Saturday, July 15, 2006

Kimberly says: Who Cares About Luther?

I sometimes get new responses from older blog entries. Comments from “Kimberly” were offered to the entry A “Roman Catholic” Martin Luther Quiz (originally posted February 11, 2006). This blog entry was one of my favorites, as it covered a wide range of the usual Catholic opinions and misinformation on Martin Luther.

Kimberly responded to the link by saying:

Why is there an argument about what Martin Luther believed. Who cares what Martin Luther thought?!!!!!! Our only concern is what the Bible teaches. He is dead. He is not God! He has done what God has told him to do. He was a faithful servant to the end. This is why he didn't what a church to be name after him because people seemed to be concerned about what he did and said rather than what God said. If Luther were alive today, he would have a fit because people are spending most of their time arguing and dividing themselves even more about his words. He said himself, Who is Luther? I have not died for anyone. The word is not his, but God's. Christ is the only one who deserves praise and recognition. He died for your sins. Luther is only a faithful servant of God. The only thing we should be doing is modeling our Christian walk after him and doing what Jesus told us to do, which is to love and serve others. Something everyone suppose to be doing anyway, Catholic or Protestant, not picking out the differences of each demonation, and certain not arguing about the beliefs of a dead theologian who has already completed his course and receiving his just reward.

I'm not saying that Luther's works are not important. I came to know the Lord through reading his work, but I did not consume myself with comparing his beliefs with other denominations. I took what I learned from him and applied to MY Christian walk in order to become closer to God just as he was.When will Christians learn to come together and do what Christ commanded us to do instead finding fault with other Christians? I believe when Christianity finally wakes up and does what Jesus said, Jesus will finally a unified Church to be proud of.”

There’s a certain ambiguity to Kimberly’s comments. Is she chastising Roman Catholics for focusing on Luther? Is she chastising me for responding to Roman Catholics? Is she chastising both Roman Catholic polemics against Luther, and my responses? I suspect it’s the last of the three choices.

In one important way, I completely agree with Kimberly: Who cares about Luther? He was just a man. He is not to be worshipped. He was not a “Protestant Pope.” He was not infallible. I feel the same about Calvin, Melanchthon, Zwingli, Beza, or whomever. If I rest my faith in any man other than Jesus, I am lost. Guest blogger Frank Marron provided some insight on this as well, found here:

Guest Blog: The Word Of The Lord Endures forever, Not The words Of Martin Luther!

I think if Kimberly takes the time to read through this blog, she will probably come to understand why I write about the Reformation. There is a tendency to vilify Luther and the Reformation from Roman Catholics. They use him as a polemical tool against sola fide and sola scriptura. Now, many capable and godly men defend the real issue of sola fide and sola scriptura. I applaud my fellow Protestants for spending the majority of their time defending the Bible rather than the man, Luther. This is indeed the main battlefield. On the other hand, I think it necessary to at least provide historical answers to the Reformation when they arise. In this, I think Protestant apologetic sites could do much more.

My work on the Reformation grows out of a frustration with knowing that cogent answers have existed for quite a long time- but have not been disseminated down from the ivory towers of academia. Catholic apologists do a much better job of putting forth mis-information about the Reformation than Protestants do in responding to it. I see the same questions and comments from Catholic laymen over and over again- but just try going to some of the more popular Protestant apologetic sites to find responses about the charges against Luther. It is not an easy task to find answers.

So, one of my “hobbies” has been trying to fill a need, so to speak, in cyber-space. I’ve tried to pick out those aspects of Luther brought up by Catholics, and present the other side of the story: the side that great Lutheran writers had presented decades ago.

I say its a "hobby" because I don't think its as important as other things worthy of discussion- like "faith alone" or sola scriptura. Unfortunately, when one engages Roman Catholics on these subjects, a digression is sometimes put in play that seeks to link Luther's life with these subjects. It is sometimes argued: "Sola Fide and Sola Scriptura cannot be what the Bible teaches, because Luther's personal life was so sinful."If by some chance, any of my research can put a discussion of these important subjects back on track, I will feel as if i've done some good.


FM483 said...

Many people advocate that all a person needs is the bible. On the surface this seems true. Although the Old Testament was written in Hebrew and Aramaic and the New Testament Greek, we now have many accurate translations in modern English and various other languages. However, what the average person doesn’t have is a thorough background in ancient cultures, history, and word meanings. It is simply impossible for a modern person to independently understand the true meanings of Scripture without a proper background. People have little problem understanding that medical doctors and scientists must have specialized training and education to be competent in their fields, but when it comes to the bible most people believe that any simpleminded person can appreciate the richness of what the parables of Jesus are saying, or the underlying message consistent throughout the entire bible. The various books of the Old and New Testament were written over many centuries in various cultures by radically different authors under various circumstances. Without a proper theological background, although a man can read and understand the plain words, he lacks the ability to comprehend adequately why verses are structured the way they are and is handicapped by the deficiencies of modern language in conveying the complete messages intended by the original authors who wrote in Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek.

