Friday, January 19, 2018

Luther: “The Gospel today finds adherents who are convinced that there is nothing except a doctrine that serves to fill their bellies and give free reign to all their impulses”

Here's a Martin Luther-related excerpt that appeared on the Catholic Answers Forums:

Luther himself recognized the devastating effects of such admittedly insincere preaching: “The Gospel today finds adherents who are convinced that there is nothing except a doctrine that serves to fill their bellies and give free reign to all their impulses” (Werke, 33, p. 2, in ibid., p. 212).

This is one of those quotes that I categorically classify as "Did Luther Regret the Reformation?" They are typically posted by those dedicated to defending the Roman church. Historically, such "shock" quotes served as propaganda used by pre-1930 Roman Catholic controversialists. Those writers put forth the conclusion that the Reformation was a failure: it didn't produce any real fruit, and Luther's own words and the state of Protestantism at the time prove it. The argument goes: Protestantism isn't a movement of the church. It is the result of heresy, and heresy never leads anyone to true holiness. Then statements are typically brought forth from Luther's career, indicting him of regret for starting the Reformation. Most of these pre-1930 books had fallen into obscurity, but with the arrival of the information explosion brought forth by the Internet, these quotes made a comeback. It's not at all uncommon to visit discussion forums like Catholic Answers and find these "regret" quotes taking center-stage. Let's take a look at this quote and see if Luther was really admitting to the "devastating effects" of his "insincere preaching."

Plagiarism
The person who posted the quote provides obscure documentation (Werke, 33, p. 2, in ibid., p. 212). Such obscurity usually indicates that the material was not taken from an actual straight reading of text written by Luther. This person also stated,
I am a convert from Protestantism who used to idolize Luther until I read his writings (eventually). Before, and while undertaking my doctorate (early music history + performance), I had learned to read primary sources, this is what also lead me to the Catholic Church - the Apostolic Fathers + St Augustine + Aquinas. Today many people will watch a movie about Luther and think they are well informed about him.
I do question the validity of this testimony of learning, especially the claim of reading Luther's writings and the ability to read primary sources to form opinions. Of the two posts of Luther material this person presented in this discussion (#1, #2), neither demonstrates a straight reading of Luther. The material was probably taken from a few web-pages, then cut-and pasted over on to the Catholic Answers discussion forum. I suspect this page, this page, and perhaps this page was utilized. Unless the person posting this material on Catholic Answers wrote these links, much of the content presented is blatant plagiarism. For this quote particularly, this web-page appears to be that which was plagiarized.

Even if he (she?) did compose this web page (or one of the others), I still doubt any of the material came from a straight reading (or "studying") of the "primary sources" for Luther. Some of what was posted was directly plagiarized from Father Patrick O'Hare's, The Facts about Luther. This quote appears to have been plagiarized from this webpage that presents an article written by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira entitled, Luther Thought He Was Divine! It appears the article was "originally published in the Folha de S.Paulo, on January 10, 1984," so it's probable that the article was not originally in English. This version  provides information about the author, and we can safely rule out the person at Catholic Answers being Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira: he died in 1992.  The original article presents the quote in the exact form with one exception: the documentation. The Catholic Answers participant provided, "Werke, 33, p. 2, in ibid., p. 212."  Some versions of the article say rather, " Werke, XXXIII, p. 2; Franca, p. 440." I did locate a Portuguese version of the article that uses "Wekw", ed. de Weimar, 33, p. 2 – cfr. po. cit., p. 212." on the Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira website along with an English version using p. 440. Whatever page is meant, the confusion seems to be with whoever originally translated de Oliveira's article.

Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira did attempt to accurately document the quote. For his article, he states: "I will cite excerpts from the work of Fr. Leonel Franca SJ titled The Church, the Reform and Civilization (Rio de Janeiro: Editora Civilizacão Brasileira, 3rd ed., 1934, 558 pages)." Notice that de Oliveira didn't actually reference Luther when the article was composed back in 1984, he borrowed from someone else. Here is page 212 and pages 440 of  the 1958 edition of Franca's book, A igreja, a reforma e a civilização. I suspect the 1934 version was reworked and expanded, because the quote actually appears on page 197 in the 1958 edition:


The sentence in question reads, "Evangelho hoje em dia encontra aderentes que se persuadem não ser ele senão uma doutrina que serve para encher o ventre e dar larga a todos os caprichos." with the documentation, "Weimar, XXXIII, 2." It appears that the English version floating around the Internet was de Oliveira's translation of Franca's Portuguese (and that Portuguese was perhaps a translation of German sources).  I'm not sure if  Franca mined this quote himself, or took it from DenifleDöllinger, or some other earlier source. He cites a number of  pre-1930 Roman Catholic controversialists throughout his book. 

Documentation
All parties typically cite either "Werke, 33, p. 2" or "Weimar, XXXIII, 2." This page can  be found here. The text reads: 


This text is from Luther's sermon / commentary on John 6:26. It has been translated into English. The quote in question can be found in LW 23:5. Luther preached on John 6-8 between November 5, 1530 and March 9, 1532 (LW 23:5).

Context
In this text we hear Jesus tell the Jews why they are following Him, namely, not because of His miracles and His teaching but for the sake of their miserable bellies, which they held so dear. For they reasoned: “He is a proper Teacher for us. He will provide us with a physical freedom in which each will be sated and satisfied and enabled to gratify his every wish.” The Lord wants to indicate what sort of disciples the teaching of the Gospel attracts. Even today the Gospel finds disciples who imagine that its teaching affords nothing but a gratification of the belly, that it brings all manner of earthly delights, and that it serves solely the wants of this temporal life. (LW23:5)

Conclusion
Luther does go on to to further lament that people insincerely hear sermons: "Among princes, counts, noblemen and magistrates, town people and country folk, it is quite common to regard the Gospel as a belly sermon." He says this tendency is across the board, from noblemen to country folk, and that it also includes "Our adversaries, too, are proficient in this skill. They can grab for ecclesiastical property, for cloisters and bishoprics (LW 23:6). Luther says to this situation:
Since our Head, Christ the Lord, experienced this, why should we complain if we have disciples who allege that Christ came into the world solely for the sake of our physical well-being? The day will come when Christ will punish such disciples, saying: “This is not what is meant. I preach about a spiritual eating, about spiritual food; I seek the glory of God.” Since He does not confirm them in their idolatrous devotion but upholds the honor of God, His preaching falls on deaf ears. And we fare the same way today (LW 23:7).
Luther also goes on to point out that within a congregation, there would be people in attendance for the wrong reasons:
Well, a preacher must derive what comfort he can from the fact that sows and dogs will be among the hearers wherever the Gospel is preached; it will not be otherwise. These seek nothing else in the Gospel than their own gratification. And if you have this experience, why do you grieve over it so? You are no better than the Lord Christ. If this is the way He fared, you cannot expect to fare differently. There will come a day of reckoning (LW 23:8).
There is nothing in the context of this sermon in which "Luther himself recognized the devastating effects of such admittedly insincere preaching." The context demonstrates rather that Luther was well aware that just as people followed Christ for the wrong reasons in the first century, so also in the sixteenth century. I highly doubt that Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira,  Fr. Leonel Franca, and even the person over on the Catholic Answers discussion forum would be willing to follow their argument to its logical conclusion:  If Luther's preaching was "insincere" because some people took the Gospel message to "fill their bellies and give free reign to all their impulses," so also did the ministry of Jesus attract some of the same kind of people.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Luther: As for his evangelical followers, Luther added that “they are seven times worse than they were before."

Here's a Martin Luther-related excerpt that appeared on the Catholic Answers Forums:

As for his evangelical followers, Luther added that “they are seven times worse than they were before. After preaching our doctrine, men have given themselves over to stealing, lying, trickery, debauchery, drunkenness, and every kind of vice. We have expelled one devil (the papacy) and seven worse have entered.” (Werke, 28, p. 763, in ibid., p. 440).

This is one of those quotes that I categorically classify as "Did Luther Regret the Reformation?" They are typically posted by those dedicated to defending the Roman church. Historically, such "shock" quotes served as propaganda used by pre-1930 Roman Catholic controversialists. Those writers put forth the conclusion that the Reformation was a failure: it didn't produce any real fruit, and Luther's own words and the state of Protestantism at the time prove it. The argument goes: Protestantism isn't a movement of the church. It is the result of heresy, and heresy never leads anyone to true holiness. Then statements are typically brought forth from Luther's career, indicting him of regret for starting the Reformation. Most of these pre-1930 books had fallen into obscurity, but with the arrival of the information explosion brought forth by the Internet, these quotes made a comeback. It's not at all uncommon to visit discussion forums like Catholic Answers and find these "regret" quotes taking center-stage. Let's take a look at this quote and see if Luther was really admitting all of his followers
became severely morally bankrupt ("seven times worse") due to his influence.

Plagiarism
The person who posted the quote provides obscure documentation ("Werke, 28, p. 763, in ibid., p. 440"). Such obscurity often indicates that the material was not taken from an actual straight reading of text written by Luther. This person also stated,
I am a convert from Protestantism who used to idolize Luther until I read his writings (eventually). Before, and while undertaking my doctorate (early music history + performance), I had learned to read primary sources, this is what also lead me to the Catholic Church - the Apostolic Fathers + St Augustine + Aquinas. Today many people will watch a movie about Luther and think they are well informed about him.
I do question the validity of this testimony of learning, especially the claim of reading Luther's writings and the ability to read primary sources to form opinions. Of the two posts of Luther material this person presented in this discussion (#1#2), neither demonstrates a straight reading of Luther. The material was probably taken from a few web-pages, then cut-and pasted over on to the Catholic Answers discussion forum. I suspect this pagethis page, and perhaps this page was utilized. Unless the person posting this material on Catholic Answers wrote these links, much of the content presented is blatant plagiarism. For this quote particularly, this web-page appears to be that which was directly plagiarized.

Even if he (she?) did compose this web page (or one of the others), I still doubt any of the material came from a straight reading (or "studying") of the "primary sources" for Luther. Some of what was posted was directly plagiarized from Father Patrick O'Hare's, The Facts about Luther. This quote appears to have been plagiarized from this webpage that presents an article written by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira entitled, Luther Thought He Was Divine! It appears this article was "originally published in the Folha de S.Paulo, on January 10, 1984," so it's probable that the article was not originally in English. This version  provides information about the author, and we can safely rule out the person at Catholic Answers being Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira: he died in 1992.  This version of the article presents the quote in a very similar form with a few exceptions:
And Luther added, regarding his evangelical henchmen, that “they are seven times worse than they were before. After the preaching of our doctrine men have given themselves up to robbery, lying, imposture, debauchery, drunkenness, and every kind of vice. We have expelled one devil (the papacy), and seven worse ones have come in” (Werke, XXVIII, p. 763; Franca, p. 441).
Notice the opening begins with the inflammatory, "And Luther added, regarding his evangelical henchmen.." rather than "As for his evangelical followers.." There are some other minor word variances as well ( "robbery" "imposture").  There's also some confusion in the documentation. Some of the versions say  "in ibid., p. 440" others say "Franca, p. 441." I did locate a Portuguese version of the article that uses p. 440 (on the Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira website) along with an English version using p. 440.


Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira did attempt to accurately document his source for his article. He states: "I will cite excerpts from the work of Fr. Leonel Franca SJ titled The Church, the Reform and Civilization (Rio de Janeiro: Editora Civilizacão Brasileira, 3rd ed., 1934, 558 pages)." Notice that de Oliveira didn't actually reference Luther's writings when the article was composed back in 1984, he borrowed from someone else. Here is page 440  and 441 of  the 1958 edition of Franca's book, A igreja, a reforma e a civilização. I suspect the 1934 version was reworked and expanded, because the quote actually appears on page 390 in the 1958 edition (and the 1948 edition):




Documentation
The secondary reference, "in ibid., p. 440" refers to Fr. Leonel Franca,  A igreja, a reforma e a civilização, 1934 edition, page 440 (see above). The primary reference being used is "Werke, 28, p. 763." This refers to volume 28 of the Weimar edition of Luther's works. Here is WA 28:763. The text reads,


The text being cited is from Luther's comments on Deuteronomy 9:25 from a 1529 sermon. It can also be found in Walch III, 2727.To my knowledge, the complete context this paragraph comes from has yet to be translated into an official English version of Luther's Works. 

Context
Some years back I came across an English translation of paragraph 49 from Walch III, 2727.
Moses is thus a fine teacher; he has well expounded the first commandment, and led the people to a knowledge of themselves, and humbled the proud and arrogant spirits, besides which he upbraided them with all kinds of vices, so that they had merited anything but the promised land. If we do not abide by our beloved Gospel, we deserve to see those who profess it, our Gospellers, become seven times worse than they were before. For, after having become acquainted with the Gospel, we steal, lie, cheat, we eat, drink, and are drunken, and practise all sorts of iniquity. As one devil has been driven out of us, seven others, more wicked, have entered in; as may be seen at the present time with princes, noblemen, lords, citizens, and peasants, how they act, without shame and in spite of God and His threatenings.
Conclusion
The above translation of this obscure quote is from an old book, Luther Vindicated by Charles Hastings Collette. Collette's book is fascinating. He similarly examines obscure out-of-context Luther quotes and offers corrections and contexts. It wasn't Roman Catholics he defended Luther against, rather, the culprit was the Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould, who, according to Collette was "a professed Minister of the (Reformed) Established Church of England." Interestingly, Baring-Gould appears to have gathered some of his Luther material from Roman Catholic sources, and was part of a group sympathetic to Rome. Of this group, Collette states, "These gentlemen sigh for pre-Reformation days when the priest ruled and the sacramental system flourished, to the glorification of the priest, and ignorance, superstition, thraldom, and degradation of the people" (p.6). If this link is about the Sabine Baring-Gould in question (which I think it is), he's the writer of the famous hymn "Onward Christian Soldiers." Of this quote in question, Collette quotes Baring-Gould stating:
"...let us take Luther's own account of the results of his doctrine :—' There is not,' says he,—' one of our Evangelicals who is not seven times worse than he was before he belonged, to us,—stealing, lying, deceiving, eating, and getting drunk, and giving himself up to all kinds of vices. If we have driven out one devil, seven others worse than the first have come in his place."
Collette begins analyzing the quote stating,
"The reference is 'Ed. Walch, iii. 2727.' Here it is self-evident that the rev. gentleman, by 'our Evangelicals,' intends to point to the new converts to Luther's teaching."
"By the reference we are guided to Luther's Commentaries on the 'fifth Book of Moses, ix. 25.' On turning to the column indicated, we find the passage purported to be quoted, but in it there is not the most distant intimation that Luther was pointing to his own people, or to the new converts; but to the state of utter depravity to which priests and people, nobles and commoners,—nominal Christians of all ranks,—had fallen."
After documenting this moral climate, Collette states,
But what I have to expose is the barefaced mistranslation put before us in the above extract by the Rev. S. Baring-Gould, thereby making Luther allude to "our Evangelicals" as "belonging to Luther's disciples," who had become seven times worse by the change from Popery. I will let the reader judge for himself by placing before him a literal translation of the original; the text I add as a footnote :—
Collette then cites the context of Luther's statements:
"Moses is thus a fine teacher; he has well expounded the first commandment, and led the people to a knowledge of themselves, and humbled the proud and arrogant spirits, besides which he upbraided them with all kinds of vices, so that they had merited anything but the promised land. If we do not abide by our beloved Gospel, we deserve to see those who profess it, our Gospellers, become seven times worse than they were before. For, after having become acquainted with the Gospel, we steal, lie, cheat, we eat, drink, and are drunken, and practise all sorts of iniquity. As one devil has been driven out of us, seven others, more wicked, have entered in; as may be seen at the present time with princes, noblemen, lords, citizens, and peasants, how they act, without shame and in spite of God and His threatenings."
The key to the quote is the phrase, "Our Gospellers." Collette explains,
" 'Our Gospellers' I have thus translated 'unsereEvangelischen.' Luther did not mean the true believers in and followers of the Evangelists, which some readers might suppose to be a name applicable to all members of the Reformed Churches, from their known attachment to the Gospel, but he applied the expression to outward professors of the Gospel.

Addendum
This is an oft-used obscure Luther quote. I've gone over it a number of times. Rome's defenders seem to think that Luther was so deluded that he continued to preach the gospel for decades, without any positive results. In their minds, this must be a telling sign that Luther proclaimed a false gospel. In actuality, Luther consistently held that the gospel would find great opposition, and would be attacked from all sides, including within. The gospel would be used by the world as a licence to sin and all sorts of evil because of Satan. The gospel would indeed make those of the world worse. There would also be false converts and people that followed the gospel for the wrong reasons. Luther was well aware that just as people followed Christ for the wrong reasons in the first century, so to in the sixteenth century.

Luther wasn't postmillennial. While he was discouraged that the world seemed to be getting worse, his eschatological expectation can be traced back even to the early days of his Reformation work. For Luther, it was the end of the world. Things were indeed going to get worse. The Gospel was going to be fought against by the Devil with all his might. The true church was a tiny flock in a battle against the world, the flesh, and the Devil. He hoped the people would improve with the preaching of the Gospel, he often admitted he knew things were going to get worse because of the Gospel. It's one thing to argue Luther suffered from depression or had a despondency over the state of things, it's quite another to use his words to prove he had a sense of "failure and guilt" over the preaching of the Gospel, or that he was in agony over the Gospel going forth into the world and the trouble he admitted and expected it would cause.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Luther: “Reason is the devil’s whore. Throw dung at her and make her ugly”

Here's one from the Catholic Answers forums:
There are plenty of Luther’s works which demonstrate vile language and an unbalanced mind.
Example - “Reason is the devil’s whore. Throw dung at her and make her ugly.”
This unflattering description of Luther and subsequent quote were not directed to "anti-Catholic" Protestants, but rather to a retired ecumenically-minded Roman Catholic priest participating on the Catholic Answers Forums. This ecumenist had previously described those who vilify Luther as "Catholics of a certain sort who cling to lore that has been rejected and discarded in the modern era." Such interactions are a revealing display of the disunity existing within Roman Catholicism in regard to Luther, the Reformation, and Protestants in general. This retired priest is in the minority on the Catholic Answers forums, for anti-Luther sentiment runs high. It's no wonder that Catholic Answer recently added the following: "DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers."

While I've addressed Luther's quotes about "reason" previously, let's take a fresh look at the quote presented by one of Rome's defenders. Do Luther's comments about reason "demonstrate vile language and an unbalanced mind"? We'll see that in context, they absolutely do not. They demonstrate that in Luther's theology, reason was not rejected outright, it was to be subject to and ruled by faith.

Documentation

No documentation was provided. The quote itself is splattered all over the Internet, often undocumented and often accompanied by other similar statements. I suspect one of the main  sources that popularized this particular version of the quote was Peter F. Wiener's Martin Luther: Hitler's Spiritual Ancestor:
This mythical, mentally unbalanced, diseased character was the hero of the Reformation. His intemperance, his persecution mania, his varying moods, were the origin of his permanent contradictions. There was nothing reasonable in him. Indeed, he admitted himself that he hated reason, and that he was guided merely by his passions, by his violent temper. More than once he condemned in his violent language, reason and a reasonable approach to matters. “Reason is the Devil's greatest whore; by nature and an manner of being she is a noxious whore; she is a prostitute, the Devil's appointed whore; whore eaten by scab and leprosy who ought to be trodden under foot and destroyed, she and her wisdom. . . . Throw dung in her face to make her ugly. She is and she ought to be drowned in baptism. . . . She would deserve, the wretch, to be banished to the filthiest place in the house, to the closets” (E16, 142-148). There are many more sayings in the same sense, though not always so dirtily phrased. “Usury, drunkenness, adultery—these crimes are self-evident and the world knows that they are sinful; but that bride of the Devil, `Reason', stalks abroad, the fair courtesan, and wishes to be considered wise, and thinks that whatever she says comes from the Holy Ghost. She is the most dangerous harlot the Devil has.” “Reason is contrary to faith”, he writes elsewhere. “Reason is the whore of the Devil. It can only blaspheme and dishonour everything God has said or done” (E29, 241) So it goes on and on (Wiener, p. 26).
It does not necessarily follow that simply because Wiener provides a few references, he actually read Luther and mined these quotes out from E16 and E29. Wiener notoriously used hostile secondary sources. Wiener's documentation is highly dubious (He says the reason for his sloppy documentation was the rush job demanded by his publisher). Notice that even for the first quote, it is purported to span 6 pages (142-148). That's a good indication that it's a cobbled together quote from different pages or even different sources. In other words, if you were to search out "E16" you would not find this quote verbatim. You'd have to search for each line by starting on page 142 and work through the text with a highlighter.

Here is E 16, 142 cited by Wiener as the beginning page for the quote in question. The first part of the quote ("Reason is the devil’s whore") can indeed be found on page 142, ("aber des Teufels Braut, ratio, die schöne Metze, fähret herein"):


The second part of the quote, ("Throw dung at her and make her ugly") can be found on page 145 ("wirf ihr ein Dreck ins Angesicht, auf daß sie häßlich werde"). So there's a fair amount of text between these two sentences (approximately five paragraphs!).


These pages are excerpts from the Last Sermon in Wittenberg Luther preached, January 17, 1546.  The sermon can be found in WA 51:123-134 and CL 7:411-417. WA includes the German as well as the German / Latin mix. This sermon has been translated into English: LW 51:371-380. The sermon is based on Romans 12:3, "For by the grace given to me I bid every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith which God has assigned him." One of Luther's main thrusts is to exhort his hearers to live by the pure Word of God, letting it say what it says without trying to use "reason" to make it palatable.

Context
But since we are still confined to this miserable carcass—which in time the worms will devour, though it deserves something worse, to burn in hell eternally—it is necessary constantly to resist and put off the old man and his works and put on the new man, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him [cf. Col. 3:10]. Usury, gluttony, adultery, manslaughter, murder, etc., these can be seen and the world understands that these are sins. But the devil’s bride, reason, the lovely whore comes in and wants to be wise, and what she says, she thinks, is the Holy Spirit. Who can be of any help then? Neither jurist, physician, nor king, nor emperor; for she is the foremost whore the devil has. The other gross sins can be seen, but nobody can control reason. It walks about, cooks up fanaticism [Schwärmerei] with baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and claims that everything that pops into its head and the devil puts into its heart is the Holy Spirit. Therefore Paul says: As I am an apostle and God has given me the Spirit, so I appeal to you [of. Rom. 12:1; 1 Cor. 4:16] (LW 51: 373-374).
Therefore I should stick to the catechism; then I can defend myself against reason when the Anabaptists say, “Baptism is water; how can water do such great things? Pigs and cows drink it. The Spirit must do it.” Don’t you hear, you mangy, leprous whore, you holy reason, what the Scripture says, “Listen to him,” who says, “Go and baptize all nations” [Matt. 28:19], and “He who believes and is baptized [will be saved”]? [Mark 16:16]. It is not merely water, but baptism given in the name of the holy Trinity.
Therefore, see to it that you hold reason in check and do not follow her beautiful cogitations. Throw dirt in her face and make her ugly. Don’t you remember the mystery of the holy Trinity and the blood of Jesus Christ with which you have been washed of your sins? Again, concerning the sacrament, the fanatical antisacramentalists say, “What’s the use of bread and wine? How can God the Almighty give his body in bread?” I wish they had to eat their own dirt. They are so smart that nobody can fool them. If you had one in a mortar and crushed him with seven pestles his foolishness still would not depart from him. Reason is and should be drowned in baptism, and this foolish wisdom will not harm you, if you hear the beloved Son of God saying, “Take, eat; this is my body, which is given for you; this bread which is administered to you, I say, is my body.” If I hear and accept this, then I trample reason and its wisdom under foot and say, “You cursed whore, shut up! Are you trying to seduce me into committing fornication with the devil?” That’s the way reason is purged and made free through the Word of the Son of God (LW 51:376-377)
Conclusion
 Luther didn't reject reason. Rather, it was to be subject to and ruled by faith. For instance, this sentiment is usually left out when the quote in question is cut-and pasted: "Everything should be subject to faith, or rather, the fine gift of conceit should not be wiser than faith. See to it that it is in accord with it" [LW 51:379], "Reason must be subject and obedient to this faith"[LW 51:379]. 

