Friday, July 24, 2020

Luther: A Christian is never in a state of completion but always in a process of becoming.

Did Martin Luther say "A Christian is never in a state of completion but always in a process of becoming"?  The picture to the left is one of many found on the Internet popularizing its link  to Luther. The attribution to Luther has gone beyond seemingly endless cut-and-pastes of cyberspace and also finds its way into published books. Let's take a look. I don't think he said it.

In my cursory search, of the scores of web-pages using this quote, no documentation exists other than the simple attribution to Luther. The oldest use of it I found was to a Lutheran publication: Kent Gilbert (ed.), Confirmation and Education (Fortress Press, 1969). In a chapter entitled, The Purpose of confirmation Education, Richard Evanson writes on page 48,
Grow in the life of the community and its mission. Christians have always understood that God works with man through other men. Through his experience with the pastoral and educational ministry of the congregation, the confirmand is to gain such learning as:
a. Understanding that the that the church is the people of God and that it has the following God-given functions: worship, witness, education, service, fellowship.
b. Understanding that Christian growth is a lifelong process and that the Christian is never in a state of completion but always in a process of becoming.
c. Understanding that all believers in Christ are members of the Body of Christ and are joined in a fellowship that transcends race, nationality, age, and time.
d. Feeling that he is genuinely a part of the body of Christ and experiencing the fellowship which this implies.
e. Finding those tasks within the church for which he is fitted and accepting responsibility to fulfill them.
It's interesting that almost the exact wording is used (except, "the Christian" vs. "a Christian"). Evanson doesn't document the quote, but presents himself as the author of the words; that Christian growth is to be understood as "a lifelong process and that the Christian is never in a state of completion but always in a process of becoming."  It's within the realm of possibility that Evanson simply arrived at the same formula independently of the current Luther attributed quote, or that someone mis-attributed to Luther what was original to Evanson.  

This is yet another "Martin Luther" quote best classified as apocryphal. No, Luther probably did not coin this phrase in this form.  The sentiment is so popular, that virtually anyone from any religion could have said it. In fact, "We are always in a process of becoming" is popularly attributed to Bruce Lee! Unfortunately, I was not able to determine who first attributed the quote to Luther.

The concepts of "process of becoming" and "state of completion" are not unique to Luther. The sixth century B.C. Greek philosopher Heraclitus saw all of reality in the "process of becoming" while Parmenides delved into examining the state of "being." In more recent times, Process Theology views all of reality, including God, in perpetual process unto a final goal.  

In religious parlance,  the paradigm of becoming and completion are almost thoroughly ingrained into whatever system one looks at.  In Christian theologies specifically,  a Roman Catholic could just as easily say "A Christian is never in a state of completion but always in a process of becoming" as a Protestant, but with different nuances: Roman Catholic theology sees sanctification unto eventual justification, whereas typical Protestant theology sees justification unto eventual complete sanctification. Eastern Orthodoxy has its emphasis on theosis and apotheosis, similarly seeing the Christian life as a process of becoming to eventual arrival.

It wouldn't be at all uncommon to find the notions of becoming and completion in Luther's writings.  On the other hand, what makes Luther unique is the concept of simul justus et peccator, that at the same time, a Christian is seen covered in the righteousness of Christ, but yet still a sinner, in the process of becoming

In commenting on the inherent sin within the church, Luther speaks of judgment day "when we shall then rise pure," then in passing, mentions "the Aristotelians say, we are in process of becoming holy and not in the state of having become holy" (LW 12:243, "Luther’s phrases are in fieri and in facto"). In one of his early responses to the papal bull exsurge domine, he states,
This life, therefore, is not godliness but the process of becoming godly, not health but getting well, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way. The process is not yet finished, but it is actively going on. This is not the goal but it is the right road. At present, everything does not gleam and sparkle, but everything is being cleansed (LW 32:24).
In Luther's Disputation on the Works of the Law and of Grace (1537), Luther says, "Our justification is not yet finished. It is neither something which is actually completed nor is it essentially present. It is still under construction"  (WA 39.1:252 (LW 71); cf, Paul Althaus, 245, fn 96), but is finally completed in the resurrection ("Sed complebitur tandem in resurrectione mortuorum").

