Friday, May 25, 2018

Luther: Whoever First Brewed Beer Has Prepared a Pest for Germany

Above: A product from the LutherBiere line. 

Cyberspace is replete with descriptions of Martin Luther as the beer-guzzling antinomian. Here's a rare instance of the opposite description. Luther is reported to have stated,
Whoever first brewed beer has prepared a pest for Germany. I have prayed to God that he would destroy the whole growing industry. I have often pronounced a curse on the brewer. All Germany could live on the barley that is spoiled and turned into a curse by the brewer.
Multiple sources have used this quote, typically undocumented, particularly in support of Prohibition. It appears versions of this Luther quote only gained popularity around the time of Prohibition in the United States For instance:

And also:
We are told that Martin Luther, who lived four hundred years ago, foresaw the great evil of the beer business and prayed to God for deliverance for Germany from its curse. He is quoted as having said: “Whoever first brewed beer has prepared a pest for Germany.”Then he added: “I have prayed to God that He would destroy the whole brewing industry. . . . . . . All Germany could live on the barley that is spoiled and turned into a curse by the brewer.”
Martin Luther saw a long way ahead when he made that prayer, but it is not yet too late for God to answer and destroy the whole brewing business. It is indeed a curse to the human family and needs to be put out of the way. No doubt many a brewer has laughed in his sleeve at Martin Luther's prayer for the destruction of this great evil, fully believing that because it was not answered immediately, it would never be. It is now most likely that the man is now living who will see the day when Martin Luther's prayer will be answered and the brewing business destroyed. It looks that way now—the nations are turning against “the jolly old brewer.”

There is also an alternate version:
The man who first brewed beer was a pest for Germany. Food must be dear in all our land, for the horses eat up all our oats, and the peasants drink up all our barley in the form of beer. I have survived the end of genuine beer, for it has now become small beer in every sense, and I have prayed to God that He might destroy the whole beer-brewing business, and the first beer-brewer I have often cursed. There is enough barley destroyed in the breweries to feed all Germany. 

The quote is typically undocumented. This source claims it is from "Martin Luther in his Table Talks.One of the most popular sources for quoting Luther is the Tischreden, in English known as the Table Talk. The Table Talk is a collection of second hand comments written down by Luther's friends and students, published after his death. It is a popular source because the comments are witty, and often stand alone, in fact they most often stand alone because the actual historical context of the purported remarks is unknown. 

A version of this particular beer-bashing comment can be found in the TischredenWATR 1:23 states,

This particular saying was recorded by John Schlaginhaufen (he recorded statements of Luther from 1531-1532). LW explains his collections was not published until 1888 (LW 54:125) by Wilhelm Preger. When WATR refers to "Schlag. 49," they are referring to entry 49 found here. "CLM. 943" refers to the Munich codex that Grisar says was the primary source "used by Preger." It was a copy of  Schlaginhaufen's notes ("made by some unknown person about 1551...").  "233b" and "234" then refer to the entry numbers in that handwritten manuscript.  Notice at the bottom WATR 1 refers to "Nr. 2344 (Cord. 442)." This refers also to one of the compilers of the Table TalkConrad Cordatus was one of the earliest to take notes on Luther's incidental statements. Here is statement 442 from Cordatus:
Notice how sparse the comment recorded by Cordatus actually is, basically repeating the sentiment about the first beer brewer being the pest of Germany.  But like many of the Table Talk statements, multiple versions exist. Note the similarities in this Table Talk statement  and this statement!

The English edition of Luther's Works did include Schlaginhaufen's comment (WATR 1:23;1281). It can be found at LW 54:132. They also included the comment from Cordatus (WATR 3:5; 2810b), found at LW 54:172, which had been attached to another comment about Adam. Cordatus took Luther's comments from other sources. He later revised his Table Talk notes, making stylistic changes. Because of this, Luther's Works (English edition) includes only a small sampling of those statements compiled by Cordatus.


No. 1281: Large Proportion of Grain Used to Make Beer
Between December 28 and 31, 1531
“Whoever it was who invented the brewing of beer has been a curse for Germany. Prices must be high in our lands. Horses devour the greatest part of the grain, for we grow more oats than rye. Then the good peasants and townspeople drink up almost as much of the grain in the form of beer. On this account the farmers in noble Thuringia, where the land is very fertile, have learned the rascality of growing woad where good and noble grain used to be cultivated, and this has so burned and exhausted the soil that it is beyond all reason.” (LW 54:132)

No. 2810b: Adam Must Have Lived a Simple Life
Between November 24 and December 8, 1532
“Adam was a very simple and unassuming man, [said Luther]. I don’t think he lighted candles. He didn’t know that the ox has suet in his body, for he wasn’t as yet slaughtering cattle. I wonder where he got the hides. Beyond this, Adam was undoubtedly a handsome man. He lived so long that he saw the eighth generation of his descendants, up to the time of Noah. No doubt he was a very sensible man and well practiced in a variety of trials. He lived most temperately and drank neither wine nor beer.
“I wish the brewing of beer had never been invented, for a great deal of grain is consumed to make it, and nothing good is brewed.” (LW 54:172)
Because there are so many quotes from Luther that prove he drank and enjoyed beer, one may be tempted to conclude that Luther was being inconsistent. If the statement was really made by Luther, I do not think he was inconsistent, because his general concern throughout his life was in regard to the excess of alcohol. There are a great many legitimate comments from Luther about drunkenness. Consider particularly, Luther's 1539 Sermon on Soberness and Moderation (LW 51:289-299). Consider one excerpt:
Eating and drinking are not forbidden, but rather all food is a matter of freedom, even a modest drink for one’s pleasure. If you do not wish to conduct yourself this way, if you are going to go beyond this and be a born pig and guzzle beer and wine, then, if this cannot be stopped by the rulers, you must know that you cannot be saved. For God will not admit such piggish drinkers into the kingdom of heaven [cf. Gal. 5:19–21] (LW 51:293).
Luther preached and wrote against drunkenness throughout his entire life with vigor and force. As biographer Heinrich Boehmer notes, “Luther attacked the craving for drink with word and pen more vigorously than any German of his time. He told even princes his opinion of it, in private and public, blamed the elector himself publicly for this vice, and read the elector’s courtiers an astonishingly drastic lecture” [Heinrich Boehmer, Luther and the Reformation in the Light of Modern Research (London: G. Bell and Sons LTD, 1930), 198]. It appears to me that those in support of Prohibition took one Table Talk comment and ran with it, attempting to make Luther into something he was not.

Friday, May 18, 2018

James MacKinnon: Luther and the Reformation

Here are pdf links to the four volume biography of Martin Luther from James MacKinnon.

Volume 1: Early Life and Religious Development to 1517

Volume 2: The Breach with Rome (1517-21)

Volume 3: Progress of the Movement (1521-29)

Volume 4: Vindication of the Movement (1530-46)

I found these volumes via this link. This set was one of the original biographies I used when I started researching the Reformation. I'm grateful someone has made them available online.  MacKinnon's work is valuable because he was fluent in understanding the Denifle / Grisar (Roman Catholic) distortion of Luther. These are good historical source volumes to have.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Calvin was the Cruel and Unopposed Dictator of Geneva?

The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church is said to have pronounced: "Calvin was the cruel and unopposed dictator of Geneva." Different versions of this citation are found in cyberspace, many attributing this opinion to this famous dictionary. In one curious mention, Leighton Flowers argues for the authenticity of the quote (and source) by referring to the authority of Christianity Today and that the same quote was used in "5 articles by Calvinistic brothers... while still standing in defense of Calvinistic soteriology and Calvin’s overall character." If all these pro-Calvin sources use this quote, it must be a legitimate quote and the official opinion of The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church.

Dr. Flowers' argument is only partially correct. It's true, if a number of credible sources use the same information, that certainly is an important factor in determining validity. On the other hand, Flowers' argument is fundamentally flawed in that, simply because other sources (including favorable sources) use the quote, this doesn't necessarily prove the authenticity of the quote. Historical accuracy is not determined by taking a poll to see how many people are on the same page.

What then of this quote? Did the respected Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church really publish the exact sentence, "Calvin was the cruel and unopposed dictator of Geneva"? No, they did not. They published a sentence with some similar terms, but not an exact match to that being cited. Is this therefore a legitimate quote? I will argue their negative sentiment towards John Calvin may have been their opinion at one time, but no longer should it be attributed as the official position of The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church.

Many cyber-occurrences of this quote simply cite it as coming from "The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church." I suspect Christian History Magazine played a significant role in disseminating this particular documentation. To the left is the actual page layout how the quote appeared in their issue dedicated to John Calvin.  While Christian History Magazine is a helpful source for an easily digested overview of Christian history, their documentation is often horrendous. The majority of issues I've thumbed through hardly document anything in a meaningful way. The articles are clever, the layout is appealing, proper documentation though appears to be considered neither, so they typically leave the bulk of such tedium out.

In his defense of the quote Leighton Flowers found better documentation in this link:  "‘John Calvin’ in The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, edited by FL Cross and EA Livingstone, (OUP: New York, 1974, 2nd ed.), p. 223." Flowers posted this reference back in 2017. Had I been involved in this discussion, I would have asked Dr. Flowers if he had actually read page 223 in The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church to confirm this quote. I suspect he would have either said "no," or quickly done a web-search to see if the book was easily accessible on-line.

In fact, not owning this volume, the very first thing I did was to see if The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church was online. Through the magic of Google Books and the preview feature at Amazon, it is possible to view the bulk of the John Calvin entry in The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Via Google, a limited preview of the 2005 edition is available. One thing to notice immediately is that the Calvin entry occurs on different pages in the 2005 edition (pp. 268-270), not page 223.

More importantly, the striking thing to notice is that the quote in question does not appear in the "John Calvin" entry in these online versions. Searches of the complete book of key terms in the sentence do not return any positive hits from any of the pages in this book. I was not not the first person to realize this. The person criticizing Leighton Flowers on this quote went so far as to refer to it as one of many "fake citations," also saying, "After some research I could find no such quote in any edition of ODCC dating back to 1997." I likewise searched through a number of online editions and did not locate anything similar to "Calvin was the cruel and unopposed dictator of Geneva." It's completely missing. It certainly does seem like a fake citation!

The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 2005
To prove this, here is the entirety of the entry as it is now published in The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church:
Calvin, John (1509–64), French reformer and theologian. Born at Noyon in Picardy, Calvin appears to have been intended for an ecclesiastical career; he obtained his first benefice and received the *tonsure at the age of 12 through the patronage of the Bp. of Noyon. Sometime between 1521 and 1523 he went to Paris, studying arts at the Collège de Montaigu, presumably with a view to proceeding to the study of theology, but from 1528 he studied civil law at Orléans and later at Bourges. Here he became familiar with the ideas of Humanism, and possibly (through the influence of Melchior Wolmar, who taught him Greek) those of M. *Luther. After the death of his father in 1531, Calvin returned to Paris to study letters, publishing his commentary on *Seneca’s De Clementia in 1532.
Calvin’s growing sympathy with the Reformation movement led to his flight from Paris in Nov. 1533, following the outcry against the address delivered by the Rector of the University of Paris, Nicholas Cop, to mark the beginning of the academic year. This oration, generally thought to have been composed by Calvin, shows obvious affinities with both *Erasmus and Luther. In 1534 Calvin resigned his ecclesiastical benefices, and, as the religious situation in France deteriorated and the threat of persecution grew, fled to Basle in 1535. The first (Latin) edition of his *Institutes (q.v.) was published there in March 1536. On passing through *Geneva in July 1536, he was persuaded by G. *Farel to remain there and assist in organizing the Reformation in the city. In Jan. 1537 Calvin and Farel drew up articles regulating the organization of the Church and worship. However, strong internal opposition to their imposition of ecclesiastical discipline arose, centering on the imposition of a confession of faith and the use of excommunication as an instrument of social policy. Meanwhile Geneva was coming under increasing pressure from its powerful neighbor and ally, Berne. On Easter Day 1538, Calvin publicly defied the city council’s explicit instructions to conform to the (*Zwinglian) religious practices of Berne and was immediately ordered to leave the city.
Accepting an invitation from M. *Bucer, Calvin spent the next three years as pastor to the French congregation at Strasbourg. This period proved formative for Calvin, allowing him insights into the management of civil and ecclesiastical affairs denied him in the more provincial setting of Geneva. During this period he produced an enlarged edition of the Institutes (1539), in which the influence of Bucer is particularly evident in the discussion of the Church; a commentary on Romans (1539); the first French edition of the Institutes (1541); and the celebrated Epistle to Cardinal *Sadoleto, then endeavoring to bring Geneva back to the RC Church, in which Calvin vigorously defended the principles of the Reformation. In Aug. 1540 he married Idelette de Bure, a widow.
In Sept. 1541 Calvin accepted the invitation of the city council to return to Geneva and during the next 14 years devoted himself to establishing a theocratic regime. His ‘Ecclesiastical Ordinances’, which again drew heavily on the views of Bucer, were adopted by the city council in Nov. 1541. These distinguished four ministries within the Church: pastors, doctors, elders, and deacons. Other reforming measures included the introduction of vernacular catechisms and liturgy. Ecclesiastical discipline was placed in the hands of a *consistory, consisting of 12 elders and some pastors, which sought to enforce morality through the threat of temporary excommunication; among other things it prohibited such pleasures as dancing and gambling. Popular reaction against this moral control was considerable, culminating in the victory of an anti-Calvin party in the city elections of 1548. This was assisted by popular discontent arising from the large number of Protestant emigrés, largely from France, who sought refuge in Geneva. The difficulties of Calvin’s public life were compounded by personal tragedy: his wife died in March 1549, leaving him to care for her two children by her previous marriage (her only child by Calvin died shortly after his birth in 1542). The trial and execution of M. *Servetus (1553), however, served to undermine the authority of the city council, and by 1555 effective opposition to Calvin had ceased.
From this time onwards Calvin was virtually unimpeded in his promotion of the Reformation in Geneva and elsewhere. His extensive commentaries on the NT were supplemented by a series dealing with OT works. The establishment of the *Genevan Academy (1559) provided an international forum for the propagation of Calvin’s ideas. His influence upon the French Protestant movement (see huguenots) was enormous, Geneva being the chief source of pastors for French Protestant congregations. The publication of French editions of the Institutes exercised as great an influence over the formation of the French language itself as over French Protestantism. Earlier, between 1549 and 1553, Calvin addressed a series of letters to *Edward VI and Protector *Somerset, suggesting reforms in the English Church which would retain an episcopal form of government; from 1555 onwards he offered refuge in Geneva to Protestant exiles from England. In 1559 Calvin was finally made a citizen of Geneva. Until then his status had been that of a legal resident alien in the employment of the city council. He did not have access to the decision-making bodies in the city, save for the appointment of pastors and the regulation of morals. What authority he possessed appears to have derived largely from his personality and his influence as a religious teacher and preacher; even this authority, however, was constantly challenged by the city council until 1555.
Calvin was a more rigorous and logical thinker than Luther, considerably more sympathetic to the insights and methods of Humanism, and much more aware of the importance of organization, both of ideas and institutions. During his time at Geneva, his reputation and influence as an ecclesiastical statesman, as a religious controversialist, educationalist, and author was widespread. His theological insight, his exegetical talents, his knowledge of languages, his precision, and his clear and pithy style, made him the most influential writer among the reformers. His Institutes are still regarded as one of the most important literary and theological works of the period. In CW, he is commemorated on 26 May.
The standard edn. of Calvin’s works is that by H. W. Baum, E. Cunitz, E. Reuss, P. Lobstein, and A. Erichson (Corpus Reformatorum, 29–87; 59 vols., Brunswick, 1863–1900). Opera Selecta, ed. P. Barth and W. Niesel (5 vols., Munich, 1926–36). Many of his works were tr. into Eng. in the 19th cent. under the auspices of the Calvin Translation Society. The collection of Tracts and Treatises by H. Beveridge (1844) was repr., with notes and introd. by T. F. Torrance (3 vols., 1958). Other modern trs. into Eng. incl. that of his Theological Treatises by J. K. S. Reid (Library of Christian Classics, 22; 1954), of a selection of his Commentaries by J. Haroutunian (ibid. 23; 1958), of his Institutes by F. L. Battles, ed. J. T. McNeill (ibid. 20–1; 1961), of his Commentaries on the NT by T. H. L. Parker and others, ed. D. W. Torrance and T. F. Torrance (1959 ff.), and of his Comm. on Seneca’s De Clementia by F. L. Battles and A. M. Huglo (Leiden, 1969). The Lives of Calvin by T. *Beza, orig. prefixed to Calvin’s Comm. on Joshua (posthumously pub., Geneva, 1564; Eng. tr. of the Life, London, 1564), and that prefixed to the edn. of Calvin’s letters pub. Geneva, 1575, together with that attributed to Beza (the work of Nicolas Colladon) prefixed to 2nd edn. of the Comm. on Joshua (Lyons, 1565), are pr. among his works.
Modern studies dealing with Calvin generally incl. E. Doumergue, Jean Calvin: Les hommes et les choses de son temps (5 vols., 1899–1917; comprehensive but uncrit.); J. Rilliet, Calvin 1509–1564 (Paris, 1963); A. Ganoczy, Le Jeune Calvin: Genèse et évolution de sa vocation réformatrice (Veröffentlichungen des Instituts für europäische Geschichte Mainz, 40; Wiesbaden, 1966; Eng. tr., Philadelphia, 1987; Edinburgh, 1988); T. H. L. Parker, John Calvin: A Biography (1975); W. J. Bouwsma, John Calvin: A Sixteenth-Century Portrait (New York and Oxford, 1988); A. E. McGrath, A Life of John Calvin (Oxford, 1990); B. Cottret, Calvin: biographie ([1995]; Eng. tr., Grand Rapids and Edinburgh, 2000). Works on different aspects incl. E. Choisy, La Théocratie à Genève au temps de Calvin (Geneva [1897]); W. Niesel, Die Theologie Calvins (Munich, 1938; 2nd edn., 1957; Eng. tr., 1956); J. D. Benoît, Calvin, directeur des âmes [1949]; T. F. Torrance, Calvin’s Doctrine of Man (1949); id., Kingdom and Church: A Study in the Theology of the Reformation (1956), pp. 90–164; F. Wendel, CalvinSources et évolution de sa pensée religieuse (Études d’histoire et de philosophie religieuses publiées par la faculté de théologie protestante de l’université de Strasbourg, 41; 1950; Eng. tr., 1963); E. A. Dowey, The Knowledge of God in Calvin’s Theology (New York, 1952); P. [M.] van Buren, Christ in Our Place: The Substitutionary Character of Calvin’s Doctrine of Reconciliation (1957); R. S. Wallace, Calvin’s Doctrine of the Christian Life (1959); W. Nijenhuis, Calvinus OecumenicusCalvijn en de Eenheid der Kerk in het Licht van zijn Briefwisseling (Kirkhistorische Studien, 3; 1959); J. *Moltmann (ed.), Calvin-Studien 1959 (Neukirchen, 1960); H. J. Forstman, Word and Spirit: Calvin’s Doctrine of Biblical Authority (Stanford, Calif., 1962); K. (McDonnell, OSB, John Calvin, the Church, and the Eucharist (Princeton, NJ, 1967); T. H. L. Parker, Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries (1971); id., Calvin’s Old Testament Commentaries (Edinburgh, 1986); H. Höpfl, The Christian Polity of John Calvin (Cambridge, 1982); S. E. Schreiner, The Theater of his Glory: Nature and the Natural Order in the Thought of John Calvin (Durham, NC [1991]); R. C. Zachman, The Assurance of Faith: Conscience in the Theology of Martin Luther and John Calvin (Minneapolis [1993]), pp. 91–253. P. W. Butin, Revelation, Redemption and Response: Calvin’s Trinitarian Understanding of the Divine-Human Relationship (New York and Oxford, 1995); D. C. Steinmetz, Calvin in Context (ibid. 1995). R. Peter and J.-F. Gilmont, Bibliotheca Calviniana: Les œuvres de Jean Calvin publiées au XVIe siècle (Travaux d’Humanisme et Renaissance, 255 and 281; 1991–4). A. Erichson, Bibliographia Calviniana: Catalogus Chronologicus Operum Calvini (Berlin, 1900); W. Niesel, Calvin-Bibliographie 1901–1959 (Munich, 1961), D. Kempff, A Bibliography of Calviniana 1959–1974 (Studies in Medieval and Reformation Thought, 15; Leiden, 1975). J. N. Tylenda and P. De Klerk, ‘Calvin Bibliography 1960–1970’, Calvin Theological Journal, 6 (1971), pp. 156–93; an annual bibl. is included in subsequent issues of the Journal. See also bibls. to calvinism and institutes.
 Cross, F. L., and Livingstone, E. A. (Eds.). (2005). In The Oxford dictionary of the Christian Church (3rd ed. rev., pp. 268–270). Oxford;  New York: Oxford University Press.

