Response to Rev. Paul T. McCain regarding Smalcald Articles

Rev. Paul T. McCain (a Lutheran [LCMS] pastor) wrote:

Don’t misunderstand. Luther is perfectly clear elsewhere that he does not deny that Roman Christians are still Christians; the question is whether the Roman Pontiff is the voice of the Church and whether the curia and bishops submissive to him are the voice of the Church.


I have to wonder whether he and I read the same Smalcald Articles. In my copy we find this comment:

O Lord Jesus Christ, do Thou Thyself convoke a Council, and deliver Thy servants by Thy glorious advent! The Pope and his adherents are done for; they will have none of Thee. Do Thou, then, help us, who are poor and needy, who sigh to Thee, and beseech Thee earnestly, according to the grace which Thou hast given us, through Thy Holy Ghost, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Father, blessed forever. Amen.

– Smalcald Articles, Preface, 15 (emphasis mine)

And this:

Of this article nothing can be yielded or surrendered [nor can anything be granted or permitted contrary to the same], even though heaven and earth, and whatever will not abide, should sink to ruin. For there is none other name under heaven, given among men whereby we must be saved, says Peter, Acts 4:12. And with His stripes we are healed, [Is. 53:5]. And upon this article all things depend which we teach and practice in opposition to the Pope, the devil, and the [whole] world. Therefore, we must be sure concerning this doctrine, and not doubt; for otherwise all is lost, and the Pope and devil and all things gain the victory and suit over us.

– Smalcald Articles, Part 2, Article 1, 5

And this:

For all his bulls and books are extant, in which he roars like a lion (as the angel in Rev. 12 depicts him, [crying out] that no Christian can be saved unless he obeys him and is subject to him in all things that he wishes, that he says, and that he does. All of which amounts to nothing less than saying: Although you believe in Christ, and have in Him [alone] everything that is necessary to salvation, yet it is nothing and all in vain unless you regard [have and worship] me as your god, and be subject and obedient to me. And yet it is manifest that the holy Church has been without the Pope for at least more than five hundred years, and that even to the present day the churches of the Greeks and of many other languages neither have been nor are yet under the Pope. Besides, as often remarked, it is a human figment which is not commanded, and is unnecessary and useless; for the holy Christian [or catholic] Church can exist very well without such a head, and it would certainly have remained better [purer, and its career would have been more prosperous] if such a head had not been raised up by the devil.

– Smalcald Articles, Part 2, Article 4, 4-5

And likewise:

This teaching shows forcefully that the Pope is the very Antichrist, who has exalted himself above, and opposed himself against Christ because he will not permit Christians to be saved without his power, which, nevertheless, is nothing, and is neither ordained nor commanded by God. This is, properly speaking to exalt himself above all that is called God as Paul says, 2 Thess. 2:4. Even the Turks or the Tartars, great enemies of Christians as they are, do not do this, but they allow whoever wishes to believe in Christ, and take bodily tribute and obedience from Christians.

The Pope, however, prohibits this faith, saying that to be saved a person must obey him. This we are unwilling to do, even though on this account we must die in God’s name. This all proceeds from the fact that the Pope has wished to be called the supreme head of the Christian Church by divine right. Accordingly he had to make himself equal and superior to Christ, and had to cause himself to be proclaimed the head and then the lord of the Church, and finally of the whole world, and simply God on earth, until he has dared to issue commands even to the angels in heaven. And when we distinguish the Pope’s teaching from, or measure and hold it against, Holy Scripture, it is found [it appears plainly] that the Pope’s teaching, where it is best, has been taken from the imperial and heathen law, and treats of political matters and decisions or rights, as the Decretals show; furthermore, it teaches of ceremonies concerning churches, garments, food, persons and [similar] puerile, theatrical and comical things without measure, but in all these things nothing at all of Christ, faith, and the commandments of God. Lastly, it is nothing else than the devil himself, because above and against God he urges [and disseminates] his [papal] falsehoods concerning masses, purgatory, the monastic life, one’s own works and [fictitious] divine worship (for this is the very Papacy [upon each of which the Papacy is altogether founded and is standing]), and condemns, murders and tortures all Christians who do not exalt and honor these abominations [of the Pope] above all things. Therefore, just as little as we can worship the devil himself as Lord and God, we can endure his apostle, the Pope, or Antichrist, in his rule as head or lord. For to lie and to kill, and to destroy body and soul eternally, that is wherein his papal government really consists, as I have very clearly shown in many books.

– Smalcald Articles, Part 2, Article 4, 10-14

(source for Smalcald Articles)

Obviously, Luther didn’t refer (in the Smalcald Articles) to Romanism as paganism, but he certainly doesn’t seem to have treated the adherents of the papacy as though they were justified in the sight of God. In fact, in the first quotation above he seems to indicate that by adhering to the pope (“the very Antichrist” in one of the later quotations) they have failed to adhere to Christ, and consequently are “done for” and about to face the wrath of God at the glorious advent (second coming) of Christ. I’m not sure Rev. McCain’s picture is totally accurate when he describes the “first evangelicals'” (his characterization based on the usage of the term) response to Rome’s claims:

What is the Church? Is Rome the Church? Ought we to listen to the Pope when he speaks as Bishop of Rome because there is some unique promise attached to his office? Smalcald Articles III, Article XII is joyously clear:

“We do not agree with them that they are the Church.” (Accent, should be on the Church) “They are not the Church. Nor will we listen to those things that, under the name of the Church, they command or forbid.”

As we’ve seen above, their claims were considerably more well-defined than simply stating that Rome is not the church.


16 Responses to “Response to Rev. Paul T. McCain regarding Smalcald Articles”

  1. natamllc Says:

    For me, of what I just read, this is the crux of the matter and can be contrasted with a verse which places the Supremacy squarely otherwise than earth's throne or the see or the seat across the Tiber!:::>TF:"….In fact, in the first quotation above he seems to indicate that by adhering to the pope ("the very Antichrist" in one of the later quotations) they have failed to adhere to Christ, and consequently are "done for" and about to face the wrath of God at the glorious advent (second coming) of Christ…..". Mat 7:21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. While we all should adhere to the Holy Spirit, Who is Eternal, One of the Triune, this temporal place, these present heavens and earth, the world and all things in it are not His home either.Jesus made it perfectly clear here when there was a brief misunderstanding of where the battle lines are:::>Joh 18:33 So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Joh 18:34 Jesus answered, "Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?" Joh 18:35 Pilate answered, "Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?" Joh 18:36 Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world." Joh 18:37 Then Pilate said to him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world–to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice."I guess, I suppose, just like those Words of Our Dear Alive, Dead and Alive King blew right over the head of Pilate, so they, to this day, blow right over the head of the Popes and their papacy?

  2. Christopher Says:

    McCain is repeating what Walther said (in reference to Luther) about Christians in denominations other than the Lutheran church. The Evangelical Lutheran Church (those bodies who subscribe without reservation to the Lutheran Confessions as the proper interpretation of Scripture) is considered the only true church. HOWEVER: In Luther and the Lutheran theologians, anywhere that the Scriptures are read and the Sacraments are rightly administered (that is, where the rites are observed according to the institution of Christ), there the Spirit is truly operating to convert people to the truth. As such, while Rome and the Reformed are considered to be heretical, individuals in those churches are saved if they have faith in Christ.The issue arises in Lutheran theology which places proper doctrine so high that when it meets human fallibility, a problem arises. False doctrine is viewed as contrary to the first commandment, making a false god. As a result, since we are saved by faith and not damned by our actions so long as we live in repentance, there is what is called a "felicitous inconsistency." "There are still Christians in the Reformed Church, among the Methodists, yea, among the papists. We have this precious promise in Is. 55:11: 'My Word shall not return unto Me void.' Wherever the Word of God is proclaimed or confessed or even recited during the service, the Lord is gathering a people for Himself. The Roman Church, for instance, still confesses that Christ is the Son of God and that He died on the cross to redeem the world. That is truth sufficient to bring a man to the knowledge of salvation." – C.F.W. Walther, p. 338, "Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel."And again on p. 339: "Then I understood that one does not have to condemn any one who is in error regarding some article of the Creed, but only those who have seen their error and still want to abide in it."To believe in Christ yet have false doctrine is called a "felicitous inconsistency" by Francis Pieper, an LCMS dogmatician.

  3. louis Says:

    "the Reformed are considered to be heretical"Really? I had no idea they thought that.

  4. Paul McCain Says:

    I find it more than a little amusing that an anonymous blogger, putting himself forward as some sort of Calvinist apologist, claims to know and understand the Lutheran Confessions better than a Lutheran pastor with a graduate degree in the Lutheran Confessions and is the General Editor of Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions.

  5. Turretinfan Says:

    You have a strange sense of humor, my friend.

