Thursday, April 30, 2009

Luther's "Teachings" on Bigamy and Catholic Double Standards

Discrediting the Reformation by indicting Martin Luther of teaching bigamy and polygamy lives on. Over on the Catholic Answers forum they started discussing Luther's statement "sin boldly." Well, eventually a Roman Catholic interpreted Luther's statement in light of Luther's involvement in the Phillip of Hesse bigamy debacle. It was stated,

"...not only Luther, but Philip Melanchthon, Martin Bucer and several other 'reformers' did in fact, teach it was 'OK to sin,' for they gave Philip of Hesse permission to take a second wife!"
And also:

"...reluctantly or not, Luther, Melanchthon, Bucer et al, did indeed and in fact give their 'consent' to Philip for him to take a second wife while his first one was still living! A blatant disregard for the commandments! And if that's not to 'sin boldly,' then I don't know what is!!"
So, according to these comments, when Luther said "sin boldly" he meant living a life of wanton lawlessness, in fact go ahead and have a few wives! Of course, Luther meant no such thing when he wrote "sin boldly." The ironic thing about the person making these comments is his ability to maneuver around Google Books and present posts in which he tries to make one think context and history are important. Unfortunately, he proves on a most fundamental level, he's completely ignorant of Luther, history, and Luther's theology.

I've written on the topic of Luther's alleged bigamy and polygamy approval before, but I'd like to approach it from a different perspective this time, and notice some historical details being left out, as well as an interesting double standard. I've been reading Henry VIII and Luther by Erwin Doernberg (California: Stanford University Press, 1961). Henry VIII provoked a lot of controversy in regards to his marital state. He wanted the Pope to grant him a divorce from his wife so he could marry another woman. Doernberg raises an interesting parallel between those who indict Luther for bigamy, while letting the Pope, Erasmus, and many others off the hook. The following text is from pages 73-78.

Here it is necessary to interrupt the story [of Henry VIII] and to discuss briefly the Pope's preference for bigamy. We shall see later on that Luther also was of the opinion that, compared with divorce, bigamy was the lesser scandal.

There is a curious tendency among some English historians,by no means confined to Roman Catholics, not only to preserve a conspiratorial silence about the Pope's genuine conviction but to follow up their silence about the Pope with a disgusted exposure of so 'typically Lutheran' an immorality.

Since this procedure has been chosen even by outstanding writers who are rightly regarded as authorities, it is only natural that the falsity should have been repeated, probably often in perfect innocence, by lesser writers.

Monogamy was the normal thing among Christians and nobody in Henry VIII's time, with the exception of the Anabaptists of Munster (1534), denied its normality. Neither the Pope nor Luther regarded bigamy as desideratum; but both of them, and not they alone, regarded it as the lesser evil compared with divorce.

Erasmus of Rotterdam gave, quite casually, the same advice. He was drawn into Henry's affair in 1526 when Catherine requested of him, through her chamberlain Lord Mountjoy, that he should come to her aid by writing in her favour. The result was the book Matrimonii Christiani Institutio in which the problems of divorce and impediments are discussed at length; the book maintains that a marriage with a deceased brother's wife does not, as such, present a cause for nullification. During 1527 Erasmus was in correspondence with Vives and the King's divorce affair was being discussed.On September 2nd Erasmus wrote: 'Far be it from me to mix in the affair of Jupiter and Juno, particularly as I know little about it. But I should prefer that he should take two Junos rather than put away one.'

The mere fact that the Pope, Luther and Erasmus considered bigamy to be the obvious preferable solution indicates clearly that this idea, so alien and unacceptable to the modern mind, was a perfectly reasonable reaction at the time. Among those who had no scruples were also, for instance, the French ambassador, the King of France (who in April 1532 said to Chapuys that the King should go ahead and marry the
lady of his choice as Louis XII had done in 1499; again in January 1533 he advised Henry, through du Bellay, that he should marry Anne without hesitation and afterwards defend his cause) and Lord Wiltshire. The Pope, when discussing the possibility of a marriage between Princess Mary and the Duke of Norfolk's son, was aware of the fact that the Earl of Surrey had a wife living; this, in the Pope's opinion, was not too important as he had been forced into the marriage. Erasmus is particularly well suited to show that the proposal of bigamy was not regarded as shocking; had he felt that he could be taken to task for proposing an immoral solution, he to would never have given such an opinion in a letter written to England. Erasmus was not a courageous man. Indeed, after 1531, when he realized the course that events were taking, he no longer complied with the wishes of Queen Catherine, who again asked him for help at that time; he hedged and tiptoed precisely as he had done twelve years earlier when he was asked to state whether he was for or against Luther. Soon afterwards the necessity for caution had vanished, and then Erasmus dedicated some of his books to Lord Rochford—Anne Boleyn's father! No, Erasmus was hardly the kind of person to shock his correspondents. He always swam with the current. When advocating bigamy as a lesser evil than divorce, he simply expressed contemporary opinion.

Henry VIII and Philip of Hesse were by no means the only exalted persons who had given cause for such discussions and decisions. The Pope had permitted the King of Castile to have two wives. Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, Henry VIII's brother-in-law, committed bigamy twice, was three times divorced and finally married his daughter-in-law; his case, one is happy to say, was not typical of the age, but it shows what was possible.

We have already mentioned that it was originally Henry VIII's opinion that a second marriage would be the solution of his problem and his first application to Clement VII requested papal permission for a second wife. Soon afterwards he changed his mind and began to aim at a declaration of nullity, not—we repeat—because he judged bigamy to be immoral, but in consideration of the succession. Eventually, he hastily reverted to the original plan by marrying Anne Boleyn without being divorced from Catherine and, once again, it was consideration for the succession which prompted him, not that he regarded bigamy as the lesser evil.The decision of Luther and his colleagues regarding Henry's matrimonial cause will be quoted later. Their memorandum will demonstrate, in the form of an extremely detailed investigation, by what reasoning bigamy was judged to be incomparably less sinful than divorce, that bigamy was considered at least possible whereas divorce was not; it is therefore not necessary at this moment to discuss the theological argument. The point of the present paragraph is to indicate that no historian should feel compelled to improve on reality by electing to treat the Pope's advice with discreet silence—as if it had been immoral advice!—and by compensating for this silence with rhetorical references to the scandal of Philip of Hesse. I have never been able to understand how it is that so many historians outside the Roman obedience take a greater interest in damaging Luther's reputation than in guarding their own.

Luther's attitude towards the problem of bigamy is made clear in his reply to an inquiry; in 1526 he wrote to Jose Levin Metzsch: 'In answer to your question whether someone could marry more than one wife, this is my reply: unbelievers may do what they like, but Christian liberty must be made to harmonize with charitable care for the welfare of others wherever it can be done without harm to faith and conscience. But nowadays everyone wants the sort of liberty which pleases his own interest, without any care for the interest and improvement of the community.... Even if in the olden days men had many wives, Christians should not follow their example; they have no need to do so, it does not improve them and there is no command to that effect in God's word. Only scandal and disquiet would be the result...'

