Author Topic: Luther- alienation and narcissism?  (Read 1671 times)

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Offline Daedelus1138

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Luther- alienation and narcissism?
« on: June 30, 2016, 08:19:19 PM »
I wanted to split this off from another thread.

It was suggested that Luther was a humanist leading to a path of alienation and narcissism.  I am curious to hear this idea defended.

My perception is that among mainline Lutherans, he is seen more as a morally flawed prophet and theologian, whose ideas had to be synthesized by his followers into the Lutheran confessions.  Few hold him up as an example of Christian virtue though often his piety and aphoristic sayings are praised. 
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Offline Porter ODoran

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Re: Luther- alienation and narcissism?
« Reply #1 on: June 30, 2016, 09:03:45 PM »
My perception is that among mainline Lutherans, he is seen more as a morally flawed prophet and theologian ...

And yet this isn't a Lutheran forum.
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Offline minasoliman

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Re: Luther- alienation and narcissism?
« Reply #2 on: June 30, 2016, 09:11:49 PM »
I have no objection with the discussion being here.  Whether in this forum or in the Orthodox-Other Christian forum, the rules in both sections are the same.  If you still feel this needs to be moved, let me know through reporting or PM.

Mina
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Offline Onesimus

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Re: Luther- alienation and narcissism?
« Reply #3 on: June 30, 2016, 09:29:41 PM »
What exactly do you want to see defended?  Do you want His humanistic influences outlined?   Or are you more interested in his psychological state?

I don't think humanism alone drove him to alienation and/or narcissism.   Rather I think he lived in confusing times with major shifts in philosophical thinking (including nominalism and humanism) which potentiated an already fragile ego and superstitious nature which he was trying to escape. 

An interesting work on this is Spitz's Luther and German Humanism http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/55

Quote
One can fairly summarize Spitz's overall argument as follows. He defines 'humanism' in slightly broader terms than the fashionable ones .... Spitz prefers to describe humanism as a broad intellectual movement rooted in love for the classical antique, and in high esteem for philology, rhetoric, poetry, ethics, and history (VII.93, and again, VIII.70-1). He believes that German humanism reached its peak, as an independent intellectual tradition, in the first two decades of the sixteenth century (11.36-51, IV.106, V.207-9), at which point it was broadening out into diverse and curious religious speculations (III, passim). When the Reformation came about - and Spitz is properly careful to stress that Luther's message arose from an individual spiritual insight, which cannot be neatly summarized in terms of its 'sources' (e.g. VII.113-14) - it soon 'derailed' humanism. The energies hitherto devoted to the humanist programme were transferred to more specifically theological ends (IV.109, V.209). Nevertheless, humanism and the Reformation remained intertwined. The intellectual attainments of the Renaissance humanists 'made the Reformation possible',


Offline Daedelus1138

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Re: Luther- alienation and narcissism?
« Reply #4 on: June 30, 2016, 10:13:38 PM »
Yes, I'm interested in a humanistic outline.  I know all about his mental state.

It seems to me Luther was the least humanistic reformer of the bunch, so I'd like to see his humanism spelled out moreso.

It does seem he lived during a period of crisis.  Maybe western history ever since has been an unresolved crisis.   Lutherans don't seem to reflect on the fact that Luther himself was gravely distressed by what happened after the Reformation - it's just a case of "yeah, this isn't what we hoped but... you can't prove to us the Pope is better".  Hence the perpetual renewal movements in Protestantism, each hoping to get things right "this time". 

I don't think crisis bothers Lutherans too much..  the pastor at church like to talk about the Christian life as a cross of suffering, so it seems like a theology very "comfortable" with crisis.  I suspect there is a certain acceptance of the idea that Christendom is just fractured- it does seem the ecumenical movement had to tug on Lutherans a bit to get them into it, more than the Anglicans.

The pastor also admits that Lutheran doctrine is great for people with tender sensibilities.   But is that really what western culture is made of?  I suspect most people have a lot of satisfaction in their day to day lives, and if anything, are a bit insensitive and oblivious. 

