Luther Myths: Q and A

I’ve gotten a few responses via the Aomin mailbag from my recent Luther Myths material.
   
First, Shelly asks: “Someone told me that Martin Luther hated Jews and even wrote about this hatred towards the Jewish people. Is this true?” This came up on the ISI broadcast as well. I refer Shelly to the broadcast, as well as the detailed article I wrote on this. Luther’s later anti-Jewish tracts were written from a position different than modern day anti-Semitism. He had nothing against Jews as Jews. He had something against their religion because he believed it denied and blasphemed Christ. In other words, his opinion on the Jews was not biological, but rather theological. This defense though does not excuse his harsh comments.
   
Next, Chris comments:

“Luther was a drunk- the defense is One needs only to survey the massive output of work that Luther produced to settle the matter that he was not an alcoholic, nor did he have a drinking problem. Really? Do names like Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Dickens, and Carroll mean anything? What a lame defense.”

As to Luther’s degree of alcohol consumption, I have no evidence one way or the other, nor do you. My only point is the defense offered by the A&O website, the idea that if Luther were a drunk he could not have produced what he did, is completely lame.

   There is no record of Luther ever being drunk (whereas, documentation does exist with those others you mention). At least, we can agree, I think, that if there were such historical documentation that Luther was drunk or often drunk, we could grant the possibly he was a high-functioning alcoholic. But such documentation does not exist. Coupled with the fact that he led a highly productive life, we can at least rule out that he was a low-functioning alcoholic. The burden of proof though really rests on those who claim Luther was a high-functioning alcoholic. Without any evidence to the contrary, one can only make judgments based on the information available, and in terms of information available, Luther and those around Luther wrote a lot about Luther. It is not as if we can’t come up with a historical picture of the man due to lack of information. Luther led a highly productive life, and was not an alcoholic.
   
And finally, Rob wrote in and said,

“Your attempt to dispel what you believed to be the more popular Luther myths fell short at best. I especially loved the last myth which Mr. Arnzen set up as, ‘Here’s one that is very important. Did ML on his death bed convert back, to Roman Catholicism or reconvert as you will.’ And you responded with something to the effect of this topic comes up on Catholic discussions boards all the time. Oh really, which boards are those. I’ve never read anything of the sort on any RC board. All the RC’s I know all agree that once ML fell from grace and left Mother Church, he never reconverted back. Mr. Swanson, can you point me to one RC board where a RC wrote that ML before he died reconverted back to Mother Church?”

   Let’s dispel the myth about my last name being Swanson. It is not. I’ve spent about ten years reading Catholic materials (including Catholic discussion boards) about Luther. I have yet to read a published Catholic apologist claim Luther recanted on his deathbed. On the other hand, I have read Catholics asking about this. Here are links to two blog entries I did reviewing this myth, brought about by Catholic discussion boards:
   
Luther’s Deathbed Re-Conversion to the Roman Catholic Church
   
Did Luther Recant on His Deathbed?
   
In both entries links are provided to Catholic discussion threads on this topic. Particularly humorous was a Catholic participant who argued “the friends of Luther who recorded his last hours took liberties in describing the details of Luther’s death for posterity” and they had “…interest in presenting a tidy record of Luther’s death.” In other words, conspiracy!