Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Luther: See how foolishly the people everywhere behave towards the Gospel, so that I scarcely know whether I ought to continue preaching or not

Here's a Luther quote from the book, Henry O'Connor, Luther's Own Statements Concerning His Teaching and Its Results: Taken Exclusively from the Earliest and Best Editions of Luther's German and Latin Works (1884), p. 56.

"We find Luther owning that he would never have begun to preach, if he had foreseen these unhappy results, and that he scarcely knows whether he ought to continue preaching. His words are "See how foolishly the people everywhere behave towards the Gospel, so that I scarcely know whether I ought to continue preaching or not" [Walch. XI. 3052].


This quote pops up every once in a while. It's typically used by Rome's defenders as proof of the failure of the Reformation (or something like Luther's regrets or concession to the failure of the Reformation, etc. example #1, example #2). O'Connor uses it to describe the "Results of Luther's Teaching," specifically, the "Moral Results" that there was a "Lower State of General Morality."

Luther's Own Statements Concerning His Teaching and Its Results is an old small anthology of Luther quotes peppered with vilifying commentary from O’Connor. In an early edition of this work, the author was so sure of his effort he originally titled the book, "The Only Reliable Evidence Concerning Martin Luther." The author claims to have compiled the quotes from the original sources: “Nearly two-thirds of the matter contained in this pamphlet is taken from the original editions of Luther’s own Works, as published in Wittenberg, under the very eye of the Reformer of Germany himself”(p. 3) He says “I have taken special care not to quote anything, that would have a different meaning, if read with the full context”(p.5).


Documentation
The footnote "Walch. XI" refers to the eleventh volume in a set of Luther's works published between 1740-1753 by Johann Georg Walch (Kirchen-Postille Evangelien-Predigten), page 3052. This volume from Walch contains Luther's Church Postil. These Postil sermons have a tedious and complicated legacy (see the introduction to LW 75). The text in question O'Connor is citing appears to be:


The text is from Luther's sermons on The Feast of Saint John the Baptizer, specifically The Benedictus, or Prophecy of Zechariah (Luke 1:57-80). Even though a four volume set from LW contains the Church Postil, the English translation of this particular sermon is found in Joel Basely's translation of Luther's Kirchenpostille:  The Festival Sermons of Martin Luther (Michigan: Mark V Publications, 2005). The context for the quote can be found in the second part of the book, page 81.


Context


Conclusion
This sermon does not date from late in Luther's career, but rather the early 1520's. Here's a copy from 1525.  I mention this because Rome's polemicists think Luther gradually became disheartened by the ineffectiveness of his Gospel preaching. This sermon should demonstrate to them that their paradigm is flawed based on the very quote they extracted from this writing. If they want to use the quote from this sermon, they have to at least admit that early in Luther's career, he felt the same way he did later in his career.

I don't think Luther was being despondent or bemoaning the impact of his preaching. Luther says he was tempted to stop preaching the Gospel because it comes across to the world as foolish and people think because of the pure imputation of Christ's righteousness, no one need live a moral life. But as he continues, the masses also misinterpreted Christ's preaching, so he was in good company. He goes on to say: "The Gospel remains a preaching to the congregation  and who it grasps it grasps." Where Rome's defenders see a despondent Luther, the context actually breathes of preaching the perfect righteousness of Christ and how that righteousness will both confound the world and will be a comfort to those plagued by their sins. Such a person is to live an outwardly honorable life, always though with the realization that the only honorable life accepted by God is the perfectly honorable life of Christ. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Luther: We are living in Sodom and Babylon, everything is daily getting worse

Here's a Luther quote from the book, Henry O'Connor, Luther's Own Statements Concerning His Teaching and Its Results: Taken Exclusively from the Earliest and Best Editions of Luther's German and Latin Works (1884), p. 56.

"About a year before his death, Luther confesses: "We are living in Sodom and Babylon everything is daily getting worse" [De Wette V. 722].


This quote is typically used by older generations of Rome's defenders as proof of the failure of the Reformation (or something like Luther's regrets or concession to the failure of the Reformation, etc.).  O'Connor uses it to describe the "Results of Luther's Teaching," specifically the "Moral Results" that there was a "Lower State of General Morality."

Luther's Own Statements Concerning His Teaching and Its Results is an old small anthology of Luther quotes peppered with vilifying commentary from O’Connor. In an early edition of this work, the author was so sure of his effort he originally titled the book, "The Only Reliable Evidence Concerning Martin Luther." The author claims to have compiled the quotes from the original sources: “Nearly two-thirds of the matter contained in this pamphlet is taken from the original editions of Luther’s own Works, as published in Wittenberg, under the very eye of the Reformer of Germany himself”(p. 3) He says “I have taken special care not to quote anything, that would have a different meaning, if read with the full context”(p.5).

