Saturday, March 31, 2007

Using Psychohistory on Luther


One thing about trying to figure out Martin Luther, Roman Catholics can certainly be creative:

“Luther was brutually[sic] beaten as a child and in his own words admits that he entered the monastery to save his life. He was indeed a brilliant Biblical scholar. However, because of his brilliance, he was elevated quickly through the ranks of the Church.When the Wittenburg[sic] plague happened, I believe his old childhood demons returned to torment him. He suffered terribly from scrupulosity[sic]: whipping himself, starving himself, depriving himself of sleep, and rejecting the comfort of his monastic community.His interchanges with Eck bore the hallmarks of PTSD. Self-reliance, suspicion (or even hatred) of authority figures, snarling violent defensiveness. By the time he formulated his Sola-Everything theories, he was a very troubled soul; his thinking replete with cognitive distortions.Let us remember that the tree is known by its fruit. Luther's chief allays were ambitious and very secular-minded knights who used the new ideologies to drive their own political influence. Even Henry Tudor, whom Luther ignored, took advantage of the ideologies to rebel -- not on theological grounds but on the grounds of producing an heir.”

Sorry, but I try not to participate in discussions with those using psychohistory. The psychohistory approach to Luther is the method of applying the science of psychoanalysis to a historical figure. This view holds history is more than simply “facts”- it is also the result of psychological forces that drive people to do what they do.
The problem: the psycho-historians all end up differently. Men like Denifle, Grisar, Smith, and Erikson used a similar approach in trying to understand Luther, none of them arrive at the same conclusions- or even minimize or maximize similar conclusions. So, even though Luther produced a large corpus of writings to draw analysis from, each of these psychohistorians arrive at different conclusions when digging for pychohistory "facts" .
How can someone do psychology on a dead man? One cannot. Thus, the psychohistory method, while interesting, should not be one’s main approach to learning about Martin Luther.For a more in-depth treatment, see my blog entry here.
"Do you believe that Luther's theories and behaviour were rational?"
Which part of "Sorry, but I don’t engage in discussions with those using psychohistory" didn't you understand?
"Wow! That's breathtakingly rude. How do you justify such behaviour on a Catholic forum?"
I do not "do" psychohistory. Sorry.It is frustrating when I made this clear, only to have another psychohistory question returned. Please, no more of these type of questions, I'm not interested.
And then, not to be outdone, a massive reply, note this guy thinks i'm advertising my book-
"May I ask you to consider the possibility that this is not your own private forum. Nor is it primarily designed to advertise your book. I am not saying that your posts are uninteresting or without merit. They are certainly very interesting and with much merit. That is not the point. First of all I understand your decision to remain within the boundaries of your particular historical analysis. That makes perfect sense to me. But, as you must surely know, there are other forms of analysis. And once you post on this forum, what you say is fair game and subject to any number of analytical methologies -- or lack thereof. To archly disallow any form of criticism but that which you approve is imho highly questionable in any academic community and even more so on this particular forum. Now I will concede that some forms of analysis are... well... worse than useless. Generally speaking psychobabble annoys me too. However it is contingent on you to consider more than one aspect of any one analytical methodology. And to address those aspects with not only rigour but also respect. That is so obvious that it surprises me that there is any need for a reminder.Certainly the practical use of an analytical approach is worthy of examination. The useful aspect of considering Luther's family background is that it sheds light not only on what may have been his own barriers to rationality -- if you will -- or community -- if you will -- or even courtesy -- if you will. It also sheds light on barriers that our contemporaries may have against same, and particularly against the Church.Let us keep in mind that what you find useful could quite well be different from what another person finds useful. Understanding what a major historical figure had against the Church is profoundly useful for Catholics.Of course we can't ascertain for sure whether or not Luther had PTSD. But we can draw parallels between his behaviour and the behaviour of our contemporaries who do have PTSD, while allowing for culturally and historically specific norms. If we can't draw parallels then what can we learn from history -- your version or anyone else's version -- that is of any use to anyone at all?The validity of psychohistorical approach is not diminished simply because three authors reached different conclusions. Moreover, when all is said and done, questioning the rationality of Luther's theories is not a psychohistorical question.Finally, I cannot stress the importance of courtesy enough. You must know better than to take the approach you have. Since when has any useful research come of discarding a friendly demeanor?I'm really not wanting any answers from you. Only that you exercise some restraint and respect in imposing your own norms on others who may wish to contribute to the discussion. Is that not a legitimate request? Is it unfair? Is it unreasonable?"

Funny how this guy began with certainty of his psychohistorical approach, and then when confronted as to the worth of this approach, it becomes theoretical. To engage in a discussion like this is to spin one’s wheels indefinitely. It is a conversation of pure speculation, only to be enjoyed by those bent on sophistry. It is usually an example of a double standard as well, because the same approach is not applied to those put forth as Roman Catholic heroes. Luther is assumed to have deep psychosis, while others are let off this his hook, despite whatever the historical record says of them. The reason? Why, they defend Rome, so they’re ok.

In regard to the proper protocol of the Catholic Answers forums, the topic category this posted in was “Sacred Scripture” so, the direction of this thread and this sub-forum would necessitate that it was this guy's speculative comments which don’t belong. Finally, I am not advertising a book. I don’t know where he got that from. It is Catholic apologist Gary Michuta who had been advertising his book, not me.

Some further dialog with Gary Michuta: Luther and Maccabees

I’ve had some sparse interaction with Catholic apologist Gary Michuta over on the Catholic Answers forums. Gary offered a friendly response to my previous comments:

First and foremost, thank you for your post, James. If I’m reading your post correctly, you may be the first prominent Protestant apologist to tacitly admit that Luther did once use these books in a canonical fashion. I’ve read dozens of written debates on this subject you may be the first, albeit in a roundabout way, to concede this. You’ve earned an autographed copy, buddy! My book is already producing good fruit. ; )

In regards to any supposed malicious intent, I can’t judge Luther’s heart or motives. I can only draw conclusions from the evidence, the same as you. I did my best to be fair and accurate to Luther as I do with all the people treated in my book trying give the reader a good sense of the historical context of each statement. My main focus of this section was to understand the rationale of Luther’s rejection at the Second Disputation since it is an important juncture in the history of the Deuterocanon. Luther’s a posteriori justification of his change may be important for Lutheran theology, but it is of limited value in understanding what his thoughts were at that important moment. I do, BTW, talk about his “Christ preached” canon within a canon approach both in that section and I critique it along with other views in Appendix 1 – Sola Scriptura And The Problem Of The Canon.

My book does focus on those who may have influenced Luther’s decision (so I do treat him as a historic figure). We take a look at Reuchlin and Staupitz, Erasmus, Wycliff, Hugh of St. Victor, William of Occam, Nicholas of Lyra, Cajetan, as well as the Complution Polyglott and the Gloss. It is my opinion that you really don’t understand another’s position unless you come to a point where you have sympathy for his view. I think, given the space constraints, it is a fair treatment. The book also examines the prefaces of the German, Swiss and English Bibles as well as the views of Oecolampadius, Calvin, Zwingli and various Protestant Confessions. Had I been allowed to publish Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger in its even bigger form (over 900 pages long and in two volumes), I would have gone into more detail. Hopefully, 336 pages will suffice. : )

In regards to Luther’s “weight with the faithful” remark, I think that it was a needed qualification. I understand your position, and I think my own understanding is close to yours. I suggest that Luther’s words are really an echo the thoughts of Alphonsus Tostatus. If I’m correct, Luther’s response to Eck is absolutely brilliant. Tostatus posited “For though these books are received by Christians, and proof derived from them do in some degree have weight, because the Church retains those books, yet they are not effectual to prove those things that are in doubt against heretics and Jews, as Jerome says…” In other words, Luther is reminding Eck that those outside the Church dispute whether the Deuterocanon is admissible in debate. Eck’s response is equally brilliant and, I believe, affirms this understanding, but I don’t want to spoil the book for you. Moreover, I don’t think it is wholly accurate to say Luther outright rejected the Deuteros. He did see them as having some weight since he included in his German Translation, calls “good and holy,” and does, in some sense, see them as part of the Old Testament. They just can't be used to confirm doctrine.

I am glad that the quotation on my website www.HandsOnApologetics.com didn’t raise any ire, but it certain did seem to have provoked some ridicule on your part. Indeed, you accused me of suppressing evidence if I remember correctly. No harm done. I’m glad you weren’t angry. Here is the reference for you and the rest (my apologies for not putting this in the proper format):

H. H. Howorth, “The Bible Canon of the Reformation,” The International Journal of the Apocrypha, No. 20, Series VI, Jan. 1910. p.14. Howorth quotes Luther’s words in Latin as: “…hoc volo, quod in universa Scriptura non habeatur memoria purgatorii, que posset stare in contentione et convincere: nam et liber Machabeorum, cum non sit in Canone, pro fidelibus potens est, contra pertinaces nihil facit.”

God Bless,Gary


Hi Gary,

Thank you for your response. I don’t recall admitting Luther used the apocryphal books in a “canonical fashion” previous to his encounter with Eck. Frankly, I haven’t done a lot of work in this area. You probably know, Luther quoted from the apocryphal books throughout his career, even preaching from them on occasion (but rarely). I may have a few of these sermons around somewhere in my library.

I certainly wouldn’t have a problem with it even if he did hold them to be canonical early in his career. Luther is a fascinating person to study- particularly to watch his views change on different subjects. He himself admits his early writings were not fully protestant, and should be read with caution. This is why I mentioned a few times his Prefaces to the apocryphal books should factor heavily as to his rationale in deeming them non-canonical. Your study of the various influences on Luther will be interesting. I look forward to it, but a total picture of Luther's view should be factored in as well.

I appreciated your interpretation of the Luther quote in question, and it is an interesting take. Luther though was not yet ‘officially’ outside the Church and clearly rejected 2 Maccabees. I do have some of the detailed discussion put forth by Howarth, but I haven’t had time to work through the Latin yet. Perhaps then, your interpretation is correct once Eck’s view is presented. Of course, I have never held that Luther found no value in the apocryphal books. As I mentioned before, he does indeed live up to his position and cites them where applicable. My writings on Luther and the canon reflect this.

In regard to the quote on your website, I first found it on August 4, 2006- on my way out the door for a vacation to the Carolina beaches. Words can translate poorly, as they are simply one-dimensional. You can’t hear the tone in my voice, or the intent in my questions. I found the quote very odd for the reasons I mentioned. I’ve read countless Catholic articles, books, blogs, etc., all mentioning Luther was cornered by Eck and had to give up Maccabees or affirm Purgatory. I go over to your site, and there is a quote with no explanation implying Luther affirmed Maccabees in this same debate. Think how confusing this is for your average Catholic layman. They rarely read Luther in context. Here's a debate where Luther denies Maccabees, there's your quote from the same debate with him affirming Maccabees. I have spent a lot of time doing the work Catholic laymen should do- citing Luther in context.

Thus, I questioned why such a quote would be put forth. I would still insist it is a misuse of a Luther quote- the man clearly denied the apocrypha, and died denying the apocrypha. Why put an ambiguous Luther quote on your webpage affirming the apocrypha? If my comments came off as ridicule, my apologies. If there is any particular wording you would like removed from my blog entry from on August 4, 2006, please PM me via these boards, or follow the e-mail link on my own blog.

Finally, thank you for the reference to Howarth. This article I don’t have, but the others I mentioned on my blog I do.

Regards,

James Swan

Friday, March 30, 2007

Luther: "2 Maccabees has weight with the faithful, but it won't avail against the obstinate"


I had a few more thoughts on Gary’s Michuta’s use of the Luther quote, Maccabees "has weight with the faithful, but it won't avail against the obstinate." The following is part of a response I left on the Catholic Answers boards.

Gary Michuta said:
“I probably shouldn't do this because it is one of several bombshells in my book, but I'll give you a little preview. Luther, apparently, shouldn't be counted as just one of several confused theologians of his era. If the Protestant scholar H. H. Howarth is correct (and I've read a lot of his works and he is always very accurate, Luther originally held the Deuterocanon to be canonical. In 1517, in a debate with the head censor of Rome, Luther claimed that he would only be persuaded in argument by the "canonical Scripture." In this same debate, Luther quotes both Sirach and Tobit against his opponent. One year later, in the Second Disputation at Leipzig, the Catholic Eck cornered Luther with a citation from Second Maccabees. Luther rejected Maccabees from the canon, but added the interesting concession that Maccabees "has weight with the faithful, but it won't avail against the obstinate."
I now have the article I think Gary is citing: H. H. Howarth, "The Origin And Authority Of The Biblical Canon According To The Continental Reformers: I. Luther And Karlstadt", Journal Of Theological Studies, 1907, Issue VIII, Volume XXXI, pp. 321–365.
I'm guessing Gary will be arguing Luther didn’t have any problem with the apocrypha until his theology of justification by faith alone became a key hermeneutic in his determination of canon. On the other hand, I’m hopeful his book covers the other reasons Luther put forth in his Prefaces why he rejected the apocrypha, written some years later.
If my understanding of Gary’s position proves accurate from his brief words, he is putting forth a maliciously-intent-Luther, rather than a theologian with both theological and historical reasons for rejecting the apocrypha. Remember, Luther is a historical figure. His theology grew and developed throughout his career. It doesn’t surprise me the more mature Luther grew in his studies of the historical and linguistic evidence against the apocrypha. I’m hopeful Gary’s book does more than cite the Eck debate and also presents Luther’s more defined mature position.
Michuta seems to be implying Luther rejected 2 Maccabees from the canon, yet conceded “the faithful,” or, those of the faith, grant it is canonical. I wonder which of these options he’s implying:
1. Luther put forth a contradiction
2. Luther simply did what he wanted to with Second Maccabees, knowing full well it was a canonical book. In other words, he knowingly rejected a canonical book because of its implied teaching on Purgatory.
Questions: Who are “the faithful” and who are “the obstinate”? Why is this a concession?
I think perhaps the phrase is probably a sarcastic jab, and not a concession to the validity of Second Maccabees. Michuta admits in this debate with John Eck when this statement was made, Luther rejects this book from the canon. Read the phrase this way: the “faithful” are those devoted to Rome and its teaching on Purgatory. Of course it has weight with them. But for those who are “obstinate”, or those who hold this book is not canonical, it will not avail, nor could it ever be of use, or be used to prove a Biblical doctrine. The key term is "the faithful". I think Luther does not mean, "Christians". He means those devoted to Rome, or those with faith in Rome.

What did the early Church Father's believe on justification?

...By the way, that's not me in the picture, but i have attempted to carry that many books.

Here's a great example from the CARM boards of asking a question the wrong way:

What did the early Church Father's believe on justification? Did they believe that we are justified by faith ALONE or by faith + good works?

Answer: (a compilation of previous blog entries)

There was no "one" belief recorded in the writings of the church fathers on Justification previous to Augustine. Alister Mcgrath points out:

“The history of early Christian doctrine is basically the history of the emergence of the Christological and Trinitarian dogmas. Whilst the importance of soteriological considerations, both in the motivation of the development of early Christian doctrine and as a normative principle during the course of that development, is generally conceded, it is equally evident that the early Christian writers did not choose to express their soteriological convictions in terms of the concept of justification. This is not to say that the fathers avoid the term 'justification': their interest in the concept is, however, minimal, and the term generally occurs in their writings as a direct citation from, or a recognisable allusion to, the epistles of Paul, generally employed for some purpose other than a discussion of the concept of justification itself. Furthermore, the few occasions upon which a specific discussion of justification can be found generally involve no interpretation of the matter other than a mere paraphrase of a Pauline statement. Justification was simply not a theological issue in the pre-Augustinian tradition. The emerging patristic understanding of matters such as predestination, grace and free will is somewhat confused, and would remain so until controversy forced a full discussion of the issue upon the church. Indeed, by the end of the fourth century, the Greek fathers had formulated a teaching on human free will based upon philosophical rather than biblical foundations. Standing in the great Platonic tradition, heavily influenced by Philo, and reacting against the fatalisms of their day, they taught that man was utterly free in his choice of good or evil. It is with the Latin fathers that we observe the beginnings of speculation on the nature of original sin and corruption, and the implications which thismay have for man's moral faculties.

'It has always been a puzzling fact that Paul meant so relatively little for the thinking of the church during the first 350 years of its history. To be sure, he is honored and quoted, but - in the theological perspective of the west - it seems that Paul's great insight into justification by faith was forgotten.'”

Source:Alister McGrath, Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 19.

In dialoging with Roman Catholics on sola fide, I have sometimes argued from their point of view: that is, the doctrine of justification was not, at the time of Luther’s writing, dogmatically defined in the Roman Catholic sense. In other words, Luther had freedom to hold the view on justification that he did within a Roman Catholic framework. See Jaraslov Pelikan’s book, Obedient Rebels: Catholic Substance and Protestant Principle in Luther’s Reformation [New York: Harper and Row, 1964]. I found this quote on page 51-52 quite interesting:

Existing side by side in pre-Reformation theology were several ways of interpreting the righteousness of God and the act of justification. They ranged from strongly moralistic views that seemed to equate justification with moral renewal to ultra-forensic views, which saw justification as a 'nude imputation' that seemed possible apart from Christ, by an arbitrary decree of God. Between these extremes were many combinations; and though certain views predominated in late nominalism, it is not possible even there to speak of a single doctrine of justification.”

I share this for one reason: don't get taken in by those silly arguments that "sola fide" was a theological "novum" previous to the Reformation. Pelikan says elsewhere:

"All the more tragic, therefore, was the Roman reaction on the front which was most important to the reformers, the message and teaching of the church. This had to be reformed according to the word of God; unless it was, no moral improvement would be able to alter the basic problem. Rome’s reactions were the doctrinal decrees of the Council of Trent and the Roman Catechism based upon those decrees. In these decrees, the Council of Trent selected and elevated to official status the notion of justification by faith plus works, which was only one of the doctrines of justification in the medieval theologians and ancient fathers. When the reformers attacked this notion in the name of the doctrine of justification by faith alone—a doctrine also attested to by some medieval theologians and ancient fathers—Rome reacted by canonizing one trend in preference to all the others. What had previously been permitted (justification by faith and works), now became required. What had previously been permitted also (justification by faith alone), now became forbidden. In condemning the Protestant Reformation, the Council of Trent condemned part of its own catholic tradition."

Source: Jaroslav Pelikan, The Riddle of Roman Catholicism (New York: Abingdon Press, 1959), pp. 51-52.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Michuta, Luther, and Maccabees

Updated 10:00 p.m.
Catholic apologist Gary Michuta has been posting on the Catholic Answers message boards. He’s been mentioning his new book due out this month (I pre-ordered my copy on Monday), “Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger: The Untold Story Of The Lost Books Of The Protestant Bible.” Here’s a sneak preview:

"I probably shouldn't do this because it is one of several bombshells in my book, but I'll give you a little preview. Luther, apparently, shouldn't be counted as just one of several confused theologians of his era. If the Protestant scholar H. H. Howarth is correct (and I've read a lot of his works and he is always very accurate), Luther originally held the Deuterocanon to be canonical. In 1517, in a debate with the head censor of Rome, Luther claimed that he would only be persuaded in argument by the "canonical Scripture." In this same debate, Luther quotes both Sirach and Tobit against his opponent. One year later, in the Second Disputation at Leipzig, the Catholic Eck cornered Luther with a citation from Second Maccabees. Luther rejected Maccabees from the canon, but added the interesting concession that Maccabees "has weight with the faithful, but it won't avail against the obstinate." A phrase BTW that I have on my Deuterocanon page that has raised the ire of a certain anti-Catholic. I give the blow-by-blow of the Disputation in my book."

First, Gary says, "In 1517, in a debate with the head censor of Rome, Luther claimed that he would only be persuaded in argument by the "canonical Scripture." In this same debate, Luther quotes both Sirach and Tobit against his opponent. " Af far as I know, Luther did not debate the head censor of Rome in 1517. I think Gary means Luther's discussion or "interview" with Cardinal Cajetan in October 12-14, 1518. It was not a "debate". Luther was asked to recant, and angered Cajetan by wanting to discuss the matter. July 4-14, 1519, Luther particiated in an actual debate with John Eck in Leipzig. In fact, Gary corrects his mistake here.
Second, Gary says that Luther rejected Maccabees from the canon, yet the book "has weight with the faithful, but it won't avail against the obstinate." I'm very curious to see the context of this quote, and look forward to Gary's book.
Third, I managed to track down the names of some source documents of Howarth that I think Gary may be using, and I’ll probably have some of them within the week:
H. H. Howarth, "The Origin And Authority Of The Biblical Canon In The Anglican Church", Journal Of Theological Studies, 1906, Issue VIII, Volume XXIX, pp. 1–40

H. H. Howarth, "The Origin And Authority Of The Biblical Canon According To The Continental Reformers: I. Luther And Karlstadt", Journal Of Theological Studies, 1907, Issue VIII, Volume XXXI, pp. 321–365

H. H. Howarth, "The Origin And Authority Of The Biblical Canon According To The Continental Reformers: II. Luther, Zwingli, Lefèvre, And Calvin", Journal Of Theological Studies, 1908, Issue IX, Volume XXXIV, pp. 188–230

H. H. Howarth, "The Canon Of The Bible Among The Later Reformers", Journal Of Theological Studies, 1909, Issue X, Volume XXXVIII, pp. 183–232
Fourth, I think that’s me being described in the last sentence of Gary's sneak preview. I think the word “ire” might be a bit of poetic overkill. I am not angry that Gary cited Luther saying, “Maccabees has weight with the faithful, but it won't avail against the obstinate.” I simply wanted a reference. Even if Gary was quoting an older blog entry I did, even there I’m not angry, just looking for some more information. In fact, if you read this older entry, you'll see why the quote caught my attention.

I await Michuta’s book. As I’ve mentioned many times, I’m not interested in making Luther anything other than what he was. If Michuta’s work shows Luther held the canonicty of Second Maccabees, and then later rejected it, fine. Big deal. If though, Michuta simply cites Howarth, it will make me suspect he never read the primary document, in which case, I’ll have to do the work of looking up the reference and tracking it down. I don’t know too much about Gary, other than seeing him at the apocrypha debate he did against Dr. White a few years ago. I’ve never read a book by him, so I await to see how he presents his information. I hope for the best.

Martin Luther on the Church Fathers #1


“I cannot tolerate their [read: Catholic apologists] slandering and blaspheming Scripture and the holy fathers. They accuse Scripture of being obscure, although all the fathers attribute the brightest light to it and draw from it, as David says in Psalm 119[:105], “Your word is my light.” Again, they attribute to the fathers the light with which to illumine Scripture, even though all the fathers confess their own obscurity and only illumine Scripture with Scripture. That is the real art, to gather Scripture correctly. The father who can do this best is the best father. One should read the books of all the fathers with caution, not believing them but rather watching out whether they also cite clear passages and illumine Scripture with clear Scripture. How could they have overcome the heretics if they had fought with their own glosses? They would have been regarded as fools and senseless people. But since they cited such clear passages, which did not need glosses, that all reason was captivated by them, the evil spirit himself, along with all the heresies, had to retreat before them.” [LW 39:164]

“Indeed, the writings of all the holy fathers should be read only for a time so that through them we may be led into the Scriptures. As it is, however, we only read them these days to avoid going any further and getting into the Bible. We are like men who read the sign posts and never travel the road they indicate. Our dear fathers wanted to lead us to the Scriptures by their writings, but we use their works to get away from the Scriptures. Nevertheless, the Scripture alone is our vineyard in which we must all labor and toil.” [LW 44:205]

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Banned From Envoy Forums








I appear to be kicked off Patrick Madrid's Envoy forums. I think "speak your mind" might not be the best way for Patrick to advertise. Funny, I don't think I've ever been kicked off a forum before.

The entirety of the two posts which got me booted was a link to an article on Nicea which reviewed an Envoy article (which was deleted), and then a follow up post in which I said something like, "oh well, so much for that." I know what you're thinking, I had it coming for doing such an awful thing. Had I just simply been insulting like Art Sippo and Crimson Catholic, perhaps I would still be speaking my mind.

For the details, check this link:
Go Ahead, Speak Your Mind on Envoy, Just Don't Link to aomin.org

Luther & Esther (Part 2)

previous entry: Luther and Esther (Part 1)

I noted to a Catholic apologist that Luther’s Bible and Prefaces tend to be his definitive statement as to how he felt about which books were canonical. Missing are comments about the non-canonicity of Esther. Found is Esther among the canonical books in his translation of the Bible. The question is: how does this fact fit into this Romanist's opinion that Luther rejected the canonicity of Esther? Some of you may enjoy reading his answer word for word. If so, please see his blog entry. For the rest of you, I sifted through his blog entry, and tried to find the main thrust of his answer to this question. None of his other points have any interest to me.

I summarized his response in 3 points:

1. Luther was subjective in regard to the canon
Luther had a subjective view of the canon. Luther does not accept the canon as an extra-biblical infallible fact defined by an infallible church. He relies on his own opinion to establish the canon. Luther’s opinion on the canonicity of Hebrews and Revelation fluctuated, why couldn’t the same be said of his view of Esther?

2. Luther accepted the received tradition to avoid disputes
Sometimes Luther accepts the received tradition of the church to avoid time-wasting disputes. Therefore, Luther kept a non-canonical book (Esther) in the canonical section of his Bible for such a reason.

3. The evidence supports Luther’s lifelong commitment to the non-canonicity of Esther
The evidence of Luther’s writings suggests he held a lifelong commitment to the non-canonicity of Esther. In Bondage of the Will, Luther says Esther has less basis than any other apocryphal book to be regarded as canonical. In an older version of the Table Talk, Luther says Esther is at least as bad as 2 Maccabees, this proves Esther is non-canonical as well.


Evaluation
1. Luther was subjective in regard to the canon

This point allows for Luther to at least have held to the canonicity of Esther and then changed his mind, or vice versa, or even repeatedly changing throughout his life. I would not have a problem with the logic of this answer. In applying this answer to Luther’s Bible and his Prefaces, it would be possible that Luther included Esther as canonical, and later changed his mind. This Romanist really isn't arguing this, he seems to simply raise it as a possibility. Thus, i'm granting him his hypothetical point.

As a point of tedium, in his response the Romanist cites Paul Althaus as holding Luther was subjective on the canon, particularly page 336 of The Theology of Martin Luther. Had the Romanist continued reading Althaus, the next few sentences say: “Roman Catholic theology has up until the present day, frequently condemned Luther’s method of approaching and validating the authority of Scripture as subjective and arbitrary. But Luther is as far from heaven is from the earth in determining the center of Scripture by himself and self-confidently presenting his theology as this center” [Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther, 336 – 337]. By “center of the Scripture” Althaus is referring to that which determined canonicity for Luther. Of course, the Romanist can list numerous scholars who hold Luther was subjective. That’s not the point. The point I’m making is Althaus cannot be lumped in with them, based on the quote I have provided. Thus, I think this is a clear misuse of Althaus by this Romanist.

2. Luther accepted the received tradition on the canon to avoid a dispute
In regard to his writing against Erasmus in Bondage of the Will, this is indeed the case. When compiling his Bible though, Luther made a strong effort to sort out the canonical material from the non-canonical material in both the Old and New Testaments. Thus, his method was to sort the books according to his own theological purpose combined with the testimony of church history. Perhaps this Romanist could argue Luther made a mistake, or simply didn’t care, or was simply accepting a tradition to avoid a dispute. This would be an argument from silence, and to my knowledge, it would be his argument only. I have not read any scholar using it. Simply because it’s his own personal theory does not mean it’s wrong. It would mean though, a case would need to be presented that included evidence from Luther’s Bible and Prefaces substantiating this claim.

The Romanist cites a quote I used from Jaroslav Pelikan about Luther’s “canon within a canon”. The citation should have been given a fuller context (which I provided in the paper he cited). Pelikan begins the quote by saying, “[Luther] did not pretend that the church could undertake the construction of the canon anew, or that it could function with a canon open at both ends. Never, even at the height of his criticism of James, did he drop it from his editions of the Bible, any more than he dropped the Old Testament Apocrypha.” True, Luther retained the Old Testament Apocrypha in his Bible, but he made sure to place these books in a clearly defined section at the end of the Old Testament. Recall, Esther was included with canonical books. The received tradition was all of the books purported to be Scripture in the 16th Century. Luther though made very specific points and arguments to substantiate what the canon within the canon was. Those books falling outside of the true canonical material were regulated to the back of both Testaments.


3. The evidence supports Luther’s lifelong commitment to the non-canonicity of Esther
The evidence available in English on this subject is sparse. In the standard English set of Luther’s Works, only the Bondage of the Will Esther quote addresses the canonicity of the book. The comment would be around the time Luther translated Esther for his Bible. Perhaps supporting point 2? Or perhaps supporting point 1? Or both? Or neither? I don’t know.

I noted previously, Roger Beckwith (author of 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).” I have ordered this book, and look forward to reading a full treatment of this topic, using evidence probably not available in English. The book should arrive next week.

In regard to the Tabletalk quote, note it is not contained in the more recent standardized edition. This doesn’t mean Luther didn’t say it, it does mean though the compilers left it out for reasons unknown to us. They give general reasons for the material included and not included. Obviously, unreliable Tabletalk’s from earlier versions were left out. I have no way of knowing why this entry was left out- so it doesn’t do any good to speculate as to it being reliable or not. That being said, I have often made the point that the Table talk cannot be used to dictate Luther’s opinion, as it is not an official writing of Luther’s. It can provide perspective on an already established fact, but it itself cannot establish Luther’s opinion. I also don’t recall if the entry in question was ever dated. I simply don’t remember. If the Romanist has a date for this entry, it could be an interesting fact in evaluating the evidence.

Conclusion
I think this Romanist's point #1 can be valid in regard to Luther’s Bible and prefaces. It is indeed possible his opinion fluctuated, even if Esther was considered at first canonical, and then later rejected. To my knowledge, this did not happen to any of the books in Luther’s Bible. That is, I know of no book he considered canonical, and then later went on to doubt as being canonical. But it could be the case. Is it likely? I don’t think so, because there is no evidence of him ever doing this. Could it be Luther was simply using the apocrypha against Erasmus in Bondage of the Will? Indeed, it could. Could it be Luther woke up every day with a different view of Esther? Indeed it could. When one bases an opinion on Luther’s subjectivity, anything is possible.

Point #2 is the obstacle for this Romanist. He needs to explain why Luther did not place Esther with the other apocryphal writings. It doesn’t help to suggest Luther accepted the received tradition on Esther to avoid disputes. If there is one thing Luther didn’t care about, it was avoiding disputes. He was very accurate in how he wanted his Bible laid out. It doesn’t follow that the placement of Esther provoked him to avoid a dispute, as Esther is not nearly as important for Luther as the books of the New Testament and many of the Old Testament books. Also, there was already a dispute on Esther, so whatever Luther did, would not have been so shocking. Also note, the dispute in Bondage of the Will about the validity of Biblical books would have indeed sidetracked the discussion with Erasmus. In the subject of the canon, Luther hit this head on in his Prefaces. It would not have been a sidetrack to the topic.

Point #3 really rests on one citation, the Bondage of the Will quote. The Table Talk is interesting, but it’s a Table Talk. It is evidence, but evidence that will always have more than an element of doubt, because of reasons I noted above, and also for the reason that brought about this entire discussion: a mis-citation that I brought back to the light, buried in books from the 1800’s. I await my book from Bardtke for more evidence (hopefully) on this subject. I have no more to say on this topic until I receive this book (and I mean it).

Update: Ok, I tried to take this Romanist seriously and I got back exactly what I expected. Once again, he has given me an entire response filled with mocking and silliness, mixed in with attempts at fruitful dialog. Ok, back to not taking him seriously. That was a nice exercise in fultility. It reaffirms exactly what I decided a few years ago.


Update 4/08: Well, he has edited his response, after one his "fans" said:


"Please find below some highlighted portions of your discussion with Mr Swan, that if painlessly excised, would strengthen your argument by not denigrating your antagonist and removing from him any excuse about "mocking and silliness". I know it is very hard to avoid them, but sometimes an impartial "charity editor" on tone and connotation is important."


And then he posted these "highlights from his response:

-we get the usual tired, boring recourse
-(almost surrealistically)(again, time-tested textbook anti-Catholic methodology).
-pitifully weak
-mercilessly, absurdly butchering
-muddleheadedness and incomprehension here, in light of the numerous arguments I presented, boggle the imagination.
-(where does Jimbo think I got the idea, after all?; I didn't pull it out of a hat):Jimbo"

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Postcards From Mordor


I always try to keep up with my few fans - those that drop me little helpful reviews of something I've written. Here's two recent goodies:

Team Apologian


Here are my last few entries for Team Apologian:

And They All Lived Happily Ever After?- A short review of the recent controversy surrounding Catholic apologist Robert Sungenis (3/26/07)

Alister McGrath, Justification, and Theological Novums- A quick look at Alister Mcgrath's comment on the Bible Answer Man show on justification (3/22/07)

Interpreter of Gnostic Texts: Simcha Jacobovici- The author of The Jesus Tomb proves he has trouble reading the Gospel of Thomas (3/19/07)

The TQ Fan Club Speaks- Kevin Johnson liked one of my articles, go figure (3/15/07)

Gnostic Sources: The New Complete Version of Biblical Studies- A look at the picture of Jesus put forth by The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, a gnostic writing (3/15/07)

Parallel Methodology: The Tomb of Jesus and Roman Catholic Apologetics-The similarities of methodology put forth by the Jesus Tomb directors and Catholic apologetics (3/14/07)


Also noteworthy:

Alan Kurschner: 3 Steps to Reviewing and Improving NT Greek Grammar and Vocabulary

Jeff Downs: Counterfeit Christianity: The Basics

Colin Smith:

Predestination in Islam: The Doctrine Stated

Predestination in Islam: Dr. Norman Geisler's Critique

Predestination in Islam: A Reformed Critique

Witnessing to Muslims--an Important Point to Remember

Teacher Fired for Encouraging Critical Thinking


Monday, March 26, 2007

Luther & Esther Revisited

See my thorough refutation”- Romanist apologist

Refute what? Stop being silly. To refute this would be to prove Luther meant Esther and not Esdras in this comment. I don't think even you would be foolish enough to attempt this, but you never know. Good luck slaying windmills.”- JS

I have waded through some of a Romanist's recent Swan-is-an-idiot, Luther hated Esther extravaganza. He holds I do not succeed in proving Luther didn't denigrate and even deny the canonicity of the book of Esther.

In my on-going evaluation of Luther’s sparse comments on Esther, I said at one point: “the apocryphal books (including Esther) are being compared to Proverbs and the Song of Solomon.” Obviously, such a comment infers a denigration toward the book of Esther by Luther. For a Biblical book to be considered an apocryphal book is a denigration.

Say what you will about Luther’s degrading comments toward Esther, there is one piece of evidence that I would ask the Romanist to interpret. Luther translated Esther with the canonical books. He did so in his second installment of Old Testament translations which appeared in 1524, under the title Das ander Teyl des Alten Testaments. The books included spanned from Joshua to Esther. During the years 1531 to 1534 apocryphal books were translated by Luther, including the apocryphal additions to Esther. In his completed Bible, Esther is found among the canonical books, not the apocryphal books.

The editors of Luther’s Works explain, “In keeping with early Christian tradition, Luther also included the Apocrypha of the Old Testament. Sorting them out of the canonical books, he appended them at the end of the Old Testament with the caption, ‘These books are not held equal to the Scriptures, but are useful and good to read.’”

I would simply ask this Romanist to consider this information as he seeks to rid the world of my poor research. It would be interesting to see how he factors this information in. Luther’s Bible and Prefaces tend to be his definitive statement as to how he felt about which books were canonical. Missing are comments about the non-canonicity of Esther. Found is Esther among the canonical books.

As to Luther making denigrating comments, one can find Luther making negative comments about canonical books. I have never denied it. For instance, of Leviticus he said, “A tiresome book that is read by very few.” That Luther makes a negative comment about a canonical book does not mean he didn’t think it was canonical.

The Romanist should make up his mind. He notes, “James "Dave got it wrong again" Swan would do better picking through exotic instruments rather than eccentric readings of Luther texts.” Yet, he then notes of my research into Luther Esther/Esdras quote:

I accept this as a legitimate gripe, and the "Esdras" version of this particular quote. Mea culpa on behalf of all those (including yours truly) who have wrongly used this false citation in the past or present, and kudos to James for correcting the error. Falsehood of any sort (whether inadvertant [sic] or not) does no one any good.”

This is not the first time this Romanist has been corrected by my Luther research. I realize it must be embarrassing for him, as he seeks to build his Catholic apologetic empire, and also craves to be seen as a legitimate quotable source on Luther. It is indeed sad when a beggar has to correct a glory theologian. He is more of a shoot first, do the research on Luther later type of writer. He claims to have done in-depth Luther research when he was converting to the Roman Catholic Church. Perhaps if he had really done in-depth research back then, he wouldn’t have to explain why he freely quoted Patrick O’Hare’s Facts About Luther, and why he has to apologize now for mis-quoting Luther.

I have said more than once my blog is my workshop- I work through material I read. I interact with texts, trying to determine truth and error. That’s why many of my conclusions have a “tentative” ring. It’s not my intention to make Luther anything than what he was. Remember: I am not a Lutheran. This little exercise with Luther’s view of Esther was just that- trying to work with all the information available.

My evaluation of Luther’s view of Esther is not complete. I actually look into it off and on, time allowing. The evidence of Luther’s view on this book is not clear-cut. I could present evidence from Luther’s writings in which he favorably quotes it. In other words, it is treated as canonical Scripture. On the other hand, are the negative comments from Luther that have already been put forth on this blog. This Romanist can shoot first and then back peddle. I will continue reading and working through texts, searching for sources, and learning as I do so.

An Ancient Voice For The Day #8

Chrysostom (349-407):

"And what saith he? “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly”; or rather not this way alone, but another also. For I indeed said that we ought to reckon up those who have suffered things more terrible, and those who have undergone sufferings more grievous than ours, and to give thanks that such have not fallen to our lot; but what saith he? “Let the word of Christ dwell in you”; that is, the teaching, the doctrines, the exhortation, wherein He says, that the present life is nothing, nor yet its good things. If we know this, we shall yield to no hardships whatever. (Matthew 6:25, etc.) “Let it dwell in you,” he saith, “richly,” not simply dwell, but with great abundance. Hearken ye, as many as are worldly, and have the charge of wife and children; how to you too he commits especially the reading of the Scriptures and that not to be done lightly, nor in any sort of way, but with much earnestness."

Source: NPNF1: Vol. XIII, Homilies on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Colossians, Homily 9.


For an excellent compilation of quotes of the Church fathers teaching on the primacy, sufficiency and ultimate authority of Scripture, get a copy of Holy Scripture:The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith Vol III- The Writings of the Church Fathers Affirming the Reformation Principle of Sola Scriptura.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Postcards From Mordor


I always try to keep up with my few fans - those that drop me little helpful reviews of something i've written. Here's a recent batch of goodies-
Kevin Johnson: Play Time is Over

Luther: “Job . . . is merely the argument of a fable…”

"Job spoke not as it stands written in his book, but only had such thoughts. It is merely the argument of a fable. It is probably that Solomon wrote and made this book"

Source: Patrick O'Hare, The Facts About Luther, 202.

The crucial polemic against Luther at this point seems to be the word, “fable.” I was unable to locate the entirety of this quote as O’Hare cites it in the 55 volume English edition of Luther’s Works. One secondary source quoting from Luther’s Works in German says, “Undoubtedly the book of Job was related by a pious scholar, much as Virgil made Aeneas act and speak, as one composes a drama.” The author then quotes Luther as saying,

" ‘It is almost like an Argumentum Fabulae…[Job] speaks and disputes with another as he feels and as he thinks…The Hebrew poet and master of this book, whoever he may be [it was not Job who wrote it], himself experiences such temptations and tribulation…’."

If O’Hare utilized the quote as transcribed above, he left out the key word “like,” which would be the key word in understanding Luther’s thought. On the other hand, O’Hare may also be quoting from an early printing of the Table Talk:

Job didn’t speak the way it is written [in his book], but he thought those things. One doesn’t speak that way under temptation. Nevertheless, the things reported actually happened. They are like the plot of a story which a writer, like Terence,  adopts and to which he adds characters and circumstances. The author wished to paint a picture of patience. It’s possible that Solomon himself wrote this book, for the style is not very different from his.  At the time of Solomon the story which he undertook to write was old and well known. It was as if I today were to take up the stories of Joseph or Rebekah. The Hebrew poet, whoever he was, saw and wrote about those temptations, as Vergil described Aeneas, led him through all the seas and resting places, and made him a statesman and soldier. Whoever wrote Job, it appears that he was a great theologian.”

