Thursday, July 31, 2008

Debate: Did Martin Luther Mistranslate Romans 3:28?

Recently I was challenged by a Roman Catholic ("Tim MD") to defend my blog article about Luther using the word "alone" in his translation of Romans 3:28. Below in its entirety is the debate. The original discussion can be found here.

Format: 1000 word opening statements. 750 word rebuttals. 500 word rebuttals. 250 word rebuttals. 200 word closing statements.

Opening Statement (James Swan)

Many Roman Catholics criticize the accuracy of Luther’s translation of Romans 3:28, “That a man is justified apart from the works of law, through faith only.” Luther’s integrity and sincerity are also vilified as the impetus twisting his translation. I will argue Luther honestly sought to translate the verse into German according to the implications of the context. I will also argue Catholic criticisms on this issue typically employ double standards. When evaluated using Roman Catholic authority paradigms and historical standards, modern Catholic charges brought against Luther do not indict him, but rather allow him the freedom to translate the verse in the manner he did.

In the New Testament, Paul contrasted the works of Law with faith (Galatians 2:16). Logically, the Mosaic Law is the highest law ever presented, coming directly from God. Paul states the Law is just and good (Romans 7:12). The works of Law though were unable to justify (Galatians 2:16). Reasonably, if the works of the highest Law are unable to contribute to justification, works on a lower scale will not suffice either (for example, works like penance). By contrast, Romans 3:28 presents the way of justification: “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.” Paul’s contrast between working and believing is presented clearly in Romans 4:4-5, “Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.” Romans 3:21-26 clearly states Paul’s antithesis between faith and works. Romans 4:16 assures us that justification is by faith that it may be in accordance with grace. If salvation is by grace, it cannot possibly be of works (Romans 11:6), any works!

Luther brought this exegetical understanding to his translation of Romans 3:28. His intention, a perfectly allowable intention, was to translate the Bible into an easily comprehended form of popular German. Hence, his translation at times employed forms of dynamic equivalence, as many translations do. Word-for-word translations can be cumbersome and awkward, and not appealing to average readers. Rather, many translations seek to maximize readability with a minimum of verbal distortion by translating according to “concept.” In translating Romans, Luther tried to present the “impact” of what the original Greek had on its first readers, and to present the German style and idiom equivalent for his readers.

Commenting on Paul’s argument in Romans 3, Charles Hodge stated: “If by faith, it is not of works; and if not of works, there can be no room for boasting, for boasting is the assertion of personal merit. From the nature of the case, if justification is by faith, it must be by faith alone. Luther’s version, therefore, ‘allein durch den glauben,’ is fully justified by the context.”

An honest translator, Luther freely admitted the word “only” does not appear in the original Greek at Romans 3:28. He never sought to have the word added into any ancient manuscript. He states, “I know very well that in the original text this word does not occur. Nevertheless it belongs in any good German translation… Whenever we place two things in opposition and want to make clear that we acknowledge or accept the one and reject the other, we use the word ‘only.’ ‘The farmer brings no money but corn only.’ ‘No, at the moment I really have no money, but only grain.’ ‘I have only eaten, but not yet drunk.’ ‘Have you only written, without rereading?’ This is the form which we use in countless expressions: over against ‘not’ or ‘none’ we have the word ‘only,’ to make the contrast clear.”

Luther approached the work of a translator honestly. If Luther was attempting to radically distort the New Testament, his “doctored” work failed in many ways. Luther did not add the word “alone” to Galatians 2:16, nor did he remove “alone” from James 2. Even in his revision of the Latin Vulgate, Luther left the Latin of Romans 3:28 as it was, because the contrast was apparent.

If Luther was attempting to introduce a radical mistranslation into church history he likewise failed. Luther mentions others before him translated Romans 3:28 as he did (for example, Ambrose and Augustine). The Roman Catholic writer Joseph Fitzmyer verified Luther’s claim, and also presented quite an extensive list of those previous to Luther doing likewise. Even some Catholic versions of the New Testament also translated Romans 3:28 as did Luther. The Nuremberg Bible (1483), “nur durch den glauben” and the Italian Bibles of Geneva (1476) and of Venice (1538) say “per sola fede.” It is entirely possible Luther’s understanding of “faith alone” differs from those before him, but that is not the issue. The issue is whether or not the thrust of Romans 3:28 implies “alone.” Others previous to Luther may have differed in theological interpretation, yet saw the thrust of the words implied “alone.” Hence, as a translator, Luther holds company with others, and cannot be charged with a mistranslation. If he’s guilty of such a charge, so are many before him.

But the entire Catholic crusade against Luther on this issue is entirely unjustified when evaluated by their own paradigms. To my knowledge, there was not any official dogmatic statement prohibiting Luther from either translating the Bible, or translating Romans 3:28 as he did. There was not an infallible interpretation of Romans 3 during Luther’s translation work. Until such dogmatic declarations, those throughout church history previous to such cannot be held anathema for their positions or interpretations of Biblical passages. Further, there wasn’t a defined Roman position on Justification previous to Luther. That is, Catholics cannot even indict Luther’s understanding of justification, because previous to Trent, there was not “one” Catholic understanding of justification. Therefore, Catholics who criticize Luther for not having “authority” to translate as he did forget their own Church allowed Luther to do so without him posthumously falling under an anathema.

Opening Statement (Tim MD)

Martin Luther freely admitted that the word “alone” was not in the original text of Romans3:28 and in fact, he vehemently defended his addition. His addition, “allein” brought Romans3:28 into direct conflict with St. James who depicted justification “NOT being by faith alone”. Pre-Luther, James and Paul were not in conflict, but Luther’s “allein” brought them into DIRECT conflict.

In altering Romans3:28, Luther not only denied James but several other Scriptural verses as well: Acts10:34-35,Mt19:16-21,Jn14:14-21,2Cor5:10,Jn5:29,Lk6:35-38, among many others.

The question at hand is was what Luther did right or wrong from a Christian perspective? The ramifications of this are extremely significant for Christianity. As such we should list possible reasons as to why Luther did could have been right.

There is of course, the possibility that the context of the verse itself and the rest of Scripture demanded the addition of that word, however, this would have required some kind of general agreement at the time within German Christianity, in order that it be a valid argument. In fact there was NO such agreement at the time and there is none now. At the time, Luther was soundly criticized by the Church, and today less than 1/3 of Christianity believes in any of the various versions of “Salvation by Faith Alone” and does not “see” this doctrine as being a Scriptural Teaching. Furthermore, IF, as Luther proposed, Salvation by Faith Alone was so clear in the REST of Scripture, one is forced to wonder why the addition of the word “alone” was even necessary

There is also the possibility that the German language dictated that that word be used in order to fully convey the meaning of Paul. This would be a valid argument except that, in fact, there are several Protestant German Bibles, such as the Elberfelder and the Hoffnung fur Alle that do NOT contain the word “allein” and so we must conclude that the translation into German did NOT dictate the addition of that word. After all, there are plenty of German Protestants who read these Scriptures and conclude that the Bible teaches Salvation by Faith Alone WITHOUT the addition of that word. Of course, the Die Bibel (Luther) still contains it but the fact that not all German Bibles today include that word is proof that the word is NOT necessary or even desirable, even within German Protestantism.

Luther’s actual writings indicate that he believed that the context of Romans 3:28 and the rest of Scripture DID demand the addition of the word alone. He also maintained that the translation into German DID require that addition and also claimed, IN WRITING, that he was Spirit led to add it.

Given that neither of the potential reasons for Luther’s addition are in reality valid, we need to determine why he DID add it in spite of a huge amount of criticism that resulted.

First of all, Luther had a strange criteria by which he determined what should be considered an “Inspired Text”. Because he strongly believed in Salvation by Faith Alone, he “determined” that any text which clearly denied that “gospel”, could NOT be canonical. With this self-made criteria, he made many famous statements criticizing or questioning the inspiration of several NT books (James, Hebrews, Jude and Revelations). So, rather than accepting Scripture that had been accepted by the Church over 1100 years earlier, he held up each text to HIS heretical beliefs and judged it by THAT!

