Sunday, July 31, 2011

Behold, The Power of the Pope

"On September 15, 1521, Archbishop Albrecht of Mainz celebrated the annual festival of relics at his newly built cathedral, the Church of St. Moritz and Mary Magdalene in Halle, with the official announcement that indulgences would be granted to all visitors to the exhibition of relics. Anyone who prayed at a shrine and gave alms was promised an indulgence of four thousand years; anyone who confessed his sins to one of the priests hearing confessions in the cathedral during the ten days of the celebration would receive a plenary indulgence. Pope Leo X had issued a bull in 1519 granting the cathedral of Halle the same privileges granted to the Church of St. Peter in Rome: its confessors were authorized to absolve cases usually absolved only by the apostolic see in Rome; in addition, they could convert vows into financial contributions for the completion of the Halle cathedral—privileges not unusual in the established indulgence practice of the Roman curia."

Luther, M. (1999, c1970). Vol. 39: Luther's works, vol. 39 : Church and Ministry I (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (39:241). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Roman Catholic Harry Potter Fans

Patrick Madrid says....

Among the odd things I’ve seen in the Catholic world, one of the oddest is the capacity of some Catholic Harry Potter fans to go zero-to-60 on the manic meter instantaneously at the mere suggestion that there might be something spiritually deleterious about HP.

Yeah well Patrick, try talking with a Roman Catholic convinced Mary is making appearances. I spent about 3 hours talking with a woman who was convinced Mary appeared in the sky above her, so when she looked into the sun, she was not blinded but protected by Mary. She went zero-to-60 when I suggested such an experience might be something spiritually deleterious.

Luther's Demonology

Here's a recent Romanist lament:

In our last “installment” we covered a small fraction of the material available on Luther’s extraordinary superstitions. We learned from Preserved Smith that Luther’s childhood was filled with spiritual terrors”, demons”The next topic is immensely “hotter”, Luther’s “addiction to demonic thought” – demonology. Documentation on this matter will come from quite a few different Scholars, only a couple of which are Catholic. The “Old School Defenders of Luther” – like James Swan wouldn’t be caught dead discussing the subject. In all of his volumes of writings about Luther on his Pop Apologetics Blog, he doesn’t deal with the topic at all as far as I can tell. Luther’s “demonology” you see - is WAY “too revealing” and it wouldn’t be easy at all to spin it to make Luther “look good”. If I am wrong on this, then James can correct me and point me to his article. That way we can compare it to the facts of the matter, which should prove to be “entertaining.”
Luther's Demonology?
Luther's addiction to demonic thought? What? That was my initial response. The first thing I wondered about was what exactly this guy meant by "demonic thought." If you read through his ramblings and ravings, it isn't quite clear. He refers to "Luther’s addiction to 'demonic thought'” – demonology" and states "Luther was a 'lifelong addict of demonic thought', which certainly could not have had a positive impact on his “theology.” Old horror films from the 1970's come to mind. That's the image I think of when someone is described as addicted to demonic thought.

He appears to not be arguing Luther was say, practicing black magic, or conjuring up Satan or demons, or attempting to rely on the power of the Devil, at least intentionally. But, I don't claim to be able exegete this guy's ramblings and ravings. One cannot apply logic to something illogical and expect that illogical argument to make sense. What I think he's getting at, is that Luther spent a lot of time writing about Satan (or demons, or whatever), and there was something theologically, spiritually, and psychologically wrong with this.

Older Romanists have indeed made some surprising claims about Luther and the Devil. Consider this comment by Father Patrick O'Hare:

Read Luther's work against "The Mass and the Ordination of Priests," (Erl. 31, 311 ff.) where 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." Who now, we ask in all sincerity, can be found, except those appallingly blind to truth, to accept such a man, approved by the enemy of souls, as a spiritual teacher and entrust to his guidance their eternal welfare?
The context though of "The Mass and the Ordination of Priests" includes a story being told by Luther as a literary device, not a personal experience. Father O'Hare missed this. (I wrote a blog article on this some time back).

I would echo the approach of  Heiko Oberman, that Luther is best understood as a religious man with a deep belief in God, and in a daily battle with the Devil. As I've read quite a large amount of Luther, it is true this cosmic battle is never completely set aside in his writings.

Oberman asks:

One delicate question -- one that might even be unfitting for any respectable home -- may lead back to Luther’s upbringing. The problem cannot be ignored: if a man is so obviously preoccupied with ideas about and visions of the Devil, does he not require a psychiatrist, or might he not be at least subject to psychological inquiry? In this case it would not be a question of father or mother fixations but of his surprising response to the Devil, which enlightened people find incomprehensible as well as extremely dangerous. Belief in the reality of Satan certainly promoted the frenzy of the witch hunts that seized all denominations and delayed the Enlightenment.
Oberman answers in part:
Centuries separate Luther from a modern world which has renounced and long since exorcised the Devil, thus finding it hard to see the difference between this kind of religion and medieval witchcraft. But Luther distinguished sharply between faith and superstition. He understood the hellish fears of his time, then discovered in the Scriptures the true thrust and threat of Satan and experienced himself the Devil’s trials and temptations. Consequently he, unlike any theologian before or after him, was able to disperse the fog of witches’ sabbath and sorcery and show the adversary for what he really was: violent toward God, man and the world. To make light of the Devil is to distort faith. "The only way to drive away the Devil is through faith in Christ, by saying: ‘I have been baptized, I am a Christian."’
Tedium #1: Richard Marius and Heiko Oberman on Luther's Demonology

There was a lot of tedium included by this Romanist to prove his case about Luther's demonology. He states,

Heiko Oberman (Protestant) wrote that Luther’s thought was guided by his demonology, which does not speak well of his “ability” to discern Christian Truths in Scripture, or anywhere else for that matter. These things don’t seem to be very good “attributes” for a “Christian” theologian.
-snip-
By use of the term “demonology” I am not making up some new term. This is a term that is in Robert Herndon Fife’s book, in the Erikson’s book and in the Marius book as a reference to the Oberman book (I need to find my copy of Oberman)... The Marius/Oberman quote, (in part for now) is: “Heiko Oberman sees Luther’s demonology as the rudder that guided his thought.” Marius, pg 78. These references to “demonology” DO NOT refer to the standard orthodox Christian belief that demons, (or devils if you like, or evil spirits or whatever) exist. The difference between “demonology” and the Scriptural and orthodox Christian belief are NOT even in the same universe.
Marius gives no reference on page 78 to his comment about Heiko Oberman. That's probably because Marius assumes those reading his book are familiar with Oberman's basic thesis. Heiko Oberman evaluated Luther as a religious man with a deep belief in God, and in a daily battle with the Devil. Richard Marius though argues Luther was not the heroic God believer in a cosmic spiritual battle. Luther was a man who questioned whether or not God even exists, and was terrified of death. That is indeed, two different presuppositional starting points for each biography. Historians interpret facts differently.

