Skip to comments.Luther vs. Rome
Posted on 06/19/2009 10:03:34 PM PDT by dangus
Praise God, that we are saved by grace alone. Works without faith are utterly without merit. This is not merely a Protestant notion.
Such has been the persistent teaching of the saints throughout the ages. Yet a whitewashing of Martin Luther has led to many people, even Catholics, fundamentally misunderstanding the Catholic Church's criticism of him.
Please understand that what I write here is no ad-hominem attack on Luther for any purpose, including the slander of Protestantism. Attacking the moral character of Martin Luther is gainless, for no-one supposes Luther to be imbued with the gift of infallibility. But when the counter-reformation is known by most people only by what it opposes, it becomes necessary to clarify what it was that it opposes. Further, given the whitewashed history of Martin Luther, it is imperitive to remember the context of the Catholic Church's language and actions, which seem terribly strident, presented out of the context.
The Catholic Church does not believe that one could merit salvation by doing good works. Nor could one avoid sin by one's own strengths. In fact, the Catholic position is one held by most people who believe they follow Luther's principle of sola fides. We are saved by grace alone, by which we have faith, which necessarily leads us to righteous works, and the avoidance of sin.
This is not Luther's position. Luther held that it was impossible to avoid sin. As long as we are here [in this world] we have to sin. (Letter to Melanchthon, 1521) "They are fools who attempt to overcome temptations by fasting, prayer and chastisement. For such temptations and immoral attacks are easily overcome when there are plenty of maidens and women" (Luther's Works, Jena ed., 1558, 2, 116; cited in P. F. O'Hare, "The Facts About Luther", Rockford, 1987, 311).
As such, it was not necessary to avoid sin. If grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. In fact, the way to conquer sin, he taught was to indulge it: The way to battle a tempting demon was to in-dulge some sin in hatred of the evil spirit and to torment him. Even the greatest sin was permissible, so long as one believed in Christ.: Sin shall not drag us away from Him, even should we commit fornication or murder a thousand times a day. (all quotes from Letter to Melanchthon, 1521)
These quotes are often brushed aside as being hot-headed rhetoric. (Ironically, one passage to suggest that such intemperate statements were righteous is Jesus' warning that should one's eyes cause him to lust, he should cast the eye into Gehenna. How diametrically opposed to Jesus' teaching is Luther's!) But they were not said in a harmless context. Luther counseled Prince Phillip that it would be fine to take a mistress. And his comments that peasants were born to be cannon fodder is horrific in light of the deaths of 100,000 peasants in a rebellion of which he spoke, I said they should be slain; all their blood is upon my head... My little book against the peasants is quite in the right and shall remain so, even if all the world were to be scandalized at it. (Luther's Works, Erlangen ed., 24.299)
Such beliefs are not incidental to Luther; they are a major part of the reason for many princes siding with him against the Catholic church. Without such support, his movement would have no base. But he also appealed to their financial motives, arguing that they had no obligation to fight Muslims. In fact, Luther preached that Islamic domination was superior to Catholicism. His horrors at the excesses of Rome were pure fiction, aimed at weakening Rome's military strength. His lies are betrayed by his ignorance of Rome's geography. (He mistakenly thought that the Vatican was built on one of the seven hills of Rome, an assertion he'd make time and time again in asserting that the Papacy was Babylon.) Again, the context is horrifying: Belgrade fell in the very same year as the Council of Worms, 1521. By 1529, the Islamic horde had reached Vienna.
Luther even attacked the Holy Bible, itself. Nowhere does the bible say we are saved by faith alone. In fact, those words exist only in the Letter of James. So, Luther sought to have that book struck out of the bible. At the Council of Worms, he was shown how the 1st Letter of Peter refers to purgatory, how Revelations depicts the saints in Heaven praying for the souls below, how James explicitly states that faith alone is dead, if it has not works. Later Protestant apologists offered alternate explanations for these difficult passages, but Luther simply declared that they were false: Many sweat to reconcile St. Paul and St. James, but in vain. 'Faith justifies' and 'faith does not justify' contradict each other flatly. If any one can harmonize them I will give him my doctor's hood and let him call me a fool
His violence to the Word of God was worse still regarding the Old Testament. In condemning the Ten Commandments, he said Moses should be damned and excommunicated; yea, worse than the Pope and the Devil. Yet this man argued that the bible alone was authoritative?
When confronted by the Catholic church over his statements, Luther never disavowed these statements, or claimed they were exaggerations, or apologize for putting his foot in his mouth. Instead, he boasted, Not for a thousand years has God bestowed such great gifts on any bishop as He has on me.
Thus, the Catholic church was in the position of defending Western Civilization militarily against the Islamic horde, when an outrageous heretic preached all manner of hatred against it, instigating insurrection, and leading political forces to align against it. In doing so, he attacked not only the Church, but the historical and biblical under-pinnings of the bible. Could there be any wonder that the church responded harshly? Luther is dead, and he has never been held to be infallible or sinless. This is not an attack on him, but a defense on the Catholic Church, which he assailed.
It's 1529. The Muslims are in Bavaria. There's a madman boasting that he's responsible for 100,000 dead peasants, and he sides with the Turks. Can you really say that the Church treated him too harshly?
