Friday, September 23, 2016

Did Luther Regret the Reformation?

I've been told the age of the "blog" is over, but I still enjoy this format! I'm not at all fond of Facebook, and even less of Twitter.

While it may seem that I do not post as much as I used to, I'm still actively involved in maintaining this blog. Based on all the primary sources that are now readily available online, I've been revising many of my older entries. I've been fixing dead hyperlinks (as I come across them), adding the primary source information, reformatting text, and doing some slight editing when necessary.  

I've spent the last few weeks revising all the entries in my series, Did Luther Regret the Reformation?  The entries in this series were originally posted in 2010. The revised entries have scrupulous documentation back to the primary sources along with English translations and context. I was amazed, once again, to research quotes that appear to be one quote, but then when they are placed back in context, the one quote was actually pieced together like Frankenstein's monster from seven paragraphs!

I primarily track obscure Reformation quotes down for myself. It's like looking for treasure, never knowing what one will find once a context is located and the quote is placed back in it. If anyone benefits from the material I post, well that's icing on the cake.

Regards,  James

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Luther: Those who ought to be good Christians because they have heard the gospel, are harder and more merciless than before

Here's another obscure Luther quote typically used by Rome's defenders:
Those who ought to be good Christians because they have heard the gospel, are harder and more merciless than before . . . Tell me, where is there a town . . . pious enough to . . . maintain one schoolmaster or pastor? . . . Thanks also to the dear Evangel, the people have become . . . abominally wicked . . . diabolically cruel . . . growing fat . . . through plunder and robbery of Church goods . . . Ought we not to be thoroughly ashamed of ourselves? (Janssen, ibid., XV, 466-467) 
From various web-pages, I've come across Rome's defenders using this quote three different ways. First, it was used as an example of "The Agony of Luther" over "the State of Early Protestantism." Second, that during the Reformation "Catholics were no more ignorant or impious or wicked than, for example, Lutherans, according to the descriptions of Luther himself."

Documentation
The quote is said to come from Johannes Janssen's History of the German People From the Close of the Middle Ages Volume 15. On pages 466-467, Janssen states:
'Those who ought to be good Christians because they have heard the gospel, are harder and more merciless than before; as is too plainly patent to all beholders. Of old, when under the guidance of the papacy and of a false worship,people were obliged to do good works, everybody was ready and willing. Now, on the contrary, the world has learnt nothing else than to flay, fleece, and openly rob and plunder by lying and cheating, by usury, forestalling and overcharging. And everyone acts against his neighbour, as though he did not regard him as a friend, still less as a brother in Christ, but as a murderous enemy, and only wanted to get everything for himself alone. This goes on daily and gains head without intermission, and is the most common practice and custom in all classes, among princes, nobles, burghers, peasants, in all courts, towns and villages, yea verily in all houses. Tell me, where is there a town however large that is pious enough to collect together as much as would maintain one schoolmaster or pastor? Yes indeed, if it had not been for the charitable alms and endowments of our forefathers, the burghers in our cities, the nobles and peasants in the country, would long ago have been deprived of the Evangel, and not a single poor preacher would have been fed and clothed. For we will not do it ourselves, but we take and seize by force what others have given and founded." 'Thanks also to the dear Evangel, the people have become so abominably wicked, so inhuman, so diabolically cruel and merciless, that they are not content with profiting by the Evangel themselves, growing fat thereon through plunder and robbery of Church goods, but as far as others are concerned they starve the gospel completely out. You may count upon your fingers, here and elsewhere, all that they give and do for it, they who profit by it themselves, for ourselves, who are living now, there has long been no preacher, no scholar able to teach our children and descendants what we have taught or believed.' ' Ought we not to be thoroughly ashamed of ourselves when we think of our parents and forefathers, kings and nobles, princes and others, who gave so liberally and so benevolently, even to superfluity, to churches, parsonages, schools, foundations, hospitals, &c., and by all which they and their descendants were not impoverished?' (Collected Works, xiv 389-391).
I used black lettering to highlight how Rome's defender edited down this paragraph from Janssen. Why would a person take a few words, half a sentence, skip a few words, take a few more, skip a few sentences, and then construct a quote? It's a questionable method to say the least. We'll see below that while this quote comes from one extended paragraph from Johannes Janssen, it ultimately comes from multiple paragraphs from Luther (at least seven paragraphs!), spanning multiple pages. The method of citation often employed by Rome's defenders does point to one blaring conclusion: the quote was never read in its original context in Luther's writings. Had it been, one would realize Janssen didn't cite one paragraph from Luther, but rather sentences from multiple pages.

Janssen says the quote comes from "Collected works xiv, 389-391."This would be the fourteenth volume of the Erlangen edition of Luther's Works, which contains Luther's Church Postil. Here are pages 389, 390, 391. These pages are from a sermon, "Predigt am sechs und zwanzigsten Sonntage nach Trinitatis. Evang. Matth. 25, 31-42" ("Twenty Sixth Sunday After Trinity Sermon, Matthew 25:31-46"). These Postil sermons have a tedious and complicated legacy (see the introduction to LW 75). This sermon has been translated into English. It is found in The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther 3:1 (Michigan: Baker Books, 2000) pp. 379-395. It can also be found in  The Precious and Sacred Writings of Martin Luther, vol. xiv. 379- 395. There are also various websites offering this sermon (link).

Context
The sermon is about Christ's reward to the sheep and condemnation of the goats. Luther notes that until the day of judgment "The good and the bad must remain together in this world... as Christ himself had to tolerate Judas among his Apostles... Christians are even now grieved that they must remain here in the midst of a crooked, perverse, ungodly people, which is the kingdom of Satan..." (The Precious and Sacred Writings of Martin Luther, vol. xiv, p.382).

