Monday, April 30, 2012

Interesting Lectures on Evangelical Tiber Swimmers and the Canon

Justin Taylor posted an interesting link on Saturday, April 28. It is called "On Evangelical (s) Swimming the Tiber".

Listen here:  There are three lectures with some questions and answers in between sessions. They are all in one file at Chris Castaldo's blog.

Sessions include:
 1. Dr. Gregg Allison – The Roman Road, or the Road to Rome? Why Some Protestants Drift to Catholicism.

 2. Rev. Chris Castaldo - Crossing the Tiber: Why Catholics and Protestants Convert.

 3. Dr. Craig Blaising – Does Accepting the Canon of Scripture Implicitly Affirm Rome’s Authority?

 4. Dr. Robert Plummer – Moderator of question and answer sessions in between lectures.

Dr. Gregg Allison has a very good analysis of why some Protestants convert to the Roman Catholic Church.  Dr. Allison has an interesting book on historical theology.  It is on my book list to get soon.

Dr. Allison talks about Evangelical Protestants who convert to the Roman Catholic Church did so out of a shallow experience in an Evangelical Protestant church that caused a dis-satisfaction with their church and then they went on a "Quest for Transcendence" ( In other words, "Mystery" ?)

That quest for transcendence is expressed in four ways:
a.  Desire for Certainty - certainty over what is the right interpretation among all the different interpretations in the Protestant camp.
b.  Desire for Connectivity to the early church, saints, martyrs, medieval theologians, history
c.  Desire for greater Unity
d.  Desire for Ultimate Authority


Dr. Allison demonstrates that the Roman Catholic Church does not really satisfy those desires and that Quest; he responds with a robust biblical response. (For the time slot he has.)


This analysis was similar to a JETS article that Scott McKnight wrote several years ago.

Dr. Craig Blaising's lecture on the canon was excellent and offered some new insights that I had not known or thought about before.

Rev. Chris Castaldo, who has the lectures at his blog, gave the second lecture.  It was interesting, but there was a problem. Let's see who will listen to the whole thing and figure out the one problem I would have with Castaldo's approach. He regularly reaches out to Roman Catholics and eats lunch and dinner with priests and has discussions with them over theology. Castaldo is willing to discuss issues and have meals with Roman Catholics. I think that is a good thing. I think it is good to have meals together and "eat with sinners and tax-collectors" and discuss things with Roman Catholics; and Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and atheists. He had some interesting facts on John Henry Cardinal Newman and Peter Martyr Vermigli, a Roman Catholic priest who became a Protestant during the Reformation period.
Notice how Peter Martyr Virmigli is pointing to the Bible. 


Castaldo indicates that Vermigli and Thomas Cranmer were the great foundation layers of the Anglican Church; and "historians have proven definitively that Vermigli had a great deal of influence in the modifications of the Book of Common Prayer in 1552."


Five very interesting points that Dr. Craig Blaising made in the 3rd lecture:


1. The reason why the early church did not make an official list of the books that belonged in the canon in first 2-3 centuries was because it would have been easier for the Roman persecutors to identify the ones that they wanted to confiscate and burn.  (though there is some evidence of partial lists of books that follow the criterion/rule of faith; i.e., the Muratorian Canon (about 170 AD), Irenaeus' basic "canon" of referring to most of the NT books in 180 AD; and Origen around 250 AD seems to have the same list of books as Athanasius in 367 AD),

 2. Tradition - "the things handed down" and Traitor - "one who hands over" (the Scriptures to the Roman persecutors) - both come from the same root word.

 3. He says that the famous passage in Irenaeus 3:3:2, that says “every church must agree” (with the Roman Church) meaning is refuted by Louise Abramowski in  a Journal of Theological Studies article in 1977. Abramowski, L. Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. III. 3, 2: Ecclesia Romana and Omms Ecclesia; and ibid. 3 , 3 : Anacletus of Rome .  Journal of Theological Studies. Oxford University Press, 1977. I tried to find the article on line, but all I found was the title in a Pdf of the indexes.

 4.  His comments on Athanasius and his 39th Easter Letter and a section from Orations Against the Arians was indeed interesting!   Athanasius – Against the Arians (Orations Against the Arians) 1:9 – "we take Scripture and put it up as a light on a candlestick" – the Scripture is like light on a candlestick; and he proceeds to expound a great doctrinal passage on Christ, very similar to the "rule of faith" in Irenaeus and Tertullian; and Athanasius also includes "homo-ousios"( 'ομοουσιος) in this segment.

5.  Dr. Blaising did a good job of showing that the "rule (canon) of faith" in both Irenaeus and Tertullian were fed from Scripture and the main reason for discerning the books of the NT was because they contained the rule of faith or compatible with the rule of faith.

I think Dr. Blaising made one mistake though.  He said that Cyril of Alexandria was the main driving force behind the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD.  But Cyril died in 444 AD.  I think he got mixed up with the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD, because Cyril was the main force in that council and was very aggressive in condemning Nestorius.  Maybe he meant that his efforts and writings influenced others who later led the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Spirit of Vatican II

"Is the Holy Spirit really guiding the church today?" My answer is: Of course! Probably never before in the history of the church has there been greater de facto evidence of the grace-filled presence of the Holy Spirit. Go to almost any Catholic parish that is following the spirit of Vatican II and you will experience what I am talking about." [The Subversion of Vatican II]

Compare to:

The story of Cardinal Ottaviani having his microphone turned off by the liberal bishops during the Second Vatican Council has been told by many who attended the Council. Every time I hear or think about it, it makes my blood boil. Another account posted on Rorate Caeli today gives you an idea of what kind of mean spirited people were trying to, and eventually, for all intents and purposes, did take over the Council. In fact, the bishop who was involved in silencing the good Cardinal that day was one of the overseers who helped present the names of the bishops and theologians who would later draw up the new schemas. As you may or may not know, Ottoviani was one of the those who wanted to keep the earlier drafted documents, which opposed the "new theologians". Can you imagine, a whole group of assembled bishops, laughing and mocking their fellow bishop after shutting off his microphone? Is that the what many consider the "Spirit" of the Second Vatican Council to be? [Famous Vatican II Moments-Ottaviani's Microphone]

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

No Can Say it Quite Like Dr. Sippo

...From the Dr. of Roman Catholic apologetics: Ecclesial Deism: Former Protestants Admit the Problem of the Innovations of the 16th Century:
In Catholic Apologetics we many times end up dealing with the usual suspects. You know who they are. the radicals who question whether Catholics are even Christian and who KNOW they are going to heaven but are not really sure about anyone else. I have generally found these types of Protestant apologists to be rude, arrogant, condescending, and not at all Christ-like. They are the types who think that Salvation is a purely OBJECTIVE phenomenon with no subjective component either on God's part or our own. The 'god' they worship doesn't really care about human beings. He just uses them to prove how great He is. And the 'elect' in their view are chosen arbitrarily with no reference to either their love for God or man. I refer to these kind of Protestants as 'Death Eaters' or 'The Kampus Krusade for Kthulhu.'

Numbered among these ne'er-do-wells are James 'Pseudopodeo' White, Robert Reymond, Jack Chick, James Swann, Jimmy Swaggart and his spawn Donnie, Robert Zins, and the ever militant Ian Paisley just to name a few. This crowd will literally tell you that unless someone believed in "Luther's view of salvation of faith alone apart from good works" that person could not be saved. They are actually willing to consign 1500 years of pre-Deformation Christians and 500 years of post-Defomation non-Protestants to eternal punishment in a "christless eternity" because they either rejected OR NEVER KNEW Luther's private interpretations. The teaching of the church from time immemorial is eother denied, misrepresented, or ignored as unimportant. Pushed to the extreme, they will claim that the Church apostatized in the 1st Century after the death of the Apostles and that sound doctrine was not rediscovered until the 16th Century.

Iron Sharpens Iron mp3's Will Not Be Available Much Longer

If you've enjoyed the Iron sharpens Iron radio show, there's a very good chance the mp3 recordings will not be available for much longer. I suggest visiting the site, and downloading those shows you find interesting. There certainly were a number of great shows!

For the last few years I've worked behind the scenes to make the recordings available. Unfortunately, doing that requires $$, and like many of you, I've had to make cuts in my expenses.

I'm not exactly sure what the status of the show is now.  Hopefully, at some point, the show will return.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Review: Depression, Looking Up From the Stubborn Darkness

Review: Edward T. Welch, Depression, Looking Up From the Stubborn Darkness (Greensboro: New Growth Press, 2004)

Dr. Welch’s description of the “stubborn darkness” of depression presses at the pain contemporary Christendom often seeks to avoid admitting exists within the church. Christians are those who have been born again and in-filled with the Holy Spirit. Subsequently they are to be “more than conquerors” (Rom. 8:37) given “victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57) and are those who are to continually “rejoice in the Lord” (Phil. 3:2; 4:4). Feeling anything less, acting dourly, joylessly, or not using the correct affirmative Christianese catch phrases can often ostracize one from the pack of “victorious” believers. This stigma provokes many to question not only their own salvation but also the existence of the very God they claim to worship.

Contrary to the shallowness of the positive-thinking Christian subculture, Welch rightly identifies that depression plays an integral role in the Scriptures. “God doesn’t prescribe a happy life. Look at the Psalms” (p. 5). The Psalmist though is not the lone voice of depression (what Welch strikingly describes metaphorically as “hell”). The depression recorded there seems meager to that set down by the mature Christian preacher who penned the book of Ecclesiastes (p. 68). There the preacher dissects the ultimate seeming vanity of life. We’re in situations we can’t control with death looming not far off for each of us. None of it appears to make any sense, and God’s ways often don’t appear to be that of a beneficent providence. That’s hardly the message the church expects to hear from a seasoned ordained preacher. In fact, it’s depressing!

Welch doesn’t leave his readers stumbling around in despair. Rather, a depressed Christian (and someone involved with that person) actually has a unique opportunity to probe the very existential depths of the Christian faith. As Welch explains, all depression has a sense in which it is “always and profoundly spiritual” because it involves questioning the core area of our very being: “Who is God? Do we trust him? Why is he allowing this to happen to me? How can I trust him when he seems so remote and unresponsive?” (p.20). Welch insightfully points out such questions scrutinize our very identities as human beings. Depression is ultimately a “why” question (p.4) because by deconstructing it, one embarks on a journey back to God. “At its very roots, life is about God” (p. 34).

The book though isn’t simply a regurgitated tome of Kierkegaard-esque melancholic introspection. Welch is concerned with providing a cogent worldview that places a depressed person in reach of understanding, relief, and spiritual growth. He’s not so narrow-minded to discount the different types of depression categorized by secular psychology (p. 16). On the other hand, he’s not so quick to hand out pills for Bipolar disorder (p. 18). The temporary relief provided by medication is just that: a temporary relief (p. 21). Rather, the solution to depression is concerned with placing it within a Biblical worldview so to analyze it, experience it, and be sanctified through it.

Welch outlines basic stimuli for depression: culture (chapter 12), other people, our mental state, our physical nature, diabolic spiritual forces, and finally God Himself (pp. 27-28). In some cases the roots of the depressed state can be discovered. Other times, the only response may be “I don’t know” (p. 29). The first major section of the book tackles the pain and suffering in its relationship to depression. While some may be tempted to explore the former less controversial stimuli behind suffering, Welch begins with the most troublesome cause: God Himself.

Since God has infinite attributes and exists in perfection, one should not expect to always be thinking correctly about God and his ways (p. 35). For instance, Scripture does reveal that God is intimately connected to suffering, particular through His Son, Jesus Christ. If it is true that the life of Jesus shows a suffering theology of the cross, someone who claims to walk with that suffering man should not expect a carefree theology of glory. If the suffering savior was loved by God, Christians likewise should see the truth that God’s love and suffering are not incompatible. If they were, the life of Jesus would be in contradiction to God’s love.

Welch helpfully tackles the solution of the “trite answer” of pointing out the positives to those who are suffering from depression (Chapter 8). While trite answers focusing on the temporalities of life may at times sound good and helpful, if depression really is ultimately a spiritual issue, only the remembrance of God’s truth will serve as any sort of lasting solution. Quoting Scripture as a depressed person (or to a depressed person) may at times be similar to force-feeding the soul, but spiritual health depends on it (p. 66). Is there a purpose for suffering depression? If depression truly is a spiritual issue as Welch contends, each Christian serves a teleological divine purpose. That purpose may not be revealed in a glorious supernatural parting of the clouds, but it still needs to be spoon fed to each believer on a daily basis with such particular basics as: fearing and loving God, keeping the commandments, and serving the neighbor, all to the glory of God. It will be God which carries the depressed person through to final perseverance (Chapter 10). A purposeful faith will be the only nutrition that feeds a depressed soul.

The second major section of the book seeks to unravel the former listed causes of depression in order to “listen to it.” Welch sees our past troubled interactions with other people as more valuable because in God’s providence “what happened to us was not a series of random, unrelated events” (p. 93). Rather than offering solutions to human life under the curse of sin and attacks by diabolic forces, Welch simply identifies them as the enemy they are. He also explores common causes of depression: fear, anger, dashed hopes, failure, shame, guilt, legalism, and ultimately, the fear of death. Welch’s point is not to solve these issues as to why they lead some to depression, but rather to provoke people to uncover them as possible reasons for their depression. Here the point is to learn about ourselves and the experiences that have made us who we are and why we interpret our lives the way we do. By listening to depression, clues as to its cure may be revealed (p. 108).

But the clues typically don’t lead to pills and quick fixes. Rather, if one probes deep enough, once again one will come face to face with the problem of God (p. 109). Ultimately, such a probe uncovers how the human heart is misaligned (p. 112). It was intended to worship God, but rather shares its affections with a variety of idols. Ultimately, many depressed people struggle with pride, autonomy, indulgence, and selfishness. Here Welch leads many people to the ultimate cause of their depression: sin. If it is sin that corrupts life, one should expect to find it more often than not as the cause of depression.

Throughout the book, Welch has been careful not to shut the door on the advances of science in the treatment of depression. Section three therefore takes a practical look at the issues surrounding such a choice. Various other types of treatment are also discussed including such things as electroconvulsive therapy (p. 195). Related issues include weighing the side effects and long-term effects of medical treatment. A serious spiritual danger of medical treatments is alleviating symptoms through medication rather than the actual cause of the symptoms (p. 190). While medical treatments, in whatever form they take, may provide a certain amount of relief, one needs to be careful that hope is not placed in science in replacement of hope in God. From Welch’s reservations throughout the chapter, the underlying current appears to be that for the majority of sufferers, medical treatments of depression should be a last resort or only a temporary engagement. The true answers and relief to depression will be found only by recognizing and exploring our “spiritual core,” a place where no medication can reach (p. 196).

The final section of the book explores practical spiritual attitudes in escaping the despondency of depression. Welch reminds his readers that the fight against depression is not ultimately a lost battle. The Christian life does not end as a Shakespearean tragedy does. Rather, a Christian trusting in Jesus is enveloped by the savior’s eschatological end, which is glorious victory. On teleological level, a depressed Christian can have true hope. The story of God’s redemption, therefore, should be embraced as the personal story of each Christian. Other helpful strategies include the positive self-talk that many secularists would prescribe, but Welch grounds it in its rightful soil: the foundation of the promises of God recorded in sacred scripture. He recommends developing a sense of thankfulness, first and foremost to God. While revisiting the paradox of suffering and joy, he points out various small steps a depressed person can take to experience daily glimmers of joy until the life of a Christian consummates in eternal joy (p. 241).

One of the weaknesses of Welch’s overall treatment was a difficulty in synthesizing the non-spiritual causes of depression (alluded to throughout the book) into his overall presentation. It seemed Welch simply threw in the caveat that not all depression is based on spiritual causes simply as a way to cover himself on this current unsettled debate between medication therapy and counseling. At the beginning of the book, Welch boldly states, “So depression does not necessarily have a spiritual cause, if by spiritual, we mean that it is caused by our own sin. But there is a broader meaning to the word spiritual, and in this sense, your depression is always and profoundly spiritual.” (p. 20). Elsewhere he carefully explains that it might not be sin causing depression in every instance (p. 115). Later on in his section addressing medication, he needs to add the disclaimer “Most current thinking tends to miss the spiritual essence of depression. (Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean that there is always a spiritual cause of depression. It means that depression is always accompanied by questions about God, ourselves, hope and meaning)” (p. 190). The reader is left in the lurch as to exactly how to synthesize these statements. It appeared to me he wants to argue that all depression is indeed caused by spiritual issues but reluctantly had to add the disclaimer that in some instances spiritual concerns may only accompany depression. His entire section on medical treatments seemed more of a reluctant allowance.

At one point he states, “It is unclear whether medication is any more helpful than counseling. (And it is unclear whether counseling is any better, overall, than to talking with a wise friend). Even in cases of severe depression, careful analysis of the evidence does not always demonstrate the superior effectiveness of medication over secular counseling. You would expect at least similar results when you allow Scripture to guide you” (p. 192). He left me wondering exactly how cogent his presentation ultimately is if it’s only at least as successful as secular counseling or medication. The ultimate superiority of the Christian worldview must never be minimized. I’m sure Dr. Welch would agree that the Christian worldview is more than “at least” as successful as non-Christian approaches to any ultimately spiritual issue. It would be like arguing secular philosophers are at least as successful in explaining reality. The argument in either case should highlight the Christian worldview as the only basis by which to construct a truly cogent counseling or philosophic paradigm.

Despite these concerns, Dr. Welch presents a helpful discussion for Christians on the topic of depression. The strength of the book is its gentle and pastoral approach to the issues involved. Even when Welch probes the ultimate cause of depression having its roots in sin, one never gets the sense of condemnation. Rather, one finds understanding and encouragement.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Abuse Problems Do Not Necessarily Refute Roman Catholicism

Christianity Today posted an article relating to child abuse problems within various Protestant organizations. At one point, they state:
"These events brought a sickening dose of reality to our hallways. While the stories don't signal a trend, they do mean that all faith-based institutions can no longer afford to assume that predators are somewhere "out there," over the clean Christian rain-bow. They are not just in college locker rooms and Catholic rectories either. They are on our evangelical faculty and work in our community nonprofits, and we must respond to them in a way that bears the judgment—and mercy—of the gospel of Christ."
It's hard for me to agree with Christianity Today puts out, but I can't see how else not to in this case. I'll say it again: I don't think using scandals against Roman Catholicism is a good way to argue.

Abuse scandals can certainly serve as good examples of hierarchical subterfuge in any organization that claims a lofty pedigree of divine favor. The Reformers of course, had no problem using scandal and abuse as arguments against Rome. For many of the Reformers, the scandals pointed to greater doctrinal issues that played a key role in perpetuating ecclesiastical abuse.

The problem as I see it in the 21st Century is that a Protestant using abuse scandals as an apologetic argument against Roman Catholcism has to explain abuse scandals within various Protestant churches. For years I've pointed out that if the argument you're using works against your own position, you've refuted yourself as well. Simply saying "Well, they've got more than us" won't do any logical good either.

I like to boil everything down and see what's left. Here's what I see once the flame is turned off: There's a big group of people that trust Rome as their ultimate infallible authority. On the other hand, there's another group who believe that the Bible is the only infallible authority.

Now, if I argue that an abuse scandal is one more argument "proving" that Rome is not the ultimate infallible authority, how does one avoid this contrary: abuse scandals within Protestantism prove that the Bible can't function as an infallible authority? I simply don't see how you can't.

From "our side" (or, at least, my perspective) we see the entire papacy (at least I do), as an abomination, so whatever good they do is simply filthy rags. This means that whatever "bad" they do is regarded as even worse. So of course, when they have scandals, from our perspective, it confirms what we already think about them.

If our goal though is simply to confirm the abomination we already know the papacy is, then by all means, expose as much scandal as possible. On the other hand, we should not be surprised if they similarly point out scandals within Protestantism to confirm what they "know" to be true about us.

So we'll shout back and forth at each other. For those of you who enjoy shouting, knock yourselves out.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Why We All Think The Same

For all of you theologians / musicians out there, a good friend of mine recently shared this clip with me:




I think there are some implications here in regard to religious experience, particularly for those folks who claim supernatural sorts of Pentecostal experience in a church service.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Luther's View of Mary on Catholic Answers Forums

From a Catholic Answers Discussion:

Apr 13, '12, 7:26 pm
Junior Member
Join Date: January 11, 2011
Posts: 247
Religion: Roman Catholic
Default Martin Luther on Mary

1- Martin Luther seemed to have believed in the Immaculate conception (yes, even before it was infallibly been defined by a Pope), as he wrote:

“It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary's soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God's gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin"

-Martin Luther (Sermon: "On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God,” 1527 Luther).

2- Along with virtually all important Protestant Founders (e.g., Calvin, Zwingli, Cranmer), Luther accepted the traditional belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary (Jesus had no blood brothers), and her status as the Theotokos (Mother of God) as he wrote:

"Christ, ..was the only Son of Mary, and the Virgin Mary bore no children besides Him... "brothers" really means "cousins" here, for Holy Writ and the Jews always call cousins brothers."

-Martin Luther (Sermons on John, chapters 1-4.1537-39).

"He, Christ, our Savior, was the real and natural fruit of Mary's virginal womb.. .This was without the cooperation of a man, and she remained a virgin after that."

-Martin Luther (Ibid.)

"God says... "Mary's Son is My only Son." Thus Mary is the Mother of God.".

-Martin Luther (Ibid.)

"God did not derive his divinity from Mary; but it does not follow that it is therefore wrong to say that God was born of Mary, that God is Mary's Son, and that Mary is God's mother...She is the true mother of God and bearer of God...Mary suckled God, rocked God to sleep, prepared broth and soup for God, etc. For God and man are one person, one Christ, one Son, one Jesus. not two Christs. . .just as your son is not two sons...even though he has two natures, body and soul, the body from you, the soul from God alone."

-Martin Luther (On the Councils and the Church, 1539)

"She is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin—something exceedingly great. For God's grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil."

-Martin Luther (Personal {"Little"} Prayer Book, 1522)

3- Perhaps he believed in the Assumption of Mary too. In his sermon of August 15, 1522, the last time he preached on the Feast of the Assumption, he stated:

"There can be no doubt that the Virgin Mary is in heaven. How it happened we do not know. And since the Holy Spirit has told us nothing about it, we can make of it no article of faith... It is enough to know that she lives in Christ."

-Martin Luther (Sermon, Feast of the Assumption of Mary, 1522)

4- Luther held to the idea and devotional practice of the veneration of Mary and expressed this on innumerable occasions with the most effusive language:

"The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart."

-Martin Luther (Sermon, September 1, 1522).

"[She is the] highest woman and the noblest gem in Christianity after Christ. ..She is nobility, wisdom, and holiness personified. We can never honor her enough. Still honor and praise must be given to her in such a way as to injure neither Christ nor the Scriptures."

-Martin Luther (Sermon, Christmas, 1531).

"No woman is like you. You are more than Eve or Sarah, blessed above all nobility, wisdom, and sanctity."

-Martin Luther (Sermon, Feast of the Visitation. 1537).

"One should honor Mary as she herself wished and as she expressed it in the Magnificat. She praised God for his deeds. How then can we praise her? The true honor of Mary is the honor of God, the praise of God's grace.. .Mary is nothing for the sake of herself, but for the sake of Christ...Mary does not wish that we come to her, but through her to God.".

-Martin Luther (Explanation of the Magnificat, 1521)
__________________
Apr 13, '12, 8:06 pm
Junior Member
Join Date: January 11, 2011
Posts: 247
Religion: Roman Catholic
Default Re: Martin Luther on Mary

I forgot to put the 5th point....

Luther goes even further, and gives the Blessed Virgin the exalted position of "Spiritual Mother" for Christians, much the same as in Catholic piety:

"It is the consolation and the superabundant goodness of God, that man is able to exult in such a treasure. Mary is his true Mother, Christ is his brother. God is his father."

-Martin Luther (Sermon. Christmas, 1522)

Mary is the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of all of us even though it was Christ alone who reposed on her knees...If he is ours, we ought to be in his situation; there where he is, we ought also to be and all that he has ought to be ours, and his mother is also our mother.

- Martin Luther (Sermon, Christmas, 1529).

Whoever possesses a good (firm) faith, says the Hail Mary without danger! Whoever is weak in faith can utter no Hail Mary without danger to his salvation.

-Martin Luther (Sermon, March 11, 1523).

Our prayer should include the Mother of God.. .What the Hail Mary says is that all glory should be given to God, using these words: "Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus Christ. Amen!" You see that these words are not concerned with prayer but purely with giving praise and honor.. .We can use the Hail Mary as a meditation in which we recite what grace God has given her. Second, we should add a wish that everyone may know and respect her...He who has no faith is advised to refrain from saying the Hail Mary.

-Martin Luther (Personal Prayer Book, 1522).
Apr 15, '12, 9:40 am
Regular Member
Join Date: May 19, 2004
Location: New Jersey
Posts: 632
Religion: Reformed
Default Re: Martin Luther on Mary

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacob50 View Post
1- Martin Luther seemed to have believed in the Immaculate conception (yes, even before it was infallibly been defined by a Pope), as he wrote:
“It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary's soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God's gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin" -Martin Luther (Sermon: "On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God,” 1527 Luther).
This quote made its way into a cyber space when a popular Roman Catholic apologist about 10 years ago began posting it after he took it from Roman Catholic historian Hartmann Grisar's book, Luther Vol. IV (St Louis: B. Herder, 1913). Grisar though points out that "The sermon was taken down in notes and published with Luther’s approval. The same statements concerning the Immaculate Conception still remain in a printed edition published in 1529, but in later editions which appeared during Luther’s lifetime they disappear." The reason for their disappearance is that as Luther’s Christocentric theology developed, aspects of Luther’s Mariology were abandoned. Grisar also recognizes the development in Luther's theology. In regards to the Luther quote in question, Grisar says (from a Roman Catholic perspective): As Luther’s intellectual and ethical development progressed we cannot naturally expect the sublime picture of the pure Mother of God, the type of virginity, of the spirit of sacrifice and of sanctity to furnish any great attraction for him, and as a matter of fact such statements as the above are no longer met with in his later works. The most one can conclude from this Luther quote is that Luther held to some form of Mary's sinlessness in 1527. According to Grisar, the comment was stricken from the sermon, and Luther abandoned his earlier view. I've detailed this quote here:

[quote=Jacob50;9180967]2- Along with virtually all important Protestant Founders (e.g., Calvin, Zwingli, Cranmer), Luther accepted the traditional belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary (Jesus had no blood brothers), and her status as the Theotokos (Mother of God) as he wrote:

While Luther could call Mary the “Mother of God,” he was far more concerned to say something about the work of God in Christ than about her. Grisar also points out that for Luther: "That she " has a greater grace," viz. a higher dignity as the Mother of God, " is not due to any merit of hers, but simply because we cannot all be Mothers of God ; otherwise she is on the same level with us."

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacob50 View Post
"She is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin—something exceedingly great. For God's grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil." -Martin Luther (Personal {"Little"} Prayer Book, 1522)
This quote indeed appears to treat Mary as entirely sinless. This statement was made in 1522. If Grisar is correct, Luther's later view does not reflect such sentiment. Even in this early Reformation writing, Luther began changing the emphasis on Mary, and de-emphasizing the importance of her attributes:

“Take note of this: no one should put his trust or confidence in the Mother of God or in her merits, for such trust is worthy of God alone and is the lofty service due only to him. Rather praise and thank God through Mary and the grace given her. Laud and love her simply as the one who, without merit, obtained such blessings from God, sheerly out of his mercy, as she herself testifies in the Magnificat.”


-continued-

Apr 15, '12, 9:41 am
Regular Member
Join Date: May 19, 2004
Location: New Jersey
Posts: 632
Religion: Reformed
Default Re: Martin Luther on Mary

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacob50 View Post
3- Perhaps he believed in the Assumption of Mary too. In his sermon of August 15, 1522, the last time he preached on the Feast of the Assumption, he stated: "There can be no doubt that the Virgin Mary is in heaven. How it happened we do not know. And since the Holy Spirit has told us nothing about it, we can make of it no article of faith... It is enough to know that she lives in Christ."-Martin Luther (Sermon, Feast of the Assumption of Mary, 1522)
I've got this sermon in front of me at the moment. Here is the context of this quote. You tell me if it has anything to do with Mary's Assumption. Luther says:

"Today the festival of our dear lady, the mother of God, is observed to celebrate her death and departure above. But how little this Gospel corresponds with this is plain. For this Gospel tells us nothing about Mary being in heaven. And even if one could draw from this text every detail about what it is like for a saint to be in heaven, it would be of little use. It is enough that we know that departed saints live in God, as Christ concludes in Matthew [Matthew 22] based on the passage in Exodus [Exodus 4] where God says to Moses, "I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob," that God is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living.'"

Then if you skip down to the third paragraph Luther states:

"Now since here on earth God deals with us in this meager prison (that is barely half a life), in such a way that we barely perceive how we live here, how much more can He give life in heaven where it is spacious and where is true life. So we cannot set up any definite limits or establish a rule as to how the saints live there since even here dreaming and crazy people live, but we can't imagine how. It is enough to know that they live. But it is not necessary for us to know what that life is like. That is why I have always said that our faith always must rest upon what is known. We do not make articles of faith out of what doesn't rest squarely on Scriptures, else we would daily make up new articles of faith. For this reason, those things that are necessary to believe which you must always preserve, which Scripture clearly reveals, are to be markedly distinguished from everything else. For faith must not build itself upon what Scripture does not clearly prove. So since the Scripture clearly says here that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and all believers live, then it is necessary for you to believe that the mother of God lives.."

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacob50 View Post
4- Luther held to the idea and devotional practice of the veneration of Mary and expressed this on innumerable occasions with the most effusive language: "The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart."
-Martin Luther (Sermon, September 1, 1522).
Now here is the quote in context:

"You know, my friends, that deep in the heart of men is inscribed the honor with which one honors the mother of God; yes, it is even so deep that no one willingly hears anything against it, but extols her more and more. Now we grant that she should be honored since we are enjoined by the Scripture to receive one another with honor, as Paul says (Romans 12:10); so man must also honor her. Above all she must be rightly honored, but the people have "fallen" so deeply in this honor that she is more highly honored than is right and there are two harmful results of all of this: a rupture with Christ inasmuch as the hearts of men are more directed to her than to Christ himself. Christ is put behind in darkness and entirely forgotten!"

And now, off to church I go. Perhaps I'll go through the rest later.

James
Apr 15, '12, 5:46 pm
Regular Member
Join Date: May 19, 2004
Location: New Jersey
Posts: 632
Religion: Reformed
Default Re: Martin Luther on Mary

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacob50 View Post
"[She is the] highest woman and the noblest gem in Christianity after Christ. ..She is nobility, wisdom, and holiness personified. We can never honor her enough. Still honor and praise must be given to her in such a way as to injure neither Christ nor the Scriptures." -Martin Luther (Sermon, Christmas, 1531).
This quote comes from William Cole’s article “Was Luther a Devotee of Mary?” (Marian Studies Volume XXI, 1970, p.131). Cole states:

“In a Christmas sermon of 1531, Luther speaks of Mary as the ‘highest woman and the noblest gem in Christianity after Christ. He goes on to claim that ‘she is nobility, wisdom and holiness personified. We can never honor her enough. Still honor and praise must be given to her in such a way as to injure neither Christ nor the Scriptures” (WA 34, 2, 497 and 499).”

Note, the quote as cited by Cole is actually two quotes from two different pages, separated by an entire page. The question that needs to be asked is what exactly is Marian devotion? In other words, what does it mean for a Roman Catholic to be devoted to Mary, and what does it mean for Luther to be devoted to Mary?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacob50 View Post
"No woman is like you. You are more than Eve or Sarah, blessed above all nobility, wisdom, and sanctity."-Martin Luther (Sermon, Feast of the Visitation. 1537).
This quote is probably taken from William Cole's article, "Was Luther a Devotee of Mary [Marian Studies XXI, 1970, p. 132]. The quote as frequently cited in cyber space appears in this form in Cole's article:

"Five years later, likewise preaching for the Feast of the Visitation, he marvels at Mary's humility in the face of Elizabeth's great praise, which he makes equivalent to 'No woman is like you. You are more than Eve or Sara, blessed above all nobility, wisdom and sanctity' " (July 2, 1537- WA 45, 105, 7 to 106, 1].

Max Thurian provides some further context as well as an alternate translation:

"...then on another Feast of the Visitation, July 2.1537, Luther said: 'When the Virgin received the acclamation of Elizabeth as being the blessed Mother of God, because she had believed and because all was coming to pass as the angel had spoken, she was not filled with pride by this praise which no other woman had ever yet spoken to her—this immense praise: "No woman is like unto thee! you are more than an empress or a queen! you are more than Eve or Sarah; blessed above all nobility, wisdom or saintliness!" No, she was not filled with pride by this lofty, excellent and super-abundant praise ...' " [Weimar, 45: 105, 7 to 106, 1].

Source: Max Thurian, Mary Mother of the Lord, Figure of the Church (London: The Faith Press, 1963), p.80. Again, what does it mean for a Roman Catholic to be devoted to Mary, and what does it mean for Luther to be devoted to Mary? I submit these are two different things.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacob50 View Post
"One should honor Mary as she herself wished and as she expressed it in the Magnificat. She praised God for his deeds. How then can we praise her? The true honor of Mary is the honor of God, the praise of God's grace.. .Mary is nothing for the sake of herself, but for the sake of Christ...Mary does not wish that we come to her, but through her to God.". -Martin Luther (Explanation of the Magnificat, 1521)
It's not so much that Luther didn't say what's purported in the quote, it's that he said what he said in multiple places, in different contexts, not in this one quote. You see, this is another quote from William Cole's article. Cole's Luther quote here is actually a rather "loose" compilation of a few Luther quotes, from different treatises, with an emphasis on Luther's exposition of the Magnificat. If you count it all up, Cole provides around 20 references for 7 lines from Luther. 20 references? Something, obviously, doesn't add up. William Cole's documentation is somewhat free-style (for lack of a better phrase).

Luther's exposition of the Magnificat is not representative of his lifelong Mariology. As to "coming through her to God," Luther eventually abandoned the intercession of the saints. By 1522 things had changed. Erfurt Evangelists questioning Luther on the intercession of saints received this response from him:

"I beseech in Christ that your preachers forbear entering upon questions concerning the saints in heaven and the deceased, and I ask you to turn the attention of people away from these matters in view of the fact…that they are neither profitable nor necessary for salvation. This is also reason why God decided not to let us know anything about His dealings with the deceased. Surely he is not committing a sin who does not call upon any saint but only clings firmly to the one mediator, Jesus Christ."

Apr 19, '12, 9:49 am
Regular Member
Join Date: May 19, 2004
Location: New Jersey
Posts: 632
Religion: Reformed
Default Re: Martin Luther on Mary

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jacob50 View Post
4- Luther held to the idea and devotional practice of the veneration of Mary and expressed this on innumerable occasions with the most effusive language: "The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart."
-Martin Luther (Sermon, September 1, 1522).
I took some time this morning to look this quote up again.

The first thing to note is the date is wrong. Rather than the correct date is September 8, 1522. This sermon was part of Luther's Kirchenpostille (festival sermons). I am extremely grateful to the translation work of Joel Baseley who put together a fresh English translation of these sermons, many of which had not been translated into English previously.

Baseley explains in his introduction to these sermons, "Luther's goal in issuing the festival sermons was to wean his people away from the adoration and veneration of the saints which had crept into the church in order to lead them back to venerate Christ alone and to serve not the dead but the living saints in need, according to Christ's command" (Baseley, introduction). In other words, this Luther quote that says "The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart" is actually part of a collection of sermons intended to wean people away from venerating saints! Amazing. Here's Baseley's translation of the paragraph this quote comes from in the sermon, "The Day of the Nativity of Mary (Matthew 1)". The sentence bolded is that which states "The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart" :

"Today's feast of the blessed Virgin celebrates her birth. We also read today in the beginning of Matthew the accounting of part of the family tree including the great ancestors of Jesus Christ. But you know, my friends in Christ, that the honor given to the mother of God has been rooted so deeply into the hearts of men that no one wants to hear any opposition to this celebration. There is rather a desire to further elevate it and make it even greater. We also grant that she should be honored, since we, according to Saint Paul's words [Romans 12] are indebted to show honor one to another for the sake of the One who dwells in us, Jesus Christ. Therefore we have an obligation to honor Mary. But be careful to give her honor that is fitting. Unfortunately, I worry that we give her all too high an honor for she is accorded much more esteem than she should be given or than she accounted to herself. So from this comes two abuses. First Christ is diminished by those who place their hearts more upon Mary than upon Christ himself. In doing so Christ is forced into the background and completely forgotten. The other abuse is that the poor saints here on earth are forgotten. I would allow a high regard for Mary and her praise, just so long as you do not get carried away and consider making a law out of it so that she must be honored as a condition for your salvation. For the Scriptures have recorded nothing about her birth or life. So your hearts must not be placed upon her and she must not be exalted above her proper status. The monks invented all this abuse. They wanted to praise the woman. They have used Mary as an excuse to invent all kinds of lies by which she could be used to establish their twaddle. They have used Scriptures to drag Mary by the hair and force her to go where she never intended. For the Gospel that is read today reveals Christ's nativity, not Mary's. See how many lies have come out of this which we can in no way tolerate. I can surely allow her to be honored but not in a way that belies the Scriptures."

Luther's point is that whatever respect and honor Mary was due to her, the Church of his day had collectively had gone far beyond it."The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart" is not a positive statement, but a negative statement. In other words, this sentence placed back in its context is in regard to excessive Marian devotion.

James Swan

LCMS Telling the Truth About Luther?

Over on the CARM boards this statement from the LCMS has come under scrutiny:
Resolved, That, in that light, we personally and individually adopt Luther's final attitude toward the Jewish people, as evidenced in his last sermon: "We want to treat them with Christian love and to pray for them, so that they might become converted and would receive the Lord" (Weimar edition, Vol. 51, p. 195).
I've commented on this before: LCMS: On Martin Luther's anti-Semitic statements. This statement comes from this LCMS pdf. In the CARM discussion, we first talked a bit about whether this bit of evidence was preached during Luther's last sermon. My take on this is here. He may have, according to LW 58. This comment by Luther being cited by the LCMS is from an appendix that's attached to Luther's last sermon. There is a discussion in LW 58, pp. 402-403, as to the ambiguity as to when exacly the Admontion was delivered. This Admonition, accord to LW 58, was originally printed at the end of the Four Sermons in Eisleben as an appendix, under the title "Admonition against the Jews" [Vier Predigten des Ehrwirdigen Herrn D. Martini Luthers, zu Eisleben vor seinem abscied aus diesem leben gethan (Wittenberg: Hans Luft, 1546), ff. S1r-S3r)].

That tedium aside, what the LCMS quoted from Luther is certainly Luther's opinion, and they certainly include disapproval for Luther's writings against the Jews in the same pdf. Where they err is giving the impression that the words cited from the Admonition represent the the totality and finality of Luther's opinion on the Jews. It does not, as the Admonition still has a harsh tone. Is this LCMS pdf misrepresenting Luther?  Their statement is certainly not completely truthful. I can understand that the LCMS does not approve of Luther's hostility towards the Jews (as they state), but whoever did the research on this statement wasn't careful.

Here's how the statement reads again:
Resolved, That, in that light, we personally and individually adopt Luther's final attitude toward the Jewish people, as evidenced in his last sermon: "We want to treat them with Christian love and to pray for them, so that they might become converted and would receive the Lord" (Weimar edition, Vol. 51, p. 195).
I would suggest this get's reworded to something like, "we personally and individually adopt an aspect of Luther's final attitude" for to adopt Luther's final attitude would include driving the Jews out of the land.

Each year Concordia releases a new volume of Luther's Works in English. In 2010 they released volume 58, Sermons. These sermons cover the years from 1539-1546. Low and behold, they include as the final entry of the volume, An Admonition Against the Jews (pp. 458-459). Luther still is quite harsh against the Jews, requesting that if the Jews don't convert, it wouldn't be a bad idea for the Lords to "drive them away." It's an odd document. It's obvious he wasn't calling for the Jews to be killed, but he certainly would only tolerate them in society if they converted. Otherwise, they were to be banished. Here again, Luther was not against Jews as "people" but rather he was quite intolerant of their religion.

Recently from the Best Blog Refuting Roman Catholic Apologetics...

.....From the Roman Catholic blog that knows it's better to give than receive: Why The SSPX and Archbishop Lefebvre Are Important to the Church. Great stuff. Once again, a well-deserved hat-tip to... the Catholic Champion.
Fact number two: Vatican II and its documents have still not been clarified by the Church in many respects. The documents of Vatican II are in my opinion, and the opinion of many reputable orthodox theologians, the most ambiguous documents ever produced by the Church. In my opinion, the ambiguity and their “this but that” approach to explaining the faith have been, according to history thus far, a complete failure. Even our present Holy Father has a hard time trying to present this “hermeneutic of continuity” to the Church. Just the very fact that we need a "hermeneutic of continuity" scheme to be presented by the Holy Father should reveal to us that this is the case.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Luther: "The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart"

Recently I took part in small discussion on Luther's Mariology, a subject that fascinates me, not so much because I either care about learning Mariology, or even what Luther thought about it. Rather, my fascination is the way in which Roman Catholics appeal to Luther in support of Mariology, often at the expense of research and a context.  Sometimes if you track down the context for a quote being put forth showing Luther's profound defense of Roman Catholic Mariology or veneration, the context says something different.

Some years back I wrote on this popular Luther / Mary quote: "The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart." There I noted that the quote is often cited with the wrong date (September 1, 1522) rather than the correct date (September 8, 1522). If you Google search this quote, you'll find it's traveled far, and has made its way to a handful of books, mostly Roman Catholic books, cited with the wrong date, and never researched.  One apologist cites the quote with the wrong date from a secondary source, but insists the quote was "Copiously Documented."

In my earlier entry, I was able to track down larger excerpts of the context the quote was taken from. I just realized that I have a translation of the entire sermon. This sermon is sometimes referred to as "Sermon on the Day of Mary's Birth, 8 Sept. 1522." It was part of Luther's Kirchenpostille (festival sermons). I am extremely grateful to the translation work of Joel Baseley who put together a fresh English translation of these sermons, many of which had not been translated into English previously. I'm not sure if Baseley realized the modern Roman Catholic polemical use of many of these sermons. His work inadvertently gave me the contexts for a number of Roman Catholic Luther quotes (including one of the most popular, Luther's alleged belief in the immaculate conception).

As Baseley explains in his introduction to these sermons, "Luther's goal in issuing the festival sermons was to wean his people away from the adoration and veneration of the saints which had crept into the church in order to lead them back to venerate Christ alone and to serve not the dead but the living saints in need, according to Christ's command" (Baseley, introduction). In other words, this Luther quote that says "The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart" is actually part of a collection of sermons intended to wean people away from venerating saints! Amazing. Here's Baseley's translation of the paragraph this quote comes from in the sermon, "The Day of the Nativity of Mary (Matthew 1)". The sentence bolded is that which states "The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart" :
"Today's feast of the blessed Virgin celebrates her birth. We also read today in the beginning of Matthew the accounting of part of the family tree including the great ancestors of Jesus Christ.  But you know, my friends in Christ, that the honor given to the mother of God has been rooted so deeply into the hearts of men that no one wants to hear any opposition to this celebration. There is rather a desire to further elevate it and make it even greater. We also grant that she should be honored, since we, according to Saint Paul's words [Romans 12] are indebted to show honor one to another for the sake of the One who dwells in us, Jesus Christ. Therefore we have an obligation to honor Mary. But be careful to give her honor that is fitting. Unfortunately, I worry that we give her all too high an honor for she is accorded much more esteem than she should be given or than she accounted to herself.

So from this comes two abuses. First Christ is diminished by those who place their hearts more upon Mary than upon Christ himself. In doing so Christ is forced into the background and completely forgotten. The other abuse is that the poor saints here on earth are forgotten.

I would allow a high regard for Mary and her praise, just so long as you do not get carried away and consider making a law out of it so that she must be honored as a condition for your salvation. For the Scriptures have recorded nothing about her birth or life. So your hearts must not be placed upon her and she must not be exalted above her proper status. The monks invented all this abuse. They wanted to praise the woman. They have used Mary as an excuse to invent all kinds of lies by which she could be used to establish their twaddle. They have used Scriptures to drag Mary by the hair and force her to go where she never intended. For the Gospel that is read today reveals Christ's nativity, not Mary's. See how many lies have come out of this which we can in no way tolerate. I can surely allow her to be honored but not in a way that belies the Scriptures." [Baseley, pp. 157-158]
Luther's point is that whatever respect Mary was due to her, the Church of his day had collectively had gone far beyond it."The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart" is not a positive statement, but a negative statement. In other words, this sentence placed back in its context is in regard to excessive Marian devotion.

Luther goes on to wish this festival day in regard to Mary should be forgotten,  "For there is nothing in the Scriptures about it [Mary's birth]" (p. 158).

 "We are just as holy as Mary and the other saints, no matter how great the are, when we only believe in Christ" (p. 158).

"Her being given great grace is not done so that we should venerate her, but out of God's mercy for her. For we could not all be God's mother, but apart from that she is just like us and must also come to grace through the blood of Christ as we do" (p. 158).

And so on. Luther's view of the saints was still in transition during 1522, and reading through this short sermon certainly demonstrates this. The "veneration" rooted so deeply in the hearts of Luther's hearers was not a positive thing, but rather the result of excessive Marian piety.

Much more from this sermon could be quoted. Perhaps another time.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Lutheran Sanctification?

From time to time I quibble with Lutherans over the law / Gospel paradigm and the third use of the law.  You see, if you're Reformed, according to some Lutherans, you're clueless about such issues, and all you're interested in is law, law, law. Because you're Reformed, you don't even understand the gospel: you've missed the gospel in the sacraments, you worship predestination as the gospel, and you love the fact that Christ is sending people to Hell and didn't die for them. The Reformed are so clueless they probably read "Sinners in the Hands of Angry God" to their children as a bedtime story.  In fact, some Lutherans have gone so far as to emphatically suggest the Reformed view of things is far more dangerous than Roman Catholicism.

Phooey.

Anyway, now that that three second rant is finished,  Lutheran minister Rev. McCain has an interesting post called, Aversion to Sanctification: A Phobic Reaction. Worth a look.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The "Myth" of the Divorce Rate For Christians?

I'm doing a little research today and came across this US Today article from last year:

Christians question divorce rates of faithful

"It's been proclaimed from pulpits and blogs for years — Christians divorce as much as everyone else in America. But some scholars and family activists are questioning the oft-cited statistics, saying Christians who attend church regularly are more likely to remain wed. "It's a useful myth," said Bradley Wright, a University of Connecticut sociologist who recently wrote "Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites ... and Other Lies You've Been Told." "Because if a pastor wants to preach about how Christians should take their marriages more seriously, he or she can trot out this statistic to get them to listen to him or her."

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Luther on the Assumption of Mary: "There can be no doubt that the Virgin Mary is in heaven. How it happened we do not know"

...From the Catholic Answers Forum:
Perhaps [Luther] believed in the Assumption of Mary too. In his sermon of August 15, 1522, the last time he preached on the Feast of the Assumption, he stated: "There can be no doubt that the Virgin Mary is in heaven. How it happened we do not know. And since the Holy Spirit has told us nothing about it, we can make of it no article of faith... It is enough to know that she lives in Christ."-Martin Luther (Sermon, Feast of the Assumption of Mary, 1522)

Or perhaps the context doesn't say what this quote implies. Here's an English translation of the context this quote comes from. The above snippet is a very condensed version of this context:
Today the festival of our dear lady, the mother of God, is observed to celebrate her death and departure above. But how little this Gospel corresponds with this is plain. For this Gospel tells us nothing about Mary being in heaven. And even if one could draw from this text every detail about what it is like for a saint to be in heaven, it would be of little use. It is enough that we know that departed saints live in God, as Christ concludes in Matthew [Matthew 22] based on the passage in Exodus [Exodus 4] where God says to Moses, "I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob," that God is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living.

These passages sufficiently prove that they live. But we should not try to figure out what their life is like up there for it is not necessary for us to know. It is also not necessary to discover it. Reason is incapable of it. Some great masters have understanding about some things and yet not about this. For there are three states of life. First, as a child lays in his crib he lives in God but hardly perceives it Second, when we sleep we also are alive and are scarcely aware of it. Thirdly, when we definitely are aware and experience that we are living, even then we don't know how.

Now since here on earth God deals with us in this meager prison (that is barely half a life), in such a way that we barely perceive how we live here, how much more can He give life in heaven where it is spacious and where is true life. So we cannot set up any definite limits or establish a rule as to how the saints live there since even here dreaming and crazy people live, but we can't imagine how. It is enough to know that they live. But it is not necessary for us to know what that life is like. That is why I have always said that our faith always must rest upon what is known. We do not make articles of faith out of what doesn't rest squarely on Scriptures, else we would daily make up new articles of faith. For this reason, those things that are necessary to believe which you must always preserve, which Scripture clearly reveals, are to be markedly distinguished from everything else. For faith must not build itself upon what Scripture does not clearly prove. So since the Scripture clearly says here that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and all believers live, then it is necessary for you to believe that the mother of God lives. You can leave it in our gracious God's hands what that life is like. Enough said about this festival. [Festival Sermons of Martin Luther (Michigan: Mark V Publications, 2005) pp. 145-14].
The quote cited by the person in the Catholic Answers forum has some history.

Roman Catholic apologist Peter Stravinskas states, "As far as the assumption goes, [Luther] did not pronounce clearly on this subject, but was content simply to affirm it.' "

First, note Stravinskas provides no references to any primary material from Luther writings. Rather, Stravinskas is citing the opinion of someone else, William J. Cole ["Was Luther a Devotee of Mary?" (Marian Studies), (1970), 123]. The odd thing about the Cole citation, is that Cole is also actually citing someone else's opinion. See for yourself:
"For Luther the Assumption seems not to be so much a matter of doubt as of little importance and this is perhaps the reason, as Max Thurian affirms, that Luther did not pronounce clearly on the subject, but was content simply to affirm it."
So I went and took at look at what Max Thurian said. Thurian's comment is as follows:
"On the issue of the Assumption Luther does not speak precisely but is content to assert on August 15th, 1522: 'From this gospel one cannot draw any conclusion about the fashion in which Mary is in heaven- it is not necessary any more to know the fate of the saints in heaven. It is enough to know that they dwell in Christ as God says in Matt. 22: 32: "God is not a God of the dead but of the living' making reference to the text of Exodus 3. 6: "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob"' (ibid., 55)." (Thurian, Mary Mother of the Lord, Figure of the Church, p.197)
First, note Thurian never says Luther "simply affirmed" the Assumption. He says Luther made an assertion in 1522. So, shame on Stravinskas for not looking up the basis of Cole's opinion. Then, shame on William Cole, for reading into the Thurian quote the idea that Luther simply affirmed the Assumption. The basis for  this idea of Luther simply affirming the Assumption is based on a mis-reading of Thurian. Thurian states Luther did not speak precisely. But as the context above shows, it's true Luther "did not speak precisely" about the Assumption, but he didn't even hint at affirming it according to the plain reading of this context. So anyone would say something like Luther "never denied" the Assumption is simply reading into the context, or perhaps never had read or checked the context to begin with.

Addendum #1: Mary's Death No Different than Other Women in the Bible
In Luther's later writings on Genesis towards the end of his career though, he discusses how the Scriptures do not record the death of many Biblical women, including Mary. Luther is discussing how the Bible details the death and burial of Sarah:
“Then one should much rather consider how Abraham delivered a beautiful funeral address about Sarah. For in the Holy Scriptures no other matron is so distinguished. Her years, lives, conduct, and burial place are described. In the eyes of God, therefore, Sarah was an extraordinary jewel on whom extraordinary love was bestowed, and she is mentioned deservedly by Peter as an exemplar for all saintly wives. He says (1 Peter 3:6) that she called Abraham lord and that “you are her daughters.” To all Christian matrons Peter holds her up as a mother.

Scripture has no comments even on the death of other matriarchs, just as it makes no mention of how many years Eve lived and of where she died. Of Rachel it is recorded that she died in childbirth (Gen. 35:16–19). All the other women it passes over and covers with silence, with the result that we have no knowledge of the death of Mary, the mother of Christ. Sarah alone has this glory, that the definite number of her years, the time of her death, and the place of her burial are described. Therefore this is great praise and very sure proof that she was precious in the eyes of God." (LW 4:189-190)
Addendum #2: Luther and the "Feast" of the Assumption
Interestingly, Cole goes on to point out that Luther "used strong language....for the elimination of the Assumption as an aspect of the 'hypocritical church',” particularly in celebrating a feast for it. Cole cites Luther as saying in 1544:
“The feast of the Assumption is totally papist, full of idolatry and without foundation in the Scriptures. But we, even though Mary has gone to heaven, should not bother how she went there. We will not invoke her as our special advocate as the Pope teaches. The pope takes away the honor due to the Ascension of our Lord, Christ, with the result that he has made the mother like her Son in all things.”
Eric Gritsch similarly points out Luther went on to abandon the festival of Mary’s Immaculate Conception and her Assumption:
“He rejected the festivals of Mary's Immaculate Conception, December 8, and her Assumption, August 15.” [Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII, 240].
“According to Luther Mary should be honored in festivals that focus on Christ, which is why he eventually rejected the celebrations of her Immaculate Conception (December 8), her birth (September 8), and her Assumption (August 15). He did honor her in the festivals of the Annunciation (March 25), the Visitation (July 2), and Purification (February 2), since these are connected with the birth of Christ. "We dare not put our faith in the mother but only in the fact that the child was born."[Ibid. 241]
“Luther continued to preach on these festivals, but stopped preaching on the other three festivals after 1523.”[Ibid. 382]

Addendum #3: Luther's Burial Vault Does Not Prove Belief in the Assumption of Mary
Roman Catholic apologist Mark Shea once said: ""For Luther the Assumption was a settled fact...indeed Luther's burial vault in the Wittenburg church on whose door he had posted his ninety five theses was adorned with the 1521 Peter Vischer's sculpture of the Coronation of the Virgin." Peter Stravinskas likewise states,
"Most interesting of all, perhaps, is the realization that his burial chamber in the Wittenberg church, on whose door he had posted his 95 Theses, was adorned with the 1521 Peter Vischer sculpture of the Coronation of the Virgin, with the inscription containing these lines: Ad summum Regina thronum defertur in altum: Angelicis praelatia choris, cui festus et ipse Filius occurrens Matrem super aethera ponit. This "archaeological" fact would seem to speak volumes about Luther's final thoughts on the place of Mary in the life of a Christian."
Sorry Gentleman. This sculpture is not on Luther's tomb, but rather: "the plate is the tombstone for Henning Goden, Jurist and last Catholic Provost of the Castle Church." See my previous entry here.

Friday, April 13, 2012

"there are Catholics ready to take immediate offense, to explode in righteous anger"

TUAD sent this link over:

What's That Supposed To Mean? by James Martin, S.J. This Roman Catholic blogger makes some great points about Internet discourse. The link is worth skimming through.

For what it's worth, my tolerance for Internet dialog has diminished over the years for similar reason to what the article points out.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Muslim Distorts the meaning of the parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:23-35




I have written before about the idea of substitutionary sacrifice and ransom in the Qur'an, and the photo postcard above. (see link later for more details) Now there is a new issue of the distortion of the parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:23-35. The issue of substitionary sacrifice bears repeating, but this time, a Muslim has royally distorted the parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:23-35, ignoring the context of verses 15-22, and either using a faulty translation that leaves out a key phrase in verse 23 ("therefore", or "for this reason") or maybe possibly leaving out the key words altogether.

Muslims have a seed of the teaching of substitutionary ransom sacrifice in their own Qur'an, Surah 37:107 - "We have ransomed him with a mighty sacrifice". When Allah stopped Ibrahim from killing his son, Allah provided a substitutionary sacrifice - a ransom, an atonement - which the Qur'an got from Genesis 22, and which was a prophesy and foreshadowing of the Messiah Jesus to come. This is a Turkish post card, produced by a Muslim group in Turkey, celebrating the "Kurban Bayrami" (Feast of Sacrifice) - ("Eid e Ghorban" - Farsi = عید قربان ) or "Eid Al Adha" - Arabic - عید الاضحی ). You can see the Turkish that says, "Hazrat Ibrahim offers his son Ismael as a human sacrifice." Muslims think it was Ishmael, even though the text of the Qur'an never mentions him in that context. But we know it was Isaac from Genesis 22 and Hebrews 11, and other passages. " ("Hazrat" is a term of respect and honor for all the prophets, even Mary, the mother of Jesus. They say "Hazrat e Maryam" - حضرت مریم (Farsi). )

Paul Bilal Williams, a British convert to Islam, writes many articles against the Biblical teaching of substitutionary atonement.

In one of them, he quotes from C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, but doesn't give us the page number, so that we can find the context.

I answered him in the com-box and repeat my answer here: (With some additional comments and links.)

Hi Paul,
I sincerely wish you peace that comes through Al Masih and His substitutionary sacrifice on the cross in history, the ransom that even the Qur’an alludes to in Surah 37:107, because the story of Abraham offering his son was a prophesy and foreshadowing of the Messiah to come. Only through Al Masih and His atonement is there peace. (Romans 3:24-26; John 14:27; Romans 5:1; Matthew 11:27-30)

It would have been nice to have the page number from C. S. Lewis’ book. He goes on to affirm the teaching of substitutionary sacrifice.

Samuel Green has a good article that refutes your polemic against the Biblical teaching.

Also, you ignore the fact that the Qur’an does have a “seed” of the Biblical doctrine of substitutionary atonement in Surah 37:107 – “We have ransomed him with a mighty sacrifice”.
وَفَدَيْنَاهُ بِذِبْحٍ عَظِيمٍ

I have written about this before linked below. Allah provided a substitute and ransom. And the Arabic word "ransom" in Surah 37:107, is the same root in the Arabic and Farsi translations of the Injeel (NT) in Mark 10:45 and Matthew 20:28.



Now I know Islamic theology rejects that and teaches against substitutionary atonement and sacrifice and ransom, but a “seed” of it survived in the text, because the Qur’an gets its basic material and storyline from the Torah and the Injeel, although the Qur’an adds other things and myths and twists the different stories.

The concept of substitutionary atonement was there and is all through the Bible, taught from Adam and Eve and God providing skins to cover their shame and nakedness to Abraham’s sacrifice in Genesis 22, to the Passover lamb in Exodus 12, to the tabernacle sacrifices in Lev. 1-7 and 16-17, to the temple (I and 2 Kings; Daniel 9:24-27, other prophets), to the prophesy of the Messiah to come, the suffering servant. (Isaiah 53). Mark 10:45 / Matthew 20:28 show the fulfillment of the suffering servant prophesies and the substitution and the ransom aspect.
Also, you have taken the parable in Matthew 18:23-35 out of context, which I have pointed out to you before, but you seem to just ignore basic things like context.

Also, the translation you are using is defective. In verse 23, Paul Bilal Williams leaves out "For this reason" or "Therefore", in the translation he is using. The Greek text is clear that verse 23 has, “For this reason” or “Therefore” ( Greek: δια τουτο = dia toutou). Every credible English translation that I have checked has either “therefore” or “for this reason”. (ESV, NRSV, NASB, HCS (Holman Christian Standard), NIV, JKV, NKJV, etc. )

I wonder, what translation are you using?

These 2 Greek words are very important for interpreting the parable correctly, because the “therefore” or “for this reason” connects the parable to what comes before and explains why Jesus told the parable. He does not have to mention substitutionary sacrifice within the parable, because that is understood, because telling the parable was prompted by Peter’s question of “how many times do I forgive my brother?” – and that was prompted by Jesus teaching about the church and church discipline when someone refuses to to repent of his sin against another brother in the church. (Matthew 18:15-22) The fact that Jesus is teaching something about the local church, and that all Christians understood that in the church, there is teaching on Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice for sin as part of the gospel that one must believe in, in order to be a member of a church – just as the apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:31-32 – “Forgive one another as God in Christ forgave you” . In the church, God's word teaches us that forgiveness looks back to the cross and what God did for us in Christ as the cross. Jesus was explaining that principle for the future churches in Matthew 18:15-35.

So, you have clearly distorted the parable completely, by using a faulty translation and by ignoring the context of verses 15-22, which tell us the reason for why Jesus taught that parable. Everything in the Bible before the cross is leading up to it; and everything after it points back to it as the only way to be forgiven – because God is holy and has just anger against your sin. God forgives and has mercy, because His holiness and wrath against sin was satisfied at the cross, the “Qorbani – abadi” (eternal sacrifice; قربانی ابدی ) .