Friday, January 11, 2008

Do I Defend All Historic Catholic Polemics Regarding Martin Luther? Nope

Johannes Cochlaeus
Here are some of my own past words (all bolding added presently):

* * * * *

I readily admit that Grisar had a Catholic bias and a bias against Luther which is excessive, . . . He has some obvious bias, . . .


If anyone is under the illusion that I am "anti-Luther" in the way that many Catholic critics (Denifle et al) have been, . . .

Patrick O'Hare and his book, The Facts About Martin Luther, . . . This work (like many Catholic treatments of a hundred years or so ago) is very intemperate and lacking in charity towards Luther, and I agree that (for this reason) it is not a very good or objective source (I used to cite it when O'Hare documented his claims from Luther's own words, but no longer do at all . . .


I would be wary of quotes (particularly isolated ones) from Heinrich Denifle (he had a notorious anti-Luther bias) and from contemporary Catholic writer E. Michael Jones (who has a tendency towards extreme rhetoric and sometimes sensationalism). If no context was provided, it is all the more questionable (as to the impression given).

. . . this time taking out all references to and from Patrick O'Hare because I felt that his "anti-Luther" emotional bias was sufficient enough to cast doubt on the usefulness of citing him at all. . . . my objection to O'Hare has much more to do with his unnecessary and obnoxious anti-Luther value judgments . . .


For example, let's consider for a moment criticisms of Patrick O'Hare, and my own difficulties with that same polemical Catholic author. . . .

Cochlaeus . . . was venomously anti-Luther . . .

(1-12-08; private correspondence)

. . . Johann Cochlaeus, the 16th century "anti-Luther" biographer and polemicist. . . . how nasty and mean Cochlaeus was to Luther. He was that, I freely grant, . . .


* * * * *

I have never ever relied on Cochlaeus for any argument with regard to ascertained historical facts about Martin Luther (I never had or read any of his material). It is true that Luther biographer Hartmann Grisar's writings helped me to formulate a new understanding of what went on in the so-called "Reformation" but his were only one of many such writings from Catholics, including others like Karl Adam and Johannes Janssen (and Adam is even fairly well liked by Protestant polemicists); also non-Catholic historians like Will Durant.

Now, it's true that my mention of Grisar in my conversion story in Surprised by Truth reads as if Grisar was the sole cause of my reversal on the basic merits of the "Reformation," but like all short treatments of any complex idea (my story was the shortest in the book because I was the only one who actually abided by the suggested length requirement!), it can always use more "fleshing-out."

The two much larger "keys" -- as I have always said; even again today on the radio -- were development of doctrine and the issue of contraception. In fact, my longest and most technical and theologically-oriented conversion story (also published in two magazines and in one of my own books) concentrated on development of doctrine as the one largest factor in my conversion, and never even mentions Grisar at all. I've also written a paper devoted to proving that claims (by someone else) of my excessive reliance on Grisar in my Luther research, were greatly exaggerated. I have always maintained that Cardinal Newman and development of doctrine were overwhelmingly the largest reason for my conversion. That can be verified in my several written accounts and in spoken testimonies on the radio (as I said, this very day I stated this again, in a radio appearance).

I don't discount Grisar's Luther research because he has bias (a bias I have freely conceded, as seen above). Lots of people have bias (I would even say that all scholars do, if they are honest with themselves). The intelligent reader and researcher takes that into consideration. But we don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. The question is: "how much bias turns one into an outright 'poor' researcher or scholar?"

Many Protestants think Grisar crosses that line; I do not. But I could just as reasonably argue that these critics of Grisar don't like him at all because he criticizes their hero and the foundation-stone of their Protestantism, and they don't like that. They want to talk only about Grisar's bias and ignore (often) their own strong Protestant bias, and vested interest in having a certain perception and image of Luther (and a corresponding lower or lousy view of Catholicism). I don't deny Grisar's Catholic bias, and I object to his painting Luther as an "evil" man (insofar as he does that, and I've seen him do it at times).

No comments: