Luther Quote and Subsequent Discussions

by Steve Ray on January 8, 2008

For those who are interested — or who have followed the ongoing discussion of my paraphrase of a Luther quote used in my book Crossing the Tiber — a brief update follows. The paraphrase in question is this: "In a letter to Heinrich Zwingli, Martin Luther conceded that reformers would again have to take refuge in the Church councils in order to preserve the unity of the faith on account of the many interpretations which were given to the Scriptures (see Epis. ad Zwingli)" (pg. 45).

A bit of history. I was informed there was a blog post by James Swan — a man who I did not know — which was entitled "When Footnotes Attack!" The blog was posted on James White's website. That blog and subsequent posts on James Swan's blog were  worded very polemically. I responded, also polemically. Even the title and content of my response demonstrated this: Is the Swan's Song in Tune? In a following private correspondence I suggested that in the future if James Swan wanted to challenge some of my work he should contact me personally first so we could discuss it. He agreed. I hope that in the future such discussion can be handled in a less contentious manner. I stand by the content of what I wrote in my response and intend to revise and update this response after all the research is in and the dust has settled. I will also rename the revision to be less contentious.

Due to lack of time on my part and due to the excellent research capabilities and detail of Dave Armstrong, I asked him for his assistance in the research of the quote and the historical and textual history behind it. In the meantime, I contacted James Swan about working on this amicably and we have corresponded, but the lion's share of the "converstaion" and research has been done by James Swan and Dave Armstrong. I started out with no knowledge of or history with James Swan, so for me to suggest we try to work amicably without the rhetoric and polemics was understandable. However, I discovered that he and Dave Armstrong have a long history of correspondence that has not always been amicable.

I have thanked James Swan for his research and for his concern with history and accuracy, even though I didn't like the way it all started out. We both agreed to work cordially in the future. I appreciate that — thanks James. Hopefully we can continue to work on this for truth and not "to win.'

Regarding Dave Armstrong's work on this matter — I think his research and reasoning has been superb. He has a knack for wrapping his mind around these kind of things and figuring them out. I am extremely grateful for the work he is doing. I am with him 100% in this matter and we are working as a team, along with a good friend and attorney Paul Hoffer, to do historical and textual research. I am not privy to all the past history between Dave and James but I know it has been acrimonious. I am trying to avoid the polemics and getting in the middle.

However, I am concerned with the historical and textual findings. Dave's latest two blog posts (The Great Luther Citation Dispute, Part I and The Great Luther Citation Dispute Part II) are very good work. And we are still just getting into this matter. There is a lot of work still to be done before conclusions can be drawn. Too much speculation at this point is still premature.

(On Thursday, Dave posted an excellent update with information on Lutheran genius Leibniz who also used the same quote I did. Very interesting information.)

There can be a lot of guesses as to the final results, but not all the facts are in and Dave Armstrong and Paul Hoffer are doing great work in this regard. (My son-in-law is also acquiring some of the ancient texts from universities for us.) I commend both Dave and Paul for all their work. I think their findings are significant and require serious interaction. More info is certainly expected. In the meantime I will try to work toward a toned-down discussion on both sides so we can save time and energy :-)

Dave Armstong's website "Biblical Evidence for Catholicism is here. James Swan's website "Beggars All" is here.

UPDATE 1/8/08 7 PM: Hopefully there will be a less contentious tone in this discussion as James has sent over some info he found (and copied Dave Armstrong) and Dave is holding out the olive branch in his latest blog here. I commend James and Dave for this interaction. I am a firm believer in Jesus' words "Blessed are the peacemakers." Even if we disagree on some points, as Christians there are a lot more things that we agree on. Also, the things Dave said about me on his blog made me blush Embarassed

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jim January 11, 2008 at 3:28 PM

In the first paragraph you mention someone named Heinrich Zwingli. Surely you know his name was Huldrych (or sometimes Ulrich) but NEVER did anyone call him Heinrich. Perhaps you are thinking of Bullinger? In any event, its a fascinating error.

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