Monday, January 09, 2017

Catholic Answers Discussion on Luther, Faith, and Reason

Here's a nifty little Luther discussion from Catholic Answers on Luther, faith, and reason. [edited to add: this link appears to have vanished (as well as the entire Catholic Answers "blog").]

Comments by Members

#1  Eric McCabe - Rosemount, Minnesota
"Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scripture OR BY EVIDENT REASON . . . I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis. My conscience is captive to the word of God"
"REASON is contrary to faith”... “REASON is the whore of the Devil. It can only blaspheme and dishonour everything God has said or done”
This may be the first written diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
January 6, 2017 at 11:15 am PST
#2  Mich Wieder - Luxembourg, Luxembourg
Eric @ #1,
YOU SAY: "REASON is contrary to faith"
BENEDICT XVI: "faith is not contrary to reason" (Vatican City, 21 November 2012)
May the Lord bless you!
January 6, 2017 at 11:40 am PST
#3  Eric McCabe - Rosemount, Minnesota
Mich @ #2,
Reread my post. "Luther:...."REASON is contrary to faith"...
Please take better care to read the entirety of the comment rather than seemingly taking a small part to argue with.
January 6, 2017 at 12:01 pm PST
#4  Michael Flores - lacey, Washington
Faith is an insult to logic. Nobody speaks of having "faith" that George Washington existed. We just know.
January 6, 2017 at 12:15 pm PST

