Dave Armstrong vs. James Swan (Tertiumquid@msn.com)
James Swan, a Reformed seminary student who specializes in Luther research, has replied to my paper: Counter-Reply: Martin Luther's Mariology (Particularly the Immaculate Conception): Has Present-Day Protestantism Maintained the "Reformational" Heritage of Classical Protestant Mariology?, which was largely (but not solely) a reply to a paper of his: Reflections on Martin Luther's Theology of Mary. His huge second paper is entitled Luther's Theology of Mary: A Response to Dave Armstrong.
This paper is far too lengthy for me to respond to absolutely every point (it has 201 footnotes, many themselves quite long), and besides, I do not disagree with many of the statements and contentions in the paper , hence there is no particular reason to reply to portions with which I already concur. Thus, I will reply only to sections where I feel that my thought or some statement or other was misrepresented or misunderstood by Mr. Swan (which turned out to be quite numerous), and to areas where we would actually disagree, and/or where I feel I have some further relevant information or research to present. Readers can assume that I either agree with anything in Mr. Swan's paper that I haven't responded to below, or that I have no particular objection, or think it not worth spending time arguing about, or researching further.
Part of the dispute between us (as far as I can tell) has to do with what Mr. Swan thinks I am claiming with regard to Luther's Mariology (he exaggerates my claims and tries to make "rhetorical hay" out of some of them -- seemingly for apologetic and polemical purposes). Apart from his disturbingly frequent inadvertantly false portrayals of my own views, I commend Mr. Swan for an educational and interesting piece of research. As a student of Church history (I love history almost as much as theology -- especially the history of Christian doctrine), I always appreciate such in-depth work, particularly where Martin Luther is concerned, as I find him a fascinating figure on many levels.
Mr. Swan's words will be in blue. Words of mine from my previous paper or elsewhere will be indented and in a smaller font (the same font used in this introduction), in order to distinguish them from present replies. If I cite Mr. Swan's words from sources other than his latest paper above, they will also be indented and in the same smaller font, but in blue. That way, I need not always mention that it is an earlier comment of his. The indentations and different fonts will serve as a "code."
TABLE OF CONTENTS (hyper-linked)
2. "Hostility, "Ad Hominem," & the Notorious "BJ Bear"
3. My Supposed "Ever-Changing" Paper, "Extremities," and "Complexities"
4. Luther's Mariological Development and Qualifiers in My Viewpoint
5. Cardboard Caricatures of Medieval Marian Piety / St. Alphonsus de Liguori as a "Test Case" of Marian Excess
6. The Immaculate Conception and the Gospel According to James
7. Luther's Two Conceptions and the Confusion Created Therein
8. Scholarly Consensus on Luther and the Immaculate Conception
9. How Much Did the Immaculate Conception "Matter" to Martin Luther?
10. "Secondary" Doctrine and Luther's Extraordinary "Prophetic" Infallibility
11. Misconceptions of My Argument & Footnoting & Documentation Controversies
12. Hartmann Grisar, Bias in Historiography, and the "BEST" Protestant Material
13. Swan Song: 12 More Errors and Miscomprehensions
This paper is a response to the multiple versions of Dave Armstrong’s “Counter Reply: Martin Luther’s Mariology (Particularly the Immaculate Conception).”
The first version lasted only two days, and was modified after I discovered I had made a significant mistake, so the earlier versions are now irrelevant. My present Internet upload of the above paper is my final version and the one I now stand by. I shall comment more on this below, as Mr. Swan comments on now-obsolete statements of mine.
Currently, I have three different versions of Mr. Armstrong’s response to my paper, varying in layout and content.
The one above is the only relevant one.
Anyone familiar with Internet theological bulletin boards have at some point come across Roman Catholic criticism of Martin Luther. Fairly common topics include: . . . his alleged desire to be a Protestant pope, . . .
I have good reason to believe that Mr. Swan may be referring to my paper: Martin Luther the "Super-Pope" and de facto Infallibility: With Extensive Documentation From Luther's Own Words. This argument of mine is often misunderstood by Protestants, and the above characterization is misleading in its simplicity and how it will likely be interpreted. I refer readers to my paper above, to better understand how I approach the issue of Luther's self-anointed authority over against the papal authority which is always a large target of Protestant polemics. It is an instance of "turning the tables." But one must try to make a valiant effort to take off their "Protestant glasses" when reading the paper, lest it be misunderstood in both content and intent (as it often is in fact).
Interestingly though, when it comes to the topic of Mary, Roman Catholic sentiment towards Luther shifts considerably. Luther becomes the staunch supporter of Mary; a leader that all contemporary Protestants should learn a great lesson in Mariology from. This drastic shift is puzzling; particularly since Luther’s abandoning of the intercession of the saints and his doctrine of justification significantly changes his Marian approach.
I don't see why it should be "puzzling" at all. Luther's Mariology is much closer to the Mariology of Catholicism than that of Protestantism, even of his own branch of it: Lutheranism. This is what a Catholic finds interesting and of note. It's one of those fascinating tidbits of history that makes the study of history so enjoyable. Furthermore, it follows that if "going back to one's roots" and being a so-called "Reformation Protestant" are worthwhile endeavors (it is for many thoughtful, historically-conscious Protestants today), then I think it is significant that Protestantism has largely rejected the Mariology of Luther and other early Protestants (the shift with regard to the perpetual virginity of Mary is a particularly striking evolution of doctrine within Protestantism -- in most cases today a 180-degree reversal).
As for Luther's stance on intercession of the saints, I have already long since acknowledged that this is a difference from the Catholic view, but (in my opinion) not enough of a difference to make his Mariology closer in content to current Protestant Mariology than to Catholic Mariology.
My paper was not written for the intention of inviting Mr. Armstrong to debate. Rather, it was posted . . . for the broader Protestant Internet community. I understand why Mr. Armstrong would feel the need to respond, since I referenced his web page as an example of popular Roman Catholic approaches to Luther’s Mariology.
I was interested in the subject matter.
2. "Hostility, "Ad Hominem," & the Notorious "BJ Bear"
C. Hostility and Ad Hominem
In his initial response to my paper, Mr. Armstrong confused me with another person whom he dialogued with a few months ago. His response was quite offensive, regardless of whom he was critiquing.
This is highly interesting, in that Mr. Swan regards a simple case of mistaken identity as a breach of ethics or methodological flaw serious enough to devote a section of his paper to it and to go on and on as if this proves some terrible deficiency in my character or intellectual abilities. I also find it fascinating that he finds my response offensive, no matter who it was critiquing. This is a clear instance where context means everything. Unless one knows the original context, then one cannot properly judge the prima facie harshness of my words. Mr. Swan provided none, and so this becomes a classic exercise of giving only half the story, which amounts to a half-truth, which is not much better than a lie.
In his catalogue of my colorful "hostile" remarks, he mixes in some which were directed towards the other person whom I initially thought was him, with others directed toward the arguments of his first paper. The first category is no longer relevant; many of the comments of the second category were edited out when I myself considered them too harsh and uncharitable. But I guess this is not good enough for Mr. Swan. Rather than commend me for editing out overly-harsh remarks, he takes the opportunity to try to "prove" (or so it would seem) that I am a loose cannon who raves uncontrollably (in the vein of Luther himself). Somehow he seems to think that this proves something scandalous and unsavory in my case, but not in the case of Martin Luther, who say far worse things about far more people, and with far less warrant and justification.
The case of mistaken identity is easily explained. The person on whose website Mr. Swan's first paper appeared mentioned in his announcement ran across Mr. Swan on a discussion board where he was engaging in discussion with me, and allegedly revealing my "extremely poor research methods." I assumed that this was another person, who goes by the nickname "BJ Bear" (I still don't know this person's real name), because he was the one who accused me of incompetence in matters of citation and documentation, in a lengthy dialogue about some of Luther's statements about his own authority. Mr. Swan (as I recall) was also interjecting comments "on the sidelines" during that debate, but was not the main participant, by any means.
The confusion was strictly due to the annoying habit of many people on bulletin boards, of using nicknames only and not their real names. So James Swan was known to me only as "TertiumQuid" until I discovered his paper on Tim's website. I thought he was "BJ Bear" at first, but within a day or so he informed me that he was not. I promptly apologized and modified my paper accordingly. Yet Mr. Swan continues to talk about the earlier versions. The reader can decide for himself what his purpose is in doing this. I find it rather petty and unnecessary.
As for the other person, "BJ Bear," whom I described (in my first version of the paper) as “critical and overbearing,” and one who put forth much “tedious insulting material” -- this is all absolutely true. I think any fair-minded person who read my exchange with him on Luther would agree that his attitude left much to be desired. I was trying to discuss the import and meaning of a statement of Luther's, and instead, "BJ" turned the discussion into one long examination consisting of (as I described it) “snide insinuations of my alleged profound incompetence and dishonesty.” Unfortunately, I recently edited out his comments from the paper (the shorter version is now preserved in the Martin Luther the "Super-Pope" paper). I did not keep a back-up copy and it was too old to retrieve from the original bulletin board exchange (probably for the better, as the exchange was excruciatingly boring and tedious -- precisely why I edited it down). Mr. Swan, however, did cite a few of the comments in a public post. They give a good and representative flavor of the overall tone and tenor of "BJ Bear's" remarks:
Propaganda isn't as effective when specific references are given. The severe editing of the text in the original post and the following commentary betrays an incredible lack of understanding and/or deliberate bias. Using your style of citation and interpretation an atheist can easily prove that the Bible teaches there never was a god. Using your method it would go like this, "In the beginning ... There is no god ... You are gods."The entire discussion was about a quote in one of my papers that was from Luther. "BJ" complained that it deleted large portions of material that he found in the 55-volume version of the words under consideration in Luther's Works in English. He argued / insinuated that because I didn't include ellipses [i.e., . . . ], and because there were several pages of material in-between, that I was therefore incompetent and had not the slightest clue of how to document information.
I leave you with a definition and recommended reading.
Context: the parts of a written or spoken statement that precede or follow a specific word or passage, usually influencing its meaning or effect. Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
HowTo Read A Book, by Mortimer J. Adler. Glad to be of help in your acquisition of knowledge. I'm looking forward to reading an effective Roman Catholic apologetic argument.
Well, it turned out that the mistake was not mine at all, but, in fact, that of Will Durant, the noted historian and author of the well-known multi-volume Story of Civilization (from which I got my quote). As far as I can tell (though it is speculative), it turned on the fact that he was citing a German version of Luther's writings, which differed from the English version of that particular excerpt. I take it as uncontroversial that I, as a non-academic lay apologist, can cite a professional historian (Mr. Swan cites dozens of them in his latest paper, in the same fashion) and trust that he has checked out the primary sources, and so forth. Since Durant made this egregious mistake that "BJ Bear" made so much of, this only goes to show that either the German version of Luther's words was different (in which case it wouldn't be a "mistake" at all, but a case of differing versions) or that professional historians make mistakes in citation (which I already knew, as they are human beings like the rest of us).
But did this error (or differing translation) prove (following my opponent's convoluted reasoning) that Will Durant suffered from "an incredible lack of understanding and/or deliberate bias"? I think not. After I pointed these inconvenient facts out, "BJ Bear" understandably went rather silent (and, strangely, I have never heard from him since). His task was to embarrass me and show me up as an incompetent boob, not to do that to the secularist historian Will Durant (who wasn't exactly an "RC apologist")! The amusement of such folly and comic turn of events more than made up for the offensiveness of the false charge. Now, thanks to Mr. Swan's insistence on bringing up the "embarrassing" incident again, readers can make up their own mind as to who is failing to attain a certain level of "scholarly respectability" and refraining from "hostility and ad hominem."
He also seems to insinuate that since I am merely a “seminary student” I couldn’t possibly have an accurate opinion on Luther.
I did no such thing. One must read words in context, and once again Mr. Swan neglects it and so gives a most misleading impression. Mr. Swan is simply being overly-sensitive. Here is the context of the remark he refers to (emphasis added):
In light of the context of his entire paper, it is clear that Mr. Swan is skeptical of such a description of early Protestant views; he does not accept it. He neglects to inform the reader, however, that Pelikan himself (a far more authoritative voice on such matters than Mr. Swan, a seminary student) is not nearly so skeptical. I shall cite his statements from the same book. Mr. Pelikan noted the vigorous opposition of early Protestants to idolatry and excesses of the communion of saints -- as I did, in my article above -- (much of which was in full agreement with Catholic teaching, rightly-understood). But Pelikan maintains that that is not the entire picture ofMr. Swan needs to ponder the essential, profound logical difference between the following two propositions:
early Protestant Mariology:. . . it would be a mistake, and one which many interpretations of the Reformation both friendly and hostile have all too easily fallen, to emphasize these negative and polemical aspects of its Mariology at the expense of the positive place the Protestant Reformers assigned to her in their theology. (24) They repeated . . . the central content of the orthodox confession of the first five centuries of Christian history. (25)(Pelikan, ibid. [Mary Through The Ages, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996], 157)
1) A well-known and well-respected Church historian carries more authority when he gives his opinion on early Protestant Mariology, than a seminary student does.I (in effect) asserted the first proposition, as seen by the context of the "offensive" (?) remark, above. I did not assert the second at all, nor would I ever state it, and in fact, if I had stated such a silly, foolish thing, it would immediately backfire on me, since I have no formal theological education at all, and thus if I believed this I would have to stop writing about Luther myself. Furthermore, proposition one above is not only not insulting, it is (or should be) completely non-insulting and is, I think, self-evidently true. Yet Mr. Swan was somehow offended by it (??).
2) A seminary student couldn’t possibly have an accurate opinion on Luther, or his Mariology, or early Protestant Mariology.
His final comment was perhaps the most telling of his attitude toward my abilities:
As the inquirer gets deeper and deeper into the subject, many other more advanced treatments (including dialogues with educated, theologically-literate Protestants) can be found in my papers and links…This is an even more groundless charge and needless offense than the remark explained above. Mr. Swan completely misunderstands my statement and makes an unwarranted assumption (viz., that my words in the parentheses were somehow intended to be a subtle, belittling swipe at him, as if I was contrasting such a person to him). Nothing could be further from the truth. This came after a list of recommended papers of mine about Mary -- for readers who wanted to delve more deeply into the subject. All I was saying was that I have on my website many dialogues with educated Protestants (as opposed to uneducated ones). I seek out the best Protestant opponents I can find. That's all this meant. Period. Mr. Swan assumes rather a lot about my internal attitudes. He assumes falsely. And I sure hope this sort of "analysis" from him will cease if we dialogue in the future.
Thus we see that Mr. Swan's examples of my "hostility and ad hominem" include:
1) Some true remarks about another person (at first incorrectly directed towards Mr. Swan, for reasons explained) who falsely accused me of gross apologetic incompetence.Whatever else "personally offensive" that remains on my paper should be discussed in context, as well. Simply creating a laundry list of colorful critical remarks with absolute neglect of context will not do, and amounts to a wholesale distortion of my thought-processes, and an unseemly cynicism.
2) Remarks that I removed within two days, after self-reflection.
3) An example which was based (in proper context) on an utterly illogical conclusion that doesn't follow at all from the words I wrote.
4) An example of an utterly mistaken and overly-sensitive interpretation by Mr. Swan.
Nor will the reader find any slander against Mr. Armstrong in my original paper.
This is true. Nor have I slandered Mr. Swan. I am quite critical of some of his arguments and comments. But that is not slander. It is merely disagreement (even if expressed in colorful terminology -- which I have been known to do at times).
This situation was ‘somewhat’ rectified when I pointed out Armstrong’s error of misidentification. When he realized he was firing at the wrong target, Mr. Armstrong edited his response and toned down some of his hostile language. Some of the above comments are still contained in later versions of his paper.
They need to be read in context and discussed individually. I contend that no slander is present once my words are accurately interpreted.
3. My Supposed "Ever-Changing" Paper, "Extremities," and "Complexities"
Perhaps with the ever-changing nature of Mr. Armstrong’s web page response, we can expect to see further editing.
I find this very amusing. I uploaded the paper on April 24th. Upon learning that Mr. Swan was not "BJ Bear" I edited it two days later, also adding some new material and re-organizing it. It's called "editing." It's called "refining." A single change within two days somehow gets described as "ever-changing"?
Earlier versions of Mr. Armstrong’s response followed no apparent order. His response was filled with a fair amount of tangential material, sending the reader in a multitude of directions (directions worthy of study, yet tangential to my paper).
Again: who cares about earlier versions? Why even mention it now? This is precisely why I better-organized it, two days later. My paper is not simply a response to Mr. Swan's and nothing else. As is my usual custom, I often use dialogical opportunities as "springboards" to explore wider subject matter (what interests me and what I feel will be helpful to my website readers): in this case the Mariology of the early Protestants, generally-speaking. Thus, not everything in my paper is to be regarded as a "counter-response." This miscomprehension comes up often in Mr. Swan's paper.
It is my contention that Mr. Armstrong’s material on Luther’s theology of Mary reflects an extreme position: the great Reformer was primarily in agreement with Rome in both doctrine and practice, with only minor conflict.
I would say that my view and approach to this topic is more so the belief that Luther's Mariology is closer in content and spirit to Catholicism than to present-day Lutheranism (and far closer, compared to present-day Protestantism-in-general). In other words, I am examining its relative position between the two camps, not simply the Catholic camp. I fail to see how this position is extreme, in light of statements in my first paper such as the following from Protestants:
. . . the Churches that look back to the Reformers have on the whole been lessIt seems to me that I am not asserting much more than these Protestants. Is Mr. Swan prepared to call their view "extreme" too? I believe my contention here is rather obvious. Luther believed in some form of the Immaculate Conception. He believed in Mary's Assumption. He believed in her perpetual virginity. He freely called her "Mother of God" (Theotokos). He spoke of honoring her, and preached eighty Marian sermons. Most Protestants today deny the first three tenets outright, are reluctant to say "Mother of God" (usually due to Nestorian tendencies and a misunderstanding of what the term means, and how it historically developed), "honor" Mary (if at all), only at Christmastime or during sentimental moments while singing Silent Night, and preach and talk about her hardly at all (I don't recall ever hearing a Marian sermon in my 13 years as an evangelical Christian). Yet Mr. Swan would have us believe that my view is "extreme" in simply asserting that Luther's views are closer to Catholicism than Protestantism? It's a strange world . . .
affirmative about Mary than most of the Reformers themselves.
(Chosen by God: Mary in Evangelical Perspective, London: Marshall Pickering, 1989,
123 [David Wright])
Another Lutheran scholar, Basilea Schlink, believes that:. . . the majority of us have drifted away from the proper attitude towards her, which Martin Luther had indicated to us on the basis of Holy Scripture ...(Mary, the Mother of Jesus, London: Marshall Pickering, 1986, 114-115)
Elliot Miller, of the evangelical Christian Research Institute (founded by the eminent cult researcher, the late Dr. Walter Martin), confesses:. . . it is regrettably true that some Protestants—no doubt in reaction to Catholic excesses—have almost forgotten Mary . . .("The Mary of Roman Catholicism," Christian Research Journal, Summer 1990: 9-15; Fall 1990: 27-33; quote from p. 33)
Studying Luther is no easy task, and the studies of Luther throughout the past 500 years can sometimes be both help and hindrance.
I wholeheartedly concur. I don't deny that Luther's thought developed (Mr. Swan implies that I do deny that). But it is also true that he was contradictory (even beyond his characteristic rhetorical contrasts and exaggerations) and that his later years were less coherent (at least in expression) than his earlier years. I think all these things are true. This is Luther. He was complex and fascinating and often (from a Catholic dogmatic perspective) exasperatingly and stubbornly dead-wrong. Mr. Swan himself wrote on a Protestant bulletin board, on 4-24-03:
I am acutely aware of how difficult it is to present an accurate picture of Luther. Hence, I welcome any of you that take historical studies seriously to correct me where I miss the mark . . . Where Luther had warts, there is no need to cover them up. Where Luther did not have warts, shame on anyone who puts them there.Why is he being so hard on me, then, in describing my thesis on a complex question about a complex person as "extreme"? His descriptions are what are "extreme" here, not my views. I'm sure Mr. Swan knows a lot more about the details of Luther's thought and life than I do. My interest in Luther is only one of dozens of theological interests that I have and in which I engage in my work as an apologist. Mr. Swan can specialize. I don't have that luxury in my line of work. Yet I don't think this means I have offered no support for my opinions about the "contradictory" Luther. I cited Roland Bainton (author of probably the most well-known biography of Luther: Here I Stand), who showed that Luther developed, but was also "an irascible old man, petulant, peevish, unrestrained, and at times positively coarse.”
Likewise, in my paper about Luther's anti-Catholicism, I cited a scholar, Mark U. Edwards, Jr. (Protestant, I believe), and his book, Luther's Last Battles: Politics and Polemics, 1531-1546 (Ithaca, NY and London: Cornell University Press, 1983). Writing about Luther's work, Against the Papacy at Rome, Founded by the Devil (March 1545), Edwards states:
The last major polemic of Luther's life . . . was intended to inform Protestants of the true horror of the papal antichrist and to discredit the council convened at Trent . . . Without question it is the most intentionally violent and vulgar writing to come from Luther's pen.To see the above cartoon, go to my paper about Luther's anti-Catholicism (near the top). Roland Bainton describes this "art" (my quotation marks) as "outrageously vulgar . . . in all of this he was utterly unrestrained" (Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, New York: Mentor, 1950, 298).
Luther even commissioned Lucas Cranach to do a series of eight cartoons to give graphic expression to his evaluation of the papacy. He provided instructions for what the cartoons were to show and penned satirical verses to accompany them. The violence and vulgarity of the treatise carried over to the cartoons . . . And he continued:Next one should take the pope, cardinals, and whatever servants there are of his idolatry and papal holiness, and rip out their tongues at the roots (as blasphemers of God) and nail them on the gallows. . . Next, let them hold a council or whatever they want on the gallows or in hell.One of the cartoons depicts the pope and cardinals, and their tongues, being treated in just this brutal fashion . . . Another example, this one of the vulgarity with which Luther felt the papacy should be treated, came in his discussion of the keys . . . 'In addition, we may in good conscience,' he wrote, 'take his coat-of-arms, which features the keys, and his crown to the privy and use them to relieve our needs [and] afterwards throw them into the fire (it would be better if it were the pope himself).' The associated cartoon shows a peasant defecating into the papal tiara while two other peasants await their turn . . . A third cartoon shows the Pope and three cardinals being expelled from the anus of a female devil while three furies are nursing and caring for three infant popes. The cartoon was titled 'origin of the pope' and was a graphic echo of Luther's assertion in his treatise that the pope had been born from the devil's behind . . .
(pp. 189, 199)
4. Luther's Mariological Development and Qualifiers in My Viewpoint
Mr. Armstrong attempts to use O’Meara and Lortz to deny this growth and development.
My paper sees Luther as a gifted thinker whose theology grew and developed, rather than a man whose later years were plagued by incoherence and ravings.
I deny the first comment and agree with the first clause of the second comment. I think Luther's "incoherence and ravings" spanned his entire lifetime. The two are not mutually exclusive. As a serious theologian, his thought developed and expanded. The other aspect (second clause above) had mainly to do with his portrayal of Catholicism and Catholics. His caricatures of Catholic doctrine and practices became more outrageous and vulgar as he grew older. But that is a different thing from his own theology. So I say that both aspects are true. I need not deny either. It's a false dichotomy.
. . . I pointed out that “Luther did indeed have a Mariology.” Mr. Armstrong though seems to think I am denying that Luther (and the Reformers) had a Mariology.
No; I denied Mr. Swan's assertion that Luther's Mariology was closer to Protestantism than to Catholicism. That was my underlying thesis, and the one which Mr. Swan so strongly (but curiously and strangely) disavows. It is not the same statement as "denying that Luther . . . had a Mariology." It's a matter of degree rather than "existence vs. nonexistence." Mr. Swan apparently thinks I am special pleading and distorting the historical picture for Catholic polemical reasons. I need not distort anything. I think history clearly tells us (above and beyond scholarly disagreements on various details) that Luther and also the other early Protestant leaders were far more interested in and devoted to Mary than present-day Protestants. Mr. Swan can "work around the edges" of this truth but it won't change the fact.
This is a major charge against Mr. Armstrong’s response: throughout his paper he documents that Luther had a Mariology (as well as other early Reformers), but then fails to explore the content of that Mariology by citing and exploring the primary source writings of Luther. Mr. Armstrong infrequently cites Luther in his response, . . .
My main interest was in his view of the Immaculate Conception. Thus the subtitle: "Particularly the Immaculate Conception." I cited plenty of his own writings in that regard.
. . . and rarely interacts with the quotes of Luther I used. One would think he would have scoured contexts in order to prove my interpretation of Luther faulty. Such argumentation is missing from the bulk of his response.
Of course it is, because I agreed with most of these Luther quotes from Mr. Swan. How could I not? These were Luther's own words about his Mariology. That was not an area of disagreement. The same thing will apply to much of his present paper, when we get into Luther's words and scholarly appraisals of his Mariology. That Luther's Mariology was Christocentric and "non-dogmatic" and lacking the intercessory aspect is utterly uncontroversial. But Mr. Swan seems to think it is controversial to contend that Luther's Mariology is more akin to Catholicism than to present-day Protestantism. And that is why all the quotes from Protestants suggesting a view like mine were relevant to my purpose and argument (if not his), despite Mr. Swan's protests of their irrelevance. But Mr. Swan (though continuing to describe my view of the matter as "extreme") has softened his position a little bit in his second paper, stating:
There are similarities because both Rome and Luther have a Mariology, employ similar terms, and are aware of Christological teaching about Mary.It is the content and progress though of Luther’s Mariology that is the focal point of my paper.
I dealt with that somewhat (mostly within scholarly quotations, and mostly about the Immaculate Conception). Most of this will be uncontroversial, and I will have no comment because I accept it just as Mr. Swan does. His paper, in many respects, complements rather than contradicts my first paper and the present one.
Mr. Armstrong thinks that I incorrectly summarized his view of Luther’s Mariology when I said he drew a picture of Luther espousing a doctrine of Mary that reflects Roman Catholic theology, with little or no conflict with Luther’s Reformation ideals.
I was responding by taking into consideration the context of how you introduced (or prefaced) your remarks, which was as follows:
. . . A quick search for information about Martin Luther on the World Wide Web reveals that polemics against Luther remain frequent and high-pitched, as different groups create the villain they find in his writings. The basic elements of Luther’s thought are generally missing, distorting the man, his theology, . . . Others present a more “Catholic” Luther . . . Such is the case with Luther’s theology of Mary.Then the example of a statement from my website is offered. In context, the insinuation (at least as I interpreted it) is that I am offering a skewed, distorted picture and special pleading; making Luther out to be a "Catholic" in this regard, at the expense of his distinctively Protestant emphases. This is false. I simply present Luther as he was, as far as I can ascertain with the help of the historians. And, as I said, I offered several qualifications (about eight, as it were) where I contrasted Luther with the Catholic view. That doesn't sound "extreme" or like some sort of pre-planned "knee-jerk" reaction to me. Mr. Swan then denied that the Mariological situation in Protestantism had changed much:
By reading selected quotes [of] Luther, it does indeed appear that Protestantism has deviated from his veneration of Mary.He though would rather be thought to hold, “several nuanced [sic] qualifying remarks, contrasting Luther's Marian views with those of the Catholic Church.” The only qualifier he actually mentions is Luther’s rejection of the intercession and invocation of the saints.
This is simply untrue. In the very same context, following my words above, I wrote:
. . . Immaculate Conception . . . Concerning this question there is some dispute, over the technical aspects of medieval theories of conception and the soul, and whether or not Luther later changed his mind . . . . . . In later life (he died in 1546), Luther did not believe that this doctrine should be imposed on all believers, since he felt that the Bible didn't explicitly and formally teach it.Furthermore, in my citations of scholars concerning the Immaculate Conception, many disagreements are explored. So this is six or seven more qualifiers and contrasts. It's another frustrating instance of Mr. Swan not reading or understanding my words very well at all. And this was from my paper, Martin Luther's Devotion to Mary, which was cited by Mr. Swan in his first paper, and which was written in 1994! I hope this doesn't become a pattern: Mr. Swan reads something of mine about Mary; he goes on (despite reading it) to make a false claim about my understanding of Luther's Mariology. I quote portions of the same material again; he continues to make a false charge; I cite it a second time (now) . . . one wonders if three times reading it will cause him to stop misunderstanding my viewpoint? Why should I have to cite again in this paper what I already cited in the last one?
. . . he was highly critical of what he felt were excesses in the celebration of this Feast [of the Assumption].
Luther did strongly condemn any devotional practices which implied that Mary was in any way equal to our Lord or that she took anything away from His sole sufficiency as our Savior. This is, and always has been, the official teaching of the Catholic Church.
His attitude towards the use of the "Hail Mary" prayer (the first portion of the Rosary) is illustrative. In certain polemical utterances he appears to condemn its recitation altogether, but he is only forbidding a use of Marian devotions apart from heartfelt faith, . . .
Mr. Armstrong’s approach to Luther is an excellent example of the “drastic shift” I noted above. When Luther makes positive comments in regard to Mary, Luther is seen as a positive theological beacon that all Protestants should flock towards.
Here we go with the melodramatic words again. First, we had "extreme," now "drastic." My views are neither, as far as I am concerned. First of all, the argument at a deeper level is a comment on the internal dynamics of Protestantism, with regard to the relationship of current Protestants to their origins (perhaps this aspect was misunderstood -- my arguments against Protestantism often are, because Protestants are so completely unacquainted with such vigorous critiques and Catholic modes of thinking and argumentation are very foreign to them):
1) Luther founded Protestantism.Secondly, I don't see why it is somehow a questionable notion that Catholics would commend Luther when his views are similar or identical to theirs. After all, Protestants do this all the time in their polemics, the other way around. They will quote some Catholic or a Church Father whom they think sounds like a Protestant (St. Augustine is routinely utilized in this way). They will extoll him to the heavens. But when the same person speaks in some shockingly Catholic way (say, about purgatory or allegiance to the pope), then he is (rhetorically) cast off like a pair of dirty socks. Protestant histories of the early Church are often typified by this love-hate relationship with early Christians.
2) Many Protestants today are seeking to revisit, incorporate, or re-establish the "Reformation heritage."
3) Part of that heritage is Luther's Mariology, which is far more robust than present Protestant Mariology.
4) Protestants ought to ponder why this is, and consider that it may suggest that there is a bit more to Catholic distinctives than meets the eye, seeing that Luther's principle was sola Scriptura, not adherence to all dogmas of the Catholic Church.
Philip Schaff, in particular, comes to mind. He will often praise the "Protestant" elements of some Father and then immediately rail against the "Catholic" stuff that was widespread at the time -- to his obvious dismay and bewilderment. Schaff is quite opinionated, but he sticks to facts and tells it like it was, which is why I like him so much. When Luther is right, the Catholic will commend him! That this is an amazing, "drastic" phenomenon is "extremely" curious to me. It's just common sense. Truth is truth.
After spending time reading Armstrong’s articles about Luther, why should anyone believe Luther about anything?
Because the standard of truth is a separate entity from Luther. If he is right about something, then he is right, regardless of how wrong he is on many other points. This is elementary.
Why is it that when Luther speaks about Mary, anybody should listen?
Protestants should listen, because he is the founder of their system and highly respected by them. The more relevant question, in my mind, would be, "why should Protestants ignore Luther when he teaches about Mary, and why should they paternalistically dismiss his Mariology as, e.g., an unfortunate 'holdover' from the Catholicism that he only recently emerged out of?"
It is hard to take Mr. Armstrong’s views on Luther seriously.
One wonders, then, why such a huge paper (the longest direct response to my work that I have yet encountered) is devoted to them . . .
What Armstrong rips away with one hand (Luther as an authority: The great Reformer), he attempts to give back with the other (Luther as an authority: Protestant Mariology).
This is wrongheaded insofar as it misunderstands what I am trying to state and achieve in my argument (as I am trying to clarify throughout this paper). Secondly, Catholics oppose Luther, Calvin, and other Protestants only as far as they dissent from received Tradition. Where they agree with us, we rejoice. In other words, we oppose their heresy (from the perspective of Catholic orthodoxy).
Mr. Armstrong stayed away from denying my point that Luther’s Mariology was Christocentric.
It doesn't seem to occur to Mr. Swan that this was because I agree with his point! Of course, I also assert that Catholic Mariology is Christocentric. That was the point of it from the beginning: its development was always for the purpose of safeguarding the divinity of Jesus. This was especially true in the controversies with the Nestorians over the title Theotokos (Mother of God).
5. Cardboard Caricatures of Medieval Marian Piety / St. Alphonsus de Liguori as a "Test Case" of Marian Excess
In another place, Gritsch explains Luther’s Mariology is presented in the context of “a christocentric theology which Luther saw affirmed in apostolic and patristic thought, but no longer in the normative scholastic tradition of the medieval Western church.” This is a striking implication and indictment of the medieval church.
It certainly is, but I haven't seen anything to prove that this was indeed the case in the "normative scholastic tradition." I understand this is discussed in greater depth later in Mr. Swan's paper, so I'll see if he can "deliver the goods" then, in terms of some actual proof from definitive Catholic doctrinal statements [he did not].
In my description of the medieval climate and Luther’s own admission of partaking in Mariolatry (while a faithful son of the Catholic Church), Mr. Armstrong’s charges that I put forth a “Cardboard Caricatures of Medieval (and Orthodox Catholic) Marian Piety.”
Indeed I did, and rightly so, for Mr. Swan made absurd statements like the following:
Mary had taken the role of intercessor, co-redeemer, and had been elevated to the status of a “goddess” who would defeat Satan. She had become an idol. In the worship of idols, there is no salvation.What Mr. Armstrong fails to do in these criticisms is to put forth doctrinal standards of Marian piety within the Sixteenth Century to correct my (alleged) caricature.
Mary takes on the attributes of Christ and thus becomes an idol . . .
While Luther could call Mary the “Mother of God,” he was far more concerned to
say something about the work of God in Christ than about her, thus, he un-deified
her by definition. His usage was not intended to be a quasi-divine statement of
veneration similar to medieval or current Roman Catholic trends. When Luther
abandoned aspects of Mariology like the Immaculate Conception, it served to
further un-deify the goddess . . . making sure that Mary was not to be deified . . .
Her attributes were worshipped in order to gain her favor.
He saw that she had been adorned with attributes that only belonged to Christ.
That's not my task. Rather, it is Mr. Swan's task to show that any of these absurd claims can be demonstrated by official Catholic teaching. I say that they cannot. The burden of proof is on him, since he is making the charge. I'm not interested in doing a giant study on the Marian folk piety of the Middle Ages. But if Mr. Swan can show me some documentation that the Church ever taught the nonsense he describes above, then I would surely respond.
He cannot seriously be suggesting the latest version of the Catholic catechism was the doctrinal standard for Marian piety four hundred years ago, or for that matter the Second Vatican Council.
Development occurs, of course, but it has been a consistent development with regard to Mary. It was never taught that she was a "goddess" or an "idol" or that she was "deified" or "quasi-divine."
What he fails to document is whether sixteenth century elite Catholics knew what excessive Marian devotion was.
It's not my burden. If Mr. Swan thinks he has seen something suggesting this, then he needs to produce it and we can continue the discussion. I don't waste my time trying to disprove straw men. Mr. Swan needs to demonstrate his extraordinary claims with some solid documentation.
It seems apparent that many of the theologically educated of the sixteenth century participated in excessive Mariology and deviant piety.
By all means, then, I would like to see this "apparent" truth documented by citing official documents and orthodox Catholic theologians who taught the goofy stuff that is alleged by Mr. Swan. He cites in his Appendix C lengthy coments by Jaroslav Pelikan (then Lutheran, now Orthodox). It is obvious that Mr. Swan's main concern in with the notion of Mary Mediatrix, which he interprets (as far as I can tell) as involving making Mary a "goddess" or an "idol" or "deified" or "quasi-divine." Of course this is not true, and the subject is quite involved and deserving of its own in-depth treatment. This I have done on my website, in the following papers:
Several of these are of particular relevance to our present dispute. In the last paper, I have several sections devoted to extensive biblical evidences and analogies to Mary Mediatrix. The notion is not as utterly absent from Scripture as most Protestants assume:
A Biblical and Theological Primer on Mary Mediatrix Does Mary's Role as Mediatrix Contradict Jesus Christ as the Sole Mediator? / Response to a Catholic Critic Short Dialogue on Mary Mediatrix An Explanation and Defense of the Traditional Catholic Doctrine of Mary Mediatrix Mary as Mediatrix: The Patristic, Medieval, and Early Orthodox Evidence Does St. Alphonsus de Liguori, in The Glories of Mary, Teach That Mary is "Above God" and Can "Manipulate God"?: Corrections of Protestant Misunderstandings of Catholic Mariology (Dave Armstrong vs. Len Lisenbee) Mary as Mediatrix: Dialogues and Explanations
II. Biblical Evidence: Mary, Paul, and "Spirits" as Distributors of GraceIn my paper, Does St. Alphonsus de Liguori, in The Glories of Mary, Teach That Mary is "Above God" and Can "Manipulate God"?, I catalogued how this saint, in the very book which is considered by many to be the epitome of Catholic Mariological, supposedly "idolatrous" excess, made it very clear that he, too, was Christocentric (precisely the thing that Mr. Swan claims that even "educated" Catholics lacked till Martin Luther came along to set them straight). Now it is true that St. Alphonsus lived in the 18th century, yet he was perhaps the foremost (or most "notorious," depending on one's perspective) exponent of what many Protestants like Mr. Swan would see as an outrageous, blasphemous Mariology which supposedly raises the Blessed Virgin to a "goddess" or an "idol" or "deified" or "quasi-divine" state. Therefore, it is highly relevant and important to examine closely how he speaks about Jesus Christ, and the centrality of the Lord. I did this. Here are his own statements (all fully documented in the above paper):
III. Biblical Evidence: John 19:26-27, Revelation 12, and the Daughter of Zion: Mary as Spiritual Mother
IV. Biblical Evidence: Unilateral Atonement and Redemptive Suffering Among Christians as a Direct Analogy to Mary's Preeminent Role
1) "My most loving Redeemer and Lord Jesus Christ"I commented after this list:
2) "graces that I have received from God"
3) "his precious blood in which alone is our salvation, life, and resurrection."
4) "the plenitude of all grace which is in Christ as the Head, from which it flows, as from its source"
5) "God is the source of every good, and the absolute master of all graces"
6) "Mary is only a pure creature"
7) "Mary . . . receives whatever she obtains as a pure favor from God"
8) "Jesus Christ is the only Mediator of justice"
9) "by his merits he obtains us all graces and salvation"
10) " receiving all she obtains through Jesus Christ, . . . in the name of Jesus Christ"
11) ". . . all graces that have been, that are, and will be dispensed to men . . . through the merits of Christ"
12) " the mediation of Christ alone is absolutely necessary"
13) "Jesus . . . has supreme dominion over all, and also over Mary"
14) "a mediator, . . . his Son Jesus, who can obtain for thee all that thou desirest."
15) "He has given thee Jesus for a mediator; and what is there that such a son cannot obtain from the Father?"
16) "Jesus . . . having satisfied divine justice for them [our sins] by his death, he has already effaced them from your souls"
Does this sound like -- as Len believes -- the Catholic Church places Mary "above God," or that she "can manipulate God," or "can get things for Catholics from God that Jesus can't"? Hardly. The truth of the matter is plain to see. Len has gotten his facts wrong. He may believe -- based on his own Protestant theological and hermeneutical presuppositions (themselves not above all critique) -- that the notion of Mediatrix is thoroughly unbiblical, and in fact, untrue, but he can't prove that the Catholic system teaches it in such a way that God is lowered and Mary raised to a goddess-like status. That simply is not true, . . .I then proceeded to document more such statements from St. Alphonsus:
"Either pity me," will I say with the devout St. Anselm, "O my Jesus, and forgive me, and do thou pity me, my Mother Mary, by interceding for me" . . . my Jesus, forgive me; My Mother Mary, help me. (p. 79)
To understand why the holy Church makes us call Mary our life, we must know, that as the soul gives life to the body, so does divine grace give life to the soul; for a soul without grace has the name of being alive but is in truth dead, as it was said of one in the Apocalypse, Thou hast the name of being alive, and thou art dead. [Rev 3:1] Mary, then, in obtaining this grace for sinners by her intercession, thus restores them to life. (p. 80)
Most certainly God will not condemn those sinners who have recourse to Mary, and for whom she prays, since he himself commended them to her as her children. (p. 76)
. . . in us she beholds that which has been purchased at the price of the death of Jesus Christ . . . Mary well knows that her Son came into the world only to save us poor creatures . . . therefore Mary loves and protects them all. (pp. 60-61)
Thou, after God, must be my hope, my refuge, my love in this valley of tears. (pp. 55-56)
St. Augustine declares that "as she then co-operated by her love in the birth of the faithful to the life of grace, she became the spiritual Mother of all who are members of the one Head, Christ Jesus." (p. 49)
Jesus our Redeemer, with an excess of mercy and love, came to restore this life by his own death on the cross . . . by reconciling us with God he made himself the Father of souls in the law of grace . . . (p. 47)
Whoever places his confidence in a creature independently of God, he certainly is cursed by God; for God is the only source and dispenser of every good, and the creature without God is nothing, and can give nothing. But if our Lord has so disposed it, . . . that all graces should pass through Mary as by a channel of mercy, we not only can but ought to assert that she, by whose means we receive the divine graces, is truly our hope. (p. 174)
. . . not as if Mary was more powerful than her Son to save us, for we know that Jesus Christ is our only Saviour, and that he alone by his merits has obtained and obtains salvation for us . . . (p. 137)
The Eternal Word came from heaven on earth to seek for lost sheep, and to save them he became thy Son. And when one of them goes to thee to find Jesus, wilt thou despise it? The price of my salvation is already paid; my Saviour has already shed his blood, which suffices to save an infinity of worlds. This blood has only to be applied even to such a one as I am. And that is thy office, O Blessed Virgin. (pp. 140-141)
No one denies that Jesus Christ is our only mediator of justice, and that he by his merits has obtained our reconciliation with God . . . St. Bernard says, "Let us not imagine that we obscure the glory of the Son by the great praise we lavish on the mother; for the more she is honored, the greater is the glory of her Son." (p. 153)
St. Bonaventure: "As the moon, which stands between the sun and the earth, transmits to this latter whatever it receives from the former, so does Mary pour out upon us who are in this world the heavenly graces that she receives from the divine sun of justice" . . . it is our Lord, as in the head, from which the vital spirits (that is, divine help to obtain eternal salvation) flow into us, who are the members of the mystical body . . . (pp. 159-160)This is orthodox Catholic Mariology, from a very high authority: a Doctor of the Church. We see nothing of the "goddess" nonsense that Mr. Swan thinks is entailed in the notion of Mediatrix.
God has enriched thee with so great power . . . from all eternity God had determined by another decree that nothing that she asked should ever be refused to the divine Mother. (pp. 183-184)
The angelical Doctor St. Thomas [Aquinas] says [Summa Theologica 2. 2. q. 25, a.1, ad. 3], that we can place our hope in a person in two ways: as a principal cause, and as a mediate one. Those who hope for a favor from a king, hope it from him as lord; they hope for it from his minister or favorite as an intercessor. If the favor is granted, it comes primarily from the king, but it comes through the instrumentality of his favorite; and in this case he who seeks the favor is right in calling the intercessor his hope. The King of Heaven, being infinite goodness, desires in the highest degree to enrich us with his graces; but because confidence is requisite on our part, and in order to increase it in us, he has given us his own Mother to be our mother and advocate, and to her he has given all power to help us; and therefore he wills that we should repose our hope of salvation and of every blessing in her. Those who put their hopes in creatures alone, independently of God, as sinners do, and in order to obtain the friendship and favor of a man, fear not to outrage his divine Majesty, are most certainly cursed by God, as the prophet Jeremias says. (pp. 109-110; cf. p. 220)
. . . thy son Jesus Christ . . . has willed that thou also shouldst interest thyself with him, in order to obtain divine mercies for us. He has decreed that thy prayers should aid our salvation, and has made them so efficacious that they obtain all that they ask. To thee therefore, who art the hope of the miserable, do I, a wretched sinner, turn my eyes. I trust, O Lady, that in the first place through the merits of Jesus Christ, and then through thy intercession, I shall be saved . . . "Jesus is my only hope, and after Jesus the most Blessed Virgin Mary." (pp. 117-118)
. . . St. Augustine says, "that Mary, having merited to give flesh to the divine Word, and thus supply the price of our redemption, that we might be delivered from an eternal death; therefore is she more powerful than all others to help us to gain eternal life."
. . . St. Bonaventure, who, considering the great benefit conferred on us by our Lord in giving us Mary for our advocate, thus addresses her: "O truly immense and admirable goodness of our God, which has been pleased to grant thee, O sovereign Mother, to us miserable sinners for our advocate, in order that thou, by thy powerful intercession, mayest obtain all that thou pleasest for us." (pp. 188-189)
Later Graef discusses (canonized) Saint Ligouri . . .
Not to nitpick, but most saints (excepting those before the current formal selective process was developed, post-16th century) were canonized. Secondly, this saint is usually referred to as either St. Alphonsus, or St. Alphonsus de Liguori (just as Thomas Aquinas is referred to as St. Thomas or St. Thomas Aquinas, but rarely, "St. Aquinas"). And the spelling is "Liguori."
Furthermore, Jaroslav Pelikan, in a more recent book, cited St. Anselm with regard to the relationship of Christ as Mediator and Mary as Mediatrix:
The author of the most influential theological treatise ever written about Christ as Mediator, Why God Became Man, Anselm of Canterbury at the end of the eleventh century, also wrote a treatise On the Virginal Conception and on Original Sin, as well as fervent prayers addressed to the Virgin as Mediatrix. As Anselm himself pointed out, the two treatises were closely connected, because consideration of Christ the Mediator provoked the question of "how it was that God assumed a man from the sinful mass of the human race without sin," which was also a question about Mary.Pelikan further comments, three pages later:
(Mary Through the Centuries, New Haven, CN: Yale University Press, 1996, 129-130)
The countervailing force against what the Protestant Reformation was to construe as Mariolatry and as a diminution of the glory of Christ, the sole Mediator, was the recognition that she had been "exalted through thy omnipotent Son, for the sake of thy glorious Son, by thy blessed Son," as Anselm put it in one of his prayers. It was, moreover, a consensus that Mary had been saved by Christ, a consensus that had a decisive effect on the eventual formulation of the Western doctrine that by her immaculate conception she had been the great exception to the universality of original sin.Mr. Armstrong shares the same confusion as O’Meara. For Armstrong though, Luther becomes the champion of Marian piety, correcting medieval excess. Armstrong fails to connect Luther’s autobiographical admissions of Mariolatry with his theological reform.
So Luther was an idolater . . . the fact that he was formerly ignorant of orthodox Catholic Mariology does not mean that everyone else was, and that the Church officially declared Mary as a "goddess," etc. This was not the last time that a theologically-ignorant Catholic converted to Protestantism and then fought against the errors in his own past, as if they were doctrinal Catholic errors.
D. Armstrong’s Luther ascribes to Vatican II?
. . . I do not think Mr. Armstrong can harmonize Vatican II and Luther.
This is a non sequitur and based on more fallacious reasoning, since all I claimed in this regard was the following:
. . . he also strongly criticized excesses in Marian devotion, just as Catholics also do; particularly in Vatican II.To suggest that Luther’s “veneration” of Mary is nothing but Catholicism properly understood is mistaken.
Of course it is, and I have never stated this (in fact, I have always expressly denied it, since I've always recognized that Luther ditched intercession of the saints which is part and parcel of Catholic veneration). Mr. Swan quotes my words more than once, from which he makes another of his false deductions that are becoming oddly commonplace in his writing, where I am concerned. I wrote that Luther:
. . . didn't feel compelled to create the absolute (and quite unbiblical) silly dichotomy that characterizes present-day Reformed thought and much of Protestantism, generally-speaking -- where no creature can ever be given honor, lest this immediately be an assault upon God and idolatry.This remains true, despite Mr. Swan's efforts to make me say something I did not say. Note his lack of coherent logic in this instance, where he is, in effect, equating the following two propositions. The first is what I actually asserted. The second is what he wrongly thinks I asserted, as "deduced" from the same words above:
1) Luther didn't believe that no creature can ever be given honor, lest the one giving it fall into idolatry.Read in context, my argument had much more to do with Luther's dissimilarity with present-day Protestantism (especially the Reformed variety) than with similarity to Catholicism. I stated that he rejected the common Protestant dichotomies.
2) Luther's notion of veneration is essentially the same as that in Catholicism ("nothing but Catholicism").
I would be curious to see how Mr. Armstrong comes down on this issue, . . . Ligouri [sic] taught it and was canonized.
St. Alphonsus' thought must be balanced by proper consideration of the many Christocentric thoughts that he offered, as I have compiled above.
On what basis did those in the Sixteenth Century decide the orthodoxy of this doctrine? Admitting that it is not current Catholic doctrine does not help those in previous centuries who embraced it.
By the simple fact that Jesus is Savior as well as Judge (Mary is neither, since she is not God); also by the clear biblical teaching of universal atonement (Jesus died for all men), which shows Jesus' mercy well enough. But Calvinists like Mr. Swan reject universal atonement, so I suppose their Jesus is less merciful than the Catholic Jesus, in which case his criticisms would perhaps be better directed towards his own camp, as it persists in this error to this day.
By the Twentieth Century, one finds the Mother of God praised for her sacrifices and attributes, rather than Christ’s. The original understanding has been reversed: Mariological, not Christological. As an example, note the encyclical of Pope Pius XII from 1954. The following excerpts emphasize the greatness of the Mother of God and her role, rather than Christ:
Ad Caeli Reginam (On Proclaiming the Queenship of Mary; 11 October 1954), was (obviously) primarily about Mary (in terms of subject matter), not Jesus. It is unreasonable to expect a person to always talk about related ideas (even closely-related ideas). To use an analogy that Mr. Swan could relate to as a Protestant (Calvinist): must sanctification always be discussed when justification is discussed? No (most Protestants assert the necessity of sanctification, but consider it as a distinct category from justification). Must limited atonement always be discussed when perseverance of the saints is discussed? No, though all Calvinists believe in TULIP (the acronym of five principles that they adhere to). For that matter, must the Father always be discussed when Jesus the Son is discussed? No, of course not.
One is not obliged to always discuss everything at once. It does not follow, furthermore, that to not emphasize one thing in talking about another, proves that the first thing is disbelieved or considered unimportant. This is simply the rampant Protestant dichotomous mindset. It is not a logical deduction from the fact that Pius XII wrote an encyclical about the Queenship of Mary, where he mentioned Mary more than Jesus. What does Mr. Swan expect?: that every time a Catholic mentions Mary, he has to include a footnote: "and I must emphasize the fact that we believe Jesus is Lord and that He is far above Mary in the scheme of things"? Certain things are regarded as givens and need not always be mentioned. This is also true in science, history, philosophy, and pretty much any field of study.
Mr. Swan's remaining section on Luther's use of the term Mother of God suffers from gratuitous assumptions of what Catholics mean when they use the term. To consider these thoughts would require another discussion and take us far afield. My main point was simply that Luther used the term, whereas many Protestants today seem most reluctant to. And that is because Luther understood the patristic sense of the term. Mr. Swan, however, accepts the illusion that the Catholic understanding of Theotokos is somehow different from the patristic conception.
In his footnote 60, Mr. Swan cites Protestant historian, Heiko Oberman: "The warm praise which Luther has for the Mother of God throughout his life, his last sermon on 17 January 1546 included, is not based upon the great qualities of Mary herself but upon the grace granted to her." Precisely! Of course it is all grace. This is exactly why Catholics are fond of saying things like "Hail Mary, full of grace" (Luke 1:28). The Immaculate Conception is nothing, if not total grace. How could, after all, Mary have participated in an act which was applied to her at her very conception? So the notion many Protestants have: that Catholics are attributing to Mary intrinsic qualities that somehow exist apart from the sheer grace of God, is preposterous.
It is true that we highly honor her for her obedience, but so what?, given the fact that in Hebrews 11, many saints are honored for what they did "in faith." Does this mean that they, too, somehow did their righteous deeds apart from God's grace? No, of course not. The same applies to Mary. All that she was, was due to God. She cooperated, but the very cooperation is entirely enabled by God. Mary's glory is that she "did not not cooperate" (not cooperating with God was Eve's mistake). But Mr. Swan shows only a dim understanding of all this, as indicated in ludicrous statements like:
Mary was the fourteen-year-old girl that God came to (as a gentleman) and asked her permission to save the world.What he neglects to realize is that God knows in His providence how any person whom He chooses to involve in His plans will respond. Thus, His providence or sovereignty is not dependent upon that response, as Mr. Swan seems to imply that Catholics believe. This is a non-issue. But Calvinists cannot comprehend anyone working with God in a secondary function, entirely enabled by Him to do so. That is really the bottom line. One must understand theological presuppositions, which cause one to view Mariology in a certain way.
This is illustrated superbly in Mr. Swan's footnote 69, which cited Vatican II:
“The Father of mercies willed that the Incarnation should be preceded by assent on the part of the predestined mother, so that just as a woman had a share in bringing about death, so also a woman should contribute to life. This is preeminently true of the Mother of Jesus, who gave to the world the Life that renews all things, and who was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.”Mr. Swan provided the bolded words, because, for him, this assent of Mary is a scandal. For the Calvinist, such "assent" and "free cooperation" is impossible, due to their notions of "irresistible grace" and "unconditional election." For them, whomever God grants His grace cannot resist it. So the categories above are meaningless and/or impossible for the Calvinist. But for Catholics, assent and predestination exist together in paradox (as in the first paragraph above): God causes, but man still cooperates, and gets credit for that cooperation insofar as he could have chosen not to do so. Man is free, and he has a free will, so that he can freely follow God, not just follow because he cannot resist when God calls him.
“Rightly, therefore, the Fathers see Mary not merely as passively engaged by God, but as freely cooperating in the work of man's salvation through faith and obedience. For, as St. Irenaeus says, she "being obedient, became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race.”
In any event, we see how Mr. Swan's Calvinist premises affect his reasoning concerning Mary. One must take a step back and reveal the falsehood and unbiblical nature of these Calvinist notions, but that is beyond our purview here.
6. The Immaculate Conception and the Gospel According to James
V. The Immaculate Conception
A. Historical Documentation
The bulk of Mr. Armstrong’s response was in regard to the Immaculate Conception. I can only speculate the reason being is similar to that of other Catholic apologists: some argue that the Immaculate Conception is part of the very gospel of Jesus Christ.
The reason was described above. Mainly, it is simply an interesting historical study. As for the gospel, this depends on how it is defined. Strictly speaking, the Bible is clear on what the gospel is, and it seems to me that Protestants (if consistent) would want to rely on the Bible for their own definition of it. I shall cite several non-Catholic reference books as to its definition:
Greek-English Lexicon of
the New Testament, Joseph H. Thayer (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book
House, 1901, 257):
term comprises the preaching of (concerning) Jesus Christ as having suffered
death on the cross to procure eternal salvation for men in the kingdom of God, but as
restored to life and exalted to the right hand of God in heaven . . . it may be more
briefly defined as 'the glad tidings of salvation through Christ; the proclamation of
the grace of God manifested and pledged in Christ.' (Rom. 1:16; 10:16; 11:28; I Cor.
4:15; II Cor. 8:18; Gal. 2:2; Eph. 3:6; Phil. 1:5, etc.).
New Bible Dictionary, Ed. J.D. Douglas (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1962, 484):
gospel is the good news that God in Jesus Christ has fulfilled His promises
Israel, and that a way of salvation has been opened to all . . . The use of 'Gospels'
as a designation of the first four books of the N.T. is post-biblical (2nd century A.
The New International Dictionary
of the Christian Church, general editor: J.D. Douglas (Grand
Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 1974, 424):
message of God's redemption in Jesus Christ, which lies at the heart of
and the church's faith. In the NT it is, first, the proclamation by Jesus that the
kingdom has drawn near and, then, the proclamation by His disciples that in His life,
death, and resurrection the kingdom has been established and that salvation and
forgiveness are offered to all who believe.
