Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Martin Luther in His Pseudo-Prophetic, Hyper-Infallible, "Super-Pope" Mode (Shocking Examples)


 Here is a prime example of this motif in Luther's thinking. Citations indented below are drawn from Luther's own words, in different translations.

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. . . whoever teaches differently from what I have taught herein, or condemns me for it, he condemns God, and must be a child of Hell.


(Henry O'Connor, Luther's Own Statements, New York: Benziger Bros., 3rd ed., 1884, p. 20 / from Against Henry VIII, King of England, 1522)


. . . whoever teaches differently from what I have laid down here, or condemns me for any part of my doctrine, condemns God and is branded as a child of hell. 

(Johannes Janssen, History of the German People From the Close of the Middle Ages, 16 vols., translated by A. M. Christie, St. Louis: B. Herder, 1910; originally 1891, vol. 3, p. 265)


. . . whoever teaches otherwise than I have taught, or condemns me, condemns God and must remain a child of hell.
(Hartmann Grisar, Luther, six volumes, translated by E. M. Lamond, edited by Luigi Cappadelta, London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner and Co., 1913, vol. 5, p. 393)
 . . . whoever teaches differently and anathematizes me (damns me) because of them, anathematizes God and must remain a child of hell; because I know that this teaching is not my teaching. This is to spite all devils and men who might turn this around.

(translation by Brigitte, a German-Canadian Lutheran)
. . . Whoever teaches differently on these points than I have taught, or who condemns me in these things, he condemns God, and must remain a child of hell; for I know that these doctrines are not my doctrines. Defiance to all devils and men who attempt to subvert them!


(The Life of Martin Luther: Related from Original Authorities, Moritz Meurer, H. Ludwig: 1848, p. 266)

The original polemical piece was written by Luther in Latin and entitled Contra Henricum Regem Angliae. Luther later composed a German version which differed in some respects from his original Latin; entitled
Antwort auf Konig Hetirich's Yon Engelland Buck, wider seineu Tractat von der Babylonischen Gefangmss. It is from this version that the translations above are derived. Readers may consult the German primary source on page 229-230 of  the standard Weimar collection (WA) 10(2) and also in the Erlangen edition, 28:346-347. It is a reply to the butcher-tyrant Henry VIII's book Assertio Septum Sacramentorum ("Defence of the Seven Sacraments").

This (paraphrased) "super-pope" / "I know everything" / "whoever disagrees with me is obviously damned" / "I don't claim to be a prophet but you better fear that I am"  motif is found often in Luther. It doesn't flow merely from coarse and boorish style or loss of temper. He actually believes these things. I've documented many of the utterances in the following papers:






Here are some highlights of Luther's colorful, sadly self-deluded, megalomaniacal language (numbers refer to the papers above, where further documentation can be found): 

. . . I shall no longer do you the honor of allowing you - or even an angel from heaven - to judge my teaching or to examine it. . . . I shall not have it judged by any man, not even by any angel. For since I am certain of it, I shall be your judge and even the angels' judge through this teaching . . . so that whoever does not accept my teaching may not be saved - for it is God's and not mine. Therefore, my judgment is also not mine but God's. (1) [July 1522]

I am certain that I have my dogmas from heaven, . . . (2) [1522]

I say not that I am a prophet, but I do say that the more they despise me and esteem themselves, the more reason they have to fear that I may be a prophet . . . If I am not a prophet, yet for my own self I am certain that the Word of God is with me and not with them, for I have the Scriptures on my side, and they have only their own doctrine. (2) [1521]

But I will allow no one to assail my teaching with impunity, since I know that it is not mine, but God's. (2) [1521]

All who shun us and attack us secretly have departed from the faith . . . Just like Zwingli . . . It pains me that Zwingli and his followers take offence at my saying that 'what I write must be true.' (2)

We must needs decry the fanatics as damned . . . They actually dare to pick holes in our doctrine; . . . (2)

. . . I wrote so usefully and splendidly concerning the secular authorities as no teacher has ever done since Apostolic times, save perhaps St. Augustine; of this I may boast with a good conscience, relying on the testimony of the whole world. (3)

Not for a thousand years has God bestowed such great gifts on any bishop as He has on 
me . . . (3)
Chrysostom was a mere gossip. Jerome, the good Father, and lauder of nuns, understood precious little of Christianity. (3)

But who knows whether God has not raised me up and called me to this, and whether they have not cause to fear that they are condemning God in me? Do we not read in the Old Testament that God, as a rule, raised up only one prophet at a time? (3)
 
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10 comments:

infanttheology said...

"He actually believes these things."

I actually believe these things as well. And so should you. Seriously. : )

http://weedon.blogspot.com/2011/07/chemnitz-on-big-beef.html

Really, when Luther speaks this way, it is within the context of defending doctrines of Scripture over against the doctrines of the church or canon law. The pope claimed to be right because he was pope (and maybe because he was the ruler of a massive enterprise). Luther claimed to be right because of Scripture.

He *actually* thought the Scriptures were clear enough and that their core message was obvious enough for everyone to see.

The nerve.

Yes, I actually believe this. I think it is true. Luther was much like the OT prophets. Where in RC doctrine is the existence for such prophets - such "out of the church mainstream" people - dealt with?

Dave Armstrong said...

So you actually defend all of these ridiculous sayings of his?

Where in RC doctrine is the existence for such prophets - such "out of the church mainstream" people - dealt with?

We have saints who are extraordinary and who rebuked popes at times: folks like St. Catherine of Siena, St. Dominic, and St. Francis. But they didn't talk like Luther. They might rebuke a particular error, but they don't say that they have all truth, and everyone else for 1500 years was a dumbbell except them, and run down the Church, etc.

So you might say we have a prophetic tradition without the ludicrous excess that is so obviously apparent in Luther.

infanttheology said...

Dave,

Yes, for the most part I defend his statements. If he *actually said* that "everyone else for 1500 years was a dumbbell" up to him, I'd disagree with him.

"We have saints who are extraordinary and who rebuked popes at times: folks like St. Catherine of Siena, St. Dominic, and St. Francis. But they didn't talk like Luther. They might rebuke a particular error...."

On issues of faith or morals? As Luther pointed out, the issue was the doctrine. Likewise, in the Old Testament, people embraced false doctrines. Behavior was not really the issue for Luther, belief was. I'd like to know more about the prophets in the RCC who confronted the teachings (not behavior) of the mainstream church and still continued to be recognized by the church. I confess I do not know as much about this as I should, but from what little I have been able to gather, there aren't any. Maybe I am wrong.

Thanks again for your blog. Appreciate your desire to delve into these issues.

Ben said...

[Luther] *actually* thought the Scriptures were clear enough and that their core message was obvious enough for everyone to see.

"Obvious"?

Then how does one explain this?

The nerve.

infanttheology said...

Ben,

Yes, obvious and clear.

Simple Christians would have always understood such clear words (like Romans 5:1 for example), and the Church Fathers, if pressed, almost certainly would have come to see the light had they been pressed more by blatant heresies to do so (as Augustine was). In any case, very few of their writings show evidence of ideas that would explictily mitigate justifcation by faith alone.

So yes. Intellectuals often create systematic frameworks which overcome the clear meaning of simple statements that even children can understand. It happens all the time.

Luther was right. People, even sincere Christians, simply suppress the truth to this or that degree (this has to do with the sinner/saint thing as well, also rejected by the RCC in spite of the clear meaning of Romans 3 and 7)

I hope Dave can answer my question. I will state my point again: the RCC has no room for prophets who would call the church away from false teachings.

You can see more about how I think (roughly) by reading this paper, which is one of the better ones out there:

http://www.angelfire.com/ny4/djw/WebberReformationsBefore.pdf

Dave Armstrong said...

The Church is protected from such false (dogmatic, binding) teachings in the first place. That is what the infallibility of the Church means.

Those who rebuked popes did so when they were going against clear moral stands; were being hypocrites or wimps.

In the case of Pope John XXII, though, he temporarily denied (uofficially) the Beatific Vision, and there was a spontaneous reaction against him from laypeople. He denied what had been held.

With Luther it is entirely otherwise. He comes around and starts denying at least 50 received doctrines and practices (as I have documented from his pre-1521 works alone).

That's not reform: it is full-fledged rebellion and revolution: such that no institution would ever, and should never, sanction.

If I went to your Lutheran church (or whatever you are) and stated that I had a special commission from God, standing on Scripture and pain reason, and that you had 61 teachings that were false and must immediately change, I would not only not be heard or taken seriously, but would be thrown out on my ear as a nut and fruitcake.

Yet we're supposed to accept as self-evident that Luther was right, and 1500 years of Catholic Apostolic Tradition wrong. It's no different. It's not even reasonable to do such a thing, even before we get to individual theological issues.

Ben said...

infanttheology: Simple Christians would have always understood such clear words (like Romans 5:1 for example).

Ben: Hmmm, like maybe these "simple Christians" ? ;)

infanttheology: and the Church Fathers, if pressed, almost certainly would have come to see the light had they been pressed more by blatant heresies to do so (as Augustine was).

Ben: Anyone seriously read in the Father knows they saw the light - and very clearly! And how else could they have conquered the innumerable heresies with which they had to contend?

And if anyone thinks that Augustine was in the Protestant camp, well, I suggest reading pages 161-162 of this. Newman does a great job in summary form of contrasting Luther and Augustine.

infanttheology: In any case, very few of their writings show evidence of ideas that would explictily mitigate justifcation by faith alone.

Ben: Unlike that raving apostle ! (See also Grisar, volume 5. p. 522) ;)

infanttheology: So yes. Intellectuals often create systematic frameworks which overcome the clear meaning of simple statements that even children can understand. It happens all the time.

Ben: And were not the Reformers themselve "intellectuals"??

infanttheology: Luther was right. People, even sincere Christians, simply suppress the truth to this or that degree (this has to do with the sinner/saint thing as well, also rejected by the RCC in spite of the clear meaning of Romans 3 and 7).

Ben: No, Luther was just plain wrong! And besides, did you know that the “sinner/saint thing” actually comes, not from Luther, but from St. Bonaventure, who apparently rejected Luther's self-serving interpretaion? It’s true If you're interested, you can read chapter 4 here. This is fascinating stuff; I recommend you buy the book and share it with as many people as you can.

God bless.

infanttheology said...

Dave and Ben,

Thanks for the engagement. I appreciate the conviction with which you write even though I think it is misled.

I do wish I had more time to continue the discussion, but I don't.

I will simply make a couple brief comments and allow you to have the last word (if you please).

Dave, I would be interested in knowing the 50 or 61 things that Luther denied that had been held for 1500 years (though that sounds extremely silly to me). Please provide the link if please.

In my mind, Luther clearly did not have rebellion in mind, but was a faithful son of the Church. Further, I do not think the "Catholic Apostolic Tradition" was nearly as monolithic as you say.

I think I am confirmed in my claim by your saying the infallibility of the Church protects it from false [dogmatic, binding] teachings in the first place. Indeed, in the RCC and EO conceptions of the Church there is no room for the idea that false teachings could ever be proclaimed in the highest levels of the church. I look at the O.T. and the N.T. (see the Pharisees, who sit in Moses' seat, rejecting those teachings brought by John and Jesus) and see all the confirmation I need for the Lutheran view. Not that there is no hope - the Holy Scriptures, recognized widely from the very beginning by faithful believers everywhere, do indeed guide us into all truth.

And that Ben, is where we find the "sinner-saint" thing. Romans 7 is clear as a bell. And there were other early fathers who thought that it certainly described Paul after his conversion as well.

Best regards,
Nathan

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Nathan,

Thanks for your civility and your conviction as well. Here is a link to my "extremely silly" yet (unfortunately) stubbornly factual account:

50 Ways In Which Luther Had Departed From Catholic Orthodoxy or Established Practice by 1520 (and Why He Was Excommunicated)

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2006/03/50-ways-in-which-luther-had-departed.html

Related:

Dialogue: Why Was Martin Luther Excommunicated? / Questions Concerning Luther's Expressed Obedience to the Pope's Decision Regarding His Orthodoxy

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2008/06/dialogue-why-was-martin-luther.html

Was Corruption in the Medieval Papacy the Primary Cause of the Protestant Revolt?

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2004/05/was-corruption-in-medieval-papacy.html

I look at the O.T. and the N.T. (see the Pharisees, who sit in Moses' seat, rejecting those teachings brought by John and Jesus) and see all the confirmation I need for the Lutheran view.

It's precisely the opposite of the way you are portraying it. Jesus was not against Pharisaism per se, but against hypocrisy in particular Pharisees: a far different thing. He Himself followed Pharisaical traditions, and Paul called himself a Pharisee twice.

Jesus didn't reject their teaching authority at all: quite the contrary. He stated, "practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice." (Matthew 23:3, RSV)

It was a rebuke for hypocrisy; not false teaching (having just upheld their continuing authority on the basis of Moses' Seat, which is an extrabiblical tradition, not in the OT. it was exactly analogous to Paul's rebuke of Peter in Galatians for hypocrisy. They agreed in principle, but peter was acting hypocritically.

As so often, you are simply reading your prior beliefs into the text, but as we see, you have distorted the meaning entirely. Therefore, your analogy to Lutheranism over against Catholic tradition and Church authority fails miserably. This text doesn't support it at all.

Ben said...

Hi Nathan,

You wrote: “And that Ben, is where we find the "sinner-saint" thing. Romans 7 is clear as a bell. And there were other early fathers who thought that it certainly described Paul after his conversion as well.”

Well, Nathan, I don't know. I don't think you should be too quick to appeal to the Fathers! ;)

I mean, it’s been my experience at any rate that, as often as our Protestant brethren enlist the Fathers and Doctors as allies, they just as often fail in their purpose!

As I think I showed above with Bonaventure, the Protestant understanding of the “sinner-saint” thing is just not the same as the Catholic understanding (though I believe there is room for ecumenical discussion). And anyway, contrast what what Paul says in Rom 7 to what he says earlier in Rom 6:6):

“For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.

This is what grace does; it frees us from slavery to sin – if we cooperate with it! And speaking of cooperation, you might be interested in what St. Bernard has to say on the subject.

In this Bernard is just following Augustine and the Catholic tradition.

I might also point out that this cooperation and participation - in and with grace - is the basis of the intercession of saints, another area where I’ve seen Protestants try to make common cause with the Fathers against Catholic practices .

However, this appeal to a Father fails due to a rather poor understanding of the Fathers and councils (see p. 317). In any event, from his own practice, Theodoret can hardly be considereed a Protestant ally!

See also this and this (where there's fuller documentaion near the bottom).

I think you would agree then that the above would be, for the vast majority of Protestants, anathema!

Ultimately, the question is simply this: who shall we listen to, the Church (Matthew 18:17) as embodied in the teachings of the Fathers and Doctors and guided by the Magisterium, or to Luther? I'm sure you can guess my answer! ;)

Anyway, perhaps we’ll have a chance to talk more later on.

Till then, God bless.