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The triumph of dear Brother Martin

by Greg Krehbiel on 8 June 2014

There were a lot of disputes during the Reformation, but the Lutherans only asked for a few things to maintain unity: the mass in the vernacular, communion in both kinds, and married priests.

They’re two for three so far, and on theological disputes they seem to be winning as well.

A while ago our deacon preached about the physical presence of Christ in the Eucharist (which is a Lutheran position), and today our priest told us that Christians are “at the same time righteous and a sinner” (Simul justus et peccator in the Reformation lingo).

How much longer until Brother Martin wins entirely? He seems to have an inordinate influence from the grave.

-- 2014-06-08  »  Greg Krehbiel

Talkback x 32

  1. Carol Holland
    9 June 2014 @ 2:31 pm

    Actually I don’t believe Luther believed in transubstantiation, but Lutherans do, just as he was not in favor of the iconoclastic destruction of much of the churches’ art at the time but some of his followers were.

  2. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    9 June 2014 @ 3:37 pm

    You’re right that Luther didn’t believe in transubstantiation. Luther believed in “Real Presence” in a way that included a physical presence of Christ in the sacrament. Catholics and the Reformed rejected that because (they said) it attributed divine attributes to Christ’s physical body. I don’t think that’s fair, but that’s what they say.

    [BTW, thanks for commenting on the blog, Carol.]

  3. Derek
    10 June 2014 @ 9:50 pm

    Selective parsing anyone? You miss many, many theological issues with Luther to call him triumphant.

  4. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    11 June 2014 @ 12:57 pm

    Yes, there are many theological disputes that Catholics had (and have) with Luther, but I was focusing on the headlines — the big things that caused the break.

    Melancthon (Luther’s right-hand man, of sorts) only asked for three things to maintain unity with the Catholic church. Communion in two kinds, the mass in the vernacular, and married priests.

    All three of those things are permissible as far as the Catholic Church is concerned, but the church back then wasn’t willing to make those minor concessions for the sake of unity.

  5. smitemouth
    11 June 2014 @ 5:14 pm

    It’s interesting that the Orthodox who had all 3 of those, responded in dialogue when the Lutherans approached them. They obviously never reached a concord.

  6. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    11 June 2014 @ 5:18 pm

    @SM, yes, the Lutheran-Orthodox dialog was very interesting. I read some about it. I think the main sticking point was tradition.

  7. smitemouth
    11 June 2014 @ 5:46 pm

    Main sticking point was heresy of the filioque.

  8. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    11 June 2014 @ 6:01 pm

    You sure about that? I thought tradition was a big problem

  9. smitemouth
    11 June 2014 @ 6:17 pm

    It was the filioque. And oddly enough, the Orthodox opinion regarding the heresy of the filioque is more scriptural (John 15:26) than what the Lutherans presented.

  10. Derek
    11 June 2014 @ 9:23 pm

    John 15:26 does not make the issue concrete. The Holy Spirit is referred to as both the Spirit of the Son (Galatians 4:6) and the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9, Philippians 1:19). He is also called Spirit of the Father (Matthew 10:20) and the Spirit of God (I Corinthians 2:11). These citations show the same relationship of the Holy Spirit to the Son as to the Father.

    It’s crazy that the words “and the son” cause so much division given the equality of the Trinity. To quote Hiliary Clinton, “At this point, what difference does it make?”

  11. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    12 June 2014 @ 9:07 am

    It is a very odd debate, and the Orthodox have at least two strong claims on their side: first, John 15:26 (which requires a fairly strong argument to overcome), and second, the procedural point that the western church didn’t have the right to change the language from a council of the entire church.

    I spent enough time studying it (once upon a time, many years ago) to come to the conclusion that I didn’t really care, except that the arrogance of the western church bugged me.

  12. pentamom pentamom
    12 June 2014 @ 9:32 am

    It’s the first time I’ve really looked into John 15:26 on this topic, but how does John 15:26 make the issue concrete? It looks to me like it confirms bias. If you are anti-filioque, you lean on “proceeds from the Father.” If you are pro-filioque, you lean on “whom I shall send to you.” I am not saying one reading might not be preferable, but I don’t see how that verse is a game-changer except to the already-convinced.

    That said, though I haven’t spent a lot of time studying it, my view generally aligns with Greg’s conclusion.

  13. DSM DSM
    12 June 2014 @ 1:01 pm

    When I was studying Orthodoxy many years ago — not sure why, exactly; maybe it was reading Jaroslav Pelikan’s history of the early Church — I read a fair bit of the filioque discussions.

    In the end I decided I thought the Western church was right on the merits but typically poorly behaved. What I remember most of all was the whiff of crankery that a lot of discussions of the matter gave off. Theology has real-world consequences, but the longer the chain the more implausible I find the alleged connection. By the time you’re blaming your burnt toast on the filioque, or lack thereof, I’m pretty sure you’ve gone off the rails.

    It was also probably an example of how nonrational aspects can affect your views of a problem: I was attracted to the filioque because it broke the symmetry of the Son and the Spirit in a natural way.

  14. Derek
    12 June 2014 @ 1:18 pm

    If John 15:26 said “only” proceeds….., you’d have a point. But in the light of other Scripture noted above, the statement in John does not necessarily limit the Spirit’s procession.

    I think the western Church has the theology correct, but has poor form when implementing it.

  15. Derek
    12 June 2014 @ 1:19 pm


  16. pentamom pentamom
    12 June 2014 @ 3:15 pm

    “But in the light of other Scripture noted above, the statement in John does not necessarily limit the Spirit’s procession.”

    Well, precisely. It’s no slam dunk by any means. You have to look elsewhere to settle the question, though it is a data point to be considered. But given human nature, it serves nicely to confirm whichever view you think is already proven, you just have to choose which parts of the verse to emphasize..

  17. pentamom pentamom
    12 June 2014 @ 3:17 pm

    DSM, was that possibly around 1999 when a discussion forum we were on was roiling over Orthodoxy?

  18. DSM DSM
    12 June 2014 @ 3:57 pm

    Could very well be; it feels about that far away in time. I think I still remember a certain RYMer’s conversion to Orthodoxy, which struck me as funny given that I’d thought he was being rather unfair to the Orthodox long before he went east. Some people are wild-swing types, I guess.

    (Well, I’m not sure if he became Orthodox directly or went via the gateway drug of Byzantine Catholicism, but it’s been a while.)

  19. Robin R.
    13 June 2014 @ 11:04 am

    That convert was probably Wayne.

  20. pentamom pentamom
    15 June 2014 @ 5:06 pm

    In my experience, some converts (to anything, I’m not singling out the Orthodox here) are the kind of people who convert because they found out they were to some degree wrong after having previously convinced themselves that their position was invulnerable. Being the type to be supremely confident in their own grasp of things, that shakes their world to the point of leaving them very open to the next good-sounding thing that comes along, particularly if it’s the position from which someone else exposed their own fallibility. The person DSM remembers was likely one of that type.

    There seems to be a type who can’t settle for, “Hm, maybe my beliefs were not as sound as I thought they were” and immediately jump to, “What shall I do? Everything I’ve ever believed was WRONG!!!!!”

  21. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    16 June 2014 @ 8:30 am

    @Pentamom, that may be the case sometimes, but you may be over-stating the “shake their world” part of it.

    I think there is a search for the ultimate philosophy — that pure expression of [whatever] that can withstand all assault, or that can explain all things. Or at least more things.

    The humility of realizing that you can’t explain everything wouldn’t prevent someone from leaving philosophy B, which seems to explain 75%, for philosophy A, which seems to explain 85%.

  22. Robin R.
    16 June 2014 @ 10:17 am

    What other choice do I have here but to accept the word of the Man of Multiple Conversions? :)

  23. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    16 June 2014 @ 10:22 am

    I can only speak to my situation, of course. I pursued the impossible dream of an actual answer. But I can’t speak for other people.

  24. Robin R.
    16 June 2014 @ 10:25 am

    Funny that you speak in terms of 75% and 85%. I feel like I have to use all of my pitiful intellectual strength just to get 10% – with a little bit of luck, or grace, or whatever.

  25. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    16 June 2014 @ 10:32 am

    They’re just numbers for an illustration, but it’s a question of 75% or 85% of what. Theories are only supposed to explain certain things.

  26. Robin R.
    16 June 2014 @ 10:38 am

    I was thinking of a theory that is 75% or 85% (in my case 10 %) true. I never did have high hopes of explaining very much, except in a very pragmatic sense.

  27. pentamom pentamom
    16 June 2014 @ 1:06 pm

    Shake the world is admittedly hyperbolic. But your objection assumes that you are a representative example. I think your pattern is a little different from some others I’ve observed.

  28. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    16 June 2014 @ 1:14 pm

    The phenomenon I am most interested in is when converts feel the need to hate the system they left. In some ways it makes sense as a mechanism to fit in with the new group. But it is also severely self-deprecating, e.g., “I was so stupid I believed this absolutely crazy stuff!”

  29. pentamom pentamom
    16 June 2014 @ 1:19 pm

    Self-congratulatory at the same time, though; “I was just an ordinary mortal like the rest of you believing this balderdash, but NOW I KNOW! And one of the things I know now is how MISERABLE I was before, even though I didn’t know it!”

  30. DSM DSM
    16 June 2014 @ 2:33 pm

    I tend to fall to the other extreme, and try to show how actually, on a deeper, more profound level than can be easily appreciated by others, I haven’t changed my beliefs at all.. even if yesterday I said “no way” and today I said “yes way”.

  31. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    16 June 2014 @ 2:36 pm

    Which is probably true at some level for everybody. Many aspects of a person’s personality are said to be (by people who claim to know such things) fairly fixed, so while some things seem to change, at some level they might not actually be changing.

  32. pentamom pentamom
    17 June 2014 @ 10:33 am

    DSM, I find I’m capable of admitting I think differently from five years ago, but I have a lot harder time admitting that I’m saying something different from what I said two months ago — I’ll do that “no, this is how it’s really the same” thing in that instance. My five years ago self doesn’t seem as much like “me,” but two months ago, that was me, and *I* don’t change my beliefs at the drop of a hat! Or so I’d have myself and others believe.

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