Saturday, January 07, 2023

What Luther Says, Available Online

Volume 1 (Internet Archive)

Volume 2 (Internet Archive)

Volume 3 (Internet Archive)

The Internet Archive continues to provide free access to many of the books I've purchased! I bought the three-volume set of What Luther Says around twenty years ago. It's not a set that simply sits on my bookshelf: I've continued to use it regularly in my studies or treatments of Luther here on this blog.  Early on, when I came across a seemingly outrageous charge about Luther, often I was able to get a broad overview of what Luther really thought on the subject by using this anthology.  

In regard to English treatments of Luther, this set is one the most helpful in my entire library. The author, Ewald Plass, went painstakingly through Luther's writings (in their original languages) and compiled a massive anthology of what Luther thought about particular topics. It isn't a systematic theology per se, but there is a sense in which it's a topical systematic treatment of Luther's immense literary output. According to the Forward of the set, the project began in 1948 and finished in 1956.  

What I find unfortunate is that detailed information as to exactly who the author was is not easily located online. Concordia Publishing says of the author, 

Edwald Plass, a long-time Lutheran college professor, devoted his life to introducing laypeople and clergy alike to Martin Luther, a man's whose writings he thoroughly studied and read in the original language. His great work What Luther Says remains in print to this day as the most outstanding and thorough collection of the wit and wisdom of Martin Luther. This volume offers a storehouse of information about Luther, about those with whom he worked and struggled during the tumultuous years of the Reformation. In his book, Plass presents Luther's attitudes on many aspects of life, while demonstrating Luther's one overriding passion that animated everything he did: the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let Ewald Plass introduce you to Martin Luther.
With a such a unique name, I suspected the author was the founding pastor of Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Milwaukee WI:
Founding Pastor, Rev. Ewald M. Plass, imparted to the congregation a strong support for foreign missions which remains a part of Mount Calvary’s ethos. Rev. Plass served two years at the Lutheran Seminary in Brazil and his passion for overseas mission work took hold at Mount Calvary.

This was confirmed in an obituary which provided the following information:

Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod pastor at Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, WI from 1926 to 1936; Assistant pastor at Nazareth Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, WI. He served as a professor at Concordia Seminary, Porto Alegre, Brazil from 1923 to 1925 and Concordia College, Milwaukee, Wisconsin from 1936 to 1960, where he was also the librarian from 1941 to 1950. He served as the Secretary of the Commission on College and University Work for the LCMS from 1932 to 1956. He was a published author, providing a book of sermon illustrations with Frederick Selle, as well as a Luther biography in 1948 and his monumental three-volume anthology of "What Luther Says" in 1959.

I'm sure there are some of you reading this that, sometimes like me, do a basic Internet search of your name to see what's out there. Sad to say that many cyber hits to my name are slanderous and malicious. Not so with Ewald Plass! A typical search of "Ewald Plass" produces countless hits to his set, What Luther Says. He truly left a significant legacy and deserves to be remembered!


Volume 1 (Google Books, search only)

Volume 2 (Google Books, search only) 

Volume 3 (Google Books, search only)

Wednesday, January 04, 2023

John Calvin: the Roman Catholic Church was the Mother church?

 John Calvin was a secret Roman Catholic? Here's an odd John Calvin quote utilized on a discussion forum:

Calvin on the RCC:
"the Roman Catholic church was the Mother church; that no one had the right to withdraw from the Mother church even if it were sinful; and that there was no salvation outside the walls of the Mother church."(Book 4, Institutes, Calvin)
If this quote seems awkwardly worded and suspicious... you're right! While there are some aspects of this quote that hint at some of Calvin's comments from Book Four of the Institutes, it's common knowledge that he was clearly opposed to Roman Catholicism. Rome's defenders overtly recognized him as an enemy of the Roman church. Let's take a closer look at this quote and see if it can be determined exactly how Calvin ended up supporting Roman Catholicism! 

The person who posted this quote provided the vague reference, "Book 4, Institutes, Calvin." Granted, Calvin released different editions of the Institutes throughout his lifetime, but I did not come across any meaningful direct hits to this quote in the Institutes.  The only direct search hit that did occur was to a webpage entitled, Calvinism is a counterfeit Christian cult. It is actually carefully disguised Roman Catholicism. That webpage states, 
Not only is calvinism a counterfeit Christian cult, it is also largely based upon the Catholic heresies which were greatly influenced by Augustine. And, no great surprise, for Calvin’s Institutes were also greatly influenced by that same Augustine. Thus, calvinism is merely a counterfeit Catholic belief; Calvin was, all along, a closet Catholic. He declared that the Roman Catholic church was the Mother church; that no-one had the right to withdraw from the Mother church even if it were sinful; and that there was no salvation outside the walls of the Mother church. (Book 4, Institutes, Calvin)
As far as I could determine, the author of this link is anonymous. The website hosting the page states
"Hoppers Crossing Christian Church is a small home based church in the Western Suburbs of Melbourne. Over the past two to three years since inception, we have become concerned about the state of the Christian Church in western society and have therefore embarked on a mission to spread the truth about what we are seeing."
The website hosts an entire collection of articles under their category, "Calvinist heretics & heresies," with John Calvin taking many beatings. Someone (perhaps the author?) on the website claims to have been a "Calvinist" for 19 years... therefore now, of course, an expert! From reading the biographical information provided, this person admits to being born into a Presbyterian family and then had some sort of theological epiphany at age 19, I think it's disingenuous to claim a full 19 years of a well-researched and understood Calvinistic background. Rather, why not simply admit to being born into a family with particular theological leanings, and then later on questioning that upbringing in later teen years?   

Since an exact reference to the Institutes Book 4 was not provided, this following is a quick overview of Calvin's Institutes comments on Romanism and a speculative excursion into which texts from Calvin were misconstrued into the Reformer supporting Roman Catholicism.

In Book 4 Calvin shows his deep criticism of the Roman Church (they are "Christ's chief adversaries"). For instance:
Instead of the ministry of the Word, a perverse government compounded of lies rules there, which partly extinguishes the pure light, partly chokes it. The foulest sacrilege has been introduced in place of the Lord’s Supper. The worship of God has been deformed by a diverse and unbearable mass of superstitions. Doctrine (apart from which Christianity cannot stand) has been entirely buried and driven out. Public assemblies have become schools of idolatry and ungodliness. In withdrawing from deadly participation in so many misdeeds, there is accordingly no danger that we be snatched away from the church of Christ. The communion of the church was not established on the condition that it should serve to snare us in idolatry, ungodliness, ignorance of God, and other sorts of evils, but rather to hold us in the fear of God and obedience to truth.

They indeed gloriously extol their church to us to make it seem that there is no other in the world. Thereupon, as if the matter were settled, they conclude that all who dare withdraw from the obedience with which they adorn the church are schismatics; that all who dare mutter against its doctrine are heretics. 

Surprisingly, Calvin did refer to Rome as the "mother church" In Book 4 he wrote, "Of old, Rome was indeed the mother of all churches; but after it began to become the see of Antichrist, it ceased to be what it once was" (4,7,24). He compares Rome to the "ancient church of Israel," meaning that in a similar way that Israel was corrupt /idolatrous, so also was Rome: "The Romanists, therefore, today make no other pretension than what the Jews once apparently claimed when they were reproved for blindness, ungodliness, and idolatry by the Lord’s prophets." In 4,2,20. Calvin discusses why one must separate from the corrupted church.

This does not mean though there is no such thing as "mother church" since Rome's corruption. Rather, there is a visible church that is the mother of believers and there is no salvation apart from her. Calvin writes,  
But because it is now our intention to discuss the visible church, let us learn even from the simple title “mother” how useful, indeed how necessary, it is that we should know her. For there is no other way to enter into life unless this mother conceive us in her womb, give us birth, nourish us at her breast, and lastly, unless she keep us under her care and guidance until, putting off mortal flesh, we become like the angels [Matthew 22:30]. Our weakness does not allow us to be dismissed from her school until we have been pupils all our lives. Furthermore, away from her bosom one cannot hope for any forgiveness of sins or any salvation, as Isaiah [Isaiah 37:32] and Joel [Joel 2:32] testify. Ezekiel agrees with them when he declares that those whom God rejects from heavenly life will not be enrolled among God’s people [Ezekiel 13:9]. On the other hand, those who turn to the cultivation of true godliness are said to inscribe their names among the citizens of Jerusalem [cf. Isaiah 56:5; Psalm 87:6]. For this reason, it is said in another psalm: “Remember me, O Jehovah, with favor toward thy people; visit me with salvation: that I may see the well-doing of thy chosen ones, that I may rejoice in the joy of thy nation, that I may be glad with thine inheritance” [Psalm 106:4-5 p.; cf. Psalm 105:4, Vg., etc.]. By these words God’s fatherly favor and the especial witness of spiritual life are limited to his flock, so that it is always disastrous to leave the church. (4,1,4). 
Some years back I took a look at Calvin's adherence to the phrase that there is no salvation outside the church. In summary, I concluded that the extra ecclesiam nulla salus of Calvin and Rome are in essence quite different.

In fairness to whoever put the quote together, it is true that in Book 4 of the Institutes John Calvin applied the phrase "mother church" to Rome. It's also true that Calvin believed one had to be joined to the mother church, and it's also true he believed there is no salvation outside the church. However, these concepts are to be interpreted according to their immediate context, and when done, the exact opposite is discovered: for Calvin, Rome may have originally held an important maternal pedigree in a qualified sense, but it no longer did. Yes, there is a "mother church," but it was the visible church, not the visible Roman church.  One needed to be joined to that visible church as the normal means of salvation. 

This quote is a perfect example that one cannot simply assume a quote found on the Internet is accurate. In this case, what John Calvin actually wrote in Book 4 of the Institutes is directly opposed to the quote he's purported to have written! It appears to me that this the words "He declared that the..." were cut off of the original anti-Calvin webpage, thus creating a quote alleged to be directly from Calvin. Therefore, the key to this quote... is that it's not a direct quote from Calvin's Institutes. The author of the anti-Calvinist webpage appears to be erroneously summarizing some points from Calvin's Institutes, Book 4.

Monday, December 26, 2022

Luther: "The more and the longer we preach, the worse matters grow."

Did Martin Luther think his preaching (and that of his collogues) made things worse for the people of Germany? Luther is quoted as saying, 

"The more and the longer we preach, the worse matters grow" (Walch XII, 2120).

This sparse quote has been used as proof of the failure of the Reformation or something like Luther's regret or concession to the failure of the Reformation, etc. I've documented a number of these Martin Luther quotes here and here

From a cursory search, the quote is most often taken from the old book, Luther's Own Statements Concerning His Teaching and Its Results: Taken Exclusively from the Earliest and Best Editions of Luther's German and Latin Works (1884), p. 55.  The author, Henry O'Connor, used the quote to describe the "Results of Luther's Teaching," specifically the "Moral Results" that there was a "Lower State of General Morality." This Roman Catholic source (from roughly the same time period as O'Connor) uses it as part of a cumulative case proof that "Christianity without the confessional bore the following fruits, according to Luther's own statement: neglect of the poor and of the sick; sad state of the youth; increase of drunkenness; increase of the number of suicides; lower state of general morality." Fast forward to 2009, this seeming defender of Rome uses it to demonstrate Luther's "irrational state." This Roman Catholic blogger in 2017 regurgitated this quote (along with other statements from O'Connor's book) declaring the information from O'Connor is "favorable to the truth seeker." 

Was Luther admitting the failure of his preaching? Was he admitting that his preaching made people worse? Did he regret the Reformation? Let's take a look and find out! 

Stating the obvious: Luther's original writings were in German and Latin.  As far as I can determine, Henry O'Connor appears to be responsible for this particular English rendering (he says, "In every single case the translation from the German or the Latin is my own"). There is another English version (from yet another hostile Roman Catholic source), J. Verras, Luther an Historical Portrait: "The more and the longer the Evangelium is preached, the worse things are getting." Verras also seems to be responsible for his particular English rendering: "The prospect of having to devote many months to going through [Luther's] voluminous and frequently disgusting books was anything but cheerful..."(p.I). One older meaningful polemical source using this quote is a German text:  Johann Joseph Ignaz von Döllinger's Die reformation vol. 1, p. 301-302, "Je mehr und länger es [das Evangelium] geprebigt wird, je ärger wirb ed") (cf. French text).

Both O'Connor and Verras cite "Walch XII. 2120." This is a sermon on Romans 13:11-14 (Nov. 27, 1530). The sentence reads, "Aber je mehr und das Evangelium , daruin ſollen wir nicht länger es gepredigt wird , je ärger wird es." Notice the word, "Evangelium." Verras's English translation is more authentic to the meaning of the text: "The more and the longer the Evangelium is preached, the worse things are getting."  O'Connor has left out "Evangelium" (Gospel).  O'Connor does say, "Not a single second-hand quotation is to be found from beginning to end of my little work." Either O'Connor left a significant word out of his translation, or he took the quote from a secondary source.   It would not surprise me to discover O'Connor and Verras both mined the quote out of  Döllinger's Die reformation vol. 1 (or someone using that source).  Döllinger was unapologetically hostile to Luther and influential in Roman Catholic historical studies in the nineteenth century. Verras does reference Döllinger a number of times.  Many older German sources use parentheses on the word "Evangelium."  Did O'Connor use a secondary source and left the bracketed word "Evangelium" out, thinking it not important to the text? 

Besides Walch XII, the quote can be found in a slightly different form in WA 32:219 ("Aber je mehr und länger es gepredigt wird, je ärger wirds").  There is no "official" English translation of this sermon that I'm aware of. An inferior computer-generated English translation can be found here.  O'Connor says, “I have taken special care not to quote anything, that would have a different meaning, if read with the full context” (p.5). We'll see that the context does demonstrate a different meaning with the word "Evangelium" left out.

It's helpful to see exactly what Biblical text Luther was preaching on. Romans 13:11-14 states, 
 And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.
Paul is blatantly exhorting his readers to Godly living. It should not be surprising therefore that Luther's sermon on this passage does the same thing! Luther's entire sermon gives strong attention to exhorting Christians to reflect Christ in their lives: to live a life outwardly that reflects what has been done inwardly to the heart. There should be no slumbering in regard to the Christian life. One should think of Jesus Christ as the master of the Christian household. Christ says to his servants: rise up and do your appointed work! 

 "Salvation is nearer now" because Christ has come and the Gospel is being preached. The Jews of the Old Testament had only the promise of the coming Gospel, Christians have the fulfillment of the Gospel. Therefore, now is the time to put away sinful living. It is the time to live as people transformed by the Gospel. If someone claims to be a Christian, yet their life dishonors the gospel, that person dishonors God. Similarly, if a society in general claims to be Christian but lives immorally, it should not come as any surprise if God punishes that society, especially if the gospel is being clearly preached. The more the gospel is preached to people claiming to be Christians that continue in immorally, the worse God's punishment against that person or society will be. Hence the quote, "The more and the longer we preach, the worse matters grow."  As an example, Luther mentions those in 1 Corinthians 11 that were partaking in the Lord's Supper in an unworthy manner and were being stricken will illness. The "worse matters" are God's punishment! Luther chastises those specifically who use their freedom to practice Christianity without persecution ("Dieweil jeßt der Bann abgetban ift") but maintain blatantly sinful lifestyles. He ends his chastisement particularly at them: "Wem zu sagen ist, dem ist gnug gefagt."

Henry O'Connor did translate Luther in a sense other than what the primary source originally stated: he left out the key word, "Evangelium." In O'Connor's contextless version, Luther appears to be lamenting he and his colleagues collected preaching efforts: "The more and the longer we preach, the worse matters grow." One sees a societal picture of sinking ship, Germany going to moral ruins with Luther in utter despondency of his failed efforts. This is not what the text said. Rather, what Luther preached is that the proclamation of the Gospel makes things worse for people if they live blatantly sinful lifestyles. God will bring judgment on people that either besmirch the Gospel, abuse their Christian freedom, or claim to be Evangelicals while living in open grievous sin.  

The context does not warrant the conclusions of some of Rome's defenders, that this sermon was a lament of the moral failures of Luther's ministry or that there was a "Lower State of General Morality." Luther was in no way regretting... anything. He was not bemoaning that his failed preaching was having a devastating effect on society. Rather, he was exhorting his hearers to godly living (just like Paul), and even says that his point is directed at those who do not demonstrate godly living. 

In Luther's eschatology, it was the end of the world. Things were indeed going to get worse. The Gospel was going to be fought against by the Devil with all his might. The true church was a tiny flock in a battle against the world, the flesh, and the Devil. He hoped the people would improve with the preaching of the Gospel, he often admitted he knew things were going to get worse because of the Gospel. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Martin Luther Did Not Write "Away in a Manger"


According to, Away in a Manger is attributed to Martin Luther. I went through this a few years ago (see my link here). Luther did not write Away in a Manger!

Friday, December 09, 2022

Luther: "misery, corruption, scandal, blasphemy, ingratitude, and wickedness" was the result of the Reformation?

 Kudos to the Three Pillars blog for debunking this Luther quote utilized by Catholic Answers:

Toward the end of his life, Martin Luther would bemoan the religious indifference wrought by the movement he began:

Who among us could have foreseen how much misery, corruption, scandal, blasphemy, ingratitude, and wickedness would have resulted from it? Only see how the nobles, the burghers, and the peasants are trampling religion underfoot! I have had no greater or severer subject of assault than my preaching, when the thought arose in me: thou art the sole author of this movement.
This is another of many quotes typically used by Rome's defenders claiming Luther regretted the Reformation. I don't recall seeing the bulk of this particular quote before. The Three Pillars blog was able to determine that Catholic Answers mined it out of either Warren Carroll's The Cleaving of Christendom or Johannes Janssen, History of the German People 6: 276-277. Janssen was a nineteenth century Roman Catholic historian heavily fueled with anti-Luther sentiment.   The quote appears to be a hodgepodge of Luther quotes strung together. Catholic Answers haphazardly cut-and-pasted from one of these sources without checking it first.  

It looks to me that the first sentence was not documented by Janssen: "Who among us could have foreseen how much misery, corruption, scandal, blasphemy, ingratitude, and wickedness would have resulted from it?" I suspect this may be from Luther's comments on John 13 which I covered here. The Three Pillars blog was able to determine the origins of the second and third sentences. Sentence #2 was taken from the Table Talk: "Only see how the nobles, the burghers, and the peasants are trampling religion underfoot!" The last sentence then comes from a completely different page in the Table Talk, "I have had no greater or severer subject of assault than my preaching, when the thought arose in me: thou art the sole author of this movement." Janssen presented a cumulative case of Luther quotes from different places, Catholic Answers appears to have simply assumed it was one quote Luther said.... somewhere!

I greatly appreciate the work on this quote done by Scott Cooper, and will add his post to my series, Did Luther Regret the Reformation? Many of Rome's defenders have notoriously used secondary hostile sources without checking the quotes they're utilizing. I concur with Mr. Cooper: 
It’s surprising that a non-profit, extremely popular apologetics empire with an annual budget over $10 million doesn’t have basic editorial standards minimally requiring direct quotes to have a citation. What’s more concerning is this doesn’t appear to be a simple oversight on a web page. Catholic Answers is apparently selling a book with this false quote and the author of the article is “a Lecturer in Church History at the Christendom College Graduate School of Theology.”

Saturday, December 03, 2022

Dr. Martin Luther's Complete Writings (Walch set in English)

The Internet Archive has a 23-volume set of the Walch edition of Luther works..... in English. This was a set of Luther's works originally published 1740-1753 by Johann Georg Walch (then revised in the next century). This set was originally in German.  I do not recall there ever being a complete English translation done of Walch. Mystery solved: the Internet Archive states, "This is an English machine translation (by DeepL Translator) of the original German book, available at Google Books and HathiTrust."

Volume 1: Interpretations of the first book of Moses, Genesis (part one) 

Volume 2:  Interpretations of the first book of Moses, Genesis (part two)  

Volume 3: Interpretation of the Old Testament (continued)

Volume 4: Interpretation of the Old Testament (continued)

Volume 5: Interpretation of the Old Testament (continued)- Interpretation of the Psalms (continued), Ecclesiastes, the Song of Solomon

Volume 6: Interpretation of the Old Testament (continued)- Interpretations of the major and some of the minor prophets, namely Hosea, Joel and Amos

Volume 7: New Testament interpretation

Volume 8: New Testament Interpretation (continued)- John (continued), Acts 1, 1 Corinthians 15, 17, Shorter interpretation of Galatians, Luther's marginal glosses on the Bible Old and New Testament 1545, collection of Proverbs from Luther's writings

Volume 9: New Testament interpretation (conclusion)- Galatians, etc.

Volume 10: Catechetical writings and sermons

Volume 11:  The Church Postils, Gospels Section

Volume 12: Church Postil Epistle section, miscellaneous sermons 

Volume 13: The House Postils according to Veit Dietrich

Volume 13b: The House Postils according to Georg Rorer

Volume 14:  Preface to the German Bible, forwards to other books, Luther's historical and philological writings

Volume 15: Reformation writings

Volume 16: Reformation writings

Volume 17: Documents related to the history of the Reformation

Volume 18: Disputes with the Papists

Volume 19: Disputes with the Papists

Volume 20: Disputes with the Sacramentarians and other Enthusiasts 

Volume 21a: Dr. Luther's Letters (part one)

Volume 21b: Dr. Luther's Letters (part two)

Volume 22: Colloquia or Table Talk

Volume 23: Main index 

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Erasmus, Romans 3:28 and Faith Alone: "Vox sola, tot clamoribus lapidata hoc saeculo in Luthero, reverenter in Patribus auditur"

Martin Luther is often criticized for allegedly adding the word "alone" to his German translation of Romans 3:28. Ironically, it was a Roman Catholic scholar that best defended Luther on this: Joseph A. Fitzmyer pointed out a number of people previous to Luther also saw the thrust of "alone" in Romans 3:28. There's another popular historical snippet sometimes used similarly to defend Luther's translation, this time from Reformed theologian Charles Hodge:

That a man is justified by faith. If by faith, it is not of works; and if not of works, there can be no room for boasting, for boasting is the assertion of personal merit. From the nature of the case, if justification is by faith, it must be by faith alone. Luther's version, therefore, allein durch den glauben, is fully justified by the context. The Romanists, indeed, made a great outcry against that version as a gross perversion of Scripture, although Catholic translators before the time of Luther had given the same translation. So in the Nuremberg Bible, 1483, "Nur durch den glauben." And the Italian Bibles of Geneva, 1476, and of Venice, 1538, per sola fede. The Fathers also often use the expression, "man is justified by faith alone;" so that Erasmus, De Ratione Concionandi, Lib. III., says, "Vox sola, tot clamoribus lapidata hoc saeculo in Luthero, reverenter in Patribus auditur." See Koppe and Tholuck on this verse.

According to Hodge, Erasmus similarly knew that others previous to Luther used the word "alone" in Romans 3:28. Erasmus is claimed to have said, "Vox sola, tot clamoribus lapidata hoc saeculo in Luthero, reverenter in Patribus auditur" (The word alone, which has been received with such a shower of stones when uttered in our times by Luther, is yet reverently listened to when spoken by the Fathers). The quote seems suspicious. Luther began translating the New Testament in 1521 and released a finished version in 1522. Certainly Erasmus had some sympathy to Luther's cause early on, but by 1524 their polite ties were severed over the freedom / bondage of the human will and the relationship of faith and works. It would be surprising to find Erasmus defending Luther at any time on this issue! 

It seemed simple enough to search out the context of this statement from Erasmus (especially since it was a renowned Reformed scholar citing it!).  However, the exact opposite occurred: I could not locate it. I did discover though that Erasmus said something like it without mentioning Luther... at all. 

