New Luther's Works and a New Work on Luther?

Marco Vervoost (now blogging at Adventures in Jesus) alerted me to this post on Dave Armstrong’s blog: Untranslated German Works of Martin Luther (Including Two-Thirds of the Weimar Werke: “WA”) : 20 New Volumes in English Forthcoming. Good news for Lutherophiles.

But I also notice on Dave’s website an advertisement for his new book “Martin Luther: Catholic Critical Analysis and Praise”.

Has anyone read it and does anyone know anything about it?

I am usually a bit coy about Catholic books about Luther. There have been many good scholary works done (as a youngster I bought and still prize this one by Peter Manns), but polemical works by people who have never known Luther “from the inside” (as it were) usually tend to get the poor old fellow wrong one way or another.

For instance, I get thoroughly sick of Fr Mitch Pacwa on EWTN constantly citing the “dung heap covered by snow” analogy. I neveer heard such a thing when I was a Lutheran. How can Fr Mitch make it such a centre of his critique of Luther? A far more balanced approach is in this short article on the Catholic Culture website.

As far as I can tell, Dave Armstrong is a convert from US-style Evangelicalism, not Lutheranism. In general, Evangelicals get Luther as wrong as Catholics do, because they read him through Calvinist glasses.

So, my question is, is there any reason to suppose that this book on Luther by Armstrong is any more balanced than his previous work on the same subject (for eg. see this critique)?

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34 Responses to New Luther's Works and a New Work on Luther?

  1. Weedon says:

    Amen, David. There is much to critique in Luther, even for a Lutheran, as you well know; but the incessant caricatures of his theological teaching and of Lutheran teaching in general is as wearisome to us as caricatures of Catholicism are to you (and you can add to the list…). “To explain our neighbor’s [words and] actions in the kindest way” – to quote SOMEONE – seems the task that is before us!

  2. Tony Bartel says:

    “For instance, I get thoroughly sick of Fr Mitch Pacwa on EWTN constantly citing the “dung heap covered by snow” analogy. I never heard such a thing when I was a Lutheran.”


    You obviously weren’t paying attention at Seminary – I wish I had a glass of red wine for every time I hear our good friend Timo use this analogy from Luther.

    • Schütz says:

      Ah, Timo. The chances are you DID have a glass of red wine for every time he said it! But Timo was a student, not a lecturer, no matter how much he enjoyed to hold forth!

  3. Weedon says:

    Check out SA Part III, Article III:40

    In Christians, repentance continues until death. For through one’s entire life, repentance contends with the sin remaining in the flesh…. This gift [the Holy Spirit and the new powers He imparts] daily cleanses and sweeps out the remaining sins and works to make a person truly pure and holy.

    Check out FC SD I:14

    Furthermore, human nature, which is perverted and corrupted by original sin, must and can be healed only by the regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. However, this healing is only begun in this life. It will not be perfect until the life to come.

    • Schütz says:

      Yes, the more I read of Luther and modern Luther studies, the more I think he did have an idea that the righteousness imparted to the repentant, baptised and trusting Christian WAS a true imparting, such that the renewed soul indeed became pure and holy.

  4. Weedon says:

    P.S. I *never* heard the “analogy” until the last few years on the net. Does anyone know if Luther actually used it? Can they give chapter and verse?

  5. Hi David,

    Nice to meet your acquaintance.

    >Has anyone read it and does anyone know anything about it?

    Not many, but those who have read it know a little bit. Fr. Peter Stravinskas gave it a positive review:

    >I am usually a bit coy about Catholic books about Luther. There have been many good scholary works done (as a youngster I bought and still prize this one by Peter Manns), but polemical works by people who have never known Luther “from the inside” (as it were) usually tend to get the poor old fellow wrong one way or another.

    That’s correct. I get all kinds of opinions about my Luther research. I’ve been accused of being “anti-Luther” by a few people, and accused of being too soft on Luther, by Catholic “traditionalists” (recently, a person stated on a forum that I have claimed that what Luther did was “heroic”; I informed him that I have not done so since my conversion no 1990, and he retracted it). When one is getting it from both sides, usually they are doing something right.

    But even Pastor Paul McCain: no fan of Catholic apologists, or of Catholicism, and a very prominent Lutheran pastor, active online, commended the following paper of mine:

    “The Supreme Importance of Interpreting Martin Luther in Context (E.g., His Views on Marriage and Sexuality)”

    He wrote:

    “I appreciate the words of caution being expressed about how best to read Luther.”

    (2-23-07 on my blog)

    >For instance, I get thoroughly sick of Fr Mitch Pacwa on EWTN constantly citing the “dung heap covered by snow” analogy. I never heard such a thing when I was a Lutheran. How can Fr Mitch make it such a centre of his critique of Luther? A far more balanced approach is in this short article on the Catholic Culture website.

    I studied that issue and concluded that the actual quote could not be found; though other statements by Luther approximate it:

    “Has Martin Luther’s “Snow-Covered Dunghill” Mystery-Legend Been Solved?!”

    A version of that is in the book.

    >As far as I can tell, Dave Armstrong is a convert from US-style Evangelicalism, not Lutheranism.

    I went to an evangelically-oriented Lutheran church for three years, but I was not doctrinally Lutheran. I have never been a Calvinist. I was Arminian, which is not far from Lutheran soteriology. Martin Luther was a big hero of mine (as I have stated in my published conversion story in “Surprised by Truth”). I remember reading his biography by Roland Bainton, way back in 1984, when we were driving back from our honeymoon.

    >In general, Evangelicals get Luther as wrong as Catholics do, because they read him through Calvinist glasses.

    I try to be as accurate and fair as I can, as shown in a full one-third of the book being “praise” of Luther and demonstrating how he often agrees with Catholics. But I am critical, too, and see nothing wrong with that.

    Lest anyone think being critical of some of Luther’s beliefs is simply as “polemical” thing that only lay apologists do, and not Catholic scholars, I would direct them to my recent paper on Luther’s early Christology, which includes lengthy comments from Pope Benedict XVI and Hans Urs von Balthasar, including praises of Theobald Beer, a Luther scholar who was very critical of Luther, and who accused him of decided Manichaean tendencies:

    I don’t mind being constructively criticized. Feel free. And I’ll reply, as presently. But I do get tired of folks trying to imply that there is a huge chasm between, say, my apologetic work, and the scholarly work of those such as the Holy Father and von Balthasar (as if my conclusions are vastly different from theirs).

    >So, my question is, is there any reason to suppose that this book on Luther by Armstrong is any more balanced than his previous work on the same subject (for eg. see this critique)?

    It’s all in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it? You wouldn’t have a balanced view of my Luther research, if all you have read is a scathingly polemical critique of it, by a person who doesn’t even think Catholicism is Christian. You might also (in fairness to me) want to read my reply, as to my use of Roland Bainton (which was atrociously misrepresented in the article you cite):

    So yes, I am critical of Luther where I think he was wrong. What’s wrong with that? Do Catholics not have a right and even a duty to defend Catholic truth claims when they are severely attacked? I don’t “hate” the man or think he was a “bad” man. I admire him in some ways. This was all made clear in the introduction to my book, available online:

    You can see what I was trying to accomplish with the book by reading that. But if folks insist on blasting my Luther research, largely based on hearsay and reading only critiques without reading my replies to such critiques, I would simply point out that I ought to at least be commended when I defend Luther (and Lutherans), or cite him in agreement, as I have done many times. For example, in these papers:

    “Martin Luther on Sanctification and the Absolute Necessity of Good Works as the Proof of Authentic Faith” (part of the book)

    “Martin Luther Refutes Zwingli and Other Deniers of the Real Presence”

    “Martin Luther’s Mariology (Particularly the Immaculate Conception)”

    “Contraception and the “Fewer Children is Better” Mentality: the Opposition of Martin Luther, John Calvin, and Other Protestants”

    “Did Martin Luther Believe That Jesus Had Carnal Relations With Mary Magdalene and Others?”

