Saturday, May 31, 2008

Luther & the Seat of Moses

I came across a blog entry from a Roman Catholic commenting on my blog post, Who Sent the Reformers to Reform the Church. I didn't open the comments on that entry because it was simply a cut-and-paste presentation of a CARM discussion (anyone could've gone over to CARM and commented had they wanted to). Commenting on Luther's Sermon for Pentecost Tuesday, this Catholic asserted:

Attempting to understand Luther can, at times, be quite difficult, for Luther is not always consistent with himself. I find his treatment of Matt. 23:2-4 to be somewhat muddled; Luther wrote:

So much for the call into the office. But Christ is not speaking of that here; for something more is required, namely, that no rival or supplementary doctrine be introduced, nor another word be taught than Christ has taught. Christ says in Mt. 23:2-4: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat: all things therefore whatsoever they bid you, these do and observe: but do not ye after their works; for they say and do not. Yea, they bind heavy burdens too grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger.” Although these of whom Christ here speaks were regularly appointed, yet they were thieves and murderers; for they taught variations from Christ's teaching. Christ reproves them in another place, in Matthew 15:3, where he holds up before them their traditions and tells them how, through their own inventions, they have transgressed the commandments of God, yea, totally abolished them. We have also many prophets who were regularly appointed and still were misled, like Balaam, of whom we read in Num. 22; also Nathan, described in 2 Sam 7:3. Similarly many bishops have erred. (Sermons of Martin Luther, Vol. III, p. 375 – Baker Book House reprint – no date.)

Our Lord sure seems to defend the ‘official’ teachings of the “scribes and the Pharisees” who “sit on Moses’ seat”, for he admonishes his listeners with: “all things therefore whatsoever they bid you, these do and observe”. Luther sure seemed to ‘wink’ at Christ’s counsel concerning those in authority during his revolt…

I do admit that understanding Luther can indeed be difficult at times, but this is not one of those instances. I'm actually quite surprised any would argue in favor of the Pharisees (even a Roman Catholic) especially after Reading all of Matthew 23. When Christ says to obey the Pharisees in everything they tell you, the statement must be qualified. Luther rightly pointed out earlier in Matthew 15 Christ chastises their teachings. In Matthew 15:6, Christ states the Pharisees "nullify the word of God for the sake of [their] tradition." In Matthew 15:14 Christ exhorts his hearers to leave them, they are blind guides. Obviously, taking Matthew 23:2-4 at face value and concluding Jesus defended all the teaching of Jewish religious leaders is an error excusable for someone new to Christianity, but inexcusable for someone familiar with the Bible. Luther did not "wink" at authority. Rather, he held the Papacy to the ultimate authority, and the above section bears this out: "no rival or supplementary doctrine be introduced, nor another word be taught than Christ has taught," "Christ reproves them in another place, in Matthew 15:3, where he holds up before them their traditions and tells them how, through their own inventions, they have transgressed the commandments of God, yea, totally abolished them," "Similarly many bishops have erred."

John Gil insightfully pointed out for Mathew 23:3, "This must be restrained to things that were agreeable to the chair of Moses, in which they sat, to the law of Moses, which they read and explained, to other parts of Scripture and truth in general; for otherwise many of their glosses and traditions were repugnant to the law, and ought not to be observed, as appears from Mat. 5:1. "

As to Luther's views on the "seat of Moses," many quotes exist. Below are two quotes:

To begin with, we must know that those who are sent speak the Word of God provided that they adhere to their office and administer it as they received it. In that event, they surely speak the Word of God. Christ said of the Pharisees: They “sit on Moses’ seat” (Matt. 23:2). Those who occupy the seat of Moses are sent, and you must listen to them if they preach what Moses taught. But if their preaching is at variance with Moses, if they digress from Moses and violate the command given them and do not comply with it, then you should not follow them. A king’s ambassador or emissary discharges his duty when he abides by his master’s order and instruction. If he fails in this, the king has him beheaded. Thus it may well be that a person is called into an office and occupies this office, but still is a scoundrel. A king demands that his order be executed and that one neither add to it nor subtract from it. We see that when a person is called, he is invested with an office. If such a person preaches in conformity with the duties of his office, that is, if he preaches the Word of God, on which the office rests, all is well; if not, then the words apply to him: “Beware of false prophets!” (Matt. 7:15). If he is faithful to his office and preaches the message of his office, then all is proper. Previously John had also said that man can do nothing unless it is given him from above (John 3:27). [LW 22:483]

"...Matthew 23[:2-3], where the Lord says, “The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you.” “Here, here,” they say, “we have authority to teach what we think to be right.” I reply: If that is what Christ means, then we are in a sorry plight. Then every pope might create more new laws, until the world could no longer contain them all... What does it mean to sit in Moses’ seat? Let us ask, what did Moses teach? And if he were still sitting in his seat today, what would he be teaching? Beyond a doubt, nothing but what he taught of old, namely, the commandments and word of God. He has never yet uttered any doctrine of men. Rather as almost every chapter shows, he spoke what God commanded him to speak.

It follows, then, that he who teaches something different from Moses does not sit in Moses’ seat. For the Lord calls it Moses’ seat, because from it the doctrine of Moses should be spoken and taught. The same meaning is contained in the words which follow, where the Lord says, “But do not do what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger” [Matt. 23:3-4].

See, here he takes their works to task, because they lay many laws beyond the doctrines of Moses on men’s shoulders, laws which they themselves will not touch. And afterward he says, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools. For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred?” [Matt. 23:16-17]. Is it not clear enough here that Christ condemns their man-made doctrines? He can, therefore, not have sanctioned them by speaking of sitting in Moses’ seat; else he would have contradicted himself. Therefore Moses’ seat must mean no more than the law of Moses, and the sitting in it no more than the preaching of the law of Moses.

This is what Moses himself said of his seat and doctrine, in Deuteronomy 3[4:2], “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it”; and in Deuteronomy 13[12:32], “Do only that which I command you; and do not add to it or take from it.” In Moses’ seat they would have had to teach these doctrines too. Therefore Moses’ seat cannot put up with the doctrines of men." [LW 35: 148-149]

Friday, May 30, 2008

An Ancient Voice For The Day #25

Ambrose (c. 339-97) in a sermon to his congregation:

"‘The books of the heavenly Scriptures are good pastures, by which we are fed by daily reading, by which we are renewed and refreshed, when we taste the things that are written, or ruminate frequently upon that which has been tasted. Upon these pastures the flock of the Lord is fattened."

Latin text: Bona etiam pascua libri sunt Scripturarum coelestium, in quibus quotidiana lectione pascimur, in quibus recreamur ac reficimur; cum ea quae scripta sunt, degustamus, vel summo ore libata frequentius ruminamus. His pascuis grex Domini saginatur. Psalmus CXXXIV (119), Sermo Quartus Decimus, §2, PL 15:11390-1391."

Source:For translation, see William Goode, The Divine Rule of Faith and Practice, 2nd ed., (London: John Henry Jackson, 1853), Vol. 3, pp. 261-262. .

For an excellent compilation of quotes of the Church fathers teaching on the primacy, sufficiency and ultimate authority of Scripture, get a copy of Holy Scripture:The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith Vol III- The Writings of the Church Fathers Affirming the Reformation Principle of Sola Scriptura.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Luther's Letter to Pope Leo: " I acknowledge your voice, as the voice of Christ"

"Wherefore, Most Blessed Father, I offer myself, prostrate at the feet of Your Holiness, with all that I am and have. Bid me live, slay me, call, recall, approve, condemn, as it may please you. I acknowledge your voice, as the voice of Christ, presiding and speaking in you." (Luther's letter to Pope Leo, May 30, 1518)

A peculiar letter exists from Martin Luther to Pope Leo X from the early days of the Reformation (May 30, 1518). This letter occurs around seven months after the posting of the 95 Theses. It was attached to a copy of Luther's Explanations of the Theses Concerning the Value of Indulgences (which itself was an appeal to Pope Leo), and actually served as a personal dedication of this writing to Pope Leo (See LW 48:64). The letter was sent to Rome through John Staupitz. The Explanations is just that: a detailed explanation of the 95 Theses, provided primarily for the Pope to demonstrate that Luther was a loyal son of the Church. The letter that accompanies The Explanations has been used throughout the years by Catholic apologists, probably more than The Explanations.

