Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Luther vs. Reformed Theology: On Losing Salvation and the Sin of Unbelief

Some years back I did a blog entry entitled, Did Luther Believe Salvation Can Be Lost? In that entry, I noted the following Luther quote:
Even if he would, he could not lose his salvation, however much he sinned, unless he refused to believe. For no sin can condemn him save unbelief alone. All other sins, so long as the faith in God’s promise made in baptism returns or remains, are immediately blotted out through that same faith, or rather through the truth of God, because he cannot deny himself if you confess him and faithfully cling to him in his promise. But as for contrition, confession of sins, and satisfaction, along with all those carefully devised exercises of men: if you rely on them and neglect this truth of God, they will suddenly fail you and leave you more wretched than before. For whatever is clone without faith in God’s truth is vanity of vanities and vexation of spirit [Eccles. 1:2, 14]" [LW 36: 60].
An interesting historical analysis of this quote can be found here. A Lutheran recently left a portion of this quote in the comment section under the same entry stating,
Having graduated from a Lutheran seminary, this is the position of the Lutheran Church. It is different than Wesleyism in the sense that it does not teach that one loses their salvation because of sin, but that sin may have such an effect on a person that one may lose their faith, thus, coming to a place of unbelief!
I'm bringing this up simply to point out a significant difference between Luther and Reformed theology that is often overlooked from the Reformed side.  Note the following difference between Luther's quote, the Lutheran comment, and the following from R.C. Sproul. Note how Sproul connects the sin of unbelief to limited atonement:
However, the overwhelming majority of Christians who reject limited atonement also reject universal salvation. They are particularists, not universalists. They insist on the doctrine of justification by faith alone. That is, only believers are saved by the atonement of Christ. If that is so, then the atonement, in some sense, must be limited, or restricted, to a definite group, namely believers. If Christ died for all of the sins of all people, that must include the sin of unbelief. If God’s justice is totally satisfied by Christ’s work on the cross, then it would follow that God would be unjust in punishing the unrepentant sinner for his unbelief and impenitence because those sins were already paid for by Christ.
See also, this comment from Dr. Sproul. This is popular Reformed argumentation.  Note A.W. Pink's construction of it:
If ALL the sins of ALL men were laid upon Christ, then the sin of unbelief was too. That unbelief is a sin is clear from the fact that in 1 John 3:23 we read, "And this is His commandment, That we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ." Refusal to believe in Christ is, therefore, an act of flagrant disobedience, rebellion against the Most High. But if all the sins of all men were laid upon Christ (as it is now asserted), then He also endured the penalty for the Christ-rejector's unbelief. If this be so, then Universalism is true. But it is not so. The very advocates of the view we are now refuting would not affirm it. And therein may be seen the inconsistency and untenableness of their teaching. For if unbelief is a sin and Christ did not suffer the penalty of it, then all sin was not laid upon Christ. Thus there are only two alternatives: a strictly limited Atonement, availing only for believers; or an unlimited Atonement which effectually secures the salvation of the entire human race.
See also John Owen's construction of the argument.

So, the moral of this story is that Calvinists should careful with Luther, and also be prepared for a long and tedious discussions with Lutherans on the extent of the atonement, and the meaning of the atonement.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Do You Have the Gift of Discernment? The Gift of Discernment in 1 Cor. 12:10

I posted this a few years ago (8/19/12), but after some recent encounters with some well-meaning Christians, I've decided to bring it back to the front of the blog. The following paper was written for a seminary requirement (and actually graded by a fairly well-known and respected Reformed theologian).


Do You Have the Gift of Discernment?
I've been in a number of conversations with Christians convinced that the Holy Spirit has endowed them with the gift described in 1 Corinthians 12 as "the distinguishing of spirits," or, sometimes referred to as the gift of discernment.  Sometimes I wonder if the claim to such a gift is simply a ploy for recognition. Or perhaps it's a type of hubris or spiritually immaturity. I'm often tempted to simply dismiss such people as violating Paul’s exhortation in Galatians 6 to boast only in the cross of Jesus Christ. It is possible, though, that sincerity is that which motivates such an assertion. Couldn't it simply be zeal for the purity of doctrine or the protection of the church that leads someone to claim this supernatural gift? Perhaps they've heard a sermon or been to a Bible study exhorting the seeking out and nurturing of spiritual gifts. Perhaps friends have noticed and encouraged their seeming ability to rightly discern spiritual issues. Perhaps a church leader has blatantly told them they have the gift of discernment. If any of these positive scenarios are true, if someone indeed has the gift spoken of in 1 Corinthians 12:10, the fault would not be admitting to it (whether boastfully or not), rather it would be not using the gift for the benefit of the church.

How should such claims to spiritual discernment be understood in the church today? Can one know if the claim is Biblically valid today? These questions cannot be addressed until related issues are scrutinized. How has the church understood this gift, and is there a consensus view? Is this gift something particular only to the infant church or has it been given throughout the centuries? What role did it play in the early church, and if still extant, what role would it play today?

What is the "Distinguishing of Spirits" According to the Early Church?
Paul doesn't explain what this gift is, nor do the Scriptures elsewhere explicitly offer any divine commentary as to what it entails. That is, the Bible doesn't say elsewhere, "This is what Paul means by the distinguishing of spirits." One may be tempted to think the earliest extra-biblical writers could provide the needed illuminating commentary or explanation. Weren't they closest in historical position to the divine authors? This is a fallacy. Simply because one is nearer in history does not mean an interpretation is necessarily more accurate. The writings of the church fathers do not provide any determining clarity. From these extant writings, often the gift is simply mentioned along with the other gifts without detailed elaboration or interpretation.(1)

In an obscure letter, Augustine refers to it as an ability to answer extra-biblical theological questions. In responding to questions related to how martyrs are able to help those who make requests of them, Augustine is convinced martyrs have abilities from the grave but he does not know exactly how these powers work. He explains that simply because he lacks understanding, this does not mean there isn't someone given the discerning of spirits who could address the issue with precision.(2)  In a secondary way, Augustine argues elsewhere that knowing Scripture will put Christians "on the alert for discerning of the spirits" in regard to false doctrine. (3)  Chrysostom blatantly speaks of the cessation of the supernatural gifts of 1 Corinthians 12. The gift of the discerning of spirits functioned to tell God’s Word apart from "soothsayers… addicted to Grecian customs." (4)

Luther and Calvin on the "Distinguishing of Spirits"
During the Reformation period, Luther saw the supernatural gifts as "necessary in the primitive church, which had to be established with visible signs on account of the unbelievers… But later on, when the church had been gathered and confirmed by these signs, it was not necessary for this visible sending forth of the Holy Spirit to continue." (5) Some of these gifts, though, have been transformed and still function. (6)   Tongues became the public reading of Scripture. Prophecy became "the ability to rightly interpret and explain the Scriptures, and powerfully to reveal therefrom the doctrine of faith and the overthrow of false doctrine." (7) He similarly alludes to 1 Corinthians 12:10 as demonstrating the ability of the early Lutherans to "handle and interpret Scripture skillfully." (8)

Similar to Luther, Calvin held there was a sense in which certain gifts still functioned even if not in the precise way they did at inception. In The Institutes Calvin admits to a cessationist view of miracles (IV:19,18). (9)   Elsewhere he refers to 1 Corinthians 12:10 as the active gift of interpreting God's word and something not to be surrendered to the papists. Calvin explained, though, in his commentary on 1 Corinthians that the discerning of spirits during the apostolic age was "a clearness of perception in forming a judgment as to those who professed to be something." Calvin states:

"It was a special illumination, with which some were endowed by the gift of God. The use of it was this that they might not be imposed upon by masks, of mere pretences, but might by that spiritual judgment distinguish, as by a particular mark, the true ministers of Christ from the false." (10)

The "Distinguishing of Spirits" Post-Reformation
Likewise admitting cessation after the apostolic age, John Owen (1616-1683) held, "the gift of discerning spirits has ceased, since no pretense to prophetic gifts is any longer asserted 'unless by some persons phrenetical and enthusiastical, whose madness is manifest to all.'"(11) John Gil (1697-1771) saw the gift as the previous ability to "discern the hearts of men, their thoughts, purposes, and designs, their secret dissimulation and hypocrisy" (12) and no longer functioning. Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) likewise understood the gifts had ceased. In his The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God he exhorts his readers to test the spirits, noting the Spirit was now working differently:

"However great a spiritual influence may be, it is not to be expected that the Spirit of God should be given now in the same manner as to the apostles, infallibly to guide them in points of Christian doctrine, so that what they taught might be relied on as a rule to the Christian church. Many godly persons have undoubtedly in this and other ages, exposed themselves to woeful delusions, by an aptness to lay too much weight on impulses and impressions, as if they were immediate revelations from God, to signify something future, or to direct them where to go, and what to do." (13)

John Wesley (1703-1791) likewise held the gift of discernment was "The discerning - Whether men be of an upright spirit or no," (14) but held this gift along with the others only ceased later in history when "a general corruption both of faith and morals infected the church- which by that revolution, as St. Jerome says, lost as much of its virtue as it had gained of wealth and power." (15) John Darby (1800-1882) on the other hand contrarily held "The discerning of spirits is not that of a man's condition of soul - it has nothing to do with it. It is the knowing how to discern, by the mighty energy of the Spirit of God, the actings of evil spirits, and to bring them to light if necessary, in contrast with the action of the Spirit of God." (16)

Echoing back to Owen and Edwards, B.B. Warfield (1851-1921) held the apostolic gifts were given for the authentication of the apostolic message. After the deaths of those imparted with these gifts, the gifts ceased. Warfield considered the discerning of spirits "among the extraordinary items." (17) He states,

"How long did this state of things continue? It was the characterizing peculiarity of specifically the Apostolic Church, and it belonged therefore exclusively to the Apostolic age- although no doubt this designation may be taken with some latitude. These gifts were not the possession of the primitive Christian as such; nor for that matter of the Apostolic Church or the Apostolic age for themselves; they were distinctively the authentication of the Apostles." (18)

The "Distinguishing of Spirits" in the Present
The rise of Pentecostalism (including both heretical and orthodox factions) breathed new life (and confusion) into the notion of the continuation of the gifts in their fullness. Jack Hayford holds, "Discerning of spirits is the ability to discern the spirit world, and especially to detect the true source of circumstances or motives of people."(19) Derek Prince says the gift gives the ability to "lift the veil that covers the unseen spiritual world," "enables us to see as God sees," "protect us from deception," and to "diagnose people’s problems and so help them."(20) Joyce Meyer says some people believe the gift is "the discerning of divine spirits, as when Moses looked into the spirit realm and saw the 'back' of God, or when John was in exile on the isle of Patmos and had a vision of the resurrected Jesus."(21) Examples of such sentiment, differing in scope and content, have ample representatives.

Contemporary non-Reformed conservative voices tone down their interpretation of the extent and efficacy of the gifts. Billy Graham denies that prophecy in the sense of new revelation is occurring today, but explains, "We are to exercise the gift of discernment because many false prophets will appear… Thus the Christian must have those who can distinguish between false and true prophets."(22) For Graham, certain people are singled out by the Holy Spirit and gifted specifically with discernment. Contrarily, in his book Living the Extraordinary Life, Charles Stanley avoids citing 1 Corinthians 12 entirely while confidently laying out an entire method for any Christian to develop discernment. One need only regularly practice a few simple steps.(23)  Discernment ceases to be an extraordinary gift despite the title of the book.

There is therefore no shortage of explanations in broad Christendom as to what Paul meant in 1 Corinthians 12:10. The explanations produced by the church throughout the centuries run the theological gamut. In summary, at least three basic explanations have been given throughout the centuries. First, the gift was only given to the early church to discern true and false prophets before the completion of the canon. Second, the gift functioned as the first view suggests, but now post-canon completion functions differently. Third, the gift functions today supernaturally to those whom the Spirit gives it.

Exegetical Considerations of 1 Corinthians 12:10
The feminine noun "discernment" (διάκρισις) in 12:10 is found also in Hebrews 5:14 and Romans 14:1. In each of these verses, it functions along the lines of "differentiation."(24) It is related to the verb "judge" (διακρίνω) used in 1 Corinthians 14:29. There Paul gives instructions for what the Corinthians were to do after a prophet spoke: "Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment." Paul does not explicitly say that those who "pass judgment" are gifted with the discerning of spirits, nor does his comment exclude such a gift among specific people in the Corinthian church. All Christians are responsible to listen to the prophet discerningly (1 John 4:1), but, as Leon Morris states, "the ability to distinguish between spirits shows that to some was given a special discernment in this matter."(25)

To what does the word "spirits" (πνεύματα) refer, to a prophet, the message of that prophet, or both? In 1 Cor. 14:32 the word refers to the prophet being in control of his prophecy. It was not uncontrolled supernatural ecstasy. The person with the gift of discerning of spirits in 12:10 is someone who can discern the truthfulness or deviousness of that prophecy, or "spirit" of the prophet and prophecy. This has led some commentators to hold that false prophets were not simply false on their own accord. Rather, they were false because of either demon-possession or evil spirits ("the spirit of antichrist" as described in 1 John 4:1).(26)   In 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 Paul describes these people as Satan's servants masquerading as servants of righteousness. The person who was gifted with special discernment therefore, could recognize the actor behind the mask.

VII. The Canon and 1 Corinthians 12:10
Some explicitly link the gift of discerning spirits to the forming canon of the New Testament. The function of the gift was to determine which writings were actually theopneustas:

"[T]hese New Testament prophets certified to the congregation what was and what was not a divinely inspired document. In the interest of clearness let us visualize a congregation of Believers assembling in a remote, out of the way village. Into that assembly comes two manuscripts, both purporting to be written by Paul but one of them a forgery. What means would they have of detecting a cleverly written forgery? Did God leave them to their own discernment? Fortunately this was not the case otherwise they would have been open to all manner of deception. Apparently what would have happened in that congregation was that the local prophet would hear both manuscripts read. The document that was written by Paul would, by the prophet, be declared as from Paul and the forgery would be branded a forgery." (27)

While this anonymously published interpretation is certainly neat and tidy, it is read into the text rather than exegeted from the text. The factor of the canon, though, must be placed somewhere in this discussion. If indeed the canon is closed, the purpose of particular revelatory gifts becomes crucial. Richard Gaffin insightfully reminds his readers that the continuation of prophecy beyond its foundational period "would necessarily create tensions with the closed, finished character of the canon."(28) If the discerning of spirits is linked with the gift of prophecy, then it either does not now function as it did during the period of Inscripturation or it does not function at all.

VIII. Strengths and Weaknesses of Taking a View on 1 Cor. 12:10
The gift of the discerning of spirits had the same goal as the other gifts described: the common good of the Corinthian church (1 Cor. 12:7). While all the gifts were different, they each individually served to unify the church and protect the apostolic message 1 Cor. 12:1-7). If Paul intended the gift of the discerning of spirits to be linked with prophecy, the gift no longer would have any use, even if it still did exist. One difficulty for those taking this view is navigating through 1 Corinthians 12: Have all the gifts mentioned in verses 7-11 ceased? Perhaps one could almost argue affirmatively, save the one hurdle of the "gift of faith" mentioned in verse 9. On what basis does one determine that an entire listing of gifts save one no longer functions today? This isn’t an impossible problem to overcome. Exegetes distinguish it from the gift of faith given to every believer (Eph. 2:8-10). Perhaps some would be so bold to conclude this extra measure of faith in 1 Cor. 12 is no longer given by the Spirit. Was it something special related to the forming church that is no longer needed? Perhaps though, the easiest solution for someone taking this view is to simply affirm it as an exception to the list of gifts.

For modern-day charismatics believing the gift still functions today as it did when first given, that there's such diversity as to what they posit the gift entails should provoke suspicion. Because these representatives see the gift as pointing to something beyond the mundane, there are no rules as to the function of a supernatural gift in a charismatic paradigm. If the Spirit is understood to be working in an extraordinary way, the gift can refer to whatever one wants it to.

Perhaps the most attractive view are those who attempt to navigate a middle path seeing the gift as being transformed into something other than it’s original function. They likewise face a similar problem to those who think it ceased entirely: on what basis does one determine that a gift functions differently later in history? Have some of the gifts been transformed, and why only some? Can it properly be designated the same gift in its transformed state?

IX. Conclusion
God has expressly stated that He does not want the church to be ignorant on the issue of spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:1). The gifts were not Biblically described as optional add-ons for the Church. Rather, the gifts demonstrated the work of the Spirit in the church and helped build her. Despite her gross sin, even the Corinthian church was described as not lacking any of the spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 1:7). Paul wished to visit the Roman church to impart to them a spiritual gift to strengthen them (Rom. 1:11). The question therefore as to the identification, existence, nature, and purpose of the gift of the discerning of spirits is of no little importance. If God has gifted the church with the discerning of spirits and the gift still functions presently, we would do well to vigorously seek it out. If it was something specific to the apostolic church, a gentle response to those claiming its service needs to be prepared with either rebuke or gentleness, depending on the person.
Given the scope of interpretations throughout history, the exegetical difficulties of 1 Corinthians 12:10, and the logical problems of consistently maintaining any of the views briefly outlined above, what sort of response may be formulated to someone claiming the gift of discerning spirits?

The first response would be to point out the difficulties of achieving any sort of certain view as to the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 12:10. In essence, this is an exhortation to humility. One can appreciate a desire to discern and stop error or heresy from entering the church. This though need not be rooted in a supernatural ability. It can just as easily be the result of Christian maturity. The response therefore is to point out that humility in regard to difficult passages coupled with Christian maturity is enough to look at spiritual situations appropriately.

In this age of post-inscripturation, the second response should be to direct people back to the Scriptures. That is, if one wants to have a certain Holy Spirit-driven discernment of truth from error, savingly knowing and believing the Bible itself would be the means of accomplishing this goal. This places our faith back into God's word rather than any sort of subjective experience as the determiner of truth. Such passages as Acts 17:11 and 1 Peter 3:15 serve as a solid basis to build discernment on. Here discernment becomes a result of sanctification rather than a sudden supernatural experience or feeling of special knowledge given by God to an individual.

This would mean that those in the ministry would primarily and typically have the most discernment on spiritual matters. This does not though rule out that laymen can likewise attain a healthy level of spiritual discernment. One need not be a minister or even an apostle to say in the face of error: "Even if we or an angel from heaven preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!" One need only be faithful to placing the supernatural word of God into the heart and allow it to naturally transform and renew the mind.

1.See Origen's (184-254) comments in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament VII, 1-2 Corinthians, ed. Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: Intervaristy Press, 1999), 122, "It is a spiritual gift, therefore, by which the spirit is discerned, as the apostle says: 'Test the spirits, if they are from God.'" Clement of Alexandria (150 – 250) refers to it as an attribute describing "the perfect man or those who have experienced an aspect of deep Christian truth" [The Ante-Nicene Fathers vol. 2, eds. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Grand Rapids: WM.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001), 433-434]. Henceforth all references to the Ante-Nicene Fathers are designated ANF. Tertullian (160-225) describes how the Spirit and His gifts were taken from the Jews and given to the church [ANF 3, 445-446]. Gregory Thaumaturgus (213-270) mentions the gifts as describing the orthodox faith [ANF 6, 47], though this writing may be spurious. Augustine simply mentions the gift in passing [The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1, ed. Philip Schaff (Grand Rapids: WM.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001), 197, 346; III, 63, 94; IV, 267; VII, 98]. Henceforth all references to the Nicene and Post-Fathers are designated NPNF.

2. NPNF III, 549-550. Augustine recommends John the Monk who was purported to have extraordinary gifts of the Spirit.

3. NPNF VII, 499.

4. NPNF XII, 168-169.

5. Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, vol. 26, ed. J. J. Pelikan (Philadelphia: fortress Press, 1955), 374. Henceforth, all references to Luther’s Works are designated LW.

6. LW 14,36.

7. Martin Luther, The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther vol. 4.1-2, John Nicholas Lenker, ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000), 213.

8. LW 40, 250.

9. "Calvin sets forth an embryonic cessationism. Conceiving of prophets as those who have a 'particular revelation,' he observes that '[t]his class either does not exist today or is less commonly seen.' However, after provisionally holding out the possibility that there could be contemporary prophets, Calvin slams the door shut by pointing out in regard to the offices of apostle, prophet and evangelist that '[t]hese three functions were not established in the church as permanent ones, but only for that time during which churches were to be erected where none existed before, or where they were to be carried over from Moses to Christ.'" [Philip A. Craig, "And Prophecy Shall Cease, Jonathan Edwards on the Cessation of the Gift of Prophecy," Westminster Theological Journal Volume 64 no. 1 (Spring 2002): 164.

10. John Calvin, Calvin's Bible Commentaries: Corinthians Part One (Forgotten Books, 2007), 326-327.

11. John Owen, The Works of John Owen vol. 4 (London: Richard Baynes, 28, Paternoster Row, 1826), 302. “These gifts are not saving, sanctifying graces—those were not so in themselves which made the most glorious and astonishing appearance in the world, and which were most eminently useful in the foundation of the church and propagation of the gospel, such as were those that were extraordinary and miraculous.”

12. John Gil, Commentary 1 Corinthians 12:10.

13. Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 1 (London: J.R. and C Childs, Bungay, 1835), 265.

14. John Wesley, Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament (New York: J. Soule and T. Mason, 1818), 448.

15. Benjamin B. Warfield, Counterfeit Miracles (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1918), 8.

16. John Darby, The Present Testimony and Original Christian Witness Revived in Which the Church’s Portion and the Hope of the Kingdom vol. VIII (London: R. Groombridge & Sons, 1856), 154.

17. Warfield, 5.

18. Warfield 6-7. Warfield also discusses and refutes the view that the gifts gradually died out around the time of Constantine, thus lasting for three centuries (6-21).

19. Hayford, J. W., & Curtis, G. Pathways to Pure Power: Learning the Depth of Love's Power, a Study of first Corinthians (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1994), Libronix electronic edition.

20. Derek Prince, Called to Conquer: Finding Your Assignment in the Kingdom of God (Grand Rapids: Chosen Books, 2010), 50.

21. Joyce Meyer, Knowing God Intimately: Being as Close to Him as You Want to Be, (New York: Time Warner Book Group, 2003).

22. Billy Graham, The Holy Spirit: Activating God's Power in Your Life (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978), 146-147.

23. Charles Stanley, Living the Extraordinary Life (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004), 175-178.

24. Gerhard Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament vol. 3 (Grand Rapids: WM.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006), 949.

25. Leon Morris, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, 1 Corinthians (Grand Rapids: WM.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000), 169.

26. F.W. Grosheide, Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: WM.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1953), 267.

27. Anonymous, “The Angels of the Seven Churches (Rev. 1:20),” Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 91 (October 1934): 439-440.

28. Richard Gaffin, Perspectives on Pentecost (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1979), 100.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Shocking Beliefs on Martin Luther: Not all the events in the book of Job actually happened as reported

Here's one I came across from the Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther article. Under the heading, "Luther believed that the Bible wasn’t always literally factual," the article states, "He also argued that not all the events in the book of Job actually happened as reported. [Luther’s Works, Vol. 54, pp. 79-80].

Which events? The article doesn't say, but since these are the "Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther," is the thrust to assume the worst?  The intent reminds me of the Luther quote Patrick O'Hare used in The Facts About Luther: "Job spoke not as it stands written in his book, but only had such thoughts. It is merely the argument of a fable"(p. 207). Whichever Martin Luther O'Hare had in mind, it wasn't one based on his actual written statements about Job.

While no actual Luther quote about Job is given, The article cites "Luther’s Works," "Vol. 54, pp. 79-80." The documentation  appears to refer to the English version of Luther's Works. Vol. 54 is a collection of Table Talk comments. Unfortunately, one of the most popular sources for quoting Luther is by using comments from the Table Talk. It is, in actuality, not something Luther wrote but is a collection of second hand comments written down by Luther's friends and students, published after his death. 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. For a list of Table Talk versions in English, see this link.

No. 475: On the Authorship of the Book of Job Spring, 1533
“Job didn’t speak the way it is written [in his book], but he thought those things. One doesn’t speak that way under temptation. Nevertheless, the things reported actually happened. They are like the plot of a story which a writer, like Terence, adopts and to which he adds characters and circumstances. The author wished to paint a picture of patience. It’s possible that Solomon himself wrote this book, for the style is not very different from his. At the time of Solomon the story which he undertook to write was old and well known. It was as if I today were to take up the stories of Joseph or Rebekah. The Hebrew poet, whoever he was, saw and wrote about those temptations, as Vergil described Aeneas, led him through all the seas and resting places, and made him a statesman and soldier. Whoever wrote Job, it appears that he was a great theologian.”
Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 54: Table Talk. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, and H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 54, pp. 79–80). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

I'm not exactly sure what the Shocking Belief  is supposed to be in the above Table Talk context.  In all the instances I've checked in which Luther spoke of Job or quoted the book of Job, he referred to him as a historical figure and treated the events that transpired in his life as actually occurring. When the Shocking Beliefs article states Luther "argued that not all the events in the book of Job actually happened as reported," Luther above is reported to have said, "the things reported actually happened." Perhaps the Shocking Belief is supposed to be that Luther is reported to have said, "Job didn’t speak the way it is written [in his book], but he thought those things. One doesn’t speak that way under temptation."

I guess it's within the realm of possibility that by "event" this second-hand statement is meant. If that's the case, it really isn't all that shocking. In terms of building a case on it, it's a Table Talk comment, which in fairness to Luther,  should only serve as corroborating second-hand testimony to something Luther is certain to have written.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther: Faith alone is necessary for justification. All other things are completely optional, being no longer commanded or forbidden

Here's one I came across from the Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther article. Under the heading, "Luther wasn’t a fan of Moses’ Commandments," the following quote is given, with the charge to "Note his words":

“Faith alone is necessary for justification. All other things are completely optional, being no longer commanded or forbidden.”  
[13] Luther’s Commentary on Galatians 2

The intent appears to be to show that works are optional in Luther's theology and that God's commandments given to Moses are no longer to be enforced. A Christian can live however they want to, because they are saved by faith alone. Moses and the law are over. If this was Luther's actual position, it would be shocking... but it isn't Luther's position.

The article cites"Luther’s Commentary on Galatians 2." The actual source was probably Patrick O'Hare's The Facts About Luther.  O'Hare states,
In this declaration of false security, we have the beginning of Luther's new gospel, which, needless to say, is directly and openly opposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As a theologian, he should have realized that his notion of the absolute assurance of salvation imparted by Faith was as false as it was unsound, and as a professor of Scripture, he should have known that faith alone is barren and lifeless apart from the meritorious works which are necessarily connected with and founded on it. To hold and declare that men are justified by faith to the entire exclusion of other Divine virtues is nothing less than a perversion of the Bible, a falsification of the Word of God, and an injury to souls called to work out their salvation along the lines plainly designated by Jesus Christ. But Luther's self esteem and self-conceit blinded him to the truth he once held in honor, and, instead of repelling and mastering his singular conception of salvation, as he was in duty bound to do, he held to it with unbending tenacity, developing it more and more until he finally declares in Cap. 2, ad. Gal. that "Faith alone is necessary for justification: all other things are completely optional being no longer either commanded or forbidden." It is this doctrine which he afterwards called the Articulus stantis vel cadentis Ecclesiae; and if we cannot quite accept this description of it, at least we can recognize that it is the corner-stone of the Lutheran and Calvinistic systems.
Forms of this quote made the rounds previous to O'Hare (often cited by Rome's defenders). This 1857 Roman source states, "That a man is justified by faith alone, is a doctrine started by Martin Luther : 'Faith alone (he says) is necessary for our justification; all other things are completely optional, being no longer either commanded or forbidden.' ['Sola fides necessaria est ut justi simus; caetera omnia liberrima, neque praecepta amplius, neque phohibita' In Cap. 2, ad Gal.]." This source actually moves the quote's polemical use back to Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621) and is cited as "Faith alone is necessary that we may be justified; all things else are quite free, being neither enjoined nor prohibited us." This same source adds, "I do not find these words in Luther, but I find what manifestly establishes his opinion and proves Bellarmine to be a calumniator." However faulty Bellarmine's interpretation may have been (I could not locate it), he wasn't mistaken that these words were from Luther:

Probably why the author above couldn't find Bellarmine's Luther reference is because there are five or six versions of the Galatians commentary (LW 27:ix). The quote in question is from his 1519 work on Galatians. This particular quote can be found in WA 2:485 and translated into English in LW 27:213.

The context involves Luther's comments on Galatians 2:11-13 in which Paul confronts Peter:
11. But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12. For before certain men came from James, he ate with the Gentiles; but when they came, he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13. And with him the rest of the Jews acted insincerely, so that even Barnabas was carried away by their insincerity. 
 Luther first explains the disagreement between Jerome and Augustine on interpreting this text. The basic problem as Luther understood it is that Paul was charging Peter with forcing Gentiles to live like Jews as a necessary element of the Christian faith.  He states:
Thus Paul’s complaint is not that the rest of the Jews concurred with respect to food, whether Gentile or Jewish (for they knew that this was permitted), but that they concurred in Peter’s hypocrisy and in his forcing of Gentiles and Jews into Judaism as something that was necessary. Nor does he complain that Barnabas ate with them in Jewish or in Gentile fashion, but that he was misled into the same hypocrisy and concurred in forcing Gentiles and Jews into Judaism.
Therefore Paul is fighting against compulsion and on behalf of freedom. For faith in Christ is all that is necessary for our righteousness. Everything else is entirely without restriction and is no longer either commanded or forbidden. Consequently, if Peter had observed both customs in the proper spirit, as Paul boldly observed both customs, it would not have been necessary to censure him.
Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 27: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 5-6; 1519, Chapters 1-6. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, and H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 27, p. 213). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
The context of Luther's remarks involve forcing Gentiles to live as Jews. The "everything else" in this context is in respect to the customs of the Jews as necessary for the Christian faith. Luther actually saw no problem with Peter eating with either the Jews or gentiles:
Paul reproved Peter because he acted in a hypocritical manner. It was Peter’s hypocrisy, I say, that Paul did not stand for. He approves of what Peter had done by living as the Gentiles lived and again by living as the Jews lived. But he censures him for withdrawing and segregating himself from the foods of the Gentiles when the Jews came; for by this withdrawal Peter caused the Jews to believe that the ways of the Gentiles were forbidden and that the ways of the Jews were necessary, even though he knew that the ways of both were unrestricted and permissible. Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 27: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 5-6; 1519, Chapters 1-6. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, and H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 27, p. 213). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
Luther states also:
This I know, that those who were being forced into Judaism by such hypocrisy would have perished had they not been brought back through Paul; for they began to look for justification in the works of the Law, not in faith in Christ. Consequently, Peter, together with the others, gave powerful offense—not in the matter of morals but in the matter of faith, involving eternal damnation. And Paul would not have opposed him so confidently either if there had been a slight and pardonable danger here. But failure to follow the truth of the Gospel is already the sin of unbelief. Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 27: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 5-6; 1519, Chapters 1-6. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, and H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 27, p. 214). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
 Even in the very context of this 1519 Galatians commentary, Luther goes on to say that there is a place for works. note his comments in regard to Galatians 2:16:
Nevertheless, it should be noted here that the apostle does not reject the works of the Law as Jerome also points out in this connection. He rejects reliance on the works of the Law. That is, he does not deny that there are works, but he does deny that anyone can be justified through them. Therefore one must read the apostle’s statement with emphasis and close attention when he says: “A man is not justified on the basis of the works of the Law”; as if he were saying: “I grant that works of the Law are done; but I say that a man is not justified because of them—except in his own sight and before men, and as a reward in this life. Let there be works of the Law, provided that one knows that in the sight of God they are sins and no longer true works of the Law.” In this way he totally demolishes reliance on our own righteousness, because there is need of a far different righteousness—a righteousness beyond all works of the Law, namely, a righteousness of the works of God and His grace.
Furthermore, you must also observe that Paul speaks of “works of the Law” in general not merely of those that relate to the Ceremonial Law but certainly also of all the works of the Decalog. For these, too, when done apart from faith and the true righteousness of God, are not only insufficient; but in their outward appearance they even give hypocrites false confidence. Therefore he who wants to be saved must despair altogether of all strength, works, and laws. [Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 27: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 5-6; 1519, Chapters 1-6. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, and H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 27, pp. 222–223). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House].
The apostle’s rule is this: It is not works that fulfill the Law, but the fulfillment of the Law produces works. One does not become righteous by doing righteous deeds. No, one does righteous deeds after becoming righteous. Righteousness and fulfillment of the Law come first, before the works are done, because the latter flow out of the former. That is why Paul calls them “works of the Law” in distinction from works of grace or works of God; for works of the Law are really the Law’s, not ours, since they are done, not by the operation of our will but because the Law extorts them through threats or elicits them through promises. But whatever is not done freely of our own will but is done under the compulsion of another is no longer our work. No, it is the work of him who requires it. For works belong to him at whose command they are done. But they are done at the command of the Law, not at the pleasure of one’s own will. It is clear enough that if a person were free to live without the Law, he would never do the works of the Law of his own accord. Hence the Law is called an enforcer when in Is. 9:4 it is spoken of as “the staff for his shoulder, the yoke of his burden, the rod of his oppressor, as on the day of Midian.” For through the Child who was given to us (Is. 9:6) and in whom we believe we become free and take pleasure in the Law; and we no longer belong to the Law, but the Law belongs to us. And our works are not works of the Law; they are works of grace, from which there spring up freely and pleasantly those deeds which formerly the Law used to squeeze out with harshness and power. [Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 27: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 5-6; 1519, Chapters 1-6. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, and H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 27, pp. 223–224). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House].
That "Luther wasn't a fan of Moses' commandments" as the Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther asserts cannot be justified, at all, from the context of this quote. The quote being used was lifted out of its context (originally by O'Hare?) and put in the mouth of an antinomian Luther, a caricature, a "shocking" caricature.

 This final Luther comment, from the same text, should be enough to prove that the quote in context isn't at all shocking to someone familiar with historic Protestant theology:
When faith has been born, you see, its task is to drive what is left of sin out of the flesh. It does so by means of various afflictions, hardships, and mortifications of the flesh, so that in this way the Law of God gives pleasure and is fulfilled not only in the spirit and in the heart but also in the flesh that still resists faith and the spirit which loves and fulfills the Law, as is beautifully described in Rom. 7:22f. [Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 27: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 5-6; 1519, Chapters 1-6. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, and H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 27, p. 231). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House].

Friday, August 14, 2015

Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther: Volume XX of Pelikan's Luther's Works doesn't have a "pp. 2230"

Here's another comment that won't be posted on the Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther blog post.

Footnote 2 reads : "[2] Martin Luther, the Bible, and the Jewish People: A Reader, p. 179; Luther’s Works, Pelikan, Vol. XX, pp. 2230."
Jaraslov Pelikan was a general editor for the English edition of Luther's Works. The last page of text / written content in Volume XX is page 347.

Addendum 8/17/15:
This footnote was revised to: "Luther’s Works, Vol. XX." Which version of Luther's Works? Previously they mentioned "Pelikan" inferring the English edition. Volume 20 in this edition is Luther's lectures on the Minor Prophets III and Zechariah. The quote cited by the Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther is in regard to the Jews: "In sum, they are the Devil’s children, damned to hell." I did a quick search of the word "hell" in LW 20, and of the 50 or so hits, not one of them was remotely similar to the quote being documented in the Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther. There's a very good possibility this quote is from Luther's Vom Schem Hamphoras und vom Geschlecht Christi. If that's the case, then the main German primary source would be WA 53:580 (Amazon has a page view of Martin Luther, the Bible, and the Jewish People: A Reader, p. 179, citing WA 53).  Probably the source though being cited is an older German set, the Saint Louis edition, volume XX, page 2030 (in which case the Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther got the page number wrong, citing page 2230).

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther: Anabaptist right to stand up and speak in a church comes from "the pit of hell" and deserves death

This is another follow-up post in regard to The Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther in which I think the author has presented a caricature. The blogger states,

Luther hated the Anabaptist practice of every-member functioning in the church, which is envisioned in 1 Corinthians 12-14 and Hebrews 10, asserting that it was from “the pit of hell.” Luther and the other Reformers violently denounced the Anabaptists for practicing every-member functioning in the church. The Anabaptists believed it was every Christian’s right to stand up and speak in a church meeting. It was not solely the domain of the clergy. Luther was so opposed to this practice that he said it came from “the pit of hell” and those who were guilty of it should be put to death.The Anabaptists both believed and practiced Paul’s injunction in 1 Corinthians 14:26, 30-31 that every believer has the right to function at any time in a church meeting. In Luther’s day, this practice was known as the Sitzrecht—“the sitter’s right.” [5] Luther announced that “the Sitzrecht was from the pit of hell” and was a “perversion of public order . . . undermining respect for authority.” Within 20 years, over 116 laws were passed in German lands throughout Europe making this “Anabaptist heresy” a capital offense.[6]
[5] Peter Hoover, Secret of the Strength, 58–59.
[6] Peter Hoover, Secret of the Strength, 59, 198.

This was also published in a book by the same person:

What interested me was the documentation for Luther's "pit of hell" comment and that Luther thought the death penalty was needed for those practicing the "sitter's right." There wasn't any meaningful documentation provided. One of the sources cited above, Hoover, Secret of the Strength, says the following, and this appears to be the basis for the assertions:
But what the reformers could not tolerate -- what made them fearful, and eventually furious, with the Anabaptists -- was the Anabaptists' high regard for inner conviction and low regard for the voice of the church. "This heretical persistence in following an inner word," thundered Martin Luther, "brings to nothing the written Word of God!" In a sense he was right. The Anabaptists did not follow the Scriptures (and their "correct interpretation") like Martin Luther wanted them to be followed. They followed a man. And in following him (instead of Luther's church, or Luther's Bible) they got their hands onto the thread that pulls the fabric of civilization apart. This, the reformers correctly discerned, and it made them desperate enough to pass the death penalty upon them. Huldrych Zwingli began and Martin Luther kept on violently denouncing the aufrührerischer Geist (stirring-up spirit) of the Anabaptist movement, which they found, above all, in their "silly teaching" of the Sitzrecht (the "sitter's right"). The Anabaptists took literally the words of Paul in 1 Cor. 14:30-31: "And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged." They called this the "sitter's right" and calmly implied that they, when moved by inner conviction, had as great a right to speak and to act as any pastor, any priest, any reformer or bishop or pope. This audacity, this "Sitzrecht from the pit of hell," Martin Luther and his friends believed, could be dealt with only by fire, water, and the sword. "Even though it is terrible to view," Martin Luther admitted, he gave his blessing to the death sentence upon the Anabaptists, issued by the elector, princes, and landgraves of Protestant Germany on March 31, 1527. The sentence was based on the following four points: 1. The Anabaptists bring to nothing the office of preaching the Word. 2. The Anabaptists have no definite doctrine. 3. The Anabaptists bring to nothing and suppress true doctrine. 4. The Anabaptists want to destroy the kingdom of this world. "For the preservation of public order" both Martin Luther and Huldrych Zwingli promoted the total elimination of the Anabaptists (through capital punishment) as a matter of utmost urgency. They accused the Anabaptists of a crime against the public, "not because they taught a different faith, but for disturbing public order by undermining respect for authority." Philipp Melanchthon, Luther's close friend and adviser wrote: "The Anabaptists' disregard for the outer Word and the Scriptures is blasphemy. Therefore, the temporal arm of government shall watch here too and not tolerate this blasphemy, but earnestly resist and punish it." Urbanus Rhegius, the reformer of Augsburg, wrote: "The Anabaptists cannot and will not endure Scripture." And within twenty years, no less than 116 laws were passed in the German lands of Europe, which made the "Anabaptist heresy" a capital offence. 
This other website makes a similar charge, and includes a quote:
Luther finally took a decisive stand against them in 1531 over the issue of whether believers could rise in church and interrupt the preacher. This was, in his opinion, “the sitter’s right from the pit of hell,” and “even though it is terrible to view,” he gave his blessing to the death sentence for the Anabaptists issued by the princes on March 31, 1527. They called this the “sitter’s right” and calmly implied that they, when moved by inner conviction, had as great a right to speak and to act as any pastor, any priest, any reformer or bishop or pope. 11 Luther’s chief concern was that the Anabaptists “brought to nothing the office of preaching the Word.” He cared not that he indicted Paul in this, for the apostle had instructed the members of his churches to stand up and speak when one of them had a revelation, inspiration or teaching. When this happened, Paul taught, the one already speaking should sit down!
The footnote (11) simply says, "Peter Hoover, The Secret Strength, Benchmark Press." So, it appears, all roads lead to this source. The entirety of this book is online, so I went full-circle.

Luther on "The sitter's right"?
What was not tolerated by Luther and subject to banishment by the authorities was unauthorized preaching. Luther also would not approve of people getting up and interrupting a church service to say something, but these are different things.

It is possible that the text in view by Hoover is from LW 40 (cited below). Luther wrote against "clandestine preachers" who were sneaking into the churches to stir up dissention. Note below Luther's reasoning in regard to 1 Cor. 14:30 in comparison to the Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther:
Undoubtedly some maintain that in I Cor. 14, St. Paul gave anyone liberty to preach in the congregation, even to bark against the established preacher. For he says, “If a revelation is made to another sitting by, let the first be silent” [I Cor. 14:30]. The interlopers take this to mean that to whatever church they come they have the right and power to judge the preacher and to proclaim otherwise. But this is far wide of the mark. The interlopers do not rightly regard the text, but read out of it—rather, smuggle into it—what they wish. In this passage Paul is speaking of the prophets, who are to teach, not of the people, who are to listen. For prophets are teachers who have the office of preaching in the churches. Otherwise why should they be called prophets? If the interloper can prove that he is a prophet or a teacher of the church to which he comes, and can show who has authorized him, then let him be heard as St. Paul prescribes. Failing this let him return to the devil who sent him to steal the preacher’s office belonging to another in a church to which he belongs neither as a listener nor a pupil, let alone as a prophet and master.
What a fine model I imagine that would be, for anyone to have the right to interrupt the preacher and begin to argue with him! Soon another would join in and tell the other two to hush up. Perchance a drunk from the tavern would come in and join the trio calling on the third to be silent. At last the women too would claim the right of “sitting by,” telling the men to be silent [I Cor. 14:34]. Then one woman silencing the other—oh, what a beautiful holiday, auction, and carnival that would be! What pig sties could compare in goings-on with such churches? There the devil may have my place as preacher. But the blind interlopers do not realize this. They think they alone “sit by,” and do not see that any one else has just as much right to hush them up. Neither do they know what they say, nor get the meaning of what St. Paul says here about sitting or speaking, about prophets or people.
Whoever reads the entire chapter will see clearly that St. Paul is concerned about speaking with tongues, about teaching and preaching in the churches or congregations. He is not commanding the congregation to preach, but is dealing with those who are preachers in the congregations or assemblies. Otherwise he would not be forbidding women to preach since they also are a part of the Christian congregation [I Cor. 14:34f.]. The text shows how it was customary for the prophets to be seated among the people in the churches as the regular parish pastors and preachers, and how the lesson was sung or read by one or two, just as in our days on high festivals it is the custom in some churches for two to sing the Gospel together.[Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 40: Church and Ministry II. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, and H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 40, pp. 388–389). Philadelphia: Fortress Press].
Luther concludes,
So much for the words of St. Paul. To sum it all up, the infiltrating and clandestine preachers are apostles of the devil. St. Paul everywhere complains of those who run in and out of houses upsetting whole families, always teaching yet not knowing what they say or direct [Tit. 1:11]. Therefore the spiritual office is to be warned and admonished, and the temporal office is to be warned and admonished. Let each one who is a Christian and a subject be warned to be on guard against these interlopers and not to heed them. Whoever tolerates and listens to them should know that he is listening to the devil himself, incarnate and abominable, as he speaks out of the mouth of a possessed person. I have done my duty. I am innocent, as I said in my commentary on Psalm 82. Let the blood of anyone who does not follow good and honest advice be upon himself. Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 40: Church and Ministry II. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, and H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 40, pp. 393–394). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

I haven't found anything yet from Luther's pen saying that those practicing the "sitter's right" deserve death. It could be that practicing this constituted sedition, but it's the author of the "Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther" to verify this claim or clarify the claim. It would also be the responsibility of the author to meaningfully document  the “the pit of hell” quote in regard to "the sitter's right." Both of these are within the realm of possibility for Luther, but as I said previously, the author shouldn't make Luther worse than he actually was.

Certainly Luther had shocking beliefs, but making him worse than he was goes overboard. Note how the author builds his caricature of Luther claiming that "Luther announced that 'the Sitzrecht was from the pit of hell' and was a 'perversion of public order . . . undermining respect for authority.' Within 20 years, over 116 laws were passed in German lands throughout Europe making this 'Anabaptist heresy” a capital offense." 116 laws were passed in regard to "this Anabaptist heresy" the "sitter's right"? 116 laws on this one practice? That's not even what his source, Peter Hoover claims. Hoover states, "Urbanus Rhegius, the reformer of Augsburg, wrote: 'The Anabaptists cannot and will not endure Scripture.' And within twenty years, no less than 116 laws were passed in the German lands of Europe, which made the 'Anabaptist heresy" a capital offence.'"

Addendum: Luther on the Death Penalty
Certainly Luther was not fond of the Anabaptists. He did have vacillating views on capital punishment in regard to them. I went over this many years back. Luther did support a broader concept of religious freedom previous to 1530. He then saw public blasphemy and sedition as two offenses that should be reprimanded. The death penalty may be invoked in certain instances. Then he signed Melanchthon's proposed legal document in which all Anabaptists were to be suppressed. It is possible though that his last position was that only seditious Anabaptists should be executed, the others should be banished. For the details, see my paper here.

Addendum #2 8/19
The Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther has been revised in regard to the issue I raised about documentation. The article now says,

[5] Peter Hoover, Secret of the Strength, Benchmark Press, 1999, pp. 58–59. Hoover points out that Luther and the other Reformers despised the Anabaptist teaching of listening to their spiritual instincts (“inner word”). That is, the Anabaptists believed the Spirit still speaks to God’s people today. Hoover says that Luther “violently denounced” this as well as their practice of “the sitter’s seat.”

[6] Peter Hoover, Secret of the Strength, Benchmark Press, 1999, pp. 59, 198. Hoover clearly states that Luther and his friends believed that the practice of “the sitter’s seat” — the open sharing for mutual edification they envisioned in 1 Cor. 14 — was to be “dealt with only by fire, water, and the sword . . . Luther gave his blessing to the death sentence upon the Anabaptists . . . for the preservation of the public order” (p. 59). In addition, Hoover points out that “Martin Luther and his colleagues met at Speyer on the Rhein in 1529 . . . At that time they passed a resolution: ‘Every Anabaptist, both male and female, shall be put to death by fire, sword, or in some other way’” (p. 198).

There is nothing in either of these extended footnotes that answers the issues I raised in regard to Luther's view of "the sitter's right." No meaningful documentation or reference from Luther's pen saying that those specifically practicing the "sitter's right" deserve death was provided. Nor was any meaningful reference to "the pit of hell" comment provided. All that was done was to provide more information from Peter Hoover (some of which I actually posted already in this entry). It appears to me the author(s?) of the Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther think that "the sitter's right" and the death penalty for Anabaptists (that the Magisterial Reformers came to hold) means the same thing. In essence, it all boils down to being sloppy with the facts.  

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Shocking Beliefs About Martin Luther: "If your Papist annoys you with the word (alone), tell him straightway: Dr. Martin Luther will have it so"

This is a follow-up to a recent post: Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther: Sin Boldly. Once again, I left a comment on Shocking Beliefs About Martin Luther, and it wasn't posted, but the entry was revised. Here's what the blog post orginally said:

In Romans 3:28, Paul wrote, “We account a man to be justified by faith.” However, in Luther’s translation, Luther added the word “alone” to make the sentence read, “We are justified by faith alone.” When challenged with this change, Luther responded, “If your Papist annoys you with the word (alone), tell him straightway: Dr. Martin Luther will have it so. Whoever will not have my translation, let him give it the go-by; the devil’s thanks to him who censures it without my will and knowledge. Dr. Martin Luther will have it so, and he is a doctor above all the doctors in Popedom.” [16]
[16] Amic. Discussion I, 127, quoted in The Facts About Luther by Partrick O’Haire.

Here's my unpublished comment:
Here's another one where I think a reading of the context says something a little different than your quote and commentary suggests. You may be interested in my link here:Luther Added The Word "Alone" to Romans 3:28? Luther lashed out at his papal critics because while they criticized his translation, some of them also plagiarized it. In the same context from which the quote you use comes from, Luther actually goes on to give a detailed explanation of why he uses the word "alone" in Romans 3:28. Luther gives multiple examples of the implied sense of meaning in translating Romans 3:28 into German. He also notes he wasn't the first to do this. In my link above, you'll find a list of theologians previous to Luther who used the word "alone" in Romans 3:28. As I said previously, the basic thrust of your blog entry makes a good point: Luther had faults, but this doesn't mean his historical significance is to be dismissed. On the other hand, one should strive to not make him worse than he actually was. Regards, James
The revised entry now includes my link:

[16] Amic. Discussion I, 127, quoted in The Facts About Luther by Partrick O’Haire. For further context on Luther’s translation of Romans 3, see

While I appreciate the revision, I see an unfortunate pattern: this blogger may have a problem with allowing comments that may reflect on his credibility. I didn't even mention the minor mistakes:  The Facts About Luther was not written by O'Haire, but rather, O'Hare. I didn't even question the fact the quote was taken from a secondary source, O'Hare, (without a page number! O'Hare uses the quote on page 201, 1987 reprint) which took the quote from a secondary source, Amic. Discussion I, 127.  The blogger actually mis-cited the quote (it isn't "Dr. Martin Luther will have it so," O'Hare cites it as, "Luther will have it so"). For the sake of tedium, Amic. Discussion I, 127 probably refers to: An Amicable Discussion on the Church of England and on the Reformation in General (O'Hare mentions this source elsewhere). I'm not sure which edition O'Hare used, but the quote is not on page 127, or in any of the editions of this book I was able to check.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther: Sin Boldly

Here's one of those situations in which I don't understand motives. I came across a recent patheos entry entitled, Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther. Overall, the person makes a valid point: Luther had faults, but this doesn't mean his historical significance is to be dismissed: "one of the mistakes that we must guard against is to dismiss a person’s entire contribution because they may hold (or have held) to ideas that we find hard to stomach." Great point!

I noticed that my old 2005 paper on Luther and the Jews was cited in footones #1 and #4 (and probably footnote #3 as well).  I skimmed through the entry, and only one blaring thing really jumped out at me: 

3. In his attempt to magnify grace, Luther exhorted people to “sin boldly.”
He wrote, “If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly . . . as long as we are here [in this world] we have to sin. . . . No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day.” [8] In the same connection, he said: “The Christian or baptized man cannot, even if he would, lose his soul by any sins however great, unless he refuses to believe; for no sins whatever can condemn him, but unbelief alone.” [9]  At the same time, Luther bemoaned that despite all of his preaching, he saw very little change in the lives of his congregation. He was discouraged that despite his continuous preaching, his congregation remained godless. “In annoys me to keep preaching to you,” he said in 1530 and even refused to preach for a time.
[8] Letter to Melanchthon, August 1, 1521, Luther’s Works, vol. 48, pp. 281-82
[9] Martin Luther, The Babylonish Captivity, C. 3.

