Reason and Protestant Christianity in Their Own Words

I have long found William Lane Craig's proclamation of a "reasonable faith" to be deliciously ironic. Since The 95 Theses were first nailed on the door of Castle Church, Martin Luther made it abundantly clear what the role of reason was in the Protestant faith. Note that this was not some uneducated medieval wretch in the 12th century; this is the highly educated Augustinian monk, professor at a prestigious university, and probably the most important founder of the Protestant movement. Shall we take a look?

"Reason is the Devil’s greatest whore; by nature and manner of being she is a noxious whore; she is a prostitute, the Devil’s appointed whore; whore eaten by scab and leprosy who ought to be trodden under foot and destroyed, she and her wisdom… Throw dung in her face to make her ugly. She is and she ought to be drowned in baptism… She would deserve, the wretch, to be banished to the filthiest place in the house, to the closets."

― Martin Luther, Erlangen Edition v. 16, pp. 142‐148

"People gave ear to an upstart astrologer who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon…This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but sacred scripture tells us [Joshua 10:13] that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth."

― Table Talks in 1539

"Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but—more frequently than not—struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God."

― Table Talks in 1569

"Reason should be destroyed in all Christians."

"Whoever wants to be a Christian should tear the eyes out of his Reason."

"There is on earth among all dangers no more dangerous thing than a richly endowed and adroit reason…Reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed."

― The Faith of a Heretic

"Heretics are not to be disputed with, but to be condemned unheard, and whilst they perish by fire, the faithful ought to pursue the evil to its source, and bathe their heads in the blood of the Catholic bishops, and of the Pope, who is the devil in disguise."

― Riffel, Kirchengeschichte

And the most delisciously ironic of all:

"Idiots, the lame, the blind, the dumb, are men in whom the devils have established themselves: and all the physicians who heal these infirmities, as though they proceeded from natural causes, are ignorant blockheads…"

In the interest of space, I have left out multitudes of quotes where Luther attributes many things known at the time to be naturalistic as being devils, demons, and witchery (not to mention his virulent anti-Semitism and misogyny).

Protestant Christianity was founded in direct opposition to reason. And now people claim to be able to reconcile the two? It would be funny were it not so sad.


Anonymous said...

LOL, that's all I can say.

The Uncredible Hallq said...

Do you realize that Craig has explicitly endorsed Luther's views on reason? For Craig, reason is a tool in the evangelist's bag of tricks, not something for actually finding the truth.

GordonBlood said...

So essentially because a leader in Protestantism was against reason, all Protestants must therefore follow in his footsteps? Surely Shygetz you are being intentionally polemical. You are not one to commit such an obvious fallacy so one must assume you are not being serious. Now perhaps if Jesus, or even Paul, had said such things you would have a case. But a German monk of many diverse opinions living over a millenium after the crucifixion? I think not.

Evan said...

Gordon I don't think it's quite that easy.

Basic protestant doctrines -- predestination, justification by faith, and reliance on scripture alone -- none of these would exist without Luther. Protestantism itself, and those doctrines, would likely not have developed at all if the combination of Suleyman the Magnificent and German Princes who protected Luther hadn't pressured Charles V. Because of these pressures, Charles did not stamp out Lutheranism in the way that previous heresies had been stamped out (see Albigenians or Jan Hus).

To say that Luther is irrelevant to modern Protestants is really like saying Augustine or Aquinas are irrelevant to modern Catholicism. You can make the argument, but it's not very serious. Your comparison to Paul is really quite apt. Luther is without question the Paul of Protestantism.

Shygetz said...

"A leader in Protestantism"? You've got to be kidding me, gordonblood. Evan has it exactly right--Luther is not just a "German monk of many diverse opinions." He is the primary founder of the Protestant movement. You may as well insist that, regardless of its roots, Lysenkoism is now based on sound science. Fruit of a poisoned tree, my friend--Luther was quite adamant that Protestant faith was founded and developed in opposition to reason.

"There is no worse screen to block out the Spirit than confidence in our own intelligence."
-John Calvin

"Let it be considered, then, as an undeniable truth, that they who have been inwardly taught by the Spirit feel an entire acquiescence in the Scripture, and that it is self-authenticated, carrying with it its own evidence, and ought not to be made the subject of demonstration and arguments from reason; but it obtains the credit which it deserves with us by the testimony of the Spirit."
-John Calvin

See, it wasn't just Luther. Calvin also taught that ignorance was essential to faith. When people are confident in their reason, it fully blocks out the Spirit. These are the people that laid the theological foundation for all of Protestant Christianity. Where in that is room for "reasonable faith"?

Harry H. McCall said...

What I truly find particularly interesting is that while most all atheists are employed full time in a secular jobs (philosophy or science) and end up promoting their none religious views as a side issue (books by Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens and now again by DC’s John Loftus), Christianity employs full time professors of apologetics (such as Craig and tons of other PAID conservative seminary professors, plus the full time PAID J.P. Holding) to defend a faith they claim is based on “reason”.

Since it’s money that keeps these full time apologetic seminary professors of Christianity going, as an unpaid atheist, I have to really wonder where (as Hector Avalos notes) their subjective apologetic jobs end and total objectivity about the truth starts. In other words, as a non-paid atheist who works in the secular field (electronics), I consider most all such apologetic Christian professors simply paid mercenaries.

As a former member of the Jesus Seminar, I had a number of disagreements with its founder, the late Robert Funk which I expressed to him in several emails. However, I have a plaque hanging on my wall here in my office with a statement which he made that greatly affected me:

“We must develop utter honesty about the truth.
We must deepen our care for each other, and
we must learn to respect the planet that is our home.
Nothing else much matters.”

Robert W. Funk

GordonBlood said...

Because I am simply assuming most of the persons that visit this blog will see through the massive holes in Harry's argument il simply avoid that. My position is not that Luther was not important to Protestantism as it happened. However, I believe given the abuses of church power that Martin Luther could just as easily not have been born and the Reformation would have happened. The canard was already set by the gate. All it took was for someone to light it. I will grant that Luther was wrong on many issues. As a Christian I can do that. Certainly I would hope you are not suggesting that because a person is wrong on some things they are wrong on everything... the mere thought of that makes one shiver. I recognize you are not advocating that, im simply saying that some seems to be treading dangerously close to that position.

Evan said...

However, I believe given the abuses of church power that Martin Luther could just as easily not have been born and the Reformation would have happened.

This counterfactual demands evidence.

What forces were active in Germany in Luther's day that with certainty would have resulted in schism that did not exist in southern France during the Cathar heresy or any other popular heresy before the reformation?

The fact is Luther became popular and was protected by German princes due to his charisma as a person and as a writer. Any less charismatic person would most likely have been killed like Jan Hus was. However, even with the assumption there would have been a reformation, is it really certain that reformation would have adopted: 1. Justification by faith, 2. Scriptural authority alone and 3. Priesthood of all believers without Luther?

Anonymous said...

Big 'ol Genetic Fallacy people! And you know it! Luther is a fascinating study of profound influence and controversy, but he's not infallible.

It is a contradiction to say "here are my reasons for not needing reasons".

Paul "reasoned in the synagogue and in the marketplace" and with the philosophers in Athens (Acts 17). He declared that what he was saying "is true and reasonable" (Acts 26). "Come let us reason together, says the Lord, (Isaiah 1:18), etc.

May I suggest everyone listen to the free podcasts I produced with Bill Craig on his website concerning his view on this - then we can discuss further. BTW, I produced these for free and they are available free - so I have no hidden agenda.

Kevin H

Shygetz said...

The genetic fallacy only occurs when the origins of a phenomenon has no relevance to the current usage of the phenomenon. Do you deny that Luther's theological views remain highly influential in modern Protestant theology? Read the 95 Theses and see for yourself. Do you deny that these theses were set up upon a framework of anti-reason? Had I hinged my arguments on Luther's anti-semitism or misogyny, you would have a point. But if you argue that anti-reason was not a pillar upon which Luther's theology was based, the quotes would reveal that to be a lie. Therefore, the genetic fallacy is not being commited here, as the origins of the movement are still strongly in force today and therefore still relevant to the modern phenomenon. Nice try.

He declared that what he was saying "is true and reasonable" (Acts 26).

He was saying he wasn't insane, not that what he was saying was based on reason. It is not sufficient to simply do a text search for the word "reason" and its derivatives. Similar to Isaiah; read Isaiah 1 and show me where the LORD uses reason in his monologue. I will grant you that the useage of reason in Acts 17 may be considered to mean something approaching actual reason, but that is hardly clear; from the context it appears to be more like "argue" or "debate" than what we would consider reason.

However, even if I admit that the author of Acts meant "reason" in the modern, post-Renaissance aspect, you would be commiting the genetic fallacy. The supposed fact that Paul reasoned with people does not make the Christian faith (much less the Protestant variety) dependent upon reason. On the other hand, Luther clearly based his theology on unreason; reason was considered the greatest enemy of the Protestant faith. As his theology remains highly influential today, and as that theology is firmly based in unreason, those touting a reasonable Protestant faith have problems.

And I will not be pursuing your podcasts. If you have arguments, make them (and reference your podcast if you must).

lee said...

The church has always been divided on classical vs presuppositional apologetics. Tertullian fideism has been advocated by many church fathers throughout the history of the church.

My problem with most classical apologist today is that they start classically, to try to illustrate the rationality of the Christian faith and then proceed to lead you to the precipice and tell you to make the leap of faith.

Anonymous said...

"The genetic fallacy only occurs when the origins of a phenomenon has no relevance to the current usage of the phenomenon."

KH> The GF is the faulting of a view because of it's origin rather than considering the view on its own merits. That, and the fact that Luther was not infallible make the rest of your post moot.

Stan, the Half-Truth Teller said...

KH> The GF is the faulting of a view because of it's origin rather than considering the view on its own merits.

I would say that your characterization of the Genetic Fallacy is in error: namely, the term "faulting" should be replaced by "judging".

Making this change makes it clear that your mention of modern scriptural translations which contain variants of the word "reason" is, truly, Genetic Fallacy in practice. While you are not faulting the view of reason, per se, you are fallaciously granting it preferential status by way of the GF.

As for Shygetz' discrediting of Protestantism based on its continued support of Lutheran principles, this is most certainly not a Genetic Fallacy. Shy is not condemning Protestantism because of its source (namely, Luther), but because of its [explicit] rejection of reason as a discerning tool.

Luther has nothing to do with this intentional ignorance, aside from being its primary voice. The calls for -- indeed, the requirement of -- intentional ignorance from theists in general, and given the context here, especially of Protestants, are criminal in nature, and are very much worth condemnation. Since these are also the basic tenets upon which Protestantism is founded, then yes, the whole thing is to be scrapped.

Of course, this line of reasoning says nothing directly of Catholicism, but if we merely grant Luther the truth of his claims against Catholicism, while simultaneously making note of his ignorant intentions (which remain the pillars of Protestantism), we can presumably denounce both branches of Christianity in one fell swoop.


Shygetz said...

The GF is the faulting of a view because of it's origin rather than considering the view on its own merits. That, and the fact that Luther was not infallible make the rest of your post moot.

From The Fallacy Files, a fairly useful web-based resource on logic from a Ph.D. philosopher.

"The Genetic Fallacy is the most general fallacy of irrelevancy involving the origins or history of an idea. It is fallacious to either endorse or condemn an idea based on its past—rather than on its present—merits or demerits, unless its past in some way affects its present value."

(emphasis mine)

Kevin loses 4 points for improper definition of a common informal fallacy. I (and others) have pointed out on multiple occasions how the origins of Protestantism DO strongly affect its present value.

The fact that Luther was fallible also doesn't cut it. The foundations of Luther's faith-based arguments are anti-reason (see quotes of Luther and Calvin). The current Protestant movement has endorsed and adopted Luther's arguments (compare 95 Theses with modern statements of faith, examine history of Protestant theology). Ergo, the current Protestant movement's arguments adopted from Luther are anti-reason (identity property).

Hallq, if you have a quote of Craig explicitly endorsing Luther's view of reason (or anything like it, where he said reason was a tool for apologetics, not a means to find truth), please post it here with a source. Thanks.

Shygetz said...

Because I am simply assuming most of the persons that visit this blog will see through the massive holes in Harry's argument il simply avoid that.

I don't see the problems with Harry's argument. Paid apologists have a personal and financial stake in getting a particular result from their "scholarly studies". In all fields of scholarly pursuit, it is considered unethical (and often illegal if the government is involved) to have such explicit conflicts of interest and not fully disclose them. Why is it important to fully disclose them? Because such conflicts provide strong incentive for unethical behavior, such as cherry-picking data, falsifying or fabricating data, or even more borderline behavior such as strongly coloring your analysis of data.

In other words, it tells us how big a serving of salt we must take with their conclusions. Dawkins, Dennet, etc. probably would have sold as many books (if not more) with an impassioned defense of religion, and would certainly retain their jobs if they converted to Christianity. W.L. Craig would be out of a job if he became an atheist because of the evidence. While this does not NECESSITATE that he is not being fair with the evidence, it DOES impact how one weigh his opinions.

It is propoganda, pure and simple. Not to say that all propoganda is false, but that propoganda's purpose is not to inform. It is to persuade, and information is but one tool of many for such persuasion.