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My Use of Luther Biographer Roland Bainton: Does it Exhibit an Undue, Unfair Bias?: Part I: Intro. & Questions About the Older Luther (vs. James Swan)

Sunday, September 19, 2004

James Swan is a nice guy and we remain on cordial terms. That should be understood upfront, as it is encouraging to know that it is indeed possible to be friendly with folks who critique our work: even, in this instance, with one who is (as far as I know -- I would be delighted to be corrected) to be classified as an anti-Catholic (meaning, that he denies that the Catholic Church is a fully Christian institution with fully Christian theology).

That said, of course, I think he is way off the mark in this current criticism, just as he believes I am in my various responses to him. For background, my prior exchanges with James are the following:

Counter-Reply: Martin Luther's Mariology (Particularly the Immaculate Conception) Has Present-Day Protestantism Maintained the "Reformational" Heritage of Classical Protestant Mariology?

Second Reply Concerning Martin Luther's Mariology

James Swan vs. Lutheran Scholarship Affirming Luther's Lifelong Acceptance of the Immaculate Conception

Dialogue on My Critique of James White's Book, Mary -- Another Redeemer? (particularly with regard to the differing views on early Mariology of Protestant Church historians J.N.D. Kelly and Philip Schaff) (vs. James Swan and "BJ Bear")

"The Lost Liguori": The Nefarious Protestant Conspiracy to Conceal St. Alphonsus' Christocentric Mariology

Dialogues With James White (+ Questions About My Editing of Dialogues)

The current paper which I shall now critique is Here I Stand: A Review of Dave Armstrong’s Citations of Roland Bainton’s Popular Biography on Martin Luther. This paper was completed in July 2004. For some reason, it slipped the author's mind to inform me (the very subject of the paper) that he had written such a critique. It has now been at least six weeks since it appeared (as of this writing). But we all get busy and forget. As it was, I found the paper entirely by accident in a Google search. I was looking for something to write about, so this will fit the bill and provide some fun challenge on a nice late summer Sunday night. I thank him for the opportunity to clarify and further explain my positions.

James Swan's words will be in blue. All italics, bolding, and so forth, will be his own.

Let it be said that I do not believe Mr. Armstrong deliberately miss-cites [sic] sources.

I'm thankful for this crucially important disclaimer. It is refreshing to not have personal charges hurled, where they do not apply. And I reciprocate this benefit of the doubt also.

Rather, he approaches his subjects with an underlying bias that colors the way he understands them.

That's fine. I believe the exact same thing about James' work on Luther. I have always held (as long as I remember) that everyone has a natural bias (whatever the subject matter, where highly partisan opinions dominate), and that this should be admitted upfront. Our task is to be as fair and accurate as possible in our arguments and recourse to factual data. If our bias adversely affects our rational judgment, then others such as James Swan are, thankfully, out there to provide critiques, which in turn, keep us "fresh" and not complacent in our viewpoints. Criticism is wonderful. I shall argue, that my bias is not to the degree that it is undue, unfair to the sources, or to Luther, and that James Swan's charges are groundless. To the extent that they are applicable at all, they apply equally, if not more so, to his own considerable amount of Luther research, so that it is a "wash." Remember, my position is that we all have a bias. I am not disputing that; only the assertion that mine is undue and unfair and associated with a poor use of citations, indefensible neglect of context, and the other usual charges in analyses like this.

Often, an author makes a point Armstrong sees as relevant. Armstrong then quotes the author, but may either miss the context, or ignore what the author goes on to say.

The remains to be demonstrated. I say that Mr. Swan cannot do so -- not in any sweeping way. But (as I am human and liable to error) he may persuade me in a few particulars, in which case I will gladly retract my erroneous opinions.

In some cases the author is making a point different from the one Armstrong is making. Sometimes the author concludes differently than Armstrong. Does he do this in all instances? No.