The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 1974
There is nothing overtly condescending about Calvin in the above. One wonders how anyone could possibly say The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church referred to Calvin as a "cruel" and "unopposed dictator." I decided to take this a step further and pursue the documentation provided via Leighton Flowers, so I  purchased the 1974 edition. As it turns out, there are some crucial and drastic differences between the 2005 edition and the 1974 edition. The latest edition is a revision of the second edition from 1974. The reason why the page numbers don't match is because the later revision expanded the content by adding new material. E.A. Livingstone explained in the 2005 edition, that to "reflect events and shifts in scholarly opinion over the last eight years or so... In some cases I commissioned completely new articles..."

This appears to be what happened with the "John Calvin" entry. While there are some similarities, the "John Calvin" entry in the later edition is significantly different than what appears in the 1974 edition. The 1974 version does paint a different picture of Calvin, that of the despotic intolerant ruler. For instance, in describing Calvin's first years at Geneva, the text states:
He was appointed preacher and professor of theology and in 1536 published his Articuli de Regimine Ecclesiae. They contained severe regulations concerning admission to the Lord's Supper and required from all Genevan citizens a profession of faith approved by the town council, the refusal of which was to be punished by exile (222).
And also of Calvin's return:
In 1541 Calvin returned to Geneva , where his party had gained the upper hand, and during the next 14 years he devoted himself to establishing a theocratic regime on OT lines. this was effected by a series of Ordinances which placed the government of the new Church in the hands of four classes of men... which, under Calvin, was chiefly a tribunal of morals. It wielded the power of excommunication and had far-reaching powers over the private lives of citizens. These were enforced by new legislation, which inflicted severe punishments even for purely religious offenses and prohibited all pleasures such as dancing and games (223).
The article then mentions the Libertine party "which Calvin succeeded in overcoming by force," (223) and how Gruet, Monnet, and Servetus were either tortured or executed.  Not long thereafter comes the quote under scrutiny: "From 1555 to his death he was the unopposed dictator of Geneva, which, through him, had become a city of the strictest morality." The article goes on to describe "his vindictiveness and his claim to be the supreme authority to decide what is true Christianity and what is not was resented even by his many followers" (223).

The actual quote is "From 1555 to his death he was the unopposed dictator of Geneva, which, through him, had become a city of the strictest morality." This is certainly different than "Calvin was the cruel and unopposed dictator of Geneva." Missing particularly is the word "cruel" (this word does not appear anywhere in the 1974 entry).  I suspect someone originally only was citing the ODCC saying "unopposed dictator of Geneva," and then someone after that created the version of this sentence attributing its entirety to the ODCC. Perhaps it was Christian History Magazine? Their exact statement was "[Calvin was] the 'cruel' and 'the unopposed dictator of Geneva'. " They published their issue on Calvin in 1986. If they weren't the culprit, they certainly helped in perpetuating this somewhat fake citation.