Again, to emphasize the Catholic church’s position on works v faith:
Through grace, we have faith, by which we will certainly perform works if our faith is true. That is, we worship, pray, receive the sacraments, and perform works of mercy. When we do those works, God pours out further grace upon us, not because those works have earned us anything, but so his grace may be confirmed by the works.
The Catholic Church couldnt treat him harshly. Martin Luther was protected by protestant german princes. When the Turks besieged Vienna, Luther’s church was made secure by a deal between the Austrian emperor and the german protesant princes in return for supporting him against the Turks.
The French Catholic king also supported the Turks against the Austrian/Spanish/Dutch Holy Roman Emperor. Politics was more important to many people than religion.
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To answer some anticipated objections:
As Luther aged, he recognized the threat Muslims were to Germany, and he spoke against them. But the princes who sided with him never fought against the Muslims, nor did he preach that they must.
Also, many people debate dismiss the quotes I provided, since they seem to lead one to antinomianism, and Luther opposed antinomianism. What Luther opposed, however, was the notion that sinning was as good as not sinning. He did find it preferable not to sin. At the same time, however, he denied both that the most horrific sins were inconsistent with being saved, and that committing certain sins could be lead to preventing other sins.
I think we find here in Luther a precursor to Freud’s sexual indulgences. Luther seems to be arguing that sin is harmful (although he seems to argue against any harm to the sinner), and that the experience of receiving forgiveness for sins helps remove the urge to commit that sin in the future. As if one might say: “Gee, I actually slept with so-and-so, and it’s no big deal, and I don’t feel the urge to do it anymore. I’ll be happy from now on with my wife.” Unfortunately, the truth is that experiencing sin scandalizes the soul, and can harden the heart. Or, they respond to diminishing enjoyment from the sin with an urge for ever more wicked sins.
It’s a curious turn in history...when a 3rd rate priest out in the boonies of Germany...ends up as public enemy number one of the worldly dominating Catholic Church...then he finds a couple of princes in the Worms area of Germany who go with his stance and defend him from threats. The Catholic Church is split at a key point in history...and never really recovers from that split.
The French sided with the Muzzies over the Spanish/Austrian/Italian/Polish alliance; they also sided with the Lutheran Germans/Scandinavians over the rest of the Catholics in the 30 years’ war.
>> Luthers church was made secure by a deal between the Austrian emperor and the german protesant princes in return for supporting him against the Turks. <<
Isn’t it lovely that Charles needed to strike a deal with the Protestant princes, when the Turks were in Bavaria? At least after 1529, Luther quit preaching that the Muslims were preferable to the Catholics. Sure, it was too late for those poor saps in Bulgaria, Bohemia, Hungary, who were slaughtered while Luther was admiring the Muslims. But what did they matter to Martin?
>> Its a curious turn in history...when a 3rd rate priest out in the boonies of Germany...ends up as public enemy number one of the worldly dominating Catholic Church...then he finds a couple of princes in the Worms area of Germany who go with his stance and defend him from threats. The Catholic Church is split at a key point in history...and never really recovers from that split. <<
It’s amazing what a third-rate priest can accomplish by appealing to people’s evil motives. Go ahead, Prince Phillip, cheat on your wife... it’s not a sin. Go ahead, comrades in arms, whore-mongering will lessen your desire to do worse perversions. Go ahead, chevaliers, abandon the defense of civilization; did you not read from Hus that God hates war? Go ahead, kings of the North, why should you pay to kill Muslims in the South? And, of course, all that Church property can be yours!
“Many sweat to reconcile St. Paul and St. James, but in vain. ‘Faith justifies’ and ‘faith does not justify’ contradict each other flatly. If any one can harmonize them I will give him my doctor’s hood and let him call me a fool “
There is some merit to this argument. I cannot reconcile them.
By the way, the princes who struck the deal to defend Vienna weren’t the ones I meant never helped out in the defense against Islam, obviously. Those princes’ realms eventually reverted to Catholicism. Ever wonder why Austria, Hungary, Spain, Italy, Poland, Portugal and the Balkans all stayed Catholic? Because they understood what the Catholic Church was fighting for... they had faced Islam. In Germany, the split was largely North-South. The North stayed Lutheran, the South stayed Catholic or reverted.
St. Paul says that faith is necessary; St. James says faith is not sufficient. There’s no conflict between those two. If you want to drive somewhere, gasoline is necessary. But it’s not sufficient; you also need a car. Faith powers our works. Without faith, our works are in vain. But what good is the force, without an object to act apon?
Justification is through faith, and faith alone...
Romans 3:28, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the law.”
If a man says that he has faith in Christ and has not the evidence, then his faith is in vain.
Matthew 7:16 “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles?”
What James is saying, he is saying that if a man is truly born again, it will manifest itself outwardly, true faith in Christ cannot contain itself, and must be manifest outwardly.
How will this faith be manifest? By obedience to Christ.
Not by membership in a certain denomination, not by observances of sacraments, but by obedience to Christ and Christ alone.
We're justified by faith alone, and that faith will show.
That's what James was saying when he said that faith without works is dead.
