Saturday, July 19, 2008

Pseudo-Luther on the importance of the fight at precisely the one position under assault

"If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved. To be steady on all battle fronts besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point."

     Martin Luther, as quoted by the prominent Lutheran theologian and ecumenist the Rev. Dr. George A. Lindbeck, Pitkin Professor Emeritus of Historical Theology at Yale, in his The nature of doctrine: religion and theology in a postliberal age (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1984), 75 (88n2); (Louisville, KY:  Westminster John Knox, 2009), 61 (74n2). Lindbeck, like many others of reputation, cites the Weimarer Ausgabe of the Briefwechsel (i.e. Abteilung 4), vol. 3, pp. 81 ff. (=Letter 619 to Count Albrecht von Mansfeld, dated 3 June 1523 (?), original according to the WA no longer extant), but I'm not seeing this there. Analogous ideas, yes, but this very passage, no. So I'm working on it. Meanwhile, Lindbeck.
     Update:  though I wrote Dr. Lindbeck about this in 2008, I received no reply.  And when the "25th anniversary edition" of The nature of doctrine appeared in 2009, this had not been corrected.
     Update: I've since discovered that the discussion is carried much further here: There the Rev. Joel A. Brondos channels the Rev. Dr. Christopher Brown's translation of the passage cited by Lindbeck and others (above) as follows (though I have re-consulted the WA edition of the original German, and therefore reproduced here the two emphases (einem and ein)):
Neither is it of any help if someone would say, 'I will gladly confess Christ and His Word in every other article, except that I may keep silence about one or two that my tyrants may not tolerate, such as both species in the Sacrament and the like.' For whoever denies Christ in one article or word has denied the same Christ in that one article who would be denied by [denying] all the articles, since there is only one Christ in all His words, taken all together or singly.
Auch hilft nicht, daß jemand wollt sagen:  "Ich will in allen Stücken sonst gern Christum und sein Wort bekennen, ohn daß ich müge schweigen eines oder zwei, die meine Tyrannen nicht leiden mögen [(or: die mein Tyrann nicht leiden mag)], als die zwo Gestalt des Sacraments oder desgleichen."  Denn wer in einem Stück oder Wort Christum verleugnet, der hat ebendenselbigen Christum in dem einigen Stück verleugnet, der in allen Stücken verleugnet würde, sintemal es nur ein Christus ist, in allen seinen Worten sämptlich und sonderlich. 
I also look forward to the publication of an article on this by my colleague Bob Caldwell (j40bob there).
     Update:  looks like Bob's article is out:  That would be
Caldwell, Bob. "If I profess": a spurious, if consistent, Luther quote?" Concordia journal 35, no. 4 (September 1, 2009): 356-359 (SPU PDF here).
Mr. Caldwell traced it to p. 321 of the Chronicles of the Schönberg-Cotta family, by two of themselves (New York:  Dodd, Mead, & Company, Publishers, 1864 (© 1863)), by the Englishwoman Elizabeth Rundle Charles (1828-1896).
     From the Oxford dictionary of national biography, s.v. Charles, Elizabeth Rundle, by Elisabeth Jay:
Andrew Cameron, the editor of the Family Treasury, a Scottish magazine, offered Elizabeth Charles £40 for a story about Luther. A fellow historical novelist, Charlotte Yonge, might criticize The Chronicles of the Schonberg-Cotta Family (1863) for the book's post-Romantic sensibilities and its portrait of ‘a lady's Luther, without his force or his coarseness’ (Monthly Packet, 1865, 446), but the novel passed through numerous editions, and was translated into most European languages, Arabic, and several Indian languages. Luther's career as religious reformer and national hero is recounted through the eyes of his printer's children, offering religious exemplars through the medium of historical drama. . . . Her subsequent family chronicles, such as The Bertram Family (1876), swiftly establish the dynastic relationship of their narrators to their predecessors in the Schonberg-Cotta Family. . . .
     In the novel itself it appears (under the heading "Fritz's story, Ebernburg, April 2, 1526") as follows (which is to say, slightly differently):
But now, to confess Luther seemed to me to have become identical with confessing Christ.  It is the truth which is assailed in any age which tests our fidelity.  It is to confess we are called, not merely to profess.  If I profess, with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity.  Where the battle rages the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle-field besides is mere flight and disgrace to him if he flinches at that one point.
"If you preach the gospel in all its aspects with the exception of the issues that deal specifically with your time, you are not preaching the gospel at all." 

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