Friday, November 28, 2008

Is Hebrews 11:35-37 a Proof for the Inclusion of the Apocrypha to the Canon?

The author of Hebrews states, “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any double- edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). The certainty that God has spoken, and has done so in a fixed number of inspired books has swung open the doors to several confessions of faith. The London Confession of Baptist Faith opens by stating, “The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith and obedience.” The Westminster Confession states that God committed His word to writing, “for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world.” The confession adds, “those former ways of God's revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.” This point, while seemingly innocuous and held to as a basic Christian presupposition, is a point of contention between historic Protestants and Roman Catholicism on the extent of the fixed canon of sacred Scripture. Roman Catholics since the sixteenth century Council of Trent are required by dogmatic decree to accept an additional set of books almost all exclusively written during the intertestamental period known as either the Apocrypha or Deuterocanon. While the argument over the inclusion or exclusion of these books generally takes place in the realm of historical analysis, certain internal biblical arguments for either inclusion or exclusion are likewise put forth. One such internal argument is based on Hebrews 11:35-37.

Hebrews 11:35-37 states, “(35) Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection. (36) and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. (37) They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated.” These verses, while intended to be a statement supporting the exposition and implication of biblical faith actually serve as a popular proof-text in the debate over the extent of the Hebrew canon. Those of Roman Catholic persuasion argue these verses are at least an allusion to 2 Maccabees 7:1, 13-14, if not a direct reference. These verses state, “(1) It came to pass also, that seven brethren with their mother were taken, and compelled by the king against the law to taste swine's flesh, and were tormented with scourges and whips. (13) Now when this man was dead also, they tormented and mangled the fourth in like manner. (14) So when he was ready to die he said thus, It is good, being put to death by men, to look for hope from God to be raised up again by him: as for thee, thou shalt have no resurrection to life.”

Is this parallel justified? Catholic apologist Robert Sungenis argues that there are “over two dozen such allusions between the Deutero-canonicals and the New Testament” [Robert Sungenis, Not By Scripture Alone (Santa Barbara: Queenship Publishing), p.278]. He lists this passage along with many others. According to Catholic apologists, the reason for such parallels are due to the fact that the Bible used by the New Testament writers was the Greek Septuagint. Roman Catholics hold this Bible translation contained the Deuterocanon, and the disputed books were treated implicitly as sacred scripture by the New Testament authors, as well as the early church. Recently, Roman Catholic apologists have had a boost of support from a recent book, Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger by Gary Michuta. Mr. Michuta has presented the first full-length defense of Apocrypha inclusion coming from a Roman Catholic perspective in quite a while.

Michuta argues that Hebrews 11:35 is indeed a reference to the Maccabean martyrs, and is so with “a high degree of certainty.” First, there are no other examples presented in the Greek Old Testament of persons undergoing torture and not accepting deliverance for the hope of a better resurrection.”[Gary Michuta, Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger (Port Huron: Grotto Press, 2007), p. 37]. Second, 2 Maccabees twice explicitly refers to a “hope for a better resurrection” as does Hebrews 11:35. Third, Michuta finds linguistic similarities between the words rendered “tormented”(or “tortured”) in Hebrews with Eleazar’s martyrdom in Maccabees. Hebrew 11:36 mentions “mockings and scourgings” as does 2 Maccabees 7:7, “So when the first was dead after this number, they brought the second to make him a mocking stock: and when they had pulled off the skin of his head with the hair, they asked him, Wilt thou eat, before thou be punished throughout every member of thy body?” Michuta summarizes these points by stating, “Apart from dogmatic prejudice, this reference to 2 Maccabees is unquestionable, and both Catholic and Protestant scholars rightly acknowledge this point of contact between Hebrews and the Deuterocanonical book of 2 Maccabees.”[Ibid., p. 37].

If it can be established that the New Testament writers quoted the Apocrypha as Scripture, it would follow that the Protestant Bible is missing inspired God-breathed books. Michuta concludes his book by stating, “The removal of the Deuterocanon is indeed a matter of supreme importance, since it affects the very Word of God Himself; and its effects can be shown to have been devastating in both theology and practice”[Ibid., p. 308]. Has Mr. Michuta and Catholic apologetics proved their contention? Did the writer of Hebrews implicitly consider the Apocrypha as God inspired scripture, and quote it as such in Hebrews 11?

At stake in such a controversy is the very certainty of the word of God. If Rome is correct, the Old Testament that the author of Hebrews believed in is not the same Old Testament that that the Westminster divines believed in. When the author of Hebrews stated the word of God is living, active, with a piercing sharpness, have Protestants dulled the blade by leaving the Apocryphal books out? Can Protestants consistently and actually find comfort and exhortation in the testimonies of faith found in Hebrew 11 if they actually deny the Biblical books from which the author compiled his list of faith’s heroes?

Context
Before delving specifically into answering these questions, it is crucial to review the immediate context surrounding the passage in dispute. The writer of the book of Hebrews exhorts his readers to persevere amidst trials and persecution (Heb. 10:19-39). He reminds his readers that earlier they had earlier stood their ground “in a great contest in the face of suffering” (Heb, 10:32), even while being “publicly exposed to insult and persecution” (Heb. 10:33). They need to persevere (Heb. 10:36), because they are those who do not “shrink back” and are destroyed (Heb. 10:39).

They are those who are to live by faith, and are themselves part of a great community of saints. Surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses (Heb. 12:1) described at length in Hebrews 11, they are those whose faith was authored and finished be their great high priest, Jesus Christ (Heb. 12:3). Hebrews 11 presents a substantial panoply of specific events in Biblical history, beginning at creation, and taking the reader on a rapid journey through Hebrew history. The writer mentions and expounds briefly on specific individuals: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and Rahab. All these mentioned have explicit Biblical references to substantiate their place among the heroes of faith. The writer of Hebrews also speaks of Israel collectively living by faith during the Exodus, and the claiming of the land promised to them by God.

Noting his limitation by time, toward the end of the chapter the writer ventures from the specific to general. He is unable to specifically expound with greater depth on others included in the great cloud of witnesses (Heb. 11:32). These though, are no less important: Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jepthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets (Heb. 11:32). Similar to those presented in Hebrews 11:1-31, these names also find explicit mentioning in the Old Testament. These people would have been as familiar to the Hebrews as were those the writer did expound on. Hebrews 11:33-40 appears to be expounding on the names just mentioned:

“(33) Who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, (34) quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. (35)Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; (36) and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. (37) They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (38) (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. (39) And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, (40) because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.”

P. E. Hughes states this description is “spontaneous and unstudied”[William Lane, Hebrews 9-13 (WBC 47B) (Waco: Word, 1991), p. 385]. William Lane says these verses “presupposes a rather detailed knowledge of the OT and of Jewish history on the part of the writer and the congregation addressed”[Ibid., p. 385]. He further expounds on this section from Hebrews noting the section includes nine short clauses in vv 33-34. He speculates, “The first three appear to form a group prompted by the antecedent reference to those named in v 32b”[Ibid., p.385]. Verse 33 describes those “who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions.” This verse clearly applies to those mentioned in Hebrews 11:32. Verse 33 first notes those “who by faith conquered kingdoms.” As Albert Barnes noted long ago, “The meaning is, that some of them subdued kingdoms, others obtained promises, etc. Thus, Joshua subdued the nations of Canaan; Gideon the Midianites; Jephtha the Ammonites; David the Philistines, Amalekites, Jebusites, Edomites, etc”[Albert Barnes, Notes, on the Epistle to the Hebrews (London: George Routledge and Sons, 1876) pp. 293-294]. Here easily documented Biblical figures correspond to the description offered. These also “performed acts of righteousness.” As John Gil described, these people “exercised vindictive justice, in taking vengeance on the enemies of God, and his people; civil righteousness, in the discharge of their offices; and moral righteousness, in their conversation before God and men”[John Gil , The Collected Works of John Gil (electronic edition) (Baptist Standard Bearer, 2002)]. These people also “obtained promises,” promises from God to their posterity, specifically promises to be in God’s people, ruled by His Messiah.

