Pastor's Pen 09/21/2022
- Published: 25 October 2022 25 October 2022
- Last Updated: 25 October 2022 25 October 2022
A Message from Pastor Hale
My wife and I were surprised last spring by the offer to be sponsored to go to the well-known apologetics academy for 11 days in Strasbourg, France. We decided to try and make it work, despite the fact we already had a family vacation planned, beginning just days after we would be getting back from Europe. But this unknown benefactor, connected with the Christian News paper I help edit, and his generosity, convinced us to try and make the most of the opportunity.
We found out in May we would need to take Rose with us. Even the original trip was rushed, since we did not have current passports, but getting Rose prepared was especially hurried. Our original accommodations would not allow a baby, but we eventually found a room to rent.
Rose did not enjoy the flight from Omaha to Chicago, but was much better for the longer flight to Paris. We took a high speed train to Strasbourg and stayed there for our entire stay, except for a bus tour daytrip to some small, historic towns in the Alsace region with the 20 or so Academy participants.
Most days had six hours of lectures, which were quite good, but the not having air conditioning made it less enjoyable during the heat of the day. The teachers at the Academy were Dr. John Warwick Montgomery, Craig Parton, Dr. Donald T. Williams, and André Eggen. Dr. Montgomery, who is from America originally, but has lived in France for some time, is a well published LCMS pastor/lawyer/scholar within Protestant circles, well known for his teaching on apologetics. He had a hand in defending the literal truth of Scripture way back in the 1960’s and 1970’s during the difficult days of the LCMS. He was ordained in the LCMS in 1965.
Craig Parton is a lawyer in California who found his way to the LCMS and has several apologetics books published by CPH. Dr. Donald T. Williams is not Lutheran, but is a gifted teacher of apologetics and university professor of English in Georgia. He specializes in the works of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. The last professor was a layman from France, who holds a Ph.D. in animal genetics. His perspective on the state of Christianity in France was very helpful, along with his approach to defending our creation by God. He spoke to how Christian history and symbolism is still part of the French culture, but perhaps there are only 1 -2% practicing Christians in his own country, much like the rest of liberal Europe. America is surely following the sad example of Europe in this regard.
Apologetics means a public “defense” – not “I’m sorry for what I believe.” (We have the “Apology to the Augsburg Confession” in our Book of Concord, which is a more detailed argument backing up the earlier Augsburg Confession). It is an intellectual and rational activity. Not all Christians think apologetics is good. While it is not everything, nor does it replace straightforward biblical proclamation, defining the topic carefully helps illuminate how Christians can rationally defend and present the truth clearly.
The main Bible text dealing with defending the faith is “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” from 1 Pet. 3:15. The context of that passage is suffering and persecution. In the midst of living as Christians we stand out for not taking the easy way out of difficulty, but rejoicing in the hope God has given us. Our hope is not baseless or a mere wish, we have definite reasons and evidences for our faith – Christ is risen from the dead, and we have His sure verbally communicated promises.
Not every Christian can explain detailed points of doctrine or is able to publicly debate unbelievers, but every believer should know why they believe Christianity is true and the only way to God and eternal life. Faith is personal, we cannot appeal to another person’s faith or internal viewpoint to buttress our own. Our hope is not a mere wish or fantasy, we rely on Christ’s words, explained in plain language to us in preaching and Scripture. We should be able to reason and speak according to the ability God has given us, which is not the same for everyone – but that is no excuse to be ignorant or to refuse to learn. We should not say I believe “just because” of some happenstance tradition or circumstance.
We live in a rational and anti-rational age. The charge of rationalism, trusting in reason unduly and completely, is a serious one. But Christianity is not based on our emotional and undefinable reaction to Jesus. We have real doctrinal content presented in the words of Scripture. We can deal with doctrinal errors and contradictions to Christianity head-on. Not just by quoting the Bible, but by knowing that all truth is God’s and whatever is against God’s Word must be wrong on its own merits – to everyone, not just the spiritual people with the right “worldview.”
The personal faith of the individual Christian is invisible, but the basis of our faith is real worldly facts. Unlike other religions, we have trust in things that actually happened in history. Our “spiritual” facts of faith are also real parts of normal earthly history, and can be approached that way. And they must be, since we are under attack by those who would make Christ – His life for sinners, death for sin, and resurrection for man’s justification – mere myths and fiction. The Bible points to historical witnesses and events that were open for all to see – not just those with the Spirit.
A strong Christian will be able to talk about their faith and interact with the world, including its errors and heresies. If church is the only place one is Christian, Christ is not set apart as Lord of the person and his whole life. Christ does not box himself into some spiritual corner, all things are spiritual to one who is spiritual. “The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one” (1 Cor. 2:15). A large part of apologetics is knowing heresies – not believing them, but being fortified enough to study them and defend the truth of Jesus by refuting them. Most heresies – attacks against the faith – are seemingly rational and fit in with the mood of the age.
We must be prepared for the satanic teachings that we hear in the world. We should not be scared of errors, as if the content of our faith is not superior. If not prepared and on the lookout for false teachings, we will subtlety accept them unawares. Passive seclusion and being afraid of every worldly teacher claiming divine authority is escapism, not the product of a robust faith and scriptural knowledge. We have the truth of Christ, and the God-given ability to communicate it. We are not helplessly dependent on everyone who uses the name of Jesus piously, or even every pastor with a seminary diploma (or better). The Bible is replete with admonitions that every believer is to learn and eat the solid meat of God’s Word, so that we are all able to teach one another. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col. 3:16).
When talking to unbelievers we do not just quote Scripture and avoid them until they believe. Christianity is what we were made for – and explains the deepest mysteries of the world. God’s truth is the ultimate truth, with the answers all sinners seek, even if they don’t admit it or realize it.
Christianity describes God who became man for us – it has tangible connections with this world – since our God entered history. To spiritualize the Gospel, thinking it has no relation to this physical world, is to deny the very incarnation – the center of Christianity. Yes, reason is sorely abused, but we are not anti-rationalists, but must submit reason to the truth of Christ, to use it in the right way. Christianity touches all areas of life, including every thought and idea. The truth is simple but errors are often very intricate and complicate the biblical description of things. Jesus is Lord of the universe, not simply your perspective. It is quite easy to bottle up Jesus as a theoretical, hypothetical idea, rather than submitting to Him as Creator of all things. So we must interact with errors and those who disagree with us.
Ideas are not enough, but the person renewed in Spirit is new in body and mind. Too often we might be tempted to think winning the argument is enough. But God wants people – bodies and souls – to be His. Winning the day in an unloving way is not a reflection of Christ’s love. But letting people believe wrongly and not challenging error is also disastrous. Without the Spirit and power of the Gospel, an argument or presentation of evidence cannot do anything spiritual for an unbeliever. I learned that Sunday school was originally founded for children who worked in factories and so could not attend any school at all. Children were taught reading, because without the ability to read and write, it is impossible to dig deep into Scripture for oneself and be firmly grounded on the holy words of God.
Without solid reasoning and knowledge of the truth, Christians retreat into flimsy emotions and superstition. This can be termed the “pentecostilization of Christianity” – meaning many nonpentecostals by church confession are pentecostals in the heart, equating feelings with the basis of truth, without knowing it. “Jesus is the only God with a date in history.” If our faith is only internal, without connection to the physical world, then we cannot rationally discuss it – but that, however, is not the Christianity of the Bible.
A large portion of the course dealt with historical criticism, an area I have done some work in previously. This secular method of minimizing the author, deconstructing the text (making it say the opposite by reading uncharitably between the lines), and robbing Holy Scripture of its majestic authority is quite prevalent in Christianity today. This has come unfortunately from academics inside the church – even from seminary professors and pastors. It treats the Bible as something less than the Word of God that cannot be fully trusted in every single word. When the authority of Holy Scripture, and confidence in it, is diminished, the very foundation for all Christian doctrine is eroded.
A lot of this nonsense started in secular approaches to literature, after the so-called Enlightenment of the 17th century. New post-modern approaches (I was even taught a bit of this at seminary) deny the effectiveness of communication through the written or spoken word by making all words wishy-washy. But the fact that we can abuse language, does not mean God cannot speak clearly or with authority to us. That, however, does not mean that we as sinners will understand it (especially if we don’t know the language, etc.).
It was well said that we should not assume that any self-proclaimed Christian school (or church, or person, for that matter) is necessarily Christian in substance. A lot of these techniques (like the now popular critical race theory, or older critical literary theory) are proclaimed to be “neutral” methods. The way they abuse Shakespeare or the constitution becomes simply blasphemy when they apply these schemes to God’s Word. One LCMS seminary professor published a CPH book on the Gospel of Matthew, based on his PhD dissertation, approaching that scriptural book as entirely fiction, even though he also claimed, as a throw-away aside, to actually believe it is true personally (Jerusalem and Parousia: Jesus' Eschatological Discourse in Matthew's Gospel). His technique – how he treated God’s word rationally – was to treat it as a fairy tale with no real connection or earthly import for the modern reader. That denies its authority in practice, while theoretically is can still be called “God’s holy Word.”
How you treat and speak of God’s word is a confession. Methods of reading and interpretation – dealing with the holy God Himself – are not neutral. We must not just judge an institution by its name, historical, or legal connection – we must know what is actually being taught – and compare it to God’s Word. In the post-modern intellectual sphere, “truth” is considered just a ploy for power and a political attempt to get something. But the truth of Jesus has a doctrinal content and authority over all sinners.
We also looked at other religions and their foundations. We do not fear false gods, since we know they are not true gods, but rather the false teachings of demons. We can critique other beliefs and teachings in a rational way. Many eastern religions, such as Hinduism, tend to minimize the human personality. They teach that all desire is bad and to be gotten rid of. Only Christianity teaches the fulfillment of the person, and his desires, rather than their destruction, even in heaven.
Christianity is unique in that it stands or falls on its historical claims. 1 Cor. 15 states this very plainly: “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” Without the singular teaching of Christ’s rising, there is no hope for anyone, no matter how pious they are or how much they think they sincerely believe. That means that unlike other religions, Christianity is falsifiable. If the facts it depends on are not actually true, we have no reason to believe we have the truth and are actually lost.
“Climate change” faith was presented as an example of something not falsifiable: if every single weather event and pattern is assumed to be evidence of climate change, then nothing is – and it cannot be disproved, since it is rather a first principle, not a conclusion based on solid evidence, for the world. But the very nature of Christianity allows for us to deal with its truth in an earthly, evidential way, as if in a neutral courtroom seeking plain facts. We have more than our own believing to rely on.
Dr. Montgomery has spent much time defending Scripture in the form it has come to us. We don’t have the original autographs written by the inspired apostles, but we have thousands of manuscripts, some partial fragments going back to the second century – more than any other ancient work in recorded history. Modern critics assume the opposite, starting with satanic assumptions like God is not allowed to partake in history, so that miracles are ruled out ahead of time. That is a poor starting point to investigate the Bible or do interpretation of it. It is not neutral in the least, despite being presented in academic garb. For hundreds of years, antiChristian philosophers have tried to say that history cannot establish truth or that all miracles are unreasonable. But ruling out something before the evidence is even considered is more than a little biased. Only God can make god-like judgments, like the modern critic wishes to do, replacing the one they judge in intellectual rebellion.
