Monday, September 29, 2008
Heiko Oberman evaluated Luther as a religious man with a deep belief in God, and in a daily battle with the Devil. Richard Marius though argues Luther was not the heroic God believer in a cosmic spiritual battle. Luther was a man who questioned whether or not God even exists, and was terrified of death. Below is from the preface of Marius' book, in which he clearly lays out his understanding of Luther:
Insofar as possible in writing about a man whose complications and contradictions were numerous and often baffling, I have tried to write a narrative history about both events and ideas. Others are writing now about the German and broader European societies that either accepted or rejected Luther's doctrines. But my interest remains fixed on the man himself, his acts, his character, and his temperament. The temperament is all-important.
Everyone who knows anything about Luther knows that he had doubts all his life. The traditional understanding is that he doubted that God could save a sinner such as himself. This reading long ago appeared simplistic to me, even when I found it eloquently stated in Roland H. Bainton's seminars at Yale and in his great biography. Here I Stand, the most popular book about Luther in the English-speaking world.
My own view is that Luther's doubts were far deeper, swept along by one
of the great recurring waves of skepticism in human history, doubts that God exists at all and that he can or will raise the dead. Luther was situated in the Renaissance, where chaos and order, justice and injustice, appearance and reality, darkness and light contended with each other to an uncertain end. For him faith and the most radical kind of doubt dwelt entwined together until the end of his days. His tragic meaning for Western civilization is that to him radical doubt was akin to blasphemy, a sin to be purged from the human heart by vehement assertion and hateful insult.
Why did he not face the difficulties of scripture squarely and arrive at the irenic balance between faith and skepticism that characterized Erasmus? The ultimate answer, of course, is temperament, the mysterious and perplexing force that makes all of us unique and gives us our own niche in history. As Luther confessed time and again, his was a temperament driven by fear and by the need to conquer it so he could live day by day. His greatest terror, one that came on him periodically as a horror of darkness, was the fear of death—death in itself, not the terror of a burning and eternal hell awaiting the sinner in an afterlife. It is startling to see how seldom he speaks of hell as a place of eternal torment, and indeed he finally rejected the notion of hell as any sort of place. When he spoke of inferno in Latin or Holle in German, he usually meant the Hebrew sheol, which he correctly said meant simply the grave. When locked in combat with an especially galling foe, Luther could consign such a person to everlasting flames, but the more reflective Luther scarcely mentions hell. His ultimate question was this: Can I believe that God has the power to raise us from the dead? The corollary to this unanswerable, existential puzzle is another question: How does the Christian deal with the terror that death evokes while reaching for a faith that the triumph over death is possible? It seems to me that Luther's theology arose from these two elemental queries. He would shake the world to its foundations so he could believe in the resurrection of the dead.
Luther, who hated skepticism, was a skeptic in spite of himself, and his titanic wrestling with the dilemma of the desire for faith and the omnipresence of doubt and fear became an augury for the development of the religious consciousness of the West in modern times. Although few scholars seem to have contemplated the idea or studied Luther's works with that possibility in mind, this thesis, I believe, brings Luther closer to us, makes him more human, and explains if it does not excuse some of the more terrible words and deeds in his career.
It is interesting Marius stops his book at the year 1527 (but really ending around 1525), while Oberman's book looks at Luther's entire life until his death in 1546. This fact alone should make one question if the Luther put forth by Marius can support his presuppositions. I say it cannot.
Marius says his underlying presuppositions to his study on Luther is “essentially non-religious.” From this perspective, he begins with the notion that “Luther represents a catastrophe in the history of Western civilization.” And, “…[W]hatever good Luther did is not matched by the calamities that came because of him” (p. xii) (Marius also lays part of the blame on the Catholic Church as well). Because the Reformation led to wars between Catholics and Protestants, the loss of life was a grave calamity of the Reformation. Humanists are always concerned with preserving humanity, for humanity’s sake. Try applying Marius’s reasoning to Moses: The Jews would have been better off if they stayed in Egypt because they almost all died in the desert wilderness. The Jews that went into the Promised Land exterminated a large number of people. Moses should have been like Erasmus and sought to negotiate more conservatively with Pharaoh. Hence, whatever good Moses did is not matched by the calamities that came because of him… Or consider the early church: instead of giving their lives for their beliefs, they should have negotiated with the Roman government. They should have said, “we’ll bow to Caesar as god, but we don’t really mean it.” Countless lives could have been saved. Thus, whatever good the early church caused by not cooperating with the Roman government is not matched by the calamities they caused.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
I've been re-reading An Argument in Defense of all the Articles of Martin Luther Wrongly Condemned in the Roman Bull, 1521 [Source: Works of Martin Luther (Philadelphia Edition) Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1930 pp. 11-116]. This writing is Luther's lengthy response to the bull Exsurge Domine. I found a very interesting section from the document, relevant to this issue, written in 1521:
That there is a purgatory cannot be proved by those Scriptures which are approved and trustworthy. I have never yet denied that there is a purgatory, and I still hold that there is, as I have many times written and confessed, though I have no way of proving it incontrovertibly, either by Scripture or reason. I find in the Scriptures, indeed, that Christ, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Job, David, Hezekiah and some others tasted hell in this life. This I think to be purgatory, and it is not incredible that some of the dead suffer in like manner. Tauler has much to say about it, and, in a word, I have decided for myself that there is a purgatory, but cannot force any others to the same decision.
There is only one thing that I have attacked, namely, the way in which they apply to purgatory passages of Scripture so inapplicable that it becomes ridiculous. So they apply Psalm 66:12, “We went through fire and water,” though the whole Psalm sings of the sufferings of the saints, which no one places in purgatory. Again, St Paul, in 1 Corinthians 3, says of the fire of the last day that it will prove the good works, and by it some shall be saved because they keep the faith, though their work may suffer loss. Of this fire also they make purgatory, according to their custom of twisting the Scriptures and making of them what they will.
Thus, too, they have drawn in by the hair that passage in Matthew 12:32, in which Christ says, “Whoso speaketh blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world nor in the world to come.” Christ means by this that it shall never be forgiven him, as Mark 3:29 explains His meaning, saying, “He that sinneth against the Holy Ghost by blasphemy hath no forgiveness forever, but is guilty of an eternal sin.”
To be sure, even St Gregory interprets the word in Matthew 12 to mean that some sins will be forgiven in the world to come, but St Mark does not allow that interpretation to stand, and he counts for more than all the doctors.
I have said all this so that we may know that no one is bound to believe more than what is based on Scripture, and those who do not believe in purgatory are not to be called heretics, if in other respects they hold the entire Scriptures, as the Greek Church does. The Gospel compels me to believe that St Peter and St James are saints, but it is not necessary to believe that St Peter is buried at Rome and St James at Compostella and their bodies are still there, for that the Scriptures do not tell us. Again, there is no sin in holding that none of the saints whom the pope canonizes are saints, and the saints take no offense at that, for there are many saints in heaven of whom we do not know that they exist at all, still less that they are saints; and they take no offense at that, and do not think us heretics because of it. The pope and his sectaries play this game only that he may set up many wild articles of faith, beside which the true articles of the Scriptures are silenced and suppressed.
But their use of the passage in 2 Maccabees 12, about how Judas Maccabaeus sent money to Jerusalem to buy prayers 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 the Hebrew tongue, in which all the books of the Old Testament are found. In other respects too this book has little authority, for it contradicts the first book of Maccabees in its description of King Antiochus, and contains many more fables which destroy its credibility. And even though the book were authoritative, it would yet be necessary in the case of so important an article that at least one passage out of one of the chief books should come to its help, that every word might be established in the mouth of two or three witnesses. It is a suspicious circumstance that on this subject alone there should be found in the whole Bible no more than one passage, and that in the least important, most despised book, if it is so great a matter, and so much depends upon it that the papacy and the whole priesthood are all but built upon it, and derive all their wealth and honor from it. Without doubt the majority of the priests would starve if there were no purgatory.
They ought not to offer to faith such weak and fallible grounds.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Luther: Hearken, ye papists! Paul curses an angel from heaven if he teaches differently from the Scriptures, and I am not to have the power to despise a man if he teaches differently! Why do ye not also condemn that chapter of Panormitanus, Significasti, de Electione, which I have cited, in which he says that we are to believe a layman, if he presents plain Scripture or clear reason, rather than a pope or a council; and this opinion is shared by almost all the jurists, especially the ablest and most learned among them.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
In the "authority" discussion, an excursion into Luther Psychohistory was added to the mix. It was stated:
"Let’s take a look at another Protestant “take” on Luther, his concept of his own authority AND his psychological “fitness”. Oberman considers what type of “position” Luther would “quality” for in today’s world."
