Martin Luther

On the Strange Function of Absolutes

Most people today “absolutely” maintain that they do not hold or live by “absolutes.” They live by their desires and choices, which are readily changeable. No one is much bothered by the “logic” of his own views. The proposition that “No absolutes exist” is itself an absolute. If it is true, an absolute exists. If [...]

Enemies of Christianity at the Time of the Reformation

Nearly everyone knows the basics of the Reformation, the first being that 500 years ago, it began with Martin Luther nailing his Ninety-Five Theses to the Wittenberg castle door on October 31, 1517—except that scholars now think that what probably happened was that Luther mailed them, not nailed them, to his archbishop, Albrecht of Brandenburg. [...]

How Protestants Still Get Justification Wrong

The Protestant Reformation’s 500th anniversary is likely to inspire the usual appraisals of where Protestants and Catholics have lingering disagreements and where there is now common ground. In the former category are the Eucharist, Mary, and the pope, among other areas. In the latter often goes the doctrine of justification. It shouldn’t. The agreement over [...]

The Protestant Origins of Dysfunctional Education

As a former boarding school teacher, this time of year brings memories of enormous frustration at the chaos, moral and intellectual, that is contemporary American education. While the general disorder is the fault of Adam and Eve, the particular mess has much to do with Luther and Calvin, who not only spawned the Protestant Reformation [...]

How to Think About Luther?

Traditionally, Catholics have viewed Luther as a heresiarch, and the Lutheran break from Rome as a religious and civilizational catastrophe. More recently, in line with current ecumenical and pastoral initiatives, that view has softened. The softening has been quite noticeable during the current pontificate. The pope recently took part in a joint liturgy with the [...]

A Syllabus of Errors: An Update In Ninety-Five Sentences 

On October 31, 1517, a 34-year-old Catholic priest affixed a notice of disputation, consisting of ninety-five theses, to the door of the castle church in the German town of Wittenberg. That act has come to be seen down the ages as a dramatic gesture of defiance and an open declaration of rebellion. It was not. [...]

Martin Luther: Defender of Erroneous Conscience

Two trials, two appeals to conscience. Trial 1: I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen. Trial 2: If the number of bishops and universities should be so material as your lordship seems to think, then I [...]

Luther Looks at Islam

Martin Luther cut a figure of such massive importance that reflections on him are a Rorschach test for theologians and historians alike. In few instances have personality and principle been so melded. If the Dominican Aquinas argued contra and sed contra, the former Augustinian would settle his case by slapping the table: “Dr. Martin Luther [...]

De Sales vs. Luther on Freedom and Religious Devotion

One of the major tenets of the Wittenberg Reforms implemented by Martin Luther in the early 1520s was his insistence on the equality of all men before God. A recognition of the “priesthood of all believers” was essential, according to Luther, to ensure proper respect for the rights of each individual person in regards to [...]

The Urgency of Infant Baptism

I recently wrote of one of my newborn son’s namesakes, Bl. Columba Marmion. My son, Colum, was baptized five days after birth (it would have been three except for the priest’s sickness), which is fast these days. In the old days it would have happened sooner. Pope Benedict XVI, for instance, was baptized on the [...]

How Protestants Learned to Love the Pill

The Protestant Reformation was in significant part a protest against the perceived antinatalism of the late Medieval Christian Church. It was a celebration of procreation that also saw contraception and abortion as among the most wicked of human sins, as direct affronts to the ordinances of God. This background makes the Protestant "sellout" on contraception [...]

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