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What Happened to the Reformation? Responses

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For a preview of my 50 page book review,
“What Happened to the Reformation,” click here.

On Saturday, Jul 7, 2012 at 5:19 PM, Mark Krey wrote:

Hey Pop,
    I just finished reading “What happened to the Reformation” for the second time. I very much enjoyed the book review, it was very informative. Before I tell you exactly what I thought of it, I’ll just give you an idea of the impression I got of Harm Klueting after I read your work. I looked into him before I read and only really got up to speed about his leaving the Lutheran Church and joining the Catholic Church and how he was allowed to stay married to his wife who had become a nun. May I say I think it’s bold and awesome that you sent a copy to Harm Klueting right off the bat. I think he’ll really appreciate it.

I really couldn’t understand why Klueting would want to be Catholic after having been a Lutheran minister. Maybe it’s just because I’m a Lutheran and the idea of not being able to marry and devoting one’s life to spreading the gospel of love just seems contradictory. How can you preach love when you yourself deny yourself one of the most beautiful aspects of love? Marriage.
The conclusion I’ve come to is that Klueting falls into a category of people that I can most closely relate to celebrities who get involved in the church of Scientology here in Hollywood. They’re a kind of people who as opposed to championing the underdog and the free / individual thinker, they champion big brother, or secret societies/ secret knowledge. It’s an obsession for them and they’d rather be a small part of a bigger organization that claims to have an upper hand on the rest of the population as opposed to being a free thinking (play by your own rules) sort of person, who answers to no one but God. I myself fall into the second category.


Institutions of any kind I always approach with a watchful eye. Institutions, especially the bigger ones, always have a higher chance of corruption and I think the most important people involved in huge institutions are their internal affairs and human resources committees. I believe that even every film set should have an internal affairs person to make sure abuse is not present.

The other possibility, for which I would have to find evidence somehow, would be that Klueting left the Lutheran Church out of love because it was something his wife wanted and he wished to accompany her. I remember reading in the article I found on him that his wife had converted to Catholicism before him and because she was a nun already when he converted to a Catholic Priest they allowed them to stay married. In that case I guess Klueting might just be seen as a kind of lover who will take whatever side his wife may have taken out of support, even if it means writing a book in favor of Catholicism and discrediting the Reformation of the church he just recently was a member of. Once again, however, I’d have to find some kind of evidence for it. 

Your Ph.D. really shines through in “What Happened to the Reformation” because you are really a master of that period of time and it’s very evident when reading the piece. Because I’m not super well versed in that period of history, as I’m sure Klueting most likely is, I’m not totally able to give you very insightful thoughts on the topic. However, I do feel like it was an amazing history lesson and it did give me anecdotal evidence in support of all the claims I’ve heard that the Catholic Church was full of a lot of rot throughout history. Particularly Pope Julius II and his interdicts.

With your scholarship in this subject it’s quite evident that Klueting has not gotten away with any of the major issues he has breezed over in his book. What was most comforting to me about that was the idea that if someone with little knowledge of that time period, like myself, were to read his book, perhaps they would question if the Reformation was a historical occurrence that had been blown out of proportion and was in fact just a European myth. That reminds me of when people say Jesus Christ is just a myth and a friend once told me that the same people who say that 500 to 800 years from now will be saying the same thing about George Washington and Martin Luther King Jr. I would say in no more than 500 years they’ll definitely be saying Alexander the Great was a myth as well. I’ve heard there is more contemporary historical evidence to support Jesus than there is for Alexander the Great. I don’t know if that’s true or not however.

You set an interesting stage at the beginning of the book review. You noted that the Protestant Reformation was squeezed between two periods in history: the Late Medieval Period and the Confessional Age. It’s really mind boggling to me just how rich and complex the period surrounding the Reformation really was. I know sometimes when we’ve talked about it, it can transition from one landmark event to another even just spanning Luther’s lifetime. The opening preface also has a good shock with Tom Brady and Heinz Schilling’s claim that the Reformation is “A harmless foundational myth for the belated German nation.” And they are right about one thing in that statement. Now that Harm Klueting is in fact a Catholic Priest, the Lutheran Reformation certainly is Harm-less. Ha, ha – just kidding.


Although that is a shocking claim he makes and to me was one of the first things that made me think Klueting is a bit of a radical for the Catholic Church and as I said before for reasons I’m not entirely certain of.

The idea that European historians, especially German ones, study the Reformation as a universal revolutionary turning point, was interesting. I suppose it shows a pride in the German nation and not at all that the claim that it is a universal revolutionary turning point is false. I know you mention a few times in the book review that nationalism is a false ultimate. I also found it interesting that there is a camp of historians who look at the Reformation exclusively outside of the context of the church, that is, only from a political and sociological standpoint. They strongly criticize those who look at the Reformation as something intimately connected to the church by saying that they are doing theology and not history.

This reminds me so much of an argument regarding the Bible. The argument is whether to see it as a historical document or as a metaphorical and religious/ mythological document. I suppose a middle ground has to be found in that argument. I liked your statement that the way you approach the argument on the two camps of historical Reformation study, is you look at the Reformation/ Luther as helping usher in the modern times in the countries where it was dominant but not in the countries where it was not dominant.

But I really agree with you that the Reformation was essential in progress in the areas it was prevalent in and most certainly wasn’t some kind of myth that was blown out of proportion. I would say it does fit the description of a revolutionary turning point in history. I never really realized just what a big impact it had on the state before I read your book review. Because the church and state were so intimately connected a reformation of the church directly affected and changed the very nature of the state and that’s amazing. A historian who wants to argue the Reformation was just a harmless myth has to be pretty oblivious to that.

I felt like you set the foundation early in your book review to address the problem of the power that the Catholic Church was wielding during the time of the Reformation. I noticed it when you put forth the ideas that the Catholic monastic orders became transnational corporations and the Roman Catholic Church became the first Western State. You juxtaposed those statements with the goal of all the nations answering to Christ’s kingdom of heaven. By the time I read deeper into the book review and was learning the history of Pope Pius IX and Leo XIII, it became clear to me that the Catholic Monastic order becoming the first Transnational corporation and the Roman Catholic Church becoming the first Western state in no way advanced the world toward the goal of the nations answering to Christ’s kingdom of heaven. In fact it had made the Popes power hungry and greedy and unwilling to let go of power even if it meant using military force. That’s almost as far from Christ as one can get.

In the next part of my response to your book review I’ll mention some details I liked and thoughts I had. I’ll add a further observation I came up with about Klueting from reading more of your review of his book and I’ll mention some other anecdotal things you mentioned that I found informative.


I loved your concept of the sovereign suffering servant combating nationalism and even the subtle destructive divisions of religion. That, to me, is the ultimate power of Christ. He can truly unify us all in mercy, love and forgiveness. It made me say to myself Christ is bigger than the label “Christianity”. The name of Jesus is beyond Christianity and religion for that matter.

It was around this part of your review, I can’t remember the precise page number, that I started to really see how the Reformation affected the state as I’d never truly understood before. I think it’s good and reasonable that you stated it isn’t right to call Luther the father of modern individualism but that he did make scripture and faith a deeply personal thing. In my opinion, that is a huge contribution to individualism. Though you’re right it in no way makes him the father of it.

I loved the quote of Luther that “Christians should cherish excommunication”. That’s a classic kind of school-of-hell Luther perspective. I thought it was beautiful that you mentioned John Paul II forgiving his would-be assassin. I’ve always liked John Paul as a Pope. It’s too bad he’s gone. I thought it was a brutal but informative anecdote about Henry VIII killing three Lutherans next to three Catholics.

But now going back to the discussion of what ushered in the modern times. I think it is valid to say, how you did say, Luther was a big influence in ushering in the modern times where the Reformation was dominant but you quote Klueting as saying “The onset of modern times remains ambiguous.” To me that just sounds like another cop out on Klueting’s part. His historical perspective in my opinion is not an intelligent one. Other details you point out from his book gave me the impression he’s downplaying the Reformation, covering it up, and even giving the Catholic Church a kind of credit for it as if it was a catholic reformation because the Catholic Church had gotten out of hand. Two things specifically you mention are the way he looks at the council of Trent in a good way when historians agree it was pretty pessimistic and much later in the book review you mention how just when Klueting could go into the 30 Years War, something you mention the Jesuits as having laid the ground work for, he just breezes by it and starts talking about the Baroque Era and the catholic reformation. So Klueting’s historical perspective doesn’t seem intelligent to me and that, to me, is one of the things that makes your book review good because someone with no knowledge of this time period, like myself, could take Klueting’s book as a well thought out scholarly work and suddenly say to myself, “Well, I guess the Reformation really wasn’t that big of a deal” or even “it was more of a myth”.

