Monday, February 12, 2007

Was Luther an anti-Pope in the first place?

I often encounter portrayals of Luther as a person who started from the beginning as a person who had an axe to grind against the Pope of his day. Was Luther going to be happy only if he saw the western Church divided? Was he a schismatic to start with? Did he genuinely want reform or did he want division in the first place.?The more these accusations I hear, the more I like to go to the sources, but the more I get convinced as I read them, that the answer to the question was "no", he did not start as an anti-Pope for the sake of being one. I wish the focus on Luther should stop because what was this man after all? May be they think Luther is the Protestant's Pope and by casting him as a demon, Protestantism will simply crumble. It seems to me that he was an ordinary sinner who looked to Christ's Gospel as his hope, as someone once said - one beggar telling another beggar where he can find bread.

At any rate here are Luther's own words and I highlight some points to consider in which I think he denied the allegation that he was an anti-Pope to begin with. This is found in the Note to the Christian Reader.


DR. MARTIN LUTHER TO THE CHRISTIAN READER


EDITION OF 1545


Above all things I beseech the Christian reader and beg him for
the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, to read my earliest books very
circumspectly and with much pity, knowing that before now I too
was a monk, and one of the right frantic and raving papists. When
I took up this matter against Indulgences, I was so full and
drunken, yea, so besotted in papal doctrine that, out of my great
zeal, I would have been ready to do murder -- at least, I would
have been glad to see and help that murder should be done -- on
all who would not be obedient and subject to the pope, even to
his smallest word.

Such a Saul was I at that time; and I meant it right earnestly;
and there are still many such to-day. In a word, I was not such a
frozen and ice-cold champion of the papacy as Eck and others of
his kind have been and still are. They defend the Roman See more
for the sake of the shameful belly, which is their god, than
because they are really attached to its cause. Indeed I am wholly
of the opinion that like latter-day Epicureans, they only laugh at
the pope. But I verily espoused this cause in deepest earnest and
in all fidelity; the more so because I shrank from the Last Day
with great anxiety and fear and terror, and yet from the depths of
my heart desired to be saved.

Therefore, Christian reader, thou wilt find in my earliest books
and writings how many points of faith I then, with all humility,
yielded and conceded to the pope, which since then I have held and
condemned for the most horrible blasphemy and abomination, and
which I would have to be so held and so condemned forever. Amen.

Thou wilt therefore ascribe this my error, or as my opponents
venomously call it, this inconsistency of mine, to the time, and
to my ignorance and inexperience. At the beginning I was quite
alone and without any helpers, and moreover, to tell the truth,
unskilled in all these things, and far too unlearned to discuss
such high and weighty matters. For it was without any intention,
purpose, or will of mine that I fell, quite unexpectedly, into
this wrangling and contention. This I take God, the Searcher of
hearts, to witness.

I tell these things to the end that, if thou shalt read my books,
thou mayest know and remember that I am one of those who, as St.
Augustine says of himself, have grown by writing and by teaching
others, and not one of those who, starting with nothing, have in a
trice become the most exalted and most learned doctors. We find,
alas! many of these self-grown doctors; who in truth are nothing,
do nothing and accomplish nothing, are moreover untried and
inexperienced, and yet, after a single look at the Scriptures,
think themselves able wholly to exhaust its spirit.

Farewell, dear reader, in the Lord. Pray that the Word may be
further spread abroad, and may be strong against the miserable
devil. For he is mighty and wicked, and just now is raving
everywhere and raging cruelly, like one who well knows and feels
that his time is short, and that the kingdom of his Vicar, the
Antichrist in Rome, is sore beset. But may the God of all grace
and mercy strengthen and complete in us the work He has begun, to
His honor and to the comfort of His little flock. Amen.

15 comments:

Jeff Tan said...

Actually, for the record, I didn't have that predisposition about Luther. I knew he had valid reasons to voice his objections to the state of the Church. In fact, I'm beginning to think that his principles of Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide were based on a deep disappointment that bordered on despair. The fact that the Church hierarchy had lost all credibility to Luther could well be the fundamental cause for Sola Scriptura. And the infidelity and corruption of baptized and well-educated clergy who should have led by holiness might have led Luther to focus on the depravity of mankind, which might have been what made Luther latch on to Sola Fide.

In a very real sense then, the Protestant movement and its leaders are the products/results of the corruption of the Church.

L P Cruz said...

Dear Jeff,

Please study Luther, do not be affraid to read some fair comments about him, I do not think you will honestly be Protestant after reading his life. That is not important, to be converted to Christ and to trust in him alone is the one that is important.

Most of the conversion stories at EWTN is a conversion of how they found the TRUE Church, as one said - this is the theology of Glory.

If you study Luther and Calvin you would note the following interpretation of their Christian approach....

1. They stand in the tradition of the Fathers who go to Scripture to find if the basis or belief stands squarely on it - this was the procedure of Augustine, Ambrose. You will note that they justify their teaching by appealing directly from Scripture. This is their Sola Scriptura.

2. The total depravity of man was not a teaching of Luther but that of Augustine - in fact this is where the RCC has departed. The doctrine of Sin of the RCC is a lot lighter than the doctrine of sin of these Reformers - they were Augustinian.. For this reason because we are sinners at the core, the good news is NOT that we can do the Law of God, but that it has been done for you.

The Prot does not come to GOd using the 7 Sacraments to comfort himself and say - hey, you will alright with God, you have done the sacraments as in ex opere operato, rather he should come to God and comfort himself by the finished work of Christ at the Cross.

Venerable Aussie said...

"Most of the conversion stories at EWTN is a conversion of how they found the TRUE Church, as one said - this is the theology of Glory."

Just 2 queries: Do you believe that Christ established a Church? And how do know for certain which Church is true?

On the sacraments, your analysis follows the classic "either-or" approach. For the Catholic Church it is always "both-and": It is BOTH Christ AND the sacraments because it is through the power of Christ and his work on the Cross that that there can be an outpouring of His saving grace into our lives through the ordinary means (ie the sacraments) which Christ instituted.

L P Cruz said...

Venerable,

I recognize the church by the Gospel it preaches and the proper use of Baptism and the Supper.

The church is the body of Christ ie little people who have been baptized and believe in Christ as Saviour/Lord. It is not confined in my thinking to Magisterium. Here I think there is a play of words amongs RC apologists when they use the word "Church", and the way they use it is the way the cults in my former country use the word ( I mean no association by guilt, only an observation that should be telling).

I would have agreed with you if the Bible says that it is a both-end when it comes to salvation, yet Paul in Romans (and you know this, it has been quoted to you before by Prots) 3:28, says that. Now you may think that the 7 sacraments are not a form of works but the way it is used - is just that - a form of works, for example penance.

You have to ask the following question - did Christ pay for all your sins , did he pay for the sins of the whole world? Are there sins that Christ did not pay for?

If Jesus did it for you, and you say you have to do it also so that both you and Christ cooperate together - one asks the question - what did he finish? What was his part for?

L P Cruz said...

PS.

So for you personally, would you go to the Judgement of God and say to him Jesus did his part and I have done my part in the sacraments so - there I earn the right to be in heaven because I have done the sacraments.

I gues for you personally how do you use the sacraments?

For example, I am married and marriage is one of the sacraments, so would you say that my marriage is a fulfillment of that sacrament of marriage? What about a budhist who is married, would he have fulfilled the sacrament?

What I am getting at is the way you use the sacraments.

Now, how do you know if you have done enough of the sacraments? Or does that question make sense at all? Tell me if it the question is not an issue at all.

L P Cruz said...

PSS.

Try then penance, yes then explain how you use this.

Steve said...

The focus of the sacraments must be Christ. The sacraments must be something that Christ gives us. I see only biblical support of Baptism and Holy Communion. In these gifts, we see the promise of the forgiveness of sin and salvation.

This position is much more theologically conservative and orthodox than the Roman Church's liberal definition of sacraments. Luther looked at remove anything thing that was not biblical and removed the focus on Christ.

I would like to know why the RC added in addition sacrements?

jim cronfel said...

I do not know where I learned to despise group bias. Maybe it was because I am an Arab American or maybe it was through reading books or maybe because I learned from bad experiences with groups. But when I was converted I knew that my faith was to be based on the invisible God.
Lito explaned to me that Lutherism is a "confession" not a "denomination". I see that in Lutheranism and I agree with Lito. And hence we are brothers -- based on the confession of Faith Alone.

But to worship a man-made and man-organized and man-dominated tradition --- no matter how big and old --- or how spooky and hockus pocus -- is shear stupidity in my opinion even aside from the question of Faith Alone.

But Faith Alone and the invisible God that does not respect any man more than another (conditionally) is what the difference between a man made religion and the religion of God.

God does not respect any man espeicially not Peter or the Pope!

But God brought the entire dishonest Roman Catholic Church to nothing by a little man's honest message: Martin Luther and Sola Fide.

L P Cruz said...

Jim,

By the way congratulations on the publishing of your book here
http://rds.yahoo.com/_ylt=A0geuraK0ddFx5EAb85XNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTE5OGQ1N245BGNvbG8DZQRsA1dTMQRwb3MDMQRzZWMDc3IEdnRpZANNQVAwMDJfMTIw/SIG=1245poalo/EXP=1171858186/**http%3a//prweb.com/releases/2007/2/prweb490181.htm

This is the thing that I think my RC friends find it strange. For us, we are in the church if we confess the same confession of the Apostle - Jesus is the Messiah the son of the living God. Hence, we are brothers even though we may have differences in other matters but here we do not differ.

So I see the RC saying "Yes, Jesus is Lord, but the Pope is his vicar". In otherwords, this is the Gospel to them. In fact during the middle ages, it was a heresy to deny the belief in the Pope. Imagine that! an article of faith! One must believe this or you will be excommunicated - effectively being banish out of heaven.

In general (and I am being a bit harsh here I admit), it seems to be the Gospel for Rome is - The Pope is the man! In otherwords, he is your daddy.

jim said...

Lito,

The only problem with the Pope being the gospel is that it is a finite gospel and a finite "way" or moral to heaven. The Pope does not save or determine or help salvation. He only corrupts everlasting salvation.

The Law is eternal and the Gospel is eternal and there is no other category of Scripture. That is why there is no Pope in Scripture: Because the Pope nor any other man dictates the law or the gospel but the Eternal God Himself.

Protestants know the eternal route to salvation.

Thank you for the endorsement!

In Christ,
Jim

Jeff Tan said...

"If Jesus did it for you, and you say you have to do it also so that both you and Christ cooperate together - one asks the question - what did he finish? What was his part for?"

You mean the notion of being co-workers of Christ is contrary to Scriptures?

"So for you personally, would you go to the Judgement of God and say to him Jesus did his part and I have done my part in the sacraments so - there I earn the right to be in heaven because I have done the sacraments."

We Catholics are not taught to see recourse to the sacraments as something that merits us salvation. Salvation is by grace alone, but Christ chose to impart this grace by sacraments (and you know this, except that you limit it to baptism and the Eucharist). In the judgment seat I will say to the Lord that I have done my best, and by my understanding of his will, I have had recourse to the sacraments as the means he chose to work in me. I do not do it because doing so saves me, but because doing so means I am in obedience to him, and because in doing so, I grow in the Spirit as a son of God, because the Spirit works in those sacraments.

"Now, how do you know if you have done enough of the sacraments? Or does that question make sense at all? Tell me if it the question is not an issue at all."

I know that I have been baptized, and by grace I am justified. I have been confirmed in the Holy Spirit, and in that have received the gifts of the Holy Spirit which I need to live rightly as God's child. I receive communion in order to grow in the divine life that the Lord imparts to me. Because of the magnitude of this gift, I frequent the Eucharist as often as I can. I go to confession whenever I have willingly offended the Lord with my stubbornness and disobedience in a serious manner. I go because I run to his mercy alone which can restore me to a state of grace, which repairs the effects of my actual sins and bring me back to a state where I can grow in holiness. I understand that the Lord gave me the sacrament of confession/reconciliation for this purpose. I am married, and by the grace of Christ who stands in our marriage, holding us together, I know that I grow in holiness here, too, by faithful obedience to this vocation of self-giving and love which images Christ's love for his bride, the Church. How do I use the sacraments? I'm not earning or racking up points. They are not means of working my way up to Heaven. I have recourse to them in obedience to God as the means that He has chosen to effect his love in me. I dare not resist.

"God does not respect any man espeicially not Peter or the Pope!"

We do not respect Peter or the pope because of the men that they are apart from God. We respect the anointing that comes, not from flesh or blood, but from our Father in Heaven. We respect the giving to them of the keys of the kingdom by the Lord, who built the Church.

"But God brought the entire dishonest Roman Catholic Church to nothing by a little man's honest message"

That's a pretty broad brush there, mate. The entire Roman Catholic Church, to the last man and woman, is dishonest? Every bishop, priest and deacon? Every monk and religious?

"Martin Luther and Sola Fide."

You truly love Luther, don't you? The man who took it upon himself to add "alone" in his German translation of the Bible, who would sooner consign Jimmy (the epistle of James) to the flames, being, after all, an epistle of straw and contradictory to Paul's doctrines, and, of course, obviously non-Apostolic in origin. What profound love and respect for Scriptures!

"So I see the RC saying "Yes, Jesus is Lord, but the Pope is his vicar". In otherwords, this is the Gospel to them. "

No, the pope is not as central to the gospel as you make it out to be for Catholics. I don't know what sort of exposure you had back home, Lito, but I don't remember the pope being preached about like that. Did you really get drilled with papal pronouncements back home? That would have to be the exception. The Gospel remains for us focused on Jesus crucified. We celebrate only one worship: the sacrifice in Calvary, the Eucharist.

"In fact during the middle ages, it was a heresy to deny the belief in the Pope. "

You have to understand that this goes back to Matthew 16. It is an article of faith because it is clearly a revealed truth, right there in the Bible and in Tradition. Heresy was therefore applied to denying what was said in Matthew 16. Would you accept a Christian who erases parts of the Bible and rejects them because he does not like them?

And yes, you are being harsh with the "daddy" quip. I don't have a book of papal pronouncements that I have to look up when I discuss these things with you, believe it or not. As Scott Hahn says, Scripture is practically sufficient for me to believe that the Church is a necessity, and that the papacy is an instrument instituted by Christ to provide for His -- Christ's -- Church.

"That is why there is no Pope in Scripture: Because the Pope nor any other man dictates the law or the gospel but the Eternal God Himself."

So what exactly did the Lord mean with the keys of the kingdom and the authority to bind and loose on earth as in Heaven? Seems to me that you deny Christ's own delegation of authority to his disciples.

L P Cruz said...

Jeff,

If you can respond by name in your posts that would be easier to respond back. Seems that your response here is a combination of Jim's and mine's post.

OK...you said this
In the judgment seat I will say to the Lord that I have done my best, and by my understanding of his will, I have had recourse to the sacraments as the means he chose to work in me. I do not do it because doing so saves me, but because doing so means I am in obedience to him, and because in doing so, I grow in the Spirit as a son of God, because the Spirit works in those sacraments.

Is there a way for you know you surely have done your "best"? Also can you rely that you absolutely understood His "will"? What about in the future, is it possible that you may not do your "best" in the future? What about your understanding of his will, what if it were wrong? To the point, I guess I am asking what is it that will make God consider you - Ok with Him?


Clarify for me, when you say "means of grace", you mean 'grace' as an aid, a power or ability to do the good thing God wants you to do. Am I correct?

You said that at your baptism you have been justified. What do you mean by the word "justified" here?


When I say "The Pope is the Vicar of Christ" as a component to the Gospel I mean it in such a way that to believe otherwise is heresy. And heresy leads to losing your soul.

In the RCC, correct me if I am wrong, to deny that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ all of Chritiandom is heresy - is it not correct to say that such a thing is heresy in your perspective? By implication, heresy damns and so for my statement.

If a thing quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, swims like a duck - it is a duck. My point is what Desanctis claimed and I have observed in my childhood, the RCC has layers of teaching but the practice is where it counts.

Jeff, Luther is not the Lutheran's Pope. We do not have a seat of authority - like Canterbury or Rome. We are united by a confession which Luther did not all write but as a fellow Reformer had his writing subjected to his colleagues. One example of this was Bugenhagen a fellow priest who was not convinced at the start of Luther's assertions.

Your quote of Luther on James was taken from Tabletalk, which is not a reliable source of Luther quotations. Even RCC scholars agree with Luther on "alone" I will try and find Fr. Fitzmeyer's analysis why Luther was justified in his translation.

Let us not go into the character of Luther - he has flaws, just like the Popes in the ages. They were all men of dust so we can not put our faith in them.

We can follow their teaching in so far as Scripture is in accord with theirs, specially in the parts where Scripture speaks clearly!

Jeff Tan said...

"To the point, I guess I am asking what is it that will make God consider you - Ok with Him?"

Lito (and my apologies for not previously addressing comments by name), you'll find it strange when I tell you that it is my conscience, that I have done what he wants me to do to the extent of what I understand of his will. But I qualify this by saying that I must continuously inform and form my conscience. I must test the spirits, by prayer and study, so as to make clear-conscience conclusions. It may also be strange for you to consider that I remain a Roman Catholic not out of fear, but out of conscience, because all my studies and prayer and considerations of the various Protestant objections to the Catholic faith have instead confirmed that I am where God wills me to be.

As for a right standing -- that state of grace -- I also use my conscience to judge that I am not living in rebellion to God's love and will, for which reason recourse to the sacrament of confession is a key component.

I know there's all this misconception of a Catholic who is constantly worried about his standing with God, desperately lacking in assurance. I have assurance that springs from faith, and that assurance -- hope -- is on everything that the Lord had promised, including the sacraments he instituted out of love for all.

Now, when I say "means of grace", I mean how I remain in Christ, because the life he imparts to me, this state of sanctifying grace, is strengthened as I grow in holiness. By recourse to the means of grace that Christ instituted in the sacrament and in every act of love and docility to the Holy Spirit, I am allowing Him to sanctify me, repairing my sinful nature.

When I say "justified", I mean that I have been adopted as God's son, through Jesus Christ, by the washing of baptism through which I die with Christ and rise again, reborn.

"In the RCC, correct me if I am wrong, to deny that the Pope is the Vicar of Christ all of Chritiandom is heresy"

On heresy: St. Thomas (II-II:11:1) defines heresy: "a species of infidelity in men who, having professed the faith of Christ, corrupt its dogmas". This requires full knowledge that one is corrupting what is a true dogma. I think this excuses those who never fully grasped the truth being rejected in the first place.

"If a thing quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, swims like a duck - it is a duck. "

Yes but you must be sure that it really quacks like a duck. Case in point is evidence from your posts that you generally confuse infallibility with impeccability. Also you thought the dogma of Mary's Assumption meant that she never died.

"Let us not go into the character of Luther - he has flaws, just like the Popes in the ages. They were all men of dust so we can not put our faith in them."

Amen. Let us put our faith, insofar as Truth is concerned, on the Holy Spirit. And I must again state that I believe in papal and Magisterial infallibility because of that faith -- despite the sinfulness of the popes and bishops.

L P Cruz said...

Jeff,

I respect your appeal to your conscience. Luther was like that and we are in the end like that really, for to go against conscience as he says is not safe. I do have a different source of assurance and it is not found in what is me, it is found in the promise made and recorded in Scripture - Jesus paid it all.

Thank you too for letting me know what you mean by the words you said. We are using the words justify and adoption differently.

Now as to misunderstanding RCC dogma like papal infallability or bodily assumption of Mary, if it is misunderstood it is I would say the way it has been defined by RCC.

For example I know you believe that the Pope can be wrong, but when he speaks ex cathedra (officially) he is infallible at that point of declaring dogma. This I deny. Why? Because we have no such guarantee from Scripture that such is the case. God does not promise infallability to anyone. He shares his attributes to no one, not even for a second. When the writers of Scripture wrote, they did not know that they were writing Scripture. Also even today if we find the writings of Paul to the Laodecians, we will not open up the canon of NT. Not all they wrote were inspired, they remained humans with frailties after inscripturation.

As to the Assumption of Mary - corporeal assumption here is what was ex cathedra stated
We pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory

Now tell me who will not get confused and be open to double meaning by the word "body" there?

Even if you believe that Mary died but her dead body (right) went up to heaven or even resurrected, I have no scripture to believe that because, it is speculation.

I can agree with you that she is in heaven but her body need resurrection like the rest of us. Scripture does not say that she died and got resurrected and went to heaven with her body in tact.


By the way, I have no problem RC people calling me heretic by their standards, I am a Protestant and by definition in your own terms, I am. I am not offended at that.

We all have to suffer for the truth we belive to be true.

jim said...

Dear Jeff,

Is the Roman Catholic system a QUANTIATVELY eternal system here on earth? I have heard from more than one Roman Catholic that Luther was over scruplous; that he suffered from "scurplousity" because of his absoulte fear of God's wrath as being an absolute and eternal thing.

Clearly your Pope waters down the eternal Law to a finite humanly do-able non-absolute system that does not require absolute obediance like the Law Gospel distinction does.

When you say that you are going on an "anointing" for the Pope and Aposolic succession you are reducing GODS ANOINTING to humans:

Psalms 2:2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his Anointed [I.E. CHRIST], saying,

In Christ,
Jim