Archive for May 2012
I was thinking. I usually arrive at new theological insights when I write my sermons. I always pray for God to help me discover a little more truth. Last year preaching for Resurrection Lutheran in Oakland, I realized that because of the Nativity of Jesus Christ, if we all received a new birth because of the love of God, then we become children of God in a continuous incarnation even while God is at work in the continuous creation. You can check out this sermon here. In the many flowers of the beautiful Christmas plant, the poinsettia, I used to see the Nativity of Jesus Christ, giving each one of us believers a Christmas birth of our own represented by each blossom.
It then follows that theology does become anthropology in the marvelous exchange, where we receive God’s attributes as heirs, who receive the last will and testament of Christ. Although Jesus died on the cross sharing the fate of humanity, God the Father raised him from the dead, and thus the love of God overcome death.
In saying that theology becomes anthropology, I am not following Feuerbach, who called theology illusion and projection. I say it as an increase in faith, meaning that God is not finished with us yet, but is still about the great transformation that entails our salvation.
Saying that theology becomes transformed into anthropology from our human point of view, however, makes me realize how far conceptuality can surpass reality, because we humans still tear each other up, the way wolves won’t even do.
I’m painstakingly recovering old manuscripts that I wrote about Luther and the German Peasants’ War of 1525. They were on old 5 1/4 inch floppies, which I had copied on to 3 and 1/2 inch discs, and then to a flash drive. In those days I used an old Leading Edge Model D word processor. Wordperfect helped recover some data best. Microsoft word brought them in garbled with strange symbols.
The manuscript “Luther and the Niebuhr Brothers” is second part of a larger one, “Luther and the Peasants’ War,” which is also the tile of Part 1. Part 1 has 26 pages single spaced counting the endnotes and Part 2 has 23 pages, from page 27-49, and Part 3, “The Apology for Luther’s Theology and the Two Kingdom Theory” continues from page 50 to page 107, including 224 endnotes. It is a single-spaced document, which was on several floppies, because at the time, such floppies could not hold the whole document.
I am still working on recovering as many of these pre-graduate school works as possible. After these Luther manuscripts, I’ll try to recover my work on Dating the Exodus, a two hundred page manuscript finished on April 14, 1986. Trips with my congregation to Israel and Egypt sparked my interest in trying to nail down the early or late date for the Exodus. I wrote this manuscript before becoming interested in Luther, which was sparked because I attended the Luther Jubilee in Washington, D.C. in 1983 – Luther’s 500th birthday. I wrote my first manuscript thereafter: Reflections on the Luther Jubilee Lectures, (November 6-12, 1983).
After the Luther Jubilee, I must have written and revised one manuscript after another on Luther and the Peasants’ War and then went to graduate school to study the controversy further, only to have to change my course after five years to studying Luther’s pamphlets. The last manuscript I wrote on Luther and the Peasants’ War of 1525 before starting the pamphlet study was a socio-linguistic approach, which now has been posted. I wrote this note about my manuscripts on December 17, 2010 and just revised it on May 25, 2012.
I have not yet been able to recover Part 1. But three parts are finished:
In Four Parts
1. Luther and the Peasants War 2. Luther and the Niebuhr Brothers
3. Apologists for Luther’s Theology and the Two Kingdom Theory
4. Luther and the Great German Peasants’ War: a Little Known Story
(a manuscript in four parts recovered from 5 1/4 inch floppy disks)
God’s Lamb is the Great I Am: Seventh Sunday of Easter, Resurrection Lutheran Church, Oakland, CA – May 20, 2012
Seventh Sunday of Easter
Resurrection Lutheran Church, Oakland, CA – May 20, 2012
Acts 1: 15-17, 21-26 – Psalm 1 – 1 John 5: 9-13 – John 17: 6-19
God’s Lamb is the Great I Am
I thank Pastor Lucy Kolin for asking me to serve you with God’s Word this morning. She is at the Synod assembly and we pray God be with her and the decisions that our Sierra Pacific Synod makes there in San Jose. I’ve been unemployed for about three years, but when God is the one who calls us, when God gives us our vocation, we always have divine employment, and God sees to it that our needs are met, because God provides. We also stand in good stead, because our great high priest, Jesus Christ prays for us as we read in our Gospel lesson for today.
Jesus prays thanking God that he is glorified in us, that we may be one as the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit are one, and that we become sanctified by the truth. I choose only those three petitions among Jesus’ many others.
During this week I asked myself, what does it mean for Jesus to be glorified in us? This is what I figure: When we die to our old selves, to the old Adam and Eve in us, Christ raises us up into new selves to embark on the new way of life that Jesus taught us. Now it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us. When Christ speaks of being glorified in the Gospel of John, then he is speaking about being lifted up on a cross, dying upon the cross for us, so that he becomes raised up by God to sit at the Right Hand of God the Father Almighty there in the glory of God.
So our glory, joined to that of Christ is suffering and dying to ourselves, so that the life of Christ envelopes all our relationships, everyone whom the Christ in us meets, touches, and heals in body and soul, feels and begins to know that they are in the real presence of God.
Yes indeed, their minds open up to God’s Word, their hearts open up to the good faith, the very good faith Jesus has given us. This gift of faith that we receive becomes active in love and the love that seeks justice. We receive not only the real wonderful Christ in our hearts, but also his Beloved Community, the Church, the Church that overcomes the world.
The word “glory” became intriguing to me while reading Luther’s Bondage of the Will. Luther writes of the light of nature, the light of grace, and the light of glory. They are three levels that we live our lives on and levels of thinking and understanding God’s way with us. What can’t be understood on one level becomes clear on the next. Our Lutheran faith is rather wonderful because it relies so much on grace and we preach and live in the light of grace. As unacceptable as we are, God accepts us unconditionally, and God’s acceptance changes us in the twinkling of an eye, into God’s lovable children. We are not loved by God because we are loveable but we are loveable because God loves us. Now imagine that we can live in a light even beyond that of grace, in the light of God’s glory, the glory of God’s only begotten Son, full of grace and truth. That is glory!
Wow! It is the Seventh Sunday of Easter and this whole sermon could unfold around the incredible glory of God and the way the glory of Christ can become ever brighter in us like the increasing glory of the stars. That’s how St. Paul refers to the magnitude of stars. We can become ever brighter like stars. Forget those whom our society calls stars. The glorified Christ is in you. Christ is your true self. Are you almost invisible to the naked eye or are you going from glory to glory? Is your true self coming out and beginning to shine in the glory of Christ?
Let me go to the next part, however, because in the glory of Christ, he also makes us one. Christ prayed that we become one even as the Blessed Three Persons of the most Holy Trinity are one, in the love that sent the only Son of the Father to save us lost sinners, to save this sorry world. Because of that divine love we also become born of God and we have the promise that we will not perish but receive everlasting life; we have the promise of abundant life and eternal life.
Christ is God’s very Lamb and as the Great I Am, he now lives, moves, and has his divine Being in us and we are one in him. Now stop and think how hard it is to believe this. Like Alice said in Wonderland,
“There’s no use trying. One can’t believe impossible things.”
“I dare say,” said the queen, “you haven’t had much practice… Why sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” Dear Lord, increase our faith!
In this oneness, we can all be within each other as new selves in the body of Christ, God’s Beloved Community. Inside us we do not need to have a “Heart-Break Hotel.” Nor does our heart have to be shut down, without any room in our inn, but we can have a full church, a whole congregation in our hearts, like an old usher in our church in Coney Island, New York used to shout: “S.R.O., S.R.O.!” meaning “Standing room only, standing room only!” Meanwhile he came from an S.R.O., which meant “Single Room Occupancy” where those who without a real home could live cheaply. His name was Thomas Worthington Kirkpatrick and he had such a speech defect that it took strenuous attention and listening to understand him. We can have all the people from a congregation in our hearts. How wonderful when our heart becomes a church!
What is really important about the oneness that we receive in Christ is that it is an internal bond, because the Kingdom of God, the Beloved Community is within you. Our bodies are like shells and our true selves are mostly within them. So the bond, the tie that binds us, our relationships with each other, are internal. A saying of a French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin has always guided me. He said, “True unity differentiates, it does not confound.” True unity does not homogenize us. When we have it we can be as different from each other as we can be. We can be our unique and individual true selves and still cherish each other and the Beloved Community in our hearts.
There is a difference between uniformity and true unity. Soldiers and police wear uniforms, and in these cases, they give them the right to kill. Unity gives us the gift of life. Uniformity makes everyone have to have the same outer shell. It does not penetrate to the heart. So our society dictates the model of a woman’s body and then batters all women to diet and make their bodies fit into that same slender hour-glass shape, killing many women, who do not have a body anything like that, in the process. I remember the girdles my sisters used to have to struggle into to try to have that hour-glass-figure. Maybe men envision their tummies so small, so they couldn’t imagine a baby would form in it! Believe it or not, the girdle is coming back. It is being called the faja. Wednesday it was written up in the New York Times in an article entitled: “A Clasp from the Past!” Women beware!
The inner bond of unity we have in Christ is held together by trust. A newly married man and woman went everywhere together. People noticed that they were never apart. People said, “Look how they love each other!” No way. He was just always watching her because he didn’t trust her. It is called a couple-front, because they did not have the internal bond made out of freedom, love, and trust.
We are not only speaking about women’s bodies, freedom and trust in relationships, but also the freedom to be different and to think differently. In New England where I grew up, some teachers wanted to be non-conformists and back in the 1950’s conformity was important. In those days every school day began with morning exercises. These exercises consisted in a Bible reading, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Pledge of Allegiance. Instead of reading from the Bible, one teacher read sections from Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species to the class. After she read from the book all about evolution, I don’t remember whether she prayed with us or not. I don’t think so. But in her dissent she was being a non-conformist. She championed the individual and rejected conformity with the group. She did not want to be locked inside that shell. But remember Teilhard’s insight, “True unity does not confound; it differentiates.” He also argues that it is a false habit of mind to keep playing the individual off against the group. The non-conformist can still be caught in the same outer shell of the conformist. Christ teaches us to penetrate to the heart, he prays for us to receive the true unity, which is also in the Blessed and Holy Trinity, where the many can be loved in the one and the one can be loved in the many and in that love we can lay down our lives for each other.
These words from Pierre Teilhard have always helped me. True unity is internal; it is an internal bond that makes our hearts one, so that the loving and compassionate heart of Christ beats in us. Why not also use the Catholic expression: so that the “sacred heart” of Christ beats in us. And because this bond is internal, the group and the individual can also be one in a relationship like that of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, whose oneness is beyond number. The internal individual and the group are beyond number.
Teilhard’s word always helped me, because like here in Resurrection Lutheran Church, back in St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Coney Island, we were so different from each other. We were African-American, Caucasian, and many different kinds of Latinos – we used to say Hispanics there. We had Guatemalans, Panamanians, Colombians, etc. My wife Nora Zapata is Colombian. I was born in Germany. We were all so different. But because our hearts were one, we could say, “Viva la différence!” Like men say about women: “Viva la différence!”
We were sanctified in the truth, because to have one heart and to be of one heart together when we were so different represented a continuous challenge. If you are familiar with the geography of New York, you would know that Coney Island and Long Island are really attached. Many people in Long Island live there because of white flight; they fled Coney Island. In that way Long Island is not at all attached to Coney Island. We had big Vacation Church School and Vacation Day Camp programs and we visited one generous church in Long Island that helped us fund our programs. In the choir we noticed that every woman was a blond, different shades perhaps, but they were all blond nonetheless. They didn’t even seem to accept any woman who had black hair. Perhaps many had died their hair that color, I don’t know. There we were Puerto Rican, African-American, and Caucasian and they were all into having the same outer shell.
This sermon might become too long to delve into the way Christ prays that we become sanctified by the truth. But briefly, in his prayer, Christ makes true unity go together with truth. The truth should not come at the expense of unity, nor unity be maintained at the expense of truth. [Lutherans have had the weakness of sacrificing unity for the sake of truth. It leaves us with a little picture, a more and more provincial perspective on the world. A relationship is strengthened when it is sanctified by the truth.] Both unity and truth have to come together. The glorified Christ in us is the truth and gives us the gift of unity. Let’s praise God for the oneness we receive because of the glorified Christ in us and for the oneness that God continues to share with us. It is such a marvelous gift! And Christ keeps sanctifying us with the truth. God’s Word is the truth. I am sure that God can’t help answering the prayer of Christ. So it’s a promise: we are sanctified by the truth until we leave these outer shells, these bodies of ours behind us, and in our true selves, we receive the body and blood of Christ in the fullness of God’s joy. Amen.
Pastor Peter D.S. Krey, Ph.D.
 Luther’s Bondage of the Will, LW 33:292 and WA 18: 784-785.
 Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass, (Old Saybrook, CT: Konecky & Konecky, no date: ca. 2003), page 100. I this beautifully illustrated book, Alice in Wonderland reads from the other side, when you turn the book around.
 Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Future of Man, New York: Harper Torch Books, 1964), pages 54-55.
 NYT 5/16/2012, pages A-1 and A-21.
 Teilhard, The Future of Man, page 54.
I just heard that a controversy has developed over Lawrence Krauss and his book A Universe from Nothing. My article in Scholardarity called “Science should not Step out of Bounds” engages his atheism. Click on it. I hope it helps. peter krey
In today’s New York Times, I was reading T.M. Luhrmann’s piece about Evangelicals in relation with the government. Luhrmann quotes Rick Santorum: “Go into the neighborhoods in America where there is a lack of virtue and what will you find? Two things. You will find no families, no mothers and fathers living together in marriage. And you will find government everywhere: police, social service agencies. Because without faith, family, and virtue, government takes over.” Luhrmann continues: “This perspective emphasizes developing individual virtue from within – not changing social conditions from without.” 
The problem that we face is that an individualist ideology only perceives a half of reality, the way a collectivist ideology only takes in the other half. We need to “develop individual virtue from within” – and “change social conditions from without.” Becoming more mature and moral is definitely part of reality, but there is more to reality, which lies beyond our direct personal relationships.
According to Reinhold Niebuhr, there are an infinite variety of structures and systems in which people seek to organize their common life in terms of some kind of justice. And higher approximations of justice are possible. All these mechanisms are to help people fulfill their obligations to their neighbors beyond the possibilities offered in direct personal relationships. 
For example, I once asked a capitalist, who was opening a factory in a third world country, how he would get workers if they all worked on farms and the society had never industrialized. “You have to manipulate the monetary policy,” he said, “in order to make the prices of farm produce lower so that farmers had to lay off workers, who would come to the city and work in his factory.”
Another example: When the steel mills closed all around Pittsburgh, PA and 30,000 workers were suddenly unemployed a commentator in a newspaper article said that they would have jobs if unemployed workers were not so lazy.
Another: Getting a car gives you an incredible sense of individual freedom. You can now drive anywhere. You experience a different reality, a collective one, when you are stuck in a traffic jam, where a “freeway” seems to have become a parking lot.
How can people pay doctor and hospital bills, when they are priced for insurance companies with balances that the average individual cannot afford? In our day giant corporations walk the earth and as legal persons they are far more powerful than individual persons.
Social and economic forces are sometimes even insurmountable in the face of individual heroism. It did not matter how virtuous the worker when companies down-sized, out-sourced, and closed down whole factories to reopen them over in countries where labor could be hired for 20 cents an hour rather than $20 an hour.
The Great Recession we are still experiencing unleashed social and economic forces as real as the natural forces of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Fewer houses were lost in the floods there, while the recession has put many more houses across the country “under water.” A friend of ours first lost her job because of cut-backs, then she lost her home when her mortgage suddenly doubled. She moved her family into a rented home and her landlord lost his house to a bank foreclosure. She had to move again.
Now I take offense at Santorum’s blaming the victims. Some neighborhoods lack virtue? Many lives are wrecked because of the social disasters that have ruined many of our inner cities. There is much higher unemployment. Many also just consider the people there “unemployable.” The social forces in this country benefit one group and another has to contend with continual disadvantages and negative set-backs.
So the government is responsible for social, economic, and political policies that shape more humane social conditions from without and all people are called to become more mature and moral from within. But what is Santorum missing? He only sees the failing student, he ignores the fact that the student might be in a failing school. A renewal is required for the student and the school.
To get to the bottom of the issue, I need to use biblical language. The law (government) encroaches upon people, when their faith and the Gospel has not issued into a new life in Christ. But the problem is not the law, it is not the government. A renewal is required for the individual as well as in the economic and political systems. Jesus came to proclaim that the Kingdom of heaven was at hand. We forget about the new system he launched. We tend to believe in him as the individual, Jesus Christ, and strip him of his reign in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus said that you cannot pour new wine into old wine skins – you have to pour new wine into new wine skins.
Thus it is not merely a matter of faith, family, and virtue, but a government that brings about a greater approximation of justice so that some neighborhoods are not ruined by the injustice of the many systems in our society that fail us. There is no law or government given whereby we must be saved, but they can certainly destroy our lives. When government is true to its purpose, the morality of people will gain traction. Even the best system counts on creative individuals, who face the moral challenge and breakthrough to the new life.
What am I saying? I think that by pontificating about “faith, family, and virtue,” Santorum is oblivious to the powerful, negative social and economic forces that are also involved in destroying families and marriages. I’m not ruling our morality, but he should become aware of these forces, even unjust legal and police forces (with the pun intended) that require good government to correct. Those forces will even cause more social havoc, if government is merely presented as the problem and not as part of the solution.
New York Times Op-Ed page (May 7, 2012, page A21)
 Reinhold Niebuhr, The Nature and Destiny of Man, Vol. II, (New York: Charles Scribner and Sons, 1943), page 192.
 This was a brother-in-law of mine, who opened overseas factories for the mother company here in the U.S.A.
A SCHOLARDARITY DOCUMENT
In Four Parts
- Luther and the Peasants War 2. Luther and the Niebuhr Brothers
3. Apologists for Luther’s Theology and the Two Kingdom Theory
4. Luther and the Great German Peasants’ War: a Little Known Story
(a continuation of sections recovered from 5 ¼ in. floppy disks)
Luther and the Niebuhr Brothers
April 15, 1990
by Peter D.S. Krey
We will look in vain for a monograph by the Niebuhr brothers specifically on the Peasants War of 1525 in Luther’s Germany. But Reinhold and H. Richard Niebuhr certainly refer to and have reactions to Luther’s relationship with the peasant uprisings, as well as to Luther’s theory of the two Kingdoms, in so far as they deal with them. This essay alternates between the history in the horizon of Luther’s contemporaries, and the historical vantage‑point from our time, looking back at the actors in this Sixteenth Century theater of history from consequential historical experience and additional reflection. This is naturally unfair to them because of the historical limitations of the people we study in the past. We have our own historical limitations, however, and we find that some historical figures were very great and the grandeur of their historical impact exceeds that of some of the great figures of our day. But from our own limited life and thought, which is so different, a hopefully fresh perspective becomes possible.
Already at the beginning Reinhold Niebuhr’s sharp criticism of Luther against the peasants in his Nature and Destiny of Man was mentioned. [In a previous chapter of this work.] But Reinhold had concerned himself with these same issues in Moral Man and Immoral Society as well as returning to them and analyzing them again in The Structure of Nations and Empires. (He may have done more in other works that I have not read.) H. Richard Niebuhr spends some time with Luther in his section of Christ and Culture devoted to the paradoxical model. Before this he dealt with him in The Social Sources of Denominationalism and The Kingdom of God in America. In Christ and Culture, H. Richard recognized the large contribution which the Christian dualist made in reinvigorating both Christianity and culture by the dynamic action that the tension has set free. H. Richard appreciates the contribution of Christian dualists, but records two major criticisms: Sometimes their dualism tends to lead to antinomianism and cultural conservatism. The latter characterization was naturally devastating in 1951. The relativizing of rules and laws has doubtless led some to cast aside all rules for civilized living. “They have claimed Luther or Paul as authority for the contention that it makes no difference whether men are sinfully obedient or sinfully disobedient to the law, whether they are obedient or disobedient to sinful law, whether they sinfully seek truth or live as sinful skeptics, whether they are self‑righteously moral or self‑indulgently amoral.”
Dialectics can be pretty slippery. H. Richard maintains that the dualist needs the other kinds of Christians as a corrective, as much as the cannon chose to include the Gospel of Matthew and the Letter of James along with St. Paul.
The conservatism of the dualists comes about because of the tendency to think of “law, state and other institutions as restraining forces, as dikes against sin, preventers of anarchy, rather than positive agencies through which men in social union render positive service to neighbors advancing toward true life.”
A tendency in Luther and Paul exists to relate temporality and finiteness to sin in such a degree as to move creation and fall into very close proximity, which does less than justice to the creative work of God.
For Luther the wrath of God is not only against sin but the whole temporal world. “Dying to self and rising with Christ are doubtlessly more important; but self‑centeredness and finiteness belong so closely together that spiritual transformation cannot be expected this side of death.”
Everything on this side is transitory and dying and however important cultural duties, Christian life is not in them.
Luther can be said to have disparaged the material reasons for the peasant unrest unjustly. I believe Luther just did not have the social and political language to be able to help the parties in the conflict to relativize their claims and demands in order to be able to negotiate. In the face of the criticism above, that Luther neglected the society and compartmentalized himself in the religious institution alone, we have to say yes and no. The fact is that somehow the whole structure of the medieval world was shaking, as if what brought a rift into the surface of the society was an earthquake, which came from far below, from the “nominalist” depths. Because Luther turned to a particularistic existentialism, the whole could be vacated, the system scrapped, the individual could be abstracted out, and actually the whole of Europe could get carved up into smaller national compartments, as well as more tightly sealed social compartments that progressed from the estates to classes.
It is possible for a theology to function like psychologism, where the external conditions are considered unreal. Luther did not go that far, but considered them unimportant, because they are proximate and not ultimate, to use Reinhold’s terms. It is possible for a philosophy to function as a sociologism where internal features are considered unreal. This is the case with Marxism, which relegates the whole Reformation to shadowy superstitious epiphenomena, and reinterprets the whole story as a early‑ bourgeois revolution with Thomas Müntzer replacing the historical Luther in significance. What is the person to the Marxist but an inner ensemble of social conditions? No psychological space is granted by the one, nor any social ground by the other. And while asking questions concerning Marxism: “What is a heresy but the revenge for a forgotten truth?” That was to bring wholeness and soundness into social space. Perhaps it was the great medieval synthesis that brought the Lutheran revolt for Hebrew particularism and existentialism.
H. Richard describes the conservatism of Luther to be one that delimited the earthly kingdom’s function alone to restrain evil, while such scholars as H. Bornkamm, G. W. Forell and K. Holl disagree. Reinhold, however, explores H. Richard’s view of Luther’s conservatism farther. Luther, according to Reinhold left discriminate justice out of his two kingdom theory, which he developed from Augustine’s two cities. Reinhold also argues that Luther did not consider the ambiguity of reason to be able to build and destroy, nor finally the rational balancing of opposing social forces. Thus Luther saw only destruction and anarchy in the peasants, missing the justice, the more democratic social project, e.g., the bid for peasant councils. He sees justice only in the Princes, whom he later determined to be bloodhounds, as he later called them. In their orgy of violence he could only see the reestablishment of necessary order. On the other hand, if Thomas Müntzer had not been a mere preacher who thought he was a general, and had really known how to fight, say in some pitched battle on soft turf, where mounted troops would have been useless, and had outflanked the princes and won, there would have been five regional peasant uprisings that would have had to struggle for supremacy, like the already established electors. And who knows how many of the “ungodly” Müntzer would have purged until he thought only the Godly were at hand for the kingdom? But this is mere conjecture. [He spoke about purging the ungodly, but he himself was really purged along with about 80,000 peasants.] Let us also attempt to think with the conceptual sophistication of the Niebuhrs.
In his book, The Social Sources of Denominationalism, H. Richard is very hard on Luther. He asserts that the Reformation failed to meet the religious needs of the peasants and other disenfranchised groups of the day.
It remained the religion of the middle classes and the nobility. Here it is obvious that H. Richard does not subscribe to the two kingdom theory. “Honestly and naively the peasants of Germany had believed that Luther’s appeal to the New Testament was an appeal not to Pauline theology alone but to the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount as well.”
Here he also asserts that the peasants discovered that “the priesthood of all believers, ” meant deliverance neither from the abstruseness of dogma, nor from the formality of sacramentalism, nor from the inequalities of political and economic ethics. Luther had a dual standard of Old Testament precepts for the rulers and Christian New Testament self‑ sacrificing meekness for the peasants, their economic underlings. He places the peasants under the requirements of the Sermon on the Mount, and gives the rulers the leeway of the most cynical real‑politic…The latter words that belong to Reinhold, capture H. Richard’s meaning well. They lambast Luther’s pamphlet, “Against the Thieving Hordes of Peasants” ‑ a production which has well been called a `disgrace to literature, to say nothing of religion.'”
H. Richard thought the dualism of former Catholic social ethics was superior to Luther’s, because at least it favored a spiritual rather than primarily a political and economic aristocracy, which used the guide‑line: “The ass will have blows and the people will be ruled by force.”
H. Richard does not have conceptual clarity here. What is the Reformation if the political and ecclesiastic institutions were not being redefined in order to properly fulfill the functions they were called to. Looking at the predicament from the standpoint of social class, makes H. Richard take this view. Heinrich Bornkamm depicts Luther’s Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms in a very abstruse and complex way. But by and large it is not so complex when it is understood. When H. Richard attacks the formality of sacramentalism, then he does not realize that the sacrament can be shared informally as well. The very harsh judgment against Luther is noticed and comes up time and again. The poor need a religion of emotional fervor and social Reconstruction, which Luther and Calvin did not offer.
Later in the same book, H. Richard explains that many different groups rallied around the banner of Luther’s revolt against the medieval church: Protestants with purely religious interests against the secularized church, peasants and proletarians for long sought realizations of their hopes, humanists against the irrationalism of superstition, the knights for national and provincial interests, and bourgeoisie who wanted to establish their interests against the aristocracy and hierarchy. These movements were excluded from the Reformation, while the middle‑class was taken up in Calvinism and the nobility was given sanctuary in Lutheranism, and the poor were sent empty away to find another home for their faith.
Against this kind of a social argument, F. Lau shows that the popular movement of Lutheranism among the lower classes was not stopped by the Peasants’ War, because it continued in North German cities from 1526‑1532. (See below.) In the Count’s War in Denmark 1533‑1536, on the other hand, there is the argument that the peasantry, bourgeoisie, and Catholicism supporting Christian II fought Lutheranism and the nobility and the duke, who became Christian III. (The former argument, then, contradicts the class‑specificity of Lutheranism, and the latter seems to support it.)
It is difficult to accept the fact that the violence on the part of the peasants was so roundly condemned by Luther, but the “legitimated” violence so roundly accepted. The violence of the “protestant inquisition” against the religion of the poor, that of the “Anabaptists,” was not questioned very much either. When the Swabian League authorized continued punitive “police action” against peasant leaders who may have escaped, years after the end of hostilities, if Anabaptists were discovered, they were also executed forthwith.
There is no doubt that studying Ernst Troeltsch adds a social sensitivity and perception that Luther did not have. Could it be, however, that false modern political expectations are imposed on Luther? It is also unfair to characterize Luther’s position against the peasants as a cold political calculation (to sacrifice them to save his Reformation and the Gospel), as much as it is unfair to consider it an unconscious class prejudice against the lowest estate of the day. Luther certainly shared the interests of Frederick the Wise, Duke John and John Frederick. The chasm between the estates of the day was very difficult to cross. But other ingredients explaining his position are more real.
