The historical Luther (trying to get the facts right)


: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?


That’s true. I couldn’t figure out if he thought the State should regulate the Church or the other way around. But it sounded to me like he had the Church beholden to the State.


It helped me quite a bit when I was coming back to the Church. The thorough Teachings of the Catholic Church stand out from all other religions. Especially the Teaching on suffering. I could find no other religion, except perhaps the Orthodox, who even attempted to teach on that subject.

A lot of this confusion and chaos is projected onto Luther -…

That’s what a lot of folks are saying. But he was calling the Pope the anti-Christ before he was excommunicated. So, why do you lay the blame on the Church, when Luther had obviously departed the Church of his own volition by then?

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.

They didn’t have to deal directly with him or his followers, either.

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.

And then now what? You think it is wrong to ask questions about the true, historical, Luther?

Maybe there is a little bit of that both ways…

It would be great if Protestants would start seeking the true, historical Luther. I think it might open their eyes.


@FollowChrist34: It is very important to understand that the attitudes of vitriol that you see expressed on this forum are being done by Catholic lay people in direct defiance of the hierarchy, whom they are under and owe submission to

In 1980, there was a joint commemoration of the 450th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession…which will initiate 50 years of continuous dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Lutherans.

Among the highlights, which have to think that a certain type of Catholic deliberately wants to keep themselves uninformed about:

In 1983, Pope Saint John Paul II proclaimed Martin Luther “Witness of Jesus Christ” on the occasion of kept the 500th anniversary of his birth

2011 saw Pope Benedict choosing the places associated with Martin Luther as he wanted to bear witness there to the impact that Martin Luther has had on him, his life, and his theological thought.

2013 saw the publication of From Conflict to Communion, the document, years in preparation, toward a joint commemoration by Catholics and Lutherans

2016 Pope Francis visit to Lund, Sweden, to inaugurate the joint commemoration of the Reformation

From Conflict to Communion expresses where the Church of Rome is today. The fact that there are laity who are in dissent or who do not echo those positions is to their detriment. They are not listening to and following their shepherds…and for that, they will answer to God

With regard to the Orthodox, are you aware of His All-Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch’s visit to Germany to commemorate the anniversary of the Reformation and to receive awards and honours for his work for the relations between the Orthodox and Reformed Christians?


Martin Luther didn’t listen to and follow his shepherds and he’s cool now. It’s all good :+1:


Martin Luther is no longer a subject of the hierarchy since he is beyond the reach of the hierarchy. Catholics still alive are very much under the authority of the hierarchy. The bishops have jurisdiction over them – and can exercise that power of governance, as the Holy See has made quite clear.


Indeed. It is amusingly ironic to be criticizing people for defying Church authority for refusing to celebrate someone who is most remembered for…defying Church authority.


Indeed. It is amusingly ironic to be criticizing people for defying Church authority for refusing to celebrate someone who is most remembered for…defying Church authority.

I find no amusement at all in a situation in which Catholics attack Reformed Christians for not being in full communion with the Church of Rome when those very Catholics are being faithless in their own submission to ecclesiastical authority.

It is sad, moreover, that the Reformed Christians have a better grasp of the ecumenical movement than Catholics are this forum demonstrate – when Catholics have access to the best of resources…the Holy See itself.



How did Martin Luther believe Catholics–or Calvinists and Zwinglians for that matter–should be treated by civil authorities if they practiced their faith in Lutheran states?


Lutherans and Catholics bear the burden of cruel treatment, not only to each other , but also to the Anabaptists and others.
Anglicans and Catholics share a similar past.
We should pray for God’s forgiveness, and each other’s on behalf of our traditions.


Luther did not believe man had free will outside of God’s grace. Man’s will is bound to sin because of original sin. He cannot choose good or gain merit from God outside of God’s grace. These arguments are from St. Paul (flesh vs spirit) and St. Augustine. Catholics actually also believe the exact same thing.

Luther believes that God’s grace is the sole agent by which man can attain salvation. Catholics believe that God’s grace saves man but it also gives man the capacity to act in accordance with God’s will, thereby ‘meriting’ salvation. God and man both contribute. Luther believes God’s grace acts in man as the life of the spirit, overcoming man’s sinful nature. Man is justified by faith - that is by an act of God’s grace, nothing to do with man. When man chooses the good, he does so because he is in Christ, not himself. Again, Catholics believe man is transformed into choosing the good by grace.

Luther is criticizing pelagianism (Erasmus) in Bondage of the Will. He denies free will to man in the religious sense, faith, salvation; he accepts man has free will in terms of all other choices in life. Actually I would recommend reading Bondage of the Will (venturing beyond Dave Armstrong if you will) - it is really a great work. (and this post is a very quick cliff notes summary of Luther v. the Catholics on free will to say the least)


So that whole thing about being servants of the servants of God and not lording over the lesser folk, Jesus was just wasting his breath when He commanded that?

Matthew 20:25 But Jesus summoned them and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. 26 But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant;

Just crack the whip and get everyone in line. Is that it?

The Gospel says.

John 13:34 I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.

Where’s the love being shown for Catholic laypeople?


Thank you. When Luther said in Bondage of the Will that everything happens in us necessarily according to whether God loved us or didn’t love us, from all eternity… doesn’t that mean that God doesn’t love (hates) some people from all eternity?


Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. John 3:36

How do you interpret the ‘wrath of God’ in this verse?


In truth, only Martin Luther’s extremely unstable mental state lead to the “reformation.” That and Germanic politics. The Church has borne far worse sins in her past, and it did not lead to such a division of the Body of Christ. My opinion is that the evil one found a willing dupe in the mentally unstable Martin Luther, and a very advantageous political/geographical situation in which to exploit his desire to incite division.


No. This is completely wrong. This is not at all the mindset of the Church in the era after Vatican II, where the Pope apologised then, and subsequently, for the regrettable things of the past.

Pope Benedict, in a letter to the world’s bishops in 2007 well sums up the thought of the Church today:

Looking back over the past, to the divisions which in the course of the centuries have rent the Body of Christ, one continually has the impression that, at critical moments when divisions were coming about, not enough was done by the Church’s leaders to maintain or regain reconciliation and unity. One has the impression that omissions on the part of the Church have had their share of blame for the fact that these divisions were able to harden. This glance at the past imposes an obligation on us today


Being misunderstood is part and parcel of my life. However - and this is crucial - I am not speaking of today! Contemporary knowledge of the “reformation” as it is with Catholic catechesis, is sadly and profoundly lacking. Moderns tend to assume that Luther was 100% justified - now there’s a term for you - in his radical revision of Christian thought.

Peacemakers, such as Erasmus of Rotterdam, were at first praised by the reformers, then later vilified in the most contemptible terms - for having the utter temerity of disagreeing with the increasingly egomaniacal Luther. Read a few of Luther’s comments regarding Erasmus to Nikolaus von Amsdorf! “The very mouth organ of Satan” Really? Erasmus also came under fire from within the Church, while defending the Church! Blessed are the peacemakers.

Would anyone dare to say that Martin Luther was 100% mentally stable? Even Philipp Melanchthon, in his fawning and effusive praise of Luther, takes note of Luther’s “episodes.”

Would anyone, especially historians, proffer that German politics offered no opposition to funds going to Italy for the construction of Saint Peter’s basilica?

Would anyone deny that the alliance of religion and politics in 16th century Germany had much to do with the “success” of the reformation?

Was the entire situation exacerbated by the bi-lateral polemics of the day? No doubt. But the past is the past. The Church can adopt a completely different stance - and has - but that does in no way alter history. Luther was rightly excommunicated. In return, the Pope became the antichrist - ‘officially’ believed by certain mainstream protestants to this day!

The truth is served only when proclaimed. Martin Luther, despite anything and everything the Church hierarchy did or did not do - radically modified Christian theology. It became a mirror of his personal psychology. Huldrych Zwingli and Jean Cauvin at some level bear witness to that - if not in words, then in actions taken.

The Catholic Church has the rock foundation of Saint Peter. The “reformation” has three primary emperors, none of which were wearing any clothing. Strong opinions do not a wardrobe make. To ignore this is to ignore truth. How we approach the elephant in the reformation living room is a matter of Church ecumenical practice, but it does in no way change history.

We can travel back in time to the 1970s and “You’re OK, I’m OK” as regards our current ecumenical efforts, but this is relativism - the same relativism decried by the very same Pope Benedict XVI! Can we have it both ways?


On the part of a certain faction of the Catholic laity, I would agree that knowledge is sadly and profoundly lacking – or better said, is stuck decades in a past that we have well moved beyond.

Far from being sadly and profoundly lacking in the Academy, the state of affairs there is excellent-- far better than it was in the past and enough to declare that “The paradigm of “confessionalization” has made important corrections to previous historiography of the period.”

As From Conflict to Communion says:

  1. Today we are able to tell the story of the Lutheran Reformation together. Even though Lutherans and Catholics have different points of view, because of ecumenical dialogue they are able to overcome traditional anti-Protestant and anti-Catholic hermeneutics in order to find a common way of remembering past events. The following chapter is not a full description of the entire history and all the disputed theological points. It highlights only some of the most important historical situations and theological issues of the Reformation in the sixteenth century.

As the document says so splendidly at its conclusion:

Catholics and Lutherans realize that they and the communities in which they live out their faith belong to the one body of Christ. The awareness is dawning on Lutherans and Catholics that the struggle of the sixteenth century is over.


Actually… no. The Catholic Church teaches that we do have free will, and make the choice whether to exercise it for the good (i.e., within God’s will) or for evil (i.e., outside of God’s will).

So do Catholics, but…

However, man’s contribution is at the prompting of grace, however, and therefore, the ‘merit’ belongs first to God, and only secondarily to humans.

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