Luther's Faith in the One, Holy Church (3)

Today...when in German Catholicism there is increasingly a better and more profound understanding of Luther*, when it is acknowledged that Luther was protesting against a corrupt hierarchy and a worldly church, there is still this charge that Luther went too far, that he placed his judgement above the judgement of the whole Church and her highest authority, that he is the author of modern subjectivism and individualism, and therefore, albeit against his will, the destroyer of the Church and her unity.

The legitimacy of this charge seems to be confirmed by what Protestantism itself has said. Has not Protestantism, since the beginning of the Enlightenment, hailed Luther as the liberator of the individual from the chains of the Church? "The individual soul and God", that is the religion of Protestantism, or at least, that's what I was taught by my dogmatics professors. There was no more talk in Protestantism of a church of Christ, or a communion of saints, and even the great church historian Harnack delighted in telling his students that Protestantism could exist without a church.

*Sasse is writing in 1943, referring to the revision in German Catholicism's view of Luther initiated by Joseph Lortz's Die Reformation in Deutschland, in which for the first time a Catholic scholar set aside counter-Reformation polemics and engaged with Luther sympathetically as a profoundly religious man, albeit one who succumbed to subjectivism.

From a talk given in Erlangen, Germany on 8th August, 1943.

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