In an extended passage beginning on page 384, Luther describes the goats: those "Christians" that are mingled in with the sheep:
11. It seems as though he meant hereby to show that many Christians, after receiving the preaching of the Gospel, of the forgiveness of sins and grace through Christ, become even worse than the heathen. For he also says in Mat. 19, 30, "Many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first." Thus it will also be at the end of the world; those who should be honest Christians, because they heard the Gospel, are much worse and more unmerciful than they were before, as we see too many examples of this even now.
Aforetime when we were to do good works under the seduction and false worship of the Papacy, every one was ready and willing; a prince, for example, or a city, could give more alms and a greater endowment than now all the kings and emperors are able to give. But now all the world seems to be learning nothing else than how to estimate values, to rake and scrape, to rob and steal by lying, deceiving, usury, overcharging, overrating, and the like; and every man treats his neighbor, not as though he were his friend, much less as his brother in Christ, but as his mortal enemy, and as though he intended to snatch all things to himself and begrudge everything to others.
12. This goes on daily, is constantly increasing, is a very common practice and custom, among all classes of people, among princes, the nobility, burghers, peasants, in all courts, cities, villages, yes in almost every home. Tell me, what city is now so strong and pious as to be able to raise an amount sufficient to support a schoolmaster or a preacher? Yes, if we did not already have the liberal alms and endowments of our forefathers, the Gospel would long ago have disappeared in the cities on account of the burghers, and in the country because of the nobility and peasants, and poor preachers would have nothing to eat nor to drink. For we do not love to give, but would rather take even by force what others have given and endowed. Therefore it is no credit to us that a single pulpit or school is still maintained. Yea, how many there are among the great, the powerful, and the rich, especially in the Papacy, who would like to see nothing better than all preachers, schools, and arts exterminated.
13. Such are the thanks to the blessed Gospel, by which men have been freed from the bondage and plagues of the Pope, that they must become so shamefully wicked in these last times. They are now no more unmerciful, no more in a human, but in a satanic way; they are not satisfied with being allowed to enjoy the Gospel, and grow fat by robbing and stealing the revenues of the church, but they must also be scheming with all their power how they may completely starve out the Gospel. One can easily count upon his fingers, what they who enjoy the Gospel are doing and giving here and elsewhere; and were it only for us now living, there would long since have been, no preacher or student from whom our children and descendants might know what we had taught and believed.
14. In short, what do you think Christ will say on that day, seated on his judgment throne, to such unmerciful Christianity? "Dear sir, listen, you have also pretended to be a Christian and boasted of the Gospel; did you not also hear this sermon, that I myself preached, in which I told you what my verdict and decision would be: `Depart from me, ye cursed?' I was hungry and thirsty, naked and sick, poor and in prison, and ye gave me no meat, no drink, clothed me not, took me not in, and visited me not. Why have ye neglected this, and have been more shameless and unmerciful toward your own brethren than the Turk or heathen?"
Will you excuse yourself by pleading: "Lord, when saw we thee hungry or thirsty?" etc. Then he will answer you again through your own conscience: Dear sir, were there no people who preached to you; or perhaps poor students who should have at the time been studying and learning God's Word, or were there no poor, persecuted Christians whom you ought to have fed, clothed and visited?
15, We ought really to be ashamed of ourselves, having had the example of parents, ancestors, lords and kings, princes and others, who gave so liberally and charitably, even in profusion, to churches, ministers, schools, endowments, hospitals and the like; and by such liberal giving neither they nor their descendants were made poorer. What would they have done, had they had the light of the Gospel, that is given unto us? How did the Apostles and their followers in the beginning bring all they had -for their poor widows, or for those who had nothing, or who were banished and persecuted, in order that no one among them might suffer for the necessities of life! In this way poor Christians should at all times support one another. Otherwise, as I have said, the Gospel, the pulpit, churches and schools would already be completely exterminated, no matter how much the rest of the world did.
Were it not for the grace of God, by which he gives us here and there a pious prince, or godly government, which preserves the fragments still left, that all may not be destroyed by the graspers and vultures, thieves and robbers; were it not for this grace, I say, the poor pastors and preachers would not only be starved, but also murdered. Nor are there now any other poor people than those who serve, or are being trained to serve the church; and these can obtain no support elsewhere, and must leave their poor wives and children die of hunger because of an indifferent world; on the other hand the world is full of useless, unfaithful, wicked fellows among day-laborers, lazy mechanics, servants, maids, and idle, greedy beggars, who everywhere by lying, deceiving, robbing and stealing, take away the hard-earned bread and butter from those who are really poor, and yet go unpunished in the midst of their wantonness and insolence.
16. This I say, that we may see how Christ will upbraid the false liars and hypocrites among Christians, on the day of judgment, and having convicted them before all creatures will condemn them, because they have done none of the works which even the heathen do to their fellows; who did much more in their false and erroneous religion, and would have done it even more willingly had they known better.
17. Since now this terrible condemnation is justly pronounced over those who neglected these works, what will happen to those who have not only neglected the same, have given nothing to the poor Christians, nor served them; but robbed them of what they had, drove them to hunger, thirst and nakedness, furthermore persecuted, scattered, imprisoned, and murdered them? These are so unutterably wicked, so utterly condemned to the bottomless pit with the devil and his angels, that Christ will not think or speak of them. But he will assuredly not forget these robbers, tyrants, and bloodhounds any more than he will forget or pass over unrewarded those who have suffered hunger thirst, nakedness, persecution and the like, especially for his and his Word's sake. He will not forget those to whom mercy has been shown, even though he speaks only to those who have shown mercy and have lent their aid; for he highly and nobly commends them, when he says. "Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of these my brethren, even these least, ye did it unto me" (p.387).

Conclusion
Rome's defenders, be it Janssen or modern cyber-apologists, put together a quote from seven paragraphs. This isn't scholarship or apologetics, it's the way of propaganda. The context isn't about Luther's agony over the state of early Protestantism, nor is it about Protestants being as wicked or impious as Roman Catholics. The context is about false Christians, the goats, mingled in with true Christians, the sheep. Notice Luther says of the false Christians "This I say, that we may see how Christ will upbraid the false liars and hypocrites among Christians, on the day of judgment."


Addendum (2016)
This blog entry is a revision of an entry I posted back in 2010. 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.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Luther: We Do Not Act Upon the Evangel

Here's another obscure Luther quote used by a defender of Rome:
Now that . . . we are free . . . we show our thankfulness in a way calculated to bring down God's wrath . . . We have got the Evangel . . . but . . . we do not trouble ourselves to act up to it. (Janssen, ibid., XVI, 16-17) 
From various web-pages, I've come across defenders of Rome using this quote three different ways. First, it was used as an example of "The Agony of Luther" over "the State of Early Protestantism." Second, that during the Reformation "Catholics were no more ignorant or impious or wicked than, for example, Lutherans, according to the descriptions of Luther himself." Third, it was used as proof Luther was disgusted by the state of Protestant morality and decline of Protestant morals.

Documentation
The quote is said to come from Johannes Janssen's History of the German People From the Close of the Middle Ages Volume 16. On pages 16-17 Janssen states:
How full the world is of people who are ungrateful for the evangel, we see plainly before our eyes, not only in those who intentionally persecute the known truth of the Gospel, but also among us who accept it and make our boast of it; the great masses are also so abominably unthankful that it would be no wonder if God were to come down upon us with thunder and lightning, yea,verily, with all the Turks and devils from hell. So quickly have we forgotten how we were plagued under the papacy and, as it were, overwhelmed with a sin-flood, with so many strange doctrines which put our consciences to torture. But now that through God's grace we are free from all that, we show our thankfulness in a way calculated to bring down God's wrath upon us still more heavily. For let each one consider what unpardonable wickedness it is, when we have received from God such great, sure, immeasurable bounty as forgiveness of all our sins, and being made partakers of the Kingdom of Heaven, that we will not even make Him such slight return as to think about it, and on this account to forgive our neighbor a trifling word from our hearts, not to speak of the duty laid upon us to help and serve our neighbor. We have got the Evangel, God be praised! that nobody can deny; but what do we do for it ? We are content to talk about it, nothing more comes of it; we do not trouble ourselves to act up to it. But we do trouble ourselves a great deal if we should chance to lose one or two guldens; we are very anxious and fearful lest our money should be stolen from us, but we can do without the Gospel for a whole year. God will not leave unavenged this shameful contempt of His Word, and He will not be long in avenging Himself (Dollinger, Reformation i, 297-298).
I used black lettering to highlight how Rome's defender edited down this paragraph from Janssen. Why would a person take two words, skip a few, take a few more, skip a few sentences, and then construct a quote? It's a questionable method to say the least. This method does point to one blaring conclusion: the quote was never read in its original context in Luther's writings. Had it been, one would realize Janssen didn't cite one quote from Luther, he cited two that were put together to appear to be one.  Notice Janssen didn't cite a primary source, but cited another Roman Catholic author, Ignaz von Dollinger's Die Reformation vol 1, 297-298. Upon checking this source, it became apparent Dollinger used multiple sources to construct this lengthy quote. Janssen wasn't careful to point this out, leading me to suspect Janssen didn't check the sources either. Janssen's quote should actually be broken up into two quotes like this:

Quote #1
How full the world is of people who are ungrateful for the evangel, we see plainly before our eyes, not only in those who intentionally persecute the known truth of the Gospel, but also among us who accept it and make our boast of it; the great masses are also so abominably unthankful that it would be no wonder if God were to come down upon us with thunder and lightning, yea,verily, with all the Turks and devils from hell. So quickly have we forgotten how we were plagued under the papacy and, as it were, overwhelmed with a sin-flood, with so many strange doctrines which put our consciences to torture. But now that through God's grace we are free from all that, we show our thankfulness in a way calculated to bring down God's wrath upon us still more heavily. For let each one consider what unpardonable wickedness it is, when we have received from God such great, sure, immeasurable bounty as forgiveness of all our sins, and being made partakers of the Kingdom of Heaven, that we will not even make Him such slight return as to think about it, and on this account to forgive our neighbor a trifling word from our hearts, not to speak of the duty laid upon us to help and serve our neighbor.
Quote #2
We have got the Evangel, God be praised! that nobody can deny; but what do we do for it ? We are content to talk about it, nothing more comes of it; we do not trouble ourselves to act up to it. But we do trouble ourselves a great deal if we should chance to lose one or two guldens; we are very anxious and fearful lest our money should be stolen from us, but we can do without the Gospel for a whole year. God will not leave unavenged this shameful contempt of His Word, and He will not be long in avenging Himself.
While both quotes are from the Kirchen-Postille (Luther's Church Postil), Janssen's one quote is actually from two different sermons, sometimes from two different volumes. For instance, in the Walch edition, the quotes can be found in Volumes XII (p. 1234) and XI (p.2171). In Weimarer, WA: 22:54-355 and WA 10 I 2:373-374.

Both of these sermons have been translated into English. The first is entitled the Twenty-Second Sunday After Trinity (Philippians 1:3-11). It is found in Dr. Martin Luther's Church Postil: Sermons on The Epistles (quote #1 is found on page 171). It can also be found in The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther Vol.4.2 (Michigan: Baker Books, 2000) pp. 330-342 (quote #1 is found on pages 333-334). The second is the Sermon for the Fifteenth Sunday After Trinity (Matthew 6:24-34). It can be found in The Precious and Sacred Writings of Martin Luther, vol. XIV (pp. 102-117). It can also be found in The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther Vol. 3.1 (Michigan: Baker Books, 2000), pp. 102-117).

Context: Quote One
Luther begins by describing the Christian heart of Paul and of those who similarly have a heart "filled with the real fruits of the Spirit and faith" (Complete Sermons of Martin Luther 3,1, p.331). He notes "Such hearts are rare in the world." He then points out that Paul is an excellent example of one who had gratitude toward God for His grace and goodness. In fact, Christians have a duty of gratitude. It is a Christian's duty to manifest thankfulness toward God, and also towards men. Unfortunately, ingratitude is common to sinful human nature, and even heathens recognize the sin of ingratitude among each other. Luther states:
Thus we have the teaching of nature and of reason regarding the sin of men's ingratitude toward one another. How much greater the evil, how much more shameful and accursed, when manifested toward God who, in his infinite and ineffable goodness, conferred upon us while yet enemies to him and deserving of the fires of hell—conferred upon us, I say, not ten dollars, not a hundred thousand dollars even, but redemption from divine wrath and eternal death, and abundantly comforted us, granting us safety, a good conscience, peace and salvation! These are inexpressible blessings, incomprehensible in this life. And they will continue to occupy our minds in yonder eternal life. How much more awful the sin of ingratitude for these blessings, as exemplified in the servant mentioned in the Gospel passage for today, to whom was forgiven the debt of ten thousand talents and who yet would not forgive the debt of his fellow-servant who owed him a hundred pence! (p.333)
Then follows the first obscure Luther quote:
Is it not incredible that there are to be found on earth individuals wicked enough to manifest for the highest and eternal blessings such unspeakable ingratitude? But alas, we have the evidence of our own eyes. We know them in their very dwelling-places. We see how the world abounds with them. Not only are the ingrates to be found among deliberate rejecters of the acknowledged truth of the Gospel, concerning God's grace, an assured conscience and the promise of eternal life, terrible as such malice of the devil is, but they are present also in our midst, accepting the Gospel and boasting of it. Such shameful ingratitude prevails among the masses it would not be strange were God to send upon them the thunders and lightnings of his wrath, yes, all the Turks and the devils of hell. There is a generally prevalent ingratitude like that of the wicked servant who readily forgot the straits he experienced when, being called to account for what he could not pay, the wrathful sentence was pronounced against him that he and all he possessed must be sold, and he be indefinitely imprisoned. Nor have we less readily forgotten how we were tortured under the Papacy; how we were overwhelmed, drowned as in a flood, with numberless strange doctrines, when our anxious consciences longed for salvation. Now that we are, through the grace of God, liberated from these distresses, our gratitude is of a character to increasingly heap to ourselves the wrath of God. So have others before us done, and consequently have endured terrible chastisement. Only calculate the enormity of our wickedness when, God having infinitely blessed us in forgiving all our sins and making us lords over heaven and earth, we so little respect him as to be unmindful of his blessings; to be unwilling for the sake of them sincerely to forgive our neighbor a single slighting word, not to mention rendering him service. We conduct ourselves as if God might be expected to connive at our ingratitude and permit us to continue in it, at the same time conferring upon us as godly and obedient children, success and happiness. More than this, we think we have the privilege and power to live and do as we please. Indeed, the more learning and power we have and the more exalted our rank, the greater knaves we are; perpetrating every wicked deed, stirring up strife, discord, war and murder for the sake of executing our own arbitrary designs, where the question is the surrender of a penny in recognition of the hundreds of thousands of dollars daily received from God notwithstanding our ingratitude. (p 333-334).
In context, the quote in question is a simple exhortation of a pastor for his flock to live with gratitude for God. For Rome's defenders, the quote without a context becomes Luther's agony over "the state of early Protestantism," or that Protestants were as "impious or wicked" as Roman Catholics, or an example of Luther's disgust over "the state of Protestant morality and decline of Protestant morals." Why can't it simply be a sermon of exhortation for people to be grateful to God? Remember, Luther began the sermon by stating that those who live each day with a godly gratitude are rare in the world. In the same sermon Luther goes on to exhorts his hearers:
The world remains the devil's own. We must remember we shall not by any means find with the world that Christian heart pictured by the apostle; on the contrary we shall find what might be represented by a picture of the very opposite type —the most shameless ingratitude. But let the still existing God-fearing Christians be careful to imitate in their gratitude the spirit of the apostle's beautiful picture. Let them give evidence of their willingness to hear the Word of God, of pleasure and delight in it and grief where it is rejected. Let them show by their lives a consciousness of the great blessing conferred by those from whom they received the Gospel. As recipients of such goodness, let their hearts and lips ever be ready with the happy declaration: "God be praised !" For thereunto are we called. As before said, praise should be the constant service and daily sacrifice of Christians; and according to Paul's teaching here, the Christian's works, his fruits of righteousness, should shine before men. Such manifestation of gratitude assuredly must result when we comprehend what God has given us. (p.338)

Context: Quote Two
Luther begins by explaining one needs to do more than hear the Gospel, one needs to do what it teaches: "they who do as the gospel teaches, are true Christians. However, very few of these are found; we see many hearers, but all are not doers of the Gospel" (p.104). To be a doer though isn't the result of compulsion, but is the result of a heart that loves God. Luther then explains that while many say they love God, do they really? Isn't it the case that many who say they love God actually love the things of this world more? Then follows the second obscure Luther quote:
But who are they that love God, and cleave not to gold and worldly possessions? Take a good look at the whole world, also the Christians, and see if they despise gold and riches. It requires an effort to hear the Gospel and to live according to it. God be praised, we have the Gospel; that no one can deny, but what do we do with it? We are concerned only about learning and knowing it, and nothing more; we think it is enough to know it, and do not care whether we ever live according to it. However, on the other hand, one is very anxious when he leaves lying in window or in the room a dollar or two, yea, even a dime, then he worries and fears lest the money be stolen ; but same person can do without the Gospel through a whole year. And such characters still wish to be considered Evangelical. Here we see what and who we are. If we were Christians, we would despise riches and be concerned about Gospel that we some day might live in it and prove it by our deeds. We see few such Christians; therefore we must hear the judgment that we are despisers of God and hate God: the sake of riches and worldly possessions. Alas! That fine praise! We should be ashamed of ourselves in our inmost souls; there is no hope for us! What a fine condition we are in now! That means, I think, our names are blotted out. What spoiled children we are! (p.105-106).
Again, one finds the heartfelt exhortations of a pastor, expounding a text of Scripture. Luther continues:
Now the world cannot conceal its unbelief in its course outward sins, for I see it loves a dollar more than Christ; more than all the Apostles, even if they themselves were present and preached to it. I can hear the Gospel daily, but it does not profit me every day; it may indeed happen if I have heard it a whole year, the Holy Spirit may have been given to me only one hour. Now when I enjoyed this hour I obtained not only five hundred dollars, but also I riches of the whole world; for what have I not, when I have the Gospel? I received God, who made the silver and I gold, and all that is upon the earth; for I acquired the Spirit by which I know that I will be kept by him forever; that much more than if I had the church full of money. Examine now and see, if our heart is not a rogue, full of wickedness and unbelief. If I were a true Christian, I would say: I hour the Gospel is received, there comes to me a hundred thousand dollars, and much more. For if I possess this treasure, I have all that is in heaven and upon earth. But one must serve this treasure only, for no man can serve God and mammon. Either you must love God and hate money; or you must hate God and love money; this and nothing more. (pp. 106-107)
In context, one can see how non-outrageous this sermon was. Luther spoke on a theme that has echoed through church history: the love of God versus the love of the world.

Conclusion
I've stated often that if one wants to read Luther, they should read his sermons. These two sermons are worthy reads. The Roman Catholic polemicists though will use anything to discredit the Reformation, even those points (found in these sermons) that they would most likely agree with: one should have profound gratitude towards God, and one should love God, not the world. In the hands of Rome's defenders, these points become: Luther agonizing over Protestantism, that Protestants were awful sinners, and that Luther was disgusted by his followers. As the context shows, these were simply typical Luther sermons, and I would add, typical sermons of any God-fearing preacher. Luther had a pastor's heart, and continually exhorted his flock to live the Christian life. The ironic thing of course, is that many Roman Catholics accuse Luther of teaching the wanton lawlessness of sola fide. Yet, when he exhorts his hearers to adhere to Christian morals, even this is used against him.

Addendum (2016)
This blog entry is a revision of an entry I posted back in 2010. 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.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Yet Another Defender of Rome Makes Up a Luther Quote

Some years back I reviewed a lecture entitled Luther: The Rest of the Story by Ken Hensley (2003) (p.1, p.2, p.3). This Roman Catholic apologist styles himself an able Reformation historian (at least Tim Staples and Scott Hahn think so according to Hensley's blog sidebar blurbs). I had forgotten about Mr. Hensley until I came across his blog entry, Why I’m Catholic: Sola Scriptura Isn’t Workable, Part I. In this entry, he states:
As soon as Luther and Calvin and the others began preaching sola scriptura and the right of private interpretation, immediately there was an explosion of interpretations of Scripture and with this an explosion of divisions within Protestantism. The immediate result was doctrinal chaos.
Listen to what one prominent Protestant theologian and professor was saying a mere two years — two years! — into the Reformation being launched:
"Noblemen, townsmen, peasants, all classes understand the Gospel better than I or St. Paul; they are now wise and think themselves more learned than all the ministers…. There is no smearer but when he has heard a sermon or can read a chapter in German, makes a doctor of himself and…convinces himself that he knows everything better than all who teach him."
The "prominent Protestant theologian" was Martin Luther, of course. The comment is said to have been made "a mere two years into the Reformation being launched," placing this comment in 1519. We'll see that not only was this not something Luther said or wrote in 1519, some of the quote wasn't written by Luther, and it isn't one quote, it's two quotes from two different years. The quote being put forth by Mr. Hensley therefore qualifies as... propaganda.

Documentation
No documentation is provided, nor could I locate exactly which secondary source Mr. Hensley used. Almost the same exact form of the quote can be found here in a 2013 blog entry from another defender of Rome:
Claims about the perspicuity of Scripture and the claim that the Holy Spirit has promised to guide each person's private readings of the Bible do not stand up - not even in the day-to-day practice of those who make them. Later in life, Luther lamented those who believed themselves to "understand the [Gospel] better than I or St. Paul; they are now wise and think themselves more learned than all the ministers ... there is no smearer but whenever he has heard a sermon or can read a chapter in German, makes a doctor of himself ... and convinces himself that he knows everything better than all who teach him."[3] Vost, Kevin, Memorize the Reasons: Defending the Faith with the Catholic Art of Memory (San Deigo: Catholic Answers, 2013), p. 195.
This blogger locates the quote later in Luther's life rather than 1519. The similarities of the English translation of Luther are so similar, they have to be coming from the same secondary source.  I could not bring myself to purchase the Catholic Answers book referenced to check the footnote provided. If this was the actual source Mr. Hensley used, I'm not spending the $$ to find out.

  In 2005, a  participant of the Catholic Answers forums posted a similar version of the quote:
"Noblemen, townsmen, peasants, all classes understand the Evangelium better than I or St. Paul; they are now wise and think themselves more learned than all the ministers"... "There is no smearer but whenever he has heard a sermon or can read a chapter in German, makes a doctor of himself, and crowns his as*s, convincing himself that he knows everything better than all who teach him"…
No documentation is given, but the quote is broken up into two citations. In 2006, this blogger likewise breaks the quote up into two citations and provides primary source documentation:
"Noblemen, townsmen, peasants, all classes understand the Evangelium better than I or St. Paul" said Luther "they are now wise and think themselves more learned than all the ministers." 17
"There is no smearer but whenever he has heard a sermon or can read a chapter in German, makes a doctor of himself, and crowns his ass, convincing himself that he knows everything better than all who teach him." 18
17 M. Luther, Walch XIV, 1360
18 Walch V.1652
Ultimately, these two quotes probably arrived in cyber-space via Roman Catholic sources from the 1800's or early 1900's. For instance, both can be found in Patrick O'Hare's The Facts About Luther. O'Hare cites the first quote on page 214 and the second quote on page 213.  In Luther, An Historical Portait, J. Verras cites the first quote on page 302 and the second quote on page 121.  My best guess is that Verras is responsible for the English translation, Father O'Hare took it from Verras, and someone in the age of the Internet utilized O'Hare and put the quote together. Why and how Mr. Hensley arrived at  "a mere two years — two years! — into the Reformation being launched" for the date of both of these quotes is a mystery. There's nothing in either O'Hare of Verras I noticed that could be misconstrued to place the quotes in the year 1519.

"Walch XIV, 1360" and "Walch V, 1652" are accurate primary references (both O'Hare and Verras provide them as well). Walch XIV and Walch V refer to the fourteenth and fifth volumes in a set of Luther's works published between 1740-1753 by Johann Georg Walch. Here is Walch XIV, 1360Here is Walch V, 1652.


Quote #1
As indicated above, Mr. Hensley is citing two different quotes as one. The first quote is "Noblemen, townsmen, peasants, all classes understand the Gospel better than I or St. Paul; they are now wise and think themselves more learned than all the ministers…." I've written about this quote before. Even though Walch XIV, 1360 refers to a treatise entitled "D. Martin Luthers Prophezeiung nach dem Abscheiden des Churfürsten Johannes," the quote appears to find its genesis in an August 1532 Table Talk utterance.  The utterance states,


The text can also be found here from a version of the Table Talk from the early 1700's (right column, first paragraph). A lengthier utterance can also be found in WA TR 2: 259 (1906b). Keep in mind, Luther did not write the Table Talk. The Table Talk is a collection of second hand comments written down by Luther's friends and students, published after his death. An English rendering of the Table Talk states,
Kings, princes, lords, any one will needs understand the gospel far better than I, Martin Luther, ay, or even than St Paul; for they deem themselves wise and full of policy. But herein they scorn and condemn, not us, poor preachers and ministers, but the Lord and Governor of all preachers and ministers, who has sent us to preach and teach, and who will scorn and condemn them in such sort, that they shall smart again; even He that says: "Whoso heareth you, heareth me; and whoso toucheth you, toucheth the apple of mine eye." The great ones would govern, but they know not how. (link)


Quote #2
Quote #2 states, "There is no smearer but when he has heard a sermon or can read a chapter in German, makes a doctor of himself and…convinces himself that he knows everything better than all who teach him." This quote is from Luther's Commentary on Psalm 117 (1530). Unlike Quote #1, this was written by Luther. An English translation can be found in LW 14. Quote #2 appears on page 7.
THIS is a short, easy psalm, doubtless made this way so that everyone might pay more attention to it and remember better what is said. No one can complain about the length or content, much less about the sharpness, difficulty, or profundity of the words. Here we find only short, precise, clear, and ordinary words, which everyone can understand if he will only pay attention and think about them. All God’s words demand this. We must not skim over them and imagine we have thoroughly understood them, like the frivolous, smug, and bored souls who, when they hear some word of God once, consider it old hat and cast about for something new. They think they have thoroughly mastered all they have heard. This is a dangerous disease, a clever and malicious trick of the devil. Thus he makes people bold, smug, forward, and ready for every kind of error and schism. This is really the vice known as ἀκηδία, slothfulness in God’s service, against which St. Paul exhorts us (Rom. 12:11) to be fervent in spirit. And in Rev. 3:15–16 the Spirit says of such people: “Would that you were cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth.” It is true that such half-educated people are the most useless people on earth, and it would be better for them if they knew nothing; for they obey no one, can do everything better than anyone else, and can expertly judge all art and literature. In short, they can teach no one anything worthwhile, and they let no one teach them. They have devoured the whole schoolbag, which no one can master; and yet they do not have even one book that they could properly teach to others! The devil has many such vicious cases, particularly among the rabble. The meanest bungler who hears a sermon or reads a chapter in German immediately makes himself a doctor of theology, crowning his own asininity and convincing himself most marvelously that he can now do everything better than all his teachers. This is Master Smart Aleck, who can bridle a steed in its hind end. All this, as I see it, is the result of reading and listening to God’s Word carelessly instead of concentrating on it with fear, humility, and diligence.
I have often felt this particular devil and temptation myself, and even today I cannot guard and cross myself against it too carefully. I confess this freely as an example to anyone; for here am I, an old doctor of theology and a preacher, and certainly as competent in Scripture as such smart alecks. At least I ought to be. Yet even I must become a child; and early each day I recite aloud to myself the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and whatever lovely psalms and verses I may choose, just as we teach and train children to do. Besides, I must deal with Scripture and fight with the devil every day. I dare not say in my heart: “The Lord’s Prayer is worn out; you know the Ten Commandments; you can recite the Creed.” I study them daily and remain a pupil of the Catechism. I feel, too, that this helps me a lot, and I am convinced by experience that God’s Word can never be entirely mastered, but that Ps. 147 speaks truly: “His understanding is beyond measure” (v. 5), or Ecclesiasticus: “Who drinks of me shall thirst even more after me” (24:29). Now if I have such difficulties, what will happen to those smug, self-satisfied charlatans who neither struggle nor labor?
Therefore I certainly believe that there is not one who truly knows everything the Holy Spirit says in this short psalm. If they were forced to teach or instruct someone from it, they would not know at which end to begin. To put these vicious people to shame and to honor God’s Word, I have taken it upon myself to interpret this psalm, so that one may see how clear God’s Word is, how simple, and yet how altogether inexhaustible. And even though everything were reasonable, which is not the case, still it is inexhaustible in power and virtue. It renews and refreshes the heart, restoring, relieving, comforting, and strengthening us constantly. I see and learn daily how the dear prophets studied their Ten Commandments, and where lies the source of their sermons and prophecies. Let us, then, divide this psalm into four parts—prophecy, revelation, instruction, and exhortation (LW 14:7-8).


