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Theology

Quotes From Luther

First some (unsourced) quotes from Luther, then some comments – culled from a newsgroup…

BTW, I (with most others) regard Usenet newsgroups as ‘public domain’ – they’re all archived in DejaNews / Google anyway. However, if anyone doesn’t want their material reproduced in this medium I swill respect that. Rowland Croucher…

Note the comments below the quotes, and the need to contextualize Luther.

~~~

Here are some interesting quotes from Martin Luther the founder of modern Protestantism. Ask yourself as you read this,do we really need religion when the founders thought and practiced the ideas below?

“God does not work salvation for fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin vigorously…. Do not for a moment imagine that this life is the abiding place of justice; sin must be committed.”

“Sin cannot tear you away from him [Christ], even though you commit adultery a hundred times a day and commit as many murders.”

“A large number of deaf, crippled and blind people are afflicted solely through the malice of the demon. And one must in no wise doubt that plagues, fevers and every sort of evil come from him.”

“An earthly kingdom cannot exist without inequality of persons. Some must be free, some serfs, some rulers, some subjects.”

“As for the demented, I hold it certain that all beings deprived of reason are thus afflicted only by the Devil.”

“As to the common people, … one has to be hard with them and see that they do their work and that under the threat of the sword and the law they comply with the observance of piety, just as you chain up wild beasts.”

“At Poltersberg, there is a lake similarly cursed. If you throw a stone into it, a dreadful storm immediately arises, and the whole neighboring district quakes to its centre. ‘Tis the devils kept prisoner there.”

“At Sussen, the Devil carried off, last Good Friday, three grooms who had devoted themselves to him.”

“Demons live in many lands, but particularly in Prussia.”

“How often have not the demons called ‘Nix,’ drawn women and girls into the water, and there had commerce with them, with fearful consequences.”

“I almost feel like throwing Jimmy into the stove, as the priest in Kulenberg did.”

“I feel much freer now that I am certain the pope is the Antichrist.”

“I maintain that some Jew wrote it [the Book of James] who probably heard about Christian people but never encountered any.”

“I myself saw and touched at Dessay, a child of this sort, which had no human parents, but had proceeded from the Devil. He was twelve years old, and, in outward form, exactly resembled ordinary children.”

“I should have no compassion on these witches; I should burn them all.”

“Idiots, the lame, the blind, the dumb, are men in whom the devils have established themselves: and all the physicians who heal these infirmities, as though they proceeded from natural causes, are ignorant blockheads….”

“In many countries there are particular places to which devils more especially resort. In Prussia there is an infinite number of evil spirits.”

“In Switzerland, on a high mountain, not far from Lucerne, there is a lake they call Pilate’s Pond, which the Devil has fixed upon as one of the chief residences of his evil spirits….”

“Many demons are in woods, in waters, in wildernesses, and in dark poolly places ready to hurt…people.”

“Many sweat to reconcile St. Paul and St. James, but in vain. ‘Faith justifies’ and ‘faith does not justify’ contradict each other flatly. If any one can harmonize them I will give him my doctor’s hood and let him call me a fool.”

“No gown worse becomes a than the desire to be wise.”

“Our bodies are always exposed to Satan. The maladies I suffer are not natural, but Devil’s spells.” ]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]

“Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has: it never comes to the aid of spritual things, but–more frequently than not –struggles against the Divine Word….”

“Reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed. Faith must trample underfoot all reason, sense, and understanding, and whatever it sees must be put out of sight and … know nothing but the word of God.” /ISN’T THIS THE BACKBONE OF RELIGION? [[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[

“Snakes and monkeys are subjected to the demon more than other animals. Satan lives in them and possesses them. He uses them to deceive men and to injure them.”

“Some [demons] are also in the thick black clouds, which cause hail, lightning and thunder, and poison the air, the pastures and grounds.”

“The best way to get rid of the Devil, if you cannot kill it with the words of Holy Scripture, is to rail at and mock him. Music, too, is very good; music is hateful to him, and drives him far away. “

“The Devil can so completely assume the human form, when he wants to deceive us, that we may well lie with what seems to be a woman, of real flesh and blood, and yet all the while ’tis only the Devil in the shape of a woman. ‘Tis the same with women, who may think that a man is in bed with them, yet ’tis only the Devil; and…the result of this connection is oftentimes an imp of darkness, half mortal, half devil….”

“The Devil…clutched hold of the miserable young man…and flew off with him through the ceiling, since which time nothing has been heard of [him].”

“The Devil fears the word of God, He can’t bite it; it breaks his teeth.”

“The Devil, it is true, is not exactly a doctor who has taken degrees, but he is very learned, very expert for all that. He has not been carrying on his business during thousands of years for nothing….”

“The Devil, too, sometimes steals human children; it is not infrequent for him to carry away infants within the first six weeks after birth, and to substitute in their place imps….”

“The fact that [the biblical book] Hebrews is not an epistle of St. Paul, or of any other apostle, is proved by what it says in chapter two….”

“The winds are nothing else but good or bad spirits. Hark! how the Devil is puffing and blowing….”

“There is no rustic so rude but that, if he dreams or fancies anything, it must be the whisper of the Holy Ghost, and he himself a prophet.”

“This fool [Copernicus] wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but sacred scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth.”

“To be a Christian, you must pluck out the eye of reason.”

“…two devils rose from the water, and flew off through the air, crying, ‘Oh, oh, oh!’ and turning one over another, in sportive mockery….”

“We are at fault for not slaying them [the Jews].”

“We know, on the authority of Moses, that longer than six thousand years the world did not exist.”

“We may well lie with what seems to be a woman of flesh and blood, and yet all the time it is only a devil in the shape of a woman.”

“We need not invite the Devil to our table; he is too ready to come without being asked. The air all about us is filled with demons….”

“We should throw the Epistle of James out of this school [the University of Wittenberg]….

“What shall we do with…the Jews?…I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings…are to be taken from them.”

“What shall we do with…the Jews?…I advise that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews.”

“What shall we do with…the Jews? I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach on pain of loss of life and limb.”

“What shall we do with…the Jews?…set fire to their synagogues or schools and bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them.”

“What shall we do with…the Jews?…their homes also should be razed and destroyed.”

“When I was a child there were many witches, and they bewitched both cattle and men, especially children.”

“Whoever wants to be a Christian should tear the eyes out of his reason.”

“Women…have but small and narrow chests, and broad hips, to the end that they should remain at home, sit still, keep house, and bear and bring up children.”

“So tenaciously should we cling to the world revealed by the Gospel, that were I to see all the Angels of Heaven coming down to me to tell me something different, not only would I not be tempted to doubt a single syllable, but I would shut my eyes and stop my ears, for they would not deserve to be either seen or heard.”

