Catholics throw Hacker’s hatchet at Luther

For a hatchet job on Luther, see “Luther: 500 Years After,” by Russell Shaw, former information director of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. Shaw praises the republication of Paul Hacker’s 1966 book, The Ego in Faith. Martin Luther and the Origin of Anthropocentric Religion.

The new 2017 edition of Hacker comes with “an informative foreword” by (ex-Lutheran, now Roman Catholic) Reinhard Hutter, who teaches at Catholic University of America.

Hacker claimed that for Luther faith is the self-work of believing. Good grief, not that again.

See Otto Herman Pesch, Roman Catholic expert on Aquinas and Luther, writing on Hacker: “At this point we note that we cannot agree with the pointed criticism of Luther by Paul Hacker in his Das Ich im Glauben bei Martin Luther [The Ego in Faith according to Martin Luther]. Hacker’s objections against Luther’s statuere salutem meam [certainty of salvation] are only tenable when one is thinking in terms of theoretical certitude and of ascertaining something objectively. But Luther’s ‘certainty of salvation’ is nothing more than the movement of faith given by God’s grace. We have reviewed Hacker’s book in Theologische Revue 64 (1968) 51-56.”

See also Oswald Bayer, world-class Lutheran expert on Luther: “Paul Hacker… has taken up the role of prosecuting attorney in his 1966 book…The Ego in Faith…. Starting on purpose with the Small Catechism, he sees Luther as the founder of the subjectivism that is advocated today, which seeks to dissolve all objective truth that stands in the way of the certainty one can achieve purely by self-assurance…. Hacker did not read carefully enough. Otherwise he would have certainly noticed that Luther in fact specifically takes into account the reference to the relationship that is established by God when he addresses me with the words of promise….”

Recall: “I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe.…“


1. Otto H. Pesch, O.P., “Existential and Sapiential Theology – the Theological Confrontation between Luther and Thomas Aquinas,” Catholic Scholars Dialogue with Luther, Ed. Jared Wicks (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1970) 189, footnote 21

2. Oswald Bayer, Martin Luther’s Theology. A Contemporary Interpretation, Trans. Thomas H. Trapp (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008) 166-68.