Archive for the ‘Luther’ Category

Pope Francis on Luther on June 26, 2016

June 28, 2016

Pope Francis was interviewed aboard an airplane on June 26, 2016. In that interview he expressed the position that Luther was right about justification. Before we get too excited, though, please consider the statement in its full context:

Kleinjung: Holy Father, I wanted to ask you a question. Today you spoke of the gifts of the shared Churches, of the gifts shared by the Churches together. Seeing that you will go in I believe four months to Lund for the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the reformation, I think perhaps this is also the right moment for us not only to remember the wounds on both sides but also to recognize the gifts of the reformation. Perhaps also – this is a heretical question – perhaps to annul or withdraw the excommunication of Martin Luther or of some sort of rehabilitation. Thank you.

Pope Francis: I think that the intentions of Martin Luther were not mistaken. He was a reformer. Perhaps some methods were not correct. But in that time, if we read the story of the Pastor, a German Lutheran who then converted when he saw reality – he became Catholic – in that time, the Church was not exactly a model to imitate. There was corruption in the Church, there was worldliness, attachment to money, to power…and this he protested. Then he was intelligent and took some steps forward justifying, and because he did this. And today Lutherans and Catholics, Protestants, all of us agree on the doctrine of justification. On this point, which is very important, he did not err. He made a medicine for the Church, but then this medicine consolidated into a state of things, into a state of a discipline, into a way of believing, into a way of doing, into a liturgical way and he wasn’t alone; there was Zwingli, there was Calvin, each one of them different, and behind them were who? Principals! We must put ourselves in the story of that time. It’s a story that’s not easy to understand, not easy. Then things went forward, and today the dialogue is very good. That document of justification I think is one of the richest ecumenical documents in the world, one in most agreement. But there are divisions, and these also depend on the Churches. In Buenos Aires there were two Lutheran churches, and one thought in one way and the other…even in the same Lutheran church there was no unity; but they respected each other, they loved each other, and the difference is perhaps what hurt all of us so badly and today we seek to take up the path of encountering each other after 500 years. I think that we have to pray together, pray. Prayer is important for this. Second, to work together for the poor, for the persecuted, for many people, for refugees, for the many who suffer; to work together and pray together and the theologians who study together try…but this is a long path, very long. One time jokingly I said: I know when full unity will happen. – “when?” – “the day after the Son of Man comes,” because we don’t know…the Holy Spirit will give the grace, but in the meantime, praying, loving each other and working together. Above all for the poor, for the people who suffer and for peace and many things…against the exploitation of people and many things in which they are jointly working together.

Some thoughts:
1) Notice that Francis doesn’t make any promises regarding revitalizing Luther, even though that was what was asked.
2) Instead, Francis focuses primarily on ecuminism.
3) Although Francis appears to believe that Lutherans, Protestants, and Roman Catholics all agree on justification (“all of us agree on the doctrine of justification. On this point, which is very important, he did not err.”) his apparent basis for believing this is is the joint statement on justification, one which he acknowledges expresses divisions as well as agreement: “today the dialogue is very good. That document of justification I think is one of the richest ecumenical documents in the world, one in most agreement. But there are divisions, … .”
4) Moreover, neither that document nor this statement repudiates Trent’s denial of justification by faith alone.

So, what the Pope means by agreement with Luther on justification is not something Luther would count as agreement. It is a very high level agreement, such as is found in the “joint statement on justification,” and not one that addresses what Luther saw as the central point of the Reformation.



And the Difference Between This and Simony is …

September 27, 2012

The German bishops are demanding that German members of the Roman Catholic Church either pay a tax or forego the sacraments, including absolution – as explained at the linked report.  Naturally, the tax goes to the German churches.

(American) Roman Catholic, Jimmy Akin, has a variety of thoughts on the matter, but his defense to the charge of simony (which he recognizes) is awefully weak.  He states: “Telling the state that you’re not a Catholic just so you can get out of paying some taxes is just another form of denying the faith before Caesar.”

On the other hand the report itself says: “German taxpayers can opt out of paying the religious tax by formally leaving their church through a declaration on their tax forms, though it does not require a renunciation of their faith.”

