Friday, February 23, 2018

On Justification by Faith, Luther said, “Be a sinner and sin on bravely...

Here's a Martin Luther-related excerpt that appeared on the Catholic Answers Forums:

On Justification by Faith, Luther said, “Be a sinner and sin on bravely, but have stronger faith and rejoice in Christ, who is the victor of sin, death, and the world. Do not for a moment imagine that this life is the abiding place of justice: sin must be committed. To you it ought to be sufficient that you acknowledge the Lamb that takes away the sins of the world, the sin cannot tear you away from him, even though you commit adultery a hundred times a day and commit as many murders” (Enders, “Briefwechsel”, III, 208) Don.

This quote pops up all the time. I've gone over it a number of times, simply because there's so many different versions of it, and so many different people using it. This is one of those quotes that I categorically classify as the "Antinomian Luther." They are typically posted by those dedicated to defending the Roman church (but not limited to them!). Historically, such "shock" quotes served as propaganda used by pre-1930 Roman Catholic controversialists. The champion of this view was Heinrich Denifle (1844-1905), an Austrian Roman Catholic historian. For Denifle, one of Luther's major problems was lust and immorality. It was Luther's craving for sex that led him to not only break his monastic vows, but to revolt against the established Roman church. Denifle would use statements like this to prove Luther invented the doctrine of justification to excuse his gross immorality.  This quote proves Luther was so devious in his theology of justification, he believed people should just go ahead and sin as much as possible, because Christ simply forgives it anyway.

The person who posted the quote provides obscure documentation (Enders, “Briefwechsel”, III, 208). Such obscurity often indicates that the material was not taken from an actual straight reading of text written by Luther. This person also stated,
I am a convert from Protestantism who used to idolize Luther until I read his writings (eventually). Before, and while undertaking my doctorate (early music history + performance), I had learned to read primary sources, this is what also lead me to the Catholic Church - the Apostolic Fathers + St Augustine + Aquinas. Today many people will watch a movie about Luther and think they are well informed about him.
I do question the validity of this testimony of learning, especially the claim of reading Luther's writings and the ability to read primary sources to form opinions. Of the two posts of Luther material this person presented in this discussion (#1#2), neither demonstrates a straight reading of Luther. The material was probably taken from a few web-pages, then cut-and pasted over on to the Catholic Answers discussion forum. I suspect this pagethis page, and perhaps this page was utilized. Unless the person posting this material on Catholic Answers wrote these links, much of the content presented is blatant plagiarism.

Even if he (she?) did compose any of these web pages, I still doubt any of the material came from a straight reading (or "studying") of the "primary sources" for Luther. Some of what was posted was directly plagiarized from Father Patrick O'Hare's, The Facts about Luther. For this quote particularly, this EWTN web-page appears to be that which was directly plagiarized. EWTN did say they took the quote from the old Catholic Encyclopedia:

The 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia version is exactly as it appears on 2001 EWTN web-article. The person responsible for the English version of the quote was probably the author of the "Luther" article in the Old Catholic Encyclopedia, George Ganss (1855 – 1912). Ganns was heavily influenced by Denifle (Denifle uses the quote here).  The article by Ganss in the Catholic Encyclopedia was influential to American Catholics in the early twentieth century. With the old Encyclopedia now online, Ganns' view has been popularized again, even though the New Catholic Encyclopedia takes a much different approach to Luther.

The documentation provided is "Enders, 'Briefwechsel', III, 208." "Enders" refers to ‎Ernst Ludwig Enders. He edited 18 volumes of Luther's letters, known as, Dr. Martin Luther's Briefwechsel (1884–1932). Here is volume III, page 208. The text being referred to is the following:

This Latin text from Luther is from a fragment of a letter, August 8, 1521 (sometimes also dated June 29, 1521). A few sources I have say the fragment was found by John Aurifaber "in the Spalatine library," but I could not confirm this. If  Aurifaber found this fragment, the letter has been around since at least the late sixteenth century. LW 48 says the letter has no address, salutation, or signature. In other words, it has no beginning or ending, thus lacking a complete context. Most scholarship thinks the letter was written to Philip Melanchthon from Luther's seclusion in the Wartburg Castle. This fragmentary letter can be found in WA, Br 2, No. 424 , DeWette 2, 34, and in English in LW 48:277-282.

If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here [in this world] we have to sin. This life is not the dwelling place of righteousness, but, as Peter says, we look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. It is enough that by the riches of God’s glory we have come to know the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day. Do you think that the purchase price that was paid for the redemption of our sins by so great a Lamb is too small? Pray boldly—you too are a mighty sinner [LW 48:281-282].
Luther was prone to strong hyperbole. It's his style, and this statement is a perfect example. The first thing to recognize is that the sentence is a statement of comparison. Luther's point is not to go out and commit multiple amounts of gleeful sin everyday, but rather to believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly despite the sin in our lives. Christians have a real savior. No amount of sin is too much to be atoned for by a perfect savior whose righteousness is imputed to the sinner who reaches out in faith.

But what then is the practical application of sinning “boldly”? What is at the heart of this comparison? Luther explains elsewhere how to take on the attitude of sinning “boldly”:
Therefore let us arm our hearts with these and similar statements of Scripture so that, when the devil accuses us by saying: You are a sinner; therefore you are damned, we can reply: The very fact that you say I am a sinner makes me want to be just and saved. Nay, you will be damned, says the devil. Indeed not, I reply, for I take refuge in Christ, who gave Himself for my sins. Therefore you will accomplish nothing, Satan, by trying to frighten me by setting the greatness of my sins before me and thus seducing me to sadness, doubt, despair, hatred, contempt, and blasphemy of God. Indeed, by calling me a sinner you are supplying me with weapons against yourself so that I can slay and destroy you with your own sword; for Christ died for sinners. Furthermore, you yourself proclaim the glory of God to me; you remind me of God's paternal love for me, a miserable and lost sinner; for He so loved the world that He gave His Son (John 3:16). Again, whenever you throw up to me that I am a sinner, you revive in my memory the blessing of Christ, my Redeemer, on whose shoulders, and not on mine, lie all my sins; for "the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all" and "for the transgression of His people was He stricken" (Is. 53:6-8). Therefore when you throw up to me that I am a sinner, you are not terrifying me; you are comforting me beyond measure[WA 40,1: 89; LW 26:36-37; this English translation from  Ewald Plass, What Luther Says 3:1315].
The strong hyperbolic comparison Luther makes between “sinning boldly” and believing and rejoicing in Christ “even more boldly” comes clear. When assaulted by the fear and doubt of Christ’s love because of previous sins or the remnants of sin in one’s life, one is thrust back into the arms of Christ “on whose shoulders, and not on mine, lie all my sins…”. Rather than promoting a license to sin by saying “sin boldly,” Luther compares the sinner to the perfect savior. Left in our sins we will face nothing but death and damnation. By Christ’s victory over sin, death, and the world, we stand clothed in His righteousness, the recipients of His grace, no matter what we have done.

No historical information exists that indicts Melanchthon of ever murdering or fornicating, even once. The point Luther is making is not to go out and murder or fornicate as much as possible, but rather to point out the infinite sacrifice of Christ’s atonement. There is no sin that Christ cannot cover. His atonement was of an infinite value. That this statement was not to be considered literally is apparent by Luther’s use of argumentum ad absurdum: do people really commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day? No. Not even the most heinous God-hating sinner is able to carry out such a daily lifestyle.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Luther: "Chastity or continence was physically impossible…"

“Chastity or continence was physically impossible… The womenfolk are ashamed to confess it, yet it is proved by Scripture and experience that there is not one among thousands to whom God gives grave to keep entirely chaste. A woman has no power over herself… The gratification of sexual desire was nature’s work, God’s work… And, as necessary aye, much more so, than eating, drinking, digesting, sweating, sleeping”. - Martin Luther (De Wette II, 535)
This quote appeared in the discussion, Did Martin Luther allow divorce? The person who posted it didn't explain how exactly it was relevant to the topic of discussion, divorce. It was posted along with a number of other shock quotes, all I suspect have the goal of preaching the evils of Martin Luther to the choir. This same person commented elsewhere, "How is quoting Luther’s filthy works verbatim, ‘bashing him’?! Can we not expose his works to stir the hearts of those who ignorantly follow his theology, to reconcile them back to the Church Christ founded?" And also, "We aren’t attacking the person of Martin Luther. We are merely exposing his works for what they are. Wouldn’t you want to know if your denominational founder’s works were vile and lewd? Or, would you want to remain in the naive comfort of not knowing?" This is the mindset of this particular defender of Rome: it's not an attack to present out-of-context quotes devoid of either an historical or actual context!

Let's take a look at this quote and see exactly what's going on. We'll see that it's either two quotes from two different sources or some of it is just a summary statement of Luther's beliefs. When the bulk of the quote is placed back in its context, Luther isn't saying anything  filthy, vile, or lewd. Rather, he's making comments in regard to the heated sixteenth century debate over the validity of monastic vows.

