Monday, April 29, 2024

The Value of Roman Catholic Information Dump Apologetics

I don't keep up with the dynamics of Rome's defenders... however, these comments from a former staff apologist at Catholic Answers caught my attention. She writes about the method of excessive information that some apologists utilize when making their arguments: 

From the way a lot of Catholic apologists present evidence for the arguments they make, you’d think they have either facts or precedent on their side. A cursory skim of their materials will turn up a lot of references to Scripture, canon law, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. When I did apologetics reviews during my years as a professional apologist, I always knew I could safely allow my eyes to glaze over and read on autopilot when I got to the huge chunks of quotations from the Bible, the Church Fathers, and papal documents.

Why? Because apologists who used this method of arguing were not actually trying to persuade anyone to accept their conclusions. Rather, they were engaging in an information dump, intended to overwhelm audiences into accepting Catholic teaching on the sheer volume of evidence presented.

Occasionally, these information dumps backfired. Once, I was tasked with providing an alternative viewpoint to an essay that had “gone viral” on social media, igniting a firestorm of outrage at the position the author defended. When I dug into the piece, fact-checking its references, I was amused to note that the author had cited the Catechism incorrectly, and I took full advantage of that oversight in my rejoinder.

When apologists rely on information dumps to persuade their listeners, it’s all too easy for them to get lost in the weeds they’ve sown.
When I first began interacting with Rome's defenders, this method was often utilized in their presentations of Martin Luther or the Reformation. I remember specifically dealing with webpages that were filled with excessive despariging citations of either Luther or secondary sources buttressing their negative evaluations.  An interesting facet of these webpages was that often the material was pulled entirely from secondary sources... "Luther said x or y..." (in English) then a reference to either a German or Latin source was provided (if at all), and in some instances, the actual secondary source was given.  Perhaps the most egregious webpage I have ever encountered is Luther, Exposing the Myth. I spent quite a while looking up every quote and every reference (my results found here).  It was obvious many of Rome's defenders did not actually read the contexts of the works they were citing. 

This ex-Catholic Answers apologist makes a good point: some apologists use excessive information dumps intended to overwhelm a reader into accepting their arguments.  I would only add that while Rome's defenders are often guilty of this, I've seen the same method utilized on both sides of the Tiber. In a weird twist of irony, recently I came across someone on my side of the Tiber doing a "Luther was awful" information dump... and then was informed the content was cut-and-pasted from a Roman Catholic website! 

Granted, I suspect I have engaged in information dumps from time to time. However, I say the majority of what I've posted over the years is simply untangling the mess that Rome's defenders make with historical data. Looking up all the references they spew out takes much time, energy, and sometimes... money. 

I suspect this former staff apologist from Catholic Answers is still Roman Catholic (her comments cited above are now over two years old). I do though appreciate her candor in evaluating those on her own side. 

Monday, April 22, 2024

Departed Defender of Rome, Scott Windsor

In searching for something on this blog I came across comments left by Roman Catholic apologist Scott Windsor. I hadn't seen any online statements from Scott in a long time. Out of curiosity I checked his websites to see what he was up to. Scott ran the website, American Catholic Truth Society (Acts). He also had a few social media accounts. If I recall, Scott's claim to fame was being one of the first online defenders of Rome, arguing for her using a Bulletin Board Service (BBS) in the late 1980's and early 1990's. I'm not sure if he was the first Roman Catholic apologist online, but he certainly was one of the earliest, and he continued defending Rome through the following decades.  

Scott's website had not been updated since the fall of 2023. His website included Twitter (X) feed from early September 2023 in which he explains going though chemotherapy for cancer. My next search was for his obituary. Scott Windsor died October 23, 2023 according to this website. I say "according to" because it was the only obituary I located. I'm not a conspiratorialist, but it does seem to me that Google limits my searches and doesn't always give me helpful results, especially name searches. If it's not the fault of Google, Scott's death appears to have gone unnoticed by the Roman Catholic apologetics community, which I find both odd and sad. I suspect somewhere out there in the infinity of cyberspace, there are Roman Catholics friends that were saddened by his loss. 

Out of the numerous Roman Catholic apologists I've sparred with over the years, some well-known, some anonymous, I always found Scott Windsor to be a nice guy. Being on opposite sides of the Tiber, we had very few instances of theological agreement (tied with the fact that I believe Rome is a false church with significant truth rather than a true church with significant error). Sure, Scott and I sparred from time to time in a heated way via the written format, but as I mentioned to him many years ago, if we ever met in a coffee shop and had a discussion, the results of our discourse would be much different.  To hear Scott in action, he did a live "on air debate" with Dr. James White back in 2001. The blurb for this debate states, "Dr. White has been dialoguing with Scott Windsor for 15 years already..." If I recall, Scott was one of the first Roman Catholic apologists to interact with Dr. White.

One area of respect I have for Mr. Windsor is that, as far as I know, he did not claim to be a full-time Roman Catholic apologist. I don't know if he ever asked for donations, I don't recall him ever doing that. According to his obituary, he was a well-educated hard-working guy that did apologetics in his spare time. From my opinion, generally speaking, there certainly are some people that are meaningful professional apologists, but the overwhelming majority of people with an internet connection claiming to be professional apologists, either Protestant or Roman Catholic, should go out and get jobs. Scott demonstrated that one can still defend their beliefs and be a productive member of society. 

If by some chance Scott's friends or family come across this blog entry, I've written it for you. I only knew Scott by his online interactions. He was brought into my life by God's providence... and the older I get, the more aware I am of the brevity of life.  I will miss Scott!

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Catholic Answers vs. Clement of Alexandria (and Eusebius) on Peter's Marriage

Here's an interesting compare and contrast between Catholic Answers and Clement of Alexandria (and Eusebius) on whether or not Peter was married. The biblical text which fuels this comparison is 1 Corinthians 9:5. Paul says that the Apostles have particular "rights," and one such right is taking a wife along when ministering... just as the Apostle Peter did! Here is the passage from the NAS:

3 My defense to those who examine me is this: 4 Do we not have a right to eat and drink? 5 Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6 Or do only Barnabas and I not have a right to refrain from working? 7 Who at any time serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat the fruit of it? Or who tends a flock and does not use the milk of the flock?

Out of curiosity, I consulted the North American magisterium, Catholic Answers, to find out what this verse really means (read: sarcasm). What intrigued me about their answer was that they included a quote from Clement of Alexandria to substantiate their answer. Here's what Catholic Answers stated, 

...[T]he apostles [were] accompanied by 'sister women' who could assist them in ministering to women—for example, at full-immersion baptisms, where a question of modesty could arise, or in cases where it would be more appropriate for a woman to perform a charitable or catechetical function. Clement of Alexandria agreed, saying the women were not the wives of the apostles but were female assistants who could enter the homes of women and could teach them there (Stromata III, 6). In short, I think Peter was a widower at the time his mother-in-law was healed. 

With as much dripping sarcasm as I can muster through the printed word: The Fathers! The Fathers! The Fathers! So... I then went off to see what Clement of Alexandria said in context, and well... he didn't say what Catholic Answers asserts. In fact, he says the opposite, and none other than Eusebius backs Clement up on it! Here's the text from Clement (bolding mine):

Clement of Alexandria:

52. How then? Did not the righteous in ancient times partake of what God made with thanksgiving? Some begat children and lived chastely in the married state. To Elijah the ravens brought bread and meat for food.  And Samuel the prophet brought as food for Saul the remnant of the thigh, of which he had already eaten. But whereas they say that they are superior to them in behaviour and conduct, they cannot even be compared with them in their deeds. "He who does not eat," then, "let him not despise him who eats; and he who eats let him not judge him who does not eat; for God has accepted him." Moreover, the Lord says of himself: "John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He has a devil. The Son of man came eating and drinking and they say, Behold a gluttonous man and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and a sinner." Or do they also scorn the apostles? Peter and Philip had children, and Philip gave his daughters in marriage.

53. Even Paul did not hesitate in one letter to address his consort. The only reason why he did not take her about with him was that it would have been an inconvenience for his ministry. Accordingly he says in a letter: "Have we not a right to take about with us a wife that is a sister like the other apostles?"  But the latter, in accordance with their particular ministry, devoted themselves to preaching without any distraction, and took their wives with them not as women with whom they had marriage relations, but as sisters, that they might be their fellow-ministers in dealing with housewives. It was through them that the Lord's teaching penetrated also the women's quarters without any scandal being aroused. We also know the directions about women deacons which are given by the noble Paul in his second letter to Timothy. Furthermore, the selfsame man cried aloud that "the kingdom of God does not consist in food and drink," not indeed in abstinence from wine and meat, "but in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit."  Which of them goes about like Elijah clad in a sheepskin and a leather girdle? Which of them goes about like Isaiah, naked except for a piece of sacking and without shoes? Or clothed merely in a linen loincloth like Jeremiah? Which of them will imitate John's gnostic way of life? The blessed prophets also lived in this manner and were thankful to the Creator.

Granted, there is some ambiguity because the English word for wife being used is, "consort." Nor do I know which Clement source Catholic Answers used.  Could it be that I'm simply misreading Clement? Could it be that I'm demonstrating "Protestant" bias? Nope. Check out what Eusebius wrote, reading the same context: 

Eusebius: Chapter 30 The Apostles That Were Married

1. Clement, indeed, whose words we have just quoted, after the above-mentioned facts gives a statement, on account of those who rejected marriage, of the apostles that had wives. "Or will they, says he, reject even the apostles? For Peter and Philip begot children; and Philip also gave his daughters in marriage. And Paul does not hesitate, in one of his epistles, to greet his wife, whom he did not take about with him, that he might not be inconvenienced in his ministry."

2. And since we have mentioned this subject it is not improper to subjoin another account which is given by the same author and which is worth reading. In the seventh book of his Stromata he writes as follows: "They say, accordingly, that when the blessed Peter saw his own wife led out to die, he rejoiced because of her summons and her return home, and called to her very encouragingly and comfortingly, addressing her by name, and saying, 'Remember the Lord.' Such was the marriage of the blessed, and their perfect disposition toward those dearest to them." This account being in keeping with the subject in hand, I have related here in its proper place.

Frankly, I appreciate the writings of the church fathers, but I do not hold them to be that which is the final voice that determines what a Biblical passage means. On the other hand, Rome's defenders do claim the church fathers are of key importance to establish the validity of Roman Catholicism. This text from Clement and its use by Catholic Answers demonstrates a severe disconnect. When they cite something... look it up!  

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Calvinist Exorcism?

Here's the way Rome's defenders used to do apologetics. When they confronted Calvinism, they didn't argue, they did exorcisms. To prove demon possession, they would put a copy of Calvin's Institutes on the possessed and watch the person caress the book. Then, they would use the powers of Ignatius Loyola and the Virgin Mary to battle the demon! Once they beat the demon, the now un-possessed person would return back to the Roman Catholic Church!

The following tale comes from The Life of St. Ignatius Loyola: Founder of the Jesuits, vol. 2.

At Ostrog in Poland, A.D. 1627, a noble lady belonging to the sect of Calvin was delivered from satanic possession to the great glory of the Catholic faith. The evidence of her possession was unmistakable; for though she knew no other than her native tongue, she replied to questions in any language she was addressed by. The heretics had not courage to attempt her cure, and were constrained by necessity to put her into our hands, and accordingly made their petition to the rector of our college. He first demanded whether they were entirely convinced that she was a demoniac: they answered, yes. The man who was most urgent in his entreaties was a most obstinate heretic, and used to say that he would sooner be a dog or a pig than a Papist, and to him the rector said, "Do you not consider our ceremonies as superstitious, and our exorcisms as vanities? Why then do you come to us? is it faith or necessity which brings you? Send for your own ministers, and your schismatical priests, and see what power they have over the devil, and then come to us; for it is only fair that the trial should be considered as a proof of the reality of the two religions." The heretics excused themselves, saying that their ministers did not possess power to expel devils, and that if we succeeded they should judge quite differently of the Roman faith.

After this a visit was made to the woman to see if she were really possessed, and of this they were soon assured; for hardly had the rector sprinkled her with holy water, and put a relic of St. Ignatius upon her by stealth, than she began to writhe and twist about her body, saying that a bone of St. Ignatius tormented her. As the rector was more anxious to heal the souls of the heretics than the body of the woman, he bid them bring the book of Calvin's Institutions, or some other book containing their own dogmas, and give it to the woman. This was accordingly done, and the devil began to kiss and caress it with great marks of joy. The rector then took it and hid between the leaves a picture of St. Ignatius, and presented it to her again. The devil then drew back screaming with anger, and would not even touch it. Being compelled to acknowledge what it was he feared, he answered, "The picture of St. Ignatius which you have placed there." The heretics were greatly confounded at this, and one of them said in anger, "You papists have a good understanding with the devil, and so you can do what you will with him." One of the fathers then said, "Since this evidence does not content you, let us try this. I will pray to God that if yours is the true faith, the devil may pass into my body and torment me, but if the Catholic faith be true, that he may enter into you for the space of one hour only. Will this satisfy you?" Not one of them would consent, and all were silent. Then they earnestly begged the rector, that if he could assist the poor woman he would do so. This he promised and then went away. 

Then the rector ordered a three days' fast in the college, and other penances, and offered alms and many masses. Then one of our brethren went to visit the possessed, and on seeing him she flew into a passion, but if a heretic presented himself she called him her dear friend. The following facts ensued upon his being conjured to speak. First, the devil confessed that the Jesuits at Ostrog were his most hateful enemies, and that he endeavoured by every means in his power to render them odious in the city, and to counterwork the good they did. Secondly, that he had once tried to burn down the college, but that he had not been able to conceal the fire long enough to insure his success. Thirdly, that he tried to enter the rooms of the fathers to do them some evil; but that he was repulsed by Mary and Ignatius. In proof of this he described to one of the fathers all the articles in his room and their arrangement, and he added that a certain candle he had prepared ready for the feast of Candlemas would not be broken because it was put near the crucifix. As mass was being said in our church for the liberation of the woman, the devil from time to time uttered horrible cries and said, "Now they are raising the Most High!" 

The solemn exorcism was fixed for the feast of the Purification. The heretics begged that it might take place privately in the house, but the faith was not to be defrauded of so signal a testimony to its power over the devil, and our church was the place fixed upon. The woman was brought into the church in the presence of a vast multitude, she was tightly bound, and dragged by men before our Lady's and St. Ignatius's altar, and sent forth horrible and terrifying cries. Before commencing the rector addressed the people, and exhorted them to repentance, and they wept and showed great emotion. The devil was asked who he was, and how he had entered there after great resistance. He said that he was Ruteno, and that an old sorceress, named Rutena, had introduced him into that body by means of a thread with which a garland of flowers was bound, and that she had heedlessly put it on her head, as is the custom in that country. He was then conjured to say who had most power to cast him out after God. After writhing about, gnashing his teeth in spite, and shrieking out, he answered, Mary and Ignatius. Exorcisms were continued for two hours before the image of the saint, with invocation to the Blessed Virgin. Then the devil snatched the woman out of the hands of those who held her, and throwing her on the earth, as if dead, he left her. In a little time she came to herself, and being assisted to rise, she was led before the blessed Sacrament, weeping herself, and amidst the tears of all, and there she solemnly abjured her errors and professed the Catholic Faith.

Monday, February 12, 2024

Luther: "Christ is not found in church doctrine, but in your love for each other"


Social media has been steadily producing Martin Luther memes, and not all of them are accurate. The meme above certainly sounds like something Luther said. In the exact form in the picture above, I doubt theses sentences were either exactly written by Luther or presented by Luther in this order.

Perhaps all the elements can be located somewhere in Luther's vast written corpus.  For instance, my cursory search determined that the later half of the last line can be found in the Ninety-Five Theses: "Christians are to be taught that the pope, in granting indulgences, needs and thus desires their devout prayer more than their money."  Other than that, I'm not going to invest the time to discover who cobbled these ideas together from Luther's writings (the "sack of potatoes" line though does intrigue me). 

So where does this quote come from? 

