Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Did the Older Luther's Illness and Frustration Significantly (and Negatively) Impact His Writing? Luther Historians Say Yes

By Catholic Apologist Dave Armstrong (6-12-13)

I made the following statement in my paper earlier today, entitled: "Martin Luther's Positive Statements on the Christian Status of the Catholic Church as a Theological Worldview":

Another relevant factor to take into consideration is Luther's ravings when he was an old, embittered, sick man (disgusted even with most Protestants, including his own party, let alone Catholics): often regarded as from 1543 till his death in 1546. Many -- if not most -- Luther scholars think they should be taken with a large grain of salt: certainly not literally all down the line. Some of these rantings are blatantly anti-Catholic in nature; other famous pontifications from this period are his jeremiads against the "Sacramentarians" (Protestants who denied the Real Presence in the Eucharist) and the Jews.

The context had to do with Luther's view of the Catholic Church: whether it still retained Christianity or could be regarded as Christian in some sense. I documented his affirmative views in that paper, but I also noted that he said many negative things, and that as an old man his rhetoric was so ratcheted-up that it must be interpreted a bit differently, taking his illness and frustrations, etc. into consideration.

Now, that rankled and distressed James Swan, an anti-Catholic Reformed Protestant polemicist, to such an extent that he felt compelled to rail about it on his site, Boors All: as usual, neither naming me nor linking to the paper where I stated this, so that folks could examine context (even though he quotes me directly).

All of this is quite ironic and ridiculous, of course, since Swan rants constantly about how Catholic apologists care nothing about context. Moreover, if I dare to show up on his site to give the link to the latest paper of mine that he is obsessed with as of late, and dare to present another side, he deletes everything I put up. Can't be too careful these days, in preserving cynical propaganda against criticism from those wascally wicked "Romanists"!! Here is what he wrote today:

Oh no with Luther, if he's saying something Romanists don't like which disagrees with their preconceived historical revisionism, Luther isn't "developing." Rather, he was such an erratic thinker that he contradicted himself month to month, and... to make it worse, he was "an old, embittered, sick man" so anything he said later in his life can't be trusted. . . .
Luther did not consider the defenders of the papacy to be Christians, and even in 1520, in a restrained way he's saying the same thing he did 20 years later when he was "an old, embittered, sick man." 

First of all, I didn't say that we should entirely discount "anything" Luther wrote when he was old, sick, and embittered. I simply stated that it was "another relevant factor" and that (Protestant) Luther scholars "think they should be taken with a large grain of salt: certainly not literally all down the line." Big wow! This is, unfortunately, classic Swan tactics: distort what the opponent says; don't cite it in context; don't provide a link for the same ends; don't allow the person to respond on your site; then proceed to tear down the straw man that isn't even the person's actual opinion, in an effort to defame and belittle. I never claimed that later Luther statements were to be completely disregarded or dismissed. But for Swan (given to myths and fairy-tales, above all, whenever the detested, despised "Romanists" are involved), somehow I did do that.

I shall now proceed to back up everything I stated from Protestant biographers, and even from John Calvin and Heinrich Bullinger: contemporaries, fellow "reformers" and acquaintances of Luther (if only by letter).

Roland H. Bainton

[author of Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (New York: Mentor Books, 1950): without question the most well-known and probably most renowned -- certainly most influential -- Luther biography in English; citations from the Internet Archive version, that can easily be searched by word; excerpts from chapter 22: "The Measure of the Man"]

The last sixteen years of Luther's life, from the Augsburg Confession in 1530 to his death in 1546, are commonly treated more cursorily by biographers than the earlier period, if indeed they are not omitted altogether. There is a measure of justification for this comparative neglect because the last quarter of Luther's life was neither determinative for his ideas nor crucial for his achievements. . . .

. . . the conflicts and the labors of the dramatic years had impaired his health and made him prematurely an irascible old man, petulant, peevish, unrestrained, and at times positively coarse. This is no doubt another reason why biographers prefer to be brief in dealing with this period. There are several incidents over which one would rather draw the veil, but precisely because they are so often exploited to his discredit they are not to be left unrecorded. The most notorious was his attitude toward the bigamy of the landgrave, Philip of Hesse. . . . Luther's solution of the problem can be called only a pitiable subterfuge.

. . . The second development of those later years was a hardening toward sectaries, notably the Anabaptists.

[Bainton goes on to detail how Luther and Melanchthon adopted the view of capital punishment against them]

. . . Another dissenting group to attract Luther's concern was the Jews.

