LUTHER’S THEOLOGY OF MARY:

A RESPONSE TO CATHOLIC APOLOGIST DAVE ARMSTRONG

 

 

By James Swan, June 2003

 

Tertiumquid@msn.com

 

After my paper documenting Luther's Mariology appeared on-line, Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong counter-responded immediately (his response appeared in about a week after my paper was posted). As he sought to make his arguments cogent and his documentation more plentiful, his first response was revised two more times. His final draft can be found here. My response covered all three versions.[1]

 

 

 

 

-Table of Contents-

 

I. Introduction:

An overview of my interaction with Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong on Luther’s Mariology.

 

II. My Introduction From “Reflections on Martin Luther’s Theology of Mary:

Did Dave Armstrong understand the thesis of my paper on Luther’s Mariology?

 

III. The Young Luther, Saints and the Virgin:

A discussion on popular medieval piety and Luther’s early Mariolatry.

 

IV. The Mother of God:

The evolution of the title “Mother of God” and Luther’s usage.

 

V. The Immaculate Conception:

Armstrong’s misunderstanding of Luther’s historical development and its relation to the immaculate conception.

 

VI. Perpetual Virginity:

A discussion on Luther and Mary’s perpetual virginity.

 

VII. Praying to Mary:

Luther did not pray to Mary, nor did he venerate her like Roman Catholics do.

 

VIII. The Use of Footnotes in My Paper and Mr. Armstrong’s Response:

My approach to documenting Luther research as clearly as possible versus Armstrong’s unhelpful obfuscation method.

 

IX. Scholars and Works Cited by Dave Armstrong:

A review of scholars and works utilized by Armstrong in his evaluation of my paper on Luther’s Mariology.

 

 

Appendix A: Luther's Marian Sermons:

Did Luther preach on Mary’s feast days, and what did he preach about?

 

Appendix B: Luther's understanding of "Veneration":

A review of Luther’s “Marian” hymns and his concept of veneration.

 

Appendix C: The Mariology of the Middle Ages :

Jaraslov Pelikan’s overview of sixteenth century Mariology.

 

Endnotes and Secondary Comments

 

 

 

 

I. INTRODUCTION

 

A. Location of Papers

 

This paper is a response to the multiple versions of Dave Armstrong’s “Counter Reply: Martin Luther’s Mariology (Particularly the Immaculate Conception).”[2] His reply is to my paper, Martin Luther's Theology of Mary.  Casual readers with only a minor interest in this topic need not concern themselves with the lengthy endnotes. They were provided for secondary comments and further documentation from the sources I utilized.

 

B. Corrections

 

I would like to thank Mr. Armstrong for catching the following errors in my paper: a typo of the word “devotion,” that Hartmann Grisar’s biography of Luther spanned six volumes, and that Mr. Armstrong did indeed have at least a secondary source reference for his quote of Luther’s sermon “On The Day of the Conception of the Mother of God 1527” during the time I researched my paper.

 

C. Background 

 

Anyone familiar with Internet theological bulletin boards have at some point come across Roman Catholic criticism of Martin Luther. Fairly common topics include: Luther’s alleged antinomianism, his rejection of certain canonical books, his alleged desire to be a Protestant pope, and some even argue Luther’s partial responsibility for Nazi Germany. Interestingly though, when it comes to the topic of Mary, Roman Catholic sentiment towards Luther shifts considerably. Luther becomes the staunch supporter of Mary; a leader that all contemporary Protestants should learn a great lesson in Mariology from. This drastic shift is puzzling; particularly since Luther’s abandoning of the intercession of the saints and his doctrine of justification significantly changes his Marian approach.

 

My paper was not written for the intention of inviting Mr. Armstrong to debate. Rather, it was posted for the broader Protestant Internet community. I understand why Mr. Armstrong would feel the need to respond, since I referenced his web page as an example of popular Roman Catholic approaches to Luther’s Mariology. I could have chosen any number of Catholic sites as an example; I used Mr. Armstrong’s material because I have a suspicion the majority of anti-Luther pro-Catholic web pages utilize his research more than they do their own investigations. Mr. Armstrong’s Catholic web site is one of the few that takes exploratory searches into Martin Luther’s world, sadly a world that many contemporary Protestants could care less about.

 

C. Hostility and Ad Hominem

 

In his initial response to my paper, Mr. Armstrong confused me with another person whom he dialogued with a few months ago. His response was quite offensive, regardless of whom he was critiquing. I was said to be:

 

critical and overbearing.” I put forth, “snide insinuations of [Mr. Armstrong’s] alleged profound incompetence and dishonesty,” “tedious insulting material,” I employ a “typical (almost absurdly laughable) anti-Catholic, anti-medievalist cardboard caricature of the Christianity and piety of the middle ages,” “garden-variety warmed-over Charles Hodge anti-Catholic stereotypes of Catholic Mariology,” “convoluted heretical reasoning,” “a pitiful onslaught of polemical and rhetorical comments, which grossly distort the Catholic understanding of Mary,”  I operate out of a “Protestant polemical excess,” I utilized tactics similar to Jehovah’s Witnesses, I “mock [Catholicism] as idiotic and unbiblical”, I follow “the widespread Protestant contra-Catholic polemical tendency,”an absurd anti-medievalist (and ultimately anti-Catholic) picture of the Christianity and piety of the Middle Ages,” I make “absurd all-knowing proclamation[s],” I “set up… straw man image[s] of Catholic apologists,” and I was also portrayed as so incompetent that I lacked the ability to conduct a basic search on the World Wide Web.

 

He also seems to insinuate that since I am merely a “seminary student” I couldn’t possibly have an accurate opinion on Luther. His final comment was perhaps the most telling of his attitude toward my abilities: “As the inquirer gets deeper and deeper into the subject, many other more advanced treatments (including dialogues with educated, theologically-literate Protestants) can be found in my papers and links” Contrarily, I never questioned Mr. Armstrong’s ability or credentials to espouse Catholicism. I do not know the nature or extent of Armstrong’s education, nor have I questioned it. Nor will the reader find any slander against Mr. Armstrong in my original paper.

 

This situation was ‘somewhat’ rectified when I pointed out Armstrong’s error of misidentification.  When he realized he was firing at the wrong target, Mr. Armstrong edited his response and toned down some of his hostile language. Some of the above comments are still contained in later versions of his paper. Perhaps with the ever-changing nature of Mr. Armstrong’s web page response, we can expect to see further editing.

 

D. Overall Analysis of Armstrong’s Response

 

It’s hard to know exactly where to begin in evaluating Mr. Armstrong’s response to my paper. One must first stand in awe of his ability to put forth a thirty-seven page single-spaced document (more than double the length of my original double spaced paper) filled with citations, comments, and sharp remarks in a relatively short amount of time.

 

It will be my purpose to show that Mr. Armstrong has missed the main points in my paper. My paper follows a particular logical order consisting of: an introduction in which I put forth the question and conclusion to be discussed, a “body” in which I present my evidence, and a conclusion that summarizes the body and reiterates points made in the introduction. Earlier versions of Mr. Armstrong’s response followed no apparent order. His response was filled with a fair amount of tangential material, sending the reader in a multitude of directions (directions worthy of study, yet tangential to my paper).

 

I have taken a fair amount of time to compare and contrast his comments to my paper, check his references, and cite the same sources he utilized. My apologies for the excessive length of this paper. Since I do not plan on writing any further responses to Armstrong’s material on Luther and Mary, I tried to be as thorough as possible. Thus, it could similarly be argued that this response has engaged tangents; however my only desire is to exhaust the topic, and move on. Had I the desire for a continuous debate with Mr. Armstrong, all of this material would surface eventually anyway. I expect Mr. Armstrong will again quickly respond to this paper. Unless Mr. Armstrong presents some compelling relevant information, this will be my only response.

 

It is my contention that Mr. Armstrong’s material on Luther’s theology of Mary reflects an extreme position: the great Reformer was primarily in agreement with Rome in both doctrine and practice, with only minor conflict. Armstrong believes that Luther was “extraordinarily devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary.” Luther “venerated Mary in a very touching fashion which, as far as it goes, is not at all contrary to Catholic piety.” Armstrong believes “it can be stated without fear of contradiction that Luther's Mariology is very close to that of the Catholic Church today, far more than it is to the theology of modern-day Lutheranism.”[3] This extreme position’s polar opposite is the conclusion that Luther placed little emphasis on Mariology. Both positions have been argued in the last 500 years. Mr. Armstrong treats my position as if it were the polar opposite. Quite the contrary, the purpose of my paper (and this one as well) was to put forth a balanced understanding: Luther indeed had a Mariology. It reflected his commitment to Christ, and stood in antithesis to popular Catholic belief in the sixteenth century.

 

 

II.  My Introduction From “Reflections on Martin Luther’s Theology of Mary”

 

A. Main thesis: The Growth and Development of Luther’s Theology

 

Mr. Armstrong notes that he actually agrees with the basic thesis of my paper, that as Luther’s theology grew, elements of his Mariology were rejected, minimized, or reinterpreted as he clung to and developed his commitment to solus Christus.[4] Note that my opinion of Luther is that he “grew and developed” as a theologian.  Although agreeing with my basic point, Mr. Armstrong adds a much different slant that attempts to negate this point. He says,

 

I have often observed, in my papers about Luther, his tendency to contradict himself or vacillate, and the difficulty of constructing a coherent account of his beliefs. Luther's thought was the very antithesis of the systematic and orderly teaching of, say, John Calvin.”[5]

 

Elsewhere, Mr. Armstrong cites noted scholar Roland Bainton that for Luther “the conflicts and the labors of the dramatic years had impaired his health and made him prematurely an irascible old man, petulant, peevish, unrestrained, and at times positively coarse.”[6] This is indeed a distressing picture of Luther the theologian. One perhaps questions why I would even remotely portray Luther the theologian as “growing and developing” in a positive direction considering Mr. Armstrong’s substantial point from such a respected Protestant scholar. But consider the same chapter from Bainton’s book from which Mr. Armstrong cited. Bainton says,

 

“Luther's later years are, however, by no means to be written off as the sputterings of a dying flame. If in his polemical tracts he was at times savage and coarse, in the works which constitute the real marrow of his life's endeavor he grew constantly in maturity and artistic creativity. The biblical translation was improved to the very end. The sermons and the biblical commentaries reached superb heights. The delineation of the sacrifice of Isaac, … comes from the year 1545. Some of the passages cited throughout this book [Here I Stand] to illustrate Luther's religious and ethical principles are also from the later period.” [7]

 

Similarly, the popular caricature of Luther as a less-than-coherent-angry-old-man has been addressed in a thoughtful paper by Gordon Rupp entitled, “Miles Emeritus? Continuity and Old Discontinuity Between the Young and The Luther[8] Rupp points out:

 

“But what of the old Luther? It is often assumed that his last years were racked with illness and exhaustion, and the symptoms of old age: that pessimism and intolerance provoked him into outrageous polemic and made him the scorn of his enemies, and a trial to his friends. I believe this to be a quite exaggerated impression.”

 

“Nor is his thought and in the quality of his writing, and in the depths of his achievement is it permissible to drive a wedge between the Young and the Old Luther. There were great and lasting continuities. Not that there were no changes.”

 

“Despite changes of emphasis, and a way of picking on a phrase like ‘Christ’s strange work’ or ‘gratia’ and ‘donum’ or the thought of the pope as a Werewolf, which he uses for a time, and the drops, and despite the fact that he was no systematizer, there is an inner coherence and consistency in Luther’s thought. This is most evident in the firmness with which he held to the doctrine of Justification ‘sola fide’ and ‘solo Christo’.” [9]

 

Many Roman Catholics also fail to understand the structure of Luther’s theology. As Mr. Armstrong points out, Luther was not a systematizer. But this does not mean that Luther was haphazard. He wrote treatises for specific situations; hence he has gained the description of an “occasional writer.” Within these writings, one sees a constant method: Luther reveled in contrast and paradox. Examples of this would be “Deus absconditus vs. Deus revelatus,” “glory vs. Cross,” “law vs. gospel.” Luther rejected the medieval use of the logical, “ergo” (therefore). For Luther, theology is not systematic theological reasoning. It is not simply the matter of moving from one human conclusion to another: Theology is always a matter of “denote” (nevertheless). At times, Luther can appear contradictory: he will say something like “God is both hidden and revealed.”

 

Within Luther’s Mariology one sees this contrast and paradox at work. For example, in Luther’s Magnificat, one could read it and think it was a treatise that was trying to establish a Mariology. Rather, Luther presents the contrast between the “mighty princes” and the “lowly virgin,” in order that his reader might understand the paradox of “law / gospel.”  Eric Gritsch explains,

 

The contrast between the "lowly virgin" and the "mighty princes" in the Magnificat reflects Luther's basic view of the contrariness of God who is both "hidden" and "revealed" in his creation and redemption God works his "alien work" through creation, especially through political government. When one prince defeats another in battle God discloses that he uses one against the other in order to make his judgment in history. History is the battleground God's "carnival" (as Luther likes to say). When God does his "proper" work, he uses his power directly, the power of the Holy Spirit mediated through the audible and "visible word"... Only faith "knows" this work. Mary is the embodiment of God s proper" work and an example of faith. Luther commends her Magnificat to Prince John Frederick of Saxony so that he may understand God s work in the "law" and the "gospel." The Christian prince according to Luther, should understand both his duty to use the law of the sword as well as his responsibility to provide space for the gospel of God’s unmerited grace. Mary is the example that God is in control of human history; he can choose the lowliest of the lowly and put down the mightiest of the mighty. Thus the Magnificat is the swansong as it were, for those who think they have absolute power in the world Only God has such power; he can remove tyrants and replace them with good men".[10]

 

One must be consciously aware of this within his theology, coupled with the clear knowledge that there is a clear progression in his thought. Studying Luther is no easy task, and the studies of Luther throughout the past 500 years can sometimes be both help and hindrance. 

 

Thus, Mr. Armstrong and I have a significant presuppositional difference in our overall approach to Luther studies. My paper sees Luther as a gifted thinker whose theology grew and developed, rather than a man whose later years were plagued by incoherence and ravings. Not that it was always a steady climb forward for Luther; there were pitfalls, but his theological insights were steady: a review of the totality of Luther’s works show a brilliant theologian whose theology can be summed up quite simply: “When you’ve said Jesus, you have said it all.”[11] As with all of us, conforming our lives to Christ in thought and deed is a lifelong process. Luther was no exception.

 

B. Luther did indeed have a Mariology

 

Similarly in my introduction, I pointed out that Luther did indeed have a Mariology.” Mr. Armstrong though seems to think I am denying that Luther (and the Reformers) had a Mariology.[12]  He cites Jaroslav Pelikan, David Wright, William J. Cole, Thomas O’Meara, Basilea Schlink, Peter Toon, Elliot Miller, John De Satge, and Max Thurian in order to prove something I never denied. While his wealth of research is to be commended, it serves as a clear example of Mr. Armstrong creating a contention that doesn’t exist.  I never denied that Luther had a Mariology.

 

Thus, totally irrelevant were quotes from Armstrong about Heinrich Bullinger and information about the content of Zwingli’s Marian piety.  My paper was not about whether or not the early Protestants had a unified Marian piety, nor was my paper about Heinrich Bullinger’s Mariology or Zwingli’s observation of Marian feasts. My paper admits that Luther had a Mariology and wishes to explore the basic tenets of that Mariology. While I find Mr. Armstrong’s research interesting, it is an unnecessary digression from the focus of my paper.

 

This is a major charge against Mr. Armstrong’s response: throughout his paper he documents that Luther had a Mariology (as well as other early Reformers), but then fails to explore the content of that Mariology by citing and exploring the primary source writings of Luther.  Mr. Armstrong infrequently cites Luther in his response, and rarely interacts with the quotes of Luther I used. One would think he would have scoured contexts in order to prove my interpretation of Luther faulty. Such argumentation is missing from the bulk of his response.

 

C. The Distorted Image

 

Mr. Armstrong strongly disagrees with my statement that any picture created to prove Luther’s devotion to Mary as similar to Roman Catholicism is an image sketched distortedly. He says that he has shown (through a myriad of Protestant scholarly quotes) that “similarities exist and they are profound. It is not absolute agreement all down the line; yet it is a remarkable accord, and I have documented it.” Perhaps my use of the word “similar” was not exactly the best choice. Indeed, There are similarities because both Rome and Luther have a Mariology, employ similar terms, and are aware of Christological teaching about Mary. It is the content and progress though of Luther’s Mariology that is the focal point of my paper.

 

D. Mr. Armstrong’s Luther

 

Mr. Armstrong thinks that I incorrectly summarized his view of Luther’s Mariology when I said he drew a picture of Luther espousing a doctrine of Mary that reflects Roman Catholic theology, with little or no conflict with Luther’s Reformation ideals.  He though would rather be thought to hold, “several nuanced [sic] qualifying remarks, contrasting Luther's Marian views with those of the Catholic Church.” The only qualifier he actually mentions is Luther’s rejection of the intercession and invocation of the saints.[13] One is left wondering though why Mr. Armstrong contests my summary. He says, “it can be stated without fear of contradiction that Luther's Mariology is very close to that of the Catholic Church today, far more than it is to the theology of modern-day Lutheranism.” This was my exact point. Mr. Armstrong’s picture of Mary was sketched to show how Roman Catholic Luther’s Mariology is.

 

Mr. Armstrong’s approach to Luther is an excellent example of the “drastic shift” I noted above. When Luther makes positive comments in regard to Mary, Luther is seen as a positive theological beacon that all Protestants should flock towards. On another article from his web site though, Mr. Armstrong denigrates Luther’s character and presents him as someone that Protestants should run away from.[14] He documents such things as Luther’s “intemperate language,” his pre-involvement with Nazi Germany, and his “persecution of Anabaptists and Jews.” For Armstrong, these are some of the “historical facts”:

 

from a biblical perspective, a man's teachings must be backed up by his life, or else the doctrines are suspect…To think that a man greatly lacking in moral uprightness could deliver the truth of primitive," holy, and pure Christianity to the world is biblically, morally, and even logically suspect. Therefore, we must determine whether Luther can pass this fundamental test -- all the more so since he often excoriated the faults of others.”

 

His was a deep, demanding soul, to whom no Catholic can in charity deny fraternal pity, but his mind contained also something of the devil, which made his arrogant desire to trace his own path alone turn to rebellion of the worst kind . . .”

 

Was Luther a truthful man? . . . I would say that he never hesitated to lie if he thought it useful . . .”

 

His violent and passionate temperament could brook no contradiction, and in every controversy he would overwhelm his opponents with the grossness and obscenity of an infuriated peasant. And secondly, all that is best in his writings springs directly from his subjective personal experience. He recognized no truths except those which he felt and saw directly by an immediate act of psychological intuition. In comparison with this nothing else mattered.”[15]

 

After spending time reading Armstrong’s articles about Luther, why should anyone believe Luther about anything? Mr. Armstrong paints Luther as thoroughly intolerant, a liar, supporter of bigamy, perpetually foul mouthed, a deliberate misrepresent-er of opponents, actively seeking the deaths of Jews, a catalyst for the Third Reich, and a sufferer of megalomania, to name only a few.[16] Why is it that when Luther speaks about Mary, anybody should listen? It is hard to take Mr. Armstrong’s views on Luther seriously. What Armstrong rips away with one hand (Luther as an authority: The great Reformer), he attempts to give back with the other (Luther as an authority: Protestant Mariology).

 

E. Luther’s Mariology is Christocentric

 

Mr. Armstrong stayed away from denying my point that Luther’s Mariology was Christocentric. That this was a unique approach in the sixteenth century against the prevailing Roman Catholic attitude is noted by two of the scholars he cited:

 

David Wright:

“In face of such perversions, Luther's critique [of Mary] is basically a Christocentric one which makes full use of justification by grace alone.”[17]

 

Eric Gritsch:

“[Luther]… placed Mary in a christocentric context in his early sermons and biblical commentaries, especially in his commentary on Psalms: she is the "blissful Mother" who is humble in the faith and shows the faithful what great things God can do. He also warned against a too zealous veneration of Mary at the expense of Christ.”[18]

 

In another place, Gritsch explains Luther’s Mariology is presented in the context of “a christocentric theology which Luther saw affirmed in apostolic and patristic thought, but no longer in the normative scholastic tradition of the medieval Western church.”[19] This is a striking implication and indictment of the medieval church.

 

 

III. The Young Luther, Saints and the Virgin

 

A. Piety in the Middle Ages

 

In my description of the medieval climate and Luther’s own admission of partaking in Mariolatry (while a faithful son of the Catholic Church), Mr. Armstrong’s charges that I put forth a “Cardboard Caricatures of Medieval (and Orthodox Catholic) Marian Piety.” He adds that I’ve engaged in a “lamentable tactic,” of “garden-variety, warmed-over Charles Hodge, wrongheaded stereotypes of Catholic Mariology.” He suggests, Someone ought to direct Mr. Swan to an orthodox Catholic catechism which (I assume) would spell out clearly what does or does not constitute excess in medieval devotion to the Virgin Mary.

 

What Mr. Armstrong fails to do in these criticisms is to put forth doctrinal standards of Marian piety within the Sixteenth Century to correct my (alleged) caricature. He cannot seriously be suggesting the latest version of the Catholic catechism was the doctrinal standard for Marian piety four hundred years ago, or for that matter the Second Vatican Council.[20] The Lutheran and Catholics in Dialogue scholars noted that little had been defined dogmatically about Mary in the sixteenth century.[21] David Wright focuses the situation:

“At the outset of the Reformation era, formally approved Church teaching about Mary encompassed only the virgin birth, her role as 'God-bearer' (theotokos) in the incarnation, and her perpetual virginity—and all of these were the legacy of the age of the Fathers. But since these early definitions theological speculation had steadily mounted. If there had so far been no further dogmatic deliverances, this was partly because on one or two issues different segments of the medieval Church were at loggerheads.”[22]

 

Perhaps this description (given from a pro-Catholic source) is adequate:

 

Late medieval piety was marked by a great emphasis on the intercession of deceased saints and in particular by an intensification of confidence in the power of Mary. The steadily increasing number of saints invoked to remedy human needs and ills, and the long-accustomed role of Mary as mediator between the faithful and Christ, obscured the traditional theological distinction between adoration (latria) and veneration (dulia). In 1517, when Martin Luther called for an academic disputation on the use of indulgences and their relationship to the sacrament of penance, the cult of the saints and Mary became a related issue.[23]

 

Mr. Armstrong seems to be holding that theologically educated Catholics” are well aware of the basic truths of Marian doctrine and devotion. What he fails to document is whether sixteenth century elite Catholics knew what excessive Marian devotion was. It seems apparent that many of the theologically educated of the sixteenth century participated in excessive Mariology and deviant piety. Mr. Armstrong can’t possibly be suggesting that sixteenth-century theologically educated Catholics” understood Marian piety by standards that were created much later. I find it fascinating that the theologically educated Catholics” who wrote the Confutation against the Augsburg Confession saw no need to write against Mariolatry:

 

“The Confutation thus defended both the veneration and the invocation of the saints. Asserting that Christ is the sole Mediator of redemption, it proposed Mary and the saints as mediators of intercession. It did not regard invocation as contrary to Scripture but as having a biblical basis. At the same time it did not criticize aberrations in this form of Christian piety. What the Confutation did was to call for trust in the church's understanding of itself as a body whose members (deceased as well as living) are empowered by Christ their head to help one another.”[24]

 

Even the strict orders of monks were infected with Mariolatry:

 

“The Augustinian Order which [Luther] joined paid high honour to Mary. He remembered being afraid of Christ and taking refuge with Mary and saints, as though they were the mediators and Christ the judge and executioner. 'We held Christ to be our angry judge, and Mary our mercy-seat, in whom alone was all our trust and refuge.”[25]

 

That both the laity and the clergy were in need of reformation is generally not disputed. When the early Reformers criticized the Catholic Church on deviant excess, some Catholic theologians responded (perhaps similar to Mr. Armstrong): “We never taught such things!”  The Reformers in unison replied, “But your people believed it, and you do nothing about it!” Historian Charles Guignebert explains their responsibility: 

 

Certain Catholic writers of our own day confess that the condition of the clergy was degraded but think themselves to be justifying this state of affairs by saying that it corresponded to that of the laity at that time, on the principle that, in the main, people always get the religion and the church they deserve. This is so, and it cannot be denied that society in the fifteenth and at the beginning of the sixteenth centuries seems very corrupt, judging by its upper classes, and that the religion of the lower classes appears very uncouth. Nevertheless the conclusion indicated is that the Church is largely responsible for this depravity and superstition, upon ascertaining that the demand of the Inquisition for orthodoxy can be satisfied with its appearance only, and that crimes and sins are of little ecclesiastical importance save as they represent a fruitful source of revenue for the vendors of absolution.”[26]

 

A concise statement of the Mariology that preceded Luther was accurately described by Jaroslav Pelikan in the book, Reformation of Church and Dogma Volume 4.  I have included a brief portion of Pelican’s description in Appendix C. 

 

B. Elite Belief

 

Mr. Armstrong asserts that I have misunderstood folk piety and Catholic doctrine.  I am well aware though of the differentiation between popular belief (or “folk piety”) and elite belief in the medieval world. Elite theology formed by the elite class was Biblical thought placed in the context of Greek philosophical traditions.[27] Popular belief was formed not only by the influence of elite belief, but also by the ancient tribal beliefs that existed before Christianity had come to the land. Even though the Church had driven away the pagan gods of the lands, they had not altered the basic structure of religious belief that had been set by pre-Christian pagan religions. These two beliefs are not to be understood as completely separate. One must realize that popular belief influences elite belief.

This entire section in my paper focuses (generally) on popular belief within the medieval world. Elite belief though, cannot be ignored. I consider elite belief also a channel that fed Marian devotion toward excess. That the theologically educated during the Reformation similarly added to Marian excess is usually not disputed. Owen Chadwick points out,

 

 “The strong and popular devotion to the Virgin was accompanied by a marked growth in the cult of the saints and their relics, and of pilgrimage to their shrines. Ill-regulated fervour could be superstitious or even demonic... But superstition was no innovation. Since the darkest ages peasants had consumed the dust from saints' tombs or used the Host as an amulet or collected pretended relics or believed incredible and unedifying miracles or substituted the Virgin or a patron saint for the Savior. In 1500 they were ardently doing these things. What was new was not so much the practice as the way in which the leaders of opinion were beginning to regard it.” [28]

 

Historian Leopold von Ranke gives an interesting look at Sixteenth Century prayer books given to the people:

 

“There are prayers to which an indulgence for 146 days, others to which one for 7000 or 8000 years are attached: one morning benediction of peculiar efficacy was sent by a pope to a king of Cyprus; whosoever repeats the prayer of the venerable Bede the requisite number of times, the Virgin Mary will be at hand to help him for thirty days before his death, and will not suffer him to depart unabsolved. The most extravagant expressions were uttered in praise of the Virgin: ‘The eternal Daughter of the eternal Father, the heart of the indivisible Trinity:’ it was said, ‘Glory be to the Virgin, to the Father, and to the Son.’”[29]

 

These types of prayer books were condemned by Rome twenty-five years after Luther died. They had enjoyed a rich life as normal piety in the medieval Catholic Church.[30]

 

C. The “Normal” Marian Piety of Luther

 

Catholic historian Hilda Graef notes that the early reformers (during this time of wide-spread spiritual deviation) practiced a normal piety that conformed to Rome:

 

“All three continental reformers, Luther, Calvin and Zwingli, had grown up as Catholics and conformed to the devotional practices of the Church, especially Luther, who had been an Augustinian friar while Zwingli had been a secular priest and Calvin a layman.”[31]  

 

Catholic historian Thomas O’Meara notes that Luther,

 

“[In the] early period of his life was not just cloaked with Catholicism; as a monk, as priest, as teacher of medieval theology, he was immersed in the Catholic Germany of his age…few [men] were so deeply involved with Catholicism as was the dynamic Luther.”[32]

 

O’Meara also points out, “Before his ideas began to change, Luther was imbued with that Marian piety almost natural to the medieval Christian.”[33] William Cole observes, “In the Marian Augustinian atmosphere, Luther was greatly influenced by some of the most influential Marian Saints and writers. Along with Saints Bernard and Anselm, Luther had accepted the Mariology of the Church.”[34] Thus, in a society that was plagued with doctrinal deviations on the popular level, Catholic scholars see Luther’s early Marian piety as normal. Luther himself though, looks back on it and sees Mariolatry.

 

“A recollection from Luther’s Table Talk verifies the impact medieval Mariolatry had on the young Martin Luther.  Sometime in 1503, he unintentionally stabbed his shin on a short sword and cut an artery in his leg.  Thinking himself near death from the wound, he cried out, “Mary, help!”  Help indeed arrived, but in the form of a surgeon who dressed the wound.  Later that evening, the wound broke open again.  The same fear of death gripped him, and Mary was called upon once more to save his life.  Had Mary saved Luther?  The mature Luther looking back on this experience realized how far from the spiritual help of Christ he actually was: “I would have died with my trust in Mary.”[35]

 

O’Meara notes that Luther’s “revolt” against the Church was due to “the multiform abuses of Marian devotion and veneration which drew down Luther’s rebuke; this was what Luther originally attacked.”[36] What O’Meara fails to point out is that Luther included himself with those who practiced Mariolatry. Luther was a “theologically educated Catholic.” He earned his degrees in the shortest time possible, and achieved the highest degree possible. During this time he was sure he had participated in Mariolatry:

 

“Luther recollected, “Christ in His mercy was hidden from my eyes. I wanted to become justified before God through the merits of the saints.  This gave rise to the petition for the intercession of the saints.  On a portrait St. Bernard, too, is portrayed adoring the Virgin Mary as she directs her Son, Christ, to the breasts that suckled Oh, how many kisses we bestowed on Mary”!   Luther concluded though, that even in St Bernard’s incessant praise of Mary as she directs the sinner toward Christ, Bernard left out Christ completely: “Bernard filled a whole sermon with praise of the Virgin Mary and in so doing forgot to mention what happened [the incarnation of Christ]; so highly did he… esteem Mary.”   Thus, young Luther partook in Mariolatry, but the mature Luther looking back saw only the excesses of medieval devotion and teaching on Mary.  He saw that she had been adorned with attributes that only belonged to Christ.”[37]

 

D. Armstrong’s Luther ascribes to Vatican II?

 

Mr. Armstrong shares the same confusion as O’Meara. For Armstrong though, Luther becomes the champion of Marian piety, correcting medieval excess. Armstrong fails to connect Luther’s autobiographical admissions of Mariolatry with his theological reform.  Remember, Armstrong’s position is that Luther’s Mariology is essentially Catholic: “it can be stated without fear of contradiction that Luther's Mariology is very close to that of the Catholic Church today, far more than it is to the theology of modern-day Lutheranism.” To substantiate this “Catholic” Luther, “defender of correct Marian piety,” Armstrong at one point says,

 

In fact, Martin Luther "praised" Mary and said that she should be honored in his very last sermon at Wittenberg. He understood the difference between veneration and worship, just as Catholics do (and he also strongly criticized excesses in Marian devotion, just as Catholics also do; particularly in Vatican II).”[38]

 

Armstrong is correct that Luther mentions Mary in his last Wittenberg sermon. Luther did not say or imply though that “Mary should be honored.” I have provided the relevant section from this sermon in this endnote: [39]. Luther’s tone is quite sarcastic, and his main point is that Christ alone should be worshiped. Luther mocks those who would call upon Mary or venerate her. Luther insists that those who seek Christ through Mary do so by the use of “reason,” and “reason is by nature a harmful whore.”[40]

 

Addressed below (in section IV. C ) is a more detailed explanation of what Luther meant by “praising” Mary, and it will be shown to be fundamentally non-Catholic. However, it is also interesting to note that Luther abandoned the distinctions of latria, dulia, and hyper-dulia. When commenting on Deuteronomy 6:13 Luther said,

“Here the scholastics have concocted various dreams about dulia, latria, and hyperdulia.  With one and the same word the Hebrew denotes service toward God and toward men, so that their distinction is useless. But Moses wants to say this: “Serve Him alone. That is, whatever you do, and whether you live under the bondage of men or as a manager of affairs, refer it to Me, and do it in no other name than that you are sure in faith that I alone am served in this.”[41]

Luther understood that the Latin words latria and dulia were traceable, not only to the New Testament (where they are used synonymously about worship or service to God), but were also used to translate a single Hebrew term where they represent the same idea. For examples of the way Luther used the term “veneration” please see Appendix B.

 

I do not think Mr. Armstrong can harmonize Vatican II and Luther. In order for Armstrong to substantiate that Luther believed Mary should be venerated rather than worshiped (like a Roman Catholic), Mr. Armstrong must consult Luther and prove he agrees with the following from Vatican II:

 

“It is supremely fitting . . . that we love those friends and fellow heirs of Jesus Christ, who are also our brothers and extraordinary benefactors, that we render due thanks to God for them and suppliantly invoke them and have recourse to their prayers their power and help in obtaining benefits from God through His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who is our sole Redeemer and Savior. For by its very nature every genuine testimony of love which we show to those in heaven tends toward and terminates in Christ, who is the 'crown of all saints.' Through Him it tends toward and terminates in God, who is wonderful in His saints and is magnified in them." 

 

“The authentic cult of saints consists not so much in the multiplying of external acts but rather in the intensity of our active love By such love, for our own greater good and that of the Church, we seek from the saints example in their way of life, fellowship in their communion, and aid by their intercession. ... Our communion with those in heaven, provided that it is understood in the more adequate light of faith, in no way weakens but, conversely, more thoroughly enriches the supreme worship we give to God the Father through Christ in the Spirit."

