Friday, December 09, 2011

Real Catholic TV: Luther and the Immaculate Conception


I just listened to Dr. White's recent evaluation of Real Catholic TV's video on the immaculate conception.  When Roman Catholics find a Luther tidbit about Mary that seems to support Mariolatry, they run with it, even if the context contradicts the evidence they're using. This quote is being taken entirely out of context. It has nothing to do with Mary's immaculate conception. Rather than discussing Mary’s sinlessness, Luther's later writings insist Christ’s sinlessness was due entirely to the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit during His conception. The quote isn't about Mary's conception in her mother's womb, it's about Christ's conception in Mary's womb.

Here is the quote in context. In 1532 he preached:

Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according thy word.
14. That day, that moment when Mary assented to the angel Gabriel's announcement, Christ was conceived. In that hour when she said, "Be it unto me according to thy word," she conceived and became the mother of God; and Christ, therewith, became true God and true man in one person. Even though he is a tiny fetus, at that moment he is both God and man in Mary's womb, an infant, and Mary is the mother of God.

15. The Turks and the Jews make fun of this article of faith and feel that they have excellent reason to deride it. For that matter, we could banter about it as well as they. But as Christians, we must firmly hold onto this article of faith and never waver. From the beginning of time it has been prophesied that God's Son would become man and that his mother would be a virgin. The first prophecy given Adam and Eve soon after the fall (Gen. 3:15) stated: "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shall bruise his heel." God does not say the seed of the man, but rather the seed of the woman. Therefore, the mother of this serpent crusher must be a virgin. Later the patriarchs and the prophets also prophesied of this, until finally the beloved apostles proclaimed it to all the world. We have been baptized into this faith and are called Christians because we believe and confess it to be true. Let us, therefore, persevere unwaveringly in this faith. And if, as time goes on, sectarian spirits deny it, let us take a staunch stand in behalf of it.

16. This article is really the bottom line. Christ wanted his beginning to be like ours, but without sin, because he wanted to sanctify us wholly. We begin life in sin, we are conceived in sin, born in sin, no matter whether we be emperor, king, prince, rich, or poor; every human being is conceived in sin according to Psalm 51:5. Only Christ has the distinction and the honor to have been conceived by the Holy Ghost's power. Since from our conception we are sinful, we are people whose flesh and blood and everything about us are soiled by sin, as indeed we see in ourselves; or when we look at those around us in the world, beset by evil desire, pride, multiple devils, and miserable unbelief. Thus we are conceived and born. For all of mankind is conceived and born in accord with creation's decree, as recorded (Gen. 1:28): `Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth." Christ could not be subject to such impure sinful conception and birth. He, indeed, was a genuinely true, natural human being, but not conceived or born in sin as all other descendants of Adam. That is why his mother had to be a virgin whom no man had touched, so that he would not be born under the curse, but rather conceived and born without sin, so that the devil had no right or power over him. Only the Holy Spirit was present to bring about the conception in her virgin body. Mother Mary, like us, was born in sin of sinful parents, but the Holy Spirit covered her, sanctified and purified her so that this child was born of flesh and blood, but not with sinful flesh and blood. The Holy Spirit permitted the Virgin Mary to remain a true, natural human being of flesh and blood, just as we. However, he warded off sin from her flesh and blood so that she became the mother of a pure child, not poisoned by sin as we are.

17. Thus what the angel spake came true: "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest." For in that moment when she conceived, she was a holy mother filled with the Holy Spirit and her fruit is a holy, pure fruit, at once true God and truly man, in one person. In time, then, this godly mother gave birth to God's Son, a genuine man, but without any sin. Undoubtedly, his blood was red, his flesh, white; he suckled at his mother's breasts, ate porridge, cried, and slumbered like any other child; but his flesh and blood were holy and pure. He is a holy person, the son of a pure virgin and God's Son, true God and man in one person. [Sermons of Martin Luther Vol. 7 (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2000), pp. 291-293].

In 1534 Luther explained that Christ was “born of a young maiden, as you and I are born of our mothers. The only difference is that the Holy Spirit engineered this conception and birth, while in contrast we mortals are conceived and born in sin.”[Ibid., 294.]. As Jaroslov Pelikan has noted, Mary functioned in Luther’s theology as “the guarantee of the reality of the incarnation and of the human nature of Christ.”