Robert Godfrey's review of the 1974 edition is revealing. He points out that the 1974 edition was a revision of the 1957 edition. While mentioning improvements, he specifically mentions problems with "John Calvin" entry:
When Professor Paul Woolley reviewed the first edition of the Dictionary in this Journal, he critiqued three entries in particular: one on millennarianism and two on Calvin and Calvinism. The erroneous definition of millennarianism in the first edition has been corrected in the second. Unhappily no such improvement can be seen in the entries on Calvin and Calvinism. While the bibliographies, particularly on Calvin, have been greatly improved and updated, the articles themselves have not been changed at all. The same gross misrepresentations of Calvin and Calvinism are simply repeated. Whoever contributed these articles should have read the good books listed in the bibliographies.
The first article describes Calvin as having “devoted himself to establishing a theocratic regime on Old Testament lines,” and having “prohibited all pleasures such as dancing and games” (p. 223). Calvin is called “the unopposed dictator of Geneva” after 1555 and as lacking “the human attractiveness of Luther.” (Ibid.) The theology of Calvinism is summarized as “extreme emphasis on the omnipotence of God, which takes no account of His justice and mercy” (p. 224). Reformed church polity is described as a “theocratic polity, subjecting the State to the Church” (Ibid.). Calvin’s eucharistic theology is “at times ambiguous, but his thought seems to tend more in the direction of Zwingli” (Ibid.). None of these statements is true and indicate one place in the Dictionary where generalizations long refuted are allowed to stand. Clearly the long years of distortion and misunderstanding are not over for John Calvin or his theological descendants [Robert, G. W. (1976). Review of The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church Edited by F. L. Cross. Westminster Theological Journal, 39(1), 202–203].
The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church rewrote their entry on Calvin, so their earlier opinion that Calvin was an "unopposed dictator" is no longer accurate. Leighton Flowers should have gone the extra few steps to verify this quote instead of defending his "credentials" and complaining about if he or his detractor was using "proper research methodology." This quote is yet another example of: just because it's on the Internet, it's not necessarily true.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Calvin Beheaded a Child in Geneva?

I  recently came across a detailed description of Calvin's Geneva from historian Will Durant's book, The Reformation. Durant doesn't pull any punches. He provides  a number of pages describing Geneva as an horrific place to reside, unbearable terrors that resulted from the despotic tyrant, John Calvin.

If anyone is under the illusion that Durant's vague belief in God and rejection of organized religion equipped him to provide a fair and unbiased historical account of the life of John Calvin, this historian concluded his coverage of Calvin with,  "...we shall always find it hard to love the man who darkened the human soul with the most absurd and blasphemous conception of God in all the long and honored history of nonsense" [Will Durant, The Reformation: The Story of Civilization (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1957), 490]. That conclusion sums up well Durant's treatment of Calvin. Later in his Dual Autobiography, he and his wife jab the Reformation's seeming rejection of the Renaissance "as pagan" and a reversion "to the gloomy theology of saint Paul and Saint Augustine, leading to the predestinarianism of Calvin and Knox, the Puritan regime, and the replacement of papal authority with the authoritarianism of the state in religion in Germany and Great Britain." Durant did not hide the fact that he was not sympathetic to either Calvin or the Reformation.

It's not that every fact or tidbit offered by Durant on John Calvin is suspected erroneous due to inherent bias. There were unfortunate, oppressive, and deadly results from the strict morality imposed by the Genevan church and state while Calvin was in residence. While every societal atrocity that occurred cannot necessarily be linked to the Reformer,  Calvin cannot be completely exonerated from his role or place in that society (nor would he probably want to be). Calvin, despite his intellectual greatness and piety, was still a man with faults, flaws, and sins. He did have influence in Geneva (at least at certain times), and he was in favor of strict societal discipline. But Durant's Calvin comes off more like a left-over inquisitor from the golden era of the Inquisition, a power-hungry ruthless mogul who transformed Geneva into one of the most oppressive societies in history. Durant's basic tendency is to make Calvin worse than he was by necessarily linking him to a number of historical events (which he may, or may not have been a part of), and also by describing him in an overly negative and lopsided way. Here's a brief snippet of evils attributed to Calvin from Durant to demonstrate this point:
To speak disrespectfully of Calvin or the clergy was a crime. A first violation of these ordinances was punished with a reprimand, further violation with fines, persistent violation with imprisonment or banishment. Fornication was to be punished with exile or drowning; adultery, blasphemy, or idolatry, with death. In one extraordinary instance a child was beheaded for striking its parents (link).
Notice how Durant's thoughts flow: from the crime of speaking words against Calvin, linked to  severe punishment for sexual crimes, then to the beheading of a child, all the direct result of John Calvin. While the last statement will be our main focus, of the sentences here selected leading up to it, Durant provides documentation only for the first, citing this secondary source, which says only, “…to laugh at Calvin’s sermons, or to have spoken hot words of him in the street, was a crime…” This source provides no documentation for the assertion. That's typical of Durant's historical work. Often, primary materials allude his conclusions. He simply cites some other historian making an undocumented assertion. Here, Durant's historical trail dead-ends at a secondary source merely making an undocumented claim.

Given that it's almost impossible in our modern age to examine the subject, "John Calvin" without immediately being bombarded with Calvin's involvement with the execution of Michael Servetus, how is it that, according to Durant, there was an "extraordinary instance" in which Calvin had a child beheaded, and that account isn't center-stage, usurping the Servetus incident?  It sounds outrageous: Calvin had a child executed for simply striking their parents, and that's not more despicable than Calvin having a grown man executed for heresy?  Doesn't the execution of a child typically have more societal emotional capital? Something doesn't add up here.

Documentation: Durant
Durant does document the child's beheading. He first mentions it's from the same source as the previous documentation mentioned above, Charles Beard, The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century in its Relation to Modern Thought (Edinburgh: Williams and Norgate, 1885), 250. That source states,
Two things are especially to be noticed in the holy reign of terror which Calvin established and left behind him as a legacy to Geneva: first, the vast extension given to the idea of crime, and next, the worse than Draconian severity of the punishments inflicted. Adultery was repeatedly punished with death. A child was beheaded for having struck father and mother. Banishment, imprisonment, in some cases drowning, were penalties inflicted on unchastity.
Similar to the previous assertions, this author does not document his claims. It may be Beard relied on the "Registers of the city of Geneva" (which is mentioned in a footnote at the bottom of the page), or it may be this author simply borrowed the fact from another secondary source. Durant may have realized this lack of  primary evidence and actually provided another source, one of a much better pedigree: Phillip Schaff's History of the Christian Church. In describing "the most striking cases of discipline" in Geneva, Schaff  launches into numerous examples, including, "A girl was beheaded for striking her parents, to vindicate the dignity of the fifth commandment" (link). Schaff though doesn't document this either. Later on in the same section Schaff mentions the Genevan Registers, but it appears to be for a different example. Once again, Durant's trail of facts reaches a dead-end for anyone venturing deep into history.

Documentation: Edward Babinski
This story of Calvin and the beheaded child is peppered throughout the Internet.  One of the best hits comes from Edward Babinski, a self-professed former fundamentalist who is now some sort of agnostic with an ax to grind against Calvin. Babinski came upon the same sentence from Schaff and states,
Schaff does not footnote the “beheading” incident, though he does provide on that page and the next a few footnotes regarding other incidents of prohibitions and their penalties in Geneva. He also lists the sources he consulted when writing his book (sources are listed at the beginning of each section). In this case, judging by nearby footnotes and by his source list for that particular section, he most likely obtained his information from either the Registers of the Council of Geneva, or, “Amedee Roget: Lʼeglise et lʼetat a Geneve du vivant de Calvin. Etude dʼhistoire politico-ecclesiastique, published in Geneve, 1867 (pp. 92). Compare also his Histoire du people de Geneve depuis la reforme jusquʼa lʼescalade (1536-1602), 1870-1883, 7 vols.”
Notice Babinski made an effort to track down where Schaff got his information from. Babinski says Schaff may have taken the information directly from the Registers of the Council of Geneva (more on this source later).  In the literature of source material section, Schaff doesn't directly cite the Registers (but he does reference them in his footnotes). The next source, Lʼeglise et lʼetat a Geneve du vivant de Calvin. Etude dʼhistoire politico-ecclesiastique is available here. Babinski mentions specifically "pp. 92" of the 1867 edition, but there doesn't appear to be anything remotely relevant to the story in this book, nor specifically on page 92. Babinski simply is repeating the reference as Schaff  noted it, that the book is 92 pages long.  Babinski then directs his readers to compare this source with seven volumes of "Histoire du people de Geneve depuis la reforme jusquʼa lʼescalade." I'm not sure how comparing a 92 page book to seven volumes is supposed to make this child's beheading more clear. The reason why is Babinski's "Compare also his..." is what Schaff wrote in his literature on the subject section, "Comp. also his..." Even though Babinski is quoting Schaff directly, the narrow focus of this beheaded child is getting obfuscated by Babinski's presentation of Schaff's basic bibliography of the literature about sixteenth century Geneva.