 

E. Christ as Judge, Mary the Merciful

 

Curiously, Mr. Armstrong does not comment on my point that during the Middle Ages Christ was viewed as Judge, while Mary was seen as a great merciful protector, in some instances “deified.” I noted Luther’s dread of Christ as the severe judge.  As historian Robert Fife explains,

 

[Christ] became a great source of unhappiness in the cloister…he refers frequently to his conviction that Christ was indifferent to human woes and must be won over through the intercession of his mother, the Virgin.  The picture of Christ sitting in judgement on the last day dwelt vividly in his mind, so that he could not shake off fears connected with it.  [Luther said,] 'When I looked on Christ, I saw the Devil: so [I said], ‘Dear Mary, pray to your Son for me and still His anger.’[42]

 

The Lutheran and Catholics in Dialogue scholars noted that,

 

“Luther was convinced that the practice of invoking the saints only continued the medieval tendency to transform Christ the "kindly Mediator" into a "dreaded Judge" who is to be placated by the intercession of the saints and Mary, and by a multitude of other rites.”[43]

 

Hilda Graef explains the origin of this idea:

 

“Germanus also was among the first to teach another doctrine that became a commonplace in medieval preaching and devotion; namely that Mary turns away God’s anger ‘and the sentence of damnation, because you love the Christians; refuge of sinners.’…such a division between God’s just anger and Mary’s mercy was certainly unknown in the earlier centuries, and is rejected today except as a devotional expression needing careful explanation.”[44]

 

Graef notes that some sixteenth century Catholic apologists tried to deny the Church had allowed the notion of Christ as Judge / Mary as mercy distinction. The Counter-Reformer St. Peter Canisius (Jesuit, circa 1597),

 

“attacks Luther for saying that Catholics go to Mary rather than to Christ, that they attribute to Christ the realm of justice and to Mary that of mercy and that the say Mary can command her Son. But certain preachers actually did say these things; and through the attribution of their works to such authorities as St. Albert and St. Bonaventure, these ideas had a tremendous influence”.”[45] 

 

Later Graef discusses (canonized) Saint Ligouri and notes that Ligouri,

 

“repeats the medieval idea that Christ is the king of justice, while he has surrendered all the treasures of his mercy to his mother. Thus ‘when God is angry with a sinner, and Mary takes him under her protection, she withholds the avenging arm of her son and saves him.”[46]

 

Similarly, Graef describes the Seventeenth-Century Catholic writer Adam Widenfeld and his book Wholesome Advice from the Blessed Virgin to her Indiscreet Worshippers (1673), that he:

 

“objected to calling [Mary] omnipotent and… representing her as the mother of mercy in opposition to God, the severe Judge. Widenfeld’s book was attacked with incredible violence especially by the religious orders, though it was approved by several bishops, including the Archbishop of Cologne. The former, however, obtained its condemnation, and it was placed on the Index in 1674.”[47]

 

I would be curious to see how Mr. Armstrong comes down on this issue, rather than dismissing my points as Cardboard Caricatures of Medieval (and Orthodox Catholic) Marian Piety.” Perhaps current day Catholics would find this distinction heretical, whereas the Archbishop of Cologne thought the doctrine so important that he actively went out of his way to attack those denying it. Ligouri taught it and was canonized. On what basis did those in the Sixteenth Century decide the orthodoxy of this doctrine?  Admitting that it is not current Catholic doctrine does not help those in previous centuries who embraced it. During Luther’s day, this distinction was commonly adhered to. After reviewing Mary’s role as merciful mediator between humans and the justice of Christ, Giovanni Miegge remarks,

 

“in substance it would be impossible to deny that such was the motivation of [medieval] Marian devotion. When Luther some centuries later, in his joy at having found again a Christ who was compassionate, painted in gloomy colors the judicial Christ that had been the incubus of his boyhood, it was easy to accuse him of having knowingly distorted the reality. But the great advance that Marian devotion made from the twelfth century onward is the best confirmation of the substantial truth of his appraisal. Luther recovered the Gospel of the pure mercy of God in Christ, the Gospel of grace without merit and beyond merit. With this, without polemics or attacks, he dissipated the doctrine of Mary's mediating mercy in the new evangelical faith and made it impossible, impossible because superfluous.”[48]

 

Miegge also asks a pertinent question: “Is it not extremely significant that the only sphere of theology and of Catholic devotion in which it is possible to speak of a truly free grace, a grace that is not paid for by some "suitable" merit but is given to unworthy sinners, is the sphere of Marian piety? How has this happened?”  His answer:

 

“The answer is not hard. It is because the Catholic theological and soteriological system, with its rigid juridical pattern, permits no other way of expression. Christ in Catholic dogma can no longer be the symbol of a total grace because He remains the supreme judge, seated on the rainbow, who terrified Luther as a child, and remains the cold executor of final judgment, painted by Michelangelo in the Sistine chapel with arm upraised to curse unless the pitying mother stops Him. If He is not that, He is, inversely, the crucified one, too mysterious and at the same time too broken by the weight of inexorable divine justice to be truly the comforter, the friend of every day, the merciful one.”[49]

 

 IV. The Mother of God

 

A. Martin Luther used the Term “Mother of God”

 

Mr. Armstrong cites Jaroslav Pelikan as scholarly proof that Luther used the term “Mother of God.”[50] Ironically, I never denied that Luther used this term.  I said in section II of my paper, “Unlike modern Protestants, Luther did not shy away from using the term, “Mother of God,” and he was fully cognizant of its correct usage.” Mr. Armstrong cites Karl Barth that Protestants do not reject the term “Mother of God” and see it as a “legitimate expression of Christological truth.”[51] Unfortunately, Dr. Barth’s comment has nothing to do with my paper. My paper was about Luther’s theology of Mary, not what Dr. Barth thinks is an appropriate theological term for Protestants, nor did I ever deny the usage of the term for modern Protestants. Rather, I pointed out that it is a term easily misunderstood, and that Protestants not using it perhaps have a legitimate concern in avoiding theological confusion.

 

B. The Evolution of the Term “Mother of God”

 

Mr. Armstrong points out a lack of documentation in regard to my comment that the phrase “Mother of God” evolved in popular usage. Hilda Graef explains that the root of the Fifth Century Theotokos controversy was “Christological, not Mariological.”[52] Jaroslav Pelikan points out “Originally this title too was a way of speaking about Christ.”[53] Giovanni Miegge says

 

“The first purpose of the title Theotokos is not to glorify the Virgin Mary but to express in a term clear, impressive and popular the real divine humanity of Christ. God in Christ is made man in such a precise and realistic sense that Mary can be called His mother.”[54]

 

By the Twentieth Century, one finds the Mother of God praised for her sacrifices and attributes, rather than Christ’s. The original understanding has been reversed: Mariological, not Christological. As an example, note the encyclical of Pope Pius XII from1954. The following excerpts emphasize the greatness of the Mother of God and her role, rather than Christ:

 

“From the earliest ages of the Catholic Church a Christian people, whether in time of triumph or more especially in time of crisis, has addressed prayers of petition and hymns of praise and veneration to the Queen of Heaven. And never has that hope wavered which they placed in the Mother of the Divine King, Jesus Christ; nor has that faith ever failed by which we are taught that Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, reigns with a mother's solicitude over the entire world, just as she is crowned in heavenly blessedness with the glory of a Queen.”

 

“The Blessed Virgin, sitting at the right hand of God to pray for us is hailed by another writer of that same era in these words, "the Queen of mortal man, the most holy Mother of God.”

 

“And in the eighth century Gregory II in the letter sent to St. Germanus, the patriarch, and read in the Seventh Ecumenical Council with all the Fathers concurring, called the Mother of God: "The Queen of all, the true Mother of God," and also "the Queen of all Christians.”

 

“Ardent voices from the East sing out: "O Mother of God, today thou art carried into heaven on the chariots of the cherubim, the seraphim wait upon thee and the ranks of the heavenly army bow before thee."

 

From these considerations, the proof develops on these lines: if Mary, in taking an active part in the work of salvation, was, by God's design, associated with Jesus Christ, the source of salvation itself, in a manner comparable to that in which Eve was associated with Adam, the source of death, so that it may be stated that the work of our salvation was accomplished by a kind of "recapitulation," in which a virgin was instrumental in the salvation of the human race, just as a virgin had been closely associated with its death; if, moreover, it can likewise be stated that this glorious Lady had been chosen Mother of Christ "in order that she might become a partner in the redemption of the human race"; and if, in truth, "it was she who, free of the stain of actual and original sin, and ever most closely bound to her Son, on Golgotha offered that Son to the Eternal Father together with the complete sacrifice of her maternal rights and maternal love, like a new Eve, for all the sons of Adam, stained as they were by his lamentable fall," then it may be legitimately concluded that as Christ, the new Adam, must be called a King not merely because He is Son of God, but also because He is our Redeemer, so, analogously, the Most Blessed Virgin is queen not only because she is Mother of God, but also because, as the new Eve, she was associated with the new Adam.”

 

“In order to understand better this sublime dignity of the Mother of God over all creatures let us recall that the holy Mother of God was, at the very moment of her Immaculate Conception, so filled with grace as to surpass the grace of all the Saints. Wherefore, as Our Predecessor of happy memory, Pius IX wrote, God "showered her with heavenly gifts and graces from the treasury of His divinity so far beyond what He gave to all the angels and saints that she was ever free from the least stain of sin; she is so beautiful and perfect, and possesses such fullness of innocence and holiness, that under God a greater could not be dreamed, and only God can comprehend the marvel."

 

“Let all Christians, therefore, glory in being subjects of the Virgin Mother of God, who, while wielding royal power, is on fire with a mother's love.”[55]

 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says,

 

“From the most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been honored with the title of ‘Mother of God’ to whose protection the faithful fly in all their dangers and needs.... This very special devotion ...differs essentially from the adoration which is given to the incarnate Word and equally to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and greatly fosters this adoration." The liturgical feasts dedicated to the Mother of God and Marian prayer, such as the rosary, an "epitome of the whole Gospel," express this devotion to the Virgin Mary.”[56]

 

Contrast Pius XII and the Catechism with what Protestant apologist James White concludes:

 

“What is vitally important is that the term God-bearer as it was used in the creed and as it was applied to Mary in these controversies [Councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon] said something about the nature of Christ, not the nature of Mary. "Mother of God" is a phrase that has proper theological meaning only in reference to Christ. Hence, any use of the term that is not simply saying, ‘Jesus is fully God, one divine Person with two natures’ is using the term anachronistically, and cannot claim the authority of the early church for such a usage.”

 

“…there can be nothing about the term theotokos that in any way exalts Mary but only Christ. Of course, if this is true, then the vast majority of the use of the phrase "Mother of God" in our world today is simply in error. Prayers addressed to "Mother of God" that seek her intercession and ascribe to her power and glory and honor are using the title in a way completely foreign to the biblical truths that gave rise to it in the first place. And the fact that, in general, the term is avoided as improper outside the narrow spectrum in which it speaks to the important truth of the unipersonality of Christ, as well as His full deity, is a testimony to the spiritual sensitivity of believing Christians. We cannot help but conclude that the use of “Mother of God” as a title for Mary that leads to her being seen in quasi-divine categories is nothing but a gross misunderstanding of the true relationship between the blessed virgin of Nazareth and the eternal God who sent the eternal Son to be born of her.”[57]

 

Jaroslav Pelikan laments,

 

 “It belongs to the riddle of Roman Catholicism that this title [mother of God], which was intended to buttress the central and sole importance of Jesus Christ as the Mediator between God and man, should be used instead to foist another agency of mediation upon the church. It was a bulwark against paganism, but it has become instead a relic of paganism in the mind and soul of catholic people.”[58]

 

C. Luther’s Usage of the term “Mother of God”

 

In version #3 of his response, Mr. Armstrong cites Luther’s Magnificat[59] in which Luther uses the venerating term “Mother of God.” Here would be a chance for Mr. Armstrong to interact with my citations of Luther. Mr. Armstrong fails to do this, even when quoting appropriate sections from Luther. He leaves Luther’s words at face value.  I went on to examine the thrust of Luther’s point about what the phrase “Mother of God” implied in Luther’s thought in this early 1521 treatise. Mr. Armstrong never discusses this. Luther gives a precise definition to his words in the same treatise:

 

 “This, then, is the meaning of these words of the Mother of God: “In all those great and good things there is nothing of mine, but He who alone does all things, and whose power works in all, has done such great things for me.”[60]

 

Eric Gritsch explains Luther’s usage of the term:

 

“Mary is the "Mother of God" who experienced his unmerited grace. Her personal experience of this grace is an example for all humankind that the mighty God cares for the lowly just as he cares for the exalted. That is God's work in history. Mary has no special qualifications for becoming the "Mother of God." The church, therefore, should not praise her for being worthy to bear the son of God. She was chosen because she was a woman, just as the wood was chosen to bear Jesus on the cross.”[61]

 

David Wright sums up Luther’s attitude toward Mary:

“Luther's exposition of the Magnificat goes out of its way to highlight Mary's low degree. 'We must believe that she came of poor, despised and lowly parents.' Even in Nazareth she was 'a poor and plain citizen's daughter . . . To her neighbors she was but a simple maiden, tending the cattle and doing the housework.' Elsewhere Luther suggests that Mary may have been an orphan. She was 'the despised stump' of Isaiah 11:12. We need to show 'how the exceeding riches of God joined in her with utter poverty, the divine honor with her low estate, the divine glory with her shame, the divine greatness with her smallness, the divine goodness with her lack of merit, the divine grace with her unworthiness.' Luther accepts the words of the Church's hymn Regina Caeli ('Queen of heaven')—quern rneruisti portare, 'whom you were worthy (merited) to bear', but only in a sense that was equally true of the wooden cross. She had to be a woman, a virgin, of the tribe of Judah, and 'had to believe the angelic message'. But 'as the wood had no other merit or worthiness than that it was suited to be made into a cross and was appointed by God for that purpose, so her sole worthiness to become the Mother of God lay in her being fit and appointed for it; so that it might be pure grace and not a reward.' In his Table Talk, Luther scoffs at the argument that the Blessed Virgin merited becoming the mother of Christ 'because of her virginity; that is, she was suited in her maidenly body to give birth to him. Truly an excellent merit! It's as if somebody were to say, "This tree merits the bearing of fruit because God ordained it so"' How should a creature deserve to become the Mother of God?

 

'The whole Lutheran theology is in this . . . view of Mary as a rather pathetic young girl without intrinsic sanctity or merit.' It makes Mary an example and no longer an exception—an example both of God's initiative (God does nothing but 'break what is whole and make whole what is broken'; as Mary might have said, 'I am but the workshop in which He performs His work; I had nothing to do with the work itself), and of human response in humble trust: humility, modesty, faith and love are not what God rewarded in Mary but what his grace evoked in her. She demands no higher station than she enjoyed before, but 'goes about her useful household duties, milking the cows, cooking the meals, washing pots and kettles, sweeping out the rooms, and performing the work of maidservant or housemother in lowly and despised tasks, as though she cared nothing for such great gifts and graces.' The simplicity and calmness with which Mary accepts her calling stands in marked contrast with the idolatrous honours that have been heaped upon her. In the way Mary responded to the angelic annunciation (Luke 1:26-38), she is our teacher. She 'does not say that people will speak all manner of good of her, praise her virtues, exalt her virginity or her humility, or sing of what she has done', but rather she acknowledges the grace of God toward her.”[62]

 

Wright and Gritsch show that Luther is de-emphasizing Mary. Catholic historians also see this, and observe it as a crucial difference between Catholic Mariology and Luther’s veneration. Catholic historian Hilda Graef explains that Luther praised Mary’s faith “as an example to all Christians.” Luther was also said to admire “the graces God had showered on this simple girl.”[63] But Graef sees a fundamental principle at work in Luther’s Mariology that is different to Catholic teaching: “Luther's whole view of Mary as a rather pathetic young girl without intrinsic sanctity or merit is opposed to Catholic teaching.”[64] Graef similarly explains that Luther’s interpretation of the Magnificat is fundamentally different from Catholicism:

 

“in his Exposition of the Magnificat… [Luther’s] tone became different. True, at the beginning and end of the work he still asks "the tender Mother of God" to obtain for him the right spirit to explain the Canticle usefully and thoroughly; but this spirit differs considerably from that of the traditional interpretation...in accordance with his teaching that man can do absolutely nothing to co-operate with God and everything is wholly due to his grace, the Reformer stresses over and over again that Mary has nothing of herself, indeed, she herself is but "nothingness". If we would honour her we should say to her: "0 blessed Virgin and Mother of God, how utterly nothing and despised you have been, and yet God has looked upon you so graciously and abundantly and has done great things in you. You have not been worthy of any of these, and the superabundant grace of God is in you far above your merit." He blames those who honour her, because they make an "idol" of her. To honour her properly, she should "be stripped completely of everything and only be regarded in her nothingness, afterwards we should admire the overwhelming grace of God who looks so graciously on such a lowly, worthless human being". If, on the other hand, she is represented as having great things of herself we are contrasted with her and not she with God, and so we lose all confidence in his grace. Because she was so unworthy and God nevertheless gave her so much grace, we are encouraged to trust in him. The whole Lutheran theology is in this: man can do nothing whatsoever, everything comes from God without any human co-operation.”[65]

 

Catholic historian Thomas O’Meara notes a fundamental theological viewpoint also at work between Protestant and Catholic Mariologies. In Catholic theology, Mary has cooperated with God’s grace by the use of her free will: “As the disobedience of Eve is the human means by which sin has come upon all men, so the obedience of Mary is the human means by which salvation has come upon all men.”[66] She has been infused with grace and has become “a new creature, the exemplary Christian, the masterpiece of all of creation.”[67] O’Meara explains,

 

“Based on the Catholic view of grace and merit, of sanctity, of the freedom of man under God’s prevenient grace, of the harmony of the natural and supernatural, the theology of Mary is symptomatic of a particular theological viewpoint.”[68]

 

“The Catholic attitude [of grace] stands in contrast [to the Protestant view]: grace is not something extrinsic but intrinsic; it is not something only in God but something divine in man; it is not static but dynamic; it is not a repeal but a way of life. Mary, the type of all Christians, was reborn by grace. With that grace she lived not only the new life which every Christian enjoys, but a very special depth in this life. Like a new source of life, grace touched her soul, making it supernaturally beautiful to God. Grace brought new modes of action, new powers of knowledge and love which were inspired by the Holy Spirit and which had God as their object in a special way. Grace was not static but dynamic. Mary’s fullness of grace not only prepared her for the special contact with the Trinity and with Christ, but it was fundamentally involved in her immaculate conception, her freedom from sin, her merit, her offering of her Son as victim, her intercession. The Catholic concept of grace is fundamental in Marian doctrine, and the interpretation of grace by Luther and Calvin and their disciples does lead to a different conception of Mary’s person and mission.”[69]

 

Thus in Catholic theology, God’s infused grace in Mary transforms her into a special being that all Christians look toward. Her cooperation with that grace stands as an example to humanity.  She can be praised for her part of choosing to be used by God in the salvation of the world.[70] Mary was the fourteen-year-old girl that God came to (as a gentleman) and asked her permission to save the world. With the result of Mary saying “yes” (by the use of her God-given free will), Jesus became incarnate, and the entire world could be saved.  If this is indeed so, Mary should stand as an example to be praised. Catholic historian Henri Daniel-Rops notes this:

 

“Luther undoubtedly venerated her; but he refused to admit that, in accepting the angel’s proposal that she should become the Mother of the Savior, Mary had in some way worked in intimate co-operation with the grace of God, and that this made her, though a humble creature separated by an immeasurable abyss from the Divine Majesty, the recipient of particular privileges, and able to intercede before her Son on behalf of every sinner.”[71]

 

That Mr. Armstrong could quote Luther’s Magnificat without providing this information leads me to believe he has not studied the opinions of those scholars he has cited. Both Catholic and Protestant historians note that Luther’s Mariology is fundamentally different on a conceptual level. Mr. Armstrong’s “favorite utterance[s] from Martin Luther about Mary” is soaked in Protestantism: Luther dethrones Mary.  Hilda Graef points out:

 

“In… 1522, Luther's thought becomes even more unorthodox. In his Sermon on Mary's Nativity he affirms that "we are just as holy as she, for that she has a greater grace is not due to her merit". We could not all be the Mother of God; but otherwise she is just the same as we are. He assures his hearers that they will not be damned even if they should never honour nor even think of the Mother of God—but if they do not give alms to the poor they will, indeed, be damned, a reaction to a purely external devotion which Luther, like Erasmus, carried to extremes.”[72]

 

I would also point out that only two years after Luther wrote the Magnificat, we see his Marian theology evolving. He wrote to a group of Bohemians,

 

“… I certainly would not call you heretics, as our sophists do [a.k.a: “elite educated Catholics”], because you do not honor or call upon the mother of God or any of the saints, but cling alone to the only mediator, Jesus Christ, and are satisfied that in heaven as well as on earth each one is obligated to pray for the other. For there is nothing in the Scriptures about the intercession of dead saints, nor about honoring them and praying to them. And no one can deny that hitherto through services for these saints we have gone so far as to make pure idols out of the mother of God and the saints. We have placed more confidence in them, on account of the services and works which we have done for them, than we have placed in Christ himself, with the result that faith in Christ has perished.”[73]

 

 

V. The Immaculate Conception

 

A. Historical Documentation

 

The bulk of Mr. Armstrong’s response was in regard to the Immaculate Conception. I can only speculate the reason being is similar to that of other Catholic apologists: some argue that the Immaculate Conception is part of the very gospel of Jesus Christ.[74] 

 

First, he takes an historical excursion into the development of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. He quotes one line from my paper spends time arguing against the opinion of George Yule, which I utilized.[75] He also informs his readers that I was “confused about the difference between original sin and actual sin.” What Mr. Armstrong fails to realize is that my paper was not a complete discussion of the development of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. What I did say, namely that Augustine, Aquinas, Anselm, and Saint Bernard, held that Mary had been infected by original sin is true.  Thus, Armstrong again has raised a tangential issue and creates a contention that doesn’t exist in my paper.

 

Armstrong is concerned to point out that some previous to the Middle Ages believed in Mary’s sinlessness (rather than freedom from original sin), and somehow in reading my paper he thought this was an issue I raised for discussion. Again, Mr. Armstrong entertains tangents.  He also wants to make sure that everyone thinks that I was in error when I said, “the later Middle Ages saw the rise of theologians supporting her sinlessness." Armstrong quotes various early eastern Fathers to create his own straw man in order to refute it. Armstrong is well aware that, “the East did not conceive of original sin in the same categories as those used in the West, it cannot be said that such testimony explicitly exempts her from original sin—as the dogma of 1854 does.”[76]

 

That Armstrong would raise a contention between “sinlessness” and the Immaculate Conception is completely tangential.  I can only speculate his intention was an attempt to make me look incompetent by throwing in peripheral material, which included a historical visit from St. Ephraem, St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, and Thomas Aquinas. Armstrong needs to defend his Church’s dogma: the 1854 Immaculate Conception. He only made his position worse by pointing out the obvious: many before 1854 did not hold to the defined dogma of the Immaculate Conception.

 

 Thus, the standard by which I judge historical theological opinions on the Immaculate Conception is the 1854 dogma (I seem to be more Catholic than Armstrong). Indeed, in regard to that dogma, the later Middle Ages did see the rise of theologians supporting Mary’s complete sinlessness. Armstrong should be well aware of the heated debates between the maculist and immaculist positions, and should be well aware that the immaculist position gained ground (and advocates) during the Middle Ages.[77] This is why Roman Catholic historian Hilda Graef covers the topic of the Immaculate Conception in the book, The Devotion To Our Lady, in the chapter called “The Middle Ages,” and the initial focus begins with a monk named Eadmer (1124).[78]

 

 I have no desire to debate this issue. The theological development of the Immaculate Conception is far removed from the topic of my paper. Armstrong says that I can be excused for the “"loophole" of sloppy, imprecise terminology.” Similarly, I will return this gracious pardon by excusing him for raising a number of irrelevant tangents and straw men.

 

B. My understanding of Luther’s Position: Christ’s Immaculate Conception.

 

Unlike this response, my paper had only a brief discussion of Luther’s Position on the Immaculate Conception. My primary point was to note Luther shifted the emphasis from the mother to the Messiah.  Rather than discussing Mary’s sinlessness, Luther insisted Christ’s sinlessness was due entirely to the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit during conception. Mr. Armstrong seems to have missed this completely.

 

Two clarifications should be made to avoid any further confusion. It seems to me that previous to 1532, Luther held to a position similar to the Roman Catholic understanding of the Immaculate Conception. I use the word “similar” because it is a strong possibility Luther never held a position exactly the same as the 1854 dogma.[79] This will be explained further below. Luther put forth this similar position in the 1527 sermon “On the Day of the conception of the Mother of God”. I hold that Luther abandoned this earlier position. Secondly, my studies have concluded the later position Luther held was that Mary was purified at Christ’s birth. The emphasis is not at all on Mary, but rather the blessed child.  This will also be discussed below. When I concluded in my paper that Luther abandoned the Immaculate Conception, I did so because Mary’s conception was no longer the focus of Luther’s thinking: Rather than Mary’s immaculate conception, Luther spoke of Christ’s immaculate conception.

 

C. massa imperdita

 

Mr. Armstrong informs us that,

The notion of a "pure strain through the centuries" was never Catholic official teaching. To reject this notion, therefore, is not the same as rejecting the Immaculate Conception. Luther appears, then, to simply be pointing out the obvious, rather than denying the Immaculate Conception. The Catholic teaching on the Immaculate Conception (explicitly developed from the time of Duns Scotus, who died in 1308) has nothing whatever to do with any of Christ's ancestors, excepting His mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary.”

From Armstrong’s further comments, it’s hard to tell whether he even understands the issue.  What Armstrong overlooks from his 21st Century theological perspective is that this issue was debated during the centuries previous to Luther during the development of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, and is a factor in understanding Luther’s perspective. Luther says,

“The scholastic doctors argue about whether Christ was born from sinful or clean flesh, or whether from the foundation of the world God preserved a pure bit of flesh from which Christ was to be born [Cf. the citations from various scholastics collected in Scotus Academicus , VII (Rome, 1901), 830–832].”[80]

This information was available to Mr. Armstrong via David Wright (whom Armstrong cites). He notes this was a bonafide concern of scholastic discussion:

“Luther also discussed the scholastic speculation 'whether God had preserved from the beginning of the world some pure drop of blood from which Christ should be born'. He rejects it emphatically, making much of the immorality attested in the Bible in Christ's ancestors according to the flesh”[81]

The most interesting thing about Luther’s discussion of the massa imperdita is that Luther uses this opportunity deny any notion that Mary was purified at her conception. Rather she was purified at the conception of Christ. These comments are from his Genesis Commentary, toward the end of his life in 1544:

“…Christ was truly born from true and natural flesh and human blood which was corrupted by original sin in Adam, but in such a way that it could be healed. Thus we, who are encompassed by sinful flesh, believe and hope that on the day of our redemption the flesh will be purged of and separated from all infirmities, from death, and from disgrace; for sin and death are separable evils. Accordingly, when it came to the Virgin and that drop of virginal blood, what the angel said was fulfilled: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and overshadow you”. To be sure, the Messiah was not born by the power of flesh and blood, as is stated in John 1:13: “Not of blood nor of the will of a man, etc.”  Nevertheless, He wanted to be born from the mass of the flesh and from that corrupted blood. But in the moment of the Virgin’s conception the Holy Spirit purged and sanctified the sinful mass and wiped out the poison of the devil and death, which is sin. Although death remained in that flesh on our account, the leaven of sin was nevertheless purged out, and it became the purest flesh, purified by the Holy Spirit and united with the divine nature in one Person. Therefore it is truly human nature no different from what it is in us. And Christ is the Son of Adam and of his seed and flesh, but, as has been stated, with the Holy Spirit overshadowing it, active in it, and purging it, in order that it might be fit for this most innocent conception and the pure and holy birth by which we were to be purged and freed from sin. Therefore these things are written for Christ’s sake. The Holy Spirit wanted Him to sink into sin as deeply as possible. Consequently, He had to be besmirched with incest and born from incestuous blood.”[82]

 

D. Mr. Armstrong’s Interaction with Luther Quotes

 

At one point Armstrong actually engages a quote of Luther’s that I utilized, rather than putting forth “profuse documentation” from secondary sources. After I provided a clear quote from Luther denying the Roman Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Armstrong said in version #1 and #2 of his paper:

 

This is convoluted, heretical reasoning on the part of both Mr. Swan and Dr. Luther. First of all, if Luther at this point held that Mary was purged of sin some time prior to the Annunciation (if not much earlier), then he held a view similar to that of St. Thomas Aquinas, and still quite different from that of the majority of Protestants today, who hold that Mary was a sinner like the rest of us…

 

In Version #3 of response, Armstrong says,   

 

This is convoluted, heretical reasoning from Mr. Swan. It is not apparent from this text whether Luther agreed with the interpretation of his words given above or not. If so, then his view was as heretical -- on this particular point -- as Mr. Swan's. First of all, if Luther ever held the view that Mary was purged of sin some time prior to the Annunciation (in several places he states that the removal of sin occurred at her conception), then he espoused a position similar to that of St. Thomas Aquinas…

 

Armstrong seems to have a change of heart about who the specific heretic is. I appreciate that he at least gives Luther the benefit of the doubt. I’m not sure how Armstrong determined I engaged in heretical reasoning, since I have not put forth any of my own opinions on the Immaculate Conception.  Regardless, Armstrong’s refutation of the quote is that Luther was (perhaps) giving an opinion of the Immaculate Conception he didn’t agree with. I would have expected Mr. Armstrong to check the context himself, but alas, he was content with simply calling me a heretic and moving on. Mr. Armstrong wants me to do all the work!

 

“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 are.”[83]

 

One can see from the context, Armstrong is mistaken. This was Luther’s opinion, not someone else’s interpretation. A careful reading will not support an 1854 version of the Immaculate Conception, thus Luther did not hold a lifelong commitment to the Roman Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Nor will this quote support any concept of the Immaculate Conception in which Mary was purified at her conception. One will note from the quote above, Mary’s conception is never mentioned.   Here is Luther’s reasoning:

 

1. The Holy Spirit was present at Christ’s conception to ensure his sinlessness.

2. During Christ’s conception, the Holy Spirit sanctified Mary so that the child would be born with non-sinful flesh and blood.

 

That Luther intends this “purifying” to take place at Christ’s conception is made clear in the paragraph that follows:

 

“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 mothers 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.”

 

Luther explains in a sermon from 1537 that the angel announced the forthcoming “immaculate Conception” at the Annunciation:

“[The angel said to Mary]: God is powerful enough; therefore He is able to effect this even though it is contrary to nature. He will find the best and purest drops of blood in your heart; these He will set aside, purify, and cause not to be corrupted by sin as ours are so that thence may be made His Son and yours without sin.[84]

In 1538 sermon, Luther explains:

“In our Christian Creed we confess that Christ was conceived and became man or was incarnate (if I may so speak), that He became a real human being by assuming a body. We confess that He assumed genuine flesh and blood from the Virgin Mary that He did not pass through her as the sun shines through a glass but brought her virgin flesh and blood with Him. If this had taken place only with the co-operation of Mary, the Babe would not have been pure. But though Mary has been conceived in sin, the Holy Spirit takes her flesh and blood and purifies them; and thence He creates the body of the Son of God. This is why it is said that "He was conceived by the Holy Ghost." Thus He assumed a genuine body from His mother Mary, but this body was cleansed from sin by the Holy Spirit. If this were not the case, we could not be saved.”[85]

 

At one point Armstrong offers his own commentary and quote to substantiate Luther’s lifelong commitment to the Roman Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception: “Luther, in the midst of a sarcastic remark about the pope, whom he refers to as "Your Hellishness," makes reference to: . . . the pure Virgin Mary, who has not sinned and cannot sin for ever more.” The context of this quote is provided in this endnote:[86]. It is obvious from the context that Luther’s statement on Mary is highly rhetorical and sarcastic. Luther is actually calling the Pope “the pure Virgin Mary who has not sinned and cannot sin for ever more.” Using this reference to substantiate Luther’s lifelong commitment to the Roman Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception is quite a stretch. Not only is Luther insulting the pope, he isn’t even in the mode of presenting an explanation of doctrine. He’s using the phrase, “the pure Virgin Mary who has not sinned” as an insult.  I could have similarly used examples like this to prove my case against Armstrong. The Catholic work, Mariology Volume 3 says,

 

“With great anger Luther rejected the role of Mary as mediator. At Cana, he said, it is shown that not Mary but Christ is the mediator. He harshly observed that Peter is no better than the bad thief and that the Mother of God is no more than the sinner Magdalene. Luther wrongly feared that the veneration of Our Lady would lead one away from devotion to God. He conceded that the Christian must honor the Mother of God, but in the right way.”[87]

 

It would be tempting to use Luther’s words to prove more than they actually intended. Luther is not saying that Mary was actually a sinner just like Magdalene. The comment was highly rhetorical, as is the one Armstrong cited. Mr. Armstrong needs to pay closer attention to context. Simply looking for a phrase that seems to say what he wants to prove is not cogent argumentation.

 

Armstrong also searched the Project Wittenberg web site and came up with this quote from Luther:

 

I make a distinction with regard to the major premise.  Every man is corrupted by original sin, with the exception of Christ.  Every man who is not a divine Person [personaliter Deus], as is Christ, has concupiscence, but the man Christ has none, because he is a divine Person, and in conception the flesh and blood of Mary were entirely purged, so that nothing of sin remained.  Therefore Isaiah says rightly, "There was no guile found in his mouth"; otherwise, every seed except for Mary's was corrupted.”

 

It should be obvious from a close reading that this quote denies the 1854 dogma, as well as any notion that Mary was purified from sin at her conception. Rather, the focus is on Christ’s conception. Luther’s later position in this 1540 treatise denies Mary’s exemption from sin in her conception. Again, my premise is proved: Mary was purified at Christ’s conception.

 

 

E. Mr. Armstrong’s Main Argument that Luther Held a Lifelong Belief in the Immaculate Conception

 

The primary argument that Mr. Armstrong utilizes to prove Luther’s lifelong commitment to the Immaculate Conception is scholarly consensus. Below in section IX, I give analysis of some of those scholars. The primary error with Armstrong’s list is that he doesn’t distinguish between all those scholars who deny Luther held to an 1854 dogma of the Immaculate Conception from those who do. Hilda Graef, Walter Tappolet, and Max Thurian deny Luther held a lifelong commitment to the 1854 dogma of the Immaculate Conception. Eric Gritsch is too vague to decide which way Luther understood the issue (i.e., whether it was an 1854 position, or that which Tappolet and myself take, that the later Luther thought Mary was purified at Christ’s conception, see my comments below: Eric Gritsch).

