Friday, July 29, 2011

Reformation Polemics from 1913

I recently came across this brief old snippet from the Theological Quarterly of the Lutheran Synod of Missouri. It's a fascinating description of the common Roman Catholic caricature of Luther and sola fide. There is nothing new under the sun.  

IN HIS LAST WILL Mr. Morgan, financier and multimillionaire of New York, had said: "I commit my soul into the hands of my Savior, in full confidence that, having redeemed it and washed it in His most precious blood, He will present it faultless before the throne of my heavenly Father; and I entreat my children to maintain and defend, at all hazard and at any cost of personal sacrifice, the blessed doctrine of the complete atonement for sin through the blood of Jesus Christ, once offered, and through that alone."

It had been pointed out by Kev. Hageman, of Fall River, Mass., that this dying statement of Mr. Morgan embodies "the Lutheran doctrine of justification by faith alone." Mgr. Cassidy, a Roman rector of Fall River, who had previously criticised Mr. Morgan's faith as out of harmony with his vast wealth, became so incensed at the idea of Morgan's holding the Lutheran faith that he violently attached Luther and his doctrine of justification in the Fall River Evening News of May 20. We quote the pertinent passage as a sample of Rome's tactics in polemics: —

"Luther, having destroyed (?) the infallible authority of the Church, made himself an infallible authority. On the 5th of March, 1522, he wrote to the prince elector of Saxony: 'I have not received my Gospel from men, but from heaven, through our Lord Jesus Christ, so that I desire to be called henceforth an evangelist.' (De Wette, 2, 139.) Luther calls himself: 'By the grace of God Ecclesiastes of Wittenberg, who not only has his doctrine from heaven, but is one who has more power in his little finger than a thousand popes, kings, princes, and doctors.' 'Whosoever teaches differently from what I have taught, or whosoever condemns, he condemns God and must remain a child of hell.' (Saemtliche Werke, 28, S46.)

"How does that strike my non-Lutheran Protestant friends? At another time Luther says: 'I will not have my doctrine judged by any one, not even by angels. For as I am convinced of it, I shall be through it your and the augels' judge, so that he who refuses my doctrine may not be saved.' (Saemtliche Werke, 28, 144.)

"And now let us learn the doctrine of Luther. 'Faith alone,' Luther teaches, 'works justification; and a man is saved and his sins are forgiven by confidently believing.' He writes to Melanchthon, his colaborer and friend: 'Be a sinner and sin boldly; but more boldly still believe and rejoice in Christ, who is the Conqueror of sin, death, and the world. Sin is our lot here below. This life is not the abode of justice. It is sufficient that by the riches of God's glory we acknowledge the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world; sin cannot deprive us of Him, even if in the same day we were to commit a thousand adulteries or a thousand murders.' (De Wette, 2, 37.) In one of his sermons he exclaims: 'Provided one has faith, adultery is no sin.' (Saemtliche Werke, 21, 284 sq.)

"Sin boldly! rob, murder, violate, debauch! Provided one has faith, it is no sin. Such is the doctrine of Luther — justification by faith alone — in all its nakedness, and such is the doctrine that we do net hesitate to term hideous, monstrous, soul-appalling. Is there here any mention of faith (which) leads to good works? I deny it. 'Be a sinner that the blood of the Lamb many cleanse you!' Do evil, not good. Is there here any mention of penance, of regret, sorrow, of reparation? None. 'Justified by faith alone,' screams Luther, while up from the apostolic ages, making the centuries resound with its echoings, thunders the voice of Christ's disciple, St. James: 'Thou believest that there is one God. Thou dost well; the devils also believe and tremble,' James 2, 19.

"'Sin boldly, that the blood of the Lamb may cleanse you,' preaches Luther in the sixteenth century, and 'my soul, washed and redeemed in the precious blood, He will present faultless,' writes the dying Dives in the twentieth, both in union and harmonious declaration of the same doctrine. However sinfully we may have lived, how unrepentantly we may have died, it matters not, 'we are saved by the blessed doctrine of the complete atonement for sin, through the blood of Jesus Christ, once offered, and through that alone.' Oh, ye fair-minded students! Oh, ye learned and ready of speech! Oh, ye who labor and sweat and toil, see you not the hideousness of such a teaching?

"Brother may betray brother, and wife be false to husband, and son shed the blood of parent, and each plunder the other — it is all right. Get you not a glimpse of the monstrousness of the position taken by this dying Dives? The masters of finance may water stock; they may corner commodities of life; they may manipulate the great enterprises of the land; they may sequester the great natural stores laid away in the earth for the use of all; the captains of industry may hire men and women as they hire the beasts of the field; they may melt and spin and weave the blood and body of the worker into the substance and fiber of the manufactured product; on the sweat, the toil, the hunger, the want, the wretchedness of labor they may fatten and grow great and rich and powerful; yet dying and bequeathing their (ill-gotten) gains, standing on the brink of eternity, they turn and look out backward on the homes they have made desolate, the laud made desert by their injustices, and strewn with the bodies of the men and women whom they have murdered, and then turn in sacrilegious Satanic confidence and say, 'It is nothing. I have believed. I am made clean.'

