Reformation Discussion with Protestant Friend


#1

My friend reads alot about the Reformation and then sings Luther’s praises and tells me how corrupt the Church was.

I told him that if he always reads books by Protestant authors, then he will always come to the same, misinformed conclusions.

I suggested that he read Hilaire Belloc’s book on the Reformation and he agreed to do so, in order to gain a Catholic perspective.

In turn, he asked me if I would be willing to watch the recently made video on Luther so I could see that point of view. I am not comfortable doing so.

How would you respond to this? Would you watch the video that portrays Luther as a hero, just to get someone to read a Catholic version of the Reformation?


#2

[quote=stjosephtomasi]My friend reads alot about the Reformation and then sings Luther’s praises and tells me how corrupt the Church was.

I told him that if he always reads books by Protestant authors, then he will always come to the same, misinformed conclusions.

I suggested that he read Hilaire Belloc’s book on the Reformation and he agreed to do so, in order to gain a Catholic perspective.

In turn, he asked me if I would be willing to watch the recently made video on Luther so I could see that point of view. I am not comfortable doing so.

How would you respond to this? Would you watch the video that portrays Luther as a hero, just to get someone to read a Catholic version of the Reformation?
[/quote]

Whether or not you like it or are comfortable about it, you are in “apologetic mode” with your friend. This intellectual exercise requires you to do something not expected of other Catholics. Absolutely watch it for two reasons:

  1. You can’t very well ask him to explore “heretical” or “biased” readings w/o expecting to return the favor. All you have to do is always note when you know something is against Church Teaching and be aware that some things might be subtly presented contrary to the faith so be sure not to accept anything as necessarily true w/o proper confirmation. In this movie, the primary inaccuracy (as I’m told) is the subtle re-writing the History to falsely present the condition of the Church to justify Luther’s schism. However, keep in mind that there was corruption but not to the degree Luther would like you to believe.

  2. The movie and other Reformation sources that present information from their perspective (accuracy sprinkled w/ inaccuracy) will better prepare you to deal with his perspective. You can’t effectively minister to him and reveal the Truth if you don’t have a good understanding of where your friend is right now (effectively you are practicing some “Woman at the Well” apologetics).


#3

This is good advice and I will definitely do so.

Thanks!


#4

Go ahead and watch it, and also read the articles from Catholic writers about the movie. The movie is not exactly accurate, and it would be wise to know what the inaccuracies are. I think Stephen Greydanus (Catholic movie critic) may have written about this: at least that’s a place to start. Also, go to “First Things” website (it might be firstthings.com but I’m not sure) and see if Fr. Neuhaus wrote about it—I think he may have, but my memory may be off. Use “Luther” in the search engine at the site and see what you get.


#5

stjoseph:
Just agreeing with the other responses…go ahead and get into the movie—then do the homework in clarifying true history. Thumbs up on getting him to read Belloc. Easy to read and he gives a wider scope compared to many historians.

Lastly and more importantly, authentic friendship, prayer and moritification for your friend is the best help you can give…the rest depend on these.

God bless.

in XT.


#6

ask your friend to read,

WARNING: This is a Notorious Antisemitic Document!

On the Jews and Their Lies, 1543 by Martin Luther (1483 - 1546)
humanitas-international.org/showcase/chronography/documents/luther-jews.htm

And ask what his opinion of this document is.


#7

Would you be willing to read equally anti-Jewish writings by Catholic theologians such as John Eck? Eck defended the “blood libel,” which Luther did not. I challenge any Catholic to tell me one anti-Jewish belief (not rhetoric) Luther held that was not shared by a large number of his Catholic contemporaries.

