Monday, March 01, 2010

Luther's Disgust Over Rampant Protestant Sectarianism and Radical Heresies; Can't See the Connection With Sola Scriptura and Private Judgment

[Hydra.jpg]

In a recent paper having to do with Martin Luther, I noted:

At the same time, Luther's radical change of the rule of faith from an infallible Church and tradition to private judgment and sola Scriptura (Scripture as the only infallible authority) and comments about plowboys being able to interpret Scripture without the checks and balances of that Church and tradition, naturally led to excesses of individuality and sectarianism. People reasoned (consciously or not) that since Luther felt free to break away from Catholicism and gave the example of an ongoing smear campaign of propaganda and calumny against the existing Church, that there was little reason why they could not reject both the Catholic Church and him. In other words, he was again naive to think that he could unleash an entirely new principle, yet expect that no one but him would utilize it, in precisely the way that he had. Hence, Carlstadt and the Anabaptists and Zwinglians and Calvinists and other groups arose, to his great dismay. The truth (whatever it was) was not self-evidently clear to all from Scripture alone. He again failed to see any connection whatever between his teachings on authority, and what ensued.

The Catholic Encyclopedia, in its article, "Martin Luther," makes the same general point:

The tragic failure of the Peasants' War now makes him undergo an abrupt transition, and this at a moment when they stood in helpless discomfiture and pitiful weakness, the especial objects of counsel and sympathy. He and Melancthon, now proclaim for the first time the hitherto unknown doctrine of the unlimited power of the ruler over the subject; demand unquestioning submission to authority; preach and formally teach the spirit of servility and despotism. The object lesson which was to bring the enforcement of the full rigour of the law to the attention of the princes was the Peasants' War. The masses were to be laden down with burdens to curb their refractoriness; the poor man was to be "forced and driven, as we force and drive pigs or wild cattle" (Sammtl. W., XV, 276). . . .

Luther by the creation of his "universal priesthood of all Christians", by delegating the authority "to judge all doctrines" to the "Christian assembly or congregation", by empowering it to appoint or dismiss teacher or preacher, sought the overthrow of the old Catholic order. It did not strike him, that to establish a new Church, to ground an ecclesiastical organization on so precarious and volatile a basis, was in its very nature impossible. The seeds of inevitable anarchy lay dormant in such principles. Momentarily this was clear to himself, when at this very time (1525) he does not hesitate to make the confession, that there are "nearly as many sects as there are heads" (De Wette, op. cit., III, 61). This anarchy in faith was concomitant with the decay of spiritual, charitable, and educational activities. Of this we have a fairly staggering array of evidence from Luther himself.

The English Cyclopaedia, in its article on Anabaptists, observed similarly:

[T]he epithet Anabaptists appears to have been first employed to describe a body of fanatics who made their first appearance in Germany soon after the commencement of the Reformation . . . The Anabaptists were, no doubt, the growth of the Reformation -- though Protestant writers have laboured hard to make it appear that such was not the case. They were the ultra-radicals of the Reformation. Munzer, Stubner, and Storck, who were the first heads and apostles of the sect, had all been disciples of Luther; although no person could have more earnestly condemned their proceedings than did that great reformer. They first began to preach their peculiar doctrines in the town of Wittenberg, in Saxony, in the year 1521. In 1525, their followers, composed almost exclusively of the lowest rabble, rose in a general rebellion against the established authorities throughout that province, Suabia, Thuringia, and Franconia.

(Volume 1, edited by Charles Knight, London: Bradbury, Evans & Co., 1866, p. 304; cf. the analysis of Michael Hughes in Early Modern Germany, 1477-1806, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992, pp. 43-51)

The excerpts below include the famous 1525 statement from Luther: "there are almost as many sects and beliefs as there are heads." Apart from condemnation of non-trinitarians, etc. (e.g., he attacks -- though not by name -- a pantheistic group known as Loists, who had strange ideas about the Holy Spirit), Luther also goes after those who are fellow Protestants: the Anabaptists (who "won't have baptism") and Zwinglians and proto-Calvinists, or those groups known as "sacramentarians" (those who "deny "the efficacy of the Lord's supper").

Thus, Luther condemns (among many other things) beliefs that are hardly distinguishable from present-day Baptists, or anyone who holds to adult baptism, non-regenerative baptism, or who denies the Real Presence in the Eucharist. This would include the vast majority of Protestant evangelicals and Calvinists; indeed most historic and present-day Protestants, in any reasonable definition of the term. Luther would almost certainly regard them all as damned.

He wrote once, for example (I have it somewhere in my writings), that he would rather break bread with one who believed in transubstantiation than with a person like Zwingli who didn't believe that Christ was truly present. He regarded fellow Protestants like Zwingli and Martin Bucer and Oecolampadius as damned. Thus, he saw Zwingli's 1531 slaying on the battlefield as evidence of God's judgment for his having forsaken the Christian faith.

Interestingly, Luther applied the same exact phrase to the Thomists in 1518:
When it was permitted to a Thomas to stand out against the whole world, and a Scotus, Gabriel, and others to contradict him, and when, even among the scholastics, there are as many sects as there are heads, or rather every single head daily builds up a new system of divinity, why should I not have the same liberty?

(Letter to Johann von Staupitz, 31 March 1518, in Margaret A. Currie [editor and translator], The Letters of Martin Luther, London: Macmillan & Co., 1908, pp. 25-26; cf. alternate rendering in Preserved Smith, Luther's Correspondence and Other Contemporary Letters, Vol. I: 1507-1521, Philadelphia: The Lutheran Publication Society, 1913, p. 78)

In his treatise, The Three Universal Creeds, from 1538, Luther made some strange (clearly, self-justifying or -- so a Catholic might hold -- rationalizing) observations about where sectarianism is to be found:

Likewise, under the Papacy, the world was as full of fanatics and sects as in the past when the heathen ruled. The orders, institutions, churches, pilgrimages, brotherhoods, etc. instituted were innumerable. All these enjoyed peace among themselves and increased daily. None devoured another, although some were at loggerheads with each other. The pope confirmed them all . . . But now comes the Gospel, proclaiming that the whole kingdom of Christ constitutes one universal order, one body of Christ, without sects; for here, says Paul (Gal 3, 28), there is no Jew, no Greek, no barbarian, no Carthusian, etc., but all are one, and in one, Christ. Thereupon the holy orders rage and foam against this one order of Christ. But that is a confession that they are the church of sectaries and the order of the devil, and that the only true order is that established by Christ.

(in Luther's Two Catechisms, Explained By Himself in Six Classic Writings, translated by John Nicholas Lenker, Minneapolis: The Luther Press, 1908, p. 230)

The words below are all Luther's own, with my blue highlighting.

* * * * *


We believed, during the reign of the pope, that the spirits which make a noise and disturbance in the night, were those of the souls of men, who after death, return and wander about in expiation of their sins. This error, thank God, has been discovered by the Gospel, and it is known at present, that they are not the souls of men, but nothing else than those malicious devils who used to deceive men by false answers. It is they that have brought so much idolatry into the world.

The devil seeing that this sort of disturbance could not last, has devised a new one; and begins to rage in his members, I mean in the ungodly, through whom he makes his way in all sorts of chimerical follies and extravagant doctrines. This won't have baptism, that denies the efficacy of the Lord's supper; a third, puts a world between this and the last judgment; others teach that Jesus Christ is not God; some say this, others that; and there are almost as many sects and beliefs as there are heads.

I must cite one instance, by way of exemplification, for I have plenty to do with these sort of spirits. There is not one of them that does think himself more learned than Luther; they all try to win their spurs against me; and would to heaven that they were all such as they think themselves, and that I were nothing! The one of whom I speak assured me, amongst other things, that lie was sent to me by the God of heaven and earth, and talked most magnificently, but the clown peeped through all. At last, he ordered me to read the books of Moses. I asked for a sign in confirmation of this order, ' It is,' said he, ' written in the gospel of St. John.' By this time I had heard enough, and I told him, to come again, for that we should not have time, just now, to read the books of Moses. . . .

I have plenty to do in the course of the year with these poor people: the devil could not have found a better pretext for tormenting me. As yet the world had been full of those clamorous spirits without bodies, who oppressed the souls of men; now they have bodies, and give themselves out for living angels . . .

When the pope reigned we heard nothing of these troubles. The strong one (the devil) was in peace in his fortress; but now that a stronger one than he is come, and prevails against him and drives him out, as the Gospel says, he storms and comes forth with noise and fury.

Dear friends, one of these spirits of disorder has come amongst you in flesh and blood; he would lead you astray with the inventions of his pride: beware of him.

First, he tells you that all men have the Holy Ghost. Secondly, that the Holy Ghost is nothing more than our reason and our understanding. Thirdly, that all men have faith. Fourthly, that there is no hell, that at least the flesh only will be damned. Fifthly, that all souls will enjoy eternal life. Sixthly, that nature itself teaches us to do to our neighbour what we would he should do to us ; this he calls faith. Seventhly, that the law is not violated by concupiscence, so long as we are not consenting to the pleasure. Eighthly, that he that has not the Holy Ghost, is also without sin, for he is destitute of reason.

All these are audacious propositions, vain imaginations; if we except the seventh, the others are not worthy of reply. . . .

It is sufficient for us to know that God wills no sin. As to his sufferance of sin, we ought not to approach the question. The servant is not to know his master's secrets, simply his master's orders: how much less should a poor creature attempt to scrutinize or sound the mysteries and the majesty of the Creator ? . . .

To learn the law of God, and to know his soul Jesus Christ, is sufficient to absorb the whole of life. . . .

("Letter of Doctor Martin to the Christians of Antwerp" [1525; possibly on March 21st]; found on pp. 91-92 in Jules Michelet, The Life of Luther Gathered From His Own Writings, translated by G. H. Smith, London: Whittaker & Co., from the original 1835 work; primary source given as: "Luth. Werke, tom. ii. p. 61, sqq.". The same letter included the observation: "No booby is now so abject but that if he dreams or fancies anything, he must impute it to the Holy Ghost, and give himself out for a prophet." Lengthy excerpts also appear in Reuben Weiser, Luther by a Lutheran, 1848 , pp. 315-316), and in Johannes Janssen, History of the German People at the Close of the Middle Ages, Vol. V, pp. 31-32)


For thus do the Anabaptists teach, that baptism is nothing except the person do believe. Out of this principle must needs follow, that all the works of God be nothing if the man be nothing. But baptism is the work of God, and yet an evil man maketh it not to be the work of God. . . . Who seeth not here, in the Anabaptists, men not possessed with devils, but even devils themselves possessed with worse devils? . . .

If one heresy die, by and by another springeth up, for the devil doth neither slumber or sleep. I myself, which, although I be nothing, have been now in the ministry of Christ about twenty years, can truly witness that I have been assailed with more than twenty sects, of the which some are already destroyed, . . . But Satan, the god of all dissension, stirreth up daily new sects, and last of all (which, of all other, I should never have foreseen or once suspected), he hath raised up a sect of such as teach that the Ten Commandments ought to be taken out of the church, and that men should not be terrified with the law, but gently exhorted by the preaching of the grace of Christ . . . Such is the blindness and presumption of these frantic heads, which even by their own judgment do condemn themselves. . . . let the minister of Christ know that so long as he teacheth Christ purely, there shall not be wanting perverse spirits, yea, even of our own, and among ourselves, which shall seek, by all means possible, to trouble the church of Christ. . . . Yea, let him rejoice in the troubles which he suffereth by these sects and seditious spirits, continually springing up one after another.

(Commentary on Galatians, Lafayette, Indiana, Sovereign Grace Publishers, Inc., 2002, Preface, pp. xx1-xxii)


For related reading, see:


Dialogue: John Calvin's Letter to Philip Melanchthon Concerning Protestant Divisions: Its Nature, Intent, and Larger Implications

The Early Protestants Were Ecumenical? NOT! (+ Part II) (vs. Dr. Paul Owen)

Compelling Biblical Evidence Against Denominations and "Primary vs. Secondary" Doctrines

Denominationalism and Sectarianism

33,000 Protestant Denominations?

14 comments:

romishgraffiti said...

On a somewhat related note, if you ever get around to the blog What's Wrong with the World, there is a discussion about the reduction of all to private judgement, which I know you have disputed with others about before. Ed Feser makes an analogy I thought pretty good in the comments:

Take, by analogy, a system of law which governs a country. The laws are passed by a legislature, interpreted by the courts, enforced by the executive. A supreme court has the final say over what the law means. Now obviously all of this presupposes that the citizens have the basic linguistic skills to understand what the laws mean at a prima facie level; the law doesn't create that understanding but takes it for granted. It would be silly to conclude from that, though, that law is a matter of private interpretation. It isn't: Usually the meaning is clear enough, but when it isn't, the courts and the legislature are the ones who decide, not the individual citizen. Similarly, there are circumstances where an individual citizen might have to "make the call" on the spot regarding what a certain law means and whether or not it applies to a given situation. Am I allowed to fish in this specific river or not? Can I shoot this trespasser if he's on my porch or does he have to be in the house? The law might allow for a certain degree of discretion or leave certain things vague. At the end of the day, though, if a decision has to be made about such things, it is going to be the courts and legislature that does it, not the private citizen. And it would be silly to pretend that these qualifications and complications to a real-world system of law show that it is "really" the individual citizen who determines the law, that it is all at bottom a matter of private interpretation.

By the same token, yes, of course what the Church says about the Bible presupposes a basic understanding of language, principles of logic, etc. And of course there are going to be cases where the individual has to decide how to apply a certain principle taught by the Church. But it simply doesn't follow that the Catholic view "therefore" reduces after all to "private interpretation," any more than the nuances in law referred to above show that it is "really" the individual citizen who determines what the law is.



Scott W.

romishgraffiti said...

P.S. I should note the Lydia McGrew is a good egg and invaluable for her work exposing abortionist nonsense.

Adomnan said...

Luther in "Bondage of the Will":

"God works evil in us, i.e., by means of us, not through any fault of his, but owing to our faultiness, since we are by nature evil and he is good; but as he carries us along by his own activity in accordance with the nature of his omnipotence, good as he is himself he cannot help but do evil with an evil instrument, though he makes good use of this evil in accordance with his wisdom for his own glory and our salvation."

Luther in "Letter of Doctor Martin to the Christians of Antwerp":

"It is sufficient for us to know that God wills no sin. As to his sufferance of sin, we ought not to approach the question. The servant is not to know his master's secrets, simply his master's orders: how much less should a poor creature attempt to scrutinize or sound the mysteries and the majesty of the Creator?"

So, from "God works evil in us" to "it is sufficient for us to know God wills no sin," and from "he carries us along,...good as he is, he cannot help but do evil" to "as to his sufferance of sin, we ought not to approach the question." Right, he says we "ought not to approach the question," but in "Bondage of the Will," Luther is all over it.

So we can see that Luther is not entirely consistent. I suppose that Swan could compare these two statements, say that whichever he prefers is the proper "context" and so refutes the other, and then accuse Dave (or anyone who merely cites either of these two statements anywhere) of taking Luther out of context.

I guess I just spared Swan the trouble.

Edward Reiss said...

Adomnan,

You cited Luther thus:

"God works evil in us, i.e., by means of us, not through any fault of his, but owing to our faultiness, since we are by nature evil and he is good; but as he carries us along by his own activity in accordance with the nature of his omnipotence, good as he is himself he cannot help but do evil with an evil instrument, though he makes good use of this evil in accordance with his wisdom for his own glory and our salvation."

What do you think he was trying to say here?

Adomnan said...

Edward Reiss: What do you think he was trying to say here?

Adomnan: It's hard to say. The statement is internally inconsistent, and so I'm not sure I can make sense out of it.

However, I'd guess that Luther is trying to say that there is only one free will in the universe (God's), which is why he denies that men have free will in "The Bondage of the Will."

Since God's will is the only free will, it follows that everything that happens is actually willed by God, and so God wills evil just as much as good. In other words, Luther is positing a sort of determinism based on a single all-powerful will (rather like Schopenhauer, actually).

This seems to be confirmed in another quote from this work:

"God foreknows nothing by contingency, but that he foreknows, purposes, and does all things according to his immutable, eternal, and infallible will. By this thunderbolt, Free-will is thrown prostrate, and utterly dashed to pieces. (Cole, p. 26)"

At the same time, Luther, for some reason, is unwilling to reject the traditional teaching that God is good (or solely good as opposed to both good and evil), although he doesn't hesitate to describe God's will as the cause of evil.

Luther tries to divorce God from the evil He wills by making an absurd distinction between a "good" God and His "evil" tools, which is why I said at the onset that Luther's views here don't make sense. It's as if Luther were to claim that a table, say, were not the creation of the carpenter who made it, but of the carpenter's tools. If evil men are God's "tools," then God is directly responsible for the evil they do. That's implied in the very notion of a tool.

Now, you may disagree with my analysis of what Luther is "trying to say here" or you may not. In any event, Luther's views on determinism and God's participation in evil may have varied with his moods, which would make it impossible to nail them down.

The essential point I was making in my posting is that Luther sometimes contradicts himself. For example, the passage under discussion is inconsistent with -- or can quite reasonably be seen as inconsistent with -- what he says in his letter to Antwerp; i.e., that "it is sufficient to know that God wills no sin" and that one should not even speculate about why He permits ("suffers") sin. And yet Luther himself engages in such speculation!

With a person as self-contradictory as (bipolar?) Luther, it may well be pointless to seek "contexts" that incontrovertibly define what are in fact inconsistent, constantly shifting views.

Edward Reiss said...

Adomnan,

"It's hard to say. The statement is internally inconsistent, and so I'm not sure I can make sense out of it. "

Then how can you maintain that "Luther is not entirely consistent"? Are the contexts the same in the two quotes? Remember, Jesus said that he came not to judge and that he came to judge. Would you say Jesus is not entirely consistent? I wouldn't.

Adomnan said...

Edward Reiss: Then how can you maintain that "Luther is not entirely consistent"? Are the contexts the same in the two quotes?

Adomnan: Mr. Reiss, you've ignored most of my answer and yet are asking more questions. I don't see why I should do all the writing here.

Now, if you think the contexts of these quotes undermine any claim of inconsistency, then you provide the context of each and you explain what Luther meant in each, in a way that shows they are completely consistent once context is taken into account. I've said my piece. Now you say yours.

Contarini said...

I don't see any inconsistency here. Luther's point in _Bondage_ is that evil comes from our sinful wills--God's omnipotence makes Him the cause of everything, and thus God's good will works itself out even through evil instruments. Now if we ask _how_ this can be, at that point Luther would throw up his hands and say "we can't know this--it's a mystery and we should let it be." What we can say is that
1. God wills only good
2. God, being omnipotent, is the cause of everything
3. When God's good will accomplishes itself through sinful instruments, sin will result; and yet
4. God brings about good through that evil

I can't see that Luther's position is any more inconsistent than that of, say, Aquinas, though of course Aquinas is more systematic and nuanced in the way he works it out.

I'll grant that there is clearly a difference between how Luther addresses these subjects in a theological treatise like _Bondage_ and how he is going to address it in a letter intended for laypeople. Luther was very explicit that predestination is not something you want to bring up around nontheologians. So sure, there's "inconsistency" in the sense that he's going to call "mystery" sooner when addressing the "Christians of Antwerp" than when arguing with Erasmus. But I wouldn't call that inconsistency. (I actually don't engage in this "inconsistency" enough, which is one of my flaws as a teacher--I try to explain complex things to intro classes and confuse them.)

Adomnan said...

I disagree with your analysis, Contarini.

The point of "The Bondage of the Will" is that human beings, and indeed all rational creatures, lack a free will. Only God has a free will. Therefore, God freely wills everything that happens, including evil. Human beings, be they good or evil, have no ability freely to will anything. Their wills are "bound." If an event is freely willed, it can only be God who wills it (freely).

Contarini: 1. God wills only good

Adomnan: This is contradicted by Luther's statement, which I cited above: "God foreknows nothing by contingency, but that he foreknows, purposes, and does all things according to his immutable, eternal, and infallible will."

Contarini: 2. God, being omnipotent, is the cause of everything.

Adomnan: I agree with you that Luther is asserting this, but it is a heresy. The orthodox and Catholic position is that God, being good, is the cause only of good, and not of evil.

Contarini: 3. When God's good will accomplishes itself through sinful instruments, sin will result.

Adomnan: "Instruments" are not evil; the wielder of the instruments is evil, just as it's not tools that make a table, but a carpenter makes the table using his tools. You are attempting, as Luther did, to blame evil on the tools, rather than the user of the tools, which is an abusive use of language; i.e., of the meaning of tool/instrument. Even a willing tool is merely a tool if he does not will freely.

Contarini: 4. God brings about good through that evil.

Adomnan: True. God can bring good out of evil, but without ever willing or causing the evil.

Contarini: I'll grant that there is clearly a difference between how Luther addresses these subjects in a theological treatise like _Bondage_ and how he is going to address it in a letter intended for laypeople. Luther was very explicit that predestination is not something you want to bring up around nontheologians.

Adomnan: The argument that Luther was (apparently) inconsistent because he was addressing laypeople rather than theologians is not convincing. Luther's debate with Erasmus was very public, as Luther knew it would be. It wasn't as if he were addressing a closed seminar of theologians. His popular, homespun style in "The Bondage of the Will," with its pack animals ridden by God or the devil and the rest, shows that he was not speaking "technically" to a select few but addressing the masses.

Moreover,it is more than a merely apparent inconsistency to say in one place that God wills sin and in another that He doesn't. And there is the moral inconistency in Luther's engaging himself in a discussion of God's participation in sin and evil while telling others that no Christian should ever do this: "As to his sufferance of sin, we ought not to approach the question." Finally, if Luther was in fact deliberately saying contradictory things to different audiences. which would be duplicity, then that would raise a moral issue that goes beyond mere inconsistency.

Adomnan said...

Contarini: "God, being omnipotent, is the cause of everything."

and

"I can't see that Luther's position is any more inconsistent than that of, say, Aquinas, though of course Aquinas is more systematic and nuanced in the way he works it out."

Adomnan: Here is a short passage from chapter 141 of Thomas Aquinas's Compendium of Theology:

"Although God is the universal cause of all things, He is not the cause of evil as evil. But whatever good is bound up with the evil has God as its cause."

This corrobates my point that "God, being good, is the cause only of good, and not of evil."

Ben M said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adomnan said...

No doubt Luther (and Calvin) would have agreed with the biologist, Ben. I see that one of the people who commented on that article actually reproduced Luther's argument:

"Free will cannot exist if the concept of "God" holds true. A being that knows everything and created everything (and) whose sight is irrespective of time predetermines everything within your life simply by creating you.

"Free will IS an illusion, especially if you believe in a Judeo-Christian god."

Now, forget about Luther and Calvin. What would JESUS think about that?

Contarini said...

Adomnan,

Note that Aquinas says that God "is not the cause of evil _as evil_." That is not the same as the view you ascribe to him, that God is simply "not the cause of evil." You are oversimplifying Aquinas' position in order to exaggerate the difference between him and Luther. I agree that there is a difference, and I agree that Aquinas's position is much preferable. But both Luther and Aquinas are trying to make sense of the same very difficult paradoxes, and if anything Aquinas's position is more open to the charge of internal incoherence than Luther's, precisely because Aquinas (rightly) is far more concerned than Luther to preserve free will.

As for Luther addressing a different audience--Luther wrote in a lively and colloquial way no matter what the context. And I'm not claiming that he wanted to keep people ignorant about his views. (In fact, I expected that to be the next charge--but I did you an injustice there, since you rightly recognize that Luther clearly knew that what he wrote to ERasmus would be well known in educated circles.) Still, he was engaging in a learned discussion with one of the great intellectuals of his age. And believe it or not, _Bondage_ is about as technical and "scholastic" as Luther ever got (in his mature writings).

Adomnan said...

Contarini: Note that Aquinas says that God "is not the cause of evil _as evil_. That is not the same as the view you ascribe to him, that God is simply "not the cause of evil."

Adomnan: I disagree: Aqulnas thought that evil was parasitic on good, a defect of the good, and had no being in itself. Therefore, there couldn't be any evil without a good "host," so to speak, which God had created. God is the cause of everything that is good -- has being -- in an occurrence of evil, but not the cause of the defect of being, the evil as evil.

And that's exactly what Aquinas wrote: "But whatever good is bound up with the evil has God as its cause."

So God is not the cause of evil, according to Aquinas; but he is, according to Luther.

Contarini: if anything Aquinas's position is more open to the charge of internal incoherence than Luther's

Adomnan: I don't see the incoherence in Aquinas. His position makes perfect sense.

If Luther had simply said that God was both good and evil or that good and evil were categories for us, but had no application to God, then he would have have been coherent, if heretical. However, he tries to maintain that God is the cause of evil while remaining good Himself; and he does this by blaming evil on God's passive "tools" instead of on God, which is absurd.

Contarini: And I'm not claiming that he wanted to keep people ignorant about his views.

Adomnan: It's not so much this that bothers me. Rather, he tells the Christians in Antwerp that it is wrong to pry into God's "sufferance" of evil, and then he does so himself. If his position is that it's wrong for others to do it, but he can do it, then this obviously undercuts his basic claim, his excuse for overturning church authority, that divine revelation is clear and accessible to everybody and can be discovered and understood by any ploughboy who reads the Bible.