Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Shape of Things to Come

Dr. James White did an interview with Turretinfan that wasn't advertised as an interview with Turretinfan, but rather as a discussion of "Reformation history." That part of the program came later, but it's one of the best Dividing Line programs that I've heard.

Both aspects of this -- Turretin and the Reformation, are well worth the listen:

In that program, Dr. White talked about the "tapestry" of all the many things that came together to bring about the Reformation. A couple of days ago, I posted a link about "Reformation Day". Citing Dr. R. Scott Clark from WSCal, "The Reformation doctrines [took shape in Luther's mind] gradually between 1513-21." He outlined some of this "coming together" in that post, and I'm going to start here to outline how Luther's reading of the Scriptures helped him to understand those doctrines.

These were not the only things, of course. There was the historical situation of the papacy, which had in the preceding centuries gone from having claimed global domination, through the Avignon years (when it had moved to France 1305-1378), and then "the Great Schism" (through 1417) when there were two and even three "popes" claiming the papacy and excommunicating each other and their followers. The Council of Constance made the attempt to bring this situation to an end (they deposed three "popes," and "recognized the election of" Martin V, but there were echoes and hiccups, and it wasn't over). They called for "a proper reformation" of the Church [be careful what you ask for!] and they attempted to institute a kind of conciliarism -- that the popes should be subjected to councils.

There was John Wycliffe, "the Morning Star of the Reformation," whose life and writings presented a powerful vision of things to come:
Wycliffe’s experience with the corruption of the Catholic Church led him to some of the same moral and doctrinal conclusions Luther would endorse some 130 years later. Indeed, that “John Wycliffe and his followers anticipated many of the key-doctrines of Protestantism has never been in dispute.” Some of these moral and doctrinal conclusions include: a preference for the authority of Scripture over and against papal primacy, a move toward Sola Fide, a rejection of transubstantiation, and a concern for a vernacular translation of Scripture.
At the behest of that same council [Rome pride's itself on the fact that it doesn't execute, it merely passes the sentence] John Huss (or Jan Hus) was burned at the stake, despite the fact that he had been assured of safe conduct by the emperor.

In the intervening years, the rise of humanists including Lorenzo Valla, whose early work in textual criticism discovered that "The Donation of Constantine" was a forgery. In fact, as Diarmaid Maculloch notes:

It is significant that three different scholars working independently -- the future German Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa in 1432-3, the Italian Lorenzo Valla in 1440, and the English bishop Reginald Pecock in 1450 -- all came to the conclusion that the style of this 'Donation of Constantine' was radically wrong for the fourth century.

This was a work believed and cited by medieval scholars such as Thomas Aquinas as a strong evidence in support of papal supremacy, but it was a complete lie. (And those of you who have followed my work know that I believe the early papacy itself was a fraudulent usurpation of power in the church).

Other humanists began to question some of the foundational assumptions of the Medieval church, culminating with Erasmus, who worked to produce the first Greek text of the New Testament in 1516.

The people and events that shaped the Reformation may seem long past, but my hope is to work to bring them back to the front of our minds. For the individuals who lived during this era, these were not mere curiosities; they were in many cases life and death struggles. And of course, I'm only touching the tip of the iceberg.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Pantheism of Roman Catholicism

C.S. Lewis noted some time ago that in the end, only Christianity stood against pantheism.

Well, our friend Viisaus posted a whole bunch of items yesterday in the comments that illustrated the influence that pantheism has in the Roman church:

Viisaus said...

"David, one of the things I have noticed in my reading of Ratzinger is that he is functionally a pantheist. This is the unity that he desires. That is, we all get "fused" into God -- I believe that is the term he used in Called to Communion."

It seems that these Sedevacantists agree - rejecters of Vatican II can often provide best evidence for modern RC apostasy:
(citing Ratzinger's words last year):

Benedict XVI praises the cosmic liturgy of Teilhard de Chardin

"The role of the priesthood is to consecrate the world so that it may become a living host, a liturgy: so that the liturgy may not be something alongside the reality of the world, but that the world itself shall become a living host, a liturgy. This is also the great vision of Teilhard de Chardin: in the end we shall achieve a true cosmic liturgy, where the cosmos becomes a living host."

2:21 AM, October 28, 2010

Viisaus said...

A sharp-eyed critic like Isaac Taylor foresaw the coming of Vatican II spirit already back in 1849. He was able to predict how the RCC would eventually respond to the modernist challenge: by pantheistic pandering.

Taylor noticed how the Newmanian doctrine of development had an inherently "evolutionist" flavor, and could even foresee the rise of pantheist Jesuits like Teilhard de Chardin:

"Loyola & Jesuitism in Its Rudiments"
pp. 372-374

"It would be by no means difficult to sketch the outlines of a New Faith, well adapted to the prevailing notions and habits of Continental communities. Such a faith would retain everything belonging to Romanism that is sensuous and imaginative; — everything of costume and of ceremonial that does not offend good taste, or draw upon itseif sarcasm: it would retain, moreover, a shadowy, though not a dogmatic, orthodoxy: it might perhaps permit a Nicene profession to be "sung," but would never allow it to be "said."

The lately-divulged doctrine of "Development" would seem as if it had been now announced as the requisite preliminary to such a relinquishment of ancient practices and principles as we are supposing to be probable. It is manifest that if "the Church" be endowed with a creative or re-creative vital energy, enabling and authorizing it, from age to age, to evolve what is new in belief or in worship, or to bring to light what had previously slumbered in darkness; if, for example, the Church of the ninth Century ought to be thought of as an authentic product of the church of the third, although marked by new features — then this same vital force — this power of adaptation, may, as ages roll on, and as human reason ripens, show its energies in the mode of absorption or retrenchment. During the ninth Century the Church put forth a verdant top, darkening all the skies; but in the nineteenth century the tree may call in its sap from its luxuriant head, while it strikes its roots far in to a new soil.

If, in this age of reason, certain dogmas or modes of worship may seem to have fulfilled their intention, and to have become encumbrances, rather than aids, why may not the inherent "Development" power rescind, withdraw, remove, such adjuncts? It is not easy to see what difficulty, either logical or theoretic, stands in the way to prevent the Church's faculty of development from now shifting its position, and acting as a faculty of abrogation. Once it put its right hand forth to bring from its treasury things new: henceforward it will be pulling its left hand from its bosom, to withdraw these worn and faded articles from their places. In a rude age the Church — always wise in her day — became flagrantly polytheistic: in a philosophic, or rather a scientific age, the same Church, equally wise, will become pantheistic.

This is the very result that might seem highly probable, as consequent upon a well-calculated endeavor to reinstate spiritual power throughout Europe, by means of an alliance between that scientific pantheism which, at this time, is the prevalent belief of the continental nations, and the Church, professing its faculty of adaptation to the changing aspects of the world. Let the Church absorb or abrogate what, although held to be true and good, as related to an age long gone by, is now felt to be redundant, and which will not amalgamate with the present scientific temper of mankind. Nothing would be needed beyond that which such a faculty of adaptation might supply, for compiling a creed, and for instituting a worship, well adapted to the taste and propensities of the European Continental nations.

If an enterprise of this sort were seriously thought of, the Jesuit body might consider itself to be peculiarly qualified for attempting the task."

2:50 AM, October 28, 2010

Viisaus said...

One really does not even need to dig very deep to see the brazen pantheistic-evolutionist attitudes of the modern Vatican:

"Though offered only in passing, and doubtless subject to overinterpretation, Benedict's line nevertheless triggered headlines in the Italian press about a possible "rehabilitation" of Teilhard, sometimes referred to as the "Catholic Darwin." That reading seemed especially tempting since, as a consummate theologian, Benedict is aware of the controversy that swirls around Teilhard, and would thus grasp the likely impact of a positive papal reference.

At the very least, the line seemed to offer a blessing for exploration of the late Jesuit's ideas. That impression appeared to be confirmed by the Vatican spokesperson, Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, who said afterward, "By now, no one would dream of saying that [Teilhard] is a heterodox author who shouldn't be studied.""

4:18 AM, October 28,

I'd like to say, Viisaus, thanks for what you add here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

When wolves get into church leadership, it's time to fight hard for the faith, to exert intense effort

Yes, I dabble in the Koine arts (it is a very weak and ongoing effort); but I get Bill Mounce's emails, "Mondays with Mounce," and I found this advice:
Jude writes to his church that they are to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” He wanted to write to them about their common salvation, but because evil people had snuck into the church, he was forced to write a different kind of letter.

The description of these people is scathing. They were “shepherds feeding themselves” (v 12) instead of the flock, a clear allusion to the fact that they were in leadership (cf. the Pastorals). They were worldly people, causing divisions, and were “devoid of the Spirit” (v 19).

