Thursday, October 31, 2013

Today is Reformation Day...

...But, every day is Reformation Day here on this blog.

And as I've posted in years past:

Party Hearty Marty and The Protestors went to the top of the CCM charts with these hits:

The Great Reformer

You Don't Own Me!

 Click on the links to hear these Reformed mega-hits, or Right click to download as MP3's to share with your family and friends! Listen, and enjoy!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Luther on Adoring the Sacrament

I recently saw this Luther quote being used by Roman Catholics:
It was likewise asked, whether honor and reverence were to be shown to the sacrament? I said: When I am at the altar, and receive the sacrament, I bow my knees in honor thereof . . . ("Table Talk," translated by William Hazlitt, Philadelphia: The Lutheran Publication Society, n.d., section: "Of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper," p. 207, #363 [CCCLXIII] )
This Tabletalk quote appears to be a variant of this:
No. 344: No Compulsion to Observe Ceremonies Summer or Fall, 1582 
When somebody asked Martin Luther whether the sacrament [of the altar] ought to be adored, he replied, “One should not make an act of worship out of the sacrament. To be sure, I kneel, but I do so out of reverence. When I am lying in bed I receive it [the sacrament] without kneeling. It is a matter of freedom, just as one is at liberty to kiss the Bible or not. This might also be called adoration. If I do not do it, I have not sinned. But if anybody tries to compel me to do it as a thing necessary for salvation, I refuse and preserve my freedom.” Luther, M. (1999, c1967). Vol. 54: Luther's works, vol. 54 : Table Talk (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald and H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (54:49). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

This translation is based on WA TR 1:139. There is also a different version in WA TR 2:201.

What's interesting is that in the first snippet quoted above, it is reported Luther went on to say:
They that do not hold the sacrament as Christ instituted it, have no sacrament. All papists do not, therefore they have no sacrament; for they receive not the sacrament, but offer it. Moreover, they administer but one kind, contrary to Christ’s work and ordinance, and not man’s. The papists err in attributing to the sacrament, that it justifies, ex opere operato, when the work is fulfilled.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Cyril of Alexandria was the real influencial theologian behind Chalcedon, not Leo I, bishop of Rome

Ruins from ancient Chalcedon(Today: Kadikoy), across the waters from ancient Constantinople (today Istanbul) across the entrance of the Bosphus straight, modern Turkey. 

Ruins from either a tower wall or, according to a sign there that I have seen myself (in Turkish- I can read some of it and had help with other friends in translating more of it.), an ancient water depot in Kadikoy, Turkey, which was called Chalcedon where the Fourth Ecumenical Council was held in 451 AD.   The Turks are restoring it right now and explain this is from "Eski Kadikoy" (ancient Kadikoy) and "Byzantion" and the Turks call it "Kalkedon".  

I am enjoying listening to and watching the Boston College Debate about the Papacy with James White and Rob Zins for the Protestant position vs. Robert Sungenis and Scott Butler for the Romanist position.  I had seen Scott Butler's meltdown before, but never the full debate.  

Dr. White included some information that up until now, I was not aware of, about the Council of Chalcedon, Leo I, and Cyril of Alexandria. (around the 2 hour, 6 minute mark) So I googled around and found the details from William Webster (I should have known!).  Below is a portion of a larger article by William Webster, in defending against Roman Catholic Steve Ray's claims.

This again proves that there was no such thing as a Papacy in the early centuries, and even Leo I, cannot really claim to be the "first Pope".    Many church history textbooks, unfortunately, are misleading and anachronistic, by writing things like, "Pope Leo I" or "Leo I, the first Pope" or  "Gregory the Great, bishop of Rome from 590-604 AD, the first Pope".  Even Gregory in 601 AD did not claim to be univeral bishop and in fact rebuked John of Constantinople for making such a claim. Gregory wrote the the Emperor Maurice:  "Now I confidently say that whosoever calls himself, or desires to be called, Universal Priest, is in his elation the percursor of AntiChrist, because he proudly puts himself above all others.  ( Gregory I, bishop of Rome, 590-604 AD; Book VII, Epistle XXXIII)

From William Webster's article:

The Council of Chalcedon
Peter Has Spoken Through Leo
Steve Ray asserts that the early councils give evidence to their belief in papal primacy. He gives the example of the fathers at Chalcedon who proclaimed ‘Peter has spoken through Leo’ as a result of examining Leo’s Tome, his doctrinal defense of the Trinity and the nature of Christ. The impression given by Roman apologists to this proclamation of the fathers at Chalcedon is one of blind submission to the doctrinal teachings of the pope. Such is not the case. In fact, just the opposite. What is rarely ever explained by these apologists is that Leo’s Tome and its doctrinal teaching was only accepted by the Council when it was thoroughly analyzed and determined not be in conflict with the teaching of Cyril of Alexandria. John Meyendorff gives the following helpful information on Leo and Chalcedon:  (my emphasis and coloring) 
Leo did not participate personally in the council, but his legates at Chalcedon carried with them another remarkable letter addressed to the assembled fathers and expressing the pope’s wish that ‘the rights and honor of the most blessed apostle Peter be preserved’; that, not being able to come himself, the pope be allowed ‘to preside’ the council in the persons of his legates; and that no debate about the faith be actually held, since ‘the orthodox and pure confession on the mystery of the Incarnation has been already manifested, in the fullest and clearest way, in his letter to bishop Flavian of blessed memory.’ No wonder that his legates were not allowed to read this unrealistic and embarrassing letter before the end of the sixteenth session, at a time when acrimonious debates on the issue had already taken place! Obviously, no one in the East considered that a papal fiat was sufficient to have an issue closed. Furthermore, the debate showed clearly that the Tome of Leo to Flavian was accepted on merits, and not because it was issued by the pope. Upon the presentation of the text, in Greek translation, during the second session, part of the assembly greeted the reading with approval (‘Peter has spoken through Leo!’ they shouted), but the bishops from the Illyricum and Palestine fiercely objected against passages which they considered as incompatible with the teachings of St Cyril of Alexandria. It took several days of commission work, under the presidence of Anatolius of Constantinople, to convince them that Leo was not opposing Cyril. The episode clearly shows that it was Cyril, not Leo, who was considered at Chalcedon as the ultimate criterion of christological orthodoxy. Leo’s views were under suspicion of Nestorianism as late as the fifth session, when the same Illyrians, still rejecting those who departed from Cyrillian terminology, shouted: ‘The opponents are Nestorians, let them go to Rome!’ The final formula approved by the council was anything but a simple acceptance of Leo’s text. It was a compromise, which could be imposed on the Fathers when they were convinced that Leo and Cyril expressed the same truth, only using different expressions (John Meyendorff, Imperial Unity and Christian Division (Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s, 1989), p. 155-156.).
Chalcedon Rejects Leo's Demands
The fact that the Coucil of Chalcedon did not subscribe to the theory of papal supremacy as espoused by Vatican I is also seen in its acceptance of the 28th canon in which it refused to submit to the demands of pope Leo I. The following is a brief history of this incident taken from The Matthew 16 Controversy:
The papal legates strenously objected to the passage of canon 28 and Leo, the bishop of Rome, refused to accept it. However, the Council refused to acquiesce to papal demands and received the canon as valid, overriding the papal objections. As Meyendorff states:
The commissioners bluntly declared the issue closed—‘All was confirmed by the council,’ they said—explicitly denying any papal right of veto (John Meyendorff, Imperial Unity and Christian Division (Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s, 1989), p. 183).
W.H.C. Frend comments:
By Canon 28 not only were the decisions in favor of Constantinople as New Rome ratified, but its patriarchal jurisdiction extended into Thrace on the one hand, and Asia and Pontus in Asia Minor on the other. The legates were not deceived by the primacy of honor accorded to Rome. They protested loud and long. The Council, however, had decided, and the decision of the Council was superior to the wishes even of the Bishop of Rome (W.H.C. Frend, The Early Church (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1965), p. 232).
Even though Leo rejected this canon—and the Eastern bishops eagerly sought his approval— his nonacceptance did not affect the validity of the canon. As Robert Eno observes:
The easterners seemed to attach a great deal of importance to obtaining Leo’s approval of the canon, given the flattering terms in which they sought it. Even though they failed to obtain it, they regarded it as valid and canonical anyway (Robert Eno, The Rise of the Papacy (Wilmington: Michael Glazier, 1990), p. 117).
From a jurisdictional standpoint it is clear that Nicaea, I Constantinople and Chalcedon do not support the teaching of Vatican I on papal primacy. After pointing out that Chalcedon refused to submit to the demands of the Bishop of Rome, Frend sums up the historical reality of the ecclesiology of the patristic age with these observations:
So ended Chalcedon. The Church was still the Church of the great patriarchates, maintaining an equilibrium in respect of each other, whose differences could be solved, not by the edict of one against the other but by a council inspired and directed if no longer presided over by the Emperor. It was a system of Church government opposed to that of the papacy, but one which like its rival has stood the test of time (W.H.C. Frend, The Early Church (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1965), p. 232).
The fact that the Council fathers at Chalcedon received canon 28 as valid in direct opposition to papal demands demonstrates conclusively that papal primacy was not an historical reality at that time. Some have asserted, however, that because the Eastern bishops sought Leo’s confirmation of the canon, this proves that they implicitly acknowledged the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. Herbert Scott, for example, states:
Impartial examination of this celebrated XXVIIIth Canon of Chalcedon and its circumstances...shows that instead of depreciating papal claims it supports them...The Headship of Rome is shown and confessed in the very act of the bishops of this fragment of a council trying to obtain Leo’s confirmation of their canon (S. Herbert Scott, The Eastern Churches and the Papacy (London: Sheed & Ward, 1928), p. 199).