"De Wette II, 535" is provided as the reference governing the entire quote. "De Wette" refers to a collection of Luther's letters compiled by Dr. Wilhelm Martin Leberecht De Wette: Dr. Martin Luthers Briefe, Sendschreiben und Bedenken. Here is volume II, 535.  Page 535 contains Luther's letter from August 6, 1524 "to three nuns," in which he gave advice on leaving the convent. Though not contained in LW, an English translation is available in Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel and also Luther's Letters to Women.  The Catholic Answers participant probably did not take the quote from De Wette, but rather, Patrick O'Hare's, The Facts About Luther, (or some web-page utilizing O'Hare). Father O'Hare states,
Luther, horrible to relate, with the gospel in his hand, taught his disciples, male and female, in the world and in the cloisters, that no man or woman could be chaste in primitive, much less in fallen nature. "Chastity or continence," said this vile man, "was physically impossible." In the most brutal frankness, he writes without a blush the following lines to a number of religious women: "Though," he says, "the women folk are ashamed to confess it, yet it is proved by Scripture and experience, that there is not one among many thousands, to whom God gives grace to keep entirely chaste. A woman has no power over herself. God created her body for man and to bear offspring. This clearly appears from the testimony of Moses i, 28, and from the design of God in the construction of her creation." "The gratification of sexual desire was nature's work, God's work," as he cynically calls it, "and, as necessary, aye, much more so than eating, drinking, digesting, sweating, sleeping," etc. (De Wette II, 535.) We dare not repeat all he enumerates in his filthy catalogue. "Hence," said he, "to vow or promise to restrain this natural propensity, is the same as to vow or promise that one will have wings and fly and be an angel and morally worth about as much as if one was to promise God that he would commit adultery."
Notice O'Hare's text was sifted to present the version found on the Catholic Answers forums. When O'Hare states, "'Chastity or continence,' said this vile man, 'was physically impossible,'" these words are not from the context of this letter (see below). O'Hare does not document them, but gives the appearance that they're part of De Wette II, 535. I've gone through O'Hare's book for a number of years now. I've grown more and more convinced he did very little of his own research into Luther's writings. He appears to have simply done the equivalent of a cut-and-paste with his favorite hostile Roman Catholic secondary sources. He appears to have blatantly plagiarized The American Catholic Quarterly of 1884 article, "Martin Luther and His American Worshipers" by Rt. Rev. Monsignor Corocan. Notice the obvious similarities in bold type:
With the gospel in his hand, he taught his German disciples, male and female, in the world, and in monasteries, and female convents, that no man or woman could be chaste in primitive, much less in fallen nature. Chastity or continence, said he, was physically impossible. The gratification of sexual desire was nature's work (God's work as he cynically calls it), as necessary, aye, much more so than eating, drinking, digesting, sweating, sleeping, etc. (we dare not go through with his filthy catalogue). Hence, said he, to vow or promise to restrain this natural propensity, is the same as to vow or promise that one will have wings and fly and be an angel, and morally worth about as much as if one was to promise God (we are giving the vile man's own words), that he would commit adultery. The way in which he explains all this in his coarse Latin, and still coarser German, is such that it cannot be reproduced before American readers. As a Catholic, we dare not sin against St. Paul's warning by mentioning, even for a good purpose, what no Christian ear should listen to. As a man and a citizen of a southern commonwealth, what else could be our first irresistible impulse than to lift cudgel or other weapon upon the theological Rabelais who teaches, in virtue of his new gospel, that all our women, Catholic or Protestant, outside the few that are married, are necessarily unclean and impure. If Protestants hearing Luther's language can keep cool and restrain their indignation, it only shows how far religious bigotry can control all natural impulses of decency and honor.
O'Hare attributes a direct citation to Luther for the first line, "Chastity or continence... was physically impossible." This was a summary statement from Coracan, not a direct citation of Luther. There is another Roman Catholic source (also from 1884), Luther: An Historical Portrait By J. Verres, that makes a similar attribution, but provides documentation. Verras states, "According to Luther, chastity (apart from the matrimonial state) is a physical impossibility; where it exists, it is a great and extraordinary miracle." The reference though is to a completely different writing from Luther, Walch XIX, 1818. This page from the Walch edition of Luther's works is from Martini Luthers von den Gelüb den der Mönche und Nonnen  (The Judgement of Martin Luther on Monastic Vows, 1521).  Verras is also summarizing what Luther said:
There is no doubt that the monastic vow is in itself a most dangerous thing because it is without the authority and example of Scripture. Neither the early church nor the New Testament knows anything at all of the taking of this kind of vow, much less do they approve of a lifelong vow of very rare and remarkable chastity. It is purely a most pernicious invention of men no different from all the other inventions of men. St. Paul, having made a vow, pitied himself along with four other men [Acts 21:23–26]. Who cannot see that it was a vow left over from the old law? For the moment I shall pass over the fact that it was only a temporal vow, for this very apostle was in the habit of observing all the other parts of the old law along with his fellow Jews, but he had no intention of setting a pattern for the New Testament. As we all know, he did not observe the law in the company of Gentiles [LW 44:252-253].
This tedium about the first sentence is necessary to demonstrate that some of Rome's defenders are not going deep into history, but are rather regurgitating spurious propaganda from long ago. With this first sentence out of the way, let's examine the bulk of the quote, which is from Luther's August 6, 1524 letter "to three nuns." I have provided the entire brief letter to display the complete context.

Grace and peace in Christ Jesus, our Saviour. Dear Sisters: I have now and again received your letters and have gathered from them what is on your hearts. I should long since have replied if a courier had been available and I had had an opportunity, for I am very much occupied with other matters. Have you thoroughly understood that there are two grounds for abandoning convent life and monastic vows?
The first exists when human laws and monastic works are imposed by force, are not assumed voluntarily, and become burdensome to conscience. Under such circumstances one should flee and let the convent and everything connected with it go. If, therefore, it is the case with you that monastic works were not undertaken of your own free will but were forced upon your conscience, call upon your relatives to help you get out and, if the secular authorities allow it, to provide for you in their homes or elsewhere. If your relatives or parents are unwilling, let some other good people help you to depart, no matter whether this causes your parents to be angry, die, or rejoice. For God's will and the soul's salvation should come first, since Christ says, "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me." But if the sisters grant you liberty in the convent and at least allow you to read or hear the Word of God, you may remain with them and perform and observe such convent duties as spinning, cooking, and the like, so long as you do not put your trust in these works.
The other ground is the flesh. Although women are ashamed to acknowledge this, Scriptures and experience teach us that there is only one in several thousands to whom God gives the gift to live chastely in a state of virginity. A woman does not have complete mastery over herself. God so created her body that she should be with a man and bear and raise children. The words of Gen., ch. i, clearly state this, and the members of her body sufficiently show that God himself formed her for this purpose. Just as eating, drinking, waking, and sleeping are appointed by God to be natural, so God also wills that it be natural for a man and a woman to live together in matrimony. This is enough, therefore, and no woman need be ashamed of that for which God has created and fashioned her, and if she feels that she does not possess that high and rare gift, she may leave the convent and do that for which she is adapted by nature.
All these things you will abundantly read and sufficiently learn if you come out and hear good sermons. I have proved and substantiated these things again and again in the book on monastic vows, in the tract on rejecting the doctrines of men, in the treatise on the estate of matrimony, and in the postil. If you read these, you will find adequate instruction on all points, be it on confession or something else. It would take too long to repeat everything here, nor is it necessary to do so, for I suspect that you will be leaving the convent, as you threatened to do in your first letter, whether you are affected by both or by only one of these grounds. If it should come to pass that the convent introduces real freedom, those who have the gift and a liking for that life may enter or return. In just this way the town council of Berne, in Switzerland, has opened the renowned convent of Konigsfeld, and is allowing girls, who so choose, to leave, remain, or enter at will, giving back to those who leave what they brought with them when they entered.
Herewith I commit you to God's keeping and ask you to pray for me.
The day of Sixtus, the Martyr, 1524. Martin Luther.
A friendly letter to be delivered to the three nuns, my dear sisters in Christ.
 Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel, pp. 270-272.

It's fascinating to compare the sifting of this context to denigrate Luther (presented on the Catholic Answers discussion forums) to the actual letter Luther wrote. The sifted version presents a "Luther" that views women as sex-crazed and out of control. The letter itself though shows the balance in Luther's thinking about this subject. He presents two grounds for a nun to leave the monastic life: the first ground is if a woman was placed there by force. The second ground is in regard to those who have not been given the supernatural gift of chastity, but long to fulfill their biologic desires. When I read Luther's letter,  I don't see anything filthyvile, or lewd. Of this context, O'Hare states, "We dare not repeat all he enumerates in his filthy catalogue." His plagiarized source, Corocan, says similarly, "we dare not go through with his filthy catalogue." What were these men reading?

 For Luther, biologically, people are typically designed with the desire to procreate. "Scriptures and experience" prove this. This desire can either be carried out in a God pleasing way (marriage) of a non-God pleasing way (fornication). Luther's continual exhortation throughout his career was to partake in the former.

Friday, February 09, 2018

Luther Broke His Solemn Religious Vows and Got Married?

Here's a snippet from the Catholic Answers forums discussion, "Did Martin Luther allow divorce?":
Well, considering [Luther] broke his solemn Religious vows and induced a consecrated nun to break her solemn Religious vows to ‘marry’ him I would presume that he did not take serious the ‘vows’ of sacramental marriage.
Rome's defenders have discussed Luther rejecting his vows for years. The Catholic Answers folks went through this some years back, as did the Defenders of the Catholic Faith. Under the heading, "Luther Perverts Morality," the Catholic Family News blog states, "Luther, an ordained priest and consecrated Augustinian religious, broke his vow of celibacy and married a nun, also under the vow of celibacy. Luther encouraged many other priests and religious to break their vows and marry." Going beyond contemporary online banter, Father William Most (via EWTN) stated,
Ecclesiastes (Qoheleth) 5.4-5: "When you make a vow to God, do not delay fulfilling it; for he has no pleasure in fools. Fulfill what you vow. It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not fulfill it." Luther broke all his vows. 
Father Patrick O'Hare stated long ago, "...we cannot forget that Luther, in order to wed, had to commit an act of infidelity towards God and disregard his vow of celibacy. No excuse can be offered to palliate or condone his infidelity." Denifle stated, Luther had "broken his vows and misled others." A letter to the Catholic Magazine from 1831 stated, "An Augustinian monk, broke his vow of chastity made to God, seduced Catherine Boren, a nun, who was under the same vow, and lived with her to the end of his life." Many more examples could be provided, from either laymen or published Roman Catholic works, spanning the centuries.

During the recent Catholic Answers discussion, this bit of Luther-bashing was answered cleverly by a Lutheran participant here. He stated in part,
Luther was released from his religious vows by his father confessor, Johann von Staupitz, who did so in order to protect both himself and Father Martin. Had Luther remained under his charge, Staupitz would’ve been both responsible for Luther’s future actions and required to turn him over to the authorities. No father would want any part in the (what was then assumed to be imminent) death of his son.
From a broad Protestant worldview, Luther abandoned an unbiblical illegitimate vow, so Rome's defenders can cry foul all they want to.  But, If indeed Staupitz released Luther from his religious vows, then according to their own worldview,  Rome's defenders have no grounds against Luther for marrying. Let's explore this and look at the proof for the assertion that Luther was released from his vows.

I did ask for documentation. I was directed to Heiko Oberman's Luther: Man Between God and the Devil, page 197. Oberman states, 

Oberman documents this, "Cf. Th. Kolde, Augustiner-Congregation, 321. Cf. Staupitz's letter to Elector Frederick on 15, Oct. 1518; supplement 16, pp. 443f." "Kolde" refers to German Protestant theologian,  Theodor von Kolde (1850-1913). "Augustiner-Congregation" refers to his book, Die deutsche Augustiner-Congregation und Johann von Staupitz; ein Beitrag zur Ordens- und Reformationsgeschichte nach meistens ungedruckten Quellen. Here is page 321. Kolde states,

Kolde here doesn't add anything all that different than Oberman. The second reference, "Staupitz's letter to Elector Frederick on 15, Oct. 1518; supplement 16, pp. 443f" refers to page 443 of Kolde's book which provides the Staupitz letter being alluded to. The letter has been translated into English by Preserved Smith and can be found here. There is nothing in this letter that specifically states Staupitz release Luther from his vows.

I was also informed, "Every good Luther biographer will document his relationship with Staupitz and, necessarily, the former’s release from the latter’s authority. " So, let's take a look at two of the most popular Luther biographies in English. Let's look first at Here I Stand by Roland Bainton. On page 96, Bainton states:
Staupitz released Luther from his vow of obedience to the order. He may have wished to relieve the Augustinians of the onus, or he may have sought to unfetter the friar, but Luther felt that he had been disclaimed. "I was excommunicated three times," he said later, "first by Staupitz, secondly by the pope, and thirdly by the emperor."
Bainton provides two references: "Koestlin-Kaweru, 211" and "TR, 225, 409." The first refers to
"Kostlin, Julius and Kawerau, Georg. Martin Luther. I and II (1903)." Here is page 211 from volume I. This source states,

This information is basically the same as that reported by Oberman. The paragraph ends with the Staupitz release, "Ich absolviere Dich von meiner Obedienz und befehle Dich Gott dem Herrn" (I absolve you of obedience to me and commend you to the Lord God). There are a number of footnotes. BR 1, 541 refers to Luther's letter to Staupitz, January 14, 1521, but nothing in that letter says that Staupitz absolved Luther. "Diet. 158" refers to Veit Dietrich's collection of Table Talk utterances (this will be discussed below). "St Kr 1878" refers to Theologische Studien und Kritiken, 1878, page 705, in which footnote 1 refers to Veit Dietrich's Table Talk statement of Staupitz's absolution of Luther "Absolvo te ab oboedientia mea et commendo te Domino Deo" (I absolve you of obedience to me and commend you to the Lord God) (see below).

Bainton's second reference, "TR, 225, 409" refers to two of Luther's Table Talk comments. The first is entry 225 in WATR 1. This entry has been included in LW 54:30,
No. 225: Luther “Excommunicated” Three Times Between April 7 and 15, 1532
 “Three times have I been excommunicated. The first time was by Dr. Staupitz, who absolved me from the observance and rule of the Augustinian Order so that, if the pope pressed him to imprison me or command me to be silent, he could excuse himself on the ground that I was not under his obedience. The second time was by the pope and the third time was by the emperor. Consequently I cannot be accused of laying aside my habit, and I am now silent by divine authority alone.”
The second entry, 409, from WATR 1, 177, is another accounting of the same information, but includes the words from Staupitz, "Absolvo te ab oboedientia mea et commendo te Domino Deo" (I absolve you of obedience to me and commend you to the Lord God):

Second, let's look at Martin Brecht's massive biography of Luther. He states,

Brecht cites "Kolde 443" (explained above), and "WA, TR 1, nos. 884, 1203." These also refer to Table Talk utterances. Here is 884 and 1203. Both of these repeat the same sentiment documented in the previously mentioned Table Talk quotes.  "Scheuris Briejbuch 2:52" refers to a letter and can be found here. Nothing on this page mentions the release of Luther from his monastic vows. WA Br 2:245 refers to Luther's letter to Staupitz January 14, 1521 (explained above).

Granted, I only checked three popular English sources. Of these three, the consensus is that Luther was released from his monastic vows as documented by the Table Talk. Unfortunately, the Table Talk is a collection of second hand comments written down by Luther's friends and students, published after his death. Luther didn't write the Table Talk. Since the statements contained therein are purported to have been made by Luther, they should serve more as corroborating second-hand testimony to something Luther is certain to have written, or some probable historical fact mentioned elsewhere. In this instance, it does seem quite likely that Staupitz probably did release Luther from his monastic vows, but none of the references I checked above verify this other than via the Table Talk. Even LW 31 says,  "When Staupitz heard a rumor to the effect that Cajetan was planning to arrest Luther and him, he absolved Luther of his monastic vow and left Augsburg without bidding the cardinal farewell" (LW 31:257). That rumor is verified by a letter from Staupitz himself: "He says also that there is in the land a letter of the General against Luther. Dr. Peutinger has heard that it is also against me, with the purpose of throwing us in prison and using force against us. God be our guard!" Unfortunately, the letter does not say anything about releasing Luther from his vows.  The fact though of this release from Staupitz seems generally accepted, even by those unfavorable Luther. For instance, Hartmann Grisar stated,
Staupitz, who had stood by him at Augsburg, dispensed him for the journey from any part of the Rule which might have proved to his disadvantage, even from the wearing of the Augustinian habit. This Superior had again shown himself at Augsburg as a man of half-measures who allowed his prejudice for Luther to outweigh the demands of the Church and of his Order.  
And also:
It is scarcely necessary to say that the fact that, in 1518 (at Augsburg), Staupitz released Luther "from the observance" has nothing whatever to do with the question in hand. Luther says : "me absolvit ab observantia et regula ordinis." (Weim. ed., of the Table-Talk, 1, p. 96.) All that his superior did was to dispense him from his obligation of carrying out outwardly the rule of the Order, e.g. from dressing as a monk, etc. Even had Luther been a Conventual he could still have spoken thus of his having been absolved from the " observance." It may be that Staupitz, for his own freedom of action, also absolved Luther from his duty of obedience to him as Vicar. Even so, however, Luther remained an Augustinian, returned to his monastery, wrote on behalf of the vows, and, long after, still continued to wear the Augustinian habit.
I'm not exactly sure how Grisar arrived at the interpretation he did based one quote from the Table Talk , that Staupitz meant only to release Luther "from dressing as a monk, etc." This seems to be a reading into the sparse historical facts. Regardless of Grisar's spin, his comments demonstrate that the Table Talk is generally accepted on this issue. 

Echoing Grisar, Roman Catholic scholar Franz Posset says we should not be so quick to think Luther no longer considered himself an Augustinian after his release from Staupitz:

If in fact Staupitz did release Luther from his vows, whether or not Luther considered himself an Augustinian is besides the point. There's one other aspect to this that should also be mentioned in closing. I know of no instances in which Luther argued his marriage was legitimate because he was released from his vows.

I've chastised Rome's defenders for a number of years for putting the wrong value on the Table Talk. Unless I find some other historical evidence beyond that source arguing Luther was released from his vows, I would only use such reasoning tentatively in applying it to Luther's later marriage. On the other hand, since many of Rome's defenders put the wrong historical value on the Table Talk, why not use the argument? Using the argument would be reasoning according to their worldview!

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Explaining "the Son of God" terminology to Muslims

This is a repost of the content of an earlier article I wrote.  In the earlier one, the photo is gone; so I thought I would repost the content here again.  Also, I have added a video of David Wood's at the end that is very good on the issue of dealing with Jesus as "the Son of God" with Muslims.

Bad Witness: Praying to and bowing down to Mary

Someone recently (around September of 2009) called into the Dividing Line Pod-cast Program (Dr. James White of Alpha & Omega Ministries; see  and asked for help on witnessing to Muslims. He told of his experience in a Muslim area in Africa (Uganda) and that the Muslims kept saying, “God cannot reproduce!”; How many times have I heard this over the last 26 years in witnessing to Muslims?!: “God cannot have a wife!” “God cannot have a son!” “God did not lust after Mary and marry her and have sex with her!”

To our Roman Catholic and Orthodox readers – see, here we have a living example of recent history of Muslims who still believe the Trinity is “Father, Son, and Mother”. (Surah 5:116) This is very common all over the Muslim world. I know from experience also. So, the Marian dogmas and practices and praying to her and having statues and icons and exalting her too much are still contributing to that mis-understanding. The Qur’an defines for them what we believe – Surah 6:101 – they don’t really care what the official doctrine of the Trinity is. 

“Wonderful Originator of the heavens and the earth; How can He have a son when He hath no consort [spouse, mate, sexual partner]?” He created all things, and hath full knowledge of all things.” ( Qur’an 6:101, with my own parenthetical comments) 

Pictures of John Paul 2 (and other Popes and other Roman Catholics) bowing down before a giant statue of Mary just confirms in their minds and hearts what the Christians really believe. 

Only very educated Muslims who take the time to read and study find out what the doctrine of the Trinity is; and it is usually their “apologists” who are trained to come to the west to seek to win westerners to Islam.

I would like to suggest that believers in Jesus Christ slow things down a bit for the Muslims and, to use a mathematical learning analogy, instead of trying to teach them Calculus (the eternal Sonship of Christ and the Trinity); we should begin with simple math: like addition, subtraction and multiplication. We will get to Calculus, don’t worry, but don’t move there too quickly. 

1. With passion and conviction, agree with your Muslim friend that it is Blasphemy to think God took a wife !! Get worked up over this and show them with passion that we do not believe this. There is a fun Arabic phrase that many Muslims know and use when someone says something wrong, "Estaqfr'ullah !" استغفرالله   (Literally in Arabic, this means "I seek the forgiveness/pardon of Allah", but it seems to be saying to the person who said something like "Jesus is the Son of God" as a response to that - ie, "May God forgive you!"; "May it never be!") I have used this and it is effective to show how strongly the Bible is against their idea of what "the Son of God" or the Trinity means. Focus like a laser beam and spend time on this with your Muslim friend before you try and explain the “eternal Sonship” of Christ and “eternally begotten” language, or the Trinity.  Most Muslims are so strong in their belief in monotheism, that if you move too fast and try to explain the doctrine of the Trinity, they will not hear what you are saying, because you have not convinced them first of your own monotheism, that there is only one God.   As it is, only the Spirit of God can open people's hearts, whether they are an atheist or Muslim or a teenager American who is the son of a Turkish father and Swedish mother.  (see John 6:44, 65; Ezekiel 36:26-27; John 3:1-8; Acts 16:14; Luke 24:45;  2 Timothy 2:24-26)  Even so, that does not give an excuse for being rude or short with people and for not sincerely trying to explain things to them.  God works through the means of patience, explaining, teaching, suffering, praying, hospitality, non-verbal communication, tone, attitude, etc.  You have to work on these truths first - and show them verses from the Bible -  1. You don’t believe God got married or had sex with Mary; and 2. You don’t believe in three gods. It is also effective to stay on monotheism for a while and quote and use Mark 12:29 (Jesus quoting the Shema in Deut. 6:4). 

Muslims are fun people to witness to! They are willing to talk about God and spiritual things. They believe in right and wrong and heaven and hell, and judgment day. I have had many Muslims say to me, "I respect you Mr. Ken, because you believe in your book as the truth." "Most of the other Christians we meet don't really believe they have the truth." 

They are incredibly hospitable and we need to learn how to reach out in friendship evangelism, along with apologetics and debate; and one time "contact" evangelism. Jesus was the friend of sinners and tax-collectors, eating with them. We need to show Christ's love by being willing to have meals of shish kebab and hummus and drink strong Arabic/Turkish coffee with them. 

Trying to explain the Trinity and the eternal Sonship of Christ too soon for Muslims is like trying to explain Calculus before addition, subtraction, and multiplication. You can and should eventually get to those truths; but it is better to start on the basic issues to help the Muslim overcome them; all the while praying that God will open their eyes and heart to understand and believe. ( John 6:44; Acts 16:14) It may not happen in one setting either. Many missionaries to Muslims have said that the average Muslim usually needs to hear the gospel 100 times over a period of 1 year in friendship with a true Christian. Obviously God can open the heart and draw in only one hearing of the gospel. We are only saying that this is the experience of many missionaries who have spent lots of time with Muslims; including this writer. 

2. Point out that the Qur’an also uses metaphoric language of filial terms, “son” and “mother”.The Arabic phrase, “son of the road” ( Ibn ol sabeel ) = “traveler”, “wayfarer”; “mother of the book” ( um ol kitab ) = source of revelation; “Mother of villages” = Mecca. (Surah 6:93, 42:7, Pickthall’s footnote) In Egypt, the Arabic expression, “son of the Nile” – “one who lives on the Nile River.

“Son of the Road” (Qur’an 2:177; 4:36; 8:41; 9:60), “Mother of Book” (Qur’an 13:39; 43:3-4; 3:7) “Mother of Villages” – (Qur’an – 6:92; 28:59; 42:7)

Can roads, villages, rivers, or books have sex or get married? Asking this question will confound and silence the Muslim for his attacks and lack of listening to our explanations of "the Son of God".

This proves that metaphoric language is used by the Qur'an, and the Muslims should then give respect and a ear to us when we are also using the term metaphorically.

This proves that is not blasphemous to call Jesus, "the Son of God", because the Bible does not mean it in the way that Muslims think when they hear the phrase.

The Qur'an affirms the virgin birth of Christ. (Surah 3:47; 19:19-22) Affirm that Jesus had no human father; therefore, in this sense, God was His Father. 

Luke 1:34-35 sounds very similar to the Qur'anic passages on the Virgin Birth of Jesus. It is powerful to use passages in the Bible that are similar to verses in the Qur'an to begin with to establish understanding, and then go forward. 

3. Show them some specific Scripture. If possible have them read it in their heart language, whether it is Arabic, Farsi, Turkish, Urdu, Pushtun, Kazakh, Malaysian, or Fulani.

I have found that Luke 1:34-35 along with Hebrews 10:5 to be very effective in answering the “Son of God” terminology. 

Luke 1:35 - “ . . . for this reason, the Holy offspring will be called the Son of God”
For what reason? Because Jesus had no human father; and because of the “power of the Most High” and “the Holy Spirit” who conceived, unified, joined spiritually inside the womb of Mary – so, it is NOT from marriage and sex; that is blasphemy (and what Mormons and Greek mythology believed). Rather, the phrase “Son of God” describes the close eternal spiritual relationship that the Father and Son have always had from all eternity past, being of the same nature, but in personal relationship. God is personal, not an impersonal force or principle. God is Spirit (John 4:24), so there can be no physical sex or marriage. This is what Surah 112 and 6:101 and 5:72-73 and 5:116 are speaking against, they are speaking against understanding God and terms like “father”, “son”, and “begotten” in a physical, sexual way. 

I have found that Hebrews 10:5 is very effective. - “a body You have prepared for Me”. This shows that Jesus existed before He was born and that God the Father prepared a body for Him. 

4. Then you can go to John 1:1 and 1:14 and proceed from there. John 1:1, 14 are powerful for the Muslims because they clearly are calling Jesus “the Word”. In the Qur’an, Isa (the Arabic Islamic word for “Jesus”) Al Masih is called “the word” in Arabic. (Kalimat’allah) (Qur’an 4:171; 3:45) This is a powerful tool. Focus on “the Word” of God before you focus on the “Son of God”. “Allah’s word was with Him from all eternity, right?” You can ask your Muslim friend these kinds of questions: “Did Allah ever exist without His word (His mind expressing itself)? And what about Allah’s Spirit? Was there ever a time where Allah was without His Spirit?” Jesus is also called “a spirit from Allah”. (Ruh min Allah) in Qur’an 4:171. That verse denies the Islamic understanding of the Trinity and the Deity of Christ and the Sonship of Christ; but it does call him, Al Massih (the Messiah), the son of Mary, the Word, and a spirit from Allah; so it is useful to begin with Muslims from where they are coming from; and then go to Scriptures in the New Testament that we emphasized above. We can communicate the "eternal Son of God" (into the past in relationship with the Father) by focusing on the eternalness of the Word of God in eternity past.

David Wood's excellent video on the issue:

Friday, February 02, 2018

Luther: "After we understood that good works were not necessary for justification, we became much more remiss and colder in the practice of good"

Here's a Martin Luther-related excerpt that appeared on the Catholic Answers Forums:

“After we understood that good works were not necessary for justification, we became much more remiss and colder in the practice of good … And if we could return today to the prior state of things and if the doctrine that affirms the necessity of doing good works could be revived, our eagerness and promptness in doing good works would be quite different” (Werke, 27, p. 443, in ibid., p. 441).

This is one of those quotes that I categorically classify as "Did Luther Regret the Reformation?" They are typically posted by those dedicated to defending the Roman church. Historically, such "shock" quotes served as propaganda used by pre-1930 Roman Catholic controversialists. Those writers put forth the conclusion that the Reformation was a failure: it didn't produce any real fruit, and Luther's own words and the state of Protestantism at the time prove it. The argument goes: Protestantism isn't a movement of the church. It is the result of heresy, and heresy never leads anyone to true holiness. Then statements are typically brought forth from Luther's career, indicting him of regret for starting the Reformation. Most of these pre-1930 books had fallen into obscurity, but with the arrival of the information explosion brought forth by the Internet, these quotes made a comeback. It's not at all uncommon to visit discussion forums like Catholic Answers and find these "regret" quotes taking center-stage. With this quote, the implication is that previously the state of Christian piety was much better and Luther knew it. His "Gospel" was a failure in producing good works among those who followed his teaching. Luther is presented as admitting that a return to "the prior state of things" would produce the much-needed "good works" missing in German society. It was "the devastating effects of such admittedly insincere preaching" on "his evangelical followers."

The person who posted the quote provides obscure documentation ("Werke, 27, p. 443, in ibid., p. 441"). Such obscurity often indicates that the material was not taken from an actual straight reading of text written by Luther. This person also stated,
I am a convert from Protestantism who used to idolize Luther until I read his writings (eventually). Before, and while undertaking my doctorate (early music history + performance), I had learned to read primary sources, this is what also lead me to the Catholic Church - the Apostolic Fathers + St Augustine + Aquinas. Today many people will watch a movie about Luther and think they are well informed about him.
I do question the validity of this testimony of learning, especially the claim of reading Luther's writings and the ability to read primary sources to form opinions. Of the two posts of Luther material this person presented in this discussion (#1#2), neither demonstrates a straight reading of Luther. The material was probably taken from a few web-pages, then cut-and pasted over on to the Catholic Answers discussion forum. I suspect this pagethis page, and perhaps this page was utilized. Unless the person posting this material on Catholic Answers wrote these links, much of the content presented is blatant plagiarism. For this quote particularly, this web-page appears to be that which was directly plagiarized.

Even if he (she?) did compose this web page (or one of the others), I still doubt any of the material came from a straight reading (or "studying") of the "primary sources" for Luther. Some of what was posted was directly plagiarized from Father Patrick O'Hare's, The Facts about Luther. This quote appears to have been plagiarized from this webpage (or one similar to it) that presents a version of an article written by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira entitled, Luther Thought He Was Divine! It appears this article was "originally published in the Folha de S.Paulo, on January 10, 1984," so it's probable that the article was not originally in English (here is the Portuguese version). The quote is almost the same in de Oliveira's version from a website dedicated to his writings:
“After we understood that good works are not necessary for justification, I became much more remiss and cold in doing good...and if we could return now to the old state of things and if the doctrine of the necessity of good works to be holy could be revived, our alacrity and promptness in doing good would be different” (Werke, XXVII, p. 443; Franca, p. 443).
In this version, Luther says "I became much more remiss and cold..." It could be a typo, but more probable, this version suffers from translation issues. Also this version explains part of the documentation ("in ibid., p. 441").  This part of the reference is due to Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira attempting to accurately document the quote. For his article, he states: "I will cite excerpts from the work of Fr. Leonel Franca SJ titled The Church, the Reform and Civilization (Rio de Janeiro: Editora Civilizacão Brasileira, 3rd ed., 1934, 558 pages)." Notice that de Oliveira didn't actually reference Luther when the article was composed back in 1984, he borrowed from someone else. The quote can be found on page 391 in Franca's book (1958 edition). Franca uses almost the same documentation: "Weimar XXVII, 443":

"Werke, 27" refers to volume 27 of the Weimar edition of Luther's collected writings. Here is WA 27:443. The page being cited is from an Advent sermon on Matthew 21 from November 29, 1528.  In WA 27, there are two versions of the text cited on each page of this sermon. The first is a mix of German and Latin, the second in Latin only. It appears Franca utilized the Latin text as he notes the words "dictu mirum" (found only in the straight Latin text on page 443). There does not appear to be an official English translation of the sermon available. 


The same sermon (and reference) has been cited by Roman Catholic historian,  Hartmann Grisar:
"That we are now so lazy and cold in the performance of good works," he says, in a recently published sermon of 1528, "is due to our no longer regarding them as a means of justification. For when we still hoped to be justified by our works our zeal for doing good was a marvel. One sought to excel the other in uprightness and piety. Were the old teaching to be revived today and our works made contributory to righteousness, we should be readier and more willing to do what is good. Of this there is, however, no prospect and thus, when it is a question of serving our neighbour and praising God by means of good works, we are sluggish and not disposed to do anything." 
I've covered similar quotes like this before. One can find similar laments from Luther peppered throughout his writings, typically his sermons. Notice the sentence, "For when we still hoped to be justified by our works our zeal for doing good was a marvel." The Catholic Answers participant using the quote thought it showed Luther himself recognizing "the devastating effects of such admittedly insincere preaching." Luther though is not longing for the good old days under the papacy, nor is he admitting his preaching was insincere. Luther was exhorting his hearers towards righteous living and also pointing out how people will rely on their own works instead of Christ's. When people thought they were working their way into heaven, there was more zeal. On the contrary, Luther's notion of good works were that they demonstrated a Christian heart and were done out of gratitude to the grace given them.  Luther had a pastor's heart, and continually exhorted his hearers to live the Christian life, even if it meant chastising his hearers by reminding them of their previous bondage under the Roman system. The ironic thing is that some Roman Catholics accuse Luther of teaching the wanton lawlessness of sola fide. Yet, when Luther exhorts his hearers to adhere to Christian piety and good works, even this is used against him.

Those using quotes like this also fail to grasp Luther's overall picture of the church.  He believed that within the large throng of people claiming to be Christians, God had a "little flock." For instance, in a preface to Caspar Adler's sermon exhorting people to give alms, Luther says of the sermon:
For even if the great, lost crowd does not regard it, nevertheless a few must form the little flock [Luke 12:32] who relieve it with love and thanksgiving and thank God for it, just as St. Paul, after he had long labored in vain on the lost crowd, turned to the elect and said that he would do all things for the sake of the elect [2 Tim. 2:10]. This is what we also intend to do. For even if we would like to do more among the others, still it will come to nothing and is all in vain. May Christ, our Lord and Savior, preserve us, His little flock, and be with us until the day of His glory and our salvation [LW 60:15-16].
Luther wasn't postmillennial. While he was discouraged that the world seemed to be getting worse, his eschatological expectation can be traced back even to the early days of his Reformation work. For Luther, it was the end of the world. Things were indeed going to get worse. The Gospel was going to be fought against by the Devil with all his might. The true church was a tiny flock in a battle against the world, the flesh, and the Devil. He hoped the people would improve with the preaching of the Gospel, he often admitted he knew things were going to get worse because of the Gospel. There are a number of quotes peppered throughout Luther's writings in regard to the "little flock."
Christendom, too, is a living, healthy body of the pious little flock, God’s children. Yet filth and stench are mixed in. (LW 24:206)
With reference to this, the prophet tells us in this verse that this King will have a people nevertheless which will really be His own, and this especially in the midst of His enemies. He gives us the comfort that “a holy Christian Church” will always exist and remain in the world, just as the article of our Creed teaches us. This means that there will always be a little flock, whoever and wherever they may be, who in unity will cling to this Lord, uphold His scepter, and publicly confess His Word. (LW 13:285)
Whatever goal these hypocrites may want to attain with their “Spirit,” I do not choose to share it with them. May a merciful God preserve me from a Christian Church in which everyone is a saint! I want to be and remain in the church and little flock of the fainthearted, the feeble, and the ailing, who feel and recognize the wretchedness of their sins, who sigh and cry to God incessantly for comfort and help, who believe in the forgiveness of sin, and who suffer persecution for the sake of the Word, which they confess and teach purely and without adulteration (LW 22:55).