    “Zwingli, Bucer, & Oecolampadius Said Martin Luther & Lutherans Weren’t Christians”

    I think it is a problem today, especially on the Internet, that lots of people like to talk about others and make comments about their work, without actually reading or interacting with it. I’m all about friendly dialogue. If someone doesn’t care for something I write, they are more than welcome to critique it (I positively encourage it), and I’d be delighted to have a dialogue and present all of my critics’ views on my own blog. You or anyone else are welcome to do so.

    For now, I hope I have shown that the views of my severest critics concerning my treatment of Luther, are more than a little unbalanced and inaccurate. My concern, as a Catholic apologist, is with theological truth and historical truth, not tearing down human beings simply because I disagree with them, or having to always be “right” about everything, no matter what.

    Hence I am happy to defend Luther or agree with him, when I am able to do so as a Catholic, in good conscience. I’m as ecumenical as I am apologetic. In some ways, I am less critical of Luther than even his fellow Protestants were. Calvin said he was an idolater. I haven’t said that. Other Protestants during his time implied that he was mad or otherwise profoundly unbalanced. I haven’t claimed that, either. I have simply noted that he was prone to depression, as all of his biographers freely acknowledge. And I say that this may have had an effect on his soteriology, which I think is quite plausible, and which has been asserted by many historians also. My positions on Luther are often quite “moderate” compared to what is seen in some Catholic circles. For example, there is a current controversy going on (I’ve only skimmed it), where a Catholic has apparently claimed that Luther lost faith because two of his children died. I think that is outrageous and disgusting, to make such a tragic issue fodder for Luther-bashing.

    If many thousands of certain sorts of Protestants can make out that you and I are not even Christians, because we are Catholics (an extreme insult indeed), then certainly I can criticize a man for having what I believe is incorrect theology, or incorrect moral positions, no?

    Lastly, if you like, I’ll send you a Word or PDF version of my Luther book for free. All I ask is that you actually read it, and put up some kind of a review when you finish (whether positive or negative or mixed, is up to you).

    Thanks for letting me have my “say” on your blog. And this will also be posted on mine (just so you know).

    God bless,


    • Schütz says:

      Dave, I am truly thankful for your work to which you have given all these links. It will be valuable for any future research I have in mind on the relationship between Benedict’s theology and that of Martin Luther (I think there is a connection somewhere, but what it is exactly, I am not quite sure). I haven’t read your book, as I said – I was looking for any comments from those who had so I knew whether to order it or not. The last thing I expected was the author to come in on the discussion! But who better to hear it from? Once again, thanks for all this. I look forward to reading your work.

  6. James Swan says:

    I have had a lot of interaction with the author of “Martin Luther: Catholic Critical Analysis and Praise”. I also have this book. Over the years, Mr. Armstrong has gotten better with his work on Luther. He began his writing about Luther with publishing things like this:

    This link was on the author’s website for years, and was also published. I caught a glaring error, based on the fact he never read the contexts for some of the quotes he used:

    I’ve caught him so often treating a context poorly, that he’s much more careful these days. Now with Google books, he can often find contexts. Previously, he would often cite Luther’s German or Latin works, and he can read neither language. He was getting his information from second hand sources, a lot of it from the pre-Lortz era of Catholic scholarship. With his current book on Luther, he cites “Luther’s Own Statements Concerning His Teaching and its Results Taken Exclusively From the Earliest and Best Editions of Luther’s German and Latin Works” by Henry O’Connor as one of his primary references. The book is an old small anthology of Luther quotes, peppered with vilifying commentary from O’Connor. Primary source? Not in this reality.