But even assuming Akin is correct, surely the Roman Catholic Church does not recognize “ticking a box on a tax form” (or even swearing on a stack of Bibles) as a legitimate way of leaving membership.  Doesn’t baptism allegedly leave an indelible mark?  Aren’t people just “lapsed Catholics” if they deny Rome?  And isn’t absolution in confession the ordinary way to restore them?

If so, they ought to be able to receive absolution through confession and penance, not payment.  Whether ticking the box on the tax form is a mortal sin is a red herring. What the German bishops are doing is, in essence, putting a price on the sacraments.  It’s this kind of nonsense that led an Augustinian monk named Luther to spark a Reformation in Germany in the 1500’s.

Perhaps it will be God’s good pleasure to use this situation as a fresh spark to rekindle the Reformation in Germany.


P.S. Mr. Akin notes that the tens of thousands of people who have taken advantage of the tax form option are less than 1% of the German Roman Catholics.  He suggested that this means that the RCC is losing less than 1% of her income from the taxes.  That assumes that the people who take advantage of this are randomly selected.  One suspects that those with higher incomes are more likely to be looking for ways to reduce their taxes than those with smaller incomes.  Moreover, in a progressively taxed society like Germany, a large amount of the tax revenue comes from a relatively small amount of people.  So, the numbers may be considerably more dramatic than Mr. Akin suggests.

Response to Roman Apologetic Comment …

August 18, 2011

This comes from the comment box of Mark Shea’s post regarding Augustine, Scripture, and Nicaea. It’s not him commenting (as far as I know), but another member of his religion. Here’s the quotation:

The Catholic (i.e. Universal) Church has Taught, and never wavered from [its] teaching on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist for over two thousand years. That’s four hundred years before the canon of scripture, fifteen hundred years before Luther. Two thousand years before us.

Mary and I have never met, I live in [America], and she lives in Kenya. Don’t you think it’s odd that we could be saying the EXACT same thing.

Jesus Christ the God-man who walked the streets of Nazareth is on earth!

Last things first:

Mark 13:20-22

And except that the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh should be saved: but for the elect’s sake, whom he hath chosen, he hath shortened the days. And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe him not: for false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.

You may reply, “But that passage is talking about people pretending to be Jesus, people like Vissarion, José Luis de Jesús Miranda, or Sun Myung Moon – human beings pretending to be Christ.” Yet notice that (a) this passage speaks primarily about people announcing Christ, not about people calling themselves Christ; and (b) are there not many alleged eucharistic miracles that are brought forward in an attempt to show that Christ is present (Santarem, Sienna, Erding, and Cascia, for example). What signs and wonders are foolish blasphemers like Vissarion doing that compare with the bold claims of miracles amongst those of the Roman communion? The elect will reject all these false Christs.

Going back to the beginning of the comment, his mathematics skills reflect poorly on America. The last supper was less than 2000 years ago. Moreover, the doctrine of the real presence (in the transubstantial sense it is given by Rome today) was not the ancient teaching of the churches – even if a real spiritual presence was taught by some of the fathers.

Rome didn’t formally define the canon of Scripture until after Luther died and the Reformation was already well under way. On the other hand, the apostles clearly recognized the Old Testament books as canon, and recognized the New Testament books as canon, as they were being written. For example, Paul refers to Luke’s gospel (or perhaps Matthew’s gospel) as Scripture:

1 Timothy 5:18 For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.

Luke 10:7 And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house.

Matthew 10:10 Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.

Moreover, Peter refers to Paul’s epistles as Scripture:

2 Peter 3:15-16

And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

Likewise, Luther wasn’t the first to oppose Rome’s dogma of transubstantiation. Wycliffe opposed the dogma of transubstantiation in the 1300’s – and considering that the term “transubstantiation” was first used by an “ecumenical” council in the 1200’s, the idea that this dogma was some long-standing or apostolic tradition that Luther was the first to question (something only implied, not stated, by our Roman friend here) – is not credible.

I’m sure that the two folks in the Roman communion have the same views. My Reformed brethren around the globe have the same views I do, if geographical dispersion is important. But ultimately, the question is not geographical distribution but Scriptural authenticity. And to be blunt: one cannot legitimately derive transubstantiation from Scripture.