Marius says, "Luther was to make more of Satan as the years went along." The Romanist quotes the next sentence, "Heiko Oberman sees Luther’s demonology as the rudder that guided his thought." The very next sentence after that says, "For the later Luther, this view may be correct." Here Marius is challenging Oberman. begin reading Luther: Man Between God and the Devil By Heiko Oberman on page 102. Read till page 106. Or, use this link. You'll notice Oberman begins with Luther's upbringing, which is why Marius probably made his comment about "the later Luther":

Oberman states in part:

But the legacy of Luther’s parental home entailed more than a proper respect for hard work and deep erudition; it included also the at once wondrous and scary world of spirits, Devil and witchcraft, which the modern mind has come to call superstition.
Luther’s mother cannot be held solely responsible for Luther’s realistic perception of the Devil’s machinations. Father Hans thought exactly the same way, and so did the miners in Mansfeld, who, far away from the light of day, were even more exposed to the artifices of the infernal powers -- spirits, demons and hobgoblins -- in the darkness of their mineshafts. Nor would Martin have learned anything different from the Brethren of the Common Life in Magdeburg or from the most erudite humanists of his time.
 And so on. Read the chapter for yourself. Notice as well the differences in interpretation between Marius and Oberman on the notion of "God's Satan" (Marius, p. 78) and "the omnipotence of God and thus determined only narrow limits for the Devil’s activities" (Oberman p.104-105).

Related, though are these general comments from Oberman, stressing his thesis:
Luther’s world of thought is wholly distorted and apologetically misconstrued if his conception of the Devil is dismissed as a medieval phenomenon and only his faith in Christ retained as relevant or as the only decisive factor. Christ and the Devil were equally real to him: one was the perpetual intercessor for Christianity, the other a menace to mankind till the end. To argue that Luther never overcame the medieval belief in the Devil says far too little; he even intensified it and lent to it additional urgency: Christ and Satan wage a cosmic war for mastery over church and world. No one can evade involvement in this struggle. Even for the believer there is no refuge -- neither monastery nor the seclusion of the wilderness offer him a chance for escape. The Devil is the omnipresent threat, and exactly for this reason the faithful need the proper weapons for survival.
There is no way to grasp Luther’s milieu of experience and faith unless one has an acute sense of his view of Christian existence between God and the Devil: without a recognition of Satan’s power, belief in Christ is reduced to an idea about Christ -- and Luther’s faith becomes a confused delusion in keeping with the tenor of his time.
Attempts are made to offer excuses for Luther by pointing out that he never doubted the omnipotence of God and thus determined only narrow limits for the Devil’s activities. Luther himself would have been outraged at this view: the omnipotent God is indeed real, but as such hidden from us. Faith reaches not for God hidden but for God revealed, who, incarnate in Christ, laid himself open to the Devil’s fury. At Christmas God divested himself of his omnipotence -- the sign given the shepherds was a child "wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger" (Luke 2:12) . To Luther Christmas was the central feast: "God for us." But that directly implies "the Devil against us." This new belief in the Devil is such an integral part of the Reformation discovery that if the reality of the powers inimical to God is not grasped, the incarnation of Christ, as well as the justification and temptation of the sinner, are reduced to ideas of the mind rather than experiences of faith. That is what Luther’s battle against the Devil meant to convey. Centuries separate Luther from a modern world which has renounced and long since exorcised the Devil, thus finding it hard to see the difference between this kind of religion and medieval witchcraft. But Luther distinguished sharply between faith and superstition. He understood the hellish fears of his time, then discovered in the Scriptures the true thrust and threat of Satan and experienced himself the Devil’s trials and temptations. Consequently he, unlike any theologian before or after him, was able to disperse the fog of witches’ sabbath and sorcery and show the adversary for what he really was: violent toward God, man and the world. To make light of the Devil is to distort faith. "The only way to drive away the Devil is through faith in Christ, by saying: ‘I have been baptized, I am a Christian."’
The reference to "demonology" in the Marius book on page 78 has a specific meaning. Marius says, "Luther was to make more of Satan as the years went along." The Romanist quotes the next sentence, "Heiko Oberman sees Luther’s demonology as the rudder that guided his thought."

In context, Marius seems to be equating Satan=demonology, and he appears to be referring to Oberman's use of "demonology" as meaning "Satan" as well. I'm not aware of any use of the term "demonology" in Oberman's Luther: Man Between God and the Devil. Of course, Oberman wrote a number of books, so it is possible Marius has some other writing of Oberman in mind. However, that Marius continues on page 78 to speak of Satan strongly suggests "Satan" is meant by the term "demonology."

That Luther believed in demons, witches, etc. is not disputed. However, I think this Romanist needs to stick with one source at a time, and exegete each source correctly. Words have meanings in context.

Tedium #2: Erik Erikson, Young Man Luther, A Study in Psychoanalysis

The Romanist states the following:

Realistic thought had little influence on Luther, the dogmatist; but it dominated the Zeitgeist which often emerged in Luther’s more informal utterances, especially in its alliance with demonism. We know Luther to have been a lifelong addict of demonic thought, which he managed to keep quite separate from his theological thought and his scientific judgment.” Erik Erikson, “Young Man Luther, A Study in Psychoanalysis ” pg 187

