Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Luther lived with Katie for 1 1/2 years before marrying her?

Here's a comment from one of Rome's defenders from a discussion board. The charge against Luther this time is in regard to his relationship with his wife, Katherina von Bora:

If Martin Luther did not suffer from severe bipolar manic-depressant illness with frank psychosis during his periods of mania, he would never have invented a purely formal definition of 'righteousness' that was evacuated of all moral content and inspired millions of others to settle for a sub-Christian notion of discipleship… Luther lived with his paramour for 1 1/2 years before marrying her. He was complicit in the bigamy of Philip of Hess. He encouraged gangs of thugs to invade convents and rape the nuns therein. [CARM boards 3/26/16]

Origin of the Myth
There are multiple charges in this comment, most of them typical of Rome's defenders. The comment though that was atypical was,  "Luther lived with his paramour for 1 1/2 years before marrying her." A "paramour" is "a lover, especially the illicit partner of a married person." This is old school Roman polemic, hearkening back to the sixteenth century when Rome's defenders where scandalized by a monk marrying a nun. I'm not sure if the person making this charge was using the term in the sense that Luther was married to the church (so his relationship was Katherine was illicit), or if the person was simply using a fancy term to sound intelligent. I'm going to assume the later. I searched the phrase and came up with some exact hits to various Internet forums (2010, 20112012, 2016, 2016). It appears the person posting this comment either previously posted the same content elsewhere or is currently plagiarizing. I suspect the former, and not the later.

Where was this notion taken from? For this current defender of Rome, I'm not sure, nor did I come across any elaboration. The myth itself may have originally come from a contemporary of Luther's: Cochlaeus. Katherina von Bora was said to be promiscuous, and that Luther eventually married her after she lived with him for two years. (see here for details). The myth did survive all the way up to the twentieth century, though tempered. Father Patrick O'Hare refers to Luther and Katie as, "the Adam and Eve of the 'new gospel' of concubinage." In his book, The Facts About Luther, O'Hare stated:
It is well known that he was pretty generally and often openly accused by his enemies, both Catholic and Protestant, of extremely grave moral delinquencies. No doubt there was considerable exaggeration in the accusations brought against him, but it nevertheless remains true that many of his faults and failings against morality cannot be denied or gainsaid. As a matter of fact he was openly blamed for his well known and imprudent intimacy with Katherine Von Bora before his marriage and Melanchthon severely censured him for his lack of personal dignity, his loose behavior and coarse jests in the company of his intimates and even in the presence of the nuns he helped in violation of Germanic law to escape from their convents (p.317).
[I]n violating the laws of God and disregarding his vow of chastity by taking a partner unto himself, he committed an act of perfidy and his union, even from a legal standpoint, was no marriage. Katherine Von Bora was only his companion in sin and the children brought into the world through the unholy alliance were illegitimate children (p. 344).
O'Hare then goes on to elaborate by delving into letters written at the time, insinuating that Luther married von Bora to stop the gossip about their relationship (p.345-347). O'Hare states,
His remarks in the letter as to certain rumors no doubt concern suspicions which were cast upon Luther's relations with Bora before their marriage. His conduct with Bora previous to wedding her called forth from both friends and enemies severe and apparently well-grounded criticism. Luther himself admits that his marriage was hastened precisely because of the talk that went the rounds concerning him and Bora. Burgenhagen said that "evil tales were the cause of Dr. Martin's becoming a married man so unexpectedly." And Luther himself wrote to his friend, Spalatin, that "I have shut the mouth of those who slandered me and Katherine Bora." It is not proven that he was openly immoral with her before marriage, but it is certain that there was so much talk going on about his intimacy with the ex-nun, that he thought it advisable to marry her sooner than he had expected (p.347).

The Facts: Luther did Not Live with Katherine von Bora Before Marrying

In response: of the biographical information available, the bare facts are as follows:

1. April 1523, Katherina Von Bora escaped from a convent with a group of nuns.
2. The group of nuns temporarily stayed in the Wittenberg castle untill homes were found for them.
3. Katherina stayed at the home of Philipp Reichenbach and Lucas Cranach
4. Luther married Katherina on June 13, 1525.

Or, to go beyond the bare facts, here's testimony from Roman Catholic historian Hartmann Grisar:
Of the twelve who escaped from Nimbschen, nine, who were without resources, found a refuge in various houses at Wittenberg, while only three went to their relatives in the Saxon Electorate. To begin with, from necessity and only for a short time, the nine found quarters in the Augustinian monastery which had remained in Luther's hands, in which he still dwelt and where there was plenty of room; later they found lodgings in the town. Luther had to provide in part for their maintenance. Catherine von Bora was lodged by him in the house of the Town-clerk, Reichenbach. [source]
For a helpful biographical article, see Katharina von Bora, the Woman at Luther's Sideby Martin Treu (Lutheran Quarterly XIII, 1999).


Erasmus and Rumors on Luther's Marriage
There were a number of rumors surrounding Luther's marriage believed by some of Rome's defenders- especially that Luther had sexual relations with her before their marriage, and got her pregnant. The offspring was popularly believed to be the Antichrist. Rome's defenders even produced abusive satires about their marriage. In regard to Luther and Katherina, Erasmus passed along this witty comment , "If there is truth in the popular legend, that Antichrist will be born from a monk and a nun (which is the story these people keep putting about), how many thousands of Antichrists the world must have already!"  According to Richard Marius, Erasmus initially believed the popular rumor that Kathrine von Bora had given birth a few days after her wedding. On page 438 of Martin Luther The Christian Between God and Death (Cambridge, Belknap Press, 1999), Marius states:
His forecast that his enemies would reproach him was on the mark. Then and for centuries afterward Catholic antagonists had proof that all Luther had ever wanted was sex, and since he married a former nun, it seemed he had now lived out yet another of the bawdy stories told of nuns and monks lusting for one another. His most bitter foes crowed over the marriage in monotonous fury in print. Erasmus knew of it by October and wrote to friends ironically about it. He passed on the canard that Katherine had given birth to a child a few days after the wedding (10). By March 13 he had learned that the rumor was false, although he understood (correctly) that Katherine was now pregnant. He ruminated on the 'popular legend' that the Antichrist would be born to a monk and a nun- a tale probably circulating about Luther's coming child. If that prophecy were true, he said with bitter wit, 'How many thousands of Antichrists had the world already known!'(11) He expressed the wistful hope that marriage might make Luther more gentle, but by this time he had seen Luther's vehement On the Bondage of the Will, and he had given up all hope that Luther might moderate his language.
(10) October 10, 1525; EE no. 1633; 6:197-199.
(11) March 13, 1525; EE no. 1677; 6:283-284.
Here are specific comments from Erasmus:



The comments from Erasmus ultimately served as a defense for Luther. Bayle's Dictionary was a popular eighteenth century apologetic dispelling numerous myths on various theological figures. Bayle did an entry entitled, "Bora." (see this overview as well). Bayle use the testimony of Erasmus under point #F.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Luther: "I am more afraid of my own heart than of the pope and all his cardinals. I have within me the great pope, self"

Over the years, I've received a few messages like this:
I am trying to verify if Luther wrote this quote; "I am more afraid of my own heart than of the pope and all his cardinals. I have within me the great pope,self." I searched the all beggar site plus numerous books and those who quote it never reference where that it can be found. Any ideas where this was said/written?
This appears to be an apocryphal Luther quote with a long history, though I'm not 100% sure. The quote (in its various forms) goes back at least to the 1800's. Here are some examples. The first three examples seem completely different. They are previous to the 1800's. I've included these because parts were eventually tacked on to the quote in question:
They divide us not only from God, but from one another. This I learne, says Luther, from mine owne experience, that I have more cause to feare what is within me, then what is without. (1653)
I more fear what is within me, says Luther, then what comes from without: the storms and winds without do never move the earth, it is only vapours within that causeth earthquakes, (1655)
Luther hit it when he said, I more fear what is within me, than what comes from without; the storms and winds without do never move the earth, it is only vapours within that causeth earthquakes, as philosophers observe. (1762)
The NATURAL HEART- Our Hearts are born enemies to Christ. So sensible was Luther of this, that he said, "I dread my own heart more than the pope and all his cardinals." (1850)
Our hearts are born enemies to Christ. So sensible was Luther of this, that he said, "I dread my own heart more than the pope and all his cardinals." (1851)
Luther used to say, "I am more afraid of my own heart than of the pope and all his cardinals. I have within me the great pope, Self." (1860)
2834. HEART, fear of the. I am more afraid of  my own heart," says Luther, "than of the Pope and all his Cardinals. I have within me the great Pope - Self. (1870)
Martin Luther's great foe was himself. "I am more afraid of my own heart," he said, " than of the pope and all his cardinals. (1875)
"I AM more afraid of my own head," said Luther, "than of the Pope and all his cardinals. I have within me the great "pope, self." (1877)
It is well if one can say with Luther, "I am more afraid of  my own heart," says Luther, "than of the Pope and all his Cardinals. I have within me the great Pope - Self." (1884)
I dread my own heart more than the pope and all his cardinals, for within me is the greater pope, even self. (1994)
“I am more afraid of my own heart than of the Pope and all his cardinals. I have within me the great Pope: Self. I more fear what is within me than anything that might come from without.” (unknown date)

Some other versions link the quote to Luther's famous speech at Worms in 1521:
On the subject of conscience Martin Luther declared before the court of the Roman Empire at Worms in 1521: "My conscience is captive to the Word of God... I am more afraid of my own heart than of the pope and all his cardinals. I have within me the great pope, "self." [1986]
Just before Luther's audience with the pope, the prelates, the cardinals, and the emperor , a friend moved alongside the maverick monk and asked, "Brother Martin, are you afraid?" Luther responded with a marvelous answer:  Greater than the pope and all his cardinals, I fear most that great pope, self."(1995)
On a later occasion, while awaiting an audience before the prelates of the church, Luther was asked if he were now afraid. "Afraid? Greater than the pope and all his cardinals, I fear most that great pope, self." (2008)
The last two quotes come from Chuck Swindoll. He documents the quote to Revivals Their Laws and Leaders by James Burns, p. 167-168. These pages do not contain the quote, but rather a description of Luther at Worms, 1521. A typical example of Luther's full speech can be found here (and here), and it doesn't appear to me that this quote comes from this speech. By looking through the various versions of the quote, it appears that it was tacked on to Luther's speech at Worms.

A real Luther quote? I'm tempted to say no, at least not in the form it's usually presented in. It could be a truncated synopsis of a much larger writing. That is, someone may have summarized a section with the quote serving as a summary statement.

Bullinger on the Assumption of Mary, Revisited

This is a follow up to my previous post about Heinrich Bullinger and the Assumption of Mary. 

Previously I argued that Protestant Reformer Heinrich Bullinger appears to go from being certain about Mary's Assumption (as early as 1539) to being agnostic on Mary's Assumption later in his life (by at least 1552). Why bother with such tedium? I do so to demonstrate that Rome's defenders don't always go that deep into history as they so often claim.  Sure, they'll point out that Heinrich Bullinger made a strong statement affirming the Assumption of Mary. What they might not mention is that he made statements after it in which he said that it's dangerous to explore where Scripture is silent. For instance,
"The most learned theologians say that one cannot assert anything on the matter of the death or the assumption of the virgin. To wish to unearth or clarify certain facts on which scripture is silent is not without its dangers. Let us content ourselves with believing that the Virgin Mary is indeed active in heaven and has received every beatitude after her departing" (Latin text, Translation, Thurian, p.197).
Did Bullinger believe in the Assumption? It appears he at least did in 1539. He plainly states though in later writings that one cannot know Mary was Assumed into heaven. I see a development in Bullinger here. The entire sixteenth century church was bathed in Mariology, so it would not be surprising to discover that Heinrich Bullinger didn't necessarily repudiate every aspect of it immediately. It would not be surprising as well to discover that as church history progressed from the Reformation, the bath water of Mariology gradually disappears, and I would argue, this is indeed what happened. Bullinger never totally escaped from medieval Mariology, but his comments on the Assumption when placed in their historical context show that he may have been on his way.

Bullinger's Sermon, De beata virgine Maria: Proof for Believing in the Assumption? 
In going through this tedium, I found one author claiming that Bullinger believed in Mary's Assumption later in his life, oddly enough, based on the testimony of Eusebius. If this is so, it would indicate my argument isn't valid, because here would be Bullinger in the late 1550's affirming the Assumption. The author states,


These comments above are based on this passage from Bullinger's sermon De beata virgine Maria. Along with the Latin text, I have William Tappolet's German translation of this passage from Das Marienlob der Reformatoren: Martin Luther, Johannes Calvin, Huldrych Zwingli, Heinrich Bullinger, p. 292-293. As I suspected, Bullinger is not using Eusebius to claim he again was certain on the Assumption of Mary. Bullinger states that Eusebius wrote a chronicle up to the year 48 A.D., but this diligent historian doesn't really get into what happened to Mary other than saying Mary had been taken up to her Son in heaven. He then mentions papal decrees condemning apocryphal literature that delve into Mary's Assumption. He then says to avoid the arguments about the Assumption from the Disputations of Antonius (Besutius?) and that it's useless to argue where Scripture is silent. The aspect of Mary's final end to keep in view is that she now lives in heaven with Christ. The theme of not delving into where Scripture is silent is exactly what his other later quotes say.

Here is Tappolet's text:
Eusebius, der Bischof von Cäsarea, der - bis ans Wunder grenzend - der fleißigste Forscher des ganzen Altertums war, erwähnt in seiner Chronik zum Jahre 48 nach Christi Geburt, dem 15. nach dem Tod des Herrn, ganz wenig und sagt: die Jungfrau Maria, die Mutter Jesu Christi, wird zum Sohn in den Himmel aufgenommen, wie manche schreiben, daß ihnen geoffenbart worden sei. Dies sagt jener, der in der Kirchengeschichte davon nichts erwähnt. Es ist deshalb nicht verwunderlich, daß in den päpstlichen Dekreten (Distinct. 15. Cap. „ Sancta") der Bericht vom Heimgang der heiligen Maria verurteilt und unter die apokryphen Schriften gezählt wird, wie auch jener Bericht, der über die Geburt des Heilandes, die heilige Maria und die Hebamme des Heilandes etc. herausgegeben wurde. Daher mahnen wir auch, daß jene, die die Disputation des Antonius in seiner Geschichte (Tit. 6, Cap. 3) über den Heimgang Mariens mit Verstand lesen, und alle lernen mögen, wie un fruchtbar und gefährlich es ist, neugierig zu forschen und darüber reden zu wollen, was uns in der Heiligen Schrift vorenthalten ist. Es möge uns genügen, schlicht und einfach zu glauben und zu bekennen, daß die Jungfrau Maria, die liebe Mutter unseres Herrn Jesus Christus, durch die Gnade und das Blut ihres eigenen Sohnes ganz geheiligt und durch die Gabe des Heiligen Geists überreich beschenkt und allen Frauen vorgezogen, und endlich, wie von den Engeln selber, von allen Geschlechtern wahrhaft selig gepriesen, jetzt lücklichmit Christus im Himmel lebe und daß sie ewige Jungfrau genannt werde und auch sei und bleibe, nämlich Gottesgebärerin, deren Andenken unter den Gläubigen in der Kirche stetig und festlich, jedoch fromm und nicht abergläubisch sein soll.
Here is the Latin text:


The Latin text doesn't say anything different than Tappolet's German: Eusebius Caesariensis episcopus, omnis uetustatis, ad miraculum usque, omnium diligentissimus indagator, in Chronicus suis, sub anno a' natiuitate Domine 48. qui nimirum erat 15. a morte Domini annus, paucula annotans, Maria virgo, inquit, Iesu Christi mater, ad filium in ccelum assumitur, ut quidam fuisse fibi reuelatum scribunt.


Addendum: What Did Eusebius Say?
In the Chronicon of Eusebius, there is a disputed passage that reads, "Mary the Virgin the mother of Jesus, was taken up into heaven as some write that it has been revealed to them." The Catholic Encyclopedia notes the passage is spurious:
"There is no certain tradition as to the year of Mary's death. Baronius in his Annals relies on a passage in the Chronicon of Eusebius for his assumption that Mary died A.D. 48. It is now believed that the passage of the Chronicon is a later interpolation."

Monday, April 25, 2016

Bullinger on Mary's Assumption: It is Dangerous to Explore Where Scripture is Silent

This is a follow-up to my earlier entry on Bullinger's Mariology

Over the years I've witnessed Rome's defenders saying that Protestant Reformer Heinrich Bullinger believed in the Assumption of Mary.  As far as I can determine, the most important evidence for this conclusion appears to be based on merely one Bullinger quote:
"Elijah was transported body and soul in a chariot of fire; he was not buried in any Church bearing his name, but mounted up to heaven, so that on the one hand we might know what immortality and recompense God prepares for his faithful prophets and for his most outstanding and incomparable creatures, and on the other hand in order to withdraw from men the possibility of venerating the human body of the saint. It is for this reason, we believe, that the pure and immaculate embodiment of the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, the Temple of the Holy Spirit, that is to say her saintly body, was carried up into heaven by the angels."
This quote can be found in a variety of forms, documented (if at all!) in different ways. Often the quote is dated only a short time before Bullinger's death, in 1568, in which case, Bullinger held to Mary's Assumption for almost the entirety of his life. Rome's defenders often use snippets of information like this to provoke historical dissonance in dialog with Protestants: the Reformers believed in sola scriptura, yet believe x y or z about Mary... so why don't you?  In what follows, I'd like to demonstrate that Rome's defenders sometimes aren't up front with all the facts, and when those facts are presented, a different scenario may indeed be possible in regard to Bullinger and the Assumption of Mary.

Documentation
Sometimes the quote above is documented with a reference to Max Thurian's Mary, Mother of All Christians, 197-198. Thurian says in 1568 Bullinger wrote this comment on the Assumption of Mary. Thurian says he took the quote from Walter Tappolet, Das Marienlob der Reformatoren: Martin Luther, Johannes Calvin, Huldrych Zwingli, Heinrich Bullinger, p.327. This pdf (with the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur) cites the quote as "On Original Sin, 16 (1568)." This is actually a reference to the chapter in the primary source, De Origne Erroris, 16 from Bullinger. This documentation of the primary source may have originally come from Hilda Graef, Mary, A History of doctrine and Devotion, p. 15. She likewise notes 1568, and also that she took the quote from Tappolet. This tedium points to one conclusion: the quote, in whatever form one may find it, will probably lead back to Tappolet's, The Marian Praise of the Reformers.

Bullinger's Three Quotes on the Assumption of Mary: Developing to the Assumption?
I have a copy of Tappolet's book. It's more of an anthology of Marian quotes from the Reformers than an actual analysis of Reformation Mariology. Tappolet doesn't simply provide one quote from Bullinger on the Assumption of Mary, he provides three (p.327-328).  He provides quotes from three different dates, in this order: 1552, 1565, and 1568 (the last quote being that cited above). If one uses the quotes presented in this order, it appears that Bullinger went from uncertainty about Mary's Assumption to certainty. In 1552, Bullinger says we simply know that Mary is in Heaven, and "the Scriptures say nothing more" (The 1552 quote can be found here, Von der Verklärung Jesu Christi). In 1565, Bullinger alludes to the testimony of Ephiphanius on the uncertainty of Mary's death, and states, "It is quite dangerous to try to explore or explain for sure where the Scripture is silent!" (The 1565 quote can be found here , Epitome temporum). But then in 1568 he does an about face and states, "... we believe, that the pure and immaculate embodiment of the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, the Temple of the Holy Spirit, that is to say her saintly body, was carried up into heaven by the angels." The quote is authentic (here is the page in the 1568 edition).

Something doesn't add up. If one looks closer at Tappolet's citations, he does preface the 1568 statement by saying, "The strangest testimony of Bullinger's on the question of Mary's Assumption is contained in Froschauer's 1568 edition of  De Origne Erroris Chapter 16" (p.328). Even Tappolet, the primary source for the quote realizes something isn't quite right. He then includes a few final comments of bibliographic tedium including the fact that the 1549 French edition of De Origne Erroris deleted Bullinger's Assumption comment. 1549? Wasn't De Origne Erroris written at the end of Bullinger's life in 1568? It wasn't. Bullinger composed this book much earlier (1529; it was the companion volume to a book he wrote in 1528). Bullinger was 25 when he originally wrote this book. He revised these two volumes into one volume in 1539. It is in this 1539 edition that the Marian statement in question appears to have originally been written (see page 45). I could not locate the quote it in the 1529 edition, nor do I know if he revised this book previous to the 1539 edition. So, the comment from Bullinger affirming Mary's Assumption precedes the two quotes in which he says one cannot affirm Mary's Assumption. In other words, the documentation points to Bullinger going from affirming the Assumption to being agnostic on the Assumption.

Conclusion
I've yet to come across one of Rome's defenders using the alleged 1568 Assumption quote in its historical lineage, either mentioning how something doesn't quite add up or placing it back in 1539 where it belongs. I've not come across one them saying, "Bullinger earlier affirmed Mary's assumption, but then appears to become agnostic on it." Sometimes, they will come close. Peter Stravinskas, a bit more careful states,
Zwingli's successor, Bullinger, once confessed that Mary's "sacrosanct body was borne by angels into heaven," although he declined to take a firm stand on either her bodily assumption or her immaculate conception. [Thomas O'Meara, Mary in Protestant and Catholic Theology (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1965), 178-179]. [source]
So according to Straviskas, Bullinger once confessed Mary's Assumption, but didn't take a firm stand on it. This is true, as far as it goes. Certainly Bullinger did plainly affirm the Assumption in 1539, but contrary to Stravinskas, this was indeed a strong stand in 1539. It appears that only later did he decline to take a firm stand. Stravinskas may have never bothered to read the quotes in historical order so ended up describing a confused Bullinger.

Did Bullinger believe in the Assumption? It appears he did in 1539. He plainly states though in later writings that one cannot know Mary was Assumed into heaven. I see a development in Bullinger here. The entire sixteenth century church was bathed in Mariology, so it would not be surprising to discover that Heinrich Bullinger didn't necessarily repudiate every aspect of it immediately. It would not be surprising as well to discover that as church history progressed from the Reformation, the bath water of Mariology gradually disappears, and I would argue, this is indeed what happened. Perhaps Bullinger never totally escaped from medieval Mariology, but his comments on the Assumption when placed in their historical context show that he may have been on his way.

Addendum 4/25/16 (18:30 PM)
One other primary source that I haven't completely worked through yet is found here. The sermon appears to be from 1558, and note the summary of this author claiming that Bullinger believed in Mary's Assumption based on the testimony of Eusebius. I'm in the process of working through Tappolet on this sermon as well. According to Tappolet's translation, the section in question mentioning Eusebius is very similar in content from the 1565 quote above. On page 293 in Tappolet, once again  Bullinger's expresses a warning about it being dangerous to investigate or talk about what Scripture withholds. One should simply believe and confess Mary is heaven with Jesus Christ, not figure out how she arrived there. See this part of the sermon in Latin:


Tapploet's German translation reads,
...über den Heimgang Mariens mit Verstand lesen, und alle lernen mögen, wie unfruchtbar und gefährlich es ist, neugierig zu forschen und darüber reden zu wollen, was uns in der Heiligen Schrift vorenthalten ist Es möge uns genügen, schlicht und einfach zu glauben und zu bekennen, daß die Jungfrau Maria, die liebe Mutter unseres Herrn Jesus Christus, durch die Gnade und das Blut ihres eigenen Sohnes ganzgeheiligt und durch die Gabe des Heiligen Geistes überreich beschenkt und allen Frauen vorgezogen, und endlich, wie von den Engeln selber (p. 293).
That Tappolet doesn't include this in his section on Bullinger and Mary's Assumption (p.327-328) leads me to believe the author above interpreting Bullinger to be affirming the Assumption because of Eusebius is mistaken. Also that the author above omitted the warning passage in his synopsis leads me to conclude Bullinger may be being misinterpreted.  

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Very interesting article on the real presence in the Eucharist in the early church

"This article will examine the writings of Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian of Carthage, Irenaeus of Lyons, Justin Martyr, Ignatius, and a contribution from Origen in order to show that the ancient church never believed, taught or even conceived any doctrine like the real presence dogma."  Brian Culliton, at his "onefold" wordpress blog

https://onefold.wordpress.com/early-church-evidence-refutes-real-presence/


Friday, April 22, 2016

Heinrich Bullinger's Mariology? (Part One)

In Roman Catholic apologetics, Heinrich Bullinger (1504-1575) is not primarily remembered for his historical Reformation role as Zwingli's successor, but rather, what he said about Mary. The irony is that it was probably a Protestant responsible for this.

Begin Excursion: Walter Tappolet, The Marian Praise of the Reformers
In 1962, German Protestant scholar, Walter Tappolet, produced a book highlighting Marian statements from 16th century Protestants: Das Marienlob der Reformatoren: Martin Luther, Johannes Calvin, Huldrych Zwingli, Heinrich Bullinger. The title of this book translates to "The Marian Praise of the Reformers." Bridget Heal suggests that Tappolet had an "ecumenical desire to develop some Marian devotion within twentieth-century Protestantism." If indeed that's what motivated him, he in essence failed to solidify Marian devotion in subsequent Protestantism. Here we are, many years past Tappolet's study, and Rome's Marian dogmas and emphasis are still the characteristics of... Rome. What he did succeed at was to produce an anthology of material that eventually trickled down to Rome's modern-day cyber-defenders. The statements from the Reformers about Mary compiled by Tappolet often serve this typical argument:
Protestants believe in sola scriptura. The Reformers believed in sola scriptura. The original Reformers believed in Roman Catholic Marian doctrines. Therefore, Protestants today should believe in Marian doctrines.
Rome's modern cyber-defenders are probably not using Tappolet's book. What they're usually relying on is some other source that used Tappolet's book and translated this or that statement into English from Tappolet's German. This explains why their documentation is often spurious. Tappolet relied on primary sources written in a variety of non-English languages. Most of Rome's modern cyber-defenders have little idea what these sources are or where to find them. When I first began looking into this issue years ago, the typical "The Reformers believed in Mary" webpage had ridiculous documentation. Not a whole lot has changed, especially in regard to the quotes attributed to Bullinger.

It's been easier to go through Luther's writings and Calvin's writings to demonstrate that in some instances the quotes are being used out of context. In some instances (particularly with Luther), some of the earlier things said about Mary were later repudiated. In some instances, what the Reformers held about Mary isn't even what today's defenders of Rome hold about Mary. But fundamentally, sola scriptura does not claim that all people reading the Bible will necessarily arrive at the same conclusions. What it ultimately claims is that there is one divine infallible source of God's special revelation. If the original Reformers maintained something about Mary, this doesn't mean that the successors of the Reformers will also. It's not the Reformers that are the sole infallible authority, it's the Scriptures. End excursion.

Heinrich Bullinger, Devoted to Mary? Wikipedia Thinks So.
Now back to Heinrich Bullinger. Bullinger is not known for spending extraordinary efforts to write treatises about Mary. Yet, isn't it odd that if one consults his entry in Wikipedia, one of the last sections of the entry contains a treatment of his "Marian views"? Someone tacked it on sometime after May 2008. That someone is anonymous because "Work submitted to Wikipedia can be edited, used, and redistributed—by anyone...". Of all the facts one should know from a basic overview of Bullinger, someone thinks his Marian views needed to be mentioned! My guess is that someone with a Roman Catholic agenda had a hand in adding this section.

The wiki article rightly mentions Bullinger's importance for his writing of the Second Helvitic Confession. But the Wiki article also states, "Mary is mentioned several times in the Second Helvetic Confession, which expounds Bullinger's mariology." So according to Wikipedia, the very act of mentioning Mary is expounding Marian views! For the record, the word "Mary" is mentioned twice (as part of the phrase "Virgin Mary" and "ever virgin Mary").  Mary is referred to only one other time as "Blessed Virgin." Here's the alleged exposition of Bullinger's Mariology from these three isolated statements in the Second Helvitic Confession:
3,3. For Scripture has delivered to us a manifest distinction of persons, the angel saying, among other things, to the Blessed Virgin, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God" (Luke 1:35).
6,1. CHRIST IS TRUE GOD. We further believe and teach that the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, was predestinated or foreordained from eternity by the Father to be the Savior of the world. And we believe that he was born, not only when he assumed flesh of the Virgin Mary, and not only before the foundation of the world was laid, but by the Father before all eternity in an inexpressible manner.
6,3. CHRIST IS TRUE MAN, HAVING REAL FLESH. We also believe and teach that the eternal Son of the eternal God was made the Son of man, from the seed of Abraham and David, not from the coitus of a man, as the Ebionites said, but was most chastely conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the ever virgin Mary, as the evangelical history carefully explains to us (Matt., ch. 1). And Paul says: "he took not on him the nature of angels, but of the seed of Abraham." Also the apostle John says that woever does not believe that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is not of God. Therefore, the flesh of Christ was neither imaginary not brought from heaven, as Valentinus and Marcion wrongly imagined.
What do we actually learn about Bullinger's Mariology? The first thing that's apparent is he is not expounding on his Marian views, he's expounding on Jesus Christ, His incarnation, His deity, and His humanity. If one wanted to honestly expound on Bullinger's Mariology from this document, she's mentioned in passing with reference to her historical maternal role in the incarnation and the theological implications for the Deity and humanity of Christ. From these same statements, Here's how Wikipedia's explains how Bullinger's Mariology is "expounded":
Mary is mentioned several times in the Second Helvetic Confession, which expounds Bullinger's mariology. Chapter Three quotes the angel’s message to the Virgin Mary, " – the Holy Spirit will come over you " - as an indication of the existence of the Holy Spirit and the Trinity. The Latin text described Mary as diva, indicating her rank as a person, who dedicated herself to God. In Chapter Nine, the Virgin birth of Jesus is said to be conceived by the Holy Spirit and born without the participation of any man. The Second Helvetic Confession accepted the "Ever Virgin" notion from John Calvin, which spread throughout much of Europe with the approbation of this document in the above-mentioned countries [Chavannes 426].
The documentation given is so vague that it's meaningless. Is it a reference to Alexander Chavannes? Earnst Chavannes? Who knows? Wiki states, "The Latin text described Mary as diva, indicating her rank as a person." This is in reference to the word "blessed." Here's a link to the Latin translation. The Latin phrase used is "divam virginem." The Latin word "diva" is a noun meaning either blessed, saint or divine. Wiki says that the word indicates "rank as a person, who dedicated herself to God." Is this sense in which Bullinger is using the words divam virginem? Where is the expounding of Bullinger's view?  Is Bullinger using the word in the sense of title or a description? Where does Bullinger say Mary was of a higher rank of person who dedicated herself to God? Then the Wiki article points out that Bullinger "accepted the 'Ever Virgin' notion from John Calvin, which spread throughout much of Europe..." In actuality, the idea of Mary being "ever Virgin" was already "spread throughout much of Europe" before either Calvin or Bullinger came on the scene! Also, Calvin rarely mentioned Mary's perpetual virginity. Calvin's basic position is that the gospel writers did not wish to record what happened afterwards to Mary. His is a position of silence in regard to the state of Mary's virginity after the birth of Christ.

Bullinger on The Assumption According to Wikipedia
The Wikipedia entry then shifts gears, leaving the Second Helvetic Confession behind, stating,
Bullinger's 1539 polemical treatise against idolatry[2] expressed his belief that Mary's "sacrosanctum corpus" ("sacrosanct body") had been assumed into heaven by angels:
Hac causa credimus et Deiparae virginis Mariae purissimum thalamum et spiritus sancti templum, hoc est, sacrosanctum corpus ejus deportatum esse ab angelis in coelum.[3]
For this reason we believe that the Virgin Mary, Begetter of God, the most pure bed and temple of the Holy Spirit, that is, her most holy body, was carried to heaven by angels.
[2]De origine erroris libri duo (On the Origin of Error, Two Books)
[3]De origine erroris, Caput XVI (Chapter 16), p. 70
[4]The Thousand Faces of the Virgin Mary (1996), George H. Tavard, Liturgical Press, p. 109.
This notion that Bullinger held a lifelong adherence to Mary's Assumption has been floating around the internet for years. It's certainly true that George Tavard gives the Latin text in his book, The Thousand Faces of the Virgin Mary (The English translation cited by Wikipedia is Tavard's as well). He says though (incorrectly) that the comment is according to Bullinger's "friend and disciple Froschauer" from his book De origine erroris libri duo:


Here's where Walter Tappolet comes in. This quote, in whatever form one may find it in, probably originates from Das Marienlob der Reformatoren, p 327. Tappolet treats Bullinger on the Assumption on pages 326-327. He first presents a few Bullinger quotes which say that the Scriptures don't say anything about Mary's death or Assumption and that it's dangerous to explore where Scripture is silent. Tappolet then presents what he says is "the strangest testimony" of Bullinger on the Assumption ("Das seltsamste Zeugnis Builingers über die Frage von Mariens Himmelfahrt"). The quote is authentic (here is the page in the 1568 edition). The interesting thing about the quote is that it wasn't written for publication in 1568 towards the end of his life. Bullinger composed this book much earlier (1529; it was the companion volume to a book he wrote in 1528). Bullinger was 25 when he originally wrote this book. He revised these two volumes into one volume in 1539. It is in this 1539 edition that the Marian statement in question appears to have originally been written (see page 45). I could not locate the quote it in the 1529 edition, nor do I know if he revised this book previous to the 1539 edition. I would argue that the quote represents a development in Bullinger. The other quotes against a blatant adherence to the Assumption cited by Tappolet (from 1552 and 1565)  were penned later. Certainly Rome's defenders could have a strong case if Bullinger wrote this statement at the end of life, but the evidence suggests that he actually moved away from this radical Marian position.


The Protestant Reformers on Mary
Some of Bullinger's Marian quotes have been floating around cyber-space for years. Let's consider the following Bullinger statements from the anonymous web page, Behold Thy Mother: The Protestant Reformers on Mary. This webpage asserts: "The Reformers accepted almost every major Marian doctrine and considered these doctrines to be both scriptural and fundamental to the historic Christian Faith." That's a form of the exact argument I outline above. Here's how this webpage quotes Bullinger:
Heinrich Bullinger, Cranmer's brother-in-law, Zwingli's successor said:
'In Mary everything is extraordinary and all the more glorious as it has sprung from pure faith and burning love of God.' She is 'the most unique and the noblest member' of the Christian community . . .'The Virgin Mary . . . completely sanctified by the grace and blood of her only Son and abundantly endowed by the gift of the Holy Spirit and preferred to all . . . now lives happily with Christ in heaven and is called and remains ever-Virgin and Mother of God.'
{In Hilda Graef, Mary: A history of Doctrine and Devotion, combined ed. of vols. 1 and 2, London: Sheed and Ward, 1965, vol.2, pp.14-5}
"What pre-eminence in the eyes of God the Virgin Mary had on account of her piety, her faith, her purity, her saintliness and all her virtues, so that she can hardly be compared with any of the other saints, but should by rights be rather elevated above all of them..."; "...And if she who was wholly pure from her birth did not disdain to be purified, that is to say to receive the blessing of purification, is this not all the more reason why those who fall under the yoke of the law by reason of their real impurity should observe the same?"; "...we believe, that the pure and immaculate embodiment of the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, the Temple of the Holy Spirit, that is to say her saintly body, was carried up into heaven by the angels..." (cited in Thurian, page 89, 197, 198)

 Let's work through these quotes and see how they stand up to scrutiny.
1. 'In Mary everything is extraordinary and all the more glorious as it has sprung from pure faith and burning love of God.' She is 'the most unique and the noblest member' of the Christian community . . . 'The Virgin Mary . . . completely sanctified by the grace and blood of her only Son and abundantly endowed by the gift of the Holy Spirit and preferred to all . . . now lives happily with Christ in heaven and is called and remains ever-Virgin and Mother of God.' {In Hilda Graef, Mary: A history of Doctrine and Devotion, combined ed. of vols. 1 and 2, London: Sheed and Ward, 1965, vol.2, pp.14-5}
I have the source cited. Hilda Graef says, "Bullinger's Mariology is nearer to Catholic beliefs than that of the other Reformers" (p.14). That's a tacit admission from this Roman Catholic writer that the Reformers are not on the exact page as Rome. Graef also notes her source for these quotes: William Tappolet. He was utilized because she says of Bullinger's actual writings, "the original work being inaccessible to me" (p.14). In other words, Graef doesn't give any references to actual contextual sources for these quotes. The quote being cited above is actually on page 15, not page 14. It turns out, it isn't one quote, it's three.  Here's how Graef cites Bullinger:
He defends Mary's perpetual virginity, including the virginity in partu and inveighs against the false Christians (Scheinchristen) who defraud her of her rightful praise: "In Mary everything is extraordinary and all the more glorious as it has sprung from pure faith and burning love of God."1 She is "the most unique and the noblest member" of the Christian community, not, however, its head or mistress.2 He will not pronounce either on her Immaculate Conception or her bodily Assumption: "Let it suffice us", he says, "simply to believe and confess that the Virgin Mary... completely sanctified by the grace and blood of her only Son and abundantly endowed by the gift of the Holy Spirit and preferred to all... now lives happily with Christ in heaven and is called and remains ever-Virgin and Mother of God... ."3
Note some of the words left out by Rome's anonymous defender. Bullinger is cited saying, "She is 'the most unique and the noblest member' of the Christian community," but Graef continues the sentence with, "not, however, its head or mistress." Why was this left out?  Then notice Rome's defender leaves out "He will not pronounce either on her Immaculate Conception or her bodily Assumption," and picks up the quote with "The Virgin Mary"! After these Bullinger snippets, Graef goes on to say, "But despite his sincere veneration for her, Bullinger rejects her invocation and mediation, though this does not mean that he is hostile to her, else he would also be an enemy of Christ." So the aspects of Bullinger that speak against Rome's Mary are left out. Why?
2. "What pre-eminence in the eyes of God the Virgin Mary had on account of her piety, her faith, her purity, her saintliness and all her virtues, so that she can hardly be compared with any of the other saints, but should by rights be rather elevated above all of them..."; "...And if she who was wholly pure from her birth did not disdain to be purified, that is to say to receive the blessing of purification, is this not all the more reason why those who fall under the yoke of the law by reason of their real impurity should observe the same?"; "...we believe, that the pure and immaculate embodiment of the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, the Temple of the Holy Spirit, that is to say her saintly body, was carried up into heaven by the angels..." (cited in Thurian, page 89, 197, 198)
The reference here is to Max Thurian. The book being cited is Mary: Mother of the Lord Figure of the Church (1963), or perhaps Mary, Mother of All Christians. Thurian was an ecumenical Protestant at the writing of this book and not long thereafter went on to become Roman Catholic. Of Reformation Mariology, Thurian states, "One should not normally embark on this subject until one has read the magnificent book Das Marienlob der Reformatoren of W. TAPPOLET" (pp. 196-197). Like the previous quote, this offering consists of multiple quotes put together. Except for the quotes from page 89 (see ** below), all the quotes Thurian uses are from Tappolet. Like Graef, Thurian does not give any references to actual contextual sources for these quotes.  Here's what Thurian says on pages 89, 196-197:
Bullinger, the balanced Reformer, wrote: "What pre-eminence in the eyes of God the Virgin Mary had on account of her piety, her faith, her purity, her saintliness and all her virtues, so that she can hardly be compared with any of the other saints, but should by rights be rather elevated above all of them, appears very clearly in the first chapters of the gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke, and particularly in her "Magnificat." ... If Mary really is the Mother of the Lord, as the blessed Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, so explicitly named her, then it is altogether just that she should be named by the Fathers of the Church "theotokos," that is to say Mother of God (Gottesgebarerin or Muttergottes). Nestorius denied that in the most infamous manner. All the same, if women of the Old Testament like Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, Rachel, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail, Esther, Susannah, Judith and others were notable and excellent women how much more notable and worthy of praise is she who surpasses with distinction all women, the blessed Virgin Mother! ' [Translation of G. DUMEIGE, The Catholic Faith, L'Orante, Paris 1961, p. 191.]**
In connection with the purification according to the Law of Mary in the Temple, Bullinger, the successor of Zwingli, wrote: "And if she who was wholly pure from her birth did not disdain to be purified, that is to say to receive the blessing of purification, is this not all the more reason why those who fall under the yoke of the law by reason of their real impurity should observe the same" (ibid., p. 282).
Bullinger wrote in 1565: "The most learned theologians say that one cannot assert anything on the matter of the death or the assumption of the virgin. To wish to unearth or clarify certain facts on which scripture is silent is not without its dangers. Let us content ourselves with believing that the Virgin Mary is indeed active in heaven and has received every beatitude after her." However, in 1568, he wrote on the same subject- "Elijah was transported body and soul in a chariot of fire; he was not buried in any Church bearing his name, but mounted up to heaven, so that on the one hand we might know what immortality and recompense God prepares for his faithful prophets and for his most outstanding and incomparable creatures, and on the other hand in order to withdraw from men the possibility of venerating the human body of the saint. It is for this reason, we believe, that the pure and immaculate embodiment of the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary, the Temple of the Holy Spirit, that is to say her saintly body, was carried up into heaven by the angels' (ibid., p. 327).
Once again we see information left out, Bullinger's 1565 comment that one should be silent on the Assumption. The more interesting part of this section from Thurian is Bullinger's 1568 apparent about face on Mary's Assumption, but as demonstrated above, the quote wasn't originally from 1568, but from 1539. Hilda Graef makes the same error:
In his work De engine erroris, 16 (1568), he even professes the belief that the body of the Virgin Mother of God has been taken up to heaven by the angels, because he does not think that Elijah can have been superior to her in this respect. As Tappolet points out, this sentence, still retained in the Dutch edition of 1602, was eliminated in the French edition of 1549 (Geneva).

Conclusion
In part two, I'm going to attempt to present a more balanced view of Bullinger's Mariology. It is the case that he held to notions about Mary that modern Protestants do not. However, he was not on the same page as Rome, both then and now. The goal is not to make Bullinger sound either Roman Catholic or Protestant, but to let him be who was.

It could very well be that Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and  Bullinger's views on Mary were as Rome's defenders claim. If they were, then so be it. The entire sixteenth century church was bathed in Mariology, so it would not be surprising to discover the Reformers didn't necessarily repudiate every aspect of it immediately. It would not be surprising as well to discover that as church history progressed from the Reformation, the bath water of Mariology gradually disappears, and I would argue, this is indeed what happened.

**Addendum
Thurian claims the citations on page 89 come from a "Translation of G. DUMEIGE, The Catholic Faith, L'Orante, Paris 1961, p. 191." This refers to the French version of this book, La foi catholique. I don't have this source to check, but these quotes are on pages 284 and 285 of Tappolet. I would not be surprised to find out that Thurian actually got these quotes from Tappolet rather than Dumeige.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Luther: The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart

Some years back I wrote on this Martin Luther quote: "The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart" (Sermon, September 1, 1522)."  If you search this quote, you'll find it has traveled far, even making its way to a handful of (mostly Roman Catholic) books, mis-documented (the date is wrong).  One of Rome's defenders uses this quote to prove "Luther held to the idea and devotional practice of the veneration of Mary and expressed this on innumerable occasions with the most effusive language." Another using this quote says, "Even Martin Luther, despite criticizing the Catholic doctrines of Mary's intercession and mediation, insisted on venerating Mary." Yet another using this quote says, "Not only was devotion to Mary a spiritually helpful practice, but it was an almost intrinsic aspect of healthy spirituality."

We'll see that this quote in context doesn't substantiate any of these things. Rather, the quote serves as an excellent example of why context matters. While Rome's defenders use the quote as positive proof that Luther was devoted to Mary, in context the quote is actually saying something negative about the veneration of Mary being inscribed in the very depths of the human heart.

Documentation
The quote is typically documented as  "Sermon, September 1, 1522." This sort of sparse documentation is a good indicator that the person using the quote took it from a secondary source and never bothered to read it in its context. The quote may have originally come from two secondary Roman Catholic sources, one of which may have come close to plagiarizing the other. One of Rome's defenders may have taken it from Thomas O'Meara's Mary in Protestant and Catholic Theology (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1966). On page 123, O'Meara states,
To the end of his life Mary was to be honored and to be imitated. Luther never stopped preaching on her feast days. After all, he had written on September 1, 1522: "The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart."(46)
46. WA 10, III, 313.
Sometimes the quote is documented as "Martin Luther, Weimar edition of Martin Luther's Works (Translation by William J. Cole) 10, III, p.313." This is how some of the versions of the now anonymous The Protestant Reformers on Mary webpage reads. While this documentation does include accurate information, it does include some information that's ambiguous and incomplete at best: William Cole was not a translator of the Weimar edition of Luther's Works. This documentation most likely refers to William Cole’s article “Was Luther a Devotee of Mary?” (Marian Studies Volume XXI, 1970), p.131. Cole states:
In spite of the most strenuous criticism of the actual practice of Marian devotion, Luther never deviated from this opinion to the end of his life: Mary was always to be honored, as a matter of record Luther himself never stopped preaching on her feast days and remained true to his own statement of September 1, 1522: "The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart." (139)
139. WA 10, III, 313.
There is a strong possibility that Cole took this quote from O'Meara. Cole cites Mary in Protestant and Catholic Theology in his article on page 108. He concludes a point by referring to a summary statement from O'Meara, "Thus, as Father Thomas O'Meara has pointed out so well...". It's interesting also there's a similarity in pointing out Luther's preaching on Marian feast days previous to the quote in question. The most striking similarity though is that both of Rome's defenders refer to the wrong date of the sermon, September 1, 1522. The correct date is September 8, 1522.  

Both authors correctly refer to  WA 10, III, 313. There the text reads:



In my earlier entry on this quote, I was able to track down larger English excerpts of this context from WA 10 III. Since then, the entirety of the sermon has been translated. This sermon is sometimes referred to as "Sermon on the Day of Mary's Birth, 8 Sept. 1522." It was part of Luther's Kirchenpostille (festival sermons).

I am extremely grateful to the translation work of Joel Baseley. He put together a fresh English translation of these sermons, many of which had not been translated into English previously. I'm not sure if Baseley realized the modern Roman Catholic polemical use of many of these sermons. His work inadvertently gave me the contexts for a number of Roman Catholic Luther quotes (including one of the most popular, Luther's alleged belief in the immaculate conception).

Basely translated  the title of this sermon, "The Day of the Nativity of Mary (Matthew 1)."

Context
Baseley explains in his introduction to these sermons,
Luther's goal in issuing the festival sermons was to wean his people away from the adoration and veneration of the saints which had crept into the church in order to lead them back to venerate Christ alone and to serve not the dead but the living saints in need, according to Christ's command (Baseley, introduction).
In other words, this Luther quote that says "The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart" is actually part of a collection of sermons intended to wean people away from venerating the saints! Amazing. Here's Baseley's translation of the paragraph this quote comes from in the sermon:
"Today's feast of the blessed Virgin celebrates her birth. We also read today in the beginning of Matthew the accounting of part of the family tree including the great ancestors of Jesus Christ.  But you know, my friends in Christ, that the honor given to the mother of God has been rooted so deeply into the hearts of men that no one wants to hear any opposition to this celebration. There is rather a desire to further elevate it and make it even greater. We also grant that she should be honored, since we, according to Saint Paul's words [Romans 12] are indebted to show honor one to another for the sake of the One who dwells in us, Jesus Christ. Therefore we have an obligation to honor Mary. But be careful to give her honor that is fitting. Unfortunately, I worry that we give her all too high an honor for she is accorded much more esteem than she should be given or than she accounted to herself.

So from this comes two abuses. First Christ is diminished by those who place their hearts more upon Mary than upon Christ himself. In doing so Christ is forced into the background and completely forgotten. The other abuse is that the poor saints here on earth are forgotten.

I would allow a high regard for Mary and her praise, just so long as you do not get carried away and consider making a law out of it so that she must be honored as a condition for your salvation. For the Scriptures have recorded nothing about her birth or life. So your hearts must not be placed upon her and she must not be exalted above her proper status. The monks invented all this abuse. They wanted to praise the woman. They have used Mary as an excuse to invent all kinds of lies by which she could be used to establish their twaddle. They have used Scriptures to drag Mary by the hair and force her to go where she never intended. For the Gospel that is read today reveals Christ's nativity, not Mary's. See how many lies have come out of this which we can in no way tolerate. I can surely allow her to be honored but not in a way that belies the Scriptures." [Baseley, pp. 157-158]

Conclusion
Luther's point is that whatever respect Mary was due to her, the church of his day had collectively had gone far beyond it."The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart" is not a positive statement, but a negative statement. This sentence placed back in its context is in regard to excessive Marian devotion, a devotion so rooted in the human heart that "no one wants to hear any opposition to this celebration" of the feast of Mary's birth. Luther goes on to wish this festival day in regard to Mary should be forgotten,  "For there is nothing in the Scriptures about it [Mary's birth]" (p. 158). Luther also says,
 "We are just as holy as Mary and the other saints, no matter how great the are, when we only believe in Christ" (p. 158).
"Her being given great grace is not done so that we should venerate her, but out of God's mercy for her. For we could not all be God's mother, but apart from that she is just like us and must also come to grace through the blood of Christ as we do" (p. 158).

And so on. Luther's view of the saints was still in transition during 1522, and reading through this short sermon certainly demonstrates this. The "veneration" rooted so deeply in the hearts of Luther's hearers was not a positive thing, but rather the result of excessive Marian piety.

Luther's Mariology is a subject that fascinates me, not so much because I either care about learning Mariology, or even what Luther thought about it. Rather, my fascination is the way in which Rome's defenders appeal to Luther in support of Mariology, often at the expense of research and a context. The quote examined above demonstrates that if you track down the context, it may say something quite different. It's typical of Rome's cyber defenders that when they cut-and-paste quotes like this, even when the secondary source they're utilizing provides accurate documentation, they often don't bother to look up the context. This is not being "deep into history" as they so often claim.

Addendum #1
Both O'Meara and Cole say Luther did not stop preaching on Marian feast days. In actuality, Luther abandoned the festival of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, her birth, and her Assumption. Consider the following noted by Eric Gritsch in his article “The Views of Luther and Lutheranism on the Veneration of Mary,” found in: H. George Anderson, J. Francis Stafford, Joseph A. Burgess (editors) The One Mediator, The Saints, and Mary, Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1992):
“He rejected the festivals of Mary's Immaculate Conception, December 8, and her Assumption, August 15” (p. 240).
“According to Luther Mary should be honored in festivals that focus on Christ, which is why he eventually rejected the celebrations of her Immaculate Conception (December 8), her birth (September 8), and her Assumption (August 15). He did honor her in the festivals of the Annunciation (March 25), the Visitation (July 2), and Purification (February 2), since these are connected with the birth of Christ. "We dare not put our faith in the mother but only in the fact that the child was born" (p. 241).
“Luther continued to preach on these festivals, but stopped preaching on the other three festivals after 1523”  (p. 382).
When one actually reads Luther’s Marian sermons, one finds that Mary is usually not the main subject, Christ is. Mary is often simply mentioned in passing, with perhaps a few paragraphs allotted to any discussion about her. There are exceptions to this, but the older Luther got, the less his Marian sermons focused on Mary. For instance, here is a complete "Marian" sermon,  “The Day of Annunciation to Mary” by Martin Luther (Luke 1:26-38, Second Sermon 1534). See for yourself how much Luther emphasized the veneration of Mary.

Addendum #2
This blog entry is a revision of an entry I posted back in 2012. The original can be found here. Because so many sources are now available online, I'm revising older entries by adding additional materials and commentary and also fixing or deleting dead hyperlinks. Nothing of any significant substance has changed in this entry from that presented in the former. The original entry was provoked by a 2012 discussion on Luther's Mariology at Catholic Answers (still view-able).  The current revision was prompted by a CARM discussion.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Did Athanasius Have Any Right?

Originally posted aomin August 6, 2009

It’s sometimes argued the Reformers didn’t have the right to call for the reform of the Roman church. How could a small minority challenge the authority of the established majority? Of course, there are many nuances and rabbit trails to meander down when one gets into this discussion- like did the reformers have miracles to prove their reform efforts? or who left who: did the reformers leave, or were they expelled? I’d like to bypass those topics for a bit, and apply what I’ll dub, the rule of consistency.
Let’s assume that the Reformers were wrong to go against the established church. The majority position was the Roman position at the time of the Reformation. What then do we do with Athanasius? I recently re-read Dr. White’s article, What Really Happened at Nicea? The section most pertinent to this is about half way down entitled, “The Aftermath.” Dr. White explains:
Modern Christians often have the impression that ancient councils held absolute sway, and when they made “the decision,” the controversy ended. This is not true. Though Nicea is seen as one of the greatest of the councils, it had to fight hard for acceptance. The basis of its final victory was not the power of politics, nor the endorsement of established religion. There was one reason the Nicene definition prevailed: its fidelity to the testimony of the Scriptures.
During the six decades between the Council of Nicea and the Council of Constantinople in 381, Arianism experienced many victories. There were periods where Arian bishops constituted the majority of the visible ecclesiastical hierarchy. Primarily through the force of political power, Arian sympathizers soon took to undoing the condemnation of Arius and his theology. Eusebius of Nicomedia and others attempted to overturn Nicea, and for a number of decades it looked as if they might succeed. Constantine adopted a compromising position under the influence of various sources, including Eusebius of Caesarea and a politically worded “confession” from Arius. Constantine put little stock in the definition of Nicea itself: he was a politician to the last. Upon his death, his second son Constantius ruled in the East, and he gave great aid and comfort to Arianism. United by their rejection of the homoousion, semi-Arians and Arians worked to unseat a common enemy, almost always proceeding with political power on their side.
Under Constantius, council after council met in this location or that. So furious was the activity that one commentator wrote of the time, “The highways were covered with galloping bishops.” Most importantly, regional councils meeting at Ariminum, Seleucia, and Sirmium presented Arian and semi-Arian creeds, and many leaders were coerced into subscribing to them. Even Liberius, bishop of Rome, having been banished from his see (position as bishop) and longing to return, was persuaded to give in and compromise on the matter.
During the course of the decades following Nicea, Athanasius, who had become bishop of Alexandria shortly after the council, was removed from his see five times, once by force of 5,000 soldiers coming in the front door while he escaped out the back! Hosius, now nearly 100 years old, was likewise forced by imperial threats to compromise and give place to Arian ideas. At the end of the sixth decade of the century, it looked as if Nicea would be defeated. Jerome would later describe this moment in history as the time when “the whole world groaned and was astonished to find itself Arian.”
Yet, in the midst of this darkness, a lone voice remained strong. Arguing from Scripture, fearlessly reproaching error, writing from refuge in the desert, along the Nile, or in the crowded suburbs around Alexandria, Athanasius continued the fight. His unwillingness to give place- even when banished by the Emperor, disfellowshipped by the established church, and condemned by local councils and bishops alike- gave rise to the phrase, Athanasius contra mundum: “Athanasius against the world.” Convinced that Scripture is “sufficient above all things,” Athanasius acted as a true “Protestant” in his day. Athanasius protested against the consensus opinion of the established church, and did so because he was compelled by scriptural authority. Athanasius would have understood, on some of those long, lonely days of exile, what Wycliffe meant a thousand years later: “If we had a hundred popes, and if all the friars were cardinals, to the law of the gospel we should bow, more than all this multitude.”
Movements that depend on political favor (rather than God’s truth) eventually die, and this was true of Arianism. As soon as it looked as if the Arians had consolidated their hold on the Empire, they turned to internal fighting and quite literally destroyed each other. They had no one like a faithful Athanasius, and it was not long before the tide turned against them. By A.D. 381, the Council of Constantinople could meet and reaffirm, without hesitancy, the Nicene faith, complete with the homoousious clause. The full deity of Christ was affirmed, not because Nicea had said so, but because God had revealed it to be so. Nicea’s authority rested upon the solid foundation of Scripture. A century after Nicea, we find the great bishop of Hippo, Augustine, writing to Maximin, an Arian, and saying: “I must not press the authority of Nicea against you, nor you that of Ariminum against me; I do not acknowledge the one, as you do not the other; but let us come to ground that is common to both- the testimony of the Holy Scriptures.”
I often wonder about those who attack the Reformers for standing against the majority, and how they explain Athanasius. If we were to have witnessed Athanasius up close, would it appear that he was standing against the church? By what authority did he do so? Did he have miracles to back up his “mission”? Did he have “ordinary” or “extraordinary” authority to stand against the majority? On what basis, during the time period in which he lived, could one have judged him to be a true or false reformer?
People rebel against authority all the time, be they Catholic or Protestant. The real question: is their rebellion supported by the infallible source of truth, the Sacred Scriptures? Consider my Protestant friends, the recent Harold Camping debate shows,particularly Day 2. The logic and exegesis of the Bible used by Mr. Camping was outrageous: it was pure gnosticism. We don’t have to appeal to an infallible church or council to deem Mr. Camping heretical. The Bible itself, if allowed to be read like any document should be read, shows that Mr. Camping is in dire error.
Before you balk at that statement my Catholic friends, consider Jimmy Akin’s recent comment: “this isn’t exegetical rocket science.” Akin evaluated the errors of his priests based on…. Scripture. The Bible, according to Akin is clear enough to put his priests in their place. One has to admit, there are plenty of clear passages in the Bible. For some Roman Catholics, they give off the impression that the Bible must be so cryptic, confusing, and difficult, that none of us could ever understand any of it without being infallible. Just think of how difficult it is to understand such verses like Acts 3:1, “One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer- at three in the afternoon.” Imagine, without an infallible understanding of this text, none of us could ever comprehend even this simple verse. I would argue, even a non-believer could exegete a verse of Scripture and comprehend a passage in a context. When the Lord chastised the Sadducees in Matthew 22, he stated they were in error because they did not know the Scriptures. He further states, “have you not read what God said to you?” (Mt. 22:31). The Lord Jesus clearly held these men responsible for knowing and understanding the Scriptures. Were the Sadducees supposed to respond, “How could we? We did not have an infallible interpreter of the Bible!”
Ultimately Athanasius, the Reformers, or whoever, are right based on whether or not their teachings are supported by the infallible sacred deposit of truth. In the blog article I cited up top, it’s stated:
“It’s baffling, really, how men could have just decided that sola scriptura is the only rule of Faith, then based on that alone overturn 1500 years of traditions that did not contradict the Bible. Was it really Biblically necessary to cut the number of sacraments from seven to two? Of course not. But sola scriptura gave Reformers carte blanche to interpret everything themselves and start from scratch. Beliefs and practices began to boil down to the personal insistence “I’m right!” in their interpretation of the Bible, without consulting traditions or authorities. History meant nothing anymore, and perhaps that’s why you never hear modern apologists talk about whether the Reformers had the right to do what they did. There’s a disconnect with and almost an impertinent disdain for history in the world today.”
It isn’t baffling. Athanasius like Luther, appealed to a certain standard of infallible truth by which to judge by. Take the sacraments for example. During the early centuries the church did not limit the number of sacraments to seven. There were more, or less. Some lists had less than seven, others had as many as thirty. It wasn’t until the mid-13th century that the number was finally set at seven. How does one decide how many there are? From the Bible.
As to the insistence that the Reformers simply stated, “I’m right” “without consulting traditions or authorities” – this is simply historically untrue, say for someone like John Calvin. He had a decent grasp of church history. In Luther’s case, he stated, “the sum of my argument is that whereas the words of men, and the use of the centuries, can be tolerated and endorsed, provided they do not conflict with the sacred Scriptures, nevertheless they do not make articles of faith, nor any necessary observances.” This is a far cry from “History meant nothing anymore.”
There is indeed a “disconnect” but it’s not due to Protestants having “an impertinent disdain for history.” I love church history, as do many of my cyber friends. The “disconnect” that I see is that Catholics cannot produce what they claim to have. If there is another infallible rule of faith besides the Scriptures that could’ve helped out Athanasius, where was it? Why did Athanasius have to struggle for his life against the church majority? Why did he have to argue his position from Scripture? Why couldn’t he have argued from some other infallible authority?
Let’s apply the rule of consistency. I have a paradigm that can explain Athanasius and the Reformers. They both had an infallible standard that they sought to be true to: the Sacred Scriptures. Can you be just as consistent my Catholic friends? Did Athanasius have any right?