Luther's tone towards the Pope is surprisingly submissive, which, if you're familiar at all with Luther, seems quite out of the ordinary. Luther himself though does refer to his early career as characteristic of one who was obedient to the Papacy ("I was once a monk and a most enthusiastic papist"), which could indeed explain the letter. Henry O'Connor, a Roman Catholic writer, explains this letter to the Pope as one of Luther's "masterpieces of diplomacy" [Henry O'Connor, Luther's Own Statements (New York & St. Loius: Benziger Brothers, 1884), p.9].This letter interests me, particularly how it has been understood from the Roman Catholic perspective. Note some of the following perspectives from older Roman Catholic writers about this letter:
"A more complete expression of submission to the judgment of the Apostolic See could hardly be formulated, but Luther's actions thereafter did not correspond with his language. The insincerity manifested in his letter to Leo X can be explained only by the uncommon duplicity of his character" [Patrick O'Hare, The Facts About Luther, p.90].
"With such protestations of submission did he endeavour to deceive the Pope, but as Cardinal Gotti remarks, in this very letter he protests that he adopts no other sentiments than those of the Scriptures, and intends merely to oppose the schoolmen" [Alfonso Maria de' Liguor, iThe History of Heresies and Their Refutation, p.260].
"It is quite false that Rome belittled the whole affair as a monks' quarrel. On February 3, 1518, within three months of the publication of Luther's theses, the pope wrote to the general of the Augustinians that Luther would have to be excommunicated, if he could not be restrained. But Luther misled the pope by humble letters. He wrote to Leo, " Most Holy Father, prostrate at thy feet, I bring thee all that I am and all that I have. Give life, give death, cast me out, as may please thee. I shall recognize thy voice as the voice of Christ who lives in thee and speaks through thee." (May 30, 1518)" [Hermann Wedewer, A Short History of the Catholic Church , p. 152].
"His course of action, however, was quite at variance with these professions ; for ere long he began to teach, both in preaching and writing, doctrines quite opposed to Catholic dogma; such as, that man is altogether deprived of free-will by the fall of Adam, that faith alone is sufficient for salvation, and that of their own nature our best works are grievous sins. "[John Nicholas Murphy, The Chair of Peter, or The Papacy Considered in its Institution, Development, and Organization]

Going back even further, one also finds the earliest counter-Reformation Roman Catholic apologists citing this letter. The letter was used as a polemical tool, even in the Sixteenth Century. Saint Francis de Sales was familiar with this letter, and cites it via Cochlaeus ( de Sales only points out Luther's early allegiance to the Pope in his citation of it). Cochlaeus though states,
Therefore Luther, relying on the advice of his associates, published a Latin book, to which he gave this title: Resolutions of the Arguments Concerning the Virtue of Indulgences, Etc. And in that book, he declared ninety-five Conclusions in accordance with his new reputation, not - to be sure - so that he might reconcile the Pope and his adversaries to himself, or succeed in placating them whom he attacked most bitterly and extensively in this book itself; but rather so that he might enlist the reader on his own side, simulating a wonderful humility, submission, and reverence toward the Roman Pontiff. By this he was cunningly seeking both the reader's sympathy toward himself and hatred towards his adversaries. For he feigned that he was snatched and dragged into public view, entirely reluctant and unwilling, by his adversaries' wickedness. For he said, in the preface addressed to Leo X, 'Unwillingly I come into public, who am especially unlearned, and stupid in my wits, and devoid of learning.' But necessity drives me to squawk as a goose among swans. And so, in order that I may soften my adversaries themselves and may fulfill the desire of many, behold - I publish my trifles.' And below he said, Therefore, Most Holy Father' I offer myself prostrate at your most holy feet, with all that I am and all that I have. Give life, kill; call, recall; approve, disapprove; as it will please you I recognize your voice as the voice of Christ, presiding and speaking in you. If I have deserved death, I will not refuse to die'  [Cochlaeus, The Deeds and Writings of Martin Luther].
Only a few months after this letter, one finds Luther making hostile comments towards the Pope. By December of the same year, O'Connor documents Luther stating that the Pope may be the true Antichrist, and that the Pope is "worse than the Turks." O'Connor then documents a letter from March 3, 1519 in which Luther says,
"Now most Holy Father, before God and every creature of His, I declare that I have not intended, and that today also I do not intend in any way to touch, or by any artifice to destroy the power of the Roman Church and of your Holiness; on the contrary, I most fully confess, that the power of this Church is above all, and that nothing, either in heaven or on earth, is to be preferred to it, except only Jesus Christ the Lord of all."
By March 19, Luther writes a letter to Spalatin calling the Pope the Antichrist again. O'Connor concludes Luther is engaging in "downright hypocrisy." I've read one Roman Catholic e-pologist overview which explains these remarks as examples of Luther's subjective temperament of simultaneous contradiction and vacillation, "frequent profound mood changes," if not just simply doublespeak.

How then does one interpret this letter? Insights into Luther's character gained from Roman Catholic apologists include, "insincerity," "uncommon duplicity character," "deception," misleading the Pope by "humble letters," a theologian who was well on his way to teaching heresy already, and one who manipulated both friend and foe by his cunning and placating means. If these don't work, there is always the psychological approach that explains Luther's words as a mood swing. The earlier Roman Catholic apologists simply took the easiest method: Luther was a heretic. Heretics lie. Luther was a liar.

I admit, trying to interpret why Luther would write something isn't always an easy task. I mentioned all of these possibilities to contrast them with an interesting tidbit of information from a book by Heinrich Boehmer. Boehmer presents information that I believe should factor in to the explanations offered above:
"At the same time Luther was also putting finishing touches on the work which, on Staupitz' advice, he was to present to Pope Leo X as a proof of his orthodoxy and loyalty to the Holy See—the Resolutions. On May 30 he was able to send a fair copy, accompanied by a letter to the pope, to Staupitz for forwarding. We still possess one page of the rough draft of this letter written in his own hand, which sheds an interesting light upon the state of his mind at this time. In the draft he writes that he turned to the pope only in order to show the German inquisitors (that is, Tetzel and his fellow Dominicans) that he was not afraid of them. 'I know that man can think of nothing unless it be given to him from above. But least of all can that be said of the pope, of whom it is written: The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord. Therefore, Holy Father, I lay my work at your feet in all confidence. Whatever your decision may be, it will in any case have its origin in Jesus, without whom you cannot propose or speak anything. If you condemn my book to be burned, I will say: As it has pleased the Lord, so it has happened. If you command that it be preserved, I will say: Praise be to God! I lose nothing if it is burned, and I gain nothing if it is not burned. Christ does not need me. He can raise up children from the very stones and destroy mountains in the twinkling of an eye. This, my faith in my Lord Jesus Christ, is enough for me. May He, the Lord, preserve you and lead you, not according to your pleasure or that of any other man, but according to His will, which alone is good and to be praised eternally. Amen.'
In the fair copy the long section dealing with the insolent boasting and threatening of the German inquisitors, primarily Tetzel, with the name and the power of the pope, has been entirely omitted. However, instead of the declaration that it was immaterial to him what the pope did with his book, the fair copy now reads: 'For my own protection I let my book go out under the protection of your name, Holy Father, so that all well-meaning readers may know with what pure intentions I have sought to fathom the nature of ecclesiastical power and what reverence I hold toward the power of the keys. If I were as they describe me, the illustrious Elector Frederick of Saxony certainly would not suffer such a pestiferous boil in his university, for he is probably the greatest zealot for Catholic truth there is at the present time. Nor would the exceedingly intelligent and very diligent men of this university have tolerated me. Therefore, Most Holy Father, I cast myself at your feet with all that I am and possess. Raise me up or slay me, summon me hither or thither, approve me or reprove me as you please. I will listen to your voice as the voice of Christ reigning and speaking in you. If I have deserved death, I shall not refuse to die. For the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof; blessed be He forever. Amen."
Thus in the fair copy he completely changed the conclusion of the letter. All expressions which were peculiarly indicative of his state of mind during these days he struck out and substituted phrases expressed in the conventional, curialistic style. Thus the whole letter, instead of being an open avowal of his inner independence of all human authorities, has now become a profession of his absolute subjection to the authority of the pope. Yet he permitted to remain one sentence which is altogether at odds with the new conclusion; "I cannot recant." Can we make him alone responsible for these changes which are so completely contradictory to the convictions which he elsewhere expressed so frankly and freely? No! The reference to the Catholic zeal of the Elector, which is altogether lacking in the first draft, betrays the hand of a courtier who was more familiar with the style of the Curia than was Luther. This courtier can have been none other than his friend Spalatin, who on later occasions was frequently obliged, generally at the command of the Elector, to cast into court language such high official letters and documents before they were forwarded. This is not to say that the Elector already had a hand in the matter in this instance. It is quite possible that Spalatin rendered him this friendly service on his own risk and responsibility." [Heinrich Boehmer, Road To Reformation: Martin Luther to the Year 1521 (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1946), pp. 212-214].
Boehmer's additional information sheds a bit more light on the circumstances of the letter. By locating Luther's mindset in either devious maliciousness or psychological mood changes, Rome's apologists ignore the "the conventional, curialistic style" and the accepted means of dialog with Rome. Luther's friends certainly knew the rules of dialog. This may indeed account for the tone of the letter. Boehmer makes an important point when he notes Luther will still not recant, even with the submissive language offered to the Pope.

Boehmer didn't prove that Spalatin influenced Luther to change his letter, so my Roman Catholic friends will probably still either view Luther one of the ways mentioned above. Of course, Boehmer's explanation is only a theory, yet, it makes a bit more sense to remember to consider the politics of the Reformation, which can be overlooked when one only sees Luther as either a deviant or a man with psychological problems.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Here's a moment from the CARM Catholic board:

"Have you ever heard of what happened in Germany after Luther brought out his little heresies? Germany turned into a moral sewer. After all, if one is saved by "faith alone" and one's works have nothing to do with one's final destiny, then HEY!!!! My neighbor's wife has been kinda flirting with me, and after all, I AM SAVED!!! And nothing can separate me from Jesus. So why not? That was what happened in Germany, and I would bet you a lot of money that there are Germans in hell today who are cursing Luther for his false teaching which decieved them." [source]

I took a minute to respond as well.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A little love to the atheists out there

Big fat hat tip to Truth Unites... and Divides:

I read the following article by Avery Dulles earlier this year and it would seem to have adverse impact on the doctrine of Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus. An excerpt: "Who, then, can be saved? Catholics can be saved if they believe the Word of God as taught by the Church and if they obey the commandments. Other Christians can be saved if they submit their lives to Christ and join the community where they think he wills to be found. Jews can be saved if they look forward in hope to the Messiah and try to ascertain whether God’s promise has been fulfilled. Adherents of other religions can be saved if, with the help of grace, they sincerely seek God and strive to do his will. Even atheists can be saved if they worship God under some other name and place their lives at the service of truth and justice. God’s saving grace, channeled through Christ the one Mediator, leaves no one unassisted."

Who Can Be Saved?


According to Wikipedia, Cardinal Dulles is quite the Catholic theologian:
"Cardinal Dulles served on the faculty of Woodstock College from 1960 to 1974 and that of The Catholic University of America from 1974 to 1988. He has been a visiting professor at: The Gregorian University (Rome), Weston School of Theology, Union Theological Seminary (New York), Princeton Theological Seminary, Virginia Theological Seminary, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, Boston College, Campion Hall, Oxford, the University of Notre Dame, the Catholic University at Leuven, Yale University, and St. Joseph's Seminary, Dunwoodie. Cardinal Dulles is the author of over 700 articles on theological topics, and has published twenty-two books. Past President of both the Roman Catholic Theological Society of America and the American Theological Society and Professor Emeritus at The Catholic University of America, Cardinal Dulles has served on the International Theological Commission and as a member of the United States Lutheran/Roman Catholic Dialogue. He is presently a consultant to the Committee on Doctrine of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. He has an impressive collection of awards, including Phi Beta Kappa, the Croix de Guerre, the Cardinal Spellman Award for distinguished achievement in theology, the Boston College Presidential Bicentennial Award, the Christus Magister Medal from the University of Portland (Oregon), the Religious Education Forum Award from the National Catholic Educational Association, America magazine's Campion Award, the F. Sadlier Dinger Award for contributions to the catechetical ministry of the Church, the Cardinal Gibbons Award from The Catholic University of America, the John Carroll Society Medal, the Jerome Award from the Roman Catholic Library Association of America, Fordhams Founders Award, Gaudium Award from the Breukelein Institute, and thirty-three honorary doctorates.

Many thanks to Truth Unites...and Divides for the highly interesting piece of work. 'Course, I kinda don't think that the atheists I usually talk to online are all that interested in the Christian heaven...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Luther Mythology & Hagiography

Do Protestants have an accepted "mythology,” of Martin Luther? Some Roman Catholics probably think Luther's many commendable attributes are thoroughly put forth in hundreds of Protestant biographies (some may even posit these volumes are best described as "hagiographies"), while his darker side, sins, and faults aren't mentioned. Is it up to Catholics to present the "whole truth" about Luther?

There are probably thousands of non-Catholic books on Luther, and I do admit, I don't have them all. But guess what? If you go into your big-chain-bookstore, you will find books by Protestants that describe exactly who Luther was, warts and all.

By and large, the majority of Luther research has come from Protestants. There is a large amount of research put forth by Protestants documenting less than admirable periods in Luther’s life like Mark U. Edwards: Luther's Last Battles: Politics and Polemics 1531-1546 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1983). This book isn't that hard to track down. In it, you'll find lengthy discussions of Luther's extreme rhetoric against his enemies. Here you'll read about Luther's attacks against the Jews and the Papacy, his harsh language, his illness, his mental health, and you can also view the propaganda woodcut drawings that were included in his book, Against the Papacy at Rome Founded By the Devil. Edwards has also done an excellent volume documenting Luther's interaction with the Anabaptists and peasants entitled, Luther and the False Brethren (California: Stanford University Press, 1975). Far from covering up the Peasants Revolt, Edwards goes right to the heart of the matter.

One of the most interesting books I've ever read is Martin Luther as Prophet, Teacher, and Hero by Robert Kolb (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999). In this book you can read how some of the early Lutherans ascribed infallibility to Luther, and also read discussions on Luther considering himself a "prophet" or an "apostle"at times.

Even the more Luther-friendly books cover Luther's darker side. Roland Bainton's Here I Stand addresses the "bigamy of Phillip of Hesse" incident, and Luther's anger towards the Jews. Heiko Oberman’s Luther: Man Between God and the Devil [New Haven: Yale University, 1989]likewise addresses many of Luther's faults.

The popular magazine Christian History did a two issue series dedicated to Luther. They include an article called "The Unrefined Reformer" which addresses "Why was Luther sometimes bull-headed, coarse-tongued, and intemperate?" [Issue 39 (vol XII, No. 3). But perhaps most telling is the current English edition of Luther’s Works. It contains some of Luther’s worst and most troubling writings, like On The Jews and Their Lies.

It is simply erroneous to think that there has been some sort of unified conscious effort by Protestants to present a whitewashed Luther of mythological proportions, especially now in 2008.If by some chance, you come across a Roman Catholic arguing that only Catholics can present the "real Luther," you'll be getting a smoke-and-mirror show. The real "myth" being put forth is that only a Roman Catholic can tell you who the "real" Luther was. I am by no means saying that one should not read books on Luther by Catholics. I can recommend more than few that I've enjoyed and learned from. I am simply warning you to recognize sophistry in popular Catholic apologetics.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Who Sent The Reformers to Reform the Church?