Despite this bibliographic rabbit trail, Babinski does provides some other interesting clues about this story: the year of the execution and the child's name. Quoting an old book from Paul Henry, he states, "Another child in 1568, for having struck his parents was beheaded," but again, documentation from this source is lacking. Then Babinski quotes an unknown English translation of Jean Picot who states, "Philippe Deville was beheaded in 1568 for having beaten his father and step-mother." This is documented, "Jean Picot Professeur dʼhistoire dans la faculte des lettres de lʼAcademie de cette ville] Histoire de Geneve, Tome Second (Published in Geneva, i.e., A Geneve, Chez Manget et Cherbuliez, Impreimeurs-Libr. 1811) p. 264." Here is page 264 from the 1811 edition. The text reads, "Philippe Deville fut décapité en 1568, pour avoir battu son- père et sa belle-mère." Babinski then states,
Picot and Schaff do not agree on the gender of the beheaded child, and my first source, Dr. Henry, only mentions that it was a “child,” not specifying its gender. Picotʼs History of Geneva provides the most complete information concerning the incident, including the childʼs name and the date of the beheading. The archives of Geneva are vast and include not only the Registers of the Council and the Registers of the Consistory, but many other records as well (that the Calvin scholar, Robert Kingdon, lists by category in Vol. 1 of his English translation of the Registers of the Consistory). Though massive, the Genevan archives could probably be searched by focusing on the year of the beheading and the childʼs name that Picot has given, and they could probably supply more information, such as the childʼs age when s/he was beheaded. — E.T.B.]
Babinski is correct, some of these massive archives can be searched. He's correct that Robert Kingdon  released the detailed Registers of the Consistory of Geneva in the Time of Calvin Volume 1: 1542-1544 (Grand Rapids:William B. Eerdmans Publishing company, 1996). It's an invaluable English reference, but unfortunately, I don't think the English version ever made it past volume one after Kingdon's death in 2010. Hathi Trust though lists thirteen volumes of the Genevan registers in French. The relevant volume would be volume 3 which covers the years 1565-1574. I  searched a number of key terms  (including, "Philippe Deville," "Philippe de Ville," "Philippe de la Ville, Philippe la ville" "décapité," to name a few).  I did not come across anything relevant. In full-disclosure, I do not have physical access to these French volumes. I'm relying on online search engines from Google Books and Hathi Trust.

I appreciate that Babinksi mentions the discrepancy in the accounts, that it could either be a boy or a girl (this source claims Philippe Deville was female). There are though some other interesting details if one combines the accounts presented (and also assumes all the accounts are of the same historical  event). Schaff adds the beheading took place "to vindicate the dignity of the fifth commandment." While this may have been the actual reason, it also could simply be Schaff's added comment or inference rather than something specifically noted in the Genevan records about this incident.

The (unknown) English translation of Picot says it was not simply striking of the parents, but rather a beating of a father and step-mother. It makes one wonder exactly how old this child was that it beat both parents. This "beating" should  at least rule out that it was a young child having a temper tantrum "striking" the parents in adolescent defiance. Even if it was an older teenager, it would not justify the death penalty in our day and culture,  but it does make one wonder exactly what the other details may have been to provoke such a harsh sentence in that time period. How severe was this beating?

If all these historians are describing the same event, there is one blatant fact mentioned by Paul Henry and Jean Picot that, for some unknown reason, Will Durant, Charles Beard, and Philip Schaff left out. It was also a fact mentioned but downplayed by Mr. Babinski: the year of the incident: 1568, in which some of the accounts say the beheading took place. What was John Calvin, the despotic tyrant doing in 1568?  Was he staring down the child in Genevan court as a prosecutor, boldly proclaiming God's law was broken and the child must be punished with death? Was he watching the beheading of a child for breaking God's law? No, Calvin was at rest in his grave. He died May 27, 1564. If 1568 is the correct year, the best Calvin's detractors can do with this event is to argue the beheading was the result of Calvin's earlier influence in Geneva. This connection would need to be proven as a necessary connection from the historical record, not simply assumed (post hoc ergo propter hoc).

Did Geneva behead Philippe Deville in 1568? Despite not finding any specific corroborating primary evidence, I assume they did. As to the specifics, and why they invoked the death penalty, I don't know. Yes, I think Geneva went overboard with discipline, yes there were unfortunate atrocities committed by the state; yes Calvin played his part in both until his death in 1564. But, Geneva played its part in the progression of piety and practice away from Rome, and of eventually separating the church from the state (which took a long time!). There is a tendency to think that once the Bible was made central in the church and the Papacy was defanged, all of the medieval worldview and practices would immediately fall away. No, this took time. Geneva demonstrates the dissonance of a church seeking to reform according to the Bible and still function with aspects of the medieval structure of government. It didn't work.

Here were some other sources mentioning the 1568 beheaded child. More will be added as I come across them.
 "Le manque de respect aux parents constitue alors une atteinte à la loi sur laquelle il n'est pas question de transiger :un enfant du village de Genthod, Damian, fou de colère, insulte sa mère: «Diablesse! diablesse!» en lui jetant des pierres. Il est fouetté publiquement, pendu à une potence et n'échappe à la mort qu'en raison de son jeune âge.Son aîné, Philippe de Ville, est décapité pour avoir battu père et mère. Son aîné, Philippe de Ville, est décapité pour avoir battu père et mère" (link).
"En 1568, Philippe Deville fut décapité pour avoir battu son père et sa belle-mère" (link).

"In 1568 Philippe Deville was beheaded for striking his father, and the year before Antonia Sambuzide was condemned to prison for taking her husband by the beard" (link).
"To understand what the word 'severity' means, let it be added that certain men who laughed during a sermon were imprisoned for three days; another person had to do public penance for neglecting communion on Whit-Sunday; a girl was beheaded for striking her parents; several women were imprisoned for dancing; and a lady was expelled from the city for expressing sympathy with the 'libertines,' and abusing Calvin and the Consistory" (link).
"Calvin allowed a girl to be beheaded (for the heinous crime of striking her parents) during his reign of terror in Geneva 400 years ago. This atrocity is not exactly a secret; it is soberly reported by leading historians; but it is the sort of fact that is not taught." (link).

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Luther: "If it had not been for Dr. Staupitz, I should have sunk in hell."

This came via e-mail:
I've searched on your Beggars All blog and the many webpages found by Google, but have discovered no original source reference to the repeatedly claimed quote from Martin Luther about Johann von Staupitz. So I'm passing it onto you to see if you are aware of its source: "If it had not been for Dr. Staupitz, I should have sunk in hell."
It's true, this quote has been used often, even by Luther's famous biographer, Roland Bainton:
By reason of the move he came to know well a man who was to exercise a determinative influence upon his development, the vicar of the Augustinian order, Johann von Staupitz. No one better could have been found as a spiritual guide. The vicar knew all the cures prescribed by the schoolmen for spiritual ailments, and besides had a warm religious life of his own with a sympathetic appreciation of the distresses of another. "If it had not been for Dr. Staupitz," said Luther, "I should have sunk in hell."
I did locate the context for this remark. The context is fascinating. Luther touches on a variety issues including determinism and the secret counsel of God. I have reproduced the text below. Also find an extensive discussion from Luther on predestination in the conclusion.