    As to “Martin Luther: Catholic Critical Analysis and Praise”, the majority, if not all of the content can be found on the author’s website, so there isn’t really any need to buy the book for the information. If you want to know the author’s take on Luther, simply browse his website.

    Here is a brief entry on one of the references used in the book that I looked up:

    As to your question: “is there any reason to suppose that this book on Luther by Armstrong is any more balanced than his previous work on the same subject (for eg. see this critique)”

    First, I stand by my critique that you linked to.

    In fairness to Mr. Armstrong, his work on Luther has come a long way from his earlier Luther-vilifying writings, probably because the Internet has made more resources available to him.

    Balanced? No- he still follows many of Grisar’s fundamental paradigms, and Grisar’s work is not a current standard in Catholic Luther scholarship. Again, if you want to read his work on Luther, you can simply find most of it on his webpage, and decide for yourself.

    James Swan

    • Schütz says:

      Thanks for taking the time to add a comment, James. I really just pulled your critique from a list of things that Google threw up – I wasn’t making a judgement either way. You and Dave have both responded, and I am glad that you have. You give me both sides of the debate. Always a good thing to have when making a judgement. Thanks for joining in.

  7. Peter says:

    In his Lectures on Romans, Luther put it this way, “The saints in being righteous are at the same time sinners; they are righteous because they believe in Christ whose righteousness covers them and is imputed to them, but they are sinners because they do not fulfill the Law and are not without sinful desires. They are like sick people in the care of a physician: they are really sick, but healthy only in hope and in so far as they begin to get better, or, rather: are being healed.”

    It is not the ‘kindest possible’ explanation to equate this with the dungheap analogy, but I first heard it mentioned in Lutheran Seminary as an example of a BAD oversimplification of the above.

    In it’s kindest interpretation, from a Catholic perspective, I believe the above could easily accomodate a Catholic understanding of the process of justification.

    I think the discussion goes all the way back to original sin and should properly begin there. We SEEM like we are saying the same things as Lutherans, but I don’t believe we are.

    • Weedon says:


      No, I don’t think we’re saying the exact same thing. Because for us justification is never a process, but it initiates a process – sanctification. Because the sanctification is never finished in this life, we “must live under forgiveness till the end” (Augustine). But there is true healing of the human nature that takes place through our union with Christ by the Holy Spirit.

      • Schütz says:

        Once again, on this topic, I would like to point to Chris Burgwald’s excellent (unpublished) dissertation on “The sinfulness of the Justified in Lutheran Catholic dialogue in the United States of America”. If you are interested in reading this, I would be happy to forward your email address to Chris if you email me with this request.

  8. matthias says:

    Interesting, three ex Lutherans and a Lutheran pastor having different views on lord Katie’s bloke.
    Yes Calvinists have always viewed Luther through different,some may say extremely narrow,lenses.AnaBaptists view him as not having radicalised the Reformation even more. Evangelicals generally -the environment i grew up in- think Luther was still too Catholic even after the Reformation

    • Weedon says:

      Lutherans consider him to be, of course, quite catholic – in the best sense of that word. More in tune with the great tradition than the tradition he immediately received. More Augustinian than Lombardian, if you will.

  9. matthias says:

    Wonder of PE will be making a comment?

  10. Peter says:

    No, I don’t think we’re saying the exact same thing. Because for us justification is never a process, but it initiates a process – sanctification

    The precise point I remember being made in my Lutheran Confessions class over and over. :)

    I hope it was obvious that I wasn’t having a go Pastor W, I was hoping to clarify the central issue in discussion. Perhaps I speak out of much frustration from discussions with both Lutherans and Catholics who insist we agree on certain basic concepts when what we agree on is the words, not the meaning of those words.

    The JDDJ is a lightning rod for such cultivated ignorance. I don’t mean to imply it causes ignoance, only that it seems to be abused to justify cultivated ignorance of other people’s understanding.

    In some ways it is an exciting time to live, where we mostly agree to stop calling each other names and attempt to understand each other. On the other hand it is frustrating that so many eccumenical discussions fail to get to the nub of the matter due to stopping discussion as soon as they discover a word that both are happy to utter, even if their meanings are completely different.

    • Weedon says:


      Certainly finding terminology that one can agree on and then explaining it in mutually exclusive ways is not helpful – and that DOES seem to be the modus operandi of the ecumenical movement. I also think that’s why it has ground, effectively, to a halt.

      I have noted, though, also among Lutherans the tendency to want to define justification in a manner that fits neither the Lutheran Symbols nor Luther’s own exhaustive explanation of the same in numerous places, among others the Great Galatians Commentary. Here we are indebted to the Finnish Luther research for pulling to the fore what was simply a given for Luther: he always coupled “grace and the gift in grace” – explaining this Pauline phrase in the following way. Grace is the divine favor, the kind regard which God bestows upon us through Christ. The gift that is IN such grace is the Person of the Holy Spirit who begins renewal within us.

      No way, then, to speak of the snow covered dungheap unless you recognize that the snow has within it the power and energy that begins to transform dung into something living and precious. Thus Chemnitz can write: “men are to be admonished that they should through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the flesh and firmly adhere to Christ by faith and *through the use of the Word and the sacraments become more and more united with Him.*” Examen I:607

      Briefly, as for justification being instantaneous, it’s really simply a matter of whether one is “in Christ” or not. One can always GROW in Christ, but the one who is outside Him is not justified; the one who is inside Him IS justified. That’s why St. John Chrysostom could write: “God does not wait for time to elapse after repentance. You state your sin, you are justified. You repented, you have been shown mercy.” – Homily 7 On Repentance and Compunction, p. 95 in FOTC, vol. 96.

      And one final note – justification in Lutheran dogmatics is thus perpetually present. Like Baptism, we do not say: “I was justified” we say “I am justified.” It is certainly possible to fall out of Christ through persistent sin against conscience in which case one is no longer regarded with the divine favor, but “the wrath of God abides upon the sons of disobedience.”

      I’m sure there’s nothing new to you in what I wrote above, but I just wanted to clarify some commonly held misunderstandings of the Lutheran teaching.

      A blessed Pentecost to you, David, and all the readers of his blog. “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of the faithful and kindle in them the fire of Your divine love!”

      • Schütz says:

        Hey, guys, here’s a thought: what say we try to figure out just what St Paul himself was trying to say when he talked about the Righteiousness of God and Justification, eh? Surely that’s the real point? On this, there’s nothing better than Tom Wright’s stuff. I’m a devotee of his “Fresh Perspective”. He isn’t right about everything (otherwise he would be a Catholic), but he is surely right (“Wright”?) on this issue. Makes all our squabbles over the JDDJ look a bit silly in the end.

  11. Like I said, don’t go by a person’s judgment of my work, who doesn’t even think Catholics are Christians (and, logically, his position and that of the well-known Reformed Baptist apologist he writes for) reduce (as I think I have proven in the past) to holding that Martin Luther wasn’t a Christian, either, because the latter person has argued that sacraments are antithetical to grace altogether. See the paper where I made this point (defending Luther — and also St. Augustine — against a Baptist):

    Lutherans and Catholics get along far better than that. I have papers online about how I respect Lutheranism more than any other Protestant denomination, and have engaged many Lutherans in friendly, constructive dialogue, including a professor of history (“CPA”) and — in a lengthy, multi-part exchange — two Lutheran pastors (LCMS: Larry Nichols and Ben Maton).

    My Luther research has greatly improved through the years, I think, because (this is the one thing he got right) I have been able to obtain far better sources than I had when I first began this line of research in late 1990, after becoming a Catholic (with many resources now being available for free online). That’s 17 years. One would hope that a person would learn a lot in that time-period. And I certainly have. And my opinion of Luther has generally improved, the more I learn about him.

    Some sources are still difficult to obtain even today. Recently, a friend blessed me with a copy of Erasmus’ “Hyperaspistes” (1526), which was his answer to Luther’s “Bondage of the Will.” This is, I think, an important work in the area of 16th century “dialogue” (if we can even call it that: Luther stated at least twice that he refused to even read Erasmus’ reply). I had been trying to obtain that since 1990. The book cost over $100: certainly out of my range. Once I read it, I posted extensive excerpts online, so folks can better understand the discussion over free will, and how Luther opted for personal attack (calling Erasmus an atheist and an Epicurean, etc.) and ignoring his opponents’ argument.

    This (literally) obsessed critic of mine (I’ll spare you the details, but believe me, I can document it), continues to cite articles that I wrote in 1993 (my first published article, which he — as always — cites above), 1997, when I first got online, etc. These have been revised many times or discarded altogether, and are only online (if they are at all) for documentary and “resume” purposes. My critic knows that I have changed some of my opinions, but continues to cite this old stuff (now 15 years old) that isn’t even listed on my Luther and Lutheranism web page anymore. Why would anyone keep citing stuff by an author who has himself removed it, that is nearly a generation old? I’ll let the reader draw his own conclusions about that.

    I’m simply asking for rudimentary fairness. If anyone is curious about my opinions regarding various aspects of Martin Luther, his opinions, and his life, my material is mostly available for free, for all to see. In fact, I’d be happy to give a free copy of my book on Luther to any Lutheran who would like to read an “ecumenical critique.” I don’t soft-pedal the difference and don’t mince words, but I also don’t descend to “anti-Lutheranism” in the way that anti-Catholics treat Catholics and the Catholic Church. It’s something different. Obviously, the profit motive is not driving me (for those who wish to make that charge, too) if I’m giving away free copies.

    Thanks once more for letting me express myself freely. I appreciate it.

  12. Also, lest anyone think that my critic above is any sort of fair judge of my work, please consider that he has a huge personal animus (we all know how bias and hostility can affect judgment). He wrote, for example, the following on his own blog and elsewhere:

    “Do you really think I live my life like you do, wanting all of Christendom to bow down at my feet? Do you really think I’m trying to build an empire like yours? . . . I don’t sell wares on my blog. I have no trinkets to sell. My blog isn’t called [so-and-so] because I want to be a superstar. . . . I’d rather starve . . . than follow your path to stardom.. . . It’s all glory to Dave Armstrong, and your words and actions prove it.”

    (3-10-07 and 3-13-07)

    “Let me state exactly how I feel about Mr. Armstrong, though it has never been a secret. I do not take him seriously. I have taken this approach for years, and it is reflected in my writing. . . . There isn’t any way this guy should be taken seriously as a professional apologist. He’s a guy sitting behind a computer, somewhere in Michigan. . . . Obviously, Mr. Armstrong is not the pillar of virtue or the martyr he makes himself out to be. I intend to treat Mr. Armstrong as he deserves, not seriously.”

    (4-17-07 and 4-18-07)

    “I guess I could write and self-publish books like DA does [I have four books published with major Catholic publishers; soon to be six], take your money, quit my full time job [I never did that; one company I worked for went out of business in 2001] , and sit in front of a computer all day and declare, “I am an apologist by profession”, “respect my wisdom.” But this would be dishonest.”

    (on the CARM dicussion board, 4-8-09)

    Etc., etc. There is a ton more of this sort of material, still online, in all its glory. A person with this amount of hostility is no accurate judge of another’s work, when he has both personal and anti-Catholic motivations to discredit it. It’s just common sense. So don’t buy his presentation of himself as a scholarly, objective judge of what I do. Look at the whole story. I don’t even interact with this person’s critiques anymore. But he continues to be obsessed with me. You can plainly see that on his site. No one need take my word for it. He doesnt “take me seriously” yet he has posted about 70 articles about me, all of the same general cynical, derisive nature.

    • Schütz says:

      Yes, I agree that none of that sounds very nice. We won’t be having any of it at this table, or no port and cheese for the guilty culprit!

      Nb. I belong to the “B-Team” (, as in “We don’t write books or do speaking tours… In fact, we barely do our jobs!”

      Although I have sometimes wondered if my work for Anima Education disqualifies me in this regard…

  13. I completely agree with Pastor Weedon’s presentation of how Lutherans view justification and sanctification.That’s why I included Luther’s many praiseworthy statements on the necessity of good works as proof of authentic faith and sanctification (and justification) in my book.

    Catholics and Protestants agree (as I have noted many times) that we are saved by grace alone, and that we must do good works in the course of the Christian life. Definitions and parameters and categories differ (I’m not trying to pretend that they don’t), but we agree on those things, and that is really what the Christian life is all about: what we DO with the grace God gives us (a huge biblical motif).

    It’s all within a sola gratia framework. It’s when either side misrepresents the other, that problems begin. Too many Lutherans erroneously make out that Catholics are Pelagians or idolaters (e.g., the Mass is described as “Baal worship” in the Lutheran confessions), and too many Catholics wrongly think Lutheran theology is antinomian.

    There is a substantial middle ground where we can unite, in Christ.

  14. James Swan says:

    I will certainly not partake in hijacking this thread to defend myself against all of Dave Armstrong’s comments, but rather offer only a few points, and then I’ll let it go over here.

    The proof of Dave Armstrong’s abilities are in his book and on his WebPages. Read them, and check his sources. I personally could not take money for a book on Luther unless I was qualified to write such a book, and that I demonstrated I was familiar with the Luther documents I’m quoting from.

    As to quoting Armstrong’s old writings- the old one I cited here has been on his website for years, and still is. It would still contain serious error had I not pointed it out. A Catholic finding that webpage of information would use it as polemical information, not as proof of Armstrong’s resume. I know this, because I’ve interacted with people who’ve quoted the page as a source. I didn’t go looking for the error, it was brought to me by a Catholic using it against Luther. I traced the error to Armstrong’s webpage.

    The other link I posted pertains to a citation used in his book that proves he still at times quotes Luther’s writings without first reading Luther. This is not good research, and I personally could not write a book on Luther without actually reading the original source. Honesty demands this.

    Catholic scholarship has come a long way with Luther, and it is not due to books like “Martin Luther: Catholic Critical Analysis and Praise.” I would much rather have Catholics read Catholic writers like these:

    James Swan

  15. The link that was made above was to an antiquated version of my paper, that is NOT on my website. You can see in the URL that it is from Internet Archive.

    As I noted above, I have the old article on Luther on my “Literary Resume” page, but not on my Luther page. The present revised version:

    has a red disclaimer at the top:

    “[Note: this was written in 1992. I’ve learned tons of things about Martin Luther since that time; even in just the last few years, as I continue to do further research and reading. In several cases, I have changed my opinion on particular elements of his beliefs and behavior. Thus, I wouldn’t express several things in this article the way I did then, and I’ve discovered one definite inaccuracy; see the next note below. I have kept this article online, listed on my “Resume” because it was my first published article. But I don’t list it on my Luther web page, due to its outdated nature and relative lack of documentation. At the time I wrote it (before I was even online), I didn’t have nearly the resources available to me that I now have]”

    That would be good enough for most people, . . . There is also a disclaimer further down in the paper:

    “[This was mistaken documentation on my part. Luther indeed did write (or say) all these words, but they actually derive from two sources, and neither is a letter to Pope Leo X from this date. The first clause came from the Leipzig Disputation with Johann Eck in July 1519; the rest is from a tract called An Instruction on Certain Articles, which dates from late February 1519. For much more on these four Luther utterances and related issues, see my paper about Luther’s views on the papacy from 1518 to 1520]”

    I link to a recent paper that goes into extremely greater depth on the same issue:

    Virtually never have I modified or retracted something in my research because of my arch-critic (he has stated this maybe 30-40 times now; it’s almost a mantra). It is invariably because I chose to do more research and look more deeply into something, and found something different. Researchers grow (or should grow) in their understanding of their subjects. If I didn’t do that, I’d be a miserable excuse for an apologist and student of Luther and the 16th century.

