Friday, October 31, 2008

The Counsels for the Perfect

"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.'But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you." [Matthew 5:38-42]

I came across an introductory note in a book I was reading that mentioned confusion by early 16th century Protestants over exactly how texts like Matthew 5:39 and Romans 12:19 should be understood. The problem was how far Protestants should go to obey secular authorities. Confusion arose because Roman Catholics typically interpreted these texts as "counsels for the perfect," and not precepts for all Christians. This intrigued me, and I searched around to find out what all this was about.

The Catholic Encyclopedia explains:

Christ in the Gospels laid down certain rules of life and conduct which must be practiced by every one of His followers as the necessary condition for attaining to everlasting life. These precepts of the Gospel practically consist of the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments, of the Old Law, interpreted in the sense of the New. Besides these precepts which must be observed by all under pain of eternal damnation, He also taught certain principles which He expressly stated were not to be considered as binding upon all, or as necessary conditions without which heaven could not be attained, but rather as counsels for those who desired to do more than the minimum and to aim at Christian perfection, so far as that can be obtained here upon earth.

I wouldn't normally quote Wikipedia, but they actually were one of the few sources I found that explained this:

The Double Standard View is the official position of the Roman Catholic Church. It divides the teachings of the Sermon [on the mount] into general precepts and specific counsels. Obedience to the general precepts is essential for salvation, but obedience to the counsels is only necessary for perfection. The great mass of the population need only concern themselves with the precepts; the counsels must be followed by only a pious few such as the clergy and monks. This theory was initiated by St. Augustine and later fully developed by St. Thomas Aquinas, though an early version of it is cited in Did. 6:2, "For if you are able to bear the entire yoke of the Lord, you will be perfect; but if you are not able to do this, do what you are able" (Roberts-Donaldson), and reflected in the Apostolic Decree of the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:19-21). Geoffrey Chaucer also did much to popularize this view among speakers of English with his Canterbury Tales (Wife of Bath's Prologue, v. 117-118)

And also, this source states:

In the Middle Ages twelve counsels were commonly enumerated, which were found especially in the Sermon on the Mount; and after the aforesaid three general heads, which concerned the religious orders, there were recommended, for instance, the injunctions " love your enemies " (Matt. v. 44), " resist not evil " (Matt. v. 39-41), etc.

And this source states:

"Commandments are given ' about those things which are necessary to attain the end of eternal felicity,' but the counsels ' about those things by which one may obtain this end better and sooner.' In general the counsels deal with poverty, chastity, and obedience, but there was an enumeration of twelve culled from the Sermon on the Mount, including, e.g., the injunctions 'Love your enemies' and 'Resist not evil.'"

It appears a typical Roman Catholic needs to try and at LEAST keep the outward law. But, if you'd like to go a bit further, then work a little bit on your heart.

Happy Reformation Day.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Today at 3PM I will be on Chris Arnzen's Iron Sharpens Iron show. The show can be heard live over the Internet, and the MP3 will be available for download around 4:30 PM.

MP3 Available Here

JAMES SWAN, who is involved in teaching ministry at the Pompton Plains Reformed Bible Church in New Jersey, will address "MARTIN LUTHER: MADMAN, HERETIC, PROPHET, OR REFORMER?"

October 31 marks the 491st anniversary of Martin Luther nailing the 95 Theses to the castle church door in Wittenberg Germany. Protestants all over the world mark this as the birth of the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther is celebrated as a hero who stood alone against the tyranny of the Roman Catholic Church. Luther is heralded as a mighty voice proclaiming salvation by faith alone and scripture alone!

But who exactly was Martin Luther? A Madman? Modern-day psychologists speculate he was a man with mental disorders. They speculate Luther’s psychosis was inherent lust, secret vices, an overpowering sex drive, and an opposition to celibacy. These were Luther’s psychological reasons to abandon the Roman Church in his “attempt” to destroy her. Some see him as manic-depressive a product of an alcoholic parent, or a sufferer of the Oedipus complex that unknowingly pushed the reform movement forward.

Many Roman Catholics still view him as the great heretic who split the church, not only in half, but by his heresy created thousands of Protestant denominations. In his proclamation of sola fide and sola scriptura, Luther has lead countless lives away from the Roman Catholic Church. They claim God would never use such a sinful man to "reform" the Church which the gates of Hell can never prevail against.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, others have claimed Luther was a prophet. Some of the later generation Lutherans looked to him as an infallible authority in spiritual matters. Some like the Seventh Day Adventists insist Luther claimed himself to be a prophet. If Luther can claim to be a prophet, and be treated as a hero by Protestants, why can't Adventist founder Ellen White be a prophet of similar respect?

Was Luther a Reformer? Are Protestants correct when they extol the importance of his work in the 16th Century? How does one decide who exactly Luther was? Today James Swan will attempt to look at the many historical "Luthers", and give an overview of how worldviews effect historical analysis.

James is also a member of "Team Apologian", contributing articles to the blog on the web site of renowned Bible scholar Dr. James R. White's Alpha and Omega Ministries , contributes Reformation articles for Christian apologist Dr. Eric Svendsen's New Testament Research Ministries' website, and has had articles published in the Reformed periodical, The Outlook . He also runs his own daily blog, Beggars All: Reformation and Apologetics , dedicated to historical and Biblical research on the Protestant Reformation.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Today at 3PM I will be on Chris Arnzen's Iron Sharpens Iron show. The show can be heard live over the Internet, and the MP3 will be available for download around 4:30 PM.

MP3 Available Here

JAMES SWAN, who is involved in teaching ministry at the Pompton Plains Reformed Bible Church in New Jersey, will address "WAS MARTIN LUTHER AN ANTI-SEMITE?"

October 31 marks the 491st anniversary of Martin Luther nailing the 95 Theses to the castle church door in Wittenberg Germany. Protestants all over the world mark this as the birth of the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther is celebrated as a hero who stood alone against the tyranny of the Roman Catholic Church. Luther is heralded as a mighty voice proclaiming salvation by faith alone and scripture alone!

But did Martin Luther have a dark side? Many who oppose the Reformation today say that Martin Luther was not the "great Reformer" but actually a "great anti-Semite." Far from being a champion of human freedom, Luther preached hate against the Jewish people. Luther stated:

“Let their houses also be shattered and destroyed . . . Let their prayer books and Talmuds be taken from them, and their whole Bible too; let their rabbis be forbidden, on pain of death, to teach henceforth any more. Let the streets and highways be closed against them. Let them be forbidden to practice usury, and let all their money, and all their treasures of silver and gold be taken from them and put away in safety. And if all this be not enough, let them be driven like mad dogs out of the land.”

Those who oppose the Reformation wonder how Protestants can claim Luther was a hero of freedom and human dignity and neglect to mention such blatant hatred for an entire group of people! They question whether or not the Reformation Luther started against the Roman Catholic Church was a movement really interested in freedom and human dignity. They posit that perhaps Luther has been overly romanticized: the Church he fought against really wasn’t as bad as portrayed. Luther’s anti-Semitic statements prove unhesitatingly he could not have been a “Reformer” in any sense of the word. A true man of God could never say such awful things.

Today, James Swan tackles this controversial subject head on, as he discusses his paper Luther and the Jews, hosted on Christian apologist Dr. Eric Svendsen's New Testament Research Ministries' website. Luther and the Jews is one of the most in-depth treatments of this subject available on the Internet.

James is also a member of "Team Apologian", contributing articles to the blog on the web site of renowned Bible scholar Dr. James R. White's Alpha and Omega Ministries , contributes Reformation articles for Christian apologist Dr. Eric Svendsen's New Testament Research Ministries' website, and has had articles published in the Reformed periodical, The Outlook . He also runs his own daily blog, Beggars All: Reformation and Apologetics , dedicated to historical and Biblical research on the Protestant Reformation.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

We still don't know to whom to turn

The fun continues in the "...we will not know to whom to turn" combox. Thanks to GeneMBridges who has stepped in to provide some timely thoughts. Here are mine in regard to the last two Romanist comments.


I'd like you to imagine a context in which the declaration to Mary: "If you will not help us because we are ungrateful and unworthy children of your protection, we will not know to whom to turn" would be comparable to a Reformed pastor saying "Christ died for all men". Limited Atonement is not a necessary article of faith to be saved, and besides that I don't think a seriously Reformed pastor would ever say that anyway. But recourse to CHRIST for forgiveness of sin IS a necessary article of faith, at least biblically. Apparently not in modern RC theology.
So make it as rosy and sunny as you can for your position. Create a scenario in which:
1) the Pope would actually be presenting Christ as the Savior, and
2) this statement would fit and make sense.

Similarly for de Liguori - in what kind of scenario is it permissible to ask for recourse to someone else to rescue you from Jesus? Let's make this a little more practical, more hands-on.

All this sounds suspiciously like you are trying to insert your individual interpretations in place of actual statements from a Pope and from a doctor of the church. It's very Protestant of you. Are you sure you don't want to visit my church this week?

I pray to all three persons of the Trinity, depending. What I don't do is tell a human that I have no hope if I disappoint that human.

Daniel Montoro said a few interesting things. Unfortunately, in none of them did he provide any evidence of an attack on his church in the post. I'm usually happy enough to attack the RCC, but I didn't do so in the post.
Montoro, ironically enough, attacks the church well enough in his acting like a Protestant all thru his comment. What an example for all Prots and Romanists alike to follow! If you don't like what the Magisterium says, just reinterpret it. Of course, isn't that what we Prots get accused of all the time, with regard to the Scr and patristic writings?

She leads people to Christ. Period.

Then why didn't the Pope say that? You sound like a Protestant too.
I'm not quite certain that the Pope would appreciate you correcting him. It appears to be the Protestants here who are taking the Pope at his word, and the Romanists who hasten to change his words.

Now you have to have a disgusting hatred of Mary, and in turn Jesus

B/c I speak up when someone says that there is no recourse if she is no recourse, I hate Mary?
May I honestly recommend you read Svenden's Who Is My Mother?
The short answer is that you are full of it - we don't hate Mary but rather love her and more pointedly her Son enough to want to keep them both in their proper places - Mary as a worshiper and disciple, Jesus as the only true God and Savior. What a disgusting thing to say!

these satanic comments


You seem to me to be just like those holocaust deniers over there in Jersey.

Your blood be on your own hands, man.

still believe that Jesus will let you into Heaven?

Let's grant your point for a second. Where does Scr define demotion of Mary as a damnable offense? Where does Scr define mortal sin? How dare you judge my sin as mortal? How do you know that I have sufficient knowledge of the situation to make it a mortal sin, rather than a venial?

What about honoring your father and mother?

I thought Jesus didn't have any siblings. Mary is not my mother.

I think that this is what it means for you to be a separated brethern

Yes, that's what we need - a profane Roman layman to tell us what the Magisterium meant when it called Prots "separated brethren". I think I'll let the Catechism and the Pope do the talking, thank you.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Luther's Statement Concerning Roman Catholic Authorities: "Why do we not rather assault them with arms and wash our hands in their blood?" (Part Three)

"It seems to me that if the Romanists are so mad the only remedy remaining is for the emperor, the kings, the princes to gird themselves with force of arms to attack these pests of all the world and fight them, not with words, but with steel. If we punish thieves with the yoke, highwaymen with the sword, and heretics with fire, why do we not rather assault these monsters of perdition, these cardinals, these popes, and the whole swarm of the Roman Sodom, who corrupt youth and the Church of God? Why do we not rather assault them with arms and wash our hands in their blood?"- Martin Luther June 25, 1520

Previously, I looked briefly at the bibliographic way this Luther quote has been documented. Then I pointed out the numerous interpretations given to this quote. Finally, let's address interpreting this Luther quote in its context.

This quote comes from the document entitled, Epitoma Responsionis ad Marinum Lutherum. It was originally a book published by one of Luther's Roman Catholic opponents, Sylvester Prierias. As a response to it, Luther republished it with his own annotations, introduction and conclusion. The quote in question comes from Luther's conclusion.

In the conclusion, Luther notes Priarias was unwilling to concede that a council should be called to address his concerns. Prierias had argued for the primacy of the Pope, and only a pope could call a council. The position held by Prierias was papal absolutism: the Pope had absolute power, not only over the Roman church, but all churches worldwide, and his power was absolute over non-Christians as well. All those within the church that held an office derived their power from the Pope (rather than the apostles). He saw the Pope as the "sole arbiter and infallible judge of the truth in matters regarding faith and morals" (Epitoma, WA 6:330.16.-18, as per David Bagchi).

One needs to consider what it would mean to be faced with such an argument of papal absolutism, particularly if the papacy was unwilling to even consider the charges Luther was concerned with. In the indulgence controversy, the Roman papacy simply ordered Luther to recant, despite the fact that the entire scope of exactly what indulgences meant was not dogmatically defined. Luther was being forced to recant of "heretical" positions without dialog, council, or even a Roman dogma by which to judge his opinions against.

Prierias was a high official in the Roman Church. He charged Luther with offending the Pope's majesty in questioning indulgence preaching, because this was akin to questioning the authority of the one who granted indulgence preaching (the Pope). The battle over indulgences quickly moved to Luther questioning the very office of the Papacy and exactly what extent of power such an office held. Controversialists like Prierias responded that the Papacy had naked authority to silence criticisms like those Luther was putting forth. Luther argued in his conclusion to the Epitoma this type of position on papal authority held by Prierias was unbiblical. It goes against Matthew 18:15-17, for the Pope, according to the position held by Prierias, could never fall under its order of discipline. If the Pope refused to listen, he should be treated as a heathen and a publican.

The entire tone of Prierias' work provoked Luther, particularly since Prierias was such a high ranking official. Against this position of papal absolutism Luther declares:
"If these opinions and this teaching prevail at Rome, with the knowledge of the Pope and the Cardinals, I pronounce that Antichrist sits in the temple of God, and that the Roman Court is the synagogue of Satan. If the Pope and the Cardinals do not demand a retraction of these opinions,I declare that I dissent from the Roman Church, and cast it off as the abomination standing in the holy place."
"When the Romanists see that they cannot prevent a Council, they feign that the Pope is above a Council, is the infallible rule of truth, and the author of all understanding of Scripture. There is no remedy, save that Emperor, Kings, and Princes should attack these pests and settle the matter, not by words but by the sword. If we punish thieves by the gallows, and heretics by fire, why not attack Pope, Cardinals, and the brood of the Roman Sodom with arms, and wash our hands in their blood?" [source]
Read with this background, one sees Luther's anger and frustration. To cite the quote without explaining why Luther would've been provoked to such a violent outburst is to ignore history: it is to ignore the historical polemic context in which Luther found himself, in heated dialogue with high ranking Roman apologists that could influence his very life or death. He was in a battle against those who simply declared and defended the power of the Pope. How could one engage in a life threatening situation against an absolute power that refused to even admit its wrongdoings and abuses with indulgences? Luther responds harshly that the Emperor, kings, and princes should treat such an abuse of power in the same way thieves and heretics are treated by the state. Keep in mind, Roman contoversialists would have no problem likewise having Luther fall into the hands of the state to be punished with the same severity.

Luther explained not to long afterward exactly what he meant by his violent outburst in response to another Roman controversialist. Luther's violent words were cited by Jerome Emser: "Luther has heretofore, in his other books, exhorted the common people most diligently to wash their hands in the blood of the priests" (Emser, as cited in Works of Martin Luther III, p. 343). Let's let Luther explain what he meant. In response to Jerome Emser, In LW 39: 172-174, Luther states:
Emser’s second lie is that I wanted the hands of the laymen washed in the blood of the priests. His holy priesthood and Christian love seek nothing but fire. If I were dead he could spread such lies as truth, just as happened to Huss. This is the way I have written against Sylvester, “in contrast,” as this noble poet and rhetorician well knows: if heretics are burned, why should we not much rather attack the pope and his sects with the sword and wash our hands in their blood, if he teaches what Sylvester writes, namely, that Holy Scripture has its power from the pope. But since I dislike burning heretics, or killing even a single Christian, and since I know full well it is against the gospel, I merely indicated what they deserve if heretics deserve the fire. Nor is it necessary to attack you with the sword. The nobility and worldly powers, if they just despise your tyrannical shamming and false ban, can certainly advise you womanish and childish people with a single letter and command. They can say to you, “This is the way it must be,” and you have no choice but to obey. The way you react to it, with burning, banning, raging, and raving against the clear truth, it seems you would really like to have a Bohemian example made of yourselves and fulfil the prophecy which says that the priests should be slain. If this should happen to you, you cannot blame me. Just continue as you are, you are on the right track! Where advice is not possible, help is not possible. You will very soon find out if you can end the game in that way, even if it rains and snows nothing but bishops, Emsers, Ecks, and popes. I trust you have foreseen that no one will destroy the pope but you yourselves, his own creatures, as the prophet says.
But tell me, dear Emser, if you may write that it is necessary and right to burn heretics and think you do not thereby soil your hands with Christian blood, why should it not also be right to strangle you, Sylvester, the pope, and all your sects in the most scandalous way? For not only do you write in the manner of a heretic and of the Antichrist, but you also say what all the devils are not allowed to say, namely, that the gospel is confirmed by the pope, its power is dependent on the pope’s power, and the church has done what the pope does? What heretic has ever so completely condemned and destroyed God’s word in one stroke? That is why I still say, “If heretics have deserved the fire, you and the pope should be killed a thousand times.” Still I do not want it to happen. Your judge is not far off. He will find you in good health and nimble. Do not get bored in the meantime. Yet I would prefer you to come before him with remorse and penance. God help you to do this, Amen. Nevertheless, I would like the Roman courtiers to be repelled with force just like other thieves and robbers, if they cannot be stopped in any other way.
So that I may not be ridiculed along with you I shall ignore your babbling that I put the priesthood to shame and your claim that St. Paul was consecrated by the apostles and St. Peter had a tonsure; I shall also ignore all the useless talk you spew forth about consecration and priestly estate and the threefold meaning of “spiritual”-spirituale, ecclesiasticum, religiosum-and that not all Christians are spiritual, spirituales. You probably also would like to say that the laying on of hands on the head meant more than consecration. Who can stop you if you intend to do nothing but lie and preach, as some do, that St. Bartholomew prayed the rosary and the psalter of our dear lady? I do not need any logic here: I call spiritual spirituales, devout Christians ecclesiasticum, and do not know religiosum in this context. I thought that for once the naked sword would strike me with the blade, but neither sheath nor sword nor man is at hand. You also lie that I have made all laymen bishops, priests, and spiritual in such a way that they may exercise the office without a call. But, as godly as you are, you conceal the fact that I added that no one should undertake this office without a call unless it be an extreme emergency. And what shall I say, since there is almost one lie after another in your book? I am afraid you will lie, blaspheme, hate, and rave yourself to death. In previous times it was easy to write against heretics. For even though they erred, as honest people they did not need to lie and stuck to the heart of the matter. My persecutors let the matter drop and, like knaves, rely solely upon lies. But to keep you from being displeased at hearing nothing but your lies, let us deal again with something good-the Spirit and the letter, which is the main theme of your book.
Luther's famous biographer, Roland Bainton states in Here I Stand,
In one unguarded outburst he incited to violence. A new attack by Prierias lashed Luther to rage. In a printed reply he declared:
"It seems to me that if the Romanists are so mad the only remedy remaining is for the emperor, the kings, and princes to gird themselves with force of arms to attack these pests of all the world and fight them, not with words, but with steel. If we punish thieves with the yoke, highwaymen with the sword, and heretics with fire, why do we not rather assault these monsters of perdition, these cardinals, these popes, and the whole swarm of the Roman Sodom, who corrupt youth and the Church of God? Why do we not rather assault them with arms and wash our hands in their blood?"
Luther explained afterwards that he really did not mean what the words imply.
I wrote "If we burn heretics, why do we not rather attack the pope and his followers with the sword and wash our hands in their blood?" Since I do not approve of burning heretics nor of killing any Christian this I well know does not accord with the gospel I have shown what they deserve if heretics deserve fire. There is no need to attack you with the sword.
Despite this disclaimer Luther was never suffered to forget his incendiary blast. It was quoted against him in the Edict of the Diet of Worms.
The disavowal was genuine. His prevailing mood was expressed in a letter of October to a minister who was prompted to leave his post. Luther wrote:
Our warfare is not with flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness in the heavenly places, against the world rulers of this darkness. Let us then stand firm and heed the trumpet of the Lord. Satan is fighting, not against us, but against Christ in us. We fight the battles of the Lord. Be strong therefore. If God is for us, who can be against us?
You are dismayed because Eck is publishing a most severe bull against Luther, his books, and his followers. Whatever may happen, I am not moved, because nothing can happen save in accord with the will of him who sits upon the heaven directing all. Let not your hearts be troubled. Your Father knows your need before you ask him. Not a leaf from a tree falls to the ground without his knowledge. How much less can any of us fall unless it be his will.
If you have the spirit, do not leave your post, lest another receive your crown. It is but a little thing that we should die with the Lord, who in our flesh laid down his life for us. We shall rise with him and abide with him in eternity. See then that you do not despise your holy calling. He will come, he will not tarry, who will deliver us from every ill. Fare well in the Lord Jesus, who comforts and sustains mind and spirit. Amen.
Bainton helpfully points out that Luther's words were cited against him in the Edict of the Diet of Worms. This document states:
Item. As for the holy order of the priesthood (through which the precious body and blood of our Lord is consecrated) and the power and authority of the keys of our Holy Mother Church: not only does Luther despise them by saying that they are common to all men, children, and women, but in addition, he provokes the seculars to wash their hands in the blood of the priests.
The Edict was issued on May 25, 1521. Luther's explanation to Emser was in print by the end of March 1521. It may be the case that Luther's explanation was not consulted in the drafting of the Edict- but at least it should be clear Luther's explanation to Emser was not motivated by fear of, or embarrassment of the statement in the Edict of the Diet of Worms. What the Edict does show though is the way in which Catholics read Luther. Luther's arguments were taken to be words written to incite the people to violence against the Church. David Bagchi has pointed out that many of the Catholics responding to Luther early on,
"...displayed an attitude toward the people that revealed not simply disdain of social inferiors but also a deep fear of a potential source of violent revolution. For a religious and a priest to take the complaints of lay people seriously and on this basis to criticize a practice of the church (in the medieval sense of the 'clergy') was to commit class treason. It is well known that in years to come Luther was to use inflammatory language urging the laity to 'reform' the cardinals with cold steel; it is not so well known that his Catholic opponents first put these words into his mouth" (Luther's Earliest Opponents, p. 42).
Later Bagchi explains that it was Luther's early opponents that first kept bringing up the possibility that Luther's arguments first against indulgences, and then (by forced implication) the power and validity of the Papacy, that were eventually going to lead to revolution. It was their continued counter-argument against him. Rather than call a church council to discuss and define indulgences, the early Catholic apologists sought to silence him for fear of revolt! Bagchi concludes it was Luther's opponents that eventually "gave him the idea of a reformation conducted by the laity." "The Catholic fear of insurrection indicated to Luther the vast reservoir of power, and it was through this power that he now saw a way of bringing about that reformation of the church he felt so necessary if God's teachings were to prevail against men's" (pp. 259-260).

Saturday, October 25, 2008

MP3 Debate: The Case For / Against God 1991

Here's an MP3 I found on a Catholic apologetics website (and moved over to another sever):

Greg Bahnsen vs. George H. Smith The Case For / Against God 1991

For those of you not familiar with presuppositional apologetics, this free-form discussion between the late Greg Bahnsen and atheist George Smith will give you a good taste of the method of argumentation. Try not to be doing anything distracting while listening to this show.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"...we will not know to whom to turn."

Hat tip to TurretinFan, who pointed out this article, and I'd like to focus on a different statement from Pope Benedict.

Not much to say, actually...

With the words of Bartolo, the Pontiff turned to Mary, saying: "If you will not help us because we are ungrateful and unworthy children of your protection, we will not know to whom to turn."

No wonder he should say that:

...For, if Thou protect me, dear Mother, I fear nothing; not from my sins because Thou wilt obtain for me the pardon of them; nor from the devils, because Thou art more powerful than all hell together; nor even from Jesus, my Judge, because by one prayer from Thee, He will be appeased. But one thing I fear, that in the hour of temptation, I may through negligence fail to have recourse to Thee and thus perish miserably...(Alphonsus de Liguori, Our Lady of Perpetual Help)

My gracious, it is so sad.

Act 16:29 And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas,
Act 16:30 and after he brought them out, he said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
Act 16:31 They said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household."

Monday, October 20, 2008

Lutheran Scholar A.C. Piepkorn on Luther's Belief in the Immaculate Conception

Recently I had a brief pleasant e-mail exchange with a Lutheran minister on Luther and the Immaculate Conception. I came across his comment:

"Luther, though, did hold to a sort of immaculate conception. Just sort of. He affirmed that she was bodily conceived with original sin, but held that at the infusion of the soul superabundant grace was poured upon her so that she was "ohne alle Sünde" - without all sin (meaning actual sin). He thought that this was indicated by the angel greeting her as "gratia plena." He never seems to have changed his mind on this. So, it's not the current Roman position, but rather the medieval position that Thomas taught that Luther seemed to have run with."

I wrote him to get some clarification as to what materials informed his view. He directed me to The Church: Selected Writings of Arthur Carl Piepkorn. We had some crossed wires, which was my fault, as I was not aware that there is now a second edition of the book with extra content. Our page numbers didn't seem to coincide, as I have the older edition. What made our interaction worthwhile was that he directed me to some information contained in both editions that I appear to have missed when I composed this paper.

The relevant material comes from p. 329 in the second edition, and p. 289 in the first edition. Piepkorn notes:

Yet three years before his death [Luther] was still affirming in print the opinion that he had worked out in detail with considerable theological ingenuity twenty five years earlier [#12], namely that through the merits of her Son -to-be the Blessed Virgin was marvelously preserved from the taint of sin from the first moment of her existence as a human being [#13].

footnote #12. Sermon on the Gospel for the Feast of the Conception of the B.V.M. (1517), Weimar edition 17/2, 288.

footnote #13. Vom Schem Hamphoras und vom Geschlect Christi, 1543, Weimar edition, 53,640. compare for the year 1553, 37, 231, where he describes the B.V.M. as an sund (i.e. ohne Sünde, "without sin").

As to the reference in footnote #12, I've written about that extensively. Briefly, Catholic historian Hartmann Grisar has noted, "The sermon was taken down in notes and published with Luther's approval. The same statements concerning the Immaculate Conception still remain in a printed edition published in 1529, but in the later editions which appeared during Luther's lifetime they disappear. (Cp. N. Paulus, " Lit. Beil. der Koln. Volksztng.," 1904, No. 41.)." It has been my contention that Luther's views on the Immaculate Conception changed sometime after this sermon was preached. Keep in mind also, Luther was no fan of Thomas. Luther's comments on Thomas and scholastic theology are typically negative.

As to the second reference, it's either a typo in my edition, or a genuine error on Piepkorn's behalf (or I don't understand the reference) when he refers to the year 1553 (Luther died in 1546). Note above the Lutheran minister stated "ohne alle Sünde - without all sin (meaning actual sin)." Piepkorn states "ohne Sünde, (without sin)," and the "Blessed Virgin was marvelously preserved from the taint of sin from the first moment of her existence as a human being." Granted, both are stating a similar thing, the question of course, is did Luther state ohne Sünde or ohne alle Sünde in the 1543 treatise?

I was actually able to track down a translation of "Vom Schem Hamphoras und vom Geschlect Christi, 1543." The interesting thing about this treatise is it's one of Luther's anti-Jewish writings, not a treatise on Mariology. In terms of content, it isn't nearly as vicious as Luther's earlier "On the Jews and Their Lies," but does contain a longer than usual section on Mary.

Luther does have a discussion of the term alma, and the reasons why Mary must be a perpetual virgin, but Luther does not launch into any full discussion of Mary's Immaculate Conception. Luther does state, only in passing that it was necessary for Mary to be a young holy virgin freed of original sin and cleansed by the Holy Ghost to be the mother of Jesus Christ. This statement comes after argumentation for Mary's perpetual virginity. What the statement from Luther doesn't say, one way or the other, is if Mary lived a completely sinless life. In other instances I've documented that for Luther, the cleansing of Mary by the Holy Spirit happened at the conception of Christ, not Mary's conception. I didn't only document Luther stating this once, but multiple times.

But why would Arthur Carl Piepkorn takes this vague statement and put forth such a strong conclusion? I can only speculate, and I mean no offense to fans of Piepkorn's writings. Piepkorn had interest in ecumenical dialog with Rome. He was involved for multiple years with Lutheran-Catholic dialogue. Catholic scholar Raymond Brown praised Piepkorn and commented that it would be preposterous to doubt the validity of his priestly orders. My answer would be that Piepkorn's romance with Rome seems to have molded his interpretation of Luther's Mariology. I've seen this a few times with particular scholars- a willingness to give as much as possible in order to heal the schism that cut Rome off from the universal Church. Piepkorn makes other statements about Luther's Mariology that would so warm the hearts of Roman Catholics- perhaps at some point I'll post those to prove my point further.

Not that this has any bearing on Piepkorn's Mariological statements, but interestingly, Piepkorn was charged, convicted, and removed due to teaching false doctrine [correction: he was accused of teaching false doctrine, the Semiary attempted to force him to retire, he then on his own accord resigned, and shortly thereafter passed away]:

“During the mid-seventies amidst the storm of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod controversy, Piepkorn was among those of the faculty majority at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, cited as teaching false doctrine by the 1973 New Orleans Convention resolution 3-09. Piepkorn was a signatory of the Seminary majority's protest against this resolution and resolution 3-01, which declared that all of the synod's theological and biblical interpretation and teachings must be interpreted in accord with a presumed synodical tradition as articulated in the document entitled, "A Statement of Scriptural and Confessional Principles," by Dr. Jacob A. 0. Preus, President of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.” (Plekon and Wiecher, The Church: Selected Writings of Arthur Carl Piepkorn, New York: ALPB Books, 1993, 300.)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Luther: "The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart"

A more detailed and revised look at this Luther quote can be found here: Luther: "The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart."

Here's one of those "Luther was extraordinarily devoted to Mary" quotes that has been floating around cyber-space for some time: "The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart."

I've been aware of this quote for quite a few years now. Recently, a Roman Catholic posted it in the comments section of one of my blog entries, as if it would somehow be a "shocker." If you do a web-search, you'll find it oft-quoted. Books are likewise citing it. For instance, The Everything Mary Book states,

According to Martin Luther, not only was devotion to Mary a spiritually helpful practice, but it was an almost intrinsic aspect of healthy spirituality. According to a sermon he gave on September 1, 1522,"the veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart."

Documentation: Where did this quote come from?
 I suspect this quote was first brought into cyberspace by a Roman Catholic apologist. This form of the quote circulated online for years:
Luther held to the idea and devotional practice of the veneration of Mary and expressed this on innumerable occasions with the most effusive language: The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart. (Sermon, September 1, 1522)
The quote may have been taken from a reading of Thomas O'Meara's Mary in Protestant and Catholic Theology (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1966). On page 123, O'Meara states, "After all, [Luther] had written on September 1, 1522: 'The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart' (WA 10, III, 313)." I can't know for sure, but since O'Meara and the same Roman apologist both cited the sermon with the wrong date of September 1, and that same Roman apologist has cited O'Meara in his writings, the chances are pretty good. Whoever put this quote online, I further suspect they didn't have "WA 10, III, 313." If that source was used, that means someone beside O'Meara used the wrong date (the date is on the top of each page of this sermon!). Some may wonder why I pick out things like this, but simply do a web search on the quote and see how far misinformation spreads.

I actually didn't even realize I had a broader context for this quote in my library, that found in William Cole's article, Was Luther a Marian Devotee?  (pp. 1491-151). The sermon was actually preached on September 8, 1522, not September 1. Some see 1522 as one of the major transitional years in Luther's Mariology, particularly as he was quickly heading towards the denial of prayer to the saints. Keep that in mind as you read the following paragraphs from which this quote is taken. See for yourself if it proves "Luther held to the idea and devotional practice of the veneration of Mary" like Roman Catholics do.


Luther states:
You know, my friends, that deep in the heart of men is inscribed the honor with which one honors the mother of God; yes, it is even so deep that no one willingly hears anything against it, but extols her more and more. Now we grant that she should be honored since we are enjoined by the Scripture to receive one another with honor, as Paul says (Romans 12:10); so man must also honor her. Above all she must be rightly honored, but the people have "fallen" so deeply in this honor that she is more highly honored than is right and there are two harmful results of all of this: a rupture with Christ inasmuch as the hearts of men are more directed to her than to Christ himself. Christ is put behind in darkness and entirely forgotten!
The other result is the harm done to the common folk; for when the Mother of God and her service are held in such high esteem, poor, indigent Christians are forgotten. I gladly allow you to hold her in high respect, to praise her greatly, but only insofar as there is no law made about it. Thus the Holy Scripture itself has described nothing about her birth so that no one should set his heart on her. But now the priests and monks wish to extol the honor of women and have so highly extolled Mary that they have made out of this humble servant a goddess after the manner of the heathens. To arrive at such a position they have to use lies and to turn Scripture around to say things which do not belong to it. You see that the gospel which was read today refers to Christ's birth and not to Mary's ... yes I willingly allow that one honors her, but I ask that those who honor her should not make lies out of Scripture! WA 10 (3) 313, 15 to 315, 16
In the same sermon, Luther comments on the Salve Regina stating:
"Hail, queen of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope." Is not this too much? Who wishes to justify that she is our life, our sweetness and our hope when she herself indicates that she is a poor vessel? This prayer is sung through the entire world and bells are rung! It is the same with the Regina Coeli;, it is not better that she is called Queen of Heaven. Is not this a dishonor of Christ that one gives to a creature what belongs to God alone? WA 10 (3) 321, 15-18
Now we have placed Mary so far above all the choirs of angels, next to her son and Lord, that dishonor and harm is done to her loving child. This is a great injustice and I claim that if she were on earth that she would weep blood about such dishonorable honor. Man should leave her in the honor which has come to her and respect her as a child of God. Yes, even see her as mother of God and praise God in her the same way that she herself has done in Magnificat. Grimmental, Oetigan, Einsiedein, (pilgrimage centers) ach, and so on, but go into the house of the neighbor who is in need and what you would spend on a pilgrimage, give to him! This I say about the honor of the saints. WA 10 (3), 325 13 to 326, 17
Note the entire sentence of the quotation: "You know, my friends, that deep in the heart of men is inscribed the honor with which one honors the mother of God; yes, it is even so deep that no one willingly hears anything against it, but extols her more and more." Luther's point is that whatever respect Mary was due to her, the Church collectively had gone far beyond it. Note Luther's qualifier: "Now we grant that she should be honored since we are enjoined by the Scripture to receive one another with honor, as Paul says (Romans 12:10); so man must also honor her." Romans 12:10 states, "Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another." Luther saw that Mary had become more than she actually was. Notice where Luther places Mary with his veneration of her:
We are called Christians after Christ, because we depend upon him alone and are his children and heritage; in this respect we are like the Mother of God herself and Mary's brothers and sisters; otherwise we do injury to the holy blood of Christ, for through his blood all of us are cleansed from sin and made partakers of his goods. In this respect we are likewise holy as she. And if she received greater grace, that did not happen because of her merit but because of the mercy of God, for we cannot all be the mother of God. Otherwise she is like to us inasmuch as, by the blood of Christ, she has come to grace as we have.WA 10 (3), 315, 10 to 316, 11
So there you have it... in a passage in which Luther chastises the church of his day for excessive Marian worship, and also that Mary is to be honored as all Christians are according to Romans 12:10, the quote is cited by Roman Catholic apologists to prove Luther held to similar devotional practices of today's Roman Catholics!

One Roman apologist states, "Luther did strongly condemn any devotional practices which implied that Mary was in any way equal to our Lord or that she took anything away from His sole sufficiency as our Savior. This is, and always has been, the official teaching of the Catholic Church."  This is anachronism. What were the official standards on Marian piety in 1522? To what was Luther using to critique Marian piety above? Luther says it's the "the priests and monks" who were directly responsible for rampant Mariolatry. Luther is noting the Roman Church of his day collectively dishonored Mary by their entanglement of veneration and intercession. Such is the case today as well.

The concept of veneration and intercession are intimately intertwined in Roman Catholic piety, both in Luther's day and ours. One wonders if any sort of comparison between Luther's "nice" and honoring statements about Mary, and Roman Catholic statements about Mary can be put forth. One cannot read Luther's writings as if he's speaking the same language as Roman Catholic Marian "veneration." He isn't, and 16th Century Roman Catholics knew it. Luther states in the sermon:
Gladly will I admit that she prays for me, but that she should be my confidence and life, that I will not admit and your prayer is as agreeable to me as hers! Why? Because if you believe that Christ is likewise in you as he is in her, you can likewise help me, as she does! WA 10 (3), 322
Luther went on only a short time later to clearly deny the intercession of the saints. But here, we see that Luther considered the prayers of his contemporary Christians as equally important as the prayers of Mary. He placed no extra confidence in her abilities. His "Mariology" was not Roman Catholic Mariology, and as his career went on, he moved further away from the idolatry present in his day.

I've spent a lot of time on Luther's Mariology over the years. I have done so because Roman Catholics are misusing history when they claim Luther should be looked to as a Protestant champion of Mary. I say, go ahead, and look at Luther's statements about Mary (the few and sparse that they are), but read them in context, and don't allow Catholic apologists to spin the facts to fit their worldview. If they had historical truth on their side, the Luther quotes they use, when placed in a context, wouldn't make them look so incompetent.


"Luther's attitude toward the cult of the saints bore a close resemblance to his critique of monasticism. Both, in his view, transgressed Christ's summary of the Law, to love the Lord God and one's neighbor as oneself. As the religious were guilty of blasphemy for magnifying human achievement at God's expense, so saint worship detracted from the worship of God. As monasticism conflicted with the demands of neighborly love, so 'the living saints'- the poor and the sick- suffered while money was wasted on dead saints. The Virgin Mary, rightly honored by us as the Mother of God, is a model of humility. She would be appalled, protested Luther, to be worshiped as a pagan goddess, 'the queen of mercy,' by those who should know better. The pious are encouraged to visit shrines containing fragments of the true cross. Even if this were genuine- and there are enough pieces of the true cross in Germany to build a house- the one true cross is the cross that Christ himself bade us to bear, and we need travel no further than our own hearts to find and honor it [Luther publicized these views on the saints in Sermon von der Geburt Mariae, given on 8 September 1522 and reprinted eleven times before 1524, excluding editions of collected sermons; and Sermon von der Heiltumen, given on 14 September 1522 and reprinted five times before 1524, excluding editions of collected sermons] Source: David V.N. Bagchi, Luther's Earliest Opponents: Catholic Controversialists, 1518-1525 (Minneapolis: Fortress Press,1991), p. 152-153).

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Quotable Luther #6 Waiting for a Council to Clarify

Councils may make decisions and pass decrees in matters that are temporal or that have not yet been clearly set forth. But when we can plainly see what is God’s Word and will, we will wait neither for councils nor for the decrees and decisions of the Church, but rather fear God and boldly do according to that Word and will of God without stopping to think whether councils shall be called or not.

For I am not willing to wait until councils decide whether we are to believe in God the Father, Maker of heaven and earth, in His only Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, in the Holy Ghost, etc. And just so with all other manifest, clear and certain portions of the Scriptures which it is necessary and profitable for me to believe. For, suppose the councils should delay, and I should have to die before they reached a decision, where should my soul stay meanwhile, since it is not to know what to believe, but await the decision of the Councils, and yet I need faith here on earth?

Source: Works of Martin Luther Vol. III (Philadelphia Edition), p. 417

Friday, October 17, 2008

How to Refer to Your Theological Oppenents...or not?

When we get involved in Internet theological discussions, it's all too easy to get personal. We all fail at this. Sometimes it may be the person we're in discussion with is completely unreasonable, if not silly, and thus very difficult to take seriously. I've often stated that there is an unavoidable level of polemic.

With Luther and those writing in the Sixteenth Century (both Catholic and Protestant), using personal attack was a typical tactic. Bellow is a partial list of Luther's "pet" names for his opponents.

Dr. Emser: because he has a goat in his coat-of-arms, at once becomes himself the Leipzig goat.

Johannes Cochlaeus: (cochlea == snail; cochlear = spoon) appears suddenly as Rotzloffel (snotty)

Dr. Eck: Dr. Geek (fool) or Dreck (muck)

The Ritter Schwenckfeld: as Herr von Stenkfeld (stinkfield)

Dr. Usingen: as Dr. Unsingen

Dr.Crotus: as Dr. Krote (toad)

The Franciscan Schatzgeyer : Master Schatzfresser (treasure-eater)

The Franciscan Alveld: as the miller's grey ass that always cries "Ika, Ika"

Duke Heinrich of Brunswick- Wolfenbiittel as Jack Pudding, as sausage-devil, as a cow on a walnut-tree, as a sow twangling on a harp

The Jurists: ignorists, nequists, plank-doctors— for they cure everything with gallows-wood

Dr. N.Buch : a poodle whose coat is crawling and swarming with fleas, his "book" being full, not of printing-errors, but thinking-errors.

Source: Heinrich Boehmer, Luther & the Reformation in the Light of Modern Research (London: G. Bell and Sons, LTD., 1930) pp. 181-182

Boehmer explains:

But the reformer has a very special preference for bringing "her serene highness the white beast," the sow, on to the scene. How the dear creature gorges itself, licks its chops and scrapes in the muck, how it snorts and grunts, how it spends its mild, safe, quiet life snoring away on its " down feather bed," how it laughs through its nose at the piglets— all this he observes very prettily; but for polemical purposes he sometimes teaches the sow special tricks. It appears like a clown now with a lemon in its mouth, now with a string of pearls round its neck, now wearing a coat of mail, now with a spinning-wheel, now with a harp.

Luther the polemical writer cannot therefore be understood at all unless one has a feeling for the humour of the sixteenth century. This humour was not a subtle humour. In Luther's hands it often turns very rudely against his own person, for often enough he mocks at himself unsparingly as " fat Doctor," "lazy stinking carcase," and "sack full of rotten flesh." But in spite of all its wild somersaults it never, in his case, takes the form of obscenity for its own sake as it does with Emser, Cochlaeus and Lemnius. Luther may indeed be cited as a proof that a German can be coarse and vulgar to the point of grossness, without ever becoming wantonly licentious

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Luther's Statement Concerning Roman Catholic Authorities: "Why do we not rather assault them with arms and wash our hands in their blood?" (Part Two)

"It seems to me that if the Romanists are so mad the only remedy remaining is for the emperor, the kings, the princes to gird themselves with force of arms to attack these pests of all the world and fight them, not with words, but with steel. If we punish thieves with the yoke, highwaymen with the sword, and heretics with fire, why do we not rather assault these monsters of perdition, these cardinals, these popes, and the whole swarm of the Roman Sodom, who corrupt youth and the Church of God? Why do we not rather assault them with arms and wash our hands in their blood?"- Martin Luther June 25, 1520

The following is typical of the research methods I use when searching out obscure Luther quotes. Previously, I looked briefly at the way one particular Catholic apologist documented the quote. This time, I'd like to take a quick look at the interpretation of the quote.

The Polemical Arena
This Luther quote has a long history of polemical citation. There is not an agreed consensus by Catholic polemicists as to what the quote actually implies. That is, when Catholic apologists read the quote, they use their private judgment and interpret it according to whichever target their aim is focused. This is not to say that all Catholic writers use the quote as a polemical tool. Some simply cite it, and leave it at that. Below though are some of the usages that stood out.

The quote has been used by Luther's opponents as proof Luther was a gross heretic. For instance, Alfonso Maria de' Liguori's sees the citation as Luther's battle cry against the papacy. For de' Liguori, Luther was driven by a deep hatred for the papacy, provoking him to gross heresy:

Luther, as soon as he heard of the publication of the first Bull of 1520, and the burning of his books in Rome, burned in the public square of Wittenberg the Bull, and the Book of the Decretals of the Canon Law, saying: "As you have opposed the saints of the Lord, so may eternal fire destroy you;" and then, in a voice of fury, exclaimed: "Let us fight with all our strength against that son of perdition, the Pope, the Cardinals, and all the Roman sink of corruption; let us wash our hands in their blood." From that day to the day of his death, he never ceased writing against the Pope and the Catholic Church, and from the year 1521 to 1546, when he died, he brought to light again, in his works, almost every heresy of former ages. Cochlaeus, speaking of Luther's writings, says: "He thus defiled everything holy; he preaches Christ, and tramples on his servants; magnifies faith, and denies good works, and opens a license to sin; elevates mercy, depresses justice, and throws upon God the cause of all evil; finally, destroys all law, takes the power out of the hands of the magistrate, stirs up the laity against the clergy, the impious against the Pope, the people against princes" [source].

de Liguori cited a contemporary of Luther's: Johannes Cochlaeus. Cochlaeus cites the quote as Luther preaching actual war against Rome:

And so Luther, already secure in popular opinion, and propped up by the favor of certain nobles, and trusting in the praises and defenses of the rhetoricians and the poets, proceeded most boldly to all imaginable misdeeds. He renewed before the Council his appeal against the Pope, as though it were against the Antichrist and one who denied the Scriptures. He pursued the Director of the Sacred Palace with dire curses and insults, because of an Epitome the Director had published - indeed, he even publicly summoned him to arms. 'Truly it seems to me' (he said) 'that if the madness of the Romanists continues thus, no remedy will be left except that the Emperor, Kings, and Princes, girded with strength and arms, should attack these plagues of the entire earth, and decide the matter not with words, but with the sword. For what do these lost men - who lack even common sense - babble, except that which it was foretold the Antichrist would do? If we punish thieves with the fork, robbers with the sword, heretics with fire, why do we not all the more, with all available weapons, fall upon these teachers of perdition, these Cardinals, these Popes,and all that conflux of the Roman Sodom, which continually corrupts the Church of God? Why do we not wash our hands in their blood?'[Johannes Cochlaeus, The deeds and writings of Martin Luther from the year of the Lord 1517 to the year 1546 related chronologically to all posterity (Luther's Lives (New York: Manchester Press, 2002), p.76)].

Patrick O'Hare's Facts About Luther uses the quote to prove Luther's errors on "free will and Liberty of conscience":

The truth is that Luther rarely spoke or wrote of liberty in the sense in which we know and realize the God-given boon. It is a well-known fact of history that he did not favor that freedom of thought which later became the vogue among his progeny. Liberty, as he understood the word, was solely for himself, but not for others. With him it was a personal matter. All men were free to differ with the Pope, to reject his teaching, to curse him to the lowest depths, were even invited and encouraged to slay him like a wolf or robber, and wash their hands in his blood and that of his cardinals and other adherents, but they must not dare to differ from Martin Luther [source].

Catholic historian Hartmann Grisar sees the statement as proof for Luther's culpability in the peasants war that followed a few years later:

It was [Luther]who first raised the call to arms, and it was impossible for him to wash his hands of all share in the revolt, even though he had told the people that they were not to make use of force without the consent of the authorities and had subsequently condemned the rising with violence. "The common people pay no attention to that," he tells him, "but merely obey what pleases them in Luther s writings and sermons." "You declared in your public writings, that they were to assail the Pope and the Cardinals with every weapon available, and wash their hands in their blood. You called all the bishops who would not follow your teaching, idolatrous priests and ministers of the devil; you said that the bishops deserved to be wiped off the face of the earth in a great rising." "You called those, dear children of God and true Christians, who make every effort for the destruction of the bishoprics and the extermination of episcopal rule. You said also that whoever obeyed the bishops was the devil s own servant. You called the monasteries dens of murderers, and incited the people to pull them down" [Grisar, Luther Vol. 2, p. 190]

Grisar though admits, "No one, in the least familiar with Luther's writings, will be so foolish as to believe that it was really his intention to kill the Catholic clergy and monks. His bloodthirsty demands were but the violent outbursts of his own deep inward intolerance" [Grisar, Luther Vol. 6, p. 246]. Roman Catholic writer Henry O'Connor likewise thinks the quote indicts Luther for the peasants revolt, but suggests Luther's intentions were to incite the princes to battles against the Papacy:

In the same year, Luther wrote these remarkable words: "If we punish thieves with the gallows, robbers with the sword, heretics with fire, why do we not still more attack with every kind of weapon these teachers of perdition, these Cardinals, these Popes, and that whole abomination of the Romish Sodom, which, without ceasing, corrupts the Church of God, and why do we not wash our hands in their blood?" [O'Connor, Henry, Luther's Own Statements, New York: Benziger Bros., 1884. p. 41, (emphasis by O'Connor)].

"This inflammatory power of this violent language is not very much mitigated by saying, that Luther here addressed himself only to the princes" [Ibid.].

In a give-and-take historical analysis, a Catholic apologist presents the citation (among others) as proof that Luther's statements to violence had a direct effect on the peasants revolt, even if Luther didn't intend them to:

One doesn't “get a pass” in God’s eyes for real sins because of cultural context. It is all the more serious when such remarks are arguably a major cause in both provoking and violently quelling a rebellion in which some 130,000 human beings lost their lives: almost all violently and cruelly. Luther might indeed have meant one thing when he uttered his impassioned hyper-polemical, quasi-prophetic jeremiads, but he was (by the looks of it) so naive and lacking in practical wisdom about human nature and human affairs (“worldly” or “real life” considerations) that he apparently had no idea what harm and ill consequences his words might cause. In one sense, this gets him “off the hook” to some extent (I certainly freely grant him his good intentions and sincerity), but nevertheless, he bears much responsibility for the resulting extent of the sad division by virtue of his constant polemics (often involving much falsehood about the Catholic Church). [Source: Martin Luther: Catholic Critical Analysis and Praise, p.119]

These are only a sampling of Catholic polemics with this quote. Generally speaking, the protestant citations (and non-Catholic citations) of the quote tend to simply state it without indicting Luther's character. In one interesting review of Roland Bainton's famous biography, Here I Stand, The Westminster Theological Journal (May, 1951) sees Bainton's treatment of the quote as "...Dr. Bainton display[ing] a sympathetic evaluation of Luther’s thought and activities" [p. 168]. This though does not deter the reviewer from praising the value of the biography: "He treats Luther with evident sympathy, yet not with blind reverence" [Ibid.].

Karl Barth takes the quote at face value in its implication to avenge the wrongdoings of the Papacy, finding Luther's doctrine of the "two kingdoms" undeveloped. This writer identifies the passage in question as satire. David Bagchi's book, Luther's Earliest Opponents thinks the threat to violence isn't the real thrust of the quote. Rather, it's Luther call for a Council (p.260). Richard Marius simply cites the quote and calls it "one of the most ferocious and bloodthirsty cries ever written against the papacy (p. 282).

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Luther's Statement Concerning Roman Catholic Authorities: "Why do we not rather assault them with arms and wash our hands in their blood?" (Part One)

Luther said: "It seems to me that if the Romanists are so mad the only remedy remaining is for the emperor, the kings, the princes to gird themselves with force of arms to attack these pests of all the world and fight them, not with words, but with steel. If we punish thieves with the yoke, highwaymen with the sword, and heretics with fire, why do we not rather assault these monsters of perdition, these cardinals, these popes, and the whole swarm of the Roman Sodom, who corrupt youth and the Church of God? Why do we not rather assault them with arms and wash our hands in their blood?"- Martin Luther June 25, 1520
The following is typical of what I go through with obscure Luther quotes. In this first installment, I'd like to simply take a look at documentation. Future blog entries will delve into the historical setting and context.

DocumentationTo my knowledge, a complete professionally translated English context of this citation is not available. On page 122 of a self-published book, Martin Luther: Catholic Critical Analysis and Praise (2008), a defender of Rome documents the quote as:
Bainton, 115; Carroll, 1; WA, Vol. VI, 347; EA, Vol. II, 107; PE, Vol. IV, 203; in reply to arguments of the Dominican Sylvester Prierias, Master of the Sacred Palace at Rome; On the Pope as an Infallible Teacher, or On the Papacy at Rome. Church historian Philip Schaff gives its Latin title as De juridica et irrefragabili veritate Romanae Ecclesiae Romanique Pontificis
WA and EA refer to non-English editions of Luther's writings, and contain the context. Carroll, Bainton, and Schaff are secondary sources, and do not contain the entire context.

"PE Vol. IV, 203" refers to the Works of Martin Luther, otherwise known as the old Philadelphia six-volume English edition of Luther's works. "PE Vol. IV, 203" though when checked, contains only the title page "An Admonition to Peace: A Reply to the Twelve Articles of the Peasants in Swabia 1525. The citation though can be found in PE Volume III on page 203 in only the introductory material to a later treatise, An Earnest Exhortation For All Christians, Warning Them Against Insurrection and Rebellion, 1522. The introductory material was written by W.A. Lambert. Lambert cites the quote from a secondary source (Julius Köstlin), rather than a primary text. Thus PE Vol. III, IV, or any of the volumes in the PE set lack the context for the quote in question.

"In reply to arguments of the Dominican Sylvester Prierias, Master of the Sacred Palace at Rome" is an accurate statement, but this is not the title of the treatise from which the quote was taken. Rome's defender appears to make these two different titles refer to the same book: "On the Pope as an Infallible Teacher, or On the Papacy at Rome." Neither is the title of Luther's book, but rather is (are?) the title(s?) of a book by the Dominican Sylvester Prierias.

The actual name of Prierias's book is probably a combination of both titles above. This can be seen by the Schaff citation "De juridica et irrefragabili veritate Romanae Ecclesiae Romanique Pontificis." This translates roughly to "Of the lawful and irreformable truth of the Roman Church [ruled by] the Roman Pontiff." Schaff says this book was written by Sylvester Prierias, and republished by Luther. Here Schaff appears to be in error. Luther did not republish this book, but another work by Prierias which was a shortened version, or an overview of De juridica et irrefragabili veritate Romanae Ecclesiae Romanique Pontificis.

Sylvester Prierias was writing a detailed treatise in favor of the power and authority of the Papacy (De juridica et irrefragabili veritate Romanae Ecclesiae Romanique Pontificis). Before the book went to print, Prierias published a shorter work which gave an overview of the arguments in his forthcoming book. He called this shorter work the Epitoma (1519).

Luther received the Epitoma by 1520. As a response to it, Luther republished it with his own annotations, introduction, and conclusion. Luther's Works explain this method is called,"Per contentionem"-
Per contentionem, a term used in rhetoric to describe the method of contrasting two arguments by printing them side by side. Luther used this method by reprinting Prierias’ polemic treatise, adding a foreword, a postscript, and marginal glosses. Cf. The Abridged Response to Martin Luther (Epitoma responsionis ad Martinum Luther) [LW 39 p. 172 (footnote 60)].
The exact title from which the quote comes from is Epitoma Responsionis ad Marinum Lutherum, and is found in WA, vol. 6, beginning on page 325 and ending on page 348. The quote appears on page 347 as part of Luther's postscript (Ad Lectorem). Rome's defender later cites secondary source Will Durant stating "Luther published, with furious notes, an Epitome..." but this apologist doesn't appear to realize this refers to the name of the treatise. Luther's Epitoma Responsionis ad Marinum Lutherum contains as one of its section headings "De juridica et irrefragabili veritate Romanae Ecclesiae Romanique Pontificis." This is actually the middle section of Luther's publication, and is the republished Epitoma of Prierias. Schaff doesn't seem to be aware of the difference between the two books, nor does Rome's defender.

The Catholic Encyclopedia though lists "Epitoma responsionis ad Lutherum (Perugia, 1519)" as the work of Prierias, not Luther. English identifications refer to it as the Epitome of His Response. Indeed, it appears both the work of Prierias and the republication by Luther use the same title. The Epitome was directly written against Luther, and was actually the third volume of a trilogy directed toward Luther, particularly Luther's treatise, Explanation of His Thirteenth Proposition Concerning the Power of the Pope [WA 2:183-240]. David Bagchi notes,
The first reaction to Luther's treatise was published in March 1520. This was Prierias's three-volume work, entitled, without undue modesty, Martin Luther's Erroneous Arguments Names, Exposed, Rejected, and Most Utterly Ground to Pieces [Errata et argumenta Martini Luteris recitata, decreta, repulsa et copiosissima trita]. The third volume was in fact an index to the previous two volumes, which Prierias entitled the Epitome of His Response- "for an index it is indeed rather long," he admitted, "but for an epitome, it is very short"- and which Luther reprinted with marginal comments and a foreward and an afterwotd in June of that year. [David V.N. Bagchi, Luther's Earliest Opponents (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991), p. 48].
This analysis of documentation may seem like nitpicking. In actuality, it simply documents the work I had to go through to determine where the quote came from. In fairness, many sources do not helpfully explain where the quote comes from! Perhaps Schaff probably worked from secondary sources as well with this citation? He does though provide the Latin text.

Friday, October 10, 2008

ERIC SVENDSEN, Evangelical apologist, debater, author and director of New Testament Research Ministries, will address the theme of his book: "UPON THIS SLIPPERY ROCK: Countering Roman Catholic Claims to Authority."

MP3 Available Here

"How do you know your private interpretation of the Bible is correct over against the private interpretation of every other denomination?"

"How can you be certain that you are in the truth since all you have to go on is your own fallible private judgment that your church is right?"

"How do you know you’ve picked the right denomination?"

"How can you believe in sola Scriptura, a principle that has resulted in over 25,000 Protestant denominations?"

Sound familiar? If you've ever spent time dialoguing with a Roman Catholic apologist, chances are you've been confronted with these very questions.

Finally, from Eric Svendsen and Calvary Press, comes a layman's handbook for answering the epistemological dilemmas posed by Roman Catholic apologists--one that not only answers these questions and others like them, but also shows you how to turn those same dilemmas back on the Roman Catholic inquisitor himself! Winsome and practical; in-depth yet easy to read; this timely volume will prove to be an invaluable handbook in your dealings with Roman Catholic apologists who attempt to denigrate the Scriptures in their zeal to promote the authority of Rome.

You can also hear 2 "Iron Sharpens Iron" inteviews with Dr. Svendsen on his groundbreaking, 334-page book "WHO IS MY MOTHER?: The Role & Status of Mary in the New Testament & Roman Catholicism" on free downloadable MP3s.:

Part #1 can be heard here

Part #2 can be heard here

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Quotable Luther #5: "Opponents Using the Early Church Fathers"

Here are a few quotes from Luther responding to a 16th Century Catholic apologist (Jerome Emser) who used quotes from the early church fathers against him:

"...they are afraid of Scripture, for they realize what unfamiliar ground it is to them. Therefore they labor painfully, with many turns and twists, to make it unnecessary for them to attack me with the Scriptures and to be defeated by the Scriptures. So they invent new lies, find daggers and spears and other fools’ weapons and declare the Scriptures are so obscure that they cannot be understood apart from the interpretation of the holy fathers, and that we must, therefore, not follow the text, but the glosses of the fathers. This is what Emser calls fighting with the blade and not with the scabbard. And when they are able to bring one saying of the fathers against me, they ring all their bells, beat all their drums, and shout aloud that they have won, stop their ears and shut their eyes, and imagine they have closed and sealed all the Scriptures for me."

"In order that these word-jugglers may be seen in their true light, I ask them, who told them that the fathers are clearer and not more obscure than the Scriptures? How would it be if I said that they understand the fathers as little as I understand the Scriptures? I could just as well stop my ears to the sayings of the fathers as they do to the Scriptures. But in that way we shall never arrive at the truth. If the Spirit has spoken in the fathers, so much the more has He spoken in His own Scriptures. And if one does not understand the Spirit in His own Scriptures, who will trust him to understand the Spirit in the writings of another? That is truly a carrying of the sword in the scabbard, when we do not take the naked sword by itself, but only as it is encased in the words and glosses of men. This dulls its edge and makes it obscurer than it was before, though Emser calls it smiting with the blade.The naked sword makes him tremble from head to foot. But I cannot help him, he must take his punishment.

Be it known, then, that Scripture, without any gloss, is the sun and the sole light from which all teachers receive their light, and not the contrary. This is proved by the fact that when the fathers teach anything they do not trust their teaching, but fearing it to be too obscure and uncertain, they go to the Scriptures and take a clear passage out of it to shed light on their teaching, just as we place a light in a lantern, and as we read in Psalm 18:28 “Thou wilt light my lamp, O Lord.” And when they expound a passage of Scripture, they do not rely upon their own words and interpretation (for where they do that, which happens often, they usually err), but they bring another passage of Scripture which is clearer, and thus they interpret and explain Scripture by Scripture. My goats would soon find this to be true if they would read their fathers carefully, but since they simply skim over them and study neither the Scriptures nor the fathers, it is no wonder that they do not know what the Scriptures or the fathers teach.

I lose my patience when they thus revile and blaspheme the Scriptures and the fathers. They accuse the Scriptures of being obscure, while all the fathers deem them the light of lights, even as David says, “Thy word is my light”; and they ascribe to the fathers the light with which Scripture must be illumined, whereas all the fathers concede their own obscurity and illumine Scripture by Scripture alone. And that is the true method of interpretation which puts Scripture alongside of Scripture in a right and proper way; the father who can do this best is the best among them. And all the books of the fathers must be read with discrimination, not taking their word for granted, but looking whether they quote clear texts and explain Scripture by other and clearer Scripture. How should they have overcome the heretics, if they had fought with their own glosses? They would have been regarded as fools and madmen. But when they brought forward clear texts which needed no glosses, so that reason was brought into captivity, the evil spirit himself with all his heresies was completely routed."

Source: Martin Luther, Dr. Martin Luther's Answer to the Superchristian, Superspiritual, and Superlearned Book of Goat Emser of Leipzig, With a Glance at his Comrade Murner 1521, Works of Martin Luther III (Philadlephia: Muhlenberg Press, 1930) pp.332-335.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Quotable Luther #4

Is it not true that money, property, body, wife, child, friends, and the like, are good things created and given by God Himself? Since, then, they are God’s gifts and not your own, suppose He were to try you, to learn whether you were willing to let them go for His sake and to cleave to Him rather than to such gifts of His. Suppose He raised up an enemy, who deprived you of them in whole or in part, or you lost them by death or some other mischance. Do you think you would have just cause to rage and storm, and to take them again by force, or to sulk impatiently until they were restored to you? And if you said that they were good things and God’s creatures, made with His own hands, and that, since all the Scriptures called such things good, you were resolved to fulfill God’s Word and defend or get back such goods at cost of life and limb, or not willingly to suffer their loss nor let them go with patience — what a farce would that be! To do right in this case, you should not rush in pellmell, but fear God and say, “Dear Lord, they are good things and gifts of Thine, as Thine own Word and Scripture saith; nevertheless I know not whether Thou wilt permit me to keep them. Did I know I was not to have them, I would not move a finger to get them back. Did I know that Thou wouldst rather have them remain in my possession than in that of others, I would serve Thy will by taking them back at risk of life and property. But now, since I know neither, and see that for the present Thou sufferest them to be taken from me, I commit the case to Thee. I will await what I am to do, and be ready to have them or to do without them.”


Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Quotable Luther #3- 486 Year-Old Advice on "Doing" Apologetics


...If you want to tell others about the Gospel in a Christian way, you must consider the persons with whom you are speaking. For you will meet two kinds. There are some who are hardened and will not hear, but with their lies deceive and poison others. To this class belong the pope, Eck, Emser, and some of our bishops, priests and monks. To these men you are not to tell anything about the Gospel at all, but do as Christ says in Matthew 7:6, “Give not that which is holy to dogs; neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest perhaps they trample them under their feet, and the dogs turn and tear you.”

Let them remain dogs and swine; your efforts are wasted in any case. Solomon also says, “Where there is none who listens, pour not out words.” (Ecclus. 32:6 [Vulgate]) But when you see that these liars instill their lies and poison into other people, then you are to oppose them boldly and fight against them, just as Paul opposed Elymas with hard and sharp words, ( Acts 13:10 f.) and as Christ calls the Pharisees a generation of vipers. ( Matthew 23:33) This you are to do not for their sake, for they will not listen to you, but for the sake of those whom they are poisoning. For so St. Paul commands Titus to rebuke sharply such vain talkers and deceivers of souls. (Titus 1:10,13)

But there are others who have so far heard only this and might be willing to learn if some one taught them, or who are so weak that they cannot readily understand it. These you must not bully and startle, but instruct them in a kindly and gentle manner, point out to them the evidence and the proof, and if they cannot immediately grasp it, have patience with them for a time. St. Paul speaks of this in Romans 14:1; 15:1, “Him that is weak in the faith, receive ye”; and St. Peter in 1 Peter 3:15, “Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with gentleness and fear.” Here you see that we are to give instruction in our faith with gentleness and in the fear of God to any man who desires or needs it.

If, in dealing with such people, you want to display your great learning, pounce upon them with the bare assertion that their way of praying, fasting and celebrating mass is wrong, and insist upon eating meat, eggs and other things they regard as forbidden on the fast-day, and with it all do not with gentleness and fear explain to them the why and wherefore, these simple souls cannot help thinking that you are a proud, impudent and wicked man, as in truth you are. They will get the impression that men are not to pray nor to do good, that the mass is nothing, and so on. You have led them into this error and put this stumbling block in their way, and you will be held accountable for it. That is why they think and speak ill of the holy Gospel and imagine that you have been taught monstrous things. What does it profit you thus to give offense to your neighbor and to lay obstacles in the way of the Gospel? You have cooled your inconsiderate ardor, and men say, “Well, I will keep my old faith,” and shut their hearts against the genuine truth.

But if you would tell them your reasons with fear and gentleness, as St. Peter teaches you, (1 Peter 3:16) and say, “ My dear man, fasting, the eating of eggs, meat and fish are matters of such a nature that salvation does not depend on them; both the doing of these things and the leaving of them undone may be either right or wrong according to circumstances; faith alone saves,” and whatever else ought to be said in such a case, as, for example, that the mass would be a good thing if it were properly celebrated, etc.: this method would draw them to you, they would listen and at last learn what you know. But now that you are so insolent, pride yourself on your superior knowledge, act like the Pharisee in the Gospel, ( Luke 18:11, John 7:49) and base your pride on the fact that they do not know what you know, you fall under the judgment of St. Paul in Romans 14:15, Jam non secundum caritatem ambulas, and you despise your neighbor whom you ought to serve with meekness and fear. Consider an analogous case. If an enemy had tied a rope about your brother’s neck so that he was in danger of his life, and you were so foolish as to rage against the rope and the enemy, and ran up and with all your energy pulled the rope toward you or lunged at it with a knife, you would most likely strangle your brother or stab him, and do more harm than the rope and the enemy had done. If you really want to help your brother, this is what you must do: the enemy you may punish or beat as hard as he deserves, but the rope you must handle gently and with fear until you get it away from your brother’s neck, lest you strangle him.

In the same way you may be harsh in dealing with the liars, the hardened tyrants, and be bold to do things contrary to their teachings and their works, for they are unwilling to listen to you. But the simple people, whom they have bound with the ropes of their teachings and whose lives are endangered, you must treat quite differently. You must with fear and gentleness undo the teachings of men, tell your reasons, and in this way gradually set them free. This is what St. Paul did when, in defiance of all the Jews, ( Galatians 2:3) he would not have Titus circumcised, and yet circumcised Timothy. ( Acts 16:3) You must treat dogs and swine differently from men, and wolves and lions differently from the weak sheep. With the wolves you cannot be too severe, with the weak sheep you cannot be too gentle. Living as we do among the papists, we must act just as if we lived among the heathen. Indeed, they are sevenfold heathen, and therefore, as St. Peter teaches, we are to have our conversation honest among the Gentiles, that they may not be able to speak any evil of us truthfully, though they would like to do so. ( 1 Peter 2:12) It gives them great pleasure to hear that you make a boast of this teaching and give offense to weak hearts; because it gives them an opportunity to decry the whole of the teaching as one that gives offense and does harm, and they have no other way of resisting it, but must acknowledge that it is true.