~~~

(harlech) wrote in message news:<>…

> Here are some interesting quotes from Martin Luther the founder of

> modern Protestantism. Ask yourself as you read this,do we really need

> religion when the founders thought and practiced the ideas below?

Yours is a very bad post, harlech, on several levels. It is apparent that you are attempting to show or argue a belief or point of concern that you have. The proper way of arguing such a point is through a logical analysis. I will work through some of those levels, to illustrate.

You should begin by asking yourself what it is that you are attempting to show. I would assume you are attempting to show that religion is not useful, or something to that effect? I say that, because you consistently refer to all religions universally (e.g., “do we really need religion…”). However, the points you raise only apply to an extremely small area of all religions. In this case, you have tried to discredit religion in general on the basis that one member of one branch of one religion had some beliefs 500 years ago that you today find absurd. But, what do the beliefs of Martin Luther say about the origins of Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, etc.? You are making hasty generalizations (that is a defined category of logical fallacy), and it has led you to conclusions that don’t follow from your premise (aka, “”non sequitur”). So, the first thing you should do is limit your conclusions to those points that can be derived from the material you present.

You then need to ask yourself what conclusions can be derived from the material you present. Is it reasonable to dismiss the thoughts and beliefs of several million people in a group over 500 years on the basis that the founder of the group had some bad ideas? Is it reasonable to expect the founder (an ordinary man) of a group to have possessed only thoughts that would hold up to scrutiny for 500 years? Is a mere mortal man unable to benefit society, due to occasional invalid ideas? Most reasonable people would say it is not reasonable to have such expectations. You have also committed another logical error of overgeneralization, that of guilt by association.

In order to demonstrate the guilt (that you wish to spread over the entire group), you have recited several statements that you have attributed to Martin Luther, that you apparently believe would discredit Martin Luther (and, from him, all of Lutheranism, and, from that, all religions). You did not credit your sources; you simply presented the quotes. It is expected that in a reasonable debate that sources will be credited.

