Sunday, February 26, 2006

Dave Hunt Celebrates The Reformation in February

Most folks stopping by probably know the Reformation is usually remembered as an October event. Popular author Dave Hunt though has dedicated his entire Berean Call February Newsletter to the Reformation.

The Issue is entitled, Reformation Rejection: shamefully, double-crossing evangelicals have reversed the Reformation, railroading believers back toward the reign of Rome.

Hunt is surprisingly sympathetic to Luther in this article. He gives a quick overview of the causes of Reformation- basically getting his facts right- although at one point he refers to the “fifteenth-century Reformation” (it’s the sixteenth century Reformation Dave).

Dave rallies against Protestants who take part in “ecumenical compromise- like the 1999 joint declaration between Lutherans and Roman Catholics. Hunt asks: “How can those who profess to admire Luther and the Reformation defend Catholicism?

Dave Hunt passionately says:

Although the Roman Catholic Church no longer burns opponents at the stake (a practice now repugnant even to the secular world), it still maintains every false teaching and practice opposed by Luther and his fellow Reformers, thereby deceiving countless millions. It still teaches salvation through baptism, good works, and the other sacraments mediated by Mary as the “doorway to Christ”; it still offers indulgences at a price for release from purgatory to heaven; and it still rejects the final authority of Scripture! All of the anathemas pronounced by Trent against Protestant beliefs remain in full force and effect. Yet many of Luther’s modern followers now embrace Roman Catholicism as the true gospel!”

Martin Luther and the other Reformers would have died at the stake rather than sign such documents as JDDJ and ECT! How do we explain today’s denial of all that the Reformation stood for by those who claim to honor it and to follow in the faith of the Reformers?”

Hunt asks five good questions:

Though lip service is still given to the Reformation, the deep convictions that birthed it have been compromised. The hour grows late and the evangelical church desperately needs to face some honest questions:

1) What was the purpose of the Reformation?

2) Was its uncompromising affirmation of biblical truth appropriate in Luther’s day but not now?

3) What did it stand for at that time, at the cost of so many martyrs and so much suffering, that should now be denied?

4) Have Jesus Christ and His gospel changed?

5) Has any belief or practice changed in the Catholic Church that would justify evangelicals embracing Catholicism as the biblical gospel?”

Here’s the irony: I would love to ask Dave Hunt these same five questions. I think Hunt would do well to look at his own understanding of the Reformation- and ask himself if his theology isn’t itself a denial of the Reformation. This is what I mean: by Hunt’s denial of a key Reformation concept, he in effect denies the entirety of the Reformation.

In Luther’s closing remarks to Erasmus in his monumental work, The Bondage of the Will, Luther states:

I praise and commend you highly for this also, that unlike all the rest you alone have attacked the real issue, the essence of the matter in dispute, and have not wearied me with irrelevancies about the papacy, purgatory, indulgences, and such like trifles (for trifles they are rather than basic issues), with which almost everyone hitherto has gone hunting for me without success. You and you alone have seen the question on which everything hinges, and have aimed at the vital spot; for which I sincerely thank you, since I am only too glad to give as much attention to this subject as time and leisure permit.”

Source: LW 33:294.

What was the question on which the entire Reformation hinges? Was it indulgences, Purgatory, or good works? Was it Mary as “the doorway to Christ?” Luther say things like this are alienis, that is, extraneous- or trifles. The real issue was the freedom or bondage of the human will. Thomas Nettles sums it up this way:

If all hinges on something outside of man, immediately a controversy arises with reference to “the freedom and powers of the will.” If one has any ability to serve God acceptably, then he is not saved only by the merit of Christ but will attribute part to himself. Their “opponents”[of the Reformers] maintained, in spite of holding the doctrine of original sin, that “the powers of man are only weakened, not wholly depraved.” The grace of Christ, therefore, aiding him, the sinner has something “from himself which he is able to contribute.” The reformers maintained that the sinner “possesses no ability whatever to act aright.” These teachings called for an alteration of the Roman system from its roots; they made Luther at odds with the entire theological world.”
Source: Thomas J. Nettles, “Reformation and Revival” [Reformation and Revival Vol 1.2 28-29].

What is the hinge upon which the whole Reformation turned? It is the realization of the enslaved will- the total depravity of mankind. Luther came to realize the depravity of mankind and the beautiful grace of Christ that sets the enslaved sinner free from bondage. The will itself is in bondage to sin. It can do nothing God pleasing to merit salvation- not a work or positive inclination. It is dedicated to God-hatred until God sets it free. What does Dave Hunt think of the bondage of the human will?

Dave Hunt makes no hesitation in denying the bondage to sin of the human will- thus, at the most important point in Reformation doctrine, Hunt denies the Reformation. In his book, What Love Is This? Hunt launches into a lengthy section attacking Luther’s book, the Bondage of the Will. He states:

Luther boasts of his conclusion without giving any valid supporting arguments. He secures his thesis by his own mere definition, not by logic or Scripture. His assertions above do not follow. Nor does he provide sufficient biblical support in this entire work to make his case for the will being in bondage.”

Source: Dave Hunt, What Love is This? [Second edition] page 219.

Throughout Bondage, Luther is like a bully who will not listen to reason. Yet Packer and other Calvinists praise the “dialectical strength of Luther ’s powerful Latin.” B.B. Warfield calls Bondage “a dialectic and polemic masterpiece. In fact, Bondage contains so many contradictions and so much fallacious reasoning that one wonders how it obtained its reputation as such a logically drawn treatise.”

Source: Dave Hunt, What Love is This? [Second edition] page 227.

That the will —contrary to what Luther argues in his greatest treatise —is not bound is clear. We have already refuted the argument that, because the will is always beset with influences, that proves it is not free. Man, as Paul admits in his case (Romans 7:7-25), often fails to do what he would like to do —but not always. Paul doesn’t say that he never can do what he wills —much less that his will is in bondage.”

Source: Dave Hunt, What Love is This? [second edition] page 228.

Even though there would be major differences in the religious expression of Dave Hunt and Desiderius Erasmus, at the most fundamental point they are united against Luther. Roman Catholic and Evangelical Dispensationalist stand together in unity. While Hunt can rally against the Papacy, Purgatory or Mary, these are really nothing in comparison to the devastating effect of inserting free will into one’s theology. By doing so, Hunt has in effect turned faith into a meritorious work.

In his book Willing to Believe, R.C. Sproul points out that the Arminian position (someone like Dave Hunt holds) is really a return to the works righteousness of Rome:

Packer and Johnston note that later Reformed theology, however, condemned Arminianism as a betrayal of the Reformation and in principle as a return to Rome. They point out that Arminianism ‘in effect turned faith into a meritorious work.’ We notice that this charge is qualified by the words in effect. Usually Arminians deny that their faith is a meritorious work. If they were to insist that faith is a meritorious work, they would be explicitly denying justification by faith alone. The Arminian acknowledges that faith is something a person does. It is a work, though not a meritorious one. Is it a good work? Certainly it is not a bad work. It is good for a person to trust in Christ and in Christ alone for his or her salvation. Since God commands us to trust in Christ, when we do so we are obeying this command. But all Christians agree that faith is something we do. God does not do the believing for us. We also agree that our justification is by faith insofar as faith is the instrumental cause of our justification. All the Arminian wants and intends to assert is that man has the ability to exercise the instrumental cause of faith without first being regenerated. This position clearly negates sola gratia, but not necessarily sola fide.

Then why say that Arminianism “in effect” makes faith a meritorious work? Because the good response people make to the gospel becomes the ultimate determining factor in salvation. I often ask my Arminian friends why they are Christians and other people are not. They say it is because they believe in Christ while others do not. Then I inquire why they believe and others do not? “Is it because you are more righteous than the person who abides in unbelief?” They are quick to say no. “Is it because you are more intelligent?” Again the reply is negative. They say that God is gracious enough to offer salvation to all who believe and that one cannot be saved without that grace. But this grace is cooperative grace. Man in his fallen state must reach out and grasp this grace by an act of the will, which is free to accept or reject this grace. Some exercise the will rightly (or righteously), while others do not. When pressed on this point, the Arminian finds it difficult to escape the conclusion that ultimately his salvation rests on some righteous act of the will he has performed. He has “in effect” merited the merit of Christ, which differs only slightly from the view of Rome.”

If the Scriptures are correct on total depravity, then no such “work” of faith is possible- in other words- Hunt's concept of non-meritorious faith really is an empty, meaningless theological concept .OK, I know Arminians like Dave Hunt do not believe that placing faith in Christ is a work. But, if the Arminian theological paradigm allows man to do at least one good thing pleasing to God: believing on Christ- then a fallen man can do at least one good thing on his own- he has the ability to do something that merits grace. Goodbye Reformation- hello chaos.

In effect, Hunt denies the Reformation by his doctrine of free will- and makes possible things like ECT and JDDJ. Because of the virus of free will inserted into a theological system, all sorts of deviant theology can abound. In other words- theology like that put forth by Dave Hunt makes possible the gross heresies we find today rampant in evangelicalism. It's the common ground of free will Dave that theology like yours share with Roman Catholics and double crosses those of us dedicated to the Reformation.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Evils of Private Interpretation: "There are almost as many sects and beliefs as there are heads"

"There are almost as many sects and beliefs as there are heads; . . . There is not an individual, however clownish he may be who does not claim to be inspired by the Holy Ghost, and who does not put forth as prophecies his ravings and dreams" - Martin Luther
This is one of those quotes put forth by Roman Catholics attempting to substantiate Luther’s opinion of the failure of Protestant Biblical interpretation, as well as the need for the infallible authority of the Roman Catholic Church. The strategy goes like this: use the above quote and then put forth something like- “…see, even Luther realized how much of a failure sola scriptura was.” I came across this Luther quote while I was doing the entry on the Roman Catholic Martin Luther Quiz. I’d like to demonstrate again the failure of Roman Catholic apologetics. This Luther quote again serves as a good example of Roman Catholic inability to do ad fontes research.

The Search
I did a fair amount of searching for a context on this quote- I didn’t really come up with anything. I did find a Roman Catholic blog entry featuring it: here. So I figured why not ask this guy where he got it? Well, he didn’t know either- as demonstrated in his post over at Catholic Answers. He mentioned he got it from Roman Catholic apologist Steve Ray, and even took the time to write Steve and ask him where he got it:

“Steve emailed me back and told me that it is in: "Bible Quizzes to a Street Preacher" by Leslie Rumble. "There We Stood; Here We Stand" by Timothy Drake. It might be in a book entitled 'The Facts about Luther.'”

I don’t think the quote is found in "There We Stood Here We Stand," But it is found in the polemical book, The Facts About Luther:

"This one," he says, "will not hear of Baptism, and that one denies the sacrament, another puts a world between this and the last day: some teach that Christ is not God, some say this, some say that: there are as many sects and creeds as there are heads. No yokel is so rude but when he has dreams and fancies, he thinks himself inspired by the Holy Ghost and must be a prophet." (De Wette III, 61).Source: Patrick O'Hare, The Facts About Luther, 208

Steve Ray definitely uses this quote, and appears to be the main source for its entrance into cyber-space. In his article Faith of our Fathers” over at Envoy, Ray states:

“The phrase “unanimous consent of the Fathers” had a specific application as used at the Council of Trent (Fourth Session), and reiterated at the First Vatican Council (Dogmatic Decrees of the Vatican Council, chap. 2). The Council Fathers specifically applied the phrase to the interpretation of Scripture. Biblical and theological confusion was rampant in the wake of the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther stated, “There are almost as many sects and beliefs as there are heads; this one will not admit baptism; that one rejects the Sacrament of the altar; another places another world between the present one and the day of judgment; some teach that Jesus Christ is not God. There is not an individual, however clownish he may be, who does not claim to be inspired by the Holy Ghost, and who does not put forth as prophecies his ravings and dreams.”

