Mr. Waltz is accurate: the particular quote he utilized does point out that Luther did not deny the Roman church was a Christian church: "I honor the Roman Church. She is pious, has God’s Word and Baptism, and is holy." I would have no problem including his myth #11 as a Luther myth, but I would only do so with a brief explanation of what Luther meant. Without any sort of explanation, the notion that Luther thought the Roman church was a Christian church seems rather strange, doesn't it? Luther spent a great portion of his career in fierce conflict with the Roman Church. He went as far as claiming the pope was the Antichrist. When Luther spoke of the Roman Church, he had something much different in mind than most people do today. Luther made a sharp distinction between the Roman Church and the Papacy. Of Rome's leadership, Luther states:
Can anything be said that is more horrible than that the kingdom of the papists is the kingdom of those who spit upon and recrucify Christ, the Son of God? Christ, who once was crucified and rose again—Him they crucify in themselves and in the church, that is, in the hearts of the faithful. With their rebukes, slanders, and insults they spit at Him; and with their false opinions they pierce Him through, so that He dies most miserably in them. And in His place they erect a beautiful bewitchment, by which men are so demented that they do not acknowledge Christ as the Justifier, Propitiator, and Savior but think of Him as a minister of sin, an accuser, a judge, and a condemner, who must be placated by our works and merit. [LW 26:199-200].Luther's opinion appears to be in part that since the Roman Church was given the Scriptures, Sacraments, etc., that in that sense it is a Christan church. However, these elements functions quite independently from the Roman magisterium. No analogy is perfect, but if I had to describe Luther's position I would do so like this: The Roman church is like a pristine ship that's been commandeered by pirates. The ship still functions, but it's crew is in bondage to her captors. Perhaps some of the crew mutinies and joins the pirates. Others though, maintain allegiance to her rightful captain.
Therefore let anyone who is seriously concerned about godliness flee this Babylon as quickly as possible, and let him be horrified at the very hearing of the name of the papacy. For its wickedness and abomination are so great that no one can describe them in words or evaluate them except with spiritual eyes [LW 26:201].
Now, Mr. Waltz, an ex-Roman Catholic apologist, originally showed up on this blog with this little nugget, offering no such explanation. He is apparently befuddled as to why "a nerve" was struck. It's not difficult to figure out: The quote, as Mr. Waltz cited it, has more polemical value out of context than in context. My concerns with Mr. Waltz are not so much with what he posted, but what he didn't post. Quite early on in our interaction I stated, "For clarification, you need to emphasize the distinctions Luther did. Otherwise, your blog post is simply a bit of propaganda." Thus ensued a futile discussion between us. I engaged in a repetitive effort to convince Mr. Waltz that his efforts needed clarification to be useful. He on the other hand, defended his ambiguous posts, for what reason? I'm not quite sure. As far as I can tell, he doesn't really explain why he had such reluctance to bring this simple distinction to light. He then created a new entry, providing a number of comments from Luther in which the distinction I asked him for all along was readily visible.
Philip Schaff and Von der Wiedertaufe
In his recent blog post this very distinction I argued for was included in a quote Mr. Waltz utilized from Philip Schaff:
"How far, we must ask here, did Luther recognize the dominion of the papacy as a part of the true catholic church? He did not look upon the Pope in the historical and legal light as the legitimate head of the Roman Church; but he ought him to the end of his life as the antagonist of the gospel, as the veritable Antichrist, and the papacy as an apostasy. He could not have otherwise justified his separation, and the burning of the papal bull and law books. He assumed a position to the Pope and his church similar to that of the apostles to Caiaphas and the synagogue."In the same section from Schaff (not quoted by Mr. Waltz) is this insightful comment on how Luther understood the term "universal church" as the "totality of the elect":
"Luther developed this idea in his own way, and modified it in application to the visible church. He started from the article of the Creed, “I believe in the holy catholic church,” but identified this article with the “communion of saints,” as a definition of the catholic church. He explained the communion (Gemeinschaft) to mean the community or congregation (Gemeinde) of saints. He also substituted, in his Catechism, the word “Christian” for “catholic,” in order to include in it all believers in Christ. Hence the term “catholic” became, or remained, identical in Germany with “Roman Catholic” or “papal;” while the English Protestant churches very properly retained the word “catholic” in, its true original sense of “universal,” which admits of no sectarian limitation. The Romanists have no claim to the exclusive use of that title; they are too sectarian and exclusive to be truly catholic.So even Schaff makes the necessary distinction. In his citation of Schaff, Mr. Waltz bolded this particular Luther quote from 1528 (p. 530):
Luther held that the holy church in its relation to God is an article of faith, not of sight, and therefore invisible. But as existing among men the true church is visible, and can be recognized by the right preaching of the gospel or the purity of doctrine, and by the right administration of the sacraments (i.e., baptism and the Lord’s Supper). These are the two essential marks of a pure church. The first he emphasized against the Romanists, the second against what he called Enthusiasts (Schwarmgeister) and Sacramentarians (in the sense of anti-sacramentarians)"[Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 7.527-528].
In his controversy with the Anabaptists (1528), Luther makes the striking admission: "We confess that under the papacy there is much Christianity, yea, the whole Christianity, and has from thence come to us. We confess that the papacy possesses the genuine Scriptures, genuine baptism, the genuine sacrament of the altar, the genuine keys for the remission of sins, the true ministry, the true catechism, the Ten Commandments, the articles of the Creed, the Lord s Prayer. ... I say that under the Pope is the true Christendom, yea, the very élite of Christendom, and many pious and great saints."This Luther quote from Von der Wiedertaufe (Erl. 26) is found in LW 40:231. Luther is arguing against (primarily) anabaptists in response to a request for help from some Roman Catholics (LW 40:227). He begins by briefly chastising them, comparing the errors of the papacy and the anabaptists. In a sarcastic thrust he states he's not going to detail papal errors "but rather help you by appearing to be a papist again and flattering the pope" (LW 40:231). He then states,
 "Ich sage, dass unter dem Papst die rechte Christenheit ist, ja der rechte Ausbund der Christenheit, und viel frommmer, gorsser Heiligen." (Von der Wiedertaufe, (Erl. cd. XXVI. 257 sq.)
In the first place I hear and see that such rebaptism is undertaken by some in order to spite the pope and to be free of any taint of the Antichrist. In the same way the foes of the sacrament want to believe only in bread and wine, in opposition to the pope, thinking thereby really to overthrow the papacy. It is indeed a shaky foundation on which they can build nothing good. On that basis we would have to disown the whole of Scripture and the office of the ministry, which of course we have received from the papacy. We would also have to make a new Bible. Then, also, we would have to disavow the Old Testament, so that we would be under no obligation to the unbelieving Jews. And why the daily use of gold and goods which have been used by bad people, papists, Turks, and heretics? This, too, should be surrendered, if they are not to have anything good from evil persons.That's a form of the same distinction from Luther I've presented before, and it's in harmony with what I've presented here and elsewhere to Mr. Waltz. Then Luther explains:
The whole thing is nonsense. Christ himself came upon the errors of scribes and Pharisees among the Jewish people, but he did not on that account reject everything they had and thought (Matt. 23[:3]). We on our part confess that there is much that is Christian and good under the papacy; indeed everything that is Christian and good is to be found there and has come to us from this source. For instance we confess that in the papal church there are the true holy Scriptures, true baptism, the true sacrament of the altar, the true keys to the forgiveness of sins, the true office of the ministry, the true catechism in the form of the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the articles of the creed. Similarly, the pope admits that we too, though condemned by him as heretics, and likewise all heretics, have the holy Scriptures, baptism, the keys, the catechism, etc. O how do you dissemble? How then do I dissemble? I speak of what the pope and we have in common. He on his part dissembles toward us and heretics and plainly admits what we and he have in common. I will continue to so dissemble, though it does me no good. I contend that in the papacy there is true Christianity, even the right kind of Christianity and many great and devoted saints. Shall I cease to make this pretense? [LW 40:231-232].
Listen to what St. Paul says to the Thessalonians [II Thess. 2:4]: “The Antichrist takes his seat in the temple of God.” If now the pope is (and I cannot believe otherwise) the veritable Antichrist, he will not sit or reign in the devil’s stall, but in the temple of God. No, he will not sit where there are only devils and unbelievers, or where no Christ or Christendom exist. For he is an Antichrist and must thus be among Christians. And since he is to sit and reign there it is necessary that there be Christians under him. God’s temple is not the description for a pile of stones, but for the holy Christendom (I Cor. 3[:17]), in which he is to reign. The Christendom that now is under the papacy is truly the body of Christ and a member of it. If it is his body, then it has the true spirit, gospel, faith, baptism, sacrament, keys, the office of the ministry, prayer, holy Scripture, and everything that pertains to Christendom. So we are all still under the papacy and therefrom have received our Christian treasures.Luther's Letter to Pope Leo
As a veritable Antichrist must conduct himself against Christendom, so the pope acts toward us: he persecutes us, curses us, bans us, pursues us, burns us, puts us to death. Christians need indeed to be truly baptized and right members of Christ if they are to win the victory in death over against the Antichrist. We do not rave as do the rebellious spirits, so as to reject everything that is found in the papal church. For then we would east out even Christendom from the temple of God, and all that it contained of Christ. But when we oppose and reject the pope it is because he does not keep to these treasures of Christendom which he has inherited from the apostles. Instead he makes additions of the devil and does not use these treasures for the improvement of the temple. Rather he works toward its destruction, in setting his commandments and ordinances above the ordinance of Christ. But Christ preserves his Christendom even in the midst of such destruction, just as he rescued Lot at Sodom, as St. Peter recounts (I Pet. 2 [II Pet. 2:6]). In fact both remain, the Antichrist sits in the temple of God through the action of the devil, while the temple still is and remains the temple of God through the power of Christ. If the pope will suffer and accept this dissembling of mine, then I am and will be, to be sure, an obedient son and devoted papist, with a truly joyful heart, and take back everything that I have done to harm him.
So it is of no consequence when these Anabaptists and enthusiasts say, “Whatever is of the pope is wrong,” or, “Whatever is in the papacy we must have and do differently,” thinking thereby to prove themselves the foremost enemy of Antichrist. Not realizing that they thus give him most help, they hurt Christendom most and deceive themselves. For they should help us to reject abuse and accretion, but they would not get much credit for this because they realize they were not first to do this. So they attack what no one yet has attacked in the hope that here perchance they might have the honor of being first. But the honor turns to disgrace, for they attack the temple of God and miss the Antichrist who sits therein, just as the blind, who grope after water, take hold of fire [LW 40:232-233].
Mr. Waltz also offers some other citations from Luther. He appears to be quite smitten by Luther's letter to Pope Leo (May 30, 1518). Mr. Waltz appears to think that somehow when Luther here stated "Wherefore, most blessed Father, I cast myself at the feet of your Holiness, with all that I have and all that I am. Quicken, kill, call, recall, approve, reprove, as you will. In your voice I shall recognize the voice of Christ directing you and speaking in you," that somehow, this negates Luther's distinction between the Roman church and the papacy. Mr. Waltz apparently doesn't realize that only a few months after this letter, one finds Luther making hostile comments towards the Pope. By December of the same year, Luther stating that the Pope may be the true Antichrist, and that the Pope is "worse than the Turks." What Mr. Waltz also appears to not be aware of is "the conventional, curialistic style" and the accepted means of dialog with Rome (for more on this, see this post).
Luther's Letter to Pope Leo X January 5 or 6, 1519
Mr. Waltz then cites another of Luther's letters to the pope, again highlighting Luther's respect for the pope and the Roman church. Though he mentions it was a draft, Mr. Waltz doesn't seem to be aware this letter was never sent. The letter written that day was the result of Luther’s meeting with the Papal nuncio Miltitz. Miltitz was somewhat attempting to reconcile Luther with the Pope. He spoke of how favorably the pope felt toward Luther, and how angry he was with Tetzel. He attempted to make this deal with Luther: Luther would cease with his part of this controversy- and he promised those who opposed Luther would also be silent. He also requested Luther write a letter to the pope. The letter was written and presented to Miltitz, but Luther absolutely refused to recant. Miltitz then dropped the whole idea of the letter (for more on this, see this blog entry). Once again as well, this letter was written in the conventional, curialistic style" and the accepted means of dialog with Rome.
Various Sermon Quotes
Mr. Waltz then goes on to provide a few other quotes from Luther basically saying the same thing, which make the same distinctions I asked him for all along. He puts in bold lettering anything from Luther that remotely admits Rome being a valid church, or the papacy having divine rule. He doesn't bold though statements from Luther like these in his own citations:
30.It is necessary to a thorough understanding of the matter that we understand what Christ here says concerning the two Churches : One is the Church which is not recognized by the world, but is robbed of its name and exiled ; the other, the Church that has the name and honor but persecutes the small flock of believers. Thus we have the opposing situations : The Church which is denied the name is the true Church, whilst the other is not the reality, though it may occupy the seat of authority and power, and possess and perform all the offices conceded to be offices and marks of the holy Church and yet we are obliged to suffer its ban and judgment.
31. The reason for the difference in the two Churches is contained in Christ's saying: "Because they have not known the Father nor me;" that is, the false Church regards itself as superior to the teachings of Christ, when a knowledge of Christ is the very basis of distinction between the true and false Church. It is not enough merely to have the name and the office of the Church since these could be unlawfully assumed and abused; the second commandment and the second petition of the Lord's Prayer indicate that the name of God is often abused, not hallowed but blasphemed and dishonored. Hence, we must not be too ready to endorse the declaration : I say or do this in the name of God or of Christ, and at the command and by the authority of the Church. But we should reply thus: I accept the name of God and of the Church as they are dear and precious to me ; but I do not concede to you that in this name you should prescribe and sell whatever you please.
32. Thus we say to the papists : We grant you, indeed, the name and office, and regard these as holy and precious, for the office is not yours, but has been established by Christ and given to the Church without regard for and distinction of the persons who occupy it. Therefore, whatever is exercised through this office as the institution of Christ, and in his name and that of the Church, is at all times right and proper, even though ungodly and unbelieving men may participate. We must distinguish between the office and the person exercising it, between rightful use and abuse. The name of God and of Christ is always holy in itself ; but it may be abused and blasphemed. So also, the office of the Church is holy and precious, but the person occupying it may be accursed and belong to the devil. Therefore, we cannot decide according to the office who are true or false Christians, and which is the true or false Church.
Sermons on the Gospel of St. John - Chapters 14-16
Mr. Waltz cited one of the most popular polemical Luther quotes, probably without realizing it:
"Yes, we ourselves find it difficult to refute it, especially since we concede—as we must—that so much of what they say is true: that the papacy has God’s Word and the office of the apostles, and that we have received Holy Scripture, Baptism, the Sacrament, and the pulpit from them. What would we know of these if it were not for them? Therefore faith, the Christian Church, Christ, and the Holy Spirit must also be found among them."I wrote about this quote some years back: Luther: The Infallible Church Declared The Contents of Scripture? Luther is simply saying that he learned about the Scriptures, Baptism, and the Pulpit, etc. from the Church of his day, in the same way the Prophets were born into a society in which the religious structure of their day was functioning, and gave the Old Testament people a religious context to live in. The visible church indeed promulgated the Scriptures and Christian doctrine.
Mr. Waltz ends his entry stating, "I have attempted, with the above quotations, to convince James (and all others who may read this thread), that my original brief quote from Luther was any but, "misleading", rather, that it represented Luther's mature thought on the Roman church, namely, that it remained a Christian church." Well, he hasn't convinced me his earlier sparse comments were not misleading. If anything, by the length of his blog post and the amount of quotes utilized he proved the very opposite. He has now provided a post that included the very distinctions I asked for, which strongly indicates his earlier posts were indeed just that: misleading. I asked him early on to make the necessary clarifications, emphasizing the distinctions Luther did in order to avoid propaganda. Any out-of-context "shocking" quote from Luther followed by the lack of any sort of brief explanation of what Luther meant is indeed less than helpful, serving only to confuse issues. As Mr. Waltz's original material on this subject stood, most people would have no idea why Luther was saying what he was saying about the Roman church, hence creating dissonance. I thank Mr. Waltz for taking my admonitions seriously, and revising his material with his recent blog entry.