The Theology of Martin Luther

By Paul Althaus; Robert C. Schultz | Go to book overview

8
REASON

LUTHER speaks of “reason” without defining it and widiout differentiating its various manifestations and possibilities.1 He always speaks of reason as a totality. In interpreting his statements however we must make distinctions. On the one hand, we must distinguish reason in the earthly realm from reason in the area of man's relationship to God. In addition, we must distinguish between reason as a gift of God the Creator to man as he was originally created, reason as it is found in man after his fall into sin, and reason in the life of the regenerate Christian.

Reason is a gift of God, a dowry from the Creator to humanity. God has given me my “reason and all the faculties of my mind.”2 Luther speaks very forcefully of this gift of God and of its glory. It is the essential and main earthly blessing and it stands far above all other goods of this life as “the best and in a certain sense divine.” It is reason that contributes the essential difference between man and other living beings, indeed everything else. Through it, man exercises that lordship over the earth which was given to him in Genesis 1:28. Reason provides the light by which man can see and administer the affairs of this world. Reason is the source and bearer of all culture. It has discovered all arts and sciences, all medicine and law, and it administers them. Reason makes itself felt wherever wisdom, power, industry, and honor are found among men in this life.3 None of this is to be despised; rather all is to be regarded and praised as the noble gift of God. Thus Luther, like the humanists and unlike the scholastics, greets the new flowering of the sciences in his time. He is, for example, very happy about

1 Bernhard Lohse, Ratio und Fides (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht,
1958).

2 WA 30', 248; BC, 345.

3The Disputation Concerning Man, WA 391, 175; LW 34, 137. “All laws
have been produced by the wisdom and reason of men.… Human wisdom
or reason produces laws and determines what is right, just as all the other arts
which we have, have been born of human talent and reason.” WA 4011, 221.

-64-

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