Specific acts of courage and faith then follow. Some who lived by faith were able to “shut the mouths of lions.” While some of the intended audience may have thought of Samson killing a lion in Judges 14:6, the reference was most likely to Daniel in the lion’s den (Daniel 6). Daniel was also able to “quench the power of fire” as recorded in Daniel 3. Others “escaped the edge of the sword,” perhaps an allusion to David as recorded in 2 Kings 6:16 in which David fled from Saul’s deadly pursuit. Some “from weakness were made strong” may be an allusion to Samson who at times received increases in bodily strength, or David, who in times of weakness was refreshed by the Lord. Some “became mighty in war” and “put foreign armies to flight” could refer to most of those names mentioned in Hebrews 11:32. Recall how Gideon overthrew the camp of the Midianites.

From the preceding, it is obvious the writer to the Hebrews assumes his readers are quite familiar with the history of the Jewish people as recorded in the Bible. William Lane implies through his exposition of this section that the examples given in 11:32-40 not only show a deep familiarity with the biblical record, but possibly a correspondence to Jewish extra-biblical history as well. Lane points out that these two counts of divine deliverance reported in the book of Daniel are linked and mentioned together in Jewish tradition in 1 Maccabees 2:59-60; 3 Maccabees 6:6-7; 4 Maccabees 16:3, 21; 18: 12-13 [Lane, p.386]. He also states, “The reference to David is not surprising since he holds such a firm place in the exemplary tradition (e.g., Sir 45:25; 47:2-11; 1 Macc 2:15)”[Ibid., 384]. Lane see verse 34 as not only deeply biblical, but also “richly illustrated in the early Maccabean resistance to Seleucid repression at the time of Antiochus IV Epipihanes (cf. 1 Macc 3:17-25; 4:6-22, 34-36) [Ibid., p. 387]. Despite Lane’s appeal to Jewish tradition, one thing is most certain; the names and descriptions presented in Hebrews 11:32-34 are first and foremost biblical. Lane himself is most aware of this. Commenting on the overall structure of Hebrews 11, he states, “In brief, the introduction, first two examples, and conclusion of Heb 11:1-40 take the form of a list of attested exemplars who receive divine approval in the pages of Scripture”[Ibid., p.319]. It is to the controversial verses that we now turn. Does the writer to the Hebrews abandon the Biblical text, or does he have a different Old Testament than that used by Protestants?

Hebrews 11:35
Hebrews 11:35 states, “Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection.” Some commentators see “Women received back their dead by resurrection” as an allusion to the widow at Zarephath of Sidon, who saw her dead son come back to life by the faith of Elijah (1 Kings 17:17-24). Jamieson, Fausset and Brown point out the oldest manuscripts read, “They received women of aliens by raising their dead.” They point out “1 Kings 17:24 shows that the raising of the widow’s son by Elijah led her to the faith, so that he thus took her into fellowship, an alien though she was” [Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on Hebrews (ESword Electronic Edition, 2008)]. Other commentator’s see the verse alluding to the Shunamite in 2 Kings 4:36. William Lane argues the language in 35a parallels that used by the LXX in 2 Kings 4:37 which states, “The woman…received her son.”

“Others were tortured” is the first glimpse of a possible Apocryphal allusion. Barnes notes, “The word which is used here - τυμπανιζω tumpanizo - to “tympanize,” refers to a form of severe torture ” that also is described in 2 Maccabees 6:19-29 [Barnes, pp. 294-295]. Likewise, William Lane sees the word translated as “tortured” as the rack or stake to which people were tied to, as described in 2 Maccabees 6:19, 28. Calvin notes that some have translated the word as “imprisoned,” but likewise agrees, “the simple meaning is, as I think, that they were stretched on a rack, as the skin of a drum, which is distended” [Calvin, The comprehensive John Calvin collection 2.0 (Ages Digital Library, 2002)].

Lane also sees “not accepting their release” as a statement “amply illustrated by the behavior of the ninety-year-old scribe, Eleazar, who refused the pretense of renouncing commitment to God so that he might ‘be released from death’ (2 Macc 6:22). He willingly chose the rack and endured a brutal beating” [Lane, p. 389]. In 2 Maccabees 6:30 Eleazar states, “But when he was ready to die with stripes, he groaned, and said, It is manifest unto the Lord, that hath the holy knowledge, that whereas I might have been delivered from death, I now endure sore pains in body by being beaten: but in soul am well content to suffer these things, because I fear him.” Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, John Gil, state a similar opinion. John Calvin comes close to locating the allusion away from the Apocrypha, but likewise states, “Now though they say that Jeremiah was stoned, that Isaiah was sawn asunder, and though sacred history relates that Elijah, Elisha, and other Prophets, wandered on mountains and in caves; yet I doubt not but he here points out those persecutions which Antiochus carried on against God’s people, and those which afterwards followed” [Calvin, The comprehensive John Calvin collection 2.0 (Ages Digital Library, 2002)].

“So that they might obtain a better resurrection” is best understood as a contrast with those children restored to their mothers mentioned in verse 35. The “better resurrection” is one in which death does not return as it did to those sons given back those their mothers. Lane states, “The reference to the refusal of release and the enduring of torment in the context of a firm expectation of attaining the resurrection shows unmistakably that the allusion in v 35b is to 2 Macc 6:18-7:42, where the Jewish historian recounts the martyrdom of Eleazar and of a mother and her seven sons at the hands of Antiochus IV Epiphanes and his officers. Specific reference is made to the hope of the resurrection in the account of the sufferings endured by three of the seven brothers, as well as in the encouragement offered to them by their mother (2 Macc 7:9, 11, 14, 22-23, 29)” [ Lane, p.389]. On this phrase, Albert Barnes comments that, “No particular instance of this kind is mentioned in the Old Testament; but amidst the multitude of cases of persecution to which good men were subjected, there is no improbability in supposing that this may have occurred. The case of Eleazer, recorded in 2 Macc. 6, so strongly resembles what the apostle says here, that it is very possible he may have had it in his eye” [Barnes, pp. 294-295].

Hebrews 11:36
The phrase, “and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment” can find support for the abusive persecution of the prophets documented in 2 Chronicles 36:23; Jeremiah 20:7-8; 37:15-16, 18-20; 38: 6-13. John Gill notes “As Samson by the Philistines; Elisha by the children, whom the bears devoured; Jeremiah by Pashur, and others; the Jews by Sanballat and Tobiah, when building the temple; the prophets, whom God sent to the Jews, as his messengers, and scourgings; or smitings, as Jeremiah and Micaiah, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment; as Joseph, Samson, and Jeremiah, Gen 39:20. Now of these things they had trial, or experience; their graces were tried by them, and they patiently endured them” [John Gil , The Collected Works of John Gil (electronic edition) (Baptist Standard Bearer, 2002)]. The abuse described does again find support from 2 Maccabees 7:1.

