Monday, May 18, 2020

Luther: "Oecolampadius, Calvin . . . and the other heretics have in-deviled, through-deviled, over-deviled, corrupt hearts and lying mouths."

Here's a Martin Luther quote that's made the cyber-rounds for a number of years. For instance, it appears in an eighty-seven page "conversion story" opus entitled, "Why I'm Catholic.":
In response to John Calvin's particular brand of Protestantism, Luther stated: "Calvin ... and the other heretics, they have in-deviled, through-deviled, over-deviled, corrupt hearts and lying mouths." (Werke (Walch), XX, 223, in Cath. En. IX, 456d). 
Another version from "Why I Converted to Catholicism" reads:
"Oecolampadius, Calvin . . . and the other heretics have in-deviled, through-deviled, over-deviled, corrupt hearts and lying mouths." 
While these converts use the quote intentionally to highlight disagreements among the original Reformers, the quote is also unique because Luther directly (and most negatively) singles out John Calvin. I know of no theological writings in which Luther directly wrote harshly against John Calvin. Some years back I looked at the "relationship" of Luther and Calvin, pointing out Calvin is mentioned in second-hand Table Talk statements and in a letter, but other than that, the older Luther doesn't appear all that all that interested in John Calvin. Have Rome's defenders located the key that determines Luther's perception of John  Calvin?

Let's look a little deeper into history and determine if Luther said Calvin was a lying corrupt-hearted heretic, thoroughly "in-deviled, through-deviled, over-deviled." Certainly there were differences and disagreements between Luther and the Reformed, and yes, he consigned them off to eternal judgment on more than one occasion.  With this quote though, we'll see that Luther never made this particular comment in reference to John Calvin.

Sparing the tedious details to prove it,  these two cyber-converts, whether they knew it or not, received this quote from historian Will Durant's volume on The Reformation.  Durant writes, 
Luther took no direct part in the pacific conferences of these his declining years; the princes rather than the theologians were now the Protestant leaders, for the issues concerned property and power far more than dogma and ritual. Luther was not made for negotiation, and he was getting too old to fight with weapons other than the pen. A papal envoy described him in 1535 as still vigorous and heartily humorous (“the first question he asked me was whether I had heard the report, current in Italy, that he was a German sot” 27); but his expanding frame harbored a dozen diseases—indigestion, insomnia, dizziness, colic, stones in the kidneys, abscesses in the ears, ulcers, gout, rheumatism, sciatica, and palpitation of the heart. He used alcoholic drinks to dull his pain and bring him sleep; he sampled the drugs that the doctors prescribed for him; and he tried impatient prayer; the diseases progressed. In 1537 he thought he would die of the stone, and he issued an ultimatum to the Deity: “If this pain lasts longer I shall go mad and fail to recognize Thy goodness.” 28 His deteriorating temper was in part an expression of his suffering. His friends increasingly avoided him, for “hardly one of us,” said a saddened votary, “can escape his anger and his public scourging”; and the patient Melanchthon winced under frequent humiliations by his rough-hewn idol. As for “Oecolampadius, Calvin .... and the other heretics,” said Luther, “they have in-deviled, through-deviled, over-deviled, corrupt hearts and lying mouths.”29
29 Werke (Walch), XX 223, in Cath. En., IX, 456d.
Durant first provides a reference to the Walch edition of Luther writings. His bibliography says he used the St. Louis version of Walch.  Here then is Walch XX 223, (St. Louis edition). There isn't though any mention of Oecolampadius or Calvin on the page. There is mention of "Karlstadtians," Dr. Karlstadt, and Peter Rültz (a fictional character).  That being referenced by Durant is Luther's Against the heavenly Prophets in the Matters of Images and Sacraments (1525). Checking that reference, not only is Oecolampadius not mentioned on page / column 223, he isn't mentioned in this particular writing.  Calvin isn't mentioned either, for an obvious reason: in 1525, Calvin was sixteen years old! The only thing remotely similar on page 223 to what Durant is citing is the line in which Luther says, in reference to the "Karlstadtians," that they exhibit a "lying tongue" (LW 40:166), but this seems more like a coincidence than the actual intended source.

Durant says the "Werke XX 223" reference came from the Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. IX, 456. This source states:
It was this "terrible temper" which brought on the tragedy of alienation, that drove from him his most devoted friends and zealous co-labourers. Every contradiction set him ablaze. "Hardly one of us", in the lament of one of his votaries, "can escape Luther's anger and his public scourging" (Corp. Ref., V, 314). Carlstadt parted with him in 1522, after what threatened to be a personal encounter; Melancthon in plaintive tones speaks of his passionate violence, self-will, and tyranny, and does not mince words in confessing the humiliation of his ignoble servitude; Bucer, prompted by political and diplomatic motives, prudently accepts the inevitable "just as the Lord bestowed him on us"; Zwingli "has become a pagan, Œcolampadius . . . and the other heretics have in-devilled, through-devilled, over-devilled corrupt hearts and lying mouths, and no one should pray for them", all of them "were brought to their death by the fiery darts and spears of the devil" (Walch, op. cit., XX, 223); Calvin and the Reformed are also the possessors of "in-deviled, over-devilled, and through-devilled hearts"; Schurf, the eminent jurist, was changed from an ally to an opponent, with a brutality that defies all explanation or apology; Agricola fell a prey to a repugnance that time did not soften; Schwenkfeld, Armsdorf, Cordatus, all incurred his ill will, forfeited his friendship, and became the butt of his stinging speech.
Durant utilized the Catholic Encyclopedia rather than Walch XX. The Catholic Encyclopedia though isn't helpful with documentation either. In fact, it makes it more confusing! There are a number of quotes being utilized. Some of the quotes are from Luther's Brief Confession Concerning the Holy Sacrament ("nor pray for them," Zwingli has become a "heathen" LW 38:291). One of the quotes is from The Private Mass and the Consecration of Priests ("...fiery darts and spears of the devil" LW 38:156).  In none of these writings is John Calvin mentioned.

The main aspect of the quote, the harsh sentiment about "in-devilled, through-devilled, over-devilled" and"corrupt hearts and lying mouths" is unique in that the Catholic Encyclopedia uses the "devilled" part twice in the same paragraph without actually providing a helpful reference. This comment comes from Luther's Brief Confession Concerning the Holy Sacrament (1544), also in Walch XX (pp.1764-1791), found specifically on page /column 1771, paragraph 17. This writing has been translated into English in LW 38:279-319. The quote can be found at LW 38:296. An older partial English translation can be found here.

Even if the impossible were true, and they were right that mere bread and wine are in the Lord’s Supper, should they for that reason rage and thunder thus against us with such hideous blasphemies, “baked God,” “God of bread,” etc.? Should they not spare the sacred words of Christ (which we have not invented), “This is my body,” by which he clearly calls the bread, that is being offered, his body? Thus they might also blaspheme him as being a God of cloths or made of cloths, or a woven or a sewn-up God because he went about in a robe and garments that were sewn and woven. Likewise they might call him a watery God because he was baptized in the Jordan, a God wrapped in clouds because he ascended into heaven in the clouds.
I, too, would have been able to designate their God in a corresponding way and I could still do it, if I would not want to spare the name of God. I could also give them their true name and say that they are not only devourers of bread and drinkers of wine but devourers of souls and murderers of souls and that they possess a bedeviled, thoroughly bedeviled, hyper-bedeviled heart and lying tongue. Thereby I would have spoken the truth because it cannot be contradicted that they have shamelessly lied by means of such blasphemies of theirs against their own consciences. Yet they are not repentant; in fact, they boast about themselves in their malice.
Therefore, no one among the Christians should and can pray for the fanatics or receive them. They have incurred their penalty and are committing “sin which is mortal” [1 John 5:16], as St. John says. I am talking about the leaders; may the dear Lord Christ deliver the poor people who are among them from such murderers of souls. They have (I say) been admonished sharply and often enough. They do not want to have anything to do with me; therefore, I do not want to have anything to do with them either. They have received nothing from me, they boast, for which I am thankful to God. Likewise, I have received much less from them, for which God be praised. Let that be as it may; the truth will come to light, if it has not already done so with a vengeance. (LW 38:295-296).
When the Catholic Encyclopedia mentions "Calvin and the Reformed," it appears they simply added "Calvin" in. Durant, simply copied from the Catholic Encyclopedia, and did not check Werke XX 223. The reference is not accurate in regard to the quote either. Perhaps the Catholic Encyclopedia's use of "op. cit" gives them a pass, for the bulk of the quote is found much later in Werke XX. Why they used "in-deviled, over-devilled, and through-devilled" twice doesn't make sense. Durant combined both of them together. 

Luther wrote his Brief Confession Concerning the Holy Sacrament in 1544. Luther did not mention John Calvin. Rather, Luther had Caspar Schwenckfeld, Zwingli, and Karlstadt, Oecolampadius,  directly in his line of fire (some of them were dead at the time he wrote it) when he said, "in-deviled, through-deviled, over-deviled, corrupt hearts and lying mouths" (sondern Seelfresser und Seel mörder wären, und sie ein eingeteufelt, durch teufelt, überteufelt, lästerlich Herz und Lugen maul hätten). Maybe one could argue by extension that because Calvin was in the "Reformed" camp, he likewise falls under Luther's condemnation. Some have said at this point Luther was agitated by Melanchthon and Bucer over the same issue, but chose not to include them in this writing, so if we're just speculating, let's throw Calvin in their as well.

I certainly understand how this historical exploration may seem trivial or tedious. Why bother? I do so to point out that Rome's defenders often claim to be deep into history. When it comes to Reformation history, the Internet is riddled with misinformation and mis-citation, often coming from their side of the Tiber.  


TommyK said...

Defenders of Rome never seem to read Luther or the Reformers. They tend to go with someone else who has a "bias" toward the Reformers. If a Romanist does read Luther and tries to discredit him and his teachings, then he is still unconverted as the Counter-Reformation continues its work from Trent and the Jesuits; and some folks wonder why the Almighty has decreed eternal punishments for these modern day Judaizers.

James Swan said...

Hi Tommy:

I recently have been visiting some Facebook "debate" groups.. the "debate" amounts to people yelling at each other. I've noticed Defenders of Rome bring up Luther continually... so far, I've not encountered a single person that has any clue about Reformation history. But wait... they are the ones claiming to be "deep in history..."

TommyK said...

James, beside the Romanists, the deception within the Reformed Denominations has been going on since the Reformation and is getting worse and worse. Some of the educated theologians have gone far enough to discreetly chisel on the Incarnation - separating the Person of Christ - all with the cry to bring more clarification to the Creeds, etc. etc. As you are well aware of, everyone has to put a spin on Luther and the Reformers; and although some are correctly understanding the Reformers; many do not, or seek to deceptively misrepresent Reformed Theology. Tommy

James Swan said...

Some of the educated theologians have gone far enough to discreetly chisel on the Incarnation - separating the Person of Christ - all with the cry to bring more clarification to the Creeds, etc. etc.

I'm not all that aware of this controversy. I have a vague recollection of a few Lutherans on a discussion a board bringing it up.

TommyK said...

James, I'll get back to you; but in short, it is obvious that a number of Reformed and Presbyterians followed Zwingli's view on the Supper/Incarnation; and some have attempted to redefine the Creeds as well as the Communication idiomatum - either adding to, taking away, or reviving old heresies - apostasing from the Person of Christ and Luther/Augustine tradition. Tommy