Other forms of this quote can also be found:
Above all the disintegration of moral and social life, the epidemic ravages of vice and immorality, and that in the very cradle of the Reformation, even in his very household, nearly drove him frantic. "We live in Sodom and Babylon, affairs are growing daily worse", is his lament (De Wette, op. cit., V, 722) [Catholic Encyclopedia. Link].
The "great work of the Reformation," i.e. of real reform, to which Luther appeals unless he was prepared to regard it as consisting solely in the damage done to the Roman Church surely demanded that, at least at Wittenberg and in Luther s immediate sphere, some definite fruits in the shape of real moral amelioration should be apparent. Yet it was precisely of Wittenberg and his own surroundings that Luther complained so loudly. The increase of every kind of disorder caused him to write to George of Anhalt: "We live in Sodom and Babylon, or rather must die there; the good men, our Lots and Daniels, whom we so urgently need now that things are daily becoming worse, are snatched from us by death" (March 9, 1545, " Briefe," ed. De Wette, 5, p. 722, letter called forth by the death of -George Held Forchheim, to whom the Prince was much attached) [Hartmann Grisar, Luther 4:215].

Documentation
The footnote "De Wette V. 722" refers to page 722 in the fifth volume in a set of Luther's letters edited by Dr. Wilhelm Martin Leberecht de Wette (5 vols., Berlin, 1825-8), Dr. Martin Luthers Briefe, Sendschreiben und BedenkenPage 722 can be found here.


As Grisar mentioned above, this is a letter to Prince George of Anhalt, March, 9, 1545 in regard to the death of George Held, pastor of the church in Forchheim. Prince George was one of three brothers whose territories were favorable to the Reformation (See LW 38:142).

To my knowledge, this letter has no official English rendering in any of the collections of Luther's writings.  However, a lengthy section of it is included in John Scott, The History of the Church, pages 517-519.

Context
Grace and peace to you in Christ! So then, most illustrious prince, our friend Heldus is gone, leaving us to lament him! O my God, at a time when we have need of many holy men to comfort and strengthen us by their prayers, their counsels, and their assistance, thou takest away even the few that are left us! We know, O God, that the prayers and the labours of the departed, who most ardently loved and zealously served thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and was most useful to thy church, were well-pleasing in thy sight.—Certainly I myself placed great confidence in his prayers, and derived great consolation from them. How severe a wound then must you have suffered, most excellent prince, by the removal of one with whom you lived on terms of such faithful and endeared friendship. But it is well with him. Gathered to his fathers and to his people, he finds more and better companions there than he has left behind. But our lot is trying, who live, or drag on a sort of dying existence, here in Sodom and Babylon, and find the number of good men diminish in proportion as the state of things, daily declining towards what is worse, requires an increase of them. But the wisdom of God is to be adored, who, when he is about to accomplish something great, and surpassing our hopes, first seems to annihilate all expectation, and to reduce us to despair: as it is written, He bringeth down to the grave, (ad inferos,) and bringeth up again. He does this, to teach us the exercise of faith, hope, and love towards him; and that we may learn to esteem things not seen above those which do appear, and against hope to believe in hope, and to depend on him who calleth things which are not as though they were. Then, while he takes away from us all his most pleasant gifts, and exhibits himself to us as if his kindness and his loveliness had come utterly to an end, at that very time he is thinking most especially, and I might almost say anxiously, the thoughts of love towards us. By means like these it is that the old man is slain—the body of sin destroyed. —Wherefore comfort yourself, most excellent prince, according to the rich measure in which it has been given you to know God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, and to meditate on all the operations of his hands. It shall be my prayer, that the God of all consolation would confirm and strengthen you by his Holy Spirit, until the appointed end of these trials be accomplished. For, as it is said in Jeremiah, He doth not willingly grieve the childen of men. And Augustine says, God would not permit evil to exist, if he had not some greater good to bring out of it.—We are yet in the flesh, and know not what to ask or how to ask it; that is, to ask what is good for us: but He, who is able to do above all we ask or think, careth for us: he can do for us beyond what the narrowness of our hearts allows us to desire, or even to imagine. But it is necessary, in order to his doing this, that he should first take from us those things which we think we cannot do without; or at least think that their absence would occasion us great injury or great danger. Scripture abounds with examples to this effect. Adam and Eve were almost intoxicated with high expectations from Cain: God deprived them of both their sons, and almost reduced them to despair: but then He that quickeneth the dead, and createth all things out of nothing, gave them another seed, and an unfailing posterity. Abraham promised himself great things from Ishmael, Isaac from Esau, Jacob from Reuben, his first born; but all these hopes must receive a death-blow, that new and immortal hopes might take their place. God is mighty and faithful: he promises and he performs.— Let us bewail our departed friend then, because his light is lost, as the son of Sirach says, yet not to himself but to us. To him his light burns more brightly, and shall burn for ever. Soon too our light shall fail here, but be rekindled and perfected in that better state, through him who is at once our Light and our Life. Amen! In Him may your highness ever fare well !"

