Friday, September 18, 2015

Are you ready to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation? part 3

Letter to Calvin Martin continued...

Last week I left off with the Luther quote, “It is not forbidden that a man should have more than one wife.”  Luther said this for a very specific reason.  In 1523 Phillip the Fair, Duke of Hesse, married Christine of Saxony, daughter of Frederick of Saxony. Remember him, Martin Luther’s first protector who hid Martin in the Wartburg Castle? She was as ugly as the back side of a mud fence and a heavy drinker. This was not a problem for Phillip, an aristocrat; there were plenty of women available. Still, the whole thing was bothersome. Luther said that Phillip was living in sin and thus could not receive communion. Phillip was grieved in conscience, but he couldn’t just dump the daughter of the duke of Saxony.

One of Luther’s collaborators, Phillip Melanchthon came up with a novel solution that he thought might apply just as well to Henry VIII of England. Why couldn’t the King of England or Phillip the Fair or another rich important person have more than one wife? After all, the patriarchs and kings in the Bible had busloads of wives. Hadn’t Doktor Luther said as much?  Armed with this deep spiritual insight, Phillip the Fair decided to marry the daughter of one of his sister's ladies-in-waiting, Margarethe von der Saale. Margarethe hesitated. She wanted to hear from theologians as well as Philip’s first wife and her family back in Saxony.

Philip’s first wife, Christine was fine with the arrangement as was her family, probably glad to have the old sot living elsewhere. The Lutheran theologians were hesitant. After all Luther, like Henry VIII of England, disputed the pope’s right to give dispensations. Now Philip the Fun Loving wanted a dispensation to have two wives. Bucer, another collaborator of Luther’s, understood Phillip’s logical argument that Phillip would ally himself with the Catholic Emperor if the Protestant theologians didn’t agree to the marriage, and the new religion would be toast. The Wittenberg theologians wisely acceded to the Duke’s finely crafted arguments. Martin the brave, Martin who probably didn’t say at the Diet of Worms, “Here I stand I can do no other!” acquiesced, but told Phillip to keep it a secret.  Having secured the “secret advice of a confessor” namely Luther and Melanchthon, Philip married wife number two on March 4, 1590. A few weeks later Philip's sister spilled the beans and the scandal ran through Germany like beer through a German. 

Luther, refused to admit his part in the mess, claiming that it was a matter of the seal of confession. Apparently Luther could still be Catholic went he wanted to be. After all, he had warned Phillip that, “When it comes to writing, I shall be quite competent to wriggle out of it and to leave your Grace in the lurch.” In other words Luther was smart enough not to leave a paper trail. The dodge didn’t work. Luther lost the leadership of the reformation to John Calvin, the disciple of Luther’s archenemy Huldrych Zwingli, who became the rising star of the protestant revolt. Most protestant and so called non- denominational churches trace their roots back to Calvin, not to Luther. Lutheranism is a relatively small part of modern Christianity. There are probably around 100 million Lutherans in the world. There are 1billion, 200 million Catholics in the world. The other 600 or 700 million Protestants in the world are various mutations of Calvinism.

I have already mentioned Luther’s humility. I would like to revisit the topic. He once humbly said, “What I teach and write remains true even though the whole world should fall to pieces over it.”  He had no idea how prophetic these words would be. In his tract, “On War Against the Turk”, Luther is far less critical of the Muslim Turks than he is of the Pope, whom he calls an anti-Christ, or the Jews, whom he describes as “the Devil incarnate.” Christianity has fractured into a myriad of sects, some large some small. Luther weakened Europe just as the Caliphs of Islam were about to overwhelm her. Were it not for the steadfastness of the Hapsburgs and Spain and especially the bravery of the Poles, all of the women in Europe would be wearing burkas and walking behind their husbands.

All the deprecation of marriage and women, all the polygamy and violence would not have bothered Luther one little bit, though the Islamic prohibition against alcohol might have been difficult for him, despite his many tea-totaling followers:

“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!”  A couple more Luther quotes: “I am but a man prone to let himself be swept off his feet by society, drunkenness, and the movements of the flesh.” And, “Why, do you think, do I drink too much wine ...? It is when the Devil prepares to torment me and mock me and I wish to take the lead.” 

In a couple of years, the man will be lionized, but he sounds more like Rasputin than Christ. In Luther are laid the seeds of our current disaster, the redefinition of the family, a private, self-serving morality and all the rest. Our licentious age finds its parent in Luther;

“Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. We will commit sins while we are here, for this life is not a place where justice resides… No sin can separate us from Him, even if we were to kill or commit adultery thousands of times each day.”
Europe is dying. It was Luther who killed it. The terminal illness was made obvious by the German Nationalism that caused the Franco-Prussian war when the Prussian Lutherans and Calvinist tried to make an empire. It matured in the First World War and finally exploded in an orgy of hatred, murder and racism in the Nazi madness which gripped the German-speaking peoples in the middle of the 20th century. Hitler and his Nazis skillfully used Luther’s anti-Semitism to inflame an entire people to insanity. These are Luther quotes, not Hitler quotes:

“My advice, as I said earlier, is: First, that their synagogues be burned down, and that all who are able toss sulfur and pitch; it would be good if someone could also throw in some hellfire… Second, that all their books– their prayer books, their Talmudic writings, also the entire Bible be taken from them, not leaving them one leaf, and that these be preserved for those who may be converted…Third, that they be forbidden on pain of death to praise God, to give thanks, to pray, and to teach publicly among us and in our country…Fourth, that they be forbidden to utter the name of God within our hearing. For we cannot with a good conscience listen to this or tolerate it… He who hears this name [God] from a Jew must inform the authorities, or else throw sow dung at him when he sees him and chase him away.” (Martin Luther; On the Jews and Their Lies).

It sounds a lot like Kristallnacht, when the Nazis burned the synagogues and the scrolls. Martin continues:

 “Burn their synagogues. Forbid them all that I have mentioned above. Force them to work and treat them with every kind of severity, as Moses did in the desert and slew three thousand… If that is no use, we must drive them away like mad dogs, in order that we may not be partakers of their abominable blasphemy and of all their vices, and in order that we may not deserve the anger of God and be damned with them. I have done my duty. Let everyone see how he does his. I am excused.”
“If I had to baptize a Jew, I would take him to the bridge of the Elbe, hang a stone round his neck and push him over with the words I baptize thee in the name of Abraham.”

 “The Jews deserve to be hanged on gallows seven times higher than ordinary thieves.”
Doktor Luther wrote the prescription for the death camps of the Nazi monsters. Hitler was the pharmacist who filled the prescription.  So what will I be doing to celebrate Reformation day 2017? I suppose I will be hiding under my bed saying the Rosary.

The Rev. Know-it-all

Friday, September 11, 2015

Are you ready to celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation? part 2

Letter to Calvin Martin continued...
Martin Luther and the Poor of the Land
Martin had let the genie out of the bottle.  In January of 1521, Martin was summoned to the Diet of Worms by Emperor Charles VI.  A note on the Diet of Worms:  The word Diet comes for the Latin word “dies” meaning “day.” A parliament was referred to in German as a Reichstag or Landtag, (tag meaning day in German) and Worms is a city in west central Germany. Worms is derived from a Celtic word meaning settlement in a swampy area. Swamptown, more or less.  It has the sense of “days of meeting” or “court days,” or, in a sense, “a day in court.” This has nothing to do with slimy invertebrates. The town is pronounced “Vawrms.” The invertebrates are Wuermer, pronounced “Voeermer.” Sort of.
To properly pronounce some German vowels it is necessary to first suck on a lemon for half an hour. I suppose it could be called the Swamptown Parliament, but it is great fun to call the parliament of the city of Worms Germany by its classic name the Diet of Worms. It has provided endless school boy jokes, things about Charles downing a Fifth and forcing Luther to eat a diet of worms. This is not what happened.
Martin was given a safe passage to and from the Diet, but he was declared an outlaw by the Emperor. He mysteriously disappeared on the way home. He was kidnapped by Prince Frederick of Saxony who hid him in Wartburg Castle, where he lived under an assumed name (Juenker Joerge, translated Sir George, more or less) and translated the Bible the way he thought it should be translated. He also drank beer and went hunting wild boar. The castle did not have cable TV or Wi-Fi)
After about a year, Martin got bored with boar hunting and boring translation work and decided to risk going back to Wittenberg. The place was a mess. Luther wrote, “During my absence, Satan has entered my sheepfold, and committed ravages which I cannot repair by writing, but only by my personal presence and living word.” Fr. Martin preached a series of Latin sermons in which he talked about patience, and taught that violence was not the way.
The peasants loved Luther’s new religion because if the priests didn’t need popes and bishops, they certainly didn’t need the landlords and the aristocracy. “Do you know what the Devil thinks when he sees men use violence to propagate the Gospel? He sits with folded arms behind the fire of hell, and says with malignant looks and frightful grin: ‘Ah, how wise these madmen are to play my game! Let them go on; I shall reap the benefit. I delight in it.’ But when he sees the Word running and contending alone on the battle-field, then he shudders and shakes for fear.”
Wittenberg calmed down, but the rest of the German-speaking world was up for grabs. The Zwickau prophets Nicholas Storch and Thomas Muentzer encouraged the peasants to rise up and smash the gentry. Luther the nonviolent decided that enough was enough, so he wrote a tract with the charming name, “Against the Murderous, Thieving Hordes of Peasants,” in which he implored the nobility to smash the peasants.

“Therefore let everyone who can, smite, slay, and stab, secretly or openly, remembering that nothing can be more poisonous, hurtful, or devilish than a rebel ... For baptism does not make men free in body and property, but in soul; and the Gospel does not make goods common, except in the case of those who, of their own free will, do what the apostles and disciples did in Acts 4.  They did not demand, as do our insane peasants in their raging, that the goods of others, of Pilate and Herod, should be common, but only their own goods. Our peasants, however, want to make the goods of other men common, and keep their own for themselves. Fine Christians they are! I think there is not a devil left in hell; they have all gone into the peasants. Their raving has gone beyond all measure.”
“What strange times are these when a prince can enter heaven by the shedding of blood more certainly than others by means of prayer!"           
"It is no longer a question of tolerance, patience, pity. It is the hour of wrath and for the sword; the hour for mercy is past... No one need think that the world can be ruled without blood. The civil sword shall and must be red and bloody.”

Thus Luther the nonviolent reformer and friend of the poor.
Martin and Katarina
Luther slowly changed form Father Martin to Dr. Luther over the next few years. In 1523 Martin helped 12 nuns escape from the convent by hiding them in herring barrels. He managed to get them all married off, except one, Katharina von Bora, so he married her. She ever after called him “Herr Doktor.”  They had six children together. Katharina was 26. Martin was 41.
Doktor Luther really believed that sex was an accommodation to human lust. For Catholics marriage is a sacrament, human sexual activity in marriage is a source of grace. For Luther marriage was a roll in the hay. Here are some quotes collected by Frank Nelte which I have borrowed from the web.
“The body asks for a woman and must have it; to marry is a remedy for fornication...”
“Since wedlock and marriage are a worldly business, we clergy and ministers of the Church have nothing to order or decree about it, but must leave each town ... to follow its own usage and custom.”
In other words marriage is not a sacrament. It is a civil contract. In this sense, Luther is the inventor of civil marriage.
Intimacy in marriage is essentially sinful according to Luther. “In spite of all the good I say of married life, I will not grant so much to nature as to admit that there is no sin in it ... no conjugal due is ever rendered without sin… The matrimonial duty is never performed without sin. The matrimonial act is a sin differing in nothing from adultery and fornication.”
Doktor Luther doesn’t seem to have held women in very high regard either “The Word and work of God is quite clear, that women were made either to be wives or prostitutes... Even though they grow weary and wear themselves out with child-bearing, it does not matter; let them go on bearing children till they die, that is what they are there for.” And, most interesting, “It is not forbidden that a man should have more than one wife.”
PS If you don’t believe this stuff, look it up. I am not making any of it up.
Next week, Luther bobbles the ball!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Are you ready to celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation?

Dear Rev. Know-it-all,

How are you planning to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation year after next?

Calvin Martin

Dear Calvin,

On October 31, 1517, Luther posted the ninety-five theses, which he had composed in Latin, on the door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg, according to university custom. In about one year the western world will break into paroxysms of joy to celebrate this momentous event, an event that forever changed the world. Bells will be rung, prayer services and ecumenical gatherings will be convened and we will congratulate ourselves that we are better than our ancestors who couldn’t just get along as the great American philosopher, Rodney King exhorted us. We are the flower of human history because we know that “everything is beautiful in its own way,” as the poet Ray Stevens taught us in the glorious 60’s and early 70’s.

The heroic Luther defied pope and emperor by changing his name, hiding out in a remote castle and writing his own version of the New Testament, setting the tone for the present age in which we can do anything we want provided we have good intention and are sincere. It turns out that the nailing of the 95 theses may be a myth. Erwin Iserloh pointed out that the nailing of the theses to the church door may be a myth created by Philipp Melanchthon who wasn’t at Wittenberg University at the time. The story appeared for the first time after Luther's death. The grand celebrations planned for reformation day October 31, 2017 may just be the celebration of something that never happened.

Nonetheless, let us look at this hero of western culture, and the glorious legacy that he has inspired.  Much of the following is taken from Luther’s Tischreden. (Table Talk, a collection of his sayings compiled by Johannes Mathesius. Mathesius, a disciple of Luther, was a great note taker who wrote down everything, even stuff that a less diligent or delicate student would have left out. It is interesting what Luther let fly after a couple of beers.)

Luther, The Humble

Martin had a pretty high opinion of himself. He once said, “St. Augustine or St. Ambrose cannot be compared with me.” (Ref. Erlangen, Vol. 61, pg. 422). Luther added a word to the text of Scripture on which he and much of the world have based an entire religious philosophy.  In St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, (3:28) we read “For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.  Martin translated it to read, “a person is justified by faith ALONE.” The word “alone” doesn’t appear in the text.

When one of his students said that all Christendom was wondering why he had added a word to the text, Martin simply said, “If your Papist annoys you with the word (‘alone’), tell him straightway, Dr. Martin Luther will have it so: Papist and ass are one and the same thing. Whoever will not have my translation, let him give it the go-by: the devil’s thanks to him who censures it without my will and knowledge. Luther will have it so, and he is a doctor above all the doctors in Popedom.” (Ref. Amic. Discussion, 1)

I guess that includes Ambrose and Augustine. Being personally infallible, Martin just assumed that he understood the phrase “works of the law” meant kindness and generosity and morality. It is a shame that he hadn’t read the Dead Sea Scrolls. The phrase “works of the law” appears in only two places as far as we know St. Paul’s letters and the Dead Sea Scroll. Allow me to quote Miqsat Ma’aseh HaTorah (Some Works of the Law, Dead Sea Scroll 4QMMT, a real page turner.) 

“And also concerning flowing liquids: we say that in these there is no purity. Even flowing liquids cannot separate unclean from clean because the moisture of flowing liquids and their containers is the same moisture.”

In other words, if you are pouring water from a clay pitcher into an unclean clay pot,  you have to destroy both the pitcher and the pot because the ritual pollution will jump up the stream of water from the pot and pollute the pitcher. The same principle applies to piddling on a power line. Don’t even try it! 

Luther somehow failed to notice that in the previous chapter, (Romans 2:6) Paul warns us that God “will repay each one according to his works.” We have untold millions of people  in the world who count themselves perfectly good Christians who cheat on their spouse, cheat in their business, cheat on everything and feel good about it because they are saved, and as Luthier also taught “Once saved, always saved!”

Gosh I hope Luther was right. If Martin is wrong, there are a lot of people in hell who are saying, “But I was saved!”  Martin just didn’t like good works at all. “It is more important to guard against good works than against sin.” (Ref. Tischreden, Wittenberg Edition, Vol. VI., p. 160). 

Martin’s dislike of good work and his personal infallibility also extended to the Commandments. The Ten Commandments were worse than pointless as far as Martin was concerned. “If we allow them (the Commandments) any influence in our conscience, they become the cloak of all evil, heresies and blasphemies” (ref. Comm. ad Galat, p.310). 

One of Martin’s more startling beliefs had to do with “thou shalt not commit adultery.”  Martin once said, “Christ committed adultery first of all with the woman at the well about whom St. John tells us. Was not everybody about Him saying: ‘Whatever has He been doing with her?’ Secondly, with Mary Magdalen, and thirdly with the women taken in adultery whom He dismissed so lightly. Thus even, Christ who was so righteous, must have been guilty of fornication before He died.” (Ref. Tischreden, Weimer Edition, Vol. 2, Pg. 107.

Like I said, get a few beers in Him and the great reformer said some interesting stuff.  I bet you didn’t think people accused Jesus of sin until the current era. Guess again.  The current era is the fruit of the seeds that Martin Luther planted.

To be continued: More impolite and intolerant stuff about Luther.