The first line was uttered by a fictional representation of Martin Luther from the 2003 movie. Much thanks to the website, script-o-rama for the transcription of the following lines: "He isn't found in the bones of saints... but here, in your love for each other, in your love for one another... in His sacraments, and in God's holy word."

The second line appears to have originated from a documentary from Rick Steves Europe. This appears to be where the entirety of both lines comes from. See particularly, this link to a section of the video, including a transcript.  This video transcript also featuring Rick Steves includes some of the quote.

Monday, January 15, 2024

Zwingli: "The more the honor and love of Christ increases among men, so much the esteem and honor given to Mary should grow"

Over the years I've worked through a Roman Catholic pop-apologetic webpage documenting the Mariology of the Reformers. This propaganda is sometimes entitled, "The Protestant Reformers on Mary."  It highlights Marian quotes from Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli, specifically with the intention of showing the early Reformers were either devoted to Mary, venerated her, or retained specifically Roman Catholic Marian dogmas. 

"The Protestant Reformers on Mary" webpage is usually set in the form of one-sided information which will only present quotes from the Reformers that coincide (or can be misconstrued) to support Roman Catholic Mariology. Anything the Reformers said that does not bolster Roman Catholic Mariology is often ignored. It is blatant propaganda: Consider how often Roman Catholic apologists vilify the Protestant Reformation, yet if the Reformers say something that sounds like their version of Mariology, the original Reformers become the staunch supporters of Mary... leaders that all contemporary Protestants should learn a great lesson in Mariology from!

This quote from Ulrich Zwingli is typically cited in "The Protestant Reformers on Mary": 
"The more the honor and love of Christ increases among men, so much the esteem and honor given to Mary should grow" [Ulrich Zwingli, Zwingli Opera, Corpus Reformatorum, Volume 1, 427-428.]
For an example of the most general popular usage of this quote, the anonymous authors over at Wikipedia use it and state, "Some early Protestant Reformers venerated and honored Mary." Most of the other usages of the quote I checked (typically by Roman Catholics) imply the same thing. It's easy to see why Rome's defenders would cherry-pick this quote. Zwingli appears to be placing Mary in a high place of divine importance.  Zwingli doesn't say, "the more you love Christ, the more you should honor Paul or Abraham." He specifically places Mary in a unique category of honor, perhaps using the moral imperative, or normative, "should." The gist possibly being communicated with the use of this quote, is that... if you honor and love Christ, one has the moral obligation to grow in their esteem and honor of Mary. 

Was Zwingli venerating and honoring Mary... just like Roman Catholics do? Was he implying people have a duty to esteem and honor Mary?  Let's take a closer look at this quote and see what's going on.  We'll see with this quote, first, the word "should" is not what Zwingli originally meant. Second, this quote was only partially translated. The end of the sentence was left off, allowing Rome's defenders the needed ambiguity to make Zwingli appear to be venerating Mary... just like they do!

Documentation and Historical Background
Before even attempting to search the primary source out, one of the first questions I consider is the origin of the English translation. Ulrich Zwingli did not write in English, so someone, at some time in the past, did the work of translating his German into English. Then, someone lifted the English quote from this secondary source and put it on the Internet. As far as I can tell, this quote, in this English form, has been multiplying throughout cyberspace for at least twenty years!

It's very likely this quote comes from Thomas O'Meara, Mary in Protestant and Catholic Theology (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1966), p.144. Over the years, I've noticed quotes from the Reformers about Mary originating from this book. I'm not entirely certain that O'Meara did the English translation, but it seems likely. I have not found this specific English translation in any other book previous to O'Meara's publication. 

If the quote came from O'Meara, whichever Roman Catholic apologist originally mined this quote out of Mary In Protestant and Catholic Theology may have let their zealous worldview get in the way. Notice how O'Meara frames the quote:

According to O'Meara, even though Zwingli wrote something nice about Mary, "...he denied any special merit or work to Mary and was strongly opposed to any invocation to her." On the same page he mentions Zwingli's rejection of any mention of Mary in prayer as a "more drastic departure from Catholic tradition than Luther's" and that for Zwingli, images of Mary do not belong "in places of worship." For O'Meara, Zwingli had a Mariology, but there were significant deviations from the popular Marian piety of the sixteenth century. Rome's cyber-defenders don't mention that! 

A simple web search of this quote reveals extensive cut-and-pasting, including it being featured in published books. If documentation is given, it's similar to what's been provided above. Going with the assumption that O'Meara is the English source for this Zwingli quote, let's closely look at it: "Zwingli, Opera, CR 1, 427-428." What's being cited is the Corpus Reformatorum, specifically a volume dedicated to Zwingli's writings. "CR 1" is the first volume presenting Zwingli's writings (the actual volume in the overall set is 88). This volume (from 1905) has been digitized

In O'Meara's bibliography for "Reformation Marian Theology" many of the sources are in German. He lists a few German articles on Zwingli, and includes Tappolet's influential book, Das Marienlob der Reformatoren. I mention this because it could very well be that O'Meara did not actually consult a primary Zwingli source for this quote. This does not mean the secondary source he may have taken the quote from was necessarily inaccurate. It means there is more of a possibility for tedious and contextual errors. For instance, Either O'Meara got the page numbers wrong for this quote, or he was working with a different edition: I did not locate the quote on pages 427-428. Rather, the quote is on page 426. I have not located any edition yet in which the quote is on pages 427-428.

The quote comes from, "Ein predig von der reinen gotzgebärerin Maria," Sept. 17, 1522 ("Sermon on Mary, the Pure Mother of God").  This date is in interesting because technically, Zwingli was still a Roman Catholic when he preached the sermon on Mary. Shortly after the sermon (October 10, 1522), Zwingli gave up being a priest. This source states
After this sermon Zwingli made his break with the Roman Catholic Church. On October 10, 1522 the Zurich council released him from his priestly duties by creating a preaching office. This was not the introduction of the Reformation, that was still over two years away, and the breaking of the Lenten fast and public criticism of saints and images in the churches remained contrary to the will of the magistrates, but it marked Zwingli's definitive break with the Catholic priesthood.
An edited excerpt of the sermon has been partly translated into English here. An interesting sectional overview can be found here. For English speakers, this overview gives a fair and helpful overview of the entire sermon... and it was done by a Roman Catholic scholar. 

According to this source, the sermon was prompted by a disputation Zwingli was earlier involved in which he critiqued traditional Mariology. This source mentions, "For four hours they disputed on prayers to the Virgin Mary and the saints, with Zwingli convincing [French preacher Francis] Lambert [of Avignon] that such prayers were unscriptural." An overview:
After this disputation, rumors spread that Zwingli had denigrated Mary. Zwingli's later sermon on Mary is therefore a "defense against those accusations which charged him with having defamed the Mother of God in public and lowered her prominence" (source). This author continues about the sermon:  
He clearly recognizes the term "Mother of God" as well as her permanent and unblemished virginity. However, he definitely rejects Mary's mediatorship and the religious veneration accorded her person. Faith in Christ is diminished when in the confessional the reciting of the Ave Maria (cf. Luke 1:28) is ordered. The right veneration of Mary is to see in her an example of strict morals, modesty, and firmness in faith: "If you seek to honor Mary especially, follow her in her purity, innocence and firm faith" (z 1, 426, 22f).
Hierumb so wüsse ein ieder, das dis die höchst eer ist, die man Marie mag thủn, das man die gůthat' ires suns, uns armen sünderen bewisen, recht erkenne, recht ere, zů imm louffe umb alle gnad; denn gott hat inn gesetzt ein gnädigung für unser sünd durch sin eigen blüt, ja so wir sölchen glouben zů imm habend Rom. 3. 25. Denn er ein einiger mitler ist zwüschend got und den menschen, in dem, das er sich ein rantzung oder loßgelt ußgeben hatt für alle menschen 1. Tim. 2. 31. Ja, der die zůversicht und vertruwen zů dem sun Marie hat, der hat sy am höchsten geeret; denn all ir eer ist ir sun. Und so ich ieman fragte: Was ist das gröst ding ann Marien, weyß ich wol, er mußte antwurten: Das sy uns den sun gottes, der uns erlößt, geboren hat. Ist nun ir gröste eer ir sun, so ist ouch ir gröste eer, das man den recht erkenne, inn ob allen dingen lieb hab, imm ewenklich danckbar sy umb die gúthat, uns bewisen. Dann ie me die eer und liebe Christi Jesu wachßt under den menschen, ie me das werd und eer Marie wachßt, das sy uns den so grossen doch gnädigen herren und erlöser geborn hat. Wiltu aber Mariam besunderlich eeren, so volg nach irer reinigkeit, unschuld und vestem glouben, und so du ein Ave Maria bettest und bedacht hast zum ersten den fürnemen handel unserer erlösung, wie obstat, gedenck darnach, das die, so großer gnaden und eeren von got begabet, ist nüt deß minder arm xin, hat durchächtung, schmertzen und ellend müssen lyden, in den dingen sy aber allen unabgewendt bliben ist. Und tröst darnach din armůt und widerwertigkeit mit iro, das sölche iamer so gewüß den menschen gegnen? 
Textual Issues
One will notice that the context given above is in German... but in actuality, it's in a type of German / Swiss dialect. Checking independently with a few friends, I can safely provide this updated English translation of the quote in question:
"The more the honor and love of Christ Jesus grows among the people, as it grows, also the honor of Mary grows because she has born for us the very great and gracious Lord and Savior."


