Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Surprised By Context: Roman Catholic Apologetics in 1994

Recently I was part of a short discussion over on the Catholic Answers Apologetics forum. I wish I could link over to it , but the moderators pulled the entire thing. I'm not sure why, but I doubt it was anything I wrote.

A zealous Romanist posted a thread entitled, "The Real Luther." He was smitten by a footnote from Robert Sungenis on page 129 of Surprised By Truth (California: Basilica Press, 1994). Now, if you engage Roman Catholic apologetics, this is a volume you should pick up and at least be familiar with. It has the "conversion" stories of some of the big name pop-Roman Catholic apologists. The book is one of their main tools in "witnessing" for the sect of Romanism. You'll get a feel for why the conversion story is one of their key tools.

Now back in 1994 when this book was published, a Roman Catholic apologist could more or less get away with a footnote like this:

In order to substantiate his claims that man was justified by faith alone, Luther deliberately added the word "alone" to his German translation of Romans 3:28. In reality, the only time "alone" appears with the word "faith" in the Greek text is in James 2:24 where it says we are "not saved by faith alone." Luther defended his novel addition bragging, "You tell me what a great fuss the Papists are making because the word 'alone' is not in the text of Paul. If your Papist makes such an unnecessary row about the word 'alone,' say right out to him: 'Dr. Martin Luther will have it so,' and say: 'Papists and asses are one and the same thing.' I will have it so, and I order it to be so, and my will is reason enough. I know very well that the word 'alone' is not in the Latin or the Greek text, and it was not necessary for the Papists to teach me that. It is true those letters are not in it, which letters the jackasses look at, as a cow stares at a new gate ... It shall remain in my New Testament, and if all the Popish donkeys were to get mad and beside themselves, they will not get it out." Cited in John Stoddard, Rebuilding a Lost Faith, (Rockford, IL TAN Books), 136-137.[Surprised By Truth (California: Basilica Press, 1994), p.129].

Now though, one can actually get immediate access to John Stoddard's book, Rebuilding a Lost Faith. Stoddard says,

As a proof of the arbitrary spirit which Luther showed in making his translation of the Bible, we have the fact that he confessed to have added, for dogmatic reasons, the word "alone" to the text of St. Paul (Rom. iii. 28):—"Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." Luther rendered the passage "by faith alone"; and when reproached for this, he wrote:—"You tell me what a great fuss the Papists are making because the word 'alone' is not in the text of Paul. If your Papist makes such an unnecessary row about the word 'alone,' say right out to him:—'Dr. Martin Luther will have it so,' and say:—'Papists and asses are one and the same thing.' / will have it so, and I order it to be so, and my will is reason enough. I know very well that the word 'alone' is not in the Latin and Greek text, and it was not necessary for the Papists to teach me that. It is true, those letters are not in it, which letters the jackasses look at, as a cow stares at a new gate. ... It ['alone'] shall remain in my New Testament, and if all the Popish donkeys were to get mad and beside themselves, they will not get it out." There, therefore, it remains to the present time.

We see one definite thing here, Robert Sungenis in 1994 didn't bother to look up the Luther citation cited by Stoddard. Now one can simply find the exact treatise in which Luther made these comments. I've done a full review of Luther's comments in context: Luther Added The Word "Alone" to Romans 3:28?. I'm not going to repeat all I said in that link, but suffice it to say, Luther gives far more argumentation than either Stoddard or Sungenis admits.

Roman Catholics rarely read past Luther's angry comments towards his Papal critics. They discredited him as a doctor of theology, a degree he earned in a rather quick period of time, and his academic abilities were above most. Indeed, he had done the work necessary to be taken seriously. His critics criticized his German translation while at the same time stealing it for their own translation- this infuriated him, and rightly so. Those like Stoddard who used Luther's Open Letter On Translating against him really drop the ball in terms of context. Luther actually goes on to give an exegetical explanation of why he uses the word "alone" in Romans 3:28.

For you and our people, however, I shall show why I used the [German equivalent of the] word sola — even though in Romans 3 it was not [the equivalent of] sola I used but solum or tantum. That is how closely those donkeys have looked at my text! Nevertheless I have used sola fides elsewhere; I want to use both solum and sola. I have always tried to translate in a pure and clear German. It has often happened that for three or four weeks we have searched and inquired about a single word, and sometimes we have not found it even then. In translating the book of Job, Master Philip, Aurogallus (6) and I have taken such pains that we have sometimes scarcely translated three lines in four days. Now that it has been translated into German and completed, all can read and criticize it. The reader can now run his eyes over three or four pages without stumbling once, never knowing what rocks and clods had once lain where he now travels as over a smoothly-planed board. We had to sweat and toil there before we got those boulders and clods out of the way, so that one could go along so nicely. The plowing goes well in a field that has been cleared. But nobody wants the task of digging out the rocks and stumps. There is no such thing as earning the world's thanks. Even God himself cannot earn thanks, not with the sun, nor with heaven and earth, nor even the death of his Son. The world simply is and remains as it is, in the devil's name, because it will not be anything else.

I know very well that in Romans 3 the word solum is not in the Greek or Latin text — the papists did not have to teach me that. It is fact that the letters s-o-l-a are not there. And these blockheads stare at them like cows at a new gate, while at the same time they do not recognize that it conveys the sense of the text -- if the translation is to be clear and vigorous [klar und gewaltiglich], it belongs there. I wanted to speak German, not Latin or Greek, since it was German I had set about to speak in the translation. But it is the nature of our language that in speaking about two things, one which is affirmed, the other denied, we use the word allein [only] along with the word nicht [not] or kein [no]. For example, we say "the farmer brings allein grain and kein money"; or "No, I really have nicht money, but allein grain"; I have allein eaten and nicht yet drunk"; "Did you write it allein and nicht read it over?" There are countless cases like this in daily usage.

In all these phrases, this is a German usage, even though it is not the Latin or Greek usage. It is the nature of the German language to add allein in order that nicht or kein may be clearer and more complete. To be sure, I can also say, "The farmer brings grain and kein money," but the words "kein money" do not sound as full and clear as if I were to say, "the farmer brings allein grain and kein money." Here the word allein helps the word kein so much that it becomes a completely clear German expression. We do not have to ask the literal Latin how we are to speak German, as these donkeys do. Rather we must ask the mother in the home, the children on the street, the common man in the marketplace. We must be guided by their language, by the way they speak, and do our translating accordingly. Then they will understand it and recognize that we are speaking German to them.


Luther continues to give multiple examples of the implied sense of meaning in translating words into German. He then offers an interpretive context of Romans:

“So much for translating and the nature of language. However, I was not depending upon or following the nature of the languages alone when I inserted the word solum in Romans 3. The text itself, and Saint Paul's meaning, urgently require and demand it. For in that passage he is dealing with the main point of Christian doctrine, namely, that we are justified by faith in Christ without any works of the Law. Paul excludes all works so completely as to say that the works of the Law, though it is God's law and word, do not aid us in justification. Using Abraham as an example, he argues that Abraham was so justified without works that even the highest work, which had been commanded by God, over and above all others, namely circumcision, did not aid him in justification. Rather, Abraham was justified without circumcision and without any works, but by faith, as he says in Chapter 4: "If Abraham were justified by works, he may boast, but not before God." So, when all works are so completely rejected — which must mean faith alone justifies — whoever would speak plainly and clearly about this rejection of works will have to say "Faith alone justifies and not works." The matter itself and the nature of language requires it.”

"But," they say, "it has an objectionable tone, and people infer from it that they need not do any good works." Dear me, what are we to say? Is it not much more offensive when Paul himself, while not using the term "faith alone," spells it out even more bluntly, putting the finishing touches on it by saying "Without the works of the Law?" And in Galatians 1 (as well as in many other places) he says "not by works of the law." The expression "faith alone" may perhaps be glossed over somehow, but the phrase "without the works of the law" is so blunt, offensive, and scandalous that no amount of interpretation can help it. How much more might people learn from this that "they need not do any good works," when they hear this teaching about the works themselves stated in such a clear strong way: "No works", "without works", "not by works"! If it is not offensive to preach "without works," "not by works," "no works," why is it offensive to preach "by faith alone"?

Still more offensive is that Paul does not reject just ordinary works, but works of the law! One could easily take offense at that all the more and say that the law is condemned and cursed before God, and so we should be doing nothing but what is against the law, as it is said in Romans 3: "Why not do evil so that there might be more good?" This is what one Rottengeist of our time began to do. (10) Should we reject Paul's word because of such "offense" or refrain from speaking freely about faith? Dear me, Saint Paul and I want to offend like this, for we preach so strongly against works and insist upon faith alone just so that people will be offended, stumble and fall, that they may learn that they are not saved by good works but only by Christ's death and resurrection. Knowing that they cannot be saved by their good works of the law, how much more will they realize that they shall not be saved by bad works, or without the law! Therefore, it does not follow that because good works do not help, bad works will; just as it does not follow that because the sun cannot help a blind man to see, the night and darkness must help him to see.

I am amazed that anyone can object to something as evident as this. Just tell me: Is Christ's death and resurrection our work, that we do, or not? Of course it is not our work, nor is it the work of any law. Now it is Christ's death and resurrection alone which saves and frees us from sin, as Paul writes in Romans 4: "He died for our sins and rose for our justification." Tell me, further: What is the work by which we take hold of Christ's death and resurrection? It cannot be any external work, but only the eternal faith that is in the heart. Faith alone, indeed all alone, wihtout any works, takes hold of this death and resurrection when it is preached through the gospel. Then why all this ranting and raving, this making of heretics and burning them at the stake, when it is clear at its very core that faith alone takes hold of Christ's death and resurrection, without any works, and that his death and resurrection are our life and righteousness? As this fact is so obvious, that faith alone conveys, grasps, and imparts this life and righteousness — why should we not say so? It is not heretical to believe that faith alone lays hold on Christ and gives life; and yet it seems to be heresy if someone mentions it. Are they not insane, foolish and absurd? They will admit that it is right but they brand the telling of it as wrong, though nothing can be simultaneously right and wrong.

Furthermore, I am not the only one, nor the first, to say that faith alone makes one righteous. There was Ambrose, Augustine and many others who said it before me. And if a man is going to read and understand St. Paul, he will have to say the same thing, and he can say nothing else. Paul's words are too strong — they allow no works, none at all! Now if it is not works, it must be faith alone. Oh what a fine, constructive and inoffensive teaching that would be, if men were taught that they can be saved by works as well as by faith. That would be like saying that it is not Christ's death alone that takes away our sin but that our works have something to do with it. Now that would be a fine way of honoring Christ's death, saying that it is helped by our works, and that whatever it does our works can also do — which amounts to saying that we are his equal in strength and goodness. This is the very devil's teaching, for he cannot stop abusing the blood of Christ.

Therefore the matter itself, at its very core, requires us to say: "Faith alone justifies." The nature of the German language also teaches us to say it that way. In addition, I have the precedent of the holy fathers. The dangers confronting the people also compel it, for they cannot continue to hang onto works and wander away from faith, losing Christ, especially at this time when they have been so accustomed to works they have to be pulled away from them by force. It is for these reasons that it is not only right but also necessary to say it as plainly and forcefully as possible: "Faith alone saves without works!" I am only sorry I did not also add the words alle and aller, and say, "without any works of any laws." That would have stated it with the most perfect clarity. Therefore, it will remain in the New Testament, and though all the papal donkeys go stark raving mad they shall not take it away. Let this be enough for now. God willing, I shall have more to say about it in the treatise On Justification.


Well, so much for 1994. Perhaps Madrid can revise Surprised By Truth, but then again, one wonders if a revision would still include the conversion story of Robert Sungenis.

9 comments:

Ryan said...

The blog title alone gives this post an A+

Joe said...

Well, so much for 1994. Perhaps Madrid can revise Surprised By Truth, but then again, one wonders if a revision would still include the conversion story of Robert Sungenis.

Why would Sungenis conversion not be included?

Honest question.

In Him,

Joe

James Swan said...

Why would Sungenis conversion not be included?

Robert Sungenis has fallen out of favor with mainstraim pop-Roman Catholic apologetics.

Stuff like this hasn't helped him stay popular:

http://sungenisandthejews.blogspot.com/

James Swan said...

see also:

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2005/08/karl-keating-is-motivated-more-by.html

Joe said...

Okay. Thanks.

Just as an fyi...the second link was not working.

In Him,

Joe

Carrie said...

The blog title alone gives this post an A+

Agreed!

If you were ever to write a book about Catholics on Luther, the title would have to be "Surprised by Context". Love it!

Lvka said...

There are the works of the law, and then there's the faith that works through love. Circumcising oneself makes one neither holy nor sinful, it just makes one circumcised. The same for keeping the Sabbath or eating only ritually-clean foods. (Ritual purity is not the same as actual purity; the former is merely a symbol of the later).

Rhology said...

Do you think it might be a good practice to cultivate to, whenever you post a comment to one of those volatile RC forum threads, to post it and then to save the page for your own records?

Alexander said...

The book is one of their main tools in "witnessing" for the sect of Romanism.

Who are you referring? I don’t own the book.

…his academic abilities were above most.

Empirical evidence?