The author C.S. Lewis was the subject of our lectures also. He was an adult convert to Christianity, a great writer, and a Christian celebrity in his day. He was Anglican and had his doctrinal problems to be sure, but was one of the greatest apologists of the 20th century. He used all sorts of defenses against the encroaching paganism to which Europe has succumbed nowadays. False ideas and excuses to not be Christian can be broken down with sound reasoning. We are not helpless infants in the world of ideas. Destroying these intellectual barriers does not automatically mean a person coming to faith, but this can help aid the Gospel in being heard and the Spirit working faith. “You can’t argue to God, you can only argue from God.” After some reflection, I have come to think that apologetics might be just as helpful for the believer, as the dealing with the unbeliever, if not more.
After a bit of philosophical apologetics, a good dose of historical and legal apologetics, we learned some scientific apologetics. Hearing the approach of one living in the midst of a very pagan society, as we are becoming in America, was helpful. Christians are painted as ignorant and dumb and believing in wild fairy-tales – despite the fact that many of the first scientists were believers and set out to show God’s genius design in creation. We live in an age of scientism, where material explanations from nature supposedly explain everything – the explanation of a god is not needed. Yet evolution, a key ingredient of modern paganism, is increasingly under attack in the secular realm. The Christian should know evolution well – so he can pinpoint its weaknesses and how improbable it is in scientific terms. Science is always changing (evolving) based on the accepted evidence, but God’s revealed truth does not. Evolution can give no meaning to life, and death must be accepted as a necessary and normal fact (even good, since it weeds out the weak and bad mutations). Only we have the answer to death – resurrection to eternal life. Death is an intruder and the punishment that Christ accepted on behalf of mortal sinners – not just a given part of nature to accept without qualms.
This world is cursed by sin, but God’s fingerprints remain on everything. We spent quite a bit of time showing how nature (God’s creation) knows more than us. Engineers often copy things in creation, since they show amazing design characteristics that we would not think of on our own. Nature speaks of the glory and eternity of God (Rom. 1), but we often do not listen.
One example is the gecko. A gecko's foot has nearly five hundred thousand hairs, each only a tenth of the diameter of a human hair, allowing this creature to go upside down. The hairs interact with surfaces in a special way, which is better than anything man has created with all his efforts. This was no accident! We have an extraordinary architect. We also discussed genetics and the changes within species (termed natural selection), as with the many breeds of dogs. Yet, these small changes are quite fast chronologically. Giving more time for evolution to occur does not answer the question of how one species does not become another. Evolution is a big lie built upon a small fact. But we should not be scared of it. There is no real power in error. We were told that the incredible information storage capacity in DNA is better than anything man has made technologically.
Dr. Montgomery, a brilliant and learned man (now in his 90’s) was very quotable: “There are as many apologetics in the world as there are facts.” In science we are given special words to explain things, that don’t really explain anything. A technical description is not a real explanation, and certainly not causation or purpose. But many are satisfied with a scientific soundbite that has the air of authority and expertise. He said that apologetics should start and end with the Gospel – it is not a method or process that one can just mechanically apply.
Every person has a starting point, a basis for what they believe. The non-Christian has a religious outlook on life, just not the right one. It is based on misplaced faith or superstition to some extent, since it is false. We can analyze these and approach them from the true perspective which Christianity gives us – since everything else must be ultimately false and unfulfilling. In the words of G. K. Chesterton, “the unbeliever has his doctrine against miracles.” People don’t become less religious, they embrace as creatures created to love and believe, false religious superstitions.
Truth is not just being personally certain, rather the statements we hold to actually correspond to reality. We discussed the problem of evil and various philosophical ideas that try to replace Christianity. The truth we hold to did not come from us, or our efforts, it was revealed from above by God. It does not have to be proven, but it means nothing else can be. That is a great help and comfort for the Christian. But the loss of trust in scriptural authority has led to the great decline in the church, meaning a loss of confidence in the Gospel. We can’t avoid questions of fact.
