Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Did Luther Believe Salvation Can Be Lost?

I haven't come across a lot of material on whether or not Luther believed a Christian can lose salvation. Yes, of course, those who spend their days attacking "OSAS" are prone to mention Luther (ironically, most of the time despising Luther for other reasons). It's not surprising to read quotes from him that appear to advocate a "perseverance of the saints" as well as quotes suggesting loss of salvation. Luther's use of paradox allows for such differing statements. I am aware that current Lutherans do say a Christian can "fall from faith." Also, I'm aware of statements like these:

“Although Luther agreed that the merits of Christ were the sole basis of a man’s justification, and that it did not depend in any way on a man’s deeds, Luther still thought that a man could lose his justification if he totally and finally turned away from Christ. Since God’s gift of forgiveness of sins and eternal life was appropriated by faith, if a man decided not to rest his eternal destiny in Christ, and totally turned against Him, Luther believed that only then would a man lose his salvation. In other words, the only sin that Luther thought would cause a man to lose his salvation was the sin of unrepentant apostasy” (Catholics and Protestants: Do They Now Agree?, John Ankerberg and John Weldon).

Without ever really delving into it, I've followed the pack so to speak, and have agreed that Luther held a Christian can actually lose salvation due to disbelief or a reliance on works righteousness. On the other hand, it really isn't as simple as some make it out to be. Many Lutherans are rightly agitated when the Reformed try to present Luther as a 5 point Calvinist. However, I as a Reformed person tend to be agitated by those who ignore evidence, or don't ask interpretive questions about contexts. I'm particularly not at all fond of attempts to wiggle out of Luther's strong statements in The Bondage of the Will regarding predestination. I've had Luther supporters tell me certain English translations aren't accurate, or that Luther went too far, and later in his life he took a different position. I'm well aware of Luther's many exhortations not to probe into the secret council of the hidden God, but as to doctored English translations and Luther changing his mind, I've not seen convincing proof.

Luther Believes in Losing Salvation

Here are a few statements I've come across. This website, dedicated to advocating the possibility of a believer's loss of salvation, uses the following statements from Luther (emphasis theirs):

Even Martin Luther, who is claimed by Calvinists as one of their own, acknowledged the possibility of a Christian falling away into unbelief. Here are a few quotes, beginning with Luther's comment on the statement of the Lord's prayer, "lead us not into temptation."

"We have now heard enough what toil and labor is required to retain all that for which we pray, and to persevere therein, which, however, is not achieved without infirmities and stumbling. Besides, although we have received forgiveness and a good conscience and are entirely acquitted, yet is our life of such a nature that one stands to-day and to-morrow falls. Therefore, even though we be godly now and stand before God with a good conscience, we must pray again that He would not suffer us to relapse and yield to trials and temptations. ... Then comes the devil, inciting and provoking in all directions, but especially agitating matters that concern the conscience and spiritual affairs, namely, to induce us to despise and disregard both the Word and works of God to tear us away from faith, hope, and love and bring us into misbelief, false security, and obduracy, or, on the other hand, to despair, denial of God, blasphemy, and innumerable other shocking things. These are indeed snares and nets, yea, real fiery darts which are shot most venomously into the heart, not by flesh and blood, but by the devil. Great and grievous, indeed, are these dangers and temptations which every Christian must bear, even though each one were alone by himself, so that every hour that we are in this vile life where we are attacked on all sides, chased and hunted down, we are moved to cry out and to pray that God would not suffer us to become weary and faint and to relapse into sin, shame, and unbelief. For otherwise it is impossible to overcome even the least temptation. This, then, is leading us not into temptation, to wit, when He gives us power and strength to resist, the temptation, however, not being taken away or removed. For while we live in the flesh and have the devil about us, no one can escape temptation and allurements; and it cannot be otherwise than that we must endure trials, yea, be engulfed in them; but we pray for this, that we may not fall and be drowned in them." (Martin Luther, Large Catechism XII, On the Lord's Prayer, 6th Petition).

"Through baptism these people threw out unbelief, had their unclean way of life washed away, and entered into a pure life of faith and love. Now they fall away into unbelief" (Martin Luther, Commentary on 2 Peter 2:22).

"Verse 4, "Ye are fallen from grace." That means you are no longer in the kingdom or condition of grace. When a person on board ship falls into the sea and is drowned it makes no difference from which end or side of the ship he falls into the water. Those who fall from grace perish no matter how they go about it. ... The words, "Ye are fallen from grace," must not be taken lightly. They are important. To fall from grace means to lose the atonement, the forgiveness of sins, the righteousness, liberty, and life which Jesus has merited for us by His death and resurrection. To lose the grace of God means to gain the wrath and judgment of God, death, the bondage of the devil, and everlasting condemnation." (Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians, 5:4).

As to the first quote from Luther's Large Catechism, I don't see anything particularly against a saint persevering. In fact, if you note the words they emphasised (in black), the point being made is the Devil is he who seeks to "tear us away from faith, hope, and love and bring us into misbelief" and to the "denial of God [and] blasphemy."

As to the second quote from Luther's Commentary on 2 Peter 2:22, Luther is expounding on false teachers, and these he takes to be initially those from "the schools of higher learning." He describes them as having a false faith. He also will apply these verses to the papacy, monks, and priesthood. In commenting on "even denying the master who bough them," he states:

"Behold, what powerful words St. Peter uses! He says: “They deny the Master who bought them.” They should be under Him as under a Master who owns them. But now, even though they believe that He is a Lord who has ransomed all the world with His blood, yet they do not believe that they are ransomed and that He is their Master. They say that although He ransomed and redeemed them, this is not enough; one must first make amends and render satisfaction for sin with works. Then we say: “If you take away your sin yourself and wipe it out, what, then has Christ done? You surely cannot make two Christs who take away sin. He should, and wants to, be the only One who puts sin aside. If this is true, I cannot make bold to wipe out sin myself. But if I do this, I cannot say or believe that Christ takes it away.” This amounts to a denial of Christ. For even if they regard Christ as a Lord, yet they deny that He redeemed them" [LW 30:171].

The quote being utilized is tied together with Luther's understanding of baptism (which I've outlined here). It doesn't have anything to do with a Christian walking in true faith for countless years, and then losing that faith.

As to the third quote from Luther's Commentary on Galatians, this is the only bone given that has some meat on it. If one reads through the entire passage, it indeed does appear Luther's is saying that if one falls from grace, one loses salvation. Luther goes on to say:

These words, “You have fallen away from grace,” should not be looked at in a cool and careless way; for they are very emphatic. Whoever falls away from grace simply loses the propitiation, forgiveness of sins, righteousness, freedom, life, etc., which Christ earned for us by His death and resurrection; and in place of these he acquires the wrath and judgment of God, sin, death, slavery to the devil, and eternal damnation. This passage is a powerful support and reinforcement for our doctrine of faith or the doctrine of justification; and it gives us marvelous comfort against the ragings of the papists, who persecute and condemn us as heretics because we teach this doctrine. This passage really ought to strike terror into all the enemies of faith and grace, that is, all the partisans of works, to make them stop persecuting and blaspheming the Word of grace, life, and eternal salvation. But they are so calloused and obstinate that “seeing they do not see, and hearing”—this horrible sentence pronounced against them by the apostle—“they do not hear” (Matt. 13:13). Therefore let us let them alone, for they are blind leaders of the blind (Matt. 15:14) [LW 27:19].

Here's one other Luther quote I found being put forth on a Reformed web page, one wonders if a believer could actually chose unbelief (is Luther speaking rhetorically?):

Even if he would, he could not lose his salvation, however much he sinned, unless he refused to believe. For no sin can condemn him save unbelief alone. All other sins, so long as the faith in God’s promise made in baptism returns or remains, are immediately blotted out through that same faith, or rather through the truth of God, because he cannot deny himself if you confess him and faithfully cling to him in his promise. But as for contrition, confession of sins, and satisfaction, along with all those carefully devised exercises of men: if you rely on them and neglect this truth of God, they will suddenly fail you and leave you more wretched than before. For whatever is clone without faith in God’s truth is vanity of vanities and vexation of spirit [Eccles. 1:2, 14]" [LW 36: 60].

An interesting analysis of this quote can be found here.

The quote though that settles the matter is article 40-43 of the Smalcald articles:

40 In the case of a Christian such repentance continues until death, for all through life it contends with the sins that remain in the flesh. As St. Paul testifies in Rom. 7:23, he wars with the law in his members, and he does this not with his own powers but with the gift of the Holy Spirit which follows the forgiveness of sins. This gift daily cleanses and expels the sins that remain and enables man to become truly pure and holy.

41 This is something about which the pope, the theologians, the jurists, and all men understand nothing. It is a teaching from heaven, revealed in the Gospel, and yet it is called a heresy by godless saints.

42 Some fanatics may appear (and perhaps they are already present, such as I saw with my own eyes at the time of the uprising)1 who hold that once they have received the Spirit or the forgiveness of sins, or once they have become believers, they will persevere in faith even if they sin afterwards, and such sin will not harm them. They cry out, “Do what you will, it matters not as long as you believe, for faith blots out all sins,” etc. They add that if anyone sins after he has received faith and the Spirit, he never really had the Spirit and faith. I have encountered many foolish people like this and I fear that such a devil still dwells in some of them.

43 It is therefore necessary to know and to teach that when holy people, aside from the fact that they still possess and feel original sin and daily repent and strive against it, fall into open sin (as David fell into adultery, murder, and blasphemy), faith and the Spirit have departed from them.

44 This is so because the Holy Spirit does not permit sin to rule and gain the upper hand in such a way that sin is committed, but the Holy Spirit represses and restrains it so that it does not do what it wishes. If the sin does what it wishes, the Holy Spirit and faith are not present, 45 for St. John says, “No one born of God commits sin; he cannot sin.” Yet it is also true, as the same St. John writes, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

Luther Believes The Saints Will Persevere

Now, on the other hand, I recently read through Luther's sermons on John 17. Here are a few interesting quotes suggesting a perseverance of the faith in the heart of a true believer.

But to this He adds "to those whom You gave Me from the world." For just as no one reveals this and causes it to be preached except Him, so no one is able to understand or accept this revelation except those who have been given to Him. The rest despise it or take offense, persecute and blaspheme it. All this is now said for our sakes, who have the Word of Christ and cling to it. And it is an excellent, comforting text for all timid, fearful consciences,especially for those who are troubled and afflicted with high temptations concerning their predestination.

If anyone wants to know whether he is elect or how he stands with God, let him simply look to the mouth of Christ, namely, to this passage and ones like it. For though one cannot say with certainty who will be [called] in the future or who will finally endure, it is nonetheless certain that those who have been called and have come to hear this revelation (that is, Christ's Word), as long as they also accept it seriously (that is, they regard and believe it as entirely true). They are the ones given to Christ by the Father. Those who are given to Him He will uphold and protect so that they will not perish, as He says in John 6 [:39]: "This is the will of the Father, who sent Me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has 'given Me." And later in this chapter [John 17:12]: "Those whom You have given Me I have guarded, and not one of them has been lost except the son of perdition" Again, in John 10 [:28], He speaks of the sheep who hear His voice: "I give them eternal life. and they shall never perish, and no one shall tear them out of My hand."

For you must assuredly believe that there is no higher grace and divine work than that someone comes to hear the Word of Christ gladly with all his heart and takes it seriously, regarding it as great and precious. For, as has been said. not everyone concerns himself with this, nor does it come from human understanding or choice. It takes more than reason and free will to be able to grasp and accept it, as Christ says in John 6 [:44]: "No one can come to Me unless the Father draws him" And again [John 6:45]: "Whoever hears it and learns it from My Father comes to Me." These words, even though they sound harsh toward false Christians, are, nevertheless, sweet and comforting to upright hearts that hold His Word dear, if one looks into Christ's heart and mind from which they flow. For He wants to indicate, as has been said, that it is not man's will and intention that make one cling to Christ and become His disciple, but it is God's work and power.

This is readily proved by looking out into the wide world and seeing how few there are who value Christ's Word and hold it dear, particularly where might, wisdom, holiness, etc., rule. There is nothing more despised or accursed on the face of the earth than the dear Gospel. The world in its wisdom is able to censure it so masterfully, to mock and scorn it so disdainfully, to libel and slander it so venomously and sharply, to persecute it so fiercely and bitterly, that, in sum, no folly, no vice, no aberration, no devil is so hated as Christ is. Man is able to tolerate, ignore, excuse, and prettify all sorts of sects, blasphemy of God, public shame, and vice. But Christ must take all this upon Himself and bear it; on Him all people pour out their venomous, insatiable hatred and resentment. Therefore, do not take it as a small comfort but as a sure and certain one that if you feel that you love Christ and His Word and with all your heart desire to abide steadfast in it, you are among the little flock that belongs to Christ and shall not be lost.

Now if you are also tempted by such thoughts as, "Yes, even though I hold Christ dear and gladly hear Him, who knows whether I am reconciled with the Father in heaven?"—this, too. He will clear away, saying: "You fool, you would be entirely unable to delight in My Word or revelation if this had not been given you by the Father! Don't you hear that it is His own work and grace? For He has already taken you out of the world and given you to Me; that is. He has put it into your heart to hear Me gladly and hold My Word in love and esteem. There you have everything. What more is there to look for? Only take heed lest you fall away." In sum, whoever is clinging to Christ possesses sheer grace and cannot be lost, even if out of weakness he should fall like St. Peter, so long as he does not despise the Word like the crude spirits who boast of the Gospel yet pay no attention to it. For no one may apply this comfort to himself except poor, distressed, tempted hearts that desire to be reconciled with God, and hold Christ dear, and do not willfully set themselves against His Word but are sorry that it is blasphemed or
persecuted. [LW 69:50-51]

I am praying for them, and I do not pray for the world (John 17:9)
From this let us also take comfort, be joyful and of good cheer, and in firm faith conclude that those for whom Christ is praying will certainly be delivered and preserved against the devil's fury and rage, as well as against sin and every temptation. [LW 69: 61-62]

The ones You have given me (John 17:11)
Thereby we know that God himself has led us to hear Christ, and our salvation does not depend on ourselves but is in God's hand, "from which no one can snatch them [John 10:29]. Therefore he means: "Since You gave them to Me that they might become my disciples and have called them to true holiness, I pray that You will henceforth preserve them in it, that they may not become unsanctified or polluted and be misled in any error" [LW 69:75].

John 6: 38. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me;39. and this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given Me, but raise it up at the Last Day.
The fatherly will of which Christ speaks here includes and teaches that He, the Lord Christ, will not lose any of those who come to Him and are given to Him, that is, those who believe in Him, but that all of them will be saved and live eternally. Thus Christ says at another place: “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the Last Day” (John 6:40). This surely does not mean to be cast out, but to be kept with Him. This is a far different will from what the Law demands of us. It is necessary, therefore, to distinguish between the wills of God. The will of God reflected in the text is this, that no believer in Christ is to be lost. It pictures God as kindly disposed to us and banishes all lightning, thunder, hail, yes, all wrath and disfavor of God. It reveals God’s gracious resolve that all who see the Son and believe in Him shall be preserved, saved, and well supplied. God does not deal with them according to justice and its just verdict and punishment, but He entertains a gracious will toward them. God does not come to punish, but His will in Christ is only the gracious will of the Father, which kindly invites us to come to Him. [LW 23:63].

It does indeed appear Luther believed in the loss of salvation. Even with those strong comments from LW 69, he includes statements like "Only take heed lest you fall away" and "so long as he does not despise the Word."

On the other hand, My understanding is that Luther did indeed attribute double predestination to the "hidden God", so in some sense for Luther, there are a specific determined number of people God chooses to save, that will be saved, and it can not be otherwise, and it has nothing to do with their "free" choices:

“For Luther the assertion that God is God implicitly includes the fact that God alone works all in all together with the accompanying foreknowledge…. This determines not only man's outward but also his inner fate, his relationship to God in faith or unfaith, in obedience or disobedience. Here too man is completely in God's hands. Luther finds the biblical basis for this particularly in I Corinthians 12:6, "God works all in all." Luther expands the sense of this passage far beyond Paul's meaning in its original setting. It appears very frequently in Luther's thought.

The Bible in addition bears witness, and experience confirms the fact, that men actually relate themselves differently to the word of God. Some are open to faith; others remain closed to it. Accordingly, the Bible expects human history to end in a twofold way. Not all will be blessed; and many will be lost. Luther can, in the context of his assertion that God works all in all, find the ultimate cause in God himself, in his intention, and in his working. This decision is not made by man's supposedly free will, but only by God's willing and working. He chooses some to be saved and he rejects the others without an apparent reason for either choice. He gives faith to one through the working of His Spirit; and he refuses to give faith to others so that they are bound in their unbelief. Salvation and destruction thus result from God's previous decision and his corresponding twofold activity. God's choice is not based on the individual's condition; it establishes this condition. This means an unconditional, eternal predestination both to salvation and to damnation.

Luther does not reach this conclusion on the basis of philosophical speculation about God, but finds it in the Scripture. He experienced it in God's relationship to him personally; and the God whom he thus personally experienced is the very same God who speaks and is proclaimed in the Scripture. Paul especially testified to Luther that God makes this twofold decision and that he hardens those who are lost: "God has mercy upon whomever he wills, and he hardens the heart of whomever he wills" (Rom. 9:18). Paul illustrates this with the picture of the potter making vessels of honor as well as dishonor out of the same clay (Rom. 9: 20 ff.). In addition, Paul quotes Malachi, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated" (Rom. 9:13). And Paul specifically refers to God's treatment of Pharaoh (Rom. 9:17)

The position Scripture thus presented to Luther was also the inescapable result of his understanding of God. He even cites man's innate rational concept of God as an additional proof. It seems blasphemous even to think that God does not work man's decision to believe or not to believe, as though God could be surprised by man's choice and men might be saved or lost without God knowing it. Whoever so thinks denies that God is God and makes fun of Him as though he were a ridiculous idol." Whoever speaks seriously of God must necessarily teach his foreknowledge and his unconditional determination of all things.

Luther thus finds a twofold will of God in the Scripture. Together with statements about God's all-inclusive grace are other statements which express another willing and working of God which stands with his willing and working of salvation. Together with grace stands wrath, a wrath which rejects and which is no longer a part of love; and this is found not only in the Old but also in the New Testament. Luther did not draw a two-sided picture of God from his own imagination, but he saw it already present in Scripture. The God of the Bible is not unequivocally the God of the gospel. The God of the Bible is not only the God of all grace but is also the God who, if he wills, hardens and rejects. This God even treats a man equivocally: he offers his grace in the word and yet refuses to give his Spirit to bring about his conversion. He can even harden a man—in all this Luther does not go in substance beyond the difficult passages of Scripture which describe God as hardening a man's heart.

Luther, however, summarized the substance of such scriptural statements in the sharpest possible expressions. In The Bondage of the Will he teaches that God has a double will, even a double reality. The God revealed and preached in the gospel must be distinguished from the hidden God who is not preached, the God who works all things. God's word is not the same as "God himself." God, through his word, approaches man with the mercy which (according to Ezekiel 33) does not seek the death of the sinner but that he turn and live. But the hidden will of God, the will we must fear, "determines for itself which and what sort of men it chooses to enable to participate in this mercy offered through the proclamation." God "does not will the death of the sinner, that is, according to his word; he does, however, will it according to his inscrutable will." God revealed in his word mourns the sinner's death and seeks to save him from it. "God hidden in his majesty, on the other hand, does not mourn the sinner's death, or abrogate it, but works life and death in everything in all. For God has not limited himself to his word but retains his freedom over everything. . . . God does many things that he does not show us through his word. He also wills many things his word does not show us." [Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966) pp. 274-276].


Nick said...

Interesting. I was only aware of the Gal 5:4 comments, which do indeed show a loss of salvation.

This issue of loosing salvation is one in which the Lutheran camp gets it right Biblically, but they get it wrong in terms of systematic theology (which is where the Reformed camp is more logically consistent).

Another interesting quote is from the (Lutheran) Book of Concord, Augsburg Confession (Art XII):

"They condemn the Anabaptists, who deny that those once justified can lose the Holy Ghost."

Here the Lutherans condemn the Anabaptists for denying that the Holy Ghost can be lost once received. Losing the Holy Ghost is clearly a loss of salvation.

James Swan said...

Interesting. I was only aware of the Gal 5:4 comments, which do indeed show a loss of salvation.

This is only simplistic overview of some of the quotes I've found, and also quote I have the context for. As to Luther's comment on Gal. 5:4 being clear cut proof, I would still use caution. Luther says,

You have fallen away from grace.
That is: “You are no longer in the realm of grace.” For just as someone on a ship is drowned regardless of the part of the ship from which he falls into the sea, so someone who falls away from grace cannot help perishing.

The argument Luther puts forth can be read as hypothetical, or even an exhortation for one to examine their own motives, thus not describing an actual situation.

Brigitte said...

The book of Concord is quite clear on this matter, as pointed out.

Without going to any Luther quotes, one should understand that the entire Lutheran piety says: "hold on tight" in a very organic way.

"Give us this day our daily bread", Jesus prayed. Indeed, gives us this day everything we need from A to Z, including faith, protection from the foe, your angels watching over us; keep us from great shame and vice...

We are the beggars. Every day we are exposed to the devils prowling and assaults, the other foes of our sinful flesh, death, etc. Help us Lord.

Everyday we need to nurture this living faith in Christ, or rather be nurtured by it. Like food. When I eat and say grace, I often think how everything good I need comes to me from the outside and how I need it regularly. My connection to Christ is the same way. It is organically sustained by the word, sacrament, prayer, my fellow Christians--the ways God comes to me and picks me up and keeps me in the faith.

It is like physical training, as Paul writes. When you give up training, you lose your muscles. Your faith is like your body, a gift a creature of God, that requires constant attention.

If you go on an indefinite hunger strike you will die. If you plug your ears, you won't hear.

James Swan said...

This issue of loosing salvation is one in which the Lutheran camp gets it right Biblically,

Interestingly, Luther's reasoning on the keeping / losing of salvation is different from Roman Catholic reasoning.

Steve said...

I think Brigitte has hit the nail on the head.

Faith can be lost. The world, the flesh and the devil are after us.

But so is Christ Jesus.

It seems to me that Luther's emphasis on the Sacraments goes a long way to show that Luther thought as much, also.

Christ will not lose those given to Him, but we can walk away, and the world, the flesh and the devil are working toward that end.

There are biblical passages that sspeak of spiritual warfare. If our faith can't be lost, then why the warfare?

Darlene said...

"Take care, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we share in Christ, if only we hold our first confidence to the end." Hebrews 3:12-14

I have kept this passage of Scripture ever before me for much of my Christian life. Indolence toward the things of God which strengthen and feed our spirits and impart grace, is a cruel reality that we Christians must recognize and seek to confront with prayer. It is true that we receive grace from the sacraments and through the reading and preaching of Scripture, but it is often in prayer that the battle against the flesh is waged.

Father Stephen, in a blog entry entitled "Pray Always," recently posted a quote from Archimandrite Zacharias taken from "The Hidden Man of the Heart":

"Prayer if a matter of love. Man expresses love through prayer, and if we pray, it is an indication that we love God. If we do not pray, this indicates that we do not love God, for the measure of our prayer is the measure of our love for God. St. Silouan identifies love for God with prayer, and the Fathers say that forgetfullness of God is the greatest of all passions, for it is the only passion that will not be fought by prayer through the Name of God. If we humble ourselves and invoke God's help, trusting in His love, we are given strength to conquer any passion; but when we are unmindful of God, the enemy is free to slay us."

So it is that we are encouraged to "Pray without ceasing." I Thes. 5:17 and to "Watch, and prayer always..." St. Luke 21:36

Fr. Stephen goes on to say, "I can think of nothing that more clearly illustrates the reality that prayer is communion with God than the commandment to "pray w/o ceasing." Were prayer mere communication - sharing information with God - or pleading - asking God to do one thing or another - the commandment would seem excessive. Only if prayer is living communion with God does it make sense to strive for unceasing prayer. The commandment to "pray always" is tantamount to saying, "Live!"

Indeed prayer is the sound (whether spoken or not) of God within us. For according to Scripture: "God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, "Abba! Father" (Gal 4:6) Thus prayer in its most perfect form is Trinitarian - the Spirit praying in the name of the Son to the Father; it is the sound of God within us."

Neglecting to pray is the first step toward grieving the Holy Spirit. Continuing to ignore God results in falling away from Him. Eventually our hearts will become hardened and we will no longer be "in Christ."

"Be sober. Be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. Resist him firm in your faith knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brethren throughout the world."

James Swan said...

Faith can be lost. The world, the flesh and the devil are after us.
But so is Christ Jesus.It seems to me that Luther's emphasis on the Sacraments goes a long way to show that Luther thought as much, also.

Actually, I haven't read anything from Luther about the sacraments keeping a person saved. That's Romanism, not Martin Luther.

James Swan said...

It is true that we receive grace from the sacraments and through the reading and preaching of Scripture, but it is often in prayer that the battle against the flesh is waged.

Based on all the things you mentioned that "strengthen and feed our spirits and impart grace," I'm going to assume that you are a Roman Catholic. I can appreciate your desire to pray and do all the things you think are necessary to maintain salvation. But, in the Roman Catholic system, the "salvation" or state of being "saved" isn't really a reality, but rather a possibility. In your system, you can't really know you've done everything possible to achieve salvation. The Roman Catholic theologian Ludwig Ott has said, “The reason for the uncertainty of the state of grace lies in this: that without a special revelation nobody can with certainty of faith know whether or not he has fulfilled all the conditions which are necessary for achieving justification.”

Contrary to the above, 1 John 5:10-13 says:

1John 5:10 He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in him: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he hath not believed in the witness that God hath borne concerning his Son.

1John 5:11 And the witness is this, that God gave unto us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

1John 5:12 He that hath the Son hath the life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not the life.

1John 5:13 These things have I written unto you, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, even unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God.

John tells us he wrote that “you may know you have eternal life.”

Romans 5:1 tells us Christians have been justified through faith (past tense) and now have peace with God. Christians are given faith as a gift (Eph 2:8-9), and that gift of faith is a living faith (Eph 2:10).

As to Hebrews 3:12-14 one of the overall arguments of the book of Hebrews is exhortation, some even argue the book was actually a long sermon.

The Gospel sets us free from fear of death, threat of rulers, and what men can do to us. But the Gospel also increases our fear- our stakes are now higher under the New Covenant. The only thing to fear is not living rightly before God. That is, fear of breaking His law so as to appease people, should be avoided at all costs.

The wilderness generation showed a lack of faith by their disobedience (Hebrews 4:6). The Old Testament institutions point out what a flawed rest is, as compared to the perfect rest found in Christ. The inadequate rest stand as an example of knowing more fully the work and sacrifice of the one who provided perfect rest.

If you compare the warnings in Hebrews 3 to those of Hebrews 6, the faithful are like a healthy farmland that has a strong fertile, rich soil that produces good fruit. It is God that waters his farmland. His watering is the eternal source of salvation.

The texts in Hebrews are exhortations to the community of believers. They aren't describing actual people who become saved, lose their salvation, and then maybe get saved again. The texts exhort believers, like any sermon would.

Darlene said...

Dear James,

Greetings in Christ Jesus! I don't have time to address all the comments in your post just now. First, I want to clarify that I am not a Roman Catholic.

Actually, I have never believed in OSAS. I attended a Wesleyan Church and Wesleyan Methodist College as a new Christian and was greatly influenced by many of Wesley's teachings. I always have believed that a Christian can fall away from the faith and if he/she continues in rebellion toward God without repentance they will lose their inheritance into the kingdom of God.

Even when I attended a Reformed church for ten yrs. I never could be convinced otherwise. I have had many discussions with my close friends who are Calvinists and we agree to disagree at this point.

At this time, I am a catechumen in the Orthodox faith. Yet, I must say I learned of the teaching on the sacraments and the preaching of the word as imparting grace from a Lutheran congregation. There is much that I appreciate and value about Lutheran teaching, esp. their view on Baptism and the Lord's Supper.

Christ be with you this day. May we all desire to live holy lives that glorify our God and Savior Jesus Christ as we journey toward the Celestial City.

In His Immeasurable Love,


bkaycee said...

1John 5:13 These things have I written unto you, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, even unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God.

One of Webster's defintions of "Eternal" is "Without end of existence or duration; everlasting; endless; immortal."

If we possess "Eternal" life, by definition, it can never end.

If we can lose our salvation, it cannot be "eternal", it must be "conditional" life, or some other temporary or finite condition.

Christ never says we are given conditional life.

Brigitte said...

1John 5:13 These things have I written unto you, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, even unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God.

Thank God for that. We believe that.

Several of us here are really getting at the same things in essence.

1. We are meant to be sure of our salvation by God's mercy alone.

2. This sureness itself is "faith"; it makes us glad in God our Savior, new creation, gives us new affections, drive and hope, etc. etc.

