Law and Protestantism: The Legal Teachings of the Lutheran Reformation

Law and Protestantism: The Legal Teachings of the Lutheran Reformation

Law and Protestantism: The Legal Teachings of the Lutheran Reformation

Law and Protestantism: The Legal Teachings of the Lutheran Reformation


The Lutheran Reformation of the early sixteenth century brought about immense and far-reaching change in the structures of church and state, and in religious and secular ideas. This book investigates the relationship between the law and religious ideology in Luther's Germany, showing how they developed in response to the momentum of Lutheran teachings and influence. John Witte, Jr. argues that it is not enough to understand the Reformation in either only theological or legal terms but that a perspective is required which takes proper account of both.


Millions of people have only one eye, and still can see rather well. Some of them wear an eye-patch over the blind orb. Others with only one good eye in rare instances choose to work an effect by wearinga monocle to improve their vision and express style. For all the adjustments such improvisers make, it is hard to picture any of them – any of you, because you may be a reader of this book – preferringmonocular to binocular vision.

If what I have just described is the case in the literal world of seeing, so it often is in the figurative or metaphorical world that John Witte inhabits. It is a world he would have readers share on the pages that follow. Borrowingthe concept of “binocular vision” from historian of doctrine Jaroslav Pelikan, Witte asks not so much what are we to see but through what lenses should we look.

In the present case, his subject combines the two determinative subjects of “law” and “theology” in the case of sixteenth-century reformers within the Christian community in the lands that make up much of modern Germany. Too many historians, he notes, look through only the lens of law or the lens of theology when dealing with these conjoined topics. Fine, in some circumstances, but when a scientist looks through a microscope, only one eye gets put to work.

What happens, however, when a person wants to look at a panorama painted by figures who were in a situation where they could make few important legal moves without connecting them with theology? and vice versa: how should we regard the same persons, whether they were jurists or theologians, who were in circumstances where they were not in a position to make any theological moves without also seeing their legal implications?

Now Witte himself is paintinga panorama. As a scholar he is equipped to include both law and theology on the vast scene he surveys in this volume. No, his scope is not vast in the global or cosmic sense. the . . .

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