Friday, November 10, 2017

Rebel in the Ranks. . .

“Luther would deride the idea of freedom as we know it today and disclaim any credit for it. In fact, he would be disgusted by it, because it has nothing to do with what he regarded as the only real freedom: the bound freedom of a Christian."


“Neither Luther nor any of the other Protestant reformers sought or envisioned anything like modern individual freedom. Nor did the Protestant Reformation as such lead to it. What led to it were the more-than-religious conflicts between magisterial Protestants and Catholics in the Reformation era, which created a situation that led indirectly, unintentionally and eventually to the making of a 21st-century world that nearly all committed Christians of the Reformation era would have deplored.”
Both are quotes from Brad Gregory's third installment on Reformation history -- Salvation at Stake (1999) and The Unintended Reformation (2012).  Rebel in the Ranks is not a scholarly treatment of Luther or the times but is intended for those who know little of the real history of the man or the movement.  It is probably not a book you would give to someone interested in the details of theological position or the footnotes of its greater history, but it is not a bad book to give to those who know only the mythology and have a skewed idea of what the Reformation and the man who pulled its trigger are about.

It is a simple enough treatment and an easy read, interesting and generally respectful of those whom he treats. For all the Luther movies, from its dramatic black and white treatment of 1952 to the rather unsettling treatment of 2003 and for all the docudramas in between, most folks still approach Luther from the vantage point of ignorance, assuming modern day ideas and issues are what got his dander up.  When it comes to worship, most folks think Luther found the mass a tyranny from which the Church and Christians must be set free.  That is true only if mass in your definition equates with the sacrifice of the mass and not the historic shape of the liturgy.  When it comes to modern ideas of the separation of church and state or individual liberty or the triumph of individual reason and opinion, Luther is blamed for horrors he would neither recognize nor approve.  When it comes to Luther and the Jews, it is assumed Luther was an anti-Semite when the reality was that religious freedom did not exist, no one then loved the Jews, and Luther's rebuke was theological and not ethnic -- how could those who had the Law and the Prophets NOT recognize Jesus.  When it comes to Lutherans, it is assumed that whatever you learned in catechism class or Sunday school gave you a full treatment of Luther and the Great Reformation and that dogmatic differences between Luther and other Reformers and between Lutherans and other Protestants are minutiae and nothing of real substance.  How wrong we are!

I have taken to reading a few of the more current treatments of Luther and the Reformation and Gregory certainly gives us pause.  In the end we want to find scapegoats on which to heap our blame and scorn for the things that have gone wrong.  For sure, the world we now have is a world gone stray but the blame lies not with Luther or even the Pope on the other side.  We always get the world we deserve.  You do not have to be Christian to admit the truth of the Scripture: the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children even to the third and fourth generation. The children suffer for the sour grapes of their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents.  Original sin is the one doctrine that needs no Scripture to be proven -- history and the newspaper suffice.  The Reformation was no trivial conflict.  It was born of a man and of a time in which honest questions arose about truth, hope, life, and death.  If the Reformation found rough sailing or ran aground on the rocks of disappointment, the blame lies squarely with its heirs. 

Luther was a man, just a man, and yet a noble intellect, a man of stunning accomplishment, and of great ideas. Luther's image of the future has certainly foundered but it cannot be blamed only upon him.  We added enough stubbornness, sin, doubt, fear, jealousy, anger, bitterness, and violence to turn a question into an epithet and to take what was hoped to be a new beginning and see it become an all too predictable end.  Lutherans and Roman Catholics and all Christians have some blame in this.  Yet the seeds of renewal are always as near as the voice of the Word that speaks and the means of grace deliver Christ and His gifts to us.  The only questions are about whether or not we are listening and whether or not we are so content in our ungodliness that we neither desire nor welcome the things of God that would redeem us.


William Tighe said...
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William Tighe said...
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Carl Vehse said...

Rev. Peters: "When it comes to worship, most folks think Luther found the mass a tyranny from which the Church and Christians must be set free. That is true only if mass in your definition equates with the sacrifice of the mass and not the historic shape of the liturgy."

And this is exactly the definition of the mass Luther used in the Smalcald Articles, which is subscribed to by Lutherans. In his “Luther and the Mass" (Logia, 10: 4, 2001, 13-19), Rev. Daniel Preus stated:

"When Luther began to assail the mass as sacrifice, he attacked the same false soteriology that he had first condemned in the indulgence controversy a few years earlier.

"According to Luther it is the nature of the antichrist to rage against the gospel, and his raging is more than evident in his perversion of the sacrament. Even those moderately acquainted with Luther's views know that he considered the pope to be the antichrist. To no small extent, this identification is due to the Roman doctrine of the mass.

"But Luther's condemnation of the mass was not limited to the private mass. He viewed the mass itself as a 'papistic idol.' When he wrote, 'This is the true and chief abomination and the basis of all blasphemy in the papacy,' he spoke not of the private mass alone. It is the mass itself that is the greatest of all abominations, whether it take place privately or publicly.

