Sunday, December 10, 2017

Luther: “As little as one is able to remove mountains, to fly with the birds, to create new stars, or to bite off one’s nose, so little can on escape unchastity”

Here's a Martin Luther-related excerpt that appeared on the Catholic Answers Forums:

In studying Luther, we must remember that his cardinal dogma when he abandoned Catholic teaching was that man has no free will, that he can do no good, and that to subdue animal passion is neither necessary nor possible. He insists that the moral law of the Decalogue is not binding, that the 10 Commandments are abrogated and that they are no longer in force among Christians. “We must remove the Decalogue out of sight and heart”(De Wette, 4, 188). “If we allow them — the Commandments – any influence in our conscience, they become the cloak of all evil, heresies, and blasphemies.” (Comm. Ad Galatians). “If Moses should attempt to intimidate you with his stupid 10 Commandments, tell him right out: chase yourself to the Jews." (Wittenb. Ad 5, 1573). “As little as one is able to remove mountains, to fly with the birds, to create new stars, or to bite off one’s nose, so little can on escape unchastity.” (Alts Abenmachlslehre, 2, 118)

A number of quotes are presented. This entry will concentrate on the last quote: "As little as one is able to remove mountains, to fly with the birds, to create new stars, or to bite off one’s nose, so little can on escape unchastity. (Alts Abenmachlslehre, 2, 118)." As to the other quotes, I've covered most of them already as part of my Luther, Exposing The Myth series, or elsewhere on this blog.

This is one of those quotes that I categorically classify as the "Antinomian Luther." They are typically posted by those dedicated to defending the Roman church (but not limited to them!).  Historically, such "shock" quotes served as propaganda used by pre-1930 Roman Catholic controversialists. Notice in the paragraph above, the Catholic Answers participant says Luther believed "to subdue animal passion is neither necessary nor possible." Then quotes are brought forth to demonstrate Luther was fundamentally immoral and rejected God's law. The champion of this view was Heinrich Denifle (1844-1905), an Austrian Roman Catholic historian. For Denifle, one of Luther's major problems was lust and immorality. It was Luther's craving for sex that led him to not only break his monastic vows, but to revolt against the established Roman church.

Let's take a closer look at this quote and see what's going on. Let's see if the historical record proves Luther was a sex-driven person who abandoned God's law to fulfill his fleshly desires.

Plagiarism 
The person who posted the quote provides obscure documentation.  This person also stated,
I am a convert from Protestantism who used to idolize Luther until I read his writings (eventually). Before, and while undertaking my doctorate (early music history + performance), I had learned to read primary sources, this is what also lead me to the Catholic Church - the Apostolic Fathers + St Augustine + Aquinas. Today many people will watch a movie about Luther and think they are well informed about him.
I do question the validity of this testimony of learning, especially the claim of reading Luther's writings and the ability to read primary sources to form opinions. Of the two posts of Luther material this person presented in this discussion (#1, #2), neither demonstrates a straight reading of Luther. The material was probably taken from a few web-pages, then cut-and pasted over on to the discussion forum. I suspect this page, this page, and perhaps this page was utilized. Unless the person posting this material on Catholic Answers wrote these links, much of these posts were blatant plagiarism. Even if he (she?) did compose one of these web pages, I still doubt any of the material came from a straight reading (or "studying") of the "primary sources" for Luther. Some of what was posted was directly plagiarized from Father Patrick O'Hare's, The Facts about Luther, especially the quote above under scrutiny. The paragraph appears in almost the exact form in Father O'Hare's book on pages 314-315. O'Hare uses it to question Luther's morality: to prove his "disturbed conscience," and that "he was not a God-inspired man and had no claim to be considered even an ordinary reformer or spiritual guide." O'Hare states, 
In studying Luther, we must remember, that his cardinal dogma when he abandoned Catholic teaching, was that man has no free-will, that he can do no good and that to subdue animal passion is neither necessary nor possible. He insisted that the moral law of the Decalogue is not binding, that the Ten Commandments are abrogated and that they are no longer in force among Christians. "We must," he says, "remove the Decalogue out of sight and heart." (De Wette, 4, 188.) "If we allow them—the Commandments—any influence in our conscience, they become the cloak of all evil, heresies and blasphemies." (Comm. ad Galat. p. 310.) "If Moses should attempt to intimidate you with his stupid Ten Commandments, tell him right out: chase yourself to the Jews." (Wittenb. ad. 5, 1573.) Having thus unceremoniously brushed aside the binding force of the moral law, we do not wonder that he makes the following startling and shameless pronouncements. "As little as one is able," he says, "to remove mountains, to fly with the birds (Mist und Ham halten), to create new stars, or to bite off one's nose, so little can one escape unchastity." Alts Abendmahlslehre, 2, 118.) Out of the depths of his depraved mind, he further declares: "They are fools who attempt to overcome temptations (temptations to lewdness) by fasting, prayer and chastisement.  For such temptations and immoral attacks are easily overcome when there are plenty of maidens and women." (Jen. ed. 2, p. 216.)
Whether the person at Catholic Answers took the quote from O'Hare's book or not, someone at some point did, and that's why it's on the Internet (now being disseminated by cut-and-paste plagiarism). To borrow from this Catholic Answers participant: today many people will read a biased and poorly researched web-page or book about Luther and think they are well informed about him.

