Sunday, February 28, 2016

In an age of Jihad and political fear-mongering, Jesus said, "I will build My Church" - "among all peoples" - sermon by John Piper

This an excellent missions sermon from Matthew 16:13-26, that is very applicable and timely to today's American Christians and the threat of Islamic terrorism and Jihad and the comments that the Jihadism and terrorism of Islam will cause the true believers to live for His kingdom and stop putting their trust in economic strength and military power and politics.  (in light of the current political circus.)


Please listen to Piper's sermon; he says some convicting things that are not all written out in the print version.  Here is an excerpt from the print version:

I listened to Oscar's message last Sunday by tape as soon as I got home from England. It was, as I knew it would be, a powerful call to make disciples and prepare elders for new churches in the age of Jihad, by avoiding unnecessary controversy, being saturated with the Bible, and throwing yourself into difficult ministry where boldness in the Word is necessary. He said the outrageous truth that Jihad is a gift to the American church. Why?
  1. Because it forces the nominal Christian bluff; either we get make disciples and plant churches or we will be converted. Islam is out to take the world.
  2. It produces economic instability so we are pressed toward the wartime lifestyle we should have been living all along.
  3. It helps us identify with the church in the rest of the world, which has known this threat and instability all along. Now we can learn how to prepare elders for the real church.
  4. It presses us to center the discipling of our children in the home, because the church building and Pastor John may be blown up anyway. You can't lean on the building or the preacher.
  5. It wakes us up to the glorious truth that in the end what matters is the resurrection with Christ. To live is Christ and to die is gain.
Some of my own general comments, inspired by Piper's sermon:

Jesus said, "I will build My Church, and the gates of hades will not prevail against it."  Matthew 16:18

The "Church" is not a building, as buildings can be blown up by Jihadists.  Jesus' Church is not local churches, although Jesus Church is made up of true believers who are members of local churches.  Christ gave Himself for the Church and purchased the Church with His blood (Ephesians 5:25; Acts 20:28; Revelation 5:9), so though the first church in Jerusalem was local and visible (Acts 2:37-46) and local visible churches were started and built all over the Roman Empire and all through history, Jesus' statement about His Church has to be interpreted in the light of those three key passages.  The apostle Paul described "the Church' in very cosmic and universal terms.  (Ephesians 1:22-23; 2:19-22; 3:8-10; 3:20-21)

This has been proven in history by the fact that many local and visible churches have disappeared from history - especially by the advance of Islam in North Africa and the Middle East and Turkey; and the advance of liberal theology in western Europe and USA.  Liberal churches are not true churches anymore.  The Roman Catholic Church is not a true church anymore, since it condemned the Biblical doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone at the Council of Trent in 1545-1563.  Part of the "rock" of the message is that one must repent and trust in Christ alone for salvation, apart from the merit of good works. (Romans 1:17; 3:28; 4:1-16; 5:1; 10:9-10; Galatians 2:16; Acts 15:9; 16:31; John 5:24; 3:16; 11:25; 20:30-31; Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 3:9; Acts 13:38-39)  Christ Himself is the rock and foundation (1 Corinthians 10:4; 3:11); and the apostolic doctrine about Christ (Ephesians 2:19-20).

The Church is all the true believers from all nations and cultures who have been purchased by the blood of Christ, those who are truly born again.  (Revelation 5:9; Ephesians 5:25-27, 32; Acts 20:28)

Hades means death.  Hades does not mean the devil or demons or heresies or false doctrines.  Local churches disappeared in history.  (Revelation 2:1-7)  But the one who perseveres and overcomes, that one will be saved.  (verse 7)
Jesus enters the gates of hades and rescues people out of death, because He has the keys of death and hades.  (Revelation 1:18; 20:14-15)

Jesus promised eternal life out from death to true believers.  John 5:24; 11:25  Spiritual Death in hell (the lake of fire) will not overtake true believers - Revelation 20:14-15.

The rock that Jesus builds His church upon is the firm foundational truth of the doctrinal statement that Peter spoke:  "You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God."  (Matthew 16:16) That was the apostolic message that was also given to the other apostles and they preached this, and the doctrine of the Deity of Christ and Trinity are natural truths that are implied by the phrase "the Son of the Living God", along with the explanation of more details of many other verses.

Addendum (Monday, Feb. 29, 2016):  To trust in the Messiah, the Son of the Living God alone, means by necessity, not trusting in one's own good works, and not trusting in Mary or prayers to Mary or other saints also.  It carries with it an implicit confirmation of the doctrine of justification by faith alone.  No wonder Luther said statements that were close to this sentiment, "justification by faith alone is the doctrine by which the church stands or falls.".  It means that Roman Catholicism, with it's emphasis on external rituals and the doctrine of faith plus the merit of works in order to be finally saved out of the possibility of committing mortal sin and winding up in hell and out of purgatory after a "good" RC has to have his/her venial sins purged, and the doctrines of the Papacy, is impossible with a full and genuine trust in Christ alone, as the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Luther: Have "Ineffable Joy" if You're Predestination to Hell (Part Two)

Previously I looked at a quotation from Luther's Lectures on the Epistle to the Romans concerning his alleged teaching of "ineffable joy" in discovering one is predestined to Hell. Typical of Rome's defenders, when a context was presented, their analysis doesn't equal what was originally said. Sometimes in cyberspace another Luther quote is presented along with the "ineffable joy" comment:
It gets even more bizarre than that, for those who are interested in the history of doctrine and theology. Luther thought that men should have an "ineffable joy" if they discovered that they were damned, because they were resigned to God's will: "If men willed what God wills, even though He should will to damn and reject them, they would see no evil in that [in the predestination to hell which he teaches]; for, as they will what God wills, they have, owing to their resignation, the will of God in them." [source]
Documentation
The "ineffable joy" phrase is linked with this additional Luther quote in italics. I would posit again this additional quote is taken from Hartmann Grisar's Luther Vol. 1 (St. Louis: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner and Co., LTD, 1913) rather than any actual reading of Luther's Lectures on Romans. I base this on the phrase "in the predestination to hell which he teaches" which is an addition by Grisar, rather than a phrase in Luther's actual text. Note Grisar's statement:
"If men willed what God wills," he writes, "even though He should will to damn and reject them, they would see no evil in that [in the predestination to hell which he teaches]; for, as they will what God wills, they have, owing to their resignation, the will of God in them." Does he mean by this that they should resign themselves to hating God for all eternity ? Luther does not seem to notice that hatred of God is an essential part of the condition of those who are damned ("damnari et reprobari ad infernum"). Has he perhaps come to conceive of a hatred of God proceeding from love? He seems almost to credit those who think of hell, with a resolve to bear everything, even hatred of God, with loving submission to the will of Him Who by His predestination has willed it. He even dares to say to those who are affrighted by predestination to hell, that resignation to eternal punishment is, for the truly wise, a source of "ineffable joy" ("ineffdbili iucunditate in ista materia delectantur"); for the perfect this is "the best purgation from their own will," i.e. the way of the greatest bitterness," because under charity the cross and suffering is always understood" (p.238).
Grisar cites "'Schol. Rom.,' pp. 213, 223" as the source for this quote. This appears to be
Luthers Vorlesung über den Römerbrief, 1515/1516. Grisar has cited the text backwards. The quote appears to be on page 223, while the "ineffable joy" comment he cites afterward actually precedes this quote on page 213.



The lines in question are 14-6: "Si enim vellent, quod vult Deus, etiamsi damnatos et reprobatos vellet, non haberent malum. Quia vellent, quod vult Deus, et haberent in se voluntatem Dei per patientiam." This text can also be found in WA 56:396-397 (lines 2-5 on page 397).

One of the ironies of Luther's Lectures on Romans was that we have the Vatican to partially thank for it. By the late sixteenth century, the manuscript was thought to be lost, then found, then lost again. A copy of it was eventually found, in of all places, the Vatican Library. Prompted by this discovery, Johannes Ficker went on to locate the original. Grisar therefore, was citing Ficker's publication of this newly rediscovered lost Luther writing.

This has been translated into English LW 25.386. The "ineffable joy" statement is from Luther's comment on Romans 8:28. This additional quote is from Luther's comment on Romans 9:14 which appears many pages later. By linking the two quotes together (and backwards by Grisar!), the caricature is created. We saw previously that rather than Luther teaching the damned should have "ineffable joy" about going to Hell, Luther actually meant that God's eternal election serves as a comfort to his chosen people: "Those who have the wisdom of the Spirit become ineffably happy through the doctrine." With this caricatured Roman Catholic presentation, we see the first citation combined with the additional quote meant to accentuate Luther's alleged teaching that the ineffably joyful damned won't have any problem or anger about being damned, but have happily resigned themselves to the will of God. At least Grisar asks questions of what exactly Luther is saying, and interprets in the form of speculation.