 

Jaroslav Pelikan never gave his opinion in the works Armstrong cited.  Arthur Piepkorn says that he “seems” to have held to a lifelong belief in the Immaculate Conception, but does not specify what that means. Richard Marius uses similar vague language to Piepkorn, and likewise gives no analysis at how he arrived at his conclusion. “Seems” is not a definite way of speaking, and its no wonder neither of these men provide analysis of the topic. Reintraud Schimmelpfennig study is said to be in error by Tappolet and Graef.  No analysis is provided of the only positions that should matter to Armstrong, those of Friedrich Heiler and K. Algermissen. How did they arrive at Luther holding to the 1854 dogma? Which texts did they use? Interestingly, these two scholars are the definite minority view, and the view which should be most important to Armstrong.

 

Almost laughable were these scholars put forth by Armstrong: “10 Catholic scholars on the Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue Committee… 11 Lutheran scholars on the Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue Committee (L): yes.” No analysis was provided by twenty of these men, Gritsch being the exception. Perhaps they read Gritsch’s vague analysis of the Luther’s doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. Note Gritsch never affirms Luther held to the 1854 dogma. Perhaps in attempting to be ecumenical, Gritsch was purposely vague. These 21 scholars arrive at “one may recall the honor and devotion paid to the Mother of God by Luther himself, including his own attitude to the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, which he accepted in some form.”[88] Some form? It is obvious these scholars understand Luther is not ascribing to the 1854 dogma.

 

If truth is to be decided this way, Armstrong can add these to his mix:

 

George Yule denies Luther held the Immaculate Conception.

Ian Siggins denies Luther held the Immaculate Conception.

Ewald Plass denies Luther held the Immaculate Conception.

Anna Paulson denies Luther held the Immaculate Conception.

George Merz denies Luther held to the Immaculate Conception.

Reinhold Seeberg denies Luther held to the Immaculate Conception.

 

This is simply a ridiculous way to approach this issue without providing the necessary distinctions between the 1854 dogma, and other types of views. Quite frankly, the only studies that Armstrong utilized that were worthy of discussing this topic were O’Meara’s and Cole’s. All the rest were primarily passing comments in works where this issue really didn’t matter. I highly suspect Mr. Armstrong is not fluent in German, where the majority of studies on this issue have taken place. Thus Armstrong and I are at a similar disadvantage. I can understand why he would argue from authorities, however, only those authorities that provide in-depth analysis (in a language we can both read) should be considered relevant to our discussion.

 

F. How Much Does the Immaculate Conception Matter to Luther?

 

It is obvious that the Immaculate Conception is important to Armstrong. It is also obvious that Luther engaged the topic so infrequently that one can only conclude he was not overly concerned with it. It receives mention sparsely throughout his lifetime. This alone should alert us that Luther’s Mariology evolved into something different from Roman Catholicism, which is overly concerned with Mary’s attributes. This happened quite early in Luther’s career:

 

1518:

“Second, even if the pope along with a large part of the church should feel thus and so, and even if it were true that he does not err, it is still not a sin, nor is it heresy, to take the opposite position, especially in something which is not necessary for salvation, until the one position has been rejected by a general council and the other approved. But, lest I become too involved, let me state that my position is proved in this one instance, namely, that the Roman church along with the general council at Basel and almost with the whole church feels that the Holy Virgin was conceived without sin. Yet those who hold the opposite opinion should not be considered heretics, since their opinion has not been disproved.”[89]

 

1521:

“In regard to the conception of our Lady they have admitted that, since this article is not necessary to salvation, it is neither heresy nor error when some hold that she was conceived in sin, although in this case council, pope, and the majority hold a different view.  Why should we poor Christians be forced to believe whatever the pope and his papists think, even when it is not necessary to salvation? Has papal authority the power to make unnecessary matters necessary articles of faith, and can it make heretics of people in matters which are not necessary for salvation?”[90]

 

G.  The Immaculate Conception previous to 1854

 

Armstrong seems to realize that it’s highly probable that Luther did not hold to a position similar to the 1854 dogma, though he’s content to put forth statements like this without qualification:

 

Luther is far closer to Catholic and patristic thought than to present-day Protestant thought, which is the original point I was trying to make in my papers, even more so than a claim that he believed in the Immaculate Conception his whole life (which appears to be the case, according to the majority of scholars who treat the subject at all… 

 

He’s content that Luther held to some form of the Immaculate Conception; the fact that it doesn’t take the form of the 1854 dogma does not seem to be a concern. Armstrong is only concerned to prove that Luther’s “opinion on the Immaculate Conception [is] substantially the sameas Catholicism. I don’t see how Luther’s later view of Mary being purified at Christ’s conception is “substantially the same” as any of the varieties of this doctrine within Catholicism. A fascinating irony is that Armstrong will “strain the gnat” when it comes to a discussion about the differentiation between “sinlessness” and the later doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, but with Luther it doesn’t seem to matter to him what the content of his Immaculate Conception is, as long as its lifelong, it qualifies as being the Immaculate Conception. It’s fairly obvious from my citations above that Luther moved further away from a doctrine similar to that put forth in 1854. Let’s review some of the points I made in my paper about Luther’s doctrine of the Immaculate Conception:

 

a. I acknowledged that Luther held to the Immaculate Conception as late as 1527. Though not specified, I specifically meant something close to (or perhaps identical with) the 1854 dogma.

 

b. By 1532 - 1534, Luther’s doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is drastically different. He has abandoned his earlier position.

 

c. Luther’s doctrine of the Immaculate Conception evolves towards being more about Christ than Mary: “With the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, one sees a clear change in Luther’s thought.  The theologian, who had at one time praised both mother and child for their purity, now praised only the Son.” I also said Luther changed his position to hold only that “Christ was conceived sinless.”

 

These were the points Armstrong needed to refute. Perhaps he could have tried to prove that Luther held something very similar to the 1854 dogma his entire life. This would be an antithesis of my points. What Armstrong ends up doing is presenting that either Luther held to some form of the Immaculate Conception, or the 1854 dogma his entire life.  He cites three scholars whom he is certain believe Luther held to the 1854 dogma:

 

Reintraud Schimmelpfennig: yes, in the same sense as the infallible Catholic dogma proclaimed in 1854. K. Algermissen: yes, in the same sense as the infallible Catholic dogma proclaimed in 1854.Friedrich Heiler: yes, in the same sense as the infallible Catholic dogma proclaimed in 1854.”

 

Unfortunately, Armstrong offers no substantiation or discussion from these authors. This would have been pertinent information. This is the problem you have when you quote books in German that you probably don’t have, nor could you read even if you had them. Perhaps my paper should have been more specific, noting that though Luther seems to hold an 1854-like opinion earlier in his career, he abandons it later. From my research, it appears that Luther later held later that Mary was purified at Christ’s conception. Armstrong seems to deny this, though he does quote scholars who say that the form of Luther’s doctrine was not the same as that of 1854.

 

H. 1527: On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God

 

After reading the extended context that Armstrong provided for “On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God,” it is obvious that Luther does not hold to the 1854 dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1527. The Pope is very specific:

 

“We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege, granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.”

 

Luther (contrarily) puts forth that sinlessness was in the second instance of her conception:

 

“for her first conception was without grace, but the second was full of grace . . . Just as men are conceived in sin both with regard to body and soul, and Christ is free of sin -- body and soul -- so Mary the Virgin is conceived according to the body without grace, but according to the soul she is full of grace”

 

Eric Gritsch agrees and explains:

In 1527 Luther dealt with the Immaculate Conception of Mary, advocating a middle position favored by a majority of theologians. Following Augustine, Luther told his congregation that Mary had been conceived in sin but had been purified by the infusion of her soul after conception. Her purification was complete due to a special intervention of the Holy Spirit, who preserved her from the taint of original sin in anticipation of the birth of Christ. Thus the Virgin Mary remains in the middle between Christ and humankind. For in the very moment when he was conceived and lived, he was full of grace. All other human beings are without grace, both in the first and second conception. But the Virgin Mary, though without grace in the first conception, was full of grace in the second. That is quite proper. For she was a medium between all generations: she was bom from a father and mother, but gave birth without a father and mother, partly spiritually and partly bodily, because Christ was conceived of her flesh as well as of the Holy Spirit. But Christ himself is a father of many children, without a carnal father and mother. Just as the Virgin Mary remains in the middle between physical and spiritual birth, finishing the physical and beginning the spiritual, so she rightly remains in the middle concerning conception. Whereas other human beings are conceived in sin, in soul as well as in body, and Christ was conceived without sin in soul as well as in body, the Virgin Mary was conceived in body without grace but in soul full of grace.” [91]

 

I grant this is probably what Luther held to in 1527, yet his later statements prove he abandoned it. However, even with the extended context that Armstrong provides, it is still not clear that even this is Luther’s point of view. In this sermon, Luther puts forth two views. In the first view, Luther makes the point that all seem to be agreed that Mary was sanctified in the womb, even though many think she was born in sin:

 

"But as the Virgin Mary was herself bom of a father and mother in the natural way, many have been disposed to assert that she was also bom in original sin, though all with one mouth affirm that she was sanctified in the maternal womb, and conceived without concupiscence.”   

 

Secondly, Luther puts forth another opinion:

 

“But some have been disposed to take a middle way, and have said that man's conception is twofold: that the one is from the parents, but that the other takes place when the little body is prepared, and the soul infused by God, its Creator.”

 

What follows is a detailed explanation of this “other” opinion. Luther never really specifically affirms which of the views he holds to, but that he expanded on this second view leads to a probability this was his view in 1527. Without a complete context, it’s hard to have definite certainty.  Luther even concludes without an affirmation:

 

Concerning this subject, others have written far more things, and have alleged beautiful reasons, but it would lead us to too great lengths if we repeated them in this place."[92]

 

 VI. Perpetual Virginity

 

Mr. Armstrong makes the assertion that I “[operate]…out of a Protestant polemical excess.” To prove his assertion, he cites Jaroslav Pelikan and David Wright as scholarly proof that Luther held a lifelong belief in Mary’s perpetual virginity. Ironically again, I never denied this, so one wonders why Mr. Armstrong has offered this information, or if he has read my paper. Why put forth “profuse documentation” where there is no disagreement? Remember, he calls his paper a “Counter-Reply” and also puts us clearly at odds: “Dave Armstrong vs. James Swan.” Perhaps some may think I was not clear enough for Mr. Armstrong, and my vagueness prompted this information. To cite section IV, first line of my paper: “Perhaps the most startling aspect of Luther’s theology of Mary is his lifelong belief in her perpetual virginity.”

 

Mr. Armstrong also states, “Hugh Latimer, Miles Coverdale, Robert Barnes, and Thomas Cranmer all accepted the doctrine of Mary's perpetual virginity, and that Cranmer thought it was proven from Scripture.” Again, Mr. Armstrong’s intentions to show the universal Protestant Reformers acceptance of this doctrine is interesting, but it does not address Luther’s theology. Mr. Armstrong also takes time out to tell us, . . . the English Reformers probably to a man shared [the] conviction of Mary's perpetual virginity.” So?

 Similarly, Mr. Armstrong notes if not most Protestants today deny the perpetual virginity of Mary, but it was standard belief among the leaders of early Protestantism (and even later prominent figures such as John Wesley).” Again, irrelevant; these statements do though prove my earlier assertion: when it comes to the topic of Mary, Roman Catholic sentiment towards the Reformers shift drastically. They become the staunch supporters of Mary; leaders that all modern Protestants should learn a great lesson in Mariology from.

 

VII. Praying to Mary

 

A significant insight I have gleaned from studying Luther’s Mariology is that Luther didn’t really place a profound emphasis on Mariology. David Wright agrees:

 

“We must at the outset keep our subject in proper perspective. Mary was not a central or prominent issue in the sixteenth-century Reformation. It is important to emphasize the point… There was, I think, no single treatise on Mary from the Protestant side—if we except sermons and expositions of relevant biblical passages, such as the Magnificat. Surprisingly little is said about Mary in the Reformation confessions—a reticence which in turn is largely responsible for the extensive silence about Mary in the theological systematicians of the age of confessional orthodoxy.”[93]

 

Hence, I deny Armstrong’s position that, “Luther was extraordinarily devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary.” Armstrong’s words “extraordinarily devoted” are far too strong when one actually delves into Luther’s Works. Catholic scholar William Cole concurs: “…it would be a mistake to think of Luther as being preoccupied with Mary.”[94]  It is striking how little Luther launches into deep theological discussions about the Virgin Mary, and even when he does, they are in most instances, sparse, inconsequential, passing references, or tangential comments. One would think that Luther’s extraordinary devotion would be overly obvious, spelled out in detailed numerous treatises similar to St. Alphonsus Ligouri (who really can be said to have been “extraordinarily devoted” to Mary beyond any reasonable doubt). Such is not the case. Treatises and passages with the depth of Luther’s early exposition on the Magnificat are few in the totality of Luther’s overall work. As noted above, the main point of the Magnificat was not even Mariological per se, but rather a treatise to understand God’s work in law and gospel.[95] 

 

I believe the reason for this lack of emphasis is that Luther abandoned the most significant aspect of Roman Catholic Mariology: the intercession of Mary.  Truly, this is the doctrine that defines Roman Catholic Mariology. It defines the “devotion” our Roman Catholic friends partake in, and makes Mary crucial to the Catholic layman’s normal Christian life. Catholics invoke Mary for help, protection, and praise her attributes. The invocation of Mary gives deep significance to the elements discussed in my paper: Theotokos, perpetual virginity, and the Immaculate Conception. These attributes are seen as worthy of praise, and serve to show the great divide that separates a saint from an average mortal.  Note how these attributes of Mary serve a crucial function in the prayers of John Paul II:

 

“To Mary Immaculate, Mother of Our Advent: Hail! Blessed are you, full of grace. Today with the greatest veneration, the Church recalls the fullness of this grace, with which God filled you from the first moment of your conception. The Apostle's words fill us with joy, "Despite the increase of sin, grace has surpassed it”. We are glad at this particular abundance of divine grace in you, who bear the name of "Immaculate Conception," Mother. Accept us just as we are, here by you. Accept us! Look into our hearts. Accept our cares and our hopes! Help us, you, full of grace, to live in grace, to persevere in grace and, if it should be necessary, to return to the grace of the living God, which is the greatest and supernatural good of man. Prepare us for the advent of your Son! Accept us with our daily problems, our weaknesses and deficiencies, our crises, and our personal, family, and social failings (Insegnamenti, December 8, 1979).”[96]

 

“Dear brothers and sisters'. Receive Christ from the hands of Mary! May the mystery of the Redemption reach you through her soul! May all the salvific plans of consecrated hearts always be manifested before the heart of the Mother! United with her. With your glance focused on her. In her there is a special resemblance to Christ, the Spouse of your souls (Homily Rome, February 2, 1984).”[97]

 

Examples could be put forth indefinitely, and I doubt that Mr. Armstrong would disagree that Mary’s attributes play a crucial role in her intercession.  Without a doctrine of the intercession of Mary, this great woman and her attributes become less important in Luther’s theology. Hilda Graef points out,

 

“All reformers were opposed not only to the Hail Mary as a prayer, for by this time the biblical words had been enlarged by the petition as we now have it, but especially to the Salve Regina, because there she is called our life, our sweetness and our hope, expressions which they thought belonged to God alone and were not to be predicated of any creature.”[98]

 

 Even early in his Reformation career, Luther began changing the emphasis on Mary, and de-emphasizing the importance of her attributes:

 

“Take note of this: no one should put his trust or confidence in the Mother of God or in her merits, for such trust is worthy of God alone and is the lofty service due only to him. Rather praise and thank God through Mary and the grace given her. Laud and love her simply as the one who, without merit, obtained such blessings from God, sheerly out of his mercy, as she herself testifies in the Magnificat.”[99]

 

“Therefore we should make the Hail Mary neither a prayer nor an invocation because it is improper to interpret the words beyond what they mean in themselves and beyond the meaning given them by the Holy Spirit.”[100]

“…her giving birth is blessed in that it was spared the curse upon all children of Eve who are conceived in sin and born to deserve death and damnation. Only the fruit of her body is blessed, and through this birth we are all blessed.”[101]

“…in the present no one speaks evil of this Mother and her Fruit as much as those who bless her with many rosaries and constantly mouth the Hail Mary. These, more than any others, speak evil against Christ’s word and faith in the worst way.[102]

“Therefore, notice that this Mother and her Fruit are blessed in a twofold way—bodily and spiritually. Bodily with lips and the words of the Hail Mary; such persons blaspheme and speak evil of her most dangerously. And spiritually [one blesses her] in one’s heart by praise and benediction for her child, Christ—for all his words, deeds, and sufferings. And no one does this except he who has the true Christian faith because without such faith no heart is good but is by nature stuffed full of evil speech and blasphemy against God and all his saints.”[103]

These quotes are from Luther’s brief explanation of the “Hail Mary” found in Luther’s Personal Prayer Book. Interestingly, Mr. Armstrong explains,

“[Luther’s] attitude towards the use of the "Hail Mary" prayer (the first portion of the Rosary) is illustrative. In certain polemical utterances he appears to condemn its recitation altogether, but he is only forbidding a use of Marian devotions apart from heartfelt faith…

…his opinions on the… use of  the "Hail Mary" [was] substantially the same [as Catholicism]. He… venerated Mary in a very touching fashion which, as far as it goes, is not at all contrary to Catholic piety. Therefore, it can be stated without fear of contradiction that Luther's Mariology is very close to that of the Catholic Church today, far more than it is to the theology of modern-day Lutheranism.”

Mr. Armstrong needs to re-read Luther’s explanation of the “Hail Mary.” What Mr. Armstrong has overlooked is that Luther’s “Hail Mary” was a much different approach to what was normal during the sixteenth century[104]:

 

“Like his other writings, Luther’s Personal Prayer Book was subjected to attack. In 1524 Christoph von Schwarzenberg published a pamphlet branding Luther’s book as a subtle mixture of poison with much that was good… his main objection was Luther’s evangelical interpretation of the Hail Mary, which was bound to offend many who were accustomed to, the cult of the Virgin.”[105]

Most interesting is Luther’s explanation from 1530 of how he translated the “Hail Mary” in his German Bible. One can sense how Luther in only a few years has moved further away from Mary’s importance:

 

“Again, when the angel greets Mary, he says, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you!”  Up to now that has simply been translated according to, the literal Latin.  Tell me whether that is also good German! When does a German speak like that, “You are full of grace”? What German understands what that is, to be “full of grace”? He would have to think of a keg “full of” beer or a purse “full of” money. Therefore I have translated it, “Thou gracious one,”  so that a German can at least think his way through to what the angel meant by this greeting. Here, however, the papists are going wild about me, because I have corrupted the Angelic Salutation;  though I have still not hit upon the best German rendering for it. Suppose I had taken the best German, and translated the salutation thus: “Hello there, Mary” —for that is what the angel wanted to say, and what he would have said, if he had wanted to greet her in German. Suppose I had done that! I believe that they would have hanged themselves out of tremendous fanaticism for the Virgin Mary, because I had thus destroyed the salutation.”[106]

Catholic Historian Hilda Graef points out the obvious difference from Catholic Mariology: for Luther one could never give Mary too little.[107] Luther can simply “praise her faith as an example to all Christians and of admiring the graces God had showered on this simple girl.”[108] Luther praises God for her faith, and admires the gifts the God granted her, and leaves it at that:

“All three continental reformers, Luther, Calvin and Zwingli, had grown up as Catholics and conformed to the devotional practices of the Church, especially Luther, who had been an Augustinian friar while Zwingli had been a secular priest and Calvin a layman. Though there are considerable differences in the doctrinal positions of the three, they have this in common that they leave hardly any place for human free-will in their systems and attribute salvation wholly to the grace of God requiring no human cooperation. As a consequence they rejected the Catholic conception of holiness and with it the cult of the saints, including that of the blessed Virgin…[Luther] never tired of praising her faith as an example to all Christians and of admiring the graces God had showered on this simple girl. But he overemphasized this very simplicity that would allow of no human values or standing, but which is, indeed, quite unworthy of the gifts God has showered on it. So, in opposition to medieval and contemporary preachers who stated that one could never give too much to the Mother of God, Luther, on the contrary, asserted that one could never give her too little. She was never to be asked for help nor for anything else, since all was given by God alone.”[109]

Luther’s denial of the intercession of Mary totally shifts the thrust of his Mariology away from comparison with Catholic Mariology. One is left with Luther using similar Marian terms, or speaking about Mary using the popular vernacular of his day. To say that Luther was “was extraordinarily devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary,” or “it can be stated without fear of contradiction that Luther's Mariology is very close to that of the Catholic Church today,” and not discuss the impact of Luther’s denial of Mary’s intercessory role on this comparison, is to sketch an inaccurate evaluation. The gulf between all Protestant and Catholic Mariologies is at this point. Without agreement here, we are looking at two vastly different Mariologies.  Luther said in a Table talk:

I chose twenty-one saints and prayed to three every day when I celebrated mass; thus I completed the number every week. I prayed especially to the Blessed Virgin, who with her womanly heart would compassionately appease her Son. Ah, if the article on justification hadn’t fallen, the brotherhoods, pilgrimages, masses, invocation of saints, etc., would have found no place in the church. If it falls again (which may God prevent!) these idols will return.”[110]

 

VIII. The Use of Footnotes in My Paper and Mr. Armstrong’s Response

 

The form of my footnotes annoyed Mr. Armstrong. If any will take the time to look over my footnotes, one will see that the majority are references to the English edition of Luther’s Works. I did this for a reason: when researching Luther, it is a constant annoyance to repeatedly find scholars quoting from the German Weimar edition. Call it “English snobbery,” but quoting Luther’s German works in an English book for English readers is frustrating, particularly if one wishes to check the reference. Hence, I strove as much as possible to quote only Luther’s Works English edition. If one were to randomly pick up three or four scholarly works on Luther, one will notice it is quite common practice to simply give the reference as to the volume and page in Luther’s Works (For example, LW 4:25).[111] Indeed, it is expected that anyone wishing to study Luther should have Luther’s Works. These volumes are readily available.

 

Mr. Armstrong was dismayed that I did not provide a specific utterance number from Luther’s Table Talk. Apparently, Mr. Armstrong is unaware that multiple versions of the Table Talk exist (for instance, a popular on-line version is different in content to the version contained in Luther’s Works).[112] Hence, one can see why a uniform approach to quoting Luther is the most pragmatic approach. Luther’s Works English Edition proves to be the most cogent approach. One can conclude after perusing Mr. Armstrong’s many comments on Luther from his web site, that he is serious about studying Luther. My citing of volume and page in Luther’s works was intended to make the job of checking references easier. Secondary sources quoting Luther were a last resort, as were any references to the Weimar edition. I also attempted to use other easily available primary references: popular collections of sermons, and the helpful compilation, What Luther says.

 

Mr. Armstrong though takes a different approach in his Luther research. In version #3 of his response he references the German Weimar edition 33 times (he cites the English Luther’s Works only 4 times).  In order to help out any who cannot read German, Mr. Armstrong lets the reader know that they can get a “cross-referencing of Luther's German works and English translations,…Heinrich J. Vogel, Cross Reference and Index to the Contents of Luther's Works.  Unfortunately, this book is out of print[113], and is not normally available in college libraries. Used copies are not cheap either. One wonders why Mr. Armstrong would have a copy of Vogel’s reference, and yet not provide the cross- references for the following citations he provided:

 

WA 9, 74; WA 10; 46, 136; WA, 10, III, 268; WA 10/3:269.12-13; WA 17, II, 287-289; WA, 17-II, 288;

WA 17,409; WA 17/2:288.17-34; WA, 30, II, 351; WA 36,143; WA 37,231; WA 39, II, 107; WA 39/2,.92-121; WA 39/2:107.8-13; WA 40/3:680.31-32;WA 52, 39; WA 52:681.27-31;WA 52, 681; WA 53:640.18-22;WA 4, 693; 10 (3), 331; 46, 136; 47, 860; WA 54,207.[114]

 

I ask any to compare my footnotes with any of Mr. Armstrong’s Luther pages. As an example, please see Mr. Armstrong’s footnotes for his on-line Paper “Martin Luther: Beyond Historical Myth to Fact.” Primary references to Luther are mostly to Luther’s Works in German. Similarly, A large amount of Mr. Armstrong’s Luther references are given merely as titles of a particular treatise, with the readers’ job being the arduous task of tracking down a volume that contains said treatise. Many treatises are still not available in English (Like the frequently quoted sermon Mr. Armstrong utilizes, “On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God," 1527), and many have variations in the specific names of his treatises, making them even harder to track down.

 

 Mr. Armstrong also employs a high volume of Luther citations from secondary sources.  That’s fine, but many of the books he cited are no longer in print. Thus, the readers’ task of checking Mr. Armstrong’s citations is not an easy road. This leads to only two conclusions: Either Mr. Armstrong is fluent in German or Mr. Armstrong does not have the most basic tool for Luther studies: the English edition of Luther’s Works, so he relies on secondary sources or web sites that have posted samplings of Luther’s treatises. Mr. Armstrong thus complicates the task of any who would check his references or contexts.

 

Mr. Armstrong’s response provided many references that are virtually impossible to track down. One wonders why these sources were offered. Not only are they in different languages, the majority are long out of print: 

“Was Luther a Devotee of Mary?" Marian Studies, 21, 1970; Marian Studies 18 (1967);"Die Gottesmutter im Glauben und Beten der Jahrhunderte," Hochkirche 13 [1931], Uber die Selige Jungfrau, May 18, 1558;De origine erroris, 16, written in 1568; (Acts of the Council in March 1526 and March 1530; Die Bekenntnisschriften der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche, Gottingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1952; "Weimarer Ausgabe / 1883 ff. Weimar edition of Luther's works;  Maria bei Luther (Gutersloh: Bertelsmann Verlag, 1954); K. Algermissen, "Mariologie und Marienverehrung der Reformatoren," Theologie und Glaube, XLIX (1959); Le Drame de Martin Luther," Decouverte se l'oecumenisme (Paris: Desclee de Brouwer, 1961);Am tage der Empfengknus Marie der mutter Gottes.  Luk. 11; from Martini Lutheri Postillae. In die Conceptionis Mariae Matris Dei, . Argentorati: apud Georgium Ulricum Adlanum, anno xxx); "On the Schem Hamphoras and the Genealogy of Christ (Vom Schem Hamphoras und vom Geschlecht Christi), 1543; Walter Tappolet and Albert Ebneter (eds.), Das Marienlob der Reformatoren (Tubingen: Katzmann, 1962), . Hans Dufel, Luthers Stellung zur Marienverehrung ( . . . 1968) Festpostille -- two 1527 editions; Sermon at the First Vespers of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary; House Sermon for Christmas (1533) ; Vom Schem Hamporas und vom Geschlecht Christi [On the Schem Hamphoras and the Genealogy of Christ] (1543) -- WA 53,640; Wider das Papstum zu Rom (1545); WA 54,207;

 

In contrast, I have made the readers’ task of locating a context for Luther’s words quite easy; all you need is access to Luther’s Works, which are available in many college libraries, and some public libraries. Used volumes can still be purchased, even singularly (individual volumes can be as cheap as $15-25).  Therefore, I see no reason to redo all the footnotes.

 

Mr. Armstrong got himself into a somewhat precarious situation on the CARM bulletin boards in November 2002 with his methods of quoting Luther. He posted this quote:

 

Inasmuch as I know for certain that I am right, I will be judge above you and above all the angels, as St. Paul says, that whoever does not accept my doctrine cannot be saved. For it is the doctrine of God, and not my doctrine; therefore my judgment also is God's and not mine . . . It would be better that all bishops were murdered, and all abbeys and cloisters razed to the ground, than that one soul should perish . . . If they will not listen to God's Word . . . what can more justly befall them than a violent upheaval which shall root them out of the earth? And we would smile did it happen. All who contribute body, goods . . . that the rule of the bishops may be destroyed are God's dear children and true Christians."

 

Mr. Armstrong gave the reference as simply “Martin Luther, Against the Falsely So-Called Spiritual Estate of the Pope and Bishops, July 1522.” After searching the entire treatise, I could not find this quote. A Lutheran friend joined the discussion and was able to ascertain that the reason I could not locate the quote was because it was extracted in bits from different spots spanning 31 pages. Mr. Armstrong responded that he had gotten the quotes from secondary sources (Durant and Janssen), and that he trusted their scholarship. This is not the place to quibble over whatever point Armstrong was trying to make. I offer this example merely to show that Mr. Armstrong complicates the task of any who checks his Luther references.

 

Mr. Armstrong also seemed quite upset as to my honesty with footnotes. He criticizes me for including a quote by Cochlaeus from a secondary source (the Roman Catholic scholar Joseph Lortz’s work, The Reformation in Germany), but not giving the reference to the primary source.  Mr. Armstrong would have perhaps missed this, but I was honest enough in my footnote to say, “Lortz does not give the reference to his quote of Cochlaeus.” I was up front in my research. While compiling my paper, I did not have the chance to track down the primary source, so I noted this in my footnote.

 

Perhaps Mr. Armstrong doubts the overwhelming scholarly consensus that Cochlaeus hated Luther and spent a great deal of his life vilifying him. I had assumed this was fairly common knowledge that Mr. Armstrong would be familiar with (considering the amount of research he has done on Luther).  For the benefit of review: 

 

“Johannes Cochlaeus (1479- 1552), one of the bitterest and, in the long run, most influential opponents of Luther, was the first Catholic to print a comprehensive collection of Luther's acts and writings. His Commentaria de Actis et Scriptis Martini Lutheri Saxonis came out in 1549, three years after Luther's death. Cochlaeus did not go about his difficult work with the coolness and detachment of a non-partisan historian, nor did he think it a fault not to do so. He felt his readers should not only be informed about Lutheranism, but also made fully aware that Luther had devastated the Church and had brought unutterable misery to his German homeland. Every deprecation, slander and evil legend was snatched up by the author: he asserted, for example, that Luther entered into the indulgence battle against Tetzel because, as an Augustinian, he was jealous of the lucrative indulgence trade enjoyed by Tetzel and the Dominicans. Another story had it that Luther already as a fifteen-year-old lad was indulging in immoral relations with his benefactress, Frau Cotta zu Eisenach; that he lived a riotous student life in Erfurt; and that during his first period in the cloister Luther lived in concubineage with three nuns, from which experience he is supposed to have contracted venereal disease.”[115]

 

IX. Scholars and Works Cited by Dave Armstrong

 

A.  Hartmann Grisar

 

A tedious detail brought forth by Armstrong is my treatment of the Catholic scholar Hartmann Grisar. Armstrong notes that Grisar was “a learned, meticulous Jesuit who authored a six-volume, 3000+ page biography of Luther.” Perhaps my favorite lines from Mr. Armstrong’s response were:

 

Catholic writers such as Grisar and myself simply present the facts of Luther's beliefs, whatever they are, as we have no "stake" in what he believes one way or the other. We're simply interested in the history of doctrine and theology, which is, I find, invariably more interesting than polemics and propaganda with a particular agenda.”

 

In 1994, Mr. Armstrong’s testimony of his conversion to Roman Catholicism was published in the book, Surprised by Truth. In one interesting section he said,

 

After seven tense weeks of alternately questioning my sanity and arriving at immensely exciting new plateaus of discovery, the final death blow came in just the fashion I had suspected. I knew that if I was to reject Protestantism, then I had to examine its historical roots: the so-called Protestant Reformation. I had read about Martin Luther, and considered him one of my biggest heroes. I accepted the standard Protestant textbook myth of Martin Luther, as the bold, righteous rebel who stood against the darkness of ‘Romanist tyranny, superstitious ritualism, and unbiblical traditions of men’ that had been added on to the original, ‘pure’ Christianity described in the book of Acts.

 

But when I studied a large portion of the six-volume biography of Luther, by the German Jesuit Hartmann Grisar, my opinion of Luther was turned upside down. Grisar convinced me that the foundational tenets of the Protestant revolution were altogether tenuous.”[116]

 

I understand the emotional bond that Mr. Armstrong has to Hartmann Grisar. I remember being a garden-variety-non-denominational evangelical-Arminian and hearing RC Sproul for the first time. It was as if someone turned on the theological light-switch. But simply because we have an emotional attachment to an author does not mean we should neglect to evaluate their work.

 

My less than approving opinion of Hartmann Grisar was not arrived at because of Grisar’s adherence to Catholicism, or his being a “a learned, meticulous Jesuit.”  I do not have an “anti-catholic” bias in my Luther research. For instance, I treat Catholic scholars like Joseph Lortz, Harry McSorely, and John Todd with the respect they deserve, even when I disagree with them (I do!).  My research into Grisar’s work has led me to echo both the opinions of both Catholic and Protestant scholars in regard to his work. Armstrong seems to hold great value in “truth by scholarly consensus,” and he seems to hold my opinion in contempt. Recall how Armstrong negatively compared me with Jaroslav Pelikan: “Pelikan himself (a far more authoritative voice on such matters than Mr. Swan, a seminary student)…”.  Rather than summarize my own sentiment toward Grisar (which Armstrong ridicules), I’ll use Armstrong’s favorite method of establishing truth by letting the scholarly consensus speak:  

 

Ian Siggins says that Grisar’s works on Luther are  A Catholic historian’s learned but extremely negative critique of Luther.”[117]

 

James Atkinson has said,

 

“There can be no doubt of the sincerity and conviction of Cochlaeus, but neither can there be any doubt that it was he who poisoned the well of historical studies. Roman Catholic historians have drawn their prejudice against Luther from this polemical source, which in its animosity has an almost total disregard for objective truth and historical facts. Denifle, Grisar, Cristiani, Paquier, and Maritain (to cite the most famous and influential) have all drunk deep of this poisoned well-too deeply- and lesser historians have adopted their position.” [118]

 

“Grisar’s intent was to ruin Luther’s reputation, and among those who accept him as an authority without reading further, we may suppose that he succeeds altogether too well. Nevertheless, not all Catholic scholars have been convinced. Friedrich Heiler said of Grisar’s work that it was not an essay in understanding Luther, but an attempt to rule out Luther’s person and liquidate Luther’s work. Hubert Jedin, Adolf Herte, and Yves M.-J. Congar have expressly stated that Grisar was wrong to argue that Luther was a spent force.” Rupp writes of Grisar and Denifle, ‘Anybody who cares to work through their thousands of pages will emerge knowing that he has heard all that can plausibly be said against the character and work of Martin Luther.”[119]

 

Gordon Rupp stated,

 

“Grisar dismisses and even goes out of the way to refute innumerable fables and calumnies. But there are still very many which he is careful to report at length, and one or two elderly calumnies into which he contrives to breathe fresh life. Yet on the whole, he may be said to have done good service even in these cases by provoking more accurate investigation. Thus, there was the old story that Luther’s father had killed a man, which led to investigation which showed that there were two brothers Luther in Mansfield, one Big Hans and the other little Hans. Protestants and Catholics for what its worth, may now reflect equably on the truth that while Luther’s father was an honest citizen, his uncle was an unconscionable knave.

 

Yet, as Strohl observes, ‘Grisar does not differ fundamentally from Denifle.’ Both writers speak of the fall of Luther: and compared with that fact, the infralapsarian and supralapsarian divergences are of secondary import. He found the root of Luther’s heresy in the Reformer’s hatred of good works, and in domestic quarrel between Observants (‘the Little Saints’) and the Conventuals within the Augustian order. ‘The real origin of Luther’s teaching must be sought in a fundamental principle…his unfavorable estimate of good works.’ ‘His estrangement from what he was pleased to call ‘holiness by works’ always remained Luther’s ruling idea, just as it had been the starting point of his change of mind in monastic days.’ Thus, the cumulative impression of Grisar’s work is not much more flattering to Luther than that of Denifle.” [120]

 

Eric Gritsch stated,

 

“…Denifle and the Jesuit Hartman Grisar, used Freudian psychology to arrive at their assessment that Luther was a monk obsessed with the lust of the flesh and a pathological manic-depressive personality….These polemical portraits were corrected in the 1940’s when an ecumenically oriented scholar, Joseph Lortz, rejected Freudian psycho-historical methods in favor of a more objective critical assessment to depict Luther as a faithful priest-professor who had succumbed to ‘subjectivism.’” [121]

 

Jaroslav Pelikan stated,

 

“The names of three Roman Catholic scholars who dealt with Luther are important here: Denifle, Weiss, and Hartmann Grisar….despite the scholarship, however, and despite great erudition, these biographies [of Luther] persisted in repeating the old slanders and in cultivating the old tone-deafness to the religious accents of the Reformation. And so Denifle had ‘used the framework of his book in order to perpetuate a brand of infamy so tendentious, so objectively untrue, and so frightfully vulgar that it’s equal has not been thought up in our time even by second-rate scribblers’. Weiss had ‘put together all the heresies of the 14th and 15th century from the Atlantic Ocean to the Bohemian forests in order to determine that Luther is a combination of all of them and disappears in them completely.’ And Grisar, too, had still retained ‘remnants of the vulgar-Catholic way of battling,’ even though his research had led him a long way from the earlier screeds.”[122]

 

Klaus Penzel stated,

 

“Karl Holl…tried to rescue Luther as much from Troeltsch’s alleged misrepresentations [of Luther] as from the far more obvious distortions of the Catholic polemicists Grisar and Denifle by basing his studies on the most painstakingly thorough and accurate analysis of Luther’s own writings and their various editions.”[123]

 

Max L. Baeumer stated,

 

“While conservative Catholic writers of the early 19th century declared the Reformation ‘a second fall of man’ or a sinful rebellion against the Catholic Church, Johannes Janssen, Heinrich Denifle, Hartmann Grisar, and Albert Maria Weib, the belligerent Jesuit fighters for the Catholic cause in the Wilhelminian era, used a psuedo-socialist terminology and condemned Luther’s Reformation as a ‘revolt of the proletariat,’ the ‘denegration of aristocracy and the feudal system,’ and as “suppression of the lower classes”[124]

 

Patrick W. Carey stated,

 

“Research for this essay [Luther in an American Catholic Context] suggests that throughout the period prior to the Second Vatican Council the view of Luther was, with an exception here and there, primarily negative. In the nineteenth century, however, that view was neither as negative as that of John Cochlaeus (1479-1552) in the sixteenth century nor as that of Heinrich Denifle (1844-1905) or Hartmann Grisar (1845-1932) in the twentieth century. Nineteenth-century American Catholics viewed Luther as the leader of the "Protestant Revolt," but his personal character and motives were not assaulted as they were in the works of Denifle and Grisar. No American Catholic until the 1950s, moreover, had an understanding of Luther that was based upon a personal or systematic study of Luther's sources; most of the information on Luther derived from secondary sources, primarily foreign (French and German). Only after World War II, furthermore, did Catholic attitudes towards Luther began to shift and show some respect for his life and thought, but that shift took place among only a few individual theologians. The shift was important, however, because it helped to shape a younger generation of scholars and was part of a larger movement that led to the Second Vatican Council and that anticipated the Church's future within the ecumenical movement.”[125]

 

“During the nineteenth century American Catholics generally identified Luther as a religious revolutionary, but I know of nothing in American Catholic literature of the nineteenth century to match the passionate and unsubstantiated attacks on Luther's immorality or mental sickness that are found in the twentieth century works of the Dominican Church historian and Vatican archivist Heinrich Denifle and the Jesuit professor of Church history at Innsbruck Hartmann Grisar. Both authors were given great attention in the early twentieth century because of their scholarly reputations. Many early twentieth-century American Catholic scholars tended to rely upon Denifle's acknowledged scholarship and followed his judgments on Luther's moral turpitude, and/or followed Grisar on Luther's psychological weaknesses. In the twentieth century the negative views of Denifle were evident in the Catholic diocesan priest Henry George Ganss's (1855-1912) article on Luther for the Catholic Encyclopedia (1910), the most significant manifestation of American Catholic scholarship in the first half of the twentieth century. American Catholic readers of the Encyclopedia took their understanding of Luther from this source.”[126]

 

V.H.H. Green says,

 

“The evidence which Denfile presented [about Luther] was certainly impressive and his influence on anti-Lutheran writers has been continuous and considerable; but it had been marshaled in a distinctly slanted fashion He had, for instance, laid great stress on Luther's use of the word ‘concupiscentia', mistakeningly interpreting it as sexual lust. He quoted a phrase which Luther used in a letter to his wife, 'I gorge myself like a Bohemian and I get drunk like a German. God be praised. Amen', to suggest that he was a worldly man, but he did not note the context of the letter, a humorous one written to his wife when she was very worried by his poor appetite. He used a series of portraits in his first edition to show how the thin, ascetic scholar and monk became obese and unattractive; the last of his portraits, he noted, was surprisingly bestial', though the fact that it was made of the reformer after his death, and possibly after decomposition had set in, should have minimized his astonishment. Although Denifle's insistence that there was a fundamental moral Haw in his personality was questioned by the scholarly Jesuit, Hartmann Grisar, yet his interpretation of Luther was not basically different. 'The real origin of Luther's teaching', he concluded, 'must be sought in a fundamental principle ... his unfavorable estimate of good works'. While other pejorative estimates of Luther's character and work, as those of Maritain and Weijenborg, have been published, recent Catholic historians, such as Gilson, Vignaux and Johann Lortz, have shown a scholarly understanding of the man and his theology.”[127]

 

 

Leonard Swidler states,

 

“The practice of seeing Luther as all evil and the Catholic Church as all good continued through the centuries. The nineteenth century historian Johannes Janssen, for example, maintained that the Church had already begun a brilliant and profound reform in the fifteenth century and that this reform was suddenly disturbed in a most unwarranted manner by Luther's revolution. But the high point in controversial literature was reached in the writings of Hemnch Denifle and Hartmann Grisar shortly after the turn of the century.”

 

“For the Jesuit Hartmann Grisar, Luther was not so much a morally evil man as a mentally sick man. We should turn not our hate but our pity toward Luther the psychopath, who was subject to illusory visits by the devil and terrible fits of depression. It is granted by Protestants that Grisar went about his work with a great deal of scholarly zeal and that his work "contains a powerful denial of the old Catholic Luther-fables and calumniations as well as the deep-rooted view, most lately upheld by Denifle, according to which Luther was driven down the path of the Reformer by lust of the flesh." However, this improvement over Denifle was hardly satisfying to Protestants ; Grisar's polished style merely poured salt in the wound, and his apparent objectivity convinced no one. Without a doubt all the terrible words of Luther, full of hate, anger, "Wildheit und Rohheit" are actually found in Luther's writing's. But the complaint was raised that this was far from all that was in Luther's writings; this was only a one-sided picture, and therefore a distortion, though one with a certain refinement. In the end, "Grisar, just as Denifle, wishes to annihilate Luther."

 

“…in a little more than a generation the attitude of leading Catholic historians toward Luther and the Reformation has changed from the criticism and polemic of Denifle and Grisar to the objectivism of Lortz, Herte, and Hessen.” [128]

 

Otto Pesch said:

 

“It is well known that the most important works leading up to Lortz are the defamation of Luther by H. Denifle…and the pathological interpretations of Luther by H. Grisar.”[129]

 

Jared Wicks calls Grisar’s books on Luther “cold and one-sided.”[130]  He also says,

 

“Grisar looked at times to psychology for understanding Luther. In this account, Luther verged on neurosis as he swung from pseudo-mystical quiet to intemperate attack and near-hysteria. As Luther dealt with his maladjustments he came to hold doctrines diverging from church teaching. Late in life Luther suffered bouts of dismal depression, but then he would swing over to jocularity, frenetic work, and violent polemics. Grisar had vast factual knowledge of Luther, but he also showed a subtle talent for stirring suspicions about Luther. He repeatedly showed how problems plaguing modern Protestantism stemmed from Luther.”[131]

 

“Among the strongly judgmental Catholic treatments of Luther, pride of place belongs to the well-informed German Jesuit, Hartmann Grisar, whose massive original volumes are digested into the mere 600 pages of Martin Luther, His Life and Work.”[132]

 

Joseph Lortz has said,

 

“Today I would even go so far as to ask whether the Catholic scholar might not be in a better position to understand Luther adequately than the Protestant researcher. First, we can take it for granted that we have abandoned the evaluative categories of a Cochlaeus, which dominated [Roman Catholic Luther research] for over 400 years, and those of the great Denifle, and even those of Grisar (who was particularly well-versed in details).”

 

"a number of questions [concerning Luther] come to the fore here that can be grouped under such categories as "psychological introspection," "sense of responsibility," "crudity," "scrupulosity," "spiritual instability," etc. In this regard it is true that Luther suffered injustice from Grisar and Reiter, and more recently from the American Psychologist, Erik H. Erikson. but the factual situation still exists and must be critically assessed.”[133]

 

James Mackinnon states:

 

“Denifle has grossly misrepresented [Luther] in identifying [Luther’s admitting of sins] with the lusts of the flesh, and his theory that the sensual tendency ultimately led him to a sense of moral bankruptcy and induced him to take refuge in the doctrine of justification by faith alone is utterly misleading. It is not shared by reasonable Roman Catholic writers like Kiefl, who have rightly discarded the theory of Denifle and his followers Grisar, Paquier, Cristiani as untenable.”[134]

 

A.G. Dickens and John Tonkin note,

 

“…the work of two scholars whose writings dominated Roman Catholic research on the Reformation in the first two decades of the 1900’s underlines the unpredictability of historical scholarship and the complex relationship between polemical and historical interests. Heinrich Denifle and, to a lesser extent, Hartmann Grisar manifested a spirit of bitterness difficult to parallel in the history of Catholic thought; yet, paradoxically, much of the power of their attack derived from the wealth of genuine sources on which their writings were based.”

 

“…few scholars could credit [Grisar’s] work as a whole with that basic fairness he sincerely believed it to have. This was because Grisar's achievements were invariably balanced by failures. If he boldly refuted a number of palpable fables and groundless calumnies against Luther, he revivified just as many and left standing by innuendo others, which he acknowledged in the telling as unproven. He exhibited throughout a deep hostility and partiality, which led most scholars—both Catholic and Protestant—to conclude that his differences from Denifle were, in the last analysis, marginal.”[135]

 

Hence, my point that Hartmann Grisar’s work was “highly polemical against Luther” and that “contemporary Roman Catholic scholars like Joseph Lortz have dismissed his work as far too emotionally biased against Luther,” is not simply my opinion, but rather reflects the content of the quotes I provided above. That Mr. Armstrong has relied on the work of Hartmann Grisar is evident from his own testimony, as well as his web site.

 

As to the charge that I will only cite Grisar when I agree with him is simply to miss the issue at hand.  The point is that Grisar’s books are used by some current Catholics, even though later scholarship has shown their vast short comings. Grisar does not remain a definitive authority on the life and theology of Luther. He should be read and cited cautiously. This is not to suggest that Grisar gets everything wrong (see the above quotes by Rupp and Lortz). Rather, we need to keep in mind the scholarly evaluation of his work.

 

I was pleased a few months back when I pointed out to Mr. Armstrong that his use of the Catholic scholar Patrick O’Hare’s dreadful book, The Facts About Luther, gave his web site less credibility.  Mr. Armstrong agreed, and said he would take O’Hare’s comments from his site. Perhaps similarly here with Hartmann Grisar, we can ask Mr. Armstrong to weigh the scholarly opinion on Grisar and adjust his web site appropriately. Research on Luther did not stop with the work of Hartmann Grisar almost a hundred years ago. When both Catholic and Protestant scholars agree as to the inherent bias and shortcomings of 85 year old research, we should listen to the wisdom of those more knowledgeable than ourselves. Yes Mr. Armstrong, I do believe Grisar’s “opinions are altogether suspect…” I disagree strongly that “ Fr. Grisar is infinitely more ecumenical and fair to Luther than Luther or Calvin are to the Catholic Church.”

 

B. Hartmann Grisar’s citation from "On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God," 1527" 

 

"It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary's soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God's gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin" (Sermon: "On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God," 1527")

 

Mr. Armstrong seems to think that I was questioning whether this sermon actually existed:

 

Luther's December (8?) 1527 sermon, "On the Day of the Conception of Mary, the Mother of God," mentioned above and several times in this paper and others of mine, is not a figment of the wishful imagination of Catholic apologists.

 

Mr. Armstrong seems to have never checked whether or not it was included in Luther’s works (English edition): “As far as I can tell, it was not included in the 55-volume English set of Luther's writings.” Mr. Armstrong, I have checked, it is not there. Anyone reading my paper will note that I never questioned the existence of this sermon, or quote.  The source of this quote though has been a bit of a “holy grail” for me, as was the actual context. Many Roman Catholic sites utilize it, normally with no further documentation than what you see above. Until Mr. Armstrong responded to my paper, no Catholic site (that I am aware of) ever provided a context. While doing my research, I contacted the Webmaster from Project Wittenberg (a highly respected web site on Luther) who informed me that the date for this sermon was not certain. He informed me that this sermon was more likely from 1517; hence Luther’s devotion to Mary would be more intact than it was later in his career.

 

I regret not seeing Mr. Armstrong’s reference to the secondary source, (Hartmann Grisar) he provided on his web site. My paper will be corrected accordingly. However, I primarily used Armstrong’s popular page, “Martin Luther’s Devotion To Mary,” which is frequently cited on bulletin boards (Armstrong has recently provided a reference to the quote in question on the web page I utilized). I own none of Mr. Armstrong’s books, nor have I ever seen them in a bookstore, so these were not considered in my research. Nor have I searched every corner of Armstrong’s vast web site.

 

Anyone doing a simple search with the first few words of the quote in question will come up with ten to twenty hits. No accurate reference is ever given (other than Armstrong’s).[136] In his first response to my paper, Armstrong said he had done the search and found English references: “Luther’s works, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan, volume 4, 694.” He seemed fairly confident he had succeeded in proving my total incompetence. Not only was he able to find Catholic sites providing a reference, he found those references to be for the English edition of Luther’s Works.

 

This of course proved to be a bogus reference. Volume 4 does not have a page 694. Luther’s Works volume 4 is entitled "Lectures on Genesis 21-25.” Why would a volume dedicated to Luther's Genesis lectures include "Sermon: "On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God," since in fact selections from Luther's sermons appear in volumes 51 and 52? Perhaps if Mr. Armstrong had Luther’s Works to check his research, this embarrassment could have been avoided. Luckily, I caught his mistake early enough (and alerted him to it) so that he subsequently removed both the reference and his accompanying sarcastic comments about how incompetent I was at doing a simple search on the World Wide Web.

 

The secondary source Armstrong utilized was Hartmann Grisar’s Luther IV. When researching my paper, and noting Armstrong’s affinity to Grisar, I guessed (correctly) that was where he got the quote. What puzzles me, is why Armstrong had only this reference on his web site for the last few years, so when anyone who went and checked Grisar would have found:

 

[Luther] admitted this belief handed down, in the Catholic Schools, though not proclaimed a dogma till much later, in the sermon he preached in 1527 " on the day of the Conception of Mary the Mother of God " : " It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary's soul was effected without original sin ; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God's gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God ; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin " (" Werke," Eri. ed., 152, p. 58). The sermon was taken down in notes and published with Luther's approval. The same statements concerning the Immaculate Conception still remain in a printed edition published in 1529, but in the later editions which appeared during Luther's lifetime they disappear. (Cp. N. Paulus, " Lit. Beil. der Koln. Volksztng.," 1904, No. 41.) In a work of 1521 he says : Mary not only kept God's commandments perfectly but also " received so much grace that she was quite filled with it, as we believe " (" Rationis Latomiance confutatio," " Werke," Weim. ed., 8. p. 56 ; " Opp. lat. var.," 7, p. 416). As Luther's intellectual and ethical development progressed we cannot naturally expect the sublime picture of the pure Mother of God, the type of virginity, of the spirit of sacrifice and of sanctity to furnish any great attraction for him, and as a matter of fact such statements as the above are no longer met with in his later works.”[137]

 

The really puzzling thing is why Armstrong would cite Grisar for proof that Luther held a lifelong belief in the Immaculate Conception, and then when one checks the quote, Grisar informs us that the quote was taken out of the sermon during Luther’s lifetime. Grisar also informs his readers Luther rejected the Immaculate Conception after 1527. Nowhere in his response does Armstrong try to make sense of these facts, nor do I understand why Armstrong would use Grisar when Grisar disagrees with him.

 

 

C. Arthur Carl Piepkorn

 

In the first and second versions of Armstrong’s response, he relied almost solely on the opinion of Lutheran scholar Arthur Carl Piepkorn[138] as proof that Luther held to a lifelong commitment to the Immaculate Conception.  Mr. Armstrong though never puts forth the reasoning of how Dr. Piepkorn arrived at his conclusion.  In the barrage of quotes contained throughout Mr. Armstrong’s response, one would think a quote of Piepkorn expounding the reasoning of his opinion would have made it to the final cut of Armstrong’s paper. What Luther texts did Piepkorn use as proof? Was Luther’s belief in the Immaculate Conception the same as the dogma of 1854?  What texts were the “two lapses” in which Luther denied the Immaculate Conception? Which years did these two lapses take place?  What does Piepkorn mean when he says, “seems”? These are pertinent questions to this discussion. Mr. Armstrong is arguing by appealing to authority (which isn’t necessarily wrong, if the authority can substantiate their conclusions).

 

 Here is sole content of what Mr. Armstrong offers from Piepkorn as substantiation: “. . . Martin Luther's personal adherence to the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God (barring two lapses) seems to have been life-long. . .

 

Here is the actual context, (and the totality of relevant material on Piepkorn’s view that Luther held to the Immaculate Conception) from which Mr. Armstrong cited:

 

“As far as the other privileges that Roman Catholic theology ascribes to the Blessed Virgin Mary are concerned, neither the Immaculate Conception nor the bodily Assumption appear to have commended themselves to contemporary Lutherans even as pious opinions/ tolerable as long as no heretical inferences are drawn from them. This is true even though Martin Luther's personal adherence to the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God (barring two lapses) seems to have been life-long and even though as orthodox a theologian as Valerius Herberger affirmed the bodily Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in a sermon one part of which explained why there in nothing in the Sacred Scriptures about this event.”[139] 

 

This is the extent of the discussion on Luther and the Immaculate Conception from Piepkorn. It is a passing reference, no reasoning is given, not even references to the “two lapses.” Piepkorn leaves the discussion at “Luther “seems” to have had a lifelong belief in the Immaculate Conception.” He neither discusses the content of Luther’s opinion, nor does he offer any indication if the 1854 dogma is in question. Armstrong says,

 

“…this is precisely why I cited a man like Arthur Carl Piepkorn, who is an expert on the subject, and thus can serve as an authoritative source for my claims…”

 

I simply cannot accept Mr. Armstrong’s argument by authority in this case, since that authority provides no proof or discussion of relevant Luther quotes. Perhaps Mr. Armstrong’s Catholicism allows him to be swayed towards accepting authority without question. As a Protestant, I am more inclined to actually engage in research, weigh the evidence, and draw a conclusion.  Piepkorn noted in the article that he “tried to operate with an awareness of [his own] biases and prejudices.” He continues, “Where I have failed, I can only ask the pardon of those whom I have inadvertently misrepresented and of you whom, to that extent, I shall inadvertently mislead.”[140] Perhaps any who would take one vague sentence from his article without any further clarification or proof should heed the words in Piepkorn’s introductory comments.

 

After reading Armstrong’s devotion to the opinion of Piepkorn on Luther, one expects to open up Piepkorn’s treatise “Mary’s Place Within the People of God according to Non-Roman Catholics” and find a wealth of in depth study on Luther’s Mariology. Such is not the case. Piepkorn’s comments on Luther are about three paragraphs (give or take an occasional citing of the word “Luther”). The bulk of Piepkorn’s insight into Luther’s Mariology is contained in only one paragraph.

 

Interestingly, even with such a sparse discussion, Piepkorn offers a few insights. The statement below is consistent with my understanding of Luther’s Mariology, particularly that Luther’s thought evolved. Piepkorn notes that Luther’s devotion was “theological and Christological rather that Marian,” also a point I made in my paper.  Keep Piepkorn’s understanding of Luther’s “devotion” in mind as he puts forth Luther’s Christ centered Mariology:

 

Martin Luther's personal devotion to the Mother of God is lifelong; not even the casual reader can escape this impression, which every recent study in depth has abundantly established and confirmed. At the same time, Luther's devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary is basically theological and Christological rather that Marian, and must be read against the background of his own religious evolution. He begins as the docile disciple of John von Paltz, whose magnum opus, the Coelifodina, converts the history of our Lord's passion into a history of the compassion of His mother, whose great merits (as von Paltz says in one of his sermons) drew God down from heaven and became the foundation not only of monastic piety but of the entire Christian faith. From this kind of distortion Luther gradually emancipates himself. As early as 1516, the dominant image of the Blessed Virgin has ceased practically for Luther to be that of the Queen of Heaven and has become that of the paradigmatic humble worshipper of God. "She is not puffed up because of the great distinction that has been given to her and the great praise with which she is lauded, because she has recognized therein the Lord, who is far greater, and she acknowledges him, thanks him, loves him and blesses him." [141]

 

Piepkorn also echoes the point made throughout this paper: Luther understands Mary differently than Catholicism. Remember Catholic historian Hilda Graef’s comment: “Luther's whole view of Mary as a rather pathetic young girl without intrinsic sanctity or merit is opposed to Catholic teaching.”[142]  

 

D. Jaroslav Pelikan

Mr. Armstrong takes umbrage to my explanation of Walter Tappolet’s compiled quotes from the Reformers praising Mary. Armstrong weighs in that the author from whom I took this information (Jaroslav Pelikan’s book, Mary Through the Centuries) was a firm believer that the early Reformers praised Mary. Here we find a clear example of Mr. Armstrong missing point. It should be noted that I used this information from Pelikan simply to document that others previous to current day Roman Catholic apologists have attempted to ascribe some type of Catholic Mariology to the Reformers, and have perhaps similarly compiled material like that offered by Mr. Armstrong, (and maybe perhaps for a similar purpose).[143] Thus, my use of the quote had nothing to do with what Pelikan did (or did not) think in regard to Luther’s Mariology.

Mr. Armstrong explains that Pelikan believed the early Reformers had a Mariology. “Pelikan himself is not nearly so skeptical” as I was supposed to be about the Mariology of the Reformers. Again, I have never denied that the Reformers had a Mariology. The intent of my paper was to examine exactly what Luther’s Mariology was (recall the title of my paper: “Reflections on Martin Luther’s Theology of Mary”). This is an example of Mr. Armstrong either not understanding the point of the paper, creating a straw man (to be defeated by the excessive quotes he goes on to provide) or both.

Mr. Armstrong attempts to use Mary Through The Ages to prove that Jaroslav Pelikan believed Luther held a lifelong commitment to the Immaculate Conception:

 In his footnotes 24 and 25 for his chapter 11 of Mary Through the Ages…Jaroslav Pelikan recommends three works of Protestants about Mary, including Wright's, and one from a Lutheran scholar whom I myself have cited … as a scholarly source for the view that Luther always accepted the Immaculate Conception…

Nowhere in this book does Pelikan say anything about Luther’s doctrine of the Immaculate conception, yet Pelikan winds up number ten on Armstrong’s list as an author supporting Luther’s lifelong belief in this doctrine. In the section of Mary Through The Ages in question, the subject of Luther and the Immaculate Conception is nowhere to be found, either in the relevant text or footnotes 24 and 25:

“But it would be a mistake, and one into which many interpretations of the Reformation both friendly and hostile have all too easily fallen, to emphasize these negative and polemical aspects of its Mariology at the expense of the positive place the Protestant Reformers assigned to her in their theology24 They repeated—and in many cases used their superior grasp of the original languages of the Bible to reinforce—the central content of the orthodox confession of the first five centuries of Christian history25 For despite the constantly repeated accusations that the doctrinal principles of the Reformation, consistently carried out, would and did lead to a repudiation of historic Christian and Catholic orthodoxy, especially of the dogmas of the Trinity as confessed by the Council of Nicaea in 325 and the person of Christ as confessed by the Council of Chalcedon in 451, Luther and Calvin and their colleagues indignantly insisted that, in the opening words of the Augsburg Confession, "we unanimously hold and teach, in accordance with the decree of the Council of Nicaea." The same words could have been applied to the decree of the Council of Chalcedon, and to Reformed, Calvinist teaching, as Thomas F. Torrance has argued in pointing out that "care was taken to repudiate and avoid all the classical errors in Christology on both sides of the Chalcedonian fence." The texts on which Torrance was commenting with that observation, namely, the authorized catechisms of the Reformed church in Scotland, were evidence, moreover, that this adherence to the orthodox teaching of the church was not a mere formality or political ploy by the Reformers but what was being believed, taught, and confessed in the concrete life of the churches. Thus the Larger Catechism of 1648 taught: "Christ the Son of God became man, by taking to Himself a true body, and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, of her substance, and born of her, yet without sin."[144]

 

THE FOOTNOTES-

24. For contemporary efforts at a restatement of this positive place, see Heiko Augustinus Oberman, The Virgin Mary in Evangelical Perspective (Philadelphia: Fortress Press. 1971); and David Wright, Chosen by God: Mary in Evangelical Perspective (London: Marshall Pickering, 1989).

 

25. A splendid and learned summary, which like so many of his studies, could have become a full-length book, is the work of my late colleague and friend, Arthur Carl Piepkorn, "Mary's Place within the People of God according to Non-Roman Catholics," Marion Studies 18 (1967): 46-83.[145]

Armstrong tried a second attempt at establishing Jaroslav Pelikan as a scholar who believed Luther held a lifelong commitment to the Immaculate Conception, this time via Eric Gritsch:

Gritsch notes about recent Lutheran opinion on the Immaculate Conception and Luther's espousal of it: Jaroslav Pelikan and Arthur Carl Piepkorn may well represent the reaction of contemporary ecumenically committed Lutherans toward this dogma. Pelikan viewed the dogma as the completion of "the chain of reasoning begun by the surmise that the sinlessness of Jesus . . . depends upon His being free of the taint that comes from having two parents. Now Mary may conceive immaculately because she herself has been conceived immaculately." [footnote 77; p. 384: "The Riddle of Roman Catholicism (New York and Nashville: Abington, 1959), 131-21."]

When one checks the context in Gritsch, one finds that Gritsch isn’t even talking about Luther at this point in this article, but rather Lutheran history and the reaction to Marian dogmas. Jaroslav Pelikan’s opinion concerning Luther and the Immaculate Conception is not discussed. Also, note the date of the book cited from Pelikan: 1959. Pelikan was still Lutheran at this point. When one actually checks the reference in The Riddle of Roman Catholicism (Armstrong has a typo above- “131-21”), the discussion is primarily about perpetual virginity in regards to Luther. Pelikan also in this section refers people to Horst Preuss (who defended the idea that Luther did not hold a lifelong belief in the Immaculate Conception) for further studies on Luther’s Mariology.

In further tangential regards, I have a strong suspicion that if I do not address Jaroslav Pelikan and his understanding of Luther’s Mariology put forth in the book, Mary Through The Centuries, Mr. Armstrong would be less than satisfied. Below is the bulk of material offered by Jaroslav Pelikan in his book Mary Through the Centuries in regards to Luther:

Jaroslav Pelikan points out that the Reformers (in general) used an orthodox Mariology that would be consistent with the early orthodox creeds, “especially of the dogmas of the Trinity as confessed by the council of Nicea in 325 and the person of Christ as confessed by the Council of Chalcedon in 451...” (Pelikan, 158).  This was never a point I denied in regards to Luther, or in my own Reformed theology.

Pelikan notes Luther asserting Mary’s perpetual virginity, which I never denied (that is, I never denied Luther held this belief)(Pelikan,158).

Pelikan cites Luther attacking extra-biblical stories about Mary and the saints (Pelikan, 156). It is obvious from the comments offered from Luther by Pelikan that today’s Roman Catholic alleged sightings of Mary (and her messages) would not get Luther’s blessing:

“The legends or accounts of the saints which we had under the papacy were not written according to the pattern of Holy Scripture.” (Pelikan 156, from LW 16:4)

“Would to God that I had the time to cleanse the legends and examples, or that somebody else with a higher spirit would venture to do it; they are full, full of lies and deception.” (Pelikan 156, from LW 36:195)

Pelikan cites the use of Mary by Luther as “a characteristic summary of the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith alone and not by works…” (Pelikan 160). I hardly think Mr. Armstrong would like to agree with Luther’s Mariology at this point, or present arguments proving this to be a Catholic belief (although I would be greatly pleased if he did).

Dr. Pelikan uses Luther’s quote from the Magnificat from 1521 in regard to the intercession of Mary (Pelikan, 159), without qualifying that Luther would go on later in life to deny that intercession. Pelikan does point out though that it was basic tenet of the early reformers to deny the intercessory role of Mary, particularly in the Augsburg Confession of 1530

 

E. Heiko Oberman

 

Mr. Armstrong references Heiko Oberman as a scholar who supports the notion that Luther held a lifelong commitment to the Immaculate Conception. Unfortunately, Heiko Oberman does not discuss Luther’s lifelong commitment to the Immaculate Conception in the treatise “The Virgin Mary in Evangelical Perspective.” The closest discussion entered into by Oberman in regard to Luther on this issue centers around Luther’s rejection of the medieval distinction between Mary as purus homo and Christ as homo Deus, a far cry from any definitive discussion of Luther’s view of the Immaculate conception. Oberman also paraphrases Luther saying “the Virgin Mary is not greater than Mary Magdalene the sinner, since through faith all Christians are equal.”[146] It should also be pointed out that Oberman’s treatment of Luther in this paper is sparse (about two pages). He barely scratches the surface on Luther’s theology of Mary.

 

Of course, Mr. Armstrong might try to say that he himself was not recommending Oberman, but rather Jaroslav Pelikan. Regardless of whether its Pelikan or Armstrong, one will not find this sentence (or thought) in Pelikan’s book Mary Through the Centuries as put forth by Mr. Armstrong:  Jaroslav Pelikan recommends three works of Protestants about Mary…. as a scholarly source for the view that Luther always accepted the Immaculate Conception.” Oberman does not discuss Luther’s view of the Immaculate Conception in this article, and neither does Pelikan think that Oberman does.

 

 F. The Smalcald Articles / Lutheran Confessions

Mr. Armstrong cites Jaroslav Pelikan on Luther’s Smalcald Articles of 1537, where the author says, “the Latin text contained the words (which did not, however, appear in the German version): "from Mary, pure, holy, and Ever-Virgin)”[147]. Mr. Armstrong’s point is completely tangential. I’m not sure why he’s bringing this in, unless it’s a further look at “Protestant "suppression" of Luther's Mariology.” Only Mr. Armstrong can explain what this has to do with anything, since the history of Lutheran confessions was not a part of my paper.

 

Armstrong notes, “Since the German editions of this work omitted the Marian reference (why, I wonder?), I was curious to see what route the English translations took.” An interesting fact which Mr. Armstrong left out in this historical Smalcald Articles / Book of Concord excursion was that “The English translation [of the Smalcald Articles] is based on the German text. Only the most significant variants from the later Latin version are indicated in the footnotes.”[148] Hence, the German was the original, not the Latin text, and the German written by Luther did not contain the phrase in question.

 

Various explanations are put forth as to why the Latin was translated “Mary, pure, holy, and Ever-Virgin.” Some suggest the translator used the phrase as a force of habit, others that the translator himself believed in Mary’s perpetual virginity and Immaculate Conception. It could also be that the Smalcald princes thought it would gain more in a hearing with the Papacy. It’s also possible that the sense of “pure” was only to indicate that Mary was a “real creature or truly human,”[149] which was a sense in which this word was used in the 16th century. Again, this is completely tangential. I only have addressed this out of courtesy to Mr. Armstrong, who seems to think this is (in some way) relevant. 

 

G. Paul Althaus and the Protestant Conspiracy

Mr. Armstrong cites Paul Althaus in regard to Protestant suppression of Luther’s Mariology. Quite telling is the quote provided where Althaus defines his purpose as “a comprehensive overview of the basic elements of Luther’s theological work” (emphasis mine). I find it also interesting that Althaus also said,

“Even a comprehensive presentation such as this [his book] can be only an incomplete selection, in terms of both the total scope of Luther’s theology and of the range of individual topics….Completeness could therefore neither be sought nor achieved. This is true not only of the number of writings that are referred to but also of the variety of topics discussed.” [150]

Mr. Armstrong uses Althaus lack of references to Mary as proof of a large Protestant cover up, even though Althaus himself has said his intent was “basic elements.” Perhaps if Dr. Althaus had put forth in his introduction something to the effect, “I am going to address every topic Luther ever covered,” we could join Mr. Armstrong in this conspiracy, and alert the Protestant community at large.[151] Mary is important for Luther in her role in the incarnation, and that topic is covered by Althaus.  For instance,

“The Two Nature Christology in Luther: As we have already pointed out, Luther adopts the traditional dogmatic doctrine of the two natures. In agreement with it he teaches the full unity of the deity and the humanity in the person of Jesus Christ, the full participation or the humanity in the deity and of the deity in the humanity. ‘God has suffered; a man created heaven and earth; God who is from all eternity died; the boy who nurses at the breast of the Virgin Mary is the creator of all things.’”[152]

“For Luther, however, the understanding of the deity and humanity of Christ found in the ancient Christological formulas is not yet the decisive thing about Christ’s deity; and such knowledge is not yet true knowledge of Christ but only its presupposition. Luther says it very clearly in his explanation of the Second Article of the Apostles Creed. ‘I believe that Jesus Christ, true God begotten from the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord.’”[153]

“The significance of this for the subjective side of our knowledge of Christ is: Subjective knowledge of Christ does not consist in intellectual and theoretical character, but like its content, is the completely personal, practical, existential, and vital grasping of Christ with the "heart" and with the whole person. It is not enough to accept the eternal deity of Christ because of the authority of Scripture and the church. Accepting the Second Article of the Apostles' Creed as true and repeating the content of the text is also not yet faith in Christ. Such faith is present only when "I believe that he is my Lord." "We find many people who say Christ is a man, Son of God, born of a pure virgin, has become man, died, and is risen again from the dead, etc.'—that is all nothing. The fact that he is Christ means that he was given for us without any of our works.”[154]

 

"Let no one undertake to be saved through the faith or works of someone else. Yes, you cannot be saved through the work and faith of Mary or even of Christ himself without your own faith. For God will not permit Mary or even Christ himself to take your place and thus make you righteous and godly unless you yourself believe and are godly. . . . Otherwise no alien faith or work is of any use at all, even if it is Christ's who is the Savior of the whole world; his benefits and his help are of no use to you unless you believe and are enlightened."[155]

 

Perhaps why Mary receives little mention is best explained by Althaus:

 

“We look up to the heavenly church because it possesses the treasury of merits. And the ordinary medieval concept of the "saints" is in itself moralistic. At this point Luther begins to renew the concept of commumo sanctorum." He gives it a new meaning in two ways. First, Luther brought down the community of the saints—in which he knew that he himself was a member of this community—out of heaven and down to earth. As early as 1513, even before his first lectures on the Psalms, he rediscovered the fact that the saints in the New Testament, and particularly in Paul's letters, are not a particular group in the community but all its members, that is, all who believe in Christ are saints. Scripture uses the word "holy," not as it is commonly used in ecclesiastical terminology to denote the blessed, the perfected ones, but specifically to describe the living" Saints are to be found not only in heaven but here among us on earth throughout the community. Thus we no longer distinguish between saints and ordinary Christians but only between the saints who have died and those who are still alive. We are obligated to serve not those who are dead but those who are alive. The service of the saints is accordingly completely from previous practice: formerly a man thought he ought to serve the saints staring into heaven; now he looks about himself right here on earth for the lowliest brothers of Christ. The life of the departed is hidden from us." The "sharing" is to be realized here on earth among the living.”[156]

 

Mr. Armstrong in the first instance announces Paul Althaus as suppressing Luther’s Mariology, but then backs off by saying, “It is neither my intention nor purpose to cast aspersions upon professor Althaus's generally excellent and helpful research.” How are Mr. Armstrong’s comments about suppression not casting doubt upon the intellectual honesty of Paul Althaus? This is an example of Mr. Armstrong taking away with one hand (Paul Althaus’s scholarship), and then attempting to give it back with the other (Paul Althaus’s scholarship). 

 

Mr. Armstrong’s point becomes even more muddled when he says, “My point is only that current-day Lutherans and Protestants in general emphasize Mariology far less than the "Protestant Reformers" did (Luther perhaps above all.)” First, I do not disagree that the Reformers spoke more about Mary, nor do I disagree that current day Protestants speak less about Mary, nor was this ever addressed in my paper.  James White probably has written and said more about Mary than the local Catholic priest down the corner from my house. Could we conclude then that Dr. White is more devoted to Mary? Hardly. Similarly here, what is at issue fundamentally is what was Luther’s theology of Mary, not how often he mentioned her.

 

Secondly, it should be beyond doubt by this point that Luther spoke far less about Mary and her attributes than Catholics then and now do. Even when Luther did refer to Mary, his primary concern was to speak about Christ.  I refer anyone doubting this to read the many sermons that Luther preached on Marian festivals or specific Marian topics. As an example, I have included a short complete sermon, “The Day of Annunciation to Mary” by Luther from 1534 in Appendix A. I could multiply examples of Luther’s Christ centered “Marian” sermons, this should suffice.

 

H. Hilda Graef

1. Graef Explains how Luther’s Mariology differs from Catholicism

 

It’s important in my discussion with Mr. Armstrong to highlight that Roman Catholic historian Hilda Graef points out a fundamental difference between Luther’s Mariology and Catholic Mariology:

 

“The first generation of [Reformers], however, did not yet abandon devotion to Mary completely, though their principles finally led to this. For neither Luther nor Calvin would admit any contribution to salvation on the part of man. God's grace did everything, man did nothing. In Luther's view man remained a sinner whatever he did, God only imputing to him the merits of Christ; in Calvin's his salvation or damnation was immutably predestined from all eternity. If such was the case, what use was any intercession ?”[157]

 

2. Graef on Luther and the Immaculate Conception

Mr. Armstrong cited Graef as scholarly proof that Luther  probably accepted [a lifelong commitment to the Immaculate Conception] but in a somewhat diluted form.”

Graef says in the book The Devotion to Our Lady that Luther only held to the Immaculate Conception  in the first years after his break with Rome.” [158] Graef’s point strongly suggests that Luther’s abandoned the Immaculate Conception in his later career. In the book, Mary a History of Doctrine and Development Vol. II, Graef says,

“[Luther] still believes even in the Immaculate Conception in the full Catholic sense, saying that "one believes blessedly that at the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin". He seems to have given up this belief later on, though he still held even in 1544, two years before his death, that she was completely without sin when she conceived the Lord Jesus. In another sermon on the Wedding of Cana, preached in 1528, Luther stressed Christ's anger with her even more than he had done three years before and asserted that she was in the wrong, even though he once more praised her faith. But, he continued: "At that time Christ then realized... that in time his mother would be given greater honour... than he himself, that is to say one would believe her to be a mediatress and an advocate between God and ourselves- in order to prevent this he addresses her very harshly not only here but also in other places in order to show that we ought not to be concerned with her but with him. [159]

 

Graef’s point is that Luther did not hold a lifelong belief in the official Roman Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception, and then offers a vague reference that could mean that Mary was either purified before giving birth to Christ at her conception or Christ’s conception.

 

The most interesting information (also cited by Armstrong) is Graef’s agreement with and citation of Walter Tappolet. Tappolet’s book (in German) seems to be the standard reference for all scholars on Luther’s Mariology. This book by Tappolet seems to be the entire key to why certain scholars believe Luther held a lifelong commitment to the Immaculate Conception. What is apparent though, is that Tappolet denies that Luther held a lifelong commitment to the Roman Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception, and notes the ambiguity in Luther’s statements about when Mary was purified. Graef quotes Tappolet:

 

“We therefore agree with W. Tappolet ... "The assertion of 'H. Preuss, that from 1528 onwards Luther no longer believed in the Immaculate Conception, only because there are no explicit statements on the subject, is no less doubtful than that of R. Schimmelpfennig, according to which Luther held the same view which the Church of Rome defined as a dogma in 1854" and with his statement that, whatever Luther’s later attitude to the Immaculate Conception, he believed till the end of his life that Mary even if she should not have been without original sin from birth, was purified from it by the Holy Spirit at the moment of the conception of Jesus.”[160]

 

My view on Luther’s concept of the Immaculate Conception is similar to Tappolet. Here’s an ironic tidbit: the author Reintraud Schimmelpfennig is cited by Mr. Armstrong as a scholar that held to Luther’s lifelong belief in the Immaculate Conception. Hilda Graef notes that Schimmelpfennig was not successful in proving Luther’s devotion to Mary, and so does Tappolet in the above quote.[161] William Cole notes Schimmelpfennig’s “ book was severely criticized for a lack of the critical spirit inasmuch as she…placed Luther in the ranks of the greatest devotees of Mary.”[162]

 

I. Thomas O’Meara

 

Throughout his response, Mr. Armstrong approvingly cited Roman Catholic historian Thomas O’Meara to solidify his argument against my paper. O’Meara’s brief study is one of the better historical inquiries of Luther’s Mariology from a Roman Catholic perspective, if only because of expanded content (usually missing from any examination of this issue, Cole excluded). While many of his historical points lack documentation, his research into this issue strongly supports the findings of my paper. He is worth quoting at length. The Following is from his book, Mary in Protestant and Catholic Thought.

 

Similar to my main thesis, O’Meara notes that Luther’s theology of Mary grew and developed:

 

“Luther's attitude toward the theology of Mary and toward the devotion which a Christian should have to the Mother of God is a small-scale representation of his entire religious accomplishment. During any discussion of Luther and the Blessed Virgin we must keep uppermost in our minds that there was a development in his ideas, a change more or less drastic in each aspect of Marian theology. This development has its beginning in Catholicism; it passes through contradictions, struggles, and uncertainties, and terminates in a new Marian viewpoint, one which Luther decided was christocentric, biblical, unexaggerated, and edifying.”[163]

 

O’Meara notes two factors which recast medieval Mariology for Luther. The first was the abuses in popular devotion. The second was Luther’s theological concept of faith alone:

 

Faith alone, a grace which was Christ's pardon from sin, liberation from the concepts of merit and good works, freedom from dependence on the intercession and the accomplishments of creatures —these ideas could not but lead to a new frame of reference for Mary, the exemplar of the Catholic Christian and the first among the Saints.

 

In works on Luther's Mariology a false picture has occasionally been given because the principle of Luther's mariological evolution has not been kept in the foreground. We are told that Luther accepted the Assumption and yet forbade the singing of the Salve Regna; that he preached of Mary as immaculately conceived and also as a sinner. The time element, the dating of Luther's remarks, is all-important. Luther's Marian theological evolution in the years 1513-1527 has its own coherence, but the reformer's thought is definitely changing, and not always in the same direction.[164]

 

Note that O’Meara is suggesting Luther had a unique Mariology that developed. It was not simply a rehashing of Catholic orthodoxy. O’Meara does present the criticism that Luther’s thought is changing, “and not always in the same direction.” I have never denied this in certain minor points, but for the most part I would argue the direction was primarily forward.

 

The bulk of O’Meara’s material is an historical overview of Luther’s comments in regard to Mariology. I have arranged O’Meara’s research in chronological order:[165]

 

1513:Before the year 1513, we have no indications of antipathy 'towards Catholicism's acceptance of Mary. We have sermons on the Assumption where he asks Mary to make us good servants of God. We have a eulogy of Mary as God's finest creation. Reflecting upon this time in his life, Luther says that his mentality was Catholic, embracing the commonly accepted though not yet defined teachings on the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption. He writes that it seemed to him he put Mary in the place of Christ, He had "hung his heart upon her."

 

1513-1516: “…Luther first expressed doubts with regard to any emphasis of Mary. Elsewhere, in a sermon for a Marian feast in 1516, he gave voice to these thoughts which had been in his mind for several years: The Blessed Virgin sees God in all things. . . . Although Elizabeth with great perception sees Mary to be the Mother of God, even more perceptively the Virgin sees God in all things; he alone is great. Therefore the most pure venerator of God is the Blessed Virgin, who magnifies God above all things; she has no idols. She boasts of nothing her self, nothing of merit, no work; she is, by her own admission, purely passive and a receiver, not a doer of good works.”

“In other Marian sermons during this year he protested against the figures of Mary and the saints obscuring the power of God and of the saving blood of Christ. His polemic had not yet become strong. This same year he preached on the Assumption and said, "0 Happy Mother, 0 Excellent Virgin, think on us; make us to serve God very well."

 

1517:In 1517 Luther spoke of Mary's sinlessness…”

 

1518: “In 1518, as an incidental remark in a treatise on the problem of indulgences, Luther says that almost all of Christendom believes in the Immaculate Conception but that to hold the opposite is not heresy because it has not yet been defined. On the eighth of December, 1520, he bypasses the problem as less important than our own contact with sin.”

 

1519: “While preaching on the preparation for a happy death, he advised calling on Mary at the hour of death.”

 

1520: “[T]he negative current was swelling. Luther's principle for Marian theology appears in a final sermon on the Feast of the Assumption. If Mary detracts from Christ and God (and Luther is becoming more convinced that she has done so in the past), then we must practice christocentric moderation. Mary must be honored, but Christ must be the matrix of this veneration.  Mary exists for Christ alone, and this is the view of the Bible.”

 

1521:At this period of change, 1521, Luther wrote his Commentary on the Magnificat. This work brings together several strange elements. First of all, it is intended as a book of instruction in religion and administration for a prince. There are anti-Roman passages in it. The previous year he had written solemn and final words of separation: "Farewell, unhappy, hopeless, blasphemous Rome!" We can detect germinal expressions of Luther's personal theology, but these views, especially his views on Mary, have not reached their full originality. Dozens of very Marian passages could be quoted—Mary is Queen, free of sin—but this commentary is a work of transition. In the introduction Luther prays, "May the tender Mother of God herself procure for me the spirit of wisdom profitably and thoroughly to expound this song of hers." At the end he invokes Mary.”

 

“In between these prayers he bemoans the incorrect Mariology which emphasizes Mary so much. Never has so much idolatry existed in the world, and Marienverehrung is a cause. Luther minimizes merit and the actions of man striving for salvation. "I say Mary does not desire to be an idol; she does nothing; God does all. We ought to call upon her that for her sake God may grant and do what we request. Thus also, all other saints are to be invoked, so that their work may be every way God's alone." Luther will soon resolve this problem in his distinction between Mary as a vocal intercessor and as an advocate who truly accomplishes something for her clients, an advocate who has special access to the King. The first (a Furbitterin) Luther accepts; the second (a Filrsprecherm) he rejects. Mary and the saints, like ourselves, are poor and weak; they have no special claim on God. No other creature's work can help man. Luther's spiritual struggle had led him to depend upon God alone. He would not abandon this confidence to make Mary an intercessor or mediator.”

 

1522: “In 1522 he still speaks of Mary's complete sinlessness, and he will retain this belief for five more years before doubts enter.”

 

“In 1522 Luther preaches on the feast of the Assumption, apparently taking this belief for granted, although he notes that it is not an article of faith. He observes that the gospel says nothing of this, and the burden of his message is that it is more important to know that the saints are in heaven, and that we will join them, than to know how they got there. In 1530 he decrees that the Assumption is an aspect of the "hypocritical Church" which should be eliminated.”

 

“The year 1522 finds him in the pulpit on the feast of the Assumption with words which make Mary no different from the blessed souls in heaven.”

 

1523: “In 1523 he counsels that it is not harmful to invoke Peter or Mary. He wishes to eliminate this devotion to Mary only because of the abuse.”

 

1522-1527: “Between the years 1522 and 1527 we have a changing but vacillating opinion on the Immaculate Conception.” “In 1522, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, he had uttered a phrase: "With regard to birth I must say that only Christ was born in purity.”

 

1527: “In 1527 Luther preached a long sermon on the conception of Mary. First he discusses the nature of original sin, then the suitability of the Virgin Birth as a means of excluding original sin in the humanity of her Son. He then discusses Mary's own conception. Her body had the effects of original sin and was conceived in the ordinary way; therefore, in this sense, we can say that she had original sin. "But the other conception, namely the infusion of the soul ... it is believed that it took place without contracting original sin. Therefore the Virgin Mary is in the middle between Christ and all other men ... for her first conception was without grace, but the second was full of grace. . . . Just as men are conceived in sin both with regard to body and soul, and Christ is free of sin—body and soul—so Mary the Virgin is conceived according to the body without grace, but according to the soul she is full of grace."

 

1528: “In 1528 he abandons for a time his position of 1522 on Mary's complete freedom from sin. He speaks of a purification of Mary at the time of Christ's birth which keeps her, who was not conceived immaculate, free from sin.”

 

1530: “In 1530 he decrees that the Assumption is an aspect of the "hypocritical Church" which should be eliminated.”

“By the 1530's Luther was stern in his condemnations. "The Salve Regina says too much." "The Papists have made Mary an idol." "We will keep celebrating the feast [of the Visitation] to remind us that they taught us apostasy."”

 

1531: “…in Luther's Christmas sermon of 1531, Mary is nobility, wisdom, and holiness personified. We can never honor her enough. Honor and prayer must be given to her in such a way as to injure neither Christ nor the Scriptures.”

 

1532:In 1532 he denied any notion of a special conception of Mary. "Mary is conceived in sin just like us. . . ." Finally, about this time in an undated letter, Luther agrees with Staupitz' comment that the Immaculate Conception is a "fraud." The subsequent years offer quotations which advocate the doctrine of Mary's sanctification in conception along with passages which could be interpreted as denying it. It is likely, but not certain, that he eventually denied the Immaculate Conception.”

 

1540: “By 1540 theories on Mary's "impeccability are vanishing. Another idea runs parallel to these two of sinlessness and purity; it is Luther's interpretation of the name Mary. His "Catholic" or early etymology follows St. Jerome. Mary becomes, in Latin, Stella Marts, and this is rendered in German as Tropfen im Meere. Mary is a pure drop in the sea of fallen humanity. But later Mary is only Meerestropfen—a drop out of the sea, no different from the rest of men. His preaching follows the new etymology. "We cannot all be the mother of God; otherwise she is on the same level with us." "Your prayers, 0 Christian, are as dear to me as hers. And why? Because if you believe that Christ lives in you as much as in her, then you can help me as much as she."

 

1544: “In 1544 the Assumption is abandoned as a feast; the Ascension of Christ alone is recognized: “The feast of the Assumption is totally papist, full of idolatry and without foundation in the Scriptures. But we, even though Mary has gone to heaven, should not bother about how she went there. We will not invoke her as our special advocate as the Pope teaches. (The Pope takes away veneration due to the Ascension of our Lord, Christ, with the result that he has made the mother like in all things to the Son.)”

 

This is the main historical argument put forth by O’Meara to substantiate “Luther’s Mariological evolution” which should be “kept in the foreground.” I have argued similarly.

 

In particular, Mr. Armstrong focuses his theological microscope on Luther’s belief in the Immaculate Conception. Armstrong notes that O’Meara concludes, It is likely, but not certain, that he eventually denied the Immaculate Conception.” It was the bulk of historical facts (presented above) that provoked that conclusion for O’Meara. In footnotes, O’Meara puts forth various citations from the Weimar edition (which cannot be checked by non-German speakers), as well as the opinions of other scholars on this issue that have concluded differently. In the final analysis, O’Meara concludes, “The problem of Luther’s final opinion remains to be solved,” and “we have not yet discerned Luther’s final opinion.”[166]

 

J. Joseph Lortz

Mr. Armstrong attempts to cite Roman Catholic Scholar Joseph Lortz (via a quote by Thomas O’Meara) as proving that Luther did not grow and develop, but was perpetually contradictory from day to day: Armstrong’s quote says,

 

 “…Lortz writes: "At any rate, the principal difficulty for understanding Luther correctly rests in the fact that there is not one Luther, a Luther always the same. There is no rigidly single doctrine of Luther even on essential questions of faith. In every point we find affirmations rich with tensions which seem contradictory . . . " (J. Lortz, "Le Drame de Martin Luther," Decouverte se l'oecumenisme (Paris: Desclee de Brouwer, 1961).”

 

This quote comes from a footnote in O’Meara’s Mary in Protestant and Catholic Theology. Mr. Armstrong though has not provided the complete thought from O’Meara’s citation of Lortz. Remember, one of my major points is that Luther’s theology of Mary grew and developed. O’Meara agrees (see II A above). Mr. Armstrong attempts to use O’Meara and Lortz to deny this growth and development. 

 

Armstrong though has left out the first part of O’Meara’s sentence previous to Lortz’s words, leaving one with the picture of a haphazard Luther.  Armstrong quotes O’Meara’s footnote almost in its entirety but leaves out these ten words “But we have already pointed out that Luther’s thought evolves.”  Here is the part of the sentence Armstrong has left out, inserted back into the quote and underlined:

 

But we have already pointed out that Luther’s thought evolves, and Lortz writes: "At any rate, the principal difficulty for understanding Luther correctly rests in the fact that there is not one Luther, a Luther always the same. There is no rigidly single doctrine of Luther even on essential questions of faith. In every point we find affirmations rich with tensions which seem contradictory . . . " (J. Lortz, "Le Drame de Martin Luther," Decouverte se l'oecumenisme (Paris: Desclee de Brouwer, 1961)[167]

 

I would be interested in seeing Lortz’s words in context, but the quote comes from a French text from 1961. However, I do have an excellent article from Joseph Lortz called, “The Basic Elements of Luther’s Style” written in 1964. Lortz gives an in-depth look at his understanding of Luther, and he says things quite contrary to the quote offered by Mr. Armstrong:

 

“Luther was a theologian of the highest rank. My previous position--that Luther was not a theologian--was therefore misleading.”[168]

 

“Luther is an intellectual giant, or, to use a word from Paul Althaus, an "ocean. " The danger of drowning in him, of not being able to come to grips with him satisfactorily, arises from his tremendous output, but no less from his own original style, which we are going to take up. It sounds banal, but cannot be left unsaid: Luther belongs in the first rank of men with extraordinary intellectual creativity. He is in the full sense a genius, a man of massive power in things religious and a giant as well in theological interpretation. Because of this, he has in many respects shaped the history of the world--even of our world today. For Luther is the Reformation.”[169]

 

“We should rather make a virtue of necessity and try to view the young and the mature Luther together in as balanced a manner as possible. It is certainly possible to locate decisive patterns of his Reformation thinking, certain central ideas and theses, both in the early Luther as well as in the later, more mature Reformer.”[170]

 

“… it is a fact that Luther often returns to the same few fundamental theses. He initiated an impressive movement aimed at simplifying the bewildering complexity of ideas and structures in Church, preaching, and theology. He takes us back to the Gospel and to its few fundamental themes, particularly that of justification.”[171]

 

“we should not overlook the fact that the pattern of Luther's ideas was essentially complete quite early and then underwent development in connection first with the attack on the theology and practice of the Church and then in confrontation with the reaction it caused. Luther's final development was in terms of self- defense and was marked by a resulting obduracy and tendency to overstate his position.[172]

“Looking at Luther's whole work, we find that in his later years he applied and developed his paradoxical style in a much less complicated manner than in the early lectures on the Psalms and on Romans. But this style always remained an essential part of Luther's theology, as in the simul Justus et peccator and the doctrine of the hidden God.”[173]

 

K. Max Thurian

Mr. Armstrong puts forth Max Thurian as a “Protestant Reformed scholar.” After going through Thurian’s book, Mary Mother of the Lord, Figure of the Church it wasn’t surprising to find out that this scholar converted to Roman Catholicism.[174]

Four quotes offered by Armstrong from Protestant historian Max Thurian bear no relation to my paper. Two about Heinrich Bullinger’s Mariology, and two regarding Zwingli’s Mariology. My paper was specifically about Luther’s Mariology, not Zwingli or Bullinger.

Max Thurian provides sparse comments on Luther’s Mariology. It is hardly a thorough treatment, yet Thurian makes Armstrong’s list of scholars that support the notion that Luther held a lifelong belief in the Immaculate Conception. Thurian’s longest treatment of Luther is in a footnote.  He says,

 

“Whatever the theological position which we may hold to-day, in regard to the Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Mary it is right to know, perhaps to our great surprise, that these two Catholic dogmas were accepted by certain Reformers, not of course in their present form but certainly in the form that was current in their day.”

 

“Most theologians held a middle position. They taught that the physical generation of Mary was within the scope of original sin, but that her soul had escaped this (following the Augustinian doctrine which teaches that the coming of the spirit into the physical embryo is subsequent to its conception). Luther shared this common idea.”[175]

 

It should be clear that Thurian is not putting forth Luther ascribing to the 1854 dogma, but rather one of the earlier differing views. In Armstrong’s summary list, this is not specified. One is left with the impression that Thurian is putting forth Luther’s ascribing to the 1854 dogma, which he is not.

 

 Thurian goes on to offer proof of Luther’s early acceptance of (some form) of the Immaculate Conception by quoting from “On the Day of the Conception of Mary the Mother of God” from 1527. Interestingly, Thurian’s main source for this quote is Walter Tappolet’s Das Marienlob der Reformatoren, rather than the primary text from Weimar. Thurian’s view rests entirely on Tappolet’s (for a review of Tappolet’s view, see: H. 2). Thurian though wants to prove Luther’s lifelong acceptance of some form of the doctrine. To substantiate Luther’s later view, Thurian offers:

 

In the years 1543-1644 Luther wrote again: 'Some relate this passage: "by thee all the nations of the earth shall be blest" (Gen. 12: 3) to the Blessed Virgin, Mother of the Child, and see there an allusion to the fact that the child would be born of a pure mother, a pure chaste and spotless virgin. It is indeed a devout and satisfying thought' [176]

 

Immediately one notes the mistake of “1644” which is an obvious typo (Luther died in 1546). Secondly, the quote in question is also from Tappolet rather than a primary source. Thirdly, the statement is ambiguous: it is quite possible Luther is merely addressing the fact that Mary was a virgin, rather than making a direct statement about her alleged Immaculate Conception.  Fourthly, in Thurian’s use of this quote, he doesn’t specify whether Mary was purified at her conception or Christ’s conception.

 

What makes this quote rather suspicious is that it was obviously intended to be a reference to Luther’s Genesis commentary (which was his final major work). However, when one checks the reference of Genesis 12:3 in the commentary it is not there.  Luther, in this section does mention Mary:

 

“Because God is good, He uses “blessing” to mean deliverance from the curse and wrath of God, and He promises that this will occur through the seed of Abraham, not only for the descendants of Abraham but for all the families of the earth. This blessing the Son of God, Jesus Christ, brought us. He was born from the seed of Abraham by the Virgin Mary.”[177]

   

In the 55 volumes of Luther’s Works, Genesis 12:3 is referenced to about twenty five times. In an overwhelming number of the occurrences, the focus is on Christ, or the blessing promised through Abraham’s seed. For example:

 

“This inexpressible grace and blessing was long ago promised to Abraham in Gen. 12[:3] : “And in thy seed (that is, in Christ) shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.”  Isaiah 9[:6] says: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.” “To us,” it says, because he is entirely ours with all his benefits if we believe in him, as we read in Rom. 8[:32] : “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him?” Therefore everything which Christ has is ours, graciously bestowed on us unworthy men out of God’s sheer mercy, although we have rather deserved wrath and condemnation, and hell also.”[178]

 

“…the promise that through Christ all the earth’s nations shall be blessed ( Gen. 12:3 ) has been fulfilled. In other words, all who believe in Christ are delivered from sin and death, justified before God, and have eternal life. This is vouchsafed by Christ Himself in John 3:16 : “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” As many as heard their sermon and believed in Christ were saved.[179]

 

Mr. Armstrong has asserted that he believes Jaroslav Pelikan supports Luther’s lifelong commitment to the Immaculate Conception. Has Pelikan (an editor of Luther’s Works) taken part of the great Protestant conspiracy to leave out Mariological references to the Immaculate Conception when Luther discusses Genesis 12:3? No, he hasn’t. There is one example of similar language to the quote offered by Thurian above in Luther’s Works with regard to Genesis 12:3: Luther’s Magnificat of 1521. Again, the language is ambiguous. Luther could simply mean that Mary was a virgin, and he doesn’t specify if Mary was purified at her conception or Christ’s.  Even if Luther does mean to describe (some form) of the Immaculate Conception, this in no way proves a lifelong commitment to it, since this treatise is from 1521, (and I have never denied that Luther previous to 1527 held this belief):

 

“God Himself has done this thing. He is able to keep what He has promised, even though no one may understand it before it come to pass; for His word and work do not demand the proof of reason, but a free and pure faith. Behold, how He combined the two. He raises up seed for Abraham, the natural son of one of his daughters, a pure virgin, Mary, through the Holy Spirit, and without her knowing a man. Here there was no natural conception with its curse, nor could it touch this seed; and yet it is the natural seed of Abraham, as truly as any of the other children of Abraham. That is the blessed Seed of Abraham, in whom all the world is set free from its curse. For whoever believes in this Seed, calls upon Him, confesses Him, and abides in Him, to him all his curse is forgiven and all blessing given, as the word and oath of God declare—“In your Seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.”[180]

 

No doubt Thurian intended to simply offer a brief description of Luther’s Mariology. His opinion seems to rest solely on Tappolet’s book, and it was proven above that Tappolet did not think Luther held to the 1854 dogma. It is clear that Thurian did not do his own research into the primary texts. This doesn’t necessarily negate Thurian’s opinion, however it should at least give one pause when citing him as a Luther scholar, and the value of his opinion should be weighed accordingly.

 

L. David Wright

 

Mr. Armstrong utilized Wright’s book, Chosen By God: Mary in Evangelical Perspective.  Even though Wright doesn’t make it to Armstrong’s grand finale list of authors supporting (or not supporting) Luther’s lifetime commitment to the Immaculate Conception, Armstrong says,

In his footnotes 24 and 25 for his chapter 11 of Mary Through the Ages (as seen in the citation above), Jaroslav Pelikan recommends three works of Protestants about Mary, including Wright's, …as a scholarly source for the view that Luther always accepted the Immaculate Conception:  24. For contemporary efforts at a restatement of this positive place, see Heiko Augustinus Oberman, The Virgin Mary in Evangelical Perspective (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971); and David Wright, Chosen by God: Mary in Evangelical Perspective (London: Marshall Pickering, 1989).”

 

I direct the reader to my discussion above (Jaroslav Pelikan) as documentation that Pelikan never discusses Luther’s view of the Immaculate Conception in the section Mr. Armstrong is referring to. However, David Wright did discuss Luther’s view of the Immaculate Conception in Chosen By God: Mary in Evangelical Perspective, but neither affirms nor denies Luther’s lifelong commitment to it.

 

He first notes that “Luther… can be found saying both things” in regards to Mary’s sinless-ness or sinfulness. Wright then notes that some of Luther’s comments reflect medieval debates on  different forms or stages of conception” of Mary and Jesus. Wright notes that Luther believed “the Church had left Mary's immaculate conception an open question…” Wright decides that Luther found the belief in the Immaculate Conception “congenial,” but adds, “his teaching on the issue remains disputed—particularly whether he later abandoned what he earlier espoused.” Wright does though believe that the main point is that Luther “instinctively affirmed a special purification or sanctification of Mary, of a piece with her unique virginity in fitting her to be mother of the sinless Son of God.” What Wright fails to decide on is when (in Luther’s thought) that special purification took place, and if Luther ever held differing views. Wright also directs the reader to Thurian’s footnote from Mary: Mother of the Lord Figure of the Church (which I discussed above in K. Max Thurian), without either approving or denying Thurian’s opinion. [181] Hence, Wright neither affirms nor denies Luther’s lifelong commitment to the Immaculate Conception.

 

M. Eric Gritsch

 

Eric Gritsch also makes it to Armstrong’s list of scholars affirming Luther’s lifelong commitment to the Immaculate Conception. However, again Armstrong fails to note that it is probably not the 1854 dogma. Gritsch says,

 

“In 1527 Luther dealt with the Immaculate Conception of Mary, advocating a middle position favored by a majority of theologians. Following Augustine, Luther told his congregation that Mary had been conceived in sin but had been purified by the infusion of her soul after conception. Her purification was complete due to a special intervention of the Holy Spirit, who preserved her from the taint of original sin in anticipation of the birth of Christ. Thus the Virgin Mary remains in the middle between Christ and humankind. For in the very moment when he was conceived and lived, he was full of grace. All other human beings are without grace, both in the first and second conception. But the Virgin Mary, though without grace in the first conception, was full of grace in the second. That is quite proper. For she was a medium between all generations: she was bom from a father and mother, but gave birth without a father and mother, partly spiritually and partly bodily, because Christ was conceived of her flesh as well as of the Holy Spirit. But Christ himself is a father of many children, without a carnal father and mother. Just as the Virgin Mary remains in the middle between physical and spiritual birth, finishing the physical and beginning the spiritual, so she rightly remains in the middle concerning conception. Whereas other human beings are conceived in sin, in soul as well as in body, and Christ was conceived without sin in soul as well as in body, the Virgin Mary was conceived in body without grace but in soul full of grace.”[182]

 

Gritsch also says, ““In another version of the sermon from 1528 Luther declared that Scripture did not say anything about the conception of Mary. Accordingly, various ideas can be advanced, as long as none of them becomes an article of faith.”[183] Also, “Luther defended Mary's perpetual virginity and regarded her Immaculate Conception as "a pious and pleasing thought" that should not, however, be imposed on the faithful.”[184]

 

Gritsch refers to Tappolet to substantiate his view:

 

Two scholars doubt whether Luther affirmed the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary: Preuss (n. 11 above) came to the conclusion that Luther rejected the doctrine after 1528; O'Meara states that "it is likely, but not certain" that Luther rejected the doctrine (118 [n. 11 above]). But Tappolet (32 [n. 1 above]) demonstrated with the use of texts that Luther did not change his mind. The literary evidence from Luther's works clearly supports the view that Luther affirmed the doctrine, but did not consider it necessary to impose it.”[185]

 

Gritsch though does not distinguish Tappolet’s view that Luther later held Mary was purified at Christ’s conception, even though he cites him as proof for Luther’s commitment to the Immaculate Conception. Gritsch also seems to put forth Luther’s later position that Mary was purified at Christ’s conception, without noting that this is the view of the later Luther:

 

“These and other statements concerning the Immaculate Conception of Mary are always made in the context of a christocentric theology which focused on the birth of Christ rather than that of Mary. She became immaculate as the mother of Christ. As Luther put it in 1540: "In his conception all of Mary's flesh and blood was purified so that nothing sinful remained. Thus Isaiah is correct in saying, There was no deceit in his mouth' [53:9]. Each seed was corrupt, except that of Mary. . As Luther put it in 1540: "In his conception all of Mary's flesh and blood was purified so that nothing sinful remained. Thus Isaiah is correct in saying, There was no deceit in his mouth' [53:9]. Each seed was corrupt, except that of Mary.""[186]

 

I am not an advocate of conspiracy theories. However, Gritcsh’s lack of clarification of Tappolet’s view, leads me to suspect that Gritsch has ecumenical considerations guiding his comments on Luther.

 

 

Appendix A:

Luther’s Christocentric Marian Sermons

Mr. Armstrong asserts (via William Cole) . . . the Reformer preached more about Mary than Catholic priests do in this era of the Church's history.” Armstrong let’s us know (via Eric Gritsch) that “Luther preached about eighty sermons on Mary, all based on biblical texts,”[187] and via (William Cole) that [Luther's] custom of preaching Marian sermons on the Marian feasts continued in the Lutheran Church a hundred years after his death.”[188] These statements are true enough, but retain a certain ambiguity. 

Gritsch notes that Luther abandoned the festival of Mary’s Immaculate Conception and her Assumption:

 

“He rejected the festivals of Mary's Immaculate Conception, December 8, and her Assumption, August 15.” [189]

 

“According to Luther Mary should be honored in festivals that focus on Christ, which is why he eventually rejected the celebrations of her Immaculate Conception (December 8), her birth (September 8), and her Assumption (August 15). He did honor her in the festivals of the Annunciation (March 25), the Visitation (July 2), and Purification (February 2), since these are connected with the birth of Christ. "We dare not put our faith in the mother but only in the fact that the child was born."[190]

 

“Luther continued to preach on these festivals, but stopped preaching on the other three festivals after 1523.”[191]

 

When one actually reads Luther’s Marian sermons, one finds that Mary is usually not the main subject, Christ is. Hence, Luther generally emphasized Mary far less than Roman Catholics do (both then and now). As an example, the following short sermon from Luther is on one of the favorite proof texts for Catholic Marian dogma, Luke 1:26-38. Note how Luther’s main concern is Christ, not Mary. Examples from Luther’s sermons similar to this could be multiplied. This was the shortest one I had in my collection.   

 

“The Day of Annunciation to Mary” by Martin Luther

(Luke 1:26-38,  Second Sermon 1534)

1. We observe this festival in order to recognize God's inestimable grace and to thank him for the same. We should rejoice in this great miracle whereby God has graciously visited us poor mortals not merely by sending an angel who might redeem us, but by sending his only Son who not only speaks with us to bring us such a message but clothes himself in flesh and blood and himself becomes a human. If a prince came to a group of beggars, desiring not only to give them money, but himself to become a beggar, then the beggars could hardly rejoice enough because of his kindly goodness. Such a deed however, cannot compare with the grace God has shown us by his Son becoming a human being. This, therefore, ought to make us happy and awaken in us heartfelt thanks toward our dear Lord God.

 

2. Cursed and damnable is the man who hears this, but does not believe or accept it with joy. Indeed, the Jews, the Turks, the Tartars and the pope do not believe it but regard God's sending of his Son to be little more than sending one's servant for a beer. We Christians however, should learn how greatly God has honored us by allowing his Son to become a human being. How could he have come closer to us? When I take my child up into my arms and kiss him people consider that to be very loving, God, however, does not do that but, instead, takes on the nature which I and all other humans have, becomes a human being, eats and drinks as you and I do. He is born of a young maiden, as you and I are born of our mothers. The only difference is that the Holy Spirit engineered this conception and birth, while in contrast we mortals are conceived and bom in sin. For this, we Christians should rejoice, that we have been so blessed. Our plight to be stained by sin and to be subject to death, brought on by Adam's fall into sin, stands in contrast to what has been done for us by Christ who himself became man to redeem us from sin and death. The devil drew close to us, but not so close that he took on our nature. Even though he fell through arrogance and became separated from God, succeeding also to bring mortals to the same plight, yet he did not become a human, or draw as close to us as God's Son, who became our flesh and blood.

 

3. This, then, should be for our comfort, and we should thank our Lord God from the heart that he has bestowed this honor upon us in that he permitted his Son to become man, so that now our flesh and blood sits in heaven at the right hand of God; God and man in one person, reigning over heaven and earth. Blessed is the individual who believes and takes this to heart, that we humans are of a higher nature than the angels who are the sublimest of creatures. The Epistle to the Hebrews highly extols this (2:5): "For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak." Also (w. 16-17): "For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren."

 

4. The angelic nature is far more sublime and glorious than the human nature; because of its great glory the angelic nature cannot live on earth. Now, Christ could have become an angel to be an individual who combined both godly and angelic nature, as divine and human nature are combined in Christ. But he did not wish to do that. God had prophesied to Abraham that of his lineage, Christ, God's Son, would be born. He who would bring a blessing unto all the Gentiles would be bom of a virgin, a daughter of Abraham and David. In this, Abraham's lineage has been highly honored. But it pertains to us, too, even though we are Gentiles and not Abraham's descendants according to the flesh, because the promise is that from Abraham's seed all the Gentiles would be blessed. With this, we Gentiles, who are descendants of Adam and Noah, have the same promise which in time was repeated to Abraham. For that reason the promise and its fulfillment pertain to all people on earth. We certainly must find great joy in Christ's coming and in his becoming man, wholeheartedly accepting this fact, that God's Son became man. He did not come to us as a messenger with bad news, but united himself with us in be coming true man, never again to be separated from us, now that he has assumed our human nature. He came to us in such a way that he can never again be separated from us. Even though now we do not see him, it matters not. For he has said we should wait for the Day of Judgment, then we will see him, that he is clothed in our flesh and blood, and that we have the same body as he has

 

5. Over this we should rejoice and thank God. Whoever does not is an unfortunate human being. For this is such great grace and glory that the angels might well be jealous that our Lord God ignored and passed them by not to assume their nature, but chose instead to accept our human nature though we belonged to the devil. Whoever cleaves and holds to Christ has as much as he, because Christ indeed has shared his inheritance with us if we believe that we are now united with him in joint estate. Even if the devil moves in on us he cannot devour us because Christ became man in all things like us except for sin This selfsame Christ speaks to us in his Word: Remain in me, I will not leave you. Just as the devil, death, and hell could not hold me, so also they cannot hold you.

 

6. Today marks the day our salvation began, as God's Son became man and the divine and human nature were united in one person. Those are unfortunate individuals who dispute and doubt that two natures divine and human, coexist simultaneously in Christ. That is why we must avoid arguments and sophistry here for disputing will not avail us. In other matters one may argue and be erudite, but in an article of faith one should let the arguing be. Here the bottom line is that he who clings to God's mercy In simple faith and believes that God's Son became man for us has the benefit of this, namely, eternal salvation. Whoever does not believe has just the opposite.

7. Today we celebrate this miracle, namely, the bonding of God with man, as the two natures, divine and human, are united never again to be separated, as we confess in the Creed: "I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost. bom or the Virgin Mary." That ensued on this day. At Christmas we hear how Christ was bom, but today’s significance is that the divine and human nature have come to be united in one person. This tiding the angel Gabriel announces as he tells the Virgin Mary that she shall conceive and bear a son who shall be called the Son of the Highest. He shall sit on the throne of David eternally and be a King above all Kings. These are mighty and very extraordinary words, and it is a great miracle that a young woman could believe such words. If today these words were told to a virgin, she would surely laugh because human nature is difficult and loath to believe God's wondrous works. But Mary believed implicitly, not poking around for proof from reason.

 

8. It is true that she asked the angel how this could take place, but she did not question whether, according to reason, it would be possible. She merely asked whether for it to take place she was to marry a man. Then the angel answered, "No, the Holy Ghost will come upon you." It was not wrong for her to ask, therefore, because she was betrothed to Joseph. She did not wish to defy convention and become an adulteress, to be reviled by the Jews, but wished to keep an honorable reputation. But when she heard that the Holy Ghost would come upon her, she was satisfied and asked no more, but gave the angel her consent. In that moment she became the mother of God.

 

9. These are the details of today's celebration, as the articles of the Creed give it, in which we confess that our Lord God sent his only Son to us. We cannot send a messenger to him, but he has come to us himself, personally. We, as monks, sent messengers to our Lord God trying to appease him by our works. That was not right; rather, we are to believe that God's Son came to us, became man, was conceived by the Holy Ghost and bom of the Virgin Mary. Therefore, we should not conduct our worship as though we first approach our Lord God, instead of him first coming to us; no, for he first came to us.

 

10. This is so because, first of all, we are created by him and through him. Then, next, when we were lost and damned because of sin, we were saved through his coming, if we believe that he has become like us and that our human nature has been united with God. Now if I wish to approach God, I must go to the Virgin's lap on which Christ lies, that is, I must listen to what the Christian faith teaches me, that Christ for my sake was conceived by the Holy Ghost and bom of the Virgin Mary. When I embrace that and cleave to Christ, who was conceived and bom for me, then I am on the right way to heaven, and Christ draws me to himself. Even if the devil wants to devour me, I still remain safely where Christ is. The devil cannot hold me because Christ has come to me in flesh and blood as I have, but without sin. And, therefore, because he came to me and took to himself my flesh and blood, I must hold tightly to him.

 

 

11. That is the fundamental teaching which shows us the way to heaven. We should not succumb to foolish works with which to reconcile God as we did under the papacy. Christ, first of all, came to us and that we must hold fast in firm faith. When I do come to faith in him, then good works should follow—rightful fasting, rightful praying, and rightful giving of alms. Yet always I must remain firmly in Christ who alone gives me salvation, without my works or the merit of my deeds. That is what the Nicean Creed states: Qui propternos homines et propter nostram salutem descendit de coelo, "Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven." It does not state: Nos propter ipsum ascendimns in coehim. We did not come into heaven for his sake; rather, Christ came from heaven for our  sake. The devil forever and a day would very much like to have us stray from the right way. He knows very well that whoever believes in Christ will be saved. That is why he tries with might and main and all manner of tricks to mislead us. If he tears us from this article of faith, he has won. Whoever remains firm in this article of faith, cleaving firmly to Christ, tramples the devil under foot. Whoever falls away from Christ, him will the devil trample under foot. May our dear God grant us his grace, so that we remain steadfast in this article of faith and through Christ are finally saved. Amen.[192]

 

 

Appendix B:
Luther’s Understanding of “Veneration”

 

A. Armstrong’s Charge

 

Mr. Armstrong let’s us know that “problem[s] in Catholic-Protestant communication and dialogue about Mary occurs because the two parties think and "hear things" so very differently.” He lets us know (via Jeffery Dennis) that “Protestants, particularly those in evangelical denominations . . . have been raised to regard any sort of veneration as idolatry.” Armstrong asserts:

 

“[Luther] understood the difference between veneration and worship, just as Catholics do (and he also strongly criticized excesses in Marian devotion, just as Catholics also do; particularly in Vatican II). He didn't feel compelled to create the absolute (and quite unbiblical) silly dichotomy that characterizes present-day Reformed thought and much of Protestantism, generally-speaking -- where no creature can ever be given honor, lest this immediately be an assault upon God and idolatry.”

 

Missing from Armstrong’s response is any notion of how a Protestant should honor Mary or how Luther and his contemporaries thought Mary should be honored. The following is a summarization from Melancthon’s Apology of the Augsburg Confession:

 

“The saints, and among them the blessed Mary, should be honored in three ways. One should be grateful to God for them. One should take advantage of their examples to strengthen one's own faith. One should imitate their faith and their actions in keeping with one's own calling.”[193]

 

Is this the complete picture of what Rome means by Marian Devotion? While I’m sure Mr. Armstrong would agree these are principles in harmony with Catholicism, he can’t possibly mean that these principles fully comprise Roman Catholic Marian piety. 

 

B. Luther’s Hymns about Mary

 

Armstrong informs us (via Fr. Peter M.J. Stravinskas) That Luther, “the most "Catholic" of [the Reformers] …thought that Mary should be held in honor in Christian life and worship, as evidenced by their maintenance of several Marian feasts, prayers and hymns.” Yes, Luther thought highly of Mary, said wonderful things about her, and even mentioned her in hymns. But again, note the absence of distinctly Catholic Marian praise in the following selections from Luther’s hymns, and the emphasis on Christ:

 

“And we believe in Jesus Christ, His own Son, our Lord and Master, Who beside the Father highest, Reigns   in equal might and glory. Born of Mary, virgin mother, By the Spirit’s operation, He was made our elder brother, That the lost might find salvation; Slain on the cross by wicked men, And raised by God to life again.[194]

“Whom all the world could not enwrap, Lieth he in Mary’s lap; A little child he now is grown, Who everything upholds alone. Kyrioleis.” [195]

“Come the heathen’s healing light, Humbly known a maiden’s child, Fill with wonder all the earth, God should grant it such a birth.   Not of flesh, nor of man’s blood, Was incarned the Word of God. By the Holy Ghost alone, Blossomed forth the virgin’s womb.  Maiden she was found with child, Chastity yet undefiled; Many a virtue from her shone, God was there as on his throne.  From the chamber of her womb, From the royal hall he came. Very man and God of grace, Forth he comes to run his race.  From the Father came his road, And returns again to God; Unto hell his road went down, Up then to the Father’s throne.  Equal with the Father, win, Vict’ry in the flesh o’er sin, Let the health which thou hast brought, In our mortal flesh be wrought.  Shine thy manger bright and clear, Sets the night a new star there; Darkness thence must keep away, Faith dwells ever in the day.  Honor unto God be done; Honor to his only Son; Honor to the Holy Ghost, Now, and ever, ending not. [196]

“Jesus we must now laud and sing, the maiden Mary’s son and king. Far as the blessed sun doth shine, and reaches to earth’s utmost line.  The blest Maker of all we view On a poor servant’s body drew, The flesh to save at flesh’s cost, Or else his creature would be lost.  From heaven high the godlike grace, In the chaste mother found a place; A secret pledge a maiden bore— Which nature never knew before. The tender heart, house modest, low, A temple of our God did grow; Whom not a man hath touched or known, By God’s word she with child is grown.  The noble mother hath brought forth, Whom Gabriel promised to the earth; Him John did greet in joyous way, While in his mother’s womb he lay.  Right poorly lies in hay the boy; Th’ hard manger caused him no annoy; A little milk made him content, Away who no bird hungry sent.  Therefore the heavenly choir is loud; The angels sing their praise to God, And tell poor men their flocks who keep, He’s come who makes and keeps the sheep.  Praise, honor, thanks, to thee be said, Christ Jesus, born of holy maid! With God, Father and Holy Ghost, Now and forever, ending not.[197]

In some instances, Luther took Mary out of popular hymns: “God the Father With Us Be”:

“This hymn of invocation of the Holy Trinity seems to be patterned after medieval pilgrims’ songs invoking the aid of the saints. Hymns that started, “St. Peter, with us be,” “Dear St. Nicholas, with us be,” or “St. Mary, with us be” were well known in the fifteenth century. Both words and music of such hymns to the saints are preserved in pre-Reformation sources… He retained the first five lines of the text with minor changes, replacing the appeal to the saints with an invocation of the three Persons of the Trinity, and he formed the concluding part differently, at least from those medieval versions that have been preserved.”[198]

 

The texts of the Crailshaim School Order, 1480, and of Luther (in Walter’s hymnal of 1524): [199]  

Crailshaim I480

Luther 1524

Virgin Mary with us be,

God the Father with us be,

Let us not fall to badness

Let us not fall to badness;

Make us from all sinning free,

Make us from all sinning free,

And help us die in gladness.

And help us die in gladness.

’Gainst the devil well us ware,

’Gainst the devil well us ware,

Mary Virgin undefiled.

 

Help us with the angels’ guild

[8 more lines]

So shall we sing: Alleluia.

Let us then sing: Alleluia.

 

Luther also changed “Would That The Lord Would Grant Us Grace”: “This Phrygian tune is an adaptation from an older German hymn to the Virgin “ Maria du bist Gnaden voli .”[200]  Eric Gritsch sums up Luther’s Christocentric Marian hymns:

 

“[Luther’s] hymns mention Mary, but usually only in connection with the lordship of Christ. Luther's favorite and autobiographical hymn, "Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice"…  is typical: Mary is mentioned, but not praised… Other hymns praise Mary's unique role in the incarnation… Thus Luther always mentioned Mary in the context of the christocentric theology that permeates the more than thirty hymns he composed for congregational singing.”[201]

 

C. Luther’s usage of the term “Veneration”

 

Rome distinguishes between kinds of worship. Mary can receive the highest form of worship/veneration, hyper-dulia, short of the worship of God. This type of worship is expressed in prayers, songs, ceremonies and pilgrimages. As I noted earlier, Luther abandoned the distinction between latria and dulia because biblically it refers to the same thing. I thought it would be interesting to do a little survey of the word “veneration” as used by Luther, to see if Luther accepted the Roman Catholic veneration (or praise) of the saints as proposed by Mr. Armstrong. Remember, in Roman Catholic theology, veneration is symbiotically linked to mediation. Armstrong says,

 

“[Luther] didn't feel compelled to create the absolute (and quite unbiblical) silly dichotomy that characterizes present-day Reformed thought and much of Protestantism, generally-speaking -- where no creature can ever be given honor, lest this immediately be an assault upon God and idolatry.”

 

I do not deny that Luther spoke favorably about Mary. To suggest that Luther’s “veneration” of Mary is nothing but Catholicism properly understood is mistaken.  Below is almost the entirety of references to the word “veneration” in Luther’s Works:

 

LW 12:284, “… a Franciscan venerates his rule and his St. Francis as an idol.”

 

LW 16:227, “the papists, having abandoned faith, have venerated sects, works designed to gain righteousness, vigils, cowls, and even their own lice,  invoking the aid of unknown saints, and have fallen not only away from God but in opposition to God.” 

 

LW 17:140, “The soldier thinks, “I shall venerate Saint Barbara;  she will preserve the sacraments for me three days.” This is the basic idea: idolatry is nothing else but an opinion apart from the Word of God.”

 

LW 23:136, “The Papists… confess that faith in Christ helps, but at the same time they state that the Lord did not exclude other methods. Thus they manufacture many ways that are to lead to eternal life, among which are intercession of the saints, the veneration of the Virgin Mary, the monastic vocation, and the observance of their ordinances. No, all these are of no avail for eternal life. Christ excludes them all; they are definitely rejected.”

 

LW 24:355, ““Behold, our papistic rabble… have brought it about that everything the pope has been able to decree, dream up, and put on parade—even open deception, such as indulgences, purgatory, pilgrimages, cowls, tonsures, the veneration of saints, etc.—is declared to have come from the Holy Spirit, even though they themselves have to admit that this is not found in the Gospel and that Christ has said nothing about it.”

 

LW 25:288, “Rude, puerile, and even hypocritical are those people who venerate the relics of the holy cross with the highest outward honor and then flee from and curse their sufferings and adversities.”

 

LW 25:324, “The Thomists, the Scotists, and the other schools act with the same temerity when they defend the writings and words of their founders with such zeal that they not only disdain to seek their spirit but actually quench it by their excessive desire to venerate them, thinking that it is enough if they merely retain the words even without the spirit.”

 

LW 34:351, 359, The faculty of Louvain held, “It is rightly done in the church, that we venerate and call upon the saints who are active with Christ in heaven, that they should pray for us. Through their merits also and intercession, Christ here gives us many things; otherwise he will not give. Through them he also performs many miracles on earth.”

Luther responded, “This one thing they have done rightly, that, Christ having been rejected, they may not be atheists altogether, they have invented for themselves new gods and call upon the dead, saints or not saints, that makes no difference to them.  [This shows] that, as the people is, such gods it shall have, according to the righteous judgment of God, whose Word they despise and blaspheme.  Here it would please to mock them with Elijah, “Cry aloud, for they are gods: they are musing, or they are busy, or they are on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” 

 

LW: 34:23-24, “What was the condition of your churches before our gospel came but a series of daily innovations rushing in one after another, in great number, like a cloudburst? One set up St. Anne,  another St. Christopher,  another St. George,  another St. Barbara,  another St. Sebastian,  another St. Catherine,  another perhaps the Fourteen Helpers in Need.  Who alone wants to recount the new kinds of saint veneration? Are not these innovations? Where were bishops and shouters who should not permit such innovations?

 

LW 34:54, “The things which have been practice and custom in the pretended church… Veneration of saints, some of whom were never born… Mary made a common idol with countless services, celebrations, fasts, hymns, and antiphons.”

 

 LW 34:20, “From this abomination have come all the other outrages (they had to come from it, too, and there was no way of warding them off), namely, the self-righteousness of so many of the monasteries and chapters, with their worship service, the sacrificial masses, purgatory, vigils, brotherhoods, pilgrimages, indulgences, fasts, veneration of saints, relics, poltergeists, and the whole parade of the hellish procession of the cross.”

 

LW 35: 198-201, “Thus the worship of saints shows itself to be nothing but human twaddle, man’s own invention apart from the word of God and the Scriptures. Since in the matter of divine worship, however, it is not proper for us to undertake anything without God’s command—whoever does so is tempting God—it is therefore neither to be advised nor tolerated that one should call upon the departed saints to intercede for him or teach others to call upon them…. It was exceedingly bitter for me to tear myself away from [the worship of] the saints, for I was steeped and fairly drowned in it. But the light of the gospel is now shining so clearly that henceforth no one has any excuse to remain in darkness.”

 

LW 38:159, “For, although we did have baptism, sacrament, and the word, they were nevertheless so perverted and obscured by human doctrine and abuse (when we had grown up and become more mature) that we could no longer glory in them, but had to comfort ourselves with strange masses, our own works, monkery, pilgrimages, veneration of the saints, and similar matters in a manner no different from the way in which the Turks and the Jews console themselves with their works and worship.”

 

Appendix C:

The Mariology of the Middle Ages (The Theological Climate Luther was born into)

 

In his book, Reformation of Church and Dogma (1300-1700) Volume 4, Jaroslav Pelikan provides and excellent, concise, conservative statement of the Mariological climate previous to the Reformation.  In The world Luther was born into, we find a “Mary” understood much differently than the woman we find in the New Testament. Mr. Armstrong takes issue with my description of Luther’s attack against Mariolatry. He says I’ve presented an “absurd anti-medievalist (and ultimately anti-Catholic) picture of the Christianity and piety of the Middle Ages.” He also says that I put forth “excesses in popular Catholic or "folk" piety are decried as if they represented Catholicism as a whole -- on the dogmatic level.” That Pelikan below describes Medieval “Catholicism as a whole” rich with applying titles and attributes of Christ (and the Holy Spirit) to Mary is beyond dispute. I chose Pelikan to avoid any charge of employing “absurd anti-medievalist (and ultimately anti-Catholic) picture of the Christianity and piety of the Middle Ages…”.

 

“To no area of Christian doctrine had the medieval development added more than it did to the communication of grace through the saints (especially through—and to—the Virgin Mary) and through the sacraments (especially through the Eucharist). Yet it is indicative of the doctrinal pluralism of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries that these two media of communicating grace, and particularly the first, should have predominated in the controversies and in the constructive developments of the period. Both of these doctrines, moreover, involved the determination of what was authentically Augustinian teaching.

 

During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the devotion to Mary had expressed itself in a vast body of literature, theological as well as poetic; yet the doctrinal outcome of the development had been anything but conclusive. Bernard of Clairvaux, celebrated as the most ardent of the devotees of the Virgin and as one who was privy to her innermost secrets, had left unresolved the problem of how her unique holiness was to be squared with the universality of original sin. When Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure died in 1274, the problem was still not much nearer to being settled; and the legend that Duns Scotus was born in that year, historically inaccurate though it was, may perhaps be seen as the expression of historic contribution to the doctrine of Mary, for it was he "who fired France for Mary without spot." The dogma that was eventually to become official in 1854 had not yet taken shape when the period covered by the present volume of this work began, but by the time this period was over there was very little of substance to be added. Taking their lead from Scotus rather than primarily from their earlier master, Bonaventure, Franciscan theologians became the champions of the new Mariology, while many Dominicans, partly in defense of their master Thomas Aquinas, opposed it, although they, too, accepted it by the conclusion of this period, explaining that it was necessary to go beyond Thomas, as well as beyond Bernard and Bonaventure, in this matter.

 

As even a sampling will suggest, the traditional themes of patristic and medieval Mariology continued to figure prominently in this period: the ancient parallelism of Eve and Mary (which permitted the inversion "Eva/Ave"); the conciliar definition of Mary as Theotokos; and the identification of Mary (as well as of the church) as the "woman clothed with the sun" in Revelation 12:1. Among  her many titles—such as  "the venerable mother of Jesus, Queen of heaven, Ruler of the world"—"Queen of mercies" seemed to hold a special place because of its emphasis on her care for mankind. Like their predecessors, the writers of this period considered the relation of virginity and maternity in Mary, concluding that her divine maternity was an even greater good than her perfect virginity. The Ave Maria, which ranked alongside the Lord's Prayer itself as the holiest among all prayers, continued to serve as a text for an exposition of her prerogatives. Among these prerogatives as enumerated in the Ave Maria, the phrase "full of grace" pointed to the quality that set her apart even from the greatest of the other saints; she was, in fact, set apart from all angels as well as from all humanity. Although Stephen had also been called "full of grace" in Acts 6:8, Mary had possessed this fullness "in the supreme state possible for a mortal," perhaps already during her lifetime but certainly at its end. On the other hand, it was also necessary to stress that the fullness of grace predicated of Christ in such passages as John 1:14 set him apart also from his mother, since hers was a grace that had to be received before it was given to others while his grace was his own, and "without measure," by virtue of his divine nature.

 

The absolute necessity for a qualitative distinction between Christ and Mary served as a restraint on a tendency that had already become visible in the attribution to her of the title "mediatrix," which during this period found an eloquent spokesman in Thomas a Kempis. He called Mary "the expiator of all the sins I have committed" and "my only hope"; it was through her mediation that all mercy was granted, and through her intercession that all prayers were heard. Although Christ in his final hours of need had not sought her solace, mortals were to do so. Therefore, he said, "do not seek only Jesus," but "Jesus at your right hand and Mary at your left." Various titles, prerogatives, functions, and scriptural passages that had originally belonged to Christ were now by extension being "transferred" to Mary. One of the most important proof texts in the early debates over the Trinity had been Proverbs 8:22-31, whose designation of personified Wisdom as supreme among God's creatures had been a crux for orthodox doctrine; but now this passage was a reference to Mary, who was the crown of creation. Transposing the words of John 3:16, a thirteenth-century theologian could say: "Mary so loved the world, that is, sinners, that she gave her only Son for the salvation of the world." The words of Matthew 20:28 about Christ's giving his life for the redemption of many pertained also to Mary as, for that matter, christological proof texts such as Philippians 2:5-11, Hebrews 1: 1-2, and even Matthew 11:27, pertained to Francis.

 

Nor was it only the function of Christ that Mary took over, but after his ascension into heaven "the Virgin remains on earth, and, together with the Holy Spirit as Comforter and Teacher, she herself becomes the comforter and teacher of the disciples." She had been the teacher of Joseph about the details of the incarnation; and at the crucifixion, when all the disciples wavered in their faith, she alone had been "the total church and the total faith of the Christian church." The promise, "Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy," fulfilled at Pentecost, meant that Mary had joined with the apostles in prophesying. Therefore she could be said to have obtained the apostolate, too, indeed to have exceeded all the apostles, prophets, and philosophers in her knowledge. As "the teacher of the truth," she had revealed to the evangelists, specifically to Luke, those parts of the Gospel history that only she knew. She also acted as a "consultant" for the compilation of the Apostles' Creed. For Christ had "undoubtedly" made a special appearance to her after the resurrection, not mentioned in the New Testament, before appearing to anyone else. "Being totally filled with the Holy Spirit," she thus served as the teacher of the apostles and of the entire church. In fact, Mary was "the repository of all the books of the Old Testament and of the Gospels, all of which she knew completely." Since the New Testament forbade women to speak in the church or to teach and have authority over men, not even Mary was permitted to do so. When she revealed the facts of the life of Christ to the apostles and evangelists, she did not preach publicly and did not usurp the priestly character, but her position as mediatrix was "more eminent" than that of any apostle or any priest. Translating the name of Mary as "illuminator," a fourteenth-century manual of sacred rhetoric described her as the mediatrix who illuminated the eyes of the preacher to let him understand and interpret Scripture better.

 

Therefore "just as the Son is the Mediator between God and men, so also Our Lady is the mediatrix to the Son." But this meant that she was, "as the most blessed of all creatures, in conjunction with her Son, truly the mediatrix between all creatures and God, so that she is rightly called Queen of heaven, indeed, Queen of the world." For Christ had put all things into the hands of his mother, as he had received all things from his Father. Through the communication of properties between the two natures of Christ she had received "maternal authority over God," with the result that God was subject to her as a son is subject to his mother. It was not going too far, therefore, to say that Mary was to be "adored" and to salute her as "the goddess of love, of love not impure but divine." The reason cited for not calling her "goddess of goddesses" was that this epithet might seem to exclude sinners and demons from her authority. At least two writers of this period, citing an otherwise unknown source identified only as "Dionysius," went so far as to declare that if the authority of the faith had not prohibited it, the Virgin would be "adored as God because of the magnitude of her glory." So Transcendent had that glory become that not only was her mother Anna being invoked as "advocate," but Mary as the mediatrix between Christ the Mediator and mankind was herself being addressed through a mediator, her husband Joseph, who was asked to "render thy spouse, the most blessed Virgin, propitious to us, and obtain from her that we, unworthy though we are, may be adopted as her beloved children. " To the possible objection that such a stress on Mary would "do injury to the Son" the response was a quotation from John of Damascus that "honor to the Mother redounds to the Son."

 

For many of these proponents of an exalted doctrine of Mary she also served, with her Son, as the supreme example of total poverty. So complete was her renunciation of worldly possessions that she had immediately distributed to the poor the gifts brought by the Magi. "As having nothing, and yet possessing everything," she gave up the usufruct of the riches she had through her Son, preferring to share his poverty just as she also shared his suffering. In the devotional and Lenten literature of this period, and eventually also in its doctrinal reflection, it became a concern "to contemplate above all the sorrow of the heart of Mary and to emphasize its union in distress with the heart of Christ." The Stabat Mater, which probably arose around the beginning of this period, is only the best-known example of the devotional literature dealing with the lamentation of the Virgin, as is the Pieta of its portrayal in the graphic arts. In their doctrine of Mary, these depictions, whether artistic or theological, manifested a counterpoint between her role as mediatrix, as the one who understood without wavering the mission of her Son and the meaning of his cross, and her purely human doubt and grief as she contemplated her tragic loss—a counterpoint that had, ever since the New Testament, been characteristic of devotional and theological consideration of the sufferings of Christ himself. The stress upon the experiences of Mary drew upon, and contributed to, the new subjectivity associated with Franciscan devotion and with the growing attention to the Augustine of the Confessions.

 

Frequently the transcendent glory of Mary already "in this world [in via]" appeared as a corollary of her transcendent glory "in the world to come [in patria]" after she had been assumed into heaven at the end of her earthly life. It was fitting that the mediatrix between God and man should share not only in her Son's crucifixion but also in his glory. She was enthroned in heaven far above all the other saints, above the several hierarchies of angels, indeed above all creation, for she led them all into the glories of heaven. She was exalted higher than the heavens, having all the world under her feet, and for the sake of her Son she was clothed with all reverence and honor. Two questions that had attended the doctrine of the assumption still remained unanswered: the question of her death and possible resurrection, and the related question of whether she had been assumed in body as well as soul. Theologians of quite varying positions agreed that she had in fact died before being assumed, while the chronological precedence of the resurrection of Christ before that of any of the saints made a belief in her resurrection difficult in spite of the attractiveness of the idea. Those who held to the resurrection of Mary did so in order to affirm that her assumption was also in the body. Others, less inclined to speculate, preferred to leave the matter open. The stock argument from silence, that if Mary had not been assumed also according to the body she would have left the relics of her body on earth as lesser saints had, continued to be used to support an assumption according to both body and soul (as it would be in the official definition of the doctrine of the assumption in 1950).”[202]

 

Endnotes and Secondary Comments

 



[1] Armstrong then offered a counter-response to this paper.

 

[2] Currently, I have three different versions of Mr. Armstrong’s response to my paper, varying in layout and content.  The copies of Mr. Armstrong’s response I am using are the two versions posted to his site on April 24, 2003 and the later updated version from April 26, 2003, found at: http://ic.net/~erasmus/RAZ77.HTM.

 

[3] My opinion that Armstrong is “extreme” in his view on Luther’s Mariology echoes the insightful words of Catholic Scholar William Cole: “Has the Catholic evaluation of Luther's Marian attitude escaped the pitfalls of extremism? A cursory examination would lead one to believe that it has not. Along with Protestants, Catholic theologians of this century, especially the Germans in closer contact with evangelical thought, were rediscovering Luther's attitude toward Mary… One of the most renowned, if superseded, commentators on Luther in this century was Hartmann Grisar. He presents Luther's attitude toward Mary in a very positive vein” [“Was Luther a Devotee of Mary?” Marian Studies XXI (1970), 104-105].  Mr. Armstrong is quite fond of Hartmann Grisar, and perhaps his opinions echo Grisar’s material.

 

[4] Mr. Armstrong responds to my main theses by saying, “I have never stated otherwise.” In a later version of his paper, Mr. Armstrong has changed his mind and said, “In some minor respects this is true, but not as a generalization.” Only he can know which one he actually means, since he seemed fairly sure of both opinions. Armstrong does seem genuinely confused on this point. Toward the end of his response, he approvingly quotes Thomas O’Meara: “Luther's Marian theological evolution in the years 1513-1527 has its own coherence, but the reformer's thought is definitely [sic] changing, and not always in the same direction… During any discussion of Luther and the Blessed Virgin we must keep uppermost in our minds that there was development in his ideas, a change more or less drastic in each aspect of Marian theology. This development had its beginning in Catholicism; it passes through contradictions, struggles, and uncertainties, and terminates in a new Marian viewpoint, one which Luther decided was Christocentric, biblical, unexaggerated, and edifying.”

My opinion echoes that of Eric Gritsch: “Luther's view of Mary evolved in the context of his work as a biblical theologian who encountered the intense late medieval cult of the saints and Mary. Throughout his career as a priest-professor-reformer, Luther preached, taught, and argued about the veneration of Mary with a verbosity that ranged from childlike piety to sophisticated polemics. His views are intimately linked to his christocentric theology and its consequences for liturgy and piety.” Eric Gritsch, “The Views of Luther and Lutheranism on the Veneration of Mary,” found in: H. George Anderson, J. Francis Stafford, Joseph A. Burgess (editors) The One Mediator, The Saints, and Mary, Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1992), 235.

 

Similarly, Catholics note that Luther’s Mariology was a changing process once he was thrown out of the Church. In the Catholic book, Mariology Vol. 2, it is pointed out, “Many may be surprised at the…tribute to the Mother of God penned by Martin Luther even after his complete separation from the Catholic Church… However, Luther was not long out of the Church (1522) before he began to change his attitude toward the Mother of God. He objects to the special honor being paid to her, because it derogates from Christ who alone is our Savior. Luther still calls Mary the Mother of God, but only "because we cannot all be Mothers of God; otherwise she is on the same level with us." [Juniper B. Carol (ed.) Mariology Volume 2 (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Company, 1957), 194].

William Cole also notes that it is fundamental to an any study of Luther’s Mariology to keep this in mind: “There is a connected series of facts which seem so obvious that they should not need to be recalled except that experience has shown that in practice authors tend to forget them: the gradual evolution of Luther's reformational and Mariological thought, his own religious personality, his personal theological struggle, and even the contradictions which appear here and there in Luther's writings and which seem to have been no great disturbance for him. The point, in short, is that there is not just one, but many Luthers.” (Marian Studies XXI, 107-108). The idea of “many Luther’s” should not be misconstrued to think of Luther as a schizophrenic, or changing from day to day. I find the constant theme of solus Christus in Luther’s thought, and then seeing Luther’s theology gradually change as that theme pervaded his life’s work.

 

[5] When Mr. Armstrong says “Luther's thought was the very antithesis of the systematic and orderly teaching of, say, John Calvin,” Luther scholar Gordon Rupp has made an interesting comment in regards to this type of comparison:  “It seems to us no great compliment when disciples of Calvin emphasize his claim never to have changed his mind and more preferable to follow Newman’s slogan ‘Growth is the only evidence of life’. We must not shirk the ultimate question- ‘but had he ceased to grow’?” [Yule (editor), Luther: Theologian for Catholics and Protestants, (Scotland: T & T Clark Ltd., 1985), 76].

 

[6]  While evaluating an argument of Luther’s in version #2, Armstrong says, “This is a superb, classic example of one of the many, many straw men Luther constructed concerning Catholic doctrine and theology, that he could then proceed to mock as idiotic and unbiblical, and triumphantly "vanquish" -- a tendency which worsened as he got older (particularly and notoriously in Table Talk).”

 

Catholic Scholar Thomas O’Meara has pointed out something perhaps Armstrong overlooks: “…Catholics are using inaccurately rhetorical arguments when they make the value of Luther’s theology and reform depend upon his table-talk language. Rhetoric appeals to the mind- but it appeals through emotions. It reaches the mind not through a purely intellectual act, examining the case thoroughly and logically, but by leaps and bounds, driven by emotions and will, faculties incapable of a calm judgment of what is true.” [Thomas O’Meara, Mary in Protestant and Catholic Theology, (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1966), 5]. For a more complete examination of the futility of judging Luther’s theology by its rhetorical content, see the article from Catholic scholar Joseph Lortz: "The Basic elements of Luther's Style", “Catholic Scholars Dialogue with Luther”(Jared Wicks, S.J, Editor. 1970, Loyola University Press).

 

[7] Roland Bainton, Here I Stand, (New York: Mentor Books, 1950) 300.

 

[8] Found in: Yule, George (editor) Luther: Theologian for Catholics and Protestants (Scotland: T & T Clark Ltd., 1985). 

 

[9] Yule (editor), Luther: Theologian for Catholics and Protestants, 75-76.

 

[10] Eric W. Gritsch, “Embodiment of Unmerited Grace” found in, Alberic Stacpoole, Mary’s Place in Christian Dialogue (Connecticut: Morehouse-Barlow Co., Inc., 1982) 136. George Tavard also gives a good example of this method working in Luther’s Mariology: “…the believer’s paradoxical relation to Mary implies both forgetting and remembering: ‘I am to accept the child and his birth and forget the Mother, as far as this is possible, although her part cannot be forgotten, for where there is a birth there must also be a mother.’ The Mother must be forgotten since all her honor goes to her Son and to his Father in heaven. ‘We dare not put our faith in the mother but only in the fact that the child was born’ ‘I see nothing in heaven and on earth but this child.’ Yet the mother cannot be forgotten since no Son is motherless. But when I speak to her I can say: ‘Mary you did not bear this child for yourself alone.[ George Tavard, The Thousand Faces of the Virgin (Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1996), 113]. Again, Lortz’s article "The Basic elements of Luther's Style" explores Luther’s use of paradox at length.

 

[11] This is the conclusion of Luther Scholar Robert Kolb when analyzing the over-arching thrust of Luther’s theology. See Robert Kolb, The Theology of Martin Luther (cassette series) by The Institute of Theological Studies, Grand Rapids Michigan, 1994).

 

[12] Mr. Armstrong says, “In light of the context of his entire paper, it is clear that Mr. Swan is skeptical of such a description of early Protestant views; he does not accept it.” It is clear to me, that Mr. Armstrong missed that my paper was specifically on Luther, and that I specifically said that Luther had a Mariology.

 

[13] Mr. Armstrong notes in his web paper that Luther’s lifelong belief in the Immaculate Conception is disputed, but he falls on the side of those who affirm Luther’s lifelong adherence to it. On the same web page, Mr. Armstrong fails to offer any proof that Luther held to Mary’s bodily assumption, but affirms that Luther held it.

 

[14] Mr. Armstrong says, “I have never maintained that Luther was "evil" or essentially a "bad" man, nor have I ever denied his good intentions.” One wonders then what the point of his article, “Martin Luther: Beyond Mythology to Historical Fact” actually is. Armstrong creates a picture of a very morally “evil” man, but then says he doesn’t think Luther was “evil or essentially bad.” This is an inconsistent argument.

 

[15] See Mr. Armstrong’s web article: “Martin Luther: Beyond Mythology to Historical Fact.” The first quote is from Mr. Armstrong, the second and third are from Henri Daniel-Rops, and Phillip Hughs, the fourth from Christopher Dawson.

 

[16] To further complete Mr. Armstrong’s picture of Luther, he asserts:

 

I do continue to maintain that [Luther] had some fairly serious psychological problems, and I am not alone in this opinion, by any means. I would suspect that the majority of Luther historians would agree that he suffered from some major (perhaps some would say "minor") psychological maladies, tendencies, or whatever one might call them.” (from Armstrong’s article: Did Martin Luther Regard the (Roman) Catholic Church as a Non-Christian, Apostate Institution)

 

I admit to not searching every corner of Mr. Armstrong’s web site to see exactly what he means by this.  However, It is common knowledge in Luther studies that Roman Catholic scholarship has made gross unfair charges against Luther’s psychology fairly consistently up until Joseph Lortz’s book, The Reformation in Germany.  It is possible to trace the negative influence of Cochlaeus on Catholic Luther studies. Perhaps the lowest points in Catholic studies on Luther are the works of Denifle, Grisar, O’Hare, and the Catholic Encyclopedia. Jaroslav Pelikan has observed, “Roman Catholic historians have described Luther as a man with a mind like a cesspool and a mouth to match”( The Riddle of Roman Catholicism, 196).  I plan on doing a paper at some time delving into these authors, and showing why they are not considered worthy approaches to Luther.  Some of my research on Hartmann Grisar is included in this paper. 

 

[17] David Wright (editor), Chosen By God: Mary in Evangelical Perspective (London: Marshall Pickering, 1989)  164.

 

[18]Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII, 236.  Gritsch says further, “There is a growing consensus among Luther scholars that Luther's reflections on Mary were grounded in a christocentric theology from the beginning.” Gritsch lists these scholars on this point: Brunnero Gherardini… implies that Luther's christocentric theology made his Mariology defective,” Diifel.. states that Luther moved from Mariology to Christology;” Horst-Dietrich Preuss: "To Luther Mary is the embodied doctrine of grace” (380).

 

Catholic scholar Jared Wicks has pointed out that Catholics can benefit from Luther’s Christocentric approach: “Christology is clearly the place of the central theological ferment of our day. Catholic theologians are producing a host of new presentations of the person, message, and meaning of Christ the Lord. Luther can serve here as a forceful reminder that soteriology, the doctrine of Christ's saving work, is the center of all Christian words and teaching. Faith, for Luther, focuses sharply on the redemptive mystery, on Jesus' life and death for us and for our salvation” (Jared Wicks, Luther and His Spiritual Legacy,  (Michael Glazier, Inc., 1983), 27-28.

 

[19]Alberic Stacpoole, Mary’s Place in Christian Dialogue, 133.

 

[20]Perhaps Mr. Armstrong could point to something as equally vague from the sixteenth century (or prior) as the following offered by Vatican II: “The sacred synod teaches this Catholic doctrine advisedly and at the same time admonishes all the sons of the Church that the cult, especially the liturgical cult, of the Blessed Virgin, be generously fostered, and that the practices and exercises of devotion towards her, recommended by the teaching authority of the Church in the course of the centuries be highly esteemed, and that those decrees, which were given in the early days regarding the cult images of Christ, the Blessed Virgin and the saints, be religiously observed. But it strongly urges theologians and preachers of the word of God to be careful to refrain as much from all false exaggeration as from too summary an attitude in considering the special dignity of the Mother of God.” 

 

Mr. Armstrong seems to be aware that few doctrinal standards on Mariology existed in the sixteenth century.  After quoting Melanchthon’s popular estimation of Marian piety, Armstrong says, “Note that Melanchthon decries the "popular estimation" of Mary and corrupt practices. Indeed these occurred, and continue to in some bizarre, fringe, heterodox circles (one can certainly argue about the extent of such corruptions in the Middle Ages and currently). He does not cite an official Catholic document which would contradict the above, for one simple reason: none exists. Orthodox Catholics agree with this statement (then and now, and always). For examples of how Protestants today -- and often throughout history --, have grossly misinterpreted and mischaracterized even orthodox Catholic Marian piety…”.  Mr. Armstrong and I have a deep disagreement of, not only the extent of Marian abuse, but how the “orthodox Catholics” during the sixteenth century understood Marian abuse.  Armstrong needs to at least produce some standard by which to judge sixteenth century Marian piety by, as well as informing his readers how readily available the Catholic Church made that standard available. Hopefully, Armstrong will not take offense by this, but will rather better document his counter-responses.

 

[21]Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1992), 26.  Max Thurian notes similarly,  “At the Reformation anything to do with Marian doctrine was considered as being part of free theological opinion, so that Orthodox Christology should not be comprised by this or that opinion.” Max Thurian, Mary Mother of the Lord Figure of the Church (London: the Faith Press, 1963), 23.

Catholic scholar William Cole concurs, “The latest French ecumenical work on Mary claims that it is not astonishing that the Reformers showed such little interest in Mariology, since, "in many respects it was an open and disputed question.” Preoccupied above all with the restoration of preaching the Gospel, they showed less concern for a yet "unfixed" Marian doctrine than for the practice of the Marian cult which seemed to them mixed with superstitions and contradictory to the glory which belonged to God and Christ above” [Marian Studies, Volume XXI, 1970, 110].  Cole says also, “…there is the open-ended situation, as far as Mariological dogma is concerned. It is certainly not of minor moment to be aware of Mariological edifices of later centuries. Certain important declarations about Mary were three and four centuries away from solemn definition. While it may be true that scholars are aware of the theological note according to the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption in the l6th century, yet it seems right to assume that there may be a certain unawareness of the "suppleness" permitted in the area of Mariological thought (110).

 

[22] Chosen By God: Mary in Evangelical Perspective,161-162. Similarly, Catholic historian Hilda Graef points out, “…the Mariology of pre-Reformation times had really in many cases become Mariolatry, and needed to be pruned from excesses which could only lead to a debased form of Christianity among the people who were encouraged to place the blessed Virgin beside or even above God” Hilda Graef, Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion Vol. I (New York: Sheed and Ward) 318.

 

[23] Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII, 23. I would question on what basis one evaluates dulia and latria in the sixteenth century.

[24] Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII, 29. Luther relates an interesting account of his dealings with “elite educated Catholics” in LW47: 45-46: “Furthermore, how will you endure their terrible idolatries [of the Papists]? It was not enough that they venerated the saints and praised God in them, but they actually made them into gods. They put that noble child, the mother Mary, right into the place of Christ. They fashioned Christ into a judge and thus devised a tyrant for anguished consciences, so that all comfort and confidence was transferred from Christ to Mary, and then everyone turned from Christ to his particular saint. Can anyone deny this? Is it not true? Did we not all, alas, at one time try this and experience it? Are not books extant—especially those of the shabby Barefoot Friars and of the Preaching Friars  —which teem with idolatries, such as the Marialia, Stellaria, Rosaria, Coronaria , and they may as well be Diabolaria and Satanaria .  Still there is no sign of repentance or improvement, but they obstinately and impudently insist that all this must be defended, and they ask for your body and life for its protection. Here I must call attention to an incident that occurred at the diet in Augsburg, to show what a precious reason they have for such holy idolatry. When the article regarding the invocation of the saints was being discussed in the committee, Dr. Eck cited the words found in Genesis 48 [: 16 ], where Jacob says of Ephraim and Manasseh, “And my name shall be invoked upon those children.”   When, after many words by Master Philip, John Brenz   said casually that nothing about calling on the saints could be found in Scripture, Dr. Cochlaeus,  to expedite matters, blurted out—profound thinker that he is—that the saints had not been invoked in the Old Testament because at the time they were not yet in heaven but in the anteroom of hell. Then my gracious lord, Duke John Frederick, duke of Saxony, etc., tightened the noose on both of them and said to Dr. Eck: “Dr. Eck, there you find the verse answered which you quoted from the Old Testament.” So sure are they of themselves, so nicely do they agree with one another—these precious writers of contradictions!  The one says that the saints were not invoked in the Old Testament, the other says that they were. They cite verses from the Old Testament, just as if we did not know that God performed all the great miracles in the Old Testament for the sake of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as he himself often declares, and that he did not perform one-half, indeed, not one-tenth, as many in the New Testament for the sake of any saint. Like fools, they spit out the first thing that comes into their mouth. Yet all this must be accounted true and be the basis of the articles of faith. All of this goes unrepented; moreover, it is defended. People are condemned and executed over it, and for this you are to war and fight, etc.”

 

[25] David Wright, Chosen By God: Mary in Evangelical Perspective, 163. Eric Gritsch likewise observes, “The young Luther was nurtured in a spiritual environment that stressed the cult of Mary either in personal piety or in liturgical celebration… Marian devotions were intense at the monastery of the Augustinian monks in Erfurt. Some of the theologians there whom Luther revered, such as John of Paltz, based the assertion that Mary was Christ's co-redemptrix on the doctrine of Mary's Immaculate Conception.”(Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII, 235-236). William Cole comments, “As an Augustinian monk Luther found himself in a circle in which the Marian cult was very highly honored and practiced.  In Mary's honor the Augustinians wore a white robe and scapular. A legend of the order recounted that St. Monica had received this habit from Mary herself. Everyday the Augustinians greeted Mary in the afternoon with a hymn and there even existed among them a fraternity of the Cincture of Our Lady. When Luther came to Wittenberg, he encountered the giant Catholic Church which supposedly contained among other things pieces of hair, the garments, the mantle of Our Lady, and even wax from the candle she held in her hand as she lay dying” (Marian Studies XXI, 114).

[26] Charles Guignebert, Ancient, Medieval and Modern Christianity (New York: University Books, 1961) 386-387. Catholic scholar Jared Wicks notes the “clamorings for reform” within the Church around 1500. Note the absence of anything to do with Mariolatry in his comments: “These proposals were in general agreement on the abuses to be rooted out by reform. Some of the frequent headings were the following: papal neglect of pastoral responsibilities and excesses of luxury at the papal court; avaricious cumulation of offices by high churchmen; long absences which impede bishops from supervising pastoral work and morals in their dioceses; appointment of ill-prepared bishops and pastors; ignorance, vice, and involvement in business by parish priests; breaches of poverty in the religious orders; and superstitious reliance on sorcery and talismans by the laity” (Jared Wicks, Luther and His Spiritual Legacy, 45-46).

 

[27]Scholasticism and Nominalism fed Marian excess. Recall that Luther’s spiritual grandfather, the great Nominalist theologian Gabriel Biel, had a strong excessive Marian piety, particularly in Mary’s role as mediator. Gritsch notes in Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII, that Melancthon agreed with Luther’s Christocentric stance, particularly against the backdrop of Biel: “[Melancthon] had encountered liturgical practices, particularly in formulas of absolution, that were based on the view that the invocation of Mary and the saints is a divinely instituted order” (241). “Melanchthon's source was Gabriel Biel's Exposition of the Canon of the Mass as well as contemporary worship handbooks” (382).

 

[28]Owen Chadwick, The Reformation (London: Penguin Books, 1964), 23-24. Emphasis mine. An interesting point is similarly raised by Jaroslav Pelikan in regard to modern elite Roman Catholic theologians: “The real evil is in the elevation of ... naive piety to the status of a system and in the use of advertising tricks to 'merchandise' the cult of Mary. The simple and unreflecting Ave Maria of a South American peon is one thing, and a multi-volume theological opus on 'the prerogatives of the Blessed Virgin Mary' is quite another thing. The theologians and bishops of the Church, who ought to watch and warn the faithful of the excesses in such piety, are actually the ones who encourage the excesses."(emphasis mine). [Jaroslav Pelikan The Riddle of Roman Catholicism (New York: Abingdon Press, 1959, 140.]

 

[29] Leopold von Ranke,  History of the Reformation in Germany (volume 1), (New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co, 1966) 119-120.

 

[30] “The death knell to the traditional Roman prayer books was struck by a bull issued by Pius V on March 11, 1571. Influenced by the reforms of the Council of Trent, the pope placed under strict censorship the same prayer books Luther had named so contemptuously in an introductory letter to his own prayer book in 1522.”Luther's works, vol. 43 : Devotional Writings II (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.) (Philadelphia: Fortress Press), 10.

 

[31] Hilda Graef, The Devotion To Our Lady (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1963, 66.

 

[32]  Thomas O’Meara, Mary in Protestant and Catholic Thought, 112-113.

 

[33] Thomas O’Meara, Mary in Protestant and Catholic Thought, 114. Interestingly, Both O’Meara and I use the incident of Luther’s cutting his leg with a sword in 1503 to document Luther’s normal Marian piety.

 

[34] William Cole, Marian Studies XXI, 115.

 

[35] From my Paper, “Martin Luther’s Marian Theology.” William Cole refers to this event and says, “This experience shows clearly how steepred Luther already was in the piety of the Church” (Marian Studies XXI, 112).

 

[36] Thomas O’Meara, Mary in Protestant and Catholic Thought, 112. O’Meara doesn’t go far enough with Luther. Luther said,  “The papists took the invocation of saints from the heathen, who divided God into numberless images and idols, and ordained to each its particular office and work… The invocation of saints is a most abominable blindness and heresy; yet the papists will not give it up. The pope's greatest profit arises from the dead; for the calling on dead saints brings him infinite sums of money and riches, far more than he gets from the living. But thus goes the world; superstition, unbelief, false doctrine, idolatry, obtain more credit and profit than the upright, true, and pure religion” [Martin Luther, The Table-Talk (Philadelphia: The United Lutheran Publication House), 88-89.]

[37] From my Paper, “Martin Luther’s Marian Theology.” William Cole also is aware of this: “We might add that Luther's own religious personality contained two sources of his recasting of medieval Mariology. The first was his suffering under popular devotional abuses. Superstition and exaggerations in the veneration of Mary were not difficult to discover, and Luther felt them keenly. He went to Rome in early 1510, and as he made the usual pilgrimages through the city, he was shown some milk from the Virgin's breast and some of Mary's hair” (Marian Studies XXI, 108). It seems the Church couldn’t even control correct Marian piety in Rome.

 

[38] Catholic historian Hilda Graef notes that Luther retained a “certain” devotion to Mary, ( The Devotion To Our Lady, 66)  but denies as an “unwarranted exaggeration” that, “it can hardly be said of [Luther] that "his Marian piety is as strong and warm as that of the medieval clients of Mary.” [ Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion Vol. II, (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1965) 7]. 

 

[39] LW 51:375-376, “Therefore, when we preach faith, that we should worship nothing but God alone, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, as we say in the Creed: “I believe in God the Father almighty and in Jesus Christ,” then we are remaining in the temple at Jerusalem. Again, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him” “You will find him in a manger”. He alone does it. But reason says the opposite: What, us? Are we to worship only Christ? Indeed, shouldn’t we also honor the holy mother of Christ? She is the woman who bruised the head of the serpent.  Hear us, Mary, for try Son so honors thee that he can refuse thee nothing. Here Bernard went too far in his “Homilies on the Gospel ‘ Missus est Angelus .’ ”  God has commanded that we should honor the parents; therefore I will call upon Mary. She will intercede for me with the Son, and the Son with the Father, who will listen to the Son. So you have the picture of God as angry and Christ as judge; Mary shows to Christ her breast and Christ shows his wounds to the wrathful Father. That’s the kind of thing this comely bride, the wisdom of reason cooks up: Mary is the mother of Christ, surely Christ will listen to her; Christ is a stern judge, therefore I will call upon St. George and St. Christopher. No, we have been by God’s command baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, just as the Jews were circumcised. Therefore, just as the Jews set up all over the land their own self-chosen shrines, as if Jerusalem were too narrow, so we also have done. As a young man must resist lust and an old man avarice, so reason is by nature a harmful whore. But she shall not harm me, if only I resist her. Ah, but she is so comely and glittering. That’s why there must be preachers who will point people to the catechism: I believe in Jesus Christ, not in St. George or St. Christopher, for only of Christ is it said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world”; not of Mary or the angels. The Father did not speak of Gabriel or any others when he cried from heaven, “Listen to him.”

[40] William Cole provides the example of Bishop Daly of Ardagh who similarly used Luther’s words about Mary from the last Wittenberg sermon to prove Luther lifelong devotion to Mary. Cole indicates that Daly’s study was an example of a “simplistic, uncritical, one-sided evaluation[s] of Luther’s Marian stance…”  (Marian Studies XXI, 98-99).

Similarly, one cannot help noticing the similarities between Armstrong and the Jesuit Albert Ebneter that William Cole describes: “Perhaps we can close our listing of representative Catholic theologians of the present day with one who is considered typical of the way in which Luther's Mariological attitude is considered from the Catholic side. The Jesuit, Albert Ebneter, in an essay entitled "Luther's Image of Mary," speaks of an anti-Marian prejudice prevalent throughout the world of Protestantism today and thinks that a consideration of the Mariological attitude of Luther would be a surprise for Protestants and Catholics alike. He then gives positive declarations of Luther concerning the Immaculate Conception and not surprisingly refers to the invocation of Mary by Luther in his explanation of the Magnificat. Throughout his short essay he induces numerous examples to support his stand that Luther preserved a veneration for Mary to the very end of his life.”

 

Cole though criticizes Ebneter (via Dufel), in a way I would criticize Armstrong: “[Ebneter] has been severely criticized by men such as Hans Dufel for exaggerations of the import of certain statements of Luther and for failing to take into account the entire context of Luther's declaration. For example, when Ebneter says that Luther apparently had no difficulty speaking about the queenship of Mary, Dufel replies that is not correct because the reformer never used the term of heavenly Queen in the Roman Catholic sense and this is clear from the very explanation of the Magnificat (which Ebneter had cited) and the preaching of Sept. 8, 1522, in which Luther commenting on the Salve Regma asked "Is this not doing a dishonor to Christ that one gives to a 'creature what belongs to God alone?" And Diifel is claiming that in the context that the idea of dominion or reign over people belongs to Christ alone according to Luther's thought.”  (Marian Studies, XXI, 106-107).

 

[41] LW 9:71. Luther also is quoted as saying “the distinction between hyperdulia and dulia was for him a matter of words” [Juniper B. Carol (ed.) Mariology Volume 3 (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Company, 1957) 425].

 

[42] Robert Herndon Fife, The Revolt of Martin Luther (New York: Columbia University Press, 1957), 123. Luther’s quote is from, Martin Luther, “Sermon of May 21, 1537,” WA XLV, 86 quoted in Robert Herndon Fife, The Revolt of Martin Luther, 123.  William cole concurs: “[Luther] refers to certain Marian practices of his youth such as vowing to fast on bread and water on Saturday for the Blessed Virgin" and calling upon Mary and the saints for help, and judges them very harshly. His vow, he claims was "made, not to God, or to Mary, but to the devil, because it was not commanded," and invoking Mary for help came about "because I was not able to know that Christ could help me as well as the mother. I even looked upon him as a Judge" (Marian Studies XXI, 112-113).

 

[43] Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII, 25. Cole observes, “ ‘Christ the Judge... frightful, and we have looked upon him as a strict angry Judge with a sword in His hand and threatening us as if He wished to give us a blow on the head.’ With this Christ in mind, he claims he and his fellow Christians were led by the Papacy to see Mary and the saints as intercessors. On one occasion he even goes so far as to say that he and his fellow Christians "confessed with the mouth that Christ had redeemed them from the tyranny and the servitude of the Law, but nevertheless we really felt in our hearts that He was a lawgiver, a tyrant and a judge more formidable than Moses himself" (Marian Studies XXI, 113).

 

[44] Hilda Graef, The Devotion To Our Lady (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1963), 37. Graef also mentions Dionysius the Carthusian as an important pre-Reformation author and says, “…many despairing men have been ‘redeemed’ by her, since her com-passion under the Cross renders her Son more willing to help us than he would otherwise have been”( Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion Vol. I, 320.   Giovanni Miegge notes similarly, “An anonymous book of devotion that had a great vogue in the late Middle Ages, the Speculum humanae Salvationis, declared that Christ has divided His kingdom with His mother, reserving justice to himself and entrusting mercy to her” [Giovanni Miegge, The Virgin Mary: The Roman Catholic Marian Doctrine (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1955), 141.

 

[45]”Hilda Graef, Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion Vol. II, 20. Graef says elsewhere,  “Canisius…denied as Protestant lies that Catholics assigned the realm of justice to Christ while giving the kingdom of mercy to his Mother, though this had been a commonplace of Catholic preaching in the later Middle Ages.”[ Hilda Graef, The Devotion To Our Lady, 68.] 

 

[46] Hilda Graef, The Devotion To Our Lady, 76. Graef also says that Ligouri “reproduces a wealth of legends and miracles [about Mary] without even a hint of criticism.” Graef also describes others after Luther retaining the “Christ as Judge” theme. The French Catholic writer Grignion de Montfort, who “exercised a powerful influence on Marian spirituality in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries”:

 

“The foundation of his Marian spirituality is that, just as an earthly king would not be approached directly without an introduction, so also "it is more perfect, because it is more humble, not to approach God by ourselves without a mediator", "but to address ourselves to Mary to introduce us to her Son. St Bernard had recommended this approach for those who were frightened of Christ on account of his divinity; Grignon now turns this into a council  of perfection, regardless of the fact that Jesus himself taught men to address God directly as "Our Father".  But Grignion was a child of his time, the age of Louis XIV, and the distance of the king from his people tended to colour his conception of the relation between God and men. Grignion therefore counsels absolute surrender to Mary, as the mystics before him had taught perfect surrender to her Son. He also promised that such a way to union with Christ, which was, of course, Grignion's goal, too, would be easier than the direct approach, because Mary would not only make all crosses more palatable by covering them with sugar, but would also dress our bodies and souls, as Rebecca did the two kids for Abraham, according to God's taste which she knew better than anyone else. For if we were to offer our gifts to Jesus direct, he would scrutinize and often reject them, because they were tainted by self-love; but if we had them presented to him by Mary we would "take him by his weak side", because he would then not examine the gift but only consider the mother who gave it to him; and the power which she exercises even over God himself is incomprehensible. Grignion does not allow a direct approach to Christ even in the Eucharist. He considers that to enter hearts as tainted as ours would detract from his glory; hence we should ask Mary to act for us. Having received Christ, we should at once introduce him into her heart, or we should sit like a slave outside the gate of the royal palace while he is speaking to the queen, for "the more you let Mary act in your communion", Grignion says,  "the more Jesus will be glorified.”

 

[47] Hilda Graef, The Devotion To Our Lady, 74. Widenfeld put these words in the mouth of Mary: “Do not put me parallel with God or Christ. ... I am your preserver. . . . The praises that come to me for my own sake are vain. . . . Take heed that your dulia does not sink into latria, breaking the commandment, 'Worship God only.' . . . Those who call me mediatrix and advocate, let them not say it in the same sense in which my Son is properly mediator and advocate. He is the Mediator of the new Covenant. He has satisfied God with his own merits. . . . Let no one attribute this to me. Was I perhaps crucified for you? Then do not call me saviour and co-redemptress. . . . Do not honour me as if God were not enough for you. If you love God you have no need of anything. . . .Blessed is he who, like the apostles, wants to know nothing but Christ and him crucified !" [Giovanni Miegge, The Virgin Mary: The Roman Catholic Marian Doctrine, 145]. Miegge points out that Widenfeld’s Mariology was overcome by the work of Ligouri. Widenfeld’s views of Mary were not popular.

 

[48] Giovanni Miegge, The Virgin Mary: The Roman Catholic Marian Doctrine, 144.

 

[49] Giovanni Miegge, The Virgin Mary: The Roman Catholic Marian Doctrine, 151-152.

[50]Throughout his life and theological development, Luther continued to ascribe the title [Mother of God / Theotokos] to her.” (Luther's Works, vol. 21, 346)”

[51] Ironically, Barth says elsewhere, “In the doctrine and worship of Mary there is disclosed the one heresy of the Roman Catholic Church which explains all the rest.  The “mother of God” of Roman Catholic Marian dogma is quite simply the principle, type and essence of the human creature co-operating servantlike in its own redemption on the basis of prevenient grace, and to that extent the principle, type and essence of the Church.” Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics (Edinburgh: T.and T. Clark, 1956), 143.

 

[52] Hilda Graef, The Devotion To Our Lady, 27.

 

[53] Jaroslav Pelikan, The Riddle of Roman Catholicism, 132. Pelikan also points out “Calling Mary ‘holy’ was originally a way of speaking not about Mary herself at all, but about Jesus Christ. Almost every reference to her in the earliest Christian literature is, in point of fact, a reference to her son” (129).

 

[54] Giovanni Miegge, The Virgin Mary: The Roman Catholic Marian Doctrine,53. Miegge also points out at the councils of Ephesus and Chalcedon “these discussions [were] a question of Christology-the person of Christ. Mary is not the object. Her person, the preoccupation about her ‘honor’ has no part there, at least officially” (53-54).

 

[55] These quotes are from: http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/bvm00017.htm. A thorough reading of this document shows that Christ and his work are barely present in the Pope’s encyclical.  

 

[56] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 971.

 

[57]  James R. White, Mary Another Redeemer? (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1998) 47-49.

 

[58] Jaroslav Pelikan, The Riddle of Roman Catholicism, 133.

[59] “She became the Mother of God, in which work so many and such great good things are bestowed on her as pass man's understanding. For on this there follows all honor, all blessedness, and her unique place in the whole of mankind, among which she has no equal, namely, that she had a child by the Father in heaven, and such a Child . . . Hence men have crowded all her glory into a single word, calling her the Mother of God . . . None can say of her nor announce to her greater things, even though he had as many tongues as the earth possesses flowers and blades of grass: the sky, stars; and the sea, grains of sand. It needs to be pondered in the heart what it means to be the Mother of God.” LW 21:326

It appears that Mr. Armstrong and Hartmann Grisar view Luther’s piety toward Mary in the Magnificat quite differently. Grisar, commenting on Luther’s Magnificat states, “[Luther] certainly was in no mood to compose a book of piety on Mary. The result was that the book became to all intents and purposes a controversial tract, which cannot be quoted as a proof of his piety or serenity of mind during those struggles.”[Hartmann Grisar, Luther IV (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., LTD, 1915), 502]. A writer contemporary to Grisar notes, “At least a footnote should be devoted to the treatment of the Magnificat in the recent Roman Catholic life of Luther by Hartmann Grisar…Grisar calls the Magnificat a polemical not a devotional writing, and one that misrepresents the Catholic position. We ask the reader carefully to peruse [Luther’s Magnificat], and then judge whether it is a fair criticism to say that ‘there pulsates through the Magnificat an unbridled spirit of attack and of hate.’” [Albert Steinhaeuser Works of Martin Luther Volume III (Philadelphia: A.J. Holman Company) 121].

 

[60] LW 21:328. Compare this to the point I made in my paper: “Luther though shifts the emphasis back to God: ‘She does not desire herself to be esteemed; she magnifies God alone and gives all glory to Him.  She leaves herself out and ascribes everything to God alone, from whom she received it.’   For Mary to be exalted, was actually for her to ‘magnify God alone, to count only Him great and lay claim to nothing.’”

 

Albert Steinhaeuser explains this well: “the Magnificat is a classical discussion of the place which the Virgin Mary occupies in the Protestant system. Although Luther regards her in one place as sinless, and invokes her aid and intercession at the beginning and close of his work, these are isolated instances; the whole tenor of the exposition is evangelical, and as far removed from the Mariolatry of Rome as from an ultra-protestant depreciation of the Mother of our Lord. " She does not want you to come to her, but through her to God." There is something very human, and altogether unlike the radiant Queen of Heaven, in the Mary who "goes about her wonted household tasks, milking the cows, cooking the meals, washing pots and kettles, sweeping out the rooms." (Works of Martin Luther Volume III, 120.

 

[61] Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII, 237.  Gritsch also points out that even in sixteenth century festivals, Luther’s usage of the term “Mother of God” was used Christocentricly”: “It is not quite clear which festivals [Luther] did favor, but in the sixteenth century most Lutheran territories celebrated the festivals of Purification (February 2), of Annunciation (March 25), and of Visitation (July 2). Luther considered these festivals to be festivals of Christ also. Mary can be celebrated as the "Mother of God" precisely because Jesus is the son of God. But it is the son who gives her the honor she deserves. To Luther this was the unanimous testimony of the apostles and of the post-apostolic creeds” (240).

 

Heiko Oberman also agrees that Luther saw Mary different than Catholicism:

“Luther's translation of the hymn by Venantius Fortunatus, Agnoscat omne saeculum: "Der aller Weltkreis nie beschloss der liegt nun in Mariae Schoss," could perhaps best serve as the heading for his interpretation of the role of the Virgin Mary. The Virgin Mary is the sign of the exinanition of God. For Luther she is the Virginal Mother, the "Theotokos," and even the perpetual Virgin, but all these titles are conferred upon her against the background of a reinterpretation of the Magnificat. There is indeed little chance that Mary can become the thing signified rather than the sign when one can let her say as Luther did: "I am only the workshop in which God operates." The warm praise which Luther has for the Mother of God throughout his life, his last sermon on 17 January 1546 included, is not based upon the great qualities of Mary herself but upon the grace granted to her. As a person, Luther can say, the Virgin Mary is not greater than Mary Magdalene, the sinner, since through faith all Christians are equal. When Luther in 1535 attacks the theme of Mary the Mother of Mercy, as contrasted with Christ the Judge, this is not an ad hoc reference but the outgrowth and application of his discovery of the meaning of iustitia. In his Commentary on the Psalms, 1513-1515, Luther insists that in Christ mercy and righteousness are united. When one destroys this unity, Christ is no longer "veritas" but has become "severitas"! Heiko A. Oberman, The Impact of the Reformation, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.,1994), 242.

 

[62] David Wright, Chosen By God: Mary in Evangelical Perspective, 165-166. Albert Steinhauser points out, “In the Catholic system humility is not the greatest of the virtues. It does not even rank as one of the four cardinal virtues, though it is annexed to the last of them—temperance—as a "potential part." Humility is, however, said to be the foundation of the spiritual edifice; it is the first virtue, inasmuch as it removes the obstacles to faith and makes a man a fit recipient of grace. Cf. Catholic Encyclopedia., vii, 544 [Works of Martin Luther Vol. III, 144].

 

[63] Hilda Graef, The Devotion To Our Lady, 67.

 

[64] Hilda Graef, Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion Vol. II , 7. Graef obviously is referring to Luther’s explanation of the “Hail Mary.” Graef says also, “All reformers were opposed not only to the Hail Mary as a prayer, for by this time the biblical words had been enlarged by the petition as we now have it, but especially to the Salve Regina, because there she is called our life, our sweetness and our hope, expressions which they thought belonged to God alone and were not to be predicated on any creature” (Hilda Graef, The Devotion To Our Lady, 67).

 

[65] Hilda Graef, Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion Vol. II , 7-8.

 

[66] Jaroslav Pelikan, The Riddle of Roman Catholicism, 138.

 

[67]Thomas O’Meara,  Mary in Protestant and Catholic Theology, 32. Jaroslav Pelikan also points out, “The mother of God is also a bridge to the entire world of nature…She represents involvement in the process of nature; after all, what is more directly involved in them than motherhood, even virginal motherhood?…Mary the Mother of God is God’s way of giving structure to the world of nature and yet avoiding complete identification with that world…As the mother of God, who performs this function in the plan of God, Mary is entitled to the veneration of the church” (The Riddle of Roman Catholicism, 134).

 

[68] Thomas O’Meara, Mary in Protestant and Catholic Theology, 28.

 

[69] Thomas O’Meara, Mary in Protestant and Catholic Theology, 29-30.

 

[70] Vatican II stated this clearly: “The Father of mercies willed that the Incarnation should be preceded by assent on the part of the predestined mother, so that just as a woman had a share in bringing about death, so also a woman should contribute to life. This is preeminently true of the Mother of Jesus, who gave to the world the Life that renews all things, and who was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.”

“Rightly, therefore, the Fathers see Mary not merely as passively engaged by God, but as freely cooperating in the work of man's salvation through faith and obedience. For, as St. Irenaeus says, she "being obedient, became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race.”

 

[71] Henri Daniel-Rops The Protestant Reformation Volume II (New York: Image Books, 1963) 70.

 

[72] Hilda Graef, Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion Vol. II , 9.

 

[73] LW 36: 299

 

[74] I have heard both Tim Staples and Gerry Matatics affirm this. 

 

[75] The historical background on the immaculate conception that Mr. Armstrong takes issue with was from George Yule, Luther Theologian for Catholics and Protestants,  211. Yule was professor of church history at Ormond College, University of Melbourne, and Professor of Church History at the University of Aberdeen.  Here is the section from the book I utilized:

 

“Marian devotion developed in the church without sufficient control by the doctrine of the incarnation.  The whole church became increasingly interested in the holiness of Mary and in the Western Church this interest became absorbed into the question of her immaculate conception. This was because St. Augustine, in his controversy with Pelagius, had emphasized the ravages wrought on mankind by original sin which he insisted infected every member of Adam’s race, including Mary, and which he postulated was transmitted in the act of sexual intercourse.

 

Almost all the great Western theologians until the later Middle Ages followed Augustine. An essential element of Anselm’s argument in Cur Deus Homo depends on the fact that Adam’s descendents are infected by sin. Aquinas in all five works in which he discussed the issue, insisted that Mary was not completely preserved from original sin. The same position was maintained by St. Bernard and that great anti-Pelagian Gregory of Rimini.

 

But in the later Middle Ages, Duns Scotus and William of Occam, Strongly supported by the Franciscan order, put forward the view that Mary was freed from the taint of original sin from conception. Those who held this position were in constant danger of undermining the crucial issue of the true humanity of Christ as did Gabriel Biel who in strongly upholding the immaculist position said ‘Christ is not fully man but the God-man’. Mary, he said, was more allied to the created order than Christ and therefore had a greater sympathy for human weakness than he. She represented love and pity in contrast to the severity of Christ as judge.

 

It is in this theological climate that Luther discussed this question. As we have shown, the full humanity of Christ was essential for his whole understanding of the gospel. Conversely, he saw faith- that is, total response to the grace of God- as the highest form of Christian commitment. Hence Mary’s ‘Lord be it unto me according to Thy will’ was a paradigm for the Christian faith. From this stance this would be the highest honor one could pay her- the true representative of faithful Israel. “

 

“As late as 1527 he even acknowledged the doctrine of the immaculate conception of Mary, in conformity with theological traditions of the Augustinian Order.”

 

[76] Frederick M. Jelly, “The Roman Catholic Dogma of the Immaculate Conception” found in, The One Mediator, The Saints, and Mary, Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII, 274.

 

[77] I recall on Armstrong’s web site somewhere that he says he has Heiko Oberman’s book, The Harvest of Medieval Theology, and he also quotes it in his response. He should be familiar with chapter 9 “Mariology” which goes into detail on the conflict between the maculists and the immaculists.

 

[78] Hilda Graef, Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion vol.1, 215.

 

[79] Hilda Graef takes an opposite view, “[Luther] still believes even in the Immaculate Conception in the full Catholic sense, saying that "one believes blessedly that at the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin” [Hilda Graef, Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion vol. 2, 11].

[80] LW 7:12.

[81] David Wright, Chosen By God, 175-176.

 

[82] LW 7:13.

 

[83] Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, Vol. 3, ed. John Nicholas Lenker. ( Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996), 291.

 

[84] Martin Luther, D.Martin Luthers Werke: Kritische Gesamtausgabe, Abteilung Werke  45:51 quoted in Martin Luther, What Luther Says, Vol. I, ed. Ewald Martin Plass  (St Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959), 151.

 

[85] Martin Luther, D.Martin Luthers Werke: Kritische Gesamtausgabe, Abteilung Werke  46:136 quoted in Martin Luther, What Luther Says, Vol. I, 152.

[86] “The Most Hellish Father, St. Paul III, in his supposed capacity as the bishop of the Roman church, has written two briefs   to Charles V, our lord emperor, wherein he appears almost furious, growling and boasting, according to the example of his predecessors, that neither an emperor nor anyone else has the fight to convoke a council, even a national one, except solely the pope; he alone has the power to institute, ordain, and create everything which is to be believed and done in the church. He has also issued a papal bull  (if one may speak like that) for about the fifth time; now the council is once again to take place in Trent, but with the condition that no one attend except his own scum, the Epicureans and those agreeable to him—whereupon I felt a great desire to reply, with God’s grace and aid. Amen!

First, I beg you, for God’s sake, whoever you are, a Christian, indeed, even if you still have natural reason, tell me whether you can understand or comprehend what kind of a council that would be, or whether it could be a council, if that abominable abomination in Rome, who calls himself pope, has such reservation, power, and authority to tear up, change, and ruin everything that is decided in the council, as most of his decrees bellow. Doesn’t it seem to you, my dear brother in Christ, or my dear natural-reason friend, that such a council would have to be nothing but a farce, a carnival act put on to amuse the pope.

What is the use of spending such great pains and effort on a council if the pope has decided beforehand that anything done in the council should be subjected to him, that nothing should be done unless it pleased him very much, and that he wants the power to condemn everything? To avoid all this trouble it would be better to say, “Most Hellish Father, since it makes no difference at all what is or will be decided before or in or after the council, we would rather (without any council) believe in and worship Your Hellishness. Just tell us beforehand what we must do; “Good Teacher, what shall I do?” [ Mark 10:17 ]. Then we shall sing the glad hymn to Your Hellishness, “Virgin before, in, and after childbearing,”  since you are the pure Virgin Mary, who has not sinned and cannot sin for ever more. If not, then tell us, for God’s sake, what need or use there is in councils, since Your Hellishness has such great power over them that they are to be nothing, if it does not please Your Hellishness. Or prove to us poor, obedient “simple Christians”  whence Your Hellishness has such power. Where are the seals and letters from your superior that grant such things to you? Where is written evidence which will make us believe this? Won’t Your Hellishness show us these things? Well then, we shall diligently search for them ourselves, and with God’s help we shall certainly find them shortly” (LW 41:263-264).

 

[87] Juniper B. Carol (ed.) Marilogy Volume 3, 425.

 

[88] Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII, 59.

 

[89] LW 31:172-173.

 

[90] LW 32:79-80.

[91]  Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII, 238.

 

[92] All the quotes from this sermon were from a secondary source: William Ullathorne, The Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God (New York: Preserving Christian Publications, Inc. 2001), 102-104

 

[93] David Wright (editor), Chosen By God: Mary in Evangelical Perspective, 161. Eric Gritsch also points out that in the myriad of hymns Luther composed, Mary is not a central topic, but she is mentioned in her Christocentric role:  “Although Luther incorporated his views on Mary into his hymns, only one of his hymns is dedicated to her: "To Me She's Dear, the Worthy Maid" (Sie ist mir lieb die werte Magd). The hymn, perhaps composed in 1534, is based on Rev 12:1-6 (the woman and the dragon) and is subtitled, "A Hymn About the Christian Church, Based on the Twelfth Chapter of Revelation." Medieval exegetical tradition related "woman" to "church," and Luther may have followed this tradition. Other hymns mention Mary, but usually only in connection with the lordship of Christ. Luther's favorite and autobiographical hymn, "Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice" Nun freut euch liebe Christen gemein; 1523), is typical: Mary is mentioned, but not praised, in the sixth stanza. "The Son he heard obediently/ And by a maiden mother/ Pure, tender—down He came to me/ For He would be my brother." Other hymns praise Mary's unique role in the incarnation: "Whom all the world could not enwrap/ Lieth He in Mary's lap" (Den alter Welt Kreis me beschloss/ der liegt in Marten Schoss)' "Many a virtue from her shone/ God was there as on His throne" (Leucht herfiir manch Tugend schoni Gott da war in seinem TTiron); "From heaven high the godlike grace/ In the chaste mother found a place;/ A secret pledge a maiden bore—/Which nature never knew before" (Die gottlich Gnad vom Himmel gross/ sich in die keusche Mutter goss/ ein Meidlein trug ein heimlich Pfand/ das der Natur war unbekannt). Thus Luther always mentioned Mary in the context of the christocentric theology that permeates the more than thirty hymns he composed for congregational singing.” Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII, 239-240.

 

[94] William Cole, “Was Luther a Devotee of Mary?” Marian Studies XXI (1970), 110.

 

[95]Apart from William Cole’s historical inquiry of scholars who hold Luther to be a “Marian theologian,” I have come across only one scholar that sees Luther as a Marian theologian, the feminist Kathryn Greene-McCreight: “Martin Luther was a friar and scholar trained in Scholastic theology and a professor of biblical studies. In other words, he is one for whom biblical theology was an active concern. He was especially suspicious of the Pelagian tendencies in Roman doctrine and popular theology and was concerned about the Church's Marian dogmas, even though he was in many ways a Marian theologian” (Kathryn Greene-McCreight, “Mary Goes to Reform School” Ex Auditu, 15-16, 1999-00) McCreight substantiates this by pointing out Luther “preached 60 sermons on Marian feasts.” It obvious she has never read those sermons. The vast number of them have far more to do with Christ than with Mary. 

 

[96] Cited in James White, Mary Another Redeemer, 112.

 

[97] Cited in James White, Mary Another Redeemer , 113.

 

[98] Hilda Graef, The Devotion To Our Lady, 67.

 

[99] LW43:39. Catholic scholar William Cole criticizes those who see this statement as Luther espousing Mary as a mediator "What is this if not the fundamental Catholic position: "through Mary to Jesus"? This is certainly to take the statement out of context and to go against the patent elimination of any mediation of Mary in so many statements of Luther. It would be hard to find any scholar now who would defend this judgment. Marian Studies XXI, 106.

 

[100] LW 43:39.

 

[101] LW 43:40.

 

[102] LW 43:40.

 

[103] LW43:40.

 

[104] Gritsch states, “[Luther] tolerated the "Hail Mary" in "A Personal Prayer Book" of 1522, which was to be an evangelical alternative to existing prayer books advocating the wrongful veneration of Mary as co-redemptrix. Luther urged people to understand this well-known addition to the Lord's Prayer "as a meditation in which we recite what God has given her" and as an admonition "that everyone may know and respect her as one blessed by God. That is why the "Hail Mary," like the Lord's Prayer, is concerned "purely with giving praise and honor"; it is "neither a prayer nor an invocation" to Mary as the one who prays for us. Instead, Mary should be regarded as being without sin, that is, as being "full of grace" (voll Gnaden) in the sense of being "graced" (begnadet)' all she did was done by God in her, that is, "God is with her"; "she is blessed above all other women" because she became fertile through the Holy Spirit, and through Christ's birth, not through her participation in it, humankind is redeemed from death and damnation. To bless her with rosaries and a constant mouthing of "Hail Mary" takes the honor away from Christ, who alone mediates salvation.” (Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII, 238).

 

[105]Editors comment from J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, (Ed.)  Luther's works, vol. 43 : Devotional Writings II,(Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1968) 9-10. Eric Gritsch likewise points out, “Luther used Mary to oppose the abusive cult of Mary by portraying her as the model of humble faith; see, for example, the 1516 sermon on the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, WA 1:78.31-37; 79.6-7, and the Sermon on the Decalogue, 1518. WA 1:422.30-35.” (Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII, 380).

 

The Catholic work, Mariology Vol. 2 notes, “Luther had set the style for Protestants when he attacked the Catholic prayer "Hail Holy Queen" which he regarded as blasphemous. "Your prayers, 0 Christian," he says, "are as dear to me as hers. And why? Because if you believe that Christ lives in you as much as in her, you can help me as much as she." Eventually Luther was led to limit the communion of saints to the Church on earth because of his complete rejection of any intercessory power on the part of the saints in heaven [Juniper B. Carol (ed.) Mariology Volume 2, 195.

 

[106]LW 35: 190-192. An interesting irony is that Luke 1:28 plays the center role in defending Marian dogmas for  Catholic apologists, Luther here shows he does not use Luke 1:28 in such a way. 

 

[107]Graef explains, “Apart from her physical contribution her co-operation in the divine motherhood is precisely nil. Luther does not object to the words of the Regina caeli "quern meruisti portare" (whom you have merited to bear), because we say the same of the Cross, which is only wood. This expression means no more than that she was suitable and foreordained to give birth to Christ, just as the wood of the Cross was suitable and foreordained to bear his body. According to Luther one must say this, "so that God's praise and honour might not be diminished by attributing too much to her. It is better to give too little to her than to the grace of God. Indeed, one can never give her too little (what a difference to the principles of medieval preachers!) since she is created from nothing like all other creatures." She may indeed be called "Queen of heaven", but this does not make her an idol (Abgottin), "that she might give or help, like some people think ... She gives nothing, but only God." The comparison of Mary with the wood of the Cross is characteristic of Luther, in whose theology human free will has no place. It deprives not only Mary of the honour due to her, but every human being of his dignity” [Hilda Graef, Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion Vol. II , 9].

 

To substantiate Graef’s point, Luther explained in 1531 that Mary should only be given “a drop” of praise:

“It is true, Mary is praiseworthy and can never be lauded and extolled enough. For the honor of having been chosen from all the women on earth to be the mother of this Infant is exceedingly high and glorious. Yet we should laud and praise the mother in such a way that we do not let the Infant she has born be torn from our eyes and hearts, nor should we consider the Treasure born to us of less importance than the mother. The praise of the mother should be as a drop, but the praise of this Infant should be as the entire expanse of the wide sea. If one of the two is to be forgotten, it would be better to forget the mother than to forget this Infant. In the papacy the Infant was entirely forgotten, and the mother was thought of alone. But the mother was not born for us; she does not help us from sins and death. To be sure, she has borne the Infant and the Savior of all the world for us; but she herself is not the Infant and the Savior. Therefore we should wean our affections away from the mother and fasten them firmly on the Infant” (What Luther Says, Vol.III, ed. Ewald Martin Plass  (St Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959), 1256 

 

[108] Hilda Graef, The Devotion To Our Lady , 66-67. See my discussion below on Catholic historian Hilda Graef who explains that Luther’s understanding of Mari in the “Hail Mary” is contrary to Catholicism: “Luther's whole view of Mary as a rather pathetic young girl without intrinsic sanctity or merit is opposed to Catholic teaching.”

 

[109] Hilda Graef, The Devotion To Our Lady , 66-67.

 

[110]LW 54:340.

 

[111] In the book Armstrong cited Mary’s Place in Christian Dialogue, Eric Gritsch references the English edition of Luther’s works in footnote 3 on page 140.  He then says, “The 55-volume edition of Luther’s Works is hereafter cited LW.”

 

[112] For an excellent discussion on the different versions of Luther’s Tabletalk, see: Robert Kolb, Martin Luther as Prophet, Teacher, and Hero (Michigan: Baker Books, 1999)

 

[113] I have yet to find a used copy for sale on line. Anybody with a copy of this book for sale, please e-mail me!

 

[114]In fairness to Mr. Armstrong, he did provide 4 cross references to the English edition in his response. Perhaps he did not have the time to provide the others. Interestingly, some of  his WA quotes did not make sense. Some references seemed to note which edition of WA (for instance, “2”), while others did not. Are we to assume the earlier edition of WA is meant?  There was a lack of uniformity also: sometimes he used Roman numerals, others times he did not. At one point he offered, “WA 4, 693; 10 (3), 331; 46, 136; 47, 860.” These seem more like bingo numbers than references. I still don’t know what “10 (3)” refers to. It would be helpful to at least pick one way of citing WA and sticking with it. Perhaps I might not be able to check WA, but maybe another interested reader will. 

 

[115] Leonard Swidler, “Catholic Reformation Scholarship in Germany” Journal of Ecumenical Studies, 2 1965. 189.  Swidler is a Roman Catholic scholar.

 

[116]  Mr. Armstrong’s chapter is called, “Confessions of a 1980’s Jesus Freak,” found in Patrick Madrid, Surprised By Truth, (San Diego: Basilica Press, 1994). The section I am quoting is from page 250-251.

 

[117]  Ian D. Kingston Siggins, Luther (London: Harper & Row, 1972) 197.

 

[118] James Atkinson, Martin Luther: Prophet to the Catholic Church. (WB Eerdman’s Publishing co. Grand rapids, 1983),  8.

 

[119] James Atkinson,. Martin Luther: Prophet to the Catholic Church.,  12-13.

 

[120] Gordon Rupp, The Righteousness of God, (Great Britain: Hodder and Stoughton Publishing, 1953), 25.

 

[121] Eric Gritsch,  God’s Court Jester, Luther in Retrospect. (Fortress Press, 1983, 146)

 

[122] Jaroslav Pelikan (editor), Interpreters of Luther. (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1968), Quote contained in Pelikan’s article, “Adolph von Harnack on Luther” 261-262.

 

[123] Jaroslav Pelikan(editor), Interpreters of Luther.  From the article by Klaus Penzel, “Ernst Troeltsch on Luther,” 298.

 

[124] Gerhard Dunnhaupt (editor) The Martin Luther Quincentenial (Michigan: Wayne State University Press)

Quote from the article “Was Luther’s Reformation a Revolution?” by Max L. Baeumer p.258.

 

[125] “Luther in an American Catholic Context” by Patrick W. Carey; Found in the book, Timothy Maschke, Franz Posset, and Joan Skocir (editors), Ad Fontes Lutheri: Toward the Recovery of the Real Luther: Essays in Honor of Kenneth Hagen’s Sixty-Fifth Birthday  (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 2001), 38.

 

[126] “Luther in an American Catholic Context” by Patrick W. Carey, 44.

 

[127] V.H.H. Green, Luther and the Reformation (New York: G.P.Putnum’s Sons, 1964) 193-195

 

[128] Leonard Swidler, “Catholic Reformation Scholarship in Germany” Journal of Ecumenical Studies, 2 1965. 190-191, 203. 

 

[129] Otto Pesch, “Twenty Years of Catholic Luther Research” Lutheran World, 13, 1966. 304.

 

[130] Jared Wicks (editor) Catholic Scholars Dialogue with Luther, 1.

 

[131] Jared Wicks, Luther and His Spiritual Legacy, 19.

 

[132] Jared Wicks, Luther and His Spiritual Legacy, 160-161.

 

[133] Jared Wicks (editor) Catholic Scholars Dialogue with Luther, 6-7, 11.

 

[134] James Mackinnon, Luther and the Reformation Vol. I (New York: Russell & Russell, 1962), 105.

 

[135] A.G. Dickens and John Tonkin, The Reformation in Historical Thought (Massachusets: Harvard University Press, 1985) 200, 201.

 

[136] I have not tried this since April 24, 2003. Hopefully, Mr. Armstrong will tactfully suggest to other Roman Catholic web sites that utilize this quote to update their pages based on his research.

 

[137] Hartmann Grisar, Luther Volume IV, 238.

[138] Interestingly the Lutheran Scholar Mr. Armstrong relies on was charged, convicted, and removed due to teaching false doctrine: “During the mid-seventies amidst the storm of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod controversy, Piepkorn was among those of the faculty majority at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, cited as teaching false doctrine by the 1973 New Orleans Convention resolution 3-09. Piepkorn was a signatory of the Seminary majority's protest against this resolution and resolution 3-01, which declared that all of the synod's theological and biblical interpretation and teachings must be interpreted in accord with a presumed synodical tradition as articulated in the document entitled, "A Statement of Scriptural and Confessional Principles," by Dr. Jacob A. 0. Preus, President of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.” (Plekon and Wiecher, The Church: Selected Writings of Arthur Carl Piepkorn, New York: ALPB Books, 1993, 300.)

 

[139] Plekon and Wiecher, The Church: Selected Writings of Arthur Carl Piepkorn, 275.

 

[140] (Plekon and Wiecher, The Church: Selected Writings of Arthur Carl Piepkorn, 260-261.

 

[141] (Plekon and Wiecher, The Church: Selected Writings of Arthur Carl Piepkorn, 274.

 

[142] Hilda Graef, Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion Vol. II , 7.

 

[143] For a thorough treatment of the use of Luther’s Mariology for manipulative ecumenical purposes (or against such), See William Cole, Marian Studies XXI (1970)  96-111. 

 

[144] Jaroslav Pelikan, Mary Through the Centuries (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996), 157-158.

 

[145] Jaroslav Pelikan, Mary Through the Centuries,  249.

 

[146] Heiko Oberman, The Impact of the Reformation (Michigan: WB Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994), 242.

 

[147] Jaroslav Pelikan,  Mary Through the Centuries, 159.

 

[148] Tappert, T. G. (2000, c1959). The Book of Concord : The confessions of the evangelical Lutheran church (Smalcald:). Philadelphia: Fortress Press. 287

 

[149] Heiko Oberman, The Impact of the Reformation, 241.

[150] Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther,  (tr. Robert C. Schultz, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966), vi.

[151]  Totally irrelevant to my paper, and also used to further prove the Protestant conspiracy was Mr. Armstrong’s  comment, “A similar situation can be found in Williston Walker's book, John Calvin: The Organiser [sic] of Reformed Protestantism (New York: Schocken Books, 1969). In this comprehensive treatment of Calvin's life and theology (nearly 500 pages), one discovers a single (rather casual) reference to Mary.”

 

 I agree with Heiko Oberman that “Protestantism…searches to find the via media, to avoid not only Marian excesses at the right but also Marian minimalism at the left” (Oberman, The Impact of the Reformation, 248). In fact, my paper is a good example of this: I am a Protestant discussing positive Mariology on the popular level. While Mary is not at the forefront of Protestantism, It please me that such men like RC Sproul and James White have materials available on Mary. Similarly pleasing were the numerous Protestant books on Mary that Mr. Armstrong made reference to in his response. It seems the conspiracy is over. 

 

[152] Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther, 194.

 

[153] Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther, 189.

 

[154] Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther, 192.

 

[155] Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther, 212. Althaus cites this quote from Luther.

 

[156] Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966),  298-299.

 

[157] Hilda Graef, Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion Vol. II, 6-7. Graef also says “[Luther] leave[s] hardly any place for human free-will in [his] system and attribute[s] salvation wholly to the grace of God requiring no human cooperation. As a consequence [Luther] rejected the Catholic conception of holiness and with it the cult of the saints, including that of the blessed Virgin” (The Devotion To Our Lady, 66).

 

[158] Hilda Graef, The Devotion To Our Lady, 66. Previous to the break with Rome, Graef says: “In 1516 he preached a Latin sermon on the Immaculate Conception and one on the Assumption which hardly differ from similar contemporary sermons on the same subjects [Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion Vol. II , 7].

 

[159] Hilda Graef, Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion Vol. II , 11.

 

[160] Hilda Graef, Mary: A History of Doctrine and Devotion Vol. II , 11.

 

[161] Hilda Graef, The Devotion To Our Lady, 103.

 

[162] William Cole, Marian Studies XXI, 103.

 

[163] Thomas O’Meara, Mary in Protestant and Catholic Thought, 113.

 

[164] Thomas O’Meara, Mary in Protestant and Catholic Thought, 113-114.  Catholic Scholar William Cole cites this same paragraph from O’Meara, but goes on to offer an interesting insight: “What Luther said in regard to the possibility of a reader being led into error regarding his attitude toward the Pope because of his earlier writing (very favorable up until 1519) can be applied to his attitude toward his veneration of Mary. In his Latin writing of 1545 he asked his readers to read his earlier writings "with judgment and even with much compassion." He then goes on to say, "Good readers you will attribute this error to my ineptitude. I was alone at first and surely inept and unlearned for treating such things" (Marian Studies XXI, 109.

 

[165] Thomas O’Meara, Mary in Protestant and Catholic Thought, pp. 114-119.

 

[166] Thomas O’Meara, Mary in Protestant and Catholic Thought, 139.

 

[167] Thomas O’Meara, Mary in Protestant and Catholic Thought, 140.

 

[168] "The Basic elements of Luther's Style", “Catholic Scholars Dialogue with Luther, 9.

 

[169] "The Basic elements of Luther's Style", “Catholic Scholars Dialogue with Luther, 4-5.

 

[170] "The Basic elements of Luther's Style", “Catholic Scholars Dialogue with Luther”, 4.

 

[171] "The Basic elements of Luther's Style", “Catholic Scholars Dialogue with Luther”, 5.

 

[172] The Basic elements of Luther's Style", “Catholic Scholars Dialogue with Luther”, 16.

 

[173] The Basic elements of Luther's Style", “Catholic Scholars Dialogue with Luther”, 17-18.

 

[174] Catholic historian Thomas O’Meara notes that Thurian is a “Calvinist theologian” (312), but notes “Calvin and Calvinism are in principle and in spirit farther removed from an appreciation of Mary than are the Lutheran or Anglican Confessions…”(312). Thurian has a “European ecumenical mentality” (43) and that his “mariological exegesis may serve as a bridge between Catholic and Protestant exegesis...” (161).  Thurian “sees the right of Marian theology clearly” (312-313) [Thomas O’Meara, Mary in Protestant and Catholic Thought]. Thurian was originally critical of Mary’s special privileges, and sought to reintroduce Mary into Protestant piety and worship. It is fairly obvious from going through Thurian’s book that he was on the road to Rome in his thinking when he wrote Mary Mother of the Lord Figure of the Church. There is nothing decisively “Reformed” or “Calvinistic” about his book. For documentation that Thurian became Roman Catholic, see Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII, 244.

 

[175] Max Thurian, Mary: Mother of the Lord Figure of the Church , 197.

 

[176] Max Thurian, Mary: Mother of the Lord Figure of the Church , 197.

 

[177] LW 2:265.

 

[178] LW 31:298.

 

[179]LW 22:63.

 

[180]LW 21:353.

 

[181] David Wright (editor), Chosen By God: Mary in Evangelical Perspective, 175-176.

 

[182] Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII, 238.

 

[183] Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII, 381.

 

[184] Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII, 241.

 

[185] Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII, 382.

 

[186] Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII, 239.

 

[187] Eric Gritsch elsewhere states Luther only preached about 60 sermons on Mary.  See Mary’s Place in Christian Dialogue, 133.  Gritsch seems not to be mathematically certain of the exact number.

 

[188] Armstrong mis-cites William Cole saying, “Luther's] custom of preaching Marian sermons on the Marian feasts continued in the Lutheran Church a hundred years after his death. Following the example of Luther other great songwriters of the Reformation glorified the greatness of Mary's divine maternity. This lasting piety towards the Mother of God found an outlet in piety so that generally the celebrated pictures of the Madonna and her statues from the Middle Ages were retained in Lutheran churches. According to Heiler, it was only the spirit of the Enlightenment with its lack of understanding of the mystery of the Incarnation, which in the 18th century began the work of destruction.”

 

It should be noted this is not Cole’s position. Cole is citing the opinion of Friedrich Heiler in this entire quote. Cole refers to Heiler’s view of Luther’s Mariology as an “extreme position.” (Marian Studies XXI, 101).

 

[189] Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII, 240.

 

[190] Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII, 241.

 

[191] Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII, 382.

 

[192] Martin Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, Vol. 3, ed. John Nicholas Lenker. ( Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996),294-298.

 

[193] George H. Tavard, The Thousand Faces of the Virgin Mary, 116. The section Tavard summarizes is available at: http://www.ctsfw.edu/etext/boc/ap/apol26.asc.

 

[194]LW 53:273.

 

[195]LW 53:241.

 

[196]LW 53:236.

 

[197]LW 53: 239.

 

[198]LW 53:268.

 

[199]LW 53:268.

 

[200]LW 53: 232-233.

 

[201]Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VII, 239-240. Contrary to Luther’s Works, Gritsch says, “Although Luther incorporated his views on Mary into his hymns, only one of his hymns is dedicated to her: "To Me She's Dear, the Worthy Maid" …The hymn, perhaps composed in 1534, is based on Rev 12:1-6 (the woman and the dragon) and is subtitled, "A Hymn About the Christian Church, Based on the Twelfth Chapter of Revelation." Medieval exegetical tradition related "woman" to "church," and Luther may have followed this tradition.” (239).

 

 The editors of Luther’s Works though,  make no indication that Luther dedicated this hymn to Mary; rather it was completely about the church: “Early sixteenth-century people were deeply moved by eschatological portents, hopes, and fears. Luther himself expected the imminent end of the world and saw in the religious struggles of his day the apocalyptic contest between Christ and the Antichrist. These sentiments received additional impetus from the turbulent events of 1534. In that year some Jews expected the coming of their messiah. One “David Moses” appeared as such and was heralded by his apostle Solomon Malchu. In the same year the reign of the Anabaptists in Münster reached its height. Luther could not remain unmoved by these events. He turned to the Apocalypse and found there the church depicted by the figure of the woman who though persecuted by the devil still is protected by God. Since our hymn (without a tune) first appeared in Joseph Klug’s Wittenberg hymnal of 1535, Luther may have composed it in 1534 as a hymn of comfort to the church under the cross. And since here as elsewhere he preserved the imagery of Scripture and addressed the church as the “elect lady,” it can hardly be termed surprising that he employed that poetico-musical form which in his time was used to “praise one’s lady,” namely, the Hofweise”(LW 53:292).

 

[202] Jaroslav Pelikan Reformation of Church and Dogma (1300-1700) Volume 4 (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1984) 38-43.