Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Luther's "Epistle of Straw" comment according to the Twelve Tribes

I was recently sent a link to an exposition on Luther's "epistle of straw" comment put together by a website entitled, The Twelve Tribes. The web site doesn't easily give up information as to who exactly they are. They appear to be some sort of quasi-Messianic Jewish group that practices flee the organized church, and  if Wiki is correct, they have quite a sordid past. A good example of the confusion of what this group believes can be found in this pdf they put together.

The Luther-related link from Twelve Tribes is anti-Reformation propaganda and devoid of the Gospel. Here are a few thoughts as I read through the article:

1) "It is a well-documented fact that Martin Luther is quoted as having said that the book of the New Testament called James was an 'epistle of straw.'"

What they fail to point out is that the comment only appears in the original 1522 Preface To The New Testament. Luther later retracted the comment (along with some others) when he revised his Preface to the New Testament. For anyone to continue to cite Luther’s “epistle of straw” comment against him is to do Luther an injustice. He saw fit to retract the comment. Subsequent citations of this quote should bear this in mind. For more information, see: Six Point's on Luther's Epistle of Straw.

2) "newfound doctrine" "According to his revelation" etc.

The author of this article is claiming that justification by faith alone was revealed by revelation to Luther, but in essence is claiming that what was revealed to Luther was not correct. Luther is portrayed sort of like Joseph of Smith of Mormonism.  This is akin to how some Roman Catholics have argued against Luther.

3) "What bothered him so much about the words of James? He did not like what James said about faith and works. It did not go along with his newfound doctrine, 'saved by faith alone.'”

This partly correct. Luther held lifelong doubts about the canonicity of James. Even though Luther arrived at the harmonizing solution between James and Paul , it is probably the case that the question of James’ apostleship outweighed it. Luther's questioning of James included the book's status in Church history, and it’s internal evidence as to its apostolicity. For Luther, James was the writing of a second century Christian, therefore not an apostle nor an eyewitness of the risen Christ. Did Luther simply arrive at this conclusion without a basis? No. Throughout his career, he maintained a position that echoed other voices from church history. This trumped any type of harmonization between Paul and James. For more information on this see: Luther and the Canon of Scripture and Six Point's on Luther's Epistle of Straw.

4) "Martin Luther taught that salvation is by faith alone, thus anything else that might be expected from a believer would be heresy, or works salvation. Yet, the book of James explains just the opposite concerning salvation. So, of course, rather than doubt the authenticity of his own personal revelation about faith, he doubted the Bible."

This is a caricature based on a false understanding of Luther, James, Paul, and the Gospel itself. Luther held that grace, faith, and the work of Christ are essential ingredients that justify, and that justification is a gift as well as the very faith involved. Christ’s perfect works are imputed to a sinner, and that sinner is seen as completely righteous. This does not though mean: Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die. Salvation is unto good works. Good works are not unto eventual salvation. We are saved in order to perform good works, not by performing them. Luther held that faith is a living faith, and it shows its life by what it does. For Luther, we are not saved by works; but if there be no works, there must be something amiss with faith. Luther defines good works as those “works that flow from faith and from the joy of heart that has come to us because we have forgiveness of sins through Christ.” Luther taught a life under the cross, which is a life of discipleship of following after Christ. Our crosses though, do not save. They serve the neighbor. We are called to be neighbor to those around us. For more information on this see this link. Particularly note the appendix in which I provide many citations from Luther proving that Luther understood the proper distinction between faith and works.

5) "Martin Luther was one who was famous for his “fiery invective” and coarse language. So, of course, he would not like that part in the Bible where it condemns men who, “With the tongue praise our Lord and Father, and with the same tongue curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness."

If one goes through the 100 or so volumes of Luther's writings, the amount of scatological language is slight in comparison to the whole. For a brief synopsis of this see this link: Martin Luther's Volatile Language.

6) "For I am unable to pray without the same time cursing."

For context, See: Luther: I am unable to pray without at the same time cursing 

7) "So, we see a religion full of gluttony, drunkenness, and even murder in the name of God, by people (including Martin Luther himself)"

There is no historical evidence that Luther was a glutton, drunkard or murderer. See: PBS Presents “Facts” That Luther Advocated Drunkenness and Promiscuity and Luther a Murderer?

1 comment:

Scott Backle said...

I HAVE FOUND IT TO BE PRETTY MUCH A FACT THAT WHEN A THEOLOGIAN STANDS UP FOR THE TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL AND THE COMPLETE WORD OF GOD AS INFALLIBLE AND INERRANT WHICH IN NO UNCERTAIN TERMS PLAINLY TEACHES JUSTIFICATION BY GRACE ALONE THROUGH FAITH ALONE IN CHRIST ALONE.THIS IS CLEAR IN BOTH OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS. THE HERETICS AND LUNATICS, FALSE TEACHERS, IDOLATORS AND ALL SORTS OF THE SPIRITUALLY DEPRAVED LOVE TO TRY AS HARD AS THEY MIGHT (TO ABSOLUTLY NO AVAIL)TO DISCREDIT THOSE GOD HAS USED TO ADVANCE HIS KINGDOM. READ THE PROPHETS YOU QUARRELERS HAVE ANY OF YOU BEEN SWAYED TO THE TRUTH? YOU CAN'T! WHEN YOU CAN STAND WITH THE GIANTS; THE APOSTLE PAUL, AUGUSTINE,ANSELM,AQUINAS,LUTHER,CALVIN,EDWARDS AND SPURGEON. LET ME SEE YOUR LIST OF THOSE YOU STAND WITH; ERAMUS? ARIMINIUS? FINNEY? THE PAPACY??? PELAGIOUS PERHAPS. LET ME KNOW SCOFFERS.