This is the kind of authority that Luther presumed himself to have. It is VERY similar to that “taken” by virtually every heretical group over the previous 1500 years. In addition, Luther was not at all bashful about claiming that authority for HIMSELF PERSONALLY, in the exact same manner as did every other leader of a heresy:

“I am confident that it is not my word, but Christ’s word, so my mouth is his who utters the words.”

Under Luther’s “guidance”, any Christian who “feels” like he is “being led” by the Spirit, can proclaim (to anyone who will hear) that HIS interpretation of Scripture is superior to theirs. When this heretical belief is carried to it’s logical conclusion, that same Christian can ALSO “determine”, under Inspiration, that certain books, passages or verses are not inspired or were later additions placed in Scripture by unscrupulous translators. While Luther granted this “right” to all Christians, he SOMEHOW denied it to anyone who disagreed with him, especially Catholics, thereby setting a very well followed precedent, but of course, somehow not admitting that the “giving” of the authority to “interpret” was REALLY only granted to those who agreed with him.

Luther’s Open Letter on Translating indicates his thinking on these issues.

“....if I, Martin Luther, had thought that all of the Papists together were capable of translating even one passage of Scripture correctly and well, I would have gathered up enough humility to ask for their aid and assistance in translating the NT into German.”

I think that Luther is admitting that he had some issues with humility.

“.....if your Papist wishes to make a great fuss about the word alone, say this to him: ‘Dr. Martin Luther will have it so and he says here that a papist and an *** are the same thing.”

Here we have Luther demonstrating his humility again and also the Christian charity necessary to be considered a Christian leader.

“I will go even further in my bragging: I can exegete the Psalms and the prophets and they cannot. I can translate and they cannot. I can read Holy Scriptures ...................”

My Daddy always told me that is wasn’t bragging if it was a fact, but in this case, was it? Are we to believe that Luther, that ONE MAN, was ABOVE ALL of his detractors combined, or do we see here a combination of emotional “attributes” that could NOT HELP but lead a portion of Christianity into a that which is primarily based on ‘feelings’ of surety of either personal or denominational purity of doctrine.

James Swan- First Rebuttal (750 words)

The use of the word “addition” by my opponent lacks precision. In his opening paragraph his assertions can be read to imply Luther made an “addition” to an original Greek copy of Romans. This is false, and demonstrates needed definitional clarity of terms.

Luther used “allein” to express a concept inherent in the original text. This is basic translating methodology, employed by both Protestant and Catholic exegetes, and a technique not anathematized by Rome either during Luther’s time or ours. Arguments were not put forth proving the concept was not exegetically inherent in Romans 3:28 or Paul’s overall theology.

It is also incorrect to assert the basic Gospel message is not perspicuous in the original Greek of Paul’s writings because Luther used “allein” in translation. The force of the Greek presents the contrast.

My opponent noted Luther’s theological difficulties with James as another example of Luther’s mis-translation method. He didn’t mention though these difficulties were fueled by historical concerns, concerns that also plagued many who came before (and also contemporaries) of Luther. It was Luther’s mistaken historical notion (from errors recorded in Church history via particular Fathers) that James was a second century Christian and not an apostle or eyewitness. This led him to interpret James incorrectly. It is also a violation of a Roman Catholic paradigm to chastise Luther for rejecting James previous to Trent’s dogmatic declaration on the contents of the canon. Previous to dogmatic declaration, theologians cannot be held accountable for incorrect views.

In terms of the accuracy of translation of Luther’s Bible, James was translated and included. The word “alone” (and the concept of “alone”) found in James 2:16 was not removed. Thus, there was no “conflict” in Luther’s Bible. The text was translated accurately in both Romans and James. My opponent also listed a number of verses “denied by Luther” demonstrating absolutely no understanding of Luther’s theological construct of “faith and works” and the relationship of “Law and Gospel.” Luther actually used the same paradigm of understanding the relationship of faith and works that I believe correctly interprets James. Yet, he did not apply this understanding to James, because he was convinced an apostle did not write the book.

My opponent concedes there was no “general agreement at the time within German Christianity” as to the interpretation of Romans 3:28, but stops short of the full truth that within Romanism no dogmatic interpretation of the verse existed in Luther’s time or before, thus allowing theologians the freedom to interpret or translate the verse as desired. One can read Origen using the verse to describe the “faith alone” of the thief on the cross, Ambrosiaster noting justification by faith without the works of the law, and Theodore of Mopsuestia noting Paul does not mean justification “simply without the law.”

It was asserted that since many German Bibles do not include “allein” in Romans 3:28, the word is not necessary to convey the meaning of the text. My argument has never been the word is necessary to convey the meaning of the verse, only that within the realm of translating the word is justified to convey the meaning of Paul’s intent, and Luther’s translation was within the realm of reason. Luther himself explained “allein” is used so that other words will be “clearer and more complete.” Luther is not saying that without “allein” there is no clarity in the verse, but that the meaning implied is “clearer.” Luther sought his translation to be “clear and vigorous,” and the use of “allein” certainly fulfills this ideal. He notes further on, “Paul's meaning, urgently require[s] and demand[s]” the word because Christians are “justified by faith in Christ without any works of the Law.” Let us not forget why a vigorous translation of Romans 3:28 was needed. Luther states, “The dangers confronting the people also compel it, for they cannot continue to hang onto works and wander away from faith, losing Christ, especially at this time when they have been so accustomed to works they have to be pulled away from them by force.” This provoked Luther to conclude, “It is for these reasons that it is not only right but also necessary to say it as plainly and forcefully as possible: ‘Faith alone saves without works!’ ”

My opponent states Luther “claimed, IN WRITING, that he was Spirit led to add” “allein” to Romans 3:28. I don’t recall such a statement, and ask for further clarification. Luther stated his imperfection as a translator in his Open Letter On Translating.

Tim MD- First Rebuttal (750 words)

It is NOT my intention to debate the relative merit of the various conflicting Protestant concepts of Salvation vs. their Catholic counterpart since that debate could consume another 500 years and countless trillions of words without resolution. My intent is to clearly explain why Luther’s addition of “allein”, or at least the alteration of the definition of “faith”, was wrong from a Christian standpoint.

My opponent suggested that Luther’s addition of the word “allein” fell within existing Catholic “standards”. At the time, there was only one standard for such things and it was Catholic. Luther, having already caused his excommunication was already OUTSIDE of those “standards” even before he began his translation. His insistence regarding his authority to do so was only another demonstration of his heresy. If my opponent’s statement were true, it would be necessary to believe that the Church had a “policy” allowing excommunicated heretics to “adjust” the meaning of Scripture to promote their heretical beliefs and publish them in order to inflict their “extra-Inspired” concepts on an unsuspecting public.

Johann Eck told Luther at Worms, 10 months AFTER the Papal bull condemning 41 articles of Luther’s beliefs as being heretical, 5 months AFTER his formal excommunication, and long before Luther began to translate.

“Your plea to be heard from Scripture is the one always used by heretics.......Martin, how can you assume that you are the only one to understand the sense of Scripture? Would you put your judgment above that of so many famous men and claim that you know more than they all? You have no right to call into question the most holy orthodox faith.........”

From Luther’s actions, and his quotes from my last post, clearly Luther had a VERY high and unrealistic opinion of his own “interpretations”, EVEN when it meant disagreement with EVERYONE, no matter their “qualifications”. EVEN before he began HIS Personal NT Translation, Luther had already been rebuked by the Catholic Church, the only authority at the time.

My opponent has already admitted that Luther “brought his exegetical understanding of Salvation to his translation” but I maintain that it was neither the correct understanding nor the Historic understanding, just as he had been told. He also stated that Luther should be given credit for not seeking to add the “word” into any ancient manuscript”. I’m not sure how he would have done that exactly but this seems to be digging pretty deeply to find things to praise Luther for.

It has been claimed that Ambrose and Augustine both agreed with Luther’s concept of Romans3:28. This is highly debatable. These “Battles of the Fathers” are quite lengthy and do not lend themselves to this format.

As for the other two Bible versions mentioned, their translators did NOT define faith as did since Luther was the FIRST to EVER define faith as BELIEF ONLY. Given that, there is no viable reason to presume that the Church would have objected to those “translations” given that Salvation by “belief only” had never been connected to Romans 3:28 or any other Scripture. It is when faith is misidentified AND “alone” is added to Romans3:28 that the problems for mankind arise. I would personally have NO problem with the word “alone” in 3:28 AS LONG as Faith is properly defined.

In 1918-1919, Luther made at least 8 written statements that he would conform his beliefs to those of the Church, obviously showing that he understood the serious nature of the road that he was on. However, at “crunch time”, he went back on his word, obviously preferring to be excommunicated rather than openly admitting that he was wrong. This is the nature of heretics throughout the ages.

Luther defended his “correction” to the traditional understanding of Romans 3:28 because he was SURE that he was right and everybody else was wrong. His belief in HIMSELF far exceeded his belief in everybody else put together. Now of course there is the possibility that Luther (ALONE) was right about everything, but one MUST recognize the pattern with Luther as having already been played out with hundreds of previous heresies.

The history of Luther on this issue is only one of hundreds of examples of Christian schisms and heresies. A man, believing that he knows better than ANYONE, proclaims his authority to define God’s Word and will not be corrected. Not only was Luther a prime example of heresy and how it proceeds, it was also the blueprint for all of the tens of thousands of internal Protestant schisms.

James Swan- Second Rebuttal (500 words)

My opponent violated the rules of debate- adding two extra words by deleting two spaces. He also made an historical blunder, placing Luther in the wrong century. These points are nitpicking as compared to his clear defeat over the formal aspect of this debate: that including the word “alone” in a translation of Romans 3:28 is acceptable. He states,

I would personally have NO problem with the word ‘alone’ in 3:28 AS LONG as Faith is properly defined.”

Tim’s statement of admitted private judgment here is quite ironic- there was no official dogma from the Roman Catholic Church when Luther did his translating stating anyone who translated the Bible must have a particular defined view of “faith.” There was not a dogmatic definition of “faith” as it related to justification available during Luther’s work of translation. Thus I wonder which standard was being appealed to when Tim stated his purpose as showing Luther’s “alteration of the definition of ‘faith.’” Tim continually steps beyond the bounds of Roman dogma and puts forth his own standards by which to judge methods of Biblical translation and theological terms during the 16th Century. Clearly this is inconsistent methodology from someone repeatedly charging Luther with reliance on private judgment rather than adhering to Romanist standards.

His admission also contradicts points made in his opening statement and first rebuttal, that the word “alone” if used, is an “addition.” He has yet to define this term as he’s using it, and, in fact, also refers to Luther’s use of “allein” as a “correction.” I would suggest that Tim uses various terms without definition in order to obfuscate the obvious: Luther translated the passage within acceptable linguistic boundaries.

He has also avoided defining other important terms with precision, thus giving less cogency to his argumentation. For instance, in response to my reference to the authoritative dogmatic standards of Rome, Tim MD states, “At the time, there was only one standard for such things and it was Catholic. Luther, having already caused his excommunication was already OUTSIDE of those ‘standards’ even before he began his translation.” Since the term “standard” lacks any definitional substance, his words are merely rhetoric. What were the standards of Rome on translating, justification, and Romans 3:28 during Luther’s lifetime? There weren’t any. Tim also states Luther’s understanding of Romans 3 and Paul’s theology “was neither the correct understanding nor the Historic understanding.” Yet, there weren’t any dogmatic statements by which to judge Luther. Tim states Rome doesn’t let heretics “ ‘adjust’ the meaning of Scripture.” What he doesn’t mention is Rome has very few infallibly defined verses, and Romans 3:28 wasn’t one of them when Luther did his translation.

Papal Bulls are not deemed infallible. Even Eck said of the Bull (mentioned by my opponent) that it contained nothing “Pauline,” and that it was written by people who did not understand Luther’s points, suffering defects. Thus, even the standards my opponent says placed Luther outside the church contained error, thus not trustworthy for certainty.

Tim MD- Second Rebuttal (500 words)

My opponent claims my use of the word “addition” “lacks precision” so I will gladly sharpen it and explain why he was wrong, even if it takes the rest of my limited “space”. I will do this using Protestant quotes on the matter so that “my” sources will be “acceptable”. In addition, I think it is much more compelling to learn that Protestants agree that what Luther did was “questionable” (at best) than what Luther says about his action.

Luther used his new concept of Salvation to determine how Scripture was to be understood and even what was to be considered as an inspired writing.

“Anything which stood in the way of this evangelical message must be thrust aside-even if it was to be found in Scripture. His translation of the Bible............was an expression of a relationship of love of the word of God, which meant that he could be as familiar with or even rude to the Bible.......He could treat the text in a startlingly proprietarial way. When he translated........(Romans3:28)....., he made no bones about adding “only” to faith.”MacCulloch p.133-134

“What gave the Lutheran Reformation its distinctive character was its decision to change the terminology in which the question of human salvation was conceived. Up to this point, the Christian tradition had focused on the Pauline notion of ‘salvation by grace’ and used this vocabulary in its discussion of how humanity is reconciled to God. Luther and his collegues now used a different Pauline category to express substantially the same notion: ‘justification by faith’. The reasons for this shift in vocabulary are not fully understood.
“Luther insisted that Paul’s doctrine of “justification by faith” was definitive for Christianity. And to make sure that there was no understandings about this, he added he word “alone” lest anyone see faith as one among a number of causes of justification-including works.

This addition caused a furor. Catholics pointed out that the NT nowhere taught “justification by faith alone”; indeed, the Letter of James explicitly condemned the idea. Luther responded by making the point that his slogan encapsulated neatly the substance of the NT even if it did not use precisely it’s original words. And as for the letter of James, was it not “an epistle of straw” that ought not to be in the NT anyway? This second argument caused considerable unease within Protestant circles and was not maintained by Luther’s successors.” Alister McGrath (a seminary trained Anglican). Christianity’s Dangerous Idea, pg.246-247

The change of the definition of “faith” plus the addition of “alone” that was the deadly combination that has led HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of faithful Christians astray.

Interestingly, the independent but concurrent Swiss Reformation saw no such “doctrine” in Scripture, thereby proving that even those intent on reforming the Church “saw” Luther’s new concept of salvation in Scripture.

It is NOT honoring Scripture for an excommunicated heretic to add a word to Scripture AND change the meaning of the then adjacent word in order to promote their heresy.

James Swan- Third Rebuttal (250 words)

My opponent states, “Luther used his new concept of Salvation to determine how Scripture was to be understood…” This statement is the result of the presuppositions that history and tradition determine Biblical meaning, along with an infallible magisterium determining which results to cull from both. These are faith claims, not proven facts. I deny the phrase, “new concept of Salvation.” It’s only “new” if the presuppositions and methodology are granted as that which determines Biblical truth. While history and tradition can be insightful, I deny they determine Biblical meaning.

I deny as well that it is Biblical methodology. Consider the tradition of Jewish Biblical interpretation during the ministry of Jesus. The Jews had multi-generation old interpretations of the Law and concepts of the Messiah based on the Biblical text. Jesus frequently overturned their understanding of both. Do we then argue that Jesus presented a “new concept of Salvation” because he presented interpretations not contained previously in tradition? Of course not! We realize that Scripture has a particular meaning, even if tradition gets it quite wrong.

The same can be said with Luther’s proclamation of sola fide. Justification by faith alone is not right or wrong because others before him either wrote about it or not- this doctrine stands or falls by whether or not the Bible teaches it.

There was no "change of the definition of 'faith'" in Romans 3:28. Rather, it was inevitable that someone would look past the layers of tradition and read exactly what the text stated.

Tim MD- Third Rebuttal (250 words)

My opponent would seem to believe that ANYONE, ANY heretic, is “authorized” to “see” whatever they “choose” to, and THEN translate the Scriptures such that they conform to their personally formulated doctrines, inserting words as they “see fit”. This allows individual Protestants to support an “addition” if they agreed with the translators “theology”, and condemn it if they do not, which of course is all VERY subjective (as is Protestantism.)

