked in Jütterbock and Zerbst. Luther was certainly familiar with indulgences previous to the 1517 controversy. My earlier entry on this goes into the details of Luther's comments on indulgences previous to 1517.

Now back to Father O'Hare: those sources that use this Luther tidbit via O'Hare actually ignore what Father O'Hare goes on to say. O'Hare admits that Luther did know what an indulgence was at the time, but then proceeds to attack him on other grounds:
This statement, notwithstanding the sacred affirmation with which he introduces it, is to say the least, of very doubtful veracity. To express himself in this way is, however, rather a poor compliment for a Professor and Doctor of Theology to pay to himself, nor can it be considered as very prudent, that a man should talk about and inveigh against things of which he confesses his ignorance. Indeed, he could hardly have meant what he said had he recalled at the moment the teachings and sermons of his earlier days, when he held and asserted with absolute conviction the mind of the Church on the doctrine of Indulgences. If Luther, however, was really ignorant of the matter he had plenty of opportunities of learning the unadulterated teaching of the Church. He could have been accommodated within the walls of his own University. The nature of Indulgences was clearly defined in ordinary manuals for the use of the clergy, then in print, such as the “Discipulus de Eruditione Christi Fidelium,” issued at Cologne in 1504, and many other learned theological works. Luther, however, needed no enlightenment on the subject. He knew what an Indulgence was, its nature, its authority, its place in the spiritual order, and was quite familiar with its practice in the Church. He knew that an Indulgence was simply a remission in whole or in part, through the superabundant merits of Jesus Christ and His saints, of the temporal punishment due to God on account of sin after the guilt and eternal punishment have been remitted in the Sacrament of Penance. He knew that it gave no license to commit sin of any kind or in any form. He knew that no abuse could affect an Indulgence in itself, that an Indulgence is legitimate apart from an abuse, and that it would be a sacrilegious crime in any one whomsoever, from the Pope down to the most humble layman, to be concerned in buying or selling Indulgences. He knew that Indulgences were never bartered for money in Germany or elsewhere for sińs yet to be committed. He knew they were not marketable commodities and that ro traffic or sale of Indulgences was ever authorized or countenanced by the authorities of the Church. He knew all this as well as any enlightened member of the Church in his day for he studied the whole ins-and-outs of the matter in his earlier career. His onslaught on Indulgences was not made from any lack of knowledge of their meaning and value.
Father O'Hare was certainly hostile toward Luther, as are typically those who use Father O'Hare's book.  Here we see a clear instance of bias by those who can't even cite their own hostile sources against Luther correctly!

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Martin Luther: History is like a drunk man on a horse. No sooner does he fall off on the left side, does he mount again and fall off on the right.

Here's a colorful saying attributed to Martin Luther:
“History,” Martin Luther said, “is like a drunk man on a horse. No sooner does he fall off on the left side, does he mount again and fall off on the right.” (source)
Most often the quote is not documented. Curiously, an article found on the Christian History Institute website presented an entire article expounding what Luther meant, by taking a "closer look" at "both at Luther’s remarks and Luther himself".... without actually documenting the quote!

I'm not the first to come across this documentation problem. This old discussion post asks for help locating the source, and they actually arrived at the source: Luther's Table Talk.  The Table Talk is a collection of second-hand comments written down by Luther's friends and students, published after his death. Luther didn't write the Table Talk. Since the statements contained therein are purported to have been made by Luther, they should serve more as corroborating second-hand testimony to something Luther is certain to have written.

This particular second-hand comment was recorded by Veit Dietrich in 1533. There is no context surrounding the remark.  The German text can be found at WA Tr 1:298 (631). The text reads:

This text is included in LW 54:111. My electronic copy of LW 54 lists this Table Talk entry as 630.  This is an error: it's actually 631. 

