This article is taken from the July 2022 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.
Finding the right path
I disagree with Daniel Johnson’s condemnation (“GERMANY’S CRISIS OF CONSCIENCE”, JUNE) of the pacifist German intellectuals. They have a difficult path to tread. Germany’s prime aims in the East in both the First and the Second World Wars were to obtain Crimea, with its commanding position on the Black Sea, and the Donbas, which has many valuable minerals besides coal and was the leading industrial region in the entire Soviet Union in the 1930s.
There has also been recently a resurgence of far-Right triumphal celebrations in Kiev, such as the commemorative march on 28 April 2021 by hundreds of the former World War II Waffen-SS Division Galicia on the 78th anniversary of their foundation.
So, although the German intellectuals sympathise with the aspirations of millions of Ukrainians to rid their county of Russian aggression, they must not be too overt in their encouragement of their own government to help them, in case even a handful of people believe that Vladimir Putin has a point when he says that he is leading a war against the Nazis.
David Starkey (“FROM WORMS TO WOKE”, JUNE) painted a very one-sided picture of the Reformation.
He is correct in asserting that Martin Luther had a coarse side to his character. He also rightly pointed out the cultural glories of the early sixteenth century. Besides the elegance of Erasmus’s writings, this was also the age of the paintings and sculptures of Michelangelo, the music of Josquin de Prez and architectural masterpieces such as the Henry VII Chapel at Westminster Abbey.
However, I find myself in sharp disagreement with much of the rest of his article. There was never going to be a golden age in the early sixteenth century because beneath its splendid exterior, the late mediaeval church was rotten to the core.
Starkey mentions the burnings. He fails to add that the vast majority of them were carried out by the Roman Catholic Church and that Erasmus’s friend and fellow humanist, Thomas More, was an active persecutor who personally signed the death warrants of several English martyrs in the 1520s.
Even the more moderate Cuthbert Tunstall, whom Starkey describes as a “defender of orthodoxy”, bitterly opposed William Tyndale’s attempts to translate the Bible into English so that the common man could read God’s word for himself.
The early sixteenth century Roman Catholic Church’s emphasis on works, its promulgation of the worship of Mary and the saints, its invention of Purgatory, along with the related and very profitable sale of indulgences to reduce the duration of one’s stay there (and ultimately, the issue which catapulted Luther to fame) is far removed from the simple answer “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”
As an Evangelical believer myself, I am eternally grateful to Martin Luther for his rediscovery of this great truth and for his pamphleteering skills than enabled it to be spread so widely and so rapidly.
The Reformation had its iconoclasm and its extremists. None of the Reformers were perfect. Their legacy has nonetheless been of incalculable value to millions in this country and elsewhere over the last 500 years. To compare this work of God to the gross stupidity of wokery is unworthy of a serious historian.
Beecholme, East Sussex
I echo all Paul Dean’s sentiments (“BOOKSHOPS REAMINDERED”, JUNE) and would add that I particularly miss the old Popular Book Centres once common all over London. Much of my pocket money was spent there on paperbacks from publishers like the New English Library and the kind of journals — such as boxing magazines — and books not found in charity shops. What has happened to them?
Ealing, West London
The gin-sling king
Excellent though Adam Dant’s artistic chronology of royal drinking is (JUNE), I am wondering why he omitted such a long-serving, and in later life fairly bibulous, monarch as King Edward III.
However, much more interesting, was the revelation that Romeo Coates can hardly castigate his agent for the excellent portrayal of him and his career being given by Tim McInnerny in the new series Ten Percent on Amazon Prime.
Hove, East Sussex
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