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UCI EUROST 10 - Luther’s Strategy

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Professor Smith European Studies Department Europe Studies 10 European History Course Code: 24000 ● Luther’s Strategy ○ Take his language at surface value ■ He says he supports the pope yet criticizes the institution of the church ● Why might he be doing that? ○ He could be working toward “reform” within the church, helping the pope ○ And yet, taking the tone into account and considering what the outcome in fact was, do we have to rethink it? ○ Luther knew he was going to cause a break with the catholic church ■ The essay outlines a theology opposed to the church’s doctrine ■ He even says that the pope would no longer have the same function as an intermediary between god and the world ■ His language so over-the-top that he must have anticipated the reaction ● So, why? ○ Was he perhaps conciliatory so that the pope would have to take the first step? ○ That is, he was itching for a fight and a split; he didn’t really believe in “reform” ■ But he couldn’t come out and say that ■ Instead, he allowed the pope to excommunicate him, all the while Luther could point to his own “nice words” about the pope ● On to “Christian Liberty” ○ A fundamental statement of protestant theology ○ We’ll want to focus on the main points so that we can examine their effects - also outside the world of religion ● Connection between the letter and the essay ○ “Moreover, I cannot bear with laws for the interpretation of the Word of God, since the Word of God, which teaches liberty in all other things, ought not to be bound” ○ No one (even the pope) has a right to interpret scripture for others: ■ “they are in error, who attribute to you alone the right of interpreting Scripture” ○ This grants Luther the grounds for challenging the highest religious authority in the Christian world ○ “I have no dispute with any man concerning morals, but only concerning the word of truth. In all other things I will yield to any one, but I neither can nor will forsake and deny the word” ○ “One thing, and one alone, is necessary for life, justification, and Christian Liberty; and that is the most holy word of god...”(106)● Luther’s “Tower Experience” ○ Later in his life Luther recounts the “conversionary” experience he had in 1519 when trying to understand a passage from epistles (letters) of Paul (Romans I;17) ● A new interpretation of the Bible ○ We are all sinners and if god judges us (his “justice”) then we’re all damned ○ That is, we can never do enough to live up to the laws of god ○ That’s a horrible thought ○ But, the bible says that we can be saved “by faith” that, we’ll see, changes everything ○ In the essay, Luther lays out his theological reasons for his “freedom” to pose this challenge to church authority ○ So how does he justify his freedom? ■ In what sense is a Christian “free”? ● The Paradox (why begin this way?) ○ “A Christian man is the most free lord of all and subject to none; a christian man is the must dutiful servant of all, and subject to everyone” ○ How is a Christian “most free” and a “servant” ○ What are the premises of Luther’s theological thinking that makes this paradox explicable ○ What are the lasting effects of the ambivalence built into this paradox? ○ What are the lasting effects of the ambivalence built into this paradox ● How does he solve the paradox? ○ “Man is composed of a twofold nature, a spiritual and a bodily” ● Basic Principles ○ Man (as a spiritual being) is saved, “justified” (i.e. given God’s justice) ○ Sola fide = by faith alone ○ Sola scriptura = by scripture (the bible, the word of God) alone ○ Sola gratia = by the grace of god alone ○ Therefore: not by “works” or human actions ○ In terms of salvation, man has no free will ● More points of Luther Theology ○ If we are saved only by faith alone,scripture alone, graces alone: ■ sola fida, sola scriptura, sola gratia - what does this mean and how does it guarantee Christian “liberty” ○ “Two kingdoms theory”: ■ free in the spiritual realm, bound to duty to others (including princes) in the earthly realm ● Given his solution, what are the consequences for his view of authority? ○ “Two kingdoms” theory ○ Challenge all false “spiritual” authority but “servant” to earthly authorities ○ Any authority, institution, practice, group of people. Etc. that hinders our access to the bible and faith, can and must be challenged ○ Does luther challenge all authority? ● Fundamental Tension in Luther○ “Thus much concerning liberty, which, as you see, is a true and spiritual liberty, making our hearts free from all sins, laws, and commandments; as Paul says: ■ ‘The law is not made for a righteous man’; and one which surpasses every other and outward liberty, as far as heaven is above earth” (end of “freedom of a christian”) ○ This means a rejection of external laws and ceremonies as a means to faith or salvation; and yet not a call for “license” ○ We must “walk in the middle path” ○ Does this give christians the right to resist authority? How? How not? ○ The notions of sola fide, sola scriptura, and sola gratia mean that no “works” and no intermediary institution (the church) can contribute to salvation. Hence luther’s campaign against “ceremonies” and indulgences, etc. ○ This led many to begin attacking and ransacking churches (recall the scene in the trailer. But this was not luther’s intention) ● Priesthood ○ He rejects the importance of the “priesthood” as a separate group of people who have special access to the word of god ○ Instead, “we are all priests” ○ Pastors are mere assistants in the caring of the faithful ■ They are servants ■ He says even the pope must be a “servant” and not a “vicar” (Christ’s representative on earth) ● Why might luther have been misunderstood? ○ Luther’s rhetoric of freedom and equality…”the inestimable power and liberty of christians” (115) ○ “Nor are we only kings and the freest of all men, but all priests for ever...”(115) ○ “...all we christians are kings and priests...”(117) ○ “This bad system [in the catholic church] has now issued in such a pompous display of power, and such a terrible tyranny, that no earthly government


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