Friday, November 13, 2015

Luther on Repentance and the importance of the study of the original languages of Scripture

I missed this video by Dr. Rob Plummer (Professor of Greek and New Testament at Southern Seminary) on Oct. 31, 2015, but just saw it yesterday, and thought it worth posting.  It is a good reminder of the importance of the Greek word for repentance instead of the Latin, which was wrongly translated and contributed to the wrong understanding of repentance in the middle ages as "do penance", which grew into an emphasis and a focus on the external outward act or ritual that one had to do that the priest would assign, in order to gain satisfaction for full forgiveness.

Dr. Plummer goes over the first three of the 95 theses and how important that is, regarding true repentance.  True inward repentance results in fruit and good works and, as Luther says,  results in "various mortifications of the flesh".  (see Acts 26:20; Matthew 3:8; Luke 3:8; 2 Corinthians 7:7-10)

The "mortifications of the flesh" was a convicting comment, in light of the ongoing battles against "remaining sin" (James 1:19-21) like sinful anger, lust, gluttony, laziness, pride, complaining, worry, sinful fears, etc. (see Colossians 3:5; Romans 8:13; and 1 Corinthians 9:27)

Dr. Plummer's videos of "The Daily Dose of Greek" are very good for reminders; and helping those of us who had NT Greek in seminary, but have become rusty by not being in it so much every day.  I was keeping up with this in 1 John and Mark off and on pretty good until the last 3 months.  Life is like that; the Lord is good to give opportunities and grace, so we can start back again in our desires for good disciplines.

The quote that Dr. Plummer cites from Luther about the importance of the original languages - I remember reading that somewhere.  Dr. Plummer does not cite the source, but I found some references to it in John Piper's book, The Legacy of Sovereign Joy, (about Augustine, Luther, and Calvin), on page 97, (which I highly recommend), and he cites that as coming from W. Carlos Martyn, The Life and Times of Martin Luther, 1866, pp. 474-475.  (It is a slightly different translation from the one that Dr. Plummer cites.)  Maybe James Swan has cited this before or done an article on this before; I did not search a lot, but some, and could not find it here.

I found the 1866 W. Carlos Martyn book The Life and Times of Martin Luther, here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A good Biblical explanation of John 3:5 and Titus 3:5 against Baptismal Regeneration

A Biblical explanation of John 3:5 and Titus 3:5 by Stephen C. Halbrook (see brief bio at bottom; and for more, under "about" at his blog.)  Note:  Some of the videos and links that he links to are no longer there.

I had linked to this blog article before, but after reading it again, I noticed afresh that the explanation of John 3:5 and Titus 3:5 is excellent and thorough and probably the best I have ever read.  

The article covers other verses that other groups use to defend baptismal regeneration, but I wanted to just focus on John 3:5 and Titus 3:5 here.  

These two verses are the last 2 verses analyzed, after he works through Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16; Acts 22:16 and a combined analysis of Romans 6:3, Galatians 3:27 and Colossians 2:11-14. (I was surprised that I have not seen 1 Peter 3:21 in his list.) 

