The Ethics of Martin Luther

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

2
THE KNOWLEDGE OF
GOD'S COMMANDS1

THE NATURAL LAW

ON THE BASIS of Paul's statement In Romans 2:15 Luther asserts that man is naturally born with a knowledge of what he is to do and not to do. Luther calls this “natural justice,” “natural law,” or “law of nature” (he also uses “natural laws” in the plural).2 In the process of creation God wrote this law in the hearts of all men. Man therefore has the very best law book in his heart and needs no other books in order to know what is right.3 Natural law is implanted in man, that is, in human reason.4 Since reason knows it, we may also call it rational law. However, it is given us by God, who has given us our reason and inscribed it with natural law.5 Luther thus makes no distinction between “natural” and “divine,” or between “natural” and “revealed.” Although natural law is implanted in our human reason, it still

1 Ernst Troeltsch, The Social Teaching of the Christian Churches, trans. Olive
Wyon (New York: Harper Torchbook, 1960), 2:529 ff. Karl Holl, “Der Neu-
bau der Sittlichkeit” (1919), in GA 1, esp. pp. 243–63. Franz Lau, “Äusserlicbe
Ordnung” und “weltlich Ding” in Luthers Theologie des Politischen (Göttin-
gen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1933). Georg Wünsch, Evangelische Ethik des
Politischen (Tübingen: Mohr/Siebeck, 1936). pp. 126 ff. Johannes Heckel, Lex
charitatis, Eine juristische Untersuchung über das Recht in der Theologie Marlin
Luthers (Munich: Verlag der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1953).
Ernst Wolf, “Natürliches Gesetz und Gesetz Christi bei Luther,” in Peregrinatio.
Studien zur reformatoriscben Theologie und zum Kirchenproblem (Munich: Chr.
Kaiser, 1954). pp. 191 ff. Aarne Siirala, Gottes Gebot bei Marlin Luther (Hel-
sinki: Schriften der Luther-Agricola-Gesellschaft, 1956). Martin Schloemann,
Natürliches und gepredigtes Gesetz bei Luther (Berlin: Töpelmann, 1961).

2WA 17II, 102; WA 39I, 540; WA 18, 80–81; LW 40, 97–98. Heinrich
Bornkamm tries to establish a distinction between Luther's use of “the law of
nature” (Naturrecht and natürliches Recht) and “natural law” (natürliches
Gesetz); see Luther and the Old Testament, trans. Eric W. Gritsch and Ruth C.
Gritsch (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1969), p. 131. I do not lind sufficient evidence
for such a distinction.

3WA 40II, 71–72; LW 27, 56–57.

4 Luther says that “all reason is filled” with natural law. WA 11, 279; LW
45. 128.

5WA TR 4, no. 3911; LW 54, 293.

-25-

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The Ethics of Martin Luther
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Foreword vii
  • Preface xix
  • Contents xxi
  • Abbreviations xxiii
  • 1: The Foundation of the Christian Ethos1 3
  • 2: The Knowledge of God's Commands1 25
  • 3: Stations and Vocations (The Orders) 36
  • Chapter 4 - The Two Kingdoms and the Two Governments 43
  • 5: Love, Marriage, Parenthood1 83
  • 6: Work 101
  • 7: Property, Business, and Economics1 105
  • 8: The State1 112
  • 9: Great Men in Political History 155
  • Indexs 161
  • Index of Authors 162
  • Index of Scripture References 163
  • Index of Subjects 164
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