Above I chose only to provide a few of the relevant paragraphs from the sermon. The entire context is worth reading to grasp fully what Luther preached. For the first line of the quote, "the devil’s bride, reason, the lovely whore," reason is that which informs a man that particular theological interpretations are not sin. Luther had in mind the fanatics and their interpretation of the Lord's Supper and baptism. This same thought applies to "Throw dirt in her face and make her ugly." Luther is preaching against the views of the sacramentarians in regard to their "reasonable" interpretations of the Lord's Supper and baptism. LW translates the word "dreck" as "dirt," Wiener (or whomever he took the quote from) translated it as "dung." Both uses are feasible. Luther's intent was probably the later. Luther goes on to say, "I wish they had to eat their own dirt." It appears LW cleaned up the translation!

Because many of Rome's defenders don't bother looking stuff up before they post it, they end up missing the fact that Luther was actually arguing for the literal body and blood of Christ in the Lord's Supper, and arguing against those who rejected this. But then again, Luther says in the same sermon that "reason" left unchecked thinks that Mary, "the holy mother of Christ" should be honored and is also an intercessor, "That’s the kind of thing this comely bride, the wisdom of reason cooks up: Mary is the mother of Christ, surely Christ will listen to her" (LW 51:375).

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Interfaith Mary: "Mother Mary And Martin Luther," Reviewed

The web-page, Mother Mary And Martin Luther was put together by a Roman Catholic convert  ("an interfaith, bridge building kind of woman"). The author demonstrates the odd diversity among those claiming to be within the confines of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic church. This convert hosts the "Interfaith Mary" site. According to the bio page, the author hopes for "the ordination of Catholic women priests soon," and claims to "attend mass almost every day, spend 2-3 hours daily in some kind of spiritual practice, and fast twice a week. All this is in response to the call of Mother Mary in her apparitions in Medjugorje." This person embraces Marian devotion with an interesting twist: she disagrees with Mary (or rather, the apparitions of Mary) on some issues, like reincarnation, divorce and celibacy. The author also appears to embrace some form of universalism (as demonstrated in the picture on the left).

Let's take a closer look at the interpretation of Martin Luther's Mariology put forth by the Interfaith Mary website. We'll see a number of flaws, including poor documentation, unsubstantiated assertions, out-of-context quotes, untenable historical conclusions, and in some instances, a rewording and plagiarism of someone else's article about Luther's Mariology. Overall, we'll see that the "interfaith" Luther being presented was not the Luther of history.
Martin Luther (like most theologians) condemned any Christian who regards Mary as equal to Jesus or who implies that Jesus alone is somehow incomplete without a feminine expression of God by his side. This is what patriarchal training taught his mind to think. His heart on the other hand, seems to have known that it did indeed need a heavenly mother along with its heavenly father. And so he confessed: "The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart." (Sermon, Sept. 1st 1522)
The opening sentences expresses the author's leanings towards some sort of undefined feminist theology. The implication appears to be that Martin Luther and "most theologians" (males?) hold an imbalanced understanding of the attributes and/or relationship of Jesus Christ and Mary, and that error stems from "patriarchal training." The author also appears to be saying that cerebral facts about theology are trumped by internal feelings because the evidence shows that despite the patriarchal theological system he was reared in, Martin Luther's "heart" needed a "heavenly mother." This is the typical heart vs. head dichotomy,  a logically inconsistent paradigm that ignores the obvious: it's the head that says heart reasoning has a superior knowledge. Perhaps there's a bit of truth with the heart / head reasoning model in that, people do reason according to what their "heart" (emotions, passions, feelings, etc,) are committed to, including feminism, universalism, reincarnation, etc.

For proof of this paradigm, Luther "confessed" on Sept 1, 1522 that "The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart." The date for this quote is wrong, it actually comes from a sermon dated September 8. The dating error popularly exists in cyberspace because whoever originally cut-and-pasted this quote never checked it for accuracy. Luther isn't saying what this Mariologist thinks he is saying, that Luther's "heart" needed a "heavenly mother." In context, Luther's point is that whatever respect Mary was due to her, the church of his day had collectively gone far beyond it. "The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart" is not a positive statement, but a negative statement. This sentence placed back in its context is in regard to excessive Marian devotion, a devotion so rooted in the human heart that "no one wants to hear any opposition to this celebration" of the feast of Mary's birth. Luther goes on to wish this festival day in regard to Mary should be forgotten,  "For there is nothing in the Scriptures about it [Mary's birth]."  Rome distinguishes between kinds of worship. Mary can receive the highest form of worship/veneration, hyper-dulia, short of the worship of God. This type of worship is expressed in prayers, songs, ceremonies and pilgrimages. Luther abandoned the  latria / dulia distinction because biblically, it refers to the same thing. If you search out the times Luther used the word “veneration,” you will find most often an entirely negative meaning applied to the term. The question that needs to be asked to the Interfaith Mary author is what exactly is Marian devotion and veneration? What does it mean for her particular brand of Roman Catholicism to be devoted to or venerate Mary, and what does it mean for Luther to be devoted to or venerate Mary? They are not the same thing.
If one believed Rev. Peter Stravinskas, then this inscription on his heart would be reflected in the inscription on his tomb. Stravinskas published a generally good article on "The Place of Mary in Classical Fundamentalism", but I'm afraid his source made one pious mistake: It maintains that the relief of the Coronation of the Virgin and inscription by Peter Vischer the Younger which is to be found in the Wittenberger Schlosskirche, where Luther is buried, goes with Luther's tomb. I wish it were so, but actually it is the memorial plaque for Henning Göde, the last Catholic Prior of the church, who died in 1521, right during the most turbulent time of Luther’s Reformation.One might credit all the generations of Protestants who took no offense with this very Catholic plaque right next to Luther’s and left it there.
Kudos to the Interfaith Mary website for debunking this false fact. Unfortunately, the Luther's-burial-vault-Mary's-inscription myth still pops up from time to time. Even earlier versions of this Interfaith Mary web-page perpetuated it, see particularly the 2004 version and the 2005 version. In these earlier versions "This inscription on his heart is reflected in the inscription on his tomb" was not negated, but rather served as support for the previous Luther "veneration" quote. The major culprit for the Luther-tomb-myth has been Rome's defender, Peter Stravinskas. His source that "made one pious mistake" was the 1970 Marian Studies article by William Cole: Was Luther a Devotee of Mary? (pages 193-194). Cole states, "... yet is beyond dispute that the sepulcher of Luther has a Marian sculpture." Cole gives off the impression that it was Luther's tomb. He ambiguously says, "Luther was buried by the tomb of Henningus Goden. The sculptural chamber had been adorned by Peter Vischer in 1521 with a sculptural representation of the coronation of Mary..." Perhaps this was simply poorly worded by Cole, yet the information was deliberately worded to prove Cole's earlier assertion that "Luther himself wished to retain images of Mary in homes as well as in Churches." This is the only shred of evidence Cole provides in this section to prove Luther wish to retain Mary images in churches. Cole does not provide any information as to why the sculpture was placed in the tomb, he simply declares it to be Luther's doing.
Generally Luther was against any invocations of saints and against asking for their intercession. But Mother Mary, whom he was happy to call the Mother of God, was a case apart, unlike any other saint. This is probably because he recognized the Biblical precedent for Mary’s intercession. After all, at the wedding in Cana, she obtained help from Jesus for the party even though her son tried to resist her nudging. (John 2 :1-11) So, no wonder that Catholics say, Jesus can’t refuse the requests of his mother.
"Generally" is only a correct way to describe Luther's rejection of the use of the saints if one considers that earlier in his Reformation career, he did allow for the intercession of the saints and Mary. However, for the bulk of his Reformation career, he denied it, including asking for Mary's intercession (she was not an exception or a "case apart"). This denial was not simply a passionless admittance from time to time. Saint worship was equivalent to heathenism, idolatry, and a rejection of Christ (for example, see LW 41:204). Mary was "made a common idol with countless services, celebrations, fasts, hymns, and antiphons" (LW 34:54). The pope's servants "made of Christ a judge and jailer and directed us to the dear mother of God, Mary, and other saints, as if they were our mediators and advocates who represented us before God and acquired grace for us" (LW 57:266). She was put in the place of Christ as a mediator (LW 57:114). Many more similar statements from Luther could be brought forth to demonstrate Mary was not any sort of exception to Luther's rejection of the intercession of the saints.

Therefore, that Luther "probably... recognized the Biblical precedent for Mary’s intercession" is an entirely unfounded claim. No evidence from Luther is presented as to his understanding of John 2:1-11. I found an instance that, according to Luther, Christ's harsh reply was due to Mary wanting "God's work done badly" (LW 76"244). When Mary went on to say, "Do whatever he tells you," Luther said, "the mother of Christ pointed the servants away from herself to Christ and she did not tell them: 'Do whatever I say,' but 'Do whatever he tells you.' Everyone is to be pointed in the right direction" (LW 76:245). In any of  his expositions of John 2:1-11 that I've been able to locate, Luther does not say what "Catholics say," that Christ "tried to resist her nudging" but he couldn't "refuse the request of his mother." Read for yourself some of Luther's comments on John 2:1-11 in regard to the interaction between Christ and Mary. Of the sermons Luther preached on this text I located, the subject matter is marriage, not Mary.
“In the resolutions of the 95 theses Luther rejects every blasphemy against the Virgin and thinks that one should ask for pardon for any evil said or thought against her.”
This sentence is an undocumented citation ("...").  The sentence appears to be taken from Peter Stravinskas who extracted it from William Cole's "Was Luther a Devotee of Mary?" page 116.  What Stravinskas leaves out is that Cole places the sentence in the context of Luther's "pre-Reformation period" (Cole, 115), a period in which Luther still adhered to medieval Mariolatry. The "resolutions" are Luther's further explanations of the 95 Theses. Cole is referring to the explanation of point 75 (where indulgences are so powerful that "they could absolve a man even if he had done the impossible and had violated the mother of God is madness"). Luther says of this, "I am forced to call them foolish who hold such opinions, and we should beg pardon from the holy virgin because we are compelled to say and think such things" (WA 1:622; LW 31:240). Luther himself admits elsewhere that during his earlier years, he had a much greater (and misguided) reliance on Mary:  "'Christ is given to scolding and punishing, but Mary has nothing but sweetness and love.' Therefore Christ was generally feared; we fled from Him and took refuge with the saints, calling upon Mary and others to deliver us from our distress" (LW 22:377). That Luther wrote what he did in his "resolutions of the 95 theses" is not an actual expression of Luther praying to Mary, nor does it fairly represent his mature position which denied the intercession of Mary and the saints.
He preached on Mary on all her feast days, more so than most Catholic priests do today. This custom was continued for about a century after Luther’s death. He was also comfortable with keeping celebrated images of Mary in his churches where they remained until the time of “Enlightenment” in the 18th century.
This paragraph appears to be a rewrite of something from the Stravinskas article:  
[Luther's] custom of preaching Marian sermons on the Marian feasts continued in the Lutheran Church a hundred years after his death. Following the example of Luther other great songwriters of the Reformation glorified the greatness of Mary's divine maternity. This lasting piety towards the Mother of God found an outlet in piety so that generally the celebrated pictures of the Madonna and her statues from the Middle Ages were retained in Lutheran churches. According to Heiler, it was only the spirit of the Enlightenment with its lack of understanding of the mystery of the Incarnation, which in the 18th century began the work of destruction.
Stravinskas is once again citing Cole (pp. 101-102).  Cole is actually citing someone else: Friedrich Heller, whose position he refers to as "extreme" in contradistinction to earlier interpretations of Luther's Mariology (p. 101). By the time the information made it to the Interfaith Mary webpage, Heiler has been eliminated completely, even though the "extreme" points are his.

Luther abandoned the festival of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, her birth, and her Assumption, because they did not focus on Christ. He retained the Annunciation, the Visitation, and Purification. These did focus on the birth of Christ, not Mary. When one actually reads Luther’s "Marian" sermons, one finds that Mary is usually not the main subject, Christ is. Mary is often simply mentioned in passing, with perhaps a few paragraphs allotted to discussion about her. There are exceptions to this, but the older Luther became, the less his "Marian" sermons dwelled on Mary.
What did Luther think of the most famous Marian prayers? He directed that the Magnificat be sung daily in all churches. He conceded that the Hail Mary could form part of a healthy prayer life, though he doubted most believers’ ability to pray it with the correct attitude. But the Hail Holy Queen and the Queen of Heaven he condemned as extravagant and “unevangelical”.
The second sentence is a direct plagiarism of Stravinskas: "For example, he directed that the  Magnificat was to be sung daily in all churches. " The rest of the sentences appear to be reworded versions of Stravinskas from his same paragraph: "While struggling mightily with the Ave Maria , especially because he was exercised over the failure of people to pray it correctly and with the proper attitude, he did concede that it could likewise form part of the prayer life of a true believer. He concluded, on the other hand, that the 'extravagances' of the  Salve Regina and Regina Caeli were 'unevangelical.'"  Stravinskas says these comments are based on Cole, pp. 183-190.

Cole says that in 1544 Luther "asked that in all churches the canticle of the Magnificat...be sung daily, since it is inspired by the Holy Spirit" (Cole, 183; He cites WA 49:492 and WA 29:451). Luther does not mean singing the Magnificat in devotion to Mary! The Magnificat is to be used because it is "inspired by the Holy Spirit." The "Hail Mary" comments appear to be summarizing Cole's lengthy and complicated discussion of Luther's view (see my review here of Cole's view). If in Roman Catholicism the Hail Mary is fundamentally a prayer to Mary, that's not what Luther had in mind. For Luther, one could praise God for the gifts given to Mary, but praying to her, or using her as an intercessor was not spiritually correct. Cole notes Luther explicitly says, "It is no prayer." Luther was not a radical reformer: instead of abandoning the Hail Mary, Luther allowed it as a form of meditation and a way to praise God, even though "It were best that the Hail Mary should entirely be laid aside because of the abuses connected with it." If it has to be used at all, this is how one uses it correctly with a "good (firm) faith," as a contemplative meditation. For the "Hail Holy Queen and the Queen of Heaven" prayers, the Interfaith Mary webpage is correct in mentioning Luther's severe disapproval. The word attributed to Luther, "unevangelical" (done so by both Interfaith Mary and Peter Stravinskas) was probably lifted from Cole: "The Reformation turned against all prayers and songs that contained unevangelical statements" (Cole, 188). It doesn't appear to be a word Luther used in describing these false prayers, (if it was, it was their responsibility to document it).  Stravinskas attributes the word "extravagances" to Luther as well, but I've yet to find where he took it from Cole's article.

In the final section of the Interfaith Mary article, eight of Luther's Marian statements are listed. Most of them are not adequately documented. They look like cut-and-pastes from Roman Catholic webpages that were circulating in the late 1990's and early 2000's. Some of Rome's better known apologists are responsible for popularizing a few of the quotes in these bogus forms. Most of them were taken from secondary sources, not an actual reading of the appropriate contexts, and I suspect that even those taken directly from Luther were not taken from the author's actual reading of Luther. Let's briefly take a look at them:
 Luther quotes on Mary:
"(She is the) highest woman and the noblest gem in Christianity after Christ … She is nobility, wisdom, and holiness personified. We can never honor her enough. Still, honor and praise must be given to her in such a way as to hurt neither Christ nor the scriptures." (Sermon, Christmas, 1531)
I've addressed this quote here. It originally came from Cole's article. It isn't one quote, it's two quotes from two different pages of Luther's sermon pasted together to make one quote. Typical of Luther, the majority of the sermon isn't about Mary. Rather, the first sections are about the blessed mystery of the humanity of Jesus. Luther goes on for the first 16 points and barely mentions Mary. In the primary sources I checked,  I didn't find the phrases "wisdom and holiness personified" or "injure neither Christ nor the Scriptures." 

There's no denying Luther said lofty and nice things about Mary. Luther though abandoned the distinction between latria and dulia, so, Luther saying nice things about Mary does not equal Rome's version of devotion to Mary, especially the "Mary" of the Interfaith Mary website. She believes that Mary was chosen by God because of her own innate qualities: she was special and holy without Jesus, which was why she was chosen to become his mother.  She says elsewhere, "God chose Mary for her own qualities to become his mother. Before she conceived Jesus" and "Mary didn’t become holy because Jesus was her son; Jesus became her son because she was already holy." In the same context this Luther quote comes from, he goes on to say,
"If one praises the mother, the praise ought to be like the wide ocean. If either one is to be forgotten, it is better to forget the mother rather than the child. Under the papacy, however, the child has all but been forgotten, and attention riveted only on the mother. But the mother has not been born for our sakes; she does not save us from sin and death. She has, indeed, begotten the Savior! for this reason we are to wean ourselves away from the mother and bind ourselves firmly to this child alone!"
These sentences occur immediately after the quote used by the Interfaith Mary website. It's obvious to see the selective citation employed by the author (if she actually read Luther's context). For Luther, Mary is to be forgotten if she gets in the way of Jesus Christ. Contrarily, the author believes "Mary’s power and grace come from all three persons of the trinity." This is the opposite of Luther's Mary. Even with his lofty description of her in his commentary on the Magnificat, Luther reiterates how Mary is nothing without Christ: "O Blessed Virgin, Mother of God, you were nothing and all despised; yet God in His grace regarded you and worked such great things in you" (LW 21:322), "as we ascribe merit and worthiness to her, we lower the grace of God and diminish the truth of the Magnificat" (LW 21:322), "Whoever, therefore, would show her the proper honor must not regard her alone and by herself, but set her in the presence of God and far beneath Him, must there strip her of all honor, and regard her low estate" (LW 21:322).   
"It is the consolation and the superabundant goodness of God, that humanity is able to exult in such a treasure. Mary is its true Mother …" (Sermon, Christmas, 1529)
"Mary is the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of all of us, even though it was Christ alone who reposed on her knees… If he is ours, we ought to be in his situation; there where he is we ought also to be, and all that he has ought also to be ours, and his mother is also our mother." (Sermon, Christmas 1529)
I'm uncertain which secondary source these quote were lifted from. I traced their online life as far back as 1998. The date for the sermon is actually 1522, not 1529, but it was republished many times. The contexts can be found in LW 52:15-16 and LW 75:216. In those context there's nothing shocking or focused on Mary. Luther's point is that "Christ is born for you and his birth is yours." His birth is given to his people spiritually: "In this manner Christ takes to himself our birth and absorbs it in his birth; he presents us with his birth so that we become pure and new in it, as if it were our own, so that every Christian might rejoice in this birth of Christ and glory in it no less than if he, too, like Christ, had been born bodily of Mary" (LW 52: 15). "This is the great joy, of which the angel speaks, this is the consolation and the superabundant goodness of God, that man (if he has this faith) may boast of such treasure as that Mary is his real mother, Christ his brother, and God his father" (LW 52:15).  "But see to it that you make his birth your own, and that you make an exchange with him, so that you rid yourself of your birth and receive, instead, his. This happens, if you have this faith. By this token you sit assuredly in the Virgin Mary’s lap and are her dear child. This faith you have to practice and to pray for as long as you live; you can never strengthen it enough. That is our foundation and our inheritance; on it the good works are to be built" (LW 52:16). Luther's emphasis is on the connection of the believer to Christ, not on Mary's spiritual maternity. Notice how the author cut out "Christ his brother, and God his father" from her citation of Luther! Read an excerpt of the extended context here
"People have crowded all her glory into a single phrase: The Mother of God. No one can say anything greater of her, though he had as many tongues as there are leaves on the tress." (From the Commentary of the Magnificat)
I'm uncertain as to which secondary source this quote was lifted from. A similar online version can be found as far back as 2000 (with the word "men" used instead of the inclusive, "people").  The quote does come from Luther's exposition of The Magnificat (It can be found at LW 21:326). A footnote at this very place in the LW text describes Luther's comments here as "elements of medieval Marian piety." In Luther's exposition, he does write lofty things about Mary, and it should be admitted that Rome's defenders are within their right to point to this evidence. There are other Roman Catholics though that think Luther's treatise is not the positive Mariology it purports to be. Hartmann Grisar saw it as "an unbridled spirit of attack and of hate."Hilda Graef  "thought the spirit differs considerably from that of the traditional interpretation" [Hilda Graef, Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion Vol. II (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1965), pp. 7-8].  In this very context, Mary's "glory" is that she bore Christ. Luther goes on to say, "Though certain scribblers make much ado about her worthiness for such motherhood, I prefer to believe her rather than them. She says her low estate was regarded by God, not thereby rewarding her for anything she had done, but, 'He has done great things for me,' He has done this of His own accord without any doing of mine. For never in all her life did she think to become the Mother of God, still less did she prepare or make herself meet for it" (LW 21:327).  Whatever niceties Luther was saying about Mary, it was different than that which was popular at the time, and different than the interpretation of the Interfaith Mary author.
"God did not receive his divinity from Mary, but it does not follow that it is therefore wrong to say that God was born of Mary, that God is Mary’s Son, and that Mary is God’s mother. … She is the true mother of God and bearer of God. … Mary suckled God, rocked God to sleep, prepared broth and soup for God, etc. For God and man are one person, one Christ, one Son, one Jesus, not two Christs… just as your son is not 2 sons… even though he has two natures, body and soul, the body from you, the soul from God alone." (On the Councils of the Church, 1539)
I'm uncertain which secondary source this quote was lifted from. I traced its online life as far back as 1998. It may be that whoever compiled this quote actually took it directly from LW 41. Whoever did it, it's obviously poorly documented (no page number or edition). Its compilation is even more troubling. The first sentence appears at LW 41: 99, the rest (separated by a fair amount of text) is a choppy citation from LW 41:100. One would never know from this pieced together quote that Luther is critiquing the Christology of Nestorius and his trouble with the phrase "mother of God." Some contemporary Protestants may distance themselves from the title, “Mother of God,” and perhaps for good reason. The term has evolved in its usage. What was once a rich theological term expressing a doctrinal truth about Christ developed quickly into a venerating praise to Mary. Unlike modern Protestants, Luther did not shy away from using the term, “Mother of God,” and he was fully cognizant of its correct usage.
Luther believed in Mary’s perpetual virginity and in her Immaculate Conception. Only the latter he didn’t think should be a dogma that people are obliged to believe. "It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary’s soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God’s gifts, receiving a pure soul, infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin." (Sermon, "On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God", 1527)
These are shockers that Rome's defenders often utilize. Yes, Luther did have a lifelong belief in her perpetual virginity. He also did hold to the immaculate conception, but only early in his career. I've argued elsewhere he did not maintain it. Luther's later view appears to be that at Christ's conception the Holy Spirit sanctified Mary so that the child would be born with non-sinful flesh and blood. It's true that he says that people are not obliged to believe in the immaculate conception as dogma (LW 32:79-80).

I've done a lot of work on the quote Interfaith Mary provided. This quote made its way into a cyber space when one of Rome's defenders took it from Hartmann Grisar's, Luther Vol. IV. What Rome's defenders typically leave out is Grisar's analysis: he says the quote was eliminated from the text not long after it was published. There's even speculation that the quote didn't originate from Luther at all, but rather Stephan Roth (LW 58:434-435, fn. 10). See my full analysis here.
"…she is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin… God’s grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil… God is with her, meaning that all she did or left undone is divine and the action of God in her." (Luther’s Works, ed. H. Lehmann, Fortress Press, 1968, vol. 43, p.40). 
This quote was taken from LW 43:40, with only minor editing by whoever originally compiled it. It comes from Luther's Personal Prayer Book, 1522. This quote was written before Luther's position on Mary's sinlessness changed. Rather than discussing Mary’s sinlessness, Luther's later writings insist Christ’s sinlessness was due entirely to the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit during his conception. In 1532 he preached: "Mother Mary, like us, was born in sin of sinful parents, but the Holy Spirit covered her, sanctified and purified her so that this child was born of flesh and blood, but not with sinful flesh and blood" (Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, Vol. 3, ed. John Nicholas Lenker.  (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996), 291).
"We can use the Hail Mary as a meditation in which we recite what grace God has given her. Second, we should add a wish that everyone may know and respect her." (Personal Prayer Book, 1522)
Despite the shoddy documentation, this quote is also from Luther's Personal Prayer Book, 1522 (LW 43:39). One thing that isn't clear in this sparse presentation is exactly who Luther says the Hail Mary is supposed to be directed to. The "meditation" and "respect" is not to go to Mary, because as Luther wrote in the same context,  "no one should put his trust or confidence in the Mother of God or in her merits, for such trust is worthy of God alone and is the lofty service due only to him" (LW 43:39). He gives the following analogy of how the prayer should be used:
It is very much the same when I am moved by a view of the heavens, the sun, and all creation to exalt him who created everything, bringing all this into my prayer and praise, saying: O God, Author of such a beautiful and perfect creation, grant to me.… Similarly, our prayer should include the Mother of God as we say: O God, what a noble person you have created in her! May she be blessed! And so on. And you who honored her so highly, grant also to me.… (LW 43:39).
He says also, "we should make the Hail Mary neither a prayer nor an invocation because it is improper to interpret the words beyond what they mean in themselves and beyond the meaning given them by the Holy Spirit" (LW 43:39). One could use it to meditate on the gifts of grace God gave to Mary, thereby knowing the biblical personage Mary and respect her. He goes on to add, "in the present no one speaks evil of this Mother and her Fruit as much as those who bless her with many rosaries and constantly mouth the Hail Mary. These, more than any others, speak evil against Christ’s word and faith in the worst way" (LW 43:40).

Conclusion
If you engage Rome's apologists at some point you will come across Roman Catholic criticism of Martin Luther. Fairly common topics include: Luther’s alleged antinomianism, his rejection of certain canonical books, his alleged desire to be a Protestant pope, or his responsibility for Nazi Germany. Interestingly though, when it comes to the topic of Mary, Roman Catholic sentiment towards Luther shifts considerably. Luther becomes the staunch supporter of Mary; a leader that all contemporary Protestants should learn a great lesson in Mariology from. This drastic shift is puzzling; particularly since Luther’s abandoning of the intercession of the saints and his doctrine of justification significantly changes his Marian approach. It's true, Luther had a Mariology. It reflected his commitment to Christ, and stood in antithesis to popular Catholic belief in the sixteenth century. While there may be some points of agreement with Rome's current Mariology, It's fundamentally a different Mary. Luther's Mary isn't to be prayed to or be worshiped. If nice things are to be said about her, they are not said to her. They are said to God.

Interfaith Mary's Mother Mary And Martin Luther has been around since at least 2004. I've even mentioned it a few times on this blog. My concerns are with the quality of the material being disseminated by the article.  The author claims a theological degree, a "director of religious education," and attends "mass almost every day," spending "2-3 hours daily in some kind of spiritual practice." One would've expected a different caliber article based on the credentials. Perhaps we'll at least see a future revision that reflects truth and accuracy. 

Friday, December 22, 2017

Luther: "I, who should burn of the spirit, am consumed by the flesh and by impurity"

Here's a Martin Luther-related excerpt that appeared on the Catholic Answers Forums:

Even when he was engaged in the translation of the Bible, Luther, in the year 1521, while living in Wartburg — to which place this “courageous” Apostle had fled in the disguise of a country squire and lived under an assumed name — wrote to his friend Melanchthon to say: “I sit here in idleness and pray, alas, little and sigh not for the Church of God. Much more am I consumed by the fires of my unbridled flesh. In a word, I, who should burn of the spirit, am consumed by the flesh and by impurity." (De Wette, 2, 22)

This is one of those quotes that I categorically classify as the "Antinomian Luther." They are typically posted by those dedicated to defending the Roman church (but not limited to them!).  Historically, such "shock" quotes served as propaganda used by pre-1930 Roman Catholic controversialists. The champion of this view was Heinrich Denifle (1844-1905), an Austrian Roman Catholic historian. For Denifle, one of Luther's major problems was lust and immorality. It was Luther's craving for sex that led him to not only break his monastic vows, but to revolt against the established Roman church.   Denifle would use statements like this to prove Luther invented the doctrine of justification to excuse his gross immorality. With this snippet above, a further insinuation is that Luther was not morally qualified to translate the Bible. Let's take a closer look at this quote and see what's going on. Let's see if the historical record proves Luther was "consumed by the flesh and by impurity" rather than the Spirit of God, and therefore unqualified to translate the Bible.

Plagiarism
The person who posted the quote provides obscure documentation. Such obscurity usually indicates that the material was not taken from an actual straight reading of text written by Luther . This person also stated,
I am a convert from Protestantism who used to idolize Luther until I read his writings (eventually). Before, and while undertaking my doctorate (early music history + performance), I had learned to read primary sources, this is what also lead me to the Catholic Church - the Apostolic Fathers + St Augustine + Aquinas. Today many people will watch a movie about Luther and think they are well informed about him.
I do question the validity of this testimony of learning, especially the claim of reading Luther's writings and the ability to read primary sources to form opinions. Of the two posts of Luther material this person presented in this discussion (#1#2), neither demonstrates a straight reading of Luther. The material was probably taken from a few web-pages, then cut-and pasted over on to the Catholic Answers discussion forum. I suspect this pagethis page, and perhaps this page was utilized. Unless the person posting this material on Catholic Answers wrote these links, much of the content of these posts is blatant plagiarism. For this quote particularly, this web-page appears to be that which was plagiarized. Even if he (she?) did compose this web page (or one of the others), I still doubt any of the material came from a straight reading (or "studying") of the "primary sources" for Luther. Some of what was posted was directly plagiarized from Father Patrick O'Hare's, The Facts about Luther, especially the quote above under scrutiny. The paragraph appears in a similar form in Father O'Hare's book on page 318. O'Hare states,
That he was consumed by the fires of fleshly lust he admits himself. Even when engaged, as we related in another place, in the translation of the Bible, Luther, in the year 1521, while living in the Wartburg, to which place this "courageous Apostle" fled in the disguise of a country squire and lived under an assumed name, wrote to his friend Melanchthon to say: "I sit here in idleness and pray, alas, little, and sigh not for the Church of God. Much more am I consumed by the fires of my unbridled flesh. In a word, I, who should burn of the spirit, am consumed by the flesh and by lasciviousness." (De Wette, 2, 22.)
What was posted on the Catholic Answers discussion forum (and this web-page also) is an obvious plagiarism of something Father O'Hare wrote over one hundred years ago. Whether the person at Catholic Answers took the quote from O'Hare's book or not, someone at some point did, and that's why it's on the Internet (now being disseminated by cut-and-paste plagiarism). To borrow from this Catholic Answers participant: today many people will read a biased and poorly researched web-page or book about Luther and think they are well informed about him.

Documentation
The documentation provided is "De Wette, 2, 22." This refers to the second volume of Luther's letters compiled by Dr. Wilhelm Martin Leberecht de Wette in the nineteenth-century. The volumes he put together were included in the Weimar Edition of Luther's Works. Here is de Wette 2,22. What's being referred to is a portion of a letter Luther wrote to Philip Melanchthon on July 13, 1521 from the Wartburg Castle.  The same text is also found in WA 2:356-357. The text reads,


This letter has been translated into English. It can be found in LW 48:256-263, and The Letters of Martin Luther, pp. 79-81.


Context
To Philip Melanchthon, faithful servant of Christ, evangelist of the congregation at Wittenberg
Your letter displeased me for two reasons: First, I realize that you carry the cross too impatiently; you give in too much to your emotions and as is your way you are just too gentle. Second, you extol me so much. You err tremendously in ascribing such great importance to me, as if I were so much concerned for God’s case. Your high opinion of me shames and tortures me, since—unfortunately—I sit here like a fool and hardened in leisure, pray little, do not sigh for the church of God, yet burn in a big fire of my untamed body. In short I should be ardent in spirit, but I am ardent in the flesh, in lust, laziness, leisure, and sleepiness. I do not know whether God has turned away from me since you all do not pray for me. You are already replacing me; because of the gifts you have from God, you have attained greater authority and popularity than I had. Already eight days have passed in which I have written nothing, in which I have not prayed or studied; this is partly because of temptations of the flesh, partly because I am tortured by other burdens. If this thing does not improve, I shall go directly to Erfurt and not incognito. There you will see me, or I you, for I shall consult doctors or surgeons. It is impossible that I endure this evil any longer; it is easier to endure ten big wounds than this small sign of a lesion. Maybe the Lord burdens me so in order to push me out of this hermitage into the public. [LW 48:256-257]
Conclusion
Before commenting on O'Hare's interpretation of this letter, notice his mocking words when he refers to Luther as the "courageous Apostle" who "fled in the disguise of a country squire and lived under an assumed name." The other side of this coin is that Luther was an outlaw with a price on his head, and his being killed as an outlaw during the time-period was an actual possibility, not simply a far-fetched possibility. O'Hare also leaves out the fact that Luther did not plan his own escape to the Wartburg

Father O'Hare's reading of this letter is myopic. He gravitates to one brief section and then makes an inflammatory conclusion. Luther was not "consumed by the fires of fleshly lust" as O'Hare overstates. That is, Luther was not simply dreaming of wine, women, and song all day while hiding away in the Wartburg. A reading of the entire letter will prove that. If Luther was so consumed by lust, it seems odd that he would casually mention a number of his struggles in the beginning of the letter, but then go on for the majority of this long letter to a number of other political and spiritual subjects.

This is not to say that Luther was not really struggling with what he says he was struggling with. W.H.T. Dau long ago provided a fair and balanced view of Luther's stay at the Wartburg:
At the Wartburg, where Luther was an exile for ten months, his name was changed by the warden of the castle, Count von Berlepsch. This was done the better to conceal his identity from the henchmen of Rome, who by the imperial edict of outlawry had been given liberty to hunt Luther and slay him where they found him.
The sexual condition of Luther during the years before his marriage was the normal condition of any healthy young man at his age. Luther speaks of this matter as a person nowadays would speak about it to his physician or to a close friend. The matter to which he refers is in itself perfectly pure: it is an appeal of nature. Do Luther's Catholic critics mean to infer that Luther was the only monk, then or now, that felt this call which human nature issues by the ordination of the Creator? Rome can inflict celibacy even on priests that look like stall-fed oxen, but she cannot unsex men. Mohammedans are less inhuman to their eunuchs. Moreover, it must be borne in mind that Luther complains of this matter as something that disturbs him. It vexed his pure mind, and he fought against it as not many monks of his day have done, by fasting, prayer, and hard work. Yes, hard work! The remarks of Luther about his physical condition are simply twisted from their true import when Luther is represented as a victim of fleshly lust and a habitual debauchee. Luther's Catholic critics fail to mention that during his brief stay at the Wartburg Luther not only translated the greater part of the New Testament, but also wrote about a dozen treatises, some of them of considerable size, and that of his correspondence during this period about fifty letters are still preserved. Surely, a fairly respectable record for a lazy man!
Addendum: Heinrich Denifle, Luther and Lutherdom
Roman Catholic historian Heinrich Denifle discusses why he thinks sixteenth-century monks and nuns vigorously abandoned their celibacy vows. Denifle says there were those lawless people already predisposed to follow Luther's view, then there were those who simply got "carried along by the current of reform." They were swept away by "carelessness." "They neglected communion with God." Denfile then appeals to the quote under scrutiny:
It is no wonder, then, that to such as these the lust of the flesh, caused by their lack of communion with God, gave them much ado. As their spokesmam exclaims: "I am inflamed with carnal pleasure, while I ought to be fervent in spirit. I am on fire with the great flame of my unbridled flesh and sit here in leisure and laziness, neglecting prayer." (Enders, III, 189).
For Denifle, the later group simply didn't try hard enough in their spiritual discipline to maintain their vow of celibacy. In Denifle's view, the person that takes such a vow is one seeking closer communion with God (as opposed to those who don't take such a vow). Let's let Luther respond from his comments on 1 Corinthians 7:
The Holy Spirit has therefore told us through St. Paul that celibacy is a very precious thing and highly to be respected on earth so that nobody, because of the greatness and dignity of this estate, should think himself better than another poor Christian but should rather remain in that simplicity of faith that makes us all one before God. For our poisonous nature simply cannot tolerate that it should not preen itself before God in works; and the better the work, the more credit it wants for it. Therefore it is also blinded by the pure radiance of virginity that it considers no estate higher before God than virginity, because nothing that we do on earth is greater or more beautiful. And so it concludes that just as a virgin counts for more on earth, so it will also be in heaven.
This is the source of all those nonsensical teachings of the devil which prepare special little crowns in heaven for all virgins and make them brides of Christ, as though other Christians were not brides of Christ. Then all the poor misguided young people go wild, each one striving toward this little crown and wanting to fill heaven with virgins and brides of Christ. In the meantime the Christian faith is despised and forgotten and finally extinguished, although it alone can win the crown and make us brides of Christ. Know this, however, and remain certain of it, that such becrowned virgins who rely on such teachings and pretend virginity in this fashion instead of the way St. Paul teaches, not one of them is a pure virgin or can remain one, and at the last they will be found to be neither virgins nor brides of Christ (LW 28:48).