V. John 3:5 and Titus 3:5
Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’” (John 3:5)
he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,” (Titus 3:5)
1. Right off the bat, we most note that neither of these passages mention baptism in connection with “water” (in John 3:5) or “washing” (in Titus 3:5). Thus right away we must question the insistence of baptismal regenerationists that these texts are even about water baptism.
To insist that “water,” “washing,” and any related words must refer to physical water is arbitrary and absurd. Can we honestly say that the following texts refer to physical water?:
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.”
(1 Corinthians 3:6)
“These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved.”
(2 Peter 2:17)
“and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.” (Acts 15:9)
“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8)
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)
Regarding John 3:5 in particular, when one insists “water” self-evidently must refer to physical water, one faces a serious problem in the very next chapter:
“but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)
Also consider another nearby chapter:
“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”’” (John 7:37-38)
Now, to consistently maintain his argument that the word “water” self-evidently refers to physical water, will one who holds to baptismal regeneration really argue that Jesus is saying salvation depends on drinking physical water, which will literally become a physical spring within one’s insides “welling up to eternal life,” or will literally become physical rivers flowing from one’s heart?
No, to avoid appearing foolish a baptismal regenerationist must equivocate and say, “well, the meaning of water must depend on the context.” Once he does this, he surrenders any hope that the context of John 3:5 demands a baptismal regeneration reading.
2. Let us focus specifically on Titus 3:5. Again, it reads:
he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,” (Titus 3:5)
Again, the only hope for a baptismal regenerationist reading is that “washing” refers to physical water—but nothing in the context demands this to be the case. Now here are two reasons within the text itself why a baptismal regeneration reading is impossible:
A. It says, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness ….”
The Bible considers water baptism a work, since:
(1) Romans 4:1-12 considers circumcision a work. If circumcision is a work, so is water baptism, since both are external marks of the church, with water baptism replacing circumcision in the New Covenant era.
(2) Consider also Matt. 3:14, 15:
John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he consented.”
Jesus considered His water baptism as part of fulfilling all righteousness. Is not fulfilling all righteousness works? Compare “fulfill all righteousness” with he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness,” in
Titus 3:5.
Thus, Titus 3:5 denies water baptism’s role in salvation even before the verse gets to “the washing of regeneration.”
B. Now, as far as “the washing of regeneration” is concerned, consider the following from Gordon Clark:
“if [water] baptism caused, or was, regeneration, the phrase would have been ‘the regeneration of washing.’ The actual phrase ‘the washing of regeneration’ indicates that regeneration washes, not that washing regenerates.” (Gordon Clark, Commentary on Titus, )
In short, Titus 3:5 does not teach that external washing (from water baptism) causes regeneration, but that regeneration causes an internal washing: One is saved by “the [spiritual] washing of regeneration”—not by “the regeneration of washing [by water baptism].”  Gordon Clark writes, “The washing effected by regeneration is the renewal, that is, the renewing the Spirit does to us” (Ibid.).
3. Now we move on to John 3:5, which reads:
“Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’”
We have already demonstrated the absurdity of insisting this passage must speak of water baptism simply because it mentions “water.” We only need to go to the very next chapter (John 4:14) to show this.
There are several proposed interpretations of this text, and since the Bible uses the word “water” with more than one meaning, we have already cast in doubt the interpretation that says water baptism saves.
Moreover, it should be enough that from front to back the Bible teaches salvation by grace through faith and not by works (cf. Romans 4:1-12 and Ephesians 2:8, 9), so unless we want to say the Bible contradicts itself, we must rule out immediately any salvation by water baptism interpretation.
But beyond this, all we need to do is examine the surrounding context of John 3:5 to rule out such an interpretation.
A. Just three verses after John 3:5, we read:
“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (Jn. 3:8).
On this passage Robert L. Reymond writes:
From the analogy which he drew between the wind’s natural operation and the Spirit’s regenerating work (John 3:8), Jesus taught, in addition to the facticity (“The wind blows”) and the efficacy (“and you hear the sound of it”) of the latter, both the sovereignty (“The wind blows wherever it pleases”) and the inscrutable mysteriousness (“you cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes”) of the Spirit’s regenerating work. (Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, p. 720).
This makes clear man cannot be born again because of his water baptism. He cannot have water sprinkled or poured upon himself, or immerse himself into water, and expect the Holy Spirit to save him as a consequence. The new birth is a sovereign act of God, on God’s timetable; the new birth cannot be programmed by water baptism.
Otherwise, instead of saying “The wind blows where it wishes,” it would say, “The wind blows where man wishes” (i.e., the Holy Spirit must save man out of compliance with man’s wish to be water-baptized). And, instead of saying “but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes,” it would say, “but you do know where it comes from or where it goes” (since in this scenario man would know exactly when he is regenerated: right after his water baptism).
B. Verses 6-8 rule out water baptism by emphasizing only the Holy Spirit. Sam Storms writes (this is not an endorsement of Storms himself, as we disagree with some of his theology).
Just as v. 5 is explanatory of v. 3, vv. 6-8 further develop the idea set forth in v. 5. But note: in vv. 6-8 “water” is conspicuously absent; there is mention only of the Spirit. Note again in v. 6 and v. 8b – why just “born of the Spirit” and not “born of water and the Spirit”? The answer is that “Spirit” is fundamental and “water”, whatever it means, must be subsumed under or defined as an elemental part of the operative work of the Spirit in regeneration. Had our Lord regarded “water” as an independent agency in regeneration and important in itself (i.e., as distinct from the agency of the Spirit), he surely would have mentioned it again and given it more prominence. Instead, he describes the birth “from above” as effected by the Spirit alone and wholly outside the sphere of the “flesh” (v. 6).
This is consistent with John 1, which likewise describes regeneration as an act solely by God, outside the realm of man and man’s works:
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were bornnot of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12, 13)
Here we have it: there is nothing man can do to cause the new birth. Hence he can neither “will” himself to be born again by getting water baptized, nor “will” himself to cause others to be born again by baptizing them in water.  Contrast the denial of man’s will in causing the new birth in John 1: 12, 13, with the affirmation of the Holy Spirit’s will in causing the new birth in John 3:8.
Moreover, John (the author) regularly describes the new birth as an act solely of God. Storms writes,
“John typically describes regeneration not in terms of repetition but as a divine birth, something that finds its source or origin in God. It is of God, being heavenly; not of man, who is earthly (cf. John 1:13; 1 John 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1,4,18).”
C. One cannot make an inseparable relationship between water baptism and Holy Spirit baptism in John 3:5. Consider this: The only two possible water baptisms John 3:5 can refer to (if it does at all) are Christian baptism or John’s baptism. However,
1. It cannot refer to Christian baptism, since it wasn’t instituted until the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19). Sam Storms writes, “Would Jesus have rebuked Nicodemus for ignorance of an ordinance about which nothing had yet been said?” (John 3:10).
2. It cannot refer to John’s baptism, since, as Sam Storms writes, “the text clearly coordinates water and Spirit whereas John uniformly contrasts his baptism, which is in water, with the baptism of the Messiah, which is in Spirit (cf. Mt. 3:11)” (Storms, Ibid.)
On the unitary nature of “water and Spirit” in John 3:5, Storms also writes:
The “begetting” or regeneration of which Jesus speaks is unitary, that is to say, there are not two births experienced, each with its respective agency, one by water and another by the Spirit, but one birth “by water and Spirit” in which the Spirit is the dominant factor. The text does not say “born of water and of Spirit” but “born of water and Spirit.” One preposition (ek) governs both nouns. It is a single “water and Spirit” birth.[2] Hence “water” is to be understood as coordinate with the “Spirit” rather than independent of or contrasted with it. (Storms, Ibid.)
And one cannot argue that those who received John’s baptism would in time inevitably receive Holy Spirit baptism. Prior to Holy Spirit baptism which commenced at Pentecost, it was believers—not those baptized by John—who were promised Holy Spirit baptism:
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:37-39)
D. The Jesus in John 3:5 is the same Jesus who saved people without requiring them to be baptized in water. Consider the following:
“And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.’”(Matthew 9:2)
“ ‘Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.’ And he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this, who even forgives sins?’ And he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’” (Luke 7:47-50)
“And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’” (Luke 19:8-10)
And so the question is, if Jesus teaches salvation by water baptism in John 3:5, is this a different Jesus in the passages above, since he saves these people without water baptism? Of course not. Jesus saves without water baptism, as the passages clearly indicate. And by implication, the passages rule out the view that John 3:5 teaches salvation by water baptism.
We must note how the Luke 19 passage above mentions, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Jesus did not baptize Zacchaeus in water. And yet Jesus saved him.
In light of this consider that John 4:2 says, (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), …” One would think that if water baptism is necessary for salvation, then Jesus would have baptized those He saved during His earthly ministry.
But the way Jesus sought and saved men during his earthly ministry (as well as today) is through the internal cleansing of the word, not external cleansing of water baptism. Jesus says in John 15:3: Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you”—He does not say, “Already you are clean because of water baptism.”
When we miss this important distinction between internal and external cleansing, we are no better than blind Pharisees. As Jesus scolded the Pharisees of His day:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind PhariseeFirst clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.” (Matthew 23:25, 26)

