Sunday, June 09, 2013

Luther: The Roman Church is Basically Christian?

This post is a follow-up to these entries:

Luther: I honor the Roman Church. She is pious, has God’s Word and Baptism, and is holy

Myth #11: Luther thought that the Roman Church was no longer a true Christian Church

Luther: Are Those Who Defend the Roman Church Christians?

I recently re-read Luther's "Concerning Rebaptism" (1528) [LW 40:225-262]. It's an open letter in which Luther is apparently responding to two pastors in a Roman Catholic diocese that had asked him for help in dealing with anabaptist argumentation.  One could read through this letter and think Luther was espousing a full-fledged ecumenical spirit with Roman Catholicism in general. Rather though, the document demonstrates that while the papacy (and those under the papacy) with the Lutherans (and even the anabaptists) share an inheritance of Christianity, Luther still advised that those under the papacy should flee the papacy. The papacy "is a work of wrath from which to flee, as other plagues also are works of God, but works of wrath and displeasure" (LW 40:256].

Some could read this document and think Luther considered all papists as fellow Christians. For instance, consider the following selective statements from Luther's open letter:

We on our part confess that there is much that is Christian and good under the papacy; indeed everything that is Christian and good is to be found there and has come to us from this source. For instance we confess that in the papal church there are the true holy Scriptures, true baptism, the true sacrament of the altar, the true keys to the forgiveness of sins, the true office of the ministry, the true catechism in the form of the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the articles of the creed . . . I speak of what the pope and we have in common . . . I contend that in the papacy there is true Christianity, even the right kind of Christianity and many great and devoted saints.

. . . The Christendom that now is under the papacy is truly the body of Christ and a member of it. If it is his body, then it has the true spirit, gospel, faith, baptism, sacrament, keys, the office of the ministry, prayer, holy Scripture, and everything that pertains to Christendom. So we are all still under the papacy and therefrom have received our Christian treasures.

. . . We do not rave as do the rebellious spirits, so as to reject everything that is found in the papal church. For then we would cast out even Christendom from the temple of God, and all that it contained of Christ.

I've dealt with this context before.  I'd like to suggest that these comments, when placed back in their context, do not imply that those who knowingly defend the papacy are fellow Christians. Luther is not suggesting that any similarities he and the papists share bonds them together as Christian brothers with differences to be debated but not divided over.

What's fascinating about these comments is that Luther makes them under the guise of "appearing to be a papist again and flattering the pope" (LW 40:231). In this context, Luther speaks of how the pope "dissembles" his position towards the Lutherans, and how he likewise will "dissemble" his position on the papacy. To dissemble is to "Conceal one's true motives, feelings, or beliefs" or "Disguise or conceal (a feeling or intention)." Luther says that this is done by pointing out what is shared in common. Look at the full quote:
In the first place I hear and see that such rebaptism is undertaken by some in order to spite the pope and to be free of any taint of the Antichrist. In the same way the foes of the sacrament want to believe only in bread and wine, in opposition to the pope, thinking thereby really to overthrow the papacy. It is indeed a shaky foundation on which they can build nothing good. On that basis we would have to disown the whole of Scripture and the office of the ministry, which of course we have received from the papacy. We would also have to make a new Bible. Then, also, we would have to disavow the Old Testament, so that we would be under no obligation to the unbelieving Jews. And why the daily use of gold and goods which have been used by bad people, papists, Turks, and heretics? This, too, should be surrendered, if they are not to have anything good from evil persons.
The whole thing is nonsense. Christ himself came upon the errors of scribes and Pharisees among the Jewish people, but he did not on that account reject everything they had and thought (Matt. 23[:3]). We on our part confess that there is much that is Christian and good under the papacy; indeed everything that is Christian and good is to be found there and has come to us from this source. For instance we confess that in the papal church there are the true holy Scriptures, true baptism, the true sacrament of the altar, the true keys to the forgiveness of sins, the true office of the ministry, the true catechism in the form of the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the articles of the creed. Similarly, the pope admits that we too, though condemned by him as heretics, and likewise all heretics, have the holy Scriptures, baptism, the keys, the catechism, etc. O how do you dissemble? How then do I dissemble? I speak of what the pope and we have in common. He on his part dissembles toward us and heretics and plainly admits what we and he have in common. I will continue to so dissemble, though it does me no good. I contend that in the papacy there is true Christianity, even the right kind of Christianity and many great and devoted saints. Shall I cease to make this pretense? [LW 40:231-232]
The comparison of the scribes and Pharisees to the papacy is quite telling. Yes, within the papacy there is "true Christianity" if one speaks of what is shared in common, but it would be a mistake to think that by the things shared in common Luther believed devout papists were fellow-Christians. Luther goes on to point out that the pope was the Antichrist:
Listen to what St. Paul says to the Thessalonians [II Thess. 2:4]: “The Antichrist takes his seat in the temple of God.” If now the pope is (and I cannot believe otherwise) the veritable Antichrist, he will not sit or reign in the devil’s stall, but in the temple of God. No, he will not sit where there are only devils and unbelievers, or where no Christ or Christendom exist. For he is an Antichrist and must thus be among Christians. And since he is to sit and reign there it is necessary that there be Christians under him. God’s temple is not the description for a pile of stones, but for the holy Christendom (I Cor. 3[:17]), in which he is to reign. The Christendom that now is under the papacy is truly the body of Christ and a member of it. If it is his body, then it has the true spirit, gospel, faith, baptism, sacrament, keys, the office of the ministry, prayer, holy Scripture, and everything that pertains to Christendom. So we are all still under the papacy and therefrom have received our Christian treasures.
As a veritable Antichrist must conduct himself against Christendom, so the pope acts toward us: he persecutes us, curses us, bans us, pursues us, burns us, puts us to death. Christians need indeed to be truly baptized and right members of Christ if they are to win the victory in death over against the Antichrist. We do not rave as do the rebellious spirits, so as to reject everything that is found in the papal church. For then we would east out even Christendom from the temple of God, and all that it contained of Christ. But when we oppose and reject the pope it is because he does not keep to these treasures of Christendom which he has inherited from the apostles. Instead he makes additions of the devil and does not use these treasures for the improvement of the temple. Rather he works toward its destruction, in setting his commandments and ordinances above the ordinance of Christ. But Christ preserves his Christendom even in the midst of such destruction, just as he rescued Lot at Sodom, as St. Peter recounts (I Pet. 2 [II Pet. 2:6]). In fact both remain, the Antichrist sits in the temple of God through the action of the devil, while the temple still is and remains the temple of God through the power of Christ. If the pope will suffer and accept this dissembling of mine, then I am and will be, to be sure, an obedient son and devoted papist, with a truly joyful heart, and take back everything that I have done to harm him. (LW 40:232-233)
Luther's next comment points out that those under the papacy are in grave danger of losing their souls. He expresses this by pointing out that when the anabaptists argue against the traditional understanding of the sacraments, they are taking away a means those under the papacy can use to save their souls:
In fact they remind us of what one brother in the forest of Thuringia did to the other. They were going through the woods with each other when they were set upon by a bear who threw one of them beneath him. The other brother sought to help and struck at the bear, but missed him and grievously wounded the brother under the bear. So these enthusiasts. They ought to come to the aid of Christendom which Antichrist has in his grip and tortures. They take a severe stand against the pope, but they miss their mark and murder the more terribly the Christendom under the pope. For if they would permit baptism and the sacrament of the altar to stand as they are, Christians under the pope might yet escape with their souls and be saved, as has been the case hitherto. But now when the sacraments are taken from them, they will most likely be lost, since even Christ himself is thereby taken away. Dear friend, this is not the way to blast the papacy while Christian saints are in his keeping. One needs a more cautious, discreet spirit, which attacks the accretion which threatens the temple without destroying the temple of God itself. (LW 40: 233-234).
In other words, without the sacraments, what the papacy teaches does not save. If salvation comes to those in the Roman church of Luther's day, it was despite the papacy. Luther goes on to point out that the papacy was a persecutor of the gospel and Christians:
Thirdly, [the papacy] is not a work of God. For he exercises no office to the welfare of his subjects. Indeed, he persecutes the gospel and Christians, let alone that he ought to be a teacher and guardian. He only teaches his filth and poison as human notions, discards the gospel, even persecutes it, though without avail. He makes a sacrifice out of the sacrament, faith out of works, work out of faith. He forbids marriage, [and issues prohibitions concerning] food, seasons, clothes, and places, tie perverts and abuses all Christian treasures to the injury of souls, as we have sufficiently proved elsewhere. Since on all three counts the papacy is deficient, we must judge it as a pure human invention, which is not worthy of belief and is in no way comparable to the institutions of parenthood and government (LW 40:238-239).
Luther goes on to state:
For where we see the work of God we should yield and believe in the same way as when we hear his Word, unless the plain Scripture tells us otherwise. I indeed am ready to let the papacy be considered as a work of God. But since Scripture is against it, I consider it as a work of God but not as a work of grace. It is a work of wrath from which to flee, as other plagues also are works of God, but works of wrath and displeasure (LW 40:266).
Conclusion
When Luther spoke of the Roman Church, he had something much different in mind than most people do today. Luther made a sharp distinction between the Roman Church and the Papacy. Of Rome's leadership, Luther states:
Can anything be said that is more horrible than that the kingdom of the papists is the kingdom of those who spit upon and recrucify Christ, the Son of God? Christ, who once was crucified and rose again—Him they crucify in themselves and in the church, that is, in the hearts of the faithful. With their rebukes, slanders, and insults they spit at Him; and with their false opinions they pierce Him through, so that He dies most miserably in them. And in His place they erect a beautiful bewitchment, by which men are so demented that they do not acknowledge Christ as the Justifier, Propitiator, and Savior but think of Him as a minister of sin, an accuser, a judge, and a condemner, who must be placated by our works and merit. [LW 26:199-200].
Therefore let anyone who is seriously concerned about godliness flee this Babylon as quickly as possible, and let him be horrified at the very hearing of the name of the papacy. For its wickedness and abomination are so great that no one can describe them in words or evaluate them except with spiritual eyes [LW 26:201].
For Luther, the papacy was something from which one should flee. Luther's opinion appears to be in part that since the Roman Church was given the scriptures, sacraments, etc.,  in that sense she is a Christian church. However, these elements functions quite independently from the Roman magisterium. No analogy is perfect, but if I had to describe Luther's position I would do so like this: The Roman church is like a pristine ship that's been commandeered by pirates. The ship still functions, but it's crew is in bondage to her captors. Some of the crew mutinies and joins the pirates. Others though, maintain allegiance to her rightful captain.

Luther concludes Concerning Rebaptism by stating, "Christ has faithfully stood by our side up to this point and will continue to trod Satan under our foot. He will protect you all against the seductions of your tyrant and Antichrist and mercifully help us to gain his freedom" (LW 40:262). Apparently, Luther thought these Roman pastors held allegiance to the rightful captain.

So for Luther, is the Roman church basically Christian? I can certainly understand why Luther, looking at the church of his day thought so. On the other hand, Luther certainly considered those who defend papalism as apostates. Consider his strong statement from 1541:
Here they might say and probably will say, “Why do you depict us shamefully as a new, apostate church, when we have baptism, the sacrament, the keys, the creed, and the gospels, just like the ancient church from which we derive? Haven’t you already admitted above that we, as well as you, derive from the ancient church?” I answer, “It is true, I admit, that the church in which you sit derives from the ancient church as well as we, and that you have the same baptism, the sacraments, the keys, and the text of the Bible and gospels. I will praise you even further and admit that we have received everything from the church before you (not from you). What more do you want? Are we not devout enough? Will you not call us henceforth unheretical? We do not regard you as Turks and Jews (as was said above) who are outside the church. But we say you do not remain in it but become the erring, apostate, whorelike church (as the prophets used to call it), which does not remain in the church, where it was born and brought up. You run away from this church and from your true husband and bridegroom (as Hosea says of the people of Israel [Hos. 1:2]) to the devil Baal, to Molech and Astaroth. Do you understand that?” I will explain. You were indeed all baptized in the true baptism of the ancient church, just as we were, especially as children. Now if a baptized child lives and then dies in his seventh or eighth year, before he understands the whorelike church of the pope, he has in truth been saved and will be saved—of that we have no doubt. But when he grows up, and hears, believes, and obeys your preaching with its lies and devilish innovations, then he becomes a whore of the devil like you and falls away from his baptism and bridegroom—as happened to me and others—building and relying on his own works, which is what you whoremongers preach in your brothels and devil’s churches; whereas, by contrast, the child is baptized to rely and build on his one dear bridegroom and Lord, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us. It is as if a devout man were to bring up a poor, young, servant beggar girl as his future bride and become betrothed to her, and she were to keep herself pure until she came to womanhood, and then turn her attentions elsewhere and look at other men who pleased her better, and let herself be persuaded by them and become passionately desirous of them, thus abandoning her true, devoted bridegroom, who had rescued, nourished, educated, clothed, adorned, and treated her well, and let herself be made a whore by everyone. This whore, who before was a pure virgin and dear bride, is now an apostate, erring, married whore, a house-whore, a bed-whore, a key-whore, being the mistress of the house, having the key, the bed, the kitchen, the cellar, and everything at her command. Yet she is so evil that beside her the common unattached whores, the pimp-whores, the whores of the field, the country, and the army are almost holy. For she is the true arch-whore and the true whore of the devil.
Of such a whore Hosea speaks, and Ezekiel indeed does so much more coarsely, in fact almost too coarsely, in chapter 23. You should read that if you want to know what kind of a whore your church is. For this is what I mean when I call you an apostate, erring whore—you who were baptized as children in the dear Lord and even lived some years like the ancient church. But when you grew up and reached the age of reason (as I and everyone else have done), you saw and heard the lovely ceremonies of the papal church, and also its glittering profit, honor, and power, yes, its magnificent holiness, the mighty worship, and all the yarns about the kingdom of heaven. Then you forgot your Christian faith, baptism, and sacrament, becoming the diligent pupils and young little whores (as the comedies say) the procuresses, the arch-whores, until you old whores once more make young whores. Thus the church of the pope, indeed, the church of the devil, grew, transforming many of Christ’s young virgins, who were born in baptism, into arch-whores. This, I hold, should be said in German, so that you and everyone can understand what we mean. For if you hold these innovations of yours to be a joke—you who neither have a God nor honor him—then it is something terrible and abominable before God. It is idolatry, murder, hell, and every calamity, which God cannot bear, so that he will damn the arch-whore for eternity. St. Peter prophesies about that when he speaks of you, that is, of such new prophets and churches in II Peter 2 [:18–19], “For, uttering loud boasts of folly, they entice with licentious passions of the flesh men who have barely escaped, and who must now walk in error. They promise them freedom, forgiveness, and indulgences, but they themselves are slaves of corruption.” And again, “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, the dog turns back to his own vomit, and the sow is washed only to wallow in the mire” [II Pet. 2:19–22]. That is what you are, and that is what I was. There you have your new apostate erring church sufficiently described in German and portrayed clearly enough for you to see. We acknowledge not only that you have, with us, come from the true church and been washed and made clean in baptism through the blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, as St. Peter says here, but also that you are in the church and remain in it. Indeed, we say that you sit and rule in it as St. Paul prophesied in II Thessalonians 2 [:3–4], that the accursed Antichrist would sit (not in the cowshed), but in the temple of God. But you are no longer of the church, or members of the church, for in this holy church of God you are building your own new apostate church, the devil’s brothel with limitless whoredom, idolatry, and innovation, by which you corrupt those who have been baptized and redeemed along with yourselves. And you swallow them down through the jaws of hell into the abyss of hell itself, with a countless multitude, along with the terrible wailing and deep sorrow of those who see this with spiritual eyes and recognize it. (LW 41:207-210)
What are the ramifications of Luther's view for Protestants today? Luther considering the Roman church to be basically Christian in some respects is not the same thing as Luther considering zealous defenders of Rome to be basically Christian. To confuse this is to dissemble, the very thing Luther pointed out in Concerning Rebaptism. In other words, if a zealous defender of Rome selectively uses Luther's words as a basis to promote inter-faith dialog between Romanism and Protestantism, Luther would consider such a person to be a papist, and in danger of hell.

I've been asked from time to time if I think Roman Catholics are fellow Christians. It certainly is possible that God has preserved a remnant of believers within the Roman church despite Trent's anathematizing the Gospel.  On the other hand, of those who zealously defend Rome, I do not consider these people to be Christians.  I think such people are those who need to be either evangelized or refuted. Luther refers to Rome's defenders as a "breed of men condemned long ago, with corrupted minds [1 Tim. 6:5]" (LW 60:216) .

45 comments:

David Waltz said...

Hello James,

Given our past dialogue on Luther and the RCC, I appreciated this "follow-up" thread. With that said, I think there are a few points that need further reflection:

First, the papacy of the 21st century is in a very real sense not the papacy of the 16th century, which sincerely makes me wonder if Luther would have softened his view on the papacy if he lived in our day.

Second, concerning the following you wrote:

==It certainly is possible that God has preserved a remnant of believers within the Roman church despite Trent's anathematizing the Gospel.==

A number, of bright, conservative, evangelical scholars do not believe that Trent anathematized "the Gospel". Dr. McGrath wrote:

>>It is clear that this condemnation [in Canon XI] is aimed against a purely extrinsic conception of justification (in the Catholic sense of the term) — in other words, the view that the Christian life may begin and continue without any transformation or inner renewal of the sinner. In fact, the canon does not censure any magisterial Protestant account of iustificatio hominis, in that the initial (extrinsic) justification of humans is either understood (as with Melanchthon) to be inextricably linked with their subsequent (intrinsic) sanctification, so that the concepts are notionally distinct, but nothing more; or else both the extrinsic justification and intrinsic sanctification of humanity are understood (as with Calvin) to be contiguous dimensions of the union of the believer with Christ. (Alister E. McGrath, Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification, 3rd ed., p. 343.)

Dr. Charles Hodge, and Dr. A.N.S. Lane (both are conservative, Reformed scholars) concur with Dr. McGrath on this issue.
Third, concerning those who "defend Rome":

I certainly would not say the Hodge, Lane and McGrath are 'zealous' defenders of the view that the RCC is a valid Christian church, but on the other hand, they are more vigorous than Luther was; as such, do you think Luther would consign such men to hell? And further, would you?


Grace and peace,

David

Brigitte said...

The dissembling part is interesting, and dissembling should probably put in quotation marks.

Here is how I read this: the pope will say, yes we share the Lord's prayer, sacraments, etc. --BUT they (the Lutherans)are heretics. So the pope is dissembling--speaking out of both sides of his mouth. Luther is said to be "dissembling" because against the anabaptists he defends the creed, sacraments, catechism... etc., come down from the RC church. But he is NOT dissembling and not speaking out of both sides of his mouth. He does believe that the RC church is right on many basic and original teachings and believes in common with the Lutherans (until they have been ruined by false teachings and innovations of the papacy).

The accusation of dissembling is wrong. Luther is not dissembling, at all. There is irony here. The question is thrown out: who is really inventing monstrous teachings and instituting innovations in the church? Is it the Lutherans? OR is it the Pope? It is the Pope. Ergo. The Lutherans have held onto all the good stuff and are not calling RC anything bad for those kinds of things only the innovations. Shall they cease from this position (alleged "dissimulation", "dissembling"). No, not at all. Luther shall not leave this position. However, it is the RC church which is duplicitous in saying: ya, the Lutherans are ok with this and this and this and this,--but they are heretics (even they have not invented any innovations but instead have returned to a more originial position.)

The real point is that Luther was greatly concerned about Anbaptist teaching and the loss of the sacraments and whatever else was under dispute. Luther will stand with the RC church where it is right, and not call it heretical for those,(but not where it is wrong, i.e. innovations) and thus he will also stand with it against Anabaptists. And this is no "dissembling" whatsoever. He is only using the lingo of his opponents.

Brigitte said...

Now that I've looked it up, reading from "Concerning Rebaptism" (Lull, p. 341 and following):

"Martin Luther, to the worthy and beloved pastors N. and N., my dear friends in Christ. Grace and peace in Christ our Lord. Unfortunately, I know full well, dear sirs, that Balthasar Hubmaier has included my name among others in his blasphemous booklet on rebaptism, as if I shared his perverted views."

(So far, more coming, hopefully, someone is coming over for Sunday rhubarb crumble.)

Brigitte said...

"So far we have escaped such rabble preachers in the territory of our prince, God be thanked and praised in eternity. We also have none of the foes of the sacrament,but are at peace and in harmony in doctrine, faith,and life. May it be god's will graciously to keep us thus. Amen. Since there has not been much occasion here for it, I have not, for my part, given much thought to these baptizers. But it serves you right as papists (I must call you such, as long as you are under your tyrants). You will not suffer the gospel, so you will have to endure these devil's rebels... Still, it is not right, and I truly grieve, that these miserable folk should be so lamentably murdered, burned, and tormented to death. We should allow everyone to believe what he wills. If his faith be false, he will be sufficiently punished in eternal hell-fire."

"I am not sure as to the ground and reason of their faith, since you do not tell me, and yet ask advice as to what to do in such cases. My answer cannot be very definite. In a sense you are yourselves Anabaptists. For many among you rebaptize in Latin when someone has been baptized in German, though your pope neither does nor teaches thus... But I pass by now what wrong your people do in their rebaptizing. Your shame is the greater since by your rebaptizing you at the same time contradict your idol, the pope. Teacher and pupil do not agree with each other. I will not speak further of this, but rather help you by appearing to be a papist again and flattering the pope. For my dear enthusiasts will put no other interpretation on it (as they have already done) than that I hereby flatter the pope and seek his favor. Who does not follow their folly must bear the name of a new papist."

So here we have that some Anabaptist, Hubmaier, has claimed that Luther is in support of his rebaptizing those who were baptized as infants in the church, which was no doubt RC at the time. And Luther does not seem to be able to keep up with all the new teachings popping up here and there by theological wanna-be's. Some others, when Luther is obviously not their side, will say he is "flattering the pope" when he speaks of what is right in RC church. This sort of thing we nowadays call self-affirming bias, or some such thing.

He then tries to figure out what they are thinking:

"In the first place I hear and see that such rebaptism is undertaken by some in order to spite the poe and to be free of any taint of the Antichrist. In the same way the foes of the sacrament want to believe only inbread and wine, in opposition to the pope, thinking therebgy really to overthrow the papacy. It is indeed a shaky foundation on which they can build nothing good. On that basis we would have to disown the whole of Scripture and the office of t he ministy, which of course we have received from the papacy. We would also have to make a new Bible..."

This is absurd obviously. Just because something is taught by the "papacy, the Antichrist" does not mean it is automatically wrong.

Brigitte said...

"For instance we confess that in the papal church there are the true holy Scriptures, true baptism, the true sacrament of the altar, the true keys to the forgiveness of sins, the true office of the ministry, the true catechism in the form of the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the articles of the creed. Similarly, thje pope admits that we too, though condemned by him as heretics and likewise all heretics, have the holy Scriptures, baptism, the keys, the catechism, etc. O how do you dissemble? How then do I dissemble? I I speak of what the pope and we have in common. He on his part dissembles toward us and heretics and plainly admits what we and he have in common. I will continue to so dissemble though it does me no good. I contend that in the papacy there is true Christianity, even the right kind of Christianity and many great and devoted saints. Shall I cease to make this pretense?"

So what he is saying is: he will state, contend for and sincerely believe (by the way) that all the things he lists are the right kind of Christianity in the papal church. --Some may call this "flattering the pope" or here he says "dissemble". They can call it what he wants. Shall he change his position on the account of them calling him this? (Of course not, and certainly he has been called many things.) He will not quit "dissembling" if what he says about the papal church must be called "dissembling" (not his choice of words, but using the assertion of his foes.)

"So it is of no consequence when these Anabaptists and enthusiasts say, "Whatever is of the poep is wrong," or, "Whatebver is in the papcy we must have and do differently," thinking thereby to prove themselves the foremost enemy of antichrist. Not realizing that they thus give him most help, they hurt christendom most and decveive themselves. For they should help us to reject abuse and accretion, but they would not get much credit for this because they realize they were not first to do this. so they attack what no one yet has attacked in the hope that there perchance they might have th honor of being first. But the honor turns to disgrace, for they attack the temple of God and miss the Antichirst who sits therein, just as the blind, who grope after water, take hold of fire."

So the Repatizers are getting it exactly wrong. Instead of attacking the Antichrist (the one who rejects the gospel and calls its preachers heretical) they attack the "temple", i.e. that what is true Christianity.

Then he gives this example:

" In fact they remind us of what one brother in the forest of Thuringia did to the other. they were going through the woods with each other when they were set upon by a bear who threw one of them beneath him. The other brother sought to help and struck at the bear. so these enthusiasts. They ought to come to the aid of Christendom which Antichrist has in his grip and tortures. they take a severe stand against the pope, but they miss their mark and murder the more terribly the Christendom under the pope. For if they would permit baptism and the sacrament of the altar to stand as they are, Christians under the pope might yet escape with their souls and be saved, as has been the case hitherto. But now when the sacraments are taken from them, they will most likely be lost, since even Christ himself is thereby taken away."

Luther is not dissembling or flattering--at all. He is dead earnest. The poor Christians who are baptized and go to the sacrament of the altar, have Christ thereby, even if the pope is their tyrant, but those who do away with the sacraments take away Christ from them altogether, thus doing great harm and causing people to go to hell.

The "dissembling" is an accusation against Luther that does not stick at all, and he is not going to change his mind.

Brigitte said...

Sorry about the typos.

James Swan said...

Hi Brigitte,

Thanks for all your comments, and careful reading of the text. In regard to "dissemble", I'll take what you've said into consideration.

For sure Luther is being sarcastic, which I considered to be fairly obvious, so I didn't dwell on it. He does though say in his sarcasm (in the immediate context) that his comments are made by he himself "appearing to be a papist again and flattering the pope." He also explicitly says, "I will continue to so dissemble, though it does me no good." I wasn't trying to "accuse" Luther of anything. I think he was making a very good sarcastic argument against papalism. In other words, I don't think Luther was "speaking out of both sides of his mouth." Rather, he was arguing against papalism by using their own arguments against them. Sorry if this wasn't clear enough in my entry.

Here's the big point though in regard to what Luther is saying, and what I think his words imply: Luther did not consider those who defended the papacy to be Christians. By extension, it's clearly wrong for today's Roman defenders to argue they are "fellow" Christians and use Luther to support such a sentiment. I could produce a myriad of quotes demonstrating that Luther considered avid papists to be heretics and on their way to damnation. Regardless of what Luther said (or didn't say) the Roman church or the papacy had in terms of Christian truth, he flatly condemned the papists. Now, modern papists defending the claims of Rome appealing to Luther as proof they should be considered fellow Christians is simply absurd.

Now to be fair, Luther felt that others were certainly in the same boat of condemnation: Jews, Turks, and even Zwingli and his followers, to name but a few. It could very well be that Luther would think I'm in the same boat as well, or at least my church is. You'll notice, i never attempt to argue Luther thought the Reformed were fellow Christians. Why a zealous modern-day Romanist would want to use Luther to validate them as Christians is laughable.

Perhaps I'm going to have to produce the myriad of quotes. In fact, as I scan across the Internet and find Rome's defenders appealing to Luther that they are fellow Christians, it seems like a good project.

James Swan said...

Brigitte said...
Sorry about the typos.


I'm not typically a stickler for typos in comment box. I realize most people are just pounding out their thoughts quickly. There are other bloggers though that will take any opportunity to prove their superiority by pointing out typos.

Granted, sometimes typos have to be pointed out. I usually do this on discussion boards when someone is trying to pretend to be an authority on something while misspelling every other word.

James Swan said...

First, the papacy of the 21st century is in a very real sense not the papacy of the 16th century, which sincerely makes me wonder if Luther would have softened his view on the papacy if he lived in our day.

I considered this when I was putting the entry together. My gut tells me Luther would not have approved of Rome's decisions at Trent. Nor do I think he would be at all pleased with papal infallibility. Here's the way I see it: the typically pop-Romanist apologist still thinks Luther was wrong about sola fide and sola scriptura, and they vehemently argue against both, often citing Luther by name. That's no different than what the Romanists in the 16th century were doing. If Luther would have condemned the Romanists arguing against sola fide and sola scriptura to hell in the 16th Century, why assume he would not feel the same way in the 21st Century?

I certainly would not say the Hodge, Lane and McGrath are 'zealous' defenders of the view that the RCC is a valid Christian church,

This is not the point of my entry.

do you think Luther would consign such men to hell?

Yes.

And further, would you?

No.

Austin said...

Great post! I was dialoguing with a RC "apologist" about this very issue. Good stuff.

James Swan said...

Great post! I was dialoguing with a RC "apologist" about this very issue. Good stuff.

Thanks... I was just reading a quote from Luther stating the papists cannot prove they are a true church, and then he calls them a false church. I'll post it later.

Once again, it is simply absurd for a Roman apologist to claim Luther would consider him / her a Christian.

James Swan said...

For a future post:
"Thus we have proved that we are the true, ancient church, one body and one communion of saints with the holy, universal, Christian church. Now you too, papists, prove that you are the true church or are like it. You cannot do it. But I will prove that you are the new false church, which is in everything apostate, separated from the true, ancient church, thus becoming Satan’s whore and synagogue [Rev. 2:9]." (LW 41:199)

Here's what I think will happen next: the next card played by the modern-day papists will probably be that Luther contradicted himself.

This is usually how it goes with them once you expose their propaganda.

James Swan said...

Luther's opinion of some of Rome's apologists:

"Generally, in addition to what we have just said, we answer all devils, papists, and all their crew that they, as befits devils and the devil’s lot, lie shamelessly in such books and speeches. We give them the answer the Holy Spirit gave us all long ago in Proverbs 26 [:2], “Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying, a curse that is causeless does not alight.” Here Solomon teaches us that we ought not to heed vilifications or curses that come to us undeserved, without cause or reason, since they pass by and do not alight. This is proved by all of history and its examples. Where are the vilifications that Arius and all the heretics made against the church? Where are the slanderers of our own time—Eraser, Eck, the snot-nose, and Wetzel? Their books have vanished and come to nothing, but the word of God remains forever [Isa. 40:8]." (LW 41:189

James Swan said...

And of Rome's defenders Luther states:

"The Bible and the word of God and their own testimony are on our side. But on their side is something other than the word of God, namely, the words of men, which we do not want to have and which are indeed strictly forbidden by Christ himself and the apostles: Matthew 15 [:9], “They worship me in vain with human doctrine,” and Galatians 1 [:8], “But whoever preaches to you another gospel, even if it be an angel from heaven, let him be accursed.” These are not (I say) simply our own empty, naked words of slander, as are those of the devil, of Wolfenb├╝ttel, of Schmid, of Snot-nose, and the like. You can see in this one of the true signs of who and where the true holy church is, namely, that it is and must be basely perjured, reviled without reason, and derided by the devil’s donkeys and his senseless Harrys. This is called “bearing abuse for Christ,” since there is no other way if we wish to be true Christians." (LW 41:190)

James Swan said...

Luther considered Rome's defenders his brothers in Christ?

"They are shameless and damned liars, who make our faith stronger and our salvation more certain, while at the same time cursing and damning themselves. Therefore I have said above that it is not only easy to answer their books of slander, but also comforting to hear that they slander us. And the more bitterly and violently they vilify us, the better they make it, not for themselves, but for us. They cannot make it worse for themselves; they drive themselves into God’s judgment, and they want to be damned by him as thieves and murderers of his fold [John 10:1], that is, his church (as I have just said)—something I neither wish for them nor for myself, for they help me so much with their slanders." (LW 41:192)


James Swan said...

The ecumenical Luther, reaching out to his papist Christian brothers:

"...since they themselves boast that they are the church, it is for them to prove that they are. If they can prove it with a single reason (I don’t ask for more), then we shall give ourselves up as prisoners, willingly saying, “We have sinned, have mercy upon us.” But if they cannot prove it, they must confess (whether they like it or not) that they are not the church and that we cannot be heretics since we have fallen away from what is not the true church. Indeed, since there is nothing in-between, we must be the church of Christ and they the devil’s church, or vice versa. Therefore it all turns on proving which is the true church." (LW 41:193-194)

James Swan said...

Austin,

We are not the anti-Catholics. Rather it is those belonging to the Roman sect and defend her that are the true anti-catholics. They attack the universal church by attempting to subject us all to the Roman papacy. If Rome ever repented of the heresy of the infallible papacy, perhaps she could be part of the catholic church again. If she repented of this authority claim, true constructive dialog would perhaps be possible. Till then, we can only pray for those enslaved and blinded by the papacy, that God will have mercy on them, and also stand ready to demonstrate that neither the facts of Scripture or the facts of history support their worldview. That they are willing to invoke Luther to support their cause shows you to what extremes Romanists are capable of.

JS


James Swan said...

Luther thought the papists were Christians? Here's Luther on the plight of the papists from his treatise, On the Councils and the Church:

"In God’s name, if you lords—emperor, kings, princes—like the way in which these accursed, damned people trample on your muzzles and rap your snouts, we have to let it happen and remember that they acted much worse in the past: they deposed kings and emperors, anathematized them, drove them out, betrayed them, murdered them, and vented their devilish malice on them, as history testifies; and they intend to go on doing that. Despite this, Christ will know how to find and preserve his Christendom, even against the gates of hell [Matt. 16:18], though emperors and kings neither would nor could help in any way. He can dispense with their help much better than they can do without his. How did he get along before kings and emperors were born? And how would he get along now if no emperor or king existed, even though a whole world of devils raged against him? He is not unused to bitter fare, and he, in turn, can cook up even bitterer fare. Woe to them who must eat it!
But we poor, weak Christians, who must endure being dubbed heretics by such saints, ought to be happy and of good cheer. We ought to praise and thank God the Father of all mercy with great joy for taking such good care of us and for smiting our murderers and bloodhounds with such Egyptian blindness and such Jewish madness that they are determined to yield on no point and to let Christendom perish rather than to allow the most trifling idolatry (with which they are stuffed full and overfull) to be reformed. Of this they boast, and this they do. Cheerful (I say) we ought to be; for thus they make our case better than we could ever have desired, and make theirs worse than they now might think. They know and admit that they are wrong on many points and on top of it have Scripture and God against them, and yet they want to butt their heads against God, and knowingly defend wrong as right. Thus consoled, a poor Christian should indeed be able to take the sacrament even without going to confession, and risk a hundred necks if he had them, when he sees, indeed, when he feels so palpably, that God rules on our side and the devil on theirs." (LW 41:10-11)

"Herewith they testify and cry, to their own perdition, that they are the true Antichrists and “autocatacrites” who condemn themselves and obstinately insist on their own damnation. They thereby exclude themselves from the church and boast publicly that they want to be and to remain the church’s most bitter foes. For he who says that he would rather let the church perish than mend his ways or yield on any point confesses clearly and publicly that he is not only no Christian desirous of being in the church (which he would rather allow to founder so that he might survive and not sink with the church), but that he is also willing to contribute to the church’s destruction—as they prove so horribly with their deeds over and above their words, permitting hundreds of parishes to lie waste and churches to die without shepherd, sermon, and sacrament." (LW 41:12)

Brigitte said...

The problem with the RC church, today, is that it has NOT repented of its innovations and accretions and still keeps coming out with rulings that distance it from the rest of the church. For example, we still have this accursed celibacy of the priesthood. We have seen lately what gets accomplished with such enslavement of consciences. As Luther said when I went into the monastery I only became a damned monk. And nowhere do people think so much of sex as in the monastery... The problem has always been the same and nothing has changed and there is no biblical mandate for it... And St. Peter himself was married...

It also is "dissembling" about what is says about Christ. We have a couple in our church where she is Roman Catholic. This couple works very hard and is very dear. She communes in RC church and he communes in our congregation. The other day, she was furious because the priest said directly: "Salvation is not by faith", and managed to disparage the right doctrine. So here we have an instance of one innocent lamb taught by someone who is being taught by a wrong teacher. It is the wrong teacher who must watch out for himself. Giving with one hand and taking away with another. The point always is: are you giving someone Christ or are you taking him away? -- Some of the talk about "regeneration" around here can be of the same sort. Taking Christ away.

Leaving parishes to rot and die... would do the same thing.

As a Lutheran, you would find it ironic that both Roman or Reformed/Baptist would want to have Luther as the feather in their cap, especially in the light of this document. (Do we have a link to it somewhere handy.) Nevertheless, the right administration of the sacraments are to give Christ to people, and this should not be taken away from them. Taking the gospel away from people amounts to "robbery", is what we read in other places.

James Swan said...

As a Lutheran, you would find it ironic that both Roman or Reformed/Baptist would want to have Luther as the feather in their cap,

Actually, I'm quite content to let Luther be Luther. If he would damn me to hell for being Reformed, well, then so be it. I'm interested in simply letting him say what he said. I think this particular topic is very simple: Luther would not extend the hand of fellowship to the defenders of the papacy.

especially in the light of this document. (Do we have a link to it somewhere handy.)

Which particular document do you mean? I've cited more than a few.

Nevertheless, the right administration of the sacraments are to give Christ to people, and this should not be taken away from them. Taking the gospel away from people amounts to "robbery", is what we read in other places.

Given all the quotes I've posted, I simply have one question for you. I'm not asking you if you think Luther thought Rome was a "true" church in some sense because she retained certain sacraments. I'm not asking you if Luther thought the papists (as differentiated from the Roman church) had proper sacraments or other vestiges of Christianity, and in some sense had Christian truth.

The question is thus: do you think Luther considered zealous papists defending the papacy against him to be his Christian brothers? It appears to me, based on a myriad of quotes, that he considered Rome's staunch defenders as minions of the devil.

This has nothing to do with me being Reformed. It has everything to do with treating the facts of history correctly.

Brigitte said...

I think Luther always made a distinction between those who are doing the best with what they can understand and put their hope in Christ and those who should know better and are considered teachers. The latter, those who are considered teachers and teach wrongly, are heretics and not brothers. They are to be rebuked in the firmest manner.

The kind of Roman apologists that you keep interacting with (with infinite patience, as we have said before), who turn every word around and don't seem to have any scruples, I would hardly imagine he would consider brothers. So we'd be on the same page there.

Brigitte said...

Thus he could call the persons N. and N. who he is writing to--brothers--as they were not hardened in a position.

On the other hand, such things as baptism and the Lord's supper, etc. are hardly "vestiges" of Christianity.

James Swan said...

The editors of LW 39 state:

Luther’s dialectic between the hidden and visible church soon drove him to the question of whether or not the Roman church was a true or a false church. His studies in the history of the church, especially the problem of the origin of papal authority—so vehemently debated at the Leipzig Debate in 1519—provided him with convincing evidence that the Roman church could no longer claim to be the true church. On the contrary, Luther argued, those who are evangelical (evangelisch) are “the true, ancient church, one body and one communion of saints with the holy, universal, Christian church.

And... here's more from Luther on his Christian brothers, the papists:

"Thus they scream (I say) about themselves that they neither want to be the church nor be in the church, but that they want to be the church’s worst enemies and help it go to ruin. Yet until now they have pestered and harassed us with the word, “Church! Church!” There has been no limit or end to their shouting and spitting that they should be regarded as the church; and they charged us miserably with heresy, they cursed us and murdered us because we refused to hear them as the church. Now, I am sure, we are honestly and mightily absolved so that they will not and cannot call us heretics any longer, for they no longer wish to be glorified as the church, but as enemies of the church want to let it be destroyed, even lending a hand in its suppression. It is incongruous for them to be the church and, simultaneously, to let the church perish rather than perish themselves, indeed, to have a hairsbreadth of themselves perish. This is what the passage means, “I will condemn you out of your own mouth, you wicked servant” [Luke 19:22]. (LW 41:12-13)

"You must have the same opinion about the church. It is saddening to hear the papists lie and say that we are reprobate and dead members of the church; but let us distinguish between the true use of the name “church” and its misuse. Ishmael also calls Abraham father, but the situation is far different from what it is in the case of Isaac. Thus the papists call themselves the church; but if it is true—as cannot be denied, not even by Satan—that the church is made up of those who have the promise and believe it, it follows that the pope with his followers is not the church, but that he misuses the name “church,” because he is an enemy of the promise and persecutes those who believe the promise." (LW 4:31)

"We are ready to concede that they are in the Christian Church, but not that they are the true members of the church. To be sure, they have the pulpit, Baptism, the ministry, the Sacrament, and they are in the church; but they are not genuine members. Similarly, among us there are many who are baptized and partake of the Lord’s Supper, who pose as Christians, but who are still knaves through and through. They are not sincere. Therefore we say that they are numbered among the Christians, and that they bear the name and have the outward appearance and semblance of the church and of Christians. But for all that they are not the church and are not Christians.
You must distinguish between the genuine Christian Church, the true church, and the church which presumes to be the church but is not. The false church has only the appearance, although it also possesses the Christian offices. Even a knave is able to baptize, read the Gospel, go to the Sacrament, and recite the Ten Commandments. All this is and remains proper, but he remains a vile knave and is not to be called a Christian or the Christian Church. No, we say that he is found in the Christian Church just as mouse droppings are found among the pepper or cockleburs among the grain. They merely help to fill the bushel. A body may possess fine, sound, and useful members which man can employ for his various needs; but that same body may also contain perspiration, secretion from the eyes, nasal mucus, scabs, abscesses, and other filth." (LW 23:286-287)



James Swan said...

The kind of Roman apologists that you keep interacting with (with infinite patience, as we have said before), who turn every word around and don't seem to have any scruples, I would hardly imagine he would consider brothers. So we'd be on the same page there.

It amazes me that Roman apologists would appeal to Luther to prove they are "Christians." Out of all the odd Luther materials and quotes I've looked through, this might be the most absurd thing I've ever dealt with.

Responding to such an absurdity is really is like "shooting fish in a barrel," so to speak. And I might add, as I've gone through a lot of quotes on this (many not posted yet), certainly Luther's position did develop, but it isn't all that difficult to clear up alleged contradictions between some of his statements as one would think. Simply saying Luther contradicted himself without even looking to see the development, or see how consistent his views were as they developed really does him a disservice.

Tim Enloe said...

It's hard not to notice, especially in the quote near the end, that Luther makes a clear distinction between outward and inward "Christians." I wonder, then, what is the reason for arguing the position that RCs are not "Christian"? Moreover, is it really "letting Luther be Luther" to marshal all these quotes to prove a thesis that everyone knows is a key sociological boundary marker of the Reformed group of which you are a part? In other words, what Luther's actual position on this issue was is only important to you because you deeply desire to be seen as radically sociologically separated from people who don't hold your concept of "the Gospel." The historical argument is, then, just a way to invoke authority by connecting your group's position directly with a Father of the Reformation.

You know, back in the hoary days of the FV controversy, I used to think this issue was of some great importance. More than a decade later, I'm not so sure. It would seem Brigitte is correct that there is an unhelpful equation in your arguments of "Christian" with "regenerate." But the word "Christian" is just a man-made name - no Scripture says we must call real followers of Christ that, and no Scripture says it's wrong to call fake followers of Christ that. Why not simply accept the outward / inward distinction, preach the Gospel to the outward, and leave the inward status to God, the only one who can truly know it anyway?

James Swan said...

I wonder, then, what is the reason for arguing the position that RCs are not "Christian"?

Tim,

This has nothing to do with me being Reformed.

I keep saying zealous defenders of Rome, papists, Romanists, and people keep reading "Roman Catholic Church."

Roman Church and papists are not the same thing for Luther.

James Swan said...

in other words, what Luther's actual position on this issue was is only important to you because you deeply desire to be seen as radically sociologically separated from people who don't hold your concept of "the Gospel."

This is a disappointing comment from you Tim. It demonstrates to me you have not read my comments close enough, and you still want to blast away at the Reformed, for whatever your personal reasons are.

James Swan said...

Brigitte is correct that there is an unhelpful equation in your arguments of "Christian" with "regenerate."

I haven't done this at all. I keep saying over and over and over again that Luther did not consider most of the zealous defenders of the papacy to be his Christian brothers. He did not for a number of reasons (if I do a follow-up post I'll flesh this out).

By extension, I'm also saying that a current zealous defender of the papacy cannot appeal to Luther that "we're all Christians." It's as simple as that. Tim: do seriously think that Luther would look at some of today's zealous Romanist apologists and enter into ecumenical dialogue with them because he considered them his Christian brothers? Do you think Luther would have thanked Denifle, Grisar, and O'Hare for their fine ecumenical critiques of his life, or do you think he would have said the same sort of stuff I quoted above?

Once again, it's absurd to think Luther considered his inquisitors (the popular Roman apologists of his day) as fellow Christians, when he over and over and over again refers to them basically as the spawn of Satan.

Austin said...

" And I might add, as I've gone through a lot of quotes on this (many not posted yet), certainly Luther's position did develop, but it isn't all that difficult to clear up alleged contradictions between some of his statements as one would think. Simply saying Luther contradicted himself without even looking to see the development, or see how consistent his views were as they developed really does him a disservice."

The hilarious thing is, the RC apologist will insist on "development of doctrine" to explain away flagrant contradictions within their own communion, but they're not willing to apply that same standard when reading any Protestant works. Just one more double standard.

James Swan said...



Oh no with Luther, if he's saying something Romanists don't like which disagrees with their preconceived historical revisionism, Luther isn't "developing." Rather, he was such an erratic thinker that he contradicted himself month to month, and... to make it worse, he was "an old, embittered, sick man" so anything he said later in his life can't be trusted.

Of course, in 1520 Luther called Rome's apologists "the newest Roman heretics and blasphemers of the Scriptures," "seductive masters," and that they were being used by the "evil spirit." "They even suffer the Gospel and Christian faith everywhere to go to rack and ruin, and do not intend to lose a hair for it. Yea, all the evil examples of spiritual and
temporal infamy flow from Rome, as out of a great sea of universal
wickedness, into all the world."

And further:

"Now it is clear as day that no one is edified in the Church, nor
withstands the gates of hell by the mere fact that he is under the external authority of the pope. For the majority of those who hold so strongly to the authority of the pope, and lean upon it, are themselves possessed by the
powers of hell and are full of sins and rascality."

And also:

"Now the greater part of the Roman communion, and even some of the
popes themselves, have forsaken the faith wantonly and without struggle, and live under the power of Satan, as is plainly to be seen, and thus the papacy often has been under the dominion of the gates of hell. And should I speak quite openly, this same Roman authority, ever since the time it has
presumed to soar over all Christendom, not only has never attained its purpose, but has become the cause of nearly all the apostasy, heresy, discord, sects, unbelief and misery in Christendom, and has never freed itself from the gates of hell."

A simple Google search will locate these quotes.

Luther did not consider the defenders of the papacy to be Christians, and even in 1520, in a restrained way he's saying the same thing he did 20 years later when he was "an old, embittered, sick man."

Brigitte said...

Luther was not mostly old and enfeebled when he thundered against the papacy. He had tried a life-time with a library's worth of writing and preaching and teaching to show for it, hazarding life and limb to bring the papacy to its senses and a true faith in Jesus Christ. He could do no other, as he said. Instead he and the faith were persecuted to the nth degree. The papacy missed its hour. First he thought Leo might listen, and after decades it was clear that there was no reform happening in Rome. As we said, he speaks differently to and about those who are hardened and those who actively and willfully persecute the truth. But all this talk about Luther would discomfit him. It was not about him and it is not so much about labels. It is about having Jesus Christ. And we hear so precious little about him in all these debates. The confession of him is what the church is built upon. Let's go to this rock.

James Swan said...

Brigitte,

A few years ago Concordia released a volume of Luther's Works that consisted of sermons from 1539-1546 (LW 58). These sermons are coherent, fairly consistent (sometimes his reminiscences are not exact), and reflective of a pastoral heart. It becomes fairly obvious when reading through this volume that despite failing health, Luther was a workhorse with a sharp mind.

One of the main differences I see in the later Luther's writings is that there is less of an emphasis on persuading an opponent and more of an emphasis on denouncing an opponent. when one factors in Luther's eschatological expectations, it becomes obvious why this is.

LW 58 states:

"In the following years Luther wrote with vigor against the various opponents of the Gospel as he himself confessed it, seeking less to persuade his opponents than to denounce them and to separate himself definitively, before both God and men, from their errors. Luther wrote repeatedly against the papacy and its theologians, against contemporary Jews, as well as against “false brethren” within the broader Evangelical movement: the Sacramentarians who denied the presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Lord’s Supper and the Antinomians who rejected the preaching of the Law to Christians."

How dangerous was the papacy and her zealous defenders according to the "old" Luther? LW 58 provides the following:

See On the Councils and the Church (1539), LW 41:3–178; Against the Roman Papacy (1545), LW 41:257–376; Depiction of the Papacy (1545), WA 54:361–73 (LW 72); Against the Thirty-Two Articles (1545), LW 34:339–60; and the treatise Against the Asses of Paris and Louvain, left unfinished at Luther’s death, WA 54:447–58 (LW 72); Edwards, Luther’s Last Battles, pp. 163–202. See below, the sermons of February 23, 1539, pp. 3–15; March 2, 1539, pp. 16–29; January 6, 1544, pp. 53–70; January 13, 1544, pp. 71–79; January 20, 1544, pp. 80–87; January 18, 1545, pp. 215–23; May 10, 1545, p. 137; November 1, 1545, pp. 313–21; November 8, 1545, pp. 322–30; November 15, 1545, pp. 331–39; and December 13, 1545, pp. 340–47.

Here are some excerpts from LW 58. These are not the rantings of an old, embittered, sick man.

"Thus the Christian life is faith, love, and hope [1 Cor. 13:13]—the three theological virtues or, better, the three Christian virtues, which belong to believers alone. The heathen also possess virtues—patience or love—and, indeed, also write about them. But they do not have faith in Christ and the hope of eternal life, nor do they love the righteous, [but] persecute them. These, therefore, are the highest virtues among the heathen and the Papists." (LW 58:335)

-continued-

James Swan said...

"This is not our own war and battle, but rather Michael’s. To Him and to His entire kingdom, Satan, the old serpent, is a mortal enemy, and he strives to destroy them. Thus Christ must take the field against Satan at all times with His small flock—sometimes more vigorously, sometimes less so. Today there is sore conflict over the faith, Baptism, Sacrament, and Gospel of Christ. Especially in these last days, the devil is astonishingly [active in] setting up new heresies and sects. He wants at all times to take possession of heaven and to be lord in Christendom. He does not concern himself much with the Turks and Papists, because they are already his own; he merely uses them to fight the Church. Instead, he wants to sit and rule in the pure, holy temple of God [2 Thess. 2:4]." (LW 58:179-180)

"At the Diet of Speyer, a certain person said: “I find nothing in my Creed [that says,] ‘I believe the Roman [Church],’ ” etc. If lawyers [took] the phrase “Roman Church” out of their decretals, their books would be very thin. “Church” does not mean what the Roman see says “Church” means. That is of no concern to me. Paul [says that] doctrine and prophecy [must be] in accord with the analogy of faith. It should agree with the Christian faith, or else it is death. I have not been ‹baptized› or called by God to ‹believe and› teach what the Roman see [says]. Rather, I say, “I believe the holy universal Church,” not “the Roman [Church].” Therefore, begone, devil, Rome, pope. So also [they say], “You must perform the Mass and redeem souls from purgatory.” Where is that written? “The Roman see has taught it,” [they say,] “and the Roman Church is the Christian Church.”15 Tell me, what is the Christian Church? Not what the pope teaches ‹through his decretals›: that the Roman Church is both mother ‹of the churches› and a schoolmistress, a teacher of the faith. Yes, she is the devil’s mother! Does [the pope] call himself a doctor of the faith? Where is that written? Moreover, he commits a fallacy ‹in interpreting› [the expressions] “teacher of the faith” and “the mother of the faith.” See what a fallacy is there! The early church [studied] under the martyrs. [Now,] would that someone would take this ass to school and teach him the rudiments! ‹They interpret› “teacher of the faith” actively, that is, [to mean that] one must believe whatever [the church] teaches. Rather, every church is a teacher of the faith passively. ‹You coarse ass, learn [the difference between] active and passive words!›" (LW 58:218-219)

-continued-

James Swan said...

And so though we cannot convert the pope, Papists, and other godless people and sects, we want to prevent them from ruling among us in the Church. This is what the Lord Himself wanted to show when He said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” [Matt. 13:9; Luke 8:8]. So that we may be wise here and remain in God’s Word, we should gladly hear it and not allow it to be falsified, and should shun and flee whatever is not in accordance with it. For there are many such thistles that want to be totally pure, but even if they hide the old scoundrel in a cowl for a hundred years, he will still remain as he was before and will become worse and worse. What, then, should I do about it? Should I let it go? No, neither to one side nor to the other. Resist him. Do not strike him dead, but fight with him, just as St. Paul says to the Romans [6:12f.]: “Do not let sin reign in your body.” You should be the lord, and not your sin, for your sins are forgiven in order that you might fight against them and hold the field and not do what the flesh desires. For example, if I see another man’s wife, money, or property and they please me well, then I should immediately say: “I hear you well enough, you shameful flesh. You are knocking once again, but you must not do what you would, for it is written: I should love God with my whole heart, so that His name might be hallowed and honored.”
I do the same against those who set up sects or schisms or proclaim something not in accordance with the true doctrine. Here also the Spirit shall fight by means of pure doctrine and the confession of the same, so that we do not accept [their false doctrine], and also keep others steadfast in [the truth]. Thus we are and remain genuine, pure saints and the true, good wheat, though we must endure and tolerate among us those who are nothing but noxious weeds, cockles, and thistles condemned to be burned, who will neither hear nor understand nor live according to God’s Word—just as the papacy is now with its Papists and sophists, Cologne and Louvain, and the devil’s other thistle-heads. (LW 58:456)

James Swan said...

Once again, lest the point be missed (as it appears to have happened with a few folks reading this entry)-

Luther did not consider the defenders of the papacy to be his Christian brothers.

The current defenders of Rome and the papacy cannot appeal to Luther to support their contention that Luther would have considered them his Christian brothers. Whether younger, older, healthy, or sick, Luther was fairly consistent on this. Certainly when he was first engaged in his battle against the papacy and the papist defenders he more often attempted to persuade rather than denounce. There is certainly development here.

