Friday, May 08, 2009

TEN MARTIN LUTHER MYTHS
...by James Swan

an encore presentation

I regularly get e-mail from people I don't know asking questions about Martin Luther. I've even had people contact me in the hopes I will help write their research papers for school (I will not!). Recently, I was sent a few Luther questions, and I was amazed certain myths still circulate. Despite the explosion of cyber-information, here are ten that somehow still survive.

1. Luther Threw an Inkwell at Satan
Recently I found a Jehovah's Witness attempting to prove Luther was a psychopath. He brought up the story in which Luther hurled an inkwell at Satan. The story is not true. It first appeared towards the end of the sixteenth century, and is said to have been told by a former Wittenberg student. In this early version, the Devil in the guise of a monk threw an inkwell at Luther while he was secluded in the Wartburg. By 1650, the story shifted to Luther throwing the inkwell at Satan. Like any bizarre legend, the story morphed, and houses where Luther stayed had spots on the walls, and these were also said to be inkwells that Luther threw at the Devil.

2. Luther's Evangelical Breakthrough Occurred in the Bathroom
This same Jehovah's Witness denigrated Luther by repeating a newer myth, that Luther's understanding of Romans 1:17-18 came to him while in the bathroom in the tower of the Augustinian cloister. In the twentieth century, many approached Luther by applying psychoanalysis to his writings. Psychologist Eric Erikson took a German phrase uttered by Luther and interpreted it literally to mean Luther was in the bathroom when he had his evangelical breakthrough. Erikson concluded, from a Freudian perspective, Luther's spiritual issues were tied up with biological functions. But, there was not a bathroom in the tower. The phrase Erikson interpreted literally in German was simply conventional speech. Luther really was saying that his breakthrough came during a time when he was depressed, or in a state of melancholy.

3. Luther Repented and Re-entered the Church on his Deathbed
I've come across this one on popular Catholic discussion boards. No, it is not true. One of Luther's early opponents popularized the account that Luther was a child of the Devil, and was taken directly to Hell when he died. Now though, more ecumenically minded Catholics hope for the ultimate in conversion stories. Luther died around 3:00 AM on February 18, 1546. His last words and actions were recorded by his friend Justus Jonas. Luther was asked, "Reverend father, will you die steadfast in Christ and the doctrines you have preached?" Luther responded affirmatively. Luther also quoted John 3:16 and Psalm 31:5. In his last prayer he said to God, "Yet I know as a certainty that I shall live with you eternally and that no one shall be able to pluck me out of your hands." These are hardly the words of a Roman Catholic waiting to enter purgatory.

4. Luther's Hymns Were Originally Tavern Songs
Some involved in Contemporary Christian Music use this argument to validate contemporary styles of music being used in church: if even the great Martin Luther found value in contemporary music being used in Church, shouldn't we likewise do the same? In actuality, Luther used only one popular folk tune, I Came From An Alien Country, changed the words, and named the hymn, From Heaven On High, I Come to You. Four years after he did this, he changed the music to an original composition.

5. Luther Spoke in Tongues
Charismatic cyber-apologists have put this one out. They refer to an old quote from a German historian who stated, "Luther was easily the greatest evangelical man after the apostles, full of inner love to the Lord like John, hasty in deed like Peter, deep in thinking like Paul, cunning and powerful in speech like Elijah, uncompromising against God's enemies like David; PROPHET and evangelist, speaker-in-tongues and interpreter in one person, equipped with all the gifts of grace, a light and pillar of the church..." Luther though held, "Tongues are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers. But later on, when the church had been gathered and confirmed by these signs, it was not necessary for this visible sending forth of the Holy Spirit to continue."

6. Luther Added The Word Alone To Romans 3:28
This is frequently brought up by the zealous defenders of Rome. Luther is said to have been so careless and outrageous with his translation of the Bible, he simply added words to make the Bible say what he wanted it to. Luther gave a detailed explanation of why the passage has the meaning of alone,and this explanation has been available online for years. This charge also shows an ignorance of church history. Roman Catholic writer Joseph A. Fitzmyer points out, "...[T]wo of the points that Luther made in his defense of the added adverb were that it was demanded by the context and that sola was used in the theological tradition before him." Fitzmyer lists the following: Origen, Hillary, Basil, Ambrosiaster, John Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, Bernard, Theophylact, Theodoret, Thomas Aquinas, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Marius Victorinus, and Augustine [Joseph A. Fitzmyer Romans, A New Translation with introduction and Commentary, The Anchor Bible Series (New York: Doubleday, 1993) 360-361].

7. Luther Was an Antinomian and Hated the Law of God
Recently a friend wrote me and said charges about Luther being an antinomian were circulating in his church. Luther's theology indeed has a place for the law of God and its use in the life of a Christian. The law for Luther was dual purposed: it first drives one to see their sin and need for a savior; secondly it functions in the life of a Christian to lead one to a correct understanding of the good one ought to do. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of Luther knows how important Moses and the law was in his theology. In Luther's Small Catechism the Ten Commandments were placed first because he wanted people to understand that God is wrathful against sin. The negative prohibitions in the Ten Commandments clearly showed our need for a savior. Also in his Small Catechism, Luther suggests a daily regiment of prayer and includes a verbal reading of the Ten Commandments.

8. Luther Acted Like a Protestant Pope
Catholic apologists perpetuate this one. They tend to reduce everything to a need for an infallible interpreter. They use highly rhetorical or polemical comments from Luther out of context, rather than those statements when Luther evaluates his value and his work. Toward the end of his life, Luther reviewed his work and stated, "My consolation is that, in time, my books will lie forgotten in the dust anyhow, especially if I (by Gods grace) have written anything good." And also, "I would have been quite content to see my books, one and all, remain in obscurity and go by the board" [LW 34: 283-284].

9. Luther Was a Drunk
The historical record nowhere documents Luther ever being drunk. It does provide evidence that he did drink alcohol, and that he enjoyed drinking. One needs only to survey the massive output of work that Luther produced to settle the matter that he was not an alcoholic, nor did he have a drinking problem. Luther preached and wrote against drunkenness throughout his entire life with vigor and force.

10. Luther Said Imputed Righteousness is Like Snow Covered Dung
I saved this one for last, simply because I'm not sure if it's a myth or not. It does seem to me like something Luther would've said: "Therefore let us embrace Christ, who was delivered for us, and His righteousness; but let us regard our righteousness as dung, so that we, having died to sins, may live to God alone" [LW 30:294]. "Explanation of Martin Luther: I said before that our righteousness is dung in the sight of God. Now if God chooses to adorn dung, he can do so. It does not hurt the sun, because it sends its rays into the sewer" [LW 34: 184].

HT: James Swan - AOmin

61 comments:

Joel said...

I've heard a few of these, and I always kind of liked the inkwell myth. The only one I would disagree with Swan on is the word "alone" in Romans. Luther did play fast and loose with scriptures that contradicted him, even if in many cases he was able to find a rationale for his changes. (Like removing the detuerocanonical books: there may have been a Jewish canon that didn't have them, but was it a coincidence that they also contained passages that contradicted him?)

Even if there had been a tradition of interpreting that verse as though it referred to faith alone, it was deceptive of Luther to retranslate the verse with the word added, rather than simply noting in his own commentary that the verse held that meaning. It certainly smacks of confusing his own words with God's. No, I think Luther's explanation was an attempt to cover his hiney. (And do I need to point out the irony of Luther appealing to a tradition at all?)

Outside of that one, does anybody really care about most of these? If Luther took his songs from pub singing, so much the better. Drinking songs are wonderfully easy to sing in chorus. And if he was himself a drunk, again, so what? Just means he had sins and failures like everybody else. (Alrthough he would have had to learn a lot of humility to act like most popes; one of his failings seems to have been a monumental ego.)

gigantor1231 said...

Joel

I find it quite revealing that you minmize Steve's desire and action in defending his brother in Christ. We have spoken and debated issues before, and I do not elevate any of these controversies to the point that they are worthy of response, it is simply Steve's kindness that he offers explanation from what he knows.
The point is that everything will be revealed in the end, it will all come under the light of truth and Christ. I would stand with Luther in pretty much all that he has produced and if his works are to be burned as wood, hay or stubble then so be it. On the other hand you and the RCC will stand in the same judgement if you are truly of Christ. I am willing to place all of my hope on the word of God His truth, and so we will see for sure whos work is standing in the end. Lets meet then and see what is left standing!

Joel said...

I find it quite revealing that you minmize Steve's desire and action in defending his brother in Christ.

Gigantor, maybe I wasn't being clear. I certainly didn't mean to minimize anything Steve was saying. What I meant by "does anybody care" is that I have trouble believing anyone would use accusations like that against Luther to begin with. It sounds like these people were trying to taint the entire Protestant reformation by slandering Luther, and over things that don't really speak all that badly of him in the first place. They were being petty, not Steve.

I do think Luther wasn't praying with a full rosary, as it were, but I don't think he was either a blackguard or a fool, and I dislike seeing folks (especially my own pewmates) look for ways to bad-mouth him.

On the other hand you and the RCC will stand in the same judgement if you are truly of Christ. I am willing to place all of my hope on the word of God His truth, and so we will see for sure whos work is standing in the end. Lets meet then and see what is left standing!

Suits me. I look forward to seeing my Protestant brethren in heaven, and laughing together at what we all got wrong on earth. Including Luther.

Douglas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Douglas said...

1. Luther Threw an Inkwell at Satan

"Recently I found a Jehovah's Witness attempting to prove Luther was a psychopath. He brought up the story in which Luther hurled an inkwell at Satan. The story is not true. It first appeared towards the end of the sixteenth century, and is said to have been told by a former Wittenberg student. In this early version, the Devil in the guise of a monk threw an inkwell at Luther while he was secluded in the Wartburg. By 1650, the story shifted to Luther throwing the inkwell at Satan. Like any bizarre legend, the story morphed, and houses where Luther stayed had spots on the walls, and these were also said to be inkwells that Luther threw at the Devil."

Maybe that J.W. bloke had been reading R. C. Sprouls' book "The Holiness of God?"

"Luther's chronic stomach troubles have also been linked to a psychosomatic problem. His neurotic phobias seemed to go directly to his stomach, destroying his digestion. His problem with flatulence has become legendary, due in part to his own exaggeration of it. His writings are sprinkled with references to his constant belching and breaking of wind. He said, "If I break wind in Wittenburg, they will hear it in Leipzig."

Fortunately Luther was able to find a sanctified use for his flatulence. He advised his students that the breaking of wind was a most effective device to repel the attacks of the devil. Elsewhere Luther spoke of resisting Satan by throwing an inkwell at him. Luther described his battle with Satan in terms of a man under siege. He was sure that he was a personal target of the prince of hell.

The Satan stories are ripe with fodder for practicing psychologists, who see in these accounts two indications of mental imbalance. On the one hand Luther is thought to have suffered from hallucinations, and on the other from delusions of grandeur that the prince of darkness would single him out as his favorite target.

Yet from the vantage point of church history, it should not surprise us to think that in the sixteenth century, satanic energy might most strongly be focused on Martin Luther.
" page 78 "The Holiness of God" by R. C. Sproul in the chapter titled; "The Insanity of Luther."

I am not surprised myself at the attacks on Martin Luther by demonic forces, after all is said and done, he did stand up to and against the evil, deceitfully wicked, Roman Catholic Organization. I have read a lot of stuff by folks from the Roman Catholic Organization and the majority of them have no sense of the holiness of God, no fear of God and are not in a constant state of humble, broken, contrite repentance before God and before their fellown man.

Steve, who is correct? That article by Mr. Swan or R.C.?

BTW, I have been watching some "Choosing My Religion" videos on Ligonier and I see you giving an introduction to them. On the first one, you end off saying, "Does truth really matter or is image everything?" Where is the truth in the above matter about Luther? What is the truth there? Is R. C. Sproul wrong and if he is, why is that in his book? Does the latest edition of "The Holiness of God" carry a retraction of that story about Luther turfing inkwells at the devil? Or, is R.C. actually correct?

I am also watching the "Holiness of God" videos R.C. has up at the moment.

How did you go with this study?

The Truth About Images of Jesus and the Second Commandment
A Study for the Everyday Christian
By Justin Griffin BSW, MAgth

Is it true or false what Mr. Griffin teaches?

There will be no different types of believers in heaven, only those who are born again of the Holy Spirit of God (see John 3). A divine monergistic work of God alone.

David said...

Did he say that James was an epistle of straw?

donsands said...

Luther was a man. He was used by God greatly, and even today his teachings are exceptional.
He was a man like the rest of us. Like King David, Abraham, Peter, Job, Moses and anyone else who has been saved by the grace of God.

I love to glean from his commentaries.

Good post Steve. God bless. Have a great Lord's Day. It was good to see you at Ligonier website.

David said...

Benny Hinn is a man. He has been used by God greatly, and even today his evangelistic meetings have led many to Christ. That doesn't make him less accountable for preaching some heresies.

Luther was a man like the rest of us. Like King David, Abraham, Peter, Job, Moses and anyone else who has been saved by the grace of God. The only problem with that comparison is that is they weren't heretics.

Some people love to glean from the dumpsters, but that doesn't mean there isn't better stuff available if they seek it out.

Is it a coincidence that two great Reformers, Henry VIII & Luther, both had issues about the Church's teaching on marriage? One forsook his vow of marriage and the other his vow of chastity.

Is it true Luther said some part of Sacred Scripture was as straw?
Did he say he could commit adultery a 1000 times and remain in Christ?

Speaking of straw, I'd say those 10 myths you destroyed were "straw myths".

Brothers, the real issue isn't Luther. The real issue is the 1500 years prior to him. What did the Church look like then? Not those living by their own rules, but the REAL faithful disciples of Christ. How did they view the Eucharist, the book of Sirach, baptism, pennance, purgatory, sacraments, etc.? I've found nearly 100% agreement among the faithful and anyone can explore it for themselves.

donsands said...

david,

"He has been used by God greatly, and even today his evangelistic meetings have led many to Christ."

I don't know that God greatly used this false teacher. I don't know that he has led many to Christ. He has deceived many. He has made himself millions of dollars, and he has preached a false Gospel, and a false Christ.

You can compare Luther with Hinn if you like, but I wouldn't.

You can accuse Martin Luther of being a heretic, but I wouldn't.

He didn't pervert the Gospel. Hinn does.

Joel said...

You can accuse Martin Luther of being a heretic, but I wouldn't.

He didn't pervert the Gospel.


Well, he did, a lot more than his followers since him have done. Have you ever read the Bull of Excommunication? I don't think the Solas were among the statements for which he was excommunicated, but some pretty wild heresies were.

I don't want to speak too harshly of Luther, though. I know it's a cliche, but God really does look on the heart, and if Luther led people away from Christ while trying to lead them to Him, how responsible is he for what happened after? And if God looks on the heart, then He's able to see, where I can't, whether Luther acted more out of love for God or his own ego.

donsands said...

Luther stood on Scripture against Rome.
Rome was teaching a false gospel, and still does. A gospel of works.
Luther taught, and preached a gospel of grace.

That's the bottom line.

Do you preach grace alone, through faith alone, or works/grace/faith mixture?

Joel said...

Luther stood on Scripture against Rome.
Rome was teaching a false gospel, and still does. A gospel of works.
Luther taught, and preached a gospel of grace.


Don, we've had that conversation before in Steve's comboxes, so I'll refrain from rehashing it. Luther's ideas about grace were a lot less different from Rome's than you think, and many of them were acknowledged by Rome later. No, where Luther's gospel was false was in rejecting the authority of both the Church and the Bible. He liked to claim to be standing on scripture alone, but it was only after he had edited scripture to suit himself.

It was Calvin who made a radical departure from Rome on grace, not Luther.

donsands said...

"Here with great fervency the Apostle dares curse all teachers throughout the whole world, yes, in heaven also, which pervert his gospel, and teach any other; ...
whether it be the Pope, or Luther, or Augustine, or Paul, or an angel from heaven. Neither ought any doctrine to be taught or heard in the Church, besides the pure Word of God, that is to say, the Holy Scripture; otherwise accursed be both the teachers and hearers, together with their doctrine." -Luther (on Galatians 1:9)

aj said...

what was his attitude towards Jewish people? Is that a myth?

aj said...

Quote

"the devil's people." They were "base, whoring people, that is, no people of God, and their boast of lineage, circumcision, and law must be accounted as filth." The synagogue was a "defiled bride, yes, an incorrigible whore and an evil slut ..." and Jews were full of the "devil's feces ... which they wallow in like swine."

He advocated setting synagogues on fire, destroying Jewish prayerbooks, forbidding rabbis from preaching, seizing Jews' property and money, smashing up their homes, and ensuring that these "poisonous envenomed worms" be forced into labor or expelled "for all time." He also seemed to sanction their murder, writing "We are at fault in not slaying them."

ref On the Jews and Their Lies
ref Michael, Robert. "Luther, Luther Scholars, and the Jews


He sounds a charmer!

Joel said...

AJ, I've heard those quotes, and in fairness, I think they were taken out of context. Even if not, they merely reflect the attitudes of Luther's time. He would have been extremely unusual in his day if he had leapt to the Jews' defense. Whether he was a hero or a heretic, it's unfair to expect him to be more than human.

Then, too, bombastic rhetoric was a hallmark of Luther's, so he may have felt less strongly on the subject than he sounds like.

aj said...

Hi i took the notes from wiki,not that i didn't know them,but because they were concisely written..

I agree people are of their time,a book recently written about Oliver Cromwell An Honourable Enemy, argues the same over Cromwell's actions in Ireland etc..

Its not that Luther didn't defend the Jews that bothers me,its that he went out of his way to disparage them..

You state "He would have been extremely unusual in his day if he had leapt to the Jews' defense"

Maybe,but to the extent he "leaps" to attack them?? makes your argument weaker.

And that this myth wasn't defended in the original piece speaks volumes

Joel said...

Maybe,but to the extent he "leaps" to attack them?? makes your argument weaker.

I don't think it does, because Luther leapt to everything. By that I mean that he never said anything matter-of-factly that he could say in extreme terms. I don't think that's how he really meant everything he said, especially since I've seen writings of his where he excoriated the pope mercilessly in one letter and kissed up to him, proclaiming his loyalty to Leo, in another. (I'd have to dig out my copy of his collected works if you want a citation.) The two pieces aren't written in such a time frame as to make it likely that Luther was having a change of heart, either. He simply said everything as loudly and effusively as he could; it seems to have been his style.

So I think it is with the Jews. I don't think Luther disliked Jews any more than he did anybody else; he just used the same strong rhetoric about them that he did about the pope.

aj said...

So this giant of Christianity was double minded?

aj said...

1940s people closed their doors and pretended nothing happened..Terrible behavior but understandable to a point due to fear,and maybe fulfills your "He would have been extremely unusual in his day if he had leapt to the Jews defense"...

But a Luther equivalent would be to close the door and then write how terrible the Jews were,and how they deserved it,unforgivable

aj said...

One other point Joel you said "I don't think Luther disliked Jews any more than he did anybody else; he just used the same strong rhetoric about them that he did about the pope."

That could be true,but words are dangerous,and what effect did they have on others who disliked the Jewish people? Racist will jump on anything!


As we see in the 1930-40 i.e

Reinhold Lewin writes that "whoever wrote against the Jews for whatever reason believed he had the right to justify himself by triumphantly referring to Luther."

According to Dr. Robert Michael just about every anti-Jewish book printed in the Third Reich contained references to and quotations from Luther

Joel said...

According to Dr. Robert Michael just about every anti-Jewish book printed in the Third Reich contained references to and quotations from Luther

I'm not surprised. I shudder to think of what could be made of my words four centuries from now, and I'm nobody important.

Joel said...

So this giant of Christianity was double minded?

I'd be surprised if he wasn't. Most people are, to some extent. Fortunately, most of us don't have our words preserved and our motives debated as he did.

Don't misunderstand me, though. I don't consider Luther a "giant of Christianity." Certainly he was influential, but his influence was a negative one. Every schism, every cult, that has ever cropped up in Europe or America can be traced back to Luther. (I can just imagine how he would have felt about, say, the JWs!)

But I do think he wanted to be a good servant of God, and that his wild rhetoric and his severe scrupulosity were expressions of that desire in an unhinged mind.

aj said...

(((I'm not surprised. I shudder to think of what could be made of my words four centuries from now, and I'm nobody important.)))

Luther was intelligent enough to know the effect of his words to the mob,theres always someone who want an excuse to hate!

gigantor1231 said...

Joel

I could make some comments that would be very vitreolic and inflamatory but I am choosing not to do that because it would not be glorifying to God, nor would it bring you to a knowledge of the truth. I pray that God would have mercy on you.
As for Luther and what he was or did in his life, I have no doubt that his enemies would plant lies rumors about his character in order to somehow detract from what he has done, that is fine. In the grand scheme of things Martin Luther was nothing, a nobody, a zero. God's truth is what is important, His perfect word. God came into this world in Christ that men might be reconciled to him. He achieved this by taking the form of a servant and laying his life down in the most deplorable and humiliating of fashions. He did not have to do this, He chose to in order that those that believe on him might have eternal life with Him.
You can say all that you want about Luther, or anyone else for that matter. I believe that I hold the unadulterated truth of God today, in part, due to Martin Luther and inspite of the RCC. I believe that the RCC would force me to take on their belief system if they could and I believe this is what spurred Luther on as well as 10's of millions of others. I am no authority on Luther and I have a very limited knowledge of what he did beyond the translation or the scriptures.
That being said, I know this for certain, Christ is all in all and knowing him is more important than having all of the knowledge in the entire universe. I would hope that this somehow speaks to your heart and perhaps leads you to what is really important, I would hope that it leads you to the truth and true salvation.

Joel said...

You can say all that you want about Luther, or anyone else for that matter. I believe that I hold the unadulterated truth of God today, in part, due to Martin Luther and in spite of the RCC.

There's a lot to be grateful to Luther for, and I say that as a Catholic. He gave the Church a much-needed wake-up call and caused a reformation within the Church as well as the schism he spurred.

I believe that the RCC would force me to take on their belief system if they could and I believe this is what spurred Luther on as well as 10's of millions of others.

There might have been a time when that was the case, although the Church never really cracked down on Protestantism to the same extent that the Protestants cracked down on Romanists in places where they held the power. The difficulty in gauging the Church's power is that religion was a factor in the political struggles of the time, but not always the defining factor. In Luther's case, his reforms caught on more because of the northern princes' wish to lessen the influence of the emperor than for their own theological merit. In turn, the Church's authority was a tool for Catholic rulers to exert their power by turning their wars into holy wars. Of couurse, in both cases heresy was a state crime, so there was no need for the Church to take any direct action. I can't speak for the hearts and minds of the Church's leadership at the time, but it's worth noting that the safe-conducts granted at Trent for Protestants were honored, and Protestants were invited to participate in the council. Hardly a totalitarian sort of move.

I am no authority on Luther and I have a very limited knowledge of what he did beyond the translation or the scriptures.

I'm not an authority on him either, although discusssions like this have given me reason to learn. And I dislike taking Catholic apologists' perspectives on him at face value, because that's where myths like Steve posted come from to begin with. What I've read of Luther shows a complicated man: not a hero, not a villain, but a man who wanted to do right even as he did wrong. (I think it also shows him not entirely sane, but that's an easy diagnosis to make with five centuries' hndsight and no real evidence.) :) For what it's worth, on this thread I've been defending Luther more than running him down.

aj said...

what makes you think Joels not saved?

He stike me as a top guy we were having a friendly conversation

Inless you were addressing me?

aj said...

oops i posted as you posted Joel sorry..

Awwwww your a Catholic so your saved then cool ;-)

To be fair it was me critizing Luther not Joel..I just thought Luther's attude to the Jewish people should of been considered in the list of myths...

gigantor1231 said...

AJ

I never said that Joel is not saved, I would never judge the eternal condition of any man's heart. We are, however, comanded to judge the fruit that others bare, as well as their doctrine and, as has been ascerted in this blog, the RCC preaches a gospel contrary to what the word of God teaches, salvation apart from works. Good works being those things that are a fruit of one who has truly been saved and not a condition of salvation. James states that without works faith is dead and faith being dead is the condition of man from the fall. Works apart from Christ are dead, no matter who deems them to be good works!
If you or Joel are not saved then I simply have laid out the basic Gospel. Salvation is a heart issue and only Christ and the individual know for certain the state of ones heart before him. Although it seems quite obvious that Joel knows the Gospel there is nothing wrong with laying it out again. Paul claimed to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified, I would hope to be the same!

aj said...

Sorry gigantor1231 i thought thats what you ment by "I would hope that it leads you to the truth and true salvation"

I'm not a catholic myself btw

Micah Gelatt said...

I certainly think it wise to glean what we can from men and women of history - Luther, Calvin, et al. Although I am not saying Steve has done this, I often see modern day people put men like Luther and Calvin especially on pedestals, and attempt to place their writings as almost semi-inspired appendices to the Bible. Does anyone else notice this trend?
Like the Bereans in Acts, I read the works of such men and test everything against the Scriptures alone, to know whether it is of the Lord or not. My hope is that many more do this, and realize that the writings of Luther, et al are not inspired.
By the way, I am not saying anyone here is doing this "pedestal" business either, but I have seen it countless times on blogs and in conversations.

Joel said...

Although I am not saying Steve has done this, I often see modern day people put men like Luther and Calvin especially on pedestals, and attempt to place their writings as almost semi-inspired appendices to the Bible. Does anyone else notice this trend?

I see that, too, Micah. When there are conflicting interpretations of scripture, it's kind of automatic to fall back on an authoritative teacher. From there, it's a short step to unconsciously thinking of that teacher as infallible.

donsands said...

I honor God's chosen teachers. He sovereignly gifts the Church with teachers and preachers, and we can certainly honor their grace given gifts, without putting them on a pedastel.

How about those who say i check everything with Scripture, it doesn't matter who it is, and I make sure that they are genuine. I may accept their teaching, or i may not.

Isn't that putting oneself on a pedestal?
Just a thought to consider.

Joel said...

Don, I agree with you a hundred percent. I'm well aware that there are teachers who know a lot more about the faith than I do, and if I disagree with them, then I'm probably the one who's wrong. They may not be not infallible, but then, they don't have to be infallible, only smarter than I am. Which isn't all that difficult.

Alas, that often gets turned into a catch-22, as what I call "deferring to teachers wiser than me", others call "placing your faith in man rather than God." What they really mean by that, of course, is "You shouldn't defer to anybody else, because MY interpretation is clearly the Biblical one." If they really thought they were equating their opinion to God's wisdom, they'd back away in horror, but that never occurs to them.

gigantor1231 said...

Don and Joel

Reliance upon the word of God is not putting ones self on a podium! It is placing God's word where it needs to be because it is the schoolmaster of us all. When one uses the word of God as a plumb line they are in the safest place they can be, the catch is are they allowing their flesh and emotions to guide them in what they are reading or are they led by the spirit. The word of God is of no private interpretation it is entirely inspired of God and 100% his word (2Peter 1:16-21), it is spiritually discerned and those that do not have the spirit can not know it or discern it (1Cor. 2:6-16), those Christians that rely on the flesh are in sin and danger of perverting the word of God, sadly many do this, hence we have some of the messes that we have today among our brethren, it is also tragic in that it hinders our ability to stand in unity.
We need to be careful of the doctrine that comes before us, even Luther should be scrutinized according to the word of God, as well as all other teachers. Checking things according to the word is not self exaltation, nor is saying that you do, thinking that we can flesh it all out though is a egregious sin and is very close to idolatry. Guidance in all things by the spirit of God is the only safe haven.

donsands said...

