Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Luther's (and Calvin's) View of the Catholic Church

Recently, in my post, I Like and Appreciate "Reformed Catholicism" a Lot, BUT . . ., about "Reformed Catholicism," I asked what I thought was an important question (and it was certainly sincere, with a desire to learn from my Protestant friends):

Meanwhile, Paul Owen, over on the Reformed Catholicism blog, cites Luther and Charles Hodge saying nice stuff about the Catholic Church. This is all well and good (and I'm glad to see it); however, I myself do not understand how it is possible to synthesize these remarks with many others by Martin Luther which suggest quite otherwise. I have compiled many of them in my paper:

Did Martin Luther Regard the (Roman) Catholic Church as a Non-Christian, Apostate Institution?: Featuring dozens of citations from Luther's own writings; particularly On the Councils and the Churches (1539) and Against Hans Wurst (1541)
Perhaps someone can help me understand this. The same would apply, of course, to John Calvin. I see the reformed catholics citing his positive remarks about Catholic baptism and so forth, but I have seen much else where he excoriates the Catholic Church in the most offensive terms (especially when dealing with the Mass, which is, after all, our central act of worship every Sunday).

. . . How can one consider another a Christian "brother" when that person's weekly worship is regarded as "abomination," "blasphemy," and "idolatry"? . . . These are some of the many questions I would (with all due respect and appreciation) ask "Reformed Catholics."

Dr. Owen cited Luther in the above-mentioned post:

We confess that under the papacy there is much Christianity, yea, the whole Christianity, and has from thence come to us. We confess that the papacy possesses the genuine Scriptures, genuine baptism, the genuine sacrament of the altar, the genuine keys for the remission of sins, the true ministry, the true catechism, the Ten Commandments, the articles of the Creed, the Lord's Prayer. . . . I say that under the Pope is the true Christendom, yea, the very elite of Christendom, and many pious and great saints.

--Martin Luther (cited by Schaff, History of the Christian Church, VII. 530)

One suspects that this is from an early period. But people's views develop and change over time. We don't have the primary citation, but as Schaff is available online I shall retrieve it. Schaff (see his section, §85. Enlarged Conception of the Church. Augustin, Wiclif, Hus, Luther) informs us that it is from his "controversy with the Anabaptists (1528)." This is where one would most expect to find such utterances, since when Luther opposed the Anabaptists he was most likely to appeal to longstanding Catholic Tradition.

But note what else Schaff says, in the immediate context:

Nor did Luther or any of the Reformers and sensible Protestants doubt that there always were and are still many true Christians in the Roman communion, notwithstanding all her errors and corruptions, as there were true lsraelites even in the darkest periods of the Jewish theocracy.

This is merely saying that true Christians can be found amidst the massive heresy and error, in spite of Catholic teaching, not as a result of it, or flowing consistently from it, like pearls among the swine, or a diamond in the mud. That's not granting all that much! Indeed, it is precisely the anti-Catholic position. Even men like James White and Eric Svendsen freely grant this. But it is an insult to all Catholics. If indeed we are brothers in Christ, then our system itself must be granted as a Christian system, so that we are consistently Christians when we fully adhere to it, despite whatever supposed errors we are accused of (just as Arminians and other non-Reformed Protestants are regarded as Christians, and their beliefs as broadly Christian. If reformed catholics cannot grant this much, then they really aren't at bottom all that different from the anti-Catholics, despite the internecine battles the two camps engage in presently. Schaff continues:

For proof he refers, strangely enough, to the very passage of Paul, 2 Thess. 2:3, 4, from which he and other Reformers derived their chief argument that the Pope of Rome is Antichrist, "the man of sin," "the son of perdition." For Paul represents him as sitting "in the temple of God;" that is, in the true church, and not in the synagogue of Satan. As the Pope is Antichrist, he must be among Christians, and rule and tyrannize over Christians.

Fair enough. That might hold true for Luther's earlier opinions, but I cite him below from works of 1539 and 1541, from within seven and five years of his death. By that time he was definitely classifying the "papal system" as unChristian and indeed, the "synagogue of Satan," just as Schaff was denying was the case for Luther. Hence from 1541 (see the fuller quotes below):

We have proved that we are the true, ancient church . . . Now you, too, papists, prove that you are the true church or are like it. You cannot do it. But I will prove that you are the new false church, which is in everything apostate, separated from the true, ancient church, thus becoming Satan's synagogue.

