Luther & Mary’s Immaculate Conception: Lutheran Scholars’ Opinions

Luther & Mary’s Immaculate Conception: Lutheran Scholars’ Opinions September 30, 2010
Mary39
Immaculate Conception (c. 1667), by Juan Antonio de Frías y Escalante (1633-1670) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]
**
(9-30-10)
***

I wrote very extensively about the topic over seven years ago, and much of that research made it into my book about Martin Luther. Way back in 2003 I demonstrated how many Lutheran and other non-Catholic Luther scholars affirmed that Luther believed in Mary’s immaculate conception (in slightly modified form).Anyone interested in the fine (and many!) details can peruse my paper, but for my present purposes, here is a summary of what I found about what these scholars think:

[T]he following is a summary of the views of scholars on the subject of what Luther believed pertaining to the Immaculate Conception, in his later years (post-1528). I have not discovered a single scholar who treats this subject who denies that the early Luther believed in the Immaculate Conception in some form. The only dispute is over whether he later rejected his earlier views. I shall list the scholars from least convinced about the later Luther to most convinced: even to the point where it is thought his view was identical to that of the Catholic dogma proclaimed ex cathedra in 1854:

1. Hartmann Grisar (Catholic): Luther rejected the Immaculate Conception after 1528 or so.

2. Horst-Dietrich Preuss (Lutheran): Luther rejected the Immaculate Conception after 1528 or so.

3. Thomas A. O’Meara (C): later rejection “likely, but not certain.”

4. Hilda Graef (C): probably accepted, but in somewhat diluted form.

5. Arthur Carl Piepkorn (L): “life-long” accceptance “(barring two lapses).”

6. Walter Tappolet (C): accepted (yes).

7. Max Thurian (Reformed): yes.

8. William J. Cole (C): yes.

9. Eric W. Gritsch (L): yes.

10. Jaroslav Pelikan (L): yes.

11. Richard Marius (probably Protestant of some sort): yes.

12. 10 Catholic scholars on the Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue Committee (C): yes.

13. 11 Lutheran scholars on the Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue Committee (L): yes.

14. Reintraud Schimmelpfennig (C): yes, in the same sense as the infallible Catholic dogma proclaimed in 1854.

15. K. Algermissen (L): yes, in the same sense as the infallible Catholic dogma proclaimed in 1854.

16. Friedrich Heiler (L): yes, in the same sense as the infallible Catholic dogma proclaimed in 1854.

Total:

Yes: 31 (16 Lutherans, 13 Catholics, 1 Reformed, 1 probably Protestant [uncertain] )

Probably: 1 (Catholic)

Probably not: 1 (Catholic)

No: 2 (1 Catholic; 1 Lutheran)

That makes for an 89% rate of scholars of various religious persuasions who positively affirm that the later Luther believed in the Immaculate Conception. Only one Protestant scholar is firmly against the opinion, while two Catholic scholars are against and probably against (putting to rest the charge of denominational bias and special pleading). The Lutheran scholars can be, I think, fully trusted for the interpretation of the founder of their branch of Christianity. Catholic scholars are, then, only agreeing with the consensus of Lutheran scholarship on this point. I, therefore, rest my case . . .

Hartmann Grisar is one of a few scholars who believe that Luther ceased believing in Mary’s immaculate conception after 1527 or 1528, of at least of the 35 scholars I’ve run across who give any opinion at all. The only others I’ve found who agree with that opinion are Horst-Dietrich Preuss (Lutheran) and Thomas A. O’Meara (Catholic). 

This was verified by the eminent Lutheran scholar Eric W. Gritsch, who studied for his doctorate under the famous Luther biographer Roland H. Bainton, and was a major translator of Luther’s Works in English (edited by Jaroslav Pelikan), including the lengthy treatise, Against the Roman Papacy: An Institution of the Devil (vol. 41, 263-376). He wrote:

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.

(in The One Mediator, the Saints, and Mary, Lutherans and Catholics in Dialogue VIII, edited by H. George Anderson, J. Francis Stafford, Joseph A. Burgess, Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Press, 1992; 241)

In footnote 43 on page 382, he elaborated:

‘Haec pia cogitatio et placet.’ Exposition of the Ninth Chapter of Isaiah, 1543/44. WA 40/3:680.31-32. 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.

Walter Tappolet is “the man” as far as documenting Luther’s Mariology. Gritsch writes about him on page 379:

An exhaustive collection of Luther’s statements on Mary has been offered by Walter Tappolet and Albert Ebneter (eds.), Das Marienlob der Reformatoren (Tubingen: Katzmann, 1962), 17-218, 357-64. Two studies have analyzed the chronological development of Luther’s views in conjunction with his basic theological views: Hans Dufel, Luthers Stellung zur Marienverehrung ( . . . 1968) and William J. Cole, “Was Luther a Devotee of Mary?” Marian Studies 21, (1970), 94-202) . . .

So Gritsch recommends Tappolet and notes that the latter’s opinion on Luther’s espousal of the Immaculate Conception was that he “did not change his mind.” He also cites the article by Cole that I have had in my library for many years, having copied it from the local Catholic seminary. Cole reaches the same conclusion as Tappolet:

It is noteworthy that Luther himself with considerable consistency down to the time of his death in 1546 accepted the Immaculate Conception of Mary.

. . . Luther’s final attitude can probably best be described by saying that he believed the truth of the Immaculate Conception himself, but did not find it formally and expressly taught in Scriptures.

(pp. 121, 123)

That’s only the tip of the iceberg of the many scholars’ views that I detailed seven years ago.

Addendum: shortly after I compiled this paper, I became persuaded that Luther did change his later view, to a position which I describe as “immaculate purification.” Briefly, the later Luther (sometime after 1527) thought that Mary was purified at the time of the birth or conception of Jesus, rather than at her own conception.

***

Meta Description: Many Lutheran scholars believed that Martin Luther accepted some form of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.

Meta Keywords: Blessed Virgin Mary, Catholic Mariology, Immaculate Conception, Immaculate purification, Luther and Mary, Luther’s Mariology, Lutheran Mariology, Marian doctrines, Mariology, Mary mother of Jesus, Mother of God, Theotokos, Virgin Mary


Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Catholic
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • James Swan now regards himself as so scholarly that he can laugh at, disparage and discount real scholars of Luther, such as those many that Dave has listed.

    It could be that Mr. Swan just now received his own PhD in the mail from the same unaccredited diploma mill that awarded a "doctorate" to James White. And he's feeling empowered.

  • James Swan now regards himself as so scholarly that he can laugh at, disparage and discount real scholars of Luther, such as those many that Dave has listed.

    It could be that Mr. Swan just now received his own PhD in the mail from the same unaccredited diploma mill that awarded a "doctorate" to James White. And he's feeling empowered.

  • Yeah; he got it from a deal on the back of a cereal box: General Mills brand, of course. LOL

    Can you imagine an exchange between Swan and someone like Gritsch on this issue? I'd give my right (typing!) arm to see something like that.

    It would make eight years of wearisome nonsense with Swan and all of his insults and myths and delusions of self-importance well worth it . . . :-)

  • Yeah; he got it from a deal on the back of a cereal box: General Mills brand, of course. LOL

    Can you imagine an exchange between Swan and someone like Gritsch on this issue? I'd give my right (typing!) arm to see something like that.

    It would make eight years of wearisome nonsense with Swan and all of his insults and myths and delusions of self-importance well worth it . . . :-)

  • I'm not saying Swan is a scholar by any means, but I think it's fair to require some specific quotes from Luther before claiming he held to the doctrine post-1528.

    The "scholar card" is dangerous, because often times scholars can say a whole host of unsubstantiated (even blatantly false) things. Further, it's not uncommon for scholars to come to their "conclusions" based on second and third hand sources – which means they're putting their trust not on the primary sources.

    After skimming over your long paper on the subject, it seems there are a few quotes which could suggest he 'downgraded' to saying Mary was purified from all sin at the Annunciation, but not at conception (as before), and this in the midst of quotes where Luther says Mary sinned.

  • I'm not saying Swan is a scholar by any means, but I think it's fair to require some specific quotes from Luther before claiming he held to the doctrine post-1528.

    The "scholar card" is dangerous, because often times scholars can say a whole host of unsubstantiated (even blatantly false) things. Further, it's not uncommon for scholars to come to their "conclusions" based on second and third hand sources – which means they're putting their trust not on the primary sources.

    After skimming over your long paper on the subject, it seems there are a few quotes which could suggest he 'downgraded' to saying Mary was purified from all sin at the Annunciation, but not at conception (as before), and this in the midst of quotes where Luther says Mary sinned.

  • I already provided those in 2003, in my paper. Luther's view was slightly different from the dogma as we now believe it.

    If there is scholarly consensus on something, that is significant. For some reason, that consensus is that Luther believed in some form of the IC his entire life. Very few disagree with that.

    They assuredly have reasons for their opinions. Gritsch, for example, cited a bunch of primary sources, and he cited Tappolet's extensive collection of Luther on Mary.

    It's not based on nothing or mere speculation. This is the consensus. Since Swan has been saying otherwise for years (even though he should have known better since 2003 and my original paper in reply to his nonsense), he keeps spinning and revising history, rather than lose face and be shown to be wrong, over against myself (which to him is a fate a thousand times worse than death).

    He's tried to make an entire online "career" out of lying about my Luther research and pretending that his is so infinitely superior to mine (what a joke: as his present hogwash illustrates yet again), so this is very high stakes for him.

  • I already provided those in 2003, in my paper. Luther's view was slightly different from the dogma as we now believe it.

    If there is scholarly consensus on something, that is significant. For some reason, that consensus is that Luther believed in some form of the IC his entire life. Very few disagree with that.

    They assuredly have reasons for their opinions. Gritsch, for example, cited a bunch of primary sources, and he cited Tappolet's extensive collection of Luther on Mary.

    It's not based on nothing or mere speculation. This is the consensus. Since Swan has been saying otherwise for years (even though he should have known better since 2003 and my original paper in reply to his nonsense), he keeps spinning and revising history, rather than lose face and be shown to be wrong, over against myself (which to him is a fate a thousand times worse than death).

    He's tried to make an entire online "career" out of lying about my Luther research and pretending that his is so infinitely superior to mine (what a joke: as his present hogwash illustrates yet again), so this is very high stakes for him.

  • I've already found yet another Lutheran scholarly source that agrees with the findings I already have presented, and I'll try to dig up some more, too. Stay tuned!

    Swan has picked an unfortunate hill to die on. This will not bode well for him, if he insists on digging in.

  • I've already found yet another Lutheran scholarly source that agrees with the findings I already have presented, and I'll try to dig up some more, too. Stay tuned!

    Swan has picked an unfortunate hill to die on. This will not bode well for him, if he insists on digging in.

  • And there is nothing wrong with citing what scholars think about something. That's what is called "review of the literature." Scholars themselves do this all the time. It's all part of the scholarly, academic endeavor. It's done in biblical commentary and exegesis (ALL the time), and also in historiography.

    I'm not a scholar, so I cite scholars. I've been through this "argument" a hundred times. I'm not the one pretending to be anything I'm not. I'm simply a lay Catholic non-academic apologist, who has a great interest in Church history and Luther himself.

    I don't pretend to be speaking in a pseudo-scholarly fashion, as Swan regularly does. That's why I actually surveyed many more scholars' opinions than he has. He picks and chooses what he wants to present and gives his own (uninformed) opinion.

    That is polemics and spinning, not serious research: even on the amateur level that he and I are both on. We're not professional historians.

  • And there is nothing wrong with citing what scholars think about something. That's what is called "review of the literature." Scholars themselves do this all the time. It's all part of the scholarly, academic endeavor. It's done in biblical commentary and exegesis (ALL the time), and also in historiography.

    I'm not a scholar, so I cite scholars. I've been through this "argument" a hundred times. I'm not the one pretending to be anything I'm not. I'm simply a lay Catholic non-academic apologist, who has a great interest in Church history and Luther himself.

    I don't pretend to be speaking in a pseudo-scholarly fashion, as Swan regularly does. That's why I actually surveyed many more scholars' opinions than he has. He picks and chooses what he wants to present and gives his own (uninformed) opinion.

    That is polemics and spinning, not serious research: even on the amateur level that he and I are both on. We're not professional historians.

  • Swan a short time ago completely deleted all of my comments on his thread over there at Boors All (as I knew and predicted that he would). He also deleted the following comment by "Truth Unites … and Divides":

    "Please leave Dave Armstrong's invective up on this blog thread. . . . I say let it remain because it clearly shows what a horse's ass he is." (9-30-10)

    Isn't that lovely and quaint old-time fundamentalist language? Where is David T. King and his horror at vulgar language when we need him?

    But at least Swan had sense enough to delete this, too. Part of it was self-interest: he also deleted other blistering personal attacks from TUAD that (fortunately) I recorded before they were ejected from the site. :-)

  • Swan a short time ago completely deleted all of my comments on his thread over there at Boors All (as I knew and predicted that he would). He also deleted the following comment by "Truth Unites … and Divides":

    "Please leave Dave Armstrong's invective up on this blog thread. . . . I say let it remain because it clearly shows what a horse's ass he is." (9-30-10)

    Isn't that lovely and quaint old-time fundamentalist language? Where is David T. King and his horror at vulgar language when we need him?

    But at least Swan had sense enough to delete this, too. Part of it was self-interest: he also deleted other blistering personal attacks from TUAD that (fortunately) I recorded before they were ejected from the site. :-)

  • Nick: The "scholar card" is dangerous, because often times scholars can say a whole host of unsubstantiated (even blatantly false) things.

    Adomnan: Gotta disagree with you on this, Nick. The fact that, of 35 true scholars of Luther, only 3 think he denied or probably denied the Immaculate Conception is very valuable information, and frankly all that most need to know about this subject. These are all experts on Luther who know German and Latin and have read their subject's writings in the original languages.

    Nick: Further, it's not uncommon for scholars to come to their "conclusions" based on second and third hand sources – which means they're putting their trust not on the primary sources.

    Adomnan: What sort of "second or third hand" sources would they use? Luther's voluminous writings are all preserved and available, and these scholars can read them, and of course, have read them. Scholars don't need to go to second and third hand sources when the first person source is so readily available. You think that someone who devotes much of his life to studying Luther would dispense with reading Luther in the original?

    I also don't think you should give Swan, a bigoted fundamentalist nobody with a blog who has anointed himself an authority on Luther, credit for any kind of serious inquiry. He's never "fair" about anything, as I was able to see when he falsely claimed Dave had taken Luther out of context some months back. Let's not forget that. I think we make a mistake when we grant these charlatans any stature at all.

    I'll take the consensus of 32 out of 35 real Luther scholars over Swan's tendentious confusions any day, as would any rational person.

    And as for the egregious Tim Enloe, we should put him up for an honorary "Doctorate of Pomposity," to be awarded immediately. He's definitely earned it, nulla cum laude.

  • Nick: The "scholar card" is dangerous, because often times scholars can say a whole host of unsubstantiated (even blatantly false) things.

    Adomnan: Gotta disagree with you on this, Nick. The fact that, of 35 true scholars of Luther, only 3 think he denied or probably denied the Immaculate Conception is very valuable information, and frankly all that most need to know about this subject. These are all experts on Luther who know German and Latin and have read their subject's writings in the original languages.

    Nick: Further, it's not uncommon for scholars to come to their "conclusions" based on second and third hand sources – which means they're putting their trust not on the primary sources.

    Adomnan: What sort of "second or third hand" sources would they use? Luther's voluminous writings are all preserved and available, and these scholars can read them, and of course, have read them. Scholars don't need to go to second and third hand sources when the first person source is so readily available. You think that someone who devotes much of his life to studying Luther would dispense with reading Luther in the original?

    I also don't think you should give Swan, a bigoted fundamentalist nobody with a blog who has anointed himself an authority on Luther, credit for any kind of serious inquiry. He's never "fair" about anything, as I was able to see when he falsely claimed Dave had taken Luther out of context some months back. Let's not forget that. I think we make a mistake when we grant these charlatans any stature at all.

    I'll take the consensus of 32 out of 35 real Luther scholars over Swan's tendentious confusions any day, as would any rational person.

