Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Shocking Beliefs on Martin Luther: Not all the events in the book of Job actually happened as reported

I recently came across a web-page presenting the "Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther." Under the heading, "Luther believed that the Bible wasn’t always literally factual," the article states, "He also argued that not all the events in the book of Job actually happened as reported. [Luther’s Works, Vol. 54, pp. 79-80].

Which events? The article doesn't say, but since these are the "Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther," is the thrust to assume the worst?  The intent reminds me of the Luther quote Patrick O'Hare used in The Facts About Luther: "Job spoke not as it stands written in his book, but only had such thoughts. It is merely the argument of a fable"(p. 207). Whichever Martin Luther O'Hare had in mind, it wasn't one based on his actual written statements about Job.

While no actual Luther quote about Job is given, The article cites "Luther’s Works," "Vol. 54, pp. 79-80." The documentation  appears to refer to the English version of Luther's Works. Vol. 54 is a collection of Table Talk comments. Unfortunately, one of the most popular sources for quoting Luther is by using comments from the Table Talk. It is, in actuality, not something Luther wrote but is a collection of second hand comments written down by Luther's friends and students, published after his death. Since the statements contained therein are purported to have been made by Luther, they should serve more as corroborating second-hand testimony to something Luther is certain to have written. For a list of Table Talk versions in English, see this link.

No. 475: On the Authorship of the Book of Job Spring, 1533
“Job didn’t speak the way it is written [in his book], but he thought those things. One doesn’t speak that way under temptation. Nevertheless, the things reported actually happened. They are like the plot of a story which a writer, like Terence, adopts and to which he adds characters and circumstances. The author wished to paint a picture of patience. It’s possible that Solomon himself wrote this book, for the style is not very different from his. At the time of Solomon the story which he undertook to write was old and well known. It was as if I today were to take up the stories of Joseph or Rebekah. The Hebrew poet, whoever he was, saw and wrote about those temptations, as Vergil described Aeneas, led him through all the seas and resting places, and made him a statesman and soldier. Whoever wrote Job, it appears that he was a great theologian.”
Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 54: Table Talk. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, and H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 54, pp. 79–80). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

I'm not exactly sure what the Shocking Belief  is supposed to be in the above Table Talk context.  In all the instances I've checked in which Luther spoke of Job or quoted the book of Job, he referred to him as a historical figure and treated the events that transpired in his life as actually occurring. When the Shocking Beliefs article states Luther "argued that not all the events in the book of Job actually happened as reported," Luther above is reported to have said, "the things reported actually happened." Perhaps the Shocking Belief is supposed to be that Luther is reported to have said, "Job didn’t speak the way it is written [in his book], but he thought those things. One doesn’t speak that way under temptation."

I guess it's within the realm of possibility that by "event" this second-hand statement is meant. If that's the case, it really isn't all that shocking. In terms of building a case on it, it's a Table Talk comment, which in fairness to Luther,  should only serve as corroborating second-hand testimony to something Luther is certain to have written.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther: Faith alone is necessary for justification. All other things are completely optional, being no longer commanded or forbidden

Here's one I came across from a web-page entitled the "Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther." Under the heading, "Luther wasn’t a fan of Moses’ Commandments," the following quote is given, with the charge to "Note his words":

“Faith alone is necessary for justification. All other things are completely optional, being no longer commanded or forbidden.”  
[13] Luther’s Commentary on Galatians 2

The intent appears to be to show that works are optional in Luther's theology and that God's commandments given to Moses are no longer to be enforced. A Christian can live however they want to, because they are saved by faith alone. Moses and the law are over. If this was Luther's actual position, it would be shocking... but it isn't Luther's position.

The article cites"Luther’s Commentary on Galatians 2." The actual source was probably Patrick O'Hare's The Facts About Luther.  O'Hare states,
In this declaration of false security, we have the beginning of Luther's new gospel, which, needless to say, is directly and openly opposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As a theologian, he should have realized that his notion of the absolute assurance of salvation imparted by Faith was as false as it was unsound, and as a professor of Scripture, he should have known that faith alone is barren and lifeless apart from the meritorious works which are necessarily connected with and founded on it. To hold and declare that men are justified by faith to the entire exclusion of other Divine virtues is nothing less than a perversion of the Bible, a falsification of the Word of God, and an injury to souls called to work out their salvation along the lines plainly designated by Jesus Christ. But Luther's self esteem and self-conceit blinded him to the truth he once held in honor, and, instead of repelling and mastering his singular conception of salvation, as he was in duty bound to do, he held to it with unbending tenacity, developing it more and more until he finally declares in Cap. 2, ad. Gal. that "Faith alone is necessary for justification: all other things are completely optional being no longer either commanded or forbidden." It is this doctrine which he afterwards called the Articulus stantis vel cadentis Ecclesiae; and if we cannot quite accept this description of it, at least we can recognize that it is the corner-stone of the Lutheran and Calvinistic systems.
Forms of this quote made the rounds previous to O'Hare (often cited by Rome's defenders). This 1857 Roman source states, "That a man is justified by faith alone, is a doctrine started by Martin Luther : 'Faith alone (he says) is necessary for our justification; all other things are completely optional, being no longer either commanded or forbidden.' ['Sola fides necessaria est ut justi simus; caetera omnia liberrima, neque praecepta amplius, neque phohibita' In Cap. 2, ad Gal.]." This source actually moves the quote's polemical use back to Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621) and is cited as "Faith alone is necessary that we may be justified; all things else are quite free, being neither enjoined nor prohibited us." This same source adds, "I do not find these words in Luther, but I find what manifestly establishes his opinion and proves Bellarmine to be a calumniator." However faulty Bellarmine's interpretation may have been (I could not locate it), he wasn't mistaken that these words were from Luther:

Probably why the author above couldn't find Bellarmine's Luther reference is because there are five or six versions of the Galatians commentary (LW 27:ix). The quote in question is from his 1519 work on Galatians. This particular quote can be found in WA 2:485 and translated into English in LW 27:213.

