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Martin Lutherís Devotion to Mary(Ecumenical)
CatholicCulture ^ | April 24, 2003 | by Dave Armstrong

Posted on 11/16/2008 5:21:34 AM PST by GonzoII

Martin Luther's Devotion to Mary

by Dave Armstrong

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Despite the radicalism of early Protestantism toward many ancient Catholic "distinctives," such as the Communion of the Saints, Penance, Purgatory, Infused Justification, the Papacy, the priesthood, sacramental marriage, etc., it may surprise many to discover that Martin Luther was rather conservative in some of his doctrinal views, such as on baptismal regeneration, the Eucharist, and particularly the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Luther indeed was quite devoted to Our Lady, and retained most of the traditional Marian doctrines which were held then and now by the Catholic Church. This is often not well-documented in Protestant biographies of Luther and histories of the 16th century, yet it is undeniably true. It seems to be a natural human tendency for latter-day followers to project back onto the founder of a movement their own prevailing viewpoints.

Since Lutheranism today does not possess a very robust Mariology, it is usually assumed that Luther himself had similar opinions. We shall see, upon consulting the primary sources (i.e., Luther's own writings), that the historical facts are very different. We shall consider, in turn, Luther's position on the various aspects of Marian doctrine.

Along with virtually all important Protestant Founders (e.g., Calvin, Zwingli, Cranmer), Luther accepted the traditional belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary (Jesus had no blood brothers), and her status as the Theotokos (Mother of God):

Christ, ..was the only Son of Mary, and the Virgin Mary bore no children besides Him... "brothers" really means "cousins" here, for Holy Writ and the Jews always call cousins brothers. (Sermons on John, chapters 1-4.1537-39). He, Christ, our Savior, was the real and natural fruit of Mary's virginal womb.. .This was without the cooperation of a man, and she remained a virgin after that. (Ibid.)

God says... "Mary's Son is My only Son." Thus Mary is the Mother of God. (Ibid.).

God did not derive his divinity from Mary; but it does not follow that it is therefore wrong to say that God was born of Mary, that God is Mary's Son, and that Mary is God's mother...She is the true mother of God and bearer of God...Mary suckled God, rocked God to sleep, prepared broth and soup for God, etc. For God and man are one person, one Christ, one Son, one Jesus. not two Christs. . .just as your son is not two sons...even though he has two natures, body and soul, the body from you, the soul from God alone. (On the Councils and the Church, 1539).

Probably the most astonishing Marian belief of Luther is his acceptance of Mary's Immaculate Conception, which wasn't even definitively proclaimed as dogma by the Catholic Church until 1854. Concerning this question there is some dispute, over the technical aspects of medieval theories of conception and the soul, and whether or not Luther later changed his mind. Even some eminent Lutheran scholars, however, such as Arthur Carl Piepkorn (1907-73) of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, maintain his unswerving acceptance of the doctrine. Luther's words follow:

It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary's soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God's gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin" (Sermon: "On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God," 1527). She is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin—something exceedingly great. For God's grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil. (Personal {"Little"} Prayer Book, 1522).

Later references to the Immaculate Conception appear in his House sermon for Christmas (1533) and Against the Papacy of Rome (1545). In later life (he died in 1546), Luther did not believe that this doctrine should be imposed on all believers, since he felt that the Bible didn't explicitly and formally teach it. Such a view is consistent with his notion of sola Scriptura and is similar to his opinion on the bodily Assumption of the Virgin, which he never denied—although he was highly critical of what he felt were excesses in the celebration of this Feast. In his sermon of August 15, 1522, the last time he preached on the Feast of the Assumption, he stated:

There can he no doubt that the Virgin Mary is in heaven. How it happened we do not know. And since the Holy Spirit has told us nothing about it, we can make of it no article of faith... It is enough to know that she lives in Christ. Luther held to the idea and devotional practice of the veneration of Mary and expressed this on innumerable occasions with the most effusive language:

The veneration of Mary is inscribed in the very depths of the human heart. (Sermon, September 1, 1522). [She is the] highest woman and the noblest gem in Christianity after Christ. ..She is nobility, wisdom, and holiness personified. We can never honor her enough. Still honor and praise must be given to her in such a way as to injure neither Christ nor the Scriptures. (Sermon, Christmas, 1531).

No woman is like you. You are more than Eve or Sarah, blessed above all nobility, wisdom, and sanctity. (Sermon, Feast of the Visitation. 1537).

One should honor Mary as she herself wished and as she expressed it in the Magnificat. She praised God for his deeds. How then can we praise her? The true honor of Mary is the honor of God, the praise of God's grace.. .Mary is nothing for the sake of herself, but for the sake of Christ...Mary does not wish that we come to her, but through her to God. (Explanation of the Magnificat, 1521).

Luther goes even further, and gives the Blessed Virgin the exalted position of "Spiritual Mother" for Christians, much the same as in Catholic piety:

It is the consolation and the superabundant goodness of God, that man is able to exult in such a treasure. Mary is his true Mother, Christ is his brother. God is his father. (Sermon. Christmas, 1522) Mary is the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of all of us even though it was Christ alone who reposed on her knees...If he is ours, we ought to be in his situation; there where he is, we ought also to be and all that he has ought to be ours, and his mother is also our mother. (Sermon, Christmas, 1529).

Luther did strongly condemn any devotional practices which implied that Mary was in any way equal to our Lord or that she took anything away from His sole sufficiency as our Savior. This is, and always has been, the official teaching of the Catholic Church. Unfortunately, Luther often "threw out the baby with the bath water," when it came to criticizing erroneous emphases and opinions which were prevalent in his time—falsely equating them with Church doctrine. His attitude towards the use of the "Hail Mary" prayer (the first portion of the Rosary) is illustrative. In certain polemical utterances he appears to condemn its recitation altogether, but he is only forbidding a use of Marian devotions apart from heartfelt faith, as the following two citations make clear:

Whoever possesses a good (firm) faith, says the Hail Mary without danger! Whoever is weak in faith can utter no Hail Mary without danger to his salvation. (Sermon, March 11, 1523). Our prayer should include the Mother of God.. .What the Hail Mary says is that all glory should be given to God, using these words: "Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus Christ. Amen!" You see that these words are not concerned with prayer but purely with giving praise and honor.. .We can use the Hail Mary as a meditation in which we recite what grace God has given her. Second, we should add a wish that everyone may know and respect her...He who has no faith is advised to refrain from saying the Hail Mary. (Personal Prayer Book, 1522).

To summarize, it is apparent that Luther was extraordinarily devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is notable in light of his aversion to so many other "Papist" or "Romish" doctrines, as he was wont to describe them. His major departure occurs with regard to the intercession and invocation of the saints, which he denied, in accord with the earliest systematic Lutheran creed, the Augsburg Confession of 1530 (Article 21).

His views of Mary as Mother of God and as ever-Virgin were identical to those in Catholicism, and his opinions on the Immaculate Conception, Mary's "Spiritual Motherhood" and the use of the "Hail Mary" were substantially the same. He didn't deny the Assumption (he certainly didn't hesitate to rail against doctrines he opposed!), and venerated Mary in a very touching fashion which, as far as it goes, is not at all contrary to Catholic piety.

Therefore, it can be stated without fear of contradiction that Luther's Mariology is very close to that of the Catholic Church today, far more than it is to the theology of modern-day Lutheranism. To the extent that this fact is dealt with at all by Protestants, it is usually explained as a "holdover" from the early Luther's late medieval Augustinian Catholic views ("everyone has their blind spots," etc.). But this will not do for those who are serious about consulting Luther in order to arrive at the true "Reformation heritage" and the roots of an authentic Protestantism. For if Luther's views here can be so easily rationalized away, how can the Protestant know whether he is trustworthy relative to his other innovative doctrines such as extrinsic justification by faith alone and sola Scriptura?

It appears, once again, that the truth about important historical figures is almost invariably more complex than the "legends" and overly-simplistic generalizations which men often at the remove of centuries—create and accept uncritically.
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Dave Armstrong's Internet Website: Biblical Defense of Catholicism at http://ic.net/~erasmus/.

Dave was received into the Catholic Church in 1991 from Evangelical Protestantism. His complete conversion story can be found in Surprised by Truth.

This item 788 digitally provided courtesy of CatholicCulture.org




TOPICS: Catholic; Ecumenism; Mainline Protestant; Orthodox Christian
KEYWORDS: davearmstrong; lutheranism; mariandevotion; martinluther; reformation; virginmary
Please keep comments respectful.

1 posted on 11/16/2008 5:21:35 AM PST by GonzoII
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To: GonzoII
Since Lutheranism today does not possess a very robust Mariology

FWIW, many Lutherans today don't possess a very robust "Lutherology" either.

Mr. niteowl77

2 posted on 11/16/2008 5:39:15 AM PST by niteowl77 (America's chickens**ts have come home to roost... in Washington.)
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To: GonzoII
Since Lutheranism today does not possess a very robust Mariology

FWIW, many Lutherans today don't possess a very robust "Lutherology" either.

Mr. niteowl77

3 posted on 11/16/2008 5:39:16 AM PST by niteowl77 (America's chickens**ts have come home to roost... in Washington.)
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To: GonzoII
Since Lutheranism today does not possess a very robust Mariology

FWIW, many Lutherans today don't possess a very robust "Lutherology" either.

Mr. niteowl77

4 posted on 11/16/2008 5:39:17 AM PST by niteowl77 (America's chickens**ts have come home to roost... in Washington.)
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To: niteowl77

Okay;Okay;Okay LOL!. I got it!


5 posted on 11/16/2008 6:02:22 AM PST by GonzoII ("That they may be one...Father")
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To: GonzoII

(Doing my best Arthur Carlson imitation):

“As God is my witness, I thought I only hit the send button once!”


6 posted on 11/16/2008 6:05:37 AM PST by niteowl77 (America's chickens**ts have come home to roost... in Washington.)
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To: niteowl77
FWIW, many Lutherans today don't possess a very robust "Lutherology" either.

Indeed. watered-down Mariology is the least of Lutheranism's problems. Luther would not recognize the churches that vainly wear his name.

7 posted on 11/16/2008 7:06:53 AM PST by hinckley buzzard
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To: hinckley buzzard

True, but Calvin wouldn’t recognize many Baptist churches and anyone who was at Trent would would walk into an American Roman Catholic Church and would assume it was a Lutheran parish.

And not all the Lutherans have jumped as far off the rails as the ELCA.


8 posted on 11/16/2008 7:18:33 AM PST by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
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To: GonzoII
Mr Armstrong is an interesting fellow, in that he gets things close but sometimes misses the point.

The Lutheran view of Mary is a lot more muted than the Catholic. Luther was very devoted to Mary, but would not recognize the modern Catholic view of her as correct (nor would most Catholics of the time). The later Marian doctrines were not popular back then, and were sometimes suppressed (things like the Immaculate conception, Assumption, and the theory that is gaining ground of Mary be coRedemptrix). The idea of Mary not dying was not something that was considered “in bounds” for much of the early Reformation, and indeed was often viewed as out of bounds.

9 posted on 11/16/2008 7:31:07 AM PST by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
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To: redgolum
"The idea of Mary not dying was not something that was considered “in bounds” for much of the early Reformation, and indeed was often viewed as out of bounds".

Actually there is nothing definitive on Mary's death or lack thereof in Catholic teaching. There are two traditions (not what we Catholics call Sacred Traditon).

10 posted on 11/16/2008 9:03:19 AM PST by GonzoII ("That they may be one...Father")
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To: GonzoII
Luther, Calvin, and Other Early Protestants on the Perpetual Virginity of Mary

Luther, Calvin, and Other Early Protestants on the Perpetual Virginity of Mary

The Protestant Reformers on the Virgin Mary

Zwingli’s’ Mariology: On Mary “Full of Grace”

11 posted on 11/16/2008 12:46:41 PM PST by Salvation ( †With God all things are possible.†)
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To: GonzoII

I have to say, knowing what I do about Luther, this isn’t all that surprising—and really isn’t very important to Luther’s core theology—nor to his, and modern day conservative Protestants’ break with Rome.

1) Theotokis/Mother of God. All orthodox Protestants accept this, in the functional sense. I.E., that Jesus was divine from conception so, yes, Mary, who was created by God, did actually bear and birth God. As long as one doesn’t get confused and think that the eternal God the Son somehow had His origin in Mary, there is no problem here. This is normal orthodox Christian teaching...not a distinctive to Roman Catholicism.

2) Immaculate conception of Mary. Not surprising as it makes logical sense—that the Mother of God has to be perfectly pure. Of course it fails the biblical support test, as scripture says nothing about it. Still, strict biblical hermeneutics was a new idea, still being developed—and even invented—in Luther’s day. Mary’s conception doesn’t change a thing in Luther’s or Lutheran theology though, as it’s all about Jesus, not Mary.

3) Perpetual virginity. Not supported in the New Testament, non-the-less the counter idea, that Mary had normal relations with her husband AFTER Jesus was born—was nothing short of utterly shocking to Renaissance era persons. Sexuality was something so closely tied in medieval minds to sin—so such was unthinkable. Not surprising, though not biblically supported, but, not a distinctive to Roman Catholicism either.

3) Virgin conception/birth of Christ. Something only liberal/revisionist “Christians” today reject—and a doctrine universally accepted by all stripes of traditional Protestants, then, and now. It is clearly in the Bible, after all.

5) Veneration of Mary. All Protestants that I know of speak very highly of Mary. She was, by all accounts an extremely godly woman, of whom she said “all generations will call me blessed” since she bore God’s Son, God the Son, Jesus Christ. That kind of respect, love and veneration, which Luther praised, is NOT the same as the formal practice of “Veneration” and praying to Mary, which Roman Catholics do today (and then).

Luther STRONGLY condemned prayer to and worship of saints, including and especially Mary, since, scripture is clear, we have access to God through Jesus, and He alone is all knowing and all hearing. Also the 1st Commandment makes clear we are to bow down in prayer and worship to God alone.

One other thing, Luther, and Lutheranism changed—the more they studied the Bible, and the further alienated Rome was from them in time. Trent too hardened the most anti-Protestant strain of Renaissance Roman Catholicism as official dogma. Post tridentine Roman Catholicism would never be the same, as it was before Luther.

It’s all a great tragedy, I agree. However somehow, within the plan of God to redeem the world...


12 posted on 11/17/2008 8:24:34 PM PST by AnalogReigns
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To: AnalogReigns
Thanks for the reply.

“Immaculate conception of Mary. Not surprising as it makes logical sense—that the Mother of God has to be perfectly pure. Of course it fails the biblical support test”.

Right: “No direct or categorical and stringent proof of the dogma can be brought forward from Scripture”, -Catholic Encyclopedia. Immaculate Conception. This is one of the dogmas we Catholics get from tradition which we hold to be on a par with Scripture: - 1Cor 11:2; 2 Thess 2:15; 2 Thess 3:6.

“Perpetual virginity. ..... Not surprising, though not biblically supported”.

Right again: “The Catholic doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary is based on tradition .” –New Catholic Encyclopedia: Vol.7; Pg. 1108.

”Virgin conception/birth of Christ. Something only liberal/revisionist “Christians” today reject”.

Who can doubt the virgin birth and claim the name of Christian.

”Luther STRONGLY condemned prayer to and worship of saints, including and especially Mary, since, scripture is clear, we have access to God through Jesus, and He alone is all knowing and all hearing. Also the 1st Commandment makes clear we are to bow down in prayer and worship to God alone”.

We catholics simply believe that the saints in heaven can intercede for us, the same way the “saints” on earth do, we all pray for one another, we do not bow down or worship Mary and the saints. We are all branches of the one Vine therefore connected to one another: -Jn 15:1-5. I think I should define the word “pray” as understood in the context of prayer to the saints:

Pray: 1 : ENTREAT, IMPLORE: as a : to make supplication to (a god) b (1) : to ask (someone) to do something usually humbly or as an inferior to a superior. –Websters Third New International Unabridged Dictionary.

We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses: Heb 12:1, and angels offer our prayers to God: Tob 12:12, Rev 5:8; 6: 9-11; 8: 1-5.

Thanks again for the reply.

Gonzo...

13 posted on 11/18/2008 3:04:32 AM PST by GonzoII ("That they may be one...Father")
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To: GonzoII; informavoracious; larose; RJR_fan; Prospero; Conservative Vermont Vet; ...
+

Freep-mail me to get on or off my pro-life and Catholic List:

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Please ping me to note-worthy Pro-Life or Catholic threads, or other threads of general interest.

14 posted on 02/28/2010 11:05:18 AM PST by narses ("lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi")
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To: narses

Not a surprise to me. A former student of mine wrote a doctoral dissertation that involved going through Martin Luther’s works to see everything that he had to say about Mary.

Basically, the only Catholic title that he denied her was Queen of Heaven, because he thought that was too close to the forbidden name of Ishtar in the O.T. Of course, a Catholic would say that Ishtar was a false Queen of Heaven, but Mary is the true one.

This arose because in Paradise Regained, John Milton—an intense Puritan if their was one—presents Mary in a most respectful way. In fact, he honors her more in that late poem than he does the Apostles. Most Miltonists found this bewildering, but in point of fact Calvin, as well as Luther, speaks highly of Mary and treats her with honor and respect. It was a later Protestant phenomenon to let hatred of Rome degrade respect for the Mother of God—and ignore what the Bible actually says about Mary.


15 posted on 02/28/2010 11:46:29 AM PST by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
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To: Cicero

Interesting, I hadn’t realized the Milton connection. Dante was my favorite, Milton bored me.


16 posted on 02/28/2010 1:28:50 PM PST by narses ("lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi")
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To: narses

I agree with you on Dante, but Milton is worth pursuing. He was actually influenced by Dante to some extent, as well as Virgil and others. There are good introductory books on Milton by Douglas Bush and C. S. Lewis.

Although he was a Puritan, and indulges in Catholic-bashing from time to time, he was not a Calvinist. He was a strong believer in free will, and I find his poetry rather sacramental in basic attitude, since he does not fall into the matter is evil/spirit is good fallacy.

A fair number of both Jewish and Catholic critics have been attracted to him.


17 posted on 02/28/2010 1:51:54 PM PST by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
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To: GonzoII; surroundedbyblue; shurwouldluv_a_smallergov; Judith Anne; rkjohn; PadreL; Morpheus2009; ...
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Freep-mail me to get on or off my pro-life and Catholic List:

Add me / Remove me

Please ping me to note-worthy Pro-Life or Catholic threads, or other threads of general interest.

18 posted on 12/19/2010 8:17:40 AM PST by narses ( 'Prefer nothing to the love of Christ.')
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To: redgolum

>>and the theory that is gaining ground of Mary be coRedemptrix<<

Only non-Catholics believe this along with a few Uber-Catholics who wish it to be so.

JPII ended that theory in the 90’s and B16 agrees with it. The Church will never name Mary Co-Redemptrix.


19 posted on 12/19/2010 9:52:00 AM PST by netmilsmom (Happiness is a choice.)
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To: netmilsmom

This is a thread from 2 years ago! No wonder I didn’t remember it.

Though I have heard more than a few on FR say that Co Redemptrix should be a dogma, and that all hell will break loose if it is not. Granted, many of them got expelled a while back.


20 posted on 12/19/2010 11:48:33 AM PST by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
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To: redgolum

Oh Goodness! I’m so sorry.
I got pinged to it today!


21 posted on 12/19/2010 12:26:02 PM PST by netmilsmom (Happiness is a choice.)
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To: narses

Did you know that this thread is two years old?

Please state when a thread is old in your pings. I’m so confused.


22 posted on 12/19/2010 12:27:41 PM PST by netmilsmom (Happiness is a choice.)
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To: netmilsmom

I knew, it is timely though.


23 posted on 12/19/2010 12:44:43 PM PST by narses ( 'Prefer nothing to the love of Christ.')
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