3. This faith comes by means. The Holy Spirit does not just touch you on the forehead and there you go. Salvation is by the cross, therefore it has to be brought to us via the cross: hearing the story (history) of what happened, that men have been sent out to preach this salvation to the entire world, that this message is also for me and you, and also through the cross coming to you in body and blood of the Lord, in even more intimate way, as well as the acceptance you received in your baptism... This is how we hear, receive and believe and... dare to be sure. We call it the "means of grace." God has given us a number of ways, to help us. Confession and absolution is another.

4. This faith and certainty can wax and wane and, thankfully, even a little faith is faith. We look to Christ not to our faith to be certain.

5. This faith can and has been lost. We are in constant need to have it nurtured. That is why we read the Bible, assemble together, and receive communion and don't just do our own thing.

6. The famous concept of "election" works into this. With Luther "election" serves to make you certain. This concept is only for the believer to contemplate, or those who would like to believe. It is for him/her. God knew you from the beginning. He also wants to save you. Thus when we introduce the concept of the reprobate, we take away this assurance that God wants to give.

7. This giving always comes from God and from outside ourselves. We don't look for anything within ourselves, nor do we pry into things we don't understand.

8. We are saved by the cross. At the cross, there is only foolishness for our reason. There are things we don't get, can't get. But the cross is the only way. By leaving our reason aside, (not by choice, it really is stumped) we throw ourselves completely onto Christ's doing, and we need not despair about anything about ourselves, including our weekness, our not understanding, our suffering, our own death.

9. However, it is an easy thing to lose this faith. It is an easy thing to look to something other than the cross. It is an easy thing to become prideful or to despair. In fact the path is wide and plenty who have started well don't finish well. This is why we pray for a blessed end.

Tim MD said...

Hi James,

Do you remember about a year ago when you told me that I did not belong in a dialogue about Luther with you? I do.

Given the fact that you can't seem to bring yourself to answer even the most simple questions about Luther at Leipzig, I probably would not be out of line in claiming the same thing, not that I would ever say anything so arrogant.

At some point James, you are going to have to actually take a position on Luther, lest your self professed knowledge and your hundreds of books about Luther and the Reformation be seen as benifiting ONLY you. In other words James, please share your knowledge and your conclusions about Luther so that they can be discussed.

If you can't manage to do that, what else can we conclude but that you are a fraud and a coward?

I do recognize how you would prefer not to be characterized as being "dishonest" but what else are we conclude if you continue to "defend" Luther without actually saying anything about "Him", but just comment about those who oppose Him?

You visit the Luther thread on Carm constantly and see the things that are being said, make a few whimpy comments here and there, make this claim or that, but nothing of any substance.

Brigitte said...

Tim MD: are you saying anything in relation to this thread and post? I don't get it. What's your point? Just to insult?

L P said...

Absolutely Luther believed that a person may quit faith and therefore be lost.

The most fitting quote is from Smalcald Articles which Luther himself wrote and came to be confessed by orthodox Lutheran confessors of the Book of Concord.

Part II, Article III. 42] On the other hand, if certain sectarists would arise, some of whom are perhaps already extant, and in the time of the insurrection [of the peasants] came to my own view, holding that all those who had once received the Spirit or the forgiveness of sins, or had become believers, even though they should afterwards sin, would still remain in the faith, and such sin would not harm them, and [hence] crying thus: "Do whatever you please; if you believe, it all amounts to nothing; faith blots out all sins," etc.—they say, besides, that if any one sins after he has received faith and the Spirit, he never truly had the Spirit and faith: I have had before me [seen and heard] many such insane men, and I fear that in some such a devil is still remaining [hiding and dwelling].

43] It is, accordingly, necessary to know and to teach that when holy men, still having and feeling original sin, also daily repenting of and striving with it, happen to fall into manifest sins, as David into adultery, murder, and blasphemy, that then faith and the Holy Ghost has departed from them [they cast out faith and the Holy Ghost]. For the Holy Ghost does not permit sin to have dominion, to gain the upper hand so as to be accomplished, but represses and restrains it so that it must not do what it wishes. But if it does what it wishes, the Holy Ghost and faith are [certainly] not present. For St. John says, 1 John 3:9: Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, ... and he cannot sin. And yet it is also the truth when the same St. John says, 1:8: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

This is the reason why the Christian needs to hear Law/Gospel preached to him regularly because this very means that brought him to faith is the very means that keeps him in the faith. The Gospel is not internal, it is not intuitive and so it has a tendency to slip through out of our sight, we are wired for the Law but we are not wired for the Gospel, that is why it is from the outside coming in.

Lutherans believe in justification through faith, thus no faith, no justification. It is not that faith is so a good virtue in itself for faith is empty and possesses only what it is holding on. To hold on to Christ as the very reason for God's forgiveness is to hold on to the righteousness of God which is Christ himself. That is why they believe faith justifies because it holds on to Jesus - God's gift of righteousness. Also the faith that justifies is not a generic faith in God or in the Bible or etc. If that faith is not banking on the finished work of Christ as payment for the sinner's sins, then that faith is not the faith that justifies.

And yes, the Lord's Supper is also considered the means of grace and thus is believed to sustain faith.

Luther believed in the ministry of Word and Sacrament. He did not believe in Word only and no sacrament.

To understand why a Lutheran can believe in justification through faith at the same time have real sacraments of baptism and Lord's Supper, you got to understand what they mean by the word - Means of Grace.

What makes Lutherans different from say a Presbyterian is that the former, for example do not believe that prayer or worship is a means of grace.


L P said...

I should have mentioned that Lutherans are into assurance of salvation not eternal security.

How are we assured? Well because each Sunday you hear again and again that he who did not spare his son but gave him for us all is always for you. Proof of this gift is found in the Word preached to you and the Sacraments.

This is a Testamental perspective versus Covenantal. Testamental because this is the last will and testament of Jesus, hence it is different from Calvinistic Covenantal theology.

A testament is a gift, you do not do anything, you receive the gift given to you.

Again in the idea of assurance, it is God who keeps your faith.

In saying that, this is not a nebulous airy fairy quip. God sustains your faith by using the Word (Law/Gospel) and the Sacraments on you. God uses means.

You are not left on your own paddle and huff and puff up your faith. He comes to you through Word and Sacrament. What got you in the faith is the very thing God uses to keep you in the faith.

Though at times we struggle with doubt, more often we are assured of one thing - Jesus died for sinners and you are one of them, before you were born, before you could repent, before you could believe, it happened outside you.


James Swan said...

Tim MD: are you saying anything in relation to this thread and post? I don't get it. What's your point? Just to insult?


I was going to simply delete Tim's comment. You ask the right question. Why would a person post something insulting and totally unrelated? Often, the people who do such things have an unhealthy fixation on a subject, or have an unhealthy fixation on another person (which on the Internet, amounts to a mild form of stalking, or worse).

Tim MD is a person who posts on the CARM discussion boards. I've posted on these forums off and on for at least 10 years, and time allowing I've even moderated some of the discussions. Tim, a Roman Catholic, is fixated on Luther. We have dialoged on Luther off and on for some time now. You can read a civilized example of our interaction here.