Much time was spent on legal apologetics and human rights also, as well has biblical authority. “There is no inerrant Gospel in an errant Scripture.” In a session on medical apologetics, we discussed the need for hospitality, not simply accepting sin and death as the final word, but witnessing to our hope in the restored world to come when Christ returns. The value of life is under significant attack in all areas of culture. But Christianity gives value to all the suffering, even that of the dying, through Christ’s creative and redemptive work.
It is not a coincidence that many hospitals have Christian names and origins – since we are to have the compassion that Christ, our God, had on the sick. Sin, illness, and disability are not from God, nor are they intended to be our fulfillment or end, rather it is man, through Satan’s temptation, that brought sin into the world. This fact changes how we look at life – its beginning and end, since God brings it forth and has the only authority to end it. Suicide, euthanasia, and abortion are unchristian at their core. They reflect a pagan view of the world and life itself, confessing that man’s existence has no intrinsic value or meaning. These grave sins are symptoms of people living without purpose and hope. God does not remove all suffering, but He gives us hope in the new heaven and earth He has promised.
In the same vein, marriage is not about fulfilling one’s desires, but serving within God’s institution, according to the purposes of marriage He created. We don’t make children, but husband and wife participate in God’s creation of new life. They are not ours, but His.
That hopefully gives you a sample and overview of the content we were taught. We did get to do typical sight-seeing excursions and had some unique eating and drinking experiences, but it was most encouraging to socialize with the other attendees from the U.S., Canada, and from Africa. Some were pastors (mostly LCMS and WELS), some were laymen (Lutheran and nonLutheran), but all took the Word of God seriously and cared deeply about defending its truth. Ironically it happened in a very pagan region that was once quite Christian.
The very magnificent large and ornate cathedral in Strasbourg was the tallest building in the world from 1647 to 1874. Mozart played on the organ in the church a half-block from our lecture hall. John Calvin stayed just a street over for a year. We even got to see Luther’s handwriting, in the editing of one of his publications in a nearby library. The history was historic, and the sights beautiful, but the experience helped us appreciate the people of God at Zion, who treasure and want to defend the truth of the Gospel, all the more.
A Message from Pastor Hale
Usury seems like an Old Testament concept and it is. The word is not even found in the ESV. The King James states God’s commands to the Israelites: “If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury” (Exodus 22:25); “Thou shalt not give him thy money upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase” (Leviticus 25:37). While we are not Jews, nor subject to OT civil or ceremonial laws, the moral principle of not hurting our neighbor by lending to someone in need to reap undue benefit is still valid according to the law of love. We are not to hurt our neighbor, but to help and support him.
Luther addresses the issue of usury from an evangelical point of view – not making a new law, but showing the motive which must come from the freedom of the Gospel, making us willingly suffer and not be greedy for what others have. A modern definition of usury is “the illegal action or practice of lending money at unreasonably high rates of interest.” Governments still have usury laws – there is a reason credit card companies have flocked to South Dakota with its friendly interest laws, and it is not because it is the center of the U.S. financial system.
Luther addresses the issues of lending (which is not the same as usury) in the relational way – not in the economic/business atmosphere of today. He speaks of lending to individuals in need, not impersonal banks or investment funds. He mentions greed and usury together as vices, not in a technical economic description.
A few things make Luther’s explanation simplistic for our day. Our potentially (and current) rapid inflation makes the interest not pure profit, but potentially a loss (if untied to an inflation index). Also there was no debt forgiveness or easy bankruptcy in Luther’s day. It was much closer to the Bible’s culture where a man could be imprisoned or even his family sold if he did not keep his word to repay. It was a way to literally enslave a desperate person in need by debt – not by helping them, but taking advantage of them to gain a long-term profit.
Mentioning the Law of love, Luther says we should want to help our neighbor, not hurt him. It is apparent that credit card loans approaching 30% interest or payday loans even higher do not help the poor they prey on. That is clearly usurious. Notice what part of town these types of places are in. Do payday loan places and the like advance the community or take from it?
The risk of borrowing is much greater today, especially with a crowd-funded or personal loan today. People might lose a possession if they fail to make payment (repossession), but failure to pay an unsecured credit card loan has few physical repercussions – compared to how the Bible describes failure to repay a loan: “And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made” (Mt. 18:25). Some today even go the opposite way, by taking advantage of the easy money and much looser financial laws: spending freely on a credit card with no intention of repaying – which is morally theft.
Luther is not a firm moralistic, but applies the evangelical precepts in a spiritual way – directing his hardest words at the heart of man, not his financial instruments. We often want to get into a technical discussion, when the heart of the law is quite simple: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Of course sinners want to profit with little work – off the backs of the ignorant and poor – but God’s people cannot do that and please the Lord also. A “loan shark” is a person not out to help the poor and needy, but extort and hurt people. A person lending at high interest is not called a “loan puppy” for a reason.
The Nebraska state government has this law stated online: “any rate of interest which may be agreed upon, not exceeding sixteen percent per annum on the unpaid principal balance, shall be valid upon any loan or forbearance of money, goods, or things in action and may be taken yearly, for any shorter period, or in advance, if so expressly agreed.” Theft is not always by force and hurting people is not always illegal. It is not just a religious issue, but about the basic treatment of the relationships between the wealthy with money to lend and those desirous of it. Jesus teaches us a new dimension to the OT laws, to live according to God’s will in heart, not just by regulation: “And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil” (Luke 6:33-35).
Luther does not equate simply borrowing and lending with immoral usury, though they can be connected. He speaks of the lender having similar risks to the borrower – which is sometimes the case today where debts so easily go unpaid (and unpunished). He mentions a modest interest rate (5%) that is not about taking, but a fair price for a potential income.
I recommend reading the whole treatise carefully (it is easily found online). Luther is not a simplistic moralist, but he thinks about this issue in a careful and biblical way. God’s law and human nature have not changed, despite the more sophisticated economy in which we partake.
Excerpts from “A Treatise on Usury”
It would be impossible to become pure of our attachment to temporal goods, if God did not decree that we should be unjustly injured, and exercised thereby in turning our hearts away from the false temporal goods of the world, letting them go in peace, and setting our hopes on the invisible and eternal goods. Therefore he who requires that which is his own, and does not let the cloak go after the coat is resisting his own purification and the hope of eternal salvation, for which God would exercise him and to which He would drive him. And even though everything were taken from us, there is no reason to fear that God will desert us and not provide for us even in temporal matters; as it is written in Psalm 37:25, “I have been young and have grown old, and have never seen that the righteous was deserted or his children went after bread.” This is proved in the case of Job also, who received in the end more than he had before, though all that he had was taken from him. For, to put it briefly, these commandments are intended to loose us from the world and make us desirous of heaven. Therefore we ought peacefully and joyfully to accept the faithful counsel of God, for if He did not give it, and did not let wrong and unhappiness come to us, the human heart could not maintain itself; it entangles itself too deeply in temporal things and attaches itself to them too tightly, and the result is satiety and disregard of the eternal goods in heaven.
Now comes the second degree. It is that we give our goods freely to everyone who needs them or asks for them. Of this also our Lord Jesus Christ speaks in Matthew 5, “He who asks of thee, to him give.” Although this degree is much lower than the first, it is, nevertheless, hard and bitter for those who have more taste for the temporal than for the eternal goods; for they have not enough trust in God to believe that He can or will maintain them in this wretched life.
We come now to the third degree of dealing with temporal goods. It is that we willingly and gladly lend without charges or interest.