"The more honor and love for Jesus Christ grows among the people, the more worth and honor for Mary grows for bearing us the great yet benevolent Lord and Savior." 

George Tavard likewise translates the text similarly, and includes more of the context:
The more the honor and love of Christ Jesus has increased among humans, the more has the honor and appreciation of Mary increased, since she has born for us such a great and gracious Lord and redeemer. But if you wish especially to honor Mary, follow her purity, her innocence, and her strong faith. And when you say an Ave Maria and you have first thought what a great thing, as was said above, it is for our redemption, think also secondly that, with this great grace and honor given her by God, she has not become less poor herself and she has had to bear persecution, pain, and misery, in which however she has remained with a strong heart. And therefore may you, with your poverty and your weariness, find an example in her: This misery that is so well known to humans must be born, since the Holy Mother of God was not sheltered from it...
Compare all of this with what's been floating around the Internet for twenty years:
"The more the honor and love of Christ increases among men, so much the esteem and honor given to Mary should grow."
First, O'Meara says Marian honor should grow among people. The word "should" being used sounds like it may be being used as a moral imperative (a moral action that must be done). The use of the word "should" leads to questions as to whether the sentence is descriptive or normative. Is the sentence describing something that is the case (descriptive), or is it describing something that ought to happen (normative)? Whichever the translator intended, of the three alternate translations above, none include "should."  One source told me the word "should" isn't in the original text. 

The solution as to descriptive or normative is solved by the context. Notice O'Meara's English version didn't translate the entire sentence! He left out, "...because she has born for us the very great and gracious Lord and Savior." Zwingli is being descriptive.  Zwingli wasn't saying honor Christ and increase your honor of Mary. Zwingli was stating a historical fact: The more the honor and love of Christ Jesus increased throughout church history, the more has the honor and appreciation of Mary increased as well. 

Zwingli then explains the correct way to "especially honor Mary": "follow her purity, her innocence, and her strong faith." One does not honor Mary for her intrinsic qualities of greatness or intercession. George Tavard (a Roman Catholic scholar) interprets Zwingli's notion of correct devotion:

In summary: the quote, "The more the honor and love of Christ increases among men, so much the esteem and honor given to Mary should grow," has significant difficulties. First, it's often documented incorrectly. Second, it was actually written while Zwingli was still technically a Roman Catholic and also previous to the introduction of the Reformation in Zurich ("... the introduction of the Reformation, that was still over two years away, and the breaking of the Lenten fast and public criticism of saints and images in the churches remained contrary to the will of the magistrates..."). Third, the word translated "should" is not in the original text. The use of "should" without a context makes the quote at best ambiguous, at worst incorrectly either an imperative or a normative statement. Fourth, Zwingli explains the correct way to "especially honor Mary": "follow her purity, her innocence, and her strong faith." The honor is for one to modify their behavior by mirroring Mary's behavior. Zwingli reserves worshipful honor to Christ.  

I realize Rome's apologists read this blog. I can visualize some of them tapping away a rebuttal. Before they do this, I would respectfully ask they keep the following point in mind.

1. Zwingli had a Mariology
I believe that Ulrich Zwingli had a Mariology, in fact, I would agree with George Tavard when he said Zwingli was "the most Marian figure of the Reformation" among the early Reformers.  Yes, Zwingli said things about Mary modern Protestants would not say. He believed things about Mary that modern Protestants would not. Rome's defenders need to balance this though with the historical truth that Zwingli's Mariology also differed with the Roman Catholic Mariology of his day, particularly popular beliefs about Mary.

2.  Zwingli said nice things about Mary
There's no denying Zwingli said nice things about Mary. A point I've often made in regard to Luther, applies to Zwingli as well: saying nice things about Mary is not the same thing as Roman Catholic Marian devotion and honor, both then and now. The question that needs to be asked is what exactly is Marian devotion and veneration? What does it mean for a Roman Catholic to be devoted to or venerate Mary, and what does it mean for Zwingli to be devoted, honor, or venerate Mary? Rome's defenders should not be allowed to equivocate. Zwingli saying nice things about Mary does not equal Rome's version of devotion. I do not deny that Zwingli spoke favorably about Mary, but when Roman Catholics say "honor" or “venerate,” they mean something different than Zwingli, as demonstrated above.

3.The transitional early Reformers
Like Luther, there are quotes about Mary from Zwingli peppered throughout his writings that may "surprise" a reader. I suspect the quotes would be most surprising to someone ignorant of church history, particularly those unaware of the ebb and flow of trends and traditions, both within Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. It's true that the early Reformers made comments about Mary that current Protestants would not make. But similarly, there are comments made by Protestants today that would probably surprise the early Reformers. This isn't, to use the cliché, rocket science. The Marian climate of the early Protestant world is not the Marian climate of the current theological landscape. When the Reformers broke with Rome, they were, in some regard, transitional figures. To steal a concept from Alister McGrath: the Reformers demonstrated both continuity and discontinuity with the period which immediately preceded it. It shouldn't be at all surprising then to discover elements of the Reformer's Mariology that echoed the medieval theological worldview. Contrarily, it should also not be surprising to discover there were elements of their understanding of Mary that broke with the medieval theological worldview. Such is the case with this Zwingli quote. 

Addendum: Zwingli's Opposition to the Worship of Mary
By far, the best Zwingli blog is Zwinglius Redivivus by Jim West. He has posted, Zwingli's Opposition to the Worship of Mary.  He located this section from
The Latin Works and the Correspondence of Huldreich Zwingli (Vol. 2):
II. From this, most gracious King, you see clearly that we do not dismiss the saints nor the sacraments, nor move them from their place, as some men say that we do, but that we keep and guard them in their proper place and dignity, that no man may use them wrongly. We do not insult Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, when we forbid that she be adored with divine honors; but when we would attribute to her the majesty and power of the Creator, she herself would not permit such adoration. For true piety has one and the same character among all men and is the same in all, because it originates by one and the same Spirit. It cannot even be imagined, therefore, that any created being should at the same time be pious and suffer the worship due the Deity to be offered to himself. So also the Virgin Mother of God will as much the less accept the worship due the Deity as she is high above all created beings and reverently devoted to God, her Son. It is a mark of insanity in godless men and demons when they allow divine honors to be paid to them. This is proved by the images of demons and the arrogance of Herod, of whom the first, by teaching worship of themselves, deceived the world to its destruction, and the second, not refusing the divine honors offered him, was struck with phthiriasis, that he might learn to recognize the feebleness of man.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Did Luther Believe Justification is a Process?

An anonymous participant left this comment: "Luther believed justification is an ongoing process and not a one-time-event like most Protestants today hold to as part of their interpretation of faith alone." In support of this claim, the following citations were provided:

Luther said: “We perceive that a man who is justified is not yet a righteous man, but is in the very movement or journey toward righteousness,” - Disputation on Justification, thesis 23, in Luther’s Works 34:152.

“Our justification is not yet complete.... It is still under construction. It shall, however, be completed in the resurrection of the dead.” - D. Martin Luthers Werke. Kritische Gesamtausabe (Weimar, 1883), 39I:252 (cited in Althaus, 237 n. 63).

With these citations, Luther is put forth as an advocate of the process of justification... which is notoriously a Roman Catholic theological construct. Let's take a closer look at these quotes and see where they come from and what they are actually saying. We'll discover that the lines between what Luther and Rome are saying about Justification and the final judgment are being obfuscated. 

The immediate red flag that this may be a blatant drive-by cut-and-paste are the English citations of Luther and accompanying German references. The cut-and-paste of these quotes is suspiciously similar to an old article by Rome's defender, Jimmy Akin, but more precisely material from Akin's later book, The Drama of Salvation, p. 29.  

It looks like Mr. Akin recycled his old article and made additions and corrections when he published his book (for instance, the first Luther quote is expanded in the book form and the documentation was corrected).  Mr. Akin has relied heavily on a section from Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther, (particularly page 226) in this presentation of Luther, with both quotes cited by Althaus on page 237 (Althaus translation of the first quote is slightly different than LW 34). Akin uses this material drawn from Althaus to conclude that "a number of recent Protestant scholars" recognize that Justification is a process and "in doing so they are retrieving a concept that was present in the thought of some of the early Reformers" (p.28). 

Mr. Akin argues for the Roman Catholic "process" of justification rather than the imputation of Christ's righteousness. For Akin, it's only "the final, consummating declaration of our righteousness" done in the future that will be the deciding factor if one is actually justified before God or not.  

Quote #1 "We perceive that a man who is justified is not yet a righteous man, but is in the very movement or journey toward righteousness"

This quote comes from a series of disputation statements based on Romanns 3:28, While this is the extent of the statement (it is point #23), the explanation of what Luther means in regard to justification is contained in the surrounding theses and subsequent explanations. In Theses #4, Luther says, "A man is truly justified by faith in the sight of God, even if he finds only disgrace before man and in his own self" (LW 34:151). For Luther, this is profound, for it is human nature to expect to earn salvation by works.  For Luther, our works do not contribute to standing before God as justified. In the same set of Theses, Luther says, "Therefore, whoever is justified is still a sinner; and yet he is considered fully and perfectly righteous by God who pardons and is merciful" (Theses #24).  Luther says the righteousness of Christ "cannot be laid hold of by our works" (Theses # 27) and that "faith alone justifies without our works " because one cannot say "I produce Christ or the righteousness of Christ" (Theses #28).

Luther says that God, in essence, tolerates sin in people until they enter his heavenly eternal kingdom. It is there he states, "For we perceive that a man who is justified is not yet a righteous man, but is in the very movement or journey toward righteousness." Is Luther saying that justification is a journey of the "process" of gaining righteousness toward some sort of eventual justification to stand before a holy God? Not at all. Luther says that good works done by the regenerate are the "start of a new creature" "in the battle against the sin of the flesh" (Theses #35).

Quote #2 “Our justification is not yet complete.... It is still under construction. It shall, however, be completed in the resurrection of the dead.” 

The document this quote comes from (Die Promotionsdisputation von Palladius und Tilemann [Rom 3:28] On the Works of the Law and of Grace [1537]) is scheduled to be released in a future volume of Luther's Works for English readers. The original text can be found here. Similar to the first quote, when Luther speaks of justification as "under construction" and then "completed in the resurrection of the dead," the emphasis is not on process-journey of gaining righteousness to stand before a holy God. The earthly existence is only the mere beginning of intrinsic personal righteousness.  As Paul Althaus explains of Luther, "The condition of being righteous in ourselves can be described in the present tense only as having begun, but its completion lies only in the future; we are only becoming righteous" (Althaus, 237). 

This blog entry is one of those keep your eyes on the ball exercises. For Luther, it's the one-time event in a person's life, in which the righteousness of Christ is imputed to a sinner that allows one into the saving presence of the Holy God, and to savingly remain forever in the presence of Holy God. In the final court room scene in each person's life, God declares a person righteous because the righteousness of Christ entirely covers that person.

The confusion that the anonymous commenter seized and applied to Romanism is that, according to Lutheran scholar Paul Althaus, "Luther used the term 'to justify' in [iustificare] and 'justification' [justificatio] in more than one sense" (Althaus, 226). Sometimes Luther used it to mean that sense in which a sinner stands before God and is judged according to the righteousness of Christ, imputed by faith. Other times he uses it to mean a person actually intrinsically becoming righteous. Althaus explains, "Justification in that sense remains incomplete on this earth and is first completed on the Last Day. Complete justification in this sense is an eschatological reality" (Althaus, 226).     By being made "perfectly righteous" Luther means being given a glorified body. Althaus later says of Luther's view, "This already present righteousness is both a complete and a partial righteousness, depending on the way in which it is viewed. It is complete when viewed as acceptance by God and as a participation in Christ's righteousness; Christ's righteousness is a totality and the believer participates in that totality. It is partial as man's new being and new obedience" (Althaus, 236). That new obedience culminates in the future: For Luther, in the final court room scene, a person is given a new existence: "Sin remains, then, perpetually in this life, until the hour of the last judgment comes and then at last we shall be made perfectly righteous" (LW 34:166).

For Rome, in the eternal state, God will look at person and judge whether or not that person is completely righteous. If that person is not completely infused with personal righteousness, that person is not given a glorified body, but is sent off to purgatory until personal righteousness is complete. In this world, therefore, a strong emphasis is placed on participating in the sacraments and gathering up as much righteousness as one can. Note Jimmy Akin's comment from his old article
[T]he ultimate and final courtroom declaration concerning the believer does not occur until he stands before God (at his death and at the end of the world). So we may infer that the ultimate and final pronouncement of the believer as righteous does not lie in this life.
In Luther's view, it is the righteousness of Christ given to a person that allows a sinner to enter into God's holy presence... and stay there. There is no need to be sent off to purgatory to be made righteous. In The Disputation Concerning Justification, Luther comments on the view of Erasmus that captures some of the nuances under scrutiny here: 
By faith we are justified and by faith we receive forgiveness of sins and the beginning of obedience, as Erasmus also argues. He distinguishes between faith and works in this way. Faith alone begins the forgiveness of sins, but works obtain salvation or merit and the kingdom of heaven or eternal life. He says that faith in this life removes sins and gives remission of sins, afterward he ascribes salvation to works. This is most excellent and plausible, and this argument pleases reason. For reason rushes in blindly and thinks thus: Eternal salvation is something else than Christian righteousness. It concludes that it can by its own works merit eternal salvation, as if we obtained justification through faith and salvation through works. So it seems plausible enough, since the text clearly said, “Man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved” [Rom. 10:10]. But this is absurd in the first place, because then Christ must be an incomplete and not a perfect savior. They wish thereby to make us more perfect than our Savior, because they attribute that which is the greatest to works and that which is least to Christ and faith. Even if Christ merits forgiveness of sins for us, we must still save ourselves. Likewise, we need Christ for justification, as if for the least important reason, afterward we need obedience for our salvation, as if for the most important reason. Who says such things? Beware of these arguments and of such men, since this now makes Christ less highly esteemed a savior, but detracts from his honor, that he has made us righteous by his death, since we ourselves can obtain eternal life by our works. These absurdities bring darkness into the minds of men. For they assume that Christ must not be the Savior, that he made us safe from original sin, and that we must later become perfect by ourselves. [LW 34:163]
In this life, if works are done, they are not done to gain favor with God.  In the Disputation in which the first quote was extracted, Luther repeatedly argues,
Works only reveal faith, just as fruits only show the tree, whether it is a good tree. I say, therefore, that works justify, that is, they show that we have been justified, just as his fruits show that a man is a Christian and believes in Christ, since he does not have a feigned faith and life before men. For the works indicate whether I have faith. I conclude, therefore, that he is righteous, when I see that he does good works. In God’s eyes that distinction is not necessary, for he is not deceived by hypocrisy. But it is necessary among men, so that they may correctly understand where faith is and where it is not. [LW 34:161].


“Official Roman Catholic theology includes sanctification in the definition of justification, which it sees as a process rather than a single decisive event and affirms that while faith contributes to our acceptance with God, our works of satisfaction and merit contribute too. Rome sees baptism, viewed as a channel of sanctifying grace, as the primary instrumental cause of justification, and the sacrament of penance, whereby congruous merit is achieved through works of satisfaction, as the supplementary restorative cause whenever the grace of God’s initial acceptance is lost through mortal sin. Congruous, as distinct from condign, merit means merit that it is fitting, though not absolutely necessary, for God to reward by a fresh flow of sanctifying grace. On the Roman Catholic view, therefore, believers save themselves with the help of the grace that flows from Christ through the church’s sacramental system, and in this life no sense of confidence in God’s grace can ordinarily be had. Such teaching is a far cry from that of Paul.” (J.I. Packer Concise Theology)

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Calvin's Antisemitism: "Their rotten and unbending stiff-neckedness deserves that they be oppressed unendingly and without measure or end and that they die in their misery without the pity of anyone.”

 Here's a hostile quote against the Jews from John Calvin circulating cyberspace:

John Calvin: (Speaking of the Jewish people) Their rotten and unbending stiff-neckedness deserves that they be oppressed unendingly and without measure or end and that they die in their misery without the pity of anyone.”
This John Calvin quote seems to be saying the "rotten" Jews should be actively oppressed to the point of death. While it's true that the sixteenth century (and all centuries!) have been hostile to the Jewish people, I was unfamiliar with strong antisemitic statements like this from the pen of John Calvin. We'll see with this quote, while John Calvin was not ecumenical towards the Jews (nor was he sympathetic to them), he was not advocating killing them. The quote appears to be a mistranslation of the original Latin source.   

There are a number of websites using this quote without any documentation (I found one website misattributing the quote to Calvin's Commentary on Daniel). There are also a few Christian and Jewish apologetic sites that use the quote as part of a cumulative case argument demonstrating antisemitism by important personages of the Christian church. The quote made its way to the ever-popular disseminator of context-less factoids, Wikiquote. They correctly identify the quote as originating from Calvin's Response to questions and Objections of a Certain Jew (in its original Latin, Ad Questiones et Obiecta Iudaei cuisdam Responsio). They do not provide where this source can be found, nor a page number.

If the original written source is in Latin, who translated this quote into English? The earliest usage I could find of this English rendering comes from a book entitled, The Jew in Christian Theology, by Gerhard Falk (McFarland and Company, Inc., Jefferson, NC and London, 1992), p. 84 (some websites use this book for documentation without a page number and incorrectly date the book "1931" ...the year Falk was born). Falk, in essence, admits to not using the original source. He documents the quote coming from a secondary German source: Rudolf Pfisterer, Im Schatten des Kreuzes (Hamburg, Evangeliscer Verlag, 1966), p. 72. (At the time of writing this entry, I do not have a copy of this secondary source). Falk documents that while he took the quote from Pfisterer's book, Pfisterer was actually quoting Jacques Courvoisier's article, "Calvin et les Juifs"! That article is from an old scholarly periodical: Judaica Beitrage zum Verständnis des jüdischen. Schidcsals in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart 2 (1946): 203-8. That periodical can be found here. The Latin text this quote is based on is found on page 206:

Without having Pfisterer's book, it seems likely that Falk either translated Courvoisier's Latin Calvin quote into English, or perhaps Pfisterer translated Calvin's Latin into German, and then Falk translated the quote into English. Either way, it seems that it's likely Falk provided the English translation currently circulating in cyberspace. 

The Latin treatise the quote comes from is found in CR 37:653–74 (The Corpus Reformatorum ).  The popular English version this quote appears to be based on can be found in the last paragraph in the right hand column on page 674.  The text is a fictional dialog between a Jewish apologist and John Calvin. Calvin did not publish it (it was put out 11 years after he died). It is also incomplete (source). The treatise begins and ends abruptly.

To my knowledge, there are only two complete English translations of this treatise available, from two very different people. The most scholarly was done by Rabbi Susan Frank in M. Sweetland Laver, “Calvin, Jews, and Intra-Christian Polemics” (PhD diss, Temple University, Philadelphia, 1987), 220–61. Her complete translation is included as an appendix toward the end of this dissertation. Up until recently, this appears to be the only complete English translation in circulation. That translation is available here for purchase.   

The other translation is self-published and freely available on the Internet Archive. While this translation may be accurate, the author appears to be blatantly and approvingly antisemitic. How ironic: the previous translation was done by a scholarly Rabbi and is accessible for purchase, the other by an antisemite (seemingly without meaningful publishing credentials)... for free. What I found curious about this antisemitic translator was that he suspected Rabbi Frank's earlier translation would not be accurate because she was a Rabbi! He concluded though it was:
I must admit that the fact that a rabbi was responsible for this translation led me to suspect its accuracy. However, I have closely compared the Frank translation to my own, and while it differs in some very minor points, the Frank translation is on the whole quite accurate. 
I mention this antisemitic translator because he actually includes a section of his translation dedicated to the Calvin quote in question: 
There is a quote about the Jews attributed to Calvin that is found on several different websites (for an example, see the John Calvin page on Wikiquote). The quote is as follows: "Their [the Jews] rotten and unbending stiffneckedness deserves that they be oppressed unendingly and without measure or end and that they die in their misery without the pity of anyone." The Wikiquote page, as well as other online postings, claim that this quote comes from the Response. However, this exact quote is not found in the text. It seems to be a mistranslation of a sentence that appears in the twenty-third section of the work. Below is the original Latin and my translation of this sentence:
"Primo meretur eorum perdita obstinatio et indomabilis, ut immensa miseriarum congerie sine fine et modo oppressi omnes exhilarent suis malis, nemo autem eorum misereatur."
"First of all, their depraved and indomitable obstinacy merits that none of them be pitied, as they all delight in their evils while being oppressed by a great mass of miseries without end or measure."
In the popular online version, it sounds as if Calvin is saying that the Jews should be oppressed and that they deserve to die, while the actual text says that the Jews are foolish to persist in their rejection of the Messiah in the face of the oppression that they have experienced. The sentiment that the Jews should not be pitied certainly is found in Calvin's original words, and while the mistranslation does not in the least stray from the overall tenor of the Response, it is still desirable to correct an inaccurate rendering that has been repeated so many times.



In context, the Jewish apologist asks Calvin, why are the Jews in exile because they killed Jesus when Jesus himself prayed that those killing him be forgiven, since they didn't know what they were doing? It is to this question Calvin claims the Jews have "indomitable obstinacy" delighting in evil, even while being subjected to years of misery in exile. It is to this Calvin claims the hardship of the Jews should not provoke pity. While he is not advocating murdering Jews (as the quote in question insinuates), it is nonetheless hostile to the Jews and promotes typical sixteenth century antisemitic views. 

It appears the popular English rendering of this quote includes elements of mistranslation. Note that Falk used the word, "rotten" for the Latin word "perdita." The meaning "rotten" appears to be a severe translating choice at best (or erroneous at worst) of the adjective "perditus" (Calvin did not use the word "putridum"). "Meretur" is a deponent verb that's passive but translated as active, so, while "deserves" is a proper English translation, it's meaning is not that people should actively oppress the Jews, but that what is happening to them is "deserved" because of past actions.  The part of Falk's translation that takes it a step a further is "that they die in their misery without the pity of anyone." I'm not entirely sure how he arrived at this from the Latin text, but taken as a whole, Falk's version has Calvin instructing his readers to oppress the Jews to the point of death.  Calvin is not saying this. 

In the same context of the Calvin quote Falk translated, he says, 
Calvin wrote very little about the Jews because he could not have ever met Jews in Geneva... It is true Calvin accepted common Christian teachings concerning the Jews as outsiders, enemies of God and Christ killers. But compared to the excesses of hatred which Luther spewed forth for years, Calvin's attitudes toward the only non-Christians permitted to live in Christian Europe seemed mild and ordinary (p. 83-84).
Whoever originally mined the Calvin quote out of this text appears to have missed these remarks from Falk.  In fact, there is debate as to exactly how one should interpret Calvin's attitude toward the Jews    ranging from those who say Calvin was not antisemitic, to typically antisemitic for his time period, to harshly antisemitic. Falk's analysis falls in the middle category (as does mine). True, Falk does present a mistranslated Calvin quote to make him seem worse than he was. Why did he do this? My take is he might have needed to do this for the overall argument of his book: Calvin may not have been bad enough, especially after Falk previously documented the things Luther had said about the Jews. There is also the question as to whether or not using an unfinished and unpublished work by Calvin himself is fair. Certainly the unpublished remarks Calvin made have meaning, but do they have precedent over his other published remarks? 

