- Konfession und Kultur: Lutherischer Protestantismus in der zweiten Hälfte des Reformationsjahrhunderts
In Germany, Thomas Kaufmann is the outstanding historian of the German Reformation of his generation. This volume does not prove as much: it merely convinces one further. Kaufmann's Konfession und Kultur brings together six previously published essays supplemented by four new ones intended to tie them all together. Unlike many collections of articles that masquerade under monographic titles, this one represents an articulated research trajectory bound by a cohesive thesis, and with it Kaufmann demonstrates that Lutheranism between ca. 1547 and 1600 represents the definitive formation of a specifically Lutheran culture that dominated for centuries, i.e., well beyond the limits of those pursuing the confessionalization thesis who usually end their analysis with the settlements of 1648.
His task—and thus thesis—runs counter to scholars who have (legitimately) separated the various Lutheranisms of the early modern period into their constituent elements. Kaufmann successfully attempts just the opposite: to sketch from various strands a cohesive model that represents a definitive phase of what he calls "confessional cultural formation." Without denying diversity, he offers here a précis of those elements that bound early modern Lutheranism. [End Page 1307]
What bound this confessional culture? It was a combination of factors less determined by theological specifics or institutional configurations, and more by particular contexts the lion's share of which were rooted in crises and conflicts political, theological, demographic, and social. Despite doctrinal disagreements, Lutheranism from the reformer's death until 1600 represented a complicated yet consistent amalgamation of two ideas: an insistence on the primacy of Luther that rendered accounts of their "history," unlike that of their Catholic and Calvinist contemporaries, subservient to the pronouncements of the reformator as they arrived in the various editions of his works; and a conviction that the (re)discovery of the "Gospel" —and with it the papal Antichrist —made it necessary to combine an intensification of traditional, conservative political thought based on the maintenance of the established order with an eschatological mentality extremely alert to the signs that the last days were near. The latter point is especially important: the long-recognized conservatism of Lutheran political theory rests precisely in its apocalyptic theology: we must maintain God's proclaimed order until "The End," which is very much upon us. Kaufmann's thesis in this respect is original.
Kaufmann deftly demonstrates his notions of a specifically Lutheran confessional culture in a variety of contexts: the crises of the era; the reception of Luther's works; later Lutheran attitudes against the Jews (to be supplemented with his brilliant piece on Luther's anti-Semitism in Jews, Judaism and the Reformation, ed. D. P. Bell et al. ); the via media of the Lutheran attitude towards images that allowed them to distinguish themselves from Catholics and Calvinists; and their polemic against the Jesuits (to ca. 1618) that served to define a particular brand of Lutheranism as much as it did to separate them from Roman Catholicism. There is also an excellent piece on the training, world-view, and formation of a distinct Lutheran clergy and the specifically Lutheran clerical identity that arose from it (a German version of his "The Clergy and the Theological Culture of the Age" in The Protestant Clergy in Early Modern Europe, ed. C. Scott Dixon et al. ).
When it comes to the sources of sixteenth-century Lutheranism, Thomas Kaufmann demonstrates here (as he has elsewhere) an absolute mastery. His work reminds one just how much the historical discipline has lost with the death of the footnote: unlike many that are equally Teutonic in length, these footnotes are not the labors of some hapless assistant forced to reproduce every relevant citation, but carefully constructed narratives that combine observation, information, and polemic. For all of his thoroughness and skill within and below the body of his text, however, Kaufmann limits the sustainability of his discourse —as do so many...