Martin Luther: Shaping and Defining the Reformation, 1521-1532

By Martin Brecht; James L. Schaaf | Go to book overview

VII

Reorganization of the Church
and Pastoral Activity

The test of whether Luther's desire for reform would prevail was not least the question of whether he would be able to create and institute appropriate church orders. After "purifying the consciences," this next step had to be taken. Until 1524 only attempts had been made. Those on the Catholic side did not think Luther was at all capable of preparing a new order.1 One can scarcely conceive of the enormousness of the task. What was needed was a new form of the worship service, a new organization of the church, including its governing bodies, and a succinct, easy-to-use summary of the evangelical faith. For all of this, extraordinary competence in liturgy, church law, and pedagogy was essential. In none of these areas was Luther an actual expert; all he had had were certain positive and negative experiences. The most significant prerequisite that he possessed was a clear theological conception of the evangelical faith with which the new order had to agree. From this center came the reorganization of the church which Luther and other major and minor evangelical theologians accomplished, and because of it the Reformation period became one of the most creative epochs for new developments in liturgy, church law, and catechetics, and it set the tone for the developing evangelical church for a long time—even fatefully to some extent. The scale of the transformation may have been quite varied, but somehow it had to stand in continuity with what had gone before. It is not surprising that Luther was a cautious reformer. Just introducing new church orders would accomplish nothing; they had to be tested in a lengthy, often tedious, process, and one had to become accustomed to them before the new practices would become established. Luther's own pastoral activity gives us some insight into this important process.


1. SHAPING THE WORSHIP SERVICE

After his return from the Wartburg, Luther had abolished Karlstadt's reform of the worship service, and not until the end of 1523 with his Formula Missae did he introduce a purified Latin mass in Wittenberg. Certainly he knew of the demand for a German liturgy, but he postponed this task. Since 1522 some other places, such as Nordlingen, Basel, Allstedt, Reutlingen, Nurem-

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