#6  Sean McCoy - Glendale, Arizona
Eric McCabe, I think you should read the entire quote in context. I believe the quote you are referring to came from Luther's Table Talks, which are essentially a compilation of quotes provided by former students who used to reside in Luther's household. It is not meant to be a treatise, so do not try to treat a single quote (taken out of context by you) as such. That being said, Luther states many things in his Table Talk discussion that discusses the use of reason in the proper context (under the direction and control of the Holy Spirit). You can see the dichotomy in a few passages where Luther is condemning the secular use of reason apart from the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
"The Holy Scriptures are full of divine gifts and virtues. The books of the heathen taught nothing of faith, hope, or charity; they present no idea of these things; they contemplate only the present, and that which man, with the use of his material reason, can grasp and comprehend. Look not therein for aught of hope or trust in God. But see how the Psalms and the Book of Job treat of faith, hope, resignation, and prayer; in a word, the Holy Scripture is the highest and best of books, abounding in comfort under all afflictions and trials. It teaches us to see, to feel, to grasp, and to comprehend faith, hope, and charity, far otherwise than mere human reason can..."
Not too shabby for dinnertime conversation. Here we see Luther is not condemning reason. He is condemning reason apart from faith. As you yourself pointed out in the first quote that you provided above, Luther was quite keen on the use of reason within the context of faith and the scriptures.
"We ought not to criticize, explain, or judge the Scriptures by our mere reason (emphasis again on reason alone), but diligently, with prayer, meditate thereon, and seek their meaning...The Holy Ghost must here be our only master and tutor (once again, the reason in subjection to the Holy Spirit); and let youth have no shame to learn of that preceptor."
"He who wholly renounces himself, and relies not on mere human reason, will make good progress in the Scriptures; but the world comprehends them not, from ignorance of that mortification which is the gift of God's word. Can he who understands not God's Word, understand God's works?"
This sentiment should be familiar to even the most casual student of the Apostle Paul who himself said something similar: "For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and a folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men."
Perhaps you would prefer the sentiment of the Psalmist? "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding."
Going back to Luther's view of wisdom: "Human reason, with all its wisdom, can bring it no further than to instruct people how to live honestly and decently in the world, how to keep house, build, etc., things learned from philosophy and heathenish books. But how they should learn to know God and his dear Son, Christ Jesus, and to be saved, this the Holy Ghost alone teaches through God's Word; for philosophy understands naught of divine matters. I don't say that men may not teach and learn philosophy; I approve thereof, so that it be within reason and moderation. Let philosophy remain within her bounds, as God has appointed, and let us make use of her as of a character in a comedy; but to mix her up with divinity may not be endured; nor is it tolerable to make faith an accidens or quality, happening by chance; for such words are merely philosophical - used in schools and in temporal affairs, which human sense and reason may comprehend. But faith is a thing of the heart, having its being and substance by itself, given of God as his proper work, not a corporal thing, that may be seen, felt, or touched."
Returning to the quote that you mentioned, it is grossly out of context. Luther was addressing another reformer whom he felt was at odds with the correct view of the sacrament of Holy Communion. He felt that Karlstadt's reasons for his view were based on shoddy reasoning apart from scripture. Hence his entire quote: "Let this be our answer to the arguments and reasons that Dr. Karlstadt presents for his dream from Scripture. They were threefold. First, a capital letter is found in some books, not all. Second, there was a punctuation mark. Third, the dear touto. What wonderful arguments, which no one would use except such heavenly prophets, who hear the voice of God. A fourth now is, that he cannot present a single verse of Scripture in his favor. This is the most damaging argument and will forever remain so. I shall not overthrow it but will rather strengthen it. Furthermore he teaches us what Frau Hulda,?? natural reason, has to say in the matter, just as if we did not know that reason is the devil’s prostitute and can do nothing else but slander and dishonor what God does and says. But before we answer this arch-prostitute and devil’s bride, we first want to prove our faith, not by setting forth capitals or periods or touto tauta but by clear, sober passages from Scripture which the devil will not overthrow."
Once more we see Luther putting reason in subjection to faith and the scriptures. To strengthen you apologetic stance in the future you may want to actually read Luther's works so that you can place them in proper context rather than grabbing them from message board to cut and paste random quotes into emails. I'm not saying I am in agreement with everything Luther says, nor do I need to be because the power of scripture does not rest on man; however, if you want to pursue an ethical Christian apologetic, you should have a desire to try to present issues in their proper context rather than purposely misrepresenting them to suit your purpose.
January 6, 2017 at 12:34 pm PST
#7  Eric McCabe - Rosemount, Minnesota
Notice that all I did was post three verbatim quotes of Luther in concurrent succession. You can use the whole "context" argument all you want. But when Luther uses crass and vile language as he most certainly did in much of his works, so vile that the Catholic Answers pre-programmed auditor would censor, I think we all know in good conscience that his thoughts, doctrines, and ambitions were not from God.
January 6, 2017 at 12:40 pm PST
#9  Mich Wieder - Luxembourg, Luxembourg
Eric @ #1,
Please analyze one of your statements for bipolar disorder.
YOU SAY: "I, too, want you to be a part of the true Church. I personally want every living soul to be in communion with the Church Jesus Christ founded and continues to maintain through His Spirit."
MY OBSERVATION: You consider it presumptuous when a person thinks to be "a part of the true church in an arrogant and secure way."
ANOTHER OBSERVATION: You presently are a member of the Catholic Church.
MY QUESTION: Are you or aren't you presently a member of "the Church Jesus Christ founded and continues to maintain through His Spirit?"
May the Lord bless you!
January 6, 2017 at 12:58 pm PST
#10  Eric McCabe - Rosemount, Minnesota
Mich at #9,
This is what I said: "I, too, want YOU to be a part of the true Church. I personally want EVERY living soul to be in communion with the Church Jesus Christ founded and continues to maintain through His Spirit."
Are you misreading what I wrote? I did not write "[I] want to be a part of the true Church. I also said "I, too, want YOU to be a part of the true church" as I also "want every living soul to be in communion with the Church Jesus Christ founded and continues to maintain through His Spirit."
The fact is, I am a part of the true One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church founded by Jesus Christ 2000 years go. Thanks and praise be to God through His grace and mercy. But I want you and every living soul as well to be a part of Her as well.
I really think you should try to read and reread the comments on these threads. You are missing pertinent information that makes many of your comments and questions incoherent. If you want to fine-comb and sift through comments of Catholics to argue and contend, then do so with more diligence and care so that your questions and comments can make more sense.
January 6, 2017 at 1:10 pm PST
January 6, 2017 at 2:39 pm PST
#15  Sean McCoy - Glendale, Arizona
Eric, you actually didn't post three verbatim quotes. The last quote you provided is spurilously attributed to Luther and is a paraphrase. And once again, posting quotes that you know to be out of context is a poor apologetic and is inconsistent with a Christian ethic.
January 6, 2017 at 3:00 pm PST
#16  Sean McCoy - Glendale, Arizona
And speaking to your comment that Luther was crass or earthy, please explain to me what you would consider Hosea when we compared Israel and Judah to prostitutes.
January 6, 2017 at 3:01 pm PST
#18  Sean McCoy - Glendale, Arizona
I want to address what I think you are trying to get at by attacking Luther's character. The thrust of your argument seems to be that if someone has sinned they must not be lead by the Holy Spirit. While I agree that when we sin we have not followed the Holy Spirit, that does not mean that the Holy Spirit has departed from that person. It only means that we are simultaneously sinners and saints.
If you really and honestly look at the implication you have made and take it to its logical conclusion you only undercut the authority of your own church. If you assume, wrongly, that sin means that one no longer has a place in carrying out God's will, then such heroes of the faith such as Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Jonah, Peter, and Paul have no place in leadership in the church and that they could not have been lead by the Holy Spirit.
In the context of the catholic church through the ages many things have occurred where the church has not followed the Holy Spirit, and by your arbitrary rule would then be unfit to be considered as a means of the Holy Spirit to accomplish his will in this world. Numerous atrocities were attributed to spreading the Catholic gospel in the ancient world with approval of the church. Men such as Clovis, Charlemagne, etc., have forced conversions on pain of death. The Crusades were encouraged by the Popes despite some of the most barbaric practices imaginable. After the reformation we saw atrocities committed by the Catholic church with full knowledge and approval of the church authorities under the Inquisitions. In more recent days we have the sex scandals that have plagued the church where known wrongdoing occurred and in some cases were covered up.
I say this not to take anything away from the Catholic Church. If I didn't love the Catholic church I would not be here to engage in debate and study of the scriptures. I only do so to point out the obvious inconsistency in your statement. My own faith history is equally guilty of sin. And yet, God has used the institutions of the church (the whole church) despite our flaws and sin to spread his gospel into the world. Be careful where you point your finger, because four more are pointing back at you. The power of the church is dependent on the Holy Spirit and the ability of the gospel to save. It isn't dependent on an infallible church or man. That's why I care enough to speak up.
January 6, 2017 at 3:23 pm PST

