Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The "Luther Quote" via Leibniz (Revised)

I've never really done this before, but I decided to experiment with this post and follow the revision method that Catholic apologist DA uses. DA recently called me "lazy", so I figured, why bother taking the time to make a new blog entry? I know it makes things easier for people to follow (who wants to read the same thing over looking for changes and revisions? I doubt very few...). I have tried to make it a habit of not even revising errors and mistakes I've made, though I have done it in the past. Even in my original aomin entry on Steve Ray's quote, Steve caught that I left the word "European" off a book title. I did not go back and revise this error, though I could have. I made the error, Steve called it out. With this blog entry though, I'm going to revise it based on the content of DA's replies, as often as I want to.

I’m continuing to look through the argumentation provided by Catholic apologist DA in the recent “Luther quote” saga. This entry is directed towards his blog article of January 5, 2008. So far, as this entry has been posted, DA strove to respond to every line. That's his standard, not mine. To follow that method is to watch words multiply to book length. While I'm sure some people enjoy that method, I don't, and most of the people reading my blog probably don't either. I realize DA considers his responses thorough refutations, and anyone not participating in this method when responding is judged as being "refuted." Well, again, that's DA's standards, not mine. I played by his method only once: I composed a very lengthy response to him on Luther's Mariology. I guess since DA didn't respond to every inch of it, he was refuted (of course, I'm sarcastically pointing out the obvious: simply because someone responds to every line, doesn't mean that they've soundly refuted every line). well, in this experiment, I've not responded line by line, but I've attempted to use one of DA's methods: excessive text. I've attempted to follow some of the rabbit trails, etc.

DA states at one point that I "routinely questions [his] findings in almost every case, simply because [is] a Catholic, rather than attempt actual counter-arguments, which [I do] in rare cases only, and then almost always [I stop] arguing as soon as I counter-reply." I question DA's research because my earliest introduction to work noticed very poor methods. He's gotten better. He thinks it's because he's Catholic, yet if you check my blog, you'll notice I do the same on Luther to everyone I've interacted with on Luther, even Lutherans. I stop counter-replying for two reasons. first, DA can out write me, and I don't have the time to invest into his every point (I have more time this week, obviously), and second, many of his arguments are silly, personal attacks, or rabbit trails. These also are time-consuming.

It’s hard to fathom that only a few words of Luther’s could generate such an immense amount of words from both DA and myself. My concerns have been very simple: context, and citation integrity. The Luther quote in question, allegedly written to Zwingli, states, “If the world lasts for a long time, it will again be necessary, on account of the many interpretations which are now given to the Scriptures, to receive the decrees of councils, and take refuge in them, in order to preserve the unity of faith.”

I have chastised those involved in Catholic apologetics, particularly recent Catholic apologists and layman, for citing this quote without knowing or reading the context in which it appears. DA agrees: "That may be true with some recent people who used the quote (including Steve Ray)..." Of the older Catholic apologists, it is possible they read the source (though I wouldn't be surprised if eventually we find out they in fact citing a conflation of the quote found in a secondary source). For the sake of the argument, I'll grant it's most likely they did read the context. Indeed Catholic historian Hartmann Grisar did, that's for sure, so I have never argued that the ALL "old school" Catholic apologists haven't read the context, or I wouldn't have cited Grisar and commented on him as I did.

DA states, "if we approach the matter simplistically, as Swan has been doing all along, nothing will be accomplished." This is simply untrue. I've theorized that the differences in the Latin and German may be from a secondary source that conflated the quote. This is hardly approaching the matter simplistically. I also have a few very old reprint texts from the Catholic writers in the 16th Century. It's quite possible one of them is responsible. I've also strove to do the same thing Mr. DA has done in terms of researching the texts. On the other hand, what really is simple is to read the context for the quote that I have provided. I had one particular Roman Catholic, no fan of my work comment, "I agree that full context can make a significant difference. James did some good work here..." (of course, he then went on to chastise me for something of mine he didn't like!).

