The historical Luther (trying to get the facts right)


Luther was undoubtedly insane.
If you want to check out if a quote is true go to the source and look for the quote I suppose.


It’s called “the Catholic side of responsibility for the disaster of the reformation”. it’s in this forum.

Yes, I want to be sure I’m not being uncharitable. It sounds like I maybe shouldn’t trust references to Table Talk much since Luther didn’t write it and it sounds like context is not always given.


I grew up in a Lutheran school, when I was younger they intentionally avoided teaching Luther’s later teachings. Some of what he taught in the latter part of his life was considered tainted and too much an issue for younger students. When I got to high school they touched on the fact that many theologians believe Luther suffered a great deal of mental instability as he aged or from some mental break. So it is quite possible some of those quotes fall under that era. Including but not limited to some very anti semetic lines.


Martin Luther had a deep hatred for the Roman Catholic Church, particularly for the papacy, the priesthood, and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. His writings are littered with the most obscene and vile blasphemies directed towards the holiest mysteries of our Catholic Faith. It is no wonder that such an evil man would be the father of the “Reformation”, responsible for the cleaving of Christendom, and the loss of millions upon millions of souls.


This is not ‘historical’ Luther. It is excoriating Luther. Dishonest. Ugly stuff. I am thankful to God I don’t act or think like this. He has preserved me.


Unfortunately, one will find Catholics of a certain sort who cling to lore that has been rejected and discarded in the modern era. This is well explained in From Conflict to Communion, which is available from the Holy See via PCPCU

  1. Research has contributed much to changing the perception of the past in a number of ways. In the case of the Reformation, these include the Protestant as well as the Catholic accounts of church history, which have been able to correct previous confessional depictions of history through strict methodological guidelines and reflection on the conditions of their own points of view and presuppositions. On the Catholic side that applies especially to the newer research on Luther and Reformation and, on the Protestant side, to an altered picture of medieval theology and to a broader and more differentiated treatment of the late Middle Ages. In current depictions of the Reformation period, there is also new attention to a vast number of non-theological factors—political, economic, social, and cultural. The paradigm of “confessionalization” has made important corrections to previous historiography of the period.

  2. The late Middle Ages are no longer seen as total darkness, as often portrayed by Protestants, nor are they perceived as entirely light, as in older Catholic depictions. This age appears today as a time of great oppositions—of external piety and deep interiority; of works-oriented theology in the sense of do ut des (“I give you so that you give me”) and conviction of one’s total dependence on the grace of God; of indifference toward religious obligations, even the obligations of office, and serious reforms, as in some of the monastic orders.

  3. The church was anything but a monolithic entity; the corpus christianum encompassed very diverse theologies, lifestyles, and conceptions of the church. Historians say that the fifteenth century was an especially pious time in the church. During this period, more and more lay people received a good education and so were eager to hear better preaching and a theology that would help them to lead Christian lives. Luther picked up on such streams of theology and piety and developed them further.


From Conflict to Communion Cont’d

  1. Twentieth-century Catholic research on Luther built upon a Catholic interest in Reformation history that awakened in the second half of the nineteenth century. These theologians followed the efforts of the Catholic population in the Protestant-dominated German empire to free themselves from a one-sided, anti-Roman, Protestant historiography. The breakthrough for Catholic scholarship came with the thesis that Luther overcame within himself a Catholicism that was not fully Catholic. According to this view, the life and teaching of the church in the late Middle Ages served mainly as a negative foil for the Reformation; the crisis in Catholicism made Luther’s religious protest quite convincing to some.

  2. In a new way, Luther was portrayed as an earnest religious person and conscientious man of prayer. Painstaking and detailed historical research has demonstrated that Catholic literature on Luther over the previous four centuries right up through modernity had been significantly shaped by the commentaries of Johannes Cochaleus, a contemporary opponent of Luther and advisor to Duke George of Saxony. Cochaleus had characterized Luther as an apostatized monk, a destroyer of Christendom, a corrupter of morals, and a heretic. The achievement of this first period of critical, but sympathetic, engagement with Luther’s character was the freeing of Catholic research from the one-sided approach of such polemical works on Luther. Sober historical analyses by other Catholic theologians showed that it was not the core concerns of the Reformation, such as the doctrine of justification, which led to the division of the church but, rather, Luther’s criticisms of the condition of the church at his time that sprang from these concerns.

  3. The next step for Catholic research on Luther was to uncover analogous contents embedded in different theological thought structures and systems, carried out especially by a systematic comparison between the exemplary theologians of the two confessions, Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther. This work allowed theologians to understand Luther’s theology within its own framework. At the same time, Catholic research examined the meaning of the doctrine of justification within the Augsburg Confession. Here Luther’s reforming concerns could be set within the broader context of the composition of the Lutheran confessions, with the result that the intention of the Augsburg Confession could be seen as expressing fundamental reforming concerns as well as preserving the unity of the church.

  4. These efforts led directly to the ecumenical project, begun in 1980 by Lutheran and Catholic theologians in Germany on the occasion of the 450th anniversary of the presentation of the Augsburg Confession, of a Catholic recognition of the Augsburg Confession. The extensive achievements of a later ecumenical working group of Protestant and Catholic theologians, tracing its roots back to this project of Catholic research on Luther, resulted in the study The Condemnations of the Reformation Era: Do They Still Divide?


Ive read some of Luther’s Theses and he said some valuable things like genuine contrition of the soul as necessary for the efficacy of indulgences. True, there was abuse of indulgences; but Luther reacted violently against criticism and when he read Jan Hus; reportedly he said that Hus spoke what he was thinking for a long time. That’s what exploded the Reformation. The excommunication and the burning of that bull and the books of canon law. I heard Dr David Anders on CTC say that Luther was probably manic depressive or bipolar; with scrupulosity. Either way, from reading a little bit about Luther; he was mentally unstable.


I agree that we should be careful to be balanced and chartiable in our treatment of Luther., making sure that claims are factual. However we can’t whitewash him either. He did say some terrible things.

For example ,it is simply factual that he said—in “On the Estate of Marriage” that if wives aren’t having sex with their husbands, the state should either force them or put them to death

In “the Bondage of the Will”, he also denied free will and said that God causes us to sin, and that he simply hates some men from all eternity:


I don’t suppose you’ll find any Protestants of that sort, will you?


And he advised Philip of Hesse to take another wife, while he was still married to his first wife.
In other words, he did not oppose bigamy.

This and what you’ve written, are basically facts that can’t be disputed.


The trouble is that he was all over the place on his doctrines and writings. He would affirm something in one place and deny it in another. And then, there are so many writings attributed to him that aren’t his. At least, that is what is now claimed.

I feel sorry for anyone who is trying to piece together a systematic theology from all that Luther left behind. Even worse for those who are relying on what students of Luther thought he was teaching.


Luther also decided that the State should regulate marriage instead of the Church. Is it any wonder that we now enjoy State laws with no-fault divorce and homosexual “marriage”?


The Reformation paved the way for ‘national churches ruled by secular leadership’, but Luther didn’t create that dynamic. It was already brewing and in the works, and Luther’s Reformation simply provided the mechanism that various nation-states were seeking in order to justify their “takeover” of Christendom from the Catholic Church.

Germany was far from being the only nation that wanted a church it could control without outside ecclesiastical influence. (And, even within Germany, there were political tensions between the Holy Roman Emperor and local nobles.)

So, it would be unfair to lay the whole “national church ruled by secular leader” dynamic at Luther’s feet… although one of the effects of the Reformation was to be an enabler for precisely that outcome…


How are you choosing your resources?


I feel sorry for people who need a systematic theology to believe in God. I stand with the Orthodox and Protestants on that one. A lot of this confusion and chaos is projected onto Luther - but I don’t deny that many of these allegations are true. We cannot whitewash Luther in defending him. No one to my knowledge in the Lutheran Church has ever claimed that Luther was a systematic theologian - he never set out to create a new Church. That happened organically after his excommunication and the Council of Trent. And many were then involved, not just Martin Luther. Europe split in half. But I don’t want to throw us off here with the facts. Spoil the party.

These ongoing Catholic attacks against Luther are so bizarre (the Orthodox don’t do anything remotely like this to Luther - they don’t like him but they don’t have this morbid haunting with respect to him either). In my view, speaking 500 years later, a lot of this Catholic spite and anguish over the schism is self-inflicted and I can’t imagine it is what God wants at this point.

What is so funny is that I just yesterday had a lively, nasty spat with a Protestant friend about Catholics. I firmly defending the RCC. I was angry. I remember thinking after that episode maybe the reason (some) Protestants hate the Catholics so much (really create a monster) is that they secretly fear we are right. And then now this. Maybe there is a little bit of that both ways…


I just do the best I can. Dave Armstrong is someone I respect as being balanced. He seems very careful with trying to be sure Luther is given the benefit of the doubt. And he is quoting from Protestant translations, saying that God simply hates some people from all eternity, of his own will. Armstrong quotes Vaughan’s translation of The Bondage of the Will. Here is Luther:

We know very well, that God does not hate or love, as we do; since we both love and hate mutably; but he loves and hates according to his eternal and immutable nature: so far is he from being the subject of accident and affection. And it is this very thing which compels Freewill to be a mere no thing; namely, that the love of God towards men is eternal and immutable, and his hatred towards them eternal; not only prior to the merit and operation of Freewill, but even to the very making of the world; and that every thing is wrought in us necessarily, according to his having either loved us or not loved us, from eternity: insomuch that not only the love of God, but even his manner of loving, brings necessity upon us. (Vaughan, p. 305)


This blog is about attacking Luther. It is not fair in the slightest. If you are setting yourself up as Internet anti-Luther warrior, you are in good shape, and bound to make many friends on CAF. As far as actually increasing your knowledge, you are not going to get very far. I would even say this is about hate. Really getting into it. And that is not coming from a good place. God bless.


:thinking: Isn’t that precisely what Calvin did, though – provide a systematic theology?

:rofl: :+1:

Perhaps that’s because Luther wasn’t an Orthodox monk? Perhaps that’s because Luther didn’t leave the Orthodox Church and set in motion a movement that split the Orthodox Church? Not so ‘bizarre’, I’d warrant… just the pain of an open wound. :man_shrugging:


Okay. How is it unfair/inaccurate? For example, are you claiming that the quotation from the Bondage of the Will I just gave is not in the Bondage of the WIll?

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