Conclusion
At the beginning of this entry I cited three Roman Catholic historians referring to this letter. O'Connor used it to describe Luther's confession to the negative moral results of his teaching. The Catholic Encyclopedia used it to demonstrate "the disintegration of moral and social life," and "the epidemic ravages of vice and immorality... in the very cradle of the Reformation, even in his very household, [which] nearly drove him frantic." Hartmann Grisar (the tamest of the three) used it to demonstrate that Luther's was not a "great work of the Reformation" or of "real reform" because at Wittenberg (Luther's place of residence), he "complained" about the behavior of the general population. One wonders if any of these three men actually read this letter- which was overtly pastoral in nature devoted to the needs of someone else. It was not a letter of Luther complaining or bemoaning his own personal situation in Wittenberg. It isn't even certain if Luther was referring to Wittenberg in this letter or if he was referring to the general state of the world (it appears to me he may have simply meant the later).

Henry O'Connor immediately goes on to state:
The town of Wittenberg was the principal scene of father's activity. It was there that he resided. It was there, if anywhere, that the results of his teaching ought to have made themselves felt. Now, about seven months before his death, Luther wrote to his wife, "Away from this Sodom (Wittenberg)... I will wander about, and sooner beg my bread than allow my poor old last days to be martyred and upset with the disorder of Wittenberg" (Luther's Letter to his Wife, July, 1545, de Wette 753-) (p.56).
For O'Connor, this is documentary proof for the following: 
Every reasonable person will agree with me, that Luther can only have been a Reformer chosen by Almighty God, if his teaching caused an increase of virtue and a decrease of vice. If, however, it can be plainly shown, that in consequence of his teaching there was, on the contrary, an increase of vice and a decrease of virtue, we must come to the conclusion, that Luther had not the sanction of God for the work which he undertook (p.50). 
I've covered this notion from O'Connor previously. This sentiment captures the gist of  the earlier generations of Rome's polemicists. They are correct that towards the end of his life Luther lamented over Wittenberg to the point of briefly leaving (see LW 50:273-281). Set aside the notion of Luther's despondency over Wittenberg for a moment and consider the following:. Is O'Connor's argument biblically true? Were those chosen by God in the role of prophets, teachers, or preachers guaranteed the results of "an increase of virtue and a decrease of vice"? Think of the Old Testament prophets. They typically came with messages that the people did not heed, nor want to hear- and this provoked God's judgment. If one were to evaluate their calling and ministry based on O'Connor's paradigm, we could throw out more than a few prophets. Consider some of the early churches in the New Testament as well. Corinth was given a rather pure dose of apostolic teaching, was it not? When one reads 1 and 2 Corinthians, the moral state of the church described by Paul is less than stellar. Latter on in an an early post-biblical document, 1 Clement, we find the Corinthian church still in disarray. Or, take the argument and apply it to Rome's infallible magisterium and pick a century or a recent decade.

As has been expressed in a number of other Beggars All entries, Luther had no expectations that the Gospel would transform the masses of society. For Luther, it was the end of the world. Things were going to get worse. The Gospel was going to be fought against by the Devil with all his might. The true church was a tiny flock in a battle against the world, the flesh, and the Devil. He hoped the people would improve with the preaching of the Gospel, he often admitted he knew things were going to get worse because of the Gospel. 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Luther: After the dominion and power of the Pope has ceased the people despising the true doctrine are now changed into irrational animals and beasts

Here's a Luther quote from the book, Henry O'Connor, Luther's Own Statements Concerning His Teaching and Its Results: Taken Exclusively from the Earliest and Best Editions of Luther's German and Latin Works (1884), p. 55-56.

"After the dominion and power of the Pope has ceased . . . the people, while despising the true doctrine, are now changed into mere irrational animals and beasts; … the number of holy and pious teachers becomes constantly less" [Walch. I. 615].

This quote pops up every once in a while. It's typically used by Rome's defenders as proof of the failure of the Reformation (or something like Luther's regrets or concession to the failure of the Reformation, etc. example #1, example #2). O'Connor uses it to describe the "Results of Luther's Teaching," specifically the "Moral Results" that there was a "Lower State of General Morality."

Luther's Own Statements Concerning His Teaching and Its Results is an old small anthology of Luther quotes peppered with vilifying commentary from O’Connor. In an early edition of this work, the author was so sure of his effort he originally titled the book, "The Only Reliable Evidence Concerning Martin Luther." The author claims to have compiled the quotes from the original sources: “Nearly two-thirds of the matter contained in this pamphlet is taken from the original editions of Luther’s own Works, as published in Wittenberg, under the very eye of the Reformer of Germany himself”(p. 3) He says “I have taken special care not to quote anything, that would have a different meaning, if read with the full context”(p.5).

Documentation
The footnote "Walch. I" refers to the first volume in a set of Luther's works published between 1740-1753 by Johann Georg Walch (Auslegung des ersten Buches Mose, Erster Teil, 912 Seiten). Page 615 can be found here (see top of second column on the top right for page numbering). The text reads:


This paragraph is from Luther's lectures on Genesis 5:2 (1535-1536). Technically, Luther did not write this text. The editors of LW state,
[T]he work is not a product of Luther’s pen or even a transcript of his lectures; it is a transcript that has been reworked and edited. From the instance of other commentaries, where we have both the lecture notes and the printed version, it is evident that the editors of Luther’s Biblical commentaries allowed themselves greater liberties in preparing his lectures for publication than the modern conventions of editing and publishing would justify. Where we have only the printed version, therefore, we have reason to be on the lookout for marks of redactorial additions and changes (LW 5:x]
The text has been translated into English  in LW 1:336.