The picture: "In this example of Catholic propaganda, the Pope holds his ears while Calvin and Luther battle, with the Bible as one of the weapons." [source]

I've spent some time in the past few days visiting my "old stomping grounds"...the CARM boards. Someone recently showed up asking the same question over and over,

"Did the protestant reformers have a legitimate mission from God to reform the Church?" "The reason for this question: Is in regards to the question in Romans 10:15 "How shall they preach unless they be sent"? I believe that no individual has the right to associate himself with the apostles or attempt to act under their authority; the individual must be sent or commissioned with divine authority."

My immediate response: So the corrupt Papacy and Church should have commissioned Luther to reform the corrupt Papacy and there is a likely scenario.

The counter-response:

Its funny you bring up Martin Luther! Because he agrees that one must be sent from God, as the prophets were, in order to be believed: "Now, Christ interprets his own words. He says that he is the door to the sheep, but all the others who came before him, that is, those who were not sent by God as the prophets were, but came of themselves, uncommissioned, are thieves and murderers; they steal his honor from God and strangle human souls by their false doctrines." A Sermon by Martin Luther; taken from his Church Postil, 1523. THE MARKS OF FALSE PREACHERS. Question: If Martin Luther practiced what he preached, who sent him?

I believe: Martin Luther could not have been sent by the Catholic Church, for the ideas of the Reformation are against Catholic teaching, and it was not the Lutheran and other Protestant churches for they were not yet formed when the reformation was being organized.

I took a few minutes to answer these charges and questions. In the same sermon, Luther describes the way the Roman Church had ordained its leaders. He says,

"This verse has been explained as having reference to those who climb, by their presumption, into the best church livings through favor and wealth, recommendations or their own power, not obtaining them by regular appointment and authority. And at present the most pious jurists are punishing people for running to Rome after fees and benefices, or after ecclesiastical preferment and offices. This they call simony. The practice is truly deplorable, for much depends upon being regularly called and appointed. No one should step into the office and preach from his own presumption and without a commission from those having the authority. But under present conditions, if we should wait until we received a commission to preach and to administer the sacraments, we would never perform those offices as long as we live. For the bishops in our day press into their offices by force, and those who have the power of preferment are influenced by friendship and rank. But I pass this by, and will speak of the true office, into which no one forces his way (even though his devotion urge him) without being called by others having the authority."

There was the dilemma: those in authority were often ordaining people unworthy and uncalled for ecclesiastical office. So, when you ask, "If the protestant reformers had a legitimate mission from God (or from someone given power by God) to reform the Church, then who sent them?"... your question proves to be a false question, because a corrupt church does not typically send people on missions to reform her. No, a corrupt church ordains as Luther described above: via corrupt practices. It was those within the Roman Church, those who ascribed to the ultimate authority that is to guide the believer (the Bible) that called for the church to reform her ways. They had a legitimate mission as we all do: to hold people or churches accountable to the God breathed Scriptures as the final authority.

You state, "Martin Luther could not have been sent by the Catholic Church, for the ideas of the Reformation are against Catholic teaching, and it was not the Lutheran and other Protestant churches for they were not yet formed when the reformation was being organized. " This is simply historical anachronism, because Luther argued justification by faith alone previous to Trent, so as a theologian within the Roman Church, he had the freedom to do so. Similarly, there was no complete dogma on the indulgence when Luther posted the 95 Theses. There was no official doctrine as to the effect of the indulgence upon Purgatory. Hence, Luther was not really a heretic (in official “Thus spoke Rome” terms).

As to specifics of ministry, previous to 1525, Luther normally argued all believers were consecrated to the priesthood through Baptism (1 Pet. 2:9). In 1520, Luther noted hypothetically that if a group of Christians taken captive living in the wilderness needed a priest, they could choose one from among themselves, and this would be valid as well. Luther argued that a Christian community had the right to call ministers of the gospel. Luther recalls in his address to the Christian Nobility in 1520, "In the manner aforesaid Christians in olden days chose from their number their bishops and priests. Afterwards these were confirmed by other bishops, without all the pomp which is now in use. In this way St. Augustine, Ambrose, and Cyprian became bishops..."

Luther felt it was his sworn duty to reform the church:

"I, Doctor Martin, was called and compelled to become a doctor out of pure obedience, without my will. So I had to assume the office of a teacher and swear and promise my most beloved Holy Scripture that I would preach and teach it faithfully and purely. In the course of this teaching the papacy blocked my way and wanted to keep me from doing so."

So Luther swore an oath to uphold the Scriptures, it was an oath he was required to make by the Church of his day. In essence, one could argue that the Church, via this oath, required Luther to work toward reformation, and it was they that inadvertently called him to do so. However, since the Papacy balked at Luther's every move toward that end, it's obvious the Papacy would have never called forth any to reform the Church.

"But for the sake of my faith in Christ my concern is that they do not twist and contaminate His Word at their pleasure. Let the Roman decretals set free the pure Gospel, and I shall not lift a finger though they make a clean sweep of all else. What more can or should I do?"

I received back an interesting counter-response:

"I first want to say thank you, for this very well thought out and thorough reply, I read through it several times, to try to figure out how I could possibly start my own reply.We both must admit that the history of Martin Luther is quite an interesting one, and I am not sure if any one book can capture the complete unbiased story that should be told.In my reply I would like to get to the heart of the matter which separated Martin Luther from the Catholic Church."

And then, this person went on to admit and outline the abuses within the Church, and the need for reform, without responding to anything I posted, and then, went silent (after posting incessantly for two days).

I'm not sure what to make of it. I had expected much more actually, and expected to get into "Reformation theory." I have many hundreds of books on Luther, the Reformers, and the Reformation. Indeed, this period in history is multi-faceted. Some books covering this period range from confusing and dull to simplistic and misleading. That being said, I've been recently re-reading Steven Ozment's book, Protestants: The Birth of a Revolution (New York: Image Books, 1993). I read this book, probably 10 years ago. For any of you interested in seeing how the Reformation was understood by the people during the 16th Century, Ozment has compiled an interesting slice of life of the period, covering how everyday people, both Protestant and Catholic interpreted and applied the Reformation. This book isn't dull history, but rather presents the issues and their implications.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Revisiting Luther's Anti-Jewish Writings

I recently visited the CARM discussion boards and read the following,

"It has recently been claimed by a credible scholar (who is Jewish, by the way) that On the Jews and Their Lies is a forgery. If I can remember their name I'll post it."

No, there was not a follow-up post, and it's been over two months since this statement. Now this is something I highly doubt, and even if it were true, it doesn't let Luther off the hook for his other anti-Jewish writings. Luther went on to publish two more anti-Jewish writings: On The Ineffable Name and On Christ’s Lineage (1543), and On The Last Words of David (1543). Neither of these treatises are contained in the English edition of Luther’s Works, though On The Ineffable Name and On Christ’s Lineage is available translated in English in the book, Gerhard Falk, The Jew in Christian Theology: Martin Luther's Anti-Jewish Vom Schem Hamphoras, Previously Unpublished in English, and Other Milestones in Church Doctrine Concerning Judaism (North Carolina: McFarland and Company, 1992).

It's been quite a while since I've mentioned Luther's anti-Jewish writings. I have one lengthy overview of this subject, Martin Luther’s Attitude Toward The Jews, hosted on the NTRmin site. I don't make any apologies for Luther's anti-Jewish statements. The things he said were terrible and wrong. On the other hand, I do oppose those who make the statements mean more than they do. For instance, Roman Catholics are quick to point out Luther's anti-Jewish statements somehow nullify his life's work toward Reformation. On the CARM board, "Josiah" a Lutheran, posted the following, and even if a quarter of it is true, Roman Catholics should consider their own Church and its attitude toward the Jews before going after Luther:

Consider some things Catholics and the Catholic Church said.....

306 The Council of Elvira decrees that Christians and Jews cannot intermarry, have sexual intercourse, or eat together.

325 Conversation and fellowship with Jews is forbidden to the clergy by the Council of Nicea.

c. 380 St. Gregory of Nyssa refers to the Jews as "murderers of the Lord, assassins of the prophets, rebels and detesters of God,. . . companions of the devil, race of vipers, informers, calumniators, darkeners of the mind, pharisaic leaven, Sanhedrin of demons, accursed, detested,. . . enemies of all that is beautiful".