The trouble is that Mr. Swan does not accept the biblical definition of gospel (as one would expect a Protestant who goes by the formal principle of sola Scriptura to do). He wants to bring in the "man's tradition" of Calvinism and hold that the gospel is actually not the Good News of the Redemption of Jesus Christ (see, e.g., Catechism of he Catholic Church, #571), but rather, the technical theological construct of Calvinist soteriology, or (briefly summarized), TULIP. This is simply not biblical, and it leads to absurdities, for Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants all fully concur as to the facts recounted in the above three definitions. But since Mr. Swan falsely defines the gospel, he is led to the ludicrous position that the Catholic and Calvinist gospels are different. He has stated this in public forums:
I think you misunderstand the gospel in the protestant mind. With the sacraments in Lutheranism, they are not the way one in which one aquires righteousness for eventual salvation. Hence, it would be possible for the Lutheran to believe in a form of the "real presense" and still not deny the gospel, like Rome does. . . . One is saved by faith alone.CARM
. . . Now in my case, I knowingly teach a different gospel than Rome.CARM
I know what Rome teaches, and I deliberately undermine Rome by "preaching" a different gospel than the Roman Catholic Church.CARM
What Mr. Armstrong fails to realize is that my paper was not a complete discussion of the development of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception.
This again illustrates that Mr. Swan fails to comprehend that my paper -- while a reply to his in large part -- is its own entity, where I explore issues that I find to be of interest. I am not bound to what Mr. Swan desires for me to research and write, according to his own criteria of the moment.
Mr. Swan proceeds to make a rather silly, non sequitur argument, writing, "Mr. Armstrong entertains tangents," and "I can only speculate his intention was an attempt to make me look incompetent," and "Armstrong needs to defend his Church’s dogma: the 1854 Immaculate Conception." Ironically, then, in his attempt to criticize me for engaging "tangents," and straying from the subject of his paper, he implies that I ought to do a full-scale defense of the Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception (which indeed I have done elsewhere, in several papers and book chapters), as if that had anything to do with the purely historical question of what Luther believed with regard to Mary and (particularly) the Immaculate Conception.
I have no desire to debate this issue. The theological development of the Immaculate Conception is far removed from the topic of my paper.
Nor do I; not in this context. So, alas, Mr. Swan and I agree on something. He then excuses me "for raising a number of irrelevant tangents and straw men." Likewise, I return this gracious thoughtfulness by excusing him for his non sequiturs, misunderstanding as to the purpose and scope of my paper, and his straw men of what he thinks are Catholic positions.
. . . my paper had only a brief discussion of Luther’s Position on the Immaculate Conception. My primary point was to note Luther shifted the emphasis from the mother to the Messiah.
That's not at issue between us; however, it doesn't necessarily follow from this that he thereby denied that Mary was immaculately conceived. The majority of scholars who have studied that particular issue affirmed that he did believe this his entire life. And that was the central subject of my paper.
Rather than discussing Mary’s sinlessness, Luther insisted Christ’s sinlessness was due entirely to the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit during conception.
If indeed Luther stated this, it is virtually blasphemous. Jesus' sinlessness is not "due entirely" to His Virgin Birth but "due entirely" to the fact that He is God and thus incapable of sinning, by nature. The contrary assertion is quasi-Nestorianism.
I hold that Luther abandoned this earlier position [on the Immaculate Conception].
Mr. Swan can hold any position he likes, but I showed in my previous paper how many Protestant scholars do not take this view. I am inclined to go with the scholars, rather than with Mr. Swan, just as I would give such scholarly consensus (or near-consensus) much more weight than my own opinion.
7. Luther's Two Conceptions and the Confusion Created Therein
C. massa imperdita
. . . From Armstrong’s further comments, it’s hard to tell whether he even understands the issue. What Armstrong overlooks from his 21st Century theological perspective is that this issue was debated during the centuries previous to Luther during the development of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, and is a factor in understanding Luther’s perspective.
I didn't deny that the issue was debated, so these comments are yet another non sequitur. Rather, I asserted that “the notion of a 'pure strain through the centuries' was never Catholic official teaching," which is a far different proposition ("official" meaning dogmatic, conciliar, papal, magisterial teaching).
I’m not sure how Armstrong determined I engaged in heretical reasoning, since I have not put forth any of my own opinions on the Immaculate Conception.
Mr. Swan has done so publicly, elsewhere:
TertiumQuid Thu Jun-12-03 05:50 PMCARM Catholic Discussion Board
#51318, "RE: Yes I do."
In response to Reply #2
. . . I actively teach that the immaculate conception is false. Just taught it this past Sunday to a group of about 30 adults.
Just so the reader is clear where he stands (if it weren't already obvious) . . . Arguably, this position might tend to create a bit of bias in Mr. Swan against Luther holding the view; hence perhaps this partially accounts for his opinion that Luther minimized it and then abandoned it. But his is not the only view -- by any means -- of scholars most acquainted with Luther's Mariology. As a Catholic, on the other hand, what Luther believes on this or any other issue is not a direct concern of mine: he isn't the founder of my branch of Christianity. Therefore, his views are merely interesting for historical discussion and speculation.
Mr. Swan cites Luther at length, and claims that:
. . . Luther uses this opportunity deny any notion that Mary was purified at her conception. Rather she was purified at the conception of Christ.These comments are from his Genesis Commentary, toward the end of his life in 1544:Mr. Swan apparently thinks this is some sort of knockout punch to my assertion (in agreement with many Protestant scholars) that Luther held to some form of the Immaculate Conception his entire life. But he neglects to see that I have already answered this sort of reasoning. It seems that I have to so often cite my words and those I have quoted at least twice before Mr. Swan will realize what, in fact, I have argued (emphases added this time):. . . Christ was truly born from true and natural flesh and human blood which was corrupted by original sin in Adam, but in such a way that it could be healed. Thus we, who are encompassed by sinful flesh, believe and hope that on the day of our redemption the flesh will be purged of and separated from all infirmities, from death, and from disgrace; for sin and death are separable evils. Accordingly, when it came to the Virgin and that drop of virginal blood, what the angel said was fulfilled: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and overshadow you”. To be sure, the Messiah was not born by the power of flesh and blood, as is stated in John 1:13: “Not of blood nor of the will of a man, etc.”? ? Nevertheless, He wanted to be born from the mass of the flesh and from that corrupted blood. But in the moment of the Virgin’s conception the Holy Spirit purged and sanctified the sinful mass and wiped out the poison of the devil and death, which is sin. Although death remained in that flesh on our account, the leaven of sin was nevertheless purged out, and it became the purest flesh, purified by the Holy Spirit and united with the divine nature in one Person. Therefore it is truly human nature no different from what it is in us. And Christ is the Son of Adam and of his seed and flesh, but, as has been stated, with the Holy Spirit overshadowing it, active in it, and purging it, in order that it might be fit for this most innocent conception and the pure and holy birth by which we were to be purged and freed from sin. Therefore these things are written for Christ’s sake. The Holy Spirit wanted Him to sink into sin as deeply as possible. Consequently, He had to be besmirched with incest and born from incestuous blood.. . . Christ wanted his beginning to be like ours, but without sin, because he wanted to sanctify us wholly. We begin life in sin, we are conceived in sin, born in sin, no matter whether we be emperor, king, prince, rich, or poor; every human being is conceived in sin according to Psalm 51:5. Only Christ has the distinction and the honor to have been conceived by the Holy Ghost's power. Since from our conception we are sinful, we are people whose flesh and blood and everything about us are soiled by sin, as indeed we see in ourselves; or when we look at those around us in the world, beset by evil desire, pride, multiple devils, and miserable unbelief. Thus we are conceived and born. For all of mankind is conceived and born in accord with creation's decree, as recorded (Gen. 1:28): "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth." Christ could not be subject to such impure sinful conception and birth. He, indeed, was a genuinely true, natural human being, but not conceived or born in sin as all other descendants of Adam. That is why his mother had to be a virgin whom no man had touched, so that he would not be born under the curse, but rather conceived and born without sin, so that the devil had no right or power over him. Only the Holy Spirit was present to bring about the conception in her virgin body. Mother Mary, like us, was born in sin of sinful parents, but the Holy Spirit covered her, sanctified and purified her so that this child was born of flesh and blood, but not with sinful flesh and blood. The Holy Spirit permitted the Virgin Mary to remain a true, natural human being of flesh and blood, just as we. However, he warded off sin from her flesh and blood so that she became the mother of a pure child, not poisoned by sin as we are.
[footnote 81: LW 7:13]
[footnote 82: Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, Vol. 3, ed. John Nicholas Lenker. ( Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996), 291]
William J. Cole, in his influential article, "Was Luther a Devotee of Mary?" (see above), picks up an important and relevant point . . .: one plausible theory about the interpretation of Luther's seemingly contradictory remarks about the Immaculate Conception (pp. 121-123):Further down, Mr. Swan acknowledges that Cole's research is worthwhile, in the context of discussing:The objections brought up against Luther's retention of belief in the Immaculate Conception can usually be solved by the distinction he repeated so many times between the active and passive conceptions on the one hand and the inchoative and perfect passive conception on the other. The active conception, i.e., the generative act on the part of the parents, to which corresponded the beginning or inchoative passive conception on the part of the offspring, interested Luther only inasmuch as he thought along with Augustine that it is by this means that original sin is transmitted. For him this is only the physical conception, i.e., of the body before the animation or the infusion of the soul. Although for moderns, it is difficult even to speak of the body's being the subject of sin apart from the soul, Luther apparently saw no difficulty in attributing original sin to Mary, but not to Christ, in this sense. [cf. WA 4, 693; 10 (3), 331; 46, 136; 47, 860] But with regard to the infusion of the soul in the perfect passive conception, in which the person comes into being, Luther would not admit any original sin in Mary.
. . . the necessary distinctions between the 1854 dogma, and other types of views. Quite frankly, the only studies that Armstrong utilized that were worthy of discussing this topic were O’Meara’s and Cole’s.But I also cited Lutheran scholar Eric W. Gritsch:
Luther . . . regarded her Immaculate Conception as "a pious and pleasing thought" that should not, however, be imposed on the faithful.Other similar examples can be consulted in my previous paper. Why repeat everything?
(in The One Mediator, the Saints, and Mary, Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VIII, edited by H. George Anderson, J. Francis Stafford, Joseph A. Burgess, Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Press, 1992, p. 241)
[footnote 43; p. 382: "'Haec pia cogitatio et placet.' Exposition of the Ninth Chapter of Isaiah, 1543/44. WA 40/3:680.31-32. Two scholars doubt whether Luther affirmed the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary: Preuss (n. 11 above came to the conclusion that Luther rejected the doctrine after 1528; O'Meara states that "it is likely, but not certain" that Luther rejected the doctrine (118 [n. 11 above]). But Tappolet (32 [n. 1 above]) demonstrated with the use of texts that Luther did not change his mind. The literary evidence from Luther's works clearly supports the view that Luther affirmed the doctrine, but did not consider it necessary to impose it."]
One can see from the context, Armstrong is mistaken.
One can see, by presenting my citations from both Catholic and Lutheran scholars -- now for the second time --, that Mr. Swan's view is contrary not only to my opinion, but (much more importantly) to theirs.
A careful reading will not support an 1854 version of the Immaculate Conception, thus Luther did not hold a lifelong commitment to the Roman Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception.
Of course, I did not assert that (if Mr. Swan or any reader mistakenly thinks I did). I asserted that he held to some form of it, and that some scholars (i.e., Schimmelpfennig, a Catholic, and Algermissen and Heiler, Lutherans) believe he held to the Immaculate Conception as described in the 1854 Catholic dogma throughout his entire life.
Nor will this quote support any concept of the Immaculate Conception in which Mary was purified at her conception. One will note from the quote above, Mary’s conception is never mentioned.
It's true that Mary's conception is not mentioned. But on the other hand, because Mr. Swan does not seem to understand Luther's view of the two conceptions (one of body and blood; the other of the soul), he sees contradictions here where there probably are none (though with Luther, certainly contradiction is always a distinct possibility).
At one point Armstrong offers his own commentary and quote to substantiate Luther’s lifelong commitment to the Roman Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception:
Again, Mr. Swan is claiming that I asserted something which I never asserted or argued. Quite the contrary:
His views of Mary as Mother of God and as ever-Virgin were identical to those in Catholicism, and his opinions on the Immaculate Conception, Mary's "Spiritual Motherhood" and the use of the "Hail Mary" were substantially the same.Mr. Swan criticizes my citation of Luther's Mariological statement, from Against the Roman Papacy: An Institution of the Devil, (1545):
I have not discovered a single scholar who treats this subject who denies that the early Luther believed in the Immaculate Conception in some form.
It is obvious from the context that Luther’s statement on Mary is highly rhetorical and sarcastic . . . Using this reference to substantiate Luther’s lifelong commitment to the Roman Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception is quite a stretch.
Note again the false portrayal of what I was arguing . . .
Mr. Armstrong needs to pay closer attention to context. Simply looking for a phrase that seems to say what he wants to prove is not cogent argumentation.
The only problem is that William Cole draws the same conclusion, citing this passage. Cole wrote one of the most extensive and widely-cited articles about Luther's Mariology, and even Mr. Swan speaks highly of him:
O’Meara’s brief study is one of the better historical inquiries of Luther’s Mariology from a Roman Catholic perspective, if only because of expanded content (usually missing from any examination of this issue, Cole excluded).So if I am to be severely criticized for using this quote, all I am asking is that Mr. Swan also go after the scholar from whom I discovered this particular argument. I agree that the source is probably the weakest one I provided for my argument, but I am not convinced that it loses all force whatsoever because it occurs in a sarcastic context.
8. Scholarly Consensus on Luther and the Immaculate Conception
The primary argument that Mr. Armstrong utilizes to prove Luther’s lifelong commitment to the Immaculate Conception is scholarly consensus . . . The primary error with Armstrong’s list is that he doesn’t distinguish between all those scholars who deny Luther held to an 1854 dogma of the Immaculate Conception from [sic] those who do. Hilda Graef, Walter Tappolet, and Max Thurian deny Luther held a lifelong commitment to the 1854 dogma of the Immaculate Conception.
This (overall paragraph) is untrue, and obviously so, as I made the following summary (note the last three: the only scholars whom I claimed believed that Luther held to the 1854 dogma):
I shall list the scholars from least convinced about the later Luther to most convinced: even to the point where it is thought his view was identical to that of the Catholic dogma proclaimed ex cathedra in 1854:Jaroslav Pelikan never gave his opinion in the works Armstrong cited.1. Hartmann Grisar (Catholic): Luther rejected the Immaculate Conception after 1528 or so.
2. Horst-Dietrich Preuss (Lutheran): Luther rejected the Immaculate Conception after 1528 or so.
3. Thomas A. O'Meara (C): later rejection "likely, but not certain."
4. Hilda Graef (C): probably accepted, but in somewhat diluted form.
5. Arthur Carl Piepkorn (L): "life-long" accceptance "(barring two lapses)."
6. Walter Tappolet (C): accepted (yes).
7. Max Thurian (Reformed): yes.
8. William J. Cole (C): yes.
9. Eric W. Gritsch (L): yes.
10. Jaroslav Pelikan (L): yes.
11. Richard Marius (probably Protestant of some sort): yes.
12. 10 Catholic scholars on the Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue Committee (C): yes.
13. 11 Lutheran scholars on the Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue Committee (L): yes.
14. Reintraud Schimmelpfennig (C): yes, in the same sense as the infallible Catholic dogma proclaimed in 1854.
15. K. Algermissen (L): yes, in the same sense as the infallible Catholic dogma proclaimed in 1854.
16. Friedrich Heiler (L): yes, in the same sense as the infallible Catholic dogma proclaimed in 1854.
This is a false statement as well, as I documented:
A few pages later, Gritsch notes about recent Lutheran opinion on the Immaculate Conception and Luther's espousal of it:Arthur Piepkorn says that he “seems” to have held to a lifelong belief in the Immaculate Conception, but does not specify what that means. Richard Marius uses similar vague language to Piepkorn, and likewise gives no analysis at how he arrived at his conclusion. “Seems” is not a definite way of speaking, and its no wonder neither of these men provide analysis of the topic.Jaroslav Pelikan and Arthur Carl Piepkorn may well represent the reaction of contemporary ecumenically committed Lutherans toward this dogma. Pelikan viewed the dogma as the completion of "the chain of reasoning begun by the surmise that the sinlessness of Jesus . . . depends upon His being free of the taint that comes from having two parents. Now Mary may conceive immaculately because she herself has been conceived immaculately."
[footnote 77; p. 384: "The Riddle of Roman Catholicism (New York and Nashville: Abington, 1959), 131-21."]
([in The One Mediator, the Saints, and Mary, Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VIII, edited by H. George Anderson, J. Francis Stafford, Joseph A. Burgess, Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Press, 1992], p. 246)
I see, so we must, then, accept Mr. Swan's word on this question over against one of the most prominent Lutheran scholars and translators of Luther's works, and a recent major Luther biographer? Very interesting . . . "Seems" is a scholarly way of speaking, free from the excessive, insufficiently-proven dogmatisms of Mr. Swan's way of expressing himself. As for a lack of "analysis," I only note that Mr. Swan has passed over the analysis of Luther's notion of two conceptions, which is crucial to the topic and in understanding Luther's view. Perhaps he does treat that aspect below [he did not, I later discovered], but if so, he has inexcusably neglected to mention it in the context where it was extremely relevant.
Reintraud Schimmelpfennig study is said to be in error by Tappolet and Graef.
Scholars disagree with each other! Another astounding revelation from Mr. Swan . . .
No analysis is provided of the only positions that should matter to Armstrong, those of Friedrich Heiler and K. Algermissen. How did they arrive at Luther holding to the 1854 dogma? Which texts did they use?
Later, Mr. Swan wrote:
He cites three scholars whom he is certain believe Luther held to the 1854 dogma . . . Unfortunately, Armstrong offers no substantiation or discussion from these authors. This would have been pertinent information.
If I had that information, I would have provided it. I think most people would find it interesting that two Lutheran scholars (as well as one Catholic scholar) came to this position.
Interestingly, these two scholars are the definite minority view, and the view which should be most important to Armstrong.
I was not trying to prove the dogma itself; I was only doing a study of what scholars believed Luther held with regard to the dogma. Thus it is completely irrelevant to make statements about what should be "most important" to me in a purely historical study. I guess this statement flows from Mr. Swan's previous misunderstanding, whereby he thought I was attempting to prove that Luther held to the 1854 dogma.
Almost laughable were these scholars put forth by Armstrong: “10 Catholic scholars on the Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue Committee… 11 Lutheran scholars on the Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue Committee (L): yes.”
I fail to see the humor. It is certainly relevant (and, I think, fascinating and noteworthy) if an impressive panel of scholars, in the process of a major ecumenical undertaking, agree that "Luther himself professed the Immaculate Conception as a pleasing thought though not as an article of faith."
No analysis was provided by twenty of these men,
Probably because they produced a creedal statement, and individual opinions from all the participants were not included in the book. Perhaps Mr. Swan expects me to contact all by phone and conduct lengthy interviews, so that my paper will not be so "laughable"? If anything is "laughable," it is that Mr. Swan cited the same group himself, in a public post on a Protestant discussion board:
TertiumQuid Sat Jun-28-03 06:27 AMNote that (just as in my quote), "no analysis was provided" by the panel. The only difference is that in the first instance they agreed with my position, and in the second they agreed with Mr. Swan's position. When the latter occurs, they are used by Mr. Swan for his polemical purposes. When the former occurs, however, the same group of men and their scholarly opinions somehow devolve into the spectre of being "laughable." Perhaps Mr. Swan can explain how his reasoning works in making such bogus distinctions?
#55787, "Christ the Judge and Mary the Merciful"
Edited on Sat Jun-28-03 06:28 AM by TertiumQuid
During the Middle Ages Christ was viewed as Judge, while Mary was seen as a great merciful protector, in some instances “deified.” Luther for instance, dreaded Christ the severe judge . . .
The Lutheran and Catholics in Dialogue scholars noted that,
“Luther was convinced that the practice of invoking the saints only continued the medieval tendency to transform Christ the "kindly Mediator" into a "dreaded Judge" who is to be placated by the intercession of the saints and Mary, and by a multitude of other rites.” Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII, 25.
Note Gritsch never affirms Luther held to the 1854 dogma.
As I noted this in my own paper, it is no news to me. But he does affirm that Luther held to the Immaculate Conception in some form his entire life (my own position), and this differs from Mr. Swan's position. Again, in such matters, I defer to the eminent Lutheran scholar and translator of Luther's works, not a seminary student with a polemical interest.
Some form? It is obvious these scholars understand Luther is not ascribing to the 1854 dogma.
Indeed it is. Then why mention it?
Yule denies Luther held the Immaculate Conception.
Ian Siggins denies Luther held the Immaculate Conception.
Ewald Plass denies Luther held the Immaculate Conception.
Anna Paulson denies Luther held the Immaculate Conception.
George Merz denies Luther held to the Immaculate Conception.
Reinhold Seeberg denies Luther held to the Immaculate Conception.
Assuming these scholars take a position similar to that of Grisar, Preuss, and O'Meara, then that would make the new grand total: 31 affirmative, 8 negative. I think scholarly consensus is relevant to any discussion. And it is relevant even before specific argumentation is presented, simply by virtue of the fact that they are scholars, who can be presumed to have done their research. Not all statements are arguments.
This is simply a ridiculous way to approach this issue without providing the necessary distinctions between the 1854 dogma, and other types of views.
Since I did indeed provide that necessary distinction, I submit that Mr. Swan's modus operandi is the one arguably "ridiculous" here. Straw men always are . . .
9. How Much Did the Immaculate Conception "Matter" to Martin Luther?
It is obvious that the Immaculate Conception is important to Armstrong.
Indeed it is, but not simply on the grounds that I write about it a lot. Mr. Swan also writes about it quite a bit, but it is not important to him, because he does not believe it. I write more about sola Scriptura than anything else, as a Catholic apologist. It is important to me only as something to refute. But in historical discussions, history itself (or how the facts of it can best be ascertained) is what is important. These two papers are historical studies -- no more, no less.
It is also obvious that Luther engaged the topic so infrequently that one can only conclude he was not overly concerned with it.
It is not so obvious to scholars who have studied Luther's views. If he dealt with it once, that would be one time more than virtually all Protestant pastors today deal with it.
1518:This does not prove that the Immaculate Conception did not "matter" much to Luther, as Mr. Swan states. What it proves is that he thought it shouldn't be a dogma, and that those with contrary opinions should not be considered heretics. Would that the Calvinist Synod of Dort had been so tolerant toward the Arminian Remonstrants . . . Catholics obviously think it should be a dogma. But the fact that Luther did not (which I have also noted more than once previously), doesn't prove that Luther considered the doctrine unimportant. That would be as foolish as arguing that the Catholic Church didn't consider Mary's Assumption important till 1950, when it was defined at the highest level of authority (the same would apply to the Immaculate Conception before 1854 and papal infallibility before 1870).
"Second, even if the pope along with a large part of the church should feel thus and so, and even if it were true that he does not err, it is still not a sin, nor is it heresy, to take the opposite position, especially in something which is not necessary for salvation, until the one position has been rejected by a general council and the other approved. But, lest I become too involved, let me state that my position is proved in this one instance, namely, that the Roman church along with the general council at Basel and almost with the whole church feels that the Holy Virgin was conceived without sin. Yet those who hold the opposite opinion should not be considered heretics, since their opinion has not been disproved.”
1521:The same argument I made in my last statement applies here.
“In regard to the conception of our Lady they have admitted that, since this article is not necessary to salvation, it is neither heresy nor error when some hold that she was conceived in sin, although in this case council, pope, and the majority hold a different view.? Why should we poor Christians be forced to believe whatever the pope and his papists think, even when it is not necessary to salvation? Has papal authority the power to make unnecessary matters necessary articles of faith, and can it make heretics of people in matters which are not necessary for salvation?”
10. "Secondary" Doctrine and Luther's Extraordinary "Prophetic" Infallibility
Without getting into a huge, multi-faceted separate discussion about infallibility, authority, sola Scriptura, Tradition, the proper, reasonable extent of binding dogma, etc., I would simply throw Luther's principle back upon himself. He moans: "Why should we poor Christians be forced to believe whatever the pope and his papists think, even when it is not necessary to salvation?" Very well, then: why should we poor non-Protestant Christians "be forced to believe" whatever Luther and his Lutherans believe? Here are a few examples:
If your Papist makes much unnecessary fuss about the word (Sola, alone), say straight out to him, Dr. Martin Luther will have it so, and says, Papists and donkeys are one and the same thing. Thus I will have it, thus I order it, my will is reason enough . . . Dr. Luther will have it so, and . . . he is a Doctor above all Doctors in the whole of Popery.For much, much more material along these lines, see: Martin Luther the "Super-Pope" and de facto Infallibility: With Extensive Documentation From Luther's Own Words.
(in Henry O'Connor, Luther's Own Statements, New York: Benziger Bros., 3rd ed., 1884, 25; Letter to Wenceslaus Link, 1530)
I am certain that I have my teaching from heaven.
(in O'Connor, ibid., 19; Against Henry VIII, King of England, 1522)
Whoever teaches differently from what I have taught herein, or condemns me for it, he condemns God, and must be a child of Hell.
(in O'Connor, ibid., 15; Against Henry VIII, King of England, 1522)
. . . from now on I shall no longer do you the honor of allowing you—or even an angel from heaven—to judge my teaching or to examine it.
(Against the Spiritual Estate of the Pope and the Bishops Falsely So-Called, July 1522. Martin Luther, Luther's Works, edited by Jaroslav Pelikan [volumes 1-30] and Helmut T. Lehmann [volumes 31-55], St. Louis: Concordia Pub. House [volumes 1-30]; Philadelphia: Fortress Press [volumes 31-55], 1955. This work from Volume 39: Church and Ministry I (edited by J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, and H. T. Lehmann); pages 239-299; translated by Eric W. and Ruth C. Gritsch; this quote from p. 248)
I shall not have it judged by any man, not even by any angel. For since I am certain of it, I shall be your judge and even the angels’ judge through this teaching (as St. Paul says [I Cor. 6:3 ]) so that whoever does not accept my teaching may not be saved — for it is God’s and not mine. Therefore, my judgment is also not mine but God’s.
(Ibid., p. 249)
Luther himself admits that "the Roman church along with the general council at Basel and almost with the whole church feels that the Holy Virgin was conceived without sin." Despite that, he would like this belief to not be binding on the faithful, and desired that dissenters should not be called "heretics." How, then, does his rhetoric above fit into this scenario? It's okay to not believe in the Immaculate Conception, even though Luther accepts it and the "majority" and "almost the whole Church" does too, yet anyone who disagrees with Luther (alas, even an "angel from heaven") or dares to even "examine" his teaching, is a "child of hell" who "condemns God" simply because Luther is a self-proclaimed, self-anointed "Doctor above all Doctors", whose judgment and doctrine is, in fact "God's"? This is very curious reasoning. But Luther was never accused of being logically consistent.
Who is being overly-dogmatic here? Luther condemned, for example, fellow "reformer" Zwingli, because he didn't accept the Real Presence in the Eucharist. He thought Zwingli was "damned" and "out of the Church" (because, as we know, all Luther's teaching was straight from God and thus obviously super-infallible in a fashion far beyond any papal proclamation ever was). So according to Luther, Mr. Swan himself must be damned, since if he held to Calvin's "mystical presence" view of the Eucharist, he would (like Zwingi) be at odds with Luther. But I would not be damned in Luther's eyes for believing in the Immaculate Conception. I certainly would be on other grounds, though, because I am outrageously arrogant enough to not believe that Luther is a super-infallible super-pope and super-prophet or a "Doctor above all Doctors".
Mr. Swan's master, John Calvin took a few shots at Luther:
to think of Luther I know not . . . with his firmness there is mixed up
a good deal of
obstinacy . . . Nothing can be safe as long as that rage for contention shall agitate us . . .
Luther . . . will never be able to join along with us in . . . the pure truth of God. For he has
sinned against it not only from vainglory . . . but also from ignorance and the grossest
extravagance. For what absurdities he pawned upon us . . . when he said the bread is the
very body! . . . a very foul error. What can I say of the partisans of that cause? Do they not
romance more wildly than Marcion respecting the body of Christ? . . . Wherefore if you
have an influence or authority over Martin, use it . . . that he himself submit to the truth
which he is now manifestly attacking . . . Contrive that Luther . . . cease to bear himself so
John Dillenberger, editor, John Calvin: Selections From His Writings,
Garden City, NY:
Doubleday Anchor, 1971, 46-48; from Letter to Martin Bucer, January 12, 1538)
am carefully on the watch that Lutheranism gain no ground, nor be introduced
France. The best means . . . for checking the evil would be that the confession written by
me . . . should be published.
(Dillenberger, ibid., 76; from Letter to Heinrich Bullinger, July 2, 1563)
We readily see how far Protestantism has advanced in unity since those heady days! Where now all are marvelously united and doctrinal latitudinarianism largely prevails, in the beginning Luther could call Calvin a corrupt "over-deviled" lying heretic, and Calvin could call Luther an enemy of "the pure truth of God" possessed of ignorance and the grossest extravagance, and Lutheranism "evil."
It is refreshing, at least (in one sense), to see that the earliest Protestants were consistently anti-[other]Protestant[s] as well as anti-Catholic. See: The Protestant Inquisition ("Reformation" Intolerance and Persecution), for numerous examples of this sort of intolerance and hypocrisy; strange from men who rail loudly against Catholic "dogmatism" and excessive binding of men's consciences, and who ostensibly, supposedly champion the freedom of the individual and private judgment.
11. Misconceptions of My Argument and Footnoting and Documentation Controversies
Armstrong seems to realize that it’s highly probable that Luther did not hold to a position similar to the 1854 dogma,
Now Mr. Swan finally "gets" it, but in doing so, contradicts his earlier assessment of my beliefs in this regard (e.g., "Using this reference to substantiate Luther’s lifelong commitment to the Roman Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception is quite a stretch").
He’s content that Luther held to some form of the Immaculate Conception; the fact that it doesn’t take the form of the 1854 dogma does not seem to be a concern.
Why would it be, in a purely historical discussion (whose aim is simply to determine the facts of history)? That no more concerns me than does the historical fact that St. Thomas Aquinas also took a different view than the 1854 definition of the dogma. But Mr. Swan seems quite hung up on this. Perhaps that is because he is finding it difficult to successfully refute the facts and arguments I have presented?
It’s fairly obvious from my citations above that Luther moved further away from a doctrine similar to that put forth in 1854.
It's not quite so obvious to many Catholic and Lutheran scholars. I give their opinions much more credence than Mr. Swan's (no offense). The supposed change in Luther's opinion has been explained, now twice (but ignored by Mr. Swan in his latest paper), in terms of Luther's notions of two distinct conceptions for every person.
What Armstrong ends up doing is presenting that either Luther held to some form of the Immaculate Conception, or the 1854 dogma his entire life.
I did the former (and I didn't "end up" with this position; I have held it for approximately 12 years now). Mr. Swan needs to learn the distinction between one's own views and a presentation of the views of others -- in this case, those of scholars (the "survey" or overview of the literature" approach). I will simply refer readers to the most relevant section of my previous paper (rather than repeating arguments endlessly because Mr. Swan oddly refuses to deal with them in his huge paper): Counter-Reply: Martin Luther's Mariology (Particularly the Immaculate Conception): Scholarly Opinion Concerning Luther's Beliefs.
VIII. The Use of Footnotes in My Paper and Mr. Armstrong’s Response
The form of my footnotes annoyed Mr. Armstrong.
Not quite. Rather, it was the double standard employed by Mr. Swan in his criticism of my use of footnotes (after one looked at how he often used his).
If any will take the time to look over my footnotes, one will see that the majority are references to the English edition of Luther’s Works.
That's fine. I was simply asking that he give the name of the source cited ("Sermon on Christmas, 1534," etc.).
Indeed, it is expected that anyone wishing to study Luther should have Luther’s Works. These volumes are readily available.
I can hardly afford a 55-volume set (even used -- but I have never seen it used), as I am a relatively poor apologist with a wife and four children to feed. I would love to have this set. Perhaps Mr. Swan would consider a donation to my ministry, since we are both very interested in Martin Luther? Meanwhile, I have to drive ten miles to a library to consult it. I've dealt with most of Mr. Swan's objections concerning footnoting already, and the discussion is tedious for readers, but I will offer a few more comments:
Mr. Armstrong though takes a different approach in his Luther research. In version #3 of his response he references the German Weimar edition 33 times (he cites the English Luther’s Works only 4 times).
I cite whatever source my scholarly source cites, in the desire for thorough documentation in my research. Paul Althaus, in his standard work, The Theology of Martin Luther (translated by Robert C. Schultz, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966) usually cites the Weimar edition (WA). One would expect this, since he originally wrote in German. LW (the English set) is also often cited (perhaps added by the translator), but oftentimes, only the reference to WA is listed.
Does that mean that all these references are somehow suspect or inadequately documented because they don't refer to LW? Or that we shouldn't cite them till we can get a solid English reference? I understand that WA is much larger than LW, so citing the former without the latter will often be necessary. My point is that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with, or suspect (in terms of scholarly competence), in doing this. This work is an English translation, after all, yet doesn't always give a reference to an English edition of Luther's writing.
I ask any to compare my footnotes with any of Mr. Armstrong’s Luther pages. As an example, please see Mr. Armstrong’s footnotes for his on-line Paper “Martin Luther: Beyond Historical Myth to Fact.” Primary references to Luther are mostly to Luther’s Works in German.
Again, I simply gave the references as I had them. If Mr. Swan wants to claim that the scholars are not to be trusted, that is another issue. Mr. Swan acts as if this is some terrible thing, when, in fact, it is quite common. I shall illustrate by citing the examples of just five works I have in my library, all written or edited by non-Catholic scholars:
1. Here I Stand, by Roland Bainton (New York: Mentor, 1950): probably the most well-known and widely-read biography of Luther, gives no less than 27 references (which he uses often) on page 315: most in German, some in Latin, none in English. He refers to WA dozens of times, if not well over a hundred times. Granted, the 55-volume English set was not yet available, but there was at least a smaller set (Philadelphia: Holman, 1930 ff., six volumes -- I have four volumes in my library) to which he does not seem to ever refer.
2. Luther's Progress to the Diet of Worms, by Gordon Rupp (London: S.C.M. Press, 1951), another famous book, likewise routinely cites the WA (at least 59 times in just the first two chapters: pages 9-35), as well as numerous German and French works. What is interesting is that he also lists the Philadelphia edition of Luther's works in English in his "Abbreviations," yet does not cite it nearly as often as WA. I didn't notice it in the first two chapters. He does cite it more later on, but less than WA, which is the point. And the Harper Torchbook edition was from 1964, so the references to the 1955 LW could have easily been added on. Mr. Swan cites Rupp's negative opinion of Hartmann Grisar.
3. Young Man Luther, by Erik Erikson (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1958), another famous work, uses exclusively German editions of Luther's works and not the English editions, even though the 55-volume set was then published.
4. Likewise: Luther: Early Theological Works, edited and translated by James Atkinson (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1962). The author writes on page 365: "All references to the Luther text are made to the Weimar text, volume, page, line, and where significant to the title and date of the work cited." Mr. Swan cites Atkinson's negative opinion of Hartmann Grisar.
5. Alister E. McGrath, Luther's Theology of the Cross (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1985): we find exclusive reference to the German Weimar edition (WA). The English edition is not used at all.
Once again, then, we see that Mr. Swan's criticisms fall flat, as I was doing nothing other than what a great many Luther scholars (in fact, arguably the very best) do. No one is obliged to always cite the English versions. If they were, then the six works cited above are immediately suspect. If they are not suspect, then neither is my work (i.e., simply on this basis -- I am not a scholar, and am not trying to imply that I am).
Readers can immediately see that such a "requirement" is entirely absurd, for it would mean that if any of the prominent books above were cited, along with the German primary reference given, that this would be somehow methodologically-deficient simply by virtue of that fact. Since this can hardly be the case, Mr. Swan's objection collapses. The English edition was also "readily available" to scholars like McGrath and Atkinson, yet they chose not to use it. And I take it that they could afford it if they wanted a copy (unlike myself).
Similarly, A large amount of Mr. Armstrong’s Luther references are given merely as titles of a particular treatise, with the readers’ job being the arduous task of tracking down a volume that contains said treatise.
On the other hand, Mr. Swan habitually cites the primary source (LW) but not the name of the tract or book or sermon (which might then be able to be located in other collections of Luther's writings that one might have -- I possess approximately 26 books by or about Luther and many more about the Protestant Reformation in general). That was my complaint. It was not a major aspect of my paper at all; it was simply a response to his complaint about my own methods in documentation.
Either Mr. Armstrong is fluent in German or Mr. Armstrong does not have the most basic tool for Luther studies: the English edition of Luther’s Works, so he relies on secondary sources . . .
It is true that Mr. Armstrong does not know German (nor does he wish to). It is also true that Mr. Armstrong (being a devoted, less-than-rich apologist and writer) does not possess Pelikan's Luther's Works, and that Mr. Armstrong often relies on secondary sources. It is also true that people like Dr. McGrath probably know German and do have the set; however, the bulk of Dr. McGrath's English readers do not know German, so it remains for Mr. Swan to explain why Dr. McGrath does not utilize the English set at all; he doesn't even cross-reference it to the German set, as, for example, the Althaus English translation often does. Thus, Dr. McGrath (like the hapless Mr. Armstrong) -- to use Mr. Swan's words -- "complicates the task of any [non-German readers] who would check his references or contexts." Thus Mr. Swan ought to criticize Dr. McGrath (and others like him) for the same "shortcoming." But we are not surprised to see that he does not.
For my part, I'm much more interested in the beliefs of Luther than in this sort of "majoring on the minors" nitpicking nonsense, but so it often goes in Catholic-Protestant discussions (unfortunately). It is not my choice.
Mr. Armstrong’s response provided many references that are virtually impossible to track down. One wonders why these sources were offered.
Because scholars offered them, and one purpose of scholars is to inform their readers of subjects, with documentation. If I hadn't offered the further documentation, we can be sure that Mr. Swan would have vigorously criticized "Mr. Armstrong's appalling lack of necessary documentation (!!!!!)."
Mr. Swan then curiously includes in his examples of "difficult" sources:
“Was Luther a Devotee of Mary?" Marian Studies, 21, 1970; Marian Studies 18 (1967)This is the article by William Cole, which Mr. Swan cites several times, and even commends, so I find it fascinating that it is now being criticized as "impossible to track down" (I found it in the same theological library where I could also consult Luther's Works in English), and Mr. Swan wonders "why" the source was offered. Well, it was obviously offered because it is one of the major pieces on Luther's Mariology! I should think that would be more than sufficient reason and justification to cite it, regardless of how "difficult" it might be to track down.
In contrast, I have made the readers’ task of locating a context for Luther’s words quite easy; all you need is access to Luther’s Works, which are available in many college libraries, and some public libraries. Used volumes can still be purchased, even singularly (individual volumes can be as cheap as $15-25).
I see. Even at the lowest price, the set comes in at $825. Perhaps Mr. Swan grew up in (and lives in) considerably more affluence than I did (and do). For most non-upper class persons, paying that much for a set of books is not that easy of a task. I appreciate all the references; all I'm saying is that they are not necessary, and that one would prefer that the sermons and tracts were identified with something beyond "LW xx:xxx."
Mr. Swan then recounts the "Luther quote" controversy that I described above. It seems to be his desire to try to "embarrass" me by showing how shoddy my research is:
In his first response to my paper, Armstrong said he had done the search and found English references: “Luther’s works, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan, volume 4, 694.” He seemed fairly confident he had succeeded in proving my total incompetence. Not only was he able to find Catholic sites providing a reference, he found those references to be for the English edition of Luther’s Works.
This of course proved to be a bogus reference. Volume 4 does not have a page 694 . . . Perhaps if Mr. Armstrong had Luther’s Works to check his research, this embarrassment could have been avoided.
Towards this end, we find the following exchange on a board filled with anti-Catholics:
Re: Luther on Mary TertiumquiddAs I recall, Mr. Swan was challenging me to find a primary reference source for the 1527 sermon on the Immaculate Conception (which Catholic historian and Luther biographer Hartmann Grisar cited). I found two on the Internet which listed a volume and page number in the English edition. It turns out that the volume and page number were incorrectly listed from one of the German editions and wrongly attributed to the English edition. I noticed this later in my research -- that the reference lined up with a German citation. Mr. Swan has since made much of this, along with the fact that I revised my paper, as if this were some extraordinary or scandalous thing. But I see it as a simple human error. My mistake was in passing on the mistaken information.
. . . I made mention of checking the versions of Luther's Works to not further embarrass Mr. Armstrong who posted a non-existent reference as a response to my paper. I know the English version has a uniformity to it.
. . . It is amazing to me how little Luther discussed the Immaculate Conception, and how big of a deal certain RC apologists make out of one Luther quote they can't produce a context for, nor is the date "1527" even certain.
Edited by: Tertiumquidd at: 5/2/03 4:48:14 pm
The ironic and somewhat humorous part of all this, however, is Mr. Swan's second paragraph above, where he suggested that even the date of this sermon was not "certain" (because he could not find it in the English edition of Luther's Works -- it is only in the German Weimar edition [WA, 17, II, 287-289]; and in other German collections as well, such as the Erlangen set). So he commits an error at least as (if not more) serious as the botching of the source (from a German edition rather than the English). Of course it is indeed from 1527, as I have since verified, under Mr. Swan's challenge and failed attempt to "embarrass" me:
Thomas A. O'Meara (whose research Mr. Swan has commended), wrote:In 1527 Luther preached a long sermon on the conception of Mary.
Lutheran Eric Gritsch concurs:Undaunted (all of the above was in my last paper), Mr. Swan blithely asserts:Sermon on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 8?) 1527 . . . In 1527 Luther dealt with the Immaculate Conception of Mary, . . .William J. Cole also mentions it:Festpostille -- two 1527 editions, WA 17 (2), 287-289.As does Hilda Graef, without the date:He still believes in the Immaculate Conception in the full Catholic sense, saying that "one believes blessedly that at the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin.
[WA, 17-II, 288 in her footnote]
While doing my research, I contacted the Webmaster from Project Wittenberg (a highly respected web site on Luther) who informed me that the date for this sermon was not certain. He informed me that this sermon was more likely from 1517; hence Luther’s devotion to Mary would be more intact than it was later in his career.