But when the counter-reformation is known by most people only by what it opposes, it becomes necessary to clarify what it was that it opposes.Luther may have been an imperfect messenger, but I was always taught that one of his primary concerns was the sale of indulgences.
indulgence: a pardon for certain types of sin that was sold by the Catholic Church in the late medieval period.We can agree that at least on THIS point he was correct, right?
The sale of indulgences motivated Martin Luther to post the "95 Theses."
Or, is there a Biblical foundation for this practice?
I believe that was exactly Luther's feelings towards the papacy.
***I had been under the impression that the Muslims had not got farther than the gates of Vienna. ***
They did not. But the only reason was that the Catholic West threw everything it had against them. If Vienna were lost, so would also go the Balkans and southeast Europe including Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece maybe not, but certainly Slovakia and portions of Poland.
Once they had entrenched, who knows? Suleiman the Magnificent was a great general. Could he have grown the next generation of warrior to take the fight west? History will never know thanks to the last chance desperate stand at Vienna.
I read years ago that Luther, like many others did not get to read all of the Bible until he went to the University as a student...
It was there that he read the actual words and realized that the Catholic Churxch had moved away from the original idea of salvation by grace, “justified by faith”
did you not read from Hus that God hates war?
Actually God calls Himself “a man of war”
The LORD is a man of war: the LORD is his name Exodus 15:3
Too bad those ancients would not read the “Jewish” text...
“I read years ago that Luther, like many others did not get to read all of the Bible until he went to the University as a student...”
And that is one of the most idiotic and yet enduring MYTHS about Luther's life and it was a quote from Luther that began it all. Luther most certainly did see and read Bible and individual Biblical books since the time he was a child. There were more than 14 German language editions of the Bible published before Luther produced his own, and there were plenty of Latin editions around as well.
Luther, in his table talks later in life made stories like this: “ I was twenty years old,” says Luther, “before I had ever seen the Bible. I had no notion that there existed any other gospels or epistles than those in the service. At last I came across a Bible in the library at Erfurt, and used often to read it to Dr. Staupitz, with still increasing wonder.”
This is simply impossible. Impossible. As the Catholic Encyclopedia points out:
His accidental discovery in the Erfurt monastery library of the Bible, “a book he had never seen in his life” (Mathesius, op. cit.), or Luther's assertion that he had “never seen a Bible until he was twenty years of age”, or his still more emphatic declaration that when Carlstadt was promoted to the doctorate “he had as yet never seen a Bible and I alone in the Erfurt monastery read the Bible”, which, taken in their literal sense, are not only contrary to demonstrable facts, but have perpetuated misconception, bear the stamp of improbability written in such obtrusive characters on their face, that it is hard, on an honest assumption, to account for their longevity. The Augustinian rule lays especial stress on the monition that the novice “read the Scripture assiduously, hear it devoutly, and learn it fervently” (Constitutiones Ordinis Fratr. Eremit. Sti. Augustini”, Rome, 1551, cap. xvii). At this very time Biblical studies were in a flourishing condition at the university, so that its historian states that “it is astonishing to meet such a great number of Biblical commentaries, which force us to conclude that there was an active study of Holy Writ” (Kampschulte, op. cit., I, 22). Protestant writers of repute have abandoned this legend altogether.
The story is a fabrication or at the very least a gross exaggeration and a reference to a massive single volume Bible rather than the usual two volume version. In any case, the story is a tale and not the truth. And that is like much of what the Protestant Revolution is built on.
“It was there that he read the actual words and realized that the Catholic Churxch had moved away from the original idea of salvation by grace, justified by faith”
Wrong. The Church before then, at that time and today believes in salvation by grace alone. That is NOT the same thing as “justified by faith” which is a peculiar and novel Protestant idea started by Luther. Luther himself cut books from the canon for a time that he believed went against his understanding of “justified by faith”. The idea that he “realized” anything other than his own fantasies is farcical.
Why I believe that Luter never saw a Bible to read the whole thing is that it wss not normal for the peasants to have any books even Bibles...they were expensive and the peasants could not read...
The parish priest might have a Bible and noble families would but not peasants...
The Catholic Church controlled the reading of the Bible...
However when the students got to the University..there was the Bible...
Several of the leaders in the Reformation had the same experience...
If Bibles were in every home like today...I own a dozen Bibles and commentaries..then I’d saw Hmmmmmm
But the odds are that Luther was correct when he said I was twenty years old, says Luther, before I had ever seen the Bible. I had no notion that there existed any other gospels or epistles than those in the service...” meaning the Mass etc in which the priest or bishop would have quoted the scripture from the Bible...
About the same thing happened in England France, Germany..the Catholic Church had a central governing office...the Vatican...with a set way of doing things..
Information was controlled...both secular and church...
Remember my family if they were churched (Usually they were by law) were all Catholics back then...before they were Protestants...
The Catholic church did not oppose his condemnation of the sale of indulgences. In fact, it cracked down on them. What’s questionnable is how widespread the practice was.
To correct your definition, an indulgence is an act one does for the remission on the temporary effects of sin on one’s soul. In other words, indulgences ensure you spend less time in purgatory. Once, they were offered for warriors in the defense of civilization against the Muslims. Today, they are typically granted for pilgrimages and prayers. They must be done with a contrite heart and a firm purpose of amendment for the sin that has been committed. Therefore, what Luther alleged was always contrary to Catholic doctrine: that people were being told that they could go ahead and sin, so long as they donated to the war. In essence, they were paying for a license to sin.
Clearly anyone with such money should have been educated well enough to have realized this would not be kosher, but it’s quite possible such sales did take place; rationalization can easily trump a conscience. And ordinary priests had no authority to grant indulgences. Nonetheless, the counter-reformation prohibited the practice of accepting money as an indulgence, to prevent such corruption, even though the biblical examples of remitting sins through charity were typically done with money.
However, Luther moved far beyond the sale of indulgences. He removed from the bible the book of Maccabees, wherein returning warriors achieved the remission of the sins of their fallen comrades through using the war booty to rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem. (This act is recalled in the Feast of the Dedication, celebrating the indwelling of God within the Temple, which takes place on the 25th of the month most closely approximating December.)
He moved to oppose the very notion of purgatory, removing the books of 1 Peter, Hebrews, Revelation, and portions of Daniel, because he realized the Council of Worms had convinced him that these books referred to purgatory. The New Testament books were eventually restored to the Lutheran canon; he could not, however, convince English or Swiss reformers to do such violence to the New Testament. But he did convince them to remove seven books from the Old Testament, based on misquoting St. Jerome.
Let’s just say that Luther SHOULD have seen a bible*. His arguments for the nonexistence of purgatory and for faith alone were so thoroughly destroyed at the Imperial Diet that one might suppose he had never; he was so completely surprised at the Diet’s citations, that the best response his response was to assert that no fewer than fourteen books did not belong in the bible, including Revelations, Hebrews, James and four other New Testament works.
Consider how amazing this was: He had gone to the Diet with the assertion that only the bible was valid for disputing theology, and he left arguing that no fewer than sixteen books (two, Daniel and Esther, were merely reduced by Luther) did not belong in the bible.
(*I am quite confident he did; most of his arguments were biblical. He just didn’t hadn’t been the world’s best scholar.)
“Why I believe that Luter never saw a Bible to read the whole thing is that it wss not normal for the peasants to have any books even Bibles...”
Luther was not a peasant. His father had been a peasant, but then became a prosperous miner, and some sort of municiple official in Mansfeld - hardly a peasant. Also, you are conflating two different things. Luther, as a child may have possessed few or no books at all, but he ATTENDED SCHOOL and CHURCH and it was routine for books to be in those places. Also, it was considered common knowledge among Protestant hagiographers of Luther (I dare not say “biographers”) that Luther’s father was an avid reader who collected books. As D’Aubigne said about him “he read a great deal” and he “let pass no opportunity of procuring them.” NOT peasants at all.
“...they were expensive and the peasants could not read...”
Again, Luther was not a peasant. He could read. He attended schools and church.
“The parish priest might have a Bible and noble families would but not peasants...”
Again, Luther was not a peasant.
“The Catholic Church controlled the reading of the Bible...”
Incorrect. If someone had access to the Bible, how could the Church control reading of the Bible? You’re not making any sense.
“However when the students got to the University..there was the Bible...”
There were Bibles in the churches and schools. Luther attended several schools BEFORE university. He lived in several different towns - all prosperous towns and rich cities. The idea that he never saw a Bible is insane.
“Several of the leaders in the Reformation had the same experience...”
No, they did not.
“If Bibles were in every home like today...I own a dozen Bibles and commentaries..then Id saw Hmmmmmm”
Bibles were in the churches and schools back then. I have more Bibles than I can count off the top of my head and just ordered another one from Ireland yesterday. Yet, I know that Bibles were much more common then than people realize today.
“But the odds are that Luther was correct when he said I was twenty years old, says Luther, before I had ever seen the Bible. I had no notion that there existed any other gospels or epistles than those in the service... meaning the Mass etc in which the priest or bishop would have quoted the scripture from the Bible...”
No. The odds are that Luther was LYING. Or at least exaggerating as he often did - especially when he was drinking.
“About the same thing happened in England France, Germany..the Catholic Church had a central governing office...the Vatican...with a set way of doing things..”
Utter nonsense. The Vatican had little or no direct control over far flung diocese until after the Council of Trent. This easily demonstrated by the entirety of medieval history where the bishops of France, England, Germany, etc. as well as their kings routinely flouted papal authority.
“Information was controlled...both secular and church...”
Again, nonsense. There was no way to control information and anyone who thinks there was is incredibly anachronistic. How would information be controlled? The Vatican was in Rome with no access to modern methods of communications at all. None.
“Remember my family if they were churched (Usually they were by law) were all Catholics back then...before they were Protestants...”
So what? Does that mean you suddenly have insight into their lives? That’s like saying, “My ancestors were all Irish so, of course, I know all about the Irish language.” The one has NOTHING IN ITSELF to do with the other.
