Sunday, May 31, 2009

Faking The Rapture

Well, I didn't find this very funny, but rather a bit cruel. What do you think?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Are you on your way to Sainthood?

Are you on your way to Sainthood? Well, if your spouse or child dies and it causes you despair or depression, Matthew Bellisario says: no deal:

Luther could not deal with death in his own family at all, in fact it brought him despair. The Saints did not act like this when faced with obstacles such as these. They looked to God in their trials of life, while Luther looked to himself. In fact after his daughter died it was said that instead of being at peace with God he went into depression. One writer says, "Whilst the plague was sweeping Europe, the untimely death of his daughter Magdelena sets him off into a deep depression and ruminations on the signs of the End Days."

Of course, one does wonder how Matthew deals with John 11: 35-

33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34"Where have you laid him?" he asked. "Come and see, Lord," they replied. 35Jesus wept. 36Then the Jews said, "See how he loved him!"

Jesus wept? What? Why didn't Jesus act with the same stoic demeanor of one of his saints? Death impacted him, he wept and was "deeply moved in spirit and troubled." The Bible presents death a dreadful thing, even the Lord realized this. That someone feels the pain of loss is not a sign of spiritual weakness. If Roman Catholicism really teaches this is what it means to be a saint, to not feel the pain of loss, then I consider Catholicism not only theologically wrong, but morally wrong. Perhaps Bellisario has yet to suffer loss. I dare him to find a Catholic who's recently lost a child or a spouse, and put forth this type of stupidity, to let them know if they don't claim "peace" but are rather depressed, they aren't acting like one of the saints.


Among [Luther's] children, his Lenchen, a pious, gentle, sensible child, who clung to him with her whole heart, was his especial favorite. We still possess a pleasant picture in which, according to an old tradition, she was painted by Cranach, the family's friend.

But she was taken from him by death in the bloom of her youth after a long and severe sickness on the 2Oth of September, 1542. What he had already felt at the death of his little Elizabeth, he now had to feel more deeply and sorely. While she was lying sick, he said: " I love her dearly; but, O God, if it is thy will to take her hence, I will be content to have her with thee." And to her he said : " Lenchen, my dear daughter, you would like to remain with your father here, and still would like to depart to the Father beyond ; " and she answered: " Yes, my dear father, as God wills." And when she was in her last moments, he kneeled before her bed, wept bitterly and prayed for her salvation, upon which she departed in his arms. When she was lying in her coffin, he looked at her and said: " O dearest Lenchen, you will arise again and shine like a star, yes, like the sun ;" and again: " In my spirit I am indeed joyful, but according to the flesh I am full of grief; the flesh will not be content; the separation pains me exceedingly. It is a strange thing that, although she certainly is at rest and it is well with her, we are yet so sorrowful." To the many who were mourning, he said: "I have sent a saint to heaven; O, that we would have such a death! such a death I would welcome this very hour."

The same sorrow and the same exaltation above sorrow he expresses in his letters to his friends. Thus he writes to Jonas: "You will have heard that my dearest daughter Magdalena has been born again into Christ's eternal kingdom; and although my wife and I should only be joyfully grateful for her blessed departure, through which she has escaped the power of the flesh, the world, the Turk and the devil, yet the power of nature's love is so great that we cannot do it without tears and heart-felt sighs and even a severe death within us; so deeply and firmly the features, words and actions of the living and dying, the obedient and submissive child, are engraved in our hearts that not even Christ's death can entirely expel this grief." His son John, whom the sick sister was anxious to see once more before her death, had been called home from Torgau two weeks before, and he wrote in this connection to Crodel: " I would not that my conscience should later blame me for having neglected anything." But when the boy several weeks later, about Christmas time, influenced by his continued grief and by the tender words his mother had spoken to him, wanted to leave Torgau for good and remain at home, his father exhorted him manfully to overcome his grief and not to increase his mother's sorrow by it, and to obey God who had sent him there through his parents. [source]

Luther s Epitaph on Magdalene.
DORMIO cum sanclis hie Magdalena Lutheri Filia, et hoc strato tefta quiesco meo. Filia mortis eram, peccati semine nata, Sanguine sed vivo, Christe, redempta tuo.

HERE sleep I, Lenichen, Dr. Luther's little daughter, Rest with all the Saints in my little bed : I who was born in sins, And must forever have been lost. But now I live, and all is well with me, Lord Christ, redeemed with Thy blood. [source][

To Nicolas Amsdorf Reply to letter of consolation on Magdalene's death. October 29, 1542 (about a month after Magdalena's death).

Grace and peace ! Many thanks, most excellent friend, for trying to console me on my dearest daughter's death. I loved her not only because she was my flesh, but for her placid and gentle spirit and her dutifulness to me. But now I rejoice that she is sleeping sweetly in her Heavenly Father's home till that day. Alas, for the days in which we live ! And they are daily becoming worse. I pray that we and all dear to us may be granted such a blessed hour of departure as was her lot. I would call this really sleeping in the Lord, not experiencing one pang of fear. This is the time of which Isaiah speaks, " The righteous is taken away from the evil to come ; they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness," just as when one gathers the wheat into the barn, and commits the chaff to the flames, a punishment the world has deserved for her ingratitude.

To Justus Jonas Luther tries to comfort his friend on the death of his amiabte wife. December 25, 1542. (a few months after Magdalena's death)

Grace and peace in Christ, who is our salvation and consolation, my dear Jonas ! I have been so thoroughly prostrated by this unexpected calamity that I do not know what to write. We have all lost in her the dearest of triends. Her bright presence, her eye so full of trust, all drew forth our love, especially as we knew that she shared both our joys and sorrows as if they had been her own. A bitter parting in very deed, for I hoped that after I was gone she would have been the best of comforters for those I left behind. The deep longing after one so distinguished by piety, propriety, and ami- ability makes me weep. Therefore I can easily imagine your feelings. Temporal consolation is of no avail here. One must look solely to the unseen and eternal. She is our precursor into the regions beyond, where we shall all be gathered on our dismissal from this vale of tears and this corrupt world. Amen.

Mourn, therefore, as you have good cause to do, but at the same time comfort yourself with the thought of the common lot of humanity. Although according to the flesh the parting has been very bitter, nevertheless we shall be reunited in the life beyond, and enjoy the sweetest communion with the departed, as well as with Him who loved us so, that He purchased our life through His own blood and death. It is very true that God's mercy is better than life. What does it matter though we should suffer a little here, when there we shall partake of joy unutterable Oh, what a gulf separates those Turks, Jews, and, still worse, those Papists, Cardinals Heinz and Mainz, from this glory ! Would they could weep now, so that they may not mourn eternally ! For we, after mourning a little while, shall enter into joy, whither your Kathie and my Magdalena have gone, and are now beckoning us to follow. For who is not weary of the abominations of our time, or rather of this hell, which pains spirit and eye day and night ? I am too grieved on your account to write more. My wife was thunderstruck when she heard the news, for she and your wife were as one soul. We pray God to give you temporal consolation. For you have good cause to rejoice when you know your pious wife has been snatched from your side to enjoy everlasting life in heaven. And of this you cannot doubt, as she fell asleep in Jesus _ with so many pious expressions of her faith in Him. Thus also slumbered my little daughter, which is my great and only consolation. God, who has tried you, will comfort you now and for ever. Amen. Martin Luther. [source]

...if the devil notices that you have the Word and are confident that your life is pleasing and acceptable to God on account of the Word, he will not rest but will put in your way trials and afflictions of every kind even in the most trivial matters. You will experience faithlessness on the part of the household, the hatred of your neighbors, and the death of your children or of your wife.(2) All these things will happen in order that your faith may be exercised. But if the Word is not there, impatience and displeasure follow because of such an irksome and miserable kind of life, just as we hear many who exclaim that they entered into marriage not because God led them but because the devil urged them to do so.

(2) Luther’s daughter Elizabeth died on August 3, 1528; his daughter Magdalena on September 20, 1542.

Luther, M. (1999, c1968). Vol. 5: Luther's works, vol. 5 : Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 26-30 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (5:5). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Proof of Luther's "pathetic spiritual condition"

Matthew Bellisario continues his analysis on Martin Luther. His recent post is entitled, The Tragedy of Luther's Hatred: The Last Days . While I don't plan on going through its entirety, I did want to demonstrate what happens when one doesn't actually read Luther, but relies on outdated scholarship like that used in the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Bellisario states:

These are not the only examples of his pathetic spiritual condition. It is written that his last sermon was not one of hope but of despair, "His last sermon in Wittenberg (17 Jan., 1546) is in a vein of despondency and despair. "Usury, drunkenness, adultery, murder, assassination, all these can be noticed, and the world understands them to be sins, but the devil's bride, reason, that pert prostitute struts in, and will be clever and means what she says, that it is the Holy Ghost" (op. cit., XVI, 142-48). The same day he pens the pathetic lines "I am old, decrepit, indolent, weary, cold, and now have the sight of but one eye" (De Wette, op. cit., V, 778). Nevertheless peace was not his."(1) [Sources (1) Catholic Encyclopedia].

This snippet comes from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

His last sermon in Wittenberg (17 Jan., 1546) is in a vein of despondency and despair. "Usury, drunkenness, adultery, murder, assassination, all these can be noticed, and the world understands them to be sins, but the devil's bride, reason, that pert prostitute struts in, and will be clever and means what she says, that it is the Holy Ghost" (op. cit., XVI, 142-48). The same day he pens the pathetic lines "I am old, decrepit, indolent, weary, cold, and now have the sight of but one eye" (De Wette, op. cit., V, 778). Nevertheless peace was not his.

The first error is that this was not Luther's last sermon, as Bellisario states. This is was from the last sermon in Wittenberg, Rom. 12:3, January 17, 1546. Luther went on to preach five more sermons after this.

The second error is a complete lack of context, and missing the point of the context. Luther's sermon was on Romans 12:3, "For by the grace given to me I bid [every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith which God has assigned him." Luther begins by stating:

St. Paul, as was his custom, taught first the great chief articles of Christian doctrine—the law, sin, and faith, how we are to be justified before God and live eternally. As you have often heard and still hear every day, namely, that there are two points to be taught and preached: first we must see to it that faith in Christ is rightly preached, and second, that the fruits and good works are rightly taught and practiced. Faith requires that we know what sin is, what the law is, what death is, and what it does, and also how we return to life and abide in it. This is the way Paul teaches in all his epistles; first concerning faith in Christ. First he plants the good tree, just as anybody who wants to have a good garden must have good trees. This is what Paul does; first he sets out the wild trees [cf. Rom. 11:24] and teaches how we should become good trees, that is, how we are to believe and be saved. This he has been describing up to this point in the twelfth chapter. From here to the end of the epistle he teaches the fruits of faith, in order that we may not be false Christians, who have only the name of Christian, but rather real, true believers. This is the preaching concerning good works, which God commands, especially in the first and second table [i.e., of the Ten Commandments], that we, who have been redeemed through the blood and death of the Son of God, should live godly lives, as those who do not belong to this transitory life but rather to eternal life, provided that we rightly believe; in order that after believing we may not again follow the world, as Paul says in the preceding verse: “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind,” etc. from. 12:2].

Luther then expounds on the remnants of sin found in the lives of Christians: "After baptism there still remains much of the old Adam. For, as we have often said, it is tame that sin is forgiven in baptism, but we are not yet altogether clean.""The sin, it is true, is wholly forgiven, but it has not been wholly purged. If the Holy Spirit is not ruling men, they become corrupt again; but the Holy Spirit must cleanse the wounds daily. Therefore this life is a hospital; the sin has really been forgiven, but it has not yet been healed." Because of this, Luther says "there must be preaching and everyone must also take care that his own reason may not lead him astray." "Reason" is for Luther, a sin that adds works to God's works, and seeks to follow it's own path rather than than God's path. It is a harder sin to locate. and is typical of the fanatics. He expounds,

If we were wholly clean, we should not need everywhere the ministry of the Word. If we were altogether pure, we should have no need to be admonished, but would be like the angels in heaven with no need for a schoolmaster, and do everything willingly of ourselves. But since we are still confined to this miserable carcass—which in time the worms will devour, though it deserves something worse, to burn in hell eternally—it is necessary constantly to resist and put off the old man and his works and put on the new man, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him [cf. Col. 3:10]. Usury, gluttony, adultery, manslaughter, murder, etc., these can be seen and the world understands that these are sins. But the devil’s bride, reason, the lovely whore comes in and wants to be wise, and what she says, she thinks, is the Holy Spirit. Who can be of any help then? Neither jurist, physician, nor king, nor emperor; for she is the foremost whore the devil has. The other gross sins can be seen, but nobody can control reason. It walks about, cooks up fanaticism [Schwärmerei] with baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and claims that everything that pops into its head and the devil puts into its heart is the Holy Spirit. Therefore Paul says: As I am an apostle and God has given me the Spirit, so I appeal to you [of. Rom. 12:1; I Cor. 4:16].

The point Luther makes is a comparison between obvious sins (gluttony, adultery, manslaughter, murder) and the sin of "reason" found particularly in the fanatics, groups Luther wrote and preached against his entire career. The Catholic Encyclopedia would have one believe Luther arrived at this distinction at the end of his life in despondency, Such is not the case. The same understanding of "reason" and preaching against the fanatics can be seen throughout Luther's written corpus.

The third error is confusing Luther's physical condition as an old man with a "pathetic spiritual condition." It is no secret that Luther suffered from many physical ailments. Yet, this did not deter him from his work, even to his final days.

The fourth error is missing Luther's sarcastic wit even during suffering. The snippet used by the Catholic Encyclopedia, "I am old, decrepit, indolent, weary, cold, and now have the sight of but one eye," is from an introduction to a letter. Luther writes, "Grace and peace ! I, old, weary, lazy, worn-out, cold, chilly, and, over and above, one-eyed man, now write you. And when I flattered myself that, half-dead as I am, I might be left in peace, it looks as if I had neither written nor done anything heretofore, so overburdened am I now with writing and talking. But Christ, who is all in all, is almighty, to whom be praise to all eternity. Amen."

Monday, May 25, 2009

Various Luther Tidbits....

Revised 5/26/09

The Catholic Champion has recently posted, Don't Make Martin Luther's Last Words Your Own! Matthew Bellisario states, "There are some who have said that Luther toned down his anti-papal rhetoric before his demise." Really? I have a lot of Luther related books, and I've never heard this one before. If anything, modern Catholic scholarship (including the Pope) has toned down anti-Luther rhetoric. I've never read any serious treatment of Luther suggesting he became less hostile toward the papacy. If such a sentiment exists, I'd be interested in seeing who said it and why.

Bellisario also states,

Luther also made it a practice to attack early Church Fathers personally as well, making accusations that would make it appear as if he had known them personally. For instance he once said in referring to the great Saint Jerome, "I know no doctor whom I hate so much, although I once loved him so ardently. Surely there's more learning in Aesop, than in all of Jerome" (LW 54, 72) Let us assume that humility was not one of Martin Luther's virtues. In fact if we compare Luther's character to that of the Saints like Jerome we find a stark contrast.

Known them personally? No, Luther never inferred this. The casual quote is from the Tabletalk, and it based on Luther's statements as recorded by Veit Dietrich in the years 1531–1533. It could've been something Luther said at dinner in casual conversation. Here is the text:

No. 445: More Learning in Aesop Than in Jerome Early in the year 1533
“I think Jerome has somehow been saved by his faith in Christ. But God forgive him for the harm he has done through his teaching! I know very well that he has done me much harm. He scolded women and gossiped about other women who were not present. I wish he had had a wife, for then he would have written many things differently. It’s a wonder that in so many books of his there isn’t a word about Christ, although he censures this in his sixth book. I know no doctor whom I hate so much, although I once loved him ardently and read him voraciously. Surely there’s more learning in Aesop than in all of Jerome. If only Jerome had encouraged the works of faith and the fruits of the gospel! But he spoke only of fasting, etc. My dear Staupitz once said, ‘I’d like to know how that man was saved!’ And his predecessor Dr. Proles said, ‘I should not like to have had St. Jerome as my prior!’ ”

So, OK, Luther said some harsh things about Jerome, as well as some very practical criticisms. Does this then mean Luther was not humble? I think not- if Luther's criticisms of Jerome were accurate, then he was simply doing what we should all do- read with a discriminating eye. No writer is (or was) perfect, except for the Holy Spirit. There's only one book with pure accurate truth. The Church Fathers, while saying some good things, also said some bad things. Simply because Rome says Jerome is now a saint, doesn't mean everything he wrote or held was perfect truth (Recall, my RC friends, he wasn't fond of the apocrypha). I don't find anything in the above statement by Luther all that outrageous.

Mr. Bellisario himself says many unkind things about people he's never really met, but acts as if he knows them, so perhaps he should swallow a dose of his own medicine. Let's call out the humble Catholic Champion when he visits this blog. Let's hope now to find a few less insults coming from the keyboard of Mr. Bellisario, based on his own paradigm.

On another front, recently I got involved in a Luther related discussion over at Catholic Answers. I think the person in the discussion has since posted the Forward to the Second Edition of Luther and Lutherdom by Heinrich Denifle, as well as pages 272-295. He also mentions he's going to post the preface to the first edition. According to Gordon Rupp, "the second edition of Luther Und Lutherdom contained some remarkable modifications and omissions, while the editors of the French edition were constrained to add a number of embarrassed footnotes." So whichever edition he posts content from, it'll be from the same poisoned well.

It turns out, the person I dialogued with at Catholic Answers (raumzeitmc2) appears to be Ben M., a regular from DA's combox. That would make a lot of sense to me, as the content from his combox statements are very similar.

Ben says, "I guess Heinrich Denifle could be considered, in some ways, the 'Dirty Harry' of Catholic apologetics. But you know, sometimes - just sometimes - in order to say what needs to be said, one just has to 'tell it like it is!' " Well no Ben, Denifle may be good in other areas, but his work on Luther wasn't so good. Even DA appears to be back down from Denifle-

"I think Denifle goes too far, which was the opinion of Hartmann Grisar, author of the six-volume Luther biography.There are some errors there, but it's not as bad as Denifle makes out."

And also,

"Denifle can provide relevant and interesting facts about Luther, just like anyone else (of course), but extreme antipathy to Luther taints his work. I don't think that helps our side in its criticism of Luther. It simply makes Protestants think that we are being irrational out of "hatred" of Luther, etc. And they tune it out.And that ain't good. So in that way I think we shoot ourselves in the foot if we reply on Denifle."

It's odd to actually agree with DA, or rather, have DA agree with me. But Ben wasn't even deterred by DA. If he won't even listen to people on his own side, then well, there's no helping some people. Ben even thinks the Lutheran church is hiding information about Luther:

Here's where Lutherans and the Lutheran church could do much to put away misunderstanding, if only they weren't so afraid of going public domain with Luther's works. And why are they afraid? A number of reasons. 1. Luther's foul language (and what may even be termed at times, his downright filthy language). Now Luther knew better. This is proven by the simple fact that, when he had a mind to (and when not seething with rage against the pope or whomever), he could write and say many beautiful and edifying things. So he cannot plead ignorance. 2. Luther's violent language. For a supposed man of God and a reformer of morals, such language was, is, and always will be out of place. 3. Luther's scandals e.g. Philip of Hesse. 5. Luther's lying, his deceiving. 6. Luther's attacks on his fellow reformers - [Zwingli et al.]

If someone thinks the current set of Luther's Works attempts to hide the these things, it's simply ridiculous, and demonstrates how little of Luther's current published writings Ben has read. There isn't any conspiracy to keep negative facts about Luther hidden. I could list quite a number of writings contained in the LW set that present Luther in a negative light. The set includes Luther's "On The Jews and Their Lies." In the Tabletalk LW volume, they purposely included those sayings that have caused polemics. The set includes Luther's scatological language, scandals, complaints about the people, attacks against Zwingli, etc. I live near a number of libraries, and many of them carry the 55 volume current LW set. To my knowledge, there aren't any Lutheran Illuminati guarding the set so people don't learn the truth about Luther.

Now these and many other such things the Lutherans are afraid will do irreparable damage to the cause of the reformation were they to become widely known. After all, the absurdity and hypocrisy of speaking corruption in the Church when the reformers themselves were taking the lead in such things is, well, you know....

The Lutherans haven't been hiding the facts about Luther. In fact, you can go in to any big chain bookstore and find biographies of Martin Luther that contain all sorts of information about him. In stores like Borders and Barnes and Noble, you can find a chair and read books without paying for them. The Lutherans will not stop you. Similarly, you can find books on line written by Lutherans like this: Luther Examined and Reexamined: A Review of Catholic Criticism and a Plea for Revaluation. I appreciate that any books are free on line. One cannot demand that others give books for free. In regards to Luther's writings, there is a large selection of materials with contexts available. the Lutherans aren't hiding anything. There isn't a 4th secret of Fatima locked away in the Lutheran Vatican in Wittenberg. Luther's Works can also be purchased on a fairly affordable CD ROM. If Rome ever decides that her theologians should post all their books for free on the Internet, perhaps then the Lutherans will follow such a generous example and do the same.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Attention Catholics: Ugly Churches Distort The Catholic Faith

I get updates from the Catholic publisher, Sophia Institute Press. The most recent one was very interesting:

"The problem with new-style churches isn't just that they're ugly -- they actually distort the Faith and lead Catholics away from Catholicism. So argues Michael S. Rose in the eye-opening pages Ugly as Sin, the book that banishes forever the notion that those of us who love traditional-style churches are motivated simply by nostalgia. In terms that non-architects can understand, Rose shows that far more is at stake: modern churches actually violate the three natural laws of church architecture and lead Catholics to worship, quite simply, a false god: Not content to limit himself to theory, Rose in Ugly as Sin takes you on a revealing tour through a traditional church and a modern church. He shows conclusively how the traditional church communicates the Faith . . . . . . while the barren modern one leaves you empty... and alone..."

Well, this is an approach I never considered in understanding Catholicism. There are many reasons why I believe Roman Catholics practice a false faith, but I never considered arguing they worshiped a false god based on architecture! In an old com box, DA referred to this publisher as a "reputable, respected publisher" that "specializes in Catholic classics." Well, this is a classic alright, but then again, Sophia Press at one time stated DA was a "lifelong Protestant Scripture scholar", so perhaps their categories and terms are defined somewhat differently. Well whatever, I would though avoid ugly churches if you're concerned about worshipping the correct god.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

You've Been Left Behind

I've recently begun teaching a four part series on Eschatology at my church, so I've been revisiting end times themes and trends in church history.

Back in the late 1970's and early 1980's I saw the movie, A Thief in the Night (1972) more than a few times. Well, it was the end of the world, so my dispensational church needed to make sure the message got out. Israel had become a nation again in 1948, and only one generation of forty years was left. The rapture was immanent. I didn't want to miss the rapture!

Ah, the magic of the Internet, the entire movie is on line. You can even download it. It may be one of the worst movies ever made, but like an Ed Wood movie, it's so bad it's good. Long before Tim Lahaye's Left Behind, the church was given the cinematic brilliance of A Thief in the Night and its sequel, A Distant Thunder. What I did not know, was that there were two other sequels- Image of the Beast (1980) and The Prodigal Planet (1983). Well, turn the lights down low, get a bag of popcorn, sit back in your chair, and enjoy!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Catholic Answers Update

I'm still at it over on the Catholic Answers forums, so I haven't had a chance to post much this week over here. The discussion is found here. I didn't get in to it until many pages in. That being said, there's probably much better stuff to be reading than trudging through a long discussion thread. In fact, my time in this discussion is almost over, as I have to concentrate on putting material together for other projects. Of course, it will probably be claimed I ran away, or something like that, but you'll notice I've been answering his every line thus far.

Here though, is a recent snippet:

Originally Posted by raumzeitmc2:Now you speak of the "proclamation of the gospel, and dedication to the authority of the Scriptures." Well, just what is the "gospel" in your opinion?

In Biblical terms,

"For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something of which to boast, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin.”

In other words, Christ has paid the penalty for my sin, I do not need an indulgence. My righteousness is the perfect righteousness of Christ, given to me as a gift. My perfect works are Christ’s works, given to me as a gift.

Originally Posted by raumzeitmc2: you really haven't told me what the gospel is yet. So let rephrase the question: We know that Christ preached the gospel, so what then was it that he preached? What was the essence of his message, his gospel?

Your question demonstrates a fundamental distinction between us. The Gospel is more than the words of Christ in red lettering. The Bible was written by the Holy Spirit. In its entirety it is God's infallible word and proclamation of Christ. Christ in fact notes the entire Old Testament was about Him. So, when I approach the question of how one is made right with God, I go to that part of the Bible that addresses that issue. The Holy Spirit has given the church the book of Romans as a systematic treatment of how one is made right with God. The words of Jesus aren't somehow more important than the words of Paul: both are the word of God, the word of the Holy Spirit. If Christ had given a detailed explanation of justification and sanctification, I would turn to those passages, but he did not. The Holy Spirit used Paul to do this, and Paul's words and the red words of Jesus are in harmony, because both are God's word.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

My Five Year Catholic Answers Anniversary

This month marks my five year anniversary as a member of the Catholic Answers Forums!

To date, I've posted under 500 times, with an average of 0.25 posts per day. I'd like to thank the staff of Catholic Answers for not banning me. Recall, Mr. Madrid banned me from Envoy because I posted a link to Alpha and Omega Ministries.I was banned from the Coming Home Network forums during the registration process.

To celebrate five years of wonderful dialog, I found a recent post in which it was claimed,

I have interacted with a large percentage of these anti-Catholic types over the years, and they all say exactly what you said about "moving on" when certain facts about Luther or Calvin are mentioned. They simply do not want to hear the truth. This is truly tragic, though, because like Luther and Calvin, such people deceive and continue to deceive so many unsuspecting souls. And quite frankly, I believe there is a moral duty, a moral obligation to expose such false teachers. They would find it far more difficult to seduce their followers if the truth about the corrupt reformers were better known.

So, as a representative of "The Organization of anti-Catholic Types" I joined in this discussion and I've been responding not as I usually do, but with the chosen method of some Catholic apologists. I've been going line-for-line, responding to virtually everything this person posts.

The discussion can be found here: Sin boldly?

I also saved a copy of the dialog. Given my past track record, I can't guarantee there will be a sixth year of wonderful dialog with the Catholic Answers folks.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

The Quotable Luther #8 "The Fathers, the Fathers"

(Dedicated to my dear friend, Skyman- thanks for all your work!)

WITH such blindness and madness has our Lord Jesus Christ stricken the whole kingdom of the papist abomination, that for three years now the Cyclops of their infinite host, warring on Luther alone, are still at a loss to understand for what reason I am at war with them. In vain do all the books that I have edited and published testify that I seek this one thing only, which is that the divine Scriptures be given the pre-eminence, as is right and just, and that all human inventions and traditions be taken out of the way as most hurtful stumbling blocks. Or, having cut out their poison and plucked out their sting, that is, their power of forcing and commanding and snaring consciences being taken away, let them be freely and indifferently tolerated as in this world we have to tolerate any other pest or unhappiness.

For afflicted with chronic insanity they bring nothing against me but the statutes of men, the glosses of the Father and the acts, or ritual, of past centuries, those very things which I deny and impugn and which they themselves confess to be untrustworthy and often erroneous. I dispute de iure, and they answer me de facto. I seek a cause; they show a work. I ask, By what authority do ye do this? They reply, Because we do it and have done it. So for reason they give their will, for authority their ritual. For right they allege their custom, and that in the things of God.

There is in their schools a most vicious method of arguing, which they call begging the question. This they learn and teach till grey-headed,--in fact, till burial,--with infinite sweat, with infinite trouble, poor unhappy men. But when they come to apply their teaching, they do nothing except viciously beg the question. And so when I exclaim: The Gospel, the Gospel, Christ, Christ; they reply, The Fathers, the Fathers, use, use, statute, statute!

When I say, the Fathers, use, statute have often erred; we must have a stronger and surer authority--Christ cannot err; then they are like the mute fishes, and become as the Scripture saith, like deaf adders that shut their ears lest they hear the voice of the charmer. Or they reply thus to me, in words which they always have on the tip of their tongue: Ambrose saith so; art thou wiser than Ambrose? Do you alone know? And this is all they have to say. As though the question was between Ambrose's teaching and mine; or as though I could not answer: You misunderstand and misinterpret Ambrose. What is gained, I ask, by disputing with those who are blind and bad-tempered and utterly senseless? [source]

Alternate translation:

Our Lord Jesus Christ has smitten the whole realm of papal abomination with blindness and maddness. For three years now, the mad giants have been struggling against Luther and they still do not grasp what my fight with them is all about. It seems, in vain have I published so many writings which testify openly that I seek to demonstrate that Scripture should count as the exclusive authority, as is right and fair; that human contrivances and doctrines should be given up as evil scandals or, at least, that once their poison is extracted (that is, the power to enforce them and to make them obligatory for the conscience), they should be regarded as a matter for free investigation just as any other calamity or plague in the world. Because they fail to understand this, they quote against me exclusively man-made laws, glosses on the writings of the fathers and from the history of old customs, in short: precisely what I reject and what I am contesting. They themselves know very well that all those things are unreliable and that frequently they contain errors. My struggle concerns principles, they answer stressing usage and custom. I ask: "By what authority do you do this?" They answer; "Because we are doing it, and have always done so." Instead of discussing the basic cause, they discuss intentions instead of Scripture, usages instead of my principal concern,custom—and all this in things pertaining to God!

'They have in their schools a questionable method in disputations, called the repetition of the question (i.e. reverting to the point under dispute). Thus, they study and teach until they turn grey—right to their grave—with endless labour and at great cost, the miserable men. They themselves cannot do anything else with their teaching, it is the only way they can dispute. And that is the reason why it happens that, if I always cry: "Gospel! Gospell Gospel!", they can only answer; "Fathers! Fathers! Custom! Custom! Decretals!Decretals!" If then I answer that customs, fathers and decretals have often erred, that reform must be based upon sounder foundation because Christ cannot err, then they are silent like the fishes, or as the Scripture says: "Like deaf adders they stop their ears, lest they should hear the voice of the charmer."'

[Henry VIII and Luther by Erwin Doernberg (California: Stanford University Press, 1961), pp. 27-28].

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

How Roman Dogma Affects a Defense of the Deity of Christ

One major thrust of any biblical defense of the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ is to point out the places in the New Testament in which He explicitly receives worship.
I found 4 passages in which such worship directed to Jesus appears in the NT and discovered that the English word "worship" each time expresses one Greek word - προσκυνέω, proskyneō aka proskuneo.

John 9:35 - Jesus heard that they had put him out, and finding him, He said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?"
36He answered, "Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?"
37Jesus said to him, "You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you."
38And he said, "Lord, I believe." And he worshiped (proskuneo) Him.

Revelation 5:11 - I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands,
12saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing."
13And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, "To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever."
14And the four living creatures kept saying, "Amen " And the elders fell down and worshiped (proskuneo).

Revelation 19:10 - Then I fell at his feet to worship (proskuneo) him. But he said to me, "Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship (proskuneo) God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy."

Revelation 22:8 - I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship (proskuneo) at the feet of the angel who showed me these things.
9But he said to me, "Do not do that I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. Worship (proskuneo) God."

How does this relate to Rome? Roman dogma specifically endorses and approves the bowing down in a religious context to non-deity entities such as the Blessed Virgin, saints, and angels. Roman apologists contend that the Bible contains examples of people bowing down to other people, and it seems to be perfectly OK. Tim Staples has said:
Is kissing or kneeling down before a statue the same as worshiping it? Not necessarily. Both Peter in Acts 10 and the angel in Revelation 19 rebuked Cornelius and John, respectively, specifically for worshiping them. The problem was not with the bowing; it was with the worshiping. Bowing does not necessarily entail worship. For example, Jacob bowed to the ground on his knees seven times to his elder brother Esau (Gen. 33:3), Bathsheba bowed to her husband David (1 Kgs. 1:16), and Solomon bowed to his mother Bathsheba (1 Kgs. 2:19).
Another prooftext Roman apologists use is 1 Chronicles 29:20 -
Then David said to all the assembly, "Now bless the LORD your God." And all the assembly blessed the LORD, the God of their fathers, and bowed low and did homage to the LORD and to the king.
For the record, all of those OT verses mentioned save 1 Kings 2:19 use a form of proskuneo in the LXX.
Protestants respond in numerous ways, one of which is to remind the Romanist that these occurrences are not in a religious context. To greet someone or to show honor to the king is clearly not worship. I've pointed this out myself at length. Romanists respond that this distinction is not as hard and fast as we make it sound.
"See?" they say, "It's permissible to proskuneo non-divine entities."

Now, it occurred to me the other day that The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the Jehovah's Witnesses, often experience the same allergy to throwing proskuneo around that we as Protestants do. But of course, it's a bit of a different animal for them, since JW dogma is henotheistic in nature. But if Jesus Christ were to receive worship as divine, then would that not weigh in favor of our contention that Christ is Himself Jehovah?
Consider James White's debate with on-again, off-again, now in good standing, now in poor standing JW apologist Greg Stafford. White mentioned the passages I printed above from Revelation 4 and 5, where the Lamb and the One seated on the throne are recipients of proskuneo from the beings surrounding the throne.
Dr. White plays a clip from his debate with Stafford starting at minute 23:15 of this video. You can hear Stafford insist that the proskuneo of the aforementioned passage does not apply necessarily to the Lamb, that is, Christ, in this scenario. Perhaps it is only the One seated on the throne, the Father (or Jehovah on Stafford's view), Who is receiving the proskuneo of the creatures and elders, etc, in this scene. Obviously, if Christ were to be on the receiving end of a proskuneo act and accept it as proper, the JW view would be seriously damaged, as such worshipful actions are due and properly rendered to Jehovah alone.
Read the passage through from Revelation 4 to the end of 5 and it becomes clear that there is no disjunction between the worship given to the Father and that given to the Lamb - Christ. Thus - zing! - the worship Christ receives is identical to that which the Father (Jehovah Himself on the JW view) receives. And the Father never objects, never corrects those who are worshiping, and neither does Christ. Thus John 5:22-23 is pictured as fully realised in the heavenly scene:

22"For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, 23so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.

Thus, a useful weapon in the Christian's arsenal of arguments against Watchtower dogma is hamstrung on Roman Catholicism, as RC apologists try to justify their actions towards statues of dead people and angels by attempting to show that it's OK to proskuneo non-divine entities.
Catholic Answers seems not to see this:
The 1950, 1961, and 1970 editions of the NWT said that Jesus was to be worshipped (Heb. 1:6), but the WTS changed the NWT so that later editions would support its doctrines. The translators now decided to render the Greek word for "worship" (proskuneo) as "do obeisance" every time it is applied to Jesus, but as "worship" when modifying Jehovah. If the translators were consistent, then Jesus would be given the worship due to God in Matthew. 14:33, 28:9, 28:17, Luke 24:52, John 9:38, and Hebrews 1:6.

This is not to say that the RC has no useful or valid arguments against the Watchtower. I'm just pointing out that RC dogma and apologetic practice prevents them from using this argument.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Sippo vs Lortz Revisted

A few years back I had an interesting exchange with Catholic apologist Dr. Art Sippo.

When I recommended the works of Catholic historian Joseph Lortz on Luther, and pointed out that Lortz was pivotal to the change in Catholic scholarship toward Luther, Dr. Sippo stated:

"[Catholic historian joseph Lortz] was a Nazi just like Adolph Hitler. Both of them were Luther fans."

"You know, come to think of it, If Mr. Swan rally thinks that being a Nazi doesn't disqualify Fr. Lortz as a Luther expert, why doesn't he go right to the top and advocate the opinions of Adolph Hitler himself!"

"Mr. Swan wants us to believe that a man like Fr. Lortz who held to these "lofty ideals" can be trusted to interpret Luther correctly! Frankly, I would be embarrassed to be associated with him."

Well, if Dr. Sippo won't listen to me, perhaps he'll listen to his Pope:

Question: Where does Luther scholarship stand today? Have there been any attempts to research Luther's theology, beyond existing historical investigations?

Cardinal Ratzinger: Nobody can answer this question in a few sentences. Besides, it would require a special kind of knowledge which I do not possess. It might be helpful, however, briefly to mention a few names which represent the various stages and trends of Catholic Luther scholarship. At the beginning of the century we have the decidedly polemical work by the Dominican H. Denifle. He was responsible for placing Luther in the context of the Scholastic tradition, which Denifle knew better than anybody else because of his intimate knowledge of the manuscript materials. He is followed by the much more conciliatory Jesuit, Grisar, who, to be sure, encountered various criticisms because of the psychological patterns in which he sought to explain the problem of Luther. J. Lortz from Luxembourg became the father of modern Catholic Luther scholarship. He is still considered the turning-point in the struggle for an historically truthful and theologically adequate image of Luther. Against the background of the theological movement between the two world wars, Lortz could develop new ways of questioning which, subsequently, would lead to a new assessment of Luther.

Source (PDF alert)

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Heinrich Denifle: Catholic Interpreter of Luther

Luther was a fallen-away monk with unbridled lust, a theological ignoramus, an evil man, and used immorality to begin the the Reformation. Denifle accuses Luther of buffoonery, hypocrisy, pride, ignorance, forgery, slander, pornography, vice, debauchery, drunkenness, seduction, corruption, and more: he is a lecher, knave, liar, blackguard, sot, and worse: he was infected with the venereal disease syphilis.

Extracted from, The Roman Catholic Perspective of Martin Luther (Part One)

The Catholic Encyclopedia states that Heinrich Denifle was one of the best Austrian Catholic preachers in the 1880’s, and “beloved by Leo XIII and Pius X.” He was also an accomplished scholar, with groundbreaking work on the relationship between scholastic theology and medieval mysticism.[34] The Encyclopedia praises Denifle:

“Catholic and non-Catholic savants alike… have recognized that he was immeasurably superior to his adversaries. This was owing to his intimate knowledge of the Fathers, of theology -- both scholastic and mystic -- of medieval history, and lastly of Middle-High German with its dialects.”

In the course of his research on medieval theology and the corruption of the Church, Denifle developed an interest in understanding Luther. The Encyclopedia states,

“At the beginning of this painful investigation Denifle had not a thought about Luther, but now he saw that he could not avoid him; to estimate the new departure it was necessary to understand Luther, for of this appalling depravity he was the personification as well as the preacher. So Denifle devoted many years to the task of ascertaining for himself how, and why, and when Luther fell.”

A great irony in Luther studies is that the protestant heirs of Luther did not know they possessed a copy of Luther’s early 1515 – 1516 commentary notes on Romans, while the Vatican claimed to be in possession of a copy. In 1880, Leo XIII opened the secret archives of the Vatican to scholars. Luther’s then-unknown Roman’s treatise was found, and Denifle working as an assistant archivist was able to utilize it. The announcement that Father Denifle was going to publish a biography including never before writings from Luther was highly anticipated in the academic world. The Encyclopedia touts,

“For some time previous it had been known that Denifle was engaged on such a work, but when in 1904 the first volume of 860 pages of "Luther und Luthertum in der ersten Entwicklung quelienmässig darstellt" appeared, it fell like a bomb into the midst of the Reformer's admirers. The edition was exhausted in a month. The leading Protestants and rationalists in Germany, Seeberg, Harnack,[35] and seven other professors, besides a host of newspaper writers attempted to defend Luther, but in vain. Denifle's crushing answer to Harnack and Seeberg, "Luther in rationalistischer und christlicher Beleuchtung" appeared in March, 1904, and two months afterwards he issued a revised edition of the first part of the first volume; the second was brought out in 1905 and the third in 1906 by A. Weiss, O.P.”

The Encyclopedia approvingly evaluates Denifle’s work on Luther:

“[Denifle] examines [Luther’s] views on the vow of chastity in detail, and convicts him of ignorance, mendaciousness, etc. The second part which is entitled "a contribution to the history of exegesis, literature and dogmatic theology in the Middle Ages", refutes Luther's assertion that his doctrine of justification by faith, i.e. his interpretation of Rom., i, 17, was the traditional one, by giving the relevant passages from no fewer than sixty-five commentators. Of these works many exist only in manuscript. To discover them it was necessary to traverse Europe; this part which appeared posthumously is a masterpiece of critical erudition. The third part shows that the year 1515 was the turning point in Luther's career, and that his own account of his early life is utterly untrustworthy, that his immorality was the real source of his doctrine, etc. No such analysis of Luther's theology and exegesis was ever given to the learned world for which it was written.”

“He has thrown more light on Luther's career and character than all the editors of Luther's works and all Luther's biographers taken together. Denifle wished to offend no man, but he certainly resolved on showing once and for all the Reformer in his true colours. He makes Luther exhibit himself. Protestant writers, he remarks betray an utter lack of the historical method in dealing with the subject, and the notions commonly accepted are all founded on fable. As he pointedly observes: "Critics, Harnack and Ritschl more than others, may say what they like about God Incarnate; but let no one dare to say a word of disapproval about Luther before 1521". Denifle's impeachment is no doubt a terrible one, but apart from some trifling inaccuracies in immaterial points it is established by irrefragable proofs.”

Interestingly, these positive comments from the Catholic Encyclopedia come from roughly the same time period in which Denifle’s work on Luther appeared. It is apparent that the compilers of the Encyclopedia were quite favorable to Denifle: he is a frequently cited scholar throughout the entire work on a variety of topics. That Denifle is a respected scholar is beyond question. That his opinion on Luther would carry weight in the academic world is understandable, particularly since Denifle had a deep knowledge of medieval theology, and access to early works from Luther otherwise unavailable to the modern world.

Catholic scholar Leonard Swidler points out that Denifle’s work met with great approval of the highest authorities of the Roman Catholic Church, and influenced papal statements. Denifle’s influence can be found in the encyclical Militantis ecclesiae, written for the Canisiusjubilaeum August 1, 1897. Here Pope Leo XIII spoke of the Reformation as the “Lutheran Rebellion” that ushered in the demise of morals. Pius X wrote an encyclical on St. Charles Borromaeo, Editae saepe, (May 26, 1910) in which he put forth:

“There arose haughty and rebellious men, "enemies of the cross of Christ . . . men with worldly . . . minds whose god is the belly." They strove not for the betterment of morals but rather for the denial of the foundations of faith. They cast everything into confusion and cleared for themselves and others a broad path of undisciplined wilfullness, or sought, indeed openly at, the bidding of the most depraved princes and peoples and under the disapproval of the ecclesiastical authority and leadership, to forcibly obliterate the Church's teaching, constitution and discipline.”[36]

Denifle’s Evaluation of Luther
How though did Denifle’s research stand the test of time? Here are a few summary statements from modern Protestant and Catholic scholars evaluating the content of Denifle’s work on Luther:

“The Dominican Denifle attempted to perform a "moral and scholarly execution" of Luther as a fallen-away monk with unbridled lust, a theological ignoramus; Luther was an evil man, and the Reformation fundamentally sprang from immorality. He wrote, "Luther, there is nothing godly in you!" Luther was ‘an ordinary, or if you will, an extraordinary destroyer, a revolutionary, who went through his age like a demon ruthlessly trampling to earth what had been reverenced a thousand years before him. He was a seducer who carried away hundreds of thousands with him in his fateful errors, a false prophet who in his contradiction-burdened teaching as in his sin-laden life manifested the exact opposite of what one should expect and demand from one sent from God. He was a liar and deceiver who through the very overthrowing of all moral limitations under the banner of Christian freedom attracted to himself so many deluded souls.’”[37]

“Denifle has two principle theses: the first is that Luther was so vile that he could not possibly be an instrument of God, that he was an imposter whose reforming zeal was but a cloak to his own moral decadence; the second theses is that this so-called reformer made no discovery at all in the theological realm, that he was not only a liar, but an ignorant liar- too ignorant of the true medieval context to understand the prevalent teaching of the righteousness of God. To defend his first theses, Denifle accuses Luther of buffoonery, hypocrisy, pride, ignorance, forgery, slander, pornography, vice, debauchery, drunkenness, seduction, corruption, and more: he is a lecher, knave, liar, blackguard, sot, and worse. Rupp describes such language as belonging to criminal pathology. Such accusations are seriously drawn up, and in the guise of scientific objectivity have deceived many: they are dictated by blind anger. He cries out toward the end of his book, ‘Luther, there is nothing divine in you! At the end he appeals to Protestants, ‘Have done with Luther; return to the Church’.” To defend his second thesis, concerning Luther's theological incompetence, Denifle argues that Luther was contaminated with nominalism, and had shown himself utterly unable to understand the golden age of scholasticism. In a volume of sources published the following year, Denifle analyzes no fewer than sixty-six commentaries on Romans from the time of Augustine onwards, in an attempt to bring out Luther's errors on justification and his ignorance of medieval tradition. Unfortunately for Lutheranism, no Luther scholar of the day could match Denifle’s mastery of the Middle Ages or his knowledge of the religious life for use in preparing a response. When the Protestants eventually did reply, Denifle simply dismissed them, referring to the 'inferior mentality' of Protestants (men such as Harnack and Seeberg!) and describing them as symptomatic of 'the bankruptcy of Protestant Science'.” [38]

“[Denifle] had expert knowledge which could have served well in understanding Luther's earliest works… But Denifle, a pugnacious Tyrolian, chose not to understand Luther but to demolish him, showing Luther to be a theological ignoramus and decadent, fallen monk victimized by unruly passion According to Denifle, Luther's theology rests on the conviction that the human heart is wholly dominated by lust anger, and pride. Luther had not taken monastic discipline seriously and failed to cooperate with the graces God offered him. Luther had fallen into numerous sexual sins and his theology then is simply a clever justification for a life without self-discipline and moral striving. Along the way in his exposition, Denifle heaped intemperate abuse on Protestant accounts of Luther for their misunderstandings of medieval thought. He opened one of his concluding chapters with a flourish, ‘Luther, there is no once of godliness in you!’”[39]

“The evidence which Denfile presented [about Luther] was certainly impressive and his influence on anti-Lutheran writers has been continuous and considerable; but it had been marshaled in a distinctly slanted fashion He had, for instance, laid great stress on Luther's use of the word ‘concupiscentia', mistakeningly interpreting it as sexual lust. He quoted a phrase which Luther used in a letter to his wife, 'I gorge myself like a Bohemian and I get drunk like a German. God be praised. Amen', to suggest that he was a worldly man, but he did not note the context of the letter, a humorous one written to his wife when she was very worried by his poor appetite. He used a series of portraits in his first edition to show how the thin, ascetic scholar and monk became obese and unattractive; the last of his portraits, he noted, was surprisingly bestial', though the fact that it was made of the reformer after his death, and possibly after decomposition had set in, should have minimized his astonishment.”[40]

“Denifle has grossly misrepresented [Luther] in identifying [Luther’s admitting of sins] with the lusts of the flesh, and his theory that the sensual tendency ultimately led him to a sense of moral bankruptcy and induced him to take refuge in the doctrine of justification by faith alone is utterly misleading. It is not shared by reasonable Roman Catholic writers like Kiefl, who have rightly discarded the theory of Denifle and his followers Grisar, Paquier, Cristiani as untenable.”[41]

“Father Heinrich Denifle in his Luther und Lutherthum made three major points: 1) Luther had broken his monastic vows; 2) at least sixty-five instances can be found of interpretations of Romans 1:17 in Luther's sense before Luther's time; and 3) the year 1515 was the turning point for Luther when lust overpowered him. It is useful to recall the tone of Denifle's polemic. "Luther's melancholy interior is the midpoint of his theology" (vol. 1, p. 590). "Luther gave the impression of being a man who hurls himself into the flood, without knowing what he is doing. He believed thereby to have found the best means with which to make himself the leader of the movement. Now he first sees what he has begun; he cannot turn back, the waves have been set free, his pride does not allow him to rescue himself from it, so he becomes completely radical" (vol. 2, p. 13). Warming up to his subject, Denifle continues: "Luther's undertaking was faustian, the black magic artist Dr. Faust is only an idealized Luther" (vol. 2, p. 108); "the devil controlled him, the devil who bothers Luther so terribly is Luther's own uneasy conscience and this devil plagues him more and more" (vol. 2, p. 118). "The Reformation was the cloaca maxima, the large drainage canal, through which the debris, which had long been piling up, was conducted away, which would otherwise have ruined and poisoned everything if it had remained in the church" (vol. 2, p. 109).”[42]

“[Denifle] depicted Luther as a moral miscreant who had invented the doctrine of justification to excuse his own immoral life. He accused the Reformer of being guilty of a "damned halt-knowledge" and of a "philosophy of the flesh," and he called Luther's doctrine a "seminar of sins and vices." In several passages he chose the form of personal address to Luther, exclaiming, for example, "Luther, in you there is nothing divine!"”[43]

“Denifle pursued the question of Luther's relationship to medieval theology, especially to Thomas Aquinas. His conclusion: the Reformation was based at least in part on Luther s woeful ignorance of classical Roman theology. As for the causes of Luther s reformatory views, Denifle found them in what he called Luther’s unbridled sensuality, his uncontrollable lust, thirst, and appetite. Justification by faith then became the cover-up for his own sins. The composite picture of Luther is that of a glutton, a forger, a liar, a blasphemer, a drunk; a vicious, proud, unprincipled, syphilitic man whose communion with God ceased entirely before his death, which may have been self-inflicted.”[44]

“Denifle began to quarry from Luther's own works and manuscripts what was rumored even before publication to be "ein boses Buch!" The work was aimed at annihilating Luther's reputation, but out of his own mouth and from his own pen. The young Catholic Luther, torn with sin and constant remorse, was pitted against the hardened old reprobate. Grilling his subject mercilessly like a savage district attorney, Denifle denied him veracity, depicted a lecherous young man ridden by unconquerable concupiscence of the flesh, and later exhibited a bloated besotted beast given to vile ragings and obscene vituperation. Luther had been wicked very wicked indeed—why, his own words about culpa, culpa, mea maxima culpa!" and his inability to find peace even behind monastery walls convict him! Unable to find any goodness even with God's grace Luther in final desperation simply "invented" forgiveness for nothing, i.e., justification through faith—and then advised "pecca fortiter," sin boldly! Thus he unleashed all the wicked passions of the Evangelical Reformation.”[45]

“What are Denifle's theses? There are two. The one seeks to make Luther into a man so vile that he could not be the instrument of God, an imposter whose "reforming" activities were merely a wretched camouflage to mask his moral decadence. The other tries to prove that the "pseudo-reformer" had made no rediscovery at all in the theological realm; it was that his propensity for lying or his crass ignorance only prevented him from understanding that the justitia Dei familiar to the medieval theologians was as important for them as he said justification was for him. To defend the first of these theses, which was self-condemnatory purely because of its exaggeration, Denifle does not hesitate to accuse Luther of buffoonery, hypocrisy, pride, ignorance, forgery, slander, pornography, vice, debauchery, drunkenness, seduction, corruption, and the like. These accusations, drawn up as a list of indictments which, disguised as scientific objectivity, are dictated by the blindest anger, culminate in a paragraph headed "The Christian Character of Luther". Having stated there that Luther wanted to be a filthy swine because this animal embodied his ideal of the spiritual life, Denifle pronounces the verdict: "Luther, there is nothing divine in you!" To the Protestant readers who have the patience to read to the end of his invectives, Denifle addresses a final appeal: "Have done with Luther; return to the Church."”[46]

“…[T]he high point in controversial literature was reached in the writings of Heinrich Denifle and Hartmann Grisar shortly after the turn of the century. The Dominican Denifle attempted to perform a “moral and scholarly execution” of Luther as a fallen-away monk with unbridled lust and a theological ignoramus. Luther was an evil man, and the Reformation fundamentally sprang from immorality. Denifle wrote “Luther, there is nothing godly in you!” Luther was “an ordinary, or if you will, an extraordinary destroyer, a revolutionary, who went through his age like a demon, ruthlessly trampling to earth what had been reverenced a thousand years before him. He was a seducer who carried away hundreds of thousands with him in his fateful errors, a false prophet who in his contradiction- burdened teaching as in his sin-laden life manifested the exact opposite of what one should expect and demand from one sent from God. He was a liar and deceiver who, through the very overthrowing of all moral limitations under the banner of Christian freedom, attracted to himself so many deluded souls.”[47]

Assessment and Influence of Denifle
The bias of Denifle is overtly apparent. Catholic scholar Jared Wicks points out the immediate reaction to Denifle’s work from Catholic scholars:

“Catholic university men in Germany were reserved about Denifle’s bombshell from Rome. Some coolly pointed out that a person so depraved as the Luther depicted by Denifle could not possibly have produced the literature that in fact changed the course of Christian history. It was lamented that the new documents Denifle presented would never lead to corrections of Lutheran views of Luther, since the Dominican had clothed his work in a vitriolic rhetoric repulsive to Lutherans.”[48]

Catholic scholar Joseph Lortz unmasks the link between Cochlaeus and Denifle, and clearly expresses that he purposefully has abandoned

“the evaluative categories of a Cochlaeus, … dominated [Catholic Luther studies] for over 400 years, and those of the great Denifle…. Gradually Catholics have come to recognize the Christian, and even Catholic, richness of Luther, and they are impressed. They now realize how great the Catholic guilt was that Luther was expelled from the Church to begin the division that burdens us so today--even in theology. Finally, we are anxious to draw Luther's richness back into the Church. ”[49]

In God’s blessed providence, Denifle’s works on Luther have not been widely disseminated in English, but remain one hundred year old, out of print German tomes. The English world has been spared his biased attacks against Luther. Still, even though his work remains obscure, Catholics on the World Wide Web still find ways of utilizing his material:

“Our (people) are now seven times worse than they ever were before. We steal, lie, cheat, ... and commit all manner of vices." (110:22/47 - Denifle, Heinrich, Luther and Lutherdom, vol.1, part 1, tr. from 2nd rev. ed. of German by Raymund Volz, Somerset, England: Torch Press, 1917)”

"The world by this teaching becomes only the worse, the longer it exists ... The people are more avaricious, less merciful ... and worse than before under the Papacy." (110:25/49 - Denifle, Heinrich, Luther and Lutherdom, vol.1, part 1, tr. from 2nd rev. ed. of German by Raymund Volz, Somerset, England: Torch Press, 1917)”[50]

Atkinson says, “Denifle's thesis has wreaked irreparable harm to the Catholic understanding of Luther, and has exercised an astonishing influence on Catholicism in general and on Catholic scholarship in particular, which one might have thought impervious to such impassioned and biased thinking.”[51] Denifle’s attacks though did have this positive aspect: he forced Protestant scholars to do even greater research into Luther, particularly to reviewing the early years of Luther’s life and medieval scholasticism. Richard Stauffer notes the Reponses to Denifle’s main points on Luther:

“Whereas in the first thesis he seeks to rule out his opponent on the score of morality, in the second he aims at proving Luther's incompetence, if not dishonesty, in theology. In this new attempt at liquidation Denifle revives the idea that Luther was contaminated by the nominalism of William of Occam and failed to appreciate the golden age of scholasticism…Denifle's theses stirred up considerable feeling in Protestantism. The former had nevertheless a certain usefulness, in that it made Lutheran historians finally renounce hagiography and rediscover the true Luther: a man who, besides his greatnesses had also his littlenesses and who, because he was conscious of his wretchedness, was able to be unreservedly the herald of God's grace. Among those who were stimulated by Denifle's attacks to try to give Protestantism a sound picture of the Reformer, we must mention Otto Scheel. The biography which he set out to write, but which unfortunately remained unfinished, is a remarkable work. It devotes no less than two volumes—all that appeared-to tracing Luther's development up to 1515, a period treated only very superficially by nineteenth-century Luther-scholars. Denifle's second thesis had the effect of reminding Protestant theologians that, to know the young Luther, it is also necessary to know the teaching of scholasticism; that, to understand his message, the necessary preliminary is to have understood the thought of the Middle Ages. In this respect, the German historian whom one can regard as the initiator in the renaissance of Luther studies, Karl Holl. did a wonderful work. He was able to show, in particular, that Luther s interpretation of Rom. 1: 17 represented not only a rediscovery of the thought of St Augustine but even a new understanding of God.”[52]


[34] “In his day he had an immense reputation in the scholarly world, especially for his works on medieval mysticism, on the history of the universities up to 1400, on the cartulary of the University of Paris, and on The Desolation of the Churches, Monasteries, and Hospitals in France towards the Middle of the Fifteenth Century” (Richard Stauffer, Luther as Seen by Catholics, 13).

[35] The Catholic Encyclopedia is cheerleading at this point. Stauffer has pointed out, “…the way in which [Denifle] reproached A. Harnack and R. Seeberg in his Luther in rationalistiscer und christlicher Beleuchtung shows that he was not a man who could engage in a genuine theological dialogue” (Richard Stauffer, Luther as Seen by Catholics, 17).

[36] Leonard Swidler, “Catholic Reformation Scholarship in Germany”, 190. Says Swidler elsewhere, “Grisar and Denifle, of course were supported in their attitudes by the highest church authorities. Pope Leo XIII in the encyclical Militantis ecclesiae, written for the Canisius-jubilaeum August 1, 1897, described the Reformation as the “rebellio lutherana,” which brought about the ultimate ruin of morals. St. Pius X in his encyclical on St. Charles Borromaeo, Editae suepe, May 26, 1910, said: There arose haughty and rebellious men, ‘enemies of the cross of Christ . . . men with worldly . . minds whose god is the belly.’ They strove not for the betterment of morals but rather for the denial of the foundations of faith. They cast everything into confusion and cleared for themselves and others a broad path of undisciplined wilfulness, or sought, indeed openly at the bidding of the most depraved princes and peoples and under the disapproval of the ecclesiastical authority and leadership, forcibly to obliterate the Church’s teaching, constitution and discipline” [Leonard J. Swidler, The Ecumenical Vanguard: The History of the Una Sancta Movement ].

[37] Leonard Swidler, “Catholic Reformation Scholarship in Germany”, 190.

[38] James Atkinson, Martin Luther: Prophet to the Church Catholic , 10.

[39] Jared Wicks, Luther and His Spiritual Legacy, 17-18.

[40] V.H.H. Green, Luther and the Reformation (New York: G.P.Putnum’s Sons, 1964) 193-195.

[41] James Mackinnon, Luther and the Reformation Vol. I (New York: Russell & Russell, 1962), 105.

[42] Lewis Spitz, “Images of Luther,” (Concordia Journal 11, March 1985), 46.

[43] Johann Heinz, “Martin Luther and His Theology in German Catholic Interpretation Before and After Vatican II” (Andrews University Seminary Studies, 26, Autumn 1988), 255.

[44] Fred W. Meuser and Stanley D. Schneider (eds.) Interpreting Luther’s Legacy, 39.

[45] Peter Brunner and Bernard J. Holm, Luther in the 20th Century, (Iowa: Luther College Press, 1961), 86.

[46] Richard Stauffer, Luther as Seen by Catholics, 13.

[47] Leonard J. Swidler, The Ecumenical Vanguard: The History of the Una Sancta Movement .

[48] Jared Wicks, Luther and His Spiritual Legacy, 18.

[49] Jared Wicks (ed.) Catholic Scholars Dialogue with Luther (Loyola University Press, 1970), 6-7.


[51] James Atkinson, Martin Luther: Prophet to the Church Catholic , 11.

[52] Richard Stauffer, Luther as Seen by Catholics, 14.

Friday, May 01, 2009

JOHN CALVIN: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine & Doxology

MP3 Available Here

BURK PARSONS, co-pastor with Dr. R.C. Sproul at Saint Andrew’s Chapel, in Sanford, Florida, where he serves as minister of congregational life, and the editor of Tabletalk, the monthly Bible-study magazine of Ligonier Ministries (see, will address the theme of the latest book he edited: "JOHN CALVIN: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine & Doxology".

As the Ligonier Ministries web site puts it: "John Calvin is often reviled as a humorless doctrinarian who preached an austere theology that twisted Scripture. In John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology, Burk Parsons and a cadre of godly pastors and scholars seek to set the record straight in honor of the 500th observance of John Calvin’s birth in 1509. The book’s nineteen succinct chapters explore aspects of Calvin’s life, ministry, and teachings, and establish his importance even for the twenty-first-century church. Contributors, in addition to Parsons, include some of the most gifted and godly Reformed leaders alive today: Derek W. H. Thomas, Sinclair B. Ferguson, D. G. Hart, Harry L. Reeder, Steven J. Lawson, W. Robert Godfrey, Phillip R. Johnson, Eric J. Alexander, Thabiti Anyabwile, John MacArthur, Richard D. Phillips, Thomas K. Ascol, Keith A. Mathison, Jay E. Adams, Philip Graham Ryken, Michael Horton, Jerry Bridges, and Joel R. Beeke. The foreword is by Iain H. Murray. Indexes of Scripture passages, subjects and names, and theological terms make the book helpful for those who want to delve into specific topics. John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology is a winsome portrait that dashes stereotypes about Calvin and the theological system that bears his name."

Burk Parsons holds a degree in biblical studies from Trinity College and the master of divinity degree from Reformed Theological Seminary . He is also the editor of "Assured By God: Living in the Fullness of God’s Grace" published by Presbyterian and Reformed Publishers .