I check in to CARM forums from time to time because of my interests in Luther studies, particularly how the Reformation is interpreted by Roman Catholics. I enjoy putting allegedly "controversial" Luther quotes back in their contexts, to see what was actually said, to whom, and why. Some Roman Catholics notoriously cite Luther poorly. The documentation at times can be simply ridiculous, proving they've actually never read the context from which a quote was taken. Recently I came across this Luther quote on the CARM boards:
“Whoever teaches differently from what I have taught herein, or condemns me for it, he condemns God, and must be a child of Hell.” (Ibid., from: O'Connor, 15)
Where's this from? From the documentation posted, you probably won't be able to find it. The "from: O'Connor, 15" is never defined in the post. The "Ibid." refers to the documentation of the previous quote given: "Against Henry VIII, King of England, 1522; in Grisar, Vol. IV, 391 / from Werke [Weimar], Vol X, II, p. 256 ff".
Here is Grisar Vol. IV 391, no such quote is found on that page. Here is Werke [Weimar], Vol X, II, p. 256, no such quote is found on that page. If you want to follow the "ff" till the end, I don't think the quote is found anywhere after p.256.
The only thing accurate is the "Against Henry VIII, King of England, 1522." This means you'll have to go get this treatise, read it, and find the quote. Now here's the interesting part. You can find the an English translation of the Latin version, but you still will not find this quote. At this point, you'll probably give up.
As far as I can tell, the quote was taken from the self-published Lulu book, Martin Luther: Catholic Critical Analysis and Praise, page 44. It was cut-and pasted to the CARM boards, and proper documentation of this fact wasn't provided. That is, this quote was part of someone else's research. If the person using this quote actually checked the documentation given in this self-published book, he would've realized "Ibid., from: O'Connor, 15" was barely helpful as a reference. Even the "O'Connor, 15" part was wrong. It's supposed to refer to the book, Luther's Own Statements Concerning His Teaching and its Results by Henry O'Connor, page 15 of the third edition. The quote isn't on page 15.
Henry O'Connor and Romanist Polemics
This quote from Luther is supposed to prove Luther considered himself an "infallible, unquestionable theological / spiritual guide or authority" (Martin Luther: Catholic Critical Analysis and Praise, p.45). Or, as the CARM post states, "In fact, [Luther] claimed FOR HIMSELF, FAR more "Authority" than ANY Pope and in fact ALL Popes put together, and in fact ALL Councils and Popes put together."
I've addressed this quote before. It's gained some momentum on the Internet because of Romanist pop-apologetics using the book, Luther's Own Statements Concerning His Teaching and its Results by Henry O'Connor. Page 20 states:
3. Luther enumerates nineteen different articles of his creed, "the Sacrament of the Altar" being one of these. For let it be remembered, that Luther firmly believed in the Real Presence. He then says: "I will for ever stick to such points as I have taught, and will say, 'Whoever teaches differently from what I have taught herein, or condemns me for it, he condemns God, and must be a child of Hell'."
And on page 40:
14. Now, after expressly mentioning the Blessed Sacrament, Luther said in his book against the King of England: "Whoever teaches differently from what I have taught herein, or condemns me for it he condemns God and must be a child of Hell."
O'Connor uses this quote in two ways, Negatively, the quote follows his argumentation that Luther rejected the authority of the Pope (pp. 9-13), and then subsequently admitted the authority of the Devil (pp. 13-19). Luther then admitted his own authority and infallibility (19-20).
He also uses the quote positively in support of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. That is, Luther affirmed the Real Presence, so O'Connor wants to highlight the fact that any Protestant seeking to align himself with Luther needs to keep in mind that Luther considered anyone differing with him on this subject a child of Hell. So, while O'Connor is first repulsed by Luther's alleged claim to infallible authority, he's comforted by the same quote if it can be used against other Protestants on completely different subject.
The quote also is found in this form: "whoever teaches differently from what I have laid down here, or condemns me for any part of my doctrine, condemns God and is branded as a child of hell" [source]. Grisar cites it in Luther V as "whoever teaches otherwise than I have taught, or condemns me, condemns God and must remain a child of hell."
O'Connor cites Antwort auf Konig Hetirich's Yon Engelland Buck, wider seineu Tractat von der Babylonischen Gefangmss. This is the German version of Martin Luther against Henry King of England. In 2009, I noted this English version from 1928 contains no such quote as the one in question. I speculated the German version was different than the Latin version this 1928 English translation was based on. Erwin Doernberg points out Luther's Contra Henricum Regem Angliae "was followed by a German version of [Luther's] own which was not a translation, strictly speaking, differing as it does from the Latin book in numerous minor details." Now with the sources available, it appears this is indeed the case. In German, the quote appears on page 229-230 of WA 10(2) and also Erl. 28:346-347. In Latin, the same context is on page 185.
The quote in question comes from Luther's 1522 German response to Henry VIIIs book Assertio Septum Sacramentorum. One of Henry VIII's arguments was that Luther was inconsistent in his writings: "What avails it to dispute against one, who disagrees with everyone, even himself? Who affirms in one place what he denies in another; denying what he presently affirms" [source, primary source]. Luther responded to this by listing twenty scriptural things he's written about and expounded upon consistently. In the Latin version, he then states:
For these are the names of the things which a Christian man must know, and which are necessary to salvation. These I have treated in such a way that no one can accuse me of ever thinking otherwise than I thought from the beginning of my writing. I have never contradicted myself. I have always kept the same understanding with which I began, and been consistent with myself. The witnesses to this are my extant books, and all my readers who have read them. Another witness is the conscience of the King that condemns him when he lies about me.In German though, Luther states:
These are the right chief parts which are necessary for a Christian to know. Upon these hinge our salvation. This is what I mean by "my teaching", when I speak about "my teaching". About this they have taught nothing properly in the universities and in the monasteries.In the German version Luther also responds to the "contradiction" charge as follows:
Because these are the contents of Holy Scripture and God's Word, I will remain eternally with these chief parts and how I have previously taught them and say: whoever teaches differently and anathematizes me (damns me) because of them, anathematizes God and must remain a child of hell; because I know that this teaching is not my teaching. This is to spite all devils and men who might turn this around. (Translation by Brigitte)
From now on, no Christian can any longer improve himself or do penance, because the King of England would come along and say: "Look! They confess as sin and error what formerly they maintained to be good and right..." I wonder whether so clever a king keeps wearing his children's shoes which, after all are a contradiction of the shoes a grown man uses? How can he nowadays drink wine, considering there was a time when he was suckling milk? [source].
The treatise Luther wrote was highly polemical, and when Roman Catholics cite documents like this, they do so at the neglect of this fact, as well as other statements from Luther. Was Luther claiming infallible authority in this treatise? If you read this treatise, Luther argues throughout that the Scriptures are the infallible authority. In the German treatise Luther refers to "the contents of Holy Scripture and God's Word"- this would be the list of twenty items. Luther was convinced he consistently expounded on and correctly understood these items. His argument here is against those who claim Luther's teachings are damnable. That is, those like Henry VIII that condemned Luther's teachings, by implication, likewise held that they rightly understood the Bible. If Henry was going to damn Luther, Luther was going to damn Henry. If Henry damned Luther by his ultimate authority of Church and Tradition, Luther damned Henry by his ultimate authority, the Bible.
Luther was not trying to show himself to be an infallible, unquestionable theological / spiritual guide or authority or claiming more authority than a any Pope. One of the arguments throughout this treatise was about what exactly was the infallible, unquestionable theological / spiritual guide or authority. Luther continually points to the Scripture as the final court of appeal.
Throughout this treatise he argues about which authority is infallible: church fathers or the Bible? While Luther based his argumentation on the Bible, King Henry cited particular church fathers, often at the expense of Scripture. The argument is not that church fathers aren't important, the argument is that they are not infallible. The only record the church has of God's infallible voice is found in the sacred scriptures. If one is going to bind doctrine on the church, those doctrines should be clearly supported by Scripture.In the Latin version Luther states,
You see therefore, reader, these intractable blocks merely desire that one believe them only. I do not ask them to believe me; but to believe the clear word of God. They demand that we believe the worm-eaten product of their brain, old wives' tales; and they despise the word of God. Nor have I altogether denied either their usages or their authorities; but I want those things to be free and optional which are written outside the sacred Scriptures. I merely refuse to hold as necessary articles of faith those articles that are based on the words of I wish these to be tolerated which are well expressed and well put together without the testimony of Scripture, and I wish them to be tolerated without raising strife against them. But these blocks wish to make for us articles of faith out of every word of the Fathers, which is so far from being what these holy men intended to be done with their writings, that they could be offended with no greater blasphemy than that which is perpetrated while their free words and actions are made by these lethargic Thomists into necessary articles of faith, that is, are turned into lying snares to destroy men's souls.Luther also argues about whether or not his words are "articles of faith":
The sum of the whole matter is that if the sayings of men are able to be made into articles of faith, why should not my sayings be made articles of faith? Am I not a man? Moreover, according to this new Kingly wisdom, all men are compelled to believe the words of all other men. Then let the King himself, as a relief from writing, follow his own prescription and say: I am a man who say so; therefore it must be so; it cannot be otherwise. These arguments are foolish, ridiculous and very like Henry and the Thomists. Just as if the things of the spirit were to be measured by length of time and by use and by right, as though we were measuring an estate or a meadow! But if they say that their assertions in this matter are different from the assertions of others, because forsooth the assertions of the Papists are from the Holy Spirit, and those of others are from men, the Turk will laugh at this futile excuse, and will say: Inasmuch as this you maintain without Scripture and without miracles, by the mere authority of man, you do no more than I would do if I also asserted that my faith was of God. And with the same readiness with which you condemn me, I also condemn your faith; and with the same authority with which you prove your faith, I also prove mine.Finally, Luther does address the problem of interpretation and authority:
And how foolishly has he applied the saying of Augustine, which he said concerning the Gospel being known and approved by the Church throughout the world, to the right of impious men to establish traditions of their own free-will. This is his way of understanding the sayings of the Fathers and of Scripture. These are they who write defences of the sacraments, whose belief is that numbers and duration have the power to make articles of faith, and who are so dull and stupid that they see no difference between discerning and commanding.
But here they will say: If the right of judging and proving belongs to single individuals, what will be the limit if the judges dissent, and each one judges after his own decision? Wherefore it is necessary that there be one, with whose judgment the rest may remain contented, so that the unity of the Church may be preserved.
I reply: This cavil suits none so well as the Thomists. And I also ask: What is the limit today, when all are relying on the judgment of one Pope? Where now is the unity preserved? And is this to preserve the unity, to be united externally under the Pope's name? Where is the unity of hearts? Who is certain in his conscience that the Pope decides rightly?
For unless there is certainty, there is no unity. Therefore under the Pope, there is indeed an external show of unity; but within there is nothing but a Babylon of confusion, no stone upon another stone, no heart agreeing with another heart. Thus you see how successfully human rashness with its statutes provides a remedy in spiritual matters! Therefore must the unity of the Church be sought by another way.
This is the way which Christ has laid down (John VI): They shall be all taught of God. Every man who hath heard from My Father, cometh unto Me. The Spirit within alone makes men dwell together in peace in a house; He teaches them to think the same thing, to judge in the same way, to know the same thing, to approve the same thing, to teach alike, to make the same confession, and to follow after the same. Where this Spirit is not, it is impossible that there should be any unity. And even if any unity should exist, it would be but external and feigned unity.
Wherefore God takes no care whether wicked men are one, or not one, seeing that they are without the unity of the Spirit. To His children it is sufficient for outward unity that there be one Baptism, and one Bread, as being common marks and symbols whereby they profess and exercise their unity of faith and spirit. The Church of the Papists places its unity in the unity of its outward idol the Pope, while inwardly it is broken up by a vast confusion of errors in order to fulfill all the will of Satan.