Columnist forgot to check facts
In Sunday’s CNJ, columnist Clyde Davis stated: “the sacraments … probably caused more bloody noses among fellow believers than perhaps any other issue. … There’s a story, true or perhaps not, that Martin Luther once punched a fellow clergy in the nose over the interpretation of Holy Communion.”
In 35 years as a Lutheran pastor, I’ve heard of no such case in Luther’s life. Perhaps Rev. Davis was thinking of the historic Marburg Debate (1529) between Luther and Ulrich Zwingli, but Luther’s chalk writing on the table is far from fisticuffs.
Knowing others might inquire about this, I consulted with “experts” on the Reformation and Lutheran history. The most astute, Robert Kolb, states that he had never heard of such an event. He did, however, make a passing reference to an obscure “tussle” between two clergymen over a communion chalice (no mention of bloody noses), some 12 years after Luther’s death.
As Rev. Davis preceded his loose comment with “true or perhaps not,” it carries the weight of someone writing publicly: “I’ve heard — ‘true or perhaps not’ — that (a certain someone) used to beat his wife.” What a license to break the commandment about bearing false witness!
If the statement is true, back it up; otherwise, why state it?
Odd that Rev. Davis, a Presbyterian, does not mention John Calvin in this article. Calvin actually approved the death penalty for those he considered “heretics,” i.e. Servetus (real name), 1553 (real date). Sounds a bit more serious than a fictitious bloody nose.
Martin Luther would be inclined to leave capital cases to the secular rulers (Romans 13).
I’m sure CNJ prefers accurate accounts rather than hunches that leave unnecessary, metaphorical “bloody noses” about, especially in an article that attempts to emphasize Christian unity.