Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Luther: Marriage is a Secular Business

The following is from the web page Luther, Exposing the Myth, under the heading "Marriage and Women":

"Know that Marriage is an outward material thing like any other secular business. The body has nothing to do with God. In this respect one can never sin against God, but only against one’s neighbour" [Weimar, Vol. 12, Pg. 131].

Luther Exposing the Myth says their stated purpose is to show that "from Luther’s own words we shall see him for what he really was, that is a rebellious apostate, who abandoned the faith and led many into apostasy from God under the guise of “reformation” in order to follow his perverse inclinations." With this quote, they attempt to show Christ taught the value of marriage as spiritual, while Luther taught marriage was secular, and in it, one can't sin against God.

Documentation
Luther, Exposing the Myth probably took this quote from Martin Luther, Hitler's spiritual Ancestor by Peter Wiener. Wiener states,

I am reluctant, more than reluctant, to quote some of [Luther's] sayings; and yet I have to do it if I want to be complete. For the degradation of womanhood and the taking away of all the sacred character of marriage is one of the main reasons why Germany with Luther began its unchristian way down the hi..[sic] “Since wedlock and marriage are a worldly business, we clergy and ministers of the Church have nothing to order or decree about it, but must leave each town and country to follow its own usage and custom.” In other words, Luther is not interested in it. Marriage is to him just like any other manual labour, something to be ruled by local traditions, without any kind of Christian standard. “Marriage,” he says, “is an external bodily thing, like any other manipulation.” “Know that marriage is an outward material thing like any other secular business.” “The body has nothing to do with God. In this respect one can never sin against God, but only against one's neighbour”(W12, 131).

It's likely Wiener didn't actually read Luther in grabbing these quotes, but rather took them from other secondary sources. With the quote in question, I'm certain he didn't get it from the source he (and Luther Exposing the Myth) cite. Here is Wiemar Vol. 12 page 131. While the immediate context does include some passing comments on marriage, there is nothing even remotely similar to this quote in question on the page. WA 12, 131 is a page from Luther's commentary on 1 Corinthians 7. The English translation is found in LW 28 (WA 12, 131 can be found in LW 28:44-45). The reference is bogus.

Notice the quote, as cited by Luther, Exposing the Myth, doesn't make much sense? If one looks closely, it appears Wiener is using two different quotes, which Luther, Exposing the Myth didn't catch. The first part of the quote comes from WA 10,2, 283, "Uom Eelichen Leben," or The Estate of Marriage, which is found in LW 45:25. The other part of the quote probably comes from WA 12, 132 (which is found in LW 28:46).

Context
The Estate of Marriage discusses the eighteen impediments of marriage which ruled the day during Luther's time. These contained rules on who was allowed to marry who. Luther was discussing the fifth impediment, that one is not allowed to marry "a Turk, a Jew, or a heretic"[LW 45:24]. Luther says such a rule is in direct contradiction to 1 Corinthians 7:12-13 (if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away). Luther then states,

Know therefore that marriage is an outward, bodily thing, like any other worldly undertaking. Just as I may eat, drink, sleep, walk, ride with, buy from, speak to, and deal with a heathen, Jew, Turk, or heretic, so I may also marry and continue in wedlock with him. Pay no attention to the precepts of those fools who forbid it. You will find plenty of Christians—and indeed the greater part of them—who are worse in their secret unbelief than any Jew, heathen, Turk, or heretic. A heathen is just as much a man or a woman—God’s good creation—as St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. Lucy, not to speak of a slack and spurious Christian [LW 45:25].

That's the first line of the quote in question. The context is about the freedom to marry whom one will, which should not be regulated by the church.

The second part of the quote comes from LW 28. Luther while commenting on 1 Cor. 7:23, addresses this same theme: "When someone teaches that a Christian may not marry a non-Christian and remain with her—as the rules of the church do—he obstructs the freedom that St. Paul teaches us here and forces people to obey these rules more than God’s Word" [LW 28:44]. He wraps up that section by noting while God has given us freedom from such rules, the rules of particular relationships among people are still intact. For instance, wives are still subject to their husbands.

Luther then begins commenting on 1.Cor. 7:24, building upon this idea of responsibility in human relationships. God has set his people free from keeping the law in order to achieve salvation. The only responsibility of a Christian is to believe and confess (LW 28:45). On the other hand, Christians are still responsible to their neighbors:

But because in this relationship you are bound up with your neighbor and have become his servant, it is God’s will that no one be deprived of what is his by means of His freedom but rather that those things of your neighbor be protected. For although God pays no attention to these things on His own account, He pays attention to them on account of your neighbor. This is what he means with the words “with God,” as though He were admonishing us: “I did not make you free among men or with your neighbor, for I do not wish that which is his taken from him until he gives you permission. But you are entirely free with Me and cannot ruin yourself in My sight by keeping to or refraining from outward things.” Therefore notice this and differentiate between the freedom existing in your relation to God and the freedom existing in your relation to your neighbor. In the former this freedom is present, in the latter it is not, and for this reason: God gives you this freedom only in the things that are yours, not in what is your neighbor’s. There differentiate between what is yours and what is your neighbors. That is why no man can leave his wife, for his body is not his own but his wife’s, and vice versa. Likewise the servant and his body do not belong to him himself but to his master. It would be of no importance to God if the husband were to leave his wife, for the body is not bound to God but made free by Him for all outward things and is only God’s by virtue of inward faith. But among men these promises are to be kept. In sum: We owe nobody anything but to love (Rom. 13:8) and to serve our neighbor through love. Where love is present, there it is accomplished that no eating, drinking, clothing, or living in a particular way endangers the conscience or is a sin before God, except when it is detrimental to one’s neighbor. In such things one cannot sin against God but only against one’s neighbor [LW 28:45].

In this context, Wiener's "the body has nothing to with God" simply means that a Christian has been given freedom by God. There are no rules to be kept to keep one justified before him. On the other hand, the body could still very well belong to another, like a husband's body is the property of his wife. Wiener's "one can never sin against God, but only against one's neighbour" simply means that if one is judged by God covered with the righteousness of Christ, sin against God is not counted. On the other hand, a sin against one's neighbor is still indeed a sin against one's neighbor.

Conclusion
Luther taught a life under the cross, which is a life of discipleship of following after Christ. Our crosses though, do not save. They serve the neighbor. We are called to be neighbor to those around us. Justification is by faith alone unto good works done for the good of one’s neighbor. This idea runs throughout Luther's written corpus.

For Luther, marriage was indeed "the God-appointed and legitimate union of a man and woman" with its ultimate purpose to glorify God (WA 43:310). But as to its working and maintenance, Luther sought to have such matters governed by the state. It wasn't the job of the church to come up with marriage rules and regulations. Like clothing, food, and houses, the working of marriage should be something regulated by secular authority.

While some may think such a paradigm sets forth humanistic anarchy, keep in mind in Luther's time the power of the Roman church had perpetuated a mess with marriage regulations, and his was a direct reaction to that. The worldview at the time took for granted that marriage was between a man and a woman. He did not foresee a secular authority that would redefine marriage (i.e. homosexual marriage). Of such a legalization, he would have been horrified ["God revenges and punishes the forbidden marriage,  so that Sodom and Gomorrah, which God overwhelmed in days of old with fire and brimstone" LW 46:198]. Nor would he be against rebuking a modern-day Pilate (WA 28:361), and that passive Resistance in certain conditions is justified.

Luther was not an enemy of marriage, but spoke highly of it, and valued it. Such sentiment can be found throughout his writings. This type of information though was ignored by Luther, Exposing the Myth.

80 comments:

steelikat said...

If we had been consistent, we would have put baptism and the lord's supper in the hands of the state, as we did marriage.

It's a deal with the devil. They couldn't foresee in the 16th century that it would lead to divorce, polygamy, and gay marriage, but in hindsight it was inevitable.

Andrew said...

Maybe, Mr. Swan, you should write a book entitled "Luther, Exposing the Myth-Exposing the Myth."

The 27th Comrade said...

Am I allowed to laugh at the Luther Exposed people? Perhaps, because they are so misled and so wrong that it is really literally one of the funniest things I have ever witnessed.

It has become such that every time I see that picture in my feed reader, I mutter “Oh, no. What more did they get so grossly wrong, this time?”

Four* Pointer said...

Luther speaks in another place of the man-made restrictions placed on marriage by the Romish church:

"I admonish and pray all priests and brethren...by all means to confirm any marriage that may have been contracted in any way contrary to the ecclesiastical or pontifical laws. But let them arm themselves with the divine law, which says, "What God has joined together, let no man put asunder." (Matthew 19:6) For the joining together of a man and a woman is of divine law and is binding, however it may conflict with the laws of men; the laws of men must give way before it without hesitation. For if a man leaves father and mother and cleaves to his wife, how much more will he tread underfoot the silly and wicked laws of men, in order to cleave to his wife! And if pope, bishop or official annul any marriage because it was contracted contrary to the laws of men, he is antichrist, he does violence to nature, and is guilty of lese-majesty toward God, because this word stands – "What God has joined together, let no man put asunder." (Matthew 19:6)

(The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, 6.15)

steelikat said...

Of course it is right to speak out against the man-made restrictions; but it would be an error to deny that there are God-made restrictions.

What happens when a married couple find out that they are actually brother and sister?

The church can do one of two things, pass the buck to the state (the "deal with the devil") or have the courage to insist that it has the power to annul what it formerly and mistakenly blessed, and tell those who complain it is antichrist that they are fruitcakes.

Annulment is not the problem, abuse of annulment is the problem.

James Swan said...

If we had been consistent, we would have put baptism and the lord's supper in the hands of the state, as we did marriage.

Luther's view, as I understand it, is that Christ and the apostles did not involve themselves in regulating marriage, except only in rare instances in which conscience was involved, or in instances in which believers were married to unbelievers.

James Swan said...

Maybe, Mr. Swan, you should write a book entitled "Luther, Exposing the Myth-Exposing the Myth."

Well, only like 20 more quotes to go, so I guess I will have the length of a book.

James Swan said...

It has become such that every time I see that picture in my feed reader, I mutter “Oh, no. What more did they get so grossly wrong, this time?”

I'm actually shocked as well. Everytime I begin looking at one of their quotes, they top themselves.

Unfortunately, I have backlog of posts on Luther, Exposing the Myth. I probably have another 5 or so in draft that were completed back in August & early September.

Thankfully, there are other people posting blog entries here, so I don't put everyone to sleep with this stuff.

James Swan said...

Luther speaks in another place of the man-made restrictions placed on marriage by the Romish church:

Great quote, Luther's view has a bit more going on the most people think.

steelikat said...

"...did not involve themselves in regulating marriage.."

The nt contains more regulations of marriage than it does of baptism. About all it says about baptism is "baptize 'em"

James Swan said...

Of course it is right to speak out against the man-made restrictions; but it would be an error to deny that there are God-made restrictions.

This was noted in my blog entry.

You are forgetting Luther's words were written in a different time and place.

Luther's response to Rome's mess was entirely justified. He wasn't always right with his solutions.

To do a bit of homework, you should read Luther's response to the 18 impediments of marriage. I can send it to you if you want.

James Swan said...

The nt contains more regulations of marriage than it does of baptism. About all it says about baptism is "baptize 'em"

The underlying problem here is that marriage isn't a sacrament, while baptism is.

Let's remember, I don't simply assume Rome is right. You may do that, but I don't.

steelikat said...

Oh may I? Thank you! What else may I do?

Seriously, though, I looked at everything I've said here and not a word of it is based on the assumption that (of all things!) "Rome is right." If you really believe that anyone who disagrees with Luther does so because he "assumes Rome is right" you should rethink many of the positions you've taken.

James Swan said...

Oh may I? Thank you! What else may I do?

You brought up baptism, which can be proven Biblically to be sacrament. Marriage is not a sacrament. The idea that the state could regulate a sacrament simply doesn't follow.

steelikat said...

The New Testament contains more regulation of marriage than on baptism. In that sense, you are preaching not to me nor to Rome but to the bible that marriage is not a sacrament and that the regulation of non-sacraments should be turned over to the state and the regulation of sacraments should not be.

You are also assuming that the Eastern Churches can be ignored, that Christianity can be explained as Rome vs. Reformation. The eastern orthodox and oriental orthodox, with almost no exceptions, highlight seven sacraments as particularly important in some way with marriage being one of those seven. They certainly didn't get that from Rome.

James Swan said...

The New Testament contains more regulation of marriage than on baptism. In that sense, you are preaching not to me nor to Rome but to the bible that marriage is not a sacrament and that the regulation of non-sacraments should be turned over to the state and the regulation of sacraments should not be.

I'm not preaching to anyone about my view of marriage, I'm discussing Luther's view, and the problems of the sixteenth century. In Luther's time, the church had so messed up marriage, that Luther's view was to have many aspects of it governed by the state.

You are also assuming that the Eastern Churches can be ignored, that Christianity can be explained as Rome vs. Reformation. The eastern orthodox and oriental orthodox, with almost no exceptions, highlight seven sacraments as particularly important in some way with marriage being one of those seven. They certainly didn't get that from Rome.

This isn't a post about the validity of marriage as a sacrament. It's a post about propaganda. This is typical... another non-response from a Roman Catholic defending their fellow Romanists butchering of history.

James Swan said...

A tidbit,

Here's an excerpt from The Reformation of Marriage Law in Martin Luther's Germany: Its Significance Then and Now by John Witte, Jr [Journal of Law and Religion, Vol. 4, No. 2 (1986)]

"The reformers' lengthy arguments for marriage as a created, nat- ural institution were also arguments against the Roman Catholic sacramental concept of marriage. For, in the context of Luther's two kingdoms theory, to place marriage in the natural order of creation was to deny it a place in the spiritual order of redemption. Marriage was seen as an institution of the earthly kingdom. Though divinely instituted, to serve a holy purpose, it remains in Luther's words, "an outward, physical, and worldly station." The sacraments, by contrast, are part of the heavenly kingdom of faith and salvation. They are spiritual instruments of salvation and sanctification.

By placing marriage within the earthly kingdom and sacraments within the heavenly kingdom, the reformers sought both (1) to con- trast the functions or uses of marriage and sacraments; and (2) to remove marriage from the jurisdiction and law of the church.

As part of the earthly kingdom, they argued, marriage is a gift of God for all persons, Christians and non-Christians alike. It functions in the earthly kingdom much like law: it has a number of distinctive uses in the life of the person and of society as a whole. Marriage reminds people of their lustful nature and their need for God's sooth- ing remedy of marriage, just as law reveals to them their sin and im- pels them to grace; this is its theological use. Marriage restrains people from yielding to sins of prostitution, incontinence, and promiscuity, just as civil law restrains them from destructive cheating, feuding, and stealing; this is its civil use. Marriage teaches people the virtues of love, patient cooperation, and altruism, just as law teaches them restraint, sharing, and respect for another's person and property; this is its pedagogical use. Marriage therefore not only has its own created tasks, it also has distinctive social uses.

Marriage can, to be sure, symbolize for all people the union of Christ with His church, but that does not make it a sacrament. Sacraments are gifts and signs of grace ensuring Christians of the promise of redemption which is available only to those who have faith. Marriage carries no such promise and demands no such faith. It remains an earthly institution. "Nowhere in the Scripture," writes Luther, "do we read that anyone would receive the grace of God by getting married; nor does the rite of matrimony contain any hint that this ceremony is of divine institution." Scripture teaches that only baptism and the eucharist confer this promise of grace. All other so-called sacraments are "mere human artifices" created by Roman Catholics through false interpretations of Scripture for the purposes of augmenting the church's legal powers and filling its coffers with court fees and fines.

steelikat said...

Yes, you are presenting Luther's views and I'm arguing against them. I understand that doesn't mean that you personally, Mr. Swan, agree with Luther on this question. If I used the word "you" in my argument please take it to mean the metaphorical "you," the presumed arguer, in this case Luther's views as you are presenting them.

Anyway, it's worth pointing out that now you are just supporting my argument:
"the church had so messed up marriage, that Luther's view was to have many aspects of it governed by the state."

"By placing marriage within the earthly kingdom and sacraments within the heavenly kingdom, the reformers sought both (1) to con- trast the functions or uses of marriage and sacraments; and (2) to remove marriage from the jurisdiction and law of the church. "

That sort of thing is often called "passing the buck" and as I said I think current affairs demonstrate what we ought to expect will eventually happen when we make a deal with the devil.

I don't think it's helpful to call what Luther was doing "propaganda," however. Yes, you could say that he was propagating his opinions, but the word "propaganda" is loaded and has very negative connotations. It sounds disrespectful. It's probably unhelpful to use the word at since its negative connotations have obscured its denotation.

steelikat said...

"All other so-called sacraments are "mere human artifices" created by Roman Catholics through false interpretations of Scripture for the purposes of augmenting the church's legal powers and filling its coffers with court fees and fines."

You exhibit a perspective in regards to Christianity that is very western-centric. Anything in the medieval western church that luther argued against you portray as something that Roman Catholics invented. Clearly that doesn't work in the case of the conception that there are seven sacraments, or many sacraments with seven being particularly important. That seems to be universally found in all the the Churches (or in the case of Churches beginning from a reformation absent because it was something those Churches' explicitly abandoned in their history). Eastern Orthodox churches, Oriental Orthodox Churches, and even churches that split in earlier schisms all retain this idea. Here's a place you can begin to gain a better and less western-centric perspective:

http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2010/10/where-was-church-during-middle-ages.html

Four* Pointer said...

On marriage as a sacrament, again from Luther's Babylonian Captivity. And keep in mind, Luther was previously a Roman priest, so he knew a thing or two about what Rome believed and taught:

"6.1 Not only is marriage regarded as a sacrament without the least warrant of Scripture, but the very traditions which extol it as a sacrament have turned it into a farce. Let me explain.

6.2 We said that there is in every sacrament a word of divine promise, to be believed by whoever receives the sign, and that the sign alone cannot be a sacrament. Now we read nowhere that the man who marries a wife receives any grace of God. no, there is not even a divinely instituted sign in marriage, or nowhere do we read that marriage was instituted by God to be a sign of anything. To be sure, whatever takes place in a visible manner may be regarded as a type or figure of something invisible; but types and figures are not sacraments in the sense in which we use this term.

6.3 Furthermore, since marriage existed from the beginning of the world and is still found among unbelievers, it cannot possibly be called a sacrament of the New Law and the exclusive possession of the Church. The marriages of the ancients were no less sacred than are ours, nor are those of unbelievers less true marriages than those of believers, and yet they are not regarded as sacraments. Besides, there are even among believers married folk who are wicked and worse than any heathen; why should marriage be called a sacrament in their case and not among the heathen? Or are we going to rant so foolishly of baptism and the Church as to hold that marriage is a sacrament only in the Church, just as some make the mad claim that temporal power exists only in the Church? That is childish and foolish talk, by which we expose our ignorance and our arrogance to the ridicule of unbelievers.

6.4 But they will say: "The Apostle writes in Ephesians 5:31, 'They shall be two in one flesh. This is a great sacrament.' Surely you are not going to contradict so plain a statement of the Apostle!" I reply: This argument, like the others, betrays great shallowness and a negligent and thoughtless reading of Scripture. Nowhere in Holy Scripture is this word sacrament employed in the meaning to which we are accustomed; it has an entirely different meaning. For wherever it [the word 'sacrament'] occurs it signifies not the sign of a sacred thing, but a sacred, secret, hidden thing. Thus Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 4:1, "Let a man so account of us as the ministers of Christ, and dispensers of the mysteries - i.e., sacraments – of God." Where we have the word sacrament the Greek text reads mystery, which word our version sometimes translates and sometimes retains in its Greek form. Thus our verse reads in the Greek: "They Shall be two in one flesh; this is a great mystery." (Ephesians 5:31 f.) This explains how they came to find a sacrament of the New Law here – a thing they would never have done if they had read the word "mystery", as it is in the Greek."

steelikat said...

Four Pointer:

6.2 It's a sign of the union between Christ and the church, and if that very union tends to be effected in the sanctification of the faithful Christian husband and his faithful Christian wife, as Eph 5 says or strongly implies, the requirement is met.

6.3 It seems that marriage is the first sacrament, being primordial and predating even circumcision. Nevertheless, you're right that if it's a Christian sacrament it must be something new, Christian marriage must be different than Old Law marriage or pagan marriage. The argument from the moral behavior of Christian married couples vs. pagans is a really bad argument, though. It's vague, unproven, and you could just as reasonably argue:
"The rites of passage initiation ceremonies of the ancients were no less sacred than are our baptisms, nor are those rites less true rites than the baptisms of believers, and yet they are not regarded as sacraments. Besides, there are even among believers baptized folk who are wicked and worse than any initiated heathen; why should baptism be called a sacrament in their case and not the initiation ceremonies among the heathen?"

It's just an assertion, it isn't a good argument. Would that believers behaved so obviously better than non-believers that anyone could see it but since the point is widely controverted and disbelieved the argument does not seem to work.

6.4 Semantics! "Sacrament" and "mystery" are synonyms, one being of latin derivation and the other of greek. English-speaking eastern orthodox call the sacraments "the mysteries." While it's true that you cannot assume that every biblical use of the word "sacrament" is meant in the specific technical sense, you also cannot argue that "sacrament" is a different word than "mystery." "Sacrament" is how latin translates the greek word "mystery."

I don't know if marriage is a Christian sacrament or not but Luther's argument as you've presented it is unconvincing to a thoughtful critical person with an evangelical catholic point of view (or ought to be). I think I had better clarify that I am responding to your presentation of Luther's argument, I am not accusing you of agreeing with Luther. If you are a Calvinist you may have better arguments against marriage being called a sacrament. Luther was limited to arguing from a Lutheran perspective.

James Swan said...

That sort of thing is often called "passing the buck" and as I said I think current affairs demonstrate what we ought to expect will eventually happen when we make a deal with the devil.

Luther held to something called "two kingdoms". Google it, as I don't have time to expalin it to you, then continue reading the following comments:

Both kingdoms were subject to God. Both kingdoms could equally mess up marriage.

Tidbits from the same article:

Marriage is an institution of the earthly kingdom, not a sacrament of the heavenly kingdom.

For Luther,this does not mean that marriage is beyond the scope of God's authority and law, nor that it should be beyond the influence and concern of the church.

The civil ruler holds his authority of God. His will is to appropriate God's desire. His law is to reflect God's law. His rule is to respect God's creation ordinances and institutions and to implement His purposes. His civil calling is no less spiritual than that of the church. Marriage is thus still completely subject to Godly law, but this law is now to be administered by a civil ruler.

The church, the reformers argued, retained a four-fold responsibility in marriage. Through its preaching of the Word and the teaching of its theologians, the church had to communicate to the civil authorities and their subjects God's law and will for marriage and the family. Second, it was incumbent upon church members as priests to quiet, through instruction and prayer, the consciences of those troubled by marriage problems and to hold out a model of spiritual freedom, love, care, and equality in their own married lives. Third, to aid church members in their instruction and care, and to give notice to all members of society of a couple's marriage, the church was to develop a publicly-available marriage registry which all married couples would be required to sign. Fourth, the pastor and consistory of the church were to instruct and discipline the marriages of its church members by blessing and instructing the couple at their public church wedding ceremony and by punishing sexual turpitude or egregious violations of marriage law with the ban or excommunication.

Four* Pointer said...

Agreeing with Luther is not something I could be "accused of." I will say it plainly--I agree with Luther.

To try and elevate marriage to the level of sacrament by saying it predates circumcision is not so much comparing apples to oranges--it's really comparing apples with rutabagas. Marriage was given to the whole of humanity--whether Jew, Gentile, Canaanite, Barbarian or Scythian, or whether saved or lost. Circumcision, however, was a sign to only one particular people. It was a sign that separated the Jews from every other people.

Then, let's examine the New Testament and equating marriage with the signs and true sacraments laid down by Christ, whether spoken by Christ Himself or through His apostles. Did Jesus ever give us a command such as "And when you take a wife, do this in remembrance of Me"? Or "By this will they know that you are My disciples, that you take a wife"? Did Peter tell those present at Pentecost, "Repent and be married"? Did Paul write, "I wish that all men would not be like me, and that they would marry"? In fact, do we find anywhere a command for Christians to marry? No.

Contrarily, we find Paul saying all through 1st Corinthians 7 that Christians are at liberty to marry or to not marry.

So then if marriage is a thing that we as Christians are at liberty to enter into or to not enter into, where then does Rome say that marriage is a sign reserved for the Church? In what way does marriage proclaim that one is a Christian--especially since marriage is something that was given to all of humanity? It doesn't.

On the other hand, baptism is the public expression that one makes that they have been buried with Christ into death, and raised to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-6). Communion is that sign by which we proclaim the Lord's death until He comes (1st Corinthians 11:23-26). These are outward signs of inward grace, imparted specifically to believers. Marriage, however, is never declared to be a peculiar sign, specifically between Christ and His church.

It may be an outward sign, it may be a divine institution--but it has nothing to do with inward grace. That is Luther's point.

steelikat said...

Four Pointer,

The comments about pagan and Old Law marriage being a primordial sacrament were actually somewhat of a digression. The question really is: Is Christian marriage elevated to the level of Christian Sacrament?

I don't know, but I don't think Luther in the passage you quoted made a good argument against the idea.

"Did Jesus ever give us a command such as "And when you take a wife, do this in remembrance of Me"?..."

No, but that seems to me to be beside the point. Luther asked the right question, in 6.2. I am doubtful that he answered the question satisfactorily.

"do we find anywhere a command for Christians to marry? No."

Not all Christians should marry. Marriage is not for everyone. I would not necessarily conclude that marriage is not a sacrament for that reason alone.

James Swan said...

I don't think it's helpful to call what Luther was doing "propaganda," however. Yes, you could say that he was propagating his opinions, but the word "propaganda" is loaded and has very negative connotations. It sounds disrespectful. It's probably unhelpful to use the word at since its negative connotations have obscured its denotation.

The propaganda I was referring to was that put forth by the author of Luther, Exposing the Myth.

James Swan said...

Clearly that doesn't work in the case of the conception that there are seven sacraments, or many sacraments with seven being particularly important. That seems to be universally found in all the the Churches (or in the case of Churches beginning from a reformation absent because it was something those Churches' explicitly abandoned in their history).

During the early centuries the church did not limit the number of sacraments to seven. There were more, or less. Some lists had less than seven, others had as many as thirty. It wasn't until the mid-13th century that the number was finally set at seven.

James Swan said...

On marriage as a sacrament, again from Luther's Babylonian Captivity. And keep in mind, Luther was previously a Roman priest, so he knew a thing or two about what Rome believed and taught

Thanks for the quotes. This material on Luther is available for steelikat to read, however i'm not sure he (she?) will actually look into Luther's view.

steelikat said...

"mid 13 th century"

If that's true that's amazing and seemingly providential. The Eastern orthodox schism was in th 11th century and the oriental orthodox and other ancient churches split centuries before that.

Yet they all highlight 7 sacraments as being particularly important, even if they sometimes recognize more than 7.

If all these separated churches, to varying degrees antagonistic to each other, settled on 7 in the 13 th century, the only explanation is divine providence.

James Swan said...

Luther asked the right question, in 6.2. I am doubtful that he answered the question satisfactorily.

As far as I can tell, Luther doesn't ask a question in 6.2

6.2 We said that there is in every sacrament a word of divine promise, to be believed by whoever receives the sign, and that the sign alone cannot be a sacrament. Now we read nowhere that the man who marries a wife receives any grace of God. no, there is not even a divinely instituted sign in marriage, or nowhere do we read that marriage was instituted by God to be a sign of anything. To be sure, whatever takes place in a visible manner may be regarded as a type or figure of something invisible; but types and figures are not sacraments in the sense in which we use this term.

or as LW translates:

"We have said that in every sacrament there is a word of divine promise, to be believed by whoever receives the sign, and that the sign alone cannot be a sacrament. Nowhere do we read that the man who marries a wife receives any grace of God. There is not even a divinely instituted sign in marriage, nor do we read anywhere that marriage was instituted by God to be a sign of anything. To be sure, whatever takes place in a visible manner can be understood as a figure or allegory of something invisible. But figures or allegories are not sacraments, in the sense in which we use the term."

So, there's two different translations with no question. If you can locate the question in another translation, please share it. As far as I can tell, there is no question being asked.

You would do well to read the entire Babylonian Captivity of the Church. There you would find that for Luther, a sacrament is a rite which contains promises with signs attached to them:

"Nevertheless, it has seemed proper to restrict the name of sacrament to those promises which have signs attached to them. The remainder, not being bound to signs, are bare promises. Hence there are, strictly speaking, but two sacraments in the church of God—baptism and the bread. For only in these two do we find both the divinely instituted sign and the promise of forgiveness of sins. The sacrament of penance, which I added to these two, lacks the divinely instituted visible sign, and is, as I have said, nothing but a way and a return to baptism. Nor can the scholastics say that their definition fits penance, for they too ascribe to the true sacrament a visible sign, which is to impress upon the senses the form of that which it effects invisibly. But penance or absolution has no such sign. Therefore they are compelled by their own definition either to admit that penance is not a sacrament and thus to reduce their number, or else to bring forth another definition of a sacrament."

Contrast this with what you earlier stated:

It's a sign of the union between Christ and the church, and if that very union tends to be effected in the sanctification of the faithful Christian husband and his faithful Christian wife, as Eph 5 says or strongly implies, the requirement is met.

For Luther, the "sign" is the actual act of baptism and eating of the supper. It becomes a sacrament by its attached promises. If we were to pour your meaning into this, you're saying a sign is the meaning. For you to work it properly according to Luther's use of terms, the sign of marriage is the actual act of marriage. The attached promise is....? I don't find the promise of forgivness of sins and salvation in Eph. 5.

I think if you want to dialog on Luther's view, you should at least understand that view.

James Swan said...

If that's true that's amazing and seemingly providential. The Eastern orthodox schism was in th 11th century and the oriental orthodox and other ancient churches split centuries before that

I used a Roman Catholic source for that information.
Take a look at Greg Dues, Catholic Customs & Traditions (revised edition, 2007) pp.145-146.

Matthew D. Schultz said...

Also consider Orthodox Bishop Timothy Ware's comments on the sacraments being numbered at 7:

"Only in the seventeenth century, when Latin influence was at its height, did this list [of seven sacraments] become fixed and definite. Before that date Orthodox writers vary considerably as to the number of sacraments: John of Damascus speaks of two; Dionysius the Areopagite of six; Joasaph, Metropolitan of Ephesus (fifteenth century), of ten; and those Byzantine theologians who in fact speak of seven sacraments differ as to the items which they include in their list. Even today the number seven has no particular dogmatic significance for Orthodox theology, but is used primarily as a convenience in teaching." (The Orthodox Church [New York, New York: Penguin Books, 1997], p. 275)

James Swan said...

Matthew D. Schultz said...
Also consider Orthodox Bishop Timothy Ware's comments on the sacraments being numbered at 7:


Well I just stole that quote.

steelikat said...

James Swan,

"if you can locate the question"

The implied question is, "is there a sign, is there a divine promise, and does the recipient receive a grace of God?"

Those are some of the right questions to ask, when it comes to deciding whether marriage is a sacrament. "Did Jesus say of marriage 'do this in remembrance of me?'" is not the right sort of question to ask. Nor, it seems to me, is it important that not all Christians are called to marry.

"the promise is..."

I don't see why the promise could not be, for example, sanctification of the faithful and thereby the greater fulfillment of the union (of Christ with his church) signified.

James Swan said...

On a second look steelikat, perhaps you think Luther's question is:

where do we read that the man who marries a wife receives any grace of God?

Your answer appears to be Eph.5. Feel free to explain.

James Swan said...

We appear to have posted at the same time. Feel free to explain this with the promise as stated in scripture:

"I don't see why the promise could not be, for example, sanctification of the faithful and thereby the greater fulfillment of the union (of Christ with his church) signified."

steelikat said...

James Swan,

"used a Roman Catholic source.."

It would help the Roman case, in a dishonest way, to make you think that several schismatic Churches independently reached the same conclusion centuries after the various schisms that separated them. You might be tempted to attribute that to a dramatic or even miraculous kind of providence. So I would take that with a grain of salt. It's definitely something you want to be very critical of and check out.

On the other hand, while I was being sarcastic by talking about that "amazing work of providence," Now You've got me intrigued. if it really is true that Rome settled on 7 in the 13th century, the Eastern orthodox in the 17th century, the oriental orthodox after that schism, etc., my sarcastic wonderment could change to a real sense of wonder. Are you trying to convince me there are 7 sacraments? I will check it out.

James Swan said...

Now You've got me intrigued. if it really is true that Rome settled on 7 in the 13th century, the Eastern orthodox in the 17th century, the oriental orthodox after that schism, etc., my sarcastic wonderment could change to a real sense of wonder. Are you trying to convince me there are 7 sacraments? I will check it out.

I say, go for it. I've never done extensive studies in this area, so whatever you dig up will probably be interesting.

On the other hand, I don't believe the church is infallibly guided, so even if you document some interesting tidbits on 7 sacraments, it will only convince you.

steelikat said...

Well the guider of the church, the Holy Spirit, is infallible, but the people being guided are fallible. I assume you mean something like that and don't mean to say the Holy Spirit is fallible or doesn't guide.

Anyway if you are a sola scripturist and not a solo scripturist it ought to be important to you when the entire church agrees on something (or in case of the reformers did agree before the reformation). I know that what you've told me and what I've learned in the last few weeks about the oriental orthodox and some of the other churches separated from us in early schisms is persuading me to give the idea a more serious consideration.

James Swan said...

Anyway if you are a sola scripturist and not a solo scripturist it ought to be important to you when the entire church agrees on something (or in case of the reformers did agree before the reformation)

But as has been noted by the quotes presented, the entire church did not agree on the number of sacraments, for a very long time.

If the Roman and Orthodox churches collectively this year decided blue was no longer a color, blue would still be a color. If though, they each exegeted Scripture and used compelling arguments, based solely on the Scriptures written in their original languages, then perhaps I would be persuaded to join with them in ignoring blue.


"The church has no power to make new divine promises of grace, as some prate, who hold that what is decreed by the church is of no less authority than what is decreed by God, since the church is under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. For the church was born by the word of promise through faith, and by this same word is nourished and preserved. That is to say, it is the promises of God that make the church, and not the church that makes the promise of God. For the Word of God is incomparably superior to the church, and in this Word the church, being a creature, has nothing to decree, ordain, or make, but only to be decreed, ordained, and made. For who begets his own parent? Who first brings forth his own maker?"- Luther

steelikat said...

James Swan,

"The whole church did not agree on the number for a long time"

Yes and the whole church did not agree on the doctrines of grace for a long time, or perhaps it would be better to say large parts of the church held to errors that obscured the doctrines of grace.

Anyway, something remarkable (in the case of the 7 sacraments) happened at the end of that long time. There began to be convergence in (as far as I've seen so far) all the ancient churches. That isn't something to be ignored.

We are often accused by Roman apologists of being solo scripturists rather than sola scripturists. That accusation stings me because it's sometimes true.

Ephesians 5:25 contains a command. It also contains an implied promise of a grace since the command is impossible to fulfill. It is in a passage that explains the nature of the sign (marriage signifying the union of Christ and his church). It is called a "mystery," which is a synonym for "sacrament."

Given Ephesians 5 and the main western and eastern churches (which don't agree on much!) agreeing together that marriage is a sacrament, the idea isn't worth discounting or dismissing with a quote from Luther (he was not infallible). The church ought to test it with scripture. It's on the to do list, it seems to me.

Thanks--you've given me a lot to think about.

Four* Pointer said...

Not all Christians should marry. Marriage is not for everyone. I would not necessarily conclude that marriage is not a sacrament for that reason alone.

OK then, let's look at the flip side of this: why should marriage be considered a sacrament? After all, marriage is not a sign that distinguishes Christians from non-Christians (as do Communion and baptism). Also, it it is not something that is commanded of all Christians by the Scriptures (as is Communion and baptism). So then, what is there about marriage that sets it apart as a sign and sacrament for the church?

steelikat said...

Four Pointer,

"Not a sign that distinguishes Christians from non-Christians."

Perhaps it is. Do non-Christian marriages signify the union of Christ and his church?

"It is not something commanded of all Christians."

As I said, I don't think that's a problem.

"what is it about marriage that sets it apart."

Look, if it's true that Christian marriage is a Christian sacrament it must be different than pagan marriage or Old Law marriage. My very limited understanding is that those Christians who contend that Christian marriage is a sacrament do say that it is substantially different than natural marriage, similar to baptism being substantially different than bathing and the lord's supper being substantially different than supper.

I think the scripture to start with is Eph 5 and the tradition to start with is, well, the tradition that marriage is a sacrament.

It should be tested by scripture. Like I say I realize now that's on the Church's to do list.

As for Luther I am not a Luther expert. James Swan is. I did take a look at Luther's argument, as you presented it here, and that argument is not convincing. Of course we agree that the medieval church was wrong in many ways about marriage, but does that mean the basic principle--marriage being a Christian sacrament--is wrong?

If you think you can do a better job of convincing me than the quotes from Luther did, go ahead. To me it seems like an open question now. A week ago I would have rolled my eyes if you'd suggested that I take seriously the idea that marriage is a Christian sacrament but you and James have led me to be less dogmatic on this question. I'm not so sure now.

James Swan said...

Yes and the whole church did not agree on the doctrines of grace for a long time, or perhaps it would be better to say large parts of the church held to errors that obscured the doctrines of grace.Anyway, something remarkable (in the case of the 7 sacraments) happened at the end of that long time. There began to be convergence in (as far as I've seen so far) all the ancient churches. That isn't something to be ignored.

I don't find this argument persuasive. Truth isn't determined by a head count. For instance, both Rome and the Eastern churches have come to some similar conclusions about Mary, many years down the road.

We are often accused by Roman apologists of being solo scripturists rather than sola scripturists. That accusation stings me because it's sometimes true.

My apologies, I thought you were Roman Catholic.

Ephesians 5:25 contains a command. It also contains an implied promise of a grace since the command is impossible to fulfill.

I agree with the command, but rather see the context of Ephesians 5 exhorting husbands to love their wives. The same theme is found in verse 28 where Paul argues that every man by nature loves himself, and since marriage makes the two one flesh, a man can't love himself without loving his wife.

Paul enforces the argument by comparing it to Christ's love for his bride, the church. Marriage serves as his illustration. . No language or illustration can fully express the love of Christ for his bride (the "great mystery" of verse 32). Luther understood Paul to be arguing that as man and wife united marriage are two in one flesh, so God and man are united in the one person Christ, and so Christ and Christendom are one body.

Given Ephesians 5 and the main western and eastern churches (which don't agree on much!) agreeing together that marriage is a sacrament, the idea isn't worth discounting or dismissing with a quote from Luther (he was not infallible). The church ought to test it with scripture. It's on the to do list, it seems to me.

Luther explained the papists used Eph. 5:32 to prove marriage was a sacrament (the Vulgate translated "this is a profound mystery" as "sacramentum hoc magnum est" (a great sacrament). He responded by pointing out the great mystery wasn't marriage but rather Christ and his church (see LW 36:94). See also Calvin's commentary on this section. I find it curious that the popular verse from Ephesians 5 used to prove it a sacrament wasn't 5:25, but rather 5:32. I haven't done a lot of study in this area, perhaps somewhere in papalism someone used 5:25 as well.

The bottom line: I don't think you've proved Eph. 5 implies a distribution of grace through marriage. I think you've overlooked the main point of the passage, and are reading in an "implied promise."

As for Luther I am not a Luther expert. James Swan is

No, I'm just a simply guy with a hobby. I don't claim to be an expert on Luther.

James Swan said...

If you think you can do a better job of convincing me than the quotes from Luther did, go ahead. To me it seems like an open question now. A week ago I would have rolled my eyes if you'd suggested that I take seriously the idea that marriage is a Christian sacrament but you and James have led me to be less dogmatic on this question. I'm not so sure now.

Normally, I don't spend a lot of time interacting with comments not specific to the topic posted. That is, the thrust of the topic was Luther (once again) taken out-of-context by a Roman Catholic. Normally when I post these entries, you can hear this sound.

Your comments were related enough to explore. It is hard though to construct an answer to a person whose position I'm not familiar with. Most of the time here I thought you were Roman Catholic.

If you do decide marriage is a sacrament, you have your work cut out for you. There's nothing in Ephesians 5 that explicitly or clearly indicates it is. The implicit argument is often a Romanist tactic. They approach a text with a preconceived idea, and then show that preconceived idea is harmonious with the text, or could possibly apply to the text in some fashion. That's not exegesis to me, that's mishandling a text.

Four* Pointer said...

The problem with using Ephesians 5 as a "proof text" that marriage is a sacrament because it contains a command is this: Nowhere in that passage does it command Christians to marry (as previously stated, 1st Corinthians 7 gives the Christian liberty to marry or to not marry). The commands contained in Ephesians 5 are for those who are in a marriage--that the wife submits to the husband as the church submits to Christ and that the husband love the wife as Christ loves the church.

The "mystery" contained in that passage is not marriage itself--the mystery is that Christians are one flesh with Christ as a husband is one flesh with the wife.

steelikat said...

Yes, Christians are not all commanded to marry. It is not universally required.

To me that does not seem like a problem in regards to the question of whether marriage is a sacrament.

James Swan said...

The problem with using Ephesians 5 as a "proof text" that marriage is a sacrament because it contains a command is this: Nowhere in that passage does it command Christians to marry

Even Luther didn't think every person was commanded to be married.

James Swan said...

Yes, Christians are not all commanded to marry. It is not universally required.To me that does not seem like a problem in regards to the question of whether marriage is a sacrament.

It seems to me like you'll take any sort of argument at this point.

It would be interesting to find out what you think a sacrament is, and what its purpose is.

steelikat said...

I would say that a sacrament is a holy act thAt is a true and semiotically valid sign, instituted by Christ and given to the apostles, in which God joins his word of promise to the visible element of the sign, and by which he dispenses the grace of forgiveness won by Christ's sacrifice.

There are surely three Christian sacraments, baptism, the Eucharist, and absolution.

steelikat said...

However, sanctification is surely a gracious act of God, and marriage has historically been considered a sacrament in the universal christian church, which makes me wonder if my definition is too limited. I'll get back to you on that when I've done more research.

steelikat said...

What does it mean to "take an argument?"

steelikat said...

I think it's also important to remember that the (seven) sacraments weren't abandoned at the time of the reformation, kids are still confirmed, marriages are still blessed, pastors are still ordained, the gravely Ill are still anointed (I've witnessed it).

So we have to consider the possibility that the change is little more than semantic, or polemical.

Four* Pointer said...

I would say that a sacrament is a holy act thAt is a true and semiotically valid sign, instituted by Christ and given to the apostles, in which God joins his word of promise to the visible element of the sign, and by which he dispenses the grace of forgiveness won by Christ's sacrifice.

Problem is, Christ never gave marriage as a sign to His apostles, and never joined any promises to marriage. Granted, He did talk about marriage, and gave commands to those who are married (Matthew 5:27-32; Matthew 19:1-12), but He never told His apostles that marriage was a sign that one had been given a promise from God.

And if you think about it, every marriage--even those of unbelievers--if they are officiated or sanctioned by a governmental authority, these have been presided over by Christ Himself. "For by Him all things were created...whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers" (Colossians 1:16) and "there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God" (Romans 13:1), seeing that even Pilate's authority was granted by God, "You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above" (John 19:10).

That said, marriage, therefore, is not a sign, since all governments are under the authority of Christ and can (and do) join together any two people they will--even unbelievers--without any special grace from God attached to that joining together.

steelikat said...

I certainly cannot agree with that. Now governments are "joining together" same sex couples, Are those marriages? Are non-Christian marriages a sign of the union of Christ with his church?

BTW don't answer question 1. As for question 2, maybe that gets at the heart of the matter, maybe that's the critical question.

James Swan said...

What does it mean to "take an argument?"

It means, I think you'll use anything to prove your point, rather than admit either what I or 4 Pointer is valid.

James Swan said...

I certainly cannot agree with that. Now governments are "joining together" same sex couples, Are those marriages? Are non-Christian marriages a sign of the union of Christ with his church?

I posted this earlier:
__________________
Marriage is an institution of the earthly kingdom, not a sacrament of the heavenly kingdom.

For Luther,this does not mean that marriage is beyond the scope of God's authority and law, nor that it should be beyond the influence and concern of the church.

The civil ruler holds his authority of God. His will is to appropriate God's desire. His law is to reflect God's law. His rule is to respect God's creation ordinances and institutions and to implement His purposes. His civil calling is no less spiritual than that of the church. Marriage is thus still completely subject to Godly law, but this law is now to be administered by a civil ruler.

The church, the reformers argued, retained a four-fold responsibility in marriage. Through its preaching of the Word and the teaching of its theologians, the church had to communicate to the civil authorities and their subjects God's law and will for marriage and the family. Second, it was incumbent upon church members as priests to quiet, through instruction and prayer, the consciences of those troubled by marriage problems and to hold out a model of spiritual freedom, love, care, and equality in their own married lives. Third, to aid church members in their instruction and care, and to give notice to all members of society of a couple's marriage, the church was to develop a publicly-available marriage registry which all married couples would be required to sign. Fourth, the pastor and consistory of the church were to instruct and discipline the marriages of its church members by blessing and instructing the couple at their public church wedding ceremony and by punishing sexual turpitude or egregious violations of marriage law with the ban or excommunication.
_______________

Based on these comments steelikat, can you answer your own points?

steelikat said...

James,

What does "valid" mean to you, as you just used the word?In situations such as this, sometimes people who don't agree with me complain that I don't think what they are saying is "valid." My first thought is sometimes "you must not think what I'm saying is valid, since you don't agree with it," but my first or second thought is usually "did I say something unkind? was I rude? is he very sensitive? did I say something mean to him?"

I know what "valid" means as a technical term in logic, but I think it has an everyday meaning that I don't "get." I do worry about this, and I would appreciate your feedback.

James Swan said...

What does "valid" mean to you, as you just used the word?

I'm using it in this sense: that our points are reasonable and acceptable, based on the argumentation presented.

In situations such as this, sometimes people who don't agree with me complain that I don't think what they are saying is "valid." My first thought is sometimes "you must not think what I'm saying is valid, since you don't agree with it,",

Correct, I think your position is not reasonable or acceptable based on the evidence you've provided or critiqued.

but my first or second thought is usually "did I say something unkind? was I rude? is he very sensitive? did I say something mean to him?"

Not at all, i don't think you've been any of those things.

At first though, I thought you were simply a zealous Romanist. Quite frankly, if we're going to continue, it would be helpful to know exactly which theological background or persuasion best characterizes your beliefs.

It appears to me, you're kind of making up your position on this topic as we go along, but on the other hand, you're certain both 4-pointer and I are wrong. I may have you pegged wrong here, but that's what it looks like to me.

In other words, it seems you don't know your own position, but you know that a certain position is wrong. Based on that, you're filling in what you need to, to arrive at your own position. I think if one follows our interaction, this is clear.

steelikat said...

Rather than two kingdoms, I would say that the natural family (leaving aside the question of whether marriage is a sacrament) is a third kingdom, distinct from the other two you mentioned. I think it would be accurate also, to discern another kingdom--the small local community, distinct from the state or the larger spheres of govt.

If that's the case, marriage is subordinate to neither the church or the state, but is its own primary institution.

I indeed recognize that you are reposting something that you posted earlier. Do you want me to say that that passage is valid? I do need to know exactly what you mean by valid first, but I have a feeling that I may be able to satisfy you.

If on the other hand, you are hoping that my reading your comments will cause me to change my mind and agree with 4 pointer that governments have the power to join together any two people they will, or any two people at all for that matter, I must disappoint you. I hope I can convince you that I mean that simply, frankly, and honestly, and am not trying to hurt you or make you feel invalidated in any way. I think I don't always phrase things in the moat polite way, and I am sorry for that.

steelikat said...

I'm glad I wasn't rude to you.

I will say that because of your comments, I have been giving the idea (that it might be reasonable to see marriage as a sacrament) some serious consideration, which is something I have never done before. Maybe that's why it seems to you that I'm making things up as I go along.

What I'm about to do may very well be rude, but it is a deliberate thing that I do "online," because you and I don't have a personal relationship in the same way we would if we were interacting in the real world, and because I don't want anyone reading this (anyone can read this, it's public!) to evaluate what I'm saying based on my "background."

I am by the grace of God a Christian. That's all you need to know to evaluate what I've said.

And since you seem concerned about it I'll go further than I usually do and admit I'm not a Roman Catholic. It is very interesting and says something about the unbalanced state of affairs in American Protestantism that so many people think that belief in the real presence, sacraments, a visible church, etc. makes people think you're RC.

steelikat said...

I have to say that I'm pretty sure that some of the things you and 4-pointer said are wrong (but holy cow, not everything you've said!!!)

I think I should be more careful, in cases such as these, to acknowledge that most of what the other person said is correct (usually that is the case) rather than simply pounce on the one thing that I don't agree with. I can see how it might seem that I'm just automatically disagreeing with everything you say.

For sure, I agree with many of the things you and four pointer have said. As I've explicitly said, there are just a few things I didn't agree with.

James Swan said...

Rather than two kingdoms, I would say that the natural family (leaving aside the question of whether marriage is a sacrament) is a third kingdom

This is one of those instance in which I think you're just kind of making it up as you go along. It appears to me, you don't really understand what is meant by the term "two kingdoms." I think I earlier suggested you research the term.

I indeed recognize that you are reposting something that you posted earlier. Do you want me to say that that passage is valid?

I reposted the passage based on this comment from you: "I certainly cannot agree with that. Now governments are "joining together" same sex couples, Are those marriages?" In the framework of this discussion, the answer to such a point should be obvious. Note, the opening words:

"The civil ruler holds his authority of God. His will is to appropriate God's desire. His law is to reflect God's law. His rule is to respect God's creation ordinances and institutions and to implement His purposes. His civil calling is no less spiritual than that of the church. Marriage is thus still completely subject to Godly law, but this law is now to be administered by a civil ruler."

If on the other hand, you are hoping that my reading your comments will cause me to change my mind and agree with 4 pointer that governments have the power to join together any two people they will, or any two people at all for that matter, I must disappoint you.

Perhaps 4-pointer is. My primary desire is that you at least understand that which you disagree with. Secondly, I would hope you'd think very seriously about making something a sacrament that has no Biblical basis to be one.

am not trying to hurt you or make you feel invalidated in any way

nope, I'm not feeling that.

I am by the grace of God a Christian. That's all you need to know to evaluate what I've said.

Yes, all sorts of people say that-

It is very interesting and says something about the unbalanced state of affairs in American Protestantism that so many people think that belief in the real presence, sacraments, a visible church, etc. makes people think you're RC.

Yes, Rome thinks they've got those things trademarked.

steelikat said...

"suggested you research the term.."

I will but what I was getting at is that Regardless of the two kingdoms idea there are a small number of primary kingdoms, "institutions" one would usually say, and that the family, based on the marital relationship, is one of them--as much a primary sovereign institution as the church or the state. Now the medievals did not understand things in quite that way and that is also not exactly the same sort of distinction as that between the spiritual and secular realm, but it is a valid conception of the world and I have long believed it is, it is applicable to some of the things we've talked about. The state does not join together the man and wife and neither does the church, even as instruments. They marry each other and Christ joins them together, immediately.

"the answer to such a point should be obvious."

Exactly. Why do you think I said to 4 pointer, "don't answer that question?" (but please answer the other one if you can). It was a rhetorical question. I was acknowledging that both 4 pointer and I know the answer to that question, but the other question is the one I am thinking through. Perhaps you've never thought something through that you don't yet know the answer to, which is why you characterize the process as "making it up as you go along."

"Yes, all sorts of people say that."

And should do so. If we knew each other in the real world, all sorts of details about our lives would quickly come up naturally in our conversations. But what many people don't get is that 1. your comments page is not the real world. 2. It is however public and people who claim to value their privacy should act that way. 3. There are literally questions of safety involved, 4. My telling you what my background is would give allow you to avoid, to a degree, dealing simply with what my words, what I am saying, instead of prejudicing my words with what your preconceptions about my background.

"Rome thinks they've got those things trademarked."

And the propaganda has even worked on you a little bit, apparently, or why your assumption?

"no biblical basis..."

That's an exaggeration, and a way of talking that one engages in when he wants to avoid intellectually engaging the question.

We are not getting anywhere here, and the post has scrolled off the main page. I think I know where you're coming from and I hope by now you know where I'm coming from. This is a minor, not a major, and furthermore I've already told you that as far as I know there are exactly three sacraments. I am not arguing with you and I can't, since you and I don't positively disagree on the question of marriage being a sacrament.

YOU brought it up, told me that it was perfectly acceptable for the church to "pass the buck" (and no I don't think that reminding me that we've only given up SOME of our authority to the state since after all, we still preach sermons about marriage and keep marriage registries is a very impressive response) since after all MARRIAGE IS NOT A SACRAMENT.

How do you expect me to respond to that? Of course I'm going to look at your argument critically, question your assumptions. I don't watch TV, they haven't shut my brain off yet.

steelikat said...

I'm sorry, rather than "immediately" I should have said "not by the mediation of the state." the point being that Christ joins them together when they join each other together, Neither the church nor the state does the joining.

steelikat said...

James,

I will take some time to learn about Luther's Two Kingdoms, but I'll be really annoyed at you for giving me the assignment if I don't find a more compelling argument than what you've already giving me for turning over regulation of marriage to the state.

In the meantime, of course you know that the two kingdom idea was not completely original conception of Luthers, that it is the ordinary medieval conception of things, except that by the late middle ages the idea had been distorted by the idea that the church was superior to the state in all matters and that it could intrude at will on secular affairs, as well as the idea of an imperial papacy?

Tim Enloe has written some interesting things about that.

steelikat said...

In another comment box, somebody recently said this about another commenter:

"_____, you are much less clever than you think you are."

While the conversation may have degenerated to that even if the person being attacked tried to be more anonymous, it seems like that sort of impertinence and rudeness online is more likely to occur the more that people think they know about the background of the person they are tempted to attack. Somehow, familiarity breeds contempt. Furthermore, there are people, I suspect even a particular blogger on this blog, who seem to try to learn personal information about commenters, and use it, sometimes months later, to make deliberate personal attacks just because they enjoy attacking people.

Personal information could even be used to aid in identity theft, or by some nut in a personal harrassment campaign.

In short, trying to remain more or less anonymous is a good idea. It's a matter of personal safety and self-protection, of not behaving irresponsibly.

Four* Pointer said...

I certainly cannot agree with that. Now governments are "joining together" same sex couples, Are those marriages?

Just to touch on this without starting a new thread: I would say that this would be the fulfillment of Romans 1:26-27--"For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful..."

If homosexual marriage is allowed by a government, then that is a people that has abandoned God, and has been abandoned by God, and nothing is left for them but Judgment and a fate similar to Babylon or Assyria.

Are non-Christian marriages a sign of the union of Christ with his church?

Actually, I would say that yes, even non-Christian marriages are a sign (or, better, a figure) of the union between Christ and His church and yes, even points to the union between Christ and His church. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24), whether godly or heathen, Jew or Gentile, Greek, Barbarian or Scythian. This was for all peoples.

When Christ gave the commands about marriage (Matthew 5:27-32; Matthew 19:1-12) He did not differentiate between Christian and non-Christian unions. The commands were to Christian and non-Christian alike. Mark 10:6-9--"From the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate" and Paul, "Do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For ‘the two,’ He says, ‘shall become one flesh’" (1st Corinthians 6:16) and the writer of Hebrews, "Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled" (Hebrews 13:4).

Marriage between two Christians, however, should be different than marriage between non-Christians. It should reflect the love of Christ for His church, Ephesians 5:24-25--"Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her" and Romans 8:35--"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" and 38-39--"I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." This is the love with which Christ loves His church.

Yet Christ also tells us that in the last days marriage will become as it was in Noah's day. Man will have corrupted the institution of marriage to the point that it will be nearly unrecognizable and insignificant in man's eyes. Matthew 24:38-39--"For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark...so also will the coming of the Son of Man be." Thus we see why God is slowly removing His hand of protection form many nations who have abandoned Him, and allowing them to join the wicked to the wicked. It is as if He is saying, "If that’s what you want—then so be it."

There were (and are) many figures and such that point toward Christ, but are not necessarily sacraments--that is, they are not necessarily peculiar to the church. "The Heavens declare the glory of God" (Psalm 19:1). The stars and planets are not a sacrament, they are not holy, even though they speak of God's glory.

steelikat said...

4 pointer,

Thank you.

I am afraid you are right about our being a people who have abandoned God, and there being nothing left for us but judgement.

I know you are right that it's not enough for something to be a sign for it to be a sacrament.

James Swan said...

I will but what I was getting at is that Regardless of the two kingdoms idea there are a small number of primary kingdoms, "institutions" one would usually say,

Frankly, I'm not interested in your re-definitions, particularly since you don't appear to grasp the view from which you're borrowing the terms. I mean no offense. You'll first want to deal with Luther's view, and explain why his notion of two kingdoms is inferior to yours. Before you do that, I'm not interested.

Perhaps you've never thought something through that you don't yet know the answer to, which is why you characterize the process as "making it up as you go along."

What I find distracting is your criticizing of Luther's view from the get-go without first understanding it. Perhaps this is part of your learning process. Frankly, I find it distracting and time-consuming, which is why I generally don't respond to such comments. My posts on Luther, Exposing the Myth have to do with Romanist abuses of context and history, not debates on marriage in general.

I am saying, instead of prejudicing my words with what your preconceptions about my background

Have it your way, but don't be surprised if I interact with you far more infrequently. I simply don't have the time to fumble around trying to determine what you mean, and then reinvent Luther's terms to describe your own view.

And the propaganda has even worked on you a little bit, apparently, or why your assumption?

Obviously, you haven't been in the arena with Romanists and their alleged patents on the the real presence, sacraments, a visible church. I don't have the time for such a dispute with you. I am Reformed. If you want to know what i believe on these things, track down the Heidelberg Catechism.

That's an exaggeration, and a way of talking that one engages in when he wants to avoid intellectually engaging the question.

Nope, you've been engaged, and the above discussion proves it. Note particualrly my comments on Ephesians and marriage. You seem to have grown strangely silent responding to them. Last I recall, you stated, "I'll get back to you on that when I've done more research."

We are not getting anywhere here, and the post has scrolled off the main page.

That's why, if you look to the right of the blog, at least 20 of the recent entries are posted on the sidebar. all you need to do is look at "recent posts" click on the link that says "Luther: Marriage is a Secular Business"

James Swan said...

I am not arguing with you and I can't, since you and I don't positively disagree on the question of marriage being a sacrament.YOU brought it up, told me that it was perfectly acceptable for the church to "pass the buck" (and no I don't think that reminding me that we've only given up SOME of our authority to the state since after all, we still preach sermons about marriage and keep marriage registries is a very impressive response) since after all MARRIAGE IS NOT A SACRAMENT.

Actually, if you scroll up, what you refer to as "pass the buck" was that in a historical context, the Roman church had corrupted and abused marriage. Luther's solution was to combat this gross abuse by taking it out of their hands. You don't appear to care about this. I suggest, as I did before, to do a bit of homework, and read Luther's response to the 18 impediments of marriage. It's one thing to sit in front of your computer 500 years later and caricature history as "pass the buck"- it's quite another to do some work and study a subject, and see why Luther said what he did.

As to the sacrament issue, you were repeatedly making the same point over and over again "The not contains more regulations of marriage than it does of baptism" perhaps indicating that you thought marriage was either superior to, or on the same level with the sacrament of baptism. The reason why (as has been pointed out to you) baptism is regulated by the church, is because it clearly is a sacrament. Marriage on the other hand, has no such clearly defined pedigree. You yourself have admitted as much, and I assume you're still working on making it into a sacrament, despite all the comments from myself and 4P.

steelikat said...
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steelikat said...

James Swan,

"Frankly, I'm not interested in your re-definitions"

You are misunderstanding and overreacting. The idea of societal institutions is not something I invented, nor was it defined as an improvement to or to correct the medieval and Lutheran "two kingdoms" idea. I reckon the two conceptions are probably compatible, as they come from two different arenas of discourse. The only reason I mentioned the family being a primary institution separate from the church and the state is that it seemed to me that you wanted to subordinate the family to the church and the state. I was simply reacting to what I saw you trying to do, forgetting for a moment that we were even talking about Luther's two kingdoms. It had nothing to do, again, with the two kingdoms theory. If you don't know what I'm talking about, don't worry about it.

"What I find distracting is your criticizing of Luther's view from the get-go without first understanding it."

You forget that there were plenty of important things that I did know from Luther's view, partly because I've heard of it before--I read a lot and I have always been interested in theology and religious history, but primarily because YOU TALKED ABOUT IT right here on this blog in this article and others you've written. I read and understood your discussions of Luther's view, to the degree you made yourself clear. I was reacting specifically to your explanations of Luther's view.

steelikat said...

James Swan,

I do understand that Luther's two kingdom theory says that God rules the world through both the realm of secular government and through the the spiritual realm. Indeed, what little I do know of Luther's doctrine makes it sound quite similar to the prevailing medieval view, without the distortions of an imperial papacy or the idea that the church was superior to the state in such a way that it could freely involve itself in secular affairs. I do understand that medieval church marital law was warped and abusive. I understand furthermore that that fact explains Luther's thought, that he was reacting to an abysmal situation and coming up with something that seemed better. I haven't been convinced that his solution was justified, that it wasn't "passing the buck." Perhaps as I learn more I will someday be so convinced. We'll see. It is absurd of you to be angry at me about it though.

"Obviously, you haven't been in the arena with Romanists and their alleged patents on the the real presence, sacraments, a visible church."

Indeed, and I guess I don't want to enter that arena if so doing would create in me the fallacious tendency to jump to the conclusion that anyone talking about tradition, history, the sacraments, etc. is a RC.

"Note particualrly my comments on Ephesians and marriage. You seem to have grown strangely silent responding to them. Last I recall, you stated, 'I'll get back to you on that when I've done more research.'"

You misunderstood me. I wasn't acknowledging that you'd proven that the passage in Ephesians did not exist, or that it is not evidence for the sacramentalists (that, there is "no biblical basis" for that point of view). Indeed, I say that I have shown that there is at least somewhat of a basis for the sacramental position in my discussion of Ephesisans 5. You haven't as far as I know proven me wrong.

It seemed to me that you were pushing me to get off the fence, to simply decide that marriage is a sacrament, when I had only begun to take the idea seriously I think a few days before that. To me this seems irresponsibly hasty and so I responded "no, I have to do more research first." What I meant is that I don't know how the sacramentalists argue from scripture that marriage is a sacrament. I'm sure the Ephesians passage must figure prominently in that argument, but it remains to be seen (by me). I need to find out if the sacramental position really is a valid tradition and look at the scriptural arguments the sacramentalists use to back it up. Ephesians five is an arrow in their quiver (i.e. you certainly did exaggerate when you said "no scriptural basis") but if they have nothing better than my rather offhand analysis their argument does not succeed.

Four* Pointer said...

If I may be so bold as to comment on James Swan's comments...

Since Scripture shows us that marriage is not a sacrament, but rather a sign given to all humanity, I think we can now see that Mr. Swan has clearly summed up Luther's point that it should not be lorded over by the church, and that every person (and also every Christian) is free to marry whomever they will [emphasis mine]:

For Luther, marriage was indeed "the God-appointed and legitimate union of a man and woman" with its ultimate purpose to glorify God (WA 43:310). But as to its working and maintenance, Luther sought to have such matters governed by the state. It wasn't the job of the church to come up with marriage rules and regulations. Like clothing, food, and houses, the working of marriage should be something regulated by secular authority.

Does this mean we should tolerate things like polygamy and "gay" marriage? Certainly not! Again, any nation that tolerates such things is in danger of the wrath of God. And Mr. Swan articulates such a position [emphases mine]:

...keep in mind in Luther's time the power of the Roman church had perpetuated a mess with marriage regulations, and his was a direct reaction to that. The worldview at the time took for granted that marriage was between a man and a woman. He did not foresee a secular authority that would redefine marriage (i.e. homosexual marriage). Of such a legalization, he would have been horrified ["God revenges and punishes the forbidden marriage,  so that Sodom and Gomorrah, which God overwhelmed in days of old with fire and brimstone" LW 46:198].

While a Christian is discouraged from marrying a heathen (2nd Corinthians 6:14-18), the decision to marry that heathen is up to the individual. A certain body of the church may refuse to perform the ceremony (as our church does), but they do not have the power to deny any man from marrying any woman they choose (and vice-versa).

Which, if I am correct, was Luther's point.

steelikat said...
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steelikat said...

James Swan,

"You don't appear to care about this. I suggest, as I did before, to do a bit of homework, and read Luther's response to the 18 impediments of marriage."

Oh, I care. Please don't think I don't care. You mean my characterization was too flip? Look, I'm always eager to find an apt and succinct way to summarize my position. In this case, that was "passing the buck." Feel free to assume that my position is a little more well-thought out and nuanced than a person like you, from your perspective, might take from that characterization. Such an assumption cannot fail to have at least a little truth in it.

"As to the sacrament issue, you were repeatedly making the same point over and over again "The not contains more regulations of marriage than it does of baptism" perhaps indicating that you thought marriage was either superior to, or on the same level with the sacrament of baptism. The reason why (as has been pointed out to you) baptism is regulated by the church, is because it clearly is a sacrament."

OK, I've explained to you that I've been looking into the sacramental position because you've essentially said (as I would see it and succinctly phrase it) "the state should regulate it because it's not a sacrament." Now you have explained to me why you said that. We understand each other better.

If you are saying (and I'm sure you are not saying this but I mention it to put things in perspective) that a sacrament is by definition that which the church rightly regulates and that the church by definition ought not regulate sacraments, I would say and would have said from the beginning that marriage is a sacrament, by that idiosyncratic definition.

I have said all along that Christian marriage is rightfully regulated by the church, but not because it is a sacrament strictly speaking, because it is a religious thing the state has the responsibility to defend but not to independently and sovereignly define apart from the church. The church must recognize and define marriage and the state must defer.

steelikat said...

"Christian marriage," I mean.

Of course marriage of non-Christians is another question. The church can help the state understand what it is but the church does not have the authority to regulate it.

steelikat said...

Four Pointer

2nd Corinthians does not appear to discourage the Christian from marrying heathen. It appears to forbid it.

Those who have married heathen are to remain married if the spouse is willing to stay with them after their conversion/repentance, but that fact does not logically imply permission to do it in the first place. If you marry a nonchristian you committed a sin but you are not subsequently living in sin by staying married.

James Swan said...

Let's recap this a bit.

1. I presented a post documenting a romanist miscitation and gross abuse of context pertaining to Luther on marriage. The gross distortion of history occurred when a romanist completely ignored the historcial and actual context of Luther's remarks.

2. Having nothing to do with any of the actual content of my post, "steelikat" commented, "If we had been consistent, we would have put baptism and the lord's supper in the hands of the state, as we did marriage. It's a deal with the devil. They couldn't foresee in the 16th century that it would lead to divorce, polygamy, and gay marriage, but in hindsight it was inevitable. "

3. Steelikat was shown that the reason baptism and the Lord's Supper were not put in the hands of the state is because they are clearly sacraments. It was also demonstrated repeatedly that the historical situation at the time of Luther's comments demanded taking marriage out of the hands of the corrupt papacy. Thus, the contentions in #2 are: a)not relevant to my original post, b)not biblically applicable, c)not dealing fairly with history.

4. Even though steelikat isn't sure if marriage is a sacrament he (or she) appears to be sure I've interpreted Ephesians 5 wrong. Ephesians 5 is not a cryptic text. The context of Ephesians 5 exhorts husbands to love their wives. In verse 28 , Paul argues that every man by nature loves himself, and since marriage makes the two one flesh, a man can't love himself without loving his wife. Paul enforces the argument by comparing it to Christ's love for his bride, the church. Marriage serves as his illustration. No language or illustration can fully express the love of Christ for his bride (the "great mystery" of verse 32). Luther understood Paul to be arguing that as man and wife united marriage are two in one flesh, so God and man are united in the one person Christ, and so Christ and Christendom are one body. Luther explained the papists used Eph. 5:32 to prove marriage was a sacrament (the Vulgate translated "this is a profound mystery" as "sacramentum hoc magnum est" (a great sacrament). He responded by pointing out the great mystery wasn't marriage but rather Christ and his church (see LW 36:94). See also Calvin's commentary on this section. I find it curious that the popular verse from Ephesians 5 used to prove it a sacrament wasn't 5:25, but rather 5:32.

5. Steelikat continued to argue the church is needed to rule over marriage in situations like "What happens when a married couple find out that they are actually brother and sister? " and any approval of Luther's view amounts to "pass the buck" to the state. In the context of Luther's time, both the church and state would have spoken out against such a situation. In today's society, church and state function quite differently. Which "church" would rule over marriage now? What would Luther say to a majority of rulers who denied basic Christian morality? Luther's response against the papacy was quite justified at the time. In today's world, the challenge of godless rulers regulating marriage is far different than the godless papacy Luther struggled against. Based on other comments from Luther, one could easily infer he likewise would've chastised some of our current leaders promoting things like gay marriage. The reason being, is that Luther also held civil law was to reflect God's law. Anyone familiar with Luther's writings knows that he did and would criticize and exhort governmental leaders when they acted against such.

James Swan said...

Now onto a few other steelikat tidbits:

"I do understand that medieval church marital law was warped and abusive. I understand furthermore that that fact explains Luther's thought, that he was reacting to an abysmal situation and coming up with something that seemed better. I haven't been convinced that his solution was justified, that it wasn't "passing the buck."

This is an example of a meaningless comment. It's a criticism without teeth, because it offers no actual response. It simply says, Luther (and the other reformers) were perhaps in error, yet no reason is given to justify such historical skepticism. Whereas, a mountain of evidence can be produced to show Rome's power of marriage was quite "abysmal." For instance: "Lutheran reformers were reacting to the social effects of traditional marriage law: priests visiting prostitutes and keeping concubines; widespread homosexuality, rape, incest, pornography, and adultery; unchecked violations of laws against wife abuse, child abuse, abortion, and contraception; numerous clandestine marriages and divorces; and much else. Their reforms of marriage law were, in part, an attempt to purge society of this immorality and abuse" (The Reformation of Marriage Law in Martin Luther's Germany: Its Significance Then and Now by John Witte, Jr [Journal of Law and Religion, Vol. 4, No. 2 (1986)].

Other than that, this post is now closed. Steelikat, if you have any others comments on the issues you brought up, feel free to post them on your own blog or website.