So again, scholars' statements count for little or nothing, since they are ignored by Mr. Swan. It is sufficient for him to rely on an undocumented suggestion (we aren't given any documentation, if the Wittenberg webmaster provided any) of the date 1517. I suggest that in the future Mr. Swan might want to consider avoiding trying to "embarrass" or "trap" Catholic apologists simply because friends of his (who post his papers on their website) think said apologists do "extremely poor research." Sometimes such missions fail miserably and backfire. And if this is attempted publicly, the potentially "embarrassing" refutation will also be done publicly. I'm not embarrassed at all by a simple mistake that I made. But Mr. Swan ought to be quite embarrassed by his petty exploitation of the incident.
12. Hartmann Grisar, Bias in Historiography, and the "BEST" Protestant Material
Mr. Swan then launches into a lengthy critique of the bias of Jesuit Church historian and Luther biographer Hartmann Grisar. I need not spend any time on that (nor did he need to) since I have always agreed that all scholars (especially in religious or socio-political matters) have a bias. This is to be expected. My only point was that a scholar's research cannot be simplistically dismissed because of the presence of bias, especially when he heavily documents from primary research (as Grisar invariably does). I understand that Grisar is not nearly as favorable or "ecumenical" towards Luther as later Catholic historians. But then later historians are often theologically-liberal, which presents another set of difficulties altogether.
The point is that Grisar’s books are used by some current Catholics, even though later scholarship has shown their vast short comings. [sic]
And so are the rantings of Luther and Calvin against the Catholic Church, even though later scholarship has shown their vast shortcomings. Furthermore, Mr. Swan somehow forgets to apply this high and lofty standard of "minimization of bias" when it comes to anti-Catholic apologists. He glowingly recommends, for example, the historical writings of mere amateurs and anti-Catholic polemicists David King and William Webster:
TertiumQuid Sat Jun-28-03 01:05 PMI have shown how ignorant these two men are of Catholic theology (and history) in three papers (all unanswered):
#55860, "Webster and King book on Sola Scriptura"
Have any Roman Catholics picked up the new 3-volume set on Sola Scriptura by David King & William Webster?
I frequently go through books written by Roman Catholics. I wondered if any of you ever read the BEST material put out by Protestants. It's always good to see exactly what the other side is saying firsthand. If you're not doing this: shame on you . . .
CARM Catholic Board
Refutation of William Webster's Fundamental MisunderstandingI'm happy to let readers decide how "factually-challenged" both men are, with regard to Catholicism (and development of doctrine), since they refuse to respond to the above critiques. Mr. Swan considers their books the "BEST material put out by Protestants", and spends hours compiling quotes about the bias of Grisar's historical research. Yet King's and Webster's extreme historical, highly partisan and polemical bias poses no problems at all for him (we again see his severe double standard). And the reason for that is, I believe, because they are anti-Catholics; they're on his "side"; therefore, they offer the "best" material on Catholicism, no matter how biased they are (bias only applies as a criticism of Catholic historians and apologists). David King, writes things in public like (for instance):
of Development of Doctrine
Refutation of Protestant Polemicist William Webster's Critique of Catholic
Tradition and Newmanian Development of Doctrine
Protestant Contra-Catholic Revisionist History: Pope St. Pius X and Cardinal Newman's Alleged "Modernism" (Dave Armstrong vs. David T. King)
I already have a very low view of the integrity of non-Protestants in general, and you aren't helping to improve it.Yes Mr. Armstrong, I do believe Grisar’s “opinions are altogether suspect.”
Areopagus Discussion Board
. . . It's only a mystery to those who wish to ignore the evidence of the fathers themselves, which I have repeatedly found to be typical of the average Roman apologist like yourself. Ignore the evidence and belittle it. I guess that's what works in the world of Roman apologetics.
Areopagus Discussion Board
One can only hope that Mr. Swan will, then, find historical opinions by people like King and Webster "altogether suspect" as well, by the same criteria. They have an axe to grind, too, don't they? What's good for the goose is good for the gander . . .
13. Swan Song: 12 More Errors and Miscomprehensions
The really puzzling thing is why Armstrong would cite Grisar for proof that Luther held a lifelong belief in the Immaculate Conception, . . .
The truly "puzzling thing" is why Mr. Swan would think I did this, when it never occurred! Mr. Swan shows himself (as so often) "contextually-challenged." The original context was my paper, Martin Luther's Devotion to Mary (written in 1994). If one reads that paper carefully, they will see that I cited only the eminent Lutheran scholar Arthur Carl Piepkorn as someone who believed that Luther held this view his entire life. Then I proceeded to cite Luther's own words, and I started with the 1527 sermon, which I knew of at that point only from Grisar's reference to it. Nowhere did I state that Grisar offered or provided "proof that Luther held a lifelong belief in the Immaculate Conception," and I even mentioned that "there is some dispute, over the technical aspects of medieval theories of conception and the soul, and whether or not Luther later changed his mind."
This is simply fair-minded historical analysis, in the interest of historical truth, whatever it is, not making Luther's view exactly identical to the Catholic one, at all costs, etc. Nor did I assert that Luther's view was the same as the 1854 Catholic dogmatic definition. Therefore, Mr. Swan's argument is much ado about nothing. He needs to read much more carefully than he does and assume a lot less about what his dialogical opponent is trying to accomplish or "prove."
. . . and then when one checks the quote, Grisar informs us that the quote was taken out of the sermon during Luther’s lifetime. Grisar also informs his readers Luther rejected the Immaculate Conception after 1527. Nowhere in his response does Armstrong try to make sense of these facts, . . .
That's not true. I provided an entire theory and discussion on whether Luther's opinions later changed, alluded to above, now for the second time, and thus far entirely ignored by Mr. Swan. I'm answering as I read, so I maintain hope that he will deal with that portion of my paper further down in his own [he didn't].
. . . nor do I understand why Armstrong would use Grisar when Grisar disagrees with him.
All I did was cite Luther's words from Grisar: the secondary source, in the original paper. I made no claims for Grisar, and didn't cite Grisar making his own claims. I did not hide anything; I didn't commit any logical or ethical error. I stated the view of Piepkorn; I didn't deny that Grisar disagreed with it (rather, I made a general statement that there was dispute about that). I "use" whatever historical source is available to me, within the constraints of time I set for myself, for any given research project. Why this should be such a novelty is a mystery. Perhaps it is puzzling to Mr. Swan because he is wrongly attributing to me a view and an argument that I neither hold, nor have made. He sets up his straw man and then wonders why I am inconsistent or why I "use" the straw man (that I never used) at all. One can't fail to be somewhat amused by this recurring methodology of Mr. Swan's, which I have demonstrated him using time and again in my current reply.
I simply cannot accept Mr. Armstrong’s argument by authority in this case [the citation of Piepkorn], since that authority provides no proof or discussion of relevant Luther quotes. Perhaps Mr. Armstrong’s Catholicism allows him to be swayed towards accepting authority without question. As a Protestant, I am more inclined to actually engage in research, weigh the evidence, and draw a conclusion.
Strange, then, that when I provided documentation from many more scholars (as a result of his very challenge), that Mr. Swan decided to not interact with them, or with the reasoning they used, that I cited. He dismisses summary statements by scholars as insufficient "appeals to authority" if they don't include argumentation, yet when the latter is provided, he ignores it (apparently because it disagrees with his own conclusions). If a person were cynical, they might be inclined to speculate, then, that Mr. Swan simply ignores what he is unable to reply to, and hopes that readers won't notice either the argument he finds difficult or his non-response to it. But alas, I am here to point out these troubling and inconvenient facts, so he isn't let off the hook . . .
Mr. Armstrong attempts to use Mary Through The Ages to prove that Jaroslav Pelikan believed Luther held a lifelong commitment to the Immaculate Conception:
In his footnotes 24 and 25 for his chapter 11 of Mary Through the Ages…Jaroslav Pelikan recommends three works of Protestants about Mary, including Wright's, and one from a Lutheran scholar whom I myself have cited … as a scholarly source for the view that Luther always accepted the Immaculate Conception…One tires of relentless misrepresentation of one's views. Again, this fanciful scenario never occurred. I argued (in this particular passage) that Pelikan recommended the work of Arthur Piepkorn: the same scholar I cited concerning Luther's view on the Immaculate Conception. Piepkorn was the "scholarly source" above, not Pelikan. A few paragraphs down, I reiterated this, mentioning:
. . . the wholehearted agreement of the esteemed non-Catholic scholar, Dr. Pelikan, concerning the excellence of my Protestant source regarding Luther's lifelong acceptance of the Immaculate Conception (Arthur Carl Piepkorn).Somehow, Mr. Swan concludes from the above that I was claiming (i.e., on this basis, and from this book) that Pelikan believed what Piepkorn did. Wonders never cease . . .
Armstrong tried a second attempt at establishing Jaroslav Pelikan as a scholar who believed Luther held a lifelong commitment to the Immaculate Conception, this time via Eric Gritsch:
I did indeed do this, and cited Gritsch's comments above. Mr. Swan is free to demonstrate otherwise. The passage is ambiguous enough that I may have misinterpreted it. But at least my claim was accurately understood for a change.
Mr. Armstrong references Heiko Oberman as a scholar who supports the notion that Luther held a lifelong commitment to the Immaculate Conception.
I did no such thing. If I thought I had evidence that Oberman believed this, I would have added him to my list of 35 scholars's opinions on Luther and the Immaculate Conception: pro and con (but I didn't know what his opinion was, either way). Mr. Swan has simply read my words wrongly yet again. I don't think for a second that Mr. Swan's shortcoming is deliberate misrepresentation, so I truly wonder why it is that he is almost perpetually getting my opinions wrong (and then proceeding quixotically to tear them down). The rest of his section on Oberman, therefore, is merely a wrongheaded non sequitur. The last sentence gets it right: "Oberman does not discuss Luther’s view of the Immaculate Conception in this article, and neither does Pelikan think that Oberman does." Unfortunately, however, Mr. Swan doesn't realize that I agree with this conclusion, rather than disagree with it.
The section following, on the Lutheran confessions, is essentially silly, since Mr. Swan again thinks that my paper was confined solely to replies to his paper. It was not. I found this material historically interesting, so I added it. Period. End of story.
Then Mr. Swan makes much of my comments about Paul Althaus's book, The Theology of Martin Luther, claiming that I was advocating a "Protestant Conspiracy" and a "Protestant cover up." because Mary was not much discussed in that book. I'm delighted that Mr. Swan is having so much fun "proving" that I am a conspiratorial nut, but one would hope that he could get his facts right much more often than he does. First of all, I alluded to Protestant "suppression." The word "suppression" was in quotes, and was partly tongue-in-cheek, indicating that I didn't advocate a conspiracy or cover-up. I made quite clear what I was asserting not far below my initial comments:
My point is only that current-day Lutherans and Protestants in general emphasize Mariology far less than the "Protestant Reformers" did (Luther, perhaps, above all). I don't see that this is even arguable.Mr. Armstrong in the first instance announces Paul Althaus as suppressing Luther’s Mariology, but then backs off by saying, “It is neither my intention nor purpose to cast aspersions upon professor Althaus's generally excellent and helpful research.”
This is what is known in writing and discourse as a clarification and/or statement of purpose.
How are Mr. Armstrong’s comments about suppression not casting doubt upon the intellectual honesty of Paul Althaus? This is an example of Mr. Armstrong taking away with one hand (Paul Althaus’s scholarship), and then attempting to give it back with the other (Paul Althaus’s scholarship).
It does not require a charge of dishonesty to simply point out the bias of a work. As I stated above, my position is that the scholars on both sides are naturally biased; that this is normal and to be fully-expected. Mr. Swan can write reams about Hartmann Grisar's terribly-biased research, yet if I do the same thing much more respectfully concerning a Lutheran historian, all of a sudden it is tantamount to a charge of intellectual dishonesty. I am not the one making that charge. I'm merely pointing to the bias and what I think is a change in emphasis on Mariology, when one compares Luther to later Lutherans and Protestants. Mr. Swan himself does not accept the Immaculate Conception or the perpetual virginity of Mary. So why is this even at issue? It is self-evident.
Mr. Swan is the one who has stated outright that "I do believe Grisar’s “opinions are altogether suspect.'" I have not made the corresponding claim about Paul Althaus; rather, I simply objected to what I felt was an omission in his work.
I have no particular quibbles with Mr. Swan's treatments of Catholic historians Hilda Graef and Thomas O'Meara and their opinions on Luther's Mariology, so I need not offer further comment.
Max Thurian provides sparse comments on Luther’s Mariology. It is hardly a thorough treatment, yet Thurian makes Armstrong’s list of scholars that support the notion that Luther held a lifelong belief in the Immaculate Conception . . . It should be clear that Thurian is not putting forth Luther ascribing to the 1854 dogma, but rather one of the earlier differing views. In Armstrong’s summary list, this is not specified. One is left with the impression that Thurian is putting forth Luther’s ascribing to the 1854 dogma, which he is not.
This is untrue, as I clearly specify in the list the distinctions between the views, and I asserted that only three scholars thought Luther held to the 1854 dogma, "in the same sense as the infallible Catholic dogma proclaimed in 1854," as I worded it. This is the way English works: I specified this in the last three instances; therefore when it was not mentioned, the intent was to claim that the scholar did not believe that. Here is how I prefaced the chart:
I have not discovered a single scholar who treats this subject who denies that the early Luther believed in the Immaculate Conception in some form. The only dispute is over whether he later rejected his earlier views. I shall list the scholars from least convinced about the later Luther to most convinced: even to the point where it is thought his view was identical to that of the Catholic dogma proclaimed ex cathedra in 1854:I made no claim about David Wright's views on Luther and the Immaculate Conception (which is why he, too, wasn't listed on my chart, as my opponent himself noted). Mr. Swan is still laboring in that section under the illusion that I claimed that Jaroslav Pelikan asserted three scholars' belief in Luther's lifelong acceptance of the Immaculate Conception. But I only cited him as recommending the excellence of Piepkorn's scholarship.
Eric Gritsch also makes it to Armstrong’s list of scholars affirming Luther’s lifelong commitment to the Immaculate Conception. However, again Armstrong fails to note that it is probably not the 1854 dogma.
I did indeed clearly note this, if the chart is read correctly, as explained above. It is also obvious in his own statements on the subject, which I cited.
And that concludes my counter-reply (thanks be to God).
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