So I left the following comment: 
Thanks for referencing my paper on Luther's attitude toward the Jews. It is a difficult topic. I think Luther went too far, but it does not discredit his importance in the history of the church. I can appreciate your overall point of your blog entry, and your series should ultimately demonstrate that looking to anyone other than Christ is looking toward another sinner, and may in fact be idolatry. It is a good project. I don't have time this week to go through your post thoroughly. I did see one thing thought that I would take issue with from a historical point of view. You said, "In his attempt to magnify grace, Luther exhorted people to “sin boldly.”
Not exactly. The "sin boldly" comment comes from a letter fragment. It has no address, salutation, or signature. Scholars speculate it was written to Melanchthon. It was a private letter, not a written exhortation to the masses to "sin boldly." In actuality, Luther consistently taught that a living faith necessarily produces good works. This letter fragment has been seized by people looking to paint Luther as a gross antinomian.
Luther was prone to strong hyperbole. It's his style, and this statement is a perfect example. The first thing to recognize is that the sentence is a statement of comparison. Luther's point is not to go out and commit multiple amounts of gleeful sin everyday, but rather to believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly despite the sin in our lives. Christians have a real savior. No amount of sin is too much to be atoned for by a perfect savior whose righteousness is imputed to the sinner who reaches out in faith.
See: Luther: Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong And: A Look at Justification By Faith Alone and Good Works in Luther’s Theology. For an anthology of statements from Luther on a living faith producing works, see: Quotations From Luther on Faith And Works.  "Faith," said Luther, "is a living,restless thing. It cannot be inoperative. We are not saved by works; but if there be no works, there must be something amiss with faith."
Also, when you stated, "Luther bemoaned that despite all of his preaching, he saw very little change in the lives of his congregation. He was discouraged that despite his continuous preaching, his congregation remained godless,"- keep in mind this is a Roman Catholic argument against Luther- that in essence, Luther saw the Reformation as a failure. See: Did Luther Regret the Reformation? 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.
Regards, James Swan

Now here's where I don't understand people.  My comment was not published. That in and of itself is fine. I get that. But what I don't understand is why someone would take the information I provided and edit it into the entry  (and actually enter the information in wrong), cite one of my papers, and still not publish my comment? Here's the original from the Google cache, and the updated content: 

3. Luther made dramatic statements about sin in order to magnify grace.
Consider this quote from a private letter: “If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly . . . as long as we are here [in this world] we have to sin. . . . No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day.” [8]
In the same connection, he said: “The Christian or baptized man cannot, even if he would, lose his soul by any sins however great, unless he refuses to believe; for no sins whatever can condemn him, but unbelief alone.” [9] At the same time, Luther bemoaned that despite all of his preaching, he saw very little change in the lives of his congregation. He was discouraged that despite his continuous preaching, his congregation remained godless. “In annoys me to keep preaching to you,” he said in 1530 and even refused to preach for a time. 
[8] Letter to Melanchthon, August 1, 1521, Luther’s Works, vol. 48, pp. 281-82. Note that some scholars speculate that Melanchthon and not Luther wrote this paragraph. It came from a private letter. However, it’s very much in Luther’s style as he was given to overstatements and hyperbole. Nevertheless, if Luther is the source as many believe, he wasn’t advocating that everyone go out and sin big league. Rather, he was emphasizing how far grace reached even in our sins. Luther believed that good works demonstrated real faith.
[9] Martin Luther, The Babylonish Captivity, C. 3.

You'll notice the bolded statement has changed from "In his attempt to magnify grace, Luther exhorted people to 'sin boldly'" to "Luther made dramatic statements about sin in order to magnify grace." OK, that's a good change. Then more of my comments were synthesized into footnote #8, and some of it incorrectly. I certainly never said Melanchthon may have written the "sin boldly" paragraph (unless this blogger got this tidbit from someone else?). I said it was a private letter fragment that scholars think was written to Melanchthon. Added as well are clarifications about Luther's use of hyperbole in regard to sin and grace, and also my point about saving faith being demonstrated by works.

If the author comes across this review, maybe he could explain his edits and why he chose not to publish my comment. In the past I've had Rome's apologists do this- where I'll correct them on something and then, "voila"!  It's gone and replaced. For this blogger,  he's making some good points in his entry, and I was only trying to help him out. What gives?  

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Fans speak Out

Why do I post on the Internet? To make friends and influence people!

I'm a former Lutheran, and I find your whine, "Stephen, that's not fair" to be a real knee-slapper. Your little group of bigots have attacked the anyone who has disagreed with you with venomous hatred, especially, the Catholic Church. As for your defense of Luther being taken out of context, every cult or sect always makes the same claim when their fearless leader is attacked. I'm also a former cult member, (Worldwide Church of God) so I'm very familiar with that tactic. So take your lies somewhere else, because the vast majority of us here on won't buy 'em.

I'm not interested in engaging you at all., either on a personal level or on Luther's quotes. It's a waste of time dealing with people who's minds are bent by the teachings of a bonafide mental case (Luther) or an outright psychopath (Calvin). I learned that lesson in the Armstrong cult after only eight years in it, you and your buddies have been in your Calvinist straight jacket all your lives, and haven't learned your lesson yet. Pity.

Beggars All is a notorious Anti-Catholic, Calvinist site. Unless you want to waste an an hour you will never get back, don't go there.

YOU DON'T SPEAK GERMAN!?!?!? And all your claptrap about "originals sources"! I always assumed you were reading Luther in the original German and now you say you don't speak German. James Swan, you are a blowhard. How many times on your blog have you discounted Catholics because, unlike yourself, they weren't accessing the original sources? You phony-Moderated blog comment

ha! you are a real don quixote. single handedly, you are going to change the world's perception the sicko who caused the rupture in the Body of Christ? Primary sources? Unless people read the german originals, they are not qualified to weigh in on Luther? Good luck on you attempt at white washing- Moderated blog comment

May I politely suggest that you stop your unprovoked attacks.If you aren't driven to respond by some demonic activity, then you could stop replying as well!(CARM boards)

I am not the word of God, but my gospel is to seek a personal relationship with Jesus and to be guided by the Holy Spirit AND turn to them for all knowledge of good and evil. This is offensive to you and you would like to kill that idea, as this would mean that you are no longer in charge of your great collection of Christianese titbits. You would no longer be in charge of your own life and would call Jesus your Lord and Saviour. How repugnant is that to those who are perishing! I am looking forward to a continued attack. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to make your position clearer. Do you want me to describe the level of faith needed to uphold your position? (CARM boards)

The reason that you reject everything I post is because I am a stench to those who are perishing. (CARM boards)

I know that you would rather attack me and keep your bookish religion, than preach the gospel. (CARM boards)

Are you still defending Lutheran, but not adhering to their theology? Once you are less two-faced your credibility rating would go from zero to one out of ten. (CARM boards)

You hate me! Remember, I am the aroma of death to those who are perishing (CARM boards)

You have already ridiculed the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit in the temples of the Holy Spirit: the KINGDOM WITHIN. There is a clash of cultures here; your carnal hobby of collecting Christian titbits versus the gospel being preached.That should be every challenging for you. Your response of shooting the messenger by quoting verses from your carnal arsenal isn't quite the faith response which will lead you to Christ. (CARM boards)