History brief – M. F. Cusack on Martin Luther


Matthew 18

NKJV

21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. 23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.

28 “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 30 And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt.31 So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.

35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”


Portrait of Martin Luther by Lucas Cranach, via Wikimedia Commons

Martin has remained a controversial man, loved and forgiven, hated and reviled. His book, The Bondage of the Will, has been very helpful to me as a former Roman Catholic. My prayer is that we all come down on the side of love and forgiveness, remembering our own failures and sins.


 

From: The Black Pope, A History of the Jesuits, Chapter II – Martin Luther and Some of the Causes of the German Reformation, by M. F. Cusack (Formerly the Nun of Kenmare)

There is no doubt that Luther felt very keenly the false accusations which were brought against him, not only by his enemies, but even by those who ought to have been his warmest supporters. The unity of Rome has always been its strength. The disunion of Christians has been the greatest hindrance to the spread of the Gospel. As the end of time draws nearer may we not hope that Christians will draw nearer to each other, and to their coming Lord.

There are few things more touching than the appeal which Luther makes to posterity for the justice which was denied to him even by some of his Christian contemporaries. He says: “I am yet alive, and I write books, and I preach sermons, and read public lectures every day, and yet virulent minded men, adversaries and false brethren, allege my own doctrines against me, and represent me as saying what I do not say, and as believing what I do not believe. If they do this while I am alive, and while I look on and hear it, what will they do when I am dead. But how is it possible for me to stop all the mouths of the evil speakers, especially of those who set themselves to pervert my words.” No doubt Luther must have often felt that it was indeed hard for him to suffer from both sides: from the Roman Catholics against whose errors he was fighting so earnestly, and from those professing Christians, who, through jealousy or ignorance, were ever ready to attack him. Surely the path of an earnest reformer is ever one of pain. It should be said, however, that the best and noblest men of his day were his defenders, but this did not lessen the guilt of those who added to his already heavy burdens. Erasmus has left it on record that the better any man was the more he appreciated the writings of Luther. In the same letter, which is addressed to archbishop Albert, he says: “that he (Luther) was accounted a good man even by his enemies, and that the best men were least offended by his writings.” Even the Roman Catholic historian Lingard admits that Luther’s morals were unexceptional. He says: “he (Staupitz) selected a young friar of his own order, Martin Luther, a man of an ardent mind, and unimpeached morals, and of strong prejudices against the Church of Rome.” Luther’s last words have been placed on record, and with these words we shall conclude this part of our subject. “O my Father, God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all consolation, I thank Thee for having revealed to me Thy well beloved Son, in whom I believe, whom I have preached and acknowledged, loved and celebrated, and whom the Pope and the impious persecute. I commend to Thee my soul. O Jesus Christ my Lord, I am quitting this earthly body. I am leaving this life, but I know that I shall abide eternally with Thee.” And so Luther was gathered to his fathers, and rests in the unchanging peace of God. Rome could no more threaten him with its thunders, nor could the mistrust and unkindness of false friends vex his tender heart. And his work follows him. It is still the same because it is Divine. And those who worked with him and those who worked against him know now that his teaching was the teaching of the Spirit, and that with him was the grace of the Father, the Son, and the Holy ghost.


 

Historic documents – Commemorating the 500th Anniversary – Luther’s “28 theses”


HEIDELBERG

. . . man’s will has some liberty to choose civil righteousness, and to work things subject to reason. But it has no power, without the Holy Ghost, to work the righteousness of God, that is, spiritual righteousness. . . – Augsburg Confession, Art.  18: Of Free Will


The Reformation must be important – if it isn’t, then a lot of paper and ink, and human lives, have been wasted. For Rome, it must be doubly important because they expend so much energy on ecumenical efforts, encouraging us “separated brethren” to return to the ancient fold.

