Friday, November 24, 2006

Pope Luther and Pope Calvin

"The moral defects of the "Reformers" are there for all to see who care to see. Yet Protestants think nothing of deriving their distinctives from these sinful men. These guys are the very Founders of Protestantism. They exercised far more prerogatives and power over their flocks than any pope ever dreamt of. Luther claimed to be God's mouthpiece; so did Calvin, in effect. By what authority did they dare say that? None except their own self-appointed "authority."" [Source: Sinful Church Leaders]


I would have to immediately ask, how does one compare the dreams of power popes have had, to that of the historical record of Luther and Calvin? It is wishful thinking to think that Luther and Calvin had even an ounce of the power that the medieval papacy exerted. Luther didn't have an army, or even a large salary. Calvin lived as an exile, and wasn't even a citizen of Geneva till the end of his life.

Neither Luther or Calvin are the ultimate sources for Protestant theology. They are not the wellspring from which Protestants “derive their distinctives." They are nothing more than figures from church history. They are nothing more than Christian men that held positions of authority within the church at a particular point in church history. Both Luther and Calvin pointed to the Scriptures as the ultimate authority.

Looking over his life’s work, Luther, the alleged infallible-interpreter-super-pope, said:

I would have been quite content to see my books, one and all, remain in obscurity and go by the board. Among other reasons, I shudder to think of the example I am giving, for I am well aware how little the church has been profited since they have begun to collect many books and large libraries, in addition to and besides the Holy Scriptures, and especially since they have stored up, without discrimination, all sorts of writings by the church fathers, the councils, and teachers. Through this practice not only is precious time lost, which could be used for studying the Scriptures, but in the end the pure knowledge of the divine Word is also lost, so that the Bible lies forgotten in the dust under the bench (as happened to the book of Deuteronomy, in the time of the kings of Judah)…

I cannot, however, prevent them from wanting to collect and publish my works through the press (small honor to me), although it is not my will. I have no choice but to let them risk the labor and the expense of this project. My consolation is that, in time, my books will lie forgotten in the dust anyhow, especially if I (by God’s grace) have written anything good. Non ere melior Patribus meis.  He who comes second should indeed be the first one forgotten. Inasmuch as they have been capable of leaving the Bible itself lying under the bench, and have also forgotten the fathers and the councils—the better ones all the faster—accordingly there is a good hope, once the overzealousness of this time has abeted, that my books also will not last long. There is especially good hope of this, since it has begun to rain and snow books and teachers, many of which already lie there forgotten and moldering. Even their names are not remembered any more, despite their confident hope that they would eternally be on sale in the market and rule churches.” (LW 34:283-284).

For Protestants, what Luther or Calvin said is only worthy with how closely it conforms to the Scripture, and my guess would be Luther and Calvin would readily agree. A few months back, guest blogger Frank Marron made some insightful observations from a Lutheran perspective:

"As a communicant member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, I can honestly say that the historic man Martin Luther is seldom quoted. On the other hand, the same verses rediscovered in the 16th century by the Augustinian monk Martin Luther are quoted frequently: Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 1:17, and Romans 5:8 - among others.

The legacy of Martin Luther that survives to this day is Sola Scriptura - Holy Scripture is the norm and basis for all Christian beliefs - not any historic personage. Roman Catholics, and others, are confused over this basic issue because of their unquestioning allegiance to another man - the pope. Consequently, Roman Catholics simply transfer their own thought processes to any Protestant by attacking the historic man Martin Luther. This is an error in their logic. Although I believe that Luther was used by God as an instrument, I also realize that he was a sinner like all men, in need of the Savior.

What Roman Catholics consistently fail at is recognizing that their church body stands accused of many heresies by the Word of God, not Martin Luther who was merely God's voice piece. This is the truth: all men and material things fade away but the Word of the Lord endures forever. As a Lutheran I believe we are still in the Reformation. The exact same fallacies and heresies confronted by Luther in the medieval church are alive and well in American Evangelicalism and elsewhere. Mankind can simply not believe the truth of God as spoken in His Word - primarily because of a confusion between Law and Gospel. All religions of the world are works righteousness oriented and have similarities. Only orthodox Christianity is the opposite of commonsense, maintaining that salvation is totally dependent upon the Grace of God from start to finish. This is so difficult for fallen man to comprehend, since even the spiritual discernment of this truth requires the Holy Spirit's enlightenment (1Cor. 2:14)."

Well said Frank. In regard to Calvin: That he was a tyrant in Geneva is a myth. He never held a real civic office. He was not even a citizen until late in the 1550’s. His position in Geneva was not really secure until 1555, when his enemies were clearly not going to be elected to the city council. His only authority was based on his moral authority and teaching. The city council many times goes against him and his recommendations. For example: Calvin wanted weekly communion, the city council though decided it would be adminstered four times a year.

Calvin held that God wants his people edified by the Word of God: to receive spiritual nourishment, which comes from the scripture. It is the authority in life of the Christian and the Church. This is not abstract, but “practical religion.” Calvin was trained as a lawyer and not a philosopher. his main concern was, “how shall we know the will of God?” In Calvin’s day, the challenge of the Medieval Church was: “We know the will of God by the Bible and Tradition and the teaching authority of the Church. " Calvin rejected this authority. He held the Bible is sufficient; it did not need to be supplemented. He held the scripture created the church, so the church is dependent on the Bible, not the Bible dependent on the church.

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