Friday, August 05, 2016

Luther "did not have to wait long to see the havoc his ideas would unleash"

Here's a Roman Catholic blogger blaming Luther for today's "God is dead morality" and that "Western Civilization" is "adrift from the solid mooring of the anchor of Truth."  The Blogger states that the "havoc" we see today was immediately seen by Luther:
Martin Luther did not have to wait long to see the havoc his ideas would unleash. He himself lamented that “the people feel they are free from the bonds and fetters of the Pope, but now they want to get rid also of the gospel and of all the laws of God.” He also wrote that “if we succeed in expelling one devil, he immediately is replace by seven other who are much worse. We can then expect that after having driven away the monks, we shall see arise a race seven time worse than the former.”[4- Msgr. Patrick F. O’Hare, “The Facts about Luther”, Tan Publishing, 1916] [Today’s “God is Dead” Morality: Opening Act — Martin Luther]
There are two specific Luther quotes provided, both said to be from "Msgr. Patrick F. O’Hare, 'The Facts about Luther', Tan Publishing, 1916."  Though not provided, the page in question from Father O'Hare can be found here. Let's take a look at these quotes and see if they support the conclusions of this defender of Rome.

Documentation: Quote One
"The people feel they are free from the bonds and fetters of the Pope, but now they want to get rid also of the gospel and of all the laws of God."
O'Hare documents the first quote as "Walch IXV. 195." This refers to a set of Luther's works published between 1740-1753 by Johann Georg Walch. This page can be found here (see paragraph #2 beginning on page 194). This page can also be found in WA 50:119:

This first quote was translated into English in LW 60:149-150, Preface to Ambrosius Moibanus, The Glorious Commision of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior (Mark 16 [:15]). This preface was written in 1537 for a work against schwärmer (enthusiasts) that were emphasizing the inner work of the Holy Spirit at the expense of the sacraments (LW 60:147-149).

Context: Quote #1
I have no doubt that the Last Day is not far away, though the highly intelligent and super-rational world is not concerned about this, being are that there is no need for that for a long time. As time goes on it is becoming so callous and wicked that, even if no Last Day were supposed to come, still it itself—highly intelligent reason—would have to say that it may not and cannot continue or remain this way for long; rather, either a flood must take place or else what happened to Sodom as an example, if it is really true that there is a God who punishes injustice. Innumerable examples of this are manifest since the beginning of the world and are still before our eyes every day, if only reason, so highly intelligent and so profoundly blind, could see such horrible punishment and would allow itself to be moved thereby.
It is an old saying, repeated by many teachers, that after the revelation of the Antichrist the people will become so dissolute that they will thereafter be unwilling to know or to believe anything about any god. Rather, each one will do or not do according to his own pleasure, as the devil and the flesh teach. We see such a time being fulfilled here before our eyes. For now that the horrible, dreadful lies and deception of the abominable Antichrist, the papacy, have been revealed and come to the light of day through God's amazing and exceptional grace, the people are beginning to believe nothing at all any longer. And because they feel freed and released from the bonds and strictures of the papacy, they want to be released and freed from the Gospel and all of God's commandments as well. From now on whatever pleases them and seems good is to be good and right By rights, this will be the end of the song, if God so wills.  [LW 60:149-150].
As the first sentence from Luther's pen demonstrates, in his mind, it was the end times. 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, which is exactly what this context demonstrates.

Documentation: Quote #2
The second quote states, "if we succeed in expelling one devil, he immediately is replace by seven other who are much worse. We can then expect that after having driven away the monks, we shall see arise a race seven time worse than the former." It is documented by Father O'Hare as "Erl. XXXVI, 411." This page can be found here. O'Hare is wrong with his documentation.

This German text being cited is from Luther's comments on Deuteronomy 9:25 (1529). It's the last paragraph of the sermon. I've covered this German text previously: Luther: Our evangels are now sevenfold more wicked than they were before.  This paragraph has been translated as,
Moses is thus a fine teacher; he has well expounded the first commandment, and led the people to a knowledge of themselves, and humbled the proud and arrogant spirits, besides which he upbraided them with all kinds of vices, so that they had merited anything but the promised land. If we do not abide by our beloved Gospel, we deserve to see those who profess it, our Gospellers, become seven times worse than they were before. For, after having become acquainted with the Gospel, we steal, lie, cheat, we eat, drink, and are drunken, and practise all sorts of iniquity. As one devil has been driven out of us, seven others, more wicked, have entered in; as may be seen at the present time with princes, noblemen, lords, citizens, and peasants, how they act, without shame and in spite of God and His threatenings.
True, this German text above does say something like, "if we succeed in expelling one devil, he immediately is replace by seven other who are much worse," but it does not say, " We can then expect that after having driven away the monks, we shall see arise a race seven time worse than the former." I believe the reason for this discrepancy is that O'Hare mis-documented the quote.  He may have had either a Table Talk statement in mind or Luther's comments on Galatians 5:13 (LW 27:50) from 1535 (or some other source!). The quote certainly is not from Erl. XXXVI, 411 as O'Hare states.

Context: Quote #2
How it standeth with the Christian Church.
IT standeth with the Christian church, no otherwise than with a, silly sheep, which the wolf already hath catched by the wool to devour it. Our nobility, our gentry, citizens, etc. will not hear aright, they think (when we preach the Gospel, and reprove the Papists concerning their confidence in works) that as then we preach of good and easy days, and, that they have leave now to live, and to do what and how they please. O, they sin too highly, insomuch that if we drive out one devil, then there come seven others in his stead. If we should drive away all these Friars, then other, seven times worse than these, would come [Table Talk].
Of course, it is impossible to teach or persuade unspiritual people of this teaching about the love to be mutually observed among us. Christians comply with it voluntarily. But when the others hear this freedom proclaimed, they immediately draw the inference: “If I am free, then I have the right to do whatever I please. This thing belongs to me; why should I not sell it for as much as I can? Again, if we do not obtain salvation on account of good works, why should we give anything to the poor?” In their great smugness such people shrug off this yoke and obligation of the flesh, and they transform the freedom of the Spirit into the license and lust of the flesh. Although they will not believe us but will make fun of us, we make this sure announcement to these smug despisers: If they use their bodies and their powers for their own lusts—as they are certainly doing when they refuse to help the poor and to share, but defraud their brethren in business and acquire things by fair means or foul—then they are not free, as they loudly claim to be, but have lost both Christ and freedom, and are slaves of the devil, so that now, under the title of “Christian freedom,” their state is seven times as bad as it used to be under the tyranny of the pope (Matt. 12:43–45). For when the devil who has been cast out of them returns to them, he brings with him seven spirits more evil than himself. Therefore their last state becomes worse than the first (LW 27:50).

The overall argument from this Roman Catholic blogger is too big in its scope: he blames one sixteenth century person for just about... everything at the expense of Luther's point in his own time period. For Luther, it wasn't his teaching that caused "havoc," but rather he thought it was the devil responding to the pure preaching of the Gospel causing havoc. This Roman blogger thinks these quotes demonstrate Luther was lamenting over "the havoc his ideas would unleash." If there is a lament, it was not a lament of sorrow for his teaching or seeking the reform of the church. Rather, it was a lament over the work of Satan against the tiny flock (the true church).

One other thing does jump out from this little context exploration: this educated Roman Catholic blogger may have never actually read these quotes in their immediate context, their historical context, or with any sort of attempt in keeping Luther's theological framework in view. Using Patrick O'Hare's The Facts About Luther typically leads far away from the actual facts about Luther.

The blogger also included a comment with a cut-and-paste from another old spurious source (but it was probably taken from something like either this or this rather than an actual book).  He prefaced with a comment leading one to conclude he actually did the work of finding the quotes in their context:
I give you Luther’s own assessments. The source is The Walch edition of “Luther’s Own Works” which was published by Gebauer, Halle, in 24 volumes, between 1740 and 1753. The work was carried on under the supervision of Professor D. Johann Georg Walch, of Jena.
Beware of someone in English claiming they've pulled quotes from an eighteenth century source written in German and Latin. There's no need to go to such obscure out-of-print sources when there are modern editions of Luther's Works readily available.

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