Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Luther Spoke In tongues?

You know Martin Luther spoke in tongues? Yes, sir, sure did. And he had great signs and wonders. But when Luther died, what taken place? The church organized and there she went.” link

"Martin Luther (1483-1546) is reported to have spoke in tongues. “Souer’s work in German, A History of the Christian Church, on page 406 of volume 3, describes Luther as a prophet, evangelist, speaker in tongues and interpreter, in one person, endowed with all the gift of the Holy Spirit.” link

"Read your Bible! You have been deceived! Also, I know of a web page that shows many cases through church history in which people spoke in tongues. D.L. Moody spoke in tongues. The Quakers spoke in tongues. Martin Luther spoke in tongues. Tongues never did stop.]" link

Previously I looked at Pentecostals trying to claim Luther spoke in tongues. Recently I came across an excellent overview of Luther’s interpretation of “speaking in tongues” in the book The Charismatic Movement (Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing company, 1975).

Luther did not have direct contact with the more unusual gifts of the Spirit catalogued by Paul in I Corinthians 12, notably glossolalia, interpretation thereof, and healing. However, as an exegete and preacher using the lectionary, he occasionally had to advert to our charismatic passages. He was also familiar with the Zwickau Prophets, who derived something of their charism from the Hussite tradition.
Luther believed that in apostolic times, people had spoken "new tongues" as a sign and "witness to the Jews." In his own day, however, Christianity no longer required the confirmation of such signs. Although they had ceased, each justified believer might expect to receive one or several other gifts of the Holy Spirit. There would always be a diversity of gifts in the true church, and these would operate in harmony, whereas among "fanatical spirits and sectarians," everyone "want[ed] to be everything."
Luther's clearest exposition of the meaning of the Corinthian texts for his day was in a treatise he published in 1525 against Andreas Bodenstein von Carlstadt. Drawing on Paul's first letter of advice to the troubled Corinthian church, Luther accused Carlstadt of misunderstanding the expression "speaking with tongues. Paul, he declared, had been concerned primarily with the office of preaching and the listening and learning of the congregation. With this as his premise, he used the passage on tongues to develop his case for preaching in the vernacular:
‘Whoever comes forward, and wants to read, teach, or preach, and yet speaks with tongues, that is, speaks Latin instead of German, or some unknown language, he is to be silent and preach to himself alone. For no one can hear it or understand it, and no one can get any benefit from it. Or if he should speak with tongues, he ought, in addition, to put what he says into German, or interpret it in one way or another, so that the congregation may understand it.’
Carlstadt had used Paul's directives to the Corinthians to prove that all speaking in tongues (i.e., preaching in Latin) was wrong. Luther, on the other hand, demanded only that the "tongues" be interpreted into the appropriate vernacular, and used Paul's writings to defend his position: "St. Paul is not as stubborn in forbidding speaking with tongues as this 'sin-spirit' [Carlstadt] is, but says it is not to be forbidden when along with it interpretation takes place."
Carlstadt also rejected Luther's contention that physicians were "our Lord God's menders of the body," with a mission analogous to that of theologians—the restoration of "what the devil has damaged." To Carlstadt's opposition to the use of medicine, Luther responded: "Do you eat when you're hungry?"

Luther believed that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost had wrought a fundamental change in the meaning of prayer. A "Spirit of supplication" had been "outpoured," and it was possible, in a new and more significant way, "to call upon God from the heart in My [Christ's] name." The Spirit was not restricted in his activity, but had been promised to "all flesh" accompanied by prophecy, visions, and dreams. In a sermon in 1531 on the Pentecostal text of Acts 2:4, Luther expressly affirms the ministry of "ordinary" people, called to preach by the Spirit, over against the official preachers of the Apostles' days, like those of the Sadducean or Pharisaic classes and the comparably highborn and highly educated Catholic preachers of his own day. Yet haughtily he even used the word fanatic (Schwarmer), his special term for Anabaptists and other simple evangelists: it never occurred to him to carry the logic of his thought further. In any case, such New Testament phenomena anticipated by Joel, such as prophecy (or inspiration), typified for Luther his new doctrine; the "sacraments as external ceremonies" (including Baptism, the Lord's Supper, and Absolution) he equated with visions. Dreams were used of God in the new dispensation as well as in the old: given by the Father, they were interpreted by the Son and carried out by the Holy Spirit."
Source: George H. Williams and Edith Waldvogel, “A History of speaking in Tongues and Related Gifts” found in Michael P. Hamilton (editor), The Charismatic Movement (Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing company, 1975) 71-73.

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