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date: 25 September 2017

Martin Luther’s Views on Mission and Christianization

Summary and Keywords

Reformation and mission are not unconnected concepts. According to Luther, every single person, being a helpless sinner in the eyes of God, needs to hear God’s word as law and gospel. The church’s mission finds its source, content, and strength in the missio Dei, God’s mission to save the lost. The Christian church’s mission on earth is to preach and lend credibility to its proclamation through Christians’ witness of a new life of evangelical freedom. Church doctrine and real-life practice of one’s Christian identity converge on the mission field, that is, in Christians’ daily life of witness as they fulfil their human callings in the new freedom of evangelical faith.

It was precisely the lack of an authentic Christian piety, including gospel-aligned practice within medieval Christendom, that prompted Luther to set out on a mission to “Christianize Christendom,” beginning in Germany and extending beyond. Though Luther’s “missionary” agenda crystalized primarily during 1517–1522, he arrived at a fuller understanding of the dire state of Christianity in Germany after his Saxon visitations of 1528. His vision of a genuinely Christian church emerged as he processed the biblical witness in the light of his own monastic experience as an Augustinian friar, the legacy of selected scholastic teachers, medieval mystics and renewal movements, earlier reformers, and the ideas of 16th-century humanists, as well as a number of his contemporaries, and, above all, his colleagues in the so-called Wittenberg Circle.

Motivated by his understanding of the missio Dei, Luther’s mission was to destroy the existing rampant idolatry and superstition in its various forms and to reintroduce the theocentric message of the gospel which changes not only humans’ ideas about God and their attitudes toward Him, but also the Christian practice of piety in the areas of liturgy, the personal life of a Christian, and one’s social, political, and economic engagements. United in faith to Christ, believers are moved by the Holy Spirit away from religious schemes of merit to a theocentric, communal vision of life in true devotion, which not merely produces new obedience but entails it. Luther did not champion a one-sided internalization, spiritualization, and individualization of faith. Much of the medieval heritage could be reappropriated in the renewed Christian faith and practice, provided the old forms were conducive to evangelical teaching.

Luther realized that the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration in Christians will never be complete in this life, just as the mission of the gospel will not achieve the conversion of all. Instead, “real Christians” are to live in repentance, ever renewed in faith, hope, and love as they patiently bear the cross of suffering. While never losing hope in the final victory of God over the forces of the devil, Christians must accept that they will always be a minority, constantly under attack by the evil one. Persecution may help the church to live and spread the gospel. In what Luther considered to be the final stage before the imminent apocalyptic closure of history, the newly Christianized, evangelical church must use all its resources for the sake of faithful proclamation of the gospel—even to Jews, Turks, and newly discovered territories (though these emphases are rather marginal in Luther). For this to happen, new preachers and teachers need to be trained and new evangelical schools must be established, which is the duty and responsibility of Christian landlords and magistrates. Christian liturgy and preaching, evangelical catechesis, the singing of Christian hymns, the spreading of Reformation pamphlets and woodcut engravings, Christian art, architecture, and prayer are all effective missionary tools at the church’s disposal.

An acute sense of apocalyptic urgency stimulated in Luther not only a highly focused, disciplined, courageous stance and action, and a strong prophetic self-perception, but also impatience with his opponents, which resulted in some inexcusable statements against Jews, “papists,” Anabaptists, and other dissenting groups of his time. While Luther’s agenda of Christianization took root almost exclusively in Germany and Scandinavia, his effort to reinvent an evangelical (i.e., theocentric, gospel-oriented) piety found its new expression in later pietistic renewal movements (among Lutherans, Moravian Brethren, and Methodists), thereby influencing, though indirectly, global Christianity and mission.

Keywords: Martin Luther, Christendom, Christianization, reform, church, real Christians, missio Dei, mission

The missio Dei Impetus in Luther: The Universal Mission of the Gospel

Luther is known to have focused on the Bible in his theological reflections. He soon realized that the Bible is a missionary book, speaking of the missio Dei, God’s mission (Trinitarian in character) to find and save the lost. More than most other people of his time, he became convinced of his alienation from God and of how much he, a helpless sinner, needed to be found by God’s mercy and included in his kingdom. Since all people are, according to Luther, in the same category of helpless sinners, they all need the mission of God’s gospel. Even if we do not find the typical mission terminology in Luther’s writings, we can find what Ingemar Öberg came to call “mission universalism” in Luther’s theology.1

The missio Dei Began in the Garden of Eden and Is Relevant for Everyone

The missio Dei begins for Luther already in the book of Genesis. Abraham is not only a champion of faith but also an example of a “missionary bishop.” Commenting on the verse from Genesis 12:8b, Luther emphasizes that Abraham erected the altar “in order to perform his duty as bishop; that is, he instructs his church concerning the will of God, admonishes them to lead a holy life, strengthens them in their faith, fortifies their hope of future blessing, and prays with them.”2 In the same vein, in his sermon on Genesis 12:14–16, Luther interprets the wandering of the people of God from one place to another not just as a means to prove their faith but also in light of the missionary purpose of God “so that they may benefit other people.” Luther argues that “Abraham certainly could not remain silent . . . it would be insufferable for someone to associate with people and not reveal what is useful for the salvation of their souls.”3

The strong emphasis in that sentence is impossible to overlook. Luther cannot imagine that those who know the treasure of salvation would not reveal it to others—it would be “insufferable” to them.4 Luther goes even further when he claims that one cannot be a genuine Christian without having this burning desire to share the saving word of God with others and enacting this inner urge in real life. For, as he says, “If the eunuch that was converted by Philip remained a real Christian, which is exactly what one would assume, then he without a doubt taught many others God’s Word since he was commanded ‘to proclaim the deeds of the one who calls us out of the darkness into his wonderful light’ (1 Peter 2:9).”5 Luther’s desire to spread the gospel becomes obvious early on in his reforming efforts. In a private letter to Melanchthon (in 1521, while he was still at the Wartburg Castle), he refers to his own situation and to that of his colleagues in Wittenberg:

For goodness’ sake, do you want the kingdom of God to be proclaimed only in your town? Don’t others also need the gospel? Will your Antioch not release a Silas or a Paul or a Barnabas for some other work of the Spirit? I tell you: although I would be very happy to be with you all, yet I would not be disturbed if the Lord deigned to open to me a door for the Word either at Erfurt or Cologne or anywhere else, since you already have a surplus [of preachers and teachers]. Look how big a harvest there is everywhere—and how few are the harvesters! You all are harvesters. Certainly we have to consider not ourselves but our brethren who are spread out all over the country, lest we live for ourselves, that is, for the devil and not for Christ.6

For Luther, every “real Christian”7 lives for the sake of proclamation8 and has the duty to give a missionary witness9 whereby she willingly participates in the movement of the Spirit that began with the apostles and continues until Judgment Day.10 The line of argument for mission becomes clear: “If He is to be their God, then they must know Him and believe in Him; if they are to believe, then they must first hear His Word; then preachers must be sent who will proclaim God’s Word to them.”11 This is then the very reason for the existence of the church: through it the missio Dei continues until the end times.12

The missio Dei among the Turks and the Jews

While God’s mission continues, no one is excluded, not even the Turks, though Luther found it unlikely that they might come to faith in Christ. Nevertheless, he wants to leave the door open even for a possible witness opportunity among the Turks.13 Thus, in his Appeal for Prayer against the Turk (1541), Luther urges for a thorough catechesis of children: “Should they be taken captive in the invasion, they will at least take something of the Christian faith with them. Who knows what God might be able to accomplish through them.”14 He continues by pointing out the examples of young Joseph in Egypt and Daniel in Babylon. Similarly, the Jews can be converted,15 and true Christians are obliged to give witness to them through their knowledge of Christ and proper conduct, being guided by Christian love and ready to give account of their hope that is based on scriptural promises, so that the Jews will not be discouraged or offended.16 The Christians should be patient and their witness conducted in small steps (especially when teaching them about Jesus’ divinity) to facilitate a slow change of mind in their Jewish hearers. Such was Luther’s view and hope in 1523, when he penned his treatise That Jesus Christ Was a Born Jew.17 Even beyond that, Luther expressed his hope that through those Jews who had been converted and baptized, God might bring more of their kin to “their King David” (i.e. Jesus).18

Apocalyptic Framework of the missio Dei

God’s mission, the missio Dei, does not take place on neutral ground, according to Luther. The history of the world has an apocalyptic framework; a continuous battle is being waged between God and the devil. Christianity, to Luther, has been the true religion of the world ever since the beginning of God’s interaction with humans in the Garden of Eden.19 Based on Luther’s understanding of biblical promises, all other religions or philosophies are to a greater or lesser degree deviations from this one, original, true religion.20 These continued to occur throughout history because of a lack of faith on the part of humans, which resulted either in superstition or in excessive reliance on reason.21 When viewed through the apocalyptic lens of the looming end of the world, these “deviations” become contestants against Christianity in the final war between Satanic forces and Christ’s army.22 Final victory is in God’s hands because the decisive battle has been won by Christ on the cross,23 but while in this world, Christians must suffer persecution and pain24 and remain a minority in a hostile world.25 Luther pointed to Christ’s promise in the New Testament that the gospel would be preached in all the earth before the end comes,26 believing that the Holy Spirit’s mission (“the movement of the gospel”) was then, in his lifetime, shortly before the final apocalypse, centered on Germany.27 In his exposition of the prophet Zechariah (1527), Luther expressed his conviction that before the end came, the Spirit of God would bring all scattered Christians into onetrue faith through the ministry of evangelical preachers.28 “Through the Word of God there is to come out of such a variety of worship one harmonious flock under one Shepherd (John 10:16).”29

The missio Dei as Christianization of Christendom

Luther’s own experience of Christendom was in stark contrast to “one harmonious flock under one Shepherd,” however. Since the mission of the Christian church had been active in all the German territories for hundreds of years before Luther’s time, having offered a rich variety of ways one could grow in Christian piety, one would expect a high level of Christian piety among lay and clergy alike. In reality, pagan convictions and practices hid under the gilt of official religion, and dissatisfaction was brewing among some clergy, monks, and devout laity, as well as many humanists. It soon became obvious to Luther that European “Christendom” needed to be spiritually renewed, or, to use a more recent term, “re-Christianized.”30 Although Luther himself did not use this term (he used terms such as “real Christian,”31 “true Christian,”32 “true Christian Church”33), the contents of his evangelical teaching and actions seem to point in this direction. The term “Christianization” with reference to medieval Christendom was first coined by the Catholic scholar Jean Delumeau in 197734 and has recently been picked up by Scott Hendrix in his provocative Re-Cultivating the Vineyard: The Reformation Agendas of Christianization (2004).35 Hendrix’s view of Reformation as Christianization, however, has been contested by scholars (see Review of the Literature) and continues to be debated.

Sources of Luther’s Christianization Agenda

Luther was neither alone nor the first one to call for a Christianization of Christendom, but rather stood in a long medieval tradition of reform.36 He could and did lean on others before him—scholars, monks, and mystics as well as church officials—who became sources not merely of inspiration but also of comfort and encouragement to him.

We can identify at least seven distinct sources of Luther’s Christianization agenda, apart from scripture and the Church Fathers: (1) selected prominent scholastic teachers, such as Nicholas of Lyra and Jean Gerson37; (2) earlier “Reformers” such as Girolamo Savonarola, John Wycliffe, and John Hus; (3) Luther’s Catholic contemporaries critical of Christendom, such as Johannes von Staupitz, Johannes von Paltz (professor in Erfurt), and Stephan Fridolin (Nuremberg); (4) monastic mysticism, “observant friars,” and semi-monastic renewal movements, such as the Brothers and Sisters of the Common Life (or New Devout), Thomas à Kempis, Gabriel Biel, Bernard of Clairvaux, Johannes Tauler, and the Thelogia Germanica; (5) Christian humanism, represented by outstanding thinkers like Desiderius Erasmus, Phillip Melanchthon, Johannes Reuchlin, Lorenzo Valla, and Marsilio Ficino; (6) Luther’s personal experience of spiritual renewal and first encounters with opposition; and (7) the Wittenberg “inner” circle, represented by Philip Melanchthon, Justus Jonas, Johannes Bugenhagen, Caspar Cruciger, and Georg Major.

It was especially the diverse tradition of medieval mysticism that constituted theological dissent against the scholastic theology of the time, emphasizing humans’ dependence on God, and the need for humility and for an intense, personal devotion to God.38 The revitalization efforts within Western monasticism in the form of the “observant friars,” dedicated to growing deep in their piety and commitment to Christian ideals, were fertile soil for the emergence of the kind of personalities that we associate with church reform and renewal. Martin Luther, Martin Bucer, Johannes Oecolompadius, Stephan Agricola, Andreas Osiander, and others had matured in devotion as monks before setting out to Christianize Christendom. This strong late medieval drive to make religion more present and relevant in the common people’s lives through the mission of certain type of monastic and semi-monastic religious communities has been called by Erik Saak a “religionization” of society.39 Furthermore, monastic theology, especially of the Augustinian type, with its wish to cultivate spiritual knowledge in order to enhance the love of God and of one’s neighbor, helped Luther and other reformers to clarify their vision of the kind of Christian life and Christian society they wished to attain.

Like his predecessors, Luther was disturbed by the great degree of ungodliness in his supposedly Christian society, but his focus was on the latent core and root of that ungodliness in false doctrine.40 This difference in focus, however, did not prevent him from exclaiming, “The gospel that we now have had been born of Hus’ blood.”41 In the debates with the Bohemian Brethren (led mainly by Lukas of Prague in the early 1520s), Luther could consolidate his views on several central issues that would later be disputed, above all the Lord’s Supper and infant baptism. The Christianization of Christendom was happening, according to Luther, in the Bohemian lands as well, for the level of convergence in doctrine that had been established in the 1530s led Luther to state that there was but one movement of reform in Germany and the Czech lands.42

Emphasizing the importance of going back to the original sources of Christianity—scripture and early patristics—for the cultivation of inner religious life and a subsequent change of behavior, Christian humanism was yet another important factor that influenced Luther and his colleagues in their struggle to re-Christianize Christendom. With their skills in education and debate, Christian humanists became an important force of reform in both the Catholic and Protestant environments.

Luther wished other people to experience what he had experienced when he discovered the gospel of the undeserved grace of God, which seeks and justifies the repenting sinner: “Here I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates. There a totally other face of the entire Scripture showed itself to me.”43 In his letter To the Councilmen of all Cities in Germany (1524), Luther puts in stark contrast the “darkness” and “misery” of the past with the new reality of the gospel, urging his countrymen to do everything they can to spread it farther: “Let us remember our former misery, and the darkness in which we dwelt. Germany, I am sure, has never before heard so much of God’s word as it is hearing today; certainly we read nothing of it in history.”44

Finally, even with a clear agenda, Luther could never have accomplished his reform of Christianity without the inner circle of his Wittenberg colleagues: Philip Melanchthon, Justus Jonas, Johannes Bugenhagen, Caspar Cruciger, and Georg Major—each uniquely contributing to theological consolidation, institutionalization, and spread of the reform.45

Luther’s critique of the state of Christianity in Christendom (especially prior to 1518) was not out of line with many of his predecessors and contemporaries. It was only after 1518 that his claims about the supreme authority of the scriptures (even over the councils and the pope himself) set him apart from other critics and qualified him as a qualitatively new missionary voice in the European Christianity.46 Still, Luther’s agenda for mission as re-Christianization became clear only after 1520, the year when he published his four major reformation treatises delineating his agenda of reform: To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, Treatise on Good Works, and On the Freedom of a Christian. Some historians47 would move that date even further to the spring of 1522, the point of Luther’s timely arrival to Wittenberg after the reform took a radical turn under Karlstadt’s leadership, when Luther published his Receiving Both Kinds in the Sacrament.48

The Dire State of Christendom: The Saxon Visitation of 1528

The Saxon Visitation of 1528 was a very important experience for Luther in terms of resetting and clarifying the content and urgency of his Christianizing agenda for Germany. The subsequent Catechisms (1529) were his direct response to the need for re-evangelizing and catechizing a population that was ungodly, idolatrous, and un-Christian, despite their having lived in supposedly Christian territories for hundreds of years.

Popular Religion, Superstition, and Magic

Luther’s experience in Saxony may lead us to a critical question: To what extent had medieval Europe been actually Christianized? According to historical reports from the era before the turn of the millennium, magic, sorcery, and superstition (all of which Luther attributed to the work of the devil)49 still existed among the common folk in many areas across Europe.50 Christianity was often mixed with popular religion and magic. This situation, at least to some extent, continued despite centuries of medieval Christianization until Luther’s lifetime. Luther adopted the medieval distinction between committed Christians who faithfully practiced their religion (merito, i.e., those deserving the name “Christian”) and those who had been numbered among Christians merely on the basis of their baptism (numero).51 In his treatise Receiving Both Kinds in the Sacrament (1522), he wrote clearly that the purpose of his preaching and teaching was the emergence and preservation of “real Christians,” because “at present we are almost completely pagan and only Christian in name”52:

I have taught in such a way that my teaching would lead first and foremost to a knowledge of Christ, that is, to pure and proper faith and genuine love, and thereby to freedom in all matters of external conduct such as eating, drinking, clothes, praying, fasting, monasteries, sacrament, and whatever it may be. Such freedom is had and is used in a salvatory way only by those who have faith and love, that is, those who are real Christians.53

Works Righteousness

A different type of pagan Christendom is that of works righteousness, including acts of self-renunciation. Luther speaks here from his own monastic experience: “I myself have had the experience of seeing many such poor people, especially in monasteries. They really felt this, and finally the fright and terror of their conscience drove them crazy, and some of them remained in eternal despair. The reason was the fact that they had built on their own way of life, devotion, and good intentions and did not know anything about Christ.”54 The seemingly omnipresent focus on human merits led Luther to exclaim:

. . . in our day this life [i.e. true Christian life] is unknown throughout the world; it is neither preached about nor sought after; we are altogether ignorant of our own name and do not know why we are Christians or bear the name of Christians. Surely we are named after Christ, not because he is absent from us, but because he dwells in us, that is, because we believe in him and are Christs one to another and do to our neighbors as Christ does to us. But in our day we are taught by the doctrine of men to seek nothing but merits, rewards, and the things that are ours; of Christ we have made only a taskmaster far harsher than Moses.55

When provoked by controversies with the radicals (i.e. Anabaptists), on the other hand, Luther openly acknowledges that the Roman church, too, had true Christian treasures—the Bible, the Creed, the sacraments, and so on.56 These, however, were not used properly to induce true faith and a new life of love whereby Christians could become “Christs” one to another, according to Luther. The Christianization of Christendom thus entailed not so much providing new or utterly absent elements constitutive to Christianity, but rather cleansing the way for the present means of grace to exert influence in people’s lives. Indulgences, saints, pilgrimages, penance, rosaries, and the worship of relics, on the other hand, were hindrances to true faith because they were defiled by popular superstition. Luther came to see these practices not just as useless and misleading, but as idolatrous. Referring specifically to the Marian piety of his day, he even suggested that the level of idolatry was now worse than ever before: “But now we find those who come to her for help and comfort, as though she were a divine being, so that I fear there is now more idolatry in the world than ever before.”57 Luther’s perception of the situation led him to the following lamentation:

How few there are who are preserved from this error and destruction. Not only do the best fall into it, but even the chosen ones will be misled by it. Oh miserable people that we are, to live in these last times so securely and unperturbed among all these Baalites, Bethelites and Molechites, all of whom appear to be religious and Christian but who have nevertheless swallowed up the whole world and claim that they alone are the Christian church! Wretched people that we are, we laugh when we should be weeping tears of blood because the children of our people are being murdered so cruelly!58

Luther’s Agenda of Christianization

The Balanced Harmony of Inner Faith and External Ritual

It would be false to understand Luther’s effort at Christianization to mean a one-sided internalization and spiritualization of religion. Overall, Christian beliefs, rituals, legal structure, and practices exerted a positive influence on the lives of medieval Europeans. Here Luther agreed with his Catholic counterparts as well as with most of his contemporaries from other reformation traditions (Anglican and Calvinist): outward rituals and practices accompany and foster inner devotion, being vehicles of much-desired attitudinal change in believers:

Now when God sends forth his holy gospel he deals with us in a twofold manner, first outwardly, then inwardly. Outwardly he deals with us through the oral word of the gospel and through material signs, that is, baptism and the sacrament of the altar. Inwardly he deals with us through the Holy Spirit, faith, and other gifts. But whatever their measure or order the outward factors should and must precede. The inward experience follows and is effected by the outward. God has determined to give the inward to no one except through the outward. For he wants to give no one the Spirit or faith outside of the outward Word and sign instituted by him . . . .59

The question was, how many and what kind of rituals will best induce the proper disposition of the human heart, thus realigning one’s attitudes and values with sound Christian practices in the life of new obedience?60 External practices were considered appropriate means to enhance inner devotion. Indulgences, pilgrimages, and prayers thus did not have to be considered eccentric practices of superstitious individuals, but rather mainstream expressions of medieval piety and devotion. Nevertheless, clerical supervision over lay piety and practice was aimed at stifling the remaining superstition that lingered in popular beliefs intertwined with Christian doctrines and rituals. Christianization was still necessary, but it adopted a new form. Luther knew well that human focus on merits and rewards induces a sense of self-righteousness which dethrones God in the human heart and replaces him with a human imposter.61 The reduction of sacraments, meticulous catechetical instruction, and above all, evangelical sermons and absolution became new vehicles of evangelical piety meant to help people refocus from their efforts to God’s grace.

The Power of God’s Proclaimed Word to Generate Faith

The viva vox Dei (“living voice of God”), the preached word of God, is, according to Luther, the Spirit’s main tool of spiritual renewal. Because He loves sinners, God sends “the pure gospel, the noble and precious treasure of our salvation. This gift evokes faith and a good conscience in the inner man, as is promised in Isaiah 55[:1], that his Word will not go forth in vain, and Romans 10[:17], that ‘faith comes through preaching.’”62 In all places on earth and among all nations there is hunger for God, so when those who have lived in the darkness hear the message of light, their hearts are stirred and they are attracted to the emerging “church” of God already in the Old Testament. “For when ambassadors and preachers were sent by God into the world, we must not think that their ministry passed away without fruit,”63 says Luther, commenting on Genesis 35:2. He notices that Jacob addresses his admonition not only to his household but to “all who were with him,” like Eshcol, Aner, and Abimelech. We hear the same expectation in Luther about the eunuch from Acts 8:26-39: “The faith of many was surely a result of his [the eunuch’s] preaching because the Word of God does not return empty (Isa. 55:11).”64 The witness of Joseph, Daniel, and Jonah in later periods also gained a following, which prompts Luther to claim:

God gathered a church in the world not only from the one family of the patriarchs but from all nations to which the Word made its way . . . For I have often stated that it is quite credible that when the patriarchs were teaching, many of the heathen flocked to them, for they saw that the patriarchs were godly and holy men and that God was with them, and therefore they heard and embraced their doctrine.65

The Power of God’s Proclaimed Word to Generate New Life Outcomes

God’s word produces not only a new life-view (i.e. true faith) in those newly become believers, but also new life outcomes. This concerned all areas of life, not just the spiritual and ecclesiastical: marriage and family,66 politics and governance,67 as well as economic decisions.68 Commenting on Philippians 2:1-4, Luther asserts that being a Christian means that “we should devote all our works to the welfare of others, since each has such abundant riches in his faith that all his other works and his whole life are a surplus with which he can by voluntary benevolence serve and do good to his neighbor.”69 Luther’s doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith was never meant to be just another clever theological scheme, but rather a theological guide to God and life. It is through this new relationship that the Father has toward sinners on account of his Son that humans, empowered by the Holy Spirit, may in faith exercise their new freedom in acts of tangible love, care, and compassion toward their neighbors. It is a life of intentional and joyful imitatio Christi (“imitation of Christ”), empowered by Christ’s and his Father’s Spirit70—hence the “voluntary benevolence” targeted on the needs of one’s neighbor.

Luther is quick to remind us, however, that “no one can understand this unless he is already a real Christian.” All the good fruits of selfless love “that follow are purely fruits of faith, which the Holy Spirit Himself must create in the heart.”71 Though the process of renewal will never be complete in this life, nevertheless a “real Christian” will not forsake this path but will continue in joy and thanksgiving to be molded by Christ through tangible practices of piety.72 In contrast to that, the penitent sinners’ focus on their lack of merits and on the available external structures of grace, the use of which supposedly brought earthly and heavenly rewards, had led medieval Christians to a dead end of monastic legalistic fervor or to a frivolous attitude of “cheap grace”73 in which grace could be obtained by one’s participation in the “system.” Luther’s attempt to re-Christianize Christendom strove to recalibrate Christians’ attention from worrying about their own salvation, through Jesus, to the needs of their neighbors.74 Once captivated by the love of God, shown in Christ’s sacrifice and infused into repenting sinners by the Spirit through faith in which they are united with Christ, their souls would naturally and inevitably refocus from their egocentric religious schemes to a theocentric, communal vision of life.

Such theological vision of reform was not counterintuitive in an age when religious belief was still the central force and the constitutive framework for thought and action. A fervent devotion produces true charity; this is where Luther would be on the same page with earlier attempts at church revitalization and reform, such as those of Gerson, Paltz, Fridolin, or Staupitz. Where he would differ was the strictly theocentric, Trinitarian understanding of true devotion that not only produces new obedience (when we follow commandments), it entails new obedience. As Hendrix rightly sums up, “Faith was not deemed a human supplement to the atoning work of Christ but a divinely granted vehicle through which the benefits of that atonement were received”75—those benefits being not merely the forgiveness of sins as part of the forensic justification but a “union with Christ”76 in the regenerating power of God’s Spirit, which inspires and induces new obedience.77 “For the union makes all things common [with Christ], until at last Christ completely destroys sin in us and makes us like himself, at the Last Day.”78 Theocentrism79 is thus depicted in stark contrast to anthropocentrism. For Luther, this distinction was not a matter of “irreverent, inquisitive, or superfluous” theological inquiry (as abstract doctrine) but a “cardinal issue” that distinguishes true Christian piety from meritorious paganism. Hence Luther’s fundamental disagreement with Erasmus over the capacity of human will in matters of salvation (which, in reality, concerned the understanding of the power and work of the Holy Spirit):

. . . if I am ignorant of what, how far, and how much I can and may do in relation to God, it will be equally uncertain and unknown to me, what, how far, and how much God can and may do in me, . . . [I Cor. 12:6]. But when the works and power of God are unknown, I do not know God himself, and when God is unknown, I cannot worship, praise, thank, and serve God, since I do not know how much I ought to attribute to myself and how much to God. It therefore behooves us to be very certain about the distinction between God’s power and our own, God’s work and our own, if we want to live a godly life.80

Luther wanted people in Germany to share in the same kind of liberating experience that had been granted him by God through the power of the gospel. His was not a mere theory, but rather an assumption of a new identity in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit through the word of God that is preached as law and gospel; this was the idol-shattering, liberating divine reality that Luther wished to infuse into the stagnating Christendom. To Luther, preaching this message was not just a possibility. It was his God-given mission, for which he was ultimately responsible to Christ alone.

Mission as a Natural Enactment of General Priesthood of Baptized Believers

All baptized Christians as members of Christ’s church bear the responsibility to participate in the missio Dei according to their specific callings. “From faith, the church follows. The church, therefore, through the Word had the offices to baptize, to teach, and all the remaining offices mentioned above. She fulfilled them all.”81 However, in a situation where there is no called minister to preach and spread the gospel, baptism is God’s general call and appointment to gospel ministry, as Luther points out in his exposition of Acts 8:26-39: “All of this the eunuch effected by means of no other authority than the authority of his baptism and of his faith, especially since none others were there who could have done this.”82

Besides church pulpits, Christian schools are effective contexts of missionary dissemination, according to Luther. He believed it would be a grave sin to neglect this opportunity of mission and beseeched his colleagues and city councils to use this unique opportunity, urging them, if need be, to turn scholastic universities and monasteries (which he called “asses’ stalls and devil’s training centers”) into Christian schools: “Now that God has so richly blessed us, however, and provided us with so many men able to instruct and train our youth aright, it is surely imperative that we not throw his blessing to the winds and let him knock in vain.”83 Luther therefore exhorted the rulers and city councils to provide funding not only for evangelical preachers but also for the new type of evangelical schools, as well as for the poor and needy (at the expense of monasteries and scholastic schools).84

Love Directs the Missionary Zeal to Introduce Changes Gradually

Changes must not be imposed upon people without giving them a chance to change their attitudes by instructing them through sermons and catechesis. Luther’s falling out with Karlstadt was not only about the extent of the reforms but also about the pace and manner in which these reforms were done.85 Changes ought to be done slowly and patiently, not as newly imposed laws but as expressions of new freedom in the gospel, in order not to lose the “weak in faith,” as Christian love prompts us to “do and omit to do many other things, so long as love requires it and it does no harm to our faith.”86 Thus, even some important liturgical changes that had already been implied in the new gospel preaching and teaching came only gradually, with the new order of Mass of 1523 and later on the German Mass of 1526.87 Luther became convinced that liturgical practice and other forms of piety had to be changed not only in order to overcome idolatry but also to support the new teaching with corresponding external gospel forms.88 Prayers89 of the faithful and hymns90 sung by laity were introduced and encouraged by Luther as vehicles of the gospel and church’s mission tools.91 Lucas Cranach, among a host of other Protestant artists, intensified the impact of evangelical teaching through his artistic masterpieces. New Protestant architecture (especially sacral in nature) was another medium to convey the new evangelical outlook on matters of faith and life.92

The Power of the Gospel and the Power of the Sword

The spiritual rule of God (the Kingdom of God with the “right hand”) through the ministry of the gospel in churches would produce and further cultivate real Christians, liberated for a new life of love. To make this new life concrete, according to Luther, the rule of law under the “left hand of God” in the earthly kingdom would direct these Christians to an authentic Christian engagement within their concrete places of responsibility (earthly callings or vocations),93 as judges and lawyers, teachers and magistrates, kings and rulers, soldiers, artisans, husbands and wives, and prevent those who are “the wicked under the name of Christian . . . [from abusing] evangelical freedom.” For “God has ordained two governments: the spiritual, by which the Holy Spirit produces Christians and righteous people under Christ; and the temporal, which restrains the un-Christian and wicked so that—no thanks to them—they are obliged to keep still and to maintain an outward peace.”94 It is impossible to change the whole society into a Christian one that would only be ruled by the gospel, “for the world and the masses are and always will be un-Christian, even if they are all baptized and Christian in name. Christians are few and far between (as the saying is). Therefore, it is out of the question that there should be a common Christian government over the whole world, or indeed over a single country or any considerable body of people, for the wicked always outnumber the good.”95 A healthy Christian society will find a balance between the power of the spiritual and temporal governments and will not confuse their roles:

Now where temporal government or law alone prevails, there sheer hypocrisy is inevitable, even though the commandments be God’s very own. For without the Holy Spirit in the heart no one becomes truly righteous, no matter how fine the works he does. On the other hand, where the spiritual government alone prevails over land and people, there wickedness is given free rein and the door is open for all manner of rascality, for the world as a whole cannot receive or comprehend it.96

Secular offices within Christendom do not necessarily have to be filled by Christian officials and rulers, according to Luther. Nevertheless, Luther was the first to call upon Christian rulers to defend and support the cause of evangelical reforms in their territories.97 Another way to strengthen the “Christian society” was to uphold marriage as a Christian institution. No longer considered sacramental in character, Christian marriage was elevated above celibacy as a divinely ordained estate98 through which God preserved the world.

The Ambivalent Fruits of Apocalyptic Urgency

Already by the early 1520s, Luther came to believe that he was living in the end times. The evangelical movement he had started was thus the last refuge for a bewildered and destitute people in the apocalyptic battle of spiritual forces that would decide the final destiny of countless human souls. When Luther’s claim to be a prophet of this new movement, representing the true church of Christ, “came into earth-shaking tension with the universality of the church, such apocalyptic imagery provided an eschatological vanishing point which helped that movement reorient itself and facilitated decision-making.”99 Placing himself over the authority of scripture, the pope, according to Luther, had proved himself to be the Antichrist against whom scripture warns.100 Luther considered it a responsibility given to him by Christ in these final days to bring nominal Christians of medieval Christendom (with a direct focus on Germany) out of idolatry into true fellowship with Christ in faith.

This strong apocalyptic lens prompted Luther to assume the audacious stance of giving priority to his individual (indeed, prophetic and apostolic)101 interpretation of scripture over against what would have seemed as the collective wisdom of the patristic heritage and later tradition of the church—a position he had to defend already in the debate with Johannes Eck in Leipzig (1519) and later at the Diet of Worms (1521). Luther’s conviction of his own authority as apostle coming from Christ himself102 in these end times gave him steadfastness, resilience, and resolve, but it also made him difficult to negotiate with.103 Any dissenting view on a subject that Luther held important was perceived by him as being inspired by a “different spirit” (i.e., an evil spirit).104 He did not even refrain from boasting, invoking the apostle’s Paul self-praising words (2 Cor. 11:16nn) when he reminded his opponents that “I have had to attain it [i.e. the opportunity to proclaim the Gospel publicly] for them and, until now, at the risk of my body and my life.”105 Luther clearly saw himself as the Christ-appointed head of a new missionary movement within Christendom and, as he came to believe, the last one before an apocalyptic end of times. Thus, he did not hesitate to prophetically call his “beloved Germans” to “make use of God’s grace and word while it is there,” for, as he saw it, “If we let it just slip by without thanks and honor, I fear we shall suffer a still more dreadful darkness and plague.”106 In the next lines of his exhortation, Luther appears as a “missionary dispensationalist,” believing that the Germans were then living in the final dispensation for the last possible missionary activity:

For you should know that God’s word and grace is like a passing shower of rain which does not return where it has once been. It has been with the Jews, but when it’s gone it’s gone, and now they have nothing. Paul brought it to the Greeks; but again when it’s gone it’s gone, and now they have the Turk. Rome and the Latins also had it; but when it’s gone it’s gone, and now they have the pope. And you Germans need not think that you will have it forever, for ingratitude and contempt will not make it stay. Therefore, seize it and hold it fast, whoever can; for lazy hands are bound to have a lean year.107

“[S]eize it and hold it fast, whoever can” expresses a sense of urgency but also a sobering realization that not everyone “can” and will seize this opportunity. As Luther reminds his parishioners in his sermon on John 10:12nn (1523), the gospel must continue to be preached, even unto the end of the world, but true Christians will always be in the minority and will always have to “bear the cross” for the sake of God’s kingdom.108 Missionary triumphalism has no place in Luther’s Christianization agenda.109 Luther noticed that the persecution of the faithful in the Bible often led to the spread of the gospel. Commenting on Matthew 2:13–23, he remarked that the tyrants’ “onslaught and persecution give rise to the expansion of the church and the further dissemination of God’s Word.”110 In His divine providence, God uses the evil intentions of the enemies of the gospel to weaken their grip on the people and spread His kingdom. “When the tyrants rage against the Gospel, they do no more than blow into the ashes whereby the fire grows and the ashes invade their eyes . . . Through persecution Christianity grows, but where peace and tranquility prevail, there Christians become lazy and idle.”111 So the persecution of true Christians in the end times, seen through Luther’s apocalyptic lens, may become an opportunity for the gospel movement to grow.

Luther’s use of polemic language and hyperbole, his black-and-white rendering of the world, can be partially attributed to his eschatological impatience, or growing sense of apocalyptic urgency, which entailed a narrow vision of reality that tended to reject everything that did not join the “forces of the gospel.” However, it should also be seen as a natural expression of his missionary zeal, within which Luther’s apocalyptic-political polemic aimed “not to a crusade against the Turks, nor to hatred of Rome or the Jews, but to keeping the gospel afloat in the world’s last ravaged hour.”112 Luther’s apocalyptic vision, on one hand, contributed to his resolve to maintain a firm stance on the theological principles that he believed would help Christianize Christendom. On the other hand, the same sense of apocalyptic urgency clouded Luther’s mind when he dealt with his opponents, framing them as opponents of the gospel and, therefore, in the service of the Antichrist, such as papists,113 Turks,114 and Jews,115 but also those who disagreed with him on infant baptism and Christ’s real presence in the Lord’s Supper.116 The ambivalence of Luther’s apocalypticism seems to have its roots in the unsolved problem of the Christendom project, since it entails use of the secular sword to enforce orthodoxy, in contradiction to Luther’s own discovery of the sovereignty of the Word and the freedom of faith.117 Furthermore, as Hinlicky insightfully points out, “Luther’s sin here against peasant, pope, and Jew is the sin of despair of God, which as a result really does leave the world to the devil, as if Christ were not risen, but effectively still in the tomb.”118

Pietism’s “Inner Mission” as an outgrowth of Luther’s Mission to Christianize Christendom

Luther identified true piety with the true, evangelical faith effected by the Spirit through which a penitent sinner actively appropriated and lived the divinely bestowed righteousness in communion with Christ. Thus, a genuinely pious person lived in the awareness of being counted as righteous on account of Christ’s righteousness, being united with Christ by the Holy Spirit. This new relationship of trust in which the human lives in awareness of God’s love and acceptance produces naturally and inevitably new attitudes and behavior, as people are filled and moved by the Spirit to act like Jesus. Nevertheless, being pious means living in the justifying faith that lays hold of Christ’s righteousness (iustitio aliena, “alien righteousness”),119 never one’s own righteousness. A “real Christian” lives by faith and is fully pious (righteous) before God, though in her life she continues to learn (and to struggle) to shape all her relationships and actions in accord with her God-given righteousness, as the Spirit teaches her to walk with the risen Lord to the glory of the Father.

This robust and dynamic trinitarianism of Luther’s original thinking was later overshadowed by the neo-scholastic piety of the intellect in Orthodox Lutheranism, as well as by the piety of the heart of the Pietistic movements (P. J. Spener, 1636–1705; A. H. Francke, 1663–1727; J. Arndt, 1555–1621).120 In both cases, a pious-appearing anthropocentrism crept into theology (either cognitive or affective). Much like the later Enlightenment, Pietism failed to “grasp the apocalyptic eschatology at the heart of Luther’s efforts.”121 On the other hand, Lutheran Pietism did utilize some of Luther’s insights. Young Luther’s theologia crucis, underlining humility and suffering as the way of Christian faith, found its new expression in Johan Arndt’s True Christianity (1605–1610),122 as did Luther’s depiction of the mystical union of believer with Christ, who becomes the “Bridegroom of the soul.” Spener, too, built on this theme in his Pia Desideria, but he departed from Luther’s dynamic trinitarianism into what might seem (optimistically) an existentially relevant sequence of events within a supposed order of salvation (ordo salutis): the believer is certain of his justification by faith on the basis of a prior event effected by God through His word and by the power of His Spirit (hence personal faith as trust); then comes the part relevant for one’s growth in piety in an intentional process of sanctification (progressive in nature).123 The Pietistic “inner mission” focused on “Christianizing” the barren Christianity of doctrinal orthodoxy through lay Bible studies, prayer groups and devotional meetings, acts of charity, and pastoral consolation. The practical emphasis of the movement, along with an acute desire to obey Christ, led later generations of Pietists to engage in foreign missions (e.g. Moravian Pietism from Herrnhut, or the missionary movement from Halle, Germany).

Critical Comments

Though mission in both aspects—the effort to deepen the faith of Christians through the Christianizing “inner mission,” and the struggle to reach out to people beyond the confines of Christendom (Jews, Turks, newly discovered territories in the Americas)—is clearly a part of Luther’s understanding of the fruits of the missio Dei in “real Christians”’ lives, Lutheran missionary efforts lagged behind those of the Moravians, Puritans, Methodists, other Protestants, or Roman Catholics. Further research needs to be done on whether this should be attributed mainly to the historical reliance of Lutheran reformers on the state for the spread of their vision of renewed Christendom; to the lack of ecumenical potential in an increasingly confessionalized context that led to religious persecution; to the lack of evangelical teachers and preachers in the first decades of the movement; to the inability of the reformers to convey their teaching to larger masses of the population in an understandable language; or simply to the subsequent loss of some of Luther’s original theological vitality, which made it difficult for his missionary drive to develop more fully among the next generations of Lutherans.

Several important aspects of Luther’s Christianization effort need to be revisited. One of these concerns the relationship between “orthodoxis” and “orthopraxis.” The German reformer seemed to have been convinced that the movement is to a large extent unilateral, from orthodoxy (true Christian teaching) to orthopraxy (true Christian living in new obedience). Thus the sermon, sacrament, and catechesis are lifted up as sources of new Christian attitudes and living. While not denying the truth of this dynamic, current trends in anthropological and social studies (religious anthropology, sociology of religion) suggest a more complex, mutually reinforcing dynamic between the faith of the individual and his life outcomes on one hand, and the rituals and ethos of his historical religious community.124 An intense experience of orthopraxy (both cultic and ethical in nature) may lead to a strengthening or even emergence of orthodoxy in faith, if such orthopraxy is accompanied with gospel proclamation.125

Furthermore, should the transformative experience of the liberating and saving presence of Christ in faith, whereby God assumes his rightful place in the life of a forgiven sinner, have consequences mainly in the lives of individuals, or also more directly in the life of Christian communities, or even the whole society? Does the Christianization of Christendom primarily (or exclusively) include the realm of one’s heart and one’s personal life in the process of building a spiritual kingdom of believers, or does it include structural reforms in society and its economics and politics, as the Reformed wing of the Reformation tended to argue? Also, how do we account for the relatively low success of the Luther’s original Christianization agenda in the lives of his contemporaries, whether noble or common, lay or clergy, when viewed from the angle of the changed attitudes and practices that the new “freedom of a Christian” was supposed to entail?126

Equally important is the question whether the transformative experience of a spiritual conversion should be normative for a true Christian’s faith, as later Pietistic movements tended to emphasize (such as Franke and the Moravian Brethrens). Luther can, on one hand, speak almost mystically about a “real Christian’s” union with Christ in faith,127 claiming that in it the Christian person has all the riches that he needs for this and the next life. On the other hand, he lifts up the sacramental, liturgical community of the church as a historical embodiment of Christ’s body on earth as a necessary context for the emergence and preservation of such faith. There appears to be a tension (presumably of a creative, constructive nature) between sweeping emphases on the individual before God and the communal, sacramental nature of the individual’s faith. The way next generations of Lutherans and Protestants in general dealt with this tension determined the nature and forms of Christianity (individually and collectively) for centuries following Luther’s death.

Finally, the liberating Word of God comes from extra nos (“outside of us”) and addresses Martin Luther personally, him as a wretched sinner. All sinners—that is, all people—are in the same need of this heavenly voice, the viva vox Dei (“living voice of God”) that is not bound to any particular human culture, confession, or life vision. If this is so, as Luther would have us believe, then “[t]he foreign nature and peculiarity of God’s Word exclude both the combination of missionary proclamation with human goals of imperialism and cultural export, as well as confessional rivalry.”128 The uncompromising alignment of the church’s mission with a biblical perception of reality (including its eschatological-apocalyptic aspect) is Luther’s strength and weakness at the same time. Luther’s worldview may be too narrow to account for and speak to the complexity of the secularized, pluralistic world of our global age. On the other hand, it offers a prophetic corrective to our society’s obsessive anthropocentrism which focuses on the human in his individual historical situation, inalienable rights, and self-centered interests. Should the church’s self-understanding as well as its perception of mission align with the trends of anthropocentric individualism, it will lose the capacity to be conducive to the missio Dei. “The mission can only renew itself by taking seriously the power of the Word of God, which suppresses human goals.”129

Review of the Literature

For authors who are interested in the topic of reformation and mission, see a thorough bibliography (as of 1980) by Hans Kasdorf.130 Luther’s theology of mission was neglected until recently, following the trend of downplaying its significance in the work of Gustav Warneck.131 A new approach to this topic emerged in the chapter on “Mission” in Werner Elert’s The Structure of Lutheranism (1962),132 followed by Paul Wetter in his Der Missionsgedanke bei Martin Luther (1999).133 More recently, Volker Stolle collected Luther’s texts that pertain to mission,134 offering brief summarizing comments. Perhaps the best treatment of the topic, with ample references to Luther’s writings from the Weimar Ausgabe (Weimar edition of the works), is Ingemar Öberg’s Luther and World Mission (2007). Using a historic and systematic method of research, Öberg divides his book into three main parts: Doctrines and Theological Premises Important for Luther’s Mission Theology; Mission Perspective in Luther’s Writings; Luther and Mission Praxis.

Jean Delumeau and Scott Hendrix are two seminal authors with regard to the theme of Christianization. Delumeau (a Roman Catholic) was the first scholar who began to speak of Protestant Reformation and Roman Catholic reforms as “Christianization.”135 According to Delumeau, both Catholic and Protestant reformers struggled to reintroduce Christianity to a medieval society of “residual paganism.”136 Both of these attempts at Christianization ultimately failed to renew true Christendom, however, and instead “dehumanized it by forgetting to Christianize the profane.”137 Hendrix, in his thought-provoking book Re-Cultivating the Vineyard: The Reformation Agendas of Christianization (2004), builds on Delumeau’s earlier ideas and proposes a historiographical paradigm that sees the Reformation as a coherent, though internally diverse, movement of “recultivation” of the medieval “vineyard,”as one Reformation with several distinct agendas of Christianization (as the second act in an unfinished drama of missionizing the European continent).138 Such an approach entails a noticeable ecumenical potential, as Hendrix points out: “Assigning Catholic reform to one Reformation avoids casting Protestants and dissenters in the role of schismatics from the one true church that made a smooth transition from late-medieval Christianity to early modern Roman Catholicism.”139

The existing discussion of these topics was intensified following the publication of Re-Cultivating the Vineyard. Hans Hillerbrand (2007) disagrees with Hendrix and perceives Luther’s reform as a call for renewal of devotion and commitment within an already existing religious system. Scholars like Lindberg, Scribner, Dixon, Hamm, Moeller, and Wendebourg140 argue for numerous Reformations, and MacCulloch (2004) even adds the so called “Iberian Reformation” as an alleged prequel to the German Reformations. Even before Hendrix’s book, Andrew Pettegree (2000) eloquently presents the recent shifts in the Reformation studies, including the reassessment among historians of the state of the church in late middle ages, the focus on local archives and the impact of the Reformation(s) on the lives of common people (family, social, economic, political dimensions), a new focus on eastern Europe, as well as the importance of arts, music, and architecture in propagating the ideas of the new reform movements. Recent trends in the Reformation scholarship may thus best be described as an effort to contextualize the Reformation(s) in cultural, social, and political terms. For a good survey of these attempts, see also Scott Dixon’s The German Reformation (2002) and Contesting the Reformation (2012). Others, such as Scott Hendrix, Oswald Bayer, or Martin Brecht, are not so convinced that political pragmatism (or other cultural and social forces), instead of religious concerns, should be seen as primary actors and motivational forces behind the reformation movements.

A welcomed contribution to the debate has been put forth by a recent Festschrift edited by Anna Marie Johnson and John A. Maxfield (2012).141 Carter Lindberg, a prominent contributor to the Festschrift, criticizes Hendrix’s concept of one Reformation with various agendas of Christianization, promoting instead the idea of several parallel though mutually influenced Reformations. With reference to Luther’s Christianizing agenda, Lindberg points out that it focused rather exclusively on the proclamation of the Word, not on Christianizing the culture and society as such.142 Luther’s calls for social and economic reforms should, according to Lindberg, be understood as a more general appeal to justice, equity, reason, and decency, which could be demanded from both Christians and non-Christians. Christianization of religion goes hand in hand with promoting social justice and reforms (on the basis of the political use of the law) but they must be seen as separate domains (two kingdoms).

James Steyer is another critic of Hendrix’s main thesis, though on different grounds than Lindberg. Rather than speaking of Christianization of medieval society, Steyer (of Reformed Jewish background) prefers to talk about an “intensification of religious commitment.”143 He argues that even according to Luther, only a small number of Christians were truly evangelical, and that the radical wing of the Reformation based its theology primarily on the Old Testament.

In his response to Hendrix’s idea of Christianization, Berndt Hamm proposes that the different Protestant movements together with the Catholic Counter-Reformation ended the medieval culture of plurality in favor of a confessionalized homogeneity with normative doctrinal formulations and religious practice.144 Luther’s agenda of Christianization thus supposedly absorbed, adapted, and uniquely expressed a wider cultural trend toward resolving religious tensions (by intentionally unifying doctrine and piety) and suppressing diversity.

Differences arise also on the question of whether one is able to depict the Reformation as the second act of a larger drama of Christianization, following the first act that took place in the earlier Middle Ages (as Hendrix argues). Emphasizing the doctrinal and institutional differences between the Protestant and Catholic reform efforts, scholars (mostly on the Catholic side), such as Robert Bireley,145 Volker Leppin, and Berndt Hamm, argue for a discontinuity rather than continuity of the church’s self-reforming efforts in Luther’s agenda of Christianization.

Discussion continues regarding the nature of the 16th-century Reformation. Was it more of a paradigm shift or a specific stage in a continuous evolution, or rather a continuing expression of the spirit of Christianity from the late Middle Ages until the present, as Felipe Fernández-Armesto146 would have us believe? In a similar vein, Pettegree speaks about “the Long Reformation” (16th–19th centuries).147 Gerald Strauss’s critical view of the impact of Luther’s Reformation and his theology, according to which “if it was its [Luther’s Reformation] central purpose to make people—all people—think, feel, and act as Christians, to imbue them with a Christian mind-set, motivational drive, and way of life, it failed,”148 continues to stimulate discussion among researchers today. The works of Dale Brown, Horst Weigelt, Douglas Shantz, and Paul Hinlicky should be helpful to scholars with respect to the topic of the impact of Luther’s agenda of Christianization on the later Pietistic movement.

Further Reading

Bayer, Oswald. Martin Luther: A Contemporary Interpretation. Translated by Thomas Trapp. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008.Find this resource:

Brecht, Martin. Martin Luther: Shaping and Defining the Reformation, 1521–1532. Translated by J. L. Schaaf. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990.Find this resource:

Brown, Dale W.Understanding Pietism. Nappanes, IN: Evangelical Publishing House, 1996.Find this resource:

Delumeau, Jean. Catholicism between Luther and Voltaire: A New View of the Counter-Reformation. London: Burns & Oats; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1977.Find this resource:

Dixon, Scott C.The Reformation in Germany. Oxford: Blackwell, 2002.Find this resource:

Dixon, Scott C.Contesting the Reformation. Malden, MA: John Wiley, 2012.Find this resource:

Hamm, Berndt. The Early Luther: Stages in a Reformation Reorientation. Translated by Martin J. Lohrmann. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2014.Find this resource:

Hamm, Berndt, Bernd Moeller, and Dorothea Wendebourg. Reformationstheorien: Ein kirchenhistoricher Disput über Einheit und Vielfalt der Reformation. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1995.Find this resource:

Hendrix, Scott H.Re-Cultivating the Vineyard: The Reformation Agendas of Christianization. Louisville and London: Westminster John Knox, 2004.Find this resource:

Hillerbrand, Hans J.The Division of Christendom: Christianity in the Sixteenth Century. Louisville and London: Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, 2007.Find this resource:

Hinlicky, Paul R.Luther and the Beloved Community: A Path for Christian Theology after Christendom. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010.Find this resource:

Hinlicky, Paul R. “The Use of Luther’s Thought in Pietism and the Enlightenment.” In The Oxford Handbook of Martin Luther’s Theology, edited by Robert Kolb, Irene Dingel and Ľubomír Batka. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. Available at Oxford Handbooks Online.Find this resource:

Johnson, Anna Marie, and John A. Maxfield, eds. The Reformation as Christianization: Essays on Scott Hendrix’s Christianization Thesis. Spätmittelalter, Humanismus, Reformation/Studies in the Late Middle Ages, Humanism and the Reformation, 66. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2012.Find this resource:

Leppin, Volker. Martin Luther. Darmstadt: Primus, 2006.Find this resource:

Lindberg, Carter. The European Reformations. 2d ed. Chichester: John Wiley, 2010.Find this resource:

MacCulloch, Diarmaid. The Reformation. New York: Viking Penguin, 2004.Find this resource:

Öberg, Ingemar. Luther and World Mission: A Historical and Systematic Study with Special Reference to Luther’s Bible Exposition. Translated by Dean Apel. St. Louis: Concordia, 2007.Find this resource:

Oberman, Heiko A.Luther: Man between God and the Devil. Translated by E. W. Schwarzbart. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989.Find this resource:

Ozment, Steven. The Age of Reform, 1250–1550: An Intellectual and Religious History of Late Medieval and Reformation Europe. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1980.Find this resource:

Pettegree, Andrew, ed. The Reformation World. London and New York: Routledge, 2000.Find this resource:

Rublack, Ulinka, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Protestant Reformations. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015. Available in Oxford Handbooks Online.Find this resource:

Shantz, Douglas H., and Peter C. Erb. An Introduction to German Pietism: Protestant Renewal at the Dawn of Modern Europe. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013.Find this resource:

Stolle, Volker, ed. The Church Comes from All Nations: Luther Texts on Mission. Translated by Klaus Detlev Schulz and Daniel Thies. St. Louis: Concordia, 2003.Find this resource:

Weigelt, Horst. “Interpretations of Pietism in the Research of Contemporary German Church Historians.” Church History 39.2 (1970): 236–241.Find this resource:

Wendebourg, Dorothea. “The Reformation as Christianization?.” Ecclesiology 10.1 (2014): 101–111.Find this resource:


(1.) Ingemar Öberg, Luther and World Mission: A Historical and Systematic Study with Special Reference to Luther’s Bible Exposition, translated by Dean Apel (St. Louis: Concordia, 2007). In this groundbreaking book, Öberg points out especially Luther’s interpretations of the following biblical texts: Matthew 6:10; 13; 22:1–14; Luke 14:16–24.

(2.) Lectures on Genesis (1535–1545), chapter 12, LW 2:286. Italics added.

(3.) Sermons on the First Book of Moses (1523–1524), WA 24:261, 26–262, 1. English translation cited from Volker Stolle, ed., The Church Comes from All Nations. Luther Texts on Mission, translated by Klaus Detlev Schulz and Daniel Thies (St. Louis: Concordia, 2003), 16, italics added.

(4.) This is clear from other passages, too, where Luther deals with this topic. Considering the situation of Joseph and Mary and also the wise men who came to bow to the newborn Jewish Messiah, Luther states: “There is no doubt that Mary and Joseph and perhaps others with them that had come to know the child were not silent while in Egypt over the great miracle which had occurred with this child. They preached and brought others to faith and salvation, just as the Wise Men in particular were certainly preachers of the New Testament in their land and diligently taught their people about this child.” House Postil (1544), WA 52:602, 8–26. English translation cited from Stolle, Church Comes, 18.

(5.) On the institution of the ministry of the church (1523), WA 12:192, 15–23. English translation cited from Stolle, Church Comes, 18, italics added.

(6.) Letters I, To Philip Melanchthon (Wartburg, July 13, 1521), LW 48:262, italics added.

(7.) Receiving both kinds in the Sacrament (1522), LW 36:262.

(8.) Sermon on 1 Peter (1523), WA 12:267, 3–7; cf. WA 12:318, 25ff.

(9.) That a Christian Assembly or Congregation has the Right and Power to Judge All Teaching and to Call, Appoint, and Dismiss Teachers, Established and Proven by Scripture (1523), LW 39:310.

(10.) See Luther’s Ascension Sermon from 1522 in his Evangelienpostille, WA 10/III:139ff; see also LW 45:352–353.

(11.) A Commentary on Psalm 117 (1530), LW 14:9.

(12.) Sermon on Matthew 24:8ff (1539), WA 47:565–566. Cf. Werner Elert, “Missions,” in his The Structure of Lutheranism (St. Louis: Concordia, 1962), 385–402, in which Elert argues for a rehabilitation of Luther’s views on mission.

(13.) Already in 1522 Luther points out, answering to the papal bull Coena Domini, that the true way to spread the Christian kingdom is through preaching the word even to the Turks with the hope of evangelizing them. The Bull Coena Domini (1522), WA 8:708, 27–209, 8. Cf. Stolle, Church Comes, 67. In 1529 in his On War against the Turk Luther reminds us again that the primary battle to be won is a spiritual one. The Turks might be God’s rod of wrath on unfaithful Christendom. If they are to be defeated, soldiers must fight them with “repentance, tears, and prayer.” On War against the Turk (1529), LW 46:184; WA 30/I:129, 15–16.

(14.) Appeal for Prayer against the Turks (1541), LW 43:239; WA 51:621, 5–6. Luther offered similar thoughts earlier, in his Campaign Sermon against the Turks (1529). He exhorts those abducted by the Turks to serfdom to stay faithful, diligent servants and to witness thus by their lives of humble obedience to their faith in Christ, which might shame their masters. A Campaign Sermon against the Turks (1529), WA 30/II:185–195.

(15.) Table Talk recorded by Anthony Lauterbach and Jerome Weller, No. 3479: A Jew Is Baptized After Seeing Rome (Between October 27 and December 4, 1536), LW 54:208; WA 3: 349, 1–11.

(16.) “We must receive them cordially, and permit them to trade and work with us, that they may have occasion and opportunity to associate with us, hear our Christian teaching, and witness our Christian life. If some of them should prove stiff-necked, what of it? After all, we ourselves are not all good Christians either.” That Jesus Christ was born a Jew (1523), LW 45:229; WA 11:315–316.

(17.) Later Luther, unfortunately, lost his patience and hope for the Jews, identifying them as God’s enemies and saying other derogatory things about them. Cf. On the Jews and their Lies (1543), 47:268ff. See also Table Talk recorded by Caspar Heydenreich, No. 5462: Luther Proposes to Write Against the Jews (Summer or Fall, 1542), LW 54:426; WA TR 5:125, 28–126, 6. Toward the end of his life, Luther counseled the nobility to give Jews the choice of either converting to Christianity or exile. See An Admonition against the Jews (February 15, 1546), WA 51:195, 9–196, 17.

(18.) A Letter to Bernhard, a Converted Jew (1523), WA BR 3:102, 37–48; Cf. Stolle, Church Comes, 62.

(19.) Sermon on Matthew 8:23–27 (January 31, 1546), WA 51:152–153.

(20.) Table Talks as recorded by Anton Lauterbach and Hieronymous Weller (1537), WA TR 3:417, 22–28.

(21.) In his Sermon on Matthew’s Gospel, Luther argues that “though Turks, Jews, and all heathen know to say as much as their reason can discern from God’s works, that he is a creator of all things and that one should be obedient to him, etc. . . . They do not want to listen to his Word, which he has revealed concerning himself from the beginning of the world until now through the holy patriarchs and the prophets and finally through Christ himself and his apostles. They do not recognize him in this way, but they blaspheme and rage against it.” Without faith in Christ, this kind of natural knowledge does not amount to true worship, according to Luther: “It is therefore not sufficient, and it is still not called the proper worship of God, how the Jews, Turks, and the whole world claim without the Word of God and faith in Christ.” Sermon on Matthew 8:23–27 (January 31, 1546), WA 51:150, 38–152, 29. English translation cited from Stolle, Church Comes, 80–81.

(22.) Sermon on Matthew 8:23–27 (January 31, 1546), WA 51:153–155; In his Campaign Sermon against the Turks (1529), WA 30/II:161–172, Luther warns Christians against two formidable enemies: the spiritual deception comes from the pope, whereas the physical trial comes from the Turks. WA 30/II:161, 31–162, 19.

(23.) Psalm 78 (1513–1515), LW 11:41. Oswald Bayer argues that Luther’s apocalyptic view of history with his focus on “that rupture in the ages between the new and the old aeon that took place once for all on the cross of Jesus Christ” is what helps us see Luther’s relevance today. Oswald Beyer, Martin Luther’s Theology: A Contemporary Interpretation, translated by Thomas Trapp (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008), 10.

(24.) Sermon on Matthew 8:23–27 (January 31, 1546), WA 51:155, 16–28.

(25.) Several Chapters of St. John the Evangelist (1537), LW 22:197–198; Temporal Authority: To What Extent it should be Obeyed (1523), LW 45:91–92.

(26.) Sermon on Titus 2:11–15, Christmas Postil (1522), WA 10/I.1:21–23. Cf. Luther’s Preface to the New Testament (1546/1522), LW 35:359; and A Commentary on Psalm 117 (1530), LW 14:8–13.

(27.) To the Councilmen of All Cities in Germany That They Establish and Maintain Christian Schools (1524), LW 45:352–353. The same motif is also in Luther’s Sermon on Matthew 24:8ff (1539), WA 47:565–566, and in Table Talks taken from Johann Aurifaber’s collection (1542), WA TR 6:135, 1–7; Table Talks as recorded by Kaspar Heydenreich (1542), WA TR 5:184, 4–12.

(28.) Lectures on Zechariah, the German text (1527), The Prophet Zechariah Expounded, LW 20:296.306.

(29.) Expositing Psalm 117, Luther wrote: “all . . . factions and idolatries must cease, and . . . all the heathen must turn to one faith and praise and honor one God. Through the Word of God there is to come out of such a variety of worship one harmonious flock under one Shepherd (John 10:16). It is truly wonderful that a human heart can dare conceive of this, believe in it, and firmly prophesy that it will happen, especially when one considers how hard the devil will oppose, resist, and block it with all the power and wisdom of this world, so that it would seem to be a sheer impossibility. Nevertheless, the psalmist has the courage to say it, and in spite of all it has come to pass. Both are great miracles: that a man should believe this, and that it should actually happen.” A Commentary on Psalm 117, Preface (Summer 1530), LW 14:10.

(30.) Luther would occasionally use the word “evangelized”; see: Lectures on Hebrews (1517–1518), LW 29:160.

(31.) Sermon on the Mount (1532), LW 21:15.

(32.) Several Chapters of St. John the Evangelist (1537), LW 22:197.

(33.) Exhortation to All Clergy Assembled at Augsburg (1530), LW 34:52.

(34.) Jean Delumeau, Catholicism between Luther and Voltaire: A New View of the Counter-Reformation (London: Burns & Oats; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1977).

(35.) Scott Hendrix, Re-Cultivating the Vineyard: The Reformation Agendas of Christianization (Louisville and London: Westminster John Knox, 2004). Many notable Reformation scholars, however, disagree with Hendrix.

(36.) Among recent Catholic historians, Delumeau, Catholicism, speaks of a strong though diverse movement that had existed within European Christianity to Christianize Christendom by reforming its piety and practice. Delumeau’s work focuses mainly on the situation in France, providing a detailed description of missionary practices of well-trained Catholic clergy who saw it necessary to reintroduce orthodox Christian doctrine and practices to the common, half-pagan parishioners at that time.

(37.) Nicholas of Lyra (1270–1349), a Franciscan friar and great exegete of scripture, who in his famous Postillae stressed the literal sense of the Bible over against its allegorical scholastic interpretations; and Jean Charlier de Gerson (1363–1429), the celebrated French scholar and reformer, chancellor of the University of Paris, who managed to combine academic excellence with a clear focus on church reform, mystical Christian spirituality, and pastoral emphasis.

(38.) Martin Brecht, Martin Luther: Shaping and Defining the Reformation, 1521–1532, translated by J. L. Schaaf (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990), 17, cf. 102.

(39.) Erik L. Saak, High Way to Heaven: The Augustinian Platform between Reform and Reformation, 1292–1524: Studies in Medieval and Reformation Thought (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2002), 722–735. See also Erik L. Saak, Creating Augustine: Interpreting Augustine and Augustinianism in the Later Middle Ages (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), and Erik L. Saak, Catechesis in the Later Middle Ages I: The Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer of Jordan of Quedlinburg, OESA (d. 1380)—Introduction, Text, and Translation (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2014). Hendrix picks up on this strand and quotes Saak in Re-Cultivating the Vineyard, 27.

(40.) Lectures on the Psalms (1513–16), WA TR 3:306f; cf. Table Talk recorded by Veit Dietrich, No. 624: The Central Issue Is Doctrine, Not Life (1533), LW 54:110. Luther seems to underestimate here the goal of a changed life and stresses exclusively doctrinal reform as his goal.

(42.) Foreword to the Confession of Faith and Religion, etc. (1538), WA 50:380, 25–29.

(43.) Preface to the Complete Edition of Luther’s Latin Writings (1545), LW 34:337.

(44.) To the Councilmen of All Cities in Germany That They Establish and Maintain Christian Schools (1524), LW 45:352.

(45.) Timothy J. Wengert, “The Wittenberg Circle,” in The Oxford Handbook of Martin Luther’s Theology, edited by Robert Kolb et al. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 492–498. Available in Oxford Handbooks Online.

(46.) Aeta Augustana (1518), WA 2:17, 37–18, 6.

(47.) Such as Hendrix, Re-Cultivating the Vineyard, 38–39.

(48.) Receiving Both Kinds in the Sacrament (1522), LW 36:237–267.

(49.) Psalm 90 (1534), LW 13:123; Answer to the Hyperchristian, Hyperspiritual, and Hyperlearned Book by Goat Emser in Leipzig—Including some Thoughts Regarding his Companion, the Fool Murner (1521), LW 39:202; Personal Prayer Book (1522), 43:30; Treatise on Good Works (1520), 44:47–48.

(50.) Charles H. Talbot, ed., The Anglo-Saxon Missionaries in Germany: Being the Lives of SS. Willibrord, Boniface, Sturm, Leoba, and Libuin, Together with the Hodoeporicon of St. Willibald and a Selection from the Correspondence of St. Boniface (London: Sheed & Ward, 1954), 45.

(51.) Hendrix, Re-Cultivating the Vineyard, 4.

(52.) Receiving Both Kinds in the Sacrament (1522), LW 36:264.

(53.) LW 36:262, italics added.

(54.) The Sermon on the Mount (1532), Chapter 7, LW 21:282–283.

(55.) The Freedom of a Christian (1520), LW 31:368, italics added.

(56.) Lectures on Galatians (1535), WA 26:147,13–15.

(57.) The Magnificat (1521), LW 21:323–324; cf. The Misuse of the Mass (1521), LW 36:202. The papacy, according to Luther, turned even the holy sacrament of Eucharist into “horrible idolatry.” Lectures on Genesis (1535–1545), Chapters 21–25, LW 4:236.

(58.) The Misuse of the Mass (1521), LW 36:225–226.

(59.) Against the Heavenly Prophets in the Matter of Images and Sacraments (1525), LW 40:146.

(60.) Cf. Hendrix, Re-Cultivating the Vineyard, 9.

(61.) Luther develops this theme with special clarity and force in his Lectures on Galatians (1535); cf. LW 26:229.

(62.) Against the Heavenly Prophets in the Matter of Images and Sacraments (1525), LW 40:146.

(63.) Lectures on Genesis, Chapters 31–37 (1535–1545), LW 6:227; WA 44:168, 14–29.

(64.) On the Institution of the Ministry of the Church (1523), WA 12:192, 15–23. English translation cited from Stolle, Church Comes, 18.

(66.) Estate of Marriage (1522), LW 45:11–49; see especially pp. 36–39.

(67.) Temporal Authority: To What Extent It Should Be Obeyed (1523), LW 45:75–129; see especially pp. 91–92.

(68.) Trade and Usury (1524), LW 45:231–311.

(69.) On the Freedom of a Christian (1520), LW 31:365–366, italics added.

(70.) Two Kinds of Righteousness (1519), LW 31:301–303. Luther explains that Christians “should be as inclined and disposed toward one another as you see Christ was disposed toward [them],” 301.

(71.) Sermon on the Mount (1532), LW 21:15.

(72.) Defense and Explanation of All the Articles (1521), LW 32:24. Commenting on Matthew 13:33, Luther writes here: “The new leaven is the faith and grace of the Spirit. It does not leaven the whole lump at once but gently, and gradually, we become like this new leaven and eventually, a bread of God. This life, therefore, is not godliness but the process of becoming godly, not health but getting well, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise.”

(73.) The Bondage of the Will (1525), LW 33:268.279: “Grace is not cheap, but priceless—and free. It is free to us, but immensely costly to God.”

(74.) Luther considered conversion by love to be the most effective one. See Scholia (1515–1516), LW 25:466.

(75.) Hendrix, Re-Cultivating the Vineyard, 19.

(76.) “The third incomparable benefit of faith is that it unites the soul with Christ as a bride is united with her bridegroom. By this mystery, as the Apostle teaches, Christ and the soul become one flesh [Eph. 5:31–32]. . . . Accordingly the believing soul can boast of and glory in whatever Christ has as though it were its own, and whatever the soul has Christ claims as his own.” On the Freedom of a Christian (1520), LW 31:351. Cf. The Blessed Sacrament of the Holy and True Body of Christ and the Brotherhoods (1519), LW 35:59. For an ecumenically significant view of Luther’s doctrine of justification as God’s favor and gift, which effects the “theosis” (divinization) of believer as a result of the mystical union of the believer with Christ, see the publications of the Finnish school led by Tuoma Mannermaa. Schwarzwäller offers a potent critique of the Mannermaa school, pointing out the scarcity of the “theosis” language in Luther and theological inconsistency of this concept with Luther’s careful distinction between Creator and creation. See Klaus Schwarzwäller, “Verantwortung des Glaubens, Freiheit und Liebe nach der Dekalogauslegung Martin Luthers,” in Dennis D. Bielfeldt and Klaus Schwarzwäller, eds., Freiheit als Liebe bei/Freedom as Love in Martin Luther (Frankfurt a. M.: Lang, 1995), 133–158.

(77.) LW 10:391; On the Freedom of a Christian (1520), LW 31:350–352.

(78.) The Blessed Sacrament of the Holy and True Body of Christ and the Brotherhoods (1519), LW 35:59. Luther further states here that just as we (sinners) are united with Christ, “by the same love we are to be united with our neighbors, we in them and they in us.”

(79.) Possibly the best example of Luther’s Trinitarian theocentrism is found in his Confession Concerning Christ’s Supper (1528), in which Luther argues that the God of the gospel is a God “who has given himself to us all wholly and completely, with all that he is and has,” as Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier; LW 37:366.

(80.) The Bondage of the Will (1525), LW 33:35, italics added.

(81.) On the institution of the ministry of the church (1523), WA 12:192, 15–23. English translation cited from Stolle, Church Comes, 18.

(83.) To the Councilmen of All Cities in Germany That They Establish and Maintain Christian Schools (1524), LW 45:352.

(84.) Ordinance of a Common Chest (1523), LW 45:173–192.

(85.) Luther addresses this issues in his famous eight sermons preached in Wittenberg upon his return from Wartburg castle in March 1522.

(86.) Eight Sermons in Wittenberg (1522), Sermon One, LW 51:74.

(87.) See especially the passage from The German Mass and Order of Service (1526), LW 53:62–64; WA 19:73, 32–75, 30, in which Luther talks about various possible forms of the Mass depending on the spiritual readiness of the people.

(88.) An Order of Mass and Communion for the Church at Wittenberg (1523), LW 53:19–40.

(89.) “Convert those who are still to be converted that they with us and we with them may hallow and praise thy name, both with true and pure doctrine and with a good and holy life. Restrain those who are unwilling to be converted so that they be forced to cease from misusing, defiling, and dishonoring thy holy name and from misleading the poor people. Amen.” A Simple Way to Prayer (1535), LW 43:195; WA 38:360, 29–361, 5.

(90.) Babstsches Gesangbuch (1545), WA 35:477, 6–15.

(91.) Thus it may be interesting to notice that Luther might be considered the first theologian of the Reformation to compose a “missionary” hymn on the basis of Psalm 67. The hymn’s title is “May God Bestow on us His Grace” (“Es woll’ uns Gott genadig sein”), and the second half of its first verse goes like this: “That we His saving health may know,/His gracious will and pleasure,/And also to the heathen show/Christ's riches without measure/And unto God convert them.” Martin Luther (1524), Hymn 500 of The Lutheran Hymnal, translated by Richard Massie.

(92.) Andrew Pettegree, The Reformation World (London and New York: Routledge, 2000), 461–520.

(93.) For a well-balanced treatment of this topic from a contemporary Lutheran perspective, see Robert Benne, Ordinary Saints: An Introduction to the Christian Life (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003); and Robert Benne, The Paradoxical Vision: A Public Theology for the Twenty-first Century (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995).

(94.) Temporal Authority: To What Extent it should be Obeyed (1523), LW 45:91.

(95.) Temporal Authority: To What Extent it should be Obeyed (1523), LW 45:91.

(96.) Temporal Authority: To What Extent it should be Obeyed (1523), LW 45:92.

(97.) Lectures on Genesis, Chapter 28 (1542), LW 5:260.

(98.) The Estate of Marriage (1522), LW 45:35–39.

(99.) Martin Wernisch, Luther and Medieval Reform Movements, 66.

(100.) Von dem Papstthum zu Rom wider dem Hochberühmten Romanisten zu Leipzig (1520), WA 6:322, 2–22.

(101.) Hendrix, Re-Cultivating the Vineyard, 53–54.

(102.) To Hans Luther (Wartburg, November 21, 1521), LW 48:335.

(103.) One of the best studies of Luther’s apocalyptic outlook and its significance for Luther’s life and theology is Heiko Oberman, Luther: Man between God and the Devil, translated by E. W. Schwarzbart (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989).

(104.) Dr. Martin Luther’s Exposition of the Fourteenth, Fifteenth, and Sixteenth Chapters of the Gospel of St. John (1537–1538), LW 24:176; The Marburg Colloquy and the Marburg Articles (1529), LW 38:70.

(105.) Letter to the Princes of Saxony Concerning the Rebellious Spirit (1524), LW 40:54.

(106.) To the Councilmen of All Cities in Germany That They Establish and Maintain Christian Schools (1524), LW 45:352.

(107.) LW 45:352–353. Cf. Hendrix, Re-cultivating the Vineyard, 57. See also Luther’s Sermon on Matthew 24:8ff (1539), WA 47:565–566.

(108.) A Sermon of D. M. Luther On the Good Shepherd (1523), WA 12:529–540 (see especially p. 540). Cf. Several Chapters of St. John the Evangelist (1537), LW 22:197–198; Temporal Authority: To What Extent it should be Obeyed (1523), LW 45:91–92.

(109.) Having said that, Luther had good cause for mild optimism toward the end of his life. In his Letter to Wenceslas Link (1543), he looks at the spiritual health of the churches in Saxony and sees a bright future for them; LW 50:241–244.

(110.) Luther, M. Hauspostille (1544), in WA 52:602, 8–26. English translation cited from Stolle, Church Comes, 18.

(111.) Ibid., italics added. See also Luther’s Sermon on Isaiah 60:1–6, Epiphany (Christmas Postil 1522), WA 10/I.1:519–554. Commenting on verse Isa. 60:4 (p. 543), Luther argues that the Jewish persecution of the Christians in Jerusalem brought an exponential growth of the church.

(112.) Heiko Oberman, The Roots of Anti-Semitism in the Age of Renaissance and Reformation, translated by J. I. Porter (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984), 122.

(113.) A Sincere Admonition by Martin Luther to All Christians to Guard Against Insurrection and Rebellion (1522), LW 45:60; LW 37:367; LW 22:163–164; LW 54:346.

(114.) On War against the Turk (1529), LW 46:180.196; The Misuse of the Mass (1521), LW 36:211.

(115.) Against Latomus (1521), LW 32:147; Luther further asserts that Jews are under divine wrath because of their “lies, cursing and blasphemy” and should be expelled from Christian territory: On the Jews and their Lies (1543), LW 47:268.

(116.) Brief Confession Concerning the Holy Sacrament (1544), LW 38:282; Concerning Rebaptism (1528), LW 40:261; Table Talk Recorded by Veit Dietrich (1531–33), No. 528: Sacramentarians Stress Spirit Without Word (1533), LW 54:97.

(117.) For a good discussion of “the problem of demonization in Luther’s apocalyptic theology” see Paul Hinlicky, Luther and the Beloved Community: A Path for Christian Theology after Christendom (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010), 379–385. “Apocalypse as promise of inclusion in the coming Reign by the grace of Christ provides the reason why Luther can conceive of the doctrinal beliefs brought with the gospel as a new language of the Spirit. But the question remains whether this new language of the Spirit can be retrieved without hauling along with it the division of faith from unbelief, and with it the theological potential for invective, which Luther learned also from Paul (cf. Gal. 5:12; Phil. 3:2)” (p. 382).

(118.) Ibid., 385.

(119.) Two Kinds of Righteousness (1519), LW 31:297, 299; Psalm 51 (1532), LW 12:328; Isaiah 11 (1528), LW 16:119; Several Chapters of First John the Evangelist, John 1 (1537?), LW 22:157.

(120.) Cf. Paul R. Hinlicky, “Luther’s Anti-Docetism in the Disputatio de divinitate et humanitate Christi (1540),” in O. Bayer and B. Gleede, eds., Creator est creatura: Luthers Christologie als Lehre von der Idiomenkommunikation (Berlin: Walter De Gruyter, 2007), 139–185.

(121.) Paul R. Hinlicky, “The Use of Luther’s Thought in Pietism and the Enlightenment,” in The Oxford Handbook of Martin Luther’s Theology, edited by Robert Kolb et al. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015). Available in Oxford Handbooks Online.

(122.) Arndt, like Luther, was fond of the classical piece of mediaeval mysticism Theologia Germanica.

(123.) For Luther, faith intrinsically belongs to the Spirit’s work of sanctification. It is the powerful person of the Holy Spirit who holds in unity justification and regeneration because in the work of the Spirit we encounter God’s movement into the world. In place of a human’s pure belief or intense feeling, God breaks through into an apocalyptic encounter with a sinner. A heartfelt faith thus never becomes a private event of the pious soul. Such Spirit-induced faith protects Christians from falling prey to the modern dichotomy between faith as an individualized, internalized event and the external, tangible, sacramental reality of God encountering humans in the visible body of Christ.

(124.) A good example of the influence of communal living on one’s faith and practice might be the case of Lazarus Spengler from Nuremberg. See: Berndt Hamm, Bürgertum und Glaube (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1996), 156; Scott Dixon, The Reformation in Germany (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002), 75–77.

(125.) Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory (3d ed.; London: Bloomsbury, 2013); Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).

(126.) Luther himself attests to the fact that after much evangelical preaching there are but few “real Christians” in the church. See Several Chapters of St. John the Evangelist (1537), LW 22:197.

(127.) On the Freedom of a Christian (1520), LW 31:343ff ; WA 7:22, 42ff; The Blessed Sacrament of the Holy and True Body of Christ, and the Brotherhoods (1519), LW 35:49ff; WA 2:742ff.

(128.) Stolle, Church Comes, 13.

(129.) Ibid., 104.

(130.) Hans Kasdorf, “The Reformation and Mission: A Bibliographical Survey of Secondary Literature,” International Bulletin of Mission Research 4.4 (1980): 169–175.

(131.) Gustav Warneck, Outline of a History of Protestant Missions from the Reformation to the Present Time: A Contribution to Modern Church History, authorized translation from the seventh German edition by George Robson (New York: Revell, 1901).

(132.) Werner Elert, The Structure of Lutheranism (St. Louis: Concordia, 1962), 385–402.

(133.) Paul Wetter, Der Missionsgedanke bei Martin Luther (Bonn: Verlag für Kultur und Wissenschaft, 1999).

(134.) Stolle, Church Comes.

(135.) Delumeau, Catholicism.

(136.) Ibid., 172.

(137.) Ibid., 228.

(138.) Hendrix argues that Luther’s reform should be seen as more than another step toward intellectual awakening and moral transformation of individuals and societies. We should rather perceive it as a “second step in the process of Christianizing the entire culture, an extensive attempt to rid Europe of superstition . . . and to produce a purified Christian culture,” based on a specific agenda of reform because “for most reformers . . . [the medieval type of] Christianity was in many ways seriously deficient.” Scott Hendrix, Re-Cultivating the Vineyard, 35, 37.

(139.) Scott Hendrix, Re-Cultivating the Vineyard, 123.

(140.) Berndt Hamm, Bernd Moeller, and Dorothea Wendebourg, Reformationstheorien: Ein kirchenhistoricher Disput über Einheit und Vielfalt der Reformation (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1995).

(141.) Anna Marie Johnson and John A. Maxfield, eds., The Reformation as Christianization: Essays on Scott Hendrix’s Christianization Thesis (Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2012).

(142.) Carter Lindberg, “‘Christianization’ and Luther on the Early Profit Economy,” in Johnson and Maxfield, Reformation as Christianization, 49–78.

(143.) James Stayer, “Three Phases of ‘Christianization’ (?) among Reformation Radicals,” in Johnson and Maxfield, Reformation as Christianization, 122.

(144.) Berndt Hamm, “Reform, Reformation, Confession. The Development of New Forms of Religious Meaning from the Manifold Tensions of the Middle Ages,” in Johnson and Maxfield, Reformation as Christianization, 285–303.

(145.) Robert Bireley, “The ‘Reformation’ as a Response to the Changing World of the Sixteenth Century: Reflexions on Scott Hendrix’s Re-Cultivating the Vineyard,” in Johnson and Maxfield, Reformation as Christianization, 11–32.

(146.) Felipe Fernández-Armesto and Derek A. Wilson, Reformations (New York: Scribner, 1997).

(147.) Andrew Pettegree, ed., The Reformation World (London and New York: Routledge, 2000); Andrew Pettegree, Reformation and the Culture of Persuasion (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

(148.) Gerald Strauss, Luther’s House of Learning: Indoctrination of the Young in the German Reformation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978), 307.