No. 630: The World Is Like a Drunken Peasant
Fall, 1533
“The world is like a drunken peasant. If you lift him into the saddle on one side, he will fall off on the other side. One can’t help him, no matter how one tries. He wants to be the devil’s.” (LW 54:111)

There are various versions of this quote:

1800: Human reason is like a drunken man on horseback; set it up on one side, and it tumbles over on the other.

1952: Luther surely spoke very good sense when he compared humanity to a drunkard who, after falling off his horse on the right, falls off it next time on the left.

1992Human nature is like a drunk peasant. Lift him into the saddle on one side, over he topples on the other side.

1993: Martin Luther said that humanity is like a drunk man on a horse. First he falls off on one side, then he climbs back up and falls off the other side.

2007: Martin Luther - an intemperate and hasty man, but far from a fool- once remarked that humanity is like a drunken peasant trying to ride a horse. We mount, fall off on one side, remount, and fall off on the other.

2014: Martin Luther said history is like a drunk man on a horse going from one ditch to the other, and it seems that is the case with us.

I'm sure many other examples of this quote are available. This is only a brief sampling. In the earliest version, it's "human reason" which is like a drunk person on horseback.  Then, it's humanity or "human nature." Finally, it's "history" which is like a drunk person on a horse.

According to the primary source, it's the "world."

Sunday, June 07, 2020

The Loss of Steve Hays (1959-2020)

I don't completely recall how I first "met" Steve Hays. I think he e-mailed me sometime in the early 2000's in regard to something about John Calvin. What I remember about the e-mail is that the content was well-written and more complex than what I was able at the time to converse on.  That sort of summarizes how I've viewed Steve's writing abilities over the years. It's not that everything he wrote was above my academic level, it's that his writing demonstrated to me over and over that he was a much deeper thinker than I am. Bluntly: he was more intelligent and verbally capable than most of us. When someone, friend or enemy, would lump me in with Steve, I felt embarrassed. It's like putting a toddler next to the starting quarterback on the high school football team.

To his cyber-opponents,  watching them squirm at the end of his verbal sword,...well...  I enjoyed that probably more than I should have! Yes, it was a guilty pleasure. Steve would show up on my blog from time to time. He typically was able to find the exact spot of weakness that a detractor was fixated on and take them apart. I don't ever recall Steve losing his cool, at least it never came across that way.

One thing I've discovered over the years is that the people I become friends with or gravitate towards are those who can make me laugh. Steve had a great sense of humor. His wit, in both his planned out written blog posts and his random comments appears to have flowed naturally.  Easily, he could have made a living as a satirist!

Others have mentioned this already: as much as those of us in cyberspace "knew" Steve, I didn't know him at all. I also thought "Steve Hays" may have not been his real name! I never knew anything about him, how old he was, what his job was, if he had family... this never bothered me. Rather, I greatly appreciated that he wasn't a cyber-narcissist. I never recall him looking for any $$ or promoting himself.  He easily could have used Triablogue to earn a living. What he did though was allow us to benefit from his insight for free. He gave to us freely.

As I grow older, death creeps closer and closer. My parents have died. Some of my brothers have died. Close friends have died. My pets have died. Each loss now, however minor, really hits hard. The older we get, the more the words of Lord's Day 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism grow larger and larger on the page. They pulsate: they hit that certain spot each of us has when we consider our lives and all the gifts of family and friends loaned to us from the Lord. It all slowly gets peeled away, until finally, the only real solid thing you have for your comfort, never leaving you, is the Lord Jesus Christ. I'm not sure many of us would ever learn this truth if it were not for being "peeled."

I find it embarrassing in my own spiritual growth that often it's only by loss, even the loss of a blogger I've never met in-person, that I really take the time to consider the brevity of life and the eternal promises of God fulfilled in the life and death of Jesus Christ. This side of  eternity, I will miss Steve. I'm grateful to God to have given him to us for this brief time.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Luther: The Soul is Not Immortal?

