The Wisdom of Personal Attacks on Martin Luther

I am really puzzled by the seeming obsession some Catholics display in attacking Martin Luther, as if somehow it will undo the Reformation: He was insane, he was the devil’s spawn, he was this, that, manic depressive, whatever. Somehow people seem to think they are going to get somewhere with all that. As I am more in the Reformed camp, Luther really was incidental. I shrug my shoulders.

This thread is not about his person or even about Luther at all. This thread is about why some Catholics seem to think that they will get somewhere by destroying him. I wish to make several points as to why I think this tactic is a bad idea.

One, Lutherans REPEATEDLY have stated that they do not elevate his teachings to the level of doctine. Lutheranism is not Luther and he is not their pope or prophet. What is called Lutheranism has been digested and percolated over the last 500 years and is not contingent on anything in Martin Luther’s person or even thoughts. I would venture to say the man might very well disagree with a lot of what passes for Lutheranism. Lutherans say this was a fine example of God using a sinner for His purposes. Paul was a murderer, Peter betrayed Christ, Luther may have been nuts. I really don’t care about his psychological profile. Really!

Secondly, I wonder at the idea that if they show that Martin Luther is so bad, they will then become Catholic. This is certainly a negative tactic that suggests that those pursuing this agenda really have no better arguments for Catholicism than that Luther was bad, so therefore Lutherans should become Catholic. I find this extremely unconvincing. Isn’t there anything good in Catholicism? Did these Luther-bashers really become Catholic because they took a dislike to Luther? That is like preferring God to Satan because you don’t like Satan - never mind what God is like. Faint praise, there.

Thirdly, Catholics embrace the argument that it does not matter what Church leaders have done, it is the teaching of the Catholic Church that is important. But then they turn around and say that it is not what Luther taught that is important, but what a crazy little blockhead he was, as if his teaching does not matter. It seems logically contradictory.

Fourthly, I suspect these Luther-bashers have not taken the time to study what Luther believed, or what Lutheranism developed into, because all they seem able to do is to attack Luther. It gets boring. BORING. BORING. Reading post after post of unremitting negative information about someone gets boring. These are the kinds of people you move away from at parties and are not the sorts of people I enjoy interacting with. People who are negative all the time are no fun. Luther had his good points and these sorts of patterns of posts suggest personal problems or distortions in themselves that make me question them from the get-go. Luther DID have his good points. It is off-putting, to say the least.

That is my 2 cents.

I wonder where you are experiencing all this Luther-bashing?
It’s certainly not a prevalent sport among most Catholics, just as Catholic-bashing isn’t the norm among protestants, tho it does occur fairly often in some sects (some seem to be based on it).

It’s just part and parcel of being a pivotal and influential person in world history. You get people from all camps hundreds of years later trying to psychoanalyze you.

And it’s simply human to attack the messenger not the message. We all have done it, just our human failings coming out.

If we lead one person into the full communion of the Catholic faith then we do “undo the reformation”

I agree that there are Catholics all over the board regarding him, and every other issue. The fact is that Martin Luther did teach that certain Catholic doctrines were false. This contributed to a great and expanding number of Christians who justify rejecting the authority of the Church council, and chief Bishop. This is division which contradicts the unity we are called to in Sacred Scripture.

I personally dont believe that the behavior and action of Catholic leaders dont matter! This would be a huge misunderstanding of what is meant by Church infallibility in Teaching only. Behavior has definite consequenses. Bad examples and false Teachers within the Catholic leadership cause incredible harm! Yet they do so in disobedience to Church Teaching.

A genuine Catholic will recognize that reform was needed and some good reform did come about after the Protestant reformation. But lots of division and unsound doctrine came out of the reformation as well. True reform must come by adhering to the Teachings of the Church, not throwing some of it out.

This goes right along with the wisdom of personally attacking Popes and [fill in the blank] Catholic person.

It will not be any different with any other person.

You are correct in one thing:

It is :yawn::sleep:

Have you ever visited any Lutheran forums?
Believe me, you will find many anti-catholic postings there. I am just saying these are discussion forums and this one is called Catholic Answers so yes there will be bias just as when you go to a protestant website. That is the nature of the forums I guess. So we discuss theology, doctrines, sacraments, etc. and there are differences.

Given confessional Lutheranism teaches the office of the Papacy is “AntiChrist” and some Popes that have “sat in it” are AntiChrist I’d say Luther is fair game for discussion.



Indeed, there are, sadly. However, I do not believe anti-Catholic posts on a Lutheran forum constitute discussion of “theology, doctrines, sacraments, etc.” It is one of the reasons why I rarely visit even the Lutheran ones, much less some of the protestant ones, such as CARM.
The main reason I started coming to CAF roughly 7 years ago is precisely because it, by and large, was not like that. It does, however, seem to be changing. :frowning:


it’s called human failure

I agree, I don’t think name calling is very effective in accomplishing anything

I have not experienced this amonst catholics I know, but I definitely don’t doubt that it happens.

differences between cahtolicism and Lutheranism should be highlighted and cahotlic doctrine should be learned and explained.

that’s the most important thing, not luther’s personality traits or anybody’s dislikes.

Yes, I have meant Catholics who bash Luther; I have also meant Presbyterians who bash the Pope… so each side has one of them.

I have met two Lutherans that told me every pope is an Anti Christ. The official teaching of the confessional Lutherans is as I understand it the OFFICE of the PAPACY is anti-Christ,
the Pope in the office MAY OR MAY NOT BE>

How that is defined…only answer I received is if he has “perverted the Gospel” and added works righteousness to salvation which some Lutherans confessional is every peope because they have not embraced the Sola Fide doctrine of the reformation.

Thus the Pope at the time of the reformation is mentioned as well.


Yep goes both ways.
I think the issue is that some believe that Luther’s doctrine came from some early up bringing issues, issues with scrupulosity, etc, and so discussing the doctrine of the reformation his personality issues seem pertinent in some instances.

I went to CARM a couple of times, but rarely. I get e-mails from Matt Slick about how they need money. I haven’t visited the website in several years. I had heard from someone else how anti-catholic it could be.

I attended a seminar yesterday on the historical roots of the papacy. It got into translations of different languages as well as what impact the word, ‘key’, had to Jewish people living in the 100 years of Christ.

An objective dictionary scholar, highly respected, Campbell, asserted the Catholic Church was right in its understanding that Peter is the foundational rock of the Church. Three Protestant theologian sources were also brought in who agreed the Church right in attesting Christ was installing Peter as the foundation of the Church.

Yet all four, Campbell, theologian Raymond Brown, and the two other Protestant theologians, still did not believe in the Catholic Church and its apostolic succession, as well as the office of the papacy.

Nevertheless, Martin Luther’s name did come up, and how his position wiped away entire Church history, and Sola Scriptura responsible for the proliferation of many churches and denominations. Nothing more, but the impact was tremendous, bringing about the dismantling of Christianity, the breakdown of the faith and unity of the family, and weakening Christianity in the face of the Enlightenment and secularism.

So you have to also acknowledge the impact Sola Scriptura has had on the common Christian faith of One Bread, One Body.

Luther’s temperment and writings have long been pointed out down through time in contrast to the reformer, St. Francis of Assisi.

People can acknowledge the Catholic Church and still not believe.

Likewise, one must keep a sense of boundaries where personality analysis and critique does not cross over into detraction and abuse.

I recall the words of my pastor who has since gone to the Lord. He was saying one time in class there are operations to get you a new heart, a new liver, kidneys…but when it comes to the tongue, it goes on and on…no need every for a replacement of the tongue!

Mother always says, “You can attract more bees with honey than with vinegar…but if you want flies, use rotten meat.”

Since the beginning of the Church, there has been those who for one reason or another disagreed with what the apostles and the ECF’s taught and broke away. had not Martin Luther come along, there most likely been others that would have brought on the Reformation as the times were ripe for reform. Whether one loves or hates martin Luther, he did start a process that changed the face of Western Christianity.

The CC was not the only one to disagree and refute the teachings , doctrines and theology of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli and others also did so. While they disagreed with the CC they also disagreed with each other each claiming to have the truth based on their own personal interpretation of Scripture. The CC believed that it had the authority to interpret Scripture basing it on what the Apostles taught and passed down to the ECF’s onward, while Luther claimed that authority for himself, by rejecting Church authority.

Because of one Martin Luther, we now have God only knows how many protestant denominations, religious sects and religious fringe groups who have their own interpretations and teachings of sola fide, sola scriptoria, sola gracia and osas each claiming to have the truth which they base on their interpretations of Scripture each different from the other.

One can see from Luther’s time onwards that even then there were those who not only disagreed with the CC but with Luther and did not accept Luther’s interpretations, teachings and doctrines. Whether one loves or hates Luther or believe him to be a hero or a rogue, that it seems will not change. To me Luther bashing is claiming things he said or did that are not true just to make him look bad or evil. While there is or are those things that Luther did that was good, its the negative things that comes closest to gaining some understanding of who martin Luther was and how he developed his teachings and doctrines and theology that changed Western Christianity The real objective as I see it is to understand the man and what caused him to come to the conclusions he claimed; it might look like some personal attack on Luther, but in reality, the truth is sometimes very hard to accept when dealing with a historical figure like Luther.

Well…Bashing would include saying things that are true that have no bearing on the issue at hand. I would suggest few would be willing to have all their sins posted on CAF on a thread, for example, for examination, before we decide whether the poster is worthy or consideration or just freaking crazy (me in the latter camp).

Luther, perhaps, was the first to be allowed to survive to express himself due to changes in the political circumstances. Hus was burned earlier, along with many others. But Luther did not develop his theories in a vacuum, whether religiously or politically. According to McGrath anyway he was solidly in the via moderna prior to his breakthroughs. But neither did he develop those breakthroughs alone, and primitive Lutheranism involved a number of other people. It was not Martin alone. Some in his monastery went with him, some remained Catholic, but from what I gather, there was a lot of arguing and hammering out of positions on things. Was he a sole agent of change? Not in my apprehension of the situation. The insanity argument requires that those around him were also nuts, which was unlikely (even if he was cuckoo, which I doubt, and is outside the scope of this thread).

It is folly to blame Luther alone for the political and religious situation he found himself in.

Luther alone…I like it…never mind…

True…Luther was ahead of his time…but besides other factors, the rise of nationalism was growing, further dividing…and then you have the Orthodox and the Great Schism.

In the past year or so I heard from two individuals that it was mistranslation that caused the schism, that the higher up’s know that, but it is the vast underlings that are remaining in this Schism which some times to me looks like a ‘tempest in a teapot’.

Another side to some of Luther’s ideas ahead of his time…there was likewise a great movement for such lay participation in the liturgy that the 'presider was more like a showman, the congregation more the focus, than Our Lord, the atonement of sin, of we entering heaven on earth.

It can be all so complicated. And one can scripturally, linguistically, historically support the role and position of the Catholic Church with much reason and persuasion and have no takers.

How we yearn for the reunification within Christianity where we can truly worship at one table of the Lord!

Op, your opening line did quite a good job of bashing Luther. I’m not sure what you mean by bashing but trying to discuss the actual things Luther did teach and write should be discussed. If you really read some of the things he wrote, they are pretty violent in nature especially against the Jews and anyone that disagreed with Luther. While most Protestants talk about Luther, admire Luther to some extent and think of him as some kind of hero is standing up to that big old bad Catholic Church, most Protestants have not actually read him and what he wrote. There seems to be a mystic about Luther with Protestants and it shuts down the conversation, not enhance it when Luther isn’t talked about in the fear of bashing him. Your opening line and its description of him as a lunatic is bashing. Discussing the realities of what he taught and wrote isn’t bashing, it is striping down the myths around him and exposing him and the realities of what he taught which has splintered Christianity.

I have never felt the Reformation was the right way of handling disputes with the Catholic Church in those days since it has promoted nothing but more divisions & confusions in the world of Christianity now, and has put off people from the Christian faith no matter Catholicism or Protestantism.

How lost are those souls who cannot decide between Catholicism & Protestantism anymore til they had to refuse Christianity altogether. Lost sheeps running further from the flock & the Shepherd out of confusion due to the great Schism, only to be even more lost. We are not talking about Catholicism & all the denominations of Protestantism here, its the numerous souls whom had fallen over the cliffs, drifting in uncertainty in the great river which separated us, having lost faith in Christianity altogether due to what had happened.

However I could never also agree with the behaviors of Catholics or any Protestant for that matter to bash each other. But that does not mean that only some of the Catholics do these. There are a lot of Protestants going around calling Popes the Anti-Christs & slandering the followers of the Catholic Faith. I know because I keep getting that a lot, especially now when I am a Catechumen in the RCIA, discouraging me from going on with my journey & to be baptized by the Holy Catholic Church with claims that I will be damned if I do so.

Whats even more saddening is seeing how many Protestants are using the media to promote propaganda, twisting the Popes messages to the world to mislead people. For every message from the Popes that was twisted to mislead, I had to check back their exact content myself and every time I find falsehoods in the claims about the Popes. What they failed to reflect upon was that they are spreading gossips and falsehoods of things they themselves may be uncertain about and yet they can be so certain about their own salvation…

So I really have to disagree here that Catholics alone do that, my apologies. A peaceful resolution has to go both ways, it is the responsibility of every Protestant and Catholic alike.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit