Daily Archives: 18 Feb 2018

Luther’s Colorful Description of the Human Condition

No one is so mad or stupid as to want to throw away or hate his body or its members, or cause them pain or harm, just because the body is filthy and impure. Instead, he nourishes and cares for it, St. Paul says, and the more fragile it is, the more he cares for it [Eph. 5:29; 1 Cor. 12:23]. And if it lacks something, the feet go running and the hands reach out, ready and willing to help it. If the body is scurfy, he seeks advice on healing the scurf or at least for keeping it in check. If it begins to swell or fester, he purifies and cleanses it, yet in such a way as not to harm the impure member. If [his body] cannot defecate, he avails himself of the pharmacist and every kind of medicine, all in order to purge and cleanse it out thoroughly.

In short, even when the body is most healthy it cannot be pure; it must defecate, spit, blow the nose, and continually be preoccupied with cleaning out its filth, and still it remains a repulsive, scurfy, stinking body. None of this can be removed from the body or entirely avoided without completely destroying it, not until the final hour comes when it is laid in the earth and buried, and the worms and maggots lay claim to it and devour the filth until it is made entirely new and pure.

Meanwhile, you have to trudge around with it all the same, leave it as it is, and not cut off and throw away a member if it is unhealthy, diseased, yes, even useless and deformed. Rather, if there is nothing more to be done, you bear it and are patient with it—unless it becomes so bad that it can remain on the body no longer, but, being totally rotten and dead, separates itself and threatens to corrupt the other members as well.

Spiritually, too, a human being (even if he is a Christian) remains impure in this life, for he is not yet without sin, even though he has forgiveness of sins and has been sanctified by the Holy Spirit.  — Martin Luther

A Curious Fact about the Civil War

We have a tendency to think that America has always been relatively Christian since its very founding and that only in recent decades has the church been troubled by widespread unfaithfulness and lessened participation, but that simply isn’t true.  And it’s not just our day that has seen a drop in Church attendance.  Writing of the Civil War, Dan Reid observes

The war cost billions of dollars and more casualties than any other in U.S. history, ruined and impoverished many Southern states and left a lasting legacy of sectional and racial hatred. Despite a significant revival in the Confederate army during the war, Christianity in general did not fare well in the conflict. Besides killing and wounding tens of thousands of faithful church members, four years of carnage blunted the American moral and religious conscience. Both during and immediately after the war, church membership and attendance declined.*

America has seen Christianity ebb and flow.  Rise and fall.  Grow and waver.  Throughout its history, and it will continue to do so.  The present wavering and faltering of faithful Christians faithfully taking part in the life of the Church and thus the core of their faith will one day be halted and faithfulness will again return.  The only question is, will we be part of it, or will we depart before it happens?  The choice is ours because the choice to be faithful (or not) is always ours.

However, no matter what we decide, the Church will carry on, even if only a tiny fraction of its present numbers, because the Church belongs to Christ and he has no intention of letting it disappear.  Even the gates of hell cannot prevail against it, so modern indifference and Christian apathy can’t destroy it either.

*Daniel G. Reid et al., Dictionary of Christianity in America (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1990).

When Having Your Child Baptized Lands You In Jail…

And it’s not in some backward third world country, it’s here.

A North Carolina mother is behind bars after she baptized her daughter without the permission of the girl’s father.

Kendra Stocks has been ordered to spend seven days in jail after a judge found her in contempt of court for baptizing her daughter.

“It’s just very sad,” Stocks told WSOC. “It’s all a very sad situation.”

Stocks and the girl’s father, Paul Schaff, have been involved in a custody battle for the past couple years. Both are Catholic.The court granted Schaff the final decision-making authority involving all legal custody decisions, including those involving religion.

The day after the judge granted Schaff that authority, Stocks had the child baptized without telling him. He found about the baptism on Facebook and reported it. Judge Sean Smith ruled that Stocks was in contempt of court and ordered her to serve seven days in jail.

“Her father and I both agreed on baptizing her,” Stocks said. “I regret that he wasn’t part of it, but I don’t regret that we’re raising her in the Catholic faith, which is what we both wanted.”

Schaff’s attorney told WSOC that Stocks’ sentence is just the price she has to pay for making bad decisions.

“I’ll get through it and hopefully come out a better person,” Stocks said.

Is Mary Beard a Racist?

Evidently she said some very racist things about Haiti yesterday and it has created a good deal of backlash.  Most notably, here.

I’m afraid that your good intentions notwithstanding, it is precisely this genteel patrician racist manner and this context of entrenched denial in which your tweet on Haiti, ‘civilised’ values (scare quotes noted but not enough, I’m afraid) and disaster zones was received. It was, as you now know, received with enormous shock. (Not by me though — I’m used to this kind of casual magisterial apologetic coming out of the mouths of my Cambridge colleagues; it’s the stuff of everyday college lunch table conversations and hence I’ve taken the simple step of not dining in colleges as far as is feasible ). Your subsequent blog post, to not put too fine a point on it, did little to help your cause and is regarded by many as a ‘no-pology’, a stubborn refusal to see what was wrong with your original post and taking refuge instead in the familiar posture of wounded white innocence.

Read the whole… it’s really stunning.

Von Harnack’s Concluding Remarks About Luther

Any one who lets Luther be Luther, and regards his main positions as the valuable possession of the evangelical church—who does not merely tolerate them, that is to say, under stress of circumstances (per angustias temporum)—has the lofty title and the strict obligation to conclude the history of dogma with him.  — Adolf von Harnack

That’s wrong on so many levels.  The history of Dogma doesn’t end with Luther because the history of the Church doesn’t.  But it’s the sentiments, typically, of adherents of Lutheranism (and of course von Harnack was that sort).

Luther: On Death

“It’s remarkable that men should be so arrogant and secure when there are so many, indeed countless, evidences around us to suggest that we ought to be humble. The hour of our death is uncertain. The grain on which we live is not in our hands. Neither the sun nor the air, on which our life depends, lies in our power, and we have no control over our sleeping and waking. I shall say nothing of spiritual things, such as the private and public sins which press upon us. Yet our hearts are hard as steel and pay no attention to such evidence.”  — Martin Luther

Adolf von Harnack on Luther’s Roman Catholicism

Luther believed he was contending only against the abuses and errors of the Mediæval Church. He declared, no doubt, not infrequently that he was not satisfied with the “dear Fathers,” and that they had all gone astray; yet he was not clear-sighted enough to say to himself that if the Church Fathers were in error, their decrees at the Councils could not possibly contain the whole truth. In no way, it is true, did he feel himself any longer externally bound by these decrees, nay, we can see brilliant flashes of incisive criticism, e.g. in his treatise on Councils and Churches; yet these continued on the whole without effect.

He always fell back again upon the view that the wretched Pope was alone to blame for all the evil, and that all the mischief, therefore, was connected with the Middle Ages only. Thus from this side his prepossession in favour of the faith-formulæ of the Ancient Church—on the ground that they did not take to do with works and law—was only further strengthened; indeed there was exercising its influence here, unconsciously to himself, a remnant of the idea that the empirical Church is authority.  — Adolf von Harnack

It is precisely here that Luther is less Reformer than Zwingli or Calvin.  Luther wanted to fix the Papacy, nothing more.  Zwingli and Calvin wanted to return to the Christianity of the New Testament.  Luther never would have gone that far had he lived to the present day.

The Final Days of Luther’s Life

luther_dead[Luther arrived in Eisleben] on the 28th of January, accompanied by his friend the theologian Jonas, who had been with him at the Diet of Worms, and by his two sons, Martin and Paul, the former now fifteen, and the latter thirteen, years of age. He was respectfully received by the Counts of Mansfeld, attended by a hundred and twelve horsemen. He entered that town of Eisleben in which he was born, and in which he was about to die. That same evening he was very unwell and was near fainting.

Nevertheless, he took courage and, applying himself zealously to the task, attended twenty conferences, preached four times, received the sacrament twice, and ordained two ministers. Every evening Jonas and Michael Coelius, pastor of Mansfeld, came to wish him good night. ‘Doctor Jonas, and you Master Michael,’ he said to them, ‘entreat of the Lord to save his church, for the Council of Trent is in great wrath.’

Luther dined regularly with the Counts of Mansfeld. It was evident from his conversation that the Holy Scriptures grew daily in importance in his eyes. ‘Cicero asserts in his letters,’ he said to the Counts two days before his death, ‘that no one can comprehend the science of government who has not occupied for twenty years an important place in the republic. And I for my part tell you that no one has understood the Holy Scriptures who has not governed the churches for a hundred years, with the prophets, the Apostles and Jesus Christ.’

This occurred on the 16th of February. After saying these words he wrote them down in Latin laid them upon the table and then retired to his room. He had no sooner reached it than he felt that his last hour was near. ‘When I have set my good lords at one,’ he said to those about him, ‘I will return home; I will lie down in my coffin and give my body to the worms.’

luther_bowing_to_zwingliThe next day, February 17, his weakness increased. The Counts of Mansfeld and the prior of Anhalt, filled with anxiety, came to see him. ‘Pray do not come,’ they said, ‘to the conference.’ He rose and walked up and down the room and exclaimed,—‘Here, at Eisleben, I was baptized. Will it be my lot also to die here?’ A little while after he took the sacrament. Many of his friends attended him, and sorrowfully felt that soon they would see him no more. One of them said to him,—‘Shall we know each other in the eternal assembly of the blessed? We shall be all so changed!’ ‘Adam,’ replied Luther, ‘had never seen Eve, and yet when he awoke he did not say “Who art thou?” but, “Thou art flesh of my flesh.” By what means did he know that she was taken from his flesh and not from a stone? He knew this because he was filled with the Holy Spirit. So likewise in the heavenly Paradise we shall be filled with the Holy Spirit, and we shall recognize father, mother, and friends better than Adam recognized Eve.’

luther_deathHaving thus spoken, Luther retired into his chamber and, according to his daily custom, even in the winter time, opened his window, looked up to heaven and began to pray. ‘Heavenly Father, he said, ‘since in thy great mercy thou hast revealed to me the downfall of the pope, since the day of thy glory is not far off, and since the light of thy Gospel, which is now rising over the earth is to be diffused through the whole world, keep to the end through thy goodness the church of my dear native country; save it from falling, preserve it in the true profession of thy word, and let all men know that it is indeed for thy work that thou hast sent me.’ He then left the window, returned to his friends, and about ten o’clock at night retired to bed.

Just as he reached the threshold of his bedroom he stood still and said in Latin,—‘In manus tuas commendo spiritum meum, redemisti me, Deus veritatis!’

The 18th of February, the day of his departure, was now at hand. About one o’clock in the morning, sensible that the chill of death was creeping over him, Luther called Jonas and his faithful servant Ambrose. ‘Make a fire,’ he said to Ambrose. Then he cried out,—‘O Lord my God, I am in great pain! What a weight upon my chest! I shall never leave Eisleben.’ Jonas said to him, ‘Our heavenly Father will come to help you for the love of Christ which you have faithfully preached to men.’ Luther then got up, took some turns up and down his room, and looking up to heaven exclaimed again,—‘Into thine hand I commit my spirit; thou hast redeemed me, O God of truth!’

Jonas in alarm sent for the doctors, Wild and Ludwig, the Count and Countess of Mansfeld, Drachstadt, the town clerk, and Luther’s children. In great alarm they all hastened to the spot. ‘I am dying,’ said the sick man. ‘No,’ said Jonas, ‘you are now in a perspiration and will soon be better,’ ‘It is the sweat of death,’ said Luther, ‘I am nearly at my last breath.’ He was thoughtful for a moment and then said with faltering voice,—‘O my heavenly Father, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God of all consolation, I thank thee that thou hast revealed to me thy well-beloved Son, Jesus Christ, in whom I have believed, whom I have preached, whom I have confessed, whom the pope and all the ungodly insult, blaspheme, and persecute, but whom I love and adore as my Saviour. O Jesus Christ, my Saviour, I commit my soul to thee! O my heavenly Father, I must quit this body, but I believe with perfect assurance that I shall dwell eternally with thee, and that none shall pluck me out of thy hands.’

luther_graveHe now remained silent for a little while; his prayer seemed to have exhausted him. But presently his countenance again grew bright, a holy joy shone in his features, and he said with fulness of faith,—‘God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ A moment afterwards he uttered, as if sure of victory, this word of David,*—‘He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto God the Lord belong the issues from death.’ Dr. Wild went to him, and tried to induce him to take medicine, but Luther refused. ‘I am departing,’ he said, ‘I am about to yield up my spirit.’ Then returning to the saying which was for him a sort of watchword for his departure, he said three times successively without interruption,—‘Father! into thine hand I commit my spirit. Thou hast redeemed me, O God of truth! Thou hast redeemed me, O God of truth!’

He then closed his eyes. They touched him, moved him, called to him, but he made no answer. In vain they applied the cloths which the town-clerk and his wife heated, in vain the Countess of Mansfeld and the physicians endeavoured to revive him with tonics. He remained motionless. All who stood round him, perceiving that God was going to take away from the church militant this mighty warrior, were deeply affected. The two physicians noted from minute to minute the approach of death.

The two boys, Martin and Paul, kneeling and in tears, cried to God to spare to them their father. Ambrose lamented the master, and Coelius the friend, whom they had so much loved. The Count of Mansfeld thought of the troubles which Luther’s death might bring on the Empire. The distressed Countess sobbed and covered her eyes with her hands that she might not behold the mournful scene, Jonas, a little apart from the rest, felt heartbroken at the thought of the terrible blow impending over the Reformation. He wished to receive from the dying Luther a last testimony. He therefore rose, and went up to his friend, and bending over him, said,—Reverend father, in your dying hour do you rest on Jesus Christ, and stedfastly rely upon the doctrine which you have preached?’ ‘YES,’ said Luther, so that all who were present could hear him. This was his last word.

Luther's death mask

Luther’s death mask

The pallor of death overspread his countenance; his forehead, his hands, and his feet turned cold. They addressed him by his baptismal name, ‘Doctor Martin,’ but in vain, he made no response. He drew a deep breath and fell asleep in the Lord. It was between two and three o’clock in the morning. ‘Truly,’ said Jonas, to whom we are indebted for these details, ‘thou lettest, Lord, thy servant depart in peace, and thou accomplishest for him the promise which thou madest us, and which he himself wrote the other day in a Bible presented to one of his friends: Verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.’*


*J. H. Merle D’aubigné D.D. and William L. R. Cates, History of the Reformation in Europe in the Time of Calvin (vol. 8; London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1878), 428–433.

Luther’s Death

February 18, 1546: Martin Luther dies in Eisleben of an apparent heart attack in the early hours of the morning.

Martin’s health had been a concern of his for years. Long periods of depravation in the monastery had contributed to digestive and kidney problems. Katie had nursed her husband through many bouts of illness but now, not even his doctors could help him. His work in Eisleben had finally been completed even as he lay in his sick bed. His sons Martin and Paul had returned from Mansfeld, where they had been visiting relatives, and were able to be at his side when he died. His final words were “Father into your hands I commend my spirit. You have redeemed me, faithful God.” One of his companions then asked him if he would die steadfast in Christ and in the Gospel which he had preached. He answered with a clear, audible, “Yes.”

Shown are the house in Eisleben where Luther died and an artist’s depiction of the room at the time of his death.

-Rebecca DeGarmeaux

Luther: There Will Never Be Peace With The Papacy

I cannot imagine how there can be peace between us and the Papists, for neither part will yield to the other, and there is an everlasting war between the woman’s seed and the old serpent; they never are weary of wars. Temporal Kings and Potentates (when they are weary of warring) do agree upon cessation of arms; but in this case, there can be no such conditions and means hoped for; for we neither can nor will depart from the confession of true Christian religion and God’s Word, neither on the other side will they desist from their idolatry and blaspheming; the devil will not suffer his feet to be chopped off, neither will Christ have hindered the preaching of his Word; therefore I cannot see how any peace or truce may be between Christ and Belial. — Martin Luther

Maybe Pope Franky should read a bit of Luther before he ‘celebrates’ the Reformation.