. . . You have silenced and obliterated the remembrance of Christ . . . [this] makes you a new apostate heretical church, yes, the arch-whore of the devil and the synagogue of hell.

Schaff elaborates, showing the true colors of this supposed "ecumenical" view of Luther:

Luther came nearer the true position when he said that the Roman Church might be called a "holy church," by synecdoche or ex parte, with the same restriction with which Paul called the Galatian Christians "churches," notwithstanding their apostasy from the true gospel.

Now how Christian can Catholicism be if it lacks even the "true gospel" -- a constent theme in both Luther and Calvin? Thus much of this "acknowledgement" is so trivial as to be almost meaningless.

But -- bless his heart (and why I love to cite him so much) -- noted Protestant historian Schaff shows himself to be true to historical fact, as always, and illustrates how Luther's doctrine represented a radical departure from Catholic precedent in many respects (precisely as I have been arguing for 13 years now):

But tradition, at least from the sixth to the sixteenth century, strongly favors the belief in transubstantiation, and the sacrifice of the mass, both of which he rejected. And if the same test should be applied to his doctrine of solifidian justification, it would be difficult to support it by patristic or scholastic tradition, which makes no distinction between justification and sanctification, and lays as much stress on good works as on faith. He felt it himself, that on this vital point, not even Augustin was on his side. His doctrine can be vindicated only as a new interpretation of St. Paul in advance of the previous understanding . . . he felt the difference between the patristic and the Protestant theology. The Continental Reformers generally thought much less of the fathers than the Anglican divines

Yet with all his sympathy, Luther could not find his "sola fide." Augustin, he says, has sometimes erred, and is not to be trusted. "Although good and holy, he was yet lacking in the true faith, as well as the other fathers." "When the door was opened to me for the understanding of Paul, I was done, with Augustin" (da war es aus mit ihm. Erl. ed., LXII. 119) . . . As to Jerome, he had to admit that he was the greatest Bible translator, and will not be surpassed in this line (Erl. ed. LXII. 462). But he positively hated him on account of his monkery, and says: "He ought not to be counted among the doctors of the church; for he was a heretic, although I believe that he was saved by faith in Christ. I know no one of the fathers, to whom I am so hostile as to him. He writes only about fasting, virginity, and such things" (LXII. 119sq.). He was tormented by carnal temptations, and loved Eustochium so as to create scandal. He speaks impiously of marriage. His commentaries on Matthew, Galatians, and Titus are very thin. Luther had no more respect for Pope Gregory I. He is the author of the fables of purgatory and masses for souls; he knew little of Christ and his gospel, and was entirely too superstitious. The Devil deceived him, and made him believe in appearances of spirits from purgatory. "His sermons are not worth a copper" (Erl. ed., LI. 482; LII. 187; LX. 189, 405; XXVIII. 98 sqq.; Bindseil, III. 140, 228) . . . He could not agree with Melanchthon's favorable judgment of Basil the Great. He thought Gregory of Nazianzen, the eloquent defender of the divinity of Christ during the Arian ascendency, to be of no account ("Nazianzenus est nihil." Bindseil, III. 152). He speaks well of Theodoret's Commentary to Paul's Epistles, but unreasonably depreciates Chrysostom, the golden preacher and commentator, and describes him as a great rhetorician, full of words and empty of matter; he even absurdly compares him to Carlstadt! "He is garrulous, and therefore pleases Erasmus, who neglects faith, and treats only of morals. I consulted him on the beautiful passage on the highpriest in Hebrews; but he twaddled about the dignity of priests, and let me stick in the mud (Bindseil, III. 136; Erl. ed. LXII. 102).

. . . upon the whole he hated the schoolmen and their master, "the damned heathen Aristotle," although he admits him to have been "optimus dialecticus," and learned from him and his commentators the art of logical reasoning. Even Thomas Aquinas, "the Angelic Doctor," whom the Lutheran scholastics of the seventeenth century highly and justly esteemed, he denounced as a chatterer (loquacissimus), who makes the Bible bend to Aristotle (Bindseil, III. 270, 286), and whose books are a fountain of all heresies, and destructive of the gospel ("der Brunn und Grundsuppe aller Ketzerei, Irrthums und Verleugnung des Evangeliums." Erl. ed. XXIV. 240). This is, of course, the language of prejudice and passion.

[see my related papers:

St. Augustine: Which Christian Body is Closer Theologically to His Teaching?: Reformed Protestants or Present-Day Catholics?

