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The Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther. “Renaissance and Reformation are inextrincably interwoven with the birth and growth of the modern national state.” (E & E). The Renaissance opened up the possibility for a new religious world

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“Renaissance and Reformation are inextrincably interwoven with the birth and growth of the modern national state.” (E & E)
  • The Renaissance opened up the possibility for a new religious world
    • Printing lies the material basis for Protestants’ reading and free interpretation of the Bible (deepening of the originally Jewish hermeneutic practices  Foundation of postmodern hermeneutics).
historical context
Historical Context
  • The Church taken over by corruption
  • Failure of the 14th century Conciliar Movement
  • Failure of the Christian Humanists (or the “enlightened fusion of the ethics of early Christianity with the humanism of classical culture” (≈ the main character in The Name of the Rose) Sir Thomas More, Erasmus of Rotterdam.
  • Failed reforms turned into a revolutionary movement, the Reformation
    • 1516 Martin Luther’s Theses
    • However, the Reformation presents itself as a Return to the roots of Christianity
  • The Reformation succeeded allied to the growth of national monarchies (religious + dynastic, economic, and diplomatic interests)
martin luther 1483 1546
Martin Luther (1483-1546)
  • Born in Eisleben, Germany
  • Emphasis on religion as a personal and inner experience
  • Treatise on Christian Liberty
    • Liberty is inside us and has no relation with political and social conditions  Pessimism
    • Faith rather than deeds (≈ Saint Paul)
    • (Revolutionary?) Newness:
      • Equality
      • Free interpretation of the Bible
      • All Christians are priests (universal priesthood)
    • Religious radicalism + political conservatism (Christians must obey their king (≈ Saint Paul)
      • Favored absolutism
      • Favored crushing the 1525 peasant rebellion in Germany (paradoxically inspired on Luther’s principles)
      • Begins the German tendency of spiritual radicalism and political conservatism
  • Martin Luther’s 95 Theses (
on secular authority
On Secular Authority
  • “We must firmly establish secular law and the sword, that no one may doubt that it is in the world by God’s will and ordinance.(…) This penal law existed from the beginning of the world.” (308)
    • Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans
  • Christians should not resist authority:
    • “if any one strikes thee upon the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matthew v)
  • But, “…in matters which concern the salvation of souls nothing but God’s Word shall be taught and accepted.” (314)
  • Many German states became Lutheran
the kingdom of god the kingdom of the world
The Kingdom of God/the Kingdom of the World
  • Two Kingdoms
  • Two Laws
  • “Two classes of Adam’s children” (313)
  • Both are needed (one to produce piety, the other external peace)
  • (but) “…every man is responsible for his own faith, and he must see to it for himself that he believes rightly.” (314)
  • Compare with Saint Augustine.
  • True Christians “need no secular sword or law. And if all the world were composed of real Christians, that is, true believers, no prince, king, lord, sword, or law would be needed.” (309)
  • “The law is not given for the righteous, but for the unrighteous.” (Paul, in Timothy i)
    • “…because the righteous does of himself all and more than all that all the laws demand.” (Luther)
    • “…God has provided for non-Christians a different government outside the Christian estate and God’s kingdom, and has subjected them to the sword…” (310)
  • Political & legal institutions do not matter, because all of them appear equally wicked.
    • Christianity vs. politics?
We cannot trust the authorities
  • We cannot trust the Church… (priests and bishops “are neither higher nor better than other Christians…”(318)

Who/What should we trust?

  • “It is indeed true that Christians, so far as they themselves are concerned, are subject to neither law nor sword and need neither; but first take heed and fill the world with real Christians before ruling it in a Christian and evangelical manner. This you will never accomplish: for the world and the masses are and always will be ‘unchristian, allghout they are all baptised and are nominally Christian.” (310)
  • “The world is too wicked, and does not deserve to have many wise and pious princes.” (316)
the sword
The Sword
  • “You must know that from the beginning of the world a wise prince is a rare bird indeed; still more so a pious prince.” (316)
  • Why must Christians obey secular authority? To what extent? (see p. 316)
  • Should true Christians perform public service?
a sheperd among wolves
A sheperd among wolves…?
  • “… a man who would venture to govern an entire country or the world with the Gospel would be like a sheperd who should place in one fold wolves, lions, eagles, and sheep together and let them freely mingle with each other…” (310)
    • Would Luther agree with Machiavelli, then?
true christians are a few
True Christians are a few…
  • “…Christ’s rule does not extend over all, but Christians are always in the minority and are in the midst of non-Christians.” (311)
  • Considering its political consequences… Is Luther’s message aristocratic or democratic? Why?
    • Compare with Paul and Augustine… Is Luther’s message as universal as theirs? Does it interpellate all of us?
john calvin 1509 1564
John Calvin (1509-1564)
  • Born in Noyon (France)
  • Son of a lawyer, studied law at the University of Paris
  • 1532 Institutes of the Christian Religion
  • Had to go into exile to Switzerland due to his religious ideas, and stayed there until his death.
  • Wide influence across the Netherlands, Switzerland, Scotland, South Africa, and the British colonies in North America (and also in parts of France)
two governments
Two Governments
  • “Man is under two kinds of government: one spiritual, by which the conscience is formed to piety and to the service of God; the other political, by which man is instructed in the duties of humanity and civility, which are to be observed in an intercourse with mankind.” (319)
  • “…the spiritual kingdom of Christ and civil government are things very different and remote from each other.” (321)
  • Spiritual & temporal jurisdiction
  • Soul &. man’s needs and social life
  • “For man contains, as it were, two worlds, capable of being governed by various rulers and various laws.” (319)
the church
The Church

… has “two principal orders—the clergy and the people. I use the word clergy as the common, though improper appelation of those who execute the public ministry in the Church.” (320)

Christ’s ministers and pastors

-Maintain discipline, and discipline is needed in the Church (as in the family)

the civil government
The Civil Government
  • “… is designed, as long as we live in this world, to cherish and support the external workship of God, to preserve the pure doctrine of religion, to defend the constitution of the Church, to regulate our lives in a manner requisite for the society of men… all of which I confess to be superfluos if the kingdom of God, as it now exists in us, extinguishes the present life.” (322)
  • -These “aids are necessary to our pilgrimage” on earth. (322)
  • - “I now refer to human polity the charge of the due maintenance of religion, which I may appear to have placed beyond the jurisdiction of men.” (322)
three branches of the system of civil administration
Three Branches of the system of civil administration
  • “The magistrate, who is the guardian and conservator of the laws; the laws according to which he governs; the people, who are governed by the laws and obey the magistrate.” (322)
  • The magistrates must protect religion and promote a Christian life
  • The people must love and honor their rulers, because “the obedience which is rendered to princes and magistrates is rendered to God, from whom they have received their authority.” (324)
  • Private persons must obey even wicked rulers, and hope that other magistrates (i.e. tribunes) check the power of the ruler.
    • Exception: we cannot obey orders against God.
how does calvin present the political
How does Calvin present the political?
  • Compare Luther and Calvin’s understandings of the political and highlight similarities and differences.
  • How does the Jewish tradition reappear among Protestants?
  • How should we understand religious wars? (And events such as St. Bartholomew?)
  • Considering the authors we have reviewed so far, what are the consequences of Christianity for politics and the political?
  • Is it possible to be both a good Christian and at the same time to be passionate about the Polis?