Ray provides no documentation for the quote. The same paragraph from Steve Ray occurs in an article entitled, “Unanimous Consent of the Fathers” -which states this article will soon be published in the Catholic Dictionary of Apologetics and Evangelism. No documentation for the quote is given. Apparently, this dictionary of Catholic apologetics doesn’t require sources for citations. I haven't picked up the book to check, but i'm willing to bet no documentation to an actual primary source is given for this Luther quote.

Ray uses the quote also in an article entitled, Ankerberg Aweigh hosted by Catholic Answers:

“Since the Bible is not as perspicuous as Protestants sometimes think (as is proven by the thousands of different interpretations by well-meaning, sincere folks), [Luther said in his Commentary on the Psalms, "The Bible is its own interpreter." It doesn't take a genius to see where that idea has gotten us. Even Luther quickly saw its devastating effect: "There are almost as many sects and beliefs as there are heads; this one will not admit baptism; that one rejects the Sacrament of the altar; another places another world between the present one and the day of judgment; some teach that Jesus Christ is not God. There is not an individual, however clownish he may be, who does not claim to be inspired by the Holy Ghost and who does not put forth as prophecies his ravings and dreams" (Martin Luther, cited in Leslie Rumble, Bible Quizzes to a Street Preacher (Rockford: TAN Books, 1976, 22). Luther also wrote, "If the world lasts for a long time, it will again be necessary, on account of the many interpretations which are now given to the Scriptures, to receive the decrees of the councils, and take refuge in them, in order to preserve the unity of the faith" (Epis. ad Zwingli). ] people approach it with their own biases, as Ankerberg does in his book. The dilemma of Protestantism is that "the Protestants are also split-by the incoherence of their own teaching that proclaims individual reading of Scripture as the highest authority, and at the same time imposing their views as correct." [Protestants can't come close to agreement on basic doctrines, such as baptismal regeneration, which Luther and Calvin believed in, especially for infants. Many claim the Reformers as their own, yet are selective as to which Reformation doctrines they embrace.]

So, it seems fairly certain that Steve Ray has no idea where this quote actually comes from in Luther’s writings- he did not do ad fontes research. He does though know the quote was from Leslie Rumble’s Bible Quizzes to a Street Preacher. This link appears to be that source: Bible Quizzes to a Street Preacher.

The link says:

“Did Luther ever acknowledge the danger of private judgment?
He says this, as quoted in "An Meine Kritiker" (by Johannes Jorgensen, p. 181), "There are almost as many sects and beliefs as there are heads; this one will not admit Baptism; that one rejects the Sacrament of the altar; another places another world between the present one and the day of judgment; some teach that Jesus Christ is not God. There is not an individual, however clownish he may be, who does not claim to be inspired by the Holy Ghost, and who does not put forth as prophecies his ravings and dreams." We have over 60 millions of Americans quite indifferent to the doctrines of their Protestant ancestors precisely because – "In Religion, What damned error, but some sober-brow Will bless it, and approve it with a text?”

Again we have another example of a Catholic apologist unable to do ad fontes research- Leslie Rumble. Well- I don’t know who Johannes Jorgensen is, but I do know who Johannes Janssen is, and he did write An Meine Kritiker in the1880’s, which is probably the secondary source this quote comes from. Janssen was a historian who later became a Catholic priest. His main work on Luther was Geschichte des Mittelalters. His work glorifies the Middle Ages, while looking poorly on the Reformation. Janssen followed in the tendency of Luther’s earliest venom-spewing-critic, Cochlaeus, who viewed Luther as a sick soul with inferior character.

So why highlight the obvious that Steve Ray and Leslie Rumble probably never read the context from which this quotes comes from? Because, they are misusing Luther to prove the alleged superiority of their church. Why did they not actually present Luther’s understanding of private interpretation? Well probably because it would require doing actual research, and secondly it would require a little more thinking and interacting with an opposing view. Perhaps it might even put another crack in the crumbling wall of catholic apologetics.

The closest thing to a correct citation for this quote comes from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

"Luther had strangely assumed that those who followed him into revolt would use their right of private judgment only to affirm their entire agreement with his own opinions, for which he claimed the sanction of an inspiration received from God that equaled him with the Prophets of old. But he was soon to learn that his followers attached as high a value to their own interpretations of the Bible as he did to his, and were quite prepared to act upon their own conclusions instead of upon his. The result was that as early as the beginning of 1525 -- only eight years after he first propounded his heresies -- we find him acknowledging, in his "Letter to the Christians of Antwerp" (de Wette, III, 61), that "there are as many sects and creeds in Germany as heads. One will have no baptism; another denies the sacrament, another asserts that there is another world between this and the last day, some teach that Christ is not God, some say this, some say that. No lout is so boorish but, if a fancy enters his head, he must think that the Holy Ghost has entered into him, and that he is to be a prophet". Source:

Remember: simply because a Roman Catholic apologist says Luther said "something" doesn't necessarily mean they have any idea of what Luther said.

Update 11/07:
I found some of the text of Luther's "Letter to the Christians of Antwerp" translated into English. Steve Ray claims Luther saw the devastating effect of sola scriptura, and then uttered the words quoted. However, Luther does not blame sola scriptura at all, but rather Satan. The primary source for this letter can be found here.

"We believed, during the reign of the pope, that the spirits which make a noise and disturbance in the night, were those of the souls of men, who after death, return and wander about in expiation of their sins. This error, thank God, has been discovered by the Gospel, and it is known at present, that they are not the souls of men, but nothing else than those malicious devils who used to deceive men by false answers. It is they that have brought so much idolatry into the world."
"The devil seeing that this sort of disturbance could not last, has devised a new one ; and begins to rage in his members, I mean in the ungodly, through whom he makes his way in all sorts of chimerical follies and extravagant doctrines. This won't have baptism, that denies the efficacy of the Lord's supper; a third, puts a world between this and the last judgment ; others teach that Jesus Christ is not God ; some say this, others that ; and there are almost as many sects and beliefs as there are heads.
"I must cite one instance, by way of exemplification, for I have plenty to do with these sort of spirits. There is not one of them that does think himself more learned than Luther ; they all try to win their spurs against me ; and would to heaven that they were all such as they think themselves, and that I were nothing ! The one of whom I speak assured me, amongst other things, that lie was sent to me by the God of heaven and earth, and talked most magnificently, but the clown peeped through all. At last, he ordered me to read the books of Moses. I asked for a sign in confirmation of this order, ' It is,' said he, ' written in the gospel of St. John.' By this time I had heard enough, and I told him, to come again, for that we should not have time, just now, to read the books of Moses. . . .
"I have plenty to do in the course of the year with these poor people: the devil could not have found a better pretext for tormenting me. As yet the world had been full of those clamorous spirits without bodies, who oppressed the souls of men; now they have bodies, and give themselves out for living angels . . .
"When the pope reigned we heard nothing of these troubles. The strong one (the devil) was in peace in his fortress; but now that a stronger one than he is come, and prevails against him and drives him out, as the Gospel says, he storms and comes forth with noise and fury.
"Dear friends, one of these spirits of disorder has come amongst you in flesh and blood ; he would lead you astray with the inventions of his pride: beware of him.
"First, he tells you that all men have the Holy Ghost. Secondly, that the Holy Ghost is nothing more than our reason and our understanding. Thirdly, that all men have faith. Fourthly, that there is no hell, that at least the flesh only will be damned. Fifthly, that all souls will enjoy eternal life. Sixthly, that nature itself teaches us to do to our neighbour what we would he should do to us ; this he calls faith. Seventhly, that the law is not violated by concupiscence, so long as we are not consenting to the pleasure. Eighthly, that he that has not the Holy Ghost, is also without sin, for he is destitute of reason.
"All these are audacious propositions, vain imaginations; if we except the seventh, the others are not worthy of reply. . . .
"It is sufficient for us to know that God wills no sin. As to his sufferance of sin, we ought not to approach the question. The servant is not to know his master's secrets, simply his master's orders: how much less should a poor creature attempt to scrutinize or sound the mysteries and the majesty of the Creator ? . . .
"To learn the law of God, and to know his son Jesus Christ, is sufficient to absorb the whole of life.
. . . A.D. 1525." (Luth. Werke,tom. ii. p. 61,sqq.)

See Also: Luther: Sola Scriptura Had a "Devastating Effect"?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Steve Ray & Melanchthon on Keeping Books in the New Testament Canon

I've become extremely skeptical of Roman Catholic research on Luther's opinion of the canon of Scripture. Sometimes it just seems like they’re making it up as they go along. Over the years I’ve been in numerous discussions with Roman Catholics on this subject- and I definitely see a pattern of misinformation. Sometimes its just a misreading of Reformation texts, other times it’s stuff that comes from ... who knows where.

For instance, I have repeatedly come across the charge that Melanchthon stopped Luther from removing books from the New Testament. The funny part about this is usually Melanchthon is seen as this meek and mild scholar who cowered in Luther’s shadow. In regard to the canon though, Melanchthon was somehow able to control Luther.

 I was  given  links to Roman apologist Steve Ray's material on the canon, and he mentions the bit about Melanchthon stopping Luther from removing books-

Steve Ray says:

“Martin Luther understood the place of the Church in establishing the canon... He realized that if he could jettison the Church, or at least redefine it as “invisible” and “intangible”, he was free to reevaluate and regulate the content of the canon for himself. He actually began to function as his own pope and council. If it weren’t for his theologian Philip Melanchthon, Protestants would no longer consider James, Revelation, Hebrews, Jude and a few other books as inspired Scripture.”-Source: Steve Ray: “Bible's Canon: Do Protestants or Catholics Have The Correct Books?”

Ray infers that Luther wanted to create his own canon, while most scholars recognize Luther holds to a “canon within a canon” [see Roland Bainton, Studies on the Reformation (Boston: Beacon Press, 1963) 5]. Paul Althaus explains that Luther “…allows the canon to stand as it was established by the ancient church. But he makes distinctions within the canon” [Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966), 83]. Steve Ray makes questionable points that make me wonder how familiar he is with Luther. Which “few other books” is Mr. Ray referring to? I am unaware of Luther ever seriously questioning the canonicity of any other New Testament book other than the four mentioned above.

But most importantly, Ray says, “If it weren’t for his theologian Philip Melanchthon,…” Ray seems to indicate, Luther’s views on the canon were somehow curtailed by Melanchthon. Ray makes the same point elsewhere:

“When Martin Luther rejected “popes and councils” he also realized that the canon was again up for grabs. He didn’t like James as we know, but he also placed Hebrews, Jude, and Revelation at the back of the book, not with the inspired books. It was only later that Philipp Melanchthon convinced him to defer to long tradition and place the books back in the New Testament, back in the recognized order. How did Luther fail to recognize the self-authenticating writings?"-Source: Steve Ray, “New Testament Books: Self-authenticating? No Need for the Church to Close the Canon?”

Ray would do well to provide further information to substantiate this claim that Melanchthon was the primary reason Luther put books “back in the New Testament.” To my knowledge, there is no such document from either Melanchthon or Luther. I have e-mailed him in the past asking for a source, I received no response. I tend to think its because it does not exist.

To my knowledge, no such information exists as Ray describes Luther and Melanchthon. The most in depth treatment of Luther’s Bible was done by M. Reu, Luther’s German Bible: An Historical Presentation Together with A Collection of Sources (Ohio: The Lutheran Book Concern, 1934). This book is the most in-depth thorough treatment on this subject. Within 600 pages, Reu makes no mention of such an important discussion between Luther and Melanchthon. Reu does mention though that in 1521 Melanchthon did urge Luther to follow through with his plan of translating the Bible (Reu, 148). Reu notes an intriguing comment from Luther that Melanchthon forced him to do so: “Hence Luther's remark in Tischreden that Melanchthon had forced him to translate the New Testament (I, 487, 11 f)” (Reu, 351). I have a few other books specific to Luther and the Bible. Nowhere have I found anything even remotely suggesting Melanchthon stopped Luther from removing books from the canon.

Simply because Ray doesn't cite his source, doesn't mean I think he's the bogeyman. Maybe he read someone say "Maybe Melanchthon stopped him" or something like that. I would really like him to simply document what he's referring to.

Perhaps he got it from this source:Henry G. Graham, “WHERE WE GOT THE BIBLE OUR DEBT TO THE CATHOLIC CHURCH”. Henry G. Graham making a similar undocumented assertion:

"Even in regard to the New Testament it required all the powers of resistance on the part of the more conservative Reformers to prevent Luther from flinging out the Epistle of St. James as unworthy to remain within the volume of Holy Scripture – ‘an Epistle of straw’ he called it, ‘with no character of the Gospel in it’. In the same way, and almost to the same degree, he dishonored the Epistle of St. Jude and the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the beautiful Apocalypse of St. John, declaring they were not on the same footing as the rest of the books, and did not contain the same amount of Gospel (i.e., his Gospel)."

Who knows? Roman Catholics don't seem to bother with ad fontes research, so this type of undocumented information will continue to spew forth. I posted about this a while back on the Catholic Answers boards- and even some of the more intelligent participants couldn’t come up with a response to where this super-ability of Melanchthon to stop Luther comes from. For instance, a guy who calls himself “itsjustdave” devoted a whole entry on his blog to this subject. The sad and funny thing about “itsjustdave’s” review is he either completely misunderstood my question about Steve Ray’s sources, or he completely ignored it:

“The fathers of Lutheranism, for centuries, understood Luther's view of the canon much the same way as Steve Ray and Henry G. Graham. I think the reason the Graham and Ray may not have included documentation of their claim, is that it is a well-established fact taught within Lutheranism. Why document the obvious? Yet, it appears from the sources you cite, revisionism has made such facts less obvious to all.”

For a minute, I thought this guy was actually going present pertinent information- but all he did was launch into Lutheran attitudes about the canon. Again, it all comes down to ad fontes research. Roman Catholics claim to have a monopoly on understanding history- yet I wonder if it's just history they're making up as they go along. It's hard to tell when sources aren't given.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Ad Fontes: To The Sources

In my recent interactions on the blog with a Catholic apologist, I was reminded again of the importance of ad fontes. The phrase means: “to the sources”. With the appearance of the Greek text of the New Testament, ad fontes was a strong cry during the Reformation period.

My profound respect for people like James White, David King, Eric Svendsen, Jason Engwer, - is their ad fontes work. It takes time to do the work to look up and exegete Biblical texts, Church fathers, and historical accounts. It is amazing to read the work that these men have put forth.

In my own studies and interactions with people, my primary emphasis has been the Reformation period. I began interacting with various critics of the Reformation period- which drove me to do ad fontes work. The charge,“ Luther said…” in my thinking becomes “What did Luther really say, and why did he say it?” I can’t begin to describe how much time, money, and energy has gone into researching various quotes.

Here are a few examples of some ad fontes fruits from my scrutiny of a Romanist's work:

1.. Quoting Luther on the Immaculate Conception

This example is from a previous blog entry, and the quote was given by a Catholic apologist in a recent blogback. He still insists Luther was devoted to the Virgin Mary and believed in Mary’s immaculate conception. As proof, he used this Luther quote:

"In his conception all of Mary's flesh and blood was purified so that nothing sinful remained. Thus Isaiah is correct in saying, 'There was no deceit in his mouth' [53:9]. Each seed was corrupt, except that of Mary." [footnote 23; p. 381: "Disputation on the Divinity and Humanity of Christ," February 28, 1540. WA 39/2:107.8-13."] See:"

But the context of this quote doesn’t say this at all. It says at the conception of Christ, Mary’s flesh and blood was purified. Luther presents an argument and a response:

Argument: Every man is corrupted by original sin and has concupiscence. Christ had neither concupiscence nor original sin. Therefore he is not a man.

Response: I make a distinction with regard to the major premise. Every man is corrupted by original sin, with the exception of Christ. Every man who is not a divine Person [personaliter Deus], as is Christ, has concupiscence, but the man Christ has none, because he is a divine Person, and in conception the flesh and blood of Mary were entirely purged, so that nothing of sin remained. Therefore Isaiah says rightly, "There was no guile found in his mouth"; otherwise, every seed except for Mary's was corrupted.”

Luther makes this point often- that at the birth of Christ, the Holy Spirit performed a blessed miracle. For instance in a Sermon specific about the birth of Christ given on Christmas Day, Luther said: “…[H]e was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and God so filled the flesh, body, and soul of the virgin Mary with the Holy Spirit in such a way, that no sin was present in her conception and carrying of the Lord Jesus Christ.” [Sermons of Martin Luther vol. 5, 135].

2. Luther praised Mary in Luther's last Sermon

Here’s another one:

In fact, Martin Luther "praised" Mary and said that she should be honored in his very last sermon at Wittenberg.”

He is correct that Luther mentions Mary in his last Wittenberg sermon. Luther did not say or imply though that “Mary should be honored.” Luther’s tone is quite sarcastic, and his main point is that Christ alone should be worshiped. Luther mocks those who would call upon Mary or venerate her. Luther insists that those who seek Christ through Mary do so by the use of “reason,” and “reason is by nature a harmful whore.” Here is the context from LW 51:375-376:

Therefore, when we preach faith, that we should worship nothing but God alone, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, as we say in the Creed: “I believe in God the Father almighty and in Jesus Christ,” then we are remaining in the temple at Jerusalem. Again, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him” “You will find him in a manger”. He alone does it. But reason says the opposite: What, us? Are we to worship only Christ? Indeed, shouldn’t we also honor the holy mother of Christ? She is the woman who bruised the head of the serpent.  Hear us, Mary, for thy Son so honors thee that he can refuse thee nothing. Here Bernard went too far in his “Homilies on the Gospel ‘ Missus est Angelus .’ ”  God has commanded that we should honor the parents; therefore I will call upon Mary. She will intercede for me with the Son, and the Son with the Father, who will listen to the Son. So you have the picture of God as angry and Christ as judge; Mary shows to Christ her breast and Christ shows his wounds to the wrathful Father. That’s the kind of thing this comely bride, the wisdom of reason cooks up: Mary is the mother of Christ, surely Christ will listen to her; Christ is a stern judge, therefore I will call upon St. George and St. Christopher. No, we have been by God’s command baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, just as the Jews were circumcised. Therefore, just as the Jews set up all over the land their own self-chosen shrines, as if Jerusalem were too narrow, so we also have done. As a young man must resist lust and an old man avarice, so reason is by nature a harmful whore. But she shall not harm me, if only I resist her. Ah, but she is so comely and glittering. That’s why there must be preachers who will point people to the catechism: I believe in Jesus Christ, not in St. George or St. Christopher, for only of Christ is it said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”; not of Mary or the angels. The Father did not speak of Gabriel or any others when he cried from heaven, “Listen to him.”

William Cole in his study of Luther’s Mariology provides the example of Bishop Daly of Ardagh who similarly used Luther’s words about Mary from the last Wittenberg sermon to prove Luther lifelong devotion to Mary. Cole indicates that Daly’s study was an example of a “simplistic, uncritical, one-sided evaluation[s] of Luther’s Marian stance…” (Marian Studies XXI, 98-99).

3. The letters of Calvin and Melanchthon

The final example really isn’t an example yet of ad fontes scrutiny. Recently, I saw this alleged dialog between Calvin and Melanchthon:

It is indeed important that posterity should not know of our differences; for it is indescribably ridiculous that we, who are in opposition to the whole world, should be, at the very beginning of the Reformation, at issue among ourselves.[in Patrick F. O'Hare, The Facts About Luther, Rockford, IL: TAN Books, revised edition, 1987 (orig. Cincinnati, 1916), 293

All the waters of the Elbe would not yield me tears sufficient to weep for the miseries caused by the Reformation.[in John L. Stoddard, Rebuilding a Lost Faith, New York: P.J. Kenedy & Sons, 1922, 88 / Epistles, Book 4, Ep. 100]

The Calvin letter is easy enough to find- its from November 28, 1552, and can be found in the Selected works of John Calvin Vol. 5, p.383-384 (Electronic Version, Ages Digital Sotware). The letter covers a few different subjects. Calvin's alleged plea for unity is only one aspect of it. One wonders if the response from Melanchthon was really directed toward the Calvin quote above. Who knows? Without the context of Melanchthon's response, we're at the mercy of Stoddard (or perhaps even O'Hare- i'm not sure where Stoddard got the quote from- I don't have his book- but the quote above is in O'Hare's book as well).

Melanchthon’s response, doesn’t seem to be available in English. I’ve been looking for it. I find the response far too suspicious, I have to see it myself. I’ve currently read three different lengthy reviews on the exchanges between Calvin and Melanchthon. I found this interesting fact about Melanchthon’s reply to Calvin’s letter of 11/28/1552-

When Meleanchthon failed to respond to this letter, Calvin sent yet another appeal for understanding on this issue [free will and predestination]. By then, however, the most pressing issue had become the Lord’s Supper.”

Source: Karin Maag (ed.), Melanchthon in Europe (Michigan: Baker Books, 1999), 32.

Perhaps the reason I can’t find a response to Calvin’s letter is because there wasn’t one. Who knows? Catholic apologists often don't do the ad fontes work before posting stuff like this. It’s up to us to do it. I've come to realize that there are far too few studies on Melanchthon available, so who knows if i'll ever be able to track down the context.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Canon Brain Teaser

We've all heard the claim that canon of sacred scripture was proclaimed by the Councils of Hippo, Carthage, and reaffirmed by Trent. The truth of the matter is that for a Roman Catholic, the Canon wasn't infallibly decided until Trent during the 16th Century. Thus for 1600 years, no one really knew with certainty what God had actually said, if one actually believes the paradigm that a council speaks with infallibility. The New Catholic Encyclopedia has honestly pointed out,

According to Catholic doctrine, the proximate criterion of the Biblical canon is the infallible decision of the Church. This decision was not given until rather late in the history of the Church (at the Council of Trent). Before that time there was some doubt about the canonicity of certain Biblical books, i.e., about their belonging to the canon.”

Ok, now go get a cup of coffee (or two). Did you know that the councils of Hippo and Carthage actually "canonized" a different book then the Council of Trent? Try to work through the following slowly. I admit, it get's a little tricky.

1. The councils of Hippo & Carthage held the books 1 & 2 Esdras are canonical (based on the Septuagint Version, as translated in their Latin Bible).

2. 1 Esdras is a book that contains spurious apocryphal material.

3. In the Septuagint 2 Esdras is what we know as Ezra and Nehemiah

4. Jerome, in the Latin Vulgate Separated 2 Esdras into Ezra and Nehemiah, calling them 1 & 2 Esdras.

5. The Council of Trent: declared the Septuagint book of 1 Esdras non-canonical, because it contained spurious apocryphal material.

6. The Council of Trent began calling the Septuagint book of 1 Esdras3 Esdras,” even though there was already a different spurious apocryphal book of 3 Esdras. Trent renamed that book “4 Esdras

7. The council of Trent deems 1 Esdras canonical (because it is now Ezra)

8. Hippo & Carthage though earlier claimed their version of 1 Esdras (Septuagint version that contained spurious apocryphal material) canonical.

9. Hippo & Carthage canonized a different 1 Esdras than the council of Trent.

Do councils contradict each other? It appears so.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Luther and Mary...One More Time.

Pictured Above: The last known photo of the only three people that have actually read through a debate on Luther's Mariology

I think those who like your writing would like to see you refute what I have written, or concede the point. Either way, you would only further gain their (and my) respect. But squirming and rationalizing, doing neither, doesn't impress anyone, I dare say.” -A Romanist apologist

I appreciate anyone who takes the time to read through anything I’ve written, be they friend or foe- and of course I greatly appreciate any comments left, be they friendly or hostile.