The bigger point is that we gain accurate knowledge of the Reformation by reading sound scholarship, whether Protestant or Catholic. Belloc was a very smart and educated propagandist, but he was not a reliable historian. There are Catholics who have made polemical claims about the Reformation and supported them with meticulous research–Johannes Janssen’s History of the German People at the Close of the Middle Ages is one example. (I still have problems with Janssen’s methods–he piles up quotations without context, which is one mark of the propagandist. But he’s a respected historian. Even someone like Hartmann Grisar is far more reliable than Belloc. And then there are contemporary figures like Eamon Duffy.)

Edwin


#8

[quote=stjosephtomasi]In turn, he asked me if I would be willing to watch the recently made video on Luther so I could see that point of view. I am not comfortable doing so.
[/quote]

I’m curious as to the reason for your reluctance (aside from having a stack of GK Chesterton and Scott Hahn books to read). When I informed my Protestant parents (full-time ministers) of my intent to be confirmed in the Catholic Church, my mom told me to go read some Martin Luther. I won’t tell you what I said :stuck_out_tongue: but I will tell you that the thought that ran through my head was, “Yes, I should. This would so solidly confirm what I believe and the action I take in pursuing and living out those beliefs.”

It’s kind of like certain vegatables…or certain alcohols…it may not always taste great, but it aids in digestion. :wink:


#9

You wont really fairly balance out your beliefs without checking into how to handle objections. If you are going to be sharing your faith it is good to see the other sides view on this.

That is why I have a bunch of anti-catholic books now, after a while though it is tiresome to see the same rehashed objections over and over when you have checked into them, just because some of them are so blatantly mis-representing Catholicism it bothers me that people do that sort of thing.

Whenever I now talk to someone about the faith or they talk to me about theirs I invite them to study with me and we will search for truth together. Most people not really seeking truth will not want to, some like your friend are a little openhearted and should be given the courtesy of equal time in seeking truth.

Ask them to see if the Catholic Church or his alternative, is being presented fairly and the objections presented fairly and if there are answers to those objections and so forth until you find which side best represents truth and consistancy.

God Bless
Scylla


#10

[quote=stjosephtomasi]My friend reads alot about the Reformation and then sings Luther’s praises and tells me how corrupt the Church was.
[/quote]

At least your friend reads history. Most Protestants I know don’t read nor care about it. This friend at least shows intrest which is good.

I told him that if he always reads books by Protestant authors, then he will always come to the same, misinformed conclusions.

Although you make a good point this is not allways true. There are numerous Protestant books that point out the flaws, horrible nature and theological errors of Martin Luther.

I used Protestant sources when I discovered Jesus founded the Catholic Church, His visible body on earth. It was Protestant sources that showed me the error of their ways and pointed me home. There is SOME truth in Protestant writtings if you can just wade through the lies, halftruths and muddled up theology.

To be fair, some Catholic writters have also been a bit bias. On the whole though, Catholic writters are much more honest. I guess that is because the truth is easier to defend then false man made inventions like ‘faith alone’, ‘Bible alone’, Jesus founded the Baptist church and all others broke off, etc…

I suggested that he read Hilaire Belloc’s book on the Reformation and he agreed to do so, in order to gain a Catholic perspective.

Great! Ask him to critique the book too.

In turn, he asked me if I would be willing to watch the recently made video on Luther so I could see that point of view. I am not comfortable doing so.

[quote]I watched this propaganda flick. To be honest, it was much more fair then I thought it would be, BUT still way bias. A good flick though if you overlook the fact they missquote Scripture and NEVER give the Catholic side or even hint at giving a Catholic defense. But that’s expected when the Lutherans put up the major part of the money for the movie. They wanted good Lutheran entertainment and that’s what they got - entertainment. This movie IS NOT a documentary. It is a movie showing one side of the story.

If you want a much better and more realistic flick rent the 1974 version of “LUTHER” starring Stacey Keech. It was written by a Protestant too but shows Luther in a more realistic manner along with his mental problems. It also at least lets the Catholics in the movie say something more then “Oh, we’re so stupid and your so wonderfull”. Again it is from the Protestant side but seems to give a shot at balance, though it’s not. A much better version indeed.

By the way, you should never fear seeing their side. How else will you be able to converse with them and know where they’re comming from. The more you study their writtings the more you’ll see thier errors and be able to point them out. How could a Doctor cut out cancer from a patient if he never saw the horrible growth to begin with?

Both Luther movies are good entertainment. Niether is as good as real facts but, if they wrote truthfully they’d make no money since most Americans are Protestants and wouldn’t pay to see a movie about a crazy mental monk who invented his best theology like ‘faith alone’ in his throne room sitting upon his throne with his troublesome bowl movement. Movies have to make money when hollywierd makes them so expect entertainment not perfect facts.

[quote]How would you respond to this? Would you watch the video that portrays Luther as a hero, just to get someone to read a Catholic version of the Reformation?

[/quote]

WATCH the movie! Get him to watch the other movie I suggested. Share books! When he gives you a book to read find documented sources that prove the author wrong when needed. Show him facts that may have been white washed by his propaganda sources.

If he says bad things about Christs body, His Catholic Church then agree when true and correct him when wrong. The truth is the truth.

You have a friend willing to discuss which is more then most Fundies or Evagelicals I encounter.

Good luck,

Sounds like you’ll have a great time sharing your Faith with his faith. Shine your light till he can see he casts a shadow in your light. Be kind though, do it with love. He is a Christian and has a true love of God. Remember, Jesus said he had lost sheep not of His Catholic flock. A good shepard goes out and rounds up the lost sheep and loves them all the more when they come back to the flock.

JMJ
[/quote]


#11

PS,

Facts About Luther by Patrick F. Ohare is the best book about Luther I have read. It is from the Catholic side but it gets right to the point.

Get it here.


#12

Hi,

I suggest Karl Adams Roots of the Reformation, short and to the point and fairly well balanced. I recommend this book as a start for understanding the root causes of the Reformation.


#13

Hi Edwin, ah I am not catholic, and to answer your question Yes, I have read anti-jewish catholic literature – they are called the church fathers.

My whole point is that luther is a man of his times. In fact,

Anthony Lauterbach, who dined with the Luthers, quotes the conversation pertaining to Copernicus as follows [l8]:

There was mention of a certain astrologer who wanted to prove that the earth moves and not the sky, the sun, and the moon. This would be as if somebody were riding on a cart or in a ship and imagined that he was standing still while the earth and the trees were moving. [Luther remarked] “So it goes now. Whoever wants to be clever must agree with nothing that others esteem. He must do something of his own. This is what that fellow does who wishes to turn the whole of astronomy upside down. Even in these things that are thrown into disorder I believe the Holy Scriptures, for Joshua commanded the sun to stand still and not the earth [Jos. 10:12].”

leaderu.com/science/kobe.html#copernicus

google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&q=Luther+don%27t+move+uniformly+around+the+sun

google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&q=Luther+Martin++Copernicus


#14

Who denies that Luther was a man of his times? And the Church Fathers are relatively mild compared to what was being written i the late Middle Ages and Renaissance.

Edwin


#15

These responses are excellent and I really appreciate them.

For the record, the only reason I was reluctant to watch the video my friend suggested was becuase I considered it a waste of time. I did not want to subject myself to 90 minutes of inaccuracies and misrepresentations.

But I understand the importance of doing this for apologetics purposes and will do so.


#16

I would! I have read lots of literature from atheists, Jehovah’s witnesses, Pentecostals, Lutheran and Catholics. If we are afraid of knowledge, how do we know we have the truth? If what you believe really is the truth, then you shouldn’t be afraid of sceptic’s questions.

The fight between Lutherans and Catholics is disgusting. The Church really had serious problems at Luther’s time, and with him, it got better. But Luther and his followers went too far. Originally, Luther didn’t want to make a new Church, he wanted reform the Church, make it “clean”. It’s interesting to see that more and more Catholics are recognizing what Luther’s intention really was, and are taking his ideas seriously.

And by the way, even though I’m not Catholic (or anything else - I don’t belong to a church yet) - the Luther-film was an ok film :slight_smile:


#17

[quote=Polar]I would! I have read lots of literature from atheists, Jehovah’s witnesses, Pentecostals, Lutheran and Catholics. If we are afraid of knowledge, how do we know we have the truth? If what you believe really is the truth, then you shouldn’t be afraid of sceptic’s questions.
[/quote]

Among other things I have read the Book of Mormon and the King James Bible, etc… Read whatever you want. Just remeber, look for the truth if any. The Book of Mormon has virtually no truth in it and is tedious reading at best. The King James Bible does have some truth in it but it also has some missleading interpretations and outright deletions of Scripture.

Think of the Jehovah Witness or Mormon that comes to your door. Do you think they will look at any evidance you have to proove your point? NO! They are outright told and taught not to accept anything outside their own sects writting. Is this fair? Is this brainwashing?

Before you talk to a JW or LDS or Protestant (or Catholic;) ) etc… ask them if they know what the symbol of our judicial system is. Do they know what the statue of Lady Justice looks like? She is blindfolded and stands up with a balanced scale, 1 pan on each side to weigh the evidence. Now if we examine the way JW’s and Mormons and many Protestants examine evidence think of this picture: Lady Justice blindfolded over one eye and a scale with only one pan that allways tips in their favor! Why? Because any evidance not written by their sect is thrown over their shoulder and into the trash while whatever thier sect writes is placed in the only pan left. Is that fair?

I use that analogy often BEFORE I talk to Protestants, JW’s and Mormons now. They allways agree that churches are wrong that don’t weigh out the evidence till I remind them of their own sect doing just that.

The fight between Lutherans and Catholics is disgusting.

You’re right, the Protestants should come home!

The Church really had serious problems at Luther’s time, and with him, it got better.

WRONG! Without him it got better! The reformation was God’s way of cleaning house. He kicked all the garbage out of His Catholic Church, His visible body on earth.

You need to study some history. There was a 'Little Ice Age" that changed the climate in Europe. Rats came into the homes. the Plague killed off 2/3 of Catholic clergy, why? Because they cared for the sick. The Church tries to train more clergy to fill the gap too quickly. Uneducated heritics like Martin Luther are the result. The Church cleans house and gets rid of the heritics. The house cleaning was allready going on before the re/Deformation started. Luther acted on impulse and could not wait or work within the proper sysytem.

The Dogma of the Church was NEVER at issue or a problem. It was what some undertrained clergy taught that was the problem.

Perhaps we need a thread on this topic?

But Luther and his followers went too far. Originally, Luther didn’t want to make a new Church, he wanted reform the Church, make it “clean”. It’s interesting to see that more and more Catholics are recognizing what Luther’s intention really was, and are taking his ideas seriously.

WRONG again! (In part) Name one idea or theological point that Luther changed in the Church that was not allready being discussed before him?

Indulgences for the living? We still have them.

Indulgences for the dead? The Church was allready discussing them and stopped the errant clergy from teaching this wrongfull topic soon after they gave Martin the boot.

The DE/RE-formation wasn’t about theology at all. It was about the princes of Europe taking the wealth away from the Church and putting it into their own pockets. Protestants claim seperation of church and state but look at who had the power in the church after the DE/Re-formation in Protestant sects, it was the royalty. Study the history.

And by the way, even though I’m not Catholic (or anything else - I don’t belong to a church yet) - the Luther-film was an ok film :slight_smile:

Welcome Home!

The movie was OK - just too bias in may ways.


#18

If I can make a recommendation on a another book you can have your friend read would be “The Catholic Controversy” by St. Francis de Sales. About 80 years after the start of the reformation, St. Francis with all odds against him, traveled to Chablais in now eastern France to win back the Faith of 72,000 Calvinists. His journey, to me at least, potrays ultimate charity to proclaim the true Faith to those who were in error. This is an excellent apologetic book from a Doctor of the Church from a first hand perspective and recommend it to everyone.:thumbsup:


#19

I think that was unwise. Everyone is going to have a bias, but the whole point of a scholarly training is to teach you to discipline your bias in the service of the evidence. While Belloc was very knowledgeable about history, he was at the end of the day a very intelligent propagandist. I don’t know what Protestant writers your friend is reading, but there are plenty of propagandists on that side as well. It would be better to read books by modern scholarly historians, whether Protestant or Catholic. They still have bias, but it’s less extreme. The three Protestant scholars who have written biographies of Luther that I would recommend are Roland Bainton, Martin Brecht, and Heiko Oberman. Your friend may have read Bainton–he unfortunately accepted the standard liberal-Protestant narrative of Luther, although he presented it intelligently and with respect for the historical evidence. Martin Brecht’s three-volume biography is the best source for the details of Luther’s life, but he writes from a strongly Lutheran perspective. Neither of these writers have much useful to say about the Catholic background of Luther (Bainton gives a more nuanced version of the standard Protestant stereotype, and Brecht takes Luther’s reminiscences at face value as evidence for late medieval Catholicism). Heiko Oberman is much better in that respect, although he also had a strong anti-Catholic bias. He’s particularly valuable for emphasizing Luther’s apocalyptic streak and not trying to force him into either a liberal-Protestant or confessional-Lutheran mold.

My advisor David Steinmetz (himself a student of Oberman) wrote an excellent book of essays on Luther called *Luther in Context. *

As for Catholic interpretations–one theological interpretation of the Reformation that I find valuable is Louis Bouyer’s *The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism. *It recognizes what was valuable in Luther’s teaching while also criticizing his errors.

The contemporary Catholic scholar who has written most widely and helpfully on Luther is Jared Wicks. You can find a number of his writings here. He is very appreciative of Luther while of course acknowledging that Luther contradicts Catholicism on a number of points.

The late-19th-century Catholic scholar Johannes Janssen’s History of the German People at the Close of the Middle Ages is of course hard to find, and it’s got a very strong polemical edge. But it is also meticulously documented and puts the traditional Protestant narrative of the Reformation under serious question, by pointing out the spiritual and moral health of late medieval German Catholicism and showing that in many ways the Reformation had a destructive effect on piety and morality. Dennis Martin’s work on the late medieval Carthusians allegedly (I say this because I haven’t yet looked at it myself) shows that the strictest of the religious orders–the place where you’d expect works righteousness if anywhere–showed no signs of the kind of arrogant pseudo-piety Luther attacked, but rather insisted on the importance of humility and our absolute dependence on God’s grace.

Finally, you might consider recommending him to read some work by secular and Protestant historians that questions the traditional narrative of Luther as a great hero and liberator. Mark Edwards, a Lutheran, has written two books (Luther and the False Brethren and Luther’s Last Battles) that describe the increasing bitterness and viciousness of Luther’s later writing–hardly signs of someone who had recovered the Gospel and regenerated Christendom. Peter Blickle (non-religious as far as I know) argues in *The Communal Reformation *that Luther helped squelch a genuinely democratic, bottom-up Reformation that gave voice to the aspirations of the common people.

Belloc may be useful for shock value–simply seeing that an intelligent writer can give a narrative of the Reformation that contradicts his prejudices may jolt your friend a bit and open his eyes. But it may also convince him that Catholics have no alternative to offer except angry and distorted rants that ignore the genuine spiritual impulses behind the Reformation. That was certainly my impression of Belloc, and fond as I am of him (largely by reflection of my great admiration for Chesterton) I have never seen a reason to change my opinion in that respect.

In Christ,

Edwin

P.S. I see that I responded to posts on this thread long ago, but I don’t think the information I posted above is a repetition of what I said back then, so I’ll let it stand!


#20

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