Documentation
O'Hare does cite a reference for the quote in question: "Alts Abendmahlslehre, 2, 118." This cryptic reference occurs numerous times in nineteenth-century Luther-related materials, primarily German writings, and then fizzles out in twentieth-century usage.The reference appears to point to the second volume in a book in regard to the Lord's Supper. Whatever is meant by this reference, versions of this quote with a similar reference can be traced back in its polemical usage to at least 1781. For instance,  this eighteenth-century author says Luther lived his early years in constant lust and fornication, and that he freely admitted he was unable to live a chaste life. He the cites the quote under scrutiny:


Notice with this book, also mentioned is a "2" and a "118," which is similar to what O'Hare is citing, but it leaves out "Alts Abendmahlslehre." Unfortunately, what's being referred to by Father O'Hare and this other reference isn't clear to me. "Alts" could be referring to the Altenberg edition of Luther's collected writings. If O'Hare and this author are citing volume 2 page 118 of the Altenberg edition, there's nothing on this page similar to the quote in question, nor is this treatise about the Lord's Supper. Interestingly though, notice the "T. 2. 292" from the 1781 book above. There is something very similar to the quote on p. 292 of Altenberg, volume 2 (which will be discussed below).

Another reference that also occurs with this quote at times is "Gottlieb. 2. Ausg. S. 245." For instance, this book from 1896 uses the quote and adds the Gottlieb reference:

"Gottlieb. 2. Ausg." refers to Briefe aus Hamburg: ein Wort zur Vertheidigung der Kirche gegen die Angriffe von sieben Läugnern der Gottheit Christi, Volume 2 by Gottlieb (Tilmann Pesch SJ). Here is Page 245:


Gottlieb simply cites the quotes with the "Alts Abendmahlslehre"  reference: "In abundance, Luther often says it outright, after man Pure, chaste life is impossible. As little as I can paint away mountains, fly with the birds, hold manure and urine, darken the sun, create new stars, and bite my nose, I can not let go of fornication (Alte Abendmahlslehre 2. 118)."

Context
I'm not sure what source is meant by "Alte Abendmahlslehre 2." However,  as stated above, there is something very similar to the quote on p. 292 of Altenberg, volume 2 (cited in the 1781 text).  Page 292 states:


This page is part of Letter Luther wrote in August 1523 to the Burgemeister at Nuremburg."to resist papal pressures and to appoint an evangelical preacher." Jules Michelet explains:
One of the points which gave the greatest disquietude to the Reformer was the abolition of monastic vows. In 1522, he sent forth an exhortation on this subject to the four mendicant orders. The Augustines, in the month of March, the Carthusians in August, declared energetically in his favour.
To the lieutenants of his imperial majesty at Nuremberg, he writes, in August, 1523: "It is inconsistent with the nature of God to require vows which it is impossible for human nature to keep. . . Dear lords, we implore you to unbend in this matter. You know not what horrible and infamous cruelties the devil exercises in convents; render not yourselves accomplices in his wickedness, charge not your consciences with his guilt. If my bitterest enemies knew that which I learn every day from all the countries about us—ah, I am sure they would at once assist me in overthrowing the convents! You compel me to cry out louder than I otherwise would. Give way, I entreat you, ere these scandals burst forth more scandalously than they need to do."
It is in the context of this letter that something very similar to the quote occurs. This letter can be found in Sämtliche Werke, Volumes 53, 182-190 with the quote on page 188 and also in WABr 3:367-374, with the relevant section on page 372:


To my knowledge, this letter has no official English translation. In this section, Luther says that unless God provides a miracle of chastity, a vow of chastity is impossible to keep. It would be like the miracle of a person flying like a bird (Wer will doch fliegen geloben wie ein Vogel, und halten, es sei denn Gottes Wunderzeichen da?). Mankind was not created for chastity, but rather to be fruitful and multiply. To impose a vow of chastity on someone naturally born to procreate is like a person trying to hold their dung and urine (Mist oder Harn halten).  

Conclusion
I would be surprised if  "Alte Abendmahlslehre 2. 118" said anything different than what Luther 's letter from August 1523 to the Burgemeister at Nuremburg says above. I would also be surprised if some other context (other than this letter) the quote is purported to have been taken from actually exists. True, some of the key phrases are missing from the August 23 letter:  "...to remove mountains, to create new stars, or to bite off one's nose...". After going through years of these quotes, one thing I've noticed is that when a Luther quote provides a number of statements together saying the same thing, they can at times be secondary summary statements put together by someone reading Luther. 

