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Luther Man Between God And The Devil H. A. Oberman Notes

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Luther: Man between God and the Devil -- H. A. Oberman
(London: Yale University Press, 2006)
pp. 1--330

! Late medieval man -- Satan is as real as God and mammon


The Longed--for Reformation
Controversy Beyond the Grave

'The Charioteer of Israel has fallen'
! Death with fortitude -- test of religion
! Johannes Cochlaeus -- first 'biographer'

~ As early as 1529 he had denounced Luther in Latin and German -- Devil's spawn
! Luther's death was an affair of state
! Open dispute over whether, having been excommunicated by the pope, he had died as a
son of the Church
! Lucas Fortnagel painted the dead Luther (February 18/19 1546)

~ Intended to show the countenance of a blessed death


History in the Shadow of the Last Days
! No successor was ready
! 'Luther's charismatic greatness had given the Reformation dynamism and momentum;
now it cast a dark shadow on the future of the Evangelical movement' (p. 8)
! Luther thought that the power of the rediscovered Gospel would be strong enough

~ Even in the turmoil he predicted after his death
! Death => no indication that the Reformation had any chance of survival

~ Jesuits

~ Trent 1545
Pope's most powerful ally against the Reformation,
Charles V, was on the verge of a
decisive victory

~ July 1546 civil war

~ 1548 Diet of Augsburg -- Interim => religious dictate aimed at stifling the

~ Resistance was quickly eliminated
! 19 May 1547 -- Wittenberg capitulated => John Frederick lost his electoral office and most
of his territories


! Cologne played the central role -- failed a year after Luther's death
! Having first destroyed the Protestant estates' prospects as earthly executors of god's
Reformation he went on to ensure the survival of the Reformation in the empire => 1555
conclusion of a treaty at the Diet of Augsburg

~ Compromise among princes

~ Outside the empire Protestants remained exposed to persecution
! 'Renewal of the Church' was ensnared in the reform of regional and territorial churches

~ Luther's Reformation evolved into Lutheranism

! Not until 1648, after the Thirty Years' War, could a broader religious settlement be
confirmed -- Europe north of the Alps and Pyrenees
! Thirty Years' War -- swept over Germany => paralysed, if not totally destroyed, the widely
held hopes for a revival of faith and culture, piety and education

~ Delayed spread of Enlightenment to Germany


! Luther never set himself up as healer of the Church and never regarded its renewal as his

~ Renewal of the Church could be expected to come only from God and at the end
of time
! Devil would not 'tolerate' the rediscovery of the Gospel
! Fight against the Devil would mark the Last Days -- God's Reformation would be
preceded by a counterreformation

~ History in the light of eternity


A German Event
The Enigmatic Elector Frederick
! 1518 Diet of Augsburg -- Luther v. Eck
! Lack of support for the Turkish crusade
! 1521 -- excommunication of Luther
! Frederick the Wise, sovereign of Saxony was at the forefront in throwing off
ecclesiastical power

~ Princes were still compelled to fight for what many free imperial cities already

had -- independence from the temporal supremacy of the Church

~ Luther issue was one of many ecclesiastical conflicts
! 12--15 October -- after the diet had ended, Luther underwent the first and only
interrogation to which he was ever subjected

~ Cajetan's reasoning with Luther was ineffective
! Diet espoused German political aims -- national grievance => wanted emancipation from
the curia

~ Politics was not restrained to temporal welfare -- conditions for the eternal
salvation of citizens

~ Luther's Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation (August 1520)

became his most effective political treatise -- biblical justification for

commitment to the wellbeing of the regional Church
! Association of Wittenberg with the Reformation => 1547 Capitulation of Wittenberg

~ Frederick was acting as a Christian sovereign -- major political factor

~ John Frederick gave Sunday over to worship in 1547 => defeat

~ Submission to providence was counter to Luther's beliefs -- should fulfil

duties as a sovereign
! Luther's assailed Frederick's beliefs

~ Against veneration of saints

~ 1525 -- new liturgy spoke of the accursed financial interests of the prince
Frederick continued to uphold Luther's freedom of action
! The supreme ecclesiastical authority of the German prince was not a result of the
Reformation -- preceded the Reformation => early emergence and ultimate survival


