Martin Luther: Roman Catholic Prophet (Marquette Studies in by Gregory Sobolewski

By Gregory Sobolewski

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In October 1982 their fundamental differences were expressed at a conference celebrating the 450th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession at Maria Rosenberg Academy in Speyer, Germany. Manns acknowledged the validity of some criticisms of Lortz’s original position, especially regarding Ockhamism and subjectivism, but argued that some unconvincing conclusions of the historical Catholic Luther-hermeneutic do not invalidate the entire approach. He contended subsequently that the value of Lortz’s conception of Luther as holy and heretical can be demonstrated by pursuing Luther’s understandings of love as well as ministry, eucharist, and church.

309). , 308). Johannes P. Hessen (1889–1971), professor of religious philosophy at the University of Cologne, considered Luther to be a prophet who assailed the intellectualism, moralism, sacramentalism, and institutionalism of the sixteenth-century church. More than a religious man, Luther-as-prophet represents a biblical-historical type whose genius must be appreciated together with that of the Old Testament’s prophets (Stauffer 1967, 44–46). Hessen’s seventy-page booklet Luther in katholischer Sicht: Grundlegung eines ökumenischen Gespräches (1947) argued further that Luther’s appeal to concrete biblicalhistorical insights in criticism of an abstract scholasticism promoted 46 Martin Luther: Roman Catholic Prophet ~ Chapter 2 the use of sola fide as the reformer’s primary critical principle.

Likewise, Luther was still judged to be a heretic. However, as had been attempted earlier by Möhler and Bossuet, Kiefl’s presupposition of a religious motivation brought a less inflammatory and more historically reliable tone to the Catholic evaluation of Luther (Stauffer 1967, 37–38). 34 Of the four essays by Catholics, those of Anton Fischer and Sebastian Merkle (1862–1945) are especially notable. Fischer argued that Luther’s religious genius could only be appreciated by recognizing the reformer as a man of prayer.

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