This post is a work in progress

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Luther is in Hell.

It's on the Internet, so it must be true:

In 1883, Sister Maria Serafina Micheli (1849-1911) was beatified in Faicchio in the province of Benevento in the diocese of Cerreto Sannita 28 May 2011, the foundress of the Sisters of the Angels, was going to Eisleben, Saxony, the birthplace of Luther.

The fourth centenary of the birth of the great heretic (10 November 1483) was celebrated on that day. Luther divided Europe and the Church deux.Les streets were crowded, balconies included. Among the many personalities were expected at any time, with the arrival of Emperor Wilhelm I, who presided over the solemn celebrations.

The future Blessed, noting the great hoopla was not interested in knowing the reason for this unusual animation, his only desire was to find a church and pray to be able to make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament. After walking for a while, she finally found one, but the doors were closed.

She knelt on the steps for Serenity Prayer. As it was in the evening, she had not noticed that it was not a Catholic church, but Protestant. While praying, the angel appeared, who said to him. "Arise, because it is a Protestant church"

Then he added: "But I want you to see where Martin Luther was condemned and the pain he suffered as a punishment for his pride."

After these words, she saw a terrible abyss of fire, where they were cruelly tortured countless souls.

In the bottom of this hole there was a man, Martin Luther, which differed from the other: it was surrounded by demons that forced him to kneel, and all armed with hammers, they tried in vain , to shove a big nail in the head.

Religious thought, if some of the people had seen this dramatic scene, they would not have made honors and other commemorations and celebrations for such a character.

Later, when the opportunity arose to remind his sisters live in humility and in secret. She was convinced that Martin Luther was punished in hell especially for the first deadly sin of pride.

Pride is a deadly sin, brought him open rebellion against the Roman Catholic Church. His behavior, his attitude towards the Church, and his preaching were crucial to encourage and bring many souls to eternal ruin and wrong.

Blessed Marie of the Sacred Heart Séraphine

founder of the Institute of Sisters of the Angels (✝ 1911)
Born in 1849, died March 24, 1911 at Faicchio, Italy, declared Venerable on July 3, 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI beatified on May 28, 2011.

Marie Séraphine the Sacred Heart (nee Clotilde Micheli), religious, founder of the Institute of Sisters of the Angels (1849 - 1911)

Monday, November 02, 2015

Some interesting videos and lectures about Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation

Nothing like the scholarly articles of James Swan, . . . but

A Montage of scenes from the 2003 Movie, Luther, starring Joseph Fiennes as Martin Luther.  The Montage begins with the 95 theses in 1517, and goes to the famous speech at the trial of the Diet of Worms in 1521, and ends with text about Luther's life after the Augsburg Confession of 1530.

"Luther's Reformation Breakthrough" - lecture by Dr. Ryan Reeves of Gordon-Conwell Seminary.
Professor Reeves calls it a "compression of years" as Luther looks back to recall and recounts the process of working through the "pinching", struggle/anxiety/depression/fear/anger/guilt in his soul (The "Anfechtungen") , to the "tower experience" and prayerful study of the books of Romans and Galatians.

Analysis of the 95 theses.  It was very interesting to me that he had already written earlier (just one month earlier in Sept. of 1517) another document of 97 theses on theological issues ("The Disputation Against Scholasticism").  I didn't know that before.

Dr. Ryan Reeves has a lot of lectures on church history and historical theology, including early church, Medieval, Reformation, and Modern church history.    (at his YouTube channel)

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The 95 Theses: Nailed to the Church Door or Mailed to Ecclesiastical Authorities?

On the anniversary of the traditional beginning of the Reformation, here's a post from the Beggars All archives:

In the 1960's a Roman Catholic scholar took aim at one of the generally accepted facts of the Reformation: the nailing of the 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church door. Erwin Iserloh's book The Theses Were Not Posted: Luther Between Reform and Reformation challenges this dramatic aspect of Luther's story. He held the 95 Theses weren't nailed to the Wittenberg church door, but rather mailed to particular ecclesiastical superiors."Luther did not post the Theses but only sent them to Archbishop Albert of Mainz and Bishop Jerome Schulz of Brandenburg, the appropriate representatives of the church, for their approval" [LW 31:23].

Some of the Facts: Nailed or Mailed?
The genesis of Luther and the Wittenberg door story appears to have come from Melanchthon's Memoirs / Preface to the second volume of Luther's collected works (Wittenberg edition, 1546) [English, Latin]:
When Luther was in this course of study, venal Indulgences were circulated in these regions by Tecelius the Dominican, a most shameless Deceiver. Luther, angered by Tecelius' impious and execrable debates and, burning with the eagerness of piety, published Propositions concerning Indulgences, which are extant in the first volume of his writings, and he publicly attached these to the Temple, which is next to Witteberg Castle, on the day before the feast of all Saints, 1517.
Notice the Theses were "publicly attached" (or affixed). There's nothing at all about hammering a document to a door.  One other source from a few years before Melanchthon's text actually does though mention "doors," not "a door." Georg Rorer in 1540 mentioned "on the folding-doors of the churches" in a private note (see Franz Posset, The Real Luther, p. 23). Neither Melanchthon or Rorer were in Wittenberg in 1517, so whatever the origin of this story, it certainly wasn't an eyewitness account.

Luther himself never mentions anything about nailing the 95 Theses to the church door but rather explains how they were sent out to particular ecclesiastical authorities. The first bit of evidence is Luther's letter (or cover letter) to Albrecht from October 31, 1517 (LW 48:43) sent with a copy of the 95 Theses. Then in a letter dated March 5, 1518 to Christopher Scheurl, he states, "... As you are surprised that I did not send them [The 95 Theses] to you, I reply that my purpose was not to publish them, but first to consult a few of my neighbors about them, that thus I might either destroy them if condemned or edit them with the approbation of others. But now that they are printed and circulated far beyond my expectation." In a letter dated May 30, 1518 to Pope Leo he states, "So I published some propositions for debate, inviting only the more learned to discuss them with me, as ought to be plain to my opponents from the preface to my Theses." In a letter dated November [21?], 1518 to Elector Frederick,Luther states, "...[S]ome liars among ourselves falsely assert that I undertook the disputation on the Indulgences by your Grace’s advice, when the fact is, that not even my dearest friends were aware of it."He also states that previous to the 95 Theses becoming public, he sent two letters (to the Archbishop of Magdeburg / Mainz and the Bishop of Brandenburg). So from Luther's own accounts, he never mentions nailing the 95 Theses to the Wittenberg door. William Pauck notes,"...Luther, who had a tendency to speak freely about his career and who, in his later years, loved to reminisce, never mentioned the incident. Moreover, there are no other contemporary sources which support the old story" [Olin, John (ed.) Luther, Erasmus and the Reformation (Massachusetts: Fordham University Press, 1969, p. 52].

The Aftermath of Iserloh
Eugene Klug from Concordia Theological Seminary argued:
Someone has observed that it is in the nature of German university life that a professor’s claim to fame, the ability to excite and to attract students to his lecture hall, often lies in his capacity to spin the web of awe and mystique over his audience, or to strike new lode by coming up with some novel, unique, controversial, often “way-out” position. This appears to have been the case with Erwin Iserloh’s widely read and disputed The Theses Were Not Posted [Word And Scripture In Luther Studies Since World War II (Trinity Journal Volume 5:16)].
Klug then recommends Kurt Aland's response to Iserloh: Kurt Aland, Martin Luther’s 95 Theses (St. Louis: Concordia, 1967). Klug affirms "Aland shows that there is no solid evidence to throw into doubt Luther’s own rehearsal of the event as occurring on October 31, 1517, with the posting on the Castle Church doors" (p.16). On the other hand, Roman Catholic writer Franz Posset says "Kurt Aland... tried to defuse the presented source material and digressed from the essential problem" [The Real Luther, p. 23]. The basic response to Iserloh can be summed up as follows:

1. There's nothing in any of Luther's statements that rules out a posting of the 95 Theses.

2. Melanchthon is to be considered a reliable source of information (as is Rorer) because of their close relationship with Luther. Even though Melanchthon's memoirs have minor errors, it is nonetheless reliable.

3. Wouldn't a contemporary of Melanchthon have questioned such a blaring historical error?

Argument #1 is an argument from silence. Argument #3 is weak, because (as far as I know) no contemporary of Melanchthon's stepped up to correct any of Melanchthon's minor errors. As far as I can navigate this controversy, the entire thing rests on whether or not one trusts the account of Philip Melanchthon. Roman Catholic scholar Franz Posset has recently written quite convincingly that Melanchthon's memoirs of Luther are to be trusted more or less, but yet states, "Did Rorer and Melanchthon concoct the Posting in good faith? It looks like it" [The Real Luther, p. 23]. I'm not so sure though that "it looks like it" settles anything.

Richard Marius rightly points out that "Luther always claimed to have gone through channels, and Iserloh takes him seriously, concluding that the Theses were not posted" (Martin Luther, The Christian Between God and Death, p. 138). Marius then asserts that "Protestant scholars have reacted with dismay at the shattering of an icon" which is indeed overstating the case. In an earlier work Marius calls this controversy a "furious scholarly debate" and Iserloh "succeeded in raising a bellow of outrage from those current disciples of Luther who cannot bear to lose a single glitter of their idol's glamour" [Luther, a Biography (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1974) p. 70]. Marius has given this controversy more importance than it actually has.