Normally Erikson’s comments make sense to me, but in this case I can’t fathom a manner in which anyone can be “addicted to demonic thought” AND keep that aspect of their “belief system” and world view – “quite separate from his theological thought”. Luther constantly refers to the sum of his beliefs as “My Gospel” so clearly his addiction to demonic thought HAD to influence his theology.
Erikson makes sense to this Romanist? He's an enemy of the Christian faith. Of course Erikson thought Luther's beliefs in demons, devils, and Satan was blatant psychosis. Erikson used a modified Freudian approach to Luther. He approached religious phenomena with prejudice: recall, Freud argued that religious phenomena are to be understood on the model of the neurotic symptoms of the individual: hence, a materialistic outlook on religion. Freud saw religious concerns within an individual as reflecting something “wrong” in a human. Erickson does the same with his treatment of Luther. Roman Catholics beware: Erikson is no friend of your beliefs, or of anyone with religious beliefs. That said, Erikson says something a little different than what was actually cited:

Realistic thought had little influence on Luther, the dogmatist; but it dominated the Zeitgeist which often emerged in Luther’s more informal utterances, especially in its alliance with demonism. We know Luther to have been a lifelong addict of demonic thought, which he managed to keep quite separate from his theological thought and his scientific judgment. The Devil's behind maintained a reality for him which- because his intellect and his religious intuition seemed to function on different planes- could be said to verge on the paranoid were it not at the same time representative of a pervading medieval tendency.
 Erikson's point is that according to Luther, the bad things that happen were the result of the reality of Satan. That is, what "happened" was also a reality in the "world of ideas" (realism). If you continue reading to page 188, you'll note the point from 187 "Realistic thought had little influence on Luther" and how that was related to the indulgence controversy.

The reality of Satan though was indeed a part of Luther's theological thought. Erikson here is simply unfamiliar with the entire corpus of Luther's writings. This would make sense, since a lot of his book is about "Luther’s more informal utterances" (i.e. the Table Talk).


Tedium #3: Henry Vedder on Luther's Demonology

The Romanist states the following:

One of our most honest Protestant Scholars (Vedder) said that Luther knew more about the devil than he did about God and also said that Luther “certainly manifests more of a Satanic rather than a Christian spirit.” Heiko Oberman (Protestant) wrote that Luther’s thought was guided by his demonology, which does not speak well of his “ability” to discern Christian Truths in Scripture, or anywhere else for that matter. These things don’t seem to be very good “attributes” for a “Christian” theologian.
Vedder was a Baptist historian. The context of this snippet is found here:

Zwingli, on the other hand, understood "This is my body" to mean, This signifies my body: and he adduced many passages of Scripture that must obviously be explained in this sense, such as "I am the vine" and "That rock was Christ." In his view the bread and wine are memorials of Christ's body and blood, not the true substantial body. He did not deny, but rather affirmed, that the true Christ is reserved by the believer in the sacrament, but a spiritual Christ who is spiritually received through the believer's faith, not through his mouth. And he did not hesitate to show, with unsparing pen, the inconsistencies and absurdities and intellectual impossibilities contained in Luther's doctrine the moment its grounds are examined. It comforts one not a little to find that Zwingli's intellect was also feeble in this particular, and that he was unable to follow the mental processes that Luther fondly persuaded himself were reasoning.

Though Zwingli substantially agreed with Carlstadt concerning the eucharist, he probably derived his view from another source and certainly advocated it on different grounds. But that he agreed with Carlstadt at all was enough to make Luther his enemy. In his first writings on the subject, as even the strong partisans of the Wittenberg leader are constrained to admit, Zwingli treated his opponent with great respect. We cannot say the same of Luther. In his tract, "That the Words of Christ: 'This is my Body' stand fast," 1 he accuses Zwingli of having derived his doctrine from the devil. "How true it is that the devil is a tausendkiinstler, a myriad-minded trickster. He proves this powerfully in the external rule of this world by bodily lusts, tricks, sins, murder, ruin, etc., but especially, and above all measure, in spiritual and external things that affect God's honor and our conscience. How he can turn and twist and throw all sorts of obstacles in the way, to prevent men from being saved and abiding in the Christian truth." The rest of the tract keeps the promise made by this beginning; it is ill-tempered and abusive, and displays on every page an intimate acquaintance with the devil and his works. Indeed, if one may trust the evidence of his polemic writings, Luther knew a good deal more about the devil than he did about God; and he certainly manifests more of a Satanic than of a Christian spirit. Much space is devoted in this tract to an idea that thenceforth became characteristic of Lutheran doctrine: the ubiquity of Christ's body. Luther was as little successful in proving the omnipresence of Christ's glorified body as Zwingli on his part was in proving a spatial inclusion of the same body in heaven—both resting their arguments on metaphysical notions regarding a glorified spiritual body of which we know absolutely nothing, and about which therefore all reasoning is a mere beating of the air.
The writing in question is Luther's polemical That These Words Of Christ, “This Is My Body,” etc., Still Stand Firm Against The Fanatics (1527) [LW 37]. This was Luther's first main work against the Swiss. When Luther wrote a "polemical writing" he did so, not on trivial points being debated by his friends or fellow theologians. He typically wrote against those he thought were motivated by Satan, in an effort to expose Satan. When Vedder states, "he certainly manifests more of a Satanic than of a Christian spirit"- Vedder ignores the fact that Luther thought he was writing against Satan himself in this tract. The editors of LW point out, "Luther’s treatise opens with the assertion that the Lord’s Supper controversy has been caused by the devil, who has taken possession of the fanatics (pp. 13–23)" (LW 37:5). Vedder criticizes the writing as "ill-tempered and abusive." Well, that's how Luther argued against the Devil, in an abusive manner. This abusiveness permeates all of Luther's polemical writings. Big deal? Not really.

Tedium #4: Robert Herndon Fife, “The Revolt and Martin Luther

The Romanist posts the following:

“In Martin's boyhood the primitive demonology of the Germans broke into hysterical expression in the pulpit and in literature. As soon as he was able to comprehend, he heard from parish priest and begging friar stories like those he tells afterward to his congregations and table companions. These religious sanctions extended to the picturesque figure of the medieval devil. This half-terrifying, half-humorous figure may well have caught his eye as it passed in the carnival procession of the city guilds or played hide-and-seek with other dramatis personae of a Shrovetide mask on the market place of Mansfeld or Eisleben. The imagination of the boy seized pictures of this sort and gave them reality. From these sources as from the folklore passed on by family and neighbors the character of the devil was built up for Martin: now full of malignant hatred, now touched with grim humor, always a resourceful and relentless enemy. Robert Herndon Fife, “The Revolt and Martin Luther”, pg 12

The primitive demonology of Luther’s Germany was unfortunately reflected in the preaching by the relatively uneducated priesthood of his day. Fife points to Luther’s demonology as having two sources, the preaching of the uneducated priesthood, and the folklore passed along from family and neighbors (some of which were witches according to Luther). Martin’s childhood exposure to this kind of environment was not unique, however, it was his “imagination” and also his “sensitivity” that was, and that were abnormal. It was these two additional factors that caused him to expand on these images of the devil and “give them a reality”, even for the time.

I put this quote at the end of this section so as to make it easier for people to snip out everything else, address this last quote, point to the Church ONLY for Luther’s demonology which was very uncommon even for the time. That way they can pretend to have address my post and avoid the main thrust. You know, dust off their hands and proclaim "I guess I told that Tim MD a thing or two". What I would rather see is someone actually address Luther's "demonology" rather than just PRETEND to be responding to this post.
Fife actually says,

The cultural atmosphere that surrounded the growing child was not different from that in other small cities of north-central Germany in the later Middle Ages. Crude superstition and naive religious beliefs were intertwined to make up the texture of the mind. Through his parents he absorbed relics of pagan mythology that the German peasantry had brought down from primitive days without essential modification by Christian patterns. The awakening imagination of the child sucked in with eagerness these animistic beliefs and wove them into fixations that reappear throughout later life in the sermons and in the Table Talk. He learned that witches lurk on every side and cast their spell on man, beast, and food. In early sermons he shows a certain grim pleasure in passing in review the manifestations of witches and evil spirits and he throws a vivid light on the atmosphere of his home when, many years later, in looking back on the way mothers were obliged to care for children under the attacks of these creatures, he adds, "that kind of witchery was especially general when I was a boy." so His poor mother, as he told his table companions, "was so tormented by one of her neighbors who was a witch that she was obliged to treat her with the highest respect and conciliate her, for she caused such agony to her children that they would scream like unto death." When one of his brothers died, witchcraft was held to be responsible; and many victims of these malignant women were pointed out to the terrified boy, When the crops failed, he learned that it was because evil spirits had poisoned the air; and as a child he doubtless took part in the Corpus Christi processions, when the clergy led the way to the fields and read the gospel to purify the air of such harmful beings. It was the latter, as he was told by his parents and neighbors, that caused the destructive storms, blasted the fruit, and brought the cattle plague. "We may not doubt," he declares in a well-accredited remark in the Table Talk, "that pestilences, fevers, and other grave diseases are the work of demons."

Following Biblical authority he thought that insane persons were possessed of a devil, who took this way of tormenting them, and that the doctors attributed things of that kind to natural causes only because of their ignorance of the ways of demons. Hidden in the house were little sprites who, like the fox-spirit in China, bring good luck; and his mother must often have whispered to him to avoid giving offense to these "little wights' for people feared to vex them "more than God and the whole world." Satan, Martin learned, dwells in the woods and groves and is especially dangerous in the water. On the Pubelsberg, a mountain near Mansfeld, there was a lake which was thought to be a dwelling place of captive demons in his boyhood.

"If a stone is thrown in, a great storm arises throughout the whole region." The cases of drowning which occurred yearly at Wittenberg among bathers in the Elbe, a stream of shifting sandbanks and holes, Martin ascribed in a sermon of middle life to Satan, "who formerly worked through nixies"; and he warned his hearers to wash at home rather than go to the river alone. As he grew older, the simple animism that the boy had learned from his village-bred parents and neighbors was modified by theological influences.
The literalism with which he came to interpret the Scriptures made him reject forms of magic commonly practiced in his day, such as communion with the spirits of the dead, foretelling the future by crystal-gazing, or finding treasure with a divining rod. These and other hocus-pocus he found inconsistent with God's commands. He even mocked at astrology, which was accepted without hesitation by contemporary humanists of distinction: God has locked the future from us, Martin is convinced, and will reveal it at His own time. Nevertheless he joined his contemporaries in believing that comets and other exceptional celestial phenomena boded disaster, though not to the righteous man. Likewise, the old Germanic superstition of the incubus and succubus, who beget children under the guise o dreams, and the demonic changeling that is substituted for the infant in the cradle appear repeatedly in Luther's Table Talk in richly decorated form. From his father Martin learned also of resentful earth-spirits who appear to the workmen in the lonely corridors of the mine. The tricks which the devil plays on the miner stirred the imagination of the boy and like other mythology of Mansfeld days reappeared in colorful pictures in old age. In Luther's years of restless self-examination many demons focus in the scriptural Satan, but this enemy, who figures repeatedly in Martin's physical and emotional crises, has his source above all in the animistic fixations of childhood that crowd each other in picturesque succession in a sermon on the Ten Commandments in 1518, one of the earliest publications of young Luther, and persist in the discourses of middle life and later.
In Martin's boyhood the primitive demonology of the Germans broke into hysterical expression in the pulpit and in literature. As soon as he was able to comprehend, he heard from parish priest and begging friar stories like those he tells afterward to his congregations and table companions. These religious sanctions extended to the picturesque figure of the medieval devil. This half-terrifying, half-humorous figure may well have caught his eye as it passed in the carnival procession of the city guilds or played hide-and-seek with other dramatis personae of a Shrovetide mask on the market place of Mansfeld or Eisleben. The imagination of the boy seized pictures of this sort and gave them reality. From these sources as from the folklore passed on by family and neighbors the character of the devil was built up for Martin: now full of malignant hatred, now touched with grim humor, always a resourceful and relentless enemy.

This Romanist says "Martin’s childhood exposure to this kind of environment was not unique, however, it was his 'imagination' and also his 'sensitivity'” that was, and that were abnormal."  Where exactly does Fife say Luther's “imagination” and also his “sensitivity” were abnormal? The Romanist put these two words in quotes. Perhaps he's citing a different section of Fife's text?

Further,  Based on the extended quote above from Fife, on what grounds can he assert, "Luther’s demonology which was very uncommon even for the time"?

Conclusion
I don't typically post such long entries, and I realize that most of those who read this blog probably haven't even made it this far down. True indeed, Satan was real in Luther's life. But then again, Satan was very much real to Jesus and the Apostles. Perhaps we need to likewise consider his activites in 2011.

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

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Looking for a Bible Reference....

I've been trying to locate Bible references for this recent comment from the Pope. I've been up all night looking- you know how I am with researching! Can someone help?

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, JULY 24, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Pope Benedict XVI-

So, let us ask for the help of the Virgin Mary, Seat of Wisdom. Her "heart" is perfectly "docile" to the Lord's will. Although she is a humble and simple person, Mary is a queen in the eyes of God, and as such we venerate her. May the Holy Virgin help us also to form, with God's grace, a conscience always open to the truth and sensitive to justice, to serve the Kingdom of God.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Luther: Whoever teaches differently from what I have taught herein, or condemns me for it, he condemns God, and must be a child of Hell

Checking in on the CARM Boards
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."

Real Documentation
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.

Context
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.

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)
In the German version Luther also responds to the "contradiction" charge as follows:

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].

Conclusion
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.

Apologetics for The Masses

This originally appeared on the aomin blog, 02/26/2008

I am subscribed to a number of Roman Catholic e-newsletters. One particular newsletter is Apologetics for The Masses by John Martignoni. The latest issue included some interesting comments on how to dialog with Protestants. John claims to have developed a line of questioning that is supposed to befuddle Protestants. When encountering "someone who has a problem with Catholic teaching and they seem to think their opinion is what the Scripture actually says," John suggests asking in response "are you an authentic interpreter of the Bible?" He explains:

"If someone says they are an 'authentic interpreter' of the Bible, then that leads to the question of infallibility. If they are an authentic interpreter of the Bible, then they must be infallible. Yet, most Protestants... will never claim to be infallible. So, that puts them in a predicament. Plus, if they claim to be an authentic interpreter of the Bible, then the logical question is: Who appointed you to be an authentic interpreter of the Bible? If they say the Bible did, then you ask them for chapter and verse as to where their name appears so that you might believe them. If they say anyone else, then you ask by what authority that person or persons appointed them authentic interpreters of the Bible. If they don't claim to be an 'authentic interpreter' of the Bible, then that means their interpretation of the Bible must necessarily be fallible- in other words, they have to admit their interpretation could be wrong. And, if they could be wrong, then why should you, or anyone else, risk the salvation of your soul on what this person is saying?"

Here we have an excellent example of obfuscation by Catholic rhetoric. This is a version of the typical, "You need an infallible authority to understand the Bible" argument. One must apply the claim being put forth to see if it works in practice. Catholic apologists use these tired arguments as if... they actually work. They do not. Rather than actually opening the Bible, looking at a passage and its context, Mr. Martignoni suggests questioning if any of us are infallible interpreters. For Martignoni, the Bible must be so cryptic, confusing, and difficult, that none of us could ever understand any of it without being infallible! Just think of how difficult it is to understand such verses like Acts 3:1, "One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer- at three in the afternoon." Imagine, for Martignoni, without an infallible understanding of this text, none of us could ever comprehend even this simple verse.

Martignoni's argument actually insults the author of the Bible. Throughout the Scriptures, it is stated and implied that the Bible can be understood. Luke tells us the Bereans "were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true" (Acts 17:11). How would Martignoni approach these people? Where was the Roman Catholic infallible interpreter guiding the Bereans to read their Bibles? To be consistent, Martignoni would have to conclude the Bereans were in quite a predicament! He would have to similarly ask, "Who appointed them to be an authentic interpreters of the Bible?"

I would argue, even a non-believer could exegete a verse of Scripture and comprehend a passage in a context. Of course, that person would never savingly believe in the power of the text without the work of God's Spirit illuminating and giving understanding. The words of the Scripture would be nothing more than foolishness (1 Cor. 1:18). When the Lord chastised the Sadducees in Matthew 22, he stated they were in error because they did not know the Scriptures. He further states, "have you not read what God said to you?" (Mt. 22:31). The Lord Jesus clearly held these men responsible for knowing and understanding the Scriptures. Were the Sadducees supposed to respond, "How could we? We did not have an authentic interpreter of the Bible!"

Martignoni's apologetic reminded me of a section from A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture (London: Thomas Nelson, 1953) pp. 11-12. In speaking of the Reformation, the commentary states, "A dumb and difficult book was substituted for the living voice of the Church, in order that each one should be able to make for himself the religion which suited his feelings." It is pointed out how positive it has been for the Roman Church to keep the Bible out of the hands of individuals: "We must also keep in mind that whenever or wherever reading endangers the purity of Christian thought and living the unum necessarium it has to be wisely restricted."

The irony of course, is that Roman Catholics are forced to excessive amounts of private interpretation because their infallible interpreter rarely does what it says it can do. It rarely, if ever, infallibly interprets Scripture. Sure, Rome makes dogmatic pronouncements. Up until something is dogmatically defined, Roman Catholics are free to interpret Biblical passages. Also, what Roman apologists rarely tell you is that the Biblical texts used to support a dogma haven't been infallibly defined. That is, the dogma is infallible, but the proof texts supporting the dogma have not been infallibly interpreted. In essence, Martignoni's Church can't deliver the goods promised.

Martignoni then suggests methods of doing apologetics, and it was simply too ironic not to mention:

"What I would suggest, if you wish to cut down on your response time, is to steal stuff from other folks. Steal things from my newsletters. Go to Catholic.com (Catholic Answers website) and use their search engine to look for articles on whatever topic you're discussing. Don't hesitate to lift verbiage from an article here and an article there. If you want to cite your source fine, but if you want to leave that out- I don't see any problem, as long as you're doing it in private correspondence."
Irony of ironies: Martignoni doesn't direct his readers to infallible Roman documents, he directs them to Catholic apologists and websites! He directs his readers to fallible interpreters of Roman Catholicism! He then states,

"I don't know of any Catholic apologist who would mind if you quote them without citation- not for the purpose of self-aggrandizement or for profit- but for the purpose of saving a soul. After all, I don't know of any Catholic apologists who are coming up with original stuff. These arguments have been out there for hundreds of years. I always tell people that if there is anything original in any of my stuff, it's quite by accident."