I'm going to work backward in searching for the sources Hodge mentions. He says, "See Koppe and Tholuck on this verse." "Tholuck" refers to Fred Augustus Gottreu Tholuck, Exposition of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans: With Extracts from the Evangelical Works of the Fathers and Reformers (Philadelphia: Sorin and Ball, 1844). Hodge certainly appears to be citing Erasmus via Tholuck verbatim on page 113. Notice the Erasmus citation is almost exact except Hodge cites "De Ratione Concionandi, Lib. III" while Tholuck cites "De ratione conciondi 1.3." 

"Koppe" appears to refer to Johann Benjamin Koppe, and I think Hodge had in mind Koppe's Novum Testamentum Koppianum.  I could find no extant copies online to see exactly what Hodge was referring to from this source. Koppe wrote in the eighteenth century, so seeing exactly what Hodge was referring to would be interesting since it predates Tholuck's nineteenth century comment. 

"De Ratione Concionandi"refers to the book by Erasmus, Ecclesiastes: On the Art of Preaching (Ecclesiastes: sive de ratione concionandi) (1535).  I spent some time searching the works of Erasmus for any of the volumes of "De Ratione Concionandi." Of the volumes I was able to locate, I found no instance of the exact quote "Vox sola, tot clamoribus lapidata hoc saeculo in Luthero, reverenter in Patribus auditur." I'm not alone in this. In the nineteenth century, James Morison did the same thing. He states
Tholuck says that Erasmus (Liber Concion. lib. iii.) remarks,—vox sola, tot clamoribus lapidata hoc seculo in Luthero, reverenter in patribus auditur,—“The word alone, which has been received with such a shower of stones when uttered in our times by Luther, is yet reverently listened to when spoken by the Fathers." Hodge repeats the quotation and the reference. We do not know where Tholuck picked it up. But while the observation seems to bespeak, by its peculiar felicity and piquancy, an Erasmian origin, it is certainly not to be found in that great repository of felicities, and wisdom, and wit, and semi-garrulities,—the Liber Concionandi.
To answer Morison's question, Tholuck could have picked up the quote from any number of sources. 
If one does a search specific to eighteenth century books, a number of hits appear with attribution to Erasmus. The quote goes back further. In the early seventeenth century, Lutheran theologian Johann Gerhard states, "Erasmus wrote to someone: 'The word 'alone' which in our time has been assailed by so many outcries in Luther, is reverently heard and read in the fathers" (Latin source, English translation from On Justification through Faith - Theological Commonplaces, p. 317). The quote makes it all the way back to the sixteenth century: In 1591, Martin Chemnitz also cites it: "Therefore we can correctly say with Erasmus: 'This word sola, which has been attacked with so much noise in the era of Luther, was reverently heard and read among the fathers'" (English source). Still though, there is no meaningful reference. There is a sixteenth century source that predates Chemnitz by ten years (1581) that includes some important aspects of the quote:

Notice some striking similarities to the quote under scrutiny. First, the source is said to be "Eccl 3." Second, some of the quote is exactly presented: "vox Sola, tot clamoribus hoc seculo lapidata." There are blatant dissimilarities as well. First, Luther is not mentioned. Second, the church fathers are not mentioned, but rather, Hilary of Poitiers is. If one searches the writings of Erasmus focusing on Hilary rather than Luther, significant clues are revealed. Note the following observations from The Collected Works of Erasmus

The author cites "book 3 CWE 68 967" for footnotes 828 and 829. "CWE 68" stands for "Collected Works of Erasmus." "book 3" refers to "The Evangelical Preacher, book one (Ecclesiates sive de ratione confitendi) (1535)." This appears to correspond to the reference given above by Tholuck (De ratione conciondi 1.3) On page 966-967, Erasmus states: 

Interestingly, footnote 1399 states, "Erasmus is no doubt alluding to Martin Luther and the central theological issue of the Reformation, justification by faith alone (sola fides)."

I think it's probable to say that "book 3 CWE 68 967" (expounded above) is the original source of the quote eventually used by Hodge and others. I'm uncertain who added "hoc saeculo in Luthero" to the quote. Erasmus penned his original words in 1535. Martin Chemnitz was the first I could locate adding Luther to the citation (1591). Was it Chemnitz? I don't know. If it was, his basic crime would be adding explicit meaning to what Erasmus was probably implying (i.e., Luther) and changing Hilary to "fathers." Also, the context of the comment from Erasmus was not an exegetical exposition of Romans 3:28, but rather, a passing comment made on Matthew 9:6.  What I find most interesting is that if Erasmus had Luther in mind, he penned these words about a decade after his harsh battle with Luther. I find that amazing: Erasmus was able to get beyond his personal encounter with Luther and still defend his translation of including "alone"... in a roundabout way.  

D.A. Carson posits the early Erasmus agreed with Luther in some sense about "faith alone." 

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Debunked Luther: No One Can Give Himself Faith, It is a Gift of God"

Here's a Martin Luther quote found on a Facebook page dedicated to Martin Luther and the Reformation (shared from another FB page)-

Is this something Martin Luther wrote?   I don't think so. Is it something he believed? Yes. 

From a cursory search, I found no instances of the exact "no one can give himself faith, it is a gift of God" attributed meaningfully to Luther.  The exact form of the quote though can be found in the writings of Soren Kierkegaard. In his Journals and Notebooks he states, 

It's within the realm of possibility that some sort of English Luther quote in this exact form exists, but I did not locate anything in this exact English form meaningfully attributed to Luther. If the quote was taken from Kierkegard "But no one can give himself faith, it is a gift of God I must pray for," notice the addition of the words, "I must pray for." In the context of Kierkegaard's remarks. he makes a concession that salvation has an aspect of human contribution. Kierkegaard follows up the comment by asking: is the desire to pray for faith also a gift of God? His point is that in some sense there must be a place for human contribution in salvation, however small, if not, the conclusion is "fatalistic election."  

Would Luther agree with Kierkegard? Granted, they were from different time periods with different concerns, however, I think Luther would oppose Kierkegard on the point. In his Preface to Romans (cf. LW 35:371), Luther states: 
Faith is a work of God in us, which changes us and brings us to birth anew from God (cf. John 1). It kills the old Adam, makes us completely different people in heart, mind, senses, and all our powers, and brings the Holy Spirit with it. What a living, creative, active powerful thing is faith! It is impossible that faith ever stop doing good. Faith doesn't ask whether good works are to be done, but, before it is asked, it has done them. It is always active. Whoever doesn't do such works is without faith; he gropes and searches about him for faith and good works but doesn't know what faith or good works are. Even so, he chatters on with a great many words about faith and good works.
Faith is a living, unshakeable confidence in God's grace; it is so certain, that someone would die a thousand times for it. This kind of trust in and knowledge of God's grace makes a person joyful, confident, and happy with regard to God and all creatures. This is what the Holy Spirit does by faith. Through faith, a person will do good to everyone without coercion, willingly and happily; he will serve everyone, suffer everything for the love and praise of God, who has shown him such grace. It is as impossible to separate works from faith as burning and shining from fire. Therefore be on guard against your own false ideas and against the chatterers who think they are clever enough to make judgements about faith and good works but who are in reality the biggest fools. Ask God to work faith in you; otherwise you will remain eternally without faith, no matter what you try to do or fabricate.
Now justice is just such a faith. It is called God's justice or that justice which is valid in God's sight, because it is God who gives it and reckons it as justice for the sake of Christ our Mediator. It influences a person to give to everyone what he owes him. Through faith a person becomes sinless and eager for God's commands. Thus he gives God the honor due him and pays him what he owes him. He serves people willingly with the means available to him. In this way he pays everyone his due. Neither nature nor free will nor our own powers can bring about such a justice, for even as no one can give himself faith, so too he cannot remove unbelief. How can he then take away even the smallest sin? Therefore everything which takes place outside faith or in unbelief is lie, hypocrisy and sin (Romans 14), no matter how smoothly it may seem to go.
From these paragraphs, it is possible to extrapolate the sentiment that faith is a gift of God. Some years back I did an entry on Luther believing faith is the gift of God.  

Sunday, November 06, 2022

Debunked Luther "I sin continually. But Christ has died, and forever lives, as my redeemer, priest, advocate, and King."

Here's a Martin Luther quote I came across on a Facebook page dedicated to Martin Luther and the Reformation cut-and-pasted from a John MacArthur appreciation page.   


Is this something Martin Luther wrote?  No!

The quote in the picture above is said to come from "Luther on the Christian Life by Carl Trueman." Whoever concocted this picture probably had this book by Carl Trueman in mind: Luther on the Christian Life. I do not own this book. Relying solely on the Google Books text search and Amazon's "Look Inside" text search of the book, I did not find any trace of the quote. Perhaps whoever created this text and picture wanted only to document the picture used? Notice, the background picture of the quote is the exact front cover of Trueman's book.  

A cursory Google search of this quote reveals rather quickly who wrote it  originally: John Newton. I found the quote in a book from Newton entitled, Twenty-five Letters, Hitherto Unpublished. The quote appears in a letter written March 17, 1757. The quote is found here.

What could have been done for me that the Lord has not done? yet still I am a cumberer of the ground; I am, by grace, kept from such sins as would dishonour my calling openly, and stumble my brethren, but the wickedness of my heart is amazing. I may especially mention three sins most unsuitable to men in general, but still more to believers, and, above all believers, most unsuitable to me, I mean pride, ingratitude, and insensibility. The instances in which the two former discover themselves are more in number than the hairs of my head; yet I am so much under the power of the third, that, for the most part, I sit still as if nothing were the matter. Thus much for the dark side. Blessed be God, amidst so many causes of mourning in myself, it is still my duty and my privilege to rejoice in the Lord: in him I have righteousness and strength, pardon and peace. I have sinned—I sin continuallybut Christ has died, and forever lives, as my Redeemer, Priest, Advocate, and King. And though my transgressions and corruptions, my temptations and my enemies, are very many and very prevalent, the Lord, in whom I trust, is more and mightier than all that is against me. From this consideration I would adopt your inference, “What manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness?" It is to be lamented that any persons should so mistake the doctrine of free unchangeable grace, as to imagine it has a tendency to introduce licentiousness; but much more to be lamented, if a real believer should give occasion to such a reproach by his remiss, careless, or worldly behaviour. I hope I do in my heart detest and abhor the thought of continuing in sin, that grace may abound, but I fear my practice condemns me of it; for sure there are many who are not favoured with such a view of God's unchangeable love as I am, who walk in heaviness, and darkness, and fear, and yet are more zealous, humble, and sensible, more abounding in good works, more impressed with a sense of sin, and more careful in redeeming time than I am. My path lies between two dangerous extremes legality and presumption; and I am continually inclined to one or the other, according to the difference of my frames. Thus I am made up of contradictions.
Luther did not write this quote, nor did Carl Trueman attribute the quote to Martin Luther in his book, Luther on the Christian Life. An immediate tip off that Luther didn't write it is that he did not use the phrase prophet, priest, and king in regard to Jesus Christ. Most often, the phrase is attributed to Eusebius and then popularized by John Calvin.  In his book, Carl Trueman points out

Trueman cites LW 31: 353-354. There Luther does affirm Christ as priest and king. Luther says, "Now just as Christ by his birthright obtained these two prerogatives, so he imparts them to and shares them with everyone who believes in him... Hence all of us who believe in Christ are priests and kings in Christ, as 1 Pet. 2[:9] says; “You are a chosen race, God’s own people, a royal priesthood, a priestly kingdom, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (LW 31:354). In my cursory search, I did not come across any instances of Luther referring to Jesus as "prophet" in the sense of the way it's used in "prophet, priest, and king." Did he ever do it? I don't know. 

A ridiculous aspect of this quote has to do with people I attempted to interact with that posted it.  On both Facebook pages, I pointed out Luther did not write it.  On the Martin Luther and the Reformation Facebook page, I left a brief comment that Newton wrote it... which garnered no response. On the John MacArthur Appreciation page, the comment I left was not allowed to be posted. The quote is no less true because Luther did not write it! 

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Debunked Luther: "If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. "

This quote has been debunked before. It strongly appears to be something Martin Luther never wrote. See Denny Burk's old treatment here, see also that put forth by The Gospel CoalitionThis link (as far as I can tell) is now only publicly available via the Internet Archive, but its essence is captured here. Let's give this quote a fresh look. Exactly where does this quote come from? 

Most documentation (if any) refers to other sources citing the quote. This is typical (it is akin to saying, "Don't blame me, I got it from this source.... blame them!"). Perhaps the most well-known person to cite the quote was Dr. Francis Schaeffer, but linking Luther to this quote goes at least as far back as 1945. It is simply amazing how many publications have haphazardly utilized this quote. A primary source is sometimes mentioned: WA (BR) 3:81-82.  This 1523 letter from Luther to Albrecht of Mansfield contains some similar sentiment but does not capture the full quote. 

The earliest use that has been located is in a nineteenth century book entitled, Chronicles of the Schönberg-Cotta Family (sometimes known as, Our Neighbor Maritn Luther or, Luther by Those Who Knew Him). The book is a historical novel, or more precisely, "historical fiction" about the life of Martin Luther written by Elizabeth Rundle Charles. This author fictionally "examined the life and personal influence of the young Martin Luther on the family of his printer." According to the reviews I've read of Rundle-Charles, she was a prolific author, her Luther novel though being her most popular book. Some years back I found a copy of it in a pile of disorganized books in an antique store. Her book apparently was popular enough that cheap copies are still laying around in junk stores. My copy states the following just previous to the contents page:
The portions of these Chronicles which refer to Luther, Melancthon, Frederic of Saxony, and other historical persons, can be verified from Luther’s “Tischreden;” Luther’s “Briefe, Sendschreiben und Bedenken;” edited by De Wette; the four volumes called, “Geist aus Luther's Schriften,” edited by F. W. Lomler, C. F. Lucius, Dr. T. Rust, L. Sackreuter, and Dr. Ernst Zimmermann; Tutschmann’s “Friedrich der Weise;” the “History of the Reformation,” by Ranke; and that by D'Aubigné; with the ordinary English historical works relating to the period.
I don't question that Rundle-Charles actually read these sources and utilized them for her fictional Luther account. One biography says Rundle-Charles was instructed in "numerous languages" so perhaps she really did utilize these sources for her Luther citations. It's within the realm of possibility that her fictional Luther quotes accurately represent Luther.  

Rundle-Charles presented fictional stories of fictional people who knew Luther. The story the quote occurs in is that of Fritz, a monk at the monastery in Eisenach. She dates his story, April 2,1526. Fritz is presented as a zealous Luther supporter. Fritz finds himself among those who think with severe and hostile negativity towards Luther. He finds himself at an anti-Luther service "accidentally."  After the service, he returns to his "convent."  He writes
Mournfully I returned to my convent. In the cloisters of our Order the opinions concerning Luther are much divided. The writings of St. Augustine have kept the truth alive in many hearts amongst us; and besides this, there is the natural bias to one of our own order, and the party opposition to the Dominicans, Tetzel and Eck, Dr. Luther's enemies. Probably there are few Augustinian convents in which there are not two opposite parties in reference to Dr. Luther.
In speaking of the great truths, of God freely justifying the sinner because Christ died, (the Judge acquitting because the Judge himself had suffered for the guilty), I had endeavoured to trace them, as I have said, beyond all human words to their divine authority. But now to confess Luther seemed to me to have become identical with confessing Christ. It is the truth which is assailed in any age which tests our fidelity. It is to confess we are called, not merely to profess. If I profess, with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition, every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is mere flight and disgrace to him if he flinches at that one point.
It seems to me also that, practically, the contest in every age of conflict ranges usually round the person of one faithful, Godsent man, whom to follow loyally is fidelity to God. In the days of the first Judaizing assault on the early Church, that man was St. Paul. In the great Arian battle, this man was Athanasius—" Athanasius contra mundum.” In our days, in our land, I believe it is Luther; and to deny Luther would be for me who learned the truth from his lips, to deny Christ. Luther, I believe, is the man whom God has given to his Church in Germany in this age. Luther, therefore, I will follow-not as a perfect example, but as a God-appointed leader. Men can never be neutral in great religious contests; and if, because of the little wrong in the right cause, or the little evil in the good man, we refuse to take the side of right, we are, by that very act, silently taking the side of wrong.
Fictional Fritz goes on to tell of his persecutions for being a follower of Luther. "When I came back to the convent I found the storm gathering. I was asked if I possessed any of Dr. Luther's writings. I confessed that I did. It was demanded that they should be given up... one of the older monks came to me and accused me of secretly spreading Lutheran heresy among the brethren..The next day I was taken into the prison where John of Wesel died; the heavy bolts were drawn upon me, and I was left in solitude." After multiple weeks in prison, he escaped. He ended up meeting Luther on his way to Worms, and thus the tale continues showering accolades on Luther from the perspective of Fritz, an enthusiastic supporter. 

It would be interesting to know exactly what Elizabeth Rundle-Charles had in mind from Luther when she penned the quote. In context though, Rundle-Charles does not attribute the quote to Luther, but rather to her fictional character Fritz. Therefore, not only are people attributing a quote to Luther that he never wrote, but the actual "person" who made the comment is a fictional character!

Unlike some of the kinder earlier treatments debunking this quote, I find it appalling how many people have utilized the quote unchecked in published works. Published books typically are intended to generate income... for someone!  For anyone using this quote in a published book intended to generate income in the last ten or fifteen years, there isn't a meaningful excuse: a simple Google search reveals the Chronicles of the Schönberg-Cotta Family, easily. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Debunked Luther: "For feelings come and feelings go, and feelings are deceiving; My warrant is the Word of God, Nought else is worth believing..."

Back in 2015 I looked at a poem attributed to Martin Luther. I have since determined its probable origin. Based on my findings presented below, I do not believe this poem was written by Luther:
"For feelings come and feelings go, and feelings are deceiving;
My warrant is the Word of God, Nought else is worth believing.
Though all my heart should feel condemned, For want of some sweet token,
There is One greater than my heart, Whose Word cannot be broken.
I'll trust in God's unchanging Word, ‘till soul and body sever;
For though all things shall pass away, His Word shall stand forever."~(Martin Luther)
A quick Google search reveals how far this quote has traveled, and a text search of the Internet Archive shows extensive use.  A Google Books search demonstrates how often it has been published, particularly in the 21st century. Well-known names have cited it: Norman Geisler used a snippet of it in his book, Christian Apologetics. Alistair Begg published it. D. James Kennedy's 1985 book refers to a portion of it. 

The words of this poem are sometimes cited as a hymn: God's Word Shall Stand Forever, "attributed to Luther." Since I first wrote about this poem in 2015, I've noticed many more links to it being a hymn / song. See for instance the incorporation of the poem into a song, here and here. The musical arrangement appears to be by someone named Faye Lopez. 

Most often, "Martin Luther" is cited as the author of this poem. Careful people have cited, "attributed to Martin Luther." Neither of these are helpful in locating the source! After searching multiple uses of the poem through the decades, the oldest use I could locate is from 1929. Interestingly, an author other than Luther is cited, "W.M. Czamanske." I believe he is the author of this poem.

Who was he? Was he the W.M. Czamanske the Lutheran minister mentioned here? It appears he had a knack for poetry. In this periodical, he presents another rhyming Luther poem: 

In the same magazine, he offers a number of poems. There was also a Wm. Czamanske that authored a number of hymns. Was this the same person? The Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary Handbook states,

Czamanske, William Martin, 1873-1964

CZAMANSKE, William Martin (1873- ), was born August 26, 1873, at Granville, Wisconsin. He was graduated from Concordia College, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1894, and from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, in 1898. Ordained and installed as pastor July 31, 1898, he served successively Lutheran churches, near Madelia, Minnesota, 1898-1902; West Henrietta, New York, 1902-1904; Rochester, New York, 1904 to 1910; and Sheboygan, Wisconsin, 1910-1951, when he entered retirement. He has contributed poems to the Lutheran Witness, Sunday School Times, Etude, Expositor, Northwestern Lutheran, and other church publications. He served as member of a subcommittee of the Committee on Hymnology and Liturgics for the Synodical Conference of North America, which edited The Lutheran Hymnal.

tr. 186, 392

The periodical the poem originally appeared in (cited above) was The Sunday School Times. From this early use from the Sunday School Times, the quote begins to multiply.  For instance, in 1939, we find the following:

The poem continues to be cited through the decades. It would be interesting to see the full version of this snippet view from the 1943 Lutheran Witness to see if Czamanske submitted it. Note this shorter version also from 1943 which is in the same format (and citation) as the Lutheran Witness

This book from 1956 attributes the quote to Luther, via Moody Monthly: 

See also this same text from 1951, and its exact use in 1968

I came across shorter versions that hint part of it originated in the late 1800's - early 1900's:
Martin Luther was once asked, "Do you feel as if your sins were forgiven?" "No," he returned, stoutly. "I don't feel that they are forgiven, but I know that they are, because God says so in his Word. [source]
In some early instances, the one asking Luther is Satan. Note the part of this paragraph from 1889:
Martin Luther, in one of his conflicts with the devil, was asked by the arch-enemy if he felt his sins forgiven. "No," said the great reformer, "I don't feel that they are forgiven, but I know they are, because God says so in His Word." Paul did not say, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt feel saved;" but, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." No one can feel that his sins are forgiven. Ask that man whose debt was paid by his brother, "Do you feel that your debt is paid?" "No," is the reply, "I don't feel that it is paid; I know from this receipt that it is paid, and I feel happy because I know it is paid." So with you, dear reader. You must first believe in God's love to you as revealed at the Cross of Calvary, and then you will feel happy, because you shall know that you are saved. [source]
It appears that part of the core of this quote has been around at least 100 years.  It does sound suspiciously like a rewording of a Table Talk entry, but in my brief search of the extant English versions I didn't come across anything.

My conclusion: Luther did not write this rhyming poem. Based on the usage I searched out, the original author was probably W.M. Czamanske. He appears to have had a poetical nature. If in fact he was a Lutheran minister, it would make sense why the theology echoed Luther. Rev. Czamanske did live to 1964, so perhaps saw that his poem was being utilized by others. I think he would be amazed to see how extensively his poem has been cited and that his words became Luther's words!   

Addendum #1
Indeed, the sentiment of the quote could be demonstrated to be something Luther believed. Consider how easily it would have been for someone to read this old English Table Talk statement and summarize it in the one of the forms above:
That the Forgiveness of sins must pass through all things.
The law doth justify in no state, calling and art; impossible it is that every thing should go on in a straight line according to the Law, as we see in the grammar which is taught in schools; no rule is so common, which hath not an exception. Therefore, the forgiveness of Sins is needful through life, and is held out in all arts and sciences. The forgiveness of sins is declared only in God's Word, and there we must seek it; for it is grounded on God's promises. God forgiveth thee thy sins, not because thou feelest them and art sorry, for that doth sin itself produce, and can deserve nothing; but he forgiveth thy sins because he is merciful, and because he hath promised to forgive for Christ's sake, his dearly beloved Son, and caused his word to be applied to thee: namely, “Be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee.”
Addendum #2
"So now turn from your conscience and its feeling to Christ who is not able to deceive; my heart and Satan however, who will drive me to sin are liars... You should not believe your conscience and your feelings more than the word which the Lord who receives sinners preaches to you... Therefore you are able to fight with your conscience by saying: You lie; Christ speaks truth and you do not." WA 27, 223 (cf. Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther, p. 59).

Addendum #3
I found a book citing my 2015 blog entry in regard to the poem: Untrustworthy: The Knowledge Crisis Breaking Our Brains, Polluting Our Politics, and Corrupting Christian Community. I know nothing about this book or author, but that she took the time to track down the source of Luther's poem is sometimes a good indication of the research put into the book.