By extension, anyone who engages Rome's apologists today should consider beforehand whether or not they are engaging a Christian brother. One cannot know with certainly how Luther would have felt about those Roman defenders who came after his death, and are with us to this day, but based on his comments while he was alive, it certainly leans towards him not treating them as his Christian brothers.

RPV said...


By extension, anyone who engages Rome's apologists today should consider beforehand whether or not they are engaging a Christian brother.


Even if that means being considered/slandered as uncharitable - THE unforgivable sin according to some - despite what the Scripture says about the deceitful kisses of dissemblers like Judas.

But then again Luther has something to say about love in his commentary on Galatians, if I remember correctly. That sound doctrine may not be sacrificed for the sake of love. Granted he didn't have to much use or love for the sacramentarians, i.e. the reformed, but the point is well taken.

Romanists who choose to actively defend romanism need to challenged on their brotherly credentials since they choose to defend poison.

Highway dog said...

I wonder what this Dave person is communicating? What is his exact engagement with the post? --I don't mean how he expounds in the subject--

James Swan said...

Romanists who choose to actively defend romanism need to [be] challenged on their brotherly credentials since they choose to defend poison.

That's one of the points indeed.

Luther certainly didn't take into account the "brotherly credentials" of most of those Romanists that attacked him... quite the contrary, actually. In 1519, Luther referred to Rome's defenders as "adversaries of Christian grace" dancing around the altar of their Baal. Imagine if a protestant dared to say that about one of Rome's defenders today, why is would be "anti-catholic"... but wait a minute... Luther is said by some of Rome's defenders to believe all Roman Catholics are Christians... why would he say such a thing?

In 1520, Luther stated of his Romanist inquisitors:

"I have, to be sure, sharply attacked ungodly doctrines in general, and I have snapped at my opponents, not because of their bad morals, but because of their ungodliness. Rather than repent this in the least, I have determined to persist in that fervent zeal and to despise the judgment of men, following the example of Christ who in his zeal called his opponents “a brood of vipers,” “blind fools,” “hypocrites,” “children of the devil” [Matt. 23:13, 17, 33; John 8:44]. Paul branded Magus [Elymas, the magician] as the “son of the devil, … full of all deceit and villainy” [Acts 13:10], and he calls others “dogs,” “deceivers,” and “adulterers” [Phil 3:2; II Cor. 11:13; 2:17]. If you will allow people with sensitive feelings to judge, they would consider no person more stinging and unrestrained in his denunciations than Paul. Who is more stinging than the prophets?" (LW 31:335)

In the same writing from 1520, Luther refers to a Roman apologist in this way: that when Satan became aware of Luther, "Satan opened his eyes and then filled his servant Johann Eck, a notable enemy of Christ, with an insatiable lust for glory."

The simple fact is that appeals to Luther implying Roman apologists should be interacted with as Christian brothers is ecumenical propaganda.

James Swan said...

Luther, 1523 on the Pope and the papists:

"But praise and thanks be to God! The foolishness and ignorance of the pope and Papists is coming forth into the light of day. They are being mocked and put to shame, and are making themselves contemptible to everyone, so that Daniel [8:25] might be fulfilled, where he says of the Antichrist: “He shall be destroyed without a hand”; and Paul in 2 Timothy 3 [:9] says: “But they will not get very far. Instead, their folly will be plain to all, as it happened to Jannes and Jambres” [cf. 2 Tim. 3:8; Exod. 7:11]." (LW 59:40)

"I do not marvel that Fabri or any other papistic warrior acts so foolishly. I marvel at Satan who rules among them; [I marvel at] what that mighty, wise, exceedingly crafty, and malicious spirit might be thinking in attempting nothing more through his instruments than these stupid and laughable things." (LW 59:75)

Luther, 1531:

"I know that my writing is now lost on the Papists and is utterly in vain. For after this last diet they have given themselves over to the devil, or else, just as Satan entered Judas after the holy bite of bread and possessed him entirely [John 13:27], so also now, after all of our emphatic and well-meaning exhortation, pleading, and intercession, Satan has entered the Papists and completely possessed them so that they, having been hardened, are no longer able to hear or to endure God’s Word or work." (LW 59:325)

"It serves also to overwhelm the Papists with an abundance of divine testimony, to accuse them ceaselessly before God, and finally to put them to shame before the world. Thus they are the more unable to avail themselves of any excuse, and shall be damned all the deeper in the pit of hell, and shall perish all the sooner. For since they with their raging compel us to cry out, it will not delay long for them, for God cannot endure such crying for long. I know this for certain, as Christ says in Luke 18 [:7–8]: “Shall not God save His elect, who cry to Him day and night? Indeed, I say to you, He will save them speedily.” (LW 59:326)

"In a time like this it is truly difficult to preach, and one might become impatient enough to abandon his office and say, “If you want to go to the devil, then go!” For it is truly intolerable to have on one side the Papists raging against [our preaching] with fire, sword, water, and all the power of the devil, and on the other side, the satiated sectarian spirits and willful, frivolous hearts making up clever arguments against it with all the craftiness of the devil." (LW 59:333)

Highway dog said...

James, you are good to give us such documentation. The Roman Catholics should just let it sit that they were objected to and condemned by these feisty committed Christians of 1517 and beyond. I pray for God's work among them to bring them to repentance.
Rob.

James Swan said...

Thanks Rob.

I realize this topic may be a bit dull, that the Protestants were protesting not only the papacy, but those who defended the papacy.



PeaceByJesus said...

since ugnallI wanted to thank you David for posting McGrath's statement, which refutes the straw man RCs incessantly use of sola ecclesia as meaning the faith that appropriates justification need not be the kind of faith that will effect works, which works in turn justify/vindicate one as having true faith/being saved. Thus Paul pens both Rm. 2:13 and 4:4-6

PeaceByJesus said...

My old PC sometimes does strange things, but rendering "I wanted to thank you David" into "since ugnallI" is a new one. I also had to do the captcha 3 times.

James Swan said...

Luther, 1521- the papists are not Christians:

"Concerning “both kinds” in the Eucharist, I am not arguing on the basis of the example for the early church] but of the word of Christ. He did not show that those who receive only the “one kind” either have or have not sinned. But it is important that Christ did not require either kind, just as he does not absolutely require baptism, when a tyrant or the world prevent the use of water. The violence of persecution puts asunder a husband and wife (whom God has forbidden being put asunder), but they do not consent to the separation. In the same way pious hearts do not consent to being deprived of the “other kind.” Who will deny, however, that they who do consent to it and approve of it—I mean the papists—are not Christians and are guilty of sin?" (LW 48:279-280)


James Swan said...

Luther, commenting on a romanist apologist of his day, 1521, Jerome Emser. Ask yourself this: did Luther consider this apologist his Christian brother?

"Philip wrote that you intend to answer Emser if it seems wise to me. But I am afraid that he is not worthy of having you as a respondent. On the other hand he may laugh and mock if one of the young people should answer him, since he is full of Satan. The spirit that rages in him seizes on words only to make a mockery of them; but he neglects the issue at stake. Whatever happens, if you people answer him then know that you are dealing with a most wicked spirit and be well aware that you don’t talk to a man. For [Emser] himself does not understand what he is saying; the spirit which pushes him through a creeping illness of envy toward fury says everything for only one purpose: to exasperate and mock." (LW 48:265)

"do not doubt that an evil spirit speaks in Emser as from his very own shell. He pursues only one course: to depart from the subject and multiply his blasphemies in many books. It is certainly an evil spirit. But his wickedness lacks one thing: he possesses and occupies a dumb, stupid, and unlearned shell. Yet he himself, no matter how wicked he may be, declares sufficiently by his furious attacks just how hemmed in he is by Scripture, and how he can’t produce anything worthwhile in support of his kingdom among the papists. And that hurts this Satan." (LW 48:266)