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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Was Walther too strict warning against the Theater? Part 2

In Part 1, I gave the full section of Ewald Plass' book This Is Luther on the subject of Theater. I have attempted to verify Plass's sources but have been frustrated on his first reference about theatrical presentations presenting the Gospel in Lower Germany.  Even though I found the book by Julius Koestlin on Google Books, it seems that Mr. Plass must have erred because the page that he references, page 504, does not speak about the theater but about the Mass, papists, and the power of God's Word.  So I must take his assessment at face value.
But I did find his reference for "secular drama" or comedy by cross referencing the Erlangen citation with the St. Louis edition:
Erlangen Edition 62: 336 f. <<==>> St. Louis Edition 22: 1558-1561
And here is what Luther says:

2. On the Comedies.
(Cordatus. No. 1709)
Comedies need to be recited by the boys mainly that they have practice in the Latin language:  after that people will be trained by the fictitious persons and everyone is reminded of his duties.  In addition they set out the wiles of immoral women, and how the parents should receive their children with honour, and how the children should obey their parents. And if the comedies should not be performed because of some objectionable [obscoena] things for Christians, even the Bible would not be read. But anyone who takes offense at such things, takes the scandal where no one gives it.
(This paragraph in Lauterbach, 29 May 1538, p. 89)
I like the comedies of the Romans very well, the main purpose of which was that they want to appeal to the young people to enter the marriage estate. For the government of the world cannot exist without matrimony. Therefore, those insightful people attracted the youth by comedies, just as through images, in the best way to marriage, for fornication and celibate life are the bane of the state.
Let us examine what Luther says here.  What does Luther identify as the purpose of these theater comedies?
1) for student boys to learn Latin language
2) to warn against immoral women
3) parents should receive their children with honor
4) children should obey their parents
5) young people should enter marriage estate rather than fornication and celibacy

Now let us see how we can quote Luther against Luther.  The perfect example of this Luther's position on the Jews: he changed from sympathizing with the Jews to blasting them for their unbelief.  In the same way, one can quote the Bible against the Bible, but it is all the devil's play since Jesus said: "... the Scripture cannot be broken". (John 10:35)

Luther admitted in his later years that he was naive in his younger years concerning the papacy and other matters.  And he showed that he would seemingly change his position on Dance when the circumstances showed the practice had become worldly.

And so I, BackToLuther, must say that even though Walther did not take the time in his book to explain Luther's comments on the theater, yet Luther's pro-theater comments in no way impair Walther's warnings against the theater. I would say that Walther's warnings are the voice of a later Luther who would fully understand Goethe when he said the plays can neither promote or want to promote morality (see Walther pg 106).

Ewald Plass presumes too much when he says "There was certainly nothing prudish or puritanical about Martin Luther."  Indeed God's Word does speak plainly about the immoralities of people and about the human anatomy, but these are warnings and words from the Creator, the One who made them "male and female".  Indeed Luther was "prudish and puritanical" in the sense the modern world uses it.  Luther criticized Lucas Cranach for one of his paintings depicting a nude woman even though it was to attack the papacy.  His criticism was because of embarrassment over what was to be said to wives and mothers in view of this painting.

No!  Walther, not Ewald Plass (and the modern English LC-MS), must be listened to because Walther's warnings are the same as from Scripture:
...whatsoever is not of faith is sin. Romans 14:23
Flee fornication. 1 Cor. 6:18
Much more could be written about this but this is a "blog" and so I will end it here, at least for now. I have been on this subject since my post of December 29, 2011 where Pieper raised the subject again in 1927. May this be to the glory of the One who paid the price... that we might be free from sin. SDG.

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