Thursday, March 26, 2015

Should Rome's Apologists Interpret?

85 "The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ."47 This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.

100 The task of interpreting the Word of God authentically has been entrusted solely to the Magisterium of the Church, that is, to the Pope and to the bishops in communion with him.  [Catechism of the Catholic Church]

Well...  these statements need to be... interpreted...

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Real Story of the Reformation? Catholic Answers Explains Luther's Issue With Indulgences

This is a follow-up to my earlier post on the recent Catholic Answers broadcast, The Real Story of the Reformation with Steve Weidenkopf, a lecturer of Church History at the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College. Previously I noted how Professor Weidenkopf began his interview by changing the term Reformation to "revolution." along the same lines he goes on to consider Luther to be a revolutionary bent on overthrowing the Roman Church. He implied that the indulgence controversy was the issue in which this could be achieved.

 Weidenkopf  appears to defend the concept of indulgences, particularly the rebuilding of St. Peter's by the giving of "charitable contributions" towards its rebuilding through the selling of indulgences, thus downplaying the whole scandal behind indulgences. St. Peter's was falling apart, and needed to be rebuilt. The revenue from the indulgences helped fund this papal project. Weidenkopf doesn't appear to be interested in some of the more scandalous facts- like how some of the indulgence money for St. Peter's made its way to Leo X's private treasury, "...for he needed enormous sums for his private pleasures, especially his passion for cards, which he played every day" (Heinrich Bohemer, Road to Reformation, Martin Luther to the Year 1521 (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1946), p. 175). The Catholic Answers listeners didn't get any those sort of facts.

Professor Weidenkopf  does mention quickly in passing "the less than forthcoming" methods of some of the indulgence preachers, noting in half a breath that "Luther kind of latched on to that," but the explanation as to why Luther was bothered by indulgences was more economic than anything else. According to Weidenkopf, Luther was influenced by and part of a nationalist movement seeking economic and political freedom from Rome. What caused Luther's reaction to the selling of indulgences? For Professor Weidenkopf the main factors provoking Luther were economical:

...He was upset that this revenue from Germany was going to be sent down to Rome to build up St. Peter's... Luther had previously visited Rome earlier in his life as a monk and he was just kind of horrified at the excess and the immorality that he saw in Rome, even among unfortunately, some of the clergy there, and so when this indulgence preaching came about in his diocese that was kind of the spark so to speak that moved him to act.(listen starting at 6 min)

The picture of Luther put forth by Professor Weidenkopf is of a man who began by challenging papal power and whose cause against indulgences was based on financial exploitation. This picture of Luther would make perfect sense if indeed Luther was primarily a nationalist revolutionary. Certainly national and financial factors did matter to Luther, but were they the earliest factors which provoked Luther? Was Luther primarily concerned about German money going to Rome?

Luther's biographer Heinrich Boehmer points out that early on, it was largely pastoral concern which motivated Luther. In his book, Road to Reformation, Martin Luther to the Year 1521 (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1946), Bohemer states, "But as early as 1515 Luther was troubled more by the evil effects of indulgence preaching and the indulgence traffic upon the religious and moral life of the indulgence purchaser than by the base motives for granting indulgences (p. 176). Bohemer goes through two of the earliest sermons from Luther in which he mentions indulgences.
The first was delivered on a day that was especially appropriate for such instruction, namely on the eve of the great indulgence festival in the castle church on October 31, 1516. The indulgence, he already argued here, is nothing more than the remission of the canonical penalties imposed upon the penitent by the priest at confession. However, it is to be feared that it often militates directly against true repentance, that is, the inner penitence of the heart which should pervade the whole life of the believer; for one who feels real remorse for his sins does not try to evade punishment, but rather actually longs for punishment. "Nevertheless, I affirm emphatically that the purpose which the pope has in view is good- at least as far can be ascertained from the wording of the indulgence Bulls" (pp. 176-177).
The second sermon of note was from February 24, 1517:
Here he charged that the wholesale distribution of indulgences results only in causing the people to fight shy of punishment All too little of the blessings of indulgences is to be observed; rather there is a sense of security from punishment and a tendency to take sin lightly. Hence, he said, indulgences are well named, for they indulge the sinner. At best, absolution is suitable for people who are weak in the faith and who are easily frightened by punishment into doing penance. With the rest it has only the effect of preventing them from ever receiving the true absolution- divine forgiveness of sins- and hence they never come to Christ. "O how great are the perils of our times! How fast asleep are the priests! O what worse than Egyptian darkness are we in! How safety and securely we go on living in the midst of the most grievous sins!" (p. 177).
The first sermon doesn't appear to have been translated into English yet (it can be found in WA 1:94). It's possible as well that Bohemer is wrong on the 1516 date (see note #76 here. Brecht posits it may be from early March, 1517. See his full discussion on pages 186-188; 522). Regardless of the dates these sermons were previous to the posting of the 95 Theses. The February 24 sermon is available in LW 51:26 ( WA 1:138–142). Luther closes the sermon saying,
Then in addition, the very profusion of indulgences astonishingly fills up the measure of servile righteousness. Through these nothing is accomplished except that the people learn to fear and flee and dread the penalty of sins, but not the sins themselves. Therefore, the results of indulgences are too little seen but we do see a great sense of self-security and licentious sinning; so much so that, if it were not for the fear of the punishment of sins, nobody would want these indulgences, even if they were free; whereas the people ought rather to be exhorted to love the punishment and embrace the cross. Would that I were a liar when I say that indulgences are rightly so called, for to indulge means to permit, and indulgence is equivalent to impunity, permission to sin, and license to nullify the cross of Christ. Or, if indulgences are to be permitted, they should be given only to those who are weak in faith, that those who seek to attain gentleness and lowliness through suffering, as the Lord here says, may not be offended. For, not through indulgences, but through gentleness and lowliness, so says he, is rest for your souls found. But gentleness is present only in punishment and suffering, from which these indulgences absolve us. They teach us to dread the cross and suffering and the result is that we never become gentle and lowly, and that means that we never receive indulgence nor come to Christ. Oh, the dangers of our time! Oh, you snoring priests! Oh, darkness deeper than Egyptian! How secure we are in the midst of the worst of all our evils! (LW 51:31-33).
I realize that Professor Weidenkopf was being interviewed and speaking "off the cuff." But it appears to me that he's picking and choosing what sort of Luther fits his preconceived paradigms of revolution and revolutionary, and this is the sort of Luther that those listening to Catholic Answers want to hear about. This isn't the way accurate history should be done.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Ballroom Dancing Lutherans

For those of you whose spouses have at some point badgered you into watching an hour (or more!) of Dancing with The Stars: here's an excerpt from A Sermon on Dancing by Rev. J.R. Sikes (Lutheran Church of Ashland) January 6, 1897:

 I. The Physical Results.—Injury to Health.
 I know that many argue that it is good for their health. I shall content myself at present with showing that the contrary is true. The mode of dressing for balls, the unnatural excitement, and the excessive exercise all tend to invite and develop disease. Cold is contracted, fever, rheumatism or consumption follows, and death often ensues as thee result. I have a case in point. Some years ago a young lady of, amiable disposition and the daughter of wealthy parents received and invitation to a ball. It was her first invitation; It came from a highly respectable young man whom she highly esteemed and very much desired to please. Her classmate said to her, "You are not going, are you?" "Why not?" was the rejoinder. "It is a dancing party," was the reply. "So much the better, I have long wanted to attend a ball, and now I mean to go just this once and see what it, is." She did go. But she was not satisfied with this once. Charmed with its fascinations she went again and again. Scarcely a ball came off in the town without Ellen being present: After some months had passed thus her friend and classmate one day surprised her in tears. Finding she was discovered, she said, "I have been reviewing, my life for the past few months." "And are you resolving to do better?" asked her classmate. "Not just yet. I have one more engagement for Christmas eve. I must fill that, and that shall be my last." She did fill that, and it was her last. She took cold, went home and, took her bed, grew worse from day to day, and after an illness of several weeks she died. In her last hours, as her classmate stood beside her bed, she looked up and exclaimed, "I am lost, forever lost!" When they spoke to her of Christ and his willingness to save, she would only repeat, "I am lost—forever lost! .... That ball—that, first ball has been my ruin!" and thus she died. Now, reviewing the direct moral results in this case, we argue that it is a sin thus wontonly to destroy the health of our bodies which God has given us, And as the ball room does, in many instances, lead to such results, therefore it is wrong.

OK, so maybe this archaic argument won't get you out of viewing Dancing With Stars (unless Ebola gains strength) but it does raise the issue as to whether or not dancing is appropriate for Christians. My quick 2 cents is that obviously dance as an art-form and as a social means of expression is similar to music in that it can demonstrate how people are made in the image of God. When I see a gifted musician or a skilled dancer (whether they are Christians or not), I'm awestruck as to the abilities God gives to certain people. Whether they know it or not, their skill and creativity speaks of God's glory as creator.  On the other hand, it doesn't surprise me at all that sinful people take their God-given abilities and use them in sinful ways, denying the very God that created them, or that dance can be combined with sin to produce even more sin. It also doesn't surprise me that two people watching a couple dance in a graceful and almost acrobatic and seemingly effortless way can come to very different conclusions: one sees the skill produced by the glory of God, the other sees a sinful display of lust and lewdness. It doesn't surprise me that a Christian could go to a wedding and dance to the same tired songs without feeling even a pinch of conviction, while someone else struggling with sexual addiction needs to turn the other way to watch the wedding cake melt.

Luther and Dancing
Digging around I came across this old Lutheran sermon being cited in Adversaries of Dance: From the Puritans to the Present (Ann Louise Wagner), so of course, I did a quick search of the book to see what she said about Luther. She does so on page 25 in an undocumented statement:

Then in a footnote on page 41:

The Luther quote referenced by Wagner was interesting enough for me to look up. It's from WA 17 II: 64, which I cross-referenced to it's English equivalent, Lenker's Luther's Church Postil, Volume 1. Note the asterisk in the quote:

10. What then is moderation? Reason should teach that, and cite examples from other countries and cities where such pomp and excess are unknown. But to give my opinion, I would say a farmer is well adorned if for his wedding he have clothes twice as fine as he daily wears at his work; a burgher likewise; and a nobleman, if he have garments twice as costly as a townsman; a count, twice as costly as a nobleman; a duke, twice as costly as a count, and so in due order. In like manner food and drink and the entertainment of guests should be governed by their social position, and the purpose of the table should be pleasure not debauchery.
11. Now is it a sin to play and dance at a wedding,* inasmuch as some declare great sin is caused by dancing? Whether the Jews had dances I do not know; but since it is the custom of the country, like inviting guests, decorating, eating and drinking and being merry, I see no reason to condemn it, save its excess when it goes beyond decency and moderation. That sin should be committed is not the fault of dancing alone; since at a table or in church that may happen; even as it is not the fault of eating that some while so engaged should turn themselves into swine. Where things are decently conducted I will not interfere with the marriage rites and customs, and dance and never mind. Faith and love cannot be driven away either by dancing or by sitting still, as long as you keep to decency and moderation. Young children certainly dance without sin; do the same also, and be a child, then dancing will not harm you. Otherwise were dancing a sin in itself, children should not be allowed to dance. This is sufficient concerning marriage.
Lenker's translations of Luther's sermons were rarely adorned with extensive explanatory notes, but in this instance, Lenker actually wrote a short essay. Dancing must've been something he was rather concerned about. He included the following directed at "those who quote Luther to support the modern dance":
We are to remember that when Luther did not protest against the dance at a wedding he had in mind the dance of his day. The round dance in vogue among us was not then the general custom of the country. The dancers touched one another only with their hands and moved about in the room in measured time or sprang here and there, especially when in the open air. To be sure at that time also there were connected with dancing all kinds of immorality. But "all intemperance and whatever was unchaste" Luther did not approve, but forbade and chastised it. And we know that he considered the round dance as unchaste, and condemned it with sharp words.
In Luther's Letters by De Wette, 6 vol., 435p. in his "Sendschreiben und Bedenken," he gives his judgment on the conduct at dances thus: "Dances are gotten up and allowed that politeness in conduct may be taught and that young men may learn to honor the female sex and that friendship may be formed between young men and refined young ladies in order that later they way be the more sure of that friendship. The pope condemned dances because he was the enemy of the true and natural marriage festival. Therefore certain honorable women and men were invited to the wedding festivals to see that every thing was done in a becoming way. But there is one thing that does not please me in the conducting of dances, and I would that it might be prohibited by the government; namely, that the young men swing the girls around in a circle, especially publicly, when many are looking on." And as a result many governments, especially city councils in the days of Luther and later, passed public ordinances against "Dancing in a circle without a cloak." In these ordinances "the swinging and whirling of the girl in a circle" was forbidden. Consequently, the round dance in vogue today does not belong to the unchaste dances, and not to dances that are allowed, and Christians should avoid them. See St. Louis Ed. vol. 11, 467.
Walch says in his II vol. p. 2: Luther's books have been subject to gross misuse, especially his Church Postil. Those who advocate the modern dance think they have here found a strong argument. Those who conclude from these words, however, that the modern dance is not sinful and it is not to be avoided and condemned, have no ground for their conclusion. Those who quote Luther to support the modern dance, because he had so deep an insight into the things of faith and life and is so highly esteemed in our church, accomplish nothing. For you can quote Luther against Luther. How if you cite the places in his writings where he clearly condemns the dance in general, as his explanation of the third commandment, in his short explanation of the ten commandments and his exposition of Gen 4, 21, etc. Then the passage here will give you no support in your defense of the sinful lust of the dance. For what you find here in Luther's words, you imagine. When I take this passage in its entire connection I find something entirely different.
Luther is not speaking of the dance here in general, but of the chaste dance that is conducted in childlike simplicity. Luther opposed sour-faced hypocrites and self-grown saints, who like the Pharisees could tolerate nothing, not even a child to dance. Luther, like Christ in this miracle, kept the middle way.
I found this fascinating because it speaks of a battle that ended long ago, with Luther being cited for support (the times have not changed in this regard). Since I have little knowledge of the history of dance,  I'm not exactly sure what Lenker meant by "modern dance." That is, was he battling against something akin to the Jitterbug or the ballet, or both? I don't know. My guess is he would not tolerate sitting through Dancing with the Stars. On the other hand, Rev. J.R. Sikes would probably rather have a drink (if in fact, he was the same author of this book, which I'm not sure if he was).