Context
What does Luther's Romans Lectures actually say? Here is a bit of the context From Luther's comments on Romans 9:

9:11. Though they had done nothing either good or bad. [Paul] very nicely uses the term “they had done” rather than “they were.” For there is no doubt that both of them were evil because of the disease of original sin, although regarding Jacob some feel that he had been sanctified in the womb. But by their own merit they were the same and equal and belonged to the same mass of perdition.
9:14. Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! The apostle gives no other reason as to why there is not injustice with God than to say: “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy” (v. 15), which is the same as saying: “I will have mercy on whom I wish,” or to him who is predestined to receive mercy. This is a harsh answer for the proud and those who think they know everything, but for the meek and the humble it is sweet and pleasing, because they despair of themselves; and thus God takes them up. For the fact is that there neither is nor can be any other reason for His righteousness than His will. So why should man murmur that God does not act according to the Law, since this is impossible? Or will it be possible for God not to be God? Furthermore, since His will is the highest good, why are we not glad and willing and eager to see it be done, since it cannot possibly be evil? But do I hear you say: “It is evil for me”? Perish the thought! It is evil for no one. But because we cannot affect His will nor cause it to be done, this becomes an evil thing for men. For if they were willing to do what God wills, even if He should will that they be damned and reprobated, they would have no evil. For they would will what God wills, and they would have in themselves the will of God in patience. [LW 25: 386]

Conclusion
Luther explains God's sovereign will is absolutely good. It cannot be otherwise. Men have no right to complain that God's will is not good. Luther then presents an imaginary detractor/complainer who states, "Is God's sovereign will evil for me personally?" Luther responds: No! God's will is evil for no one. But men do not like that they are powerless against God's will, so for these people, God's good will is seen as an evil thing in their minds. Now, contrarily, if they saw God's will as a good thing, they would want what God wills to come to pass, even if it meant their damnation. They would actually patiently bear what God wills. But they are the wicked, and do not want God's will to be done.

I grant this is a difficult Biblical text, both to understand and to actually digest theologically for those used to ascribing power to the human will. As I read Luther's text, it is a hypothetical in which the point is about God's eternal goodness rather than about the ineffably joyful damned happily resigning themselves to the will of God. Why would the wicked patiently bear what God wills? It is an attribute of their hatred of God that they do no such thing. But even if they hypothetically could patiently bear what God wills, God would still not be doing them any evil. Of course, allowing God to save whom he wants is offensive to the human mind. God's free will not being subject to human will seems absolutely wrong to the sinful mind. Luther himself realizes this, and goes on to state:

I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion (9:15).That means: I will give grace, in time and life, to him concerning whom I purposed from eternity to show mercy. On him will I have compassion and forgive his sin in time and life whom I forgave and pardoned from all eternity. In doing this. God is not unjust, for so He willed and was pleased to do from eternity, and His will is not bound by any law or obligation. (God's) free will, which is subject to no one, cannot be unjust. Indeed, it is impossible that it should be unjust. God's will would be unjust only if it would transgress some law, (and that means that God would go counter to Himself).
This statement seems hard and cruel, but it is full of sweet comfort, because God has taken upon Himself all our help and salvation, in order that He alone might wholly be the Author of our salvation. So also we read in 11:32: "God hath concluded them all in unbelief, (not with cruel intention, but) that he might have mercy upon all"; that is, in order that He might show mercy to all, which otherwise He neither would nor could do, if we would oppose Him with the arrogant pride of our own righteousness.
So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth but of God that sheweth mercy (9:16). This does not mean that God's mercy altogether excludes our willing or running. But the words mean: The fact that a person wills and runs, he owes not to his own strength, but to the mercy of God; for it is He who gives us the power to will and to do. Without this (power) man of his own accord is unable both to will and to do. This truth the Apostle expresses in Philippians 2:13 thus: "It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." Just that the Apostle says in our text in different words: It is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs, that is, who (of himself) accomplishes (his salvation), but of God that showeth mercy, that is, who grants to men the gift of His grace.
Here let me add an admonition: Let no one lose himself in speculation (on this point) whose mind is not yet sanctified, in order that he may not fall into abyss of terror and despair. Let him rather first purify (enlighten) the understanding of his mind by considering the wounds of Jesus Christ (whose blood flows with salvation for all sinners). This is theology in the most excellent sense of the term. Of this the Apostle writes in I Corinthians 2:6: "We speak wisdom among them that are perfect." I myself am still a babe that requires milk and not meat (I Cor. 3:2); and so let everyone do who is a babe in Christ, as I am. The wounds of Jesus Christ, the "clefts of the rock" (Ex. 33:22), give us sufficient assurance (of our salvation'). [This is an edited version of the text from LW 25- Luther's Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans [Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1976, pp. 139-140 ].


Addendum
This blog entry is a revision of an entry I posted back in 2008. The original can be found here. Because so many sources are now available online, I'm revising older entries by adding additional materials and commentary, and also fixing or deleting dead hyperlinks. Nothing of any significant substance has changed in this entry from that presented in the former.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Luther: Have "Ineffable Joy" if You're Predestination to Hell (Part One)

Luther said that men should have "ineffable joy" if they discover God predestined them to Hell? Not quite.

This quote comes from Luther's Lectures on the Epistle to the Romans. These lectures began on November 3, 1515, and ended on September 7, 1516. Notice his work on Romans precedes the 95 Theses, and I would argue this writing contains certain thoughts from Luther that he later revised, abandoned or simply delineated to speculation about the hidden god. Roman Catholic writers coming across this material view these early writings as an all out assault on Roman doctrine. Luther speaks about the bondage of the will and God's sovereign election and predestination- doctrines that typically are abhorrent to those championing free will like Rome's defenders. Here's what's been published on the Internet:
Luther thought that men should have an "ineffable joy" if they discovered that they were damned, because they were resigned to God's will. [source]
He even dares to say to those who are affrighted by predestination to hell, that resignation to eternal punishment is, for the truly wise, a source of  "ineffable joy." [source]
His assurance to souls, affrighted by their inevitable predestination to Hell, that for the truly wise acceptance of eternal punishment is a source of "ineffable joy", seems more a mockery than anything else. [source]
Martin Luther had started to dissent from received Catholic doctrine as early as 1516, in his Commentary on Romans. In this work, he denied both venial sin and merit. He also taught more bizarre doctrines, such as that men should have an "ineffable joy" to discover that they were damned, because they were in accord with God's will. [source]
One can venture into these web pages for further clarification to see how this concept is used. However, on a bald reading these Roman Catholic writers appear to be stating that Luther held those who somehow know they are damned should be very happy about it. One writer calls it one of Luther's "bizarre doctrines." It certainly smells a lot like fatalism, and indeed, if Luther was stating that a revelation of being damned to hell by one on the way to hell should have an "ineffable joy," I heartily agree it is quite bizarre, if not flippant and cold-hearted,  but that's not what the context says.

Documentation
These conclusions from Rome's modern defenders may be based on an older Roman Catholic polemical work: Hartmann Grisar, Luther Vol. 1 (St. Louis: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner and Co., LTD, 1913). At least Grisar hints at an explanation of why the young Luther used the phrase "ineffable joy," whereas, those quoted above leave the phrase hanging in ambiguity. Grisar states:
[Luther] even dares to say to those who are affrighted by predestination to hell, that resignation to eternal punishment is, for the truly wise, a source of "ineffable joy" ("ineffdbili iucunditate in ista materia delectantur"); for the perfect this is "the best purgation from their own will," i.e. the way of the greatest bitterness," because under charity the cross and suffering is always understood" [p.238].
Grisar cites "'Schol. Rom.,' pp. 213, 223" as the source for this quote. This appears to be
Luthers Vorlesung über den Römerbrief, 1515/1516.  The quote appears to be on page 213:


This text can also be found in WA 56:386, lines 24-30. Luther's Lectures on Romans were never intended for publication (LW 25:xii).By the late sixteenth century, the manuscript was thought to be lost. A copy of it was eventually found, in of all places, the Vatican Library. Johannes Ficker eventually found the original. Grisar therefore, was citing Ficker's publication.

This has been translated into English LW 25.377. An edited version also exists: Luther's Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans [Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1976, p.131]  LW 25 is a more complete word for word translation (see addendum #2 below). For clarity, I prefer Kregel's simpler reading much more than that presented in LW 25, but both say the same thing. Below is the Kregel context for Luther's "ineffable joy" of those learning they are damned to hell.

Context
The comment is from Luther's lengthy treatment of Romans 8:28, and falls within a specific treatment on the subjects of predestination and election. Luther has argued first, in connection with studying divine predestination, God has an unchangeable election of individuals. Second, All objections to to this type of individual predestination proceed from fallen human reason. Luther's third point provides the pertinent context:

The third thought (that we could consider in connection with God's eternal election) is that this doctrine is indeed most bitter to the wisdom of the flesh, which revolts against it and even becomes guilty of blasphemy on this point. But it is fully defeated when we learn to know that our salvation rests in no wise upon ourselves and our conduct, but is founded solely upon what is outside us, namely, on God's election. Those who have the wisdom of the Spirit become ineffably happy through the doctrine, as the Apostle himself illustrates this. To them, (His elect), Christ says: "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32). So also God says in Isaiah 35:4: "Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not:behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you." Everywhere in Scripture those are praised and encouraged who listen to God's Word with trembling. As they despair of themselves, the Word of God performs its work in them. If we anxiously tremble at God's Word and are terrified by it, this is indeed a good sign.
If one fears that he is not elected or is otherwise troubled about his election, he should be thankful that he has such fear; for then he should surely know that God cannot lie when in Psalm 51:17 He says: "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, 0 God, thou wilt not despise." Thus he should cheerfully cast himself on the faithfulness of God who gives this promise, and turn away from the foreknowledge of the threatening God. Then he will be saved as one that is elected. It is not the characteristic of reprobates to tremble at the secret counsel of God; but that is the characteristic of the elect. The reprobates despise it, or at least pay no attention to it, or else they declare in the arrogance of their despair: "Well, if I am damned, all right, then I am damned."
With reference to the elect we might distinguish between three classes. First, there are those who are satisfied with God's will, as it is, and do not murmur against God, but rather believe that they are elected. They do not want to be damned. Secondly, there are those who submit to God's will and are satisfied with it in their hearts. At least they desire to be satisfied, if God does not wish to save, but reject them. Thirdly, there are those who really are ready to be condemned if God should will this. These are cleansed most of all of their own will and carnal wisdom. And these experience the truth of Canticles 8:6: "Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death." Such love is always joined with cross and tribulation, for without it the soul becomes lax, and does not seek after God, nor thirst after God, who is the Fountain of Life. [pp. 131-132].

Conclusion
So rather than Luther teaching the damned should have "ineffable joy" about going to Hell, Luther here states that God's eternal election serves as a comfort to his chosen people. Luther, heavily influenced at this time by German mysticism, lastly speaks of those of the elect that so trust in God's eternal decrees that even if they were to learn God had decreed to damn them, their love for God's eternal divine sovereignty would keep them at peace with such a decree. Of course, the argument is more about one "being cleansed of their own will and carnal wisdom" rather than God actually sending one of his elect into eternal damnation. In other words, Luther is making the point that those really seeking to live a life of holiness could arrive at say, something similar to what Abraham experienced when God asked him to offer his son Issac as a sacrifice, or Job's famous words, "Though He slay me, I will hope in Him." One could arrive at being cleansed of our own will and carnal wisdom and trust in God's sovereign plan, despite what we see through our sinful eyes.

Grisar though sees differently:
Several times in his Commentary on Romans he represents resignation to, indeed even an actual desire for, damnation- should that be the will of God- as something grand and sublime. Thereby he thinks he is teaching the highest degree of resignation to God s inscrutable will; thereby the highest step on the ladder of self-abnegation has been attained. In reality it is an ideal of a frightful character, far worse even than a return to nothingness. He lets us see here, as he does so often in other matters, how greatly his turbulent spirit inclined to extremes [p.238].
But, according to Grisar, Luther abandoned this form of mystical purity, replacing it with the understanding of God's gift of faith in justification by faith alone. Grisar sums up Luther's mysticism as follows:
Luther s mysticism is veritably a mysticism of despair and the "humilitas" with its love ready even for hell, which he belauds as the anchor of safety, is a forced expedient really excluded by his system, and which he himself discarded as soon as he was able to replace it by the (God- given) fides, in the shape of faith in personal justification and salvation. [p.240].
These are only snippets from Grisar, who actually gives a lengthy treatment. The second part of this series looks at another quote from Luther's Romans Commentary quoted by Grisar and subsequently used by Rome's defenders. The next quote is typically linked with the "ineffable joy"statement- though in Luther's Commentary it comes 6 or 7 pages later, in Luther's comments on Romans 9.

Addendum 1
This blog entry is a revision of an entry I posted back in 2008. The original can be found here. Because so many sources are now available online, I'm revising older entries by adding additional materials and commentary, and also fixing or deleting dead hyperlinks. Nothing of any significant substance has changed in this entry from that presented in the former. Part two of this series will be revised in a future blog post.

Addendum 2
Here is the translation of the quote in question from LW 25:376-377. You'll notice that the text is more complete than the Kregel edition, but a bit more of a cumbersome read:
Although this matter is very hard for the “prudence of the flesh,” which is made even more indignant by it and brought even to the point of blasphemy, because here it is strangled to death and reduced to absolutely nothing, it understands that salvation comes in no way from something working in itself but only from outside itself, namely, from God, who elects. But those who have the “prudence of the spirit” delight in this subject with an ineffable pleasure, as the apostle makes clear here and as is seen in the case of Hannah, the mother of Samuel in 1 Sam. 2. Among these are those people in the middle who have begun to turn away from the “prudence of the flesh” or are coming close to the “prudence of the spirit,” people who gladly want to do the will of God, but they are pusillanimous and tremble when they hear these teachings. Thus even though these words of the most perfect and nourishing food are still not entirely pleasant to them, yet by the process of antiperistasis, that is, through the fact that opposites attract, they find these words soothing and consoling. Thus, for example, no words are more effective than these for terrifying, humbling, and destroying our arrogant presumptuousness regarding merits. But those who are fearful and become pale before them have here the best and happiest sign, for the Scripture says: “Upon whom does My Spirit rest except on him who is humble and trembles at My Word?” (Is. 11:2; 66:2). To these people Christ also says: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s pleasure to give you the Kingdom” (Luke 12:32). And Is. 35:4: “Say to those who are of a fearful heart, ‘Be strong, fear not! Behold, your God will come.’ ” For if He had not seen that they were thinking the opposite, namely, fear and despair of the Kingdom, He would not have said, “You who are of fearful heart, ‘Be strong! Behold, your God will come.’ ” And again: “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord” (Ps. 112:1). And everywhere in the Scriptures, people of this kind who fear the Word of God are commended and comforted. For they despair of themselves, and the Word of God accomplishes its work in them, that is, creating the fear of God in them. For just as those who are hardened toward the Word of God and trust in themselves have a very bad sign so they who tremble before it and are frightened have the very best sign; as it is written in Ps. 144:6: “Send out Thy arrows and rout them.”
Therefore he who is overly fearful that he is not elect or is tested concerning his election, let him give thanks for this kind of fear and rejoice that he is afraid, for he knows with confidence that God, who cannot lie, has said: “The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken,” that is, a despairing “spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise” (Ps. 51:17). Moreover, he himself knows what “broken” means. Therefore he should boldly lay hold on the truthfulness of the God who promises and thus free himself from his former idea of a terrifying God and be saved and elect.
It is surely not a characteristic of reprobate men, at least in this life, that they fear the hidden judgment of God, but rather it is a quality of the elect. For the reprobate despise it and pay it no attention, or in desperation they become presumptuous, saying: “If I am damned, I will be damned.”
And there are three degrees of the company of the elect.
The first belongs to those who are content regarding this will of God and do not murmur against God but rely on the fact that they are elect and do not wish to be damned.
The second degree is better than the first. They are resigned and content in this feeling or at least in the desire for it, should God not want to save them but consider them among the reprobate.
The third degree is the best and highest of them, who in effect resign themselves to hell if God so wills, as is probably the case with many at the hour of death. These people are perfectly cleansed of their own will and the “prudence of the flesh.” They know the meaning of the passage: “Love is strong as death, jealousy is cruel as the grave” (Song of Sol. 8:6). A marvelous comparison, because love is compared with harsh things, although it seemingly is a soft and sweet thing. But it is true that love is the pleasure in someone else, for it enjoys the beloved. But in this world God gives this love to His elect fleetingly and sparingly, for it is a most dangerous thing to have it frequently and for a long time; “for they have their reward” (Matt. 6:2). But this love for something we long for, I say, is like hell, hard and strong, and in this God trains His elect in this life in wonderful ways. Thus the bride says in the Song of Solomon: “I am sick with love” (Song of Sol. 2:5). Therefore under the term “love” or “charity” we must always understand the cross and sufferings, as is clear in this passage. For without these the soul becomes lazy and tepid, neglects the love of God and no longer thirsts for Him, the living Fountain. This love is sweet indeed, but not in passively receiving but in actively demonstrating itself, that is, to speak in common language, it is sweet toward its object but bitter to its subject. For it wishes all good things for others and demonstrates them, but it receives all evils upon itself and takes them as its own. For “it does not seek its own, but bears all things and endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:5, 7).
Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 25: Lectures on Romans. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 25, pp. 376–378). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Luther on Soul Sleep: "Salomon judgeth that the dead are a sleepe, and feele nothing at all"

Here's an obscure Luther quote being used in the webpage, Martin Luther- The Bare Truth Unfolded:

Shocking but true, and in fact, Luther has his admirers in none other than the Seventh Day Adventists, for this heresy of annihilationism also known as soul sleep. Luther clearly taught this:
“Salomon judgeth that the dead are a sleepe, and feele nothing at all. For the dead lye there accompting neyther dayes nor yeares, but when are awaked, they shall seeme to have slept scarce one minute.”
An Exposition of Salomon’s Booke, called Ecclesiastes or the Preacher, 1553, folio 151v. (A direct English translation of Luther’s German done in 1553)

What Seventh Day Adventists Believe
According to this webpage, Luther "clearly taught" the Seventh-Day Adventist view of "annihilationism also known as soul sleep."  It's my understanding that Seventh-Day Adventism holds that after death, once the soul awakes, it is either sent off to eternity or annihilated- thus they deny the immortality of the soul (that the soul is necessarily immortal). For Adventism, soul sleep is not equivalent to annihilationism. This website points out that these terms would be more equivalent in the way Jehovah's Witnesses use them:
Soul sleep is the teaching that when a person dies that his soul "sleeps" until the time of the future resurrection. In this condition, the person is not aware or conscious. The Jehovah's Witnesses and the Seventh-day Adventists hold to this doctrine. But the Jehovah's Witnesses teach annihilation. This means that after death, a person ceases to exist. At the future resurrection they maintain that the soul is made again. Basically, it is a re-creation of the individual. The Seventh-day Adventists teach that the soul is simply inert and resides in the memory of God.
The official site the Seventh-Day Adventists affirm soul sleep for all, and annihilation for some:
At death, all consciousness ends. The dead person does not know anything and does not do anything (Eccl. 9:5, 6, 10). Jesus and the apostles (as well as writers in the Old Testament) frequently referred to death as sleep (e.g.,Matt. 9:24; Mark 5:39; John 11:11-14; 1 Cor. 15:51, 52; 1 Thess. 4:13-17; 2 Peter 3:4; Dan. 12:2; Job 14:10-12; Ps. 13:3). The image of sleep emphasizes that death is not the end, but is rather an unconscious state prior to the resurrection (note in this regard the resurrection of Lazarus in John 11:11-14,23-25, 43).
And also:
The punishment of the unrepentant is called the second death: After the final judgment the unrepentant receive their punishment. This punishment is called the second death. “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:14, 15; see also 21:8). The Bible also uses words such as “perishing” and “destruction” in speaking of the ultimate fate of the unrepentant (e.g., 
2 Peter 3:7, 9; John 3:16; Heb. 10:28; Mal. 4:1). These descriptions confirm that the second death refers to annihilation (or extinction) of the unrepentant, rather than a continual and eternal conscious torment.
Luther did not believe in annihilationism for the damned- see his comments on Psalm 21:9 (WA 5:590) "Constantly the damned will be judged, constantly they will suffer pain, and constantly they will be a fiery oven, that is, they will be tortured within by supreme distress and tribulation"; and his sermon on Matthew 22:1-4, "...their hands and feet shall be tied, and they shall be cast into outermost darkness, that is, they must eternally lie captive with the devil in hell-fire" (WA 52:513).

Whatever Luther's view was on soul sleep (see discussion below), there is a fundamental mistake with how the argumentation is presented: the comparison is being made between Luther and an incorrect presentation of Seventh-Day Adventism. 

Documentation
The documentation provided refers to "An Exposition of Salomon’s Booke, called Ecclesiastes or the Preacher, 1553, folio 151v. (A direct English translation of Luther’s German done in 1553)." The reference is probably wrong at least in two respects. First, the English translation was probably from 1573, not 1553. I could find no verification of any such English translation being done in 1553, and even the source I believe first pulled this quote said 1573, not 1553. Second, Luther didn't write this in German. Luther's material on Ecclesiastes is the result of lectures notes taken in Latin by Georg Rörer who listened to Luther's lectures on Ecclesiastes.

Given that so many of Luther's writings have been translated into contemporary English (including his exposition on Ecclesiastes), I found this reference curious. I believe that this quote probably was taken from a 1957 Seventh-Day Adventist publication: Seventh-Day Adventists Questions on Doctrine. The reason why they relied on such an old English translation is because that's probably all there was at the time in regard to Luther's Exposition of Ecclesiastes in English. The current English version contained in Luther's Works came out in 1971,  so, some Adventist managed to track down the 1573 old English edition!

In Questions on Doctrine (page 517) the Adventists state:
Here are sample Luther citations. In the quaint 1573 English translation we read:
Salomon iudgeth that the dead are a sleepe, and feele nothing at all. For the dead lye there accompting neyther dayes nor yeares, but when they are awaked, they shall seeme to haue slept scarce one minute.—An Exposition of Salomon's Booke, Called Ecclesiastes or the Preacher, 1573, folio 151v.
There's the quote in its exact form. The Latin this was taken from can be found in WA 20:162.


This text was translated into English in LW 15:150. It's Luther's comments on Ecclesiastes 9:10. Luther's lectures on Ecclesiastes date from 1526.


Context
10. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in the pit, to which you are going.
This is the second part of the exhortation. In it he opposes those idle men who, because they see that the world is ungrateful and because they are aware of its pain, refuse to achieve anything at all or to do any good. Therefore he commands both, that we should be merry, but in such a way that we do not become idle but labor in accordance with the command in Gen. 3:17–19. The labor must be present, but the burdensome and troublesome anxieties must not. One must tire his body with labor, but one’s heart must be free of anxiety and be content with what is in the present. Add a third element: Do not afflict your heart with grief because you see that the world is ungrateful. Now, he says finds deliberately; that is, “do not pursue your own plans but what lies at hand, what God has commanded and provided, without any concern about the future.” When he says with your might, he is demanding industry and diligence. For there is no work, etc., in the pit. This is another passage which proves that the dead do not feel anything. There is, he says, no thought or art or knowledge or wisdom there. Therefore Solomon thought that the dead are completely asleep and do not feel anything at all. The dead lie there without counting days or years; but when they are raised, it will seem to them that they have only slept for a moment. Pit means the grave or the sepulcher. In my opinion it refers to the hidden resting-place in which the dead sleep outside of the present life, where the soul departs to its place. Whatever it may be, it cannot be physical. Thus you should understand the pit to mean the place where the souls are kept, a sort of sepulcher of the soul outside this physical world, just as the earth is the sepulcher of the body. What this is, however, is unknown to us. So in Gen. 42:38 and 44:29: “I shall descend with sorrow to the pit” and “You will bring down my gray hairs in sorrow to the pit.” For true saints do not descend to the pit in order to suffer something there. Therefore the dead are outside of space, because whatever is outside of this life is outside of space. In the same way we shall be removed from space and time after the resurrection. Thus also Christ is outside of space. This we say in opposition to those who want to take Christ captive in space, although He is everywhere. The Word of God is not separated from the flesh. Where God is, there the flesh of Christ is. But God is everywhere; therefore Christ is everywhere also. [Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 15: Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Last Words of David, 2 Samuel 23:1-7. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, and H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 15, pp. 150–151). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House].

Conclusion
Did Luther believe in soul sleep? The answer is a hesitating yes, speculatively at times. He did so in somewhat undogmatic terms, at times cautioning his readers that we don’t have full understanding of this subject. At times he says things that contradict "soul sleep."’His was not a dogmatic conclusion. Luther knew that describing the state of the dead was speculative theology. The state of the dead was prone to wild speculation during his time. This can be seen early in his career in a letter to Nicholas von Amsdorf (January 13, 1522). Luther responded to the question of what happens to the soul after death. Note how Luther responds cautiously:
“Concerning your “souls,” I have not enough [insight into the problem] to answer you.  I am inclined to agree with your opinion that the souls of the just are asleep and that they do not know where they are up to the Day of Judgment. I am drawn to this opinion by the word of Scripture, “They sleep with their fathers.”  The dead who were raised by Christ and by the apostles testify to this fact,  since they were as if they had just awakened from sleep and didn’t know where they had been. To this must be added the ecstatic experiences of many saints. I have nothing with which I could overthrow this opinion. But I do not dare to affirm that this is true for all souls in general, because of the ecstasy of Paul,  and the ascension of Elijah and of Moses (who certainly did not appear as phantoms on Mount Tabor). 
Who knows how God deals with the departed souls? Can’t [God] just as well make them sleep on and off (or for as long as he wishes [them to sleep]), just as he overcomes with sleep those who live in the flesh? And again, that passage in Luke 16 [:23 ff.] concerning Abraham and Lazarus, although it does not force the assumption of a universal [capacity of feeling on the part of the departed],yet it attributes a capacity of feeling to Abraham and Lazarus, and it is hard to twist this passage to refer to the Day of Judgment.
I think the same about the condemned souls; some may feel punishments immediately after death, but others may be spared from [punishments] until that Day [of Judgment]. For the reveler [in that parable] confesses that he is tortured;  and the Psalm says, “Evil will catch up with the unjust man when he perishes.” You perhaps also refer this either to the Day of Judgment or to the passing anguish of physical death. Then my opinion would be that this is uncertain. It is most probable, however, that with few exceptions, all [departed souls] sleep without possessing any capacity of feeling. Consider now who the “spirits in prison” were to whom Christ preached, as Peter writes:  Could they not also sleep until the Day [of Judgment]?  Yet when Jude says concerning the Sodomites that they suffer the pain of eternal fire, he is speaking of a present [fire]."[LW 48:360-361]."
The same sort of caution was peppered throughout his writings. Some years back I put forth a number of quotes from Luther demonstrating that his position on this subject was undogmatic and speculative. See Luther's Understanding of soul Sleep (Part three). A fascinating study on Luther's view of the state of the dead can be found in Concordia Theological Monthly (July - August 1967) in the article, "Martin Luther's View on the State of the Dead" by Philip J. Secker. The article surveys numerous writings from Luther demonstrating how varied Luther was on this topic. The author presents such a numerous amount of citations so that "the reader can evaluate for himself the conclusion of this study that Luther was not wholly consistent in his teachings about the state of the dead." Or, note the conclusion of another study on the same topic cited by Secker:
Although Luther sometimes expressed opinions in favor of the unconscious state of the dead and placed their punishment or reward after the last judgment, the main bulk of his teaching indicates that he believed in the conscious state of the dead and its attendant immediate punishment or reward. As a rule, he considered the righteous dead as being in a place of reward and the ungodly dead as being in a place of punishment although he plainly taught that it can be neither real hell or [sic] purgatory" (Toivo Nikolai Ketola, A Study of Martin Luther's Teaching Concerning the State of the Dead [A master of arts thesis presented to the faculty of the SeventhDay Adventist Theological Seminary, Takoma Park, Washington, D. c., January 1956].
Interestingly as well, The Journal of the Adventist Theological Society put forth an article in 2011 entitled, "A Re-examination of Luther’s View on theState of the Dead." That article seeks to argue that Luther was inconsistent, but the scale tips in favor of his main view being soul sleep. I would follow that view put forth by Secker. I think the Adventist view put forth by The Journal of the Adventist Theological Society is simply a broader attempt at was was done sparsely in 1957: to find historical support for one of their main doctrines. The fact of the matter is that Luther wasn't overly concerned about the state of the dead like they are because it wasn't one of his main doctrines. That's why his views were inconsistent and so varied as Secker demonstrates. I still stand by my 2006 conclusion when I first encountered the Adventists using Luther on this subject:
What can be concluded of Luther’s view? I would assert the following: Luther’s position on this subject is undogmatic. He considers the subject speculative theology. Hence, his opinion doesn’t always add up. What can be said of Seventh Day Adventist usage of Luther on this point? I suggest they incorrectly present a dogmatic Luther who uses “soul sleep” to refute purgatory and saint worship, which I maintain is not the case. To use Luther correctly, they should at least note Luther’s opinion was speculative and undogmatic. He didn’t approach the text of Scripture with the same certainty on “soul sleep” they do. Luther doesn’t even have the same theological motivations for the doctrine of “soul sleep” that the Adventists do. What motivates the Adventists on this doctrine? What motivated Luther? These seem to be crucial questions for anyone wishing to use Luther as an authority.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Luther: When the devil comes to tempt and harass you . . . indulge some sin in hatred of the evil spirit and to torment him

Here's an obscure Luther comment found on various web pages:
“When the devil comes to tempt and harass you . . . indulge some sin in hatred of the evil spirit and to torment him . . . otherwise we are beaten if we are too nervously sensitive about guarding against sin . . . I tell you, we must put all the Ten Commandments, with which the devil tempts and plagues us so greatly, out of sight and out of mind.” (Table Talk in De Wette, 5.188; De Wette was a Protestant scholar who collected the most significant sayings of Luther in several volumes)
This quote can be found on various Internet discussion boards, as well as web pages like Martin Luther the Bare Truth Unfolded. It has been cited on-line at least since the 1990's. Typically, the quote is used to demonstrate Luther was an antinomian. Originally it appears to have entered cyberspace as an example of Luther's "foolish rhetoric" (from a version of a web page no longer extant).

Documentation
The documentation given is "Table Talk in De Wette, 5.188; De Wette was a Protestant scholar who collected the most significant sayings of Luther in several volumes." This is actually complicated fallacious documentation.

"De Wette was a Protestant scholar who collected the most significant sayings of Luther in several volumes" appears to be original to something Father William Most wrote in regard to a snippet of this same Luther quote. Someone else must've cut-and-pasted this tidbit about de Wette and amended it to the quote under scrutiny. In one of his articles, Most cites a number of Luther quotes and concludes "We must remove the Decalogue [ten commandments] out of sight and heart. :" (De Wette, 4, p. 188. cited in P. F. O'Hare, The Facts about Luther, Rockford, 1987, p. 311. De Wette was a protestant scholar who collected the most significant sayings of Luther in several volumes). He also places the same quote and comment here, referring his readers again to Father O'Hare's The Facts About Luther (this appears to be his main source for his quotes). Father Most says also, "O'Hare seems to have worked carefully, and gives exact references for everything. Yet it is important to check things against the standard editions. The last five items have not yet been checked, hard to find a copy of De Wette." Contrary to Most's confidence in Father O'Hare, such is not the case as has been demonstrated here a number of times.

Dr. Wilhelm Martin Leberecht de Wette was a Protestant scholar and he did collect "significant sayings of Luther" but these were not the infamous Table Talk statements as the quote in question asserts. In Luther studies, de Wette is known for putting together a collection of Luther's letters, so this aspect of the documentation, "Table Talk in De Wette" is fallacious.  Even if the Table Talk is dropped, the documentation is still bogus.  "De Wette, 5.188" appears to be referring to the fifth volume of Luther's letters, page 188.  This is a short letter Luther wrote in 1539 to Justus Jonas and has nothing to do with the quote being cited.

The quote in question is actually a truncated version of an extended Luther citation provided by O'Hare (probably introduced into cyberspace by this old webpage). There we find that the quote comes from a 1530 letter written to Jerome Weller, "a former pupil of Luther's and one of the table companions who took notes for the 'Table-Talk,''' so there's the Table Talk connection. O'Hare cites Luther writing:
Poor Jerome Weller, you have temptations; they must be overcome. When the devil comes to tempt and harass you with thoughts of the kind you allude to, have recourse at once to conversation, drink more freely, be jocose and playful and even indulge some sin in hatred of the evil spirit and to torment him, to leave him no room to make us over-zealous about the merest trifles; otherwise we are beaten if we are too nervously sensitive about guarding against sin. If the devil says to you, 'Will you not stop drinking, answer him: I will drink all the more because you forbid it; I will drink great draughts in the name and to the honor of Jesus Christ.' Imitate me. I never drink so well, I never eat so much, I never enjoy myself so well at table as when I am vexing the devil who is prepared to mock and harass me. Oh, that I could paint sin in a fair light, so as to mock at the devil and make him see that I acknowledge no sin and am not conscious of having committed any  I tell you, we must put all the Ten Commandments, with which the devil tempts and plagues us so greatly, out of sight and out of mind. If the devil upbraids us with our sins and declares us to be deserving of death and hell, then we must say: 'I confess that I have merited death and hell,' but what then? Are you for that reason to be damned eternally? By no means. I know One Who suffered and made satisfaction for me, viz., Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Where He is, there also I shall be." (De Wette, I V. i88.)
So whoever originally put this quote together ignored the context, historical setting, and created this chimera we find bouncing around cyberspace. At least Patrick O'Hare got the documentation right: "De Wette, I V. 188." This refers to page 188 in the fourth volume of Luther's letters. The section on Page 188 O'Hare is citing reads:



This is the concluding section of a letter to Jerome Weller. This letter is not available in the English edition of Luther's Works. It has though been cited either in full or partially in a number of books. The letter itself has quite a polemical history, cited by numerous Roman Catholic sources, as well as even being cited by PBS. The translation below comes from W.H.T. Dau, Luther examined and reexamined: a review of Catholic criticism and a plea for revaluation (Concordia Pub. House, 1917), pp. 119-122. Another translation can be found here. Dau dates the letter "sometime in July." Others date the letter to November. Hartmann Grisar goes with July and points out, "In the older reprints the letter was erroneously put at a later date" [source]. The letter can also be found in WA BR 5:518-520.


Context
Grace and peace in Christ.
My dearest Jerome, you must firmly believe that your affliction is of the devil, and that you are plagued in this manner because you believe in Christ. For you see that the most wrathful enemies of the Gospel, as, for instance, Eck, Zwingli, and others, are suffered to be at ease and happy. All of us who are Christians must have the devil for our adversary and enemy, as Peter says: 'Your adversary, the devil, goeth about,' etc., 1 Pet. 5, 8. Dearest Jerome, you must rejoice over these onslaughts of the devil, because they are a sure sign that you have a gracious and merciful God. You will say: This affliction is more grievous than I can bear; you fear that you will be overcome and vanquished, so that you are driven to blasphemy and despair. I know these tricks of Satan: if he cannot overcome the person whom he afflicts at the first onset, he seeks to exhaust and weaken him by incessantly attacking him, in order that the person may succumb and acknowledge himself beaten. Accordingly, whenever this affliction befalls you, beware lest you enter into an argument with the devil, or muse upon these death-dealing thoughts. For this means nothing else than to yield to the devil and succumb to him. You must rather take pains to treat these thoughts which the devil instills in you with the severest contempt. In afflictions and conflicts of this kind contempt is the best and easiest way for overcoming the devil. Make up your mind to laugh at your adversary, and find some one whom you can engage in a conversation. You must by all means avoid being alone, for then the devil will make his strongest effort to catch you; he lies in wait for you when you are alone. In a case like this the devil is overcome by scorning and despising him, not by opposing him and arguing with him. My dear Jerome, you must engage in merry talk and games with my wife and the rest, so as to defeat these devilish thoughts, and you must be intent on being cheerful. This affliction is more necessary to you than food and drink. I shall relate to you what happened to me when I was about your age. When I entered the cloister, it happened that at first I always walked about sad and melancholy, and could not shake off my sadness. Accordingly, I sought counsel and confessed to Dr. Staupitz, --I am glad to mention this man's name. I opened my heart to him, telling him with what horrid and terrible thoughts I was being visited. He said in reply: Martin, you do not know how useful and necessary this affliction is to you; for God does not exercise you thus without a purpose. You will see that He will employ you as His servant to accomplish great things by you. This came true. For I became a great doctor--I may justly say this of myself--; but at the time when I was suffering these afflictions I would never have believed that this could come to pass. No doubt, that is what is going to happen to you: you will become a great man. In the mean time be careful to keep a brave and stout heart, and impress on your mind this thought that such remarks which fall from the lips chiefly of learned and great men contain a prediction and prophecy. I remember well how a certain party whom I was comforting for the loss of his son said to me: Martin, you will see, you will become a great man. I often remembered this remark, for, as I said, such remarks contain a prediction and a prophecy. Therefore, be cheerful and brave, and cast these exceedingly terrifying thoughts entirely from you. Whenever the devil worries you with these thoughts, seek the company of men at once, or drink somewhat more liberally, jest and play some jolly prank, or do anything exhilarating. Occasionally a person must drink somewhat more liberally, engage in plays, and jests, or even commit some little sin from hatred and contempt of the devil, so as to leave him no room for raising scruples in our conscience about the most trifling matters. For when we are overanxious and careful for fear that we may be doing wrong in any matter, we shall be conquered. Accordingly, if the devil should say to you: By all means, do not drink! you must tell him: Just because you forbid it, I shall drink, and that, liberally. In this manner you must always do the contrary of what Satan forbids. When I drink my wine unmixed, prattle with the greatest unconcern, eat more frequently, do you think that I have any other reason for doing these things than to scorn and spite the devil who has attempted to spite and scorn me? Would God I could commit some real brave sin to ridicule the devil, that he might see that I acknowledge no sin and am not conscious of having committed any. We must put the whole law entirely out of our eyes and hearts,--we, I say, whom the devil thus assails and torments. Whenever the devil charges us with our sins and pronounces us guilty of death and hell, we ought to say to him: I admit that I deserve death and hell; what, then, will happen to me? Why, you will be eternally damned! By no means; for I know One who has suffered and made satisfaction for me. His name is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Where He abides, there will I also abide."
Conclusion
This letter is one of three letters typically used by Rome's defenders (and others) to prove Luther was an antinomian. W.H.T. Dau provides the contexts for all three letters.  Dau concludes his analysis of these letters with pertinent observations that suffice to demonstrate the quote was not only taken out of its historical context by O'Hare, but also placed in its online truncated form haphazzardly:
When Luther advises Weller to drink somewhat more liberally, that does not mean that Luther advises Weller to get drunk. This, however, is exactly what Luther is made to say by his Catholic critics. They make no effort to understand the situation as it confronted Luther, but pounce upon a remark that can easily be understood to convey an offensive meaning. Neither does what Luther says about his own drinking mean that he ever got drunk… Luther's remarks about jesting, merry plays, and jolly pranks in which he would have Weller engage are likewise vitiated by the Catholic insinuation that he advises indecent frivolities, yea, immoralities. Why, all the merriment which he urges upon Weller is to take place in Luther's home and family circle, in the presence of Luther's wife and children, in the presence of Weller's little pupil Hans, who at that time was about four years old. The friends of the family members of the Faculty at the University, ministers, students who either stayed at Luther's home, like Weller, or frequently visited there, are also included in this circle whose company Weller is urged to seek. Imagine a young man coming into this circle drunk, or half drunk, and disporting himself hilariously before the company! We believe that not even all Catholics can be made to believe the insinuations of their writers against Luther when all the facts in the case are presented to them. [source]
In Luther's remarks about sinning to spite the devil we have always heard an echo from his life at the cloister. One's judgment about the monastic life is somewhat mitigated when one hears how Dr. Staupitz and the brethren in the convent at Erfurt would occasionally speak to Luther about the latter's sins. Staupitz called them "Puppensuenden." It is not easy to render this term by a shortand apt English term; "peccadillo" would come near the meaning. A child playing with a doll will treat it as if it were a human being, will dress it, talk to it, and pretend to receive answers from it, etc. That is the way, good Catholics were telling Luther, he was treating his sins. His sins were no real sins, or he had magnified their sinfulness out of all proportion. This same advice Luther hands on to another who was becoming a hypochondriac as he had been. When the mind is in a morbid state it imagines faults, errors, sins, where there are none. The melancholy person in his self-scrutiny becomes an intolerant tyrant to himself. He will flay his poor soul for trifles as if they were the blackest crimes. In such moments the devil is very busy about the victim of gloom and despair. Luther has diagnosed the case of Weller with the skill of a nervous specialist. He counsels Weller not to judge himself according to the devil's prompting, and, in order to break Satan's thrall over him, to wrench himself free from his false notions of what is sinful. In offering this advice, Luther uses such expressions as: "Sin, commit sin," but the whole context shows that he advises Weller to do that which is in itself not sinful, but looks like sin to Weller in his present condition. When Luther declares he would like to commit a real brave sin himself as a taunt to the devil, he adds: "Would that I could!" That means, that, as a matter of fact, he could not do it and did not do it, because it was wrong. What bold immoral act did Weller commit in consequence of Luther's advice? What immoralities are there in Luther's own life? Luther's letters did not convey the meaning to his morbid young friend that Catholic writers think and claim they did. [source]

Addendum
A humorous example of the documentation of this quote can be found in Shoebat.com's article, Martin Luther the Bare Truth Unfolded. They actually cite the same quote twice (a long version and a short version) giving two different references:  
“When the devil comes to tempt and harass you . . . indulge some sin in hatred of the evil spirit and to torment him . . . otherwise we are beaten if we are too nervously sensitive about guarding against sin . . . I tell you, we must put all the Ten Commandments, with which the devil tempts and plagues us so greatly, out of sight and out of mind.” (Table Talk in De Wette, 5.188; De Wette was a Protestant scholar who collected the most significant sayings of Luther in several volumes)
“We must remove the Decalogue out of sight and heart” (De Wette, 4.188)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Barth Quotes Luther on the Nature of the Church... Bogus Quote?

While doing some other studies I came across this page in Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics vol. 1. It is an extended Luther quote Barth used as a forward to his book. Note Luther's impassioned comments on the nature and existence of the church. It is possible though that some of this quote isn't actually Luther's, but rather the comments of one of his associates, Georg Rörer:

IN PLACE OF A FOREWARD
It is not we who can sustain the church, nor was it our forefathers nor will it be our descendants. It was and is and will be the one who says: "I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." As it says in Heb. 13: "Jesus Christ, heri, et hodie, et in secula." And in Rev. 1: "Which was, and is, and is to come." Verily he is that one, and none other is or can be.
For you and I were not alive thousands of years ago, but the church was preserved without us, and it was done by the one of whom it says, Qui erat, and Heri.
Again, we do not do it in our lifetime, for the church is not upheld by us. For we could not resist the devil in the papacy and the sects and other wicked folk. For us, the church would perish before our eyes, and we with it (as we daily prove), were it not for that other Man who manifestly upholds the church and us. This we can lay hold of and feel, even though we are loth to believe it, and we must needs give ourselves to the one of whom it is said, Qui est, and Hodie.
Again, we can do nothing to sustain the church when we are dead. But he will do it of whom it is said, Qui venturus est and in secula. And what we must needs say of ourselves in this regard is what our forefathers had also to say before us, as the Psalms and other Scriptures testify, and what our descendants will also experience after us, when with us and the whole church they sing in Psalm 124: "If the Lord himself had not been on our side, when men rose up against us," and Psalm 60: "O be thou our help in trouble, for vain is the help of man."
... May Christ our dear God and the Bishop of our souls, which he has bought with his own precious blood, sustain his little flock by the might of his own Word, that it may increase and grow in grace and knowledge and faith in him. May he comfort and strengthen it, that it may be firm and steadfast against all the crafts and assaults of Satan and this wicked world, and may he hear its hearty groaning and anxious waiting and longing for the joyful day of his glorious and blessed coming and appearing. May there be an end of this murderous pricking and biting of the heel, of horrible poisonous serpents. And may there come finally the revelation of the glorious liberty and blessedness of the children of God, for which they wait and hope with patience. To which all those who love the appearing of Christ our life will say from the heart, Amen, Amen.
LUTHER (W.A. 54, 470 and 474 f.).

Documentation
This quote was so interesting, I decided to look it up. Barth provides a reference: "WA 54, 470 and 474 f." That seemed simple enough, but it turned out not to be! It's from this writing: Die angebliche “Vorrede D. M. Luthers, vor seinem Abschied gestellet” zum zweiten Band der Wittenberger Gesamtausgabe seiner deutschen Schriften. 1548. This writing is alleged to be Dr. Martin Luther's Preface, Composed Before His Passing to the second volume of the Wittenberg edition of Luther's German writings. Before he died, Luther did provide prefaces to the first volumes of the Latin and German volumes.  This second preface though is a bit sketchy. It turns out, the Preface was probably put together after Luther's death by Georg Rörer, a close associate of Luther's. Rörer appears to have utilized three documents, two of which have been identified as earlier writings from Luther, while one of his Luther sources is unknown. Of this mystery source, if it's something Luther actually wrote, no one yet (to my knowledge) has been able to locate it. In essence,  Rörer managed to weave three different documents into a Preface to the second volume of the first official collected edition of Luther's writings.

The quote above as cited by Karl Barth is from this hodgepodge posthumous preface. Barth simply cited the cobbled together faux preface as coming from Luther. So when I went to look it up, now I had to figure out if what Barth (and Rörer) cited was from an identified writing from Luther or from the mysterious unidentified source (from someone who may have been Luther). The quote from WA 54:470 appears to be the following (the numbers are lines of the text in WA):
[15] DEnn du vnd ich sind vor tausent jaren nichts gewest, Da dennoch die [16] Kirche on Vns ist erhalten worden, Vnd hats der muessen thun, der da heisst, [17] Qui erat, vnd Heri. So sind wirs jtzt auch nicht bey vnserm Leben, Denn [18] die Kirche wird durch vns nicht erhalten, weil wir dem Teufel im Bapst, [19] Rotten vnd boesen Leuten nicht koennen wehren, Vnd vnser halben die Kirche [20] fur vnsern augen, vnd wir mit jr, muesten zu grunde gehen (wie wir teglich [21] erfaren) wo nicht ein ander Man were, der beide die Kirche vnd vns scheinbarlich [22] erhielte, Das wirs moechten greiffen vnd fuelen, ob wirs nicht wolten [23] gleuben, vnd muessens Den thun lassen, der da heisst, Qui est, vnd Hodie.
[24] EBen so werden wir auch nichts dazu thun, das die Kircke erhalten [25] werde, wenn wir tod sind, Sondern der wirds thun, der da heisst, Qui venturus [26] est, vnd in secula, Vnd was wir in solcher Sachen von vns jtzt sagen, [27] [Bl. ~+ iij] das haben vnser Vorfarn von sich auch sagen muessen, Wie die Psalmen [28] vnd Schrifft zeugen, vnd vnser Nachkomen werdens auch also erfaren, [29] [Ps. 124, 1ff.] das sie werden mit vns vnd der gantzen Kirchen singen den 124. Psalm, Wo [30] der HERR nicht bey vns were, wenn die Menschen sich wider vns setzen, [31] [Ps. 60, 13] Vnd Psal. 60. Schaffe vns beistand in der not, Denn menschen huelffe ist [32] kein nuetze.
The last paragraph of the quote begins at the bottom of page 474 and extends to page 475:
[29] Christus vnser lieber Gott vnd Bischoff vnser Seelen, die er durch sein [30] thewer Blut erkaufft hat, erhalte seine kleine Herde bey seinem heiligen Wort, [31] das sie zuneme vnd wachse in der gnade, erkentnis vnd glauben an jn, Troeste
[Seite 475]
[1] vnd stercke sie auch, das sie fest vnd bestendig bleibe, wider alle list vnd anfechtungen, [2] beide des Satans vnd der argen Welt, vnd erhoere doch schier jr [3] hertzlich seufftzen vnd engstlich harren vnd verlangen nach dem froelichen tage [4] seiner herrlichen seligen Zukunfft vnd Erscheinung, Das des moerdlichen stechens [5] vnd beissens in die Versen, der grimmigen gifftigen Schlangen, doch ein mal [6] ein ende werde, Vnd endlich angehe die offenbarung der herrlichen Freiheit [7] vnd seligkeit der kinder Gottes, der sie hoffen vnd in gedult warten. Dazu [8] spreche ein jglich from hertze, so Christus, vnsers Lebens, erscheinung, liebe hat, [9] Amen, Amen.
It turns out, WA 54:470 cited by Barth does come from one of the identified sources: Luther's Against the Antinomians (1539). The last paragraph though is questionable. This would be the last paragraph cited above in English from Barth's forward. This does not appear to be from Against the Antinomians. Nor does it appear to be from the other identifiable source used by Rörer (Preface to Urbanas Rhegius, Refutation of the New Valentinians and Donatists at Munster, 1535).


Context
I can see there in the distance how the devil is puffing out his cheeks so vigorously that he is turning all red as he prepares to blow and rage. But our Lord Christ from the beginning (even when he was in the flesh) struck these puffed cheeks with his fist, so that they emitted nothing but the devil’s stinking wind. He still does this today and will ever continue to do so. For Christ does not lie when he declares, “I am with you always, to the close of the age” [Matt. 28:20], and when he assures us that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church [Matt. 16:18]. At the same time we are enjoined to remain awake and to do our part in preserving the light. We read, “Be watchful,” for the devil is called a “roaring lion” who “prowls around, seeking some one to devour” [I Pet. 5:8], and this he did not only in the days of the apostles when St. Peter uttered these words; he does so to the end of time. Let us be guided by this. God help us as he helped our forefathers, and as he will help our heirs, to the honor and glory of his divine name forever. For after all, we are not the ones who can preserve the church, nor were our forefathers able to do so. Nor will our successors have this power. No, it was, is, and will be he who says, “I am with you always, to the close of the age.” As it says in Hebrews 13 [:8], “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever,” and in Revelation 1 [:8], “He who is and who was and who is to come.” This is his name and no one else’s; nor may anyone else be called by that name.
A thousand years ago you and I were nothing, and yet the church was preserved at that time without us. He who is called “who was” and “yesterday” had to accomplish this. Even during our lifetime we are not the church’s guardians. It is not preserved by us, for we are unable to drive off the devil in the persons of the pope, the sects, and evil men. If it were up to us, the church would perish before our very eyes, and we together with it (as we experience daily). For it is another Man who obviously preserves both the church and us. He does this so plainly that we could touch and feel it, if we did not want to believe it. We must leave this to him who is called “who is” and “today.” Likewise we will contribute nothing toward the preservation of the church after our death. He who is called “who is to come” and “forever” will accomplish it. What we are now saying about ourselves in this respect, our ancestors also had to say, as is borne out by the psalms and the Scriptures. And our descendants will make the same discovery, prompting them to join us and the entire church in singing Psalm 124: “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, let Israel now say,” etc.
Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 47: The Christian in Society IV. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, and H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 47, pp. 117–118). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Conclusion
The last paragraph of Barth's Luther quote says,
...May Christ our dear God and the Bishop of our souls, which he has bought with his own precious blood, sustain his little flock by the might of his own Word, that it may increase and grow in grace and knowledge and faith in him. May he comfort and strengthen it, that it may be firm and steadfast against all the crafts and assaults of Satan and this wicked world, and may he hear its hearty groaning and anxious waiting and longing for the joyful day of his glorious and blessed coming and appearing. May there be an end of this murderous pricking and biting of the heel, of horrible poisonous serpents. And may there come finally the revelation of the glorious liberty and blessedness of the children of God, for which they wait and hope with patience. To which all those who love the appearing of Christ our life will say from the heart, Amen, Amen. 
I don't know if Luther wrote this paragraph or not. It's in neither of the identifiable sources Rörer used.  Could it be that Rörer wrote his own ending? Perhaps. Regardless, it just goes to show how tricky citing Luther can be, even when you're not trying to use his words against him like Rome's defenders do.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Luther: View Moses With Suspicion, and He's worse than the Devil

Here's an obscure Luther comment found on various web pages:

"Moses must ever be looked upon with suspicion, even as upon a heretic, excommunicated, damned, worse than the Pope and the devil" (Luther, Commentary on Galatians).

This quote can be found on various Internet discussion boards, as well as web pages like Martin Luther the Bare Truth Unfolded. Typically, the quote is used to demonstrate Luther was an antinomian. For instance, notice how Shoebat.com prefaces this quote:

To add insult onto injury, Luther also goes so far as to attack both the Holy Prophets and the Holy Apostles. This was slightly touched on earlier when we mentioned his attitude towards James. As an extension to his rebellion, he also attacks the Holy Blessed Prophet Moses as well. In fact, due to his antinomianism, it was logical for him to attack the Blessed Prophet Moses, which clearly puts Luther under the rebuke of our Lord Jesus Christ, who stated: “For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of Me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” (John 5:46, 47) Let us see what evil Luther stated of Moses and the Law of Moses.

Documentation
In the example above the documentation given is "Luther, Commentary on Galatians." This is rather sparse documentation.  It's plausible that this quote made its way online from someone using Patrick O'Hare's book, The Facts About Luther. Father O'Hare states, "'Moses must ever be looked upon,' he says, 'with suspicion, even as upon a heretic, excommunicated, damned, worse than the Pope and the Devil.' (Comment, in Gal.) ." The quote in its popular online use is verbatim from O'Hare (with the reference being slightly revised). It's possible O'Hare got the quote from Luther: An Historical Portrait By J. Verres (he references this book a few times). The vague documentation used by O'Hare is the same as that provided by Verres. Verres states:
Against Moses, who so very frequently and so very strictly insists on the keeping of the law, Luther nourished feelings, which verge on personal hatred. To him Moses is the incarnation of everything, that can torment the soul, he calls him by the most opprobious names and denounces him to Christians as a most dangerous man. Not only that Moses ,, who has been given to the Jewish nation only, has nothing to do with us gentiles and Christians," but, ,,if you are prudent, send that stammering and stuttering (balbum et blesum) Moses with his law far away from you, and be not influenced by his terrific threats. Look upon him with suspicion, as upon a heretic, excommunicated, damned, worse than the pope and the devil." 
Verres includes a footnote for the quote in question: 
Hic simpliciter sit tibi suspectus ut haereticus, excommunicatus, damnatus, deterior papā et diabolo, ideoque prorsus non audiendus. Comment. in Gal. Almost the same words occur. Tischr. I.c. 12 § 15.
 Using the Latin text provided by Verres, it is possible to locate the quote in Luther's work on Galatians. It can be found in WA 40 (1):558. The text reads:


This text has been translated into English. A version from the 1800's can be found here. The translation in Luther's works can be found in LW 26:365. 


Context
I am not saying this with the intention that the Law should be held in contempt. Paul does not intend this either, but that it should be held in esteem. But because Paul is dealing here with the issue of justification—a discussion of justification is something vastly different from a discussion of the Law—necessity demanded that he speak of the Law as something very contemptible. When we are dealing with this argument, we cannot speak of it in sufficiently vile and odious terms either. For here the conscience should consider and know nothing except Christ alone. Therefore we should make every effort that in the question of justification we reject the Law from view as far as possible and embrace nothing except the promise of Christ. This is easy enough to say; but in the midst of trial, when the conscience is contending with God, it is extremely difficult to be able to accomplish this. It is especially difficult when the Law is terrifying and accusing you, showing you your sin, and threatening you with the wrath of God and with death, to act as though there had never been any Law or sin but only Christ and sheer grace and redemption. It is difficult also, when you feel the terror of the Law, to say nevertheless: “Law, I shall not listen to you, because you have an evil voice. Besides, the time has now fully come. Therefore I am free. I shall no longer endure your domination.” Then one can see that the most difficult thing of all is to distinguish the Law from grace; that it is simply a divine and heavenly gift to be able in this situation to believe in hope against hope (Rom. 4:18); and that this proposition of Paul’s is eminently true, that we are justified by faith alone.
From this you should learn, therefore, to speak most contemptuously about the Law in the matter of justification, following the example of the apostle, who calls the Law “the elements of the world,” “traditions that kill,” “the power of sin,” and the like. If you permit the Law to dominate in your conscience instead of grace, then when the time comes for you to conquer sin and death in the sight of God, the Law is nothing but the dregs of all evils, heresies, and blasphemies; for all it does is to increase sin, accuse, frighten, threaten with death, and disclose God as a wrathful Judge who damns sinners. If you are wise, therefore, you will put Moses, that lisper and stammerer, far away with his Law; and you will not let his terrors and threats affect you in any way at all. Here he should be as suspect to you as an excommunicated and condemned heretic, worse than the pope and the devil, and therefore not to be listened to at all.
Apart from the matter of justification, on the other hand, we, like Paul, should think reverently of the Law. We should endow it with the highest praises and call it holy, righteous, good, spiritual, divine, etc. Apart from our conscience we should make a god of it; but in our conscience it is truly a devil, for in the slightest trial it cannot encourage or comfort the conscience but does the very opposite, frightening and saddening it and depriving it of confidence in righteousness, of life, and of everything good. This is why Paul calls the Law “weak and beggarly elements” later on (Gal. 4:9). Therefore let us not permit it to dominate our conscience in any way, especially since it cost Christ so much to remove the tyranny of the Law from the conscience. For this was why “He became a curse for us, to redeem us from the curse of the Law” (Gal. 3:13). Therefore let the godly person learn that the Law and Christ are mutually contradictory and altogether incompatible. When Christ is present, the Law must not rule in any way but must retreat from the conscience and yield the bed to Christ alone, since this is too narrow to hold them both (Is. 28:20). Let Him rule alone in righteousness, safety, happiness, and life, so that the conscience may happily fall asleep in Christ, without any awareness of Law, sin, or death.

Conclusion
Anyone with a basic understanding of Luther's theology should be able to grasp the distinction between law and gospel set forth in this section. Luther's comments are in regard to justification, not sanctification. Note how the section starts: "I am not saying this with the intention that the Law should be held in contempt. Paul does not intend this either, but that it should be held in esteem." He concludes: "Apart from the matter of justification, on the other hand, we, like Paul, should think reverently of the Law. We should endow it with the highest praises and call it holy, righteous, good, spiritual, divine, etc." Luther’s theology has a place for the Law of God and its use in the life of a Christian. The Law for Luther was dual purposed: it first drives one to see their sin and a need for a savior; secondly it functions in the life of a Christian to lead one to a correct understanding of the good one ought to do.

Was Luther an antinomian as Shoebat.com asserts above? Hardly. Luther taught a life under the cross, which is a life of discipleship of following after Christ. Our crosses though, do not save. They serve the neighbor. We are called to be neighbor to those around us. Elsewhere I've compiled an extensive list of quotes from Luther all testifying to the same idea: justification is by faith alone unto good works done for the good of one’s neighbor.

Addendum
This blog entry is a revision of an entry I posted back in 2009. The original can be found here. Because so many sources are now available online, I'm revising older entries by adding additional materials and commentary, and also fixing or deleting dead hyperlinks. Nothing of any significant substance has changed in this entry from that presented in the former.