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Luther: Mary is the noblest gem in Christianity after Christ..."


This picture / quote is circulating cyberspace. It's a quote I've gone over before in tedious detail here.  In summary of this earlier blog post:

1) This is not one quote. It's two quotes from two different pages (separated by an entire page). The English version of this quote appears to have been taken from William Cole’s article “Was Luther a Devotee of Mary?” (Marian Studies Volume XXI, 1970, p.131). Whoever put this quote / picture together probably never consulted the source, but rather did the typical cut-and-paste.

2) The sermon appears to be from 1532, not 1531.  The date is confusing because the sermon is found in a volume dedicated to Luther's 1531 sermons. 

3) In my tedious detail post back in 2015, I did not see the phrase "wisdom and holiness personified" in the text. It could be in the original and I missed it. The primary source is a mixture of Latin and German, not written by Luther, but by someone who took notes on what he preached. See my original post for more details.

 4) In context, Luther chastised the papacy for its treatment of Mary:

We should not praise and extol the mother in such a way as to allow this child who has been born unto us to be removed from before our eyes and hearts and to think less highly of him than of the mother. If one praises the mother, the praise ought to be like the wide ocean. If either one is to be forgotten, it is better to forget the mother rather than the child. Under the papacy, however, the child has all but been forgotten, and attention riveted only on the mother. But the mother has not been born for our sakes; she does not save us from sin and death. She has, indeed, begotten the Savior! for this reason we are to wean ourselves away from the mother and bind ourselves firmly to this child alone!
5) There's no denying Luther said nice things about Mary. Luther though abandoned the distinction between latria and dulia. If you search out all the times Luther used the word “veneration,” you will find almost an entirely negative meaning applied to the term by the Reformer. The question that needs to be asked is what exactly is Marian devotion and veneration? What does it mean for a Roman Catholic to be devoted to or venerate Mary, and what does it mean for Luther to be devoted to or venerate Mary?  Rome's defenders should not be allowed to equivocate. Luther saying nice things about Mary does not equal Rome's version of devotion. I do not deny that Luther spoke favorably about Mary, but when Roman Catholics say "honor" or “devotion,” they mean something different than Luther.

Monday, June 19, 2023

Luther: "to be sure, each Christian is for himself Pope and church"

 Through a Facebook discussion comes this shocking Martin Luther quote:

Do Protestants believe in the Papacy? They sure do; they just don't believe in the Catholic Papacy! Ken Hensley as a Protestant writes, Luther wrote, "to be sure, each Christian is for himself Pope and church" (Wierke, Weimar: 1898, 5:407, p. 35). This, in part is why Ken isn’t Protestant anymore!
This is a standard pop-apologetic Roman Catholic argument: without Rome's infallible interpreter governing the meaning of Scripture, each person functions as their own interpreter of Scripture.  This Facebook post goes on to say, "As one Protestant minister convert put it, when he became Catholic, 'I am glad I don’t have to be the Pope anymore.' I must admit, there are some honest Protestants out there!" This is old-school Roman Catholic apologetics in which a seemingly outrageous quote from Luther is utilized (along with a reference to an obscure source) to justify Roman Catholicism. Why would Luther say or write such a thing? Why would he affirm that without the Roman Catholic papacy, each person becomes a Pope? It seems like a bizarre admission from the Reformer. 

We'll see from the context, Luther was not saying what this argument purports.  

The documentation offered is first to Roman convert Ken Hensley's article, Is Sola Scriptura Biblical? Mr. Hensley writes, 
We’ve been talking about the “foundation” upon which Protestantism as a worldview is built: sola Scriptura. What is involved in a commitment to sola Scriptura? It’s often summarized simply as the belief that the inspired Scriptures are to function as the “sole infallible rule of faith and practice for the individual Christian and for the Christian Church.” But actually, sola Scriptura includes within it another key commitment: the right of each Christian to study the Bible and decide for himself what it is teaching. Protestants commonly refer to this as the “right of private judgment,” and it’s understood as following inescapably from a belief in sola Scriptura. “In these matters of faith,” Luther wrote, “to be sure, each Christian is for himself pope and church” (Werke, Weimar: 1898, 5:407, p. 35).
Mr. Hensley presents a Luther quote in English, but if the documentation is checked, the source is in Latin. This is standard pop-apologetic Roman Catholic methodology: give off the appearance of credible scholarship by using obscure sources. Luther said x, here is a reference to a source that casual English readers will not know how to look up, and even if they do know how to look it up, they will only understand the source if they can read German or Latin!   

I suspect Mr. Hensley actually did not translate Latin into English, nor did he actually utilize "Werke, Weimar: 1898, 5:407, p. 35." It is more likely he cut-and-pasted this quote from elsewhere. Perhaps he used the Robert Sungenis driven anthology, Not By Scripture Alone. This book uses the same English rendering and documentation:  
Luther, the grand champion of sola scriptura, ultimately was forced to set his own authority above Scripture when the Bible contradicted his own position...This appeal to his own authority was consistent with his conviction that "in these matters of faith, to be sure, each Christian is for himself Pope and Church" (in his enim, quae sunt fidei, quilibet Christianus est sibi Papa et Ecclesia). [D Martin Luthers Werke: Kritische Gesamtausgabe (Weimar: 1898; 5:407, 35]. 
The primary source cited by Mr. Hensely is "WA 5:407, p. 35." Someone trying to figure out this reference first needs to figure out why Mr. Hensley presented two different page numbers: 407 and 35. Maybe whatever secondary source he utilized added the "p," or perhaps if the Sungenis anthology was used, he added the "p" himself.  The page is 407. "35" refers to the line being cited on the page: 

This volume contains Luther's comments on Psalms 1-22,1519-1521. The comment comes from Luther's insights into Psalm 14. This text has been translated into English, Martin Luther's complete commentary on the first Twenty-Two Psalms (vol. 2). The quote can be found on page 64.

And to this we ought to be moved by the consideration, that this knowledge of ours renders us safe, so that the works of ceremonies cannot hurt us when we know that we are justified by faith. And again, we ought to be moved to this, by the knowing that we have good things in Christ, and have no longer to labour under considerations and thoughts about the manner in which we may be justified. And therefore, all our life from henceforth should be lived to the benefit of our neighbour: as Christ lived for us; and, as we do all other things for their good, much more should we attend to these indifferent ceremonies for their good. And therefore, we owe no man any thing but to love one another: and by this love it comes to pass that all things whatsoever we do are good; and yet, we seek not to be justified by our works; and this is to be a Christian.
I will now only add one thing, and bring these observations to an end. — If any one shall perceive that he has a confidence or trust in the works of ceremonies, let him be bold, and at length cast them off: and in this let him not wait for any dispensation or power from the Pope: for in these matters every Christian is a pope and a church to himself: nor should any thing be decreed concerning him, nor should he abide by any thing that is decreed, which can in any way lead his faith into peril. But if he shall wish to communicate with his neighbour upon this matter, in order that he may be rendered the more certain by his word, (according to that scripture, "If any two of you shall agree upon earth concerning any thing," &c. Matt, xviii.) he does well.

The above context is a conclusion to a lengthy argument Luther was making in regard to justification by faith alone and justification by works, with a discission on the role of church ceremonies. Do church ceremonies play a part in justification before a holy God? Does going to or participating in a church ceremony have any effect on one's standing before God? In Luther's day, a church ceremony was a "good work" that could play a part in a person's justification. Therefore, one could place their confidence in the work of a ceremony. for Luther, this would be a denial of faith alone and would be placing one's confidence in something other than the work of Christ. In context, Luther says to cast off placing confidence in the work of a church ceremony. Cast away any infallible declarations of the church in regard to justification. The pope and church does not justify a person before God, the work of Christ does. 