Of course, I can understand that sometimes a Luther "factoid" one comes across in a secondary source from a trusted historian isn't worth the time looking up (like say, a quote from Luther affirming his belief in sola scriptura). However, with this particular quote, when the context is checked, the citation doesn’t state Luther conceded the need for a Council to solve their dispute. DA says that I neglect the "historical context and Luther's overall thinking, while railing against us about immediate textual context." Indeed, that's the point isn't it?... The immediate context. DA knows enough about Luther to know his views changed over the years. Whether or not Luther at some point may have conceded the need for a council because of the failure of sola scriptura at some later point is not the issue- it's interesting, but not the issue. The issue is the immediate context.

Luther did not concede a council would be that which could unify the Reformers in That These Words Of Christ, “This Is My Body,” etc., Still Stand Firm Against The Fanatics (1527) [LW 37]. He states in this treatise, "If the world lasts much longer, men will, as the ancients did, once more turn to human schemes on account of this dissension, and again issue laws and regulations to keep the people in the unity of the faith. Their success will be the same as it was in the past." Both earlier and in the text after this particular quote, Luther states that councils will result in failure, because "human schemes " "laws and regulations " are not the work of the Holy Spirit, but of men. The text goes on to say, "In short, the devil is too clever and too mighty for us" because "If we wish to stand upon the councils and counsels of men, we lose the Scriptures altogether and remain in the devil’s possession body and soul." Luther isn't conceding anything. He's describing precisely what men do when faced with dissension- come up with ways to try to stop it. Earlier in the same text, Luther describes the way councils arose, and attributes the Devil saying, " It serves my purpose well that they should neglect the Word and not dispute over the Scriptures, but that at this very point they should be at peace and believe what the councils and the fathers say." The immediate context is here for all to see.

DA says my purpose is to chastise Catholics as "incompetent or even dishonest by citing this quote and drawing certain conclusions from it" and that I have a "strong polemical purpose to run down Catholic apologists." Obviously, DA fails to remember the paper of mine he used to link to approvingly on his website: The Roman Catholic Perspective of Martin Luther (Part Two). In this paper, I pointed out "There is a wealth of Roman Catholic authors whose opinions and research are worthy of a close look." This isn't a short paper either. Perhaps DA forgot my discussion with Catholic apologist Art Sippo on Luther biographies in which I defended Catholic historian Joseph Lortz against the vitriol of Sippo. Obviously, I'm not the awful Catholic-hater DA paints me to be.

DA quotes me saying "Steve Ray doesn't care "if he's cited Luther accurately." well, obviously, DA failed to tell his readers this was from my response to Steve Ray, and indeed that conclusion followed from my review of his 11 page PDF rant against me. In regard to Steve's response in those 11 pages, I proved my point. Since then, Steve has made it very clear via private correspondence he cares. I take his word for it. My continued dialog with Steve should have been clear enough to DA that this situation has changed.

Primarily though, many modern Roman Catholics use this quote for its obvious polemical value: it appears to imply sola scriptura is a failure, and Luther conceded the need for a council. Since the context doesn't state this, it is a misuse of a quote. To narrow the field down, the quote is a favorite of Catholic laymen, frequently using it on discussion boards and in blog entries. It also has a history of being cited by Catholic apologists, both old and new (here are a few examples). Of course, it is the recent Catholic usage that concerns me. DA has brought forth a few Protestant sources using the quote. Why a Protestant source would use it will be looked at at a later time. Primarily, the issue is, why do the current Catholics use it? Simply because a Protestant may use it does not let Catholics off the hook for mis-citing Luther.


DA argues that my chastisement of Catholic apologetics in this matter is quite unjustified, because “Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz: a Lutheran philosopher, who had one of the most brilliant minds of all time, also cites the same source.” “Leibniz would have little reason to misquote Luther; nor is it plausible to posit that he completely blew a citation of Luther, radically opposite from its own context, as Swan claims all the Catholics have done. "If the Catholics were guilty of this, so is Leibniz. If he is not, they are not.” “Swan's alleged "ace in the hole" against Catholics has far less force (if it ever had any), with a Lutheran genius being right in there with the rest of the alleged incompetents.”

The quote in question via Leibniz (as cited and provided by DA) is as follows:

“Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz, De Scriptura, Ecclesia, Trinitate, (written approximately between 1680-1684), in Philosophische Schriften 4, Number 403, p. 2288 [published in 2006 by Akademie Verlag] [see the cover] [Lutheran]: ‘si diutius steterit mundus iterum fore necessarium propter diversas sacrae scripturae interpretationes quae nunc sunt, ut ad conservandam fidei unitatem Conciliorum decreta recipiamus et ad ea confugiamus.’ English translation: none provided. Primary source listed: "Luther lib. 1. contra Zwinglium et Oecolampadium . . . Zur Sache vgl. Luthers Erste Vorrede zum Schwabischem Syngramm von 1526 (WA 19, S. 461)”

A Summary of DA's Argument

1. Leibniz was a brilliant non-Catholic Lutheran, and cites the same Luther quote as Catholic apologists. Therefore, Catholic apologists cannot be considered non-scholarly for citing this quote.

Response: I have not asserted that simply because the quote is cited, it is therefore mis-cited. Even in its Latin form, the quote can still be cited accurately and interpreted by Luther's context. The Latin form can work just as well as the German- depending on the context it's placed in. Without the context from Leibniz in a language either of us can read, the question is begged as to whether Leibniz stands or falls with Catholic apologists.

2. Since Leibniz was a scholar and a Lutheran, he has no reason to misquote Luther to make him say something other than what the original context of Luther's statement is.

Response: As brilliant as Leibniz was, DA fails to point out that Leibniz was not primarily a theologian, but rather a philosopher who put forth theological insights. Nor do I think he was he an expert on Luther. DA states, "That's clearly not required, either. It's embarrassing to even have to point this out: so self-evident is it." We need to keep in mind though, it is DA who has harped on the fact the Leibniz was a Lutheran, not I. My point is that simply because he was a brilliant Lutheran does not mean he was brilliant on Luther.
I have studied Leibniz’s philosophy, but I don’t recall ever reading any of his treatises on Luther, if any exist. DA states of this, "I've written many treatises on Luther (perhaps more than any Catholic critic of Luther on the Internet today). Does that mean that Swan now trusts my judgment when I cite Luther?" This though is not the point. I was not positing that a large set of writings from Luther on Leibniz make him qualified to quote Luther accurately. I simply pointing out that simply because Leibniz was a brilliant Lutheran does not mean he was brilliant on Luther. If DA can produce the facts that Leibniz was both the former and the later, I'd be interested in this information.

This particular source notes there is little theological similarity between Luther and Leibniz, and on the page previous, notes his interest and sympathy for Roman Catholicism. DA calls this information "a non sequitur . . ." What this information points out though, is Leibniz was of a different mind than Luther. It doesn't mean he was out to get Luther, but it shows Leibniz was not positively disposed to Luther's life and theology. DA can deny it, but this type of bias can often taint one's writing (as I demonstrate below with "Luther was a glutton"). As to Leibniz's sympathy for Catholicism, DA says, "As usual, any slightest association with Catholicism taints one's ability to accurately cite a Lutheran source, according to Swan. This is, of course, mere guilt by association." No, what it shows is that Leibniz not only was far from Luther theologically, but also veered toward Rome. This doesn't mean he will necessarily slight Luther, it does show though that he may have reasons to view Luther with a bias when he studied him.

While Leibniz may not have intent to misquote Luther, since he was not an expert on Luther nor theology, it is within the realm of possibility for him to err on a Luther citation. DA comments, "Let Swan prove it, then, rather than merely asserting possibilities, as usual. Propaganda may work by rote repetition, but serious logical, historical argument does not operate in that fashion." I grant I would have a burden of proof if I stated Leibniz did misquote Luther. DA needs to be more careful. I asserted it was within the realm of possibility for him to misquote Luther, particularly for the reasons I just outlined. Without a context for the citation in a language both DA and I can read as put forth by Leibniz, there isn't any way of determining how he's using the quote. I can only note a possibility. He may in fact be quite accurate in his citation of Luther.
Neither have I argued Catholic apologists deliberately misquote Luther out of malicious intent. Rather, I've argued they either possibly misunderstand Luther in context, or rely on a source that perhaps misunderstood Luther in context. Their devotion to Rome often makes it impossible to get through to them on this, as DA demonstrated by use his of quotations from me. DA argues I'm actually lying about this. He produces a bunch of quotes form me:

When I said, "Catholics don't seem to have any problems citing Luther, knowing full well they can't produce a context"- this is based on many years of dialog over quotes just like the one this paper is about. to be fair, I should have said "some Catholics" since I haven't dialoged with "all Catholics."

