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

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

XI

From the Diet of Augsburg to the
Nuremberg Standstill, 1532

1. THE PERMISSIBILITY OF RESISTING THE EMPEROR

The concern and uncertainty about the anticipated final formulation of a harsh recess of the diet, and the political dangers that this contained, bore heavily upon the evangelicals. In the period following, there was no way in which Luther could have escaped being intensively involved again in religious and political developments. The evangelical estates had to be clear about how they would confront the impending attack of the emperor. First, the views of the theologians on the legitimacy of resisting the emperor had to be solicited. Luther and Melanchthon had unambiguously rejected this approach in March, but the problem had not been discussed thoroughly at that time.1 In contrast, in the fall the electoral counselors endorsed the right to resist the emperor in matters of faith, and they sought to organize an evangelical alliance. They stated their view in several written opinions.

While at the Coburg, Luther had already refused to grant the emperor any role in questions of faith or to permit him to assist in reestablishing the monasteries. He was in agreement with Landgrave Philip, who had left Augsburg, in firmly holding that no concessions should be made beyond the Confession.2 However, the landgrave was also aware that previously Luther had refused to sanction resistance to the emperor. He therefore asked him on 21 October for a more current opinion and let him know in advance that in his understanding of imperial law, there were a number of reasons that the emperor was not entitled to wage war against the several estates in the empire.3

Even before Luther could reply, a consultation was held in Torgau on 26 to 28 October between the electoral counselors and Luther, Melanchthon, and Jonas, about which, unfortunately, little is known.4 At first their viewpoints were diametrically opposed, and consequently there was a sharp argument. The legal counselors doubted the theologians' competence and were probably determined from the outset to disregard their opinions. They could not muster up the courage of faith to allow things to wait for an attack by the emperor. Thus the theologians found themselves in a difficult situation. Somehow they had to react to the new views of the politicians and thereby

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