As S.R. Maitland, one of the greatest Protestant church historians of the nineteenth century put it in his famous work, Dark Ages:
“Really one hardly knows how to meet such statements, but will the reader be so good as to remember that we are not now talking of the Dark Ages, but of a period when the press had been half a century in operation; and will he give a moment’s reflection to the following statement, which I believe to be correct, and which cannot, I think, be so far inaccurate as to affect the argument. To say nothing of parts of the Bible, or of books whose place is uncertain, we know of at least twenty different editions of the whole Latin Bible printed in Germany only before Luther was born. These had issued from Augsburg, Strasburg, Cologne, Ulm, Mentz (two), Basil (four), Nuremberg (ten), and were dispersed through Germany, I repeat, before Luther was born; and I may add that before that event there was a printing press at work in this very town of Erfurt, where, more than twenty years after, he is said to have made his * discovery.’ Some may ask what was the Pope about all this time ? Truly one would think he must have been off his guard; but as to these German performances, he might have found employment nearer home if he had looked for it. Before Luther was born the Bible had been printed in Rome, and the printers had had the assurance to memorialize his Holiness, praying that he would help them off with some copies. It had been printed too at Naples, Florence, and Placenza; and Venice alone had furnished eleven editions. No doubt we should be within the truth if we were to say that beside the multitude of manuscript copies, not yet fallen into disuse, the press had issued fifty different editions of the whole Latin Bible; to say nothing of Psalters, New Testaments, or other parts. And yet, more than twenty years after, we find a young man who had received “ a very liberal education,” who “had made great proficiency in his studies at Magdeburg, Eisenach, and Erfurt,” and who, nevertheless, did not know what a Bible was, simply because “the Bible was unknown in those days.””
Let us be clear, the reason peasants would not have a Bible is that before the invention of the printing press, when they had to be hand written, they were just so expensive. (How many people out there have a main frame computer at home?) There was no attempt by the Church to keep them out of the hands of the people. Also remember the low level of literacy. Even if they had a Bible, for most people it would still have been a closed book.
Also... Luther was no peasant. By the time he was 20, he had spent many years in his religious studies.
The defense of Luther’s statement is that MOST of his contact with the bible would have been under the direct supervision and guidance of someone else; he may not have been free to peruse his own bible. However, this defense is that the spirit of what he said is true, even if his words aren’t... but the spirit isn’t true, either.
Luther would have had a personal breviary, and he would have had to study from it eight times a day. It’s true that the breviary is not a bible; it is a condensation of it, emphasizing the prayers (Pslams, canticles, etc.), gospels and moral instructions. Combined with Lectionary, he would annually have studied the entirety of the New Testament, every Psalm, the Torah (minus “the begats,” etc.) , and every passage of the Old Testament quoted by the New. There’s no chance that he only discovered any portion of St. Paul’s writings as an adult. Paul’s justification by faith was repeated several times in the breviary and lectionary, for instance.
(The lectionary is a selection of biblical passages for use in masses; since monks went to mass daily, they would get almost 900 unique passages in a year.)
OK... little confusion between us. My Germanic ancestors (from what is now Sloveia and Austria) regarded as Bavaria the lands of the Alpine Germanic peoples, including the German state of Bavaria, Austria, and considerable lands in central Europe, as far wast as Slovenia. I’m guessing you’re thinking I’m referring to the modern German state of Bavaria? No, the Muslims did not enter Germany.
You forgot to label your post as satire.
“The practice of offering, selling and buying Indulgences (see Indulgence) was everywhere common in the beginning of the 16th century. The beginnings go back more than a thousand years before the time of Luther. In the earliest church life, when Christians fell into sin, they were required to make public confession before the congregation, to declare their sorrow, and to vow to perform certain acts which were regarded as evidence of the sincerity of their repentance. When the custom of public confession before the congregation had changed to private confession to the clergy, it became the confessor’s duty to impose these satisfactions. It was thought only right that there should be some uniformity in dealing with repentant sinners, and books appeared giving lists of sins and what were supposed to be suitable satisfactions. When the sins confessed were very heinous the satisfactions were correspondingly severe and sometimes lasted over many years. About the 7th century arose a custom of commuting or relaxing these imposed satisfactions. A penance of several years fasting might be commuted into saying so many prayers, or giving an arranged amount in alms, or even into a money-fine. In the last case the analogy of the Wergeld of the German tribal codes was commonly followed. The usage generally took the form that any one who visited a church, to which the Indulgence had been attached, on a day named, and gave a contribution to its funds, had his penance shortened by one-seventh, one-third or one-half, as might be arranged. This was the origin of Indulgences properly so-called. They were always mitigations of satisfactions or penances which had been imposed by the church as outward signs of inward sorrow, tests of fitness for pardon, and the needful precedents of absolution. Luther uttered no protest against Indulgences of this kind. He held that what the church had imposed the church could remit.
