A. G. Dickens on Luther’s Success

A.G. Dickens was Professor of History at the University of London; he wrote several works that I have, including “The English Reformation,” The Counter-Reformation,” and “The Reformation in Historical Thought.” I’m pretty fascinated by all of these, and hope to quote from them in the coming weeks and months. According to the A.G. Dickens Wiki, “his book on the English Reformation was, for many years the standard text on the subject, relying as it did on detailed examination of parish records.”

Commenting on Luther, at the beginning of the Reformation in England, he says:

By focusing too narrowly upon his emotional experiences many observers have failed to grasp that he became an expert in the critical methods of textual study introduced by Valla, Erasmus, and Reuchlin. Luther saw in the flight of Byzantine scholars to western Europe a divine plan to expand Greek scholarship, the essential key to Christ’s and St. Paul’s teaching. He demanded an expert application of linguistic humanism as the foundation of a scriptural Christianity, distinct from both scholasticism and the popular cults. This renewed religion should be related not solely to salvation but also to Christian service on the lower plane of the commonwealth. Without these rational and humanist appraches, Luther could not have attracted so many scholars and statesmen to his cause. (Dickens, “The English Reformation,” pg 82).

It’s interesting to see that Luther’s approach here was not only doctrinal at the core, but that he did not hesitate to enlist the help of scholars and statesmen.