Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Luther Preferred Islam to Papism? The Turks Exhibit Greater Devotion Than Christ?

Luther preferred Islam over the Papacy? Luther commended their devotion as being above and beyond that of Jesus Christ?  I came across the following comment left on an old entry from the What's Wrong with The World website:
When it comes to seeing Islam as preferable to Papism, Luther can speak for himself:
"From this book, accordingly, we see that the religion of the Turks or Muhammad is far more splendid in ceremonies -- and, I might almost say, in customs -- than ours, even including that of the religious or all the clerics. The modesty and simplicity of their food, clothing, dwellings, and everything else, as well as the fasts, prayers, and common gatherings of the people that this book reveals are nowhere seen among us -- or rather it is impossible for our people to be persuaded to them. Furthermore, which of our monks, be it a Carthusian (they who wish to appear the best) or a Benedictine, is not put to shame by the miraculous and wondrous abstinence and discipline among their religious? Our religious are mere shadows when compared to them, and our people clearly profane when compared to theirs. Not even true Christians, not Christ himself, not the apostles or prophets ever exhibited so great a display. This is the reason why many persons so easily depart from faith in Christ for Muhammadanism and adhere to it so tenaciously. I sincerely believe that no papist, monk, or cleric or their equal in faith would be able to remain in their faith if they should spend three days among the Turks. Here I mean those who seriously desire the faith of the pope and who are the best among them." -- Martin Luther, preface to the Tract on the Religions and Customs of the Turks, published in 1530.
As I said above I expect that Luther's purposes were polemical; but it is some polemic that can draw a comparison to Islam and find "even Christ himself" lacking. (N.b. it might be interesting to see alternate English translations of this passage, if any exist.).
Here were some responses to the quote:
"That Luther quotation is really appalling." (link)
"The Luther quotation is _so_ bad that I really do not believe any translation could make any difference, as long as the one given is reasonably accurate, which we can assume. I haven't seen much to equal it. A polemical purpose is no excuse. One assumes he meant what he said, regardless." (link)
The person originally posting this quote was "Zippy" (who appears to be the same author of the Zippy Catholic website). "Zippy" has posted this quote elsewhere: here and here. In these other postings, "Zippy" has placed these words from Luther in bold, "Not even true Christians, not Christ himself, not the apostles or prophets ever exhibited so great a display." That Jesus Christ is mentioned (seemingly negatively) in comparison to the works of the Turks appears to be that which irked Zippy. In fairness, "Zippy" does point out that the entirety of Luther's remarks here appear polemical, but he (she?) goes on to state, " is some polemic that can draw a comparison to Islam and find 'even Christ himself' lacking." Below, let's look at this polemical remark and see if it really is offensive.

The documentation provided refers to "Martin Luther, preface to the Tract on the Religions and Customs of the Turks, published in 1530." A link is also provided to an English translation from which this quote is taken: Martin Luther—Translations of Two Prefaces on Islam:Preface to the Libellus de ritu et moribus Turcorum (1530), and Preface to Bibliander’s Edition of the Qur’an (1543) by Sarah Henrich and James L. Boyce (updated link). I commend "Zippy" (a Roman Catholic) for providing a useful reference (often lacking from Rome's defenders).  The link contains a translation of the entire short treatise from which the quote was taken from.  Originally, the quote can be found in WA 30 (2):206,

At the time this quote was originally posted (2007), the link provided appears to be the first complete English translation of this short preface from Luther (1996). Since that time, an English translation appeared in LW 59:255-262 (2012).

