Thomas Müntzer — strange, sinister and curiously related

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Zeitgenössisches Porträt des Thomas Müntzer / Contemporary portrait of Thomas Müntzer
(Wikimedia Commons public domain image)

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One of my articles appeared in Meridian Magazine. Maybe some of you, if you have absolutely nothing better to do, might find this interesting:

“The divine emotions: a contradiction with Aristotle’s best thought on God”

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Two new features were put online yesterday on the Interpreter Foundation website:

come follow me — Help in Studying and Teaching the Old Testament Lesson 12, March 14-20: Genesis 42-50 — “God willed it for the good”

A generous contribution from Jonn Claybaugh

Audio roundtable: come follow me Old Testament Lesson 12 “God willed it for the good”: Genesis 42–50

The round table of the radio interprets for come follow me Old Testament Lesson 12, “God meant it for Good,” on Genesis 42–50, featured the husband-and-wife team of Neal Rappleye and Jasmin Rappleye. This panel discussion, stripped of commercial and other distractions, was taken from the February 6, 2022 broadcast of the Interpreter Radio Show. the completed the program is archived for your listening pleasure and your edification on https://interpreterfoundation.org/interpreter-radio-show-February-6-2022/. The performer radio show can be heard weekly on Sunday evenings from 7-9 p.m. (MDT), on K-TALK, AM 1640, or you can listen live on the Internet at ktalkmedia.com.

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As I mentioned here previously, I have been reading quite a bit in recent weeks about Martin Luther, the most important figure of the 16th century Protestant Reformation. In particular, I am about to complete the classic biography of Roland Bainton from 1950 Here I Am: A Life of Martin Luther.

This morning I read a chapter which was devoted, for the most part, to Thomas Müntzer (ca. 1489-1525). A reformer, but also a revolutionary who sought to establish a theocracy and a “pure” society through the use of violence, Müntzer remains at the center of controversy and debate. (He was also in his day. He was eventually executed.). I myself find it both interesting and repulsive. Anyway, here are a few passages from today’s reading that I think might be worth sharing and in which some of you will find echoes of familiar things:

Those who trust to the letter, he says, are the scribes against whom Christ rose up. Scripture, as a simple book, is only paper and ink. “Bible, Babel, bubble! he is crying. Behind this virulence was hidden a religious concern. Müntzer had not been troubled like Luther about how to be right with God, but about whether there was a God to be right with. Scripture as a mere written document did not reassure him as he observed that it is only convincing to the convinced. The Turks know the Bible but remain completely alienated. The men who wrote the Bible did not have a Bible when they wrote. Where did they get their confidence from? The only answer may be that God spoke to them directly, and he must speak to us too if we are to understand the Bible. Müntzer maintained, with the Catholic Church, that the Bible is inadequate without an interpreter of divine inspiration, but this interpreter is not the Church nor the pope but the prophet, the new Elijah, the new Daniel, to whom is given the key of David to open the book sealed with seven seals.

Müntzer could easily find support for his view of the spirit in Scripture itself, where it is said that “the letter kills, but the spirit gives life” (II Cor. 3:6). . . . Müntzer’s real threat in Luther’s eyes was that he was destroying the uniqueness of Christian revelation in the past by his elevation of revelation in the present. Luther himself had had absolutely no experience of any contemporary revelation, and in moments of despondency the advice to trust in the spirit was to him advice of despair, since he could not find in him only total darkness.

At such times he must have assurance in tangible form in a written record of God’s wondrous act in Christ. Luther freely confessed his weakness and his need for historical revelation. Therefore, he would not listen to Mützer although “he swallowed the Holy Spirit, the feathers and all.” It is at this point that much of the difference lies not only between Müntzer and Luther, but between modern liberal Protestantism and the religion of the founders.

If Müntzer had drawn no practical consequences from his point of view, Luther would have been less indignant, but Müntzer continued to use the gift of the Spirit as the basis for forming a church. He is the ancestor of the Protestant theocracies, based not as in Judaism first on blood and soil, nor as in Catholicism on sacramentalism, but rather on the inner experience of the infusion of the Spirit . (261-262)

In a rather recklessly preached sermon in Weimar before Frederick the Wise, the Prince-Elector of Saxony, and Frederick’s brother, Duke John, Müntzer attempted to enlist them in his cause:

He took his text from Daniel’s interpretation of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and began by saying that the Church was an undefiled virgin until it was corrupted by the scribes who kill the Spirit and claim that God no longer reveals himself as before.

But God reveals himself in the inner word in the abyss of the soul. The man who hasn’t received the living testimony of God really doesn’t know anything about God, though he might have swallowed 100,000 Bibles. God comes in a dream to his beloved as he did to the patriarchs, prophets and apostles. He comes especially in affliction. That’s why Brother Easychair [Martin Luther] rejects it. God is pouring out his spirit on all flesh, and now the Spirit is revealing to the elect a mighty and irresistible reformation to come. (263-264)

Realizing that his sermon had not been well received—Frederick the Wise had, after all, become Luther’s benefactor and protector—Müntzer escaped the city by night and fled Saxony.

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Lastly, you’ll probably want to join a really strong support group before you open those horrible links I pulled from the Christopher Hitchens Memorial File “How Religion Poisons Everything”©. You were warned:

“How Women in England Unite to Serve Those on the ‘Margins of Society'”

“Learn 16 simple ways to be a better humanitarian”

“How JustServe and an FDA Approved Stake Center Led to Thousands of Meals for Kids”

“Church Delivers Food Truck to NYC Food Bank: Elder Quentin L. Cook Presents Donation to Feed Over 300 Families”

“Donation of 2,000 mobility devices set to change lives in South Africa: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints donated 900 wheelchairs and 1,200 mobility aids in partnership with the Western Cape Department of Health.

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