Thursday, February 24, 2011

Helping Catholic Answers With a Luther Quote

Here's a Luther-related post from the Catholic Answers forum:

So I'm reading this book which, I must admit, would be pretty inflammatory to Protestant senses. I have to say that I don't really like the book too much myself... The author I'm reading quotes a writing of Luther's stating it was a work "against 'The Mass and the Ordination of Priests'" but the only reference to the title of the work and where it can be found is "Erl. 31, 311 ff". Since the author uses such scant quotes out of the entire writing to substantiate some pretty outrageous claims I wanted to read the entire work for myself but I've googled this thing every which way I can figure out and cannot come up with any reference to where the work comes from. In his book, the author states,

"... he tells of his famous disputation with the “father of lies” who accosted him “at midnight” and spoke to him with “a deep, powerful voice,” causing “the sweat to break forth” from his brow and his “heart to tremble and beat.” In that celebrated conference, of which he was an unexceptional witness and about which he never entertained the slightest doubt, he says plainly and unmistakingly that “the devil spoke against the Mass, and Mary and the Saints” and that, moreover, “Satan gave him the most unqualified approval of his doctrine of justification by faith alone.”

The quotes don't work, the reference abbreviation doesn't work, nothing does. I hate when any author writes like this using scant quotes and interpreting them for the reader instead of providing large quotes and leaving the reading to interpret them for himself. Does anyone have any idea where I might be able to find this particular writing so that I can read the whole thing in context?

Our friend at Catholic Answers is reading Patrick O'Hare's The Facts About Luther. The citation involves one of Luther's disputations with the Devil. As explained below, this was a story being told by Luther as a literary device, not a personal experience. Of course, Father O'Hare missed this.

"Erl 31. 311" refers to the old Erlangen edition of Luther's Works, which can be abbreviated a number of ways (Erl, E, EA, Werke, etc.). Here are pages 311-312 of Erl. 31. O'Hare begins by alluding to these paragraphs (311-312):

"The Mass and the Ordination of Priests" refers to "Von der Winckelmesse und Pfaffen Weyhe" found in WA 38, 195256. The text cited above from Erl. 31 can be found in WA 38:197-198.

In English, this treatise can be found in LW 38:147-215 entitled, "The Private Mass and the Consecration of Priests" (1533). The editors of Luther's Works explain, "The idea of a disputation with the devil occurred to Luther while he was working on this third draft. This verbal exchange with the devil does not reflect his personal experience but is employed as an effective literary device in the first part of the book. The fact that Luther’s plan for the book changed as he developed these three outlines in succession is reflected in the rather abrupt way in which he concluded his writing as well as the remark that the book had become longer than he had originally intended it to be" [LW 38:144]. The quotes O'Hare alluded to can be found on pages 149-150.

Here is an excerpt from LW 38. The entire story of Luther's conversation with devil goes on for multiple pages and is too long to post:

I want to begin with myself and make a short confession before you sainted fathers. Grant me a good absolution which will not be injurious to yourselves. Once I awakened at midnight and the devil began the following disputation with me in my heart (for he is able to make many a night bitter and troublesome for me): “Listen, you very learned fellow, do you know that you said private masses for fifteen years almost daily? Did you not in reality commit sheer idolatry with such a mass and did you not worship there simply bread and wine, rather than Christ’s body and blood, and enjoin others to worship them?” I reply: “But I am a consecrated cleric; I have received chrism and consecration from the bishop, and, in addition, have done all this because of the command to do so and in obedience to it. Why have I not performed the consecration validly, since I have spoken the words in earnest and said mass with all possible devotion? You certainly know this.” “Yes,” he said, “that is true; but the Turks and the heathen also perform everything in their churches because of the command to do so and in earnest obedience to it. The priests of Jeroboam at Dan and Beersheba performed everything perhaps with greater devotion than the true priests at Jerusalem [I Kings 13:33]. What if your consecration, chrism, and consecrating are also unchristian and false like those of the Turks and the Samaritans?”

At this point I truly broke into a sweat and my heart began to tremble and throb. The devil knows how to muster his arguments well and to make an impression with them, and he possesses a convincing, powerful way of speaking. Such disputations do not permit time for lengthy and numerous deliberations, but the answers come in quick succession. At such times I have seen it happen that one finds people dead in bed in the morning. He can kill the body. This is one thing; but he can also scare the soul with disputes so that it almost departs from the body, as he has quite often very nearly done to me. Now he had challenged me in this dispute, and I did not really want to be guilty of such a great number of abominations in the presence of God but wanted to defend my innocence. So I listened to him to hear the grounds on which he opposed my consecration and my consecrating.

First, he said, you know that you did not rightly believe in Christ and as far as your faith was concerned you were no better than a Turk; for the Turk and I myself, along with all devils, also believe everything which is written about Christ (James 3 [2:19]), that is, that he was born, died, and ascended into heaven. However, none of us takes comfort in him or has confidence in him as a Savior; but we fear him as a stern judge. This kind of faith and no other is the one you also had when you were consecrated a priest and said mass; and all the others, both the consecrating bishop and his ordinands, also believed this. For this reason, too, all of you turned away from Christ and depended on Mary and the saints, who had to be your consolation and helpers in need rather than Christ. This you cannot deny, nor can any pope. That is why you were consecrated and have celebrated mass like heathen and not like Christians. How then were you able to effect conversion? For you were not the kind of persons who were to bring about this change.

As to O'Hare's "Satan gave him the most unqualified approval of his doctrine of justification by faith alone," I covered this here in regard to another Roman Catholic writer: Luther & the Devil Both Held to Justification by Faith Alone? In that entry I concluded "I went back and read Luther's dialog, and found no such argument that Satan gave approval to Luther's understanding of justification by faith alone." Perhaps though I missed it. That two Roman Catholic writers both make the same assertion could mean it's there somewhere. I'll leave it to the folks at Catholic Answers to find.

I also covered this same context here: Luther tells us that it was Satan who convinced him that the Mass was not a true sacrifice. What's funny (or sad) is I don't remember writing either of these entries previously.


Viisaus said...

There was one cutesy demon-story about a monk and Devil that the iconolatrous 2nd Council of Nicaea (considered ecumenical by both RCs and EOs) related as a proof of their position - and not just once but twice:

pp. 360-361

"I will read you from Robertson’s Church History (ii. 156) one famous story, which was such a favourite that it was twice used in the proceedings of the Council:

‘An aged monk on the Mount of Olives, it was said, was greatly tempted by a spirit of uncleanness. One day the demon appeared to him, and after having sworn him to secrecy offered to discontinue his assaults if the monk would give up worshipping a picture of the Blessed Virgin and infant Saviour which hung up in his cell. The monk asked time to consider the proposal, and notwithstanding his oath applied for advice to an aged abbot of renowned sanctity, who blamed him for having been so deluded as to swear to the devil; but told him that he had yet done well in laying open the matter, and that it would be better for him to visit every brothel in Jerusalem than to refrain from adoring the Saviour and His Mother in the picture.

From this edifying tale a twofold moral was drawn with general consent: that reverence for images would not only warrant unchastity but breach of oaths, and that those who had sworn to the Iconoclast heresy were free from their obliga¬tions.’"

Yes indeed, back in the 8th century the glorious cause of image-worship was defended with stellar arguments like this.

Viisaus said...

Here you can read that edifying pro-icon devil-story in original, from the unexpurgated acts of the 2nd Nicene council - spiced with Mendham's (and emperor Charlemagne's!) biting Protestant commentary:

James Swan said...

thanks! Great stuff!

nbjayme said...

christ said listen to the Church.
Luther listened to the Devil's ploy. Charity is the greatest of all virtues .... Saints who are in heaven display charity to us on Earth by including us in their prayers.

So Luther should have answered, "Begun Satan, for it is Writen --- "Listen to the Church"

Eve sinned because she wanted to have conversation and contest with the Devil. Luther also fell into temptation and thus lead many astray.

James Swan said...

nbjayme said... christ said listen to the Church.
Luther listened to the Devil's ploy. Charity is the greatest of all virtues .... Saints who are in heaven display charity to us on Earth by including us in their prayers.So Luther should have answered, "Begun Satan, for it is Writen --- "Listen to the Church"
Eve sinned because she wanted to have conversation and contest with the Devil. Luther also fell into temptation and thus lead many astray.

I'm not exactly sure what you're saying, but it appears to me you misunderstand what I wrote.