'Scandal and disquiet' were certainly not wanting when Luther and Melanchthon granted, in December 1539,a dispensation to Philip of Hesse to contract a second marriage. Here, as in the matrimonial cause of Henry VIII, was a case of a 'disturbed conscience'. The prince had led to excess the kind of dissolute life which was practically the normal thing among princes (Charles V by no means excepted), was badly afflicted with syphilis and, somehow or other, full of certainty that a second marriage would bring peace to his life; quite possibly, he also hoped superstitiously for a miraculous cure of the disease through a lawful union with a pure virgin. Martin Bucer was sent to Wittenberg and Luther became convinced that Philip's cause was a genuine conscientious problem. The dispensation was granted. Long preambles stated that monogamy was the normal divine institution; thus it had been at the time of the creation and later became the laudable law in the Church despite the fact that in some eras concessions had become customary. This said, they proceeded to explain the possibility of an exception provided it was understood that there was a fundamental difference between the introduction of a new law or custom and the granting of a special dispensation. They implored the prince to keep the dispensation a close secret, for two reasons: firstly, it must not be presumed by anybody that a new custom had been sanctioned and, secondly, the opponents of the Lutherans should be prevented from hearing of it as they would, no doubt, broadcast the news that the Lutherans had become like the Anabaptists, or even like the Turks.

There follows a strong admonition that henceforth the prince must give up his adulteries, and a reminder (I Cor. vi,i 9,10) that according to St. Paul adulterers shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. The letter further stresses that one of the chief duties of pastors is to guard the sanctity of matrimony and to keep a watch on all human institutions lest they become severed from their original and divinely ordained meaning. 'However, since your Grace finds it impossible to abstain from an unchaste life— you say that to do so is not possible to you— we should wish to see you in a better estate before God, enabling you to live henceforth with a quiet conscience for your Grace's own salvation and for the good of your land and people.'

Only a few months later the secret began, of course, to leak out. Luther at first thought it could be met by a denial,but this was no way out: the affair became common knowledge. Luther, not normally easily distressed about a wrong move if it was open to rectification, was full of regret and made no secret of this when writing to the quite despairing Melanchthon. 'The serpent and the serpent's brood of wisdom after the event will plague us more than all enemies and opponents have ever done.' He maintained that the devil's own wisdom had guided them when they granted the dispensation.

It was probably the scandal made of the case of Philip of Hesse which brought to an end the possibility of considering bigamy the lesser evil in comparison with the break-up of a matrimonial bond. Bigamy became as impossible as 'divorce' and the case of Philip, no doubt, strengthened the effect of Charles V's recent legislation against bigamy.

We have mentioned cases of dispensations for bigamy which caused no great scandal; they had been granted under the old religion. Here, however, was a case which called forth an ostentatious outcry against the rotten morals of the reformers. Quod licet Jovi non licet bovi. As a pastoral, individual dispensation, Luther's consent had been quite legitimate; diplomatically speaking—Luther had never pretended to be a diplomat, or to be guided by the morals of diplomats— the granting of the dispensation had been a gigantic blunder. The case of Philip of Hesse became—and has remained, when suitably told—the favourite subject for the portrayal of Luther the Knave.

Luther had no reason to regard the cases of Henry VIII and Philip of Hesse as in any way related. Philip's conscience was concerned with the conduct of his life; Henry VIII's conscience was troubled by the discovery that a marriage which had become burdensome had possibly never been a marriage. Philip wanted a second wife; Henry wanted a separation. Philip sent Bucer to Wittenberg with a pastoral question; Henry VIII sent delegations of experts on the Mosaic law. There is, altogether, little basis for comparison.

Monday, April 27, 2009

16th Century Insults

It's extremely hard to avoid polemic in online discourse. When people argue, they argue from their heart. We have an emotional investment in our beliefs. On this blog, I tolerated an excessive amount of insults and rhetoric for quite a few years. But I finally realized those who typically begin with excessive amounts of insults and hostile rhetoric usually have nothing more to offer.

There's nothing new under the sun when it comes to such battle. People have been insulting each other for quite a long time. Consider this description of 16th century language from Henry VIII and Luther by Erwin Doernberg (California: Stanford University Press, 1961) page 31:

There has hardly ever been a time in which slogans and abusive verbosity, frequently childishly primitive, were so widespread and in common use as in the sixteenth century. Firstly, slogans: words which look to us quite harmless were considered unforgivable insults, such as sophist, Thomist, summist, theologist, romanist, and so forth. When, through overuse, the novelty had worn off, it was for a time sufficient to reheat the insult by means of the prefix 'arch-'; archsophist, archthomist, etc. Next came invective such as 'murderer of souls, dog, swine, adder' and the like. Highly popular were puns with an abusive intent. To Luther, his opponent Dr. Eck became the contraction 'Dreck', the German term for dirt. Luther's name attracted Sir Thomas More's alliteration 'lowsy Luther'. A 'romanist', disliking to see himself called 'popish', found relief in his exasperation by calling the others 'martinish'. Everybody was busily engaged in the search for new phrases. Cochlaeus—to Luther 'Kochloeffel' (i.e. kitchen spoon)—wrote of 'our bombastic Luther-preachers and Scripture-johnnies'. One Bachmann wrote a tract entitled A Little Handkerchief for Luther s Spittle. The 'Martinists' called the 'papists' 'chalice thieves' because they permitted communion only in one kind. Everybody was to everybody else a 'schismaticus', a 'church-splitter' and, of course, opponents were invariably 'poisonous'. On rare occasions, someone was really witty in this endless game of abuse, but usually a poor play with words, coarse abuse and infinite repetition of boring slogans sufficed to keep all tempers hot.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Didache: Sippo vs. Algo

Here's a fun little snippet from Patrick Madrid's Envoy Forum between Catholic apologist Dr. Art Sippo, and a Reformed Protestant named Algo, armed with a Bible and history.

Sippo:As for teachings of St. Paul that were not inscripturated, it is very interesting that the oldest Christian text which is not pat of the NT is the book called the Didache. This book has lots of information on local Gentile churches founded by wandering Apostles and led by local bishops and deacons who were to be considered "prophets and teachers" in the local church. This directly parallels the usage in 1Cor 12:28. I submit that the contents of the Didache actually represent a look into the Church order and discipline of a community in the Pauline tradition. It includes confession of sin, the Eucharist as a sacrifice, a simple Church order, fixed prayers for public worship, and fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays. Sound familiar?

Algo: "It includes":"confession of sin"

Didache:"At the church meeting you must confess your sins, and not approach prayer with a bad conscience. That is the way of life." This is hardly a description of the sacrament of confession. It is in fact found in scripture. James 5:16 (ESV) Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

"It includes":"the Eucharist as a sacrifice"

Didache:"On every Lord's Day—his special day (Literally), "On every Lord's Day of the Lord."—come together and break bread and give thanks, first confessing your sins so that your sacrifice may be pure. Anyone at variance with his neighbor must not join you, until they are reconciled, lest your sacrifice be defiled. For it was of this sacrifice that the Lord said, "Always and everywhere offer me a pure sacrifice; for I am a great King, says the Lord, and my name is marveled at by the nations."