Hebrews 11:37
“They were stoned,” finds mention of Biblical support from 2 Chronicles 24:20-21 in which the prophet Zechariah was killed in such a way. The New Testament though infers Jerusalem used this method against God’s prophets often in the past (Matt 23:27; Luke 13:34). Jewish tradition gives various accounts of the stoning of the prophet Jeremiah in the Midrash Aggadah and 4 Baruch, a theme picked up on by the early church in The Lives of the Prophets, a work attributed to Epiphanius, bishop of Salamis (315-403 C.E.).

“They were sawn in two” could refer to the tradition about the death of Isaiah in which he was found hiding in a tree trunk, and thus killed by a saw for taking refuge in a tree. The Ascension of Isaiah was well known in the early church. It had wide circulation, with manuscripts extant in Ethiopic, Coptic, Slavonic, Latin and also, some segments of it can be found in Greek. The tradition concerning Isaiah’s dreadful death by Manasseh was popular in Jewish, Christian, and Gnostic circles. John Gill reviews different versions of the story found in Jewish tradition, and then notes how widely accepted it was in the early church by Justin Martyr, Origen, Tertullian, Lactantius, Athanasius, Hilary, Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory Nyssene, Jerome, Isidorus Pelusiota, Gregentius, Procopius Gazaeus, and others.

The phrase “they were tempted” could allude to many different biblical personages, like Job, tempted by Satan. John Gill sees Eleazar and the seven brethren with their mother tempted to deny the faith and renounce the worship of God in 2 Maccabees 6:7. Albert Barnes likewise locates one of the descriptions of those tempted in the Apocrypha: “Amidst the sorrows of martyrs, therefore, it was not improper to say that they were tempted, and to place this among their most aggravated woes. For instances of this nature, see 2 Macc. 6:21, 22; 7:17, 24” [Barnes, pp. 295-296].

“They were put to death with the sword” presents the opposite of those who, in verse 34, “escaped the edge of the sword.” Eighty-five priests were slain by Doeg 1Sa_22:18. Lane points out, “Elijah escaped the wrath of Jezebel, but other prophets had not been so fortunate (1 Kgs 18:4, 13; 19:10). The prophet Uriah…was ‘struck down by the sword’”[Lane ,p. 391]. Lane though adds, “The fate of being murdered by the sword was certainly not an isolated experience in the OT or in the post-biblical period (cf. 1 Macc 1:30; 2:9, 38; 5:13; 7:15-17, 19; 2 Macc 5:24-26) [Ibid., p, 391].

Elijah and Elisha certainly “went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated.” Zechariah 13:4 infers that this was the standard garb of a prophet. Within the early church, 1 Clement urged believers to imitate “those who went about in goatskins and sheepskins, heralding the coming of Christ; we mean Elijah and Elisha, and moreover Ezekiel, the prophets” (1 Clement 17:1).

Hebrews 11:38
1 Kings 18:4 records prophets hiding in caves. Certainly the biblical prophets fit the description “men of whom the world was not worthy.” 2 Maccabees 10:6 records, "And they kept the eight days with gladness, as in the feast of the tabernacles, remembering that not long afore they had held the feast of the tabernacles, when as they wandered in the mountains and dens like beasts'' Albert Barnes likewise finds Apocryphal allusion: “Compare 1 Macc. 1:53; 2 Macc. 5:27; 6:7. The instances mentioned in the books of Maccabees are so much in point, that there is no impropriety in supposing that Paul referred to some such cases, if not these very cases. As there is no doubt about their historic truth, there was no impropriety in referring to them, though they are not mentioned in the canonical books of Scripture. One of those cases may be referred to as strikingly illustrating what is here said. “But Judas Maccabeus with nine others or thereabout, withdrew himself into the wilderness, and lived in the mountains after the manner of beasts, with his company, who fed on herbs continually lest they should be partakers of the pollution;” 2 Macc. 5:27” [Barnes, pp. 296-297].

Conclusion
It seems highly probable the writer to the Hebrews alluded to the Apocrypha in chapter 11. The parallels Catholic apologists suggest particularly in verse 35 and 2 Maccabees seem likely. “Others were tortured,” “not accepting their release” and “so that they might obtain a better resurrection” appear to be the closest points of contact with 2 Maccabees. As noted above, other vague points of contact could be inferred, but not with the same level of certitude of these three statements. Within the arena of rhetoric and polemics, the above study demonstrates that Protestant exegetes do not disagree with the possibility of Apocryphal allusions in Hebrews 11. Thus, Protestants are not hiding the fact that 2 Maccabees may be what the writer to the Hebrews has in mind.

Did the writer of Hebrews therefore implicitly consider the Apocrypha as God inspired scripture, and quote it as such in Hebrews 11? This does not necessarily follow. Other non-biblical books are quoted in scripture, but not treated as Scripture. Jude quotes from the Apocryphal Book of Enoch in Jude 14, and some see a possible allusion to the Assumption of Moses in Jude 1:9. Paul quotes pagan poets and philosophers on Mars Hill, and an allusion to the Penitence of Jannes and Jambres may be found in 2 Timothy 3:8.

Even within Hebrews, the writer may be alluding to spurious accounts concerning Jeremiah and Isaiah in 11:37. Sensing the weight of such a criticism, Catholic apologist Gary Michuta states, “The reference to the noncanonical book, The Ascension of Isaiah, in Heb 11:37 does not negate my point. It is not my contention that Heb 11 used only information supplied by Scripture, but that it uses only biblical figures to illustrate supernatural faith. That is clear from the preceding context. The reference to those who were ‘sawn in two’ is an expansion on the biblical figure of the prophet Isaiah. One can find numerous expansions of biblical figures in the New Testament from apocryphal sources, but none introduces new biblical characters”[Michuta, 41]. Does such an explanation satisfy? No, for it is an invention of Catholic apologetics to weave around an obvious flaw in argumentation. On what basis does one decide that expansion is an allowable method in the usage of non-biblical material for the inspired writers? It is a created distinction. There is nothing within the dogmatic statements from Rome noting this as an accepted method of biblical interpretation.

Roman Catholics argue that since the Septuagint contained Apocryphal books, they were considered scripture. This argument fails for a number of reasons. First, it is not certain that simply because an Apocryphal book was found in an LXX that the Jews considered it scripture. Like the early church, the books could have been included to be used for reading and edification but not considered inspired scripture. Second, the extant evidence shows different Apocryphal books are included in different early manuscripts. That is, no early manuscript contains all the apocryphal books argued for by Rome. Some of the early manuscripts actually contain 3 and 4 Maccabees, writings not considered canonical by Rome.

Contrary to Catholic claims, it does not follow that Protestant Bibles are missing inspired God-breathed books. Rather, the writer to the Hebrews included both heroes of faith from the Bible and Jewish tradition. For the writer of Hebrews, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any double- edged sword, penetrating even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; judging the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. This did not mean for the writer that God’s hand cannot be seen in extra-biblical history. As in our own day, the promises of Scripture are to be clung to as God’s hand of providence directs history. Since each ounce of history is directed by God, the lives of his people both from the Bible and those outside the Bible, can be seen as examples of those who live by faith, and referred to for encouragement.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Is the Council of Trent’s teaching on justification the church’s final word?