Luther and the Bible in the Common Tongue

July 2, 2011

One of the things that was important to the Reformers (as it was to the early church) was that the Word of God be available to people in a language they could understand. This is famously seen in the translational works of Wycliffe and Tyndale, but also in the work of Luther:

Luther began his translation of the New Testament during his enforced exile at the Wartburg, and his work of translating and revising came to occupy him until the end of his life. Amazing as it seems, he apparently completed the first draft of his translation of the New Testament in some eleven weeks, using as his working tools the Greek and Latin editions of Erasmus. Not only did Luther prepare a superb translation, a version that seemed fresh and alive because, as one scholar has phrased it, “he read Holy Writ ‘as though it had been written yesterday.'”[FN54] but also, in the process of translation, he helped to sculpt the German language. The development of Neuhochdeutsch, early modern high German, was underway before the appearance of Luther’s Bible, due partly to the influence of Saxon Kanzeleideutsch or chancellory German. [FN55] Luther’s Bible brought new high German into the parish schools and pulpits and made it the common language for the German people, even though the common folk long clung to their individual dialects. In brief, the language of Luther’s Bible “became the language of the people, the langugage used in the studies of the scholars, and the language spoken in the huts of the unlearned.”[FN56]

Marilyn J. Harran, Luther and learning: the Wittenberg University Luther Symposium, p. 40.

For several hundred years after the height of Middle High German literature, there was no longer any standard literary language. By far the most important influence on the development of the Modern High German standard language was Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible, the first edition of which appeared in 1522 (Old Testament) and 1534 (New Testament). Luther’s translation was the first to be written in a direct and uncomplicated – at times even colloquial – style that strove not only to include expressions that were modern and up-and-coming, but also to incorporate linguistic features from as many regions as possible. Its impact on literary German was immense; its core was Luther’s native dialect of Thuringian.

Benjamin W. Fortson, Indo-European Language and Culture: An Introduction, 15.78 (p. 367)

Quick Response to Windsor on Luther and Mary

December 22, 2010

One of my comments has been addressed by Scott Windsor (of the Roman communion) in a post that is mostly addressed to my friend, James Swan (link to SW’s post). I’m just responding to the portion of Mr. Windsor’s post that relates to what I said.

Mr. Windsor’s comments are as follows (his block quotations are, I believe, from Mr. Swan):

Notice the ambiguity as to which conception is being referred to is no longer… an ambiguity! TurretinFan has rightly commented on this:

“As you can see, context is key. “Mary’s conception,” or “the conception of Mary” (or replace “Mary” with “Virgin”) can refer to two very different things: it can refer to the conception of Mary in the womb of her mother, and it can refer to the conception of Jesus (or any of his ἀδελφοὶ – look up its etymology). In the latter case, Mary is doing the conceiving, in the former case she is receiving the conceiving. The difference in meaning is significant and – in English – the difference can only be determined by looking at the context.” [source]

So now Mr. Swan, via the pseudonymic “TurretinFan” (TF) delves into the etymological fallacy. IF the word in question were intended to mean what they say, then an ACCURATE translation would have been, “in the moment of the Virgin’s conception of the Son…” – so if Swan and TF are correct here, then every translator of this passage to English has it wrong. Now, before continuing, let us also consider the fact that this word TF throws at us is a GREEK word… I am unaware of Luther’s Works being in Greek as he primarily wrote in German or Latin, not Greek. Why the Greek here?

Now, the word he cites here is transliterated “adelphos” which is literally “a” (from) “delphus” (the womb) – and further means “a brother.” [source] It is simply illogical that we’re talking about a “brother” here in “the Virgin’s conception.” TF even states it COULD mean the conception of the Virgin – so we’ll take that argument and leave the irrational one behind.

Now add to the fact that the later Luther states, “Every man is corrupted by original sin, with the exception of Christ” (1540). “Christ alone is a son of the flesh without the sin of the flesh” (1544).

Again, this statement demonstrates a lack of understanding of the definition of the Immaculate Conception. The definition does not say that the Blessed Virgin did not inherit the “sin of the flesh,” only that she was preserved from the STAIN of that sin in the moment of her conception. Will Mr. Swan admit to this fact?

I answer:

1) Mr. Windsor’s allegation of fallacy of etymology is unsupported. In fact, the argument that Mr. Windsor offers doesn’t begin to address what a supporting argument for such an assertion would need to address. Mr. Windsor doesn’t, for example, identify a word that has had its meaning determined etymologically and then explain what the correct meaning should be.

2) Mr. Windsor’s allegation about what an “ACCURATE” (his caps) translation would be just reflect his apparently weak knowledge of the English language. The expression, in English, “the virgin’s conception” can (standing by itself) refer to one of two things: (1) the action of the virgin (a virgin shall conceive) or (2) the action on the virgin (Mary’s mother’s conception of Mary). It’s perfectly accurate to say “the virgin’s conception” with respect to either of those two meanings.

3) Mr. Windsor’s claim “if Swan and TF are correct here, then every translator of this passage to English has it wrong” is based on his apparently inadequate grasp of English, as explained above. It is also somewhat strange, because it is not like there are hundreds or even dozens of English translators of this particular passage of Luther’s works. Mr. Windsor doesn’t even identify two such translators (at least not anywhere near this discussion), though perhaps there are two.

4) The comment about Jesus ἀδελφοὶ also whizzes over Mr. Windsor’s head. There was a primary point and a secondary point to the comment. The primary point was that an expression like “Mary’s conception” (standing alone) could refer to her conception of any of the children she brought forth. Of course, in this instance it refers to Jesus’ conception, not James’ or any of the Lord’s other ἀδελφοὶ. The second point was that Jesus, according to Scripture, had ἀδελφοὶ – those who were from the same womb as him – that includes brothers and what Scripture refers to as “αδελφαι” which refers to sisters. That secondary point is not really relevant to the issue of what Luther’s talking about, at all. It’s just a point that needs to be made against those who mistakenly hold to the idea that Mary remained a virgin after Jesus’ birth.

5) Mr. Windsor’s attempt to separate the “STAIN” (his bold and caps) from the sin is not something he can support from the official teachings of his church. Read the document that defined the dogma, and you’ll see that the “stain” and the “sin” are used essentially interchangeably.

Notice, in the following series how “taint,” “stain,” and “sin” are used interchangeably and how it is repeatedly affirmed that Mary was free from original sin (in order of appearance, numbers just for ease of reference, in case you should wish to check/correct me)

  1. “absolutely free of all stain of sin”
  2. “free from all taint of original sin”
  3. “conceived without the stain of original sin”
  4. “preserved free from all stain of original sin”
  5. “preserved from original sin”
  6. “preserved from original sin”
  7. “was never subject to original sin, but was completely preserved from the original taint,”
  8. “all men are born infected by original sin; nevertheless, it solemnly declared that it had no intention of including the blessed and immaculate Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, in this decree and in the general extension of its definition.”
  9. “free from the original stain”
  10. “the Virgin’s supreme sanctity, dignity, and immunity from all stain of sin”
  11. “her most excellent innocence, purity, holiness and freedom from every stain of sin”
  12. “free from all contagion of sin”
  13. “the worm of sin had never corrupted”
  14. “when one treats of sin, the holy Virgin Mary is not even to be mentioned”
  15. “to her more grace was given than was necessary to conquer sin completely”
  16. “entirely free from every stain of sin”
  17. “she, differing so much from the others, had only nature in common with them, not sin”
  18. “holy and removed from every stain of sin”
  19. “conceived without original stain”
  20. “preserved free from all stain of original sin”
  21. “conceived without original sin”

So, unless Mr. Windsor has more than simply his own say-so, we must respectfully insist that it is he, not us, who is unfamiliar with Roman dogma on the subject. He is committing the fallacy of emphasis by assuming that “stain of original sin” is supposed to be different in its sense than “original sin.”

6) I was aware of Mr. Windsor’s novel interpretation of Ineffabilis Deus, and I had asked him previously to tell me where he got his ideas from – whether from some official source or from his own creativity. He didn’t respond then (that I’m aware of), and I don’t suppose he’ll respond now, although he has the opportunity to respond in the comment box.


>Observe the Similarities: Luther 1540 – Luther 1544

October 4, 2010

>Reading through James Swan’s latest quotations from Luther (contra the Immaculate Conception), one particular line caught my eye:

But in the moment of the Virgin’s conception the Holy Spirit purged and sanctified the sinful mass and wiped out the poison of the devil and death, which is sin.

This reminded me of a similar line from the 1540 material that had been set forth as showing that Mary was immaculately conceived:

all that flesh and blood of Mary’s has been purified in conception, so that nothing sinful remains.

Notice that in the translation (one of many translations that has been made) there is some ambiguity about whose conception it is. In the first quotation I’ve provided, there’s a similar ambiguity. In both cases, the ambiguity goes away as soon as one looks at the context. I’ve already shown the context for the 1540 quotation (here). And Mr. Swan has provided the context for the 1544 quotation (here), a portion of which I’ll reproduce below:

The flesh of Christ comes forth from an incestuous union; likewise, the flesh of the Virgin, His mother, and of all the descendants of Judah, in such a way that the ineffable plan of God’s mercy may be pointed out, because He assumed the flesh or the human nature from flesh that was contaminated and horribly polluted.

The scholastic doctors argue about whether Christ was born from sinful or clean flesh, or whether from the foundation of the world God preserved a pure bit of flesh from which Christ was to be born. I reply, therefore, that Christ was truly born from true and natural flesh and human blood which was corrupted by original sin in Adam, but in such a way that it could be healed. Thus we, who are encompassed by sinful flesh, believe and hope that on the day of our redemption the flesh will be purged of and separated from all infirmities, from death, and from disgrace; for sin and death are separable evils. Accordingly, when it came to the Virgin and that drop of virginal blood, what the angel said was fulfilled: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and overshadow you” (Luke 1:35). To be sure, the Messiah was not born by the power of flesh and blood, as is stated in John ( cf. 1:13): “Not of blood nor of the will of a man, etc.” Nevertheless, He wanted to be born from the mass of the flesh and from that corrupted blood. But in the moment of the Virgin’s conception the Holy Spirit purged and sanctified the sinful mass and wiped out the poison of the devil and death, which is sin. Although death remained in that flesh on our account, the leaven of sin was nevertheless purged out, and it became the purest flesh, purified by the Holy Spirit and united with the divine nature in one Person. Therefore it is truly human nature no different from what it is in us. And Christ is the Son of Adam and of his seed and flesh, but, as has been stated, with the Holy Spirit overshadowing it, active in it, and purging it, in order that it might be fit for this most innocent conception and the pure and holy birth by which we were to be purged and freed from sin. [LW 7:12]

As you can see, context is key. “Mary’s conception,” or “the conception of Mary” (or replace “Mary” with “Virgin”) can refer to two very different things: it can refer to the conception of Mary in the womb of her mother, and it can refer to the conception of Jesus (or any of his ἀδελφοὶ – look up its etymology). In the latter case, Mary is doing the conceiving, in the former case she is receiving the conceiving. The difference in meaning is significant and – in English – the difference can only be determined by looking at the context.

Moral of the story: check the context of your quotations. In these cases, quotations that might sound like support for the Roman Catholic error of the Immaculate Conception end up being rebuttals to it.


>Immaculate Conception in Later Luther?

October 2, 2010

>Over at the Beggars All Reformation blog, in the comment box, a Roman Catholic layman had posted several quotations from Luther allegedly showing that Luther held to the Immaculate Conception later in his life:

1540: “In his conception all of Mary’s flesh and blood was purified so that nothing sinful remained . . . Each seed was corrupt, except that of Mary.”

1544: “God has formed the soul and body of the Virgin Mary full of the Holy Spirit, so that she is without all sins.”

1545: “. . . the pure Virgin Mary, who has not sinned and cannot sin for ever more.”

One of the other Roman Catholics there indicated that he thought these quotations were “worthy of consideration.

With respect to the 1540 quotation, “his conception” refers to Jesus’ conception, not Mary’s. Mary’s seed is Jesus. Joachim & Anna’s seed was Mary. This quotation from 1540, therefore, stands opposed to the dogma of the IC.