In Christ and Culture H. Richard takes philosophical and theological umbrage with Luther, i.e. in his dualism and total depravity doctrine moving the Fall too close to the Creation, almost placing its goodness in question. In The Social Sources of Denominationalism, he takes social umbrage with Luther ‑ from the point of view of caste and outcasts. Does caste have to be an indelible external reality, unchangeable and to be accepted? Luther used a term for the office of the minister which undermined the ontological distinction between a clergy and layperson and made the distinction merely functional. G. H. Meade uses this same concept when he searches for the possibility of an ideal society in his book, On Social Psychology. “The development of the democratic community implies the removal of castes as essential to the personality of the individual; the individual is not to be what he is in his specific caste or group as against other groups, but his distinctions are to be distinctions of functional difference which put him in relationship with others instead of separating him.”
Again what Luther could apply to the relationship of lay and clergy, he could not extrapolate for the “ontological distinctions” between the estates. He states in opposition to the third of the Peasants’ Twelve Articles: “It happens that this article wishes to make all people equal, and of the spiritual kingdom of Christ a worldly, external kingdom, which is impossible. Because a worldly kingdom cannot endure, where there is no inequality in persons, where some are free and others imprisoned, some Lords and others subservient, etc.”
The priesthood of all believers still goes farther than Luther could understand and go along with. His theological insight penetrated much farther than his social imagination. G. H. Meade actually refers to the medieval world and its estates in his analysis, which I just quoted, and shows how slaves pass over into serfs, peasants, artisans, citizens and in all stages there are increased relations….
Here particularism on Luther’s part may well be an underlying factor, and a social universalism, democratization, i.e. a greater “catholicism” was required.
From H. Richard’s The Kingdom of God in America, it is possible to list the following criticisms of Luther:
1/ Luther staked everything on the freedom of the Word of God ‑ which the more skeptical will regard as too great a trust in the Word alone to sway princes, ecclesiastics, and rulers of economic life.
2/ Luther seemed to hold that God’s sovereignty over so‑called “natural things” was not as seriously impaired as in the realm of the spirit and thus the actual civil law and institutions truly represented the natural law.
3/ He regarded all “outward” things with monastic or pietistic indifference (as already mentioned).
4/ Only God can rule the human spirit and only the spirit is really important.
5/ The freedom of the Word is the most important and and it is all right to yield to political and economic forces in what seem to be purely temporal matters. And if only the Word is unshackled it will convert rulers and the rich and so produce paternal, loving, reasonable rule on earth.
For these points it is good to look into Luther’s famous Eight Invocavit Sermons through which he calmed and put down the rampage of the iconoclasts in Wittenberg after his hasty return from the Wartburg. The necessary changes for the Reformation could proceed by God’s Word alone and not by human hand or force of arms.
On the other hand, Zwingli interestingly enough, applies economic sanctions on the Catholic Forest cantons, which refused to allow reformed pastors into their congregations. The armies from these cantons attacked Zwingli in retaliation and in the second battle, Zwingli lost his life. Zwingli had seen the outnumbered and divided Swiss mercenaries get massacred far away from home in the bloody senseless battles of Novara and Marignano in 1513 and 1515. In his revulsion against this system, he had attacked the practice of the Swiss of sending the farm hands (Landsknechte) out as mercenaries where there was not sufficient income from the farms for their upkeep. He needed soldiers when the Catholic cantons attacked and defeated and killed him. He also had needed the alliance with Philip of Hesse, which of course did not come about because of Luther and his inability to agree on the doctrine of Holy Communion. (Note the consequence attached to their agreement.) Luther’s agenda for the Reformation was faith in the Word of God alone rather than the pressure of sanctions, let alone possible coercion. Here the two kingdom theory again plays a role. Using such means could be a rational approach for the secular government, but, according to Luther they should not be used for spiritual goals. They are a rational means for some political goals, but they should not be used as theological means by the church, which is based on the Gospel and persuasion.
The question can be asked: Would the repeal of Apartheid legislation not also include spiritual goals? Today with Nelson Mandela freed in South Africa, it seems the economic sanctions really brought progress in social justice there. Churches as well as governments participated. Where is here the Word alone? Karl Marx asserted that an “idea always disgraced itself insofar as it differed from an interest,”  – that an idea only if supported by an interest started a movement. His position comes from a materialistic view, naturally. Perhaps it is good to go to the power of the Word alone for the matters of the spirit, because does not the spirit determine human actions? The flesh is weak. That certainly means the spirit is weak, even though it may be willing. (Mat. 26:41)
Luther certainly meant that the Word, the Gospel influences those people who have opened themselves to it, and through His Word, God works making changes that the godless cannot hinder. Do we go over into materialism too much today, and perhaps weigh down and make ineffectual the spirit? This can be considered in relation with Luther’s dictum: “For the Word of God comes, whenever it comes, to change and renew the world.”  Now does that necessarily mean the word alone? It also means God acting in history to bring it to pass. That means God’s interest, and certainly those who adhere to God’s will. In this way the interest is also carried, and what’s more a congregation, a church community carries the Gospel. To pick up a social class that carries the idea and makes it a movement is only a step farther from saying an idea needs an interest to give it the power to become a movement.
H. Richard shows that churches have become class specific and carry the interests of their class. The Gospel, the Word of God, needs to be pure and confront human interests with God’s will. In the concept of the Word alone is implicit trust and faith in God, and God acting. Because a Thomas Müntzer turns to violence, i.e. the use of force, Luther exclaims that Müntzer has experienced a shipwreck in his faith.
Perhaps, then sanctions, coercion, and represented interests do play a role in secular, rational political considerations, but they are not so effectual as the Word alone, where God is acting. And with that it seems that real change and permanent social improvement can rely on this spiritual power more. Luther could have led actions against the monasteries and forced the nuns and monks out. With the Word he convinced them, and in their hearts they agreed that the perfection, which they sought, was not possible in such an isolated group; they then left the monasteries of their own accord. Marx would argue that only because the Word was congruent with their interests did the Word have power to move them. Not so. Persons can be convinced of the truth even when it goes against their own interests: witness how many Communists pressed by Stalin almost agreed and became resigned to their own being purged for the sake of their value of the revolution. Or in the Peasants’ War look at the idealist Florian Geyer, who was very rich and stood to gain nothing from his joining the peasants, and indeed lost everything, even his own life, because he did. When getting into the soul and religion the materialist conceptions play havoc with inner integrity (Mat.10:30.), but when looking at large social groupings, the materialistic considerations seem so much more to come into the foreground.
Reinhold Niebuhr reflected on working out an adequate political ethic in a more focused way than his brother. Following Luther, I believe that Reinhold was also a dualist and rooted squarely in the paradoxical model. As much as he criticized the two kingdom theory, he was perhaps convinced by a more sophisticated version of it. We begin with his in-depth analysis of Luther’s stance on the peasants in 1525 in The Nature and Destiny of Man Vol. II, already alluded to above. His critique of Luther extends to Calvin as well, even to the entire contribution of the Reformation, which however has a more important place in the history of Christian thought and life than we realize.
That Reinhold’s critique is harsh will become obvious: “The Lutheran Reformation was betrayed meanwhile into the hands of social reaction.“
Perhaps he also looks at Luther through the lens of this particular historical issue: namely the failure in social justice for the peasants. He does show a sincere appreciation for Luther’s psychological understanding of love. But Luther interprets the power of righteousness psychologically.
He finds quietistic tendencies in Luther, however, in spite of the great merits of Luther’s rich analysis of faith and love. Luther sometimes lapses into the mystic doctrines of passivity or combines quietism with a legalistic conception of the imputation of righteousness. “Without works” degenerates into “without action.”
(Below it will be shown how these arguments do not grasp and comprehend Luther’s very self‑conscious, in‑depth theology, that penetrated realities in faith deeper than his critics. Note that by dint of his existentialistic theology Luther sometimes chooses to be quietistic.) Actually Luther teaches that the justification of faith is the release of the soul into action and not the encouragement for indolence.
Also in the barren Lutheran orthodoxy of the seventeenth‑century, “justification by faith” degenerated into “righteousness of belief” becoming destructive of the moral content of the Christian life, while the moral content has some warrant in Luther’s own thought.
Luther’s greatest weakness, for Reinhold, is his analysis of grace in its relation with the law. The problem does not arise in the idea of justification, but in sanctification. Luther’s vision of love, joy and peace which the redeemed soul enjoys in Christ is an ecstatic transcendence over all the contradictions in history, the inner contradictions of the “ought,” the sense of moral obligation, obligation to the law and therefore all the careful discriminations of justice, which belong to “law” in the broadest sense.
This leads to a highly personal and interior sanctification. Where H. Richard says Luther thinks of the state in purely negative terms, to restrain evil, Reinhold sees Luther having solely a negative view of the law. But Reinhold feels that “There is a constantly increasing sense of social obligation which is an integral part of the life of grace.”
This conception of Luther’s relation of grace with the law need not lead to antinomianism, but to an indifference to relative moral discriminations. From utter seriousness for the ultimate, the proximate does not receive sufficient concern for all the intermediate points, all the approximations of justice. In other words a defeatism comes about in which the understanding of the ultimate problem in historical existence precludes any understanding of all the proximate problems.
Reinhold shows that there are an infinite variety of structures and systems in which people seek to organize their common life in terms of some kind of justice. And higher approximations of justice are possible. All these mechanisms help people fulfill their obligations to their neighbors beyond the possibilities offered in direct personal relationships.
These mechanisms can be positive ways that people help each other beyond direct personal, individual relationships, and therefore they are not only negative restraints. With conviction, he states: “The Kingdom of God and the demands of perfect love are therefore relevant to every political system and impinge upon every social situation in which the self seeks to come to terms with the claims of other life.”
By this statement Reinhold seems to have a different approach to the two kingdom theory. He tries to spell out how the society is impinged, namely beyond the individual. But even Reinhold envisions kingdom of God beyond history and it remains an aspiration for or judgment upon any standing order. Perhaps his statement: “This is another instance in which the sectarian conception of the relation of the gospel to social problems is right and the Reformation is wrong.”
Reinhold requires a different approach from the two kingdom theory. According to Luther, because of this theory, the law relates to social problems and not the Gospel, except indirectly through individuals. (See Forell below.)
Reinhold does not say how to accomplish the requirements of love through the state where human outreach has to extend beyond directly personal relationships. He may see the Kingdom of God and perfect love as constant correctives, which are goals that always remain unattainable yet have to be striven for. It is to the realm of the state that Luther relegates secular reason, justice, negotiation, and compromise in temporal affairs. Reinhold may feel that for the sake of discriminate justice, the proximate realm also requires religious motivation. He later argues, however, that the distinction between the secular and religious realms remains the most creative in the history of western culture.
Perhaps given the case of the peasants war, Reinhold feels that the dualism of the two kingdoms brought about a failure in Luther’s response, but he would not be amiss if he emphasized the teaching of Luther that God works in both kingdoms, the strange work of love in the one and the proper work in the other, and the Christian person is always in both kingdoms having different roles. Perhaps it is possible that the failure of Luther consisted in being schizoid in the Peasants’ War. Because of his fear and despair he may have split the two kingdoms so that only the God of wrath could appear in the world. “Yet God so loved the world so that he gave his only begotten Son,” not for the church, but for the world. Perhaps emphasizing the positive and negative sides of the law and state, Reinhold could also argue that God does his proper work in the worldly kingdom as well.
Here Reinhold argues that Luther erred by placing the emphasis on saved by “faith,” where as it should be saved by “grace.” It is by grace alone, rather than by faith alone, that peace is found; because it is not our acceptance of grace by faith, but grace itself, which is determinative.
According to Reinhold, this made goodness possible also outside the Christian life. That would then puncture the walls of Luther’s two kingdom theory again. Reinhold feels that Luther split the two kingdoms apart so that no creative tension remained for them. He offered a Luther quote from the commentary on Galatians to the effect that the Gospel is placed in heaven and the law on earth. The righteousness of the gospel is heavenly and that of the law is earthly. According to Luther, Gospel and law have to be distinguished like the heaven is from the earth. Faith and conscience should utterly exclude the law, Luther continues, and the law should be left on earth. Contrary to the Gospel, in civil policy obedience to the law is required and nothing should be known of conscience, the Gospel, grace, remission of sins, heavenly righteousness and Christ himself. For civil policy, Moses only with the law and the works of the law are required. With these statements, all the tension is gone and Luther split up the kingdoms in an absolute way, according to Reinhold.
Luther rigorously applied the separation of the “worldly” kingdom from the “spiritual” one for the peasants. He met the demands of the peasants for greater justice with the charge that they confused the two realms. Reinhold states Luther was “complacent” to the social inequalities of feudalism and added a degree of perversity to his social ethic, because he enlarged on the distinction between an “inner” kingdom and an “outer” kingdom, so that in effect he made a distinction between a public and private morality. The rulers were approached as the custodians of public morality and advised to “hit, stab, kill” when dealing with the rebels…Luther had a morbid fear of anarchy and was willing to grant the “Obrigkeit” any means to suppress it. But Luther admonished the peasants as private citizens to live according to the Sermon on the Mount and that their demand for justice violated the ethic of nonresistance. Niebuhr continues that by thus “transposing an “inner” ethic into a private one, and making the “outer” or “earthly” authoritative for the government, Luther achieves a curiously perverse social morality.”
It is worthwhile to continue quoting Reinhold here: “He places a perfectionistic private ethic in juxtaposition to a realistic, not to say cynical, official ethic. He demands that the state maintain order without too scrupulous a regard for justice; yet he asks suffering and nonresistant love of the individual without allowing him to participate in the claims and counter‑claims which constitute the stuff of social justice. The inevitable consequence of such an ethic is to encourage tyranny; for resistance to government is as important as maintenance of government.”
Now to list more criticisms and corrective insights from Reinhold here:
1/ Luther’s pessimism and defeatism in social ethics led to an absolute distinction between the “heavenly” or “spiritual” and “earthly” kingdoms destroying the tension between them and the final demands of God upon the conscience for progressive realizations of the good in history. 2/ When H. Richard took the dualism of Luther to task for leading to possible antinomianism above, Reinhold takes it to task for making any attempt at social justice useless for the same reasons. Why struggle for a more righteous social order when every social order will be tainted by sin, and even an unjust order is sanctified, and therefore consciences can be easy about what is temporal and unimportant because it is not a question of the ultimate. Although social antinomianism is guarded against, there is no obligation for Christians to change social structures. (See Footnote No. 28)
3/ You can’t understand the ultimate, if you don’t diligently pursue the proximate.
4/ Luther develops no consistent criteria for the achievement of relative justice. Any order therefore that happens to be established by a state is uncritically accepted, because a standard of justice is lacking.
5/ The state is not in an order of creation, a directive given from God in the very structure of the created world. And uncritical obedience to such a government, which Luther demanded is not part of the requirement of such an “order”. 
In this last criticism, Reinhold has the spirit and temper of the Germany of 1937 in mind rather than Luther, who modeled incredible courage in civil and ecclesiastic disobedience, except that this peasant uprising seemed to make him forget this part of his life, and he could not muster this feeling, although he could make a stand if Lutherans were asked to turn in their newly translated New Testaments. His ecclesiastic and civil disobedience flared up there again quickly enough. Much can be said about all of Reinhold’s Luther and Reformation criticism. It is valuable and needs to be heard. But there is another side too that needs to be understood in order to be fair to this particular historical period and the tragedy of Luther’s belated reactions to this uprising. We cannot yet go into the problem of the causes of the peasant war. Reinhold is fair in that he does not go into the Luther’s betrayal of the peasants so very much. He takes issue with Luther’s teaching in the pamphlets he wrote. What is very unfair to Luther is the unhistorical way that Reinhold takes Luther to task, leaving out the historical context. He did not do a careful reading of the history here in question, and therefore fell into the trap that Prof. Grane spoke of, making Luther into a villain.
Luther did not present the rulers with a cynical and public, unscrupulous official ethic while admonishing the peasants to a perfectionistic private one from the Sermon on the Mount. His first pamphlet “On the Twelve Articles of the Peasant Estate” almost 30 pages long was written without any judgement or condemnation on them. Luther teaches them about their situation, about their inability to use the Gospel according to his theology, to cover their struggle for material gain and justice. But he bids both the rulers and the peasants to negotiate with detachment, for after all their material situation was not an ultimate concern. He presents both parties in the conflict with advice and admonishment, and is perhaps harder on the peasants than on the Lords, but he has some harsh words for them, too.
Reinhold goes to the second writing, “Against the Murderous and Thieving Hordes of Peasants. Against the Raging (attacking, storming) Peasants” to write the whole title. Here Luther is not delineating any social ethic. And it is wrong and unfair to give the impression that he is. Luther is writing in a completely different historical situation. The peasants have amassed 35,000 men alone in Saxony. They are razing the castles to the ground and are plundering and destroying monasteries. (Luther had not yet left his Augustinian monastery!) It is impossible to determine exactly when Luther wrote this angry seven page pamphlet, but in it he lists the three major offenses of the peasants. He tries to get the ruler of Saxony to mobilize against the oncoming threat. Frederick the Wise feels it would be wrong to attack his own subjects, and feels that they might deserve the ire of the peasants. He withdraws and dies in his castle at Lochau on May 5th, 1525 still maintaining that a peaceful settlement could be negotiated. Now if the moderate peasant leaders, Ulrich Schmid, Sebastion Lotzer and Christoph Schappeler had led the peasant movement in Thuringia and Saxony instead of the violent Thomas Müntzer, then the passivity of Frederick the Wise would have been right, and Luther instigation to stop the peasants wrong. Especially in the Weingarten Treaty that the peasants made with Georg Trucksses, commander of the Swabia League’s army, most of the peasants there demonstrated that they wanted to negotiate and not do battle. But Thomas Müntzer in Thuringia, with Heinrich Pfeiffer, another peasant leader, who was called Schwertfeger, that means, “a sword-sweepser,” certainly wanted to fight and in no uncertain terms. He intended to slay the ungodly. On the eve of the battle of Frankenhausen, he presided over the the beheading of three men. Luther knew Thomas Müntzer. [See the chapter: “The Great German Peasants’ War: a Little Known Story.”]
Below another problem with the publication of the “Hard Little Pamphlet” will be discussed, that explains why Reinhold as well as the offended people of Luther’s day misunderstood and confused the contexts and intentions for which the exhortation to the violence of the rulers was written. Luther had been doing a whirlwind trip through Thuringia at considerable danger to his life, admonishing pastors who were stirring up the peasants in the uprising to calm them and prevent bloodshed. In this trip he must have already seen their real situation, where a wholesale insurrection was afoot. Luther had to break off this campaign because of the news of Frederick’s death. On his return to Wittenberg he must have written this hard book against the rebellious peasants. His protector had just died. The new elector Duke John was as benign and as sensitive as old Frederick. Luther tried to get him moving to see the desperate state of affairs. It can be heard in the funeral sermon he preached for his old protector, who never once gave him a personal audience, never left the old faith, and never allowed his church (Allerheiligenstift) in Wittenberg to give up the mass. 
All interaction with Luther had been through Spalatin, Luther’s friend and Frederick’s advisor at court. Luther in his hard little book admonished the non‑Christian rulers that they could also put down the rebellion as a service to the people. But the Christian rulers he admonished to first pray, because God could be using the peasants to punish the land, and they might all perhaps die. Mind you the peasants at this time are leaving a wake of destruction and have no opposition. The three battles with decisive defeats all come around May 15th. Philip of Hesse, Duke George of Saxony, and Duke Henry of Braunschweig, and the Graf of Mansfield took to the field with about 6,000 troops, but lots of cannon and gunpowder. Duke John was conspicuous by his absence! Later, however, he joined them in the taking of Mühlhausen. Now Luther advised the Christian rulers to pray and repent. He advised them to give the peasants another chance to negotiate. (This is the hard little book!) He explained to the rulers that many peasants had been compelled to join the rebellious ones, and they were in a kind of purgatory not of their own choosing, and they should receive mercy. But then although the rulers were Christian, they had a duty to protect their subjects and they should attack the peasants who were tearing up the country and “smite, stab, slay” knowing that if they died against the heavy odds, they were dying in service of God and could be considered martyrs. This is not a cynical official ethic, but a realistic and always shocking mandate to those who are responsible for the defense of a country to fight the necessary bloody battle.
This pamphlet was certainly written around the time of Frederick’s death, when Luther was returning from the campaign to convince the peasants not to rise up. That the peasants would all fold up and become massacred in two weeks was not known. (Perhaps the fear was like the irrational fear of a slave rebellion among the masters.) That the Pamphlet came out somewhat later because of a printing delay can have also exacerbated and changed the effect of it, because then it would have been interpreted as merciless revenge on defeated peasants. But there is no indication anywhere exactly when the book appears in print, although as early as May 26th, John Ruehel mentions it and the charge that Luther writes about in his letter to Nicholas von Amsdorf dated May 30, 1525.
This means that it was definitely out before Thomas Müntzer’s execution on May 27th and could very well have been out before the Battle of Frankenhausen on May 15th. It would be interesting to discover how long other pamphlets usually took to print, also considering that this one is only 8 pages long. Clearly Reinhold is reacting to Luther without carefully reviewing the history, but reviewing only documents and ideas without their historical context. To be fair to Reinhold, however, the way Luther’s pamphlets were published, put both “The Admonition…” and “Against the Murderous Peasant…” together, giving the false impression that they were written at the same time. But against Reinhold, in the Twelve Article pamphlet, Luther tried to explain his two kingdom theory to the peasants. They were not living in a democracy but a kind of monarchy slightly mitigated and modified as an Empire. The peasants were trying to win more rights, but they were often pressed back into serfdom, especially those who belonged to monasteries and were ruled by prince-abbots. They didn’t have much standing. The burghers were trying to work out a slight increase in their rights in the medieval free cities; the serfs chafed at their low status. If the peasants had won, who is to say that a greater approximation of justice would have been achieved? They would have avoided their own massacre, – of course only until the emperor would have come to avenge the Lords. They might have perpetrated some carnage under Müntzer, if he had gotten to purge the ungodly. Luther’s assessment of the situation was probably more informed and realistic ‑ that the violence would have reaped havoc all over the empire. (Below we will see that G. Franz agrees with Luther that even if the peasants had been successful, they would have soon been crushed even by the rulers from the North, let alone the emperor.) We will have to consider the positive and completely uncontrolled aspects of the peasants war later. The latter were very pronounced, as romantically as we cherish the former. Luther’s first writing to the peasants was begun on a visit to Eisleben on the 20th of April and finally appeared in print on May 9th.
This is quite late and not very effectual for all the action in the other regions of southern Germany, nor very much for the Müntzer actions near Luther, for that matter. But when Luther wrote this work, neither the news of the uprisings already in progress in the South, the bloodbath of Weinberg, nor the murder of Graph Helfenstein by Jaecklein Rohrbach had reached him. Otherwise his pamphlet could never have been written in such an irenic way. Luther is teaching the peasants and is always very wary of their justice issue and their armed uprising becoming confused with his approach to spreading the Reformation. Luther does not at all want to jeopardize the discovery of his Gospel, and may well have considered all the peasants expendable for the many generations of people who would benefit from it among the progeny. Luther may well have considered the long haul ‑ and was also ever wary that the Emperor with Catholic forces would invade and try to erase all advances that had been made in this religious movement ‑ and this of course did happen with the Schmalcald War of 1546‑1547, and again with a vengeance in the Thirty Years War 1618‑1638. If Luther had joined forces with the peasants or the free Knights two years before, it could have provoked a much earlier invasion. Not only Luther’s morbid fear of anarchy should be mentioned perhaps, and considered by Reinhold Niebuhr, because another fear must have taken its toll on the people of the time. (Although never is anything said of this.) There must have been terror in the face of the brutality of the rulers of the day for whoever flouted or thwarted their absolute power over their serfs. They were judge, jury and executioners all rolled into one personage with often times arbitrary judgements pronounced at their whim and will. And they were torturers prone to the most brutal punishments of their victims. This was the age where someone who crossed his Lord could get the penalty of being drawn and quartered by four horses galloping in opposite directions, a hapless victim could be roasted alive, broken on a wheel, tortured in chambers, and if lucky, quickly beheaded, to have their head impaled on a spear or the gate of the city. And not only the rulers practiced this kind of medieval barbarity. Thomas Müntzer threatened Luther, “that gentle flesh in Wittenberg,” with the taunt, that he could smell flesh roasting at Wittenberg, donkey flesh ‑ by which he imparted his purposes to Luther upon his victorious entry into that city. And when Luther heard that Müntzer had been executed, he asked very curiously to have his end described to him in every detail, because he thought that very important. When he heard that Müntzer had been tortured before his beheading, he seemed to be somewhat embarrassed, saying, yes, certainly, the princes must have had to do that…
In Reinhold’s The Structure of Nations and Empires, he not only criticizes Luther, but also shows areas of agreement. Hopefully this analysis will throw more light on what considerations a sophisticated political ethic could have on Luther’s stance in the peasant uprisings. To review his thought here he first criticizes Luther in the context of the general Christian freedom from the social orders. And here is where the self contradiction in human freedom becomes paradoxical because it can be used creatively or destructively, for the sake of others or for subordinating all interests to one’s own aggrandizement.
Because the basic appeal of Christianity seemed to be to the individual, it seemed only negatively relevant to the community, and that is the conclusion Luther came to when he formulated the theory of the two realms. The Christian faith, he goes on to say, is not satisfied with so rigorous an individualistic interpretation, because the gospel also contains a vision of an ideal universal community. The Israel of God is not a natural community, but a redeemed community. The rigor of its universalism and its eschatological character, i.e. the hope of its possibility only at the end of history and not within history, seems to make it critically relevant to the task of organizing either a universal community in history, or any community at all.
“The eschatological character of the vision of a perfect and universal community is consistent in both the Old and the New Testaments.” But the prophetic Kingdom of God does not annul, but transmutes all fragmentary achievements of human history. In another part of his book he again says much the same criticism: in Luther’s theory of the two realms the earthly one is conceived as realm of coercive order in a world of sin, which lacked the concern for discriminate justice the fruit of Aristotelian thought in the Middle Ages. In all this of course it seems Reinhold has not really comprehended Luther’s theology about the natural orders, nor the factor of his decision for quietism, “quietive or motive” (Forell’s terms) in the individual’s response to the natural orders or social orders. Reinhold sees Luther not in his comprehensive theology, but through his lens here of Luther’s reaction to the Peasants War. But to continue the review of his ideas: Luther is more pre‑modern than those political writers such as Marsilius of Padua in his Defensor Pacis 1324 and Dante in De Monarchia because although they too attacked the Papal temporal dominion, they did not react with dualism as Luther did. Dante as opposed to the pessimism of Luther, was a political optimist, who demonstrates the virtue of seeking the proximate happiness attained by the harmony of the historical community and the weakness of setting goals for this community in terms of both perfection and universality which are beyond the capacity of mortal humans to attain, since they are both finite in their perspectives and suffering from that inner contradiction in use of their freedom.
Here Reinhold seems to be agreeing with Luther, because Luther said much the same in his analysis of the millenialists above. However, Reinhold’s political ethic is fashioned to be more resourceful for the sake of justice. Then to continue: the optimistic utopianism of Dante is challenged by the secular realism of a Machiavelli and Hobbes, and the religious realism of a St. Paul and the Reformers. The realists, Reinhold feels, are excessive in their estimate of human egocentricity and oblivious to the fact that human rational values always display both creative and destructive tendencies, building just communities on the one hand and on the other, disturbing the peace by the rationalization of particular interests.
In continuing his commentary in the history in question, it seems that the Peasants’ War was really rising in opposition to the major influences of the Reformation and the Renaissance, because the peasants wanted the old communal autonomy of their villages and the law that had been based on their communal way of life to continue. But Reinhold says: “Both the Reformation and the Renaissance were to explore the private possibilities of the self in its transcendence over the communal situation. The Reformation emphasized the individual character of the relation of the self to the divine; and the impossibility of any human fulfillment bridging the chasm between the fragmentary character of the historical and the divine. The Renaissance was to explore all the individual and cultural possibilities of the self once it was freed of ecclesiastical authority.”
Both these explorations depend upon the radical distinction between the political or communal and the “eternal” or private ends of humanity, which Dante had maintained. Luther also maintained these distinctions to be sure. Reinhold tried to clarify these community and individual issues by showing the paradoxical relation between the self and the community. The community is at once the fulfillment and the frustration of the self. It is the fulfillment in that the self cannot fulfill itself within itself. The self only becomes a true self by engaging its interests and creativity in the community, from which it receives its meaning.
But the individual has the capacity to transcend the community, conceiving ends that transcend the possibilities of history as bound in nature. But the fulfillment of human physical life and historical success must be sacrificed for the attainment of this integrity of the spirit. This is the eternal as distinguished from the temporal end of human existence.
Here the distinction between the proximate and the ultimate also seems to emerge, and the fact that the Reformation could not have been possible, if the Reformers had not taken a radical decision for the ultimate. (See Forell below) Perhaps it helps to reflect here upon the problem that Luther could sacrifice his own material gain, but should not have required the peasants to do so. However, if they were going to move under the banner of the Gospel, and the ultimate, then they would have had to sacrifice the proximate gains like Luther. This does not work very well for an aspiring estate. And the terms “proximate and ultimate” are not sufficient to get at these complex realities. Reinhold goes on to point out that the modern bourgeois culture has always been a compound of the religious appreciation of the incongruous individual, [rising above all social meanings, and communal fulfillment and frustrations,] and the social individualism of commercial classes [whose social mobility, flexible forms of property, and emancipation from traditional vocations, established their dignity.]
Reinhold continues that secondly individual selfhood had to be defined in a situation of self‑contradiction. The Fall, or the golden age compared to the actual age for Stoicism tries to express the verity that the final possibilities of social virtue cannot be realized. (The consequences of “original sin”?) Human beings experience the fact that the capacity of human freedom to transcend a finite situation does not lead inevitably to a more valid or more universal norm of conduct, but can lead, and often does, to the sanctification of the finite and contingent situation as the ultimate one. In every new historical or social situation some individual, class, nation or social force will claim more than its share of goods, and pretend to more dignity than is its right, because it looks at the common situation not from a transcendent and disinterested perspective, but from its own perspective, which it false identifies as the ultimate perspective.
(Precisely Luther’s charge against the peasants!) For this there is some remedy, but ultimately there is no remedy, because every triumph of human culture or of the human mind remains subject to the ambiguity of human existence. Humans are both creatures and creators of history and inevitably they forget their limits. Sophistication, adequate accumulation of knowledge, and a good sociology of knowledge can mitigate this problem, but no force in culture or history can eliminate it.
Reinhold shows Christ to be the key and central figure resolving this paradoxical dilemma of history. “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself” is the assurance which gives authentic Christianity that paradoxical combination of pessimism and optimism which is a perpetual source of creativity, so long as it does not become the symbol of the historical nullification, pessimistic or optimistic, of the original message.
What we have here are the safe‑guards I believe, that Reinhold puts onto his political ethic in order to make it commensurable with the two kingdom theory which he does not hold. Therefore he states: pessimism prevents every eminence in history, cultural or political, from claiming absolute validity. And optimism prevents the drama of history, with all its patches of meaninglessness, from being conceived as a “tale, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Man does participate in two natures. And the Reformation, Reinhold shows, was not very successful in relating religious visions to our collective life.
Reinhold is interpreting Dante here, and shows that he succeeded in distinguishing the two realms of collective and individual destiny, of historical and trans‑historical possibilities, which clerical absolutism had obscured. Then in a statement fraught with a pessimism equal to Luther’s, Reinhold continues that papal absolutism’s inordinacy may prove that the ultimate truths of the Christian faith are acceptable only to the individual, and are almost bound to be misused by collective humans and their majesties.
Just that the grace which Luther ascribes to these individuals, is their faith active in love in the social orders, able to change social structures from within, which is a plenteous redemption that gives more optimism. (Anticipating Forell) Reinhold continues by referring to the very strong anti‑papal reaction which ensued from the popes who had in a realist, not to say cynical way, transmuted the city of God into an instrument of dominion. The Augustinian hope, as well as the purpose of the reformers was to rechange it back into a community of grace. Luther’s two realms are an adaption of Augustine’s, but Luther’s earthly city lacks the expansiveness of Augustine’s. [Contrary to Reinhold’s point of view, relative justice as a balance of forces does not disappear in Luther’s version.] And Luther divides the realms as if one were of believers and the other unbelievers. Again Reinhold charges, what we have quoted many times now: Practically, Luther’s doctrine of the two realms establishes an ethical dualism between public and private, inner and social, morality. In one sphere the ethic of the Sermon on the Mount prevailed, in the other, not justice, but order.
And naturally Reinhold makes this judgment explicitly because of Luther’s stance in the peasant revolts. Luther’s realism was betrayed by the rigor of its anti‑papalism and the virulence of its reaction to the previous political sentimentality, into an irresponsible attitude toward problems of discriminate justice.
As realists the Reformers were all proponents of the parochial community, and the problem of the larger order between parochial communities disappears from their horizon. The world has had to suffer long for the optimism which had an unrealistic approach both to the problems of the world community and toward the justice in the local community. The realists, on the other hand, became the fountain head of an uncritical political absolutism and particularism. The chasm has to be bridged by putting political realism into the service of justice, however defined. So far, my review of the pertinent places in the Anatomy of Nations and Empires by Reinhold Niebuhr.
In responding to the Niebuhrs, it will be necessary to reflect on the two kingdom theory as presented by H. Bornkamm, W. Lazareth, and by G. Forell, the latter presenting the social ethics of Luther. In this it will have to be shown how Luther overcomes:
1/ the dualism so often charged, the breaking of the tension that would assure moral and just actions,
2/ the negative as well as positive dimensions in the earthly kingdom: i.e. not order only, also justice, (interventions of coercion and force only, versus the balance of social forces),
3/ not mere quietism, also active engagement in changing the social structures,
4/ not accepting any social arrangement, but having a standard of justice that makes possible distinctions between lesser and greater approximations of justice. That is a pretty large order. What makes it possible to transcend the autonomies of the different realms of modern life, science, economics, “real politic”. How can Christ be included, if our modern secularization has excluded Him to the incredible extent that called the World War II church to make the Barmen Declaration? Is there a relation between the officers and guards of the World War II extermination camps, who were “good family people” in their private lives, but were able to operate the gas chambers in their public lives (sealing their lives off into separate air‑tight, vacuum‑packed compartments) and the relegation of the peasant cause to the private and the Princes cause to the public? After putting this into so many words, it does seem quite different, but there is one similarity. The social violence that the structures of the day fostered against the peasants comes close to a Sixteenth Century historical atrocity, because it was a so easily, cruelly and arbitrarily legitimated violence. Luther had two roles for sure, one to rally the strange work of God, and the other his proper work. But the two histories, medieval and modern World War II, are unique and individual, and hardly related. It is quite clear that Luther has been Reinhold’s theological mentor to rather large extent: note his explication of the paradox of human, not to say Christian freedom, and his in‑depth cognizance of the paradoxical relation of the self to the community, and the impossibility of a historical elimination of ambiguity or ultimate evil. What Reinhold delivers is a barrage of concepts very helpful in political analysis: proximate, ultimate, conservative, complacent, sentimental, defeatist, realist, optimist, approximations of justice, etc. Naturally when we pleaded Reinhold’s Serenity Prayer above, we had to admit that it begs the question, because the point of controversy here is what could really have been changed and what had to “quietistically” be accepted as that which cannot be changed, and how do we know the difference? In some ways it seems that Luther had a self‑conscious theology and even ethics that stood existentially in faith before God. And the extent of his theological penetration always seems to play havoc with the Niebuhrs’ charges of conservatism and dualism and quietism. If Luther did place the Christian individual into the social orders and charge him/her to live a faith active in love, responding by acting or not acting according to God’s will perceived in faith, then the dualism seems inaccurate, the qietism and conservatism seem to describe anyone, but not the real Luther. But if Luther is looked at from this one particular historical catastrophe, and by his stance in this series of peasant uprisings, then all three of these charges seem to stick. Or do they? And so failing an answer our quest to overcome this theological insecurity continues, because how could such a comprehensive theology of Luther’s fail in this one regard?
Or do we have to look at it from another point of view by asking better questions than we have been capable of up to now? In any case many of the quotes criticizing Luther do not seem to do him justice. Perhaps some of the problem could stem from Luther’s use of dialectics. Above H. Richard criticized Luther for his being able to bring on the danger of antinomianism, and Reinhold felt that slippery dialectics could raise havoc with attempted projects of social justice. There is one place where Reinhold argues that the dialectics of the Reformation were not expansive enough: Reinhold refers to a fact of the history of the Reformation that would suggest that its insights would have to be related to the whole range of human experience more “dialectically” than it had succeeded in doing.
The fact he is referring to is that the Reformation either regarded the problem of justice as insoluble by reason of human sinfulness, or it solved the problem too simply by appeals to presumably transcendent standards of justice supposedly untainted by human sin. But wanting an absolutely secure and safe position, this group from the Reformation had the pretension to be beyond historical ambiguities and contradictions. The Reformation made a polemic against the premature transcendence over history in Catholicism, but was frequently tempted to commit the same error as Catholicism (with different instruments of pretension) as it was to commit the opposite error.
Therefore the Reformation insights must be related to the whole range of human experience more “dialectically”. The “yes” and “no” of its dialectical affirmations: that the Christian is “justus et peccator,” both “sinner and righteous”; that history fulfills and negates the Kingdom of God; that grace is continuous with, and in contradiction to, nature; that Christ is what we ought to be and what we cannot be; that the power of God is in us and against us in judgment and mercy; that all these affirmations which are but varied forms of the central paradox of the relation of the Gospel to history must be applied to the experiences of life from top to bottom. There is no area of life where “grace” does not impinge. There are no complex relations of social justice to which the love of the Kingdom of God is not relevant. And there are no areas or experiences where historical insecurity and anxiety are completely transcended except in principle or momentary ecstasy.
Whether this expansive, comprehensive dialectic avoids the possibility of antinomianism in face of the law and social justice is hard to say. Reinhold seems to be offering another approach to the individual and social problem, a political ethic in place of the two kingdom theory. Whereas the latter is a theological grid, the former is an approach with many concepts fashioned out of political experience in struggle for social justice, and much scholarship, reflection and analysis of political theory and social issues in history. Major Themes in Niebuhrian Luther Criticism To summarize the major themes, then, in Niebuhrian criticism of Luther for our study, themes that our apologists of the two kingdom theory and Luther’s theology will need to answer:
1/ Dualism, the splitting or divorce of the two realms
a/ Breaking the moral tension by over‑intensifying the religious tension.
b/ On a practical level the doctrine of the two kingdoms established an ethical dualism between public and private, between inner and social morality. In the one sphere the perfectionistic ethic of the Sermon on the Mount prevails and in the other order, rather than justice. This was Reinhold’s criticism above.
c/ Other reasons for splitting apart the two realms
2/ Conservatism (or being socially reactionary and quietist)
a/ Monastic indifference to material and economic possessions
b/ Negligence of proximates by almost exclusive concern with ultimates
c/ Defeatism and pessimism leading to complacency for social justice
d/ Realism for the sake of social order, but not for justice
f/ No standards of justice by which to evaluate social structures
g/ Emphasis on reason and pagan resources for earthly realm, but no emphasis on justice
h/ The law and the earthly realm seen only negatively, only restraining and not also aspositive and constructive agents
i/ Earthly realm relegated to unbelievers
j/ Gospel for the individual and only negatively relevant to the community
3/ Perversity of social ethic and double standard
a/ For the rulers a realistic, external, public, official and almost cynical ethic, but a perfectionistic, private and inner ethic for the peasants.
b/ Luther’s stance encouraged tyranny, for resistance to government is as important as maintenance of government.
c/ Luther resisting only for ultimate faith issues, never for material proximate concerns…again:
d/ pessimism ‑ defeatism ‑ conservatism.
4/ Total depravity and the Orders
a/ Creation placed too close to the Fall
b/ in contradiction with actual orders of creation
c/ social orders for practical purposes identified with the natural law, even whatever the social structures happen to be.
d/ Are the orders those of creation or of redemption? Redemption: Christ and the vision of an ideal community, but at the end of, never within history.
5/ Total spiritual and social transformation never expected this side of death and the Parousia (Second Coming) But partial increments in approximations of maturity and justice.
6/ Desertion, exclusion of lower classes
a/ not attempting to relate to their needs
b/ becoming class‑specific as Lutherans.
c/ Priesthood of all believers and abstruse theology,
d/ inequalities of political and social ethics. ( This theme can be related to #3.)
7/ Luther appealed only to St. Paul, when the peasants also expected him to appeal to the Sermon on the Mount in considering their plea for his help.
8/ The Word alone and faith in God’s action or Sentimentality versus realism. Freedom of the Word alone versus institutions, economic and political establishments that will not release power without struggle by means of sanctions, strikes, demonstrations of people power, armed struggle, etc. Today the Word alone sound like ideology of powerful to disempower the oppressed.
9/ Luther’s two kingdom theory as compared with that of St. Augustine a/ deficiency in discriminate justice b/ relegating the believers to one realm and the unbelievers to the other.
10/ Sanctification issue
a/ Grace versus the law.
b/ largely personal and interior, rather than social and external
11/ Appeal of Christianity only to individual or to the community as well?
a/ Vision of the ideal community also in the New Testament.
b/ Paradox of freedom of the self and community
c/contradiction and ambiguity
d/ individual and the Reformation, the Renaissance and the bourgeoisie.
12/ Paradoxical relation of the Gospel and history
a/ The kingdom of God does not annul, but transmutes fragmentary historical achievements
b/ a narrow versus a comprehensive dialectic. These themes could certainly be related and merged some more, but the point is to cover the majority of all the criticism reviewed in the writings of the Niebuhrs in order to be able to have an adequate overview in facing them and meeting them as squarely and as courageously as possible with the scholarship of the apologists for Luther’s theology and the two kingdom theory.
What is a heresy but the revenge for a forgotten truth?
 H. Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture, New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1951, p. 187.
 Ibid., p. 188.
 Ibid., p. 189.
 H. Richard Niebuhr, The Social Sources of Denominationalism, New York: The World Publishing Company, 1929, p. 34.
 Ibid., p. 35.
 Ibid., p. 36.
 Ibid., p. 37‑38.
 Ibid., p. 92.
 Henry S. Lucas, The Renaissance and the Reformation, New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1960, p. 493.
 George Herbert Meade, On Social Psychology, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1934, p. 273.
 Luthers Werke IV, Weimar Ausgabe, p. 284.
 G.H. Meade, op. cit., p. 273.
 H. Richard Niebuhr, The Kingdom of God in America, New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1937, p. 37‑38.
 Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Holy Family, (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975), page 96.
 From Luther’s The Bondage of the Will, LW 33:52.
 Reinhold Niebuhr, The Nature and Destiny of Man, Vol. II, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1943, p. 184.
 Ibid.,p. 180.
 Ibid.,p. 188.
 Ibid. (Lazareth below counters this argument by himself criticizing traditional Lutheranism. He attempts a progressive revisionism of the two kingdom theory which is closer to the real historical Luther’s intention.)
 Ibid., p. 188‑189.
 Ibid., p.190.
 Ibid., p.191.
 Ibid., p.192.
 Ibid.,p.193n. (Social antinomianism, p. 193, is guarded against by the teaching: “Let every man endeavor to do his duty diligently in his calling and help his neighbor to the utmost of his power.”)
 Reinhold Niebuhr, The Structure of Nations and Empires, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1959, p.127.
 Reinhold Niebuhr, The Nature and Destiny of Man, Vol. II, p. 186‑187. Here a note from my brother, Philip Krey: “American theologians usually opt for Augustinian emphasis on grace over Luther’s emphasis on faith.”
 Ibid.,p. 192. Luther has two functions of the law, the theological and the civil. It is the theological function of the law that contains the accusation of the sinner. Reinhold is not presenting Luther fully because he does not include all the distinctions that Luther makes.
 Ibid.,p. 194.
 Gerhard Brendler, Martin Luther ‑ Theologie und Revolution, Cologne: Pahl‑Rugenstein Verlag, 1983, p. 305.
 Luther’s Works Vol. 49, Letters, II, Philadelphia: Fortress Press,1972, p. 113.
 Luthers Werke, IV, p. 409.
 Gerhard Brendler, op.cit. , p. 338. (This insinuation might be unfair, because it was not written in Müntzer’s antagonism in the last days, but probably earlier, in 1524. But T. Müntzer would probably have had Luther executed had he been able to take Saxony and Wittenberg.)
 Margaret A. Currie, trans., The Letters of Martin Luther, London: The MacMillan Company, Ltd., 1908, p. 139. (In his letter to John Ruehel of May 15th, 1925 Luther asserts that it was pitiable to so treat T. Müntzer. “Thanks for news about Müntzer. I should like to hear how he was taken prisoner, and how he behaved, for it is well to know how such haughty spirits act. That the poor creature should be so treated is pitiable. But what can we do? and it is God’s will that fear should be instilled into the people. If this were not done, then Satan would do even more mischief. The one misfortune is preferable to the other. It is the judgment of God. He who takes the sword shall perish by the sword. So it is a consolation that this spirit should be made manifest, to let the peasants see how badly they have acted, and perhaps they may cease plotting and improve. Do not take all this so to heart, for it may be for the good of many souls, who, through fear, may desist.”
 Reinhold Niebuhr, The Structure of Nations and Empires, 1959, op. cit., p. 90.
 Ibid., p. 91.
 Ibid., p. 92 and p.128.
 Ibid., p.132.
 Ibid., p.133.
 Ibid., p.134. (Interesting here is the different way that P. Teilhard de Chardin says the same thing. It is a false alternative to oppose the individual against the group. To contrast unity (element, individual) with plurality (whole, collective) is a false habit of mind. “the coming together of separate elements does nothing to eliminate their differences. On the contrary, it exalts them. In every practical sphere, true union (that is to say, synthesis) does not confound; it differentiates.” In his Future of Man, New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1959, p.53. And again page 302, “Must I again repeat the truth, of universal application, that if it be properly ordered union does not confound, it differentiates?”)
 Reinhold Niebuhr, The Structure of Nations and Empires, 1959, op. cit., p. 134.
 Ibid., p. 134‑135.
 Ibid., p. 135.
 Ibid., p. 136.
 Ibid., p. 137‑138.
 Ibid., p. 138.
 Ibid., p. 141.
 Ibid., p. 143.
 Ibid., p. 144.
 Reinhold Niebuhr, The Nature and Destiny of Man, Vol. II, 1943, op. cit., p. 204.
 Ibid., p. 203.
 Ibid., p. 204.
H. Richard Niebuhr. Christ and Culture. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1951.
———————–. The Kingdom of God in America. New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1937.
———————–. The Social Sources of Denominationalism. New York: The World Publishing Company, 1929.
Reinhold Niebuhr. The Nature and Destiny of Man, Vol. II. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1943.
———————-. The Structure of Nations and Empires. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1959.
Henry S. Lucas. The Renaissance and the Reformation. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1960.
George Herbert Meade. On Social Psychology. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1934.
Martin Luther. D. Martin Luthers Werke, Kritische GesamtausgabeWerke. 61 vols. Weimar, 1983-1993. (WA)
Martin Luther. The Bondage of the Will, (LW) vol. 33, from:
Jaroslav Pelikan and Helmut Lehmann, eds. Luther’s Works. 55 vols. St. Louis and Philadelphia: Concordia and Fortress, 1955-86.
Margaret A. Currie, trans. The Letters of Martin Luther. London: The MacMillan Company, Ltd., 1908.
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. The Holy Family. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1975.
Gerhard Brendler. Martin Luther ‑ Theologie und Revolution. Cologne: Pahl‑Rugenstein Verlag, 1983.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Future of Man. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1959.
A SCHOLARDARITY MANUSCRIPT
MARTIN LUTHER, the PEASANTS’ WAR,
the COMMUNAL REFORMATION, and the 28 ARTICLES OF ERFURT
November 27, 1992
T. A. Brady, Jr.
Submitted by Peter D. S. Krey
History: Peasants and State Building in Central Europe 1300-1800
1. Introduction The task of this paper charted
The communal reformation in a nutshell
2. Section I Biographical background of Luther
during the Peasants’ War
Luther’s abortive Campaign
3. Section II Pre-History of Luther and
the 28 Articles of Erfurt
4. Section III Luther’s response to the articles
Luther’s work with “communal”
election of pastors
Article 6, the eternal council
Community, village, city council,
parishes, and pastoral election
Other articles with responses
5. Section IV Luther explodes in his afterword
Luther against communalism
Luther and social change
Spiritual power and
6. Appendices Luther’s Oculi Sermon
28 Erfurter Articles
MARTIN LUTHER, the PEASANTS’ WAR, the
COMMUNAL REFORMATION, and the 28 ARTICLES OF ERFURT
The Task of this Paper
This paper is an inquiry into Martin Luther’s relationship with the communal reformation, mostly by means of his response to the 28 Erfurter Articles. Peter Blickle’s thesis concerning the communal reformation of the 1520’s achieving a critical mass in the German Peasants’ War of 1525 will be briefly presented. Some biographical information about Luther will give us a window into his mentality during this time, especially his abortive campaign to squelch the uprising. Before looking at the articles themselves and Luther’s response to them, their context in Erfurt will also be described.
Martin Luther’s (1483-1546) controversial stand in the great Peasants’ War of 1524-1525 is well known and has been thoroughly investigated. We certainly know Luther’s well balanced and perceptive pamphlet, “Admonition to Peace on the Twelve Articles of the Peasants of Swabia,” as well as his harsh rejection of the “other” peasants written thereafter in: “Against the Robbing and Murdering Hordes of Peasants.” Not so well known is his “Response to the 28 Articles of the City of Erfurt,” which he wrote in the aftermath of the Peasants’ War. These articles were first sent by that revolutionary council of that city to Luther on May 9, 1525, during the Peasants’ War, for the purpose of review and improvement. After a long delay, Luther sent a hostile and terse reply on September 21, 1525. This reply to the 28 Articles is important, because it gives us a window through which to view Luther and his relationship to what Peter Blickle calls the “communal reformation.”
According to Thomas A. Brady, Jr., the communal theory is one of four interpretations of the Reformation. The early bourgeois revolution, the inheritance of late medieval theological and religious thought, and the origin of confessionalism, are the other three. According to Peter Blickle’s thesis, communalism, as it was already practiced in southwest of Germany, was now advancing into Thuringia – (as indeed it was spreading into many other areas, but the city of Erfurt, which is our concern, is in Thuringia). According to the thesis, this communal reformation reached its critical mass in the Great German Peasants’ War. In a sense, Blickle’s thesis is like the Marxist early bourgeois revolution interpretation of the Reformation, in that it features a political and social movement oriented in the German Peasants’ War, rather than the traditional religious movement that launched the Protestant faith.
Blickle argued that the communal reformation was a historical process in which the “common man,” i.e., the peasants and the burghers, had been gradually gaining some limited self-government after their liege Lords had absented themselves from their feudal manors and had representatives collect rents and fees from their peasants, freemen and serfs. In the absence of their lords, the peasants were able to come together as a community, choose committees of Fours, Sixes, Eights, etc., agree on their laws, and control their lower courts. (At this time the peasants were not yet subjects of a state, as much as members of one of the three feudal legal estates of the medieval order.) They devised strategies to improve their inheritance rights, make grievances, regulate village questions in costomols (Weistumer), coordinate collective use of the commons, forests, baths, etc. Their values were congenial to biblical teachings: common good, neighborly love and the value of an adequate livelihood for each household (Hausnotdurft).
Then in the communal reformation of the 1520’s, culminating in the Peasants’ War, the peasants and the burghers, i.e. the common man, tried to reform their villages, towns and cities by demanding the right to elect and dismiss their own pastors, who were to preach the pure and untarnished word of God for them. They wanted to have the responsibility to take care of their local parishes. They had a vision of building Christian city republics like the one in Zurich, but with peasant parliaments. Their reformation took place in the spirit of Huldrich Zwingli (1484-1531). They rose up in a grass roots movement, because this communal reformation was one from below. When they became militant and revolutionary, they were crushed by the territorial princes in the battles of the Peasants’ War. After they were crushed, their movement was followed by the fateful magisterial reformation controlled by the princes of the territorial state from above.
The question needs to be asked about the nature of Luther’s relationship with the communal reformation in these stormy years of the Reformation. It can come into bold relief by analyzing Luther’s response to the 28 Articles of the city council of Erfurt, prepared by the peasants, burghers, and craftsmen, i.e. the common man, in this arena of the Peasants’ War. It is important to focus on Luther’s responses to the common folk. What demands, petitions, grievances and aims were the peasants and burghers, i.e. the “common man,” addressing to Luther? If their demands fit into what Luther was preaching, why did he fight them? If they did not, then we need ask what the difference was between Luther’s understanding of the movement and that of the common folk. It may be possible then to place the arguments of the common people and Luther’s close enough together to ascertain what is striking about each from a theological point of view.
Biographical Background: Luther and the Peasants‘ War
Martin Luther’s mentality was quite stressed in this period of the second half of the Peasants’ War; that did not, however, reduce his prolific production of commentaries, treatises, pamphlets and books, nor his preaching at the university church, nor even his professorial duties. But after a poignant sermon pleading for an end to the hostilities of the war on Oculi (March 24, 1525), he published a pamphlet entitled, “A Lesson Against the Gangster Spirits and What Position the Worldly Authorities Should Take to Them from the First Epistle of St. Paul to Timothy.” Then Luther preached on Easter, April 16th, while all at the same time in Weingarten, – the Lake Peasant Band, and the Allgäu Peasant Bands were in a stand-off with Georg Truchsess, Freelord of Waldburg, the general of the forces of the Swabian League; and in Weinberg, Jäckeline Rohrbach was about to make eleven members of the nobility run the gauntlet after capturing them. In the terror that followed, many Lords and nobles accepted the 12 Articles of the Peasants of Swabia and swore allegiance to the peasants. The tide was soon to turn, however, and the peasants were massacred mercilessly by their rulers and lords.
Meanwhile Luther, after his Easter sermon, left Wittenberg with Philip Melanchthon for Eisleben, to embark on a preaching campaign to “bring the peasants to their senses.” Luther was not a fearful person. He did not hold up his finger to the wind to see which way it was blowing, to be on the winning side. He took his stand against them when the peasants were winning the day.
Luther had been called by the Count Albrecht of Mansfeld to open a Latin school in Eisleben under the direction of Johannes Agricola. He and Melanchthon finally arrived in Eisleben on April 19th where they stayed until the 20th. Here in the garden of the Chancellor of Mansfeld, Johann Dürr, Luther began to write “Admonition to Peace,” his response to the “12 Articles of the Peasants of Upper Swabia.” From here he made forays into the riot torn areas preaching against the uprising. “You peasants are being mislead by false prophets!” he preached. But his sermons were hissed, and in Nordhausen the peasants sympathizing with Müntzer rang the church bells to drown out his words. About this campaign Luther later states “How (God) had saved him in the recent uprising, where he had to risk injury to his body and endanger his life more than once.”
Luther may well have thought his preaching campaign through Thüringia could produce the same effect as his Eight Invocavit Sermons, which had succeeded in quieting the Wittenberg Disturbances of 1521-1522. But these were not to be compared with the upheaval which now engulfed two thirds of Germany as well as spilling over into other countries of the Empire. In the words of Hans Zeiss, Schosser of Allstedt in a letter to the Elector on May 1st:
Doctor Luther is in Mansfeld lands, but he cannot avert such an uprising nor prevent the people from streaming to it from the lands of Mansfeld. So it goes from Sangerhausen and on top of that from Duke George’s country as well. What will become of it, only God knows.
When the Elector was on his deathbed, he sent for Luther requesting communion in both kinds. Luther, to whom the elector had never given a personal audience, brought his campaign to an abrupt end. But Frederick the Wise died before Luther could get back, assigning Luther the sad chore of preaching two funeral sermons. In Frederick the Wise, not only Luther but also the peasants lost an important friend. Friedrich Weigandt wrote in a letter to Wendel Hippler:
Because Duke Frederick the Wise of Saxony, the Father of all evangelicals, has passed away, with that, I believe, for our part, we have lost a great comfort.
Frederick the Wise had taken no initiatives to suppress the rebellion. In a letter to John the Steadfast he wrote:
If God wishes that the common man should rule, then it will come to pass. But if it is not his divine will, and (the uprising) has not been embarked on to his praise, then everything will soon change.
Luther must have written his harsh pamphlet against the peasants, either just before or a little after the date of Frederick’s death (May 5, 1525). The precise date of this angry outburst is impossible to determine, but because its tone is so close to Luther’s letter to his relative, John Rühel, and the Mansfeld Council of May 4th, it might have been written close to this time. The ominous rejection of him by the peasants must have been fresh in his mind, or perhaps the news of the death of his protector, Frederick the Wise, pressed upon him, as well as his returning to Wittenberg from an abortive campaign. The timing in which his pamphlet was published could not have been worse, because his harsh words came out when the peasants were already defeated and needed mercy.
Before analyzing Luther’s “approval of the 28 Articles of the community, his letter “To the Council at Erfurt,” it would be helpful to have an understanding of the context of the 28 Articles, to describe the course of events leading to the reformation of that city, to which Luther had such a close relationship.
Erfurt, at the time was a troubled city. With 20,000 inhabitants, it was the size of Augsburg and had become about the fifth largest city in the Empire. Not counting Sömmerda, it numbered 83 villages in its territory. 1509 was for Erfurt the “year of madness.” Luther was a monk, a young priest, 26 years old, studying and teaching at its university. Most likely, during all the trouble, he set out for Rome on a mission for his Erfurt Augustinian monastery (1510-1511). In the city an uprising of the burghers had just taken place to protest what they considered the mismanagement of the city council. Then in the same year, 1509, the city plunged into a seven year war with Saxony. The council of Erfurt played off Saxony against Mainz, to whose spiritual/temporal territory Erfurt belonged. Erfurt was striving to become a city immediately under the emperor. The uprising of the burghers took place when a debt of 600,000 florins came to light. The burghers blamed it on the mismanagement of the council. The city, unable to keep up even with its interest payments, became bankrupt. They owed most of their debt to the clerical estate of Mainz. An internecine conflict between the faction that was influenced by the ecclesiastical holdings of Mainz struggled with that of Saxony, and the city went down in chaos, until the faction that adhered to the Mainz grew strong enough to restore order. But this city, which had been so prosperous, now waned steadily. In 1523 1,000 houses lay empty in the city.
If Luther experienced this dreadful revolution in Erfurt, it may well have had a very negative impact upon him, making him react against all revolutions thereafter: the Wittenberg Disturbances, the Rebellion of the Knights under von Sickingen, and of course for our purposes, it may help to explain his vehement stand against the Peasants’ War.
In April 1521, en route to the Diet of Worms, Luther stopped in Erfurt, where he was welcomed formally by the council and fêted by the university. Attempts by the clergy to discipline Luther’s supporters provoked students and craftsmen to participate in a Pfaffenstorm, a “Parson’s Storm”, in which they plundered and destroyed the homes of the priests of the city. The city council with an eye to the church’s wealth and cognizant of their great indebtedness, stood idly by and did not intervene. Luther, absorbed in the drama at Wormes, and plucked away suddenly immediately thereafter, was informed about the disturbances in Erfurt, which followed his short visit. Luther was distraught and very critical of them. It showed that “we are not yet worthy before God to be servants of the Word.”
Two years later in 1523, Luther admonished the council to proceed slowly, but his advice seems to have had the opposite effect. Unauthorized preachers were soon active in and around the city bringing talk of refusing to pay tithes and of the Gospel releasing subjects from obedience to their magistrates. In June 1523 outbreaks of violence took place in town and country. When village parsonages were stormed, there were several deaths. In 1524, the council expelled Simon Hoffmann, a fiery spirit who later joined with Müntzer.
The Lutherans monopolized the churches by the aid of the powerful Lutheran councilman, Adolar Huttener, who succeeded in closing those churches in which the mass was still held. The monasteries emptied, and the pastors began to marry.
The city had already lost its luster, and the university was no longer a popular place to study. Then the Peasants’ War broke out and 4,000 Thüringian peasants besieged the gates of the city. After having carefully inventoried the wealth of the monasteries, stashing it into their “protection” and promising to guard the monasteries from the peasants, the city council nonetheless opened the gates to the peasants, having convinced them that they had a common enemy in the faction that adhered to the spiritual jurisdiction of Mainz. They allowed the peasants to destroy the monasteries and all the buildings and property that belonged to the jurisdiction of Mainz. The city council, however, had underestimated the power of the peasants. They toppled the council and established an “eternal council” – according to Thomas Brady, the German term, “eternal council,” has no religious or apocalyptic significance, – but it was so named because it met continuously or perhaps, the members had life-long terms. The peasants, craftsmen, and burghers made common cause, having deposed the old council, the committees of the community met in the Erfurt city hall, while those of the peasants met in the Petersberg. Both committees thrashed out their demands, and the 28 Articles represent their final draft, which they presented to the reassembled council, which they now named the “eternal council” of the city. The council members bound themselves by oath to these articles in the presence of the revolutionary peasants. On May 9th, Luther and Melanchthon were invited to evaluate and approve the articles, which however, left out peasant concerns. The latter articles concerned such items as labor dues (Fronen) and the sheep farms of the nobility. The articles included represented the commercial interests of the burghers. Both theologians refused to accept the invitation. After the Battle of Frankenhausen on May 15th, the eternal council was again deposed and the old council reinstated.
The council, however, had been devious and that not only by directing the peasants to destroy the customs house and other official buildings of their creditors. It had led the common people to believe it had really changed the city’s seal to the one the peasants had given it: the image of the risen Christ seated on a rainbow with the inscription: “Judge justly, Sons of Men, lest ye be judged.” But the council was “pursuing a policy of cynical deception.” They still sent the old seal of the honorable council on their letters to the elector. And when the tide turned against the peasants, they broke all agreements which they had made.
Luther still had the 28 Articles of the city of Erfurt on his desk four months later, when he finally answered them with a good measure of ridicule, and, for the most part, he made only glosses in the margins. He probably considered them unworthy of a reply. It is peculiar that he should have still answered them or that they would have still wanted an approval for such articles. Luther was hostile. It galled him to think that he needed to take this “eternal council” seriously. In fact overturned, deposed and reinstated, the devious city council of Erfurt was still composed of many of the same members.
The most important articles among the 28 had been raised by the peasants in the last minute. They wanted an “eternal council,” which should give an annual accounting and report to the representatives of the city districts, and the craftsmen of the community. (Article 6) New fees and taxes should not be levied without the knowledge and consent of the whole community and country folk. (Article 21) No peasant or burgher was to be arrested, except in the case of a capital crime (Leib und Leben). (Article 18) Interest payments were nullified (Articles 2 and 3). The 12 Articles were included only in the elections of the pastors (Article 1) and the right to the common use of the meadows again (Alemende)(Article 28). Actually, the articles show that the guilds had lost their power, and the non-guild craftsmen had come to power. These articles did not feature the demands of the peasants, because around Erfurt, the peasants were rather well off.
Luther’s “approval” of the Erfurter Articles is really filled with ridicule and amounts to a hostile denunciation of this kind of a constitution for a council. His, September 21, 1525, terse and harsh response to the 28 Articles of the “Eternal Council” of the city of Erfurt, provides sufficient evidence.
In Article 1, on the election of pastors by the community, Luther answers briefly:
The council should have the ultimate authority to know, who holds the offices in the city.
If Luther’s response here means that other magistrates in the city are responsible for election of the pastors, then he is a rejecting what he himself established biblically in what is called his “Leisnig Pamphlet.” There he supports the Leisnig community for it to elect its own pastor. What should be investigated, however, is if the community had one parish or was Leisnig like Erfurt, a city council, with a great many parishes, which would make a difference in Luther’s decision.
In order to check whether or not Luther is being inconsistent in his response to the Erfurter articles, it is necessary to understand that the term “community” had various meanings and there were differences between city communities and those of the town and country. In 1522-1523 Luther took one position when he was struggling to place the first evangelical pastors into various communities, whose number of parishes in relation to the city community, we do not know. He faced a very different political situation, however, leading up to and after the Peasants’ War late in 1525.
There is also an ambiguity in the German word, “Gemeinde.” It can mean the political community or the worshiping congregation, the parish. But it would be a mistake to interpret Luther’s meaning in his tract (for the Leisnig community in 1523) in the latter sense. His use of both words “assembly” (Versammelung) and “community” (Gemeinde) seems to cover both meanings. Blickle points out that in every case the political community was involved in this choice of pastor and furthered the reformation, even if reforms might have begun in the parish because of the evangelical preaching, which in turn, then brought about the wish to choose or replace parish priests. Blickle also notes that for the peasants no distinction could be made between the political community and religious parish, because, for example, in the Twelve Articles, it was the same entire community which demanded the right to elect the pastor, and reclaim the forests.
Franziska Conrad makes an important distinction between the southwestern German city and village communities that is not only relevant to the election of pastors, but also presents a complication that the burghers faced within their community and that the peasants faced only outside of their community. “When the peasants rose up,” she states, “they did not confront – as in the city – the authorities within their association, but the village lords who threatened the autonomy of the community from the outside.” The bid of the peasants to choose their own pastor in a village was up against the right of the Lord to do so, while the city community already chose its own magistrates, and now the parishes of the city wanted to choose their pastors. Luther made the point that a city council also needed a voice in the election of pastors in the various parishes of the city. A conflict could exist between the city council of the whole commune and the many communities or parishes in it.
The assertion that the community had the right to elect the pastor was not a clear statement. Parishes in the city could conflict with the city council over pastoral elections, especially in a city like Erfurt, where the politics of the council first forced Lutheran elections, then because of the fear of reprisal and loss of independence, retreated to a neutral position. But “community” could also mean the city council representing the community, or a parish or congregation trying to elect a pastor for itself in opposition to a monastery, a city council, a bishop, lord, or prince, who had the right of patronage, i.e., had the right for the election.
Gert Haendler relates how Luther helped a community represented by the city council, whose population had become evangelical, to elect its own pastor despite the catholic provost who had patronage and wanted to designate his own candidate. That was in April, 1522. Again on July 29th in the same year, Luther became concerned with the election of an evangelical pastor by St. Michael’s Church in Erfurt. Luther takes the position that the ruling prince ought not oppose the choice of the congregation. For Leisnig, the community for which Luther had written his important pamphlet, Luther supports their election of a pastor against a monastery which had the right of patronage. In August 1524, Luther battled with Karlstadt over his call and election to the pastorate in Orlamünde. Karlstadt had left Wittenberg, had driven out the officiating pastor, and had himself elected by this congregation. Luther, worried by Karlstadt’s peasant garb, radical stance, and his agitation for an iconoclastic campaign, opposed his election by the community. Luther feared another disturbance:
one can see very well that when God orders the congregation to do something, and names the people, he does not want it done by the mob (Pöbel) without the authorities, but by the authorities (Obrigkeit) with the people, so that the dog does not learn to eat leather to escape his leash – that is, use [the destruction of] images to become accustomed to rebelling against the authorities as well.
Luther considered an image-breaking binge no work of righteousness, but a riot inspired by the devil. He anticipated as much with Karlstadt, who became involved in the Peasants’ War, as well as having just observed the events in Erfurt. The latter explain his anger at the Erfurt council while responding to their articles. He wrote his response in September 1525, after all the buildings belonging to the jurisdiction of Cardinal Albrecht of Mainz were destroyed. He anticipated that the progression from an iconoclastic riot, went to the pillaging of monasteries, then to the burning castles, and finally to toppling the government.
This frame of reference, this context throws light on Luther’s response to the first article:
But the town council should have ultimate authority over who holds office in the town.
And on his angry words in the afterword:
And is it not seditious that the parishes want to elect and dismiss their own parsons, without the oversight of the council, as if it were no concern of the council, as the authority, what the parsons did in the city?
He certainly changed his position; the context, however, is the aftermath of the great Peasants’ War and the ambiguity remains about the meaning of community for a city, whether it included the will of the council or excluded it. These considerations should also be taken into account.