Therefore, from this book we see that the religion of the Turks or of Mohammed, in its ceremonies (I might almost say in its behavior), is much more attractive in appearance than our own, even among our religious and clerics. The modesty and simplicity [of the Turks] in food, clothing, buildings, and all things, as this book declares—as also in fasts, prayers, and common assemblies of the people—are not to be seen anywhere among us. Indeed, it is impossible to persuade our people to do likewise. Then there are the miracles and marvels of abstinence and discipline among their religious—who among our monks, whether he be a Carthusian (who wish to be regarded as the best) or a Benedictine, is not embarrassed in the face of these things? Our religious are only a shadow compared to them, and our people are simply profane in comparison to theirs. Not even true Christians nor Christ Himself nor the apostles nor the prophets ever presented such a fine appearance. And this is why so many people readily abandon faith in Christ for Mohammed and cling to him so stubbornly. To be plain: I believe that no Papist, monk, cleric, or anyone else sharing their faith would remain steadfast in their faith if they lived three days among the Turks. I am speaking here about those who take seriously the faith of the pope and are the best among them. The rest of the crowd and the greater part of them, particularly the Italians—because they are "swine from Epicurus' herd" and believe nothing whatsoever—are protected from all heresy and error and are strong and invincible in their Epicurean faith, as much against Christ as against Mohammed, and even against their own pope himself. (LW 59:259).

The ultimate comparison Luther is making is between those who profess the outward demonstration of religiosity, particularly the works righteousness of "those who take seriously the faith of the pope and are the best among them."  As a subset, he includes "among us" "true Christians" (evangelicals). Of the first group, Luther repeatedly attacked Rome for works righteousness. Of the second group, Luther would make repeated (and lifelong) exhortations that those with the Gospel demonstrate its possession by true good works done out of gratitude to God. Compared to both groups, Luther saw the outward display of religious devotion by the Turks to their convictions surpassing the outward demonstrations of the papists and the evangelicals.  One author states of the Luther quote in question:

Why though would Luther include in the comparison "Christ Himself nor the apostles nor the prophets ever presented such a fine appearance"? Nowhere in the immediate context does Luther explain the remark. The defender of Rome who posted the quote is on the right track: the comment is indeed polemical. When Luther mentions the "fine appearance" of religion, that's exactly what I think he means: the external outward appearance of religiosity. As he goes on to say in the very writing in question,
For the gospel teaches that the Christian religion is by far something other and more sublime than showy ceremonies, tonsures, hoods, pale countenances, fasts, feasts, canonical hours, and that entire show of the Roman church.
When Jesus walked the earth, he and his disciples were judged by the religious authorities of his day. Consider his interaction with the Pharisees in Matthew 15:1-10. They judged that Christ was allowing his disciples to break the tradition of the elders. Think of the scandal that provoked the Pharisees when they noticed Jesus allowed his disciples to eat food with unwashed hands (Mark 7). Or think of the judgment of John's disciples when in Matthew 9:14 they ask, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” The teachers of the law judged Jesus to be a blasphemer in Mark 2:6-7. Jesus defied the religiosity of the Pharisees by picking grain on the Sabbath (Mark 2:23-27). this was followed by Jesus healing a man on the Sabbath (Mark 3:1-6), such a violation of religiosity that the Pharisees  began plotting to kill Jesus. When Luther is comparing Christ and the apostles to Islam, the comparison is in regard to those with the outward appearance of religion. According to Luther, the Turks had a stellar appearance of religion. When it comes to keeping the rules and the appearance of religion, Luther is saying that they excel over and above anyone, including Jesus, the apostles, and the prophets.

 Luther says elsewhere:
Human works appear attractive outwardly, but within they are filthy, as Christ says concerning the Pharisees in Matt. 23[:27]. For they appear to the doer and others good and beautiful, yet God does not judge according to appearances but searches “the minds and hearts” [Ps. 7:9]. For without grace and faith it is impossible to have a pure heart. Acts 15[:9]: “He cleansed their hearts by faith.” [LW 31:43].
It's surprising to me that more of Rome's defenders have not used this quote against Luther. I suspect the reason is that the quote may have escaped older generations of Rome's anti-Luther writers, and the current-day cyber-apologists haven't come across it in any of their typical secondary-source research. One of the only instances I could find of the quote being used in the blogosphere was from an ex-defender of Rome.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Thank You For Visiting!

Sometime today, this blog will have had over two million page views. I do realize there are other blogs and websites that have easily surpassed this milestone in a much quicker time.  Considering though what the subject matter here typically is, this statistic is amazing. Considering that blogs have been replaced by Facebook and Twitter, this statistic is amazing. Considering that I've never really advertised and I don't sell anything,  this statistic is amazing.

I've appreciated meeting so many of you over the years, and I'm grateful that folks stop by to read the posts.


Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Luther Believed Mary Was Crowned Queen of Heaven?

Here's one from a discussion board in which Luther is purported to have believed Mary was "crowned Queen of Heaven" and made sure to have it "carved on his grave."
....we Catholics do believe that Mary was crowned Queen of Heaven. I respect that you don't believe it, probably because it is an event not recorded in the Bible. But Martin Luther believed it. I believe he had it carved on his grave! He expected to meet his Queen in Heaven... We Catholics believe it is part of Sacred Tradition handed down from the Apostles, and from Jesus himself. Mary likely would have MUCH rather have died for humanity than see her son die, if it were only possible, but in her humility and wisdom she certainly knew that only God can do that. She knew her place, always. In icons, she is always pointing to Jesus.
I asked for some documentation and the response was, "Just google it. Its out there." We'll see below that there's a strong dose of embellishment going on in regard to Luther's use of the phrase "Queen of Heaven" and there is blatant error in regard to what's printed on Luther's grave.

Queen of Heaven
I've previously done a detailed look at Luther's use (or lack thereof) of the title, "Queen of Heaven." Luther was against the Salve Regina and the Regina Coeli which blatantly affirm Mary's queenship.  I know of only one instance in which Luther positively uses the precise phrase "Queen of Heaven," and he does so in order to downplay the excessive Marian devotion of his day (Luther's treatment of the Magnificat, 1521 [LW 21:327-328]) He says,
It is necessary also to keep within bounds and not make too much of calling her “Queen of Heaven,” which is a true-enough name and yet does not make her a goddess who could grant gifts or render aid, as some suppose when they pray and flee to her rather than to God.
The Mary of Luther in 1521 and the Mary of 16th Century Rome are different, for in the later view, Mary is someone to pray to and flee to who grants gifts, what Luther would call, a goddess. According to Luther, by pouring more into the term "Queen of Heaven" (like the defenders of Rome do), "we can easily take away too much from God’s grace, which is a perilous thing to do and not well pleasing to her." When Luther here says "Queen of Heaven" "is a true enough name," he does not mean the same thing Rome's defenders do. If there's any agreement here between the defenders of Rome and Luther, it's only surface level.

Luther's exposition of the Magnificat was seen in his day as an attack against popular Marian piety, and is a transitional work in Luther's Mariology not entirely reflective of his later thought. In chronological order, Luther's 1521 admitting a use of "Queen of Heaven" is followed by 1522's "doing Christ a disservice" if one uses the title. Then for the rest of Luther's career, the Salve Regina and the Regina Coeli were to be avoided as blasphemous.

Luther's Grave
According to the defender of Rome on the discussion board, this rare instance of Luther downplaying the title "Queen of Heaven" becomes a lifelong deep belief provoking Luther to make sure to have it "carved on his grave" after died. I've covered this myth before. As far as I can tell, it may have been Rome's defender Peter Stravinskas who popularized it:

Let's let another defender of Rome correct Rev. Stravinskas. Tim Staples of Catholic Answers says:
Luther Was Not Buried Beneath An Image of Our Lady....  Martin Luther did retain much of his Catholic Mariology after having left the Church. But there are also not a few myths about what Luther did and taught floating about in Catholic circles. If you haven't heard this one yet, you will. It has been written about and spoken about by quite a few Catholics, and I have personally heard some very well-known apologists state it as true as well. The myth claims there to be a relief of the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary with an accompanying inscription by Peter Vischer the Younger over the tomb of Martin Luther in the Wittenberg "Schlosskirche" ("Palace Church") where he is buried. "See?" The argument goes. "Luther believed in Mary assumed into heaven and crowned as Queen of Heaven and Earth!" Unfortunately, it is actually a memorial plaque for Henning Gode, the last Catholic Prior of that church, who died in 1521. Same building, but not connected to Luther.
Yes, if one Google's the information it is "out there," both the errors and the facts. For some of Rome's defenders, anything that remotely seems like their version of Mary becomes "Luther expected to meet his Queen in Heaven" and so should Protestants today.  All the typical attacks against Luther cease, and he becomes a staunch supporter of Mary; a leader that all contemporary Protestants should learn a great lesson in Mariology from.

Yes, Luther had a Mariology. It reflected his commitment to Christ, and stood in antithesis to popular Roman Catholic belief in the sixteenth century. Some of the Roman Catholics during Luther's day actually were suspicious of his Mariology, particularly his explanation of the Magnificat. Even later Roman apologists, some quite hostile to Luther understood this. Hartmann Grisar, commenting on Luther’s Magnificat states, “[Luther] certainly was in no mood to compose a book of piety on Mary. The result was that the book became to all intents and purposes a controversial tract, which cannot be quoted as a proof of his piety or serenity of mind during those struggles.”[Hartmann Grisar, Luther IV (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner and Co., LTD, 1915), 502].

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Martin Luther's Pride in Exhalting Himself Above the Church Fathers

I was reviewing and revising one of my older blog entries in which Luther claimed he was superior to Augustine and Ambrosius (this entry also). I followed an old link back to a now defunct web-page making the same claim and also adding a number of other Luther quotes, all meant to demonstrate Luther's views on the church fathers were "contradictions, falsehoods, and dishonesty." Let's take a look at some of the quotes being put forth as proof.

The following Luther quote is used to demonstrate Luther's alleged comically surreal self-exhalation above the church fathers:
“On one occasion when I was consoling a man on the loss of his son he, too, said to me: You will see, Martin, you will become a great man! I often call this to mind, for such words have something of the omen or oracle about them.” . . .
On a surface reading even without any context, there's nothing in this statement in which Luther is comparing himself to any church father or placing himself above the church fathers. Perhaps the statement is meant to demonstrate that while counseling a grieving father, Luther was self-absorbed about his own importance? Perhaps this is intended to be the comically surreal self-exhalation? We'll see that in context, none of these negatives are proved, and we'll also take a look at the Roman Catholic polemical historical source which appears to be the genesis of the spin that the quote was intended to be a prideful and arrogant boast from Luther.

The source provided is Grisar 4, p.330. This refers to Roman Catholic historian Hartmann Grisar's massive multi-volume biography of Luther. In volume 4, Grisar presents the subheading, "Luther on his own Greatness and Superiority to Criticism The Art of 'Rhetoric'" (p.327). Grisar presents a selection of comments displaying how (he thinks) Luther thought of himself.  He concentrates on anything that would cast Luther in a negative way. For Grisar, even those statements from Luther that appear to be positive or humble are slanted negatively and pridefully:
It is true that he knew perfectly well that it was impossible to figure a Divine mission without the pediment and shield of humility. How indeed could those words of profound humility, so frequent with St. Paul, have rung in Luther s ears without finding some echo? Hence we find Luther, too, from time to time making such his own; and this he did, not out of mere hypocrisy, but from a real wish to identify his feelings with those of the Apostle; in almost every instance, however, his egotism destroys any good impulse and drives him in the opposite direction (p.327).
Among his collection of prideful and arrogant Luther statements, Grisar presents the following from Luther (on page 330):
"On one occasion when I was consoling a man on the loss of his son he, too, said to me: 'You will see, Martin, you will become a great man!' I often call this to mind, for such words have something of the omen or oracle about them." ["Briefwechsel," 8, p.160]
"Briefwechsel" refers to a collection of Luther's letters. Volume 8 page 160 can be found here (the letter can also be found in WA BR 5:518-520). The letter reads in part,

This text is from Luther's letter to Jerome Weller, July 1530. Some 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].  While this letter is not available in the English edition of Luther's Works (LW), a translation is available in Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel. It has also been cited either in full or partially in a number of books. 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,  Yale Divinity School has an English translation, and an online undocumented contemporary English translation can be found here. The letter itself has quite a polemical history, cited by numerous Roman Catholic sources (as well as even being cited by PBS).

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 instils 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. [link]
In regard to the story about Luther giving spiritual counsel to a man who had lost his son, other information that appears to be related is found in a Table Talk utterance: 
No. 223: A Prophecy Concerning Luther
April 7, 1532
A certain old man from Meiningen had a son at Erfurt who was a friend of Luther’s. He once said to Luther when he heard him complain of ill health, “Dear son, don’t worry, some day you’ll be a great man.” Luther said, “On that occasion I heard a prophet!” (LW 54:29; WA TR 1:95)
A footnote explaining the phrase "dear son" explains, "German: Lieber Bacalarie. The form of address indicates that Luther was still a student in the university in Erfurt at the time." There are obvious differences and similarities in this Table Talk statement (but not necessarily contradictory). In the Table Talk, there is no mention of Luther's counsel to a grieving father who lost his son, but rather the father giving counsel to Luther for his ill health.