It also appears that he does not understand that the Church DOES have the authority to condemn even that which has not YET been pronounced by a Council as heretical, as it has done repeatedly. While it may be true that Luther was within his “rights” to question the issue of Faith/Salvation, the manner in which he did so and the manner in which he taught his other strange beliefs, branded him as a heretic. Much of Protestantism today would also brand him as AT LEAST “teaching in error”.

Luther was WRONG to bring his never before known “Faith as Belief Alone” “theology” to his translation and was also wrong to as James put it:

“Luther brought this exegetical understanding to his translation of Romans 3:28.”

Plainly said, it is BLASPHEMY to INFLICT ones own beliefs INTO Scripture and THEN add a word not included by Paul or the Holy Spirit in order to DECEIVE people into believing that they used that word. It was a deadly combination and to defend such an action is to share in Luther’s blasphemy.

James Swan- Conclusion (200 words)

Throughout this debate, I have pointed out the flaws inherent in the Roman Catholic paradigm of understanding. Rome cannot coherently make sense of the facts of history or the Bible. Those defending her typically will not consistently apply their own standards. As a template by which to interpret “facts,” the Roman Catholic position fails miserably.

The formal aspect of this debate focused on translation and history. My opponent arrived at granting the validity of using “alone” in Romans 3:28 as long as the one translating it does not hold to sola fide. This allowed him to interpret the troubling historical facts I brought up, yet it resulted in far greater difficulties. In this type of framework, the actual words and syntax used by the Holy Spirit become less relevant than the presuppositions of the translator.

The material argument was about the Biblical nature of sola fide. In my opening statement, I presented a Biblical understanding of why Luther (or anyone) looking at Paul’s theological construct should arrive at sola fide. My opponent left this aspect completely untouched.

Tim MD- Conclusion (200 words)

It has been said that the Reformation “stands or falls” on the doctrine of salvation by Faith Alone. It does but not only that. In this debate we have seen ample evidence of the absolute necessity of defending anything Luther did or wrote, especially on the issue of salvation, lest we see that the Emperor (Luther) had no clothes.

Throughout history, the “sons” of heretics will go to extraordinary lengths to protect the “good names” of their “fathers”. But then, the word “heresy” is almost completely avoided by Protestants because they understand that it could EASILY be used against THEM by one of the other 33,999 “sects”. This is because, thanks to Luther, there is NO ONE within Protestantism who can pronounce anything as being heretical or anything as being “Scriptural” with any degree of authority other than what they have given themselves. So, all we are left with is a countless number of competing and conflicting voices about what is right and what is wrong and what is Scriptural, what the Fathers said, what is history, etc.

Theology, rather than being something to be studied and learned, has become subjective, a reflection of the individual rather than of God.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sola Ecclesia Quote

"What then must the Catholic Christian generally believe?

He must believe all that God has revealed and the Catholic Church proposes to his belief, whether it be contained in Holy Scripture or not."

"Is the Infallibility of the Pope the same as the Infallibility of the Church?

Yes, precisely. The Pope is the Supreme Pastor and Teacher, whose voice all the faithful, clergy and laity, 'lambs and sheep,' are commanded by Christ to hear and to follow. If he could teach error ex cathedra, the Church would then follow him into error, and would thereby fail; and so the promises of Christ would be falsified, which is impossible."

"Application: In matters of faith never trust your own judgment, but always humbly submit to the decisions of Holy Church; for when you believe what the Church teaches, you believe the Word of God."

-A Full Catechism of the Catholic Religion

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Alleged Magisterial Perspicuity

I thought the following comment exchange on the previous post was worth highlighting. Not that the general discussion points haven’t been covered here and elsewhere many times over, but I thought Jugulum provided a nice clarity to the issue in his comments:

Jugulum: And if I can read Catholic sources to find out what sound doctrine is--if I can understand them and gain assurance that my beliefs accord with them--why is it impossible to get the same assurance by reading only Scripture? (Is it that the full magisterial teachings are clear while Scripture isn't, by itself?)

Alexander Greco: Absolutely! Tell me, in practice why is there such a diversity in understanding some of the main tenants of the faith and their application? What arrogance one could have in believing that they can read and understand the Scriptures without someone to teach them (Acts 8:30). If you claim that the Holy Spirit is guiding you, yet the same Holy Spirit is guiding your fellow Protestants, but you contradict one another. Then the Holy Spirit is guiding you only some of the time, but not all of the time. How are you certain which times you are being guided? Where is the framework to guide you in your assurance of being guided? Scripture? Well, we end up going back to square one.

Jugulum: If I convert today, what do I need to read to gain that assurance of sound doctrine?

Alexander Greco: Go to the Magisterial teachings of the Church.

Jugulum: If you affirm that it is possible to understand written Catholic teaching, then you can't say that it is inherently impossible to understand written Scripture. If you allow that it is not arrogant to think that I can read and understand the Catechism & the canons of councils & the proclamations of Popes, you can't say that it is inherently arrogant to think that I can understand Scripture. You can still argue that those things are impossible or arrogant, but you need an explanation of why you think that God has given written Catholic teaching a self-sufficient clarity which he withheld from Scripture--and why it is arrogant in one case but not the other.

… Now, I could accept in theory that all things from the Magisterium are not alike plain in themselves, but only those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation. But part of the reason I brought up that subject is that before Vatican II, if I had read the Council of Florence, I would have thought it abundantly clear what the Catholic Church teaches about "Jews or heretics or schismatics" and their destiny of hellfire "unless before the end of life they are joined to the church". But you will tell me that my assurance of sound doctrine would have been misplaced--that I misunderstood them. So, again, who do I get to tell me if I'm making that kind of error? Who interprets the interpreter?

Well said, Jugulum! The Catholic position argues that Magisterial writings are clearer than Scripture. We can only gather that Roman Catholics believe that God can speak clearly through the Magisterium, but could not (or chose not) through his prophets and apostles who penned the Scriptures. Reiterating Jugulum's question, where is the supporting argument for the Scriptures to be obscure, but the Magisterial writings to be plain?

I would also add to Jugulum’s last paragraph above that discordant beliefs do exist between Traditionalist and Modern Roman Catholics with regards to interpreting Florence. Using AG’s argument against sola scriptura, we could say “You claim that the Magisterium is guiding you, yet the same Magisterium is guiding your fellow Roman Catholics, but you contradict one another. Then the Magisterium is guiding you only some of the time, but not all of the time. How are you certain which times you are being guided? Where is the framework to guide you in your assurance of being guided? The Magisterium? Well, we end up going back to square one.”

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Codex Sinaiticus Online

"The oldest surviving copy of the New Testament, a 4th century version that had its Gospels and epistles spread across the world, is being made whole again — online.

The British Library says the full text of the Codex Sinaiticus will be available to Web users by next July, digitally reconnecting parts that are held in Britain, Russia, Germany and a monastery in Egypt's Sinai Desert.

A preview of the Codex, which also has some parts of the Old Testament, will hit the Web on Thursday — the Book of Psalms and the Gospel of Mark.

...By next July, the entire Codex will be available for free — along with transcription, translation and search functions — on the Internet."

Codex Sinaiticus site:

-Associated Press

Monday, July 21, 2008

Infuriating Factoids

It would be TREMENDOUSLY significant (for your side) if ANYONE previous to Luther had EVER translated the Bible and PUBLISHED IT AS a Bible with that word ["alone" in Romans 3:28] added, obviously inferring that they didn’t think that Paul and the Holy Spirit had done a “good enough job”. THAT Is the real point.

Infuriating Factoid:

Catholic translations prior to Luther spoke of faith alone at Romans 3:28. Hence, the Nuremberg Bible of 1483 had "allein durch den glauben," while the Italian Bibles of Geneva in 1476 and even 1538 had "per sola fede."

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Abraham and Isaac

(posted on my blog too)

Gen 22:1 Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am."
Gen 22:2 He said, "Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you."


Gen 22:5 Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you."


Gen 22:7 Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, "My father!" And he said, "Here I am, my son." And he said, "Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?"
Gen 22:8 Abraham said, "God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." So the two of them walked on together.


Gen 22:10 Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.
Gen 22:11 But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am."
Gen 22:12 He said, "Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me."
Gen 22:13 Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind {him} a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son.
Gen 22:14 Abraham called the name of that place The LORD Will Provide, as it is said to this day, "In the mount of the LORD it will be provided."


No need really to go over the story again in my own words; the historical account is plain.

Some argue that God is evil or unjust to order Abraham to murder his son. There are a few defenses against that statement, and I will touch on a couple before moving on to a more central point that I haven't ever heard made, though I'm sure better men than I have made it before.

Point 1) God didn't command that Abraham kill Isaac. He commanded him to "offer him as a sacrifice". Not the same thing.

Point 2) Abraham himself didn't think that God meant that he should actually kill Isaac.
See the boldfaced comment in verses 5 and 8 - why say "we will return"? Why state that the lamb will be provided?

But Abraham was just trying to keep Isaac from panicking and running away! (as has been said before)

Perhaps, but there's no indication from the text that this is so.
And why didn't Isaac run away, if he was so fearful, when Abraham got the stuff and all was ready and the lamb was still not there?

Point 3) Abraham also believed that, even if the sacrifice were to go all the way thru to Isaac's death, God would resurrect Isaac. B/c he was a man of faith.

Hbr 11:17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten {son;}
Hbr 11:18 {it was he} to whom it was said, "IN ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS SHALL BE CALLED."
Hbr 11:19 He considered that God is able to raise {people} even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type.

Point 4) See Hebrews 11:19 - this sacrifice of a ram instead of a sinful human to atone for sin foreshadows the Mosaic Law to come, and each are foremost a type of the final and complete sacrifice of Christ on the cross.
Interestingly (and hat tip to Tim Staples of Catholic Answers, ironically, who I heard point this out), Abraham refers to a "lamb" that God will provide. Yet mere minutes later, God provides - not a lamb, but a ram. What of the lamb? It is yet another type of Christ, the spotless Passover Lamb, the Lamb of God, still to come in the future, in whom faith is expressed by Abraham the first Hebrew. God thus had a vested interest in taking a human to the brink of death yet substituting another in his place.

Point 5) As James 1 and 2 tells us, God was testing Abraham's faith in the fire of adversity. Would he trust God, that which is eternal and authoritative, or what he saw, which is temporal and seems authoritative and "normal"?

Point 6) I preface this point with 2 warnings, to apply to comments.
  1. If you perform an internal critique, you must do so in accord with Christian presuppositions.
  2. If you perform an external critique, you must provide a basis for morality that will extend to individuals who are not you. For a guide to what questions you need to answer in order to accomplish that, see my blogalogue with the atheist ChooseDoubt.
  3. I suggest you at least skim my major points in this thread, culminating in this comment, to see what's gone before.

My central point - God has the right to kill anyone or that command anyone be killed at any time.
People die every second of every day. Man is fallen and sinful, and the penalty for sin is death - Romans 3:23 and following through the end of chapter 5. It is only thru God's forbearance and mercy that I or any other person draw the next breath. And the next, and the next. And of course, it is only thru His mercy in Christ's death and resurrection that eternal Hell is not everyone's final destination.

Murder is defined as the unjustified taking of human life.
Yet, as every man, woman, and child is sinful and bears the guilt of the sin of Adam, all are subject to the death penalty. This includes Isaac. This also includes the various peoples of Canaan, whom God commanded the OT Hebrews to put to death after hundreds of years of giving them time to repent of their perversions. This includes the millions of babies that die every year in the womb (re: Sam Harris' correct and yet wrongheaded and amazingly morally blind assertion that God is the greatest living abortionist). God is fully justified in putting anyone to death at any time thru any manner or agency He chooses.
Thus, even if God did not intervene before Abraham's knife swept downward, He would be fully justified.

So why does God set Himself apart as the God Who does not demand child sacrifice as Molech did? Why does He also call out as sinful the foreign deities that call on their people to sacrifice and the actions of child sacrifice in the Old Testament Canaanite societies?

A few possibilities:
1) Those deities are false. They don't exist qua deity.
2) Therefore, the origin of those ideas to sacrifice children is (either) human and/or demonic in nature. Neither human nor demon has the right to kill a(nother) human in anything close to this circumstance.
3) Such practices further idolatry and worship of false gods, which of course are no gods at all. Which of course violates the 1st Commandment.

So, God could conceivably demand child sacrifice and be justified in doing so, but does not demand such. God thus creates yet more space for distinguishing between Himself and the false gods to which these pagans held. That is a merciful thing to do. He also wrote into His Law that no one is to put their child to death. That is a merciful thing to do. He wrote it on the hearts of humanity in general (Romans 2:13-15) such things. That is a merciful thing to do. To set God, the true God, apart from false gods in His ability and authority to give life and take it, to set up authority to take life under certain conditions (ie, the gov't in cases of capital crimes), and to define how He will and will not be worshiped.

What is amazing is that, despite the obvious horror, and despite their knowledge that God is the only true God (Romans 1:18-26), some societies throughout history have nevertheless turned away to these invented foreign deities that demanded satisfaction thru child sacrifice. The story of evil here is, once again, man, not God.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Venerating Bones

This recent story on exhuming Cardinal John Henry Newman for veneration is best answered by Calvin below.

"Catholic officials have applied for permission to exhume the body of a 19th-century cardinal whose cause for sainthood is expected to soon progress to beatification.

They want to transfer the remains of Cardinal John Henry Newman from a grave in a small cemetery in the suburbs of Birmingham, England, to a marble sarcophagus in a church in the city where they can be venerated by pilgrims.

..."We hope that Cardinal Newman's new resting place in the Oratory church in Birmingham will enable more people to come and pay their respects to him, and perhaps light a candle there," he said." -Catholic News

Calvin responds:
"I admit that people do not arrive at once at open idolatry, but they gradually advance from one abuse to another until they fall into this extremity, and, indeed, those who call themselves Christians have, in this respect, idolatrised as much as Pagans ever did. They have prostrated themselves, and knelt before relics, just as if they were worshipping God; they have burnt candles before them in sign of homage; they have placed their confidence in them, and have prayed to them, as if the virtue and the grace of God had entered into them. Now, if idolatry be nothing else than the transfer elsewhere of the honour which is due to God, can it be denied that this is idolatry? This cannot be excused by pretending that it was only the improper zeal of some idiots or foolish women, for it was a general custom approved by those who had the government of the church, and who had even placed the bones of the dead and other relics on the high altar, in the greatest and most prominent places, in order that they should be worshipped with more certainty." -John Calvin, A Treatise on Relics

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Victory Through Mary

This quote from JPII is interesting in the light of the movement towards declaring Mary as Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix & Advocate. I hope to cover this topic a bit more in the future, but for now I will just leave you to ponder this supposed victory of Mary:

"'Be not afraid!' Christ said to the apostles (cf. Lk 24:36) and to the women (cf. Mt 28:10) after the Resurrection. According to the Gospels, these words were not addressed to Mary. Strong in her faith, she had no fear. Mary's participation in the victory of Christ became clear to me above all from the experience of my people. Cardinal Stefan Wyszy´nski told me that his predecessor, Cardinal August Hlond, had spoken these prophetic words as he was dying: 'The victory, if it comes, will come through Mary.' During my pastoral ministry in Poland, I saw for myself how those words were coming true.

After my election as Pope, as I became more involved in the problems of the universal Church, I came to have a similar conviction: On this universal level, if victory comes it will be brought by Mary. Christ will conquer through her, because He wants the Church's victories now and in the future to be linked to her.

I held this conviction even though I did not yet know very much about Fátima. I could see, however, that there was a certain continuity among La Salette, Lourdes, and Fátima-and, in the distant past, our Polish Jasna Góra.

And thus we come to May 13, 1981, when I was wounded by gunshots fired in St. Peter's Square. At first, I did not pay attention to the fact that the assassination attempt had occurred on the exact anniversary of the day Mary appeared to the three children at Fátima in Portugal and spoke to them the words that now, at the end of this century, seem to be close to their fulfillment."

-Pope John Paul II in Crossing the Threshold of Hope

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Careful Where You Find Your Quotes #2

Here's a citation that demonstrates what happens when you extract facts from the immediate context without taking into consideration what the immediate context actually says. The topic is Luther's involvement with the bigamy of Philip of Hesse. A Catholic over on the CARM boards asks,

This one really confuses me. It is a very well known and very well documented fact that both Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon (his right hand "dude"), sanctioned the bigamous marriage of Philip of Hesse. Two Protestant authors and scholars describe this as follows:


"He (Philip of Hesse), wanted to marry a seventeen year old girl. . It seemed to him that he could commit bigamy since polygamy runs through the Old Testament and is not forbidden in the New. Luther and Melanchthon reluctantly agreed - so long as the second marriage was kept secret. It was not. The second wife naturally wanted recognition. The scandal broke, and Luther was ridiculed everywhere." Richard Marius, Martin Luther, p. 440

A number of loaded questions were then asked as to Luther's behavior in this debacle. You can look over the questions in the original post. As to this issue, I did a blog entry some time back: Perspectives on Luther: Luther a Polygamist?, and I also answered on the CARM boards, noting the double standards involved with this issue.

Then it was stated, "Please do not refute the actual history because it is solid history." What interests me of course, is the citation from Richard Marius above, used to verify the "solid history." This is what happens when the quote is put back in context:

"Luther's views on marriage took into account bodily and spiritual needs. We have noted already his seemingly radical advice on the subject in the Babylonian Captivity and other works. He always stood against divorce, by which a man might thrust a wife defenseless into the world. This opposition to divorce helps explain his consent to the bigamy of Philip of Hesse in 1540. Philip became one of the great champions of Luther's cause. His portrait by Hans Krell in 1525 shows a fine-featured, almost pretty young man. His marriage in 1523 to a daughter of Duke George of Saxony produced seven children. By 1539 he was tired of his wife, and his many adulteries had given him syphilis, a disease rampant in the sixteenth century. He wanted to marry a seventeen-year-old girl. It seemed to him that he could commit bigamy since polygamy runs through the Old Testament and is not forbidden in the New. Luther and Melanchthon reluctantly agreedso long as the second marriage was kept secret. It was not. The second wife naturally wanted recognition. The scandal broke, and Luther was ridiculed everywhere. Yet his major aim was to protect Philip's first wife from being thrown to the wolves. If one takes the Bible as the norm of behavior it is hard to see how Luther can be condemned" [Richard Marius, Martin Luther: The Christian Between God and Death (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1999), p.440].

Marius states elsewhere in the same book:

“Luther touched briefly on divorce. He hated divorce so much that he would prefer bigamy, he said, though he was not sure that bigamy was right. The notion was not farfetched to anyone steeped in scripture as Luther was. Nowhere in the Bible is polygamy condemned. The patriarchs and kings of the Old Testament had many wives. Paul in the New Testament said that an ‘overseer,’ or bishop, should be the husband of one wife, but he never suggested that the ordinary Christian had to be so limited. Monogamy is a legacy of the Greeks and Romans. By approving bigamy, Luther was concerned to protect a wife from being discarded in a cruel world where a woman required a man to protect her” [The Christian Between God and Death, 261].

The late Richard Marius, if I recall, wasn't even a Christian. The Catholic citing him states he's Protestant, but Marius defines himself as "essentially nonreligious" in the preface of this book (p. xii). In the context, Marius provided a sympathetic explanation for Luther's behavior. One wonders why a Catholic would cite Marius selectively, and then ask for explanations of Luther's behavior? I can't help but wonder how certain people read books. Do they only see what they want to?

Marius more-a-less excused Luther's actions. Don't misunderstand- I do not wish to justify Luther's behavior, or even the position taken by Marius. I bring this up because this citation is a good exercise in carefully reading books as to extract a proper context.

Luther clearly got himself into a scandalous and sinful amount of trouble. One of Luther's final comments on the entire mess was, “that if anyone thereafter should practice bigamy, let the Devil give him a bath in the abyss of hell.” More about this is detailed in my other blog entry.

A profound aspect of the Bible is its commitment to telling us about the sins of the human condition. Such is the case of Martin Luther and his involvement with Hesses' bigamy. Luther's life shows peaks and valleys: success for God’s kingdom, along with failure. With Luther’s attitude on bigamy, and his involvement with Phillip of Hesse, we see the warts of Luther. Luther had to learn the hard way with his attitude on bigamy. What He thought worked hypothetically, did not work in actuality. God has a way of teaching His people this lesson as he conforms them to His image- always showing us the sin in our own lives as we seek to be conformed to the image of Christ.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Chris Arnzen Interviews Ravi Zacharias Today

Today on Iron Sharpens Iron, Chris Arnzen will be interviewing Ravi Zacharias, internationally renowned Evangelical Christian apologist, author, radio evangelist and founder and chairman of the board of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. He will address the theme of his book, New Birth or Rebirth? Jesus Talks with Krishna. Listen to the show live today, 3 - 4 P.M. (Eastern Standard Time). Join Chris and Dr. Zacharias on the air as a part of the live broadcast by calling in with your own questions at:1-631-321-WNYG (9694). Here's your chance to talk to Ravi Zacharias!

In Dr. Zacharias's book, which is the latest volume in his "Great Conversation Series," you will take a journey into India's holy city of Mathura. This is the birthplace of Krishna, the name revered and worshiped by millions of Hindus. The teachings of Krishna in the Gita are often referred to as being closest to those of Jesus. But as you walk through the streets and visit the temples, in this imaginary conversation between Jesus and Krishna you will soon see where the message comes close but where the differences lie. Questions of human dignity, Karma, and reincarnation are faced head-on. What is the teaching of this most popular of Hindu books? How does the Gospel differ? New Birth or Rebirth gets to the heart through the mind of these two, both of whom claimed to give the ultimate answers. Jesus and Krishna will engage your intellect and emotions in life's soul- searching struggles. Test for yourself and see where the real answers lie.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Careful Where You Find Your Quotes...

This was a quote I just couldn't pass up posting. Over on the CARM boards a Roman Catholic stated:

"Luther's use of the word "allein" was deliberate, NOT to make the passage clearer, but to advance his own personal doctrine. No wonder that he disliked the epistle of James, and rejected it's APostolic origin and wanted to expunge it from the Bible, because he saw that James 2:29 contradicted his addition of "allein" to Romans 3:28."

When asked if this was a personal opinion, this Roman Catholic then stated:

It is not only MY opinion, but that of some Protestant scholars as well, people like HOJ Brown: …Martin Luther would once again emphasize…that we are “justified by faith alone”, apart from the works of the Law” (Rom. 3:28), adding the German word allein (”alone”) in his translation of the Greek text. There is certainly a trace of Marcion in Luther’s move (Brown HOJ. Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), 1988, pp. 64-65).

Guess which book I have in front of me at the moment? Yes, it's Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church. Harold O.J. Brown never states Luther's intention was "not to make the passage clearer," nor does Brown accuse Luther of "advancing his own personal doctrine" rather than what was taught in the Scripture.

Brown speaks of Marcion's radical rejection of the Torah (Law), and noted those criticizing Marcion's position did so because "his own personal life [was] in gross violation of Old Testament standards of conduct" (p.63). He then states:

"Orthodox Christianity has always lived in tension between the Law and the Gospel. Over thirteen centuries after Marcion, Martin Luther would once again emphasize the discrimination of Law and Gospel, and reaffirm that we are 'justified by faith alone, apart from the works of the Law' (Rom. 3:28), adding the German word allein ('alone') in his translation of the Greek text. There is certainly a trace of Marcion in Luther's move, but unlike Marcion he possessed and treasured the entire canonical Scriptures. Consequently the separation between Law and Gospel in Lutheranism remains a discriminatio (distinction), not a radical separation. Marcion called for such a radical separation, but only a minority of Christians followed him" [Harold O.J. Brown, Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church (Peabody:Hendrickson Publishers, 1988), pp. 64-65].

Note the importance of what was left out: "Orthodox Christianity has always lived in tension between the Law and the Gospel." It should be fairly obvious what Brown intended by seeing a broader examination of what he actually said, rather than the snippet of spin posted. The snippet spins Luther "Marcion." Brown though simply intended to show Marcion's false position by contrasting it with a true position. There is no meaningful discussion of the word "allein" from Brown. And, I think the "spin citation" is reading more into Brown's use of the word "trace" than was intended.

In fact, on page 305, Brown discusses Luther's understanding of justification by faith, stating:

"Justification by faith is a concept that is quite consistent with the teaching of the Apostle Paul- in whose writings Luther rediscovered it- and indeed with the whole emphasis of the early church on the finished work of Christ."

On page 306, Brown states:

"It was not justification by faith alone that was the innovation and therefore the heresy; transubstantiation was the innovation that made the orthodoxy of the past into the heresy of the present. it made the promise of justification by faith alone appear fraudulent."

I'm always interested with following quotes around cyberspace. The Harold O.J. Brown quote used above can be found here in the same form as used by the Roman Catholic. Funny, the webpage authors have something to do with the old Herbert W. Armstrong Church of God cult. Now this is somewhat humorous- that a Roman Catholic is using this non-Catholic wacky web page to spin Luther.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Roman Catholic View of Salvation

Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete

He reads Paul in his context?

On Buddhist salvation, the Buddhist will get to heaven “probably faster than I will.”

How about an atheist? Just watch.

Not sure what it's worth...


Luther Deleted "Alone" from Romans 3:28?

Yes, I know- the typical charge is Luther "added" the word "alone" to Romans 3:28. But, I recently came across the opposite charge (via a CARM discussion) that Luther did add the word alone, but then retracted it in the "second edition." Typically, these are not isolated myths, but have a life of their own, popping up from time to time. I thought it best to provide a brief summary.

When I first saw the comment that Luther had taken "alone" out of Romans 3:28, I had a genuine curiosity. I actually entertained the possibility that I had overlooked such a striking fact of a subsequent removal from Romans 3:28. I've come across strange factoids over the years- perhaps this would be one of them.

Luther began translating the New Testament in 1521, and released a finished version in 1522. He published sections of the Old Testament as he finished them. He (and his "team") finished the entire Bible by 1534. During these years, various incomplete editions were released. Even after Luther finished his translation, he never ceased revising it. Phillip Schaff has pointed out, “He never ceased to amend his translation. Besides correcting errors, he improved the uncouth and confused orthography, fixed the inflections, purged the vocabulary of obscure and ignoble words, and made the whole more symmetrical and melodious. He prepared five original editions, or recensions, of his whole Bible, the last in 1545, a year before his death. This is the proper basis of all critical editions.”

The person making the "removal" claim could not provide any documentation (and this admission took some time to extract). Nor could he explain what was meant by "second edition." "Second edition" of Luther's New Testament? "Second edition" of the entire Bible? As to the entire Bible, this is a link to chapter 3 from Luther's German Bible. Verse 28 reads:

So halten wir es nu / Das der Mensch gerecht werde / on des Gesetzes werck / alleine durch den Glauben."

"alleine durch den Glauben" translates "through faith alone" [Lutherbibel 1545 Original-Textübersetzt von Dr. Martin Luther aus dem Textus Receptus]. Of course this doesn't rule out the possibility that one of the earlier completed Bibles had "alone" removed and then put back in at a later point, thus resting comfortably in the finished 1545 edition. But if this were true, I find it very hard to believe Luther-detractors never seized this fact in their continual attempts to indict Luther. I've read an ample amount of anti-Luther texts, and don't recall this tidbit. If it were true, I would've expected it front and center in many anti-Luther writings: outlining Luther's fickleness and depraved sinful desire that finally overtook him by 1545 to return the dreaded word 'alone" to Romans 3:28. Well, I do have Roman Catholic readers that research Luther, so perhaps I've given them a new "fact" to exploit- but I doubt they will find such a fact!

I am familiar with some of the revisions to Luther's New Testament. Willem Jan Kooiman has explained Luther did do a revision of the New Testament in 1527 (is this the mysterious "second edition"?), and in somewhat awkward wording stated,

"The only important question is whether Paul really meant that man is justified through faith alone. If that is established then, in view of the natural craving of man to justify himself through his good works, the meaning of Paul cannot be expressed with too much clarity and pointedness. That is why Luther here inserted the word 'only.' He did the same in Rom. 3:26, 'That he (God) only be righteous.' So also he points up the expression 'out of works' in Rom. 9:11 and 32, and 11:6 and translated, 'out of the merit of works.' However, he omitted this addition in his revision of 1527" [Luther and the Bible (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1961), p. 109].

I admit that I read this paragraph over quite a few times. If I'm reading it correctly, the revisions/deletions Kooiman is referring to is 'out of the merit of works,' and Kooiman didn't mention Romans 3:28, but rather 3:26 (the discussion of 3:28 occurs a page earlier). Also, an important fact to note is his Open Letter on Translating written in 1530 is the specific text in which Luther defends his translation of Romans 3:28. I find it quite ridiculous to think Luther removed "alone" in 1527, and then defended it in 1530.

As to the actual discussion, I had a lot of rhetoric thrown at me. For time constraints and not wishing to venture down rabbit trails, I stuck to this one issue. At one point I was charged with blasphemy for doing historical work on the Reformation. It was suggest that my citation of Roman Catholic writer Joseph Fitzmyer was a fabrication. And of course, Luther was vilified as a man with psychological problems and blasphemy (the usual stuff). As is typical with most of these types of cyber-dialogues, I end up doing the bulk (if not all) of the historical work and research. I strongly doubt that the person making this claim about Luther has been looking for any proof to document the assertion. Well if he has been searching, I have a feeling it would be similar to looking to see if Santa renamed one of his elves- that is- you can't find factual proof for something that isn't real. Well, I have to assume most people that followed the discussion, both Protestant and Catholic, could see beyond such silliness and desire truth and facts, no matter where they lead.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Roman Plan of Salvation

I know that johnMark has already posted this a while back, but it's due for a repost. Or a riposte.

To me it seems to explain really well, but I'd be interested to know what our Romanist friends think of it.

(Click to expand)


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Compare and Contrast: Denifle vs O'Hare on Luther Joining the Monastery

Most of you know my interest in the Catholic understanding of Martin Luther, and the way the "facts" are interpreted. One of the books I've been looking for for quite a while is Heinrich Denifle's work on Luther in English. It is available online in German, but as far as I've been able to search, an English translation is not yet on-line (though does exist). I'm trying to hold out buying this text. Typically, I find used copies of it on-line over $100 (yes, I've come close to buying it). I'm hoping Google Books or some other website saves me the money by posting it (If anyone finds it on-line, please let me know). It is funny how Google Books seems to know which books I'm looking for, and makes sure not to have them available!

Heinrich Denifle was an Austrian Catholic scholar in the 1880’s, and held in high esteem by Leo XIII and Pius X. He was also an accomplished scholar, with groundbreaking work on the relationship between scholastic theology and medieval mysticism. In the course of his research on medieval theology and the corruption of the Church, Denifle developed an interest in understanding Luther.

Denifle was no fan of Luther, and by and large, his writings on Luther have been disregarded by Catholics and Protestants. For him, Luther was a fallen-away monk with unbridled lust, a theological ignoramus, an evil man, and used immorality to begin the Reformation. Denifle accuses Luther of buffoonery, hypocrisy, pride, ignorance, forgery, slander, pornography, vice, debauchery, drunkenness, seduction, corruption, and more: he is a lecher, knave, liar, blackguard, sot, and worse: he was infected with the venereal disease syphilis. To read more about Denifle's approach to Luther, see my article, The Roman Catholic Perspective of Martin Luther (Part One). Now this is a book I want!

Recently I found an interesting old Catholic review of Denifle's work. The author gives a summary of Denifle's work, and one particular statement caught my attention. Above, note Denifle considered Luther a "fallen-away monk." The article summarizes Denifle's position on the early Luther, and I think those interested in this topic will be surprised at the position taken:

"The first general impression we get of Martin Luther by reading Denifle's book is that during the first decade of his monastic life from 1505 to 1515, he was a good, brilliant, zealous religious. When he joined the Augustinian Order he was not an ignorant, inexperienced youth ; he was twenty-two years old and was a doctor of philosophy. His intentions were unquestionably sincere and holy. Two years he remained in the novitiate to probe himself and to study the profound meaning and the sacred obligations of religious life. When the young doctor, therefore, made his profession at the age of twenty-four, we have all reasons to believe that he gave himself to God with his whole heart, of his own free will, with no other motive than to strive after perfection and work for the glory of God. We may even suppose that he excelled among his brethren in piety and learning. He was made superior, placed in authority over eleven convents, and as master of arts and theology he was sent to Wittenberg to teach at the university."

Granted, I don't have Denifle's book to check to see if he's been summarized correctly, but other reviews of Denifle's work state as much. Here we find Denifle describing Luther as an honest and sincere fellow with holy intentions. But, despite this, Denifle will argue Luther "fell away" from his calling, and became the awful person described above.

Now, compare this to Father O'Hare's opinion in his book, The Facts About Luther. Father O'Hare presents quite a different picture:

When we consider the motives that prompted Luther to abandon the world, we fear he knew little about the ways of God and was not well informed of the gravity and responsibilities of the step he was taking. The calling he aspired to is the highest given to man on earth and because it is a ministry of salvation, replete with solemn and sacred obligations, it should not be embraced without prayerful consideration and wise and prudent counsel. It is only when vocation is sufficiently pronounced and when one by one the different stages of the journey in which are acquired continually increasing helps towards reaching the appointed goal, are passed, that one should enter the sanctuary. "No man," says St. Paul, "takes the honor to himself, but he that is called by God." That Luther was not called by God to conventual life seems evident enough from all the circumstances. Every sign and mark one looks for in aspirants to the monastic life were apparently lacking in him. Parent and friend alike knew this and opposed his course, feeling it was merely the expression of a temporary attitude of mind and not a real vocation. Luther himself admits that he was driven by despair, rather than the love of higher perfection, into a religious career. He says: "I entered the monastery and renounced the world because I despaired of myself all the while." From his earliest days he was subject to fits of depression and melancholy. Emotional by temperament, he would pass suddenly from mirth and cheerfulness to a gloomy, despondent state of mind in which he was tormented by frightful searchings of conscience. The fear of God's judgments and the recollection of his own sins sorely tried him and caused unnecessary anxiety and dread as to his fate. He saw in himself nothing but sin and in God nothing but anger and revenge. He fell a victim to excessive scrupulousness, and, as he was self- opinionated and stubborn-minded, he relied altogether too much on his own righteousness and disregarded the remedies most effectual for his spiritual condition. Like all those who trust in themselves, he rushed from extreme timidity to excessive rashness. Had he consulted those who were skilled in the direction of conventual religious and made known the troubled waters beneath the smooth surface of his daily life, he might have been made to understand that, owing to his abnormal state of mind and his natural disposition, he was not fitted for the carrying out of the evangelical counsels and thus have been prevented from forcing himself into a mould for which he was manifestly un-suited. In the uneasy and serious state of his conscience the advice and counsel of the wise and prudent were ignored. Moved by his own feelings and relying on his own powers, he suddenly and secretly decided for himself a career in life vhich, as events proved, was not only a mistake as far as he was concerned, but one fraught with disaster to innumerable others, whom he afterwards influenced to join in his revolt against the Mother Church. Without advice and without full deliberation, even in spite of the opposition of those who knew him best, he determined to become a friar [The Facts About Luther (Tan Edition) pp.37-39].

Well, these are two very different approaches- I think it shows quite clearly that even Catholic interpreters of Luther can be quite at odds with each other, and this is yet another reason why I find this an interesting topic of study.

Monday, July 07, 2008

World Youth Day Indulgence

Good news for Catholic Answers who recently promoted the World Youth Day project to protect their Catholic youth from "anti-Catholic Protestants" who "using clever but deceptive arguments for which the anti-Catholics are famous...get the reader to doubt many of our most important Catholic beliefs and practices". While dodging "radical anti-Catholics", Catholic youth may gain a plenary or partial indulgence for their participation.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Vatican Movie List

Given 2000 years or so, one would hope a Church claiming the ability to infallibly interpret the Bible would've actually done so. But, if you've looked even slightly below the surface of such a grandiose claim, you know it's smoke and mirrors:

Catholic Encyclopedia: (a) Defined Texts.—The Catholic commentator is bound to adhere to the interpretation of texts which the Church has defined either expressly or implicitly. The number of these texts is small, so that the commentator can easily avoid any transgression of this principle.

So, instead of interpreting the Bible, just how has the Roman Church spent her valuable time? Why, we all know being entertained is so important, the Vatican actually spent time to compile an official "best film list." See for yourself here:

Vatican Best Films List

Friday, July 04, 2008

Faith is Optional?

Below is a clip of Jimmy Akin on Catholic Answers Live back in April stating that atheists can be saved. The full-length MP3 can be found here. I have transcribed his words below:

“It’s also possible for a person to die in God’s friendship even if the person didn’t consciously know God during life. Someone could, through no fault of their own, be unaware of God or not have ever been given sufficient evidence that they concluded God is true, through no fault of their own, and if they otherwise cooperated with his grace, then God won’t hold their ignorance of him against them. So, it’s possible for an atheist to be saved, it’s still through Jesus Christ and through God’s grace, but they can still die not knowing God and still be on their way to heaven as long as they otherwise cooperated with his grace.”

This is justification by works alone, without faith, and contrary to Scripture.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." John 3:16-18

Jimmy would also do well to read through Romans 1 before stating "Someone could, through no fault of their own, be unaware of God or not have ever been given sufficient evidence that they concluded God is true, through no fault of their own".

"The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." Romans 1:18-20

(I also left in his commentary on Purgatory for future reference. Modern day views of Purgatory are quite mild compared to the greater of Catholic history.)

Thursday, July 03, 2008

5 questions for James

James (the Romanist one),

At least James (the Reformed one) called you THE Champion, rather than acting as if that were your given name, so that's something.

I'd like to ask five questions on this issue of Luther questioning the Canon before Trent and Robert Sungenis' response to your question thereon.

1) Who is right - you or Sungenis?
2) How do you know that?
3) Has the Magisterium pronounced on this?
4) If so, were you imbued with infallibility when you read their statement? / If not, is there any way to be sure who's right since there's no infallible judgment on the matter?
5) Since this is a theological matter - ie, how to treat Luther who was either a heretic or not a heretic for "questioning" the Canon before Trent - can you give me a reason to accept this as a matter of ignorance and/or misjudgment on the part of the party who was wrong (either you or Sungenis) vs an example of disunity within the Roman church?


I Think I've been Banned....

I signed up for the Coming Home Forums... moderated by... a Romanist apologist. I did so, because I was sent a link to one of the recent discussions about Luther and the Assumption, started by the same Romanist apologist. I saw this question, asked by a Baptist:

"I did notice that you did not include primary source citations for Luther's beliefs other than the sermon. Do you happen to know which one is being referenced? Also I can not find the book you quote first "Mary in Protestant and Catholic Thought." Did you mean "Mary in Protestant and Catholic Theology?" I am having trouble tracking down that quotes citation as well "WA, 30, II, 351." I would very much appreciate knowing what is ment by "WA" here. This might seem like a simple question but I can not this."

I saw this question and that it had not been answered, so I sent the person a private message, letting them know of my recent blog entry about O'Meara, and also explaining what "WA" meant. I didn't mention the Romanist apologist, or Catholic apologetics..or anything even remotely polemic. Well, a little while later, I returned to the forum, and my "Private Message" ability had been disabled-

Sorry, you do not have permission to use private messaging. You can probably perform this action after you login. If you are not a member, you can register here. If you are already logged in then the administrator of the board does not allow this action. Should you have any questions, please contact

And then, my access to the forums while logged in was blocked. I can't view any of the messages. Nor can I do anything, except log in. It wasn't that long ago that the same Romanist apologist made a big deal of getting thrown out of Proapologian chat, and how unjustified it was, and since I didn't come to his rescue, how awful I was. Well, perhaps he didn't handcuff me on the Coming Home forums, but it is a fairly odd coincidence.

Well, no big deal- I simply wanted to send that message to that one person, which I did. If she got it, fine, if not, fine as well. If anything, the entire thing makes a for a good laugh, and points out what is fairly obvious about Catholic apologists....

Update: The Romanist apologist did ban me in order to keep the sheep safe. Well, he can always ask the person I sent the private message to to confirm what I've posted here.