Out of courtesy, I’d like to address some comments made by a Catholic apologist that were left in the “BeggarsAll” blogback. This guy has a self imposed New Years resolution that restricts him from interacting with anti-Catholics. Due to a “loophole” he’s able to bypass his resolution and critique and evaluate my notorious auntie Catholic writings.

First, let’s try to get a perspective on the whole “Luther and Mary” issue. Some of you may actually be wondering why on earth any two people with time on their hands would care about Luther’s opinion on Mary’s Immaculate Conception. I have spent time lobbing citations back and forth with Romanists- writing blog entries- etc. I admit, in the scope of relevant topics of substance, Luther’s opinion on Mary’s alleged sinlessness is somewhere near the bottom of my list. So why bother with it?

I would like to remind everyone, especially Protestants, of a Romanist apologist take on this:

Luther indeed was quite devoted to Our Lady, and retained most of the traditional Marian doctrines which were held then and now by the Catholic Church. This is often not well documented in Protestant biographies of Luther and histories of the 16th century, yet it is undeniably true. It seems to be a natural human tendency for latter-day followers to project back onto the founder of a movement their own prevailing viewpoints. Since Lutheranism today does not possess a very robust Mariology, it is usually assumed that Luther himself had similar opinions. We shall see, upon consulting the primary sources (i.e., Luther's own writings), that the historical facts are very different. We shall consider, in turn, Luther's position on the various aspects of Marian doctrine.”

This quote has a basic underlying presupposition: Luther originated Protestantism- that is- Protestantism is a deviation from the truth- the truth of the Roman Catholic Church. Since Protestants should be consistent with their founder, they should hold to the same beliefs as their founder.

Therefore, it can be stated without fear of contradiction that Luther's Mariology is very close to that of the Catholic Church today, far more than it is to the theology of modern-day Lutheranism. To the extent that this fact is dealt with at all by Protestants, it is usually explained as a "holdover" from the early Luther's late medieval Augustinian Catholic views ("everyone has their blind spots," etc.). But this will not do for those who are serious about consulting Luther in order to arrive at the true "Reformation heritage" and the roots of an authentic Protestantism. For if Luther's views here can be so easily rationalized away, how can the Protestant know whether he is trustworthy relative to his other innovative doctrines such as extrinsic justification by faith alone and sola Scriptura?”

Now, there is some ambiguity about whom is being describing above. Is this describing a Protestant who simply wants to understand Reformation history? Or is it describing a Protestant who wants to be an “authentic” by seeking to align one’s beliefs with those of Luther’s? I’m tempted to say it’s the later (though it’s quite possible he infers both). The person the quote seems to have in mind is the person who adheres to “extrinsic justification” and “sola scriptura”. These are “authentic” Protestant beliefs. But contemporary Protestants do not follow Luther’s Marian "devotion". Why is it Luther is right on justification and sola scriptura, but not Mary? An authentic Protestant knows that Luther is trustworthy, so Luther’s Mariology should be embraced, shouldn't it?

The error of course is with the infallibility of Luther. Protestants don’t follow sola scriptura or sola fide because Luther infallibly pronounced these doctrines. It is quite possible to pick up an exegetical exposition of sola fide and sola scriptura and hardly mention Luther, but rather confine one’s study to the words of the infallible sacred scriptures. For instance, if one picks up the King / Webster set on Sola Scriptura, there is a conspicuous absence of chapters dedicated to the infallibility of Luther. Similarly with James White’s book on Justification, a detailed look on Luther’s infallibility is missing. Why? Because sola scriptura and sola fide are not based on Martin Luther, they are based on the Bible.

Now this should suffice to render Luther’s position on anything as inconsequential. Whether or not Luther believed this or that, doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t determine whether or not one is an “authentic” protestant. Luther's words and writings are not essential to salvation. They are not the words of God. Even Luther himself would agree. Upon reflection of the entirety of his work and those who wished to collect them and republish them, Luther said in 1539:

I would have been quite content to see my books, one and all, remain in obscurity and go by the board. Among other reasons, I shudder to think of the example I am giving, for I am well aware how little the church has been profited since they have begun to collect many books and large libraries, in addition to and besides the Holy Scriptures, and especially since they have stored up, without discrimination, all sorts of writings by the church fathers, the councils, and teachers. Through this practice not only is precious time lost, which could be used for studying the Scriptures, but in the end the pure knowledge of the divine Word is also lost, so that the Bible lies forgotten in the dust under the bench (as happened to the book of Deuteronomy, in the time of the kings of Judah).

Although it has been profitable and necessary that the writings of some church fathers and councils have remained, as witnesses and histories, nevertheless I think, “Est modus in rebus,”[“There is a reason for the way things happen”]  and we need not regret that the books of many fathers and councils have, by God’s grace, disappeared. If they had all remained in existence, no room would be left for anything but books; and yet all of them together would not have improved on what one finds in the Holy Scriptures.

It was also our intention and hope, when we ourselves began to translate the Bible into German,  that there should be less writing, and instead more studying and reading of the Scriptures. For all other writing is to lead the way into and point toward the Scriptures, as John the Baptist did toward Christ, saying, “He must increase, but I must decrease” [John 3:30], in order that each person may drink of the fresh spring himself, as all those fathers who wanted to accomplish something good had to do.

Neither councils, fathers, nor we, in spite of the greatest and best success possible, will do as well as the Holy Scriptures, that is, as well as God himself has done. (We must, of course, also have the Holy Spirit, faith, godly speech, and works, if we are to be saved.) Therefore it behooves us to let the prophets and apostles stand at the professor’s lectern, while we, down below at their feet, listen to what they say. It is not they who must hear what we say.

I cannot, however, prevent them from wanting to collect and publish my works through the press (small honor to me), although it is not my will. I have no choice but to let them risk the labor and the expense of this project. My consolation is that, in time, my books will lie forgotten in the dust anyhow, especially if I (by God’s grace) have written anything good. Non ere melior Patribus meis.[I am no better than my fathers].  He who comes second should indeed be the first one forgotten. Inasmuch as they have been capable of leaving the Bible itself lying under the bench, and have also forgotten the fathers and the councils—the better ones all the faster—accordingly there is a good hope, once the overzealousness of this time has abated, that my books also will not last long. There is especially good hope of this, since it has begun to rain and snow books and teachers, many of which already lie there forgotten and moldering. Even their names are not remembered any more, despite their confident hope that they would eternally be on sale in the market and rule churches.

Very well, so let the undertaking proceed in the name of God, except that I make the friendly request of anyone who wishes to have my books at this time, not to let them on any account hinder him from studying the Scriptures themselves. Let him put them to use as I put the excrees and excretals [That is, “decrees and decretals.” The translator has attempted to render Luther’s pun “Drecket und Drecketal” in English.]of the pope to use, and the books of the sophists. That is, if I occasionally wish to see what they have done, or if I wish to ponder the historical facts of the time, I use them. But I do not study in them or act in perfect accord with what they deemed good. I do not treat the books of the fathers and the councils much differently.

Herein I follow the example of St. Augustine,  who was, among other things, the first and almost the only one who determined to be subject to the Holy Scriptures alone, and independent of the books of all the fathers and saints. On account of that he got into a fierce fight with St. Jerome, who reproached him by pointing to the books of his forefathers; but he did not turn to them. And if the example of St. Augustine had been followed, the pope would not have become Antichrist, and that countless mass of books, which is like a crawling swarm of vermin, would not have found its way into the church, and the Bible would have remained on the pulpit.”

Source: LW 34: 283-284

On the other hand, if one approaches the subject of Luther’s opinions as one who seeks to understand “authentic” protestant history, then what Luther said or did has some bearing and interest. It is interesting to study the Reformation period, and this does enhance one’s appreciation for sola fide and sola scriptura, and a Reformation heritage.

Protestants do understand Mary in a different way than Catholics, and this was true during the Reformation period as well. It would be interesting to see how the early Reformers understood her role in theology. Was Luther’s Mariology “a ‘holdover’ from the early Luther's late medieval Augustinian Catholic views ("everyone has their blind spots," etc.)”? My answer is that this was indeed an aspect that influenced his theological opinions. Luther was a man of his time, and he was a well-trained Roman Catholic theologian. It would be anachronistic to think that Luther should be completely aligned with contemporary Protestant theologians. The theological battles and ideas circulating in the 16th century are not entirely the same as those that came afterward. Half of the struggle in ‘doing’ history is always trying to remember it’s history. That Luther still clung to such things like the belief in Mary’s perpetual virginity is no surprise to me. I understand why he did so, I disagree with him though based on exegetical grounds of the New Testament.

In regard to a close study of Luther’s Mariology, one can find some “holdover” type of opinions, while on the other hand, one can find some “deviation” (for lack of a better word!) from medieval Mariolatry. I reviewed this in my long response on Luther’s Mariology. One thing can be said on this subject- Luther indeed had a Mariology. It reflected his commitment to Christ, and stood in antithesis to popular Catholic belief in the sixteenth century. It wasn’t always what a modern day Protestant would expect, but it wasn’t exactly “extraordinarily devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary” as Catholic apologists argue. Luther’s Catholic opponents gripped this. For instance, Luther’s interpretation of the “Hail Mary” definitely irked his Catholic contemporaries. It prompted von Schwarzenberg to write against it. Eck’s Enchiridion says “woe ungodly Lutherans” as “hating…all worship of the Christ bearing Virgin…” (See chapter 15).

My response to on Luther’s Mariology goes into all this in much detail. However a Romanist has been by recently and reposted his arguments against my understanding of Luther. He then asks me again to refute him:

I think those who like your writing would like to see you refute what I have written, or concede the point. Either way, you would only further gain their (and my) respect. But squirming and rationalizing, doing neither, doesn't impress anyone, I dare say.”

But as I read through his recent comments, it is basically the same stuff I’ve already responded to. For instance he continually repeats the “Luther believed in the Immaculate Conception” scorecard- he lists a bunch of scholars who held this to be Luther’s opinion. Now I responded to that, in detail, and even added some more names of scholars and their opinion. I worked through all the sources he utilized, and commented on them- O’Meara, Piepkorn, Pelikan, etc. in detail. Why do I need to repost all this stuff on the blog? Are people being somehow blocked from My response on Luther’s Mariology? Well, here’s the link again:

My response on Luther’s Mariology.

I definitely approach research differently than many Romanists. A while back I got into a heated discussion with the late Theodore Letis. Now I am no fan Letis and his work, but one thing he was correct on was ad fontes. Letis continually badgered me to use primary sources in my research. At the time of our dialog I had been working on my Luther and the Jews paper. Letis continually provoked me to use primary sources, not only for Luther’s comments, but for medieval anti-Semitism as well. As much as possible, I try to do this. So many problems can be avoided by actually having the source of the quote one is utilizing. Especially with Luther, context is vital. Much of his writings have been translated into English- and they're not all pretty- you can find all sorts of things that present Luther in a less than admirable light.

I would never quote a secondary source for Luther (like Grisar) to prove a point about Luther (his lifelong comittment to the immaculate Conception) in which the immediate context the writer is using the quote in is stating the exact opposite of what I’m trying to prove. This is sloppy. Previous to all of one Romanist's later research on Luther and the Immaculate Conception, he sent his readers to a book with a Luther quote in which the author used it to deny Luther’s lifelong adherence to that belief. I asked this guy the following question:

What do you make of this “fact” noted by Grisar:“The sermon was taken down in notes and published with Luther’s approval. The same statements concerning the immaculate conception still remain in a printed edition published in 1529, but in later editions which appeared during Luther’s lifetime they disappear.”

He Responded:

"Why do you ask me when I have already answered this several times, even in comments below on this very blog? Don't you read my replies? Grisar thought Luther changed his mind (though possibly he only meant that the statements disappeared; technically, one might suspect that they could do that for other reasons without Luther changing his mind)."

Ok- what other “reasons” would provoke the statement on the Immaculate Conception to disappear from the sermon during Luther’s lifetime? I think Grisar brings up an interesting fact, and I find it curious that no one seems to think its relevant, particularly you. One thing I think we should both come to agree on- If the quote was stricken from Luther’s corpus during his lifetime, we shouldn’t appeal to it as a definite statement to prove our points. Mention it, but don’t make a big deal about it. I recall this guy posting an entire blog on this quote, asking his readers who wrote it- Why not let them know it was likewise deleted from the sermon during Luther’s lifetime? I doubt this guy will do this- this quote is too important for this guy to prove his point. If he decreases its importance, he decreases his argument.

In fact, this guy provides very little ad fontes evidence for his position. Read through his papers on Luther and Mary for yourself. When he quotes Luther, check to see if you think he actually read the work Luther said it in. This is what can happen when a context isn't provided- He quoted Luther from a source all of us can look at in a recent Blog back:

"In his conception all of Mary's flesh and blood was purified so that nothing sinful remained. Thus Isaiah is correct in saying, 'There was no deceit in his mouth' [53:9]. Each seed was corrupt, except that of Mary." [footnote 23; p. 381: "Disputation on the Divinity and Humanity of Christ," February 28, 1540. WA 39/2:107.8-13."] See:"

Yes by all means, follow his suggestion and paste the above link in your browser and go look it up. It proves exactly what I’ve argued all along: At the conception of Christ, Luther argues that Mary’s flesh and blood was purified. Luther says,

Argument: Every man is corrupted by original sin and has concupiscence. Christ had neither concupiscence nor original sin. Therefore he is not a man.

Response: I make a distinction with regard to the major premise. Every man is corrupted by original sin, with the exception of Christ. Every man who is not a divine Person [personaliter Deus], as is Christ, has concupiscence, but the man Christ has none, because he is a divine Person, and in conception the flesh and blood of Mary were entirely purged, so that nothing of sin remained. Therefore Isaiah says rightly, "There was no guile found in his mouth"; otherwise, every seed except for Mary's was corrupted.”

Luther makes this point often- that at the birth of Christ, the Holy spirit performed a blessed miracle. For instance in a Sermon specific about the birth of Christ given on Christmas Day, Luther said: “…[H]e was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and God so filled the flesh, body, and soul of the virgin Mary with the Holy Spirit in such a way, that no sin was present in her conception and carrying of the Lord Jesus Christ.” [Sermons of Martin Luther vol. 5, 135].

Then he quotes this:

Luther, 1544 [he died in 1546]:"God has formed the soul and body of the Virgin Mary full of the Holy Spirit, so that she is without all sins, for she has conceived and borne the Lord Jesus." (WA 52, 39)

Got a context? Do you have a translation of WA 52 handy? I don’t mean just a snippet or partial context, I mean an actual context. No I didn’t think you did. Get me a complete context, and then we’ll talk about this quote. Ad fontes. I would like a compelling argument to respond to. In other words, get me the context of the above quote. If all you can get is the German, then translate it so we discuss it. I look forward to your work on this.

I expect a response. I appreciate anyone who takes the time to respond to anything i've written. However, i'm quite serious about the above challenge. For me to take a position on Luther's view of the Immaculate Conception seriously, I need ad fontes work. I need to see the context for myself. I don't think this is too much to ask.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Luther: Mary Sinned

They understood not the saying, which he spake unto them.”

Luther, Commenting on Luke 2:41-52 (Second Sermon)

32. This should shut the mouths of vain babblers who exalt the holy Virgin Mary and other saints as if they knew everything and could not err; for you can see here how they err and falter, not only in this that they seek Christ and know not where to find him until they accidentally come to the temple, but also that they could not understand these words with which he censured their ignorance and is compelled to say to them: “Knew ye not, that I must be in the things of my Father?” The Evangelist has pointed this out with great diligence, in order that men should not give credence to such falsehoods as ignorant, inexperienced and conceited teachers of workrighteousness present in exalting the saints, even setting them up as idols.

38. ...[T]hey have abandoned Holy Scripture; yet so as to attach it to some of the writings and expositions of the fathers, nevertheless not any farther than it pleased the pope and would not prove contrary to his law, and that no one should use Scripture except in accordance with the pleasure of the pope, to whom alone pertains the interpretations of Scripture and whose knowledge and judgments every one is bound to accept. Yet, in spite of this, they so far honor the fathers as to demand that their interpretations and explanations should be followed. All the world accepted this and so received all that the fathers said, as if they could not err, and shouted again: Aye, how could it be possible that so many holy, learned and highly intelligent men should not have understood the Scriptures?

39. To this we should reply as is taught in this Gospel: Be they called holy, learned, fathers, councils, or any other name, even though they were Mary, Joseph and all the saints it does not follow that they could not have erred and made mistakes. For here you learn that the mother of Christ though she possessed great intelligence and enlightenment, showed great ignorance in that she did not know where to find Christ, and in consequence was censured by him because she did not know what she should have known. If she failed and through her ignorance was brought to such anxiety and sorrow that she thought she had lost Christ, is it a wonder that other saints should often have erred and stumbled, when they followed their own notions, without the guidance of Scripture, or put their own notions into Scripture.

46. You say further: Yea, the church and the fathers were endowed with the Holy Spirit, who kept them from error. The answer to this is not difficult: The church and councils may have been ever so holy, they did not have the Holy Spirit in greater measure than Mary, the mother of Christ, who was also a member, yea, at the time, the most eminent member of the Church. And although she had been sanctified by the Holy Spirit; yet he permitted her at times to err, even in the important matters of faith. From this it does not follow, that the saints, who were endowed with the Spirit, could on this account not err, nor that everything they said would have to be correct. Great weakness and ignorance may be found to exist even in the most eminent people and hence we cannot judge concerning doctrines and matters of faith on the basis of personal holiness, for all this can fail. But here you come to the Word of God which is sure and infallible, where you shall certainly find Christ and the Holy Spirit, and can be and remain firmly fortified against sin, death, and the devil.

Source: Complete Sermons of Martin Luther (Volume 1) [Michigan: Baker Books, 2000] (First Sunday After Epiphany, Volume 1.2, pages 31-53). The above numbers #32, #38, #39, & #46 refer to the points in the sermon. The entire sermon can be found here:

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Church Fathers, Luther & The Tabletalk

I’ve been in a Luther mood lately- thus the last few blog entries on Luther (apologies to Ray for not getting to our discussion on Calvinism yet).

I found this blog article linked over on the Catholic Answers discussion boards: Luther and the Bible by someone named “Veritas”. I didn’t really plan on launching into a full-length examination, but I did post a comment in his blog back section and invite him to come visit over here. Hey- Veritas’s blog is new, so I was just being a friendly neighbor. Interestingly, this blog post is almost exactly the same as this old Catholic Answers post by a suspended user named R. Siscoe. Are Veritas and Siscoe the same guy? Not sure. Either way, this post was probably not written by either of them. It seems to me to be a cut and paste masterpiece.

In regard to his article, his first section was on how much Luther disdained the Church Fathers. He posted these quotes:

"Behold what great darkness is in the books of the Fathers concerning faith" declared Luther. "St Jerome, indeed, wrote upon Matthew, upon the Epistles to Galatians and Titus; but, alas! very coldly. Ambrose wrote six books upon the first book of Moses, but they are very poor. Augustine wrote nothing to the purpose concerning faith;… I can find no exposition upon the Epistles to the Romans and Galatians, wherein anything is taught pure and right. … [The Pope] took hold on St Augustine's sentence, where he says, Evangelio non crederem, etc. [For my part, I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church - St. Augustine, Contra Epistolam Manichaei Quam Vacant Fundamenti.] The asses could not see what occasioned Augustine to utter that sentence…". 1

We must read the Fathers cautiously, and lay them in the gold balance, for they often stumbled and went astray, and mingled in their books many monkish things". 2 The more I read the books of the Fathers, the more I find myself offended; for they were but men, and, to speak the truth, with all their repute and authority, undervalued the books and writings of the sacred apostles of Christ". 3 Jerome should not be numbered among the teachers of the church, for he was a heretic". 4

1 Table Talk DXXXVI

2 ibid. DXXIX.
3 ibid. DXXX4
ibid. DXXXV

He then commented:

We can see from these quotes what "great respect" Luther had for the Fathers of the Church. For according to Luther, the writing of the fathers contained "great darkness"; Augustine wrote nothing about Luther's version of "faith". He could find no commentary on the Epistles to the Romans and Galations "wherein anything was taught pure and right"; that is, he could find no Church Father that agreed with his interpretation of these Epistles. Luther, along with the "asses", could not fathom why Augustine would say: "For my part, I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of the Catholic Church". According to "The Great Reformer, "we must read the Father's with caution". He even went so far as to say: "the more I read the books of the Fathers, the more I find myself offended". And according to the theology taught by Luther, "Jerome… was a heretic"! In this we can see what "great respect" Luther had "for Christian theologians of the past".

Now, Veritas is quoting Luther from an old version of the Tabletalk, and anyone studying Luther will tell you not to base an opinion on Luther from this source. The Table talk is a collection of comments from Luther written down by Luther's students and friends. Thus, it is not in actuality an official writing of Luther and should not serve as the basis for interpreting his theology. Preserved Smith has pointed out:

"Luther's enemies have always found in the Table Talk a trenchant weapon for attacking his character and doctrines. Even in his writings Luther is neither consistent nor temperate, much more in his private conversation is he careless and unguarded. By taking every thoughtless remark to a friend literally and with no attention to the context, the occasion on which it was uttered, and the cause which evoked it, it is easy enough to entangle Luther in a hopeless mass of contradictions and to asperse his character. This was done by Catholics and humanists as soon as the Tischreden were published, and subsequently has been undertaken more thoroughly by more scientific though equally hostile historians."

Had Veritas actually read Luther's writings, he would find numerous examples of references to the church fathers, either agreeing with them, expounding on what they said, or disagreeing with them. This is the common work of biblical theologians. Recall, Luther had a doctorate in theology. The Church Fathers were men- they were not infallible sources of truth.

Veritas responded to me:

I found those Church Father quotes by reading Luther myself. In fact, I have not seen them quoted anywhere else. The fact that Luther may have said good things about them in other places does not change the fact that he said what I wrote. To me, that is another example of the way you defended him on your website. You don't deny that he said the things he did, but merely claim that "in other places" he has good things to say about them. That just proves how unstable Luther really was.”

The point is, Luther may have said these things Veritas quoted- it’s not certain because they are Tabletalk entries. Secondly, Veritas provides no context for the remarks- he can’t because the version of the Tabletalk he’s using doesn’t even attempt to give a context. How can someone be doing a theological-historical article and be unaware of a context and not think a context matters? It is an example of poor research. For instance, I happen to know Luther elsewhere gave an explanation of Augustine’s “Evangelio non crederem”. Does Veritas care? No, probably not. Such could be said of the other Luther quotes as well- what was Luther’s argumentation for his opinions? Veritas can’t tell you, because he is quoting from a source without a context, and I doubt he’s going to take the time to look up Luther’s opinions on specific church fathers.

Veritas offered this explanation of Luther’s Tabletalk”

Regarding my quotes from table talk: For one, not all of my quotes were taken from that work. Most were taken from other sources. And Catholics do not agree that the older version of table talk is the wrong one to use. We believe that the defenders of Luther have purposely "re-translated" his words so they are less laughable.”

If one looks through his references used, the quotes he used for Luther’s opinion on the Church Fathers, all come from the Tabletalk. I’m going to say its not that much of a stretch to say that the other references to Luther’s writings he cited were probably taken from Patrick O’Hare’s Facts About Luther. If Veritas has any of the works of these sources he cited, I would be amazed: DeWette, Walch, Briefe, Sendschreiben und Bedenken, Werke, XXXII. They do though sound like O'Hare citations. I'm almost certain that Veritas has only Patrick O'Hare's book, The Facts About Luther. Over on the Catholic Answers boards he freely cites O'Hare, as demonstrated here and here and here.

In regard to which version of the Tabletalk Catholics use, I doubt Veritas even knows which version he’s using. Secondly, there's plenty of material for Veritas to take out of context in the current edition of the Tabletalk- but this would mean he’d actually have to go get it and do some research. Thirdly, can Veritas produce one example from the Tabletalk found in LW 54 that has been "purposely re-translated" to spin Luther a different way? I highly doubt it.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Free Book: Luther Examined and Reexamined: A Review of Catholic Criticism and a Plea for Reevaluation

Above: The Title Page and Cover from my 1917 copy of "Luther Examined and Reexamined: A Review of Catholic Criticism and a Plea for Reevaluation"

A while back I mentioned this book:

W.H.T. Dau, Luther Examined and Reexamined: A Review of Catholic Criticism and a Plea for Reevaluation (St Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1917)

This is an extremely rare book- I was pleased to see that reprints were circulating for around $50.- $75.

Put your credit cards away- I received this e-mail and link yesterday from "MasterJedi"-

"I believe this is a copied online version that is available in PDF (adobe acrobat) for downloading and reprinting. Please let me know if this is the correct version, it seems to be as per your blog description - same title and same author, but I have not read it yet and instead have posted a link in the response portion of your post for quick access to those who wish to read it."

Jedi is correct- this is the book, and it's available via this link for free. I'm very pleased-my copy has no binding and the pages are yellowed from age.

This book is one of the few that directly looks at Roman Catholic arguments against Luther. It is a short book, and easy to read. What makes it important is that it interacts with some of the older "anti-Luther" material that is circulating around cyber-space (O'Hare, Grisar, etc).

Thank you MasterJedi!!

This book will be a valuable reference to have in cyber-space. Anti-Reformation rhetoric flows frequently. For instance, here's a blog entry I just read today-

The majority of the Luther citations used in this blog link come from an outdated version of Luther's Tabletalk and Patrick O'Hare's book, The Facts About Luther. It's unbelievable how much mileage O'Hare's book gets.

Dau was a contemporary of O'Hare. He say's of O'Hare's book:

"Quite recently a Catholic writer has told the world in one chapter of his book that "the apostate monk of Wittenberg" was possessed of "a violent, despotic, and uncontrolled nature," that he was "depraved in manners and in speech." He speaks of Luther's "ungovernable transports, riotous proceedings, angry conflicts, and intemperate controversies," of Luther's "contempt of all
the accepted forms of human right and all authority, human and divine," of "his unscrupulous mendacity," "his perverse principles," "his wild pronouncements." He calls Luther "a lawless one," "one of the most intolerant of men," "a revolutionist, not a reformer." He says that Luther "attempted reformation and ended in deformation." He charges Luther with having written and preached "not for, but against good works," with having assumed rights to himself in the matter of liberty of conscience which "he unhesitatingly and imperiously denied to all who differed from him," with having "rent asunder the unity of the Church," with having "disgraced the Church by a notoriously wicked and scandalous life," with having "declared it to be the right of every man to interpret the Bible to his own individual conception," with "one day proclaiming the binding force of the Ten Commandments and the next declaring they were not obligatory on Christian
observance," with having "reviled and hated and cursed the Church of his fathers."

"These opprobrious remarks are only a part of the vileness of which the writer has delivered himself in his first chapter. His whole book bristles with assertions of Luther's inveterate badness. This coarse and crooked Luther, we are told, is the real Luther, the genuine article. The Luther of history is only a Protestant fiction. Protestants like Prof. Seeberg of Berlin, and others, who have criticized Luther, are introduced as witnesses for the Catholic allegation that Luther was a thoroughly bad man. We should like to ascertain the feelings of these Protestants when they are informed what use has been made of their remarks about Luther. Some of them may yet let the world know what they think of the attempt to make them the squires of such knights errant as Denifle and Grisar."

"The book of Mgr. O'Hare, which has made its appearance on the eve of the Four−hundredth Anniversary of Luther's Theses, is merely another eruption from the same mud volcano that became active in Luther's lifetime. It is the old dirt that has come forth. Rome must periodically relieve itself in this manner, or burst. Rome hated the living Luther, and cannot forget him since he is dead. It hates him still. Its hatred is become full−grown, robust, vigorous with the advancing years. When Rome speaks its mind about Luther, it cannot but speak in terms of malignant scorn. If Luther could read Mgr. O'Hare's book, he would say: "Wes das Herz voll ist, des gehet der Mund ueber." (Matt. 12, 34: "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.")"

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Mary Bingo

No comment. ...the link says it all.

How To Eliminate Blog Readers: Bore Them With Tedium

I’m guessing a few you aren’t sure what Mary’s Immaculate Conception is- it is the Roman Catholic dogma that Mary was preserved free from all stain of original sin. In other words, Mary was born without the stain of original sin, and hence committed no personal sin. This isn’t a debatable point for Roman Catholics- “To think otherwise than has been defined by [The Roman Catholic Church], let him know and understand that he is condemned by his own judgment; that he has suffered shipwreck in the faith; that he has separated from the unity of the church.”

On a blog back, a Catholic Apologist stopped by to “refresh my memory” on his opinion of this subject (his self-imposed “loophole” allows him to interact with me, a notorious anti-catholic).

I’m tempted to say a great way for me to eliminate blog readers would be to launch into a deep analysis of Martin Luther’s understanding of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. I’ve always felt that only a few people even care about this subject. I really only find the subject interesting because Roman Catholics frequently bring it up. If they didn’t bring it up, I would probably not even have bothered to research it.

But why do they bring it up? Protestants should be somewhat familiar with Roman Catholic criticism of Martin Luther. Fairly common topics include: Luther’s alleged antinomianism, his rejection of certain canonical books, his alleged desire to be a Protestant pope, and some even argue Luther’s partial responsibility for Nazi Germany. But when it comes to the topic of Mary, Roman Catholic sentiment towards Luther shifts considerably. Luther becomes the staunch supporter of Mary; a leader that all contemporary Protestants should learn a great lesson in Mariology from.

In the same blog back, John Mark commenting on the Roman Catholic Luther quiz said, “What's interesting is that [the Roman Catholic author of the Luther quiz] wants to paint Luther as a bad guy as to the RCC. At the same time in the same context she wants to portray Luther as agreeing with the RCC so she could then argue that we should hold to certain doctrines since Luther did. That's playing both sides against the middle.”

As a Roman Catholic would say John Mark, “Bingo.”

This is exactly what I see one particular Romanist doing- though in fairness to him, his opinion of Luther has gotten better over the years. His original papers though on Luther definitely went in the direction John Mark suggests.

I have a strong level of certainty that the main reason in cyber-space that Luther’s “opinion” on the Immaculate Conception is even mentioned is because of certain Romanist websites. About 5 or 6 years ago I came across this Luther quote:

"It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary's soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God's gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin" (Sermon: "On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God," 1527")

Now if you were to try to track down this quote 5 or 6 years ago you would have a tough time. I know I did. The sermon it comes from isn’t available in English. It’s main source back then seemed to be one particular Romanist website. Had Romanists actually went out and read Luther’s sermon in German and then posted this quote? No, they didn’t. They found it in the work of Catholic historian Hartmann Grisar.

Grisar though points out that “As Luther’s intellectual and ethical development progressed we cannot naturally expect the sublime picture of the pure Mother of God, the type of virginity, of the spirit of sacrifice and of sanctity to furnish any great attraction for him, and as a matter of fact such statements as the above are no longer met with in his later works.” Now the Romanists left this information out. Oops.

Hence the debate between myself and Romanism. After I went out and got a hold of Grisar’s book, some Romanists were forced to actually research this topic since the very source they used denied Luther’s lifelong commitment to the Immaculate Conception. The content of a recent blog back is just that- a defense of Luther’s lifelong belief in the Immaculate Conception.

My analysis of Luther’s understanding of the Immaculate Conception is found here:

Luther’s Theology of Mary

Luther’s Theology of Mary: A Response

Counter replies of this subject can be found here:

Counter-Reply: Martin Luther's Mariology (Particularly the Immaculate Conception): Has Present-Day Protestantism Maintained the "Reformational" Heritage of Classical Protestant Mariology?

Second Reply Concerning Martin Luther's Mariology

Since I want to keep readers, not eliminate them, I would rather any of you actually interested in this subject simply read the above links. If you read through this material and have any questions, or you can find a point from these links that really begs to be responded to, let me know. The Romanist who wrote them says he re-posted his material in my blog back to “refresh my memory”. Again, after perusing through it, I’m reminded of what I wrote to him:

I have taken a fair amount of time to compare and contrast [his] comments to my paper, check his references, and cite the same sources he utilized…. Since I do not plan on writing any further responses to [his] material on Luther and Mary, I tried to be as thorough as possible…. my only desire is to exhaust the topic, and move on... Unless he presents some compelling relevant information, this will be my only response.”

By the way, the key word is “compelling”.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

A "Roman Catholic" Martin Luther Quiz

I love quizzes. I found this “Martin Luther Quiz” while searching for other things. The author and expert calls herself “Saint Therese of Avila”. The quiz was originally posted at Catholic in a post found here. Her answers will be in red. My answers will be in black. I wanted to send her this link so she could “check my work,” but it appears she no longer participates at


Question 1.
Luther tried unsuccessfully to get some inspired books of the New Testament kicked out of the Bible. Which NT books did he try to remove?


Her Answer: Luther tried to remove all four of these books from the Bible (because of their plain and clear teaching of Catholic doctrines)

My Answer: It is a simple historical fact that Luther’s translation of the Bible contained all of its books. Luther began translating the New Testament in 1521, and released a finished version in 1522. He published sections of the Old Testament as he finished them. He finished the entire Bible by 1534. There was never an attempt on Luther’s part to leave James, Jude, Hebrews, or Revelation un-translated or left out of his published Bible. For more information see: Luther’s view Of The Canon Of Scripture.

Question 2.
When Martin Luther wrote his German translation of the Bible, he added a word where it had never appeared in the text previously. What word was it?


Her Answer: THE ANSWER IS….alone. In Romans 3:28, Luther added the word “alone” after “faith” in his German translation of the Bible. Fortunately, this did not seep into our English version of the Bible. For more info, read “Where We Got the Bible” by Henry Graham. When people gave Luther grief for his adding of the word “alone” to the Bible, Luther replied: “If your Papist annoys you with the word (alone), tell him straightaway, Dr. Martin Luther will have it so: Papist and ass are one and the same thing. Whoever will not have my translation, let him give it the go-by: the devil’s thanks to him who censures it without my will and knowledge. Luther will have it so, and he is a doctor above all the doctors in Popedom.” (Amic. Discussion, I, 127, “The Facts About Luther” O’Hare, TAN Books, 1987, p.201).

My Answer: The Roman Catholic writer Joseph A. Fitzmyer has shown in his book, A New Translation with introduction and Commentary, The Anchor Bible Series (New York: Doubleday, 1993) 360-361 that the word “alone” had been previously used in translation in Romans 3:28. He cites Origen, Hillary, Basil, Ambrosiaster, Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, Bernard, Theophyylact, Theodoret, Aquinas, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Marius Victorinus, and Augustine- thus vindicating Luther’s point “I am not the only one, nor the first, to say that faith alone makes one righteous. There was Ambrose, Augustine and many others who said it before me.” In regard to the citation of Luther utilized in Therese of Avila’s answer, I suggest she re-read the source from the quote was pulled: Luther’s Open Letter on Translating (1530). It will provide a context for his remarks, as well as a detailed exegetical reason from Luther as to his reasoning for the translation. For further information see: Luther added The word “Alone” To Romans 3:28?”

Question 3.
After seeing how the Protestant movement (the “protest” of the Catholic Church) was causing a domino effect of division after division among Protestants, what did Martin Luther say would need to happen?

Her Answer: THE ANSWER IS……After seeing the ripple effect of divisions, and the lack of unity that resulted when it came to interpreting Scripture within Protestant groups, Martin Luther said people would eventually have to return to abiding by the Catholic Church Councils. Unfortunately, the many characters of the Reformation were unable to agree even among themselves, and the return to the Catholic Church that they worked towards just never happened. Martin Luther wrote: "If the world lasts for a long time, it will again be necessary, on account of the many interpretations which are now given to the Scriptures, to receive the decrees of councils, and take refuge in them, in order to preserve the unity of faith." Epis. ad. Zwingli (ap. Balmes, p. 423). Luther saw the dangers and divisions that arose when people started interpreting Scripture apart from the first Church. He wrote: "There are almost as many sects and beliefs as there are heads; this one will not admit Baptism; that one rejects the Sacrament of the altar; another places another world between the present one and the day of judgment; some teach that Jesus Christ is not God. There is not an individual, however clownish he may be, who does not claim to be inspired by the Holy Ghost, and who does not put forth as prophecies his ravings and dreams." "An Meine Kritiker" (by Johannes Jorgensen, p. 181)

My Answer: Luther said previous to his trial at Worms that he would be content to be judged by a council, at a future Council, by Scripture. After the advent of the Reformation, Luther lived under the conviction that the ultimate authority for the life of the Christians was the Word of God.

The first Luther quote used by Therese is from LW 37:16 and actually reads,

“If the world lasts much longer, men will, as the ancients did, once more turn to human schemes on account of this dissension, and again issue laws and regulations to keep the people in the unity of the faith. Their success will be the same as it was in the past.”

What will their success be according to Luther in the above quote?- Failure.

In regards to “sects”- Luther said of the Roman Catholic Church:

“…there is no other place in the world where there are so many sects, schisms, and errors as in the papal church. For the papacy, because it builds the church upon a city and person, has become the head and fountain of all sects which have followed it and have characterized Christian life in terms of eating and drinking, clothes and shoes, tonsures and hair, city and place, day and hour. For the spirituality and holiness of the papal church lives by such things, as was said above.  This order fasts at this time, another order fasts at another time; this one does not eat meat, the other one does not eat eggs; this one wears black, the other one white; this one is Carthusian,  the other Benedictine;  and so they continue to create innumerable sects and habits, while faith and true Christian life go to pieces. All this is the result of the blindness which desires to see rather than believe the Christian church and to seek devout Christian life not in faith but in works, of which St. Paul writes so much in Colossians [2]. These things have invaded the church and blindness has confirmed the government of the pope.”

Source: LW 39:221.

Contrary to the claim of Therese, Luther did not see “…the dangers and divisions that arose when people started interpreting Scripture apart from the first Church.” Rather, he said the Bible was pure, but men are wicked, and will misinterpret it being motivated by the Devil to do so (See Ewald Plass, What Luther Says, Volume 1, entry 315).

Question 4.
Luther’s burial chamber was adorned with the image of…..

Her Answer- According to Peter Stravinskas’ “Faith and Reason.” Luther’s “burial chamber in the Wittenberg church….was adorned with the 1521 Peter Vischer sculpture of the Coronation of the Virgin.”

My answer: so what?

Question 5.
Which of the following is NOT true about Luther?

A. He was devoted to the Blessed Mother
B. He believed in Baptismal regeneration
C. He believed the Body and Blood of Christ was truly present in the Eucharist
D. He referred to Mary as the “Mother of God.”
E. He thought our Lord´s mother gave birth to babies with two different fathers, God and Joseph.

Her Answer: THE ANSWER IS…. E. (A, B, C and D are true about Luther, but not E)

My Answer: A is blatantly false (see Luther’s Theology of Mary). B and C are true, but not understood in the same way as Roman Catholicism. D is true, but again understood differently than Roman Catholicism (See again, Luther’s Theology of Mary). Thus to bring up these points in order to "prove" Luther was somehow in harmony with Rome is not true. E of course is false, Luther affirmed Mary’s perpetual virginity. That Luther did not spend entire treatises defending perpetual virginity serves to show that what was important to him was not Mary’s lack of children, but rather the child she did give birth to. Throughout his career, he would minimize the emphasis on this Marian doctrine.

Question 6.
All of these individuals believed and taught the perpetual virginity of Mary (i.e. that Mary remained a virgin after giving birth to Jesus) with the exception of:

-John Wesley (founder of Methodism)
-John Calvin
-Martin Luther
-Huldreich Zwingli
-Tammy Faye Baker

Her Answer: THE ANSWER IS …….Tammy Faye Baker. That’s right, all of the founders of the Protestantism taught that Mary remained a virgin for life. Some Protestants are surprised to learn that most Protestant founders, including Martin Luther, also taught the Immaculate Conception (Mary conceived in St. Ann’s womb without original sin) Martin Luther wrote: "It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary’s soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God’s gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin." [Martin Luther; "Sermon On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God", 1527] Luther also wrote: “It is an article of faith that Mary is Mother of the Lord and still a virgin….” Calvin wrote: “There have been certain folk who have wished to suggest from this passage [Matt 1:25] that the Virgin Mary had other children than the Son of God, and that Joseph had then dwelt with her later; but what folly this is! For the gospel writers did not wish to record what happened afterwards….” Zwingli wrote: “I firmly believe that Mary, according to the words of the gospel as a pure Virgin brought forth for us the Son of God and in childbirth and after childbirth forever remained a pure, intact Virgin.” Luther: “Christ . . . was the only Son of Mary, and the Virgin Mary bore no children besides Him . . . ´brothers´ really means ´cousins´ here, for Holy Writ and the Jews always call cousins brothers. “ (Sermons on John, chapters 1-4, 1537-39)Luther: “Christ . . . was the only Son of Mary, and the Virgin Mary bore no children besides Him . . . ´brothers´ really means ´cousins´ here, for Holy Writ and the Jews always call cousins brothers. “ (Sermons on John, chapters 1-4, 1537-39)Luther: “God says . . . :´Mary´s Son is My only Son.´ Thus Mary is the Mother of God. “(Ibid.)Luther: “The infusion of Mary´s soul was effected without original sin . . . From the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin. (Sermon: "On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God," 1527)

My Answer: While retaining a belief in perpetual virginity, Luther did so in undogmatic terms, making sure that Mary was not to be deified for such an attribute. He implied in the Table Talk that it was Mary’s choice to remain a virgin after the birth of Christ, rather than her continued virginity being a miraculous gift from God.

However, Luther did not hold a lifelong belief in Mary’s immaculate conception. The Quote above from Luther’s "Sermon On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God” was brought to cyber-space via Catholic historian Hartmann Grisar. A Catholic apologist quoted Luther from Grisar’s book and disregarded both the historical context of Luther’s writings, as well as Grisar’s explanation of the quote. If one looks up the reference, Grisar states, “The sermon was taken down in notes and published with Luther’s approval. The same statements concerning the Immaculate Conception still remain in a printed edition published in 1529, but in later editions which appeared during Luther’s lifetime they disappear.” The reason for their disappearance is that as Luther’s Christo-centric theology developed, aspects of Luther’s Mariology were abandoned. Grisar recognizes this. In regards to this Luther quote, Grisar says, “As Luther’s intellectual and ethical development progressed we cannot naturally expect the sublime picture of the pure Mother of God, the type of virginity, of the spirit of sacrifice and of sanctity to furnish any great attraction for him, and as a matter of fact such statements as the above are no longer met with in his later works.”

In regard to Therese’s Calvin quote, it really isn’t certain that Calvin held to the perpetual virginity of Mary. A few quotes from Calvin have been used by Catholics to prove his adherence to it, yet a close reading of the quotes doesn’t really prove anything definitively. Calvin’s main point in his comment on Matthew 1:25 is that the gospel writer did not wish to record what happened afterwards to Mary. Calvin calls it “folly” at one point, when describing those who wish to make a text say more than it does. Those who would make a necessary inference where the Gospel writer has only made a possible inference engage in folly (according to Calvin). So it can’t really be concluded that Calvin is teaching here Mary’s perpetual virginity, it sounds to me as if Calvin is simply being careful. While I myself would make a possible inference from these passages that Mary had other children, It cannot be concluded that Calvin believed in Mary’s perpetual virginity, or her “sinlessness”, only that Calvin held the gospel writer does not explicitly say, one way or the other. Interestingly, this conclusion was reached similarly by William Bouwsma in his book, John Calvin: A 16th Century Portrait. He says in a footnote on p.275, "Among matters on which (Calvin) discouraged speculation were the order of angels and the perpetual virginity of Mary."

Question 7.
What did Luther write was permissible in the Bible?

-marijuana smoking

Her Answer: THE ANSWER IS….. Polygamy. Martin Luther, De Wette, II, 459: “I confess that I cannot forbid a person to marry several wives, for it does not contradict the Scripture. If a man wishes to marry more than one wife, he should be asked whether he is satisfied in his conscience that he may do so in accordance with the word of God. In such a case, the civil authority has nothing to do in such a matter.” As one of the first Sola Scriptura advocates, Luther interpreted the Bible on his own, apart from the Church, which resulted in this surprising Biblical conclusion.

My Answer: Therese has DeWette vol. 2? Amazing. The book has not been in print for well over 100 years, and it's in German. Her translation of this quote into English from the German is very good. It is true Luther allowed for polygamy, but only in a very narrow sense. Luther scholar Heinrich Boehmer points out that it was only to be in cases of “severe necessity, for instance, if the wife develops leprosy or becomes otherwise unfit to live with her husband… But this permission is always to be restricted to such cases as severe necessity. The idea of legalizing general polygamy was far from the reformers mind. Monogamy was always to him the regular form of matrimony…” (Luther And The Reformation in Light of Modern Research, 213-214). Most often, Luther detractors point out Luther’s involvement in the bigamy of Phillip of Hesse. Luther’s final opinion on the whole mess: “…if anyone thereafter should practice bigamy, let the Devil give him a bath in the abyss of hell.”

Question 8
Fill in the blank for this famous Luther quote: “…with regard to God, and in all that bears on salvation or damnation, [man] has no ______________ but is a captive, prisoner and bondslave, either to the will of God, or to the will of Satan.”

Her Answer: THE ANSWER IS…. Free will. This quote if from Luther’s “Bondage of the Will”). As you can imagine, it is regarded as heresy by the Catholic Church.

My Answer: Galatians 3:22 describes the whole world as a “prisoner of sin”- this hardly sounds like freedom. This is but one verse among countless that describe mankind as in slavery to sin.

Luther taught that Erasmus’ view of the free will is that it is “ineffective” without God’s grace, but, Luther said, if the free will needs a little of God’s grace, then it must be a permanent prisoner to evil since it cannot turn itself to the good. Luther’s doctrine of the will at times seems deterministic. He sees neither puppet or automaton. He does not try to figure out how it all works (the relationship between creature and creator). He says we are free in horizontal relationships, to choose things (like food or spouses), but we are bound though in the vertical relationship away from choosing God. We are all born with defiance in the heart.

Question 9
What book of the Bible was Luther referring to when he said: “I feel an aversion to it, and to me this is a sufficient reason for rejecting it.”

Her Answer: THE ANSWER IS: the Book of Revelations. Here’s what he said about the Book of Revelations: “to my mind it bears upon it no marks of an apostolic or prophetic character… Everyone may form his own judgment of this book; as for myself, I feel an aversion to it, and to me this is sufficient reason for rejecting it.” (Sammtliche Werke, 63, p. 169-170, “The Facts About Luther,’ O’Hare, TAN Books, 1987, p.2-3).

My Answer: The reference to The Facts About Luther is inaccurate- it is not “2-3” but rather page 203. Luther’s Preface To The Revelation of St. John is frequently cited by Luther detractors, that is, in its original form written in 1522. Luther eventually rewrote it entirely in 1530- his opinion of the book had changed. John Warwick Montgomery points out,

“Luther’s short and extremely negative Preface to the Revelation of St. John was completely dropped after 1522, and the Reformer replaced it with a long and entirely commendatory Preface (1530). Because “some of the ancient fathers held the opinion that it was not the work of St. John the apostle,” Luther leaves the authorship question open, but asserts that he can no longer “let the book alone,” for “we see, in this book, that through and above all plagues and beasts and evil angels Christ is with His saints, and wins the victory at last.” In his original, 1532 Preface to Ezekiel, Luther made a cross-reference to the Revelation of St. John with no hint of criticism; in his later, much fuller Preface to Ezekiel, he concludes on the note that if one wishes to go into prophetic study, more deeply, “the Revelation of John can also help.”

Question 10
Fill in the blank for this 1523 Luther quote: “Whoever possesses a good faith, says the ______________ without danger.”

a. Lord’s Prayer
b. Hail Mary
c. Glory Be

Her Answer: THE ANSWER IS……B……Hail Mary. Luther: “Whoever possesses a good faith, says the Hail Mary without danger. (Sermon, March 11, 1523)

My Answer: Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of Luther’s timeline will recognize that 1523 was early in his Reformation career- a close look at Luther’s Mariology shows that his opinion of Mary decreased as the years went by, particularly praying to her.

Luther’s “Hail Mary” was a much different approach to what was normal during the sixteenth century. Eric Gritsch states, “{Luther} tolerated the "Hail Mary" in "A Personal Prayer Book" of 1522, which was to be an evangelical alternative to existing prayer books advocating the wrongful veneration of Mary as co-redemptrix. Luther urged people to understand this well-known addition to the Lord's Prayer "as a meditation in which we recite what God has given her" and as an admonition "that everyone may know and respect her as one blessed by God. That is why the "Hail Mary," like the Lord's Prayer, is concerned "purely with giving praise and honor"; it is "neither a prayer nor an invocation" to Mary as the one who prays for us. Instead, Mary should be regarded as being without sin, that is, as being "full of grace" (voll Gnaden) in the sense of being "graced" (begnadet)' all she did was done by God in her, that is, "God is with her"; "she is blessed above all other women" because she became fertile through the Holy Spirit, and through Christ's birth, not through her participation in it, humankind is redeemed from death and damnation. To bless her with rosaries and a constant mouthing of "Hail Mary" takes the honor away from Christ, who alone mediates salvation.” (Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII, 238).

The Catholic work, Mariology Vol. 2 notes, “Luther had set the style for Protestants when he attacked the Catholic prayer "Hail Holy Queen" which he regarded as blasphemous. "Your prayers, 0 Christian," he says, "are as dear to me as hers. And why? Because if you believe that Christ lives in you as much as in her, you can help me as much as she." Eventually Luther was led to limit the communion of saints to the Church on earth because of his complete rejection of any intercessory power on the part of the saints in heaven {Juniper B. Carol (ed.) Mariology Volume 2, 195}.

Comparing John 7:37-38 (“If anyone thirst, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water”) with the “Hail Mary” Luther says,

“This is the correct and reassuring message of the blessed Gospel, which the pernicious and blasphemous see of Rome has trodden underfoot for several centuries, deluging all Christendom with its lies and demonic doctrines (1 Tim. 4:1) and instituting its worship and innumerable other abominations. As a consequence, Christendom neglected and, unfortunately, lost this chief fountain and source, which overflows with rich and full grace; and it substituted Christ’s mother Mary for Christ, praying to her for grace. Thus only the words “Hail Mary, full of grace!” remained current, and the words of our text passed into oblivion. But the words remain written: “And from His fullness have we all received, grace upon grace.” (LW 22:136).

Question 11
In 1519, Luther wrote: I never approved of a ___________, nor will I approve of it for all eternity.”

a. Bible tax

b. curfew

c. schism

Her Answer: THE ANSWER IS…..C…… Schism. LUTHER’s full quote: “I never approved of a schism, nor will I approve of it for all eternity. . . . That the Roman Church is more honored by God than all others is not to be doubted. St. Peter and St. Paul, forty-six Popes, some hundreds of thousands of martyrs, have laid down their lives in its communion, having overcome Hell and the world; so that the eyes of God rest on the Roman church with special favor. Though nowadays everything is in a wretched state, it is no ground for separating from the Church.” “On the contrary, the worse things are going, the more should we hold close to her, for it is not by separating from the Church that we can make her better. We must not separate from God on account of any work of the devil, nor cease to have fellowship with the children of God who are still abiding in the pale of Rome on account of the multitude of the ungodly. There is no sin, no amount of evil, which should be permitted to dissolve the bond of charity or break the bond of unity of the body. For love can do all things, and nothing is difficult to those who are united.” (SOURCE: Letter to Pope Leo X, January 6, 1519 more than a year after the Ninety-Five Theses quoted in The Facts about Luther, 356)

My Answer: The letter was never sent. The letter was the result of Luther’s meeting with the Papal nuncio Miltitz. Miltitz was somewhat of a renegade nuncio, and was attempting to reconcile Luther with the Pope. He spoke of how favorably the pope felt toward Luther, and how angry he was with Tetzel. He attempted to make this deal with Luther: Luther would cease with his part of this controversy- and he promised those who opposed Luther would also be silent. He also requested Luther write a letter to the pope (a section of which Therese quoted above). Boehmer notes Miltitz specifically requested that Luther’s letter contain a confession-

“…that [Luther] had been too vehement and sharp although he had never thought of injuring the Roman Church, but was aiming only at the disgraceful preaching [of indulgences]…he would have a note sent out, exhorting everyone to be obedient to the Roman Church and also confessing that he had expressed the truth in an all too heated and, perhaps untimely fashion….The letter [was to] close with the characteristic words: ‘I am willing to do anything, provided I am not made to renounce anything more, for nothing will come of the recantation.’”

Source: Heinrich Boehmer, Road To Reformation (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1946), 254.

Boehmer notes the letter was written and presented to Miltitz, but Luther “absolutely refused to recant.” Miltitz then dropped the whole idea of the letter. Luther was under the impression the Miltitz would set up a meeting in which a learned bishop would evaluate Luther’s points. Luther writing to elector Frederic says, “Miltitz will write the Pope at once, informing him how things stand, and asking him to recommend the matter to some learned bishop, who will hear me and point out the errors I am to recant. For when I have learned my mistakes, I will gladly withdraw them, and do nothing to impair the honor and power of the Roman Church.” Miltitz did write the Pope- informing him Luther was ready to recant everything. Thus, the letter quoted by Therese was "Papal Nuncio subterfuge."

Question 12
12. How did Luther describe contraception?

a. "a sin greater than adultery and incest"
b. "a sin equal to adultery and incest"
c "permissible if the husband is unable to refrain from relations one week each month."

Her Answer: THE ANSWER IS……A….Luther said contraception was “a sin greater than adultery and incest.” Calvin called it “a monstrous thing.” Wesley and Zwingli also condemned contraception Protestants traditionally interpreted the story of Onan in Genesis as a condemnation of contraception. (until the 20th century)

My Answer: I can't add too much to this one- Luther did in fact look down on birth control, though i've not found any references to medieval contraceptive devices in his writings. The above quote comes from LW 7:20. Luther commenting on Onan, who is told to take his brothers' wife, but he refuses to impregnate her, and thus fulfill the duty of the demanded Leverite marriage (Duet. 25:5-6).

Luther says,
"Onan must have been a malicious and incorrigible scoundrel. This is a most disgraceful sin. It is far more atrocious than incest and adultery. We call it unchastity, yes, a Sodomitic sin. For Onan goes in to her; that is, he lies with her and copulates, and when it comes to the point of insemination, spills the semen, lest the woman conceive. Surely at such a time the order of nature established by God in procreation should be followed. Accordingly, it was a most disgraceful crime to produce semen and excite the woman, and to frustrate her at that very moment. He was inflamed with the basest spite and hatred. Therefore he did not allow himself to be compelled to bear that intolerable slavery. Consequently, he deserved to be killed by God. He committed an evil deed. Therefore God punished him."

Question 13
Which book of the Bible did Luther call "an epistle of straw."

a. James
b. Philemon
c. Acts

Her Answer: THE ANSWER IS….A…. Luther called the Book of James “an epistle of straw.” Referring to the book of Revelations, Luther said “Christ is not taught or known in it." Luther also said he wanted to toss the book of Esther into the Elbe River. “The book of Esther I toss into the Elbe. I am such an enemy to the book of Esther that I wish it did not exist, for it Judaizes too much and has in it a great deal of heathenish naughtiness. The history of Jonah is so monstrous that it is absolutely incredible. There are many things objectionable in this book [Revelation]. To my mind it bears upon it no marks of an apostolic or prophetic character.”

My Answer: An interesting fact about this quote “epistle of straw” (hardly ever mentioned by Luther-detractors!) is that it only appears in the original 1522 Preface To The New Testament. John Warwick Montgomery points out: “Few people realize — and liberal Luther interpreters do not particularly advertise the fact — that in all the editions of Luther’s Bible translation after 1522 the—Reformer dropped the paragraphs at the end, of his general Preface to the New Testament which made value judgments among the various biblical books and which included the famous reference to James as an “Epistle of straw.” Montgomery finds that Luther showed a “considerable reduction in negative tone in the revised Prefaces to the biblical books later in the Reformer’s career.” For anyone to continue to cite Luther’s “epistle of straw” comment against him is to do Luther an injustice. He saw fit to retract the comment. Subsequent citations of this quote should bear this in mind.

I covered Luther's view of Revelation in question 9. In regard to the Esther, Luther still translated it and allowed it in his Bible. Curiously, Roger Beckwith (author the outstanding book The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church) has said, “It is sometimes said that Luther, following certain of the Fathers, denied the Canonicity of Esther, but Hans Bardtke has questioned this, as not taking into account of all the evidence (Luther und das Buch Esther, Tubingen Mohr, 1964).” One can only hope that this work will one day be available in English.

"The history of Jonah is so monstrous that it is absolutely incredible…”This quote About Jonah sounds suspiciously like a quote from John Aurifaber’s version of the Table Talk. The quote from Aurifaber’s Table Talk reads,

“The majesty of the prophet Jonah is surpassing. He has but four chapters, and yet he moved therewith the whole kingdom, so that in his weakness, he was justly a figure and a sign of the Lord Christ. Indeed, it is surprising, that Christ should recur to this but in four words. Moses likewise, in few words describes the creation, the history of Abraham, and other great mysteries; but he spends much time in describing the tent, the external sacrifices, the kidneys and so on; the reason is, he saw that the world greatly esteemed outward things, which they beheld with their carnal eyes, but that which was spiritual, they soon forgot.The history of the prophet Jonah is almost incredible, sounding more strange than any poet's fable; if it were not in the Bible, I should take it for a lie; for consider, how for the space of three days he was in the great belly of the whale, whereas in three hours he might have been digested and changed into the nature, flesh and blood of that monster; may not this be said, to live in the midst of death? In comparison to this miracle, the wonderful passage through the Red Sea was nothing. But what appears more strange is, that after he was delivered, he began to be angry, and to expostulate with the gracious God, touching a small matter not worth a straw. It is a great mystery. I am ashamed of my exposition upon this prophet, in that I so weakly touch the main point of this wonderful miracle."

I don’t really understand what The problem with Luther is here. Indeed, being swallowed by a giant fish is monstrous, and absolutely incredible! The context above speaks for itself. Obviously, Luther valued the Book of Jonah highly. Elsewhere Luther said of Jonah:

“I have therefore chosen to expound the holy prophet Jonah, for he… represents an excellent, outstanding, and comforting example of faith and a mighty and wonderful sign of God’s goodness to all the world. For who would not trust God with all his heart, proudly defy all the devils, the world, and all the fulminating tyrants, and exult over God’s kindness, when he contemplates this story and beholds how easily God’s power and grace are able to preserve Jonah in the midst of the deep sea, even in the belly of the whale, thus saving him not only from one death but from various deaths, deserted and forgotten as he is by all men and all creatures?” (LW 19:36)