One thing is clear from the context: Luther believed in celibacy for those who were given it by God. Otherwise, Luther believed in the married life as the norm for human beings. Biologically, people are typically designed with the desire to procreate. This desire can either be carried out in a God pleasing way (marriage) of a non-God pleasing way (fornication). During Luther's time, the monks and nuns were plagued with fornication because of the unnatural vow they took. Some of Luther's detractors though (like Denifle and O'Hare) painted a much different picture: Luther was simply espousing blatant fornication. Perhaps these men took issue with Luther here because they themselves worked hard at keeping their vow of celibacy.

Luther wrote often on vows and chastity. In his extended treatment of 1 Corinthians 7, he ends with this summary that well explains his view:
Now we may summarize this chapter thus: It is well not to marry unless it is necessary. It becomes necessary when God has not given us the rare gift of chastity, for no one is created for chastity, but we are all born to beget children and carry the burdens of married life, according to Gen. 1; 2, and 3. Now, if someone should not suffer from this necessity, he would be the exception solely by the grace and the miraculous hand of God, not because of command, vow, or intent. Where God does not effect this, it may be attempted, but it will come to no good end. Therefore they are nothing but abominable murderers of souls who put young people into monasteries and nunneries and keep them there by force, as though chastity were something that could be put on and off like a shoe and something that is in our hand. Meanwhile they themselves take quite a different view and drive others to attempt what they have never even raised their little finger to attempt or would not be able to. It is easy to say: “Be chaste,” but why are you not chaste? It is great for you to eat like a pig and drink like a horse while telling me to fast! But enough said for those who are willing to listen. And what more can one say to those who will not listen? May God enlighten them or prevent them from strangling souls in this fashion! Amen. (LW 28:55-56).

Friday, December 01, 2017

Luther: Since the downfall of Popery...the people have learned to despise the word of God

This Martin Luther quote showed up on the Catholic Answers Forums:

Luther expressed remorse on the effects of his “faith alone and flee from good works” doctrine on the German people at the time:

“Since the downfall of Popery and the cessations of excommunications and spiritual penalties, the people have learned to despise the word of God. They care no longer for the churches; they have ceased to fear and honor God….I would wish, if it were possible, to leave these men without a preacher or pastor, and let them live like swine. There is no longer any fear or love of God among them. After throwing off the yoke of the Pope, everyone wishes to live as he pleases.”

This is one of those quotes that I categorically classify as "Did Luther Regret the Reformation?" They are typically posted by those dedicated to defending the Roman church.  Historically, such "shock" quotes served as propaganda used by pre-1930 Roman Catholic controversialists. Those writers put forth the conclusion that the Reformation was a failure: it didn't produce any real fruit, and Luther's own words and the state of Protestantism at the time prove it. The argument goes: Protestantism isn't a movement of the church. It is the result of heresy, and heresy never leads anyone to true holiness. Then statements are typically brought forth from Luther's career, indicting him of regret for starting the Reformation. Most of these pre-1930 books had fallen into obscurity, but with the arrival of the information explosion brought forth by the Internet, these quotes made a comeback. It's not at all uncommon to visit discussion forums like Catholic Answers and find these "regret" quotes taking center-stage.

Let's take a closer look at this quote and see what's going on. Let's see if the quote proves Luther's "remorse on the effects of his 'faith alone and flee from good works' doctrine," or it proves something quite different: that previous to Luther the people were compelled to support the Roman church, and in fact it was a monetary controversy (indulgences) that played a crucial role in sixteenth century history. While Luther was angry that once the people were not financially compelled, support for the local church dwindled, he was not remorseful about freeing the church from the overbearing Papacy.

Plagiarism
The person who posted the quote provides no documentation. However, this person also stated,
I am a convert from Protestantism who used to idolize Luther until I read his writings (eventually). Before, and while undertaking my doctorate (early music history + performance), I had learned to read primary sources, this is what also lead me to the Catholic Church - the Apostolic Fathers + St Augustine + Aquinas. Today many people will watch a movie about Luther and think they are well informed about him.
I do question the validity of this testimony of learning, especially the claim of reading Luther's writings and the ability to read primary sources to form opinions. Of the two posts of Luther material this person presented in this discussion (#1, #2), neither demonstrates a straight reading of Luther. The material was probably taken from a few web-pages, then cut-and pasted over on to the discussion forum. I suspect  this pagethis page, and perhaps this page was utilized. Unless the person posting this material on Catholic Answers wrote these links, much of these posts was blatant plagiarism. Even if he (she?) did compose one of these web pages, I still doubt any of the material came from a straight reading of the "primary sources" for Luther. Some of what was posted was directly plagiarized from Father Patrick O'Hare's, The Facts about Luther, especially the quote above under scrutiny. The quote appears in the exact form in Father O'Hare's book on page 130. O'Hare uses it to "call Luther himself as witness and give his own declaration as to the effects produced upon morality and religion by the new gospel of 'faith without works.'" O'Hare's book states,
"Since the downfall of Popery, and the cessations of excommunications and spiritual penalties, the people have learned to despise the word of God. They care no longer for the churches; they have ceased to fear and honor God. ... I would wish if it were possible to leave these men without preacher or pastor, and let them live like swine. There is no longer any fear or love of God among them. After throwing off the yoke of the Pope every one wishes to live as he pleases." (These and numerous other lamentations may be found in Walch ed.)
Whether the person at Catholic Answers took the quote from O'Hare's book or not, someone at some point did, and that's why it's on the Internet (now being disseminated by cut-and-pasted and plagiarism). To borrow from this Catholic Answers participant: today many people will read a biased and poorly researched web-page or book about Luther and think they are well informed about him.

Documentation
One thing to notice immediately is that Father O'Hare doesn't really document the quote either. He simply alludes to the old Walch version of Luther's Works, as if he's guessing. I suspect O'Hare took the quote from either Martin John Spalding's The History of the Protestant Reformation (1860), or more likely,  Jean Marie Vincent Audin's History of the Life, Writings, and Doctrines of Martin Luther (1841). O'Hare cites both a number of times, and the wording of the quote is a close match. Spalding actually breaks the quote up. The first part found on page 258, and the later part found on  page 403. Spalding uses the reference,  "Luther, Werke, edit. Altenberg, tom, iii, 519," and also "Reinhardt—Sammtliche Reformations predigten, tom, iii, p. 445" (and also page 446).  J.M. Audin's uses the quote with a larger context on p. 352:
Since the downfall of popery, and the cessation of its excommunications and spiritual penalties, the people have learned to despise the word of God. They care no longer for the churches: they have ceased to fear and honour God. It is the duty of the elector, as supreme chief, to watch over and defend the sacred work, which every one abandons. It is his duty to oblige the cities and villages, to raise schools, sound masterships, and support pastors, as they are bound to make bridges, roads, and raise public edifices. I would wish, if it were possible, to leave these men without preacher or pastor, and let them live like swine. There is no longer any fear or love of God among them. After throwing off the yoke of the pope, every one wishes to live as he pleases. But it is the duty of all, especially of the prince, to bring up youth in the fear and love of the Lord, and provide them with teachers and pastors. If the old people care not for these things, let them go to the d—l. But it would be a shame for the government to let the youth wallow in the mire of ignorance and vice" [Luther's werke, Ed. of Altenberg, t. III. p. 519. Reinhard's Sämmtliche Reformations predigten, t. 3. p. 445].
Audin cites the same references (also in his original French version) as Spalding, and in fact, every
example of the quote I could find (in this English form) used the same documentation. Looking at the later reference first, here is Reinhard's Reformations Predigtentom, iii, p. 445-446. This context contains a discussion about Luther's view on schools and education, including an extended passage from Luther's  An die Ratsherren aller Städte deutschen Landes, dass sie christliche Schulen aufrichten und halten sollen (1524) (LW 45:339-378), but there is no inclusion of the quote in question. The context presented by both Audin and Spalding give off the appearance that the quote is from Luther's 1530 treatise, "A Sermon on Keeping Children in School" (LW 46:207-257), but the quote is not found in that treatise either.

In regard to the first reference, "Luther's werke, Ed. of Altenberg, t. III. p. 519," this is to the Altenberg edition of Luther's works, "Die Altenburger Ausgabe von Luthers" (1661-1664),  Alle Deutschen Bücher und Schrifften des theuren, seeligen Mannes Gottes, Doctor Martini Lutheri: XXV.-XXVIII. Jahr, Volume 3. Here is page 519.



The quote is from a letter Luther penned to Elector John of Saxony, November 22, 1526.  The letter can also be found in WA Br 4:135-137 (a nice clear German copy of the letter can be found here). As alluded to by O'Hare, the text is in Walch (21:156). The letter was not included in the English edition of Luther's Works, but was translated by Preserved Smith in Luther's Correspondence and Other Contemporary Letters, vol II, p.383-385. There is another English translation here, and a partial English translation here.

Context
743. LUTHER TO THE ELECTOR JOHN OF SAXONY.
DeWette, iii, 135. German. (Wittenberg), November 22, 1526. 
Grace and peace in Christ. Serene, highborn Prince, gracious Lord. For a long time I have brought no supplications to your Grace, and they have now accumulated. I hope your Grace will .be patient. There is nothing else for me to do. 
In the first place, gracious Lord, the complaints of the pastors almost everywhere are immeasurably great. The peasants will simply not give any more, and so great is this ingratitude for God's holy Word among the people that beyond all doubt God has a great plague in store for us. If I knew how to do it with a good conscience I would even help to bring it about that they should have no pastors or preachers and live like swine, as, indeed, they do. There is no fear of God and no discipline any longer, for the papal ban is abolished and everyone does what he will
But because all of us, and especially the rulers, are commanded to care for the poor children who are born every day and are growing up, and to keep them in the fear of God and under discipline, we must have schools and pastors and preachers. If the older people do not want them, they may go to the devil; but if the young people are neglected and are not trained, it is the fault of the rulers, and the land will be filled with wild, loose-living people. Thus not only God's command, but our own necessity compels us to find some way out of the difficulty.
But now the enforced rule of the Pope and the clergy is at an end in your Grace's dominions, and all the monasteries and foundations fall into your Grace's hands as the ruler, the duty and the difficulty of setting these things in order comes with them. No one assumes it, or can or ought assume it. Therefore, as I have said to your Grace's chancellor, and to Nicholas von Ende, it will be necessary for your Grace, as the person whom God has called to this work and entrusted with the remedy, to have the land visited as quickly as possible by four persons; two whose specialty is taxes and property, and two who are competent to pass on doctrine and character. These men, at your Grace's command, ought to have the schools and parishes set in order and provided for, where it is necessary.
If there is a town or a village which can do it, your Grace has the power to compel it to support schools, preaching places and parishes. If they are unwilling to do this or to consider it for their own salvation's sake, then your Grace is the supreme guardian of the youth and of all who need his guardianship, and ought to hold them to it by force, so that they must do it. It is just like compelling them by force to contribute and to work for the building of bridges and roads, or any other of the country's needs. 
What the country needs and must have ought to be given and helped along by those who use and enjoy the country. Now there is no more necessary thing than the education of the people who are to come after us and be the rulers. But if they cannot do it and are overburdened with other things, there are the monastic properties which were established chiefly for the purpose of relieving the common man, and ought still be used for that purpose. Your Grace can easily think that in the end there would be an evil rumor, and one that could not be answered, if the schools and the parishes went down and the nobles were to appropriate the monastic properties for themselves. This charge is already made, and some of them are doing it. Since then these properties are of no benefit to your Grace's treasury, and were given in the first place for purposes of worship, they ought rightly to serve this purpose first of all. What remains over your Grace can apply to the country's needs, or give to the poor. 
In the second place, Doctor Carlstadt has earnestly begged me to write your Grace to allow him to live at Kemberg, for he cannot stay in the villages because of the churlishness of the peasants, as your Grace can learn from this letter of his and the one to John von Greffendorf; and yet he shrinks from writing to your Grace himself. Since he has so far been quiet in public, and some of us, including Hans Metzsch, think it is a good thing because the provost of Kemberg could more easily have an eye on him, therefore I, too, humbly ask that your Grace will graciously grant him his request, although your Grace has already done a great deal and made himself much talked about on his account. God will repay your Grace the more richly. For his soul he is himself responsible; to his body and his family we ought to do good. The grace of God be with us. Amen.
 Your Grace's humble servant, Martin Luther
After going through this text, it becomes apparent that Audin (and his English translator) were a little loose with their translation of the context. The first thought in the German fourth paragraph actually appears to be the first thought in Audin's translation:  "But now the enforced rule of the Pope and the clergy is at an end" =  "Since the downfall of popery, and the cessation of its excommunications and spiritual penalties." The opening of the fourth paragraph in German text reads, "Nun aber in... Fürstenthum päbstlich und geistlicher Zwang und Ordnung aus ist." Audin completely took out "Erstlich, gnädigster Herr, ist des Klagens über alle Maß viel der Pfarrherrn fast an allen Orten" and appears to have replaced it with a translation of "Nun aber in... Fürstenthum päbstlich und geistlicher Zwang und Ordnung aus is"! This sentence from the fourth paragraph has to do with the fact that sine the Papal rule had ended in Germany, the "monasteries and foundations" were now under the control of the Elector. Martin Brecht explains, "In taking over the monasteries and foundations, significant portions of the possessions of the church had come to the sovereign, and therefore he was responsible for regulating the church's financial affairs" (Brecht, Luther 2, p. 280). In context, Luther is saying that since the papal rule has come to end, "the monasteries and foundations fall into your Grace's hands as the ruler." In the English translation I've utilized (Preserved Smith), what had ended was an "enforced papal rule" that produced funds to support local parishes. If one compares the rest of Audin's translation of the letter (above) with the original, there are some other curious features. For instance, Audin interjects comments made much later in the letter into earlier places. Notice where he puts the part about "bridges, roads, and raise public edifices." This he places before "I would wish, if it were possible, to leave these men without preacher or pastor." Overall, Audin created a piece of propaganda.