Well, he does have point. The new e-pologists have not reinvented the Catholic wheel. What should be obvious, is that Catholic apologists are not infallible, and they are interpreters of Roman Catholicism, and they are not always unified in their argumentation. The very avenue of certainty Martignoni directs his readers down is a dead end. Enough of these arguments that the Bible can't be understood without Rome. Rome hasn't really infallibly interpreted much of the Bible, and based on what it comes up with by dogmatic pronouncements, I'm going to stick with the work of exegesis and the Holy Spirit to confirm the message of Scripture.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

"I Have Never Plagiarized a Thing"

Here's one of those interesting cyber-moments. A CARM Romanist who basically thinks I'm a dishonest idiot wrote this post. He states:

Here’s the FACT though…..In the almost three years I have been posting here, I HAVE NEVER PLAGIARIZED A THING. You got that? I post quotes from primarily Protestant Scholars to back up my points and EVERY TIME, I list them along with the page number. You have falsely accused me or at least alluded to me as a possible plagiarizer.
-snip-

Pick out a phrase that you think I didn’t write and simply plug it into a search engine. If you can find anything that I have ever plagiarized I will not post on this thread for three months. If you aren’t willing to take me up on the offer then I demand an apology.


Well, with this response post, I've given this guy three months off from CARM. After three years of posting, I think he's earned a vacation.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Christopher and the Church "Fathers"

Christopher Lake said:
I meant (that was) my last comment at Triablogue, nor merely my last comment under that thread.

And we can all see what good fruit that bore.


Scripture itself does not say that all we need to believe and do, as Christians, is explicitly stated in Scripture.

How can he then also affirm the words of Psalm 119?

In 2 Timothy 3:15-17, we see the richness of what the Scriptures are, and what they do:
-sacred
-can give one wisdom…
-…so as to be saved (through faith)
-breathed out by God (cf: Matthew 22:31)
-profitable for teaching and correction
-can train one in righteousness
-to render the man of God adequate for every good work.


Jesus thought enough of it to say "The words I have spoken are spirit and are life" (John 6:63).

John 20:30Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.
Two things about this passage:
1) John's Gospel alone apparently was, to his mind, sufficient to have life in Jesus' name. What else do I need, again?
2) The "other signs Jesus also performed", which by his own admission receive no mention, are unnecessary to have life in Jesus' name.

I've done a whole debate on this.
So has TurretinFan. Oh, wait, he's done more than that.
James White might have done a few as well.


It does not even say that everything which is "essential" is *clear* in Scripture. 

"All things are clear and open that are in the divine Scriptures; the necessary things are all plain." (John Chrysostom, Homilies on Second Thessalonians, 3, v. 5)
More on why Christopher won't accept this teaching from Chrysostom in a moment.


As a Calvinist Protestant, I had to, and did, assert that my own "private judgement" on the meaning of Scripture was better than that of Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Augustine, Athanasius, and the other early Church Fathers

And you continue in that to this very day.
Here's the proof - they've said things that are contrary to the modern dogma of Rome, and you don't believe those things.
Now, you or some other Roman Catholic/Eastern Orthodox might remind us that a given Church Father taught elsewhere something that does in fact agree with the modern RCC/EOC.  So now we have two different teachings from the CF on a given topic. What do we do?

Let's just say for the sake of argument that you're right - the CF taught in more than one other place the opposite doctrine to what the Sola Scripturist already quoted.  
For example, that Athanasius taught Sola Scriptura.  Or that John Chrysostom, Basil of Caesarea, Jerome, Ambrosiaster, Hilary of Poitiers, and (Pope) Clement of Rome taught Sola Fide. Then an RC or EO friend counter-cites one or all of these men with clearly non-Sola-Scriptura/Fide verbiage.

That leaves us with CFs who have contradicted themselves. 

Now, to fulfill what Christopher wants us to do, namely to be consistent with these CFs (and remember, my claim is that modern RCC/EOC is inconsistent w/ them), we would either have to:
A: Teach just as inconsistently as these two guys do, sometimes saying one thing, sometimes the other, or
B: Call these teachings not actually part of Divine/Apostolic Tradition.

The problem with resolution A is that the cognitive dissonance would be pretty much unbearable. The upshot is that I don't know if I'd expect a lot of people to turn away from RCC/EOC in real life.

The thing about resolution B is that they have indeed already done just that. Somehow these godly, forcible, powerful writers, from whom RCC/EOC (and thus, by profession, Christopher) ostensibly derives much of their tradition and doctrine, also produced impious, ungodly, and flat wrong teachings.

Now, how would Christopher know judgment about wrong teachings? Apparently from judging these non-"Apostolic Traditions" by... yup, you guessed it! What The Church® Says.
In the end, it's a vicious circle of question-begging. I claim the modern RCC/EOC is not totally faithful with CFs and then cite them when challenged. Then they say, "Hey, those aren't part of ApostolicTradition!" I say, "Thanks for proving my point."

I also pause to note how pernicious this is. The Lord Jesus set an authoritative example for how one is to judge tradition - by Scripture. The RC/EO refuses to do that and instead appeals to his own doctrinal construct which is already in place to then look back on tradition and Scripture and pick and choose what he will and won't believe. Thus the RC/EO holds to the Scriptural teaching of the Deity of Christ and rejects the Scriptural teaching of salvation by grace alone thru faith alone. He accepts the Trinity and rejects Sola Scriptura. He accepts the fact that we should pray to God as commanded in the Scripture and rejects the fact that prayer to dead people and angels is strictly prohibited in the Scripture.

It becomes easy to see how this not only dishonors God in ideal (that is, that we should not judge men's teachings by God's) but also later in practice (bowing down to images, praying to dead people, trying to work one's way to salvation).

A few more points on this:

As Steve already reminded you, but you either didn't read, were too disingenuous to care, or didn't understand how this wrecks your point, you had to engage in private interpretation to choose Rome over other "infallible interpreters", other rival magisteria, such as the WatchTower, the LDS, the Eastern Orthodox, the Copts.
It's either sheer obstinacy or rank ignorance that brings Roman Catholics back to this ridiculous "argument" time and again. It's as predictable as a priestly sex scandal.

Christopher Lake said further:
anytime that I dipped into the above Church Fathers and found anything faintly "Catholic," I asserted that my understanding of Scripture was simply better than theirs. 

As mentioned above, however, you do that, and I commend you for it. The Apostle Paul's command to "test everything, hold fast to that which is good" is meant for everyone and anyone.  We test the 1st generation of the church just like we test this current generation.
Your problem is that you do the same thing but reproach us for preferring what the Scripture teaches versus the limited selection of "Church Father" teachings that Rome enjoins upon us. This brings up another fundamental incoherency of the "Church Father" argument.

  • You don't know that what these guys said is what the church of their time believed. 
  • You don't know how what they wrote was received by other churches. Any mere claims to "we believe thus" are not necessarily true. Not without proof, and  more proof than their say-so.
  • You don't know whether they were held in the highest respect by their contemporaries.  Maybe you're reading the Charles Stanley of their time - not really all that bad, but quite shallow compared to others, most of the time.
  • You don't know whether you have all their writings, or even what % their today-extant writings form of the total things they wrote over their lifetime. Thus you don't know if they ever took it all, or part of it, back.
  • You don't know whether what they said in public or in private teachings actually comports with the extant writings you have.
  • You don't take everything that is extant from a given "Church Father" and believe it. You believe only the parts that the modern Roman Catholic (though this applies to Eastern Orthodoxy too) Church has dogmatised and accepted for modern times. Why call them "Church Fathers" at all? Seems to me a traditional nomenclature that fails to take the above into consideration, fails to think through the divide between what any of them believed and what modern Rome believes, and has served as a useful tool for you, so you decided to keep it. And it is useful - citing "Fathers" sounds so imperial, so high-fallootin', so mysteriously powerful, that often it causes a brain block within the mind of the Sola Scripturist.  I myself have experienced this many times. 
Is this overzealous, unreasonably radical skepticism? Depends on whom you're asking, I suppose.
What this illustrates for certain is that our certain guide, our certain lamp for our feet, is the Scripture. The Scripture is simply not subject to these kinds of questions (at least not within the RC/EO/Sola Scripturist circle of debate), for we all accept its authority and sourcing - it is the very Word of God.
Such is demonstrably not the case for "Church Fathers", however. We read them like we read DA Carson today - to understand who they are, what they taught, and their theological contexts. They are not authorities. They (and I, or my pastor, or Billy Graham, or John MacArthur) have power only insofar as they repeat the Word of God. Where they do so, let us praise God for the insight they have shared. Where they have not, let us learn not to repeat their mistakes.

The only sense in which they are "fathers" is that they are older and came before us. They made many mistakes, however, and we do not necessarily know even the majority of what any one of them believed and/or taught.

Nobody invests them with great authority - not Sola Scripturists, not RCC, and not EOC.
Sola Scripturists - obviously.
RCC and EOC, for reasons mentioned above - if these men really were their authorities, they would teach like them: inconsistently. And they certainly wouldn't anathematise Sola Fide, for example.
No, for the RC and EO, the modern church is the only authority in practice. "By their fruits you shall know them."

But for us who love and follow Jesus and believe His words in Mark 7:1-13 wherein He told us to test traditions by Scripture, our Church Fathers are named: Jesus, Mark, Luke, Paul, Peter and John and the rest of the 11, James, Jude, and the guy who wrote Hebrews. Do you want to know what the earliest church believed? Read the New Testament.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bernard of Clairvaux and Luther on the Gospel

Who believed in "Luther's version of the Gospel" before Luther? That's the question repeatedly asked by Roman Catholics. According to Romanism, the correct answer is supposed to be "nobody." Here's a switch though, a Roman Catholic scholar is now positively answering this question. Perhaps he's motivated by ecumenical concerns, or perhaps he's actually on to something.

A few months back I posted a two-part review of The Real Luther by Franz Posset (Part one, Part two). Posset is a Roman Catholic Luther scholar. It is Posset's conclusion that "the historical Luther's doctrine of justification is identical with the one of Saint Bernard" (p.127). His argumentation spans many pages. Here's a brief overview. If you're interested, I suggest buying the book. This may be one of the most interesting Luther books I've read in years.

Posset argues that in the Augustinian friary Luther became acquainted the writings of  Bernard of Clairvaux, particularly how Bernard interpreted Paul (p. 93).  Posset begins with Melanchthon's memoirs of Luther:

And [Luther] told that he was often encouraged by the conversations of a certain old man in the Augustinian College at Erphord, to whom when he set forth his worries. He heard the old man discuss much about faith, and he said that he was lead to the Creed, in which it is said, "I believe in the forgiveness of sinners." That old man had interpreted this Article so that it should be believed not only in general, i.e. forgiven by some persons or others, as they believe Demons are forgiven by David or Peter, but that is was a commandment of God that we believe that the sins of individual men are forgiven by us. And he said that this interpretation was confirmed by a saying of Bernard, and then he pointed to a place in his sermon on the Annunciation, where there are these words, But in addition that you might believe also this, that sins are given TO YOU individually, this is the testimony, which the Holy Spirit bestows in your heart, saying, Your sins are forgiven by you. For the Apostle thinks thus, that man is gratuitously justified through faith. [source]

The capitalization of "TO YOU" of the Bernard citation was actually placed there by Melanchthon. Posset notes,

Melanchthon reported that Luther told him that this quotation was Pauline teaching as it is incorporated within Saint Bernard's sermon: "For thus the apostle concludes that 'a person is justified gratis by faith." This is a contraction of Rom. 3:24 and 28. Thus it was the young Luther at Erfurt who was told that this is Saint Bernard's teaching. And, as such this teaching would become Luther's center piece of his "reception of Paul" as it is the central locus of the Apostle's entire Letter to the Romans and as Luther would say later it is the central theological point of all of Scripture. (p. 98)

Posset identifies the Bernard writings in question as Bernard's Sermons on the Annunciation, with an emphasis on  Sermo in annunitiatione domine "Saint Bernard's First Sermon on the Annunciation" (Ann 1).  He states, "Ann 1 is the one text from Bernard's biblical theology that led Luther to what we customarily call his Reformational insight of salvation by grace alone through faith alone" (p. 104). Luther went on to either quote or hint at Bernard more than 500 times (p.94). Posset states:

It remains amazing that contemporary Luther biographies are still being written without ever mentioning the name and significance of Bernard of Clairvaux, or with just a hint at him in passing as if it were a chose negligeable. From now on, Luther biographies, if they want to present the authentic, historical Luther, can be convincing only if the Bernard factor is properly figured in, because the center piece of the historical Luther's doctrine of justification is identical with the one of Saint Bernard. (p. 127).

Posset also notes Melanchthon included a conflated  Bernard quote in his Apology of the Augsburg Confession:

Therefore let pious consciences know that God commands them to believe that they are forgiven freely on account of Christ and not on account of our works. Let them sustain themselves with this command of God against despair and against the terrors of sin and death. Let them know that this position has been extant among the saints in the church since the beginning of the world. For Peter clearly cites the consensus of the prophets, and the writings of the apostles bear witness that they hold the same position. Nor do we lack testimonies from the Fathers. For Bernard says the same thing in words that are not at all obscure: "For it is necessary first to believe that you cannot have forgiveness of sins except through God's indulgence; second, that you cannot claim any good work whatever unless He himself grants it to you; finally, that you cannot merit eternal life by any works of yours, unless it too is given to you gratis [Ann 1.1]; but add to this that you also believe that through him [Christ] your sins are forgiven you [tibi]. This is the testimony that the Holy Spirit gives in your heart [Rom 8:16], saying, `your sins are forgiven you' [Mt 9:5]. For in this way the Apostle concludes that `a person is gratis justified through faith' [Rom 3:24, 281" [Ann 1.3]. Bernard's words wonderfully shed light on our position, because he not only requires that we believe in a general way that sins are remitted through mercy, but he urges that we add personal faith by which we believe that our own sins have been forgiven. Moreover, he teaches us how we may be certain about the forgiveness of sins, namely, when by faith our hearts are uplifted and find rest through the Holy Spirit. What more do our opponents need? Do they still dare to deny that we receive the forgiveness of sins by faith or that faith is a part of repentance? (p. 136-137)

Posset includes a relevant section of Ann 1 in his book, Two-Fold Knowledge: Readings on the Knowledge of Self and the Knowledge of God-Selected & Translated From The Works Of Saint Bernard Of Clairvaux (pp. 118-120):

Death of a Bookstore & Public Domain Books for Kindle

I've heard recently Borders Bookstore will be shutting down completely. If I recall correctly, the report I read said that all their stores will be shutting down in a few months. We've had a few of their stores close down already in my area.

In related book news, this link purports to put free public domain Google books on your Kindle. I haven't tried it yet, someone let me know if it works.

The Scriptural Roots of Roman Catholic Teaching?

This article originally appeared on the aomin blog 7/09/07.

I recently purchased The Scriptural Roots of Catholic Teaching by Chantal Epie (New Hampshire: Sophia Institute Press, 2002), subtitled, How the Bible Proves the Truth of the Catholic Faith. Sophia Institute Press says this book will give "solid scriptural proof" for a number of distinctly Catholic beliefs, the first being, "God's revelation comes through the Bible, Tradition, and the Church's teaching authority." This is the subject matter of chapter one.

Epie begins by presenting evidence the Gospel was first preached orally. The defenders of Rome begin here, because only by establishing a vague category of unwritten doctrine are they able to bind men's consciences to non-biblical material. Epie's solid scriptural proof included John 21:25 and 2 Thes. 2:15. She argues:

"So it appears clearly that there was a considerable part of the Lord's teachings, later taught in their turn by the Apostles, that were not written down and cannot therefore be found in the Bible. These teachings, however, were faithfully transmitted to the Christian communities" (p.7).

"If we want to be faithful to God's word, we have to accept both the written revelation and this other part of revelation that was handed down to us by word of mouth and preserved for all generations in the Tradition of the Church" (p.7).

Are John 21:25 and 2 Thes. 2:15 solid scriptural proof for authoritative non-biblical oral tradition? No. With the former, Epie does not provide evidence of any other things Jesus did later handed down via infallible Tradition. Here would be a good time to present extra-Biblical information on any miracle Jesus performed or teaching imparted. Epie must be pressed on her interpretation. If she's positing the other things Jesus did are contained in Tradition, she needs to define the extent of this extra-Biblical content. John asserts, "...[I]f they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written." Exactly how much of this content and depth of detail of this content does the Roman Catholic Church have? Epie's prooftext demands an extraordinary amount of information. If Scripture + Tradition = a complete rule of faith, one must press Catholic use of this verse to provide that complete rule of faith. It appears that the Catholic position must borrow capital from the Protestant position. Protestants hold a sufficient authority does not need to be exhaustive in every detail. By implication, the Catholic must also adhere to this, unless they can provide the complete content mentioned in John 21:25.

John says earlier, "Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name" (John 20:30-31). Note, that of which John wrote was for a purpose: that one may believe Jesus is the Christ and Son of God. He doesn't say the rest was left as infallible Tradition so that one may believe Jesus is the Christ and Son of God.

The second major prooftext is 2 Thessalonians 2:15 (which ironically, Epie refers to as 2:14). The Catholic assumption is that the unwritten traditions referred to are different than those which are written. Such cannot be proven from this verse. The Catholic must be pressed to prove that both categories contain different information. 2:14 speaks of the Gospel, not doctrines like papal infallibility or indulgences. If these Traditions indeed exist, the act of producing them should be an easy task. Roman Catholics like Epie (whose view strongly implies partim-partim), must be pressed to produce what they claim to have. Further, Note what Paul says in 2:5, after writing on the man of lawlessness, "Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things?" The content being told matched that being written.

Epie states:


"As the Bible is the word of God, we can safely conclude that God has warned us that His revelation is to be found not only in Holy Scripture, but also in the Tradition of the Church, transmitted from generation to generation by word of mouth, then also in the writings of early Christians such as St. Polycarp, disciple of St. John, St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Augustine, etc. Obviously, there can be no contradictions between Holy Scripture and Tradition, as both take their origin from the revelation of the one true God" (p.8).

To quote an old commercial, where's the beef? She states tradition passed orally generation to generation, and then safely arrived in the writings of the early Christians. She needs to provide at least one example. She can't warn the people of God to hold traditions she cannot define. Epie should note well the warning issued by Augustine:

"But when He Himself was silent about such things, which of us could say, It is this or that? Or if he venture to say it, how will he prove it? For who could manifest such vanity or recklessness as when saying what he pleased to whom he pleased, even though true, to affirm without any divine authority that it was the very thing which the Lord on that occasion refused to utter? Which of us could do such a thing without incurring the severest charge of rashness, a thing which gets no countenance from prophetic or apostolic authority? For surely if we had read any such thing in the books confirmed by canonical authority, which were written after our Lord's ascension, it would not have been enough to have read such a statement, had we not also read in the same place that this was actually one of those things which the Lord was then unwilling to tell His disciples, because they were unable to bear them" [Tractate 96].