Addendum: simul justus et peccator
Sometimes simul justus et peccator is misunderstood as a Christian being 100% sinner and 100% saint at the same time, in which case, a Christian would not be, in essence, in "a process of becoming," but rather simply awaiting to shed off the sinful man at death. Such Christian anthropology can veer towards antinomianism, seeing any doctrine of sanctification abhorrent.  This link presents a fascinating study of Luther's simul justus et peccator.  The author quotes Luther saying, "we die unto sin and live unto righteousness, beginning and growing here on earth and perfecting it beyond" (LW 41:113-114).

Monday, July 20, 2020

Luther: "Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long, does not sin; whoever does not sin, enters Heaven! Thus, let us drink beer!"

Here's a Luther quote pulled from a Lutheran discussion group:
Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long, does not sin; whoever does not sin, enters Heaven! Thus, let us drink beer!
This is another one of those Luther quotes splattered all over the internet.  It appears to be particularly an obvious favorite of beer websites and beer enthusiasts. One site states,  "I not 100% sure that the following quote is truly from Martin Luther; however I’ve seen it attributed to him enough that I willing to do the same." One page considers the quote one of 50 Profound Martin Luther Quotes About Faith.  A basic book search reveals it's gone to print as well. Let's take a closer look. No, it wasn't Luther, but it is surprising to find out that one of Luther's closest associates was using a version of it.

Typically, there is no documentation other than attributing the quote to "Martin Luther." Others have sought to verify this quote. This author claims the quote "seems to have appeared suddenly in 2007 on a blog" but doesn't provide a link to substantiate the claim.  An intriguing clue is found on Wikipedia, dating the phrase in Latin to 1658:

Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long, does not sin; whoever does not sin, enters Heaven! Thus, let us drink beer!
  • Widely attributed to Luther, but actually is an example given in 1658 book Ἑρμηνεια logica of faulty logic. In Latin:
    • Si vero termini in sorite sunt causae subordinatae per accidens, sorites non valet; ut ia hoc, Qui bene bibit, bene dormit; qui bene dormit, non peccat; qui non peccat, est beatus; ergo: qui bene bibit est beatus. Vitium est, quod bene bibere sit causa per accidens somni.
  • Translated via Fauxtations:
    • If, however, the conclusions in the sorite are subordinate by accident, the sorites is not valid; as in this one, He who sleeps well, drinks well; he who sleeps well, does not sin; he who does not sin, is blessed; therefore, he who drinks well is blessed. The problem is that to drink well is a cause of sleep only by accident.

The 1658 book / page cited by Wikipedia can be found here.  Wiki, as admitted, absorbed this information from this source, a blog entitled, Fauxations, because sometimes the Internet is wrong. Kudos to this source for at least determining the quote has an old pedigree that need not necessarily be linked to Martin Luther. Unfortunately, while 1658 may appear at first glance to be the oldest use of the quote found via Google Books, this does not determine if its the actual origin of this quote or if Luther originally said it or not.

An interesting clue that Fauxations points out is the aspect of the "syllogism"... that the quote was not intended to be a cute saying, but rather an example of a logical problem.  This nineteenth-century source refers to it as a "classic canticle" citing it as: Bene vivit. Qui bene vivit Bene dormit. Qui bene dormit Non peccat. Qui non peccat In cælum venit. Ergo qui bene bibet In cælum venit. Another nineteenth-century text refers to it as "the syllogism," another, "the formula."  This text refers to it as "a profane syllogism obtained by Lord John Russell from an old Spanish priest": Qui bene bibet bene dormit, qui bene dormit non peccat, qui non peccat salvatus erirt (the incident appears to be recorded here and here).  This text puts the syllogism in a narrative form. The one thing these texts at least have similarly in is that the syllogism existed as common knowledge.

Philip Melanchthon?
One can go deeper than 1658 and find the syllogism being toyed with by none other than Luther's associate... Philip Melanchthon!  In a Google book from 1529 from Melanchthon one finds

This text reads, Qui bene bibet, bene dormit, Qui bene dormit, non peccat, qui no peccat erit beatus, ergo qui bene bibet erit beatus. There appears to be correlation of this Latin syllogism to the German jingle, Zu nacht wohl essen, macht wohl schlafen, und wohl leben, macht wohl sterben.