While it is true that the Eastern bishops sought Leo’s confirmation of canon 28, it is not true to assume their belief in papal primacy. This is demonstrated from a very simple historical reality: The bishops did not submit to papal demands. They sought Leo’s confirmation, even using strongly primatial language in their appeals to him, but in the end they received the canon as valid despite his continuing opposition. The early Church greatly valued unity and sought it whenever possible. This was the desire of the bishops of Chalcedon in trying to obtain a unanimous decision regarding canon 28. However, the lack of confirmation by the Bishop of Rome did not prevent this canon from becoming ratified and received into the canon law of the Eastern Church and eventually that of the West as well. From a jurisdictional standpoint, therefore, it is clear that neither Nicaea, I Constantinople nor Chalcedon support the teaching of Vatican I on papal primacy.

W.J. Sparrow–Simpson likewise affirms the fact that the history of Chalcedon proves that the early Church held to a view of Church government which was antithetical to that formulated by the Roman Bishops and Vatican I:
What was the true relation of the Pope and the Council to each other? How was it understood in primitive times? Did the Collective Episcopate regard itself as subordinated, with no independent judgment of its own, to decisions of the Roman authority? Or was the Council conscious of possessing power to accept or refuse the papal utterances brought before it? Bossuet maintained that the treatment of Papal Letters by the early General Councils afforded convincing proof against their belief in any theory of papal in errancy. The famous letter of Leo to Flavia was laid before the Council of Chalcedon in the following terms: ‘Let the Bishops say whether the teaching of the 318 Fathers (the Council of Nice) or that of the 150 (Constantinople) agrees with the letter of Leo.’ Nor was Leo’s letter accepted until its agreement with the standards of the former Ecumenical Councils had been ascertained. The very signatures of the subscribing Bishops bears this out—‘The letter of Leo agrees,’ says one, ‘with the Creed of the 318 Fathers and of the 150 Fathers, and with the decisions at Ephesus under St Cyril. Wherefore I assent and willingly subscribe.’ Thus the act of the Episcopate at Chalcedon was one of critical investigation and authoritative judgment, not of blind submission to an infallible voice (W.J. Sparrow Simpson, Roman Catholic Opposition to Papal Infallibility(London: John Murray, 1909), p. 28) (The Matthew 16 Controversy, pp. 177-179, 181).
William Webster

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The benefit to us is an overflow of God getting Glory

Friday, October 25, 2013

A Brilliant and Clarifying closing argument

I have always apprecited this closing argument by Dr. White in his 1999 debate vs. Mitchell Pacwa on Sola Scritpura.  (also glad to see the full debate is up now at [Thanks to Rich Pierce for all his hard work!]

It was very effective of Dr. White to bring all those other books up front and stack them up like that; those works that Roman Catholics are going to need to study in order to figure out if they can understand the gospel and the truth of God's Word.  Or they just take the easy way out and say, "I just believe what the Pope and my priest says without worrying about studying it for myself."  The Romanist claim is that they make things clearer and easier by having an infallible interpreter who can tell them the right interpretation of a Bible passage.  When one starts reading all the official documents of Rome and the massive complicated books to try and understand, comparing that with the simple Scripture of Romans 5:1; or Galatians 2:16 or Galatians 3:1-8; or Romans 3:28 or Romans 4:1-8 or Ephesians 2:8-9 or John 5:24; 3:16; 20:30-31; or Acts 13:38-39; or Acts 16:31, or Philippians 3:9; or Mark 1:15; it is very clear on which method is clearer for the aveage person to do to understand the gospel.

Maybe that is why another Roman Catholic [Nancy Pelosi, California congress-woman, then speaker of the house of representatives], in a modern political context,, ie, the ObamaCare take over of the insurance industry, said something like, "hurry up and pass the bill, so we can then read the [massive 2,000+ page] bill and see what is in it."  Maybe she learned that dogmatic authoritarian method from her church and it filtered down into her politics, . . . ya think?   Sounds like Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556) -founder of the Jesuits, who said "Whatever we [the hierarchical Roman Church] say is black, even though to your eyes it appears to be white, you must believe that it is black."

Addendum:  The more exact rendering of Ignatius of Loyola's statement:
The 13th Rule for thinking along with the Church Militant, in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola: page 75 on the Pdf below. It is quoted differently than is sometimes translated.

"Thirteenth Rule. To be right in everything, we ought always to hold that the white which I see, is black, if the Hierarchical Church so decides it, . . .   See here.  p. 75

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Death of Zwingli, 1531

While preparing for a lecture, I came across the following:

From the Archives: Zwingli's Death on the Battlefield of Kappel in 1531

Heinrich Bullinger succeeded Ulrich Zwingli as pastor of the Grossmünster after the latter’s death in the battle of Kappel in 1531. The following account of Zwingli’s death was written by Bullinger.

On the battlefield, not far from the line of attack, Mr. Ulrich Zwingli lay under the dead and wounded. While men were looting … he was still alive, lying on his back, with his hands together as if he was praying, and his eyes looking upwards to heaven. So some approached who did not know him and asked him, since he was so weak and close to death (for he had fallen in combat and was stricken with a mortal wound), whether a priest should be fetched to hear his confession. Thereat Zwingli shook his head, said nothing and looked up to heaven. Later they told him that if he was no longer able to speak or confess he should yet have the mother of God in his heart and call on the beloved saints to plead to God for grace on his behalf Again Zwingli shook his head and continued gazing straight up to heaven. At this the Catholics grew impatient, cursed him and said that he was one of the obstinate cantankerous heretics and should get what he deserved. Then Captain Fuckinger of Unterwalden appeared and in exasperation drew his sword and gave Zwingli a thrust from which he at once died. So the renowned Mr. Ulrich Zwingli, true minister and servant of the churches of Zurich, was found wounded on the battlefield along with his flock (with whom he remained until his death). There, because of his confession of the true faith in Christ, our only Saviour, the mediator and advocate of all believers, he was killed by a captain who was a pensioner, one of those against whom he had always preached so eloquently.
Next day, Thursday (12 October), at daybreak, the Five States fired their guns with great jubilation. They remained on the battlefield for all Thursday and Friday in accordance with the ancient custom among the Swiss that they should stay there for three days in case the enemy wanted to attack … Then they called on their followers to group forces on the Albis and sent for reinforcements from their cities and for support (which they much needed) from their allies in Valais and the south. On the same day the prisoners were invited to identify the dead while the Five States rejoiced in their success.

Above all there was tremendous joy when Zwingli’s body was found among the dead. All the morning crowds came up, everyone wanting to see Zwingli. The vituperation and insults hurled against him by many jealous people are beyond description. Mr. Bartholomew Stocker of Zug, himself a chaplain, told me after the war that he had been persuaded to see Zwingli in the company of Mr. Hansen Schonbrunner Senior who had formerly been a canon of the Fraumunster and then returned to Zug. Zwingli’s face was more like that of a living man than a corpse. Indeed he had exactly the same look as he had when preaching, which was remarkable, and Mr Schonbrunner could not keep back his tears and said ‘Had you but been of our faith I know what a stalwart Swiss you would have been. God forgive your sins.’ He then returned to Zug, having come for the sole purpose of seeing Zwingli and shortly afterwards he died.
Later that day a crowd of wild young men collected, including pensioners and mercenaries, whom Zwingli had vigorously attacked and who were equally incensed against him. They considered dividing Zwingli’s body into five parts, sending one portion to each of the Five States. Others disagreed: who would want to carry round or send forward a heretic? He should be burnt. Some of the leaders, like Schultheiss Golder and Amman Doos, came forward, saying that a dead man should be left in peace. This was not the place for action of this sort. No one could tell how it was going to be settled—some talked about the need for luck, and so on. To this the noisy gang replied that they had discussed the matter fully and they wanted some action to be taken. So injustice triumphed, and when the leaders saw that there was nothing to be done they went off.

The crowd then spread it abroad throughout the camp that anyone who wanted to denounce Zwingli as a heretic and betrayer of a pious confederation, should come on to the battlefield. There, with great contempt, they set up a court of injustice on Zwingli which decided that his body should be quartered and the portions burnt. All this was carried into effect by the executioner from Lucerne with abundance of abuse; among other things he said that although some had asserted that Zwingli was a sick man he had in fact never seen a more healthy-looking body.

They threw into the fire the entrails of some pigs that had been slaughtered the previous night and then they turned over the embers so that the pigs offal was mixed with Zwingli’s ashes. This was done close to the high road to Scheuren.
Verdicts on Zwingli from scholars and ignorant alike were varied. All those who knew him were constant in their praises. Even so there were still more who were critical either because they really did not know him or, if they had known him a little, were determined to show their resentment and spoke ill of him.

Myconius, a contemporary historian, reported in 1536 his own version of Zwingli’s death at Kappel.
Three times Zwingli was thrown to the ground by the advancing forces but in each case he stood up again. On the fourth occasion a spear reached his chin and he fell to his knees saying, “They can kill the body but not the soul.” And after these words, he fell asleep in the Lord. After the battle, when our forces had withdrawn to a stronger position, the enemy had time to look for Zwingli’s body, both his presence and his death having been quickly reported. He was found judgment was passed on him, his body was quartered and burnt to ashes. Three days after the foes had gone away Zwingli’s friends came to see if any trace of him was left, and what a miracle! In the midst of the ashes lay his heart whole and undamaged.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Baptists Figure Out Luther's Attitude Toward the Jews...

This must be Luther's attitude toward the Jews month. The Pyromaniacs and their followers are discussing aspects of Luther's negative statements about the Jews. The infamous Mr. Turk makes a good point:
Let's think about this: 500 years ago, someone demonstrates that his view of people different than himself sociologically or politically is pretty provincial and, if we can say it plainly, insulting. In every generation after him, because of his influence in general, every biographer of him points out the fault, decries it, and indicates we shouldn't be like him. All the people who follow this guy theologically and denominationally all repudiate his faulty views, and they confessionally reject these views. His 500 years of influence are thereafter gleaned for the best of his ideas and the worst are literally called out and rejected, and reasonably-healthy churches are thereafter grown.
On the other hand, it appears to me that some of the folks commenting have not actually studied this issue, particularly a participant  going by the name "JMB":
There's no doubt that Bainton and Trueman, among others, condemn what Luther eventually wrote about the Jews. It bothers me a little, though, when they insist that his prejudice was "religious," and not racial. I recognize that Luther's cultural context was different than ours, and that he was extremely disappointed when most of the Jewish people did not accept the gospel - but it's also true that Luther employed every stereotype that is used by anti-Semites today, including the "blood libel." I don't equate the views of Bainton and Trueman on Luther with those of the "cautious Charismatics" on people like Bentley and Hinn, but I wish that Trueman, and others of his stature, would admit that Luther's anti-Semitism was both religious and racial.
Here's my 2 cents on this issueLuther’s later anti-Jewish tracts were written from a position different than current anti-Semitism. Luther was born into a society that was anti-Judaic, but it was not the current anti-Judaic type of society that bases it racism on biological factors. Luther had no objections to integrating converted Jews into Christian society. He had nothing against Jews as “Jews.” He had something against their religion because he believed it denied and blasphemed Christ. This does not mean that what he wrote gets a free pass. What it means (at least to me), is that Luther was primarily against the followers of Judaism. Had someone converted to Judaism, Luther would've been against that person. Had a Jewish person converted to Christianity, Luther would have embraced that person.  

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Protestantism, Luther, and the rise of Nazi Germany

Catholic Answers participants are exploring Protestantism, Luther, and the rise of Nazi Germany. It's an interesting read (though often meandering). What always fascinates me about these sort of discussions from Romanists is the irony of Roman magisterial anti-Semitism... you know, the elephant in the room (see also, this post and this post).

One aspect of this discussion did catch my attention: "How could the two churches [Roman and Protestant] have prevented the rise of Hitler? How could they have better worked together? Hind sight is 20/20, but that does not mean we can't try to learn from the past."

Well, whatever one wants to consider "church" it's certain to me that no large scale lesson was really learned from Nazi Germany, at least here in the USA. I say this because, while the majority of those folks who call themselves "Christian" abhor the Nazi atrocities and think if they were there- they would never allow it... how many of those same people (and I include myself) are actively trying to stop the daily murder carried out under the technical term, "abortion"? I mean, this morning, I didn't get up, go down to the local abortion clinic, and try and stop a murder.

Why? Because I would probably be arrested? The lesson here (at least as I apply it to myself), is that in society the overwhelming majority of us don't want to stick out in society and face potential hardship for ourselves and our families.

As the Catholic Answers participant says,"hind sight is 20/20." History is tricky thing. We look back and we're so righteous and intolerant of previous recorded evils, thinking that if it were "me" or "us" we're enlightened enough not to engage in moral atrocities and failures. I'm not so sure we are. It seems like when a wide-spread moral evil occurs, the majority follow along like sheep, with only a few brave souls standing out from the masses, for example).

Friday, October 18, 2013

Martin Luther Believed in Devotion to Mary?

Recently-across-the-Tiber Jason Reed says:"And then, as I started reading the reformers, they're Catholic! Luther believed in the devotion to Mary." While Luther said nice things about Mary, his mature Mariology is not modern-day Roman Catholic Mariology. Saying nice things about Mary is not the same thing as Roman Catholic Marian devotion, both then and now.

Young Luther, Saints, and the Virgin
Young Luther was enveloped in a religious climate consisting of a host of saints and superstitions. All worked together in a grand scheme of relief from the ravages of medieval life as well as appeasing the always-watching wrathful God. The Virgin Mary played a prominent role in medieval culture. To her was bestowed great veneration and devotion. Roman Catholic Historian Joseph Lortz explains,
Everything was dedicated to her and bore her name – places, churches, alters, girls. The widespread custom of singing the Salve Regina on Saturday evenings arose as a means of extolling her fame. The devout soul of the people was as much expressed in fervent hymns to Mary and legends about her, as in the countless number of paintings and sculptures of the Madonna, some of them very beautiful. Many confraternities were formed in her honor, and many endowments made. In all of this period her praise was never silent.[2]
Participating in the cults of sainthood with all the fervent zeal of the time, A Tabletalk records young Martin called on three saints at every Mass. He recalled selecting twenty-one saints, "Thus I came the round in a week"[1]. Another recollection from Luther’s Tabletalk expresses the impact medieval Mariolatry had on the young Martin Luther. Sometime in 1503, a Tabletalk records he unintentionally stabbed his shin on a short sword and cut an artery in his leg. Thinking himself near death from the wound, he cried out, "Mary, help!" Help indeed arrived, but in the form of a surgeon who dressed the wound. Later that evening, the wound broke open again. The same fear of death gripped him, and Mary was called upon once more to save his life. Had Mary saved Luther? The mature Luther looking back on this experience realized how far from the spiritual help of Christ he actually was: "I would have died with my trust in Mary"[3]. In the Augustinian monastery, meditation on the blessed mother was also a unique channel to make the heart fertile for divine grace. Mary was crowned with a special degree of glory that surpassed others in the divine realm. Luther at this time was influenced by the Mariology of Bernard of Clairvaux. Later recollecting on this influence, Luther stated:
St. Bernard, who was a pious man otherwise, also said: "Behold how Christ chides, censures, and condemns the Pharisees so harshly throughout the Gospel, whereas the Virgin Mary is always kind and gentle and never utters an unfriendly word." From this he inferred: "Christ is given to scolding and punishing, but Mary has nothing but sweetness and love." Therefore Christ was generally feared; we fled from Him and took refuge with the saints, calling upon Mary and others to deliver us from our distress. We regarded them all as holier than Christ. Christ was only the executioner, while the saints were our mediators.[4]
He also recollected,
Christ in His mercy was hidden from my eyes. I wanted to become justified before God through the merits of the saints. This gave rise to the petition for the intercession of the saints. On a portrait St. Bernard, too, is portrayed adoring the Virgin Mary as she directs her Son, Christ, to the breasts that suckled Oh, how many kisses we bestowed on Mary![5]
Reflecting on this Luther concluded, that even in St Bernard's incessant praise of Mary as she directs the sinner toward Christ, Bernard left out Christ completely: "Bernard filled a whole sermon with praise of the Virgin Mary and in so doing forgot to mention what happened [the incarnation of Christ]; so highly did he… esteem Mary" [6]. Thus, young Luther partook in Mariolatry, but the mature Luther looking back saw only the excesses of medieval devotion to Mary. He saw that she had been adorned with attributes that only belonged to Christ.

Martin Luther Prayed to Mary?
Roman Catholic devotion to Mary includes a heavy practice of praying to Mary. In a sermon of August 15, 1516, Luther was to say, "O blessed mother! O most worthy virgin! Remember us, and grant that the Lord do such great things to us too"[7]. In 1519, Luther still could exhort his congregation to "call upon the holy angels, particularly his own angel, the Mother of God, and all the apostles and saints"[8] as a comfort in the hour when each was to face their own death. By 1522 things had changed. Erfurt Evangelists questioning Luther on the intercession of saints received this response,
I beseech in Christ that your preachers forbear entering upon questions concerning the saints in heaven and the deceased, and I ask you to turn the attention of people away from these matters in view of the fact… that they are neither profitable nor necessary for salvation. This is also reason why God decided not to let us know anything about His dealings with the deceased. Surely he is not committing a sin who does not call upon any saint but only clings firmly to the one mediator, Jesus Christ.[9]
In the same year, Luther put together his Personal Prayer Book (which included the traditional Hail Mary). Luther though was to place the Hail Mary in an evangelical context, and this to the consternation of his critics. An early pamphlet criticized his prayer book as a "subtle mixture of poison with much that was good." The "poison" was Luther’s evangelical interpretation of the Hail Mary, “which was bound to offend many who were accustomed to, the cult of the Virgin"[10.] Luther knew that prayers to, and faith in the saints violated the First Commandment. In his understanding, the role of faith or trust in the First Commandment determines whether one worships the true God, or an idol. To have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe in Him with the whole heart. This trust and the faith of the heart alone make either God or an idol. If faith and trust are right, then your god is the true God. If it is wrong, then you do not have the true God. That to which the heart clings is really your God. If your heart clings and entrusts itself to something God has made, then your faith is wrong, and you are caught in your sin, and you stand under the crushing condemnation of God’s law. Luther said:
No one can deny that by such saint worship we have now come to the point where we have actually made utter idols of the Mother of God and the saints, and that because of the service we have rendered and the works we have performed in their honor we have sought comfort more with them than with Christ Himself. Thereby faith in Christ has been destroyed.[11]
As Luther's thinking was transformed by a Christ centered hermeneutic, it was inevitable that the harsh judge and the silent idols would be replaced by the true God of the gospel. Christ the cruel judge who had to be appeased by "penance, confession, and works of satisfaction, [and] with the intercession of his mother and of all the saints"[12] , was now Christ the "comfort us poor sinners in the most loving and effective manner"[13]. One was no longer saved by “works, monkery, Masses, and saint worship but exclusively through this Christ" [14].

Luther in Context?
In other words, as Luther's thought progressed, his "Marian devotion" diminished. This hasn't stopped Rome's apologists though from sifting his writings to come up with alleged proof that Luther held some sort of lifelong devotion. One Roman apologist claimed that Luther was "..extraordinarily devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary." As proof, Luther's last sermon at Wittenberg was cited and it was pointed out that he "praised" Mary. Yes, the sermon mentions Mary. Luther did not say or imply though that Mary should be honored. Luther's tone is quite sarcastic, and his main point is that Christ alone should be worshiped. Luther mocks those who would call upon Mary or venerate her. Luther insists that those who seek Christ through Mary do so by the use of "reason," and "reason is by nature a harmful whore." There are a number of these sort of quotes, that when put back in context say something much different than Rome's apologists say they do. There's the quote from Luther that states, "The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart." In context though, Luther's point is that whatever respect Mary was due, the Church of his day had collectively had gone far beyond it."The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart" is not a positive statement, but a negative statement. This sentence placed back in its context is in regard to excessive Marian devotion!

Setting the Record Straight
I certainly would be interested in finding out what Mr. Reed read that drove him to the conclusion that "Luther believed in the devotion to Mary." Often times when I interact with Roman Catholics on Luther's Mariology, they point out a number of similarities between Romanist Mariology and Luther's Mariology. The irony of course is that in other theological areas, Luther is maligned. When it comes to the topic of Mary though, Roman Catholic sentiment towards Luther shifts considerably. Luther becomes the staunch supporter of Mary; a leader that all contemporary Protestants should learn a great lesson in Mariology from. This drastic shift is puzzling- particularly since Luther’s abandoning of the intercession of the saints and his doctrine of justification significantly changes his Marian approach. Yes, There are some similarities. Luther did believe in Mary's perpetual virginity. On the other hand, proving Luther held a lifelong belief in the immaculate conception is simply something that cannot be proven from the historical record. Sometimes Roman Catholics will argue Luther never denied the Assumption of Mary (therefore he may have believed it). But when one looks at the context of the quote they use as proof, it becomes obvious they're not doing good historical research. There's a bunch of other ridiculous arguments they put forth as proof of Luther's devotion to Mary. They say that Luther preached on all the Marian feast days. What they don't tell you is that Luther abandoned the festival of Mary’s Immaculate Conception and her Assumption. Even with the extant sermons available from Luther on these days, the topic more often than not, is not about Mary. Perhaps the silliest of all was when Mark Shea said Luther's devotion to Mary was proved by Peter Vischer's sculpture of the Coronation of the Virgin which adorned Luther's tomb. For more of my exploration of Luther's Mariology, see my master list.

The colors of the Roman Catholic picture of Luther’s devotion to Mary become blurry and unfocused when examined in the light of his writings and theology. Once the intercessory role of Mary was abandoned, Luther saw the idol medieval theology had created. The medieval veneration had its sole purpose of appealing to her for daily and ultimate help. Her attributes were worshipped in order to gain her favor. To suggest that Luther held a virtually Roman Mariology is to imply his veneration of Mary and the tradition of worshipping her attributes. It is to say that Luther sought her as a means to her Son. For Luther though, quite the opposite is the case:
Christ is not so much a judge and an angry God but one who bears and carries our sins, a mediator. Away with the papists, who have set Christ before us as a terrible judge and have turned the saints into intercessors! There they have added fuel to the fire. By nature we are already afraid of God. Blessed therefore are those who as uncorrupted young people arrived at this understanding, that they can say: “I only knew Jesus Christ as the bearer of my sins. [15]
1.WA TR 4:305-306
2.Joseph Lortz, The Reformation in Germany, trans. Ronald Walls (London: Darton, Longman, and Todd, 1968), 1:112
3. LW 54:15
4. LW 22:377
5. LW 22:145
6. LW 54:84
7. WA 1:79; cf. Ewald Plass, What Luther Says Vol. III, (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959), 1257
8. LW 42:113
9. WA 10(2): 165; cf. What Luther Says, Vol. III, 1253
10. LW 43:9-10
11. WA 11:415; cf. What Luther Says, Vol. III, 1254
12. LW 40:376
13. LW 40:375
14. LW 24:119
15. LW 17:224

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Luther: "It cannot be proved by the scriptures, that infant baptism was instituted by Christ, or begun by the first Christians after the apostles"

The Lutherans on the CARM board have been going at it with a few Baptists over infant baptism. Here's what caught my attention:

Martin Luther, the great father of the Reformation, says: "It cannot be proved by the scriptures, that infant baptism was instituted by Christ, or begun by the first Christians after the apostles. Apud Van. Inf. Bapt., part 2, p. 8.
Why are you Lutherans opposing your founder ?? [source]

The person citing this quote said he cited his source (Apud Van. Inf. Bapt., part 2, p. 8). This refers to a secondary source: "Vanity of Infant Baptism" by "R.A." or "A.R." from 1642, London. He then used this source for documentation (which cites the same thing). The quote certainly has been used frequently by Baptists. As I looked around for it, I didn't find any primary source citations. In regard to Vanity of Infant Baptism, one old author states:
This work was published in 1642. I have not been able to obtain it, but from the attention which was paid to it on both sides, we may naturally infer that it was then considered a work of a good deal of consequence. Dr. Featley has belabored this "tractate of A. R., entitled The ranitie of childrens baptitme," in fifteen pages of his Dippers' Dipt, that was published in 1645. He bestows upon the work and its author a large portion of those opprobrious epithets for which he was peculiarly distinguished. It is mentioned with much respect by Crosby, Ivimey, and other baptist historians; and in Teasdale's historical discourse, relative to the history of the first baptist church in New Haven, Conn., he informs us that Mrs. Eaton, the wife of the first Governor of that province, became tinctured with baptist sentiments from reading this book, which was loaned to her by lady Moody. This took place in 1664. The full name of the author I have never been able to learn.
[Edited to add: Tony Byrne of Theological Meditations submitted the following:
It appears that you are referencing "The second part of the vanity and childishnes of infants baptisme wherein the grounds from severall Scriptures usually brought for to justifie the same, are urged and answered. As also the nature of the divers covenants made with Abraham and his seed, briefly opened and applied." by Andrew Ritor [A.R.]. It seems that this work is available on EEBO (Early English Books Online) according to WorldCat. The first part of Ritor's work (which has nothing about Luther in it) can be obtained online here (click), but I don't think the second part is available online.]

And also:
"Concerning the time when Infants Baptisme was first invented, Luther in his Booke of Anabaptisme acknowledgeth, that it cannot be proved, by Sacred Scripture, that childrens Baptisme was instituted by Christ, or begun by the first Christians after the Apostles, for one thousand yeares since it came to be in use in the church, and was established by Pope Innocentius." A. R. [Andrew Ritor], The Second Part of the Vanity and Childishness of Infants Baptisme (London, 1642), 8.
Tony Byrne's help established that the quote in question isn't actually a direct quote. It's a summary statement based on Luther's treatise, Concerning Rebaptism (1528). I suggest if you really want to know what Luther felt about this subject, read the entire treatise. This is only a snippet of an extended argument (Luther makes multiple points).

In the second place, this is an important consideration: No heresy endures to the end, but always, as St. Peter says, soon comes to light and is revealed as disgraceful. So St. Paul mentions Jannes and Jambres and their like [II Tim. 3:8f.], whose folly is finally plain to all. Were child baptism now wrong God would certainly not have permitted it to continue so long, nor let it become so universally and thoroughly established in all Christendom, but it would sometime have gone down in disgrace. The fact that the Anabaptists now dishonor it does not mean anything final or injurious to it. Just as God has established that Christians in all the world have accepted the Bible as Bible, the Lord’s Prayer as Lord’s Prayer, and faith of a child as faith, so also he has established child baptism and kept it from being rejected while all kinds of heresies have disappeared which are much more recent and later than child baptism. This miracle of God is an indication that child baptism must be right. He has not so upheld the papacy, which also is an innovation and has never been accepted by all Christians of the world as has child baptism, the Bible, faith, or the Lord’s Prayer, etc.
You say, this does not prove that child baptism is certain. For there is no passage in Scripture for it. My answer: that is true. From Scripture we cannot clearly conclude that you could establish child baptism as a practice among the first Christians after the apostles. But you can well conclude that in our day no one may reject or neglect the practice of child baptism which has so long a tradition, since God actually not only has permitted it, but from the beginning so ordered, that it has not yet disappeared.
For where we see the work of God we should yield and believe in the same way as when we hear his Word, unless the plain Scripture tells us otherwise. I indeed am ready to let the papacy be considered as a work of God. But since Scripture is against it, I consider it as a work of God but not as a work of grace. It is a work of wrath from which to flee, as other plagues also are works of God, but works of wrath and displeasure. (LW 40:255-256)

A Lutheran on the CARM boards maintains that the Luther's Concerning Rebaptism is not the source of the obscure quote in question.

I lean towards the translation of the obscure quote to be either a different translation or a less accurate translation. I believe it is an "actual quote" that may have morphed over the years originating from Luther's Concerning Rebaptism.

I've been through a number of situations like this. The secondary work referred to: "Apud Van. Inf. Bapt" dates from 1642. This tells me that if someone in 1642 had access to Luther's writings, they probably only had access to Luther's most popular writings. Brecht notes that Concerning Rebaptism is Luther's only major work against Anabaptist theology (there is a sermon from Luther on this topic that was often available as well throughout the centuries). As I've discovered in just about every instance of secondary Luther citations from the 16th-17th centuries, the primary source was not some unknown letter or lesser-known writing. Interestingly (at least to me) is that one of Luther's earliest papal critics (Cochlaeus) cites the same sort of sentiment against Luther (using Concerning Rebaptism), that Luther held that infant baptism cannot be proved from Scripture. In other words, this charge against Luther came on the scene early and gained popularity early, and did so because of Luther's writing, Concerning Rebaptism.

Often, if one finds a Luther citation that dates back to a secondary source from either the 16th or 17th Centuries, there can a wide dynamic range in the translation. Without having access to "Apud Van. Inf. Bapt," it's hard to know exactly which source the author used. Did he rely on another secondary source (like Cochlaeus), did he have a German copy of the treatise, or did he have a translation of the German in another language? When the quote was revised by from the old English to new English, did it morph is some way? This probably accounts for the slight variations between the LW translation and that allegedly taken from Apud Van. Inf. Bapt.

Probably the most humorous example of the misuse of a Luther quote I've been involved with was when I nailed Roman apologist Steve Ray for mis-citing Luther. Ray brought in two of his buddies, one a self-professed Pro-Romanist apologist, the other a lawyer, all spending weeks and weeks trying to prove I had the wrong source, and that the quote Steve Ray was using is from an unknown source that's out there somewhere. The quote Ray was using similarly dated back to secondary sources from the 16th and 17th Centuries. Some of Ray's buddies reluctantly agreed I had it right all along, Ray though still holds out the possibility that some mysterious Luther writing putting his particular spin on the quote he used may be out there.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

"History presents few characters that have suffered more senseless misrepresentation, even bald caricature, than Tetzel"

From the Catholic Answers forums comes the following:

History presents few characters that have suffered more senseless misrepresentation, even bald caricature, than Tetzel. "Even while he lived stories which contained an element of legend gathered around his name, until at last, in the minds of the uncritical Protestant historians, he became the typical indulgence-monger, upon whom any well-worn anecdote might be fathered" (Beard, "Martin Luther", London, 1889, 210). For a critical scholarly study which shows him in a proper perspective, he had to wait the researches of our own time, mainly at the hands of Dr. Nicholas Paulus, who is closely followed in this article. In the first place, his teaching regarding the indulgences for the living was correct.


An indulgence, he writes, can be applied only "to the pains of sin which are confessed and for which there is contrition". "No one", he furthermore adds, "secures an indulgence unless he have true contrition". The confessional letters (confessionalia) could of course be obtained for a mere pecuniary consideration without demanding contrition. But such document did not secure an indulgence. It was simply a permit to select a proper confessor, who only after a contrite confession would absolve from sin and reserved cases, and who possessed at the same time facilities to impart the plenary indulgence (Paulus, "Johann Tetzel", 103).

These two snips are from directly taken from the old Catholic Encyclopedia article on Tetzel.The historical record, even from some Roman sources, proves that Tetzel was a main factor that sparked the Reformation. For instance, Roman historian Hartmann Grisar states,
" his sermons he advocated a certain opinion held by some Schoolmen (though in no sense a doctrine of the Church), viz. that an indulgence gained for the departed was at once and infallibly applied to this or that soul for whom it was destined."(Luther 1, p. 343).
Grisar cites Cardinal Cajetan as a "great theologian" against Tetzel's teaching on this (also claiming Tetzel "was no great theologian"). Grisar though admits "the more highly placed Indulgence Commissaries did not scruple, in their official proclamations, to set forth as certain this doubtful scholastic opinion" (p. 344). This sort of apologetic answer downplays the fact that during this time period there was no official doctrine or dogma as to the effect of the indulgence upon those in Purgatory.

Roman historian Joseph Lortz states:
There is little doubt that Tetzel's preaching was well summed up in the phrase, "a coin in the box opens heaven to your soul," and there is no doubt either that the deal between Albrecht and the Curia as well as the lively trade in indulgences would have been condemned as the worst type of simony in the early Church [Joseph Lortz, The Reformation, a Problem for Today (Maryland: The Newman Press, 1964), p. 79].
For excerpts from Tetzel's sermons, see this link, and for more information on Tetzel's financial interests in the selling of indulgences, see this link.

Note above, the Catholic Encyclopedia mentions "Dr. Nicholas Paulus." I'm familiar with Paulus, but as far as I know, the book has not been translated into English. I would be very interested in reading the study put together by Paulus (The New Catholic Encyclopedia states of Paulus,
With a genuine love for truth he sought to do justice to Luther's reputation, but he also helped to undo the legends about him: Luthers Lebensende (Frankfurt 1898); Johann Tetzel, der Ablassprediger (Mainz 1899); Hexenwahn und Hexenprozess im 16. Jh. (Frankfurt 1910); Protestantismus und Toleranz im 16. Jh. (Frankfurt 1911). His chief work, however, is Geschichte des Ablasses im Mittelalter (3 v. Paderborn 1922–23). Because of his search for the whole truth and his faithfulness to the facts, he prepared the way toward a new Catholic outlook on the Reformation.
Keep in mind as well, Tetzel did attempt to defend himself and his practices in writing, so I would be curious to see if Tetzel was developing a defense for his earlier abuses, and how Paulus interpreted Tetzel's actions. I would also be curious to see how Tetzel preached and then compare it to the "fine print" of the confessionalia. In a book that gave an overview of many of the Luther studies done around the time of Paulus, note the following comment from Reu's Thirty Five Years of Luther Research:
Although Tetzel, who was commissioned for his special trade, and of whom Paulus treats in a monogravure (1889), later after his acquittal, taught that the indulgences "served solely in the case of punishment of sins that had been repented of and confessed," yet his instructions read, outside of indulgence for punishment of sin, of the plenaria omnium peccatorum remissio, and without repenting one could buy an indulgence upon the presentation of which any promiscuously chosen priest was forced once during lifetime and in the hour of death to grant to the professor a general absolution.
In the same way an indulgence for the dead could be had, for "as soon as the money clinked in the bottom of the chest, the souls of the deceased friends forthwith went into Heaven," was, according to Prierias, actually preached as "mera et catholica Veritas." Therefore, it was no trivial issue on which Luther's battle began; it was an institution, representative of the entire system which brought it forth, and because of whose abuses the entire world suffered.
What's also interesting to do when an entry from the old Catholic Encyclopedia is cited is to compare that entry to the New Catholic Encyclopedia. In the old version, a most spirited defense of Tetzel is put forth, whereas in the New version, there's only a mention that certain charges against Tetzel were spurious.  The main point of contention though remains the same. The old encyclopedia states:

As much cannot be said about his teaching regarding indulgences for the dead. The couplet attributed to him — As soon as the gold in the casket rings The rescued soul to heaven springs, like that attributed to Luther, Who loves not wine and wife and song Remains a fool his life long; though verbally spurious, can in both instances be in substance unfailingly traced to the writings of their respective authors. By Tetzel they are substantially acknowledged in his Frankfort theses. Here he accepted the mere school opinion of a few obscure writers, which overstepped the contents of papal indulgence Bulls. This opinion found no recognition but actual condemnation at the hands of authoritative writers, and was rejected in explicit terms by Cardinal Cajetan as late as 1517-19. By the teaching he laid himself open to just censure and reproach. To condition a plenary indulgence for the dead on the mere gift of money, without contrition on the part of the giver, was as repugnant to the teaching of the Church, as it violated every principle of elementary justice. "Preachers act in the name of the Church", writes Cardinal Cajetan, "so long as they teach the doctrines of Christ and the Church; but if they teach, guided by their own minds and arbitrariness of will, things of which they are ignorant, they cannot pass as representatives of the Church; it need not be wondered at that they go astray" (Paulus, "Johann Tetzel", 165). It was this deviation from the correct teaching of the Church and the obtrusive and disgraceful injection of the treasury chest, that led to abuses and scandals reprobated by such contemporaries as Cochlæus, Emser, and Duke George (Paulus, op. cit., 117-18). "Grave abuses arose; the attitude of the preachers, the manner of offering and publishing the indulgences aroused many scandals; above all, Tetzel is in no way to be exonerated" (Janssen-Pastor, "Geschichte des deutsch. Volkes", 18th ed., Freiburg, II, 84)
 In the New version, the Tetzel entry states:
Tetzel was orthodox in regard to indulgences for the living. In regard to those for the dead, however, he followed the teaching contained in the Mainz Instruction issued to preachers of indulgences. That is, he taught the then widespread, erroneous theological opinion that indulgences for the dead were gained independently of dispositions of contrition in the person seeking the indulgence, who also had the right to apply them absolutely to a specific soul in purgatory.

Addendum on "types" of Indulgences

For a good overview of Tetzel, see Brecht's first volume on Luther, around page 175 or so and following.

Tetzel's indulgence preaching focused on four chief graces:

1. The complete remission of all sins (including remission of the punishment in purgatory). Earning the right amount of grace for this was possible under certain conditions: contrition of heart, confession (or at least the intention of doing so), visits to 7 churches with particular prayers offered, monetary payment

2. The possibility of obtaining a confessional letter: this enabled a person to receive absolution from all sins (including those committed up to the time of one's death). This could be obtained without confession.

3. Buy a confessional letter that promised the person who bought it and his dead relatives "participation in all the church's goods, i.e, its prayers, fasts, alms, and other pious works." This could be obtained without confession.

4. "Remission of the punishment of sins for souls in purgatory by means of the Pope's intercession when one paid for these souls"

Monday, October 07, 2013

The National Shrine of The Infant Jesus of Prague

This Saturday I was passing through Prague, OK (pronounced "Pray-g" when you're in Oklahoma, by the way) and since I had some time to kill, decided to stop at the National Shrine of the Infant Jesus.

What I found was a statue dressed up by faithful adherents.

It reminded me a great deal of the Shinto-Buddhist statues I used to see all over the place in Japan, where the pagans gave "love offerings" to their pagan small-g gods, like so:

Shrine to some pagan god in Kagoshima, Japan. Look how some worshiper was so nice to put a hat and sweater on this dumb idol so it would have protection from the rain. Awwww. Maybe it can't grant favors as efficiently if it's wet and cold. Isaiah 44:9-20

I admit to wondering aloud where this idea comes from, that it's a good idea to depict Jesus as an infant. Obviously there are those among my brethren who believe it's never justifiable to visibly depict Jesus in whatever form (I don't entirely agree but am quite sympathetic to the position), but why an infant? What precisely did Jesus ever do as an infant? My guess is that He ate, slept, made cute noises, quietly learned, and pooped. But the Infant Shrine website tells us this:
Many pilgrims visit the Shrine every day to ask the Little Infant for His help and to thank Him for favors He has granted.
They are asking a nonexistent entity for these favors. Little Infant Jesus does not exist any more than little infant Rhology exists. Infancy is intended to be a mere phase in the life of a person, and it doesn't last long. God created Adam and Eve as fully-grown people and while He intended that they reproduce in the Garden and commanded Noah's family (ie, all of humanity) to multiply and fill the Earth after the Flood as well, He did that to produce worshipers. Infants don't worship, they don't teach others to believe all that Jesus commanded, they don't go into all the world and make disciples. They eat, cry, sleep, make cute noises, quietly learn, and poop.
My best guess is that Roman Catholics make a big deal out of Infant Jesus because Jesus is more approachable when a baby than a full-grown man. Already within Roman theology the idea that Jesus is a hard-hearted Judge to be feared is strong and leads people to ask His mom Mary to help them ask Jesus for stuff, since who can refuse one's mother?

This shrine's slogan is "The more you honor me, the more I will bless you." I can only assume this is an extra-biblical revelation from Jesus Himself. To be consistent, should not Roman Catholics start a TertioCanon and append it to the backs of their Bibles, so as to contain the revelations God is giving here in these latter days? 

The saddest part of all about this shrine actually surprised me. As I got closer I noticed this scene at the base of the statue:

Yes, those are coins, much like one might toss into a fountain for "good luck". What in the world do people think these trinkets are supposed to mean to Almighty God who took on flesh and actually died a horrible torturous death for the sins of His people? And a couple of quarters at some lousy shrine is going to attract more love and favor? The evidence of gross deception in play here had me amazed and saddened. At least I got to take the opportunity to teach my kids about such deception and to think about the differences between this kind of nonsense and biblical worship of Jesus. They're getting it, too.

Oh, and I found a good use for some of the quarters.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Luther on Melusine, the Devil, and the Succubus

Over on the CARM Lutheran board comes the following:

This sounds like a strange topic for the Lutheran Forum but I thought it would be a change. I am watching the TV Series The White Queen, The Red Queen and the Kingmaker's Daughter on cable. It is the story of Edward IV, his wife Elizabeth and their families. Elizabeth's mother was reported to be a witch that could call up storms. She claimed to be a descendant of Melusine.
The reason I posted this here is because I read that Luther wrote something about this "Fairy Goddess" and that he believed in her. I thought it would be an interesting look into the history of Luther. Are there any historical writings about supernatural beings in our church's history?

Posted with this question was a link to a Wikipedia entry: Melusine. The entry recounts the various renditions of the "feminine spirit of fresh waters in sacred springs and rivers." The article states,

Martin Luther knew and believed in the story of another version of Melusine, die Melusina zu Lucelberg (Lucelberg in Silesia), whom he referred to several times as a succubus (Works, Erlangen edition, volume 60, pp 37–42).

"Erlangen edition, volume 60, pp 37–42" as cited in this Wiki article refers to the Tabletalk. This is page 37 (cf TR 3, 517 ff). Note the use of the word "succubus" in the first paragraph. The entries in question appear to be around Tabletalk entries 3676, not included in the English edition of LW.

This brief sentence has been cut-and-pasted all over the Internet, showing once again the power of  Wikipedia.  The entry is correct that the source referred to mentions the Melusine and also a succubus. The article doesn't mention that the source in question is the Tabletalk, something Luther did not actually write. The various Tabletalk statements referenced refer to Luther's belief that the devil could take the form of a woman and seduce men. In the Tabletalk entry in question, The Melusine is briefly mentioned and said to be the devil.

Philip Schaff says of Luther's beliefs in the devil:
Luther was brought up in all the mediaeval superstitious concerning demons, ghosts, witches, and sorcerers. His imagination clothed ideas in concrete, massive forms. The Devil was to him the personal embodiment of all evil and mischief in the world. Hence he figures very largely in his theology and religious experience. He is the direct antipode of God, and the archfiend of Christ and of men. As God is pure love, so the Devil is pure selfishness, hatred, and envy. He is endowed with high intellectual gifts, as bad men often surpass good men in prudence and understanding. He was originally an archangel, but moved by pride and envy against the Son of God, whose incarnation and saving work he foresaw, he rose in rebellion against it. He commands an organized army of fallen angels and bad men in constant conflict with God and the good angels. He is the god of this world, and knows how to rule it. He has power over nature, and can make thunder and lightning, hail and earthquake, fleas and bed-bugs. He is the ape of God. He can imitate Christ, and is most dangerous in the garb of an angel of light. He is most busy where the Word of God is preached. He is proud and haughty, although he can appear most humble. He is a liar and a murderer from the beginning. He understands a thousand arts. He hates men because they are creatures of God. He is everywhere around them, and tries to hurt and seduce them. He kindles strife and enmity. He is the author of all heresies and persecutions. He invented popery, as a counterpart of the true kingdom of God. He inflicts trials, sickness, and death upon individuals. He tempts them to break the Ten Commandments, to doubt God’s word, and to blaspheme. He leads into infidelity and despair. He hates matrimony, mirth, and music. He can not bear singing, least of all "spiritual songs." He holds the human will captive, and rides it as his donkey. He can quote Scripture, but only as much of it as suits his purpose. A Christian should know that the Devil is nearer him than his coat or shirt, yea, than his own skin. Luther reports that he often disputed with the Devil in the night, about the state of his soul, so earnestly that he himself perspired profusely, and trembled. Once the Devil told him that he was a great sinner. "I knew that long ago," replied Luther, "tell me something new. Christ has taken my sins upon himself, and forgiven them long ago. Now grind your teeth." At other times he returned the charge and tauntingly asked him, "Holy Satan, pray for me," or "Physician, cure thyself." The Devil assumes visible forms, and appears as a dog or a hog or a goat, or as a flame or star, or as a man with horns. He is noisy and boisterous. He is at the bottom of all witchcraft and ghost-trickery. He steals little children and substitutes others in their place, who are mere lumps of flesh and torment the parents, but die young. Luther was disposed to trace many mediaeval miracles of the Roman Catholic Church to the agency of Satan. He believed in daemones incubos et succubos.
Some of the older English translations of the Tabletalk include Luther's understanding of the Devil abilities. In his later exposition of Genesis, Luther states:
So far as incubi and succubi are concerned, I do not deny, but believe, that the devil may happen to be either a succubus or an incubus; for I have heard many relate their very own experiences. Augustine, too, declares that he heard the same sort of story from trustworthy people whom he felt compelled to believe. It delights Satan if he can delude us by taking on the appearance either of a young man or of a woman. But that anything can be born from the union of a devil and a human being is simply untrue. Such an assertion is sometimes made about hideous infants that resemble demons very much. I have seen some of these. But I am convinced either that these were deformed, but not begotten, by the devil, or that they are actual devils with flesh that they have either counterfeited or stolen from somewhere else. If with God’s permission the devil can take possession of an entire human being and change his disposition, what would be so remarkable about his misshaping the body and bringing about the birth of either blind or crippled children? (LW 2:11)
On a related subject, see the article, Martin Luther and Childhood Disability in 16th CenturyGermany, in which the author discusses the alleged children (or "changelings") produced by such unions between the devil and humans.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Boz Tchividjian shocks those who aren't paying attention

Billy Graham's grandson takes to the HuffPo to make the "shocking" claim that sex abuse is worse among evangelicals than among Roman Catholics.

I have a few thoughts about such a claim.

1) Would anyone care about his assertion if he didn't have the grandfather he has? Would HuffPo feature this interview?

2) How is he defining "evangelical"? Does that include Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and groups that basically qualify as cults? What about Church of Christ, who holds the heretical view that water baptism is a pre-requisite for justification?

3) Does he mean sex abuse of children or is he including, say, married pastors committing adultery with other women in his flock?

4) The main reason for "pointing" (as Tchividjian puts it) to Roman Catholics is not that Roman Catholics commit acts of sexual abuse. Who could deny that professing Protestants , or yes, "evangelicals", have done the same?
Rather, the main problem has been that unlike Protestant churches, the Roman Catholic Church claims to be unified under the Pope and Magisterium, to have a holy hierarchy and government, to be the One True Church that Jesus founded, preserved by God all the way from then to today, and that this hierarchy and government has not only ignored but indeed actively protected and hidden men who were known to be gross sexual predators.
Unless and until some grand sex-abuse-concealment conspiracy among numerous different "evangelical" organisations or churches or denominations, what we have chez evangelicalism is an example of bad apples in a large basket, rather than a rotten root. (And no, I'm not denying that the number of apples  is probably quite high.)

The closest parallel to Rome mentioned in the article is probably the missions agencies, who allegedly systematically move and hide known sexual predators. If this is true, those predators need to be called to repent by their church and prosecuted for their crimes, and if they will not repent, they should be excommunicated by their church while under prosecution. The missions agency should fire them, obviously, instead of hiding them. That's a no-brainer.

And for the record, given my experiences with a very large missions organisation whose name rhymes with Shminternational Gission Toard, it would not surprise me in the slightest to learn that many people within that agency are guilty as Tchividjian contends. The hierarchy of that particular place has a well-earned reputation for hiding and ignoring sin, and sin has a way of getting too big for the leash you try to put on it.

Regardless of what definition he is using of "evangelical" and his misunderstandings of the actual issues at hand with the Roman priest abuse scandal, I applaud Tchividjian's efforts and his shining a light on this dark place. Far too many in the evangelical and Reformed world seem to think that calling sinners and possible false converts to repentance in the hopes of reconciling them to God and to their neighbor(s) is bad and sinful, that it's "talking smack about the Bride of Christ". They could not be more wrong and it would be hard to imagine how it could be more self-serving.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Contemporary Lutheran Worship?

I came across a heartbreaking tale from a Lutheran on the CARM boards: "Deeply upset after Sunday Service." One particular section caught my attention:
And then the singing. Many songs were repetitive, vapid, touchy-feels nonsense songs designed to stoke emotions without singing God's word to you. Imagine my shock when I looked down as saw only the first stanza printed in my bulletin:
Na na na na na na
Na na na na na na
Na na na na na na
Na na na na na na
I post this link because I know Lutherans read this blog (even though many of them won't admit it or link to it, kudos to the Lutherans though who fess up), including Lutheran pastors. If you've got any words of wisdom for the author of this post, you should log on to the CARM  Lutheran forum and help out.

Contemporary worship can infuriate some folks. I come across people angered or hurt by the contemporary worship movement all the time (and before my Roman Catholic readers think their churches have the answer, they don't. Roman churches have their fair share of "contemporary services" as well, with the same sort of angry people fed up with them).

I attend a rather conservative Reformed church. I always come across new faces... people visiting our church, and many of them staying with us after a few visits. It's not that all of them are already "Reformed" looking for another Reformed church. Some of these new folks are refugees from the contemporary worship movement. They've gone to churches on the "cutting edge" of worship... rock bands, light shows, drama, innovation, etc.  For some folks, this "experience" of contemporary worship ceases to be a positive experience and turns into anger and discontent. They leave their contemporary churches often viewed as troublemakers and nitpickers.

When they walk into the church I attend, it's like a flashback to  the 1950's. There's a consistent weekly liturgy that includes readings of law and gospel,  100 year-old+ hymns of response with an organ and piano (and no flashy worship leader with an overhead), there's actually hymn books and Bibles (that people are expected to use) there's at least a 10 minute pastoral prayer, and an expository sermon mentioning sin, repentance, and salvation, condemnation from the law, salvation in Christ, and application as to how to take and apply all of it as one is conformed into the image of Christ.  And, to make it even worse, the children are expected to sit through the whole thing, Sunday morning and Sunday night.

The ironic part to me is that some of these refugees have no idea what "Reformed" is, even after attending for a good length of time. Rather, they're conservative folks that like conservative things. I'm not angered by this irony, I just find it interesting.

Lest anyone think these ramblings are my way of throwing contemporary worship "under the bus," I actually don't have a problem with many contemporary services. I know many people that love their contemporary services, and despite the loud music and repetitive choruses (and um, recall some of Psalms use repetition and the sacred psalmist writes about himself and his feelings?), the "contemporary" minister preaches the Gospel. Give me a Reformed person who thinks the organ is more spiritual than a guitar, and I'm going to have a nice little chat with him about John Calvin's view of the organ and the need for dinnerware. If the minister preaches the gospel, I'll put up with a contemporary service.

The reason I don't gravitate towards contemporary worship has nothing to do with what sort of music pleases God and which doesn't. It has to do with my heart. I began playing guitar as a kid, in and out rock bands for quite a while. When I see a guy in a worship service strumming a guitar, I'm either distracted by how good he is... or how bad he is. If he's terrible, I'm hoping he's going to stop playing soon. If he's really good, there's a good chance I'll be coveting his ability at best, or worshiping him at worst. I'll take the organ and the piano and the dusty old hymns. This keeps me out of trouble. Lights, stages, drama, skits, etc., I don't really need that sort of stuff on Sunday,  but, who am I to say God can't use stuff like this for particular people? Someone told me once that Old Testament worship involved all the senses. Rome's been on to this for centuries. Certainly I think there are instances of abuse and silliness in contemporary worship, but I'm not willing to throw the whole thing out the window. People in different centuries have had different types church services influenced by their culture and sitz im leben. Think this isn't so? Simply do a historical study on liturgy. The church service will never completely escape the culture it's in.

If you're conservative, find yourself a conservative church. In my area, I know of many conservative churches (some that would consider the service I'm in to be liberal!). If your church has gone from conservative worship to contemporary worship, it may be time for you to go. I'm not of the mindset that you should grin and bear it and fight for your conservative worship cause. You're probably going to lose anyway. Why go to church angry and bitter? Go fellowship with people who are conservative like you are.