I have taken the initiative to look for some possible sources of your quotes; I would expect you to have done the least work possible, meaning that I would have expected you simply to have copied and pasted from some anti-Christian Website, probably a Website closely associated with the other material you post. So, I did a Google search on the phrase, “salvation for fictitious sinners.” The first option on the results list is, http://www.2think.org/hii/mlquotes.shtml . This page contains exactly the same quotes as those you provided, in exactly the same order that you provided them; they are duplicates, as far as the quotes are concerned.

At the bottom of the 2think page is the following note:

“The above quotes were compiled and provided by Don Morgan

“Note: I am often asked for source citations for these quotes. Most of them come from ‘Luther’s Table Talk’ or from one of the several Luther biographies. Unfortunately, when I collected these quotes, I did so only for my own amusement and I didn’t keep track of the exact citations. – Don Morgan'”

So, we see that these quotes were not collected out of serious or honest interest, but merely for someone’s careless amusement. Thus, the sincerity and reasonableness of both the compilers of the quotes page and the users of these quotes is called into question.

The 2think page then links to http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/donald_morgan/ . It comes as no surprise to me that Infidels.Org would be behind an irrational, unsubstantiated insult against Christianity; it is the stock of their shop. All the atheists I’ve ever met in person have been such human dreck. It is on the basis of such cowardly gossip that many young atheists go through society, spreading their hate to those they meet. You would do well to consider the sins of yourself and your own leaders, while you are so concerned about the faults of Martin Luther.

Incidentally, I was able to access Don Morgan’s page on the Infidels.Org server on Friday, but I cannot access even the Infidels.Org server on Sunday. I was surprised that I was able to access any page on Infidels.Org at all; the last I heard, the Church of Scientology had sued them out of business.

Before we examine the actual quotes themselves, it is important to know whether the quotes are provided accurately and in correct context from their source. That is the reason that it is so important in a rational discussion that we have the citations of the original quoted material. Unless someone can provide those citations, and we can confirm the validity of the quotes, the ability of anyone to comment on your quotes rationally is limited. Neither you, 2think nor Don Morgan have met that criteria. So, all of your complaint on this matter is just idle gossip, provided by people who lack the moral integrity to deal seriously with a serious issue; like any fool, they prefer to sit on the sidelines and idly throw stones. Such is the nature of the atheists I’ve known.

It would be good for you to learn the true relationship between Martin Luther and Christianity. You should know that he was a devout Roman Catholic up through his ordination. He was trained in a Roman Catholic university. He was enlightened when he read the Bible for himself, which ultimately led to his separation from Roman Catholicism. He was but one of many people of his time who made such a separation. Wiclif preceded him by almost 200 years. Calvin and Tyndale were some of his contemporaries. Martin Luther was extremely influential, especially in Germany, but he was not the inventor of Protestantism, much less of Christianity. Christianity does not rise nor fall on the basis of Lutheranism.

“The spirit of Zwinglianism reached its fullest development in the theology, political theories, and ecclesiastic thought of John Calvin (1509-1564). Perhaps even more so than Martin Luther, Calvin created the patterns and thought that would dominate Western culture throughout the modern period. American culture, in particular, is thoroughly Calvinist in some form or another; at the heart of the way Americans think and act, you’ll find this fierce and imposing reformer.”

http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/REFORM/CALVIN.HTM http://www.mun.ca/rels/hrollmann/reform/reform.html

Finally, you should consider that there is extremely little in the modern world that does not have less-than glorious moments in the past. Modern chemistry arose from alchemy, which was a mystical practice, as was the practice of magic wands to draw out evil spirits (which was the origin of hypnotism). If one digs deeply enough, one discovers that even the best humans are prone to stupidity and folly. It would be absurd to dismiss an idea merely because some fool had the idea, first.

~~~

First, I must say that I am not a Protestant, but a Roman Catholic. Take my comments in context. Secondly, I must protest (pun intended) that Martin Luther is not the “founder of modern Protestantism.” Luther was one of the leaders of a reform movement in the Catholic Church that happened to cross paths with the mainstream too many times. He broke from the Church and started his own religious theology, called Lutheranism. Still, he is not the start of the entire Reformation. John Calvin had as much, if not more, to do with the start of Protestantism. Calvin’s religion had its influence to France, England, and even America. Lutheranism was mostly confined to Germany (at least in the 1500’s).

> “God does not work salvation for fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and

> sin vigorously…. Do not for a moment imagine that this life is the

> abiding place of justice; sin must be committed.”

I am thinking that here, Luther is, in a way, trying to emphasize his doctrinal differences from the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church emphasized good works (which included indulgences), while Lutheranism was based on “justification by faith alone.” Also, Luther is trying to work in the information in some dialogue (from the Scriptures, although I remember not which part.) that God wishes to save the sinners, for those without sin have already been saved.

> “Sin cannot tear you away from him [Christ], even though you commit

> adultery a hundred times a day and commit as many murders.”

This is a restating of the traditional statement told to children, “Jesus loves us, even if we sin.”

> “An earthly kingdom cannot exist without inequality of persons. Some

> must be free, some serfs, some rulers, some subjects.”

Luther never said that he was a social reformer. When peasants revolted in 1524-1525 based upon a misinterpretation of his words, Luther decried them, calling the lords and princes to crush the revolution quickly. Luther supported the contemporary order (especially in Germany) of serfs, peasantry, and lordships. He was not a social revolutionary in the least.

> “As for the demented, I hold it certain that all beings deprived of

> reason are thus afflicted only by the Devil.”

Please note that Luther said this in the early 1500’s, years before we even knew how such mechanical things as the circulatory system of the body worked, let alone the complexity of the mind and brain, which we don’t understand even today. Our major medical advances have occured mostly in the last 100 years.

> “How often have not the demons called ‘Nix,’ drawn women and girls

> into the water, and there had commerce with them, with fearful

> consequences.”

> [From a later part of the post…]

> “I should have no compassion on these witches; I should burn them

> all.”

Belief in demons and witches was a common practice from the early days of Christianity even until around the 1700’s. Witch burnings and devil exorcisms took place quite often in those days.

> “I feel much freer now that I am certain the pope is the Antichrist.”

Luther was not exactly friendly with the Pope at the time, especially considering that Luther had denounced the pope’s practices and theologies, and that the pope had in turn excommunicated Luther. These were not exactly overtures of cooperation.

> “Many sweat to reconcile St. Paul and St. James, but in vain. ‘Faith

> justifies’ and ‘faith does not justify’ contradict each other flatly.

> If any one can harmonize them I will give him my doctor’s hood and let

> him call me a fool.”

Luther, of course, was a proponent of “justification by faith alone.” Of *course* he disagreed with any opposing ideas…

> ]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]

> “Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has: it never comes to the

> aid of spritual things, but–more frequently than not –struggles

> against the Divine Word….”

>

> “Reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed. Faith must trample

> underfoot all reason, sense, and understanding, and whatever it sees

> must be put out of sight and … know nothing but the word of God.”

> /ISN’T THIS THE BACKBONE OF RELIGION?

> [[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[

Again, this is simply an extreme corrolary of “justification by faith alone.” Also, remember that before those times, except for certain philosophers as St. Thomas Aquinas, most intellectual thought was believed to be paganistic or extremely secular, which was horrifying to religious figures.

Think Galileo.

> “This fool [Copernicus] wishes to reverse the entire science of

> astronomy; but sacred scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun

> to stand still, and not the earth.”

Remember, this is still the 1500’s!!! Could he have known better?

> “We are at fault for not slaying them [the Jews].”

There was, unfortunately, much anti-Semetism then and even some now.

> “We know, on the authority of Moses, that longer than six thousand

> years the world did not exist.”

This was the primary intellectual theory at the time. Knowledge of tectonic plates or other geological phenomena were not known or understood. These findings came about *much* later.

> “So tenaciously should we cling to the world revealed by the Gospel,

> that were I to see all the Angels of Heaven coming down to me to tell

> me something different, not only would I not be tempted to doubt a

> single syllable, but I would shut my eyes and stop my ears, for they

> would not deserve to be either seen or heard.”

“Justification by faith alone.” This also emphasizes the Protestant emphasis on the Scriptures.

Personally, I do not think that any of these quotes from Martin Luther debunk any Protestant religion at all, even Lutheranism. Luther, after all, was a human man, and not perfect. He made comments that were, in the context of that historical period, mostly mainstream and uncritical. Luther advocated a theological, doctrinal break with the Catholic Church, and not social upheaval or intellectual change. For the most part, Luther upheld the status quo of his society.

Eric Suh

~~~

I appreciate seeing “Eric Suh” who is a Catholic, defending Luther. I agree with many of his comments. However not all of them

> sin vigorously…. Do not for a moment imagine that this life is the

> abiding place of justice; sin must be committed.”

Eric notes:

>I am thinking that here, Luther is, in a way, trying to emphasize his

>doctrinal differences from the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church

>emphasized good works (which included indulgences), while Lutheranism was

>based on “justification by faith alone.” Also, Luther is trying to work in

Clearly justification by faith was part of the background for this statement. However I think this was intended primarily as a piece of pastoral advice, not as part of a doctrinal argument. It’s not the sort of statement that should be his sole reaction to sin, and in fact it was not.

But I think the point is a valid one. Christians should be conscious of their sin, and committed to doing something about it. Yet if you aren’t careful, this can become another kind of self-centeredness. That was Luther’s own personal experience, so I believe he was more sensitive to this danger than some other people were. He had become so obsessed with his own sin that he was unable to get on with his life and do what God really wanted him to do. His confessor diagnosed it is “scrupulosity”, which is considered a problem even among orthodox Catholics. At a certain point — but only after facing your own sinfulness — you have to put concerns about your spiritual state behind you and look for what God really wants you to do.

The quoted statement was in a letter from Luther to Melancthon. From another statement Luther wrote to him, I think Luther suspected that he was having a problem with scrupulosity. This is the sort of thing you say to someone who you know is in a certain kind of situation.

—————————

On some of the other statements: Luther was a man of his age, in some ways more so than some other Reformers. Like others, he believed in witchcraft, and was credulous on other topics. He tended to be vulgar, and seems to have had a bad temper. We know these defects for him more than for some others, because people took down even his informal conversations. If we had others’ table talk, I suspect we’d find the same kind of vulgar conversations among them as well.

In addition to serious personal defects, he has theological defects. E.g., his exegesis shows a tendency to proof text, in great contrast to Calvin’s careful attempts to look at the original context of passages. Calvin is certainly a more reliable expositor, and maybe even a more systematic thinker. But on key issues, Luther tended to have deeper insights. In some cases he didn’t quite have the background to fully follow them out, but they’re formed the basis for quite interesting work.

As I’ve commented before, Luther was so seriously flawed as a person that Christ had to die for him. Fortunately God can use even such a person.

——————–

> “Many sweat to reconcile St. Paul and St. James, but in vain. ‘Faith

> justifies’ and ‘faith does not justify’ contradict each other flatly.

> If any one can harmonize them I will give him my doctor’s hood and let

> him call me a fool.”

It appears that Luther never considered that they might be using “justify” in different senses. I think it’s pretty clear that this is the case. Protestant and Catholic theology has followed, with Protestants using it in Paul’s narrower definition, and Catholics using it in a broader sense.

——————

> “Reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed. Faith must trample

> underfoot all reason, sense, and understanding, and whatever it sees

> must be put out of sight and … know nothing but the word of God.”

> /ISN’T THIS THE BACKBONE OF RELIGION?

Eric comments:

> Again, this is simply an extreme corrolary of “justification by faith

> alone.” Also, remember that before those times, except for certain

> philosophers as St. Thomas Aquinas, most intellectual thought was believed

> to be paganistic or extremely secular, which was horrifying to religious

> figures.

I wouldn’t connnect this to justification by faith alone. Luther was concerned about letting philosophy get control. Jesus was in his own way a real radical. He wanted to get under people’s skin, to force them to confront God and themselves, and TO CHANGE. When you move from Jesus’ stories and personal confrontation to theology, it’s easy for it all to become an intellectual matter, and to lose its personal immediacy. Careful exegesis says “well, he didn’t *really* mean that everyone has to give up everything and follow him.” And I guess that’s true: I don’t in all seriousness want all Christians to quit their jobs. Yet slowly the qualifications build up, and it becomes a nice safe scholarly discussion. Now and then someone has to demand that we put aside our qualifications and just listen to what Jesus is saying.

I wouldn’t want to lose the intellectual heritage of Christianity. As an academic I often find myself calling on people to be more careful. Yet sometimes you need someone to challenge this. Given the context in which he was operating, I think Luther’s demand was a good one.

~~~

On Fri, 31 May 2002, harlech wrote:

> Here are some interesting quotes from Martin Luther the founder of

> modern Protestantism. Ask yourself as you read this,do we really need

> religion when the founders thought and practiced the ideas below?

If your question is, “do we need the kind of relgion practised in the first half of the 16th century?”, then the answer is “we no longer live in the 16th century.” If you’re looking for permission to reject 16th century Christianity, then permission is granted. I don’t care much for it either.

Now, how about sticking to relevant controversies. How many modern Christians repeat, and teach, Luther’s problematic pronouncements. If few do, then what’s your beef? What is it about 20th century religion you don’t like?

Tom Wootton

“Nothing needs reforming so much as other people’s habits.” —–Mark Twain

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