Historical Context
The context is a snapshot of the historical financial crisis of the local parishes and Luther's concern.  Arthur Cushman McGiffert has a helpful discussion of the situation starting here. This author states,
One of the principal difficulties the new movement had to face was the lack of adequate financial support. In many cases those in control of ecclesiastical livings were out of sympathy with the Reformation and refused to employ the funds for the support of evangelical preachers. In other cases the abolition of indulgences, private masses, and the like, greatly reduced the income of the churches, and too little was left to maintain a regular incumbent. In the summer of 1525, Luther advised the new elector not to respect the right of patronage when it operated to the disadvantage of the Reformation, and in the autumn he urged him to use his authority to prevent the complete impoverishment of the churches and to turn existing funds to the support of the gospel. Thus he wrote on the thirty-first of October:
"As the university is now in good order and the subject of worship has been taken in hand, there are two other matters demanding the attention of your Grace as civil ruler. The first is the wretched condition of the parishes. No one gives, no one pays. Offerings have ceased, and regular incomes are lacking altogether or are too meager. The common man respects neither preacher nor pastor, so that unless the parishes and pulpits are taken in hand by your Grace, and proper support provided, in a short time there will be no homes for the clergy left, and no schools or pupils. Thus God's word and service will fall to the ground. Therefore may your Grace permit God to make still further use of you, and may you be his true instrument, to your Grace's comfort and satisfaction of conscience. For to this God certainly calls you through us and through the existing need. Your Grace will find a way of doing it. There are cloisters, foundations, endowments, and funds enough, if your Grace will appropriate them to this purpose. God will also add his blessing, and will give the business success."
 In the letter from November 22, Luther suggests forming a small committee to visit the local churches to assess the situation. McGiffert reports that this advice was followed, and these visits "found things in a very deplorable state." According to Martin Brecht:
One of the chief considerations was assuring that pastors and teachers receive a regular income. The difficulties that remained in this field occupied [Luther] for many years and had to be addressed again and again. Although large sums had earlier been spent for the clergy, now people were unwilling to give even a portion for pastors and teachers, so they had to go hungry or were considerably underpaid. Luther saw this as disdain for God and his Word. 
Brecht also includes a discussion about the letter from November 22, 1526, "The peasants were no longer paying their church obligations, and God's punishment for such ingratitude toward his Word was making itself known. Now that the sanction of the ban no longer existed, the will to pay had collapsed" (Brecht 2, 280-281).

Conclusion
The context certainly does not prove Luther was showing "remorse on the effects of his 'faith alone and flee from good works' doctrine" as the Catholic Answers participant suggests.  Rather, Luther was quite committed to the Reformation on November 22, 1526, this despite his angry concern for the lack of funds being contributed to the welfare of the new church.

When some of Rome's defenders read Luther's comments from this letter, they view them as his admission to the failure of the Reformation. If one were to turn the argument around, the previous societal situation in which people were compelled to support the Papal church must mean that the "gospel" of the papal church was a success. This hardly follows, since many within the Roman church now admit to the societal and financial abuses perpetrated by her previous to the Reformation. People contribute funds to all sorts of organizations. If one simply uses the financial success of a church as proof for its God-ordained "gospel," then Benny Hinn or the Mormon church must be demonstrating the positive effects of their teaching.

The letter is straightforward: people had been previously compelled to support the papacy, and the papacy supported the local parishes. Now that people were no longer being compelled, the people no longer gave enough funds to maintain the local churches. Perhaps Rome's defenders see this as an immediate "failure" of the Reformation. Perhaps. Would it not make more sense though to see this situation as the growing pains of churches now cut off from the Papal machine? Of course funds were insufficient. Had you or I been financially bled by an an institution, freedom from it would give one pause before contributing somewhere else. Regardless, the Lutheran church did manage to financially survive past the sixteenth century, and continues to this day. 

Of course Luther would complain about the lack of financial support for the church. Is this complaining "remorse" for the "effects" of the gospel? Not at all, despite his lamenting over the situation, Luther went on to preach the gospel and be an advocate for the well-being of the local churches for the rest of his life.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Luther: Tetzel Sold an Indulgence to a Man who Then Robbed Him?

I came across this tidbit over on the Catholic Answers Forum:

Wikipedia tells a story about a man who asked Tetzel if he could buy an indulgence for a future sin. He did so, and then “used” that indulgence to rob Tetzel dumb, deaf and blind. 

This little story presents a good opportunity to delve into Wikipedia: your source for everything one needs to know, even if it's wrong or perhaps just hearsay. Wiki attributes this story to... none other than... Martin Luther. They say it's "Luther's Impression" of  Johann Tetzel.  Here's what's currently posted on Wikipedia:
According to Luther, after Tetzel had received a substantial amount of money at Leipzig, a nobleman asked him if it were possible to receive a letter of indulgence for a future sin. Tetzel quickly answered in the affirmative, insisting that the payment had to be made at once. The nobleman did so and received thereupon letter and seal from Tetzel. When Tetzel left Leipzig the nobleman attacked him along the way, gave him a thorough beating, and sent him back empty-handed to Leipzig with the comment that it was the future sin which he had in mind. Duke George at first was quite furious about the incident, but when he heard the whole story, he let it go without punishing the nobleman.
This story serves as an example why Wikipedia should not be used as a primary reference. This is not a report "according to Luther" nor is it "Luther's impression" of Tetzel.  While Luther did make a number of comments about his adversary, this account is not Luther's. Further, the story is just that: a purported story of something that may have happened to Tetzel.

Documentation From Wikipedia and Plagiarism
At least at the time of the composing of this blog entry, Wikipedia gives no documentation. Wikipedia articles are composed by "volunteers" that "do not need to have any formal training." It's no wonder therefore that Wiki content appears and disappears as per the whims of these volunteers. Kudos to Wikipedia though for providing transparency as to how these covert Wiki articles are edited. In this instance, the paragraph under scrutiny was added November 26, 2015 to an already existing entry on Tetzel.  For this added story, the Wiki volunteer cited "Johann Tetzel" Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911 Edition" (without a volume or page number) as proof of the story's validity. This reference though is bogus (here is the page from the Encyclopedia). Three minutes later on the same day, Wiki then provided this reference:
Description of Incident Involving Tetzel, by Luther http://randy_horton.myteachersite.org/teacher/files/documents/ref%20primary%20sources%20-%20tetzel%20&%20indulgences.pdf Description of Incident Involving Tetzel, by Luther
This hyper-link was eventually edited down to, "Description of Incident Involving Tetzel, by Luther." On March 18, 2017, someone then added a PDF link page 745 of this this book to verify the story. This was fallacious as well: there is no page 745 in the book being cited. Even though a similar story is recounted on page 445,  on May 21, 2017 this PDF book link was removed, along with the original documentation-link "Description of Incident Involving Tetzel, by Luther." That's how the entry stands now: no documentation.

Wiki's original documentation, "Description of Incident Involving Tetzel, by Luther" was to a PDF link entitled, The Reformation, Primary Sources apparently put together by someone named "Randy Horton." The website hosting this PDF is My Teacher Site. Randy Horton  appears to be a teacher at UME Preparatory Academy (a K-12 school), using the "My Teacher" site to put up documents for young students. His Tetzel link has been up since at least Sept. 2015.  Horton provides the documentation, "Luthers Schriften, herausg. von Walch. XV, 446" (we'll look at  that reference later on). I suspect that Mr. Horton did not read Walch XV and then produce this English paragraph. The way a few of his quotes are laid out are very similar to this older web-page which says the English version of this Tetzel story is from Hans. J. Hillerbrand (ed.), The Reformation in its own Words (London, 1964). The story / quote can be found on pages 44-45, worded (with the same documentation) exactly as Mr. Horton's "My Teacher" web-page. The translation used by Wiki / Horton is Hillerbrand's. Horton can be excused; he's not looking to sell his material, he's a grade school teacher, probably using the material in a lecture. On the other hand, what irks me is that there are authors that have taken Hillerbrand's translation without crediting him for it while trying to sell their materials:
Michael Grzonka, Luther and His Times. This author obviously utilized Hillerbrand's translation, but tried to rewrite it to make it appear to be his own words. Certain phrases are exactly the same as Hillerbrand's, for instance, "...nobleman attacked him along the way...," "...gave him a thorough beating, and sent him back...".
Andreas Malessa, The Unreformed Martin Luther: A Serious (and Not So Serious) Look at the Man Behind the Mythsp. 27-28.
Eric Metaxas, Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World, p. 106. Not only does this author provide no documentation, he erroneously attributes this story to "a contemporary of Luther's named Myconius."
We'll see below that this story is not something Luther stated. Rather, it was a story recounted in an early version of Luther's works, and whoever at Wikipedia cut-and-pasted it simply assumed Luther said it. Their history of editing demonstrates something I've seen often in their articles: they make assertions, and then try to document those assertions. This is a backwards methodology demonstrating poor research skills.

Other English Sources
Leaving the land of Wikipedia for a moment, this Tetzel story has circulated for a long time. Various published versions of it are available. In Luther and His Times, the story is presented with some extra details sifted from Walch 15 mixed in with some sentences plagiarized from Hillerbrand:



Another version (a much older English version) can be found in Jean Henri Merle d'Aubigné's History of the Great Reformation, vol. 1:
A Saxon gentleman had heard Tetzel at Leipsic, and was much shocked by his impostures. He went to the monk, and inquired if he was authorised to pardon sins in intention, or such as the applicant intended to commit? "Assuredly," answered Tetzel; "I have full power from the Pope to do so." Well," returned the gentleman, "I want to take some slight revenge on one of my enemies, without attempting his life. I will pay you ten crowns, if you will give me a letter of indulgence that shall bear me harmless." Tetzel made some scruples; they struck their bargain for thirty crowns. Shortly after, the monk set out from Leipsic. The gentleman, attended by his servants, laid wait for him in a wood between Juterboch and Treblin, — fell upon him, gave him a beating, and carried off the rich chest of indulgence money the inquisitor had with him. Tetzel clamoured against this act of violence, and brought an action before the judges. But the gentleman showed the letter signed by Tetzel himself, which exempted him beforehand from all responsibility. Duke George, who had at first been much irritated at this action, upon seeing this writing, ordered that the accused should be acquitted. [Albinus Meissn. Chronik. L.W. (W.) xv. 446, (and) c. Hechitus in Vita Tezelli].
And finally, John Dowling's History of Romanism appears to have utilized d'Aubigné:
On another occasion a gentleman of Saxony had heard Tetzel at Leipsic, and was much shocked by his impostures. He went to the monk, and inquired if he was authorized to pardon sins in intention, or such as the applicant intended to commit ?" Assuredly," answered Tetzel; "I have full power from the Pope to do so."— "Well," returned the gentleman, "I want to take some slight revenge on one of my enemies, without attempting his life. I will pay you ten crowns, if you will give me a letter of indulgence that shall bear me harmless." Tetzel made some scruples; they struck their bargain for thirty crowns. Shortly after, the monk set out from Leipsic. The gentleman, attended by his servants, laid wait for him in a wood between Jaterboch and Treblin,—fell upon him, gave him a beating, and carried off the rich chest of indulgence money the inquisitor had with him. Tetzel clamored against this act of violence, and brought an action before the judges. But the gentlemen showed the letter signed by Tetzel himself, which exempted him beforehand from all responsibility. Duke George who had at first been much irritated at this action, upon seeing this writing, ordered that the accused should be acquitted.

Documentation
Mentioned above a number of times as the source has been the Walch edition of Luther's Works, 15:446. This volume contains more than just Luther's writings. It also includes early historical documents from the early Reformation period. The story in question is not a writing or saying of Luther's. It an historical account about Tetzel from these other historical sources. Here's the text from Walch, 15:446-




The Walch text here says that there are different versions of this story available, and included above are two of those versions. Walch also provides references to a number of historians mentioning this incident. The first  account (#96) is the version mentioned above by Jean Henri Merle d'Aubigné (Albinus Meissn. Chronik.). This refers to Petrus Albinus, Chronicles of Meissen [information on Albinus can be found here]. Meissnische Land-Chronika can be found here, and here is page 342 cited by Walch].  "Löscher's Ref-Acta, Vol. I, p.405" refers to Valentin Ernst Löscher's Vollständige Reformations-Acta und Documenta, oder umständliche Vorstellung des Evangelischen Reformations-Wercks, p.405. "Tentzels Hit. Bericht, Bd. I, S. 111" refers to Wilhelm Ernst Tentzel's Historischer Bericht vom Anfang und ersten Fortgang der Reformation Lutheri, p. 111.

The second account (#97) is the work of  Georgius Arnoldus (Georg Arnoldus), from his Vita Mauritii Electoris Saxoniae (Life of Maurice, Elector of Saxony) [Information on Arnoldus can be found here. Information on Maurice can be found here]. The Life of Maurice was also include in Mencken, Scripores Rerum Germanicarum tom II, p. 1151 (mentioned by Walch above). Also being cited by Walsh is Commentarius historicus et apologeticus de Lutheranismo, Volume 1 By Veit Ludwig von Seckendorf, p. 26.


Conclusion
All of this Wiki-produced-tedium should lead the honest inquirer to one simple conclusion: Wikipedia is not to be trusted as any sort of primary source. Simply take a look at the way the stories are presented above. The German versions are fairly straight forward. Some of the English versions above appear to be fleshing out the story for dramatic effect. As far as I can tell, the story functions more as hearsay than an actual historical happening. Sure, the account is within the realm of probability, but Albinus wrote his version in 1580, Arnoldus did his in 1569. Neither one was present to hear Tetzel preach on indulgences.

One thing is certain: Luther did not write this story. Wikipedia (or anyone else crediting it to him) never bothered to actually look it up in Walch 15. Those folks selling books using Hillerbrand's translation without crediting him, be they Roman Catholic, Protestant, or Atheists, etc... well, shame on them. For years I've caught Rome's defenders doing the same sort of thing: giving an English quote they've taken from a secondary source, and then attempting to pass themselves off as honest and meaningful by citing a German text. It doesn't prove anything except that actual research was not done.

Someone may well ask, why should I be trusted for the content just presented? To this I say "kudos to you." Go and do your own research.

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 aomin.org

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.