" The question before us is this: Is the Council of Trent’s teaching on justification the church’s final word? Emphatically not. Rome has developed its doctrine of justification, and it will doubtless continue to do so. None of the ecumenical councils, not even Chalcedon or Nicea, is terminal in the sense that it ends all possible development.

They are not terminal, but they are decisive. Rome can indeed develop the views expressed at Trent. What it cannot do without radically altering its view of itself is repudiate or “correct” Trent. Those who look for such a repudiation, or who think they have already found it, are whistling in the dark.

Source: Sproul, R.C., Faith Alone : The Evangelical Doctrine of Justification (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1995) pp.120-121

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Addendum: Luther, Are You Alone Wise?


This is an addendum to my previous blog entry, "Luther, Are You Alone Wise?" Here's a snippet from the late Fr. William Most, "Luther Writes Obituary Of His Own Church," found on the EWTN website. Most states,

In the dedication to his work, (De abroganda missa privata) of 1521 (Grisar, p. 531) the very year in which he wrote that letter cited above saying even 1000 fornications and murders a day would not separate a man from Christ, we read: "Are you alone wise and all others mistaken? Is it likely that so many centuries were all in the wrong? Suppose, on the contrary, you were in the wrong and were leading so many others with you into error and to eternal perdition?"

We comment: How right! If the promises of Christ were so empty that He permitted the Church to teach the wrong way to salvation for most of 15 centuries, then Christ Himself would be a faker.


First, Father Most misunderstands Luther's statement, "1000 fornications and murders a day" which I have addressed here.

Second, he admits he didn't even read the quote in context (he cited Hartmann Grisar). Luther's primary concern is with changes in the Mass- Is Most really suggesting that the Church celebrated the Mass in exactly the same way for 15 Centuries? If so, was the cup always denied to the common people? The cup was a strong concern of Luther's. Where did Jesus, Peter or Paul teach transubstantiation? Luther didn't have a problem with the bread and wine being the body and blood of Jesus, but he did have a problem with Aristotelian metaphysics. Where did the Apostles teach the church to give the Eucharist adoration?

Third, Father Most left off the next sentence from Luther in which the Reformer stated what did make him sure of himself: "Finally, Christ with his clear, unmistakable Word strengthened and confirmed me, so that my heart no longer quails, but resists the arguments of the papists, as a stony shore resists the waves, and laughs at their threats and storms!"

Fourth, Father Most engages in the typical Catholic mis-truth that Rome has consistently taught one thing for 15 centuries concerning salvation, when in fact, Rome did not formulate a dogmatic statement on justification until the 16th century. Even with transubstantiation, Rome had no consensus on this issue until 1215 AD.

Fifth, he assumes that if (as Luther asserts) Rome taught error, this makes Christ's promises "empty." Well, Rome admits that their were abuses with indulgences, so does this make Christ's promises empty? Rome admits some of its leaders have been corrupt while in Papal office, does this negate Christ's promises? Have not the gates of Hell prevailed over the church when a corrupt Pope holds the most holy office, representing Christ on earth?
Roman Catholics are allowed to hold their own interpretations until dogmatic definition, does this make Christ's promises "empty" until that dogmatic definition? No, Christ's promises are exactly where they are, in Scripture, and His sheep hear his voice.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Luther, "Are You Alone Wise"?

Over on the CARM boards and lengthy discussion on Luther and "authority" has been going on for a while. I've dabbled in the discussion every so often (time allowing), but for the most part I've watched from the sidelines. Here's a recent snippet (directed toward me) from a Roman Catholic:

Luther DID have doubts about what he had done as related by James M. Kittleson, a distinguished Professor of Church History and Director of the Lutheran Brotherhood Foundation Reformation Research Program at Luther Seminary. His academic credentials far exceed those of anyone here and given that he is ACTUALLY A LUTHERAN, he should have a better understanding of Luther than do those who are NOT.

“In this work (On the Misuse of the Mass) he (Luther) confessed that he had often asked himself, “Are you alone wise” Can it be that everyone else is in error and has been in error for so long? What if you are wrong and lead into error so many people who might then be eternally damned?” James M. Kittelson, “Luther the Reformer, the Story of the Man and His Career.”, pg 170, Augsburg Publishing House, 1986

Barring the inevitable charges of this quote being taken out of context and the personal attacks on me for my “bias” and my lack of various “stuff”, it is pretty clear that Luther DID doubt Himself “often”, and therefore it would be STUPID of us to PRESUME that he was “right” and that he did NOT “lead into error so many people who might then be eternally damned?”


Well, immediately, it does not logically follow that because Luther had "doubts" as to his Reforming endeavours against the majority he therefore was wrong in attempting to reform the church, or that his theological opinions were wrong. This Catholic has committed the errors that a consensus of opinion equals absolute truth, and second, that a person must have absolute certainty of his actions in order to be a leader or reformer. That Luther had a particular level of fear or doubt as he progressed against a majority, and that he admitted it... is... well, very human.

Interestingly, Luther actually gives an antidote to his doubts, found in the very next line, that the "Word" took away his doubt and fear:

"Are you the only wise man? Can it be that all the others are in error and have erred for so long a time? What if you are mistaken and lead so many people into error who might all be eternally damned? Finally, Christ with his clear, unmistakable Word strengthened and confirmed me, so that my heart no longer quails, but resists the arguments of the papists, as a stony shore resists the waves, and laughs at their threats and storms!"

This particular Roman Catholic also dislikes that I actually check the sources and quotes he uses- and more often than not, the sources he puts forth are being misused, or the quotes say something quite different in context than what is being alleged. Let's take a look then at James M. Kittelson, Luther the Reformer, the Story of the Man and His Career, pg 170. That page can be found here. Kittelson explains the context is in regard to changes in the Mass, not Luther's entire reforming endeavour:

[Luther] knew that far-reaching changes in the Mass would be deeply unsettling to people who had been taught to find their salvation in it. He also knew that those who made the changes could suffer from grave doubts about what they were doing. In this work he confessed that he had often asked himself, “Are you alone wise” Can it be that everyone else is in error and has been in error for so long? What if you are wrong and lead into error so many people who might then be eternally damned?”

Kittleson goes on to explain that Luther wrote On the Misuse of the Mass (from which the Luther quote in question comes from) for this very purpose. It was to give his colleagues "solid arguments so that they might be confident in their actions." That is, Luther considered that those who attempted to institute changes in the Mass would likewise feel the weight of peer and public pressure as to the validity of their actions. That is, the statement, "Are you alone wise... Can it be that everyone else is in error and has been in error for so long? What if you are wrong and lead into error so many people who might then be eternally damned?" ...has to do primarily with changes in the Mass.

The editors of Luther's Works explain that Luther was "strongly opposed to the withholding of the cup from the laity, the doctrine of transubstantiation, and the idea of sacrifice in the mass." "If the idea of a sacrifice is removed from the mass, so that the mass is no longer a good work which avails for the reconciliation of the sinner with God, then the private mass, said without the presence of a worshiper, is a veritable abomination." They then go on to give a brief outline of Luther's argumentation:

The treatise is divided into three parts. The first part points out that the false conception of the mass is built on a false conception of the priesthood. According to the New Testament every Christian is a priest; and the priestly office is one of preaching, not of making sacrifice. The second part discusses the mass itself. The Words of Institution, examined individually and collectively, forbid any interpretation of the mass as a sacrifice; they speak rather of a promise given by God, to be received in faith by men. In refuting the arguments of his opponents Luther expresses himself plainly on the subjects of the canon of the mass, saints, purgatory, and spirits of the dead. The wholly polemic third part contrasts the papal priesthood with the priesthood of Christ. The former, with its laws, has extinguished the gospel, and actually perverted each of the Ten Commandments to mean exactly the opposite of what God intended. An avowedly allegorical comparison of church and synagogue is made, not to buttress, but pointedly to illumine the argument.

With this background in mind, here is the quote in context, which comes from the introduction to the Misuse of the Mass (1521) from LW 36:133-137 :

To my dear brethren, the Augustinians at Wittenberg, I, Martin, wish the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I have been informed both orally and in writing, my dear brethren, that you are the very first to have taken steps to do away with the abuse of the mass in your assembly. Although it has pleased me greatly, because I regard it as evidence that the word of Christ is at work in you and that you have not received it in vain, nevertheless, out of Christian love, which leaves nothing undone, I am deeply concerned that not all of you have taken such a great and noteworthy step with equal steadfastness and good conscience. I will not mention how the bishops and priests of Baal daily terrify the consciences of those who are weak in faith, now with papal bulls, now with indulgences, now with brotherhoods; one arrests the married priests; one does this and the other that miracle, and everyone does the most terrible things he can.

But what will happen when throughout the world you suffer all kinds of derision, insults, viciousness, and dishonor from everyone, even from the pious, clever, holy, and wise; and are regarded as blasphemers because you alone, and so few of you at that, have dared to change the whole spiritual and human order contrary to all human reason? It is indeed an extremely great undertaking to resist such a long-established custom and the opinion of all men, to suffer patiently their accusation, judgment, and condemnation, and to stand immovable in the face of such a storm of winds and waves. I know well that if you are built on the rock no violence of water and wind can harm you, but if you stand upon the sand a great and speedy fall will overtake you [Matt. 7:24-27].

I myself experience daily how extremely difficult it is to lay aside a conscience of long standing, one that has been fenced in by man-made ordinances. O with how much greater effort and labor, even on the basis of the Holy Scriptures, have I been barely able to justify my own conscience; so that I, one man alone, have dared to come forward against the pope, brand him as the Antichrist, the bishops as his apostles, and the universities as his brothels! How often did my heart quail, punish me, and reproach me with its single strongest argument: Are you the only wise man? Can it be that all the others are in error and have erred for so long a time? What if you are mistaken and lead so many people into error who might all be eternally damned? Finally, Christ with his clear, unmistakable Word strengthened and confirmed me, so that my heart no longer quails, but resists the arguments of the papists, as a stony shore resists the waves, and laughs at their threats and storms!

Because I felt and considered these things within me, I wanted to write this letter to you for the comfort and strengthening of the weak, those who cannot bear the storm and violence of the opponent and of their own despairing consciences. For such consciences must be treated with faith and trust, so that we not only look upon the judgment of the whole world as straw and chaff, but also that in death we may be adept in lighting against the devil and all his might, even against the judgment of God, and with Jacob prevail against God [Gen. 32:28] through such a strong faith. The weak in faith may indeed disregard the derision and ridicule of the world and pretend not to hear it; but who can so protect himself against the devil and the stern judgment of God that he does not feel them? The world can do no more than denounce us as heretics and unbelievers; it cannot make us heretics. Our consciences will make us sinners before God in many ways and damn us eternally unless they are well guarded and protected at every point by the holy, mighty, and true Word of God-that is, built on the only rock [Matt. 7:24-25]. Whoever does that is sure of his cause and cannot fail, nor waver, nor be betrayed. Such a sure, impregnable fortress we seek and desire.

For these reasons I will prepare a special little book on the mass which should be useful to everyone who wishes it. For I can well see that the books which I have written on the subject so far4 have not yet made a sufficient impact because the bishops oppose them; so that as often as the word of truth is renewed, exalted, and repeated, so often the paperhangers condemn and suppress it. We ought also to pray the Lord to send out laborers into his harvest [Matt. 9:38], and his angels to gather out of the kingdom of God all causes of sin [Matt. 13:41], which are now very many. This one great cause of sin is now at hand; if we could remove it, then we should have removed not only one, but all, because this is the foundation and fountainhead of all the rest. May the Lord Jesus strengthen and keep your hearts and minds [Phil. 4:7] in a true, right, unsimulated faith and divine love, amen. From my wilderness, on St. Catherine’s Day [November 25], 1521.

I stipulate publicly that I wish neither to hear nor to see the foolish senseless persons who will cry out, saying that I write and teach against the ordinances of the church, against the doctrines of the fathers, against old and proven traditions and the long-standing customs, usages, and practices of the church. Likewise I despise all human teaching and the precepts of the Parisian Sodom, which, as Peter says, are none other than destructive heresies [II Pet. 2:1]. If only the lunacy would cease to plague them for one hour, they would themselves recognize (since they prove their whole case without the Word of God) that they are not depending upon divine sayings, but only upon human ones.

Thus it is contrary to human reason, not to mention the divine Scriptures, to found and build an article of faith on human fancies, for the holy sacraments and articles of faith rightly demand that they be founded and preserved only through the divine Scriptures, as Moses abundantly testifies in Deuteronomy. Why then do they think that they can alienate me from the divine Word with their own fancies, that is, human laws and teachings; as if they did not know that the saints had often sinned during their lifetime and erred in their writings? They are even so foolish as to set up and accept the words and deeds of the saints as a sure, unfailing rule of faith. In addition, their own law, which is really no law at all, makes such human sayings suspect when it says: "Whoever is once found to be wrong will always be regarded and considered to be wrong."

Since the fathers have often erred, as you yourself confess, who will make us certain as to wherein they have not erred, assuming their reputation is sufficient and should not be weighed and judged according to the divine Scriptures? They have (you say) also interpreted the Scriptures. What if they erred in their interpretation, as well as in their life and writings? In that way you make gods of all that is human in us, and of men themselves; and the word of men you make equal to the Word of God.

For these reasons the stupid sophists, the unlearned bishops, monks and priests, and the pope with all his Gomorrah8 should know that we are not baptized in the name of Augustine, Bernard, Gregory, Peter or Paul [I Cor. 1:13] nor yet in the name of the Parisians, but in the name of Jesus Christ, him alone. Only the crucified one and none other do we acknowledge as our master. Paul does not wish that we believe him or an angel, unless Christ lives and speaks in him [Gal. 1:8, 12]. We know indeed what the fathers, the decrees, the customs, and the folly of the people include and contain. What need have we in addition for the masters of Paris to write and say: "Such an article is an abomination. This one is contrary to the faculty of Paris, that one is contrary to their established articles," and more of the like-a boast that only female children and rude blockheads can make?

We will not listen to this: "Bernard lived and wrote thus"; but only to this: "He was supposed to live and write according to the Scriptures." We are not asking how the saints lived and wrote. They were all preserved through this prayer: "Forgive us our debts" [Matt. 6:12]; as Ps. 31[:6] says: "For this shall every saint pray at the opportune time." We refuse to concede as true and just, that the saints were forgiven by means of a prayer which was itself sinful and in error; which is what the papists are doing when, as Ps. 60 [62] says, they support themselves upon a leaning and tottering wall [Ps. 62:3], whereas God alone should be a support, as the same Psalm testifies so often [Ps. 62:1-2, 5-7].

I have stated, that one does not ask how the saints have lived and written, but how the Scriptures indicate that we ought to live. The question is not about what has been done, but about how it is supposed to be done. The saints could err in their writings and sin in their lives, but the Scriptures cannot err, and whoever believes them cannot sin in his life. We accept indeed those saints whose praise comes not from men but from God [Rom. 2:29]; not those whom the pope raises up, but those whom God raises up, Whose oxen and birds they are, killed and made ready for the marriage feast of Christ, his son [Matt. 22:2-4]; that is, those whose life and teaching the divine Scriptures praise, such as the patriarchs, prophets, and apostles. Them alone and no others can we surely believe and cling to, and thus be preserved.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The "ineffable joy" of Predestination to Hell (Part 2)

Previously I looked at a quotation from Luther's Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, concerning Luther's alleged "ineffable joy of predestination to Hell." Once again, when a context was presented, Catholic analysis doesn't equal what was originally said.

Sometimes another Luther quote is presented along with the "ineffable joy" comment. Below is a statement from a Catholic apologetic web page:

It gets even more bizarre than that, for those who are interested in the history of doctrine and theology. Luther thought that men should have an "ineffable joy" if they discovered that they were damned, because they were resigned to God's will: If men willed what God wills, even though He should will to damn and reject them, they would see no evil in that [in the predestination to hell which he teaches]; for, as they will what God wills, they have, owing to their resignation, the will of God in them. [source]

Note above, the "ineffable joy" phrase is linked with this additional Luther quote in red lettering. I would posit again this additional quote is taken from Hartmann Grisar's Luther Vol. 1 p.238 rather than any actual reading of Luther's Commentary on Romans. I base this on the phrase "in the predestination to hell which he teaches" which is an addition by Grisar, rather than in Luther's text. Note Grisar's statement:

"If men willed what God wills," he writes, " even though He should will to damn and reject them, they would see no evil in that [in the predestination to hell which he teaches]; for, as they will what God wills, they have, owing to their resignation, the will of God in them." Does he mean by this that they should resign themselves to hating God for all eternity ? Luther does not seem to notice that hatred of God is an essential part of the condition of those who are damned ("damnari et reprobari ad infernum"). Has he perhaps come to conceive of a hatred of God proceeding from love? He seems almost to credit those who think of hell, with a resolve to bear everything, even hatred of God, with loving submission to the will of Him Who by His predestination has willed it. He even dares to say to those who are affrighted by predestination to hell, that resignation to eternal punishment is, for the truly wise, a source of "ineffable joy" ("ineffdbili iucunditate in ista materia delectantur");...

The "ineffable joy" statement is from Luther's comment on Romans 8:28. The additional quote is from Luther's comment on Romans 9:14 which appears many pages later. In my Kregel edition of the Romans commentary, it's occurs around 6 or 7 pages later.

By linking the two quotes together, the caricature is created. We saw previously that rather than Luther teaching the damned should have "ineffable joy" about going to Hell, Luther actually meant that God's eternal election serves as a comfort to his chosen people: "Those who have the wisdom of the Spirit become ineffably happy through the doctrine." We see with the first Catholic citation the additional quote accentuates Luther's alleged teaching that the "ineffably joyful damned" won't have any problem or anger about being damned, but have happily resigned themselves to the will of God. At least Grisar asks questions of what exactly Luther is saying, and interprets in the form of speculation.

What does Luther's Romans Commentary actually say? Here is a bit of the context From Luther's Commentary on Romans 9:

9:11. Though they had done nothing either good or bad. [Paul] very nicely uses the term “they had done” rather than “they were.” For there is no doubt that both of them were evil because of the disease of original sin, although regarding Jacob some feel that he had been sanctified in the womb. But by their own merit they were the same and equal and belonged to the same mass of perdition.

14. Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! The apostle gives no other reason as to why there is not injustice with God than to say: “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy” (v. 15), which is the same as saying: “I will have mercy on whom I wish,” or to him who is predestined to receive mercy. This is a harsh answer for the proud and those who think they know everything, but for the meek and the humble it is sweet and pleasing, because they despair of themselves; and thus God takes them up. For the fact is that there neither is nor can be any other reason for His righteousness than His will. So why should man murmur that God does not act according to the Law, since this is impossible? Or will it be possible for God not to be God? Furthermore, since His will is the highest good, why are we not glad and willing and eager to see it be done, since it cannot possibly be evil? But do I hear you say: “It is evil for me”? Perish the thought! It is evil for no one. But because we cannot affect His will nor cause it to be done, this becomes an evil thing for men. For if they were willing to do what God wills, even if He should will that they be damned and reprobated, they would have no evil. For they would will what God wills, and they would have in themselves the will of God in patience. [LW 25: 386]

Luther explains God's sovereign will is absolutely good. It cannot be otherwise. Men have no right to complain that God's will is not good. Luther then presents an imaginary detractor/complainer who states, "Is God's sovereign will evil for me personally?" Luther responds: No! God's will is evil for no one. But men do not like that they are powerless against God's will, so for these people, God's good will is seen as an evil thing in their minds. Now, contrarily, if they saw God's will as a good thing, they would want what God wills to come to pass, even if it meant their damnation. They would actually patiently bear what God wills. But they are the wicked, and do not want God's will to be done.

I grant this is a difficult text, both to understand and to actually digest theologically for those used to ascribing power to the human will. As I read the text, it is a hypothetical in which the point is about God's goodness rather than about the "ineffably joyful damned" happily resigning themselves to the will of God. Why would the wicked patiently bear what God wills? It is an attribute of their hatred of God that they do no such thing. But even if they hypothetically could patiently bear what God wills, God would still not be doing them any evil.

Of course, allowing God to save whom he wants is offensive to the human mind. God's free will not being subject to human will seems absolutely wrong to the sinful mind. Luther himself realizes this, and goes on to state:

I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion (9:15).That means: I will give grace, in time and life, to him concerning whom I purposed from eternity to show mercy. On him will I have compassion and forgive his sin in time and life whom I forgave and pardoned from all eternity. In doing this. God is not unjust, for so He willed and was pleased to do from eternity, and His will is not bound by any law or obligation. (God's) free will, which is subject to no one, cannot be unjust. Indeed, it is impossible that it should be unjust. God's will would be unjust only if it would transgress some law, (and that means that God would go counter to Himself).

This statement seems hard and cruel, but it is full of sweet comfort, because God has taken upon Himself all our help and salvation, in order that He alone might wholly be the Author of our salvation. So also we read in 11:32: "God hath concluded them all in unbelief, (not with cruel intention, but) that he might have mercy upon all"; that is, in order that He might show mercy to all, which otherwise He neither would nor could do, if we would oppose Him with the arrogant pride of our own righteousness.

So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth but of God that sheweth mercy (9:16). This does not mean that God's mercy altogether excludes our willing or running. But the words mean: The fact that a person wills and runs, he owes not to his own strength, but to the mercy of God; for it is He who gives us the power to will and to do. Without this (power) man of his own accord is unable both to will and to do. This truth the Apostle expresses in Philippians 2:13 thus: "It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." Just that the Apostle says in our text in different words: It is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, that is, who (of himself) accomplishes (his salvation), but of God that showeth mercy, that is, who grants to men the gift of His grace.

Here let me add an admonition: Let no one lose himself in speculation (on this point) whose mind is not yet sanctified, in order that he may not fall into abyss of terror and despair. Let him rather first purify (enlighten) the understanding of his mind by considering the wounds of Jesus Christ (whose blood flows with salvation for all sinners). This is theology in the most excellent sense of the term. Of this the Apostle writes in I Corinthians 2:6: "We speak wisdom among them that are perfect." I myself am still a babe that requires milk and not meat (I Cor. 3:2); and so let everyone do who is a babe in Christ, as I am. The wounds of Jesus Christ, the "clefts of the rock" (Ex. 33:22), give us sufficient assurance (of our salvation'). [Luther's Romans Commentary (Kregel edition) pp. 139-140].

Monday, November 10, 2008

The "ineffable joy" of Predestination to Hell (Part One)


I have been taking a look at quotations from Luther's Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, which are actually lectures begun on November 3, 1515, and ended on September 7, 1516. Notice his work on Romans precedes the 95 Theses, and I would argue this writing contains certain thoughts from Luther that he later revised, abandoned or simply delineated to speculation about the hidden god. His work on Romans 8 & 9 in this early writing will indeed warm the heart (so to speak) of those adhering to a Reformed perspective. On the other hand, Catholic writers coming across this material view these early writings as an all out assault on Romanist doctrine. Luther speaks about the bondage of the will and God's sovereign election and predestination, doctrines that typically are abhorrent to those championing free will.

The first citation that interested me was one particular phrase from the Romans Commentary, "ineffable joy." I became aware of this phrase from reading a few Roman Catholic writers:

"Luther thought that men should have an "ineffable joy" if they discovered that they were damned, because they were resigned to God's will" [source]

"He even dares to say to those who are affrighted by predestination to hell, that resignation to eternal punishment is, for the truly wise, a source of `ineffable joy' " [
source]

"His assurance to souls, affrighted by their inevitable predestination to Hell, that for the truly wise acceptance of eternal punishment is a source of "ineffable joy", seems more a mockery than anything else" [
source].

One can venture into these web pages for further clarification to see how this concept is used. However, on a bald reading these Catholic writers appear to be stating that Luther held those who somehow know they are damned should be very happy about it. One writer calls it one of Luther's "bizarre doctrines." It smells a lot like fatalism, and indeed, if Luther was stating that a revelation of being damned to hell by one on the way to hell should have an "ineffable joy" I heartily agree it is quite bizarre, if not flippant and cold hearted.

These conclusions appear to be based on an older Catholic polemical work: Hartmann Grisar, Luther Vol. 1 (St. Louis: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co.., LTD, 1913). At least Grisar hints at an explanation of why the young Luther used the phrase "ineffable joy," whereas, those quoted above leave the phrase hanging in ambiguity. Grisar states:

[Luther] even dares to say to those who are affrighted by predestination to hell, that resignation to eternal punishment is, for the truly wise, a source of "ineffable joy" ("ineffdbili iucunditate in ista materia delectantur"); for the perfect this is "the best purgation from their own will," i.e. the way of the greatest bitterness," because under charity the cross and suffering is always understood" [p.238].

In my library, I have a copy of Luther's Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans [Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1976] which helpfully inserts words in parenthesis in italic type in order to make Luther's often terse and disconnected comments flow better. I prefer this reading much more than that presented in LW 31, but both say the same thing. Below is a context for Luther's "ineffable joy" of those learning they are damned to hell.

The comment is from Luther's lengthy treatment of Romans 8:28, and falls within a specific treatment on the subjects of predestination and election. Luther has argued first, in connection with studying divine predestination, God has an unchangeable election of individuals. Second, All objections to to this type of individual predestination proceed from fallen human reason (like those who argue that men have been given free will, that Christ died for "all", and God is the cause of sin in men's hearts). Luther's third point provides the pertinent context:

The third thought (that we could consider in connection with God's eternal election) is that this doctrine is indeed most bitter to the wisdom of the flesh, which revolts against it and even becomes guilty of blasphemy on this point. But it is fully defeated when we learn to know that our salvation rests in no wise upon ourselves and our conduct, but is founded solely upon what is outside us, namely, on God's election. Those who have the wisdom of the Spirit become ineffably happy through the doctrine, as the Apostle himself illustrates this. To them, (His elect), Christ says: "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32). So also God says in Isaiah 35:4: "Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not:behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you." Everywhere in Scripture those are praised and encouraged who listen to God's Word with trembling. As they despair of themselves, the Word of God performs its work in them. If we anxiously tremble at God's Word and are terrified by it, this is indeed a good sign.

If one fears that he is not elected or is otherwise troubled about his election, he should be thankful that he has such fear; for then he should surely know that God cannot lie when in Psalm 51:17 He says: "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, 0 God, thou wilt not despise." Thus he should cheerfully cast himself on the faithfulness of God who gives this promise, and turn away from the foreknowledge of the threatening God. Then he will be saved as one that is elected. It is not the characteristic of reprobates to tremble at the secret counsel of God; but that is the characteristic of the elect. The reprobates despise it, or at least pay no attention to it, or else they declare in the arrogance of their despair: "Well, if I am damned, all right, then I am damned."

With reference to the elect we might distinguish between three classes. First, there are those who are satisfied with God's will, as it is, and do not murmur against God, but rather believe that they are elected. They do not want to be damned. Secondly, there are those who submit to God's will and are satisfied with it in their hearts. At least they desire to be satisfied, if God does not wish to save, but reject them. Thirdly, there are those who really are ready to be condemned if God should will this. These are cleansed most of all of their own will and carnal wisdom. And these experience the truth of Canticles 8:6: "Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death." Such love is always joined with cross and tribulation, for without it the soul becomes lax, and does not seek after God, nor thirst after God, who is the Fountain of Life. [pp. 131-132].


So rather than Luther teaching the damned should have "ineffable joy" about going to Hell, Luther here states that God's eternal election serves as a comfort to his chosen people. Luther, heavily influenced at this time by German mysticism, lastly speaks of those of the elect that so trust in God's eternal decrees that even if they were to learn God had decreed to damn them, their love for God's eternal divine sovereignty would keep them at peace with such a decree. Of course, the argument is more about one "being cleansed of their own will and carnal wisdom" rather than God actually sending one of his elect into eternal damnation. In other words, Luther is making the point that those really seeking to live a life of holiness could arrive at say, something similar to what Abraham experienced when God asked him to offer his son Issac as a sacrifice, or Job's famous words, "Though He slay me, I will hope in Him." One could arrive at being cleansed of our own will and carnal wisdom and trust in God's sovereign plan, despite what we see through our sinful eyes.


Grisar though sees differently:


Several times in his Commentary on Romans he represents resignation to, indeed even an actual desire for, damnation- should that be the will of God- as something grand and sublime. Thereby he thinks he is teaching the highest degree of resignation to God s inscrutable will; thereby the highest step on the ladder of self-abnegation has been attained. In reality it is an ideal of a frightful character, far worse even than a return to nothingness. He lets us see here, as he does so often in other matters, how greatly his turbulent spirit inclined to extremes [Luther Vol. 1, p.238].


But, according to Grisar, Luther abandoned this form of mystical purity, replacing it with the understanding of God's gift of faith in justification by faith alone. Grisar sums up Luther's mysticism as follows:


Luther s mysticism is veritably a mysticism of despair and the "humilitas" with its love ready even for hell, which he belauds as the anchor of safety, is a forced expedient really excluded by his system, and which he himself discarded as soon as he was able to replace it by the (God- given) fides, in the shape of faith in personal justification and salvation. [p.240]


These are only snippets from Grisar, who actually gives a lengthy treatment. Time allowing, I'd like to look at another quote from Luther's Romans Commentary quoted by Grisar and subsequently used by Catholic apologists. The next quote is typically linked with the "ineffable joy"statement- though in Luther's Commentary it comes 6 or 7 pages later, in Luther's comments on Romans 9.




Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Reformer's Rubbish:Archaeologists Unveil Secrets of Luther's Life

"The dig behind the Wittenberg house that Luther shared with his wife and six children. The German State Museum of Prehistory is opening an exhibition that presents the results of the digs to coincide with Reformation Day."

I was sent a link to this article: Archaeologists Unveil Secrets of Luther's Life. I've known about this dig for a while, it appears they've found some interesting things in the trash pit.

As to the link article- it includes some of the typical Luther myths presented as historical fact- like the famous "inkwell thrown at the Devil" story, as well as giving credence to the cloaca/tower bathroom myth. It also includes a version of the myth of Luther's fear of demon possession. Overall, the article was poorly documented and poorly researched, but it does at least explain the dig. A pictorial of the dig can be found here.

The only factoid that did interest me was the theory that Luther entered the monastery to avoid a forced marriage:

But the tale of a sign from above coming to Luther in the form of a lightning strike is greatly exaggerated. In truth Luther, who was 21 at the time, was fleeing from an impending forced marriage. "Newly discovered archive records show that the father had already married off three of his daughters and one son to the children of wealthy foremen," explains expert Schlenker. Apparently it was now Martin's turn. Instead of submitting to his father's will, the young man went to the monastery of the Augustinian hermits near Erfurt. The 50 monks living there wore black robes and the circular tonsure. They rose at two in the morning for the first Divine Office of the day.

I've not heard this one before! Poor Luther- he picked the most strict monastery to hide in. As to the truth of it? Well, only "expert Schlenker" (whoever that is) knows for certain.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

I've been preoccupied with other things lately, and haven't had a chance to update the blog as often.

I have though been working on the context of a Luther quote- you know, one of those tidbits quoted in the service of pop-Catholic apologetics- cited with a secondary source rather than the readily available context, a few lines from one page, separated with "..." and then one line from 2 pages later.

This morning I found this blog page, and I had a brief chuckle over this:

Possibly Polemical Patristics: This section has the caveat lector entries, where the posts are in some ways incendiary, polemical, or otherwise calculated to provoke, but may still contain material of interest for carnival readers.

Beggars All, possibly in preparation for Reformation Day, shows Luther's respect for the church fathers and his disrespect for the way he viewed his opponents' use of them in
Opponents Using the Early Church Fathers.

You got me! I was caught with a devious citation from Luther in order to stir up trouble for Reformation day. The post was supposed to stir up the few of you reading this blog to run out and nail complaints to the door of your local Roman Catholic Church.

Actually, the truth is, anyone even remotely familiar with Luther's battles with Catholic apologists knows they threw citations from the "Fathers" at him, and he either threw them right back, or evaluated the form of argumentation being used. Hey, that seems a lot like....what has been going on for a long time. My intent was not to provoke, but to show that the same type of argumentation in these pop-Catholic apologists vs. the separated brethren has as much of a history as that being documented on the web site critiquing me. I also found it interesting as to Luther's assessment of the value of such endeavours.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

RC's Sproul's "Renewing Your Mind" radio show recently did two broadcasts entitled "Profiles of the Reformation." The shows featured discussion on some of the lesser known Protestant Reformers, like Beza, Bullinger, Bucer, Farel, etc.:

MP3 for Part one [Backup MP3 link]

MP3 for Part two [Backup MP3 link]

Neither broadcast has Dr. Sproul, but his guests do an excellent job giving basic overviews of some of the less known Protestant Reformers.

"We all know about Reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin, but who else do you know? What other brothers in the faith do know you who passed on to us our Protestant tradition?

This special series is dedicated to some of the lesser known reformers and liberating contributions of the Protestant Reformation.

Joining moderator John Duncan, vice president of ministry outreach and executive producer at Ligonier Ministries, are Drs. J. Ligon Duncan III and Derek Thomas. Among their many roles and accomplishments, both Drs. Duncan and Thomas serve together at the historic First Presbyterian Church, in Jackson, Mississippi, and have joined Dr. Sproul during our Ligonier conferences."

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Matatics On the Road Again

For those who enjoy the wandering ramblings of Gerry Matatics, here is a recent email from him about a new opportunity. I cut out the middle which is primarily about donations.


Dear Friends:

One of the foremost traditional Catholic educational leaders in our country has presented me with a unique opportunity to make the Biblical case for Catholicism to a Baptist group in Albuquerque, New Mexico in the next month or two. But if things go right, this can rapidly mushroom into a six-state speaking tour of Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, west Texas, and Oklahoma. Please keep reading.

A God-sent evangelistic opportunity

As a former Protestant myself, I'm always thrilled with such opportunities to lay out the Scriptural, historical, and logical arguments for the Catholic Faith being the one true Faith and the Catholic Church being the one true Church, outside of which there is no salvation. I've been doing this full-time for 22 years now.

I know the mindset of these folks very well. As you may know, I myself was a convinced Baptist for many years -- throughout my high school, university, and graduate school years -- before finally embracing Presbyterianism while completing my Master of Divinity degree at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and becoming an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America.

From first-hand personal experience I readily understand Baptist misconceptions and prejudices. I know how their mind works and how they handle Scripture. And, by God's grace, I've been very blessed to successfully persuade many Baptists over the years to embrace the Catholic Faith, in the hundreds of cities and towns I've spoken in so far.

… [donations requested]

Whichever way you choose to donate, I look forward to hearing from you if you can help make this trip a reality. I honestly don't know anyone else who travels all across the country as I do, from Alaska to Florida, from Maine to Hawaii, bringing the hard-hitting traditional Catholic message that I do. Despite my unworthiness, I truly believe that, by God's grace, this apostolate is unique, and uniquely deserves your prayerful support and the support of every clear-minded Catholic in this age of inconsistency, doctrinal confusion, and near-universal apostasy.

Thank you for keeping me going in this crusade to bring the unadulterated Catholic Faith to every man, woman, and child in America before it's too late. Please feel free to forward this e-mail to anyone you think might be interested in helping. Thanks, and may God richly bless you and your family! You already know, I'm sure, that we remember all our donors and all their loved ones in our family rosary every evening. God be with you, now and forever.

Your servant in Christ Our King and Mary Our Queen Mother,

Gerry Matatics, Founder & President
Biblical Foundations International