The Revolt of Martin Luther

By Robert Herndon Fife | Go to book overview

15
IN BATTLE WITH THE DOMINICANS

EVEN before the Augustinian professor opened the question of indulgences, his career must have drawn the attention of other religious orders. The aggressive tone of his polemics against Aristotle and the Thomistic tradition can hardly have escaped notice elsewhere nor failed to kindle resentment among conservative theologians. It was quite to be expected that when his criticism of scholastic traditions in lectures and sermons developed into an open attack in the earlier Wittenberg disputations, and especially when the theses on indulgences made their appearance, he would draw fire at once from the great brotherhood which since the thirteenth century had occupied the foremost trenches in defense of Catholic dogma, the learned Order of Preachers of St. Dominic.1 The university at Frankfort on the Oder was a North German stronghold of Dominican theology, and something more than a hint of lively rivalry between Wittenberg and this institution appears here and there in Martin's correspondence before the struggle about indulgences, such as his acid criticism of a work by the Frankfort theologian Wimpina, Concerning God's Providence, in 1517.2 It was at Frankfort, as we have seen, that Tetzel defended Wimpina's theses against Luther. When Martin Sermon on Indulgence and Grace appeared, Tetzel hastened to reply in a lengthy German Refutation, in which he called attention to the dangers to faith and practice inherent in Martin's work:

____________________
1
For a running account of the early procedure of the Dominicans against Luther, see Kalkoff, "Zu Luthers römischem Prozess", ZKG, XXXI ( 1910), 368 ff., and XXXII ( 1911), 218 ff. Like Kalkoff's other studies, these are rich in source materials but on occasion unreliable in their "combinations" and conclusions. From the standpoint of a Dominican, Nikolaus Paulus presents the other side in "Die deutschen Dominikaner im Kampfe gegen Luther, 1518-1563", Erläuterungen und Ergänzungen zu Janssens Geschichte des deutschen Volkes, Vol. IV, I-II ( Freiburg, 1903).
2
In a letter to Spalatin, May 6, 1517 (Clemen's dating) Luther says that Carlstadt shared his opinion. W AB, I, 96 f.

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