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date: 19 August 2017

Martin Luther in Modern European Philosophy

Summary and Keywords

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.

Keywords: Martin Luther, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Immanuel Kant, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach, Søren Kierkegaard, Martin Heidegger, reason, faith, selfhood

No essay of this length can hope to do comprehensive justice to its topic; instead, it sketches a seldom-related yet extensive story concerning Martin Luther’s influence on modern European philosophy—a narrative initiated by Luther himself, following the legacy of the Lutheran “self” and the turn toward the subject, including its concomitant critique, in modern philosophical thought. While Luther’s own move can be seen as setting in motion the “Copernican Revolution” that followed, its workings-out assumed a form that would surely have unsettled Luther himself. And yet this narrative is intertwined with an obligatory counter-narrative, itself informed by Luther, in which dissenting philosophical voices invoke his spirit as a rebuke to the philosophical spirit of their age.

What is at stake, in no small part, is the nature and role of philosophy itself, as worked out through Luther’s critical influence on the key figures of Leibniz, Kant, Hegel, Feuerbach, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Heidegger. Along the way, honorable mention can be made of such thinkers as Fichte, Schelling, Hamann, Schopenhauer, Coleridge, Rudolf Otto, and, looking forward, Kristeva, Westphal, and Marion. Intersecting this complex narrative in a profound manner is also an enduring debate about the relationship between philosophy and mystical theology which adds both intrigue and obscurity.

Luther and Philosophy: From Scholasticism to Enlightenment

To begin with Luther’s defamation of reason (Vernunft) as the “whore of the devil”1 is seemingly to damn philosophy as a degenerate practice that enshrines this fallen handmaid. Philosophy itself is a lover of wisdom (philo-sophia) of similar repute, or perhaps even worse, the grandmother of Satan himself.2 This apparent dead end can, however, be circumvented by a more detailed yet mischievious assessment of Luther’s account of the pedagogical role of the devil himself. While philosophy has fallen from the (almost) “handmaid” to the “whore” of theology,3 the theologian can still learn much from its ingenious trials and temptations. As such, Luther famously announces that a true theologian is not forged by “understanding, reading or speculating,” but rather from the fires of vivendo immo moriendo et damnando fir theologus, non intelligendo, legendo aut speculando, that is, “living, no rather by dying and being damned”4 (the sorts of fixations that rarely concern the philosopher). To undergo such intense pedagogy, the theologian needs “the right critic, the devil, who is the best teacher of theology.”5

The devil is the true theologian’s dialectical foil and deadly adversary: he tempts, whispers sweet deceptions, ties Gordian knots with the art of his reason, and assaults both body and soul with the burning arrows of Anfechtungen (“spiritual trials”6). The devil is the greatest exegete and hermeneutic of scripture, able to twist texts inside out, to coil himself around one’s heart like the serpent in Eden, tempting one to assent to his reasoning and thereby believe that the Word states nothing other than one’s own damnation. Distorting the Word of God with the sophistry of his reason, the devil draws one toward the temptation to despair (tentatio desperationis), luring one to enter the abyss in which all who dwell there believe themselves to be “forsaken and cut off from God.”7

Yet Luther is also emphatic that such Satanic trials and temptations are the making of a true theologian: “If we don’t have that kind of devil, then we become nothing but speculativi Theologi [speculative theologians].”8 A particular prevailing genre of theology and philosophy is indicted here. The devil is essentially the arch-Sophist, able to entwine and manipulate “truth” until one believes, dazzled by his rhetorical genius, that God’s Yes is in fact an eternal No. As shall be seen below, the struggle against sophistry and speculation is taken up within modern philosophy as well as theology. The struggle for philosophy is indeed present in Luther’s own time, and long before, echoing Socrates’s own struggle against the Sophists: a struggle to redefine philosophy itself, to reorient it in terms of an interior relation to an eternal truth. Luther’s own declaration of theology’s memento mori resonates with the axiom of Cicero, “To philosophize is to learn how to die.” A doyen of Renaissance humanists, Cicero was also one of Luther’s most frequently cited authorities, privileged over and against Aristotle, “the philosopher” cherished by scholastics and the speculative theologians Luther derided. Such was Luther’s admiration for Cicero that he reflected that if he were a younger man, he would dedicate himself to studying Cicero alongside the Bible.9 In Luther’s view Cicero was superior to Aristotle in acknowledging acknowledges the immortality of the soul (as Kant would also). Luther thus hoped that God would be merciful to the all-too-human wisdom of Cicero.10

As that plea indicates, it was primarily speculative philosophy and theology that for Luther manifested the apotheosis of reason: the hubris of humanity’s presumptuous ability to think (the unknowable) God-in-Godself (deus nudus). Its tools are the making of a theology of glory (theologia gloriae) against which Luther in his “Heidelberg Disputation” (1518) opposes his own agonistic theology of the Cross (theologia crucis). Speculative thought presumes, like Moses, to behold the glory (Kavod) of God, which none may see and live. The theology of the Cross contends, in humility and humiliation, with the Anfechtung of the back of God (posteriora Dei) (Exod. 33:18–20). As such, while Luther may generally prefer the apophatic unknowableness of God in Plato to Aristotle’s narcissistic Unmoved Mover, he ultimately submits all philosophical aspirations for a theology of glory to the humility and abandonment of a theology of the Cross, which represents a deepening of the via negativa to the point of distinction between the appearance and reality of God and human works.11

Philosophy concerns itself with the present and the temporal; theology with the future and the eternal.12 Philosophy ultimately belongs with the law, and may at times discern its meaning; theology wrestles with the gospel and is blessed with revelation. Nonetheless, philosophy may be purged (purgate) and bathed (bade) in order to serve theology,13 whereby it may serve as “maidservant and bondswoman and most beautiful helper.”14 Despite their moments of mutual trespass, philosophy may come to serve theology, Matte notes, as an ancilla theologiae (“servant of faith”).15 When philosophy and theology are at variance, “the dialecticians have to give way where the apostolic fishermen are to be trusted.”16

The redemption of philosophy, in a sense, resides in its emancipation from its late medieval bondage to speculative and scholastic forms of philosophical theology. As the rise of the via moderna (“new way”—to which Luther subscribed) challenged the realism of the via antiqua (“old way”),17 there gradually emerged greater possibility for an autonomous philosophy freed (eventually and to varying extents) from the hegemony of Aristotelianism and endless internal theological disputes between nominalists and realists.18 No longer in necessary servitude as either a “handmaid” or “whore” to theology, philosophy emerges in modernity as an ostensibly liberated and liberating force able to define itself on its own terms. Perhaps ironically, as will be explored below, the new autonomy of Enlightenment philosophy owes a rather cryptic debt to Luther’s own emancipating emphasis upon the individual, transfigured as a form of autonomy liberated from the heteronomy of unthinking and onerous tradition. Somewhat opaque in this story, however, is Luther’s insistence on the individual “before God” (coram deo). Where this emphasis diminishes, modern philosophy witnesses a renaissance of speculative thinking in the form of idealism, a partial and critical recapitulation of the scholastic division between intellectus and ratio (a distinction Luther rejected19) in modernity’s terms of reason (Vernunft) and understanding (Verstand) (e.g., through Kant, Hegel, and Coleridge, with varying limits).

Variations of Luther’s preference for faith (fides) over reason (ratio) continues, however, to haunt the speculative aspirations of idealism. Against the presumptions of certain philosophers to think the (unknowable?) “thing-in-itself” (Ding-an-sich), other forms of philosophy, also inspired by Luther’s legacy, arise to puncture grandiosity and challenge sophistry. Thinkers like Kierkegaard, Hamann, and later Heidegger perform a modern revival of Luther’s proto-existentialist emphasis upon the epistemic limits of the individual in the face of Being. In Kierkegaard and Hamann, the ironic spirit of Socrates is also evoked alongside Luther to provoke a critique of philosophy which itself initiates a new orientation of philosophy.20 Luther’s explicit aspersions on the chastity and fidelity of philosophy find a self-conscious echo in Kierkegaard’s polemic against the right-wing, Hegelian-inspired speculative thinkers of 19th-century Copenhagen.21 However, the God before whom Kierkegaard’s individual is reinstated recedes in light of Heidegger’s 20th-century Destruktion of the grand narrative of Western metaphysics. Luther is once again a protagonist behind the scene, but by this point the door has been closed, seemingly irrevocably, on late medieval philosophical theology—a notion that Heidegger identifies as an impossibility, a squared circle.

Essentially, what is seen in modern European philosophy is a struggle for the identity of philosophy itself. Radically brilliant and innovative thinkers are partially inspired (negatively and positively) by Luther to undertake revolutions in philosophy—revolutions which are, almost dialectically, challenged by philosophers influenced by Luther to question the possibility of philosophy itself, even to the point that Heidegger aspires to get behind “philosophy” and onto the path of “thinking.” There may be something inherent in Luther’s ambivalent legacy to European modernity at work in these “philosophers.” Luther’s struggle for a life lived sola fide as simul iustus et peccator (“by faith alone, at once justified and sinner”) in the face of speculative philosophical theology and degenerate church authority helps provoke further revolutions in thinking which, in turn, reenact similar tensions. These tensions can be discerned in the ways that Luther’s struggles with reason, authority, and selfhood resonate in the attempts of modern philosophers influenced by Luther to redefine the parameters of philosophical thinking.

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz: Justice and Reconciliation

Despite the Angst and Anfechtung evoked in the tensions noted above, early Enlightenment philosophy offers a more optimistic prospect in the revered polymath Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716). Leibniz offers an earnest vision of philosophy as a pacifying, rationalizing force which could unite the various schisms of Christianity, thereby healing the fractures which, to some extent, the tensions of Luther and Lutheranism had made possible. Born into a privileged Lutheran family toward the end of the Thirty Years’ War, Leibniz was overshadowed by the brutal consequences of religious division and sought in philosophical rationalism a means of unity. In a vision that reflects his polymathic expertise, Leibniz sought to harmonize Renaissance humanism, scholasticism, Plato, and Aristotle with prevailing modern philosophy.

In the never-completed Catholic Demonstrations, Leibniz also sets out a rational philosophical basis for the reconciliation of Catholicism and Protestantism. His desire to unite Catholics and Protestants (including Lutherans and Calvinists22) meant establishing a neutral philosophical ground to justify Christian rationality and resolve theological dispute. Manifesting this desire is a continual recapitulation of the meaning of the Eucharist, demonstrating the compatibility between Leibniz’s metaphysical system and the doctrine of transubstantiation. This includes a Lutheran commitment to the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, which Leibniz affirms as Christ’s own intended meaning and which he identifies with the notion of transubstantiation. Leibniz intends this identification of the Lutheran “real presence” with Catholic “transubstantiation” as a demonstration of the harmony that could unite the two churches.23

While Catholic, not to mention occult and esoteric, influences on Leibniz are explicit and well attested, the influence of Luther is relatively underexamined—despite claims that Leibniz is both the “chief forerunner for the rise of historicism” as well as a “main connecting link” with Luther.24 Leibniz offers few comments on Luther, though it is evident that he had read him in some detail, even invoking Luther along with Melanchthon in support of a proposed Christian humanism.25 Any influence, as such, is likely to be found “lurking only beneath the surface.”26 Nonetheless, it is clear that both Luther and Leibniz were preeminently concerned with the question of divine justice: in Luther’s emphasis this centered on the personal salvation of the anxious individual; for Leibniz the concern is expanded to encompass the question of God’s justice in relation to a cosmos apparently fractured by evil. Leibniz reasons that God’s goodness and wisdom ensure that God freely creates “the best of all possible worlds,” which, in spite of the existence of evil and suffering, accords with God’s supreme knowledge of the good.27 Accordingly, the evil and suffering in question becomes transfigured as part of God’s good providence, in which, as Voltaire’s Candide (1759) infamously parodies Leibniz’s Theodicy, “all happens for the best in the best of all possible worlds.”

Despite Leibniz’s best intentions, Theodicy was an object of Catholic condemnation on account of its view of moral necessity in light of God’s free choice in creating the best of all possible worlds.28 This condemnation, not helped by the concomitant hindrance of Candide, dented Leibniz’s lifelong apologetic desire to unite Catholics and Protestants, as well as to present a rational Christian faith robust in the face of philosophical atheism. Furthermore, Leibniz’s attempt to establish a rational basis for faith ostensibly erodes Luther’s emphasis upon trust (fiducia) in God’s promise in the face of the unknowable Divine Will. As Hillman submits, Leibniz is far more Thomistic and ultimately Catholic “in emphasizing love (caritas) [proceeding from the Will] as the non-cognitive element of faith par excellence.”29 The traditional scholastic question of faith involved harmonious conversation between intellect and will, giving rise to intense theological debate concerning the priority of one over the other. Leibniz attempts to reconcile the two insofar as both are oriented toward the same ideal: truth. While revelation may be above the grasp of human reason, it is never ultimately against reason. Furthermore, tradition has maintained the truths of revelation to the point of being upheld as true unless their contrary can be proven.30 This view is epitomized in Leibniz’s “Preliminary Dissertation on the Conformity of Faith With Reason” (paragraph 52), invoking Origen’s 3rd-century “answer of a wise man”:

For reason, far from being contrary to Christianity, serves as a foundation for this religion, and will bring about its acceptance by those who can achieve the examination of it.31

However, as Luther asserts (and to which Leibniz assents), faith needs to be more than intellectual assent to metaphysical assertions or historical fact—producing a mere historical faith (fides historica). One’s reason may confirm the existence of a God but will not reveal who this God is nor the nature of this God’s disposition toward one. Faith must engage will and enter “the depths of the heart”32 in order to initiate true metanoia in the believer. However, as Luther asserts inThe Freedom of a Christian (1520), “By faith he is caught up beyond himself into God. By love he descends beneath himself into his neighbor.”33 Love, in other words, descends while faith ascends. The believer trusts in God and loves his/her [gender-inclusive] neighbor; love results from faith but does not generate faith. In all humility, the believer is to become like a child (Matt. 18:3), learning trust before learning to love—though both are made possible by virtue of the love that God first affirms for us (1 John 4:19). It is in the sense of being “caught up beyond oneself in God” that Rudolf Otto sees Luther as effectively affirming a “mysticism of faith” in which the traditional mystical role of love is replaced with a faith which performs the unitive principle.34

Ultimately, Hillman suggests that Leibniz’s more Catholic account of the role of love derives from a more optimistic view of the imago Dei whereby the will is inclined toward the greatest good (God), loving others as God the Creator loves creatures. Although Leibniz’s philosophy rests on the Lutheran sacramental principle that the finite can comprehend the infinite (finitum capax infiniti),35 his anthropology is ultimately more optimistic than Luther’s regarding the resemblance between Creator and creatures, occluding Luther’s more pessimistic appraisal of the imago dei as more radically tarnished by sin.36 The notion of “inner” freedom constituted “the essential expression of man’s being” for Luther, though he was also “tormented by the conflict between divine omnipotence and man’s freedom to close his heart to faith.” Leibniz also sought to address this conflict through his idea of monads, which are “in one sense a reflection of the completeness of God,” a completeness in which “the human essence partakes” such that a person’s soul “as window and mirror” need not bow to the causal necessity of space and time.37 This tendency toward moderation of Luther’s “pessimism” becomes a recurring point of contention in modern philosophy, whether implicitly or explicitly. At stake in this is a reevaluation of the freedom and autonomy of the individual human subject, causing in many cases the question of God’s existence to become a derivative of the question of self-consciousness.

Immanuel Kant: Radical Evil and the Good Will

Luther’s anxiety over the reconciliation of human freedom with God’s omnipotence is seemingly assuaged by Immanuel Kant’s (1724–1804) transcendental logic, which places the certainty of human freedom prior to knowledge of God—the latter being “assumed a priori on the basis of moral freedom.”38 Kant’s “Copernican Revolution” in epistemology, whereby “we suppose that objects must conform to our knowledge,”39 represents a recentering on the subject, a paradigm shift from heteronomy (law of the other) to autonomy (law of the self). “God” reemerges not in fear and trembling, but as a postulate of practical reason, a regulative concept which stabilizes Kant’s moral vision through a form of Enlightenment moral “faith” divested of superstition and the supernatural. “God is not a being outside me, but merely a thought in me. God is the morally practical reason legislating for itself.”40

The kinds of investigations undertaken by Descartes and Leibniz about God (especially proofs of the existence of God) are effectively bracketed off by Kant’s distinction between phenomena and noumena. The thing-in-itself (Ding-an-sich), especially if such be “God,” is essentially unknowable. In light of such ineffability, Kant invokes “God” as a “regulative concept”: a postulate of practical reason which sustains a framework of human freedom, ultimate justice, and immortality of the soul. For the sake of the possibility of “the highest good in the world … we must assume a higher, moral, holiest, and all-powerful being that alone can unite the two elements of this good”: namely, “duty” and “the happiness commensurate with our observance of this duty.”41 God, in other words, operates as a practical idea which maintains notions of free human agents being held morally responsible within a horizon of ultimate punishment and reward. In this Kant aspires towards a natural religion of reason in which morality becomes the realization of the holy. This is “religion” stripped of the dressing of ceremony, superstition, and supernaturalism: Religion within the Boundaries of Bare Reason (1793).

Such religion, while invested with elements of reverence (as discussed below), is exorcised of the fear and trembling that shapes Luther’s notion of the justified sinner coram deo. While Luther extols the “truly patriarchal trials [patriarchales tentationes]” of Abraham,42 Kant famously critiques the patriarch’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac (Gen. 22) at the command of God. Luther identifies a dreadful and incomprehensible antinomy between the divine promise that “Through Isaac shall your descendants be named” (Gen. 21:12) and the divine command, “Take your son and sacrifice him”43: a contradiction that can be overcome only through faith. For Kant, Abraham is simply mistaken in subjecting himself to a supposedly divine voice when he knows for certain that killing is prohibited by the moral law.44 Luther refers to this event as a “trial [tentatio]” which “cannot be overcome and is far too great to be understood by us,”45 suggesting instead that it may stand as a parallel to the need to cling to the promise of salvation in the face of the temptation to despair.46 It teaches the believer to bear God when God appears to be angry, holding fast to the promise of God’s mercy.47

According to Hans Blumenberg’s influential account, the crisis of modernity is itself traceable to Kant’s ultimately unsuccessful struggle with “the question of a ‘merciful God’[gnädigen Gott]”48: an echo of a scholastic nominalist-realist problem over the relationship between divine goodness and justice, inherited via the uneasy marriage between Neoplatonic and early Christian thinking. Blumenberg’s essay on Kant prepares the ground for his epic Die Legitimität der Neuzeit (The Legitimacy of the Modern Age, 1966 49) in which the collapse of medieval theology (via Ockham) voids the notion of “things in themselves”: an abyss which Kant, Descartes, Hume, and others failed to overcome but against which “secularization” has asserted itself. The notion of an omnipotent God, an increasingly Deus absconditus whose omnipotence is evidently not actualized, had cast an onerous shadow over the world, even in the collapse of the idea itself and the void it had opened up. Kant could not quite relinquish this idea, according to Blumenberg, so that the existence of an omnipotent God was retained as a postulate of practical reason: a belief, like Luther’s, aside from proof or demonstration, and a consolation that moral order would eventually prevail over evil.

If Kant’s religion of practical reason is a recapitulation of the Christian Kingdom of God, it seems at least to have exorcised much of the Angst und Anfechtung of Luther’s God. However, while fanaticism, along with fear and trembling, is absent from Kant’s postulate of “God,” there does remain a discernible reverence in Kant for the moral law within—an awe and admiration the source of which “is traceable to the sort of qualities which Luther ascribes to the Holy.”50 Wand’s comments here anticipate his ensuing short discussion of Rudolf Otto’s Das Heilige (The Idea of the Holy, 1917).51 Wand suggests that “Like the Holy, the moral law is unique”52; while for Otto the holy and the numinous intuition (Gefühl) that precedes it are sui generis.53 Even the idiom of Otto’s mysterium, the value of being “wholly other,” is invoked.54 Famously, Otto refers to Luther, especially De servo arbitrio (1525), as an initial source for stirring his sense of the numinous.55 Furthermore, the Kantian influence, and critical divergence, are evident in Otto.56 With these in mind, Otto’s consciously Lutheran notions of mysterium tremendum and fascinans help clarify important differences between the numinous presence of the holy and Kant’s reverence for the moral law. While reverence for the moral law “also contains something elevating,”57 the holy reduces the subject to the “creature feeling [Kreaturgefühl]” of being “but dust and ashes” coram Deo.58 The key difference here is between the moral law within and the holy that is wholly other, a difference reflected in the analogous relationship drawn by Otto between the numinous and the Kantian sublime.59 It is the moral law within that contributes to the sublimity of the rational soul. It is the alterity of the holy that forces the soul to become conscious of the infinite difference between the Creator and the created. Such a distinction is perhaps indicative of the difference between the God of Kant and the God of Luther (unless one accedes to Feuerbach, as explored below).

Despite Kant’s mistrust of the model of an anguished sinner in fear and trembling coram Deo, the enigma of evil remains a decisive thorn in the flesh for him, in particular the innate disposition (Gesinnung) toward evil which corrupts the individual’s pursuit of the moral law. Kant’s notion of “radical evil” (das radikal Böse) marked an interruption in the more optimistic trajectory of Enlightenment philosophy. In this stumbling block one might discern the shadow of more pessimistic Augustinian and Lutheran thinking. Nonetheless, Kant ultimately affirms a more privileged sense of individual autonomy, responsibility, and freedom to overcome evil through a revolution in our mode of thinking (Revolution für die Denkungsart) in conformity with a wider moral community, ultimately manifesting the Kingdom of God. The sort of dramatic and self-shattering incursion of divine grace invoked by Augustine and Luther is not required here. Kant’s “radical evil” is not identical with the Lutheran notion of original sin, insofar as Kant also affirmed an active natural predisposition toward the good which is, nonetheless, often undermined by sensuous desire. Despite this, Kant’s Religion within the Boundaries of Bare Reason argues that morality needs religion because we are not merely free beings; we also have conflicting needs. Because of this conflict, morality also needs (the idea of) God. If human beings were completely and truly free, then, as Hare expounds, morality would not need to extend itself as religion to the idea of a Supreme Being.60

Hare compares Kant’s view in Religion with Luther’s treatise “On Christian Freedom” (1520), suggesting that the status of Kant’s moral agent accords with Luther’s dictum that the Christian is both free and subject to none, yet also a servant of all, “subject to all.”61 Both Luther and Kant, in Hare’s reading, hold a view of the individual as in tension, as “not merely free, not merely inner men,” but living in the flesh.62 Hare furthermore suggests that Kant’s reference to Paul’s tensile relationship with the law in Romans 7 provides a reading in line with “Luther’s simul justus et peccator, at the same time justified (and so, in Kant’s terms, after the revolution of the will) and a sinner.”63 This is the state of one who has adopted the Good Maxim yet also fails to fulfill it. Such a person does not exist under two different maxims, but rather “has to be understood from God’s point of view as already under the Good Maxim.”64 This is equated by Hare in Luther’s terms as “In myself outside of Christ, I am a sinner; in Christ, outside of myself, I am not a sinner.”65

Ultimately, Hare submits that Luther’s identification of sinful inclination in the higher powers of reason and will, rather than simply the lower forces of the flesh, is echoed in Kant’s struggle with the problem of radical evil.66 But Hare does not address any direct influence from Luther. He is cautious not to overstate this, preferring to suggest that Kant is “translating the theology he encountered in the Lutheran catechisms in his youth, and … that even after the translation, there is much of this doctrine that survives.”67 Nonetheless, far from collapsing Kant back into Luther, Hare admits, “After the translation, what emerges is something that Luther would regard as mere Pelagianism.”68

There may, however, exist grounds for claiming that Kant proposes an account of radical evil and the depraved will which is in some respects closer to Luther than to Erasmus (who had been accused of semi-Pelagianism in his famous debate with Luther).69 Unlike both Luther and Erasmus, however, “Kant has no room in his theory of morals for any robustly religious concept of grace.”70 While Kant’s “good will,” as initiated by practical reason, may well function in a similar manner to Luther’s view of grace, it is, as Wand observes, “incompatible” with Kant’s “emphasis on the intrinsic worth of moral effort.”71 Nonetheless, both Luther and Kant concur that “freedom is also servitude,” although for Kant this freedom, “like the servitude, is moral rather than religious.”72 In other words, the good will elevates internally, rather than in absolute dependence on external, or alien, grace. It is sublime rather than numinous.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel: Absolute Knowing and the Speculative Good Friday

If Luther bequeaths something of Kant’s individual-orientation and epistemic humility, G. W. F. Hegel (1770–1831) represents the apotheosis of the speculative philosophy that Luther feared was nascent within intellectual strands of medieval mystical thought. Hegel’s grand system expresses philosophy as the sublation (Aufhebung) of theology: not only is philosophy “its own time comprehended in thoughts”73; philosophy “has no other object but God and so is essentially rational theology.”74 Sublating even Christianity itself, philosophy becomes the realization of “absolute knowing.”

It is perhaps curious in the retrospective light of such a trajectory that Hegel had attended the Tübingen seminary with the intention of becoming ordained as a Lutheran pastor. This ambition, it seems, had been abandoned by the time of his departure—though he rather cryptically affirms that he was and would remain a Lutheran.75 Hegel’s early theological writings (Theologische Jugendschriften76) demonstrate flashes of anticlerical thought even as they lay out his project in initially theological terms: the passivity of personal faith—mysticism—against the prevailing Kantian philosophy, but in some acceptance of Kant’s epistemic limits.77 Yet Hegel began to overcome such limits by thinking of God in terms of self-consciousness: namely, the coming to self-consciousness of God in and through human self-consciousness, thereby sublating the infinite difference between Creator and creature. In this he appealed to a particular reading of Eckhart’s sense that “the eye with which I see God is the same I with which God sees me: my eye and God’s eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing and one love.”78

While Hegel saw this process as manifesting historically in the Protestant Reformation, Luther himself stands in tension with its emergence, particularly in his often anti-mystical insistence on the infinite difference between the divided individual (as simul iustus et peccator) and the God before whom one stands. As such, Luther himself remains within the abyss of what Hegel identifies as “the unhappy consciousness,” alienated from himself and from God (which amount to one and the same) and under the “infinite grief” of the shadow of “the death of God.”79 It is at this point, at the foot of the Cross, that Lutheran piety and speculative philosophy coalesce dazzlingly. Hegel famously invokes the traditional hymn of the passion, “O Traurigkeit, O Herzeleid” by Johannes Rist (1641): “O great woe, God himself lies dead [Gott selbst liegt tot]. On the Cross he has died; And thus he has gained for us By love the kingdom of heaven.”80 Hegel develops a speculative account of divine kenosis (self-emptying; Phil. 2:5–11) and the death of God made possible in a vital respect by a Lutheran emphasis upon the communicatio idiomatum (the communication, or sharing, of attributes or properties). This not only related to the full presence of Christ in the Eucharist, it also entailed the sense that kenosis and crucifixion affected not just the Logos but the whole Trinity; thus it becomes possible to say, with Rist, that “God himself lies dead.” Hegel takes this not only as indicative of the historical “feeling … upon which the religion of more recent times rests,”81 but as the sublation (Aufhebung) of the self-alienation between Father and Son through Spirit (Geist) such that God (emptying the form of the wholly other of the unhappy consciousness [Luther?]) is able to consummate Godself in universal self-consciousness.82 Nonetheless, it is vital for Hegel that the Lutheran moment of Anfechtung over the death of God is viscerally acknowledged:

God has died, God is dead—this is the most frightful of all thoughts, that everything eternal and true is not, that negation itself is found in God. The deepest anguish, the feeling of complete irretrievability, the annulling of everything that is elevated, are bound up with this thought.83

This Anfechtung, however, should be sublated—that is, raised to the level of speculation. In his conclusion to Faith and Knowledge (1802), Hegel affirms an impassioned desire for “the absolute Passion, the speculative Good Friday in place of the historic Good Friday.” So that philosophy may reestablish “the idea of absolute freedom” along with “absolute passion,” “Good Friday must be speculatively reestablished in the whole truth and harshness of its God-forsakenness.”84

A key issue here, at the foot of the Cross, is the compatibility between Lutheran and Hegelian thought. Beiser, for example, suggests that Hegel’s uses of trinitarian and incarnational motifs are merely metaphorical, and that Hegel and Luther are ultimately opposites.85 Such claims are too extravagant, according to Williams, insofar as they overstrain differences and give no credence to the more sympathetic theological readings of Hegel in Jüngel and Tillich.86 However, Hegel’s Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion (1832) made the provocative gesture of affirming the speculative philosophical insights of medieval mystics, particularly of Meister Eckhart, over the seemingly philosophically deprived works of contemporary Lutheran theology. Scholarly responses within Protestant theology were numerous and represented a spectrum of assent, dissent, and attempts at harmonization. Some, such as Karl Rosenkranz and Karl Mager, assumed medieval speculative mystical thought as part the ascendancy of modern German philosophy of religion. Others, such as Carl Schmid, resisted such supremacist thought and condemned both Hegel and Eckhart as pantheistic.

Overall, Hegel develops an inventive, potentially radical account of the death of God which is made possible by Luther’s theology of the Cross and Lutheran emphasis upon kenosis and the communicatio idiomatum. These enable Hegel to elaborate further the notion that the death of the Son affects the whole of the Trinity in profound ways. However, Hegel’s vision of this kenotic (self-emptying) unfolding is also inspired by mystical thought which Luther himself suspected of being overly speculative.87 Hegel’s movement from “the historical Good Friday” to “the Speculative Good Friday,” by which theological thinking is sublated into the logic of pure philosophy (absolute knowing), presents a potential radical disjuncture with Luther’s sense of God pro me and his view of the limitations of philosophy.

Such disjuncture, as discussed below, is recognized and polemically critiqued by Søren Kierkegaard, whose varied works employ techniques from Socratic irony along with rehabilitation of the thought of Luther himself to expose what he sees as the speculative excesses of his own contemporary Hegelian theologians. Such theologians, in the spirit of Hegel, seek a philosophical logic which presumes to go beyond faith—and therefore, for Kierkegaard, presumptuously beyond Christianity itself. Kierkegaard discerns what Luther himself had held in suspicion: the eclipse of the individual believer within a grandiose speculative system.

Kierkegaard’s mentor turned nemesis, the (post-)Hegelian theologian Hans Martensen (1808–1884), provided a more synthetic and perhaps more sympathetic response to Hegel’s denigration of Lutheran thought with a book on Meister Eckhart (in both Danish and German) in which mystical speculation was ultimately submitted to the philosophical ascendancy of speculative idealism.88 But Kierkegaard thought that Feuerbach was correct in taking Hegelianism to its natural conclusion: atheism. Whereas many so-called right-wing Hegelians saw an enriching compatibility with Christianity, the left-wing followers of Hegel drew out what was itself latent and unsublated in Hegelian thought: that the death of God eventually means nothing other than the end of the theistic idea of God itself.

Ludwig Feuerbach: The Secret of Religion and the Humanization of God

Aligned with his critique of Hegel’s speculative excesses, Ludwig Feuerbach (1804–1872) also undertakes an intriguing yet critical rehabilitation of Luther himself. As Karl Barth famously writes in his introductory essay to Feuerbach’s Essence of Christianity, “No one among modern philosophers, has been so intensively, so exclusively and precisely preoccupied with the problem of theology as Feuerbach—although his love was an unhappy one.”89 Feuerbach is concerned with repairing the self-alienation posited by man in his projection of God as the perfect Other. Only in reassimilating God within his self-consciousness can man overcome the “abyss in his own unconscious being.”90 Feuerbach claims that “The beginning, middle and end of religion is MAN”91 and that “the true sense of Theology is Anthropology,”92 such that “atheism” is revealed as “the secret of religion itself.”93 And Luther is the first man to discover this secret.

The first edition of The Essence of Christianity (1841) received an unsurprisingly critical review from the Lutheran theologian Julius Müller, who insisted that while its critique might pertain in the case of Catholicism, Lutheranism was immune to it. Feuerbach was somewhat vulnerable to this claim, given the scarcity of references to Luther in the first edition of the book. In riposte, Feuerbach devoted himself to the study of Luther, revised the work to include many new references to evidence this, and wrote a substantial reply to Müller.94 The second edition of The Essence of Christianity (1843), including a final appendix brimming with Luther quotations, prepared the way for a more intense study of Luther.95 Subsequent publication of The Essence of the Christian Faith According to Luther (1844)96 demonstrated a further harvest of Feuerbach’s research.97

The year 1884 had been an intense one for Feuerbach, with the death of his daughter, controversies over works, and meetings with radical social theorists. It was a key period in which “Feuerbach understood Luther as der erste Mensch of Christendom, and the originator of the modern age.”98 Among his friends, Feuerbach would jokingly refer to himself as “Luther II.”99 Luther had come to represent for Feuerbach “the first revolutionary figure in the modern movement toward the humanism of which Feuerbach considered himself to be the ultimate representative.”100 Luther’s life and thought became understood “as both the fulcrum between the times and the historical lever that moves man toward insight.”101 In this vein, one can discern parallels between Luther’s turn against scholastic theology and Feuerbach’s own turn against Hegel and “abstract, rational theology”—the Hegelian philosophy of his own time.102 Lindberg further parallels Luther’s movement “from the cloister to the world” with Feuerbach’s own journey “from the philosopher’s study to the world.”103 Feuerbach had grown weary of Hegel’s speculative attempts toward the “divinization or apotheosis of man,” which represented an inversion of Feuerbach’s own desire for “the humanization of God”104—toward which he saw Luther’s Christology unconsciously striving (though he held Luther to be mistaken in seeing an unknowable God behind Christ).105 Feuerbach’s view of Christianity evolved throughout his life and works, becoming less Hegelian and idealistic, and increasingly naturalistic and existentialist, owing in part to his growing dissatisfaction with the abstract nature of Hegel’s thoughts and his discovery of Luther’s writings, which provided a more visceral framework for his identification of theology and anthropology. Feuerbach regarded his own position as ultimately “the realization of both Luther’s practical and Hegel’s theoretical revolution.”106

A more skeptical reason for Feuerbach’s interest in Luther suggests a basis in his fear of censorship and a “strategy of survival and persuasion.”107 As a paradigmatic hero of German Protestantism, Luther provided an apposite and unimpeachable mouthpiece for Feuerbach’s radical vision. By including Luther as a representative for his vision of theology as unconscious anthropology, Feuerbach was able, in a sense, to satisfy and provoke his critics simultaneously. However, it remains that this “strategic approach” cannot fully account for Feuerbach’s intense interest in Luther. Lindberg reads Feuerbach’s Luther not as an unimpeachable mouthpiece, but as very much against the grain of “the contemporary classical, idealistic-national Lutherbild.”108 Harvey suggests that Feuerbach’s attachment to Luther is far from disingenuous, and that Luther provides a concretization of his all too abstract theory of the essence of Christianity. Most importantly, it is Luther’s anthropocentric doctrine of revelation that confirms Feuerbach’s anthropocentric vision of Christianity as a manifestation of “the human desire to transcend the limitations of nature and death.”109

For Feuerbach, Luther confirms that God’s purpose is in being “for us,” despite and even indirectly by way of Luther’s insistence on an infinite qualitative difference between sinful humanity and a just God. It is this assumed difference that actually brings to light the radical dimension of God’s care and love “for us,” which Harvey names as the “felicity principle” of Feuerbach’s reading.110 This “felicity principle” determines Feuerbach’s view to the extent that Luther is read (in line with Feuerbach) as rejecting the traditional distinction between what God is in Godself and what God is for us. For Feuerbach’s Luther, there is ultimately no sense of God being for Godself apart from creation, and no meaning to God’s abstract attributes of necessity, omnipotence, omniscience, and so on. All is collapsed into the being of God-for-us, and it is only according to this God that such attributes have any meaning.111 Feuerbach’s Luther asserts an absolute difference between God and humanity only to deny the existence of a God who is wholly Other. In other words, the deus absconditus is hidden to the point of nonexistence, meaning that all is reduced to the deus revelatus: God as Love for us.112

In The Essence of the Christian Faith According to Luther, Feuerbach reads Luther by appealing to unconscious motives he discerns to be latent within his theological stance. In this sense Feuerbach lays the ground for future psycho-biographical excavations of Luther in the 20th century.113 Feuerbach’s book is something of a case study which discerns, beneath Luther’s apparent misanthropy, an ultimate longing for the humanization of divinity through God’s love for us. Feuerbach sees this in Luther’s Large Catechism, III, on “The First Commandment,” “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me”:

What does it mean to have a god? or, what is God? Answer: A god means that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress, so that to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe Him from the [whole] heart … That now, I say, upon which you set your heart and put your trust is properly your god.114

For Feuerbach, this points to Luther’s final consummation of theology as anthropology: an unconscious procession from misanthropy to the love of humanity—via the internalization of the love of God. As such, while “Luther’s doctrine is divine, but inhuman, indeed barbaric—a hymn to God, but a lampoon of man,” Feuerbach assures us that “it is only inhuman at its starting point, in its presuppositions, not in its consequences; in its means, not in its end.”115

Through the rehabilitative case study of Luther, Feuerbach is also able to realize a possible turn toward naturalism, following his disenchantment with the speculative abstractions of Hegel, which “also demonstrates a link between the seemingly disparate goals of Feuerbach’s humanism and Luther’s theology.” Feuerbach’s study of “Luther’s observations of religious consciousness provided a vision of naturalism and passivity in his description of the human being’s experience of existing before God.”116 What is dissolved, or reintegrated into the self, for Feuerbach is, however, this decisive Lutheran dimension of being before God: a fundamental criterion which Kierkegaard, invoking Luther, attempts to recover.

Søren Kierkegaard: A Patient of Christendom and a Self before God

To identify retrospectively that Søren Kierkegaard is at once a philosophical and a theological thinker is to acknowledge that he has been a formative influence in contemporary understandings of the disciplines of both philosophy and theology. Kierkegaard frequently indicts both philosophy and theology, preferring to refer to himself as more of a religious thinker or even a “poet of the religious.” At issue for him was, in part, the ill-wedding of philosophy and theology into a grandiose Hegelian system which harbored pretensions of going “beyond Christianity” and “beyond faith.” In time, his polemic against both would transform modern philosophy and theology by introducing or intensifying a nascent “existential” tonality. For his own time, in the intellectual climate of 19th-century Lutheran Danish Hegelianism,117 Kierkegaard was performing the self-prescribed role of the Socratic gadfly, the polemical ironist who holds up a mirror to the present age: “a sensible, reflecting age, devoid of passion, flaring up in superficial, short-lived enthusiasm and prudentially relaxing in indolence.”118 In doing so, Kierkegaard summons up the ghost of Luther himself, asking whether the Reformer would recognize what had become of Reformation Christendom, and even inviting Luther’s judgment upon himself.

Like Feuerbach, Kierkegaard undertakes a partial rehabilitation of Luther; though, contra-Feuerbach (who he nevertheless admires as a critic of Christendom), the Luther he revives is intended as a figure incongruous within the prevailing Zeitgeist. Kierkegaard’s Luther is almost a reversal of Feuerbach’s insofar as he is intended as a reminder of the “infinite qualitative difference” between God and humanity, of the Anfechtung (Danish Anfægtelse) of existing as an individual self before God. Reminiscent of Luther’s notion of the devil as the best teacher of theology, Kierkegaard regards Feuerbach as proferring “ab hoste consilium” (“advice from the enemy”), that is, from one who is a “malitieus dæmon” (“evil daimon”)119 who nonetheless delivers a critical exposé of the secret of Christendom. In other words, Feuerbach is right that Hegelianism collapses into atheism. Bourgeois Christendom has dissolved the infinite qualitative difference, with help from Hegelian speculative thinkers, and now Christians can enjoy life without having to worry about the judgment (and mercy) of a wholly Other.

Kierkegaard’s view of Luther himself is nonetheless ambivalent. “What Luther says is excellent,” insofar as “the one thing needful and the sole explanation—that this whole doctrine (of the atonement and in the main all Christianity) must be traced back to the struggle of the anguished conscience.”120 At the same time, Kierkegaard criticizes the later Luther for becoming more of “a politician for whom winning is more important than ‘how’ one wins.”121 Kierkegaard both invokes Luther as a critic of Christendom and incriminates him for making such a capitulation to worldliness possible. Kierkegaard’s reading of Luther is likewise ambivalent. In 1847 he confesses that “I have never really read anything by Luther”122; and yet in the following year Kierkegaard announces, “Today I have read Luther’s sermon according to plan; it was the Gospel about the ten lepers. O, Luther is still the master of us all.”123 It is principally within Luther’s devotional works that Kierkegaard discovers the Luther he needs and admires, and it is in Luther’s sense of God pro me and pro nobis that Kierkegaard finds a powerful resonance with his own search for what is true for me.124

Kierkegaard evidently prefers the anguished young Luther to the more pompous elder statesman of orthodox Lutheranism. Nonetheless, while Kierkegaard seeks to rehabilitate Luther’s notion of Anfechtung as a reminder of the inviolable infinite qualitative difference, he also casts a critical psycho-biographical eye over Luther’s personal struggles. Referring to the legend of Luther’s lightning strike in 1505, which elicited the anguished vow “Help me, St. Anne; I will become a monk,”125 Kierkegaard observes: “Luther, as you know, was very shaken by a stroke of lightning which killed the friend at his side, but his words always sound as if the lightning were continually striking behind him.”126 Kierkegaard even claims to hear the lightning in every page of Luther’s writings,127 proceeding to judge that “Luther suffered exceedingly from an anguished conscience and needed a cure. Well and good, but must Christianity therefore be converted in toto to this, to soothing and reassuring anguished consciences.”128 Kierkegaard’s designation of Luther as “a patient of exceeding import for Christendom” is even adopted as a “as a kind of motto” for Erik Erikson’s Freudian psycho-biography, Young Man Luther (1958).129

Despite such reservations, Luther is instrumental in Kierkegaard’s own notion of Anfechtung, which is developed as an expression of “the limit” that imposes itself upon the self’s attempt to think “the Absolute” and “the Absolute Paradox.”130 Luther is even raised as a specter in judgment against both himself personally and the institutional betrayal of Christianity. In For Self-Examination (1851), Kierkegaard invokes Luther as “a man from God and with faith” who gave voice to the message of salvation by grace, not by works: a message subsequently corrupted by the “secular mentality” of contemporary Lutheranism “that no doubt wants to have the name of being a Christian but wants to become Christian as cheaply as possible.”131 Kierkegaard subjects himself to the judgment of Luther and is found wanting. But still he imagines that somewhere in Christendom, away from “the crowd,” “there is a solitary person in spiritual trial [Anfægtelse].” He lives in secret, isolated from the others, incarcerated within his own prison, “and yet what imprisons him is remarkable—he is by God or because of God imprisoned within himself.”132 Though “all attack him, hate him, curse him,”133 his struggle is with a higher power: he struggles with God. This single individual, hidden in the solitude of being before God, is the true heir to Luther’s legacy—perhaps even more so than Luther himself. He walks the dark and narrow path, alone and unknown, with the light of Christ as his exemplar: “Christ is the way,” though “this way is narrow.”134

Nietzsche: The Death of God and the Übermensch Gone Astray

With Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), the pendulum swings once again. Although raised in an observant Lutheran household and initially electing to study theology at university, Nietzsche’s early skepticism grew, causing him not merely to abandon his degree in theology but to become one of the most (in)famous critics of Christianity.135 Up to 1876, Nietzsche’s writings are filled with praise for Luther the Reformer,136 expressing his “intellectual indebtedness to the Spirit of Wittenberg” and a sense of himself as “the heir of the Lutheran Reformation and the inveterate foe of Roman Catholicism.”137 As Bluhm elucidates, while Nietzsche was hardly an orthodox Protestant, he nonetheless held to the “intellectual and moral superiority” of Protestantism (“the source of light and freedom”) over “the Church of Rome” (“the embodiment of darkness and intellectual bondage”). This view was, however, less the manifestation of an intimate knowledge of Luther’s works than an expression of the prevailing intellectual culture of the time: “Luther the great hero of the Reformation, the first representative of modern culture, without whom the world in which we live would be quite unthinkable.”138 As for Hegel and Feuerbach, Luther emerges as the unwitting epicenter of a counterculture which made particular modes, or perhaps moods, of philosophy thinkable. Luther makes thinkable forms of philosophy which for him might well have seemed unthinkable.

After Nietzsche’s Richard Wagner in Bayreuth (1876), his esteem radically sours and darkens, from critical comments during 1876–1882 to violent accusations during 1883–1888. Nietzsche comes to see the prophet of modernity as one of modernity’s greatest enemies: a retrogressive force who interrupted the “flowering” of the Italian Renaissance by dragging German thought back into the sickness and shadows of the medieval world.139 Luther’s Protestant Reformation, by relapsing into antiquated medieval forms of thought and practice, repressed the emerging Zeitgeist of the Renaissance and therefore of modernity itself. There is even regret in Nietzsche, as in Kierkegaard,140 that Luther did not suffer the same fate of martyrdom as did many of his fellow reformers. By instead becoming a convenient political pawn, Luther dampened the fires of martyrdom that, for Nietzsche, would have advanced the dawning of modernity and, as for Kierkegaard, exposed the delusion of Christendom. For Kierkegaard, the exposure of the clay feet of Christendom would radicalize the call of true Christianity, but for Nietzsche it would usher in the true advent of the Renaissance, a peace beyond the anguish of Reformation and Counter-Reformation.141 Luther, in his recalcitrant unheimlicher Angst and demonic paranoia which beheld Satan in every opponent or conciliator, was even tragicomically blind, Nietzsche claimed, to the existence of a similar yet independent view of justification by faith emerging in Renaissance Italy.142

Nietzsche’s attack on Luther, like his earlier praise, is built, as Bluhm puts it, “on rather shifting ground.” Neither is established upon a deep reading of Luther or the historical facts. “It is fancy rather than fact,” as Bluhm concludes, “prejudice rather than scholarship.”143 Nietzsche’s later view of Luther intensifies his earlier attack in a more sustained form, notwithstanding the occasional positive digression, such as on Luther’s embrace of the secular and mistrust of the contemplative life. In Morgenröthe (1883), Nietzsche discusses Luther’s spiritual development alongside the Apostle Paul, the true progenitor of Christianity. Both, in Nietzsche’s analysis, needed a way out of their despairing failure to fulfil the law. A dazzling moment of insight allows both to recognize in Christ the fulfiller and abolitionist of the law. Nietzsche’s account is more speculative psychoanalysis than historical analysis.144 Luther’s adherence to sola fide is reserved for a special critique by Nietzsche in which, exalting works, he identifies Luther as captivated by an enticement similar to that of Socrates and Plato—thereby, in retrospect, implicating Luther within the degenerate history of Western metaphysics145 (a tradition Heidegger would see Nietzsche as failing to overcome and which he would attack further, invoking Luther himself). Moreover, Luther embodied for Nietzsche the need to obey in the German mentality, as opposed to the Greco-Roman-Renaissance mentality, enshrined by Luther in the form of an onerous Divine Being.146

Given Nietzsche’s interest in the psychology and pathology of Luther’s struggle to be free from the law, one might discern something of a parody of Luther’s Anfechtung in Nietzsche’s account of the “Ugliest Man.” Here, in a parable also reminiscent of Hegel’s master-slave dialectic, the Ugliest Man announces himself as one who rose up and killed God because he could no longer tolerate the feeling of being looked upon by an omnivoyant gaze, a divine look of judgment and even “over-pitying” which beheld every recess of ugliness.147 Nietzsche clearly does not see Luther through the rehabilitative gaze of Feuerbach or Kierkegaard, each of whom discerns an important (perhaps at times unconscious) energy at work in Luther’s Anfechtung before God, whether positive or negative. Paul Tillich reads Nietzsche’s caricature through his own psycho-theological lens, insisting that he recognizes in Nietzsche the same feeling as in Luther before God: the desire to flee, to escape, which, in a sense, only the true God can evoke.148 Nonetheless, the God-concept that arises from this encounter is typically “God” as the absolute master-subject whose gaze reduces all others to slave-objects. Tillich ultimately affirms “This is the God Nietzsche said had to be killed because nobody can tolerate being made into a mere object of absolute knowledge and absolute control.”149

Nietzsche’s remarks on Luther up until this point “were only a prelude to the scathing denunciations to come in Nietzsche’s post-Zarathustra writings.”150 Nietzsche proceeds to hold Luther to account within a grand narrative of world history and the metaphysical framework of the Christian religion itself. Whereas Nietzsche despised Paul for the invention of Christianity, he hated Luther for its reinvention and the consequent retardation of the Renaissance in Germany.151 He despised him also for his fawning appeal to grace and faith, which must finally submit to Nietzsche’s autonomous man of reason.152 Sola fide was suspected by Nietzsche as being a mere cloak for Luther’s base moral failings, a fig leaf which excused him from actually performing good works. He is constantly beset by the sort of anguish of conscience (Anfechtung) that plagues the “non-aristocratic man.”153 Luther, as priest, despised himself and therefore continually desired to flee from himself, while the aristocratic man accepts and overcomes himself.154

In this respect, Nietzsche retained a fascination for Luther’s psychology and discerned great gifts in him (not least his mastery of the German language), some of which (notably reason) he had forsaken for his faith: “A potential Übermensch gone astray because of his ill-fated religious heritage and background!”155 Luther’s German translation of the Bible was recognized by Nietzsche as a formative work of German culture.156 Yet rather than realizing his own Übermensch, Luther had failed to realize the opportunity to abandon the medieval church for the Renaissance, instead reverting to an archaic medieval world and occluding “the way toward the Übermensch for the space of a century or so.”157 Rather than fulfilling a procession toward atheism, as for Feuerbach, Nietzsche’s Luther is a pathological and retrogressive figure, belonging to the past rather than the future horizon of humanity’s self-apotheosis.

Martin Heidegger: Philosophical Theology as a Square Circle

Nietzsche’s judgment on Luther instils new irony into Martin Heidegger’s (1889–1976) claim that Nietzsche’s Will-to-Power represents not the post-metaphysical philosophy he envisioned, but rather the consummation of the Western metaphysical tradition itself. According to Heidegger, Nietzsche is not the first man of a new dawn, but the last philosopher of metaphysics’ final night: metaphysics’ inevitable degeneration into nihilism.158 Luther, by contrast, becomes a key resource for Heidegger’s critique of the metaphysical tradition itself. In Heidegger, Luther emerges in a more constructive, or destructive, light—in contrast to Nietzsche (an acknowledged key critical influence for Heidegger) and Feuerbach (a less explored but significant presence in Heidegger’s works), though in some important continuity with, and influence from, Kierkegaard. Like Hegel to some extent, Luther and Eckhart are Heidegger’s main theological authorities, though both are introduced by Heidegger to interrupt rather than fulfill the project of modernity and the hegemony of reason. Heidegger’s appeal to Luther, as it follows on from his interest in the Catholic mystic Meister Eckhart (whose speculative mystical theology Luther regarded with suspicion), reflects an ambivalence within Heidegger’s development toward both Catholicism and Protestantism. The period 1917–1918 saw Heidegger struggling with his faith, distancing himself from Catholic systematics, and moving toward the ostensibly freer Christianity of Protestant thought.159

It is far from clear that while Heidegger did not wish to be recognized as a Catholic philosopher, he was undergoing a personal conversion to Protestantism. It is far clearer that Luther, as a representative of Protestant thinking, became a key figure for Heidegger in developing a mature project of thought that was distinctly his own.160 There almost seems to be a dialectical element to this appeal to Luther, insofar as Heidegger states that “Protestantism is only a corrective to Catholicism and cannot stand alone as normative, just as Luther is Luther only on the spiritual basis of Catholicism.”161 This sense of Luther as a “corrective” suggests important resonances with and perhaps even an underexamined debt to Kierkegaard’s own revival of Luther as a corrective, not against Catholicism, but against his own contemporary Lutheranism.

In contrast to Nietzsche, Heidegger’s engagement with Luther is relatively well attested. A key focus for Luther’s influence is Heidegger’s Freiburg lectures of 1919–1923 (the lectures of 1920–1921 are published in English as Phenomenology of Religious Life162), where Luther helps to elucidate Heidegger’s enduring view that metaphysics is parasitic upon theology.163 On December 31, 1927, Heidegger wrote a letter to Rudolf Bultmann concerning his great unfinished work Being and Time (1927) in which he admits that “Augustine, Luther, and Kierkegaard are philosophically essential for a more radical understanding of Dasein.”164 After 1932, while at Marburg, Heidegger became regarded as a resident Luther expert, as is evident in his ongoing lectures on the topic.

Heidegger’s enduring suspicion toward metaphysical theology is encapsulated in his famous 1951 response to the question “May Being and God be posited as identical?”:

Some of you perhaps know that I came out of theology, and that I harbor an old love for it and that I have a certain understanding of it. If I were yet to write a theology—to which I sometimes feel inclined—then the word ‘being’ would not be allowed to occur in it. Faith has no need of the thinking of being. If faith has recourse to it, it is already not faith. Luther understood this. Even in his own church this appears to be forgotten.165

Heidegger contends that metaphysics is ultimately in contention with “primordial Christianity [Urchristentum],”166 and it is in his recovery of this notion “that Heidegger’s construal of Martin Luther’s theology as anti-metaphysical is drawn upon to greatest effect.”167 However, it can be contended that Heidegger reads Luther in a “radicalized way,” privileging “the Luther who rages against Aristotle,” and reading the Heidelberg Disputation (1518) accordingly. In this vein, Heidegger then “simply dismisses the later Luther who sought to redeem Greek thinking insofar as it could be put to the proper service of his theology which Heidegger notes in his commentary on Galatians (1535).”168 In Stanley’s reading, Heidegger wishes to conceive theology “in terms of religious experience without metaphysics,” taking upon himself “what he sees as Luther’s unfinished project.”169 To maintain this, Stanley claims that Heidegger must divide Luther’s project in two, seeing “the earlier Luther” as one who “simply failed to finish the radical divide between metaphysics and theology which he initiated in his early deconstructive theology.”170

This division revives an earlier parallel in Kierkegaard’s own view of the earlier and later Luther, which may have influenced Heidegger’s own reading. Both Kierkegaard’s and Heidegger’s Luthers offer correctives to the metaphysically abstract and existentially disinterested modes of philosophy and theology of their own milieux. Both Heidegger and Kierkegaard, as Podmore has argued,171 make important appeals to notions related to the Lutheran Anfechtung which many philosophers have tended to pathologize, neglect, or revitalize. A key facet of this is Luther’s notion of destructio, which, as a resistance against the enthrallment of scholasticism to the synthesis of Aristotelian metaphysics and patristics, appealed to Heidegger as a precursor to his own Destruktion of Western metaphysics.172 As a “new” form of philosophy, Heidegger’s Destruktion embraced and extended Luther’s destructio toward “great paragons of modern philosophy—Descartes, Leibniz, Kant and Hegel—each of whom had, in his view, contributed a new chapter to a tradition characterized by the ‘forgetting of being.’”173 Yet while Luther’s destructio intended a return to the Anfechtung of an authentic faith before God, Heidegger strove to get behind Western metaphysics (modern, medieval, and patristic) to uncover the truth (aletheia) of being “forgotten” yet still alive within pre-Socratic philosophy.

For Heidegger, the uncovering of being wrought by “onto-theology” (the abstract elision of “God” and “being”) had contaminated philosophy and theology through “early neo-Platonic Christian theology, medieval scholasticism, modern rationalism, German idealism and the then contemporary Catholic neo-scholasticism.” Parallel to this, however, runs a counter-narrative of “primordial Christianity [Urchristentum]” evident in Saint Paul, in an ambivalent way in Augustine, and in the medieval mystics who developed his spirit. The journey from the late medieval to the modern West witnesses a recovery of this spirit in Luther, Pascal, Schleiermacher, and Kierkegaard.174

Vital to this recovery, or uncovering, is a retrieval of the notion of humility, even to the point of Luther’s sense of humilitas: humiliation, self-abasement, Anfechtung, which punctures the pomposity and hubris (superbia “pride”) of speculative thinking. At the heart of this, whether implicitly or explicitly, is nothing less than the question of the possibility of knowledge of God, the relationship between self-consciousness and God-consciousness, and the in/finitude of the difference between the human and the divine. As Clifton-Soderstrom elucidates, through Heidegger’s reading of Luther, “religious humility is foremost an affection structured according to the enactment of one’s dissimilitude from God and resulting existential tribulation.”175 In other words, humilitas expresses the infinite qualitative difference between the self and God, manifesting in the appearance of Anfechtung: that which, as Luther affirms, pulls one away from inhabiting the abstract cosmos of (unconsciously Satanic) speculative thinkers.176

Heidegger’s thought undergoes a transition beginning with a phenomenology of humility grounded in Eckhart’s notion of detachment (Abgeschiedenheit), leading through releasement (Gelassenheit) to a state of unio mystica. This view develops through Luther toward a more pessimistic sense of humility as humiliation (humilitas animi) and Anfechtung. It encompasses “an affective disposition of horror on one’s own sinfulness (affectus horrens peccatum)”177 elaborated by Heidegger “through an analysis of the experiences of tribulatio, tentatio, and Bekümmerung,” culminating in “a Lutheran understanding” of “self-humiliation before God that results in a concern over one’s dissimilitude from God.”178 Clifton-Soderstrom discerns this change affecting Heidegger during 1919–1921 such that “Religious humility changes from Abgeschiedenheit to tribulatio, i.e., the trial of humiliation of the religious subject resulting from the existential consciousness of one’s sin.”179 In other words, sin is not conquered via the Eckhartian vision of releasement (Gelassenheit), in which the individual becomes nothing and becomes one with God in the ground of the soul (Seelengrund). In a sense, the process is reversed, or even caught in an intractable and agonistic moment, such that sin continually asserts itself against similitude. The difference between the finite and infinite means that the self is trapped in the moment of becoming nothing—not in the “nothing” of God, but before God, the Holy Other, being reduced to ashes in the fires of Anfechtung. As such, “Like Luther before him, Heidegger argues in reference to Paul and Augustine that spiritual trial itself is essential to the affective openness to the divine.”180 Heidegger, as it were, turns back from the union of Gelassenheit to the radical alterity of Anfechtung, which knows Gelassenheit only as a distant horizon.

Heidegger’s movement away from mystical, as Clifton-Soderstrom observes, parallels Luther’s own disillusionment with mystical tradition.181 Luther’s suspicion toward mystical theology reflects, among other things, his indictment of the speculative tone of its vision of divine union. It is notable, however, that while skeptical of Eckhart himself, Luther still draws deeply upon Eckhart’s follower Johannes Tauler (1300–1361), along with the anonymous Theologia Deutsche (14th century), which Luther published himself and erroneously attributed to Tauler. A key difference between the speculative Eckhart and Tauler and the Theologia Deutsche is the emphasis upon Anfechtung in the latter, which moderates the suspected monism of Eckhart’s theology.182

Furthermore, Heidegger’s turn from Eckhart to Luther echoes in part Kierkegaard’s attempt to reform the Eckhart- and Hegel-inspired speculative thinkers of his own time through a rehabilitation of Luther, reaffirming the Anfechtung of the infinite qualitative difference in the face of amorphous abstract speculation. Alongside Feuerbach’s attempt to rehabilitate Luther as the consummation of the collapse of God into the self183 (as opposed to the divinization of the self in Hegel), it becomes more evident that the question of the difference between the self and God, and the possibility and existential repercussion of knowing this difference or union, are perhaps the arch-concerns for the reception of Luther in modern European philosophy.

In another sense, it is about the scarcely mentioned notion of sin, which for Luther is a central concern.184 Is “radical evil” modern philosophy’s descendant of sin? Is sin the cause of an inexorable infinite qualitative difference between God and the self? Or can the self discover an absolute unity with God, either via Hegelian speculation or Feuerbachian assimilation? Is the Lutheran “death of God” a motif for the deepest despair, the grandest yet most terrible emancipation (Nietzsche), or the kenotic possibility of the divinization of self-consciousness (Hegel)? Such unresolved questions continue to motivate postmodern philosophy. Perhaps above all, the revival of Luther contributes, via Heidegger, to a sense of “intellectual humility” which characterizes the “return to religion in contemporary continental philosophy.”185 While Heidegger is famously emphatic that “[t]here is no such thing as a Christian philosophy; that is an absolute ‘square circle,’”186 it may also be that, through Luther and his philosophical interpreters, new forms of both theology and philosophy may emerge that give new shapes for the possibilities of philosophical theology.

Review of the Literature

Luther’s engagement with his contemporary philosophical context has been skillfully examined by Mattes,187 while the broader Lutheran tradition has been recently explored in an excellent volume of essays edited by Jennifer Hockenbery Dragseth.188 In particular, Denis R. Janz’s essay helps to illuminate Luther’s view of “reason” in relation to that of Aquinas, furthering important dialogue with more Catholic accounts of reason’s role in theology.189 More general, yet vital, context for the philosophical development of Luther’s thought is provided by Leonard S. Smith and Paul R. Hinlicky.190

Scholarship on Leibniz’s relation to Luther is sparse, though hopefully enlivened by T. Allan Hillman’s 2013 article.191 Leibniz’s intention to unify disparate theological traditions and sects, especially in light of the Eucharist, invites contemporary engagement, especially in an age of ostensibly greater ecumenism. Hillman’s elucidation of Leibniz’s Thomism, even his Catholicism, reveals an emphasis upon love which may cohere with readings of Luther that are more open to the mystical dimensions of his thought.

In contrast, the question of Kant’s relation to Luther is a more defined terrain.192 The influential account of Hans Blumenberg193 continues to resonate among a range of works across the 20th century. Notable is Bernard Wand’s elucidation of the element of religious awe within Kant’s elevation of the moral law.194 The need for a Supreme Being in Kant’s moral framework is identified more recently by John Hare in relation to Kant’s notion of radical evil.195 Comparing Kant’s Religion within the Boundaries of Bare Reason with Luther’s “On Christian Freedom” (1520), Hare discerns important resonances but moderates any claims to direct influence, concluding that Kant would be ultimately too Pelagian from Luther’s perspective. Nonetheless, Dennis Vanden Auweele suggests that Kant’s account of radical evil and the depraved will brings him closer to Luther than to the alleged semi-Pelagianism of Erasmus.196 This recent account provides a belated corrective to Heinrich Ostertag’s critique of earlier Protestant readings of Kant in which Ostertag aligns Kant closer to Erasmus.197 There is more to be done in this area, capitalizing on recent scholarship and reassessing the alleged pessimism or optimism of both Kant and Luther.

Pessimism and optimism concerning the capacity of reason occupy a key position in the interpretation of Hegel’s thought. Scholarship on Hegel helps illuminate important tensions between speculative and “existential” dimensions within the broader context of Lutheran thought. Here the possibility of speculative mystical thought overcoming the epistemic limits of Kantian philosophy is interrogated by Mure198 and unraveled by Cyril O’Regan’s brilliant 1994 study.199 In one sense, Hegel’s speculative idealism represents the antithesis of Luther’s theology of the Cross. And yet, Hegel’s reading of the death of God is made possible by a Lutheran notion of the divine kenosis (self-emptying). Frederick Beiser maintains that Hegel remains Luther’s opposite and that Hegelian invocations of Trinity and incarnation are ultimately metaphors.200 However, Robert R. Williams counters that such a reading is not borne out by the more theological synthetic readings of Hegel provided by eminent 20th-century theologians such as Jüngel and Tillich.201 Perhaps reflecting Hegel’s system, such tensions remain unresolved and invite deeper exploration. As both an antithesis and speculative apotheosis of Lutheran thought, Hegel’s writings encapsulate the tensions inherent in synthesizing Luther’s theology with modern philosophy.

Feuerbach’s unveiling of the secret of theology as anthropology represents one conclusion of both Luther’s and Hegel’s trajectories. In reading their thought against the grain, Feuerbach seeks to expose unconscious forces which, when worked through, resolve in the reassimilation of the divine into the human. Following Julius Müller’s critical review of The Essence of Christianity (1841), there appears to be a paucity of scholarship on Feuerbach’s relation to Luther in the following hundred years (Karl Marx’s essay aside202). Lindberg’s suggestion that Karl Barth’s critique of Feuerbach marginalizes him as an important figure in the reception of Luther appears compelling.203 Aside from a handful of essays and references in monographs, there is precious little on what, in light of Feuerbach’s underexamined book The Essence of the Christian Faith According to Luther (1844), is a potentially dynamic area of research. Notable exceptions include works by Ferruccio Andolfi,204 John Glasse,205 Van A. Harvey,206 and Karl Löwith,207 and an important doctoral dissertation by Christy L. Flanagan.208 As suggested in the main essay, Feuerbach’s rehabilitation of Luther warrants further analysis, not least insofar as it anticipates psychological readings of the 20th century.

By contrast, Kierkegaard scholarship has witnessed increasing attention to Luther’s influence and reception.209 Key to this has been the work of Craig Hinkson210 and Daphne Hampson,211 which has helped pave the way for others.212 Particularly compelling is Hampson’s critical reading of Kierkegaard’s account of love as occupying a space between Lutheran and Catholic thought.213 Synthesizing and analysing a vast quantity of material in this area is the meticulous and illuminating essay by David Yoon-Jun Kim and Joel D. S. Rasmussen which encapsulates the ambivalence of Kierkegaard’s reception of Luther.214

Prominent among the research on Nietzsche’s reception of Luther remain four articles by Heinz Bluhm from the 1940s and 1950s.215 Despite a scholarly predilection for the recent, these essays retain importance as providing a clear and informed overview of Nietzsche’s evolving view of Luther. More recently, Giles Fraser’s book on Nietzsche devotes important background material to Luther, while remaining cautious on overstating parallels.216 In a more literary vein, Joseph Westall’s 2004 article articulates how Goethe’s Faust overcomes Luther’s Johannine Jesus, who is then overcome by Nietzsche’s Zarathustra.217 Reading these works, along with some key articles in German and French,218 will hopefully provoke further reflection in an area of scarce resources. Like Feuerbach and Kierkegaard, Nietzsche considers Luther’s thought with a psychologist’s eye, but in doing so he potentially reveals himself as much as he does Luther. For this reason alone, further exploration of these relationships is required.

Finally, in Heidegger’s reading of Luther a renaissance of sorts is encountered. Much work in this area focuses on Heidegger’s Freiburg lectures of 1919–1923. Heidegger’s reading of Luther as an ally in the Destruktion of the Western metaphysical tradition has received extensive sophisticated scholarly commentary, seemingly intensifying through the early 21st century.219 Among it, Timothy Stanley220 and Paul R. Hinlicky221 critically observe that Heidegger’s reading of the early Luther is in discontinuity with Luther’s subsequent thought. Whereas Heidegger invokes Luther as a critic of onto-theology, he does not give credence to Luther’s later, more constructive account of metaphysics.

As such, Heidegger effectively divorces the early Luther from the later: a move reminiscent of critical readings in Kierkegaard, Feuerbach, and Nietzsche. By this move, Heidegger attempts a break in modern European philosophy which involves a return to the idea of a more radical early Luther. In doing so, as Karl Clifton-Soderstrom has deftly elucidated, Heidegger effectively reverts from speculative mystical Gelassenheit to agonistic Anfechtung: from humility to humiliation.222 This pattern both awaits and invites further research, especially as it reveals an interior crisis within postmodern European philosophy itself.

Further Reading

Bluhm, Heinz. “Das Lutherbild der jungen Nietzsche.” Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 58 (1943): 264–288.Find this resource:

Bluhm, Heinz. “Nietzsche’s Idea of Luther in Menschliches, Allzumenschliches,” Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 65.6 (1950): 1053–1068.Find this resource:

Bluhm, Heinz. “Nietzsche’s View of Luther and the Reformation in Morgenröthe and Die Fröhliche Wissenschaft.” Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 68.1 (1953): 111–127.Find this resource:

Bluhm, Heinz. “Nietzsche’s Final View of Luther and the Reformation.” Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 71.1 (1956): 75–83.Find this resource:

Clifton-Soderstrom, Karl. “The Phenomenology of Religious Humility in Heidegger’s Reading of Luther.” Continental Philosophy Review 42 (2009): 171–200.Find this resource:

Crowe, Benjamin. Heidegger’s Religious Origins. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2006.Find this resource:

Hockenbery Dragseth, Jennifer, ed. The Devil’s Whore: Reason and Philosophy in Lutheran Tradition. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2011.Find this resource:

Hampson, Daphne. Christian Contradictions: The Structures of Lutheran and Catholic Thought. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2001.Find this resource:

Hare, John. “The Place of Kant’s Theism in his Moral Philosophy.” In Kant on Practical Justification: Interpretive Essays, Edited by Mark Timmons and Sorin Baiasu, 301–314. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015.Find this resource:

Harvey, Van A. “Feuerbach on Luther's Doctrine of Revelation: An Essay in Honor of Brian Gerrish.” Journal of Religion 78.1 (1998): 3–17.Find this resource:

Hinkson, Craig. “Luther and Kierkegaard: Theologians of the Cross.” International Journal of Systematic Theology 3.1 (2001): 27–45.Find this resource:

Hinlicky, Paul R.Paths Not Taken: Fates of Theology from Luther to Leibniz. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2009.Find this resource:

Janz, Denis R. “Whore or Handmaid? Luther and Aquinas on the Function of Reason in Theology.” In The Devil’s Whore: Reason and Philosophy in Lutheran Tradition, Edited by Jennifer Hockenbery Dragseth, 47–52. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2011.Find this resource:

Kim, David Yoon-Jun, and Joel D. S. Rasmussen. “Martin Luther: Reform, Secularization and the Question of His ‘True Successor.’” In Kierkegaard Research: Source, Reception and Resources, Volume 5: Kierkegaard and the Renaissance and Modern Traditions; Tome II: Theology, Edited by Jon Stewart, 173–217. Aldershot, U.K.: Ashgate, 2009.Find this resource:

Lindberg, Carter. “Luther and Feuerbach.” Sixteenth Century Essays and Studies 1 (1970): 107–125.Find this resource:

Mattes, Mark. “Luther’s Use of Philosophy.” In Lutherjahrbuch 80. Jahrgang 2013, Edited by Christopher Spehr, 110–141. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2013.Find this resource:

McGrath, Sean J.The Early Heidegger and Medieval Philosophy: Phenomenology for the God-forsaken. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2006.Find this resource:

Mjaaland, Marius Timmann. The Hidden God: Luther, Philosophy, and Political Theology. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2015.Find this resource:

Mure, G. R. G. “Hegel, Luther, and the Owl of Minerva.” Philosophy 41.156 (1966): 127–139.Find this resource:

O’Regan, Cyril. The Heterodox Hegel. Albany: State University of New York, 1994.Find this resource:

Podmore, Simon D.Struggling with God: Kierkegaard and the Temptation of Spiritual Trial. Cambridge, U.K.: James Clarke, 2013.Find this resource:

Van Buren, John. The Young Heidegger: Rumor of the Hidden King. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994.Find this resource:

Vanden Auweele, Dennis. “The Lutheran Influence on Kant’s Depraved Will.” International Journal of Philosophy of Religion 73 (2013): 117–134.Find this resource:

Wolfe, Judith. Heidegger and Theology. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2014.Find this resource:


(1.) LW 40:174–175; WA 18:164; and LW 51:376–377; WA 51:126.

(2.) LW 40:175; 51:374. See further Jennifer Hockenbery Dragseth, ed., The Devil’s Whore: Reason and Philosophy in Lutheran Tradition (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2011).

(3.) See further Denis R. Janz, “Whore or Handmaid? Luther and Aquinas on the Function of Reason in Theology,” in The Devil’s Whore: Reason and Philosophy in Lutheran Tradition, ed. Jennifer Hockenbery Dragseth (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2011), 47–52.

(4.) WA 5163, 28–29.

(5.) LW 54:50; WA 1:147, 3–14, no. 352.

(6.) For an account of the development of this term, before, through, and after Luther see Simon D. Podmore, Struggling with God: Kierkegaard and the Temptation of Spiritual Trial (Cambridge, U.K.: James Clarke, 2013).

(7.) LW 6:131.

(8.) LW 54:50; WA 1:147.3–14, no. 352).

(9.) WA Tr III, 612, no. 5012.

(10.) WA Tr, IV, 14, no. 3925. See further Lewis W. Spitz, “Headwaters of the Reformation: Studia Humanitatis, Luther Senior et Initia Reformationis,” in Luther and the Dawn of the Modern Era, ed. Heiko Oberman (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1974), 103–104.

(11.) Mark Mattes, “Luther’s Use of Philosophy,” Lutherjahrbuch 80. Jahrgang 2013, ed. Christopher Spehr (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2013), 110–141, here 111.

(12.) On the temporal/eternal distinction see LW 13:199; WA 51:243, 10–18; on the present/future distinction see LW 25:361; WA 56:371, 30. See further Mattes, “Luther’s Use of Philosophy,” 111, n. 5.

(13.) WA 39:1; 229:16–19.

(14.) LW 38:257; WA 39:2; 24:24. See further Mattes, “Luther’s Use of Philosophy,” 113.

(15.) See WA 39:2; 24:20–26 and WA I:355, 1–5. As Mattes elaborates, quoting Luther, “‘Theology shall be empress. Philosophy and other good arts shall be her servants. They are not to rule or to govern’ (WA TR 5; 616).” Mattes, “Luther’s Use of Philosophy,” 113, n. 10.

(16.) LW 38:239; WA 39:2; 4:8–9.

(17.) See further Heiko A. Oberman, “Via Antiqua and Via Moderna: Late Medieval Prolegomena to Early Reformation Thought,” Journal of the History of Ideas 48.1 (1987): 23–40.

(18.) See further Mattes, “Luther’s Use of Philosophy,” 116–121. Mattes deftly encapsulates how “for Luther, theology does not perfect philosophy (Realism) nor does it do parallel play with philosophy (Nominalism); instead, it sets limits to philosophy which surreptitiously seeks to enter theology’s arena (matters of infinitude and/or grace) but also exploits its logical tools for rigorous clarification of doctrine,” 121.

(19.) Mattes, “Luther’s Use of Philosophy,” 125.

(20.) See John R. Betz, After Enlightenment: The Post-Secular Vision of J. G. Hamann (London: Blackwell, 2009); Gwen Griffith Dickson, Johan Georg Hamann’s Relational Metacriticism (Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1995); George Pattison, The Philosophy of Kierkegaard (Chesham, U.K.: Acumen, 2005).

(21.) See Jon Stewart, Kierkegaard’s Relation to Hegel Reconsidered (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2003), which identifies Kierkegaard’s polemic as directed more toward contemporary Hegelian theologians than to Hegel himself. See also Niels Thulstrup, Kierkegaard’s Relation to Hegel (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1980).

(22.) Leibniz also regarded the question of the Eucharist as “a crucial stumbling block to the agreement between Lutherans and Calvinists”; Irena Backus, “Leibniz’s Concept of Substance and his Reception of John Calvin’s Doctrine of the Eucharist,” British Journal for the History of Philosophy 19.5 (2011): 917–933, here 917. “Mandated together with Daniel Ernst Jablonsky to prepare working documents for the negotiations between Hanover and Brandenburg in 1697, Leibniz carefully read through the Calvinist Confessions of faith and the works of Calvin in their 1671 edition. He made an extensive collection of excerpts from the Confessions of faith and from Calvin’s Institutes all intended to show that Calvinists admitted the substantial presence of Christ’s body in the eucharist”; Backus, 917.

(23.) Daniel C. Fouke, “Metaphysics and the Eucharist in the Early Leibniz,” Studia Leibnitiana 24.2 (1992): 145–159, here 145–147.

(24.) Leonard S. Smith, Religion and the Rise of History: Martin Luther and the Cultural Revolution in Germany (Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2009), 103, 258. Smith also regards Luther’s development of the doctrine of Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist as providing a “simul” perspective which perceives God’s hidden presence in the world. Smith also reads Kant’s phenomena-noumena distinction in relation to Luther’s simul perspective as a way of uniting two vantages of the same object. Smith also examines Hamann’s relation to Luther in terms of their accounts of language.

(25.) See further Paul R. Hinlicky, Paths Not Taken: Fates of Theology From Luther to Leibniz (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2009).

(26.) T. Allan Hillman, “Leibniz and Luther on the Non-Cognitive Component of Faith,” SOPHIA 52 (2013): 219–234, here 220. See also the treatment of the tension between Leibniz’s rationalism and Lutheran heritage in Ursula Goldenbaum, “Leibniz as a Lutheran,” in Leibniz, Mysticism and Religion, ed. A. P. Coudert et al. (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1998), 169–192. See also Smith, Religion and the Rise of History.

(27.) Hillman, “Leibniz and Luther,” 220–221.

(28.) Michael J. Murray, “Leibniz on Divine Foreknowledge of Future Contingents and Human Freedom,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 55.1 (1995): 75–108, here 107.

(29.) Hillman, “Leibniz and Luther,” 219. Hillman argues that “Leibniz falls into a trap forewarned by Luther himself, even if Leibniz had systematic metaphysical reasons for his disagreement.”

(30.) Hillman, “Leibniz and Luther,” 222–223.

(31.) Leibniz, Theodicy, translated by E. M. Huggard (New York: Cosimo, 2009), 102.

(32.) LW 35:370.

(33.) LW 31:371.

(34.) Rudolf Otto, The Idea of the Holy: An Inquiry into the Non-rational Factor in the Idea of the Divine and its Relation to the Rational, translated by John H. Harvey (London: Oxford University Press, 1950), 103–104.

(35.) See further Hinlicky, Paths Not Taken, 51, 60. Hinlicky questions the Heideggerian accusation that Leibniz’s Principle of Sufficient Reason opens up an “onto-theological” pathway in philosophical theology.

(36.) Hillman, “Leibniz and Luther,” 231–234.

(37.) Robert Herzstein, “The Phenomenology of Freedom in the German Philosophical Tradition: Kantian Origins,” Journal of Value Inquiry 1.1 (1967): 47–63, here 53.

(38.) Herzstein, “Phenomenology of Freedom,” 53.

(39.) Immanuel Kant, “Preface to the Second Edition,” in Critique Of Pure Reason, B, xvi, translated by Norman Kemp Smith (New York: St. Martin’s, 1965), 22–23.

(40.) Immanuel Kant, Kants Opus Posturnum, ed. Erich Adickes (Berlin: Reuther and Richard, 1920), 819.

(41.) Immanuel Kant, Religion within the Boundaries of Bare Reason, translated by Werner S. Pluhar (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2009 [1793]), 3.

(42.) LW 4:91.

(43.) LW 4:92–93.

(44.) Immanuel Kant, The Conflict of the Faculties, translated by Mary J. Gregor (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1979 [1798]), 115. Kant reinforces this principle from Religion within the Boundaries of Bare Reason. Although Kant does not explicitly invoke Abraham there, he does state the example: “If a father were ordered to kill his son, who, as far as he knows, is entirely innocent” (98–99).

(45.) LW 4:93.

(46.) “I am unable to resolve this contradiction. Our only consolation [consolatio] is that in affliction [afflictione] we take refuge in the promise [of salvation].” LW 4:93.

(47.) LW 4:93. On the relation between Luther’s and Kierkegaard’s accounts of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac see Podmore, Struggling with God, 120–123.

(48.) Hans Blumenberg, “Kant und die Frage nach dem “gnädigen Gott,” Studium Generale 7 (1954): 554–570.

(49.) Hans Blumenberg, Die Legitimität der Neuzeit (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1966), translated as The Legitimacy of the Modern Age (Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1985).

(50.) Bernard Wand, “Religious Concepts and Moral Theory: Luther and Kant,” Journal of the History of Philosophy 9.3 (1971): 329–348, here 343.

(51.) Wand, “Religious Concepts and Moral Theory,” 344–346.

(52.) Wand, “Religious Concepts and Moral Theory,” 343.

(53.) Otto, Idea of the Holy, 7.

(54.) Wand, “Religious Concepts and Moral Theory,” 343.

(55.) Otto, Idea of the Holy, 99–100.

(56.) See further Simon D. Podmore, Kierkegaard and the Self before God: Anatomy of the Abyss (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011), 109–113.

(57.) Immanuel Kant, Critique of Practical Reason, translated by Mary Gregor (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2015), [5:80] 67.

(58.) Otto, Idea of the Holy, 10.

(59.) See Otto, Idea of the Holy, 63; Podmore, Kierkegaard and the Self, 109–113.

(60.) See John Hare, “The Place of Kant’s Theism in his Moral Philosophy,” in Kant on Practical Justification: Interpretive Essays, eds. Mark Timmons and Sorin Baiasu (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 301–314, here 301–302.

(61.) LW 31:344; WA 7:21, 1–4. There is an antecedent for this comparison from Bernard Wand: “In The Freedom of a Christian Luther echoes a position which is at least as old as St. Augustine in contending that ‘(God) alone commands, he alone fulfills.’ LW 31:349; WA 7, 53. Although there may not be as succinct a summary of Kant’s own view in his writings, it is surely no distortion to hold that with the appearance of the Grundlegung and after, his basic position is that ‘Reason alone commands, it alone fulfills’”; Wand, “Religious Concepts and Moral Theory,” 330. Wand is here appealing to Friedrich Paulsen’s claim that “that [Kant’s] morality is nothing but the translation of … Christianity from the religious language to the language of reflection: in place of God we have pure reason, instead of the Ten Commandments the moral law, and in place of heaven the intelligible world”; Friedrich Paulsen, Immanuel Kant: His Life and Doctrine, edited and translated by J. E. Creighton and A. Lefevre (London: J. C. Nimmo, 1902), 339.

(62.) Hare, “Place of Kant’s Theism,” 302.

(63.) Ibid., 308.

(64.) Ibid., 308.

(65.) LW 38:158; WA 38:205.25–31.

(66.) Hare, “Place of Kant’s Theism,” 312–314.

(67.) Ibid., 314.

(68.) Ibid., Cf. Wand, “Religious Concepts and Moral Theory,” 346: “There is little doubt that Kant’s normal assumptions about human behaviour are basically Pelagian.”

(69.) Dennis Vanden Auweele, “The Lutheran Influence on Kant’s Depraved Will,” International Journal of Philosophy of Religion 73 (2013): 117–134, here 117. Vanden Auweele proposes five key elements: “(1) the intervention of the Wille for progress towards the good, (2) a positive choice for evil, (3) the inscrutability of moral progress, (4) the rejection of prudence as a means for salvation and (5) the rejection of moral sentimentalism.” This is in contrast to Heinrich Ostertag, “Luther und Kant,” Neue Kirchliche Zeitschrift 36 (1925): 765–807, which critiques Protestant readings of Kant and aligns Kant more closely to Erasmus than Luther.

(70.) Vanden Auweele, “Lutheran Influence,” 127.

(71.) Wand, “Religious Concepts and Moral Theory,” 335–336.

(72.) Ibid., 341.

(73.) Friedrich Hegel, “Preface,” in Elements of the Philosophy of Right, edited and translated by H. B. Nisbet (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 21.

(74.) Friedrich Hegel, Aesthetics: Lectures on Fine Arts, translated by T. M. Knox (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), vol. 1, 15.

(75.) Friedrich Hegel, Vorlesungen über die Geschichte der Philosophie, vol. 1, in Werke, vol. 18, 94. Hegel also declares in a letter to Friedrich Tholuck, “I am a Lutheran, and through philosophy have been at once completely confirmed in Lutheranism.” Quoted in Philip M. Merklinger, Philosophy, Theology, and Hegel’s Berlin Philosophy of Religion 1821–1827 (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993), 99. See also Ernstpeter Maurer, Der Mensch im Geist: Untersuchungen zur Anthropologie bei Hegel und Luther (Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 1996).

(76.) Friedrich Hegel, Early Theological Writings (Theologische Jugendschriften), translated by T. M. Knox (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948).

(77.) See further G. R. G. Mure, “Hegel, Luther, and the Owl of Minerva,” Philosophy 41.156 (1966): 127–139, here 130.

(78.) Meister Eckhart, Sermon 57, in The Complete Mystical Works of Meister Eckhart, translated by Maurice O’C. Walshe (New York: Crossroad, 2009), 298. See further Mure, “Hegel, Luther, and the Owl of Minerva,” 133–134. See also Cyril O’Regan, The Heterodox Hegel (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994).

(79.) Friedrich Hegel, The Phenomenology of Spirit, translated by A. V. Miller (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977) vol. 7, 752, 454–455.

(80.) Friedrich Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, translated by R. F. Brown, P. C. Hodgson, and J. M. Stewart (3 vols; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), vol. 3, 125.

(81.) “[T]he same feeling that Pascal expressed in, so to speak, empirical form: ‘la nature est telle qu’elle marque partout un Dieu perdu et dans l’homme et hors de l’homme.’[‘Nature is such that it signifies everywhere a lost God both within and outside man’—Pensées, (441)].” Friedrich Hegel, Faith and Knowledge, translated by Walter Cerf and H. S. Harris (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1977), 190.

(82.) Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, § 779 f., 470f.

(83.) Friedrich Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion (The Lectures of 1827) (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), 465.

(84.) Hegel, Faith and Knowledge, 190.

(85.) Frederick Beiser, Hegel (New York: Routledge, 2006), 145.

(86.) Robert R. Williams, Tragedy, Recognition, and the Death of God: Studies in Hegel and Nietzsche (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 20, 29, 301, n. 54. See also, for example, Eberhard Jüngel, God as Mystery of the World, translated by Darrel Guder (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1983); Paul Tillich, Love, Power, and Justice (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1954).

(87.) A partially hidden figure within this nexus of influence is the Lutheran theosopher Jacob Boehme (1575–1624), representing the intricate synthesis of speculative mystical, gnostic, alchemical, and kabbalistic thought with Lutheran piety. See further the work of the Hegelian theologian Hans L. Martensen, Jacob Boehme: His Life and Teaching or A Study in Theosophy, translated by T. Rhys Evans (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1885); Cyril O’Regan, Gnostic Apocalypse: Jacob’s Boehme’s Haunted Narrative (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002); Cyril O’Regan, The Heterodox Hegel; Podmore, Struggling With God, 136–153; Arlene A. Miller, “The Theologies of Luther and Boehme in the Light of their Genesis Commentaries,” Harvard Theological Review 63 (1970): 261–303; Heinrich Bornkamm, Luther und Böhme (Bonn: Marcus & Weber, 1925); Heinrich Bornkamm, “Renaissancemystik, Luther und Böhme,” Jahrbuch der Luther-Gesellschaft 9 (1927): 156–197; Ferdinand August Gerhardt, “Untersuchung über das Wesen des mystischen Grunderlebnisses: Ein Beitrag zur Mystik Meister Eckharts, Luthers und Böhmes” (doctoral thesis, Greifswald, 1923); Siegfried Wollgast, “Luther, Reformation, und deutsche Philosophie bis zur Frühaufklärung,” Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie 31.10 (1983): 1163–1174; Steven A. Haggemark, “Luther and Boehme: Investigations of a Unified Metaphysic for Lutheran Theological Discourse” (PhD diss., Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary, 1992).

(88.) Hans L. Martensen, Meister Eckhart: Et Bidrag til at oplyse Middelalderens Mystik (Copenhagen: Reitzels, 1840).

(89.) Karl Barth, “An Introductory Essay” in Ludwig Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity, translated by George Elliot (New York and London: Harper & Row, 1957), x. See further Podmore, Kierkegaard and the Self Before God, 33–35. See also Ferruccio Andolfi, “Feuerbach e Lutero,” Religare 7.1 (2010): 81–89.

(90.) Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach, Lectures on the Essence of Religion, translated by Ralph Manheim (New York: Harper & Row, 1967), 310 ff.

(91.) Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity, translated by George Elliot (New York: Prometheus, 1989), 184.

(92.) Ibid., Preface, xvii.

(93.) Ibid., xvi.

(94.) Despite this initial controversy there was little written on Feuerbach and Luther for the next hundred years. Karl Marx is a notable exception to this: Karl Marx, “Luther als Schiedsrichter zwischen Strauss und Feuerbach,” in Marx, Engels, Werke vol. 1 (Berlin: Dietz, 1964), 26–27. Lindberg suggests that Barth’s critique of Feuerbach ultimately sidelines him as a significant interpreter of Luther; Carter Lindberg, “Luther and Feuerbach,” Sixteenth Century Essays and Studies 1 (1970): 107–125, here 110. This would not be the only instance of Barth’s opinion overshadowing subsequent interest in important figures in theological and philosophical tradition.

(95.) John Glasse observes that while there are only ten citations of Luther among 450 pages of the first edition (all at second hand), the revised edition boasts an average of one reference in every four pages (availing itself of the 1728–1740 Leipzig edition of Luther’s works); John Glasse, “Why Did Feuerbach Concern Himself with Luther?,” Revue Internationale de Philosophie 26.101 (1972): 364–385, here 370 f. See also Van A. Harvey, Feuerbach and the Interpretation of Religion (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 148, n. 38.

(96.) Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach, The Essence of the Christian Faith According to Luther, translated by Melvin Cherno (New York: Harper & Row, 1967) includes “Comments upon Some Remarkable Statements by Luther,” appended by Feuerbach for the republished version in his Sämtliche Werke (10 vols; Leipzig: O. Wigand, 1846–1866).

(97.) See further Van A. Harvey, “Feuerbach on Luther’s Doctrine of Revelation: An Essay in Honor of Brian Gerrish,” Journal of Religion 78.1 (1998), 3–17, here 9.

(98.) Lindberg, “Luther and Feuerbach,” 108.

(99.) Wilhelm Bolin, Ludwig Feuerbach: Sein Wirken und seine Zeitgenossen (Stuttgart: J. G. Cotta, 1891), 58.

(100.) Harvey, “Feuerbach on Luther’s Doctrine of Revelation,” 4.

(101.) H. F. Reisz Jr., “Feuerbach on the Essence of Religion,” Journal of Religion 44.2 (1969): 183, cited in Lindberg, “Luther and Feuerbach,” 109.

(102.) Ibid., 112–113.

(103.) Ibid., 113.

(104.) Ibid., 117.

(105.) Karl Löwith suggests that “Feuerbach’s humanization of theology belongs to the history of Protestantism because he derived the principles of his criticism of religion from Luther.” Nonetheless, Löwith claims that “In principle, Feuerbach’s interpretation is already implicit in Hegel, who also sees the liberating event of the Reformation as being’s Luther’s victorious conclusion that man’s destiny must come to pass ‘within man himself,’ even though he still considered its content as being something given from without, by revelation.” Karl Löwith, From Hegel to Nietzsche: The Revolution in Nineteenth Century Thought (New York: Anchor, 1967), 337–338. However, Hegel and Feuerbach can be seen as attempting to fulfil the destiny of Lutheran thought in divergent directions, both of which lead to atheism. For Feuerbach the atheism of Hegel is one of abstraction and self-alienation; his own is one of materialism and self-realization. See further Feuerbach’s Preliminary Theses on the Reform of Philosophy (1842) and Principles of a Philosophy of the Future (1843).

(106.) Harvey, “Feuerbach on Luther’s Doctrine of Revelation,” 6.

(107.) John Glasse, “Why Did Feuerbach Concern Himself with Luther?,” 383.

(108.) Feuerbach focuses on “Luther’s existential perspective that divine truth can only be grasped in the personal act of faith; that the pro me/pro nobis aspect of the incarnation takes precedence over objective structures of doctrine.” Lindberg, “Luther and Feuerbach,” 111. Lindberg also points toward Heinrich Bornkamm, Luthers Bild in der deutschen Geistesgeschichte (Stuttgart: Klett, 1959), 55, 65, 103.

(109.) Harvey, “Feuerbach on Luther’s Doctrine of Revelation,” 10. See also Harvey, Feuerbach and the Interpretation of Religion, 148–150.

(110.) Harvey, “Feuerbach on Luther’s Doctrine of Revelation,” 11.

(111.) Ibid., 11–13.

(112.) Harvey notes that “Feuerbach, of course, read Luther’s felicity principle ‘suspiciously.’ … For a deity to be ‘for us,’ it must unravel the cords of mortality that bind us, it must grant us our deepest wish to become gods.” Ibid., 14. This wish is realised, Feuerbach suggests, in Luther’s affirmation of the Resurrection (ibid., 15).

(113.) See, for example, Erik H. Erikson, Young Man Luther: A Study in Psychoanalysis and History (New York: W. W. Norton, 1993); Donald Capps, Men, Religion, and Melancholia: James, Otto, Jung, and Erikson (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997).

(114.) Feuerbach refers to this in The Essence of the Christian Faith According to Luther, 51–52.

(115.) Feuerbach, The Essence of the Christian Faith According to Luther, 41.

(116.) Christy L. Flanagan, “The Paradox of Feuerbach: Luther and Religious Naturalism” (PhD diss., Florida State University, 2009), vii. Flanagan notes Feuerbach’s Geschichte der neuern Philosophie von Bacon von Verulam bis Benedict Spinoza (Ansbach: C. Brügel, 1833), 221, as “the first time he names Luther explicitly in relationship to his consideration of naturalism in the Western intellectual tradition” (6, n. 9).

(117.) See further Stewart, Kierkegaard’s Relation to Hegel Reconsidered.

(118.) Søren Kierkegaard, Two Ages: The Age of Revolution and The Present Age (A Literary Review), edited and translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1978), 68.

(119.) Søren Kierkegaard’s Journals and Papers, edited and translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (7 vols; Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1967–1978), vol. 6, 6523.

(120.) Ibid., 3:2461.

(121.) Ibid., 3:3686.

(122.) Ibid., 3:2463.

(123.) Ibid., 3:2465.

(124.) Ibid., 3:2463.

(125.) See Heiko Oberman, Luther: Man between God and the Devil, translated by Eileen Walliser-Schwarzbart (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 93.

(126.) Kierkegaard, Journals and Papers, 3:2460.

(127.) Søren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript, translated by David F. Swenson and Walter Lowrie (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1968), 327.

(128.) Kierkegaard, Journals and Papers, 3:2550.

(129.) Erikson, Young Man Luther, 13.

(130.) Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript, 459.

(131.) Søren Kierkegaard, For Self-Examination in For Self-Examination and Judge for Yourself!, edited and translated by Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990), 16.

(132.) Ibid., 19–20.

(133.) Ibid., 20.

(134.) Ibid., 57. 57.

(135.) On the development of Nietzsche’s critique, considering formative figures other than Luther, see Jan Rohls, “Nietzsche und das Christentum,” Kerygma u. Dogma 60 (2014): 193–221.

(136.) See Heinz Bluhm, “Das Lutherbild der jungen Nietzsche,” Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 58 (1943): 264–288. This is the first in a series of four essays by Bluhm on Nietzsche’s reception of Luther, followed in 1950, 1953, and 1956.

(137.) Heinz Bluhm, “Nietzsche’s Idea of Luther in Menschliches, Allzumenschliches,” Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 65.6 (1950): 1053–1068, here 1053.

(138.) Ibid., 1053.

(139.) Ibid., 1053.

(140.) “Luther has actually done incalculable harm by not becoming a martyr … his later life was not devoid of pointlessness. The Table Talks are an example: a man of God sitting in placid comfort, ringed by admiring adorers who believe that if he simply breaks wind it is a revelation or the result of inspiration.” Kierkegaard, Journals and Papers, vol. 3, 2546.

(141.) Bluhm, “Nietzsche’s Idea of Luther in Menschliches, Allzumenschliches,” 1058–1061.

(142.) Ibid., 1061.

(143.) Ibid., 1068.

(144.) See Heinz Bluhm, “Nietzsche’s View of Luther and the Reformation in Morgenröthe and Die Fröhliche Wissenschaft,” Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 68.1 (1953): 111–127, here 114–116.

(145.) Ibid., 117–118.

(146.) Ibid., 121.

(147.) Friedrich Nietzsche, “Thus Spoke Zarathustra: Fourth Part,” in The Portable Nietzsche, edited and translated by Walter Kaufmann (London: Penguin, 1982), 378–379.

(148.) Paul Tillich, “The Escape From God,” in The Shaking of the Foundations (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1952), 44. See also Podmore, Kierkegaard and the Self before God, 124–126.

(149.) Paul Tillich, The Courage To Be (London: Nisbet, 1952), 178–179.

(150.) Heinz Bluhm, “Nietzsche’s Final View of Luther and the Reformation,” Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 71.1 (1956): 75–83, here 75.

(151.) Ibid., 77.

(152.) Ibid., 78.

(153.) Ibid., 79.

(154.) Ibid., 80.

(155.) Ibid., 82.

(156.) On Nietzsche’s ambivalent relation to German identity and literary culture see Joseph Westall, “Zarathustra’s Germanity: Luther, Goethe, Nietzsche,” Journal of Nietzsche Studies 27 (2004): 42–63. Westall sets Nietzsche’s Zarathustra in the context of those whom Nietzsche considered to be the two great founders of German literature and their key subjects: Luther’s Jesus (in the Gospel of John) and Goethe’s Faust. As Westall presents it, Goethe’s Faust overcomes Luther’s Jesus and is in turn overcome by Nietzsche’s Zarathustra.

(157.) Bluhm, “Nietzsche’s Final View of Luther and the Reformation,” 83.

(158.) Martin Heidegger, Nietzsche, Volume III: The Will to Power as Knowledge and as Metaphysics, ed. David Farrell Krell, translated by Joan Stambaugh, David Farrell Krell, and Frank A. Capuzzi (New York: Harper & Row, 1987), 161–167.

(159.) Karl Clifton-Soderstrom, “The Phenomenology of Religious Humility in Heidegger’s Reading of Luther,” Continental Philosophy Review 42 (2009):171–200, here 189.

(160.) See further Matheson Russell, “Phenomenology and Theology: Situating Heidegger’s Philosophy of Religion,” SOPHIA 50 (2011): 641–655, here 642.

(161.) Martin Heidegger, Supplements: From the Earliest Essays to Being and Time and Beyond, ed. John Van Buren (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002), 110.

(162.) Martin Heidegger, The Phenomenology of Religious Life (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004).

(163.) See further Timothy Stanley, “Heidegger on Luther on Paul,” Dialog: A Journal of Theology 46.1 (2007): 41–45. Stanley, 41, contends that “although Luther and Heidegger share a fundamental criticism of scholastic metaphysics, they distinctly differ in their understandings of a constructive relationship between metaphysics and theology. Whereas Luther and Protestant theology continued a theologically informed metaphysics, Heidegger argues that this was a mistake which is inconsistent with the early Luther’s theology, especially Luther’s interpretation of Paul.”

(164.) See further Clifton-Soderstrom, “Phenomenology of Religious Humility,” 173.

(165.) Martin Heidegger, “The Reply to the Third Question at the Seminar in Zurich, 1951,” in Heidegger’s Atheism: The Refusal of a Theological Voice, ed. Laurence Paul Hemming (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2002), 291.

(166.) Heidegger, Phenomenology of Religious Life, 49.

(167.) Stanley, “Heidegger on Luther on Paul,” 43.

(168.) Stanley, “Heidegger on Luther on Paul,” 43. See also Hinlicky’s critique of Heidegger’s reading of Luther, Paths Not Taken, 65 f.

(169.) Stanley, “Heidegger on Luther on Paul,” 43.

(170.) Ibid., 44.

(171.) Podmore, Struggling with God, chap. 8, “The Temptation of Spiritual Trial,” which also discusses traces of Kierkegaard’s cognate category of Anfægtelse in Heidegger’s treatment of Lutheran Anfechtung, 251–261.

(172.) See also Benjamin Crowe, Heidegger’s Religious Origins (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2006).

(173.) Matheson Russell, “Phenomenology and Theology: Situating Heidegger’s Philosophy of Religion,” SOPHIA 50 (2011): 641–655, here 642.

(174.) Ibid., 642–643.

(175.) Clifton-Soderstrom, “The Phenomenology of Religious Humility,” 171.

(176.) LW 54:50; WA 1:147.3–14, 52.

(177.) Clifton-Soderstrom, “The Phenomenology of Religious Humility,” 178.

(178.) Ibid., 185–186.

(179.) Ibid., 190.

(180.) Ibid., 190.

(181.) Ibid., 171. See further Heidegger, “The Philosophical Foundations of Medieval Mysticism” [Outlines and sketches for a lecture, not held, 1918–1919], in The Phenomenology of Religious Life, 235: “The constitution of the experience of God (birth of God.) The specific a priori of natural corruption (not capacity), humble letting-be (Gelassenheit), gratia operans—gratia cooperans … The motive of mysticism in absolute history is the preparation of fides (faith) [and the] realization of humilitas through detachment.” Mysticism gave Luther “a world of inner experience and also showed the methodological way to securing it and enhancing that world. This is also why the motivating force of humility could not in the long run operate merely as an impediment to the jubilant and sure development of fiducia. The humilitas, tribulatio itself becomes the expression of a personal certainty of salvation.”

(182.) See further Podmore, Struggling with God, 86 f.

(183.) It may be fruitful to consider Feuerbach’s naturalistic case study of Luther with Heidegger’s phenomenological account, particularly insofar as Feuerbach collapses the dissimilitude between self and God which Heidegger emphasizes.

(184.) See Martin Heidegger, “The Problem of Sin in Luther,” in Supplements: From the Earliest Essays to Being and Time and Beyond, ed. John van Buren (Albany: State University of New York, 2002).

(185.) Clifton-Soderstrom, “The Phenomenology of Religious Humility,” 171.

(186.) In W. McNeill, ed., Pathmarks (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 53.

(187.) Mattes, “Luther’s Use of Philosophy,” 110–141.

(188.) Dragseth, The Devil’s Whore.

(189.) Janz, “Whore or Handmaid?.”

(190.) Smith, Religion and the Rise of History; Hinlicky, Paths Not Taken.

(191.) Hillman, “Leibniz and Luther.”

(192.) See further Chris L. Firestone and Nathan Jacobs, In Defense of Kant’s Religion (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008); Gordon E. Michalson, Fallen Freedom: Kant on Radical Evil and Moral Regeneration (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1990); Gordon E. Michalson, Kant and the Problem of God (Oxford: Blackwell, 1999); Stephen Palmquist, Kant’s Critical Religion (Aldershot, U.K.: Ashgate, 2002); Henry Staten, “Radical Evil Revived: Hitler, Kant, Luther, Neo-Lacanians,” in Modernity and the Problem of Evil, ed. A. Schrift (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2005), 12–27; Josef Bohatec, Die Religionsphilosophie Kants in der “Religion innerhalb der Grenzen der blossen Vernunft,”: mit besonderer Berücksichtigung ihrer theologisch-dogmatischen Quellen (Hamburg: Hoffman & Campe, 1938; reprinted, Hildesheim: Olms, 1966); Heinrich Ostertag, “Luther und Kant,” Neue Kirchliche Zeitschrift 36 (1925): 765–807; Siegfried Wollgast, “Luther, Reformation, und deutsche Philosophie bis zur Frühaufklärung,” Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie 31.10 (1983): 1163–1174; Hans Blumenberg, “Kant und die Frage nach dem ‘gnädigen Gott,’” Studium Generale 7 (1954): 554–570; Julius Ebbinghaus, “Luther und Kant,” Luther-Jahrbuch 9 (1927): 119–155; Bruno Bauch, Luther und Kant (Berlin: Reuther & Reichard, 1904); Ernst Katzer, Luther und Kant: Ein Beitrag zur inner Entwicklungsgeschichte des deutschen Protestantismus (Giessen: Töpelmann, 1910); Albert Raffelt, “Kant als Philosoph des Protestantismus—oder des Katholizismus?,” in Kant und der Katholizismus: Stationen einer wechselhaften Geschichte, ed. Norbert Fischer (Freiburg i.Br.: Herder, 2005), 139–159; Friedrich Paulsen, Kant der Philosoph des Protestantismus (Berlin: Reuther & Reichard, 1899); Werner Schultz, Kant als Philosoph des Protestantismus (Hamburg: H. Reich, 1960);Bruno Wehnert, Luther und Kant (Meerane i. S.: E. R. Herzog, 1918); Karl Dienst, “Kant als ‘Philosoph des Protestantismus?,’” Journal für Religionskultur 194 (2014): 1–8.

(193.) Blumenberg, “Kant und die Frage,”; Blumenberg, Die Legitimität der Neuzeit.

(194.) Wand, “Religious Concepts and Moral Theory.”

(195.) Hare, “The Place of Kant’s Theism.”

(196.) Vanden Auweele, “The lutheran influence on Kant’s depraved will.”

(197.) Ostertag, “Luther und Kant.”

(198.) Mure, “Hegel, Luther, and the Owl of Minerva.”

(199.) O’Regan, Heterodox Hegel.

(200.) Beiser, Hegel, 145.

(201.) Robert R. Williams, Tragedy, Recognition, and the Death of God: Studies in Hegel and Nietzsche (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012); Eberhard Jüngel, God as Mystery of the World, translated by Darrel Guder (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1983); Paul Tillich, Love, Power, and Justice (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1954).

(202.) Marx, “Luther als Schiedsrichter.”

(203.) Lindberg, “Luther and Feuerbach”; Karl Barth, “An Introductory Essay.”

(204.) Andolfi, “Feuerbach e Lutero.”

(205.) Glasse, “Why Did Feuerbach Concern Himself with Luther?”

(206.) Harvey, Feuerbach and the Interpretation of Religion; Harvey, “Feuerbach on Luther’s Doctrine of Revelation.”

(207.) Karl Löwith, From Hegel to Nietzsche: The Revolution in Nineteenth Century Thought (New York: Anchor Books, 1967).

(208.) Christy L. Flanagan, “The Paradox of Feuerbach: Luther and Religious Naturalism,” (PhD Diss., Florida State University, 2009).

(209.) See further Ernest B. Koenker, “Søren Kierkegaard on Luther,” Interpreters of Luther: Essays in Honor of Wilhelm Pauck, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1968); Niels Thulstrup, “Trial, Test, Tribulation, Temptation,” Bibliotheca Kierkegaardina Volume 16: Some of Kierkegaard’s Main Categories, eds. Niels Thulstrup and Marie Mikulová Thulstrup (Copenhagen: C. A. Reitzels Forlay, 1988), 108; M. Jamie Ferreira, Love’s Grateful Striving: A Commentary on Kierkegaard’s Works of Love (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001); Regin Prenter, “Luther and Lutheranism,” Bibliotheca Kierkegaardina, Vol. 6: Kierkegaard and Great Traditions, eds. Niels Thulstrup and Marie Mikulová Thulstrup (Copenhagen: C. A. Reitzels Boghandel, 1981); Johannes Sløk, “Kierkegaard and Luther,” A Kierkegaard Critique, eds. Howard A. Johnson and Niels Thulstrup (New York: Harper, 1962); Brian Gregor, A Philosophical Anthropology of the Cross: The Cruciform Self (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013); Jean Brun, “Kierkegaard et Luther,” Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale 75.3 (1 July 1970): 301–308; Walter Dietz, “Servum arbitrium. Zur Konzeption der Willensunfreiheit bei Luther, Schopenhauer und Kierkegaard,” Neue Zeitschrift für Systematische Theologie und Religionsphilosophie 42.2 (2000): 181–194.

(210.) Craig Hinkson, “Will the Real Martin Luther Please Stand Up! Kierkegaard’s View of Luther versus the Evolving Perceptions of the Tradition,” International Kierkegaard Commentary, Volume 21: For Self-Examination and Judge for Yourself!, ed. Robert L. Perkins (Macon: Mercer University Press, 2002), 41–76;Craig Hinkson, “Luther and Kierkegaard: Theologians of the Cross,” International Journal of Systematic Theology 3.1(March 2001): 27–45.

(211.) Daphne Hampson, Christian Contradictions: The Structures of Lutheran and Catholic Thought (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2001); Kierkegaard: Exposition and Critique (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).

(212.) Simon D. Podmore, Struggling With God: Kierkegaard and the Temptation of Spiritual Trial (Cambridge, U.K.: James Clarke, 2013); Kierkegaard and the Self Before God: Anatomy of the Abyss (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2011); “The Lightning and the Earthquake: Kierkegaard on the Anfechtung of Luther,” The Heythrop Journal XLVII (2006): 562–578; “The Sacrifice of Silence: Fear & Trembling and the Secret of Faith,” International Journal for Systematic Theology 14.1(January 2012): 70–90.

(213.) Hampson, Christian Contradictions.

(214.) David Yoon-Jun Kim and Joel D. S. Rasmussen, “Martin Luther: Reform, Secularization and the Question of His ‘True Successor,’” Kierkegaard Research: Source, Reception and Resources Volume 5: Kierkegaard and the Renaissance and Modern Traditions: Tome II: Theology, ed. Jon Stewart (Aldeshot: Ashgate, 2009), 173–217.

(215.) Heinz Bluhm, “Das Lutherbild der jungen Nietzsche,” Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, LVIII (1943), 264–288; “Nietzsche’s Idea of Luther in Menschliches, Allzumenschliches,” Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 65.6 (December 1950): 1053–1068; “Nietzsche’s View of Luther and the Reformation in Morgenröthe and Die Fröhliche Wissenschaft,” Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 68.1 (March 1953): 111–127; “Nietzsche’s Final View of Luther and the Reformation,” Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 71.1 (March 1956): 75–83.

(216.) Giles Fraser, Redeeming Nietzsche: On the Piety of Unbelief (London/New York: Routledge, 2002), 33–38.

(217.) Joseph Westall, “Zarathustra’s Germanity: Luther, Goethe, Nietzsche,” Journal of Nietzsche Studies 27 (Spring 2004): 42–63.

(218.) Jan Rohls, “Nietzsche und das Christentum,” Kerygma u. Dogma 60 (2014): 193–221; Jean Édouard Spenlé, La pensée allemande de Luther à Nietzsche (Paris: A. Colin, 1934); Jean Edouard Spenlé, Der deutsche Geist von Luther bis Nietzsche (Verlag: Westkulturverl, 1949); Philipp Witkop, Die deutschen Lyriker von Luther bis Nietzsche. Von Luther Bis Hölderlin (Leipzig: Teubner, 1925); Gerhard Hultsch, Friedrich Nietzsche und Luther (Gütersloh: Bertelsmann, 1940); Emanuel Hirsch, “Nietzsche und Luther,” Jahrbuch der Luther-Gesellschasft II–III (1920–1921): 61–106; Ernst Benz, “Nietzsches Ideen zur Geschichte des Christentums,” Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte LV (1937): 169–313; Löwith, From Hegel to Nietzsche.

(219.) Russell, “Phenomenology and Theology”; Crowe, Heidegger’s Religious Origins; Sean J. McGrath, “The Facticity of Being God-forsaken: The Young Heidegger and Luther’s Theology of the Cross,” American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 79.2 (2005): 273–290; Sean J. McGrath, The Early Heidegger and Medieval Philosophy: Phenomenology for the God-forsaken (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2006); Theodore J. Kisiel, The Genesis of Heidegger’s Being and Time (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993); Theodore J. Kisiel, “The Missing Link in the Early Heidegger,” in On Heidegger and Language, ed. Joseph J. Kockelmans (Washington, DC: University Press of America, 1988); John Van Buren, “Martin Heidegger, Martin Luther,” in Reading Heidegger from the Start: Essays in His Earliest Thought, eds. Theodore J. Kisiel and John Van Buren (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994); John Van Buren, The Young Heidegger: Rumor of the Hidden King (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994), 146–202; Timothy Staley, “Heidegger on Luther on Paul,” Dialog: A Journal of Theology 46.1 (2007): 41–45; Russell, “Phenomenology and Theology”; Edmund Schlink, “Weisheit und Torheit,” Kerygma und Dogma 1 (1955): 1–22; Gerhard Oehlschläger, “Der junge Luther und Martin Heidegger,” Lutherjahrbuch 70 (2003): 93–125; Otto Pöggeler, Martin Heidegger’s Path of Thinking (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1987); Richard Schaeffler, Frömmigkeit des Denkens?: Martin Heidegger und die katholische Theologie (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1978), Hans-Georg Gadamer, Heideggers Wege: Studien zum Spätwerk (Tübingen, Germany: J. C. B. Mohr, 1983); Claudia Welz, “Das Gewissen als Instanz der Selbsterschliessung: Luther, Kierkegaard und Heidegger,” Neue Zeitschrift für Systematische Theologie und Religionsphilosophie 53.3 (2011): 265–284; George Pattison, Heidegger on Death: A Critical Theological Essay (Farnham, U.K.: Ashgate, 2013); Norbert Fischer and Friedrich-Wilhelm von Herrmann Blaue Reihe, eds., Heidegger und die christliche Tradition: Annäherungen an ein schwieriges Thema (Hamburg: Meiner Verlag, 2007); Nicole Parfait, Une certaine idée de l’Allemagne: L’identité allemande et ses penseurs de Luther à Heidegger (Paris: Desjonquères, 1999); van Buren, “Martin Heidegger, Martin Luther”; J. A Barash, “Heidegger’s Ontological ‘Destruction’ of Western Intellectual Traditions,” in Reading Heidegger from the Start: Essays in his Earliest Thought, eds. T. Kisiel and John van Buren (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994), 111–122; Crowe, Heidegger’s Phenomenology of Religion;Laurence P. Hemming, ed., Heidegger’s Atheism: The Refusal of a Theological Voice (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2002); Theodore J. Kisiel, The Genesis of Heidegger’s Being and Time (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993); Judith Wolfe, Heidegger and Theology (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2014).

(220.) Stanley, “Heidegger on Luther on Paul.”

(221.) Hinlicky, Paths Not Taken, 65 f.

(222.) Clifton-Soderstrom, “The Phenomenology of Religious Humility.”