Then a selection of quotes from Heiko Oberman's book, Luther: Man Between God and the Devil were posted. The argument: even a Protestant biographer of Luther didn't think Luther was "psychologically fit."I'd like to look at all the quotes at some point, but these, as posted caught my eye. They are a striking example of missing the broad context:
“he would not likely be offered a professorship (at the University of Wittenberg, now a part of the University of Halle), nor would it be any different in Heidelberg or Marburg…..He would be an indisputably successful teacher, but as a colleague he would be irksome and unwilling to bow to majorities…….He would be driven by singular notions about the Devil and the Last Judgment………..
He would be biting and sometimes overly rough toward colleagues with whom he disagreed. Where generalized judgments were concerned, he would outdo anyone, working himself up to furious tirades. He would rant against papists, Jews, lawyers, and high officials……………..
A psychiatric analysis would rob Luther of whatever chances he had left of teaching at a present-day university. The diagnosis would be persuasive – Paranoia reformatorica – but the grounds for it must remain irritatingly uncertain, ranging from neurosis to psychosis, from Oedipus complex to mother fixation. Fear of the Lord and abhorrence of the Devil are indicators of disturbed childhood development. And disturbing is what they really are…………….
Nevertheless, there is something to be learned from trying to imagine Luther as our contemporary because it is his personality and character that are at issue. Our anachronistic test is so illuminating because questions regarding his commitment cannot simply be shunted aside in an analysis of his person. The man and his cause are both intimately linked that any separation of the two will be at the expense of both. Even this speaks against offering Luther a professorship in our time, which prefers objective scholarship to a personal commitment and vision.” Oberman, pg 313-314
I tend to get very suspicious when I see frequent uses of "...". The following analysis of these quotes was provided by the Roman Catholic using Oberman's book:
"This is an interesting combination of comments from this Protestant writer. He admits that Luther had obvious psychological issues, and while he also admits that Luther’s problems would preclude the possibility of being allowed to teach in a modern university, he somehow fails to connect the dots in that he does not bring up the possibility that it could have been Luther’s psychological problems ALONE (solo psycho) that led to his certainty of his authority, and also hindered him from recognizing that he had no such authority whatsoever."
"In regards to the quote from Oberman about Luther’s psychological condition AND his supposed “fitness” to teach in one of today’s universities; Can you imagine a context either preceding or following that quote, or anywhere else in the book for that matter, that would somehow rehabilitate the impression that Oberman leaves us with in that quote? Do you think that there is something just prior to the quote I posted which says something like: “IF I wanted to smear Luther’s FINE name, I would say the following about this upstanding and emotionally healthy man: (My Oberman quote here)” Seriously, can think of ANY kind of text which would negate the quote that I posted? Short of reading the book, one cannot escape the conclusion that Oberman at least accurately portrayed HIS opinions on Luther and that after a great deal of study of the man."
It was asked above, "Can you imagine a context either preceding or following that quote, or anywhere else in the book for that matter, that would somehow rehabilitate the impression that Oberman leaves us with in that quote?" Well, yes, I can. The context is the particular perspective from which Oberman wrote this book. Oberman asked his readers to "...be prepared to leave behind our own view of life and the world: to cross centuries of confessional and intellectual conflict in order to become [Luther's] contemporary." That means, one must be prepared to find Satan very real and at work continually. Satan was busy attacking the individual Christian and the Church. Luther was a medieval man, not a product of the Enlightenment. The Devil was real, and it was the end of the world. Luther had a healthy fear of the hidden God- which drove his christocentric theology. Oberman therefore paints Luther as a man between God and the Devil: fighting the later, while clinging to Christ.
In the opening preface to the English edition, Oberman states:
The translation enterprise is as hazardous as it necessary; nuances are easily lost, especially when once vitally important existential expressions are rendered as antiquated parts of an absolute "belief-system." In the case of Martin Luther this problem is all the more acute, as his interpreters, intent on mining riches, have been given to present him as "relevant" and hence "modern." Thus they have been inclined to bypass or remove medieval "remnants"- first among these, the Devil Himself. This book has been written with the double assumption that, first, the Reformer can only be understood as a late medieval man for whom Satan is as real as God and mammon; and, second, that the relevancy so sought after is not found by purging the record and hence submitting to post-Enlightenment standards of modernity, but rather by challenging our condescending sense of having outgrown the dark myths of the past. (Oberman,xv)
In the preface to the first edition, Oberman states:
Discovering Luther the man demands more than scholarship can ever expect to offer. We must be prepared to leave behind our own view of life and the world: to cross centuries of confessional and intellectual conflict in order to become his contemporary. When the Church was still equated with Heaven, and the Emperor represented the might of the world, a monk named Luther rose up against these powers of Heaven and Earth: he stood alone with only God and his omnipresent adversary, the Devil. Surprisingly, the discoveries and experiences of a life marked by battle raging within and without make him a contemporary of our time, which has learned to sublimate the Devil and marginalize God. (p. ix).
The Roman Catholic posting the quotes completely missed that Oberman is not a psycho-historian. Therefore, Oberman's comments about Luther's psychological state evaluated by today's standards, must keep this presupposition in mind- he isn't siding with psychohistorical analysis, but rather demonstrating it cannot comprehend a 16th century medieval worldview.
Oberman states that psychological diagnoses of Luther's upbringing are subject to "changing scholarly trends" and are based on the "psychologizing mood of our times." He also shows the folly of using psychohistory via an interpretation of a letter from Freud, noting that psychohistory can make history "more difficult to hear what is actually being said."
From the way the Catholic cited Oberman, it makes it appear as though Oberman was a psychohistorian. Hardly! I thought it would be interesting to read the context the snippet quotes above came from:
Where would a man like Martin Luther fit in today? What kind of job would he be suited for?
Were there still a university in Wittenberg (it was merged with the University of Halle in 1815), he would not likely be offered a professorship there; nor would it be any different in Heidelberg or Marburg. It is the Erasmian type of ivory-tower academic that has gained international acceptance. If there were a chair somewhere, whether in Harvard or Holten, it would be futile to look for his name on the list of applicants—one must follow a call, be driven against one's will. Should he nonetheless be shortlisted by a department of religion, the problem would arise of what subject Luther should teach today. The professor of biblical theology would probably be best suited for the present-day field of practical theology.
But for that he would be too conservative and far too pious, as well as being too Catholic in approach and too strongly committed to the Middle Ages—in short, he would not be up-to-date. He would be an indisputably successful teacher, but as a colleague he would be irksome and unwilling to bow to majorities. The modern trend toward ecumenism would cause him particular problems because he would not be prepared to suppress those questions that divide Christians. He was driven by singular notions about the Devil and the Last Judgment. With respect to the Devil he had not yet experienced the Enlightenment and would seriously have to let himself be asked this question: "What would he have done without the Devil, without the possibility of attributing the grotesque and embarrassing contradictions in his personal history to Evil personified?" How strange his answer would sound, that he would be even worse off without the Devil, for God, too, would then have become remote! Whether the discoveries of modern psychology would have changed his mind cannot be determined; he distrusted solutions that were "self-evident" and learned to see contradictions as proof of the proximity of truth.
He would certainly be an unpredictable ally in faculty politics. He might take an interest in curricular reforms, as he had in the autumn of 1517, and even present comprehensive plans that would be popular among the students who filled his lecture halls to the point of overflowing. But if, as in the summer of 1520, a great many of these students started fighting, as they had with journeymen painters, and caused a riot, he would preach publicly against them and even leave the meeting angrily when the rector and senate of the university tried to defend the students.
He would be biting and sometimes overly rough toward colleagues with whom he disagreed. Where generalized judgments were concerned, he would outdo anyone, working himself up to furious tirades. He would rant against papists, Jews, lawyers, and high officials because he felt all of them strangled human life with suffocating laws that undermine the common good. He would hardly have bowed to anything like a minister of education—he was not "politically reliable."
A psychiatric analysis would rob Luther of whatever chances he had left of teaching at a present-day university. The diagnosis would be persuasive—Paranoia reformatorica—but the grounds for it must remain irritatingly uncertain, ranging from neurosis to psychosis, from Oedipus complex to mother fixation. Fear of the Lord and abhorrence of the Devil are indicators of disturbed childhood development. And disturbing is what they really are.
Of course there is an objection to this conceptual experiment of attempting to hire the sixteenth-century Luther at a modern university: a "child of his time" cannot simply be transplanted to an era centuries later. The distance between the dawn of the modern age and the twentieth century is vast.Historically we are separated by the Enlightenment, politically by the American (1776), French (1789), and Russian (1918) revolutions, and socio-politically by the Industrial Revolution.
Nevertheless, there is something to be learned from trying to imagine Luther as our contemporary because it is his personality and character that are at issue. Our anachronistic test is so illuminating because questions regarding his commitment cannot simply be shunted aside in an analysis of his person. The man and his cause are so intimately linked that any separation of the two will be at the expense of both. Even this speaks against offering Luther a professorship in our time, which prefers objective scholarship to a personal commitment and vision.
Oberman isn't saying Luther had Paranoia, neurosis, psychosis, Oedipus complex and mother fixation, he's saying that the modern worldview cannot comprehend the medieval man. For the modern mind, Luther's fear of the Lord and belief in the Devil can only be translated into psychosis. The modern mind cannot account for an intense belief in the Devil or God- that's all Oberman is saying on pp. 313-314.
As to Oberman's views on Luther, after his section "Luther Today: A Test" he presents his interpretation of Luther's psyche:
The Reformation movement cannot be separated from Luther the man, but it would also be incorrect to see it as the consequence of his exposure to psychic pressures: Luther might be able to accept a diagnosis of Paranoia reformatorica, since "Reformation madness" includes the foolishness that is an intrinsic part of faith. And it can scarely have been anything but this foolishness that enabled him to bear the burdens and pressures attendant on his role as a reformer—a role he did not want to play but which friend and foe alike forced upon the "Evangelist." One aspect of these burdens is particularly noteworthy. Luther's fear of God proved an overwhelming force before which human fears receded and lost their thrust. We can outline the range of this fear of God in five points:
Fear of the Lord is awe of the majesty of the Lord and fear of God's holy wrath: "If I could believe that God was not angry at me, I would stand on my head for joy."
Faith and fear of the Lord are not mutually exclusive, but faith lives on trust in God's mercy and not the knowledge of His majesty. The faithful creep under the cross of Christ like chicks under the wings of the mother hen.
God's wrath is not directed against man but against his lack of faith: faith is the obedience demanded by God.
The Reformation discovery did not leave the "wrath of God" and the "fear of God" behind as outdated medieval concepts.
Faith is not individual self-protection. The Evangelical movement should build a wall of faith to protect the people.
Modern day pyschology, when evaluating people who are extremely religious, think extremely religious people are crazy. That is, those who take their faith seriously must have deep psychosis. Now, apply this to what Oberman wrote in "Luther Today: a test." Luther, an extremely religious man, if evaluated by modern psychology, would arrive at a diagnosis of paranoia, neurosis, psychosis, Oedipus complex and mother fixation. The modern day psychologists will not think the real motivation of Luther's behavior was his faith in Jesus and fear of God, and battle with the Devil.
Oberman thinks Luther's behavior and life was motivated by his faith in Jesus and fear of God, and battle with the Devil, not paranoia, neurosis, psychosis, Oedipus complex and mother fixation.
Indeed, all of us that claim to believe in God with deep faith in His resurrected Son would get a negative evaluation from a secular psychologist! So, Oberman is arguing for Luther's genuine religious faith. That's why the context says something positive about Luther.
This explanation troubled Marius. That's why the Marius book had a very similar title to the Oberman book. Marius felt it was Luther's atheism and fear of death that motivated him, thus the title: Martin Luther: The Christian Between God and Death. The book by Marius was a DIRECT response to Oberman's book. Oberman and Marius were having a scholarly disagreement on what Luther was "between" so to speak.
The irony for me is a few years back I dialoged with Catholic apologist Art Sippo on psychological approaches to Luther, and Sippo blasted away at Oberman. This Roman Catholic though uses Oberman to prove Luther's psychosis.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
One of the pastors at the church I attend recently did two sermons from the book of Job on suffering and God's providence. I found these sermons very encouraging:
To hear other sermons from the Pompton Plains Reformed Bible Church, see our page here.
Here are some recent commendations about my interests in the Reformation from one of my Roman Catholic admirers:
"Just to summarize my thoughts here on discussing these things with you, it just ain't worth the effort. You are FAR interested in making pronouncements about this or that writer, or commenting on your preferred context means of establishing proper context, or making disparaging comments about me personally than you are in ACTUALLY DISCUSSING LUTHER. Especially Luther's beliefs on his own authority to teach and interpret. I think that your tactics are pretty obvious, even to us who are not intellectuals."
"Please feel free to burden someone else with endless discussions of sources and "James approved context". If you want to actually discuss Luther's beliefs about his own authority and compare your thoughts with those of other Reformed writers, you will have the opportunity. But just so you will know, I think it is cowardly to hide behind the typical "scholarly" tactic of simply refuting everything on the basis that you don't agree with this or that source, or whine that not enough or too many words from a given quote were used."
"In summary James, although I would like to engage in an honest dialogue with you about LUTHER and especially about his concept of his own authority, that appears to be impossible for you. Being a failed human I don't have the patience to be jerked around endlessly discussing your preferred set of writers, your non-preferred writers, your very exacting criteria regarding context (which never really becomes clear until I post quote, and rarely thereafter). I don't have the patience to have you constantly make me, or Dave, or this or that the issue. I think it is intellectually dishonest in that your motives are obviously to tie me up so that I don't have time to quote what you know I am going to."
Monday, September 22, 2008
Recently this Luther snippet was posted on a discussion board:
"I have said repeatedly: Assail my person if you will, and in any way you will; I do not claim to be an angel. But I will allow no one to assail my teaching with impunity, since I know that it is not mine, but God’s. For on this depends my neighbor’s salvation and my own, to God’s praise and honor." Martin Luther, (Reply to the Answer of the Leipzig Goat, 1521; from PE, Vol. III, 293-294; translated by A. Steimle)
In the discussion thread, this quote is supposed to prove, "...when it came to Luther's statements about his authority to interpret Scripture, it seems very clear that he considered himself to be a human authority above all others... Here we see Luther claiming that he would not allow anyone to rebuke him on matters of his teaching. In this he placed his teaching, or his interpretation of Scripture above that of everyone else. He also contends that he knows that his teaching if from God, and therefore is not his own. This of course would mean that he placed himself above anyone who disagreed with him, setting himself up as a divine authority."
The historical context of this quote is truly interesting, and explains why Luther said this. In the context, Luther is responding to one of his most severe papal critics, Jerome Emser. Emser had written to Luther, “Three times I gave you a brotherly warning and begged you, for God’s sake, to spare the poor folk to whom you are giving such great offense by this affair, and you gave your final answer in these words: ‘Let the devil care! This thing was not begun for God’s sake and shall not stop for God’s sake!’ ” Luther responded back with his "Reply to the Answer of the Leipzig Goat." Luther was angered at being... miscited by a Catholic apologist. Luther explains the actual context of his comment from his debate with Eck at the Leipzig debate:
It happened at Leipzig, in the chancellery of the castle — I have a keen and lively memory of the occasion — that the discussion concerning the arrangements for the disputation proceeded, according to Eckian practice, to place all the advantage on his side. We saw that our opponents sought glory rather than truth, although until then I had hoped that they had begun the matter in God’s name, even as I had done. Then I uttered the plaintive words that came from a sorrowful heart: “This thing is not begun in God’s name, nor will the end be in God’s name.” And the result has proved it; every one now sees that my prophecy is fulfilled. The kind of fruit the disputation has borne is all too evident.
Luther boldly calls Emser a liar because of his context-less miscitation. Luther was not referring to the indulgence controversy, the Reformation, or even his teachings on justification, but to Eck's manipulation of the Leipzig debate. Luther states, "My words referred not to myself, but to Eck, Emser, and the Leipzig theologians...". Further, "Therefore, my dear liar, I did not say, as you accuse me, that I regard the taking offense by the common people of so little account, that I consigned it to the devil. That is an invention of yours, in order to accuse me of being, as you say, a proud and haughty man... But if I knew that my teaching brought injury to one simple-minded man— which cannot be, since it is the Gospel itself—I would rather suffer ten deaths than allow such teaching to spread or go unrecanted."
Indeed, Luther did catch a leading Catholic theologian deliberately lying against him by misquoting him. Here we find those officially opposing Luther, those who claimed to be representing the "truth," resorting to...lies. Luther then states,
He is a villain indeed, worse even than Emser himself, who would not sympathize with the common people when they take offense. Again, he is unchristian who would sympathize with the tyrants and Pharisees when they take offense. I will not waste any words arguing whether I am a haughty man or not, since that does not concern my teaching, but my person. I have said repeatedly: Assail my person if you will, and in any way you will; I do not claim to be an angel. But I will allow no one to assail my teaching with impunity, since I know that it is not mine, but God’s. For on this depends my neighbor’s salvation and my own, to God’s praise and honor. Now I think one would sooner believe my fellow Wittenbergers, who see my daily life and have constant dealings with me, rather than the lying outsider, Emser.
So, Luther's comment about his teaching "I know that it is not mine, but God’s," falls in this context. Emser had misquoted Luther as devilishly admitting his teaching was not from God, that he didn't care about the common people who heard it. Luther responds by presenting a context, and admitting the opposite: his teaching was God's. One must stop and ask, if faced with the charge that one's teachings come from the Devil, what should one say in response?
Does the quote prove Luther "...placed his teaching, or his interpretation of Scripture above that of everyone else"? No. What it proves is Luther sought to verify his teaching by the sole authority of Scripture. Here was where the battle was to be fought. The document this quote comes from was still during the indulgence dispute, 1521. When Luther began his critique of indulgences, he sought to critique the abuse via an appeal to the Scriptures. What was Emser doing? Luther states, "Why were you silent about the abominable abuse of the indulgences and all the Roman knavery, and why are you still silent?" Luther was repeatedly put down by leading Catholic theologians who argued in favor of indulgences. Luther states, "It does not concern me whether you are good or evil, but I will attack your poisonous and lying teaching that contradicts God’s Word, and, with God’s help, I will oppose it vigorously."
Luther returns to the question as to whether or not he had ever started anything in "God's name":
Furthermore, that your great wisdom and superior holiness may be astounded and cross itself at the sight of such a poor sinner and great fool, I will go on and say that I do not boast ever to have begun anything in God’s name, as you boast with such solemn affirmations. What do you think of that, Emser? Now let your pen splutter, ring all the bells and cry aloud, that what is in me is all the devil’s work, just as you would so gladly have done, out of great love, in this death-thrust of yours. Dear Emser, my heart’s trust is, that I have begun it in His name, but I am not so bold as to pass judgment myself and to say brazenly it is surely not otherwise. I would not like to rely upon this confidence when God judges, but I creep to His grace and I hope that He will accept it as having been begun in His name, and if any impure motives have crept in, since I am a sinful man of ordinary flesh and blood, He will graciously forgive it and not deal severely with me in His judgment.
Emser accuses Luther's teachings as causing dissension, and therefore not of God. Luther responds:
My hope that I have begun in God’s name and that I teach the Word of God aright has no stronger witness and sign than this, that its rapid spread throughout the world without my doing or seeking it, and in spite of untold opposition and persecution by the powerful and learned, has brought about dissension. If that were not the case, I would have despaired and given up long ago. That the real nature of the Divine Word is to produce just such a movement and disturbance is affirmed By Psalm 147: “God’s word runneth swiftly”; and by Christ: “I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay and resist”; and in Matthew: “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth. I came not to send peace, but a sword and dissension. For I am come to set a son at variance against his father, and the daughter against the mother, and a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.” (Psalms 147:15; Luke 21:15; Matthew 10:34 ff.)
Contrarily, Luther argues that the Romanist teachings are really those not of God:
This is exactly why I firmly believe that the greater number of the popes’ and all the sophist theologians’ books are the devil’s teachings: They have been received by the world peacefully without opposition, have been accorded all honor and held in higher esteem and fear than the holy Gospel. If they had come from God, they would have pleased the smaller number, brought discord into homes and made some men martyrs. But you, a holy priest of God and a Christian lover, pretend to write peaceful doctrine which shall not give offense, and you appeal to the final judgment that you do so without rancor and in the name of God. My good friend, you make St. Simeon a liar when he says in Luke 2:34 “Christ is set for the fall and rising again of many, and for a sign which shall be spoken against.” All the strife and the wars of the Old Testament prefigured the preaching of the Gospel which must produce strife, dissension, disputes, disturbance.
So, we see that the snippet quote has a context. But, defenders of Catholicism ignore the historical situation and context, and simply declare Luther words to mean he claimed to be "a human authority above all others" and that he "set himself up as a divine authority." Such is not the case. Luther continually argues from Scripture, and desires the same in response. One need only look at his treatise An Argument in Defense of all the Articles of Martin Luther Wrongly Condemned in the Roman Bull from the same year as proof. Theologians are supposed to argue from Scripture! Of verses not infallibly defined by Rome, theologians were given freedom to interpret! If Luther's teachings were not God's, how should one determine it? By appealing to the Scriptures.
The quote as used in the discussion thread comes from a Roman apologist's book on Luther. After using this quote, and a few others, the writer states:
We often hear complaints from Protestant apologists and other partisans about the excessive, intolerably "autocratic" authority of the papacy, yet papal proclamations are not even in the same universe as these above, from the founder of Protestantism. Martin Luther didn't need trifles as insignificant as the decree of an ecumenical council to justify himself. He simply assumed his prophetic call and proceeded on, undaunted by precedent and Church authority alike, if it went against his "judgment," which, of course, also was "God’s" and not his own. These quotes from Luther are all of a piece: they all indicate that he considered himself some sort of infallible, unquestionable theological / spiritual guide or authority. Lots of people claim this, of course. Why should Martin Luther have been regarded any differently from any other self-proclaimed prophets or oracles of God? I think this is a perfectly legitimate and highly important question that Protestants would do well to ponder.
In reviewing the context of this quote, I used only the reference a Catholic apologist provided: Reply to the Answer of the Leipzig Goat, 1521; from PE, Vol. III. Even the historical background material I referenced comes from this source. Perhaps the Roman apologist got the quote from someone else, and never read the context. This is indeed possible. But if he did read the context, one sees an incredible example of reading history through Romanist glasses. Rather than thrusting oneself into the context of the debate between Luther and Emser, we are given the typical Catholic polemic that Luther "...simply assumed his prophetic call and proceeded on, undaunted by precedent and Church authority alike, which, of course, also was 'God’s" and not his own' " and that Luther, "...considered himself some sort of infallible, unquestionable theological / spiritual guide or authority." The Catholic apologist asks for Protestants to "ponder" whether or not Luther should be regarded any differently than any other self-proclaimed prophet. The real question though to ask, is why should anachronism and lack of context be the grid to interpret Luther by?
"...that the pope and his fellow-tyrants have taught differently is as clear as day. Hus proved it, so did I and many others, and I will bring still better proof, so help me God."- Luther to Jerome Emser, 1521
Saturday, September 20, 2008
It has been from listening daily to Catholic Answers Live that I've found I don't know what most Roman Catholics are concerned about. Many, if not most of the questions called in have to do with the rules of Rome on things like divorce, parenting, or aspects of the rules of liturgy. Most of these questions (and the answers) I find dull and tedious. The "divorce" answers typically require an aspirin or two- they require listening to interpretations of canon law, personal opinions, and discussions as to what makes a marriage valid or invalid.
Some questions are actually humorous. I did get quite a chuckle when someone called up asking if it was okay to applaud after the Eucharist. The questions about what to do about contemporary worship are ironically funny- that Catholics leave particular parishes because the music is either too conservative or too liberal. Or, questions about "group confession" or "group holding hands" show that Rome suffers from some of the same silliness Protestant churches do.
Recently I started a "fact finding" discussion thread about the Roman Catholic understanding of the Eucharist. Remember, I've never participated in the mass, nor do I have reasons to go search out all the tedium of canon law on it. It's enough for me to know that it is unbiblical in theory. But, I do have some questions as to the practice.
My wife, who was brought up Roman Catholic, recently attended a Catholic funeral. She is a faithful member of the Reformed Protestant church I belong to, and has been a Christian for many years. I realize some Christians would never go to a Roman Catholic service. In terms of Christian liberty, I did not object to my wife attending the service. She knows the truth about Rome, and went only as a support to her family.
At a point in the funeral service came mass. As her relatives went forward to partake in the Eucharist, she did not. Some of those who went forward probably do not practice their Catholicism with any vigor or consistency. Some of her Catholic relatives have informed me that even though my wife has not been a practicing Catholic for many years, she still could've gone forward to partake. My studies lead me to believe that according to recent Catholicism, this would be wrong. Is this is so, and if yes, what should Rome do to stop people from violating Roman protocol? I told my Catholic relatives that non-Catholics, according to Rome, should not take the Eucharist in a situation as I've described it, only to be told I don't know what I'm talking about.
Further, here are some related questions:
1. If a person is unknowingly in mortal sin, and takes the Eucharist, what are the dangers? Should those in such a state simply be excused for being ignorant of the gravity of their state?
2. Where does the Roman Church outline these dangers?
3. Should a priest be concerned about the possibility of giving someone the Eucharist who should not have it? If so why? If not why?
I've never researched the matter in the Catechism, but I do find one of the major differences between my church and the Roman sect, according to some of the answers given in the discussion thread, is that my church would not allow strangers to partake in the communion sacrament, thus erring on the side of caution, while the Roman sect says its priests can't babysit, and thus (in my opinion) err on the side wanton irresponsibility. If Romanism were true, I would not want to be a priest giving the Eucharist to people so haphazardly, knowing that God will eternally judge my actions as a priest.
I have often read Catholics in cyber-space praise the sacrament of the Eucharist, and explain how Protestants don't take it as seriously as Roman Catholics. The questions I've asked though lead me to believe quite the opposite: my church takes the sacrament far more seriously.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
From Catholic News:
"Speakers invited to attend a Vatican-sponsored congress on the evolution debate will not include proponents of creationism and intelligent design, organizers said.
…Jesuit Father Marc Leclerc, a philosophy professor at the Gregorian, told Catholic News Service Sept. 16 that organizers "wanted to create a conference that was strictly scientific" and that discussed rational philosophy and theology along with the latest scientific discoveries.
He said arguments "that cannot be critically defined as being science, or philosophy or theology did not seem feasible to include in a dialogue at this level and, therefore, for this reason we did not think to invite" supporters of creationism and intelligent design."
Creationism is not theological?
"…Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said the other extreme of the evolution debate -- proponents of an overly scientific conception of evolution and natural selection -- also were not invited.
He reiterated that evolutionary theory 'is not incompatible with the teachings of the Catholic Church or the Bible's message.'"
Try reading Genesis again without the need to conform to the world.
"…Phillip Sloan, a professor at Notre Dame, told the press conference the evolution debate, "especially in the United States, has been taking place without a strong Catholic presence ... and the discourse has suffered accordingly."
Actually, the last thing the evolution debate needs is to be confused by Catholic worldliness posing as a thoughtful biblical position.
"…While there has been Catholic commentary on the compatibility of faith and evolutionary theories, there is no definitive written source to which people can refer to learn the church's position, he said."
Sounds like a blueprint for anarchy!
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
I say not that I am a prophet, but I do say that the more they despise me and esteem themselves, the more reason they have to fear that I may be a prophet . . . If I am not a prophet, yet for my own self I am certain that the Word of God is with me and not with them, for I have the Scriptures on my side, and they have only their own doctrine. This gives me courage, so that the more they despise and persecute me, the less I fear them. (An Argument in Defense of All the Articles of Dr. Martin Luther Wrongly Condemned in the Roman Bull, 1521; from: Works of Martin Luther [PE], Vol. III, 12-14; translated by C. M. Jacobs)
The person who posted this quote put up another quote of similar content, cited with a similar reference. As part of my general practice, not only do I try to read quotes like this in context, I also try to determine where the particular extract came from. That is, which secondary source is being used? Many Catholics who frequent discussion boards haven't actually read Luther, they typically are doing a cut-and-paste from a website of secondary citations. I had my suspicions about where the above quote (and the others being posted) came from. I asked,
I'm about 99.9% sure you're getting the Luther material in this discussion thread from a secondary source, rather than actually reading Luther's treatises and extracting these type of quotes. I'm about 99.5% sure it's the work of a particular Romanist apologist, based on the method of bibliographic citation, and that the quotes are from the PE set (a set currently on my desk). To save me some time, could you please give me either the link to his material you're using, or if it's one of his books, let me know which one? If I'm wrong about it being an this Romanist's extract, my apologies. If it's another Catholic source, I'd be very interested in seeing who's quoting PE, rather than the Concordia set.
You are correct, it was from his book on Luther. Maybe if I had taken the quote from my 34 page Word version of "An Argument -....." we could have avoided this obligatory "source" discussion. In fact though, if you need any portion of "An Argument -", just let me know and I will post it.
In the context of the quote, Luther argues at times in church history, the one stands against the many. To get an overview of the context and what Luther was saying, see my earlier entry. It's enough though, for the sake of this entry, to keep "the one stands against the many" in mind.
The Romanist source gives a broader context for the above snippet in his book. One should be able to make out Luther's argument, more-or-less from his citation. The Romanist source though isn't providing this quote to explain Luther's argument in context. Rather, he utilizes it to prove the following: Martin Luther’s Extraordinary (and Arbitrary) Claims Regarding His Own Authority. The quote is put forth to help demonstrate:
"The early Protestants (quintessentially with Martin Luther himself) were claiming infallibility (in a sense that will be explained as I proceed) in far more sweeping and revolutionary terms than any pope ever did."
"Luther’s “certain” claims are in fact (however he or his followers may characterize them) far more “infallibilist” than any Catholic claims."
"Protestants changed the rule of faith to sola Scriptura and private judgment, with the corollaries of perspicuity of Scripture and the primacy of the individual conscience over ecclesiastical binding authority, which meant that the highest authority was Scripture as interpreted by the individual -- hopefully illumined by the Holy Spirit, but still the primacy of the individual over against ecclesial bodies, when push comes to shove."
"Martin Luther didn't need trifles as insignificant as the decree of an ecumenical council to justify himself. He simply assumed his prophetic call and proceeded on, undaunted by precedent and Church authority alike, if it went against his "judgment," which, of course, also was "God’s" and not his own.
"...[Luther] considered himself some sort of infallible, unquestionable theological / spiritual guide or authority."
So with these qualifiers, Luther's actual point gets buried by the Romanist's polemical context. It's no wonder the guy on the discussion board missed Luther's point.
What's interesting to me is that many Roman Catholics will admit that Luther made some very accurate and good points about the state of the Church and the abuses present. They may even admit that Luther stood alone, and was mistreated by the papacy in the indulgence controversy. Many will admit that Rome eventually worked toward fixing some of the abuses at Trent. In other words, Luther's argument that sometimes the one stands against the many is valid, even to an extent, from a Roman Catholic perspective, in the case of Luther. The Romanist himself states in his book,
"Many things could have been different if Catholics had acted against various corruptions sooner. No one disputes that. Of course the Catholic Church needed to be reformed in the 16th century."
"The Catholic Church had its own reform shortly afterwards, in the form of the Council of Trent."
"Some, even many aspects of the Protestant Revolt were indeed on the right track..."
"Even the doctrine of indulgences (that had become corrupt and was later reformed by the Catholic Church)..."
"It is also said that Luther’s case against indulgences was clear-cut and unambiguous: that the Catholic Church was in the wrong, through and through. There were indeed abuses, and the Church dealt strongly with them -- to that extent we might be grateful to Luther as a 'precipitating cause.'"
But of course, there were many more factors at play. It may have begun with indulgences, but Luther went further. Recall, previous to Trent, there was not an official Roman definition of justification. There was no complete dogma on the indulgence when Luther posted the 95 Theses. There was no official doctrine as to the effect of the indulgence upon Purgatory. Rather than the allowed debate and dialog, Rome attacked with all its might. Sure, Rome tried a little bit, but it was much easier to simply declare him a heretic. The Romanist claims Rome had "ecclesiastical binding authority"- yet, unless he can produce the infallible standards by which Luther was to abide by, particularly for the doctrines previously mentioned, he's engaging in anachronism.
Yes, it's true, Luther appealed to the Scriptures as the only infallible authority to be trusted. But even in the document the Romanist pulled the quote from, Luther appeals to Cyprian, Jerome, Lombard's Sentences, a hymn from Aquinas, to name just a few. He argues from both Scripture and Church history- mentioning earlier heretical movements like the Donatists, and more recent controversial persons like Jan Hus. Of course, for Luther, Scripture is the infallible authority, church fathers are not. This doesn't mean though that history isn't important.
Some of you may think checking secondary citations isn't important, but if this person on the discussion board had first read the context in the Luther treatise the citation was pulled from, perhaps he wouldn't have used it. Luther was using the term "prophet" in a particular way, making a particular argument. He wasn't claiming to be receiving extra-biblical revelation, or predicting the future. He wasn't claiming to be an infallible source of revelation, nor was he appealing to some sort of subjectivist set of feelings. He was stating that at times in the history of the church, the one stands against the many. That's why Luther includes not only Old Testament prophets in his argument, but Jerome, Ambrose, and Augustine.
From reading the Luther-snippet, you'd never know that the quote is part of a fairly simple opening argument. Then, throughout the treatise this quote comes from, Luther appealed to the Bible to prove his case. He also appealed (to a lesser extent) to historical personages and events within the history of the church. All of these were put forth as evidence to be evaluated by the reader, be they Roman Catholic or Protestant. The arguments weren't "right" because Luther said so, they were "right" if one followed his carefully laid out argumentation, and checked his facts.
Ironically, many Catholic apologists do the same thing in their books. One is to read them, and evaluate the argumentation. Some of their books don't even have Rome's official stamp of approval. They often appeal to Scripture as an infallible authority on verses that have not been dogmatically defined by Rome. Do we then argue against them as they do us, that they are appealing to their own subjective opinions of the Bible? Well, in terms of pointing out the double standard, yes. But to apply a correct standard, one should evaluate their Biblical argumentation exegetically. This was what Luther was asking for of his Catholic contemporaries. To simply dismiss his writing as claims of infallibility, or putting forth the primacy of the individual conscience is missing not only the context of this quote, but the entire Reformation as well.
Monday, September 15, 2008
I put together a fund raising auction for aomin.org where you can bid on the items pictured above. You can find all the details here: http://hereiblog.com/2008/09/15/fundraising-auction-for-aominorg/
I also want to note that you audio review by Michael Youseff called Uncovering The Shack.
SHACK ATTACK - OR A CALL TO DISCERNMENT?
"Discernment is not simply a matter of telling the difference between what is right and wrong; rather it is the difference between right and almost right." -Charles Spurgeon
At the encouragement of friends, I recently read The Shack by William P. Young. A national bestseller widely embraced by some churches and many professing Christians, The Shack is a work of fiction that embodies lengthy conversations between the main character, a man named Mack, and three persons who represent a version of the Trinity.
Frankly, I was dismayed at many messages conveyed by The Shack and have been surprised that many of my Christian friends have read the book uncritically, finding it a charming and heart-warming story. Some say that it is unfair to have theological expectations since the book is fiction. However, The Shack is marketed as a spiritually transforming book, and it being received that way by many.
It seems to me that a more critical reading is required of The Shack than a secular work of fiction because the author creates characters that purport to speak as God and to guide Mack on his spiritual journey. The fictional story becomes a device to have characters representing the Godhead explain a particular theology. As believers, our spiritual antennas should be fully deployed when we approach such a book.
In The Shack, God the Father appears to Mack as a large, jovial black woman whom Mack calls “Papa.” The Holy Spirit appears as a small Asian woman, and Jesus appears as a Jewish man. Putting aside gender confusion and the attempt to give human form and voice to the Father and Holy Spirit (“no man hath seen God at any time,” John 1:8), it is critical for the Christian reader to carefully consider the message author Young has those voices bring and to weigh their message in the light of the clear teaching of the Bible. That is to exercise discernment, a requirement – not an option – for Christians.
When we read The Shack with discernment, I submit that we find many distortions and untruths. Consider just a few of the words Young puts in the mouths of his created Trinity (my comments are within the parentheses):
Papa to Mack: “We [the Trinity] have limited ourselves out of respect for you.” (Isn’t this Open Theism – God choosing to limit Himself?)
Jesus: “God, who is the ground of all being, dwells in, around, and through all things . . .” (Isn’t this Pantheism – God in all things?)
Sarayu (Young’s Sanscrit name for the Holy Spirit): “We [the Trinity] carefully respect your choices, so we work within your systems even while we seek to free you from them.” (“Neither are your ways my ways . . . my ways are higher than your ways.” Isaiah 55:8-9. Does God respect man’s choices, or does His Word demand that we repent of our ways and that we enter His narrow way?)
Sarayu: “Both evil and darkness can only be understood in relation to Light and Good; they do not have any actual existence . . . Light and Good actually exist.” (Really? Does the Bible teach that evil has no actual existence? Was the biblical Jesus aware of that when He conversed with Satan in the desert temptation?)
Papa: “I don’t need to punish people for sin Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It is not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.” (Certainly there are consequences of our sin which we realize in this life and which impact other people. And certainly God has provided the cure for sin. That “cure” is the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross. Most certainly there is punishment for sin. Christ suffered the punishment for us. However, the implication of Papa’s statement is that the only punishment for sin is sin’s own punishment in a person’s life. The Bible is clear that punishment for the unredeemed, those who refuse Christ’s atonement, is the sting of spiritual death and eternal separation from God. The Shack makes light work of the cross.)
Young’s Jesus character states that he, Papa, and Sarayu are “indeed submitted to one another and have always been so and always will be . . . . In fact, we [the Trinity] are submitted to you [Mack] in the same way.” (Why, then, did the biblical Jesus submit Himself to the will of His father? Does the Bible teach submission to authority in spiritual and family and secular environments? What do you make of the claim that the Trinity is submitted to us? I believe that Young’s anti-authoritarianism is risky in human terms and that it is blasphemous to attribute such egalitarian sentiments to God.)
When requested by Papa to forgive the murderer of his young daughter, Mack balks. Papa says, “Mack, for you to forgive this man is for you to release him to me and allow me to redeem him.” (So God can only redeem those whom humans have forgiven and have released to God for redemption? The effectiveness of redemption for the unrepentant murderer is to be accomplished with Mack’s participation? Find biblical support for that, my friends!)
Christian, what about this assertion by the Jesus of The Shack? “I am the best way any human can relate to Papa or Sarayu.” (This is a false Jesus. The Jesus Christ of the Bible does not say that He is the best way, He says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.” John 14:16. He is not the best way – He is the only way.)
The Shack evidences a low regard for Scripture. When Mack mentions biblical events or concepts, Papa brushes them off and glibly explains how it really is, thus suggesting that the Bible is the work of man, not the divinely inspired work of God. Yet, some argue that The Shack has value in that it demonstrates a loving God of grace who invites man to a relationship. But it does so with grievous distortions about the nature of God, the nature of the Trinity, the authority of God’s Word, God’s hatred of sin, the requirement of repentance, and the nature of conversion and salvation.
My brothers and sisters, even in reading and discussing a work of fiction, we must be prepared to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3), and to do so without apology to the world. The Shack may, from its human author’s viewpoint, be in all sincerity intended as an inviting look at a highly relational God, but would you place even a drop of poison in pure water and invite others to drink? As Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said, The Shack “contains undiluted heresy.” Don’t you and I have a responsibility to be equipped to recognize heresy and to shine the light of truth so that we and others are not deceived?
- Wayne Elliott
Download as pdf
p.s. I responded to several of the comments to this review supporting The Shack. The Shack Is Only Fiction?
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Here's one of Luther's early responses to those who would argue that truth is determined by antiquity. This section comes from An Argument in Defense of all the Articles of Martin Luther Wrongly Condemned in the Roman Bull [Works of Martin Luther (Philadelphia Edition) Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1930 pp. 12-17]. This writing is from Luther's lengthy response to the papal bull Exsurge Domine. The bull condemns 41 errors in Luther's writings, calling him to recant withing 60 days or be excommunicated, and decrees his writings should be burned.
They say also that I propose new doctrines, and it is not to be supposed that everyone else has been so long time in error. That too the ancient prophets had to hear. If antiquity were sufficient proof, the Jews would have had the strongest kind of case against Christ on that ground, for His doctrine was different from any they had heard for a thousand years. The Gentiles, too, would have done fight to hold the apostles in contempt, because their ancestors for more than three thousand years held a very different belief. There have been murderers, adulterers and thieves since the beginning of the world, and will be to the end; does that make these things right? I preach nothing new, but I say that all things Christian have gone to wrack and ruin among those who ought to have held them fast, to wit, the bishops and the doctors; yet I have no doubt that the truth has remained even until now in some hearts, though it were only the hearts of children in their cradles. In Old Testament times the spiritual understanding of the Law remained among some of the common people, though it was lost by the high-priests and the doctors, who ought to have kept it. Thus Jeremiah says that he has found less understanding and justice among the great men than among the laity and common folk [Jeremiah 5:4]. So it is even now: poor peasants and children understand Christ better than pope, bishops, and doctors. Everything is topsy-turvy.
If they will not have it otherwise, well and good; let them make me out a heathen! But what would their answer be, or how should we present our case, if the Turk were to ask us to prove our faith? He cares nothing how long we have believed thus and so, nor how many and how great the people are that have believed this way or that. We should have to be silent about all these things, and point him to the Holy Scriptures as our proof. It would be absurd and laughable if we were to say, “Lo so many priests, bishops, kings, princes, lands, and peoples have believed this and that ever so long.”