[Bainton analyzes -- with obvious disapproval, as in all these cases -- the horrible and famous statements that Luther made against them, stating, "One could wish that Luther had died before ever this tract was written."]

. . . The third group toward whom Luther became more bitter was the papists. His railing against the pope became perhaps the more vituperative because there was so little else that could be done. Another public appearance such as that at Worms, where an ampler confession could be made, was denied Luther, and the martyrdom which came to others also passed him by. He compensated by hurling vitriol Toward the very end of his life he issued an illustrated tract with outrageously vulgar cartoons. In all of this he was utterly unrestrained.

. . . However much the superb defiance of the earlier days might degenerate into the peevishness of one racked by disease, labor, and discouragement, yet a case of genuine need would always restore his sense of proportion and bring him into the breach. . . . Luther's later years are, however, by no means to be written off as the sputterings of a dying flame. If in his polemical tracts he was at times savage and coarse, in the works which constitute the real marrow of his life's endeavor he grew constantly in maturity and artistic creativity.

There you have it, folks. I outrageously (?) describe Luther as "an old, embittered, sick man . . . disgusted . . .." Two of those words are undeniable ("old" and "sick"); so the only "controversial" things I said was that he was "embittered" and "disgusted" (with various shortcomings among Protestants and all of his other concerns).

Bainton, his leading biographer (and great admirer) describes him, on the other hand, as "prematurely an irascible old man, petulant, peevish, unrestrained, and at times positively coarse. . . . more bitter . . . [producer of]  outrageously vulgar cartoons . . . utterly unrestrained. . . . the peevishness of one racked by disease, labor, and discouragement . . ."

I stated that his "last years" were roughly from 1543-1546. Bainton dates them from 1530 on: 13 years earlier than my given dates. He even notes how historians generally greatly underemphasize the last 16 years of Luther's life. Thus, for Bainton (and Church historians generally), this is a far bigger factor in Luther analysis than in my view. Yet I am supposedly so "anti-Luther" and they are not.

Which is worse? I get trashed as a mere partisan of "Romanism" who cares nothing about historical fact, because I supposedly despise Luther (I don't: I admire him in many ways but am also a strong critic of his theological errors and whoppers about the Catholic Church and catholics: none of it entailing hatred or calumny), while Bainton gets a pass for stating far worse than I did? That is James Swan's Alice-in-Wonderland world, where facts are irrelevant and logic is a joke, and Catholics always wrong, wherever they disagree with Protestants: about anything whatever!

Martin Brecht

[author of Martin Luther: The Preservation of the Church: 1532-1546 (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993, from the 1987 German original; translated by James L. Schaaf) ]

 . . . recent presentations have treated the last two decades of his life more or less cursorily . . .

It is well known that the personality of the old Luther displayed great tensions, both in deed and thought, His shortness and rudeness with his friends, although perhaps explainable, continually caused offense. In the many tasks that he had to perform, it was unavoidable that he also repeatedly made serious errors both ion practice and in theory. (Foreword, pp. xi-xii)

In February [1545] he was engaged in writing Against the Roman Papacy, an Institution of the Devil . . . It was written in an extremely vehement manner, full of crude statements and vulgar expressions. He was probably unable, because of his declining abilities, to organize it in as well-balanced a manner as he planned. To this extent, it is not one of Luther's best works, but its offensiveness and formalistic weaknesses need not divert us from seeing that once again he was dealing with essential matters in his conflict with the papacy. (p. 359)

Although the manifestation of Christianity in the papacy was a pollution to Luther -- theologically, juridically, ecclesiastically, and politically -- his reaction was still inappropriate, for, conditioned in his anger and eschatological bias, he could scarcely see any positive alternative in the controversy that concerned him until his end. (p. 367)

Mark U. Edwards, Jr.

[author of Luther's Last Battles: Politics and Polemics, 1531-1546 (Ithaca, New York, and London: Cornell University Press, 1983) ]

It becomes difficult to escape the impression that Against Hanswurst [1541] represented an escalation in the coarseness and abusiveness of the controversy . . .Heinrich Bullinger of Zurich [fellow Protestant "reformer"] . . . did characterize it in a later letter to Bucer [another "reformer"] as 'unbecoming, completely immodest, entirely scurrilous, and frivolous,' but his evaluation remained private. (p. 154)

Here is an excerpt from Luther's work, that Edwards cites on pp. 150-151:

You are both the real Hanswursts, bumpkins, louts, and boors . . . Both of you, father and son, are incorrigible, honorless, perjured rogues . . . But suppose what you will, so do it in your pants and hang it around your neck and make a sausage of it for yourself and gobble it down, you gross asses and sows!


The last major polemic of Luther's life [Against the Papacy at Rome, Founded by the Devil (March 1545) ] . . . was intended to inform Protestants of the true horror of the papal antichrist and to discredit the council convened at Trent . . . Without question it is the most intentionally violent and vulgar writing to come from Luther's pen. (p. 163)

The Introduction for this hideous tract, in Luther's Works, the 55-volume American edition, describes it as "the most bitter of Luther's polemic writings" (LW, 41, 259-290)

Preserved Smith

During his later years Luther's polemic never flagged. His last book, Against the Papacy of Rome, founded by the Devil, surpassed Cicero and the humanists and all that had ever been known in the virulence of its invective . . . Of course such lack of restraint largely defeated its own ends. The Swiss Reformer Bullinger called it "amazingly violent," and a book than which he "had never read anything more savage or imprudent." Our judgment of it must be tempered by the consideration that Luther suffered in his last years from a nervous malady and from other painful diseases, due partly to overwork and lack of exercise, partly to the quantities of alcohol he imbibed, though he never became intoxicated.

(Reformation in Europe, Book I of a two-volume edition of The Age of Reformation, New York: Collier Books, 1962; originally 1920, 102)

John Calvin

Writing to Luther's right hand man Philip Melanchthon, Calvin stated:

Your Pericles [Luther] allows himself to be carried beyond all due bounds with his love of thunder . . .

But, you will say, his disposition is vehement, and his impetuosity is ungovernable; -- as if that very vehemence did not break forth with all the greater violence when all shew themselves alike indulgent to him, and allow him to have his way, unquestioned. If this specimen of overbearing tyranny has sprung forth already as the early blossom in the springtide of a reviving Church, what must we expect in a short time, when affairs have fallen into a far worse condition?

(28 June 1545; Letter CXXXVI in Selected Works of John Calvin: Tracts and Letters, edited by Henry Beveridge and Jules Bonnet, Volume 4: Letters, Part 1: 1528-1545, translated by David Constable, Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1858; reprinted by Baker Book House [Grand Rapids, Michigan], 1983, 466-467)

He was even more critical in a letter to Bullinger (the "reformers" had a knack of griping about each other in such letters):

I hear that Luther has at length broken forth in fierce invective, not so much against you as against the whole of us [referring to Luther's Short Confession Concerning the Supper] . . .

But while he is endued with rare and excellent virtues, he labours at the same time under serious faults. Would that he had rather studied to curb this restless, uneasy temperament which is so apt to boil over in every direction. I wish, moreover, that he had always bestowed the fruits of that vehemence of natural temperament upon the enemies of the truth, and that he had not flashed his lightning sometimes also upon the servants of the Lord. Would that he had been more observant and careful in the acknowledgment of his own vices. Flatterers have done him much mischief, since he is naturally too prone to be over-indulgent to himself. It is our part, however, so to reprove whatsoever evil qualities may beset him, as that we may make some allowance for him at the same time on the score of these remarkable endowments with which he has been gifted.

(25 November 1544; Letter CXXII, ibid., 432-433)

See lots more Luther analyses on my Martin Luther web page. 


Martin Luther's Positive Statements on the Christian Status of the Catholic Church as a Theological Worldview

By Catholic Apologist Dave Armstrong (6-12-13)

These are excerpts from a larger dialogue that also discussed Calvin's view (with this new introduction and summary). All words are Luther's except for a few comments from scholars on his views and positions, or my introductory comments, which will be in blue, and the bibliographical source information: in green. It should be noted that Luther also makes tons of negative statements about the Catholic Church, but these are mostly directed towards the hierarchy or the papacy, which he does not equate with the Catholic Church as a whole. He regards the latter as "antichrist," etc. 

 Luther's thought develops (from both true and false premises that he holds), and he is also quite capable of -- and not infrequently guilty of -- either self-contradiction or vacillation (on any topic). Moreover, it is always of the utmost importance in interpreting Luther, to take into consideration context and his particular "mood" or the literary technique he uses at any given time. He often utilizes sarcasm and hyperbole and other non-literal devices to get his point across. Because of this, he is often cited out of context, and unjustly so: making people think he taught something that he did not, in fact, teach.

Another relevant factor to take into consideration is Luther's ravings when he was an old, embittered, sick man (disgusted even with most Protestants, including his own party, let alone Catholics): often regarded as from 1543 till his death in 1546. Many -- if not most -- Luther scholars think they should be taken with a large grain of salt: certainly not literally all down the line. Some of these rantings are blatantly anti-Catholic in nature; other famous pontifications from this period are his jeremiads against the "Sacramentarians" (Protestants who denied the Real Presence in the Eucharist) and the Jews.

[note: the above paragraph has become a bone of contention and was scathingly critiqued by the persistently slanderous anti-Catholic Reformed polemicist, James Swan.  I replied at length, thoroughly backing myself up, in my paper, "Did the Older Luther's Illness and Frustration Significantly Impact His Negative Rhetoric? "]

In any event, the positive statements documented below (mostly intended literally, as far as I can tell) mean what they mean, and have to be interpreted in their own right; not simply rationalized away or dismissed en masse because he said "bad stuff" somewhere else (as my opponent in the larger dialogue foolishly attempted to do, in classic anti-Catholic polemical form). Nor is it insignificant that leading Luther scholars back up my present point of view.

Amateurs and polemicists and wannabe apologists or historians on the Internet (with an agenda and ax to grind) can and do claim all sorts of things (often with a ludicrous and self-important dogmatism); what Luther scholars or Church historians believe, on the other hand, is quite a different story indeed. Thus, I always try to massively back up my contentions with scholars (and primary documentation), for this very reason: because I know full well that my opinion as an amateur historian and student of Church history carries little or no weight without them. Nor would I ever want to give the slightest impression that they had any weight, minus this documentation and whatever scholarly support I can find to aid my arguments.

* * * * *

Baptism is especially important with regard to Luther's statements.  He thought that the Catholic Church possessed true baptism. Now, when we analyze what Luther thought about baptism, it's clear that he thought that Catholics could very well be saved by means of it. Here is what Luther expressed along these lines:

    Little children . . . are free in every way, secure and saved solely through the glory of their baptism . . . Through the prayer of the believing church which presents it, . . . the infant is changed, cleansed, and renewed by inpoured faith. Nor should I doubt that even a godless adult could be changed, in any of the sacraments, if the same church prayed for and presented him, as we read of the paralytic in the Gospel, who was healed through the faith of others (Mark 2:3-12). I should be ready to admit that in this sense the sacraments of the New Law are efficacious in conferring grace, not only to those who do not, but even to those who do most obstinately present an obstacle.   
    (The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, 1520, from the translation of A.T.W. Steinhauser, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, revised edition, 1970, 197)
Likewise, in his Large Catechism (1529), Luther writes:

     Expressed in the simplest form, the power, the effect, the benefit, the fruit and the purpose of baptism is to save. No one is baptized that he may become a prince, but, as the words declare [of Mark 16:16], that he may be saved. But to be saved, we know very well, is to be delivered from sin, death, and Satan, and to enter Christ's kingdom and live forever with him . . . Through the Word, baptism receives the power to become the washing of regeneration, as St. Paul calls it in Titus 3:5 . . . Faith clings to the water and believes it to be baptism which effects pure salvation and life . . .
    When sin and conscience oppress us . . . you may say: It is a fact that I am baptized, but, being baptized, I have the promise that I shall be saved and obtain eternal life for both soul and body . . . Hence, no greater jewel can adorn our body or soul than baptism; for through it perfect holiness and salvation become accessible to us . . .

    (From edition by Augsburg Publishing House [Minneapolis], 1935, sections 223-224, 230, pp. 162, 165)

Ewald M. Plass's magisterial 1667-page volume, What Luther Says (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959) -- I have it in my own library -- provides more evidence. He writes, himself, on p. 128:

. . . while scoring papal innovations, Luther never ceased to confess indebtedness to the Church of Rome and to regard it as a Christian organization. He expresses this clearly in a Church Postil sermon on John 15:26 - 16:4, in connection with John 16:3. Between the Church of Rome and the Lutheran Church a relation exists similar to that which once existed between the Jewish Church and the apostolic Christian Church . . .

I found this sermon online. It dates from 1522. Here is an excerpt, with his "ecumenical" sentiments, in-between a mountain of hostility and his usual lies about the Catholic Church:

28. Accordingly, we concede to the papacy that they sit in the true Church, possessing the office instituted by Christ and inherited from the apostles, to teach, baptize, administer the sacrament, absolve, ordain, etc., just as the Jews sat in their synagogues or assemblies and were the regularly established priesthood and authority of the Church. We admit all this and do not attack the office, although they are not willing to admit as much for us; yea, we confess that we have received these things from them, even as Christ by birth descended from the Jews and the apostles obtained the Scriptures from them. . . .

32. Thus we say to the papists: We grant you, indeed, the name and office, and regard these as holy and precious, for the office is not yours, but has been established by Christ and given to the Church without regard for and distinction of the persons who occupy it. Therefore, whatever is exercised through this office as the institution of Christ, and in his name and that of the Church, is at all times right and proper, even though ungodly and unbelieving men may participate. We must distinguish between the office and the person exercising it, between rightful use and abuse. The name of God and of Christ is always holy in itself; but it may be abused and blasphemed. So also, the office of the Church is holy and precious, but the person occupying it may be accursed and belong to the devil.  . . .

43. We admit that the papists also exercise the appointed offices of the Church, baptize, administer the sacrament etc., when they observe these things as the institution of Christ, in the name of Christ and by virtue of his command (just as in the Church we must regard as right and efficacious the offices of the Church and baptism administered by heretics), . . .

In the first place I hear and see that such rebaptism is undertaken by some in order to spite the pope and to be free of any taint of the Antichrist. In the same way the foes of the sacrament want to believe only in bread and wine, in opposition to the pope, thinking thereby really to overthrow the papacy. It is indeed a shaky foundation on which they can build nothing good. On that basis we would have to disown the whole of Scripture and the office of the ministry, which of course we have received from the papacy. We would also have to make a new Bible. . . . 

We on our part confess that there is much that is Christian and good under the papacy; indeed everything that is Christian and good is to be found there and has come to us from this source. For instance we confess that in the papal church there are the true holy Scriptures, true baptism, the true sacrament of the altar, the true keys to the forgiveness of sins, the true office of the ministry, the true catechism in the form of the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the articles of the creed . . . I speak of what the pope and we have in common . . . I contend that in the papacy there is true Christianity, even the right kind of Christianity and many great and devoted saints.  

. . . The Christendom that now is under the papacy is truly the body of Christ and a member of it. If it is his body, then it has the true spirit, gospel, faith, baptism, sacrament, keys, the office of the ministry, prayer, holy Scripture, and everything that pertains to Christendom. So we are all still under the papacy and therefrom have received our Christian treasures. 

. . . We do not rave as do the rebellious spirits, so as to reject everything that is found in the papal church. For then we would cast out even Christendom from the temple of God, and all that it contained of Christ.

[251] . . . We recall that St. John was not averse to hearing the Word of God from Caiaphas and pays attention to his prophecy [John 11:49 f.] . . . Christ bids us hear the godless Pharisees in the seat of Moses, though they are godless teachers . . . Let God judge their evil lies. We can still listen to their godly words . . .

Still we must admit that the enthusiasts have the Scriptures and the Word of God in other doctrines. Whoever hears it from them and believes will be saved, even though they are unholy heretics and blasphemers of Christ.

. . . [256] if the first, or child, baptism were not right, it would follow that for more than a thousand years there was no baptism or any Christendom, which is impossible. For in that case the article of the creed, I believe in one holy Christian church, would be false . . . [257] If this baptism is wrong then for that long period Christendom would have been without baptism, and if it were without baptism it would not be Christendom. 

(Concerning Rebaptism: A Letter to Two Pastors, 1528, Luther's Works ["LW"], Vol. 40, 225-262; translated by Conrad Bergendoff, pp. 231-232, 251, 256-257) 

. . . even though it is in the midst of wolves and robbers, that is, spiritual tyrants, it nevertheless is the church. Although the city of Rome is worse than Sodom and Gomorrah, yet Baptism, the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, the reading (vox) and text of the Gospel, Holy Scriptures, the ministry, the name of Christ, and the name of God remain in her.
(Luther's exposition of Galatians 1:2 in his 1531 commentary; quoted by Plass, ibid., p. 130, #375A)

This testimony of the universal holy Christian Church, even if we had nothing else, would be a sufficient warrant for holding this article [on the sacrament] and refusing to suffer or listen to a sectary, for it is dangerous and fearful to hear or believe anything against the unanimous testimony, belief, and teaching of the universal holy Christian churches, unanimously held in all the world from the beginning until now over fifteen hundred years.

(Letter to Albrecht, Margrave of Brandenburg and Duke of Prussia, 1532; from Roland H. Bainton, Studies on the Reformation, Boston: Beacon Press, 1963, p. 26; WA, Vol. XXX, 552) 

This letter, apparently passed over by Luther’s Works, Vol. 50 (Letters III), was, thankfully, cited at some length by the celebrated Protestant historian Philip Schaff, and refers to, as Schaff notes, “the real presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper”:

Moreover, this article has been unanimously believed and held from the beginning of the Christian Church to the present hour, as may be shown from the books and writings of the dear fathers, both in the Greek and Latin languages, -- which testimony of the entire holy Christian Church ought to be sufficient for us, even if we had nothing more. For it is dangerous and dreadful to hear or believe anything against the unanimous testimony, faith, and doctrine of the entire holy Christian Church, as it has been held unanimously in all the world up to this year 1500. Whoever now doubts of this, he does just as much as if he believed in no Christian Church, and condemns not only the entire holy Christian Church as a damnable heresy, but Christ Himself, and all the Apostles and Prophets, who founded this article, when we say, “I believe in a holy Christian Church,” to which Christ bears powerful testimony in Matt. 28.20: “Lo, I am with you alway, to the end of the world,” and Paul, in 1 Tim. 3.15: “The Church is the pillar and ground of the truth.”

(The Life and Labours of St. Augustine, Oxford University: 1854, 95. Italics are Schaff’s own; cf. abridged [?] version in Preserved Smith, The Life and Letters of Martin Luther, Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1911, pp. 290-292; cf. Johann Adam Mohler, Symbolism, 1844, 400)

Schaff, writing in The Reformed Quarterly Review (July, 1888, p. 295), cites the passage yet again, and translates one portion a little differently (my italics):

The testimony of the entire holy Christian Church (even without any other proof) should be sufficient for us to abide by this article and to listen to no sectaries against it.  


By His miraculous power God nonetheless preserved under the pope, first, Holy Baptism, then, in the pulpit, the text of the holy Gospel in the language of each country, thirdly, the forgiveness of sins and absolution in both private confession and the public services; fourthly, the holy Sacrament of the altar . . . fifthly, the calling and ordaining to the pastorate, the ministry, or the care of souls . . . finally, also prayer, the Psalter, the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments; likewise, many good hymns and songs . . . Therefore Christ with His Holy Spirit surely was with his own and sustained Christian faith in them . . .

(in Plass, ibid., p. 129, #375)

The papacy has God’s word and the office of the apostles, and we have received the Holy Scriptures, baptism, the sacrament, and the office of preaching from them . . . we ourselves find it difficult to refute it . . . Then there come rushing into my heart thoughts like these: Now I see that I am in error. Oh, if only I had never started this and had never preached a word! For who dares oppose the church, of which we confess in the creed: I believe in a holy Christian church . . .

(Sermons on John 14-16, 1538 [on Jn 16:1-2], Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther, translated by Robert C. Schultz, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966, 336; WA, Vol. 46, 5 ff. [edited by Cruciger]; cf. LW, Vol. XXIV, 304)

Thus we are also compelled to say: “I believe and am sure that the Christian Church has remained even in the papacy” . . . some of the papists are true Christians, even though they, too, have been led astray, as Christ foretold in Matt. 24:24. But by the grace of God and with His help they have been preserved in a wonderful manner.

(Sermons on John 14-16, 1538 [on Jn 16:1-2], LW, Vol. XXIV, 305)

[I]t is necessary to consider their beliefs and teachings. If I see that they preach and confess Christ as the One sent by God the Father to reconcile us to the Father through His death and to obtain grace for us, then we are in agreement, and I regard them as my dear brethren in Christ and as members of the Christian Church.

Yet the proclamation of this text – together with Baptism, the Sacrament of Christ, and the articles of the Creed – has remained even in the papacy, although many errors and devious paths have been introduced alongside it. . . . All errors notwithstanding, the true church has never perished.

(Ibid., 309)


We know that Luther regarded Catholic baptism as valid; therefore, by ineluctable logic, Catholics are Christians, on that basis, if he regarded baptized people as such.

Luther (like Calvin) was not rebaptized as an adult (and excommunicated Protestant), and regarded his Catholic baptism as valid (since, after all, he himself argued against rebaptism). Luther clarified his opinion on baptism in his 1539 treatise, On the Councils and the Church:

I excuse St. Cyprian . . . for he held that the heretics had no sacrament at all and that therefore they had to be baptized like other heathen. . . . But our Anabaptists admit that our baptism and that of the papacy is a true baptism, but since it is administered and received by unworthy people, it is no baptism at all. St. Cyprian would never have concurred in this, much less practiced it.
(Selected Writings of Martin Luther: 1529-1546, Fortress Press, 1967, p. 238)

* * * 

That Luther regarded properly baptized persons as Christians is backed-up by the most well-known Luther biographer, Roland H. Bainton. Referring to his opinion in 1526, he stated:

. . . he had relinquished the hope of gathering the ardent and had turned to the education of the masses. There should be neither a sect nor a cell, but the Church should coincide with the community and all those baptized in infancy should be accounted Christian.

(Studies on the Reformation, Boston: Beacon Press, 1963, p. 38)


Thursday, June 06, 2013

The Biblical Rationale for Separation from Christians Who are in Serious Sin, or Relentlessly Divisive or Contentious

By Catholic Apologist Dave Armstrong 96-6-13)

The following exchange occurred on a Facebook page where I cross-posted my article, "Radical Catholic Reactionary Hilary White's Incorrect Claim About the Origin of the Inane Epithet, Neo-Catholic." One "Binks Webelf" (a non-Catholic who says he is considering becoming a Catholic) took it upon himself to take issue with my argument in the paper, and some of my comments in the thread.  His words will be in blue. He ends with the obligatory personal attacks against me, precisely as ended the previous exchange three days ago with a radical Catholic reactionary who classified me as a Neo-Catholic.

* * * * *

[to a friend] I don't allow radical Catholic reactionaries on my FB page (which is why it has a consistently congenial atmosphere), so such "interaction" would have to occur on others' pages. You can argue with these guys. I don't waste my time with unserious thinkers.

That's my policy on Facebook [to block]! I'm more lenient on my blog, but they have to make an actual argument, not just insult or troll . . .

Shooting the messenger and name-calling again? Must be a "neo-Catholic" thing.

Is that supposed to be a rational "argument" Binks? I merely pointed out an inaccuracy and made an observation about how Kooky Terms often derive from folks with Kooky Ideas.  [referring to Matatics and the paper above; he now believes there are no valid Masses anywhere]

Mr. Armstrong: me no brain good, but I do note that the people doing the most name-calling, online yelling, job-threatening, and refusing any "rational argument" about the irregularities of your current Pope 

I haven't yet found any; wrote a book about it . . . 

are also the people who are still spending time hating on Hilary [White]. 

I don't hate anyone. Disagreeing with a false position that one has is not the same as hate, unless one presupposes a silly subjectivist secularism, where no one can disagree with anything, because all is relative; therefore, to do so is, ipso facto, to be intolerant and "hateful." Don't fall into that. It's not a Christian outlook. I don't hate you, either (since you are included in the category of "anyone").

Of course, if we correct someone who is manifestly in error, that is the opposite of hate; it's an act of love, because all lies are of the devil; therefore, we have led the person to a much better place with regard to the false thing he or she used to believe, before being corrected in love.

As I've said . . . via FaceBook in light of this recent episode, I genuinely believe this reveals a failure of Christian charity, Catholic inclusiveness (the real kind), and open-heartedness.

I agree. To classify orthodox Catholics who disbelieve nothing that the magisterium teaches, as liberals, modernists, Neo-Catholics is the height of uncharity and divisiveness. I just had this happen to me a few days ago. Challenged to come up with something, anything that I supposedly believed, against the Church, my critic could not come up with one thing, and instead resorted to insult, saying all I cared about was filthy lucre.

Oh, and that old Book, too: "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden." . . . where, exactly, is it written (say, in the NT, or Gregory The Great, Liber regulae pastoralis) that the best way to confront, convince, or convert erring people is by name-calling, hounding, and suchlike? In this, are you following Francis' snarky and unfatherly example.

Equally, for you, Dave, where can you show me that your policy "I don't waste my time with unserious thinkers" is Biblical, Patristic, or pastoral? I can't find Jesus saying that anywhere, as he preached and taught. (1) You only talk to people who think and talk like you? (2) Or, is it that people who don't think and talk like you are "unserious" and unworthy of your rational arguments?  

You haven't read your Bible very closely, I'm afraid, if you don't know these rather elementary things. That's okay; we all are learning all the time. But after reading what I will give you, below, you will then be responsible for knowing it. Glad to oblige with nine relevant Bible passages:

A) 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (RSV, as are all) I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with immoral men; [10] not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. [11] But rather I wrote to you not to associate with any one who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber -- not even to eat with such a one. [12] For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? [13] God judges those outside. "Drive out the wicked person from among you."