Context
The Glory of the Cananites
But the Cainites, too, had their glory: the wisest men in every field of human endeavor and the finest hypocrites, who were the instigators of very much trouble for the true church and in various ways maltreated the holiest patriarchs, so that we deservedly count these among the holiest martyrs and confessors. As Moses stated above, the Cainites immediately began to be superior in number and in activity. Although they were compelled to show respect to their father Adam, they tried in various ways to oppress the church of the godly, especially after Adam, the first patriarch, had died. Therefore the Cainites accelerated the punishment of the Flood with their wickedness.
But this power and malice of the Cainites was the reason why the holy patriarchs taught their church so much more zealously and carefully. How many important sermons do we suppose were delivered by them in that entire course of years, when Adam and Eve told about their first state and the glory of Paradise, and gave admonitions to be on guard against the serpent, who through sin became the cause of so many evils! How careful shall we suppose them to have been in explaining the promise concerning the Seed; how sensible in cheering the hearts of their people that the latter might not become discouraged by the grandeur of the Cainites or by their own afflictions!
All these details Moses passes over, both because they could not be written down on account of their profusion and because their disclosure is reserved for that day of glory and deliverance.
Thus although the Flood was a most horrible event, nevertheless Moses’ description of it is very brief; for he wanted to leave it to men to ponder over events of such magnitude.
So in this passage Moses wanted to present briefly some picture of the first and original world. It was very good. Nevertheless, it had a large number of very wicked men, so that only eight souls were preserved in the Flood. What do we suppose will happen before the Last Day? For now, when the Gospel has been brought to light, so many despise it that it is to be feared that they will shortly predominate and fill the world with their errors, and the Word will be altogether suppressed.
Awe-inspiring indeed are the words of Christ when He says (Luke 18:8): “Do you think that the Son of Man will find faith when He comes?” And in Matt. 24:37 He compares the last times with the times of Noah. These are terrifying statements. But the smug and ungrateful world, the despiser of all the promises and threats of God, abounds with every kind of iniquity and daily becomes more and more corrupt. Now that the rule of the popes, who have ruled the world solely through the fear of punishment, is over, men, through their contempt of the sound doctrine, all but degenerate into brutes and beasts. The number of holy and godly preachers is on the decline. All men yield to their desires. But what will happen is that the Last Day will come upon the world like a thief (1 Thess. 5:2) and will overtake men who in their smugness give free reign to their ambitious desire, tyranny, lusts, greed, and all sorts of vices.
Furthermore, Christ Himself has foretold these developments, and so it is impossible for us to believe that He has lied. But if the first world, which had so large a number of most excellent patriarchs, became so pitiably depraved, how much more should we fear when the feebleness of our nature is so great? Therefore may the Lord grant that in faith and in the confession of His Son Jesus Christ we may as quickly as possible be gathered to those fathers and die within twenty years, so that we may not see those terrible woes and afflictions, both spiritual and physical, of the last time. Amen (LW 1:335-336).

Conclusion
Notice first how O'Connor set up the quote: "After the dominion and power of the Pope has ceased . . . the people, while despising the true doctrine, are now changed into mere irrational animals and beasts…" In context, O'Connor left out the middle part of the sentence continues, "who have ruled the world solely through the fear of punishment, is over...." It's interesting that he left out that part of the sentence which speaks negatively about the dominion and power of the Pope that ruled the world "solely through the fear of punishment."

Notice also that Luther's comment isolated by O'Connor finds its true theological meaning within the entire context. He begins by describing the state of the world before the Noahic flood.Only eight were saved by the ark. He concludes this section by biblically describing the world before the "Last Day." Destruction will come upon the world like a thief. "Terrible woes and afflictions, both spiritual and physical" will once again afflict the world in an all-consuming way similarly to the great flood.

O'Connor is correct that Luther saw the world as becoming worse because of the preaching of the Gospel. With this context though, we see again the reoccurring theme that Luther viewed his time period on the cusp of the return of Christ. In my explorations into Luther's theology I've never come across him stating the opposite- that because of the preaching of the Gospel, the world would become more holy and pious. For Luther, mankind has and will always oppose God's truth en masse and rebel against it, for that's what Satan and sin have always done in battle against God's word. Luther consistently held that the Gospel would find great opposition, and would be attacked from all sides. The Gospel would be used by the world as a licence to sin and all sorts of evil because of Satan. The Gospel would indeed make those of the world worse. But on the flip-side, the Gospel would also transform those whom God intended to redeem, and they are those who comprise the church, however few in number they may be.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Martin Luther praised Mary and said that she should be honored in his very last sermon at Wittenberg?

