Thursday, December 2, 2010
Discussing Luther with Papists
Some of you wanted me to report on my discussion of Luther with my class of "Catholics" (i.e., Romanists, Papists) in Grad School. Sorry it has taken me a while to get to it.
First, many of them were surprised to find that, in actually reading Luther, he wasn't as bad as they thought. They found themselves agreeing with him at times, and one woman said that if she had lived back then, she would probably be a Lutheran! This, even though the author we read (a Catholic giving snippets and summaries of Luther's main points) I think didn't do a very good job. I thought his presentation was a bit confusing, and (as you all know) presenting Luther in snippets often doesn't do justice to his teaching.
One of the books we were discussing was about the Catholic Controversialists and how they responded to Luther and wrote against him. It was an interesting book, and showed very starkly the main issue at that time and which my fellow students also had: authority. The Scriptures cannot be the authority. They need the Church (i.e., Councils, Popes, Scholastic Theology) to interpret and explain them. My classmates simply could not understand how it could be any other way. Yet I think they were surprised at the weakness of some of the Controversialist positions and arguments.
The other thing they could not quite understand was simul justus et peccator. It is a concept completely foreign to them and their way of thinking. And interestingly, in our discussion of this, as I was pointing out the differences between Lutheran and Romanist thinking on justification, my professor kept trying to minimize the differences and portray us as not so far apart. That made for an interesting dynamic!
All in all, it was a good discussion. I got some questions outside of class as well. On the whole, they feel more sympathetic toward Luther and realize he was not quite "the evil leader of the revolt" as so many portray him to be.