The context involves Luther's comments on Galatians 2:11-13 in which Paul confronts Peter:
11. But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12. For before certain men came from James, he ate with the Gentiles; but when they came, he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13. And with him the rest of the Jews acted insincerely, so that even Barnabas was carried away by their insincerity. 
 Luther first explains the disagreement between Jerome and Augustine on interpreting this text. The basic problem as Luther understood it is that Paul was charging Peter with forcing Gentiles to live like Jews as a necessary element of the Christian faith.  He states:
Thus Paul’s complaint is not that the rest of the Jews concurred with respect to food, whether Gentile or Jewish (for they knew that this was permitted), but that they concurred in Peter’s hypocrisy and in his forcing of Gentiles and Jews into Judaism as something that was necessary. Nor does he complain that Barnabas ate with them in Jewish or in Gentile fashion, but that he was misled into the same hypocrisy and concurred in forcing Gentiles and Jews into Judaism.
Therefore Paul is fighting against compulsion and on behalf of freedom. For faith in Christ is all that is necessary for our righteousness. Everything else is entirely without restriction and is no longer either commanded or forbidden. Consequently, if Peter had observed both customs in the proper spirit, as Paul boldly observed both customs, it would not have been necessary to censure him.
Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 27: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 5-6; 1519, Chapters 1-6. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, and H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 27, p. 213). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
The context of Luther's remarks involve forcing Gentiles to live as Jews. The "everything else" in this context is in respect to the customs of the Jews as necessary for the Christian faith. Luther actually saw no problem with Peter eating with either the Jews or gentiles:
Paul reproved Peter because he acted in a hypocritical manner. It was Peter’s hypocrisy, I say, that Paul did not stand for. He approves of what Peter had done by living as the Gentiles lived and again by living as the Jews lived. But he censures him for withdrawing and segregating himself from the foods of the Gentiles when the Jews came; for by this withdrawal Peter caused the Jews to believe that the ways of the Gentiles were forbidden and that the ways of the Jews were necessary, even though he knew that the ways of both were unrestricted and permissible. Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 27: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 5-6; 1519, Chapters 1-6. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, and H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 27, p. 213). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
Luther states also:
This I know, that those who were being forced into Judaism by such hypocrisy would have perished had they not been brought back through Paul; for they began to look for justification in the works of the Law, not in faith in Christ. Consequently, Peter, together with the others, gave powerful offense—not in the matter of morals but in the matter of faith, involving eternal damnation. And Paul would not have opposed him so confidently either if there had been a slight and pardonable danger here. But failure to follow the truth of the Gospel is already the sin of unbelief. Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 27: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 5-6; 1519, Chapters 1-6. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, and H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 27, p. 214). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
 Even in the very context of this 1519 Galatians commentary, Luther goes on to say that there is a place for works. note his comments in regard to Galatians 2:16:
Nevertheless, it should be noted here that the apostle does not reject the works of the Law as Jerome also points out in this connection. He rejects reliance on the works of the Law. That is, he does not deny that there are works, but he does deny that anyone can be justified through them. Therefore one must read the apostle’s statement with emphasis and close attention when he says: “A man is not justified on the basis of the works of the Law”; as if he were saying: “I grant that works of the Law are done; but I say that a man is not justified because of them—except in his own sight and before men, and as a reward in this life. Let there be works of the Law, provided that one knows that in the sight of God they are sins and no longer true works of the Law.” In this way he totally demolishes reliance on our own righteousness, because there is need of a far different righteousness—a righteousness beyond all works of the Law, namely, a righteousness of the works of God and His grace.
Furthermore, you must also observe that Paul speaks of “works of the Law” in general not merely of those that relate to the Ceremonial Law but certainly also of all the works of the Decalog. For these, too, when done apart from faith and the true righteousness of God, are not only insufficient; but in their outward appearance they even give hypocrites false confidence. Therefore he who wants to be saved must despair altogether of all strength, works, and laws. [Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 27: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 5-6; 1519, Chapters 1-6. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, and H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 27, pp. 222–223). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House].
The apostle’s rule is this: It is not works that fulfill the Law, but the fulfillment of the Law produces works. One does not become righteous by doing righteous deeds. No, one does righteous deeds after becoming righteous. Righteousness and fulfillment of the Law come first, before the works are done, because the latter flow out of the former. That is why Paul calls them “works of the Law” in distinction from works of grace or works of God; for works of the Law are really the Law’s, not ours, since they are done, not by the operation of our will but because the Law extorts them through threats or elicits them through promises. But whatever is not done freely of our own will but is done under the compulsion of another is no longer our work. No, it is the work of him who requires it. For works belong to him at whose command they are done. But they are done at the command of the Law, not at the pleasure of one’s own will. It is clear enough that if a person were free to live without the Law, he would never do the works of the Law of his own accord. Hence the Law is called an enforcer when in Is. 9:4 it is spoken of as “the staff for his shoulder, the yoke of his burden, the rod of his oppressor, as on the day of Midian.” For through the Child who was given to us (Is. 9:6) and in whom we believe we become free and take pleasure in the Law; and we no longer belong to the Law, but the Law belongs to us. And our works are not works of the Law; they are works of grace, from which there spring up freely and pleasantly those deeds which formerly the Law used to squeeze out with harshness and power. [Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 27: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 5-6; 1519, Chapters 1-6. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, and H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 27, pp. 223–224). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House].
That "Luther wasn't a fan of Moses' commandments" as the Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther asserts cannot be justified, at all, from the context of this quote. The quote being used was lifted out of its context (originally by O'Hare?) and put in the mouth of an antinomian Luther, a caricature, a "shocking" caricature.

 This final Luther comment, from the same text, should be enough to prove that the quote in context isn't at all shocking to someone familiar with historic Protestant theology:
When faith has been born, you see, its task is to drive what is left of sin out of the flesh. It does so by means of various afflictions, hardships, and mortifications of the flesh, so that in this way the Law of God gives pleasure and is fulfilled not only in the spirit and in the heart but also in the flesh that still resists faith and the spirit which loves and fulfills the Law, as is beautifully described in Rom. 7:22f. [Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 27: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 5-6; 1519, Chapters 1-6. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, and H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 27, p. 231). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House].

Friday, August 14, 2015

Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther: Volume XX of Pelikan's Luther's Works doesn't have a "pp. 2230"

Here's a comment I left on a "Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther" blog post.

Footnote 2 reads : "[2] Martin Luther, the Bible, and the Jewish People: A Reader, p. 179; Luther’s Works, Pelikan, Vol. XX, pp. 2230."
Jaraslov Pelikan was a general editor for the English edition of Luther's Works. The last page of text / written content in Volume XX is page 347.

Addendum 8/17/15:
This footnote was revised to: "Luther’s Works, Vol. XX." Which version of Luther's Works? Previously they mentioned "Pelikan" inferring the English edition. Volume 20 in this edition is Luther's lectures on the Minor Prophets III and Zechariah. The quote cited by the Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther is in regard to the Jews: "In sum, they are the Devil’s children, damned to hell." I did a quick search of the word "hell" in LW 20, and of the 50 or so hits, not one of them was remotely similar to the quote being documented in the Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther. There's a very good possibility this quote is from Luther's Vom Schem Hamphoras und vom Geschlecht Christi. If that's the case, then the main German primary source would be WA 53:580 (Amazon has a page view of Martin Luther, the Bible, and the Jewish People: A Reader, p. 179, citing WA 53).  Probably the source though being cited is an older German set, the Saint Louis edition, volume XX, page 2030 (in which case the Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther got the page number wrong, citing page 2230).

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther: Anabaptist right to stand up and speak in a church comes from "the pit of hell" and deserves death

This is another follow-up post in regard to "The Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther' web-page. I think the author has presented a caricature. The blogger states,

Luther hated the Anabaptist practice of every-member functioning in the church, which is envisioned in 1 Corinthians 12-14 and Hebrews 10, asserting that it was from “the pit of hell.” Luther and the other Reformers violently denounced the Anabaptists for practicing every-member functioning in the church. The Anabaptists believed it was every Christian’s right to stand up and speak in a church meeting. It was not solely the domain of the clergy. Luther was so opposed to this practice that he said it came from “the pit of hell” and those who were guilty of it should be put to death.The Anabaptists both believed and practiced Paul’s injunction in 1 Corinthians 14:26, 30-31 that every believer has the right to function at any time in a church meeting. In Luther’s day, this practice was known as the Sitzrecht—“the sitter’s right.” [5] Luther announced that “the Sitzrecht was from the pit of hell” and was a “perversion of public order . . . undermining respect for authority.” Within 20 years, over 116 laws were passed in German lands throughout Europe making this “Anabaptist heresy” a capital offense.[6]
[5] Peter Hoover, Secret of the Strength, 58–59.
[6] Peter Hoover, Secret of the Strength, 59, 198.

This was also published in a book:

What interested me was the documentation for Luther's "pit of hell" comment and that Luther thought the death penalty was needed for those practicing the "sitter's right." There wasn't any meaningful documentation provided. One of the sources cited above, Hoover, Secret of the Strength, says the following, and this appears to be the basis for the assertions:
But what the reformers could not tolerate -- what made them fearful, and eventually furious, with the Anabaptists -- was the Anabaptists' high regard for inner conviction and low regard for the voice of the church. "This heretical persistence in following an inner word," thundered Martin Luther, "brings to nothing the written Word of God!" In a sense he was right. The Anabaptists did not follow the Scriptures (and their "correct interpretation") like Martin Luther wanted them to be followed. They followed a man. And in following him (instead of Luther's church, or Luther's Bible) they got their hands onto the thread that pulls the fabric of civilization apart. This, the reformers correctly discerned, and it made them desperate enough to pass the death penalty upon them. Huldrych Zwingli began and Martin Luther kept on violently denouncing the aufrührerischer Geist (stirring-up spirit) of the Anabaptist movement, which they found, above all, in their "silly teaching" of the Sitzrecht (the "sitter's right"). The Anabaptists took literally the words of Paul in 1 Cor. 14:30-31: "And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged." They called this the "sitter's right" and calmly implied that they, when moved by inner conviction, had as great a right to speak and to act as any pastor, any priest, any reformer or bishop or pope. This audacity, this "Sitzrecht from the pit of hell," Martin Luther and his friends believed, could be dealt with only by fire, water, and the sword. "Even though it is terrible to view," Martin Luther admitted, he gave his blessing to the death sentence upon the Anabaptists, issued by the elector, princes, and landgraves of Protestant Germany on March 31, 1527. The sentence was based on the following four points: 1. The Anabaptists bring to nothing the office of preaching the Word. 2. The Anabaptists have no definite doctrine. 3. The Anabaptists bring to nothing and suppress true doctrine. 4. The Anabaptists want to destroy the kingdom of this world. "For the preservation of public order" both Martin Luther and Huldrych Zwingli promoted the total elimination of the Anabaptists (through capital punishment) as a matter of utmost urgency. They accused the Anabaptists of a crime against the public, "not because they taught a different faith, but for disturbing public order by undermining respect for authority." Philipp Melanchthon, Luther's close friend and adviser wrote: "The Anabaptists' disregard for the outer Word and the Scriptures is blasphemy. Therefore, the temporal arm of government shall watch here too and not tolerate this blasphemy, but earnestly resist and punish it." Urbanus Rhegius, the reformer of Augsburg, wrote: "The Anabaptists cannot and will not endure Scripture." And within twenty years, no less than 116 laws were passed in the German lands of Europe, which made the "Anabaptist heresy" a capital offence. 
This other website makes a similar charge, and includes a quote:
Luther finally took a decisive stand against them in 1531 over the issue of whether believers could rise in church and interrupt the preacher. This was, in his opinion, “the sitter’s right from the pit of hell,” and “even though it is terrible to view,” he gave his blessing to the death sentence for the Anabaptists issued by the princes on March 31, 1527. They called this the “sitter’s right” and calmly implied that they, when moved by inner conviction, had as great a right to speak and to act as any pastor, any priest, any reformer or bishop or pope. 11 Luther’s chief concern was that the Anabaptists “brought to nothing the office of preaching the Word.” He cared not that he indicted Paul in this, for the apostle had instructed the members of his churches to stand up and speak when one of them had a revelation, inspiration or teaching. When this happened, Paul taught, the one already speaking should sit down!
The footnote (11) simply says, "Peter Hoover, The Secret Strength, Benchmark Press." So, it appears, all roads lead to this source. The entirety of this book is online, so I went full-circle.

Luther on "The sitter's right"?
What was not tolerated by Luther and subject to banishment by the authorities was unauthorized preaching. Luther also would not approve of people getting up and interrupting a church service to say something, but these are different things.

It is possible that the text in view by Hoover is from LW 40 (cited below). Luther wrote against "clandestine preachers" who were sneaking into the churches to stir up dissention. Note below Luther's reasoning in regard to 1 Cor. 14:30 in comparison to the Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther:
Undoubtedly some maintain that in I Cor. 14, St. Paul gave anyone liberty to preach in the congregation, even to bark against the established preacher. For he says, “If a revelation is made to another sitting by, let the first be silent” [I Cor. 14:30]. The interlopers take this to mean that to whatever church they come they have the right and power to judge the preacher and to proclaim otherwise. But this is far wide of the mark. The interlopers do not rightly regard the text, but read out of it—rather, smuggle into it—what they wish. In this passage Paul is speaking of the prophets, who are to teach, not of the people, who are to listen. For prophets are teachers who have the office of preaching in the churches. Otherwise why should they be called prophets? If the interloper can prove that he is a prophet or a teacher of the church to which he comes, and can show who has authorized him, then let him be heard as St. Paul prescribes. Failing this let him return to the devil who sent him to steal the preacher’s office belonging to another in a church to which he belongs neither as a listener nor a pupil, let alone as a prophet and master.
What a fine model I imagine that would be, for anyone to have the right to interrupt the preacher and begin to argue with him! Soon another would join in and tell the other two to hush up. Perchance a drunk from the tavern would come in and join the trio calling on the third to be silent. At last the women too would claim the right of “sitting by,” telling the men to be silent [I Cor. 14:34]. Then one woman silencing the other—oh, what a beautiful holiday, auction, and carnival that would be! What pig sties could compare in goings-on with such churches? There the devil may have my place as preacher. But the blind interlopers do not realize this. They think they alone “sit by,” and do not see that any one else has just as much right to hush them up. Neither do they know what they say, nor get the meaning of what St. Paul says here about sitting or speaking, about prophets or people.
Whoever reads the entire chapter will see clearly that St. Paul is concerned about speaking with tongues, about teaching and preaching in the churches or congregations. He is not commanding the congregation to preach, but is dealing with those who are preachers in the congregations or assemblies. Otherwise he would not be forbidding women to preach since they also are a part of the Christian congregation [I Cor. 14:34f.]. The text shows how it was customary for the prophets to be seated among the people in the churches as the regular parish pastors and preachers, and how the lesson was sung or read by one or two, just as in our days on high festivals it is the custom in some churches for two to sing the Gospel together.[Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 40: Church and Ministry II. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, and H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 40, pp. 388–389). Philadelphia: Fortress Press].
Luther concludes,
So much for the words of St. Paul. To sum it all up, the infiltrating and clandestine preachers are apostles of the devil. St. Paul everywhere complains of those who run in and out of houses upsetting whole families, always teaching yet not knowing what they say or direct [Tit. 1:11]. Therefore the spiritual office is to be warned and admonished, and the temporal office is to be warned and admonished. Let each one who is a Christian and a subject be warned to be on guard against these interlopers and not to heed them. Whoever tolerates and listens to them should know that he is listening to the devil himself, incarnate and abominable, as he speaks out of the mouth of a possessed person. I have done my duty. I am innocent, as I said in my commentary on Psalm 82. Let the blood of anyone who does not follow good and honest advice be upon himself. Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 40: Church and Ministry II. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, and H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 40, pp. 393–394). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

I haven't found anything yet from Luther's pen saying that those practicing the "sitter's right" deserve death. It could be that practicing this constituted sedition, but it's the author of the "Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther" to verify this claim or clarify the claim. It would also be the responsibility of the author to meaningfully document  the “the pit of hell” quote in regard to "the sitter's right." Both of these are within the realm of possibility for Luther, but as I said previously, the author shouldn't make Luther worse than he actually was.

Certainly Luther had shocking beliefs, but making him worse than he was goes overboard. Note how the author builds his caricature of Luther claiming that "Luther announced that 'the Sitzrecht was from the pit of hell' and was a 'perversion of public order . . . undermining respect for authority.' Within 20 years, over 116 laws were passed in German lands throughout Europe making this 'Anabaptist heresy” a capital offense." 116 laws were passed in regard to "this Anabaptist heresy" the "sitter's right"? 116 laws on this one practice? That's not even what his source, Peter Hoover claims. Hoover states, "Urbanus Rhegius, the reformer of Augsburg, wrote: 'The Anabaptists cannot and will not endure Scripture.' And within twenty years, no less than 116 laws were passed in the German lands of Europe, which made the 'Anabaptist heresy" a capital offence.'"

Addendum: Luther on the Death Penalty
Certainly Luther was not fond of the Anabaptists. He did have vacillating views on capital punishment in regard to them. I went over this many years back. Luther did support a broader concept of religious freedom previous to 1530. He then saw public blasphemy and sedition as two offenses that should be reprimanded. The death penalty may be invoked in certain instances. Then he signed Melanchthon's proposed legal document in which all Anabaptists were to be suppressed. It is possible though that his last position was that only seditious Anabaptists should be executed, the others should be banished. For the details, see my paper here.

