Friday, January 20, 2017

Vatican Issued Luther Stamps?

Here's it is from the rumor mill:

BREAKING: Vatican to issue stamp featuring Martin Luther
January 17, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — If you happen to receive a piece of mail from the Vatican this year, don’t be surprised to see the face of Martin Luther. The Vatican office charged with issuing stamps, known as the Philatelic and Numismatic Office, confirmed Tuesday to LifeSiteNews that Luther, who broke away from the Catholic Church in a schism 500 years ago, will be celebrated with a postage stamp in 2017. The office is in charge of the annual commission of stamps, coins, and other commemorative medals.
Fake news? A number of websites picked up on this article from Life Site News, including  The Washington Times. Rome's defender Patrick Madrid tweeted, "If true, this is BEYOND surreal. And quite disturbing" (jan. 17).

The folks over on the Catholic Answers forums are befuddled as well:
"Why would they celebrate Martin Luther with a stamp rather than someone who was faithful to our Church? It makes no sense."
"Quite frankly, I just don't know what to say anymore."
" if this happens, we will have exonerated the individual who has done more to damage the Body of Christ than anyone else in the history of the Church."
"I can't believe this! I am fairly open minded and I try to see the good in people things and give them the benefit of the doubt. But this is Pretty crazy."
"I'm all for dialogue with Lutherans, but directly honouring Luther himself is problematic I think. He did both good and bad for the Church...he inspired schism and taught heresy, but he also triggered necessary reforms within the Church itself by calling it out on corruption. All of that aside...I would have issues honouring him as an individual for completely unrelated reasons. For one, he was a raging anti-Semite. Some of what he proposed regarding the treatment of Jews makes my stomach turn."
"If this is true, it's deplorable."
"It is deplorable that the Vatican is holding up Luther as a figure from history for us to remember. The damage done by the so-called Reformation is inestimable in terms of the souls lost to Hell and the terrible destruction wrought by wars as well as cultural evils like contraception, abortion etc. Things are getting worse but the worse of the worse is still to come."
"Shocking, deplorable."
"To commemorate the person of Luther is wrong, as far as I can tell."

If this stamp rumor is true, Rome's current leaders have some explaining to do to Leo X when they meet up with him in Purgatory:

Condemning The Errors Of Martin Luther
Pope Leo X

Bull issued June 15, 1520
Arise, O Lord, and judge your own cause. Remember your reproaches to those who are filled with foolishness all through the day. Listen to our prayers, for foxes have arisen seeking to destroy the vineyard whose winepress you alone have trod. When you were about to ascend to your Father, you committed the care, rule, and administration of the vineyard, an image of the triumphant church, to Peter, as the head and your vicar and his successors. The wild boar from the forest seeks to destroy it and every wild beast feeds upon it.

Rise, Peter, and fulfill this pastoral office divinely entrusted to you as mentioned above.

Give heed to the cause of the holy Roman Church, mother of all churches and teacher of the faith, whom you by the order of God, have consecrated by your blood. Against the Roman Church, you warned, lying teachers are rising, introducing ruinous sects, and drawing upon themselves speedy doom. Their tongues are fire, a restless evil, full of deadly poison. They have bitter zeal, contention in their hearts, and boast and lie against the truth.

We beseech you also, Paul, to arise. It was you that enlightened and illuminated the Church by your doctrine and by a martyrdom like Peter's. For now a new Porphyry rises who, as the old once wrongfully assailed the holy apostles, now assails the holy pontiffs, our predecessors.

Rebuking them, in violation of your teaching, instead of imploring them, he is not ashamed to assail them, to tear at them, and when he despairs of his cause, to stoop to insults. He is like the heretics "whose last defense," as Jerome says, "is to start spewing out a serpent's venom with their tongue when they see that their causes are about to be condemned, and spring to insults when they see they are vanquished." For although you have said that there must be heresies to test the faithful, still they must be destroyed at their very birth by your intercession and help, so they do not grow or wax strong like your wolves. Finally, let the whole church of the saints and the rest of the universal church arise. Some, putting aside her true interpretation of Sacred Scripture, are blinded in mind by the father of lies. Wise in their own eyes, according to the ancient practice of heretics, they interpret these same Scriptures otherwise than the Holy Spirit demands, inspired only by their own sense of ambition, and for the sake of popular acclaim, as the Apostle declares. In fact, they twist and adulterate the Scriptures. As a result, according to Jerome, "It is no longer the Gospel of Christ, but a man's, or what is worse, the devil's."

Let all this holy Church of God, I say, arise, and with the blessed apostles intercede with almighty God to purge the errors of His sheep, to banish all heresies from the lands of the faithful, and be pleased to maintain the peace and unity of His holy Church.

For we can scarcely express, from distress and grief of mind, what has reached our ears for some time by the report of reliable men and general rumor; alas, we have even seen with our eyes and read the many diverse errors. Some of these have already been condemned by councils and the constitutions of our predecessors, and expressly contain even the heresy of the Greeks and Bohemians. Other errors are either heretical, false, scandalous, or offensive to pious ears, as seductive of simple minds, originating with false exponents of the faith who in their proud curiosity yearn for the world's glory, and contrary to the Apostle's teaching, wish to be wiser than they should be.

Their talkativeness, unsupported by the authority of the Scriptures, as Jerome says, would not win credence unless they appeared to support their perverse doctrine even with divine testimonies however badly interpreted. From their sight fear of God has now passed.

These errors have, at the suggestion of the human race, been revived and recently propagated among the more frivolous and the illustrious German nation. We grieve the more that this happened there because we and our predecessors have always held this nation in the bosom of our affection. For after the empire had been transferred by the Roman Church from the Greeks to these same Germans, our predecessors and we always took the Church's advocates and defenders from among them. Indeed it is certain that these Germans, truly germane to the Catholic faith, have always been the bitterest opponents of heresies, as witnessed by those commendable constitutions of the German emperors in behalf of the Church's independence, freedom, and the expulsion and extermination of all heretics from Germany. Those constitutions formerly issued, and then confirmed by our predecessors, were issued under the greatest penalties even of loss of lands and dominions against anyone sheltering or not expelling them. If they were observed today both we and they would obviously be free of this disturbance.

Witness to this is the condemnation and punishment in the Council of Constance of the infidelity of the Hussites and Wyclifites as well as Jerome of Prague. Witness to this is the blood of Germans shed so often in wars against the Bohemians. A final witness is the refutation, rejection, and condemnation—no less learned than true and holy—of the above errors, or many of them, by the universities of Cologne and Louvain, most devoted and religious cultivators of the Lord's field. We could allege many other facts too, which we have decided to omit, lest we appear to be composing a history.

In virtue of our pastoral office committed to us by the divine favor we can under no circumstances tolerate or overlook any longer the pernicious poison of the above errors without disgrace to the Christian religion and injury to orthodox faith. Some of these errors we have decided to include in the present document; their substance is as follows:

1. It is a heretical opinion, but a common one, that the sacraments of the New Law give pardoning grace to those who do not set up an obstacle.

2. To deny that in a child after baptism sin remains is to treat with contempt both Paul and Christ.

3. The inflammable sources of sin, even if there be no actual sin, delay a soul departing from the body from entrance into heaven.