One should use caution when extracting Luther’s theological opinions from the Tabletalk, for the simple reason that Luther did not write the Tabletalk. Caution should also be used particularly with the earlier versions of the Tabletalk. Note that Luther does not consider Job to be a “fable.” In all the instances I checked in which Luther spoke of Job, he referred to him as a historical figure and treated the events that transpired in his life as actually occurring.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Luther: "Ecclesiastes ought to have been more complete. There is too much incoherent matter in it..."

“The book entitled ‘Ecclesiastes’ought to have been more complete. There is too much incoherent matter in it. It has neither boots nor spurs; but rides only in socks, as I myself did when an inmate of the cloister. Solomon did not, therefore write this book, which was made in the days of the Maccabees of Sirach. It is like a Talmud, complied of many books, perhaps in Egypt at the desire of King Evergetes.”

Source: Martin Luther as cited by Patrick O’Hare, The Facts About Luther, 202.

This is a frequent example given of Luther’s degrading of the Bible. I wrote about this quote once before in my paper, Luther’s View of the Canon of Scripture. Upon further investigation, this quote seems to be a mis-citation from the person who wrote down this Table Talk comment. It is more likely Luther said “Ecclesiasticus” and not “Ecclesiastes.”Commenting on this passage, Sir William Hamilton notes:

"I now doubt not that Luther used the word Ecclesiasticus, which the reporter heard as Ecclesiastes, appending afterward the translation of The Preacher; for the quotation is from the Table Talk. I think no one will dispute this who compares, inter alia, Luther's " Preface to the Book of Jesus Sirach," to be found, as all the others, in Walch's edition of his works, (xiv. 91.)"

Source: Sir William Hamilton Discussions on Philosophy and Literature (Michigan: Harper & brothers, publishers, 1861), 492-493

Following the suggestion of Hamilton, let’s take a look at Luther’s Preface to the Book of Jesus Sirach:

Since [the translator] admits in the prologue that he came to Egypt in the reign of King Euergetes and that he there completed this book (which his grandfather had originally begun), it seems to us that he has compiled the best from as many books as he could find. After all, there was a valuable library in Egypt which had been founded by the father of Euergetes, King Philadelphus. Moreover in those days both books and learned men were held in high esteem; and, having come from all over, especially from Greece, they constituted one great school of learning [in Alexandria]. There, too, the Jews had built a temple and instituted divine worship.

That the book must be a compilation is suggested also by the fact that in it one part is not fitted neatly to the next, as in the work of a single author. Instead it draws on many books and authors and mixes them together, much as a bee sucks juices out of all sorts of flowers and mixes them. Moreover, as one may deduce from Philo, it appears that Jesus Sirach was descended from the royal line of David, and was either a nephew or grandson of Amos Sirach, the foremost prince in the house of Judah, living some two centuries before the birth of Christ, about the time of the Maccabees
.” [LW 35: 348]

Well, that settles that. Hamilton was right. Now, Luther clearly valued Ecclesiastes. One can read Luther’s extensive exposition of it in LW 15 in which he says, “To reiterate, the point and purpose of this book is to instruct us, so that with thanksgiving we may use the things that are present and the creatures of God that are generously given to us and conferred upon us by the blessing of God.”Luther finds this book so important that it “…deserves to be in everyone’s hands and to be familiar to everyone, especially to government officials because of its graphic and unique description of the administration of human affairs both private and public…”

In regards to authorship, Luther did find Solomon to be its author, but not its writer. In Luther’s Preface To Ecclesiastes he says:

Now this book was certainly not written or set down by King Solomon with his own hand. Instead scholars put together what others had heard from Solomon’s lips, as they themselves admit at the end of the book where they say, “These words of the wise are like goads and nails, fixed by the masters of the congregation and given by one shepherd” [Eccles. 12:11]. That is to say, certain persons selected by the kings and the people were at that time appointed to fix and arrange this and other books that were handed down by Solomon, the one shepherd. They did this so that not everyone would have to be making books as he pleased, as they also lament in that same place that “of the making of books there is no end” [Eccles. 12:12]; they forbid the acceptance of others. These men here call themselves “masters of the congregation” [Eccles. 12:11], and books had to be accepted and approved at their hands and by their office. Of course the Jewish people had an external government that was instituted by God, which is why such a thing as this could be done surely and properly. In like manner too, the book of the Proverbs of Solomon has been put together by others, with the teaching and sayings of some wise men added at the end. The Song of Solomon too has the appearance of a book compiled by others out of things received from the lips of Solomon. For this reason these books have no particular order either, but one thing is mixed with another. This must be the character of such books, since they did not hear it all from him at one time but at different times.”

Luther: "The book of Esther I toss into the Elbe"....Revisited

This oft-quoted saying from Luther finds its way onto numerous anti-Reformation web pages:

“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 quote is derived from one of the versions of John Aurifaber’s version of the Table Talk. I was going through an old biography of Luther and they confirmed my previous suspicion, that the quote is a mis-citation:

"Soon after the publication of this article, I became aware , that Esther was here a mistake for Esdras; and this by the verse quoted. The error stands in all Aurifaber's editions of the Tabletalk; his text is taken by Walch, and from Walch I translated."
[Source: Thomas Carlyle, Sir William Hamilton, Life of Martin Luther, (Michigan: American Book Exchange), 242].

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Luther, Maccabees, and Purgatory

Recently on the Catholic Answers boards, apologist Gary Michuta commented:

"2 Maccabees 12 teaches that those who die in godliness benefit from prayer and sacrifices. Luther was forced to reject (or down-grade) the authority of Maccabees because its meaning unmistakably affirmed Purgatory and all that goes along with it."

I thought it would be interesting to read Luther on this subject:

"But their use of the passage in II Macc. 12[:43], which tells how Judas Maceabeus sent money to Jerusalem for prayers to be offered for those who fell in battle, proves nothing, for that book is not among the books of Holy Scripture, and, as St. Jerome says, it is not found in a Hebrew version, the language in which all the books of the Old Testament are written. In other respects, too, this book deserves little authority, for it contradicts the first Book of Maccabees in its description of King Antiochus, and contains many other fables which destroy its credibility. But even were the book authoritative, it would still be necessary in the case of so important an article that at least one passage out of the chief books [of the Bible] should support it, in order that every word might be established through the mouth of two or three witnesses. It must give rise to suspicion that in order to substantiate this doctrine no more than one passage could be discovered in the entire Bible; moreover this passage is in the least important and most despised book. Especially since so much depends on this doctrine which is so important that, indeed, the papacy and the whole hierarchy are all but built upon it, and derive all their wealth and honor from it. Surely, the majority of the priests would starve to death if there were no purgatory. Well, they should not offer such vague and feeble grounds for our faith!"

Source: LW 32:96

Here's Luther's synopsis of 2 Maccabees. Note his reasoning for rejecting the book, and then compare it with Michuta's understanding of Luther:

Preface to the Second Book of Maccabees (1534)

This book is called, and is supposed to be, the second book of Maccabees, as the title indicates. Yet this cannot be true, because it reports several incidents that happened before those reported in the first book, and it does not proceed any further than Judas Maccabaeus, that is, chapter 7 of the first book. It would be better to call this the first instead of the second book, unless one were to call it simply a second book and not the second book of Maccabees—another or different, certainly, but not second. But we include it anyway, for the sake of the good story of the seven Maccabean martyrs and their mother, and other things as well.

It appears, however, that the book has no single author, but was pieced together out of many books. It also presents a knotty problem in chapter 14[:41–46] where Razis commits suicide, something which also troubles St. Augustine and the ancient fathers. Such an example is good for nothing and should not be praised, even though it may be tolerated and perhaps explained. So also in chapter 1 this book describes the death of Antiochus quite differently than does First Maccabees [6:1–16].

To sum up: just as it is proper for the first book to be included among the sacred Scriptures*, so it is proper that this second book should be thrown out, even though it contains some good things. However the whole thing is left and referred to the pious reader to judge and to decide.

Source: LW 35:352-353


*- Luther comented on 1 Maccabees, "This is another book not to be found in the Hebrew Bible. Yet its words and speech adhere to the same style as the other books of sacred Scripture. This book would not have been unworthy of a place among them, because it is very necessary and helpful for an understanding of chapter 11 of the prophet Daniel."

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Alister McGrath on the Bible Answer Man


Here a quick audio snippet of Alister McGrath on the Bible Answer Man show discussing his view of justification:

Alister McGrath on the Bible Answer Man show
Why I care :
Alister McGrath on Augustine and Justification- McGrath documents that Augustine misunderstood the biblical term “justification” and thus set the tone for the understanding of the Roman Catholic Church.
Response on McGrath’s Book Iustitia Dei- A look at Catholic usage of McGrath’s book on Justification. A response to the Catholic attempt to show that that the protestant understanding of justification was unknown in church history previous to the Reformation.
The Alleged Roman Catholic Tradition of Justification- An entry showing that there was not “one” tradition of justification before the Council of Trent made its declaration. Also included is a review of Catholic layman Apolonio Latar’s use of Alister McGrath’s book on Justification.
Fr Alvin Kimel "The Pontificator" Misses The Point- Fr Alvin Kimel shows he did not grasp my presentation of McGrath’s material.

Rome Sweet Home

"In fact, I discovered that nowhere did Saint Paul ever teach that we were justified by faith alone! Sola fide was unscriptural!"
-Catholic apologist Scott Hahn (page 31)


John Mark sent me a copy of Scott Hahn’s Rome Sweet Home. The book documents Hahn’s conversion to Roman Catholicism. I will probably be writing an entry for Team Apologian on a few points made in the book. In the meantime, here is a link to an article by John Robbins:

The Lost Soul of Scott Hahn

Robbins is indeed polemical- and comes off as uncharitable toward Hahn’s conversion ( for instance, I would not have made the same accusations Robbins did in the first paragraph). As I’ve been reading through the book, Robbins does counter-balance the Hahn story. I may have not said things the same way Robbins does- but I would have made certain points that he made.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

My Bodhisattva Days...


Circa 1986!

Updates


I've been busy updating the blog putting labels at the bottom of each post. I'm not finished, but so far:

An Ancient Voice For The Day (7)Art Sippo (2)
Audio Clips (4)
Augustine (5)
Basic Apologetics (4)
Books (3)
Calvinism (20)
Canon Issues (5)
Catholic Answers (5)
Catholic Apologetics (30)
Catholic Conversion Issues (3)
Catholic Encyclopedia (1)
Early Church Fathers (10)
Envoy (2)
Eschatology (1)
Faith and Works (6)
Feminism (2)
Guest Blogs (7)
Hartmann Grisar (1)
Jesus Family Tomb (1)
John Calvin (17)
Justification (5)
Luther and the Canon (4)
Luther's Mariology (4)
Lutheranism (5)
Mariology (8)
Martin Luther (35)
Music (1)
News (3)Patrick O'Hare (9)
Personal Stuff (7)
Presuppositional Apologetics (1)
Quiz (4)
Reformation (4)
Roman Catholic Authority Issues (15)
Sacraments (1)
Scott Windsor (1)
Sola Scriptura (12)
Sovereignty (4)
Team Apologian (7)
The Facts About Luther (9)
Zwingli (2)

Monday, March 19, 2007

An Ancient Voice For The Day #7

Chrysostom (349-407):

"How is it not absurd to send children out to trades, and to school, and to do all you can for these objects, and yet, not to “bring them up in the chastening and admonition of the Lord”? And for this reason truly we are the first to reap the fruits, because we bring up our children to be insolent and profligate, disobedient, and mere vulgar fellows. Let us not then do this; no, let us listen to this blessed Apostle’s admonition. “Let us bring them up in the chastening and admonition of the Lord.” Let us give them a pattern. Let us make them from the earliest age apply themselves to the reading of the Scriptures. Alas, that so constantly as I repeat this, I am looked upon as trifling! Still, I shall not cease to do my duty."

Source: NPNF1: Vol. XIII, Homilies on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians, Homily 21.


For an excellent compilation of quotes of the Church fathers teaching on the primacy, sufficiency and ultimate authority of Scripture, get a copy of Holy Scripture:The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith Vol III- The Writings of the Church Fathers Affirming the Reformation Principle of Sola Scriptura.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

I’ve been doing some research on Clement of Alexandria, and I wanted to point out a link hosted by the Canadian Coptic Center:

The Deans of the School of Alexandria - St. Clement by Fr. Tadros Y Malaty
Some interesting quotes:

The Final Appeal is Scripture (Tadros Y Malaty):
"Although many scholars see that Clement is directly or indirectly, the cause of Hellenism in Christianity, they state that he is not another Minucius Felix or Boethius, whose writings give more evidence of pagan rather than Christian humanism. Commentators may call him Platonist or Neo-Platonic, Stoic or Aristotelian, but they must also call him an exegete of the Scriptures. Mondésert does not hesitate to say that his style is above all else Scriptural. There are copious quotations from Old and New Testaments, constant allusions and turns of thought too numerous to be noted. And for Clement, Scripture is the final appeal; when he says, as he often does: graphetai ('it is written'), he is invoking an authority from which he feels there is no appeal. The Alexandrian school may have stressed Christian philosophy, but it is a philosophy drawn from the pages of the Scriptures."
“St. Clement states that the Holy Scripture is the voice of God who works for man's goodness. It also, as interpreted by the Church, is the source of Christian teaching. St. Clement loved the Holy Scriptures, especially the book of Psalms, Proverbs, Wisdom, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, the sermon on the mount, Gospel of St. John, etc.”

Clement of Alexandria on interpretation
"I could adduce for you a myriad of Scriptures, of which not one letter shall pass away without being fulfilled; for the Mouth of the Lord, the Holy Spirit, has spoken these things.”
Clement of Alexandria on the analogy of faith (Scripture interprets Scripture):
"And if those also who follow heresies venture to avail themselves of the prophetic Scriptures, in the first place they will not make use of all the Scriptures, and then they will not quote them entire, nor as the body and texture of prophecy prescribe. But selecting ambiguous expressions, they wrest them to their own opinions, gathering a few expressions here and there, not looking to the sense, but making use in the mere words. For in almost all the quotations they make, you will find that they attend to the names alone while they alter the meanings, neither knowing as they affirm, nor using the quotations they adduce, according to their true nature. But the truth is not found by changing the meanings, for so people subvert all true teaching, but in the consideration of what perfectly belongs to and becomes the Sovereign God, and establishing each one of the points demonstrated in the Scriptures again from similar Scriptures. Neither then do they want to turn to the truth being ashamed to abandon the claims of self-love; nor are they able to manage their opinions by doing violence to the Scriptures."

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Killer Lutherans (Part Two)

A few days ago I posted a section of dialog with A Roman Catholic on Killer Lutherans from 2005. I usually hate blog posts or web pages in dialog form, but i'm trying to track down some of the many discussions i've been in over the years.

Here is another snippet:

GW: I will presume in good faith that Luther would have been "intolerant of BTK"

Yes, Luther had a high standard of moral order. A cursory reading of any good Luther biography would bear this out (I suggest Roland Bainton’s Here I Stand (New York: Mentor Books, 1950). For instance, Luther did not think highly of those who promoted societal chaos, like the Anabaptists. Luther also believed that God had given government civil authority over those who broke the law. Luther says,

“…God has established civil authority, to sit in judgment not only on life and
death but also on matters of minor importance. Thus magistrates are to punish
the disobedience of children, theft, adultery, perjury, in short, all sins which
are forbidden in the second table of the law… God has instituted civil authority
and placed the sword into its hand that license may be curbed, lest savagery and
other sins grow out of bounds
.”

Temporal government is ‘the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil’ (Rom.13:4). For since the world will not let itself be drawn by words so that general peace and harmony is sustained and wantonness prevented, severity must be used, and people must be kept from sin by force. If a thief will not quit his stealing, let him be hanged on the public gallows. Then one is protected against him. If a malicious scoundrel wants to harm everybody as he pleases and wants to beat and stab at the provocation of a word, let justice be meted out to him at the place of public execution. Then he will no longer disturb one’s peace; he will no longer beat or stab anybody. The executioner will nicely keep him from doing that.”

Thus, your “good faith” should rest in assurance. Luther would not have treated the crimes of BTK lightly. Luther worked very closely with the authorities (ah, too close at times). Indeed, Mr, Radar would have been executed, and Luther wouldn’t have had a problem with it.

GW: … some of Luther's quotes appear to suggest that the incongruence between BTK's profession of faith and his deeds would not affect his justification before God. That's what I'm trying to investigate.

A basic understanding of Luther’s concepts of law/gospel, the two kingdoms, the two kinds of righteousness, faith and justification are crucial to your endeavor. Perhaps spending some “off line” time at a good college library researching these aspects of Luther’s theology would help your investigation. For instance, I spend a lot of time reading books by Roman Catholics, simply because I want to know why they believe what they believe from their perspective. To understand Luther, you have to be willing to want to understand him from his perspective.

GW: …Now, you may judge that Rader's words were not "the words of a Christian who is saved by faith alone," but our source is merely a short newspaper excerpt.

Nothing in your original post from Radar suggested he was a Christian. Recall what you offered from Radar: “I expect to heal and have light and then, hopefully, someday, God will accept me.” These words by Radar betray a complete misunderstanding of justification by faith alone. One does not need to “heal and have light” before being accepted by God. One is accepted by God because Christ has bore the entirety of their sins, and they are completely justified by placing their faith in Christ’s work. They stand, not healed, but spiritually reborn in the light. This is quite different then what Radar has said in the quote you provided.

GW: What we do know is that Rader is a life-long Lutheran and that he professes to be a Christian.

Simply because one belongs to a visible church does not mean that same person belongs to the invisible church. This distinction was taught by Luther, Calvin, as well as Augustine. Augustine held the invisible church is the true and full number of the elect (there are some who are elect that are never Catholic, and there are some Catholics that are not elect). He argues the true Christian can be found inside and outside the true church, but the elect are to be found substantially within the church. Within the visible church though are those who are not Christian. I would place BTK’s Lutheran church membership in this category.

GW: That being the case, I presume that Rader believes himself to be "saved by faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone." You may judge that Rader is not a member of the Church (because of his deeds?), but we should accept based on his profession that he *believes* himself to be a Christian--and we know that he believes this within the Lutheran tradition/sect.

I meet many people who are members of churches who are clueless about the gospel. I meet many folks who rely on their works, rather than Christ’s work. Simply because one claims to have faith doesn’t mean they have saving faith. For instance, James describes a real saving faith is a living faith. If no works are found in a person, chances are, that faith is a dead faith (c.f.James 2:17). James then describes a true example of dead faith: the faith of a demon. A demon has faith that God exists, that Christ rose from the dead- I would dare say a demon knows theology better than you or I. But is the faith of this demon a saving faith? Absolutely not.

GW: If Rader confesses his sins with true contrition of heart, his sins will be imputed to Christ and he will be accepted by God. If Rader does NOT repent/confess these sins with true contrition, he will be rejected by God. Men have to confess their sins on an ongoing basis in order to be "forgiven" of them and "cleansed from all unrighteousness" (1 Jn 1:9).

I am a Protestant, and this is not Protestant theology. It is true that Christians are to confess their sins, and indeed God will “purify us from all unrighteousness.” As Christians grow in sanctification, Christ works in our lives to reveal our sin and transform us into his image. 1 John 1:9 describes sanctification, not justification.

Recall Luther: If one is really to be honest about one’s sins, one should spend countless hours confessing them. And then about a minute after one is done, a new sin will occur. Read 1 John 1:8- “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” Read 1 John 1:10- “If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” See also Paul’s daily struggle with sin in Romans 7.


GW: Luther, in his "rhetorical flights," was prone to say things that contradict scripture. The admonition to "sin boldly" knowing that "No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day" is just plain bad theology and practice. You never admonish a person to sin boldly, and if committing one murder is wicked in God's eyes, committing 1000 murders is even worse.

Your opinion, not fact. Was prone? You’ve offered only one or two quotes from Luther’s written output (which was thousands upon thousands of pages- Collected works span 60+ volumes in German, 50+ volumes in English). The job of a reader is to learn to read authors in their contexts, and to be particularly aware of identifying such things like hyperbole. If you like analytical writing, stay away from Luther. Read Aquinas. Read Calvin. I actually glean much insight from Luther’s “sin boldly” comment, because I’ve taken the time to understand Luther.

GW: Sins are forgiven when one confesses and forsakes them (1 Jn 1:9). We're not Universalists here--there is no automatic forgiveness apart from repentance. So, if a professing Christian commits a murder, he *must* confess that sin with true contrition to be "cleansed from all the unrighteousness" accrued in the act of the sin (1 Jn 1:9). And if such a man then repeats the murder 999 more times, it shows that the prior repentance was not genuine at all. Therefore, such a man is not at all yet clean of his unrighteousness before God (and he has heaped on ever more unrighteousness with an additional 999 murders).

Luther admits that works *must* be present for "faith" to be "living" (that agrees with Catholic teaching), but then in the same breath Luther somehow says we are not saved by "works" (that's a contradiction).

Your comments reflect a misunderstanding of justification and sanctification. The context of 1 John 1 is not justification, but rather sanctifaction. Again you are taking a statement from Luther out of context, analyzing it in a way it was not intended. Luther would agree with you that a mass murderer who committed 1000 murders while claiming to be a Christian is not a Christian. There is nothing internally inconsistent with the quote from Luther on faith and works. Luther is describing saving faith, as opposed to dead faith. See James 2.

Protestants believe in total salvation by works…..the work of Christ who fulfilled the law in perfection. This work of Christ is imputed to me. I am saved by placing my faith in Christ and his work, totally. On the other hand, the gift of faith that has been given to me by God (Eph 2:8-9) is a living faith, that shows itself by works. None of those works I do contribute to my justification, at all. This is not Catholic teaching, I’m sure.

GW: If Christ taking away the sin of the world means that Christ takes away our *sinfulness* as St. John taught (1 Jn 3:5-7), then Luther's words about "even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day" is a contradiction. If Christ has taken away one's sins, one doesn't commit fornication and murder at all, much less a thousand times a day (2 Tim 2:19; Eph 5:3-5; 1 John 1:6, 2:3-11, 2:29, 3:5-12, 3:15, 4:8, 5:18.). So even if this was just a "rhetorical flight" by Luther, it is still poorly stated at best and bad theology at worst.

You left out this part of the quote: “Do you think that the purchase price that was paid for the redemption of our sins by so great a Lamb is too small? Pray boldly—you too are a mighty sinner." Luther’s point is the infinite value of Christ’s atonement and how each sin we commit is dreadful, nothing more, nothing less. Question for you: your comments indicate you do not believe in substitutionary atonement. Is this true? Second, what does 1 Peter 1:17-21 mean then?

GW: Thanks, James, for your comments on that Luther quote cited above. Now, the only problem I have with the statement is that it appears to create a radical dichotomy between one's conscience and one's deeds. Do you agree that Luther is doing this? I mean, people *should* be bothered by their sins. It's part of examining oneself to see if one is in the faith (2 Cor 13:5; 1 Cor 11:27-32; 2 Pet 1:10-11). We know men by their fruits--fruits tell us something about the state of the tree (Lk 6:43-46).

Actually, Luther felt very strongly about the law. In Luther’s Small Catechism the Ten Commandments were placed first because he wanted people to understand that God is wrathful against sin. The negative prohibitions in the Ten Commandments clearly showed our need for a savior. In the Small Catechism, Luther suggests a daily regiment of prayer and includes a verbal reading of the Ten Commandments. In the reciting of the Ten Commandments along with the Apostles Creed, one hears both law and gospel at the beginning and ending of each day.

Summary:
GW strongly implied that BTK expressed a belief in justification by faith alone, and held a strong saving commitment to this truth. I found that quite hard to fathom, but there was no way I was going to try to track down interviews with BTK in order to verifiy my hunch.I think Lutherans should be outraged by any who would link Luther's theology to some sort of justifiable serial killing because of Justification by faith alone. It definately didn't sit well with me, even as a topic to "discuss" with any seriousness. Simply, it provoked me. It's basically the same charge that Luther's Justification by faith alone is a license to sin. Roman Catholics began making this charge against Luther early in the Reformation. Thankfully, most modern day Catholic historians realize this is totally mistaken and slanderous. As i've read and studied Luther's theology and life, i've been shown time and again the theology of the cross. I realize that relying soley on Christ's work is easy to read and say, but very difficult for people to really grasp without the work of the Spirit.