#24  Eric McCabe - Rosemount, Minnesota
Sean @ #18,
You: "I want to address what I think you are trying to get at by attacking Luther's character"
I am sorry if you got that impression. I was not attempting to "attack Luther's character". However, I did and always will expose his writings for what they are, context or no context. Regardless of his coarse and sometimes even lewd style of writing, he is all over the place sloppily going from one tangent to another in an almost seeming chimerical way. Outside of all the contradictory statements regarding biblical doctrine, he had an unprecedented and scornful perspective on not only the seven books he himself removed from the Old Testament, but also for the canonical books of Esther that he wanted to "toss in the Elbe River", Saint James in which he called an "epistle of straw" and that he wanted to "throw Jimmy in the stove, and the book of the Revelation of Saint John in that it was "an aversion and should be rejected". Let us not forget his infamous addition of the word 'allein' (alone) in Romans 3:28 in his bible transliteration. I could literally go on and on unceasingly with quotes from Luther that would make any good-willed Christian cringe.
You: "The thrust of your argument seems to be that if someone has sinned they must not be lead by the Holy Spirit. While I agree that when we sin we have not followed the Holy Spirit, that does not mean that the Holy Spirit has departed from that person. It only means that we are simultaneously sinners and saints"
I do not know about you, but I was not referring to anyone's moral disposition or how many times someone had fallen from grace. I merely was exposing illogical and contradictory quotes in writing from a self-anathematized Christian. I am sorry, Sean, but the writings of Martin Luther are not analogous to those of "Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Jonah, Peter, and Paul". Again, we are talking about sentiments that were written down, not immoral conduct. Show me something in writing from a Catholic Saint, Doctor, Pope etc. that compares to that of Luther. If you can do that, then your argument will carry some weight.
January 7, 2017 at 4:54 pm PST


Highway dog said...

I have found the article content by going to the and searching for the tag line "solo scriptura isn't scriptural" They have a multipart push on 'scriptural' and 'historial' without responding to the details that true christian catholics who are normed by the bible believe. Now they get to post articles without comments to embarrass them. This will give evidence the roman catholics are not in unity.

James Swan said...

Thanks for the tip. It appears CA eliminated their blog when they updated their website. Perhaps it was an oversight (they were getting a lot of readers and comments).

PeaceByJesus said...


Pope: Luther’s intention was to renew the Church, not divide her

On this path, we Catholics and Lutherans, from several countries, together with various communities sharing our ecumenical journey, reached a significant step when, on 31 October last, we gathered together in Lund, Sweden, to commemorate through common prayer the beginning of the Reformation. This joint commemoration of the Reformation was important on both the human and theological-spiritual levels. After fifty years of official ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans, we have succeeded in clearly articulating points of view which today we agree on. For this we are grateful. At the same time we keep alive in our hearts sincere contrition for our faults. In this spirit, we recalled in Lund that the intention of Martin Luther five hundred years ago was to renew the Church, not divide her.