Can you imagine? Non-Christians in leadership positions in the church seeking the things of the world (perhaps like power and prestige)? I can, and so can many pastors with whom I have spoken over the last several years.

Specifically, they were teaching that sanctification did not matter, perverting “the grace of our God into sensuality,” and were in some way deficient in their Christology, denying “our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (ESV, v 4). In other words, they were denying some of the core doctrines of the faith “once for all delivered to the saints” (v 3).

Just as Timothy had learned in Ephesus, so also Jude’s church learned that Paul’s prophesy that “fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock” (Acts 20:29) is in a real sense paradigmatic of what can happen in any church. I find myself welcoming opposition from outside the church, because the spiritual warfare that exists inside all chuches is much more insidious and much more difficult to fight.

So what are we to do? Part of the answer is found in the word “contend” (v 3). You can see the NASB and NET struggling a bit with the relatively weak “contend” (ESV, NIV, RSV) when they write “contend earnestly” (“earnestly contend,“ KJV). NLT has “defend.” TEV has “fight.” NJB has “fight hard,“ which actually is the right translation.

Buried behind the English is the strong επαγωνιζομαι, which BDAG defines as “to exert intense effort on behalf of something, contend.” But “contend” can be so weak as in “to assert something.” Louw and Nida are closer when they give us, “to exert intense effort.”

Jude is telling the church that it is time to take the kids’ gloves off and duke it out. This is not the time for caution and reserve. It is war. Whenever I read Jude I think of John Piper’s admonitions to accept a war-time life style. It is war, and the battle is both within and without the church. For Jude and many churches, the fieriest battle lie within.
It is very telling that, while we are told to fight the fiercest battles against the wolves, there are those today who not only defend the lineage of the wolves, but who want us to seek unity around that lineage.

Where are the "inconsistency detectors" on this one?

Martin Luther: "the most brilliant theologian of the age"

In his "The Age of Reform, 1250-1550" (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1980), Steven Ozment had this to say about Martin Luther:
We are so accustomed to think of the young Luther as a melancholy monk preoccupied with his own salvation that we sometimes lose sight of the fact that he was the age's most brilliant theologian. He led the revolution against Rome and traditional religion not as a visionary spiritual reformer, but as a skilled doctor of theology (Ozment, 231).
In many ways, Luther was uniquely qualified to be used by God as "the tip of the spear" of the Reformation. But as James noted in a comment below, Luther notes that at first, he was "inexperienced." "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]."

In my earlier post I outlined the process by which Luther came to understand the great doctrines of the Reformation. Bernard Lohse, in his work "Martin Luther's Theology" (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press 1999) traces what he calls "Luther's Theology in its Historical Development."

There were many, many things going on in these years. The Church was still reeling from "the great schism," when there were two, and even three competing popes were anathematizing each other and their followers, for a period that lasted some 78 years. This council ended the schism and in the year 1417 a single pope was elected, but that doesn't mean, by any stretch, that things had righted themselves.

One of the reasons for my writing on the early papacy is to establish a context for the papacy that Luther did not understand. Some would portray the papacy as a legitimate institution that had fallen; my hope has been to portray it as a completely illegitimate institution from the beginning.

For example, in 1492, Pope Innocent VIII died.
The ensuing conclave saw Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia elected as Alexander VI (1492-1503), although he was the only non-Italian in an electorate of twenty-three cardinals, of whom eight were nephews of former popes. (Roger Collins, Keepers of the Keys of Heaven: A History of the Papacy, New York, NY: Basic Books 2009, pg 339)
Such was the inbred power structure that really had ruled, in one form or another, for centuries.
Thirty five years as cardinal had provided him with much wealth, numerous offices and several palaces, all of which were offered to fellow members of the college in return for their votes in the conclave (ibid).
Fortunately, bribery in papal elections was outlawed after this. Eamon Duffy notes, "at the time of his election [he] was already the father of eight children, by at least three women. That such a man should have seemed a fit successor to Peter speaks volumes about the degradation of the papacy.
[A Spaniard,] he held sixeen bishoprics in Spain alone, and his office of vice chancellor was the most lucrative post in the Curia.

His pontificate has long been regarded as the most scandalous and dissolute of any pope, certainly since the tenth century. His conduct came in for criticism in his own lifetime, but this was as nothing to how it was regarded in the centuries that followed, he and members of his family were accused of murdering many who stood in their way, and the pope's death in August 1503 and the simultaneous illness of his son Cesare were quickly attributed to a botched attempt on their part to poison one of the cardinals (ibid).
While pope, Alexander "continued to live openly with his mistresses and in producing nine illegitimate children during his years as cardinal and pope." Defenders of the papacy use the "Alias Smith and Jones" defense in holding his place in "the succession": "For all the trains and banks he robbed, he never taught anyone."

J.N.D. Kelly ("Oxford History of the Popes") said, "his consuming passion, gold and women apart, was the aggrandizement of his relatives, especially Vannozza's children. (She was a Roman Aristocrat.) Thus he soon named Cesare, still only eighteen, bishop of several sees, including the wealthy one of Valencia, and a year later, along with Alessandro Farnese (brother of Giulia, his current mistress), a cardinal. Cesare's brother Juan, Duke of Gandia, he married to a Spanish princess, and in 1497 he enfeoffed him with the duchy of Benevento, which he carved out of the papal state. For Lucrezia he arranged one magnificant marriage after the other. [Serial annulments, no doubt. Not one of them genuinely a marriage.] In his absence from Rome he sometimes left her as virtual regent in charge of official business. In June 1497 he was momentarily shattered by the murder of Juan, his special favourite, with suspicion falling on Cesare. Grief-stricken, he vowed to devote himself henceforth to church reform ... But he lacked the resolution to abjure sensuality; he soon resumed his pleasures and family machinations, with Cesare now increasingly his evil genius." (253).

Still, it is said "he took seriously" his ecclesiastical duties, "with a love of show and magnificance." "In the later years of his pontificate, Alexander VI became more concerned with the inheritances of his children." In exchange for annulling the marriage of King Lois XII of France, Cesare was made "Duke of Valentinois" and was given a princess to marry.

Alexander and Cesare "envisaged the appropriation of the entire papal state and central Italy," and "this project, with the systematic crushing of the great Roman families, filled the rest of the reign. The enormous sums required for its realization were raised by assassinations, followed by seizures of property, and by the cynical creation of cardinals who had to pay dearly for their elevation (Kelly, 253-254).

This is the world in which Martin Luther became a young man. In 1501 Luther entered the University of Erfurt; by 1505 he had earned his master of arts degree and entered the monastery of the Hermits of St. Augustine at Erfurt.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Reformation was not a "day", but an increase in understanding, caused by the opening of the Scriptures.

"Reformation Day" is traditionally known as October 31, 1517. It's regarded as the day that Luther posted his 95 Theses on Indulgences.

That may or may not have been a historical reality. But the historical reality of the Reformation is that it was a theological event. True, there were moral consequences, but the Reformation wasn’t first of all about moral self-improvement and tidying the ecclesiastical house. It was about aligning the church's doctrines with Biblical teaching.

It was this that prompted Martin Luther later to comment:
Life is bad among us as among the papists. Hence, we do not fight and damn them because of their bad lives …. I do not consider myself to be pious. But when it comes to whether one teaches correctly about the word of God, there I take my stand and fight. That is my calling. To contest doctrine has never happened until now. Others have fought over life; but to take on doctrine—that is to grab the goose by the neck! … When the word of God remains pure, even if the quality of life fails us, life is placed in a position to become what it ought. That is why everything hinges on the purity of the Word. I have succeeded only if I have taught correctly. (Cited by Steven Ozment, "The Age of Reform, 1250–1550: An Intellectual and Religious History of Late Medieval and Reformation Europe" (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1980), pgs 315-316 (emphasis added).
Several years ago, Scott Clark provided a little bit of history about how Luther came to realize this.
The Reformation doctrines [took shape in Luther's mind] gradually between 1513-21. In succession, and with fits and starts, Luther gradually realized the great Reformation solas. There are some Reformation solas with which we’re not all familiar. Luther’s first breakthrough happened during his lectures on the Psalms when he realized that Scripture teaches that we’re not just a little sinful but that we’re completely sinful, i.e., that the effects of sin are radical and affect every faculty. We’re not able to “do our part” or to “do what lies within us” toward justification because, as a consequence of the fall, all that lies “within us” is sin and death. Therefore the first Reformation sola was “solely unable.”

This is the essential assumption behind sola gratia, the claim that justification is by grace alone. Grace, is no longer to be reckoned a sort of medicinal stuff with which we are injected, with which we cooperate toward eventual justification. Luther came to understand that grace is God’s attitude of favor toward sinners. Grace isn’t something with which we are infused. Rather, God is gracious toward us. He shows us favor. He gives to us what we do not deserve: righteousness and life.

Only then did Luther realize, as he next lectured through Romans that it was only by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ that we are justified. The entire medieval system was about interior moral renewal. The Reformation is that the gospel is outside of us. The Gospel is that Christ has done it all for us. Justification is solely on the ground of imputed righteousness.

During his next two sets of lectures in Galatians and Hebrews Luther gradually realized that the medieval definition of faith as “formed by love” (fides formata caritate) is false and a misreading of Gal 5. Faith doesn’t justify because it produces sanctity (holiness) in internal moral renewal. Faith justifies because it apprehends Christ and his obedience and death for us (pro nobis). This is solus Christus. Faith is an open, empty hand. Faith is a beggar. Faith looks outside of itself and one’s self to Christ. Faith has no power except Christ its object. Faith is receiving and resting on Christ and his finished work for sinners. Faith is a certain knowledge and a hearty trust in Christ and his gospel. That’s sola fide.

With these breakthrough conclusions came others. During this period Luther came to a new hermeneutic. Where much of the patristic and all of the medieval church had read the Bible to contain two kinds of law, old and new, Luther came to see that the Bible had throughout two kinds of words: law (do) and gospel (done [on our behalf]).

The gospel is not: here is more grace so you can keep the law. The gospel is not: Christ will approve of you if you do your part. The gospel is: Christ has done it. This turn to the law/gospel hermeneutic was a foundation stone of the entire Reformation and it was adopted by all the Protestant churches and confessions Reformed and Lutheran. One of the great tragedies is that today there are congregations that will celebrate Reformation Day or who celebrate a nearby Reformation Sunday who will look you straight in the eye and tell you that the Reformed don’t use a law/gospel hermeneutic.

Another global change that occurred at the same time is the turn to Scripture as the magisterial and unique authority for faith and life: sola scriptura. There’s no one point at which this view developed, but it’s certainly symbolized by Luther’s stand for the sole and unique magisterial authority of Scripture at the Diet of Worms in 1521. Again, the tragedy of this day is that there are Reformed folk who sincerely believe that an Anabaptist hermeneutic or corruption of sola scriptura (biblicism) is the “Reformed” hermeneutic. They believe sincerely and wrongly that it means I and my Bible deciding what is and isn’t true.
This is really what Matthew Schultz is trying to say in his conversation with "Lyin' Bryan Cross".

Jason Stellman claims to be John Bugay

Yep, right here, almost: "Well, Sean, I guess now's as good a time as any to tell you, but John Bugay and I are The. Same. Person...?"

We like to think that we're helping to influence attitudes out there.

Luther: St. Augustine or St. Ambrosius cannot be compared with me

The following is from the web page Luther, Exposing the Myth, under the heading "On Pride":

Christ taught: “And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled” [Matt 23:12]. Luther teaches: “St. Augustine or St. Ambrosius cannot be compared with me”[Erlangen, Vol. 61, pg. 422].

Luther Exposing the Myth says their stated purpose is to show that "from Luther’s own words we shall see him for what he really was, that is a rebellious apostate, who abandoned the faith and led many into apostasy from God under the guise of “reformation” in order to follow his perverse inclinations." With these quotes, they attempt to show Christ taught one should be humble, while Luther says he's superior to Augustine and Ambrosius.

Luther, Exposing the Myth cites "Erlangen, Vol. 61, pg. 422." Erlangen referrs to Dr. M. Luthers Samtliche Werke, an older set of Luther's works from the nineteenth century. Volume 61 of this set contains the Tischreden, or Table Talk. Here is page 422. There is no such quote on this page. There is no possibility Luther, Exposing the Myth took this quote from any page in Erl. 61 (as I'll demonstrate), but rather swiped it from Hitler's Spiritual Ancestor by Peter Wiener. Wiener states,

“When I am angry, I am not expressing my own wrath, but the wrath of God”. Luther knew that he was superior to any man or saint. “St. Augustine or St. Ambrosius cannot be compared with me.” “They shall respect our teaching which is the word of God, spoken by the Holy Ghost, through our lips”. “Not for a thousand years has God bestowed such great gifts on any bishop as He as on me” (E61, 422).
The quote in question appears to be documented along with a few other quotes from the same context, but they are aren't from the same treatise at all. Wiener has pulled from multiple sources, only documenting an occasional quote, giving the appearance of one context rather than many. The first quote, "When I am angry, I am not expressing my own wrath, but the wrath of God" is from a comment Luther made in 1535 to the papal nuncio Vergerio that he would personally attend a church council. An account of this meeting can be found here, reconstructed by Preserved Smith [Janssen locates the quote in Walch 16]. The third quote, "They shall respect our teaching which is the word of God, spoken by the Holy Ghost, through our lips" is a Table Talk statement from Erl. ed., 62, p. 276. "Not for a thousand years has God bestowed such great gifts on any bishop as He as on me" is a Table Talk comment in which Luther expresses grief at the loss of his daughter (a great gift) [The account is found in LW 54:430]. Grisar documents it as Erl., 61, p. 422 in Luther IV, p. 332. This particular Table Talk comment has nothing about Augustine or Ambrosius in it, therefore Luther, Exposing the Myth miscited Luther.

I've written about "St. Augustine or St. Ambrosius cannot be compared with me" before. It is from Verantwortung der auffgelegten Auffrur von Hertzog Georgen, located in WA 38, page 103. The text reads,

To my knowledge, this document it not available in English. The full English title would be, Vindication Against Duke Georg's (Charge of) Rebellion, Including a Letter of Consolation to the Innocent Christians Driven By Him from Leipzig. It is scheduled for English translation in a forthcoming volume of Luther's Works.

One of the best overviews of the background of this work was put together by Mark U. Edwards in Luther's Last Battles. Duke George had set up a situation in which Protestants were to be watched how they took communion during Easter (they were to receive in one kind). Those not conforming to the method as directed by the Duke were to sell their possessions and be banished from Ducal Saxony. Luther was alerted to this situation, and he advised (via a letter) those convinced to receive both elements do so. The letter made it back to Duke George. Luther's letter was described as "Unchristian and rebellious" and an attempt to provoke the people to be rebellious against authority.

This sparked a written battle, Luther penning the Vindication Against Duke Georg's (Charge of) Rebellion. Edwards reviewed the argumentation used by Luther, beginning on page 56. The actual spot where our obscure quote comes in is WA 38:101-103. Edwards explains Luther's point:
While [Luther] bore no grudge against anyone, he wrote, he had to innocently bear the title of rebel, a title that Christ himself had to bear. 'For he himself was also crucified as a rebel and hanged between two murderers, and his rebellious title was King of the Jews, that is that he wished to oppose the emperor, his authority, to make his subjects disobedient and disloyal, and to make himself king, etc.' In fact, since the time of the apostles, no one had more magnificently upheld secular authority than had he. The real rebels were the Catholics who condemned the lay estate and tried to turn rulers into monks.
Interestingly, a contemporary Roman Catholic response to Luther was put forth by Johannes Cochlaeus (Edwards explores this as well). Cochlaeus later outlined his response in his book The Deeds and Writings of Martin Luther, which is now in print. On page 287, he quotes Luther saying:
"If any grace can be deserved from a cursed and sinful world, and if I Dr. Martin had taught or done no other good thing than thus to have brought to light and decked out the secular government and power, for that one deed at least they should both thank me and favor me. For I have such glory and honor, through the Grace of God, concerning this matter (whether it pleases or pains the Devil with all his fish-scales) that from the time of the Apostles no Doctor or writer, no theologian or legal scholar, has so notably and clearly strengthened, instructed, and consoled the consciences of the secular estates as I have done - through the extraordinary Grace of God, this I know for certain. For neither Augustine nor Ambrose (who nevertheless were excellent in this business) were my equals in this, etc."
In volume 5 of his massive Luther biography (pp.59-60), Roman Catholic historian Hartmann Grisar cites the text as:
Such honour and glory have I by the grace of God -whether it be to the taste or not of the devil and his brood —that, since the days of the Apostles, no doctor, scribe, theologian or lawyer has confirmed, instructed and comforted the consciences of the secular Estates so well and lucidly as I have done by the peculiar grace of God. Of this I am confident. For neither St. Augustine nor St. Ambrose, who are the greatest authorities in this field, are here equal to me. . . . Such fame as this must be and remain known to God and to men even should they go raving mad over it [Werke, Erl. ed., 31, p. 236.]

The quote without background gives off the impression that Luther generally considered himself greater than Augustine and Ambrose in all areas. Comments about these men (as well as the church fathers in general) are peppered throughout Luther's writings. Luther held their opinions could not be unquestionably followed, thus he commends them at times, and criticizes them as well. Luther spoke favorably about Augustine and Ambrose at times, at other times not.

Mark U. Edwards states, "Luther, on the basis of his theology of the two kingdoms, could with complete consistency argue that no one had advocated obedience to secular authority more forcefully than had he" (Luther's Last Battles, p.66). Is this a prideful comment, in violation of Matthew 23:12? I guess it depends on one's disposition to Luther and approach to history. Roman Catholic historian Hartmann Grisar is definitely onto something when he refers to this very quote and says, "[Luther's] actual words reveal their hyperbolical character, or rather untruth, by their very extravagance." True indeed, Luther was prone to strong hyperbole, and Roman Catholics continually miss this. If one reads through any of Luther's strong polemical treatises, this type of language abounds: anger, sarcasm, hyperbole, all weaved together.

"Hilary and Augustine, almost the two greatest lights of the church..." (LW 1:4)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Remembering the beginning event of the Reformation

A good reminder to us all, as we celebrate the Reformation (October 31, 1517):

Here is an excellent article by Dan Phillips on Repentance and mortifying sin, and an excellent discussion in the comment boxes, especially comments by Terry Rayburn (though I cannot tell completely where he is coming from), Dan Phillips, and Mary Elizabeth Tyler (the truth is somewhere in the middle of all that discussion; both sides make some excellent points) :

As John Owen wrote years ago:

Do you mortify;
do you make it your daily work;
be always at it while you live;
cease not a day from this work;
be killing sin or it will be killing you (p. 47, Overcoming Sin and Temptation; Crossway Books: 2006, John Owen, edited by Kelly M. Kapic and Justin Taylor [emphases added]) (Cited and emphasized by Dan Phillips at his article at Pyromaniacs.)

In his article, Dan links to Luther’s 95 Theses, especially the first one.

The first 3 points that Luther makes are especially good. Also, important was no. 6, 8, 27, 32, 81-82, as James Swan reminded us all earlier of the historical context and meaning of the 95 theses and that Luther was still in process at the time of posting them; but that “they got the ball rolling” toward justification by faith alone and the whole Reformation of the church.

Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences Commonly Known as The 95 Theses
by Dr. Martin Luther

1. When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said "Repent", He called for the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

2. The word cannot be properly understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, i.e. confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.

3. Yet its meaning is not restricted to repentance in one's heart; for such repentance is null unless it produces outward signs in various mortifications of the flesh.

We cry out to God, as Augustine said in his Confessions several times, which is what made Pelagius angry:

“O God! “Give me the grace to obey Your commands, and command me to do what You will.!” Confessions, Book 10:29 (twice); 10:31; 10:37

Calvin and others would come a little later and write: "We are justified by faith alone, but that faith does not remain alone." (John Calvin, The Acts of the Council of Trent, 3:152, cited in R. C. Sproul, Faith Alone, Baker Books, 1995, page 128.) See also, The Westminster Confession of Faith, On Justification, chapter 11, verse 2.

True faith in Christ alone does not stay alone, it results in change, fruit, hatred of sin, deeper levels of repentance, good works, zeal for evangelism and missions, deeper love for God and His word; constant growing and moving and active service, humility, putting to death the deeds of the flesh.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Simple Fact of Life

Here's a reply I gave over at Jason J. Stellman's blog:

Bryan Cross writes:

If I may ask, in your opinion, how does Protestantism not reduce to submitting to the Church only when the Church's teaching sufficiently agrees with one's own interpretation of Scripture?

I first need to clear some philosophical brush in order to address the issue you're raising.

1. We need to have in mind a particular definition of Protestantism. I don't know what you have in mind, but we need to be specific; we can't speak of how Protestantism, broadly defined to include anyone not Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox, reduces to X since, as I've asserted in the threads I linked above, and implied here, there is something fundamentally different about how a certain subset of Protestantism approaches hermeneutical concerns as compared with how the Reformers and their modern adherents approach the same issue. (This is not to mention the fact that more than just these two paradigms find their home under this broader umbrella of Protestantism.) There's no prima facie reason to lump them together and assume both paradigms "reduce" to the same kind of individualism. That would require a substantial argument; I dispute the implication that Reformed Protestantism assumes the burden of proof.

2. That said, it would depend, in part, on what you mean by "reduce." I suspect you have in mind a definition of the term I would either reject as false or find equally problematic for the Roman Catholic denomination's epistemological and theological claims.

3. The other part of the question is the practical application of the sola Scriptura paradigm to questions of conscience. If we think something essential to the Church's teachings, as formulated in its creeds and confessions in the particular denomination of which we are members, is objectionable, we can either act like modern, Western Evangelicals and immediately go "church shopping" for something which agrees with us or, as Turretin advised, carefully and respectfully seek resolution within the proper Church channels. (Here I am speaking of how this works itself out at the local level within a local church, which is an expression of the Church.) If this course of action progresses for sometime (ideally, in one sense, until the very end) without a satisfactory resolution, we will eventually have to either submit to the authority of the Church (as expressed in the local congregation or larger body of local congregations, e.g. as in a Presbyterian paradigm) and trust it has properly handled the issue despite our concerns or remove ourselves from its communion.

4. The whole process of #3 is what fundamentally differentiates Reformed Protestantism from various individualistic approaches to Scripture. Deliberation is careful and cautious, it is done within the proper confines of the Church and its aim is to serve the unity of the Body. There is no such process or thought in some modern Evangelical approaches. The individualist might, at best, ask some friends for advice. But then she will choose for herself without even entertaining the idea that she should also consider submitting to the judgments of the Church as expressed by her local pastor and elders even though she has unresolved concerns at that time.

5. In the event an individual eventually decides to leave, she has not done anything any denomination can prevent. The best a denomination can do is both establish impediments to hasty action and implement a disciplinary structure. If someone perseveres through these impediments and eventually decides to accept the consequences of discipline (and ultimate excommunication) then the local body, if it has faithfully implemented these measures, has done all it can and the blame for the separation rests not on the Church but on the individual. For example, would you say Catholicism reduces to individualism because some Catholics attempt to have women or unrepentant, practicing homosexuals ordained as priests and then, when these attempts are refused and denounced by the Magisterium, either try to claim themselves as Catholic after having self-excommunicated themselves or leave the denomination? No, since what we're driving into is a simple fact of life--people are free to do whatever they want with whatever resources they have. Diotrephes sat under John, yet fell away from the faith. Does that mean discipleship under John reduces to individualism? Judas followed Christ, yet ultimately betrayed him. Does that mean following Christ reduces to individualism? No on both counts. So also does it seem unreasonable to fault sola Scriptura for whatever individuals decide to reject the teachings of the Church as expressed through the local congregation of which they are a part.

Whatever argument you're going to make on this entire point should take into account: (a) the different authority paradigm under which Reformation theology is deliberated and the place of the layperson within that paradigm, (b) the practical outworking of this paradigm at the local level (properly practiced) as compared with the actions and attitudes of individualistic Evangelicals in similar situations, and (c) the practical problem of the sinful will with which every communion of professing Christians must deal.

Augustine Pointing to the Scriptures....

Here's a selection from Augustine, commenting about questioning a person about why he is interested in becoming a Christian:

But if it happens that his answer is to the effect that he has met with some divine warning, or with some divine terror, prompting him to become a Christian, this opens up the way most satisfactorily for a commencement to our discourse, by suggesting the greatness of God’s interest in us. His thoughts, however, ought certainly to be turned away from this line of things, whether miracles or dreams, and directed to the more solid path and the surer oracles of the Scriptures; so that he may also come to understand how mercifully that warning was administered to him in advance, previous to his giving himself to the Holy Scriptures. And assuredly it ought to be pointed out to him, that the Lord Himself would neither thus have admonished him and urged him on to become a Christian, and to be incorporated into the Church, nor have taught him by such signs or revelations, had it not been His will that, for his greater safety and security, he should enter upon a pathway already prepared in the Holy Scriptures, in which he should not seek after visible miracles, but learn the habit of hoping for things invisible, and in which also he should receive monitions not in sleep but in wakefulness. At this point the narration ought now to be commenced, which should start with the fact that God made all things very good, and which should be continued, as we have said, on to the present times of the Church. This should be done in such a manner as to give, for each of the affairs and events which we relate, causes and reasons by which we may refer them severally to that end of love from which neither the eye of the man who is occupied in doing anything, nor that of the man who is engaged in speaking, ought to be turned away. [Source]

This quote was from Augustine’s Catechising of the Uninstructed. He demonstrates many of the same problems he faced plague teachers in each generation. Am I a good enough speaker? Are my pupils actually benefiting from my teaching? Is my presentation dreary or cheerful?

Augustine begins his writing to Deogratias by uplifting him in his role as instructor, reminding him that others recognizing his role as a teacher should confirm his calling. He exhorts him to be passionate about his subject, since this will provoke the interest of his hearers.

Augustine provides helpful teaching ideals: Summarize content. Instruct with Godly motivations. Love your pupils. View yourself as one who assists in the conversion of a person being catechized. Point them away from experience to the certainty of the Scriptures. Exhort them to sanctification. Teach people where they are at (some are more knowledgeable in the faith than others).

Augustine’s advice in this writing is insightful and relevant,demonstrating that when the Holy Spirit call men to teach, he has called qualified people in each generation. His diligence and dedication to the Holy Scriptures shine in virtually every section of this writing. It's well worth reading!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Luther: I look upon God no better than a scoundrel

The following is from the web page Luther, Exposing the Myth, under the heading "On God":

Christ taught: “You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment”[Matt 22:37]. Luther teaches: “I look upon God no better than a scoundrel” [Weimar, Vol. 1, Pg. 487. Cf. Table Talk, No. 963].

Luther Exposing the Myth says their stated purpose is to show that "from Luther’s own words we shall see him for what he really was, that is a rebellious apostate, who abandoned the faith and led many into apostasy from God under the guise of “reformation” in order to follow his perverse inclinations." With this quote, they attempt to show Luther thought God was a scoundrel, therefore denying the great commandment.

Documentation (Short Synopsis)
Luther, Exposing the Myth probably lifted this quote from Peter Wiener, Hitler's Spiritual Ancestor. Wiener lifted the quote from Frantz Funck-Brentano's biography of Luther. Neither Wiener nor Funck-Bretano documented Luther correctly. Therefore, Luther, Exposing the Myth mis-cited Luther.

Luther, Exposing the Myth cites "Weimar, Vol. 1, Pg. 487. Cf. Table Talk, No. 963." Weimar 1 refers to Tischreden aus der ersten Hälfte der dreißiger Jahre, Sammlungen Veit Dietrichs und Medlers. Here is WA 1:487. Table Talk number 963 is located at the bottom of page 487, continuing to page 488. The Table Talk is a collection of second hand comments written down by Luther's friends, published after his death. This particular entry comes from the section of entries by Veit Dietrich and Nicholas Medler recorded in the early 1530's, though the manuscripts weren't available until 1912. This half-Latin half-German snippet reads as follows:

The quote roughly translates to:
God is very foolish [or stupidest], for the most powerful enemy Satan opposes is a sick man that is like a shaken reed. It must irk the devil terribly that he, such a great, powerful and intelligent spirit should not be able to overcome or hurt man, such a lowly and weak creature, without God's permission. Therefore, angry Satan throws fiery darts at us, to which the remedy is the shield of faith. This certainly often has been undertaken with me.
There isn't anything here saying "I look upon God no better than a scoundrel." Luther, Exposing the Myth probably again took the quote from Hitler's Spiritual Ancestor by Peter Wiener. Wiener states,
God, on the other hand, seemed to him “a master armed with a stick”. “God did mischievously blind me”; “God often acts like a madman”; “God paralyses the old and blinds the young and thus remains master”; I look upon God no better than a scoundrel”; “God is stupid” (“Table Talk”, No. 963, W1, 48)
The Internet version of Wiener's book errs when it cites page 48 of W1. On page 28 of my 1945 copy of Wiener's book, it isn't 48, but rather 487. Wiener used a variety of secondary sources. He heavily used Frantz Funck-Brentano's biography of Luther [Great Britain: Academy Books, 1939]. On page 238, Funck-Bretano states:

True God was great and powerful, argued Luther, and good and merciful, and all that sort of thing; but He was stupid[1]. He was a tyrant. [1] Deus est stultissimus (Table Talk number 963. Weimar edition I, 487).

One will notice that Wiener quotes both "I look upon God no better than a scoundrel” and “God is stupid” attributing them both to Table Talk 963. I think it's fairly safe to say that the reference used by Luther, Exposing the Myth was taken from Wiener's sloppy documentation. Wiener probably got "I look upon God no better than a scoundrel" from Funk-Bretano as well. On page 54, while describing Luther's early pre-Reformation career, Funck-Bretano states:
And that terrible predestination! 'When I think on it,' writes Luther, 'I forget the boundless charity of Christ and the goodness of God. And I look upon God as no better than a scoundrel. The idea of predestination completely silences the Laudate within me; it is a blasphemate that enters my mind.'
At least Funck-Bretano mentions the quote is in regard to a view of predestination. This quote though isn't from Luther's pre-Reformation career. It's a Table Talk comment recorded by Cordatus, September 10-28, 1532. It's found in WA T-2, 582 number 2654a-2654b.

Neither 2654a or 2654b are in the English edition of Luther's Works.

A translation and editorial comment of this Table Talk comment was provided by Ewald Plass in What Luther Says, Volume 1, page 456.

The Doctrine of election by the sovereign God was not central in the theology of Luther as it was in the body of Calvin's teaching. In fact, the Reformer cautioned against concerning ourselves too much with it lest we lose ourselves in its incomprehensible aspects. So, according to the report of Cordatus, he once remarked at table (September 10-28, 1532).
1348 Do Not Brood About the Mysteries Connected with Election. A dispute about predestination should be avoided entirely. Staupitz said: if you want to dispute about predestination, begin with the wounds of Christ, and it will cease. But if you continue to debate about it, you will lose Christ, the Word, the sacraments, and everything. I forget everything about Christ and God when I come upon these thoughts and actually get to the point to imagining that God is a rogue. We must stay in the word, in which God is revealed to us and salvation is offered, if we believe him. But in thinking about predestination, we forget God. Then the laudate (praise) stops, and the blasphemate (blaspheme) begins. However, in Christ are hid all the treasures (Col. 2:3); outside Him all are locked up. Therefore, we should simply refuse to argue about election. (W-T 2, No. 2654a - SL 22, 832, No. 75).

Interestingly, the quote can be read as if not being Luther's words at all, for he attributes the statement to Staupitz. Nevertheless, one would think even a Roman Catholic wouldn't find fault with these words, once placed in their context. Luther, Exposing the Myth said the statement is in opposition to Matthew 22:37. such is hardly the case.

A Tribute to the Churches of the East

Some time ago, in the thread that Matthew started on the Church of the East, I had noted that the schism caused by the Council of Ephesus "was far greater extent than either the 1054 split with the EO's or the Protestant Reformation".

Viisaus asked me about this, and I told him I'd get back to him on it.

According to Samuel Hugh Moffett, in his work "A History of Christianity in Asia, Volume 1" (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books 1997) the schism that happened at the time of Ephesus and Chalcedon caused splits very much akin to what happened in Europe during the Reformation. He describes it:
What finally divided the early church, East from West, Asia from Europe, was neither war nor persecution, but the blight of a violent theological controversy, that raged through the Mediterranean world in the second quarter of the fifth century. It came to be called the Nestorian controversy, and how much of it was theological and how much political is still being debated, but it irreversibly split the church not only east and west but also north and south and cracked it into so many pieces that it was never the same again. Out of it came an ill-fitting name for the church in non-Roman Asia, "Nestorian."
(Moffett pg 169)

He describes the geographic scope of this church, first of all, which extends from Syria up along the "Old Silk Road" through Edessa in what is now the town of Urfa, "a dusty town in eastern Turkey just north of the Syrian line," through Nisibis (one of the great "schools" of the early church), through names we know such as Mosul, Tekrit, Seleucia-Ctesiphon (just south of modern Baghdad), and easward through Persia, Afghanistan, and eastward to China.

What was striking for me was Moffett's description of "the Great Persecution," which didn't happen in the Roman empire at all, but rather, in the churches of Persia (which included modern Iraq), which began in around 339 and extended through to the year 400, in which "as many as 190,000 Persian christians died in the terror. It was worse than anything suffered in the West under Rome, yet the number of apostasies seemed to be fewer in Persia than in the West, which is a remarkable tribute to the steady courage of Asia's early Christians." (145)

Interestingly, this persecution was set off by Constantine's conversion to Christianity. "It was enough to make any Persian ruler conditioned by three hundred years of war with Rome suspecious of the emergence of a potential fifth column. Any lingering doubts must have been dispelled when about twenty years later Constantine began to gather his forces for war in the East... Faced with what seemed to be a double threat, a threat not only to national security but to the national religion as well, Persias priests and rulers cemented their alliance of state and religion in a series of periods of terror that have been called the most massiver persecution of Christians in history, "unequalled for its duration, its ferocity and the number of martyrs." (138).

It should be noted that this all occurred before the council of Ephesus, before the Schism. There is no way to say "these are not our people."

* * *

Philip Jenkins, in his work "The Lost History of Christianity" (New York: HarperCollins, 2008) goes into some more detail about the scope of the church in this world before describing how it "dies".
To appreciate the scale of the Church of the East, we can look at a list of the church's metropolitans -- that is of those senior clergy who oversaw inferior hierarchies of bishops grouped in provinces. In England, to give a comparison, the medieval church had two metropolitans: respectively, at York and Canterbury. Timothy (a bishop of the eighth century) himself presided over nineteen metropolitans and eighty-five bishops. Though the exact locations of the metropolitan seats changed over time, map 1.1 on page 12 identifies some of the leading centers. Just in Timothy's lifetime, new metropolitan sees were created at Rai near Tehran, and in Syria, Terkestan, Armenia, and Dailumaye on the Caspian Sea.

The presence of metropolitan seats in Turkestan and central Asia is amazing enough, but the list of bishoprics and lesser churches includes just as many shocks. Arabia had at least four sees, and Timothy created a new one in Yemen. And the church was growing in southern India, where believers claimed a direct inheritance from the missions of the apostle Thomas...

Timothy himself was committed to the church's further expansion, and he commissioned monks to carry the faith to the shores of the Caspian Sea, even into China. He reported the conversion of the Turkish great king, the khagan, who then ruled over much of central Asia. In a magnificent throwaway line, Timothy described, about 780, how "[i]n these days the Holy Spirit has anointed a metropolitan for the Turks, and we are preparing to consecrate another one for the Tibetans. Timothy was deeply conscious of the church's universality. When debating a technical liturgical question, he drew support from the practice of the wider churches of the sprawling Christian world he knew: the Persians and Assyrians don't do this, he argued, and nor do the churches of "the countries of the sunrise--that is to say, among the Indians, the Chinese, the Tibetans, the Turks." The church operated in multiple languages: in Syriac, Persian, Turkish, Soghdian, and Chinese, but not Latin, which scarcely mattered outside western Europe.

To put this geographical achievement in context, we might think of what was happening in contemporary Europe. Before Saint Benedict formed his first monsastery, before the probable date of the British king Arthur, Nestorian sees existed at Nisapur an Tus in Khurasan, in northeastern Persia, and at Rai. Before England had its first archbishop of Canterbury--possibly before Canturbury had a Christian church--the Nestorian church already had metropolitans at Merv and Herat, in the modern nations of (respectively) Turkmeistan and Afghanistan, and churches were operating Sri Lanka and Malabar. Before Good King Wenceslas ruled a Christian Bohemia, before Poland was Catholic, the Nestorian sees of Bukhara, Samarkand, and Patna all achieved metropolitan status. Our common mental maps of Christian history omit a thousand years of that story, and several million square miles of territory. (10-11)
Maybe our "mental maps" omit this information because it is just simply too painful to recollect. "When Timothy died in 823, he had every reason to hope for his church's future" (19)

But of course, the anger of the Muslims set off by the Crusades wreaked havoc among these churches. "Still, in 1050, [Asia Minor] had 373 bishoprics, and the inhabitants were virtually all Christian, overwhelmingly members of the Orthodox Church. Four hundred years later, that Christian proportion had fallen to 10 or 15 percent of the population, and we can find just three bishops. According to one estimate, the number of Asian Christians fell, between 1200 and 1500, from 21 million to 3.4 million. In the same years, the proportion of the world's Christians living in Africa and Asia combined fell from 34 percent to just 6 percent. Actually, the contraction outside Europe was probably more dramatic than even these figures suggest, but the basic point is accurate" (23-24).

Monday, October 18, 2010

Dr. Witt Responds on "Development"

Following up on my previous post, Newman's Doctrine of Development Rests on a Logical Fallacy, I cited Dr. William Witt's blog entry, which, I thought gave a very clear explanation of Newman's theory on the Development of Doctrine [and it is just a theory].

In the process, one commenter, Matt, wrote to clarify the type of logical fallacy that Newman's theory rested upon.

Dr. Witt has kindly responded via email, and his response is reproduced here.
Dear John Bugay,

Thanks for linking to my post on the incoherence of Newman's account of development. Readers might find it helpful to know that this is part of a lengthy discussion I have been having with Roman Catholic disciples of Newman, and one in particular.
Thank also for pointing out that "fallacy of amphiboly" is not correct, and that I was careless in the spelling. I plead that the quoted portion here is from a transcript of a letter I had written rather quickly. I did not bother to check whether or not the fallacy was named correctly, since I was giving practical advice, not writing for publication.

Amphiboly is an amibiguity of language, not terms. So, Groucho Marx's "I shot an elephant in my pajamas. What was he doing in my pajamas, you ask?"

At the same time, I am not quite happy with "equivocation." Terms like "river bank" and "First Savings Bank" are equivocal, as are the "bark of a tree" and the "bark of a dog." The fallacy here seems to deal with terms that have almost the same meaning, but are different enough as to not be univocal. Both Development 1 and Development 2 are developments, but they differ in a way that invalidates Newman's argument. If someone knows of another fallacy besides equivocation that covers this category, I would be grateful. Meanwhile, I have corrected my blog.

You might find it amusing that my primary interlocutors in this discussion have been Roman Catholic philosophers (not theologians), some of whom I find referenced on your blog, none of whom picked up on careless fallacy identification. The response has rather been to embrace Development 2 wholeheartedly--to insist that both homoousious and papal infallibility are equally developments for which only the authority of the magisterium can suffice. That is, if it had not been for Nicea, the Arian view would be equally plausible as orthodoxy.

While conceding the force of my argument, I find this a desparate concession. It necessarily would imply that the doctrine of the incarnation is just as lacking in biblical or theological warrant as are the marian dogmas or papal infallibility.

I hope I was clear about what I meant when I wrote: "She gives birth, however, to Jesus’ humanity, not his eternal person, which has always existed and is generated eternally by the Father." I addressing the fairly obvious objection that inevitably arises to the claim that Mary is the Mother of God: God is eternal; Mary is not eternal. If Mary is the Mother of God, then God came to exist in time, and Mary's existence predates God. But Mary is not eternal, ergo . . .

I would say that mothers give birth neither to persons nor to natures, but to human beings. A human being is a single substance in which one can distinguish between person and nature. The person is the subject of the predicate "who," while nature is the subject of the predicate "what." Both persons and natures are created by God.

The orthodox doctrine is that the incarnate Word is a single divine person with two natures, one human, one divine. The doctrine of anhypostasia means that Christ has no human person; the doctrine of enhypostasia means that Christ is a single divine person who is the subject of unity in the incarnation. The doctrine of communicatio idiomatum means that properties of either nature can be predicated of the single divine person, which can result in some paradoxical statements: "My God died" is true, although God is eternal and cannot die, because the incarnate Word of God (the second person of the Trinity) died in his human (not his divine) nature. Jesus' humanity comes to exist in time, both created by God, and the progeny of his mother Mary. His divine person, however, is eternally begotten of his Father, and never comes into existence.

In stating that Mary is the theotokos or Mother of God, there is an ambiguity. Mary gives birth to Jesus. Who is Jesus? Jesus is God. Mary is then the Mother of God. What is Jesus? Jesus is completely human and completely divine. Is Mary the "bearer" or Mother of Jesus' humanity? Absolutely. Although created by God, everything of Jesus that is human (body, intellect, will, soul) are received from Mary his mother. Is Mary the "bearer" or Mother of Jesus' divinity? No. Insofar as it is eternal, Jesus' divinity (his divine nature) can have no "mother."

Is Mary bearer or the mother of Jesus' divine person? A tricky question. If by "mother," one means that Mary gives birth to Jesus who is a single divine/human identity, and whose person is fully God, then the answer is "yes."

If, however, by "mother," one means that Mary is the human source of Jesus' divine personhood in the same sense that she is the source of his humanity, or the same sense that other mothers are the source of their offspring's human personhood (although also created by God), the answer must be "no" because Jesus has no human person. His divine person is eternally generated by the Father and does not come to be in time. It is "begotten, not made."

Grace and Peace,
William G. Witt
Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology
Trinity School for Ministry

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Luther: There is Sin in Marriage

The following is from the web page Luther, Exposing the Myth, under the heading "Marriage and Women":

"In spite of all the good I say of married life, I will not grant so much to nature as to admit that there is no sin in it. .. no conjugal due is ever rendered without sin. The matrimonial duty is never performed without sin" [Weimar, Vol 8. Pg. 654].

In other words for Luther the matrimonial act is “a sin differing in nothing from adultery and fornication.” ibid. What then is the purpose of marriage for Luther you may ask? Luther affirms that it’s simply to satisfy one’s sexual cravings “The body asks for a women and must have it” or again “To marry is a remedy for fornication” – Grisar, “Luther”, vol. iv, pg. 145].

Luther Exposing the Myth says their stated purpose is to show that "from Luther’s own words we shall see him for what he really was, that is a rebellious apostate, who abandoned the faith and led many into apostasy from God under the guise of “reformation” in order to follow his perverse inclinations." With this quote, they attempt to show Luther taught that sex within the confines of marriage is a sinful act.

There are multiple quotes cited by Luther, Exposing the Myth in this snippet. I'm fairly certain all the quotes were taken from Martin Luther, Hitler's Spiritual Ancestor by Peter Wiener. Wiener states,

But, as we have seen before, he has always a very easy way out. It just does not matter whether we commit a sin or not. “You owe nothing to God except faith and confession. In all other things He lets you do whatever you like. You may do as you please, without any danger of conscience whatsoever.” Thus a remedy for his “burning flesh” is easily found. “The sting of flesh may easily be helped so long as girls and women are to be found.” “The body asks for a woman and must have it”; “to marry is a remedy for fornication” (see Grisar, “Luther”, vol. iv, p. 145).

I am reluctant, more than reluctant, to quote some of his sayings; and yet I have to do it if I want to be complete. For the degradation of womanhood and the taking away of all the sacred character of marriage is one of the main reasons why Germany with Luther began its unchristian way down the hill. “Since wedlock and marriage are a worldly business, we clergy and ministers of the Church have nothing to order or decree about it, but must leave each town and country to follow its own usage and custom.” In other words, Luther is not interested in it. Marriage is to him just like any other manual labour, something to be ruled by local traditions, without any kind of Christian standard. “Marriage,” he says, “is an external bodily thing, like any other manipulation.” “Know that marriage is an outward material thing like any other secular business.” “The body has nothing to do with God. In this respect one can never sin against God, but only against one's neighbour”(W12, 131).

But here we come to one of his most contradictory attitudes. For what is usually called “the matrimonial duty”, or “the matrimonial act”, he considers—contrary to the Scripture and Christian ethics—as a great and everlasting sin. The true Christian attitude is best formulated by St. Augustine, who said: “The matrimonial act in order to produce children or to comply with matrimonial duties contains neither guilt nor sin.” This is only logical. For marriage, according to Christian teaching, has been instituted by God in order to propagate humanity, and the commandment of creating children has been given by God—a commandment which cannot be obeyed without a matrimonial act. From this it is quite clear that to obey the will of God can never be a sin in the Christian sense.

Luther is quite opposed to this. “In spite of all the good I say of married life, I will not grant so much to nature as to admit that there is no sin in it . . no conjugal due is ever rendered without sin.” “The matrimonial duty is never performed without sin.” The matrimonial act is, according to Luther, “a sin differing in nothing from adultery and fornication” (W8, 654).

It's likely Wiener didn't actually read Luther in grabbing these quotes, but rather took them from other secondary sources, like Grisar. One thing about Wiener is certain: his method of documentation is haphazard and untrustworthy.

The first quote Luther, Exposing the Myth uses is cited as "Weimar, Vol 8. Pg. 654." WA 8 654 is a page from De votis monasticis Martini Lutheri iudicium (The Judgment of Martin Luther on Monastic Vows). This is not the correct reference for this quote. The quote is actually from WA 10,2, 304 (Uom Eelichen Leben, or The Estate of Marriage). The second quote, "the matrimonial act is 'a sin differing in nothing from adultery and fornication" is though from WA 8 654. The third quote, "The body asks for a women and must have it" is perhaps from WA 10,2 (Uom Eelichen Leben, or The Estate of Marriage) as will be demonstrated below. The fourth quote, "To marry is a remedy for fornication," is directly lifted by Wiener from Grisar:

The increase in the number of matrimonial misunderstandings and quarrels, the haste with which marriage was entered upon and then dissolved, particularly in the Saxon Electorate and at Wittenberg, was not merely the result of the new Evangelical freedom, as Luther and his friends sadly admitted, but was due above all to the altered views on marriage. In the new preaching on marriage the gratification of the sensual impulse was, as will be shown below, placed too much in the foreground, owing partly to the fanatical reaction against clerical celibacy and religious vows. "To marry is a remedy for fornication"; these words of Luther's were again and again repeated by him self and others in one form or another, as though they characterised the main object of marriage [Grisar, Luther IV, p. 145].

Grisar doesn't document the quote which is surprising, since his documentation covers virutally every quote used. Perhaps he only intended it as a summary statement of Luther's view. Such a sentiment is found in Uom Eelichen Leben, and will be documented below. Interestingly, Grisar mis-documented the first quote used by Luther, Exposing the Myth as WA 20, 2, 304. It's actually from WA 10, 2, 304.

Context, Quote One
"In spite of all the good I say of married life, I will not grant so much to nature as to admit that there is no sin in it. .. no conjugal due is ever rendered without sin. The matrimonial duty is never performed without sin."

The first quote comes from The Estate of Marriage (1522). Luther is commenting on those who mistakenly chose a life of celibacy, and concludes the entire treatise by stating:

To sum the matter up: whoever finds himself unsuited to the celibate life should see to it right away that he has something to do and to work at; then let him strike out in God’s name and get married. A young man should marry at the age of twenty at the latest, a young woman at fifteen to eighteen; that’s when they are still in good health and best suited for marriage. Let God worry about how they and their children are to be fed. God makes children; he will surely also feed them. Should he fail to exalt you and them here on earth, then take satisfaction in the fact that he has granted you a Christian marriage, and know that he will exalt you there; and be thankful to him for his gifts and favors.

With all this extolling of married life, however, I have not meant to ascribe to nature a condition of sinlessness. On the contrary, I say that flesh and blood, corrupted through Adam, is conceived and born in sin, as Psalm 51[:5] says. Intercourse is never without sin; but God excuses it by his grace because the estate of marriage is his work, and he preserves in and through the sin all that good which he has implanted and blessed in marriage [LW 45:48].

Luther had exalted the state of marriage throughout this treatise with statements like, "we may learn how honorable a thing it is to live in that estate which God has ordained. In it we find God’s word and good pleasure, by which all the works, conduct, and sufferings of that estate become holy, godly, and precious..."[LW 45:41]. Here at the end, Luther is carefully pointing out that sin is not absent from marriage, and that every aspect of human existence is tainted with sin. Sin is transferred through the means of intercourse. All children are born with a sin nature inherited from their parents. This is enough to explain why intercourse is never without sin. Luther though explains elsewhere,

If Adam had not fallen, the love of bride and groom would have been the loveliest thing. Now this love is not pure either, for admittedly a married partner desires to have the other, yet each seeks to satisfy his desire with the other, and it is this desire which corrupts this kind of love. Therefore, the married state is now no longer pure and free from sin [LW 44:8].

Context, Quote Two
...The matrimonial act is “a sin differing in nothing from adultery and fornication.”

The second quote comes from The Judgment of Martin Luther on Monastic Vows. Luther is in the midst of explaining those who have taken a vow of chastity but find they can't keep the vow should seek to be married: "it is my belief that if anyone is unable to keep his vow of chastity and takes a wife, confident of God’s mercy, as he grows in this faith he will discover a merciful and understanding Father. After all, he is doing this to avoid sinning more grievously against God’s law" [LW 44:376]. He then states,

 In no sense does God attribute sin to the conjugal rights of married people, which is due solely to his mercy, although Psalm 51[:5] refers to it as sin and iniquity in no way differing from adultery and whoredom, because it springs from passion and impure lust. It is impossible to avoid this emotion, since we are restrained to forego it. Why then should it not also be supposed in the case of a monk who is unable to keep his vow of chastity, and who would otherwise sin, that this impossible vow may be relaxed, and that once the vow is nullified, he be permitted to marry? Or, if it is done in sin while still under the vow, why may it not be mercifully pardoned as is a conjugal right? Consider the immensity of the law God gave us, and then compare the following points carefully. Consider the impossibility of keeping the law, our sin which is forgiven, and the boundlessness of his mercy and goodness. And then, compare all that with the foolishness and stupidity of our vow, a mere tradition and invention of men. The reasonableness of this argument will most certainly compel you to consider it a small thing for the marriage of a stumbling celibate who is unable to keep his vow of chastity to be excused, compared with the forgiveness of sin in the law of God, because no man can keep that law. This law is valid for us all. Consequently, from this work of God’s mercy we may conclude with absolute confidence that an impossible vow is not binding as far as the goodness of God is concerned, even though it may be binding in some way within its own limitations [LW 44:376].

Notice Luther begins by explicitly stating "In no sense does God attribute sin to the conjugal rights of married people." That's far different than "for Luther the matrimonial act is 'a sin differing in nothing from adultery and fornication'" as stated by Luther, Exposing the Myth. Luther then states, "although Psalm 51[:5] refers to it as sin and iniquity in no way differing from adultery and whoredom, because it springs from passion and impure lust. It is impossible to avoid this emotion, since we are restrained to forego it." He appears to interpret David's statement "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me" to mean that even marital sex has passion and impure lust involved. Luther isn't saying that marital intercourse is of the same nature as adultery and whoredom, but that it shares a similar drive. In his commentary on Psalm 51 he states that David "is not talking about sin in marriage or about the sin of parents; as though he were accusing his parents of sin" [LW 12:347].

Context, Quote Three
The third quote, "The body asks for a women and must have it" is perhaps from The Estate of Marriage. At the very beginning of this treatise, Luther states:

In the first part we shall consider which persons may enter into marriage with one another. In order to proceed aright let us direct our attention to Genesis 1[:27], “So God created man … male and female he created them.” From this passage we may be assured that God divided mankind into two classes, namely, male and female, or a he and a she. This was so pleasing to him that he himself called it a good creation [Gen. 1:31]. Therefore, each one of us must have the kind of body God has created for us. I cannot make myself a woman, nor can you make yourself a man; we do not have that power. But we are exactly as he created us: I a man and you a woman. Moreover, he wills to have his excellent handiwork honored as his divine creation, and not despised. The man is not to despise or scoff at the woman or her body, nor the woman the man. But each should honor the other’s image and body as a divine and good creation that is well-pleasing unto God himself.

In the second place, after God had made man and woman he blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply” [Gen. 1:28]. From this passage we may be assured that man and woman should and must come together in order to multiply. Now this [ordinance] is just as inflexible as the first, and no more to be despised and made fun of than the other, since God gives it his blessing and does something over and above the act of creation. Hence, as it is not within my power not to be a man, so it is not my prerogative to be without a woman. Again, as it is not in your power not to be a woman, so it is not your prerogative to be without a man. For it is not a matter of free choice or decision but a natural and necessary thing, that whatever is a man must have a woman and whatever is a woman must have a man [LW 45:17].

The quote could also be from Luther'sletter of March 27, 1525 to Wolfgang Reissenbusch. He states,

I believe, honored sir, that you are convinced of what I say, and that you are not troubled by such scruples, but I fancy that human fear and timidity lie in your way, as it is said that he must be a bold man who dares to take a wife. There is then the more need to encourage, counsel and urge you, making you eager and bold. Dear and honored sir, why should you torture yourself and strive with your own thought? It cannot be otherwise than that you think of these things. Thoughts come from the sense and are right merry. Your body urges you to marry and needs it; God wills and forces it What will you do about it?

Even if these aren't the context from which Wiener took his quote, they certainly express Luther view. Luther, Exposing the Myth states the purpose of marriage for Luther is simply to satisfy one’s sexual cravings. In this context, the point is simply about the nature of human beings. Elsewhere Luther gives a definition of marriage:

This is a true definition of marriage: Marriage is the God-appointed and legitimate union of man and woman in the hope of having children or at least for the purpose of avoiding fornication and sin and living to the glory of God. The ultimate purpose is to obey God, to find aid and counsel against sin; to call upon God; to seek love, and to educate children for the glory of God; to live with one's wife in the fear of God and to bear the cross" [WA 43, 310].

Context, Quote 4
"To marry is a remedy for fornication" may actually not have a context. The quote comes from Grisar, and it appears he's making a summary statement of Luther's view. In The Estate of Marriage, Luther does state:

Observe that thus far I have told you nothing of the estate of marriage except that which the world and reason in their blindness shrink from and sneer at as a mean, unhappy, troublesome mode of life. We have seen how all these shortcomings in fact comprise noble virtues and true delight if one but looks at God’s word and will, and thereby recognizes its true nature. I will not mention the other advantages and delights implicit in a marriage that goes well—that husband and wife cherish one another, become one, serve one another, and other attendant blessings—lest somebody shut me up by saying that I am speaking about something I have not experienced, and that there is more gall than honey in marriage. I base my remarks on Scripture, which to me is surer than all experience and cannot lie to me. He who finds still other good things in marriage profits all the more, and should give thanks to God. Whatever God calls good must of necessity always be good, unless men do not recognize it or perversely misuse it.

I therefore pass over the good or evil which experience offers, and confine myself to such good as Scripture and truth ascribe to marriage. It is no slight boon that in wedlock fornication and unchastity are checked and eliminated. This in itself is so great a good that it alone should be enough to induce men to marry forthwith, and for many reasons.

The first reason is that fornication destroys not only the soul but also body, property, honor, and family as well. For we see how a licentious and wicked life not only brings great disgrace but is also a spendthrift life, more costly than wedlock, and that illicit partners necessarily occasion greater suffering for one another than do married folk. Beyond that it consumes the body, corrupts flesh and blood, nature, and physical constitution. Through such a variety of evil consequences God takes a rigid position, as though he would actually drive people away from fornication and into marriage. However, few are thereby convinced or converted [LW 45:43].

Once again, a context makes quite a difference. Luther was not an enemy of marriage, but spoke highly of it, and valued it. Such sentiment can be found throughout his writings. This type of information though was ignored by Luther, Exposing the Myth. It's also very important to keep in mind the historical climate from which Luther's remarks germinated. In the article The Reformation of Marriage Law in Martin Luther's Germany: Its Significance Then and Now, John Witte notes the following:

Three broad perspectives on marriage are found in the Roman Catholic tradition of the late eleventh through fifteenth centuries. Marriage was viewed (1) as a created, natural institution, subject to the laws of nature; (2) as a sacrament of faith, subject to the laws of Scripture; and (3) as a contract, subject to the general canon laws of contract formation, maintenance, and dissolution. These three perspectives were, in an important sense, complementary, each emphasizing one aspect of marriage: its divine origin, its symbolic function, and its legal form respectively. There was, nevertheless, a certain tension among these three perspectives as well, which manifested itself in the laws of marriage.

Marriage was regarded, first, as a created natural institution which serves both as "a duty for the sound and a remedy for the sick." Already in Paradise, God had commanded man and woman to "be fruitful and multiply." He had created man and woman as social beings, naturally inclined to one another. He had endowed them with the physical capacity to join together and beget children. He had commanded the man and the woman to help and nurture each other and to inculcate within their children the highest virtue and love of the Divine. These qualities and duties continued after the Fall into sin. But after the Fall, marriage also came to serve as a remedy for the individual sinner to allay his lustful passion, to heal his incontinence, and to substitute a bodily union with a spouse for the lost spiritual union with the Father in Paradise. Rather than allow sinful people to burn with lust, God provided the institution of marriage wherein people could direct their natural drives and desires toward the service of the human community.

Many theologians and canonists, however, subordinated the duty of propagation to that of celibate contemplation, the natural drive for sexual union to the spiritual drive for communion with the God.For, as Peter Lombard put it,

"The first institution [of marriage in Paradise] was commanded, the second permitted... to the human race for the purpose of preventing fornication. But this permission, because it does not select better things, is a remedy not a reward; if anyone rejects it, he will deserve judgment of death. An act which is allowed by permission, however, is voluntary, not necessary."

After the Fall, marriage remains a duty, but only for those tempted by sexual sin. For those not so tempted, marriage is only an inferior option. It is far better and far more virtuous to remain celibate and to contemplate. For marriage is an institution of the natural sphere, not the supernatural sphere. Though ordained by God and good, it serves primarily for the perfection of the human community not for the perfection of the individual. Participation in it merely keeps man free from sin and vice. It does not directly contribute to his virtue. The celibate, contemplative life, by contrast, is a calling of the supernatural sphere. Participation in it increases man's virtue and aids him in the pursuit of beatitude. To this pursuit, "marriage is a very great obstacle," for it forces man to dwell on the carnal and natural rather than the spiritual and supernatural aspects of life.

While retaining certain aspects of this, Luther's views on marriage challenged this popular sentiment:

Unlike many Roman Catholics, however, the reformers taught that all persons should heed the duty and accept the gift of marriage. By stressing God's moral and pedagogical functions for the family in society, alongside its procreational function, and by defining for the family its own created sphere of authority and responsibility, alongside that of the church and the state, the reformers accorded great importance to the institution. The married couple, the family, was seen as an important, independent institution of creation. It was as indispensable an agent in God's redemption plan as the church had been for the Roman Catholics. It, too, was in Luther's words, "a divine and holy estate of life," a "blessed holy calling," an institution with created social tasks. The family was to teach all persons, particularly children, Christian values, morals, and mores. It was to exemplify for a sinful society a community of love and cooperation, meditation and discussion, song and prayer. It was to hold out for the church and the state an example of firm but benign parental discipline, rule, and authority. It was to take in and care for wayfarers, widows, and destitute persons a responsibility previously assumed largely by monasteries and cloisters. The family thus no longer stood beneath the church but alongside it. The tasks to which its members were called were as vital and virtuous as the tasks of the church officials. Marriage was thus not to be viewed as an inferior option, but rather as a divine calling and a social status desirable for all people.

I highly reccomend this entire article, found here.