As we are “celebrating” 499 years of Protestantism, I figured I need to read up on the subject so I can better argue the Catholic position on why the Reformation was bad for Christianity as a whole. While the Church needed to be reformed, there was no need for a full blown revolution and I feel as if the Reformation has done more harm than good to the western world. Are there any good books out there that highlights this view point or do I need to eventually write one myself?
The only real answer is found in the Gospels, where the first Protestant changes his mind and returns to the Church.
Luther, Calvin, et. al., stood up in front of the Church saying, “You got it wrong; I can show you the right way to go.” and then proceeded to define the Church and Gospel anew.
The first Protestant did the same, standing in front of the Body of Christ, and saying, "Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to You.”
Peter was now about to define Jesus’ Kingship and Kingdom. If not for the command of the Master (“Get back behind me as my follower, you Satan, if you or anyone wishes to follow behind me, and take your cross as I do.”) Peter would have done like Luther and the others, and made up a pretend religion as children play games at being adults, without knowing what they are really doing, constantly modifying their “game” as problems arise.
I have found that every answer to the so-called “reformation” can be found in the Church Fathers and Doctors of the Church. I once tried taking the 95 theses and answering them with Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, and it was a fairly easy task per thesis; It is as if Thomas anticipated every objection Luther had, and had answered them 300 years earlier (too bad Luther did not read Thomas - bad taste in his mouth from Scholastic interpreters of Thomas, I would guess, so he never turned directly to Thomas to find the loving God to end his fears of the judgmental Jesus he knew, but instead devised a method of eliminating judgement.)
We do not talk children out of making up games of how life works, but we display the real world to them virtuously, and eventually they put away their childish things and games.
In 2010, seventy weeks of years after the burning of the Pope’s warning in his Papal Bull of Excommunication (refusing to “get behind” and follow), Martin Luther returned to follow “behind” again in obedience to the Body of Christ.
John Martin Luther
(Martin, my confirmation name, and Luther, my middle name)
We are not so much “celebrating” as remembering, and examining what Catholics and Protestants have in common, and trying to work towards one people of God.
Others have said (but not being a student of Reformation history, I cannot say how true it may be) that Martin Luther did not mean to split the Church, but only to correct it, yet somehow the movement got out of control.
There must be good books about it. I look forward to learning about them in your thread.
Great answer, John.
Look at how many thousand of Protestant (protesting) denominations there are. There are so many splinters of the Truth. Any group who denies the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist or the Seven Sacraments has truly lost out on something great.
Honestly, this might sound like a snide remark and I don’t mean it to sound that way…but the Catechism of the Catholic Church is the best anti-reformation book in existence, imo. It gives us such a definitive understanding of true Christianity, which as result leads to proper rebuttals of these modern reformed ideas.
But another one I keep hearing about is called “Faith of the Early Fathers”. It’s a 3 volume set by Jurgens on the early church. The reader can compare the early Church to the reformed Church and do the math from there. If reformed folks saw how truly Catholic the early Church was, it would call into serious question their own soteriology.
It’s not clear what specifically your goal/area of research is here. Are you looking for apologetics against Protestant errors? A better understanding of the Catholic faith as the true Church of the historical and Biblical testimony? An understanding of what happened at the Reformation and the consequences?
In response to the last question, there wasn’t a need for reform in the Church the way we normally think. Things weren’t as bad as we are often told, and those things were correcting themselves on their own. Some sources say that even Luther nailing the thesis to the Church door is a historical fiction (and the 95 thesis actually affirmed purgatory, they just protested selling indulgences in doing so).
The main consequence of the Deformation was a complete questioning of the entire Christian Faith, with the ultimate consequence being Liberalism-Atheism. If this and that could be thrown out or questioned, and if the Protestants saw the Sacrament as magic superstition (“hokey pokey” and “hocus pocus” comes from Protestants making fun of Hoc Est, This Is My Body, in the Latin Mass), then Christianity as a whole becomes less and less of a Divinely Revealed religion and more of a man-made religion that evolved over time to meet needs, and as we become more ‘enlightened’ we can throw out or improve upon any aspects of the faith as we see fit. Even the most conservative Protestants are utter liberal-atheists in that they reject Sacraments as means of grace and question the Bible/Creed when they feel like it (e.g. Protestants don’t know if John 8 or the ‘longer ending’ of Mark 16 is inspired).
By throwing out the Mass, Protestants basically threw out Christian worship ENTIRELY. Now Protestants gather around on Sunday to sit in front of a man at a podium giving them a Bible study. This is nowhere commanded in Scripture and it isn’t actual worship, it’s a glorified Bible study. The result is nations and large populations not worshiping God at all.
So picture this, even the most devout, God-fearing, Bible-loving Protestants are (1) not worshiping God, (2) throwing out anything that is too mystical/spiritual for fear of ‘magic’, and settling for ‘reasonable’ piety, (3) throwing out hierarchy in church and society, (4) not really believing in a set of divinely revealed doctrines, (5) dont know if their Bible is inspired, (6) settling into an individualist religion and ‘invisible’ church, (6) have no sense of continuity with the past, and (7) no actual communion with the world-wide Body.
I like to distinguish between the historical question - Might the Catholic Church have successfully reformed itself without the schism of the Reformation? - from the contemporary questions about the validity of faith, worship, etc. among non-Catholic Christians today.
Regarding the latter, I recommend books co-authored by Catholics and non-Catholic Christians. I currently have one checked out of a library. Below are links to information about the book from the publisher, and from Amazon.
I swear by this book…by Louis Bouyer:
Why Catholicism Makes Protestantism Tick: Louis Bouyer on the Reformation | Mark Brumley
Yet we can go further than decrying the Reformation as unnecessary. In his ground-breaking work, The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism, Louis Bouyer argued that the Catholic Church herself is necessary for the full flowering of the Reformation principles. In other words, you need Catholicism to make Protestantism work–for Protestantism’s principles fully to develop. Thus, the Reformation was not only unnecessary; it was impossible. What the Reformers sought, argues Bouyer, could not be achieved without the Catholic Church.
From Bouyer’s conclusion we can infer at least two things. First, Protestantism can’t be all wrong, otherwise how could the Catholic Church bring about the “full flowering of the principles of the Reformation”? Second, left to itself, Protestantism will go astray and be untrue to some of its central principles. It’s these two points, as Bouyer articulates them, I would like to consider here.
I would recommend that you read up on Cardinal Contarini…
He used his influence with the pope to suppress abuses in the papal government and to secure virtuous men for the Sacred College. Contarini was the president of a commission appointed by the pope in 1536 to submit plans for a reform of evils in the Roman Curia or in other parts of the Church. It was largely due to him that, early in 1537, the commission could present its programme, the “Consilium de emendandâ ecclesiâ”. He advised the pope not to abuse the great jurisdiction placed in his hands; and encouraged his friends among the bishops to take appropriate measures for discipline and good order in their dioceses, setting an example in his own Diocese of Cividale di Belluno, to which he was appointed in October, 1536.
At the desire of Charles V, Contarini was sent as papal legate to Germany in 1541, and took part in the conference held at Ratisbon between Catholicsand Protestants in hope of conciliating the latter. As it gradually became evident that the differences in doctrine could not be bridged over, the conference was broken off; Contarini remitted the final decision of all articles of faith to the pope, and returned to Rome.
And I would also recommend Bouyer’s book too.
My opinion of Martin Luther was spoiled by actually reading his own writings tbh. I’ve never read anything by a more self-absorbed, narcissistic person in my life. He was against anything that disagreed with him, even other Protestant leaders, like Calvin, and Zwingli. He was actually…well, kind of a fascist.
The Reformation chapter in Philip Hughes history of the church deals with Protestantism in a fair, but theologically blunt manner.
Theres also the chapter about Protestantism in M L Cozens “A Handbook of Heresies”. Which, if you can’t tell by the title, is pretty black and white about where Protestantism stands relative to the Church
Thanks for the suggestion! I had never heard of this, and found an interesting article on it: " The Diplomatic Role of Gasparo Cardinal Contarini at the Colloquy of Ratisbon of 1541" by Heinz Mackensen (Fairleigh Dickinson University), published in Church History, Vol. 27, No. 4 (Dec., 1958), pp. 312-337.
Indeed, if only those seeking reconciliation, including Contarini, had been trusted more by the principles of their respective sides (Luther, and the Pope). Here’s how Mackensen puts it:
“The collocutors were, for the Catholic side, Eck, Gropper and Julius von Pflug, and for the Protestant side, Melanchthon, Butzer and Pistorius … In a series of twenty-three articles, principal points of theology were set forth in a manner as conciliatory to both sides as possible. When Contarini first saw the book he noted about twenty changes as necessary in order to eliminate errors. He further added the term transubstantiatio in the margin of the article dealing with the eucharist. The Catholic collocutors met Contarini each morning and he discussed with them the questions being currently considered…the collocutors, after some changes of the text, agreed upon the first four articles of the book (on the creation of man and his state before the fall, on free will, on the cause of sin, and on original sin). The fifth article dealt with man’s justification. As was to be expected this article led to long debate and great differences of opinion, but an article was finally developed which all the collocutors (Eck included), and Contarini as well, accepted. This success was, however, the beginning of the end. Luther in Wittenberg and the pope in Rome refused to accept this article.”
Almost 500 years later, progress has been made.
I expected that a little sooner.
Or, to do the Bellocian perspective up right, add his books on Wolsey, Cranmer, Eliizabeth, and the fourth volume of his HISTORY OF ENGLAND
The Faith of Our Fathers by James Cardinal Gibbons
Where We Got The Bible by Bishop Henry G. Graham.
Well, first of all it’s a good idea in any historical inquiry to read a wide variety of sources rather than going in already knowing what you are going to think
That being said, Brad Gregory’s The Unintended Reformation is a magisterial work detailing ways in which Gregory believes the Reformation led to modern secularism. It’s been attacked by a lot of Reformation scholars and is vulnerable to plenty of criticisms, but I think its general thesis is sound and it’s a book well worth taking seriously.
Gerald Strauss’ Luther’s House of Learning is a good (though controversial) attempt to answer the question “was the Reformation a success?” in the negative, defined by what Strauss sees as the Reformers’ own criteria.
The “revisionist” scholars of the English Reformation have done a lot to demolish the “Whig narrative”–Eamon Duffy’s Stripping the Altars is perhaps the best-known of these works.
But really, the best approach is to read good works of scholarship from a variety of perspectives.
Also, the four-part series on the Reformation that Christian HIstory magazine is doing (the third issue, on Calvin and confessionalization, will be appearing shortly and we’re recruiting authors for the fourth issue, which will cover the Catholic Reformation and the aftermath of the Reformation) attempts to avoid Protestant triumphalism. My wife edits the magazine and I’m the scholar-advisor for the series. There’s also a movie coming out, This Changed Everything, produced by the same folks who run the magazine, and my wife and I have hammered away at the triumphalism found in the first draft. Apparently they then showed it to some Catholics who gave further criticisms, so that the present version is very ecumenical (I haven’t seen the final version myself), to the point that one prominent evangelical journalist told me that he found it too “downbeat” about the Reformation.
I’ve had two professors at the Augustine Institute recommend this book.
And I agree that one can see secularism spinning out of the reformation. Disunity in the Body of Christ produced the bad fruit that we see today.
It’s on my Christmas list.