Let them now treat me the same way. Let us see where is our foundation and our precedent. Let us examine it, if only to strengthen and edify ourselves. Shall we have so great a foundation and not know it? Shall we keep it hidden, when it is the will of Christ that it shall be common property and known of all men, as He says in Matthew 5, “No man lighteth a candle and putteth it under a bushel, but on the candle-stick, that it may give light to all those that are in the house”? [Matthew 5:15] Christ allowed His hands, His feet, His side to be touched [John 20:27], that His disciples might be sure that it was He, Himself; why, then, should we not touch and prove the Scriptures, which are in truth the spiritual body of Christ, in order to be certain whether it is they in which we believe or not? For all other writings are perilous. They may be “spirits of the air,” which have not flesh and bone, as Christ has [Luke 24:30].
This is my answer to those also who accuse me of rejecting all the teachers of the Church. I do not reject them; but because everyone knows that they have erred at times, as men will, I am willing to put confidence in them only so far as they give me proofs for their opinions out of the Scriptures, which never yet have erred. This St Paul commands me in 1 Thessalonians, the last chapter, where he says, “First prove and confirm all doctrines; hold fast that which is good”[ 1 Thessalonians 5:21]. St Augustine writes to St Jerome to the same effect: “I have learned to do only those books that are called the Holy Scriptures the honor of believing firmly that none of their writers has erred; all others I so read as not to hold what they say to be the truth, unless they prove it to me by the Holy Scriptures or by clear reason.”
The Holy Scriptures must needs be clearer, easier of interpretation and more certain than any other scriptures, for all teachers prove their statements by them, as by clearer and more stable writings, and wish their own writings to be established and explained by them. But no one can ever prove a dark saying by one that is still darker; therefore, necessity compels us to run to the Bible with all the writings of the doctors, and thence to get our verdict and judgment upon them; for Scripture alone is the true over-lord and master of all writings and doctrines on earth. If not, what are the Scriptures good for? Let us reject them and be satisfied with the books of men and human teachers.
That many of the great hate me and persecute me on this account, frightens me not at all; indeed, it comforts and strengthens me, since it is dearly the case in all the Scriptures that the persecutors and haters have usually been wrong and the persecuted have usually been right. The lie has always had the majority, the truth the minority on its side. Nay, if it were only a few insignificant men who were attacking me, I should know that what I wrote and taught was not yet of God. St Paul raised much disturbance with his doctrine, as we read in Acts; but that did not prove the falsity of his doctrine [Acts 19:28 ff.]. Truth has always caused an uproar; false teachers have always said, “Peace, peace,” as Isaiah and Jeremiah tell us [Jeremiah 6:14; Jeremiah 8:11].
Therefore, the pope and his great following notwithstanding, I will joyfully come to the rescue and defense of the articles condemned in the bull, as God gives me grace. I trust, by God’s grace, to uphold them against the wrong that is done them; against force I have nothing else to oppose than one poor body; that I commend to God and His truth, which is still holy, though it has been condemned by the pope. Amen.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
"Do we not read in the Old Testament that God commonly raised up only one prophet at a time? Moses was alone in the Exodus, Elijah was alone in King Ahab’s day, Elisha, after him, was alone, Isaiah was alone in Jerusalem, Hosea alone in Israel, Jeremiah alone in Judaea, Ezekiel alone in Babylon, and so forth. Even though they had many disciples, called “children of the prophets,” God never allowed more than one man alone to preach and rebuke the people.........
I say not that I am a prophet, but I do say that the more they despise me and esteem themselves, the more reason they have to fear that I may be a prophet . . .
If I am not a prophet, yet for my own self I am certain that the Word of God is with me and not with them, for I have the Scriptures on my side, and they have only their own doctrine. This gives me courage, so that the more they despise and persecute me, the less I fear them.
(An Argument in Defense of All the Articles of Dr. Martin Luther Wrongly Condemned in the Roman Bull, 1521; from: Works of Martin Luther [PE], Vol. III, 12-14; translated by C. M. Jacobs)
The Roman Catholic who posted this stated, "Granted, here Luther does not claim to be a prophet but then, he does not say that he is not either, and this even after being accused of thinking that he was. In addition, the whole discussion of there being only one prophet at one time........ is pretty damning." Let's clear up the later charge first. In the above quote, Luther states, "Do we not read in the Old Testament that God commonly raised up only one prophet at a time?" The key word is "commonly." The translation being used is the out-of-print Philadelphia edition of Luther's Works. The Concordia edition translated the sentence, "Do we not read in the Old Testament that God generally raised up only one prophet at a time?" [LW 32:8]. There is nothing "pretty damning" about Luther's statement. Generally or commonly speaking, Luther is Biblically accurate.
This quote though serves as an excellent example of the typical selective citation employed by some Roman Catholics. Is this quote an argument for Luther claiming to be a Prophet receiving extra-Biblical revelation? No. The context suggests something quite different. The quote does come from "An Argument in Defense of All the Articles of Dr. Martin Luther Wrongly Condemned in the Roman Bull." This writing is Luther's lengthy response to the bull Exsurge Domine. Note as you read through the extended paragraphs, the context focuses on how God uses the few to convict the many. God uses the meek to convict the mighty. At one point, Luther includes Jerome, Ambrose, and Augustine. Interesting how the Roman Catholic citation left these men out.
Wherefore I, Doctor Martin Luther by name, have undertaken,with joyful heart, to prove by Scripture all the articles, for the further instruction and the exposure of the false and pretended Church, so that everyone may be able to protect himself against the blind feints that these tricksters are wont to make. Perhaps even they will some time come to themselves and consent to exchange their hypocrisy for truth, their trickery for serious earnest, their pretensions for proofs. But first I must defend myself against some of the charges they bring against me.
In the first place, I pass by entirely the charge that I am caustic and impatient. I shall not excuse myself for that, for I have not been caustic or impatient in the books that have treated of Christian doctrine, but only in controversies and foolish disputings about the papacy, the indulgences and such like fools-work, and they have forced me into them. These subjects have neither deserved nor permitted so much discussion, let alone kindly and peaceful words.
They accuse me of setting myself up all alone to be everybody's teacher. I answer, I have not set myself up, I but have preferred at all times to creep into a corner. It is they who have drawn me out by wile and force, that they might win glory and honor at my expense. Now that the game is going against them, they think me guilty of vain-glory. And even if it were true that I had set myself up all alone, that would be no excuse for their conduct. Who knows but that God has called me and raised me up? They ought to fear lest they despise God in me.
Do we not read in the Old Testament that God commonly raised up only one prophet at a time? Moses was alone in the Exodus, Elijah was alone in King Ahab's day, Elisha, after him, was alone, Isaiah was alone in Jerusalem, Hosea alone in Israel, Jeremiah alone in Judaea, Ezekiel alone in Babylon, and so forth. Even though they had many disciples, called "children of the prophets," God never allowed more than one man alone to preach and rebuke the people.
Moreover, God never once made prophets out of the high-priests or others of lofty station; but usually He raised up lowly and despised persons, even at last the shepherd Amos. King David was an exception, but even he came up from lowly rank.
Therefore the saints have always had to preach against those in high places —kings, princes, priests, doctors—to rebuke them, to risk their own lives, and sometimes to lose them. In those days, too, the great men gave the holy prophets no other answer than to say, "We are the authorities and men must obey us, not the lowly and despised prophets"; as Jeremiah writes. So they do even now. Everything is wrong that does not please the pope, the bishops and the doctors; we must listen to them, no matter what they say.
Under the New Testament, too, have not the true bishops and teachers been rare enough? St Ambrose was alone in his day, after him St Jerome, and then St Augustine. Besides, God chose not many high and great bishops for this work. St Augustine was bishop in a single little city of small reputation, but he accomplished so much more than all the Roman popes, with all their fellow-bishops, that they cannot hold a candle to him. Then too it is a fact that all the heresies have been started, or at least have been encouraged, by bishops and doctors. Why then shall we trust them now, when they no longer serve the Church and have become temporal lords, if they were so dangerous before, when they were better, more learned, holier and more diligent? We insist on being blind.
I say not that I am a prophet, but I do say that the more they despise me and esteem themselves, the more reason they have to fear that I may be a prophet. God is wonderful in His works and judgments and giveth no heed to rank, numbers, greatness, knowledge or power; as saith Psalm cxxxvi, Alta a longe cognoscit. If I am not a prophet, yet for my own self I am certain that the Word of God is with me and not with them, for I have the Scriptures on my side, and they have only their own doctrine. This gives me courage, so that the more they despise and persecute me, the less I fear them.
There were many asses in the world in the days of Balaam,but God spake by none of them save only by Balaam's ass. He saith in the xiii Psalm to these same great ones, "Ye have shamed the doctrine of the poor preacher, because he trusteth in God," as if to say, "Because he is not great and high and mighty, his doctrine must needs be false in your eyes."
Thursday, September 11, 2008
If it Says it on Wikipedia....check to make sure it's true. For instance:
Another work says: "In all of his [Luther's] work there was a sense of urgency for the time was short... the world was heading for Armageddon in the war with the Turk."
^ Luther's View of Church History, John M. Headley, Yale University Press, 1963, pp 13,14
I came across this quote while researching some other Luther quotes. Parts of the Wikipedia entry this quote comes from have been lifted verbatim from a Jehovah's Witness apologetic site.
The quote above claims to be from Luther's View of Church History by John M. Headley. No such statement occurs on either pages 13 or 14 in the 1963 Yale edition. Nor do I think the statement is made anywhere in this book.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
A friend from CARM posted this Luther quote for me- being used by a Jehovah's Witness:
Martin Luther - 1483 to 1546- "For my part, I am sure that the day of judgment is just around the corner. It doesn't matter that we don't know the precise day ... perhaps someone else can figure it out. But it is certain that time is not at an end." (Reformation Principles and Practice: Essays in Honor of Arthur Geoffrey Dickens, page 169)"
In the version above, the word "not" is supposed to be "now", so it should read, "For my part, I am sure that the day of judgment is just around the corner. It doesn't matter that we don't know the precise day ... perhaps someone else can figure it out. But it is certain that time is now at an end."
I also have Reformation Principles and Practice: Essays in Honor of Arthur Geoffrey Dickens, page 169. The essay the quote is taken from has little to do with Luther, but actually describes the books in a 16th Century Lutheran minster's library. The quote reads, " 'For my part,' Luther concluded, 'I am sure that the Day of Judgment is just around the corner. It doesn't matter that we don't know the precise day'; and characteristically he adds, 'perhaps someone else can figure it out. But certain it is that time is now at an end." The essay really has nothing to do with Luther's eschatology. It's amazing that this obscure book is cited, rather than the easily found comments from Luther Works on the end times. Then again, I've always been told Jehovah's Witnesses only read Watchtower material, so how a JW was able to track down this obscure text is even more amazing.
The Luther quote comes from the 1541 "extensive antipapistic commentary on Daniel 12" (description by the LW editors), and to my knowledge, is not translated in English. The LW 35 preface to Daniel only includes the version from 1530. So, not only did a Jehovah's Witness cite Luther from an obscure secondary source, the primary source isn't even in English.
Here are some other versions:
"Luther (quoted by Seiss, Last Times, p. 255) on Daniel 12 :7 says : " I ever keep it before me, and I am satisfied that the last day must be before the door ; for the signs predicted by Christ and the Apostles Peter and Paul have all now been fulfilled, the trees put forth, the Scriptures are green and flourishing. That we cannot know the day matters not; someone else may point it out ; things are certainly near their end." [The Theocratic Kingdom of our Lord Jesus, The Christ]
"Luther believed and taught that this consummation was to be expected every day. On Daniel xii. 7, he says, " I ever keep it before me, and I am satisfied, that the last day must be before the door; for the signs predicted by Christ and the apostles Peter and Paul have all now been fulfilled, the trees put forth, the Scriptures are green and blooming. That we cannot know the day, matters not ; some one else may point it out; things are certainly near their end." [The Last Times and the Great Consummation: An Earnest Discussion of Momentous Themes By Joseph Augustus Seiss Published by Smith, English, 1863]
In another blog entry, I'll discuss how the Jehovah's Witnesses use this quote and others. The argumentation they put forth is rather clever.
Here's another bit of Luther information used by the Jehovah's Witnesses:
"Continuing the heralding of imminent disaster after Luther's death, collections of his prophecies appeared regularly. Some were brief pamphlets like "The Several Prophetic Statements of Doctor Martin Luther, the Third Elias" (1552). In this material, Lutheran writers stated that, "Luther had prophesied that after he died the Gospel would disappear."
Luther prophesied that after he died the Gospel would disappear? As I read this snippet, it appears to me it was the apocalyptic Lutheran writers after Luther's death making the charge, "Luther had prophesied that after he died the Gospel would disappear," perhaps not Luther making it.
A book I found via a reference in Luther's Works is Luther's View of Church History by John Headley (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1963). Headley describes at length, Luther's interpretations of Daniel. Headley points out that Luther believed that the Antichrist had come. Shortly before the last day, a period of time would be granted for repentance. But, this period would also be marked by the growth of heretics and sects "which will silence the public gospel."
Since Luther lived in what he believed were the last days, I can understand how later eschatologically minded Lutherans, adhering to Luther as an interpretive end-times prophet, would determine that the gospel would disappear after Luther's death. I can also see how Luther could've come to this conclusion.
As to the probable source, "The Several Prophetic Statements of Doctor Martin Luther, the Third Elias" (1552)," I believe this may be the work of Johannes Timann, who held Luther was raised up by God to be the third Elijah. In this text, Timann speaks of the disasters that happened in Germany after Luther's death, and that Luther had prophetically predicted them.
For a good overview of this apocalyptic Luther material, get a copy of Robert Kolb's, Martin Luther as Prophet, Teacher, and Hero: Images of the Reformer, 1520-1620 (Michigan:Baker Books, 1999).
For my own reference, the following gives a good overview of Luther's eschatological thought concerning Daniel. It is the dedication letter from Luther's 1530 preface to Daniel (Found in Luther's Correspondence, Vol 2)
LUTHER TO JOHN FREDERIC, DUKE OF SAXONY.
De Wette, iii, 555. German. (WITTENBERG February or March, 1530.)This is the dedication of the German translation of Daniel, just completed.
Grace and peace in Christ our Lord. The world runs and hastens so diligently to its end that it often occurs to me forcibly that the last day will break before we can completely turn the Holy Scripture into German. For it is certain from the Holy Scriptures that we have no more temporal things to expect. All is done and fulfilled: the Roman Empire is at an end; the Turk has reached his highest point; the pomp of the papacy is falling away and the world is cracking on all sides almost as if it would break and fall apart entirely. It is true that this same Roman Empire now under our Emperor Charles is coming up a bit and is becoming mightier than it has been for a long time, but I think that that shows it is the last phase, and that before God it is just as when a light or wisp of straw is burnt up and about to go out, then it gives forth a flame as if it was going to burn brightly and even at the same moment goes out: — even so Christendom now does with the light of the Gospel.
Moreover all prophets in and out of the Bible write that after this time, namely, after the present year of 1530, things will go well again. That which they so rightly point to and prophesy will be, I hope, the last day, which will free us from all evil and help us to everlasting joy. So I reckon this epoch of the Gospel light as none other than the time in which God shortens and restrains tribulation by means of the Gospel, as Christ says in Matthew xxiv : "If the Lord shortened not these days, no man would be saved." For if the world had to stand longer as it has hitherto stood, the whole world would become Mohammedan or skeptical,' and no christian would be left, as Christ says: "When the Son of man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?" And, in fact, there was no more right understanding nor doctrine in the Christian faith present, but mere error, darkness and superstition with the innumerable multitude.
Truly there has been no greater tribulation on the earth,and none will come that goes farther, endures longer and rages more fiercely than the abomination of Mohamed and the Pope, for they have destroyed the world temporally with ceaseless blood and murder, but have seduced and murdered souls much more terribly. Thus the third woe in Revelation xii also shows that one must say that the devil is loose,
and rules bodily with all rage and wantonness.
Such thoughts have caused me to publish this prophet Daniel before the others who still remain, so that he may come to light before everything perishes, and he may exercise his office and comfort the poor Christians for whom he wrote, and for whom he was spared and preserved unto this last time. . . . History relates how Alexander the Great always had the poet Homer by him and at night put it under his head and slept on it. How much more fitting would it be that such and still greater honor be done to this Daniel by all kings and princes, that he should lie not only under their heads but in their hearts, inasmuch as he teaches differently and more highly than Homer was able to do.
For in him a prince can learn to fear and to trust God when he sees and recognizes that God loves the pious prince and rules him graciously and gives him all good fortune and safety,and contrariwise that He hates the bad prince, casts him down in anger and lays waste his power. Here we learn that no prince should trust to his own power or wisdom, nor presume upon it nor brag about it. For no realm nor government stands in human strength or wisdom, but it is God alone who gives, establishes, maintains, governs, protects, preserves, and Who also takes away. It is all held in His hand and depends upon His power as a ship on the sea or even as a cloud under the sky. . .