Sunday, March 09, 2014

500 Years of Protestantism: Luther and Calvin Destroy Marriage? (Part One)

A while back I mentioned a Roman polemicist who posted The 500 Years of Protestantism: The 38 Most Ridiculous Things Martin Luther Ever Wrote. There's now a follow-up: 500 Years of Protestantism: Luther and Calvin Destroy Marriage. The basic thrust of this recent offering is that the Reformers denied that marriage is a sacrament and hence took God out of marriage, placing it in the hands of the state government. The contemporary mess of marriage can entirely be laid at the feet of the Reformers.

The author states,  "The Catholic Church has always understood Holy Matrimony to be a Sacrament, ever since it was instituted by Christ (Cf. Mt. 19:4-6; Mk. 10:6-9; Jn. 2:1-12)." One will notice none of the passages mentioned say anything about marriage being a visible form of an invisible grace, or as Calvin put it, that marriage is a vessel of the Holy Spirit, an instrument for conferring righteousness, a means of obtaining grace (Institutes, IV,19,1).  That marriage has always been a a sacrament in Romanism is simply untrue. It wasn't until the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 that marriage was included as an official sacrament. There wasn't even any sort of particular marriage ritual / ceremony demanded by the church until after 1000 AD (see Greg Dues, Catholic Customs and Traditions (revised edition, 2007) (New London: Twenty-Third Publications, 2007) p. 164].

The author then goes on to claim that "Outside of sacred Scripture, Matrimony as a Sacrament was carefully articulated by Saint Ignatius of Antioch in his letter to Polycarp around the year 110 A.D." But when one actually reads Ignatius in this letter, here's all that is found. Look carefully for anything that disucsses marriage as a sacrament:
Flee evil arts; but all the more discourse in public regarding them. Speak to my sisters, that they love the Lord, and be satisfied with their husbands both in the flesh and spirit. In like manner also, exhort my brethren, in the name of Jesus Christ, that they love their wives, even as the Lord the Church. Ephesians 5:25 If any one can continue in a state of purity, to the honour of Him who is Lord of the flesh, let him so remain without boasting. If he begins to boast, he is undone; and if he reckon himself greater than the bishop, he is ruined. But it becomes both men and women who marry, to form their union with the approval of the bishop, that their marriage may be according to God, and not after their own lust. Let all things be done to the honour of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31
Then a handful of quotes from Augustine are provided in which Augustine mentions the "sacramental bond of marriage" etc. Once again though, a careful scrutiny of the quotes do not reveal anything about marriage infusing grace into a person or acting in a similar way as say baptism or the Lord's Supper.  As Philip Lyndon Reynolds has stated, "It would be misleading to say Augustine himself considered marriage to be one of the sacraments, or even to say that he called marriage a sacrament. Augustine did not put marriage in the same category as eucharist and baptism, although he compared marriage to baptism."

Before any sort of historical evaluation and review of  Luther / Calvin quotes, this sort of charge demonstrates a bit of hypocrisy. As far as I understand marriage in North America (where this particular Roman polemicist lives), Roman Catholics submit to the state regulation of marriage. That is, they have marriage licences, and I'm going to speculate many of them will file joint tax returns in a few weeks with their legal spouses. If defenders of Romanism like this are really so outraged by the Reformers allegedly taking God out of marriage, why are they not protesting by burning their marriage licences? Why do they submit to all the rules and regulations of government regulated marriage? Listen to the alleged first pope in Acts 4:19, how he stood along with John before the Sanhedrin and said, "Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges!" And also in Acts 5:29, "We must obey God rather than men." If marriage is a true sacrament instituted by Christ, a serious Roman Catholic is not bound by Paul's instructions in Romans 13, because the very way of salvation that comes through one of the seven sacraments is being regulated by the state.

No comments: