Thursday, November 02, 2017

Vatican Issued Martin Luther Commemorative Reformation Stamp

Some months back I mentioned that the Vatican was going to release a commemorative stamp featuring Martin Luther (and here I mentioned how the defenders of Rome were responding).  While I've yet to track down anything from the Vatican's website confirming the stamp has bee issued, the Roman Catholic news source Zenit has said it has, and provides this:

This website says the stamp "will be available beginning November 23, 2017." Zenit provides this description of the stamp:
The postage stamp issued by the Philatelic Office for the occasion depicts in the foreground Jesus crucified and in the background a golden and timeless view of the city of Wittenberg. With a penitential disposition, kneeling respectively on the left and right of the cross, Martin Luther holds the Bible, source and destination of his doctrine, while Philipp Melanchthon, theologian and friend of Martin Luther, one of the main protagonists of the reform, holds in hand the Augsburg Confession (Confessio Augustana), the first official public presentation of the principles of Protestantism written by him.
What's interesting is that the Vatican also issued a stamp commemorating St. Francis de Sales, a person who actively attacked the Reformation.  Zenit says, "He carried out his ministry with the firm desire to safeguard the Church of Rome from the reform of Calvin." Perhaps though in a few years the Vatican will release a John Calvin stamp. 

I do feel sorry for many of Rome's defenders. A lot of them "converted" from Protestantism, and in their early zeal enjoyed throwing Luther and the Reformation under the bus. Now, their infallible church honors the memory of not only Luther, but Melanchthon as well. This demonstrates one of the blatant follies of the entire Roman Catholic apologetic enterprise. As a Protestant, there is no really eternal reason for "converting" to Rome. If Rome holds Luther and Melanchthon are penitent at the foot of the cross, then by extension other Protestants are as well. 

No analogy is perfect. Rome's apologists remind me of downloading freeware. Sure, the freeware works, but if you want more options, you have to pay some fee to get the expanded version with more features. The goal of Rome's apologists is to convince you to get the upgrade. When I look at the extra options Rome provides, I'm not interested. If the basic version provides Jesus Christ, you can  keep the expanded version that includes saints, purgatory, indulgences, papal infallibility, transubstantiation,  monkery, Mary's immaculate conception and assumption, etc. No thank you. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Catholic Answers Asks: Reformers or Revolutionaries?

As we draw nearer to the anniversary landmark of the Reformation, cyber-space is a flutter. The Catholic News Herald in North Carolina posted recently, "Luther’s concern was the gospel of the glory of God’s grace. While he was a reform-minded person, it was not his intention to become the founder of a separate Reform church. His goal was the renewal of the Catholic Church from the perspective of the Gospel." On the other hand, the North American Magisterium, Catholic Answers, has published a brief article entitled, Reformers or Revolutionaries? by Steve Weidenkopf. Once again, yet another article states its purpose is to give "the real story." It's not hard to guess that Catholic Answers still holds the old Roman Catholic view of Luther and will deem him a revolutionary by the end of the article.

The author starts out with the "Luther-was-an-abused-child" myth: "Martin Luther had a difficult childhood, owing to his overbearing and sometimes abusive parents."  A few paragraphs later this blossoms into, 
Luther’s extremely negative image of God, which may have reflected that of his abusive father, influenced his theology and his conflicts with authority. To Luther, God was not a loving father, as revealed by Christ, but rather a tyrannical and wrathful judge who delights in tormenting sinners.
I've written previously about this mythology. Why use the word mythology? The sparse bits of information about Luther's childhood fueling such claims stem from, if not almost entirely, the Table Talk. A few strands of second-hand comments have blossomed into ridiculous studies, like Erik Erikson's Young Man Luther.  Further, the conclusion that Luther's image of God proper (and Jesus Christ) was that of an angry judge, because of Luther's parents is erroneous based on actual historical information. Throughout his explicit writings, Luther did not blame his parents for his early understanding of God, but rather the medieval church. He said the culture he lived in viewed God as an angry judge, and the way to appease the angry judge was through the Virgin Mary and the saints. 

The author continues by describing some of Luther's early treatises as "revolutionary writings." These writings had the effect of causing societal unrest: 
Luther’s revolutionary writings led to outbreaks of violence throughout Germany. By 1525, mobs had destroyed churches, burned sacred art, and profaned the Eucharist. Nobles sympathetic to Luther’s teachings appealed to him for help ending the violence. In response, Luther wrote a pamphlet titled Against the Murderous, Thieving Hordes of Peasants, in which he called on the nobility to suppress the rebellion with all necessary violence, which they did with ferocious efficiency, killing 130,000 peasants.
I would never argue Luther's early writings were insignificant, but the author here is engaging in post hoc erog propter hoc thinking. The peasants had been in active revolt even previous to Luther. The book the author refers to, Against the MurderousThieving Hordes of Peasants was actually published after the peasants war began. The treatise was delayed and did not have an immediate role during the war. The German nobility were not spurred on by Luther's words. They were spurred on by the peasants who strove towards anarchy and civil unrest.

But not only did Luther cause societal havoc resulting in the death of 130,000 peasants, the author then takes it back to a more personal level showing that Luther also attacked the very foundation of society: Luther was a revolutionary against marriage:
Several years later, Luther’s break with Christian teaching on marriage was made complete when he advised one Philip, landgrave of Hesse, that he could enter into a bigamous marriage so long as he kept it secret. When word of it leaked out, Luther advised Philip to deny it, writing, “What harm is there in telling a good bold lie for the sake of making things better and for the good of the Christian Church?”
Ignored are the countless statements from Luther's pen on the beauty and importance of marriage. Rather, one particular situation (with political ramifications) that Luther was involved with, one which he not soon thereafter regretted, becomes his standard operating procedure for marriage. 

And what Luther hit-piece would be complete without including Luther's views of the Jews? "Luther wrote On the Jews and Their Lies, a treatise in which he put forth an eight-point plan to rid Germany of its Jews." There's anachronism at play here. The author leaves out that in reality, the story of Luther's negativity towards the Jews is really to tell the story of medieval Christianity and medieval society's negativity towards the Jews.

Weidenkopf isn't being historical, he's being polemical. Reformation or Revolution? This has been one of his reoccurring themes for a number of years. The switching of "Reformation" to "Revolution" isn't the result of the historical creativity of Mr. Weidenkopf. This is standard procedure for Roman Catholic polemicists. E.G. Schweibert described it back in 1950 as typical of the defenders of Rome and secularists:

E.G. Schwiebert, Luther and His Times (St. Louis: Concordia, 1950), p. 8.

For a fascinating treatment of this switching of terms, see Reformation or Revolt or Revolution by Dr. Paul Peters (of whose article I'm indebted for referring me to Schweibert). Peters explains how complicated this subject actually is. I recommend a careful reading of this old article as there's a lot to chew on. I found the section "But Luther Answers his Roman Catholic Critics" well-constructed. Dr. Peters presents an overview from many of Luther's writings as to how Luther himself would respond to those who said he had caused a revolt.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Did Calvin Murder Servetus? by Standford Rives

Previously I went through a quote attributed John Calvin in which he is purported to have written, "I have exterminated Michael Servetus the Spaniard." There's good evidence that this quote is from a forged letter and not from the pen of Calvin at all.  The nuts and bolts of this can be found in my previous post. What I did not realize then was the extent to which one of the modern sources has popularized this quote. Over on the CARM boards a person posted the quote and was kind enough to provide a link to the book it came from: Did Calvin Murder Servetus? by Standford Rives.  A few folks defended this book as the go to source on the Calvin / Servetus issue. I'd like to take a closer look at the way the quote appears in this book, and then mention a few questions I have in regard to  the author. 

Did Calvin Murder Servetus? by Standford Rives
First let's take a look at how Mr. Rives cites the quote. He prefaces it with, "Unrepentance of Calvin To The Very End":
It is also a fact that Calvin remained unrepentant as of 1561 about his role and responsibility for the death of Servetus. In 1561, Calvin wrote a letter to the Marquis Paet, chamberlain to the King of Navarre, in which Calvin said: “Honour, glory, and riches shall be the reward of your pains; but above all, do not fail to rid the country of those scoundrels [Anabaptists and others], who stir up the people to revolt against us. Such monsters should be exterminated, as I have exterminated Michael Servetus the Spaniard.”548
The author then concludes, "One can readily see in this fire-breathing quote that the Christian spirit had been extinguished in Calvin." (Kindle Locations 4398-4403). The documentation provided states,
548 David Benedict, A General History of the Baptist Denomination in America (Lincoln and Edmands, 1813) at 186, quoting Rev. Robert Robinson’s Ecclesiastical Researches (Cambridge: Francis Hodson, 1792) at 348.
Here is not the place to delve into a defense or prosecution of Calvin's involvement in the execution of Servetus. What interests me is the quote itself and how it's documented. One thing to immediately note is that the phrase  "[Anabaptists and others]" is not from the original, it was added in. More troubling though is the documentation. Rives quotes Benedict, who is quoting Robinson, who is allegedly quoting Calvin! First, it's in vol. 1 of Benedict (his footnote left that out). Second, when one goes to look at Robinson, one discovers that author is citing Voltaire who is citing Calvin. So Standford Rives never actually quoted Calvin directly. He quoted someone quoting someone who quoted someone quoting Calvin!

This letter from Calvin was first popularized by Voltaire. It was included in Dr. Jules Bonnet's collection of Calvin's letters, published originally in French in the 1850's. There is an English translation of Calvin's letters from Bonnet's French. The letter in question can be found in Letters of John Calvin Vol. IV, pp. 439-440. Dr. Bonnet included this letter in a chapter entitled, "An Historical Calumny Refuted." There Bonnet documents the spuriousness of the letter. He mentions that the first publication of the letter was in 1750. He also documents that the letter swept across nineteenth century scholarship. After personally seeing the letter, Bonnet argues it (along with another one) is a fraud. Those reasons can be found in my previous post (or simply read "An Historical Calumny Refuted). The most compelling of the reasons is that the alleged letter gives someone a title he did not hold until twenty years later (M. du Poet, grand chamberlain of Navarre).

Over on CARM, the work of this author received accolades. The topic was said to be "thoroughly researched," "brilliantly researched," "you'll hardly find a more well-researched or documented book...with more footnotes to verify any information yourself," and "will eviscerate the common stock Calvin apologists' arguments." We've just seen above a blatantly poor neglect of information and spurious documentation. The ironic thing is that Rives cites the french version of Bonnet's Calvin letters a few times. I can think of a few reasons why this information about the forged letter was left out. First, he missed it because he didn't do adequate primary research; second, he willfully left it out because it did not fit his construction of Calvin. Third, perhaps he was not convinced of the forgery. One would think though in a 606 page book that the author would have at least mentioned it.

Standford Rives, Author of Did Calvin Murder Servetus?
Who is this author? That's actually not a simple question. From what I can figure out, Standford Rives self-published his book, Did Calvin Murder Servetus? (2008). Even though Amazon misspells his first name on their purchase page, they also say in his bio that he's been a Christian since he was 15 years old, was a member of a "Calvinist church for over 10 years," but his major credential is that "As an attorney, Rives examines the trial of Servetus initiated by Calvin and prosecuted by Calvin to determine whether Calvin was responsible for wrongfully killing Servetus as a heretic." None of these necessarily qualify him to write a book in regard to an historical event from hundreds of years ago, written in a different language in a different country. Here's what the back cover of the book says,
Mr. Rives is a California attorney. He has been in practice for twenty-seven years. In school, he studied Classical Greek and Latin. Mr. Rives has been an evangelical Christian since age 15. He was first baptized in a Baptist church. He has spent most of his thirty-one years as a Christian attending a Reformed Calvinist congregation.
Keep your eye on the ball. Amazon says Rives was in a Calvinist church for over 10 years, the back cover says most of his 31 years, and we'll  now see that the stat turns into over 15 years in his own on-line bibliography: "In my experience for over 15 years in a Reformed Congregation..." OK, so before it was "over ten years," then most of his thirty-one years, now he's says "over 15 years." So, is he still in a Reformed church? His Calvin book blurb says he "was" a member of Calvinist church. Which Reformed church? Was he a member? Was he there ten years, 15 years, or most of his thirty-one Christian years?

So who exactly is the author of Did Calvin Murder Servetus? I don't really know. I know the facts about his previous Calvinist churches are movable. Here's where it becomes interesting: do a search for "Standford Rives" along with words like "attorney," "lawyer," "esquire." Add in "California" if you want. From my cursory search, I didn't come up with any significant hits to verify this information. Now, perhaps he's retired? Perhaps his practice flies under the Internet radar?  I found another one of his self-published books (2012) which said on the back cover,
Mr. Standford Rives is a licensed practicing attorney. He has been in practice for over twenty-eight years. Mr. Rives has been an evangelical Christian since age 15. From 1998-2002, Mr. Rives served as a self-funded full-time missionary with his wife in Latin America in an out reach to children of the very poor.
This book was written after his Calvin book, so it appears he was still in practice as of 2012, so we know he was still in practice up until recently, at least. If anyone can find some hits to this mystery lawyer, I'd be interested in seeing that information. The bottom line is there is zilch in regard to the author's credentials to write an historical account from the 16th Century, and actually, there is next to nothing to know about this self-published author / lawyer.

I did find a website that claims "Standford Rives" is a fictitious name. This may be be the truth of it. If so, I think I actually have found the author's real name, but until I can verify this, I'm not going to post it. A reviewer on Amazon also mentions "Standford Rives" is a pseudonym, and also mentions the real author has some bizarre doctrinal beliefs, including a link to the author's website that demonstrates the author rejected and denigrated the apostleship of Paul and also denies Paul's books as Sacred Scripture. From my quick cursory search, this does appear to be the same person, but in this age of information deception, who knows? It could very well be there's a lawyer out there that's flying under the online information radar. On the other hand, if it is the same person mentioned in the Amazon review,  the person that wrote against John Calvin with such authority, did the same with the Apostle Paul!

Am I suspicious of the caliber of the book? Absolutely. Simply because someone writes a book does not mean they're necessarily qualified to be taken seriously as an authority on a particular subject. Now with self-publishing available, all sorts of  unqualified people are writings books. It appears to me "BookSurge Publishing" (used by Standford Rives) is a self-publisher. Sure, someone could produce a quality self-published book, that is within the realm of possibility. But, consider these following two points in terms of writing (and selling!) an historical account:  

1) If you're going to to write a book on X, it's essential to cite X, not someone quoting X.
2) If historical figure X spoke a different language than the author does, the author should be able to read X in his/her own language.

So far in my cursory look into his book, Rives has not demonstrated either of these points. What would make it all the worse is if the author is not using his real name. If someone is going to write an historical account and actually sell it, then why not have the integrity to use a real name? If this is explained somewhere in his Calvin book, I have not come across it yet. If the author is using a pseudonym, the book's credibility amounts to the same as that of an anonymous website, but in this case, someone has to pay money for the content, unlike a website that can be accessed for free.

Granted, none of this information refutes what the author argues in his book, Did Calvin Murder Servetus? It should though serve as a warning about being careful with the content. Yes, sometimes you can take your broken car to your weird friend Bob and have him fix it. Other times, Bob might be in over-his-head, working on an antique foreign car that requires bonafide training and skill. He might get it running, but if you honk the horn, the lights may turn off. 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Six Points On Luther’s “Epistle of Straw” Comment

Originally posted April 3, 2007 at

Almost five hundred years after the fact, Roman Catholics still scrutinize Martin Luther. One the most popular quotations from Luther is the infamous "epistle of straw" remark, directed at the canonicity of the book of James. It really is amazing how frequently this citation appears. It is usually brought forth as proof one must believe an infallible church authored an infallible list of infallible books. Without this, one subjectively decides which books are canonical, like Martin Luther supposedly did in the sixteenth century.If you find yourself in dialog facing this quote, there are a few facts and arguments you should know.

   First, this quote only appears in Luther's original 1522 Preface to the New Testament. After 1522, all the editions of Luther's Bible dropped the "epistle of straw" comment, along with the entire paragraph that placed value judgments on particular biblical books. It was Luther himself who edited these comments out. For anyone to continue to cite Luther's "epistle of straw" comment against him is to do him an injustice. He saw fit to retract the comment. Subsequent citations of this quote should bear this in mind.

   Second, detractors are keen on selectively quoting Luther's preface to James. Most often cited are only those comments that express negativity. If one takes the times to actually read Luther's comments about James, he praises it and considers it a "good book" "because it sets up no doctrine of men but vigorously promulgates the law of God." Rarely have I seen Luther detractors inform a reader Luther praises James, or respects God's law. On the other hand, I have seen many Catholics insist Luther was either morally corrupt or an antinomian. Luther though insists James is worthy of praise because it puts forth Gods law.

   Third, Luther does appear to have held lifelong doubts about the canonicity of James, but it wasn't because he was purely subjective as Roman Catholics claim. He did not whimsically dismiss Biblical books simply because he did not like their content. Luther was aware of the disputed authenticity of the book. Eusebius and Jerome both recorded doubts to the apostolicity and canonicity of James. Luther did not consider James to be James the Apostle. He wasn't alone in this. The great humanist Scholar Erasmus likewise questioned the authenticity of James, as did Cardinal Cajetan, one of the leading 16th Century Roman Catholic scholars.

   Fourth, it is true Luther had a contextual problem with the content on James. He saw a contradiction between Paul and James on faith and works. Some conclude Luther missed the harmonization between these two Biblical writers, but this isn't true either. Luther's great biographer Roland Bainton pointed out, "Once Luther remarked that he would give his doctor's beret to anyone who could reconcile James and Paul. Yet he did not venture to reject James from the canon of Scripture, and on occasion earned his own beret by effecting reconciliation. 'Faith,' he wrote, 'is a living, restless thing. It cannot be inoperative. We are not saved by works; but if there be no works, there must be something amiss with faith' " [Here I Stand, 259]. In The Disputation Concerning Justification, Luther answered this spurious proposition: Faith without works justifies, Faith without works is dead [Jas. 2:17, 26]. Therefore, dead faith justifies. Luther responded:
   "The argument is sophistical and the refutation is resolved grammatically. In the major premise, 'faith' ought to be placed with the word 'justifies' and the portion of the sentence 'without works justifies' is placed in a predicate periphrase and must refer to the word 'justifies,' not to 'faith.' In the minor premise, 'without works' is truly in the subject periphrase and refers to faith. We say that justification is effective without works, not that faith is without works. For that faith which lacks fruit is not an efficacious but a feigned faith. 'Without works' is ambiguous, then. For that reason this argument settles nothing. It is one thing that faith justifies without works; it is another thing that faith exists without works. [LW 34: 175-176].
   Even though Luther arrived at the harmonizing solution, it is probably the case that the question of James' apostleship out-weighed it. One cannot argue Luther was never presented with a harmonization between Paul and James. He seems to have granted the validity of it, yet still questioned the canonicity of the book.

   Fifth, its important to point out the double standard at play when Catholics bring up Luther's opinion on James. If it comes up, hypothetically grant the validity of the Roman Catholic Church declaring the contents of the canon. Then point out Erasmus, Luther, and Cajetan formed their opinions and debated these issues previous to the Council of Trent's declaration. The New Catholic Encyclopedia points out,
   "According to Catholic doctrine, the proximate criterion of the Biblical canon is the infallible decision of the Church. This decision was not given until rather late in the history of the Church (at the Council of Trent). Before that time there was some doubt about the canonicity of certain Biblical books, i.e., about their belonging to the canon."
   Erasmus, Cajetan, and Luther had every right within the Catholic system to engage in Biblical criticism and debate over the extent of the Canon. All expressed some doubt.Their's was not a radical higher criticism. The books they questioned were books that had been questioned by previous generations. None were so extreme as to engage in Marcion-like canon-destruction. Both Erasmus and Luther translated the entirety of Bible, and published it.

   Finally, Luther says he cannot include James among his chief books "though I would not thereby prevent anyone from including or extolling him as he pleases, for there are otherwise many good sayings in him." These are hardly the words of one claiming to be an infallible authority or a "super-pope" (as one Catholic apologist used to claim). This points out an important flaw in Catholic argumentation. Some actually argue as if we think Luther was an infallible authority. Luther didn't think he was, and I've yet to meet a Protestant who considers him anything more than a sinner saved by grace, imperfect, yet used by God during a crucial period in history.

Monday, September 25, 2017

"John Calvin believed in infant baptism which contradicts election"

Here a snippet from a diatribe against John Calvin from the CARM forums. It appears to be being put forth by someone not only against Calvinism popularly, but also infant baptism:

Calvin's beliefs 
09-17-17, 12:56 PM 
I want to preface this by saying that I am neither a Calvinist nor an Arminian since I don't follow the teachings of humans, I follow the bible alone. I want to demonstrate what happens when people follow a human and use his name to talk about what God says. John Calvin believed in infant baptism which contradicts election. 

For Calvin, infant baptism was a far older tradition than the Catholic Church, but in fact had divine origins[55]. Furthermore, he states that:

"Scripture shows, first, that it points to that cleansing from sin which we obtain by the blood of Christ; and, secondly, to the mortification of the flesh, which consists in participation in his death, by which believers are regenerated to newness of life, and thereby to the fellowship of Christ…it is also a symbol to testify our religion to men."

This is only a sample of what was posted. The original can be found here.  This person went on to state, "Calvin said that he was converted between 1532-1533. Converted from what? Being regenerated when he was baptized as an infant?" and also, "So the only reason to listen to this fruitcake was because he was a college graduate. Well college graduates rule the world and we know where the world is headed! This again confirms that college degrees do not make people "Men of God". The Holy Spirit does..." And as a final example:

This is elementary for anyone who has actually read about Calvin. It is a fact that infant baptism contradicts election along with the fact that even atheists, the Mafia and the Nazis were baptized as infants. So continuing to support Calvin is continuing to OPPOSE FACTS and DENY TRUTH.

An ironic aspect of this person's Calvin diatribe is that for something entitled, "Calvin's Beliefs," only one actual quote from John Calvin was provided (cited above). Let's take a look at the sole shred of proof offered and see if Calvin's view of infant baptism contradicted his view of election and if he really was a "fruitcake."

Initially, the thing that jumped out at me was not what Calvin said, but rather, "[55]." What in the world is that number doing in the sentence? Is it some sort special number related to "divine origins"? No. While no documentation was provided, this post originally ended with a cryptic link to thoughtsofalivingchristian (later edited out by a forum moderator).  This "[55]" is a footnote from this link. Now I'm not sure if the CARM participant is the author of this blog article. It appears this blog article may have been written by someone named Aaron Chidgzey. If the CARM participant is this same person, then he simply cited himself. If not, it looks like there's some Internet wild west stuff going on (aka, intellectual theft). I suspect the later.  Here's what the blog article states (I placed the plagiarized words in bold text):
Calvin, despite having little first-hand contact with Anabaptists[52], labeled the Anabaptists as ignorant, stating that “these vermin differ from all other heretical sects in that they not only err in certain points, but they give rise to a whole sea of insane views”[53]. He was astounded by the varying nature of the different Anabaptist groups, who had “so many absurd views that it is a marvel how creatures who bear the human figure can be so void of sense and reason as to be so duped and fall victim to such brutish fantasies”[54]. For Calvin, infant baptism was a far older tradition than the Catholic Church, but in fact had divine origins[55]. Furthermore, he states that:
Scripture shows, first, that it points to that cleansing from sin which we obtain by the blood of Christ; and, secondly, to the mortification of the flesh, which consists in participation in his death, by which believers are regenerated to newness of life, and thereby to the fellowship of Christ…it is also a symbol to testify our religion to men.[56]
[55] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Michigan: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989). 529. 
 [56] Ibid. 530.
The version of The Institutes being cited is a one-volume edition published in 1989 of Henry Beveridge's translation of the 1537 Institutes. Beveridge's translation was originally released in 1846. what's being cited is Book IV, 16, 2.

2. In the first place, then, [infant baptism] is a well-known doctrine, and one as to which all the pious are agreed,—that the right consideration of signs does not lie merely in the outward ceremonies, but depends chiefly on the promise and the spiritual mysteries, to typify which the ceremonies themselves are appointed. He, therefore, who would thoroughly understand the effect of baptism—its object and true character—must not stop short at the element and corporeal object. but look forward to the divine promises which are therein offered to us, and rise to the internal secrets which are therein represented. He who understands these has reached the solid truth, and, so to speak, the whole substance of baptism, and will thence perceive the nature and use of outward sprinkling. On the other hand, he who passes them by in contempt, and keeps his thoughts entirely fixed on the visible ceremony, will neither understand the force, nor the proper nature of baptism, nor comprehend what is meant, or what end is gained by the use of water. This is confirmed by passages of Scripture too numerous and too clear to make it necessary here to discuss them more at length. It remains, therefore, to inquire into the nature and efficacy of baptism, as evinced by the promises therein given. Scripture shows, first, that it points to that cleansing from sin which we obtain by the blood of Christ; and, secondly, to the mortification of the flesh which consists in participation in his death, by which believers are regenerated to newness of life, and thereby to the fellowship of Christ. To these general heads may be referred all that the Scriptures teach concerning baptism, with this addition, that it is also a symbol to testify our religion to men.
Earlier in chapter 15, Calvin states:
Now, it is clear how false is the teaching, long propagated by some and still persisted in by others, that through baptism we are released and made exempt from original sin, and from the corruption that descended from Adam into all his posterity; and are restored into that same righteousness and purity of nature which Adam would have obtained if he had remained upright as he was first created. For teachers of this type never understood what original sin, what original righteousness, or what the grace of baptism was (Institutes IV: 15:10).
While this quote certainly seems clear, the quote in regard to infant baptism does not. I freely admit that working through the entirety of Calvin's statements in IV,16 on infant baptism can certainly appear as if he's advocating the baptismal regeneration of all infants. Calvin at one point does say that an infant can be regenerated (IV, 16, 17-18), as was the case with John the Baptist.  Notice though what he goes to say about baptized infants:
For although infants, at the moment when they were circumcised, did not comprehend what the sign meant, still they were truly circumcised for the mortification of their corrupt and polluted nature—a mortification at which they afterwards aspired when adults. In fine, the objection is easily disposed of by the tact, that children are baptised for future repentance and faith. Though these are not yet formed in them, yet the seed of both lies hid in them by the secret operation of the Spirit. [IV, 16, 20]. 
The question in understanding Calvin then becomes, does "the secret operation of the Spirit" form the seed of faith in all baptized infants?  No. In III, 21, 6, within the covenant community, certain  individuals were eternally elected unto salvation while others were not.  Here is a helpful clarifying excerpt from John Riggs, Baptism in the Reformed Tradition: A Historical and Practical Theology:

Riggs goes on to examine the "seed" issue noting some of the logical problems produced by Calvin's use of the term, It: "implies a nonpersonal divine activity that guarantees a result, such as planting a seed in the earth. When the gardener plants, the ground cannot refuse." Analogies fall apart when pressed too far. Which is the correct way to understand the analogy: a divine seed must harvest, or a divine seed only sprouts when watered by the irresistible grace of the Holy Spirit? Riggs holds the former. Calvin appears to hold the later.

Some years back I was given the honor of contributing entries to James White's Alpha and Omega Ministries web site. Here's an entry I put together in regard to Calvin and baptismal regeneration: Calvin Said What?

Friday, September 15, 2017

"Luther exhibited the same vicious hatred and jealousy of the Jews, as later characterized the rule of Adolph Hitler"

Over on the CARM boards, a participant with seemingly Anabaptist leanings has been actively posting against John Calvin and Martin Luther. The view being expressed is that Luther was "a demon possessed wicked butcher" (link), and "His actions speak louder than his words, he was responsible for the death of untold thousands." This person put forth a number of Luther quotes, which I suspect were a direct cut-and-paste from a page like this or this. I'd like to look at some of the information presented.

 After a string of Luther quotes, the following proof of Luther's dastardly deeds is presented:

His Actions speak louder than his words, he was responsible for the death of untold thousands. Here is what he thought of Jews:

Luther exhibited the same vicious hatred and jealousy of the Jews, as later characterized the rule of Adolph Hitler. In early pamphlets, he called upon Christians to take the Bible from Jews, to burn their books and synagogues with pitch and brimstone, and to forbid their worship under penalty of death. He described Jews as young devils doomed to hell who should be driven out of the country. And, in his final sermon before he died, Luther once more called down the vengeance of heaven upon the Jews.

There is no actual Luther quote presented. Rather, the proof against Luther takes the form of a summary statement. Let's take a closer look at this statement. I'm not going to attempt to exonerate Luther for his hostility towards the Jews (for he was a sinner, and he did make some outrageous statements), but I don't think any of them prove he was a "a demon possessed wicked butcher" or "responsible for the death of untold thousands."

There is no documentation presented, but this in no way means the person on CARM wrote the summary himself.  It took only a quick Internet search to reveal this summary was cut-and-pasted from another source. Its presentation on CARM amounts to blatant plagiarism: the paragraph gave off the impression that it was written by a CARM participant. There was no credit given to the original author. I'm also going to demonstrate that whoever compiled this summary statement actually plagiarized it. The paragraph amount to a plagiarism of a plagiarism!

This paragraph may have been taken from "The Plain Truth About the Protestant Reformation Protestant Reformation Lessons for Us." This link was compiled by a group named "Giving and Sharing." They appear to be an independent Sabbatarian sect that believes (among other things) in the unique place of the Jews in God's continued eschatological plan.  While there is no author listed for this web article, there is an interesting closing sentence: "Roderick C. Meredith's excellent 94-page article, The Plain Truth About the Protestant Reformation, is available on 30-day LOAN for a donation of $3.00." For those of you at least as old as me, the title "The Plain Truth..." probably rings a bell. The Plain Truth was the magazine for the cult group founded by Herbert W. Armstrong. Sure enough, if you visit the Herbert W. Armstrong website, one finds the article by (the late) Roderick C Meredith, "The Plain Truth about the Protestant Reformation" (1956) (the website also includes a pdf of the original type written manuscript). In a paragraph  on page 50, one finds where Giving and Sharing took their statement:
In view of the subsequent history of Germany, it will be well to note that Luther's final sermon was a railing attack against the Jewish people. He seems to have been possessed with the same vicious hatred and jealousy of the Jews as later characterized the rule of Adolph Hitler. Alzog describes this tendency: "Ascending the pulpit of St. Andrew's Church, in Eisleben, for the last time, Luther once more called down the vengeance of heaven upon the Jews, a race of people whom he had so unjustly and virulently assailed in his earlier writings, that his followers after his death were confused at the very mention of his malignant denunciations. In his first pamphlet against them, he called upon Christians to take the Bible from them, to burn their books and synagogues with pitch and brimstone, and to forbid their worship under penalty of death; and in his second, entitled 'Of Shem Hamphoras,' he describes them at the very outset as 'young devils doomed to hell,' who should be driven out of the country" (Universal History, p.271).
Thus, when we read of the atrocities committed against the Jews by Hitler's Third Reich, we may be reminded that this has been a tendency among many German zealots and was remarkably displayed in the founder of German Protestantism.
One can see from the text in bold how moved some of the words and sentences around to create the paragraph we're examining. One can also see from Roderick Meredith's paragraph that he was actually citing someone else. A large portion of the summary statement we're looking at was actually penned by Roman Catholic historian Johannes Baptist Alzog, found in his book, Manual of Universal Church History.

Let's take a look now at the paragraph. One thing to keep in mind is that Alzog wrote previous to World War II, so the references to Hitler are not his doing. They are the responsibility of Meredith. While writers previous to World War II did mention Luther's writings against the Jews, they did not do so in the same way or with the same emphasis as writers after World War II. Previous to WWII, many historians would simply cover that Luther's later treatment of the Jews had similarities to the abusive language he directed towards groups like the papacy and the radicals. After WWII, entire books were written on Luther's attitude toward the Jews, sparking an entire field of research all of its own.

The first sentence says, "Luther exhibited the same vicious hatred and jealousy of the Jews, as later characterized the rule of Adolph Hitler." This is a plagiarized change of emphasis from what Meredith originally stated, "He seems to have been possessed with the same vicious hatred and jealousy of the Jews as later characterized the rule of Adolph Hitler." Meredith is also describing Luther's final sermon, whereas the summary paragraph presents no such qualifier. Regardless of this error, the comparison between Luther and Hitler is often made, but rarely expounded on. One of the major differences that proves the comparison flawed was that Hitler and the Nazis considered Jews to be Untermenschen (subhuman, less than human). You will not find this in Luther's writings.  It was not "the same vicious hatred and jealousy." The two men were also motivated in their negativity towards the Jews for different reasons. For instance, this link expounds on Hitler's hatred of the Jews. Luther's "hatred" was primarily theological: Luther viewed the Jews as an enemy of the Gospel, they taught a different way of salvation, and any such different way was ultimately fueled by Satan. Since Luther believed his generation was living in the final days of the planet earth, Satan was to be fought against as if it were the end of the world... because for him, it was.

The second sentence and third sentences say, "In early pamphlets, he called upon Christians to take the Bible from Jews, to burn their books and synagogues with pitch and brimstone, and to forbid their worship under penalty of death." The key plagiarizing error is the phrase "early pamphlets." What Meredith was referring to were Luther's late writings against the Jews, particularly (what he thinks) is the first of these negative writings, "In his first pamphlet against them." The actual historical truth is that Luther's early writings against the Jews were favorable to them, this much against the prevailing collective societal negativity against them. It was in the late 1530's that a shift can be seen in Luther's writings. His final years saw his harshest treatment of the Jews (1543-1546).  The "early pamphlet" or "first pamphlet" being referred to is On The Jews and Their Lies (1543). This was actually not Luther's first writing against the Jews. He had written Against the Sabbatarians in 1538. This writing is not mentioned as much because Luther's arguments are theological and restrained from excessive harsh language.

"[H]e called upon Christians to take the Bible from Jews, to burn their books and synagogues with pitch and brimstone, and to forbid their worship under penalty of death..." This harsh treatment being referred to comes from On The Jews and Their Lies. Luther argued that because of their blasphemy against Jesus, Mary, the Trinity, and the whole of the Christian faith, his understanding of the Jewish people reduces them to being murderers, blasphemers, liars, and thieves. He has stereotyped an entire group of people to be the worst of criminals. I don't recall Luther saying exactly to "forbid their worship under penalty of death" in the treatise under consideration. What he did write was  "...their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb" (LW 47:269).  As I stated above, I'm not going to attempt to exonerate Luther for his hostility towards the Jews. I do not condone Luther's "harsh mercy" intended to convert Jews and to protect Christians from blasphemy, and neither did most of Luther's contemporaries.

The third sentence says " He described Jews as young devils doomed to hell who should be driven out of the country." Meredith (via Alzog) says this is from "Of  Shem Hamphoras," Luther's second main writing against the Jews (this was actually Luther's third main writing against the Jews). Alzog says, "he describes them at the very outset as 'young devils doomed to hell,' who should be driven out of the country." It is true that Luther describes the Jews as the "devil's children" and "children of the devil" "damned to hell" at the outset of this writing. He does not say though "who should be driven out of the country" at the outset. These appear to be Alzog's words.  If Luther did write it in this treatise, it isn't where Alzog claims. (See addendum below on Vom Schem Hamphoras)

The fourth sentence says, "And, in his final sermon before he died, Luther once more called down the vengeance of heaven upon the Jews."  Meredith (via Alzog) says "Ascending the pulpit of St. Andrew's Church, in Eisleben, for the last time, Luther once more called down the vengeance of heaven upon the Jews..." Actually, he did not. What's being referred to is not content Luther actually preached from the pulpit. Rather, there was an addendum attached to the printed version of Luther's last sermon entitled, An Admonition Against The Jews (1546). It would be Luther's last written comments on the Jews. It's an odd document. Luther begins by saying, "Now, we want to deal with them in a Christian manner, and in the first place, to offer them the Christian faith, so that they will receive the Messiah" (LW 58:458), or as others have translated it, "We want to treat them with Christian love and to pray for them, so that they might become converted and would receive the Lord." However, Luther still is quite harsh against the Jews, requesting that if the Jews don't convert, it wouldn't be a bad idea for the Lords to "drive them away." It's obvious Luther wasn't calling for the Jews to be killed, but he certainly would only tolerate them in society if they converted. Otherwise, they were to be banished. Luther comes across different than Hitler: he was not against Jews as "people" but rather quite intolerant of their religion.

There have been a number of researchers who conclude Luther's later anti-Jewish tracts were written from a position different than current Antisemitism. Luther was born into a society that was anti-Judaic, but it was not the current anti-Judaic type of society that bases it racism on biological factors. Luther had no objections to integrating converted Jews into Christian society. He had nothing against Jews as “Jews.” He had something against their religion because he believed it denied and blasphemed Christ. If one frames the issues with these categories, Luther was not Antisemitic.

Post World War II though, there has been much discussion about the nuances and etymology of the term Antisemitism. The contemporary use of the word "Antisemitism" does not typically have its distinction from anti-Judaism considered. The word now has a more broad meaning including anti-Judaism. The debate centers around whether the evolved use of the term is a significant step towards describing previous history or if it's setting up an anachronistic standard for evaluating previous history [see my entry here in regard to Eric Gritsch, Martin Luther's Anti-Semitism: Against His Better Judgment (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012)]. As I've looked at this issue from time to time, I'm thinking more along the lines of Gritsch's revised view, rather than what I wrote here some years ago. I accept the modern definition of Antisemitism, and I think that it does include anti-Judaism. While Luther may have been primarily against the religion of Judaism, his harsh recommendations could have effected them as human beings.  

In regard to the summary statement this entry has scrutinized, despite its plagiarism, historical blunders, and faulty comparison to Hitler, it does accurately describe some of Luther's later intolerance towards the Jews.  It does not though prove Luther "was responsible for the death of untold thousands." What it proves to me is that despite his brilliance, despite his boldness, Luther still was a sinner that could easily violate the command Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is no getting around it: in his later years, Luther did say some awful things about the Jewish people. Where Luther was gravely in error, Protestants must admit his faults.

Above, Luther's anti-Jewish writing, Vom Schem Hamphoras was mentioned. This has not been translated into English in Luther's Works (yet). There is an English translation I used for this blog entry: Gerhard Falk, The Jew in Christian Theology: Martin Luther's Anti-Jewish Vom Schem Hamphoras, Previously Unpublished in English, and Other Milestones in Church Doctrine Concerning Judaism (North Carolina: McFarland and Company, 1992). There is also a polemical blogger called, "Back To Luther" who has produced a translation of the first section. I in no way endorse the entirety of this blogger's perspective or work, but I do appreciate his undertaking. Here is his Table of Contents of Vom Schem Hamphoras, First section:

Table of Contents – First Section, concluded in Part 8:
  • Introduction – Paragraphs 1 & 2 (Parts 1 & 2) - sequel to On The Jews and Their Lies
     Body Text
  • Paragraphs 1 - 2: Introduction to Jewish fable published by Porchetus (Part 2)
  • Paragraphs 3 - 17: The Jewish fable “Schem Hamphoras” – Luther’s translation (Pts 23)
  • Paragraphs 18 - 20: Luther first remarks of contempt on this fable (Pt 4)
  • Paragraphs 21 - 26: Luther’s first pass recounting the individual points made in fable (Pt 4)
  • Paragraphs 27 - 29: Luther’s second remarks of contempt (Pt 4)
  • Paragraph 28 : Luther’s second pass on fable’s points (Pt 4)
  • Paragraph 29: Luther’s third remarks of contempt  (Pt 4)
  • Paragraph 30  : Did Luther make his judgment of Jews too coarse and inedible? (Pt 5)
  • Paragraphs 31 - 33: Three mockeries – of God, of us Christians, of Jews, and...  (Pt 5)
  • Paragraphs 34 - 36: “... vain, dead, worthless letters” of Schem Hamphoras (Pt 5)
  • Paragraphs 37 - 39:  Luther’s answer to:  Christians do the same thing – in the Sacraments (Pt 5)
  • Paragraphs 40 - 41: The Pope’s jugglery, enchantments (Pt 5)
  • Paragraphs 42 - 54: Explanation of the words “Schem Hamphoras” (Pt 6)
  • Paragraphs 55 - 58: Luther’s rhetorical questions showing fable’s illogical nature (Pts 67)
  • Paragraph 59: The sow’s behind, the Rabbi, and the Talmud (Pt 7)
  • Paragraphs 60 - 69: Scham HaPeres - devil’s version of Schem Hamphoras  (Pt 7)
  • Paragraph 70: Luther’s prayer to God  (Pt 7)
  • Paragraphs 71 - 73: The abyss of hell; concluding remarks on “Schem Hamphoras” fable  (Pt 7)
  • Paragraph 74: Luther’s addresses the Jewish Tetragrammaton and the names of God  (Pt 8)
  • Paragraphs 75 - 81: Luther refutes Jewish Tetragrammaton; names of God, esp. Jehovah  (Pt 8)
  • Paragraph 82: Luther’s summary – Jews do not have the Word of God (Pt 8)
The next post presents Part 2, which concludes the general introduction, and paragraphs 1 - 6.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Luther: Like the mules who will not move unless you perpetually whip them with rods, so the civil powers must drive the common people, whip, choke, hang, burn, behead and torture them, that they may learn to fear the powers that be

Over on the CARM boards, a participant with seemingly Anabaptist leanings has been actively posting against John Calvin and Martin Luther. The view being expressed is that Luther was "a demon possessed wicked butcher" (link), and "His actions speak louder than his words, he was responsible for the death of untold thousands." This person put forth a number of Luther quotes, which I suspect were a direct cut-and-paste from a page like this or this. Further into the discussion he stated,

What hog wash you have continually used weasel words and your Opinion to deny everything.

Here this is something else you can deny:

Like the mules who will not move unless you perpetually whip them with rods, so the civil powers must drive the common people, whip, choke, hang, burn, behead and torture them, that they may learn to fear the powers that be." (El. ed. 15, 276, quoted by O'Hare, in 'The Facts About Luther, TAN Books, 1987, p. 235.)

I'd like to look at this quote to see if it's "something else" I'm going to "deny," or it it's something else entirely different. Let's see if this quote proves Luther was a "a demon possessed wicked butcher" or "responsible for the death of untold thousands."

Even though two references are given, a simple search reveals this was probably a cut-and-paste from other online sources.  The Catholic Apologetics Network uses this quote and documentation verbatim in an article entitled, "The Myth Of Martin Luther And Why So Few Read His Works." The quote can be found with simply a reference to O'Hare in web pages like Shocking Beliefs of Martin Luther. Dr. Michael Brown included it in his book, Authentic Fire. He documents it by saying, "For the quotes on a Christian website critical of Luther see" This happens to be the same article posted by the Catholic Apologetics Network.

Let's begin with the later part of the reference: "quoted by O'Hare, in 'The Facts About Luther, TAN Books, 1987, p. 235." This refers to Father Patrick O'Hare's book, The Facts About Luther, the TAN reprint from 1987. The book was originally published many decades earlier, and is consider to be part of the hostile Roman Catholic interpretation of Luther.  Father O'Hare states,
Luther's advice "to strangle" the peasants, "to stab them secretly and openly, as they can, as one would kill a mad dog," was fulfilled to the letter. He thought that "God gave rulers not a fox's tail, but a sword," and "the severity and rigor of the sword," he says, "are as necessary for the people as eating and drinking, yes, as life itself." The time in his estimation had come "to control the populace with a strong hand" and the rulers must resort to "the severity and rigor of the sword." "Like the mules," he says, "who will not move unless you perpetually whip them with rods, so the civil powers must drive the common people, whip, choke, hang, burn, behead and torture them, that they may learn to fear the powers that be. The coarse, illiterate Mr. Great I am—the people—must be forced, driven as one forces and drives swine and wild animals." (El. ed. 15, 276.) This is a most astounding utterance, but apart from its heartlessness and lack of consideration of the common people it shows the way Luther preached liberty and democracy, a liberty and democracy which meant absolutism and despotism armed with all its iron terrors in government and through which for nearly two centuries after the nations of Europe were oppressed and tyrannized.
O'Hare cites "El. ed. 15, 276." This refers to the Erlangen Edition of Luther's works. This out of print German / Latin edition of Luther's works was published in the 1800's. This primary reference is correct. Erlangen XV page 276 can be found here (and the same text can be found here). It's also found in WA XX 247. It's from Ein ander Sermon am Tage der Opferung Christi im Tempel, Luca 2, 22-32  (Luther's Sermon on Luke 2:22-32, "Sermon on the Day of the Purification of Mary," February 2, 1526). The Text reads:

An English translation of this sermon is available in Joel Baseley, The Festival Sermons of Martin Luther (Michigan: Mark V Publications, 2005) pp. 244-258: "A Second Sermon on the Festival of the Presentation of the Infant Christ at the Temple." I've covered this quote previously, though it was a different English translation: Luther: Rulers should drive, beat, choke, hang, burn, behead, and break upon the well of the vulgar masses. What follows was primarily taken from this older blog article.

Why would a sermon on Mary's purification would include such a comment? The fact of the matter is many of Luther's alleged Marian sermons have far more to say about other subjects rather than Mary. Luther was expounding upon the keeping of the law as stated in Luke 2:22-24. From this he launched in to a discussion on the burden of the law, and it's crushing condemnation of people before a holy God and the misery it brings upon people. Even those who keep some sort of outward appearance of keeping the law still haven't kept the law purely in their hearts. The law brings misery on mankind, because it condemns man of sin. Contrarily, Christ kept the law with a pure heart, even though he didn't need to. Luther states,
According to the outward mask we sure keep the law, put on a good show and grab hold of it with our fist. But of hearts shy away from it. We do it unwillingly. We have no desire to do by nature unless that Holy Ghost enlightens our heart with His grace. Therefore even if we keep the law with works, yet it is not done from pure and clean heart. For it is done for the sake of our own advantage reputation or out of fear of punishment.
Now since God has also given the law and He knows that no one keeps it, He is also the One who has made it a prison guard, driver and leash. For the Scripture designates this supervision [of the law] by comparing it to one who drives a stubborn mule, which one must always push and pull and drive with a stick or it will not move forward. So this supervision of the law must pummel you. It is always to drive, strike, throttle, hang, burn, behead, and torture you so that you fear. By this people are held in check. For God does not desire that the law merely be presented to the people, but rather that it also drive them, seize them with a fist and compel them to work. For only in this way are people preserved. If they are not forced then they will do nothing. That is because the heart cannot keep the law because it is completely against its nature.
So if there were no punishment in the world, there would be nothing in the world but the rule of death, adultery, thievery, robbery, manslaughter and every blasphemy. No one would be safe from one another. But when the supervision of the law is there and punishes gross scoundrels and blasphemers, the rabble must be contained by it. They will know they are not permitted to go forth so boldly and live their lives according to their own desires. So it is necessary that the driving of the law remains over people and those raging rebels. It always compels and drives as swine and wild animals are forced and driven.
So now if we must do the law and not like it, then we are an enemy of the law for it battles our lusts. But God has done all of this so that it makes us weary. By this we might learn to acknowledge our abilities, and what we are able to do. So we look at ourselves and say, "I, poor man, I must keep the law and I don't like to do it. Yes, I have absolutely no desire to do it. So then I must lose any reward and thanks that I would get for doing it, had I truly and gladly kept the law." In summary, all who are under the law do it unwillingly. So we are tortured by it, forced to keep it and yet earn no reward from it [Baseley, 248-249].

God has also instituted authorities to enforce law to keep society stable. In another treatise, Luther expounds similarly:
You must know that since the beginning of the world a wise prince is a mighty rare bird, and an upright prince even rarer. They are generally the biggest fools or the worst scoundrels on earth; therefore, one must constantly expect the worst from them and look for little good, especially in divine matters which concern the salvation of souls. They are God’s executioners and hangmen; his divine wrath uses them to punish the wicked and to maintain outward peace. Our God is a great lord and ruler; this is why he must also have such noble, highborn, and rich hangmen and constables. He desires that everyone shall copiously accord them riches, honor, and fear in abundance. It pleases his divine will that we call his hangmen gracious lords, fall at their feet, and be subject to them in all humility, so long as they do not ply their trade too far and try to become shepherds instead of hangmen [LW 45:113].
The editors of Luther's Works note on the word "executioner" used above:
The term stockmeyster, meaning “jailer,” is also used by Luther synonomously with Zuchtmeister for Paul’s “custodian” of Gal. 3:24–25. See his exegesis of the Nunc Dimittis in a sermon preached on the Day of the Purification of Mary, February 2, 1526, where the term must mean more than merely a guard or warden; it refers actually to one who flogs or otherwise inflicts legal punishment in execution of a sentence. WA 20, 247
[LW 45:113, fn 82].
Because the world is so wicked, Luther says in Trade and Usury (1524),
Streets must be be kept clean, peace established in cities, and justice administered in the land. Therefore one must let the sword strike transgressors vigorously and boldly, as St. Paul teaches (Rom. 13:4). For God wants non-Christians held in check to keep them from doing wrong or from committing wrong without being punished. Let no one imagine that the world can be governed without the shedding of blood. The temporal sword should and must be red and bloodstained, for the world is wicked and is bound to be so. Therefore the sword is God's rod and vengeance for it [ WA 15:302; LW 45:258; Ewald Plass, What Luther Says, III: 1156].
In the sermon in question, Luther goes on to compare fallen humanity's burden of being under the law with Christ who kept the law willingly and with a pure heart. Christ fulfilled the law with pleasure. He volunteered to keep the law. Christ did not fear the stockmeyster. In this 1526 sermon, Luther goes on to weave his exposition of the law into a presentation of the gospel.

Luther's theories on government are far more complicated than this simple quote posted on CARM . The interested reader should track down What Luther Says and read the twenty eight page double columned synopsis presented by Ewald Plass. Plass points out a number of factors in Luther's governmental theories, everything from Luther's attitude toward unjust rulers, as well as the fact that rulers should not rely on mere brute force. Not to be forgotten as well, Luther was a not a modern man. His notions of government reflect the collective thinking of his time period. Luther's concern was for a stable society, following Paul's concerns expressed in Romans 13. The simple point being made is that God has instituted government to proclaim and uphold civic law. While the methods suggested by Luther are appalling by today's standards, they weren't so to the sixteenth century person. They were a fact of life.

I did post the context of this quote on CARM. The response I received back was, "See I knew you would deny it , and poison the well at the same time, and you are getting quicker with your denials." Ah, well... Que Sera, Sera.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Luther: If he will not keep quiet, then let the civil authorities command the scoundrel to his rightful master, namely, Master Hans [i.e., the hangman]

Over on the CARM boards, a participant with seemingly Anabaptist leanings has been actively posting against John Calvin and Martin Luther. The view being expressed is that Luther was "a demon possessed wicked butcher" (link), and "His actions speak louder than his words, he was responsible for the death of untold thousands." This person put forth a number of Luther quotes, which I suspect were a direct cut-and-paste from a page like this or this. I'd like to look at some of these quotes. Maybe Luther won't be exonerated for each quote (for he was a sinner, and he did make some outrageous statements), but I don't think any of them prove he was a "a demon possessed wicked butcher" or "responsible for the death of untold thousands."

The Luther quotes offered begin with the preface, "Intolerance of Other Christians." Here's one from the set:

"There are others who teach in opposition to some recognised article of faith which is manifestly grounded on Scripture and is believed by good Christians all over the world, such as are taught to children in the Creed. ... Heretics of this sort must not be tolerated, but punished as open blasphemers. ... If anyone wishes to preach or to teach, let him make known the call or the command which impels him to do so, or else let him keep silence. If he will not keep quiet, then let the civil authorities command the scoundrel to his rightful master, namely, Master Hans [i.e., the hangman]." Source: Martin Luther, Commentary on 82nd Psalm, 1530(Janssen, X, 222; EA, Bd. 39, 250-258; Commentary on 82nd Psalm, 1530; cf. Durant, 423, Grisar, VI, 26-27)

This quote (in this form!) has a lot of mileage on it. Atheist John Loftus uses it, as do some of the descendants of the radical reformation.  A simple Google search though reveals that Rome's defenders are quite fond of this quote. Whether it be a web page or a discussion forum, Rome's defenders often use this quote as evidence in support of a Tu quoque argument:
Protestant charge: the Roman Catholic Church committed atrocities like the Inquisition. The Roman church was intolerant. 
Roman Catholic response: There were also Protestant atrocities and also a Protestant "Inquisition." Early Protestants were also intolerant. 
Rome's defenders follow up this argument with a string of evidence of Protestant atrocities (including the Luther quote mentioned above). For instance, Catholic Apologetics Information uses this Luther quote under the subheading "Death and Torture for Catholics and Protestant Dissidents." St Margaret Mary Catholicism 101 uses it under the heading "Protestant Inquisitions" to demonstrate "the early reformers were not into 'freedom of religion' and 'free speech'," as does

While there is a sense in which I'm sympathetic to their overall Tu quoque argument, there's also a sense in which I think much of their proof comes across as propaganda when scrutinized. We'll see with this particular Luther quote that this particular Internet rendering doesn't come from someone actually reading "Martin Luther, Commentary on 82nd Psalm, 1530." Rather, I believe it's been swiped (then edited / truncated) via a hostile secondary source. Then, the corroborating ("cf.") sources show that those using this quote appear to be asleep at the wheel:  one of the "cf." sources is bogus, and the other actually says the opposite —  that Luther wasn't as intolerant as Rome and he eventually arrived at a position of religious tolerance. Then we'll see that the context does not show the blatant intolerance suggested. Rather, Luther has a specific focus of intolerance for radical teachers and leaders causing societal unrest.

Different from most of the other quotes used thus far in this series, this one is treated with a number of references. It appears to me that the quote was truncated / edited using the first of the secondary sources mentioned (Janssen), not a direct reading of Luther. First though, let's look at the corroborating ("cf.") sources, for they reveal that when the quote is used with this documentation, it's a strong indicator that Grisar and Durant were not checked for accuracy, but were simply cut-and-pasted.

Here is Grisar, VI, 26-27 (a Roman Catholic source). There is nothing remotely related to this quote on pages 26-27 in volume VI. Grisar's discussion is on an entirely different subject (school curriculum, school issues). I checked pages 26-27 in the other 5 volumes from Grisar, and no discussion of the quote occurs on those two pages. Yes, Grisar does mention this quote in his massive biography of Luther (at least once), but it certainly was not in volume VI on pages 26-27.

Here is Durant, 423 (a secular source).  Will Durant only mentions the quote briefly. "In 1530, in his commentary on the Eighty-second Psalm, he advised governments to put to death all heretics who preached sedition or against private property, and 'those who teach against a manifest article of the faith... like the articles children learn in the creed, as for example, if anyone should teach that Christ was not God but a mere man.'" Durant's treatment of the quote is merely one sentence, which makes one wonder why the person who originally cited Durant included him as a reference. It's a ridiculous reference, reminiscent of a high school paper. But beyond this silliness, Roman Catholics who use this Durant reference for their Tu quoque argument should read what Durant says previous to this sentence on page 423: "Despite the violence of Luther's speech he never rivaled the severity of the Church in dealing with dissent; but he proceeded, within the area and limits of his power, to silence it as peaceably as he could." And also after the sentence on page 423, Durant states: "We should note, however, that toward the end of his life Luther returned to his early feelings for toleration. In his last sermon he advised abandonment of all attempts to destroy heresy by force; Catholics and Anabaptists must be borne with patiently till the Last Judgment, when Christ will take care of them." I think Durant isn't quite right in his overall assessment, but this is beside the point: Rome's defenders have told us that Durant is a source of proof for their argument. Durant though says something quite different about Luther. Why would Rome's defenders send us to a source against their own Tu quoque argument?

Here is Janssen, X, 222 (a Roman Catholic source). This reference is to nineteenth century Roman Catholic historian Johannes Janssen's History of the German People From the Close of the Middle Ages Volume 10 (originally written in German). Janssen's work belongs to the period of destructive criticism of Luther and the Reformation. As far as I can tell, the quote under scrutiny was truncated / edited using a footnote from Janssen:
Luther, who had at first strongly disapproved of the execution of heretics, began, after 1530, to advocate capital punishment for false doctrine and heresy. (1)
(1)This comes out clearly (as Paulus, Katholik, 1897, i. 539 if., has shown) in Luther's explanation of the 82nd Psalm, as well as in a pamphlet of 1536. In the explanation of the Psalm (Der LXXXII. Psalm, ausgelegt von Mart. Luther, Wittenberg, 1530, Ca -Fb, Luther's Werke, Erlanger Ausgabe, Bd. 39, pp. 250-258), he deals exhaustively with the questions 'whether the secular rulers ought to check and punish objectionable doctrines or heresies.' ' There are two sorts of heretics,' he says: 'first, those who are turbulent and seditious; these must undoubtedly be punished. Then there are others who teach in opposition to some recognised article of faith which is manifestly grounded on Scripture and is believed by good Christians all over the world, such as are taught to children in the Creed: as, for instance, the heresy which some of them teach, that Christ is not God, but only an ordinary man, and just the same as any other prophet of the Turks or of the Anabaptists; heretics of this sort must not be tolerated, but punished as open blasphemers. Moses in his laws commands that blasphemers of this sort, and indeed all false teachers, are to be stoned to death. And there must not be lengthy disputation on the subject; such blasphemy must be condemned without that or examination. . . . For articles of belief of this sort, held by united Christendom, have been sufficiently inquired into and thoroughly established by the Scriptures and by the unanimous assent of all Christians.' Sermons calculated to disturb the unity of the faith, Luther goes on, must not be tolerated, still less must private preaching and secret ceremonies be allowed. It is the duty of the burghers to give information of any of these clandestine proceedings to the civil authorities and to the clergy. 'If anyone wishes to preach or to teach, let him make known the call or the command which impels him to do so, or else let him keep silence. If he will not keep quiet, then let the civil authorities commend the scoundrel to his rightful master — namely, Master Hans [hangman].'
One can see how this footnote from Janssen was sifted through to create the quote in question. Janssen though did a similar thing: he sifted and truncated his quote from eight pages of text (also noted in the popular Internet documentation, "EA, Bd. 39, 250-258"). Here is EA 39 page 250.

Luther's comments on Psalm 82 have been translated into English in LW 13. Let's work through these multiple pages of LW 13 and look at what Luther stated.

A question arises in connection with these three verses. Since the gods, or rulers, beside their other virtues, are to advance God’s Word and its preachers, are they also to put down opposing doctrines or heresies, since no one can be forced to believe? The answer to this question is as follows: First, some heretics are seditious and teach openly that no rulers are to be tolerated; that no Christian may occupy a position of rulership; that no one ought to have property of his own but should run away from wife and child and leave house and home; or that all property shall be held in common. These teachers are immediately, and without doubt, to be punished by the rulers, as men who are resisting temporal law and government (Rom. 13:1, 2). They are not heretics only but rebels, who are attacking the rulers and their government, just as a thief attacks another’s goods, a murderer another’s body, an adulterer another’s wife; and this is not to be tolerated.
Second. If some were to teach doctrines contradicting an article of faith clearly grounded in Scripture and believed throughout the world by all Christendom, such as the articles we teach children in the Creed—for example, if anyone were to teach that Christ is not God, but a mere man and like other prophets, as the Turks and the Anabaptists hold—such teachers should not be tolerated, but punished as blasphemers. For they are not mere heretics but open blasphemers; and rulers are in duty bound to punish blasphemers as they punish those who curse, swear, revile, abuse, defame, and slander. With their blasphemy such teachers defame the name of God and rob their neighbor of his honor in the eyes of the world. In like manner, the rulers should also punish—or certainly not tolerate—those who teach that Christ did not die for our sins, but that everyone shall make his own satisfaction for them. For that, too, is blasphemy against the Gospel and against the article we pray in the Creed: “I believe in the forgiveness of sins” and “in Jesus Christ, dead and risen.” Those should be treated in the same way who teach that the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting are nothing, that there is no hell, and like things, as did the Sadducees and the Epicureans, of whom many are now arising among the great wiseacres.
By this procedure no one is compelled to believe, for he can still believe what he will; but he is forbidden to teach and to blaspheme. For by so doing he would take from God and the Christians their doctrine and word, and he would do them this injury under their own protection and by means of the things all have in common. Let him go to some place where there are no Christians. For, as I have often said: He who makes a living from the citizens ought to keep the law of the city, and not defame and revile it; or else he ought to get out (LW 13:60-62).
This is the first part of the quote (it occurs on page 60). First, In context, Luther is writing specifically about those who teach severe false doctrines. This is not immediately clear in the Internet version of the quote because it's surrounded by other quotes and is found often under the heading "Intolerance of Other Christians" or "Death and Torture for Catholics, Protestant Dissidents, and Jews." Second, in context, Luther allows that those teachers "can still believe what he will," but cannot actively teach. This tolerating aspect is entirely left out of the Internet version of the quote!

Third, Luther goes on beyond this context about what to do if "the papists and the Lutherans (as they are called) are crying out against one another because of certain matters of belief, and preaching against one another..."(LW 13:62-63). He says, "My Lutherans ought to be willing to abdicate and be silent if they observed that they were not gladly heard" (LW 13:63). This is yet another aspect of tolerance left out of the Internet version of this quote, and it certainly doesn't support the sometimes used heading, "Death and Torture for Catholics..." Luther then has a short discussion on those factions who argue over customs not found in the Bible. Notice the lack of intolerance in Luther's comments,
For what the Scriptures do not contain, the preachers ought not wrangle about in the presence of the people. Rather they ought to deal always with the Scriptures, for love and peace are far more important than all ceremonies. Thus St. Paul says (Col. 3:14) that peace is to be preferred to all else, and it is unchristian to let peace and unity yield to ceremonies. If this command does not help, then he who, without Scripture, insists on ceremonies as necessary to salvation, and who would bind men’s consciences, should be ordered to keep silent (LW 13:63)
He then goes on to have a brief discussion about secret ceremonies. He says they should not be tolerated. He's referring to those teachers who hold religious meetings in secret without the knowledge of the church. He then says, "For the rest, anyone may read what he likes and believe what he likes. If he will not hear God, let him hear the devil" (LW 13:64). That's yet another aspect of Luther's tolerance left out of the Internet version of this quote. This leads directly into a discussion in regard to unauthorized religious teachers. Luther shows great concern for scrutinizing radical teachers that sneak into a community. Here we will pick up the tail end of the Internet quote we're scrutinizing:
I have had to say these things about the sneaks and false preachers—of whom there are now all too many—in order to warn both pastors and rulers. They should exhort and command their people to be on their guard against these vagabonds and knaves and to avoid them as sure emissaries of the devil, unless they bring good evidence that they are called and commanded by God to do this work in that special place. Otherwise no one should let them in or listen to them, even if they were to preach the pure Gospel, nay, even if they were angels from heaven and all Gabriels at that! For it is God’s will that nothing be done as a result of one’s own choice or decision, but everything as a consequence of a command or a call. That is especially true of preaching, as St. Peter says (2 Peter 1:20, 21): “You should know this first: No prophecy was brought out by the will of man; but the holy men of God spoke, driven by the Holy Spirit.” Therefore Christ, too (Luke 4:41), would not let the devils speak when they cried out that He was the Son of God and told the truth; for He did not want to permit such an example of preaching without a call. Let everyone, then, remember this: If he wants to preach or teach, let him give proof of the call or command which drives and compels him to it, or else let him be silent. If he does not want to do this, then let the rulers hand the knave over to the right master, the police. That will be what he deserves; for he certainly intends to start a rebellion, or worse, among the people (LW 13:65-66)
Notice Luther's warning against these teachers is not blatant intolerance across the board. He states they can be heard in society if "they bring good evidence that they are called and commanded by God to do this work in that special place." This is yet another aspect of tolerance left out of the Internet version of this quote. Those though that enter a community and simply demand an audience are not to be tolerated. Even this aspect of Luther's alleged "intolerance" amounts to a desire to keep peace and order in a community. In the background of Luther's concern were the extreme radicals like Thomas Müntzer (named by Luther in the same context, LW 13:64). Luther's "intolerance" in this aspect of the quote isn't a sweeping generalization, but has at its center the radicals causing societal unrest.

Certainly there are aspects of the quote in which Luther expresses intolerance, but it isn't to the extreme that is suggested by the truncated version of the quote. In context, Luther's primarily concerned with teaching / preaching radicals that cause societal unrest, but even in his intolerance of them, he would rather they be banished: "But if they went or stayed where there are no Christians, and where, like the Jews, they would be heard by no one, then we would have to let them blaspheme to the stones and trees in some forest, or possibly in the depths of the sea, or in a hot oven" (LW 13:67). If though they insist on teaching, they should be given over to the authorities.

As I stated above, there is a sense in which I'm sympathetic to the defenders of Rome who put forth the Tu quoque argument that Protestants have also committed atrocities, so bringing up Rome's past sins isn't a logically compelling argument against her . This is why I rarely have written against Rome by pointing out her moral evils. On the other hand, some of Rome's defenders have a habit of making Luther worse than he was: by presenting truncated quotes devoid of context, accompanied by spurious documentation. This I am not sympathetic to.  It is the way of propaganda. I am not sympathetic to such methodology, at all.