Historical Dictionary of Lutheranism by Gunther Gassmann with Duane H. Larson, and Mark Oldenburg (Scarecrow) The 16th century Reformation was not the end of the medieval era, but the beginning of modern Europe. It was a complex and multi-faceted political, social, cultural, and religious process. The Lutheran reform movement was one of the strongest and most influential theological forces during this time. The intention of the Lutherans was not to create a new`church, but to reform the existing one on the basis of normative biblical witness and the positive tradition of the church. Despite their non-revolutionary aims, Martin Luther and his co-reformers profoundly changed central and northern Europe for good. Their influence would not only extend to the European continent, but well beyond, as their ideas were carried around the globe by emigrants and missionaries. This historical dictionary examines the development of Lutheranism from its inception in the 16th century to its place as one of the largest and most influential Protestant churches in the modern world. The book informs about: the foundational theological convictions of the Lutheran tradition and their interpretation through the centuries; eminent Lutherans from the sixteenth through the twentieth centuries; the broad social and cultural impact of Lutheranism; Lutheran participation in the great religious and intellectual movements of the last four centuries; and portrayals of the members of the world-wide family of Lutheran churches. It is a reference book for a wider audience and an informative tool for theological scholars and teachers.
Tyranny and Resistance: The Magdeburg Confession and the Lutheran Tradition by David M. Whitford (Concordia Publishing House) David Whitford's study addresses the perennial cliché that Martin Luther was a "toady of the princes" whose theological ethics set in motion a German‑specific pathos of obedience that inevitably led to Christian passivity before National Socialism. Such nonsense has had an incredibly long shelf life, stretching from Thomas Muntzer's shrill rhetoric and the failed apocalyptic convictions of the Peasants' War through Ernst Troeltsch's arguments that Luther split public and personal morality, thus disposing Lutheranism toward political absolutism. Within academe, Troeltsch's position has been perpetuated from Reinhold Niebuhr through Max Stackhouse. These charges have been popularized in the worst sense of the term‑by William Shirer's nearly omnipresent The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and the recent "biography" of Luther by Richard Marius, Martin Luther: The Christian between God and Death.
Whitford debunks this received tradition that pictures Luther as the poster child for quietism at best and fascism at worst. He does so by solid historical‑theological analysis of the pertinent Luther writings and an extended discussion of their influence on the seminal expression of theologically grounded resistance to authority‑The Magdeburg Confession of 1550. This Confession by the Lutherans of Magdeburg, taken up by their followers who struggled to defend the freedom of the church against early German absolutism, was a significant influence on the subsequent theological political resistance movements among Calvinists.
Whitford convincingly demonstrates both theologically and historically the direct connection between Luther's theology and The Magdeburg Confession. Both elements‑the theological and the historical‑of Whitford's argumentation are crucial. He recognizes that to focus only on Luther's Law‑Gospel dialectic and the "two kingdoms" doctrine leaves the discussion on the level of abstraction, whereas to focus only on the historical development of political resistance fails to recognize the crucial significance of theology for politics. Whitford's recognition of the intimate relationship of theory and praxis is a salutary reminder of the importance of both to the contemporary life of the church. Without solid theological foundation and direction, the church will tend to take on the mores of its historical‑social context; without a confession of faith, the church will have little to say in a time of crisis. On the other hand, without the Gospel‑provided courage "to sin boldly," the message will remain under a bushel. It was, therefore, no accident that, when faced by National Socialism, church leaders of resistance turned to their 16th‑century roots in the Reformation and The Magdeburg Confession. The outstanding example of this awareness of the tradition was Hans Christoph von Hase, whose retrieval of "in casu confessionis" ("In the situation in which a confession is required or which causes scandal, nothing is an indifferent matter.") was so significant to his cousin and confidant, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The scandal to the Confessing Church was, of course, the National Socialist co‑option of the church with the attendant subversion of the Gospel and the persecution of Jews.
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