Did Luther deny the immortality of the soul? Here's the "go to" Luther quote proving he did:
"But I permit the Pope to make articles of faith for himself and his faithful, such as [1]The Bread and wine are transubstantiated in the sacrament. [2] The essence of God neither generates, nor is generated. [3] The soul is the substantial form of the human body. [4] The Pope is the emperor of the world, and the king of heaven, and God upon earth. [5] The soul is immortal, with all those monstrous opinions to be found in the Roman dunghill of decretals, that such as his faith is, such may be his gospel, such his disciples, and such his church, that the mouth may have meat suitable for it, and the dish, a cover worthy of it."
This sort of historical polemic is typical of Seventh-Day Adventists (SDA). According to this group, at death, a person enters "soul sleep."  The soul sleeps in a state of hibernation until the resurrection.  When awakened, it is reunited with its body. The soul is either sent off to eternity or permanently annihilated. Therefore, the immortality of the soul is denied. Seventh-Day Adventists apologetics often claim Luther as a representative of this entire eschatological paradigm.

In the quote, Luther says "the Pope" declared it an article of faith that "the soul was immortal."  This article of faith, according to Luther, is found "in the Roman dunghill of decretals." A plain reading of this quote does blatantly appear to prove Luther denied the immortality of the soul.  Contrarily, this entry will argue against this plain reading: Luther did not deny the immortality of the soul. There's an ambiguity in the quote that only make sense in the light of Luther's harsh criticism of the "articles of faith" of Fifth Lateran Council, a council that took place only a short time before he made this statement.

This Luther quote is a popular cut-and-paste.  The form used above includes bracketed numbers, very similar to the version found in the pro-Seventh Day Adventist book The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers Vol. 2 (1955), by Le Roy Edwin Froom.  On Page 73 Froom articulates the typical SDA interpretation of the quote:
The implication is clear: These were distinctive Catholic doctrines, expressing the Roman faith, and consequently consistent with Catholic dogmas. But they were at variance with the Protestant scripturalism proclaimed by Luther, for the Biblical concept of the nature and the destiny of man had been woefully warped by the Papacy.
Froom probably did not sift out this Luther statement himself. A cursory search demonstrates a lengthy history of use of this anglicized quote. The form can be found as far back as 1772. Interestingly, in both Froom and the 1772 text, both authors capitalize Luther saying, "THE SOUL IS IMMORTAL." What are the odds of that? Whoever translated this quote into English from the Latin did so at least over two hundred years ago and it's been cut-and-pasted in roughly this same form ever since, first in books, now in cyber-space.

Froom and many SDA writings correctly say the quote is from Luther's response to the papal bull Exsurge Domine, in particular, Luther's Assertion of All the Articles Wrongly Condemned in the Roman Bull, November 29, 1520. What they often don't tell you is Luther actually penned four responses in rapid fire to Exsurge Domine. The one being cited is the third: Assertio omnium articulorum M. Lutheri per bummam Leonis X.  To my knowledge, no complete English translation exists. The text can be found in WA 7: 131-132.

Probo hunc sic: i. Corint, iii. Fundamentum aliud nemo potest ponere praeter id quod positum est, quod est Iesus Christus”. Hic habes fundamentum ab Apostolis positum. At omnis articulus fidei est pars huius fundamenti, quare poni alius articulus quam positus est nullus potest, Superaedificari autem potest, ut idem dicit. Et ideo Papa debet nobiscum poni et super aedificari, non autem ponere: omnia enim credenda sunt in scripturis exposita plene.
 Permitto tamen, quod Papa condat articulos suae fidei et suis fidelibus, quales sunt, panem et vinum transsubstantiari in sacramento, Essentiam dei nec generare nec generari, Animam esse formam substantialem corporis humani, Se esse Imperatorem mundi et regem coeli et deum terrenum, Animam esse immortalem, Et omnia illa infinita portenta in Romano sterquilinio Decretorum, ut, qualis est eius fides, tale sit Euangelium, tales et fideles, talis et Ecclesia, et habeant similem labra lactucam et dignum patella sit operculum.
Nos vero, qui non Papani sed Christiani sumus, scimus, quod nihil est fidei et bonorum morum, quod non abunde in literis sacris sit expositum, ut neque ius neque locus sit alia statuendi ullis hominibus.
It's obvious how someone would arrive at the conclusion from this text that Luther denied the immortality of the soul. Luther does blatantly say it is found "in the Roman dunghill of decretals." This obvious interpretation though is faulty. The quote has to be understood in light of Luther's criticism of the Fifth Lateran Council, particularly it's decree that the soul is immortal formulated at the eighth session of December 1513 under the jurisdiction of Pope Leo X. 

The Latin text above comes from Luther's third response to Exsurge Domine from late 1520. He went on only a few months later to write a fourth, Grund und Ursach aller Artikel D. Martin Luthers so durch römische Bulle unrechtlich verdammt sind (March, 1521), in English known as Defense and explanation of All the Articles.  According to LW 32, Luther considered the fourth "'smoother and simpler' than the preceding efforts" (LW 32:5; cf. Smith, 442-443). In the fourth version, Luther addresses the issue:
Hence the experts in Rome have recently pronounced a holy decree which establishes that the soul of man is immortal, acting as if we did not all say in our common Creed, “I believe in the life everlasting.” And, with the assistance of the mastermind Aristotle, they decreed further that the soul is “essentially the form of the human body,” and many other splendid articles of a similar nature. These decrees are, indeed, most appropriate to the papal church, for they make it possible for them to hold fast to human dreams and the doctrines of devils while they trample upon and destroy faith and the teaching of Christ (LW 32: 77–78). 
The "experts in Rome" refers to the recent pronouncement by the Fifth Lateran Council.  Luther's Works contains an interesting footnote at this point which states, "Luther objects to the substitution of philosophical ideas concerning the immortality of the soul for the biblical teaching of the resurrection and the life everlasting." According to LW, Luther is condemning philosophical speculation in the guise of infallible church pronouncements. He’s not denying the immortality of the soul. He makes this clear in the use of comparison to the "common creed." and the biblical doctrine of "life everlasting." Lest this interpretation seem post hoc, consider Luther's similar statements on the Fifth Lateran Council and the immortality of the soul found elsewhere in his written corpus:
Whoever has been in Rome knows that conditions are unfortunately worse there than anyone can say or believe. When the last Lateran council was to be concluded in Rome under Pope Leo, among other articles it was decreed that one must believe the soul to be immortal. From this one may gather that they make eternal life an object of sheer mockery and contempt. In this way they confess that it is a common belief among them that there is no eternal life, but that they now wish to proclaim this by means of a bull (LW 47:37-38).
The Roman See should do away with the officia, and cut down the creeping, crawling swarm of vermin at Rome, so that the pope’s household can be supported out of the pope’s own pocket. The pope should not allow his court to surpass the courts of all kings in pomp and extravagance, because this kind of thing not only has never been of any use to the cause of the Christian faith, but has kept the courtesans from study and prayer until they are hardly able to speak about the faith at all. This they proved quite flagrantly at this last Roman council, in which, among many other childish and frivolous things, they decreed that the soul of man is immortal and that every priest must say his prayers once a month unless he wants to lose his benefice. How can the affairs of Christendom and matters of faith be settled by men who are hardened and blinded by gross avarice, wealth, and worldly splendor, and who now for the first time decree that the soul is immortal? It is no small shame to the whole of Christendom that they deal so disgracefully with the faith at Rome. If they had less wealth and pomp, they could pray and study more diligently to be worthy and diligent in dealing with matters of faith, as was the case in ancient times when bishops did not presume to be the kings of kings (LW 44:163).
Notice in the first quote, Luther charges the papists,  "they confess that it is a common belief among them that there is no eternal life," and then in the second, he says, "now for the first time decree that the soul is immortal."  Why would Luther make such statements about the Fifth Lateran Council?  He explains in various places that the papists of his day did not believe in the resurrection:
And the Turks perform the same holy works as some of our monks and hope for everlasting life at the Judgment Day, for, holy people that they are, they believe in the resurrection of the dead, though few of the papists believe in it (LW 46:177).
But so as to not erase everything [decreed in the Fifth Lateran Council], [Pope Leo X] left in that sweetest decree, namely that one must henceforth believe, or at least teach, that the soul is immortal. With this decree it was not their intention to provide for themselves, but for the wretched Church of God. For neither Leo himself nor his Curia believed this; and still today they do not believe it. Rather, they consider those who believe and confess it to be fools (LW 60:306). [footnote #19, "...[I]t has been argued that he rejected the doctrine of the soul's immortality to which he opposed belief in the resurrection of the body. Luther however, did not see the two teachings in opposition, and his argument here suggests that materially he accepts the council's position on this point while being doubtful of the faith of the Roman prelates."]
Just as the Sadducees believed, so do the Papists believe that there is no resurrection of the dead (LW 58:247). [Footnote: Luther argued that the need to dogmatize the doctrine of the immortality of the soul in the bull Apostolici regiminis of the Fifth Lateran Council was an indication that the Roman theologians did not believe in eternal life].
Luther did actually affirm the immortality of the soul in his writings. In "the philosophers, like Socrates and others," Luther says they rightly believed the soul was immortal, even though the proofs they used were done "so coldly that they seem to be setting forth mere fables"  (LW 15:59). Luther maintained attempting to prove its immortality simply by "human reason" was folly because "it is not a thing 'under the sun' to believe that the soul is immortal. In the world it is neither seen nor understood as certain that souls are immortal" (LW 15:59).

In regard to the biblical testimony, Luther says the Genesis account has it in the resting of God on the seventh day: "this also implies the immortality of the human race" (LW 1:80). When commenting on Ecclesiastes 3:19-20 that at death all go back to dust, Luther says,
This passage cannot be twisted to refer to the mortality of the soul, for he is speaking about things under the sun. The world, of course, cannot understand or believe that the soul is immortal. (LW 15:59).
SDA apologists do not deny that some souls go on into eternity. Their contention is that some souls do not, and are annihilated at the final judgment. In fairness to them, Luther does use the phrase "eternal death" liberally and often ambiguously.  For instance, "Those who do not believe, then, who do not receive Him, will be punished with eternal death" (LW 12:57). Does he mean annihilation or eternal conscious punishment? 

A survey of his writings suggests the later. In LW 76:412, Luther said that "the godless goes from life and feels death eternally." In commenting on 1 Thes. 4:13-18, he says that those without hope "must expect that after this life they will receive eternal death and the wrath of God in hell and must fear to go there" (LW 53:325-326). In expounding on the death of Jesus, he had to "taste" eternal death in the place of sinners, "He must suffer everything that a condemned sinner has deserved and must suffer eternally" (LW 12:127). By implication, Luther was not presenting a Christology in which Christ ceases to exist!  One of the most explicit passages from Luther on conscious eternal torment occurs in his treatment of Psalm 21:9 (cf. WA 5:590-591):
Ver. 9. — Thou shalt put them into an oven of fire in the time of thy countenance : the Lord shall swallow them up in his wrath, and the fire shall devour them.
The prophet here beautifully sets the circumstances themselves before our eyes : for this is exactly how it is with the wicked when the hand of God finds them out on a sudden, and visits them: for then they are taken, and find themselves in the midst of their straits, so that they would, if they could, flee from the sight of his wrath, or from this revelation of a just and angry God; but they cannot flee from it; and therefore, they call like them in Hosea x. 8, 'Ye mountains, fall oh us, and ye hills, cover us." But all is in vain; for they are compelled to endure that day and that revelation of eternal wrath; and then there begins fear, trembling, flight, and intolerable horror, which makes them to burn in that unspeakable eternal fire. All external fire is nothing when compared with this eternal fire: and therefore, David very appropriately describes them as being made like unto an oven of fire ; or, as we say in Latin, a fiery oven; which has not only fire all around it, but scorches and burns within. And thus Abraham, Gen. xix. saw Sodom and Gomorrah burning, and the smoke of them going up as from a furnace.
And this mighty and intolerable punishment God brings on men by his "countenance" only: that is, by the revelation of his wrath; as David here says, " Thou shalt make them like unto a fiery oven in the time of thy countenance." And 2 Thess. i. 9, "Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction, from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power." And Psalm xxxiv. 16, " But the face of the Lord is against them that do evil." In a word, this is that punishment which none can understand, nor have any idea of, but the damned who feel it: so that it is even awful to meditate upon the words of this verse, so appropriately and descriptively does David set the whole forth. — This oven is set on fire by the intolerable sight of God only, and is to burn to all eternity. For the day of Judgment will not endure for a moment only, but will remain for ever: it will never set: the wicked will be judged for ever and ever, and will be tormented for ever and ever, and the oven will burn for ever and ever: that is, the wicked will be tormented inwardly with the extreme of all straits and tribulation.
Did Luther deny the immortality of the soul? Not at all. True, Luther did at times advocate "soul sleep." He did so in somewhat undogmatic terms, at times cautioning his readers that we don’t have full understanding of this subject. Some times he advocates it clearly,  other times he says things that contradict it (see my entry here). This is only a cursory glimpse into his writings. Much more could be added, but what is presented is enough to demonstrate that some Seventh-Day Adventist apologetics are not presenting a clear picture of the historical record.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Luther: "Oecolampadius, Calvin . . . and the other heretics have in-deviled, through-deviled, over-deviled, corrupt hearts and lying mouths."

Here's a Martin Luther quote that's made the cyber-rounds for a number of years. For instance, it appears in an eighty-seven page "conversion story" opus entitled, "Why I'm Catholic.":
In response to John Calvin's particular brand of Protestantism, Luther stated: "Calvin ... and the other heretics, they have in-deviled, through-deviled, over-deviled, corrupt hearts and lying mouths." (Werke (Walch), XX, 223, in Cath. En. IX, 456d). 
Another version from "Why I Converted to Catholicism" reads:
"Oecolampadius, Calvin . . . and the other heretics have in-deviled, through-deviled, over-deviled, corrupt hearts and lying mouths." 
While these converts use the quote intentionally to highlight disagreements among the original Reformers, the quote is also unique because Luther directly (and most negatively) singles out John Calvin. I know of no theological writings in which Luther directly wrote harshly against John Calvin. Some years back I looked at the "relationship" of Luther and Calvin, pointing out Calvin is mentioned in second-hand Table Talk statements and in a letter, but other than that, the older Luther doesn't appear all that all that interested in John Calvin. Have Rome's defenders located the key that determines Luther's perception of John  Calvin?

Let's look a little deeper into history and determine if Luther said Calvin was a lying corrupt-hearted heretic, thoroughly "in-deviled, through-deviled, over-deviled." Certainly there were differences and disagreements between Luther and the Reformed, and yes, he consigned them off to eternal judgment on more than one occasion.  With this quote though, we'll see that Luther never made this particular comment in reference to John Calvin.

