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Luther Examined and Reexamined A Review of Catholic Criticism and a Plea for Revaluation   By: (1864-1944)

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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 1917

PREFACE. 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... Continue reading book >>

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