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Produced by Kurt A. Bodling, Ganser Library, Millersville
University, Millersville, PA, USA

Luther Examined and Reexamined
A Review of Catholic Criticism and a Plea
for Revaluation

By W.H.T. Dau,
Professor, Concordia Theological Seminary

St. Louis, Mo.
Concordia Publishing House

One may deplore the pathetic courage which periodically heartens
Catholic writers for the task of writing against Luther, but one can
understand the necessity for such efforts, and, accordingly, feel a real
pity for those who make them. Attacks on Luther are demanded for
Catholics by the law of self-preservation. A recent Catholic writer
correctly says: "There is no doubt that the religious problem to-day is
still the Luther problem." "Almost every statement of those religious
doctrines which are opposed to Catholic moral teaching find their
authorization in the theology of Martin Luther."

Rome has never acknowledged her errors nor admitted her moral defeat.
The lessons of past history are wasted upon her. Rome is determined to
assert to the end that she was not, and cannot be, vanquished. In the
age of the Reformation, she admits, she suffered some losses, but she
claims that she is fast retrieving these, while Protestantism is
decadent and decaying. No opposition to her can hope to succeed.

This is done to bolster up Catholic courage. The intelligent Catholic
layman of the present day makes his own observations, and draws his own
conclusions as to the status and the future prospect of Protestantism.
Therefore, he must be invited to "acquaint himself with the lifestory of
the man, whose followers can never explain away the anarchy of that
immoral dogma: 'Be a sinner, and sin boldly; but believe more boldly
still!' He must be shown the many hideous scenes of coarseness,
vulgarity, obscenity, and degrading immorality in Martin Luther's life."
When the Catholic rises from the contemplation of these scenes, it is
hoped that his mind has become ironclad against Protestant argument.
These attacks upon Luther are a plea _pro domo_, the effort of a strong
man armed to keep his palace and his goods in peace.

Occurring, as they do, in this year of the Four-hundredth Anniversary of
the Reformation, these attacks, moreover, represent a Catholic
counter-demonstration to the Protestant celebration of the
Quadricentenary of Luther's Theses. They are the customary cries of
dissent and vigorous expressions of disgust which at a public meeting
come from parties in the audience that are not pleased with the speaker
on the stage. If the counter-demonstration includes in its program the
obliging application of eggs in an advanced state of maturity to the
speaker, and chooses to emphasize its presence to the very nostrils of
the audience, that, too, is part of the prevailing custom. It is
aesthetically incorrect, to be sure, but it is in line historically with
former demonstrations. No Protestant celebration would seem normal
without them. They help Protestants in their preparations for the
jubilee to appreciate the remarks of David in Psalm 2, 11: "Rejoice with
trembling." And if Shakespeare was correct in the statement: "Sweet are
the uses of adversity," they need not be altogether deplored.

An attempt is made in these pages to review the principal charges and
arguments of Catholic critics of Luther. The references to Luther's
works are to the St. Louis Edition; those to the Book of Concord, to the
People's Edition.

Authors must be modest, and as a rule they are. In the domain of
historical research there is rarely anything that is final. This
observation was forced upon the present writer with unusual power as the
rich contents of his subjects opened up to him during his study. He has
sought to be comprehensive, at least, as regards essential facts, in
every chapter; he does not claim that his presentation is final. He
hopes that it may stimulate further research.

This book is frankly polemical. It had to be, or there would have been
no need of writing it. It seeks to meet both the assertions and the
spirit of Luther's Catholic critics. A review ought to be a mirror, and
mirrors must reflect. But there is no malice in the author's effort.

W. H. T. Dau.

Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Mo.
May 10, 1917.


l. Luther Worship
2. Luther Hatred
3. Luther Blemishes
4. Luther's Task
5. The Popes in Luther's Time
6. Luther's Birth and Parentage
7. Luther's Great Mistake
8. Luther's Failure as a Monk
9. Professor Luther, D. D.
10. Luther's "Discovery" of the Bible
11. Rome and the Bible
12. Luther's Visit at Rome
13. Pastor Luther
14. The Case of Luther's Friend Myconius
15. Luther's Faith without Works
16. The Fatalist Luther
17. Luther a Teacher of Lawlessness
18. Luther Repudiates the Ten Commandments
19. Luther's Invisible Church
20. Luther on the God-given Supremacy of the Pope
21. Luther the Translator of the Bible
22. Luther a Preacher of Violence against the Hierarchy
23. Luther, Anarchist and Despot All in One
24. Luther the Destroyer of Liberty of Conscience
25. "The Adam and Eve of the New Gospel of Concubinage"
26. Luther an Advocate of Polygamy
27. Luther Announces His Death
28. Luther's View of His Slanderers

1. Luther Worship.

Catholic writers profess themselves shocked by the unblushing veneration
which Luther receives from Protestants. Such epithets as "hero of the
Reformation," "angel with the everlasting Gospel flying through the
midst of heaven," "restorer of the Christian faith," grate on Catholic
nerves. Luther's sayings are cited with approval by all sorts of men.
Men feel that their cause is greatly strengthened by having Luther on
their side. Luther's name is a name to conjure with. Hardly a great man
has lived in the last four hundred years but has gone on record as an
admirer of Luther. Rome, accordingly, cries out that Luther is become
the uncanonized saint of Protestantism, yea, the deified expounder of
the evangelical faith.

Coming from a Church that venerates and adores and prays to - you must
not say "worships" - as many saints as there are days in the calendar,
this stricture is refreshing. Saints not only of questionable sanctity,
but of doubtful existence have been worshiped - beg pardon! venerated -
by Catholics. What does the common law say about the prosecution coming
into court with clean hands? If there is such a thing among Protestants
as "religious veneration" of Luther, what shall we call the veneration
of Mary among Catholics? Pius IX, on December 8, 1854, proclaimed the
"immaculate conception," that is, the sinlessness of Mary from the very
first moment of her existence, thus removing her from the sphere of
sin-begotten humanity. In 1913, the press of the country was preparing
its readers for another move towards the deification of Mary: her
"assumption" was to be declared. That is, it was to be declared a
Catholic dogma that the corpse of Mary did not see corruption, and was
at the moment of her death removed to heaven. The _Pasadena Star_ of
August 15th in that year wrote: "It is now known that since his recent
illness Pope Pius, realizing that his active pontificate is practically
at an end, has expressed to some of the highest dignitaries of the
Catholic Church at Rome the desire to round out his career by this last
great act." The _Western Watchman_ of July 3d in that year had in its
inimitable style referred to the coming dogma, thus: "What Catholic in
the world to-day would say that the immaculately conceived body of
the Blessed Virgin was allowed to rot in the grave? The Catholic mind
would rebel against the thought; and death would be preferred to the
blasphemous outrage." The grounds for wanting the "assumption" of Mary
fixed in a dogma were these: "Catholics believe in the bodily assumption
of the Blessed Virgin, because their faith instinctively teaches them
that such a thing is possible and proper, and that settles it in favor
of the belief. The body of our Lord should not taste corruption, neither
should the body that gave Him His body. The flesh that was bruised for
our sins was the flesh of Mary. The blood that was shed for our
salvation was drawn from Mary's veins. It would be improper that the
Virgin Mother should be allowed to see corruption if her Son was
exempted from the indignity." If any should be so rash as to question
the propriety of the new dogma, the writer held out this pleasant
prospect to them: "Dogmas are stones at the heads of heretics. . . . The
eyes of all Catholics see aright; if they are afflicted with strabismus,
the Church resorts to an operation. All Catholics hear aright; if they
do not, the Church applies a remedy to their organ of hearing. These
surgical operations go under the name of dogmas." The world remembers
with what success an operation of this kind was performed on a number of
Roman prelates, who questioned the infallibility of the Pope. The dogma
was simply declared in 1870, and that put a quietus to all Catholic
scruples. Some day the "assumption" of Mary will be proclaimed as a
Catholic dogma. We should not feel surprised if ultimately a dogma were
published to the effect that the Holy Trinity is a Holy Quartet, with
Mary as the fourth person of the Godhead.

The Roman Church is accustomed to speak of her Supreme Pontiff, the Holy
Father, the Vicegerent of Christ, His Infallible Holiness, in terms that
lift a human being to heights of adoration unknown among Protestants.
For centuries the tendency in the Roman Church to make of the Pope "a
god on earth" has been felt and expressed in Christendom.

This Church wants to preach to Protestants about the sin of man-worship!
Verily, here we have the parable of the mote and the beam in a twentieth
century edition. Catholic teachers would be the last ones, we imagine,
whom scrupulous Christians would choose for instructing them regarding
the sin of idolatry and the means to avoid it.

No Protestant regards Luther as Catholics regard Mary, not even Patrick.
Luther has taught them too well for that. Unwittingly the Catholics
themselves have immortalized Luther by naming the Evangelical Church
after Luther. Luther declined the honor. "I beg," he said, "not to have
my name mentioned, and to call people not Lutheran, but Christian. What
is Luther? The doctrine is not mine, nor have I been crucified for any
one. . . . The papists deserve to have a party-name, for they are not
content with the doctrine and name of Christ; they want to be popish
also. Well, let them be called popish, for the Pope is their master. I
am not, and I do not want to be, anybody's master." (10, 371.)

It is likely that the frequent laudatory mention of Luther's name,
especially in connection with the present anniversary of the
Reformation, is taken as a challenge by Catholics. If it is that, it is
so by the choice of Catholics. It is impossible to speak of a great man
without referring to the conflicts that made him great. "He makes no
friend," says Tennyson, "who never made a foe." "The man who has no
enemies," says Donn Piatt, "has no following." Opposition is one of the
accepted marks of greatness. The opposition which great men aroused
during their lifetime lives after them, and crops out again on a given
occasion. This is deplorable, but it is the ordinary course. Moreover,
it is possible that in a season of great joy like that which the
Quadricentenary of the Reformation has ushered in orators and writers
may fail to put a due check on their enthusiasm and may overstate a
fact. Such things happen even among Catholics, we believe, But they will
be negligible quantities in the present celebration. The proper
corrective for them will be provided by Protestants themselves. The vast
majority of those who have embraced the spiritual leadership of Luther
in matters pertaining to Christian doctrine and morals will prove again
that they are in no danger of inaugurating man-worship. The spirit of
Luther is too much alive in them for that. They will, with the Marquis
of Brandenburg, declare: "If I be asked whether with heart and lip I
confess that faith which God has restored to us by Luther as His
instrument, I have no scruple, nor have I a disposition to shrink from
the name Lutheran. Thus understood, I am, and shall to my dying hour
remain, a Lutheran." They will ever be able to distinguish between the
man Luther, prone to error and sin like any other mortal, and the Luther
who fought the battle of the Lord and had a mission of everlasting
import to the Church and the world. They have shown on numerous
occasions that they can be friends of Luther, and yet criticize him or
dissent from him. If they had not, there would be no Protestants whom
Catholics can quote as "opponents" of Luther. On the other hand, if any
one undertakes to enlighten the public with a view of Luther,
Protestants will insist that his estimate comport with the facts in the
case, and that the name of a great man who deserves well of posterity be
not traduced. Why, even the Catholic von Schlegel thinks Luther has not
been half esteemed as he ought to be.

2. Luther Hatred.

Catholic writers have found so much to censure in the character and
writings of Luther that one is amazed, after reading them, how Luther
ever could become regarded as a great and good man. Criminal blindness
must have held the eyes, not only of Luther's associates, but of his
entire age, yea, of men for centuries after, if they failed to see
Luther's constitutional baseness. Quite recently a Catholic writer has
told the world in one chapter of his book that "the apostate monk of
Wittenberg" was possessed of "a violent, despotic, and uncontrolled
nature," that he was "depraved in manners and in speech." He speaks of
Luther's "ungovernable transports, riotous proceedings, angry conflicts,
and intemperate controversies," of Luther's "contempt of all the
accepted forms of human right and all authority, human and divine," of
"his unscrupulous mendacity," "his perverse principles," "his wild
pronouncements." He calls Luther "a lawless one," "one of the most
intolerant of men," "a revolutionist, not a reformer." He says that
Luther "attempted reformation and ended in deformation." He charges
Luther with having written and preached "not for, but against good
works," with having assumed rights to himself in the matter of liberty
of conscience which "he unhesitatingly and imperiously denied to all who
differed from him," with having "rent asunder the unity of the Church,"
with having "disgraced the Church by a notoriously wicked and scandalous
life," with having "declared it to be the right of every man to
interpret the Bible to his own individual conception," with "one day
proclaiming the binding force of the Ten Commandments and the next
declaring they were not obligatory on Christian observance," with having
"reviled and hated and cursed the Church of his fathers."

These opprobrious remarks are only a part of the vileness of which the
writer has delivered himself in his first chapter. His whole book
bristles with assertions of Luther's inveterate badness. This coarse and
crooked Luther, we are told, is the real Luther, the genuine article.
The Luther of history is only a Protestant fiction. Protestants like
Prof. Seeberg of Berlin, and others, who have criticized Luther, are
introduced as witnesses for the Catholic allegation that Luther was a
thoroughly bad man. We should like to ascertain the feelings of these
Protestants when they are informed what use has been made of their
remarks about Luther. Some of them may yet let the world know what they
think of the attempt to make them the squires of such knights errant as
Denifle and Grisar.

It is about ten years ago since the Jesuit Grisar began to publish his
_Life of Luther,_ twice that time, since Denifle painted his caricature
of Luther. Several generations ago Janssen, in his _History of the
German Nation,_ gave the Catholic interpretation of Luther and the
Reformation. Going back still further, we come to the Jesuit Maimbourg,
to Witzel, and in Luther's own time to Cochlaeus and Oldecop, all of
whom strove to convince the world that Luther was a moral degenerate and
a reprobate. The book of Mgr. O'Hare, which has made its appearance on
the eve of the Four-hundredth Anniversary of Luther's Theses, is merely
another eruption from the same mud volcano that became active in
Luther's lifetime. It is the old dirt that has come forth. Rome must
periodically relieve itself in this manner, or burst. Rome hated the
living Luther, and cannot forget him since he is dead. It hates him
still. Its hatred is become full-grown, robust, vigorous with the
advancing years. When Rome speaks its mind about Luther, it cannot but
speak in terms of malignant scorn. If Luther could read Mgr. O'Hare's
book, he would say: "Wes das Herz voll ist, des gehet der Mund ueber."
(Matt. 12, 34: "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.")

Luther has done one thing which Rome will never pardon: he dared to
attack the supreme authority of the Pope. He made men see the
ignominious bondage in which cunning priests had ensnared them, and by
restoring them to the liberty with which Christ had made them free
Luther caused the papacy an irreparable loss. The papal system of
teaching and government was so thoroughly exposed by Luther, and has
since been so completely disavowed by a great part of professing
Christians that Rome cannot practise its old frauds any longer. Men have
become extremely wary of Rome. That is what hurts. The Catholic writer
to whom we referred sums up the situation thus: Since Luther "all
Protestant mankind descending by ordinary generation have come into the
world with a mentality biased, perverted, and prejudiced." That is
Rome's way of looking at the matter. The truth is: the world is
forewarned, hence forearmed against the pleas of Rome. It pays only an
indifferent attention to vilifications of Luther that come from that
quarter, because it expects no encomiums and only scant justice for
Luther from Rome. But it is the business of the teachers of Protestant
principles in religion, particularly of the church historians of
Protestantism, to take notice of the campaign of slander that is
launched against Luther by Catholic writers at convenient intervals. It
is not a task to delight the soul, rather to try the patience, of
Christians. For in the study of the causes for these calumnies against a
great man of history, and of the possible means for their removal, one
is forced invariably to the conclusion that there is but one cause, and
that is hatred. What can poor mortal man do to break down such a cause?
It does not yield to logic and historical facts, because it is in its
very nature unreasoning and unreasonable.

Still, for the hour that God sends to all the Sauls that roam the earth
breathing threatening and slaughter, the counter arguments should be
ready. No slander against Luther has ever gone unanswered. As the
charges against Luther have become stereotyped, so the rejoinder cannot
hope to bring forward any new facts. But it seems necessary that each
generation in the Church Militant be put through the old drills, and
learn its fruitful lessons of spiritual adversity. Thus even these
polemical exchanges between Catholics and Protestants become blessings
in disguise. But they do not affect Luther. The sublime figure of the
courageous confessor of Christ that has stood towering in the annals of
the Christian Church for four hundred years stands unshaken, silent, and
grand, despite the froth that is dashed against its base and the
lightning from angry clouds that strikes its top. "Surely, the wrath of
man shall praise thee." (Ps. 76, 10.)

3. Luther Blemishes.

When Luther is charged with immoral conduct, and the specific facts
together with the documentary evidence are not submitted along with the
charge, little can be done in the way of rebuttal. One can only guess at
the grounds on which the charge is based. For instance, when Luther is
said to have disgraced the Church by a notoriously wicked and scandalous
life, the reason is most likely because he married although he was a
monk sworn to remain single. Moreover, he married a noble lady who was a
nun, also sworn to celibacy. According to the inscrutable ethics of Rome
this is concubinage, although the Scripture plainly declares that a
minister of the Church should be the husband of one wife, 1 Tim. 3, 2,
and no vows can annul the ordinance and commandment of God: "It is not
good that man should be alone." Gen. 2, 18. Comp. 1 Cor. 7, 2, and
Augsburg Confession, Art. 27.

When Luther is said to have reviled, hated, and cursed the Church of his
fathers, the probable reason is, because he wrote the _Babylonian
Captivity of the Church_ and _The Papacy at Rome Founded by the Devil_.
In these writings Luther depicts the true antichristian inwardness of
the papacy. By so doing, however, Luther restored the Church of his
fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers in Christ down to the first
ancestor of our race. Luther's faith is none other than the faith of the
true Church in all the ages. Luther's own father and mother died in that

When Luther is said to have taught Nietzsche's insanity about the
"Superhuman" (Uebermensch) before Nietzsche, to have put the Ten
Commandments out of commission for Christians, and to have preached
against good works, the reasons most likely are these: Luther taught
salvation in accordance with Rom. 3, 25: "We conclude that a man is
justified by faith, without the deeds of the Law." Luther taught that a
person is not saved by his own works, and if he performs good works with
that end in view, he shames his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who is the
end of the Law for righteousness to every one that believeth (Rom. 10,
4), and he falls under the curse of God for placing his own merits
alongside of the merit of the Redeemer's sacrifice. In no other
connection has Luther spoken against good works. He has rather taught
men how to become fruitful in well-doing by the sanctifying grace of God
and according to the inspiring example of the matchless Jesus.
Concerning the Law, Luther preached 1 Tim. 1, 9: "The Law is not made
for a righteous man," that is, Christians do the works of the Law, not
for the Law's sake, but for the sake of Christ, whom they love and whose
mind is in them. They must not be driven like slaves to obey God, but
their very faith prompts them to live soberly, righteously, and godly in
this present world (Tit. 2, 12). But Luther always held that the rule
for good works is laid down in the holy Law of God, and only in that;
also that the Law must be applied to Christians, in as far as they still
live in, the flesh, and are not become altogether spiritual. Luther's
public activity as a preacher began with a series of sermons on the Ten
Commandments, and this effort to expound the divine norm of
righteousness was repeated several times during Luther's life. Luther's
expositions of the Decalog are among the finest that the world
possesses. Moreover, Luther wrote the Small Catechism. Hand any Catholic
who talks about Luther having abolished the Ten Commandments this little
book. That is a sufficient refutation. What Luther teaches in this book
he has given his life to reduce to practise in himself and others. He
says in a sermon on Easter Monday, 1530: "When rising in the morning, I
pray with my children the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Lord's
Prayer, and some Psalm. I do this because I want to make myself cling to
these truths. I shall not suffer my faith to become mildewed with the
imagination that I am above these things (_dass ich's koenne_)." His
sermon on the First Sunday in Advent in the same year he begins thus:
"Dear friends, I am now an old Doctor, still I find every day that I
must recite with the children the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the
Lord's Prayer, and I have always derived a great benefit and blessing
from this practise." (12, 1611. 1641.)

Luther is charged with mendacity, that is, he is said to have lied. The
reasons that will be given for this charge, when called for, will
probably be these: Luther at various times in his life gave three
different years as the year of his birth, three different years as the
year when he made his journey to Rome, and advised somebody in 1512 to
become a monk when he had already commenced to denounce the monastic
life: It is true that Luther did all these things, but it is also true

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