Thursday, June 13, 2019

Luther's High Regard for John Calvin?

What did Martin Luther think of John Calvin? Here's a curious comment from the Table Talk in which Luther appears to consider Calvin highly:
NOT all are able to bear tribulations alike; for, if an human creature were merely flesh without bones, then the body would fall into a lump, or bunch; the bones and sinews do keep up the flesh, etc. Even so it is in the Christian congregation. some must be able to bear a blow of the devil; as we three, Philip Melanchthon, John Calvin, and myself; therefore we pray continually in the church ; for it is prayer that must do the deed.
Now that's quite a compliment! Or is it? Maybe not. The original sources say something different.

It bears repeating that the Table Talk is not actually something Luther wrote. It's a collection of second hand comments written down by Luther's friends and students published after his death. It often falls on deaf ears when I point out to detractors that Luther didn't write the Table Talk. Since the statements contained therein are purported to have been made by Luther, they should serve more as corroborating second-hand testimony to something Luther is certain to have written. The Table Talk, therefore, contains something Luther may have said, but not necessarily

This particular comment comes from the oldest English edition of the Table Talk:

Here's where it becomes tedious and tricky, but necessary, to understand Luther's alleged mention of John Calvin in this utterance. This version of the Table Talk was translated from German into English by Captain Henry Bell (1652): Dris Martini Lutheri Colloquia Mensalia: Or, Dr Martin Luther's Divine Discourses at His Table, etc. This English version of Luther's second-hand comments begins with a strange (and at times seemingly fictional) tale of how Captain Bell came across the Table Talk (found here). The saga begins with the destruction of Luther's Table Talk due to persecution from the Papacy and Empire, but one copy managed to be hidden away, fortunately discovered before being destroyed. In a flowery tale, Bell describes why and how he translated it¾ at the prompting of an angelic vision ¾ along with the perils of getting it published. Preserved Smith's critical study of Luther's Table Talk refers to Bell's account as "such a tissue of mistakes and improbabilities that it is hardly worth serious criticism,and also, "The whole thing has the air of being invented to heighten the interest of the translation." On the other hand, Gordon Rupp scrutinized Bell's story in his book, The Righteousness of God (New York: The Philosophical Library, Inc., 1953), pp. 56- 77, and deems aspects of Bell's story plausible. Even if the background story has elements of fiction, this does not necessarily deem Bell's work inferior or suspect (that will be discussed below). The book is an actual translation of Luther's Table Talk and has served the English speaking world for hundreds of years, particularly in its revision by William Hazlitt..

When the German text of the Table Talk is consulted for the quote under scrutiny, here is what appears:

One doesn't need to know German is to see that the name "John Calvin" does not appear in the text. Rather, the text says "ich, Philippus Melanchthon und Doctor Pommer." Was "Doctor Pommer" simply another way of referring to John Calvin. No. "Doctor Pommer" refers to Luther's associate, Johannes Bugenhagen (1485–1558), of Pomerania, whom Luther dubbed, " Doctor Pomeranus."

Luther was not referring to John Calvin in this Table Talk quote. Why did Captain Bell insert Calvin's name?  According to Rupp, Bell may have have made changes to the German text when translating into English to appease the Parliamentary committee that examined the translation. I've documented one of these changes before: Bell's translation has Luther admitting his error of the real presence in the Lord's Supper! Note these words from the Report of the Committee of the House of Commons in Bell's edition:

I suspect Bell's insertion of Calvin's name was similar to doctoring Luther's theology on the Lord's Supper.     

Addendum #1
Some years back I put together Luther and Calvin... Friends or Enemies? There isn't much in the record in regard to Luther's view of Calvin. In the entry I present the sparse few mentions of Calvin in Luther's writings.

Addendum #2
The Table Talk utterance under scrutiny can be found in WATR 3:36, and was not included in LW 54. Hazlitt though included an English revision.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Luther: I have so much to do that I shall have to spend the first three hours in prayer

A recent email asks,

I know you love chasing sources for Luther quotes. I know he's widely quoted as saying "I have so much to do that I shall have to spend the first three hours in prayer", but I can't find a source for it. I thought I'd flick you an email to see if you've ever tried tracking a source for this one down. Have you?

If you Google search it, you'll get numerous hits. This source from 1896 states,
Martin Luther, upon being asked one time by a friend what his plans were for the following day, replied, "Work, work from early until late. In fact, I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer" (c.f.  18711880).
Other variants of this rendering state, "Work, work, from morning until late at night. In fact, I have so much to do that I shall have to spend the first three hours in prayer." One lengthier variation reads,
Martin Luther famously said, "If I fail to spend two hours in prayer each morning, the devil gets the victory through the day. I have so much business, I cannot go without spending three hours daily in prayer."
Spurgeon Not Luther?
So where did this quote come from? There were a flurry of variants and usages of it in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. I suspect the quote was popularized via the publication of C.H. Spurgeon's writings. Note this secondary source quoting Spurgeon:
PRAYING AND WORKING. I Like that saying of Martin Luther, when he says, "I have so much business to do to-day, that I shall not be able to get through it with less than three hours' prayer." Now, most people would say, "I have so much business to do to-day, that I have only three minutes for prayer; I cannot afford the time." But Luther thought that the more he had to do, the more he must pray, or else he could not get through it. That is a blessed kind of logic: may we understand it! "Praying and provender hinder no man's journey." If we have to stop and pray, it is no more hindrance than when the rider has to stop at the farrier's to have his horse's shoe fastened; for if he went on without attending to that it may be that ere long he would come to a stop of a far more serious kind.—C. H. Spurgeon.
There were a number of sources similarly citing this snippet from Spurgeon. The snippet  appears to come from Spurgeon's sermon 1865 sermon, Degrees of Power Attending the Gospel (pdf).  The date  of the sermon is relevant in trying to determine where Spurgeon took the quote from. Spurgeon's primary language was English. During this time period, there was only a limited pool of Luther's writings available in English. I think it's safe to rule out Spurgeon reading Luther in German; Spurgeon's education was limited, and I don't think he knew German. This is not to imply that Spurgeon was not intelligent or intellectual. I've read that he may have had a photographic memory. This website states, "Spurgeon had no formal education beyond Newmarket Academy, which he attended from August 1849 to June 1850, but he was very well-read in Puritan theology, natural history, and Latin and Victorian literature." Christian History says he was tutored in Greek and "his personal library eventually exceeded 12,000 volumes." Spurgeon's autobiography states his study of Latin began in 1845. So, it's possible Spurgeon could have read Luther in Latin.  

I suspect though,  Spurgeon was simply working from memory in his sermon and not citing Luther directly.  The quote, as has been popularized, may simply be Spurgeon's recollection of what he recalls reading Luther to have said.

I have not found any evidence that Martin Luther penned or uttered the exact words of the variants posted above. Interestingly,  Luther's Table Talk does say,
"I have every day enough to do to pray" (source
"I," said Luther, "have every day enough to do to pray; and when I lay me down to rest and sleep, and pray the Lord's Prayer, and afterwards take hold of two or three sentences out of the Bible, and so take my sleep, then I am satisfied." (source)  (source)
This could very well be what Spurgeon was recalling, coupled with the fact that Luther was known to spend much time in prayer.  I found this review helpful: Martin Luther on Prayer. The author presents a detailed look on Luther's view on prayer. It's probably the case that Luther did not utter this saying, but it would in fact be in harmony with his view of prayer.

Did Luther really pray three hours a day? According to Luther's friend Viet Dietrich, he did. Writing to Melanchthon in 1530, Dietrich wrote: "Nullus abit dies, quin ut minimum tres horas, easque studiis aptissimas in orationibus ponat." He goes on to describe Luther's prayers (source):

This is a revision of an earlier blog entry. The original can be found here.

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Did Calvin Think Monasticism was Holy and Legitimate?

It's hard to imagine a time in which monasticism was one of the hottest topics of the day. The pens of the Reformers were busy attacking this well-established societal institution, intending to tear it to shreds. Like the other magisterial Reformers, John Calvin was highly critical of monasticism. He presented a lengthy exposition against it in his Institutes, referring to its adherents as "hooded sophists" who put forth fabrications and blasphemy (IV.13.14). Part of his argumentation though is curious; he hearkens back, with seeming approval, to a golden age of monasticism found in the ancient church. He then uses this ideal era of monasticism to pummel what he saw as the corrupted current strain that was provoking such intense societal controversy.

Take a moment to read Calvin's positive assessment of early monasticism found in The Institutes IV.13.8-9. He utilizes and summarizes a lengthy passage from Augustine which describes an almost Utopian monastics life: a group of people denying "the allurements of this world" spending their time "living in prayers, readings, and discussions, not swollen by pride, not disorderly through stubbornness, nor livid with envy." They lack possessions, but do so in such a was so as to not burden anyone else. They eat only what they need so as to distribute the leftovers to the needy. "Many do not drink wine, yet they do not think themselves defiled by it; for they most humanely provide it for the weaker brethren, and those who without it cannot attain bodily health; and they fraternally admonish some who foolishly refuse it lest out of vain superstition they become weaker rather than more holy." "They meet in and aspire together toward one love. To offend against it is considered as wicked as to offend against God himself." These are only a few of the points made by Augustine via Calvin. (Calvin is summarizing Augustine, see NPNF IV, 59 f).

What's so wrong with this way of life? If a group of people want to live together to strive for these spiritual ideals, what harm could there possibly be? Wasn't even Calvin here admitting that monasticism was at one time a good and holy enterprise?  Not necessarily. Calvin presented this exercise in compare and contrast as an apolgetic argument, "lest anyone should defend present-day monasticism on the grounds of its antiquity" (IV.13.8):
I merely wish to indicate in passing not only what sort of monks the ancient church had but what sort of monastic profession then existed. Thus intelligent readers may judge by comparison the shamelessness of those who claim antiquity to support present monasticism (IV.13.10).
By this comparison of ancient and present-day monasticism I trust I have accomplished my purpose: to show that our hooded friends falsely claim the example of the first church in defense of their profession—since they differ from them as much as apes from men (IV.13.16).
Doesn't this apologetic argument though beg the question of the validity of the monastic way of life? Given the positive description of the earlier presented monasticism (that Calvin himself brought up!), shouldn't the Reformers have simply put more effort into reforming monasticism back to its purer state? For Calvin, it seems like a blatant contradiction: the old generation of monks had noble ideals and a quest for holiness. Today's batch of monks are soaked in corruption, therefore the monasteries must go. This simply doesn't follow logically and it seems quite at odds with reforming the church.

The answer to this Calvin conundrum is to read the entire context! In The Institutes, Calvin's argumentation is lengthy and detailed (at times, in  my opinion top-heavy). One has to press through from IV.13.8-9 all the way up to IV.13.16 to come across what John T. McNeil's translation heads as "Considerations Against Ancient Monasticism":
Meanwhile, I frankly admit that even in that ancient form which Augustine commends there is something that I do not like very much. I grant that they were not superstitious in the outward exercise of a quite rigid discipline, yet I say that they were not without immoderate affectation and perverse zeal. It was a beautiful thing to forsake all their possessions and be without earthly care. But God prefers devoted care in ruling a household, where the devout householder, clear and free of all greed, ambition, and other lusts of the flesh, keeps before him the purpose of serving God in a definite calling. It is a beautiful thing to philosophize in retirement, far from intercourse with men. But it is not the part of Christian meekness, as if in hatred of the human race, to flee to the desert and the wilderness and at the same time to forsake those duties which the Lord has especially commanded. Though we grant there was nothing else evil in that profession, it was surely no slight evil that it brought a useless and dangerous example into the church (IV.13.16).
Calvin made a related argument in IV.14.14 in arguing against the monasticism of his day:
The facts themselves tell us that all those who enter into the monastic community break with the church. Why? Do they not separate themselves from the lawful society of believers, in adopting a peculiar ministry and a private administration of the sacraments? If this is not to break the communion of the church, what is?
Calvin wasn't looking to the alleged golden age of monasticism to reform it or return it to its former state of glory. It's not simply that the earlier way of monastic life was pure and holy and now needed reformation. Calvin's argument was first a demonstration that the monks of his day were nothing at all like the the monks of old ("they differ from them as much as apes from men").  Then, for Calvin, despite all the positives of monasticism's golden age, it was the monastic fundamental of a lifelong retreat from society and family that discredits it as a way of life.

There is nothing new under the sun, and the wheel has been reinvented! After writing this entry, I came across R. Scott Clark's 2014 blog essay, Did Luther And Calvin Favor Evangelical Monasticism? Clark critiqued an article by "Greg Peters, Associate Professor of Torrey Honors Institute, Biola University," entitled, The New Monasticism Gets Older. Clark covered the same territory I did and arrived at the conclusion I did.  Clark says,
Peters has turned a minor, passing concession, a fine and even technical historical point, into a more general, if qualified, endorsement of monasticism. This reading of Calvin (and Luther) should be criticized.
If evangelicals want to flee to monasteries, that is their business but if they try to take Luther and Calvin with them, they will find themselves saddled with unhappy guests in the new evangelical monastery.
My entry was similarly provoked by an article in which it was being argued Calvin favored earlier monasticism.

Monday, May 06, 2019

Christ's Condemnation of Sardis (Revelation 3) Was a Condemnation of the Reformation?

Was John Calvin a Christian? Here's a snippet from a discussion board in which evidence was presented that John Calvin was not a Christian. I did not expect this answer!