It's also obvious from the context that sola scriptura was not being discussed. Rome's defenders have created a context and placed a Luther quote in that created context... this is a pure example of taking something out of context! Over the years, I've been chastised by Rome's defenders for being "anti-Catholic." What they fail to realize is that their blatant carelessness with the details of their arguments demonstrates to me they are the true anti-catholics. The goal of going through particular quotes is not to defend Luther as a Protestant saint. I see the study of any person in church history as an exercise in the love of God and neighbor. How do I love my neighbor in the study of church history? If I bear false witness against my neighbor, even if he's been dead for hundreds of years, I am not loving him. 

Thursday, June 01, 2023

Bad Arguments Against Roman Catholicism

Have you ever considered the cogency of your argumentation? I began this blog back in late 2005. It served primarily as a place in which to keep track of my interactions with Roman Catholicism and my theological endeavors. Now almost two decades later, here is a reflection on those lines of reasoning I think are the least meaningful in engaging Rome's defenders. They are in no particular order, nor is this list exhaustive. 

1. The Pope is the Antichrist, or Rome is the "Whore of Babylon" etc.
I was raised in a period when many took Hal Lindey's The Late Great Planet Earth seriously. This also coincided with Jack Chick tracts and comic books ("Alberto"). It wasn't all that long ago that Dave Hunt released his opus, The Woman Rides The Beast. The belief that the Pope is the antichrist and the Roman church plays prominently in Revelation may seem like the meanderings of the Schwärmerei, but it was also included originally in the Westminster Confession of Faith and some of the Reformers were convinced of it (the Reformers were not the first but were preceded by the Joachimites). Generally, Protestants in the historicist tradition of end times interpretation identified the papacy in Revelation. My two cents: First, arguing that the Papacy is embedded in eschatology is speculative. There is no certain way to know that it fulfills prophecy... until prophecy is fulfilled. Second, the exact interpretation of the culmination of the events of the world, while important, is not the main issue of division between Roman Catholic theology and the church of Jesus Christ... the Gospel is. 

2. Abuse Scandals
Abuse scandals can certainly serve as good examples of hierarchical subterfuge in any organization that claims a lofty pedigree of divine favor. The Reformers had no problem using scandal and abuse as arguments against Rome. The scandals pointed to greater doctrinal issues that played a key role in perpetuating ecclesiastical abuse. My two cents: The problem is that using abuse scandals as an apologetic argument against Rome forces one to explain abuse scandals within various Protestant churches. If it is argued that an abuse scandal proves that Rome is not the ultimate infallible authority, how does one avoid this contrary: abuse scandals within Protestantism prove that the Bible cannot function as an infallible authority? If the argument you're using works against your own position, you've refuted yourself as well. Simply saying "Well, they've got more than us" is not a logically good response: truth is not determined by a head count. 

3. Executing Heretics
Similar to abuse scandals, it is true that many have lost their lives at the hands of the Roman church. Some of Rome's defenders are simply waiting for the inquisition or some similar horror to be mentioned so they can then mention the intolerance of the early Reformers or the Salem Witch trials. To complicate it more, Rome's defenders and Protestants have to grapple with the violence recorded in the historical sections of the Bible.  My two cents: like abuse scandals, ff the argument you're using works against your own position, you've refuted yourself as well. Simply saying "Well, they've got more than us" is not a logically good response: truth is not determined by a head count. 

4. Theotokos: Mother of God
Some of the silliest dialogues with Rome's defenders is over the phrase, "Mother of God." Rome's defenders may employee a method of attempting to back people into affirming Christological heresies if the title "Mother of God" is denied. My Two Cents: The term has evolved in its usage. What was once a rich theological term expressing a doctrinal truth about Christ developed into a sweeping venerating praise to Mary. One should affirm the former and deny the excessive veneration of the later, reclaiming the etymological essence of "Mother of God." 

5. Big Ornate Buildings
As the argument goes, the Papacy has a lot of money... rather than helping the poor with all their resources, they waste their finances constructing large ornate buildings, therefore, Rome is a false church.  My two cents:  Similarly, some Protestant churches have big buildings and a lot of money (this has provoked the house church movement). Unless one is personally willing to embrace absolute asceticism and only be part of religious organizations doing similarly, I don't see how one can consistently make the argument that Rome is a false church because of excessive wealth.  

6. Church history previous to the Reformation was "Roman Catholic"
Some of Rome's defenders think all of church history previous to the sixteenth century was completely "catholic" and then Protestantism was born, having their first day of church history on October 31, 1517. Similarly, some non-Roman Catholics think that all of church history between the closing of the New Testament canon and the sixteenth century Reformation was the history of apostate Roman Catholicism and should be thrown out. In its place, only the Bible should be cited against Romanism. My two cents: While responding to Rome's claims with the Bible has precedent, the history of the church from its inception to the Reformation period is not the sole property of Rome's defenders. It is the history of the church, not the Roman church. Understanding how earlier generations of Christians understood and applied the Bible can be a valuable tool in taking apart Rome's claims to having a pure apostolic "Tradition."  

7. Arguing against a particular Roman apologist rather than an official statement
It can be invigorating dismantling a Roman Catholic apologist, sifting through their arguments and stopping their shell game of hiding their ultimate authority. Therefore, when one defeats a Roman Catholic apologist, one has defeated Rome. My two cents: Many (if not most) of Rome's defenders are self-proclaimed Roman Catholic apologists: the Pope has not sanctioned them to venture into cyberspace and tap away on their keyboards to defend the Roman church. Therefore, if you are engaging in a dialog with a defender of Rome, you are not necessarily doing apologetics against Roman Catholicism, but rather, an interpretation of Roman Catholicism.  Whenever possible, ask Rome's defenders to document their points with official dogmatic pronouncements from the magisterium. If they attempt to interact with you over the Bible, make sure to challenge them to document their use of the Bible with Rome's official dogmatic interpretation of the passage being utilized.  Similarly with history: say a defender of Rome makes a declaration about Martin Luther, make sure to inquire if it's their opinion, or an official historical conclusion of the Magisterium.

8. Honoring other Christians
Rome's defenders have developed an excessive system of honoring specific people (i.e., people from the Bible and those from church history deemed, "saints"). Seeing the excessive nature of their honoring system and its tie to the Treasury of merit, some react by throwing out "honor" all together.  My two cents: "Honor" does not necessarily have to mean "praying to" or utilizing the Treasury of merit. One can honor those who came before us, whether in the Bible or in subsequent church history. I have no problem saying Mary deserves honor as an important person in the Bible... and so does Moses, Abraham, Noah, Peter, Paul, Stephen, etc. I honor the life and work of Calvin, Luther, Edwards, Spurgeon... and, Dr. R.C. Sproul! I also am keenly aware of honoring those still active in defending the church.   

9. Anything written by a Roman Catholic is wrong
Rome's defenders have written something so it must be wrong or not utilized... even if it is being put out by Catholic Answers or some of the lowest hanging fruit of Roman Catholic apologetics. My two cents: While difficult to do (and I've failed many times), the arguments Rome's defenders are putting forth should be evaluated first before engaging in personal polemic. Recently I read an article from Catholic Answers defending the immaculate conception of Mary. While I disagreed with their premise of Mary's immaculate conception and their conclusion of how it answers a modern theological dilemma of a young girl becoming pregnant with the Messiah, I was challenged by their question of how one should respond when Mary's conception of the Messiah is placed in the same realm as Muhammed having seven-year-old girls as wives. In other words, I did not dismiss the article entirely because it positively argued for the immaculate conception of Mary. 

10. Protestants believe in justification by faith, Roman Catholics believe they are saved by works
This may be the most important bad argument presented.  It is paralleled by Roman Catholics who think Protestants believe they are saved by faith, and works do not matter at all (antinomianism). My two cents: Roman Catholics do not deny the role of faith in salvation, nor do Protestants deny the role of works in salvation. The debate is over their relationship. Both Protestants and Roman Catholics believe in justification by faith... which is why I rarely say "justification by faith." Rather, I say "justification by faith... alone." "Alone" is the sine qua non of the phrase, placing justification in the complete works of Jesus Christ.