"And the man with the hoe, yea, and the pick and the crowbar and the dynamite stick, raises his head from his toil-bent position and says: 'What's that? Justified by faith alone? Sin boldly, rob, plunder, ravage, murder, — never mind as long as I believe? By heavens, that's a great doctrine. The world is surely ours if we can get it, and dying I'll be redeemed and spotless made in the precious blood of my Savior.' And the pickax descends no longer into the earth, but into the brain of some weaker brother. 'It's no harm to murder if I believe.' And the sledge-hammer falls no longer on the hard rock, but on the iron bolts of the rich man's vaults. 'It's no harm to rob if I believe.' And the dynamite is planted no longer in the tunnel, the cave, or the mine, but under the city or town cottages of the fewer rich. 'It is no harm to lay waste if I believe.' And sabotage and syndicalism and pauperism measure forces with capitalism and industrialism and grow-richism, each down and up in turn, each robbing, each murdering, each plundering until, both weltering in each other's life-blood, the human family expires in chaos — all washed clean in the Savior's blood — because both believed and wore therefore forever justified! Such a doctrine, we repeat, is not only hideous, it borders on the Satanic."

Luther's claim to authority as a teacher of God's Word is the common claim of every Christian who proves his belief from the Scriptures. The infallibility of the Scriptures becomes the infallibility of the teachers of Scripture. They can challenge the world as Isaiah did: "To the Law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them"; or Christ: "The Scripture cannot be broken"; or Paul: "Though an angel from heaven preached other gospel to you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed!" — Luther's utterance: "Pecca forliter!" in a letter to Melanchthon of July 19, 1521, we have reproduced in its context in Theol. Quart., Vol. XII, p. 117. Luther replies to a maudlin complaint about his sins which Melanchthon had made to him. Luther, in his rugged, heroic way, tells his friend: "If you are a preacher of grace, do not preach a fictitious, but true grace. If grace is of the true sort, you will also have to bear true, not fictitious, sins. God does not save those who only acknowledge themselves sinners in a feigned manner. Be a sinner, then, and sin boldly, but let your trust be still greater and rejoice in Christ, who is the Victor over sin, death, and the world. We must sin as long as we are in this world; the present life is not an abode of righteousness; however, we look for new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness, says Peter. We are satisfied by the richness of God's glory to have come to the knowledge of the Lamb that taketh away the sins of the world. No sin shall wrest us from Him, were we even in one day to commit fornication and manslaughter a thousand times over again. Do you think the price paltry and the payment small that has been made for us by so great a Lamb?" This statement of Luther on the unlimited grace of God's pardon for sin Mgr. Cassidy construes into a free pass to commit sin and go to heaven nevertheless. Does Mgr. Cassidy know that the argument of Luther is the same as that of Paul in Rom. 5, 20, and that Mgr. Cassidy's cavil is the same as that to which Paul replied Rom. 6, 1 ffJ


Viisaus said...

It seems quite clear to me that msg. Cassidy had Socialist leanings, as he depicts Morgan as a monstrous capitalist exploiter (instead, for example, as an entrepreneur who provided new jobs).

"While conservatives in the Progressive Era hailed Morgan for his civic responsibility, his strengthening of the national economy, and his devotion to the arts and religion, the left wing felt threatened by his enormous economic power.[15]"

At the very least he seems to have been a "third position" proto-Distributist who drew a moral equivalence between capitalism and violent revolutionary anarchy, seeing them equally bad:

"And sabotage and syndicalism and pauperism measure forces with capitalism and industrialism and grow-richism, each down and up in turn, each robbing, each murdering, each plundering until, both weltering in each other's life-blood, the human family expires in chaos"

Thus we can see how the seeds of "Liberation Theology" were sown within the RCC already before the Vatican II.

Viisaus said...

Victorian-era Cardinal Manning himself, while theologically was a hyper-papist ecclesiolater, was in his social ideas a "Red":

"Cardinal Manning was very influential in setting the direction of the modern Roman Catholic Church. His warm relations with Pope Leo XIII and his ultramontane views gained him the trust of the Vatican. He was among the strongest supporters of the doctrine of papal infallibility, unlike Cardinal Newman, who believed the doctrine but thought it might not be prudent to formally define it at the time. Manning used this goodwill to promote a modern Roman Catholic view of social justice. These views are reflected in the papal encyclical Rerum Novarum issued by Leo XIII. It is the beginning of modern Roman Catholic social justice teaching."

See here for on how the Vatican already back in the days of Leo XIII began to appeal to working classes with moderately anti-capitalist teachings:

(A note: I do not myself endorse a totally unrestrained amoral free-market ideology)

"But despite his best efforts, Rerum Novarum is so obviously an anti-capitalist document that Sirico is finally embarrassed by it. His desire to find something of economic value in the papal encyclicals seems to betray him into making statements that he cannot support. The many official Roman Church documents that this writer has read express the Roman Church-State’s long-standing hatred for capitalism on moral grounds, a hatred that has now been clearly expressed by the Magisterium for over a century. P. T. Bauer accurately called these papal encyclicals incompetent,’’ immoral,’’ and envy exalted.5 "

James Swan said...

Very interesting, thanks so much!


PeaceByJesus said...

Martin Luther is recorded as stating, “Works are necessary for salvation but they do not cause salvation; for faith alone gives life.”[Ewald M. Plass, “What Luther says,” page 1509]

In his Introduction to Romans, Luther stated that saving faith is,

a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this faith. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn’t stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing. Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an unbeliever...Thus, it is just as impossible to separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from fire! []

Scottish theologian John Murray of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, asserted, “Faith alone justifies but a justified person with faith alone would be a monstrosity which never exists in the kingdom of grace. Faith works itself out through love (Gal. 5:6). And Faith without works is dead (James 2:17-20).” “It is living faith that justifies and living faith unites to Christ both in the virtue of his death and in the power of his resurrection. No one has entrusted himself to Christ for deliverance from the guilt of sin who has not also entrusted himself to him for deliverance from the power of sin.”[Redemption Accomplished and Applied] []

Contemporary evangelical theologian R. C. Sproul writes,

The relationship of faith and good works is one that may be distinguished but never separated...if good works do not follow from our profession of faith, it is a clear indication that we do not possess justifying faith. The Reformed formula is, “We are justified by faith alone but not by a faith that is alone.”[[“Essential Truths of the Christian Faith,” Google books]

Dr. Michael Horton (theologian) concurs by saying,

This debate, therefore, is not over the question of whether God renews us and initiates a process of gradual growth in holiness throughout the course of our lives. ‘We are justified by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone,’ Luther stated, and this recurring affirmation of the new birth and sanctification as necessarily linked to justification leads one to wonder how the caricatures continue to be perpetuated without foundation.[Are we justified by faith alone?"]

PeaceByJesus said...

In addition, upon hearing that he was being charged with rejection of the Old Testament moral law, Luther responded,

And truly, I wonder exceedingly, how it came to be imputed to me, that I should reject the Law or ten Commandments, there being extant so many of my own expositions (and those of several sorts) upon the Commandments, which also are daily expounded, and used in our Churches, to say nothing of the Confession and Apology, and other books of ours. Martin Luther, ["A Treatise against Antinomians, written in an Epistolary way",]

The Westminster Confession of Faith states:

Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification; yet it is not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but works by love.[Westminster Confession of Faith, CHAPTER XI. Of Justification.]

The classic Methodist commentator Adam Clarke held,

The Gospel proclaims liberty from the ceremonial law: but binds you still faster under the moral law. To be freed from the ceremonial law is the Gospel liberty; to pretend freedom from the moral law is Antinomianism.[Adam Clarke Commentary, Gal. 5:13]

Likewise on on Titus 1:16 ("They profess that they know God; but in works they deny, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate." KJV):

Full of a pretended faith, while utterly destitute of those works by which a genuine faith is accredited and proved. [Adam Clarke Commentary, Titus 1]

To which the Presbyterian commentator Mathew Henry concurs: "There are many who in word and tongue profess to know God, and yet in their lives and conversations deny and reject him; their practice is a contradiction to their profession." [Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible, Titus 1]

(Both from my edits on a couple WP pages)

Also, rather than the easy believism Rome associates with sola fide, there was often a tendency to make the way to the cross too narrow, perhaps in reaction against the Antinomian controversy as described in an account ( of Purtians during the early American period that notes,

They had, like most preachers of the Gospel, a certain difficulty in determining what we might call the ‘conversion level’, the level of difficulty above which the preacher may be said to be erecting barriers to the Gospel and below which he may be said to be encouraging men to enter too easily into a mere delusion of salvation. Contemporary critics, however, agree that the New England pastors set the level high. Nathaniel Ward, who was step-son to Richard Rogers and a distinguished Puritan preacher himself, is recorded as responding to Thomas Hooker’s sermons on preparation for receiving Christ in conversion with, ‘Mr. Hooker, you make as good Christians before men are in Christ as ever they are after’, and wishing, ‘Would I were but as good a Christian now as you make men while they are preparing for Christ.’”

In contrast (and evangelical faith today is not as then) for all the RC emphasis upon works, what RCs overall evidence is sola fide in Rome to save them despite their nominal faith and lakc of repentance that corrsponds to true faith.

James Swan said...

Thanks for all the quotes.

Some years back, I compiled this:

PeaceByJesus said...

Thank you very much!