Addendum #2 8/19
The Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther has been revised in regard to the issue I raised about documentation. The article now says,

[5] Peter Hoover, Secret of the Strength, Benchmark Press, 1999, pp. 58–59. Hoover points out that Luther and the other Reformers despised the Anabaptist teaching of listening to their spiritual instincts (“inner word”). That is, the Anabaptists believed the Spirit still speaks to God’s people today. Hoover says that Luther “violently denounced” this as well as their practice of “the sitter’s seat.”

[6] Peter Hoover, Secret of the Strength, Benchmark Press, 1999, pp. 59, 198. Hoover clearly states that Luther and his friends believed that the practice of “the sitter’s seat” — the open sharing for mutual edification they envisioned in 1 Cor. 14 — was to be “dealt with only by fire, water, and the sword . . . Luther gave his blessing to the death sentence upon the Anabaptists . . . for the preservation of the public order” (p. 59). In addition, Hoover points out that “Martin Luther and his colleagues met at Speyer on the Rhein in 1529 . . . At that time they passed a resolution: ‘Every Anabaptist, both male and female, shall be put to death by fire, sword, or in some other way’” (p. 198).

There is nothing in either of these extended footnotes that answers the issues I raised in regard to Luther's view of "the sitter's right." No meaningful documentation or reference from Luther's pen saying that those specifically practicing the "sitter's right" deserve death was provided. Nor was any meaningful reference to "the pit of hell" comment provided. All that was done was to provide more information from Peter Hoover (some of which I actually posted already in this entry). It appears to me the author(s?) of the Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther think that "the sitter's right" and the death penalty for Anabaptists (that the Magisterial Reformers came to hold) means the same thing. In essence, it all boils down to being sloppy with the facts.  

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Shocking Beliefs About Martin Luther: "If your Papist annoys you with the word (alone), tell him straightway: Dr. Martin Luther will have it so"

This is a follow-up to a recent post: Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther: Sin Boldly. Once again, I left a comment on the "Shocking Beliefs About Martin Luther," web-page, and it wasn't posted, but the entry was revised. Here's what the blog post originally said:

In Romans 3:28, Paul wrote, “We account a man to be justified by faith.” However, in Luther’s translation, Luther added the word “alone” to make the sentence read, “We are justified by faith alone.” When challenged with this change, Luther responded, “If your Papist annoys you with the word (alone), tell him straightway: Dr. Martin Luther will have it so. Whoever will not have my translation, let him give it the go-by; the devil’s thanks to him who censures it without my will and knowledge. Dr. Martin Luther will have it so, and he is a doctor above all the doctors in Popedom.” [16]
[16] Amic. Discussion I, 127, quoted in The Facts About Luther by Partrick O’Haire.

Here's my unpublished comment:
Here's another one where I think a reading of the context says something a little different than your quote and commentary suggests. You may be interested in my link here:Luther Added The Word "Alone" to Romans 3:28? Luther lashed out at his papal critics because while they criticized his translation, some of them also plagiarized it. In the same context from which the quote you use comes from, Luther actually goes on to give a detailed explanation of why he uses the word "alone" in Romans 3:28. Luther gives multiple examples of the implied sense of meaning in translating Romans 3:28 into German. He also notes he wasn't the first to do this. In my link above, you'll find a list of theologians previous to Luther who used the word "alone" in Romans 3:28. As I said previously, the basic thrust of your blog entry makes a good point: Luther had faults, but this doesn't mean his historical significance is to be dismissed. On the other hand, one should strive to not make him worse than he actually was. Regards, James
The revised entry now includes my link:

[16] Amic. Discussion I, 127, quoted in The Facts About Luther by Partrick O’Haire. For further context on Luther’s translation of Romans 3, see http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2006/02/luther-added-word-alone-to-romans-328.html

While I appreciate the revision, I see an unfortunate pattern: this blogger may have a problem with allowing comments that may reflect on his credibility. I didn't even mention the minor mistakes:  The Facts About Luther was not written by O'Haire, but rather, O'Hare. I didn't even question the fact the quote was taken from a secondary source, O'Hare, (without a page number! O'Hare uses the quote on page 201, 1987 reprint) which took the quote from a secondary source, Amic. Discussion I, 127.  The blogger actually mis-cited the quote (it isn't "Dr. Martin Luther will have it so," O'Hare cites it as, "Luther will have it so"). For the sake of tedium, Amic. Discussion I, 127 probably refers to: An Amicable Discussion on the Church of England and on the Reformation in General (O'Hare mentions this source elsewhere). I'm not sure which edition O'Hare used, but the quote is not on page 127, or in any of the editions of this book I was able to check.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther: Sin Boldly

Here's one of those situations in which I don't understand motives. I came across a recent patheos entry entitled, Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther. Overall, the person makes a valid point: Luther had faults, but this doesn't mean his historical significance is to be dismissed: "one of the mistakes that we must guard against is to dismiss a person’s entire contribution because they may hold (or have held) to ideas that we find hard to stomach." Great point!

I noticed that my old 2005 paper on Luther and the Jews was cited in footones #1 and #4 (and probably footnote #3 as well).  I skimmed through the entry, and only one blaring thing really jumped out at me: 

3. In his attempt to magnify grace, Luther exhorted people to “sin boldly.”
He wrote, “If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly . . . as long as we are here [in this world] we have to sin. . . . No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day.” [8] In the same connection, he said: “The Christian or baptized man cannot, even if he would, lose his soul by any sins however great, unless he refuses to believe; for no sins whatever can condemn him, but unbelief alone.” [9]  At the same time, Luther bemoaned that despite all of his preaching, he saw very little change in the lives of his congregation. He was discouraged that despite his continuous preaching, his congregation remained godless. “In annoys me to keep preaching to you,” he said in 1530 and even refused to preach for a time.
[8] Letter to Melanchthon, August 1, 1521, Luther’s Works, vol. 48, pp. 281-82
[9] Martin Luther, The Babylonish Captivity, C. 3.

So I left the following comment: 
Thanks for referencing my paper on Luther's attitude toward the Jews. It is a difficult topic. I think Luther went too far, but it does not discredit his importance in the history of the church. I can appreciate your overall point of your blog entry, and your series should ultimately demonstrate that looking to anyone other than Christ is looking toward another sinner, and may in fact be idolatry. It is a good project. I don't have time this week to go through your post thoroughly. I did see one thing thought that I would take issue with from a historical point of view. You said, "In his attempt to magnify grace, Luther exhorted people to “sin boldly.”
Not exactly. The "sin boldly" comment comes from a letter fragment. It has no address, salutation, or signature. Scholars speculate it was written to Melanchthon. It was a private letter, not a written exhortation to the masses to "sin boldly." In actuality, Luther consistently taught that a living faith necessarily produces good works. This letter fragment has been seized by people looking to paint Luther as a gross antinomian.
Luther was prone to strong hyperbole. It's his style, and this statement is a perfect example. The first thing to recognize is that the sentence is a statement of comparison. Luther's point is not to go out and commit multiple amounts of gleeful sin everyday, but rather to believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly despite the sin in our lives. Christians have a real savior. No amount of sin is too much to be atoned for by a perfect savior whose righteousness is imputed to the sinner who reaches out in faith.
See: Luther: Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong And: A Look at Justification By Faith Alone and Good Works in Luther’s Theology. For an anthology of statements from Luther on a living faith producing works, see: Quotations From Luther on Faith And Works.  "Faith," said Luther, "is a living,restless thing. It cannot be inoperative. We are not saved by works; but if there be no works, there must be something amiss with faith."
Also, when you stated, "Luther bemoaned that despite all of his preaching, he saw very little change in the lives of his congregation. He was discouraged that despite his continuous preaching, his congregation remained godless,"- keep in mind this is a Roman Catholic argument against Luther- that in essence, Luther saw the Reformation as a failure. See: Did Luther Regret the Reformation? For Luther, it was the end of the world. Things were indeed going to get worse. The Gospel was going to be fought against by the Devil with all his might. The true church was a tiny flock in a battle against the world, the flesh, and the Devil. He hoped the people would improve with the preaching of the Gospel, he often admitted he knew things were going to get worse because of the Gospel.
Regards, James Swan

Now here's where I don't understand people.  My comment was not published. That in and of itself is fine. I get that. But what I don't understand is why someone would take the information I provided and edit it into the entry  (and actually enter the information in wrong), cite one of my papers, and still not publish my comment? Here's the original from the Google cache, and the updated content: 

3. Luther made dramatic statements about sin in order to magnify grace.
Consider this quote from a private letter: “If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly . . . as long as we are here [in this world] we have to sin. . . . No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day.” [8]
In the same connection, he said: “The Christian or baptized man cannot, even if he would, lose his soul by any sins however great, unless he refuses to believe; for no sins whatever can condemn him, but unbelief alone.” [9] At the same time, Luther bemoaned that despite all of his preaching, he saw very little change in the lives of his congregation. He was discouraged that despite his continuous preaching, his congregation remained godless. “In annoys me to keep preaching to you,” he said in 1530 and even refused to preach for a time. 
[8] Letter to Melanchthon, August 1, 1521, Luther’s Works, vol. 48, pp. 281-82. Note that some scholars speculate that Melanchthon and not Luther wrote this paragraph. It came from a private letter. However, it’s very much in Luther’s style as he was given to overstatements and hyperbole. Nevertheless, if Luther is the source as many believe, he wasn’t advocating that everyone go out and sin big league. Rather, he was emphasizing how far grace reached even in our sins. Luther believed that good works demonstrated real faith.
[9] Martin Luther, The Babylonish Captivity, C. 3.

You'll notice the bolded statement has changed from "In his attempt to magnify grace, Luther exhorted people to 'sin boldly'" to "Luther made dramatic statements about sin in order to magnify grace." OK, that's a good change. Then more of my comments were synthesized into footnote #8, and some of it incorrectly. I certainly never said Melanchthon may have written the "sin boldly" paragraph (unless this blogger got this tidbit from someone else?). I said it was a private letter fragment that scholars think was written to Melanchthon. Added as well are clarifications about Luther's use of hyperbole in regard to sin and grace, and also my point about saving faith being demonstrated by works.

If the author comes across this review, maybe he could explain his edits and why he chose not to publish my comment. In the past I've had Rome's apologists do this- where I'll correct them on something and then, "voila"!  It's gone and replaced. For this blogger,  he's making some good points in his entry, and I was only trying to help him out. What gives?  

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Fans speak Out

Why do I post on the Internet? To make friends and influence people!

I'm a former Lutheran, and I find your whine, "Stephen, that's not fair" to be a real knee-slapper. Your little group of bigots have attacked the anyone who has disagreed with you with venomous hatred, especially, the Catholic Church. As for your defense of Luther being taken out of context, every cult or sect always makes the same claim when their fearless leader is attacked. I'm also a former cult member, (Worldwide Church of God) so I'm very familiar with that tactic. So take your lies somewhere else, because the vast majority of us here on shoebat.com won't buy 'em.

I'm not interested in engaging you at all., either on a personal level or on Luther's quotes. It's a waste of time dealing with people who's minds are bent by the teachings of a bonafide mental case (Luther) or an outright psychopath (Calvin). I learned that lesson in the Armstrong cult after only eight years in it, you and your buddies have been in your Calvinist straight jacket all your lives, and haven't learned your lesson yet. Pity.

Beggars All is a notorious Anti-Catholic, Calvinist site. Unless you want to waste an an hour you will never get back, don't go there.

YOU DON'T SPEAK GERMAN!?!?!? And all your claptrap about "originals sources"! I always assumed you were reading Luther in the original German and now you say you don't speak German. James Swan, you are a blowhard. How many times on your blog have you discounted Catholics because, unlike yourself, they weren't accessing the original sources? You phony-Moderated blog comment

ha! you are a real don quixote. single handedly, you are going to change the world's perception the sicko who caused the rupture in the Body of Christ? Primary sources? Unless people read the german originals, they are not qualified to weigh in on Luther? Good luck on you attempt at white washing- Moderated blog comment

May I politely suggest that you stop your unprovoked attacks.If you aren't driven to respond by some demonic activity, then you could stop replying as well!(CARM boards)

I am not the word of God, but my gospel is to seek a personal relationship with Jesus and to be guided by the Holy Spirit AND turn to them for all knowledge of good and evil. This is offensive to you and you would like to kill that idea, as this would mean that you are no longer in charge of your great collection of Christianese titbits. You would no longer be in charge of your own life and would call Jesus your Lord and Saviour. How repugnant is that to those who are perishing! I am looking forward to a continued attack. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to make your position clearer. Do you want me to describe the level of faith needed to uphold your position? (CARM boards)

The reason that you reject everything I post is because I am a stench to those who are perishing. (CARM boards)

I know that you would rather attack me and keep your bookish religion, than preach the gospel. (CARM boards)

Are you still defending Lutheran, but not adhering to their theology? Once you are less two-faced your credibility rating would go from zero to one out of ten. (CARM boards)

You hate me! Remember, I am the aroma of death to those who are perishing (CARM boards)

You have already ridiculed the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit in the temples of the Holy Spirit: the KINGDOM WITHIN. There is a clash of cultures here; your carnal hobby of collecting Christian titbits versus the gospel being preached.That should be every challenging for you. Your response of shooting the messenger by quoting verses from your carnal arsenal isn't quite the faith response which will lead you to Christ. (CARM boards)

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Martin Luther Was Satanic?

Here's one from the world of Shoebat.com: Martin Luther Was Satanic, If He Were Alive Today He Would Be No Different Than Any Of These Sick Heretics Who Encourage Evil And Sin.   As far as I can tell, Shoebat is some sort of Anti-Islam pro-Roman Catholic website.

It appears that much of the material may come from Luther: Exposing the Myth. I've worked through the entirety of the entry.

1. Luther was an antinomian?
Since Luther despised Moses and also despised the Law of God, it was only logical for him, due to his antinomianism, to encourage others to be lawless and wicked as he was. In a word, Luther was nothing short of a spiritual Jezebel and a Balaam to the Christian Church, or even a modern day forerunner of Nicolaitinism. (See Revelation 2:14, 15, 20-23). Here are his words at this point to show his blatant antinomianism and Nicolaitine behaviour: “If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly . . . as long as we are here [in this world] we have to sin. . . . No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day.” (Letter to Melanchthon, August 1, 1521, American Edition, Luther’s Works, vol. 48, pp. 281-82)
Contrarily, the historical record demonstrates Luther was anything but an antinomian.  See also, Luther And The Law: Did Martin Luther Abhor God's Law? (Part One) and Luther And The Law: Did Martin Luther Abhor God's Law? (Part Two). Here's an ironic tidbit- some people think it may have been Luther who actually coined the term, "antinomian." For the "sin boldly" quote, see: Luther: Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong.

2. Luther mistranslated Matthew 3:2?
In addition to this, he speaks against any idea of repentance from sin in his own translation of the Holy Scripture by removing the word for “repent” in Matthew 3:2 and changing it altogether to: “mend” or “do better” which is totally different in meaning to repent. Is this really worthy of entry into the kingdom of heaven? Our Lord Jesus Christ says otherwise. (Matthew 7:21-23).
This one may originally come from Patrick O'Hare's Facts About Luther. O'Hare states, "The errors in Luther's version were not those of ignorance, but were a wilful perversion of the Scriptures to suit his own views. A few examples will suffice to prove our contention. In St. Matthew III, 2, he renders the word, 'repent, or do penance,' by the expression 'mend, or do better.'" Well, Luther didn't translate the Bible into English, so that's the first mistake.   This article explains,
An interesting instance showing that Luther tried to adapt his translation to the growing Christian knowledge and consciousness of his readers is his rendering of such passages as Matthew 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:15, where he first rendered the Greek metanoeo by Bessert euch (Mend your ways), in order that these texts might not be understood as referring to the satisfactions and penances which the church imposed in the confessional. Later, when the people through his teachings had obtained the correct understanding of confession and repentance, he changed the rendering to "Repent," which is the correct rendering and which he had favored at first. 
The editors of Luther's Works point out,
As to penance itself, the situation was problematic. By 1520 Luther was to reduce the number of sacraments to two, and omit penance because it lacked a divinely instituted visible sign. But this did not mean that he took penance more lightly than before. Rather he was trying to rescue it from some of the difficulties into which it had fallen. The double meaning of the Latin word obscured the vital content behind traditional forms; the Vulgate rendering of Matt. 3:2 et al., poenitentiam agite, could mean either to repent (penitence) or to do penance. In line with the latter meaning, the church in the later Middle Ages had refined the sacrament of penance, so that its material aspect consisted in contrition (genuine remorse for one’s sins), confession (to the priest), and satisfaction (making good, on the priest’s orders, what had been done wrong). Its formal aspect consisted in the absolution given by the priest, while the effective aspect consisted in receiving the forgiveness of sins. In his definitive Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas too had distinguished between the external penance-as-a-sacrament and the internal penance-as-a-virtue, or, in effect, between doing penance and being repentant. While he recognized satisfaction as a “fruit” of the virtue of being repentant, he nevertheless made it an integral “part” of the sacrament of penance, not a matter of the individual’s being, but of the individual’s doing. Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 35: Word and Sacrament I. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, and H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 35, p. 6). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
And also:
The Vulgate translation of metanoeite in Matt. 3:2 is poenitentiam agite. This could mean both the attempt to attain a penitent heart and the fulfilment of the satisfactions imposed by the church upon the penitent. In his Annotations, Erasmus has demonstrated how the word poenitentia came to be applied to the satisfactions and why he considered poenitentiam agite to be an unsatisfactory translation of metanoeite. Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 48: Letters I. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, and H. T. Lehmann, Eds.). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.
In a 1540 sermon, Luther states,
But John had been called and his office appointed to this end: to preach, as Luke writes, “a Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sin” [Luke 3:3] and to proclaim this not to the godless heathen or only to manifest sinners among the Jewish people, but to the whole people of Israel in common. At that time, they alone were the people of God on earth, and God had entrusted His Word to them [alone], Psalm 147 [:19]. It is to those people, when they came out from all the surrounding areas, from cities and the countryside, to flock to him in the wilderness, that he says, “All of you, whoever you are, no matter what your estate or title is, repent” [Matt. 3:2], that is: “Abandon your godless ways and sinful life; turn and mend your ways and prepare the way for the Lord who was promised to you and [who] has now been sent to bring you all grace and salvation—if you want to escape the wrath and judgment of God and have a share in the kingdom of heaven that has now drawn nigh.” Luther, M. (2010). First Sermon at the Baptism of Bernard of Anhalt Matthew 3:1–17. In C. B. Brown (Ed.), J. S. Bruss (Trans.), Luther’s Works: Sermons V (Vol. 58, p. 35). Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.
Luther's 1545 Bible reads, "und sprach: Tut Buße, das Himmelreich ist nahe herbeigekommen!" The 1545 Bible uses, "Tut Buße" ("repent"). Probably what's going on here is that the O'Hare is functioning with the Latin Vulgate which would have, "Pœnitentiam agite" have something to do with "do penance."

3. Luther said the conscience was akin to Satan?
Luther even dared to call the God-given conscience as even something of Satan himself! Here are his words: “Do not ask anything of your conscience; and if it speaks, do not listen to it; if it insists, stifle it, amuse yourself; if necessary, commit some good big sin, in order to drive it away. Conscience is the voice of Satan, and it is necessary always to do just the contrary of what Satan wishes.” (J. Dollinger, La Reforme et les resultants qu’elle a produits. (Trans. E. Perrot, Paris, Gaume, 1848-49), Vol III, pg. 248)
This was probably taken from Luther: Exposing the Myth. I dealt with this here: Luther: Perform a Big Sin to Quiet Your Conscience. Back in 2010, I could not verify the quote was actually found on page 248 of the book cited (it wasn't there). It's a good example of why simply cutting-and-pasting citations without checking them can be hazardous to your credibility.

4. No Luther hit piece is complete without mentioning the Nazis
This sounds exactly like something the Nazis and the Communists would say! They had their predecessor in none other than Luther even before Hitler or Karl Marx. No wonder the former was so successful in Germany amongst Lutherans and the latter came out of a traitorous German Lutheran background that rebelled against God altogether. In equally a wicked fashion, Luther advocated lying, something that not only goes against the Decalogue (which Luther expressed contempt for), but also against our Lord Jesus Christ, who is not only Truth, but also taught against lies and against the Devil, “the father of liars” (John 8:44).
The Nazis don't have anything to do with Luther's point about the "conscience." The "conscience" quote probably reflects Luther's typical point of  trusting in the work of Christ, who took sin upon himself. If you're a believer, your sin has already been punished and atoned for by the death of Christ. Left in our sins we will face nothing but death and damnation. By Christ’s victory over sin, death, and the world, we stand clothed in His righteousness, the recipients of His grace, no matter what we have done.

5. Luther advocated lying?
Luther, on the other hand, taught otherwise: “What harm could it do if a man told a good lusty lie in a worthy cause and for the sake of the Christian Churches?” (Lenz: Briefwechsel, Vol. 1. Pg. 373.) “To lie in a case of necessity or for convenience or in excuse – such lying would not be against God; He was ready to take such lies on Himself” (Ibid. p375)
These were probably taken from Luther: Exposing the Myth. I've gone over the first quote here: What harm could it do if a man told a good lusty lie in a worthy cause and for the sake of the Christian Churches? and the second quote here: To lie in a case of necessity or for convenience or in excuse – such lying would not be against God; He was ready to take such lies on Himself.

6. Luther was against good works?
This can only be expected of a follower of Satan, not a follower of Christ. Such is Luther. As is typical of Satan, Luther also spoke against doing good works, contrary to what our Lord Jesus Christ taught us (Matthew 5:16). He stated: “It is more important to guard against good works than against sin.” (Trischreden, Wittenberg Edition, Vol VI, p160)
This was probably taken from Luther: Exposing the Myth. I went over this quote here: Luther: It is more important to guard against good works than against sin. The context shows Luther exhorts his readers to beware of sin, but to guard against negating God's promises by seeking to be justified by works.

7. Luther thought marriage was sinful?
Luther was shameful enough to even call marriage as sinful, even though Scripture clearly teaches otherwise: “The matrimonial duty is never performed without sin” (Weimar, Vol.8, p654) Since Luther has inverted good for evil and evil for good, then God clearly pronounces His woes upon him. (Isaiah 5:20-25).
This was probably taken from Luther: Exposing the Myth. I went over this quote here: There is sin in marriage. The context shows Luther is carefully pointing out that sin is not absent from marriage, and that every aspect of human existence is tainted with sin. Sin is transferred through the means of intercourse. All children are born with a sin nature inherited from their parents.

8. Luther was a devil?
Luther clearly shows himself once again not only to be a heretic, but even worse, an antichrist and a devil.
Actually, what's proved by Shoebat's article is that they don't research stuff before they post it.

Friday, August 07, 2015

New Catholic Encyclopedia: The Canon Was Not Settled Until Trent

I was asked recently to document the following from the New Catholic Encyclopedia:
"According to Catholic doctrine, the proximate criterion of the Biblical canon is the infallible decision of the Church. This decision was not given until rather late in the history of the Church (at the Council of Trent). Before that time there was some doubt about the canonicity of certain Biblical books, i.e., about their belonging to the canon."
This quote come from the New Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. III Can to Col (New York: Mcgraw-Hill, 1967), 29.