Thursday, March 19, 2015

How To Keep The Homeless Out of a Catholic Church

San Francisco Saint Mary’s Cathedral Drenches Homeless With Water To Keep Them Away

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — KCBS has learned that Saint Mary’s Cathedral, the principal church of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, has installed a watering system to keep the homeless from sleeping in the cathedral’s doorways.

...and also:

UPDATE: SF Archdiocese Apologizes For Water System To Repel Homeless At Saint Mary’s Cathedral

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – Saint Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco will dismantle a system that pours water on entrance areas of the church frequented by homeless after receiving a formal notice of violation from the city. Meanwhile, the San Francisco Archdiocese has apologized for the ‘misunderstood’ and ‘ill-conceived’ effort to keep homeless out of alcoves used to enter and exit the church.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Rome's Bloggers Described by... One of Rome's Bloggers

"Reports and personal experience stories are mounting of vulgarity, bullying, personal attacks and other forms of unacceptable behavior emerging from Catholic bloggers and their fans in the web-culture. Ironically, these attacks rarely center around the traditional ‘hot button’ issues of abortion, or even mid-level issues like ordaining women to the priesthood. More often today, Catholics are finding themselves the target of verbal abuse, ‘unfriending’ and banning from blogging boards for disagreeing with Catholic bloggers on peripheral issues like water-boarding, lying to save unborn children, or giving a $15 per hour minimum wage."

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Recent Reformation / Luther Postings

Here's a few things I came across over the last few days from a few different perspectives:

Notes On Calvin’s Doctrine That Justification Sola Fide Is The Principal Axis Of The Christian Religion (R. Scott Clark)- Clark revises a word in the Battles translation of the Institutes to demonstrate Calvin's use of the term "regeneration." R Scott Clark also lamented about those who swim the Tiber or become Eastern Orthodox in this recent blog post.

James White vs. Jimmy Akin on Predestination-  Here's a YouTube audio of an interaction between Dr. White and Jimmy Akin of Catholic Answers on Predestination. I'm not sure of the date on this one, but it must be old by this point, since Dr. White's opening statement goes through Akin's article A Tiptoe Through Tulip.  I went through Akin's article some years back, but I'm sure Dr. White was interacting with it long before I even knew about Mr. Akin. It doesn't appear to me that either AOMIN or CA makes this debate available (at least I could not find it on these websites).

Be a Sinner and Sin Boldly (Walid Shoebat)- Shoebat is a pro-Roman Catholic anti-Islamic website. This article on Luther from April 2014 cites me, unattributed. I may actually go though this article at some point. Shoebat states, "The question isn’t Luther’s statements, but why so many theologians defend him, especially that there are countless obvious immoral statements in his writings? I gave only three references from some of Luther’s defenders (there are hundreds) who re-interpret Luther’s statements. Many are simply Luther’s sycophants."

Calvin contra Rome on Scripture (Introduction); Calvin contra Rome on Scripture (Part 1)- reformation 21's Professor Denlinger starts this series of entries on Calvin vs. Rome. He mentions helpfully,
The burden of proof that something other than Scripture constitutes a source of "saving truth" -- whether that something be "unwritten traditions" or Chinese fortune cookies -- rests entirely with those making such claims. This is often overlooked by would-be Roman apologists who require Protestants to defend from Scripture their principle that Scripture alone is authoritative, and fail to realize that sola Scriptura is not a positive claim per se, but a denial of the positive claim that "unwritten traditions" or anything else deserve the moniker "Word of God."

Reformation or Revolt or Revolution? by Dr. Paul Peters (Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary). I mentioned this old article a few days ago. It's a brilliant article that attempts to cut through the battle over the word "Reformation." The seminary also hosts a number of free articles worth digging through.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Reformation or Revolution?

I finally had a chance to listen to the recent Catholic Answers broadcast, The Real Story of the Reformation with Steve Weidenkopf, a lecturer of Church History at the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College. Early on in the broadcast Mr. Weidenkopf decided to change the term "Reformation" to "revolution." He stated,

I like the term and I use the term "Protestant revolution" rather than "Reformation," and I use that term, because, you know again, words obviously have meaning, and ah, they convey, you know a sense, a meaning... when we use them, and so we need to be accurate in our historical presentation, and for most of us in the English speaking world, particularly in the United States, our history has been presented from a predominantly English Protestant perspective, and so, even the terms that are used to describe this historical event follow along from that perspective, and so often, more often than not, you always hear of this time period and these events in the sixteenth century in Europe referred to as the "Protestant Reformation" when the Protestants like Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli, and others, so called "reformed" the church. But what I contend is that if you actually read the writings of these reformers (so-called "Reformers") and look at their lives, they really weren't about reforming the church, but they really wanted to overthrow it, and destroy it, and replace it with something different... and that's a revolution.

Mr. Weidenkopf goes on to use the term "revolution" throughout the broadcast. While I know the presentation of history is far from "neutral," I'm suspicious of anyone claiming to be an historian that sees fit to redefine popular and accepted historical terms. It would be like me refusing to use the word "catholic" when speaking of the Roman church. "Catholic" is the historical term used in the phrase, "Roman Catholic Church." From my perspective, Rome has officially anathematized the gospel, and is no longer doctrinally in the set of "catholic." Yet, I know fully well that when I use the term "catholic" most folks think of "Roman Catholic Church."  Ironically, when I visit Catholic Answers, I usually avoid using the word "Roman" because I was chastised once by a moderator for referring to the "Roman church" even though Catholic Answers themselves use the word. I guess if I had my own discussion forums, I could chastise Rome's defenders for using the word "revolt" or "revolution" rather than the term "Reformation."

The switching of "Reformation" to "revolution" isn't the result of the historical creativity of Mr. Weidenkopf. This is standard procedure for Roman Catholic polemicists. E.G. Schweibert described it back in 1950 as typical of the defenders of Rome and secularists:

E.G. Schwiebert, Luther and His Times (St. Louis: Concordia, 1950), p. 8.

For a fascinating treatment of this switching of terms, see Reformation or Revolt or Revolution by Dr. Paul Peters (of whose article I'm indebted for referring me to Schweibert). Peters explains how complicated this subject actually is. I recommend a careful reading of this old article as there's a lot to chew on. I found the section "But Luther Answers his Roman Catholic Critics" well-constructed. Dr. Peters presents an overview from many of Luther's writings as to how Luther himself would respond to those who said he had caused a revolt.

Weidenkopf isn't being historical, he's being polemical. You can tell when he says that if you "actually read the writings of these reformers (so-called 'Reformers') and look at their lives, they really weren't about reforming the church, but they really wanted to overthrow it, and destroy it, and replace it with something different." This is old-school Roman Catholic polemics, pre-Lortz.

There are at least two major benefits to being aware of Weidenkopf's term switching. First, the polemics presented by Weidenkopf demonstrate how out of touch the Catholic Answers sort of person is with the trends in the magisterium and contemporary Roman Catholic scholarship in regard to the Reformation and Rome's version of ecumenism.  When it comes to history, Rome's defenders are their own "blueprint for anarchy." Second, for the folks who visit and support Catholic Answers, the Reformation is still important and is a battle still to fight (this contrary to Mark Noll's theory the Reformation is over). We can be pleased to see the "Catholic Answers" type of people are still engaging in a centuries-old theological battle. Are these folks the remnant of older generations of Rome's defenders? Yes, I think they are.  In an ironic way, they actually help the Gospel by continually fighting against it. It's much easier to present truth to people who actually think someone is right and someone is wrong.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Papal Trends on the Reformation?

Here's a few posts from the Catholic Answers Forums. A person posted some papal comments reflecting current trends in the way the magisterium reflects on the Reformation. Most of this sort of ecumenical stuff falls on deaf ears on the CA forums. Granted, Rome isn't looking to retract anything in regard to the main issues of the Reformation (they're waiting for everyone else to come to their senses and agree with them)- however the attitude is much different than what one find presented by many of Rome's cyber-zealots.

Mar 3, '15, 8:58 pm
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Default Re: Looking Back at what the Reformation has Done

And look at THIS (I, too, can cut and paste)


By HENRY KAMM, Special to the New York Times
Published: November 6, 1983

ROME, Nov. 5— Pope John Paul II, in a letter issued today, praised Martin Luther, the father of the Reformation who was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church, saying the world is still ''experiencing his great impact on history.''

His comments were contained in a letter to the president of the Pontifical Secretariat for the Union of Christians, Johannes Cardinal Willebrands, to mark the anniversary of Martin Luther, whose 500th birthday will be celebrated next Thursday. The text of the letter was made public by the Vatican,

In a related development, it was announced that Pope John Paul would preach on Dec. 11 in a Lutheran church here. The announcement was made by Christoph Meyer, the dean of the church, the Evangelical Lutheran Christoph Church, which has served the resident German community for 168 years. The service will be held in German, and the Pope will preach in the language of Martin Luther.

The letter from the Pope to Cardinal Willebrands, was dated Oct. 31, 1983, the anniversary of the date in 1517 when Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of the castle church of Wittenberg, Germany, giving birth to the Protestant Reformation. The Pope wrote the letter to Cardinal Willebrands, the Archbishop of Utrecht, in German.

The Pope referred to Luther as the theologian who ''contributed in a substantial way to the radical change in the ecclesiastical and secular reality in the West.'' He continued: ''Our world still experiences his great impact on history.''

The Pope noted with satisfaction that the Protestant churches had declared the anniversary year to be an occasion that should serve ''a genuine ecumenical spirit'' and said that he saw this as a ''fraternal invitation'' to a joint reflection on the history and inheritance of Luther.

Roman Catholic and Protestant studies have yielded a more balanced picture of Luther's personality and the realities of the 16th century, the Pope continued, and shown that ''the rupture in ecclesiastical unity cannot be reduced to the lack of comprehension by Catholic Church authorities or solely to Luther's lack of understanding of true Catholicism, even if both factors played a role.''

The Pope called for continued historical research, ''that does not take sides, motivated only be the search for truth,'' to provide ''a true image'' of Luther and the Reformation. ''Guilt, wherever it exists, must be recognized, on whichever side it is found,'' the Pope wrote. Continue Search for Unity

John Paul called on Cardinal Willebrands to continue the ecumenical dialogue in quest of restoration of Christian unity and offered a special prayer and blessing for this work.

''The clarification of history that turns to the past and whose significance persists must go in equal steps with the dialogue of faith which we at present embark on to look for unity,'' the Pope wrote.

The Pope said the anniversary year was ''an occasion to meditate, in Christian truth and charity, on that event engraved in history that was the epoch of the Reformation.''

''It is time that we distance ourselves from historic events and assure that they are often better understood and evoked,'' the Pope said. John Paul said Luther was a man of ''profound religiousness'' who was ''driven by the examination of eternal salvation.'' Papal Visit Arranged Last Year[url=""]
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Old Mar 3, '15, 9:24 pm
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Default Re: Looking Back at what the Reformation has Done

Here's more.
Pope calls for “mutual forgiveness between Catholics and Lutherans”

In his address to the Lutheran World Federation and representatives of the Lutheran-Catholic Commission on Unity, Francis said “there are no lack of difficulties but we must not be afraid”


“Catholics and Lutherans can ask forgiveness for the harm they have caused one another and for their offenses committed in the sight of God,” Francis said during this morning’s audience with the delegation of the Lutheran World Federation and representatives of the Lutheran-Catholic Commission on Unity.

The Pope’s meeting with Bishop Munib Younan, the Federation’s president and its secretary, Martin Junge, follows on from the “very cordial and pleasant meeting” which took place during the inaugural celebration of Francis ministry as the Bishop of Rome.

“It is with a sense of profound gratitude to our Lord Jesus Christ that I think of the many advances made in relations between Lutherans and Catholics in these past decades, not only through theological dialogue, but also through fraternal cooperation in a variety of pastoral settings, and above all, in the commitment to progress in spiritual ecumenism. In a certain sense, this last area constitutes the soul of our journey towards full communion, and permits us even now a foretaste of its results, however imperfect. In the measure in which we draw closer to our Lord Jesus Christ in humility of spirit, we are certain to draw closer to one another. And, in the measure in which we ask the Lord for the gift of unity, we are sure that he will take us by the hand and be our guide,” Francis said.

“This year, as a result of a now fifty year old theological dialogue and with a view to the commemoration of the five-hundredth anniversary of the Reformation, the text of the Lutheran-Catholic Commission on Unity was published, with the significant title: From Conflict to Communion. Lutheran-Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017. I believe that it is truly important for everyone to confront in dialogue the historical reality of the Reformation, its consequences and the responses it elicited,” Francis continued.

“Catholics and Lutherans can ask forgiveness for the harm they have caused one another and for their offenses committed in the sight of God. Together we can rejoice in the longing for unity which the Lord has awakened in our hearts, and which makes us look with hope to the future.”

“I am certain,” Francis went on to say, “that we will continue our journey of dialogue and of communion, addressing fundamental questions as well as differences in the fields of anthropology and ethics. Certainly, there is no lack of difficulties, and none will lack in the future. They will continue to require patience, dialogue and mutual understanding. But we must not be afraid! We know well – as Benedict XVI often reminded us – that unity is not primarily the fruit of our labours, but the working of the Holy Spirit, to whom we must open our hearts in faith, so that he will lead us along the paths of reconciliation and communion.”

Finally, Francis quoted the Blessed John Paul II’s question: “How can we proclaim the Gospel of reconciliation without at the same time being committed to working for reconciliation between Christians?” (Ut Unum Sint, 98). “May the faithful and constant prayer of our communities sustain theological dialogue, the renewal of life and the conversion of hearts, so that, with the Triune God, we will be able to journey together toward the fulfilment of Jesus’ desire that all may be one,” Francis prayed.
Pray for the Church Now Undergoing Persecution, even as you read this

In Erfurt Benedict presents Luther as a model for Catholics

In the place where Martin Luther used to speak against the Popes, Benedict XVI, the first German Pope since the Protestant Revolution, deliberately paid homage to that heresiarch. Before the trip, he expressed his desire to link his papal visit to Germany to the 500th anniversary of Protestantism. He also conveyed his wish to meet at greater length with the heads of the so-called Lutheran Church. To fulfill these desires the Lutherans offered him the Augustinian Monastery in Erfurt, where Luther studied, became priest and professor of theology before leaving to split the Church and Europe.

Erfurt, where the meeting took place on September 23, 2011, and its neighboring city Wittenberg, where Luther posted his 95 theses, are considered the very heartland of Protestantism. It was there that Pope Ratzinger praised Luther’s quest for God as the “deep passion and driving force of his whole life.”

Moreover, Benedict considered Luther as a model to find God: “The question: What is God’s position towards me, where do I stand before God? This burning question of Martin Luther must once more, doubtless in a new form, become our question too. In my view, this is the first summons we should attend to in our encounter with Martin Luther.”

Further on in his speech, Ratzinger presented the heresiarch as a model for spirituality: “Luther’s thinking, his whole spirituality, was thoroughly Christocentric: ‘What promotes Christ’s cause’ was for Luther the decisive hermeneutical criterion for the exegesis of sacred Scripture. This presupposes, however, that Christ is at the heart of our spirituality and that love for him, living in communion with him, is what guides our life.”

Such were the concessions Benedict XVI made to Luther and Protestantism, attempting to throw into oblivion the unforgettable condemnations of the Catholic Church against both.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Responses to Free Republic on Catholic Answers and Luther's Jewish Anti-Jewish Statements

Over the years I've received a number of blog hits from a discussion forum entitled, "Free Republic." I've never been tempted to join. I participate in a few other discussion forums, and that's enough for me.  Here's a few responses for those of you who visit here and use my blog entries on Free Republic.

Discussion: FYI, Yes, I am a "valuable friend of Catholic Answers" (3/6/2015)
A few days ago I posted an email I received from Catholic Answers referring to me as a "valuable friend." This made it over to Free Republic. Someone states, "I went to the blog and couldn't quite figure out WHAT was what I fear for my sense of humor ... there's a lot of things I don't 'get' these days." Yes, that's right, you don't get it. In regard to the actual e-mail sent to me from Catholic Answers, the same person states, "There's no reason to not believe it's real ... if you search out a matter." Yes, the email is real. Someone else pointed out, " ...[T]here are no live links out of the email." I removed the live link that came with the e-mail. Another person states, "Evidently Catholic Answers bought a mailing list. I've also received some weird things from people who have bought a mailing list. I just ignore them." No, I don't think Catholic Answers did this. Rather, I have purchased their products in the past, so perhaps that's why I'm a "valuable friend," $$. I've often wondered what would happen if I became a Catholic Answers "Forum Supporter." I wonder if they would be as quick to suspend my account or charge me with an infraction. In the past, I've been chastised for using the alert system. Perhaps if I pay into Catholic Answers, I could actually contact the moderators without being suspended. Or perhaps I could start using the term "Roman." It might actually be worth a few bucks to see if I'm treated differently with a little $$ offered.

Discussion: Luther's Comments About the Jews vs. The Papal Bull "Decet Romanum" (3/6/2015)
The comments from this discussion are a bit more complicated, so I numbered them. In regard to the papal bull Decet Romanum Pontificem that excommunicated Luther, someone stated:

1. A careful reading of this document (as well as the one by Pope Leo that preceded it 60 days before) makes it clear that the sanctions and punishments it contains were not directed at the average person that followed Luther in his heresy, but to those in positions of power and influence that were abetting Luther's cause. It talks about taking away their special privileges and all that went with them, including wealth and positions of influence--something your average Lutheran (or Catholic) of the time did not possess. We're talking here about clerics, princes and other influential people that had jumped on Luther's bandwagon--often because it gave them a chance to enrich themselves by confiscating the land and property of the Church. It also talked about forfeiting these often hereditary rights to their descendent's--a common interdict of the time placed upon the landed and wealthy. In other words, this document can in no way be read as a blanket interdict of all Lutherans of all times. The same goes for the anathemas of the Council of Trent. They were aimed at Catholics of the time who had apostatized from the Catholic Faith-- not at Lutherans sitting in their pews in 2015.

There are good points in this comment. Preserved Smith pointed out long ago that the original version of Decet Romanum "banned not only Luther but Hutten, Pirkheimer, and Spengler, and denounced the Elector Frederic" and then was modified and thus "confined itself to excommunicating the heresiarch" (cf. Boehmer. p. 144-145).   Martin Marty says that clergy coming under the judgment of this bull would now have to "pay taxes, serve in the military, and ordinarily lose housing and subsidy." So there is indeed an emphasis on those in authority. There were in fact persecutions of those convicted as early Lutheran leaders. Decet Romanum was a precursor to the Edict of Worms that Walther describes as "every Lutheran was declared 'in season'." Walther mentions also that in 1521 Duke George beheaded a bookseller for selling Lutheran books.  All this admitted, if the thrust of the comments above is that my comparison of Luther's harsh book against the Jews and that put forth by Decet Romanum isn't an example of a double standard from Rome's defenders, I would disagree. Certainly Luther's scope is  wider, but the intent is the same: to severely persecute a particular group of people. To my knowledge, the bookseller about to be beheaded by Duke George didn't shout out, "You've misread official documents- I'm not a Lutheran leader!"

2. There is a simple test for antisemitism, which I present. Luther completely failed it, spending his last time on earth conspiring and plotting as to how he could physically harm Jews (robbery, rape, and murder). He was distressed when people gave sanctuary to the Jewish refugees, just like the Nazis who succeeded him.

I don't recall Luther advising people to "rape" the Jews, nor did he spend his days plotting how to rob and murder them, so let's not make Luther worse than he was. There has been a significant debate as to whether or not Luther qualifies as an antisemite. Some defenders of Luther argue (quite correctly) that Luther was born into a society that was anti-Judaic, but it was not the current anti-Judaic type of society that bases it racism on biological factors. Luther had no objections to integrating converted Jews into Christian society. He had nothing against Jews as “Jews.” He had something against their religion because he believed it denied and blasphemed Christ. I've noticed a shift in Luther scholarship here, even with some of those who earlier advocated this view. Frankly, I don't think Luther qualifies as an "antisemite" if the term is used in its historical sense (see my comments here). If the term "antisemite" is used in a broader sense rather than a historical sense, yes, Luther was an antisemite- but I think the broader sense of the term is the result of a change in the meaning of the term. 

3. Before launching into a refutation of "Rome's cyber defenders that think the Third Reich began with Luther", an example of the "number" of such Cyber defender or even such a cyber defense would be in order, no? I clicked though your link in the clause "Rome's cyber defenders that think the Third Reich began with Luther" expecting to find, well, an example of one of "Rome's cyber defenders" who "think the Third Reich began with Luther" and instead I found an excellent blog post by a Lutheran, about a fascinating book by Lutheran writer Uwe Siemon-Netto... p.s. "Topper17" who is a member of the Catholic answers forum may indeed be one of Rome's cyber defenders, but his argument has nothing to do with the Holocaust. His point is that Luther's views were worse thatn his contemporaries. He doesn't prove his point because he only cites Luther and not his contemporaries but either way, it doesn't move the "number" north of ZERO. .

This comment was directed toward my "Rome's cyber defenders that think the Third Reich began with Luther" statement. This was intended to be a general statement of what I've dealt with over the years, but certainly specific examples can be brought forth- even in the very discussion that this blog entry was based on: "With the errors and the historical traits of Luther the significance was not merely that he was incontinent and foul-mouthed, but that he was the first to preach what he practised. Peter Weiner, who was a master at Stowe and a refugee from Germany, is not a Catholic and in his From Luther to Niemöller “traces German Nazism back to Luther and the Lutheran reformation.”" That's verbatim from a defender of Rome on the Catholic Answers forum in the very dicussion in question (my response is here).

In regard to Topper17, in an earlier discussion on another forum (CARM 01/03/12) he stated,
As an honest Lutheran Scholar, Hillerbrand is intellectually and morally required to acknowledge the connection between Luther’s “teachings” and the beliefs of (and “practices”) of Nazi Germany. There are those who would have us believe that Luther was actually an Old Testament Prophet, AND that OTPs always taught “correctly”, AND that we should follow and obey the teachings of the OTPs. Rather than be hypocrites, those christians should implement Luther’s teachings on the Jews as closely as they can, KNOWING that their Prophet’s recommendations were directly from God.
I could produce similar comments from this person such as,
History, Real History, has no choice but to admit to the role that Luther’s “recommendations” had in the Holocaust. As a result, the various and competing and conflicting Lutheran Churches, post WWII, had no choice but to come to grips with Luther’s ugly recommendations. They have officially apologized and attempted to distance themselves from those horrific recommendations in “On the Jews and Their Lies”. (CARM 06/13/11)

So, to my friends and foes on the Free Republic site... thanks for visiting, and thanks for your comments.


              "A Valuable Friend of Catholic Answers"

Friday, March 06, 2015

Recent Reformation / Luther Postings

Here's a few things I came across over the last few days from a few different perspectives:

Luther: The Antinomians Preach Easter But Not Pentecost (R. Scott Clark)- A great quote showing that Luther's sola fide was not an antinomian sola fide.

My Take on the Reformation in England: Owen, Packer, Hooker, Puritans, Anglicans, and Worship (Triablogue)- A discussion on the English church and the Puritans. Who are the rightful heirs of the English Reformation?

Thomas Cromwell was the Islamic State of his day (The Telegraph)- A brief article from last year about Cromwell's unscrupulous methods during the English Reformation. Sure he helped get Rome's tentacles out of the England, but did his methods cross the line? Anachronism alert.

Was Luther a Calvinist? (The Gospel Coalition)- An interesting article comparing the 5 points of Calvinism, Luther's writings, and Lutheran confessions. A worthy effort on a difficult and emmotionally charged subject.

Curb Pope and Turk! – Luther’s hymn abandoned (Back to Luther); “Most controversial Protestant hymn”; C. Winkworth; Luther: Curb Pope and; Turk (Back to Luther)- These are a few posts from a fanatical Lutheran documenting a change in a Lutheran hymn. Despite the weirdness of this blog,  it does present some fascinating tidbits from time to time.

The Real Story of the Reformation (Catholic Answers)- This is a recent radio interview with "Steve Weidenkopf is a lecturer of Church History at the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College." I haven't listened to this yet, nor have I ever heard of this guy.  I find it fascinating that Catholic Answers tracked down someone from Notre Dame rather than a priest or a convert to address this topic.

Recently I mentioned Calvin’s Sermons on Deuteronomy have been put online. A recent blog comment mentioned the availability of a pdf of Calvin's sermons on Deuteronomy 27 and 28. The description link can be found here, and the pdf can be found here.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Luther's Comments About the Jews vs. The Papal Bull "Decet Romanum"

[To the left: the Papal Bull Decet Romanum (January 3, 1521) that declared Luther and his followers to be heretics]

I don't have anything to gain by an exoneration of Luther's obvious societal stereotype against the Jews. Luther was not infallible. He said a number of things ranging on the scale of brilliant to typical to ridiculous to offensive. From my perspective, Luther's theology neither stands or falls because of statements on the negative side of the scale. It's my opinion that Luther's attitude toward the Jews is part of Church history, and, that really, to point a finger at Luther one needs to consistently point the fingers beyond Luther as well. This would be the consistent thing to do.

There are though a number of Rome's cyber-defenders that think the Third Reich began with Luther and think posting Luther's dreadful comments from The Jews and Their Lies is a meaningful argument against Protestantism. For instance, a participant on Catholic Answers stated,

I am sure that we are going to hear emphasized the portion of the above quote which speaks of the 'medieval prejudices' against the Jews, but it should be noted that nobody made ANY of the seven recommendations that Luther made as to what should physically happen to the Jews.

I've responded to this sort of argument before. It's simply illogical to think Luther invented Jewish oppression and that the church didn't play it's part in creating the anti-Judaic culture Luther lived in. If Luther caused  the Third Reich... who caused Luther? Nope, Rome's cyber-defenders won't touch that one. In fact, last time I brought this up on Catholic Answers, my main post on this was deleted.

There is though a double standard that I had never considered until recently. While it's easy to cut-and-paste Luther's harsh recommendations against the Jews and triumphantly declare, "look how awful!" consider the following Papal Bull "Decet Romanum" against a group of people, known as "Lutherans":
On all these we decree the sentences of excommunication, of anathema, of our perpetual condemnation and interdict; of privation of dignities, honours and property on them and their descendants, and of declared unfitness for such possessions; of the confiscation of their goods and of the crime of treason; and these and the other sentences, censures and punishments which are inflicted by canon law on heretics and are set out in our aforesaid missive, we decree to have fallen on all these men to their damnation.
We add to our present declaration, by our Apostolic authority, that states, territories, camps, towns and places in which these men have temporarily lived or chanced to visit, along with their possessions—cities which house cathedrals and metropolitans, monasteries and other religious and sacred places, privileged or unprivileged—one and all are placed under our ecclesiastical interdict, while this interdict lasts, no pretext of Apostolic Indulgence (except in cases the law allows, and even there, as it were, with the doors shut and those under excommunication and interdict excluded) shall avail to allow the celebration of mass and the other divine offices. We prescribe and enjoin that the men in question are everywhere to be denounced publicly as excommunicated, accursed, condemned, interdicted, deprived of possessions and incapable of owning them. They are to be strictly shunned by all faithful Christians.
I would say this statement has some of the same features Luther's comments against the Jews have. Property is to be confiscated, those adhering to "Lutheranism" are to be treated as criminals against the Empire. They were considered "excommunicated, accursed, condemned, interdicted, deprived of possessions and incapable of owning them. They are to be strictly shunned by all faithful Christians."

In regard to the immediate impact of Luther's comments against the Jews, Gordon Rupp stated that "Nobody took Luther's programme seriously, and the new mandate of John Frederick in 1543, though severe, was on other lines. Three years later, as we shall see, Jews were still living unmolested in the Mansfeld area" [Gordon Rupp, Martin Luther and the Jews (London: The Council of Christians and Jews, 1972), 18]. On the other hand, there were a number of Protestant martyrs during the 16th-century (yes, I know there were Roman martyrs as well, but that's besides the point).

So when Rome's cyber-defenders bring up Luther's attitude toward the Jews, respond back with Decet Romanum, and ask them if they think the bull disproves the Roman church.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Calvin’s Lost Sermons on Deuteronomy

Online: Calvin’s Lost Sermons on Deuteronomy


Source: Gary North, The Tea Party Economist

The download consists of a few zip files that open up Microsoft Word documents, and the layout is very well done in two columns.

Yes, I downloaded it, and my computer is still functioning properly, although I'm now looking behind the bushes around my house to see if there are any Democrats hiding in wait.

Amazon has this volume used for around $100 at the posting of this entry. New copies are going for $267.34.

In regard to Calvin's sermons in general:
The forty-eight bound manuscript volumes of his sermons- precious as they were the originals, and the more so because a number had not been published- were committed to the Library of Geneva for safe-keeping in November, 1613. Before the end of the next century it appears that nine of these bulky volumes were missing, and then, in 1805, on the grounds they were taking up too much space, all that remained were sold by mere weight to local booksellers! [John Calvin's Sermons on the Epistle to the Ephesians (Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1973), v]

FYI, Yes, I am a "valuable friend of Catholic Answers"

 Dear James ,
Because you are a valuable friend of Catholic Answers, you have been selected to participate in a survey to help us improve our apostolate. As a thank-you, we will be giving away 25 signed copies of Tim Staples’s newest book, Behold Your Mother. Combining the best recent scholarship with in-depth knowledge of Scripture, this book offers the most thorough Marian apologetics you’ll find anywhere.

Give us your feedback by 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, March 8, 2015 and you will be entered to win one of 25 signed copies of Behold Your Mother!

Click here to start the survey.

Five minutes of your time will help Catholic Answers reach more souls than ever!

If you have any questions about the survey or any difficulty with the link, please contact Anh Nguyen at, or call 619-387-7200 ext. 333.

Catholic Answers is an apostolate dedicated to serving Christ by bringing the fullness of Catholic truth to the world. We want to be good stewards of our resources to do it as effectively and efficiently as possible. We’re determined to take the Church’s message to the people who need it most, and you can help us to do just that!
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Faithfully yours in Christ,
Christopher Check
Christopher Check

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Fireproof Martin Luther vs. The Incombustible Luther, Compare and Contrast

[Please note the addendum at the bottom of this entry]

Recently a publisher contacted me asking for permission to use something I've written in a book.  I also get this type of request from other websites or bloggers. This happens from time to time. It's nice that in the age of cyberspace someone would take the time to do this. I typically don't expect someone to contact me when they're citing me in order to challenge or refute something I've written (those doing this want everyone to know who it is that's going to get trounced!). There have been situations though in which someone takes something I've written and presents it as their own. There was a fairly humorous occurrence of this when  a Roman Catholic website used something I wrote and took my name off of it. Now, there was lapse of judgment on their part, for sure.

But what should I do if someone takes something I've written, and re-writes it in their own words? Since my blog often involves history, I've probably done this myself at times- that is, taken something someone has written and put it in my own words. When I do this, I always try to give credit to the source I've taken the material from. According to this website, if I present something here as "new and original" that I've actually taken from an existing source, I've plagiarized.  I've probably been guilty of neglecting to cite a source for something I've written. Sometimes when you've got five books open and you're compiling an entry, something will slip through the cracks. Sometimes it's just basic information that's too tedious to document. Sometimes the material is based on my notes from a class I've taken.

But if I were to take a large chunk of information and compile it into a blog entry of my own, in my own words, is this plagiarism?

R.W. Scribner: The Incombustible Luther
Some years back I came across a study by R.W. Scribner entitled "Incombustible Luther: the Image of the Reformer in Early Modern Germany." Scribner's study documented how some turned Luther into a saint after his death. Stories circulated that paintings of Luther refused to burn (Luther's special saint miracle was his incombustibility). The picture on the top left is one that would not burn. Scribner presented his research in his book, Popular Culture and Popular Movements in Reformation Germany (London: The Hambledon Press, 1987). In two key chapters Scribner documents those turning Luther into a saint and Luther's special gift of not being able to burn- his saintly power of incombustiblity. Scribner's work on this has appeared in a number of journals as well.

reformation 21: The Fireproof Martin Luther
This past week I came across an article on reformation 21 entitled, The Fireproof Martin Luther compiled by a professor of church history. There is certainly a similarity between Scribner's title, "The Incombustible Luther" and reformation 21's "The Fireproof Martin Luther." As I read through the reformation 21 article, the blog entry appeared to me to be nothing more than a well-written summary of Scribner's work, undocumented, with not a mention of Scribner anywhere. While there wasn't a word for word similarity between Ref 21's blog entry and Scribner, there was certainly a borrowing of ideas and conclusions without any credit given to the person who originally did the tedious work on this subject: R.W. Scribner.

Compare and Contrast: reformation 21 and R.W. Scribner
Below is a comparison of the information found in The Fireproof Martin Luther and Scribner's book. I think there are a few original paragraphs in The Fireproof Martin Luther (paragraphs 1,3, and the conclusion about fireproof objects), but none of them contain any original factual information not originally found in Scribner's book.

1. The Fireproof Martin LutherArguments for Luther's innate fireproof status were summarized in an early eighteenth-century Latin work titled Lutherus non combustus by Justus Schoeppfer, pastor of St. Anna's Kirche in Eisleben, Germany. Schoeppfer's work was taken seriously enough, even in the midst of the European Enlightenment, to merit a second, German edition of the work - Unverbrannter Luther - some years later.

Scribner: In a footnote on 324  and on page 330 Scribner documents the same information. Scribner though says he actually was supplied with a copy of Lutherus  non combustus.  The only factual difference is that ref 21 spells "Schoeppfer" with on "f" while Scribner uses 2 (Schoeppffer).

2. The Fireproof Martin LutherSo, for instance, a 1521 pamphlet describing Luther's trial at Worms notes that, while Luther was permitted to leave Worms unharmed, the Diet decided to burn his books and a picture of his person to reinforce charges of heresy against him. The books apparently burned just fine, but the picture of Luther refused to succumb to the flames, at least until it was removed, enclosed in a box made of pitch, and reinserted into the fire.

Scribner (p. 324):

3. The Fireproof Martin LutherIn 1522, on the occasion of a burning of Luther's books in Thorn, Prussia, another picture of Luther similarly defied its natural fate.

Scribner (p.326): "By 1522 literary fiction had become historical 'fact': it was said when Luther's books were  burned in Thorn in Prussia during that year, a portrait of Luther placed with them refused to burn."

4. The Fireproof Martin LutherIn 1634, nearly a century after Luther's death, an image of Luther inexplicably survived the destruction by fire of a Lutheran pastor's study in Artern, Germany. And in 1689 when fire broke out in Luther's birth-house in Eisleben, the only surviving picture from the areas affected by flame was one of the reformer.

Scribner (p.323):

5. The Fireproof Martin LutherLuther seems to have imparted his gift of incombustibility to places he previously occupied in addition to portraits of himself. When fires destroyed the Augustinian monastery in Magdeburg in 1631, the cell and bunk an adolescent Luther had occupied during a one-year stint as a student there were remarkably preserved.

Scribner (p. 328-329): "A description published in 1702 of the numerous attractions of Magdeburg mentioned the Augustinian monastery where Luther had spent some time. It claimed that one could still see Luther's cell and bunk, and that both had 'in wondrous fashion' survived the burning down of the town in 1631."

6. The Fireproof Martin Luther:  Even more remarkably, the house in which Luther was born -- although it finally succumbed, as noted, to flames in 1689 -- was preserved from fires which ravaged the surrounding houses and town of Eisleben in 1569, 1601, and 1671.

Scribner has the 1689 date on page 323. The other dates are on page 329, along with descriptions of the other surrounding houses.

7. The Fireproof Martin Luther: Even more extraordinary than such miraculous preservation of pictures and places associated with Luther was that of one particular person associated with him. In 1527 a disciple of Luther named Leonhard Keyser was sentenced to death for heresy in Schärding in Bavaria. According to a published pamphlet which detailed his execution, the ropes binding Keyser to the stake burned when his pyre was lit but the man himself remained unharmed. Displeased with this turn of events, Keyser's executioners pulled him from the flames and dismembered him, and then returned him in pieces to the fire. Even then, his body wouldn't burn. Authorities were ultimately forced to wait for the flames to subside so they could take Keyser's unsinged body parts and throw them into the local river.

Scribner (page 327-328):

threw them in the river Inn. The pamphlet concluded that "the
    holy Leonhard  Keyser's old man or flesh was hacked to pieces,
 burned and drowned, but his spirit lived on.

8. The Fireproof Martin Luther: Needless to say, Rome was keen to discredit stories about the incombustibility of Luther's person, pictures, or disciples as soon as such began circulating in early modern Europe. Thus she pointed out that Luther had been successfully burned in effigy in the ecclesiastical capital city itself in 1519. To put the matter to rest (among other points made), Luther-puppets were tried, condemned to death for heresy, and successfully burned in Altenburg, Vienna, and Munich in 1522, 1567, and 1597 respectively.

Scribner  (page 326) says "Luther had been burned in effigy in Rome in 1519..." (page 327):

9. The Fireproof Martin Luther: There are, by my reckoning, at least three ways of accounting for historical belief in Luther's fireproof status. One could categorize such belief as a continuation of medieval superstition which credited other religious items -- most notably, the consecrated bread of the Mass -- as insusceptible to fire. So strong, in fact, was the conviction that the Eucharistic host could not burn that persons were known to cast the consecrated bread (Christ's body, in medieval understanding) into buildings where fires had broken out in order to quell the flames and preserve said buildings, thus treating the sacred element as the medieval equivalent of a fire extinguisher. 

Scribner (page 328):
Such reports show unmistakable traces of the Catholic cult of the saints. Not only were the saints held to be incombustible, but so were their relics. Incombustiblity was also a quality of the Communion host and, by sympathy, of the corporal, the cloth on which it rested during the Mass. both host and corporal were effective in stilling fires, being thrust into the heart of the flames to do so. Images of the Virgin and the saints, along with crucifixes, were also impervious to fire and flame. some of these cultic associations almost certainly passed on to Luther at the very beginning of the Reformation.

10. The Fireproof Martin Luther: One could, alternatively, ascribe belief in Luther's incombustibility to Jan Hus's legendary prophecy on the occasion of his own burning at the Council of Constance (1415) that, whatever the institutional church's success in cooking his goose, a swan would arise whom they would prove unable to burn. The problem here, however, is that Hus never actually made such a prophecy. Hus did express, shortly before his martyrdom, his expectation that stronger "birds" than he (Hus meaning "goose" in Czech) would arise to carry on his reforming work. Luther himself, in 1531, transformed Hus's comment into a prophecy which found its fulfillment in him. But it wasn't until several years after Luther's death that Hus's "prophecy" assumed the form it possesses in church historical folklore today (complete with the description of a potentially incombustible swan). Indeed, the evolution of the legend concerning Hus's prophecy would seem to be the result, rather than the cause, of convictions about Luther's incombustibility, which (as noted) were taking shape as early as 1521.

Scribner (page 326-327):
By 1531 many of these disparate notions about incombustibility had solidifed into the more powerful form of a prophecy. Two separate staternents by Hus and Jerome of Prague were conflated, either by Luther himself or by someone in his circle with Bohemian connections. From his prison cell Hus had said that he might be a weak goose (in Czech Hus means goose), but more powerful and clear-sighted birds, eagles and falcons, would come after him. Quite independently of this, Jerome of Prague stated that he would wish to see what would be made of his own condemnation in a hundred years. Luther merged both statements into a single prophetic saying from Hus: that they may roast a goose in 1415, but in a hundred years a swan would sing to whom they would be forced to listen. Luther seems to have applied the image of the swan to himself to signify the clear, sweet song of the evangelical message. But in 1546 this "prophecy" was given a further twist by Johann Bugenhagen in his funeral sermon for Luther. The Hus saying was now cast in this form" "You may burn a goose, but in a hundred years will come a swan you will not be able to burn". By 1556 it was taken up by Johann Mathesius, in what became the first Luther biography, as one of three authentic prophecies attesting to the divine inspiration of Luther's mission. 

I've written many blog entries over the years and I don't recall ever having an original thought in regard to anything Reformation-related. The majority of what I've compiled is often the result of someone's else's tedious labor, and all I'm doing is reapplying it. I don't think I've ever uncovered an original historical detail, about... anything. The closest I think I've come is this past week I found something in one of Luther's writings that required a footnote to another source (Luther was quoting a secondary source), and I located that secondary source, while Luther's Works (English edition) had not.

What bothered me about the reformation 21 article is that it presented something seemingly new and original but in actuality may have been derived from an existing source. I can see a detail here or there that's unattributed, but what ref 21 may have done was simply rewrite what someone else had written. Now it could very well be ref 21 did do the same research and arrived at the same conclusions as R.W. Scribner. Or, it could be that ref 21 asked for and received permission from R.W. Scribner to re-present his material.  These are certainly within the realm of possibility.

Addendum 3/1/2015
I did write reformation 21 on 2/27/15 as follows:

Mr. Denlinger,

I just took a look at your article "The Fireproof Luther." While well-written, I think it would be appropriate to cite your source for a lot, (if not most) of the information, which I assume was R.W. Scribner, Popular Culture and Popular Movements in Reformation Germany (London: The Hambledon Press, 1987). That books has the chapter, "Incombustible Luther: the Image of the Reformer in Early Modern Germany." If I recall correctly, this was also an article in a few journals.

I know this sounds like nitpicking, but someone could easily say you basically rewrote this chapter as your own for the reformation 21 article. I think summarizing the material is fine, but you should at least give credit where it's due. If by some chance you arrived at all the historical facts you did without utilizing Scribner, please accept my apology, and by all means, track down Scribner's study on this.


James Swan

I did not hear back from them. Interestingly, this change has occurred in The Fireproof Luther since the posting of my blog entry:

The copy of the reformation 21 article I reviewed originally said,

Now it says: