Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Jesus Had "Offspring"? (Isaiah 53:10)

By Dave Armstrong (5-30-06)

Someone who goes by "Mac" wrote in the comments for this blog:

DaVinci partly true? Isaiah 53:10 [the prophecied messiah] "...he shall see his seed..." Per this the true messiah was to have had a child. And would he have had a child without marrying the mother, and still be sinless as claimed?

Was Isaiah wrong therefore a false prophet? This isn't opinion, its in the original Hebrew. The same words are translated the same way 39 other times per Bible concordances. With consistency of grammar and voice, it is there. To change grammar pattern and voice mid sentence and back to avoid the straightforward meaning is bad translation.

And, the name of Jesus and other references to the people and places around Jesus are coded in Isaiah 53 with equal letter spacing. Read it for yourself, check several different translations. The King James Version is the one I'm quoting, some translations read offspring instead of seed. In the Latin Vulgate the word semen is used for seed, obviously referencing sexual conception of a child not a broad reference to a vast societal generation. In fact read Isaiah 53:8-10 and notice verse 8 presupposes a personal generation of a specific personal messiah. The question makes no sense unless the messiah has a child or children. If you doubt me use a concordance and check for the consistency of translation of the Hebrew words throughout that translation. And verse 10 frames the seed reference between alluding to the crucifixion and alluding to the resurrection - so its not out of context either...
I replied:

Nice try, but no cigar.


The word for seed in Isaiah 53:10 (RSV: offspring) is the Hebrew zera. As so often with Hebrew and Greek words, it can have a wide range of meanings, including "the royal race" (2 Ki. 11:1; 1 Ki 11:14), and (as seen in the same book), " a race of men" (in an evil or a bad sense: Is. 1:4; 6:13; 57:4; 65:23). This is according to Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1979, 254; Strong's Concordance: word #2233).

Also, one must take into account the often-metaphorical application of words in the Bible. The context of the great messianic passage Isaiah 53 makes this clear; for example, 53:5: "with his stripes we are healed" is meant in the sense of "we are saved"; not of physical healing (as some in the "hyper-faith" movement falsely claim, in their promulgation of the false, unbiblical teaching that all men are physically healed and that this is God's will, but some lose out on that because of their lack of "faith").

Jesus is compared to a lamb in 53:7. Offspring in 53:10 is easily seen to refer to his spiritual offspring; not literal. How do we know this? Well, by the very next verse: "he shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul . . . many to be accounted righteous." It is the spiritual fruit. We see the same dynamic in, for example, the parable of the sower (Mt. 13:24-30,36-40), which uses the metaphor of seed and planting and watering, to describe spiritual descendants (not physical). Hence Jesus says, in giving the proper interpretation:

He who sows the good seed is the Son of man [i.e., Himself]; the field is the world, and the good seed means the sons of the kingdom; the weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil . . .

Note then that Jesus had seed, but it was spiritual seed ("sons of the kingdom"); likewise, the devil has seed or offspring ("sons of the evil one"). And this is the Greek sperma. So even though the word that can mean (in a broader physical sense) literal offspring is used, this proves nothing in and of itself, because it can also have a metaphorical application. That is exactly what is going on in Isaiah 53:10, as shown by context, the latitude of word meanings for zera, and related usages in the New Testament, taught by Jesus Himself.

As of writing, my reply, above, had been on my blog for five days; yet no sign of "Mac" . . . The "hit and run" tactic of "biblical exegesis" has a long, storied pedigree in skeptical and agnostic/atheist circles. As usual, the biblical interpretation here was exceedingly ignorant, and ignored elementary rules which anyone with a minimal acquaintance with Christian biblical hermeneutics could spot a mile away on a severely overcast day.

Lest this judgment seem harsh to some, I mention it only because in these circles, Christians are invariably accused of being extraordinarily ignorant, and our critics often blithely assume that they and anyone with a fourth-grade education could interpret and understand the Bible better than those who devote their lives to studying and defending it. 'Taint true, and I will point that out every time . . .

Did St. Thomas Aquinas Accept Astrology?

By Dave Armstrong (5-30-06)

A link to a portion of St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica, called, Whether divination by the stars is unlawful?, was posted on this blog, in comments. This troubled "Paul D.C." and he wrote:

I was unsettled by what I found there. I am a Cathollic convert and mathematician, who has been "hung up" about my past obsessive interest in astrology. I do know about developement of doctrine, thanks in part to you, so I don't expect to find correct doctrine as fully developed in the Summa as in the CCC Catechism.

If someone wanted to mess around with natal charts, the article seems to validate their desire. The implication seems to be that astrology can illuminate the past - just don't use it to predict the future. This seems to mirror E. Rips in his assessment on predicting future events using the "Bible Codes." Is this consistent with Catholic teaching? I have strong misgivings about this possibility.
I read this part of the Summa and it seemed to me that Aquinas was simply accepting that part of astrology which seemed to have some scientific value to it: in other words, the aspects of star-watching which were far closer to astronomy than to the occult. Science was not as fully developed in his time, so we would expect to see some such confusion (and partially it was a matter of semantics). It was still there in the 16th century, in Kepler, Tycho, and Galileo, as I have shown in various papers.

For example, if astrologers predicted a solar eclipse, then obviously they had made some observation that was scientific, in that it recognized observable patterns in the sky ("it is evident that those things which happen of necessity can be foreknown by this mean,: even so astrologers forecast a future eclipse.").


Note that the three objections are not the opinion of St. Thomas. He is disputing them. Then he goes on to dispute the fundamental thesis of astrology: that the stars affect human behavior and decisions, etc.:

In the second place, acts of the free-will, which is the faculty of will and reason, escape the causality of heavenly bodies. For the intellect or reason is not a body, nor the act of a bodily organ, and consequently neither is the will, since it is in the reason, as the Philosopher shows (De Anima iii, 4,9). Now no body can make an impression on an incorporeal body. Wherefore it is impossible for heavenly bodies to make a direct impression on the intellect and will . . .
So he denies the false, occultic part of astrology (which is, of course, the great bulk of it):

Accordingly if anyone take observation of the stars in order to foreknow casual or fortuitous future events, or to know with certitude future human actions, his conduct is based on a false and vain opinion; and so the operation of the demon introduces itself therein, wherefore it will be a superstitious and unlawful divination.
But he accepts that which simply operates on the same principles as science:

On the other hand if one were to apply the observation of the stars in order to foreknow those future things that are caused by heavenly bodies, for instance, drought or rain and so forth, it will be neither an unlawful nor a superstitious divination.
All that St. Thomas really grants here is some influence of the stars and planets on humans insofar as this is explained in terms of physical causation. That doesn't involve the occult. We know, for instance, of the influence of the moon on tides. The theory of gravity involves relationships between physical bodies in space. We are pulled to the earth: so the earth itself "influences" our bodies in that way. There seems to be some relationship with lunar cycles and psychologically disturbed people (that was, I believe, the etymological background of the word lunatic).

So I don't see any problem here. St. Thomas acknowledges that some truth can be found anywhere, but when all is said and done, he ends up by citing St. Augustine in strong disagreement with astrology:

Thus a good Christian should beware of astrologers, and of all impious diviners, especially of those who tell the truth, lest his soul become the dupe of the demons and by making a compact of partnership with them enmesh itself in their fellowship.
As for natal charts: that is still attempting to predict the future, no (by providing information on planetary alignments when one was born)? So that would fall under the recommended prohibitions of St. Thomas Aquinas.

So I don't see any problem or contradiction here at all.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Lord Acton on Melanchthon's Persecution of Heretics for Denial of the Real Presence, Etc.

By Dave Armstrong (5-29-06)

In my continuing searching for material regarding Philip Melanchthon's policies of persecution (particularly regarding the Real Presence, I ran across the following material from Lord Acton (1834-1902), the famous historian:

[note: Acton cites "Bretschneider". He was the editor, along with Bindseil, of the Latin Corpus Reformatorum, Melanthonis Opera, 28 volumes: 1834-1860. Footnotes below will be Acton's own, incorporated by means of brackets and blue coloring into the text exactly where he places them]

[Note #2: any translations (in green) of the Latin are from my very good friend John McAlpine, who has a Masters degree in Slavic Languages from the University of Michigan, and who presently - being semi-retired - teaches Latin to home-schoolers]

From: The History of Freedom and Other Essays, ed. John Neville Figgis and Reginald Vere Laurence (London: Macmillan, 1907).

Chapter Five: "The Protestant Theory of Persecution."

The persecuting principles which were involved in Luther's system, but which he cared neither to develop, to apply, nor to defend, were formed into a definite theory by the colder genius of Melanchthon. Destitute of Luther's confidence in his own strength, and in the infallible success of his doctrine, he clung more eagerly to the hope of achieving victory by the use of physical force. Like his master he too hesitated at first, and opposed the use of severe measures against the Zwickau prophets; but when he saw the development of that early germ of dissent, and the gradual dissolution of Lutheran unity, he repented of his ill-timed clemency.

["Ego ab initio, cum primum caepi nosse Ciconiam et Ciconiae factionem, unde hoc totum genus Anabaptistarum exortum est, fui stulte clemens. Sentiebant enim et alii haereticos non esse ferro opprimendos. Et tunc dux Fridericus vehementer iratus erat Ciconiae: ac nisi a nobis tectus esset, fuisset de homine furioso et perdite malo sumtum supplicium. Nunc me ejus clementiae non parum poenitet. . . . Brentius nimis clemens est" (Bretschneider, ii. 17. Feb. 1530).]

He was not deterred from asserting the duty of persecution by the risk of putting arms into the hands of the enemies of the Reformation. He acknowledged the danger, but he denied the right. Catholic powers, he deemed, might justly persecute, but they could only persecute error. They must apply the same criterion which the Lutherans applied, and then they were justified in persecuting those whom the Lutherans also proscribed. For the civil power had no right to proscribe a religion in order to save itself from the dangers of a distracted and divided population. The judge of the fact and of the danger must be, not the magistrate, but the clergy.

["Sed objiciunt exemplum nobis periculosum: si haec pertinent ad magistratus, quoties igitur magistratus judicabit aliquos errare, saeviet in eos. Caesar igitur debet nos opprimere, quoniam ita judicat nos errare. Respondeo: certe debet errores et prohibere et punire. . . . Non est enim solius Caesaris cognitio, sicut in urbibus haec cognitio non est tantum magistratus prophani, sed est doctorum. Viderit igitur magistratus ut recte judicet" (Bretschneider, ii. 712). "Deliberent igitur principes, non cum tyrannis, non cum pontificibus, non cum hypocritis, monachis aut aliis, sed cum ipsa Evangelii voce, cum probatis scriptoribus" (Bretschneider, iii. 254).]

The crime lay, not in dissent, but in error. Here, therefore, Melanchthon repudiated the theory and practice of the Catholics, whose aid he invoked; for all the intolerance in the Catholic times was founded on the combination of two ideas - the criminality of apostasy, and the inability of the State to maintain its authority where the moral sense of a part of the community was in opposition to it. The reformers, therefore, approved the Catholic practice of intolerance, and even encouraged it, although their own principles of persecution were destitute not only of connection, but even of analogy, with it. By simply accepting the inheritance of the medieval theory of the religious unity of the empire, they would have been its victims. By asserting that persecution was justifiable only against error, that is, only when purely religious, they set up a shield for themselves, and a sword against those sects for whose destruction they were more eager than the Catholics. Whether we refer the origin of Protestant intolerance to the doctrines or to the interests of the Reformation, it appears totally unconnected with the tradition of Catholic ages, or the atmosphere of Catholicism. All severities exercised by Catholics before that time had a practical motive; but Protestant persecution was based on a purely speculative foundation, and was due partly to the influence of Scripture examples, partly to the supposed interests of the Protestant party. It never admitted the exclusion of dissent to be a political right of the State, but maintained the suppression of error to be its political duty. To say, therefore, that the Protestants learnt persecution from the Catholics, is as false as to say that they used it by way of revenge. For they founded it on very different and contradictory grounds, and they admitted the right of the Catholics to persecute even the Protestant sects.


Melanchthon taught that the sects ought to be put down by the sword, and that any individual who started new opinions ought to be punished with death.

["Quare ita sentias, magistratum debere uti summa severitate in coercendis hujusmodi spiritibus. . . . Sines igitur novis exemplis timorem incuti multitudini . . . ad haec notae tibi sint causae seditionum, quas gladio prohiberi oportet. . . . Propterea sentio de his qui etiamsi non defendunt seditiosos articulos, habent manifeste blasphemos, quod interfici a magistratu debeant" (ii. 17, 18). "De Anabaptistis tulimus hic in genere sententiam: quia constat sectam diabolicam esse, non esse tolerandam: dissipari enim ecclesias per eos, cum ipsi nullam habeant certam doctrinam. . . . Ideo in capita factionum in singulis locis ultima supplicia constituenda esse judicavimus" (ii. 549). "It is clear that it is the duty of secular government to punish blasphemy, false doctrine, and heresy, on the bodies of those who are guilty of them. . . . Since it is evident that there are gross errors in the articles of the Anabaptist sect, we conclude that in this case the obstinate ought to be punished with death" (iii. 199). "Propter hanc causam Deus ordinavit politias ut Evangelium propagari possit . . . nec revocamus politiam Moysi, sed lex moralis perpetua est omnium aetatum . . . quandocumque constat doctrinam esse impiam, nihil dubium est quin sanior pars Ecclesiae debeat malos pastores removere et abolere impios cultus. Et hanc emendationem praecipue adjuvare debent magistratus, tanquam potiora membra Ecclesiae" (iii. 242, 244). "Thammerus, qui Mahometicas seu Ethnicas opiniones spargit, vagatur in dioecesi Mindensi, quem publicis suppliciis adficere debebant. . . . Evomuit blasphemias, quae refutandae sunt non tantum disputatione aut scriptis, sed etiam justo officio pii magistratus" (ix. 125, 131).]

He carefully laid down that these severities were requisite, not in consideration of the danger to the State, nor of immoral teaching, nor even of such differences as would weaken the authority or arrest the action of the ecclesiastical organisation, but simply on account of a difference, however slight, in the theologumena of Protestantism.

[“Voco autem blasphemos qui articulos habent, qui proprie non pertinent ad civilem statum, sed continent xxxxxxx {Greek} ut de divinitate Christi et similes. Etsi enim gradus quidam sunt, tamen huc etiam refero baptismum infantum. . . . Quia magistratui commissa est tutela totius legis, quod attinet ad externam disciplinam et externa facta. Quare delicta externa contra primam tabulam prohibere ac punire debet. . . . Quare non solum concessum est, sed etiam mandatum est magistratui, impias doctrinas abolere, et tueri pias in suis ditionibus" (ii. 711). "Ecclesiastica potestas tantum judicat et excommunicat haereticos, non occidit. Sed potestas civilis debet constituere poenas et supplicia in haereticos, sicut in blasphemos constituit supplicia. . . . Non enim plectitur fides, sed haeresis" (xii. 697).]

Thamer, who held the possibility of salvation among the heathen; Schwenkfeld, who taught that not the written Word, but the internal illumination of grace in the soul was the channel of God's influence on man; the Zwinglians, with their error on the Eucharist, all these met with no more favour than the fanatical Anabaptists.

[emphasis added to highlight the relevant particular subject matter]

[ "Notum est etiam, quosdam tetra et dysphema {Greek} dixisse de sanguine Christi, quos puniri oportuit, et propter gloriam Christi, et exempli causa" (viii. 553). "Argumentatur ille praestigiator (Schwenkfeld), verbum externum non esse medium, quo Deus est efficax. Talis sophistica principum severitate compescenda erat" (ix. 579).]


"It has also been noted that certain people have said rotten and evil things concerning the blood of Christ, and it behooved them to have been punished, both on account of the glory of Christ and for the sake of example."

"That trickster Schwenkfeld argues that the external word is not the medium by which God is efficacious. Such sophistry ought to be curbed by the severity of the princes." ]

The State was held bound to vindicate the first table of the law with the same severity as those commandments on which civil society depends for its existence. The government of the Church being administered by the civil magistrates, it was their office also to enforce the ordinances of religion; and the same power whose voice proclaimed religious orthodoxy and law held in its hand the sword by which they were enforced. No religious authority existed except through the civil power.

["The office of preacher is distinct from that of governor, yet both have to contribute to the praise of God. Princes are not only to protect the goods and bodily life of their subjects, but the principal function is to promote the honour of God, and to prevent idolatry and blasphemy" (iii. 199). "Errant igitur magistratus, qui divellunt gubernationem a fine, et se tantum pacis ac ventris custodes esse existimant. . . . At si tantum venter curandus esset, quid differrent principes ab armentariis? Nam longe aliter sentiendum est. Politias divinitus admirabili sapientia et bonitate constitutas esse, non tantum ad quaerenda et fruenda ventris bona, sed multo magis, ut Deus in societate innotescat, ut aeterna bona quaerantur" (iii. 246).]

The Church was merged in the State; but the laws of the State, in return, were identified with the commandments of religion.

["Neque illa barbarica excusatio audienda est, leges illas pertinere ad politiam Mosaicam, non ad nostram. Ut Decalogus ipse ad omnes pertinet, ita judex ubique omnia Decalogi officia in externa disciplina tueatur" (viii. 520).]

In accordance with these principles, the condemnation of Servetus by a civil tribunal, which had no authority over him, and no jurisdiction over his crime - the most aggressive and revolutionary act, therefore, that is conceivable in the casuistry of persecution - was highly approved by Melanchthon. He declared it a most useful example for all future ages, and could not understand that there should be any who did not regard it in the same favourable light.