Originally posted by James Swan
What is your evidence that Calvin was not a Christian?
He was a Christian all right .. he "had a name that lives but are dead." (Rev 3:1, Sardis) This is what Christ thought of the Reformation churches. They had the name b/c they believed the gospel but they were dead because they didn't obey it (Acts 2:38) nor did they teach others to obey it. They went to the opposite extreme from the Catholics. They wouldn't do anything in order to be saved.


"He was a Christian all right" is intended to be understood sarcastically. The point being made is that John Calvin was not a "Christian" because he lived in a time period prophetically described in Revelation 3:1-6! I never expected that answer.

The Sardis = Reformation churches has its roots in a theology known as Dispensationalism. As their paradigm goes, Revelation 2-3 is a prophetic description of future generations of church history beyond the writing of these chapters. The seven churches mentioned in Revelation 2-3 correspond to seven distinct periods of church history. Here's a basic chart of how it works out:

Let's review Revelation 3:1-6.
To Sardis. 1 “To the angel of the church in Sardis, write this: “‘The one who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars says this: “I know your works, that you have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Be watchful and strengthen what is left, which is going to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember then how you accepted and heard; keep it, and repent. If you are not watchful, I will come like a thief, and you will never know at what hour I will come upon you. However, you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; they will walk with me dressed in white, because they are worthy. “‘“The victor will thus be dressed in white, and I will never erase his name from the book of life but will acknowledge his name in the presence of my Father and of his angels.  “‘“Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’

Clarence Larkin (1850-1924)
I was curious as to who first came up with this peculiar interpretation. A number of people point to Baptist pastor, Clarence Larkin, particularly his commentary on Revelation (1919) (pdf).  The author states,
This interpretation of the “Messages to the Seven Churches” was hidden to the early Church, because time was required for Church History to develop and be written, so a comparison could be made to reveal the correspondence. If it had been clearly revealed that the Seven Churches stood for “Seven Church Periods” that would have to elapse before Christ could come back, the incentive to watch would have been absent. 
While the character of these Seven Churches is descriptive of the Church during seven periods of her history, we must not forget that the condition of those churches, as described, were their exact condition in John's day. So we see that at the close of the First Century the leaven of “False Doctrine” was at work in the Churches. The churches are given in the order named, because the peculiar characteristic of that Church applied to the period of Church History to which it is assigned. It also must not be forgotten, that, that which is a distinctive characteristic of each Church Period, does not disappear with that Period, but continues on down through the next Period, and so on until the end, thus increasing the imperfections of the visible Church, until it ends in an open Apostasy, as shown on the chart--“The Messages to the Seven Churches Compared with Church History.”
To summarize Larkin, that the seven churches represented future spiritual church history was "hidden to the early church," so they would maintain "the incentive to watch" for the coming of Christ. Larkin's interpretation though is slippery:  these seven churches, while unfolding in seven distinct periods, exist in some form throughout the entirety of church history. In other words, all seven churches exist at all times! Larkin goes on to state specifically of the  Sardis / Reformation parallel:
The Church at Sardis was called a “Dead Church” though it had a name to live. That is, it was a “Formalistic Church,” a church given over to “formal” or “ritualistic” worship. It had the “Form of Godliness without the power.” The meaning of the word “Sardis” is the “escaping one,” or those who “come out” and so it is an excellent type of the Church of the Reformation Period.
By the Reformation we mean that period in the history of the Christian Church when Martin Luther and a number of other reformers protested against the false teaching, tyranny and claims of the Papal Church. This Period began about A. D. 1500. The condition of affairs in the realm dominated by the Papal Church became intolerable, and came to a crisis when Martin Luther, on October 31, 1517 A. D., nailed his 95 Theses on the church door at Wittenberg, Germany. From that date the Reformation set in. But it was more a struggle for political liberty than a purely Christian or religious movement.
It had the advantage of encouraging and aiding the circulation of the Holy Scriptures, that had hitherto been a sealed book, the revival of the Doctrine of “Justification by Faith,” and a reversion to more simple modes of worship, but the multiplication of sects only led to bitter controversial contentions, that, while they threw much light on the Word of God, interfered greatly with the spiritual state of the Church, until it could truthfully be said, “That she had a name to live and was dead.”
While the reformers swept away much ritualistic and doctrinal rubbish they failed to recover the promise of the Second Advent. They turned to God from idols, but not to “wait for His Son from the Heavens.” The “Sardis Period” extended from A. D. 1520 to about A. D. 1750.
Larkin's Sardis-Reformation church is a "formalistic" or "ritualistic" church. I suspect he means it was too similar to the practices of the Roman church. Perhaps it also is reflective of his move from the Episcopal church to a Baptist church. Elsewhere he asserts that the Baptists are, more-or less, the true descendants of the apostolic church:
Almost all the Anti-papist denominations date, either directly or indirectly, from the Reformation of the sixteenth century. The Protestant Episcopal, Lutheran, and Presbyterian Churches, came out from the Roman Catholic Church, and the Methodist Episcopal Church came from the Protestant Episcopal Church. The Baptists, however, do not date from the Reformation. Though Anti-papists, they are not, in the technical and historical sense of the word, “Protestants,” though they have ever protested, and do now protest, against the heresies and abominations of the Romish Church.
The Baptists claim to have descended from the apostles.
It is true that the line of descent cannot always be traced. Like a river, that now and then in its course is lost under the surface of the ground, and then makes its appearance again, the Baptists claim that, from the days of the apostles until the present time, there have not been wanting those persons, either separately or collected into churches, and known under different names, who, if now living, would be universallylly recognized as Baptists.
Larkin says the Reformation church was "more a struggle for political liberty than a purely Christian or religious movement." Larkin is correct that the Reformation also saw a struggle for political liberty. There were political power struggles with the papacy and empire long before Luther came on the scene, and yes,  the Reformation certainly played its role in the centralization of countries. To say though the Reformation was "more of a struggle for political liberty" ignores the fact that religion and politics were so intertwined that those people during this time period probably would not make such a dichotomy.

Even though "the reformers swept away much ritualistic and doctrinal rubbish" they failed to emphasize the second coming of Christ. One wonders how much Reformation history Larkin was actually aware of, particularly the details of Luther's theology. Luther was convinced he was living on the verge of the end of history, and this belief heavily fueled his later polemics. Many of the radicals were also convinced it was the end of the world.

Larkin says, "the multiplication of sects only led to bitter controversial contentions, that, while they threw much light on the Word of God, interfered greatly with the spiritual state of the Church." In every period of church history, there have been controversies, some leading to extreme divisions. Even in the earliest period of church history (the New Testament church), there were divisions: there were those who followed their favorite teacher Paul, Apollos, Peter, 1 Cor. 1:10-17), there were the Judaizers in Galatians, and then there were various Gnostic sects that rose up early in the church. Within some of these broad groups, there were also various sects and divisions (particularly those within Gnosticism). According to Larkin's own interpretive grid, he's simply wrong. Generally speaking, the "multiplication of sects" is not a blatant characteristic of the sixteenth century. In the Reformation period, there were basically six broad groups: the Roman church, the Orthodox church, the Lutheran church, the Reformed church, the Anglican church and the radicals. Certainly, each in this broad grouping had divisions (Luther himself claimed "there is no other place in the world where there are so many sects, schisms, and errors as in the papal church"). Simply compare the Reformation period of church history to post-Reformation time periods.

What strikes me as most absurd about Larkin's comments is his view that the Reformation churches positively circulated the Bible, revived justification by faith, and had "more simple modes of worship," but because there were controversies and "the multiplication of sects" these trump these positives! Think on this for a moment: reviving the very heart of Christianity, the Gospel and the Scriptures (sola fide and sola scriptura) is, according to Larkin, the characteristics of a dead church!

Yes, I did respond to Calvin's detractor, but it didn't go beyond this last reply:

Originally posted by skypair View Post
You really don't need to be dispie to see the churches laid out (though if helps). Clarence Larkin first noticed the progression and even assigned dates to the eras of the church development. It looks like you have read the portion about Sardis. Notice what Jesus told them "Remember how you first heard, and received, and REPENT!" How and when did they first receive? Pentecost where the church began!!!
Whatever people are being referred to in Revelation 3:1-3, the text indicates they were Christians, so this passage does not demonstrate John Calvin or the Reformers were not Christians (recall, I asked you for your evidence that Calvin was not a Christian). In fact, after the rebuke of 3:1-3, there were members of Sardis that "had not defiled their garments" and were "worthy." Even though I disagree with your "eras of the church" hermaneutic, If I were to grant it's hypothetical credulity, it would be just as fair to say Revelation 3:4 refers to John Calvin and the Reformers.

Originally posted by skypair View Post
He didn't teach "repentance unto life." (Acts 11:18, 2:38, 26:20) Repentance unto life means repent and receive eternal life.
Calvin on Acts 11:18
The word repentance alone is expressed in this place, but when he addeth unto life, it appeareth plainly that it is not separated from faith. Therefore, whosoever will rightly profit in the gospel, let him put off the old man, and think upon newness of life, (Ephesians 4:22) that done, let him know for a certainty that he is not called in vain unto repentance, but that there is salvation prepared for him in Christ. So shall it come to pass, that the hope and assurance of salvation shall rest upon the free mercy of God alone, and that the forgiveness of sins shall, notwithstanding, be no cause of sluggish security.

Calvin on Acts 2:38
And we must also note this, that we do so begin repentance when we are turned unto God, that we must prosecute the same during our life; therefore, this sermon must continually sound in the Church, repent, (Mark 1:15) not that those men may begin the same, who will be counted faithful, and have a place already in the Church; but that they may go forward in the same; although many do usurp the name of faithful men, which had never any beginning of repentance. Wherefore, we must observe this order in teaching, that those which do yet live unto the world and the flesh may begin to crucify the old man, that they may rise unto newness of life, and that those who are already entered the course of repentance may continually go forward towards the mark. Furthermore, because the inward conversion of the heart ought to bring forth fruits in the life, repentance cannot be rightly taught unless works be required, not those frivolous works which are only in estimation amongst the papists, but such as are sound testimonies of innocence and holiness.

Calvin on Acts 26:19-20
Conversion, or turning unto God, is joined with repentance, not as some peculiar thing, but that we may know what it is to repent. Like as, also, on the contrary, the corruption of men and their frowardness is nothing else but an estranging from God. And because repentance is an inward thing, and placed in the affection of the heart, Paul requireth, in the second place, such works as may make the same known, according to that exhortation of John the Baptist: "Bring forth fruits meet for repentance," (Matthew 3:8). Now, forasmuch as the gospel calleth all those which are Christ's unto repentance, it followeth that all men are naturally corrupt, and that they have need to be changed. In like sort, this place teacheth that these men do unskillfully pervert the gospel which separate the grace of Christ from repentance,

Originally posted by skypair View Post
Calvin believed in "faith alone," right?
For a refresher, see this link.

Originally posted by skypair View Post
He taught FAITH ALONE -- MONERGISTIC salvation -- where man cannot save himself by anything that he does.Do you realize how many false churches can be started by faith alone in what we believe alone??
False churches "can be started" just as easily without "monergistic salvation" or "what we believe alone" ...Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormonism, Christian Science, Black Hebrew Israelites, Branch Davidians, etc.

Originally posted by skypair View Post
What is really amazing about salvation is that God answers your prayer of repentance from "a broken heart and a contrite spirit" (Psa 34:18) IMMEDIATELY! You will feel the burden of sin lifted from you conscience and the Holy Ghost come into your heart .. and it will give you "joy unspeakable,... Receiving the end of your faith, the salvation of your soul." (1Pet 1:8-9)
Calvin has stated,

" confess to God privately is a part of true repentance that cannot be omitted. For there is nothing less reasonable than that God should forgive those sins in which we flatter ourselves, and which we hypocritically disguise lest he bring them to light."

and also:

"Now if it is true - a fact abundantly clear-  b(a) that the whole of the gospel is contained under these two headings, repentance and forgiveness of sins, do we not see that the Lord freely justifies his own in order that he may at the same time restore them to true righteousness by sanctification of his Spirit?"

In conclusion: what proof do you have that Calvin was not a Christian?

Monday, April 22, 2019

Does Luther Condone Premarital Relations for Engaged Couples?

Here's a Luther-related post from a discussion board:
I found this oddity from Luther in my reading...
Secret intercourse of those betrothed to each other can certainly not be considered fornication; for it takes place in the name and with the intention of marriage, a desire, intention, or name which fornication does not have. Thus there is a great difference indeed between fornication and secret intercourse after the promise of marriage.—Martin Luther (W 30 III, 226f—E 23, 123—SL 10, 781)​
What possible Scriptural justification can there be for such a position?
Yes, this quote is an oddity, in that it surprisingly doesn't get a lot of attention. Why would Martin Luther be advocating sex outside of marriage? Is it because he had lax morals? Was it because he was "a fallen-away monk with unbridled lust"? Neither. Luther was not condoning pre-marital sex in the modern sense, nor was advocating a sort of sowing wild oats previous to marriage.  I've covered this quote previously and extensively (2009), but let's take a fresh look.

While references to primary collections of Luther'w writings are provided (W 30 III, 226fE 23, 123SL 10, 781), the actual English rendering is that done by Ewald Plass in his anthology, What Luther Says. The comment comes in the section on "Marriage" (Plass systematizes Luther thoughts on this topic). After providing a comment from Luther on "Possible Reasons for Voiding an Engagement," Plass then states, "TO AVOID OFFENSE, the betrothed should not live as married people. But any premature sexual intimacy between them, although reprehensible, should not be called fornication." Then Plass provides the quote in question.

An English rendering of the quote can also be found from the treatise in which it originated, Luther's Concerning Matrimonial Matters, 1530 (LW 46:293). As the Reformation progressed is some areas, some of the specifics of canon law were no longer regulating marriage. Luther was looked to for insight into developing Biblical and practical rules on marriage. The editors of LW 46 explain he develops five points which he supported with arguments drawn from "Scripture, law, and common sense" (LW 46:262).

Much of the treatise deals with the problem of secret engagements and public engagements, secret marriages and public marriages. Situations were arising in which a couple made a secret engagement, but then one person would break this secret engagement by entering into a public engagement with someone else. Similarly, there were secret marriages in which one of the parties would leave and begin a public marriage with a different person. Did the secret engagement or marriage overrule a public engagement or marriage? These were complicated societal issues.

The pertinent section of text begins on page 289 of LW 46 in a discussion of  "what if someone becomes publicly engaged to a person and meanwhile keeps silent about the fact that he has previously been secretly engaged to another, and has even lain with her and made her pregnant?" (LW 46:289). Luther responds:
In such a case I would render this decision: If the secret engagement and lying together are known or proven, then in such a case the scoundrel shall first be punished for so deceiving and humiliating the maid and her parents or the widow and her relatives with a public betrothal; and after he has been punished, the second betrothal, which has not yet been consummated, shall yield to the secret one, which has been consummated, as we have said above (LW 46:290).
He continues:
But if anyone were to pretend that injustice and damage are done to the publicly betrothed bride if she is separated because the man has previously lain with the first woman, the answer should be this: She nonetheless retains her highest treasure, her honor; and her innocence too is to be highly regarded and praised, because she is deceived and must suffer this separation without deserving it. She should take into consideration what she would do if her betrothed sweetheart had previously become engaged to another woman or had become publicly engaged to someone elsewhere—then she would still have to be separated and suffer all this. If in addition her deceiver is punished, her innocence becomes all the more worthy of respect, and this deception turns out to her best advantage.
But that other poor girl now is left with nothing, and the punishment does not restore her honor, and a woman who has lost her honor is quite worthless because we do not regard the fruit of the womb as highly as the Jews. Yet this lying together in secret in anticipation of betrothal cannot be reckoned as whoredom, for it takes place in the name and with the intention of marriage, which spirit, intention, or name whoredom does not have. Therefore there is a great difference between whoredom and lying together in secret with the intention of betrothed marriage. Indeed, no Christian or honest man would do otherwise if he had gone so far that he would make the mistake of lying secretly with a girl on the promise of betrothal, if he thought that he would have to keep her and disavow all public betrothals subsequently entered upon.
However, I have written this article as a warning which anyone may regard as he pleases, for I have learned from experience what a coarse rabble there is in the world. Loose fellows are wandering around and running through the land from one place to the other, and wherever one of them sees a wench that takes his fancy he starts getting hot and right away he tries to see how he can get her, goes ahead and gets engaged again, and thus wants to forget and abandon the first engagement that he entered into elsewhere with another woman. And what is worse, they go ahead and have their wedding—some even get married in several places and so carry on a great and shameful scandal in the name and under the appearance of marriage.
This is where the pastors should be careful to warn their people and point out this danger, namely, that no citizen or peasant should give his child in marriage to a strange fellow or man, and that the authorities, too, should not permit such a marriage. The pastor should not publish the bans, marry, or bestow his blessing upon any of these people, but if they are strangers, men or women, they should be required to furnish adequate testimonials of their character, both written and oral, so that one may be certain what kind of people they are, whether they are single or married, honest or dishonest, as do some craftsmen who demand letters of recommendation from their fellow craftsmen, and as the monks used to do who would not accept anyone unless they knew that he was free and not obligated to anyone by betrothal, debt, or servitude. How much more should one demand such recommendations from strange men or women who wish to enter into matrimony! It is certainly a matter of importance for every person to see what kind of spouse he is getting and to whom he is giving his child or relative. It is also up to the council and the community to see what kind of male or female citizen and member they are getting in their community.
For we learn from experience, as has been said, that rascals and wenches run here and there, taking wives and husbands merely to perpetrate their skulduggery, and afterward steal all they can and run off. They treat marriage as the Tartars and gypsies do, who continually celebrate weddings and baptisms wherever they go, so that a girl may well be a bride ten times and a child be baptized ten times. I know a village not far from here—I will not mention the name of the region (I do not want to mention it for the sake of its reputation)—where, when our gospel came, we found thirty-two couples living together out of wedlock, where either the husband or the wife was a fugitive. I did not think that there were many more than thirty-two houses or inhabitants in the place. The good bishops, officials, and authorities had so managed and looked after things that in this hiding place there were gathered together all those who had been driven out of or had run away from other places. But now, praise God, the gospel has swept away this scandal so cleanly that no open adultery, whoredom, or illicit cohabitation is any longer tolerated anywhere. And yet the poor gospel must be called a heresy from which no good comes! (LW 46:293-294).
While Plass was not wrong in his prefatory comment, the context shows the extracted quote comes from a complicated text. The context is about secret marriages. Basically: if a man has a secret engagement to a woman, promises her the moon and the stars, has his way with her, but then has a public engagement to another woman, that previous woman should not be considered a harlot. Luther says of the secret couple, their "lying together in secret in anticipation of betrothal cannot be reckoned as whoredom" because "it takes place in the name and with the intention of marriage." That is, to punish her as a societal whore is totally unjustified. She was not selling sex, she was enticed by a man with a promise of marriage. Luther then hypothetically argues a man would never sleep with a woman and promise her marriage if he knew that his private engagement would nullify his public engagement. That is, only a scoundrel would do such a thing, and he should be forced to marry the woman to retain her honor.

To complicate this further, the introductory comments to Concerning Matrimonial Matters provide another interesting explanation that relates to this quote:
Over the centuries the old Roman law and practice expanded to accommodate other national customs, particularly those of the Germans. According to German custom, an agreement to marry in the future (i.e., engagement) followed by intercourse constituted a marriage. This accommodation gave rise to a fine distinction between the sponsalia de futuro and sponsalia de praesenti (a consent to marry in the future and a consent to marry in the present). Gradually, however, this distinction became theoretical rather than functional (LW 46:261-262). 
On this point, LW 46 provides a reference: Paul Hansen, Engagement and Marriage, a Sociological Historical and Theological Investigation of Engagement and Marriage (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959), p. 65. This text states,
It must be remembered that in the early Middle Ages the church was strongly influenced by the German idea that betrothal was an inchoate marriage, and according to The New International Encyclopedia, the church in the twelfth century went back to the Roman view that an agreement de futuro was a thing wholly distinct from marriage. Nevertheless, some concessions were still made to German ideas, namely, that an agreement to marry in the future, plus subsequent concubitus, constituted marriage. On the whole the canonical marriage was the consensual marriage of the Roman law made indissoluble.
This book cites "Marriage," The New International Encyclopedia, eds. Gilman, Colt, Kirby (New York: Dodd, Mead and Co., 1903), XI, 903.  To put it nicely, it appears that there was some liberal borrowing done from this encyclopedia. While I did not locate a 1903 edition, I did locate a 1905 edition.  This text states,
It should be noted, however, that the Church's view of betrothal changed in the twelfth century. In the early Middle Ages the Church was strongly influenced by the German idea that betrothal was an inchoate marriage. In the twelfth century it went back to the Roman view that an agreement de futuro was a thing wholly distinct from marriage. Nevertheless some concessions were still made to German ideas. It was admitted that an agreement to marry in future and subsequent concubitus constituted marriage. Moreover, marriages not consummated were treated somewhat differently from those which had been consummated: they were annulled with more freedom. On the whole, the canonical marriage was the consensual marriage of the Roman law, made indissoluble.
It appears that Luther functioned under this societal paradigm that an engagement to marry was as binding as a marriage itself. In the same treatise,  Luther goes on to discuss what happens to a secretly betrothed man that has sex with another woman after a public engagement has been announced. Is it adultery? Yes, and it cannot be used to break the previous engagement.  Luther says:
Since we have heard above that a girl who has been publicly betrothed is considered a wedded wife, and this public betrothal, if it is pure and free from any lying together with other girls beforehand, forms a true, honest marriage, then the man also is certainly a true husband. And because it is not proper among us to have more than a single wife, who is one’s only wedded wife, the man is no longer master of his body and cannot touch another woman without committing adultery. Likewise there is also a great difference between lying together before public betrothal and lying together after public betrothal. For prior to the public betrothal the man is still single and free, and does not commit adultery by lying with the woman to whom he is secretly betrothed, but after the public betrothal he is no longer single; he is a bridegroom and a husband. (LW 46:298).