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Martin Luther's Theology

Its Historical and Systematic Development

By Bernhard Lohse

Publication Year: 2011

This definitive analysis of the theology of Martin Luther surveys its development during the crises of Luther's life, then offers a systematic survey by topics. Containing a wealth of quotations from less-known writings by Luther and written in a way that will interest both scholar and novice, Lohse's magisterial volume is the first to evaluate Luther's theology in both ways. Lohse's historical analysis takes up Luther's early exegetical works and then his debates with traditions important to him in the context of the various controversies leading up to his dispute with the Antinomians. The systematic treatment shows how the meaning of ancient Christian doctrines took their place within the central teaching of justification by faith.

Published by: Augsburg Fortress Publishers


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p. 1-1

Title Page, copyright

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pp. i-ii

Summary of Contents

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. v-x

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pp. xi-xii

For some time I intended to write a description of Martin Luther's theology. In October 195S, while at work on my study of reason and faith in Luther, Paul Althaus suggested that I should later write a volume purely from the standpoint of a church historian. After the late sixties I often lectured on Luther's theology, always keeping at center the description of the origin and further shaping of his...

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Translator-Editor's Note

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pp. xiii-xiv

Due to the nature of the work, which opens with the genetic followed by the systematic treatment of Luther's theology, the reader may begin at either point without harm to the author's purpose. The newcomer to Luther's thought, however, will profit greatly from commencing with...

Part One. Introduction: Preliminary Considerations and Presuppositions Relative to a Description of Luther’s Theology

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1. Criteria for Describing Luther's Theology

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pp. 3-10

...The attempt to describe the theology of an important person of the past requires a few preliminary remarks about die possibilities and difficulties of such an undertaking. The attempt is easily in danger of assigning to the thought of the theologian to be described a systematic tendency more suitable to...

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2. The Situation in the Church around 1500

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pp. 11-17

...The situation of the church around 1500 was in many respects quite different than, say, around 1450 or 1400. Since for everyone who became a theologian in the early sixteenth century, the ecclesiastical and spiritual climate was no doubt of greater weight than in the High or late Middle Ages, and since many theologians in one way or another...

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3. The Theological Situation around 1500, Especially in Erfurt and Wittenberg

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pp. 18-27

...When Luther became a monk and soon thereafter studied theology, he was faced not only with a multilayered situation in the church, but in a philosophical-theological respect was subject to the influence of more than one school of thought. The weight that these various persuasions had for Luther was quite varied. At the University of Erfurt and also at the Augustinian eremite cloister that ...

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4. Luther's Personal Development

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pp. 28-34

...In the main, very little can be said of Luther's parental home or of the relations between Luther and his parents, since the relevant sources are sparse, and occasional statements later made by Luther on the subject are quite casual. In sum, Luther's parental home and the education he received there might not have differed in any real sense...

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5. The Uniqueness of Luther's Theology

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pp. 35-42

...Early on, Luther displayed an appreciation for the theological task markedly different from views otherwise held around 1500.' Naturally, what is new in Luther's position cannot be defined in such fashion that it is simply seen in opposition to particular scholastic tendencies or even to humanism...

Part Two. Luther’s TheoIogy in Its Historical Development

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6. Basic Theological Ideas in Luther's Marginal Notes on Augustine and Peter Lombard (1509/1510)

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pp. 45-50

...Apart from a few letters from Luther's early years after 1501, his first coherent written efforts date from 1509/1510. They involve marginal notes on the numerous writings of Augustine as well as on Peter Lombard's (ca. 1100-1160) great dogmatic work; The Four Books of the Sentences. Soon after its composition this work had already caught on as a foundational text, and in Luther's time served as "textbook." Many of ...

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7. Early Reformation Theology in the First Psalms Lecture (1513-1515)

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pp. 51-67

...Compared with the marginal notes of 1509/1510, the first Psalms lecture reflects a totally different theological climate.The reason for this is first of all that we are dealing here with Luther's first exegetical lecture, no longer with mere criticisms or comments on the texts of others...

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8. The Structure of Reformation Theology In the Period of Pauline Exegesis (1515-1518)

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pp. 68-84

...By itself, the choice of biblical texts interpreted by Luther in his early lectures has programmatic significance. The Psalter as prayer book, but in certain instances as a mirror to confession, could serve to develop more precisely the new understanding of sin. When, after this first great exegeticai attempt Luther resolved to interpret three epistles of Paul (Hebrews then taken to be Pauline), he obviously wanted to ...

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9. The Reformation Discovery

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pp. 85-95

In Luther and in Reformation research few topics have been as persistently disputed as those regarding the moment and exact content of Luther's Reformation discovery. Though important lecture manuscripts as well as some letters and other writings are extant from Luther's early period, and though the mature Luther often speaks of his breakthrough, many of the relevant texts have been variously...

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10. Luther's Attack on Indulgences

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pp. 96-109

...The dispute over indulgences commencing in the fall of 1517 may first appear to be a continuation or new phase in the course of other disputes. Only during 1518 did it become known that not only the dimensions of this new conflict but also its...

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11. Luther's Dispute With Cajetan Over Justification, Faith, and Church Authority

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pp. 110-117

...After the spring of 1518 the conflict between Luther and Rome occurred on several levels. First, the questions broached by the Ninety-five Theses and the Explanations on indulgences were given wider treatment in the various literary disputes, with both points of view given greater clarity and precision. Next, preparations had begun for the canonical proceeding against Luther, all of which had its affect on ...

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12. Luther's Debate With Eck on the Authority of the Pope and Council (1519)

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pp. 118-126

...No doubt, the Leipzig Disputation represents another high point in early Reformation history. More than ever, it sharply formulated the views of both sides regarding conciliar and papal authority. In addition, die charge of heresy against Luther was given greater stress. Further, Luther developed his view of the authority of Holy Scripture in greater detail. We should also note that with the intensifying of the...

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13. Luther's Dispute With the Sacramental Teaching of His Time

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pp. 127-136

...The debate arising over Luther's Ninety-five Theses spread wider and wider. First, if the polemics of his traditionalist opponents set the topic of papal authority at center, the teaching on the sacraments soon came to be intensively discussed. In his Explanations of the Ninety-five Theses (1518) Luther stated that it is not the sacrament but rather faith that justifies. At the Augsburg hearing Cajetan had contested this ...

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14. Luther's Dispute With the Monastic Ideal (1520/1521)

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pp. 137-143

...Until 1519, the perennial overhaul of monasticism in theology did not yet induce Luther to reject the monastic vow. On the contrary, as early as in his first Psalms lecture he construed it on the basis of the baptismal covenant, which could open the door once more to monastic life. On such terms, Luther could still recommend monasticism in The Holy and blessed Sacrament of baptism (1519). ...

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15. Luther's Dispute With the Wittenberg Reformers

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pp. 144-150

...The circle of Wittenberg theologians involved since 1516 in reforming theology and the university, thus with linking humanistic goals to Reformation renewal, was never entirely homogeneous. In the years of their attack on scholasticism differences within the circle had been muted. The more university reform progressed and the sharper Luther's dispute with Rome grew, the more differences appeared that till then had ...

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16. Luther's Dispute With Radical Tendencies to "Right" and "Left"

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pp. 151-159

...Certain basic ideas appearing later in Luther's distinction between the two kingdoms can be documented early on in his work. On the basis of Augustine's great work, De ciritate Dei, he customarily identified the church with the "City of God." In view of the various symptoms of decline in the late medieval church, he clearly placed more confidence in political than in ecclesiastical government...

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17. Luther's Dispute With Erasmus

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pp. 160-168

...While the debate about reforms was still going on and Luther was developing in greater detail his view of the temporal authority against opponents to "left" and "right," the next great dispute occurred, this time between Luther and Erasmus.The dispute had to do with the starting point of Reformation theology, with the radical view of sin and bondage of the human will in respect of grace, which, oddly enough, ...

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18. Luther's Dispute With Zwingli

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pp. 169-177

...From approximately 1517 to 1520, when Luther's dispute with Rome reached its zenith, no attention was paid to differences among the evangelicals over sacramental doctrine. Controversy with the traditionalists relegated all other viewpoints to the periphery. Only from a later perspective did it become clear that as early as in the attack on the late medieval doctrine of the sacrifice and celebration of the Mass ...

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19. Luther's Dispute With the Antinomians

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pp. 178-184

...Another important dispute, which led Luther more precisely to develop his view and in part also to modify it, had to do with establishing a basis for repentance as well as with the entire range of law and gospel doctrine. Fundamentally at issue was the Reformation view of justification and to that extent the heart of Luther's theology. At the same time the various contestants were united in rejecting the Roman ...

Part Three. Luther’s Theology in Its Systematic Context

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20. Sola Scriptura

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pp. 187-195

...The conviction that Scripture is or should be the primary audiority in the church was shared by the ancient church as well as the medieval church. Luther himself said that as early as among his scholastic teachers he learned that "faith" is due the Bible alone, while only an "opinion" should be assigned all others.' His extraordinarily intensive occupation with the meaning of Scripture...

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21. Reason and Faith

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pp. 196-206

...Luther did not develop a theory of cognition comparable to the various views of high or late scholasticism, nor, as at times has been maintained, did he dismiss reason from theology. No doubt, he could speak very harshly of the arbitrariness of human reason over against revelation. He often spoke in "opposed totalities." Nevertheless, all his theological work reflects an established as well as extensively ...

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22. The View of God

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pp. 207-218

...Generally, trinitarian dogma was not in dispute, either between Luther and Rome or between Luther and the other great reform movements. Specific questions, of course, were at times the object of controversy. For Luther, debates with anti-Trinitarians were of relatively little concern.' Nevertheless, in his last years he regularly allowed for the discussion of trinitarian doctrine in conjunction with ...

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23. Christology

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pp. 219-231

...In all essential points christological dogma was not a matter of dispute between Luther and Rome. Within the various Reformation groups there were certain differences, as especially between Luther and Zwingli over the doctrine of the Lord's Supper. Nevertheless, the doctrine of the two natures was not in dispute. There were differences regarding the consequences to be drawn from Christology for the ...

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24. Spiritus Creator

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pp. 232-239

...With respect to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, Luther adopted die same attitude toward the doctrinal decisions of the ancient church and the tradition of Western theology as he had advocated toward the doctrine of the Trinity generally and toward statements about God and Christ. His pneumatology nonetheless reflects Older research supposed that the Holy Spirit had no further significance in ...

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25. Humanity as Creature of God

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pp. 240-247

...As often as particular aspects of Luther's view have been researched, until now only David Lofgren has attempted a comprehensive description of Luther's theology of creation. Lofgren's intent was to pursue Luther's ideas throughout almost all the important dogmatic themes, with a salvation-historical sketch as the basis. In this way ideas customarily treated in a doctrine of creation are in the back ...

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26. Sin

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pp. 248-257

...In Luther's own biography as well as in the structuring of his new theology a radical view of sin had been given preeminence. It is not an exaggeration to state that in his Reformation theology this new view of sin comprises the actual motif for practically all other themes. Luther arrived at his new interpretation partly through critical self-examination and partly through intensive study of Paul. He ...

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27. Justification

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pp. 258-266

...There is no doubt that the heart and soul of Luther's Reformation theology is the article on justification. If his theology has its peculiarity not least in the fact that all its topics are intimately linked, so that ultimately none may be treated in isolation, then in a quite special way the doctrine of justification is decisive for all theological questions, for opening as well as carrying on their discussion. It is with this doctrine that "the church stands or ...

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28. Law and Gospel

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pp. 267-276

...For Luther die distinction between law and gospel coheres most intimately with his doctrine of justification, since that doctrine can be developed only on the basis of that distinction. For this reason one might ask whether a systematic treatment should not first deal with the doctrine of law and gospel and only then with the doctrine of justification.The answer is that we dealt first with justification, and now will ...

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29. The Church

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pp. 277-285

...In order to evaluate Luther's ecclesiology a few points require particular attention. First, in the medieval period ecclesiology was generally dealt with as a separate theme. Naturally, ecclesiological questions were discussed in other dogmatic contexts. It was only in the late Middle Ages that John Wyclif and John Hus composed their de Ecclesia, not least reflecting their own criticism of the church of that ...

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30. Office and Ordination

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pp. 286-297

...For more than a hundred years the interpretation of Luther's statements on the ministerial office and universal priesthood, but also on ordination and not least on the episcopal office, has been the subject of extraordinary controversy. In essence, the fronts observable as early as in the confessional theology of the nineteenth century are still intact. It was chiefly J.W. F. Hofling (1802-1853) who advocated the so-called ...

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31. Baptism

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pp. 298-305

...Formation of a new, Reformation theology of baptism went hand in hand with Luther's entire theological development, particularly during his first lectures on the Psalms and Romans. In dealing with the sacraments, concentration on questions such as judgment and gospel, righteousness and faith, or on the divine promise and human confidence, led to a new impulse and important consequences: the criterion ...

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32. The Lord's Supper

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pp. 306-313

...These changes raise the question of the continuity in Luther's view. We obviously need to caution against hasty judgment. That specific doctrines such as the Trinity or certain basic ecclesioiogical data were demonstrably of fundamental significance for Luther, a significance easily overlooked in superficial observation, should caution us against seeing in the real presence a view to which he gave greater accent for the simple reason that others contested it. It may rather be...

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33. The Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms

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pp. 314-324

...In examining Luther's early formation of the distinction between the two kingdoms and the two governments, we referred to the fact that the distinction must be seen from the perspective of the history of tradition as well as in the wake of Luther's conflict with Rome. From the perspective of the history of tradition the distinction represents a reformulation of the ancient theme of the two civitates, first developed by Augustine, that is, the distinction between...

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34. Eschatology

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pp. 325-335

...In his own life as well as in all his dieology, die idea of death and die last judgment was Ludier's constant companion. In his biography die question as to how he might stand before God in die judgment played a decisive role. The Reformation understanding of die righteousness of God and die justification of die sinner is unintelligible apart from its eschatological context...

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35. Excursus

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pp. 336-346

...Luther's statements concerning the Jews, often represented in placative and abbreviated form, can be evaluated in unbiased fashion only when we first take into account the Jewish situation in the West on the eve of the Reformation, and next, when we evaluate the context in which Luther made these statements. If these two factors are not observed, access is obstructed to historical understanding as well as to a critique, with any basis...


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pp. 347-380

Index of Names

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pp. 381-390

Index of Subjects

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pp. 391-395

E-ISBN-13: 9781451404227
E-ISBN-10: 1451404220
Print-ISBN-13: 9780800698362
Print-ISBN-10: 0800698363

Page Count: 412
Publication Year: 2011