The Ambiguous Relationship of Luther and the Early Protestants to St. Augustine (Dave Armstrong and Edwin Tait) ]

But Luther was a good "reformed catholic," only wishing to continue longstanding Catholic Tradition, so we are told. I find that an astonishingly simplistic reading of Church history and Luther's relationship to it in his overall doctrine -- with all due respect.

The most direct (albeit brief) response I received to my question about Luther's strong, ostensibly "anti-Catholic" utterances was from Paul Owen, responding in the same thread:

The harsh rhetoric of the Reformers is in no way inconsistent with this acknowledgment of ecumenical unity. Think of the harshness with which the prophets criticized the Jewish nation in times past. Were they thereby denying their Jewish heritage? Of course not. Likewise, the mainstream Reformers were not attempting to disconnect themselves from the historic Church in criticizing the apostasy they believed to surround them in their day.

I can appreciate this analogy and answer and it makes some sense to me. However, I don't think it is sufficient to explain the utter venom and disdain for the expressed opinions of the so-called "Reformers." It's difficult for me to read the following excerpts which I shall cite from Luther (from the paper noted above) and believe that Luther accepted Catholics as equals in Christ. Granted, the man was often contradictory. He could easily write things elsewhere which contradicted these. But that is not the case with Calvin, who is usually quite self-consistent and systematic.

I noticed that many of my reformed catholic friends discussed this very issue on [Name]'s blog three days before my post was published, which is somewhat disconcerting because if they are talking to each other about the same issue, why not to someone who is pretty much an "ally" and one who is seeking answers to sincere questions where he doesn't fully understand their point of view? I'm not particularly impressed with a methodology that talks about how "the other guys" are quoting out of context and not understanding something, while at the same time not trying to reply to sincere questions from one of the same folks.

It should be pointed out that [Name] in this post was writing primarily about other Protestants, who were engaging in illegitimate prooftexting and neglecting context, but speaking for myself (a "Catholic Catholic"), I gave tons of context in the above paper, as anyone can see. If my friends believe that context provides an interpretation of Luther's utterances at variance with what seems to me to be the prima facie reading of his rhetoric, I am all ears. I would simply challenge the reformed catholics to -- by all means -- make their argument from context (i.e., in particular terms), rather than simply talking about it (with each other) in sweeping terms, and "preaching to the choir." The argument is not advanced when the recourse is merely to generalities and platitudes.

James White and David King and their legions of followers may have a vested interest in Luther and Calvin being absolutely opposed to the Catholic Church, because they are anti-Catholics. But I do not. If anything, my "vested interest" as an ecumenist is to be convinced that Luther's and Calvin's remarks were not as bad as they appear at first glance. That would certainly be my desire, whether or not I am convinced of the actuality and factuality of that. I would be utterly delighted to be convinced that this is the case. So it is not an instance of trying to convince someone who is unwilling to be persuaded (we all know how futile and frustrating that is).

At this point I will cite words from [Name]'s post and the feedback. I will follow those with words from Calvin (in red) and Luther (in blue), which need to be explained to me as harmonious with the notion that they accepted Catholics as fellow Christians in every sense of the word. At the very least, could my reformed catholic brothers at least acknowledge that these words are severely offensive to Catholics, excessive, uncharitable in the extreme, and not exactly conducive to warm relations between the two camps? Can Catholics be blamed for not taking too kindly to such venomous rhetoric?

Kevin Johnson:

. . . they are quoting Calvin with neither the appropriate historical/theological context in mind nor are they interested in really understanding what it was that Calvin was really criticizing as well as what it was he really valued. In short, [Name], your comments as usual are right on the mark.

[another post]

I think whether we are speaking of Calvin's view of either Anabaptists or Roman Catholics, we should obviously consider such groups and his view in its proper historical context.

But the whole problem [Name] notes is still valid and the fact that Calvin's view of Anabaptists is never mentioned simply shows how out of context and inappropriate their use of Calvin is as well.

Those who choose merely to quote Calvin's view of Roman Catholicism or its hierarchy to score points for a position that Calvin clearly would have disagreed with are taking his words out of context, forbidding the context to speak to the matter, and not allowing Calvin to speak for himself.

It is a troubling method in our day to see mature writing and theological commentary by Reformers like Calvin turned into bumper-sticker like quotes designed merely to buttress an already faltering view of ecclesiology that doesn't in any real way represent the view of the one being quoted.

I certainly have done this, so I cannot be charged with this fault. I have an entire post about Luther's adopting the position of death for the Anabaptists, on this blog. I've had a paper on my site for years which details Protestant persecution, mostly of other Protestants, including Anabaptists: The Protestant Inquisition. One wife of a pastor in the LCMS tried to deny this, but after I cited Roland Bainton (the most famous biographer of Luther), she promptly disappeared and ceased denying this. I haven't studied Calvin nearly as much as Luther, but I have a section about him in Section 6, Part VII of that paper. For more on Calvin's views, see below. I also have in my library, the book, Calvin and the Anabaptist Radicals, by William Balke (tr. William Heynen, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1981, from the Dutch edition of 1973 -- the author's doctoral dissertation).

Now I shall cite John Calvin's letter to the Duke of Somerset, England, Edward Seymour, who was a key figure in the establishment of Protestantism in England. The letter is dated 22 October 1548. Note that the people Calvin criticizes are Catholics, as that was the religion of England before Henry VIII came in and did his hatchet job (figuratively and literally) on the national religion:

. . . the superstitions of Antichrist, having taken root for so long a time, cannot easily be uprooted from men's hearts.

. . . by nature they are wholly given to hypocrisy, they cannot bear to be brought to the clear light of the word of God, which lays bare their baseness and shame, nor to be drawn forth out of their superstitions, which serve them as a hiding-hole and shady covert. It is nothing new, then, if we meet with contradiction when we attempt to lead men back to the pure worship of God.

. . . Albeit, however, the wickedness and opposition of men may be the cause of the sedition and rebellion which rises up against he Gospel, let us look to ourselves, and acknowledge that God chastises our faults by those who would otherwise serve Satan only. It is an old complaint, that the Gospel is the cause of all the ills and calamities that befall mankinid. We see, in fact, from history, that shortly after Christianity had been everywhere spread abroad, there was not, so to speak, a corner of the earth which was not horribly afflicted . . . In like manner we have ssen in our times, since the Gospel has begun to be set up, much misery . . .

. . . there are two kinds of rebels who have risen up against the King and the Estates of the Kingdom. The one, a fantastical sort of person, who, under colour of the Gospel, would put all into confusion. The others are persons who persist in the superstitions of the Roman Antichrist. Both alike deserve to be repressed by the sword, which is committed to you, since they not only attack the King, but strive with God . . .

. . . The Papists, in endeavouring to maintain the corruptions and abominations of their Romish idol, shew themselves to be open enemies of the grace of Jesus Christ, and of all his ordinances. That ought likewise to occasion great sickness at heart among all those who have a single drop of godly zeal . . . they do not set a proper value on the doctrine of salvation.

. . . under the Pope there is a bastard sort of Christianity, and that God will disavow it on the last day, seeing that he now condemns it by his word. If we desire to rescue the world from such an abyss . . .

. . . you have begun to bring back Christianity to the place which belongs to it, throughout the realm of England.

(from Jules Bonnet, editor, John Calvin: Selected Works of John Calvin: Tracts and Letters: Letters, Part 2, 1545-1553, volume 5 of 7; translated by David Constable; Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983; reproduction of Letters of John Calvin, volume II [Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1858], 184-188, 192, 196)

Now, do my Protestant "reformed catholic" friends want to make an issue out of context? I hope they do, and I hope they make their argument about this citation. I have the book in front of me, from which I quote. It is from one of the standard collections of Calvin's letters, published by Calvinists. I have two more volumes also in my library. If I have cited out of context, then I am more than willing to be corrected. I welcome it; positively encourage my friends to make their case. Otherwise, if this is Calvin's "brotherhood" and "ecumenism" then it is quite unimpressive. It seems to me that Calvin was an anti-Catholic in all but the extreme minimalist view of our baptism being valid (though our very worship every week swarms of blasphemies, abominations, idolatries, and superstition), so that the only choices his followers today have are to also be so (as indeed many Calvinists are), or to admit that Calvin was wrong in this regard and that today's Calvinists have progressed beyond his calumnies and distortions of Catholic doctrine. Calvin obviously didn't understand that Catholics fully accept the "Gospel" -- rightly defined -- and sola gratia. See, e.g., my paper: 1 Corinthians 3:9 and John Calvin's Distorted Understanding of the Council of Trent's Doctrine of Grace. We find similar lying nonsense in Luther:

From: On the Councils and the Churches (1539)

Source: Works of Martin Luther (Philadelphia: A.J. Holman Co. & The Castle Press, 1931, vol. 5, 133-136, 264-265, 269, 272, 276-277, 284, 286, 289-292; Introduction and Translation by Charles M. Jacobs -- from the Weimar edition of Luther's Works,509-653)

. . . They know and confess that, on many points, they are wrong, and have the Scriptures and God against them besides; and yet they would force their way through against God, and knowingly defend wrong as right . . . God reigns on our side, and the devil on theirs.

. . . they would rather have the devil himself as god and lord, than have Christ and lay aside even a little of their idolatry. Not satisifed with that, they would compel us poor Christians, with the sword, to join knowingly in their worship of the devil and blasphemy of Christ . . . here are men who under Christ's name, and as Christians, nay, as the highest of Christians, puff themselves up and arm themselves against Christ . . .

. . . they exclude themselves from the Church, and openly proclaim that they are, and will continue to be, the Church's worst enemies. For he who says that he would rather that the Church should be destroyed than that he should let himself be improved, or should yield on any point, confesses thereby that he is not only no Christian and does not want to be in the Church . . . but also that he will do what he can for the destruction of the Church . . .

. . . the Church has remained, and must remain, in spite of them . . . they have made us out heretics and cursed us and slain us, because we would not listen to them as though they were the Church . . .

. . . The pope . . . and his will let the Church be destroyed. Thus he has turned himself out of the Church . . . He is out; he has bidden the Church good-bye . . . we are the Church, or in the Church, which the papists would let go to destruction . . .

. . . the bishops, priests, and monks are not a holy Christian people, for they do not believe in Christ, do not lead holy lives, and are the devil's wicked, shameful people. He who does not rightly believe in Christ, is not Christian or a Christian, and he who has not the Holy Ghost to resist sin, is not holy. Therefore they cannot be a Christian, holy people, that is sancta et catholica ecclesia . . .

. . . That, then, is Christian holiness. The pope will not have it; he must have a peculiar holiness that is far holier. Men must be taught . . . monkery, nunnery, masses, saint-worship, and countless other points about external, bodily, transitory things. That one lives among these things without faith, fear of God, hope, love, and the other works of the Holy Ghost . . . but substitutes for them misbelief, uncertainty of heart, doubt, despising of God, impatience toward Him, a false trust in works (which is idolatry!) instead of a trust in the grace of Christ or His merits, making one's own satisfaction by works . . .

. . . they lead all the souls in the world astray . . . just as they reject all the fathers and theologians from their canons, so we reject them from the Church and the Scriptures . . . Now they want to put us out of the Church and the Scriptures, and they cannot get in themselves! . . .

. . . the noises made by monks and nuns and priests are not prayers or praises to God. They do not understand it and learn nothing from it; they do it like hard labor, for the belly's sake, and seek thereby no improvement of life, no progress in holiness, no doing of God's will.

Pamphlet: How to Anoint a Right Christian Bishop (January, 1542)

. . . We poor heretics have committed a great sin against the hellish unchristian Church and against the most hellish father the Pope by anointing a bishop at Naumburg without ointment, butter, suet, bacon, grease, or smoke.


(translated by William Hazlitt, Philadelphia: The Lutheran Publication Society: n.d.)

I care not at all for an open enemy of the church, such as the papists . . . for by them the true church cannot receive hurt. (#677, p. 356)

. . . The Sadducees were infinitely more pious than the papists . . . (#429, p. 243)

I cannot imagine how there should be peace between us and the papists . . . 'tis an everlasting war, like that between the woman's seed and the old serpent . . . we cannot depart from the Gospel, nor will they desist from their idolatry and blaspheming; the devil will not suffer his feet to be chopped off, nor will Christ have the preaching of his Word hindered; therefore I cannot see how any peace or truce may be between Christ and Belial. (#447, p. 249)

It is impossible for a papist to understand this article: "I believe in the forgiveness of sins" . . . (#292, p. 175)

. . . The God of the Turks helps no longer or further, as they think, than as they are godly people; in like manner also the God of the papists . . . But a true Christian says: "I believe in Jesus Christ my Lord and Saviour" . . . So that we plainly see, the true Christian faith is far different from the faith and religion of the pope and Turk . . . (#292, p. 176)

