Tuesday, August 10, 2010

"When Satan cannot suppress the preaching of the Gospel by force...

...he tries to accomplish his purpose by striking the ministers of the Gospel with poverty."

This is from Luther's commentary on Galatians 6:6. Although it was written with particular application to the material excesses of medieval Roman Catholicism, the general application--of financially supporting those who preach and teach in our local congregations--is still as relevant as when Paul penned his letter to the Christians at Galatia:
Verse 6. Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.

Now the Apostle also addresses the hearers of the Word requesting them to bestow "all good things" upon those who have taught them the Gospel. I have often wondered why all the apostles reiterated this request with such embarrassing frequency. In the papacy I saw the people give generously for the erection and maintenance of luxurious church buildings and for the sustenance of men appointed to the idolatrous service of Rome. I saw bishops and priests grow rich until they possessed the choicest real estate. I thought then that Paul's admonitions were overdone. I thought he should have requested the people to curtail their contributions. I saw how the generosity of the people of the Church was encouraging covetousness on the part of the clergy. I know better now.

As often as I read the admonitions of the Apostle to the effect that the churches should support their pastors and raise funds for the relief of impoverished Christians I am half ashamed to think that the great Apostle Paul had to touch upon this subject so frequently. In writing to the Corinthians he needed two chapters to impress this matter upon them. I would not want to discredit Wittenberg as Paul discredited the Corinthians by urging them at such length to contribute to the relief of the poor. It seems to be a by-product of the Gospel that nobody wants to contribute to the maintenance of the Gospel ministry. When the doctrine of the devil is preached people are prodigal in their willing support of those who deceive them.

We have come to understand why it is so necessary to repeat the admonition of this verse. When Satan cannot suppress the preaching of the Gospel by force he tries to accomplish his purpose by striking the ministers of the Gospel with poverty. He curtails their income to such an extent that they are forced out of the ministry because they cannot live by the Gospel. Without ministers to proclaim the Word of God the people go wild like savage beasts.

Paul's admonition that the hearers of the Gospel share all good things with their pastors and teachers is certainly in order. To the Corinthians he wrote: "If we have sown unto you spiritual things is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?" (I Cor. 9:11.) In the old days when the Pope reigned supreme everybody paid plenty for masses. The begging friars brought in their share. Commercial priests counted the daily offerings. From these extortions our countrymen are now delivered by the Gospel. You would think they would be grateful for their emancipation and give generously for the support of the ministry of the Gospel and the relief of impoverished Christians. Instead, they rob Christ. When the members of a Christian congregation permit their pastor to struggle along in penury, they are worse than heathen.

Before very long they are going to suffer for their ingratitude. They will lose their temporal and spiritual possessions. This sin merits the severest punishment. The reason why the churches of Galatia, Corinth, and other places were troubled by false apostles was this, that they had so little regard for their faithful ministers. You cannot refuse to give God a penny who gives you all good things, even life eternal, and turn around and give the devil, the giver of all evil and death eternal, pieces of gold, and not be punished for it.

The words "in all good things" are not to be understood to mean that people are to give all they have to their ministers, but that they should support them liberally and give them enough to live well.

(Source, with bibliographic information at the bottom of the page.)


Jae said...

Another Luther's teaching which I think is very prophetic:


“There are almost as many sects and beliefs as there are heads; this one will not admit Baptism; that one rejects the Sacrament of the altar; another places another world between the present one and the day of judgment; some teach that Jesus Christ is not God. There is not an individual, however clownish he may be, who does not claim to be inspired by the Holy Ghost, and who does not put forth as prophecies his ravings and dreams.”

How true today!

John Bugay said...

Jae -- You have brought that quote up several times now. You should take a look at this post:


First: When checking these obscure Luther quotes used by Roman Catholics, the first thing to remember, most often, they didn’t get them by reading Luther in context. Often, they’ve pulled these quotes from secondary sources.

Second: I will spare you the trouble of searching the English edition of Luther Works for this quote. It isn’t there.

Third: a better context and reference comes from Catholic historian Hartmann Grisar:

"Amidst the excitement of his struggle with the fanatics he wrote as early as 1525 to the " Christians at Antwerp "The tiresome devil begins to rage amongst the ungodly and to belch forth many wild and mazy beliefs and doctrines. This man will have nothing of baptism, that one denies the Sacrament, a third awaits another world between this and the Last Day ; some teach that Christ is not God ; some say this, some that, and there are as many sects and beliefs as there are heads ; no peasant is so rude but that if he dreams or fancies something, it must forsooth be the Holy Spirit which inspires him, and he himself must be a prophet." (April, 1525, " Werke," Weim. ed., 18, p. 547 ; Erl. ed., 53, p. 342 " Briefwechsel," 5, p. 151)."

Grisar gives us a year (1525), and also a document name (to the "Christians at Antwerp"). We can probably safely infer it was a letter. The year is extremely pertinent, because anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the 16th century knows 1525 was part of the tumultuous years of the peasant’s revolt. The peasants had sporadic outbursts of violence previous to their great uprising in the spring of 1525. Luther was very aware of the peasant situation. He had personally visited some of the peasants, and was almost killed by them.

Do you really understand the reason for all these sects? It was because:

When the pope reigned we heard nothing of these troubles. The strong one (the devil) was in peace in his fortress; but now that a stronger one than he is come, and prevails against him and drives him out, as the Gospel says, he storms and comes forth with noise and fury.

Dear friends, one of these spirits of disorder has come amongst you in flesh and blood; he would lead you astray with the inventions of his pride: beware of him.

First, he tells you that all men have the Holy Ghost. Secondly, that the Holy Ghost is nothing more than our reason and our understanding. Thirdly, that all men have faith. Fourthly, that there is no hell, that at least the flesh only will be damned. Fifthly, that all souls will enjoy eternal life. Sixthly, that nature itself teaches us to do to our neighbour what we would he should do to us ; this he calls faith. Seventhly, that the law is not violated by concupiscence, so long as we are not consenting to the pleasure. Eighthly, that he that has not the Holy Ghost, is also without sin, for he is destitute of reason.

John Bugay said...

Further, note:

First, it should be obvious the quote is being used out of context. Luther isn’t talking about the devastating effect of sola scriptura. He’s talking about the devastating effect of the devil, who, Luther says, was at peace in his papal fortress, but now with the gospel being loudly proclaimed, must find a different way to keep men enslaved to sin and darkness.

Second, Steve Ray operates under the delusion that somehow, Roman Catholics are all unified in belief. They are not.
Roman Catholics hold to sola ecclesia. This is their infallible source. It does not provide unity. One can find scores of Roman Catholics disagreeing with each other. Therefore, it is simply ridiculous for Roman Catholics to hold Protestants to a standard they themselves can’t live up to. That some people misinterpret or twist the Bible is not the fault of the Bible, hence not a proof against sola scriptura. In the same way, that I may possibly configure my computer incorrectly is not the fault of the owner’s manual that comes with it. The misuse of a sufficient source does not negate the clarity of that sufficient source.

Rome has only explicitly defined a handful of passages, and allows their theologians to speculate and use their private judgment on the majority of Scripture. What this means to Catholic laymen, is that in actuality, they can’t really know what the Scriptures do mean in most cases. Rome has claimed infallible interpretive rights, but rarely use the right. Catholics can claim unity, but without an infallible interpretation of almost the entirety of the Bible, their balking against alleged Protestant disunity is more a clanging gong or a facade rather than an actual argument.

Here's how that works in practice:

This was even something Luther was aware of. Note the following quote from Luther, and its similarity to the Luther quote used by Ray.

“I do not read the scholastics blindfolded, as they do, but ponder them. The apostle told us to prove all things, and hold to that which is good. I do not despise all theirs, neither consider it all good. But these creatures generally kindle a fire out of a spark, and make an elephant out of a flea. When it was permitted to a Thomas to stand out against the whole world, and a Scotus, Gabriel, and others to contradict him, and when, even among the scholastics, there are as many sects as there are heads, or rather every single head daily builds up a new system of divinity, why should I not have the same liberty? But when God lifts up His hand no one can stay it, and when He rests no one can arouse Him.”

In regards to “sects”- Luther said of the Roman Catholic Church:

“…there is no other place in the world where there are so many sects, schisms, and errors as in the papal church. For the papacy, because it builds the church upon a city and person, has become the head and fountain of all sects which have followed it and have characterized Christian life in terms of eating and drinking, clothes and shoes, tonsures and hair, city and place, day and hour. For the spirituality and holiness of the papal church lives by such things, as was said above.  This order fasts at this time, another order fasts at another time; this one does not eat meat, the other one does not eat eggs; this one wears black, the other one white; this one is Carthusian,  the other Benedictine;  and so they continue to create innumerable sects and habits, while faith and true Christian life go to pieces. All this is the result of the blindness which desires to see rather than believe the Christian church and to seek devout Christian life not in faith but in works, of which St. Paul writes so much in Colossians [2]. These things have invaded the church and blindness has confirmed the government of the pope.”
Source: LW 39:221.

Rhology said...

Jae is not a big fan of reading, John.

John Bugay said...

Meh ...

I do it for the lurkers...