11 comments:

Pastor Aaron said...

We Methodists just assume Mary was entirely sanctified... so much easier than digging into Joachim and Anna's sex life...oh, and it's in Scripture, too.

Lockheed said...

So you replace one error with another? She was neither immaculately conceived nor entirely sanctified, rather, she was chosen by God as the vessel by which Christ would come into the world, and because of that she was highly favored. Anything more than that detracts from the focus and intent of Scripture, the birth of the Divine Logos, Jesus the Christ.

Robert Hagedorn said...

Challenge yourself. Google First Scandal.

guybri said...

The same Holy Spirit that regenerates every born again child of God, is the same Spirit that covered Mary and brought Jesus Christ into the world. To even suggest a creature is without sin, mocks God's Word.

Jesus Christ will never satisfy the heart and mind of a person He hasn't saved.

John Lollard said...

@ Pastor Aaron,

I've been going to Methodist churches for the past five years, and I had no idea Methodists believed anything about Mary at all, other than that she was a godly woman.

If you have Scripture to corroborate her entire sanctification, I would be interested in seeing it.

In Christ,
JL

Frank said...

I think I have finally reached a point where I am going to print out all of James Swan's material on Luther and have Kinkos put it into a spiral notebook for me.

Scott said...

In 1527 Luther preached the Immaculate Conception. Here he preaches that the Holy Ghost warded off sin from her flesh (made her immaculate). His statement in 1532 is not in conflict with his preaching in 1527... the debate then becomes a matter of timing - not the fact that Mary was made immaculate through the Holy Ghost. His statement in 1532 does not preclude an Immaculate Conception of Mary, but if you were to read that sermon alone one might get the notion that the Holy Ghost purified (made immaculate) the Blessed Virgin at Christ's conception - but that's NOT the belief Luther taught just 5 years earlier - and didn't deny. More here.

James Swan said...

Hi Scott, Thanks for stopping by, and also allowing me to comment on your blog pertaining to this subject.

In regard to the 1527 sermon you mention, I've done an extensive overview of it here. While an earlier version of this 1527 sermon appears to positively affirm Luther's belief in the immaculate conception, the section was shortly removed thereafter, and in its place Luther simply states one is free to believe what one wants to on this subject.  The book this sermon is found in went on to be republished a number of times. Only the earliest edition contains the deleted section. To base Luther's view on a deleted section of sermon is simply to jargoge a number of later clear statements from Luther.

 As to the 1532 sermon Mr. Voris mis-used not being in conflict with this earlier sermon,  that is only so if one mis-reads the 1532 sermon. It would be up to you to show where this sermon positively presents Luther affirming the immaculate conception. I quickly searched your blog and could not find any direct evaluation of the quote Mr. Voris used. As it stands, Mr. Voris has not presented a quote affirming Luther's belief in the immaculate conception.

 In context, first Luther condemns all of humanity as being born in sin. Then Luther states:

"That is why his mother had to be a virgin whom no man had touched, so that he would not be born under the curse, but rather conceived and born without sin, so that the devil had no right or power over him."

The key for Luther is Mary being a virgin so Christ would be born without sin. It has nothing to do with Mary being sinless at her conception. Luther then states:

"Only the Holy Spirit was present to bring about the conception in her virgin body. Mother Mary, like us, was born in sin of sinful parents, but the Holy Spirit covered her, sanctified and purified her so that this child was born of flesh and blood, but not with sinful flesh and blood."

First note "in her virgin body"  refers to the conception of Christ. Note "this child". The context is about the conception of Christ, not Mary. Luther then states:

"The Holy Spirit permitted the Virgin Mary to remain a true, natural human being of flesh and blood, just as we. However, he warded off sin from her flesh and blood so that she became the mother of a pure child, not poisoned by sin as we are."

Once again, the birth of Christ is in view. There's nothing in this context about the conception of Mary in her mother's womb, nothing. There's nothing about two conceptions, at all.

-continued-

James Swan said...

-continued for Mr. Windsor-

Since you left a link to your blog regarding this matter, I'd like to further help by posting a few other clarifying links in which I directly and tediously responded to you on this matter:

Luther on the Immaculate Conception: A Response to Scott Windsor (Part One)

Luther on the Immaculate Conception: A Response to Scott Windsor (Part Two)

Luther on the Immaculate Conception: A Response to Scott Windsor (Part Three)

Luther on the Immaculate Conception: A Response to Scott Windsor (Part Four)

Luther on the Immaculate Conception: A Response to Scott Windsor (Part Five)


Luther on the Immaculate Conception: A Response to Scott Windsor (conclusion)


Finally, this statement of yours was certainly uncalled for. I think it's safe to say that I'm quite fluent in Luther's Marian statements. I've probably written around fifty blog entries on Luther's Mariology, and I've scrutinized every context I find. That you would attribute "ignorance is bliss" to me on this issue is quite insulting, considering the fact that I posted the relevant context of the quote Mr. Voris mis-used, and I also exegeted that context on your blog (and here now). That you haven't done this yet in regard to this 1532 quote while at the same time attributing "ignorance is bliss" to me (to quote you) "well, that speaks volumes."

CathApol said...

James wrote: Finally, this statement of yours was certainly uncalled for. I think it's safe to say that I'm quite fluent in Luther's Marian statements. I've probably written around fifty blog entries on Luther's Mariology, and I've scrutinized every context I find. That you would attribute "ignorance is bliss" to me on this issue is quite insulting, considering the fact that I posted the relevant context of the quote Mr. Voris mis-used, and I also exegeted that context on your blog (and here now). That you haven't done this yet in regard to this 1532 quote while at the same time attributing "ignorance is bliss" to me (to quote you) "well, that speaks volumes."

James, I didn't say THAT to you! You've taken MY words out of context, just as you take Luther's 1532 sermon out of the context of Luther's OTHER teachings. No, what I DID say was exactly OPPOSITE of what you're representing here! I said: "I'd say 'ignorance is bliss,' but you're not ignorant of this." And I went on to say: "It would be quite disingenuous to look at (one of) Luther's works and not consider what he said previously, and never denied." I concluded with: "Is the quote Voris used, ALONE a good one to support what he's saying? No, I give you that. However, in considering what Luther DID say earlier - what Voris quoted did not detract from Voris' position - it just didn't help him as much as the (original) 1527 quote does."

So, if you read MY words out of context, and even not quote them properly (leaving out part of the sentence), I can see why you would be offended. You are NOT ignorant of Luther's works - THAT WAS MY POINT!

James Swan said...

Hi Scott,

Yes, it appears I was too hasty with your final comment. My apologies.

On the other hand,it does seem as if there's a jab with your words. When you say, "I suppose if you want to read Luther without considering the context of Luther - well, that speaks volumes." Are you attributing this to me? If so, you would be in error. That was the sentence that provoked me to see your comment as insulting, and really covertly charging me with ignorance. If though I've mis-read your words, my apologies. This is one of the difficulties of printed word exchanges. You then went on to use the word "disingenuous". Are you inferring that you think my opinion on this topic fits that description? If there's anyone clearly deceiving and disingenuous currently, it's Voris and his use of the Luther quote in question.Since you've taken up the gauntlet to defend him, you would best spend some of your apologetic time contacting Mr. Voris and help him post honest and well-researched materials.

You've now said a few times that it is I and not you who has taken Luther out of context. This is nonsense. You haven't even responded to the meat of my comments in this current discussion. While you're certainly entitled to your opinion, at this point, it is simply that: a groundless opinion. Quite frankly, I find your opinion and apologetic on this entire issue absurd. I'm sorry if you find that insulting, but I can't think of kinder word, and I'm not saying it with any guile. It's absurd because you've taken a deleted section of a sermon which appeared only in the earliest edition (of a very popular Reformation book, published over multiple years) and attempted to read it into later contexts of a man whose theology of Mary demonstratively changed over time. Further, as I pointed out here, you've used a flawed methodology to arrive at the bulk of your conclusions.

I'll let you clarify if you wish to as to the above statements in question (whether or not you intended a jab), but there really isn't any need to. What your opinion of me one way or the other really doesn't matter.If you want to keep me interested, present facts, contexts, exegesis of text, and interpretations.

By the way, do you have a complete copy of the 1527 sermon you're using to interpret all of Luther's later comments on the Immaculate Conception, and have you read it? Do you have a complete copy of the 1532 sermon Voris cited and have you read it? Well, I have. I suggest that if you intend to get in to this subject again you track down the sources (if you have not already), because the first thing I will jump on if you haven't is that your presenting an opinion on documents you've never read.