Over the years I've noted the difficulties in checking the citations Roman Catholic apologists use. When I first began researching Luther quotes posted by Rome's defenders, it was not uncommon to find shoddy documentation (like simply a sermon name and date). If references were given they were often to out-of-print German or Latin sources or out-of-print secondary sources. I can think of no instance of a cyber-dialog I've had with one of Rome's defenders in which they offered a German or Latin reference they had actually read in its German or Latin context (and mined out the quote for themselves and translated it into English). The point of this tedium is that it's a good idea to read the context of that from which you say you are quoting from. Some of these contexts are not hard to track down, but are readily available. Some were even available all those years ago when I first began these explorations.

Luther's Last Wittenberg Sermon According to Rome's Defenders 
Here's a case in point, Some of Rome's defenders think Luther praised Mary and said that she should be honored in his very last sermon at Wittenberg. Here are some examples:
Even Martin Luther, despite criticizing the Catholic doctrines of Mary's intercession and mediation, insisted on venerating Mary... In his last sermon at Wittenberg, in January 1546, Luther preached: "Is Christ only to be adored? Or is the Holy Mother of God rather not to be honored? This is the woman who crushed the serpents head. Hear us, [Mary]. For your Son denies you nothing [Luther, Works, LI:128-29]. (link) (link)
But even Martin Luther had nice things to say about Mary: Is Christ only to be adored? Or is the holy Mother of God rather not to be honored? This is the woman who crushed the Serpent's head. Hear us. For your Son denies you nothing. (Luther's Works, Weimar Edition, Volume 51) (link)
"Is Christ only to be adored? Or is the holy Mother of God rather not to be honoured? This is the woman who crushed the Serpent's head. Hear us. For your Son denies you nothing." Luther made this statement in his last sermon at Wittenberg in January 1546. (link)
Martin Luther, tragically, was devoted to Mary, shown by some splendid work in her honor. But during his break with Rome, his fundamental idea of Deus solus, more of an angry reaction to Rome rather than a theological stand, relegated Mary’s help not only to a minimum but to almost nil. Instead of going to Mary and vowing perpetual chastity, he went to Scriptures and married. Yet in his last sermon on 17 January 1546, as death was approaching, he spoke, revealing what was ingrained in his soul: “Is Christ only to be adored? Or is the Holy Mother of God rather not to be honored. This is the woman who crushed the serpent’s head. Hear us. For your Son denies you nothing;” then his talk gradually reverted to his Deus solus. It was a sad picture of a man who had to deny what he deeply believes in simply out of spite for the papacy that he learned to detest. (link)
The reluctance by some to acknowledge Mary’s unique role seems to be more about distancing ones self from the Catholic Church than a search for truth. All too often evidence takes a back seat to personal preference. Martin Luther was the father of the Protestant Reformation and I think it is safe to say that he was not the least bit shy when it came to distancing himself from the Catholic Church. And yet he wrote in a prologue to the Magnificat: "May the tender mother of God herself procure for me the Spirit of wisdom profitably and thoroughly to expound this song of hers." Also, in his last sermon at Wittenberg he said: "Is Christ only to be adored? Or is the holy Mother of God rather not to be honored? This is the woman who crushed the Serpent's head. Hear us. For your Son denies you nothing." (link)
These are only a few examples. Many more could be given. The picture being put forth is that in his last Wittenberg sermon Luther "venerated Mary," "had nice things to say about Mary," "was devoted to Mary," and had Mary "ingrained in his soul." Let's take a closer look to see if the actual context supports these interpretations.

Documentation
A curious feature of all the differing uses of Luther's last Wittenberg sermon is that the same form of Luther's quote is put forth. Where did it come from? Did these defenders of Rome actually read WA 51 and translate this quote into English?  No, I don't think so. I thought for sure that the culprit would be either William Cole, Thomas O'Meara, Hilda Greyf, or Max Thurian.  While Cole does mention this quote, it's not in the same form. The oldest form of the quote (matching the translation offered abve) I could locate was from Michael O'Carroll, Theotokos: A Theological Encyclopedia of the Blessed Virgin Mary (1982), page 228. Notice in this rendering, "as death was approaching, he could thus recall the [Marian] piety of his early years":
And in this last sermon, on 17 January, 1546, as death was approaching, he could thus recall the piety of his early years: "Is Christ only to be adored? Or is the Holy Mother of God rather not to be honored? This is the woman who crushed the serpents head. Hear us.  For your Son denies you nothing. Bernard said too much on the gospel 'an angel was sent'... For of Christ alone, it was said 'Hear him.' Likewise, 'Behold the Lamb of God' etc. Not of Mary, or angels, or Gabriel" [WA 51, 128-129]. (link)
I don't have certainty that this was the source used, but I would not be surprised.  The other English citation of it I have is from William Cole's article “Was Luther a Devotee of Mary?” (Marian Studies Volume XXI, 1970), p. 98. Cole presents it as:

Is Christ alone to be venerated?
Rather is not the Mother of God, too, to be honored?
She is the woman who crushed the serpents head.
Listen to us, Mary.
Your son honors you.
He refuses you nothing.