For a while now, Tim has maintained a CARM discussion thread, "Authority", Luther vs the Catholic Church. It would take quite a while to read through. I and a few Lutherans have attempted rational dialog with Tim. In each instance, Tim's rhetoric, ability to produce excessive amounts of words on multiple subjects, spurious logic, insulting demeanor, and inability to read sources with coherence, has lead all of us to shake the dust from our feet, and move on. In the summer time, I attempted once again to interact with Tim. Because he writes such long rambling posts, I attempted to slow him down, and respond to him 100 words at a time, to at least give him one last try at rational dialog. That aspect of the discussion begins here. When Tim wasn't able to hide behind excessive amounts of words, his argumentation was easily exposed as ridiculous. He then went back to posting excessive amounts of rhetoric, insults, and obfuscation.

His most recent obsession is the Leipzig debate, and I did in fact answer his questions, but his compulsion to stalk me and insult me kicked into high gear when I moved on. That's why he ventured over here, and said what he did. I would caution you not to interact with him on this blog, and if he ventures over to your blog, you would do well to delete his posts, lest he begin stalking you.

James Swan said...


I can appreciate your comments to expound on Lutheranism, and they make a fine addition to this blog post. This post was primarily intended for Reformed people, who don't mean to, but sometimes make Luther into something he was not. I would disagree with Luther's conclusions, but that doesn't mean I disrespect him as a theologian or church reformer.

On the other hand, as often we on the Reformed side don't understand all the distinctives or flavors of Lutheranism, the same applies in reverse. Often Lutherans don't understand the distinctives and flavors of Reformed theology. I would respectfully ask you to consider the fact that defining terms like "means of grace" is crucial to a mutual respect of each other's distinctives.

For instance, when you say, "What makes Lutherans different from say a Presbyterian is that the former, for example do not believe that prayer or worship is a means of grace." Neither of us believes in infused righteousness, so whatever is meant by "means of grace" we at least should agree that the sacraments don't infuse grace into us to make us eventually justified. I realize that Luther held the sacraments are a form of the Word. Luther believed that the Word of God was oral, written, and sacramental. The Word come to change our hearts, minds, reason, and will.

I wouldn't disagree. I believe these things do in fact change our hearts, minds, reason, and will. I'm not a Presbyterian, but those Presbyterians that would staunchly ascribe to the Westminster confession of Faith probably wouldn't disagree either. Nor would they say prayer or worship is not a means of grace.

For instance, R.C. Sproul, a Presbyterian states,

"Within the church the means of grace are most heavily concentrated. Some are means God uses to lead people to salvation, and some are means used to draw believers into deeper fellowship: preaching; sacraments; prayer, and fellowship with believers. A person is much more intensely exposed to the truth and much more likely to hear it and be saved inside the church."

"Growth in the Christian life, however, is gradual, and God uses means to accomplish this. We must be involved in cooperating with these means if we wish to grow. What has been provided for us includes the “means of grace.” These are the study of the Scriptures, prayer, attendance at worship, the sacraments, and fellowship with God’s people."

"Evangelical Christians do not take their vows before God seriously enough. To use one tradition as an example, a person who joins the Presbyterian church stands before the congregation and God vowing to make diligent use of the means of grace (Word and sacrament), to support the ministry of the church (tithe and participation), and to study the peace and purity of the church (supporting church discipline). How many people who have taken this vow don’t attend church while vacationing or when relatives visit?"

Brigitte said...

Sorry, I am in the middle of cooking Canadian Thanksgiving turkey and potato peeling, but that response by James is just a little "weak" in context of his apparent diligence and all the responses posted. What do you really think about the possibility of losing salvation/election/assurance, etc. and Luther's teaching. Like, nice and blunt and clear, the way he would put it! :)

Tim MD said...

Hi James,
You have been making derogatory comments about me for over a year and you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way. In fact I prefer my “obsession” with the Leipzig debate to the juvenile game that you specialize it, that of playing “gotcha” with Catholic Apologists.

My disgust is based on your refusal to answer even the most simple questions or explain the few definitive comments that you make. You claim that you have answered my questions but you know that you have not. Your statement that you actually do have an opinion regarding Luther’s actual degree of Authority (in God’s Eyes), but prefer not to offer those opinions should tell us all what you are all about. In short, dialoguing with you is a complete waste of time because you simply aren’t up to it.
You refuse to say anything substantive about Leipzig because you know that Luther was defeated by Eck, but more importantly, (I assume that you also know that) Luther’s claims at Leipzig were clearly in opposition to the known facts, as is being revealed on the thread. As such, I don’t blame you for your refusal to stake out any kind of substantive position. The few things you have said have been false. For example you claimed that Luther thought he had “won” at Leipzig. Nothing could be further from the truth as virtually every Protestant writer agrees. You have also claimed that Eck “manipulated” the Leipzig debate but have refused several questions as to why you make that claim, again because you know where it would lead.

James Swan said...

Sorry, I am in the middle of cooking Canadian Thanksgiving turkey and potato peeling, but that response by James is just a little "weak" in context of his apparent diligence and all the responses posted. What do you really think about the possibility of losing salvation/election/assurance, etc. and Luther's teaching. Like, nice and blunt and clear, the way he would put it! :)


It's no secret that I'm what is commonly called, a "5 point Calvinist." I don't hide that fact, nor am I embarrassed to be labeled as such. I'm a member of a United Reformed Church that adheres to The Belgic Confession, The Heidelberg Catechism, and The Canons of Dordt. I've attended a seminary that is unabashedly Calvinist, I'm on the blogging team of one of the leading Calvinist apologists. I also run the blog for a Reformed Baptist radio show. To read about my interests in Luther from a non-Lutheran perspective, see:

James Swan: Lutheran, Calvinist, or Wolf? - A Brief Biography On My Interest in Martin Luther (Part One)

A Wild Boar in Cyber-Space: A Brief Biography On My Interest in Martin Luther (Part Two)

Unfortunately, being non-Lutheran and having an interest in Luther has sometimes provoked Lutherans. I've been in more than a few skirmishes with Lutherans. My desire is to have a mutual respect for Lutherans, despite our doctrinal disagreements in the same way the hosts of the White Horse Inn radio show get along. Also, Issues Etc. has had a very cordial relationship with a very diligent 5 point Calvinist. If they can do it, I think I can do it as well with amenable Lutherans.

Do I disagree with Luther's position on losing salvation as well as the current Lutheran position?
Absolutely. Do I still respect Luther and many Lutherans? Absolutely. Is this blog post about why I believe a regenerated person cannot lose salvation? No, it isn't. If you're looking for a response to the verses posted in this discussion section, that would probably be something I would do on a separate blog post. My reasoning would be very similar to that put forth here, and here. Unfortunately, putting together a blog post like that seems to me to be reinventing the wheel. Perhaps a blog post in which I critique Luther might be more interesting.


James Swan said...

I always appreciate the Lutherans who visit my blog, in fact I've been a regular visitor to your blog, and have enjoyed your series on The Fabricated Luther. LP has been a regular visitor here for some time, and I've appreciated his comments and feedback. I was sort of stunned recently when this Lutheran blog linked to some of my blog posts. Probably the funniest interaction I've had with Lutherans is when I jokingly announced I was going to purchase the Project Wittenberg domain.

So, I hope that was clear enough. I'm a lot more interested in Luther research and apologetics exposing the heretical errors of Romanism than I am in critiquing what I disagree with Luther and Lutherans on.

btw, enjoy the turkey.

James Swan said...

In short, dialoguing with you is a complete waste of time because you simply aren’t up to it.

Tim, I suggest you follow what your heart tells you.

I've previously linked to your CARM posts, so anyone reading this can go over to CARM and read your detailed insights into Luther. That's not bad considering I'm a "fraud and a coward," "dishonest," and one who "make(s) a few whimpy (sic.) comments here and there, make this claim or that, but nothing of any substance."


L P said...


I would disagree with Luther's conclusions, but that doesn't mean I disrespect him as a theologian or church reformer.

I could never think you disrespect Luther!

Yes indeed, we believe like you in other respects of Luther for he is not the Proetestant's pope. We agree with the BoC not everything that Luther wrote. The Bondage of the Will however is not part of the BoC.

I shared about the means of grace because it is something that is part of the lingo in Lutheranism. By this they mean - what does God use to deliver his gifts of forgiveness of sins as won by Jesus Christ to the sinner?

As Luther said - what Jesus won is a treasure but it benefits no one unless it is delivered by the HS to the sinner. This we believe the HS is actively doing today through Word/Sacrament.

To the Lutheran, these are all objective they are never subjective. Because prayer is not objective, it is not what we consider as a means of grace. We do pray and worship but that is us coming to God. In the Word and Sacraments (Baptism/Lord's Supper) it is believed that God, through the HS comes down to the sinner. That is where He is located and may be found - i.e. where faith is created and sustained in the forgiveness of sins won by Christ.

I only wrote about it so that folk such as the Reformed (and I do know you are not Presbyterian) might understand where the fundamental but nuanced take in theology between the two streams might be discerned.

I appreciate your work and thank you for being a specialist on Luther, though you are a Calvinist.

The last Lutheran whom I think specialized on Calvin was Hermann Sasse of long ago.


Paul McCain said...

I appreciate the fact that this conversation is one that demonstrates that convinced Calvinists can study Luther carefully and come to the [correct] conclusion that Luther is, by no means, a "Calvinist."

This might seem obvious to some, but I've read way too many Calvinists attempting to tell us Lutherans that we "misunderstand" Luther and in fact he really is a Calvinist, in the final analysis.

Brigitte said...

Thanks for giving more context.

Tim MD said...

Hi Bridgitt,

Unless you are something special here, meaning very different than the people who “gather” here, a possibility that I will not dismiss, here’s about all you need to know.

James is a Protestant. I am a Catholic. You are a Protestant.

Therefore it follows that James is 100% “right” in his comments about me and I am 100% “wrong” in mine about him. In other words, nothing that I have said about James has any basis in truth.

It’s really just that simple to a lot of people. Hopefully you are not one of them.

After all, it is James who “stalks” many web sites, including where I spend my time, so that he can bring his “discoveries”, meaning Catholics doing “bad stuff”, back here to his Pop Apologetics site where he can “comment” on them. This would be as opposed to actually making his comments where these people actually are, and subjecting himself to an actual dialogue as to whether he had correctly represented their positions, or whether HIS position makes any sense. It ain’t exactly a “courageous” way to “do business”. Know what I mean?

God Bless You Bridgitt, Tim

BTW: If you.....well.......don't like my "style" much, you would HATE Luther's.

James Swan said...


Please at least spell Brigitte correctly.

As to who's right or wrong, I've linked to your CARM posts, so people can evaluate your material.

As to me "stalking" websites, I've been on CARM for at least 10 years, and have been in the moderator role more than a few times, so you're the new kid on the block at CARM, not me.

I visit around a dozen popular Catholic websites during the week, time allowing. My interests include the Roman Catholic approach to the Reformation, as well as trends in pop Romanist apologetics.

I'm not exactly sure how you translate this to "stalking". I don't leave unrelated comments on their blogs, nor do I hurl insults at them on their personal websites. Trolls and stalkers do that (you know... like what you've been doing here recently).

James Swan said...

I appreciate the fact that this conversation is one that demonstrates that convinced Calvinists can study Luther carefully and come to the [correct] conclusion that Luther is, by no means, a "Calvinist."

Pastor McCain,

We have to get you booked on the Iron Sharpens Iron radio show at some point.

Let me know if you're interested.

Tim MD said...


You always know what is being said about Luther on CARM. Anytime you gather the nerve, just "bring it on", specifically and exactly of course.

James Swan said...


Pick one:

"In short, dialoguing with you is a complete waste of time because you simply aren’t up to it."

"Anytime you gather the nerve, just "bring it on", specifically and exactly of course."

You are indeed an odd fellow.

Tim MD said...

Hi James,

Yes I am an "odd fellow" and we are quite different (Thank You God).

I stick up for what I believe.
I explain why I believe what I do.
I provide specifics and argue from logic, reason and from actual Christian History.
I don't back down or run away.
I am intellectually honest in that I represent my opinions rather than dodge issues.

I completely understand why you would believe that I am "odd".

PS, I don't think that you are going to "like" what I am in the process of posting this week. We are getting past the first several layers regarding Leipzig, not exactly one of your favorite subjects in that it shows Luther for what he really was.

James Swan said...

I completely understand why you would believe that I am "odd".

I'm not sure you do, which is why I've always found you somewhat frightening, like in stalker frightening. You come over here, post insulting unrelated comments on this blog entry, you then say dialoguing with me is a complete waste of time, then you tell me to "gather my nerve" and "bring it on" in dialogue. That's bizarre behavior, regardless of whatever points about Luther you think you're making.

Tim MD said...

Hi James,

How bout we just leave it at this:

I continue to "call em" like I "see em" and you continue to keep your head under the radar, especially in regards to my current "obsession", which is the Leipzig Debate and how the evidence shows that Luther was incorrect, according to numerous Protestant writers, (not you of course) on many of the "facts" that he used at Leipzig to defend his Revolt against the Catholic Church of his time.

I do my thing, which is to expose the facts about Leipzig, primarily from the writings of Protestants, and you continue to troll the web looking for Catholics who can be "accused" of taking "things" out of context, or "misunderstanding" this or that, while at the same time, defending your timid attitude of failing to engage on the facts.

I hope that wasn't too many words for you, and that you were able understand my "context". I tried to make it very clear to you.

I continue to write things looking to find someone who is brave enought to engage and you troll for things that you can post here, hoping that your "version" is not challenged, but simply accepted by those who are "aligned theologically" with you.

That is our difference James. I appeal to those who have different opinions so that we can discuss those differences. You appeal to those already in "your camp" and hope to plant in them the concept that the opinions of people like me, should not be considered.

Luther would be proud of ya.

So James, you want to leave it at this? Do you want to simply cede the matter of Liepzig to me, basically admitting that my comments are correct? Or would you rather choose to simply "poison" the well, dismissing my comments because I am a "Papist", with my comments being therefore unworthy of consideration?

Your choice.

James Swan said...


Your comments are a characteristic of a stalker. You don't see it, probably because you need help. This post has nothing to do with the Leipzig debate, and the few times I've mentioned the debate on this blog, you've misconstrued into your own bizarre points.

Tim, you aren't rational, which is why the people on CARM that start dealing with you cease and desist after a while. It isn't because you're "right"- it's because you're impossible to deal with.

Tim MD said...

Hi James,

IF attempting to get you to defend your very few (2), and very general (unspecific) statements about Luther at Leipzig makes me a "stalker", then I guess I am. (Yikes!!!! I'm a "stalker". That's "creepy"). "You", meaning actually "you", and Protestants (in general), always want to define all the terms, so why not "stalker"? I prefer to see my "attitude" as persistance. Know what I mean?

