Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Reformation Was Not About Being “Bible Believers,” Martin Luther Venerated The Virgin Mary And Was Very Catholic In His Thinking

The following link was sent to me a few days ago: The Reformation Was Not About Being “Bible Believers,” Martin Luther Venerated The Virgin Mary And Was Very Catholic In His Thinking. The hosting website is Shoebat.com, and, as far as I can tell, is some sort of Anti-Islam pro-Roman Catholic website. The website itself doesn't come out overtly as to where its theological affiliations lie, so there's some guessing on my part.

Whatever exactly Shoebat.com is, the arguments in the link above are typical of shoddy Roman Catholic apologetic methodology and research in regard to Luther and the Reformation. The basic argument is that Luther held Roman Catholic beliefs about Mary while Protestants today do not. The author argues, "Martin Luther held to beliefs on Mary that no evangelical today would except, yet without Luther, there would have been no evangelical church. Evangelicalism, then, is really a schism within a schism, not a church that can historically trace itself back to the Apostles." Typical of Rome's defenders, it's simply assumed that Rome's theology is some sort of unchanging bulwark whose complete and full theology is traced back to the apostles. It would be interesting to see Shoebat.com explain how the apostles taught Mary's assumption, Mary's immaculate conception, papal infallibility, indulgences, and host of other things that most of Rome's better defenders try to smooth over with "development of doctrine."

This statement most fully displays the shallow historical conclusions of Shoebat.com: "The reason why Luther held to such beliefs because they were in accordance to what was believed and taught in the ancient days of the Church. Read the Church Fathers, look to the Copts and to the Orthodox, and you will see what original Christianity looks like." The "beliefs" in question are Luther's alleged Roman Catholic-esque Marian views. A statement like this demonstrates a lack of understanding of Luther's thought. Luther’s Mariology consisted of shattering the idol of the Virgin Mary with justification by faith. To the medieval ear these words must have been revolutionary: “Even the holy mother of God did not become good, was not saved, by her virginity or her motherhood, but rather by the will of faith and the works of God, and not by her purity, or her own works. Therefore, mark me well: this is the reason why salvation does not lie in our own works, no matter what they are; it cannot and will not be effected without faith” (LW 51:62).

I've worked through the quotes below, demonstrating Shoebat.com probably lifted them from Roman Catholic websites (which lifted them from other secondary sources). I would say it's highly probable Shoebat.com never looked up any of the quotes posted in their article. This is often the method of Rome's defenders; 1. Use secondary sources someone else put together; 2. Rarely check the contexts or sources the quotes are said to come from; 3. Ignore the historical context; 4. Assume that if something from the past sounds Roman Catholic, it supports Romanism.


The Luther Quotes From Shoebat.com

 1."Luther believed that Mary was a sinless perpetual virgin who was immaculately conceived. Martin Luther declared these words to Mary: 'No woman is like you. You are more than Eve or Sarah, blessed above all nobility, wisdom, and sanctity' (Sermon, Feast of the Visitation, 1537)."

On a surface reading, there's nothing explicitly in this context-less quote implying Luther thought Mary was "a sinless perpetual virgin who was immaculately conceived." In context though, Luther is simply expounding on Elizabeth's words in Luke 1: 42-45, and nothing more. Saying nice things about Mary (even if those nice things are being put into Elizabeth's mouth) is not Roman Catholic Marian dogma, veneration, or devotion.  This quote was probably taken originally from this secondary source: William Cole, "Was Luther a Devotee of Mary" [Marian Studies XXI, 1970, p. 132]. Cole documents it as " WA 45, 105, 7 to 106, 1." This one sentence quote represents an entire page of German / Latin text!

2. "Moreover, Luther believed that Mary helps lead us to Christ, or that we can come to Christ through Mary: '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.' (Explanation of the Magnificat, 1521."

The sentences in this quote come from multiple sources, not simply "Explanation of the Magnificat, 1521." If I recall correctly, a defender of Rome created this mess by taking a section of Cole's article and not paying attention to the documentation.  Cole's quote is actually a rather loose compilation of a few Luther quotes, from different treatises, with an emphasis on Luther's exposition of the Magnificat. The last section of this hodge-podge quote says, "Mary does not wish that we come to her, but through her to God." Here's some of the context of this one sentence. Notice what it means to Luther to go through Mary to God (as opposed to what Rome's defenders today assume it means):
"Hence all those who heap such great praise and honor upon her head are not far from making an idol of her, as though she were concerned that men should honor her and look to her for good things, when in truth she thrusts this from her and would have us honor God in her and come through her to a good confidence in His grace."
"Whoever, therefore, would show her the proper honor must not regard her alone and by herself, but set her in the presence of God and far beneath Him, must there strip her of all honor, and regard her low estate, as she says; he should then marvel at the exceedingly abundant grace of God, who regards, embraces, and blesses so poor and despised a mortal. Thus regarding her, you will be moved to love and praise God for His grace, and drawn to look for all good things to Him, who does not reject but graciously regards poor and despised and lowly mortals. Thus your heart will be strengthened in faith and love and hope. What do you suppose would please her more than to have you come through her to God this way, and learn from her to put your hope and trust in Him, notwithstanding your despised and lowly estate, in life as well as in death? She does not want you to come to her, but through her to God."

3. "Luther praised and venerated Mary with the following words: '[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' (Sermon, Christmas, 1531)"

This is another quote from Cole's article. It's actually two quotes from two different pages, separated by an entire page (Yes, that's Rome's apologists at their best). It's also possible this quote isn't from 1531, but rather 1532. There's no denying Luther said nice things about Mary. Luther though abandoned the distinction between latria and dulia. If you search out all the times Luther used the word “veneration,” you will find an entirely negative meaning applied to the term. The question that needs to be asked is what exactly is Marian devotion and veneration? What does it mean for a Roman Catholic to be devoted to or venerate Mary, and what does it mean for Luther to be devoted to or venerate Mary? In context, Luther says the following (notice his chastisement of Rome's Marian piety and theology):
Under the papacy only the mother has been praised and extolled. True it is, she is worthy of praise and can never be praised and extolled enough. For this honor is so great and wonderful, to be chosen before all women on earth to become the mother of this child. Nevertheless, We should not praise and extol the mother in such a way as to allow this child who has been born unto us to be removed from before our eyes and hearts and to think less highly of him than of the mother. If one praises the mother, the praise ought to be like the wide ocean. If either one is to be forgotten, it is better to forget the mother rather than the child. Under the papacy, however, the child has all but been forgotten, and attention riveted only on the mother. But the mother has not been born for our sakes; she does not save us from sin and death. She has, indeed, begotten the Savior! for this reason we are to wean ourselves away from the mother and bind ourselves firmly to this child alone!
Here Luther chastised the papacy for its treatment of Mary in the same context Shoebat.com says he praised and venerated Mary. Again, Luther saying nice things about Mary does not equal Rome's version of devotion. Luther knew it and expressed it often.

4."Whats amazing is that conservatives believe that what we earn should be based on our hard work. Yet, many of these same conservatives want to take away capitalism in Heaven, where everybody shares eternal treasures equally, including the one who gave birth God the Son. Mary has no equal, and this is what Luther taught when he said: '[S]She became the Mother of God, in which work so many and such great good things are bestowed on her as pass man’s understanding. For on this there follows all honor, all blessedness, and her unique place in the whole of mankind, among which she has no equal, namely, that she had a child by the Father in heaven, and such a Child…. Hence men have crowded all her glory into a single word, calling her the Mother of God…. None can say of her nor announce to her greater things, even though he had as many tongues as the earth possesses flowers and blades of grass: the sky, stars; and the sea, grains of sand. It needs to be pondered in the heart what it means to be the Mother of God' (Luther’s Works, 21:326, cf. 21:346)."