4. To one on the point of death imperfect charity necessarily brings with it great fear, which in itself alone is enough to produce the punishment of purgatory, and impedes entrance into the kingdom.

5. That there are three parts to penance: contrition, confession, and satisfaction, has no foundation in Sacred Scripture nor in the ancient sacred Christian doctors.

6. Contrition, which is acquired through discussion, collection, and detestation of sins, by which one reflects upon his years in the bitterness of his soul, by pondering over the gravity of sins, their number, their baseness, the loss of eternal beatitude, and the acquisition of eternal damnation, this contrition makes him a hypocrite, indeed more a sinner.

7. It is a most truthful proverb and the doctrine concerning the contritions given thus far is the more remarkable: "Not to do so in the future is the highest penance; the best penance, a new life."

8. By no means may you presume to confess venial sins, nor even all mortal sins, because it is impossible that you know all mortal sins. Hence in the primitive Church only manifest mortal sins were confessed.

9. As long as we wish to confess all sins without exception, we are doing nothing else than to wish to leave nothing to God's mercy for pardon.

10. Sins are not forgiven to anyone, unless when the priest forgives them he believes they are forgiven; on the contrary the sin would remain unless he believed it was forgiven; for indeed the remission of sin and the granting of grace does not suffice, but it is necessary also to believe that there has been forgiveness.

11. By no means can you have reassurance of being absolved because of your contrition, but because of the word of Christ: "Whatsoever you shall loose, etc." Hence, I say, trust confidently, if you have obtained the absolution of the priest, and firmly believe yourself to have been absolved, and you will truly be absolved, whatever there may be of contrition.

12. If through an impossibility he who confessed was not contrite, or the priest did not absolve seriously, but in a jocose manner, if nevertheless he believes that he has been absolved, he is most truly absolved.

13. In the sacrament of penance and the remission of sin the pope or the bishop does no more than the lowest priest; indeed, where there is no priest, any Christian, even if a woman or child, may equally do as much.

14. No one ought to answer a priest that he is contrite, nor should the priest inquire.

15. Great is the error of those who approach the sacrament of the Eucharist relying on this, that they have confessed, that they are not conscious of any mortal sin, that they have sent their prayers on ahead and made preparations; all these eat and drink judgment to themselves. But if they believe and trust that they will attain grace, then this faith alone makes them pure and worthy.

16. It seems to have been decided that the Church in common Council established that the laity should communicate under both species; the Bohemians who communicate under both species are not heretics, but schismatics.

17. The treasures of the Church, from which the pope grants indulgences, are not the merits of Christ and of the saints.

18. Indulgences are pious frauds of the faithful, and remissions of good works; and they are among the number of those things which are allowed, and not of the number of those which are advantageous.

19. Indulgences are of no avail to those who truly gain them, for the remission of the penalty due to actual sin in the sight of divine justice.

20. They are seduced who believe that indulgences are salutary and useful for the fruit of the spirit.

21. Indulgences are necessary only for public crimes, and are properly conceded only to the harsh and impatient.

22. For six kinds of men indulgences are neither necessary nor useful; namely, for the dead and those about to die, the infirm, those legitimately hindered, and those who have not committed crimes, and those who have committed crimes, but not public ones, and those who devote themselves to better things.

23. Excommunications are only external penalties and they do not deprive man of the common spiritual prayers of the Church.

24. Christians must be taught to cherish excommunications rather than to fear them.

25. The Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter, is not the vicar of Christ over all the churches of the entire world, instituted by Christ Himself in blessed Peter.

26. The word of Christ to Peter: "Whatsoever you shall loose on earth," etc., is extended merely to those things bound by Peter himself.

27. It is certain that it is not in the power of the Church or the pope to decide upon the articles of faith, and much less concerning the laws for morals or for good works.

28. If the pope with a great part of the Church thought so and so, he would not err; still it is not a sin or heresy to think the contrary, especially in a matter not necessary for salvation, until one alternative is condemned and another approved by a general Council.

29. A way has been made for us for weakening the authority of councils, and for freely contradicting their actions, and judging their decrees, and boldly confessing whatever seems true, whether it has been approved or disapproved by any council whatsoever.

30. Some articles of John Hus, condemned in the Council of Constance, are most Christian, wholly true and evangelical; these the universal Church could not condemn.

31. In every good work the just man sins.

32. A good work done very well is a venial sin.

33. That heretics be burned is against the will of the Spirit.

34. To go to war against the Turks is to resist God who punishes our iniquities through them.

35. No one is certain that he is not always sinning mortally, because of the most hidden vice of pride.

36. Free will after sin is a matter of title only; and as long as one does what is in him, one sins mortally.

37. Purgatory cannot be proved from Sacred Scripture which is in the canon.

38. The souls in purgatory are not sure of their salvation, at least not all; nor is it proved by any arguments or by the Scriptures that they are beyond the state of meriting or of increasing in charity.

39. The souls in purgatory sin without intermission, as long as they seek rest and abhor punishment.

40. The souls freed from purgatory by the suffrages of the living are less happy than if they had made satisfactions by themselves.

41. Ecclesiastical prelates and secular princes would not act badly if they destroyed all of the money bags of beggary.

No one of sound mind is ignorant how destructive, pernicious, scandalous, and seductive to pious and simple minds these various errors are, how opposed they are to all charity and reverence for the holy Roman Church who is the mother of all the faithful and teacher of the faith; how destructive they are of the vigor of ecclesiastical discipline, namely obedience. This virtue is the font and origin of all virtues and without it anyone is readily convicted of being unfaithful.

Therefore we, in this above enumeration, important as it is, wish to proceed with great care as is proper, and to cut off the advance of this plague and cancerous disease so it will not spread any further in the Lord's field as harmful thorn-bushes. We have therefore held a careful inquiry, scrutiny, discussion, strict examination, and mature deliberation with each of the brothers, the eminent cardinals of the holy Roman Church, as well as the priors and ministers general of the religious orders, besides many other professors and masters skilled in sacred theology and in civil and canon law. We have found that these errors or theses are not Catholic, as mentioned above, and are not to be taught, as such; but rather are against the doctrine and tradition of the Catholic Church, and against the true interpretation of the sacred Scriptures received from the Church. Now Augustine maintained that her authority had to be accepted so completely that he stated he would not have believed the Gospel unless the authority of the Catholic Church had vouched for it. For, according to these errors, or any one or several of them, it clearly follows that the Church which is guided by the Holy Spirit is in error and has always erred. This is against what Christ at his ascension promised to his disciples (as is read in the holy Gospel of Matthew): "I will be with you to the consummation of the world"; it is against the determinations of the holy Fathers, or the express ordinances and canons of the councils and the supreme pontiffs. Failure to comply with these canons, according to the testimony of Cyprian, will be the fuel and cause of all heresy and schism.

With the advice and consent of these our venerable brothers, with mature deliberation on each and every one of the above theses, and by the authority of almighty God, the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and our own authority, we condemn, reprobate, and reject completely each of these theses or errors as either heretical, scandalous, false, offensive to pious ears or seductive of simple minds, and against Catholic truth. By listing them, we decree and declare that all the faithful of both sexes must regard them as condemned, reprobated, and rejected….We restrain all in the virtue of holy obedience and under the penalty of an automatic major excommunication....

Moreover, because the preceding errors and many others are contained in the books or writings of Martin Luther, we likewise condemn, reprobate, and reject completely the books and all the writings and sermons of the said Martin, whether in Latin or any other language, containing the said errors or any one of them; and we wish them to be regarded as utterly condemned, reprobated, and rejected. We forbid each and every one of the faithful of either sex, in virtue of holy obedience and under the above penalties to be incurred automatically, to read, assert, preach, praise, print, publish, or defend them. They will incur these penalties if they presume to uphold them in any way, personally or through another or others, directly or indirectly, tacitly or explicitly, publicly or occultly, either in their own homes or in other public or private places.

Indeed immediately after the publication of this letter these works, wherever they may be, shall be sought out carefully by the ordinaries and others [ecclesiastics and regulars], and under each and every one of the above penalties shall be burned publicly and solemnly in the presence of the clerics and people.

As far as Martin himself is concerned, O good God, what have we overlooked or not done? What fatherly charity have we omitted that we might call him back from such errors? For after we had cited him, wishing to deal more kindly with him, we urged him through various conferences with our legate and through our personal letters to abandon these errors. We have even offered him safe conduct and the money necessary for the journey urging him to come without fear or any misgivings, which perfect charity should cast out, and to talk not secretly but openly and face to face after the example of our Savior and the Apostle Paul. If he had done this, we are certain he would have changed in heart, and he would have recognized his errors. He would not have found all these errors in the Roman Curia which he attacks so viciously, ascribing to it more than he should because of the empty rumors of wicked men. We would have shown him clearer than the light of day that the Roman pontiffs, our predecessors, whom he injuriously attacks beyond all decency, never erred in their canons or constitutions which he tries to assail. For, according to the prophet, neither is healing oil nor the doctor lacking in Galaad.

But he always refused to listen and, despising the previous citation and each and every one of the above overtures, disdained to come. To the present day he has been contumacious. With a hardened spirit he has continued under censure over a year.

What is worse, adding evil to evil, and on learning of the citation, he broke forth in a rash appeal to a future council. This to be sure was contrary to the constitution of Pius II and Julius II our predecessors that all appealing in this way are to be punished with the penalties of heretics. In vain does he implore the help of a council, since he openly admits that he does not believe in a council.
Therefore we can, without any further citation or delay, proceed against him to his condemnation and damnation as one whose faith is notoriously suspect and in fact a true heretic with the full severity of each and all of the above penalties and censures.

Yet, with the advice of our brothers, imitating the mercy of almighty God who does not wish the death of a sinner but rather that he be converted and live, and forgetting all the injuries inflicted on us and the Apostolic See, we have decided to use all the compassion we are capable of. It is our hope, so far as in us lies, that he will experience a change of heart by taking the road of mildness we have proposed, return, and turn away from his errors. We will receive him kindly as the prodigal son returning to the embrace of the Church.

Therefore let Martin himself and all those adhering to him, and those who shelter and support him, through the merciful heart of our God and the sprinkling of the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ by which and through whom the redemption of the human race and the upbuilding of holy mother Church was accomplished, know that from our heart we exhort and beseech that he cease to disturb the peace, unity, and truth of the Church for which the Savior prayed so earnestly to the Father. Let him abstain from his pernicious errors that he may come back to us. If they really will obey, and certify to us by legal documents that they have obeyed, they will find in us the affection of a father's love, the opening of the font of the effects of paternal charity, and opening of the font of mercy and clemency.

We enjoin, however, on Martin that in the meantime he cease from all preaching or the office of preacher....

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Debate Tonight: Dr. James White vs. Trent Horn of Catholic Answers

Debate:  "Can Christians Loose Their Salvation?"
Dr. James R. White vs. Trent Horn of Catholic Answers

In celebration of the 500th Year of the Reformation this year:

Debate site:

Live streaming of the debate tonight:

It is a Pre-Conference Debate before the G3 Conference starts.

Video of General issues of the Reformation and G3 Conference:

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Calvin and Luther justified Christians Killing Muslims and Pagans? (Part One)

The title of this post "Calvin and Luther justified Christians Killing Muslims and Pagans?" takes its name from an "Atheism/Agnosticism/Sec Humanism" discussion board comment. At some point on this particular forum a secularist inferred that Calvin and Luther advocated killing Muslims and pagans. The secularist was challenged to provide evidence. To challenge someone for evidence and documentation is justifiable. On the other hand, to do so while boldly claiming "all the atheists around here falsely claiming [Luther] advocated killing Muslims" and "neither one ever advocated killing Muslims, you screwed up," demonstrates that the inquisitor is not fully aware of Reformation history. 

Let's take a brief survey of Luther's attitude towards the Muslims. Luther was in favor of suppressing the Turks invading Europe. See On War Against the Turk, 1529 (LW 46:155-205), so in a basic sense, Luther was in favor of Christian Europe (through the authorities) "killing Muslims." The editors of LW 46 state:
Luther makes it clear that a war against the Turks cannot and must not be a crusade or religiously motivated and led by the church. Emphatically he states that it is not the business of church and clergy to promote and wage warfare. Luther’s concern throughout the book is to teach men how to fight with a clear conscience. In so doing he develops two major points. There are, he says, only two men who may properly fight the Turk. The first of these is the Christian, who by prayer, repentance, and reform of life takes the rod of anger out of God’s hand and compels the Turk to stand on his own strength. The second man who may wage war is the emperor. The Turk has wrongfully attacked the emperor’s subjects, and by virtue of the office to which God has appointed him, the emperor is duty-bound to protect and defend the subjects with whose care God has entrusted him (LW 46:159).
In an eschatological sense, Luther believed that the Muslim's were the tool of the Devil and would suffer an eternal death, so, in that sense Luther was in favor of "killing Muslims" because they were the agents of Satan. See his Preface and Afterword to Brother Richard (1542) in LW 60:251ff. If the inquisitor is looking for some sort of quote from Luther in which he says "A Christian should kill a Muslim walking down the street," I don't recall ever seeing anything like that. What Luther did say was that soldiers were within their right to defend the empire against Islam. Here are a few citations from On War Against the Turks:
"...there are some stupid preachers among us Germans (as I am sorry to hear) who are making the people believe that we ought not and must not fight against the Turks." (LW 46:161)
"I must write so that innocent consciences may no longer be deceived by these slanderers and made suspicious of me or my doctrine, and so they may not be deceived into believing that we must not fight against the Turks."(LW 46:162)
"The second man who ought to fight against the Turk is Emperor Charles, or whoever may be emperor; for the Turk is attacking his subjects and his empire, and it is his duty, as a regular ruler appointed by God, to defend his own." (LW 46:184)
"In the first place, if there is to be war against the Turk, it should be fought at the emperor’s command, under his banner, and in his name. Then everyone can be sure in his conscience that he is obeying the ordinance of God, since we know that the emperor is our true overlord and head and that whoever obeys him in such a case obeys God also, whereas he who disobeys him also disobeys God. If he dies in this obedience, he dies in a good state, and if he has previously repented and believes in Christ, he will be saved." (LW 46:185)
"I do not advise men to wage war against the Turk or the pope because of false belief or evil life, but because of the murder and destruction which he does." (LW 46:198)
"Nevertheless, the emperor should do whatever he can for his subjects against the Turk, so that even though he cannot entirely prevent the abomination, he may nonetheless try to protect and rescue his subjects by checking the Turk and holding him off. The emperor should be moved to do this not only by duty, his office, and God’s command, nor only by the un-Christian and vile government the Turk brings, as has been said above, but also by the misery and wretchedness that befalls his subjects. Doubtlessly they know better than I how cruelly the Turk treats those whom he takes captive. He treats them like cattle, dragging, towing, driving those that can move, and killing on the spot those that cannot move, whether they are young or old."(LW 46:200)
For a helpful overview of Luther's writings against Islam, see, Mark U. Edwards, Luther's Last Battles (Ithica: Cornell University Press, 1983), p.97-114. I suspect Luther would not have any problems with a Muslim who converted to Christianity.

Luther's comments on paganism (particularly witchcraft) will have to wait for another day (in fact, this will certainly be a future blog post). The most popular quote is from Luther's 1526 Exodus sermon in which he translates Exodus 22:18 something like "you shall not permit a witch to live" (WA 16:551). In the same sermon Luther calls killing witches "just" because of the evil and havoc they cause. There are a number of less than charitable comments from Luther about witchcraft. These will be explored in the future.   

It's important to try to avoid anachronism in historical studies. I'm fond of the Reformers, particularly Luther and Calvin, but they were people of their particular time period. The task for those of us in the Reformation tradition is to chew the meat and spit out the bones. Simply because I embrace the Reformation principles of sola fide and sola scriptura and I applaud their efforts against Rome does not mean I have to agree with or condone everything they said or did.

Addendum: Luther Was Pro-Islam?
Contrary to the discussion above, presents yet another batch of spin in their 2013 entry, Exposing Martin Luther’s Love Affair With Islam. is some sort of Anti-Islam pro-Roman Catholic website. Their Reformation information is typically horrid. In this entry they assert, "This will again come as a shock to those whom hold Martin Luther in high esteem, but Luther held Islam and her armies in admiration." They assert Luther only "appears... opposed to Islam on theological grounds" and Luther "is more tolerant towards Islam than he is towards the Jews." Quoting Luther, Shoebat states:

Let the Turk believe and live as he will, just as one lets the papacy and other false Christians live. (On War Against the Turk).

This quote is from On War Against the Turks and can be found at LW 46:185-186. Note what Luther says in context, that the reasons to go to war against Islam is to be based on secular grounds, not spiritual: 
Therefore the urging and inciting with which the emperor and the princes have been stirred up to fight against the Turk ought to cease. He has been urged, as head of Christendom and as protector of the church and defender of the faith, to wipe out the Turk’s religion, and the urging and exhorting have been based on the wickedness and vice of the Turks. Not so! The emperor is not the head of Christendom or defender of the gospel or the faith. The church and the faith must have a defender other than emperor and kings. They are usually the worst enemies of Christendom and of the faith, as Psalm 2 [:2] says and as the church constantly laments. That kind of urging and exhorting only makes things worse and angers God deeply because it interferes with his honor and his work, and would ascribe it to men, which is idolatry and blasphemy.
And if the emperor were supposed to destroy the unbelievers and non-Christians, he would have to begin with the pope, bishops, and clergy, and perhaps not spare us or himself; for there is enough horrible idolatry in his own empire to make it unnecessary for him to fight the Turks for this reason. There are entirely too many Turks, Jews, heathen, and non-Christians among us with open false doctrine and with offensive, shameful lives. Let the Turk believe and live as he will, just as one lets the papacy and other false Christians live. The emperor’s sword has nothing to do with the faith; it belongs to physical, worldly things, if God is not to become angry with us. If we pervert his order and throw it into confusion, he too becomes perverse and throws us into confusion and all kinds of misfortune, as it is written, “With the crooked thou dost show thyself perverse” [Ps. 18:26]. We can perceive and grasp this through the fortune we have had up to now against the Turk. Think of all the heartbreak and misery that have been caused by the cruciata,  by the indulgences, and by crusade taxes. With these Christians have been stirred up to take the sword and fight the Turk when they ought to have been fighting the devil and unbelief with the word and with prayer. (LW 46:185-186) goes on to say:

But that is not all. He even goes so far as to claim that a Muslim ruler (a Turkish ruler) is better than a Christian ruler: A smart Turk makes a better ruler than a dumb Christian.

The probable reason why Shoebat may have not provided a reference is because the statement is apocryphal. goes on to say:

It is no accident since Luther hated Jews and the Pope more than he did the Islamic religion and therefore, despite knowing what was wrong with the Islamic religion theologically and also in terms of what it would do given full swing over Europe, he urged his followers to side with the Muslim Turks in defeating Europe. After calling the Jews and the Pope some foul names such as “Antichrist” and “Devil incarnate”, he then urged his followers to look at the Turks in the best manner and even went so far as to say that some of his German contemporaries (read traitors), “actually want the Turk to come and rule, because they think that our German people are wild and uncivilized – indeed that they are half-devil and half-man” (Found in The Ottoman Empire and early modern Europe, by Daniel Goffman, Cambridge University Press, 2002, p110).

Here is what Goffman actually stated: 

It appears Shoebat's comments are a weird reworking of Goffman in which they took the author's comments and turned them into Luther being thoroughly  pro-Islam. It appears to me that both Goffman and Shoebat have missed the real Luther. Goffman says Luther said the Turk is "the servant of  the devil," and this is somehow supposed to be less condemning than "antichrist" or "devils incarnate"! It is true that Luther did not "consider Mohammend to be the Antichrist" (LW 60:264), but in LW 60 (which came out many years after Goffman's book), Luther refers to "the beast the vile Mohammed to deceive and torment the world" and"the devil's son, Mohammed" (LW 60:263). Luther's view was not halfhearted

Did Luther (as Shoebat says)  "urge his followers" to look to the Turks "in the best manner"? If Shoebat took this from Goffman, he doesn't say this. Here is the text from Luther:
Grace and peace in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior.
Serene, highborn prince, gracious lord, for the past five years certain persons have been begging me to write about war against the Turks, and to arouse and encourage our people. Now that the Turk is actually approaching, even my friends are urging me to do this, especially since there are some stupid preachers among us Germans (as I am sorry to hear) who are making the people believe that we ought not and must not fight against the Turks. Some are even so foolish as to say that it is not proper for Christians to bear the temporal sword or to be rulers. Furthermore, some actually want the Turk to come and rule because they think our German people are wild and uncivilized—indeed, that they are half-devil and half-man. The blame for this wicked error among the people is laid on Luther and must be called “the fruit of my gospel,” just as I am blamed for the rebellion, and for every bad thing that happens anywhere in the world. My accusers know better, but—God and his word to the contrary—they pretend not to know better, and they seek occasion to speak evil of the Holy Ghost and of the truth that is openly confessed, so that they may earn the reward of hell and never repent or receive the forgiveness of their sins. (LW 46:161)
In context Luther is mentioning the people negatively provoking him to write, and included in the group is the category described by Shoebat and Goffman. There is no urging to look favorably towards Islam.

Shoebat goes on to blame Lutheran and Protestants in general for the advancement of Islam, and then takes a few closing shots at Luther:

That is why it was so easy for Luther’s followers and the followers of John Calvin to collaborate with the Islamic forces attacking Europe. Luther laid the groundwork for this in his half-hearted statements regarding Islam along with his actions. 

...the followers of Luther and Calvin were willing allies and traitors to the forces of Islam due to the groundwork laid by the Reformers.

... Luther and his evil fruit have been responsible for the Islamic threat that is now threatening the West more than ever before. 

Another evil fruit of Luther’s duplicity with Islam is that many of the Lutheran churches today are anti-Israel and pro-Islamic terrorist.

Suffice to say, Luther has not only been worthy of Lucifer, but also Judas Iscariot and the Antichrist and has shown so by his sympathetic gestures to Islam, despite knowing their theological errors. Any Christian in Lutheran circles today who does not wish to participate in either Luther’s hatred of Jews or his pandering to the antichrist religion of Islam should have the courage to name him as a “firstborn of Satan”, as the Blessed St. John the Apostle named Cerinthus, and hopefully, leave Lutheranism for a genuine Christianity.

For, Luther's allegedly less than condemning attitude toward the Turks led future generations of Protestants to have a sympathy towards Islam! This charge is untrue at its foundation. Luther supported war against the Turks and throughout his writings considered them to be the servants of Satan.  He ended his 1542 treatise saying, "So, then, may God give us his grace and punish both the pope and Mohammed along with their devils" (LW 60:266).

Monday, January 09, 2017

Catholic Answers Discussion on Luther, Faith, and Reason

Here's a nifty little Luther discussion from Catholic Answers on Luther, faith, and reason. [edited to add: this link appears to have vanished (as well as the entire Catholic Answers "blog").]

Comments by Members

#1  Eric McCabe - Rosemount, Minnesota
"Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scripture OR BY EVIDENT REASON . . . I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis. My conscience is captive to the word of God"
"REASON is contrary to faith”... “REASON is the whore of the Devil. It can only blaspheme and dishonour everything God has said or done”
This may be the first written diagnosis of bipolar disorder.
January 6, 2017 at 11:15 am PST
#2  Mich Wieder - Luxembourg, Luxembourg
Eric @ #1,
YOU SAY: "REASON is contrary to faith"
BENEDICT XVI: "faith is not contrary to reason" (Vatican City, 21 November 2012)
May the Lord bless you!
January 6, 2017 at 11:40 am PST
#3  Eric McCabe - Rosemount, Minnesota
Mich @ #2,
Reread my post. "Luther:...."REASON is contrary to faith"...
Please take better care to read the entirety of the comment rather than seemingly taking a small part to argue with.
January 6, 2017 at 12:01 pm PST
#4  Michael Flores - lacey, Washington
Faith is an insult to logic. Nobody speaks of having "faith" that George Washington existed. We just know.
January 6, 2017 at 12:15 pm PST

