Luther (Lancaster Pamphlets) by Michael Mullett

By Michael Mullett

Luther offers a transparent exposition of the nation of German politics at the eve of the Reformation. Dr Mullett concentrates fairly at the evolution of Luther's notion and its relevant preoccupation with re-aligning the church's theology with that of the hot testomony.

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In the course of 1518 the line-up of forees started to become clear: on Luther’s side, the authority of Scripture and councils of the Church and, suffusing everything, a sense of renewal and of religious power taking over man’s life; on the Church’s side, the traditional authoritative theologians, such as Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274), the pope as final arbiter on earth and, underlying everything, a lack of imagination, of real spiritual understanding or fervour. Luther was still receiving support from his fellow Augustinians, but his foes in this period were invariably from the powerful Dominican order, the custodians of the theology of their greatest member, Aquinas.

The genuine Lutheran piety that affected the leaders of German urban society in adopting the Reformation also motivated the princely rulers of many German territorial states. Such rulers had an important part to play in implementing and protecting the Lutheran Reformation after its initial, and largely urban phase was over. A good example of a pious German Evangelical prince was Luther’s ruler in succession to Frederick the Wise, John, styled the Steadfast. Luther much admired John and had for him none of the ambiguous feelings he had had for Frederick.

In the 1520s, governing councils in many of the imperial cities, such as Nürnberg itself, Strassburg, Ulm, Constance and many others, authorized and regulated the introduction of the Reformation, though the initiative often tended to come from the common people. These ruling councils did not permit or introduce religious changes simply because they wanted to assume the Catholic Church’s powers over appointments and finance in their localities: Nürnberg, as we have just seen, and another great centre of the German Reformation in the imperial cities, Strassburg, already had such powers exercised by the councils.

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