Monday, April 27, 2015

Luther: Reason is the Devil's Greatest Whore

A frequent line of argumentation against Luther involves using his comments about "human reasoning" against either his character or the Reformation. As I've come across these arguments, they're most often used by atheists and Roman Catholics, but not necessarily limited to these groups. Here's a recent example from the depths of cyberspace. Based on other comments, the person using these quotes appears to be Roman Catholic.

Let's hear some more from the 'Hero of the Reformation'. Maybe we'll get a feel for which side he was actually playing for.
“Reason is the Devil's greatest whore; by nature and an manner of being she is a noxious whore; she is a prostitute, the Devil's appointed whore; whore eaten by scab and leprosy who ought to be trodden under foot and destroyed, she and her wisdom. . . . Throw dung in her face to make her ugly. She is and she ought to be drowned in baptism. . . . She would deserve, the wretch, to be banished to the filthiest place in the house, to the closets”
“Usury, drunkenness, adultery—these crimes are self-evident and the world knows that they are sinful; but that bride of the Devil, `Reason', stalks abroad, the fair courtesan, and wishes to be considered wise, and thinks that whatever she says comes from the Holy Ghost. She is the most dangerous harlot the Devil has.”
“Reason is contrary to faith”... “Reason is the whore of the Devil. It can only blaspheme and dishonour everything God has said or done”
All quotes taken from Martin Luther, Works, Erlangen Edition

Documentation?
What intrigued me about these quotes was the vague reference, "All quotes taken from Martin Luther, Works, Erlangen Edition." First, I find it highly unlikely the person posting these quotes used the source claimed (68 German volumes published between 1826-1857, 38 Latin writings as well). Second, there are no English volumes of  "Martin Luther, Works, Erlangen Edition," so whoever put these quotes together, if Erlangen really was used, had to translate them.  Third, from a quick glance one might think there are only three quotes, when in fact there may be at least six to ten from three different sources, strung together to make it appear to be three quotes. For instance, notice how in the first quote, "reason" as the "Devil's whore" is over-explained. It's as if Luther is simply ranting the same thing over and over again. I've learned over the years that when quotes contain overkill, they're often not a direct citation, but rather something cobbled together at the expense of a context.

As we'll see below, these quotes have traveled a bit. They started off as a Latin / German transcription of Sermon, then translated into French, then translated into English. They were eventually a cut-and-paste grabbed from a paragraph found in  Peter F. Wiener's Martin Luther: Hitler's Spiritual Ancestor, and appear in the form as cited above. As I mentioned previously, it's unfortunate Wiener didn't live to see how popular his book would be in cyberspace.


Secondary Documentation
These three quotes are found on page 26 of Peter F. Wiener's Martin Luther: Hitler's Spiritual Ancestor:
This mythical, mentally unbalanced, diseased character was the hero of the Reformation. His intemperance, his persecution mania, his varying moods, were the origin of his permanent contradictions. There was nothing reasonable in him. Indeed, he admitted himself that he hated reason, and that he was guided merely by his passions, by his violent temper. More than once he condemned in his violent language, reason and a reasonable approach to matters. “Reason is the Devil's greatest whore; by nature and an manner of being she is a noxious whore; she is a prostitute, the Devil's appointed whore; whore eaten by scab and leprosy who ought to be trodden under foot and destroyed, she and her wisdom. . . . Throw dung in her face to make her ugly. She is and she ought to be drowned in baptism. . . . She would deserve, the wretch, to be banished to the filthiest place in the house, to the closets” (E16, 142-148). There are many more sayings in the same sense, though not always so dirtily phrased. “Usury, drunkenness, adultery—these crimes are self-evident and the world knows that they are sinful; but that bride of the Devil, `Reason', stalks abroad, the fair courtesan, and wishes to be considered wise, and thinks that whatever she says comes from the Holy Ghost. She is the most dangerous harlot the Devil has.” “Reason is contrary to faith”, he writes elsewhere. “Reason is the whore of the Devil. It can only blaspheme and dishonour everything God has said or done” (E29, 241) So it goes on and on.
It does not necessarily follow that simply because Wiener provides a few references, he actually read Luther and mined these quotes out from E16 and E29. Wiener notoriously used hostile secondary sources. Wiener's documentation is highly dubious (He says the reason for his sloppy documentation was the rush job demanded by his publisher). Notice that even for this first quote, it is purported to span 6 pages (142-148). That's a good indication that it's a cobbled together quote from different pages or even different sources. In other words, if you were to search out "E16" you would not find this quote verbatim. You'd have to search for each line by starting on page 142 and work through the text with a highlighter.

For the majority of this paragraph from Wiener,  it's within the realm of possibility (or rather, probability) that Wiener relied on Three Reformers (originally published in 1925) by the Roman Catholic scholar Jacques Maritain (whom Wiener refers to a number of times). On page 32 of my 1947 edition it states,
But in spiritual things [reason] is not only "blind and dark," it is truly "the whore of the devil. It can only blaspheme and dishonour everything God has said or done." [Erl., 29, 241].
 Maritain states on page 33 (In my 1947 edition):
And in the last sermon preached at Wittenberg,towards the end of his life "Reason is the devil's greatest whore, by nature and manner of being she is a noxious whore; she is a prostitute,the devil's appointed whore; whore eaten by scab and leprosy who ought to be trodden under foot and destroyed, she and her wisdom... Throw dung in her face to make her ugly. She is, and she ought to be, drowned in baptism...She would deserve, the wretch, to be banished to the filthiest place in the house, to the closets."(36)
36. Erl., 16, 142 to 148 (1546). Cf. Denifle-Paquier, III, 277-278. If the practical result aimed at by Luther, above all else, be to exhort his hearers to act according to faith and not according to human reason only, this does not take anything away from diseased falsity and absurdity of the formulae to which he has recourse. [Maritain, p.200]
And finally on page 33-34, Maritain states: "'Reason is contrary to faith,' he wrote in 1536" [Erl. 44 158]. All the quotes given by Wiener above are verbatim from Maritain's book.

There's some ambiguity here: Did Maritain really utilize Erl. 16, 29, and 44? Or, did he use the French translation of Denifle (Luther et le Luthéranisme, Volume 3) that he mentions in a footnote? Page 277 (cited by Maritain) can be found here:

One of the quotes used by Wiener and Maritian is found on page 278 of Denifle (Erl. 44), though the page number is off by one page:



The quotes in view are noted in footnotes #4 and #6 (with a Tabletalk reference in the middle) on page 277, with one other being used in the first paragraph on page 278. At least Denifle documents the various page numbers for the sections of the quote.  Based on the way Maritian documents his work, it's very likely Maritian constructed his quotes using the French version of Denifle's book. So to summarize, Luther's words were recorded in German and Latin by those who heard him preach, Denifle cited this text from an old German / Latin version of Luther's works, then Denifle was translated into French, then Maritian quoted the French version of  Denifle, then Maritian was translated into English, and then Wiener quoted the English version of Maritain, and then the quote was let loose in cyberspace with someone saying, "All quotes taken from Martin Luther, Works, Erlangen Edition."


Primary Documentation
This majority of the quotes in view are from a sermon put together by two people: Georg Rörer and Stephan Tucher (It was a sermon not written down by Luther, but recorded by those who heard him). It's Luther's last sermon at Wittenberg (January 17, 1546).  I currently do not have access to Erl. 16, but the text used by Denifle was probably similar to this primary source. The sermon can also be found in WA 51:123-134 and CL 7:411-417.  WA includes the German as well as the German / Latin mix. This sermon has been translated into English: LW 51:371-380.



Context
It's unfortunate that I can't simply link to this English translation so the complete context can be read online (most of the folks visiting here don't speak German and Latin). The sermon is based on Romans 12:3, "For by the grace given to me I bid every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith which God has assigned him." One of Luther's main thrusts is to exhort his hearers to live by the pure Word of God, letting it say what it says without trying to use "reason" to make it palatable. Of Romans 12:3 Luther preached:
Therefore I exhort you, says Paul, by the grace God has given me, not to think of yourselves more highly than you ought to think [cf. Rom. 12:3]. What he is saying is: You still have your own proud ideas, as well as other gross sins; therefore take heed to yourselves. Hitherto you have heard the real, true Word, now beware of your own thoughts and your own wisdom. The devil will kindle the light of reason and rob you of your faith. This is what happened to the Anabaptists and the antisacramentarians, and now we have nothing left but instigators of heresy. I have had more than thirty fanatics come to me and try to teach me; but I refuted all their arguments with this passage: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” [Matt. 17:5]. And up to now I have by God’s grace been sustained by this passage; otherwise I should have had to accept thirty different faiths. [LW 51:377]
 Luther didn't reject reason. Rather, it was to be subject to and ruled by faith. For instance, this sentiment was suspiciously left out of the quotes in question :
Everything should be subject to faith, or rather, the fine gift of conceit should not be wiser than faith. See to it that it is in accord with it. [LW 51:379]
Reason must be subject and obedient to this faith.[LW 51:379]
With that basic gist, below are some of the broader contexts for quotes in question. A snippet of the quote is given, and then the broader context follows:

1. "Reason is the Devil's greatest whore"

2. "Usury, drunkenness, adultery—these crimes are self-evident and the world knows that they are sinful; but that bride of the Devil, `Reason', stalks abroad, the fair courtesan, and wishes to be considered wise, and thinks that whatever she says comes from the Holy Ghost. She is the most dangerous harlot the Devil has."

So there must be preaching and everyone must also take care that his own reason may not lead him astray. For, behold what the fanatics do. They have accepted the Word and faith, but then, added to baptism, there comes wisdom, which has not yet been purged, and wants to be wise in spiritual things. They want to master both the Scriptures and faith by their own wisdom, and they perpetrate heresy. If we were wholly clean, we should not need everywhere the ministry of the Word. If we were altogether pure, we should have no need to be admonished, but would be like the angels in heaven with no need for a schoolmaster, and do everything willingly of ourselves. But since we are still confined to this miserable carcass—which in time the worms will devour, though it deserves something worse, to burn in hell eternally—it is necessary constantly to resist and put off the old man and his works and put on the new man, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him [cf. Col. 3:10]. Usury, gluttony, adultery, manslaughter, murder, etc., these can be seen and the world understands that these are sins. But the devil’s bride, reason, the lovely whore comes in and wants to be wise, and what she says, she thinks, is the Holy Spirit. Who can be of any help then? Neither jurist, physician, nor king, nor emperor; for she is the foremost whore the devil has. The other gross sins can be seen, but nobody can control reason. It walks about, cooks up fanaticism [Schwärmerei] with baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and claims that everything that pops into its head and the devil puts into its heart is the Holy Spirit. Therefore Paul says: As I am an apostle and God has given me the Spirit, so I appeal to you [of. Rom. 12:1; I Cor. 4:16]. [LW 51:373–374; cf. WA 51:126]

3. "by nature and an manner of being she is a noxious whore"
No, we have been by God’s command baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, just as the Jews were circumcised. Therefore, just as the Jews set up all over the land their own self-chosen shrines, as if Jerusalem were too narrow, so we also have done. As a young man must resist lust and an old man avarice, so reason is by nature a harmful whore. But she shall not harm me, if only I resist her. Ah, but she is so comely and glittering. That’s why there must be preachers who will point people to the catechism: I believe in Jesus Christ, not in St. George or St. Christopher, for only of Christ is it said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” [John 1:29]; not of Mary or the angels. The Father did not speak of Gabriel or any others when he cried from heaven, “Listen to him” [Matt. 17:5].[LW 51: 375-376]

4."Throw dung in her face to make her ugly."

5. "She is and she ought to be drowned in baptism. . . ."
Therefore, see to it that you hold reason in check and do not follow her beautiful cogitations. Throw dirt in her face and make her ugly. Don’t you remember the mystery of the holy Trinity and the blood of Jesus Christ with which you have been washed of your sins? Again, concerning the sacrament, the fanatical antisacramentalists say, “What’s the use of bread and wine? How can God the Almighty give his body in bread?” I wish they had to eat their own dirt. They are so smart that nobody can fool them. If you had one in a mortar and crushed him with seven pestles his foolishness still would not depart from him. Reason is and should be drowned in baptism, and this foolish wisdom will not harm you, if you hear the beloved Son of God saying, “Take, eat; this is my body, which is given for you; this bread which is administered to you, I say, is my body.” If I hear and accept this, then I trample reason and its wisdom under foot and say, “You cursed whore, shut up! Are you trying to seduce me into committing fornication with the devil?” That’s the way reason is purged and made free through the Word of the Son of God. [LW 51:376–377].

6. " She would deserve, the wretch, to be banished to the filthiest place in the house, to the closets"
When you hear a fanatical antisacramentalist say, “There is only bread and wine in the sacrament of the altar,” or “Do you think that at your word Christ is going to descend from heaven into your mouth and your belly?” You just say to him, “Ah, I like what you say; what a learned bride the devil has! But what do you say to this: ‘This is my beloved Son, listen to him?’ And he says, ‘This is my body’ [Matt. 17:5; 26:26]. Go, trot to the privy with your conceit, your reason! Shut up, you cursed whore, do you think you are master over faith, which declares that the true body and the true blood is in the Lord’s Supper, and that Baptism is not merely water, but the water of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit?” Reason must be subject and obedient to this faith. [LW 51: 379].

7. "she is a prostitute, the Devil's appointed whore."


8. "whore eaten by scab and leprosy who ought to be trodden under foot and destroyed, she and her wisdom. . . . "

Therefore I should stick to the catechism; then I can defend myself against reason when the Anabaptists say, “Baptism is water; how can water do such great things? Pigs and cows drink it. The Spirit must do it.” Don’t you hear, you mangy, leprous whore, you holy reason, what the Scripture says, “Listen to him,” who says, “Go and baptize all nations” [Matt. 28:19], and “He who believes and is baptized [will be saved”]? [Mark 16:16]. It is not merely water, but baptism given in the name of the holy Trinity. [ LW: 51:376]. 
Reason is and should be drowned in baptism, and this foolish wisdom will not harm you, if you hear the beloved Son of God saying, “Take, eat; this is my body, which is given for you; this bread which is administered to you, I say, is my body.” If I hear and accept this, then I trample reason and its wisdom under foot and say, “You cursed whore, shut up! Are you trying to seduce me into committing fornication with the devil?” That’s the way reason is purged and made free through the Word of the Son of God. So let us deal with the fanatics as the prophets dealt with the spiritual harlots, the idolaters, the wiseacres, who want to do things better than God does. We should say to them, “I have a Bridegroom, I will listen to him. Your wisdom is utter foolishness. I destroy your wisdom and trample it under foot.” This struggle will go on till the last day. This is what Paul wants; we are to quench not only the low desires but also the high desires, reason and its high wisdom. When whoredom invades you, strike it dead, but do this far more when spiritual whoredom tempts you. Nothing pleases a man so much as self-love, when he has a passion for his own wisdom. The cupidity of a greedy man is as nothing compared with a man’s hearty pleasure in his own ideas. He then brings these fine ideas into the Scriptures, and this is devilishness pure and simple. This sin is forgiven, but when it reigns in one’s nature, not yet fully purged, then assuredly the true doctrine is soon lost, however willingly one preaches and willingly one listens. Then Christ is gone. Then they fall down before the devil on the mountain and worship him (Matt. 4 [:8–10]) [LW 51: 376–377].

9."Reason is contrary to faith"
See my earlier blog entry, here: Luther: Reason is directly opposed to faith. This quote is located in Erl., 44, 156-157; WA 47:328. It's from Luther's Sermon on Matthew 19:13-15, recently translated into English in LW 68:22-23.


10."Reason is the whore of the Devil. It can only blaspheme and dishonour everything God has said or done"

Wiener says this last quote comes from a different source,  E29, 241 (It's also cited above by Denifle in footnote #3). This quote can be found here: WA 18:164. It has been translated into English in LW 40:174-175. It's found in the treatise, Against the Heavenly Prophets in the Matter of Images and Sacraments (1525). In arguing against Karlstadt, Luther states:
Let this be our answer to the arguments and reasons that Dr. Karlstadt presents for his dream from Scripture. They were threefold. First, a capital letter is found in some books, not all. Second, there was a punctuation mark. Third, the dear touto. What wonderful arguments, which no one would use except such heavenly prophets, who hear the voice of God. A fourth now is, that he cannot present a single verse of Scripture in his favor. This is the most damaging argument and will forever remain so. I shall not overthrow it but will rather strengthen it. Furthermore he teaches us what Frau Hulda, natural reason, has to say in the matter, just as if we did not know that reason is the devil’s prostitute and can do nothing else but slander and dishonor what God does and says. But before we answer this arch-prostitute and devil’s bride, we first want to prove our faith, not by setting forth capitals or periods or touto tauta but by clear, sober passages from Scripture which the devil will not overthrow. [LW 40: 174-175].


Addendum
Over the years, I've put together a number of basic posts on Luther and "reason." Here are a few of them:

Luther: Reason is the Devil's Handmaid

Luther: Reason is directly opposed to faith

Luther:Philosophy Should Be Learned To Be Refuted

Luther's Use of Reason (AKA: Atheists Need To Do Some Homework)

1 comment:

PeaceByJesus said...

Yes, that poster is quite evidently a RC, one of two which (i suspect may be the same person) whose recourse is to extended rants about Luther against the Jews, with not a word about the like RC attitude.

Even though in the past they both were provided with the reference to "The Popes against the Jews , as well as your series (1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5, 6


The poster at issue engaged in a second dump of anti-Luther collections, to which another poster referenced your examination of such, while i supplied some more on the negative papal attitude and actions against Jews.

Since such RC arguments have been reproved, and a number of articles from you and Triablogue have been posted, we have now been dealing with RC complaints of bias, and calling to shut down the Religion Forum, or put in a devout RC moderator (they have been quite fair and balanced), and a refusal to give donations due to "anti-Catholic" content, as they seek to turn this into a "Catholic Answers" forum.

But which have been sending "banned for life" me appeals for money. "If you donate by midnight April 30th, you will be entered into a drawing for a FREE iPad Mini."

This has been a report "from the depths of cyberspace."