388 A mob of Christians, at the instigation of their bishop, looted and burned the synagogue in Callinicum, a town on the Euphrates. The Emperor Theodosius wants those responsible punished and the synagogue rebuilt at the expense of the bishop, but St. Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, pressures him to relent and condone the action.

400 St. Augustine writes: "the Church admits and avows the Jewish people to be cursed, because after killing Christ they continue to till the ground of an earthly circumcision, an earthly Sabbath, an earthly passover, while the hidden strength or virtue of making known Christ, which this tilling contains, is not yielded to the Jews while they continue in impiety and unbelief, for it is revealed in the New Testament. While they will not turn to God, the veil which is on their minds in reading the Old Testament is not taken away. . . the Jewish people, like Cain, continue tilling the ground, in the carnal observance of the law, which does not yield to them its strength, because they do not perceive in it the grace of Christ".

c. 400 Calling the synagogue "brothel and theater" and "a cave of pirates and the lair of wild beasts," St. John Chrysostom writes that "the Jews behave no better than hogs and goats in their lewd grossness and the excesses of their gluttony".

413 A group of monks sweep through Palestine, destroying synagogues and massacring Jews at the Western Wall.

414 St. Cyril of Alexandria expels Jews from his city.

538 The Third Synod of Orléans decrees that Jews cannot show themselves in the streets during Passover Week.

681 The Synod of Toledo orders the burning of the Talmud and other books.

768 Pope Stephen IV decries ownership of hereditary estates by "the Jewish people, ever rebellious against God and derogatory of our rites".

c. 830 Agobard, Archbishop of Lyons, writes anti-Jewish pamphlets in which he refers to Jews as "sons of darkness".

c. 937 Pope Leo VII encourages his newly appointed archbishop of Mainz to expel all Jews who refuse to be baptized.

1010-1020 In Rouen, Orléans, Limoges, Mainz, and probably also in Rome, Jews are converted by force, massacred, or expelled.

1050 The Synod of Narbonne decrees that Christians are not permitted to live in Jewish homes.

c. 1070 Pope Alexander II warns the bishops of Spain to prevent violence against the Jews because, unlike the Saracens, they "are prepared to live in servitude".

1078 The Synod of Gerona decrees that Jews must pay the same taxes as Christians to support the church.

1081 Pope Gregory VII writes to King Alphonso of Spain telling him that if he allows Jews to be lords over Christians, he is oppressing the Church and exalting "the Synagogue of Satan".

1096 Massacres of Jews takes place in the First Crusade, destroying entire Jewish communities in Mainz, Speyer, Worms, Cologne and other cities. The Jewish chronicler reports: "The enemies stripped them naked and dragged them off, granting quarter to none, save those few who accepted baptism. The number of the slain was eight hundred in these two days." The chronicler Guibert de Nogent reports that the Rouen Crusaders said: "We desire to go and fight God's enemies in the East; but we have before our eyes certain Jews, a race more inimical to God than any other".

1182 Jews are expelled from France, all their property is confiscated, and Christians' debts to them are cancelled with the payment of one-fifth of their value to the treasury.

1190 The Third Crusade, led by Richard the Lion-Heart, stirs anti-Jewish fervor and results in the mass suicide of the York Jews in Clifford's Tower on March 16.

1215 The Fourth Lateran Council decrees that Jews are to wear distinctive clothing, and on the three days before Easter they are not to go out in public.

1222 The Council of Oxford prohibits the construction of new synagogues.

1227 The Council of Narbonne orders Jews to wear a round patch.

1234 The Council of Arles orders Jews to wear a round patch.

1246 The Council of Béziers orders Jews to wear a round patch.

1254 The Council of Albi orders Jews to wear a round patch.

1260 The Council of Arles orders Jews to wear a round patch, but not when traveling.

1267 The Synod of Vienna decrees that Christians cannot attend Jewish ceremonies, and Jews cannot dispute with simple Christian people about the Catholic religion.

1267 The Synod of Breslau decrees compulsory ghettos for Jews.

1279 The Synod of Ofen decrees that Christians cannot sell or rent real estate to Jews.

1284 The Council of Nîmes orders Jews to wear a round patch.

1289 The Council of Vienna orders Jews to wear a round patch.

1290 Jews are expelled from England and southern Italy.

1294 Jews in France are restricted to special quarters of the cities.

1294 Jews are expelled from Bern.

1298 The Jews of Röttingen, charged with profaning the Host, are massacred and burned down to the last one.

1320 The "Shepherds' Crusade." A Christian chronicler records: "The shepherds laid siege to all the Jews who had come from all sides to take refuge. . . the Jews defended themselves heroically. . . but their resistance served no purpose, for the shepherds slaughtered a great number of the besieged Jews by smoke and by fire. . . The Jews, realizing that they would not escape alive, preferred to kill themselves. . . They chose one of their number (and) this man put some five hundred of them to death, with their consent. He then descended from the castle tower with the few Jewish children who still remained alive. . . They killed him by quartering. They spared the children, whom they made Catholics by baptism".

1326 The Council of Avignon orders Jews to wear a round patch, but not when traveling.

1347-1350 During the Black Death, Jews are accused of poisoning wells in order to overthrow Christendom, and many thousands of Jews are killed.

1394 The expulsion of Jews from France, begun in 1306, is completed with an edict promulgated on the Jewish Day of Atonement.

1420 Jews are expelled from Mainz by the archbishop.

1434 The Council of Basel decrees that Jews cannot obtain academic degrees.

1456 Pope Callistus III bans all social communication between Christians and Jews.

1462 Jews are expelled from Mainz following a conflict between two candidates for the archepiscopal seat.
1475 The entire Jewish community in Trent, northern Italy, is put to death on the allegation that it had murdered a boy for religious purposes.

1492 After forcing many Jews to be baptized and then referring to them as Marranos (swine), and after an Inquisition in which some 700 Marranos were burnt at the stake for showing signs of "Jewish" taint, Spain expels all Jews from the country.

1553 Cardinal Carafa instigates a public burning of copies of the Talmud and other Jewish religious works in a square in Rome.

This didn't stop after Luther either....

1555-1559 Pope Paul IV restricts Jews to ghettos and decrees that they are to wear distinctive headgear.

1566-1572 Pope St. Pius V expels Jews from the Papal States, allowing some to remain in Rome's ghettos and in Ancona for commercial reasons.

1592-1605 Pope Clement VIII includes a ban on all Jewish books in the expanded Index of Forbidden Books.

1826 Pope Leo XII decrees that Jews are to be confined to ghettos and their property is to be confiscated.

1858 Edgardo Mortara, 6-year old son of a Jewish family in Bologna, is abducted by the papal police and brought to Rome. He had been secretly baptized five years earlier by a domestic servant who thought he was about to die. The parents try to get the boy back, and there is a universal outcry, but Pope Pius IX rejects all petitions submitted to him.

1904 In an interview with Zionist leader Theodor Hertzl, Pope St. Pius X says: "I know, it is disagreeable to see the Turks in possession of our Holy Places. We simply have to put up with it. But to sanction the Jewish wish to occupy these sites, that we cannot do. . . The Jews have not recognized our Lord, therefore we cannot recognize the Jewish people. . . If you go to Palestine and your people settle there, you will find us clergy and churches ready to baptize you all".

1919 Newly independent Poland passes a law making Sunday a compulsory day of rest in Poland. The law is intended to force Jews to observe the Christian sabbath in addition to their own.

1921 Speaking for Pope Benedict XV, a Vatican spokesman informed representatives of the Zionist Movement that they did not wish to assist "the Jewish race, which is permeated with a revolutionary and rebellious spirit" to gain control over the Holy Land.

1925 At a conference of Catholic academicians in Innsbruck, Austria, Bishop Sigismund Waitz calls the Jews an "alien people" who had corrupted England, France, Italy, and especially America.

1933 In a series of Advent sermons, Cardinal Faulhaber of Munich defends the Old Testament against Nazi attacks but emphasizes that it is not his intention to defend contemporary Jewry, saying that a distinction has to be drawn between Jews living before and after the crucifixion of Jesus.

1933 In a pastoral letter on January 23, Bishop Johannes Maria Gföllner of Linz, Austria, declares that while the radical anti-Semitism preached by Nazism is completely incompatible with Christianity, it is the right and duty of Christians to fight and break the harmful influences of Jewry in all areas of modern cultural life. The Austrian episcopate condemns the letter in December for causing racial hatred and conflict.

1933-1939 The general consensus among the Catholic papers in Poland is that Jewish influence should be reduced in all areas of life, that the Polish and Jewish communities should be separated as much as possible, and that the most desirable option is mass emigration of the Jews from Poland. St. Maximilian Kolbe is an active promoter of antisemitic literature.

1935-1936 The Polish Catholic Church gives full support to a government policy encouraging Jewish emigration from Poland.

1937 Austrian bishop Alois Hudal publishes a book defending Nazi racial ideology, supporting laws preventing a flood of Jewish immigrants, and criticizing the "Jewish" press for playing off Austrians against Germans. His book receives the support of Archbishop (later Cardinal) Theodor Innitzer of Vienna.

1939 Josef Tiso, a Catholic priest with a doctorate in theology, became president of independent Slovakia. An extremist hater of Jews, he allied Slovakia with Nazi Germany and, with strong objections from the Vatican, deported most Slovakian Jews to their deaths in the camps. He declared: "It is a Christian action to expel the Jews, because it is for the good of the people, which is thus getting rid of its pests." Monsignor Tiso was executed after the war as a war criminal.

I'm guessing Josiah did not compile this information, but it was rather a cut-and-paste from a web site (I haven't Googled it to find the source, or the accuracy of the information). Why do Catholics resort to bringing up Luther’s later attitudes toward the Jews? Is it because the Roman Catholic Church has a spotless record of defending the Jews and other groups against intolerance and hatred? Are they the watchdogs of all religious intolerance?

The answer: No, they do not posses a spotless record of defending the minority against the majority, nor do they have a spotless record in their relations with the Jews:

“In 1553 all copies of the Talmud found in Rome were burned in public. Pope Paul IV (1555-1559) ordered measures to be taken against the Jews, and twenty-four men and one woman were burned at the stake. On July 12, 1555, he issued a bull that renewed all the oppressive medieval legislation against the Jews, excluding them from professions, limiting their financial and commercial activities, forbidding them to own real estate, and humiliating them by obliging them to wear yellow hats.”[Lewis W. Spitz, The Protestant Reformation (New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1985), 357].

Roman Catholics try to deflect the guilt of their church’s abuses and doctrinal confusion that Luther rightly fought against. Instead of dealing with the blatant abuses, need for reform, and muddled theology inherent in the sixteenth century church, the tactic is to discredit Luther by any means possible. Simply because Luther was wrong on his attitude toward the Jews does not necessarily mean he was wrong on the need for church reform, the proclamation of the gospel of justification by faith alone, or sola scriptura. No bona fide Protestant argues that Luther was an infallible interpreter, divine authority, or immaculately conceived. We realize Luther was a man of many faults. Yet when he proclaims the gospel, he is absolutely correct because the Bible clearly teaches it. When he speaks out against the abuses of the Roman Catholic Church he is right because history shows this was the case. When he makes terrible statements about the Jews, he’s not right (or wrong) because he was somehow a Protestant pope or the originator of Protestantism, he’s wrong because a clear exposition of the Scriptures and solid Christian theology do not support such terrible statements.


I heard back from the person who said On the Jews and Their Lies is a forgery:

"I was told about this by a professor who teaches Reformation history. I'll have to ask him and get back to you, as he only said it briefly in passing. It was only around last year that this article is supposed to have appeared, although it is only a possibility raised by the author, presumably based on some new considerations, rather than it being stated in a 'matter of fact' sort of way (after all, if there were unequivocal proof for this then it would be in the newspapers, I'm sure). I don't even know what language the article was in, so yes, I'll definitely ask. I'm sorry I had forgotten to do so earlier!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Ecumenical Final Frontier?

"The Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes, the Jesuit director of the Vatican Observatory, was quoted as saying the vastness of the universe means it is possible there could be other forms of life outside Earth, even intelligent ones.

"How can we rule out that life may have developed elsewhere?" Funes said. "Just as we consider earthly creatures as 'a brother,' and 'sister,' why should we not talk about an 'extraterrestrial brother'? It would still be part of creation."

In the interview by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Funes said that such a notion "doesn't contradict our faith" because aliens would still be God's creatures. Ruling out the existence of aliens would be like "putting limits" on God's creative freedom, he said.

The interview, headlined "The extraterrestrial is my brother," covered a variety of topics including the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and science, and the theological implications of the existence of alien life.

...The Bible "is not a science book," Funes said, adding that he believes the Big Bang theory is the most "reasonable" explanation for the creation of the universe. The theory says the universe began billions of years ago in the explosion of a single, super-dense point that contained all matter." AP

"Asked about implications that the discovery of alien life might pose for Christian redemption, Father Funes cited the Gospel parable of the shepherd who left his flock of 99 sheep in order to search for the one that was lost.

"We who belong to the human race could really be that lost sheep, the sinners who need a pastor," he said.

"God became man in Jesus in order to save us. So if there are also other intelligent beings, it's not a given that they need redemption. They might have remained in full friendship with their creator," he said.

Father Funes went on to say that Christ's incarnation and sacrifice was a unique and unrepeatable event. But he said he was sure that, if needed, God's mercy would be offered to aliens, as it was to humans." Catholic News

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"Luther's Own Statements" By Henry O'Connor

"Only a year before his death, Luther published a famous work against the Pope. This work is so satanical in its title, so satanical in its beginning, so satanical in its almost every page, so super-satanical in its conclusion, that it could have only been written by a man with a thoroughly satanical spirit. It is marvelous how anyone should have been able to fill one hundred and fifty-seven printed pages with such a number of satanical expressions that must have been borrowed from the very depths of Hell"- Henry O'Connor, commenting on Luther's book "Against the Popery of Rome, Instituted by the Devil"

Recently a Catholic blogger stopped by and asked me the following:

"I recently came across this 62-pg booklet about the extent to which one can rightly call Luther a reformer commissioned by Almighty God. I was just wondering if you had read it, and if you have or would like to make any comments regarding it."

He provided a link to this booklet, which is found in three parts:

Part one Part two Part three

What was so ironic is that as I read his question, I had this 62 page booklet in front of me. Actually, my copy is a 62 page book entitled Luther's Own Statements Concerning His Teaching and its Results Taken Exclusively From the Earliest and Best Editions of Luther's German and Latin Works by Henry O'Connor, S.J. My copy is the third edition published by Benziger Brothers (New York and St. Louis). I've had this book for a few years now. Before the advent of Google books, I collected books about Luther by Roman Catholics. This book was mentioned by a Roman Catholic web-page, and I was able to track down my own copy, which was not easy, nor cheap. Now, the Internet has pretty much put an end to tracking these old books down.

The book is an old small anthology of Luther quotes, peppered with vilifying commentary from O’Connor, a Roman Catholic. The author claims to have compiled the quotes from the original sources “Nearly two-thirds of the matter contained in this pamphlet is taken from the original editions of Luther’s own Works, as published in Wittenberg, under the very eye of the Reformer of Germany himself”(p. 3) He says “I have taken special care not to quote anything, that would have a different meaning, if read with the full context”(p.5).

This book belongs to the vilifying anti-Luther tradition that I've often commented about. You can read about the earlier hostile Roman Catholic evaluations of Luther in my paper, The Roman Catholic Perspective of Martin Luther (Part One). Previous to the 1900’s, a Catholic tradition of criticism based more on attacking Luther the person rather than Luther the honest theologian was the common method. Men like Cochlaeus, Denifle, Grisar, Ganss, O’Hare, and O'Connor, wrote extensively against Luther. They presented him as a child of the devil, a drunk, a lustful sexual deviant infected with syphilis, a liar, ignorant of correct theology, a manic-depressive, the creator of a theological system to justify a sinful lifestyle, a prideful blasphemer, a promoter of divorce and polygamy, and a host of other charges. During the 1900’s, a tradition of a more balanced Catholic criticism emerged. These Catholic scholars desired to understand the theological issues raised by Luther rather than setting up vilifying caricatures. Luther was no longer viewed as Satan’s son, but rather as a sincere religious man and an honest theologian. Sure, Luther was still wrong, but he wasn’t wrong because he was the evil blaspheming son of the devil. He actually had some good points, and was misunderstood by earlier Catholic criticisms. To read my overview of the more balanced Catholic opinions on Luther, see my paper: The Roman Catholic Perspective of Martin Luther (Part Two).

Books like O'Connor's received praise from Roman Catholics. Here is a link to one such positive review..."The work should be in every priest's library, so as to be at hand for immediate reference."

We find ourselves now in the age of the Internet. The works of destructive Catholic scholars, most of which had been long out of print, now find a new voice, and a loud voice. Their charges against Luther the person have flourished, while the Catholic works of the 20th Century are often completely ignored. Catholic “converts” resurrect the earlier destructive Luther scholarship. The new Catholic converts use the witnessing techniques of Protestantism, zealously using history in their efforts to evangelize. It's not uncommon for these Catholics to refer to Ganss or Patrick O’Hare, or to at least lift Luther citations from their works. The Internet apologists freely cite English translations of Luther with German or Latin references. It's obvious from this that Luther isn’t being read in context, but rather these earlier destructive critical texts are being used. As Protestants, they formerly rallied against the historical validity of the Catholic Church. Now as Catholics, they attack the historical validity of the Reformation.

I've only briefly mentioned O'Connor's book over the years. I never focused on it with much depth because it had not found a voice in cyber-space. Now that it's available, I'll probably comment more on it. I would immediately point out this book is on the same level as that put out by Father Patrick O'Hare (The Facts About Luther). These men are quite convinced that Luther was a truly evil man in league with Satan. These earlier Catholic writers are not like the current ecumenically minded Luther-friendly Catholic writers we find here and there today. No, they are quite convinced of Luther's evil, and attribute anything they can dig up to prove his malicious intent and utter wickedness.

It would be hard for me to imagine any serious current Catholic writer using this book as a resource in writing about Luther (with the exception, if they were presenting a history of Catholic Luther scholarship). I guess in some alternate reality somewhere, a Catholic apologist may refer to it as a primary reference in their work critiquing Luther. Of course, this would be ridiculous, as it isn't a work to be used as a primary source. It's a quote book with vilifying commentary. If you find a Catholic writer using this book as a primary reference, this should tip you off immediately that the material being put forth should not be trusted.

O'Connor boldly declares Luther to be in league with Satan: "A man who Pretends to be a Reformer is sent either by God or by Satan" (p. 61). Earlier in the book, O'Connor presents an entire section linking Luther, and Luther's teachings to the Devil: "Luther received the full and unqualified approval of the Devil for these new doctrines. It was the Devil who spoke in favour of the new doctrine of justification by faith alone, and against Mass, Mary, and the Saints" (p.18).

He argues Luther was a liar, a hypocrite, one who wrote a "Satanical book", it is Satan that speaks through Luther, Luther has a "Satanical hatred of the Pope," he was responsible for the deaths of 100,000 peasants; where Luther's teaching is accepted the sick, poor, and children are neglected, and drunkenness spreads like a deluge. And, these are only a few of the the charges and attacks against Luther.

Many of Luther's quotes are taken out of context, or spun to make him the worst possible person. For instance, O’Connor delves immediately into Luther’s “sin boldly” comment (preface). He says

“I am of the opinion that, if we merely consider the words just quoted, it would be an exaggeration to say that Luther ordered his disciple to sin, or that he even positively advised him to do so. To my mind the words mean: ‘As far as the certainty of our own salvation is concerned, it does not matter one bit whether we sin or not, as long as we put our trust in Christ.’ Thus whereas Christ preaches hatred of every sin, Luther proclaims indifference toward every kind of sin, with the only exception of unbelief.”

O’Connor begins well enough: Luther did not order Melanchthon to sin. But beyond that, his interpretation derails immediately. The rest of his statement shows an obvious confusion of Luther’s understanding of faith and works. It indeed does matter “whether we sin or not” because (as Luther repeatedly taught) true faith shows itself by its good works. Both Christ and Luther preached a hatred of sin. Luther never proclaimed an “indifference toward every kind of sin.” O’Connor concludes, “Therefore, Luther, the self-constituted Lawgiver of the sixteenth century, allows and recommends what God the supreme Lawgiver of all ages, past, present, and future, forbids.” O’Connor sees Luther as fundamentally teaching lawlessness.

O'Connor then quotes an obscure letter of Luther's to Jerome Weller, and comments that "Luther not only allows, but even wishes his friend to sin..." Here we find O'Connor ignoring Luther's major and vast writings on the relationship of faith and works. For information on Luther's letter to Weller, see my link here.

In books like O'Connor's, an accurate picture of Luther is not being put forth.When I have the time, I'll put forth some more quotes and commentary from O'Connor. With all the good books currently available from both Catholics and Protestants on Luther, one wonders why anyone would give O'Connor's book even a minute of seriousness. It certainly is not a primary reference, but belongs as an artifact of Catholic scholarship that has largely been abandoned.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Hypocrisy of Catholic Answers

I had to break my hiatus to share two interesting campaigns by Catholic Answers.

It appears from the two campaigns that the Catholic Church has a problem: the majority of Catholics are ignorant of their faith and susceptible to a variety of prey including Mormons, liberal Catholics, homosexuals and the dreaded “anti-Catholics”. In fact, according to Catholic Answers, the Mormons have been quite successful in gaining Catholic converts:

“Many people have been doing just that—especially Catholics. In fact, in recent years the majority of converts to Mormonism have been Catholics.

It makes sense, when you think about it.

Catholics are targeted by Mormons because many Catholics can be swayed easily by Mormon arguments. That’s because many Catholics don’t know their own faith.”

...With all the talk in the media about Mormonism, more and more people are curious about Mormonism and are visiting Mormon web sites.

But these web sites are deceptive. They do not explain the true beliefs of Mormonism. They try to convince readers that Mormonism is a Christian faith—in fact, the true Christian faith!

As one Mormon web site put it, “Mormonism is the religion most consistent with biblical Christianity. We do not apologize for our beliefs. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the only true Christian church on the face of the earth.”

The problem is … people fall for it—especially Catholics.

In fact, Mormons count Catholics as their main target.

Over half of the current converts to Mormonism are Catholics.

Mormons target Catholics who don’t know their faith.

Sadly, that’s the majority of our fellow Catholics. They’ve been nearly defenseless against Mormon propaganda.

...With our new special report on Mormonism, we can “inoculate” Catholics from the half-truths and skewed history presented by Mormon missionaries.

By getting this report into the hands of Catholics all across America, we can bolster the faith of Catholics and keep them from leaving the Church."

-Why Catholics are easy targetsfor Mormon evangelists

Toward the end of the article, some interesting facts are mentioned:

“FACT: Each year, the Mormon church baptizes 300,000 converts. (That’s 800 a day—or another million every three years.) Half are former Catholics.”

...P.S. The Mormon religion is not what is styles itself to be. Even our Protestant brethren agree that Mormonism is non-Christian. And yet, Mormonism is flourishing in America.

Mormons especially target poorly-catechized Catholics. (Worldwide, Catholics make up half the converts to Mormonism.)”

If those facts are true, that’s a loss of half a million Catholics over three years. I’m too busy right now to look up membership statistics, but that seems like a pretty good bleed just to Mormonism alone. And it must be a concerning loss, for Catholic Answers is willing to appeal to the opinion of their “Protestant brethren” for support against Mormonism while throwing this same “brethren” under the bus in the next campaign.

The next threat to the ignorant Catholic masses (and the second need for an “inoculation”) is the “one-two punch” of homosexual activists and “radical anti-Catholics” at World Youth Day:

“And it’s what our Catholic youth will be facing when they go to see the Pope at World Youth Day in July.

In fact, our Catholic youth are facing a “one-two punch.”

On one hand, there will be the homosexual activists promoting the “gay rights” agenda, and then there will be the radical anti-Catholics—who always descend upon World Youth Day like birds of prey.

...How do I know this?

Because this is exactly what the anti-Catholics have done at every World Youth Day for fifteen years now—since 1993.

They print slick propaganda pieces designed to look like Catholic literature, if you judge by the covers. They hand these pamphlets out by the thousands to unsuspecting Catholic youth.

But inside is the worst anti-Catholic propaganda you’ve ever seen.

Using clever but deceptive arguments for which the anti-Catholics are famous, these slick propaganda pieces get the reader to doubt many of our most important Catholic beliefs and practices,”

...This started in 1993, in Denver, Colorado. We were there—and we created a special little booklet about the Catholic faith, designed to inoculate our Catholic youth against anti-Catholic propaganda.

...Any time you have swarms of Catholic students in one place, there are bound to be tens-of- thousands that aren’t well-catechized and don’t have a proper understanding of the issues.

Thus, they’re highly vulnerable to slick propaganda—not only from anti-Catholic Protestants and dissident Catholics, but this time from the radical homosexual activists too.

...P.S. With your help, we can thwart the anti-Catholics and the homosexual activists at World Youth Day—and help make this event a glorious one for the Church and for the salvation of souls.”

-Sydney or Sodom?

Note the hypocrisy of Catholic Answers when comparing the two “P.S.”s of the two campaigns. In the first campaign Protestants are brethren whose opinion is consulted, in the second they are “anti-Catholics” with “slick propaganda” that must be thwarted. I have seen this conflicting attitude many times so it is worth pointing out.

In both articles, Catholic Answers is looking for donations as they “simply don’t have that much money right now. In fact, we don’t really have any of it”. So the issues for Catholic Answers and the Church seem to be manifold: an large population of Catholics ignorant of their faith, a slow bleed of Catholics to Mormonism, the continued threat of homosexuals, liberals, and Protestants, and a lack of funds to do much about any of it. While I do lament Catholic youth being duped by people with liberal sexual agendas and Catholics falling into the further apostasy of Mormonism, I am glad to see Catholic Answers reveal their hypocritical motivations in sometimes calling Protestants their brethren. Protestants who are sympathetic to Catholicism should be paying attention to this.

Addition: I highlighted another Catholic Answer's campaign against "zealous anti-Catholics" a few months back.

(back to obscurity)

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

A wish for good luck, and patience!

... to Turretinfan, who has taken up the dubious challenge to debate the Catholic Champion, Matthew Bellisario, (much like one of the world's foremost Bible scholars) on the topic of Sola Scriptura, on his debate blog.

Just to give you a taste of what he's facing, take a look at what passes for exegesis from the Champion. I have not looked up this quote; I will be answering the Champion on his own grounds. He is attempting to make a citation from Hippolytus regarding the BVMary being the Ark.

He begins:
Hippolytus, on his commentary on
Psalm 22 and 23...
"The Lord is my Shepherd."

And, moreover, the ark made of imperishable wood was the Saviour Himself. For by this was signified the imperishable and incorruptible tabernacle of (the Lord) Himself, which gendered no corruption of sin. For the sinner, indeed, makes this confession: "My wounds stank, and were corrupt, because of my foolishness." But the Lord was without sin, made of imperishable wood, as regards His humanity; that is, of the virgin and the Holy Ghost inwardly, and outwardly of the word of God, like an ark overlaid with purest gold.
It was then pointed out here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here that the very first sentence of his own citation defeats his assertion, namely:

the ark made of imperishable wood was ***the Saviour Himself***
(Emphasis mine.) (Yes, really.)
Unbelievably, the Champion continues to contend that the citation stands.
Apparently in the Champion's world, these two statements are interchangeable, or perhaps the 1st one actually means the 2nd, if only my blasted private interpretation weren't getting in the way:
1) the ark made of imperishable wood was the Saviour Himself
2) the ark made of imperishable wood was Mary
If this is the level of discourse and "exegesis" we can expect from the Champion in his upcoming debate, I pity TurretinFan and will pray fervently that his sanity not flee screaming from him.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Today on Iron Sharpens Iron- ERIC SVENDSEN continues talking about: "MARY: Her Role & Status in the New Testament & Roman Catholicism."Listen Live to Iron Sharpens Iron Monday through Friday 3-4 PM via live-streaming on the Internet or in New York and Connecticut on WNYG 1440AM Christian Radio. Tune in now to WNYG using Real Player. PLEASE JOIN ISI ON THE AIR as a part of the live broadcast by CALLING IN WITH YOUR OWN QUESTIONS at:1-631-321-WNYG (9694) Monday through Friday, 3PM - 4PM.

Part one of Dr. Svendsen's interview can be heard here.

Part two of Dr. Svendsen's interview can be found here.

ERIC SVENDSEN, Evangelical apologist, debater, author and director of New Testament Research Ministries , will returns for PART 2 of a discussion on his groundbreaking, 334-page workhis groundbreaking, 334-page work WHO IS MY MOTHER?: The Role & Status of Mary in the New Testament & Roman Catholicism .

Renowned Biblical Counselor and scholar Dr. Jay Adams said of Eric's masterpiece: "Until this book there has been no definitive response to the many Roman Catholic myths concerning Mary. Here, at last, anyone looking for it may find more than enough help. Arguments, no matter how outlandish, are considered and refuted; every biblical reference is carefully examined and exegeted, and a devastating (but calm) counter-argument is presented. The book is scholarly, but not difficult to read. I highly commend it!"

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Quotable Luther #2

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 a long time I strenuously resisted those who wanted my books, or more correctly my confused lucubrations, published. I did not want the labors of the ancients to be buried by my new works and the reader kept from reading them. Then, too, by God’s grace a great many systematic books now exist, among which the Loci communes of Philip excel, with which a theologian and a bishop can be beautifully and abundantly prepared to be mighty in preaching the doctrine of piety, especially since the Holy Bible itself can now be had in nearly every language. But my books, as it happened, yes, as the lack of order in which the events transpired made it necessary, are accordingly crude and disordered chaos, which is now not easy to arrange even for me.

Persuaded by these reasons, I wished that all my books were buried in perpetual oblivion, so that there might be room for better ones. But the boldness and bothersome perseverance of others daily filled my ears with complaints that it would come to pass, that if I did not permit their publication in my lifetime, men wholly ignorant of the causes and the time of the events would nevertheless most certainly publish them, and so out of one confusion many would arise. Their boldness, I say, prevailed and so I permitted them to be published. At the same time the wish and command of our most illustrious Prince, Elector, etc., John Frederick was added. He commanded, yes, compelled the printers not only to print, but to speed up the publication.

But above all else, I beg the sincere reader, and I beg for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ himself, to read those things judiciously, yes, with great commiseration. May he be mindful of the fact that I was once a monk and a most enthusiastic papist when I began that cause. I was so drunk, yes, submerged in the pope’s dogmas, that I would have been ready to murder all, if I could have, or to co-operate willingly with the murderers of all who would take but a syllable from obedience to the pope. So great a Saul was I, as are many to this day. I was not such a lump of frigid ice in defending the papacy as Eck and his like were, who appeared to me actually to defend the pope more for their own belly’s sake than to pursue the matter seriously. To me, indeed, they seem to laugh at the pope to this day, like Epicureans! I pursued the matter with all seriousness, as one, who in dread of the last day, nevertheless from the depth of my heart wanted to be saved.

So you will find how much and what important matters I humbly conceded to the pope in my earlier writings, which I later and now hold and execrate as the worst blasphemies and abomination. You will, therefore, sincere reader, ascribe this error, or, as they slander, contradiction to the time and my inexperience. At first I was all alone and certainly very inept and unskilled in conducting such great affairs. For I got into these turmoils by accident and not by will or intention. I call upon God himself as witness." [LW 34: 327-328].