Sparing the tedious details to prove it,  these two cyber-converts, whether they knew it or not, received this quote from historian Will Durant's volume on The Reformation.  Durant writes, 
Luther took no direct part in the pacific conferences of these his declining years; the princes rather than the theologians were now the Protestant leaders, for the issues concerned property and power far more than dogma and ritual. Luther was not made for negotiation, and he was getting too old to fight with weapons other than the pen. A papal envoy described him in 1535 as still vigorous and heartily humorous (“the first question he asked me was whether I had heard the report, current in Italy, that he was a German sot” 27); but his expanding frame harbored a dozen diseases—indigestion, insomnia, dizziness, colic, stones in the kidneys, abscesses in the ears, ulcers, gout, rheumatism, sciatica, and palpitation of the heart. He used alcoholic drinks to dull his pain and bring him sleep; he sampled the drugs that the doctors prescribed for him; and he tried impatient prayer; the diseases progressed. In 1537 he thought he would die of the stone, and he issued an ultimatum to the Deity: “If this pain lasts longer I shall go mad and fail to recognize Thy goodness.” 28 His deteriorating temper was in part an expression of his suffering. His friends increasingly avoided him, for “hardly one of us,” said a saddened votary, “can escape his anger and his public scourging”; and the patient Melanchthon winced under frequent humiliations by his rough-hewn idol. As for “Oecolampadius, Calvin .... and the other heretics,” said Luther, “they have in-deviled, through-deviled, over-deviled, corrupt hearts and lying mouths.”29
29 Werke (Walch), XX 223, in Cath. En., IX, 456d.
Durant first provides a reference to the Walch edition of Luther writings. His bibliography says he used the St. Louis version of Walch.  Here then is Walch XX 223, (St. Louis edition). There isn't though any mention of Oecolampadius or Calvin on the page. There is mention of "Karlstadtians," Dr. Karlstadt, and Peter Rültz (a fictional character).  That being referenced by Durant is Luther's Against the heavenly Prophets in the Matters of Images and Sacraments (1525). Checking that reference, not only is Oecolampadius not mentioned on page / column 223, he isn't mentioned in this particular writing.  Calvin isn't mentioned either, for an obvious reason: in 1525, Calvin was sixteen years old! The only thing remotely similar on page 223 to what Durant is citing is the line in which Luther says, in reference to the "Karlstadtians," that they exhibit a "lying tongue" (LW 40:166), but this seems more like a coincidence than the actual intended source.

Durant says the "Werke XX 223" reference came from the Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. IX, 456. This source states:
It was this "terrible temper" which brought on the tragedy of alienation, that drove from him his most devoted friends and zealous co-labourers. Every contradiction set him ablaze. "Hardly one of us", in the lament of one of his votaries, "can escape Luther's anger and his public scourging" (Corp. Ref., V, 314). Carlstadt parted with him in 1522, after what threatened to be a personal encounter; Melancthon in plaintive tones speaks of his passionate violence, self-will, and tyranny, and does not mince words in confessing the humiliation of his ignoble servitude; Bucer, prompted by political and diplomatic motives, prudently accepts the inevitable "just as the Lord bestowed him on us"; Zwingli "has become a pagan, Œcolampadius . . . and the other heretics have in-devilled, through-devilled, over-devilled corrupt hearts and lying mouths, and no one should pray for them", all of them "were brought to their death by the fiery darts and spears of the devil" (Walch, op. cit., XX, 223); Calvin and the Reformed are also the possessors of "in-deviled, over-devilled, and through-devilled hearts"; Schurf, the eminent jurist, was changed from an ally to an opponent, with a brutality that defies all explanation or apology; Agricola fell a prey to a repugnance that time did not soften; Schwenkfeld, Armsdorf, Cordatus, all incurred his ill will, forfeited his friendship, and became the butt of his stinging speech.
Durant utilized the Catholic Encyclopedia rather than Walch XX. The Catholic Encyclopedia though isn't helpful with documentation either. In fact, it makes it more confusing! There are a number of quotes being utilized. Some of the quotes are from Luther's Brief Confession Concerning the Holy Sacrament ("nor pray for them," Zwingli has become a "heathen" LW 38:291). One of the quotes is from The Private Mass and the Consecration of Priests ("...fiery darts and spears of the devil" LW 38:156).  In none of these writings is John Calvin mentioned.

The main aspect of the quote, the harsh sentiment about "in-devilled, through-devilled, over-devilled" and"corrupt hearts and lying mouths" is unique in that the Catholic Encyclopedia uses the "devilled" part twice in the same paragraph without actually providing a helpful reference. This comment comes from Luther's Brief Confession Concerning the Holy Sacrament (1544), also in Walch XX (pp.1764-1791), found specifically on page /column 1771, paragraph 17. This writing has been translated into English in LW 38:279-319. The quote can be found at LW 38:296. An older partial English translation can be found here.

Even if the impossible were true, and they were right that mere bread and wine are in the Lord’s Supper, should they for that reason rage and thunder thus against us with such hideous blasphemies, “baked God,” “God of bread,” etc.? Should they not spare the sacred words of Christ (which we have not invented), “This is my body,” by which he clearly calls the bread, that is being offered, his body? Thus they might also blaspheme him as being a God of cloths or made of cloths, or a woven or a sewn-up God because he went about in a robe and garments that were sewn and woven. Likewise they might call him a watery God because he was baptized in the Jordan, a God wrapped in clouds because he ascended into heaven in the clouds.
I, too, would have been able to designate their God in a corresponding way and I could still do it, if I would not want to spare the name of God. I could also give them their true name and say that they are not only devourers of bread and drinkers of wine but devourers of souls and murderers of souls and that they possess a bedeviled, thoroughly bedeviled, hyper-bedeviled heart and lying tongue. Thereby I would have spoken the truth because it cannot be contradicted that they have shamelessly lied by means of such blasphemies of theirs against their own consciences. Yet they are not repentant; in fact, they boast about themselves in their malice.
Therefore, no one among the Christians should and can pray for the fanatics or receive them. They have incurred their penalty and are committing “sin which is mortal” [1 John 5:16], as St. John says. I am talking about the leaders; may the dear Lord Christ deliver the poor people who are among them from such murderers of souls. They have (I say) been admonished sharply and often enough. They do not want to have anything to do with me; therefore, I do not want to have anything to do with them either. They have received nothing from me, they boast, for which I am thankful to God. Likewise, I have received much less from them, for which God be praised. Let that be as it may; the truth will come to light, if it has not already done so with a vengeance. (LW 38:295-296).
When the Catholic Encyclopedia mentions "Calvin and the Reformed," it appears they simply added "Calvin" in. Durant, simply copied from the Catholic Encyclopedia, and did not check Werke XX 223. The reference is not accurate in regard to the quote either. Perhaps the Catholic Encyclopedia's use of "op. cit" gives them a pass, for the bulk of the quote is found much later in Werke XX. Why they used "in-deviled, over-devilled, and through-devilled" twice doesn't make sense. Durant combined both of them together. 

Luther wrote his Brief Confession Concerning the Holy Sacrament in 1544. Luther did not mention John Calvin. Rather, Luther had Caspar Schwenckfeld, Zwingli, and Karlstadt, Oecolampadius,  directly in his line of fire (some of them were dead at the time he wrote it) when he said, "in-deviled, through-deviled, over-deviled, corrupt hearts and lying mouths" (sondern Seelfresser und Seel mörder wären, und sie ein eingeteufelt, durch teufelt, überteufelt, lästerlich Herz und Lugen maul hätten). Maybe one could argue by extension that because Calvin was in the "Reformed" camp, he likewise falls under Luther's condemnation. Some have said at this point Luther was agitated by Melanchthon and Bucer over the same issue, but chose not to include them in this writing, so if we're just speculating, let's throw Calvin in their as well.

I certainly understand how this historical exploration may seem trivial or tedious. Why bother? I do so to point out that Rome's defenders often claim to be deep into history. When it comes to Reformation history, the Internet is riddled with misinformation and mis-citation, often coming from their side of the Tiber.