I doubt Luther coined the phrase in it's typical logical formula or in the form Melanchthon presented. It is fascinating though that Philip Melanchthon, a close associate, was using it in his logic textbooks and Luther was well aware of his publications.  It is therefore, not out of the possibility that Luther could have repeated it, or a version of it, say in a Table Talk (my cursory search though didn't find anything). It would be interesting to determine if the syllogism existed previous to Melanchthon (I suspect it may have) in a book on logic.

The version that currently circulates the Internet is the obvious work of an editor, perhaps unintentionally or humorously, making the syllogism specific to beer and specific to Luther.   But hey, maybe tacking on "Luther" can actually generate $$$.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Luther on the Papists: "Why do we not rather assault them with arms and wash our hands in their blood?"

In going through the Beggars All archives, I came across a series of old posts examining Martin Luther's call for the deaths of Roman Catholics. Luther is quoted as saying,
It seems to me that if the Romanists are so mad the only remedy remaining is for the emperor, the kings, the princes to gird themselves with force of arms to attack these pests of all the world and fight them, not with words, but with steel. If we punish thieves with the yoke, highwaymen with the sword, and heretics with fire, why do we not rather assault these monsters of perdition, these cardinals, these popes, and the whole swarm of the Roman Sodom, who corrupt youth and the Church of God? Why do we not rather assault them with arms and wash our hands in their blood?- Martin Luther June 25, 1520
Other English versions of this quote, typically shorter, exist as well. It's not uncommon to find snippets of this quote on amateur apologetcs web-pages... but also in many books, some done by respected authors. Realizing that my older entries are a bit top-heavy, let's take a concise and fresh look at this quote. We'll see that Luther went on to explain he was speaking rhetorically, not literally.

Back in 2008 I went through a detailed footnote from a defender of Rome documenting this quote. This time, simply, the quote in the English form above originates from Roland Bainton's Here I Stand.

Bainton cites WA 6:347The quote comes from Epitoma Responsionis ad Marinum Lutherum. It was originally a book published by one of Luther's Roman Catholic opponents, Sylvester Prierias. As a response to it, Luther republished it with his own annotations, introduction and conclusion. The quote in question comes from Luther's conclusion. To my knowledge, no official English translation of the entire work is available.  However, It is scheduled to be released in an upcoming volume of Luther' Works.


Back in 2008 I provided a detailed explanation of this quote. It's enough to simply know that Luther's Roman Catholic opponent, Sylvester Prierias was an advocate of papal absolutism. Prierias was a high official in the Roman Church. He charged Luther with offending the Pope's majesty in questioning indulgence preaching, in essence, questioning the authority of the one who granted indulgence preaching. Against this position of papal absolutism Luther declares:
"If these opinions and this teaching prevail at Rome, with the knowledge of the Pope and the Cardinals, I pronounce that Antichrist sits in the temple of God, and that the Roman Court is the synagogue of Satan. If the Pope and the Cardinals do not demand a retraction of these opinions,I declare that I dissent from the Roman Church, and cast it off as the abomination standing in the holy place."
"When the Romanists see that they cannot prevent a Council, they feign that the Pope is above a Council, is the infallible rule of truth, and the author of all understanding of Scripture. There is no remedy, save that Emperor, Kings, and Princes should attack these pests and settle the matter, not by words but by the sword. If we punish thieves by the gallows, and heretics by fire, why not attack Pope, Cardinals, and the brood of the Roman Sodom with arms, and wash our hands in their blood?" [source]
Not too long afterward, Luther explained exactly what he meant in response to another Roman controversialist, Jerome Emser. Luther explained it was a rhetorical argument: since heretics are burned, then it should be fair as well to physically attack the papists. He goes on to elaborate he didn't approve of burning heretics, so he wasn't advocating killing the papists.  In LW 39: 172-174, Luther states:
Emser’s second lie is that I wanted the hands of the laymen washed in the blood of the priests. His holy priesthood and Christian love seek nothing but fire. If I were dead he could spread such lies as truth, just as happened to Huss. This is the way I have written against Sylvester, “in contrast,” as this noble poet and rhetorician well knows: if heretics are burned, why should we not much rather attack the pope and his sects with the sword and wash our hands in their blood, if he teaches what Sylvester writes, namely, that Holy Scripture has its power from the pope. But since I dislike burning heretics, or killing even a single Christian, and since I know full well it is against the gospel, I merely indicated what they deserve if heretics deserve the fire. Nor is it necessary to attack you with the sword. The nobility and worldly powers, if they just despise your tyrannical shamming and false ban, can certainly advise you womanish and childish people with a single letter and command. They can say to you, “This is the way it must be,” and you have no choice but to obey. The way you react to it, with burning, banning, raging, and raving against the clear truth, it seems you would really like to have a Bohemian example made of yourselves and fulfill the prophecy which says that the priests should be slain. If this should happen to you, you cannot blame me. Just continue as you are, you are on the right track! Where advice is not possible, help is not possible. You will very soon find out if you can end the game in that way, even if it rains and snows nothing but bishops, Emsers, Ecks, and popes. I trust you have foreseen that no one will destroy the pope but you yourselves, his own creatures, as the prophet says.
But tell me, dear Emser, if you may write that it is necessary and right to burn heretics and think you do not thereby soil your hands with Christian blood, why should it not also be right to strangle you, Sylvester, the pope, and all your sects in the most scandalous way? For not only do you write in the manner of a heretic and of the Antichrist, but you also say what all the devils are not allowed to say, namely, that the gospel is confirmed by the pope, its power is dependent on the pope’s power, and the church has done what the pope does? What heretic has ever so completely condemned and destroyed God’s word in one stroke? That is why I still say, “If heretics have deserved the fire, you and the pope should be killed a thousand times.” Still I do not want it to happen. Your judge is not far off. He will find you in good health and nimble. Do not get bored in the meantime. Yet I would prefer you to come before him with remorse and penance. God help you to do this, Amen. Nevertheless, I would like the Roman courtiers to be repelled with force just like other thieves and robbers, if they cannot be stopped in any other way.
So that I may not be ridiculed along with you I shall ignore your babbling that I put the priesthood to shame and your claim that St. Paul was consecrated by the apostles and St. Peter had a tonsure; I shall also ignore all the useless talk you spew forth about consecration and priestly estate and the threefold meaning of “spiritual”-spirituale, ecclesiasticum, religiosum-and that not all Christians are spiritual, spirituales. You probably also would like to say that the laying on of hands on the head meant more than consecration. Who can stop you if you intend to do nothing but lie and preach, as some do, that St. Bartholomew prayed the rosary and the psalter of our dear lady? I do not need any logic here: I call spiritual spirituales, devout Christians ecclesiasticum, and do not know religiosum in this context. I thought that for once the naked sword would strike me with the blade, but neither sheath nor sword nor man is at hand. You also lie that I have made all laymen bishops, priests, and spiritual in such a way that they may exercise the office without a call. But, as godly as you are, you conceal the fact that I added that no one should undertake this office without a call unless it be an extreme emergency. And what shall I say, since there is almost one lie after another in your book? I am afraid you will lie, blaspheme, hate, and rave yourself to death. In previous times it was easy to write against heretics. For even though they erred, as honest people they did not need to lie and stuck to the heart of the matter. My persecutors let the matter drop and, like knaves, rely solely upon lies. But to keep you from being displeased at hearing nothing but your lies, let us deal again with something good-the Spirit and the letter, which is the main theme of your book.
It depends on where  you fall on the "I hate or Love Luther" spectrum as to whether or not one grants his explanation.  Roland Bainton says, "The disavowal was genuine." I suspect for many of Rome's defenders, it isn't.

In the entries of 2008, I highlighted the various ways Rome's defenders use this quote. Since that time, I've come across some of Rome's defenders using it against current ecumenical trends in their own church (see here and here). They are concerned with current Roman authorities having positive interaction with a group whose founder appears to have hated their very existence and called for their deaths.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Luther Didn't Know What an Indulgence Was?

This was posted by one of Rome's defenders via social media:
Luther, in his thesis number (35), referred to indulgences as a way of “buying souls out of Purgatory or to buy confessional licenses.” Years later, Luther admits the fact that he didn’t actually know what an indulgence was. “In two different places in his pamphlet entitled “Hans Worst” written about 1541, when he [Luther] was blinded by rage against the Church, he solemnly declared that,
‘As truly as Our Lord Jesus Christ redeemed me, I did not know what an indulgence was’” (The Facts About Luther pg. 77 – Erlander, 26, 50, 51).
This has been covered previously here at Beggars All. It's still making the rounds.  Leslie Rumble's use of it works as a popular cut and paste source. uses itThis article, claimed to be written by "an expert in Catholic apologetics" (I've never heard of him!) uses it... to name a few. Let's take a fresh look.

Rome's defender cites "The Facts About Luther pg. 77 – Erlander, 26, 50, 51." This reference is to an old hostile Roman Catholic secondary source: Patrick O'Hare, The Facts About Luther (Illinois: Tan Books), 1987 (reprint). Father O'Hare states,
It is interesting to note that later on, in looking back over the days that were gone, Luther had the audacity to state that “he hardly knew what an Indulgence was.” In two different places in his pamphlet entitled Hans Worst, written about 1541when he was blinded by rage against the Church, he solemnly declares that, “As truly as Our Lord Jesus Christ has redeemed me I did not know what an Indulgence was.” (Erlanger, 26, 50, 51.)
We'll return to Father O'Hare in the conclusion below, but for now, let's simply deal with the tidbits offered. First, notice O'Hare cites "Erlanger" not " Erlander" as Rome's defender did. In actuality, it's the Erlangen edition of Luther's writings (though "Erlanger" is acceptable). Sometimes this set is referred to as "Dr. M. Luthers Samtliche Werke" or "E." Here is volume 26, 50-51. The text reads,

O'Hare probably didn't translate this German text himself, he blatantly used secondary sources for the majority of his citations. The English rendering used certainly preceded O'Hare's use (see for example,  J. Verres, 1884).  

This text has been translated into English: Against Hanswurst (LW 41:179-256). The quote is on pages 231-232. This treatise was written towards the end of Luther's life. In the section under scrutiny, Luther reflects back on the beginning of the indulgence controversy.

It happened, in the year 1517, that a preaching monk called John Tetzel, a great ranter, made his appearance. He had previously been rescued in Innsbruck by Duke Frederick from a sack—for Maximilian had condemned him to be drowned in the Inn (presumably on account of his great virtue)—and Duke Frederick reminded him of it when he began to slander us Wittenbergers; he also freely admitted it himself. This same Tetzel now went around with indulgences, selling grace for money as dearly or as cheaply as he could, to the best of his ability. At that time I was a preacher here in the monastery, and a fledgling doctor fervent and enthusiastic for Holy Scripture.
Now when many people from Wittenberg went to Jütterbock and Zerbst for indulgences, and I (as truly as my Lord Christ redeemed me) did not know what the indulgences were, as in fact no one knew, I began to preach very gently that one could probably do something better and more reliable than acquiring indulgences.(86) I had also preached before in the same way against indulgences at the castle and had thus gained the disfavor of Duke Frederick because he was very fond of his religious foundation. Now I—to point out the true cause of the Lutheran rumpus—let everything take its course.
(86) See, for example, a sermon Luther preached on February 24, 1517. LW 51, 26–-31. See also two Lenten sermons he preached in March, 1518. LW 51, 35-–49.
[LW 41:231-232]
Elsewhere in the same document, Luther says something similar:
So my theses against Tetzel’s articles, which you can now see in print, were published. They went throughout the whole of Germany in a fortnight, for the whole world complained about indulgences, and particularly about Tetzel’s articles. And because all the bishops and doctors were silent and no one wanted to bell the cat (for the masters of heresy, the preaching order, had instilled fear into the whole world with the threat of fire, and Tetzel had bullied a number of priests who had grumbled against his impudent preaching), Luther became famous as a doctor, for at last someone had stood up to fight. I did not want the fame, because (as I have said) I did not myself know what the indulgences were, and the song might prove too high for my voice (LW 41:234; WA 51:541; Halle, 52).
LW 41 translates the sentence: "I (as truly as my Lord Christ redeemed me) did not know what the indulgences were..." Luther does not say: I did not know what an indulgence is. A much more practical way to read the sentence from Against Hanswurst  is that Luther was not aware of what the details were of the particular indulgences that were being hawked in Jütterbock and Zerbst. Luther was certainly familiar with indulgences previous to the 1517 controversy. My earlier entry on this goes into the details of Luther's comments on indulgences previous to 1517.

Now back to Father O'Hare: those sources that use this Luther tidbit via O'Hare actually ignore what Father O'Hare goes on to say. O'Hare admits that Luther did know what an indulgence was at the time, but then proceeds to attack him on other grounds:
This statement, notwithstanding the sacred affirmation with which he introduces it, is to say the least, of very doubtful veracity. To express himself in this way is, however, rather a poor compliment for a Professor and Doctor of Theology to pay to himself, nor can it be considered as very prudent, that a man should talk about and inveigh against things of which he confesses his ignorance. Indeed, he could hardly have meant what he said had he recalled at the moment the teachings and sermons of his earlier days, when he held and asserted with absolute conviction the mind of the Church on the doctrine of Indulgences. If Luther, however, was really ignorant of the matter he had plenty of opportunities of learning the unadulterated teaching of the Church. He could have been accommodated within the walls of his own University. The nature of Indulgences was clearly defined in ordinary manuals for the use of the clergy, then in print, such as the “Discipulus de Eruditione Christi Fidelium,” issued at Cologne in 1504, and many other learned theological works. Luther, however, needed no enlightenment on the subject. He knew what an Indulgence was, its nature, its authority, its place in the spiritual order, and was quite familiar with its practice in the Church. He knew that an Indulgence was simply a remission in whole or in part, through the superabundant merits of Jesus Christ and His saints, of the temporal punishment due to God on account of sin after the guilt and eternal punishment have been remitted in the Sacrament of Penance. He knew that it gave no license to commit sin of any kind or in any form. He knew that no abuse could affect an Indulgence in itself, that an Indulgence is legitimate apart from an abuse, and that it would be a sacrilegious crime in any one whomsoever, from the Pope down to the most humble layman, to be concerned in buying or selling Indulgences. He knew that Indulgences were never bartered for money in Germany or elsewhere for sińs yet to be committed. He knew they were not marketable commodities and that ro traffic or sale of Indulgences was ever authorized or countenanced by the authorities of the Church. He knew all this as well as any enlightened member of the Church in his day for he studied the whole ins-and-outs of the matter in his earlier career. His onslaught on Indulgences was not made from any lack of knowledge of their meaning and value.
Father O'Hare was certainly hostile toward Luther, as are typically those who use Father O'Hare's book.  Here we see a clear instance of bias by those who can't even cite their own hostile sources against Luther correctly!

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Martin Luther: History is like a drunk man on a horse. No sooner does he fall off on the left side, does he mount again and fall off on the right.

Here's a colorful saying attributed to Martin Luther:
“History,” Martin Luther said, “is like a drunk man on a horse. No sooner does he fall off on the left side, does he mount again and fall off on the right.” (source)
Most often the quote is not documented. Curiously, an article found on the Christian History Institute website presented an entire article expounding what Luther meant, by taking a "closer look" at "both at Luther’s remarks and Luther himself".... without actually documenting the quote!

I'm not the first to come across this documentation problem. This old discussion post asks for help locating the source, and they actually arrived at the source: Luther's Table Talk.  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.

This particular second-hand comment was recorded by Veit Dietrich in 1533. There is no context surrounding the remark.  The German text can be found at WA Tr 1:298 (631). The text reads:

This text is included in LW 54:111. My electronic copy of LW 54 lists this Table Talk entry as 630.  This is an error: it's actually 631. 

No. 630: The World Is Like a Drunken Peasant
Fall, 1533
“The world is like a drunken peasant. If you lift him into the saddle on one side, he will fall off on the other side. One can’t help him, no matter how one tries. He wants to be the devil’s.” (LW 54:111)

There are various versions of this quote:

1800: Human reason is like a drunken man on horseback; set it up on one side, and it tumbles over on the other.

1952: Luther surely spoke very good sense when he compared humanity to a drunkard who, after falling off his horse on the right, falls off it next time on the left.

1992Human nature is like a drunk peasant. Lift him into the saddle on one side, over he topples on the other side.

1993: Martin Luther said that humanity is like a drunk man on a horse. First he falls off on one side, then he climbs back up and falls off the other side.

2007: Martin Luther - an intemperate and hasty man, but far from a fool- once remarked that humanity is like a drunken peasant trying to ride a horse. We mount, fall off on one side, remount, and fall off on the other.

2014: Martin Luther said history is like a drunk man on a horse going from one ditch to the other, and it seems that is the case with us.

I'm sure many other examples of this quote are available. This is only a brief sampling. In the earliest version, it's "human reason" which is like a drunk person on horseback.  Then, it's humanity or "human nature." Finally, it's "history" which is like a drunk person on a horse.

According to the primary source, it's the "world."