Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM the OXFORD RESEARCH ENCYCLOPEDIA, RELIGION ( (c) Oxford University Press USA, 2016. All Rights Reserved. Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited. Please see applicable Privacy Policy and Legal Notice (for details see Privacy Policy).

date: 29 April 2017

Martin Luther’s Pastoral Writings

Summary and Keywords

Luther was first and foremost a pastor who was deeply concerned with the care of souls. While the study of his controversial writings provides important insight into various aspects of his theology, it was his pastoral writings that arguably made the greater impact on his contemporaries. These writings spanned his entire career, examined numerous topics, and appeared in various genres. Luther’s deep commitment to producing pastoral works aimed at edification and consolation, especially of the laity, may be seen as a continuation of a late medieval trend that was similarly concerned with spiritual nurture and guidance. Consolation was a dominant theme in Luther’s pastoral writings, but so was the call to a deeply earnest Christianity that embraced suffering and affliction for the sake of the gospel. Luther’s pastoral writings were intended to help pastors minister to the needs of their flocks, but in many cases these works were directed to the laity, both to console and exhort them in the Christian life and also to mobilize them for ministry to one another.

Keywords: Martin Luther, pastoral care, devotional literature, consolation, cura animarum, death and dying, private confession

Luther as Pastor

We have known for some time that despite ongoing scholarly fascination with Luther’s controversial writings, that is, his works on disputed matters of doctrine, the majority of his lay contemporaries in the German lands knew him first and foremost as a concerned pastor. We have also known for some time that his pastoral writings were far more popular than his controversial works.1 For example, Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses is extant in just a handful of editions while the A Sermon on Indulgence and Grace is extant in twenty-three editions.2 The same is true for Luther’s other pastoral writings; many were extraordinarily popular, making of Luther an early modern publishing sensation.3 The term “pastoral writings” may be understood in an expansive sense to mean those works in which Luther seeks to pastor his fellow Christians or in which he seeks to encourage others—clerical or lay—in such pastoral work. Thus, the term includes everything from letters of consolation, to published sermons, to catechisms, to works of devotion, to hymnody, and more.4

Luther was a pastor and preacher, not only a professor. He was entrusted with the care of souls and also helped to train those who would be directly engaged in the cura animarum. As a result of these callings, and also owing to his spiritual struggles and evangelical breakthroughs, Luther emerged as a committed and talented pastor who had an uncanny knack for speaking to the spiritual needs of many of his contemporaries. Luther applied the fruit of his own spiritual wrestling, especially his struggle to find an enduring sense of forgiveness, to his own work as a pastor. He sought to offer to others the same consolation he had discovered through faith in the promises of the Word, and he did so with great urgency.5 As James Kittelson has observed, “The care of souls (cura animarum) … was the driving force in Luther’s personal development and in his career as a friar, professor, theologian, and even reformer.”6 In both his private and public life, “Luther was seized with the problem of the cura animarum.”7 It should be stressed that while Luther’s resolution of his spiritual crises took a unique and even radical form, which had important implications for his approach to the care of souls, his keen interest in spiritual edification and emphasis on divine grace was very much in keeping with a late medieval trend.

Late Medieval Piety Theology

Luther was deeply influenced by late medieval “piety theology,” or Frömmigkeitstheologie, a term that owes its provenance to Berndt Hamm. As one historian has explained, Frömmigkeitstheologie is Hamm’s “designation for a genre of late-medieval writing and praxis, much of it derived from and directed toward pastoral care, which was especially concerned with the pursuit of an authentic Christian life as defined by the values and institutions of the day.”8 Frömmigkeitstheologie was a form of practical or pastoral theology that aimed primarily at spiritual edification and comfort, not speculation.9 It was an attempt on the part of some of the age’s leading pastors and theologians to respond to the unique anxieties and spiritual needs of the later Middle Ages by formulating an approach to pastoral care that stressed divine mercy and consolation. Central to the concept of Frömmigkeitstheologie is Hamm’s conviction that late medieval Christianity was a religion of grace and not simply of mere external observance and good works, as traditional Protestant interpretations have asserted.10

One must remember that in the later Middle Ages and Reformation there were no courses in pastoral theology for prospective priests and pastors, and the majority of clergymen did not study at a university in any case, something that only began to change in significant ways in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Clergymen learned the art of pastoral care through an informal apprentice system.11 Concerned theologians attempted to improve the quality of this informal training through their preaching, teaching, and writing, in which they espoused a deeply affective Christianity that spoke to the practical and felt needs of the clergy and laity alike. These proponents of late medieval Frömmigkeitstheologie included such important figures as Jean Gerson, Johannes Paltz, and Johann von Staupitz, each of whom had a direct influence on Luther.

Hamm argues that, rather than being characterized by threats of divine wrath and vengeance, late medieval pastoral care and preaching placed a strong emphasis on consolation, divine mercy, and what Hamm calls “die nahe Gnade” (the grace that is nearby). He acknowledges the presence of harsher views of God in the late medieval cura animarum; indeed, he argues that the increasing stress on the nearness of grace was a response to anxiety and fear of divine punishment, but he ultimately wishes to depict late medieval Christianity as a religion that was far more concerned with consolation and mercy than previous scholars have appreciated.12 Hamm offers as evidence for his thesis the fact that the Passion of Christ was so central to late medieval theology and devotion, which he sees as indicative of a deep longing for clarity and certainty in the midst of fears of chaos, disorder, and destruction. The Passion, with its emphasis on the suffering God, provided the “normative center”—also Hamm’s term—toward which late medieval society sought to orient itself.13 Hamm shows how Luther was deeply influenced by late medieval Frömmigkeitstheologie, but also how he rejected certain crucial aspects of this theology in his efforts to find a new normative center for Christendom. (That center would become the solas of the Protestant Reformation—sola scriptura, sola gratia, sola fide.) One could say that Luther became an advocate of an evangelical Frömmigkeitstheologie.

It should be noted that there were important precedents for late medieval piety theology in the High Middle Ages. One of the most important developments in the pastoral theology of the high and later Middle Ages was the recovery of a ministry of verbal instruction and consolation, part of the larger effort to reform church and society that was already underway in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. This ministry had been widespread in the ancient period but had largely disappeared in the early Middle Ages.14 The Fourth Lateran Council (1215) played a key role in this recovery, effecting what some scholars have called a “pastoral revolution” in Latin Christendom.15 Arguably the most important provision of Lateran IV for the subsequent history of pastoral care was Canon 21, which required annual communion and confession of every Christian, the first such provision of its kind to be universally binding throughout Latin Christendom.16 Canon 21 calls for parish priests to possess considerable skill as they hear the confessions of their parishioners. The confessor is to be “discerning and prudent, so that like a skilled doctor he may pour wine and oil over the wounds of the injured one.” The priest is to make a careful inquiry into the penitent’s sins and their circumstances, “so that he may prudently discern what sort of advice he ought to give and what remedy to apply, using various means to heal the sick person.”17

Late medieval confessors were certainly not all mercy and consolation; they could also be stern judges or inept doctors who could easily botch the spiritual surgery they were to perform.18 Luther would complain bitterly about such confessors, and yet we also know that he experienced the more consoling side of late medieval pastoral care in the sacrament of penance, which greatly shaped his own approach to the care of souls.

Luther’s Pastoral Writings

It is not possible to survey all of Luther’s pastoral writings, but a brief overview of some of the most important ones will provide a sense of their content and importance. (Luther’s catechisms and hymns, which arguably influenced pastoral care more than any of his other pastoral writings, are addressed elsewhere in this volume.) The indulgence controversy provided the occasion for Luther’s earliest efforts to address and reform the pastoral care of his day. In A Sermon on Indulgence and Grace (preached in October 1517; published in March 1518), the Wittenberg monk-professor sought to explain in the vernacular something of what he had articulated in the more scholarly Ninety-Five Theses. In the latter he had argued that indulgences only relate to the penalty that the church imposes on sinners in the form of penances; they do not affect the divine penalty for sin, which only God can remit. Luther had also argued that the papal jurisdiction over sin and penance was limited to this life; the bishop of Rome had no authority over the remission of penalties for sin in the next life. Luther repeats these arguments in A Sermon on Indulgence and Grace and also makes the important claim, informed by his emerging evangelical soteriology, that God requires no penalty or satisfaction for sin beyond sinners’ “heart-felt and true repentance or conversion,” along with their intention to take up the cross of Christ.19 Nothing more is required to receive the free gift of divine forgiveness. This twin pastoral concern for directing sinners to place their full confidence in Christ’s atoning sacrifice for sin and for urging Christians to embrace a life of true, grace-enabled repentance and cross-bearing was central to Luther’s pastoral writings in the indulgence controversy and beyond.

As he had done in the Ninety-Five Theses, in A Sermon on Indulgence and Grace Luther teaches that Christians should seek to endure the tribulations sent by God, not because they render satisfaction for sin but because they contribute to Christians’ spiritual improvement, which he argues is God’s purpose in sending them.20 The patient and faithful endurance of suffering was no longer a form of penance that could reduce time in purgatory, as much traditional devotional and pastoral literature taught; now it was a means of spiritual improvement and the testing of faith. This effort to change the way Christians understood and sought to cope with suffering played a central role Luther’s early pastoral writings.21 Luther the pastor wanted the hearers and readers of this sermon to know both the peace of looking to Christ alone for forgiveness and the joy (and hardship) of walking the way of the cross with Christ by grace. He argued that indulgences prevented both this peace and this joy, and had only been allowed on account of “immature and lazy Christians” who want to persist in their spiritual laxness.22

In A Brief Instruction On How One Should Confess (1519), Luther sought to reform the sacrament of penance, which he increasingly came to see as a source of works righteousness, troubled consciences, and clerical tyranny. In keeping with the advice he had received from his spiritual mentor, Staupitz, Luther counseled penitents that they should not make detailed inventories of their consciences to be shared with their confessors; instead, they should reveal their sins to God alone. Before a penitent ever went to confession, he was to confess his sins secretly to God “as if he were talking with his most trusted friend.”23 Because Luther thought it was impossible for sinners to know, let alone remember, all of their mortal sins, he said that they needed confess to their priest only those transgressions that clearly went against the Ten Commandments, or those that burdened their conscience.24 All other transgressions were a private matter between God and penitent. Following Staupitz, Luther urged his readers to trust in God’s mercy and not in their own works to obtain forgiveness.25

In his Sermon on the Sacrament of Penance (1519), Luther greatly downplayed the importance of clerical remission of clerically imposed penances and sought to emphasize instead the far greater significance of heavenly remission of guilt, which “removes the fear and timidity of the heart toward God and makes the conscience inwardly light and happy.” (The distinction between the guilt of sin and the penalty for sin was a central feature of late medieval penitential theology.)26 This, for Luther, was true forgiveness, because it reconciled one with God, whereas remission of sacramental penances only brought one back into fellowship with the visible church. Forgiveness of guilt prevented sins from “biting” one’s conscience any longer and gave the penitent “a joyful confidence” that his sins had been completely forgiven.27 Luther’s pastoral concerns here are readily evident.

In spite of his sharp critique of the sacrament of penance (and of the notion of penance itself), Luther insisted in his sermon that confession was still a valid and important religious act. He asserted that God had given the sacrament of penance to be “a consolation to all sinners.”28 Luther rejected the traditional emphasis on contrition, the requirement of a full confession of all mortal sins, and the necessity of performing penances, and instead stressed the importance of placing one’s faith in the divine promise of forgiveness that Christ himself had attached to the power of the keys (Matt. 16:19).29 Forgiveness was a gift that could not be earned.30 It was an expression of God’s overwhelming mercy that had only to be received in faith. Luther even allowed lay people to speak absolution to one another, for the authority to forgive no longer resided in the episcopate and priesthood but in the Word, which belonged to all. Luther reasoned that any Christian could pronounce absolution, “because where a Christian says to you, ‘God forgives you your sins in the name etc.’ and you can receive the word with a sure faith as if God were speaking to you, then you are certainly absolved by the same faith.”31 All Christians possessed the keys, all were equally able and obliged to preach the gospel of forgiveness to each other. Luther wrote, “The keys and authority of St. Peter are not a kind of power, but a form of service. The keys were not given to St. Peter alone but also to you and to me, the keys are yours and mine.”32 Thus, in this sermon Luther called all Christians to the pastoral ministry of consoling consciences with the Word of forgiveness, even though he still envisioned the clergy carrying out this ministry under normal circumstances.33

It is important to stress how important private confession was in Luther’s pastoral writings. While he would come to reject the traditional sacrament of penance, he would always urge his contemporaries to confess their sins privately to their pastors and to receive absolution from them, which they were to receive by faith. In his Invocavit Sermons (1522), he asserted,

I will allow no one to take private confession from me and would not give it in exchange for all the wealth of the world. For I know what consolation and strength it has given me. No one knows what it can give unless he has struggled much and frequently with the devil. I would have been strangled by the devil long ago if confession had not sustained me.34

Luther wanted no one to be forced to confession, but neither would he allow anyone to deny him access to it. “We must have much absolution,” he argued, “so that we may strengthen our fearful consciences and despondent hearts against the devil. Therefore no one should forbid confession.”35 He conceded that those with strong faith had no need of private confession; they could simply receive absolution directly from heaven. But he observed that few, including himself, possessed such unwavering trust in God. Here we see evidence that Luther’s experience of private confession had not been entirely negative as a monk, especially when Staupitz was his confessor. Luther had also experienced the consoling side of the sacrament, which he sought to reform and commend to his contemporaries.

But we should not lose sight of the sterner side of Luther’s pastoral writings. The critique of spiritual laxity that one finds in his works during the indulgence controversy is also present in other pastoral writings that appeared soon afterward. In An Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer for Simple Laymen (1519), Luther compared Christians who sought to avoid the trials and afflictions that God sent their way to knights who fled from attack or combat.36 In A Meditation on Christ’s Passion (1519) Luther criticized people who carried on their persons symbols of Christ’s suffering, hoping thereby to protect themselves from hardship, an action that Luther argued was contrary to Christ’s nature.37 In the Fourteen Consolations (1520) Luther again criticized people who venerated the relics of Christ but rejected the suffering that he blessed with his own blood.38 In his efforts to practice and teach pastoral care through the written word, Luther sought both to console and to exhort. In fact, he saw the consolation of the Word as the source of the courage and confidence that enabled one to endure suffering and affliction faithfully.39

Other important themes emerge in these and additional pastoral works by Luther. In An Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer for Simple Laymen Luther opens with a reflection on why it is important and appropriate to refer to God as Father.

The best way to begin or introduce the prayer is to know how to address, honor, and treat the person to whom we submit our petition, and how to conduct ourselves in his presence, so that he will be gracious toward us and willing to listen to us. Now, of all names there is none that gains us more favor with God than that of “Father.” This is indeed a friendly, sweet, intimate, and warm-hearted word. To speak the words “Lord” or “God” or “Judge” would not be nearly as gracious and comforting to us. The name “Father” is part of our nature and is sweet by nature. That is why it is the most pleasing to God, and why no other name moves him so strongly to hear us. With this name we likewise confess that we are the children of God, which stirs his heart mightily; for there is no lovelier sound than that of a child speaking to his father.40

Much later in life Luther would confess that he had once hated God the Father owing to his belief that God was a wrathful and demanding judge who expected the impossible from him in terms of moral and spiritual performance. Luther said that his discovery of justification by faith radically altered his view of God.41 Here we see the effect of this crucial change, which Luther sought to commend to his contemporaries.

Early modern Europeans felt their mortality keenly, for they lived in a time that was ravaged by plague, war, and disease. A whole genre of devotional literature known as the ars moriendi (the art or craft of dying) had emerged in the later Middle Ages to help Christians deal with this deep sense of vulnerability. Luther provided an evangelical contribution to this genre in A Sermon on Preparing to Die (1519), in which he seeks to persuade his readers to view death as a kind of birth. He writes,

Just as an infant is born with peril and pain from the small abode of the mother’s womb into this immense heaven and earth, that is, into this world, so man departs this life through the narrow gate of death. And although the heavens and the earth in which we dwell at present seem large and wide to us, they are nevertheless much narrower and smaller than the mother’s womb in comparison with the future heaven. Therefore, the death of the dear saints is called a new birth, and their feast day is known in Latin as natale, that is, the day of their birth.42

Luther readily concedes that it is very difficult for a dying person to adopt this perspective, and this is why it is necessary to meditate on death long before it occurs. But when one does so, one must not focus on death itself but on one’s death in Christ, who is “nothing other than sheer life.”43 Otherwise one will despair. One must also avoid all anxiety about election and the like, but simply leave such matters up to God, taking consolation in one’s baptism and in Christ’s self-offering in the Lord’s Supper. Luther warns, “In brief, the devil is determined to blast God’s love from a man’s mind and to arouse thoughts of God’s wrath.”44 Keeping one’s mind focused on Christ and his defeat of death on the cross is the only way to best the devil at one’s end.

Luther again seeks to console those at death’s door (and those ministering to them) in Fourteen Consolations. He observes,

In death we are like all other men: the outward mode of our dying is not unlike that of others, except the thing itself is different, since for us death is dead. In like manner, all of our sufferings are like the sufferings of others, but only in appearance. In reality, our sufferings are the beginning of our freedom as our death is the beginning of life.45

Luther asserts that the source of such peace is the deep conviction of God’s gracious care for sinners in Christ, whose presence within the Christian is open only to eye of faith. Thus, the Christian should face suffering and death in confidence and not seek to hide from them by participating in the cult of saints. The saints provide nothing more than examples of faithful cross-bearing. Such critique of traditional popular piety was a central theme in Luther’s pastoral writings.

In A Meditation on Christ’s Passion Luther affirms the traditional devotional practice of meditating on the suffering of Christ, but he also takes issue with much of the motivation behind it. Luther argues that the proper motivation for contemplating Christ’s Passion is not avoidance of life’s trials, nor hatred of the Jews, nor even pity for Christ; rather, “They contemplate Christ’s passion aright who view it with a terror-stricken heart and a despairing conscience.”46 Meditation on the Passion serves the purpose Luther attributed to the Law elsewhere: to convict the conscience of sin and sin’s dire consequences. He refers to Christ as “this earnest mirror” (dißer ernster spiegel), which shows human beings their wretchedness.47 Once the Christian becomes aware of his sins, Luther instructs him to cast them upon Christ, seeing in his wounds and sufferings his own transgressions, which are overcome by Christ’s resurrection. If the Christian cannot believe this miracle, Luther urges him to ask God for faith, as “this too rests entirely in the hands of God.”48 God is the primary agent in the life of salvation. God enables proper contemplation of Christ’s Passion and then grants the faith that permits the Christian to receive the fruits of such contemplation. Chief among these fruits is a deep sense of divine love pro me. Luther counsels the penitent reader to refrain from further contemplation of Christ’s suffering and instead to meditate on “his friendly heart and how this heart beats with such love for you that it impels him to bear with pain your conscience and your sin. Then your heart will be filled with love for him, and the confidence of your faith will be strengthened.” Luther goes on to urge the reader to rise from Christ’s heart to God’s heart, the true source of the savior’s love. “Thus you will find the divine and paternal heart, and, as Christ says, you will be drawn to the Father through him … We know God aright when we grasp him not in his might or wisdom (for then he proves terrifying), but in his kindness and love. Then faith and confidence are able to exist, and then man is truly born anew in God.”49

Luther concludes this printed sermon by making a distinction that draws together his twin concerns to console and to exhort in his pastoral writings. He observes that throughout his sermon Christ’s Passion has served as a “sacrament,” and now it must become an “example” for the Christian. He explains, “Until now we regarded [Christ’s Passion] as a sacrament which is active in us while we are passive, but now we find that we too must be active.”50 Luther goes on to list numerous forms of suffering and temptation along with how one should bear them in imitation of Christ as one considers the true depth and severity of the savior’s suffering. Luther’s point here is that Christians must first receive Christ’s Passion as a means of grace before they can regard it as a model to imitate. Christians cannot suffer with Christ before they have embraced the full benefits of Christ’s suffering for them; they cannot act like Christ until Christ has acted upon (and in) them.

Plague was a dreaded feature of late medieval and early modern existence, and Christian leaders had debated for some time whether it was permissible for the faithful to flee the deadly pestilence or if they needed to remain in the infected area either to accept God’s punishment for sin or to help those too sick to travel. In his 1527 pamphlet Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague, Luther maintains, “To flee from death and to save one’s life is a natural tendency, implanted by God and not forbidden unless it be against God and neighbor.”51 People in a burning house do not remain within, thinking that it is God’s will for them to do so, nor does a drowning person cease to struggle for life. Therefore, it is permissible to flee, but those in authority and those who are called with serving others, especially the sick, must remain and entrust themselves to God’s will.

As Luther was publishing these and many other pastoral writings, he also conducted a great deal of pastoral care himself via letters. He sought to console those bent down by grief, sickness, suffering, and depression, urging them to turn to Christ in faith for solace in the midst of such afflictions. He also counseled such people to turn to other Christians for comfort. Facing trials alone was not wise, according to Luther, for it exposed one to the full fury of the devil. Time and again Luther urges suffering Christians to flee solitude and to seek out the company of others who could console them with the Word (and strong drink and music!).52 Luther knew what every clergymen of his day knew, namely, that there were not enough clergy to go around. Thus, even as Luther sought to pastor others through sermons, letters, and various printed works, he also sought to train others—including lay people—to do so. He argued in numerous places that by virtue of baptism all Christians were priests, and therefore all Christians were authorized to intercede with Christ for one another and to serve one another by preaching (or speaking) the Word in times of need. His pastoral writings were intended to instruct and mobilize the lay priesthood as much as they were designed to guide and console those who read them.

Review of Literature

Among the most important recent treatments of the late medieval context for Luther’s pastoral writings is the work by Berndt Hamm.53 There are a number of studies that document the ubiquity of Luther’s pastoral writings, (e.g., Edwards), and we also have a collection of these writings with scholarly comment (see Haemig), along with a volume dedicated to The Pastoral Luther (Wengert).54 Luther’s reformation of the traditional ars moriendi has been well-studied (see Leroux and Reinis), as have his letters of consolation (Mennecke Haustein, Ebeling).55 There are also treatments of Luther’s spirituality along with collections of his devotional works (Krey, Ngien, and LW 42 and 43).56 The place of private confession in Luther’s pastoral theology and pastoral care has received scholarly attention, as has his effort to reform attitudes toward suffering (Rittgers).57 We also have specific treatments of Luther’s many pastoral works (e.g., Strohl).58 Future research on Luther’s pastoral writings might follow Hamm’s lead and focus on the myriad continuities and discontinuities between late medieval piety theology and Luther’s piety theology, especially where his reception of mysticism is concerned. There is a vast literature on Luther’s relationship to mysticism, but there is still much work to be done on whether and how this relationship influenced his understanding of pastoral care.

Further Reading

Ebeling, Gehard. Luthers Seelsorge: Theologie in der Vielfalt der Lebenssituationen an seinen Briefen dargestellt. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 1997.Find this resource:

Edwards, Mark U., Jr. Printing, Propaganda, and Martin Luther. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.Find this resource:

Haemig, Mary Jane, ed. The Annotated Luther, vol. 4: Pastoral Writings. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2016.Find this resource:

Hamm, Berndt. “Was ist Frömmigkeitstheologie? Überlegungen zum 14. bis 16. Jahrhundert.” In Praxis Pietatis: Beiträge zu Theologie und Frömmigkeit in der frühen Neuzeit; Wolfgang Sommer zum 60. Geburtstag. Edited by Hans-Jörg Nieden and Marcel Nieden, 9–46. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1999.Find this resource:

Hamm, Berndt. The Reformation of Faith in the Context of Late Medieval Theology and Piety: Essays by Berndt Hamm. Edited by Robert J. Bast. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2004.Find this resource:

Krey, Philip D. W., and Peter D. S. Krey, eds. and trans. Luther’s Spirituality. New York: Paulist, 2007.Find this resource:

Leroux, Neil R. Martin Luther as Comforter: Writings on Death. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2007.Find this resource:

Luther, Martin. Devotional Writings II. Edited by Gustav K. Wienke. Vol. 43 of Luther’s Works. Edited by Helmut T. Lehmann. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1968.Find this resource:

Luther, Martin. Devotional Writings I. Edited by Martin O. Dietrich. Vol. 42 of Luther’s Works. Edited by Helmut T. Lehmann. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1969.Find this resource:

Luther, Martin. Letters of Spiritual Counsel. Edited by Theodore G. Tappert. Vancouver, BC: Regent College Publishing, 2003.Find this resource:

Mennecke Haustein, Ute. Luthers Trostbriefe. Gütersloh, Germany: Gütersloher Verlagshaus Gerd Mohn, 1989.Find this resource:

Ngien, Dennis. Luther as Spiritual Adviser: The Interface of Theology and Piety in the Luther’s Devotional Writings. Bletchley, U.K.: Paternoster, 2007.Find this resource:

Ngien, Dennis. Fruit for the Soul: Luther on the Lament Psalms. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2015.Find this resource:

Reinis, Austra. Reforming the Art of Dying: The ars moriendi in the German Reformation, 1519–1528. Aldershot, U.K.: Ashgate, 2007.Find this resource:

Rittgers, Ronald K. The Reformation of the Keys: Confession, Conscience, and Authority in Sixteenth-Century Germany. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004.Find this resource:

Rittgers, Ronald K. “Luther’s Reformation of Private Confession.” Lutheran Quarterly 19.3 (Autumn 2005): 312–331.Find this resource:

Rittgers, Ronald K. The Reformation of Suffering: Pastoral Theology and Lay Piety in Late Medieval and Early Modern Germany. Oxford Studies in Historical Theology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.Find this resource:

Rittgers, Ronald K. “How Luther’s Engagement in Pastoral Care Shaped His Theology.” In The Oxford Handbook of Martin Luther’s Theology. Edited by Robert Kolb, Irene Dingel, and L’ubomír Batka, 462–470. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014.Find this resource:

Strohl, Jane E. “Luther’s 14 Consolations.” Lutheran Quarterly 3 (1989): 169–182.Find this resource:

Wengert, Timothy J., ed. The Pastoral Luther: Essays on Luther’s Practical Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdmans, 2009.Find this resource:


(1.) Mark U. Edwards, Jr., Printing, Propaganda, and Martin Luther (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), 163–164.

(2.) Ronald K. Rittgers, The Reformation of Suffering: Pastoral Theology and Lay Piety in Late Medieval and Early Modern Germany, Oxford Studies in Historical Theology (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 271.

(3.) See Andrew Pettegree, Brand Luther: How an Unheralded Monk Turned His Small Town into a Center of Publishing, Made Himself the Most Famous Man in Europe—and Started the Protestant Reformation (New York: Penguin, 2015).

(4.) For an example of this expansive understanding of Luther’s pastoral writings, see Mary Jane Haemig, ed., The Annotated Luther, vol. 4: Pastoral Writings (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2016).

(5.) See Ronald K. Rittgers, “How Luther’s Engagement in Pastoral Care Shaped His Theology,” in The Oxford Handbook of Martin Luther’s Theology, eds. Robert Kolb, Irene Dingel, and L’ubomír Batka (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 462–470.

(6.) James Kittelson, “Luther and Modern Church History,” in The Cambridge Companion to Martin Luther, ed. Donald K. McKim (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 261.

(7.) Ibid., 262. See also p. 264.

(8.) See Robert J. Bast, ed., The Reformation of Faith in the Context of Late Medieval Theology and Piety: Essays by Berndt Hamm (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2004), xv. For Hamm’s own (translated) description of Frömmigkeitstheologie, see pp. 18–24. See also Berndt Hamm, “Was ist Frömmigkeitstheologie? Überlegungen zum 14. bis 16. Jahrhundert,” in Praxis Pietatis: Beiträge zu Theologie und Frömmigkeit in der frühen Neuzeit; Wolfgang Sommer zum 60. Geburtstag, eds. Hans-Jörg Nieden and Marcel Nieden (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1999), 9–46.

(9.) Bast, Reformation of Faith, 18–19.

(10.) See especially Berndt Hamm, Religiosität im späten Mittelalter. Spannungspole, Neuaufbrüche, Normierugen, eds. Reinhold Friedrich and Wolfgang Simon (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2011), 34–36, 547–559.

(11.) On the training of late medieval clergy, see Rittgers, Reformation of Suffering, 32–36. On the training of Protestant clergy, see pp. 226–229.

(12.) See especially Hamm, Religiosität im späten Mittelalter, 34–36, 547–559.

(13.) See Hamm, Reformation of Faith, 6. It should be noted that Hamm applies the term “normative centering” to the later Middle Ages “with great caution and always with qualification,” as Christianity on the eve of the Reformation remained quite diverse. See ibid., 45.

(14.) Rittgers, Reformation of Suffering, 12–36.

(15.) See R. N. Swanson, Religion and Devotion in Europe, c. 1215–c. 1515 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 2.

(16.) See Norman Tanner, “Pastoral Care: The Fourth Lateran Council of 1215,” in A History of Pastoral Care, ed. G. R. Evans (London: Cassell, 2000), 117.

(17.) Norman P. Tanner, Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, vol. 1: Nicaea to Lateran V (London: Sheed & Ward, 1990), 245.1–23.

(18.) See Anne T. Thayer, “Judge and Doctor: Images of the Confessor in Printed Model Sermon Collections, 1450–1520,” in Penitence in the Age of Reformations, eds. Katharine Jackson Lualdi and Anne T. Thayer (Aldershot, U.K.: Ashgate, 2000), 10–29.

(19.) WA 1:244, 15–19.

(20.) See WA 1:244, 34–245, 4.

(21.) See Rittgers, Reformation of Suffering, ch. 4.

(22.) WA 1:245, 26–30.

(23.) WA 2:59, article 2. My translation.

(24.) WA 2:60, articles 5 and 6.

(25.) WA 2:64, 18–20.

(26.) See Rittgers, Reformation of the Keys, 31–32.

(27.) WA 2:714, 12–20. My translation.

(28.) WA 2:715, 12. My translation.

(29.) WA 2:716, 7–12.

(30.) Throughout this sermon Luther emphasized that God’s forgiveness was “utterly free” (lauter unsunst or umb sunst). See, for example, 718.15 and 720.2.

(31.) WA 2:716, 8–31. My translation.

(32.) WA 2:719, 16–18. My translation.

(33.) WA 2:716, 36.

(34.) WA 10/III: 62, 1–2; LW 51:98.

(35.) WA 10/III: 62, 9–10; LW 51:99.

(36.) WA 2:124, 9–11; LW 42:72–73.

(37.) WA 2:136, 19–20; LW 42:7.

(38.) WA 6:118, 38–119, 6; LW 42:143. For discussions of the Tessaradecas consolatoria see Jane E. Strohl, “Luther’s 14 Consolations,” Lutheran Quarterly 3 (1989): 169–182; Neil R. Leroux, Martin Luther as Comforter: Writings on Death (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2007), 1–44; and Dennis Ngien, Luther as Spiritual Adviser: The Interface of Theology and Piety in the Luther’s Devotional Writings (Bletchley, U.K.: Paternoster, 2007), 48–80.

(39.) Rittgers, Reformation of Suffering, 107–108.

(40.) WA 2:83, 12–22; LW 42:22.

(41.) WA 54:185, 21–22, 186.1; LW 34:336–337.

(42.) WA 2:685, 22–686.1; LW 42:99–100.

(43.) WA 2:689, 12; LW 42:104.

(44.) WA 2:688, 10–11; LW 42:103.

(45.) WA 6:118, 29–32; LW 42:142.

(46.) WA 2:137, 10–12; LW 42:8.

(47.) WA 2:137, 34–35; LW 42:9.

(48.) WA 2:140, 27–30; LW 42:13.

(49.) WA 2:140, 30–141.7; LW 42:13.

(50.) WA 2:141, 11–13; LW 42:13.

(51.) WA 23:347, 6–7; LW 43:123.

(52.) See Martin Luther, Letters of Spiritual Counsel, ed. and trans. Theodore G. Tappert (Vancouver, BC: Regent College Publishing, 2003), 86, 91, 93, 95. For a brief discussion of Luther’s emphasis on God working through the instrumentality of others to console those suffering various Anfechtungen, see Ute Mennecke Haustein, Luthers Trostbriefe (Gütersloh, Germany: Gütersloher Verlagshaus Gerd Mohn, 1989), 24.

(53.) Hamm, Reformation of Faith.

(54.) Edwards, Printing, Propaganda, and Martin Luther; Haemig, Annotated Luther; and Timothy J. Wengert, ed., The Pastoral Luther: Essays on Luther’s Practical Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdmans, 2009).

(55.) Leroux, Martin Luther as Comforter; Austra Reinis, Reforming the Art of Dying: The ars moriendi in the German Reformation, 1519–1528 (Aldershot, U.K.: Ashgate, 2007); and Mennecke Haustein, Luthers Trostbriefe; Gehard Ebeling, Luthers Seelsorge: Theologie in der Vielfalt der Lebenssituationen an seinen Briefen dargestellt (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 1997).

(56.) Philip D. W. Krey and Peter D. S. Krey, eds. and trans., Luther’s Spirituality (New York: Paulist, 2007); and Ngien, Luther as Spiritual Adviser.

(57.) Rittgers, Reformation of Suffering.

(58.) Strohl, “Luther’s 14 Consolations.”