20 January 2018


The erudite Professor William Tighe has pointed to the Princeton University Press Blog for 31 October last year, in which Professor Richard Rex (author of a recent book on Luther which has received rave reviews) offered his own 95 theses, largely designed to explode the vast Searle-like, Piranesi-like, quasi-Hesiodic edifice of interlocking myths which have grown up around the 'fraterculus' Martin Luther and his strangely-denominated 'Reformation'. I recommend it. The theses, I mean, not the Reformation.


Anonymous said...

I heard a priest once refer to "The Deformation" and "The Endarkenment". Sounds about right to me.

John F H H said...


For those who like a link

Highland Cathedral said...

XLIX Neither Luther nor any other Reformer advocated the right of the individual to make up their own minds about what the Bible taught.
Yes, it’s a myth that he did. But what did he say instead?

LXXXIX Luther invented the concept of the ‘invisible church’.
It would be interesting to know when Luther came up with this idea and how his ideas developed in that direction.

Anonymous said...

@Highland Cathedral: Luther and his cohorts insisted on the principle of "sola Scriptura" - the written Word of God interpreted by the supposedly direct illumination of the Holy Spirit upon the individual conscience independent from the Magisterium and Tradition of the Church and even in opposition to the visible Body of Christ on earth. This leads immediately and inevitably to "private judgement" in matters of faith and morals and the consequent splintering of God's people into myriad erroneous sects. Whether that is what he intended or clearly foresaw is not really what matters. It is the unavoidable outcome of his doctrine, and one which followed very quickly on his stubborn, intemperate and heretical insistence on it. He was nothing but a rabid destroyer of the flock and an enemy of the Truth.

Randolph Crane said...

@Highland Cathedral

I think you are incorrect. Luther indeed did call for a subjective interpretation of Holy Scripture. He "abolished" Tradition, and claimed that the Saints (especially Augustine) could only be seen as guides, not as part of a stream of Tradition as the Catholic Church views it. He himself re-arranged the Bible to his own liking, and he consciously changed words he did not like to those that supported his ideas. The Epistle of James in Luther's eyes was "Stroh", meaning straw - unimportant rubbish. There was no magisterium nor Tradition, leaving everyone for themselves. He encouraged the subjective interpretation of Holy Scripture.

Luther did not invent the concept of an "invisible Church". The Church always had and has a visible, and an invisible aspect to it. We can see the visible Church in Earth, "substitit in" the Catholic Church. The invisible parts of it are the Ecclesia triumphans in Heaven, and the Ecclesia paenitens in Purgatory. Luther misinterpreted this, as he always did, and thus "invented" a new concept of the invisible Church, something compleely foreign to the actual meaning of the term.

William Tighe said...

"LXXXIX Luther invented the concept of the ‘invisible church’.
It would be interesting to know when Luther came up with this idea and how his ideas developed in that direction."

See pp. 136-141 of the book, which explains in detail when, how, and why Luther invented the concept of the invisibility of the Church. Somewhere in the book (I can't now locate the place) Rex states that the concept of "an invisible Church" was the logical outcome of the (identical) ecclesiologies of Wycliffe and Hus, but that they never went on to draw or enunciate it.

"Luther did not invent the concept of an 'invisible Church'. The Church always had and has a visible, and an invisible aspect to it."

This is beside the point. For Luther "the Church," full stop, was invisible. Churches (congregations) might "manifest" the invisible Church, but only partially.

Ivanmijeime said...

Btw. what is commonly unknown and/or underestimated is the "Historical fact: Martin Luther was a millionaire!" - https://tudomine.wordpress.com/2017/11/03/historische-tatsache-martin-luther-war-millionaer/

Google translation engine:
"Hans Conrad Zander has dug it out and pronounced it and everyone can, at present, listen and wonder, or get upset. Ironically, the WDR5 broadcast Zeitzeichen broadcasted it on October 31, the Reformation Day. And the public-law media do not lie, did everything in detail: Martin Luther was a multi-millionaire!

Luther left his heirs a fortune of three million euros . His wealth consisted of land, houses, jewelery, gold, etc. The "reformer" who polemicized against the " Catholic mongeries and usurers " was multimillionaire.

Why does this Luther story remind me of Cardinal Marx?

500 years lie between these two church princes; - did not learn anything? Yes, of course, because everything is fine, everything is legal. Cardinal Marx deserves it! He has enjoyed a long education and is very responsible! And I say: with the same responsibility he would get many times more in the free economy. So, those who are upset are all jealous. What are already 12,500 euros a month for the Cardinal compared to the millions of Martin Luther ...!"

Randolph Crane said...

@William Tighe:

My comment was absolutely not besides the point. You even agreed with me in you last sentence! The Protestant view exemplified by Luther is, that the Church is fully invisible and heavenly, basically the "Congregation of the Just". On Earth, the congregation only participates in this Church, but it is not really a part of it. And not everyone belonging to a congregation also belongs to the Church since there are many who have been doomed to eternal damnation in Hell from the beginning of time (cf. Luther's predestination theology based on a misunderstanding of Augustine).

I was stating that the Church (and by that, I mean the real one) says otherwise. The earthly parts of Her are not just "participating", but the Ecclesia militans IS the Church, but on the other hand, only one part of Her, besides the E. triumphans and paenitens.

William Tighe said...

Randolph Crane,

Points taken. I seem to have mis-taken your comment, and am happy to see that we are (I think) in agreement.

Pastor Peters said...

Luther gets blamed for everything anyone wants to complain about. These 95 counter theses are not all accurate or fair. Frankly, the arguments are diminished by the fact that so many of Luther's Roman Catholic critics have only read stereotypical critiques of Luther instead of Luther. Did Luther exaggerate both his own positions and those of his critics? Probably. Did Rome exaggerate both Luther's positions and their own critical response? Probably. I find it hard to see how Trent can condemn and anathematize words taken almost verbatim from St. Paul and it not be exaggeration. Rex is interesting but it is pretty funny that much of his take on Luther is opposed by nearly all Luther scholars (Protestant, Roman Catholic, and secular). It is hard to take all of Luther's critics seriously when they cry the sky is falling to anything and everything he has said. Let me suggest something. Instead of only focusing on what Luther said in dispute, try looking also at what Luther did. Luther in practice is more careful, cautious, and catholic than Luther in print.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

"It would be interesting to know when Luther came up with this idea and how his ideas developed in that direction."

Presumably when discovering that without it, he would have some trouble explaining the visible whereabouts of the Church between Matthew 28 and his own day.

Randolph Crane said...

First, I want to apologise for my horrible spelling. It is not intentional.

@William Tighe: I am sure we are in agreement.

@Pastor Peters: I also agree with you, but only partly. In the past, both Catholic and Protestant sides were exaggerating the other side's claims. Today, I find that is more true coming from Protestants who still love to claim Catholics worship Saints etc.

The things I have read from Rex on the point of Luther is not all correct. I would always recommend to read Johann Adam Möhler and Paul Hacker in the matter. They beautifully and without any polemics compare Catholic doctrine with what the Protestants teach, especially Luther.

The Council of Trent did not anathematise anything St. Paul wrote. That would be ridiculous. They condemned misunderstandings, but never Holy Scripture itself. That is also impossible since the Council was guided by the Holy Spirit, which is the Spirit of Truth.

You also cannot separate a "Luther in practice" from a "Luther in print". It was Luther. I cannot spill heresies, but go to Mass and be the most pious Catholic. That's not how the world works. I see this as an attempt of yours to defend and justify Luther, but it doesn't work out. Luther murdered a man during a duel. Luther married a nun. I could go on. If you want to look at his life, the verdict will even be more devastating.

Duane said...

Pastor Peters,

Sorry, your comments do not bear up under scrutiny. There are so many Roman Catholic critics of Luther, that have read EVERYTHING he wrote.

You say he quoted St. Paul almost verbatim. So what? He could have quoted St.Paul verbatim, and still be clearly wrong, if he misunderstood what St. Paul was saying, which clearly Luther did.

Trent anathematized what Luther added, and his doctrine of sola fide, which more than one Protestant scholar has admitted to be a theological novum. Luther himself admits that his doctrine was never taught by any ECF, when he wrote that when he realized that neither Augustine, nor any other church father understood Paul the way he did, he was through with all of them.

Pastor Peters said...

Try Daniel Olivier and his Luther's Faith or Philip Krey and his The Catholic Luther or Martin Luther: Catholic Dissident. . . or check out the Lutheran treatments of Luther. Not like Bainton (not a Lutheran) and his hero worship but honest appraisals without any attempt to hide his flaws.

But. . . the big issue here is that Lutherans are not bound to Luther's writings but only to the Confessions, called the Concordia, of which the Augsburg Confession is not only primary but the most catholic -- even in the opinion of the Roman readers to whom it was presented.

All I am saying is that Lutherans are probably just as tired of the big Luther year as anyone else is and yet we are also tired of Luther being demonized as somehow responsible for all that is wrong with Roman Catholicism and, indeed, all of Christianity. Compare Luther and Calvin or Luther and Zwingli or Luther and any of the radical reformers. Actually go to a Lutheran Church (and not the kind the post dealt with in Lund that are hardly Lutheran at all). You might be surprised.

Randolph Crane said...

It is true that Luther is not universally praised. Lutheran scholars often distance themselves from him. But in public, Luther is universally treated as a hero, a reformer, and even a Church Father. Not primarily by Lutherans, but by Catholics. That's why 2017 was such a big year, especially for Catholic theologians who just couldn't stop to cheer for him.

The Augsburg Confession is an important document, any maybe it is the most Catholic. That is something I am very willing to believe. But that doesn't mean it is Catholic. Both sides bear a fault in the Reformation and what happened in its context. Many ideas Luther had, as well as other reformers as Melanchthon, Calvin, Hus, Zwingli, etc. are based upon Catholic doctrine, but unfortunately, they completely misunderstood it. For example the Eucharist. Transsubstantiation was a teaching as old as the Church itself, but it was really developed with Saint Thomas Aquinas. Luther knew Aquinas, but his own philosophical formation was that of a nominalist. He misunderstood Aquinas, and thus he couldn't bear to follow this teaching, because to him, it did not make sense, and it was sacrilegious. What he could have done was to research further, but through his nominalist glasses, he could only see what he was taught to see, and so he didn't see the true Catholic doctrine.

Luther is certainly not the reason for everything wrong in society, Christianity, or the Catholic Church. But he is not a Saint, either.

My Father Confessor was, if I remember correctly, a Lutheran. He is a convert. And he is actually a very nice and kind person. There is a lot which can be done if both sides listen, and in the end, truth will guide us.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

It would seem the Concordia or Augsburg, while less un-Catholic than for instance Calvin or Bucer, is even so too un-Catholic.

I am saying this as an ex-Lutheran, however, I did not read it on end, I did not study theology.

For instance, it says the Eucharist is NOT a sacrifice, other than of praise (and perhaps even in a larger sense, not the strict sense), contrary to Trent, it is a true sacrifice and truly propitiatory. Even more, Real Presence restricted to "in, with and under the bread in the moment of reception". No transsubstantiation, no enduring real presence, no tabernacles.

Duane said...

Pastor Peters,

Do you not realize that all the other Reformers just went a little farther than he? They are the logical second, third, snd fourth step to his first!!! Did they themselves not do exactly what Luther had done? Did not Luther write to Leo saying he would accept the decision that Leo gave, and when the decision came out, Luther reject it?

You aasume so much. I've been to many a Lutheran church. What am I supposed to be surprised by?

Yes the Augsburg Confession sounds catholic, but their are mistakes that make it unacceptable to Catholicism.