Moreover, the reference to “purified” is a reference to the flesh that Jesus took from Mary. Again, that reference shows that Mary was not pure and consequently the flesh taken from her had to be purified. Had Mary been preserved from all taint of sin, she (i.e. her flesh) could not have been purified any more than one can remove inclusions from a flawless stone.

The context of the 1540 quotation can be found in this more complete translation:

Every man is corrupted by original sin and has concupiscence. Christ had neither concupiscence nor original sin. Therefore he is not a man: Response: I make a distinction with regard to the major premise. Every man is corrupted by original sin, with the exception of Christ. Every man who is not a divine Person [personaliter Deus], as is Christ, has concupiscence, but the man Christ has none, because he is a divine Person, and in conception the flesh and blood of Mary were entirely purged, so that nothing of sin remained. Therefore Isaiah says rightly, “There was no guile found in his mouth”; otherwise, every seed except for Mary’s was corrupted.


The context confirms what I explained above. This quotation teaches against the Immaculate Conception of Mary, and affirms only the immaculate conception of Christ.

As for the 1545 quotation, here is the context:

The Most Hellish Father, St. Paul III, in his supposed capacity as the bishop of the Roman church, has written two briefs  to Charles V, our lord emperor, wherein he appears almost furious, growling and boasting, according to the example of his predecessors, that neither an emperor nor anyone else has the right to convoke a council, even a national one, except solely the pope; he alone has the power to institute, ordain, and create everything which is to be believed and done in the church. He has also issued a papal bull  (if one may speak like that) for about the fifth time; now the council is once again to take place in Trent, but with the condition that no one attend except his own scum, the Epicureans and those agreeable to him—whereupon I felt a great desire to reply, with God’s grace and aid. Amen!

First, I beg you, for God’s sake, whoever you are, a Christian, indeed, even if you still have natural reason, tell me whether you can understand or comprehend what kind of a council that would be, or whether it could be a council, if that abominable abomination in Rome, who calls himself pope, has such reservation, power, and authority to tear up, change, and ruin everything that is decided in the council, as most of his decrees bellow. Doesn’t it seem to you, my dear brother in Christ, or my dear natural-reason friend, that such a council would have to be nothing but a farce, a carnival act put on to amuse the pope.

What is the use of spending such great pains and effort on a council if the pope has decided beforehand that anything done in the council should be subjected to him, that nothing should be done unless it pleased him very much, and that he wants the power to condemn everything? To avoid all this trouble it would be better to say, “Most Hellish Father, since it makes no difference at all what is or will be decided before or in or after the council, we would rather (without any council) believe in and worship Your Hellishness. Just tell us beforehand what we must do; “Good Teacher, what shall I do?” [ Mark 10:17 ]. Then we shall sing the glad hymn to Your Hellishness, “Virgin before, in, and after childbearing,”  since you are the pure Virgin Mary, who has not sinned and cannot sin for ever more. If not, then tell us, for God’s sake, what need or use there is in councils, since Your Hellishness has such great power over them that they are to be nothing, if it does not please Your Hellishness. Or prove to us poor, obedient “simple Christians”  whence Your Hellishness has such power. Where are the seals and letters from your superior that grant such things to you? Where is written evidence which will make us believe this? Won’t Your Hellishness show us these things? Well then, we shall diligently search for them ourselves, and with God’s help we shall certainly find them shortly

(LW 41:263-264) (source)

As you can see, the comment is one that is made in the midst of a rhetorical and sarcastic comment directed at the pope. Luther isn’t necessarily setting out his own view of Mary any more than he is trying to analyze the pope’s view of her. He’s simply trying to mock the pope.

And, of course, the conception of Mary isn’t in view at all. In other words, even if we assumed that Luther was describing his own view of Mary, it would only describe her sinlessness, not her immaculate conception.

Again, we see that the Romanist who brought this quotation was taking the comment out of context and distorting its meaning.

The “1544” quotation was a little harder to track down. There’s a reason: the Romanist has given us the wrong year.

The item that the Romanist is citing is this: “God has formed the soul and body of the Virgin Mary full of the Holy Spirit, so that she is without all sins, for she has conceived and borne the Lord Jesus.” for which the citation given by Thomas O’Meara, who seems to have introduced this translation, is (WA 52, 39).