"It is placing God's word where it needs to be because it is the schoolmaster of us all."

Who would disagree with this?

It's when two good Christians come to disagree on Bible doctrine, and one says, "I just stand on the Word!", and the other says, "I just stand on the Word!"

I have had Christians say to me, "I just believe the Bible!"

I usually say, "Oh yeah, the Bible. I forgot about the Holy Scriptures."

That's my point. Some will say I just follow Christ. No Paul, or Apollos for me.

That's a pedestal as well methinks.

I hope you can understand where I'm coming from.
I'm not the best communicator.

gigantor1231 said...

Don

I do understand where you are coming from. Many call themselves Calvinists, which of course is a title that describes a particular doctrinal belief, but I am sure Calvin would rather no one use his name and he decrease that Christ might increase. I think that we lose sight of the fact that our belief should truly be centered in the word of God alone, simply confirming what we have learned from a scholar like Calvin, we are Christians and that is enough!
As for doctrinal differences and disputes with regards to particular scriptures, there are those beliefs that people seem to hold to and they are entirely driven by their flesh in regards to them, they become phoenatical in a un godly manner with regards to Godly things. For instance, breaking fellowship because a brother or sister does not use the A.V. version of the bible. I have met those that are so phoenatical about this issue that they will not talk to those that do not use the 1611 KJV, very crazy and unbiblical, issues like this grieve the Holy Spirit. Another issue that is disputed, and I am sure will draw some comment here, is baptism as a means of salvation. Luther held to this to a point and I could not disagree with him more. I know I will have to defend this one!

donsands said...

"Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into jesus Christ were baptized unto His death?" Rom. 6:3

"Baptism has been instituted that it should lead us to the blessings (of this death) and through such death to eternal life. Therefore it is necessary that we should be baptized into Jesus Christ and His death." -Luther

Micah Gelatt said...

gigantor,

I will agree with you on the baptism point. Luther was out in left field on this point, as are many of our brethren in the Christian Church denomination. I have debated with them ad nauseum.

I should truly say although I agree with you, I agree with the Word first and foremost. I am sure you understand. :)

I guess I started this talk on placing some on a pedestal. Let me broaden things a bit, since we seem to have people of some differing doctrinal positions.

I think we can glean from non-Biblical authors and speakers, but like the Bereans in Acts, we must process everything we hear through the filter of Scripture. That includes Calvin, Spurgeon, Finley, Edwards, Piper, Swindoll, and the Pope. Yes, i DID say "the Pope." All of these and many more are only finite men, whose words are not infallible. They CAN be wrong. That was my point, I guess. I have met too many people (not here, of course) who seem to think their favorite theologian can do or say no wrong. Wow, that grieves me.
So, Sola Scriptura, I say. And if anyone says or writes something that "flies in the face of" Scripture, then dismiss it, and move on.

Joel said...

It's when two good Christians come to disagree on Bible doctrine, and one says, "I just stand on the Word!", and the other says, "I just stand on the Word!"

Don, you said exactly what I wanted to, but much more clearly.

I "stand on the Bible" when I quote, say, Matthew 16:18. You also "stand on the Bible" on that one. Yet the meaning you get from it is diametrically opposite the one I get. Inevitably, we both have to cite some fallible person's interpretation in orde to arrive at a meaning. (I used that as an example, BTW, not to change the subject.)

I have had Christians say to me, "I just believe the Bible!"

I usually say, "Oh yeah, the Bible. I forgot about the Holy Scriptures."


LOL! I can tell you from personal experience that being Catholic means that invariably someone will assume I've never read the Bible, because if I had, I would obviously interpret all those scriptures the same way he does. After all, he "stands on the Bible" and I merely place my faith in man. :)

gigantor1231 said...

Joel and Don

The thing about it is that when it comes to doctrinal differences and the word of God, there is only one truth, not two truths. Say for instance the issue of baptism as a means of salvation. When one is saved, and not until they are saved, do they get baptised, if it is any other way then baptism is meaningless because it is done apart from Christ. Salvation must come before baptism because we are baptised for the forgiveness of sins. Any place in the Bible that we see baptism practiced there has been a repentance of sins and a confession signifying beleif in the heart. I could quote many scriptures but I think a better course of action would be for those that beleive baptism is a means of salvation is to produce the passages in the bible where there is baptism first then salvation. Apart from making some real leaps in logic and reading things into the word that are not there, there is no way to produce these scriptures, I am open to listen if they can be produced though.
My point here is not so much to prove this doctrine, as to state that there is only one truth in regards to it, meaning that someone is wrong and someone is right. In the case of baptism, as well as many other doctrines that are hotly disputed and cause a seperation, it is not the doctrine itself that causes the seperation but pure and simple pride in being right! Knowledge puffs up, love builds up.
However, this does not mean fellowship should never be broken off. When the deviation from the word of God is to such a point that it encroaches upon the fundamental truths of the word of God then there is a need to seperate or at least limit fellowship.
Doctrine is important, when we are talking about Luther that is generally what we are talking about, the doctrine that he has produced. We choose to find common ground in the doctrine that Luther has produced or we do not find common ground. Having been saved in the Lutheran church under Luther's doctrines I came to a point that I needed to make a decision as to continue to fellowship as a Lutheran, or move on to a place where I would not be limited by the doctrines that I saw as deviating from the truth of the word of God. Baptism was one of the primary reasons I seperated myself, not totally but to the point where I do not adhere to much of the doctrine of the Lutheran church.
The word of God is clear about the majority of the doctrines that are in it, at least clear to those that have the Holy Spirit. In the post modern age that we live in it is very easy to claim that the word in ambiguous, to be lazy and not work at pulling the truth from the scriptures, this is a fatal error. Hopefully our discussions with regards to Luther will cause us all to look deeper into the word and seek what is true from Him.

donsands said...

"there is only one truth, not two truths."

I agree wholeheartedly.

The essential truths of Scipture that are clear, we not not compromise, nor apologize for.

The strong doctrinal conviction we may have on the Lord's return, which ever view that may be, is good, but should not cause our unity in the essentials to be severed, if we have different views.

Those disciples who can love one another, and serve our Lord in these way, bring much glory to our Father.

But even with eschatology there is only one truth.

Joel said...

The essential truths of Scipture that are clear, we not not compromise, nor apologize for.

The strong doctrinal conviction we may have on the Lord's return, which ever view that may be, is good, but should not cause our unity in the essentials to be severed, if we have different views.

Those disciples who can love one another, and serve our Lord in these way, bring much glory to our Father.


Amen!

SJ Camp said...

Rome claims to be an infallible church. How can an infallible church ever reform itself?

The Word of God disagrees with Rome on the authority of Scripture; the nature of saving faith; the nature of Mary; the Mass; the Treasury of Merit; Purgatory; justification; etc.

So the primary issue comes down to authority and belief for those on this thread who are Romanists.

Joel said...

Rome claims to be an infallible church. How can an infallible church ever reform itself?

That's a fair question, Steve. The answer is that infallible doesn't mean perfect. It's worth noting that the corrupt leaders in the Church (and in Luther's day, there were a lot of those), however despicably they may have behaved, never changed any doctrine. They abused existing teachings (like Purgatory) for their own benefit, but they didn't make any doctrinal changes themselves.

The usual rule of thumb is that the Church is authoritative in matters of faith and morals. Of course, that certainly doesn't preclude any member of the Church from sin, up to and including the pope. (Take a look at some of the Renaissance popes; they were a disgrace to the species.) The existence of sin in a man doesn't render his Church a false one. No matter how bad they got, they never changed a single doctrine. The popes who defined doctrines (two of them, officially, so far) were both men whom you would have considered models of Christianity if they weren't Romanist.

So the primary issue comes down to authority and belief for those on this thread who are Romanists.

Yes, it really does. I believe that God established His Church on earth and gave it authority over me. If I obey the Church, I'm obeying God. If I disobey the church, I'm rebelling against God. Even if I have qualms about doctrines, I'll obey, because I believe God prefers obedience to the sacrifice of doctrinal perfection. I'm not so arrogant as to think that I know God's will better than His Church does.

donsands said...

"If I obey the Church,"

What does that mean exactly?

gigantor1231 said...

Joel

So, I guess that means if the RCC said you had to go out on a crusade and behead those that did not abandon their faith and take to faith in the infallible RCC, you would be beheading them. I mean if the church says it you better do it or you are in sin, right?

Joel said...

What does that mean exactly?

A lot less than it sounds like, Don. Most of what's involved in "obeying the Church" is simple Christian morality, such as all Christians hold to. I also obey in disciplinary areas that are binding only on those who are in full communion with the Church, such as observing Lent and attending Mass regularly. All in all, that part's not a terribly onerous burden.

The other thing that it means is that when I and the Church disagree on a doctrinal matter, like an interpretation of sccripture, then I operate on the assumption that it's right and I'm wrong. That can be a little mre difficult, especially for a formmer Protestant, because I got accustomed to the idea that I was the final arbiter for myself as to what a scripture meant. Acknowledging that the Church has better Biblical scholars than myself takes a certain amount of humility. It shouldn't, logically; I'm far from a scholar myself. But it's a control issue; I have to learn not to try to be in control of my own faith.

I guess that means if the RCC said you had to go out on a crusade and behead those that did not abandon their faith and take to faith in the infallible RCC, you would be beheading them. I mean if the church says it you better do it or you are in sin, right?

Gigantor, if that situation ever arose, I'd be in a really awkward position. Fortunately, the Church hasn't ever done that, and the Holy Spirit is unlikely to allow it to.

donsands said...

"obeying the Church" is simple Christian morality, such as all Christians hold to."

there's a good balance within the Church for me.
Peter says that we need to submit to our elders, which he was one.
And we need to submit to one another.

And all this is under the authority of Scripture.
Like Luther said, "Here I stand, unless otherwise convinced by Scripture." (paraphrased)

When I was an elder, and a member of the church came under discipline, I would always tell this person I loved him or her, and that I love the Lord Jesus first and foremost, and that the Holy Writ is the final authority in dealing with the sin.
No condemnation. And no commending for sure.
Simply restoration is to take place.

The daily routine of the elders is to be examples to the congregation. To tend to their spiritual needs mostly, but also their physical needs as well.

That's how I see the Church. I am the Church. All who are in Christ are the Church.
Some are elders, overseers, pastors, and rulers. Each local church needs to have elders. And denaominations need leaders as well.
But we are are equal in God's sight.

Joel said...

That's how I see the Church. I am the Church. All who are in Christ are the Church.
Some are elders, overseers, pastors, and rulers. Each local church needs to have elders. And denaominations need leaders as well.
But we are are equal in God's sight.


Individuals are equal, yes. Some are called to be positions of authority, but we're all integral parts of the Church.

But I would say that the Church is bigger than the sum of its parts. It's made up of people, but it's more than just a collection of people, if that makes sense. Individuals within the Body can and do err, but I believe the Holy Spirit guides the Church as a whole to keep it obedient to God and to scripture.

That's why I believe that the Church has remained faithful to the Gospel. Yes, it's easy to point at times like the Renasissance and highlight the corruption of some of the Church's leaders, but even then, for every corrupt bishop or priest there were hundred, thousands, of faithful ones who aren't remembered today because they simply stood firm. And as for the laity, Tetzel would have had no customers at all if the majority of Catholics at that time hadn't wanted to serve Christ the best way they knew how. Even with lousy popes and bishops, the Church as a body was preserved from apostasy. The gates of Hell couldn't prevail altogether; Satan could only chip away at little pieces.

donsands said...

"the Church as a body was preserved from apostasy."

Yes, the Lord always has a remnant. It's all about His promise, and His faithfulness.

And Yes the Holy Spirit is the divine breath of the Body of Christ. Christ is the Head. There's only one Head.

The Gospel is the Gospel. It's grace alone, through Christ alone, by faith alone, verified by Holy Scripture alone, for the glory of God the Father, and His Son alone.

Have a good evening.

Brett S said...

Hello Steve,

I’ll play stump the “Romanist” for $5000, please Alex

1. “Rome claims to be an infallible church. How can an infallible church ever reform itself?”
Rome claims that Jesus Christ created one infallible church. (one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church). Any Christian, who is in Christ is in some way united with that one catholic church whether he professes communion and obedience with the bishop of Rome or not. The bible alone displays enough evidence that from the very beginning that the church was always in need of growth and reform. That doesn’t mean that the church is fallible, because Christ created it that way. If you don’t like it, take it up with him.


2. “The Word of God disagrees with Rome on the authority of Scripture; the nature of saving faith; the nature of Mary; the Mass; the Treasury of Merit; Purgatory; justification; etc.”

Definitely won’t waste time or space debating those vast topics, but personally speaking I have never read anything in the inerrant Holy Bible that contradicts a single teaching of the Roman Catholic Church (especially Rome’s teaching on etc?). The fact that you use the phrase “Treasury of Merit” leads me to believe that you may be placing words into Rome’s mouth that don’t belong.

3. So the primary issue comes down to authority and belief for those on this thread who are Romanists.

Agreed! The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the lord Jesus Christ is The authority on all matters related to truth, faith, and morals.
All glory and honor is his forever and ever, Amen!
Thank God for his gracious gift of a church and a Holy Bible to help us figure this stuff out.

OK, maybe not a $5000.00 answer but can’t I at least get a cold beer for trying :)

Peace

Kirby L. Wallace said...

gigantor1231: "Joel, I could make some comments that would be very vitreolic and inflamatory but I am choosing not to do that because it would not be glorifying to God ..."


Gigantor. Please... allow me.

;-)


Joel, most of the points on your "some pretty wild heresies" link require you to hold an incorrect discerning of Luther's intent.

For instance, #8. Basically all this says is "Do not presume to think that you have confessed ALL of your sins. You cannot confess ALL of them because there are certainly many that you are not even aware of."

That's all.

Don't add to it any more intent than Luther put into it.

Kirby L. Wallace said...

Joel,

The 2nd command prohibits us from making any images of God because God knows we will be prone to start worshipping them instead of the true God.

So... we can't make or worship images of him.

But any images of him, no matter how vague, that we find just layin' about the place, they are OK to worship?

This isn't simply antagonistic. There's a purpose here. I'm plumbing the depths... sounding the fjord... it's a litmus test, if you will.

Beats sticking me finger in.

;-)

Rick Frueh said...

Luther was an incredibly intelligent man who was given to appetite, temper, and sometimes wine. He was coarse and sometimes virulent in his castigations. He was an incredibly flawed man.

But those things are what make God great! God used a man like Luther in a profound way, and even though he had some Roman grave clothes (rabid anti-semitism) his escape from Catholicism was a colossal act of God's grace.

As much as we can compare men, Luther was a giant. Flawed, imperfect, and a testament to the glory of God!!

Kirby L. Wallace said...

Rick F: Flawed, imperfect, and a testament to the glory of God!!
Hey, can you call my wife and tell her that?

Every time I use that line it never seems to work for me! ;-)

Brett S said...

Rick,

I admire Luther for many of his ideas and courage, but
"escape from Catholicism"
is kinda silly anti-heroic hyperbole.

I don't think he was trying to escape anything. And it's not like the pope keeps ankle bracelets on us; "free-will" allows catholics to come and go as we please.

Rick Frueh said...

Brett - I respectfully and strongly disagree.

SJ Camp said...

Brett
I think it is good to remember that the Pope not only had excommunicated Luther, but also had wanted him executed. It's almost impossible for us today to understand in our society what Luther actually faced especially when calling a recalcitrant Roman Catholic church back to the gospel of sola fide - justification by faith alone.

It cost him dearly. His battle with Rome was not an intramural debate; it was the birth of Protestantism.

sidzer said...

Luther hated the Jews and everything Jewish, so saying that his teaching should be studied and discerned. I myself find through much study that alot of his doctines that we in the church today preach and practice are totaly against what Jesus taught. Remeber Jesus came to the Jew first. So in order to discern, we must have open minds and open ears to hear what the scriptures themselves say.

sidzer said...

Martin Luther hated the Jews and anything Jewish, this is not as you say a myth. It is indeed fact and recored for anyone to read. So saying that I have found in much study that what he teached and preached and still being followed today as docterine has much error. It is not what scripture says and not what Jesus taught. So I think that we as Christians need to open our bibles and have ears that hear and eyes that see, and a mind that discerns what is the doctorine of men and what is the oracles of God