Leipzig was by far the most important event in Luther's life, as attested by many Protestant experts, and was the turing point in the development of his "understanding" of both the Church AND the role of the Bishop of Rome. It was at Leipzig that Luther "became" a Protestant, and it was at Leipzig that Protestantism formed in it's fundamental presumptions.

For you, a self-proclaimed Luther "expert" to ignore Leipzig in your writings about Him's interesting.

For you to be "unable" to defend or even comment on the two very general things that you have said about Luther at Leipzig is also very telling. You have been asked repeatedly to defend those two very "unspecific" claims and so far, typically, have chosen not to.

You can claim that I am "unreasonable" or unwilling to "listen" is simply a cop-out. I am PERFECTLY willing to "listen" but will have to "hear something" to listen to in regards to Leipzig.

What is being posted on CARM is VERY damaging to Luther and you know it. You also know that I am very willing to be "reasonable". I am just not to be "dictated" to, or have my evidence and opinions dismissed as if they are unworthy of a fair hearing. (Dude, that is only a self-ondemnation of the Protestant "reason and logic")

The fact that only two things that you have said about Leipzig are completely in opposition to things that REAL Protestant experts have said about Luther at Leipzig....well....that is pretty telling.

Anyway James, here's my prediction:

You will NEVER hazard expressing another opinion about Leipzig, even though you (too) understand how critical it was in the development of Protestant "theology".

At CARM, we are learning the opinions of REAL Protestant experts about Leipzig. These people are willing to express what they believe, and so am I. You are not, yet you have admitted to having them.

The Protestant experts quoted on CARM admit that many (if not most) of the claims that Luther made at Leipzig were made on the basis of his false understanding of the facts.

I think you knew this long before I did and that that is the reason that you refuse to address Leipzig in any way. What else am I supposed to think?

You could tell me that I am wrong, that you didn't know these things. Or you could tell me that I am wrong, or that those Protestant experts are wrong. but you won't address the matter at all. You won't address the specifcs about Leipzig at all.

I will say this though. The one thing that we all should admire about Luther is that he was not a coward. He was always willing to express his opinions and defend his views. That Dude was a Man, (at least in that respect).

This is the point James: Man up or don't, but don't claim the high ground, either logically, morally, or philosophically unless you have the guts to engage on Leipzig.

In other words, in spite or your claim some time ago that I should not be considered as being viewed as “worthy of being in a conversation” with you about Luther, we do find the tables turned, don’t we? Make your claims as you will but we both know the truth. I have claimed that you, as a "Luther expert", are a "paper tiger".

How, exactly and specifically is that charge untrue?

Matt said...

Mr. Swan,

Your contrast between Luther and Rome on the issue of losing salvation have, at certain points, missed the mark.

Just a few quick points and clarifications.

1) Many post-Tridentine theologians referred to justification as a state that one either is "in" or one is not. It is seen as an instaneous event (a la Thomas Aquinas). The "justified" are a category of human being like the "fallen," the "blessed," etc. The widespread view that Protestant v. Catholic views of salvation can be reduced to event v. process are either very mistaken or terrible oversimplicitations.

2) The question of knowing whether you are in a state of grace was much debated at Trent, with no definitive resolution. The so-called Scotist party argued that we could know with certainty that we were in a state of grace, while the Thomists denied this. And, it is important to note, this denial was based partly on the definition of the term "certainty." Some Thomists said that we could have a very good deal of confidence; some even said that we could have "moral certainty." But they denied that we could have the "certitude of faith" with regard to our personal salvation most intensely for the simple reason that our personal salvation was not revealed in the Scriptures. There is one faith, one Lord, one baptism. If I was to believe _by the divine gift of faith_ that I was in grace, would it not be the case that others in the community of the faithful would have to believe the same? Etc.

3) Benedict XVI has opened up new ways of thinking about these and related questions in Spe Salve. Some (but only some) of these criticisms may have hit the target in the sixteenth century, but (in my view) Catholics views on these matters have significantly matured. While that opens up new questions about church authority and development of doctrine (which I am not interested in), isn't it possible for you (like Anthony Lane?) to simply accept this as a good thing?

If you would like citations or quotations, please just ask.

Matt said...


James Swan said...


I've linked to your CARM posts, so obviously I'm not scared of your Luther research or comments about me. I trust that someone of average intelligence can see you're a bit unstable, and that your personal attacks against either me personally or my Luther material are the ravings of someone who needs help.

Like everyone else at CARM who interacts with you, I've had enough.

Bill said...

Luther did believe that a christian can lose his salvation and then come back to Christ. King David is the example Luther had in mind as somebody that lost his salvation and then got it back after repenting. In article 43 of the Smalcald articles (part of the lutheran confessions) Luther wrote:

"43] It is, accordingly, necessary to know and to teach that when holy men, still having and feeling original sin, also daily repenting of and striving with it, happen to fall into manifest sins, as David into adultery, murder, and blasphemy, that then faith and the Holy Ghost has departed from them [they cast out faith and the Holy Ghost]. For the Holy Ghost does not permit sin to have dominion, to gain the upper hand so as to be accomplished, but represses and restrains it so that it must not do what it wishes. But if it does what it wishes, the Holy Ghost and faith are [certainly] not present. For St. John says, 1 John 3:9: Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin, ... and he cannot sin. And yet it is also the truth when the same St. John says, 1:8: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. "

James Swan said...

Hi Bill,

Thanks for the quote, I've added it to the blog entry.

Stormy Knight said...

In The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, Luther wrote, "Even if he [the saint] wants to, he cannot lose his salvation, however much he sin, unless he will not believe. For no sin can condemn him save unbelief alone. All other sins—so long as the faith in God’s promise made in baptism returns or remains—all other sins, I say, are immediately blotted out through that same faith, or rather through the truth of God, because He cannot deny Himself."

Having graduated from a Lutheran seminary, this is the position of the Lutheran Church. It is different than Wesleyism in the sense that it does not teach that one loses their salvation because of sin, but that sin may have such an effect on a person that one may lose their faith, thus, coming to a place of unbelief!

James Swan said...

Thanks for this quote. I'm going to use it in an upcoming blog entry.

Jude Finn said...

It really is too bad that somehow you gather from bits and pieces of Luther's writing that he did not believe in eternal security, when it was the the doctrine of predestination (a major part of Luther's reform) that furnished an antidote, not only to pride and presumption, but also to the doubt and despair into which a man might fall (as Luther had done in the monastery) through uncertainty as to God's goodwill toward him. Go read "The Bondage of Will" and study the argument between Luther and Erasmus, then please tell me how illogical it is to suggest that Luther believed salvation could be lost? Not only would Luther argue it could not be lost, he would argue that you are either saved or unsaved, as predetermined by God's grace, thus you cannot lose something you never had.

James Swan said...

Go read "The Bondage of Will" and study the argument between Luther and Erasmus, then please tell me how illogical it is to suggest that Luther believed salvation could be lost?

Hello Jude:

1. I happen to belong to a Reformed church that seriously adheres to the Three Forms of Unity (as do I)... I mention this lest you think I'm some sort of Lutheran propagandist attempting to paint a false historical image of Luther.

2.That you use the word "illogical" in your comment leads me to believe you have a substandard understanding of Luther's basic theology.

3. For a more complete understanding of my view of Luther on predestination etc., see: