Catholicism 101: Do whatever work is before you for the glory of God

James Swan has just yesterday posted an article entitled “Steve Ray Reinvents Protestant Spirituality” on James White’s blog, Pros Apologian. He asserts that the concept of living a daily spiritual existence, in which every mundane task like diaper changing is done for the glory of God, is “Protestant theology 101”. I find his assertion strange, especially since it is that very aspect of the Catholic Church that I find to be most beautiful and true.

Even a superficial look at the Catholic way of life shows an emphasis on doing whatever work is before you for the glory of God. Opus Dei, began by Josemaría Escriva, is a Catholic society dedicated to “Ordinary Work, Extraordinary Grace” (also a title of a Scott Hahn book). Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium declares the Catholic’s Universal Call to Holiness. Mother Teresa expounded the idea of working every day for the love of God with her actions, but also says, “There is always the danger that we may just do the work for the sake of the work. This is where the respect and the love and the devotion come in – that we do it to God, to Christ, and that’s why we try to do it as beautifully as possible.” and, “In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.” Further back in time, in the 1600’s, we see Brother Lawrence, a Carmelite monk who wrote Practice of the Presence of God, saying such things as “We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.” and, “People seek methods of learning to know God. Is it not much shorter and more direct to simply do everything for the love of Him? There is no finesse about it. One only has to do it generously and simply.”

Also, there is a contemporary of Luther, St. Francis de Sales who wrote Introduction to the Devout Life. He says: “It is… an error and even a heresy to wish to exclude the exercise of devotion from military divisions, from the artisans’ shops, from the courts of princes, from family households. I acknowledge, my dear Philothea, that the type of devotion which is purely contemplative, monastic and religious can certainly not be exercised in these sorts of stations and occupations, but besides this threefold type of devotion, there are many others fit for perfecting those who live in a secular state. Therefore, in whatever situations we happen to be, we can and we must aspire to the life of perfection.”

My mind boggles that someone can fail to see this ordinary devotional life in Catholicism, especially since my experience of Protestantism has focused on the exact opposite, in which everyone strove to attain places of honor and get recognition for their own glory rather than God’s. Regardless of what Luther taught or intended, the post-denominational Protestants speak little about striving to serve God in the small things, and are more about winning souls for Christ. Although the Catholic Church meets every individual where they are at and encourages ordinary devotions, they still hold in high regard the sacred life of the devoted religious.

You can see where Swan is coming from, though, that is the medieval perspective of Martin Luther. He says, “Martin Luther joined the monastery because he was serious about his soul and being truly spiritual” which isn’t strictly true. Although from a pious family, the reason Luther joined a monastery is because, fearing for his life during a thunderstorm, he made a vow to God that if he lived he would become a monk. Luther preached on “the sacredness of every calling, whether one was a cobbler, blacksmith, or mother. Whatever one does, one should do to the glory of God”. This is worthy preaching. However, Luther took this too far when he went on to condemn monastic life as useless and believed it was a vain attempt to merit your own salvation. His biography describes the impact of his preaching on monastic life, so that monks were freed from their vows “to take up useful occupations” and those who remained monks were urged to be useful as well in “preaching, physical labor, and caring for others”. (Luther the Reformer: The story of the man and his career, p 179-180)

Luther says: “Hence direct all the good you can do and your whole life to the end that it be good; but it is good only when it is useful to other people and not to yourself… If you find a work in you by which you benefit God or his saints or yourself and not your neighbor, know that such a work is not good.” [Sermons of Martin Luther 1:36]. This is plain wrong and appears to be the foundation of the infamous Protestant work ethic that has led to unbridled competition in capitalism and threatens to destroy the free citizen (see Belloc’s Crisis of Civilization). At the foundation of this admonition to be useful to others is the rejection of the Catholic mantra “life matters”.

If we are only good when we are useful and productive, then our life as a thing in itself has no value. Then the elderly, disabled, or unborn are easily disposable “for the good of the many”. Take it a step further and we see a scene forming from the Twilight Zone’s “The Obsolete Man“. Someone may object that I’m being overly dramatic and that Protestants themselves do not condone the destruction of life, truth, or beauty. However, I still maintain that this is the underlying attitude in Luther’s attack on monastic life. We see the fruits of this in post-Reformation Protestant culture. Liberty and quality of life has become more important than life itself and the sacred is no longer recognized.

Also, this attitude prioritizing usefulness and rejecting the sacred led to the pillaging and destruction of medieval churches in the Reformation revolts as well as the seizure of the Church charities that were placed in the public chest for the poor. This echos a familiar tune:

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. (Matthew 26:6-10)

There is honor due our Lord, and it cannot be forsaken in favor of a lesser commandment. God is honored when people sets themselves apart for His service, and like Christ says above, they do a beautiful thing for Him. The Old and New Testament both bear witness to the consecrated lives of different individuals. Nearly all the Old Testament prophets lived consecrated lives, but Samuel in particular is a good example. From before his birth, he was promised as a nazirite to God, destined to live set apart and to dwell at the temple solely in service of the Lord (1 Samuel 1). In the New Testament, John the Baptist lived in the wilderness and ate locust and wild honey so that he might prepare the way for the Lord (Mark 1:1-8). Even Paul advocates remaining single to “live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord” (1 Cor 7:35) How can this be considered a bad thing, and how can anyone deny the deeper relationship with God that is found through perpetual prayer and devotion to God?

When Luther rejected the monastic way of poverty, chastity, and obedience, he destroyed the sacred. He undermined the beauty and truth of the Christian way of life, and failed to see the immense value of the prayers of the religious and example in a life set apart. It seems when the innate value of life and the holiness of God are misunderstood, we not only fail to treat God as he should be treated, but also fail to treat others with the reverence we should. As a Protestant, Mother Teresa’s saying “each one of them is Jesus in disguise” was a foreign concept to me. I was told we should be Christ’s light, not that others are like Christ to us. When you lack a piece of the truth, the entire system comes crashing down.

I don’t believe that Luther intentionally did these things or could have known where his reform would lead. He was motivated by a fundament misunderstanding of the Catholic faith. He initially approached it from the perspective of avoiding Hell rather than doing all for the love of God. He obsessed that his sins no matter how small always separated him from God’s perfect righteousness, a righteousness he hated (Luther the Reformer, p. 87-88), and he could never do enough to merit his salvation. In this he was right, since there was no love motivating even the smallest work he did, of course nothing he did would please God in the slightest. Swan promulgates Luther’s misunderstandings by saying “For a Roman Catholic, one must become perfectly spiritual in order to become justified. The soul must become objectively pleasing to God to merit heaven.” This misses the mark and distorts and amplifies only a small portion of the gospel.

There is no need to be “perfectly spiritual” to be justified. Catholics believe they are justified by grace through faith, and by virtue of our baptism. They believe we can do nothing to merit our justification, but that “justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ” (Catechism of the Catholic Church). They teach that faith gives fruit in love, and those who love God keep his commandments, though imperfectly, which does not jeopardize their salvation. They also believe that in adhering ourselves to the divine will, we continue our justification in that we become more like Christ and sanctified. Perfect sanctification is desired to the point of necessity in order to stand before a holy God, which is attained in this life or in Purgatory. They do not believe that you can be saved in Purgatory, but that only those who are saved already are cleansed of earthly attachment to be made holy and fit to stand before a righteous God.

“We are therefore said to be justified by faith, because faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation, and the root of all Justification; without which it is impossible to please God, and to come unto the fellowship of His sons: but we are therefore said to be justified freely, because that none of those things which precede justification-whether faith or works-merit the grace itself of justification.” [Council of Trent, Session 6, Ch. 8]

They, through the observance of the commandments of God and of the Church, faith co-operating with good works, increase in that justice which they have received through the grace of Christ, and are still further justified, as it is written; He that is just, let him be justified still; and again, Be not afraid to be justified even to death; and also, Do you see that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. And this increase of justification holy Church begs, when she prays, “Give unto us, O Lord, increase of faith, hope, and charity.”
[Council of Trent, Session 6, Ch. 10]

“For, whoso are the sons of God, love Christ; but they who love him, keep his commandments, as Himself testifies; which, assuredly, with the divine help, they can do. For, although, during this mortal life, men, how holy and just soever, at times fall into at least light and daily sins, which are also called venial, not therefore do they cease to be just.” [Council of Trent, Session 6, Ch. 11]

Thus, neither is our own justice established as our own as from ourselves; nor is the justice of God ignored or repudiated: for that justice which is called ours, because that we are justified from its being inherent in us, that same is (the justice) of God, because that it is infused into us of God, through the merit of Christ. Neither is this to be omitted,-that although, in the sacred writings, so much is attributed to good works, that Christ promises, that even he that shall give a drink of cold water to one of his least ones, shall not lose his reward;
[Council of Trent, Session 6, Ch. 16]

It’s no wonder that people like Swan, who see an entirely different Catholic Church than I do, feel the way they do about it. There is no way to make them see what I do, and so my only option is to proclaim the truth and be satisfied that my duty has been done. People may listen, they may not, or they may do as I have done and file away conversations and tid-bits that come back to haunt me when my experience testifies a different truth than the one I have held. Also, I can take a lesson from the subject matter at hand, and give every testimony and blog post up as service to our Lord and for His glory.

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21 Responses to Catholicism 101: Do whatever work is before you for the glory of God

  1. tap says:

    The law of the LORD is unspotted, converting the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple
    Psalm 19:7

  2. James Swan says:

    Stacey,

    I haven’t kept up with exactly where you are in your swim across the Tiber. However, I do have a few quick comments. You state:

    You can see where Swan is coming from, though, that is the medieval perspective of Martin Luther. He says, “Martin Luther joined the monastery because he was serious about his soul and being truly spiritual” which isn’t strictly true. Although from a pious family, the reason Luther joined a monastery is because, fearing for his life during a thunderstorm, he made a vow to God that if he lived he would become a monk.

    I don’t believe in the validity of Roman Catholic monasticism, nor do I believe God calls anyone to such. However, for the sake of argument, I’ll play on your field for a moment. I’m not sure exactly what your qualifier of “strictly true” entails. I assume you mean that even if Luther had a genuine calling to a monastery, this was in some way tainted by the thunderstorm experience. If this is indeed the case, I would ask, why would a fear of death invalidate a genuine religious call? Could not a person have both a serious call, and a fear of death? Does not the vow being kept point to a person deeply committed to their “spirituality”? Perhaps you’ve seen that old Burt Reynolds movie, “The End” (I think that’s what it was called). He makes a vow to God at the end of the movie while swimming to the beach from far off in the ocean. By the time he’s reached the shore, he has ignored the vow. While a movie, isn’t that typical of human nature? We often ask God to get us out of something, only to eventually ignore whatever vows we’ve made in our silly attempts at bargaining with deity.

    Further, if I were forced to choose between your negatively slanted comment about Luther’s joining the monastery, and the New Catholic Encyclopedia, which should I choose? Your comment seems historically naïve.The New Catholic Encyclopedia states:

    The Call to Religion. In the summer of 1505 Luther influenced no doubt by his father, began the study of law. Sometime in July of the same year, while returning to Erfurt from a visit to Mansfield, he encountered a severe- thunderstorm near the village of Stotternheim; as a lightning bolt threw him to the ground, he vowed to St. Anne in a sudden panic that he would become a monk. To assume that the decision to enter the monastery was as impromptu as it is often depicted does Luther an injustice. His strict religious upbringing his natural bent toward piety, and above all the experiences of the last few years at the university were unquestionably factors of his move. In 1503 he had severely wounded himself by accidentally cutting the artery in his thigh and had spent many weeks in meditative recuperation. In the same year one of his closest friends, a fellow student, had died suddenly. The plague that struck the city of Erfurt in 1505 had made him keenly aware of the preeminence of death. All of this indicates that a call to religion was -something that had been in his mind for a long period.

    Nor is it without significance that he chose to enter the monastery of the Hermits of St. Augustine. The city of Erfurt boasted a Dominican, a Franciscan and a Servite monastery in addition to the Black Cloister, a member of the Observant, or stricter Augustinian, congregation of Saxony, which was by far the most severe religious house in the city. On July 16 1505, much to the chagrin of his parents, who were already selecting a bride for the student of law, Luther entered the novitiate. Soon after his profession, the exact date of which is not known, he was told to prepare himself for the reception of Holy Orders. He was ordained a deacon by the suffragan bishop, Johann von Laasphe of Erfurt, on Feb. 27, 1507; he received the priesthood in the Erfurt cathedral on the following April 4th. [Luther entry, The New Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. VIII, p. 1086.

    Catholic theologian and Luther expert Joseph Lortz saw Luther as a “religious man,” and that his life and work can only be understood in a theological perspective. Richard Stauffer notes of Lortz’s position: “The fact that Luther entered a strict monastery and there, without reservation and without care for himself, abandoned the inward conflicts which were to free him from sin and make him find a gracious God; the way in which he immersed himself in Scripture, and in which he entered into a wonderfully intimate and fruitful covenant with the Book of books; the way in which he expounded the Magnificat and in which he esteemed confession to the end of his life; the way in which he preached faith with power and ardour; the way in which he defended the real Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist; . . .the way in which, filled with a zeal for souls, he could teach men to pray and in which, with an extraordinary power, he himself prayed; the fullness and the Christian content of his… chorals—all this depicts abundantly the homo religiosus, the Christian Luther.” [Luther As Seen By Catholics, p. 41]

    You state, It’s no wonder that people like Swan, who see an entirely different Catholic Church than I do, feel the way they do about it. With this blog entry, I suggest you delve a bit more into Reformation history. You’ll find the paradigm I outlined changed Western society in many ways. I particularly suggest the books of Steven Ozment. He’s done a great deal of research into the daily life of the 16th Century. I assure you, I can substantiate my claim as to the situation of the medieval church and the freedom brought on by Luther’s priesthood of all believers. What you may say is my “feeling” actually can be documented by history.

    Note even this basic claim of yours about Luther entering the monastery, as if I “feel” what I wrote, rather than actually did a historical inquiry before I wrote it. Who appears to have done their homework, you or I? I can argue this point about Luther and the monastery not only using such Catholic sources as Lortz and the New Catholic Encyclopedia, but other serious Catholic sources, not the Catholic Answers fluff material. I don’t even need to use Protestant sources. What I wrote about Luther entering the monastery was “strictly true.”

    Believe it or not, I think I can grasp a bit of your situation, though never meeting you, I can only speculate on what you’ve written. I grew up in a garden variety non-denominational evangelical, dispensational, church. When I “converted” for lack of a better term to an historic Protestant worldview, I had a great deal of anger toward my previous church experience. I didn’t even realize how angry I was till years later upon reflection. That’s actually probably fairly typical of most converts. As I spoke with my pastor a while back, he was amazed with my zeal for the Reformation, as he had been brought up in a Reformed church. He commented, “You converts are always so zealous.” I’ve seen the same particularly with those who’ve converted to Rome. there are usually much more zealous than those raised Roman Catholic.

    There are multiple other issues you’ve raised both here and in other blog entries. I admit to not being so adequate in multi-tasking as you appear to be. I appreciate your willingness to look at materials from the “other side.” That being said, as I’ve just now had a chance to read through your recent blog entries, I’ve found multiple errors and problems. I’m hopeful you’ll continue to do research, and I’m quite looking forward to your evaluation of vol.1 of the King/Webster set.

  3. James Swan says:

    Luther says: “Hence direct all the good you can do and your whole life to the end that it be good; but it is good only when it is useful to other people and not to yourself… If you find a work in you by which you benefit God or his saints or yourself and not your neighbor, know that such a work is not good.” [Sermons of Martin Luther 1:36]. This is plain wrong and appears to be the foundation of the infamous Protestant work ethic that has led to unbridled competition in capitalism and threatens to destroy the free citizen (see Belloc’s Crisis of Civilization).

    The entire sermon can be found here:

    http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2005/02/luthers-sermon-for-first-sunday-in.html

    It’s only “plain wrong” when Luther’s words are forced to say something he didn’t say. That is, you’ve set up a straw man, and knocked it down.

    This distinction Luther was dealing with in 1521 is what exactly constitutes a good work? Are they, “pilgrimages, fasting, building and decorating their churches in honor of the saints, saying mass, paying for vigils, praying with rosaries, much prattling and bawling in churches, turning nun, monk, priest, using special food, raiment or dwelling”?

    Luther expounds:

    “Hear then how Christ explains good works, Math. 7,12: “Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye unto them; for this is the law and the prophets.” Do you hear now what are the contents of the whole law and of all the prophets? You are not to do good to God and to his dead saints, they are not in need of it; still less to wood and stone, to which it is of no use, nor is it needed, but to men, to men, to men. Do you not hear? To men you should do everything that you would they should do to you.”

    Luther taught a life under the cross, which is a life of discipleship of following after Christ. Our crosses though, do not save. They serve the neighbor. We are called to be neighbor to those around us.

    You say this “appears to be the foundation of the infamous Protestant work ethic that has led to unbridled competition in capitalism and threatens to destroy the free citizen.” Stacey, the distinction Luther’s making is quite radical, and his hearers were listening to something quite different than what they were used to. The medieval church was a big business, even Catholic scholars will point out the abuse during that time period, and the exploitation of the people. Luther attacks them right at the heart. Luther states, “Faith brings and gives Christ to you with all his possessions. Love gives you to your neighbor with all your possessions.”

    In other words, if you want to do good works, look to the needs of your neighbor. The plague ravaged Wittenberg in 1527, many of Luther’s friends died, and his students and colleagues fled for their lives. Luther’s son even became ill for a time. Luther though felt “public servants, preachers, mayors, judges, doctors, policemen, and neighbors of the sick who have no one to take care of them are on duty and must remain.” He did not begrudge those who fled, “for to flee dying and death and to save one’s own life is a natural instinct implanted by God and is not forbidden.” But for Luther, fleeing the plague was not an option. He turned his house into a makeshift hospital, where he and his pregnant wife took care of the dying. The house was quarantined, remaining so even after the plague subsided. He gave himself to his neighbor.

    You have the context of the sermon in the link I provided. I suggest taking the time to read through it. I suggest reading the entire sermon in the same way you’ve found it useful to read Ireneaus without the meddling of Protestant interpretation. The way you’ve interpreted Luther is similar to your statement in a previous post: “What I’ve found is a lot of quotes that either are completely irrelevant to the point they’re trying to make or are taken wholly out of context.”

    Regards,
    James

  4. James Swan says:

    Luther says: “Hence direct all the good you can do and your whole life to the end that it be good; but it is good only when it is useful to other people and not to yourself… If you find a work in you by which you benefit God or his saints or yourself and not your neighbor, know that such a work is not good.” [Sermons of Martin Luther 1:36]. This is plain wrong and appears to be the foundation of the infamous Protestant work ethic that has led to unbridled competition in capitalism and threatens to destroy the free citizen (see Belloc’s Crisis of Civilization).

    The entire sermon can be found here:

    http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2005/02/luthers-sermon-for-first-sunday-in.html

    It’s only “plain wrong” when Luther’s words are forced to say something he didn’t say. That is, you’ve set up a straw man, and knocked it down.

    This distinction Luther was dealing with in 1521 is what exactly constitutes a good work? Are they, “pilgrimages, fasting, building and decorating their churches in honor of the saints, saying mass, paying for vigils, praying with rosaries, much prattling and bawling in churches, turning nun, monk, priest, using special food, raiment or dwelling”?

    Luther expounds:

    “Hear then how Christ explains good works, Math. 7,12: “Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye unto them; for this is the law and the prophets.” Do you hear now what are the contents of the whole law and of all the prophets? You are not to do good to God and to his dead saints, they are not in need of it; still less to wood and stone, to which it is of no use, nor is it needed, but to men, to men, to men. Do you not hear? To men you should do everything that you would they should do to you.”

    Luther taught a life under the cross, which is a life of discipleship of following after Christ. Our crosses though, do not save. They serve the neighbor. We are called to be neighbor to those around us.

    You say this “appears to be the foundation of the infamous Protestant work ethic that has led to unbridled competition in capitalism and threatens to destroy the free citizen.” Stacey, the distinction Luther’s making is quite radical, and his hearers were listening to something quite different than what they were used to. The medieval church was a big business, even Catholic scholars will point out the abuse during that time period, and the exploitation of the people. Luther attacks them right at the heart. Luther states, “Faith brings and gives Christ to you with all his possessions. Love gives you to your neighbor with all your possessions.”

    In other words, if you want to do good works, look to the needs of your neighbor. The plague ravaged Wittenberg in 1527, many of Luther’s friends died, and his students and colleagues fled for their lives. Luther’s son even became ill for a time. Luther though felt “public servants, preachers, mayors, judges, doctors, policemen, and neighbors of the sick who have no one to take care of them are on duty and must remain.” He did not begrudge those who fled, “for to flee dying and death and to save one’s own life is a natural instinct implanted by God and is not forbidden.” But for Luther, fleeing the plague was not an option. He turned his house into a makeshift hospital, where he and his pregnant wife took care of the dying. The house was quarantined, remaining so even after the plague subsided. He gave himself to his neighbor.

    You have the context of the sermon in the link I provided. I suggest taking the time to read through it. I suggest reading the entire sermon in the same way you’ve found it useful to read Ireneaus without the meddling of Protestant interpretation. The way you’ve interpreted Luther is similar to your statement in a previous post: “What I’ve found is a lot of quotes that either are completely irrelevant to the point they’re trying to make or are taken wholly out of context.”

    Regards,
    James

  5. James Swan says:

    My mind boggles that someone can fail to see this ordinary devotional life in Catholicism, especially since my experience of Protestantism has focused on the exact opposite, in which everyone strove to attain places of honor and get recognition for their own glory rather than God’s. Regardless of what Luther taught or intended, the post-denominational Protestants speak little about striving to serve God in the small things, and are more about winning souls for Christ. Although the Catholic Church meets every individual where they are at and encourages ordinary devotions, they still hold in high regard the sacred life of the devoted religious.

    Hi Stacey,

    I think you need to step back, and take a good long look at the medieval church and the Protestant Reformation- that is, if you want to understand the Reformation as well as modern day Roman Catholicism. By doing this, you’ll actually understand what my position is if you’re interested at all in dialog.

    The late medieval church that Luther was confronted with was a church filled with “glory.” By “glory,” Luther meant that the emphasis was not on the achievements of Christ, but on the achievement of the Roman Church, and those achievements were accomplished by the churches’ own power. One can find Luther describing this often in his writings, and any good study will describe how corrupt and doctrinally confusing the 16th Century Roman church was.

    Luther said the Roman church engaged in a “Theology of Glory.” The “Theology of Glory” is founded on man’s wisdom and works. It is a theological worldview that seems “sensible and right” by worldly standards. Glory theologians have to understand by the use of “reason”, and they have to “do” by their own moral energy to be right with God.

    Luther encountered the glory of “human reason” expressed in his earlier scholastic training. Scholastic theology had been strongly influenced by Aristotelian metaphysics, and this influence had misshaped the Biblical method.

    Secondly, Luther was confronted with the glory of human effort (works). He encountered this in his monastic order. You’ll find him often talking about what the church was calling “works” during his day:

    “And to come to our Papists’ work, what does it avail if they put silver or gold on the walls, wood and stone in the churches? Who would be made better, if each village had ten bells, as big as those at Erfurt? Whom would it help if all the houses were convents and monasteries as splendid as the temple of Solomon? Who is benefited if you fast for St. Catherine, St. Martin or any other saint? Whom does it benefit, if you are shaved half or wholly, if you wear a gray or a black cap? Of what use were it if all people field mass every hour? What benefit is it if in one church, as at Meissen, they sing day and night Without interruption? Who is better for it, if every church had more silver, pictures and jewelry than the churches of Halle and Wittenberg? It is folly and deception, men’s lies invented these things and called them good works; they all pretend they serve God thus and pray for the people and their sins, just as if they helped God with their property or as if his saints were in need of our work. Sticks and stones are not as rude and mad as we are. A tree bears fruit, not for itself, but for the good of man and beast, and these fruits are its good works.”[Sermons of Martin Luther 1:35]

    How they mislead people with their good works! They call good works what God has not commanded, as pilgrimages, fasting, building and decorating their churches in honor of the saints, saying mass, paying for vigils, praying with rosaries, much prattling and bawling in churches, turning nun, monk, priest, using special food, raiment or dwelling,-who can enumerate all the horrible abominations and deceptions? This is the pope’s government and holiness.”[Sermons of Martin Luther 1:35].

    Thirdly, Luther also rejected the “glory of the church” and said the church is a suffering church, rather than a church of beauty and splendor. The church is not supposed to be a “glory” of political power and luxury- which it had become by the sixteenth century. Here is a succinct statement espousing The Theology of glory:

    “The false gospel’s theology is what Martin Luther called a “theology of glory.” It is a theology for the strong. Despite its protests to the contrary, it believes in self-salvation: by my own power or goodness or wits. It looks for God only in symbols of victory. James and John are its patron saints, hustling to sit by Jesus’ right and left hand in glory, unaware that the cup about to be drunk is the cup of suffering (Mark 10:35ff.). To a theology of glory the cross is as much a stumbling block as it was to Greeks and as much a scandal as it was to Jews (1 Cor. 1:18ff.). Little does it know that the cross is the power and wisdom of God.” Source: H. Stephen Shoemaker “2 Corinthians 11:1-21” Review and Expositor Volume 86 (vnp.86.3.409)

    Luther contrasted this with the “Theology of the Cross.” This is a theology of “foolishness.” It denies man’s wisdom and works; it rests totally upon Christ’s work. Indeed, doesn’t it really sound silly to think that salvation is found only through faith alone? All the worlds’ religions “reason” that God can only be appeased by some “work” on our part. But a Theologian of the Cross finds it is only in God’s action where we find salvation:

    I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him. But the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and kept me in the one true faith.”
    -Third Article, Luther’s Small Catechism

    For Luther, God appears where you would least likely find Him: hanging and dying on a cross in weakness, being punished as a criminal. “Reason” would never construct a god like this. This God requires faith to believe in, and that faith is a gift. The is key to the theology of the cross.

    Stacey, what you experienced in evangelicalism was a Theology of Glory. Unfortunately, you’re going from one Theology of Glory to another, for Roman Catholicism is still a theology of glory.

    Here are some excerpts I wrote some time back on this (source: http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=1731)-

    With the contemporary rise of Catholic apologetics, there has been a consistent trend to highlight the, “conversion story”. That is, Joe or Suzy was previously some sort of Protestant, but now they’ve “converted” to Roman Catholicism. Books, television broadcasts, radio programs, and internet web pages, all tell a similar glorious tale of journeying to Rome, and so should you. These are not conversion stories of the broken sinner bowing his knee to the merciful God, given by the Father to Christ and irresistibly drawn (like Paul’s recounting in Galatians 1; cf. Acts 9); rather, these are accounts of people accepting the alleged Roman Catholic “fullness of truth”, and a rejection of Protestant essentials like sola fide and sola scriptura. In other words, the emphasis is not on spiritual rebirth, but rather the acceptance and realization of a “higher knowledge”. The conversion is not to Christ, but to an infallible church.

    Listen to the description of the glorious journeys of finding Rome as told by Scott Hahn:

    We converts have been made so rich. We have been given wealth beyond our wildest dreams! What words can express the sense of the child who, after passing through a series of orphanages and foster homes, finds himself standing in the doorway of an unfamiliar mansion staring into the loving faces of long-forgotten family members? He is reintroduced to his Father, Almighty God, and to Mary, his mother and queen, who is standing, arms outstretched in welcome, next to his elder brother, King Jesus- in the midst of that glorious company of angelic and saintly siblings who stretch forth from heaven to earth and under the earth. Can you imagine a more royal reunion? Few joys surpass the ones related here by these former theological step-children who have finally come home. [Patrick Madrid (ed), Surprised By Truth (Encinitas: Basilica Press, 1994), p.10)]

    These glorious tales of “former theological step-children” are nothing more than aspects of what Martin Luther called “theology of glory”.

    Conversion stories repeatedly put forth by Catholics are just that: examples of achievement and glory. They point to the abilities of a person and the supposed wisdom gained by crossing the Tiber. They do not point to Christ—they point to a triumphal entry into a magnificent human institution: the Roman Catholic Church. Their conversion stories are about what they did. They are about what wisdom and glory they achieved.
    Rather, Paul informs us that the message of the cross is foolishness, and God chooses those who are weak, lowly, and despised to be his children. “It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God- that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.’” Becoming a member of the church is to be given a life of trial and tribulation (1 Thes. 3:1-5). The Scriptures do not speak of joining a powerful visible institution, as judged by the world’s standards. Rather, the strength and splendor of the church is Christ and his Spirit that indwells His people everywhere. His people comprise a church that the world despises and seeks to destroy. To join this body is to join with those the world sees as fools.
    Hahn goes on to speak of the “anguish endured” by those who made the journey to Rome. The Bible though tells of how we should consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus, for whose sake we have lost all things. We should consider them rubbish that we may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of our own. Our conversions should be to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death (Phil. 3:7-11). When someone converts to Christ, they are receiving His Lordship and ultimate rule of His word over their lives.

    I have not denied the Roman Catholic usage of the word “conversion” in their journey to Rome. For in this voyage, they have indeed made a decision from the heart, a conversion. They have received the Lordship of an alleged infallible church magisterium as the ultimate rule over their lives. It is not sola scriptura, but rather sola ecclesia. I submit the Scriptures do not speak of being transformed into the image of the Roman Catholic Church, but rather being transformed into the image of Christ. The Scriptures do not speak of the power of such a testimonial conversion to a “fullness of truth” in joining a particular church body. Rather, they speak of spiritually dead sinners being raised to spiritual life. By this resurrection they become members of Christ’s bride, His church. If you are to boast about your conversion, boast only that once you were blind and now can see. Boast only that you were once enslaved to your sins, but have now been freed by the perfect Savior.

  6. James Swan says:

    My mind boggles that someone can fail to see this ordinary devotional life in Catholicism, especially since my experience of Protestantism has focused on the exact opposite, in which everyone strove to attain places of honor and get recognition for their own glory rather than God’s. Regardless of what Luther taught or intended, the post-denominational Protestants speak little about striving to serve God in the small things, and are more about winning souls for Christ. Although the Catholic Church meets every individual where they are at and encourages ordinary devotions, they still hold in high regard the sacred life of the devoted religious.

    Hi Stacey,

    I think you need to step back, and take a good long look at the medieval church and the Protestant Reformation- that is, if you want to understand the Reformation as well as modern day Roman Catholicism. By doing this, you’ll actually understand what my position is if you’re interested at all in dialog.

    The late medieval church that Luther was confronted with was a church filled with “glory.” By “glory,” Luther meant that the emphasis was not on the achievements of Christ, but on the achievement of the Roman Church, and those achievements were accomplished by the churches’ own power. One can find Luther describing this often in his writings, and any good study will describe how corrupt and doctrinally confusing the 16th Century Roman church was.

    Luther said the Roman church engaged in a “Theology of Glory.” The “Theology of Glory” is founded on man’s wisdom and works. It is a theological worldview that seems “sensible and right” by worldly standards. Glory theologians have to understand by the use of “reason”, and they have to “do” by their own moral energy to be right with God.

    Luther encountered the glory of “human reason” expressed in his earlier scholastic training. Scholastic theology had been strongly influenced by Aristotelian metaphysics, and this influence had misshaped the Biblical method.

    Secondly, Luther was confronted with the glory of human effort (works). He encountered this in his monastic order. You’ll find him often talking about what the church was calling “works” during his day:

    “And to come to our Papists’ work, what does it avail if they put silver or gold on the walls, wood and stone in the churches? Who would be made better, if each village had ten bells, as big as those at Erfurt? Whom would it help if all the houses were convents and monasteries as splendid as the temple of Solomon? Who is benefited if you fast for St. Catherine, St. Martin or any other saint? Whom does it benefit, if you are shaved half or wholly, if you wear a gray or a black cap? Of what use were it if all people field mass every hour? What benefit is it if in one church, as at Meissen, they sing day and night Without interruption? Who is better for it, if every church had more silver, pictures and jewelry than the churches of Halle and Wittenberg? It is folly and deception, men’s lies invented these things and called them good works; they all pretend they serve God thus and pray for the people and their sins, just as if they helped God with their property or as if his saints were in need of our work. Sticks and stones are not as rude and mad as we are. A tree bears fruit, not for itself, but for the good of man and beast, and these fruits are its good works.”[Sermons of Martin Luther 1:35]

    How they mislead people with their good works! They call good works what God has not commanded, as pilgrimages, fasting, building and decorating their churches in honor of the saints, saying mass, paying for vigils, praying with rosaries, much prattling and bawling in churches, turning nun, monk, priest, using special food, raiment or dwelling,-who can enumerate all the horrible abominations and deceptions? This is the pope’s government and holiness.”[Sermons of Martin Luther 1:35].

    Thirdly, Luther also rejected the “glory of the church” and said the church is a suffering church, rather than a church of beauty and splendor. The church is not supposed to be a “glory” of political power and luxury- which it had become by the sixteenth century. Here is a succinct statement espousing The Theology of glory:

    “The false gospel’s theology is what Martin Luther called a “theology of glory.” It is a theology for the strong. Despite its protests to the contrary, it believes in self-salvation: by my own power or goodness or wits. It looks for God only in symbols of victory. James and John are its patron saints, hustling to sit by Jesus’ right and left hand in glory, unaware that the cup about to be drunk is the cup of suffering (Mark 10:35ff.). To a theology of glory the cross is as much a stumbling block as it was to Greeks and as much a scandal as it was to Jews (1 Cor. 1:18ff.). Little does it know that the cross is the power and wisdom of God.” Source: H. Stephen Shoemaker “2 Corinthians 11:1-21” Review and Expositor Volume 86 (vnp.86.3.409)

    Luther contrasted this with the “Theology of the Cross.” This is a theology of “foolishness.” It denies man’s wisdom and works; it rests totally upon Christ’s work. Indeed, doesn’t it really sound silly to think that salvation is found only through faith alone? All the worlds’ religions “reason” that God can only be appeased by some “work” on our part. But a Theologian of the Cross finds it is only in God’s action where we find salvation:

    I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him. But the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and kept me in the one true faith.”
    -Third Article, Luther’s Small Catechism

    For Luther, God appears where you would least likely find Him: hanging and dying on a cross in weakness, being punished as a criminal. “Reason” would never construct a god like this. This God requires faith to believe in, and that faith is a gift. The is key to the theology of the cross.

    Stacey, what you experienced in evangelicalism was a Theology of Glory. Unfortunately, you’re going from one Theology of Glory to another, for Roman Catholicism is still a theology of glory.

    Here are some excerpts I wrote some time back on this (source: http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=1731)-

    With the contemporary rise of Catholic apologetics, there has been a consistent trend to highlight the, “conversion story”. That is, Joe or Suzy was previously some sort of Protestant, but now they’ve “converted” to Roman Catholicism. Books, television broadcasts, radio programs, and internet web pages, all tell a similar glorious tale of journeying to Rome, and so should you. These are not conversion stories of the broken sinner bowing his knee to the merciful God, given by the Father to Christ and irresistibly drawn (like Paul’s recounting in Galatians 1; cf. Acts 9); rather, these are accounts of people accepting the alleged Roman Catholic “fullness of truth”, and a rejection of Protestant essentials like sola fide and sola scriptura. In other words, the emphasis is not on spiritual rebirth, but rather the acceptance and realization of a “higher knowledge”. The conversion is not to Christ, but to an infallible church.

    Listen to the description of the glorious journeys of finding Rome as told by Scott Hahn:

    We converts have been made so rich. We have been given wealth beyond our wildest dreams! What words can express the sense of the child who, after passing through a series of orphanages and foster homes, finds himself standing in the doorway of an unfamiliar mansion staring into the loving faces of long-forgotten family members? He is reintroduced to his Father, Almighty God, and to Mary, his mother and queen, who is standing, arms outstretched in welcome, next to his elder brother, King Jesus- in the midst of that glorious company of angelic and saintly siblings who stretch forth from heaven to earth and under the earth. Can you imagine a more royal reunion? Few joys surpass the ones related here by these former theological step-children who have finally come home. [Patrick Madrid (ed), Surprised By Truth (Encinitas: Basilica Press, 1994), p.10)]

    These glorious tales of “former theological step-children” are nothing more than aspects of what Martin Luther called “theology of glory”.

    Conversion stories repeatedly put forth by Catholics are just that: examples of achievement and glory. They point to the abilities of a person and the supposed wisdom gained by crossing the Tiber. They do not point to Christ—they point to a triumphal entry into a magnificent human institution: the Roman Catholic Church. Their conversion stories are about what they did. They are about what wisdom and glory they achieved.
    Rather, Paul informs us that the message of the cross is foolishness, and God chooses those who are weak, lowly, and despised to be his children. “It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God- that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.’” Becoming a member of the church is to be given a life of trial and tribulation (1 Thes. 3:1-5). The Scriptures do not speak of joining a powerful visible institution, as judged by the world’s standards. Rather, the strength and splendor of the church is Christ and his Spirit that indwells His people everywhere. His people comprise a church that the world despises and seeks to destroy. To join this body is to join with those the world sees as fools.
    Hahn goes on to speak of the “anguish endured” by those who made the journey to Rome. The Bible though tells of how we should consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus, for whose sake we have lost all things. We should consider them rubbish that we may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of our own. Our conversions should be to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death (Phil. 3:7-11). When someone converts to Christ, they are receiving His Lordship and ultimate rule of His word over their lives.

    I have not denied the Roman Catholic usage of the word “conversion” in their journey to Rome. For in this voyage, they have indeed made a decision from the heart, a conversion. They have received the Lordship of an alleged infallible church magisterium as the ultimate rule over their lives. It is not sola scriptura, but rather sola ecclesia. I submit the Scriptures do not speak of being transformed into the image of the Roman Catholic Church, but rather being transformed into the image of Christ. The Scriptures do not speak of the power of such a testimonial conversion to a “fullness of truth” in joining a particular church body. Rather, they speak of spiritually dead sinners being raised to spiritual life. By this resurrection they become members of Christ’s bride, His church. If you are to boast about your conversion, boast only that once you were blind and now can see. Boast only that you were once enslaved to your sins, but have now been freed by the perfect Savior.

  7. James Swan says:

    This is worthy preaching. However, Luther took this too far when he went on to condemn monastic life as useless and believed it was a vain attempt to merit your own salvation. His biography describes the impact of his preaching on monastic life, so that monks were freed from their vows “to take up useful occupations” and those who remained monks were urged to be useful as well in “preaching, physical labor, and caring for others”. (Luther the Reformer: The story of the man and his career, p 179-180)

    You’ve simply made statements with no proof. You haven’t touched on any of Luther’s arguments against monasticism, making me suspicious you don’t even know what they were, nor do you show any understanding of monasticism in Luther’s day.

    How could you state Luther went too far without actually presenting why he arrived at the position he did?

    Even in the text you cite, can you imagine going down to your local Wal-Mart, and finding mendicant friars begging? If I were you, I’d read up on mendicant friar begging in the sixteenth century. Perhaps that might be a reason “monks were urged to be useful”?

  8. James Swan says:

    By the way, on the topic of Luther entering the monastery and 16th Century monasticism, you may find this useful to your studies:

    http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2006/03/perspectives-on-luther-did-he-join.html

  9. James Swan says:

    By the way, on the topic of Luther entering the monastery and 16th Century monasticism, you may find this useful to your studies:

    http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2006/03/perspectives-on-luther-did-he-join.html

  10. James Swan says:

    If we are only good when we are useful and productive, then our life as a thing in itself has no value. Then the elderly, disabled, or unborn are easily disposable “for the good of the many”. Take it a step further and we see a scene forming from the Twilight Zone’s “The Obsolete Man”. Someone may object that I’m being overly dramatic and that Protestants themselves do not condone the destruction of life, truth, or beauty. However, I still maintain that this is the underlying attitude in Luther’s attack on monastic life. We see the fruits of this in post-Reformation Protestant culture. Liberty and quality of life has become more important than life itself and the sacred is no longer recognized.

    I’ve already outlined your misunderstanding of the Luther quote that preceded this, but It should be pointed out that this is not the “underlying attitude in Luther’s attack on monastic life.” My challenge to you is to prove this point from Luther’s writings. Sure, it’s simple to start up a blog, quote my article, and criticize my points. The key though is to actually prove your points. That is, substantiate your claims.

    Further, you’ve committed the error of blaming “post-Reformation Protestant culture” on Luther. I assume the argument is something like, ‘Luther founded Protestantism, he put forth particular faulty paradigms that have led to “post-Reformation Protestant culture.” This would be like me saying, “a large number of Catholics approve of abortion and voted for Obama, therefore the Roman Catholic Church has underlying teachings that have led to Post Tridentine Catholicism.” The truth is, and you probably know this from your previous church experience, the large majority of “post-Reformation Protestant culture” could not tell the difference between Martin Luther and Martin Luther King. Often, Even educated Protestants know little about Luther’s actually theology. “Post-Reformation Protestant culture” is the product of multiple factors. Similarly, The current Roman Catholic laity is product of many factors. Ask yourself, why is it, a large portion of Catholic scholars are liberal? Is it the fault of the Magisterium?

  11. Stacey says:

    James,

    I’m somewhat surprised that with the other ragingly Catholic things I said, you chose to take issue with my comment about Luther’s motives in joining the monastery. After all, I claimed the entire thesis of your article was wrong, that ordinary devotions was a Catholic way of life, the Reformation was responsible for destroying the sacred and dishonored God, and you misrepresented the gospel according to the Catholic Church. You still haven’t said anything about the Catholic “Universal Call to Holiness” or your misrepresentations of Catholicism. You did made mention of errors in my blog. Please let me know what they are so I can correct them.

    With regards to Luther entering the monastery, I only stated the fact that his vow in a thunderstorm was the cause of his becoming a monk. Out of respect for Luther, since he gravely misunderstands it, I assert that he did not have a calling to the monastic life. Although it is honorable to keep a vow, isn’t it possible that he should not have kept it and instead should have honored and cared for his parents, or possibly not made it in the first place? I am thinking of what Christ dictates in Matthew 15:3-9. I think Luther approached monasticism as a way of earning salvation, instead of devoting his life to God as a beautiful gift. However, those being my personal beliefs, I cannot judge Luther and what his intentions were, so thank you for correcting that insinuation. Also, I fully acknowledge that in everything Luther did, he was pious and earnest. But I also think he had unmitigated pride, in believing that he himself could always judge best what was right. Otherwise, I’m not sure what to make of Luther. He seems a mass of contradictions to me, prideful and arrogant and yet desiring to do God’s will.

    You said “The Theology of Glory’ is founded on man’s wisdom and works.” I find this ironic, since the Reformation was based on Luther’s personal understandings, and that he believed his own ideas derived from the Bible to be more godly than the ones in the Church. He amplified the value of his own reason while banning Aquinas and his academic theology and denying Aristotle’s rules of truth. To me, it seems rather reasonable to use Aristotle’s logic that the truth should be universal and self-consistent. When it becomes non-universal and contradicts itself, it is not a thing of God.

    You are right about my Protestant experiences being a “theology of glory”, but in my experiences of Catholicism I have not found one shred of evidence that substantiates your accusation against them. On the contrary, they focus solely on Christ, his suffering nature, sharing in that suffering, and devoting themselves to each other and to those who suffer in the world. The irony becomes almost unbearable when you say “For Luther, God appears where you would least likely find Him: hanging and dying on a cross in weakness, being punished as a criminal.” since Christ is not found on the cross in Protestant churches, but the crucifix belongs to the Catholic church.

    Out of charity, I will assert that your skewed perspective of Catholicism comes from only having read the Reformation writers and Protestant apologetics. Have you read Early Christian Writings, One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic, The Crisis of Civilization, or even Lewis’s lesser known works like The Great Divorce or The Abolition of Man? Have you read Church documents like the canons of the Council of Trent or the works of the Church Fathers, except to scan them for a damning sound bite?

    My bookshelf contains much from opposing point of views. Besides many Catholic works and the books mentioned above, it contains Luther’s biography, his theological sermons, books by R.C. Sproul, Mike Bickle (my old pastor), McGrath, and Dawkins. You know I intend to buy a biography and the works of Calvin as well, since admittedly my knowledge of him is lacking. But can I win? If I do not read all these books, then I am ignorant of the opposing point of view. If I do read them and come to the conclusion that the Catholic Church is Christ’s true church, then I rely too much on reason. Right? Then when I read books suggested by you and do not see what you see and want to discuss it, I don’t hear from you about either the fact that the writings of the Church Fathers are not proof of sola scriptura or that they bear witness to the tradition of apostolic succession and authority in the Church.

    You have thrown every accusation of ignorance against me, saying that I don’t know or understand Luther’s sermons and that I am ignorant of history and of monasticism and of mendicant friar begging in Luther’s time. Is it impossible that I could be aware of these things and yet disagree with you as to their affect on the world? I am fully aware that the medieval church had horrible abuses and was in dire need of reform. I do not however, believe that the abuses of the Church extended into the doctrines long held since the times of the Apostles or the needed reform called for Luther to delve into the practices and beliefs of the Church line by line editing as he saw fit. I have read histories of the Reformation, both Protestant and Catholic ones, and do not come to the same conclusions as you.

    Regardless of my knowledge base, do I have to have read all of Luther’s sermons on being useful to know that he did a horrible thing when he rejected monasticism? You believe that I misunderstand Luther’s reasons and even what he was saying with a quote about gold and silver in churches. That is exactly what I am talking about! It is not wasteful to pour perfume over Christ’s head, it is a beautiful thing. In the same way, it is not wasteful to honor God with a life set apart or expressing our devotion to him in art and tradition. Human wisdom believes things have to be useful to others to be good, but this strips man of his humanity and cuts off his natural connection to God.

    Luther backed this theory of usefulness up with the verse “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”(Matt 7:12) but neglected Matthew 22:36-40.

    “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

    Loving God is more important than loving your neighbor, although charity for our neighbor extends from loving God. That which is done for our fellow cannot supplant that which honors and loves God, as it is the greatest commandment. You said, “Luther taught a life under the cross, which is a life of discipleship of following after Christ. Our crosses though, do not save. They serve the neighbor. We are called to be neighbor to those around us.” We are not called to be neighbors to the exclusion of loving God. Luther latched on to a portion of the truth, in this case the love for your neighbor and the call to holiness for everyone in every station, and blew it out of proportion to the extent that he denied the value of anything else.

    You yourself have given references to Luther’s sermons that support my claims of the underlying attitude in his attack on monastic life. All I claimed is that he rejected the monastic life and instead claimed the only good is that which is useful, rejecting that which “does no good” to anyone by the standards of human wisdom. Yet, as he says “Of what use were it if all people field mass every hour? What benefit is it if in one church, as at Meissen, they sing day and night Without interruption?” I must conclude that he gravely misunderstood the value of monastic life and the worship that is due Our Lord. I can’t believe that a man as pious and earnest as Luther would have rejected it otherwise. It is heavenly to spend every hour in praise of God, and if we do praise him perpetually, then what room is left for selfish sin? This attitude that things must be useful to be good, which you have substantiated, is what I assert causes the dehumanization of individuals and denies the sanctity of life.

    You’ve said that I have “committed the error of blaming ‘post-Reformation Protestant culture’ on Luther.” I never insinuated that the consequences of Luther’s theology were intentional on his part, in fact I said otherwise. Also, I don’t believe that he alone is responsible for the state of post-Reformation culture. John Calvin undoubtedly is reponsible for lending consistent doctrine and vitality to Luther’s theology. Nothing could have been done without the masses that revolted against Catholicism. But so much in the Reformation and Protestantism stems from Luther’s concepts, like the rejection of the synteresis, even if they are unaware of it, as you stated most modern Protestants are. That does not negate the influence of the Reformation on them or their society.

    Perhaps you should read good Catholic historical and social analysis like those by Belloc (again I refer you to The Crisis of Civilization) to get an idea of how those outside of the Reformation viewed it historically. Once you have read such books, then maybe we can discuss the historical impact of the Reformation on society. I could substantiate my claims by quoting the entire volumes of work here online, but that would be rather tedious and less fruitful than a postponed discussion after you have read the Catholic perspective.

    With respect to converts, maybe you don’t see them talking as much about the spiritual journey and personal relationship as much because they already have a personal relationship with Christ, but lack membership in His body only. As for me, I can’t point to any reasoned argument or any one thing that has changed my mind, nor could I repeat such a thing for anyone else and convince them with it. I can only tell of my journey, my transition to a mind of charity toward the Church, a growing understanding of the wisdom found in her and the closeness to Christ that she can bring to those who avail of her sacraments.

    Does the Catholic Church rely too much on works, or does she take too much on faith? Does she use “human reason” too much, or is she illogical and confusing? Are her children too joyful when they enter the body of Christ or do they suffer too much in the “anguish endured”? These contradictions that appear to you are not contradictions, but balance. The Church does not neglect one duty for another, or one Bible verse for another, but puts all in its proper place so that all is consistent and serves God in every way that He ought to be served. You do not understand Christ’s Church because His way is foolishness to the world. The Catholic way is foolishness to you and you hate her, because the world hated Christ first. Do you not seek to destroy her along with the rest of the world? The Reformers, non-denominationals, atheists, liberals, etc. are all joined together by their hatred of the Catholic Church. Since the church is to share in Christ’s suffering, then all of this is proof that the Catholic Church is the true church, since there is no other institution that suffers as much hatred in the world as she and her converts suffer loss of job, family, friends, and respect to join her.

  12. Stacey says:

    James,

    I’m somewhat surprised that with the other ragingly Catholic things I said, you chose to take issue with my comment about Luther’s motives in joining the monastery. After all, I claimed the entire thesis of your article was wrong, that ordinary devotions was a Catholic way of life, the Reformation was responsible for destroying the sacred and dishonored God, and you misrepresented the gospel according to the Catholic Church. You still haven’t said anything about the Catholic “Universal Call to Holiness” or your misrepresentations of Catholicism. You did made mention of errors in my blog. Please let me know what they are so I can correct them.

    With regards to Luther entering the monastery, I only stated the fact that his vow in a thunderstorm was the cause of his becoming a monk. Out of respect for Luther, since he gravely misunderstands it, I assert that he did not have a calling to the monastic life. Although it is honorable to keep a vow, isn’t it possible that he should not have kept it and instead should have honored and cared for his parents, or possibly not made it in the first place? I am thinking of what Christ dictates in Matthew 15:3-9. I think Luther approached monasticism as a way of earning salvation, instead of devoting his life to God as a beautiful gift. However, those being my personal beliefs, I cannot judge Luther and what his intentions were, so thank you for correcting that insinuation. Also, I fully acknowledge that in everything Luther did, he was pious and earnest. But I also think he had unmitigated pride, in believing that he himself could always judge best what was right. Otherwise, I’m not sure what to make of Luther. He seems a mass of contradictions to me, prideful and arrogant and yet desiring to do God’s will.

    You said “The Theology of Glory’ is founded on man’s wisdom and works.” I find this ironic, since the Reformation was based on Luther’s personal understandings, and that he believed his own ideas derived from the Bible to be more godly than the ones in the Church. He amplified the value of his own reason while banning Aquinas and his academic theology and denying Aristotle’s rules of truth. To me, it seems rather reasonable to use Aristotle’s logic that the truth should be universal and self-consistent. When it becomes non-universal and contradicts itself, it is not a thing of God.

    You are right about my Protestant experiences being a “theology of glory”, but in my experiences of Catholicism I have not found one shred of evidence that substantiates your accusation against them. On the contrary, they focus solely on Christ, his suffering nature, sharing in that suffering, and devoting themselves to each other and to those who suffer in the world. The irony becomes almost unbearable when you say “For Luther, God appears where you would least likely find Him: hanging and dying on a cross in weakness, being punished as a criminal.” since Christ is not found on the cross in Protestant churches, but the crucifix belongs to the Catholic church.

    Out of charity, I will assert that your skewed perspective of Catholicism comes from only having read the Reformation writers and Protestant apologetics. Have you read Early Christian Writings, One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic, The Crisis of Civilization, or even Lewis’s lesser known works like The Great Divorce or The Abolition of Man? Have you read Church documents like the canons of the Council of Trent or the works of the Church Fathers, except to scan them for a damning sound bite?

    My bookshelf contains much from opposing point of views. Besides many Catholic works and the books mentioned above, it contains Luther’s biography, his theological sermons, books by R.C. Sproul, Mike Bickle (my old pastor), McGrath, and Dawkins. You know I intend to buy a biography and the works of Calvin as well, since admittedly my knowledge of him is lacking. But can I win? If I do not read all these books, then I am ignorant of the opposing point of view. If I do read them and come to the conclusion that the Catholic Church is Christ’s true church, then I rely too much on reason. Right? Then when I read books suggested by you and do not see what you see and want to discuss it, I don’t hear from you about either the fact that the writings of the Church Fathers are not proof of sola scriptura or that they bear witness to the tradition of apostolic succession and authority in the Church.

    You have thrown every accusation of ignorance against me, saying that I don’t know or understand Luther’s sermons and that I am ignorant of history and of monasticism and of mendicant friar begging in Luther’s time. Is it impossible that I could be aware of these things and yet disagree with you as to their affect on the world? I am fully aware that the medieval church had horrible abuses and was in dire need of reform. I do not however, believe that the abuses of the Church extended into the doctrines long held since the times of the Apostles or the needed reform called for Luther to delve into the practices and beliefs of the Church line by line editing as he saw fit. I have read histories of the Reformation, both Protestant and Catholic ones, and do not come to the same conclusions as you.

    Regardless of my knowledge base, do I have to have read all of Luther’s sermons on being useful to know that he did a horrible thing when he rejected monasticism? You believe that I misunderstand Luther’s reasons and even what he was saying with a quote about gold and silver in churches. That is exactly what I am talking about! It is not wasteful to pour perfume over Christ’s head, it is a beautiful thing. In the same way, it is not wasteful to honor God with a life set apart or expressing our devotion to him in art and tradition. Human wisdom believes things have to be useful to others to be good, but this strips man of his humanity and cuts off his natural connection to God.

    Luther backed this theory of usefulness up with the verse “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”(Matt 7:12) but neglected Matthew 22:36-40.

    “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

    Loving God is more important than loving your neighbor, although charity for our neighbor extends from loving God. That which is done for our fellow cannot supplant that which honors and loves God, as it is the greatest commandment. You said, “Luther taught a life under the cross, which is a life of discipleship of following after Christ. Our crosses though, do not save. They serve the neighbor. We are called to be neighbor to those around us.” We are not called to be neighbors to the exclusion of loving God. Luther latched on to a portion of the truth, in this case the love for your neighbor and the call to holiness for everyone in every station, and blew it out of proportion to the extent that he denied the value of anything else.

    You yourself have given references to Luther’s sermons that support my claims of the underlying attitude in his attack on monastic life. All I claimed is that he rejected the monastic life and instead claimed the only good is that which is useful, rejecting that which “does no good” to anyone by the standards of human wisdom. Yet, as he says “Of what use were it if all people field mass every hour? What benefit is it if in one church, as at Meissen, they sing day and night Without interruption?” I must conclude that he gravely misunderstood the value of monastic life and the worship that is due Our Lord. I can’t believe that a man as pious and earnest as Luther would have rejected it otherwise. It is heavenly to spend every hour in praise of God, and if we do praise him perpetually, then what room is left for selfish sin? This attitude that things must be useful to be good, which you have substantiated, is what I assert causes the dehumanization of individuals and denies the sanctity of life.

    You’ve said that I have “committed the error of blaming ‘post-Reformation Protestant culture’ on Luther.” I never insinuated that the consequences of Luther’s theology were intentional on his part, in fact I said otherwise. Also, I don’t believe that he alone is responsible for the state of post-Reformation culture. John Calvin undoubtedly is reponsible for lending consistent doctrine and vitality to Luther’s theology. Nothing could have been done without the masses that revolted against Catholicism. But so much in the Reformation and Protestantism stems from Luther’s concepts, like the rejection of the synteresis, even if they are unaware of it, as you stated most modern Protestants are. That does not negate the influence of the Reformation on them or their society.

    Perhaps you should read good Catholic historical and social analysis like those by Belloc (again I refer you to The Crisis of Civilization) to get an idea of how those outside of the Reformation viewed it historically. Once you have read such books, then maybe we can discuss the historical impact of the Reformation on society. I could substantiate my claims by quoting the entire volumes of work here online, but that would be rather tedious and less fruitful than a postponed discussion after you have read the Catholic perspective.

    With respect to converts, maybe you don’t see them talking as much about the spiritual journey and personal relationship as much because they already have a personal relationship with Christ, but lack membership in His body only. As for me, I can’t point to any reasoned argument or any one thing that has changed my mind, nor could I repeat such a thing for anyone else and convince them with it. I can only tell of my journey, my transition to a mind of charity toward the Church, a growing understanding of the wisdom found in her and the closeness to Christ that she can bring to those who avail of her sacraments.

    Does the Catholic Church rely too much on works, or does she take too much on faith? Does she use “human reason” too much, or is she illogical and confusing? Are her children too joyful when they enter the body of Christ or do they suffer too much in the “anguish endured”? These contradictions that appear to you are not contradictions, but balance. The Church does not neglect one duty for another, or one Bible verse for another, but puts all in its proper place so that all is consistent and serves God in every way that He ought to be served. You do not understand Christ’s Church because His way is foolishness to the world. The Catholic way is foolishness to you and you hate her, because the world hated Christ first. Do you not seek to destroy her along with the rest of the world? The Reformers, non-denominationals, atheists, liberals, etc. are all joined together by their hatred of the Catholic Church. Since the church is to share in Christ’s suffering, then all of this is proof that the Catholic Church is the true church, since there is no other institution that suffers as much hatred in the world as she and her converts suffer loss of job, family, friends, and respect to join her.

  13. Wintrowski says:

    Stacey,

    Absolutely fantastic work you’re doing here. You’re right on the money, and I agree with you 100%.

    It’s great to see James Swan get his backside kicked, and then watch as he goes apoplectic and froths at the mouth.

    Bravo! You deserve a trophy or something.

  14. James Swan says:

    You have thrown every accusation of ignorance against me, saying that I don’t know or understand Luther’s sermons and that I am ignorant of history and of monasticism and of mendicant friar begging in Luther’s time.

    Stacey,

    Thank you for a lengthy and heartfelt reply. I’ll try to work through your comments, time allowing during the week. Can we though at least settle one thing?

    You cited Luther as follows:

    Hence direct all the good you can do and your whole life to the end that it be good; but it is good only when it is useful to other people and not to yourself… If you find a work in you by which you benefit God or his saints or yourself and not your neighbor, know that such a work is not good.” [Sermons of Martin Luther 1:36].

    You then commented,

    This is plain wrong and appears to be the foundation of the infamous Protestant work ethic that has led to unbridled competition in capitalism and threatens to destroy the free citizen (see Belloc’s Crisis of Civilization). At the foundation of this admonition to be useful to others is the rejection of the Catholic mantra “life matters”. If we are only good when we are useful and productive, then our life as a thing in itself has no value. Then the elderly, disabled, or unborn are easily disposable “for the good of the many”. Take it a step further and we see a scene forming from the Twilight Zone’s “The Obsolete Man”. Someone may object that I’m being overly dramatic and that Protestants themselves do not condone the destruction of life, truth, or beauty. However, I still maintain that this is the underlying attitude in Luther’s attack on monastic life. We see the fruits of this in post-Reformation Protestant culture. Liberty and quality of life has become more important than life itself and the sacred is no longer recognized.

    Am I to believe you actually read Luther’s sermon before you came up with these interpretive comments? The sermon is available on multiple websites. I’d rather believe you didn’t read the sermon, and simply posted how your felt after a surface reading. “Unbridled competition in capitalism”? “If we are only good when we are useful and productive, then our life as a thing in itself has no value”? “Liberty and quality of life has become more important than life itself and the sacred is no longer recognized”? All this from that quote?

    If we’re going to dialog with each other, we need to be forthcoming with each other. If you say you read the sermon, and then wrote this, I’ll believe you. At least, I can then demonstrate from the context this sermon does not imply your statements. If you didn’t read it, just say so, and we can forget your comments as a convert’s zeal, and move on.

    Regards,
    James

  15. Stacey says:

    James,

    Fair enough. No, I didn’t read the entire sermon. I will if you like. Although, do you really believe that I have misunderstood Luther’s admonition to be useful? Do you agree that I have correctly understood that he thinks things like gold and silver in churches, a life spent withdrawn from the world, and perpetual prayer and worship are bad things because they do no good for anyone in his opinion, based on the fact that we are to love our neighbor?

    I did not extrapolate that entire rant simply from that quote. I have been aware of Luther’s rejection of monasticism, the history of it through the Reformation, and the effects that it has had on the world. All this is not just from that quote. There is a lot more to it than Luther telling us that only those things we do to love our neighbor are good works. But this idea changed the fundamental attitude of everyone affected by the Reformation. I honestly think if you read The Crisis of Civilization then Belloc could much better explain to you the reasons for my accusations. He’s a much more worthy writer than I. However, when I have more time (maybe later tonight?) I will try to sit down and explain myself more explicitly. Let me know if you are going to buy the book, and we can postpone the discussion until then. I warn you ahead of time, Belloc is unmercifully anti-Protestant.

    I do appreciate your responses, James. I frequented your blog initially because I could tell you were well read, and so had something worth contributing. I also have a love for reading and for research and believe maybe my knowledge base is different enough from yours that we can make each other aware of things previously off the radar. However, if we do continue to dialogue, I have a request of you. That is, will you please ask if I am aware of things or have looked into certain things before you accuse me of only believing something differently than you do because I’m ignorant?

  16. tap says:

    I haven’t even paid attn to this thread its Interesting. B/c of your final admonition of Swan here, i’m going to avoid calling him ignorant. Let me just say his concept of what monasticism is clouded by Luther, and the reformation exclusively. Myopic at best.

    Stacet, there are some Church fathers you can read on the subject of Monasticism if you are interested

  17. James Swan says:

    Hi Stacey,

    I will have more comments during the week. I will also be ignoring those on the sidelines cheering or yelling. I really only have a small window of time to devote to blog interaction, so if anyone joins in over here either in support of you or me, I’m going to ignore them.

    You stated:

    Fair enough. No, I didn’t read the entire sermon. I will if you like.

    Stacey, I brought this up for a specific reason. Do you recall, recently you came over to my blog and stated your “initial reaction” to vol. III of the King/Webster set? You stated, These circumstancial quotes are taken out of context to try to represent an entire theological system. You see, you’ve got to be careful with a charge like this. That is, this type of allegation implies you understand things should be read in context, and will do what is within your ability to adhere to this type of standard. You made a number of false claims based on one Luther quote. In fact, I’d dare to say you took the quote out of context and misrepresented an entire theological system. You then clarified that you did not extrapolate that entire rant simply from that quote. I would ask you to go back, reread what you wrote, and make the necessary clarifications. As it stands now, your blog entry misquotes Luther. Unfortunately, misquoting Luther is a characteristic of many Roman Catholic apologists.

    You ask:

    Do you agree that I have correctly understood that he thinks things like gold and silver in churches, a life spent withdrawn from the world, and perpetual prayer and worship are bad things because they do no good for anyone in his opinion, based on the fact that we are to love our neighbor?

    Recall Luther stood against the Schwarmer in the destruction of church buildings, artwork, and content. I leave that topic to your studies. The material is easy enough to find.

    I think you have a vague of understanding of Luther, and have been sipping from the well spring of out dated Catholic scholarship on Luther, or perhaps have been taken in by some of the current popular Catholic apologist perspectives. The question as you’ve framed it, strong implies that perpetual prayer and worship can best be done by those engaged in monasticism, as if these people somehow have a stronger desire than the rest of us, or a higher calling.

    You will not find Luther denying prayer and worship are bad things to be avoided, quite the contrary, Luther himself was quite the prayer warrior. Luther though wanted his hearers to be prepared to live the Christian life, and to have a daily encounter with the Word. If you read Luther’s Small Catechism, the programs reflect his theology. A Christian begins his day with a focus on the vertical relationship with God in order to live out his day of horizontal relationships with other people. The prescibed morning “ritual” is replete with theological overtones of God’s gift of Christ to us, and also includes our thankfulness back to Him for the gift. The mealtime prayers have an emphasis on God’s total control over both realms, and that all we have is from Him, including our food. To this, we respond in thankfulness and also by verbally proclaiming passages of Scriptures to hear the Word of God. Similar to the morning program, the evening closes the day out with thankfulness to God for His gifts. These programs reflect Luther’s notion about prayer: it’s not the amount of words one uses, but rather the content. Luther’s prayers were filled with content. Similarly in the Catechism, in the reciting of the Ten Commandments and the Apostles Creed, one hears both law and gospel at the beginning and ending of each day. One can sleep in “peace” because we are always in the hand of God, secure with Christ’s righteousness. Thus, the paradigm Luther puts forth is not one “withdrawn” from the world. Rather, we are in the world, but not of the world. Luther states, “God has placed His church into the midst of this world, among an infinite variety of activities and vocations, so that Christians might not turn into monks but might live in ordinary society and our works and the practices of faith might become known among men.”

    On another theme related to, “a life spent withdrawn from the world, and perpetual prayer and worship”– This is exactly a theology of glory. The theology of glory always looks inward toward self spirituality and away from helping the neighbor. It looks toward building a big church of gold, rather than seeing Christ as the temple. If I recall, it was when Christianity became legalized that monasticism began to really flourish (in warmer climates I might add).

    Recall you were previously “Word of faith.” Think of the glory theology espoused by these Schwarmer-… They have or want big grand churches with health and wealth, looking for a mystical experience like tongues. These mystical experiences ultimately only benefit oneself. They allegedly prove some sort of a true or higher spirituality. Now as I view Catholicism, they also have some big grand churches (or, made efforts to build them at the expense of the poor, leading up to the Reformation), and if you want to get really close to God, you can enter into monasticism, really to benefit oneself- that is, you can become “holier“ and ultimately decrease time in purgatory. As I quoted previously, glory theology “believes in self-salvation: by my own power or goodness or wits. It looks for God only in symbols of victory. James and John are its patron saints, hustling to sit by Jesus’ right and left hand in glory, unaware that the cup about to be drunk is the cup of suffering.” The suffering Christians experience is being in the world and being conformed to the image of Christ. It’s not running off to the woods with a Bible to pray for 20 years, or more.

    I would encourage you to read Romans 12-15 and Ephesians 4-6 as a helpful guide to what a Christian life entails. Glory theologies always look inward or away from the world. They tend toward asceticism, Gnosticism or the “mystical.” True spirituality is foolishness. It‘s believing in a God who has revealed himself hanging on a cross, and who has revealed himself through the foolishness of preaching. The theology of the cross is foolishness: it teaches salvation is by faith alone. Faith alone? This is absurd, surely their must be more! The theology of the cross is foolishness: it says God has spoken and preserved his words in a book, and these are enough. Just in book? That’s absurd! Cross theology says, “keep your miracles” we have God’s word and the miracles in that book, we need no other proof. This is absurd, we want God’s new miracles to prove our church today!

    The theology of the cross is total foolishness, and it is what I believe.

  18. James Swan says:

    Last line should have said:

    “Glory theology says: This is absurd, we want God’s new miracles to prove our church today!”

    Also I misused a “their” sorry.

  19. James Swan says:

    Last line should have said:

    “Glory theology says: This is absurd, we want God’s new miracles to prove our church today!”

    Also I misused a “their” sorry.

  20. tap says:

    I will also be ignoring those on the sidelines cheering or yelling.

    You better ignore us, this is not like your soapbox, where you shut down commenting when you start being confuted.

    You see, you’ve got to be careful with a charge like this. That is, this type of allegation implies you understand things should be read in context, and will do what is within your ability to adhere to this type of standard. Unfortunately, misquoting Luther is a characteristic of many Roman Catholic apologists.

    Yet with a straight face you recommended a book that “misquotes” i.e. hacks the Church Fathers out of context. And then when it was pointed out to you, you claimed she hadn’t done her homework. You actually need some credibility to be able to claim some moral high ground on this issue.

    I think you have a vague of understanding of Luther,

    You have an even more myopic understanding of Monasticism. Clouded by your infatuation with Luther. As the below quotes show

    The question as you’ve framed it, strong implies that perpetual prayer and worship can best be done by those engaged in monasticism, as if these people somehow have a stronger desire than the rest of us, or a higher calling.

    Conflating, zeal, and desire. Everyone’s calling is not the same. Perpetual prayer and worship is best done by monks, b/c the’ve given up the cares of this world. Does not mean a greater desire, it mean a greater effort on their part at perfection. [You will find a couple of Church fathers making exactly that case.

    This is exactly a theology of glory. The theology of glory always looks inward toward self spirituality and away from helping the neighbor. It looks toward building a big church of gold, rather than seeing Christ as the temple

    This shows once again that your view of monasticism is clouded by Luther’s distortions of it. To Say that Monasticism take you away from helping your neigbor is utter nonsense. You have not clue that ceonobitic communities did a lot of labor, most of their “fruits” were given away to the poor? Money from people who donated to the monastries were given away to the Poor.

    Now Stacey, i’m not claim that abuses didn’t take place. To be honest. Its the excesses of that period that allowed a false teacher like Luther to arise. Luther puffed up by the Spirit of Pride. Used those excesses as an excuse to start up various new an pernicious doctrines.

    Stacey, if you interested in learning some small history on Monasticism from a Church Father. i suggest you read:
    John Cassians Conferences, and Institutes.

    http://www.ccel.org/search?category=books&qu=cassian

  21. Stacey says:

    Hi James,

    There is absolutely no pressure for quick responses from me. You’ll find I often take a while to respond, so we can just proceed slowly with that understanding.

    Your point is taken that I ought to investigate the complete context of each side, not just the one I’m considering, like I am with Catholicism. However, after reading that sermon, I have found nothing other than what I expected to find. Our discussion will proceed rather more quickly if you can understand that I realize what Luther was saying about monasticism and being useful, what his reasons were for saying so, and that not only do I honestly disagree with him, but I also think the world experienced a great many bad effects from the change of attitude in society that came from his teachings. I did not derive my allegations from a single quote, but from my knowledge of his teachings and the effect they had on society and history.

    You may also be interested to know that I have read nothing of Luther from Catholics, but only from Lutherans themselves. I think it is best to hear from any given group what they have to say for themselves instead of only what others say about them. The Catholic histories I have read tend to skim over a good deal about Luther, mention Calvin’s solidification of Reformation doctrine, then move on past the men to the movement as a whole.

    Recall Luther stood against the Schwarmer in the destruction of church buildings, artwork, and content.

    I have fully acknowledged that the effects I have mentioned were unintentional on Luther’s part. I know he even took steps to correct those who revolted violently. That doesn’t mean these things didn’t happen because of his teachings. Why was he surprised when he said things like this:

    “From this you learn how the universities and monasteries with their teachings of free will and good works, do nothing else but darken the truth of God so that we know not what Christ is, what we are and what our condition is. They lead the whole world with them into the abyss of hell, and it is indeed time that we eradicate from the earth all chapters and monasteries.”

    Incidentally, Luther’s accusations against the church that they taught you could be “saved by your own merit and works” or that anyone can do anything apart from the grace of God, even turn to him by their own free will, is not true. I have posted on the historical Catholic position on grace and free will.

    You then clarified that you did not extrapolate that entire rant simply from that quote. I would ask you to go back, reread what you wrote, and make the necessary clarifications.

    Let me know if you are planning to read The Crisis of Civilization. If you are not, I will do my best to clarify. If you are, I will postpone further discussion until you have that background.

    The question as you’ve framed it, strong implies that perpetual prayer and worship can best be done by those engaged in monasticism, as if these people somehow have a stronger desire than the rest of us, or a higher calling… Thus, the paradigm Luther puts forth is not one “withdrawn” from the world. Rather, we are in the world, but not of the world. Luther states, “God has placed His church into the midst of this world, among an infinite variety of activities and vocations, so that Christians might not turn into monks but might live in ordinary society and our works and the practices of faith might become known among men.”

    Saint Therese of Lisieux says this about different callings:

    “I had wondered for a long time why God had preferences and why all souls did not receive an equal amount of grace… I was just as astonished when I read the lives of saints to see that Our Lord cherished certain favoured souls from the cradle to the grave and never allowed any kind of obstacle to check their flight towards Him…
    Jesus saw fit to enlighten me about this mystery. He set the book of nature before me and I saw that all the flowers He has created are lovely. The splendour of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not rob the little violet of its scent nor the daisy of its simple charm. I realized that if every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness and there would be no wild flowers to make the meadows gay.
    It is just the same in the world of souls– which is the garden of Jesus. He has created the great saints who are like the lilies and the roses, but He has also created much lesser saints and they must be content to be the daisies or the violets which rejoice His eyes whenever He glances down. Perfection consists in doing His will, in being that which He wants us to be.
    I also understood that God’s love shows itself just as well in the simplest soul which puts up no resistance to His grace as it does in the loftiest soul.”

    Yes, I think that a life solely devoted to God is more suited to being solely devoted to God, as Paul says (1 Cor 7:35). I think that the Apostles had a higher calling than I do as a mother. But I also believe that being a mother is an enormously worthy calling, and one in which I may do everything for the Lord and serve Him by being the best mother I can be for His glory. Do you not think to be an Apostle is a greater thing than to be a waiter? But each can be done beautifully and for the glory of God. The world cannot and should not be all Apostles and no mothers or all monks and no waiters. Yet God has called everyone to a specific task, which we are to perform as best we can for His glory. Note that this does not negate the value of a monastic calling in favor of the laity calling, nor the other way around.

    I want to spend more time on the monastic life and its value a little later. I don’t expect to change your mind, but perhaps I can show you why I don’t believe it is something spent solely for one’s own benefit. Are you planning to respond on the points I made of those in the Bibles whose lives were set apart or on the passage of the woman with the perfume? If you see something different than I do in these things, then perhaps it is best we get on the same page before I start building on that foundation.

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