Mostly I'm just looking for an Orthodox perspective on Luther's humanism.
« Last Edit: June 30, 2016, 10:33:51 PM by Daedelus1138 »
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Offline TheTrisagion

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Re: Luther- alienation and narcissism?
« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2016, 10:33:40 PM »
I think all the reformers can be lumped into the same basket as far as narcissism goes. They all thought their own beliefs were more valuable than the teachings and traditions of the church. Luther is among the less egregious while Calvin I would say is among the most egregious, but ultimately, they all come from a position of hubris. While I'm sure none of them could have foreseen the result of their narcissism back then, the ultimate result is a corrosive effect in respect for authority and moral foundations which is leading to a increasingly chaotic, splintered world.
« Last Edit: June 30, 2016, 10:35:11 PM by TheTrisagion »
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Offline Onesimus

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Re: Luther- alienation and narcissism?
« Reply #6 on: June 30, 2016, 10:58:04 PM »
Quote
Yes, I'm interested in a humanistic outline.

Gotcha.   

I recall recently coming across some pretty detailed info on some of his intimate academic influences and forays into nominalism and humanism.   IIRC there was a specific professor whom he studied under or had interactions with that pushed some of this.  I'll check to see if I can't track it down this weekend.

But yes, compared to the radical reformers...Luther was not humanist.   It's relative to what the baseline you're comparing him to is.   One has to keep in mind that humanism has an "early" manifestation and a "later" flavor.  As I understand it Luther would have been more influenced by  "early" humanism of the Renaissance ...which is fairly different in character from later Enlightenment humanism. 

I come from a reformed Calvinist background with Lutheran leanings, and I still interact with many Lutherans at the Evangelical Seminary I attend, and I'd say your observations are pretty spot on regarding attitudes.   This also depends on what flavor of Lutheran you're talking to.   Do you know if the pastor is ELCA, LCMS or LCWS?   This makes a huge difference in worldview.
« Last Edit: June 30, 2016, 10:59:43 PM by Onesimus »

Offline Daedelus1138

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Re: Luther- alienation and narcissism?
« Reply #7 on: June 30, 2016, 11:07:13 PM »
I come from a reformed Calvinist background with Lutheran leanings, and I still interact with many Lutherans at the Evangelical Seminary I attend, and I'd say your observations are pretty spot on regarding attitudes.   This also depends on what flavor of Lutheran you're talking to.   Do you know if the pastor is ELCA, LCMS or LCWS?   This makes a huge difference in worldview.

Conservative ELCA from an LCMS childhood.  I'm not sure what caused him to join the ELCA, maybe the stuff around Seminex.  I know he is not fond of the current LCMS, which he calls "fundamentalist".  But he's still on the conservative wing of the church.
« Last Edit: June 30, 2016, 11:15:19 PM by Daedelus1138 »
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Offline Porter ODoran

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Re: Luther- alienation and narcissism?
« Reply #8 on: June 30, 2016, 11:20:57 PM »
I have no objection with the discussion being here.  Whether in this forum or in the Orthodox-Other Christian forum, the rules in both sections are the same.  If you still feel this needs to be moved, let me know through reporting or PM.

Mina


Surely this is the subforum for it. My response was to the original post's statement that Lutherans characterize Luther thus-and-so -- that that opinion just cannot be expected to have legs outside Protestant circles. After all, even the most questionable sects all have their special view of their founders.
"Love ... is an abyss of illumination, a mountain of fire ... . It is the condition of angels, the progress of eternity" (Climacus).

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Offline Porter ODoran

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Re: Luther- alienation and narcissism?
« Reply #9 on: June 30, 2016, 11:26:43 PM »
Yes, I'm interested in a humanistic outline.  I know all about his mental state.

It seems to me Luther was the least humanistic reformer of the bunch, so I'd like to see his humanism spelled out moreso.

But what do you mean by "humanistic"? If this is just a way of describing a sense you have of reformers, then we'd need more information, some kind of definition. What I mean by it is the Humanist School that began just before the Reformation and had its height in the Renaissance. Martin Luther was intellectually a disciple of Erasmus. It is Erasmus that developed, for example, the Sola Gratia. To Erasmus, it was incidentally a theological matter -- he was more interested in it as a social and psychological theory that could finally free academics such as himself from the micro-management of the church.
"Love ... is an abyss of illumination, a mountain of fire ... . It is the condition of angels, the progress of eternity" (Climacus).

Quote from: Seekingtrue
Yes we who are far from sainthood we can recognize a living saint and I'm talking from personal experience.Yes they are gentle soo gentle it can not be described it is like gentleness and humility in one and also they have this light this energy it's beyond words...and when you are near them you feel ecstatic and very happy

Offline Onesimus

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Re: Luther- alienation and narcissism?
« Reply #10 on: July 01, 2016, 12:25:23 AM »
I agree with Porter that one would need to define the baseline of what one considers "humanism" when having a discussion with someone.  Many only think of humanism in its Enlightenment form.   As I've indicated - he was not a humanist in the later Enlightenment sense.   But I think he was a humanist in its more intellectual beginnings - when it still represented a more abstract intellectual movement extolling the promise and potential for the future and making swift inroads into both university education in Germany - but also in the courts of various princes who saw in it a way forward apart from the Holy Roman Empire.   Apply this to theology - and you have the Reformation.

Since I don't know what you already know -- forgive me if I'm providing info that you already have or know. 

I would say that the most important thing to consider is what Luther's education was like and what the circles were he was running in.   My father used to say "You will be whatever it is you surround yourself with."   Who taught him?   What were their thoughts and what were they teaching?  Who did he "hang with."   What were their points of view?   All of these things were bound to form his thoughts and his person.   Yale students get a completely different worldview than Liberty University students.  Much of that is inculcated.

I think Luther's education reveals much in itself.   And I've provided some references linked to specific pages addressing the milieu he was learning in and the humanistic influences at both Universities he attended.  I think this is a good starting point for moving forward in investigating particulars about how Luther responded to or embraced / rejected the views he was exposed to.

In this vein, Luther's college education began at the University of Erfurt in 1501 - well known for being a German center for early humanism.   "Luther took the customary course in the liberal arts and received the baccalaureate degree in 1502. Three years later he was awarded the master’s degree. His studies gave him a thorough exposure to Scholasticism; many years later, he spoke of Aristotle and William of Ockham as “his teachers.”  (1) 

While studying at Erfurt - Luther was roommates and friends (2) with the humanist Johann Crotus. (3)

"In 1507 he began the study of theology at the University of Erfurt. Transferred to the Augustinian monastery at Wittenberg in the fall of 1508, he continued his studies at the university there. Because the university at Wittenberg was new (it was founded in 1502), its degree requirements were fairly lenient."

For more information about the humanist ideals of the University of Wittenberg - see footnote (4).

"After only a year of study, Luther had completed the requirements not only for the baccalaureate in Bible but also for the next-higher theological degree, that of Sententiarius, which would qualify him to teach Peter Lombard’s Four Books of Sentences (Sententiarum libri IV), the standard theological textbook of the time. Because he was transferred back to Erfurt in the fall of 1509, however, the university at Wittenberg could not confer the degrees on him. Luther then unabashedly petitioned the Erfurt faculty to confer the degrees. His request, though unusual, was altogether proper, and in the end it was grant2d." (4)

For more information about humanism in Erfurt and Wittenburg - see https://books.google.com/books?id=bdQUAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA15&lpg=PA15&dq=humanism+university+of+erfurt&source=bl&ots=o0bz8iFCn-&sig=lZ1lztJOAtDuwY3jGnBdQfCVJtI&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjhmIfOptHNAhVX4GMKHaefB9AQ6AEIJDAB#v=onepage&q=humanism%20university%20of%20erfurt&f=false

As a side-note...appreciating the impact of Aristotelian metaphysics on Scholasticism and humanism in general vis a vis Orthodoxy is huge...and puts the Nominalism of Occam which Luther embraced into perspective.  While the link I'm about to provide does not directly address your question, it frames the context of Western Europe and its assumptions and the answers which Luther was trying to contend with that were shaking up the Western world and its metaphysical assumptions.  There is an (IMO) amazing podcast regarding this here:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HOrDKwtIweU  I can get you access to the second part if you find it useful.


(1) https://www.britannica.com/biography/Martin-Luther
(2) https://books.google.com/books?id=U42nj403VZgC&pg=PA3&lpg=PA3&dq=humanism+university+of+erfurt&source=bl&ots=Pr52ph8Zp2&sig=wiY3uXUTyYRjDfQiw4pVfDJDpHo&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjhmIfOptHNAhVX4GMKHaefB9AQ6AEIMDAE#v=onepage&q=humanism%20university%20of%20erfurt&f=false
(3)  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Crotus
(4)  https://books.google.com/books?id=oid3sCEm8PAC&pg=PA18&lpg=PA18&dq=wittenberg+university+and+humanism&source=bl&ots=7PtmijSeuK&sig=8miSZxNFqw4TgGA5gcTnbBssusw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiy6rPGr9HNAhVjVWMKHTscD7wQ6AEITzAH#v=onepage&q=wittenberg%20university%20and%20humanism&f=false



« Last Edit: July 01, 2016, 12:34:22 AM by Onesimus »

Offline minasoliman

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Re: Luther- alienation and narcissism?
« Reply #11 on: July 01, 2016, 12:26:00 AM »
I have no objection with the discussion being here.  Whether in this forum or in the Orthodox-Other Christian forum, the rules in both sections are the same.  If you still feel this needs to be moved, let me know through reporting or PM.

Mina


Surely this is the subforum for it. My response was to the original post's statement that Lutherans characterize Luther thus-and-so -- that that opinion just cannot be expected to have legs outside Protestant circles. After all, even the most questionable sects all have their special view of their founders.

Ah, my mistake  :)
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Offline Porter ODoran

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Re: Luther- alienation and narcissism?
« Reply #12 on: July 01, 2016, 01:00:17 AM »
Excellent work there, Onesimus.
"Love ... is an abyss of illumination, a mountain of fire ... . It is the condition of angels, the progress of eternity" (Climacus).

Quote from: Seekingtrue
Yes we who are far from sainthood we can recognize a living saint and I'm talking from personal experience.Yes they are gentle soo gentle it can not be described it is like gentleness and humility in one and also they have this light this energy it's beyond words...and when you are near them you feel ecstatic and very happy

Offline Onesimus

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Re: Luther- alienation and narcissism?
« Reply #13 on: July 01, 2016, 01:13:08 AM »
Thanks Porter.

Thanks google.   

I tried to add this above but could not modify it.

Alister McGrath's Christianity's dangerous idea starting on pg 35 - spells out what humanism was in the Renaissance period and how it influenced the reformers in contrast to how we use the term humanism generally today.  This book is pretty much gold in terms of an approachable overview of Protestantism.   

Quote
All of this was plunged into confusion through the new interest in the Bible resulting from the rise of humanism. The term “humanism” is easily misunderstood. In the twenty-first century, this word is often used to mean something like “atheism” or “secularism” and to identify a worldview that excludes belief in—or at least reference to—the divine. At the time of the Renaissance, the word had a very different connotation...Humanism can be thought of as the worldview underlying the Re- naissance. It is best understood as a quest for cultural eloquence and excellence, rooted in the belief that the best models lay in the classic civilizations of Rome and Athens. Its basic method can be summed up in the Latin slogan ad fontes...

I found a link removed; possible copyright infringement --Mina
« Last Edit: July 01, 2016, 01:53:42 PM by minasoliman »

Offline Daedelus1138

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Re: Luther- alienation and narcissism?
« Reply #14 on: July 01, 2016, 09:56:08 AM »
I haven't read enough Augustine to see that he taught the doctrine of created grace.  I always assumed that idea came later in the middle ages, during the Scholastics.

From the Orthodox perspective the issue is that western metaphysics of the medieval western church was waiting to spark off a spiritual crisis.  If you hide God from the world between a layer of created grace, I suppose that allows room for the Church to become an intermediary between God and humanity and dictate the order of creation.   And humanism was a revolt against that dogmatic explanation of the created order, with western Christendom's collapse an unintended consequences?  On the positive side, this brought us a scientific approach to understanding reality, and I can see the direct benefits of such an approach (I don't just see it, I live in it).

I find Lutheran theology hard to grapple with, having a mostly Orthodox background, it sometimes seems focused on analysis and interpretation of texts in an obscurantist way to justify some particular position.  Sometimes it is quite dogmatic and polemical with medieval undertones, even in people that are surprisingly "liberal" in all other respects. 

I've actually got that book by McGrath, BTW, but it's been a long time since I read it.  McGrath seems to be a great scholar (he never seems to have an axe to grind), and he writes about nearly everything.  Most of my contact with Protestantism has been through the Anglican tradition, though, so I haven't dealt as much with these issues (because Anglicanism is so amorphous).
« Last Edit: July 01, 2016, 10:11:08 AM by Daedelus1138 »
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Offline Iconodule

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Re: Luther- alienation and narcissism?
« Reply #15 on: July 01, 2016, 10:30:46 AM »
Since the topic of East/ West metaphysics has come up, I want to share two very interesting articles recently posted on Fr. Alvin Kimel's Eclectic Orthodoxy blog.

The Essence-Energies Distinction and the Myth of Byzantine Illogic by Fr. Christiaan Kappes

Palamas Transformed by Dr. John Demetracopoulos

Among other things, these essays show how much East and West had in common in terms of metaphysics, and how the teaching of Saint Gregory Palamas was modified by his later defenders (including Saint Mark of Ephesus) using material from Aquinas, Duns Scotus, and other Latin teachers.


« Last Edit: July 01, 2016, 10:30:58 AM by Iconodule »
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Offline minasoliman

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Re: Luther- alienation and narcissism?
« Reply #16 on: July 01, 2016, 01:55:02 PM »
Thanks Porter.

Thanks google.   

I tried to add this above but could not modify it.

Alister McGrath's Christianity's dangerous idea starting on pg 35 - spells out what humanism was in the Renaissance period and how it influenced the reformers in contrast to how we use the term humanism generally today.  This book is pretty much gold in terms of an approachable overview of Protestantism.   

Quote
All of this was plunged into confusion through the new interest in the Bible resulting from the rise of humanism. The term “humanism” is easily misunderstood. In the twenty-first century, this word is often used to mean something like “atheism” or “secularism” and to identify a worldview that excludes belief in—or at least reference to—the divine. At the time of the Renaissance, the word had a very different connotation...Humanism can be thought of as the worldview underlying the Re- naissance. It is best understood as a quest for cultural eloquence and excellence, rooted in the belief that the best models lay in the classic civilizations of Rome and Athens. Its basic method can be summed up in the Latin slogan ad fontes...

I found a link removed; possible copyright infringement --Mina

From what I understand, this book is still under copyright.  Unless the author himself or the company that this book published has granted permission for it to be downloaded online, we cannot allow the site to be a hub for links to copyrighted books (or media of any kind).

Mina
« Last Edit: July 01, 2016, 01:56:03 PM by minasoliman »
Vain existence can never exist, for "unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain." (Psalm 127)

If the faith is unchanged and rock solid, then the gates of Hades never prevailed in the end.

Offline Daedelus1138

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Re: Luther- alienation and narcissism?
« Reply #17 on: July 01, 2016, 02:00:21 PM »
Good stuff..

 I do notice a similarity between Ockham, Luther and the "Palamism" of Orthodoxy, especially Luther's distinction between the Hidden God and Revealed God.   Calvin seems to be going in a different directional altogether, perhaps influenced by a different strain of humanism.
« Last Edit: July 01, 2016, 02:01:53 PM by Daedelus1138 »
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Offline Porter ODoran

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Re: Luther- alienation and narcissism?
« Reply #18 on: July 01, 2016, 04:24:06 PM »
Good stuff..

 I do notice a similarity between Ockham, Luther and the "Palamism" of Orthodoxy, especially Luther's distinction between the Hidden God and Revealed God.   Calvin seems to be going in a different directional altogether, perhaps influenced by a different strain of humanism.

Calvin was influenced by the French salons of his day, which seemed to be a unique strain, even dominated by women. However, he rose to fame at such a young age (17, I believe) that I don't believe he was ever as much influenced as influencer. In my opinion, while he of course looked at the old sources, pious and secular, yet his view on things was radically new and his own. As with all the Reformers and other major thinkers of this age, he was undoubtedly moved by strong inner surges of the new sense that an individual could be a genius, could be a revolution in and of himself, could be an innovator of merit beyond the ancients. In my opinion, again, this mindset was poison, was the bitter root of all the horrors of the modern era -- however that may be, it was also an intoxicating drink and many young men besides Calvin would rise to fortune and previously-incredible fame on the elation of it.
"Love ... is an abyss of illumination, a mountain of fire ... . It is the condition of angels, the progress of eternity" (Climacus).

Quote from: Seekingtrue
Yes we who are far from sainthood we can recognize a living saint and I'm talking from personal experience.Yes they are gentle soo gentle it can not be described it is like gentleness and humility in one and also they have this light this energy it's beyond words...and when you are near them you feel ecstatic and very happy