Whether these factors are relevant to each instance also remains to be demonstrated. In factual matters, overall "points" are largely irrelevant. And if the author concludes differently, that also does not affect factual data. The author may be much more fond of Luther than I am. This is obviously the case with Roland Bainton (biographers generally are fond of their subjects). But that has nothing to do with something he may report which reflects negatively on Luther. The fact that an admirer does so (and a reputable scholar to boot) gives the report more credibility and believability, since the possibility of bias is far less. A generally "positive" or favorable witness saying something negative, and a generally hostile witness expressing something positive, are both examples of more persuasive argumentation. I use these sorts of witnesses all the time in my apologetics, because they provide for forceful, less-questionable presentation of one's case. Mr. Swan may fail to understand this point. We'll see as we get further into the discussion.

I thought it would be interesting to look at Dave Armstrong’s usage of perhaps the most popular Luther biography ever written in English: Roland Bainton’s, Here I Stand a Life of Martin Luther . . . The primary focus will be on Chapter 22: “The Measure Of The Man” found on pages 292-302. It will be my intent to show that Mr. Armstrong has utilized Bainton as scholarly support for his opinions incorrectly.

And I will show that this is a false, incorrect charge.

In that utilization, Bainton’s opinion has been minimized so as to create seeming harmony between Armstrong and Bainton.

There may be harmony on particular points of fact. This is the key. That's why people utilize citations, after all. Everyone understands that Bainton will have a more favorable view of Luther overall, but that doesn't negate a scenario where he may agree with me on particulars. I suspect that this will often be what James overlooks in his analysis; thus (if so) he will be guilty of the same thing he accuses me of: undue bias. His bias has clouded his logical analysis, so that it is fallacious. I will show this repeatedly, as we proceed.

When the complete context of Bainton’s words are examined, the agreement between these authors is so minimal, one is forced to conclude that Mr. Armstrong should look elsewhere for scholarly support for his conclusions.

Stating the charge is one thing; documenting it is quite another. We shall see how solid James' case against my "Luther bias" is, when closely examined. I love challenges like this, because they provide an opportunity to show how impressions are often faulty and mistaken, once proper scrutiny is applied. People (mostly Protestants) may be out there thinking, "yeah, that Catholic Armstrong guy has such an ax to grind against Luther that we can't trust what he asserts in his papers. He is untrustworthy." I've been accused of "hating" Luther, of holding that he is a fundamentally immoral character or "bad man" (I noticed that James again stated this falsehood in another recent paper), etc. -- all sorts of nonsense. Again, these potshots are easy to say; much harder to prove from direct analysis and concrete example. Mr. Swan -- careful and thorough though he may be -- is no exception.

Luther the Irascible Old Man

Mr. Armstrong has a negative view of Luther’s later years . . . He had earlier appealed to Roland Bainton that for Luther,

[T]he conflicts and the labors of the dramatic years had impaired his health and made him prematurely an irascible old man, petulant, peevish, unrestrained, and at times positively coarse. This is no doubt another reason why biographers prefer to be brief in dealing with this period. There are several incidents over which one would rather draw the veil . . .

(Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, New York: New American Library, 1950, 292)

The entire last sentence left off by Armstrong actually ends, “There are several incidents over which one would rather draw the veil, but precisely because they are so often exploited to his discredit they are not to be left unrecorded.” Note the words “exploited to his discredit.” Bainton goes on to discuss Luther’s pronouncements on the bigamy of Philip of Hesse, and Luther’s attitude toward the Anabaptists, Jews, and Papists. Bainton’s intent is to show that even with these “incidents,” the impact and greatness of Luther cannot be dismissed (see Bainton’s conclusion, “The Measure of the Man” on pages 300-302).

This is a fascinating exercise in illogical criticism, right out of the starting-gate. Note that I am concerned with facts; namely: whether the older Luther had these negative characteristics or not. No more, no less. Bainton (the "positive" or "partisan" biographer) clearly agrees with me. That should be the end of this "controversy." But Mr. Swan is not content to let it rest there. He must find some undue bias in the use of this citation, so he cites the last part of the statement as if it somehow contradicts my use of what I did cite.

It does not. And the reason is very simple: I was not dealing with this proposition:

x. Whether Luther partook of the characteristic of "greatness" and had a huge "impact" (or whether the same should be "dismissed").

But rather:

y. Whether the older Luther was (as Bainton put it) "an irascible old man, petulant, peevish, unrestrained, and at times positively coarse."

Note that proposition y does not intrinsically nullify x. In fact, it has nothing directly to do with it. The two considerations are entirely distinct. I could state, for example:

a. George Washington was a great man who had considerable impact on American culture and history and government.

At the same time, I could assert the following, which does not necessarily contradict the first statement:

b. George Washington had a huge problem with his temper, was often a nominal churchgoer, and held slaves.

Now, when I assert b (all of which is abundantly documented by historians, and quite unarguable), does this mean that I am somehow overlooking or denying a? Of course not. Not at all. I wholeheartedly believe that George Washington was a very great man, to be highly honored and revered as an American Founding father. We may say that there was some contradiction in the person Washington, just as there is in all of us, due to original sin and actual sin in our lives. But it doesn't follow that we must deny their greatness. The analogy to Luther is exactly apt. Obviously, as a Catholic, I don't have the favorable opinion of Luther that any Protestant would have (and that I used to have myself), but my opinion is not nearly as negative as Mr. Swan and other critics of mine seem to think (if only they could figure that out).

Mr. Swan wants to make a big deal out of Bainton's additional opinion: "precisely because they are so often exploited to his discredit they are not to be left unrecorded.” But Bainton obviously did not claim that Dave Armstrong was "exploiting" these aspects of Luther. It is Mr. Swan's task to demonstrate this. And he has not done so in this instance, because he has not shown any disconnect between Bainton's and my opinion of the later Luther in those particular respects. He has shown nothing of the sort. All he did was bring in an additional element that had nothing to do with the immediate subject in the first place (i.e., a non sequitur). He is merely assuming (or so it appears, anyway, by implication) that I somehow exploited Luther, without showing it and making some rational argument (an example of begging the question).

The facts of the matter of the nature of the later Luther's temperament, psychological shortcomings, etc., are well-documented, and I could easily produce much more along those lines from my own library alone. That was the subject. And nothing here has disproved what I asserted, because all I stated was what Bainton and other Protestant historians have done.

James goes on to cite some "softening" statements of Bainton concerning the later Luther, but these are subject to the same reply that I gave above: they are not denying the facts that I presented, but merely painting a rosier "big picture," and setting the negatives in a larger context of Luther's overall life and accomplishment. One would expect a partisan biographer to do this. All the more significance, then, should be given to the fact that Bainton basicaly agreed with me in my criticisms. They came from a man who thinks very highly of Luther.

I could just as easily maintain that Bainton's accompanying qualifications are just as biased as my pointing out the "negatives," because they might be construed as a sort of "damage control" or "Luther PR." I don't see how one thing is any worse than the other. The partisan of Luther offers one interpretation of the same set of facts under consideration, and the critic offers another, and a different emphasis. All this shows is that all parties have bias. But it does not show that I have an undue bias, or that I have "utilized Bainton as scholarly support for [my] opinions incorrectly."

Bainton does not suggest Luther’s later years were “less coherent.” Nor does Bainton imply that Luther constructed “straw men.”

He didn't particularly deal with how Luther portrayed Catholic doctrines, so this is neither here nor there.

What Bainton describes is the tenor of Luther’s later work. Illness, irritability, and old age produced in a Luther a pen that was at times unrestrained and coarse. The main intent of Bainton is to show that even despite this, Luther’s impact and importance to the history of the church and the world cannot be minimized or written off.

Who is doing that? I am simply criticizing an important historical figure, because Protestants have been lionizing him lo these many years. It is "setting the record straight," as I stated. All I am doing is showing all the facts about Luther, not just solely or primarily certain, highly-selective ones that are routinely emphasized by Protestants. I fail to see what is wrong with that. Protestants may not like it (most people feel very uncomfortable about any criticism of their great heroes) but that doesn't make it wrong. It just means that they are unreasonably oversensitive.

Luther’s faults cannot be “exploited” to denigrate or question his significance.

I deny that it has been demonstrated that I have exploited them!

Bainton is quite sympathetic to Luther’s character in his later years, Armstrong is not.

So what? We would expect this of a Protestant biographer who loves his subject. And I don't see how it is somehow wrong for me, as a critic of Luther, to point out some uncomfortable facts that every Protestant biographer of any repute also points out. To go after me for this simply because I don't take a positive view overall of Luther's impact (as a Catholic) is no more fair than it would be to go after Protestant biographers who back me up in every particular I bring to the table. If I am wrong, so are they, if we understand that the topic at hand is whether the old Luther had certain faults, as opposed to: "everyone should have an equal estimate of how great and wonderful Luther was." People will differ on the latter, just as they do concerning any great historical figure. This is some news or scandal or shocking revelation?

You shouldn't expect a Republican to write glowing praise of Bill Clinton or LBJ or FDR, or a Democrat to go on endlessly about the greatness and historical impact of Ronald Reagan or the two Bush's. Likewise, an orthodox Catholic can only go so far in praise of Luther. What does Mr. Swan expect? It's almost as if to simply take a conventional Catholic view of Luther is to immediately be unfair and unduly biased, by that fact alone. This is unreasonable and unacceptable.

Mr. Swan goes on and on about neglect of context. If I miss any related sentiment from Roland Bainton in my use of his work I am supposedly guilty (inadvertantly or not) of violating context and misrepresenting his true opinions. Be that as it may (I deny it), I wish Mr. Swan would treat my own writing in the same way he demands for me to treat Bainton's. There is plenty of context in my papers, too, I can assure all readers.

He cites an old introductory paper of mine ("Martin Luther: Beyond Mythology to Historical Fact") about Luther, that he knows I have since withdrawn from my website (I revised it several times and then took it down, incorporating some parts into other papers). It so happens, that the first two portions of it that he cited, I still agree with. But since he insists on citing older, removed papers that have since undergone revision (itself a fascinating methodology since in a recent paper about the canon, he criticizes Catholics for not taking into account Luther's revisions of his prefaces to biblical books), I shall cite it at some length to show my exact intent in what I did (which has not changed, though some particular opinions of mine regarding Luther have: in a generally more favorable direction). Here is the entire introduction:

Romans 16:17: . . . Mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.


1. The Catholic Approach to Martin Luther

How does one approach the task of a critical examination of Martin Luther? The motivation and reason for this undertaking must be made explicit up front, so as to avoid misunderstanding. It seems self-evident to me that Luther, as the founder of a new movement within Christianity, should be held up to the utmost scrutiny, given the fact that so many basic Protestant assumptions originate from him (e.g., imputed justification by faith alone, assurance of salvation, absolute double predestination, sola Scriptura, private judgement, the denial of a visible, infallible Church with binding tradition and hierarchy, abolition of five sacraments and the veneration of saints, etc., etc.).

It is undeniably important to ascertain both the theological expertise and character of a person who presumed to overturn much of the accumulated Christian wisdom of 1480 years, and who ultimately claimed more authority for himself than any pope ever dreamt of. This by no means is a judgment on the character of Protestants today -- it is more of an analysis of the roots of present-day Protestant theology as derived from Luther.

It is foolish for any Protestant (many of whom reject even the appellation "Protestant") to deny the inescapable link between current-day denominational Protestantism and Martin Luther. To do so is to be uninformed about a crucial element in Protestant thought -- its own history and root presuppositions. Any Christian body claiming to be a (or the) legitimate manifestation of historical hristianity must have a plausible and coherent story to tell. This necessarily involves historical study, and additionally, some kind of theological interpretation of the history of one's own group.

It is strange that in the very section where James makes a big deal out of my leaving one part of a Bainton statement out of a citation (because it was ultimately off-topic, as shown), and not citing every positive statement made about Luther, he overlooks the positive statements I made myself, by citing Catholic Karl Adam, in my section II; "Catholic Corruption in the 16th Century", where Adam refers to Luther's "marvellous gifts of mind and heart, his warm penetration of the essence of Christianity, his passionate defiance or all unholiness and ungodliness, the elemental fury of his religious experience, his surging, soul-shattering power of speech, and not least that heroism in the face of death . . . all these magnificent qualities . . ."

So I get criticized for not citing every positive Bainton opinion on Luther (which we would fully expect him to render), yet he has no fault in ignoring my own positive statements (through citations I agree with)? Is this not at least as equally biased as he claims concerning my use of Bainton? Everyone knows Bainton will generally think positively of his subject, but lots of folks think I "hate" Luther or want to always write negatively about him. Thus, ignoring material such as this is far more a violation of context and misrepresentation of an author's intent than anything I have done with regard to Bainton. Beyond that , it is hypocritical, given the charge brought against me.

Mr. Swan also forgot to cite an absolutely crucial element of my critique:

Titus 1:7-8: "For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry . . . a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate." (cf. 1 Tim 3:1-10)

If Luther fails miserably in attaining to the character of a bishop, how can it be believed that he was a Reformer of the whole Church?

This question is presupposed by my entire treatment. It is a quite sensible, straightforward question, based on a fairly clear biblical text. No Protestant has ever given me a satisfactory answer to this question. But this rationale lies behind much of my criticism of Luther. I'm simply applying what I believe to be a clear biblical standard.

Mr. Swan mentions in passing my criticism of Luther's "pre-involvement with Nazi Germany" (whatever that could possibly mean). Of course, the casual reader has no idea what the context of this was, nor that it was not my own expressed opinion at all, but rather, that of Protestant William Shirer, in his 1600-page epic The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (by all accounts one of the most well-known histories of that tragic time and place). Here is what Shirer stated:

It is difficult to understand the behavior of most German Protestants in the first Nazi years unless one is aware of two things: their history and the influence of Martin Luther. The great founder of Protestantism was both a passionate anti-Semite and a ferocious believer in absolute obedience to political authority. He wanted Germany rid of the Jews and . . . advised that . . .

they be put under a roof or stable, like the Gypsies. in misery and captivity . . .

-- advice that was literally followed four centuries later by Hitler, Goering and Himmler . . . In . . . the peasant uprising of 1525, Luther advised the princes to adopt the most ruthless measures against the 'mad dogs' . . . Here, as in his utterances about the Jews, Luther employed a coarseness and brutality of language unequalled in German history until the Nazi time. The influence of this towering figure extended down the generations in Germany, especially among the Protestants. Among other results was the ease with which German Protestantism became the instrument of royal and priestly absolutism . . . until the kings and princes were overthrown in 1918 .

. . . In no country, with the exception of Czarist Russia, did the clergy become by tradition so completely servile to the political authority of the state . . . Like Niemoeller, most of the pastors welcomed the advent of Adolf Hitler to the chancellorship in 1933 . . . Hitler . . . had always had a certain contempt for the Protestants: . . . .

You can do anything you want with them. They will submit . . . they are insignificant little people, submissive as dogs . . .

He was well aware that the resistance to the Nazification of the Protestant churches came from a minority of pastors and an even smaller minority of worshipers.

(New York: Fawcett Crest, 1960, pp. 326-329)

Now, if Mr. Swan doesn't like this opinion, let him argue with William Shirer about it. He seems to enjoy "literary criticism" -- since he has so much time selectively picking through my many writings. In passing, I would also note that I basically defended Luther in the matter of the Peasants' Revolt of 1525, in my paper: Martin Luther's Violent, Inflammatory Rhetoric and its Relationship to the German Peasants' Revolt (1524-1525). I argued that it was not his intent to deliberately stir up a revolt in order to kill Catholics and create a revolution. Since Mr. Swan seems to wish to convey the impression that I am so "anti-Luther" or incorrigibly biased when writing about him, I think it is only fair that facts such as these should also be mentioned (at least in passing, if nothing else). What about the "context" of an entire body of work by a writer, on a particular subject? I've defended (or arguably defended) Luther on some four or five occasions, with entire papers now. See, e.g., :

Did Martin Luther Believe That Jesus Had Carnal Relations With Mary Magdalene and Others? (Dave Armstrong vs. "BJ Bear" & "Bonnie" + ELHamilton)

Martin Luther's Doctrine Concerning Good Works: Have I Misrepresented It?

The Pro-Catholic Side of Martin Luther

Somehow, these stubborn "facts" never make it into James' and others endless analyses of how severely "biased" I supposedly am. This is what is known as "anomalous data." it doesn't fit into one's pet thesis, so it is conveniently ignored. I think, that with James' exquisite knowledge of many many papers of mine concerning Luther (as evidenced by his trademark dozens of footnotes) that he could find space to mention a few of these once in a while. Yet we find none of these papers ever mentioned, though he cites no less than nine of my papers about Luther or Protestantism. I guess it is "fair and impartial" and not "biased" for James to cite only my criticisms of Luther but never my positive remarks and even praise in other papers? Is that fair? Does that accurately represent my overall view? Of course not. So while we are examining James' wrongheaded analysis of my bias, let us be sure to note his own glaring bias and highly selective citation; ignoring important parts of papers and even entire papers when it suits his purpose (to show that I supposedly have this overwhelming, irrational animus against Martin Luther).

Here is much of the ending of my now-removed paper on Luther (also curiously neglected by Mr. Swan:

The foregoing is, I'm sure, most shocking to all, regardless of persuasion. I have attempted to "set the record straight" and to subject Luther to the same standards with which he railed against Catholicism -- indeed, that of Scripture, which he championed. One should expect this from a Catholic.

. . . I am by no means "anti-Protestant" and in fact, have great respect for my former communion, while, at the same time, I disagree with it in many ways. The views set forth here are certainly one-sided, and purposely so, in order to form a conscious counter-argument to the accepted Protestant "mythology," so to speak, of Martin Luther. His real and many strengths are well-covered in any Protestant biography. The objective Christian seeker and student of Church history needs to consult works written from a critical Catholic perspective as well, in order to foster a closer examination and perhaps a reappraisal of Luther, and a greater awareness of the premises and foundational tenets of the Protestant movement, which essentially began with this Augustinian monk from Saxony in 1517.

Much more dialogue between Catholics and Protestants is necessary in order to achieve greater mutual respect and understanding. In such ecumenical discussions, it is clear that the subject of Luther will have to be worked through, as a troublesome issue for Catholics, just as there are any number of aspects of Catholicism which are distressing to Protestants. It must be stated forcefully that no Protestant can deny an organic relationship to Luther, any more than a Catholic can disavow all ties to the historic papacy, the Crusades and Inquisition, etc. If the Catholic must be constantly subjected to taunts about the "baggage" and "skeletons in the closet" of Catholicism, then the Protestant must likewise face up to the unsavory and less-than-saintly elements in Protestant history. What's good for the goose is good for the gander. Both sides must have the courage to fairly acknowledge their own shortcomings and the other side's positive, godly attributes.

This (along with the Introduction, also cited above) explains exactly what I was trying to do in my analysis. If one wants to truly understand a writer, rule #1 is to believe their own report about the goals and intents of their own writing.

Now, to conclude this portion of my response, I would like to go back (I know, it is a novelty) to the actual factual matter (supposedly) at hand: Luther's "irascible nature" in his old age. Is this some controversial thing? Is it (if granted) insignificant? I say "no" to both questions. All of this is well-documented and not even controversial. If the only nit James Swan can pick is whether I demean Luther's "greatness" and "impact" because I criticize these aspects of his personality and life, then his case here is pitiful and pathetic indeed. He has established exactly nothing. I have done nothing wrong in this regard; I haven't misrepresented Luther, and I have done nothing that scores of Protestant historians have not also done. So why does James think I am to blame at all? Perhaps he will explain himself in some counter-reply. I hope so. The last several times I have replied to his opinions, he has chosen not to counter-respond. I hope he will make an exception this time.

Here are the opinions of two more Protestant historians on the "later Luther":

1) Luther's Last Battles: Politics and Polemics, 1531-1546, by Mark U. Edwards, Jr.(Ithaca, NY and London: Cornell University Press, 1983):

Luther's tirade against Duke Henry and the devil, who had allegedly possessed his adversary [1541]

You are both the real Hanswursts, bumpkins, louts, and boors . . . Both of you, father and son, are incorrigible, honorless, perjured rogues . . . But suppose what you will, so do it in your pants and hang it around your neck and make a sausage of it for yourself and gobble it down, you gross asses and sows! (pp. 150-151)

Mark Edwards:

It was within the terms of this larger struggle between the true and false churches that Luther placed the controversy with Duke Heinrich. Moreover, he fully believed that the struggle was reaching its climax in his own time. As with his other polemics against Catholics, 'fanatics,' Turks, and Jews, this conviction allowed him to direct his attack more against the devil allegedly motivating the opponent than against the man himself.

(p. 152)

It becomes difficult to escape the impression that Against Hanswurst represented an escalation in the coarseness and abusiveness of the controversy . . .Heinrich Bullinger of Zurich . . . did characterize it in a later letter to Bucer as 'unbecoming, completely immodest, entirely scurrilous, and frivolous,' but his evaluation remained private. Melanchthon,who generally disapproved of Luther's more passionate efforts, had nothing but praise for the work. As for Luther himself, he wrote Melanchthon that, upon rereading the treatise, he wondered what had happened that he had written so moderately against the duke . . . [this] may be another case of Luther's drier humor. Or, on the other hand, he may have actually believed that he had been unreasonably restrained in attacking what he believed was simply another of the devil's minions. The devil, of course, deserved all the abuse that could be heaped upon him.

(pp. 154-155)

[Against the Papacy at Rome, Founded by the Devil (March 1545) ]

Mark Edwards:

The last major polemic of Luther's life . . . was intended to inform Protestants of the true horror of the papal antichrist and to discredit the council convened at Trent . . . Without question it is the most intentionally violent and vulgar writing to come from Luther's pen.

(p. 163)

2) Heiko A. Oberman, Luther: Man Between God and the Devil, translated by Eileen Walliser-Schwarzbart, New York: Doubleday Image, 1992, 290-292:

When the old Luther called for measures against the Jews twenty years later [1545], he included cruelly exact instructions . . . can safely be termed a pogrom . . .

It is not only Luther the old man, overtaxed by worries, at the end of his strength, who has spoken here. Nor is it all merely verbal acerbity characteristic of the ties. The Reformer had made similar appeals for resistance to the "exploiting Romanists" in 1520 and the "plundering peasants" in 1525 . . .

But where the battle against Satan's forces leads to collective judgments in the face of a rapidly approaching doomsday, the voice of the prophet becomes a shrilly fanatical battle cry. That, too, is Luther.

How can one man and the same man insist on the Gospel of love as opposed to public morals and decency in the case of bigamy and at the same time arm the authorities with the sword, charhing them, as guardians of the law, to employ even pogrom and massacre as a means of restoring order?

. . . The Third Reich and in its wake the whole Western world capitalized upon Luther, the fierce Jew-baiter. Any attempt to deal with the Reformer runs up against this obstacle. No description of Luther's campaign against the Jews, however objective and erudite it may be, escapes the horror: we live in the post-Holocaust era . . .

Luther's late writings on the Jews are crucial to this agonizing but necessary task of remembering . . .

James Swan acts as if my objection to the later Luther ranting and raving against Jews and "papists" alike is some novel thing, and proof of undue bias. I submit that he has demonstrated no such thing. If anything, Edwards and Oberman take an even more negative view of Luther in this regard than I do myself.

In fact, even fellow Protestant "Reformers" held an opinion of Luther far lower than my own. For example, Heinrich Bullinger:

Everyone must be astonished at the harsh and presumptuous spirit of the man . . . The opinion of posterity will be that Luther was . . . a man ruled by criminal passions.

Luther’s rude hostility might be allowed to pass would he but leave intact respect for Holy Scripture . . . What has already taken place leads us to apprehend that this man will eventually bring great misfortune upon the Church.

(Letter to Martin Bucer, December 8, 1543; in Hartmann Grisar, Luther, translated by E.M. Lamond, edited by Luigi Cappadelta, 6 volumes, London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., 1917; V, 409 and III, 417)

Or how about Huldreich Zwingli?:

May I be lost if he does not surpass Faber in foolishness, Eck in impurity, Cochlaeus in impudence, and to sum it up shortly, all the vicious in vice.

(Letter to Conrad Sam of Ulm, August 30, 1528; in Grisar, III, 277)

If that weren't enough, what about John Calvin himself? Writing to Luther's right hand man Philip Melanchthon, Calvin stated:

Your Pericles [Luther] allows himself to be carried beyond all due bounds with his love of thunder . . .

But, you will say, his disposition is vehement, and his impetuosity is ungovernable; -- as if that very vehemence did not break forth with all the greater violence when all shew themselves alike indulgent to him, and allow him to have his way, unquestioned. If this specimen of overbearing tyranny has sprung forth already as the early blossom in the springtide of a reviving Church, what must we expect in a short time, when affairs have fallen into a far worse condition?

(28 June 1545; Letter CXXXVI in Selected Works of John Calvin: Tracts and Letters, edited by Henry Beveridge and Jules Bonnet, Volume 4: Letters, Part 1: 1528-1545, translated by David Constable, Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1858; reprinted by Baker Book House [Grand Rapids, MI], 1983, 466-467)

He was even more critical in a letter to Bullinger (the "Reformers" had a knack of griping about each other in such letters):

I hear that Luther has at length broken forth in fierce invective, not so much against you as against the whole of us [referring to Luther's Short Confession Concerning the Supper] . . .

But while he is endued with rare and excellent virtues, he labours at the same time under serious faults. Would that he had rather studied to curb this restless, uneasy temperament which is so apt to boil over in every direction. I wish, moreover, that he had always bestowed the fruits of that vehemence of natural temperament upon the enemies of the truth, and that he had not flashed his lightning sometimes also upon the servants of the Lord. Would that he had been more observant and careful in the acknowledgment of his own vices. Flatterers have done him much mischief, since he is naturally too prone to be over-indulgent to himself. It is our part, however, so to reprove whatsoever evil qualities may beset him, as that we may make some allowance for him at the same time on the score of these remarkable endowments with which he has been gifted.

(25 November 1544; Letter CXXII, ibid., 432-433)

So if even John Calvin can severely criticize Luther in this fashion, while not denying that he also has good qualities, why can't a Catholic apologist like myself do so, and why can't I cite Bainton along the same lines without denying that Bainton likes Luther and says "good stuff" about him too? Is it simply because I am a Catholic? If I am wrong, are not Calvin, Bullinger, and Zwingli also, since they "attacked" Luther's character (and even more severely than I did, in some instances)? And if they aren't wrong, why am I considered to be? Just a few of the many questions James Swan ought to answer when he offers up these friendly, non-personal, but erroneous and thoroughly wrongheaded critiques . . . . .

Why doesn't James Swan go after all these "anti-Luther" statements of other Protestant "reformers" and reputable Protestant historians? On what basis did they so conclude? I don't agree with their assessment, but apparently that is irrelevant in the rush to prove that I am so "anti-Luther" simply because I am a Catholic apologist.


Stay tuned for much more . . .