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.