Monday, June 18, 2007
On Luther Giving Hyperdulia To Mary
Rome distinguishes between kinds of worship. Mary can receive the highest form of worship/veneration, hyperdulia, short of the worship of God. This type of worship is expressed in prayers, songs, ceremonies and pilgrimages.
Over on the CARM boards a Roman Catholic suggested Martin Luther thought Mary should be given hyperdulia. The quote given was this one, and a particular part of it was underlined:
"The old theologians went to astounding lengths [mirabiliter se cruciarunt] in answering this question of whether the humanity is to be worshipped, and they established three ways [species] in which the humanity may be adored: Dulia,when Peter and Paul and all the other saints are adored; hyperdulia, when the Virgin Mary is adored, and here they included the humanity of Christ, and called [this worship] hyperdulia as well; and latria, when Christ is worshipped with regard to his divinity. Christ clearly dissolves [the distinction, for] whoever worships the humanity of Christ here no longer adores a creature (for this is what is meant by the union of natures), but the Creator himself, for the unity is what is fundamental "
Anyone reading this quote beyond the underlined section sees the problem: Luther says, Christ clearly dissolves the distinction, and even in the underlined part, Luther is not saying Mary should be given hyperdulia.
Luther abandoned the distinctions of latria, dulia, and hyper-dulia. When commenting on Deuteronomy 6:13 Luther said,
“Here the scholastics have concocted various dreams about dulia, latria, and hyperdulia. With one and the same word the Hebrew denotes service toward God and toward men, so that their distinction is useless. But Moses wants to say this: “Serve Him alone. That is, whatever you do, and whether you live under the bondage of men or as a manager of affairs, refer it to Me, and do it in no other name than that you are sure in faith that I alone am served in this.”
But yet, this doesn't stop Rome's apologists from saying things like, "[Luther] understood the difference between veneration and worship, just as Catholics do (and he also strongly criticized excesses in Marian devotion, just as Catholics also do; particularly in Vatican II). He didn't feel compelled to create the absolute (and quite unbiblical) silly dichotomy that characterizes present-day Reformed thought and much of Protestantism, generally-speaking -- where no creature can ever be given honor, lest this immediately be an assault upon God and idolatry”.
I do not deny that Luther spoke favorably about Mary, but when Catholics say "honor", they mean something quite different than Protestants. Missing from the above point is any notion of how a Protestant should honor Mary or how Luther and his contemporaries thought Mary should be honored. The following is a summarization from Melancthon’s Apology of the Augsburg Confession:
“The saints, and among them the blessed Mary, should be honored in three ways. One should be grateful to God for them. One should take advantage of their examples to strengthen one's own faith. One should imitate their faith and their actions in keeping with one's own calling.”
Is this the complete picture of what Rome means by Marian Devotion? While I’m sure a Catholic apologist would agree these are principles in harmony with Catholicism, he can’t possibly mean that these principles fully comprise Roman Catholic Marian piety. To suggest that Luther’s “veneration” of Mary is nothing but Catholicism properly understood is mistaken.
Here is a little survey of the word “veneration” as used by Luther, to see if Luther accepted the Roman Catholic veneration (or praise) of the saints. Below is almost the entirety of references to the word “veneration” in Luther’s Works:
LW 12:284, “… a Franciscan venerates his rule and his St. Francis as an idol.”
LW 16:227, “the papists, having abandoned faith, have venerated sects, works designed to gain righteousness, vigils, cowls, and even their own lice, invoking the aid of unknown saints, and have fallen not only away from God but in opposition to God.”
LW 17:140, “The soldier thinks, “I shall venerate Saint Barbara; she will preserve the sacraments for me three days.” This is the basic idea: idolatry is nothing else but an opinion apart from the Word of God.”
LW 23:136, “The Papists… confess that faith in Christ helps, but at the same time they state that the Lord did not exclude other methods. Thus they manufacture many ways that are to lead to eternal life, among which are intercession of the saints, the veneration of the Virgin Mary, the monastic vocation, and the observance of their ordinances. No, all these are of no avail for eternal life. Christ excludes them all; they are definitely rejected.”
LW 24:355, ““Behold, our papistic rabble… have brought it about that everything the pope has been able to decree, dream up, and put on parade—even open deception, such as indulgences, purgatory, pilgrimages, cowls, tonsures, the veneration of saints, etc.—is declared to have come from the Holy Spirit, even though they themselves have to admit that this is not found in the Gospel and that Christ has said nothing about it.”
LW 25:288, “Rude, puerile, and even hypocritical are those people who venerate the relics of the holy cross with the highest outward honor and then flee from and curse their sufferings and adversities.”
LW 25:324, “The Thomists, the Scotists, and the other schools act with the same temerity when they defend the writings and words of their founders with such zeal that they not only disdain to seek their spirit but actually quench it by their excessive desire to venerate them, thinking that it is enough if they merely retain the words even without the spirit.”
LW 34:351, 359, The faculty of Louvain held, “It is rightly done in the church, that we venerate and call upon the saints who are active with Christ in heaven, that they should pray for us. Through their merits also and intercession, Christ here gives us many things; otherwise he will not give. Through them he also performs many miracles on earth.”
Luther responded, “This one thing they have done rightly, that, Christ having been rejected, they may not be atheists altogether, they have invented for themselves new gods and call upon the dead, saints or not saints, that makes no difference to them. [This shows] that, as the people is, such gods it shall have, according to the righteous judgment of God, whose Word they despise and blaspheme. Here it would please to mock them with Elijah, “Cry aloud, for they are gods: they are musing, or they are busy, or they are on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.”
LW: 34:23-24, “What was the condition of your churches before our gospel came but a series of daily innovations rushing in one after another, in great number, like a cloudburst? One set up St. Anne, another St. Christopher, another St. George, another St. Barbara, another St. Sebastian, another St. Catherine, another perhaps the Fourteen Helpers in Need. Who alone wants to recount the new kinds of saint veneration? Are not these innovations? Where were bishops and shouters who should not permit such innovations?
LW 34:54, “The things which have been practice and custom in the pretended church… Veneration of saints, some of whom were never born… Mary made a common idol with countless services, celebrations, fasts, hymns, and antiphons.”
LW 34:20, “From this abomination have come all the other outrages (they had to come from it, too, and there was no way of warding them off), namely, the self-righteousness of so many of the monasteries and chapters, with their worship service, the sacrificial masses, purgatory, vigils, brotherhoods, pilgrimages, indulgences, fasts, veneration of saints, relics, poltergeists, and the whole parade of the hellish procession of the cross.”
LW 35: 198-201, “Thus the worship of saints shows itself to be nothing but human twaddle, man’s own invention apart from the word of God and the Scriptures. Since in the matter of divine worship, however, it is not proper for us to undertake anything without God’s command—whoever does so is tempting God—it is therefore neither to be advised nor tolerated that one should call upon the departed saints to intercede for him or teach others to call upon them…. It was exceedingly bitter for me to tear myself away from [the worship of] the saints, for I was steeped and fairly drowned in it. But the light of the gospel is now shining so clearly that henceforth no one has any excuse to remain in darkness.”
LW 38:159, “For, although we did have baptism, sacrament, and the word, they were nevertheless so perverted and obscured by human doctrine and abuse (when we had grown up and become more mature) that we could no longer glory in them, but had to comfort ourselves with strange masses, our own works, monkery, pilgrimages, veneration of the saints, and similar matters in a manner no different from the way in which the Turks and the Jews console themselves with their works and worship.”