Nihil Obstat: John P. Whalen, M.A., S.T.D. Censor Deputatus

Imprimatur: Patrick O'Boyle, D.D. Archbishop of Washington, August 5, 1966

Thursday, August 06, 2015

The Canon Was Closed in 1442?

Some years back Tim Staples asserted that the canon was officially closed in 1442. Someone recently challenged me to document this, so here it is:


If I recall, the clip is from Tim Staples in discussion with James White on the Bible Answer Man Show. This discussion can be heard in full here:



Why does this matter? The typical mantra is that the canon was closed by Hippo and Carthage.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

The Strength and Weakness of Karl Barth's View of Divine Election

In a class a few years back, I was given an exercise to read Karl Barth. The point was to read Barth to find that which was helpful and that which was not.  

The Strength and Weakness of Karl Barth's View of Divine Election

What would happen if Karl Barth’s exposition of divine election fell like a bombshell on the playground of an argumentative Calvinist? If confronted with Barth’s exposition, those defenders of the five-points, ready at any minute to debate the extent of the atonement or expounding on God’s sovereignty to a befuddled evangelical, would find themselves engaging an antagonist that may actually impart a few nuggets of friendly and helpful insight. Such a statement might be scoffed at. Isn’t extracting a few bits of truth from a neo-orthodox theologian simply an exercise in Hegelian synthesis?

Despite his arguable departures from Reformed orthodoxy, Karl Barth may indeed have wisdom for argumentative Calvinists. Those who discard the totality of his view of divine election may be throwing away that which could be beneficial. If it is not possible to read that which one disagrees and extract insight, then the method of the Apostle Paul on Mars Hill should likewise be indicted.

The first part of this paper will look at some aspects of Barth’s theology of election in which an argumentative Calvinist will be challenged to determine if chewing off the meat but spitting out the bones applies to reading Barth. But does that mean these Barthian bites of wisdom should simply be taken at face value? It will be shown that each has its own baggage. The second part of the paper will examine concerns raised by scrutinizing the cogency of that presented previously.

Strength One: Defend the God of the Bible
It seems absurd to suggest that a Calvinist would not always be defending the God of the Bible in every argument put forth. Karl Barth though found this was indeed the case with one of his contemporaries. In his popular book written in defense of the five-points of Calvinism, Lorraine Boettner states, “Then, too, when we stop and consider that among many non-Christian religions Mohammedanism has so many millions who believe in some kind of Predestination, that the doctrine of Fatalism has been held in some form or other in several heathen countries, and that mechanistic and deterministic philosophies have exerted such great influences in England, Germany, and America, we see that this doctrine is at least worthy of careful study.”(1)

Barth asks us to consider Boettner’s statement “some kind of Predestination.” While the early Calvinists saw great value and comfort in a strong doctrine of election, Barth notes “the Lutherans of the 16th and 17th centuries, and many others too, saw only an endangering of assurance of salvation, the sense of responsibility, etc., or even an open relapse into Stoicism, Manicheism, Quietism and Libertinism.”(2) Barth rightly asks us to consider if Boettner makes their complaint justified, “Boettner appears to rejoice at the supposed kinship between the doctrine of predestination, as understood Calvinistically, and the teaching of Islam. But this supposed kinship was the very reason why the older Lutherans sought to discredit the Calvinists by describing them as secret adherents of the Eastern Antichrist.”(3) Barth rightly asks, how are we to distinguish statements about God’s predestination and providence over against what a Jew, Mohammedan, or stoic might say?(4) When Christians speak of God, they are not speaking of a God in general “as he may be conceived and systematically constructed from the standpoint of sovereignty, of omnipotence, of a first cause, of absolute necessity.”(5) Defending such an ambiguous deity is defending an ill-defined idol, “the exact opposite of the true God.”(6)

For Barth, attempts at natural theology like that proposed by Boettner lead to idolatry because they lack dependence on the grace of God. Such a position assumes man begins with himself and then reasons to God. Barth sees the opposite. One begins with the gracious God of the Bible in the works and ways he reveals himself. He’s revealed himself as an electing deity. The term “election” can only be properly understood by the way the God of the Bible has explained it: In Christ, for us.

Strength Two: Define the God of the Bible
If avoiding general philosophic statements about God will keep one from idolatry, which description of God then should a Calvinist use? Barth’s insight comes by considering a fundamental question: how has God most clearly revealed himself to sinful humanity? Has it been through his written word, his work of creation, or perhaps through the internal testimony of his existence that each person carries innately (Romans 1:18-32)? Barth asks, “Who and what is the God who rules and feeds His people, creating and maintaining the whole world for its benefit, and guiding it according to His own good pleasure -according to the good pleasure of His will as it is directed toward this people?”(7) Asking these questions of a wandering Israelite following Moses through the Sinai desert would probably produce the answer “Yahweh is known through his mighty works.” But these mighty works are more than simply mighty in themselves, pointing toward an ominous deity. They point ultimately to God’s mightiest work, the person and ministry of Jesus Christ. Barth explains that according to Scripture “our attention and thoughts should and must be concentrated, then from first to the last the Bible directs us to the name of Jesus Christ.”(8) When we read of any mighty biblical work, each instance is a signpost, (or better stated, an immense cosmic billboard) pointing to Christ.

Here we come to the heart of Barth’s hermeneutic on election: “Theology must begin with Jesus Christ, and not with general principles, however better, or at any rate, more relevant and illuminating, they may appear to be: as though He were a continuation of the knowledge and Word of God, and not its root and origin, not indeed the very word of God itself.”(9) He explains that the church falls into error whenever it attempts to go beyond this name.(10) When a Calvinist says “God” what should immediately flood through his mind and soul is the name Jesus Christ, “For if it is true that in Jesus Christ there dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Col.2:9)” we must avoid any abstractions of God.(11) “In the name and person of Jesus Christ we are called upon to recognize the Word of God, the decree of God and the election of god at the beginning of all things, at the beginning of our own being and thinking, at the basis of our faith in the ways and works of God.”(12)

Strength Three: The Comfort of Election
If Jesus Christ is that to which the word “election” necessarily and dramatically points and finds fulfillment, the fact of him being sent because of the Father’s love as the divine Son becomes the starting point by which the term can best be grasped. Barth explains, “We must not seek the ground of this election anywhere but in the love of God.” “What takes place in this election is always that God is for us; for us, and therefore for the world which was created by Him, which is distinct from Him, but which is yet maintained by Him.”(13)

Accounts of his ministry then take on profound significance. When confronted with John 3:16, an argumentative Calvinist might direct his critic to passages like Romans 9 or Ephesians 1. Now, the Calvinist is not limited to a few proof texts, as if the Bible doesn‘t testify to the same truth in each passage. “As electing love it can never be hatred or indifference, but always that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life… this much is certain, that in this election (in giving Himself to this work, and in electing as the object of this work the man Jesus from among the world of men, and in Him the whole race) God loved the world.”(14) This is why Barth can speak of election as necessarily speaking of the Gospel. Election is God’s love. Barth’s point should not be sidetracked by a debate on the extent of the atonement. Rather, election, if intimately connected to Jesus, drapes the entire theological concept in the love of God. Election is the way in which “God has truly loved the world.” (15)

This hearkens back to how the early Reformers such as Calvin could refer to the usefulness and the sweetest fruit of this doctrine. It teaches us to place full trust in the mercy of God and inclines us to true humility.(16) It undercuts the tendency to scrupulosity in which a believer questions his own election. “Has God elected me?” rather finds the compassionate face of Jesus pulling the sinking sinner out of the dark night of the soul. The emphasis shifts from whether a philosophically abstract deity before the creation of the world wrote one’s name in the book of life to the cry of the desperate man looking into the face of Jesus exclaiming “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Each of these three strengths are important insights. Which Christian would want to defend an abstract deity rather than the person of Christ? Certainly, the martyrs of Christianity went to their deaths for more than philosophic speculation. Which Christian would deny that Christ is the clearest revelation of God? Which Christian doesn’t want to bask in the security that Christ died for him and his election is certain? While these points ring true, there is another side to Barth’s insights.

Weakness One: Can God Only Be Defended Using the Bible?
In section one it was argued that the defending of an ambiguous deity or speaking of God in general leads to, and is characteristic of idolatry. Barth says, “we must also assert that we do not exhaustively define or describe God when we identify Him with irresistible omnipotence. Indeed, if we make this identification in abstracto, we do not define or describe God at all.”(17) In speaking of the doctrine of election, Barth directs any inquiry as to the data to the pages of sacred scripture: “The very facts which we consider must be sought not in the realm of our experience but in Scripture, or rather in the self-revelation of God attested in scripture.”(18)

But in turning to the pages of sacred scripture, Paul violates the very principle so zealously put forth by Barth. In Acts 17 we find Paul in dialog with the men of Athens. It was an awareness of their idolatry that provoked him to speak not only of God in general terms, but to also quote from their very poets. “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth” speaks of God generally as creator. “He does not live in temples built by hands” speaks of his otherness to humanity. “He is not served by human hands as if he needed anything” speaks of his omnipotence. Paul then speaks generally of God’s providence: “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.” Paul continues by pouring Christian meaning into the sayings of the poets Epimenides and Aratus.

This leads one to question if Barth’s criticism of Lorraine Boettner was justified. Boettner’s point was only to express the fact that even some non-Christian religions have a general understanding of God as that which determined both the past and future. In later chapters of The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, Boettner goes on to distinguish predestination from fatalism.(19) Barth makes no reference to this later exposition from Boettner. Based on the example of Paul, a Christian can certainly take a bankrupt pagan currency and pour value into it. Rather than serving idolatry, abstract statements about God find their meaning defined by the God of the Bible.

Weakness Two: Is The God of the Bible Only Defined by Jesus?
Section two above demonstrated Barth’s Christocentric hermeneutic pervading his treatment of election. In the very first pages of section 32 of his Church Dogmatics, speaking of the name “Jesus” and the path taken to define God, Barth warns “For as we proceeded along that path, we found that that name was the very subject, the very matter, with which we had to deal. In avoiding the different sources of error, we saw that they had one feature in common: the negligence or arbitrariness with which even in the Church the attempt was made to go past or beyond Jesus Christ in the consideration and conception of God, and in speech about God.”(20)

Certainly Barth is correct on the centrality of Jesus to the Christian message. The Lord himself testifies that the entirety of the Old Testament Scriptures were about him (Luke 24:27, John 5:39;). However, the concentration on Jesus to the extent that the Father and Holy Spirit play supporting roles in election could lead to doctrinal imbalance. Paul says that the Holy Spirit within us allows us to cry “Abba, Father” and that same Spirit testifies with our Sprit that we are children of God (Rom. 8:15-16). The Father sends and gives the Son to us (Rom. 8:32) in his work of predestination (Rom. 8:28-30). Praise is given to “God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 1:3). That same Father “chose us in him before the creation of the world,” “Through Jesus Christ in accordance with his pleasure and will” (Eph. 1:4-5). Thus, speaking of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in regard to election can not be thought of as speaking of God in abstraction, but as speaking of God biblically. The concentration in election should not be centered on Christ alone. Each member of the Trinity plays a distinctive important role.

Weakness Three: Balancing the Comfort of Election With God’s Righteousness
In section three above, the comfort as provided by the doctrine of election was put forth. Barth speaks throughout his text as God’s election being an emphatic” Yes!” rather than a judgmental “No!”: “When God says Yes to the creature, He does say Yes; without any if or but, without any afterthought or reservation, not temporarily but definitively, with a fidelity which is not partial and temporal, but total and eternal. Once the election has taken place, there is not further question to the validity or non-validity of this Yes. There is no further anxiety as to how such a Yes can be fashioned or maintained. There is no further despair in the face of the ever-present and total impossibility of living by one’s own strength in the light of this Yes.”(21)

Indeed, the emphatic “Yes!” is prone to abuse and antinomianism, but this charge plagues all varieties of Calvinism and isn’t particular to Barth’s formulation. Barth doesn’t deny the reality of sin, nor does he deny that in his work of atonement Christ takes on the sins of the world.(22) He does though appears to minimize the third use of the law in the life of the believer. In a lengthy discussion Barth chastises those who look at experience as a determiner of Christian faith. Why do some believe and others reject the faith? Appealing to Calvin Barth states, “He knew too, that the election of a man cannot be gathered with absolute certainty from a fact of experience.”(23) That is, one cannot simply look at the sinful nature of a person and determine whether his election (or lack thereof) with certainty. This is indeed true. No one can peer infallibly into the soul of another.

But such a paradigm needs to infuse and make sense of biblical exhortations and descriptions. 1 Peter 2 speaks of those who “stumble because they disobey the message - which is also what they were destined for.” Peter certainly had an ostensive group in mind. Jude likewise recognizes the condemnation of certain men that had been written about long ago (v.4), and exhorts his readers to beware of them, yet another indication that outward appearance, while not an infallible guide for the certainly of election or reprobation, does at least have some value, at least it did for the biblical writers.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 13:5-6, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you unless of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test.” 2 Peter calls us to be eager to make our election and calling sure (2 Pet. 1:10). This is not an apostolic exhortation to morbid scrupulosity, but rather, as Calvin says, serves to prove the assurance of faith. Barth’s system though appears to have no category for such statements.

The issues raised above from Karl Barth writings on election represent basic problems within Christian theology. The first strength / weakness revolves around the issue of the use of general revelation. Does nature tell us anything infallible of certain about God? Or, should only the Bible define who God is? Can fallen humanity know anything truly about God without being regenerate? The second strength / weakness addresses the problems with understanding God’s revelation of himself as Trinity. How does a finite mind conceive of God? Should one person of the Trinity be focused on more than the other? The third strength / weakness addresses how does one ostensively recognize a true believer? Is it possible at all from a finite perspective to know with certainty who our brother in Christ is? How do we know anything with certainty about another person?

All these issues show themselves in any careful study of election. The weaknesses show that each Christian needs to dig deeper below the surface of any answers -to recognize not only their strengths, but their limitations, and mold them to each situation God almighty places us in. Theology isn’t simply a one-time event, but a life long pursuit of discipline. A theologian must recognize that any easy theological answer is probably too good to be true. The weaknesses speak to those who yearn for easy answers, who worship Christ with their heart, but not their head.

On the other hand, an argumentative Calvinist could truly benefit from the strengths presented, as they express the desire for Christians to love, not only each other, but have a heart of compassion for those placed in their lives by a sovereign God. Discussing election is more than philosophical abstraction. The strengths of Barth’s views on election come in their existential reality, as they are played out in the daily lives of believers. Thus the strengths of Barth’s view on election speak to those with intellect but lack in other areas, like compassion, empathy, and ultimately love. An argumentative Calvinist sometime argues for the sake arguing, missing the fact that Barth is indeed correct when he says election is the sum of the Gospel, and that Gospel is God’s love for mankind.


1. Lorraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company), 2.
2. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics II.2 The Doctrine of God (Study Edition) (Princeton: T & T Clark, 2010) 36-37.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid., 48.
5. Ibid., 50.
6. Ibid.
7. Ibid., 53.
8. Ibid.
9. Ibid., 2.
10. Ibid.
11. Ibid., 3.
12. Ibid., 104.
13. Ibid., 26.
14. Ibid.
15. Ibid., 27.
16. Calvin’s Institutes, III, 21, 1. cf. Barth, 36.
17. Barth, 45.
18. Ibid., 38 cf. 34-35.
19. Boettner, 205 - 207.
20. Ibid., 2.
21. Ibid., 31.
22. Ibid., 130-131.
23. Ibid., 40.