You have many terrific comparisons in your review. I notice also that you focus on the topic of the power of coercion versus not being allowed to coerce for a little while. Leading up to that you had some historical references and statements about nationalism and descriptions of the Catholic Church at that time that inspired some interesting thoughts in me.

I loved your comparison of the Jewish High Priest delivering Christ to the Romans to be crucified and a Bishop delivering a so called heretic to the civil authorities to be burnt at the stake. That is such a direct and blatant misuse of religious authority. They must have been so blind to the scriptures.

I loved your comparison of Luther to Galileo. The way Polanyi believed the Marxists trying to control scientists would destroy science. It made me think of the scientific method being corrupted to meet the kind of outcome the Marxists wanted. In the same way Luther felt the Papacy burning heretics was destroying the Christian conscience. If every one’s scared of being burned no one can be a Christ for someone else or worse yet, if they believe there are certain people who deserve to burn because the church deems it necessary then there’s no such thing as true Mercy, or at least the Mercy Christ wished to give.

To make a comparison of my own, I enjoyed how you boldly submitted the statement that “The authentic spiritual concern of the Secular Princes far surpassed that of the Roman Curia”. It made me think of Christ bringing the good news to the gentiles and how the gentiles were more passionate about it then God’s own chosen people the Jews.

Also it was a fascinating detail you mentioned about Luther listening to the quiet voice of his conscience. I thought to myself, is that where God resides? In our consciences? Like Elijah hearing the still small voice. And you mention later in the review how Luther quotes Christ as saying “Beware the kingdom of God is within you”. You manage to incorporate some really valuable insights into God being within and the kingdom of heaven as well in this book review.

Now one of the major insights I had from reading your review came from some of the very thoroughly described passages of exactly how the Catholic Church operated and appeared back then. You quote Berman about how the Clergy was the first translocal, transtribal, transfeudal, and transnational class in Europe to achieve political and legal unity and how they did it to combat the Emperor. I thought to myself, what’s worse, a legion of uniform, dogmatic, indoctrinated priests that make an immovable excommunicating institution with the power to burn people at the stake or an Emperor who is all powerful who can do whatever he wants. Are they the same thing? Thinking about it, there is such a thing as mob mentality and perhaps someone like a King can’t kill as many people as an institution can. Of course I really don’t know what the answer to that is. Though overall the idea the clergy mobilized so fast is frightening.

The excerpt from Berman you used really made me see how one could call the church the first state and reading about the German Bishops, the Bishop reforms, and the Princes who were Emergency-Bishops really amazed me at how religious authorities back then were so intimately connected to rulers.

And so the thought came to mind for me at this point that things were coming to a head, and that this had not been going on just since the founding of the Christian church back when Constantine declared Christianity the religion of Rome, but that it’s been going on since the beginning of time: Religion as a governing power. Looking back at all the ancient kings probably most of them were despots and high priests and so ruling over people went hand in hand with having religious authority. Thus when I read your passage about Luther burning the cannon law it struck a chord with me. It’s like Religion (as a code or guideline not as a ritual for comfort and connection to God) itself in many ways is like a symbol of human sin, and we need to rise above religion and see that religion should hold no Law above us. It’s like the very idea that religion should be supported and empowered goes against what religion really is and doesn’t make it religion any longer.

Like you mention later in the review an idea I loved very much. Taking away the power of coercion and excommunication from the church made it more Christ-like. Thus in many ways giving the power back to Christ. It’s like how is Christ all powerful if every time someone profaned his name we went and killed that person. It just shows me that Allah and Mohamed must in fact be the weakest and most insecure religious figures in all of history.

All of your statements really rang true for me in regard to coercion vs. non coercion. I love your quote “Christ invited us into the life of the Gospel, which cannot be legislated”. You bring up nationalism within your book review a few times. You restate it at the end as well: “Nationalism is a distortion of religious fervor and a nation is a false ultimate”. Earlier in the book review you state that “it is Catholic (universal) Christian fervor that I believe became transformed into nationalism”. This, to me though I have not really read up on the subject of nationalism, seems like a very unique and interesting idea. Your review definitely gives weight to the idea. Not only that, but you address it from a standpoint of why nationalism should not be considered from the Christian perspective: “Christian spiritual fervor should trump nationalism”. I felt a bit like you were relating this to the idea of following the sovereign suffering servant.

You also say that Muslims still need to get to that point and I couldn’t agree more. With your argument about nationalism, you beautifully utilize a quote of Luther that made me see some of Christ’s word through new eyes. That while people are searching for an ultimate in nationalism, and not finding it, we read in the scripture Christ’s own words telling us just where his kingdom is. You quote Luther talking about God’s non bodily kingdom using Christ’s words “My kingdom is not of this world”. What an implication that was to me. Looking at it from a political and sociological standpoint Christ’s kingdom cannot be one with a ruler and states and laws and boundaries because those are all earthly human sociological and political standards for a kingdom. If Christ’s kingdom is not of this world it simply cannot contain any of those. It has new and different standards and laws that govern it. Some we may never be able to understand in this lifetime, but all of them based in Love, mercy, forgiveness, hope and faith I would imagine.

To further illustrate the two kingdoms theory that you mention throughout the book review, toward the end you juxtapose two observations of the two kingdoms. In the sight of the world power, accomplishments, and wealth get people’s attention. God does not notice such things, however. To get God’s attention you do the things (and become good at the things) that are of value in his kingdom: meditation, teaching, counseling. Also the quote of Luther you mention that “The Popes’ excommunicating for material gain in truth meant that they spiritually excommunicated themselves in the end”. That is a very informative illustration of some of the laws that govern the kingdom of heaven.

I think it’s great that because you know the history so well you’re able to point out a lot of the ghastly things that the Catholic Church did during this time period that Klueting seems to breeze over. It’s better for the world in general to have different perspectives on historical periods like this. Although I will agree with you that I also found one thing interesting from Klueting’s work. You mentioned that he clarified the meaning of “Huguenot”: The idea that it meant “those who had taken oaths to be comrades together”. To me it was moving, because it made their persecution and suffering more real to me.

A question I had, and I believe the question came up simply because I’m not well versed in the history of the Catholic Church. You mention that the Pope remained a prisoner of the Vatican until Pope John Paul II, who was the most recent Pope and who just died. I know you mention that Pius the IX declared himself prisoner of the Vatican. Was there something that happened in history? Did John Paul II declare himself no longer to be a prisoner in the last century? Just curious. It was an interesting passage in your book review and it prompted me to want to know more about that situation.

The following are some more quotes and ideas of Luther, some anecdotal stories from your book review, and some of your quotes that I really liked. I liked the following Luther quotes “The only standing we have is God’s Mercy”. Also Luther’s classic idea of opposites coming into play. “Complete opposition between God and the Human, and in that dynamic tension, humanity itself becomes elevated into divinity”. It’s quotes like that one that always make me say talking with Luther must have been a really far out experience. He must have blown peoples’ minds often.

It was moving to read what Thomas Cranmer said about the Pope right before he was burned on the stake: “He denies him like Christ’s enemy and the Antichrist”. Pretty bold. It sounds like the Arch Bishop of Canterbury was a dude with some pretty strong religious convictions. The quote you use from Thomas Hobbes to describe the Catholic Church is often how I’ve thought of the Catholic Church. It really paints an amazing picture: “The ghost of the Roman empire on the grave thereof!”

At the bottom of page 39 and the top of page 40 you go into the topic of free will. This was a particularly interesting part for me as free will has been a topic on my mind regularly since I moved out from my roommates back in October. One thing to me that makes Luther’s words so applicable to my life in this day and age is his almost Buddhist or Zen-like thoughts on the will of God and human free will. As you state before, the Catholics say humans have a free will but that it does not always align with God’s will. Luther believes God miraculously acts through us so that even our free will is actually God acting in us to bring about his will.

To me this is just a groundbreaking understanding of life itself. We cannot know when our very sins are being used to aid God’s will. In this day and age, perhaps because I was raised Lutheran, I don’t like taking credit for good things I’ve done because I know it wasn’t me that did those things, but it was God inside of me. I know I can do nothing without God. If God truly took his hand away from me, I wouldn’t even be able to get out of bed in the morning. Thus sometimes when I’ve been angry with someone and I think of the terrible things I could have done or terrible things I could have said to them I’m not grateful to myself that I did not say or do the things, I see it as a blessing from God.

When I look back at my life and I see that I haven’t been to jail, or gotten some girl pregnant, or killed someone, I say that’s not because I’m scared or extra nice or just in the wrong place at the right time, but that it is because it has not been God’s will to have me do those things. Now if down the road I find myself in the unfortunate position that I have done some of those things, while I may feel terrible about it, it’s important for me to remember that it may be for God’s ultimate purpose and will that I did those things and God may be working on turning my sins into blessings. It makes sense to me now in my life more than ever Luther’s belief that a Christian has no free will and what seems like the will of a Christian is actually God working through them.

My co star for the film I just did is an Episcopal and he and I and another member of the crew where talking religion. He was explaining the Episcopal faith and asked me what it was exactly that we as Lutherans believe. I tried to explain to him but it was quite literally after he explained as an Episcopal he believed it was important to try to get God’s word out there and to help people. I tried to explain Protestantism to him right after that by simply saying we’re saved by faith and you can do whatever you want. For him it seemed too big of a leap of faith to believe that if a human being can do whatever they want that they will do good. I tried to explain that God can use our sin and the things we do wrong even to push his will further and that it might be a part of God’s plan for us to wind up in jail or something of that nature, but while he seemed to understand that on a kind of Zen, Ying and Yang kind of level, he didn’t seem to be able to grasp faith in one’s self: that the spirit of Christ is in all of us. And I don’t know if that’s what it comes down to, but often to me it feels like that. Like I need to have faith Christ is in me and is working through me and then I have to go with what feels right and even as Luther says “If you’re going to sin, then sin boldly, but more boldly still believe”.

And on that note of God using our sins and death as a way of bringing life, I’ll end this response to your wonderful book review with your own quote that really spoke to me.

“How much easier to burn an enemy of the faith at the stake, rather than burn with fervent love, hope, and faith, like
the burning bush whose fire did not consume its branches!”

Just like the cross, a symbol of death and despair became the very symbol of life and hope, so, as your quotes truly illustrate, the burning of all the martyrs in that rough period of history, each of them is like a fire that will never go out testifying to the truth of Christ. Great job Pop! This was an enjoyable and incredibly informative read and I hope my response is helpful to you.


July 9, 2012

Dear Mark,

Thank you so much for your response to my piece. When you learn more about the period in question, you’ll be more critical of my work. I’m really not quite the master of the material the way you take me to be. I have studied it a little, however.

That is quite an insight you have about the large institutions having corruption problems. Lord Acton: “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” It would have been good if the Catholic bishops had had an internal affairs committee to watch out over the bishops and how they were more concerned with their reputation than the victims of the priests who were into pedophilia and child abuse. That could have saved them all the trouble they are now in.

That you label Harm Klueting a bit radical, I think comes down to the tendency of converts to be more fervent than long standing adherents of a religion, St. Paul, for example. Thank you for pointing out the fact that Klueting was a Lutheran pastor before he converted, following his wife, who became a Carmelite nun. That is really significant!

It is very difficult to prove the existence of a historical figure. It seems a stretch to say that Jesus was a myth, when he has over two billion followers in the world today. Albert Schweitzer in his book, The Search for the Historical Jesus, refuted such nineteenth century arguments by David Friedrich Strauss and Bruno Bauer. And the Protestant Reformation was no myth: in the year 2000 it is estimated that there were 1 billion, 57 million Catholics in the world, 342 million Protestants, 386 million Independents, probably Pentecostals; 215 million Orthodox, and 79 million Anglicans – and 26 million other Christians. If you add the Protestants, the Pentecostals, and Anglicans, there are more Christians influenced by the Reformation than the Catholic Church.[1]

You picked up on an insight that Tom Brady and I had during a discussion: that catholic monastic orders took the Protestant form of transnational corporations. It follows from Max Weber’s theory of inner worldly asceticism stemming from the “priesthood of all believers.” Weber would develop his theory more from a rationalism of Calvinist tradition than from Luther, of course. But Calvin was very much influenced by Luther.

That the Roman Catholic Church became the first Western state is an insight from Berman and very few scholars have taken Luther’s legal revolution into account that stripped the Church of its coercive power through the rule of law. Luther pointed out that coercion and persuasion were obviously incompatible and that is one part of his two kingdom theory.

I like the way you notice that Harm Klueting is giving the culprit the credit for the Reformation. One can really speak of a tyranny of the Catholic Church as a quasi-state in those days that makes sense of Luther’s hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” A line in a verse we usually do not sing goes “God’s Word forever will abide, no thanks to foes who fear it.” Klueting’s revision of history that exchanges the good guys for the bad guys is not cool.

When the French Catholics wiped out most of the Huguenots in the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, the pope had a Te Deum sung in Rome. But we cannot be triumphalist, because Luther also sinned against the peasants and the Jews.

The early ecumenical movement began to notice that nationalism was problematic for Christianity. As I mentioned on the telephone, my father as a machine gunner in the First World War heard the Tommy lying out in the battle field screaming the name of Jesus before they died. Here he was a German drafted out of the seminary, a fervent Christian shooting other Christians just because he was German and the Tommy was British! What was wrong with this picture? Nationalism was stronger than our witness to Christ and our fervor for the kingdom of heaven.

I think the best metaphor for the Catholic Church burning heretics at the stake the way the Jewish High Priest had Jesus crucified, comes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount: if the salt has lost its saltiness, with what can it be salted? (Mat 5:13) When the Church is doing that it has lost its salt and it needs to be reformed. Luther did not consider himself to be the Reformer, but Christ himself. Christus Reformator, Christ himself is the Reformer of a church that needs continual reformation: Ecclesia semper reformanda!

You pick up the Berman insight that the “Clergy was the first translocal, transtribal, transfeudal, and transnational class in Europe to achieve political and legal unity.” And you point out, “How they did it to combat the Emperor.” Joseph Lortz another Catholic historian, whom I greatly admire, pointed out that when the papacy did-in the emperor, they took away the universalism of the papacy. The pope and the emperor were supposed to stand by each other. Suddenly the papacy was usurping the temporal power of the emperor and even becoming a territorial monarch among others, because of the slow and steady dissolution of the empire. In taking the side of the king of France against the emperor, the papacy went into the Avignon Captivity and became a French bishop for seventy years. Thereafter this captivity issued into the great Schism of Italian popes against the French popes. At the conclusion of the schism there were three popes excommunicating each other.

I don’t know how viable the setup would have been if the popes and emperors had held together. It would still have been an earthly arrangement that would ultimately have been accountable to Christ and the judgment of the kingdom of heaven. No earthly arrangement can make claims to ultimacy.

The class of clergy described by Berman was organized by the revolution that Hildebrand, that is, Pope Gregory VII put into place in the eleventh century. He setup the episcopal courts under the canon law and enforced clerical celibacy. For the investiture controversy, he also made sure that no temporal king could place a bishop into office over a province. Kings and princes liked to do that, because then, like the pope, they did not have to worry about a son trying to be the successor of the father in that office. If the ruler was a bishop, then every son was illegitimate. But if the king placed a prince over a province, then that prince would want his son to follow him and the king would lose control of the succession. So kings wanted the right to call bishops. While they had that long controversy, the church won that exclusive right. But then the church had Prince-bishops that were placed by the pope and that had temporal rule, that is, just like the secular rulers. That way the church gained against the temporal rulers both in temporal rule and in owning ever more productive property. That is where Berman’s class of priests gets the better of the secular rulers and the shot goes over the bow of the clericalist ship of state, when Luther proclaims “the priesthood of all believers.” Luther was overturning Gregory’s revolution, like a second Hildebrand undoing the problematic legal and temporal implications of the revolution of the first.

You have many wonderful insights from pages 11 to 15 that are a real contribution. In terms of Popes Pius IX and Leo XIII declaring themselves “Prisoners of the Vatican,” I used to think it was only a matter of the popes sulking about their loss of the Papal States and Rome to the nation of Italy. Now I realize they always depended on Catholic nations to send in armies to conquer the Papal States and Rome for the papacy again. After 1870 no Catholic nation would comply again, so their loss became permanent. My hypothesis is that the papacy was the reason for the belated nationhood of Germany as well as Italy and I realize that I am inconsistent about my position on the progress of nationhood, when I call nations false ultimates. But I believe that if a papacy wants to have sovereignty over a state it stands in a greater contradiction to the Lord Christ and the kingdom of heaven, because of the use of military power in making the conquest and coercive maintenance of power thereafter, than when secular rulers do that and have it. They could not do that in the name of God.

On the freedom of the will, I have a question. If a person can’t receive credit for the good things they’ve done, can they be blamed for the evil things, for crimes that they’ve committed? Even though this is inconsistent, I believe that such a person can be blamed. Luther was inconsistent as well when he held that God did elect believers for eternal life, but did not elect unbelievers for eternal damnation. Calvin believed in double predestination, while Luther did not. Luther held that things could not be understood in the light of nature that could be understood in the light of grace and those things that could not be understood in the light of grace could be understood in the light of glory. Why a person who commits a crime can be blamed cannot be understood in the light of grace, (he argued) but could be understood in the light of glory. (He writes about these three levels of life and thought at the end of his Bondage of the Will.

You are broaching some difficult territory in your free will discussion. The glory of God is that God changes the evil that we do into blessings. Think of Joseph’s brothers, who almost kill him and then sell Joseph into the living death of slavery. It is the glory of God that changed that crime into an important milestone on God’s way of salvation – to save the chosen people from starvation in the great famine and the greater miracle of turning around the hardened hearts of his brothers by forgiving them. It also, of course, set the stage for the Exodus with Moses. Joseph is also like a pre-figuration of Christ, especially in his tough love and his heart-rending forgiveness of his brothers. But they had to live a lie for 22 years before they had to face up to their lie and they were exposed openly for it.

So somehow, it is not evil per se, but only that evil that God can change into a blessing. But God is omnipotent and sometimes I say, omnipotent in love, meaning that God’s omnipotence should not be understood in the sense of science or Greek natural philosophy. I’m not sure of myself here. I want to limit science and Greek philosophy here rather than God. The important thing is to remain under that heaven of grace that Luther writes about.

You write, “On that note of God using our sins and death as a way of bringing life, I’ll end this response to your wonderful book.” You are really down deep with your insight there, which nearly takes my breath away. You realize that with Christ in us, that as his death became our life, so our deaths become the lives of others. Like I realized that with Christ in us, we also become Words of God like Christ is the Word of God. I used to say that we are little christs, but I was corrected by Timothy Wengert, a colleague of Philip’s in Philadelphia, who showed me that in the “Freedom of a Christian” Luther said we become Christs to others, not little ones.

But let me add another insight that I had preaching about on 1 Corinthians 13 to our family congregation one time in Wilmington. We can bear all things, believe, hope, and endure all things, so long as we are in the hand of God. It does not apply outside God’s hand. For us, however, there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God: neither death nor life, nor angels or rulers, powers or principalities, etc. (Romans 8:37-38) or take us out of the hand of God, because we are more than conquerors through him who loved us!

Mark, your response meant so much to me and I am so grateful to you for it.



Mark Krey  9:06 PM (3 hours ago) July11, 2012

Hey Pop,

njoyed your response to my response 🙂

I agree with you that converts can be more zealous then those who have been practicing for a long time. Take Cat Stevens for instance and the whole Salman Rushdie Scandal.

It was really fascinating to me that you look at Saint Paul in that way and I think that is a very valuable take on scripture because it gives more of a understanding of Paul’s narrow point of view, what with homosexuality and all. That’s pretty enlightening! Thanks Dad 🙂

I think it’s cool that Luther saw himself as Christ because it gives further weight to how we are all Christs as you say and we are all the light of the world for that matter. Luther was a real light back in his period of history I would say, with the exception as you mentioned his “smite stab and slay” remarks. We all fall short of course.

I feel that whether a person takes blame for the horrible things they’ve done or not, the world will most certainly give them what is due. But the world’s good vs. bad detector, in many ways, is far more black and white than grey in my opinion. Also, unfortunately because of Money and Power a lot of Bad can go unnoticed in the world. It’s still the big mystery to me, I suppose but I really can understand Luther’s comment about Glory vs. Grace.

Surely there is no Glory in committing Evil, perhaps in ancient times warfare was glorified, but there was something else to that, it wasn’t only the bloodshed, it was also the valor, running headlong into death and not thinking twice about it. There was something really admirable about it and I think that was a big part in what made war glorious and added to the blood shed as a glorious thing.

But I can imagine there is no glory to be had in these multimillion dollar companies opening sweat shops in other countries. Any person who would find some kind of pride evoking glory for themselves through these actions is someone who is quite disillusioned and when the clarity of mind and truth arrives at their door, they’ll be in for a real shocker.

But one thing that I always think about is how God’s will is not carried out in a glorious way. I mean God’s ultimate salvation to mankind was one of Grace, but Christ’s royal march to his throne was more of a brutal torturous hike to a horrendous humiliating death. And yet I look upon the scene of his march to Golgotha and his being lifted up on the cross as one of the highest glories a human can achieve. Thus, to me, he is God.

I agree that what is most important is staying under the heaven of God’s grace, although I have no guarantee that I will not fall under the spell of sin and wind up feeling like a slave to sin and socially dead as well. But even in such a condition I suppose it’s necessary to still believe I’m under the heaven of God’s grace and God will get me out of it and bring some good from it.

I agree with you too that nothing can take us out of God’s Hand. We are utterly his forever 🙂

I’m looking forward to seeing you guys on the 17th! I’ll be at the film set on the 14th and 15th, this weekend, so I don’t know I’ll be able to call you guys before then, but I’ll definitely see you on the 17th!



On Thursday, Jul 12, 2012 at 10:53 PM, Peter Krey wrote:

July 12, 2012

dear Mark,
I was still thinking about your statements about whatever God did through you whether good or evil, God would somehow use it to God’s purposes. While reading today, a thought came in edgewise. You should not have a sense of divine fatalism, like you had to be resigned to whatever fate God ascribed to you. First I thought we who follow Christ, participate in Divine creativity. Then I thought, we share God’s Will, when we are one with God. Thus we even participate in the freedom of God’s Will, especially when we have died to ourselves and come alive to God in Christ. So it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us. Especially if we have come to understand that we too are therefore Words of God and Lights of the World.


That is a far cry from a fatalism, when we actually participate in the freedom of God’s will – that is something far greater freedom than mere human free will.
I wonder if those thoughts are helpful?

From: M. Krey
Date: Monday, Jul 16, 2012 at 3:34 PM

Another response

To: Peter Krey

Hey Dad,
Thanks for your thoughts. I think I have been dealing with a kind of divine fatalism lately. Through your e-mail you expressed an idea I never really understood till now. I’d heard you speak of how God makes us a part of God’s continuous creation.
So from the e-mail you sent I now understand it. As members of the body of Christ, we all, together, create the body of Christ, God himself, who is always acting and always active building on his creation. God works with us through our will and adds to his creation. Thus when we create something to bring it into the world, it is actually God working through us bringing a new thing into the creation. Thus we are all gods or as you’ve said little Christs that, added together, create a complete Christ that is using all of our wills to push forth his will of continuous creation that is actually our will as well. Basically our will and dreams and hopes are important to God in that they are also God’s will and dreams and hopes because we are all the members of Christ that make up the body of Christ.
I never really understood that until now; until you e-mailed me. When I was speaking of my own will and neither being responsible for the good or the bad that I would do, I wasn’t taking into consideration my own creativity. I think, though a lot of times I don’t notice it, my creativity is a kind of free will I wouldn’t be able to live without. It’s a freeing and beautiful idea to think I am acting with God when I wish to bring something beautiful into existence. That it is God working through me to make his creation more beautiful.

I’m looking forward to seeing You, Mom and Josh and having an adventure on the east coast! See you tomorrow morning!


[1] Philip Jenkins, The Next Christendom: the Coming of Global Christianity, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), page 61.

For an eight page preview of the book review that runs 50 pages, click here.


Written by peterkrey

July 12, 2012 at 5:53 pm

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