Here is a document written and disputed not quite a year from the day – October 31, 1517 – on which Luther posted his famous invitation to debate the 95 Theses. People are getting ready for – and already engaged in – a huge celebration of the 500th anniversary of this watershed event, and Pope Francis has commandeered a decided role in it. Perhaps he has climbed into the driver’s seat! Not only that, but Luther appears to have been rehabilitated by Rome; no longer a heretic, he is called a son of the Church. To me this is unjust, because though Luther left reluctantly at first, he left permanently, even ensuring that there were witnesses to record his dying words so that Rome wouldn’t be able to say he had recanted and returned to her on his deathbed. I know that the Lord will deal with all of this someday – Praise Him forevermore!

The Heidelberg Disputation was another step Luther took in his departure from Rome.


Acts 17

30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

Psalm 96:13

13 For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth.
He shall judge the world with righteousness,
And the peoples with His truth.


Editor’s Introduction

Following Luther’s proposal for a disputation on the subject of indulgences, the Augustinian Order, to which Luther belonged, was generally supportive of his views. The head of the order in Germany, Johannes Staupitz, called for a formal disputation to be attended by the leadership of the order, in which Luther would be provided a chance to expand upon his concern. The disputation took place at the meeting of the Augustinian Order, in Heidelberg, in April 1518. Luther’s opponents had been hopeful that Luther would be silenced, but Staupitz wanted to give Luther a fair hearing, since he was generally sympathetic with Luther’s views. At the meeting, Luther put forward a “theology of the cross” as opposed to a “theology of glory.” The disputation is, in many ways, more significant than the 95 theses, for they advanced Luther’s growing realization that the theology of late Medieval Roman Catholicism was fundamentally and essentially at odds with Biblical theology. As a result of the disputation, John Eck proposed a debate between himself and representatives of Luther’s views, which was held in Leipzig from June to July, 1519.

The Heidelberg Disputation

“Brother Martin Luther, Master of Sacred Theology, will preside, and Brother Leonhard Beyer, Master of Arts and Philosophy, will defend the following theses before the Augustinians of this renowned city of Heidelberg in the customary place, on April 26th 1518.

THEOLOGICAL THESES

Distrusting completely our own wisdom, according to that counsel of the Holy Spirit, »Do not rely on your own insight« (Prov. 3:5), we humbly present to the judgment of all those who wish to be here these theological paradoxes, so that it may become clear whether they have been deduced well or poorly from St. Paul, the especially chosen vessel and instrument of Christ, and also from St. Augustine, his most trustworthy interpreter.

  1. The law of God, the most salutary doctrine of life, cannot advance man on his way to righteousness, but rather hinders him.
  2. Much less can human works, which are done over and over again with the aid of natural precepts, so to speak, lead to that end.
  3. Although the works of man always seem attractive and good, they are nevertheless likely to be mortal sins.
  4. Although the works of God are always unattractive and appear evil, they are nevertheless really eternal merits.
  5. The works of men are thus not mortal sins (we speak of works which are apparently good), as though they were crimes.
  6. The works of God (we speak of those which he does through man) are thus not merits, as though they were sinless.
  7. The works of the righteous would be mortal sins if they would not be feared as mortal sins by the righteous themselves out of pious fear of God.
  8. By so much more are the works of man mortal sins when they are done without fear and in unadulterated, evil self-security.
  9. To say that works without Christ are dead, but not mortal, appears to constitute a perilous surrender of the fear of God.
  10. Indeed, it is very difficult to see how a work can be dead and at the same time not a harmful and mortal sin.
  11. Arrogance cannot be avoided or true hope be present unless the judgment of condemnation is feared in every work.
  12. In the sight of God sins are then truly venial when they are feared by men to be mortal.
  13. Free will, after the fall, exists in name only, and as long as it does what it is able to do, it commits a mortal sin.
  14. Free will, after the fall, has power to do good only in a passive capacity, but it can always do evil in an active capacity.
  15. Nor could free will remain in a state of innocence, much less do good, in an active capacity, but only in its passive capacity.
  16. The person who believes that he can obtain grace by doing what is in him adds sin to sin so that he becomes doubly guilty.
  17. Nor does speaking in this manner give cause for despair, but for arousing the desire to humble oneself and seek the grace of Christ.
  18. It is certain that man must utterly despair of his own ability before he is prepared to receive the grace of Christ.
  19. That person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the »invisible« things of God as though they were clearly »perceptible in those things which have actually happened« (Rom. 1:20; cf. 1 Cor 1:21-25),
  20. he deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross.
  21. A theology of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theology of the cross calls the thing what it actually is.
  22. That wisdom which sees the invisible things of God in works as perceived by man is completely puffed up, blinded, and hardened.
  23. The »law brings the wrath« of God (Rom. 4:15), kills, reviles, accuses, judges, and condemns everything that is not in Christ.
  24. Yet that wisdom is not of itself evil, nor is the law to be evaded; but without the theology of the cross man misuses the best in the worst manner.
  25. He is not righteous who does much, but he who, without work, believes much in Christ.
  26. The law says, »do this«, and it is never done. Grace says, »believe in this«, and everything is already done.
  27. Actually one should call the work of Christ an acting work (operans) and our work an accomplished work (operatum), and thus an accomplished work pleasing to God by the grace of the acting work.
  28. The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it. The love of man comes into being through that which is pleasing to it.”

 

PROOFS OF THE THESES are to be found here:

http://bookofconcord.org/heidelberg.php

(Debated in the Chapter at Heidelberg, May 1518, A.D.)


 

Quote of the day – Martin, after 500 years


Portrait of Martin Luther by Lucas Cranach, via Wikimedia Commons

“I did nothing: the Word did everything.”

– Martin Luther

The Legacy of Luther, Edited by R.C. Sproul and Stephen J. Nichols, Reformation Trust Publishing, 2016.


Isaiah 55

NKJV

10 “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater,
11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.


 

Answering The Catholic Thinker on Faith Alone (Sola Fide) and works


Ephesians 2:8-10

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

“Genuine salvation is entirely of God and it inevitably results in a life of good works.”

Steven J. Cole, Bible.org


 An answer to Patrick E. Devens

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“Those who teach Sola Fide, are they not keeping back information concerning salvation? What of good works; obedience?

“My point is that Sola Fide is a doctrine that ignores God’s Word concerning the importance of obedience (good works), is not historical, and sets a Christian up with a false sense of their salvation being secured solely by their faith.”

Patrick E. Devens, The Safety-Net of Sola Fide

Patrick, I won’t be responding to every point of your post The Safety-Net of Sola Fide, but to some problems with it: most importantly, that you tend to isolate Faith Alone from the other Solas, and that you are misrepresenting the faith of many Christians.
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To begin, here is an overview of the Solas from Theopedia.com. In studying them, I believe it’s important to remember that they aren’t a creed or catechism and so they aren’t meant to set forth the entirety of the Faith.
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“The Five Solas are five Latin phrases (or slogans) that emerged from the Protestant Reformation intended to summarize the Reformers’ basic theological principles in contrast to certain teachings of the Roman Catholic Church of the day. “Sola” is Latin meaning “alone” or “only” and the corresponding phrases are:
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Sola Fide, by faith alone.

Sola Scriptura, by Scripture alone.

Solus Christus, through Christ alone.

Sola Gratia, by grace alone.

Soli Deo Gloria, glory to God alone.

“These phrases may be found individually expressed in the various writings of the 16th century Reformers, either explicitly or implicitly, but they are not found presented as a list per se. It is most likely the list of Solas came about later.”

So again, Sola Fide shouldn’t be made to stand on its own. A Reformed website Monergism.com expresses the Solas together in this way:

“We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, as revealed in the scripture alone, to the glory of God alone.” 

This same website has a helpful article on Faith Alone, The History of Justification by Faith Alone up to the Reformation, which addresses your just concerns over where Sola Fide was before the Reformation. I’m studying this myself now. 

Patrick, you must know that we teach Sola Gratia as well as Sola Fide and so you can’t say that Sola Fide is deficient because it doesn’t contain or seems to ignore Sola Gratia: again, they must be taken as a whole and not separated except for the purpose of explanation. 

The Reformers on Faith and Works

Martin Luther’s Definition of Faith (Ligonier Ministries) 

“. . . faith is God’s work in us, that changes us and gives new birth from God. (John 1:13) It kills the Old Adam and makes us completely different people. It changes our hearts, our spirits, our thoughts and all our powers. It brings the Holy Spirit with it. Yes, it is a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this faith. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn’t stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing.”

John Calvin on faith and good works (Bible.org)

“We have been clear upon the fact that good works are not the cause of salvation; let us be equally clear upon the truth that they are the necessary fruit of it. . .Christ justifies no one whom he does not at the same time sanctify.”

Huldrych Zwingli (AZ Quotes) 

“Our confidence in Christ does not make us lazy, negligent, or careless, but on the contrary it awakens us, urges us on, and makes us active in living righteous lives and doing good. There is no self-confidence to compare with this.”

Additional important points

While, as you correctly stated, the Lord Jesus Christ taught us how we must live as God’s, He also taught us about the preeminence of faith:

John 6

28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?

29 Jesus answered, and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe in him, whom he hath sent.

The truth that the just shall live by his faith is taught in both the Old and New Testaments.

Habakkuk 2:4

“Behold, as for the proud one,
His soul is not right within him;
But the righteous will live by his faith.

1 Peter 1:3-9

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 8 and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 9 obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.

Hebrews 11

Genuine Bible-believing Christians (Protestants and Evangelicals) aren’t antinomians, which is the implication of your post. Yes, there are some who live as though one can sin all they like since they once “made a decision for Christ,” but that is not what the Bible teaches and what we hold. Genuine Christians aren’t lawless and don’t promote lawlessness. Christians understand Paul and James together, that is, that good works demonstrate that we have saving faith – living Faith – for as you note, even the demons know that God exists.

James 2:19

You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.

We also believe that Christians will be eager for good works, and we want to obey and please the Lord. We are not looking for a way out of difficulties but are carrying our cross, loving the Lord and others. Not that we have attained to these things but that God is at work within us and will complete the good work He began in us.

Philippians 2:12-14

12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

Titus 2:13,14

13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

Again, Martin Luther did not invent Faith Alone. The Bible teaches it, and it was taught by Patristics such as Clement of Rome, Irenaeus of Lyons, and John Chrysostom:

“Similarly we also, who by His will have been called in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, or our own wisdom or understanding or godliness, nor by such deeds as we have done in holiness of heart, but by that faith through which Almighty God has justified all men since the beginning of time. Glory be to Him, forever and ever, Amen.” – St. Clement of Rome (? – ~101 AD) (Letter to the Corinthians,  par. 32)

“Human beings can be saved from the ancient wound of the serpent in no other way than by believing in him who, when he was raised up from the earth on the tree of martyrdom in the likeness of sinful flesh, drew all things to himself and gave life to the dead.” – St. Irenaeus (130 – 202 AD) (Against the Heresies, IV, 2, 7)

“They said that he who adhered to faith alone was cursed; but he, Paul, shows that he who adhered to faith alone is blessed.”- St. John Chrysostom (347 – 407 AD) (Homily on Galatians 3)

HT: ACTheologian, Church Fathers on Sola Fide

Patrick, you said, “But Sola Fide is not taught anywhere in the Bible, implicitly or explicitly, as a single verse or the Bible as a whole.” At the least, please remember this passage:

Romans 1:16-17

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”

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Quote of the day – Martin Luther

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Portrait of Martin Luther by Lucas Cranach, via Wikimedia Commons

“In the papacy there is a book containing the legends or accounts of the saints. I hate it intensely, solely for the reason that it tells of revolting forms of worship and silly miracles performed by idle people. These legends and accounts actually accomplish only one thing: they increase contempt of the government and of the household, yes, even almost of the church itself…”

Dr. R. Scott Clark, The Heidelblog

Luther On “Saints,” Monks, And Sola Scriptura

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