Luther's Last Battles: Politics and Polemics 1531-46

Luther's Last Battles: Politics and Polemics 1531-46

Luther's Last Battles: Politics and Polemics 1531-46

Luther's Last Battles: Politics and Polemics 1531-46

Excerpt

Martin Luther was thirty-four years old when his Ninety-Five Theses swept the German Nation. He was thirty-seven when he was excommunicated by the Roman Catholic church, forty-one when he married the former nun Katharina von Bora, and forty-six when the Augsburg Confession was read to the Imperial Diet. On 10 November 1530 he turned forty-seven, and already behind him were his “breakthrough” to Reformation theology, his rejection of the Roman Catholic church, the Peasants’ War, the major battles of the Sacramentarían controversy, and the submission of the Augsburg Confession. Although the vast majority of historical studies of Luther deal exclusively with the events through 1530, Luther did not die at the closing of the Imperial Diet of Augsburg. On the contrary, after living another fifteen years—a period longer than the hectic span from 1517 to 1530—he died of heart failure on 18 February 1546, sixty-two years old.

There are reasons for the relative neglect of the older Luther. Since World War One, when the revolution in theology was brought on by Karl Barth, among many others, most research on Luther has been done by theologians, who often seek in him insights to enrich contemporary theology. In this quest their most fruitful source has been the young Luther, who gradually broke away from medieval Catholicism and who, in a struggle easily seen as heroic, hammered out a new understanding of the Christian faith. In contrast, the older Luther’s theology is thought to differ little from that of the younger and, in its lack of development and perhaps in its greater dogmatic rigidity, to be less interesting and suggestive.

Among biographers and historians the neglect of the older Luther is more difficult to explain. Of course there is something intrinsically . . .

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