Monday, August 22, 2011

Luther Consorting With the Devil?

Earlier this year (when I was a bit pre-occupied with the passing of my daughter) James Swan wrote an article allegedly "Helping Catholic Answers with a Luther Quote."  Swan dismisses the CA (and Fr. O'Hare) criticism by saying:
"Our friend at Catholic Answers is reading Patrick O'Hare's The Facts About Luther. The citation involves one of Luther's disputations with the Devil. As explained below, this was a story being told by Luther as a literary device, not a personal experience. Of course, Father O'Hare missed this."  
One needs to ask ones self, "Is ANY consortia with the Devil a good tactic for Christian apologetics?"  Whether this was a literal discussion with the Devil or a "literary device" seems to make little difference - or shouldn't to the objective reader.  Fr. O'Hare hasn't missed anything here.

Context: (from above link)
Once I awakened at midnight and the devil began the following disputation with me in my heart (for he is able to make many a night bitter and troublesome for me): “Listen, you very learned fellow, do you know that you said private masses for fifteen years almost daily? Did you not in reality commit sheer idolatry with such a mass and did you not worship there simply bread and wine, rather than Christ’s body and blood, and enjoin others to worship them?” I reply: “But I am a consecrated cleric; I have received chrism and consecration from the bishop, and, in addition, have done all this because of the command to do so and in obedience to it. Why have I not performed the consecration validly, since I have spoken the words in earnest and said mass with all possible devotion? You certainly know this.” “Yes,” he said, “that is true; but the Turks and the heathen also perform everything in their churches because of the command to do so and in earnest obedience to it. The priests of Jeroboam at Dan and Beersheba performed everything perhaps with greater devotion than the true priests at Jerusalem [I Kings 13:33]. What if your consecration, chrism, and consecrating are also unchristian and false like those of the Turks and the Samaritans?”
At this point I truly broke into a sweat and my heart began to tremble and throb. The devil knows how to muster his arguments well and to make an impression with them, and he possesses a convincing, powerful way of speaking. Such disputations do not permit time for lengthy and numerous deliberations, but the answers come in quick succession. At such times I have seen it happen that one finds people dead in bed in the morning. He can kill the body. This is one thing; but he can also scare the soul with disputes so that it almost departs from the body, as he has quite often very nearly done to me. Now he had challenged me in this dispute, and I did not really want to be guilty of such a great number of abominations in the presence of God but wanted to defend my innocence. So I listened to him to hear the grounds on which he opposed my consecration and my consecrating.
First, he said, you know that you did not rightly believe in Christ and as far as your faith was concerned you were no better than a Turk; for the Turk and I myself, along with all devils, also believe everything which is written about Christ (James 3 [2:19]), that is, that he was born, died, and ascended into heaven. However, none of us takes comfort in him or has confidence in him as a Savior; but we fear him as a stern judge. This kind of faith and no other is the one you also had when you were consecrated a priest and said mass; and all the others, both the consecrating bishop and his ordinands, also believed this. For this reason, too, all of you turned away from Christ and depended on Mary and the saints, who had to be your consolation and helpers in need rather than Christ. This you cannot deny, nor can any pope. That is why you were consecrated and have celebrated mass like heathen and not like Christians. How then were you able to effect conversion? For you were not the kind of persons who were to bring about this change.
Considering the "advice" being given by the Devil - "he" is trying to convince Luther how "bad" or "unChristian" the Catholic Mass and any devotion to Mary and the Saints are.  Now step back a moment... if the DEVIL thinks it is "bad" - then shouldn't the CHRISTIAN do the exact OPPOSITE?  Again, whether a literal consortia or a literary device - what our ENEMY proposes - WE SHOULD OPPOSE!  Yet, in Luther's dialog (whether real or imagined) he seems to be TAKING the advice, like "Yeah, that's a good point!"  

Swan also writes later this year (just recently) another article answering to "Luther's Demonology" he seems to justify, or at best rationalize Luther's "literary device" with:
Luther is best understood as a religious man with a deep belief in God, and in a daily battle with the Devil. As I've read quite a large amount of Luther, it is true this cosmic battle is never completely set aside in his writings.
The problem I still have here is that in this "literary device" he (Luther) portrays himself as not in battle with the Devil, but in AGREEMENT with him!   

Another author, Robert C. Croken regarding this context writes:
The devil now substantiates his position with a number of arguments.  Luther's faith has been basically misplaced.  Instead of trusting in Christ as his Saviour, he has put hist faith in the power to consecrate and to celebrate the Mass (WA 38, 198; LW 38, 150-51). 
Note, Croken (who wrote this piece with the intention of ecumenism) substantiates Luther's consortium with the Devil.  It is Satan who is telling Luther that he is not trusting in Christ - and has attacked the Mass!  The central point of the Catholic religion is the Mass - so therein lies Satan's attack on Christ's Church and Luther is but a pawn in Satan's chess match.   Yes, this is "just a dream" of Martin Luther - but the fact that it is expressed AND appears to be foundational in Luther's First Front, the title of Croken's book.
This power to consecrate is contrary, moreover, to the mind of Christ.  
Again, the lie of Satan is propagated... for it is most certainly NOT contrary  to the mind of Christ - He instituted it!  Jesus took bread and wine and declared it IS His body and blood and further commanded that the Apostles "do this" (that which He just did) in memory of Him.   So they too were to take bread and wine and declare "This IS My body" and "This IS My blood," speaking in the Person of Jesus Christ.
He intended that we should celebrate the sacrament in order that it might be shared with Christians and benefit them.  The very word "communion" means fellowship.  
Agreed!   The Mass IS for the "communion" of the people!   The fact that the Mass IS intended for the people does not negate the "power to consecrate."  The argument has quickly digressed to a non-sequitur.
But in the Winkemesse, Luther has received the sacrament alone and has not shared it with others.  Was this the purpose of his consecration (WA 38, 198-99; LW 38, 151)?  
I am not sure what Croken means here by "the Winkemesse."  The nearest I can tell he may mean "the Deutsche Messe" or "German Mass" - which Luther wrote in 1526, nine years after the posting of the "95 Thesis."  Just a sidenote, even Luther was still calling it a "Mass" at this time.
It was also the mind of Christ that, through the celebration of the sacrament, his death would be publicly proclaimed (1 Cor. 11:26).  
But Luther has not done this in the private Mass: alone, he has whispered to himself; alone, he has received the sacrament (WA 38, 199; LW 38, 151). Again, the sacrament was intended for the community, to strengthen Christians who share it.  But in the private Mass, Luther has reversed this intention: instead of being a sacrament-priest, he has become a sacrifice-priest, offering as an individual sacrifice to God what was meant as food for others.  He has made a special work, not to be shared with others unless sold to them for a price (WA 38, 199; LW 38, 152).
If we are to accept Croken's points here then again we must also accept that Luther felt it was okay to consort with the Devil, or at least through some "literary device" it is alright to accept consultation or advice from the Devil.  Either way this does not bode well for Luther.



  1. This thing were Luther is in agreement with the devil on the mass can basically mean three things to me.
    One, the poor man was having a very bad psychotic episode or an epileptic seizure. The sweating and rapid heartbeats he mentions can be symptoms of both illnesses.
    Two. He was actually talking to the devil. If I was talking to the devil, I'd be sweating and my heart would be pounding too!
    Three. He had both problems. Mohammad, the prophet of Islam also had epileptic seizures and talked to jinns,(demons).
    No matter which way you choose to look at it, Luther was one sick puppy.

  2. Yeah. I don't think that the devil's arguments against the Mass and the sacraments should be taken seriously by any Christian. Obviously, there was something really wrong with the man. For some protestants to cite Luther's visions, dreams, conversations, or what have you with the devil as some kind of justification for arguing that there is something wrong with the almost 2 millenia old Christian Mass does seem pretty absurd. But, I was never a Lutheran or looked favorably upon his teachings (that now look more like rantings).

  3. Well, allow me to interject again here... supporters of Luther will say that this was not a literal conversation with the Devil, but rather it was a literary device, as if that is supposed to make a difference! As we saw in Swan's dismissal, he uses that very argument - as if being a literary device it doesn't mean what Catholics think it means. However, Swan, et al, does not explain to us exactly how we're supposed to view this literary device! The fact remains, no matter how you look at it, that Luther was using a dialog with the Devil as this "device" and Luther's position is in AGREEMENT with the Devil! Does it really matter, the downplaying of Protestant supporters of Luther, that this may not have been a literal discussion but only a "device" developed by Luther? The objective reader, Protestant or otherwise, must clearly see that it does NOT matter. The bottom line is this discussion is between Luther and Satan, and Luther agrees with Satan!

    In JMJ,

    PS- This article has been posted for nearly 2 weeks now, and not a peep from Swan, or any other Protestant thus far.

  4. Yea, I understood that, too, Scott, but it just does not make logical sense to me that even a literary device of talking to Satan would be a reason to reject the Mass. If Satan liked the Mass, MAYBE, I could see the justification of the "conversation." As is, I don't see it.

  5. Hi cathmom5,
    I see no reason for the "but" - since you're echoing what I said! Yes, IF the Devil had AGREED with the Mass, THEN it would make sense for such a "literary device" to be used. As we're BOTH saying, Luther has the Devil opposing the Mass! All the more reason we should SUPPORT the Mass, even by Luther's lack of logic!

    In JMJ,

  6. Let's see here, St Paul said in Galatians 1:8, "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!"
    Clearly, he didn't mention angels from below (e.g. Satan), so they should be reliable sources.

    What really gets me is Luther's inconsistency though: about this time Pope Leo X had a dream in which he was talking to Satan, and Satan kept insisting man is justified by works; the funny thing is, when he reported this to Luther, he brushed it off as words of the anti-christ (when he was simply conveying a message).

    Fascinating article, Scott!

  7. This situation reminds me of an AWESOME classic riddle:

    You stand at a fork in the road. Next to each of the two forks, there stands a guard. You know the following things:

    1. One path leads to Paradise, the other to Death. From where you stand, you cannot distinguish between the two paths.
    2. One of the two guards always tells the truth. The other guard always lies. Unfortunately, it is impossible for you to distinguish between the two guards.

    You have permission to ask **one** guard **one** question to ascertain which path leads to Paradise. Remember that you do not know which guard you're asking -- the truth-teller or the liar -- and that this single question determines whether you live or die.

    The question is: What **one** question asked of one guard guarantees that you are led onto the path to Paradise, regardless of which guard you happen to ask?

  8. What ONE question to ask ONE guard? I know, I know! I'll give others a chance to answer first though.

    Thanks Nick!


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