When I said, "Won't somebody in Catholic apologetics do the right thing?", I then went on to explain, "I have stated more than once, that these Catholic apologists, when going to print with their books, claiming to be deep in history is to cease being Protestant, should live up to their standards. If they make a historical statement, they should go deep into history to validate that statement when challenged." DA should realize this charge was directly aimed at Steve Ray, a person DA agrees with about who did not read or know the context for the quote he cited, and when responding to me did not produce the context when challenged.

When I said, "One may think I'm nitpicking, and this is an isolated incident. . . . The current trend in Catholic apologetics is to throw Luther quotes in, regardless of what Luther actually said"- DA misquoted me out of context. I actually said, "After sifting through eleven pages, I still doubt that Steve Ray cares about his methodology. Rather than simply admitting he hasn't read "Epis. ad. Zwingli" and has no idea as to what Luther actually said on this or where he said it, I received back eleven pages of obfuscation. One may think I'm nitpicking, and this is an isolated incident. I recently checked another Luther quote used by Mr. Ray and came up with the same conclusion- Mr Ray didn't actually read what Luther said. The current trend in Catholic apologetics is to throw Luther quotes in, regardless of what Luther actually said. It gets the troops all riled up."

Obviously, by DA's selective citation, he paints me worse than I actually am. well, that's his perspective, he's entitled to it. Any fair-minder reader will see the truth.

3. Since Leibniz was brilliant, it is not plausible to posit he mis-quoted Luther.

Response: DA is arguing brilliant people may be infallible, at least that's the way his Leibniz characterization comes across. Simply because Leibniz was brilliant, does not mean he was incapable of an error in citation. DA has set Leibniz up as a man particularly in fields that are not their specialty. In fact, it is fairly clear that Leibniz misunderstood Luther's character. In a letter to Arnauld, Leibniz states,
"This Lutheran minister of whom Your Highness speaks must have good qualities, but it is some thing incomprehensible and marking an extremely blind prejudice that he can regard Luther as a man destined by God for the Reformation of the Christian religion. He must have a very low idea of true piety to find it in a man like him, imprudent in his speech and so gluttonous in his manner of living." [Discourse on Metaphysics (Illinois: Open Court Publishing, 1991), p.101].

Luther was not a glutton. This was a typical unfounded charge put forth by Roman Catholics like Cochlaeus, refuted by both Luther and those who wrote about Luther. Obviously, Leibniz proves that, despite his brilliance, he had a poor understanding of the historical Luther. Not knowing which sources Leibniz had of Luther's or which biographies, entitles Leibniz to the benefit of the doubt. However, that he had no biographies of Luther, or arrived at the idea that Luther was glutton from those writings of Luther's he did have simply is a position I would not want to defend.

In regard to Leibniz's error calling Luther a glutton, despite the fact that the historical record does not warrant this charge, DA refers to it as "disparaging remarks about Luther." No, Leibniz makes an historical statement about Luther. The facts of history for Leibniz prove Luther was not "a man destined by God for the Reformation of the Christian religion." Leibniz was clearly in error. This does not render Leibniz incapable of citing Luther accurately. what it does imply is that Leibniz was not brilliant in his treatment of Luther. Maybe in some other possible world Leibniz was, but not in this one. To arrive at Luther was not "a man destined by God for the Reformation of the Christian religion" because of his language and gluttony is simply nonsense.

As to which sources on Luther Leibniz may have used, and the "benefit of the doubt" I reccommended, DA states, "It should entitle [Leibniz] also to not being subjected to this present analysis from James Swan. A rudimentary amount of propriety and intellectual humility is in order." Here is clear obfuscation, and a clear example as to why DA's "line by line" complete refutations are not that. Instead of noting that Leibniz made a historical error, and that this error was most likely based on the texts utilized, DA responds I don't have the right to ask such a question!

4. If Leibniz did misquote Luther, he is as guilty as the Catholic apologists.

Response: This follows. If Leibniz utilized the "Luther quote" in the same way and for the same point as done by Catholic apologists, he would likewise fall under my condemnation and chastisement. DA asks, "So will Swan now chastise him (along with Westcott and other Protestants who also noted the same thing)? And will he revise his sweeping conspiratorial-like statements of Catholic incompetence?" Based on whatever person or book I'm dealing with, that is who get chastised for error. Particualrly now though, it is the current trend in Catholic apologietcs misquoting Luther. These are the people I'm dialonig with and about.

It does not follow though that every Luther quote cited by Leibniz would be under suspicion, nor does it follow that every citation of Luther provided by Roman Catholics would be suspicious. Further, simply because Leibniz is a Lutheran does not entitle him to a free pass. Protestants, and smart ones at that, have mis-cited Luther as well. for instance, last year I documented the typical misquotation of Luther wishing to throw the Book Of Esther in the Elbe, when in actuality, the text reads "Esdras."

On a Rabbit trail, DA responds, "My debate about Luther and Esther with James Swan is most illuminating as to Swan's highly biased use of secondary sources and the curious double standards entailed in his accusations of others in the realm of text citation. Anyone who thinks he has a superior grasp of research ability, over against us lowly ignorant Catholics, simply must read this revealing exchange!" These cyber-dialogues are not technically debates. Their aren't anty rules or protocal. DA calls virtually anything a "debate." I have never posited all Catholics are " lowly ignorant." This is DA's own invention. There is indeed a caricature going on in his presentation of exactly who I am.

5. It cannot be claimed that Catholic apologists are all completely incompetent, if indeed Leibniz uses the quote in question similar to its usage by Catholic apologists.

Response: This does not follow. What it would demonstrate is that Leibniz may have committed the same research error as many catholic apologists in this matter: not checking a primary source for the context. Or, Leibniz may have mis-read the text in the same way Hartmann Grisar did. Further, I have not claimed that Catholic apologists are completely incompetent. I have claimed that those citing outrageous Luther quotes need to be held accountable to justify the quotes used by providing a context. If they fail to provide a context, it proves that sloppy research has occurred, and by extension, opens up the possibility that similar research methods have been utilized in other areas.

Final Comments:

DA does not provide a context either of us can read in english for the quote used by Leibniz, either Luther's or that of Leibniz. I find this quite odd, considering I think he’s attempting to prove Leibniz used it in the same way the Catholic apologists have (i.e.- Luther conceded or needed a Church council because of the failure of sola scriptura). Leibniz may in fact do this, but DA hasn’t demonstrated it. Without a context, we have no way of knowing. Since DA has brought this philosopher into the discussion, it is his responsibility to produce the context. If he’s done so in later blog entries, I’ll eventually get it to it.

If DA can substantiate the Lutheran credentials of Leibniz, I’d like to see them. By credentials, I mean a deep familiarity with Luther’s writings- perhaps a biography or a lengthy treatise on Luther. For the argument to work, DA would do better to produce one of the top Lutheran theologians, like Walther using the “quote” in the same way Roman Catholics do.

One final revision to the revision: I just noted DA has entire new post on Leibniz, which I did not read prior to composing this. One thing I'm hopeful for, is a context we can both understand for Leibniz. If one is not provided, it seems to me to be the same situation all over again: quotes are being pulled without knowing the context. Now, we've got to locate a Leibniz context to solidify what Leibniz said. Once again, this is not my responsibility. If there isn't a Leibniz context somewhere in DA recent blog entries that he can read and understand, I can't help but see an incredible irony. If there is one, kudos to him for presenting substance to solidify the facts.

I skimmed through the newest DA entry. He states:

"Here is the link to the page in question from Leibniz, that I provided. Readers may scroll forward and back, to get plenty of context. If Swan wants to make an issue of that, let him get his own Latin translators and make a go of it. We've done more than enough work on this, and continue to do so. If Swan wants to make a challenge, then he has the responsibility to do the work that constitutes the substance of the challenge."

Well, indeed there is a Latin context. However, posting comments on Leibniz, alleging agreement with one's position, when one does not know the context, is indeed very similar to what I've complained about all along. In this instance, I can think of no other response than to state: Leibniz quoted the same Latin quote. So what? He may, or may not agree with you (until you understand the context to find out). To post it proves.....NOTHING.

After spending a little time reviewing DA's recent post on Leibniz, I decided to add yet another revision. In this instance, I'm going to follow DA's pattern of blog entry revision, simply because I do not think the content to respond to warrants another full entry. I mean no insult. I try to be a focused as possible. DA tends to try to respond to every line. I do not. The main issue is whether or not DA actually knows the context of Leibniz at this particular point in order to make the charges and arguments he's making.

DA says:

"The context was already provided with the link. That saves people a lot of work, with this marvelous capability of every reader following the link to get all the context he wants. If Swan and his friends are too lazy to make the Latin translation themselves, then I suppose we will have to do all the work yet again, just as we've been doing all along. Wouldn't it be better, though, in an argument charging context violations, to illustrate this in the argument itself? Then one's case would at least have some "teeth". But our opponents have not done that. They simply make the bald charge and assume that it has force, without even attempting to prove and establish it."

Well, there isn't anybody helping me in this. I have no "friends" going to libraries or looking up information for me. That somehow I'm "lazy" in this matter because assertions of agreement are being made with a text that DA can't read is simply ludicrous. Rather, the charge is simple: if he's going to make assertions about a text he hasn't read with comprehension, it would behoove him to save his assertions until after reading the document he's cited. I haven't charged context violation. I have simply pointed out, that to make the assertions he's made about Leibniz in this matter requires the proof of actually reading the context with comprehension.

"In any event, when one looks at the larger passage, it appears that the citation occurred in a simple outline-like list of propositions, with something from Luther about the Psalms immediately preceding it, and mention of Brentius (Brenz) immediately after. Here is the entire paragraph preceding the quote: Lutherus praef. in psalmos. Scio esse imprudentissimae temeritatis eum qui (audeat) profiteri aliquem scripturae librum (a se in omnibus partibus) intellectum. Methinks Leibniz' own context will not resolve this problem for Swan. But he can keep trying to make desperate arguments if he likes. Leibniz, like the others who used the citation, seems to think that it stands on its own without need of further explanation or context."

I hesitated before responding to this paragraph, because I'm trying to take the content of it seriously. "with something from Luther about the Psalms "...what? DA cannot read Latin, yet he states that "Leibniz, like the others who used the citation, seems to think that it stands on its own without need of further explanation or context." To my knowledge, DA hasn't any idea what this particular writing is about, because DA cannot read the language it was composed in, yet he knows the intent of usage as put forth by Leibniz! I don't have a "problem" to resolve on this point, as demonstrated in my response above. Rather, the problem is guessing rather than proving. DA can guess all he wants, but I feel it is simply a smokescreen to call my argumentation "desperate" when he makes arguments based on a text he can't read.

I have one final point of tedious bibliographic speculation. In the Leibniz book DA cites, the quote in question is footnoted by line at the bottom. I admit, since I can't read the language, I'm not sure if the footnote is a reference, or a cross-reference. Neither do I think DA knows. In the quote itself, it begins with "Luther lib. 1. contra Zwinglium et Oecolampadium." The footnote at the bottom reads, "Zur Sache vgl. Luthers Erste Vorrede zum Schwabischem Syngramm von 1526 (WA 19, S. 461)" The question I have is about the footnote. I provided a translation of the text WA 19, S. 461 earlier, and the quote wasn't there. Perhaps DA can explain this to me- why a quote not in the context of WA 19, S. 461 is given on the page.

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