["Legi scriptum tuum, in quo refutasti luculenter horrendas Serveti blasphemias, ac filio Dei gratias ago, qui fuit xxxxxxxx {Greek} hujus tui agonis. Tibi quoque Ecclesia et nunc et ad posteros gratitudinem debet et debebit. Tuo judicio prorsus adsentior. Affirmo etiam, vestros magistratus juste fecisse, quod hominem blasphemum, re ordine judicata, interfecerunt" (Melanchthon to Calvin, Bretschneider, viii. 362). "Judico etiam Senatum Genevensem recte fecisse, quod hominem pertinacem et non omissurum blasphemias sustulit. Ac miratus sum, esse, qui severitatem illam improbent" (viii. 523). "Dedit vero et Genevensis reip. magistratus ante annos quatuor punitae insanabilis blasphemiae adversus filium Dei, sublato Serveto Arragone pium et memorabile ad omnem posteritatem exemplum" (ix. 133).]

It is true that Servetus, by denying the divinity of Christ, was open to the charge of blasphemy in a stricter sense than that in which the reformers generally applied it. But this was not the case with the Catholics. They did not represent, like the sects, an element of dissolution in Protestantism, and the bulk of their doctrine was admitted by the reformers. They were not in revolt against existing authority; they required no special innovations for their protection; they demanded only that the change of religion should not be compulsory. Yet Melanchthon held that they too were to be proscribed, because their worship was idolatrous.

["Abusus missae per magistratus debet tolli. Non aliter, atque sustulit aeneum serpentem Ezechias, aut excelsa demolitus est Josias" (i. 480). "Politicis magistratibus severissime mandatum est, ut suo quisque loco manibus et armis tollant statuas, ad quas fiunt hominum concursus et invocationes, et puniant suppliciis corporum insanabiles, qui idolorum cultum pertinaciter retinent, aut blasphemias serunt" (ix. 77).]

In doing this he adopted the principle of aggressive intolerance, which was at that time new to the Christian world; and which the Popes and Councils of the Catholic Church had condemned when the zeal of laymen had gone beyond the lawful measure. In the Middle Ages there had been persecution far more sanguinary than any that has been inflicted by Protestants. Various motives had occasioned it and various arguments had been used in its defence. But the principle on which the Protestants oppressed the Catholics was new. The Catholics had never admitted the theory of absolute toleration, as it was defined at first by Luther, and afterwards by some of the sects. In principle, their tolerance differed from that of the Protestants as widely as their intolerance. They had exterminated sects which, like the Albigenses, threatened to overturn the fabric of Christian society. They had proscribed different religions where the State was founded on religious unity, and where this unity formed an integral part of its laws and administration. They had gone one step further, and punished those whom the Church condemned as apostates; thereby vindicating, not, as in the first case, the moral basis of society, nor, as in the second, the religious foundation of the State, but the authority of the Church and the purity of her doctrine, on which they relied as the pillar and bulwark of the social and political order. Where a portion of the inhabitants of any country preferred a different creed, Jew, Mohammedan, heathen, or schismatic, they had been generally tolerated, with enjoyment of property and personal freedom, but not with that of political power or autonomy. But political freedom had been denied them because they did not admit the common ideas of duty which were its basis. This position, however, was not tenable, and was the source of great disorders. The Protestants, in like manner, could give reasons for several kinds of persecution. They could bring the Socinians under the category of blasphemers; and blasphemy, like the ridicule of sacred things, destroys reverence and awe, and tends to the destruction of society. The Anabaptists, they might argue, were revolutionary fanatics, whose doctrines were subversive of the civil order; and the dogmatic sects threatened the ruin of ecclesiastical unity within the Protestant community itself. But by placing the necessity of intolerance on the simple ground of religious error, and in directing it against the Church which they themselves had abandoned, they introduced a purely subjective test, and a purely revolutionary system. It is on this account that the tu quoque, or retaliatory argument, is inadmissible between Catholics and Protestants. Catholic intolerance is handed down from an age when unity subsisted, and when its preservation, being essential for that of society, became a necessity of State as well as a result of circumstances. Protestant intolerance, on the contrary, was the peculiar fruit of a dogmatic system in contradiction with the facts and principles on which the intolerance actually existing among Catholics was founded. Spanish intolerance has been infinitely more sanguinary than Swedish; but in Spain, independently of the interests of religion, there were strong political and social reasons to justify persecution without seeking any theory to prop it up; whilst in Sweden all those practical considerations have either been wanting, or have been opposed to persecution, which has consequently had no justification except the theory of the Reformation. The only instance in which the Protestant theory has been adopted by Catholics is the revocation of the Edict of Nantes.

Towards the end of his life, Melanchthon, having ceased to be a strict Lutheran, receded somewhat from his former uncompromising position, and was adverse to a strict scrutiny into minor theological differences. He drew a distinction between errors that required punishment and variations that were not of practical importance.

["If the French and English community at Frankfort shared the errors of Servetus or Thamer, or other enemies of the Symbols, or the errors of the Anabaptists on infant baptism, against the authority of the State, etc., I should faithfully advise and strongly recommend that they should be soon driven away; for the civil power is bound to prevent and to punish proved blasphemy and sedition. But I find that this community is orthodox in the symbolical articles on the Son of God, and in other articles of the Symbol. . . . If the faith of the citizens in every town were inquired into, what trouble and confusion would not arise in many countries and towns!" (ix. 179).]

The English Calvinists who took refuge in Germany in the reign of Mary Tudor were ungraciously received by those who were stricter Lutherans than Melanchthon. He was consulted concerning the course to be adopted towards the refugees, and he recommended toleration. But both at Wesel and at Frankfort his advice was, to his great disgust, overruled.

[Schmidt, Philipp Melanchthon, p. 640. His exhortations to the Landgrave to put down the Zwinglians are characteristic: "The Zwinglians, without waiting for the Council, persecute the Papists and the Anabaptists; why must it be wrong for others to prohibit their indefensible doctrine independent of the Council?" Philip replied: "Forcibly, to prohibit a doctrine which neither contradicts the articles of faith nor encourages sedition, I do not think right. . . . When Luther began to write and to preach, he admonished and instructed the Government that it had no right to forbid books or to prevent preaching, and that its office did not extend so far, but that it had only to govern the body and goods. . . . I had not heard before that the Zwinglians persecute the Papists; but if they abolish abuses, it is not unjust, for the Papists wish to deserve heaven by their works, and so blaspheme the Son of God. That they should persecute the Anabaptists is also not wrong, for their doctrine is in part seditious." The divines answered: "If by God’s grace our true and necessary doctrine is tolerated as it has hitherto been by the emperor, though reluctantly, we think that we ought not to prevent it by undertaking the defence of the Zwinglian doctrine, if that should not be tolerated. . . . As to the argument that we ought to spare the people while persecuting the leaders, our answer is, that it is not a question of persons, but only of doctrine, whether it be true or false" (Correspondence of Brenz and Melanchthon with Landgrave Philip of Hesse, Bretschneider, ii. 95, 98, 101).]

* * * * *

My earlier opinion, then (held since 1991), has been confirmed. I stated that Philip Melanchthon persecuted (or sanctioned persecution) for the denial of the Real Presence in the Eucharist (an opinion he later adopted himself), citing historians Preserved Smith and Will Durant. My friend Edwin Tait (Ph.D., history) challenged (or doubted) the assertions of Smith because he gave no primary sources. He discounted Durant because he merely cited Smith. He ruled out deductively corroborating evidence (for which I presented a case) from Luther and Reformation specialist Roland Bainton because Bainton did not specifically mention the Real Presence in the laundry list of beliefs which Lutherans persecuted in the 1530-1531 period. But now I have provided a third historian who states the same thing; except this time he provides primary sources:

Corpus Reformatorum, Melanchthonis Opera:

VIII, 553
IX, 579

(many other citations also, on related topics)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

"Science vs. Religion" Chronicles: 16th-17th Century Astronomers' Acceptance of Astrology, Part I

By Dave Armstrong (5-25-06)

I love this particular subject matter (beyond my keen interest in the whole science and religion discussion) because I especially enjoy (as an apologist) doing the following two things:
1) demolishing historical or philosophical or theological or exegetical myths and errors,


2) documenting that the actual truth of virtually any given historical matter is invariably more complex and interesting than the black-and-white, warmed-over, half-baked and half-truth myths that we are constantly fed in the mass media, educational institutions, and even in movies, television documentaries and so forth.
One of the most cherished myths of our secular culture is "Religion (Christianity) vs. Science" or "Reason vs. Faith" or "Science vs. the Bible" as if the two things are inexorably opposed, by their very nature. They are not at all, of course. And this is obviously the case, since science deals with physical matter and the causative laws affecting it, whereas religion deals primarily with non-material things such as ethics, soul, spirit, God the spirit, love, faith, and so forth (not to mention the historical fact that modern science arose in explicitly Christian-Catholic western European culture; arguably would not have developed otherwise, and that almost all the early great scientists were Christians of some sort).

In other words, basically, it is an "apples and oranges" scenario. The two (both rightly-understood) need not clash at all; there is no necessity whatsoever for there to be any earth-shaking conflict (and there usually isn't). Galileo got it right when he said that "the Bible teaches us how to go to heaven; not how the heavens go." That's as good of a brief summary as anyone could give on the subject, I think. Science is science; theology is theology. Is this not obvious? There is overlap, of course (as there is between religion and philosophy), but they are two essentially different fields of study or belief, in aims, subject matter, and methods.

Since the Renaissance, however, and the advent of (Baconian, Copernican, Newtonian) modern science and scientific method as a (rightly) cherished vehicle for arriving at truths concerning the laws of nature and this world and the universe, for some reason, a certain type of secular, skeptically-inclined, usually religiously nominal or liberal mindset, including many (but not all, by any means) scientists want to keep the old "religion vs. science" false dichotomy going, for whatever reasons. Sometimes it is largely a reaction against the ongoing "creation vs. evolution" controversy.

Other times, it is an obsessive dwelling on one-time historical errors such as the Galileo fiasco or some of the nonsense which went down during the initial reaction to Darwin's Origin of Species, or the notorious Scopes Trial of 1925. Certain tiny, fringe factions on the Christian side have also adopted an "anti-science" or "know-nothing" attitude as well, which does no good. Impressions formed by the incessant trumpeting of these unfortunate events apparently have a staying power for those otherwise inclined to question Christianity and the biblical revelation. Stereotypes thus arrived at have a dismaying influence over minds and serve a purpose of minimizing strains of thought (intellectually respectable Christian theology and faith) which are deemed by certain folks as (intellectually) retrograde, undesirable, indefensible, and excessively or completely irrational.


Part of the larger myth here considered is the notion of a sort of black-and-white dichotomy, as if the scientists in any given conflict with religion or faith (e.g., Darwin and Galileo), were these rationalistic, reasonable always-objective, solely truth-seeking machines, so to speak, whereas those on the Christian "side" were invariably dogmatic, closed to reason and inquiry and scientific observation, and indeed, opposed to same (hence we hear about the few Catholic throwbacks who refused to peer into Galileo's telescope or young-earth creationists with their various kooky "scientific" arguments for a 6000-year old earth).

Recently, in an effort to start attempting to break down some of these ridiculous, historically warped and outrageously unfair, revisionist myths (which are used to bash Christianity and Catholicism in particular), I have touched upon the Galileo incident, in three papers.

This incident is far more interesting than the caricatured myth which has received widespread promulgation. For instance, how many people know that Galileo was mistaken in positing circular, rather than (Keplerian) elliptical orbits, or in his "proof" that tides were caused by the rotation of the earth or that the entire universe revolved around the sun (in circular orbits)? How many know that Galileo (an orthodox Catholic, by the way) was dogmatically proclaiming all this as "fact" whereas one of his critics, St. Robert Bellarmine, actually held the more scientifically correct view that scientific hypotheses were not factual, but provisional, and relatively more or less "proven," and that Galileo hadn't proven his theory by simple observation through a telescope. And no, Galileo was not tortured or blinded or ever thrown into a dirty dungeon. He simply lived under "house arrest" in fairly luxurious environments, including the palaces of two sympathetic bishops.

In other words, it was not the stereotype of the perfectly reasonable, open-minded scientist vs. the perfectly-bullheaded Catholic, impervious to empirical demonstration. Though a terrible mistake in judgment occurred in one Catholic tribunal (whereas most Catholic intellectuals of the time disagreed), there was also over-dogmatism and folly and hubris on Galileo's part. That's the part of the story we never hear! Truth is stranger than fiction; history is more fascinating and complex than historical fiction or myth would have it.

There were serious errors made, for which the Catholic Church has paid dearly, but there have been equally outrageous errors made in the name of science as well, as I pointed out in one of the above papers. Why do we never hear about those? Propaganda so often wins the day, but I am interested in historical facts, whatever they are, just as I am interested in scientific facts, whatever they are.

There is also a sub-bias that operates within the larger secular vs. religion mentality; somewhat related to it: that of early Protestantism somehow being more open to science than Catholicism was (based largely or disproportionately, I imagine, on the grossly-exaggerated implications of the Galileo farce). For some people (including many Protestants, as one would expect), Protestantism is considered a bit more rational and closer to "intelligent, secular, scientific thought" than Catholicism. So they simply assume that it had - historically - a more open attitude towards science. This is certainly untrue concerning the period of the 16th and 17th centuries (if it ever was true at any time, which is highly-debatable). It is only relatively small factions of both faiths that fell into the error of thinking in "anti-science" terms.

And so I have dealt with that myth in other writings of mine. So I have dealt with the secular, scientific gripe against Christianity and Catholicism in particular (using Galileo as a prime example of a conflict), or the assertion that science and faith are contradictory and opposites,as well as the Protestant claim that it is (and/or, has been) more open to science than Catholicism. These are both myths.

Now it is time to turn our attention to the flaws and faults (in retrospect) of many of the 16th and 17th century scientists who are "used" for the purpose of bashing Christianity. I will be examining their connection to, and adherence of astrology, which is now considered by virtually all scientists as false and unscientific (pseudo-science at best and sheer fabrication at worst), and scorned and rejected by Protestants and Catholics and Orthodox, too, as occultic nonsense (and often, in practice, quackery). In fact, astrology and astronomy, by all accounts, were very closely connected in the 16th century. It was a bit hard to entangle one from the other.

Again, the Christian / faith side isn't always completely "bad" in conflicts and the scientists aren't always free from error and dogmatism: even on a large scale. The acceptance of astrology illustrates this. If the Christians must be pilloried and mocked and ridiculed for their errors, then isn't it fair also to point out something like this: the widespread acceptance of astrology, even in scientific circles: among the very greatest scientists? What's good for the goose is good for the gander. Yet what often happens (I've seen it a million times in my hundreds of dialogues) is that we Christians usually have to "pay" for our past mistakes forever, while similar whoppers on the scientific side are soon forgotten and hardly ever brought up at all.

The actual facts, again, are extremely fascinating. You have a great Catholic scientist like Galileo, in the forefront of the emerging heliocentrism, who had a significant belief in astrology and wrote many astrological charts! And you have great Lutheran scientists such as Kepler and Tycho Brahe doing the same thing. Even Isaac Newton was fascinated with alchemy, a sort of half-sister to astrology. The categories of the myths don't fit; they don't work: the whole scenario gets turned upside down.

The best early scientists are not supposed to be good Christians, according to the stupid, anti-Christian myth, but almost all of them (like the later Gregor Mendel: the monk who founded genetics) were. Likewise, the scientists (who are the "good guys" and enlightened folks, over against the oppressive, know-nothing Catholic Church and the Lutherans) are not supposed to believe in something so absurd as astrology (or alchemy). But they did. So the myth falls and fails at least four times:

1. Science (or scientists) is not always absolutely right and religion absolutely wrong when they come into conflict. This is a gross simplifying of the historical reality.

2. Protestantism has not been - historically; especially in the 16th and 17th centuries - more open to, and less hostile to science than Catholicism. In fact, a good case might be made for the contrary position.

3. The great early scientists were usually Christians of some sort (which clearly suggests that the often trumped-up conflict is not inherent).

4. The great early scientists made huge mistakes just as the Christians have sometimes done (witness: astrology).

Conclusion: there is plenty enough error and folly to go around; therefore Christians of all stripes are often subjected to a quite unfair and outrageous "bum rap". The more knowledge we have of the relevant historical particulars, the better we understand this.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Replies to Objections to the Christian Doctrine of Hell

By Dave Armstrong (5-24-06)

A fellow Christian has stated on my blog that he is troubled by certain objections raised by a certain atheist, concerning hell (the ones listed below). At that point, my duty as an apologist kicked in: if someone is struggling with the reasoning behind some false teaching and is honest enough to admit this (even publicly, which I greatly admire) in an effort to get some encouragement and assistance from his Christian brethren, then I must respond, even if I feel that the source of the conflict is a nutcase (as this person pretty much is). So here we go. I'll deal with each one (the atheist's words will be in blue):

3. If Hell is very painful then surely the time must come when the souls there will think that they have had enough and repent and go back to God. If there is free will in Hell then the souls there would repent and go back to God.

This rests on several fallacies:

1. Concerning what it truly means to have a free will.

In Christian terms, to be truly free is to follow God and to become more and more holy by His grace, because that is our purpose: why we were created, and therefore what makes us the most happy and fulfilled. Human beings, however, do not have a free will apart from this grace of God, because they are in rebellion against God (the Christian doctrine of the fall and original sin). Now, rather than always desire to follow God and achieve freedom to be what we were intended to be, we have a strong tendency to sin and rebellion against God. The grace is avaialable to all, yet some reject it. The ones who reject this grace and the God Who freely gives it, in love, are simply not free. They are in an abnormal, fallen state. Therefore, souls in hell no longer even have the capacity to freely choose God, since that very choice is made possible only by God's grace, which is no longer available in hell, by definition, because hell is existence without God at all, by the choice of the persons who end up there.

2. The denial that there can be a profoundly, utterly obstinate will, even if "free" and the myth that a "free" will would always, naturally choose to follow God (that being a far better and more rational choice than hellfire and eternal punishment).

This is closely related to #1. Setting aside the important question of whether a rebellious will is truly free or not, we can also argue that there is such a thing as a will so stubborn and rebellious that it has essentially created its own demise, in terms of no longer being able to change and repent while in a damned reprobate state, in hell. C.S. Lewis made a very famous statement that "the doors of hell are locked on the inside." The person in hell wanted to live separate from God. That was his or her choice.

Now, granted, they didn't fully think through what hell entailed. This was part of the devil's deception and game that he plays, so that people will reject God and actually think that the alternative: life without God, is preferable; even far better than life with God. We see this mentality in off-the-cuff remarks of "great parties in hell" or "the saints are boring and no fun at all" or the infantile mindset that we find in, for example, atheist Billy Joel's song, Only the Good Die Young.

This life is a period of grace for all men. God makes the choice to follow Him freely available to all (universal atonement, over against the heretical and unbiblical limited atonement of Calvinism). We don't yet know what life truly without God is actually like. That remains to be seen and experienced in hell. But God simply lets those who wish to reject Him do so. It has consequences; people are warned about it in the Bible and in sermons. They know enough to know that it is undesirable to go to hell. So what grounds do they have to want to get out of it, having achieved their wish?

That is simply how reality works: life without God in eternity is a dreadful, horrific thing called hell. The guy who wrote these objections has been fully warned about hell, because he writes about how he disagrees with the doctrine. So he knows about it, but rejects it and God. So he may end up there himself (if he willfully rejects God and the gospel with full awareness that it is true), but if so, he won't have any grounds in reason or justice to be allowed out of it.


3. The notion that the punishment in hell somehow becomes unjust simply because persons there figure out that they messed up in rejecting God in the first place, therefore ending up in torment, and that God ought to "change His mind" and let them out.

This is a fallacy (which lies underneath the claim above) because it presupposes that God's mercy and forgiveness must necessarily last forever. But why should that be the case? On what reasonable or moral grounds? If indeed, God has freely provided mercy and grace and the ability to be saved and go to heaven, during our entire lifetimes on earth, why would He be obliged to do so forever? Why must we assume that this isn't sufficient or that it doesn't allow adequate recourse or access to the knowledge of what it takes to avoid hell and attain eternal life in heaven (entirely by grace, but requiring also our assent)?

In fact, there is no basis to this objection at all. It may falsely assume that people end up in hell due to ignorance and no particular fault of their own (which might conceivably apply as a critique of supralapsarian Calvinism) and deny original sin and the rebellion of the human race, but the biblical and Catholic and Orthodox and non-Calvinist Protestant teaching is that sinner freely reject God after having been given ample opportunity to repent and follow Him. So why must God give them another chance, when they have had a lifetime of chances already? Irrevocable reality intervenes at some point. In this instance it is called hell: life without God: with no love or grace or good or true or righteous.

8. Hell implies that God and the saints cannot want you to be released from Hell for God keeps you there for you would leave eventually if you were there of your own free will which glorifies hatred.

The second clause was dealt with in my reply above. As for the first part: it is irrational, based on the above, on the following grounds: it presupposes the fallacy that God and the saints don't want someone (or any and all of the damned) to be saved simply because there was an irrevocable decision that a person would be damned, made after an entire lifetime of opportunity to avoid such a fate. It doesn't follow that they don't desire the salvation of all because (in the end) some reject that salvation. God merely leaves them to their desires and fate. One might argue that this is the utmost honoring of man's dignity and free will, on God's part: He values free will so much that He even allows men to reject Him. He doesn't force anyone to follow Him.

They don’t want you to leave then they either do not care about you or they hate you

This doesn't follow at all, because it is based on the same fallacious reasoning: that an obstinate rebellious free will must somehow (by some weird logic) "prove" that God and the saints didn't want the obstinate soul to become open and enable itself to be saved by God's grace. That doesn't follow at all.

but since they are happy they must simply not care for hate is painful.

Happiness in heaven is first and foremost because the saints are with God, for which they were created. So they will obviously be happy. As for regret about damned people, we don't know all the ins and outs of that from revelation alone, but we know that God must at some point wipe away memories (just as He will our "tears"); otherwise we couldn't be totally happy in heaven (we would be mourning the lost forever). In any event, it doesn't follow that the happiness in heaven involves a callous unconcern for the damned. We are showing our great concern now by warning people so they can avoid this fate, But we are mocked and laughed at, precisely by people like this atheist who cry out against the supposed "injustice" of hell the most.

If this atheist died an hour after reading this paper, then God could very well say to Him: "did you not read Dave Armstrong's paper on the last day of your life, which warned you about hell and showed you how your objections are irrational and groundless?" And he will say (head hanging down low in shame) "yes." Then God could say something like: "then on what grounds do you accuse Me of being unjust and unmerciful and cruel, when I have sent you messengers of warning and heralds of my gospel of salvation throughout your entire life - even on your last day, an hour before you died - , so that you could follow Me and be saved?" And he won't be able to say anything. He chose to reject God, and now the time has come to start being so free that He will be able to live absolutely apart from God, and to see what that is really like. It's a very tragic thing, but neither God nor Christians can be blamed for it. The blame lies with every obstinate, rebellious sinner who continually spurns and rejects God. It is the sad aspect of allowing free will. With free will, you have some people making stupid, tragic choices.

But indifference is worse than hate and is the real opposite of love.

That's true. See; even within this absurd post there is some truth to be found. Even an unplugged clock is right twice a day!

Also, they have to decide to be indifferent

There is no indication in the Bible that saved persons decide to be indifferent (that's simply more irrational, wishful thinking on the atheist's part). It is perfectly acceptable, then, to posit exactly what I did, above: God removes the memory of damned loved ones out of love for those who are saved, so they won't suffer indefinitely, just as we do on earth when loved ones go astray.

and that is an act of easy hate so hate and indifference are connected. If you should hate the damned you should hate the living sinners as much because many of the damned are people who committed relatively harmless sins.

Christianity doesn't teach us to hate anyone (with the possible exception of the devil), so this is a red herring which need not be replied to. It assumes what it is trying to prove. The nature of the depth and blameworthiness of sins is another huge topic beyond our purview here.

10. If God really hated sin and suffering he would give us a second chance to repent after death.

This was already covered above. But I could reply further by asking, "why is God required to give 'one more chance' at death after He has given chances to repent for 50, 60, 70 or more years, throughout a person's entire lifetime?" This is an irrational requirement. I think all it is, is the atheist saying, "hey, I didn't know enough to follow You during my life because of my stubbornness and illogical, silly ideas I picked up from my atheist friends and secular propaganda. But now I know enough because I am standing in front of you and can no longer deny that you exist and that there is a hell for those who disbelieve you."

But again, this wrongly presupposes that 1) the person didn't have enough information to decide for or against God previously (which Christians absolutely deny), and/or 2) that the person was treated unfairly in being damned, and/or 3) that his sin was not sufficient to warrant damnation, by its very nature. So premises are questionable and by no means self-evident or strongly supported, all down the line here.

Lastly, I have asserted that God is not required to do give a "second chance" after death, and that if He didn't allow it, there would be no grounds to accuse Him of injustice, cruelty, or unfairness. I could just as easily argue, however, that God (knowing everything) gives every person a special amount of grace just before they die, so they have every chance to accept His grace and salvation. That would be no different from such a moment immediately after death.

But in any event, Christians hold that all men have sufficient knowledge to attain salvation, either through outward revelation and witness or one's conscience and a simple observation of the world, which reveals a Creator (Romans 1:18-23), thus leaving no "excuse" for those who reject God (1:20); who do so willingly, knowing the truth (1:21-22).

That is Christian, biblical teaching, agree or disagree. Since the relentless critique of this atheist (and most irrational skeptical types) concerns a supposed internal inconsistency of Christianity, then it is required that the critic at least know what we teach in the first place. But of course they rarely properly understand Christian teaching (and know less than nothing about sensible biblical interpretation, leading to many ridiculous, laughable arguments and "proofs"), which causes 90% of the problems in dealing with them (along with their endless false premises and illogical, incoherent thought).

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Philip Melanchthon: Death for Denial of the Real Presence / His Later Denial of the Real Presence

By Dave Armstrong (5-23-06)

Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560) was a compatriot of Martin Luther, author of the Augsburg Confession, and Luther's successor. He was, then, one of the major Protestant so-called "reformers."

Preserved Smith: The Social Background of the Reformation, New York: Collier Books, 1962 (2nd part of author's The Age of the Reformation, New York: 1920). Smith (died: 1941) was a professor of history, who taught at Cornell and Harvard. He was an expert on the 16th century, and wrote other books like The Life and Letters of Martin Luther (1911), and Erasmus: A Study of His Life, Ideas and Place in History.

A regular inquisition was set up in Saxony [in the 1530s], with Melanchthon on the bench, and under it many persons were punished, some with death, some with life imprisonment, and some with exile.

. . . Melanchthon was far more active in the pursuit of heretics than was his older friend [Luther]. He reckoned the denial of infant baptism, or of original sin, and the opinion that the eucharistic bread did not contain the real body and blood of Christ, as blasphemy properly punishable by death. He blamed Brenz for his tolerance, asking why we should pity heretics more than does God, who sends them to eternal torment? Brenz was convinced by this argument and became a persecutor himself.

(p. 177)

We know (from various historians) that Melanchthon, with Luther's approval and sanction, held that heretics who denied infant baptism, original sin, and the Real Presence in the Eucharist should be put to death. This is a matter of historical record. This is not in dispute at all. One can only quibble endlessly about what real presence means.

Did Melanchthon later change his mind on the Eucharist and deny that the Body and Blood of Jesus were truly, substantially present in it, even in the Lutheran sense of consubstantiation? Yes, and this is also rather easily established. It is quite arguably sufficient, in fact, to consult just one work: well-known Melanchthon biographer Clyde L. Manschreck's translation and edition of the "reformer's" systematic theology: Loci communes theologici (1555 edition: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1965; my paperback edition dates from 1982 and is called Melanchthon on Christian Doctrine).

I also have the earlier 1521 edition of Loci communes theologici (edited by Wilhelm Pauck, Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1969), but the later edition is important because it can illustrate Melanchthon's ever-evolving doctrine of the Eucharist. Furthermore, the Preface by Manschreck himself (author of Melanchthon: The Quiet Reformer, New York: Abingdon Press, 1958), tells us just about all we need to know on the matter, right from perhaps the leading authority on Melanchthon in recent times. I shall cite the Preface below.

Remember, Melanchthon advocated the death penalty in 1530 and 1536 for the denial of the Real Presence, then later denied it himself in terms of what I would argue was the clear historical meaning of that term, held even by Luther (though in a way different from transubstantiation). While he didn't later adopt a purely symbolic view, on the other hand, he had forsaken the doctrineof a physical, substantive presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the consecrated bread and wine.


[Note: CR = Corpus Reformatorum, which collects Melanchthon's works and is the primary source for his materials. It was edited by C.G. Bretschneider and H.E. Bindsell from 1834-1860]

Both humanism and an attempt to draw closer to Calvinism have also been blamed for Melanchthon's altered views on the Lord's Supper. This was particularly noticeable in the 1540 changes which Melanchthon introduced into the Augsburg Confession.

. . . Article X of the Augsburg Confession, 1530, read, "Of the Supper of the Lord, they teach that the Body and Blood of Christ are truly present and are distributed to those who eat in the Supper of the Lord; and they disapprove of those who teach otherwise." In the Variata of 1540 Article X read: "Of the Supper of the Lord, they teach that with the bread and the wine the Body and Blood of Christ are truly tendered to those who eat in the Lord's Supper." "Tendered" replaced "distributed," and the note on disapproval was omitted. At this time the German evangelicals were making overtures to John Calvin, and this change reflects a desire to allow a Calvinistic interpretation of the Lord's Supper, for Melanchthon himself had come to believe in a real, spiritual presence, which was a drift from the physical, "distributable," "this-is-my-body" presence held by Luther. As early as 1519 Melanchthon had completely rejected transubstantiation, and by 1544 had eliminated the elevation of the Host in Wittenberg (50). Rationalistic humanism figured in the change; he had been searching the documents of early Christianity. In 1544 Melanchthon was ready to depart from Wittenberg if necessary; he had struggled with the problem for more than ten years (51). Nevertheless, the tension did not result in a break (52).

At the Marburg Colloquy in 1529 Melanchthon was paired with Zwingli and Luther with Oecolampadius in a discussion of the Lord's Supper, on which the participants agreed to disagree (53). Afterward, Melanchthon's thoughts on the Eucharist gradually changed, due largely to a dialogue with Oecolampadius in 1530; it shook his confidence in the physical presence, (54), for Oecolampadius demonstrated that the early Church subscribed to both mystic and symbolic views of the Eucharist four centuries before the physical theories became the vogue. After the death of Zwingli and Oecolampadius in 1531 Bucer made overtures for union of the Zwinglians and Lutherans; though they were premature, (55) Melanchthon nurtured strong doubts about the physical presence in which he thought Luther believed. (56) To Melanchthon the presence had become a mystery, analogous to faith. (57) In 1533 Bucer sent Melanchthon a booklet, In Preparation for Union, that held some ecumenical promise, but Melanchthon was not optimistic (58) because he felt bound to present to Bucer (at Cassel in 1534) Luther's view that "the body of Christ is really eaten in the Supper, that the body is actually torn with the teeth and eaten." (59) Nevertheless, Bucer and Melanchthon agreed that the body of Christ is given and received at the same time as the elements, that they are sacramentally joined without any natural mixing of their substances. (60) Luther agreed for the sake of peace, but Melanchthon had become convinced that his original views were contrary to those of the early Church fathers. (61) In the 1535 Loci he expressed an inward, spiritual communion with Christ as the essential aspect of the Eucharist. (62) . . . Melanchthon doubted that the agreement on words would last; rumors circulated that he was a Sacramentarian. (65)

In 1538 Melanchthon insisted that the sacramental presence was in the use, that Christ was truly present and effective then, the sacramental union being like the union of fire and iron. (66) By 1543 Melanchthon held that the sacramental union lasts only until the Communion is finished; then the elements are again simply bread and wine and mnay be treated as such. (67) When Luther wrote A Short Confession on the Holy Sacrament, Against the Fanatics in the tense year of 1544, Melanchthon expected to be attacked. (68) Instead Luther said, "I have absolutely no suspicion in regard to Philip," (69) but the Elector nevertheless took the precaution of forbidding Luther to attack Melanchthon. (70) Despite the tension in 1544, Luther's commendation of ther Loci of 1544-45, which embodied Melanchthon's views on the Supper, were unstinted. (71) After Luther's death, February 18, 1546, Melanchthon branded the physical view of the Supper as bread idolatry. (72)


50 ZKG, XXXII, 292 f.; CR 7:877-89.
51 CR 3:537.
52 CR 5:474.
53 CR 1:1048, 1065, 1098; 23:727.
54 CR 2:217, 822, 824.
55 CR 2:470, 498, 787.
56 Cf. C. Schmidt, Melanchthon (Elberfeld, 1861), 318 f.
57 CR 2:620, letter to Rothmann at Munster, Dec. 24, 1532.
58 CR 2:675, 776; Schmidt, Melanchthon, 318 f.
59 James W. Richard, Melanchthon, the Protestant Preceptor of Germany (New York: 1898), 251; Schmidt, Melanchthon, 319; Martin Luthers Briefe, 4:569.
60 CR 2:807 f.
61 CR 2:824.
62 Cf. Schmidt, Melanchthon, 371.

65 CR 2:837; 3:81, 180; Camerarius, De Vita Melanchthonis, 163.
66 CR 3:514.
67 ZKG, XXXII (1911), 292 f.; CR 7:877-88.
68 CR 5:474; Luthers Werke, 32:39 f.
69 Martin Luthers Briefe, 5:645, 697.
70 CR 5:746.
71 Lutheran Quarterly, XXXVI (April, 1916), 68.
72 For views in the 1555 Loci, see Articles XIX, XXII, XXIII.
A.A. Hodge: Outlines of Theology: Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism & Augustinianism (emphases added):

Luther, a monk of the order of Augustine, and an earnest disciple of that father, taught a system of faith agreeing in spirit and in all essential points with that afterwards more systematically developed by Calvin. The only important point in which he differed from the common consensus of the Calvinistic Churches related to the literal physical presence of the entire person of Christ in, with, and under the elements in the Eucharist. With these opinions of Luther Melanchthon appears to have agreed at the time he published the first edition of his 'Loci Communes.' His opinions, however, as to the freedom of man and the sovereignty of divine grace were subsequently gradually modified. After the death of Luther, at the Leipsic Conference in 1548, he explicitly declared his agreement with the synergists, who maintain that in the regenerating act the human will cooperates with divine grace. Melanchthon, on the other hand, held a view of the relation of the sign to the grace signified thereby in the Sacraments, much more nearly conforming to opinions of the disciples of Zwingli and Calvin than generally prevailed in his own Church. His position on both these points gave great offense to the Old Lutherans, and occasioned protracted and bitter controversies. Finally, the Old or Strict Lutheran party prevailed over their antagonists, and their views received a complete scientific statement in the 'Formula Concordiae' published 1580. Although this remarkable document never attained a position by the side of the Augsburg Confession and Apology as the universally recognized Confession of the Lutheran Churches, it may justly be taken as the best available witness as to what strictly Lutheran theology when developed into a complete system really is.

. . . The grand distinction of Lutheranism however relates to their doctrine of the EUCHARIST. They hold to the real physical presence of the Lord in the Eucharist, in, with, and under the elements, and that the grace signified and conveyed by the sacraments is necessary to salvation, and conveyed ordinarily by no other means. Hence the theology and church life of the strict Lutherans center in the sacraments. They differ from the high sacramental party in the Episcopal church chiefly in the fact that they ignore the dogma of apostolic succession, and the traditions of the early church.
Philip Schaff: History of the Christian Church, Volume VIII: Modern Christianity:
133. Calvin and the Augsburg Confession. Melanchthon’s Position in the Second Eucharistic Controversy. (emphases added):

During the progress of this controversy both parties frequently appealed to the Augsburg Confession and to Melanchthon. They were both right and both wrong; for there are two editions of the Confession, representing the earlier and the later theories of its author on the Lord’s Supper. The original Augsburg Confession of 1530, in the tenth article, teaches Luther’s doctrine of the real presence so clearly and strongly that even the Roman opponents did not object to it. But from the time of the Wittenberg Concordia in 1536, or even earlier, Melanchthon began to change his view on the real presence as well as his view on predestination and free-will; in the former he approached Calvin, in the latter he departed from him. He embodied the former change in the Altered Confession of 1540, without official authority, yet in good faith, as the author of the document, and in the conviction that he represented public sentiment, since Luther himself had moderated his opposition to the Swiss by assenting to the Wittenberg Concordia.

. . . Calvin urged Melanchthon repeatedly to declare openly his view on the points in controversy. In a letter of March 5, 1555, after thanking him for his approval of the condemnation of Servetus, he says: "About ’the bread-worship’ . . . , your most intimate opinion has long since been known to me, which you do not even dissemble in your letter. But your too great slowness displeases me, by which the madness of those whom you see rushing on to the destruction of the Church, is not only kept up, but from day to day increased." Melanchthon answered, May 12, 1555:

I have determined to reply simply and without ambiguity, and I judge that I owe that work to God and the Church, nor at the age to which I have arrived, do I fear either exile or other dangers." On August 23 of the same year, Calvin expressed his gratification with this answer and wrote: "I entreat you to discharge, as soon as you can, the debt which you acknowledge you owe to God and the Church." He adds with undue severity: "If this warning, like a cock crowing rather late and out of season, do not awaken you, all will cry out with justice that you are a sluggard. Farewell, most distinguished sir, whom I venerate from the heart." In another letter of Aug. 3, 1557, he complains of the silence of three years and apologizes for the severity of his last letter, but urges him again to come out, like a man, and to refute the charge of slavish timidity. "I do not think," he says, "you need to be reminded by many words, how necessary it is for you to hasten to wipe out this blot from your character." He proposes that Melanchthon should induce the Lutheran princes to convene a peaceful conference of both parties at Strassburg, or Tübingen, or Heidelberg, or Frankfurt, and attend the conference in person with some pious, upright, and moderate men. "If you class me," he concludes, "in the number of such men, no necessity, however pressing, will prevent me from putting up this as my chief vow, that before the Lord gather us into his heavenly kingdom I may yet be permitted to enjoy on earth, a most delightful interview with you, and feel some alleviation of my grief by deploring along with you the evils which we cannot remedy." In his last extant letter to Melanchthon, dated Nov. 19, 1558, Calvin alludes once more to the eucharistic controversy, but in a very gentle spirit, assuring him that he will never allow anything to alienate his mind "from that holy friendship and respect which I have vowed to you .... Whatever may happen, let us cultivate with sincerity a fraternal affection towards each other, the ties of which no wiles of Satan shall ever burst asunder."

Melanchthon would have done better for his own fame if, instead of approving the execution of Servetus, he had openly supported Calvin in the conflict with Westphal. But he was weary of the rabies theologorum, and declined to take an active part in the bitter strife on "bread-worship," as he called the notion of those who were not contented with the presence of the body of Christ in the sacramental use, but insisted upon its presence in and under the bread. He knew what kind of men he had to deal with. He knew that the court of Saxony, from a sense of honor, would not allow an open departure from Luther’s doctrine. Prudence, timidity, and respect for the memory of Luther were the mingled motives of his silence. He was aware of his natural weakness, and confessed in a letter to Christopher von Carlowitz, in 1548: "I am, perhaps, by nature of a somewhat servile disposition, and I have before endured an altogether unseemly servitude; as Luther more frequently obeyed his temperament, in which was no little contentiousness, than he regarded his own dignity and the common good."

But in his private correspondence he did not conceal his real sentiments, his disapproval of "bread-worship" and of the doctrine of the ubiquity of Christ’s body. His last utterance on the subject was in answer to the request of Elector Frederick III. of the Palatinate, who tried to conciliate the parties in the fierce eucharistic controversy at Heidelberg. Melanchthon warned against scholastic subtleties and commended moderation, peace, biblical simplicity, and the use of Paul’s words that "the bread which we break is the communion of the body of Christ " (1 Cor. 10:16), not "changed into," nor the "substantial," nor the "true" body. He gave this counsel on the first of November, 1559. A few months afterwards he died (April 17, 1560).

The result was that the Elector deposed the leaders of both parties, Heshusius and Klebitz, called distinguished foreign divines to the University, and entrusted Zacharias Ursinus (a pupil of Melanchthon) and Caspar Olevianus (a pupil of Calvin) with the task of composing the Heidelberg or Palatinate Catechism, which was published Jan. 19, 1563. It became the principal symbolical book of the German and Dutch branches of the Reformed Church. It gives clear and strong expression to the Calvinistic-Melanchthonian theory of the spiritual real presence, and teaches the doctrine of election, but without a word on reprobation and preterition. In both respects it is the best expression of the genius and final doctrinal position of Melanchthon, who was himself a native of the Palatinate.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Why Write At All About "Bad" and Scandalous Stuff Concerning Early Protestant Leaders?

By Dave Armstrong (5-22-06)

Though I have written about this time and again, every once in a while it is good to reiterate my reasonings and motivation in such papers. A traditional Anglican, "St. Worm" (not an anti-Catholic himself) asked me some questions and I answered in the comments section of my blog. His words will be in blue. The first part of my response is directly related to my paper on Melanchthon and astrology; then I deal more generally with the topic.

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Sehr interessant! Ich das nicht gekannt!

I think it's a relatively minor offense given that the Middle Ages was no stranger to superstition. Man, only if my vices could rise to the dignity of such fluff as astrology interpreted through the lens of divine providence!

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I find it fascinating that astrology is interpreted as being "okay" and fine and dandy (either completely or relatively) by some Protestants if the word "Providence" is simply attached to it (making it supposedly "Christian astrology." It's either wrong or it isn't. I would say that it is condemned by the Bible along with all the other occult so-called "sciences." Period. It's inconsistent with biblical Christianity: with both Protestantism and Catholicism.

Yet when it comes to something like the Mass and transubstantiation (here I go with one of my typical analogies that came to mind) the same Protestants will condemn that absolutely as idolatry when it clearly is not: the Catholic is worshiping Jesus Christ our great God and Savior. He is not worshiping a piece of bread. Worship is an interior thing; it has to do with what one believes in one's heart.

Idolatry is the same. Even (hypothetically) if the consecrated bread remains bread and transubstantiation is a bunch of hooey, it's still not idolatry because the Catholic is not deliberately intending to worship bread and pretending that is a god other than the one God. The very word transubstantiation means "change of substance" so obviously we no longer believe bread and wine are there: they have transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ.

I don't know why that is so hard for some Protestants to comprehend. Apparently they have not thought much about what idolatry is, and what the Bible teaches about it.

Yet when it comes to something like Melanchthon's espousal of a thing roundly condemned by the Bible and the Fathers; regarded by Luther as idolatry and by Calvin as "satanic delusion," that's fine, because, you see, it is "Christian" astrology, making it kosher.

And, by the way, I am not responding to Worm in particular (though it may be that he falls into some of this same thinking); I'm making general observations based on what I have seen.

As for Melanchthon's "complexity": yes, he sure was: a mild-mannered humanist who was too much of a wimp to even stand up to his friend Luther, yet who was in favor of killing peaceful Anabaptists, those who rejected the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist (the very belief that he himself later came to hold!), and those who held that some heathen might be saved. He described the Calvin-instigated burning of Michael Servetus as "'a pious and memorable example to all posterity."

A very complex man indeed: and typical of the first generation of Protestants: not exactly renowned for their exceptional holiness, doctrinal orthodoxy or religious toleration . . .

Hey; all I'm trying to do is to show the true nature of these "reformer's" beliefs, in all of their flying colors. Truth is always more interesting than pseudo-hagiography and myths of origins.


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Just for the record, I object to astrology on biblical principles, I only meant to say that such vices were relatively benign compared to other things I believe were noteworthy of condemnation, whether in them or in myself.

But here's a few questions that came to mind when I read your post, brother Dave: to what end do we use such knowledge about Melancthon and Chemnitz? What happens when we find Roman Catholic figures of prominence practicing certain evils through shades of ignorance? Can't it be legitimately said that maybe Scripture, which has astrologers from the east coming to worship Christ, might have been interpreted wrongly but with good intentions? How does charity cover their faults in this, or place the best construction on things, or does it?

I'm not suggesting we adopt their practices at all . . . just wondering how we handle the fact of Christians doing such things.

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I don't take so strong an exception against the men of the Middle Ages. I truly believe they thought it was biblically permissible to look to the stars as indicators of what God was about to do.

Genesis 1 mentions God made the stars for "signs and for seasons," perhaps they felt that there's legitimacy and biblical warrant for looking to things in nature to discern what God was about to do.

Again, the Magi come to mind. Not an airtight case for the Middle Ages use of astrology, but certainly an understandable goof.

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But here's a few questions that came to mind when I read your post, brother Dave: to what end do we use such knowledge about Melancthon and Chemnitz?

The end of fuller, more complete information about the so-called "reformers." I want them to be known and understood as they really were, not through the lens of agenda-driven biased Protestant pseudo-hagiography (especially if it is anti-Catholic). You'll note that I made no editorial comment at all in the post itself. That only came in the comments. I think most people read the posts only and probably don't get into the comments, after it leaves the front page of my blog.

What happens when we find Roman Catholic figures of prominence practicing certain evils through shades of ignorance?

We condemn them just as vigorously, just as I did the fools who made the Galileo sentence. We should exercise charity as much as possible, too; I agree.

Can't it be legitimately said that maybe Scripture, which has astrologers from the east coming to worship Christ, might have been interpreted wrongly but with good intentions?

Of course. But then, what about my point in my analogy, that Catholics who believe in transubstantiation with the best of intentions (the furthest thing from idolatry) nevertheless get accused of the latter by Protestants who are intent on reading Catholics out of the Christian faith anyway they can?

It's the double standard that I object to. Something like this with Melanchthon and Chemnitz gets a big pass and Calvin and Luther don't seem to think they aren't Christians when they adopt rank idolatry and occultic practice. Why the difference?

Also, of course, those who condemned Galileo were just as sincere and were interpreting Scripture wrongly. But we will hear about that till Kingdom come, while the astrology of Melanchthon is, of course, relatively unknown; meanwhile, millions of Lutherans abide by the Confessions that he played a major role in drafting.

How does charity cover their faults in this, or place the best construction on things, or does it?

I'm happy to do that as much as possible. As usual, my purpose is to point out the double standard. It is within the context of the abominable treatment that Catholics receive (esp. from anti-Catholics) and the endless trumpeting of all of the faults of Catholic history, that I bring these things up.

My point is: if you (Protestants) insist on misrepresenting our beliefs and practices and grossly overemphasizing the things we actually have done wrong in the past, then at least have the intellectual consistency and fairness of mind to also be upfront and honest about the skeletons in your closet. And explain why the double standards are applied.

But beyond that apologetic/polemical purpose, it is also true that I simply like to examine things in history that don't "fit into the accepted grid," so to speak.

It's similar to how Rush Limbaugh talks about his show: the culture, academia, the entertainment industry, the media, etc. are overwhelmingly liberal, so he comes along (back in 1988) and gives a politically conservative presentation and it is Chicken Little. But then he notes how he is one relatively lone voice, so why the big fuss?

It was because his position was not supposed to be heard at all. It was held down because of prejudice and misinformation and the assumption that liberalism is the only "respectable" position, the only one worthy to be heard and promulgated on a mass scale.

Well, it is like that with many Protestants. Their version of Christian history gets broadcast in Christian circles, while ours is pilloried and mocked and presented only in the most jaded, distorted terms.

So a guy like me comes around and "turns the tables" by not only giving our side of famous issues that we are looked down for (Galileo, Crusades, Inquisition, Honorius, the excommunication of Luther, etc.), but also examining some of the scarcely-known "skeletons in the closet" of Protestants, such as the present topic, Luther's espousal of the death penalty, Calvin's distortions of the very teachings of Trent in his effort to "refute" them, Zwingli's secret concubine, the widespread theft of Church property, sanctioned by anti-Catholicism, etc.

I should think all of this is obvious (i.e., why I would do this at all), but I suppose it is worthwhile for me to explain where I am coming from in these matters once in a while.

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Okay, I can see the usefulness of such a design. I'm not one of those anti-catholic loons, you should know. :-) Whatever disagreements I have about Romanism per se, I assure you, are undergirded with a profound respect for her antiquity and importance. Of course I'm an Anglican so I'll have certain gripes, but I promise to try and avoid cheap shots at Rome.

Yep; you're not the type of person I am trying to jolt into a realization of double standards and certain historical realities. You can see this material and accept it for the (as you said) historical "trivia" and "anomaly" that it is.

It's the anti-Catholics who need to be confronted with their "historical hypocrisy" and highly selective, warped presentations of Church history.

They can do with this material what they will. It's out there now (all I did was collect stuff from the Internet and a little bit from books not online), and I believe the more facts we know about anything, the better we are informed, in order to take an educated, intelligent position, whichever way we come down on things.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Strong Enthusiasm For Astrology of Early Lutheran Leader Philip Melanchthon

By Dave Armstrong (5-21-06)

Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560) was a compatriot of Martin Luther, author of the Augsburg Confession, and Luther's successor. 

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Historian Philip Schaff:

Calvin's clear, acute, and independent intellect was in advance of the crude superstitions of his age. He wrote a warning against judicial astrology or divination, which presumes to pronounce judgment upon a man's character or destiny as written in the stars. This spurious science, which had wandered from Babylon to ancient Rome and from heathen Rome to the Christian Church, flourished especially in Italy and France at the very time when other superstitions were shaken to the base. Several popes of the Renaissance - Sixtus IV, Julius II, Leo X, Paul III were addicted to it, but Pico della Mirandola wrote a book against it. King Francis I dismissed his physician because he was not sufficiently skilled in this science. The Duchess Renata of Ferrara consulted, even in her later years, the astrologer Luc Guaric. The court of Catherine de Medici made extensive use of this and other black arts, so that the Church and the State had to interfere.

But more remarkable is the fact that such an enlightened scholar as Melanchthon should have anxiously watched the constellations for their supposed bearing upon human events. Lelio Sozini was at a loss to know whether Melanchthon depended most on the stars, or on their Maker and Ruler. In this respect Luther, notwithstanding his strong belief in witchcraft and personal encounters with the devil, was in advance of his more learned friend, and refuted his astrological calculation of the nativity of Cicero with the Scripture fact of Esau's and Jacob's birth in the same hour. Yet he regarded the comets, or "harlot stars," as he called them, as tokens of God's wrath, or as works of the devil . . .

Nothing of this kind is found in Calvin. He denounced the attempt to reveal what God has hidden, and to seek him outside of his revealed will, as an impious presumption and a satanic delusion. It is right and proper, he maintains, to study the laws and motions of the heavenly bodies. True astronomy leads to the praise of God’s wisdom and majesty; but astrology upsets the moral order. God is sovereign in his gifts and not bound to any necessity of nature. He has foreordained all things by his eternal decree . . . In conclusion he rejects the whole theory and practice of astrology as not only superfluous and useless, but even pernicious . . .

Calvin might have made his task easier if he had accepted the heliocentric theory of Copernicus, which was known in his time, though only as a hypothesis.

But in this matter Calvin was no more in advance of his age than any other divine. He believed that "the whole heaven moves around the earth," and declared it preposterous to set the conjecture of a man against the authority of God, who in the first chapter of Genesis had pointed out the relation of the sun and moon to the earth. Luther speaks with contempt of that upstart astronomer who wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy and the sacred Scripture, which tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth. Melanchthon condemned the system in his treatise on the "Elements of Physics," published six years after the death of Copernicus, and cited against it the witness of the eyes, which inform us that the heavens revolve in the space of twenty-four hours; and passages from the Psalms and Ecclesiastes, which assert that the earth stands fast and that the sun moves around it. He suggests severe measures to restrain such impious teaching as that of Copernicus.

(History of the Christian Church, Vol. VIII: Modern Christianity, 135. "Calvin and the Astrologers")

On the other hand, he [Luther] doubted the calculations of astrology. "I have no patience with such stuff," he said to Melanchthon, who showed him the nativity of Cicero from the stars. "Esau and Jacob were born of the same father and mother, at the same time, and under the same planets, but their nature was wholly different. You would persuade me that astrology is a true science! I was a monk, and grieved my father; I caught the Pope by his hair, and he caught me by mine; I married a runaway nun, and begat children with her. Who saw that in the stars? Who foretold that? Astronomy is very good, astrology is humbug. The example of Esau and Jacob disproves it."

(Ibid., Vol. VII, Modern Christianity, 78. "Luther's Home Life")