I didn't plan on doing three entries on Luther and the Roman Catholic dogma of Mary's Bodily Assumption (especially since very few probably actually care). In the grand scheme of things, it is really an insignificant point. But, I like the fact of having these entries to refer back to when needed, and it is yet another opportunity to show what those devoted to Rome do with history in the service of their church. My previous entries can be found here:
Luther: The Assumption Was a Settled Fact?: A look at Catholic Apologist Mark Shea's proof that Luther believed in the Assumption because of a sculpture near his tomb.
Luther: The Assumption Was a Settled Fact? (Part 2): A look at Catholic apologist Peter Stravinskas' claim that Luther "...did not pronounce clearly on this subject, but was content simply to affirm it."
No treatment of Luther's Mariology would be complete without consulting the work of one particular Catholic apologist. He says on Luther and the Assumption:
"[Luther's]Later references to the Immaculate Conception appear in his House sermon for Christmas (1533) and Against the Papacy of Rome (1545). In later life (he died in 1546), Luther did not believe that this doctrine should be imposed on all believers, since he felt that the Bible didn't explicitly and formally teach it. Such a view is consistent with his notion of sola Scriptura and is similar to his opinion on the bodily Assumption of the Virgin, which he never denied - although he was highly critical of what he felt were excesses in the celebration of this Feast. In his sermon of August 15, 1522, the last time he preached on the Feast of the Assumption, he stated: "There can be no doubt that the Virgin Mary is in heaven. How it happened we do not know. And since the Holy Spirit has told us nothing about it, we can make of it no article of faith . . . It is enough to know that she lives in Christ." Luther held to the idea and devotional practice of the veneration of Mary and expressed this on innumerable occasions with the most effusive language: "The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart."(Sermon, September 1, 1522)"
He uses similar argumentation of Stravinskas and Cole, but with a twist: Luther must have held a lifelong belief in the Assumption because he never denied it. In my earlier post, I traced the popular notion that Luther simply affirmed the Assumption, even though never pronouncing on it clearly, and that this notion comes from a mis-reading of a footnote by Max Thurian. His argument is only slightly different but just as weak. I pointed out this faulty method of argumentation in part one, via this quote:
"But an argument from silence is recognized by all to be quite weak. It implies that one must have almost total evidence before demonstration is possible. If this is the case, one could argue cogently that there may have been airplanes in the time of Christ." Dewey M. Beegle, Scripture, Tradition, and Infallibility (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1973), p. 178.
If we followed this method of argument, we could prove Luther believed in Santa or Bigfoot, simply because no evidence exists to prove he did not. I think it's important to keep in mind, it seems Catholic apologists do not have any positive evidence to offer that Luther actually believed in the Bodily Assumption of Mary. The closest they get is the 1522 quote, and this quote never affirms Mary's Bodily Assumption.
As I pointed out previously, by the time of his later lectures in Genesis, Mary is considered along with the other women of the Bible whose deaths are not recorded. One thing we can say about this quote, Mary's death is not distinguished from any of the other women whose deaths are not recorded in the Bible:
"Then one should much rather consider how Abraham delivered a beautiful funeral address about Sarah. For in the Holy Scriptures no other matron is so distinguished. Her years, lives, conduct, and burial place are described....Scripture has no comments even on the death of other matriarchs, just as it makes no mention of how many years Eve lived and of where she died. Of Rachel it is recorded that she died in childbirth (Gen. 35:16–19). All the other women it passes over and covers with silence, with the result that we have no knowledge of the death of Mary, the mother of Christ. Sarah alone has this glory, that the definite number of her years, the time of her death, and the place of her burial are described. Therefore this is great praise and very sure proof that she was precious in the eyes of God."
We can at least give this apologist credit for noting Luther's later disdain for the Feast of the Assumption. Catholic historian Thomas O’Meara points out:
“In 1544 the Assumption is abandoned as a feast; the Ascension of Christ alone is recognized: '“The feast of the Assumption is totally papist, full of idolatry and without foundation in the Scriptures. But we, even though Mary has gone to heaven, should not bother about how she went there. We will not invoke her as our special advocate as the Pope teaches. (The Pope takes away veneration due to the Ascension of our Lord, Christ, with the result that he has made the mother like in all things to the Son.)' "
William Cole points out that Luther,
"...used strong language....for the elimination of the Assumption as an aspect of the 'hypocritical church',” particularly in celebrating a feast for it. Cole cites Luther as saying in 1544: 'The feast of the Assumption is totally papist, full of idolatry and without foundation in the Scriptures. But we, even though Mary has gone to heaven, should not bother how she went there. We will not invoke her as our special advocate as the Pope teaches. The pope takes away the honor due to the Ascension of our Lord, Christ, with the result that he has made the mother like her Son in all things."
Catholic apologists seem to downplay this evidence. Somewhere I have the contexts of these Luther quotes, and I'll post them at a later date.
One thing I also wanted to mention about this internet apologist's argumentation is how similar it is to the old article by William Cole. Cole states:
"For Luther the Assumption seems not to be so much a matter of doubt as of little importance and this is perhaps the reason, as Max Thurian affirms, that Luther did not pronounce clearly on the subject, but was content simply to affirm it. It is in this sense that Walter Tappolet interpets the Reformer's sermon of August 15, 1522, the last time Luther preached on the Feast of the Assumption. Luther had said: 'There can be no doubt that the Virgin Mary is in heaven. How it happened we do not know. And since the Holy Spirit has told us nothing about it, we can make of it no article of faith .' and then explained the significance for him: 'It is enough to know that she lives in Christ, as God is not the God of the dead, but of the living...' If in 1530, he uses strong language in his Admonition to the Ministers, calling for the elimination of the Assumption as an aspect of the 'hypocritical church,' the accent should be placed more on his animosity towards the Church and the celebration of one of its feasts than on the Assumption." [William J. Cole, "Was Luther a Devotee of Mary?" (Marian Studies), (1970), 123-124]
Since the internet apologist doesn't provide any bibliographic documentation for his information, I can think of only a few possibilities to explain the similarities between Cole's article and this apologist's later blog entry.
1. The internet apologist did primary research on Luther. He read Luther's sermon from 1522 in German, and then did a thorough study of all passages from Luther relevant to the Assumption.
2. The internet got a hold of Walter Tappolet's old book Das Marienlob der Reformatoren, translated it, and utilized it in similar fashion as Cole did. Many older writers utilized Tappolet's book. This really is one of the only books to look at this subject closely. In many ways, Catholic writing on Luther's Mariology are only footnotes to Tappolet's book. So, it is within the realm of possibility that the internet apologist used the same source Cole did.
3. The internet apologist did no primary research on Luther's view of the Assumption, but rather utilized Cole's article, or another writer who used Cole's article. Even this quote, "The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart" is in Cole's article.
This internet apologist hates when I point things like this out, but remember, he's the one claiming to be a professional Catholic apologist. Maybe those committed to Rome will take his research methods seriously, but I do not, unless of course, number #1 turns out to be the approach used. I'd even give him credit for number #2. The approach used in number #3 is simply what anyone can do. It takes no skill or insight. In other words, it is not the approach used by someone claiming to be a professional apologetic writer. At the very least, he could cite which source he used for his Luther/Assumption material, rather than giving the appearance he did actual research for his conclusions. Perhaps he has the information from which secondary source he used elsewhere on website, in which case I would offer my apology, but still challenge his conclusions, and exhort him to do primary research on Luther.