It should be mentioned that even though a Roman Catholic, Iserloh was sympathetic to Luther. Otto Pesch points out that,
Iserloh's booklet of a few years ago on Luther's 95 Theses drew considerable attention. Even the treatment of this question from church history is characterized by a concern to present a true picture of the man Luther, and Iserloh was happy about the findings in his booklet, which rejects the story of Luther's nailing his theses onto the church door, not least because they succeeded in minimizing the picture of Luther as an angry revolutionary and placed the event which started the Reformation, stripped of all theatrical sensationalism, back into the form of a sober academic dispute [Otto Pesch, “Twenty Years of Catholic Luther Research” Lutheran World, 13, 1966, p. 305].
While I'm not any sort of scholar, I wouldn't be at all dismayed to find out the nails going into the Wittenberg door is the stuff of legend. Someone may say: "Who cares if the 95 Theses were nailed or mailed?" I can understand such a response.  What interests me about this is that to be consistent, I can't simply focus on the many Roman Catholic myths without taking a closer look at some of their charges of Protestant myth making from time to time. It is indeed the case that Luther's 95 Theses went 16th Century viral rather quickly. It is indeed plausible that the 95 Theses were posted as Melanchthon asserts.

The only real question in this controversy: is Melanchthon to be trusted? Unless someone can definitively prove that he cannot be on this point, Luther nailing the 95 Theses to the Wittenberg Door will remain part of the Luther story. If one reads Melanchthon's account, he doesn't appear to make it an outstanding central fact to Luther's story. That is, I see no reason why Luther's dramatic history needed to be embellished or concocted by Melanchthon with Rorer.

Addendum: Rorer's Note
This is from Cyberbrethren:
In 2006, Martin Treu from the Luther Memorials Foundation of Saxony- Anhalt rediscovered a handwritten comment by Luther’s secretary Georg Rörer (1492-1557) in the Jena University and State Library, which although printed, had so far played no role in research. Right at the end of the desk copy for the revision of the New Testament in 1540, Rörer made the following note: „On the evening before All Saints’ Day in the year of our Lord 1517, theses about letters of indulgence were nailed to the doors of the Wittenberg churches by Doctor Martin Luther.”

Now Rörer was also not an eye-witness, but he was one of Luther’s closest staff. The copy of the New Testament, in which he made his note, contains many entries in Luther’s own hand. The note right at the end of the volume leads us to assume that it was made at the conclusion of the revision work in November 1544. Directly beside it is another note, according to which Philipp Melanchthon arrived in Wittenberg on August 20, 1518, at ten o’ clock in the morning. This information is not to be found anywhere else and presumably came directly from Melanchthon himself. Rörer’s reference to the Wittenberg churches in the plural must be emphasized, as it corresponds to the statutes of the university. According to these, all public announcements had to be nailed to the doors of the churches.

Monday, October 19, 2015

What Posts Catholic Answers Deem Ecumenical

The moderators over at the Catholic Answers discussion forum have a knack for deleting my posts or charging me with devious behavior. Here's the sort of love notes they appear to not have any problem with:

Yesterday, 3:24 pm
Senior Member
Join Date: November 23, 2012
Posts: 9,641
Religion: Catholic
Default Re: Martin Luther's translation of the bible.........

Originally Posted by FollowChrist34 View Post

Yee shall knowe them by their fruits: Doe men gather grapes of thornes, or figges of thistles?
1. New International Version
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

2. New International Version
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

3. Martin Luther: I have no clue if he said this or not quite honestly but we are dung heps
covered with snow; he did have a bathroom fixation it seemd.

4. Might go along with #3

Isaiah 64:6New International Version (NIV)

All of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Challenging the Significance of Luther's Bible... on Catholic Answers

Via the Catholic Answers forums discussion, Martin Luther's translation of the bible........., I came across a fascinating article: The Contested History of a Book: The German Bible of the Later Middle Ages and Reformation in Legend, Ideology, and Scholarship by Andrew Gow (University of Alberta). The author takes a helpful look at the significance and impact of pre-Reformation Bibles. There's a lot to chew on in this article. Overall it's probably one of the best concise contemporary overviews on this subject I've ever read in regard to pre-Reformation Bibles.

Some of the Catholic Answers participants are up to their usual shenanigans. One participant citing the article asks,

[W]as [Luther] lying or just mistaken when he said this?

"In his ‘Table Talk’, Luther is reported to have presented an example of the ‘extreme blindness’ under the Papacy, on the 22nd of February, 1538, namely that “Thirty years ago, no-one read the Bible, and it was unknown to all. The prophets were not spoken of and were considered impossible to understand. And when I was twenty years old, I had never seen a Bible. I thought that the Gospels or Epistles could be found only in the postills [lectionaries] for the Sunday readings... "

From the actual context of the article, the author (Gow) doesn't appear to think it's "lying." In the very same paragraph the above comes from, the author states:
"Memory plays tricks, and an old man’s reminiscences about a period for the putative end of which he had come to consider himself to have been a cause might not be the best source of information for historical inquiry."   And then later in the same article in regard to Luther's claim of the unavailability of the Bible ( and the related infamous Bible kept "under the bench" comment): "Both contemporary Catholic polemicists as well as those of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries tried hard to show that Luther was exaggerating or lying." Here we see one of Rome's unwritten traditions alive and well: Luther was a liar.

One other related issue brought up in the Catholic Answers discussion is: who during the Reformation period was able to actually read a Bible? Rich people? How many were literate? Gow's article makes an interesting comment as to who it was reading Luther's Bible:
Luther’s 1522 ‘September Testament’ was immediately and wildly successful, selling out rapidly and experiencing multiple reprintings in the same year. As Johannes Cochlaeus, one of Luther’s fiercest opponents, later wrote with some venom, 
"Luther’s translation was read (as the source of all wisdom, no less) by tailors and shoemakers, even women and simpletons, many of whom carried it around and learned it by heart, and eventually became bold enough to dispute with priests, monks, even masters and doctors of Holy Scripture about faith and the gospels."
Medieval prelates’ fears had come true, Cochlaeus is informing us. He tells the story in this form not necessarily because these were the only people reading the Luther Bible, but because they were precisely the unqualified readers of Scripture the medieval church had sought to discourage or exclude.
This is actually one of the most significant comments from the article that the Catholic Answers folks should dwell on.  Here the issue of authority comes front and center.  One can quibble about which Bibles came before Luther, how important they were, how accurate they were, how expensive they were, who could read them, etc. These sorts of tedious Internet discussions go on endlessly as people cut-and-paste facts off the internet intending to prove their position owns history.

Luke tells us the Bereans "were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true" (Acts 17:11).  This is exactly what "tailors and shoemakers, even women and simpletons" were doing with Rome's Biblical interpretation and ultimate authority claims. Rome's medieval defenders like Cochlaeus would have it the other way around: the Bereans first had to be authorized by Paul to hear his message and then authorized to read the Bible to see if what Paul said was true. That is, the authority is assumed before it's proved.

The current generation of Rome's cyber-defenders (like those on Catholic Answers) ultimately want people to accept the absolute authority of their infallible magisterium, and that they are the ones qualified to interpret the Bible and that those not accepting this authority are not qualified. There's not much of a difference in intent between the complaint of Cochlaeus and Rome's modern cyber-warriors.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Two respectful discussions about the Qur'an and the Bible - Dr. James White and Imam Muhammad Musri

The world at this time needs this kind of discussion and debate.  We can disagree without resorting to sinful anger, ad hominem arguments, insults or violence.

Dr. White did an excellent job; and the Imam was very respectful and showed better knowledge of the issues than most Muslims.  He had to be corrected on the common mistake that Muslims repeat that "The Council of Nicea and Constantine decided which books belong in the canon".

Canon Issues have to be constantly talked about, because:
1.  Liberal scholarship constantly attacks the dates of the NT books and distorts the canon process.
2.  The claims of the Roman Catholic Church put the Church over the canon, and that needs to be challenged also.

Dr. White gave the Imam 2 books on the canon by Dr. Michael J. Kruger.

The Canon Revisited

The Question of Canon

These are two good blog series also by Michael J. Kruger on the canon:

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Tetzel: "For every mortal sin a man commits he must, after making a good confession, suffer seven years in purgatory, unless he has done seven years penance"

Here's one from the mailbox:

Hi James. I hope this email reaches you. I am a PhD student in History.  I am frantically searching for the source of this letter, written by John Tetzel:

Tell your people,” he wrote, “that for every mortal sin a man commits he must, after making a good confession, suffer seven years in purgatory, unless he has done seven years penance. Bid them think how many mortal sins a day are committed, how many each week, each month, each year. All but infinite, then, are the pains they must undergo in the flames of purgatory. This indulgence will mean for them full remission of all the punishment due to them up to the time they gain the indulgence. And for the rest of their lives, whenever they go to confession the priest will have the power to grant them a similar indulgence; and they will receive an indulgence again in the very moment when they pass from this life to the next.”

Can you help? Thanks in advance.

Yes, I can help.  The quote appears to be a condensed version of this extract from a Tetzel sermon.  Note the similarities below (placed in bold type). See also my blog entry here.
You may obtain letters of safe conduct from the vicar of our Lord Jesus Christ, by means of which you are able to liberate your soul from the hands of the enemy, and convey it by means of contrition and confession, safe and secure from all pains of Purgatory, into the happy kingdom. For know, that in these letters are stamped and engraven all the merits of Christ's passion there laid bare. Consider, that for each and every mortal sin it is necessary to undergo seven years of penitence after confession and contrition, either in this life or in Purgatory. How many mortal sins are committed in a day, how many in a week, how many in a month, how many in a year, how many in the whole extent of life! They are well-nigh numberless, and those that commit them must needs suffer endless punishment in the burning pains of Purgatory. But with these confessional letters you will be able at any time in life to obtain full indulgence for all penalties imposed upon you, in all cases except the four reserved to the Apostolic See. Thence throughout your whole life, whenever you wish to make confession, you may receive the same remission, except in cases reserved to the Pope, and afterwards, at the hour of death, a full indulgence as to all penalties and sins, and your share of all spiritual blessings that exist in the church militant and all its members. Do you not know that when it is necessary for anyone to go to Rome, or undertake any other dangerous journey, he takes his money to a broker and gives a certain per cent—five or six or ten—in order that at Rome or elsewhere he may receive again his funds intact, by means of the letters of this same broker? Are you not willing, then, for the fourth part of a florin, to obtain these letters, by virtue ofwhich you may bring, not your money, but your divine and immortal soul, safe and sound into the land of Paradise?
I'm fairly confident that the quote you sent me is from the very context of this sermon selection. I've worked through many of these sorts of things before. The language of the quote is very similar to that sermon. Keep in mind that there is not a lot of Tetzel available in English, so I would be greatly surprised if the quote you sent me is from something different than the sermon snippet posted above.  
The source of the sermon is cited as, "From the Latin. Gieseler: Ecclesiastical History, Vol. V., pp. 225-26." This source can be found here. There you will find the Latin version of part of Tetzel's sermon. The author also notes, "Tetzel also issued an Instructio summaria for the parochial clergy, in what they were to go to work in behalf of the indulgence..." This is probably the "letter" you're referring to.  The source goes back at least one more step to Herr D. Löscher, Reformationsacten, whom I think, published in the 18th century. I do not have access to that. It may be online somewhere, I don't know.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Luther's Practical Advice on Honoring the Saints

Here's a snippet from The Festival Sermons of Martin Luther on the best way to honor the saints.

The entire sermon is an interesting read. Luther goes on to describe the proper way to honor departed saints, as well as offering a few tips on how or if one should pray for the dead (he makes similar comments in the treatise, Confession Concerning Christ's Supper, see my discussion here about prayers for the dead).

Monday, September 28, 2015

Trashing Luther? Ex-Lutheran Instructs "Hyper-Catholics" to Settle Down

This warmed my heart: a "former Lutheran pastor, transitioning to the Roman Catholic Church" has written a blog article entitled, Trashing Luther. The first paragraph states,

Theological hobbyists of a hyper-Catholic sort continue to misconstrue Luther’s “errors.” Oh, I hardly think he was error-free, but (having recently been one) I know Lutherans who pretty much think he was essentially infallible. But I also know Catholics (me having recently become one) who are of the opinion he was devilish at best and, at his worst, out to destroy the Church.

This sort of sentiment won't go over well with Rome's typical on-line self-proclaimed defenders, because most of them are "theological hobbyists of a hyper-Catholic sort." For instance, I found this blog post over on the Catholic Answers forums. In a comment from the thread in which it was posted comes the following:

I have been pretty good at reading about Luther honestly he was extemely anti-Semitic, had a bad anger problem, was self rightous, I have actually wondered if he was mentally ill. He carved scripture into his kitchen table in anger in front of his wife and kids. He also was obsessed with going to the bathroom. I think he was a mad man who was a pawn of northern German Lords, Kings, and Barrons.

That's your typical hyper-Catholic theological hobbyist quote. This person is "pretty good at reading about Luther honestly" and from this lofty tower of kindness and fairness concludes Luther was a mad-man.

You can read about this transitioning Lutheran pastor here and here. This is the sort of ex-Lutheran who thinks:

After a couple decades or more of formal dialogue discussing the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ, Lutherans and Catholics officially declared the issue was no longer church dividing.


Catholics admitted that whatever was condemned in the doctrine "faith alone" was not itself the doctrine Lutherans argued. What Trent condemned is condemned, only nobody then actually espoused it. And what Lutherans challenged on works vs. grace, well, it too wasn't what Catholics in fact were saying. This wasn't a clever dodge papering differences. Through years of dialogue on this and other subjects, back to 1965, they came to understand maybe they didn't hear each other so well the first time.

Note the phrase above, "Lutherans and Catholics." Which Lutherans? All Lutherans? The author doesn't say. Indeed, there are other Lutherans that don't think Rome and Lutherans have come to any sort of agreement on justification and they've put together documents like this to explain why.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Roman Catholic commercial video during Papal visit

I noticed this Roman Catholic commercial video being played a lot recently on Fox News.  Seems the timing was to go with the visit of Pope Francis.  (Jorge Bergoglio)

This is a very well done video for the time that it takes.

1.  It assumes "catholic" is the same as "Roman Catholic". (without even mentioning the phrase, "Roman Catholic")
2.  It subtly claims the Roman Catholic Church compiled the Bible.  This is false.  The early church testified, affirmed, discerned, discovered, and put under one "book cover" which texts were "God-breathed"/ inspired.  (2 Timothy 3:16)  They called themselves "catholic" in the sense of "universal" / "according to the whole" / able to grow in all nations and cultures (Revelation 5:9), but it was not the same church doctrinally that today claims the Papacy, Transubstantiation, Purgatory, Indulgences, Marian dogmas, Marian piety, praying to Mary, praying to statues and icons, denial of Justification by Faith Alone at Trent, etc.
3.  It claims Peter was the first Pope.
Many problems with that.  See below in Dr. White's lecture on the Dividing Line.
4.  The mention of "sacred tradition", in addition to the written Scriptures.
5.  claimed 2000 years of an unbroken line of shepherds.

There may be other problems, but those are the 5 that stuck out to me.

Dr. White did an excellent DL yesterday, on Sept. 23, about the current Pope and Papacy:

Take note of the 5 things that Roman Catholics have to prove as true all at the same time in the last half of his lecture.

The closing Scripture verses Dr. White pointed to were from Acts 20:17-32.  Acts 20:32 - "And now I commend to God and the word of His grace, which is about to build you up and to give the inheritance among those who are being sanctified."

Some other things about the Papal visit of Pope Francis.  It seems, from what I have read, that President Obama and/ or the White House staff deliberately invited a bunch of homosexuals, trans-gender activists, and Roman Catholics for abortion, in order to cause this Pope some discomfort, or embarrass him, or give him a message, or protest his views on same sex marriage and abortion.  That is shameful, IMO.  His statement's on homosexuality have been weak and unclear, but as conservative RC's have pointed out, he has not changed church doctrine on that issue.  I can appreciate and respect the Roman Catholic Church's stand against abortion and stand for marriage as one man and one woman, etc.

The current Pope's opposition to the death penalty ( I have never understood that, even for first degree murder, since I started hearing about that from the time of John Paul 2) and leftist views of the borders, illegal immigration, global warming, and capitalism are revealing.

Addendum:  The Debate on the Papacy that Dr. White had with Mitch Pacwa in 1998:

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

"Faith," wrote 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."

I get various questions of tedium throughout the week. Here's a recent one:

Hi James, Do you know where Luther said, "if there be no works, there must be something amiss with faith"? It's quoted in Bainton's Here I Stand, but in the references section it just says, "VIII, 361." Do you have any idea what that refers to?

I also came across this same snippet from Bainton here:

According to Roland Bainton's biography of Luther, Here I Stand, Luther wrote at one time: Faith 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. Bainton's citation for this purported Luther quote is simply VIII, 361. I do not know what this refers to, so if anyone could comment below and let me know where it comes from, it would be much appreciated.

I actually went through Bainton's use of Luther on this some time back: Did Luther Believe in Saving Faith? I originally cited the quote from Bainton many years ago in my review of Luther's famous "sin boldly" statement. As I recall, only one defender of Rome ever challenged me for not quoting Luther directly (kudos to him for catching this).

Bainton cited WA 8:361. The comment from Luther is found translated into English in a 1521 sermon on Luke 17:11-19. In that context, Luther states the following:
See, this is what James means when he says, 2, 26: "Faith apart from works is dead." For as the body without the soul is dead, so is faith without works. Not that faith is in man and does not work, which is impossible. For faith is a living, active thing. But in order that men may not deceive themselves and think they have faith when they have not, they are to examine their works, whether they also love their neighbors and do good to them. If they do this, it is a sign that they have the true faith. If they do not do this, they only have the sound of faith, and it is with them as the one who sees himself in the glass and when he leaves it and sees himself no more, but sees other things, forgets the face in the glass, as James says in his first chapter, verses 23-24.
[This passage in James deceivers and blind masters have spun out so far, that they have demolished faith and established only works, as though righteousness and salvation did not rest on faith, but on our works. To this great darkness they afterwards added still more, and taught only good works which are no benefit to your neighbor, as fasting, repeating many prayers, observing festival days; not to eat meat, butter, eggs and milk; to build churches, cloisters, chapels, altars; to institute masses, vigils, hours; to wear gray, white and black clothes; to be spiritual; and innumerable things of the same kind, from which no man has any benefit or enjoyment; all which God condemns, and that justly. But St. James means that a Christian life is nothing but faith and love. Love is only being kind and useful to all men, to friends and enemies. And where faith is right, it also certainly loves, and does to another in love as Christ did to him in faith. Thus everyone should beware lest he has in his heart a dream and fancy instead of faith, and thus deceives himself. This he will not learn anywhere as well as in doing the works of love. As Christ also gives the same sign and says: "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." John 13, 35. Therefore St. James means to say: Beware, if your life is not in the service of others, and you live for yourself, and care nothing for your neighbor, then your faith is certainly nothing; for it does not do what Christ has done for him. Yea, he does not believe that Christ has done good to him, or he would not omit to do good to his neighbor. [The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther Vol. 3:1 (Michigan: Baker Books, 2000), pp. 71-72].
Elsewhere in The Sermons of Martin Luther, Luther states:
This is what St. James means when his says in his Epistle, 2:26: ‘"Faith without works is dead." That is, as the works do not follow, it is a sure sign that there is no faith there; but only an empty thought and dream, which they falsely call faith. Now we understand the word of Christ: "Make to yourselves friends by means of the mammon of unrighteousness." That is, prove your faith publically by your outward gifts, by which you win friends, that the poor may be witnesses of your public work, that your faith is genuine. For mere external giving in itself can never make friends, unless it proceed from faith, as Christ rejects the alms of the Pharisees in Mat. 6:2, that they thereby make no friends because their heart is false. Thus no heart can ever be right without faith, so that even nature forces the confession that no work makes one good, but that the heart must first be good and upright.  [The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther Vol. 2:2 (Michigan: Baker Books, 2000), p. 308].

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Piper's Intro to new book on Sola Fide by Tom Schreiner

A Prayer for Justice against the evil in this world - Psalm 94

From the Australian group, "Sons of Korah".   I just discovered this group recently and I am impressed with their musical skill and that they have done many of the Psalms, and they are all very wedded to the text of Scripture.  The song covers Psalm 94:1-11.  I don't know what their church background or specific theology is, but so far, of the songs I have listened to, they seem very good.

Psalm 33:1-3 - "play skillfully" (verse 3) to the Lord with a shout of joy !

Psalm 94

"O LORD, God of vengeance

God of vengeance, shine forth!
Rise up, O Judge of the earth,
Render recompense to the proud.
How long shall the wicked, O Lord,
How long shall the wicked exult?
They pour forth words, they speak arrogantly;
All who do wickedness vaunt themselves.
They crush Your people, O Lord,
And afflict Your heritage.
They slay the widow and the stranger
And murder the orphans.
They have said, “The Lord does not see,
Nor does the God of Jacob pay heed.”
Pay heed, you senseless among the people;
And when will you understand, stupid ones?
He who planted the ear, does He not hear?
He who formed the eye, does He not see?
10 He who chastens the nations, will He not rebuke,
Even He who teaches man knowledge?
11 The Lord knows the thoughts of man,
That they are a mere breath.
12 Blessed is the man whom You chasten, O [j]Lord,
And whom You teach out of Your law;
13 That You may grant him relief from the days of adversity,
Until a pit is dug for the wicked.
14 For the Lord will not abandon His people,
Nor will He forsake His inheritance.
15 For judgment will again be righteous,
And all the upright in heart will follow it.
16 Who will stand up for me against evildoers?
Who will take his stand for me against those who do wickedness?
17 If the Lord had not been my help,
My soul would soon have dwelt in the abode of silence.
18 If I should say, “My foot has slipped,”
Your lovingkindness, O Lord, will hold me up.
19 When my anxious thoughts multiply within me,
Your consolations delight my soul.
20 Can a throne of destruction be allied with You,
One which devises mischief by decree?
21 They band themselves together against the life of the righteous
And condemn the innocent to death.
22 But the Lord has been my stronghold,
And my God the rock of my refuge.
23 He has brought back their wickedness upon them
And will destroy them in their evil;
The Lord our God will destroy them.