A great book for your celebration of Martin Luther!

As we approach LutherFest, I’d like to remind you all of a truly informative and engaging book.  This collection of essays is helpful.

Luther and His Progeny: 500 Years of Protestantism and Its Consequences for Church, State, and Society



To give you a sense of the thrust of the book, the Introduction is entitled: “Half a Millennium of Total Depravity (1517-2017): A Critique of Luther’s Impact in the Year of His ‘Catholic’ Apotheosis”.

In other words, this is not an unqualified “RAH! RAH! FOR THE REFORMATION!”

I wish that I had had 30 copies of this, to give to the seminarians and deacons of the diocese back in August.  Instead I chose Tracey Rowland’s terrific new book Catholic Theology.  


But I digress.

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  1. 21stCentury Anglican says:

    I’ve been planning to read Jaroslav Pelikan’s volume on the Reformation, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, Vol. 4: Reformation of Church and Dogma (1300-1700). Do you have an opinion of the book?

  2. Serviam says:

    “Half a Millennium of Total Depravity”…..spot on!!

  3. JohnRoss says:

    My Theology class at the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod run Valparaiso University led me to view Martin Luther as a deeply immoral and selfish man. It started the path that led me to convert to the Catholic faith two years later.

  4. freddie_mac says:

    I’ll have to think about adding that to my theological book list (which keeps growing in leaps and bounds), as my actual knowledge of the Reformation (aside from causing a schism with Rome) is rather spotty.

    What would you (and fellow commenters) point to as the reason behind the hollowness of today’s Catholic church? I grew up in the 70s/80s and (despite Catholic schools), received minimal religious instruction, which has left me feeling adrift. Having recently moved, I tried the three local RC parishes, and left each feeling quite empty, which sent me church shopping.

  5. Joseph-Mary says:

    I like Warren Carroll’s “The Cleaving of Christendom” to get an idea on luther as well.


  6. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    A great book on the failure of the Catholic education system in the last few decades is “A Generation Betrayed” by Eamonn Keane. Certainly matched what I experienced in Catholic school religious ed.

    [Good book! The section on Rahner is devastating.]


  7. mithrandirmonk says:

    Though pugnacious and dated, I would always recommend Maritain’s Three Reformers. His youthful stridency does a soul good, especially in such days of murky and pernicious ambiguity.


  8. William Tighe says:

    I would like to recommend as well this recently-published scholarly book on Martin Luther:


    I have known its author, now a Professor in the Divinity Faculty at Cambridge, ever since he was an undergraduate at Trinity College there in the early mid 1980s. He went on from Trinity to take a position in the Treasury Department of Her Majesty’s Civil Service, but returned to Cambridge to undertake a PhD thesis (in History) on “The Theology of St. John Fisher” under the supervision of Fr. Brendan Bradshaw – and has been at Cambridge ever since. He is a practicing conservative orthodox (but not “traditionalist”) Catholic, with a brilliant mind (as well as the father of five or seven – I forget which – children).

    You can read more about him here – and as you will see from how he describes his book on the Lollards he is possessed of a sharp wit:


    and also:


    Cheaper copies can be bought at Abebooks.com and Amazon.com.

  9. William Tighe says:

    21st Century Anglican wrote:

    “I’ve been planning to read Jaroslav Pelikan’s volume on the Reformation, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, Vol. 4: Reformation of Church and Dogma (1300-1700). Do you have an opinion of the book?”

    The whole series is very good, very judicious. Pelikan (1923-2006) was a Lutheran by birth and upbringing, the son of a Lutheran pastor and himself a Lutheran pastor as well (ordained in the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, in New Haven he attended Bethesda Lutheran Church, originally a congregation of the Swedish Augustana Synod, subsequently a congregation of the liberal ELCA). When I was a graduate student at Yale (1974-78) a fellow graduate student in History was taking one of Pelikan’s courses, and ingenuously asked him which Christian church he belonged to. His reply (as she recounted it at the time) was “I am a Lutheran, and have been a Lutheran all my life, but I do not intend to die a Lutheran. I have not yet decided, however, whether I shall become Catholic or Orthodox.” In 1997 or 98 he became Orthodox, and his wife (Sylvia) followed him into the Orthodox Church a year later. He is reported to have said of his conversion, “when the LCMS became Baptist, and the ELCA became Methodist, I became Orthodox.”

  10. mithrandirmonk says:

    One more that I am surprised that nobody mentioned: Bradley Gregory’s Unintended Reformation!

  11. RichR says:

    I always enjoy John Rao’s work. His talks on http://www.keepthefaith.org are very thought-provoking.

  12. DY says:

    With an intro subtitled like that I couldn’t resist!

    Just a note, the embedded link for the book for your affiliate kickback only goes to the paperback version and makes it look like that is the only available option. I really wanted to get the Kindle version to eliminate international shipping charges so had to use your generic Amazon affiliate link instead.

  13. danielinnola says:

    I read this book years ago. The Author did his research well, and basically shows that Luther was a deeply disturbed individual who was consumed by fear of death. He may even have been what we would today call “nuts” This book documents his immorality, selfishisness, and vindictiveness, and ends on a chapter that compares the failure of protestantism both then and now, with the Workability and triumph of the Catholic Church that Luther worked so hard to destroy.
    “Martin Luther, The Christian between God and death”

  14. Atra Dicenda, Rubra Agenda says:

    I read once that Luther engaged the devil in battle by fart. It may have been in Triumph. I laughed out loud as I read it.

  15. Marion Ancilla Mariae says:

    Freddie Mac wrote: “What would you (and fellow commenters) point to as the reason behind the hollowness of today’s Catholic church? I grew up in the 70s/80s and (despite Catholic schools), received minimal religious instruction, which has left me feeling adrift.”

    Freddie Mac, I feel your pain. However, there are “points of light” out there (to borrow a phrase from President Bush-41.) Please recall also, that if you feel adrift, you might go deeper in prayer, and get to know your fellow brothers and sisters (the saints) in Heaven, especially Our Lady; you might draw nearer in prayer to your Heavenly Father; to your King and Brother Jesus Christ, and to the Great Spirit of God. A foretaste of the glory of Heaven awaits you in the Sacraments!

    The hollowness that the material manifestations of the Church I experience, and the feelings of being adrift are painful sufferings indeed, but they can be great blessings: I’ve experienced them, too, at times, and what they did for me was to make me want to meditate on the Passion of the Lord more than ever (think how *He* must have felt!!), and also to meditate on the poverty and humility of the Divine Infancy. What an opportunity we have to throw ourselves into prayer, fashioning thereby spiritual golden awnings and floors and columns of marble and porphyry, all awash in fresh and fragrant flowers . . . just for Him! We won’t stand by and watch Him go ignored, unloved and not greeted with proper ceremony; maybe we can do something about it! And for some of us, that something is prayer, and more prayer. And also, on a more practical level, it’s helped me to have a little more compassion and understanding for those on the margins of society – unwed mothers with multiple children with different men; drunks, drug addicts, you know the rest of the list. If you’ve spent time feeling the hollowness around you and adrift, besides, you’ll probably look on these folks as “there but for the grace of God, . . .”.

    The Church is as full and as rich as ever, but in these Final Times, it can be difficult to see it. Have faith. It’s yours, if you pray.

  16. JonPatrick says:

    The event that happened 500 years ago was of course not a “reformation” of the Church anymore than what happened in these US after 1776 was a “reformation” of the British Crown. I prefer to refer to it as the Protestant Revolution.

    Time to re-read Hillaire Belloc’s “How the Reformation Happened”. US HERE – UK HERE

  17. hwriggles4 says:

    Atra Dicenda:

    Thanks for the book recommendation. I was one of those kids in the late 70s to early 80s who called CCD Central City Dump. Oftentimes, I am glad I was a Scout and went through the Ad Altare Dei program on the Sacraments. I learned more in four months than I learned in three years of CCD.

    One book I did read is Designed to Fail by Steve Kellmeyer. It’s worth a look on what has sadly become of Catholic education in several places across the United States.

    One thing happening in many Catholic elementary schools (1st through 6th grade today) – when children are asked about Sunday Mass each week, several children reply “our parents won’t take us.” Sadly, this is typical for some CCD classes, unless priests, religious education directors, and teachers emphasize the importance of the Sunday obligation.

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