"By 1533, however, Luther came to the conclusion that 'mass' should no longer be used in reference to the sacrament of the altar. Luther's Letter Concerning His Book on the Private Mass is very illuminating in regard to his distinction between the two. In this letter Luther provided a definition of the term 'mass' that clearly drives a wedge between mass and sacrament.

Lutherans tempted to use 'mass' as a synonym for the Lord's Supper should take seriously Luther's observations on the difference between 'mass' and 'sacrament.' The same confusion may very well result today when a term frequently used in reference to a sacrificial act performed by a priest is used carelessly by Lutherans in reference to the Lord's Supper. It is not without justification that a charge of 'Roman Catholic' is brought against those who refer to the Lord's Supper as 'the mass.' Luther's own example after 1533 and that of the orthodox theologians such as Chemnitz who followed him ought to be instructive in this regard. They do not use the term 'mass" to speak of the Lord's Supper. It is ill advised for Lutherans to do so today. [Emphasis added]

"In 1537, when Luther's Smalcald Articles appeared, he continued to view sacrament and mass as inimical to each other. Mass and sacrament are so opposed to each other that Luther dealt with them under two different headings. Furthermore, when speaking of the Lord's Supper in the article on the mass, he used the word 'sacrament'; the word 'mass:' on the other band, means sacrifice (SA ii ii)."

William Tighe said...

Perhaps the three most interesting new books (all published this year) on Luther - all by practicing "papists," by the way - are (I rank them according to my own predilections, in descending order) are:

The Making of Martin Luther by Richard Rex (Princeton University Press; ISBN: 9780691155159)

1517: Martin Luther and the Invention of the Reformation by Peter Marshall (Oxford University Press; ISBN: 9780199682010)

Rebel in the Ranks: Martin Luther, the Reformation, and the Conflicts that Continue to Shape our World by Brad Gregory (HarperOne; ISBN: 9780062471178).

Anonymous said...

Carl, both you and Rev. Peters are in agreement here and other places, but you have often de-constructed his views poorly and his engagement out of context, to make it appear as though he is in error or weak and you are bringing correction.

Carl Vehse said...

An anonymous accusation without substantiation and irrelevant to the current blog fits Luther's Large Catechism analogy of swine "sich im Kot wälzen und mit dem Rüssel darin wühlen."

Anonymous said...

Here's an example as you often have done:
Rev. Peter's used the would Mass is the stated context, "not the historic shape of the liturgy." Historical shape of the Liturgy!
Then your response of contradiction is:
"And this is exactly the definition of the mass Luther used in the Smalcald Articles,"
Yet you are in error, that's not true! because Luther is not referring to the Liturgy but to the abuse of the Sacrament! You are both on the same page yet your response is treating Rev. Peter's as if he is in error...

Carl, it's just an observation trying to give kindly advice from one anonymous to another anonymous (Carl Vehse is dead) who has read many of your posts on this and other sites. There is not time nor is this the proper forum for your many uncharitable, misconstrued phases, to be unpacked -to eventually find out both you and Rev. Peter's are on the same page. Yes, many Lutheran are in error and/or charlatans, Rev. Peters is not. You are a wise and learned true Lutheran, but bitte sei nicht unfreundlich zu deinen orthodoxen Lutherische Brüder.

Carl Vehse said...

Wait! What? Previously, Anon, you said "Carl, both you and Rev. Peters are in agreement here."

And indeed I was, when pointing out that Luther's definition of the mass in the Smalcald Articles was the Romish sacrifice of the mass and not to be equated to the Lord's Supper.

As for Rev. Peters' alternative definition of the "mass" equated as "the historic shape of the liturgy," that certainly, after 1533, was not Luther's (and, according to Rev. Preus, Chemnitz's) definition of the "mass." In a post on another Pastoral Meanderings blog I quoted from Rev. Preus:

"The word 'mass,' Luther believed, should be defined as the sacrifice that the priest offers for sin. It should never be used to speak of that sacrament which grants to believers the body and blood of Christ and the forgiveness of sins.

[Luther stated,] "Indeed, I wish and would very much like to see and hear that the two words ‘mass’ and ‘sacrament’ would be understood as being as different as darkness and light, yes, as different as devil and God.”

And Rev. Peters, as a pastor who holds a quia subscription to the Smalcald Articles and other Symbols in the BOC of 1580, never indicated in his paragraph, or in the rest of his article, that, rather than Luther's definition, such an alternative definition of the mass was his own personal definition,

But now you claim I am "in error" and my agreement with what Rev. Peters stated is "not true." You also claim, "You are both on the same page yet your response is treating Rev. Peter's as if he is in error..."

How can that be? I quoted Rev. Peters and then immediately stated, "And this is exactly the definition of the mass Luther used in the Smalcald Articles, which is subscribed to by Lutherans."

So which of your statements is the truth and which is the lie?

And your last paragraph, again with its unsubstantiated allegations, still appears like swine rolling themselves in their feces and rooting in it with their snout. Repent, Anon.