    And as for the egregious Tim Enloe, we should put him up for an honorary "Doctorate of Pomposity," to be awarded immediately. He's definitely earned it, nulla cum laude.

  • "Nulla cum laude" . . . ROFL. You're a scream when you get on a roll!

  • "Nulla cum laude" . . . ROFL. You're a scream when you get on a roll!

  • Spotted a typo in this one, so I'm reposting it.

    ***

    I've added additional material from Boors All, including my own comments and Tim Enloe's usual self-important bloviations. (at 4:15 PM EST Thursday).

    Once Jimbo Swan got home, all my comments were deleted (I preserved 'em safely in the post), but this thing is heating up, with Hyper-Polemicist Tim making intense, ridiculous accusations now towards Taylor Marshall, simply because he noted that he had a Protestant theological degree, in a comment.

    It's an extraordinary display of arrogance even by Tim's persistently low standards in that regard.

  • Spotted a typo in this one, so I'm reposting it.

    ***

    I've added additional material from Boors All, including my own comments and Tim Enloe's usual self-important bloviations. (at 4:15 PM EST Thursday).

    Once Jimbo Swan got home, all my comments were deleted (I preserved 'em safely in the post), but this thing is heating up, with Hyper-Polemicist Tim making intense, ridiculous accusations now towards Taylor Marshall, simply because he noted that he had a Protestant theological degree, in a comment.

    It's an extraordinary display of arrogance even by Tim's persistently low standards in that regard.

  • I do think there are many things scholars have agreed on that are simply assertions with no evidence. The idea that stories of miracles must not be written by eye witnesses but be descriptions of pious myth that developed later. This assumption is made by many scholars. That does not mean there are good reasons to make it. It is based on a tradition of sorts.

    What we see in this post is more along the lines of statements against interest. Scholars who would rather this conclusion not be true admitting it is. Now for the opinion to really carry weight you would need to be familiar with the scholar and know not only his intelligence and his competence in research but also his biases.

    I know identifying a scholar as Catholic does not imply a bias towards the Catholic faith. I can think of many Catholic scholars who I think are badly biased the other way. So saying someone is Luther maybe does not means so much. You need to know these names.

  • I do think there are many things scholars have agreed on that are simply assertions with no evidence. The idea that stories of miracles must not be written by eye witnesses but be descriptions of pious myth that developed later. This assumption is made by many scholars. That does not mean there are good reasons to make it. It is based on a tradition of sorts.

    What we see in this post is more along the lines of statements against interest. Scholars who would rather this conclusion not be true admitting it is. Now for the opinion to really carry weight you would need to be familiar with the scholar and know not only his intelligence and his competence in research but also his biases.

    I know identifying a scholar as Catholic does not imply a bias towards the Catholic faith. I can think of many Catholic scholars who I think are badly biased the other way. So saying someone is Luther maybe does not means so much. You need to know these names.

  • I think Adomnan is exactly right:

    "The fact that, of 35 true scholars of Luther, only 3 think he denied or probably denied the Immaculate Conception is very valuable information, and frankly all that most need to know about this subject. These are all experts on Luther who know German and Latin and have read their subject's writings in the original languages."

    There is no good reason to doubt their report. This is why we have scholars: they study their fields deeply and extensively and report the results. We amateurs have neither the resources, abilities, nor time to do so.

    I've seen many actual quotes from Luther, and have provided them. It's not like I saw nothing.

    Swan and Enloe don't like this conclusion, so they're playing games and making dumb accusations that don't apply to me at all. When scholars support their POV, they have no trouble citing scores of them.

    It's almost like anti-Catholic and contra-Catholic are synonyms for "one with a blatant double standard."

    It is the people who are hung up on their own knowledge and supposed "brilliance" and insecure about it who have to keep harping about how brilliant they are, and lying about and putting down others who disagree with them (and running from any constructive dialogue with those who disagree).

    It's no different from the schoolyard mentality: put down someone else to make yourself feel better.

    That's Swan and Enloe.

  • I think Adomnan is exactly right:

    "The fact that, of 35 true scholars of Luther, only 3 think he denied or probably denied the Immaculate Conception is very valuable information, and frankly all that most need to know about this subject. These are all experts on Luther who know German and Latin and have read their subject's writings in the original languages."

    There is no good reason to doubt their report. This is why we have scholars: they study their fields deeply and extensively and report the results. We amateurs have neither the resources, abilities, nor time to do so.

    I've seen many actual quotes from Luther, and have provided them. It's not like I saw nothing.

    Swan and Enloe don't like this conclusion, so they're playing games and making dumb accusations that don't apply to me at all. When scholars support their POV, they have no trouble citing scores of them.

    It's almost like anti-Catholic and contra-Catholic are synonyms for "one with a blatant double standard."

    It is the people who are hung up on their own knowledge and supposed "brilliance" and insecure about it who have to keep harping about how brilliant they are, and lying about and putting down others who disagree with them (and running from any constructive dialogue with those who disagree).

    It's no different from the schoolyard mentality: put down someone else to make yourself feel better.

    That's Swan and Enloe.

  • I've added several more comments from Our Man Doe (Swan). It's mantra time now: TAO and TUAD style. (11:30 AM EST Friday).

  • I've added several more comments from Our Man Doe (Swan). It's mantra time now: TAO and TUAD style. (11:30 AM EST Friday).

  • What all these scholars saw is really the pressing question. Did they see quotes from Luther that were never available in English? If so, that can be a slam dunk.

    As I suggested on BA, one clue I would look for is whether Luther and his followers kept the Feast Day of Mary's Conception on the Liturgical Calendar – that's a strong clue either way.

    When I spoke of scholars turning to second and third hand information – that's sadly a reality too often.

    As for Swan, he is wrong on his theological conclusions at times, but I have not seen him (or at least a track record) be dishonest – and in fact I've seen him admit 'difficult' things. For example, he admitted on a blog post devoted to 2 Maccabees being quoted in Heb 11 that the evidence strongly suggests Heb 11 was alluding to 2 Macc – where as many Protestants wont admit that (for obvious reasons). I distinguish between being (a) wrong theologically (e.g. trying to make a 'good argument' for Sola Scriptura); (b) making a factual mistake (e.g. misspeaking, ignornace, etc); and (c) deliberately and willfully distorting facts, especially with a track record.

    I can count Swan in category (a) pretty confidently, (b) a few times here and there, but we all do this now and then…but no strong proof for (c).

  • What all these scholars saw is really the pressing question. Did they see quotes from Luther that were never available in English? If so, that can be a slam dunk.

    As I suggested on BA, one clue I would look for is whether Luther and his followers kept the Feast Day of Mary's Conception on the Liturgical Calendar – that's a strong clue either way.

    When I spoke of scholars turning to second and third hand information – that's sadly a reality too often.

    As for Swan, he is wrong on his theological conclusions at times, but I have not seen him (or at least a track record) be dishonest – and in fact I've seen him admit 'difficult' things. For example, he admitted on a blog post devoted to 2 Maccabees being quoted in Heb 11 that the evidence strongly suggests Heb 11 was alluding to 2 Macc – where as many Protestants wont admit that (for obvious reasons). I distinguish between being (a) wrong theologically (e.g. trying to make a 'good argument' for Sola Scriptura); (b) making a factual mistake (e.g. misspeaking, ignornace, etc); and (c) deliberately and willfully distorting facts, especially with a track record.

    I can count Swan in category (a) pretty confidently, (b) a few times here and there, but we all do this now and then…but no strong proof for (c).

  • I don't know, Nick. I haven't had a great deal of exposure to Swan's stuff, because what I've read is tedious and unrewarding. His interpretations of his material are labored and aprioristic, in the sense that his fundamentalist presuppositions are used as a filter to misinterpret everything. It doesn't matter in the least what a text says; he'll interpret it to mean whatever he wants it to, which is typical of these people.

    I saw that with his Luther material. Some months back, Swan, as he often does, tried to claim that Dave misrepresented Luther by quoting the Reformer out of context. To show this, Swan provided longer excerpts in which Dave's citations of Luther were embedded. Then Swan claimed that these contexts, interpreted through his lens, reversed or canceled the apparent meaning of the citations. The problem was, however, that they didn't. They did so only when run through Swan's weird interpretative grid. (Even given his spin, Swan's claim that Dave was misrepresenting Luther was debatable, to say the least.)

    So, to your three categories of error, I would add a fourth,

    (d) a willful blindness to the facts that entrenches one in a misinterpretion of a text, no matter how strong the evidence against one's reading is. This can also be called "digging in" or "denial."

    Is this a form of dishonesty? It's certainly a kind of self-deception.

    The thing about texts is that, in the end, anybody can claim absolute freedom to interpret them any way he wishes, regardless of considerations of logic, language or common sense. That's why the Reformed like Sola Scriptura so much. It's just a longer way of saying "solo me."

    To cite another example of this absolute freedom of interpretation, although it doesn't involve Swan: I pointed out to Ken Temple, who used to frequent this blog, that the Bible did not teach that Christ's righteousness was imputed to anyone. In fact, it taught that our faith is imputed to us as righteousness. Well, Ken merely said that he chose to interpret the statement in Romans 4 that "faith is imputed as righteousness" to mean "faith is NOT imputed as righteousness, but Christ's righteousness is"! So, there you go, the "miracle" of free interpretation will give you anything you want.

    I know you've run into "Reformed" interlocutors who fall into this category (d), Nick. I've seen you debate them! I'd put Swan in category (d), too.

  • I don't know, Nick. I haven't had a great deal of exposure to Swan's stuff, because what I've read is tedious and unrewarding. His interpretations of his material are labored and aprioristic, in the sense that his fundamentalist presuppositions are used as a filter to misinterpret everything. It doesn't matter in the least what a text says; he'll interpret it to mean whatever he wants it to, which is typical of these people.

    I saw that with his Luther material. Some months back, Swan, as he often does, tried to claim that Dave misrepresented Luther by quoting the Reformer out of context. To show this, Swan provided longer excerpts in which Dave's citations of Luther were embedded. Then Swan claimed that these contexts, interpreted through his lens, reversed or canceled the apparent meaning of the citations. The problem was, however, that they didn't. They did so only when run through Swan's weird interpretative grid. (Even given his spin, Swan's claim that Dave was misrepresenting Luther was debatable, to say the least.)

    So, to your three categories of error, I would add a fourth,

    (d) a willful blindness to the facts that entrenches one in a misinterpretion of a text, no matter how strong the evidence against one's reading is. This can also be called "digging in" or "denial."

    Is this a form of dishonesty? It's certainly a kind of self-deception.

    The thing about texts is that, in the end, anybody can claim absolute freedom to interpret them any way he wishes, regardless of considerations of logic, language or common sense. That's why the Reformed like Sola Scriptura so much. It's just a longer way of saying "solo me."

    To cite another example of this absolute freedom of interpretation, although it doesn't involve Swan: I pointed out to Ken Temple, who used to frequent this blog, that the Bible did not teach that Christ's righteousness was imputed to anyone. In fact, it taught that our faith is imputed to us as righteousness. Well, Ken merely said that he chose to interpret the statement in Romans 4 that "faith is imputed as righteousness" to mean "faith is NOT imputed as righteousness, but Christ's righteousness is"! So, there you go, the "miracle" of free interpretation will give you anything you want.

    I know you've run into "Reformed" interlocutors who fall into this category (d), Nick. I've seen you debate them! I'd put Swan in category (d), too.

  • Adomnan,

    I would certainly have to agree with you regarding category "d" – it is present with virtually every Protestant I talk with online. I would not call it a willful blindness in every case (though some), but clearly there is a blindness that distorts a plain look at the facts.

    There is a blindess out there that leads to double-standards, not understanding and thus mischaracterizing the Catholic side's actual position, and slipping in presumptions in place of providing facts (especially when requested).

    And yes, your Ken Temple example is a star witness to this problem.

  • Adomnan,

    I would certainly have to agree with you regarding category "d" – it is present with virtually every Protestant I talk with online. I would not call it a willful blindness in every case (though some), but clearly there is a blindness that distorts a plain look at the facts.

    There is a blindess out there that leads to double-standards, not understanding and thus mischaracterizing the Catholic side's actual position, and slipping in presumptions in place of providing facts (especially when requested).

    And yes, your Ken Temple example is a star witness to this problem.