Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Exchange with a Lutheran on a Lutheran Blog Controversy and Lutheranism


 This rather terse and polemical exchange (I would never honor it with the title, "dialogue") occurred at Cranach: The Blog of Veith: a Lutheran site, in the combox for "The Pope on Luther" -- starting at #209. It was a reaction to the previous one on a disputed / ambiguous Luther text that had occurred in the same combox (documented on my site). 

Brigitte's words will be in blue. Her original posts had two #3's. I changed that, to avoid confusion.

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Dear David Armstrong,

1. This whole discussion would be the thing which Mary would abhor with people whipping themselves up and over the veneration of herself. Have we not heard what she is saying? She bore CHRIST. Talk about CHRIST.

Not her. And not about yourself.

I have defended CHRIST and CHRISTIANITY for thirty years, both as a Protestant and as a Catholic, often at great cost in many different ways. I don’t need YOU or anyone else to lecture me on the centrality of Jesus Christ. I’ve devoted my whole life to serving Him as a disciple, since 1977, as an apologist, missionary, evangelist, and pro-life activist. There are other topics, too, though. Luther preached eighty sermons on Mary, so it was not a complete non-issue for him.


As for “talking about myself”: I did not make myself the issue. My name was mentioned here in a negative fashion (and I was not informed in courtesy, as usual). . . . This site is classy enough to allow and even welcome a different perspective, so I had the chance to give my side (bravo, guys!). I may be detested by some here, but that is free speech, ain’t it?

One person initially said my goal was to slander Luther. He has since retracted that and apologized. Todd said (indirectly) that I was involved in fabricating quotations. He backed off, too, and apologized (seeing that I was very different from “anti-Luther” sites he has run across). But I had to talk about that.

2. Let’s leave aside for now all the times you speak about yourself, your books, etc. and briefly look also at how you cast aspersions on others. We are not all completely stupid or ignorant here. . . . the level of your own scholarship is open here for all to assess. Let facts speak for themselves. We can think. . . .

I mentioned my book on Luther, to note that it was one-third “ecumenical.” Even you, I think , would appreciate that. As for “casting aspersions,” I have said several times that I enjoy dialogue with Lutherans, and have mostly enjoyed my time here. We had some friction, but that was cleared up. I have mentioned other books. That is not automatically vain. The webmaster here mentions his 18 books on the top of his sidebar. All authors do that. That is no more vain than your mentioning all your skills in German. It’s a non sequitur. But it’s great to include when you are trying to generate a picture of my supposed overall character, isn’t it?

[ . . . ]
 
4. . . . to know what Luther actually says, you need to get not only to the sources but back to German. As I just said this is what scholars actually do. They not only read the sources and everything in context, they do know or learn German and read it in German. It is possible. It is probably taught in a High School near you. Even in evening classes. Which you could even possibly start taking yourself.

I agree that it would be good to know German to study Luther. I don’t think it is absolutely necessary to understand his teachings, anymore than one must absolutely know Greek or Hebrew to understand the Bible. This is the whole point of translations. St. Augustine (if I recall correctly) didn’t know Hebrew, and possibly not even Greek. If you’re so gung-ho on the original sources, why don’t you do us all a favor and check all the pages that Cole listed under WA? I would greatly appreciate that, myself, whatever you think of me.


I’m not a “language guy” myself. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. I have immense admiration for those who know other languages. One of my best friends has a Masters in linguistics. I will say straight out if I know nothing or relatively little about something, rather than pretend to be what I am not.

5. Which leads us to the not very difficult logical conclusion that the many untranslated works do not contain some “hidden” travesties which the world is being shielded from. There are actually many millions of German speakers, today, in the world. Just a reminder. We are not speaking of ancient hieroglyphics. Luther spoke and wrote freely for the whole world to read. And he has been heard and read. Your expectation that there should be a whole bunch more dirt that we don’t yet know about does communicate something, also.

You exaggerate. I merely made the point that there are many untranslated works of Luther (I noted the new 20 volumes coming out). And it is undeniable that Lutherans have not been enthusiastic about presenting to the world in English some of Luther’s ranting and raving (I have seen statements to that effect made by editors of LW, as I recall). E.g., his letter to Henry VIII wasn’t in the 55-volume set, but it is an important historical document. My actual statement that you react to, read:

I’d love to see all this wealth of Luther material that is sitting out there in German, untranslated, because (in part) certain folks were scared all these years of what people would think.

Note the qualifiers "in part" and "certain folks". 

6. One more time, something that has been said so many times, which for some reason hardly ever seems to be understood. We are not called “Lutheran” because of allegiance to every word ever penned by Martin Luther. He is not our pope. He is not our magisterium. The parallel thinking, here, does not apply. If you really want to discuss doctrine with us, you will need to get it from scripture or the confessional writings and then we can talk. We say this over and over, but hardly anyone ever does this. 

Like Paul, and Mary, Luther wanted to know nothing besides Christ and him crucified for our redemption.
Even Pope Benedict realizes this and talks about this. Maybe we can all stick with the program.

I’ve known this for at least 25 years, and mentioned it in this thread, so your time here is wasted on me. I agree with everything Pope Benedict XVI says about Luther. That is one of his functions as pope: to focus on ecumenism. I am ecumenical, too, which is why one-third of my Luther book was devoted to that purpose. At the same time, the pope would say it is necessary also for Catholics to defend our distinctive beliefs and critique errors in other Christian belief-systems. No contradiction. Jesus did both; Paul did both. Even Luther had the rare ecumenical moment . . .


In my in-box as I write is an extensive reply from a Lutheran, to my critique of Chemnitz. We get along perfectly fine. I have enjoyed many past dialogues with Lutherans. With a small minority, as in all classes of people, it is more difficult to get along (e.g., Paul McCain, who has always acted like a boor in our interactions, and has several put-downs on his site). But don’t generalize about my history with Lutherans. Like most of my severe critics, you know little or nothing about me. But you have plenty of false stereotypical notions in your head . . .


Thanks for the sermon.


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