Conclusion
Mr. Hensley's first error is making these two quotes into one quote. His second error is providing no documentation. His third error is dating both of these quotes to the year 1519. Rather, the first quote is thought to be a recollection from 1532. The second quote is from 1530. The fourth error is using a Table Talk utterance as a reliable interpreter of Luther's history. Luther did not write part of the quote Mr. Hensley attributes to him. It is something Luther is purported to have stated.   

A fifth error is matter of presuppositions, and I don't expect either Mr. Hensley or my Roman Catholic readers to agree with me. Luther expected the proclamation of the Gospel to have a devastating effect on society. He was not a postmillenialist. He expected the devil to fight back with all his might. When he complains about people abusing Scripture, the ultimate culprit in Luther's mind was Satan. Luther was not looking over his world and regretting the Reformation. Luther expected the Gospel to incite the activity of the Devil, particularly among those who did not embrace it. He expected the Gospel to cause division and trouble, and to infuriate the world against the true church.

A sixth error is also a  matter of presuppositions, and again, I don't expect either Mr. Hensley or my Roman Catholic readers to agree with me. I've compiled quite a number of blog entries on the chaos of Rome's interpreters. If they can't agree on interpreting either the Bible or the magisterium, it's a bit disingenuous to point the finger at Luther and subsequent Protestant churches. 

Addendum: Sola Scriptura
Sola scriptura means that the Bible is the ultimate and only infallible sufficient source of authority for a Christian. There are lower authorities, like Church leaders and teachers (these must always though be judged by sacred Scripture).

The counter charge (from Roman Catholics) seems to be that one needs to include an infallible tradition or infallible Church hierarchy as the ultimate and sufficient source as an authority. This must be so because Protestants disagree with one another, so obviously sola scriptura is a failure. Without an infallible interpreter and authority like the Roman Catholic Church, one has doctrinal chaos. Sola scriptura is a blueprint for anarchy.

Roman Catholics and Protestants agree that apostolic teaching previous to New Testament inscripturation was an infallible, sufficient source for doctrine. But yet we find that those who heard apostolic teaching previous to New Testament inscripturation disagreed among themselves on the teaching they heard at times. In other words, there was error present in the early church while the apostles were teaching. Because those who directly heard the apostles teaching got it wrong and disagreed among themselves at times, does this mean that the apostles were insufficient sources as an infallible authority for the early church? Those who heard the very voices of infallibility in the first century made errors, but it does not follow that the apostles were insufficient as authorities.

Similarly, that some people misinterpret or twist the Bible is not the fault of the Bible, hence not a proof against sola scriptura. In the same way, that I may possibly configure my computer incorrectly is not the fault of the owner’s manual that comes with it. The misuse of a sufficient source does not negate the clarity of that sufficient source.

It's worth repeating: the misuse of a sufficient source does not negate the clarity of that sufficient source. This same principle applies to Roman Catholicism. That some Roman Catholics misuse and abuse their ultimate source of authority doesn't necessarily negate their infallible source of authority. What this means as well is the argument that sola scriptura is a blueprint for anarchy fails as well. If the argument you're using works just as well against your own position, it's an invalid argument. Shall we conclude that an infallible interpreter + infallible tradition + infallible scripture = harmony? The facts speak for themselves. The misuse of a sufficient source does not negate the clarity or authority of that sufficient source.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Luther: The possession and reading of the whole Bible ought to be limited to those with a high degree of education?

A blog entry (and its discussion) was recently forwarded over to me: Which Luther? The entry makes some good points about reading Luther in context (particularly his historical context). There's no content I wish to add to this entry, good points were made. What interested me more than the actual entry was the discussion which followed. A participant (who appears to hold a doctorate and who also may be Roman Catholic?) commented on the notion that Luther saw the need to place the Bible into the hands of the ordinary Christian:
You know, or should know, that in the last decade of his life Luther vehemently repudiated this idea, which he had embraced for a time in the early 1520s, even citing with approval the statement of the 15th-Century preacher Geilo of Kaysersberg "“to give a layman the Bible and ask him to read it for himself is like giving a three-year-old child a hatchet to play with.”
Luther was all for general Bible-reading in the late 15teens and early 1520s, and thought that the plowboy reading the Bible at the plow, and the milkmaid at the stool would lead to a revival of “true Christianity.” When, however, he realized that “read for yourself” Bible study drew far more ordinary folk into sectarian movememts of all sorts — Anabaptists, milennarians, spiritualists and rationalists — than to orthodox Lutheranism, and also — and just as bad — gave rise to the view that academic Bible scholars (such as himself) had no privileged insight into its its meaning by virtue of their linguistic, literary and dialectical training, he changed his tune; and came to believe that the possession and reading of the whole Bible ought to be limited to those with a high degree of education, and that for the rest (the great majority) they ought to be supplied with selected Biblical excerpts and pericopes calculated to promote their devotional lives and moral practice, buut avoiding anything likely to lead to theological speculation.
And, of course, the later Luther was right.
I've never heard this one before, that later in his life "Luther vehemently repudiated this idea" of putting the Bible in the hands of the common man. This argument was cogently challenged by the participants (link #1; link #2; link #3). The response was as follows:
I have to admit that I may have been mistaken, as I cannot find the source of the quote. My memory is, that I found it in one of Steven Ozment's books. I did get the name wrong: he was Johann Geiler of Kaysersberg (1445-1510), one of the most renowned preachers of late medieval Germany, who spent much of his career in Strassburgh; cf.:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Geiler_von_Kaisersberg
A google search turned up this:
https://books.google.com/books?id=PtdKAwAAQBAJ&pg=PA107&lpg=PA107&dq=geiler+of+kaysersberg+on+bible+reading&source=bl&ots=HXEcGA9LbQ&sig=352zA3oluycKEhkvPcytrA7GMZI&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwixkL2D5t3OAhWsAsAKHXNnB7sQ6AEIFDAA#v=onepage&q=geiler%20of%20kaysersberg%20on%20bible%20reading&f=false
See p. 107 for the quotation, which, however, I can barely read on my screen, as the print is tiny, and the text upside-down.
See also p. 96 here:
http://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/asw/captive/captive-to-the-word_09.pdf
I would not have been surprised to have actually had some sort of statement from Luther offered about limiting Bible availability, but none was given. Then the next step would have been to evaluate the context to see what was going on. I've come across a number statements from Luther about those who misuse the Gospel, and Luther's response is typically something like, "Yes, that will happen, but the Gospel must go forth regardless." I would assume his feeling about the actual availability of the Bible would be similar: "Yes, the Bible may be misused, but the Word of God must go forth regardless." I don't have any statements from Luther saying this currently at my fingertips, but it would be consistent with how he thought about these important spiritual things.

The notion that Luther quoted and approved of the statement "to give a layman the Bible and ask him to read it for himself is like giving a three-year-old child a hatchet to play with," would be a very interesting find. If I were one of Rome's defenders and I came across a tidbit like this, it would be plastered all over the Internet.

Geiler von Kaiserberg
I found the Geiler von Kaiserberg quote in W. Kooiman, Luther en de Bijbel, 73
Principieel kon de Kerk moeilijk bezwaar hebben tegen overzetting van de Bijbel in de volkstaal. Van oudsher was de Schrift immers vertaald; de Septuagint was een vertaling van het Oude Testament in het Grieks, de Vulgaat een vertaling in het Latijn, maar deze officiële overzettingen, inzonderheid de Vulgaat, werden als authentieke Bijbel beschouwd. Op de tekst van de Vulgaat was de scholastieke theologie gebouwd. Afwijkende vertalingen konden onoverzienbare gevolgen hebben voor de kerkelijke leer. Daarom wenste de Kerk in die dagen zeker de lekenbijbel niet. Het lezen en bestuderen van de heilige Schrift moest voorbehouden blijven aan de geestelijke stand, die immers ook alleen in staat was haar inhoud te verklaren. Zo waarschuwt de beroemde Straatsburger prediker Geiler von Kaisersberg: 'Het is een kwaad ding om de Bijbel in het Duits te drukken. Hij moet immers geheel anders verstaan worden dan de tekst luidt. Het is gevaarlijk om kinderen het mes in de hand te geven om ze hun eigen brood te laten snijden. Ze kunnen er zich mee verwonden. Zo moet ook de H. Schrift, die het brood van God bevat, gelezen en verklaárd worden door mensen met gevorderde kennis en ervaring, die de ware zin er uit kunnen halen' . Vertalingen in de volkstaal ontstonden dan ook veelal in ketterse kringen, die zich in hun verzet tegen de wereldlijke macht van de Kerk en haar leergezag terug-trokken op Gods Woord om van daaruit steeds weer hun aanvallen in te zetten , al was dit in Duitsland minder het geval dan elders. 
Kooiman cites "Bij G. Buchwald, 400 Jahre deutsche Lutherbibel, 1934, S.4" as his source. I have a hard copy of the English translation as well (The Kooiman book has been translated into English). Kooiman does not link the quote in question to any sort of affirmation from Luther. I also have some Ozment books, and only found one which referenced Geiler von Kaiserberg in passing (The Reformation in the Cities). I didn't Google search any of Ozment's books, I simply checked the indexes of the ones I own.

If anyone has any information on any sort of connection between Luther and Geiler von Kaiserberg, I would be very interested.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Luther on Wittenberg: "Away from this Sodom"

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.

  The town of Wittenberg was the principal scene of Luther'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 V. 753)"

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." Some years back  I found it being used on the Catholic Answers forums,  It was one of a string of quotes used to prove that Luther's teachings made the world much worse. The person posting it tries to gain credibility by finding the text in German. After citing Luther's controversial obscure comments  on bigamy, He stated:
With advice like that, is it any wonder that Luther complained often about the worsening of morals under his "gospel," or that he would eventually say of his own town of Wittenberg, “Nur weg, und aus diesen Sodoma,” "Only away, and from this Sodom! (link)

Documentation
The footnote "De Wette V. 753" refers to page 753 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 Bedenken). Yes, this was a letter Luther penned to his wife Katie, July 28, 1545. Page 753 can be found here. The text reads:



This letter has been in translated into English in LW 50:273-278. The exact quote in found at LW 50:279. There are alternate translations of this letter: The Life and Letters of Martin Luther By Preserved Smith, page 416;  Martin Luther: The Man and His Work by Arthur Cushman McGiffert, p. 416.

LW contains some interesting introductory material that sets the historical context of this letter. They state: 
In this letter Luther tells Katie first that John will report details about the trip, and that they all received much hospitality on the way. Then Luther informs Katie that he is disgusted with moral conditions in Wittenberg and would like to arrange matters so that he would not have to return to Wittenberg. He feels that the people of Wittenberg would make difficulties for his family anyhow, once he had died; and so he suggests that Katie now dispose of their properties in Wittenberg and move to Zölsdorf. He hopes that the Elector will continue to pay his salary for this year, which he feels might well be the last year of his life, and that this salary would enable him to improve the estate in Zölsdorf. Luther tells his wife that “the day after tomorrow” he will drive to Merseburg to visit George of Anhalt. In closing, Luther leaves it up to his wife to decide whether to inform Melanchthon and Bugenhagen of his intention not to return to Wittenberg; if his wife does tell them, then she is to ask Bugenhagen to inform the congregation of Luther’s decision, and to say farewell to the congregation in Luther’s name.
Luther had considered leaving Wittenberg in protest before he wrote the present letter. But the determination with which Luther spoke in the present letter was a considerable shock for the University and the town. Luther’s colleagues immediately conjectured that Luther wanted to leave Wittenberg because of doctrinal differences which existed between Luther and “one” of Luther’s colleagues. On August I the University wrote to Elector John Frederick, enclosing a copy of the present letter, and informing the Elector that the University would deputize Bugenhagen and “some others” to negotiate with Luther for his return. The University requested the Elector to summon Luther and try to influence him to change his mind.
As a result of this request, the Elector deputized his personal physician, Matthias Ratzeberger, to deal with Luther; Ratzeberget was to confer with Melanchthon first, however. Ratzeberger was to give Luther the Elector’s personal letter (a masterpiece of psychological diplomacy) and, along with von Amsdorf, Melanchthon, Bugenhagen, and Major, to persuade Luther to change his mind.
-snip-
Contrary to Melanchthon’s assumption that Luther’s decision to leave Wittenberg had something to do with doctrinal matters, it is clear, on the basis of a letter written by Ratzeberger, that Luther’s decision was based on his disappointment with and anger about the conditions in Wittenberg; the decision was apparently actually made (on the spur of the moment) under the impact of some stories about Wittenberg which Luther heard in the countryside. The Elector and Brück had a much more realistic view of the situation than Melanchthon had. The Elector simply talked about those complaints Luther had which he felt could be settled. And Brück argued that one should not make so much ado about it all, saying that, thank God, it would not be as easy to dispose of the property as Luther thought it would be; while Brück was well aware that Luther might be stubborn and remain “sitting on his head,” he also realized that in view of the problems which would arise in connection with the sale of Luther’s property, the last word on this matter had not yet been spoken.
How serious Luther was about his decision to leave Wittenberg could not be ascertained. His continued absence from Wittenberg without any given reason seems to indicate that Luther was indeed serious. On the other hand, while in Merseburg, Luther supposedly was promised “in the name of the church and the state” that the poor moral conditions in Wittenberg would be corrected; according to Köstlin-Kawerau, after Luther’s return to Wittenberg, the city council and the University did indeed draft (upon the Elector’s orders) ordinances directed against the poor public behavior which supposedly had caused Luther’s anger. Since Luther left Merseburg on August 7 or 8, the issues must have been well on the way to being settled by that time. In any case, Luther did eventually return to Wittenberg, and Ratzeberger and Melanchthon had accomplished their missions. While obviously the promises made to Luther at Merseburg and the “arm-twisting” by his friends played some part in Luther’s change of heart, the fact that Luther may in any event have had second thoughts about his decision to leave Wittenberg must not be discounted (LW 50:273-277).
Also of interest to the historical background of this letter is Martin Brecht's overview found in Martin Luther: The Preservation of the Church, 1532-1546, Volume 3, p. 262-265. Brecht concludes:




Context
To Mrs. Martin Luther [Zeitz,] July 28, 1545

To my kind and dear mistress of the house, Luther’s Catherine von Bora, a preacher, a brewer, a gardener, and whatever else she is capable of doing- Grace and peace! Dear Katie!
John surely will tell you everything pertaining to our journey; I am not yet certain whether he should stay with me, but Doctor Caspar Cruciger and Ferdinand, of course, will tell you. Ernst von Schönfeld has treated us graciously at Löbnitz, and Heintz Scherle at Leipzig even more so.
I would like to arrange matters in such a way that I do not have to return to Wittenberg. My heart has become cold, so that I do not like to be there any longer. I wish you would sell the garden and field, house and all. Also I would like to return the big house to my Most Gracious Lord. It would be best for you to move to Zölsdorf as long as I am still living and able to help you to improve the little property with my salary. For I hope that my Most Gracious Lord would let my salary be continued at least for one [year], that is, the last year of my life. After my death the four elements at Wittenberg certainly will not tolerate you [there]. Therefore it would be better to do while I am alive what certainly would have to be done then. As things are run in Wittenberg, perhaps the people there will acquire not only the dance of St. Vitus or St. John,but the dance of the beggars or the dance of Beelzebub, since they have started to bare women and maidens in front and back, and there is no one who punishes or objects. In addition the Word of God is being mocked [there]. Away from this Sodom! If Leeks Bachscheisse, our other Rosina, and [her] seducer are not yet imprisoned, then help as much as you can to see that this scoundrel loses what he has gained. While in the country I have heard more than I find out while in Wittenberg. Consequently I am tired of this city and do not wish to return, May God help me with this.
The day after tomorrow I shall drive to Merseburg, for Sovereign George has very urgently asked that I do so. Thus I shall be on the move, and will rather eat the bread of a beggar than torture and upset my poor old [age] and final days with the filth at Wittenberg which destroys my hard and faithful work. You might inform Doctor Pomer and Master Philip of this (if you wish), and [you might ask] if Doctor Pomer would wish to say farewell to Wittenberg in my behalf. For I am unable any longer to endure my anger [about] and dislike [of this city].
With this I commend you to God. Amen.
July 28, 1545
Martin Luther, D

Here an alternate English translation found in The life and letters of Martin Luther By Preserved Smith, page 416.
Away with this Sodom. Our other Rosina and deceiver is Leak's dung, and yet not in prison; do what you can to make the'wretch stultify himself. I hear more of these scandals in the country than I did at Wittenberg, and am therefore tired of that city and do not wish to return, God helping me. Day after to-morrow I am going to Merseburg, for Prince George has pressed me to do so. I will wander around here and eat the bread of charity before I will martyr and soil my poor old last days with the disordered life of Wittenberg, where I lose all my bitter, costly work. You may tell Melanchthon and Bugenhagen this, if you will, and ask the latter to give Wittenberg my blessing, for I can no longer bear its wrath and displeasure. God bless you. Amen.

Conclusion
Leaving the context of Luther's statement aside for a moment, consider a few points. Is O'Connor's argument biblically true? Were those "chosen by Almighty God" 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. Therefore, O'Connor's argument is bogus if one uses the Bible as a determiner of truth. O'Connor is a typical defender of Rome using a "theology of glory" as the ultimate standard.

It's important to note also Luther wasn't like many of the current post-millennial hopefulls. He did not expect the world to get better and better, culminating in a decrease of sin, and an increase in godliness on a mass scale, in order to usher in the kingdom of God. No, for Luther, it was the end of the world. He expected only a remnant to be saved as the world came to its end.

Addendum (2016)
This blog entry is a revision of an entry I posted back in 2009. 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.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Luther: Evangelicals are now seven times worse than they were before..having learnt the Gospel, we steal, tell lies, deceive, eat and drink to excess


Here are two Luther quotes 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.

"We deserve that our Evangelicals (the followers of the new Gospel) should now be seven times worse than they were before. Because after having learnt the Gospel, we steal, tell lies, deceive, eat and drink (to excess), and practice all manner of vices." [Walch. III. 2727]


"After one Devil (Popery) has been driven out of us, seven worse ones have come down upon us, as is the case with Princes, Lords, Nobles, Citizens and Peasants." [Walch. III. 2727]."

These quotes pops up every once in a while. They are 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 these quotes to describe the "Results of Luther's Teaching," specifically, the "Moral Results" that there was a "Lower State of General Morality."

Another English version of the first quote can be found in Heinrich Denifle, Luther and Lutherdom:
But did not the father of the new movement himself acknowledge that "our (people) are now seven times worse than they ever were before. We steal, lie, cheat, cram, and swill and commit all manner of vices" (Erl. 36, 411). [p. 21-22].
Another English version of the first quote based on Denifle can be found here:
Our (people) are now seven times worse than they ever were before. We steal, lie, cheat, . . . and commit all manner of vices. (in Heinrich Denifle, Luther and Lutherdom, vol.1, part 1, tr. from 2nd rev. ed. of German by Raymund Volz, Somerset, England: Torch Press, 1917, 22. Luther quote from Werke, Erlangen edition, 36, 411)
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 footnotes "Walch. III" refers to the third volume in a set of Luther's works published between 1740-1753 by Johann Georg Walch (Predigten über das erste Buch Mose und Auslegung über die folgenden biblischen Bücher bis zu den Psalmen). Page 2727 can be found here. The text O'Connor appears to be citing for both quotes appears to be from the following paragraph:


The text being cited is from Luther's comments on Deuteronomy 9:25. To my knowledge, the complete context this paragraph comes from has yet to be translated into an official English version of Luther's Works. LW does include an entire volume containing Luther's Lectures on Deuteronomy (Deut. 9 begins at LW 9:99). LW includes only a translation of pages Walch / St. Louis pp. 1370-1639 (see LW 9, introductory comments). Their translation is based on WA 14:489-744 (Lecture on Deut. 9 can be found here). LW 9 explains Luther began lecturing on Deuteronomy in February 1523 "to a small gathering of close associates in his own house at Wittenberg" (LW 9, preface).There are several transcriptions of these lectures done by Luther's associates, none though going past Deut. 7. Luther's own transcription of his Deuteronomy notes began in 1524. The official work was completed and published in 1525. Walch (St. Louis) III includes this work in III 1370-1639.


Context
Back in 2009 I came across an English translation of paragraph 49 from Walch III, 2727. 
Moses is thus a fine teacher; he has well expounded the first commandment, and led the people to a knowledge of themselves, and humbled the proud and arrogant spirits, besides which he upbraided them with all kinds of vices, so that they had merited anything but the promised land. If we do not abide by our beloved Gospel, we deserve to see those who profess it, our Gospellers, become seven times worse than they were before. For, after having become acquainted with the Gospel, we steal, lie, cheat, we eat, drink, and are drunken, and practise all sorts of iniquity. As one devil has been driven out of us, seven others, more wicked, have entered in; as may be seen at the present time with princes, noblemen, lords, citizens, and peasants, how they act, without shame and in spite of God and His threatenings.
Conclusion
 The above translation of this obscure quote is from an old book, Luther Vindicated by Charles Hastings Collette (Published by Bernard Quaritch, 1884). Collette's book is quite fascinating. He similarly examines obscure out-of-context Luther quotes and offers corrections and contexts. It wasn't Roman Catholics he defended Luther against, rather, the culprit was the Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould, who, according to Collette was "a professed Minister of the (Reformed) Established Church of England." Interestingly, Baring-Gould appears to have gathered some of his Luther material from Roman Catholic sources, and was part of a group sympathetic to Rome. Of this group, Collette states, "These gentlemen sigh for pre-Reformation days when the priest ruled and the sacramental system flourished, to the glorification of the priest, and ignorance, superstition, thraldom, and degradation of the people" (p.6). If this link is about the Sabine Baring-Gould in question (which I think it is), he's the writer of the famous hymn "Onward Christian Soldiers." Of this quote in question, Collette quotes Baring-Gould stating:
"...let us take Luther's own account of the results of his doctrine :—' There is not,' says he,—' one of our Evangelicals who is not seven times worse than he was before he belonged, to us,—stealing, lying, deceiving, eating, and getting drunk, and giving himself up to all kinds of vices. If we have driven out one devil, seven others worse than the first have come in his place."
Collette begins analyzing the quote stating,
"The reference is 'Ed. Walch, iii. 2727.' Here it is self-evident that the rev. gentleman, by 'our Evangelicals,' intends to point to the new converts to Luther's teaching."
"By the reference we are guided to Luther's Commentaries on the 'fifth Book of Moses, ix. 25.' On turning to the column indicated, we find the passage purported to be quoted, but in it there is not the most distant intimation that Luther was pointing to his own people, or to the new converts; but to the state of utter depravity to which priests and people, nobles and commoners,—nominal Christians of all ranks,—had fallen."
After documenting this moral climate, Collette states,
But what I have to expose is the barefaced mistranslation put before us in the above extract by the Rev. S. Baring-Gould, thereby making Luther allude to "our Evangelicals" as "belonging to Luther's disciples," who had become seven times worse by the change from Popery. I will let the reader judge for himself by placing before him a literal translation of the original; the text I add as a footnote :—
Collette then cites the context of Luther's statements:
"Moses is thus a fine teacher; he has well expounded the first commandment, and led the people to a knowledge of themselves, and humbled the proud and arrogant spirits, besides which he upbraided them with all kinds of vices, so that they had merited anything but the promised land. If we do not abide by our beloved Gospel, we deserve to see those who profess it, our Gospellers, become seven times worse than they were before. For, after having become acquainted with the Gospel, we steal, lie, cheat, we eat, drink, and are drunken, and practise all sorts of iniquity. As one devil has been driven out of us, seven others, more wicked, have entered in; as may be seen at the present time with princes, noblemen, lords, citizens, and peasants, how they act, without shame and in spite of God and His threatenings."
The key to the quote is the phrase, "Our Gospellers." Collette explains,
" 'Our Gospellers' I have thus translated 'unsereEvangelischen.' Luther did not mean the true believers in and followers of the Evangelists, which some readers might suppose to be a name applicable to all members of the Reformed Churches, from their known attachment to the Gospel, but he applied the expression to outward professors of the Gospel.

Addendum
This blog entry is a revision of an entry I posted back in 2009. 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.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Luther: Who would have begun to preach, if we had known beforehand that so much unhappiness, tumult, scandal, blasphemy, ingratitude, and wickedness would have been the result ?

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.

Writing on the same subject, he says: "If God had not closed, my eyes, and if I had foreseen these scandals, I would never have begun to teach the Gospel." In 1538, more than twenty years after the beginning of the Reformation, Luther dwells on the same thought: "Who would have begun to preach, if we had known beforehand that so much unhappiness, tumult, scandal, blasphemy, ingratitude, and wickedness would have been the result?" [Walch. VIII. 564].


There are two Luther quotes above. The first quote ("If God had not closed, my eyes...") has been covered previously. This entry will examine the second quote from 1538. This later 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, example #3, example #4, example #5here's a version of it from of all places, vatican.com). I've seen it used as speculation that Luther "lamented often about the actual course of his 'Reformation' in Germany, thus perhaps revealing a sense of failure and guilt." 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." In 2010 I explored this 1538 quote but was unable to locate the context. This time I was successful.

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. VIII" refers to the eighth volume in a set of Luther's works published between 1740-1753 by Johann Georg Walch (Auslegung Johannes 7-20, ApG 15 und 16 und 1 Kor 7 und 15, kürzere Auslegung der Epistel an die Galater), Page 564 can be found here.  The text O'Connor appears to be citing appears is from the following paragraph:


This paragraph contains some of  Luther's comments on John 16:13. O'Connor says the quote is from 1538, LW says Luther lectured on John 14-16 in 1537 and the material on John 16 was published in 1539 (LW 24:preface). Technically, Luther did not write this text. These printed words are from the notes of Caspar Cruciger "who acted as the amanuensis for Luther's sermons" (LW 24, preface). Because of Cruciger's editing, getting a specific date as to the exact date of Luther's sermons for this material is not possible. Cruciger turned the sermons into a commentary. Luther was fine with this. He spoke of it as the best book he had written, adding, "of course I did not write it" (LW 24:preface).

This text has been translated into English in LW 24. The quote in question can be found on pages 357-358.

Context
13. When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth.
Christ calls the Holy Spirit a Spirit of truth in contrast with the spirit of lies. He also spoke about this in the fourteenth chapter (v. 17). The Holy Spirit will teach the disciples and show them that everything Christ told them is the truth; for He is a Spirit who confirms the truth in one’s heart and makes one sure of it. In 1 John 2:27 we read: “As His anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie.” Therefore the purport of what He says here is: “Even though you have already heard much about this, you will never understand or believe by your own strength that it will and must be as I have just told you and that what is to be proclaimed about Me through you is true and right. And you would never have the courage to begin such preaching and to persist in it if the Holy Spirit Himself did not come to guide and preserve you in this truth. For at present this is far beyond your power to bear. And when you see this suffering beginning with Me, you will all be offended because of it and will fall away from Me.”
Who would ever have thought or believed that the precious message of the Gospel would fare as the apostles experienced and saw, and as our own experience shows us today? Yes, who of us would have begun to preach if we had known in advance that so much misery, sectarianism, offense, blasphemy, ingratitude, and malice would ensue? But now that we are preaching, we must take the consequences and remember that this is not a human venture and that it does not depend on human power, but that the Holy Spirit Himself must do and preserve it. Otherwise we could not bear this and carry it out.
In 1 Cor. 4:9–13 St. Paul himself points out that after preaching a great deal and for a long time he, too, has had to learn and experience that the apostles must not only be a mockery and a spectacle to the whole world but must be a curse and an offscouring, and be regarded as the most pernicious pestilence and plague on earth. An additional suffering he must bear is the dispersion and, at the same time, the extermination and destruction of the little flock of Christians it has taken him a long time to plant and care for. If one were to consult reason about this and to speak of it on the basis of human wisdom, who would call such happenings truth or the work of the Christian Church and the Holy Spirit? But this is what Christ says to Paul: “Dear Paul, in this way you have to become acquainted with My power” (2 Cor. 12:9). And to Ananias—whom He sends to Paul—Christ says of Paul: “I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of My name” (Acts 9:16).
Thus all Christendom is a small group that must submit to, suffer, and bear more than all other people whatever grief the devil and the world can inflict on it. Now who, in view of what they appear to be and are subjected to, will recognize and learn that they are genuine Christians? Reason will surely not show this. The Holy Spirit must do so. He is called “the Spirit of truth” because in spite of what they appear to be and are subjected to—according to which this message seems to amount to nothing and to be a pack of lies—He strengthens and preserves hearts in the faith. Otherwise no one would have believed for any length of time, or would still believe, that this Jesus Christ, who sits at the right hand of the Father forever, He who was so shamefully crucified as a malefactor by His own people, is true God? Or how could we conclude with certainty of our own accord that we, who believe in this crucified Christ and are condemned, cursed, and executed by the whole world as God’s enemies and the devil’s own, are actually God’s dear children and saints? After all, we ourselves do not feel this. In fact, our heart tells us something far different, because we are still sinners full of weakness. But this is the work of the Holy Spirit; it is His power; He confirms this in our heart. Therefore we can accept it as true in accord with His Word. He enables us to live and to die by this truth.
Or who could believe that we unfortunate people, who are executed and die like the most miserable human beings on earth, who are buried in the ground, consumed by maggots and worms or are burned alive and reduced to ashes and dust, will all emerge from this stench, from ashes and dust, in the twinkling of an eye, with whole, clean, and shining bodies more radiant than all heaven, than the sun and the moon, more beautiful and precious than all gold and jewels, purer and more fragrant than all balsam, gardens, and Paradise? Of course, no one would ever get to the bottom of this on the basis of reason; for it is altogether too farfetched and entirely too unreasonable to suppose that a being as poor and miserable as is now evident should be destined for the greatness concerning which Scripture says that we shall be eternal heirs of God in heaven and shall live and be saved solely through faith and Baptism, even though we now still have sin and death in us (LW 24:357-359).

Conclusion
The context clearly shows that this quote is not an example of  Luther lamenting "often about the actual course of his 'Reformation' in Germany, thus perhaps revealing a sense of failure and guilt." Nor is O'Connor correct that the quote was intended to demonstrate the "Results of Luther's Teaching," specifically, the "Moral Results" that there was a "Lower State of General Morality." No, the quote is about the offense of the Gospel. Luther expected the Gospel to incite the activity of the Devil, particularly among those who did not embrace it. He expected the Gospel to cause division and trouble, and to infuriate the world against the true church. What should one do when facing such trouble? Regret preaching the Gospel? Countless statements from Luther could be provided proving Luther never regretted the Gospel or proclaiming the Gospel.

The context explains the proper course of action a preacher of the Gospel takes when he finds himself in midst of trouble: "we must take the consequences and remember that this is not a human venture and that it does not depend on human power, but that the Holy Spirit Himself must do and preserve it. Otherwise we could not bear this and carry it out." Who would want to preach the Gospel if they knew beforehand of all the trouble it was bring into one's life? No one, for that is the conclusion of human reason. But as the context states, The Holy Spirit is able to see one through, as he did with the early apostles, who likewise faced dire circumstances brought on by the Gospel. The Holy Spirit makes one fit for such work.