B) Romans 16:17-18 I appeal to you, brethren, to take note of those who create dissensions and difficulties, in opposition to the doctrine which you have been taught; avoid them. [18] For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by fair and flattering words they deceive the hearts of the simple-minded.

C) 1 Timothy 6:3-5, 20 If any one teaches otherwise and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching which accords with godliness, [4] he is puffed up with conceit, he knows nothing; he has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions, [5] and wrangling among men who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. . . . [20] O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge,

D) 2 Timothy 2:14-17 Remind them of this, and charge them before the Lord to avoid disputing about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. [15] Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. [16] Avoid such godless chatter, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, [17] and their talk will eat its way like gangrene. Among them are Hymenae'us and Phile'tus,

E) 2 Timothy 3:2-9 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, [3] inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, fierce, haters of good, [4] treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, [5] holding the form of religion but denying the power of it. Avoid such people. [6] For among them are those who make their way into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and swayed by various impulses, [7] who will listen to anybody and can never arrive at a knowledge of the truth. [8] As Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of corrupt mind and counterfeit faith; [9] but they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.

F) Titus 3:9-11 But avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels over the law, for they are unprofitable and futile. [10] As for a man who is factious, after admonishing him once or twice, have nothing more to do with him, [11] knowing that such a person is perverted and sinful; he is self-condemned.

G) Matthew 7:6 Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under foot and turn to attack you.

H) Matthew 18:15-17 If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. [16] But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. [17] If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

I) Lastly, Paul recommends community shunning for the purpose of repentance and restoration:

1 Corinthians 5:3-5 For though absent in body I am present in spirit, and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment [4] in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing. When you are assembled, and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, [5] you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

Later, Paul relaxed the temporal punishment for this particular person and urged that the man be welcomed back into fellowship (which is the equivalent of an indulgence, and the Church's practice of excommunication is based on this and other related passages):

2 Corinthians 2:6-11 For such a one this punishment by the majority is enough; [7] so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. [8] So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. [9] For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. [10] Any one whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, [11] to keep Satan from gaining the advantage over us; for we are not ignorant of his designs.

Is that enough Scripture for you, or do you wish to fight against inspired Holy Scripture as well as against Pope Francis and apologists like myself, and those who have a deep concern for Christian unity and truth, and so necessarily have to oppose those who clearly don't, since they wish to name-call and be divisive? St. Paul roundly condemned that; so do we. Jesus and Paul recommended separating in extreme cases, so do we.

I follow them, and the Church, not the (secularized) false traditions of men, such as those you are currently spouting.

(3) Or is it only "radtrads" (i.e., your brothers and sisters in Christ, Roman Catholics who don't think and talk like you)? This is all puzzling, sad, and does no credit to the church you say you love and belong to (and to which I ponder conversion). There you are, and there you go.

I don't use the term radtrads. I coined radical Catholic reactionaries precisely in order to separate these more radical Catholics from legitimate "traditionalists": with whom I have much in common.

Note that the word "Catholic" was specifically included in that so as to avoid the silly insinuation that you make: that I think such folks aren't Catholics.

Wow. Very winsome and inviting and humble, that. So: I'm silly. Plus Biblically ignorant... also, fighting against the Pope and you, and I spout secularized false traditions of men, and silly insinuations. No doubt I also foment coprophagia, too. "I wrote a book about Francis, so who ya gonna trust, me or your lying eyes"? Seriously: I don't know what your books may be like, but your poor online manners and seeming presumptuousness really leave something to be desired, dude. Don't bother responding-- I'll just keep chatting with those of my RC friends and clergy who don't see fit to be so combative, bilious, unpleasant, and puffed up. With welcomers like you at the door of the Church....

I figured you wouldn't deal with the relevant Scripture. Par for the course. Others can read and figure out what's going on here and what the Bible says about such issues.

So, in warring against what you wrongly characterize as hatred, and extolling the advantages and rightness of charity, you employ all the following insults against me:
1) Very winsome (sarcastic use)
2) inviting (sarcastic use)
3) humble (sarcastic use)
4) poor online manners
5) seeming presumptuousness
6) combative
7) bilious
8) unpleasant
9) puffed up
10) With welcomers like you at the door of the Church.... (sarcastic use)
Superb display of hypocrisy! Thanks for the classic, textbook example . . .

Unless this was a deliberate joke: a humorous caricature of a person being a hypocrite . . . That is a distinct possibility.
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