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Reviewed by:
  • Lutheran Reformation and the Law
  • Robert Kolb
Virpi Mäkinen , ed. Lutheran Reformation and the Law. Studies in Medieval and Reformation Traditions. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2006. vii + 270 pp. index. bibl. $120. ISBN: 90–04–14904–X.

Most of the eight essays in this volume deal with the topic announced in the title of the book. Two well-crafted studies diverge to a large extent from the Lutheran Reformation but nonetheless offer readers significant insights into the topics of "Nominalist Psychology and the Limits of Canon Law in Late Medieval Erfurt" (by Pekka Kärkkäinen) and the ideal community as represented in treatments of the communio sanctorum from Aristotle and Augustine to John Milbank and John Rawls (by Reijo Työrinoja). In the case of the latter essay, Luther's understanding of the concept would have made an interesting counterpoint to [End Page 905] both its predecessors and the Enlightened traditions which followed; it is unfortunate that Wittenberg views did not receive attention in this survey. Nonetheless, the other six essays do address the roots of Wittenberg thinking on concepts of law, right, and dominion and also the ways in which German Lutheran legal concepts settled into the structures of Nordic culture.

The volume is introduced by a helpful and insightful analysis overview of recent work on the topic of early Lutheran concepts of law, particularly of its societal forms and impact. Heikki Pihlajamäki and Risto Saarinen focus largely on the work of two American legal scholars, John Witte and Harold Berman, as well as the Finnish systematic theologian Antti Raunio, with attention paid to James Whitman and Paolo Prodi as well. This orientation to the questions and landscape of the discussion of Roman law and Lutheran theology, their interaction and the implications of each for both ecclesiastical life and the activities of the society as a whole, prepares readers to put the insights of the other articles to use. This clear sketch of the topic lays foundations for wider study for those who want to pursue these issues further.

Raunio offers two essays, the second written with the editor of the volume. They develop Raunio's interpretation of Luther's fundamental ethic of love for the neighbor — expressed in the golden rule of loving others as an individual would want to be loved by them — that constitutes the "sum of the Christian life." Raunio carefully traces the usage of key terms in the thought of both Luther and Melanchthon, and concludes that while they shared many points of view regarding the law and Christian living, they differed at key structural points. Particularly important was Melanchthon's separation of natural law and divinely revealed law, which Luther had kept united. What does not become clear in the argument is whether this difference rests on specific contexts and perspectives or truly on deeper contrasts in fundamental understandings. The second essay struggles to identify elements of the reformer's thought that express a concept of personal rights. This is a difficult task since Luther focused on the obedience owed God and the practice of love for the other rather than the claim of rights for the self. That leads to the conclusion that "Luther used the word 'right' (ius) as a command. . . . For Luther, the notion of 'right' was something which should be done. A right was a duty, which followed from the divine command" (91).

The final three essays present in concrete detail how marriage (by Mia Korpiola), criminal law (by Heikki Pihlajamäki), and poor relief (by Kaarlo Arffman) reflect the influence of Lutheran ways of thinking and German legal traditions upon the Nordic lands. The Swedish monarchy and Swedish academicians both depended heavily on German university life and political models for stimulation and for a framework within which to address Northern issues. At the same time the peculiarities of Swedish society dictated by specific conditions and traditions shaped the imported models in significant ways. Korpirola and, fleetingly, Arffman also treat parallel Danish developments.

This volume provides readers with a framework for further consideration of the wider ramifications of its announced topic and also gives researchers a model [End Page 906] for pursuing the several...


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pp. 905-907
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Archived 2009
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