Alister E. McGrath
Following the deep and unsettling questions raised about the legacy of German Protestant theology as a result of the Great War (1914‒1918), a new interest emerged in returning to the fons et origo of Protestant theology in the writings of Martin Luther and other reformers. This was given additional impetus through the work of Karl Holl, who is widely credited with shaping the “Luther Renaissance” of 1919‒1921. Dialectical theology was a movement focused on Karl Barth that arose within German-speaking Protestantism in the aftermath of the Great War. The reception of Luther within the dialectical theology movement is complex and not easily reduced to simple categorizations. The diverse theological and confessional commitments within the movement led to various readings of Luther, generally mediated through secondary sources or channels. The movement portrayed itself in terms of a theocentric new reformation, breaking free from the cultural compromises and entanglements of German liberal theology in the first two decades of the twentieth century, particularly in relation to anthropology, Christology, and the understanding of sin. The movement presented itself as both the heir and reinterpreter of the theological legacy of the Reformation, particularly the theology of Martin Luther, most notably its emphasis on divine revelation. Yet its leading representatives—Karl Barth, Emil Brunner, Rudolf Bultmann, and Friedrich Gogarten—understood Luther in somewhat different manners. It is therefore important to consider the use made of Luther by each of these figures individually, rather than try to collapse them into a single generic approach which is held to be representative of dialectical theology. The high profile these four writers accorded to Luther unquestionably stimulated Luther studies in the postwar period and contributed significantly to the current appreciation of Luther in contemporary theological debate.
Martin Luther’s thought has had strong influence on the religious and churchly life in the Baltic countries Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, as well as in Finland. Its impact has not been restricted just to the Church but also has had deep social and political aspects. However, the role of Luther’s theology has been quite different in the Baltics and in Finland, mostly because the Reformation occurred in a totally different ways in each area. In the Baltics, the biggest towns had already turned to the Reformation by the 1520s, but in Finland the change was part of King Gustav Vasa’s work for strengthening the state. In the Baltics, the Reformation took place in direct contact with Luther and his colleagues, whereas in Finland the first influences came through some of his writings and the theologians who had studied in Wittenberg. During the 17th century, almost the whole area, except Lithuania, belonged to the Swedish kingdom. Theologically, this was the time of the Lutheran Orthodoxy, which was based on the Confessional Books of the Lutheran Church. From Luther’s works, the catechisms were known and used. In the Baltics, the time of Confessional Lutheran theology lasted until the 1910s. In the 19th century, certain Baltic German theologians, especially Theodosius Harnack, practiced remarkable Luther research. Harnack opposed the Neo-Protestant Luther interpretation and strongly influenced the understanding of Luther’s theology of the cross. Only in the 1910s did the Neo-Protestant Luther interpretation of Albrecht Ritschl and Adolf von Harnack get some support. In the 20th century, the Baltic theology was not very much concentrated on Luther, though some presentations of his person and thought were published and a clear consciousness of his thought was present. The Soviet time from 1940 to the beginning of 1990s was difficult for all types of theology. Nevertheless, for example, Elmar Salumae managed to translate international Luther research into Estonian and maintain the knowledge of Lutheran theology. In Finland, the 19th century did not produce academic Luther research, but Luther’s theology was important for the pietistic revival movement, and it played a central role in the disagreement of the revival leaders, which led to a division of the movement. Academic research on the Reformation began in Finland at the end of the 19th century, first as a historical study of the Finnish reformer Mikael Agricola and the Reformation in Finland. Research on Luther’s theology followed the German Luther Renaissance and began in the 1920s. The fruits of this research were published in the 1930s by Eino Sormunen and Yrjö J. E. Alanen and some years later by Lennart Pinomaa. After Pinomaa, Finnish Luther research played some role at the international level. It was first attached especially to the Swedish Lundensian approach and later, from the beginning of the 1980s, became more distant from it. Today Finnish Luther research refers above all to the work of Tuomo Mannermaa and his pupils. This theology, which stresses the real presence of Christ in faith and the participation in the Divine love, is not only academic research but also it has been applied to many churchly and ecumenical questions.
What does Martin Luther mean for Germany? Formulated in such a way, this is an impossible question, due in no small measure to the existence of many “Luthers” and many “Germanys.” But it also invites historical investigation. Luther has long held a privileged position in the writing of German history, stretching back to his own lifetime, even if the exact nature of that position has hardly remained static or uncontested. Luther’s position in the annals of German historiography testifies to the influence of social and political upheavals on the way in which historians understand the past—and vice versa. Each era’s critical events have encouraged certain aspects of Luther’s person and work to be remembered and others to be forgotten.
Like swapping between telephoto and wide-angle lenses, historical perspectives have moved between a narrow concentration on the German reformer’s biography and theology and a broader focus on the Protestant movement he launched in Germany. Historians have regularly enlisted Luther in an expansive, sweeping vision of the German Reformation and the emergence of the modern German nation-state with Otto von Bismarck. Indeed, contemporary ideas of nation and nationalism have had a determining influence on interpretations of Luther. This is true as much for German historians like Leopold von Ranke, writing toward the beginning of history’s professionalization as a full-fledged, independent academic discipline in the first half of the 19th century, as it is for those surveying Luther in the midst of the First World War, in the aftermath of Hitler and the Nazi era, in the postwar German Democratic Republic in the East and Federal Republic of Germany in the West, on the cusp Germany’s “turning point” (die Wende) of 1989–1990—and even for historians now situated in the 21st century.
Sarah Hinlicky Wilson
Global Pentecostalism encompasses three distinct waves or movements: the Classical Pentecostal denominations inspired by the Azusa Street revival in the early 20th century; the Charismatic renewal in historic mainline churches starting in the 1950s; and independent Neocharismatic congregations and networks that began to multiply dramatically starting in the 1980s. Early Classical Pentecostals tended to have a positive attitude toward Luther as the beginning of the “restoration” of the lost doctrine and practice of the apostolic church, but only Jonathan Paul and his Mühlheimer Verband in Germany engaged in any meaningful way with Lutheran theology. Faced with fierce opposition within their denominations, Lutheran Charismatics such as Theodore R. Jungkuntz saw a need to correlate their spiritual distinctives with the Lutheran Confessions, which reached its most detailed expression in Welcome, Holy Spirit, edited by Larry Christenson. The Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus in Ethiopia responded most positively to Charismatic renewal of all Lutheran churches in the world with its 1976 statement, “The Work of the Holy Spirit.” While contemporary Classical Pentecostal theologians have only begun to engage with Luther, notable examples include Frank D. Macchia, Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, and David J. Courey, who deal primarily with the doctrine of justification and the theology of the cross. The encounter of Lutheran theology with Pentecostalism suggests that both sides need to develop more comprehensive accounts of Christian experience and its role in doctrine, piety, and church life.
The topic of Luther in Marxism is vast and too diffuse to be useful to define issues and orient future research. However, the more limited topic of Luther in Marx is definite, manageable, and useful. If the framing of the relation between Luther and Müntzer first created by Müntzer and then adopted and popularized by Engels can be bracketed, and if the comparison of Luther and Marx is carefully controlled by Marx’s encounter with Luther texts, the result is a tacit but surprising claim by Marx to have found in Luther a predecessor in the analysis of capitalism. This surprise, however, entitles Luther to be heard afresh in his own voice in making his theological-ethical critique of mercantilism and monopoly finance in the 16th century. This new listening to Luther yields a concurrence between Luther and Marx regarding Marx’s claim that, in distinction from historical Christianity, the Marxist revolution brings an earthly, not otherworldly salvation; Luther, however, states just this difference differently, in terms of the Augustinian ordo caritatis. The double love commandment drives his own analysis of the proper Christian use of temporal goods. Beyond the exposé by Luther’s Augustinian theology of the false loves moving the civitas terrena, however, we discover the descent of critical social thinking to both Luther and Marx from the apocalyptic tradition of Second Temple Judaism. Recognizing this family resemblance makes visible the messianic divergence between the two. With this divergence clarified, new questions for Luther research arise.
Latin America has not been a well known field of Luther reception. Historic Latin American interpretations of Luther respond to ideological issues as well as historical circumstances. The manner in which he has been portrayed in these very large regions of Spanish and Portuguese inheritance during the last 500 years has derived mainly from the interest and perspective of the Roman Catholic Church. The interpretation of Luther derived from the Council of Trent (1545–1563) prevailed in Latin America for, at least, 400 years. Then, only a defaced delineation of Luther was transmitted. He was the synonym of evil, transgression, defiance, immorality—the archenemy par excellence—and held responsible for causing disorder and unsteadiness in Europe. particularly named as the culprit for the broken unity of the Western church. This portrayal continued well into the 19th century, when religious confessions other than Catholic penetrated and extended. Then the figure of Luther grew in importance and was revaluated, even from within Catholicism. So, from the 16th to the early 20th century, he moved from the paradigmatic heretic to a Christian theologian and historical figure. Today, the developing Lutheran tradition has reflected upon theological, ethical, and political issues in a hemisphere increasingly marked by confesional plurality, diverse Christian denominations, Pentecostal churches, charismatic groups, and mixed Hispanic, indigenous, Asian, and Afro-American influences.
Simon D. Podmore
Principally, Luther defers from philosophy’s authority to the authority of theology owing to an intense recognition of theology’s ultimate foundation in revelation. Allied to this is a suspicion about philosophy’s intellectual hubris and speculative neglect of the individual coram Deo (“before God”)—the “God” who is only known as revealed pro me (“for me”). As it transpires in modern philosophy’s emergence from its “service” to theology, variations of such concerns come to shape a new philosophical horizon which, for better or ill, come closer to Luther’s own in important and underexamined ways. Under implicit or explicit influence from Luther, key figures in modern European philosophy reconfigure critical new modes of philosophy which can be read to reflect Lutheran concerns about the nature of philosophy and reason itself. This story is related through key figures in modern philosophy (Leibniz, Kant, Hegel, Feuerbach, Kierkegaard, Heidegger), leading from the birth and apotheosis of the modern, through to the critical emergence of the postmodern. Through the critical reception of Luther in these philosophers, it is shown that modern European philosophy regularly deals with Lutheran tensions but often produces visions of the role of reason and selfhood which would have deeply troubled Luther himself. Nonetheless, there are also signs of a recovery of Luther’s suspicions about the possibilities of knowing which also bring into question the parameters of postmodern philosophy itself.
Martin Luther is intimately interwoven with the history of New Testament scholarship. Histories of modern biblical interpretation often begin their treatment with Luther and other Reformation currents, suggesting a direct genealogical relationship between the Reformer and modern criticism. Indeed, Luther’s frank criticism of the theological utility of certain books in the New Testament—James, Hebrews, Revelation—were to prove a warrant for the later development of historical critical approaches to Scripture that would also entail judgements about the authenticity of biblical texts. Later scholars increasingly came to use historical, philological criteria rather than material, theological criteria to reach these judgements, but they relied on the possibility Luther established of criticizing sacred scripture while remaining within the institutional church, even if certain tensions with ecclesiastical authorities were inevitable.
In the 20th century, the decisive influence of Luther can be found on a series of influential New Testament scholars and their interpretative efforts. To consider only an exemplary few—Rudolf Bultmann, Gerhard Ebeling, Ernst Käsemann, and Martin Hengel—one can begin to grasp the enormity of the Reformer’s imprint on modern New Testament scholarship, due in part to the outsize influence of the German Lutheran theological academy on the development of the discipline.
In recent decades, Luther has been invoked above all in the lively debates surrounding the so-called “New Perspective on Paul,” and the question of whether Luther fundamentally misconstrued the Pauline message by unconsciously conforming it to his own experience of and reaction against late medieval Catholicism. While Luther has often been asked to shoulder the blame for a host of exegetical problems in this regard, more sophisticated recent approaches have allowed him to be an interpreter in his own right, with justified contemporary concerns that motivate his actualizing exegesis of Paul.
In the end, with the turn toward reception history and the reinvigorated retrieval of the theological tradition in contemporary biblical scholarship, more of Luther within New Testament study is likely to be seen in the years ahead.
Mark A. Granquist
The United States as a country was religiously formed by Reformed Protestants, who were later joined by substantial numbers of immigrant Lutherans, Roman Catholics, and Jews. The role of Martin Luther in this religiously varied and pluralistic society has often changed over time, and has depended greatly on the context of those who have written about him. In some periods of time, especially the 18th century, Luther was little noticed or commented about, generally a figure solely in the distant past. In the 19th century, many American writers and scholars took notice of Luther, but often as a past symbol of some reality the author wished to address. Thus, Luther was seen essentially as one of the first modern individuals in the West, standing for religious and personal liberty against the reactionary forces of church and state. Some Protestants noted him for his stance against the medieval Western church and the papacy, which mirrored their own anti–Roman Catholic positions; American Roman Catholics saw him as the cause of the splintering of the true church and the author of all that was religiously problematic. After the Civil War, scholars began to access modern German scholarship about Luther, and the Luther birth anniversary of 1883 was perhaps the high point of his reputation in America. In the 20th century, there were positive and negative developments. On the negative side, two world wars soured Americans on things German, and some saw Luther as contributing to the rise of the Nazis and of the Holocaust. On the positive side, many of Luther’s works were translated into English, and many new historical and theological studies of the reformer were produced in English, along with translations of European works. American Lutherans began to produce substantial contributions to Luther studies, and newer works, even among Roman Catholics, sought to put Luther into his historical and theological contexts.
Until 1814, Norway was under Danish rule, and the story of Luther’s reception in Norway is included in the story of Luther’s reception in Denmark (cf. Niels Henrik Gregersen’s article on Luther in Denmark). The Reformation was introduced in Norway in 1536 along with Danish rule and loss of Norwegian national sovereignty. Most pastors—some Danes, but gradually also more Norwegians—were educated at the University of Copenhagen and were strongly influenced by the training they received there.
In the period of national awakening in the 19th century, national identity and Lutheran identity were more difficult to combine in Norway than in neighboring Lutheran countries like Denmark, Sweden, or Germany. This period lasted quite long after 1814 until a specific tradition for Luther’s reception was established in Norway. Along with the Luther renaissance in Germany and Sweden in the 1920s and 1930s, a new interest in Luther and the Reformation also emerged in Norway. Luther texts (primarily texts from his early career) were translated into Norwegian, a Luther Society was established, and the first academic dissertation dealing with Luther’s theology was published. On the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the Reformation in Denmark/Norway, a comprehensive collection of essays was published in 1937 in order to reintroduce Luther and Reformation topics into religious and public debate. After World War II, scholarly research on Luther gradually increased in importance, and several Luther dissertations were published in international languages during the second half of the 20th century. In 1979 to 1983, six volumes of Luther’s writings were translated into Norwegian.