This poetic rendering is not the work of William Cole, but rather from Bishop Daly of Ardagh as presented in The Irish Catholic, May 1969 in an article entitled, "Luther Loved Mary." Cole indicates that Daly’s study was an example of a “simplistic, uncritical, one-sided evaluation[s] of Luther’s Marian stance…” (p 98-99). Such could similarly be applied to Rome's cyber-defenders who mis-read Luther's last Wittenberg sermon. Cole actually goes on to cite more of Luther's comments from this very sermon and agrees with those who conclude  Luther forbids praying to Mary, he denied the intercession of Mary, and he "dissuaded or excluded her invocation" (Cole, p. 158).

The quotes above do reference WA 51:128-129. These pages can be found here. WA 51 includes two versions: a Latin version with some German words mixed in and a full German version (both on the same pages). Technically, Luther did not write this text. These printed words are from the notes of Georg Rörer who heard and took notes on Luther's sermon. The sermon was published not long after Luther's death in 1549 (See LW 51:371).

I began above by explaining that some of the quotes used by Rome's defenders do not require English speaking people to consult out-of-print German and Latin sources. This sermon is a case in point. It was published fully in Luther's Works, English edition. All Rome's apologists would have had to do was go down to a good library and pull it off the shelf.  Ironically, while the Latin German is in WA 51, the English rendering is in LW 51: 375-376.

Context
Therefore, when we preach faith, that we should worship nothing but God alone, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, as we say in the Creed: “I believe in God the Father almighty and in Jesus Christ,” then we are remaining in the temple at Jerusalem. Again, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him” “You will find him in a manger”. He alone does it. But reason says the opposite: What, us? Are we to worship only Christ? Indeed, shouldn’t we also honor the holy mother of Christ? She is the woman who bruised the head of the serpent.  Hear us, Mary, for thy Son so honors thee that he can refuse thee nothing. Here Bernard went too far in his “Homilies on the Gospel ‘ Missus est Angelus .’ ”  God has commanded that we should honor the parents; therefore I will call upon Mary. She will intercede for me with the Son, and the Son with the Father, who will listen to the Son. So you have the picture of God as angry and Christ as judge; Mary shows to Christ her breast and Christ shows his wounds to the wrathful Father. That’s the kind of thing this comely bride, the wisdom of reason cooks up: Mary is the mother of Christ, surely Christ will listen to her; Christ is a stern judge, therefore I will call upon St. George and St. Christopher. No, we have been by God’s command baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, just as the Jews were circumcised. Therefore, just as the Jews set up all over the land their own self-chosen shrines, as if Jerusalem were too narrow, so we also have done. As a young man must resist lust and an old man avarice, so reason is by nature a harmful whore. But she shall not harm me, if only I resist her. Ah, but she is so comely and glittering. That’s why there must be preachers who will point people to the catechism: I believe in Jesus Christ, not in St. George or St. Christopher, for only of Christ is it said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”; not of Mary or the angels. The Father did not speak of Gabriel or any others when he cried from heaven, “Listen to him [LW 51:375-376].
Conclusion
In this sermon, Luther did not say or imply that “Mary should be honored.” His main point is that Christ alone should be worshiped. Luther mocks those who would call upon Mary or venerate her. Luther insists that those who seek Christ through Mary do so by the use of “reason,” and “reason is by nature a harmful whore. It is foolish reason that states:
shouldn’t we also honor the holy mother of Christ? She is the woman who bruised the head of the serpent.  Hear us, Mary, for thy Son so honors thee that he can refuse thee nothing.

Foolish reason also states:
God has commanded that we should honor the parents; therefore I will call upon Mary. She will intercede for me with the Son, and the Son with the Father, who will listen to the Son. So you have the picture of God as angry and Christ as judge; Mary shows to Christ her breast and Christ shows his wounds to the wrathful Father. That’s the kind of thing this comely bride, the wisdom of reason cooks up: Mary is the mother of Christ, surely Christ will listen to her; Christ is a stern judge, therefore I will call upon St. George and St. Christopher.
This again shows the importance of checking facts. In context, Luther isn't speaking about venerating Mary, honoring Mary, being devoted to Mary, showing that  Mary was "ingrained in his soul," or recalling the Marian piety of his younger days before he died. Nor is he explaining the difference between the veneration and worship of Mary. Lest one think I am attacking only Roman Catholics with this sort of contextual tedium, I would similarly say the great scholar Heiko Oberman nodded. Oberman alludes to this text and says,
The warm praise which Luther has for the Mother of God throughout his life, his last sermon on 17 January 1546 included, is not based upon the great qualities of Mary herself but upon the grace granted to her. As a person, Luther can say, the Virgin Mary is not greater than Mary Magdalene, the sinner, since through faith all Christians are equal[Heiko A. Oberman, The Impact of the Reformation, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.,1994), 242].
I don't see any sort of "warm praise" in "his last sermon on 17 January 1546." Luther’s tone is quite sarcastic and mocking. One of Rome's defenders thinks the actual negativity expressed by Luther is simply addressed to Bernard: "... in context, this sermon is actually critical of 'Bernard's' use of honor - Bernard, in Luther’s opinion went too far. Luther still supports honoring Mary, just not so far as Bernard went." There are no comments from Luther in this context supporting the "honor" of Mary... whatever that means... saying nice things about Mary is not quite what Rome means by honoring Mary. I could just as easily describe Mary as the "mother of God" without any inkling of veneration. In context, by the way, Luther accuses reason, and then goes on to give the example of Bernard's reasoning specifically.  He then returns to criticizing reason generally. When Luther asks, "shouldn’t we also honor the holy mother of Christ?" the implied answer is: NO.


Addendum
This blog entry is a revision of an entry I posted back in 2007. The original can be found here. Because so many sources are now available online, I'm revising older entries by adding additional materials and commentary, and also fixing or deleting dead hyperlinks. Nothing of any significant substance has changed in this entry from that presented in the former.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Catholic Answers Discussion Asks: Should Catholics Praise Martin Luther???

Here's an interesting read from the Catholic Answers "Non-Catholic Religions" forum: Should Catholics Praise Martin Luther??? Normally in a cyber-discussion like this in a Roman Catholic cyber-venue, the typical answer is "No, because Luther was a Nazi, killed the peasants, was a drunkard, believed one could sin a thousand times a day, and taught that Christ committed adultery with Mary Magdalene, he took books out of the Bible..." and so on...  Some of that sort of thing does pop up in this discussion. What fascinated me was that a retired Roman Catholic priest with a strong ecumenical approach defended Rome's more recent kindness towards Luther (see any of the posts in the discussion by Don Ruggero).  I sat back and kept out if it for a while, and then posted the following:

Jul 25, '16, 11:14 pm
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I find this entire discussion fascinating, and I'm grateful for the opinions expressed. I've been in online dialog with Catholics on Martin Luther for over 10 years. Here's what I've encountered:

1. Older Catholic scholarship (pre-Lortz) is typically hostile to Luther.
2. Newer Catholic scholarship (post-Lortz) is less hostile to Luther.
3. Current Catholic scholarship is ecumenical and willing to be gracious towards Luther.

4. The majority of online Catholics participating in forums like these typically revert to the position of older Catholic scholarship (pre-Lortz).

The reason why I think there's such a variety of Catholic opinions toward Luther is that at Trent, Luther was never condemned by name, so there is no dogmatic judgment by which Catholics are bound in regard to him personally. Some time back, Jimmy Akin went through Exsurge Domine (the bull condemning Luther's teachings). Akin pointed out that the bull was not infallible, so there's no help there in establishing an official position.

So basically: you all have the freedom within Catholicism to express yourselves about Martin Luther. Enjoy that freedom.

And then, the following took place:

Jul 25, '16, 11:47 pm
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Default Re: Should Catholics Praise Martin Luther???

Quote:
Originally Posted by TertiumQuid View Post
I find this entire discussion fascinating, and I'm grateful for the opinions expressed. I've been in online dialog with Catholics on Martin Luther for over 10 years. Here's what I've encountered:

1. Older Catholic scholarship (pre-Lortz) is typically hostile to Luther.
2. Newer Catholic scholarship (post-Lortz) is less hostile to Luther.
3. Current Catholic scholarship is ecumenical and willing to be gracious towards Luther.

4. The majority of online Catholics participating in forums like these typically revert to the position of older Catholic scholarship (pre-Lortz).

The reason why I think there's such a variety of Catholic opinions toward Luther is that at Trent, Luther was never condemned by name, so there is no dogmatic judgment by which Catholics are bound in regard to him personally. Some time back, Jimmy Akin went through Exsurge Domine (the bull condemning Luther's teachings). Akin pointed out that the bull was not infallible, so there's no help there in establishing an official position.

So basically: you all have the freedom within Catholicism to express yourselves about Martin Luther. Enjoy that freedom.
But why would it be about Luther to begin with? It's really about teachings.

Anyhow, I trust the magisterium. 

xx
Jul 25, '16, 11:54 pm
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter J View Post
But why would it be about Luther to begin with? It's really about teachings.

Anyhow, I trust the magisterium. 
This thread is entitled, "Should Catholics Praise Martin Luther???" By its mere existence, it demonstrates the overwhelming obvious: that Catholics have opinions about Martin Luther, and even yours is an opinion (that the teachings rather than the person should be discussed).

Enjoy your freedom.

xx
Jul 26, '16, 12:07 am
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Default Re: Should Catholics Praise Martin Luther???

Quote:
Originally Posted by TertiumQuid View Post
This thread is entitled, "Should Catholics Praise Martin Luther???" By its mere existence, it demonstrates the overwhelming obvious: that Catholics have opinions about Martin Luther, and even yours is an opinion (that the teachings rather than the person should be discussed).

Enjoy your freedom.
Fair enough: a thread on the internet does have the aforementioned title.

(Bang gavel.)

 But seriously, I'm not really saying Don't talk about him. Just that he isn't "what it's all about". Heck, you pointed out that even the 16th century condemnations don't mention him.
xx
Jul 26, '16, 8:49 am
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Default Re: Should Catholics Praise Martin Luther???

Quote:
Originally Posted by TertiumQuid View Post
I find this entire discussion fascinating, and I'm grateful for the opinions expressed. I've been in online dialog with Catholics on Martin Luther for over 10 years. Here's what I've encountered:

1. Older Catholic scholarship (pre-Lortz) is typically hostile to Luther.
2. Newer Catholic scholarship (post-Lortz) is less hostile to Luther.
3. Current Catholic scholarship is ecumenical and willing to be gracious towards Luther.

4. The majority of online Catholics participating in forums like these typically revert to the position of older Catholic scholarship (pre-Lortz).
It would be wise to move beyond 'online discussions' to gather insight into how Catholics feel about Luther.
What you oftentimes encounter here are Trad Catholics and non-Trad Catholics.
2PT3 was a case in point.
xx
Jul 26, '16, 9:49 am
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Son of Niall View Post
It would be wise to move beyond 'online discussions' to gather insight into how Catholics feel about Luther.
What you oftentimes encounter here are Trad Catholics and non-Trad Catholics.
2PT3 was a case in point.
To clarify: by "online discussions" these interactions with Catholics (specifically on Luther) have included pro-Catholic forums, anti-Catholic forums, blogs, e-mail exchanges, etc. I've interacted with anonymous laymen as well as more well-known Catholic apologists.

Exactly how do you propose I move beyond these interactions "to gather insight into how Catholics feel about Luther"? What is the method you suggest in this path of wisdom you're describing?
xx
Jul 26, '16, 10:49 am
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TertiumQuid View Post

Exactly how do you propose I move beyond these interactions "to gather insight into how Catholics feel about Luther"? What is the method you suggest in this path of wisdom you're describing?
Turn off the computer.
Walk outside without a device (first, get out your pajamas).
Talk to people (you'll spot them right away, they have bodies like ours).
End of lesson.
xx
Jul 26, '16, 10:58 am
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Son of Niall View Post
Turn off the computer.
Walk outside without a device (first, get out your pajamas).
Talk to people (you'll spot them right away, they have bodies like ours).
End of lesson.
Interesting conundrum that someone without a body is giving me advice to speak to someone with a body in order to arrive at the correct conclusion on a particular issue.

Keep in mind: I do talk to Catholics in person- but these cyber-discussions attract people who want to talk about certain issues and can at times have knowledge on certain issues (like Luther and the Reformation). On the other hand, I have typically not come across the same with Catholic "bodied" people. Perhaps that's your point: most (or many) Catholic people out in the tangible world don't have an opinion or care about Luther one way or other.

xx
Jul 26, '16, 11:07 am
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TertiumQuid View Post
Interesting conundrum that someone without a body is giving me advice to speak to someone with a body.

Keep in mind: I do talk to Catholics in person- but these cyber-discussions attract people who want to talk about certain issues and have knowledge on certain issues. On the other hand, I have typically not come across the same with Catholic "bodied" people. Perhaps that's your point: most Catholic people out in the tangible world don't have an opinion or care about Luther one way or other.
....or is it perhaps a guy with an anti-Catholic blog (followed by what? Five people?) needs to keep coming back to CAF trying to portray himself as something he is not?
Many Protestants, Lutherans included "in the tangible world" also don't have an opinion about Luther.
Why? Perhaps because it is not 1517 anymore.
I would rather listen to an old retired priest like Don Ruggero, who has far more experience in the 'tangible world' than someone trying to gather a cyber-crowd.
xx
Jul 26, '16, 11:10 am
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Default Re: Should Catholics Praise Martin Luther???

Quote:
Originally Posted by Son of Niall View Post
....or is it perhaps a guy with an anti-Catholic blog (followed by what? Five people?) needs to keep coming back to CAF trying to portray himself as something he is not?
Many Protestants, Lutherans included "in the tangible world" also don't have an opinion about Luther.
Why? Perhaps because it is not 1517 anymore.
I would rather listen to an old retired priest like Don Ruggero, who has far more experience in the 'tangible world' than someone trying to gather a cyber-crowd.
Ah, OK, now I get it. It's personal for you... against me. I wondered what was going on. You may have the last word.... or feel free to insult me again.

Edited to add: I've had over a million hits to my blog, and I don't advertise, or sell anything. Frankly, I write for me, so if those 5 people move on, that's fine with me.

xx
Jul 26, '16, 11:13 am
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TertiumQuid View Post
Ah, OK, now I get it. It's personal for you... against me. I wondered what was going on. You may have the last word.... or feel free to insult me again.
No ones insulting you dude.
But if you wish to interact with Catholics, maybe you should not spend so much time insulting them on your 'blog'.
Just sayin'.
xx
Jul 26, '16, 11:15 am
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Default Re: Should Catholics Praise Martin Luther???

The OP please.
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The comments were indeed personal. Now, with Catholic Answers, I've learned to not use the alert system (I've gotten infractions for doing that, and I've been suspended for doing that). Had I defended myself, I could have also easily been giving an infraction or a suspension. I'm not exactly sure how the moderation works over at CA, but I know many of the rules do not apply to me.