Luther: Was his message ambiguous? Was he misunderstood?
of the Reformation
The Reformation, usually
termed a religious reform movement of the 16th century, has in reality been
on-going since New Testament times to today.
It was known as
"Reformation" at the time, unlike "Renaissance" or "Medieval" or "Classical"
-- all terms applied to periods long afterward by non-participants; hence
the Reformation is the first self-aware Movement (even if it WAS a 1500-year
It was a movement of the
People -- all classes, kinds, ages in Western Civ involved -- unlike the
elite, male, educated, and usually Italian Florentines that made up the bulk
of the Renaissance, yet the most populist -- the Anabaptist -- was the
smallest and most ridden with failure in its day, yet perhaps it was also
the most influential.
It was begun as a reform
of the Catholic religion, but soon it deeply affected every aspect of life
throughout and beyond
It centered on
rationality as a way to identify true religion and Truth itself about both
the Spirit and the world
It centered on and
promoted education and literacy to both the elite and the masses, yet often
attacked education as anti-reform or going too far beyond reform
It promoted capitalism,
mercantilism, communism and just about every other economic system
It promoted (or invented)
equality of class, society, gender, ethnicity -- and promoted hierarchy,
tyranny, inequality in every area -- depending on where you look
It promoted science,
technology, democracy, freedom, materialism, order, peace, security (and the
opposite of each of these particulars as well) along with true antinomianism
The Reformation is
ambiguous in most aspects.
The Reformation is usually
divided into FIVE separate movements: Lutheran, Anabaptist, Anglican, Calvinist,
and Catholic. We will study these to try to understand each and the whole,
Martin Luther's beginning, and the
Anabaptist response trying to see the
relation between Luther and the
Results of the Reformation
(direct & indirect)
Leveled Wealth from
Catholic and Feudal holdings to the middle and lower classes
Concept of Revolution as
such grew out of this 'Reform'
admiration of middle class workers and work itself
Concepts of political
equality and voting
Concepts & realities of
democracy over absolutism
Destruction of (many but
not all) noble-monopoly on trade and transportation
Rise of Individualism
First Mass Movement and
"Power to the People!"
improved and regularized
Merit as a form of
Education for the people
Martin Luther was highly
educated, intelligent, courageous and had a clarity of writing style few have
ever equaled. His translation of the New Testament standardized the German
language for centuries. His treatises changed the world. The townspeople,
outside the university, not only understood Martin, but championed him and his
cause against all authorities, against all odds.
Martin Luther Activity:
Linked here in
Word format is Luther's treatise.
With your partner, start
by sorting out Luther's apparent contradiction that he began with.
Evaluate his method(s) of arguing his case throughout.
his reasonableness, and the lack thereof.
the power of his evidence. Assess his conclusions.
Comment on the issues.
Analyze his thought.
Assuming that his powers of intellect and communication bring to us his true
thought clearly, what WAS he thinking?
Did he present an
ambiguous message, a message more clouded than clear, more a mud-pool
covering some quicksand rather than a mountain stream clear and refreshing?
(hint: keep a dictionary handy!)
Source: Prof. Michael Markowski