If Famous Preachers Left Yelp Reviews of Lakewood Church



Luther, M.
95 Friends

“This miserable jackanapes who makes a pretense of preaching would have the Christian avoid tribulations, which are twofold: from divine wrath and from divine goodness. But this miniature Demas, in love with this present world, judges both only according to outward appearances, and makes himself a theologian of glory. In the face of tribulation, if one is spiritual, strong, wise, pious, gentle and humble, he will become more spiritual, powerful, wise, pious, gentle and humble, as the Psalmist says in Psalm 4:1: ‘Thou has enlarged me when I was in distress.’ But this addlepate is no Christian but a Turk and an enemy of Christ who would deny the Christian this cross; for here the Apostle speaks: ‘We glory in tribulations.’

“O-stink glories only in vanity and is blind to the God who accepts no one as righteous whom He has not first tried. But He tries us through the fire of affliction, as we read in Psalm 11:5: ‘The Lord trieth the righteous.’ God tries us in this way, in order that we may know whether we really love God for His own sake. This false ‘Lake-of-fire’ deceiver is one whose very teeth are an offense to the divine Wisdom.”

Calvin, J.
0 Friends

“The greeters were very cloying and I found my seat did not afford a good view. The music was mostly Christian rock and not of the very best kind. The law of God was never preached and therefore the balm of the gospel never offered. In addition, coffee hour was a catastrophic admixture of idolatry, false fellowship, and cronuts, themselves unclean adulterations. One youth asked if I was ‘into bedazzling,’ as if I were a wizard of some former age. I immediately fled, seeking refuge with the king whose realm is composed of burgers.”

Wesley, J.
London, England
25,500 Friends

“Christians are not perfect in knowledge, and this preacher offer proof of this. Innumerable are the things which he knows not. Touching the Almighty himself, this Osteen knows neither the thunder of the Lord’s power nor the times and seasons [Acts 1:7] when God will work his great works upon the earth, when ‘the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, greater even than that of the praise band, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat,’ preferably sooner than later. And while no one, then, is so perfect in this life as to be free from ignorance, the Preacher of Lakewood abuses the privilege. Nay, with regard to the Holy Scriptures themselves, as careful as they are to avoid it, the best of men are liable to mistake. Today within my hearing was preaching of such mistake as to make the most grotesque of Judaizers seem the very apostle to the Gentiles. Would an Alexander the Coppersmith appear and do this ministry much harm. Like now.”

Spurgeon, CH
London, England
10M Friends

“Though salvation is not by works of the law, yet the blessings which are promised to obedience are denied by this faithless servant. This Ostler picks and chooses with respect to all that God has commanded. If His chosen ones walk uprightly before Him, He will bless. Yet the ways of worldly conformity and unholiness cannot bring good to us. If integrity does not make us prosper, discounted e-books on Amazon will not.

“No man may refuse to go to holy war. We must fight if we would reign, and we must carry on the warfare till we overcome every enemy, yea this very false prophet, who has come into the world wielding via satellite all the evils that accompany false teaching. Read the whole of the Spirit’s word to the church at Ephesus. Or Bunyan, you pickled herrings.

“The unction of Satan drips from the very bannisters of the Lakewood synagogue.”

Finney, C.
Oberlin, Ohio
I am my own friend

“This latter-day Joel rightly promises future blessings owing to prevailing prayer.

“The fellowship at Lakewood understands that Our Savior excites strong desires for blessings, which you are bound to pray for in faith. You are bound to infer, from the fact that you find yourself drawn to desire such a thing while in the exercise of such holy affections as the Spirit of Joel produces, that these desires are the work of the Spirit also: happiness, stuff, three-day weekends, marmite paninis.

“Here, then, if you find yourself strongly drawn to desire a blessing, you are to understand it as an intimation that God is willing to bestow that particular blessing, and so you are bound to believe it or you’re a dope. God does not trifle with His children but is not keen on the Midianites. He does not go and excite in a son or daughter a desire for one blessing, say, a Lexus, to turn them off with something else, nay, a Tesla. But He excites the very desires He is willing to gratify such that the itch and the scratch become one. And when believers feel such desires, they are bound to follow them out till they get the blessing, or else.

“To prove that faith is indispensable to prevailing prayer, it is only necessary to repeat what the apostle James expressly tells us: “If any of you lack Armani, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him, with a nice knit tie. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth, will receive Donald J. Trump grey plaid” (James 1:5, 6).

“Midway through the worship service, we were asked to believe that we shall receive—something—what? Not something, or anything, as it happens; but some particular thing. We were to think that God is not such a Being that if we ask a fish He will give us a serpent; or if we ask a four-bedroom, three bath colonial in Brentwood, He will give us a trailer in Oxnard. But He says: ‘What things so ever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them, so pay the quarterly tax now.’

“We met a man during the fellowship who supposed that God had especially promised a thing but prayed, ‘Lord, if it be Thy will…’ We immediately upbraided him and said, ‘This is to insult God. To put an if into God’s promise, where God has put none, is tantamount to charging God with being an Old School Calvinist.’

“I am most pleased to recommend the Lakewood Church. The spirit of prayer has come down upon this Church, and a most powerful revival will certainly follow. Of what, I have no idea.”

Graham, W.
Everyone is a friend

“The pawn shop of Satan in which we are redeemed by the sentimentality of a bloodless Saviour. Go to my grandson’s church.”

Chrysostom, J.
Friends are a luxury I cannot afford

“Paul took whatever was profitable of the chastening that proceeds from the Devil, and left the rest alone. This false church takes whatever is profitable for inflating egos and grants the proceeds to the Devil. The Apostle often used the Devil as an executioner. This Empty Orifice executes false doctrine and sends those conviced they have done no wrong to the Devil.

“Not once did I hear that we were to know ourselves, know our wounds, thus to seek the right medicines. Instead we were fed anodynes. For he who does not know his disease, will give no care to his weakness. There were many young in attendance here. But these young should not be confident in their youth, nor think that they have a very fixed term of life, ‘For the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.’ On this account he has made our end invisible, in order that we might make our diligence plain. No such warning was ever preached, as if the young would live for eternity in their own power. Still hear what Paul says ‘when they say peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them.’ Affairs are full of much change. We are not masters of our end. We are not to put faith in dreams and worldly comfort. Let us be masters not of earthly desires but of virtue. Our Master Christ is loving. This ministry is not.”

Keller, T.
8M Friends

“The gospel says you are more sinful and flawed than you ever dared believe, but more accepted and loved than you ever dared hope. … I don’t actually have time to sit through a whole Lakewood service. I don’t have time to sit through one of my own services. So I got nuthin.”

Apostle Paul                               
11 Friends


Who Can Forgive Whose Sins?


So I logged on to the Mockingbird blog today and went searching for audio from their annual NYC Conference, seeing as it featured this year a Lutherany Presbyterian (Tullian Tchividjian) and a mainliny Lutheran (Nadia Bolz-Weber), which I thought would yield some interesting MP4age. The Mockingbirders are themselves low-churchy Anglicany Episcs,* as opposed to mainliny Episcs or Anglo-Catholicy Episcs, or for that matter continuing Anglicans, who can also be broken down into those who follow the “Affirmation of St. Louis” and Sydney Anglicans and evangelical Anglicans. A chart will be forthcoming to help with these distinctions but don’t expect it anytime soon because who has that kind of time.

I listened to this clip of the talk given by Bolz-Weber. It’s three minutes long, so put down the sausage and focus.

Did you listen? Now, put aside your feelings about Bolz-Weber’s ministry, whether women can/should be ordained, whether the ELCA is a legitimate expression of Lutheranism, how much turmeric is too much in a nicely balanced muttar paneer, etc. I want to concentrate just on what she said, specifically this:

“Jesus talked about forgiveness all the time. And he told people ‘Do this thing in my name,’ right? And so we have the authority to do this for each other in Jesus’ name.”

Do we? In the anecdote she relates just before this, she offered the forgiveness of sins as a “called and ordained minister of the Word” — don’t go there, I asked you nicely not to go there, get away from there now or I swear I will come to your home and break all best china. FOCUS.

Some questions come to mind (at least to my mind — you, on the other hand, may have this all worked out as you sit there posing decisively in your nicely blocked Hat of Authority and magisterial khakis):

(1) Do we, the laity, have this authority to pronounce the forgiveness of sins, in Jesus’ name, to a guilt-ridden person? 

(2) Does that guilt-ridden person have to be a Christian? Or does the Lutheran doctrine of universal objective justification cover even a non-Christian?

(3) Does the guilt-ridden person have to make an explicit confession of sins (even if, as the catechism notes, not every sin must be described or recounted)? Does the person have to be, in some sense, truly penitent? Or does he or she merely have to feel guilty or burdened in some way, and therefore be open to some “relief,” to receive the forgiveness of sins?

(4) If the person must confess their sins, and acknowledge them, presumably as sins and not mere “mistakes,” does this put a condition on the forgiveness of sins? And does mere confession cut it? Does the Lutheran construal of absolution insist upon some kind of contrition, regardless of its “intensity”?

I know the answers to some of these questions already, but I thought this would be a nice teachable moment for non-Lutherans.

This is from the “Brief Admonition to Confession,” which is attached to some editions of the Large Catechism. Hear Herr Luther (emphasis mine, because I’m always emphasizing stuff):

In the first place, I have said that besides the Confession here being considered there are two other kinds, which may even more properly be called the Christians’ common confession. They are (a) the confession and plea for forgiveness made to God alone and (b) the confession that is made to the neighbor alone. These two kinds of confession are included in the Lord’s Prayer, in which we pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matthew 6:12), and so on. In fact, the entire Lord’s Prayer is nothing else than such a confession. For what are our petitions other than a confession that we neither have nor do what we ought, as well as a plea for grace and a cheerful conscience? Confession of this sort should and must continue without letup as long as we live. For the Christian way essentially consists in acknowledging ourselves to be sinners and in praying for grace.

Similarly, the other of the two confessions, the one that every Christian makes to his neighbor, is also included in the Lord’s Prayer. For here we mutually confess our guilt and our desire for forgiveness (Matthew 5:23-24). Now, all of us are guilty of sinning against one another; therefore, we may and should publicly confess this before everyone without shrinking in one another’s presence. For what the proverb says is true, “If anyone is perfect, then all are.” There is no one at all who fulfills his obligations toward God and his neighbor (Romans 3:10-12). Besides such universal guilt, there is also the particular guilt of the person who has provoked another to rightful anger and needs to ask his pardon. So we have in the Lord’s Prayer a double absolution: there we are forgiven our offenses against God and those against our neighbor, and there we forgive our neighbor and become reconciled to him.

Besides this public, daily, and necessary confession, there is also the confidential confession that is only made before a single brother. If something particular weighs upon us or troubles us, something with which we keep torturing ourselves and can find no rest, and we do not find our faith to be strong enough to cope with it, then this private form of confession gives us the opportunity of laying the matter before some brother. We may receive counsel, comfort, and strength when and however often we wish. That we should do this is not included in any divine command, as are the other two kinds of confession. Rather, it is offered to everyone who may need it, as an opportunity to be used by him as his need requires. The origin and establishment of private Confession lies in the fact that Christ Himself placed His Absolution into the hands of His Christian people with the command that they should absolve one another of their sins (Ephesians 4:32). So any heart that feels it sinfulness and desires consolation has here a sure refuge when he hears God’s Word and makes the discovery that God through a human being looses and absolves him from his sins.

So notice then, that Confession, as I have often said, consists of two parts. The first is my own work and action, when I lament my sins and desire comfort and refreshment for my soul. The other part is a work that God does when He declares me free of my sin through His Word placed in the mouth of a man. It is this splendid, noble, thing that makes Confession so lovely, so comforting. It used to be that we emphasized it only as our work; all that we were then concerned about was whether our act of confession was pure and perfect in every detail. We paid no attention to the second and most necessary part of Confession, nor did we proclaim it. We acted just as if Confession were nothing but a good work by which payment was to be made to God, so that if the confession was inadequate and not exactly correct in every detail, then the Absolution would not be valid and the sin unforgiven. By this the people were driven to the point where everyone had to despair of making so pure a Confession (an obvious impossibility) and where no one could feel at ease in his conscience or have confidence in his Absolution. So they not only rendered the precious Confession useless to us but also made it a bitter burden (Matthew 23:4) causing noticeable spiritual harm and ruin.

In our view of Confession, therefore, we should sharply separate its two parts far from each other. We should place slight value on our part in it. But we should hold in high and great esteem God’s Word in the Absolution part of Confession. We should not proceed as if we intended to perform and offer Him a splendid work, but simply to accept and receive something from Him. You dare not come saying how good or how bad you are. If you are a Christian, I in any case, know well enough that you are. If you are not, I know that even better. But what you must see to is that you lament your problem and that you let yourself be helped to acquire a cheerful heart and conscience.

Moreover, no one may now pressure you with commandments. Rather, what we say is this: Whoever is a Christian or would like to be one is here faithfully advised to go and get the precious treasure. If you are no Christian and do not desire such comfort, we shall leave it to another to use force on you. By eliminating all need for the pope’s tyranny, command, and coercion, we cancel them with a single sweep. As I have said, we teach that whoever does not go to Confession willingly and for the sake of obtaining the Absolution, he may as well forget about it. Yes, and whoever goes around relying on the purity of his act of making confession, let him stay away. Nevertheless, we strongly urge you by all means to make confession of your need, not with the intention of doing a worthy work by confessing but in order to hear what God has arranged for you to be told. What I am saying is that you are to concentrate on the Word, on the Absolution, to regard it as a great and precious and magnificently splendid treasure, and to accept it with all praise and thanksgiving to God.

If this were explained in detail and if the need that ought to move and lead us to make confession were pointed out, then one would need little urging or coercion. For everyone’s own conscience would so drive and disturb him that he would be glad to do what a poor and miserable beggar does when he hears that a rich gift of money or clothing is being handed out at a certain place. So as not to miss it, he would run there as fast as he can and would need no bailiff to beat and drive him on. Now, suppose that in place of the invitation one were to substitute a command to the effect that all beggars should run to that place but not say why nor mention what they should look for and receive there. What else would the beggar do but make the trip with distaste, without thinking of going to get a gift but simply of letting people see what a poor, miserable beggar he is? This would bring him little joy and comfort but only greater resentment against the command that was issued.

I believe what Luther is alluding to when he writes “besides the Confession here being considered” is the general, public confession made during the Divine Service and also made during the recital of the Lord’s Prayer.

What I glean from the “Admonition” is that (a) there is a “work” on our part, and that is to come forward, voluntarily, and confess our guilt; (b) absolution of a kind may be something offered by a “brother” (but perhaps only in extraordinary, and quite personal, circumstances, and not something to be bandied about on the bus, as Bolz-Weber would have it) ; and (c) even someone who wishes to be a Christian, i.e., is not yet baptized, may make confession and receive absolution. It is clear from here and other statements by Luther on the subject that the intensity of one’s contrition is irrelevant, presumably because we don’t ever really know ourselves to begin with.

But a confession must be made. It does not seem enough merely to feel “bad” about things you’ve done or mistakes you’ve made. The notion that you have sinned against God and are in need of forgiveness appears to be a sine qua non of Absolution.

There is also the “Yes, I called Bob an idiot — but I have proof!” kind of confession. Guilty, but with an explanation. Does that cut it? I mean self-justification is a side racket we all run, a multilevel marketing scheme of the soul.

What am I missing?


*Specifically as explicated in the works of Paul Zahl. I once remarked to a junior fellow at FIRST THINGS, an orthodox, low-church Episcopalian (yes they still exist), that if Zahl’s ecclesiology were any lower, he’d have to conduct services in a bomb shelter. His view of the sacraments is just left of Zwingli’s. I mean Quakers laugh at him. Good night, folks, I’ll be here all week, enjoy the veal piccata.

Are Germans Reliving Their 16th Century Lutheran Past?


I’m always fascinated by how the Reformation is portrayed in the popular media and the press. Almost everyone gets it half-right, and usually it’s the wrong half.

This article is three years old, but it was still enlightening on a few fronts. For example, I did not know that Angela Merkel was the daughter of a Lutheran pastor, or that she was a “Lutheran believer” or the “most powerful woman in the world.” (Does Beyonce know about this?)

And given the anxieties that Greece’s massive debt is causing the EU, and especially the Germans, I thought it still somewhat relevant — at least in terms of the north-south tensions.

Exactly 500 years ago, one of Europe’s greatest thinkers was getting increasingly worried that good German money was being wasted.

Cash was heading to the Mediterranean, subsidising a bunch of badly behaved foreigners.

The 16th Century German thinker was Martin Luther and he was desperate to stay part of that great European project known as the Roman Catholic Church, but equally desperate not to support those who were ripping off German believers to pay to build St Peter’s in Rome.

The unfairness of the abuses fed popular resentment until German patience finally snapped. Luther broke away from his beloved Catholic Church, “protesting” in that great rebellion we know as the creation of Protestantism, the Reformation.

This is a daft interpretation of the Reformation, one I believe deliberately distorts in order to make the parallels the author is reaching for.

Nowadays, Germans — even those who are Catholic or non-Christian — cannot escape the Lutheran past.

It’s also the Lutheran present. The most powerful woman in the world, Angela Merkel, is a Lutheran believer, the daughter of a pastor. The new German president, Joachim Gauck, is a former Lutheran pastor.

And that cliche of “the Protestant work ethic” – hardworking German taxpayers, even if they are not actually Protestant, continue to bail out the euro while being caught in a squeeze as acute as Luther in the 16th Century.

In their hearts, from Merkel to the car worker on the Volkswagen assembly line, the German people are desperate to be good Europeans, just as Luther was desperate to be a good Catholic.

But in their heads, most Germans suspect there may be something wrong — something morally wrong as well as economically dangerous — about giving money to those who, in the German view, have been at best reckless and at worst dishonest.

It goes without saying that nothing happens in a vacuum, that there is always a socio-political context in which great movements in history occur. In terms of the broader political and social context of the Reformation era, yes, northerners were definitely sick of sending southerners (in short, Rome) money to be spent on who knows what pet papal project. In fact, the 16th century saw the beginning of a massive shift of power, wealth, and cultural influence from south to north, from vibrant trading Italian city-states and Spain, the world’s first truly global empire, to Germany, the Lowlands, and England. And yes, a growing nationalism provided patronage and protection for reformers like Luther, who in an earlier age would almost certainly have been executed.

And yet these considerations are too often seen as the true motivation behind the Reformation, with the theology as a kind of clever rationale for a radical reorientation of political and economic authority. The Reformation is spun such that scholars and theologians were merely feeding princes with rhetorical fuel for escaping old alliances and dependencies, as if justification by faith through grace were merely a secret handshake within court circles.* (That the political and the religious were inextricably bound also escape so many modern commentators. See the excerpt from Oberman’s biography of Luther below.)

The journalist who wrote this BBC article interviewed Merkel — but strangely merely comments on her, without giving “the most powerful woman in the world” a voice of her own:

Our businesslike conversation reminded me of all those virtuous adjectives – pure Luther – that I learned in my first German lesson – sparsam, treu, ehrlich, ernst, streng – thrifty, straight, honest, serious, strict.

In fact, the pastor’s daughter from Hamburg sitting in front of me sounds exactly like the grocer’s daughter from Grantham – Margaret Thatcher. Their values — and their view of home economics — could almost be interchangeable.

I suggested to her that when she talks of thriftiness and responsibility (which she does a lot) then many British people will agree with her, which is why so many Britons are sceptical about the euro and suspect it might fail. …

Despite the legacy of the war, the divisions of the euro, and the cliches in British and German tabloid newspapers, I left the Chancellery thinking how much Britain and Germany really have in common.

As if Henry VIII and Luther were really on the same side all along.


* I feel the same bafflement when people argue that what Islam needs is its own Martin Luther, its own Reformation — which, of course, is meaningless. Islam doesn’t have a centralized institutional authority analogous to Rome it needs to revolt against. And most important, this line of reasoning simply refuses to take seriously that the doctrine of justification was at the heart of the Great Reform, its impact felt in every area of the church’s life. What would be the “article” by which Islam either stands or falls? And by the way, wasn’t Wahhabism a “great reform” of sorts? How did that work out?

From Heiko A. Oberman’s Luther: Man between God and the Devilon the confrontation between Cajetan and Luther in 1518 and all that was at stake, especially from the German side (boldfaced emphasis mine):

Frederick the Wise, sovereign of Saxony, was at the forefront when it came to throwing off the yoke of ecclesiastical power. This meant more than a battle against continual curial infringements on the sovereign rights of princes; it also included the local bishops who were vying with the sovereigns for power. Princes were still compelled to fight for what many free imperial cities already had: independence from the temporal supremacy of the Church. In 1518, the Luther issue, which had thus far attracted little attention outside Germany, was only one of the many ecclesiastical conflicts to arise in Augsburg. At stake was the status of the Church in the German territories.

It fell to the Roman legate, Cardinal Cajetan, to find a solution to the Luther problem that would safeguard the ecclesiastical supremacy of Rome without provoking the Saxon elector. And so between October 12 and 15, 1518—after the diet had ended—Martin Luther underwent the first and only interrogation to which he was ever subjected. Cajetan had promised the elector to proceed as a “father” and not like a “judge,” but all his efforts were in vain: reasoning with Luther was as ineffective as harsh commands. In the end the legate could only conclude that the monk must be regarded as a heretic unwilling to recant and bow to the Church.

For Cajetan that was the end of the matter. Despite the monk’s intractability, the legate, as promised, had not had the man arrested, but as ordered by the pope, he did pronounce judgment. He emphatically urged Frederick: “I exhort and beg Your Highness to consider Your honor and Your conscience and either to have the monk Martin sent to Rome or to chase him from your lands. Your Highness should not let one little friar (unum fraterculum) bring such ignominy over You and Your house.”

The Venetian ambassador and the papal legate were equally astonished that a German diet could allow itself to be influenced by such trivialities, or that an elector could let himself become so distracted by a monk’s ludicrous chatter that the necessities of politics were forgotten. Typically German—inconceivable anywhere else!

“Typically Roman”—thus the response from the German side, venting its irritation: here come those wily Latins, trying again to take advantage of us naive Germans for their own purposes. Like every individual elector, the diet as a whole bore responsibility for the political interests of Germany, not those of Rome. As the imperial estates saw it, emancipation from the curia was among the essential national grievances that had to be met.

The reigning princes, especially Frederick, understood politics in a wider sense than we do today. Politics was not restricted to temporal welfare; it was also concerned with the prerequisites and conditions for the eternal salvation of the citizenry in town and country. That is why Luther’s Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation (August 1520) could become his most effective political treatise. Here the worldly authorities could find the biblical justification for their long-practiced commitment to the well-being of the region and the regional Church. He who submissively left the welfare of the Church to the “courtiers” of the Roman curia was violating the obligations of a Christian prince.


You Might Be a Lutheran If…



1. You use the word “jackanapes” in casual conversation.

2. Someone holds the door for you and you accuse him of works righteousness.

3.  You fall asleep in church but insist you were only remembering your baptism.

4. You ask if there’s a Communion wine that tastes more like beer.

5. You think the pope is the antichrist but still a Christian.

6. You have a T-shirt that reads “All Cretans are liars” (see #5).

7. You’re a staunch Republican even though you think Lincoln was guilty of unionism.

8. You keep calling Philipp Jakob Spener a pietist even though no one is saying otherwise.

9. You failed your driver’s test twice because you were convinced it did not rightly divide law and gospel.

10. Your broke off your first engagement because your intended did not express sufficient ambivalence about Philipp Melanchthon.

11.  You broke off your second engagement because your intended thought the “Second Martin” was Marty.

12. You wrote Everlast and asked if they would market a line of speed bags called “Zwinglis.”

13. You think the Thirty Years War had one more good year left in it.

14. Your gmail password is “GustavusAldophus1632.”

15. When your first child was born, you haunted every grocery store and pharmacy looking for a formula called “Concord.”

16. You believe 95% of life is adiaphora.

17. Your spouse caught you late one night watching YouTube videos of Davey and Goliath.

18. You think Kim and Khloé Kardashian would be more interesting if they were named Antilegomena and Homologoumena, respectively.

19. You once mailed Mother Teresa a biography of Katie Luther.

20. You’re convinced this is the Most Lutheran Man in the World.

FOUND: First Edition of Luther’s “On the Freedom of a Christian”



So the first edition of Luther’s classic 1520 treatise, which opens with an address to Pope Leo X, still the Reformer’s “most blessed father,” was lurking in a library in France.

It includes around 50 notes written in red by Luther himself, indicating changes he wanted for a second edition.

The American who made the discovery, James Hirsten, said it gave an important insight into Luther’s thinking at the time.

The annotated edition was found in The Humanist Library in Selestat, in the north-east of France.

Have those notes ever been published? If not, how long before we see an English edition? (Would be funny if the notes ran along the lines of “Dammit, I can’t read my own writing!” “What was I, drunk?” “Is that even a word?” “Less irenic, more invective!”)

And to think that Medici X — determined to stop the Great Reform by any means necessary — would excommunicate Luther the very next year, and after Luther had gone out of his way to flatter that jackanapes:

Is it not true that there is nothing under the vast heavens more corrupt, more pestilential, more hateful than the Court of Rome? She incomparably surpasses the impiety of the Turks, so that in very truth she, who was formerly the gate of heaven, is now a sort of open mouth of hell, and such a mouth as, under the urgent wrath of God, cannot be blocked up; one course alone being left to us wretched men, to call back and save some few, if we can, from that Roman gulf.

It was not meant to be taken personally… Continue reading “FOUND: First Edition of Luther’s “On the Freedom of a Christian””

There Already Was a “Draw Jesus” Contest

It began in the early Middle Ages and peaked in the Renaissance. Whoever “drew” this won.


Granted, not everyone was happy about this business. Iconoclasts started busting up the place around the eighth century in the East, and the Reformation era saw its share of image-shredding purists.

But the Incarnation will out.

A couple of Reformation images:



And then there’s Rembrandt’s naturalistic portrayal:


Before I forget — Caravaggio:


So as not to ignore the moderns completely, I must say that among my favorites are Dali’s:



While there remains a minority report forbidding the depiction of Jesus as a violation of the First Commandment, I leave you with Luther on the matter:

And I say at the outset that according to the law of Moses no other images are forbidden than an image of God which one worships. A crucifix, on the other hand, or any other holy image is not forbidden. Heigh now! you breakers of images, I defy you to prove the opposite!

In proof of this I cite the first commandment (Exod. 20[:3]): “You shall have no other gods before me.” Immediately, following this text, the meaning of having other gods is made plain in the words: “You shall not make yourself a graven image, or any likeness …” [Exod. 20:4]. This is said of the same gods, etc. And although these spirits cling to the little word “make” and stubbornly insist, “Make, make is something else than to worship,” yet they must admit that this commandment basically speaks of nothing else than of the glory of God. It must certainly be “made” if it is to be worshiped, and unmade if it is not to be worshiped. It is not valid, however, to pick out one word and keep repeating it. One must consider the meaning of the whole text in its context. Then one sees that it speaks of images of God which are not to be worshiped. No one will be able to prove anything else. From subsequent words in the same chapter [Exod. 20:23], “You shall not make gods of silver to be with me, nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold,” it follows that “make” certainly refers to such gods.

For this saying, “You shall have no other gods,” is the central thought, the standard, and the end in accordance with which all the words which follow are to be interpreted, connected, and judged. For this passage points out and expresses the meaning of this commandment, namely, that there are to be no other gods. Therefore the words “make,” “images,” “serve,” etc., and whatever else follows, are to be understood in no other sense than that neither gods nor idolatry are to develop therefrom. Even as the words, “I am your God” [Exod. 20:2], are the standard and end for all that may be said about the worship and service of God. And it would be foolish if I sought to conclude from this something that had nothing to do with the divine or the service of God, such as building houses, plowing, etc. No conclusion can be drawn from the words, “You shall have no other gods,” other than that which refers to idolatry. Where however images or statues are made without idolatry, then such making of them is not forbidden, for the central saying, “You shall have no other gods,” remains intact.

[Luther, M. (1999, c1958). Vol. 40: Luther’s works, vol. 40 : Church and Ministry II (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works (Vol. 40, Page 85-86). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.]

The Cardinal Can’t Get No Satisfaction


What’s most galling in reading Thomas More’s Dialogue concerning Heresies is how the author disrates Luther’s ideas by characterizing them as some toxic by-product of greed and lechery. More harps on Luther’s marriage, which to the Englishman, himself married with children, is the mortal sin, as it makes Luther, an ordained Augustinian priest and monk, an oath-breaker. And that the Reformer married an ex-nun, well, how could you take such a degenerate’s theology seriously?!

In doing a little research for something else I’m writing, I came across this quote in Alister E. McGrath’s excellent Luther’s Theology of the Cross (emphasis mine):

Even if I did all the penances possible, and many more besides, they would not be enough to atone for past sins, let along to merit salvation … [Christ’s] passion is sufficient, and more than sufficient, as a satisfaction for sins committed, to which human weakness is prone. Through this thought, I changed from great fear and anguish to happiness. I began to turn with my whole heart to this greatest good which I saw, for love of me, on the cross, his arms open and his breast opened right up to his heart. Thus I — the wretch who lacked the courage to leave the world and do penance for the satisfaction of my sins! — turned to him, and asked him to allow me to share in the satisfaction which he, the sinless one, had performed for us. He was quick to accept me and to permit his Father to totally cancel the debt which I had contracted, and which I was incapable of satisfying myself.

Now, since I have such a one to pay my debt, shall I not sleep securely in the midst of the city, even though I have not satisfied the debt which I have contracted? Yes! I shall sleep and wake as securely as if I had spent my entire life in the hermitage.

This, from Gasparo Contarini, written in 1511! Contarini, quite independently of Luther, comes within a hair’s breath of the Reformation cry sola fide!

Contarini was part of a small group of northern Italian humanists, called the Spirituali, who were seeking both reform within the church and a more intense personal piety. While his confreres opted for a life of penance in a hermitage, Gasparini stayed “in the world,” but became fearful that his moral cowardice would deprive him of justification.

That is, until his breakthrough insight.

Contarini, though a layman, was made a cardinal in 1535 (a ploy on the part of Pope Paul III to keep him from forging a permanent allegiance to the ever-growing Reformation), and eventually a bishop, and was sent to Regensburg in 1541 as a papal legate, in an attempt to find a compromise between Rome and the Evangelicals in Germany. Contarini, sympathetic to the Lutheran construal of justification by faith, composed a treatise that, again, came very close to the Reformers’ ideas (but not identical to them). Rome balked, Contarini was recalled, and the Inquisition took care of most of Contarini’s Italian fellow travelers.

It should be noted that the cardinal remained loyal to the pope until the end, ensuring that his “happiness” would be but a footnote in the history of the Reformation in Italy.

What excuse would More have found for Contarini’s “insanity”?