Seeing the pope is antichrist, I believe him to be a devil incarnate . . . 'Tis a monstrous blasphemy for a human creature to presume, now Christ is come, to exalt himself in the church above God. (#427, p. 242)

. . . the popes . . . are bitter enemies of the church . . . Pope, cardinals, bishops, not a soul of them has read the Bible; 'tis a book unknown to them. (#429, p. 243)

. . . The pope and his crew are mere worshippers of idols, and servants of the devil. (#446, p. 249)

. . . The pope may well be, and is, the head of the false church. (#457, p. 254)

They that do not hold the sacrament as Christ instituted it, have no sacrament. All papists do not, therefore they have no sacrament; for they receive not the sacrament, but offer it . . . The sacrament is God's work and ordinance, and not man's . . . (#344, p. 208)

Wider Hans Wurst, or Against Jack Sausage (1541)

From: Luther's Works, 55 volumes, Philadelphia: Fortress Press (also Concordia Publishing House), 1955 -, General editors: Jaroslav Pelikan (vols. 1-30) / Helmut T. Lehmann (vols. 31-55)

This is a polemical piece against the Catholic (and corrupt) Duke Heinrich (or Henry) of Braunschweig / Wolfenbuttel, written between February 19 and April 4, 1541. It contains much revealing and plain-spoken "reasoning" concerning the true vs. the false Christian church, and the status of the Catholic Church, its sacraments, the spiritual and moral estate of its adherents, etc. It is reprinted in Volume 41 of Luther's Works, pp. 179-256; translated by Eric W. Gritsch.

. . . all devils, papists, and all their crew . . . as befits devils and the devil's lot, lie shamelessly . . . fear and mourn, you who lie and revile Christ and his followers, for your damnation is great in hell. (p. 189)

They allege that we have fallen away from the holy church and set up a new church . . . since they themselves boast that they are the church, it is for them to prove that they are . . . But if they cannot prove it . . . they are not the church and . . . we cannot be heretics since we have fallen away from what is not the true church. Indeed, since there is nothing in-between, we must be the church of Christ and they the devil's church, or vice versa. Therefore it all turns on proving which is the true church . . . One part must be false and untrue . . . The Lord Christ commands us not to embrace the false church. (pp. 193-194)

We have proved that we are the true, ancient church . . . Now you, too, papists, prove that you are the true church or are like it. You cannot do it. But I will prove that you are the new false church, which is in everything apostate, separated from the true, ancient church, thus becoming Satan's synagogue. (p. 199)

You do not hold to the original, ancient baptism, for you have invented many other new baptisms, teaching that the original baptism is subsequently lost through sin . . . For where there is no baptism,the sacraments, the keys, and everything else are of no avail. (p. 199)

Who can tell all the abominable innovations you have devised in the sacred and holy sacrament of the body and blood of Christ? . . . You have silenced and obliterated the remembrance of Christ . . . [this] makes you a new apostate heretical church, yes, the arch-whore of the devil and the synagogue of hell. For this thing is so hopelessly and abysmally evil . . . the vilest cesspool that the devil has on earth. (pp. 201-202)

The private mass is one of the worst abominations . . . with it you have built the devil a new church and worshiped him, thereby turning into murderers of souls, just like Moloch, the devourer of children. (p. 203)

We too were formerly stuck in the behind of this hellish whore, this new church of the pope . . . we regret having spent so much time and energy in that vile hole. But God be praised and thanked that he rescued us from the scarlet whore. (p. 206)

The church of the pope . . . represents the jaws of hell . . . (p. 206)

You were indeed all baptized in the true baptism of the ancient church, just as we were, especially as children. Now if a baptized child lives and then dies in his seventh or eighth year, before he understands the whorelike church of the pope, he has in truth been saved and will be saved -- of that we have no doubt. But when he grows up, and hears, believes, and obeys your preaching with its lies and devilish inventions, then he becomes a whore of the devil like you and falls away from his baptism and bridegroom -- as happened to me and others -- building and relying on his own works. (p. 207)

She is the true arch-whore and the true whore of the devil [mentions Ezekiel 23] . . . You should read that if you want to know what kind of whore your church is. (p. 208)

God . . . will damn the arch-whore for eternity. (p. 209)

We acknowledge not only that you have, with us, come from the true church and been washed and made clean in baptism . . . but also that you are in the church and remain in it . . . But you are no longer of the church, or members of the church, for in this holy church of God you are building your own new apostate church, the devil's brothel, with limitless whoredom, idolatry, and innovation. (pp. 209-210)

It is true that the true ancient church with its baptism and the work of God still remains with you, and your god, the devil, has not been able to obliterate it entirely. (p. 210)

If they are not the church but the devil's whore that has not remained faithful to Christ, then it is irrefutably and thoroughly established that they should not possess church property. (p. 220) [that was certainly acted upon quickly enough: with widespread theft or destruction of church property]

They are impenitent and blinded, delivered to the wrath of God. We must give room to the wrath and let God's judgment run its course. Nor shall we any longer pray for their sin (as St. John teaches us), but pray about them and against them, and to the praise and glory of God we shall sing the Judas song . . .

". . . O damned papists, is this your deed,
That no true Christian life you were willing to spare? . . . " (pp. 255-256)

Mark U. Edwards, Jr., author of Luther's Last Battles: Politics and Polemics, 1531-1546 (Ithaca, New York and London: Cornell University Press, 1983), wrote about this filthy polemic:

It was within the terms of this larger struggle between the true and false churches that Luther placed the controversy with Duke Heinrich. Moreover, he fully believed that the struggle was reaching its climax in his own time. As with his other polemics against Catholics, 'fanatics,' Turks, and Jews, this conviction allowed him to direct his attack more against the devil allegedly motivating the opponent than against the man himself. (p. 152)

It becomes difficult to escape the impression that Against Hanswurst represented an escalation in the coarseness and abusiveness of the controversy . . . Heinrich Bullinger of Zurich . . . did characterize it in a later letter to Bucer as 'unbecoming, completely immodest, entirely scurrilous, and frivolous,' but his evaluation remained private. Melanchthon, who generally disapproved of Luther's more passionate efforts, had nothing but praise for the work. As for Luther himself, he wrote Melanchthon that, upon rereading the treatise, he wondered what had happened that he had written so moderately against the duke . . . [this] may be another case of Luther's drier humor. Or, on the other hand, he may have actually believed that he had been unreasonably restrained in attacking what he believed was simply another of the devil's minions. The devil, of course, deserved all the abuse that could be heaped upon him. (pp. 154-155)

Contrary to my reputation in some circles as a "Luther-basher" or even "Luther-hater," I am quite inclined to be convinced of a more "favorable" interpretation in matters concerning Luther (and his view of Catholicism), if only shown. After all, I have defended him against the charge of deliberately inciting violence in the Peasants' Revolt, against the (rather silly) view that he was an antinomian and somehow opposed to works altogether, and have written at great length about how his Mariology is remarkably close to that of the Catholic Church. I don't think he was a "bad man" or that he had nefarious motives, as I have stated repeatedly on my website. Thus, I would be more than willing to be convinced that he regarded Catholics as more or less equals in Christ. But in light of the above I am not there yet, and need help in accepting this point of view. Is anyone out there willing to provide such help?

I think Luther's trash-talk and flat-out lying and scurrilous accusations ought to be renounced (along with Calvin's similar bilge) as black marks and errors in their founders, by "reformed catholics" rather than be dismissed as basically irrelevant citations taken out of context and not signifying much of anything. They accuse the anti-Catholics of reading their agendas into such quotes, but I am not so sure it is the anti-Catholics who are misinterpreting here. They might be with regard to the one question of baptism, but as we have seen, Luther makes even that remaining connection dubious or exceedingly minimalistic. Why would one not be justified in concluding that it is the reformed catholics who are special pleading here and making out that Luther and Calvin are more congenial towards the Catholic Church as a Christian institution than they in fact were??

What else do these men have to say, for heaven's sake, to prove that they were "anti-Catholic"? It seems to me that Luther says almost every conceivable thing that would lead one to the conclusion that this is what he believed. I can't even imagine what more could be said. So to basically claim that all this is taken out of context, is, I believe, a blatant instance of special pleading, in the effort to claim Luther and Calvin for one's own cause. All the reformed catholics have to do, to alleviate this difficulty is to admit that Luther and Calvin were grievously in error at this point. Anti-Catholics think they were right on. But if "reformed catholics" truly seek to build bridges towards Catholic Catholics like me, then they must renounce it, not try to deny that it exists by the tired recourse to the rhetoric of "quoting out of context." Like I said, if someone wants to challenge me on my quotes, I have all the context imaginable, and would be more than willing to engage that discussion.

No comments: