Thursday, October 3, 2013

What Martin Luther & the Reformers Think of the Hypers

Before a discussion or proposition can progress, it is important that we first define our terms. For the sake of this essay the word HYPER is used to mean anything that goes beyond the original intent & scope. In the theological sense, hyper is used as a prefix to many otherwise legitimate theological perspectives. There are some groups claiming to be within historic Christianity that clearly have gone beyond the original intent & scope of Jesus, beyond His hand-picked apostles, & beyond 2000 years of Christian interpretation. Whether these hyper groups acknowledge they have gone beyond or not, it is still accurate to label them as hyper.
We often hear hypers trying to use Martin Luther & the other Reformers as if they would support some hyperism. You will see hypers using Luther's quotes against Papalism & trying to compare it to hyper's stance to the Church & 2000 years worth of historic Christianity. Hypers fancy themselves as either the new or a continuance of the Reformers & the Reformation. But just a casual look beyond the catch phrases will show that neither Luther nor the Reformers would have supported the hypers of our day any more than they supported the hypers of their day. In the early days of the Reformation, as Luther & other Reformers were making their case against Papalism with Scripture AND historic Christianity, there was a third group we often do not hear about today. This group was called the "radical reformers". Luther called them the "enthusiasts" or the "fanatics" (reference). This group of 16th century hypers, like modern hypers advocated throwing off all of historic Christianity & starting over -- often claiming they want to rebuild Christianity on the Bible alone (as if it has not been so for 2000 years). The hypers at first supported Luther & the Reformers but then went BEYOND the original intent & scope of the Reformers & instead held much disdain for Luther & the Reformers, much the same way modern hypers disdain historic Christianity & the so-called institutional Church.
As the hypers of Luther's day became increasingly disconnected from anything that resembled Christianity, the hypers eventually formed into bands of theological & sociological thugs. They raided castles, churches & monasteries destroying everything in their path. They were out to destroy the very foundations of 1600 years of Christianity & replace it with a revisioned form. The "thugs" of today are doing the same but on an ideological level rather than a geographical. Luther & the other Reformers didn't just wink at what these hypers were doing but instead, Luther urged the political authorities to take action against them. This is evidenced most in a tract Luther wrote called: Against the Murderous, Thieving Hordes of Peasants.
The peasants have taken upon themselves the burden of three terrible sins against God and man; by this they have merited death in body and soul... they have sworn to be true and faithful, submissive and obedient, to their rulers... now deliberately and violently breaking this oath... they are starting a rebellion, and are violently robbing and plundering monasteries and castles which are not theirs... they have doubly deserved death in body and soul as highwaymen and murderers... they cloak this terrible and horrible sin with the gospel... thus they become the worst blasphemers of God and slanderers of his holy name” (Against the Rioting Peasants -- Martin Luther, 1525)
A truer picture of Luther & the Reformers will see that they were fighting on one hand against the Papists with their Creed without Scripture & on the other hand against the Enthusiasts/Hypers with their Scripture without Creed. And here we must once again define our terms -- Creed is merely the English form of the Latin word "credo" which literally means "belief" or "I believe". The issue with the Papists is that they often would put forward beliefs without Scripture to back it up whereas the Enthusiasts/Hypers would put forth Scriptures disconnected from the beliefs of 2000 years of Christianity (or 1500+ years at the time of the Reformation). Both approaches were as incorrect yesterday as they are today & tomorrow. Perhaps a quote that summarizes Luther's perspective on approaching Scripture is this one:
You should meditate, that is, not in the heart alone, but also externally. You should work on it and ply the oral speech and the lettered words in the book, read them and reread them again and again, noting carefully and reflecting upon what the Holy Spirit means by these words. And take care that you do not tire of it or think it enough if you have read, heard, said it once or twice, and now profoundly understand it all; for in that manner a person will never become much of a theologian. (Sammtliche Schriften -- Martin Luther)
That quote might be compared to another by Luther wherein he shows that it is possible for someone to approach the Bible "rationally", "logically", & even with "consistency" & STILL come out with error:
The first concern of a theologian should be to be well acquainted with the text of Scripture, a bonus textualis, as they call it. He should adhere to this primary principle: in sacred matters there is no arguing or philosophizing; for if one were to operate with the rational and probable arguments in this area, it would be possible for me to twist all the articles of faith as easily as Arius [an infamous anti-Trinitarian], the Sacramentarians, and the Anabaptists did. But in theology we must only hear and believe and be convinced in our heart that God is truthful, however absurd that which God says in His Word may appear to be to reason. (Auslegung des 45 -- Martin Luther)
This brings us to the conclusion of this essay. The hypers, be they of Luther's time or present or even future will claim as did Arius that they are just asking "logical" questions but then they will move from there to open advocacy of error to eventually displaying aggressive repudiation of the historic Christianity. They will claim (as they always have) that there has been some sort of conspiracy since the very founding of Christianity & not until they [the hypers] have come & "corrected" the confusion has anything been true. And with this giant leap of arrogance against all of Christianity, we are supposed to simply yield. No sirs, ma'ams we shall not yield to their errors no matter how "logical" & with "rational & probable" philosophizing arguments they may use. Their hyper heresy is heresy not simply because we don't like it, nor because the majority is against it, but because all of Christianity has been against it throughout all time & because their hyper heresies are NOT "carefully reflecting upon what the Holy Spirit means" & because their hyper heresies "twist all the articles of faith" & try to replace them with something new & foreign to historic Christianity. So, next time you see a hyper of any sort trying to use Luther & the Reformers to bolster their view, be they such as the restorationists or the children of the restorationist such as the hyperpreterists, or the cultists such as Mormons & JWs -- remind them what Luther & the Reformers REALLY thought about the hypers.

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