  6. Turretinfan Says:

    But for the record – the point was really not that I know the Smalcald Articles better than you (not that one needs a graduate degree to understand them) but rather that your presentation was misleading.Of course, Luther didn't allege that all Roman Catholics are lost, or anything that extreme. Nevertheless, his view is not accurately captured by simply describing him as saying that Rome is not the church.

  7. natamllc Says:

    Pastor McCain,My church has decidedly turned in your direction, becoming more Reformed than not. You can know this for a fact by consulting Pastor Tom Baker, Dr. Steven Hein, James Nestigen, the dearly departed Gerhard Forde's books, Einar Billing, Wengren, Walther's radio briefs confined to a book of proper distinctions and of course the course the Protesters from Bro.Martin and John Calvin forward have led us these many years.When I consider the greatness of the weight, both they, place, and you, in the referred to article, placed, on the Scriptures, and I place on these verses after this comment, I find it rather musing you would trot out your excellencies, letters and high stature as a cure for the rebuttal the anonymous lover of Francis Turretin, TurretinFan, has so put over in here.What in God's Grace, Mercy and Name does this claim have to do with what has been honestly put over in the article here? Might you have put a fly in the ointment by so doing?"….claims to know and understand the Lutheran Confessions better than a Lutheran pastor with a graduate degree in the Lutheran Confessions and is the General Editor of Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions.".Now, here is what I will trot out here to bring a tiny bit of shame upon your hearing the Word:::>Isa 35:1 The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. Isa 35:2 It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the LORD, and the excellency of our God. Now so that that Excellency is put down to earth for us common poor sorts and wretches as I am, Isaiah makes it quite clear your excellencies go no further than those who would honor them all the while the sorts like me turn our gaze on Him and His Word for cause:::>Isa 35:8 And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein. Isa 35:9 No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there: Isa 35:10 And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.I will make this claim, I have as much respect for the Westminster Confessions of Faith as I do the book of Concord, the Confessions of the Lutheran Church.Now, Pastor, let me ask you, "would you consider that I hate you because I did not sit silent?"

  8. natamllc Says:

    TF,I might note now one of two things and maybe more is the reason we have not heard from Pastor McCain in here. Of course, you may have heard from him privately and if so there is no fault for that, seeing the Apostle Paul looked up the Jerusalem brothers privately at the outset of his work of Grace and Truth, too.Silence could be attributed to not caring to fight it out in these trenches, thus, I would conclude he is a wolf in Luther's reformed Monk's robes, colorful that some of them might be? Or, he just hasn't found time to even venture back in here to see that there is a trench to waddle in? Or, being forewarned of the capacity in here he has thought it prudent to let silence speak and our chimera explain the sound? I am certainly glad the Mind of Christ is Present over my thoughts and illusions sobering me?Having said that would you address this thought from a teaching on the matter raised by Christopher, a "felicitous inconsistency":::>From:::> "The Lutheran Doctrine Of The Felicitous InconsistencyExplained And Applied To ELCA Christologyby Martin Valleskey" we read:::>Some Calvinist teachers, despite insistence on particular grace, will point to passagesof Scripture that speak of universal grace, especially when one is in doubt (Pieper2:50).Is that a proper premise and begging a question? Would that be a fair representation of "some Calvinist Teachers" teaching universal grace inadvertantly, albeit, whose to know just how many Calvinist Teachers find themself there?Seeing your demonstration of perspicaciousness abounds through and through herein and at other blogs, I thought it elementary for your students to learn from you just what you think about both the doctrine of feliticous inconsistency and any teacher finding their word out in the world of universal grace?

  9. Christopher Says:

    Natamllc,I should hasten to point out with regard to the "felicitous inconsistency" as it appears in Lutheran dogmatics (from an LCMS perspective, as that is all I am familiar with) is usually only applicable to "non-teachers." False teachers fall under the potential condemnation due to them being judged harsher for their position as teachers. Thus, the only reason Lutherans might venerate the Pope per se is his holding of St. Peter's chair, but still recognizing his station of Vicar of Christ as heretical and leading to damnation because it leads to the papacy being antichrist. If felicitous inconsistency DOES hold true in these cases, it is both news to me, and also raises a problem with the idea in and of itself. I am equally curious as to TF's opinion on the subject.Chris

  10. Turretinfan Says:

    I would take the traditional Lutheran position as being that mere membership in the Roman church is not enough to damn someone, yet one cannot be an adherent of the papacy (the Antichrist) and of Christ, because a man cannot serve two masters. That's fairly similar to the Reformed view.

  11. natamllc Says:

    One can make the case then for the Apostle John.He was removed from the daily Life of the Church, the fellowship with the Head by that Gift, in the world, the communion of the Saints. It is though that Our Dear Savior saw to it his writings made it off the island of reclusion from the Gift to be read and strenthened by and enjoyed even to this day.So, in other words, one may be quite removed from the True Communion of the Saints and not forfeit their soul, because it is evident they too have received the Faith once delivered to the Saints and are grounded and settled in the sola fide by the Spirit of Grace. They just cross over much leaner than otherwise had they made it out and then added to the Fellowship of the Saints and attained to the depth of Wisdom and Grace within Her confines, enjoyed in the sweet fellowship, before crossing over?Once you adhere to the head, you are quite dead, this I agree, [ yet one cannot be an adherent of the papacy (the Antichrist) and of Christ,…].My first Pastor, one who can speak firsthand to that cross over, seeing he passed over some years ago taught us about engaging in doctrines to soon after becoming the Lord's disciple. His belief that it wasn't profitable to engage to deeply in doctrines before four primary things were in effect in this order, first, receiving Christ as Head, believing He died for our sins according to the Scripture, was buried and rose again, two, let Christ bring you into the depths of God's Love, three, once deeply rooted in this Love, let God impart His vision for the world to your heart and soul, four, from this let the Holy Spirit unite you to the diversity of the Priesthood with common bonds to the Salvation evident in others and then, only after those four things, then engage in these sorts of debates and discussions on doctrines and decrees and creeds and, and, and, intrepretations of the Word. You will remain unified with your True Brothers and nothing the devils do will divide you.Make no mistake about it, once you enter into agreements with the Saints to stand together, you now become the devil's prey.

  12. Coram Deo Says:

    The Reformation View of Roman CatholicismFrom the works of Martin Luther (1483-1546)What is the whole papacy but a beautiful false front and a deceptively glittering holiness under which the wretched devil lies in hiding? The devil always desires to imitate God in this way. He cannot bear to observe God speaking. If he cannot prevent it or hinder God’s Word by force, he opposes it with a semblance of piety, takes the very words God had spoken and so twist them as to peddle his lies and poison under their name. (What Luther Says, II: 10007)Since the papal church not only neglects the command of Christ but even compels the people to ignore it and to act against it, it is certain that it is not Christ’s church but the synagogue of Satan which prescribes sin and prohibits righteousness. It clearly and indisputably follows that it must be the abomination of Antichrist and the furious harlot of the devil. (What Luther Says, II: 1019)The negotiation about doctrinal agreement displeases me altogether, for this is utterly impossible unless the pope has his papacy abolished. Therefore avoid and flee those who seek the middle of the road. Think of me after I am dead and such middle-of-the-road men arise, for nothing good will come of it. There can be no compromise. (What Luther Says, II: 1019) Cont.

  13. Coram Deo Says:

    Let him who does not want to be lost and go to the devil be on his guard with all diligence and earnestness against the papacy and its doctrine, and let him never again accept even the most insignificant and smallest part of the papacy’s teaching, no matter what it may cost him. Let him flee from the papacy and its following as from the devil incarnate himself, and let him by no means be silenced by the sweet, slippery words of hypocrites or be persuaded that yielding and conceding something for the sake of peace is a matter of little consequence and that the bond of love should not be disrupted for the sake of something trifling (as they represent and rationalize this to be). Come now, there is assuredly no joking in this matter; eternal salvation and eternal damnation are involved. (What Luther Says, II:1019-1020)Can anything more horrible be said than that the kingdom of the papists is the kingdom of those who spit at Christ, the Son of God, and crucify Him anew? For they do crucify Christ…in themselves, in the church…and in the hearts of the faithful…Therefore let everyone who is honestly given to piety flee out of this Babylon as quickly as possible…. For so great are its impurity and its abomination that no one can express them in words; they can be discerned only by eyes that are spiritual. (What Luther Says, II: 1020)My dear pope, I will kiss your feet and acknowledge you as supreme bishop if you will worship my Christ and grant that through His death and resurrection, not through keeping your traditions, we have forgiveness of sins and life eternal. If you will yield on this point, I shall not take away your crown and power; if not, I shall constantly cry out that you are the Antichrist, and I shall testify that your whole cult and religion are only a denial of God, but also the height of blasphemy against God and idolatry. (What Luther Says, II: 1069)Cont.