The sacrifice mentioned here is the sacrifice of the person as is described in Scripture: Romans 12:1 (ESV) I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

"It includes": "a simple Church order"

I'm not sure what you mean by this. If you mean a simple Liturgy that looks correct. If you mean order as in Authority notice that there is a mention of two offices "elected by the community "yourselves". No mention of the office of "Priest" or "Pope". This is very similar to Jerome's description.

Didache: "You must, then, elect for yourselves bishops and deacons who are a credit to the Lord, men who are gentle, generous, faithful, and well tried. For their ministry to you is identical with that of the prophets and teachers."

"It includes": "fixed prayers for public worship"

Didache: "8 Your fasts must not be identical with those of the hypocrites. They fast on Mondays and Thursdays; but you should fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. You must not pray like the hypocrites, but "pray as follows" as the Lord bid us in his gospel:

"Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name; your Kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in heaven; give us today our bread for the morrow; and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but save us from the evil one, for yours is the power and the glory forever."

The author is referring to: Matthew 6:5-6 (ESV)Mt 6:5 (ESV) "And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

The passage does not instruct the readers to pray "fixed prayers for public worship" but "pray as follows" then quoting Matt 6 which instructs to pray in private "go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret"

"it includes": "and fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays."

Notice that this is distinguishing the fasts of whatever sect produced this document from another sects fasts.Does your church continue to fast on Wed.? If this is an apostolic directive then why not?


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Assertio Septem Sacramentorum: An Idea To Help Catholic Apologists Sell Books...

I'm sure Catholic apologetic enterprises are experiencing economic grief because of the struggling economy. Here's an idea that came to me while reading Henry VIII and Luther by Erwin Doernberg (California: Stanford University Press, 1961) pp. 17-19.

In 1521 Henry VIII wrote a book against Luther entitled, Assertio Septem Sacramentorum, a book specifically against Luther's Babylonian Captivity of the Church. On October 2, 1521, the Pope had a book party celebration so to speak, or rather, a ceremony announcing the book.

The ceremony began with Henry's representative Dr. Clerk referring to Luther's Babylonian Captivity of the Church,

" which, good God! what and how prodigious poison, what deadly bain, how much consuming and mortal venom this poisonous serpent has spewed out... Here the bond of chastity is broken, holy fasts, religious vows, rites, ceremonies, worship of God, solemnity of the Mass etc. are abolished and exterminated, by the strangest perfidiousness that ever was heard of. This man institutes sacraments after his own fancy, reducing them to three, to two, to one, and that one he handles so pitifully that he seems about to reducing it at last to nothing at all... When dreading punishment (which he well deserved) fled, with a mischief, into his perpetual lurking holes in Bohemia, the mother and nurse of his heresies..."

The Pope's response in the ceremony included praise for Henry VIII that he,

"having the knowledge, will and ability of composing this book against this terrible monster, has rendered himself no less admirable to the whole world by eloquence of his style and by his great wisdom. We render immortal thanks to our creator who has raised such a prince to defend His Holy Church and this Holy See..."

"The Pope also granted an indulgence of ten years and ten quadragenes" to those who would read Henry VIII's Assertio Septem Sacramentorum. (Doenberg, p.19). The overleaf advertised this Papal indulgence to the reader.

So, I was thinking, if the Pope wanted to financially help out all those in the United States that spend their lives hoping to have the title Defensor Fidei given to them, perhaps he should similarly hold book ceremonies and offer a Papal indulgence for particular outstanding Catholic apologetic books. Which Catholic concerned for their soul, sanctification, and eventual justification wouldn't want to do everything in their power for the sake of their salvation, and at the same time, help out Catholic apologetics? This seems like a win win situation to me.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Luther: We have no wish either to see or hear Moses

“We have no wish either to see or hear Moses.”

Back in 2004, I put together a paper called Luther’s View of the Canon of Scripture. It's located on Eric Svendsen's Ntrmin website. In that paper, I went through the popular charges against Luther on the canon of Scripture typically put forth by Roman Catholics. Part of the inspiration in putting that paper together was the excessive amount of Luther quotes Catholics were using to argue against Luther. Often, the quotes being used were taken from Tan's reprint of Father Patrick O'Hare's Facts About Luther. I included this section specific to O'Hare's quotes- Appendix A: Patrick O’Hare’s Spurious "Facts" About Luther’s Canon.

Back in 2004, all I had to work with was Luther's Works, and any book I could get my hands on. I had been collecting old Catholic books on Luther, and also utilizing quite a few different college libraries. Now, we have the miracle of Google Books, and I'm delighted to not be spending so much money on old books, as well having such a large amount of searchable texts. Recently, I've been plugging some of those old Luther quotes into Google books, and I've had some interesting finds. Often, my suspicions have been verified about a particular quote , or in this instance, some further clarification.

Father O'Hare states, "But even for the books [Luther] chose to retain, he showed little or no respect. Here are some examples of his judgments on them. Of the Pentateuch he says: 'We have no wish either to see or hear Moses.' " In my paper I stated the following about this quote:

This quote probably comes from Luther’s treatise Against The Heavenly Prophets In The Matter Of Images And Sacraments. It is a writing against Luther’s former colleague Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt who joined with radical factions of the Anabaptists. When Luther did not support Karlstadt’s violent expunging of all images, Karlstadt accused Luther of disobeying God’s law given through Moses: “You shall not make yourself a graven image, or any likeness …” Luther responded by pointing out that Karlstadt misunderstood his position, as well as misinterpreted Moses. Luther, well heated up says:

“Now then, let us get to the bottom of it all and say that these teachers of sin and Mosaic prophets are not to confuse us with Moses. We don’t want to see or hear Moses. How do you like that, my dear rebels? We say further, that all such Mosaic teachers deny the gospel, banish Christ, and annul the whole New Testament. I now speak as a Christian for Christians. For Moses is given to the Jewish people alone, and does not concern us Gentiles and Christians. We have our gospel and New Testament. If they can prove from them that images must be put away, we will gladly follow them. If they, however, through Moses would make us Jews, we will not endure it.”[LW 40:92]

The “teachers of sin and Mosaic prophets” are Karlstadt and the Anabaptists. Luther viewed these people as denying the gospel and imposing law on people. The editors of Luther’s Works have included an excellent overview of Luther’s opinion on Moses:

“Anyone who, like the enthusiasts, erects Mosaic law as a biblical-divine requirement does injury to the preaching of Christ. Just as the Judaizers of old, who would have required circumcision as an initial requirement, so also the enthusiasts and radicals of this later era do not see that Christ is the end of the Mosaic law. For all the stipulations of that law, insofar as they go beyond the natural law, have been abolished by Christ. The Ten Commandments are binding upon all men only so far as they are implanted in everyone by nature. In this sense Luther declares that “Moses is dead.”[LW 35:158.]

Via Google Books, I found an old source confirming my findings as to the source and context, the Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature:

So, in his writings against the Zwickau enthusiasts, [Luther] was hasty enough to say,'' These teachers of sin annoy us with Moses; we do not wish to see or hear Moses; for Moses was given to the Jews, not to us Gentiles and Christians; we have our Gospel and New Testament; they wish to make Jews of us through Moses; but they shall not" (Werke, xx, 203).

While doing some further research on this quote, I thought perhaps I made an error. Perhaps Father O'Hare did not get this quote from the source I cited. In the excellent old volume Luther Vindicated by Charles Hastings Collette, he puts forth an extended snippet of the same quote, which is quite different than the context I cited. He states:

There is a passage quoted by Dr. McCave, as reported in his Lecture in The Midland Counties Express, as follows :—"It was Luther who said of the Pentateuch 'We neither wish to see nor hear this Moses; he is master of all hangmen, and no one can surpass him when there is a question of terrifying, torturing, or tyrannizing.' " I have utterly failed to trace this passage. I have in Part 1 examined Mr. Baring-Gould's attempts to throw discredit on Luther on this subject, nor need I repeat here the clear distinction Luther made between the Law and its requirements, and the Gospel scheme of salvation through Christ. Luther's last great work was his Commentary on the Book of Genesis, which was concluded about three months before his death, November, 1545. The Lectures out of which these Commentaries are made up conclude with these touching words :— " This is the dear Book of Genesis. Our Lord God grant that others after me may handle it better. I can do no more; I am weak; pray to God for me, that he may give me a good, happy, last hour." These are not the words of one who could pen such a passage as the one attributed to him by his slanderers. [source]

Collette is of course correct about Luther's respect for Moses and the Pentateuch. What I found interesting though was the extended version of the quote: "We neither wish to see nor hear this Moses; he is master of all hangmen, and no one can surpass him when there is a question of terrifying, torturing, or tyrannizing." There is a very good reason why Collette could not find this quote. It isn't "one" quote, but rather a hodgepodge of Luther statements connected together. I searched for this extended version of the quote, and found it in a source that O'Hare may have utilized, the works of Roman Catholic Johannes Baptist Alzog (brief bio). Alzog gives an even longer citation:

We have no wish either to see or hear Moses. Let us leave Moses to the Jews, to whom he was given to serve as a Mirror of Saxony; he has nothing in common with Pagans and Christians, and we should take no notice of him. Just as France esteems the Mirror of Saxony only in so far as it is the expression of natural law, so also the Mosaic legislation, though admirably suited to the Jews, has no binding force whatever as regards ourselves. Moses is the prince and exemplar of all executioners; in striking terror into the hearts of men, in inflicting torture, and in tyrannizing, he is without a rival." [source] See also The American Catholic Quarterly Review .

Unfortunately, Alzog doesn't give a reference, but this book does:

Whereas Moses was the first that ever wrote any part of the scripture, and he who wrote the law of God, the ten commandments; yet Luther thus rejects both him and his ten commandments : (d) " We will neither hear nor see Moses, for he was given only to the Jews ; neither does he belong in any thing to Us." " I," says he, " will not receive (e) Moses with his law ; for he is the enemy of Christ." (f) " Moses is the master of all hangmen." (g) " The ten commandments belong not to Christians." " Let the ten commandments be altogether rejected, and all heresy will presently cease ; for the ten commandments are, as it were, the fountain from whence all heresies spring (h).
d. Tom. 3, Germ., fol. 40, 41, and in Colloq. Mensal., Ger., fol. 152, 153.
e. In Coloe. Mensal., c. de Legeet Evan.
f. Ibid., fol. 118.
g. Serm. de Mose.
h. In Convival. Colloq., cited by Aurifaber, cap. de Lege

You can see from the footnotes many different sources. I suspect the extended quote cited by Alzog is probably from a few different sources as well- in fact, if you read it over, it does seem like it's saying the same thing over and over again. I suspect Alzog's quote is set up the same way, so that's why Collette probably couldn't locate it. He assumed those citing it as an extended quote were being honest with the citation. They probably were not.

One of the sources above, "Serm. de Mose" is probably Luther's sermon, "How Christians Should Regard Moses" (1525), found in LW 35 (pp. 153-173). The introductory note is most helpful as to Luther's statements about the law and Moses:

The year of this sermon, 1525, was fraught with high tension and tragic turmoil. For Luther it had begun with the publication of Against the Heavenly Prophets,  his sharp attack against his former colleague, Andreas Karlstadt, and the Sacramentarians. Between January and August the explosive peasant uprising took place, and Luther’s succession of well-intended but ill-timed and infelicitous pamphlets alienated many. On May 27, Thomas Münzer, the religious radical and fomenter of peasant unrest, was put to death.

Luther’s opposition to both Karlstadt and Münzer derived from his theological convictions—stated in this treatise—concerning the relationship between law and gospel and the related problem of the relationship between the Old Testament and the New. Law and gospel are chosen ways through which God addresses his word to men. In the law God says No to man, the sinner; in the gospel he says Yes to man, the righteous—that man who has repented and believes his promise in Jesus Christ. Law and gospel are both present in both of the Testaments. They must always be distinguished but never identified or confused.

For several years too the problem of usury and unfair interest rates had also occupied Luther’s attention, particularly since certain earnest evangelical Christians like Pastor Jacob Strauss at Eisenach and the court preacher Wolfgang Stein at Weimar had brought their considerable influence to bear on the Saxon princes in favor of substituting the more humane laws of the Old Testament for the then current imperial and canon laws. Luther opposed the notion that the Scriptures would be properly exalted if Mosaic precepts were suddenly, as law, to replace laws of the German state and church. He warned that while seemingly honoring the Scriptures, one can actually distort the meaning and intention of the Word of God. This entire discussion too stands in the background of this 1525 discourse on Moses.

In the course of his career as an expositor of the Scriptures, Luther had developed a distinctive understanding of the Word of God. It is the Word of God, our Lord. We can receive it only by submitting to him. Such submission includes the recognition that he is the Lord who does and bestows all and whose lordship consists in his saving activity. But, contends Luther, if I now imagined that God’s lordship expresses itself in certain legal statements or precepts which I had the possibility of ascertaining and expounding, then I should precisely not have understood what God’s lordship really is. Instead I should then—despite all my own outward protest against Roman papism—have substituted a biblicistic for a papal police. Therefore I am not to make the Word of God function simply as a part of human law. “Moses” is not the Word of God in the sense that “Moses” could be substituted for a piece of human legislation.

How, then, is “Moses” Word of God, and how is “Moses” law? How do Word of God and law relate to each other?

Here Luther makes sometimes the most contrary statements. On the one hand “Moses” is completely abolished: “Moses does not pertain to us.” On the other hand we hear Luther expressing the wish “that [today’s] lords ruled according to the example of Moses.”

Anyone who, like the enthusiasts, erects Mosaic law as a biblical-divine requirement does injury to the preaching of Christ. Just as the Judaizers of old, who would have required circumcision as an initial requirement, so also the enthusiasts and radicals of this later era do not see that Christ is the end of the Mosaic law. For all the stipulations of that law, insofar as they go beyond the natural law, have been abolished by Christ. The Ten Commandments are binding upon all men only so far as they are implanted in everyone by nature. In this sense Luther declares that “Moses is dead.”

Besides, the Jewish assembly of Sinai and of the decalogue has been replaced by the Christian congregation of Pentecost and of the new covenant. The era of Mosaic law extends from Sinai to Pentecost. In this era the Jewish people served its particular purpose, for this people, alone among all the peoples, was during that time span both state and church. It was just one national ethnic group among others on earth, but at the same time it was a peculiar people set apart for God as an instrument of his plan for all peoples.

So far as “Moses” is simply the Sachsenspiegel or law code of the Jewish people as a national ethnic group, it can be listed as just one code of laws among many, features of which may or may not be considered desirable in another age or nation. But so far as the Mosaic law is the law of the Old Testament congregation of God, it has a prophetic and promissory significance comparable to nothing in the laws of other peoples; and it has a continuing relevance not to any people simply as people but only to the post-Pentecost church of God spread among all peoples.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

An Ancient Voice For The Day #27

Hilary of Poitiers (c 315-67):

"The Apostle who was chosen not of then nor through man, but through Jesus Christ, to be the teacher of the Gentiles, expounds in language as express as he can command the secrets of the heavenly Dispensations. He who had been caught up into the third heaven and had heard unspeakable words, reveals to the perception of human understanding as much as human nature can receive. But he does not forget that there are things which cannot be understood in the moment of hearing. The infirmity of man needs time to review before the true and perfect tribunal of the mind, that which is poured indiscriminately into the ears. Comprehension follows the spoken words more slowly than hearing, for it is the ear which hears, but the reason which understands, though it is God Who reveals the inner meaning to those who seek it. We learn this from the words written among many other exhortations to Timothy, the disciple instructed from a babe in the Holy Scriptures by the glorious faith of his grandmother and mother: Understand what I say, for the Lord shall give thee understanding in all things. The exhortation to understand is prompted by the difficulty of understanding. But God’s gift of understanding is the reward of faith, for through faith the infirmity of sense is recompensed with the gift of revelation. Timothy, that ‘man of God’ as the Apostle witnesses of him, Paul’s true child in the faith, is exhorted to understand because the Lord will give him understanding in all things: let us, therefore, knowing that the Lord will grant us understanding in all things, remember that the Apostle exhorts us also to understand."

Source:NPNF2: Vol. IX, On the Trinity, Book XI, §23

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

Friday, April 17, 2009

When You're On a Roll...

Steve Hays is... well, um, ...Steve Hays. ....Hard to really comment on this one, or this one, but they do accurately provide a deep level of analysis.

Update: Steve tops himself here.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Confessions of a Coffee Addict

"Hello, my name is James, and I am a coffee-aholic."

Well, if there was such a support group, I guess that's how I'd introduce myself. I've been drinking probably a less than healthy amount of coffee for many years. I packed it in a few weeks ago, and gave up coffee. Well, actually, I have limited my coffee intake to one cup in the morning that's mostly decaf. I've done this to try and get through the "headache" period. Yes, I did get a few headaches, but nothing too severe. Cutting off all caffeine usually gives people headaches, so I've gradually decreased the amount.

Overall, I feel pretty good. I'm sleeping a lot better. I know, I know, you're probably a severe coffee drinker and you have no problem sleeping. In fact, you have a big cup and go right to bed. I used to say this as well. I can only say, I'm sleeping at a much deeper level, waking up less frequently during the night, and I feel more refreshed in the morning.

I've jokingly been describing the feeling of less caffeine using the Scientology term, "clear." That is, it really does feel different with less caffeine. Now, I'll probably gain 30 pounds, but at least I'll be "clear".

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Quotable Luther #7 Easter

Know ye then- sin, death, devil, and everything that assails me- that you are missing the mark. I am not one of those who are afraid of you. For Christ, my dear Lord, has presented to me that triumph and victory of his by which you were laid low. And from this very gift of His I derive my name and am called a Christian. There is no other reason. My sin and death hung about His neck on Good Friday, but on the day of Easter they had completely disappeared. This victory He has bestowed on me. This is why I do not worry about you.

Source: Easter sermon, 1530, Mark 16:1-8 (What Luther Says, 3881)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Luther said, "To the gallows with Moses!"

Here are a few odd Luther quotes provided by Roman Catholic Ben M from another blog:

Heaven knows heresy and error can never be rational! Matter of fact, when obstinately persisted in, they can actually affect both one's reason and common sense. Consider, for example, just a couple of these bizarre sayings from Luther (A. D. 1538 ):

“The Decalogue belongs in the Townhall, not on the pulpit.” “Decalogus gehört auf das Rathaus, nicht auf den Predigtstuhl.”

Or how about this goofy one:

“All who consort with Moses, will eventually sell out to the Devil. Let Moses be hanged!" “Alle, die mit Mose umgehen, müssen zum Teufel fahren, an Galgen mit Mose.”

"Let Moses be hanged" (“an Galgen mit Mose”), literally, “to the gallows with Moses!.

Ben gives his first source for these quotes as, Faith and Sanctification, G. C. Berkouwer, Eerdmans, 1952, ISBN-10: 0802848176, p. 164. Ben goes on to find these quotes in Latin sources as well. Such detailed research!

Now, I've read quite a few odd Luther quotes, but some of these I did not recall. The only one that jumped out was "to the gallows with Moses." So, I visited Berkouwer's book, as directed by Ben. According to Berkouwer, the quotes were from Johannes Agricola, not Luther. Berkouwer points out, Luther fought against these statements from Agricola. If I recall, Ben has had some not-so-kind things to say about my Luther research in the past. Way to go, Ben! Perhaps in his zeal to slander Luther, Ben should first locate the target, then aim at it. Then shoot.

In fact, Agricola may be the source for Patrick O'Hare's statement attributed to Luther, "To the gallows with Moses." So, perhaps Ben inadvertently helped me put another nail in O'Hare's coffin:

As might be expected from one who strove to minimize the importance and influence of the Law in the lives of men, Luther had scant respect for him whom God selected to proclaim His will to the peoples and the nations from Sion's Mount. This mouth-piece of God became the special subject of his untiring and ceaseless abuse and vituperation. He not only acknowledges his opposition to Moses, but he urges it with all the vehemence he is master of. He went so far in his antagonism that he proclaimed the Law-giver a most dangerous man and the embodiment of everything that can torment the soul. His hatred of the Prophet was so deep-rooted that on one occasion he cried out: "To the gallows with Moses." He disliked him because he thought that he insisted too strongly on the Law and its observance. In order to minimize his mission and destroy his influence he boldly and untruthfully asserted that Moses "was sent to the Jewish people only and had nothing whatever to do with Gentiles and Christians." His advice to all who bothered themselves with the Law-giver was to "chase that stammering and stuttering Moses," as he called him, "with his law to the Jews and not allow his terrible threats to intimidate them." "Moses must ever be looked upon," he says, "with suspicion, even as upon a heretic, excommunicated, damned, worse than the Pope and the Devil." (Comment, in Gal.) The scurrilous language applied to God's messenger reaches its depths of infamy when he says further: "I will not have Moses with his law, for he is the enemy of the Lord Christ ... we must put away thoughts and disputes about the law, whenever the conscience becomes terrified and feels God's anger against sin. Instead of that it will be better to sing, to eat, to drink, to sleep, to be merry in spite of the devil." (Tischr. L. C. 12. §. 17.) "No greater insult can be offered to Christ than to suppose that He has come to give commandments, to make a sort of Moses of him." (Tischr. S. 66). "Only the mad and blind Papists do such a thing." (Wittenb. V. 292 B.) "Christ's work consists in this: to fulfill the law for us, not to give laws to us and to redeem us." (Ibid.) "The devil makes of Christ a mere Moses." (Walch, VIII. 58.)

So, O'Hare strikes again. This time, it's very likely he attributed something to Luther that Luther never said.

I've dealt with Luther's view of the Law here

Luther And The Law: Did Martin Luther Abhor God's Law? (Part One) A look at four Luther quotes used by Roman Catholics to prove Luther hatred God's Law. The quotes are given contexts and explanations to prove misuse by Roman Catholics.

Luther And The Law: Did Martin Luther Abhor God's Law? (Part Two) A look at Luther's understanding of the Law and its place in the Christian life.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Bad Friday, if this is you

Dozens of Catholic devotees were nailed to crosses, scores more whipped their backs and others chanted the Passion of Jesus Christ as Filipinos mixed faith and gory ritual on Good Friday.

Frowned on by church authorities, the voluntary crucifixions in villages north of the capital Manila are one of the most extreme displays of religious devotion in Asia's largest Roman Catholic state.

Monsignor Pedro Quitorio, spokesman of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, said the church discourages such rituals because the penitents were expecting rewards for hurting themselves.

"We only encourage the faithfuls to fast, pray and confess their sins," Quitorio told Reuters. "We can't stop the practice. It is not necessary, but the church has no police power. These rituals challenge us to guide our flock on the true teachings of the Catholic church."

In the small village of Cutud in Angeles City in Pampanga, about 80 km (50 miles) north of Manila, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ was re-enacted in a colorful street play with dozens of men carrying wooden crosses as heavy as 50 kg (110 pounds) and scores whipping their backs to a bloody pulp...

The atmosphere was festive, with hawkers selling bottled water, beer, ice-cream and souvenir whips. VIPs and some nuns watched from a specially elevated "viewing platform".
I don't know about anyone else, but I'm unaware of anyone who is asking you, Monsignor Quitorio, to exercise "police power". How about ecclesiastical power? I'm just certain that you don't think this self-flogging is meritorious, so why not make that impossible-to-miss clear? And then if your people continue to engage in such perversions of even your own conception of the Gospel, excommunicate them.
Else, how is anyone to know whether you really are in favor of this practice? Talk is cheap - how about a little action on Good Friday?
I can guarantee you one thing, my church would show no hesitation in excommunicating such men for rendering false witness of "their" Savior, thus showing they have no Savior at all other than themselves.

For those who have wholly fled from their dead works to the Cross of Christ, I wish you a Good Friday. Christ has died, glorify Him. Christ will rise, glorify Him!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Help with Matthew 1:18 and Mary

I don't know who came up with this argument, but I thought it was clever:

Are you married? If so, try telling your father-in-law this: "I did not have relations with your daughter until we got engaged." See what he thinks of that. After all, if your father-in-law is as perceptive as you are, there's no way he'll make a spurious assumption about pre-marital relations between the two of you based on such a statement.

It's fun to imagine these kinds of things....This is what it would look like, just for review: In casual conversation with your wife's dad, you mention that you didn't have (relations) with his daughter until you were engaged. After telling him not to read so much into an idiomatic statement and that he should stop being so historically ignorant, tell him your statement had nothing to do with what you guys did after the engagement. See how that flies.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Luther: "I burn with a thousand flames in my unsubdued flesh"

Here's an obscure Luther quote that's comes up from time to time:

"I burn " said Luther " with a thousand flames in my unsubdued flesh: I feel myself carried on with a rage towards women that approached madness. I, who ought to be fervent in spirit, am only fervent in impurity." (Table Talk)

This is one of those quotes that I categorically classify as the "Antinomian Luther." They are typically posted by those dedicated to defending the Roman church (but not limited to them!).  Historically, such "shock" quotes served as propaganda used by pre-1930 Roman Catholic controversialists. The champion of this view was Heinrich Denifle (1844-1905), an Austrian Roman Catholic historian. For Denifle, one of Luther's major problems was lust and immorality. It was Luther's craving for sex that led him to not only break his monastic vows, but to revolt against the established Roman church.   Denifle would use statements like this to prove Luther invented the doctrine of justification to excuse his gross immorality.

This version of the quote has been around for a long time. Here it is in in the Catholic Magazine and Review from 1831, and here it is in a book from 1839. Both of these sources cite "entret. de Tabl." which led me to wonder if the quote originated from a French source like Trevern's Amicable Discussion (Discussion amicale sur l'Église anglicane, et en général sur la Réformation...) from 1824:
Trevern similarly cites "Luth., Entret. de Table" as his source. The English translation of Trevern reads as follows: "I burn with a thousand flames in my unsubdued flesh; I feel myself carried on with a rage towards women that approaches to madness. I, who ought to be fervent in spirit, am only fervent in impurity." That's a close match, so I suspect that the English translation of Trevern is the Genesis of this quote in English. I could find no other earlier sources than Trevern.

I don't know for sure that this quote isn't in an old version of the Table Talk, but I have my suspicions that some of it is not from the Table Talk. The quote is very similar to another, and often cited with the one in question. Patrick O'Hare cites both quotes:
That he was consumed by the fires of fleshly lust he admits himself. Even when engaged, as we related in another place, in the translation of the Bible, Luther, in the year 1521, while living in the Wartburg, to which place this "courageous Apostle" fled in the disguise of a country squire and lived under an assumed name, wrote to his friend Melanchthon to say: "I sit here in idleness and pray, alas, little, and sigh not for the Church of God. Much more am I consumed by the fires of my unbridled flesh. In a word, I, who should burn of the spirit, am consumed by the flesh and by lasciviousness." (De Wette, 2, 22)."
In the "Table Talk" he is recorded as saying: "I burn with a thousand flames in my unsubdued flesh: I feel myself carried on with a rage towards women that approaches madness. I, who ought to be fervent in spirit, am only fervent in impurity."
The quotes are very similar are they not? The only thing really missing from the first quote is "I feel myself carried on with a rage towards women that approached madness." In fact, when you think about it, this sentence doesn't even make sense in the quote in question. "Rage" in what way, a lustful rage? An angry misogynist rage? I don't recall any authentic statements from Luther in which he felt bound and overpowered by an insatiable, lustful desire for women, or a bitter hatred for women. Even the very Table Talk those against Luther like to quote from contains statements in which Luther candidly admits there were far greater temptations than the the lust of flesh that tempted him (See Table Talk No. 121). I wonder if maybe this sentence somehow or other got picked up along the way and added to this similar quote previous to it?

This similar quote does have an extant context. It's from a letter to Philip Melanchthon, from the Wartburg, July 13, 1521. Here is the relevant section:
Your letter has displeased me on two grounds: firstly, because I see that you bear your cross with impatience, give too much way to the affections, and obey the tenderness of your nature; and, secondly, because you elevate me too high, and fall into the serious error of decking me out with various excellencies, as if I were absorbed in God's cause. This high opinion of yours confounds and racks me, when I see myself insensible, hardened, sunk in idleness; grief! seldom in prayer, and not venting one groan over God's church. What do I say? My unsubdued flesh burns me with a devouring fire. In short, I who was to have been eaten up with the spirit, am devoured by the flesh, by luxury, indolence, idleness, somnolency. Is it that God has turned away from me, because you no longer pray for me? You must take my place; you, richer in God's gifts, and more acceptable in his sight. Here is a week slipped away since I have put pen to paper, since I have prayed or studied, either vexed by fleshly cares, or by other temptations. If things do not go on better, I will to Erfurt without any attempt at concealment, for I must consult physicians or surgeons." [source]
Alternate translation:
Your letter displeased me for two reasons: First, I realize that you carry the cross too impatiently; you give in too much to your emotions and as is your way you are just too gentle. Second, you extol me so much. You err tremendously in ascribing such great importance to me, as if I were so much concerned for God’s case. Your high opinion of me shames and tortures me, since—unfortunately—I sit here like a fool and hardened in leisure, pray little, do not sigh for the church of God, yet burn in a big fire of my untamed body. In short I should be ardent in spirit, but I am ardent in the flesh, in lust, laziness, leisure, and sleepiness. I do not know whether God has turned away from me since you all do not pray for me. You are already replacing me; because of the gifts you have from God, you have attained greater authority and popularity than I had. Already eight days have passed in which I have written nothing, in which I have not prayed or studied; this is partly because of temptations of the flesh, partly because I am tortured by other burdens. If this thing does not improve, I shall go directly to Erfurt and not incognito. There you will see me, or I you, for I shall consult doctors or surgeons. It is impossible that I endure this evil any longer; it is easier to endure ten big wounds than this small sign of a lesion. Maybe the Lord burdens me so in order to push me out of this hermitage into the public. [LW 48:256]
Without knowing exactly what Trevern was citing, it's hard to make any certain conclusions. I suspect the quote is botched— that the "rage against women" part is from some other writing, perhaps a Table Talk utterance. The Table Talk isn't technically a writing from Luther's pen. It's a record of what Luther is purported to have said written down by friends and students. It has a dubious history of editing. The bottom line is that it's used to corroborate something  Luther has written, or it confirms historical situations. If Trevern (or some other French source) put the quote together, Preserved Smith notes the earliest French version of the Table Talk was not published until 1844 (Gustave Brunet: Les Propos deTable de Martin Luther, revus sur les éditions originales et traduites pour la première fois en français). I did not locate the quote in this edition, and this French edition post-dates Trevern.

If some of the quote comes from Luther's 1521 letter, those like Father O'Hare read this letter in  a myopic way. They gravitates to one brief section and then make an inflammatory conclusion. Luther was not "consumed by the fires of fleshly lust" as O'Hare overstates. That is, Luther was not simply dreaming of wine, women, and song all day while hiding away in the Wartburg. A reading of the entire letter will prove that. If Luther was so consumed by lust, it seems odd that he would casually mention a number of his struggles in the beginning of the letter, but then go on for the majority of this long letter to a number of other political and spiritual subjects.

This is not to say that Luther was not really struggling with what he says he was struggling with. W.H.T. Dau long ago provided a fair and balanced view of Luther's stay at the Wartburg:
At the Wartburg, where Luther was an exile for ten months, his name was changed by the warden of the castle, Count von Berlepsch. This was done the better to conceal his identity from the henchmen of Rome, who by the imperial edict of outlawry had been given liberty to hunt Luther and slay him where they found him.
The sexual condition of Luther during the years before his marriage was the normal condition of any healthy young man at his age. Luther speaks of this matter as a person nowadays would speak about it to his physician or to a close friend. The matter to which he refers is in itself perfectly pure: it is an appeal of nature. Do Luther's Catholic critics mean to infer that Luther was the only monk, then or now, that felt this call which human nature issues by the ordination of the Creator? Rome can inflict celibacy even on priests that look like stall-fed oxen, but she cannot unsex men. Mohammedans are less inhuman to their eunuchs. Moreover, it must be borne in mind that Luther complains of this matter as something that disturbs him. It vexed his pure mind, and he fought against it as not many monks of his day have done, by fasting, prayer, and hard work. Yes, hard work! The remarks of Luther about his physical condition are simply twisted from their true import when Luther is represented as a victim of fleshly lust and a habitual debauchee. Luther's Catholic critics fail to mention that during his brief stay at the Wartburg Luther not only translated the greater part of the New Testament, but also wrote about a dozen treatises, some of them of considerable size, and that of his correspondence during this period about fifty letters are still preserved. Surely, a fairly respectable record for a lazy man!
Addendum (2017)
This blog entry is a revision of an entry I posted back in 2009. The original can be found here. Because so many sources are now available online, I'm revising older entries by adding additional materials and commentary, and also fixing or deleting dead hyperlinks. Nothing of any significant substance has changed in this entry from that presented in the former.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Not, "Why Johnny Can't Read or Write," but "Why Johnny Shouldn't Write"

"Are you starting to get an idea of why Martin Luther threw the Book of James out of his version of the Bible? And, even after he put it back in, he referred to it as an “epistle of straw”. Can you imagine what non–Catho lic Christians would say if the Pope referred to any book of the Bible as an “epistle of straw”? Yet, that’s exactly what Martin Luther did."

This was a comment from Catholic apologist John Martignoni's recent newsletter, Apologetics or the Masses – Issue #115. Unfortunately, Martignoni is considering publishing comments like these in a new book, as if the world needs yet another book of Catholic apologetics making up stuff about Martin Luther.

An obvious sign that someone like Martignoni has not read anything about Luther and the canon is the assertion, “Martin Luther threw the Book of James out of his version of the Bible." Another one floating around cyberspace is the one Steve Ray uses, "If it weren’t for his theologian Philip Melanchthon, Protestants would no longer consider James, Revelation, Hebrews, Jude and a few other books as inspired Scripture." I've covered that one here.

It is a simple historical fact that Luther’s translation of the Bible contained all of its books. 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 finished the entire Bible by 1534. During these years, various incomplete editions were released. Some Protestants might be surprised to learn that Luther also translated the Apocrypha. The editors of Luther’s Works explain, “In keeping with early Christian tradition, Luther also included the Apocrypha of the Old Testament. Sorting them out of the canonical books, he appended them at the end of the Old Testament with the caption, ‘These books are not held equal to the Scriptures, but are useful and good to read.’ "

When Luther published his Bible, a layman found the entirety of the canon. Luther expressed his thoughts on the canon in “prefaces” placed at the beginning of particular Biblical books. These prefaces were not out of the ordinary. Luther was not engaging in any sort of outrageous scholarly behavior.

Luther does appear to have held lifelong doubts about the canonicity of James, but he didn't "throw it out," and then have to put it back in. He did not whimsically dismiss Biblical books simply because he did not like their content. Luther was aware of the disputed authenticity of the book. Eusebius and Jerome both recorded doubts to the apostolicity and canonicity of James. Luther did not consider James to be James the Apostle. He wasn't alone in this. The great humanist Scholar Erasmus likewise questioned the authenticity of James, as did Cardinal Cajetan, one of the leading 16th Century Roman Catholic scholars.

It is true Luther had a contextual problem with the content on James. He saw a contradiction between Paul and James on faith and works. Some conclude Luther missed the harmonization between these two Biblical writers, but this isn't true either. Luther's great biographer Roland Bainton pointed out, "Once Luther remarked that he would give his doctor's beret to anyone who could reconcile James and Paul. Yet he did not venture to reject James from the canon of Scripture, and on occasion earned his own beret by effecting reconciliation. 'Faith,' he wrote, 'is a living, restless thing. It cannot be inoperative. We are not saved by works; but if there be no works, there must be something amiss with faith' " [Here I Stand, 259]. In The Disputation Concerning Justification, Luther answered this spurious proposition: Faith without works justifies, Faith without works is dead [Jas. 2:17, 26]. Therefore, dead faith justifies. Luther responded:

"The argument is sophistical and the refutation is resolved grammatically. In the major premise, 'faith' ought to be placed with the word 'justifies' and the portion of the sentence 'without works justifies' is placed in a predicate periphrase and must refer to the word 'justifies,' not to 'faith.' In the minor premise, 'without works' is truly in the subject periphrase and refers to faith. We say that justification is effective without works, not that faith is without works. For that faith which lacks fruit is not an efficacious but a feigned faith. 'Without works' is ambiguous, then. For that reason this argument settles nothing. It is one thing that faith justifies without works; it is another thing that faith exists without works. [LW 34: 175-176].

Even though Luther arrived at the harmonizing solution, it is probably the case that the question of James' apostleship out-weighed it. One cannot argue Luther was never presented with a harmonization between Paul and James. He seems to have granted the validity of it, yet still questioned the canonicity of the book.

As to the "epistle of straw" comment, I've covered that here.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Justification: The doctrine upon which the church stands or falls

TurretinFan has done some very interesting research on the quote attributed to Luther that Justification is the doctrine upon which the church stands or falls. His article can be found here. I'm far more interested in those quotes which misrepresent Luther, but indeed even the popular slogans attributed to him, if proven to not be his, deserve scrutiny.

I vaguely recall when David Waltz began bringing the validity of this quote into question. At the time, I recall thinking, "um... and?" To view Waltz's research on this, see this link.

I think Waltz has realized that the sentiment of the quote is indeed Luther-esque. There isn't much to really quibble over. In fact, if you go through What Luther Says by Ewald Plass, you can find quite a few quotes that say things like: "If the article of justification is lost, all Christian doctrine is lost at the same time" (W 40 I, 48); "This doctrine [justification] is the head and cornerstone. It alone begets, nourishes, builds, preserves, and defends the church of God; and without it the church of God cannot exist for one hour..." (W 30 II, 651); "When the article of justification has fallen, everything has fallen" (W 40 I, 72).

Waltz quotes Luther stating:

In this epistle, therefore, Paul is concerned to instruct, comfort, and sustain us diligently in a perfect knowledge of this most excellent and Christian righteousness. For if the doctrine of justification is lost, the whole of Christian doctrine is lost. And those in the world who do not teach it are either Jews or Turks or papists or sectarians. For between these two kinds of righteousness, the active righteousness of the Law and the passive righteousness of Christ, there is no middle ground. Therefore he who has strayed away from this Christian righteousness will necessarily relapse into the active righteousness; that is, when he has lost Christ, he must fall into a trust in his own works. (Martin Luther, Luther’s Works – Volume 26: Lectures On Galatians 1535, trans. Jaroslav Pelikan, p. 9.)

Waltz can at least conclude from his own research that the phrase was not coined in the early 18th century (1718) by Valentin E. Löscher. Such people like R. Albert Mohler, Jr conceded this point too hastily:

"I acknowledge the point made by Richard John Neuhaus that the first recorded use of this formulation is found in Valentius Loescher, who in 1718 used it to correct the Pietists. I reject his further claim that this formulation indicts contemporary evangelicals qua evangelicals. It certainly does indict those who claim to be evangelicals, but who preach a gospel of health, wealth, prosperity, consumerism, self-esteem, or good works" [Southern Baptist Journal of Theology Volume 5 (vnp.5.4.4) p. 11 footnote 21].

Tfan demonstrated the quote does indeed go further back. Perhaps Mr. Waltz can enlist the expert Catholic research team of DA, Steve Ray, and Paul Hoffer, who together spent quite a lengthy amount of time (well, not Ray, that's for sure), verifying my charge that Steve Ray misquoted Luther, and in fact hadn't even read the context of the quote he cited.

I highly recommend TFan's research!

Update: Tfan directed me to page vii in Alister McGrath's Iustita Dei (available here). see footnote 1:

For the sense and origins of this celebrated phrase, see F. Loofs, “˜Der articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae´. It is necessary to challenge Loofs upon several points, particularly his suggestion that the phrase is first used in the eighteenth century by the Lutheran theologian Valentin L¨oscher in his famous anti-Pietist diatribe Vollst¨andiger Timotheus Verinus oder Darlegung der Wahrheit und des Friedens in denen bisherigen Pietistischen Streitigkeiten (1718″“21), and is restricted to the Lutheran constituency within Protestantism. This is clearly incorrect. The Reformed theologian Johann Heinrich Alsted uses the phrase a century earlier, opening his discussion of the justification of humanity coram Deo as follows: “˜articulus iustificationis dicitur articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae´ (Theologia scholastica didacta (Hanover, 1618), 711). Precursors of the phrase may, of course, be found in the writings of Luther himself ““ e.g., WA 40/3.352.3: “˜quia isto articulo stante stat Ecclesia, ruente ruit Ecclesia´. For more recent reflection, see Schwarz, “˜Luthers Rechtfertigungslehre als Eckstein der christlichen Theologie und Kirche´.