Sunday, September 16, 2018

Luther: The Pope is not Subject to God's Commandments?

Rome's defenders often voice severe disapproval with Luther's private counsel to Jerome Weller. Weller, a man plagued by despair and depression, was instructed by Luther in a letter to "put the whole law entirely out of our eyes and hearts." A review of this letter and advice can be found here. Older generations of Rome's polemicists typically used the Weller letter to demonstrate Luther was an antinomian. Despite this myth being debunked for centuries, it still circulates in cyberspace, used by not only Rome's defenders, but just about anyone with an an ax to grind against Luther or the Reformation.

I'm so accustomed to seeing this argument against Luther that I was surprised to find a very similar argument being made by Luther himself about the papacy. In his tract, Why the Books of the Pope and His followers Were Burned by Doctor Martin Luther, 1520, the very first reason Luther gives is that they teach the following:
It is not required of the pope and his adherents that they be subject to God's commandments and obey them." He clearly writes this abominable teaching in the chapter 'Solitae", de majoritate et obedientia* where he expounds Peter's words You ought to be subject to every authority, by declaring that St. Peter did not mean himself nor his own successors, but their subjects. [Bertram Lee Wolf, Reformation Writings of Martin Luther Vol. II (London: Lutterworth Press, 1956), p. 78]. 
Did the Papacy really say that they, as an institution, were not subject to God's commands, or was Luther making it up? Who is the true antinominan... Luther or the papacy? Let's take a closer look.

Documentation
The version of this text being utilized was that done by Bertram Lee Wolf. Wolf provides a footnote (*): "A quotation from the corpus juris canonici.... Here the reference is to Solitae, 6, de majoritate et obedientia, tit.33. lib. I." For the same text, Luther's Works likewise references, "Solitae, Decretalium Gregorii IX i. tit. XXXIII: De maioritate et obedientia, cap. 6. Corpus Iuris Canonici, ed. Aemilius Friedberg (Graz, 1955), II, cols. 196–198" (LW 31:385, fn. 2). Both of these sources are referring to Corpus Iuris Canonici, or Canon Law. The particulars being referred to by Luther are the Decretales Gregorii IX. These were ordered by Pope Gregory IX. According to Luther's Works, here was Canon Law as Luther new it:
In Luther’s time canon law consisted of three parts: (1) the Decretum Gratiani, named after the monk Gratian who issued a collection in Bologna in 1150; (2) the Decretalium Gregorii IX. libri quinque, five books named after Pope Gregory IX, who continued the first collection between 1230 and 1234; and (3) the Liber sextus, the “sixth book” issued by Pope Boniface VIII in 1298 as a supplement to the five books. Finally, the extravagantes, and appendix, were added to the whole collection by Clement V in 1313. This addition was also called the “seventh book” (liber septimus) or “Clementine constitutions” (constitutiones Clementinae) (LW 39:281, fn. 34).
Context
I could find no full English translation of this canon law text. This link though includes the section of canon law being referred to by Luther (in Latin). When Luther cites, "Solitae," he appears to be citing the first word of the lengthy paragraph below.  The phrase, "de majoritate et obedientia" is included in the title:

D e c r e t a l i u m
G r e g o r i i  p a p a e  I X
c o m p i l a t i o n i s
 l i b e r  I
 T i t u l u s    X X X I I I
 De maioritate et obedientia.

Capitulum VI.


Imperium non praeest sacerdotio, sed subest, et ei obedire tenetur. Vel sic: Episcopus non debet subesse principibus, sed praeesse. H. d. et est multum allegabile.
Idem illustrissimo Constantinopolitano Imperatori.

Solitae benignitatis affectu +recepimus literas, quas per dilectum filium archidiaconum Durachii, virum providum et fidelem, imperialis nobis excellentia destinavit, per quas intelleximus, quod literae, quas per dilectum filium I. capellanum nostrum, tunc apostolicae sedis legatum, tibi transmisimus, imperio tuo praesentatae fuerant et perlectae. §. 1. Mirata est autem imperialis sublimitas, sicut per easdem nobis literas destinasti, quod te nisi fuimus in nostris literis aliquantulum increpare, licet non increpandi animo, sed affectu potius commonendi quod scripsimus meminerimus nos scripsisse. Huic autem tuae admirationi non causam, sed occasionem praebuit, sicut ex eisdem coniecimus literis, quod legisti, beatum Petrum Apostolorum principem sic scripsisse: «Subditi estote omni humanae creaturae propter Deum, sive regi, tanquam praecellenti, sive ducibus, tanquam ab eo missis, ad vindictam malefactorum, laudem vero bonorum.» +Volens enim, de quo nos rationabilius admiramur, imperatoria celsitudo per haec et alia, quae induxit, imperium sacerdotio dignitate ac potestate praeferre, ex auctoritate praemissa triplex trahere voluit argumentum, primum ex eo, quod legitur: «subditi estote;» secundum ex eo, quod sequitur: «regi tanquam praecellenti;» tertium ex eo, quod est adiectum subsequenter: «ad vindictam malefactorum, laudem vero bonorum;» per primum subesse sacerdotium, per secundum imperium praeeminere, per tertium imperatorem tam in sacerdotes quam laicos iurisdictionem, immo etiam gladii potestatem accepisse praesumens. Quum enim et boni quidam sint sacerdotes, et quidam eorum malefactores exsistant, is, qui secundum Apostolum gladium portat ad vindictam malefactorum, laudem vero bonorum, in malefacientes presbyteros excessus praesumptos potest ultore gladio vindicare, quum inter presbyteros et alios Apostolus non distinguat. §. 2. Verum si etpersonam loquentis, et eorum, ad quos loquebatur, ac vim locutionis diligentius attendisses, scribentis non expressisses taliter intellectum. Scribebat enim Apostolus subditis suis, et eos ad humilitatis meritum provocabat. Nam si per hoc, quod dixit: «subditi estote,» sacerdotibus voluit imponere iugum subiectionis, et eis praelationis auctoritatem afferre, quibus eos subiectos esse monebat, sequeretur ex hoc, quod etiam servus quilibet in sacerdotes imperium accepisset, quum dicatur: «omni humanae creaturae.» Quod autem sequitur, «regi tanquam praecellenti,» non negamus, quin praecellat imperator in temporalibus illos duntaxat, qui ab eo suscipiunt temporalia. Sed Pontifex in spiritualibus antecellit, quae tanto sunt temporalibus digniora, quanto anima praefertur corpori, licet non simpliciter dictum fuerit: «subditi estote,» sed additum fuerit: «propter Deum,» nec pure sit subscriptum: «regi praecellenti,» sed interpositum forsitan fuit non sine causa, «tanquam.» Quod autem sequitur: «ad vindictam malefactorum, laudem vero bonorum,» intelligendum non est, quod rex vel imperator super omnes et bonos et malos gladii acceperit potestatem, sed in eos solummodo, qui utentes gladio eius sunt iurisdictioni commissi, +iuxta quod Veritas ait: «Omnes, qui acceperint gladium, gladio peribunt.» Non enim potest aut debet quisquam servum alterius iudicare, quum servus domino suo secundum Apostolum stet aut cadat. Ad id etiam induxisti, quod, licet Moyses et Aaron secundum carnem fratres exstiterint, Moyses tamen princeps populi, et Aaron sacerdotii potestate praeerat, et Iesus successor ipsius imperium in sacerdotes accepit. David quoque rex Abiathar pontifici praeeminebat. Ceterum licet Moyses dux populi fuerit, fuit etiam et sacerdos, qui Aaron in sacerdotem unxit, et cui Propheta sacerdotium recognoscens: «Moyses» inquit «et Aaron in sacerdotibus eius.» Quod vero de Iesu, id est Iosue, ad commendandam praelationem eius scripsisti, magis secundum spiritum, quam literam debet intelligi, quia secundum Apostolum litera occidit, spiritus autem vivificat, pro eo, quod ipse veri Iesu figuram expressit, qui populum suum in terram promissionis induxit. David etiam quamvis diadema regium obtineret, Abiathar sacerdoti non tam ex dignitate regia, quam auctoritate prophetica imperabat. Verum quicquid olim fuerit in veteri testamento, nunc aliud est in novo, ex quo Christus factus est sacerdos in aeternum secundum ordinem Melchisedech, qui se non ut rex, sed ut sacerdos in ara crucis hostiam obtulit Deo Patri, per quam genus redemit humanum, circa illum praecipue, qui successor est Apostoli Petri et vicarius Iesu Christi. §. 3. Potuisses autem praerogativam sacerdotii ex eo potius intelligere, quod dictum est: non a quolibet, sed a Deo; non regi, sed sacerdoti; non de regia stirpe, sed de sacerdotali prosapia descendenti, de sacerdotibus videlicet, qui erant in Anathot: «Ecce constitui te super gentes et regna, ut evellas et dissipes, aedifices et plantes» +Dictum est etiam in divina lege: «Diis non detrahes, et principem populi tui non maledices» quae sacerdotes regibus anteponens istos Deos et alios principes appellavit. §. 4. Praeterea nosse debueras, quod fecit Deus duo magna luminaria in firmamento coeli; luminare maius, ut praeesset diei, et luminare minus, ut praeesset nocti; utrumque magnum, sed alterum maius, quia nomine coeli designatur ecclesia, iuxta quod Veritas ait: «Simile est regnum coelorum homini patri familias, qui summo mane conduxit operarios in vineam suam.» Per diem vero spiritualis accipitur, per noctem carnalis secundum propheticum testimonium: «dies diei eructat verbum, et nox nocti indicat scientiam.» Ad firmamentum igitur coeli, hoc est universalis ecclesiae, fecit Deus duo magna luminaria, id est, duas magnas instituit dignitates, quae sunt pontificalis auctoritas, et regalis potestas. Sed illa, quae praeest diebus, id est spiritualibus, maior est; quae vero [noctibus, id est] carnalibus, minor, ut, quanta est inter solem et lunam, tanta inter pontifices et reges differentia cognoscatur. Haec autem si prudenter attenderet imperatoria celsitudo, non faceret aut permitteret venerabilem fratrem nostrum Constantinopolitanum patriarcham, magnum quidem et honorabile membrum ecclesiae, iuxta scabellum pedum suorum in sinistra parte sedere, quum alii reges et principes archiepiscopis et episcopis suis, sicut debent, reverenter assurgant, et eis iuxta se venerabilem sedem assignent. +Nam et piissimus Constantinus quantum honoris exhibuerit sacerdotibus, tua sicut credimus, discretio non ignorat. §. 5. Nos autem etsi non increpando scripserimus, potuissemus tamen rationabiliter increpare, +quum B. Paulus Apostolus episcopum instruens ad Timotheum scripisse legatur. «Praedica verbum, insta opportune, importune, argue, obsecra, increpa in omni patientia et doctrina.» Non enim os nostrum debet esse ligatum, sed patere debet ad omnes, ne secundum propheticum verbum simus canes muti, non valentes latrare. Unde correctio nostra tibi non debuit esse molesta, sed magis accepta, quia pater filium, quem diligit, corripit, et Deus quos amat arguit et castigat. Debitum igitur pastoralis officii exsequimur, quum obsecramus, arguimus, increpamus, et non solum alios, sed imperatores et reges opportune et importune ad ea studemus inducere, quae divinae sunt placita voluntati. §. 6. Nobis autem in B. Petro sunt oves Christi commissae; dicente Domino: «Pasce oves meas,» non distinguens inter has oves et alias, ut alienum a suo demonstraret ovili, qui Petrum et successores ipsius magistros non recognosceret et pastores; ut illud tanquam notissimum omittamus, quod Dominus dixit ad Petrum, et in Petro dixit ad successores ipsius: «Quodcunque ligaveris super terram, erit ligatum et in coelis etc.,» nihil excipiens, qui dixit: «quodcunque.» +Verum his diutius insistere nolumus, ne vel contendere videamur, vel in huiusmodi delectari, quum, si gloriari expediat, non in honore, sed in onere, non in magnitudine, sed in sollicitudine sit potius gloriandum, quum et Apostolus in infirmitatibus glorietur. Novimus esse scriptum: «Omnis qui se exaltat, humiliabitur, et qui se humiliat, exaltabitur;» et iterum: «Quanto maior es, humilia te in omnibus;» et alibi: «Deus superbis resistit, humilibus autem dat gratiam.» Propter quod exaltationem nostram in humilitate ponimus, et humilitatem nostram exaltationem maximam reputamus. Unde etiam servos non solum Dei, sed etiam servorum Dei nos esse scribimus et fatemur, et tam sapientibus quam insipientibus secundum Apostolum sumus debitores. §. 7. Utrum autem imperatoriam excellentiam ad bonum et utile per literas nostras duxerimus invitandam, utrum tibi iusta suggesserimus et honesta, tua sollicitudo discernat, quum non nisi ad utilitatem ecclesiae et terrae Hierosolymitanae subsidium nos te meminerimus invitasse. [Inspiret igitur etc.


Conclusion
At first, it appears that Luther first overstates what this text actually says. He says, "The pope and his men are not bound to be subject and obedient to God's commands" (LW 31:385). Left like this, the actual text from Canon Law does not support this, so Luther would be guilty of misusing the text. The text is not saying that the pope and papacy are not subject to all of God's commands found in Scripture, like for instance, the Decalogue. Luther though refines his point and explains which command he means:
He records this atrocious teaching clearly in the chapter where he explains the words of St. Peter, who says, "Be subject to every human institution," [1 Peter 2:13] thus: St. Peter did not thereby refer to himself or his successors, but rather to his subjects" (LW 31:385).
The text does comment on the application of 1 Peter 2:13 ("Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme..."), and says that the secular government is not above the pope and papacy in regard to authority. The Papacy need not obey secular authorities. In essence, this is a denial of a Biblical commandment, and accordingly, against God's law. The text states, "Imperium non praeest sacerdotio, sed subest, et ei obedire tenetur," and also:
Huic autem tuae admirationi non causam, sed occasionem praebuit, sicut ex eisdem coniecimus literis, quod legisti, beatum Petrum Apostolorum principem sic scripsisse: «Subditi estote omni humanae creaturae propter Deum, sive regi, tanquam praecellenti, sive ducibus, tanquam ab eo missis, ad vindictam malefactorum, laudem vero bonorum... 
...Verum si etpersonam loquentis, et eorum, ad quos loquebatur, ac vim locutionis diligentius attendisses, scribentis non expressisses taliter intellectum. Scribebat enim Apostolus subditis suis, et eos ad humilitatis meritum provocabat. Nam si per hoc, quod dixit: «subditi estote,» sacerdotibus voluit imponere iugum subiectionis, et eis praelationis auctoritatem afferre, quibus eos subiectos esse monebat, sequeretur ex hoc, quod etiam servus quilibet in sacerdotes imperium accepisset, quum dicatur: «omni humanae creaturae.» Quod autem sequitur, «regi tanquam praecellenti,» non negamus, quin praecellat imperator in temporalibus illos duntaxat, qui ab eo suscipiunt temporalia. Sed Pontifex in spiritualibus antecellit, quae tanto sunt temporalibus digniora, quanto anima praefertur corpori, licet non simpliciter dictum fuerit: «subditi estote,» sed additum fuerit: «propter Deum,» nec pure sit subscriptum: «regi praecellenti,» sed interpositum forsitan fuit non sine causa, «tanquam.» Quod autem sequitur: «ad vindictam malefactorum, laudem vero bonorum,» intelligendum non est, quod rex vel imperator super omnes et bonos et malos gladii acceperit potestatem, sed in eos solummodo, qui utentes gladio eius sunt iurisdictioni commissi...
Luther went on to provide a number of other reasons taken from canon law as to why he had it burned. That Luther burned papal documents was in response to the bonfires that burned his books.  John Warwick Montgomery stated that Rome's defender Hartmann Grisar "...argued that his symbolic burning of the canon law reflected a deep-seated antinomianism on the Reformer’s part: Luther was allegedly jettisoning law in favor of personal, individual spiritual experience" (Luther and Canon Law, Bibliotheca Sacra, 158, 218). I don't know where Grisar actually stated that, but it would not surprise me.  Montgomery counters, 
Luther was anything but a sixteenth-century charismatic mystic opposing the ordered structure of corporate Christianity to his inner spiritual vision. What led Luther to desire that the existing canon law be “utterly blotted out” was his studied conviction that the canon law of his day functioned chiefly to support a theologically corrupt church authority that operated at cross-purposes to the gospel itself ( Luther and Canon Law. Bibliotheca Sacra, 158, 223–224).

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Concerning the Prevention of Boredom During Sermons That Are All Too Long.

Her'e's a tidbit from Jerome Weller's, Luther's Guide for the Proper Study of Theology, 1561. Weller was a pupil and friend of Luther's. The document is a short read (7 pages), but has some interesting tips, and even some humorous stuff. For instance:
Fifth: concerning the prevention of just boredom during sermons that are all too long.
Fifth, he should always pay attention that he not preach longwinded sermons and overburden the hearers through the treatment of many points, so that they be filled with boredom of the Word. I remember that Dr. Luther had said to a theologian, who was accustomed to preaching two hours long, "You arouse boredom of the Word." In addition, Melanchthon had once made this remark, which was already spoken by a speaker at the table, "A speaker, both a secular and ecclesiastical one, must speak in a very captivating and lovely manner, in order to avoid the boredom of his hearers, if he speaks longer than a half an hour. None of the senses, he said, will tire faster than hearing." This is excellently spoken about by both Luther and Melanchthon. Just as those are counted as the most skilled musicians, who stop when the song is the most beautiful, in order to make a stronger desire for listening in their hearers, so too those are recognized as the best speakers, who know what is sufficient, i.e., who understand how to begin and stop. No one can do this better than he who observes method in speaking. One cannot say again how necessary method is for teaching. It causes the hearers always to take home something out of the sermon. Although it is of great praise for a preacher to set the subject of his speech in a proper clear light, and to make an impression on the hearts of his hearers, he also cannot still bring this about, if he does not properly apply himself to method as also is evident in the writings of Luther and the greatest speakers. There are still more directions that could be given concerning the virtues of a preacher, which you can hear from others in due course. Therefore, this short list pleases me. He lives well in the Lord who wants to give you his tongue and wisdom both for preaching and confessing Christ. Live well in the Lord.
I was having lunch with a pastor a few years back, and he told me that one congregant would hold up his arm with his watch on it if he went beyond the allotted time. There is a tradition I've seen (particularly among some Reformed Baptists) that long sermons represent a zeal and love for God over and above shorter sermons, and by extension, those who want to hear long sermons are those who really want to hear the Word of God.

Perhaps. I suspect the length of a sermon falls under the category of adiaphora. I read an interesting theory that the Book of Hebrews was actually an early Christian sermon. The book was said to take about an hour to read. Long orations though can also have some interesting consequences (Acts 20:7-12). So for those who enjoy long sermons, enjoy them. I realize there are some people gifted to captivate an audience. Frankly, I'm with Weller and Luther on this one, unless a speaker has a true gift. 