  14. Coram Deo Says:

    Ah, my dear brother in Christ, bear with me if here or elsewhere I use such coarse language when speaking of the wretched, confronted, atrocious monster at Rome! He who knows my thoughts must say that I am much, much, much too lenient and have neither words nor thought adequately to describe the shameful, abominable blasphemy to which he subjects the Word and name of Christ, our dear Lord and Savior. There are some Christians, wicked Christians indeed, who now would gloss things over to make the pope appear against in a good light and who, after he does so and has been dragged out of the mud, would like to reinstate him on the altar. But they are wicked people, whoever they may be, who defend the pope and want me to be quiet about the means whereby he has done harm. Truly, I cannot do this. All true, pious Christians, who love Christ and His Word, should, as said, be sincerely hostile to the pope. They should persecute him and injure him…. All should do this in their several calling, to the best of their ability, with all faithfulness and diligence. (What Luther Says, II: 1072)What kind of a church is the pope’s church? It is an uncertain, vacillating and tottering church. Indeed, it is a deceitful, lying church, doubting and unbelieving, without God’s Word. For the pope with his wrong keys teaches his church to doubt and to be uncertain. If it is a vacillating church, then it is not the church of faith, for the latter is founded upon a rock, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against it (Matt.16:18). If it is not the church of faith, then it is not the Christian church, but it must be an unchristian, anti-Christian, and faithless church which destroys and ruins the real, holy, Christian church. (Luther’s Works, vol. 40, Church and Ministry II, The Keys, p.348)All this is to be noted carefully, so that we can treat with contempt the filthy, foolish twaddle that the popes present in their decrees about their Roman church, that is, about their devil’s synagogue (Rev.2:9), which separates itself from common Christendom and the spiritual edifice built up on this stone, and instead invents for itself a fleshly worldly, worthless, lying, blasphemous, idolatrous authority over all of Christendom. One of these two things must be true: if the Roman church is not built on this rock along with the other churches, then it is the devil’s church; but if it is built, along with all the other churches, on this roc, then it cannot be lord or head over the other churches. For Christ the cornerstone knows nothing of two unequal churches, but only of one church alone, just as the Children’s Faith, that is, the faith of all of Christendom, says, "I believe in one holy, Christian church," and does not say, "I believe in one holy Roman church." The Roman church is and should be one portion or member of the holy Christian church, not the head, which befits solely Christ the cornerstone. If not, it is not a Christian but an UN-Christian and anti-Christian church, that is, a papal school of scoundrels. (Luther’s Works, Volume 41, Church and Ministry III, Against The Roman Papacy, An Institution Of The Devil, p.311)Cont.

  15. Coram Deo Says:

    These arrogant and unlearned papists can’t govern the church because they write nothing, they read nothing, but, firmly saddled in the pride of possession, they cry out that the decrees of the fathers are not to be questioned and decisions made are not to be disputed, otherwise one would have to dance to the tune of every little brother. For this reason the pope, possessed by demons, defends his tyranny with the canon "Si papa." This canon states clearly: if the pope should lead the whole world into the control of hell, he is nevertheless not to be contradicted. It’s a terrible thing that on account of the authority of this man we must lose our souls, which Christ redeemed with his precious blood. Christ says, "I will not cast out anybody who comes to me" (John 6:37). On the other hand, the pope says, "As I will it, so I command it; you must perish rather than resist me." Therefore the pope, whom our princes adore, is full of devils. He must be exterminated by the Word and by prayer. (Luther’s Works, vol.54, Table Talk, No.441, p.330)I believe the pope is the masked and incarnate devil because he is the Antichrist. As Christ is God incarnate, so the Antichrist is the devil incarnate. The words are really spoken of the pope when it’s said that he’s a mixed god, an earthly god, that is , a god of the earth. Here god is understood as god of this world. Why does he call himself an earthly god, as if the one, almighty God weren’t also on the earth? The kingdom of the pope really signifies the terrible wrath of God, namely, the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place. (Luther’s Works, vol.54, Table Talks, No.4487, p.346HT: DefCon

  16. Turretinfan Says:

    Although Rev. McCain has simply shown us his high opinion of himself, perhaps the position he might try to argue from are the comments found at the following links:Luther Distinguishing between the Church of Rome and the Papacy and Luther Explaining that Corrupt Leadership Doesn't Negate the True-ness of a ChurchAs Mr. Swan points out there, Luther may be more generous on those points than the Reformed churches today are.

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