Opinion and Fact in Luther Studies
I don't stop over at CARM as much as I used to, but I was struck by the detailed text JoeT posted about Martin Luther. Being an old CARM veteran, I'm very familiar with those who are able to post long replies with multiple issues all weaved together to make any sort of response a multi-hour endeavor. However, if you work carefully through such posts, you'll find such posts have thrown in a lot of personal opinion with an underlying bias. Let's take a look:Unsubstantiated opinion.Unsubstantiated opinion.Yes, but why? As the editors of Luther's Work explain in their introduction to De votis monasticis Martini Lutheri iudicium:Ideas do indeed have consequences. Recall the words of Jesus Christ: "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." On the other hand, blaming the entire tumult of the post-Reformation era on Luther shows a lack of understanding of the complexity of that time period. In regard to relativism being that which Luther created, this is simply historically inaccurate. Google search these name Herodotus, or do a study of ancient Greek philosophy. For that matter, look up Thales in regard to naturalism as well as studying pre-Socratic philosophy.I'd be curious to see any citations from Luther quoting Homiliae II or him expounding on this text you cite. Luther was indeed familiar with Chrysostom, but I'm not aware of any direct statement from him in regard to the text you cite. I'd certainly be interested in any documentation you can provide. It may indeed exist, so I'd very much like to see it."Catholics then and now" are not infallible interpreters of sacred scripture.Luther did not believe "once saved always saved." That is, Luther did believe that salvation could be lost.How poetic. Let's see how this plays out:This sort of stuff reminds me of Denifle's evaluation that "The Reformation was the cloaca maxima, the large drainage canal, through which the debris, which had long been piling up, was conducted away, which would otherwise have ruined and poisoned everything if it had remained in the church." Denifle's evaluation of Luther and the Reformation has long been abandoned by Roman Catholic scholars.
All the stuff JoeT speculates is based on unreliable Table Talk statements, statements Luther didn't even write himself, but were rather the recollections of his friends and associates. Often these statements have no apparent context, but exist as simple statements open to multiple interpretations. In other words, basing history on them is like basing history on fortune cookies.
There certainly was a tower at Luther's Augustinian monastery in Wittenberg where Luther experienced his evangelical breakthrough. The date for this experience is unknown, and there is no primary source that explicitly documents it with a reliable fixed date.It isn't even all that certain as to exactly how the tower / bathroom was situated. Some scholars contend there was no bathroom sort of feature in the tower at all.
As to the cloaca story, in the twentieth century, many approached Luther by applying psychoanalysis to his writings. Psychologist Eric Erikson took a German phrase uttered by Luther and interpreted it literally to mean Luther was in the bathroom when he had his evangelical breakthrough. Erikson concluded, from a Freudian perspective, Luther's spiritual issues were tied up with biological functions. The phrase Erikson interpreted literally in German was simply conventional speech. Luther really was saying that his breakthrough came during a time when he was depressed, or in a state of melancholy. This can all be documented in numerous books, but you can find brief overviews by both Dr. Scott Hendrix and James M. Kittelson in Christian History, Issue 34 (Vol. XI, No. 2).
So, my CARM friends, don't give away the store and simply accept someone's historical overview as true. Luther studies are vast and detailed. Ask for references, ask for proof. Rarely have I found any original historical insights on an open discussion board. I know I haven't had any. Posts like the one JoeT put forth are the result of other historical studies. Ask for documentation and proof. Separate facts and opinions.