Addendum #1
There are some long sermons from Luther, for instance, his lengthy sermon on 1 john 4 16-21 (WA 36:416 - 477). More often than not, Luther's sermons are shorter, and easily read in one sitting.

Addendum #2
I posted this same snippet some time back on the CARM discussion boards. One of Rome's defenders decided to use it as an opportunity to attack Luther via his advice given to Jerome Weller, that he "encouraged him to sin and to set aside the commandments of God." I will post that discussion sometime in the future. 

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Luther Admitted He Was Not Following the Rules of Language When He Translated Romans 3:28?

Here's a Martin Luther-tidbit from one of Rome's defenders on the CARM boards:
You do realize that Luther admits that he didn't add the word alone due to the rules of language but because he said that is what Paul meant to say. That's Luther's own admission, so yes, Luther added the word alone so that it read like what he thought is should say. So much for a person who held Scripture in such high regard.
And also:
In his An Open Letter on Translating: "So much for translating and the nature of language. However, I was not depending upon or following the nature of language when I inserted the word "solum" (alone) in Rom. 3 as the text itself, and St. Paul's meaning, urgently necessitated and demanded it." Luther inserted his own theology into the text.
And also:
As I have stated already, Luther admits he did not use the rules of language as the basis for adding the word alone. "However, I was not depending upon or following the nature of language when I inserted the word "solum" (alone) in Rom. 3 as the text itself, and St. Paul's meaning, urgently necessitated and demanded it."
And also:
All of your appeals to the German language mean nothing because Luther freely admits, as I have quoted, that he was not following the rules of language when he inserted the word alone. He did it because he believed that Paul meant to say alone.
The polemic is blatant: Luther is said to have simply added the word "alone" to Romans 3:28 to fit his theological agenda. The basis for this is a statement Luther himself made,  "I was not depending upon or following the nature of language when I inserted the word "solum" (alone) in Rom. 3 as the text itself." let's take a look at this quote and see if it substantiates this typical Roman Catholic narrative.

Documentation
The sentence is said to come from Luther's An Open Letter on Translating. This refers to a document Luther wrote in 1530 which covered the topics of justification by faith alone, his methodology in regard to his German translation of the Bible, and the intercession and prayer to the saints. This document was originally written in German, "Ein sendbrieff D. M. Luthers. Von Dolmetzschen und Fürbit der heiligenn" (WA 30 II, 627-646). The comment can be found on page 640:


As far as I can tell, the English rendering of the sentence being utilized was taken from a version originally put up on the Project Wittenberg website. Project Wittenberg has been around for quite a few years now. This website was up and running years before the onslaught of Google Books. At one time, it was one of the few places one could go to read Luther's writings online in English. Some of the versions of Luther's texts on Project Wittenberg appear to be unique to their website. Their version of An Open Letter on Translating, was put together by Gary Mann, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Religion/Theology Augustana College Rock Island, Illinois. Mann's translation reads,
So much for translating and the nature of language. However, I was not depending upon or following the nature of language when I inserted the word "solum" (alone) in Rom. 3 as the text itself, and St. Paul's meaning, urgently necessitated and demanded it. 
Mann's English translation is not the only one available. One of the most enduring translations was that done by Charles Michael Jacobs in the Philadelphia Edition of Luther's Works (PE 5:10-27). This translation was revised by LW 35:175-200. In PE 5, the comment can be found on page 20. In LW 35, page 195. For the context, Mann's translation will be used below.

Context
So much for translating and the nature of language. However, I was not depending upon or following the nature of language when I inserted the word "solum" (alone) in Rom. 3 as the text itself, and St. Paul's meaning, urgently necessitated and demanded it. He is dealing with the main point of Christian doctrine in this passage - namely that we are justified by faith in Christ without any works of the Law. In fact, he rejects all works so completely as to say that the works of the Law, though it is God's law and word, do not aid us in justification. Using Abraham as an example, he argues that Abraham was so justified without works that even the highest work, which had been commanded by God, over and above all others, namely circumcision, did not aid him in justification. Instead, Abraham was justified without circumcision and without any works, but by faith, as he says in Chapter 4: "If Abraham is justified by works, he may boast, but not before God." However, when all works are so completely rejected - which must mean faith alone justifies - whoever would speak plainly and clearly about this rejection of works would have to say "Faith alone justifies and not works." The matter itself and the nature of language necessitates it.
Conclusion
Whatever English translation one uses, Luther does provide reasons as to why he used the word solum in his German translation. Luther's intention was to translate the Bible into an easily comprehended form of popular German. His translation at times employed dynamic equivalence (as many translations do). Word-for-word translations can be cumbersome and awkward, and can miss the thrust of the original thought. Rather, many translations seek to maximize readability with a minimum of verbal distortion by translating according to “concept.” In translating Romans, Luther tried to present the impact of what the original Greek had on its first readers, and to present the German style and idiom equivalent for his readers.

An honest translator, Luther freely admitted the word “only” does not appear in the original Greek at Romans 3:28. He states, 

Here, in Romans 3[:28], I knew very well that the word solum is not in the Greek or Latin text; the papists did not have to teach me that. It is a fact that these four letters s o l a are not there. And these blockheads stare at them like cows at a new gate. At the same time they do not see that it conveys the sense of the text; it belongs there if the translation is to be clear and vigorous. I wanted to speak German, not Latin or Greek, since it was German I had undertaken to speak in the translation. But it is the nature of our German language that in speaking of two things, one of which is affirmed and the other denied, we use the word solum (allein) along with the word nicht [not] or kein [no]. For example, we say, “The farmer brings allein grain and kein money”; “No, really I have now nicht money, but allein grain”; “I have allein eaten and nicht yet drunk”; “Did you allein write it, and nicht read it over?” There are innumerable cases of this kind in daily use.
In all these phrases, this is the German usage, even though it is not the Latin or Greek usage. It is the nature of the German language to add the word allein in order that the word nicht or kein may be clearer and more complete. To be sure, I can also say, “The farmer brings grain and kein money,” but the words “kein money” do not sound as full and clear as if I were to say, “The farmer brings allein grain and kein money.” Here the word allein helps the word kein so much that it becomes a complete, clear German expression. (LW 35:188-189).
Granted though, Rome's defender has seized upon Luther's seeming admission that he "was not depending upon or following the nature of language when I inserted the word "solum" (alone) in Rom. 3." This does seem like a blatant denial of the syntax and grammar of the original text. The solution comes by looking carefully at the original German text and other English translations. The German text of this sentence reads in part, "Aber nu hab ich nicht allein der sprachen art vertraut und gefolgt, daß ich Röm. 3, 28. solum (allein) hab hinzugesezt; sondern der Tert und die Meinung Pauli fodern und erzwingen es mit Gewalt." (WA 30 II:640). LW 35:195 translates this as, "Now I was not relying on and following the nature of the languages alone, however, when, in Roman 3[:28] I inserted the word solum (alone)." PE 5:20 translates similarly, "Now however, I was not only relying on the nature of the languages and following that when, in Romans iii, I inserted the word solum, 'only,' but the text itself and the sense of St. Paul demanded it and forced it upon me." Luther is saying that he did not only follow the nature of the language, but also saw the thrust of the text demands using "alone."

The need for "alone" in Romans 3:28 was not unique to Luther. Luther mentions others before him translated Romans 3:28 as he did (for example, Ambrose and Augustine). The Roman Catholic writer Joseph Fitzmyer verified Luther’s claim and also presented quite an extensive list of those previous to Luther doing likewise. Even some Roman Catholic versions of the New Testament also translated Romans 3:28 as did Luther. The Nuremberg Bible (1483), “allein durch den glauben” and the Italian Bibles of Geneva (1476) and of Venice (1538) say “per sola fede.” It is entirely possible Luther’s understanding of “faith alone” differs from those before him, but that is not the issue. The issue is whether or not the thrust of Romans 3:28 implies “alone.” Others previous to Luther may have differed in theological interpretation, yet saw the thrust of the words implied “alone.” Hence, as a translator, Luther holds company with others, and cannot be charged with a mistranslation. If he’s guilty of such a charge, so are many before him.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Calvin on the Atonement: Limited or Unlimited?

Did John Calvin believe in the "L" of T.U.L.I.P, limited atonement? This has been studied and debated for quite a few years. It's been a while since I've looked at this subject. Some years back I caught Norman Geisler fabricating a Calvin quote on the atonement in his book, Chosen But Free. Back in 2006 I looked at Calvin's comments on John 3:16. Other than that, I don't recall getting into it here. Frankly, it's a complicated subject, and both sides make compelling arguments.

Recently on the CARM boards, a thread was posted entitled, "Jesus Died For Judas Iscariot." In this piece, the following was asserted:

John Gill
"From Luke's account it appears most clearly, that Judas was not only at the passover, but at the Lord's supper, since this was said when both were over"

Also, John Calvin on Mark 14:24, which is part of the Lord's Supper, says this:
"Which is shed for many. By the word many he means not a part of the world only, but the whole human race; for he contrasts many with one; as if he had said, that he will not be the Redeemer of one man only, but will die in order to deliver many from the condemnation of the curse."

This does not mean that Judas was ever "born again", which John 13:10 says he was not; but that Jesus Christ did actually die for Judas, which is even confirmed in 2 Peter 2:1, which clearly says that those who are lost in hell, have been "bought" (same Greek word, ἀγοράζω, used for Jesus' blood shed for sinners, as in 1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23; Revelation 5:9, 14:3-4, etc)

Granted, Calvin's quote is not the emphasis of the overall argument. I doubt the person posting the quote really cares what John Calvin believed.  Rather, Calvin is being used in a polemical way to demonstrate to Calvinists that even their founder believed in an universal atonement (which would include Jesus atoning for the sins of Judas Iscariot).

Here then is the brief interaction I had with this person on Calvin's view:

Originally posted by Sola_Scriptura View Post
Also, John Calvin on Mark 14:24, which is part of the Lord's Supper, says this:
"Which is shed for many. By the word many he means not a part of the world only, but the whole human race; for he contrasts many with one; as if he had said, that he will not be the Redeemer of one man only, but will die in order to deliver many from the condemnation of the curse."
Words have meaning derived on the context they are in. Calvin explains what "whole human race" means in the next sentence: "...for he contrasts many with one; as if he had said, that he will not be the Redeemer of one man only, but will die in order to deliver many from the condemnation of the curse." There is nothing in the context of Calvin's words that demands a universal atonement applicable to every person who has lived or will live.

Determining Calvin's view of the atonement can be tricky. It's not a clear-cut theological point in his writings, one way or the other. To my knowledge, Calvin did not enter into any significant controversies about the extent of the atonement. There are people who try to argue Calvin's view, limited or unlimited. All there is to work with are snippet statements peppered throughout his written corpus. I've seen the evidence for both sides. The statement you've utilized from Calvin simply does not prove the case that he held to an unlimited atonement.

The extent of the atonement became significantly more important in Reformed theology after Calvin’s death The Arminian controversy that erupted after Calvin did produce definite Reformed statements on the extent of the atonement.

JS


Originally posted by James Swan View Post

Words have meaning derived on the context they are in. Calvin explains what "whole human race" means in the next sentence: "...for he contrasts many with one; as if he had said, that he will not be the Redeemer of one man only, but will die in order to deliver many from the condemnation of the curse." There is nothing in the context of Calvin's words that demands a universal atonement applicable to every person who has lived or will live.

Determining Calvin's view of the atonement can be tricky. It's not a clear-cut theological point in his writings, one way or the other. To my knowledge, Calvin did not enter into any significant controversies about the extent of the atonement. There are people who try to argue Calvin's view, limited or unlimited. All there is to work with are snippet statements peppered throughout his written corpus. I've seen the evidence for both sides. The statement you've utilized from Calvin simply does not prove the case that he held to an unlimited atonement.

The extent of the atonement became significantly more important in Reformed theology after Calvin’s death The Arminian controversy that erupted after Calvin did produce definite Reformed statements on the extent of the atonement.

JS
Here is John Calvin on John 3:16, if this does not show that Calvin held to an unlimited Redemption, then tell me what it does say

"That whosoever believeth on him may not perish. It is a remarkable commendation of faith, that it frees us from everlasting destruction. For he intended expressly to state that, though we appear to have been born to death, undoubted deliverance is offered to us by the faith of Christ; and, therefore, that we ought not to fear death, which otherwise hangs over us. And he has employed the universal term whosoeverboth to invite all indiscriminately to partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers. Such is also the import of the term World, which he formerly used; for though nothing will be found in the world that is worthy of the favor of God, yet he shows himself to be reconciled to the whole world, when he invites all men without exception to the faith of Christ, which is nothing else than an entrance into life."

Note the phrase that Calvin uses here, "all men without exception", whereas the "Calvinistic/Reformed" say, "all men without distinction".

On Colossians 1:14

"He says that this redemption was procured through the blood of Christ, for by the sacrifice of his death all the sins of the world have been expiated. Let us, therefore, bear in mind, that this is the sole price of reconciliation, and that all the trifling of ******* as to satisfactions is blasphemy"

Nothing about any "limitations" here.

His comments on Mark 14:24 clearly show the extent of which Calvin held the blood of Jesus Christ was shed on the cross,

"Which is shed for many. By the word many he means not a part of the world only, but the whole human race; for he contrasts many with one; as if he had said, that he will not be the Redeemer of one man only, but will die in order to deliver many from the condemnation of the curse. It must at the same time be observed, however, that by the words for you, as related by Luke — Christ directly addresses the disciples, and exhorts every believer to apply to his own advantage the shedding of blood Therefore, when we approach to the holy table, let us not only remember in general that the world has been redeemed by the blood of Christ, but let every one consider for himself that his own sins have been expiated"

Only those who will insist in their theological bias, can conclude that John Calvin did not believe in Universal Redemption.

Originally posted by Sola_Scriptura View Post
Here is John Calvin on John 3:16, if this does not show that Calvin held to an unlimited Redemption, then tell me what it does say

"That whosoever believeth on him may not perish. It is a remarkable commendation of faith, that it frees us from everlasting destruction. For he intended expressly to state that, though we appear to have been born to death, undoubted deliverance is offered to us by the faith of Christ; and, therefore, that we ought not to fear death, which otherwise hangs over us. And he has employed the universal term whosoeverboth to invite all indiscriminately to partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers. Such is also the import of the term World, which he formerly used; for though nothing will be found in the world that is worthy of the favor of God, yet he shows himself to be reconciled to the whole world, when he invites all men without exception to the faith of Christ, which is nothing else than an entrance into life."

Note the phrase that Calvin uses here, "all men without exception", whereas the "Calvinistic/Reformed" say, "all men without distinction". .
It would be prudent to back up to Calvin's comments on John 3:14. Calvin there explains that the Gospel is to be manifest to “all” by Christ being “lifted up” on the cross. Here we find Calvin’s universalistic notion of the proclamation of the Gospel, rather than the extent of the atonement. Calvin also speaks of Christ dying "that he might cure in us the deadly wound of sin." Who is the “us”? It is those who embrace Christ by faith- those who have been given the miraculous gift of faith by the sovereign choice of God. These are given the ability to be cured of the “deadly wound of sin.”

Then, in regard to Calvin’s comments on John 3:16: Calvin continues to use “us”- that is, those who embrace Christ by faith. When Calvin refers to “all,” here, he is not referring to the extent of the atonement. Calvin has just pointed out earlier that Christ was to be preached to “all” through the Gospel. All are invited to Christ, yet salvation has come to “us”- those given the gift of faith by God. In the snippet of Calvin you've posted, when Calvin says things that sound like Christ died for “all,” Calvin is saying that Christ is proclaimed to “all.” It is not a discussion on the extent of the atonement.


Originally posted by Sola_Scriptura View Post
On Colossians 1:14

"He says that this redemption was procured through the blood of Christ, for by the sacrifice of his death all the sins of the world have been expiated. Let us, therefore, bear in mind, that this is the sole price of reconciliation, and that all the trifling of ******* as to satisfactions is blasphemy"

Nothing about any "limitations" here.
Here is a broader context:

"In whom we have redemption. He now proceeds to set forth in order, that all parts of our salvation are contained in Christ, and that he alone ought to shine forth, and to be seen conspicuous above all creatures, inasmuch as he is the beginning and end of all things. In the first place, he says that we have redemption and immediately explains it as meaning the remission of sins; for these two things agree together by apposition. For, unquestionably, when God remits our transgressions, he exempts us from condemnation to eternal death. This is our liberty, this our glorying in the face of death — that our sins are not imputed to us. He says that this redemption was procured through the blood of Christ, for by the sacrifice of his death all the sins of the world have been expiated. Let us, therefore, bear in mind, that this is the sole price of reconciliation, and that all the trifling of ******* as to satisfactions is blasphemy."

One does not find Calvin describing a hypothetical atonement for the entire world that is only put into effect by man’s free will. What Calvin describes is Christ’s death providing and actualizing redemption: the remission of sins, the remission of transgressions, exemption from condemnation to eternal death, and our sins not being imputed to us. How then is it possible to think that Calvin is saying this of every person who will ever live? If Calvin is implying here that every person who will ever live has had their sin imputed to Christ, then Calvin is proposing blatant universalism. Would it not be more fitting to ascribe a different usage of the word “world” above to Calvin?

Originally posted by Sola_Scriptura View Post
His comments on Mark 14:24 clearly show the extent of which Calvin held the blood of Jesus Christ was shed on the cross,

Only those who will insist in their theological bias, can conclude that John Calvin did not believe in Universal Redemption.
Sir (or perhaps madam), your rejoinder to my previous comments on Calvin and Mark 14:24 amounts to accusing my position of "theological bias." Above, I mentioned "Determining Calvin's view of the atonement can be tricky. It's not a clear-cut theological point in his writings, one way or the other." Does that sort of admission demonstrate theological bias? Hardly. It demonstrates I'm willing to look at the evidence and follow where it leads.

It's more the sort of person like you with "theological bias." I'm willing to look at all the evidence, and grant the incongruities for all the positions put forth for Calvin's view. Perhaps you aren't aware of the debate about Calvin's view of the atonement? I would recommend a number of studies for the different positions if you want to catch up and thus have a meaningful dialog.

Though the main topic still rages on, this aspect of the conversation on Calvin's view appears to have stopped after my last comments above. I was expecting to bombarded with John Calvin snippet quotes, as is the usual tactic of propagandists. With this subject, usually those who argue Calvin's view was unlimited atonement resort to brief snippets from Calvin, while those who take the opposite view argue limited atonement is inferred from his overall theology. As I've stated above, this subject is complicated.  There are cogent arguments from both sides. Unfortunately, there was not any persuading or cogent evidence presented in the CARM discussion that Calvin held to universal, unlimited atonement.