Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Laudable Lucid Lutheran Luminary Leibniz's Lousy, Lax, Lacerated Luther Line Letdown (?)

(see Part II of my "long paper", section XII for Tim Enloe's translation of the Latin context of Leibniz)

Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz utilized a Luther quote discussed in the paper above. In no sense did I merely appeal to Leibniz's genius as proof that he was right (appeal to authority fallacy or, arguably, the genetic fallacy, if indeed I was arguing this, which I was not). My argument proceeds as follows:
1) Anti-Catholics claim that Catholic apologists cite Luther's utterances out of context.

2) Moreover, they claim that many Catholic apologists have taken this one particular Luther utterance (as well as many others) out of context, implying that this is a general deficiency in Catholic methodology.
3) But we have found the Lutheran philosopher and genius Leibniz utilizing the same quote, in virtually the same exact form (in Latin) from beginning to end.

4) Therefore, due to Leibniz's high stature in the history of thought, it cannot be argued that this is solely or primarily a Catholic deficiency.

5) Therefore, by logical extension, the criticisms that anti-Catholics make of the Catholic use of the quote must also be applied to Leibniz, or else the assumed opinion that the quote was taken out of context or otherwise falsely presented or misused must be revised.

6) Moreover, the charge applied to Leibniz is quite implausible since Leibniz was a genius and one of the greatest scholars and philosophers of his time; thus, to argue that Leibniz was woefully ignorant of the standard, basic rules of citation and immune to the usual counter-arguments of other scholars who would readily exploit this deficiency and faux pas, were it indeed present, is implausible in the extreme and arguably absurd.

7) The existence of other Protestants who acknowledge the citation without protest (e.g., Westcott) further strengthens this argument.

8) It is further weakened in terms of a primary application to "pop apologists" by the fact that eminent Doctors of the Church such as St. Robert Bellarmine and St. Francis de Sales use the same citation.

9) Ergo, the overall anti-Catholic argument is considerably weakened and rendered quite dubious insofar as it is implausible in light of Leibniz' (and other Protestants') use: this alleged shortcoming is not confined to the "pop apologetics" realm.
That is my actual argument. Fair-minded readers can readily see that it is much more sophisticated and nuanced than a supposed simple recourse to authority. it is, rather, a reductio ad absurdum of the original anti-Catholic argument. My friend Paul Hoffer expanded one particular aspect of it in combox comments:
The whole reason that he brought this matter up in the first place was to claim that Mr. Ray (and Catholics in general) had engaged in "shoddy" research because Mr. Ray relied on a secondary source rather than read Luther's works directly even though the majority of his work has not been translated from the original German and/or Latin. The work that we have done here rebuts that contention. Unless [one anti-Catholic critic] is prepared to state that Leibniz, a Lutheran, a philsopher, the co-creator of calculus, and one of the smartest men who ever lived, and B.F. Westcott, an Anglican bishop and the translator the Alexandrian Greek text that people like James White use in many Bible translations today, not to mention SS. Robert Bellarmine and Francis de Sales, doctors of the Catholic Church as well as saints whose work would have undergone a good deal of scrutiny before accepted, as well as all of the other folks have engaged in the same "shoddy" research he contends that Mr. Ray has done, then he is being hypocritical. It is not like anyone in the last 400+ years has ever seriously challenged the validity of the quote before and it certainly was not done before Mr. Ray wrote his book.
Now lest I be accused of revising (with the benefit of hindsight) my own argument in light of critiques, I contend that I made it quite clear enough when I originally presented it. Here it is (bolding added presently):
Unfortunately, [the] neat little quasi-conspiratorial theory of exclusively Catholic incompetence collapses since we now know that Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz: a Lutheran philosopher, who had one of the most brilliant minds of all time, also cites the same source (in the form that we have seen, from the Latin). . . .

And, as a Lutheran, Leibniz would have little reason to misquote Luther; nor is it plausible to posit that he completely blew a citation of Luther, radically opposite from its own context,
. . . If the Catholics were guilty of this, so is Leibniz. If he is not, they are not.

It was silly enough . . . 
to accuse a Doctor of the Church of this basic shortcoming, as well as a renowned philosopher and political writer (Jaime Balmes), whose works have been published in 33 volumes (Madrid: 1948-1950). We are led to believe that all four of these men (the Catholics by direct accusation, and Lutheran Leibniz via indubitable logical deduction by equation of quotation) -- including two Doctors of the Church -- couldn't correctly and competently utilize a Latin citation from Martin Luther. . . .
On a related note, some anti-Catholics claim that the citation in question was not only incompetently cited, but also dishonestly so (or at least an incompetent, inadvertent presentation of a citation in such a fashion that the impression left is misleading, with the result the same as if it had been done in deliberate dishonesty), in an effort to make Luther say the "opposite" of what he actually intended.

This contention, however, is demolished in light of the fact that the earliest reference to the citation from Catholics that we have found: the 1582 preface to the Rheims translation of the New Testament, makes explicit note of Luther's own opinion:
Luther said: If the world should stand any long time, we must receive again (which he thought absurd) the Decrees of the Councils, for preserving the unity of faith, because of so divers interpretations of the Scriptures.

(Preface to the Rheims New Testament, 1582, in Documents of the English Reformation, Gerald Lewis Bray, James Clark & Co., 2004, p. 381)
I also noted several instances (thanks to Paul Hoffer's excellent research here) of Protestant scholars accepting this citation without protest (no pun intended):
Renowned Anglican scholar Brooke Foss Westcott cited this same passage, from the preface (see the whole document; and another version with some archaic language and spelling), as did the Protestant scholar Thomas Graves Law (see more on him from The Cambridge History of English and American Literature); also the non-Catholic Will Converse Wood.
Therefore, how can we be accused of pretending that Luther believed the opposite of what he actually did, when it is noted right in the citation, with a literally parenthetical remark, that this was a notion which Luther "thought absurd"). So much for the Catholic conspiracy of concealing Luther's true intentions . . .

The question truly comes down to the interpretation of Luther's remark, upon which reasonable and good men can differ. Interpretation is an altogether different question from accusations of scholarly incompetence and/or dishonesty. I have made efforts to interpret it in light of Luther's larger thought in the areas of authority, Church, and tradition, which is (as always) complex. But there is no effort to misrepresent Luther at all. When Bellarmine used it (my friend John McAlpine, who teaches Latin, read the context in Latin), he didn't make any particular claims of interpretation.

Likewise, with St. Francis de Sales, no interpretation that is "opposite" of Luther's intentions is put forth. The great Doctor simply writes (English translation: TAN: 1989, p. 155):
He acknowledges that formerly they were received, and that afterwards they will have to be.
This is more or less neutral language. It doesn't necessarily imply a "pro-conciliar" Luther opinion. In no sense is it dishonest.

As for Balmes, he puts a little interpretation on it, but not overly so:
[T]he most distinguished Protestants have felt the void which is found in all sects separated from the Catholic Church. I am about to give proofs of this assertion, which perhaps some persons may consider hazardous.
The main "editorial" judgment here is the phrase "felt the void." Big wow. He then cites our Luther quote (in English and Latin). He proceeds to cite Luther's successor Philip Melanchthon: "if bishops did not exist, it would be necessary to create them." He then cites Calvin, discussing the papacy, and Calvin's successor Theodore Beza, likewise lamenting Protestant disunity (it isn't like this was an unknown sentiment among Protestants; all of these men decried and despised the proliferation of sects: Luther and Melanchthon above all):
I have also been long and greatly tormented by the same thoughts which you describe to me. I see our people wander at the mercy of every wind of doctrine . . . On what point of religion are the Churches which have declared war on the Pope agreed?
He proceeds to give the Latin citation and the source. Far, then, from butchering a Luther citation; he (as I have done recently) interprets these sorts of sentiments within an overall picture ("historical context") of Protestant disenchantment with sectarianism, that we know to be the case, from many documented proofs.

Balmes goes on to cite the distinguished Protestant Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) on the next page:
. . . without the supremacy of the Pope, it is impossible to put an end to disputes.

. . . the dogmas of faith should be decided by tradition and the authority of the Church, and not by the holy Scriptures only.
I provided context for the Leibniz quote. As with all five quotes I offered, and other additional ones in English, I provided the reader with context able to be discovered if that were desired, by virtue of links (though the Bellarmine and Leibniz contexts are in Latin and St. Francis de Sales in French). I have provided further context in this paper. Here is the link to the page in question from Leibniz, that I provided. Readers may scroll forward and back, to get plenty of context.

One might reply that Leibniz was not a theologian. This is a weak, pitiful objection, in light of the fact that Leibniz wrote some profound philosophical theology. In fact, he wrote one of the most respected defenses against the problem of evil ever penned, entitled Theodicy: Essays on the Goodness of God, the Freedom of Man, and the Origin of Evil. I have this volume in my library (and have utilized its reasoning on occasion in my apologetic efforts contra atheists).

It runs 442 pages. It is a brilliant piece of Christian apologetic / philosophy. Leibniz only wrote two books. One was never published during his lifetime, leaving this book (one of philosophical theology) as his only published work during his life, and his chief claim to fame, as far as the public was concerned. And it was a defense of God Himself!

Catholic writer Avery Cardinal Dulles, in his History of Apologetics, (revised edition: 2005) notes Leibniz's contributions to that field:
Leibniz . . . wrote several major philosophical works touching on religious questions.

(p. 190)

In other works Leibniz sought to give a rational demonstration of the immortality of the soul . . . Against the Socinians he wrote the essay Defense of the Trinity by Means of New Logical Inventions (1671).

(p. 192)
To argue that Leibniz was not a theologian, therefore we can question his citation of a Luther source, in light of the fact of his brilliant, widely-acknowledged work on one of the thorniest problems in both theology and apologetics, is a dead-end street and a desperate, flailing attempt to undermine the obvious.

Technically speaking, this is a form of ad hominem fallacy directed against Leibniz himself, as a roundabout form of "undermining the credibility of a witness," as in the legal world. I shot that down without mercy, above; now I believe that I can do the same with this "argument". It runs as follows:
1) Leibniz is quoted with regard to his citation of our disputed Luther text.

2) But Leibniz is not a theologian.

3) (Assumed as a premise) Only theologians can cite theological sources correctly and in context.

4) Therefore, Leibniz's quotation is suspect, and this, despite the fact that he was one of the greatest geniuses of all time, because, after all, he wasn't a theologian.
The fault of this fallacious reasoning lies, of course, primarily in the false assumption in #3, and also the irrelevancy and merely half-truth status of #2. As I have just shown, Leibniz was significant enough in the theological world to have written one of the most celebrated replies to the problem of evil ever written, and to have honorable mention in a prominent treatment of the history of apologetics.

He is also noted in standard Protestant dictionaries of the Christian Church (e.g., Oxford, New International) as an important figure in the history of theology.

#3 is even more absurd, since it is obviously false. Anyone worth his salt who writes or who does research, knows how to properly make a citation. As Steve Ray wrote in a letter to me (I don't think he would mind my using his words; the bracketed remark is mine):
What does Leibniz's primary occupation or intellectual pursuit have to do with whether he can get a quote correct in it's context or not? [in other words, this is a form of ad hominem fallacy] . . . Your assertion that Leibniz is brilliant, a Lutheran, and used the quote is substantial. Leibniz's primary pursuits have nothing to do with his ability to cite a quote correctly.

In the circles he wrote in, Leibniz could not have used a quote out of context without criticism. To quote it out of context in a culture that knew these things, would have debunked him before he even got started.

. . . Whether Leibniz was a theologian or not has nothing to do with it. The fact is, he used the quote and it was obviously well known and not taken out of context in his day or his point would have been completely ineffective.
* * * * *

The Latin clearly states that it is necessary for Protestants to take refuge in Councils. It reads more strongly than the German quote we have also noted. It's possible it might even come from a different work (as Steve is inclined to think and as Paul entertains as a real possibility). This is exactly the point Catholics raise about this quote. It has to be explained, and can't be dismissed out of hand. If the Latin is derived from the same German text, how did it become so different? Why were the clear terms necessarium and conciliorum used? If Matthaeus Judex was the translator of this portion, and he was a Lutheran, then how is the change explained? Catholic translation bias can't explain it unless it is proven that our subjects were citing from a secondary Catholic Latin source. The Leibniz context was already provided with the link. That saves people a lot of work, with this marvelous capability of every reader being able to follow the link to get all the context desired.

In any event, when one looks at the larger passage, it appears that the citation occurred in a simple outline-like list of propositions, with something from Luther about the Psalms immediately preceding it, and mention of Brentius (Brenz) immediately after. Here is the entire paragraph preceding the quote:
Lutherus praef. in psalmos. Scio esse imprudentissimae temeritatis eum qui (audeat) profiteri aliquem scripturae librum (a se in omnibus partibus) intellectum.
Leibniz, like the others who used the citation, seems to assume that it stands on its own without need of further explanation or context.

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