Most often this letter is cited because of Luther's instructed Weller to "drink liberally" (or as PBS says, "go and get drunk"). Here, Grisar uses the letter to indict Luther of pride. Elsewhere Grisar thoroughly chastises Luther for the entire Letter. Of the story in question, Grisar states,
Finally he encourages the sorely tried man by telling him how Staupitz had foretold that the temptations which he, Luther, endured in the monastery would help to make a great man of him, and that he had now, as a matter of fact, become a " great doctor." " You, too," he continues, " will become a great man, and rest assured that such [prophetic] words, particularly those that fall from the lips of great and learned men, are not without their value as oracles and predictions." It is not surprising that such counsels and the consolation of possible future greatness did not improve the pitiable condition of the unfortunate man, but that he long continued to suffer. 

Exactly who was Jerome Weller? Hieronymus Weller von Molsdorf (1499-1572) originally intended to be lawyer, but under Luther's influence at Wittenberg chose the path of the theologian. "From 1527 to 1536, when he was married and established his own household, Weller lived in Luther's house and ate at his table, in return for which he tutored Luther's children" (LW 54:203). He would have been around thirty years old when Luther sent him the letter in question from the Castle Coburg back to Wittenberg. There are three extant letters from Luther to Weller during this time period: June 19. 1530, July, 1530, and August 15, 1530.

Weller's "shyness and modesty made him particularly subject to fits of depression" (link).  "By temperament, Weller was timid, squeamish, and given to melancholy. Luther rebuked him for avoiding people and urged him to seek out acquaintances and talk to them" (LW 54:203). All three of these letters reflect this, and all three letters are filled with Luther's care, concern, spiritual counsel and encouragement for Weller.  One pastor outlines the July letter as follows:

1. Rejoice because temptation testifies of God's mercy to you.
2. Do not dwell on the deadly thoughts of the Devil.
3. Laugh your adversary to scorn.
4. Be around other believers.
5. Proclaim the good news of Jesus for you and your salvation.

Luther's use of Staupitz and his recollection of  "consoling a man on the loss of his son" were meant to be words of encouragement from someone who had similarly struggled with melancholy and depression. During Luther's dark periods, others encouraged him that the struggles he was having were for a purpose: "You will see that He will employ you as His servant to accomplish great things by you." Luther was passing this on to Weller, whom he obviously saw as a man with spiritual gifts. Contrarily, according to Grisar: "It is not surprising that such counsels and the consolation of possible future greatness did not improve the pitiable condition of the unfortunate man, but that he long continued to suffer." What did become of Jerome Weller? Did he become the potentially great man that Luther saw,  or did he suffer a pitiable condition, not able to rise from the pit of despondency to any meaningful purpose? Here is a brief biographical sketch:
Hieronymus Weller von Molsdorf was born on September 5, 1499 in Freiberg, Saxony. In the time when Luther began the Reformation, he came to Wittenberg. There he dedicated himself at first to the study of law and for a time led a frivolous life in a bad crowd. But soon he was so frightened in his conscious by the powerful preaching of Luther that he left the way of sin and determined to serve God alone. He then also gave up the study of law and chose instead the study of theology. Luther took him into his home, where he stayed for eight years. It is said that Luther loved him as a son. After he became a doctor of theology, he was called by Duke Heinrich (of Albertine Saxony) as professor of theology at Freiberg and later was also appointed inspector of schools. In these offices, he worked with great blessing for the spiritual formation (Erbauung) of the church of Christ until his blessed death on March 20, 1572 in the 73rd year of his life. 
He was a learned, mild, and modest man. His great reputation brought him calls from Vienna, Copenhagen, Meißen, Leipzig, and Nuremberg, but he declined them all and wanted rather to bring his life to a peaceful conclusion in his minor position in Freiberg. He is said to have suffered much from spiritual afflictions (Anfechtungen) and was also not brought to preach, because he only preached once in Naumberg. 
The judgments of the great theologians who lived at that time testify concerning the high respect which he had in the church. (David) Chytraeus calls him an admirable man, the single Lutheran who has become much esteemed on account of his zeal for piety and on account of his purity of doctrine and life. Conrad Porta says that he was the most faithful student and follower of Luther. Lukas Osiander confesses that in his writings the spirit of Christ and Luther lives in the loveliest manner and that his writings are full of true and certain comfort. Nikolaus Selnecker writes of him, “He was a holy man, not merely a scholar, but also a practical theologian, exercised through the cross of spiritual affliction and capable of comforting the souls of those afflicted in the heart and capable of quickening them through the life-giving Word of Christ.” 

Found on-line is Jerome Weller’s, Luther Guide for the Proper Study of Theology, 1561. This writing is attributed to Weller, but it is said to be Luther's advise for the proper study of theology as recorded by Weller. Well worth the read (and it's only seven pages). 

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Calvin and Luther justified Christians Killing Muslims and Pagans? (Part Two)

The title of this post "Calvin and Luther justified Christians Killing Muslims and Pagans?" takes its name from an "Atheism/Agnosticism/Sec Humanism" discussion board comment. At some point on this particular forum a secularist inferred that Calvin and Luther advocated killing Muslims and pagans. The secularist was challenged to provide evidence. To challenge someone for evidence and documentation is justifiable. On the other hand, to do so while repeatedly badgering the secularist saying, "Still can't present evidence your claims are true" and "So you were incorrect. Nothing advocating Christians killing infidels and pagans. Why did you say that? Was it dishonesty or just a big screw-up?"demonstrates that the inquisitor is not fully aware of Reformation history. An earlier entry looked at Luther's attitudes towards Muslims. Let's take a brief survey of Luther's attitude towards Pagans. By "Pagans" the secularist meant witches: "Both Luther and Calvin supported witchcraft trials." The following was provided as evidence:
Luther, in his 1522 sermon, charged the "witches" with a litany of supernatural behaviors, including transformation into different animals, accusations which, to the rationally thinking mind, would be ludicrous indeed. This further demonstrates that Luther's motive for breaking away from the Catholic Church was not to defend freedom of individual thought, but to establish a religious orthodoxy of his own.
No actual documentation was provided other than the cut-and-pasted paragraph directly above, and even that was not documented. The paragraph appears to come from How Martin Luther and John Calvin Conducted Witch Hunts and Persecuted Dissenters, G. Stolyarov II, Issue CX - June 24, 2007. This link is to an article from The Rational Argumentator, A Journal for Western Man. The author,
Gennady Stolyarov II, appears to be the leading figure for The Rational Argumentator.  His article states,
The early 16th-century Protestant reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin were not enlightened, forward-thinking individuals. They were brutal, superstitious, intolerant, and repressive individuals who exploited popular stereotypes of "witches" in order to persecute those who disagreed with their views.
The Protestants' use of the witch craze to enforce religious orthodoxy was no less dramatic than that of the Catholics. One of Martin Luther's tools for attracting a mass following to his breakaway movement from the Catholic Church was the use of powerful emotional imagery. Just as he compared Rome to Babylon and the Pope to the Antichrist following his rejection of papal authority during the Leipzig debate in 1519, Luther was ready to brand eccentric or ideologically divergent individuals as "the Devil's whores."
Luther, in his 1522 sermon, charged the "witches" with a litany of supernatural behaviors, including transformation into different animals, accusations which, to the rationally thinking mind, would be ludicrous indeed. This further demonstrates that Luther's motive for breaking away from the Catholic Church was not to defend freedom of individual thought, but to establish a religious orthodoxy of his own.
Luther, in addition to his intense anti-Semitism, strived to encourage the adoption of his version of Protestantism as the state-sponsored religion of numerous German principalities, at the expense of the religious freedoms of those principalities' citizens. His intolerance extended even to the Zwinglians in Switzerland, with whom he exhibited only a minor disagreement over transubstantiation. Luther would undoubtedly have been eager to use the fear of witches as yet another weapon to direct mass hostility against those whose views diverged with his own.
Similar to the secularist on the discussion board, Stolyarov provides no documentation for his Luther assertions, nor does he actually document "How Martin Luther.... Conducted witch Hunts...", one of his main goals as expressed by the title of his article. He barely scratched the surface of his other objective: to demonstrate  how Luther "Persecuted Dissenters." Referring to opponents as "Babylon," "Antichrist," or "the "Devil's whores" might function as hostile polemic, but it hardly qualifies as physical persecution. The only documentary clue given is to a 1522 sermon. The sermon appears to be from the Church Postil (Christmas) from 1552: The Gospel for the Festival of the Epiphany, Matthew 2:1-12 (LW 52:159-286; Lenker 1:319-455). Luther does mention "witches" and does mention "a litany of supernatural behaviors, including transformation into different animals."

Luther is expounding on Deuteronomy 18; 9-14,
9 “When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations. 10 There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. 12 For whoever does these things is detestable to the Lord; and because of these detestable things the Lord your God will drive them out before you. 13 You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. 14 For those nations, which you shall dispossess, listen to those who practice witchcraft and to diviners, but as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do so.
Luther comments,
 60. Moses mentions many ways by which men seek knowledge. Deut. 18, 10-11 There are eight classes as follows. 1. The users of divination. They are those who reveal the future, like the astrologers and false prophets by inspiration of the devil. 2. Those that practice augury. They designate some days as lucky for making a journey, for building, for marrying, for wearing fine clothes, for battle and for all kinds of transactions. 3. The enchanters or rather diviners—I know no better name to call these, who conjure the devil by means of mirrors, pictures, sticks, words, glass, crystals, fingers, nails, circles, rods, etc., and expect in this way to discover hidden treasures, history and other things. 4. The sorcerers, or witches, the devil mongers who steal milk, make the weather, ride on goats, brooms and sails (mantles) shoot the people, cripple and torture and wither, slay infants in the cradle, bewitch certain members of the body, etc. 5. The charmers, who bless people and animals, bewitch snakes, bespeak steel and iron, bluster and see much, and can do wonders. 6. The consulters of familiar spirits, who have the devil in their ears and tell the people what they have lost, what they are doing or what they will do in the future, just as the gypsies do. 7. The wizards, who can change things into different forms so that something may look like a cow or an ox, which in reality is a human being, that can drive people to illicit love and intercourse, and more such works of the devil. 8. The necromancers, who are walking spirits. (Lenker 1:348-349; LW 52:182].
The phrase Lenker translates as "the devil mongers" is the same phrase LW translates "the wicked devil's whores," so this appears to be the ultimate source used, though I doubt Stolyarov used it. Stolyarov says this quote is supposed to demonstrate that a "rationally thinking mind" would find Luther's comments "ludicrous indeed." Rather, what Luther's cherry-picked comments demonstrate is Stolyarov's blatant presentism, congratulating himself for being in the current elite group of "enlightened, forward-thinking individuals" rather that being a 16th century person who was "brutal, superstitious, intolerant, and repressive."

Despite Stolyarov's sloppy article, there is evidence that Luther's view of witches went beyond simply describing them. A simple internet search reveals some interesting tidbits. For instance:
Martin Luther and the witches“I want to be the first to put fire to them”, said Martin Luther about the increasing witch mania of the 16th century. The Reformer was by far not the only one who demonstrated such zeal. Countless stakes burned all over the country; thousands of people, most of them women, lost their lives. [link]
Martin Luther was firmly convinced of the existence of witches. He believed that they harmed human beings, cattle and the harvest with their magic. He requested that witches should be killed by fire. However, he wanted nothing less or more than punishment for a crime that he perceived as a real one. Like murder or theft, the crime of witchcraft should also be punished. [link]
The actual witch mania, with mass hysteria and mass executions, only began one generation after Luther's death. During his time there were individual persecutions, for example the burning of four alleged witches in Wittenberg. At that time, however, the Reformer was not in Wittenberg, and he never uttered a word about the case. Luther himself held an aggressive sermon against witches in 1526. Within five minutes, his parishioners in Wittenberg heard him say five times that witches must be killed. He justified his opinion with the Second Book of Moses in the Bible: "Thou shall not suffer a witch to live." Other striking statements of Luther are: "They do harm in manifold ways. Therefore they shall be killed.", or "I want to be the first to put fire to them." [link]
I did a cursory search of Luther's writings and the clearest example is from his Exodus sermon of 1526. He does translate Exodus 22:18 something like "you shall not permit a witch to live" (WA 16:551). He goes on to say, "The law that sorceresses should be killed is most just, since they do many cursed things while they remain undiscovered..." and also, "Therefore, let them be killed" (English translation source).

Luther typically did not write his sermons. The extant copies we posses are the result of those who took notes while he preached. These sermon transcriptions are far more reliable than Luther's Table Talk which is a compilation of snippets of conversation (often without a context) in which Luther is purported to have said something. So, for instance, Luther in a Table Talk utterance is purported to have said, "I would burn all of them"-
August 25, 1538, the conversation fell upon witches who spoil milk, eggs, and butter in farm-yards. Dr. Luther said: "I should have no compassion on these witches; I would burn all of them. We read in the old law, that the priests threw the first stone at such malefactors. 'Tis said this stolen butter turns rancid, and falls to the ground when any one goes to eat it. He who attempts to counteract and chastise these witches, is himself Corporeally plagued and tormented by their master, the devil. Sundry schoolmasters and ministers have often experienced this. Our ordinary sins offend and anger God. What, then, must be his wrath against witchcraft, which we may justly designate high treason against divine majesty, a revolt against the infinite power of God. The jurisconsults who have so learnedly and pertinently treated of rebellion, affirm that the subject who rebels against his sovereign, is worthy of death. Does not witchcraft, then, merit death, which is a revolt of the creature against the Creator, a denial to God of the authority it , accords to the demon?"
And in this Table Talk as well:
On that day (August 20, 1538), Spalatin related the tale of a witch's insolence, and how a girl at Altenburg shed tears of blood whenever the woman was present, for, even if she did not see her nor know of her, yet she felt her presence and shed tears. Luther answered: "One should hasten to put such witches to death. The jurists wish to have too many witnesses, despising these plain signs. Recently I had to deal with a matrimonial case, where the wife wished to poison her husband, so that he vomited lizards. When she was examined by torture she answered nothing, because such witches are dumb; they despise punishment and the devil does not let them speak. These facts show plainly enough that an example should be made of them to terrify others."
Serious Luther studies would not present these statements as a first line of proof in establishing Luther's view, but given his Exodus sermon comment, they do seem plausible.  For a more thorough treatment of Luther's view on witches, Hartmann Grisar does an adequate job combining many of the pertinent primary texts, even if he does rely heavily on the Table Talk (see Luther V: 289 ff).

A useful article in regard to Luther's view of witchcraft is Sigrid Brauner, "Martin Luther on Witchcraft: A True Reformer?" found in, The Politics of Gender in Early Modern Europe Vol. XII, 1989. While I do not recall the author documenting the quotes above in this article, the author demonstrated that Luther's view is "unique" (p.29) challenged the prevailing more harsh view in regard to the female witch. The author also states that during Luther's lifetime "few witch trials were held..." (p.29). The onslaught against witches began in 1560 (some years after Luther's death). Philip Schaff though reports that "In 1540, six years before Luther's death, four witches and sorcerers were burnt in Protestant Wittenberg." The event was captured by Wittenberg's court painter, Lucas Cranach:

I'm still in the process of tracking down what (if any) involvement Luther had in this. Had there been extensive involvement, one would think the information would be plastered all over the Internet, yet I've not come across much indicting Luther. Grisar, who typically leaves no stone of negativity unturned in his evaluation of Luther merely says, "Shortly before this Luther had lamented that the plague of witches was again on the increase," and this evidence is from the Table Talk. Typical of Grisar, he sees Luther as one of the main culprits in the witch "mania" of later times, this while ignoring the lasting impact of the Malleus Maleficarum written by Dominican papal inquisitors in 1487. If Grisar wanted to trace blame, that's where more than one finger should point.

There is also a report I came across that Luther had excommunicated a group of witches in 1529. Similarly, I'm looking for verification of this.