As I have stated on several occasions in other posts on this blog site, people are simply ignorant of understanding the messages from God in His Word because they do not naturally have the ability to distinguish between Law and Gospel. God speaks in two ways to mankind in His Word: Law and Gospel. Hence, although a person can read a modern English translation of verses of Scripture, why Jesus asks certain questions, commands certain things, presents the Gospel or withholds it, is a matter of understanding the purpose of the Law of God and the Gospel itself. For example, a plain reading of Matthew chapter 5 tells a person that if your hand causes you to stumble in keeping God’s Law, then you are to cut it off! Similarly, if your eye causes you to fail to keep God’s commandments fully and perfectly, then you are to pluck it out of your head! Those are the plain translated words of Christ. In Matthew 5:48 Jesus summarizes the Law by saying we must keep the entire Law perfectly, in thought, word, and deed. There must be no impure thought or intention towards anyone else throughout your entire existence. That is what a plain, straightforward reading of the bible communicates to the reader. But is that what God is communicating? Without properly distinguishing between Law and Gospel the average reader becomes hopelessly confused. Hence, God has provided teachers and theologians such as Martin Luther who were geniuses and enlightened by the Holy Spirit in comprehending the radical intentions of Holy Scripture. Such people are blessings from God to His Church that enable men to learn and capitalize upon their life-long studies and breakthroughs. Otherwise, as in other fields, each person would have to ”reinvent the wheel” all over again. That is why it is important to study the life and teachings of men such as Martin Luther. Without a proper education of hermeneutics, eisegesis, Systematic Theology, and history, there is no way that an ordinary person could properly distinguish between Law and Gospel in the bible. The bible would remain a difficult, confusing, and apparently contradictory book. The wonderful insights and communication of God in His Son would remain buried, obscure, and confusing to the average person. Therefore, God has sent us teachers. We stand on their shoulders and our knowledge of our Savior does not have to begin at ground zero.

Frank Marron

Kimberly said...

OH, WOW!!!!! I don't believe I set off a new topic of discussion. Now I feel like Martin Luther!!! :) As a Writing Major, it puts a big smile on my face to have my words make an impact on someone! I feel both honored and embarassed at the same time! My previous comment was said out of frustation with some Catholics and Protestants (please do not think it was just you in particular) who rely on the words of Luther rather than what the Bible says. It makes me angry beyond words when I hear Catholics and some Protestant groups misuse the words of Luther to make him seem like a crazy heretic, especially when they remove selected sentences from Luther's work and twist it to further their hate for him and want others to join in. I remember one Catholic website stated that Martin Luther said that he hated God, and was very violent man who loved killings and war. That didn't seem right, so I did some more research. Found out that they left out the previous and last lines of the statement. What he actually said was that while he was a MONK, he hated God because nothing he could do seemed good enough. As for the love for war and killing, wrong again! He said, While in SERVICE OF THE POPE, he could have killed anyone who said word that disagreed with the pope.

I do believe that learning about the history of the Reformation is important. Luther taught us many great things about the Bible, and I am forever in his debt for helping me find the true Jesus. I was once just like him, afraid of Jesus, thinking he would strike me down at any given second. Martin Luther is my favorite Reformation figure, and I love reading and learning about his life because I can identify with him. We both grew up thinking that Jesus was a Judge ready to punish us and throw us into Hell. We were actually the same age (I was 21. I think he was 21, too, but closer to 22 [1505]) when we felt our deepest fear of God that drove us to despair. But I feel that there is point where people need to draw the line with their adoration for Luther. Before reading your February 11th blog, I'd just come from reading TONS of arguments about what Luther said from other sites. No Scripture in sight. Just Luther. Some people base their whole arguments on what LUTHER said instead of the BIBLE. Some people rely on Luther's words so much that Luther could have said, "In order for God to speak to me clearly, I must spin around three times and stand on my head for 2 minutes" and they commit themselves to doing that and condemn others who choose not to. That is not in the Bible, but Luther was a man, and if HE felt that he had to do that in order to hear from God, more power to him. It doesn't mean others have to do that, too. Maybe I or others have to do something else. (I know Luther didn't say or do that. I made it up :)

Quoting and arguing for or against Luther is perfectly fine. Everyone does not have to believe what Luther said. I am a Lutheran(and I use that name lightly), and I don't believe everything Luther said, especially our views on baptism and communion. (I try not to classify myself as a Lutheran because I don't want to dishonor him by classifying myself as a true follower of Luther if I don't believe EVERYTHING he said. To take someone's name is to believe and follow every word and belief they say without a doubt. That's why I just like to consider myself a "Christian who just loves and admires her Luther!") My problem is when people use Luther's words as a guide to life and a source for argument instead of the Bible. Use the Scripture first, and then Martin Luther. That's what he did. He battled with Scripture after Scripture. He didn't just rely on his words alone, and we, as Christians, shouldn't either.

James Swan said...

Hi Kimberly-

Thanks for your comments- I wasn't trying to attack you or embarrass you- your comments were helpful in providing me an opportunity to restate why I write what I write.

Indeed, one could spend each day reading about Luther on the Internet...Luther in the hands of Catholics is always an interesting read.

Some Roman Catholics spend a lot of time attacking Luther or quoting Luther because of their underlying presupposition on authority. They think that Luther was the "originator" of Protestantism, so his words and deeds actually are given more importance than they deserve. Luther was not the "Protestant pope". Most of my writing on Luther is of a historical nature, correcting their misinformation.

I have rarely meet Lutherans who quote Luther. Most of the ones i've met use Scripture, not Luther's writings.

I appreciate your comments and testimony. I think you and I are on the same page in a lot of ways.