Luther's message to sinners and saints

July 19, 1996

The attack on Luther's Reformation and its supposed impact on society as a whole described by Bob Scribner (THES, July 12) delivers no convincing argument for a new image. First, the assertion that the Reformation began not in 1517 but after 1521 must be contradicted. The Reformation was a process of years, in which Martin Luther was breaking away from Rome. At the latest, it started with the publication of the 95 theses in 1517, and it did not end in 1521, when Luther finally refused to withdraw his doctrine.

It was continued by him rendering the New Testament into the New High German written language, followed by the translation of the Old Testament, which was a team work in Wittenberg.

However, the term Protestant results from a further event in 1529, when one prince elector, four princes and 14 imperial towns declared before the second Reichstag of Speyer that no majority can decide on religious affairs.

Second, Eike Wolgast has plausibly demonstrated that Luther did not address noblemen or peasants as people who existed in specific social structures. Rather, Luther spoke to individuals as Christians and sinners.

Gottfried G. Krodel has argued that Luther himself defined the person who in the presence of God is lost, and the God who justifies that person, as the subject matter of theology. Every person who portrays the Great Reformer as someone who addresses people in a particular social class has not grasped the depth of Luther's understanding of man as a sinner and a saint.

Jurgen Schuback Lecturer in German civil and constitutional law College of Public Administration of North Rhine-Westphalia

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