While it doesn't appear obvious as one reads Bainton, he actually documents much of what he put forth, almost line by line. He documents this quote, "Dok (s), No. 461." Bainton says this refers to, "Dokumente zu Luthers Entwicklung (Otto Scheel, ed., 1929)." This refers to a book containing source documents about Luther's development compiled by German Protestant theologian, Otto Scheel  (who unfortunately, got tangled up with the Nazi party). The year "1929" refers to a later volume of this set (Volume one can be found here). While I don't believe this book is available online (at the time of the writing of this entry), I can verify that the quote is on page 167, entry 461.

The quote appears to be from a letter Luther wrote to Albrecht of Mansfield. Walch places the date of the letter, December 28, 1541 (letter 2865). deWette though has the date December 8, 1542 (deWette 5, 512), while Seidemann 6:551 lists the date as December 28, 1542 (thanks to Rick Strickert for tracking down the deWette / Seidemann references). Footnote 50 on this page of this book refers to the date as February 23, 1542 (and also refers to Scheel's book). They also cite WA BR 9, 627, lines 23-25, (which I can verify), letter 3716. The footnote includes the following,  "I was once bogged down in such thoughts and doubts. And if Dr. Staupitz ¾ or rather God through Dr. Staupitz ¾ had not helped me, I would have drowned in them and long been in hell." ("Jnn disen gedancken oder anfechtungen [...] ich etwa [=einst] auch drinnen gestecket. Vndt wo mihr D. Staupitz, oder viel mehr Gott durch Doctor Staupitz, nicht heraus geholffen hette, so were ich darin ersoffen vndt langst in der helle").

This letter does not appear to have been translated into English in any official way. An English translation of this lengthy letter can be hound here.

Count Albrecht, of Mansfeld, is a personality not entirely unknown in Reformation history. He was the first in Thuringia to cope successfully with the insurgent peasants, surprising them at Osterhausen, and had already in 1518 attached himself with such decision to the new doctrine, that he sent Luther warning, through the well-known Augustinian prior, Johann Lange, of the plots of certain influential men against him. In the course of time, however, the Count fell into wrong ways. He began to cherish doctrinal errors, and to repudiate utterly the obligations of brotherly love. Luther observed this with deep regret, and admonished his "gracious and heartily beloved liege-lord, the noble, high-born Lord Albrecht, Count of Mansfeld," in the following letter:
"Grace and Peace in the Lord, and my poor Pater-noster. Gracious Lord, I beg most earnestly that your Reverend Grace may accept this writing of mine in a Christian and gracious spirit. Your Reverend Grace knows that I am a child of the sovereignty of Mansfeld, and have to the present day cherished natural affection for my Fatherland, as even the books of all heathen nations declare that every child has a natural affection for his fatherland. Besides this, God accomplished in the beginning of the Gospel so many praiseworthy achievements through your Reverend Grace, so excellently ordering the affairs of churches, pulpits and schools for the praise and glory of God, and made your Reverend Grace so eminently and gloriously useful in quelling the insurrection of the peasants, that I, for such and other reasons, cannot so easily forget nor omit from my cares and prayers your Reverend Grace. 
 "But it comes to my ears, chiefly through many rumors and complaints, that your Reverend Grace is said to have fallen away from the course first entered upon and to have become quite different, which, as I think your Reverend Grace will readily believe, if it were true, would cause me heartfelt sorrow for your Reverend Grace. For now people will talk against the Christian faith, and say, as I have myself often heard: 'What need of the Gospel? That which is fore-ordained must come to pass. Let us do what we will. If we are to be saved, we will be saved, etc' This is now thought to be great shrewdness and wisdom, although we theologians knew it long ago and also God himself. Should your Reverend Grace be entangled in these thoughts and temptations, it would cause me heartfelt sorrow, for I was once myself entangled in them, and had not Dr. Staupitz, or, rather, God through Dr. Staupitz, helped me out, I would have been drowned in them and would have been in hell long ago. For such diabolical thoughts finally drive the timid-hearted to despondency, despairing of the grace of God; whilst those who are bold and courageous become despisers and enemies of God, and say: 'Let things go as they will! I will do as I please. I'm lost anyhow.' 
"How I wish that I could speak with your Reverend Grace face to face, for I am grieved beyond measure for the soul of your Reverend Grace, since I cannot esteem your Reverend Grace so lightly as the reprobate Henry's and Mentz's. One cannot talk so well to another with the pen. Nevertheless—to write briefly of this matter, my Gracious Lord—it is true, that what God has decreed must certainly come to pass; otherwise he would be a liar in his promises, upon which we must place our faith or shamefully fail, and that is impossible. But here is, at the same time, this great difference to be observed, namely: What God has revealed to us, promised or commanded, that we are to believe, and to act accordingly, assured that he will not lie: but what he has not revealed to us, nor promised, that we are not to and cannot know, much less can we act accordingly. Whoever troubles himself much about this, is tempting God, since he neglects that which he is commanded to know and to do, and concerns himself about that which he is not commanded to know and to do. This can only produce people who ask not for God's Word and sacrament; but give themselves up to wild living, mammon, tyranny, and every kind of dissolute life. For, with such thoughts, they can have no faith, nor hope, nor love to man or to God, whom they despise, because they are not permitted to know what he secretly thinks; although he has so abundantly revealed himself in everything that can minister to their benefit or salvation, from which they wantonly turn away. No man would tolerate a servant, who should refuse to perform his appointed duty, unless he knew in advance all the secret thoughts of his master in regard to all his possessions. And shall God not have power likewise to have some secrets to himself, beyond that which he has commanded us? 
"Let your Reverend Grace only think how it would be, if we were to be guided by such thoughts of the secret judgments of God, for example: 'Why does he permit his Son to become man? Why does he establish family relations — fatherhood and motherhood? Why does he ordain civil law and government? What more is needed? That which is to happen, will happen without all this! What need is there of the devil, the Holy Scriptures, and all created things? What he wishes to do, he can do without any of these.' But we are told that he desires to accomplish his purpose, as far as now revealed, through us as fellow-laborers, 1 Cor. iii. 9: therefore we should let him manage and not trouble ourselves about it, but do that which he has commanded us. Thus also says Solomon, Prov. xxv.: 'He that would search out royalty shall be crushed;' and Sirach iii. (vs. 22 and 23): 'Understand not what is too high, but think what is commanded thee;' and when the disciples asked the Lord whether he would at that time establish the kingdom of Israel, he replied: 'It is not for you to know the time or the hour, which my Father hath kept in his own power, hut go ye and be my witnesses.' (Acts i. 7 and 8.) As though he should say: Let my Father and me see to the events of the future; go ye and do what I Command you.
Accordingly, I beseech your Reverend Grace most earnestly not to forsake the Word and sacrament, for the devil is an evil spirit, far too cunning for your Reverend Grace, as likewise for all saints, to say nothing of all men; as I myself also discover, although I am scarcely ever off my guard for a single day. Men so easily become cold, and their indifference grows ever greater: and if there were no other result of the devil's cunning, this would be reason enough to bid him flee without a moment's delay, and let the heart be warmed again. Thus, doubtless, your Reverend Grace himself feels that he is already cold and gone astray after mammon, aiming to become very rich, and also, according to common complaints, pressing his subjects altogether too severely and sharply, thinking to take them from their ancestral homes and possessions, and almost to make them his own property—which God will not endure, or, enduring, will bring the earldom to abject poverty. It is his gift, and he can easily take it away again, and that without recompense, as Haggai says (i. 6): 'Ye gather much, but ye put it into a bag with holes, and the Lord bloweth upon your grain till there is nothing left.'
"I have heard it said that some propose to introduce in Germany a form of government like that of France. Well, if they would stop first to ask whether that would be right and well-pleasing to God, I would not object. Let it be considered, too, that the kingdom of France, which was once a golden, glorious kingdom, is now so impoverished in both property and people, that it has become, instead of a golden, a leaden kingdom, and that, although formerly far-famed as the Christian kingdom, it has formed an alliance with the Turks. That is the way it goes when God and his Word are despised.
"I write thus candidly to encourage your Reverend Grace, for I am now much nearer to my, grave than people think; and I beg, as before, that your Reverend Grace may deal more mildly and graciously with the subjects of your Reverend Grace, and allow them to remain; then shall your Reverend Grace also remain, by the blessing of, God, both here and in the life to come. Otherwise, you shall lose both worlds, and be like the man in Aesop's fable, who opened the goose that laid every day a golden egg, and thereby lost the golden eggs and the goose that laid them, or like the dog in Aesop, that lost the piece of meat by snapping at its reflection in the water: for it is most certainly true, as Solomon in so many of his proverbs says, that he who wants too much gets least of all.
"To conclude, I am concerned for the soul of your Reverend Grace, which I cannot bear to have cast out of my cares and prayers, for that would to me mean, just as truly, cast out of the Church. I have been compelled to write, not only by the commandment of Christian love, but also by the severe threatening which God has announced to us in the third chapter of Ezekiel, namely, that we shall be condemned for others' sins. He says (verse 18): 'If thou tell not the sinner of his sin, and he die therein, I will require his soul at thy hands,' for to this end have I made thee a guardian of souls.
"I trust your Reverend Grace will therefore receive kindly this exhortation, for I cannot allow myself to be condemned for the sin of your Reverend Grace, but must on the contrary make every possible effort, that your Reverend Grace may with me be saved. Thus I shall at least be guiltless before God. I commend you to the abounding grace and mercy of God.
"Your Reverend Grace's willing and true-hearted, "Martinus Luther, D.
"Day of the Innocents, in the year 1542''

I'm still unsure of the exact date for this letter. However, there is one more context worth mentioning in regard to the statement, "If it had not been for Dr. Staupitz, I should have sunk in hell." Note the following Table Talk statement found in WA TR V, 5658a. The following English translation comes from Luther's Letters of Spiritual Counselpp.131-136.  The date these statements were said to be made was February 18, 1542. That's just a few days before February 23, 1542 (one of the dates mentioned above in regard to the letter). Here, Luther is recorded as having an extensive discussion about predestination; in fact, a footnote in the text states, "One version bears the title 'Dr. Martin Luther's Opinion Concerning Predestination, Written as It Fell From His Lips on Feb. 18, 1542."

Speculations concerning predestination are now being spread abroad indiscriminately by epicureans who say: "I do not know whether I am predestined to salvation. If I am elected to eternal life, I shall be saved no matter what I do. On the other hand, if I am not elected, I shall be damned no matter what I do." Although these opinions are true, nevertheless the Passion of Christ and his Sacraments are thereby made of no effect, for it would follow either that it was very foolish of God to send his Son into the world, and so many prophets before him, or that we are surely quite mad. These are poisonous speculations and weapons of the devil. They deceived our first parents when the devil said to them, "Ye shall be as gods." Yet it may be objected that it is necessary that I be saved because God has this intention (if it be God's will).
I reply: Well, are you to climb up to heaven and inquire into this opinion as if it were possible for you to investigate it? It would be most foolish of God to give us his Son and the Scriptures and the prophets if he wished us to be uncertain and to doubt concerning our salvation. It is the work of the devil to make us unbelieving and doubtful. People are assailed either by disdain or by despair when they think, "If I am to be saved, I shall be saved no matter what I do." It is not for you to inquire into the secret will of God without a word of revelation, nor should you imagine that God will fail to keep his promises to you. God is truthful, and he has given us assurances in the Scriptures in order that we may be certain. Otherwise it will come to pass that books, Bibles, and Sacraments will be cast aside and, like the Turks, we shall say, "Let me live, for tomorrow we die." Such an opinion leads to scorn or despair. I was once freed from this notion by Staupitz,otherwise I should long since have been burning in hell
For us this is an exceedingly necessary doctrine. A distinction must be made between knowledge of God and despair of God, and consideration must be given to the revealed God on the one hand and to knowledge of the unrevealed will of God on the other. Of the latter nothing at all is known to us. We must confess that what is beyond our comprehension is nothing for us to bother about. Nevertheless, Satan reproaches me with this impenetrable mystery. Apart from the Word of God I am not supposed to know whether I am predestined to salvation or not, and because reason seeks thus to inquire into God, it does not find him. We are not to know even if we break our heads over it. Moses was reproved when he asked, "Lord, show me thy face," and God replied, "Thou shalt see my back parts!"God has disapproved of and forbidden knowledge of his hidden will. Christ says, "No man knoweth God or the Father save the Son." Without the Word there is neither faith nor understanding. This is the invisible God. The path is blocked here. Such was the answer which the apostles received when they asked Christ when he would restore the kingdom to Israel, for Christ said, "It is not for you to know." Here God desires to be inscrutable and to remain incomprehensible.
He says in effect: "Let me remain hidden. Otherwise you will fall into the abyss of hell, as it is written, 'He who inquires into the majesty of God shall be crushed by it.' In this place leave me untouched. Carnal wisdom shall here have its limit. Here I wish to remain unrevealed. I shall reveal your election in another way. From the unrevealed God I shall become the revealed God. I shall incarnate my Son and shall give you one who will enable you to see whether you are elected. Do this: Give up your speculations which are apart from the Word of God, thoroughly root them out, and drive them to the devil in hell. 'This is my beloved Son. Hear ye him.' Behold his death, cross, and Passion. See him hanging on his mother's breast and on the cross. What he says and does you may be sure of.  No man cometh unto the Father, but by me,' says the Lord, and to Philip he said, 'He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.' Here you have me and will see me." 
Whosoever accepts the Son and is baptized and believes on his Word will be saved. I should indeed like to have it otherwise. But the Lord will not have it so. Begin at the bottom with the incarnate Son and with your terrible original sin. If you wish to escape from despair and hate, let your speculation go. There is no other way. Otherwise you must remain a doubter the rest of your life. God did not come down from heaven to make you uncertain about predestination or to cause you to despise the Sacraments. He instituted them to make you more certain and to drive such speculations out of your mind. Whoever doubts the revealed will of God will perish, for where there is doubt there is no salvation. 
What more do you want him to do? He reveals himself to you so that you may touch and see him not only in your thoughts but also with your eyes. It is as Christ says, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." Christ will lead you to the hidden God. You ought not to risk having the child Jesus snatched away from you. If you embrace him with true love of your heart and with true faith, you will know for sure that you are predestined to salvation. But the devil has a special fondness for making us most uncertain about predestination at the point at which we are most certain, namely, in the revelation of his Son. 
A wretched woman who was troubled by such temptations of the devil once came to me and said, "I do not know if I am predestined or not."
I said to her: "Dear woman, you have been baptized. Do you believe what you hear in the preaching of the Word and do you accept it as the truth?" "Yes," she replied, "I have no doubt that it is true, but I am unable to believe it." 
I said: "To have faith in him is to accept these things as true without any doubting. God has revealed himself to you. If you believe this, then you are to be numbered among his elect. Hold to this firmly and with assurance, and if you accept the God who is revealed, the hidden God will be given to you at the same time. 'He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.' Cling to the revealed God, allow no one to take the child Jesus from you, hold fast to him, and you will not be lost. The Father desires you. The Son wishes to be your Saviour and Liberator. In so kind and friendly a fashion has God freed us from these terrible temptations. Otherwise our hearts are deprived of that certain trust and predestination. Those with terrified hearts will disagree, and those whose hearts are hardened will be filled with contempt. Christ said, 'Murmur not among yourselves. No man can come to the Father except the Father which hath sent me draw him.' And [Jesus] Sirach said, 'Search not out things that are above thy strength.' Do this, as I said to you at the beginning, and accept the incarnate Son."
This is the way in which [John] Staupitz comforted me when the devil was similarly vexing me: "Why do you trouble yourself with these speculations of yours? Accept the wounds of Christ and contemplate the blood which poured forth from his most holy body for our sins—for mine, for yours, for those of all men. 'My sheep hear my voice.'
There is a beautiful example in the lives of the Fathers, where it is written that a young man named Neophile ascended to heaven and, having placed one foot inside of heaven, drew it back in order to thrust his other foot in, and he fell and plunged headlong into hell. So those who try to climb into heaven without the revealed Christ, and think that they have both feet in heaven, tumble down to hell. We should accept the child Jesus and cling to him because the Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father. This is the only way. You will find no other, and you will break your neck if you try. This means that God cannot deny himself. If we cling to him, he will hold us fast, and he will tear us away from sin and death and will not let us fall. Besides, these speculations about predestination are of the devil. If they assail you, say: "I am a son of God. I have been baptized. I believe in Jesus Christ, who was crucified for me. Let me alone, devil." Then such thoughts will leave you.
There is an account of a nun who was troubled by the devil with such wretched thoughts. When he addressed her and attacked her with his fiery darts, she said no more than this: "I am a Christian." The devil understood her very well, for it was as if she said: "I believe in the Son of God, who died on the cross, who sits at the right hand of the Father, who cares for me, and who is accustomed to intercede in my behalf. Let me alone, you cursed devil! With his inscrutable seal God has given me assurance." At once the temptation ceased, and at once she had peace of conscience and love for God. He wishes his predestination to be more surely grounded on many certain arguments. He sent his Son to become man, and he gave us the Sacraments and his Word, which cannot be doubted. The words of that nun come to mind in time of temptation, for unless we flee to this Christ, we shall either despair of our salvation or become blasphemous epicureans who hide behind divine predestination as an excuse. These opinions are impious and wicked.
The fact that Isaac doubted cannot be adduced here as an example, for it is allowable to doubt with respect to man, as Isaac doubted whether he would have a good omen and a friendly reception. But God is not man. It is permissible to doubt man because we are commanded not to put our trust in princes. If we rely on them and they fail us, or if one of them renders us a service, we call it fortuitous or a chance occurence. It is not so with the help of God, however, concerning whom we have many signs that he is not a God who deceives us and is to be doubted. This is demonstrated for us by spiritual and corporeal arguments in the incarnation of his Son and in the Sacraments, which are plainly from God and meet our carnal eyes and are administered with external ceremonies, under which external marks God manifests himself to us and distributes his benefits to us. Consequently one should say of a man, "I do not know if he is friend or foe." But not so of God. In this case I have no doubt that God is absolute and that your sins are forgiven. But we are such scoundrels that we prefer to put our constant reliance on man rather than on God.
Adam did this when God placed him in paradise and said, "Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it." What do you think drove Adam to eat of it? He wished to know what God's secret intention was with regard to this tree that he should not eat of it, and he thought, God certainly has something extraordinary on this tree. He was searching out God apart from the Word. Then the devil came and urged on Adam [and Eve] by saying: "Ye shall be as gods if ye eat of it. Your eyes shall be opened so that ye shall see everything as God sees it." So they wished to be God and to eat of the tree which God had forbidden them to eat of when he said, "Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye know what I have on the tree." Thereupon Adam said, "Truly, I must know!" He ate of it, and at once he knew what he had done and he saw that he was naked. That is, his eyes were opened.
We do the same thing in our relation to God. We wish to know what he has not commanded us to know. We should eat of every tree that he allows us to eat of, and we should rejoice to do so, but none of the fruit tastes so good to us as that of the tree we are forbidden to touch and on account of which he closed paradise and heaven to us so that we may know nothing of him except what he has revealed to us in his Word. If you wish to know what God's secret intention is, his dear Son will show it to you. We must have a God who is hidden from us, but we should not investigate into him, else we shall break our necks. It is God's will that we should be agreeable sons of his because we believe in his Son. There is no wrath here. Be satisfied with this.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Revisiting Martin Luther the Murderer

Here's one that came up on the Catholic Answers Discussion forums. A Roman Catholic participant was utilizing Father Mitch Pacwa for some Martin Luther information on the canon. A Lutheran participant responded by saying Father Pacwa  "is not a Luther scholar by any means and has falsely accused Luther of murdering with his own hands!" To which the Roman Catholic participant responded, "As for your claim that he falsely accused Luther of murdering with his own hands, I don’t believe that for one minute. Nor have I found evidence of anyone else saying such a thing," and that, "Father’s words are being taken out of their proper context."  No, Father's words are not being taken out of context. Yes, he did accuse Luther of murder.

This interaction is the result of something I posted back in 2010 (and also here). Father Mitch Pacwa was gearing up for the October 2017 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of the 95 Theses. At the time, he was trying to put together a video series (as I now check his "Ignatius Productions" eight years later, it does not appear the project ever got off the ground). Back on March 08, 2010 he appeared on Catholic Answers live to discuss the Reformation.  During the interview,  a caller asked “In a nutshell, what did cause the Reformation?.”  Father Pacwa answers, “Luther was racked with guilt.” What was this guilt from? Pacwa explains “he apparently had killed somebody in a duel.” To deal with the guilt of murder and “a legalism within his own personality” caused him to begin “looking at doctrine differently than it had been under the various Catholics prior.” This lead to justification by faith alone by grace alone.

Another Roman Catholic participant stated, "I’ll just say, stuff on the internet needs to be vetted carefully. People get labeled as saying things they don’t say or what they do say is so recontextualized it doesn’t come close to what was actually said," and also, "Swain [sic] was apparently pointing to the book that made the claim Luther was in a duel and killed his friend. The real question is, did Fr Pacwa really say what he is accused of saying?"

Well, Here is the mp3 clip to verify this is what Father Pacwa stated. When I originally wrote about this back in 2010, I was pleasantly surprised that the editors of Luther's Works actually stopped by here and left me a comment about this:

Rev. Dr. Benjamin T. G. Mayes said...
Was Luther a murderer?
In the early 1980's, Dietrich Emme popularized the theory that Martin Luther entered the Augustinian monastery in Erfurt not due to his experience in a storm, but in order to escape prosecution after killing a companion (Hieronymus Buntz) in a duel in 1505 (Martin Luther: Sein Jugend- und Studentenzeit 1483-1505 [Cologne, 1982]). Emme's work on this point has been widely dismissed in recent scholarship as piling one speculative conclusion upon another (e.g., Andreas Lindner, "Was geschah in Stotternheim," in C. Bultmann, V. Leppin, eds., Luther und das monastische Erbe [Tübingen, 2007], pp. 109-10; cf. Franz Posset, The Front-Runner of the Catholic Reformation: The Life and Works of Johann von Staupitz[Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003], 94, and the response by Helmar Junghans, Lutherjahrbuch 72 [2005]:190).
The standard biographer of Luther claims that Hieronymus Buntz died of plague (Martin Brecht, Martin Luther: His Road to Reformation, 1483-1521 [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1985], 47), and this is documented in sources from 1505 (
The "duel theory" relies on one of Luther's Table Talks: "By the singular plan of God I became a monk, so that they would not capture me. Otherwise I would have been captured easily. But they were not able to do it, because the entire Order took care of me" (D. Martin Luthers Werke: kritische Gesamtausgabe[Weimar Edition]: Tischreden, vol. 1 [Weimar: Hermann Böhlaus Nachfolger, 1912], p. 134, no. 326). Yet this refers to the Augustinian order's protection of Luther from Rome in 1518, not a putative flight from prosecution for dueling in 1505.
If Luther's "duel" were true, it would have been a matter of rather public knowledge, both casually, among students and the monks, and officially, both with whatever civil or episcopal authorities were supposedly trying to arrest Luther, as well as because a dispensation would have been required for Luther's ordination (homicide being a canonical impediment for the sacrament of order). In other words, it would be practically unthinkable that when the Roman Catholic polemical biographer of Luther, Johannes Cochlaeus, was searching for data about Luther's monastic career (and coming up with stories like Luther wailing in the choir) that such a "fact," if true or even rumored, would not have emerged.
Dr. Christopher Boyd Brown, general editor, Luther’s Works: American Edition
Dr. Benjamin T. G. Mayes, managing editor, Luther’s Works: American Edition
2:30 PM, MARCH 30, 2010