The State of the Nation
! Luther described Frederick as the great hesitater

~ Yet Luther's interrogation was on German soil

~ Without the Elector's perseverance the evangelical movement would have come

to an end in 1518
! Luther and Eck were in agreement over academic freedom
! Elector Frederick treated the affair as a legal case -- never met Luther personally and
never expressed an opinion on the contents of the new theology => impartial

~ Maintained this until the Edict of Worms (26 May 1521) which placed Luther
under imperial ban
! 15 June 1520 -- Pope Leo issued Exsurge Domine => conditional excommunication

~ 41 statements from Luther's work were 'heretical, offensive and false'

~ Luther had 60 days to submit

~ Officially excommunicated on 3 January 1521 => Dect Romanum Pontificem

~ Luther was to be given to the secular authorities and executed
! Cajetan -- abused academic privilege of free disputation by speaking in front of the
common people
! Luther's theses 'are partly in violation of the teachings of the Holy See and are partly

~ Double justification -- might have ended fatally on the fact that his theology was

contrary to Scripture

~ Issue of the matter of papal authority
! Elector's contemporaries saw the interrogation of Luther as the most recent chapter in
100 years of reform effort since the Council of Constance (1414--18)
! Elector Frederick -- if Luther was convicted as a heretic he should be condemned but if
the curia only wanted to get rid of the reformer he should retain his position as
university professor


Election Victory for Charles
! 12 January 1519 -- death of Emperor Maximilian I drastically changed political situation

~ Roman heresy case became a German issue
! January 1524 -- Diet of Nuremberg decided to convene a national council on 11
November 1524 to resolve the Luther problem

~ Roman curia opposed the decision to convene this -- increased the danger than

the Germans might transform their church into a national independent church
! Prohibition of the German national council by Charles V -- direct result of the imperial
election of 1519

~ Had to confirm German rights

~ Yet he was a French--speaking, Spanish monarch

~ Reformation was an obstacle to his imperialism
Germany's development into a nation lagged behind -- not because territorial
factionalism forestalled the emergence of a common identity but because all the
resources for national cohesion were sacrificed to a medieval imperial dream
! A national council might have meant the end of Luther's cause -- could have led to a
mere reform program

~ Emperor's religious policy => Luther to bring about radical change


The Spanish Factor
! Diet of Worms -- 'I cannot and will not recant . . . God help me. Amen'
! Emperor -- 'I have decided to mobilise everything against Luther: my kingdoms and
dominions, my friends, my body, my blood and my soul'
! 1530 -- Diet of Augsburg

~ Charles invited opposing religious factions

~ It was in Charles's name, not the pope's, that the Confutatio, the decisive
theological rejection of Reformational doctrine, was issued
! Spain was involved in religious renewal

~ Spearheaded Crusades against the Turks in the Mediterranean, the pagans in the

West Indies and the heretics in Germany

~ World politics -- comparison of Cortes' conversions in the New World

~ Compensated the losses in the Old World


World Monarchy and Reformation
! Charles did not have cultural and political ties to Germany -- cannot define the French
Francis I as a 'foreigner'


The Luther Issue in Worms
! Imperial election continued to affect Habsburg relations with Saxony until cancellation
of the marriage in May 1524
! After the election, however the Roman curia saw no reason to show further
consideration for Frederick
! Summer 1520 -- Luther was condemned as a heretic

~ Summoned to the diet in Worms -- safe conduct => protection of Frederick with

whom Charles sought to establish dynastic ties
Emperor in
July 1519 had signed to the fact that he did not want people to be placed
under ban without a hearing
! Hieronymus Aleander, papal legate -- 'How much evil and harm Martin Luther's agitation
and rebellion has caused, how much misery he has brought upon the Christian people,
what further damage he daily inflicts, is as clear as day; that is why it is necessary and
crucial to see to it that his subversive sect be wiped out forthwith, and without any
further postponement'
! 1520 -- many people had become familiar with his theology => recognised their own


! Worms -- triumph of German character over Latin cunning
! Luther -- emperor 'should have assembled one doctor or fifty and defeated this monk
with arguments' => had not searched for truth but just ordered him to recant
! 2 questions

~ Do you, Martin Luther, recognise the books published under your name as your


~ Are you prepared to recant what you have written in these books?
! Luther had an experienced lawyer -- Hieronymus Schurff


! Asked for a day to think and did not then give a clear answer

~ Some deal with faith and Christian life

~ Some are against the papacy -- 'If I now recant these, then, I would be doing
nothing but strengthening tyranny'

~ Some tracts were polemical and sometimes 'un--Christian' in tone -- remained firm

unless errors could be pointed out
! Asked for a response 'without loops and holes'
! 'Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason -- for
I can believe neither pope nor councils along, as it is clear that they have erred
repeatedly and contradicted themselves -- I consider myself convicted by the testimony
of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I
cannot and will not recant, because acting against one's conscience is neither safe nor
sound. God help me. Amen'


! Imperial summons had been deceptive -- not to obtain 'information' but to accept a
recantation or impose a ban
! 'Where else in Western Christendom would it have been politically viable to protect a
rebellious monk from being extradited to Rome -- as in the autumn of 1518 -- and to
obtain a public hearing for a notorious heretic -- as now in the spirit of 1521?' (p. 40)
! Pamphlets and 'private' letters written for publication circulated Luther's speech


'Wake up, wake up, o German nation'
! Luther saw himself as a German -- national--patriotic features of thinking
! First political pamphlet -- Address to the Christian Nobility

~ Opened with 'The time for silence is over, the time to speak has come'
! By June 1520 the letter had developed into a full--length manifesto
! 96 pages long -- 4k copies were printed
! Any attempt at compromise with Rome was now pointless
! Disjointed thoughts and repetitions -- outrage and concern
! Earlier German writings were pastoral works for laymen
! Latin treatises had a scholarly style of argument -- aimed at a specialised audience
! February 1520 -- universities of Cologne and Louvain launched condemnations of
Luther's theology
! Luther turned to the general public
! 'His reform manifesto for the German nation is not the continuation of the academic
debate via other means; it is the result of his shattering realisation that the Antichrist
had made deep inroads into the Church' (p. 42)


! February1520 -- Luther was deeply shocked to read Ulrich von Hutten's edition of Valla'a
treatise which showed the famous Donation of Constantine to be a forgery
~ Had been invoked for centuries to prove transfer of sovereignty from the Roman
emperor Constantine to the pope
June 1520 -- Epitoma responsionis ad Lutherum reached

~ Claimed to be a concise refutation of all Luther's fundamental errors

~ Dominican theologian Sylvester Prierias -- his opinion had served as grounds for

Luther's trial

~ Crucial theological argument -- the Church means the Church of Rome, headed by

the pope, who is infallible and thus more authoritative than councils and even the

Holy Scriptures themselves

! Luther wrote to Spalatin -- 'I think that everyone in Rome has gone crazy; they are
ravingly mad and have become inane fools and devils'
! Scripture subordinated to papal authority is the ultimate perversion of teachings


! In response to Prierias, Luther published in June 1520 'for the information of all
Christians' -- consequences of suppression of the Gospel
! Rome is the usurper of temporal rights, in particular with respect to the Holy Roman
Empire -- 'In name the empire belongs to us, but in reality to the pope'
! Rome is the gateway through which the Devil forces his way into the Church to launch
his last campaign against Christ

~ Worldly usurper is to be contained and combatted, if necessary by force

~ Only prayer and penance can overcome the Antichrist -- only God can protect the

Church now for the Last Days have begun

~ Incomprehensible view to the German nationalists among Luther's early


~ 'For God does not desire nor tolerate good works when begun through trust

in one's own strength and reason'
! Spread of the Renaissance to Germany had strengthened its national fervour -- medieval
historical sources were being scrutinised so that Roman--Italia arrogance could be
matched by pride in Germany's own history

~ Had Luther taken control of this national movement he would have become the

personal symbol of the struggle for freedom from Roman exploitation and
! Luther did awaken these expectations

~ Ulrich von Hutten -- 'The liberation of the Germans is in Luther's hands!'
! Exactly the same reason which later would make him reject the knight's revolt (1522)
and the Peasants' War (1525) made him in 1520 already a critic of the young patriotic


! Later interpreters have concentrated on Luther's assault on the 'walls of the Romanists'
in this preface -- has turned attention away from the national program in the main body
of the pamphlet

~ Luther's primary concern was his German manifesto -- challenged to answer
Prierias he prefaced his treatise at the last moment with a program of theological
principles to show that the 'Romanism' of Prierias blocked all reform of Church and
! Militant language is that of biblical truth which will bring down the walls of Rome -- not a
hero but a prophet of repentance
! Necessary sober enlightenment through the Scriptures

~ For 'this is what the Scriptures are all about, that in spiritual matters concerning

Christians and Christendom, the only thing that counts is God's judgement; never

has any Christian concern been approved and supported by the world, but its
resistance has always been too great and strong'

~ Not inspiring manifesto of a national hero
History has progressed so far that the Last Days are quickly approaching

~ National program was one of repentance, repair and reform with no prospect of

a golden age until after the Second Coming


! 'It is impossible to tell whether Luther as a hero of national liberation could have
provided and preserved the necessary sense of national cohesion in the face of such


powerful counterforces. There were indeed massive obstacles in the way of the German
cause: even in the 16th century it was clear that a German national state with the
ambitions of a medieval empire was a danger to European stability' (p. 47)

! 'Decisive for Luther's long--range influence was his refusal to accept the widely desired
alliance of St. Paul with Tacitus, of a renewal of faith with the birth of a nation.
Programmatically and prophetically, he tried to urge his 'beloved Germans' into a unity
of faith and purge them of that nationalism which dreams of the union of religion and
blood' (p. 49)
! Catechism and Bible -- taught people to pray and write in German

~ Set an example for many nations of Christendom to imitate
! National council Luther demanded in 1520 would have assembled in Speyer in 1524 had
the emperor not explicitly forbidden it -- never had a German national church been so
close to realisation

~ Luther would have condemned any identification of Church and nation as
running counter to the will of God

~ Promoted an ecumenical pluralism


A Medieval Event
Reformation and No End in Sight
! Individual reformatio stood for the renewal of man and woman => regain original

~ Mysticism -- lose themselves in God
! Never considered a 'return' to origins and 'progress' as mutually exclusive -- opposite of
reformation was not 'restoration' but 'deformation' => corruption and estrangement
from God
! Albigensian's and Waldensians -- persecuted for ideal of 'apostolic poverty' => mendicant
! 1329 -- Pope condemned the ideal of radical poverty by denying the biblical foundations
of the mendicant movement => thesis that Christ had lived in absolute poverty

~ Discredited the European conviction of Jesus' call to poverty
! 3 monastic vows of obedience, poverty and chastity => poverty demonstrated monastic
virtues most
! Confirmation off suspicion that the Church had forsaken Jesus and his doctrine of
! Martyrs had sacrificed lives while prelates acquired wealth and power


The Struggle for Monastic Reform
! Poverty dispute => emergence of the Observant Movement in all of the mendicant

~ Strove for reformation -- return to original rules
! Increasingly sharp criticism -- monasteries were meant to be sites of intercession and
resources for the community
! Erfurt -- Luther joined the Observant Augustinians

~ In Wittenberg the monastery became the decisive sphere of his activity
Monastery at Nuremberg became the spiritual headquarters of the nascent Reformation
! Antwerp Augustinian monastery -- first martyrs


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