Letter to Harold “Hoot” and Annie Gibson cont. part 4
DR. MARTIN LUTHER, AND HIS LOVELY WIFE, SISTER KATHERINE
After the Parliament at Worms, Luther spent the next ten months hiding out. Duke Frederick III, Elector of Saxony “kidnapped” him on his way back home to Wittenberg and took him to the Wartburg Castle at Eisenach in a kind of protective custody, thus saving him from the emperor who was loyal to the traditional Church. There he had nothing to do but translate the scriptures, hunt wild boar and write vitriolic pamphlets against the papacy and the faith.
Many people are under the assumption that Luther first translated the Bible into a common tongue. Not so! There were fourteen perfectly good translations of the Bible in the German language. Luther produced a New Testament while he was in hiding. It was not the first of its kind, but was significant for its de-emphasis of certain books, notably the epistle of James which Luther called “an epistle of straw,” in which he found “little that pointed to Christ and His saving work.” Neither was he very fond of the book of Revelation, in which he could “in no way detect that the Holy Spirit produced it.” Luther took a dim view of Esther, Hebrews, and Jude as well, and denied the canonical nature of seven Old Testament books that were held as Scripture by all Christians from the most ancient times. These are the books of Tobit, Judith, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, Wisdom, Sirach, and Baruch, and some of Esther and Daniel. The whole hatchet job on God’s written Word began in 1522 and was finished in 1534.
As important as what he took out of the Bible was what he put in. Luther added the word “alone” to Romans 3:28 so that it reads, “man is justified without the works of the law but through faith ALONE.” The word "alone" does not appear in the original Greek text. In fact, the only place where the phrase “faith alone” appears in the New Testament is in James 2:24 “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” Remember? Luther wanted to dump the Letter of St. James. It didn’t agree with his theology.
In Germany, the main meal is still at noon. (Ah, I think fondly of the old country and Aunt Lisa’s pot roast.....) Anyway, Luther would dig into the sauerkraut and spaetzle, wash it down with a beer and get to talking. (Allow me to quote Luther regarding beer “Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long, does not sin; whoever does not sin, enters Heaven! Thus, let us drink beer!” And again “The Word is the principal part of baptism. If in an emergency there’s no water at hand, it doesn’t matter whether water or beer is used.” I include these two quotes just to irritate Baptists.) Thus refreshed, Dr. Luther would begin to hold forth while his students furiously took notes, and Luther would say the darndest things. For instance during his lunchtime pontifications, Luther, claimed that his idea that people need to commit real and honest sins had originated in a conversation with the Devil!
At one of these lunches Luther was apparently questioned by one of his students regarding his addition of the word “ALONE” to Romans 3:28. The student said that all of Christendom wondered why Luther had added the word “alone” to the text. Luther responded, “ Tell them that.....Luther will have it so, and he is a doctor above all the doctors in Popedom.” (Amic. Discussion, 1, 127,'The Facts About Luther,' O'Hare, TAN Books, 1987, p. 201. and John Lawson Stoddard. Rebuilding a Lost Faith. 1922, pp 101-102. I am having a little trouble with this footnote. I cannot find out what Amic. Discussion is. If anyone knows, I would be grateful for the information. I like to have primary sources whenever possible.) Apparently Luther denied papal infallibility, but not his own.
Luther also denied the right of the pope to give dispensations, but Luther himself seemed to have given a real whopper of a dispensation. One of Luther’s great protectors was the Duke of Hesse, Phillip II. But Phillip had a problem. In 1526 he had married Christine of Saxony, who was reputedly ugly, sick, and drunk most of the time. He fell in love with a 17-year-old, named Margarethe von der Saale. He couldn’t divorce Christine, but didn’t want to make Margarethe his mistress. After all, that would be adultery. In the end, he got permission from Martin Luther, who decided that bigamy was less sinful than divorce.
The bigamous wedding took place in 1540 witnessed by Martin Bucer and Philip Melanchthon, two of Luther’s followers. Luther, claiming that he had given this advice in the confessional, refused to admit his role in the marriage! I mention this sordid affair not merely to snipe at heretics, though that is certainly fun. I do it because Father Luther’s modern day disciples in the Catholic Church often do the same thing. I have heard of priests in the confessional passing out “annulments” and giving permission to use artificial birth control or not to worry about some sin or the other. Like Luther, they have a power to dispense from the very law of God that the Catholic Church has never claimed even for the pope in Rome. “Father knows better than the Pope!” It was Luther’s motto, and it’s the motto of quite a few of his present day descendants.
Back to the Wartburg! Luther was very upset that people back at Wittenberg were going too fast and that they had not asked his permission for the things they were initiating, such as destroying religious images, and changing the liturgy. It was HIS reform and they should not proceed without HIS direction. But it was too late. The genie was out of the bottle and every man was his own pope, just like Luther. It was while Luther was at the Wartburg that he came up with the idea that is most important for our discussion of the roots of the Hootenanny Mass. It was in the Wartburg he decided that the Mass was not a sacrifice but that it existed for the consolation and the instruction of the faithful. Thus did much of the Christian world stop worshiping God. The liturgy was no longer the fitting sacrifice of the Blood shed on Calvary, but had become the exercise in narcissism that passes for worship in most mega-churches and now infects Catholicism wherever she is not persecuted.
Luther left the Wartburg with his program in order and Europe in chaos. Bible alone, faith alone and Luther alone would make everything better. He returned to the university, dumped his religious attire and married a former nun, Katherine von Bora in 1525. They went on to have six children. He blathered while Europe bled. He held forth at lunch, in the lecture hall, and the pulpit, wrote diatribes and attended the occasional meeting, and became increasingly irrelevant to the revolution he had started. His last sermon was delivered at Eisleben on February 15, 1546, three days before his death. It was about the “...obdurate Jews, whom it was a matter of great urgency to expel from all German territory.” It ended by urging the congregation “to drive the Jews bag and baggage from their midst, unless they desisted from their calumny and their usury and became Christians.”
“We want to practice Christian love toward them and pray that they convert... but also that they are our public enemies ... and if they could kill us all, they would gladly do so. And so often they do.” He died on February 18, 1546. It would be almost 400 years before an unemployed Austrian painter fulfilled Luther’s dying admonition.
Just a final thought. I once visited the Wartburg with Jacob von der Suppe Kueche, a dear friend and convert to Catholicism. He was shaking his head as he returned from freshening up. In the washroom of this reformation shrine, there was a machine for dispensing (family column; euphemism to follow) intimate male protection/birth control devices. He said “I’ve been all over Europe and have never seen such a machine in a Catholic shrine." All his arguments with his Protestant relatives were over. He had seen the inevitable absurdity of Fr. Luther’s reformation. “Blessed the womb that never bore, the breast that never nursed.” (Luke 11:27)
Next Week: JOHN CALVIN, AND A CREATIVE WAY TO TREAT IN-LAWS