Of this our Lord Jesus Christ says, in Matthew 5:42, “He that would borrow of thee, from him turn not,” that is, “do not refuse him.” This degree is the lowest of all and is commanded even in the Old Testament, where God says, in Deuteronomy 15:7, “If anyone of thy brethren in thy city become poor, thou shalt not harden thy heart against him nor shut thy hand; but that shalt open it and lend him all that he needs”; and they have allowed this degree to remain a commandment, for all the doctors agree that borrowing and lending shall be free, without charge or burden, though all may not be agreed on the question to whom we ought to lend.
But he who lends expects to receive back the same thing that he lends, and if he expects nothing, then, according to their interpretation, it would be a gift and not a loan. Because, then, it is such a little thing to make a loan to one who is a friend, or rich, or who may render some service in return, that even sinners who are not Christians do the same thing, Christians ought to do more, and lend to those who do not the same, i.e., to the needy and to their enemies.
It follows that they are all usurers who lend their neighbor wine, grain, money, or the like, in such a way that he obligates himself to pay charges on it in a year or at a given time; or that he burdens and overloads himself with a promise to give back more than he has borrowed, or something else that is better. And in order that these men may themselves perceive the wrong that they are doing — though the practice has, unfortunately, become common — we set before them three laws.
Therefore it is not enough that this business should be rescued by canon law from the reproach of usury, for that does not rid it of or secure it against avarice and self -love; and from the canon law we find that it is not directed toward love, but toward self-seeking.
For who would not rather invest a hundred gulden for income than trade with it, since in trade he might lose twenty gulden in a year, and his capital besides, while in this business he cannot lose more than five, and keeps his capital? Moreover, in trade his money must often be inactive because of the market (Der wahr halben), or because of his own physical condition, while in this business it is moving and earning all the time
The only way of defending this business against the charge of usury — and it would do so better than all talk of interest — would be that the buyer of income have the same risk and uncertainty about his income that he has about all his other property. For with his property the receiver of income is subject to the power of God — death, sickness, flood, fire, wind, hail, thunder, rain, wolves, wild beasts, and the manifold losses inflicted by wicked men. All these risks should apply to the buyer of income, for upon this, and on nothing else, his income rests; nor has he any right to receive income for his money, unless the payer of the income, or seller of the property, specifically agrees, and can have free and entire and unhindered use of his own labor.
Again it happens that both buyer and seller need their property, and therefore neither of them can lend or give, but they have to help themselves with such a bargain. If this is done without breaking the church-law which provides for the payment of four, five, or six gulden on the hundred, it can be endured; but respect should be always had for the fear of God, which fears to take too much rather than too little, in order that avarice may not have its way in a decent business deal. The smaller the percentage the more divine and Christian the deal.
It is not my affair, however, to point out when one ought to pay five, four, or six percent. I leave it for the law to decide when the property is so good and so rich that one can charge six percent. It is my opinion, however, that if we were to keep Christ’s command about the first three degrees, the purchase of incomes would not be so common or so necessary, except in cases where the amounts were considerable and the properties large.
There are some who not only deal in little sums, but also take too much return — seven, eight, nine, ten percent. The rulers ought to look into this. Here the poor common people are secretly imposed upon and severely oppressed. For this reason these robbers and usurers often die an unnatural and sudden death, or come to a terrible end (as tyrants and robbers deserve), for God is a judge for the poor and needy, as He often says in the Old Law.
There is also in this business a dangerous tendency, from which I fear that none of the buyers of income — at least very few of them — are free. It is that they want their income and their property to be sure and safe, and therefore place their money with others, instead of keeping it and taking risks. They very much prefer that other people shall work with it and take the risks, so that they themselves can be idle and lazy, and yet stay rich or become rich. If that is not usury, it is very much like it. Briefly, it is against God. If you seek to take an advantage of your neighbor which you will not let him take of you, then love is gone and the natural law is broken. Now, I fear that, in this buying of income, we pay little heed to the success of our neighbor, if only our income and our property are safe, though safety is the very thing we ought not to seek. This is certainly a sign of greed or laziness, and although it does not make the business worse, it is, nevertheless, sin in the eyes of God.