That citation is actually to a sermon from 1532. Although WA 52 is titled “Hauspostille 1544,” that is Luther’s “House Postils” published in 1544, but containing mostly sermons from the first half of the 1530’s. Luther did assent to having the sermons published, but the work was earlier work. Specifically, Veit Dietrich published these sermons based on Veit Dietrich’s sermon notes, with Luther’s assent (see discussion here). This particular sermon was apparently first publicly preached in 1532 and then again in 1533, according to the index in WA 52.

The German context for the quotation is this:

An English translation of the entire sermon has been provided by Rev. D. M. Martens.

The context provided above is translated in English as follows:

Adam and Eve were not born, but created. God made Adam out of the dust of the earth, and the woman of his rib. How much nearer is Christ to us than Eve to her husband Adam, since He is truly our flesh and blood. Such honor we should highly esteem and well take to heart, that the Son of God became flesh, and that there is no difference at all between His and our flesh, only that His flesh is without sin. For He was so conceived of the Holy Ghost, and God poured out so richly His Holy Spirit into the soul and body of the Virgin Mary that without any sin she conceived and bore our Lord Jesus. Aside from this, in all other respects, He was like other men; He ate, drank, was hungry, thirsty, cold like other men. Such and similar natural infirmities, which have descended upon us by reason of sin, He, who was without sin, bore and had like unto us, as St. Paul says: “He was made in the likeness of men, and found in fashion as a man.”


As can be seen from the context, the issue is Jesus’ conception, not Mary’s. She conceived and bore Jesus without sin. It is a reference to his immaculate conception, not hers.


UPDATE: I had drafted the above and then let it sit so that I could come back to it and proofread before posting. Meanwhile, I see that James Swan has, essentially independently, provided some similar comments to my own as to the third item above. This is reassuring to me, since Mr. Swan is a great resource for this sort of question about Luther.

Response to Rev. Paul T. McCain regarding Smalcald Articles

January 27, 2010

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.


The real Francis Turretin on: Centrality of Justification

August 17, 2009

John Fonville, of the Paramount Church, has kindly selected as his weekly quotation a nice selection from Francis Turretin on the importance of justification (although the quotation includes the questionable attribution of a particular quotation to Luther that may only be a paraphrase of Luther). (source)

Luther: Justification is a Stand-or-Fall Article of the Christian Faith

March 31, 2009

David Waltz has sparked my interest afresh in the quotation allegedly from Luther that Justification is a doctrine upon which the church stands or falls (link to Waltz’s article). I agree that the expression may not be Luther but is easily derivable from Luther’s teachings.

Waltz has traced it back to Valentin E. Löscher in 1718, but — with some help from Eberhard Jüngel (link) — I have traced it back a bit further to my own favorite Theologian, Francis Turretin, who stated, in his Institutes of Elenctic Theology at Tomus II, Locus 16, Question 1, Section 1:

“Luthero dicitur Articulas stantis et cadentis Ecclesiœ

You can see for yourself:

Text not available

The image above is from the 1819 printing of Turretin’s work, but (of course) Turretin’s first edition is much older. The second volume of Turretin’s work was published in 1682, which would beat out Löscher. Turretin (at least in the editions I can find) doesn’t provide any citation, and it is not clear to me whether Turretin had intended to quote or paraphrase Luther.

I don’t have access, at the moment, to a first edition of Turretin’s Institutes to verify that the quotation appeared in the original edition. Both Waltz and Jüngel (linked above) provide some interesting bases for the pseudo-quotation or paraphrase. Jüngel notes that previous attempts to definitively track down the quotations origin have proved fruitless.

On the other hand, the Smalcald Articles do suggest that Luther viewed the issue as being a stand-or-fall principle, and so do many other of Luther’s writings. The Smalcald Articles provide a good basis for the quotation as a paraphrase when they state:

5] 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.



P.S. Luthero dicitur means “It was said by Luther.”
P.P.S. See p. 633 of Volume 2 of Turretin’s Institutes in the Giger-Dennison edition, if you wish to see how Giger-Dennison handled this.

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