Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Luther: The Book of James Is Nonsense

"If nonsense is spoken anywhere, this is the very place. I pass over the fact that many have maintained, with much probability, that this epistle was not written by the apostle James, and is not worthy of the spirit of the apostle." ('Pagan Servitude of the Church,' ed. Dillenberger, p. 352.)

This Luther snippet was being used on a discussion board by a Roman Catholic. It probably originated from this page: The Truth About Martin Luther and Why So Few Read His Works. The ironic thing about this web page is that it isn't Roman Catholic, but vehemently against Roman Catholicism. The man who wrote this web page appears to be a radical KJV only advocate.

I've documented a number of times that Luther didn't think the apostle James wrote the book of James, but rather a post-apostolic Christian wrote it. Luther wasn't alone with this sentiment. His contemporaries, Erasmus and Cajetan felt the same. That's two fairly reputable Roman Catholic scholars. From a Romanist perspective, these three men held their opinions previous to Trent's dogmatic canon declaration. Thus, within the confines of Romanism, they had liberty to say such things. Also, Luther, Cejetan, and Erasmus had some important voices of history on their side as well: "Eusebius classed it among the antilegomena or contested writings. Jerome (circa 340–420) says it was regarded as pseudonymous in the Latin church" (LW 36:118). For Roman Catholics to cite Luther's opinions on the non-canonicty of James really boils down to a gross double standard. Their own system allowed him the freedom to hold his opinion.

The part of this Luther snippet that most interested me is the first part: "If nonsense is spoken anywhere, this is the very place." If you read this quote at face value, it appears Luther is saying the book of James is nonsense. Now if you read Luther's preface to James, recall he praises James and considers it a “good book” “because it sets up no doctrine of men but vigorously promulgates the law of God,” and that he would "not prevent anyone from including or extolling him as he pleases, for there are otherwise many good sayings in him." So the part about James being "nonsense" jumped out at me immediately.

The web page cites the quote as being from 'Pagan Servitude of the Church,' ed. Dillenberger, p. 352. "Dillenberger" is a reference to Martin Luther: Selections From His Writings, ed. by John Dillenberger, New York: Anchor Books, 1962. It a small collection of Luther's writings (used copies are fairly cheap). My copy is from 1961, and the quote isn't on page 352, it's on page 351 (There appears to be a 1962 edition). "Pagan Servitude of the Church" is more popularly know as The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, 1520. In fairness, I've got to give this radical fundamentalist credit. He actually provided a reference that more or less made sense. Even if I didn't have Dillenberger's book, I had enough information to track down a context in Luther's Works, or even an online resource. If only Roman Catholic polemicists could do likewise.

Dillenberger actually provides a good portion of the context. His translation is from The Reformation Writings of Martin Luther, volume 1, The Basis of the Protestant Reformation, translated and edited by Bertram Lee Woolf (London: Lutterworth Press, 1953), pp. 208-329.

Luther writes:

The Sacrament of Extreme Unction
The theologians of the present day have made two additions, well worthy of themselves, to the ceremony of anointing the sick. In the first place,they call it a sacrament; and in the second, they make it the last. Thus we have nowadays a sacrament of extreme unction which is only to be administered to those who are on the brink of death. As the theologians are very acute in argument, perhaps they relate it to the first unction of baptism, and the two subsequent unctions of confirmation and ordination. This time, they have something to throw in my face; it is that, on the authority of the apostle James, here are both promise and sign: things by which, as I have hitherto contended, a sacrament is constituted. The apostle says: "Is any among you sick? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save him that is sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, it shall be forgiven him" [Jas. 5:14 f].Behold, they say, the promise of forgiveness of sins, and the sign of the oil.

My reply is: If nonsense is spoken anywhere, this is the very place. I pass over the fact that many have maintained, with much probability, that this epistle was not written by the apostle James, and is not worthy of the spirit of an apostle. Nevertheless, no matter who may have been the author, it has the authority due to custom. Yet, even if it were by the apostle James, I would say that no apostle was licensed to institute a sacrament on his own authority, or, to give a divine promise with an accompanying sign. This pertains to Christ alone. That is why Paul says that it was from the Lord that he received the sacrament of the Eucharist [I Cor. 11:23]; and that he had not been sent to baptize, but to preach the gospel [I Cor.1: 17]. Nowhere in the gospels is there any mention of this sacrament of Extreme Unction. But, allowing that to pass, let us look at the actual words of the apostle, or whoever was the author, and we shall see, at once, that those who have multiplied the sacraments have paid no real attention to his words.

As the context shows, it isn't the book of James that is nonsense, rather it is those who argue for the sacrament of extreme unction using James. Luther explains what he means. Notice in his argumentation, he treats James as the writing of an apostle.

Firstly, if they hold that what the apostle said in the present instance is true, and ought to be kept, by what authority have they changed and restricted it? Why do they make an extreme unction, to be administered only once, out of what the apostle intended to be of general application? It was not the apostle's intention that it should be extreme, or that it should be given only to those at the point of death. Rather he says, purely and simply: "Is any among you sick?"; he does not say: "Is any among you at the point of death?" I shall ignore the sapient remarks on this subject in Dionysius's Ecclesiastica Hierarchia; the apostle's words are plain; Dionysius and the Romanists alike rely on them-but without obeying them. It appears, therefore, that, without any other authority than their own choice, they have wrongly interpreted the words of the apostle, and transformed them into the sacrament of Extreme Unction. This has been to the harm of the other sick persons whom they have deprived, on their own authority, of the benefit of the anointing as appointed by the apostle.

Here is a nicer point: the promise of the apostle expressly says: "The prayer of faith shall cure the sick, and the Lord will grant him recovery", etc. [Jas. 5:13-15]. You will have noticed that, in this passage, the apostle commands anointing and prayer in order that the sick man may be made well and recover, i.e., not die; and the anointing, therefore, is not that of extreme unction. This point is also proved in that, to the present day, while the Romanists are administering the last unction, prayers are said asking for the sick man's recovery. But the Romanists maintain, in spite of those prayers, that the unction is only to be administered to the dying, i.e., not in order that such a person may get well and recover. If this were not a serious matter, who could help laughing at this pretty, neat, and sensible comment on the apostle's words? Do we not here plainly detect that stupid sophistry which, both in this passage as well as in many others, affirms what Scripture denies,and denies what it affirms? Shall we pass a vote of thanks to these egregious masters of ours? Surely I was right in saying that nowhere else have they spoken such utter folly as in dealing with this passage!

Furthermore, if Extreme Unction is a sacrament, there should be no doubt that it is (as they say) an efficacious sign of what it signifies and promises. Now, it promises the health and recovery of the sick man, as the words plainly say: "The prayer of faith shall cure the sick, .and the Lord will heal him"[Jas. 5:15]. But every one knows that this promise is seldom,or never, fulfilled. Scarcely one in a thousand is restored, and then no one thinks it is by the sacrament, but by the help of nature or medicine. Indeed, they attribute to the sacrament the opposite effect. What, then, is our conclusion? It is that either the apostle did not speak the truth when he made this promise, or else that this unction of theirs is not a sacrament.A sacramental promise is certain, whereas this is usually fallacious.

But let us again take cognizance of the care and insight of these theologians; we may note that they mean it to be "extreme unction" just in order that the promise shall not hold good, or, lest the sacrament be a sacrament. For if it is extreme,it does not heal, but increases the infirmity. If it healed, it would not be extreme. Thus, it comes about, according to the exegesis of these masters, that James is to be understood to have contradicted himself: he instituted a sacrament to avoid instituting a sacrament! and the Romanists wanted to have the unction just in order that it should be untrue that the sick were healed by it, as James decreed! If this is not talking nonsense,then what is?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Today in the Mail... Luther's Works Volume 69

Today I received my copy of Luther's Works Volume 69, a new volume of Luther's writings translated into English. I do have a question. The last volume to be published was 55. Where are volumes 56-68? Is there a special "Lutheran math" I'm not aware of?

I'm hoping this volume will be digitized and added to the LW CD ROM at some point.

I ordered this book via Concordia. One word of caution: if you fill out the online form, don't be surprised if you find this book in your mailbox a day or two later. I simply gave them my address, and the book showed up. An invoice arrived a day earlier. So if you really want it, fill out the form, but keep in mind, they expect you to pay for it.

Yes, my Siamese cat ripped the top corner of the red cover slip. I had it unpacked less than two minutes.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Beckwith: Aquinas Was Close Enough on Mary's Immaculate Conception

"During my September 3 dialogue with Timothy George at Wheaton College, we briefly discussed St. Thomas Aquinas' denial of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, which later became a dogma of the Catholic Church. One of the points I made was that St. Thomas' understanding of Mary's holiness was far from the Protestant view. In fact, for St. Thomas, Mary, though not conceived without original sin, it was removed by God after she was conceived (technically, after she was "animated"). She was also was the recipient of an abundance of grace so that she may be protected from all actual sin. So, St. Thomas' view, though not the view currently held by the Church as dogma, contained within it some of the same logic on which the Church's dogma is based." [source]

Well, if you rub the edges of a square down for a while, you can eventually fit it in the round hole.

Sungenis: Late Advice To a Former Pope

"As for John Paul II's unofficial statement in 1996 that 'evolution is more than a hypothesis,' although the pope should have been more discrete, the fact is, a hypothesis is on the lowest rung of authority, for it means that, to explain the evidence, someone hypothesizes an answer, but the answer has no evidence to support it." [source]
Here's a rather unique video of a visitor to a Roman Catholic service. Ah well, a Presbyterian church I passed by the other day was having a "bless your pet" day.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

TurretinFan: Harold Camping's Achilles Heel: Why Family Radio's Date for the End of the World is Wrong

I forgot to mention, I had the privilege of co-interviewing Turretinfan last week on Iron Sharpens Iron. The mp3 can be found here.

Luther's View of Money

"His view of property is thoroughly mediaeval. It is identical with that of the scholastic doctors. Nummus non paret nummum (Money does not produce money), was for him, as for them, a fixed principle. Any effort to make money productive seemed to him to be sinful, contrary to the law of nature, and a violation of the laws of God, contained in the Old and the New Testaments. It had its roots in avarice, and the fruit of avarice is usury. That many of the practices which he rebuked are fundamentally dishonest, is a fact that no one will deny; but it is also a fact that Luther had no more idea of economic laws, as we understand them, than he had of the law of gravitation.

In estimating his views, we have also to take account of his own personal attitude toward wealth. Few men have ever lived who were more utterly indifferent to money. For him it was not a thing to be striven after, but only a means of livelihood and a resource with which to relieve the necessities of others. For this reason he was sure to see avarice where others might see only prudence."- editors comment

Source: Works of Martin Luther, Volume IV (Philadelphia: The Muhlenberg Press, 1931),10.

More Internet Luther Books....

I came across another collection of Luther's writings, Ebooks of the author Martin Luther. The same website has a John Calvin page .

Friday, September 25, 2009

Cracking the Code: Editions of Luther's Works

If you've come across obscure Luther quotes and can't understand the documentation, this entry is for you. Often, those who cite Luther polemically can't provide a context, and the references they provide look like an unknown code. Below is a bit of the code book, so to speak. The above graphic comes from Luther's own statements concerning his teaching and its results by Henry O'Connor, page 164. It's typical of the anti-Luther books that Roman Catholics put out in the late 1800's- early 1900's. The sources O'Connor refers to are usually out of reach for a typical English speaking blogger. Google Books has made it somewhat easier to locate some of these type of old sources, but even if you find them, there's still the question of reading German and Latin.

Sometimes O'Connor will mention a specific treatise title, often he won't. It makes tracking down Luther quotes and putting them in context very tedious and difficult. Of course, if your typical Roman Catholic Internet warrior would read the actual sources available now, and quote Luther via those sources.... ah, never mind. That's wishful thinking.

Below are some of the main collections of Luther documents referred to by friends and foes of the Reformation. This is only a brief look. Citations in older books like O'Connor's and Patrick O'Hare's are often sparse, cryptic, fragmented, or in a foreign language. If you come across someone using an obscure Luther quote with a reference you don't understand:

1. If you're aware that it's a primary source from long ago, let them know you're in awe that they have had access to such a rare book. Tell them it's an honor to dialogue with someone who's read things like de Wette or Walch, and you look forward to being their pupil.

2. Ask them what the reference means. Chances are, they might not be able to tell you. That's a good sign they have swiped the quote from a secondary source, and haven't a clue as to the context.

3. If they can identify the reference as coming from an actual collection of Luther's works, ask them what specific treatise it's from and if they know any of the background as to the writing of the treatise.

4. If they do link you to an old Google Book in German or Latin, ask them if they can read either German or Latin.

5. Remember, if someone uses a quote, it's their responsibility to provide the context, not yours. If they can't provide an actual context and an historical context, their conclusions and interpretation are worthless.

Luther's Works
Usually referred to as LW. English edition, published by Concordia Publishing House. You can usually find this set (54 volumes with the 55th book index) in a good library. Single volumes are relatively inexpensive and can bought new or used. There is also a CD ROM of this set. I've had this CD ROM for a number of years, and it's proved invaluable. Concordia is also releasing new volumes of Luther's Works.

Works of Martin Luther: With Introduction and Notes
Often referred to as PE. The Philadelphia Edition (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press). Sometimes called the Holman Luther, since it was originally published by A.J. Holman Co. This is an English set in 6 volumes. No need to go out and buy these, you can find them on line. They were published in the early 1900's.

WA: Weimar Edition of Luther's Works. 1883-.
Usually referred to as WA. D. Martin Luthers Werke. Kritische Gesamtausgabe; Weimar, 1883. This is the largest set of Luther's works, in German. It's arranged in four parts: Writings (WA),11 volumes of Letters (WA Br, or Briefe), 6 volumes of Tabletalk (WA TR or Tischreden) 9(or 12?) volumes of the German Bible (WA DB). This set was supposed to follow a chronological sequence, but more Luther material was found after the set had been put in motion. When newer items are found, or better source documents of previous material, they are be released in volumes entitled, Archiv zur Weimarer Ausgabe (AWA). The numbering of the Weimar set can be very confusing, like "WA 10, I, 2".

The Erlangen Edition
Usually referred to as EA. 1826-1857. Sometimes this set is referred to as "Dr. M. Luthers Samtliche Werke" or "E". The set includes German and Latin writings from Luther. The 68 German volumes were published 1826-1857, and revised later that century. The 38 Latin writings are specific to biblical interpretation (Exegetica Opera Latina, sometimes referred to as E op ex and Opera latina varii argumenti). They likewise were published in the 19th Century. This set includes 18 volumes of Luther's letters edited by E.L. Enders, and were also published separately. It also includes Luther's commentary on Galatians in 3 volumes.

Walch: The Walch Edition
1740-1753. 24 topical volumes. This was a set of Luther's works published 1740-1753 by Johann Georg Walch. This set is German, and Walch translated many of Luther's Latin writings into German. Sometimes this set is referred to as the St. Louis version, the St. Louis-Walch version, or the Halle edition, or Luthers Samtliche Werke, herausgegeben von J. G. Walch. It may be Abbreviated as "St.L" This set also includes writings by others, friends and foes of Luther. The set was revised from 1885-1910 (in St. Louis), and may not match up with the earlier set. Sometimes the revision is referred to as St.Lb. Volumes 15-17 contain rare Reformation history texts, and contemporary letters.

Dr. Martin Luthers Briefe, Sendschreiben und Bedenken (Dewette)
5 volumes of Luther's letters in German edited by Dr. Wilhelm Martin Leberecht de Wette. "The best collection of his Letters was edited by De Wette (5 vols., Berlin, 1825-8), with a supplementary volume by Seidemann (1856)" (source). "The Letters of Luther were separately edited by De Wette, Berlin, 1825, sqq., 5 vols.; vol. VI. by J. C. Seidemann, 1856 (716 pp., with an addition of Lutherbriefe, 1859); supplemented by C. A. H. Burkhardt, Leipz., 1866 (524 pp.); a revised ed. with comments by Dr. E. L. Enders (pastor at Oberrad near Frankfurt a. M.), 1884 sqq. (in the Erl. Frankf ed.). The first volume contains the letters from 1507 to March, 1519. For selection see C. Alfred Hase: Lutherbriefe in Auswahl und Uebersetzung, Leipzig, 1867 (420 pages). Th. Kolde: Analecta Lutherana, Briefe und Actenstücke zur Geschichte Luther’s. Gotha, 1883. Contains letters of Luther and to Luther, gathered with great industry from German and Swiss archives and libraries" (source).

Br:The Braunschweig Edition. 10 volumes of devotional writing, published 1889-1905.

The Clemen (ClL) or the Bonn Edition (BoA). 1825-1828. 8 German volumes. The first four contain complete treatises, 5-8 are selections from early lectures, letters, sermons, and tabletalk. The text is said to be superior to WA.

The Munich Edition (Mu). 6 German volumes, with 7 supplement volumes (Mu Erg), published in the 1900's.

Luther Deutsch (LD). 11 volumes, with 3 volumes of commentary.

The New Calwer Edition. 12 volumes in modern German.

Martin Luther Studienausgabe. 6 German volumes.

The Wittenberg Edition. 1539-59. contains 12 German and 8 Latin volumes. The material was topical, at the request of Luther. This volume contains some of the writings of Luther's opponents as well.

The Jena Edition. 1555-1558. 8 German and 4 Latin volumes, 2 supplementary volumes. John Aurifaber, one of the chief collectors of Luther's Tabletalk was one of the editors of this set.

The Allenburg Edition. 1661-1702. A poorly edited 11 volume German set.

The Leipzig edition. 1729-1740. 23 volumes in German, arranged topically.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Christ alone or Christ plus other things?

Dr. White continues to do a great job of analyzing the problems with the ecumenism communicated by Timothy George with Frank Beckwith.

The moderator asked a great question of Frank Beckwith:

“During your 30 years as an Evangelical Protestant, you failed to observe the sacrament of reconciliation, and thus found yourself in a state of mortal sin; If you had died during that time, do you suppose you would have been accepted by God?”

Dr. White points out: “It is a mortal sin to not attend mass over a certain period of time; it is a mortal sin to not go to confession over a certain period of time.”

Beckwith’s first response: “I had never thought about that.”

The questions were provided before hand, and he wanted to get this right; so he typed out his answer.

Basically, he said, “yes, God would have accepted me, because I was ignorant.”

Beckwith’s answer was a contradiction to Roman Catholic tradition and dogmas. Canon 21 of the Fourth Lateran Council ( 1215 AD) says that every RC must go to mass at least once a year (at Easter) and partake of the Eucharist and confess all their sins to the priest.

SUMMARY Everyone who has attained the age of reason is bound to confess his sins at least once a year to his own parish pastor with his permission to another, and to receive the Eucharist at least at Easter. A priest who reveals a sin confided to him in confession is to be deposed and relegated to a monastery for the remainder of his life.
Text. All the faithful of both sexes shall after they have reached the age of discretion faithfully confess all their sins at least once a year to their own (parish) priest and perform to the best of their ability the penance imposed, receiving reverently at least at Easter the sacrament of the Eucharist, unless perchance at the advice of their own priest they may for a good reason abstain for a time from its reception; otherwise they shall be cut off from the Church (excommunicated) during life and deprived of Christian burial in death. Wherefore, let this salutary decree be published frequently in the churches, that no one may find in the plea of ignorance a shadow of excuse. But if anyone for a good reason should wish to confess his sins to another priest, let him first seek and obtain permission from his own (parish) priest, since otherwise he (the other priest) cannot loose or bind him.
(My own emphasis)

Canon 21 says that ignorance is no excuse and yet Mr. Beckwith claimed ignorance would get him to heaven!

Earlier, the Moderator said:
“We agree that authentic faith will necessarily issue forth in obedience –“

and then he mentions
“the ground upon which one stands” - [Before a just and holy God]

Is it “Christ alone” or “Christ plus other things” – Dr. White asked the question, “Christ plus other things” - “Isn’t that what the message of Galatians is all about?”

Will you stand before the Sovereign, holy God of creation, clothed in the righteousness of Christ alone? Or are you trusting in the added merit of other saints, Mary, and/or your own good works, added to faith?

"and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith." Philippians 3:9

"But as to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness," Romans 4:5

". . . If any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you have received, let him be accursed." Galatians 1:9

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Who Was Patrick O'Hare, Author of The Facts About Luther?

If you're at all familiar with Catholic argumentation against Luther, you've probably heard about his book, The Facts About Luther. It was his book that introduced me to the Roman Catholic understanding of Luther. As far as I can tell, the book isn't as popular as it once was. It was not uncommon to read Roman Catholic articles or books in which obscure Luther quotes were cited and referenced to O'Hare's book. I would speculate that other sources made available free on the Internet have made this book not as popular as it once was. I would suggest also some Roman Catholics realized that citing The Facts About Luther left them open to serious criticism.

Here's an interesting tidbit Carrie sent me some time back. It's an article from the New York Times, December 11, 1900.One can glean from the article why Father O'Hare went on only a few years later to write his book against Luther.

Here's a picture of Father O'Hare's church, which isn't all that far from me. I'm tempted to go visit sometime, and see if they have any information on him. Here's his church as it would've looked in 1907. He appears to have been quite popular. This article also from the New York Times from 1897 is on the celebration commemorating his 25 years as a priest. The celebration was mobbed, and 8000 people were estimated to have been left standing outside the church. He took charge of this church in 1883 (84?). He appears to have made himself somewhat popular (or rather, unpopular!) in his cause for temperance. This old article provides some interesting background on Father O'Hare:

"Rev. Patrick F. O'Hare was born near Newry, County Down, Ireland, on February 17, 1848. When four years of age his parents emigrated to this country and settled in St. James', Brooklyn. His early studies were made under the Christian Brothers in New York. In September, 1862, he entered St. Francis Xavier's College, New York, from which he was graduated with honor in 1868, and was accepted by Bishop Loughlin for service in the Diocese of Brooklyn. He made his ecclesiastical studies at St. Mary's Seminary, Baltimore, was ordained in St. James' pro-Cathedral by Bishop Loughlin, on March 19, 1872, and was appointed to the pro-Cathedral, where he remained for seven years. While here he attended the Catholic sailors and marines at the Navy Yard, the House of the Good Shepherd (East New York) and the Visitation Convent at Parkville. When the new cathedral chapel was opened at the corner of Clermont and Greene Avenues, on July 12, 1879, Father O'Hare was appointed its rector.

Father O'Hare found the parish of St. Anthony overwhelmed with debt and almost in the hands of the sheriff. He rescued it, and in a few years made it one of the most prosperous parishes in the diocese. He was always opposed to contracting debts. His first work, therefore, was to cut down the existing debt, but while doing so, he demolished the church on India Street and built a school to accommodate 800 children. The church needed repairs and they were made. The people were poor, but they responded more than generously to their new pastor's appeals."

"Monsignor O'Hare is a man of strong convictions as evinced in his unrelenting war upon the illicit liquor traffic, upon intemperance and the desecration of the Sabbath day. He is assisted by Revs. Francis J. Dillon, Michael S. Lopez, Philip Brady and Edward A. Wallace. The schools are in charge of 6 Franciscan Brothers and 17 lay teachers, with an attendance of 950 boys, and 12 Sisters of St. Joseph and 6 lay teachers with 817 girls. There are 600 public school children in the Sunday- school. The parish numbers about 12,000, and the church property is valued at over $500,000."

Despite the accomplishments of Father O'Hare, his ability to read history was flawed. Father O’Hare presents a Luther who is not only mad, but morally depraved and corrupt. He asserts that Luther in the Wartburg was in close touch with Satan. Luther lived indecently, decried celibacy and virginity, sanctioned adultery, dishonored marriage, authorized prostitution and polygamy, and was a drunkard and frequenter of taverns who preached his theology in the fumes of alcohol in the midst of his fellow revolutionaries. He attributes to Luther a fickle and cunning character, an inordinate impudence, an unbridled presumption, a titanic pride, a despotic nature, and a spirit of blasphemy; Luther was a blasphemer, a libertine, a revolutionary, a hater of religious vows, a disgrace to the religious calling, an enemy of domestic felicity, the father of divorce, the advocate of polygamy, and the propagator of immorality and open licentiousness. To read a more in-depth examination of The Facts About Luther, click here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Martin Bucer, Richard Baxter & the Reformed Pastor Today: A Call to Return to the Roots of Reformational Pastoral Theology

Today on Iron Sharpens Iron (listen live at 3PM)
MP3 Available Here (Available around 4:15 PM).

William Shishko, pastor of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church of Franklin Square, Long Island, NY will address the theme: "Martin Bucer, Richard Baxter & the Reformed Pastor Today: A Call to Return to the Roots of Reformational Pastoral Theology".

Today Pastor Shishko seeks to provide us with valuable lessons from Martin Bucer, the 16th century Dominican monk from Strasbourg, France, who joined the Protestant Reformation, and Richard Baxter, the 17th century English Puritan who is most well known for his monumental work "The Reformed Pastor".

During Pastor Shishko's time ministering to the Franklin Square congregation the church has been blessed with significant numerical growth, and has overseen the formation of two mission churches, one in Mount Vernon, NY and the other in Bohemia, NY. Pastor Shishko has been privileged to serve on various presbytery committees, and also on the OPC denominational Committees on Coordination, Ecumenicity, Home Missions, and Christian Education. Along with his regular pastoral duties he currently serves as one of the instructors for the Ministerial Training Institute, OPC. He is also an Adjunct Faculty member of Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Taylors, SC, where he teaches in the department of Applied Theology. He has written numerous articles for the OPC publications NEW HORIZONS and ORDAINED SERVANT, as well as magazines such as The Banner of Truth . His public ministries have taken him to various foreign mission fields, including Suriname, Cyprus, Egypt, Uganda, China, Eritrea, and Wales, and his conference ministries have been carried out in a number of states in our own nation. In addition to these, he continues to make use of his radio training by producing and hosting a variety of programs that are periodically aired in the metropolitan New York area.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Luther: Engaged Couples May Have Sex Before Marriage?

At this point, I really could write a book. My Roman Catholic friends supply me with enough Luther related polemical material to fill a small volume. The most recent was a comment from "amateur historian" Ben (comment  now deleted, but also posted here by the same person):
Consider the lax morals Luther was teaching at the time:
Editor’s note: "To avoid offense, the betrothed should not yet live as married people. But any premature sexual intimacy between them, although reprehensible, should not be called fornication."
2796. What about the Intercourse of the Betrothed?
"Secret intercourse of those who are engaged to each other can certainly not be considered fornication; for it takes place in the name and with the intention of marriage, a desire, intention, or name which fornication does not have. Thus there is a great difference indeed between fornication and secret intercourse after the promise of marriage."
- Von Ehesachen (Concerning Matrimonial Matters), A. D. 1530.What Luther Says, Ewald M. Plass, Concordia Publishing House, 1959, 3 volumes, (1994, 3 vols. in 1), ISBN 0570042402, p. 896.
One defender of Rome considers such research "excellent" because such comments prove the Reformers were at least as bad the Roman Catholic morality of the sixteenth century. He let's us know as well that it's part of his job as a Professional Roman Apologist to "be a mythbreaker." He enjoys pointing out the flaws of the Reformers because it makes us "mad" that he's hit one of our "sacred cows." Let's take a  closer look at this quote and see what's going on.

Luther is being cited via the anthology, What Luther Says by Ewald Plass. Provided also is as an interpretive editor's comment from the same book. To give further validity to his historical finds, this defender of Rome went over to Google Books and located the front cover of an old German version of the actual source: Von Ehesachen (Concerning Matrimonial Matters). We can be very grateful for such in-depth work. It probably took Rome's defender an entire 2 minutes to read the quote in What Luther Says, and then another 30 seconds to find a source he can't even read on Google Books! Perhaps he had to drive a distance to a library to read What Luther Says. In which case, we can thank him as well for the expenses incurred for such research endeavors. By the way, "2796. What about the Intercourse of the Betrothed?" are not Luther's words, or part of the original source. They are the words of the editor, Ewald Plass.

Now, for a brief moment of sarcasm: What Ben and his polemical friends apparently have not done is actually read Luther's Concerning Matrimonial Matters. As a helpful tip from a Protestant with a hit sacred cow, I suggest next time one of Rome's defenders goes down to the library, he need only to find that big section of similarly shaped and colored books that say "Luther's Works" on their spines. These will probably be located somewhere near What Luther Says. follow your finger along the volumes noting they're numbered, and then find volume 46, located after 45 and before 47. Note of caution, sometimes libraries do not have the volumes in precise order. On page 259 of volume 46, One will find On Marriage Matters (1530) translated by Frederick C. Ahrens (unless some unscrupulous person has absconded the pages... perhaps a Protestant wishing to hide the real truth about Luther ripped this treatise out to keep the Luther-myth going.

Historical Context
As the Reformation progressed, some of the specifics of canon law were no longer regulating marriage in some areas. The editors explain,
Over the centuries the old Roman law and practice expanded to accommodate other national customs, particularly those of the Germans. According to German custom, an agreement to marry in the future (i.e., engagement) followed by intercourse constituted a marriage. This accommodation gave rise to a fine distinction between the sponsalia de futuro and sponsalia de praesenti (a consent to marry in the future and a consent to marry in the present). Gradually, however, this distinction became theoretical rather than functional. In theory there was no such thing as divorce, for marriage was regarded by the church as indissoluble, and this doctrine was enforced by the state. Nonetheless the church could and did dissolve marriages on the grounds that they were invalid by virtue of certain impediments. Among these impediments were consanguinity, disparity of religion, previous betrothal, ordination, and impotence. The impediment of consanguinity was even extended to include baptismal sponsors and relatives of a deceased fiance. (LW 46: 261).

Broad Context
Luther was looked to for insight into developing Biblical and practical rules on marriage. In the first part of this treatise, the editors explain he develops five points which he supports with arguments drawn from "Scripture, law, and common sense":
(1) Secret engagements should not be made.(2) Public engagements take precedence over secret engagements.(3) Of two public engagements the first is valid and punishment should be imposed for the second.(4) Intercourse with another man or woman after engagement is adultery and should be punished as such.(5) Forced engagements, i.e., engagements imposed upon young people against their will and without their consent, are not valid. (LW 46:262)
Looking at this broad overview, one finds nothing at all shocking. Rather, one finds "common sense" at work and nothing really to quibble over. The obscure quote we're dealing with will be concerned with a mixture of 1-4. The situation which involves our obscure quote is a complicated betrothal problem that presses these points as to their consistency.

Context Previous to the Obscure Quote
The issues relevant to the obscure quote concern secret marriages. Luther defines his term:
I define a secret engagement as one which takes place without the knowledge and consent of those who are in authority and have the right and power to establish a marriage, such as, father, mother, and whoever may act in their stead. Even if a thousand witnesses were present at a secret betrothal and it nonetheless took place without the knowledge and consent of the parents, the whole thousand should be reckoned as acting in the darkness and not in the light, as only one voice, and as assisting treacherously in this beginning without the presence of orderly public authority" (LW 46:268).
He then outlines the societal problems he faced with such secret marriages under canon law:
Here I want to show what impelled me, even before I had considered these causes, to advise and act against secret engagements. It often happened that a married couple came to me... one or both of whom had previously become secretly engaged to others, and now there was misery and distress. Then we confessors or theologians were supposed to counsel these captive consciences. But how could we do this? There was the law and custom of the officials which decreed that the first secret betrothal was a true marriage in God’s sight, and that the second one was an open act of adultery. So they went ahead and tore up the second marriage and ordered them to keep the first secret betrothal, even if they had ten children together in the second marriage and had joined their inheritance and property into one. They had to separate, whether God granted that the first betrothed was present and claimed the woman, or whether he was elsewhere, even though he had married elsewhere and no longer wished to have her. Further, if this engagement was so secret that it could not be attested by a single witness, and the second one was openly confirmed in the church, then they were forced to comply with both: first, they must consider the secret betrothal as the true marriage in their consciences before God, and on the other hand the woman was forced on pain of excommunication and by obedience to share the table and bed of the second man as her true husband, because this marriage was publicly attested, while the former secret engagement no one dared to acknowledge except she herself, and that in her conscience before God. What should a poor conscience do in a case like this? How could the situation be more confused than by such contradictory laws and decisions? If she were to run from the second husband to the first she would be regarded as an adulteress, put under the ban, and deprived of the sacraments and of all her Christian rights. But if she remained with the second man she would again be looked upon as an adulteress before God. So she could not stay in any one place and yet she had to stay there (LW 46:270).
This is only a brief excerpt of the troubles Luther outlines simply to give one a feel for the context. The problems and solutions Luther outlines go on for quite a few pages.

Context of the Obscure Luther Quote
The pertinent section of text begins on page 289 in a discussion of point 3 (Of two public engagements the first is valid and punishment should be imposed for the second). The precise application of point 3 is applied to this situation: "what if someone becomes publicly engaged to a person and meanwhile keeps silent about the fact that he has previously been secretly engaged to another, and has even lain with her and made her pregnant?" (LW 46:289). The problem is thus: a man has publicly been engaged, but previously had a private engagement, and even may have impregnated this previous woman. Luther calls such a man a scoundrel. Luther responds:
In such a case I would render this decision: If the secret engagement and lying together are known or proven, then in such a case the scoundrel shall first be punished for so deceiving and humiliating the maid and her parents or the widow and her relatives with a public betrothal; and after he has been punished, the second betrothal, which has not yet been consummated, shall yield to the secret one, which has been consummated, as we have said above (LW 46:290).
One can see this decision runs contrary to Luther's rule that public engagements take precedence over secret engagements. Luther responds by comparing Mosaic law to the current historical setting. While there may be some similarities, Mosaic law doesn't quite work for the current world or in answering such a situation outlined above. Among his reasons and comparison to Mosaic law, he states:
Among the people of Moses no great importance was attached to whether anyone had lain with the girl, especially in anticipation of a coming marriage, for she could still get married without any difficulty and was in no danger. Furthermore, the fruit of the womb was valued so highly among them and was such a precious thing that people regarded physical virginity or honor as very little in comparison. This is not the case with us, however; but on the contrary, among us womanly honor is regarded as more important than any fruit of the womb, and a girl who has lain with someone can hardly maintain her reputation, and there is great danger that she may even become a common woman. This is why we must conduct ourselves according to this state of affairs and can no longer call it the law of Moses if we accept it in one thing where it serves our purpose and disregard it in another. Moses can do both: he can judge that the publicly betrothed girl is a married woman who cannot be discarded by any means, and at the same time he can declare that the one with whom the same man has [been] is an honorable woman and can give her in marriage to him. We do, however, follow Moses to the extent that we declare that the publicly betrothed woman is a wedded wife, but because we cannot give to him the one with whom he has lain, as Moses does, we must find a way here that can be accepted by our people, and that will not permit the honor and reputation of which the girl was deprived, which we consider her greatest treasure, to remain imperiled (LW 46:291).
If you've followed this, you'll see Luther's concern and compassion for the woman of the secret engagement who has been impregnated or violated by a scoundrel. Luther then gives this advice for such a situation:
Therefore it has been my wish to give this advice: Where the public betrothal is still pure and there has been no lying together, and where there has been a previous secret betrothal with lying together, which is known, sworn to, and proven, the publicly betrothed girl shall yield, as is reasonable, in view of the fact that she still retains the treasure of her honor intact and hence still has a good chance to marry. But according to the ways of our land, the girl who has lain with the man and forfeited her greatest treasure probably cannot get married, as she might easily have done under Moses. This seems right and proper to me, as long as the authorities impose no punishment upon those who secretly lie with virgins and violate them. But if punishment were imposed, that would soon take care of this case and many others too. I do not consider it good that such things should go unpunished, since it is a terrible and disgraceful thing to break up a public betrothal and to leave in shame the one with whom a man has secretly lain. Both the man and the woman who have lain together deserve at least to be expelled from the country for a time, so that the scandal might thereby be atoned for and made good and others would be given an example to fear (LW 46:292).
Luther's advice is to negate the secret engagement if the woman has not slept with the scoundrel. If she has, the public engagement is to be broken, because the public woman still retains her honor, and is free to marry someone else. The secret woman would suffer societal humiliation if not married, so she should be married to the scoundrel. Luther's counsel is to protect the woman. Luther says of the rights of the public woman:
But if anyone were to pretend that injustice and damage are done to the publicly betrothed bride if she is separated because the man has previously lain with the first woman, the answer should be this: She nonetheless retains her highest treasure, her honor; and her innocence too is to be highly regarded and praised, because she is deceived and must suffer this separation without deserving it. She should take into consideration what she would do if her betrothed sweetheart had previously become engaged to another woman or had become publicly engaged to someone elsewhere—then she would still have to be separated and suffer all this. If in addition her deceiver is punished, her innocence becomes all the more worthy of respect, and this deception turns out to her best advantage (LW 46:292).
The Obscure Luther Quote
Luther then says of the woman from the secret engagement:
But that other poor girl now is left with nothing, and the punishment does not restore her honor, and a woman who has lost her honor is quite worthless because we do not regard the fruit of the womb as highly as the Jews. Yet this lying together in secret in anticipation of betrothal cannot be reckoned as whoredom, for it takes place in the name and with the intention of marriage, which spirit, intention, or name whoredom does not have. Therefore there is a great difference between whoredom and lying together in secret with the intention of betrothed marriage. Indeed, no Christian or honest man would do otherwise if he had gone so far that he would make the mistake of lying secretly with a girl on the promise of betrothal, if he thought that he would have to keep her and disavow all public betrothals subsequently entered upon (LW 46:293).
Luther begins by expressing his concern for the woman of the secret engagement. To punish her either as an adulterer, or to force her to stay unmarried is to humiliate and hurt her, perhaps because she was enticed and mislead by a scoundrel. Luther says of the secret couple, their "lying together in secret in anticipation of betrothal cannot be reckoned as whoredom" because "it takes place in the name and with the intention of marriage." That is, to punish her as a societal whore is totally unjustified. She was not selling sex, she was enticed by a man with a promise of marriage. Luther then hypothetically argues a man would never sleep with a woman and promise her marriage if he knew that his private engagement would nullify his public engagement. That is, only a scoundrel would do such a thing, and he should be forced to marry the woman to retain her honor. Luther never permits a couple to have premarital sex. Rather, he's describing what to do in a complicated situation. The woman isn't a whore to be scorned by society. She's a woman entitled to have a vow made to her kept.

A closer look at the context should decide if Rome's defenders evaluation of "the lax morals of Luther" is a justified assessment and if their research was "excellent" and if a sacred cow has been slaughtered.

Indeed, the context does destroy a myth: it is the myth perpetuated by Roman apologists that struggle greatly with research and contexts. They continue to chomp down on anything that smells foul and post it on the Internet as a means of discrediting the Reformation.  One defender of Rome said the Reformers "were not paragons of virtue, coming in to rescue the poor ignorant, semi-pagan unregenerate Catholic masses of folks." I would question the honesty of anyone to continue using this quote now knowing the context to prove Luther's "lax morals."

Of this obscure Luther quote a defender of Rome said, "A lot of this sort of sexual license was going on among the early Protestants." Really? This quote is an example of sexual license? Hardly. This is an example of a man concerned for the integrity of a woman in sixteenth century society. Isn't it ironic how a little context completely turns the tables? I can't help but be a bit agitated by such rhetoric, carelessness, and slander of a historical person by Rome's defenders. If all of  their work on the Reformers is geared toward "proving they were at least as bad the Catholic morality of the sixteenth century," I question if such a motivation is honest, and if perhaps throwing mud on the opposition takes the spotlight off the mud on the Roman Catholic Church. If Rome's defenders would simply read Luther in context, maybe they would produce better historical conclusions.

Addendum #1
I thought it would be helpful to post what Luther goes on to say (but then again, it might not help those already committed to their propaganda):
However, I have written this article as a warning which anyone may regard as he pleases, for I have learned from experience what a coarse rabble there is in the world. Loose fellows are wandering around and running through the land from one place to the other, and wherever one of them sees a wench that takes his fancy he starts getting hot and right away he tries to see how he can get her, goes ahead and gets engaged again, and thus wants to forget and abandon the first engagement that he entered into elsewhere with another woman. And what is worse, they go ahead and have their wedding—some even get married in several places and so carry on a great and shameful scandal in the name and under the appearance of marriage (LW 46:293).
Here again, we see the emphasis is on the scoundrel, and his sin. Luther's emphasis again, is on protecting violated women from such predators.
This is where the pastors should be careful to warn their people and point out this danger, namely, that no citizen or peasant should give his child in marriage to a strange fellow or man, and that the authorities, too, should not permit such a marriage. The pastor should not publish the bans, marry, or bestow his blessing upon any of these people, but if they are strangers, men or women, they should be required to furnish adequate testimonials of their character, both written and oral, so that one may be certain what kind of people they are, whether they are single or married, honest or dishonest, as do some craftsmen who demand letters of recommendation from their fellow craftsmen, and as the monks used to do who would not accept anyone unless they knew that he was free and not obligated to anyone by betrothal, debt, or servitude. How much more should one demand such recommendations from strange men or women who wish to enter into matrimony! It is certainly a matter of importance for every person to see what kind of spouse he is getting and to whom he is giving his child or relative. It is also up to the council and the community to see what kind of male or female citizen and member they are getting in their community. (LW 46:293)
Luther's point: watch out for these scoundrels.
For we learn from experience, as has been said, that rascals and wenches run here and there, taking wives and husbands merely to perpetrate their skulduggery, and afterward steal all they can and run off. They treat marriage as the Tartars and gypsies do, who continually celebrate weddings and baptisms wherever they go, so that a girl may well be a bride ten times and a child be baptized ten times. I know a village not far from here—I will not mention the name of the region (I do not want to mention it for the sake of its reputation)—where, when our gospel came, we found thirty-two couples living together out of wedlock, where either the husband or the wife was a fugitive. I did not think that there were many more than thirty-two houses or inhabitants in the place. The good bishops, officials, and authorities had so managed and looked after things that in this hiding place there were gathered together all those who had been driven out of or had run away from other places. But now, praise God, the gospel has swept away this scandal so cleanly that no open adultery, whoredom, or illicit cohabitation is any longer tolerated anywhereAnd yet the poor gospel must be called a heresy from which no good comes! (LW 46:294).
Notice, adultery and fornication were rooted out of the community, not blessed by Luther. One thing also to keep in mind: certain words don't appear to be interchangeable for Luther. Adultery is a specific crime against marriage. A person having sex previous to marriage is unchaste. That is, a person who is married having sex with someone other than his wife is an adulterer. A single person who is promiscuous commits the sin of unchastity.

Addendum #2 (March, 2019)
This blog entry is a revision of an entry I posted back in 2009. The original does not appear to have been captured  by the Internet Archive. 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, September 12, 2009

On Luther's Adultery & The Wit of Erasmus

One of the most controversial subjects during the Reformation was marriage. Luther was attacked as being an adulterer for getting married, and some of this rhetoric survived for centuries. Consider Father O'Hare's calumny: “As a matter of fact, [Luther] was openly blamed for his well-known and imprudent intimacy with Katherine Von Bora before his marriage…” “Katherine Von Bora was only [Luther's] companion in sin, and the children brought into the world through the unholy alliance were illegitimate children.” I recently came across this very criticism on the Catholic Answers forums: "Luther was an adulterer - a monk who "married" a nun. So please don't call him a devout Catholic."

Now, if I recall correctly, the celibate priesthood is not a capital "T" tradition, it's rather a matter of discipline. I was listening to Catholic Answers a while back and heard Tim Staples say it is theoretically possible this could be changed, and priests could be allowed to marry in the future.

Ask a states, "Well, the celibate priesthood is in place because of the demands of the priesthood on the individual. If someday the Holy Spirit leads the Church to change it, the Church will."

Catholic Answers states, "Even within the Latin Rite, the Church has made exceptions for a number of converted married ministers to become ordained. This is known as the "pastoral provision," and it demonstrates that clerical celibacy is a discipline, not a doctrine. The doctrines of the Church are teachings that can never be reversed. On the other hand, disciplines refer to those practices (such as eating meat on Fridays) that may change over time as the Church sees fit."

So, Luther's being maligned for something that theoretically could be validated at some point in the future. As a priest, Luther's now considered by many as an adulterer for his marriage to a nun, perhaps in 2050, priests could be allowed to marry. Does that mean he'll no longer be considered an adulterer? One then has to argue his vows to the religious life continue to make him an adulterer.

On a related note, here's one I found in Martin Luther The Christian Between God and Death (Cambridge, Belknap Press, 1999) by Richard Marius. According to Marius, Erasmus initially believed the popular rumor that Cathrine Von Bora had given birth a few days after her wedding, and then commented on whether the child may in fact be the Antichrist. On page 438, Marius describes Luther knew he would be attacked for his marriage:

His forecast that his enemies would reproach him was on the mark. Then and for centuries afterward Catholic antagonists had proof that all Luther had ever wanted was sex, and since he married a former nun, it seemed he had now lived out yet another of the bawdy stories told of nuns and monks lusting for one another. His most bitter foes crowed over the marriage in monotonous fury in print. Erasmus knew of it by October and wrote to friends ironically about it. He passed on the canard that Katherine had given birth to a child a few days after the wedding (10). By March 13 he had learned that the rumor was false, although he understood (correctly) that Katherine was now pregnant. He ruminated on the 'popular legend' that the Antichrist would be born to a monk and a nun- a tale probably circulating about Luther's coming child. If that prophecy were true, he said with bitter wit, 'How many thousands of Antichrists had the world already known!'(11) He expressed the wistful hope that marriage might make Luther more gentle, but by this time he had seen Luther's vehement On the Bondage of the Will, and he had given up all hope that Luther might moderate his language.

(10) October 10, 1525; EE no. 1633; 6:197-199.
(11) March 13, 1525; EE no. 1677; 6:283-284.

EE= Opus epistolarum Des. Erasmi Roterodami, ed. Percy S. Allen et al., 12 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1906-1958).

One may think that since Erasmus "ruminated on the popular legend" he actually took it seriously. This is hardly the case as his comment of "bitter wit" explains. It does go to show popular Catholic propaganda that circulated during the 16th century.

Phillip Schaff interprets the same facts:

[Luther's marriage] was a rich theme for slander and gossip. His enemies circulated a slander about a previous breach of the vow of chastity, and predicted that, according to a popular tradition, the ex-monk and ex-nun would give birth to Antichrist. Erasmus contradicts the slander, and remarked that if that tradition was true, there must have been many thousands of antichrists before this.3

(1526): " De conjugio Lutheri certum est, de partu maturo sponsae vanus erat rumor, nunc tamen gravida esse dicitur. Si vera est vulgi fabula Antichristum nasciturum ex monacho et monacha quemadmodum isti jactitant, quot Antichriatorum millia jam olim habet mundus? At ego sperabam fore, ut Lutherum uxor redderet magis cicurem. Verum ille praeter omnem expectationem emisit llbrum in me summa quidem cura elaboratum, sed adeo virulentum, ut hactenus in neminem scripserit hostilius."

It appears Schaff has the date wrong. The date of the letter is March 13, 1525. It is one of two surviving letters to Francois Dubois (Franciscus Sylvius).

Luther Vindicated by Charles Hastings Collette outlines the same material:

The learned Romanist, Erasmus, who was ordained a Priest in 1492, also a contemporary and opponent of Luther, gave the following testimony on this subject: "Luther's marriage is certain; the report of his wife's being so speedily brought to bed is false, but I hear she is now with child, if the common story be true, that Antichrist shall be born of a Monk and a Nun, as they pretend, how many thousands of Antichrists are there in the world already?"(3) And that Erasmus was unprejudiced, appears in his following words, viz.: " I was in hopes a wife would have made Luther a little tamer, but he, contrary to all expectations, has published a most elaborate work against me, but as virulent as any book that ever he wrote." It must be remembered that Erasmus himself had previously propagated the scandal, in a letter addressed to the President of the High Council of Holland, in 1525, on erroneous reports, spread by Luther's enemies, but which reports, as I have already shown, he was honest enough subsequently to contradict.

This would explain why this book describes the same material and attributes the letter to a correspondence between Erasmus and Nicholas Everhard, the President of the High Council of Holland:

Erasmus sent word to Nicholas Everard, president of the court of Holland, that the Lutheran tragedy would end, like the quarrels of princes, in matrimony. He says, " If the common story be true, that antichrist shall be born of a monk and a nun, as they pretend, how many thousands of antichrists are there in the world already? I was in hopes that a wife would have made Luther a little tamer; but he has published a book against me, more virulent than ever." Erasmus was not well instructed in this affair, or he was too prone to give credit to the scandal which was published against Luther.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Luther: On Putting Women and Adulterers To Death

Here's an odd one from the CARM boards. A Roman Catholic stated the following about Luther:

" can protestants follow a man who said if a woman was frigid or frail and no longer able to perform the marital act, she should be put to death by the state? Adulterers should also be put to death by the state."

This one sounded vaguely familiar. I recall Luther saying adulterers should be put to death by the state, but the frigid frail woman no longer able to perform the marital act part just didn't sound quite right. After asking a few times where this information came from, it was finally admitted it came from another CARM poster who "seemed educated." I was able to track down this educated CARM person, and then on a hunch and a search engine, I tracked this little bit of Luther trivia back to this web-page: Martin Luther: The Civil Government Ought to Put Frigid Wives and Adulterers to Death.

The treatise this negative sentiment was pilfered from was Luther's The Estate of Marriage, 1522. It is located in in the English edition of Luther's Works, volume 45. The editors point out no specific information is known as to why Luther wrote this treatise. They do though point out,
Among the practical problems with which every priest, pastor, and confessor had to deal were those involving the marriage relationship. Since marriage was numbered among the sacraments, it was hedged about with numerous rules and restrictions. Luther had for years been a parish priest and confessor to his flock in Wittenberg (LW 45:14).
As to papal marriage rules, a large portion of the treatise actually engages them. Judged by our current standards some of the rules seem silly:"If I sponsor a girl at baptism or confirmation, then neither I nor my son may marry her, or her mother, or her sister." Or, "If my fiancée should die before we consummate the marriage, I may not marry any relative of hers up to the fourth degree."

Some of the papal rules though carry more medieval prejudice: "I may not marry a Turk, a Jew, or a heretic." Recall, against popular culture, Luther had no problem with a Christian marrying someone who is ethnically Jewish, even until his dying day. Or, note the discrimination here: "When I marry one who is supposed to be free and it turns out later that she is a serf, this marriage too is null and void." Luther reiterates the corruption surrounding all of these rules: if one pays enough money to the papal authorities, any of these rules could be overcome.

Luther himself says he's was even reluctant to get involved in this subject. Recall, he wasn't married at the time. He says,
"How I dread preaching on the estate of marriage! I am reluctant to do it because I am afraid if I once get really involved in the subject it will make a lot of work for me and for others. The shameful confusion wrought by the accursed papal law has occasioned so much distress, and the lax authority of both the spiritual and the temporal swords has given rise to so many dreadful abuses and false situations, that I would much prefer neither to look into the matter nor to hear of it. But timidity is no help in an emergency; I must proceed. I must try to instruct poor bewildered consciences, and take up the matter boldly. This sermon is divided into three parts" (LW 45:15).
Some of what Luther will put forth concerning marriage will seem shocking to us. Even the papal marriage laws Luther responded against don't fair much better. I would venture to say the way our current world is redefining marriage, we would be shocking to Luther and the sixteenth century papacy as well! That is, when we read documents like this, it doesn't do very much good to stand in judgment as if our society is morally superior. We may be superior in some ways, but in others we're far worse. Even some of the most shocking things Luther says about marriage show he's a man far more concerned with morality and God's commands than the people of our day.

In part one, Luther considers which persons are qualified for marriage: men and women. They are given a biological need for each other by God. They are told to be fruitful and multiply. For Luther, this is an inflexible ordinance. He Says, "'Be fruitful and multiply,' more than a command, namely, [it is] a divine ordinance which it is not our prerogative to hinder or ignore" (LW 45:17). Not only is it a divine ordinance, it's something people have been created to do. Luther says,
"Therefore, just as God does not command anyone to be a man or a woman but creates them the way they have to be, so he does not command them to multiply but creates them so that they have to multiply. And wherever men try to resist this, it remains irresistible nonetheless and goes its way through fornication, adultery, and secret sins, for this is a matter of nature and not of choice" (LW 45:18).
For Luther, marriage is inherently tied up with having children. To be married and not have children (in most instances) is to break God's divine ordinance. It is something quite serious, as R.C. Sproul would say, it's a form of cosmic treason against one's maker. This is actually a crucial key to this entire blog post. By keeping in mind Luther's understanding of this divine ordinance , Luther's shocking words about adultery and (allegedly) "frigid women" (we'll see later this description is a misreading of Luther) isn't as shocking as one may think.

Adultery and the Death Penalty
Part two is that section of the treatise that concerns this obscure Luther quote. Luther examines grounds for divorce. If a spouse is unable to fulfill the marital obligation and produce children, a divorce may be appropriate in some instances. For instance, if a spouse goes into a marriage with full knowledge of impotence, but keeps it a secret , this could be grounds for a divorce. Notice, the emphasis for Luther once again is on God's divine ordinance.

Another ground is adultery. If the adultery is secretive and only the offended spouse knows, Luther says,"he may rebuke his wife privately and in a brotherly fashion, and keep her if she will mend her ways. Second, he may divorce her, as Joseph wished to do" (LW 45:31). Exposed public adultery though should fall under the rules of the civil authorities, similar to that situation set up under Mosaic law. The state is responsible to enforce the rules of marriage, not the church. Luther states:

You may ask: What is to become of the other [the guilty party] if he too is perhaps unable to lead a chaste life? Answer: It was for this reason that God commanded in the law [Deut. 22:22–24] that adulterers be stoned, that they might not have to face this question. The temporal sword and government should therefore still put adulterers to death, for whoever commits adultery has in fact himself already departed and is considered as one dead. Therefore, the other [the innocent party] may remarry just as though his spouse had died, if it is his intention to insist on his rights and not show mercy to the guilty party. Where the government is negligent and lax, however, and fails to inflict the death penalty, the adulterer may betake himself to a far country and there remarry if he is unable to remain continent. But it would be better to put him to death, lest a bad example be set.
Some may find fault with this solution and contend that thereby license and opportunity is afforded all wicked husbands and wives to desert their spouses and remarry in a foreign country. Answer: Can I help it? The blame rests with the government. Why do they not put adulterers to death? Then I would not need to give such advice. Between two evils one is always the lesser, in this case allowing the adulterer to remarry in a distant land in order to avoid fornication. And I think he would be safer also in the sight of God, because he has been allowed to live and yet is unable to remain continent. If others also, however, following this example desert their spouses, let them go. They have no excuse such as the adulterer has, for they are neither driven nor compelled. God and their own conscience will catch up to them in due time. Who can prevent all wickedness? (LW 45: 32).
Note the sentence, "for whoever commits adultery has in fact himself already departed and is considered as one dead." The editors of Luther's Works point out,
Wer seyn ehe bricht, der hart sich schon selbst gescheyden. The significance of this sentence turns on the fact that the one German word (scheiden) has two distinct meanings—“to separate” either in the sense of dissolving a marriage or in the sense of departing this life—both of which are involved here. Luther’s point is that whoever destroys his own marriage has really left not only his wife but also his life; he has achieved not only his divorce but also his own death (LW 45:32, fn. 32).
For Luther, marriage joins together a man and woman, making them one complete person. Adultery is nothing other than killing oneself. Taken with this understanding, one can see the respect Luther had for marriage, rather than the ravings of a madman. He also includes this caveat:
Where the government fails to inflict the death penalty and the one spouse wishes to retain the other, the guilty one should still in Christian fashion be publicly rebuked and caused to make amends according to the gospel, after the manner provided for the rebuking of all other manifest sins, Matthew 18[:15–17]. For there are no more than these three forms of discipline on earth among men: private and brotherly, in public before the congregation according to the gospel, and that inflicted by the civil government (LW 45:32).
So far from Luther being a bloodthirsty lunatic, one must sit back for a moment and ask who really takes the vows of marriage seriously? I don't agree the death penalty for breaking marital vows is warranted, but I can understand why he said what he said, and I don't think it's all that outrageous for the sixteenth century.

Frigid or frail women no longer able to perform the marital act, should be put to death
Here now we come to the section of this treatise in which Luther outlines what should happen to a spouse who refuses "to fulfil the conjugal duty or to live with the other person." First consider again Luther's belief in God's divine ordinance for marriages to produce children. Luther says,
The third case for divorce is that in which one of the parties deprives and avoids the other, refusing to fulfil the conjugal duty or to live with the other person. For example, one finds many a stubborn wife like that who will not give in, and who cares not a whit whether her husband falls into the sin of unchastity ten times over (LW 45:33).
Here you should be guided by the words of St. Paul, I Corinthians 7[:4–5], “The husband does not rule over his own body, but the wife does; likewise the wife does not rule over her own body, but the husband does. Do not deprive each other, except by agreement,” etc. Notice that St. Paul forbids either party to deprive the other, for by the marriage vow each submits his body to the other in conjugal duty. When one resists the other and refuses the conjugal duty she is robbing the other of the body she had bestowed upon him. This is really contrary to marriage, and dissolves the marriage. For this reason the civil government must compel the wife, or put her to death. If the government fails to act, the husband must reason that his wife has been stolen away and slain by robbers; he must seek another. We would certainly have to accept it if someone’s life were taken from him. Why then should we not also accept it if a wife steals herself away from her husband, or is stolen away by others? (LW 45:33).
Luther doesn't say "if a woman was frigid or frail and no longer able to perform the marital act." Rather, he's speaking of issues in which a spouse refuses sex. He cites Paul "do not deprive each other except by agreement." To willfully deny the other spouse is to rob the other spouse, and is something that is so contrary to marriage, it's like dissolving it. Luther recommends the state step in to compel the spouse, or face the death penalty. That is, marital duties are so crucial to marriage, they need to be taken very seriously. To willfully deny the other spouse is to rob the other, and is actually an act of killing a marriage. To kill a marriage is so terrible, it should meet with severe penalties.

As to an invalid spouse, Luther recommends taking care of the spouse, and says those who can't remain continent because of an invalid spouse are lying. You must serve your invalid spouse:
What about a situation where one’s wife is an invalid and has therefore become incapable of fulfilling the conjugal duty? May he not take another to wife? By no means. Let him serve the Lord in the person of the invalid and await His good pleasure. Consider that in this invalid God has provided your household with a healing balm by which you are to gain heaven. Blessed and twice blessed are you when you recognize such a gift of grace and therefore serve your invalid wife for God’s sake.
But you may say: I am unable to remain continent. That is a lie. If you will earnestly serve your invalid wife, recognize that God has placed this burden upon you, and give thanks to him, then you may leave matters in his care. He will surely grant you grace, that you will not have to bear more than you are able. He is far too faithful to deprive you of your wife through illness without at the same time subduing your carnal desire, if you will but faithfully serve your invalid wife (LW 45:35).
When Luther suggested the death penalty, the point was the seriousness of violating marriage ordinances. That's how seriously Luther took spouses being committed to each other. The sixteenth century was not the twenty-first century. Certain things will sound quite odd to us, but were not so outrageous during the sixteenth century. The Roman Catholic Church also believed in the death penalty for certain sins during the sixteenth century. The question is, should Luther's ideas about these marital sins warrant the death penalty? In Luther's mind, the sin was so grievous, it did. I am not an advocate of the death penalty, but I can't help but wonder what would happen if a society took marriage and sexuality as seriously as Luther did.

In Martin Luther: The Civil Government Ought to Put Frigid Wives and Adulterers to Death the author states,
Luther doesn't say whether an impotent man should likewise be put away by the wife or put to death by authorities (the "ED police"?). I suspect he would not take such a position. No, only women who aren't fulfilling their sexual duties (men always do, no doubt) are subjected to such drastic measures, and the adulterous man can flee to another country, where Luther in his wisdom recommends another "marriage" as the "lesser" of "two evils." We can see how the "Reformation" truly liberated women from chauvinistic medieval serfdom, can't we?
It appears the author has misread Luther. Had he read the document correctly, he would've found one more outrageous point to highlight from the Reformer's pen. According to Luther in this treatise, a spouse entering a marriage deceptively with a such a condition invalidates a marriage. On the other hand, if a spouse becomes an invalid, the other is to take care of him/her and remain continent. If a husband is unable to fulfill conjugal duty for some other reason, Luther recommends a surrogate mate:
If a woman who is fit for marriage has a husband who is not, and she is unable openly to take unto herself another—and unwilling, too, to do anything dishonorable—since the pope in such a case demands without cause abundant testimony and evidence, she should say to her husband, “Look, my dear husband, you are unable to fulfil your conjugal duty toward me; you have cheated me out of my maidenhood and even imperiled my honor and my sours salvation; in the sight of God there is no real marriage between us. Grant me the privilege of contracting a secret marriage with your brother or closest relative, and you retain the title of husband so that your property will not fall to strangers. Consent to being betrayed voluntarily by me, as you have betrayed me without my consent.
I stated further that the husband is obligated to consent to such an arrangement and thus to provide for her the conjugal duty and children, and that if he refuses to do so she should secretly flee from him to some other country and there contract a marriage. I gave this advice at a time when I was still timid. However, I should like now to give sounder advice in the matter, and take a firmer grip on the wool of a man who thus makes a fool of his wife. The same principle would apply if the circumstances were reversed, although this happens less frequently in the case of wives than of husbands. It will not do to lead one’s fellow-man around by the nose5 so wantonly in matters of such great import involving his body, goods, honor, and salvation. He has to be told to make it right (LW 45:20-21).
Of course, I disagree with Luther (both here and above about the death penalty), but my Roman Catholic readers should pay close attention to Luther's words, "...since the pope in such a case demands without cause abundant testimony and evidence." Before you put the noose up for Luther's neck, you should at least explain what he meant by that.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Knowing Where the Fight Is on Indulgences & the 95 Theses

Here's an odd one from the CARM boards in which a Reformed person fell off the truth wagon. A minor discussion about the 95 Theses came up, and a Roman Catholic rightly pointed out the Theses were against the abuse of the indulgence, not the concept of the indulgence. A rather zealous Reformed person took issue with this basic fact saying the entire thing was "a diatribe against indulgences" and then went on to get himself edited by some unpleasant comments.

The 95 Theses does not deny the validity of the indulgence. Rather, Luther attacked and exposed the abuse of the sale of indulgences. Luther was troubled that those he was ministering to were ignoring the good works he was directing them towards, but rather were purchasing indulgences as a means of satisfaction. They were also being purchased to alleviate suffering of those in Purgatory.

Thesis 71 says: Let him be anathema and accursed who denies the apostolic character of the indulgences.

Luther is arguing the indulgence idea that satisfaction can be reduced by an action of the church is valid. Luther shows he is only attacking the abuse of penance and the indulgence.

As Reformed Christians, we're not giving anything away by admitting Luther still had a way to go after he posted the 95 Theses. In fact, he still clung on to purgatory even while debating Eck at Leipzig. He even clung on to praying to Mary and the saints for a while.

Toward the end of his life, Luther says

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

So, there’s no need to have a big battle over the extent of challenge to the papacy in the 95 Theses. Within the 95 Theses, there is nothing distinctly Lutheran or protestant. There is no discussion of Justification by faith alone through grace alone or sola scriptura.

The points he did make were enough to get the ball rolling. For instance:

Thesis 1: When the Lord calls us to repent, he meant the entire life of a believer is one of penance.

Thesis 2: Matthew 4:17 means “repent”, not “do penance”. This verse does not refer to the sacrament of penance

Thesis 3: Repentance is both internal and external. Luther not attacking the sacrament of penance or the institution of indulgences, but the gross abuse of the indulgence.

Thesis 6: The pope cannot remit guilt, but only declare it has been remitted by God. The pope’s power is limited. He does not remit guilt, he administers the remittance.

Thesis 8: The cannons of penance only apply to the living, not the dead. This is an abuse of the sacrament of penance. Luther is attacking a papal policy only 50 years old.

Thesis 27: There is no “springing from purgatory” when the indulgence is paid (against Tetzel, and the paying of a general indulgence.)

Thesis 32: All those who believe in eternal security because of letters of indulgence are eternally damned with their teachers. (The church never taught this, but Luther sees this implication drawn by common people)

Thesis 81-82: The papacy is brought into disrepute by the sale of indulgences. The papacy has become hard to defend.

Thesis 82: Luther asks, “Why doesn’t the pope just let everyone out of purgatory by an act of love, rather than redeeming souls for money to build a church?”

There was no complete dogma on the indulgence when Luther posted the 95 Theses. There was no official doctrine as to the effect of the indulgence upon Purgatory. Hence, Luther was not really a heretic (in official “Thus spoke Rome” terms).

Luther came to realize that the entire system of indulgences was non-biblical and non-Christian. For the perfect work of Christ requires no indulgence. Luther said, “The indulgences are not a pious fraud, but an infernal, diabolical, antichristian fraud, larceny, and robbery, whereby the Roman Nimrod and teacher of sin peddles sin and hell to the whole world and sucks and entices away everybody’s money as the price of this unspeakable harm.”

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.