This old and simple conception of Indulgences had been greatly altered since the beginning of the 13th century. The institution of penance had been raised to the dignity of a sacrament, and this had changed both the place and the character of satisfactions. Under the older conception the order had been Sorrow (Contritio), Confession, Satisfaction (or due manifestation of sorrow in ways prescribed) and Absolution. Under the newer theory the order was Sorrow, Confession, Absolution, Satisfaction, and both satisfaction and sorrow took new meanings. It was held that Absolution removed guilt and freed from eternal punishment, but that something had to be done to free the penitent from temporal punishment whether in this life or in purgatory. Satisfactions took the new meaning of the temporal punishments due in this life and the substitute for the pains of purgatory. The new thought of a treasury of merits (thesaurus meritorum) introduced further changes. It was held that the good deeds over and above what were needed for their own salvation by the living or by the saints in heaven, together with the inexhaustible merits of Christ, were all deposited in a treasury out of which they could be taken by the pope and given by him to the faithful. They could be added to the satisfactions actually done by penitents. Thus Satisfactions became not merely signs of sorrow but actual merits, which freed men from the need to undergo the temporal pains here and in purgatory which their sins had rendered them liable to. By an Indulgence merits could be transferred from the storehouse to those who required them. The change made in the character of Sorrow made Indulgences all the more necessary for the indifferent penitent. On the older theory Sorrow (Contritio) had for its one basis love to God; but on the newer theory the starting-point might be a less worthy king of sorrow (Attritio) which it was held would be changed into the more worthy kind in the Sacrament of Penance. The conclusion was naturally drawn that a process of penitence which began with sorrow of the more unworthy kind needed a larger amount of Satisfactions or penance than what began with Contrition. Hence for the indifferent Christian, Attrition, Confession and Indulgence became the three heads in the scheme of the church of the later middle ages for his salvation. The one thing which satisfied his conscience was the burdensome thing he had to do, and that was to procure an Indulgence - a matter made increasingly easy for him as time went on.
This doctrine of Attrition had not the undivided support of the theologians of the later medieval church; but it was taught by the Scotists and was naturally a favourite theme with the sellers of Indulgences. Nor were all theologians at one upon the whole theory of Indulgences. The majority of the best theologians held that Indulgences had nothing to do with the pardoning of guilt, but only with freeing from temporal penalties in this life or in purgatory. But the common people did not discriminate, and believed that when they bought an Indulgence they were purchasing pardon from sin; and Luther placed himself in the position of the ordinary Christian uninstructed in the niceties of theological distinctions.”
More here: http://www.1911encyclopedia.org/Indulgence
So you are forgiven, but must still be punished ("required by Divine justice"). That is a very odd idea of forgiveness.
I must start applying it to others. "I forgive you for what you have done to me. Show up at my house on Saturday and pull weeds for 2 hours."
“So you are forgiven, but must still be punished (”required by Divine justice”). That is a very odd idea of forgiveness.”
Not to God it isn’t. See 2 Samuel 12:13-14.
“I must start applying it to others. “I forgive you for what you have done to me. Show up at my house on Saturday and pull weeds for 2 hours.””
We do apply it to others all the time. It’s called “prison”. Even when we as individuals may forgive criminals for theri acts, we still send them to prison for the sake of satisfying justice. When our kids misbehave and we forgive them, that doesn’t mean they aren’t still grounded for two weeks.
Principle 2: Punishments are both temporal and eternal.
The Bible indicates some punishments are eternal, lasting forever, but others are temporal, lasting only a time. Eternal punishment is mentioned in Daniel 12:2: “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” [See also Matthew 25:41, 2 Thessalonians 1:9, and Revelation 14:11].
We normally focus on the eternal penalties of sin, because they are the most important, but Scripture indicates temporal penalties are real and go back to the first sin humans committed: “To the woman he said, `I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.’
“And to Adam he said, `Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, “You shall not eat of it,” cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you, and you shall eat the plants of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return’” (Gen. 3:16-19). [Scripture is filled with other examples of God sending temporal punishments on account of sin. See, for example, Genesis 4:9-12, Deuteronomy 28:58-61, and Isaiah 10:16].
Principle 3: Temporal penalties may remain when a sin is forgiven.
When someone repents, God removes his guilt (”though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” [Is. 1.18]) and any eternal punishment (”Since . . . we are now justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” [Rom. 5:9]), but temporal penalties may remain. One passage demonstrating this is 2 Samuel 12, in which Nathan the prophet confronts David over his adultery: “Then David said to Nathan, `I have sinned against the Lord.’
“Nathan answered David: `The Lord on his part has forgiven your sin; you shall not die. But since you have utterly spurned the Lord by this deed, the child born to you must surely die’” (2 Sam. 12:13-14). God forgave David, to the point of sparing his life, but David still had to suffer the loss of his son as well as other temporal punishments. [See 2 Samuel 12:7-12 for a list].
In Numbers we read, “But Moses said to the Lord . . . `Now if thou dost kill this people as one man, then the nations who have heard thy fame will say, “Because the Lord was not able to bring this people into the land which he swore to give to them, therefore he has slain them in the wilderness”’ . . . Then the Lord said, `I have pardoned, according to your word; but truly, as I live . . . none of the men who . . . have not hearkened to my voice, shall see the land which I swore to give to their fathers” (Num. 14:13-23). God states that, although he pardoned the people, he would impose a temporal penalty by keeping them from the promised land.
Later Moses, who is clearly one of the saved (see Matt. 17:1-5), is told he will suffer a temporal penalty: “And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, `Because you did not believe in me, to sanctify me in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them’” (Num. 20:12; cf. 27:12-14).
Protestants often deny that temporal penalties remain after forgiveness of sin, but they acknowledge it in practice—for instance, when they insist on people returning things they have stolen. Thieves may obtain forgiveness, but they also must engage in restitution.
Protestants realize that, while Jesus paid the price for our sins before God, he did not relieve our obligation to repair what we have done. They fully acknowledge that if you steal someone’s car, you have to give it back; it isn't enough just to repent. God's forgiveness (and man's!) does not include letting you keep the stolen car.
Protestants also admit the principle in practice when discussing death. Scripture says death entered the world through original sin (Gen. 3:22-24, Rom. 5:12). When we first come to God we are forgiven, and when we sin later we are able to be forgiven, yet that does not free us from the penalty of physical death. Even the forgiven die; a penalty remains after our sins are forgiven. This is a temporal penalty since physical death is temporary and we will be resurrected (Dan. 12:2).
A Protestant might say that God gives temporal penalties to teach a sinner a lesson, making the penalties discipline rather than punishment. There are three responses to this: (1) Nothing in the above texts says they are disciplines; (2) a Catholic could also call them disciplines; [Teaching on indulgences, Pope Paul VI’s stated, “The punishments with which we are concerned here are imposed by God's judgment, which is just and merciful. The reasons for their imposition are that our souls need to be purified, the holiness of the moral order needs to be strengthened, and God's glory must be restored to its full majesty” (Indulgentariam Doctrina 2)]. and (3) there is nothing wrong with calling them “punishments,” since “disciplining” a child is synonymous in daily speech with punishing a child.
As Greg Krehbiel, a Protestant who has written for This Rock, points out in a privately circulated paper, the idea that all temporal penalties vanish when one is forgiven “is the error at the heart of the `health and wealth gospel,’ viz., `Jesus took my poverty and sickness away, so I should be well and rich.’”
The Catholic has good grounds for claiming temporal penalties may remain after a sin is forgiven. The Church has shown this since its earliest centuries and by prescribed acts of penance as part of the sacrament of reconciliation.
Indulgences do not pardon sins.
The defense of Luthers statement is that MOST of his contact with the bible would have been under the direct supervision and guidance of someone else; he may not have been free to peruse his own bible.
That’s what I meant by controlled...
Foxe says that Luther was at the Universirty of Erfurt and found a Latin Bible. He “read it over very greedily” That tells me that the Bibles printed in German were extremely thin. Foxe also said the Luther “was amazed to find that a small portion of the scriptures were rehearsed to the people” (John Foxe, Foxe’s Book of martyrs P 175)
We as individuals do not send anyone to prison. In a nation-state model of justice (as opposed to tribal), the State is the one offended and punishing.
On one occasion, when my son went into debt, after much discussion, I paid the bill for him. He did not pay me back. Had I insisted on repayment, it would not have been forgiveness, but a business arrangement.
And if I grounded my kids, it was punishment. THEY were paying the price, not me.
In any case, the “Blue Elector”, Maxilimilian II Emanuel personally led 10,000 Bavarian troops to the relief of Vienna in 1683. He then fought the Turks with those same troops in Hungary.
Source: Vienna 1683: Christian Europe Repels the Ottomans, by Simon Millar, Peter Dennis, page 17.
The Bavarians that year were into Turks up to their eyeballs in Austria and Hungary!
Your statement is only partially correct.
“In the Sacrament of Baptism not only is the guilt of sin remitted, but also all the penalties attached to sin. In the Sacrament of Penance the guilt of sin is removed, and with it the eternal punishment due to mortal sin; but there still remains the temporal punishment required by Divine justice, and this requirement must be fulfilled either in the present life or in the world to come, i.e., in Purgatory. An indulgence offers the penitent sinner the means of discharging this debt during his life on earth.”
Some of us find it odd to say, “I forgive you, but you must now do something for me...” That isn’t grace, but business!
Foxe’s book is filled with the same myths about Luther that other hagiographic books are. The facts simply show the story to be nonsense.
In view of the bitterness of the 30 years war which was ghastly and indirectly led to the immigration of my ancestors in the 1720s, it is readily understandable that a Protestant Christian would want to have nothing to do with a Catholic Christian crusade against Muslims. It was town against town and fiefdom against fiefdom with the losing villages just exterminated.
It was not until Bismarck stitched it all together with his conquest of Austria and Bavaria on behalf of the Prussians in 1867 that the modern German state was born two and a half centuries later. Luther owed his very survival to the patchwork nature of the German-speaking lands. Frederick the Electer gave him protection against the forces of the Pope for political as much as doctrinal reasons.
My point in all of this is to say that there was no pan-European sense of felt obligation arising out of nationalism to eject Muslims from Europe. In view of the fact that the Pope would cheerfully have executed Luther, it is perfectly understandable that Luther would not be inclined to support a Catholic crusade. There was no nationalistic and no Pan-Christian ethos which one could reasonably expect would have moved Luther to support the Pope's crusade.
I think it is questionable to judge 16th-century individuals by 21st-century assumptions.
There are other 21st-century assumptions with which we tend to judge 16th-century figures. For example, Luther was a rank anti-Semite. If you look at my about page you will find a discussion of Thomas Jefferson who was a slaveholder and in some respects a misogynist in that he undoubtedly abused Sally Hemmings. For the most part, however, we do not judge Thomas Jefferson to be a dreadful man as a slaveholder but as a sublime individual who authored the soaring declaration of individual rights contained in the Declaration of Independence-rights which he denied his own slaves.
To judge Jefferson myopically as a slaveholder is to miss the real importance and genius of the man. He was after all an 18th-century man. So also was Luther a 16th century man whose insights utterly "reformed" the way the world saw the relationship between God and man-and that goes for Catholic as well as Protestant. If, as you assert, the Catholic church acknowledges the role of faith in justification, it owes a great debt to Luther for it.
I want to tell you, that I was born of a Catholic mother and a Protestant father, baptized Catholic, but reared in a Protestant Sunday school. All my children today are Catholics as is my wife while I am a bitter clinger to the Protestant ways of my youth. That is no mean feat while living here in Catholic Bavaria where the local Protestant church-in these German villages they always seem to be on Luther Street-is an arid, faithless experience. Nevertheless, I carry on.
In this mongrelization of faith, I feel very 21st-century.
My statement is completely correct.
Indulgences do not pardon sins.
Foxe’s Book of Martyrs?
Protestants often deny that temporal penalties remain after forgiveness of sin, but they acknowledge it in practicefor instance, when they insist on people returning things they have stolen. Thieves may obtain forgiveness, but they also must engage in restitution.
Protestants realize that, while Jesus paid the price for our sins before God, he did not relieve our obligation to repair what we have done. They fully acknowledge that if you steal someones car, you have to give it back; it isn’t enough just to repent. God’s forgiveness (and man’s!) does not include letting you keep the stolen car.
Returning what you have stolen is neither punishment nor forgiveness. If someone steals my car, and then later gives it back, I still want them punished.
None of this has anything to do with the health and wealth heresy.
“We as individuals do not send anyone to prison.”
We don’t, but the principle is the same.
“In a nation-state model of justice (as opposed to tribal), the State is the one offended and punishing.”
So if you beat a man within an inch of his life only God is offended? Only the state is offended? Not the beaten man?
“On one occasion, when my son went into debt, after much discussion, I paid the bill for him. He did not pay me back. Had I insisted on repayment, it would not have been forgiveness, but a business arrangement.”
Let’s say he played ball in the front yard and broke the bay window - after you told hom to not play ball in the front yard
And then you grounded him for two weeks. You forgave him shortly after you grounded him of course as any good father would. Would you still make him serve out the two weeks or not?
“And if I grounded my kids, it was punishment. THEY were paying the price, not me.”
Right. Isn’t that the point? They committed the offending act. They are now punished. And you would punish them EVEN AFTER YOU FORGAVE THEM.
It relieves you from punishment you would otherwise receive for sins that have been forgiven by a very unforgiving person.
Even I, a mere human, know that when I forgive my son a debt, it no longer exists. I do not forgive his debt, then demand repayment...
“Returning what you have stolen is neither punishment nor forgiveness. If someone steals my car, and then later gives it back, I still want them punished.”
So you would want them punished even AFTER you presumably forgave them? Isn’t that EXACTLY what we’re talking about here?
“None of this has anything to do with the health and wealth heresy.’
Yeah, actually it does.
None of that, or anything you’ve posted, changes the fact that indulgences do not pardon sins.
Blur the distinction, misunderstand the distinction, it does not matter: the distinction remains.
“Even I, a mere human, know that when I forgive my son a debt, it no longer exists. I do not forgive his debt, then demand repayment...”
Your example is a poor one because there is no offending party. A financial debt in itself is not a sin or crime.
I know of a local story where a 16 year old stol something - really in his mind as a prank. The victim ended up having to pay $1100 to remedy the problem caused by the theft. The boy was caught. His parents paid the $1100 to the victim, but are forcing the boy to work all summer to pay it back to them. They are a very devout Christian family, and have undoubtedly forgiven their son, but they are still making him pay off that debt.
That would be a better example than the one you offered.
What’s your source for that article? It isn’t the 1911 Brittanica article to which you were link. The notion that Luther didn’t have any problem with proper indulgences is uproarious; the 95 theses mostly dealt with indulgences, and surrounding issues. I’ll grant you, that if one presumes sincerity on Luther, than one could suppose that the initial germ of what so upset him was the corruption of the sale of indulgences.
I did not challenge that the monetary indulgences were common. What I was denying as orthodox was the assertion, attributed to Tetzel, that one could go ahead and sin and make up for it by indulgences.
But your history does confuse indulgences with pennances. Pennances were necessary to be received back into the church, after one had committed a mortal sin. Pennance, therefore, had to do with eternal salvation. Indulgences, on the other hand, had to do with shortening time in purgatory; they were unnecessary for salvation.
Also, pennances were issued by one’s confessor, for specific sins. Indulgences were available to anyone at any time, and were proclaimed by the Pope.
On the contrary, I was much offended! And if you don’t repay a financial debt, it is most certainly a crime.
If not - can I borrow $10,000 from you...
God will forgive us exactly the same way we forgive others to which we agree every time we say the Lord's Prayer.
In this life, we build the scales whereby we ourselves will be judged, measure by measure, weight by weight:
Blessed [are] the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. - Matthew 5:7
To God be the glory!