    I suppose one could make an argument that a piece that was written 17 years previously, must remain in the public eye forever, as a result of repeated reference by a jaded critic, and that writers / authors can never have the slightest change of opinion. To me, it is of “historic” significance only, i.e., in my own life, as it was my first published article. We all have a soft spot for those sorts of things (first love, first car, etc.). That is why (and only why) it remains up on my site, on the resume page. My book on Luther incorporates tons of elements I have learned since 1992: not a few of them positive things rather than negative (from a Catholic perspective).

    Because my critic is either unable or unwilling to deal with the substance of that book, we see that he chooses to take blasts at my honesty and credibility. It’s always personal attack. What else is new? YAWN

    It’s nuisance we apologists have to deal with at times.

  16. Is there a reason why my last comment has not yet appeared?

  17. I cross-posted it on my blog, if anyone wants to read my reply to the latest charges from the usual suspects:

  18. Schütz says:

    Actually, a final thought on this. There are many theologians I don’t know much about. Von Balthasar and de Lubac are two, for eg. I’ve read quotes, and summaries of their theology, but have yet to sit down and read a complete work by them.

    I meet many people ready to condemn Ratzinger on the basis of this or that quote, who haven’t ready any of his works in their entirety. Whereas, when it comes to Papa Benny’s works, I pride myself on having read many of his works in toto from beginning to end. Unfortunately, in English (with occasional reference to German or Italian originals). And I still know that this isn’t good enough.

    Now, knowing and critiquing Luther is somewhat the same. One really ought to begin with reading whole works – and not the most sensationalist, either. Read his sermons, or devotional works, or exegetical works, and get a feel for how he does theology. This is the “context” in which he should be judged.

    Just a thought.

  19. Most of the times when I criticize Luther for something or other (either doctrine or conduct), I back it up with Protestant Luther scholars who certainly are familiar with his writings, and still take the position they do. In fact, if it is possible I only cite Protestants, to offset the inevitable charge of “Catholic bias.”

    I’d love to read all of Luther’s works if I had the time. But failing that, one can still make observations and criticisms if they are appropriately backed up by Luther scholarship, and some solid study has been made on the particulars.

    I’m certainly reading Calvin, because right now I am making a reply to the Institutes, Book IV, paragraph-by-paragraph. When I agree with what he says, I say so, and rejoice in it. When I don’t, I say that, too!

    You did make a statement, though (since your post was, after all, about me):

    “So, my question is, is there any reason to suppose that this book on Luther by Armstrong is any more balanced than his previous work on the same subject?”

    Then you cited an article by my severest critic. Couldn’t I (and I say this in all friendliness and in a lighthearted sort of way) make the same observation about you with regard to MY opinions? If you’re saying “don’t form opinions about Luther without reading entire works of his,” couldn’t I come back by the same token and say, “don’t form opinions about (and write somewhat skeptical and suspicious public posts about) Armstrong’s book on Luther unless you have at least read it?”

    I make it easy for ya since I have said I’ll send you an e-book copy for free . . .:-)

  20. Tap says:

    James swan said: I’ve caught him so often treating a context poorly

    Peruse, James Swan’s site and see how much he treats things out of context, but let me just provide one recent example by way of introduction.

    Read this post of his:

    He decided to shut down comments because he didn’t want anyone calling him out on his out of context treatment of a new article. Although he claims otherwise.

    He even got criticised by a fellow protestan about that particular post, on a subsequent thread. See here:

  21. James Swan says:


    Here is another example of checking sources in “Martin Luther: Catholic Critical Analysis and Praise” to show you “how much I treat things out of context”-

    I’m not as awful as you say I am. Have a nice day.

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