Friday, October 24, 2008

Papists, coxcombs, conspirators, thieves, blockheads and fanatics

The political season is a good time to read Martin Luther. The Reformer had a lot of enemies, both within the Roman Church and among the other Reformers who thought he hadn't gone far enough. No one can smear an enemy with the delicious detail and snarky cleverness of Martin Luther. However, you really need to note carefully the dates of his writing (preaching), because his thoughts evolved. Like from 1519 to 1520! My goodness, what a change.

Luther from the beginning of his understanding of the work of Jesus Christ determined that only baptism, the Lord's Supper and preaching of the Word were forms of the gospel, means for a personal, powerful encounter with Christ. Other reformers ran on ahead proclaiming that the bread and cup were only memorials and that baptism depended on human understanding and decision, not on grace. This led to some nasty fights and name calling. The Roman teaching was seven sacraments not two, so although Luther was respectful and even humble in his early disagreements and writings, thinking he just needed to jettison the extras that had been added the last two or three hundred years, he soon learned what we all do in politics and religion, follow the money. No one accepts loss of power, prestige and wealth gracefully.

As a librarian, I particularly enjoyed his recommendation that the papists burn his books and pamphlets--the early ones in which he treated the Pope with respect and love--saying that he had learned so much from the Grand Inquisitor and the censors, that now selling those books would be robbing men of money!
    "Some 2 years ago I wrote on indulgences, but in such a way that I now deeply regret having published that little book (an explanation of the 95 theses). At that time I still clung with a mighty superstition to the tyranny of Rome, and so I held that indulgences should not be altogether rejected, seeing that they were approved by the common consent of so many. . . thanks to Sylvester (became Grand Inquisitor and wrote against Luther), and aided by those friars who so strenuously defended indulgences, I saw that they were nothing but impostures of the Roman flatterers, by which they rob men of their money and their faith in God.

    Would that I could prevail upon the booksellers and persuade all who have read them to burn the whole of my booklets on indulgences, and instead of all that I have written on this subject adopt this proposition: INDULGENCES ARE WICKED DEVICES OF THE FLATTERERS OF ROME.

    Next, Eck and Emser (Johann Eck and Jerome Emser, professors, humanists and critics) and their fellow-conspirators undertook to instruct me concerning the primacy of the pope. Here too, not to prove ungrateful to such learned men, I acknowledge that I have profited much from their labors. For while I denied the divine authority of the papacy, I still admitted its human authority. But after hearing and reading the super-subtle subtleties of these coxcombs, with which they so adroitly prop up their idol (for my mind is not altogether unteachable in these matters), I now know for certain that the papacy is the Kindom of Babylon and the power of Nimrod, the mighty hunter.

    Once more, therefore, that all may turn out to my friends' advantage, I beg both the booksellers and my readers that after burning what I have published on this subject they hold to this proposition: THE PAPACY IS THE GRAND HUNTING OF THE BISHOP OF ROME. This is proved by the arguments of Eck, Emser, and the Leipzig lecturer on the Scriptures (Augustinus Alveld, a Franciscan). "The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, [1520]" Martin Luther's Basic Theological Writings [English], Fortress Press, 1989, p. 267-268. Note: the 2005 ed. has been scanned by Google

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