#6  Sean McCoy - Glendale, Arizona
Eric McCabe, I think you should read the entire quote in context. I believe the quote you are referring to came from Luther's Table Talks, which are essentially a compilation of quotes provided by former students who used to reside in Luther's household. It is not meant to be a treatise, so do not try to treat a single quote (taken out of context by you) as such. That being said, Luther states many things in his Table Talk discussion that discusses the use of reason in the proper context (under the direction and control of the Holy Spirit). You can see the dichotomy in a few passages where Luther is condemning the secular use of reason apart from the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
"The Holy Scriptures are full of divine gifts and virtues. The books of the heathen taught nothing of faith, hope, or charity; they present no idea of these things; they contemplate only the present, and that which man, with the use of his material reason, can grasp and comprehend. Look not therein for aught of hope or trust in God. But see how the Psalms and the Book of Job treat of faith, hope, resignation, and prayer; in a word, the Holy Scripture is the highest and best of books, abounding in comfort under all afflictions and trials. It teaches us to see, to feel, to grasp, and to comprehend faith, hope, and charity, far otherwise than mere human reason can..."
Not too shabby for dinnertime conversation. Here we see Luther is not condemning reason. He is condemning reason apart from faith. As you yourself pointed out in the first quote that you provided above, Luther was quite keen on the use of reason within the context of faith and the scriptures.
"We ought not to criticize, explain, or judge the Scriptures by our mere reason (emphasis again on reason alone), but diligently, with prayer, meditate thereon, and seek their meaning...The Holy Ghost must here be our only master and tutor (once again, the reason in subjection to the Holy Spirit); and let youth have no shame to learn of that preceptor."
"He who wholly renounces himself, and relies not on mere human reason, will make good progress in the Scriptures; but the world comprehends them not, from ignorance of that mortification which is the gift of God's word. Can he who understands not God's Word, understand God's works?"
This sentiment should be familiar to even the most casual student of the Apostle Paul who himself said something similar: "For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and a folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men."
Perhaps you would prefer the sentiment of the Psalmist? "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding."
Going back to Luther's view of wisdom: "Human reason, with all its wisdom, can bring it no further than to instruct people how to live honestly and decently in the world, how to keep house, build, etc., things learned from philosophy and heathenish books. But how they should learn to know God and his dear Son, Christ Jesus, and to be saved, this the Holy Ghost alone teaches through God's Word; for philosophy understands naught of divine matters. I don't say that men may not teach and learn philosophy; I approve thereof, so that it be within reason and moderation. Let philosophy remain within her bounds, as God has appointed, and let us make use of her as of a character in a comedy; but to mix her up with divinity may not be endured; nor is it tolerable to make faith an accidens or quality, happening by chance; for such words are merely philosophical - used in schools and in temporal affairs, which human sense and reason may comprehend. But faith is a thing of the heart, having its being and substance by itself, given of God as his proper work, not a corporal thing, that may be seen, felt, or touched."
Returning to the quote that you mentioned, it is grossly out of context. Luther was addressing another reformer whom he felt was at odds with the correct view of the sacrament of Holy Communion. He felt that Karlstadt's reasons for his view were based on shoddy reasoning apart from scripture. Hence his entire quote: "Let this be our answer to the arguments and reasons that Dr. Karlstadt presents for his dream from Scripture. They were threefold. First, a capital letter is found in some books, not all. Second, there was a punctuation mark. Third, the dear touto. What wonderful arguments, which no one would use except such heavenly prophets, who hear the voice of God. A fourth now is, that he cannot present a single verse of Scripture in his favor. This is the most damaging argument and will forever remain so. I shall not overthrow it but will rather strengthen it. Furthermore he teaches us what Frau Hulda,?? natural reason, has to say in the matter, just as if we did not know that reason is the devil’s prostitute and can do nothing else but slander and dishonor what God does and says. But before we answer this arch-prostitute and devil’s bride, we first want to prove our faith, not by setting forth capitals or periods or touto tauta but by clear, sober passages from Scripture which the devil will not overthrow."
Once more we see Luther putting reason in subjection to faith and the scriptures. To strengthen you apologetic stance in the future you may want to actually read Luther's works so that you can place them in proper context rather than grabbing them from message board to cut and paste random quotes into emails. I'm not saying I am in agreement with everything Luther says, nor do I need to be because the power of scripture does not rest on man; however, if you want to pursue an ethical Christian apologetic, you should have a desire to try to present issues in their proper context rather than purposely misrepresenting them to suit your purpose.
January 6, 2017 at 12:34 pm PST
#7  Eric McCabe - Rosemount, Minnesota
Notice that all I did was post three verbatim quotes of Luther in concurrent succession. You can use the whole "context" argument all you want. But when Luther uses crass and vile language as he most certainly did in much of his works, so vile that the Catholic Answers pre-programmed auditor would censor, I think we all know in good conscience that his thoughts, doctrines, and ambitions were not from God.
January 6, 2017 at 12:40 pm PST
#9  Mich Wieder - Luxembourg, Luxembourg
Eric @ #1,
Please analyze one of your statements for bipolar disorder.
YOU SAY: "I, too, want you to be a part of the true Church. I personally want every living soul to be in communion with the Church Jesus Christ founded and continues to maintain through His Spirit."
MY OBSERVATION: You consider it presumptuous when a person thinks to be "a part of the true church in an arrogant and secure way."
ANOTHER OBSERVATION: You presently are a member of the Catholic Church.
MY QUESTION: Are you or aren't you presently a member of "the Church Jesus Christ founded and continues to maintain through His Spirit?"
May the Lord bless you!
January 6, 2017 at 12:58 pm PST
#10  Eric McCabe - Rosemount, Minnesota
Mich at #9,
This is what I said: "I, too, want YOU to be a part of the true Church. I personally want EVERY living soul to be in communion with the Church Jesus Christ founded and continues to maintain through His Spirit."
Are you misreading what I wrote? I did not write "[I] want to be a part of the true Church. I also said "I, too, want YOU to be a part of the true church" as I also "want every living soul to be in communion with the Church Jesus Christ founded and continues to maintain through His Spirit."
The fact is, I am a part of the true One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church founded by Jesus Christ 2000 years go. Thanks and praise be to God through His grace and mercy. But I want you and every living soul as well to be a part of Her as well.
I really think you should try to read and reread the comments on these threads. You are missing pertinent information that makes many of your comments and questions incoherent. If you want to fine-comb and sift through comments of Catholics to argue and contend, then do so with more diligence and care so that your questions and comments can make more sense.
January 6, 2017 at 1:10 pm PST
January 6, 2017 at 2:39 pm PST
#15  Sean McCoy - Glendale, Arizona
Eric, you actually didn't post three verbatim quotes. The last quote you provided is spurilously attributed to Luther and is a paraphrase. And once again, posting quotes that you know to be out of context is a poor apologetic and is inconsistent with a Christian ethic.
January 6, 2017 at 3:00 pm PST
#16  Sean McCoy - Glendale, Arizona
And speaking to your comment that Luther was crass or earthy, please explain to me what you would consider Hosea when we compared Israel and Judah to prostitutes.
January 6, 2017 at 3:01 pm PST
#18  Sean McCoy - Glendale, Arizona
I want to address what I think you are trying to get at by attacking Luther's character. The thrust of your argument seems to be that if someone has sinned they must not be lead by the Holy Spirit. While I agree that when we sin we have not followed the Holy Spirit, that does not mean that the Holy Spirit has departed from that person. It only means that we are simultaneously sinners and saints.
If you really and honestly look at the implication you have made and take it to its logical conclusion you only undercut the authority of your own church. If you assume, wrongly, that sin means that one no longer has a place in carrying out God's will, then such heroes of the faith such as Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Jonah, Peter, and Paul have no place in leadership in the church and that they could not have been lead by the Holy Spirit.
In the context of the catholic church through the ages many things have occurred where the church has not followed the Holy Spirit, and by your arbitrary rule would then be unfit to be considered as a means of the Holy Spirit to accomplish his will in this world. Numerous atrocities were attributed to spreading the Catholic gospel in the ancient world with approval of the church. Men such as Clovis, Charlemagne, etc., have forced conversions on pain of death. The Crusades were encouraged by the Popes despite some of the most barbaric practices imaginable. After the reformation we saw atrocities committed by the Catholic church with full knowledge and approval of the church authorities under the Inquisitions. In more recent days we have the sex scandals that have plagued the church where known wrongdoing occurred and in some cases were covered up.
I say this not to take anything away from the Catholic Church. If I didn't love the Catholic church I would not be here to engage in debate and study of the scriptures. I only do so to point out the obvious inconsistency in your statement. My own faith history is equally guilty of sin. And yet, God has used the institutions of the church (the whole church) despite our flaws and sin to spread his gospel into the world. Be careful where you point your finger, because four more are pointing back at you. The power of the church is dependent on the Holy Spirit and the ability of the gospel to save. It isn't dependent on an infallible church or man. That's why I care enough to speak up.
January 6, 2017 at 3:23 pm PST

#24  Eric McCabe - Rosemount, Minnesota
Sean @ #18,
You: "I want to address what I think you are trying to get at by attacking Luther's character"
I am sorry if you got that impression. I was not attempting to "attack Luther's character". However, I did and always will expose his writings for what they are, context or no context. Regardless of his coarse and sometimes even lewd style of writing, he is all over the place sloppily going from one tangent to another in an almost seeming chimerical way. Outside of all the contradictory statements regarding biblical doctrine, he had an unprecedented and scornful perspective on not only the seven books he himself removed from the Old Testament, but also for the canonical books of Esther that he wanted to "toss in the Elbe River", Saint James in which he called an "epistle of straw" and that he wanted to "throw Jimmy in the stove, and the book of the Revelation of Saint John in that it was "an aversion and should be rejected". Let us not forget his infamous addition of the word 'allein' (alone) in Romans 3:28 in his bible transliteration. I could literally go on and on unceasingly with quotes from Luther that would make any good-willed Christian cringe.
You: "The thrust of your argument seems to be that if someone has sinned they must not be lead by the Holy Spirit. While I agree that when we sin we have not followed the Holy Spirit, that does not mean that the Holy Spirit has departed from that person. It only means that we are simultaneously sinners and saints"
I do not know about you, but I was not referring to anyone's moral disposition or how many times someone had fallen from grace. I merely was exposing illogical and contradictory quotes in writing from a self-anathematized Christian. I am sorry, Sean, but the writings of Martin Luther are not analogous to those of "Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Jonah, Peter, and Paul". Again, we are talking about sentiments that were written down, not immoral conduct. Show me something in writing from a Catholic Saint, Doctor, Pope etc. that compares to that of Luther. If you can do that, then your argument will carry some weight.
January 7, 2017 at 4:54 pm PST

Monday, January 02, 2017

Luther Wrote "Away In a Manger"?


Here's one from a Roman Catholic discussion board about Luther being the possible author of Away in a Manger:

For several years, many traditional choir directors have refused to sing Away in a Manger because they think it was written by Luther. A bit of detective work done by researchers at the US Library of Congress finds Luther was not the author. Further, regardless of who the author is, there is no heresy contained within the stanzas but only a sweet song about baby Jesus.

This link provides information to dispel this myth:
So how did a hymn that first appeared in the United States at the end of the 19th century become connected to the 16th-century German reformer Martin Luther? 
The culprit who made the false association between “Away in a Manger” and Luther appears to have been James R. Murray (1841-1905), who in his Dainty Songs for Little Lads and Lasses (1887)—a most Victorian-sounding title—called it “‘Luther’s Cradle Hymn,’ composed by Martin Luther for his children and still sung by German mothers to their little ones.” However, no one has uncovered an original German version by the reformer. 
Gealy, citing a 1945 article by Richard S. Hill, noted that “illicit inferences” to Luther are partly due to “the association of the carol with the glorification of Luther’s family life as depicted in a series of sentimental engravings done in the early nineteenth century by G.F.L. König . . . [including one that portrayed] Luther with his family on Christmas Eve as frontispiece [for a Christmas book].”
Theophilus Baker Stork (1814-1874), the author of this book, also wrote Luther at Home (1872), in which he stated, “Luther’s carol for Christmas, written for his own child Hans, is still sung.” The irony of this assertion is that we actually have a Luther hymn that may have been written for young Hans, “Von Himmel hoch da komm ich her” (1531), published in Joseph Klug’s Gesangsbuch (1535) and translated by Catherine Winkworth in 1885:
From Heaven above to earth I come,
To bear good news to every home;
Glad tidings of great joy I bring,
Whereof I now will say and sing.
Standards for attribution were much less rigorous before the 20th century. For example, in the 18th century, some works ascribed to J.S. Bach because of his stature were not written by the composer. Nineteenth-century shape-note tunebooks have vexed hymnologists for years as they have tried to discern authorship of specific tunes.

Here is "Luther's Cradle Hymn" from Dainty Songs for Little Lads and Lasses (1887). Note the text does read, "composed by Martin Luther for his children and still sung by German mothers to their little ones."

Here is Theophilus Baker Stork's comments from his book, Luther at Home:

Here is Gealy's comment (I have this book on order, and will revise this entry when it arrives):

Here are some comments from Roland Bainton's Martin Luther's Christmas Book:

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Zwingli: Hercules and Socrates are Redeemed and in Heaven?

What will be the eternal fate of non-Christian people? Rome's Council of Florence declared "those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart 'into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels.'” The statement seems straight-forward and direct.  Later though the Catechism of the Catholic Church "clarified" it by stating:
The Catholic Church recognizes in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved. Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as "a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life"(843).
The harmony of these statements has been so construed that one defender of Rome, Jimmy Akin of Catholic Answers, goes as far as saying even some atheists may even have a positive eternal fate:  "It’s also possible for a person to die in God’s friendship even if the person didn’t consciously know God during life."

I point out this issue within Rome to segue into a similar situation that occurred between some of the early Protestant Reformers. Shortly before his death, Huldrych Zwingli wrote a document entitled, A Short and Clear Exposition of the Christian Faith to the Christian King., 1531. In the chapter entitled "Everlasting Life" Zwingli presents a rebuttal to the notion of soul sleep. In conclusion he stated,
I believe, then, that the souls of the faithful fly to heaven as soon as they leave the body, come into the presence of God, and rejoice forever. Here, most pious King, if you govern the state entrusted to you by God as David, Hezekiah, and Josiah did, you may hope to see first God Himself in His very substance, in His nature and with all His endowments and powers, and to enjoy all these, not sparingly but in full measure, not with the cloying effect that generally accompanies satiety, but with that agreeable completeness which involves no surfeiting, just as the rivers, that flow unceasingly into the sea and flow back through the depths of the earth, bring no loathing to mankind, but rather gain and joy, ever watering, gladdening and fostering new germs of life. The good which we shall enjoy is infinite and the infinite cannot be exhausted; therefore no one can become surfeited with it, for it is ever now and yet the same. Then you may hope to see the whole company and assemblage of all the saints, the wise, the faithful, brave, and good who have lived since the world began. Here you will see the two Adams, the redeemed and the redeemer, Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samuel, Phineas, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, and the Virgin Mother of God of whom he prophesied, David, Hezekiah, Josiah, the Baptist, Peter, Paul; here too, Hercules, Theseus, Socrates, Aristides, Antigonus, Numa, Camillus, the Catos and Scipios; here Louis the Pious, and your predecessors, the Louis, Philips, Pepins, and all your ancestors who have gone hence in faith. In short there has not been a good man and will not be a holy heart or faithful soul from the beginning of the world to the end thereof that you will not see in heaven with God. And what can be imagined more glad, what more delightful, what, finally, more honorable than such a sight? To what can all our souls more justly bend all their strength than to the attainment of such a life? And may meantime the dreaming Catabaptists deservedly sleep in the regions below a sleep from which they will never wake. Their error comes from the fact that they do not know that with the Hebrews the word for sleeping is used for the word for dying, as is more frequently the case with Paul than there is any need of demonstrating at present.
Did you catch some of those who Zwingli says "fly to heaven as soon as they leave the body, come into the presence of God, and rejoice forever"? "Hercules, Theseus, Socrates, Aristides, Antigonus, Numa, Camillus, the Catos and Scipios..." Zwingli says, "there has not been a good man and will not be a holy heart or faithful soul from the beginning of the world to the end thereof that you will not see in heaven with God."

These words from Zwingli did not go unnoticed. Luther wrote about it towards the end of his life:
[A]fter Zwingli’s death a book came out which he is supposed to have written shortly before his death. It was entitled Exposition of the Christian Faith to the Christian King, etc., and was supposed to be better than all his previous books. That it had to be Zwingli’s was evident from his wild, confused language and from his previously held opinion [about the Lord’s Supper].
I have become very frightened about that book, not on my account but on his account. For, because he was able to write this after our agreement at Marburg, it is certain that in every respect he dealt with us with an insincere heart and tongue at Marburg. Therefore I had to despair (as I still must) of the salvation of his soul, if he died with such a disposition, regardless of the fact that his disciples and successors made him out to be a saint and martyr. O Lord God, this man a saint and martyr!
In this book he not only remains an enemy of the holy sacrament but also becomes a full-blown heathen. This is the marvelous improvement for which I had hoped. You can see what I mean: In somewhat different words he addresses the previously mentioned king thus: “There you will see in the same fellowship all holy, godly, wise, brave, honorable people, the redeemed and the Redeemer, Adam, Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samuel, Phinehas, Elijah, Elisha, also Isaiah and the Virgin Mother of God of whom he prophesied, David, Hezekiah, Josiah, the Baptist, Peter, and Paul; Hercules, Theseus, Socrates, Aristides, Antigonus, Numa, Camillus, the Catos and Scipios and all your ancestors who have departed in the faith,” etc.
This is written in his book which (as has been said) is supposed to be his most excellent and best book, produced just before his death. Tell me, any one of you who wants to be a Christian, what need is there of baptism, the sacrament, Christ, the gospel, or the prophets and Holy Scripture if such godless heathen, Socrates, Aristides, yes, the cruel Numa, who was the first to instigate every kind of idolatry at Rome by the devil’s revelation, as St. Augustine writes in the City of God, and Scipio the Epicurean, are saved and sanctified along with the patriarchs, prophets, and apostles in heaven, even though they knew nothing about God, Scripture, the gospel, Christ, baptism, the sacrament, or the Christian faith? What can such an author, preacher, and teacher believe about the Christian faith except that it is no better than any other faith and that everyone can be saved by his own faith, even an idolater and an Epicurean like Numa and Scipio? (LW 38:289-291).

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Luther did Not Know What an Indulgence Was?

Here's one from an online discussion forum in which a defender of Rome argued: "Luther admitted later in his life that he actually didn't even know what an indulgence was" when the indulgence controversy erupted in 1517.  This assertion was shortly followed by this comment directed towards me: "Maybe our resident Genevan cyber defender can come in and white wash it for you guys." The straightforward argument appears to be that at the time of the indulgence controversy, Luther didn't know what an indulgence proper was: "He started his revolution on an abuse of something he later admitted he knew nothing about" (link). A source document to prove this claim from Luther was also provided (see below).

First this link was given, and then a specific page and paragraph were cited from the same document (from a different source). Both of these links refer to Luther's 1541 treatise,  Wider Hans Worst. The first link appears to be from the first printing (there were four 1541 German printings, LW states the first was by Hans Lufft- see LW 41:183). The second link was to an 1880 printing. From the second link, the paragraph in question is the following:

This same text can be found in WA 51:539. 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. I would be surprised if Luther, a Doctor of Theology in the Roman church did not know what the basic concept of an indulgence was. For example, Pope Boniface in the 14th Century made use of a general indulgence in which certain times a year a general indulgence could be obtained. Another popular example is Pope Sixtus IV (only a short time before Luther) had his particular slant on indulgences applying to the living and the dead. It would be odd if Luther was not familiar with either of these papal approved indulgences. From his written record, Luther was certainly familiar with indulgences previous to the 1517 controversy  Heiko Oberman has stated,
Three years earlier, in the autumn of 1514, Luther had already denounced indulgences in the university lecture hall, terming them proof of the nadir Christendom had reached. There were Christians who thought money and a sigh would get them into heaven: "It is dangerous to believe that we can draw on the treasures of the Church without adding anything ourselves."(34)
(34): WA 3. 416, 27f.; 424, 22f.; gloss Ps. 68; approx. autumn 1514.
In regard to Oberman's documentation, here is WA 3:416. Here is WA 3:424. These pages are found translated into English in LW 10 (Luther's early lectures on the Psalms). Here is the English text corresponding to WA 3:416-
The third is now the prevalence of the lukewarm and the evil [peace and security]. For surfeit now reigns to such an extent that there is much worship of God everywhere, but it is only going through the motions, without love and spirit, and there are very few with any fervor. And all this happens because we think we are something and are doing enough. Consequently we try nothing, and we hold to no strong emotion, and we do much to ease the way to heaven, by means of indulgences, by means of easy doctrines, feeling that one sigh is enough (LW 10:351).
Here is some of the English text corresponding to WA 3:424,
Therefore woe to us, who are so snatched away by present things and foolishly do not see the devil’s trap! We act like the foolish heir who knew only how to squander the magnificent estate left by his parents and did nothing to build it up but always carried away from the pile. So the popes and priests pour out the graces and indulgences amassed by the blood of Christ and the martyrs and left to us, and they do not think there is any need to build up this treasure, nor to acquire the remission of sins and the kingdom of heaven in any other way than by their merits. Yet no one can share in the public good unless he, too, makes his contribution. To take from the church’s treasure and not also to put something back is impossible and deceitful presumption. [“He who does not work, should not eat either” (2 Thess. 3:10). He who is not a partaker of sufferings will not be a partaker of consolations either (2 Cor. 1:7)]. But they think they have this treasure ready in the safe so that they can use it whenever they want to. In their smugness they therefore surrender themselves to all the things that are in the world. Since the treasure obviously abides, while the world passes away, and since they want both, they first go after the world before it perishes, believing that heaven will be left over for them in abundance later. I say, this is what they think, that is, they act thus, that in fact they seem to believe it and to say what we read in Wisd. of Sol. 2:8, 5: “Let us crown ourselves with roses, before they are withered; for our time is the passing of a shadow.” But I am afraid that what has happened to prodigal heirs will also happen to us, namely, that, after all our goods have been dissipated and squandered, we become beggars and must endure every need in disgrace. Not that the church’s treasure can be used up, but I say that it can be used up as far as we are concerned. The treasure is unlimited in itself, but not for us, since a minority shares in it. Such a wastefulness of merits is present also in the religious, who scatter their brotherhoods and indulgences in every corner, just so they might have food and clothing. If they have these, they have no concern about such things. It is dreadful madness and wretched blindness that now we do not preach the Gospel unless we have to, not because we want to. And the number of such people is extremely large! O beggars, beggars, beggars! But perhaps the excuse is offered that you receive alms for God’s sake and that you reciprocate with the Word of God and all things without charge. So be it: You will see! (LW 10:361-362)
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. A similar conclusion is put forth by Michael A. Mullett in his biography of Luther,
The ambiguous form of words, 'I did not know what the indulgences were...' cannot, of course, mean, 'I did not know what indulgences were', and must therefore mean that Luther was in ignorance about this particular indulgence, itself a slightly implausible claim, given the extraordinary publicity surrounding and running ahead of Friar Tetzel. 
Mullet goes on to say that Luther's claim to not knowing the particular nature of Tetzel's indulgences is "implausible" on account of Tetzel's "extraordinary publicity." At least this author makes a rational historical criticism rather than the myopic contextless literalism employed by the discussion forum Roman Catholic.

I did participate in  this discussion. From the time I stepped foot into it, it began to spiral out of bounds of the forum rules, provoking heavy deletions from the moderators, and in one case, a suspension of one of the Roman Catholic participants. There is a sense in which the recounting here of an interaction that occurred elsewhere is unfair.  If one wants to follow what remains of this discussion, the posts (that still remain, some edited by the moderators) from all interested parties occur in this order:

178; 181; 182; 185; 186; 188; 190; 191; 192; 193; 194; 195; 196; 197; 198; 199; 200; 201; 203; 204; 205; 208; 209; 212; 213; 214; 215; 216; 217; 218; 219; 220; 221; 222; 223; 224; 225; 228; 231; 233; 242; 260; 261.

The ultimate argument this defender of Rome appears to be making is that Luther's use of indulgences in the 95 Theses was "merely a convenient excuse to start his own revolt." His Luther is not an honest monk confronting the rampant abuses involved with indulgences. Rather, his Luther was already a deviant predisposed to revolt and simply needed a means to revolt. It does not necessarily follow that the indulgences mentioned in the 95 Theses were simply a means to revolt because Luther knew nothing or something about indulgences. He states, "Indulgences and their abuse were simply a convenient catalyst to begin his revolt. One need merely look at his what is glaringly absent in his Disputatio pro declaratione virtutis indulgentiarum, as many of what would become the core tenets of his own religious system were not yet crystallized." This use of "Disputatio pro declaratione virtutis indulgentiarum" also does not necessarily follow. Simply because something might be "glaringly absent" does not necessarily mean Luther was plotting to be a revolutionary and simply used indulgences as a means to revolt. I point this out to demonstrate on a presuppositional level, this defender of Rome's Luther appears to be his own concoction. He begins with a deviant man predisposed to revolt and then sifts Luther's writings to fill in what's needed.