English 233:  Introduction to Western Humanities  Baroque & Enlightenment



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USING THIS LIST TO BEST ADVANTAGE.  Use this list to put a focused edge on your review of the excerpts from Luther's works that are part of our readings.  

If you wanted to know more about some of these, you would probably want to look beyond our excerpts from On Christian Liberty, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, and An Address to the Nobility of Germany.  Can you guess which of these tracts would be most promising for exploring which issues?

The Key Theological Tenets

Here are some of the features commonly recognized as characteristic of Luther's mature theology.  

The Social Impact of Luther's Theology:
I.  Luther's Ethical Vision

Here is Bainton again (op cit 5153).  Your job is to follow the reasoning, which results in a structure of ideas, a system, rather than a series of independent items, beads on a string.

The Social Impact of Luther's Theology:
II.  Luther's Political Thought


A conventicle in a general sense is simply an assembly.  The term came to be used of the meeting of a religious congregation.  As the religious conflicts unleashed by the Reformation became more bitter, the term tended to be used to refer to secret meetings of worshipers committed to a faith not permitted under civil law (for example, the English nonconformists, from whom the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts stemmed).  From this usage developed still another, of an unlawful assembly (not necessarily even religious) for an evil or sinister purpose.  None of these senses is exactly what Bainton has in mind in his usage of the term in this passage.  (Can you see how this is so?)  Could you adapt one of these to match what the writer evidently has in mind on this occasion?  

The cowl is the special "habit" or robe worn by monks.  (Different monastic orders could be distinguished by the different cowls their members wore.) To take the cowl, then, means to become a monk by taking the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.  (Similarly, to "take the veil" meant to enter a convent.) To leave the cowl meant to abandon one's vows and leave the order.     Return.

Supererogation is performance beyond what was regarded as necessary for salvation  specifically, the doing of good deeds of the kind attributed to the saints, or of which ordinary humanity is incapable.  It is such deeds that produced the surplus of merit that accumulated in the Treasury of Merit drawn upon in issuing indulgences.  (Cf. Clement VI's reasoning in the bull Unigenitus [1343].)     Return.

Under the medieval Christian theory of redemption, the precepts are rules of conduct binding upon all Christians.  The counsels of perfection describe the ideal of life known as the imitatio Christi, or the Imitation of Christ.  One of the functions of this distinction is to find a practical way of dealing with troublesome passages like Luke 14:25-34.     Return.

Caesaropapism is a system in which the head of the church (the Pope, the Patriarch) is subordinate to the head of state (Caesar, the Emperor, the King).  Bainton alludes here to the fact that, especially in Germany (and Prussia in particular), the clergy ended up as a branch of the civil service.  Many historians have seen this tradition of reluctance to call into question the legitimacy of state policy as having contributed in an unfortunate way to the relatively passive behavior of the Lutheran Church as a whole during the Hitler era.  (The behavior of a few individuals  most notably Dietrich Bonhoeffer  is a different matter.)  (The role of the Vatican during the same period has also been criticized.  See, for example, the famous play The Deputy, by Rolf Hochhuth.). Return.

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