Despite a mis-cited word in this quote ("None can say") and that "cf. 21:346" has nothing to do with the content on page 326, Shoebat.com actually provided a meaningful reference to LW 21. My guess would be though the quote actually came from this Wikipedia page, or something like it (it's cited in this form often). Shoebat.com appears to have set up a straw man to knock down: "conservatives" holding to some sort of communism in heaven, whereas Luther held Mary "has no equal." I'm not exactly sure whom exactly Shoebat.com has in mind in regard to conservative communists in Heaven, but when Luther said Mary "has no equal, namely, that she had a child by the Father in heaven," he wasn't saying anything I would find against Protestantism. Certainly there is a sense in which Christ makes his people sons of God (Galatians 3:26-29); but there certainly are people in the Scriptures that are heroes of the faith, both on earth and in glory (Matthew 9:28-36). It is interesting that interpreters of the treatise this quote comes from say the "Mary" being presented by Luther was not the same "Mary" of medieval theology. Roman Catholic historian Hartmann Grisar states of this writing, "[T]he book became to all intents and purposes a controversial tract, which cannot be quoted as a proof of his piety or serenity of mind during those struggles. Luther's Magnificat is as little a serious work of edification and piety as his exposition of certain of the Psalms, which appeared almost simultaneously and was also directed  'against the Pope and the doctrine of men.'"


5. "Christ is our salvation, and so Mary gave birth to our salvation. Why then can’t we say that Mary is a participator in our salvation? Mary stands between Christ and humanity; this is what Luther taught when he said: "The Virgin Mary remains in the middle between Christ and humankind. For in the very moment he was conceived and lived, he was full of grace. All other human beings are without grace, both in the first and second conception. But the Virgin Mary, though without grace in the first conception, was full of grace in the second … whereas other human beings are conceived in sin, in soul as well as in body, and Christ was conceived without sin in soul as well as in body, the Virgin Mary was conceived in body without grace but in soul full of grace" (H. George Anderson, 238)"

This is probably another quote from  this Wikipedia page. I conclude this because of the reference:"H. George Anderson, 238" (see footnote #23 in the Wiki page). This reference appears to be to "Anderson, H. George, Stafford, J. Francis, Burgess, Joseph A., eds. The One Mediator, The Saints, and Mary. Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VIII. Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1992." What's interesting about this Wikipedia page is that if this was the source Shoebat.com used, the article answered their question: "Before 1516, Luther's belief that Mary is a mediatrix between God and humanity was driven by his fear of Jesus being the implacable judge of all people."  As to the quote itself, it was deleted from the sermon it occurred in during Luther's lifetime, with Luther's approval, and rather quickly after it was published. It's an isolated section that Rome's defenders usually refer to as proof Luther held to the immaculate conception, not Mary's "participation in our salvation" (even Anderson is citing it about the immaculate conception on page 238). It doesn't appear that Shoebat.com even understands what it's citing.

6. "Mary is the mother of the Church. If you get angry at me for saying this, you should also get mad at Luther, for he said:'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' (Sermon, Christmas, 1529)."

This is another quote originally lifted from Cole's article. To my knowledge, no full English translation is available of WA 29, 655, 26 to 656-7, however this sermon [Predigt am 1.Weihnachtsfeiertage / Sermon for the first day of Christmas (Lk 2:1ff) (25 Dec 1529). Aland Pr 1084. WA 29:642-656] is slated to be released in a forthcoming edition of Luther's Works. Even without the immediate context, The quote from Luther does not say "Mary is the mother of the Church," but rather, "Mary is the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of all of us." There are a number of Christmas Day sermons from Luther on Luke 2. Luther's typical point is that Christ is ours, so whatever belongs to Christ, also belongs to his people (cf. LW 75:216-217). Elsewhere in Luther's writings he refers to Rebecca and Hagar as "mother of the church." Rome's defenders though, fixated on anything in regard to Mary, do not look to factor in anything that would detract from their  interpretation of Reformation history.

7. "Mary was born without original sin, and she was always without sin; this too was taught by Luther when he said: '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' (Sermon: “On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God,” 1527) '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.' (Personal {“Little”} Prayer Book, 1522)."

The first quote is from the same deleted sermon section described in #5. See my extended treatment here. This quote made its way into a cyber space when a  defender of Rome took it from Roman Catholic historian Hartmann Grisar's book, Luther Vol. IV (St Louis: B. Herder, 1913). Grisar uses this quote, but what the defenders of Rome typically leave out is his analysis: "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: "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 second quote refers to the Personal Prayer Book of 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, and in fact one does find statement from Luther like the following "Mother Mary, like us, was born in sin of sinful parents."


Conclusion
Luther indeed had a Mariology. It reflected his commitment to Christ, and stood in antithesis to popular Roman Catholic belief in the sixteenth century. The colors of the Roman Catholic picture of Luther’s devotion to Mary become blurry and unfocused when examined in the light of his writings and theology. Once the intercessory role of Mary was abandoned, Luther saw the idol medieval theology had created. The medieval veneration had its sole purpose of appealing to her for daily and ultimate help. Her attributes were worshipped in order to gain her favor. To suggest that Luther held a virtually Roman Mariology is to imply his veneration of Mary and her tradition-created attributes. It is to say that Luther sought her as a means to her Son. For Luther though, quite the opposite is the case:
Christ is not so much a judge and an angry God but one who bears and carries our sins, a mediator. Away with the papists, who have set Christ before us as a terrible judge and have turned the saints into intercessors! There they have added fuel to the fire. By nature we are already afraid of God. Blessed therefore are those who as uncorrupted young people arrived at this understanding, that they can say: “I only knew Jesus Christ as the bearer of my sins.
Once again, I'm not familiar with Shoebat.com, nor the pedigree of respect Roman Catholics give their publications.  If their other materials are as poorly thought out and documented as their material on Luther's Mariology, I would caution people to be careful with citing or utilizing anything they put out. 

6 comments:

zipper778 said...

It's interesting reading how you go through the evidence like a giant puzzle James. I enjoy reading your posts about quotes from Luther and seeing where they come from.

Could you imagine if Evangelicals and Protestants were caught quoting Rome's popes like this? It would be the end of any conversation with them.

Answering Judaism said...

Thanks for writing this James, God bless you.

zipper778 said...

I had to do some digging because Shoebat isn't clear about what form of Christiendom that he is in. But after doing some digging and reading other reports about him, it seems to me that Shoebat is a Roman Catholic.

In this article he equivocates Protestants with Muslims: http://shoebat.com/2013/06/25/vatican-as-the-harlot-of-babylon-debunked/

Shoebat is VERY anti-muslim, but he also seems to believe that Rome is the only church that can be traced back to Jesus. It is truly sad that he believes in the Roman Catholic Church as the One True Church©, and as such he is extreme and hard headed and ignores the truth.

EA said...

Thanks Zipper. I appreciate the digging.

PeaceByJesus said...

Shoebat is VERY anti-muslim, but he also seems to believe that Rome is the only church that can be traced back to Jesus. It is truly sad that he believes in the Roman Catholic Church as the One True Church©, and as such he is extreme and hard headed and ignores the trut

Shoebat is indeed anti-Prot, having substituted one carnal religion which wages war after the flesh for another whose historical practice and doctrine yet supports it.

In addition, contrary to the Biblical principal of collaborating testimony, his he claims to be a Palestinian Liberation Organization terrorist who firebombed an Israeli bank, and whom even the BBC, Fox News and CNN at one time presented as a "terrorist turned peacemaker," are dubious.

A subsequent CNN investigative effort found no evidence to support his claims of PLO affiliations or being an "ex-terrorist."

His cousin, interviewed in the report, stated that he had never known Shoebat to have ties to any movement, and that his claims of being a former terrorist were "for his own personal reasons".

According to CNN, their reporters in the United States, Israel and the Palestinian territories found no evidence to support Shoebat's claims and "neither Shoebat nor his business partner provided any proof of Shoebat's involvement in terrorism."

A 2008 Jerusalem Post article raised questions regarding the authenticity of Shoebat's account, and reported that Bank Leumi had no record of an attack on its Bethlehem branch between 1977 and 1979. In addition, Shoebat's uncle also denied that such an attack took place. Such an incident was also not reported by Israeli news outlets according to Omar Sacirbey's 2010 Washington Post article.

More here .

James Swan said...

When I put this entry together, I really couldn't completely figure out where Shoebat fell in the religious spectrum. That made me very suspicious. When a person or organization isn't upfront about what their beliefs are, I instantly suspect the truth or accuracy of the information they put forth. I haven't checked in over at Shoebat, I did notice that I did get a number of hits to this entry- more than i would've expected for such a dull topic. It leads me to wonder if many of the hits were from Muslims.