Swan on Luther's View of the Immaculate Conception
This posting is in response to a comment left by James Swan on his blog on 9:50 PM, December 17, 2011. Since my response became too long for a combox reply, I am responding on my own blog with this posting.
I thought I'd add some faces to the names too and I know many have seen our faces before, but it doesn't hurt to put them out there again...
JS: Yes, it appears I was too hasty with your final comment. My apologies.
sw: Thank you, apology accepted.
JS: On the other hand,it does seem as if there's a jab with your words. When you say, "I suppose if you want to read Luther without considering the context of Luther - well, that speaks volumes."
Are you attributing this to me? If so, you would be in error.
sw: If you're reading Luther without considering the context of Luther's other writings, then it applies to you. If you are including Luther's other teachings (like that of the "two conceptions") then it would not apply to you. Either way, there's no error in what I said.
JS: That was
the sentence that provoked me to see your comment as insulting, and
really covertly charging me with ignorance.
sw: No, I am not charging you with anything! I said, "I suppose if you want to..." - so, if you don't want to and/or are not doing so - then it does not apply to you. Again, I specifically stated I was NOT accusing you of ignorance either overtly or covertly - we both know ignorance of Luther on this matter does not apply to you.
JS: If though I've mis-read your
words, my apologies.
sw: Apology accepted, again.
JS: This is one of the difficulties of printed word
sw: Understanding someone's motives can be difficult in printed word exchanges, but my words were quite clear on this matter. It is also better to seek clarification before jumping to conclusions in a printed only exchange.
JS: You then went on to use the word "disingenuous". Are
you inferring that you think my opinion on this topic fits that
sw: Only if the shoe fits! If you are willing to accept that Luther's teachings on the Immaculate Conception go beyond the 1532 sermon - then that word and that sentence do not apply to you. If, however, you're insisting that this 1532 sermon summarizes Luther's belief in the Immaculate Conception (or lack thereof) - then I would have to say that shoe does fit.
JS: If there's anyone clearly deceiving and disingenuous
currently, it's Voris and his use of the Luther quote in question.Since
you've taken up the gauntlet to defend him, you would best spend some of
your apologetic time contacting Mr. Voris and help him post honest and
sw: I have made an attempt to contact Mr. Voris. Prior to this exchange I have had absolutely no contact with him. I have seen his "RealCatholicTV" before, but haven't spent much time on it.
JS: You've now said a few times that it
is I and not you who has taken Luther out of context. This is nonsense.
sw: If you are not considering the 1527 sermon (and other teachings prior) when reading the 1532 sermon - then you are indeed reading Luther outside the context of Luther.
JS: You haven't even responded to the meat of my comments in this current
sw: The "meat" of THIS discussion is based in Luther's expressed belief in the Immaculate Conception - a matter which you have conceded he most definitely held in his earlier life. My contention is that he never rejected his earlier belief. He may have stopped talking about it as openly, but - and I repeat - your argument is one from silence. Silence lends itself to consent, not rejection.
JS: While you're certainly entitled to your opinion, at this
point, it is simply that: a groundless opinion.
sw: Groundless? I've presented my case (repeatedly now) and you've had a good YEAR to dig up evidence of Martin Luther rejecting the Immaculate Conception, and you - whom I concede has read a lot more Luther than most Lutherans, including myself - a former Lutheran, have not been able to come up with that reference which would silence my argument and elicit my concession.
JS: Quite frankly, I find
your opinion and apologetic on this entire issue absurd. I'm sorry if
you find that insulting, but I can't think of kinder word, and I'm not
saying it with any guile. It's absurd because you've taken a deleted
section of a sermon which only in the earliest edition (of a
very popular Reformation book, published over multiple years) and
attempted to read it into later contexts of a man whose theology of Mary
demonstratively changed over time.
sw: As long as we're being frank - I find your apologetic and opinion on this matter to be blinded by an anti-Catholic agenda. All along I have not rejected that the later editions of the 1527 sermon have left out part of it - expressly THE part we're discussing. Again, the ABSENCE of saying something is not a rejection of it! Did Luther's views on Mary change throughout his life? I won't argue against that! All I AM saying is that while he one time explicitly supported and taught the Immaculate Conception, that even while he mellowed in his support and even didn't speak of it so concisely later on - he NEVER came out and REJECTED it either.
JS: Further, as I pointed out here, you've used a flawed methodology to arrive at the bulk of your conclusions.
sw: I've made ONE conclusion in regard to this topic. I've been quite consistent in that conclusion for over a year now - and even with all your resources which you laud over others how much you spend on them - you have not been able to come up with even ONE SENTENCE from Luther stating he flatly rejected the concept of the Immaculate Conception. What you HAVE been able to do is establish a valid argument that Luther believed Mary was made immaculate at the time of Christ's conception - and I gave you that LONG ago. Basically that just makes Luther's position of Mary being immaculate (without sin) a matter of timing, but does not change the reality of his belief that she indeed was/is immaculate.
sw: You can lash out emotionally all you want and attempt to label my methodology as flawed or my opinion and apologetic as absurd - but I've really made ONE POINT which you cannot counter - hence the emotional responses and the attacks on the person (ad hominem) instead of just presenting the evidence to gain my concession - OR - just conceding that I too have a point here.
let you clarify if you wish to as to the above statements in question
(whether or not you intended a jab), but there really isn't any need to.
What your opinion of me one way or the other really doesn't matter.If
you want to keep me interested, present facts, contexts, exegesis of
text, and interpretations.
sw: All I said was that it would be disingenuous to look at Luther's 1532 sermon without considering what he said just a few years earlier. Keeping Luther in the context of Luther. There is no "jab" intended - I merely stated that you can look at Luther in the context of Luther, or you can isolate the 1532 sermon from his previous writings/teachings and make arguments from silence IF YOU CHOOSE. I choose NOT to accept a modern view of Luther rejecting something he himself never rejects based upon arguments from silence. If you DO want to consider Luther outside the context of Luther then don't consider it a jab, consider it a well placed right cross and consider changing your apologetic.
JS: By the way, do you have a complete
copy of the 1527 sermon you're using to interpret all of Luther's later
comments on the Immaculate Conception, and have you read it? Do you have
a complete copy of the 1532 sermon Voris cited and have you read it?
Well, I have.
sw: Whether or not I have the "complete copy of the 1527 sermon" or the 1532 sermon is really irrelevant to the argument at hand. I not only have considered the 1527 sermon in context, I presented it - without your assistance.
JS: I suggest that if you intend to get in to this subject
again you track down the sources (if you have not already), because the
first thing I will jump on if you haven't is that your presenting an
opinion on documents you've never read.
sw: I have already provided a contextual response (click here) including the context from the 1527 sermon. Earlier this year you and I discussed a sermon from 1538. As for the 1532 sermon, here is the context of that statement:
Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according thy word.
14. That day, that moment when Mary assented to the angel Gabriel’s
announcement, Christ was conceived. In that hour when she said, “Be it
unto me according to thy word,” she conceived and became the mother of
God; and Christ, therewith, became true God and true man in one person.
Even though he is a tiny fetus, at that moment he is both God and man in
Mary’s womb, an infant, and Mary is the mother of God.
15. The Turks and the Jews make fun of this article of faith and feel
that they have excellent reason to deride it. For that matter, we could
banter about it as well as they. But as Christians, we must firmly hold
onto this article of faith and never waver. From the beginning of time
it has been prophesied that God’s Son would become man and that his
mother would be a virgin. The first prophecy given Adam and Eve soon
after the fall (Gen. 3:15) stated: “And I will put enmity between thee
and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy
head, and thou shall bruise his heel.” God does not say the seed of the
man, but rather the seed of the woman. Therefore, the mother of this
serpent crusher must be a virgin. Later the patriarchs and the prophets
also prophesied of this, until finally the beloved apostles proclaimed
it to all the world. We have been baptized into this faith and are
called Christians because we believe and confess it to be true. Let us,
therefore, persevere unwaveringly in this faith. And if, as time goes
on, sectarian spirits deny it, let us take a staunch stand in behalf of
16. This article is really the bottom line. Christ wanted his
beginning to be like ours, but without sin, because he wanted to
sanctify us wholly. We begin life in sin, we are conceived in sin, born
in sin, no matter whether we be emperor, king, prince, rich, or poor;
every human being is conceived in sin according to Psalm 51:5. Only
Christ has the distinction and the honor to have been conceived by the
Holy Ghost’s power. Since from our conception we are sinful, we are
people whose flesh and blood and everything about us are soiled by sin,
as indeed we see in ourselves; or when we look at those around us in the
world, beset by evil desire, pride, multiple devils, and miserable
unbelief. Thus we are conceived and born. For all of mankind is
conceived and born in accord with creation’s decree, as recorded (Gen.
1:28): `Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.” Christ
could not be subject to such impure sinful conception and birth. He,
indeed, was a genuinely true, natural human being, but not conceived or
born in sin as all other descendants of Adam. That is why his mother had
to be a virgin whom no man had touched, so that he would not be born
under the curse, but rather conceived and born without sin, so that the
devil had no right or power over him. Only the Holy Spirit was present
to bring about the conception in her virgin body. Mother Mary, like us,
was born in sin of sinful parents, but the Holy Spirit covered her,
sanctified and purified her so that this child was born of flesh and
blood, but not with sinful flesh and blood. The Holy Spirit permitted
the Virgin Mary to remain a true, natural human being of flesh and
blood, just as we. However, he warded off sin from her flesh and blood
so that she became the mother of a pure child, not poisoned by sin as we
17. Thus what the angel spake came true: “He shall be great, and
shall be called the Son of the Highest.” For in that moment when she
conceived, she was a holy mother filled with the Holy Spirit and her
fruit is a holy, pure fruit, at once true God and truly man, in one
person. In time, then, this godly mother gave birth to God’s Son, a
genuine man, but without any sin. Undoubtedly, his blood was red, his
flesh, white; he suckled at his mother’s breasts, ate porridge, cried,
and slumbered like any other child; but his flesh and blood were holy
and pure. He is a holy person, the son of a pure virgin and God’s Son,
true God and man in one person. [Sermons of Martin Luther Vol. 7 (Grand
Rapids: Baker Books, 2000), pp. 291-293]. (Emphasis mine). Source: James Swan
sw: So, there we have the context of the 1532 sermon. I repeat what I said a year ago when talking about the 1538 sermon, this statement from Luther does not preclude the possibility that he's talking about the Holy Ghost covering her and sanctifying her at her own conception - thus leaving MY position to be a valid one. Whether or not you AGREE with what I've said is not the point!
sw: Now, would *I* use this 1532 sermon ALONE to prove Luther still held to the concept of Mary's Immaculate Conception? No, but taken in the context of his 1527 and earlier statements, it CAN be seen as consistent with his belief in the "two conceptions" theory (which, again, is HIS theory and not mine!).
sw: James, I believe that all along you've been making more of my argument than I am! I am not one out there arguing that Luther explicitly and concisely taught the 1854 definition of the Immaculate Conception - all I AM saying is that in his earlier life he not only accepted a belief not contrary with the 1854 definition but taught it as well. Later in life, while he did not continue to be as explicit about he belief in Mary's being made immaculate by the Holy Ghost - he also never flatly rejected the belief or teaching.