The first article is also very difficult to unravel.
Luther’s response, therefore, to this article does not represent a blatant contradiction, nor does it show his complete rejection of communalism, which he himself taught in his Leisnig pamphlet a few years before. Although the article seems to reflect Luther’s position accurately, we should take into account, however, the many parishes within the city community itself and the right of the magistrates of the city council representing the community to nominate a pastor. Luther now required the parish to recognize the rights of the city council in the call, election, and dismissal of pastors.
In the second article the townspeople and the peasants are
upset about paying “intolerable” interest on loans, and maintain that they will only pay back the principal without interest. Luther seems to hold them responsible for interest payments as well.
In article four, the commune wants to rule about property like wood and water removed from its land. Luther says not the commune, i.e. community should take charge of this, but the authorities, who should distribute it or sell it for the common good of the city. The council wanted to take the legacies and endowments away from the clergy, but Luther does not permit it. Let the Old Believing clergy enjoy these until they die. If the endowments are free, the council should put them into the common chest. If their original contributors are poor and needy, they should be returned to them. The article had wanted to take these away from the clergy out of hand. Luther is not anti-clerical here, nor will he stand for plundering the church’s wealth.
Luther does appreciate article 23 which wants to search out ways to revive the university. He stands with the authorities and will not allow them to shirk taxes and fees in several articles. Concerning other articles, Luther holds that they lie outside his competence as a theologian, and he therefore leaves them to the council to decide for itself. He had stated the same thing in his response to some of the Twelve Articles in his “Admonition” and reiterates it here. His point is that jurisprudence based on solid reason is more competent than theology in ruling these matters. This is a telling point against clericalism.
Article 6 deserves more attention, because it concerns establishing an eternal council which is to answer to the representatives of the community. In this way it mirrors article 1. Where article 1 expands communalism to the election of pastors, article 6 tries to limit the powers of the city council by communal oversight. That members of the council would be elected is only implied by the article. It reaps Luther’s irony:
If one does not trust the town council, why set one up? Why have one at all?
This article has the word, “vierteln” in it, the way the preface to the article contains “viertel der Stadt.” It can be translated: “city quarters” or “districts of the city.” Erfurt like many cities had two lines crossing through its center, dividing the city into quarters, which can also be called districts. The fact that the peasant committee met in the Petersberg and the burgher committees, in the City Hall, means that revolutionary committees had formed in the villages and city districts of Erfurt. That the craftsmen are also always mentioned seems to indicate that they, too, were represented by a committee. In this revolutionary atmosphere the Fours, Eights, and Twelves seem to have been the committees from the craftsmen, city districts, and villages.
Article 6 requires that the “eternal council give an annual account to its guardians, the districts, and the craftsmen of the community, who are not on the council, as far as this is useful.”
The communal nature of this reconstitution of the council can be seen in a decree that it issued on May 6, 1525:
We, (the eternal council) together with the guardians and delegates of the city districts, craftsmen, and countryside regard as good and unanimously decide that each of our burghers and country folk not withhold or take for their own use (eigen nutz) all or any possessions that belonged to the spiritual estate or the faction of Mainz….”
In this decree, it is obvious that the council is “immature” without the guardianship of the communal organs of representation.
Article 6 states that the council is required to account for itself annually before its guardians acting in behalf of the districts and craftsmen of the community.
Article 7, which is closely associated with article 6, states:
That the present council give account for all expenditures and income.
This article is a very important advance of communalism, because a decree or decision by the eternal council can only be made with the approval of the craftsmen, city districts, and peasants from the countryside. This means that any taxes and fees can be levied only with the knowledge and consent of the common people. The article nearly gives the people the power over financial appropriations, with which they can very effectively control their city government. How important this is for future parliamentarianism goes without saying.
Luther insults the council in response to this article:
Indeed, that the council should not be a council, but that the mob rule everything.
Luther sees the common people trying to gain control over the city council. These common people are burghers, craftsmen, i.e., those in or outside of the guilds, and perhaps country folk and peasants, whom he calls “rabble.” He did not take kindly their attempt to monitor the council and hold it responsible in its expenditures to the people. He could not understand communalism here, nor feel that giving the common people a share and voice in their government was anything more than asking for another riot.
In considering the contrast between articles 1 and 6, it is peculiar that Luther wrote his pamphlet allowing the Christian assembly or community to elect its own pastor, but he could not envision that possibility at all for a community to elect a city council, an eternal council. Was the critical issue that of election?
When the revolutionary peasants entered Erfurt in May, they deposed the old council and drafted these articles. It does not say how the eternal council was filled, whether by election, or the reappointment of the old council, having sworn to effect the 28 Articles. The peasant bands did elect their military captains, and their representation from their communes. But here the election does not play a role so much as the consent of the representatives of the community. Perhaps Luther saw the communal organs as a duplication of the council, and with the real locus of power in the former, and he felt the latter was being transformed into a rubber stamp, despite its being renamed an “eternal council.” This seems to make sense of his criticism in the afterword, where he insists the new council will be powerless, i.e., the cart drawing the horses.
Luther makes a separation between the political community and the church community. In the former he espoused elections, and in the latter he wanted the common people to accept the authority of the magisterial council. The problem or the opportunity for the peasants, depending on one’s point of view, develops because there was no distinction for them between their political and church community. Luther began to make this distinction in his sermons of 1522 and published it in his pamphlet of 1523, “Temporal Authority: To What Extent It Should Be Obeyed,” calling it the theory of the two regiments. But the social identity of the congregation and community for the peasants in the villages and countryside made this distinction completely contradictory to them, and truthfully, also violated their social reality.
To cover some other articles briefly:
In articles 8-10, the burghers seem to want an open market, and Luther tells them they are thereby benefiting only the rich. In article 11, craftsmen outside the guilds are trying to get the right to ply their trade without hindrance by the guilds. Luther feels that this needs to be decided by the council, which he also states for articles 12 and 13. But he criticizes them sharply for their not wanting to pay the house of Saxony protection money. Likewise when they do not want to pay the safe conduct fee to Saxony, Luther states:
Indeed, may God allow us to injure princes and cities, as long as we have our own way!
This last comment is very patriarchal. It is much like a father speaking to a child, the prince to his subjects.
Luther seems to be humorous in 16-17 that the knaves and wenches should no longer be tolerated, nor debtors to the council. “Both go well together.” he quips.
In article 18 Luther is not helpful.
In all earnest we request and desire, as do the country folk, that no sworn citizen should be imprisoned without a hearing, unless it be for a capital offense.
Luther responds: “If the council deems it good.” Luther gets softer to the citizens that have been exiled during and after the rebellion, the ones who protest their innocence. Luther here agrees that it is fair that they be allowed to put their case.(20) Also it is surprising that Luther is lenient and supports understanding in article 24 which states:
No one should be placed in jeopardy by this revolt.
And in article 28: “Everyone should be able to use the commons without hindrance to his neighbor.” Luther states: This is up to the town council.
Luther breaks loose in the Afterword
Luther is not naturally a man of few words. He has been holding back his anger. In his concluding remarks he explodes:
But one article has been left out: that an honorable council do nothing, have no power, nor be trusted with anything, but sit there like a powerless puppet, like a zero, and kowtow to the commune like a child, govern with its hands and feet tied, and pull the wagon like a horse, while the coachman is reining in and pulling the horses [back]. That’s how it will be according to the praiseworthy model of these articles.
Luther continues not containing his hostility, claiming:
the articles have been composed by those, who have it too good, and who believe that there is no one in heaven and on earth that is not afraid of them. If I had power over Erfurt, I would not allow one article to stand, even if some are good. But must we for punishment bear and suffer this unheard of pretentiousness and mischief, and hear a repetition of all these articles? Nothing else is sought in these articles other than everyone’s own interest (nutz) and having their own way, that the bottom goes to the top, and everything turns upside down, that the council fear the community and be its servant, and again the community be the lord and master, and fear no one, which is against God and reason.
According to Luther, the pretentiousness of these people should be punished, because of all the damage these articles will do.
In the torrent of words at the end, the old Luther is again himself, but not to our liking. He tries to persuade the Erfurters to become an honorable council. Otherwise he threatens them: or perhaps the authorities will have to march into the city and drive out the trash (Kutzel).
Is that evangelical, to but your head through a wall, without any humility and prayer, as if Erfurt did not need God. There is not one article about how one should first fear God, search, pray, and commit one’s cause to him. … And so I move some of you: is it not seditious that the parishes (pfarren) want to elect and dismiss parsons themselves, without the oversight of the council, as if it was no concern of the council, as the authority, what the parsons did in the city? And you hope they will pay taxes voluntarily. 
He addresses the council at the end by, your Majesty, and saying that he will nevertheless still serve them and commends them to God.
Luther understands authority only from the top down. A council is to be filled with magistrates, and not with craftsmen, and common people, who are burghers and peasants. The council should be nobility ruling over the common people. Luther must have already sealed off the temporal rulers, lords or councils into the other kingdom. Why would not the saying of Jesus occur to him:
You know the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant…
Luther became uncomfortable over the point that parishes should choose their own pastor, feeling the city council should have a strong hand in electing them, or the common people could become seditious. Luther was fearful and quite hostile to the assertion of power by the people from below. He claims the council will become paralyzed, will not be able to function or govern effectively. His image above is that of the cart before the horse, and the horse bridling and leading the rider, instead of vice versa. The people overrate themselves, pretend to be a size larger than they are – in other places he says – they want to be lords instead of common people. Luther taught spiritual democracy, of course, with his slogan, “the priesthood of all believers;” but he did not integrate political democracy into his teaching. He lived in a city in Saxony under the territorial rule of an elector of the empire.
Luther has a very low regard for “Herr Omnes”, the common people. They are mostly knaves and whores (see his Oculi Sermon in the Appendix!) and need to be ruled by a heavy hand from above. They have to be governed like a dumb animal, a horse; bridled and ridden by the government. This image is more demeaning than the patriarchal one he uses of the Father to the child: “You just have to have your way!”
In contrast the governing council, an honorable council, needs to be a real god with divine power. The communal control by the consent of the common people, makes the council into a wooden idol, which can do nothing having its hands and feet tied. The revolutionary eternal council is like a zero. It lets itself be sold to the community like a child. For Luther the council should be the parent and the community the child. For the common people in communal reformation the governing council, the rulers, are the child and the people are the guardians, are the parents.
“Nothing is sought in these articles than that everyone seek his own good (nutz) and live according to their own will.” For Luther this is not good because he believes in the bondage of the will. “So the bottom goes to the top, everything turns upside down, the council fears the community, and the community becomes its lord and master…and the community fears no one, which is against God and reason.”
The clash here is between “Obrigkeit” and “Unterkeit,” authority from above and authority from below. But revolution from the top down does not necessarily proceed with good order, nor does change initiated from the bottom, communalism, necessarily result in chaos. The first seems to try to preempt the healthy resolve, will, strength, and creativity of the people. The second need not destroy positive authority that seeks to carry out the will of the people or even their correction if warranted, by a common sense of justice.
Problematically, Luther labels a communally-guided-governing body a powerless puppet, and implies that authority from the top down is divine. But power from the bottom up can be just as divine or both can be just as devilish. Perhaps as yet in the course of human history, there can be no guarantee, except in mutual checks and balances, which is the least bad arrangement that can be struck.
That Luther asks for religious articles in the charter seems to contradict his own two regiment theory, which assigned politics to reason and compromise, and spiritual things to the church and congregation. That the revolutionary peasants designed the new seal of the eternal council, described above, is certainly religious. Perhaps Luther did not know about the peasants’ seal, because the council never made use of it. But Luther to be consistent would have to criticize any religious articles contained in temporal rule rather than call for them.
Luther seemed oblivious to the peasants’ experience of the concrete identity of their social, political and religious community. The peasants could not understand his refusal to allow the Gospel to be used for direct political action and social change. He says this forcefully in the Oculi Sermon, a portion of which is quoted at length in an Appendix. His thought had a dialectic of human and divine agency, and only the latter through the word could affect social and political improvement.
To make changes and actually improve conditions are two different things: one is in human hands and God’s ordaining. The other is in God’s hands and his gracious majesty.
The problem cannot be easily resolved by saying the peasants and Luther wanted the same goals and agreed theologically, but they had a political quarrel. The critical issue even invades the term “reformation”, and what the peasants meant by it was very different from what even Zwingli meant by it, even if he was much closer to them than Luther. The communal reformation of the peasants was genuine, and they were forced into a military solution (for the most part) by Leonhard von Eck, the chancellor of Bavaria, the strong man over the forces of the Swabian League. It would be hypocritical to maintain that the peasants were not also overcome by the temptations of looting the monasteries, the wealth of the clerical estate. But for the most part, they would have welcomed the resolution of their conflicts with treaties. They made many – but the Swabian League would not tolerate them nor any negotiations at the end. Erfurt also had to pay for all damages, restore the buildings, which they had torn down, that belonged to the jurisdiction under Cardinal Albrecht of Mainz, and give up six villages, which by oath they had subjected to themselves. They too had to revert back to being the subjects of Cardinal Albrecht of Mainz.
The problem becomes how to accomplish political and revolutionary change. For Luther a revolution in the church was one thing, a revolution against the structures of the political society was quite another. The latter could not be accomplished without bloodshed. Luther’s blistering writings made the clerical estate evaporate. With their rationale pulled out from underneath them, the wealthy monasteries lay naked ready to be violated and destroyed. But that merely exposed the nobility and the castles to the peasant view. The powerful nobility in that society were not going to evaporate and the bloodshed became that of the peasants, because it was such an unequal battle. Their hope for communal self-government had no self-defense, except the traditional one, belonging to those in whose interests it was to subjugate them. They had no viable military defense, really, of their own.
Luther wanted the changeover filling the churches and communities with new evangelical pastors to be accomplished by Christian methods, martyrium, flight, or if workable by legal methods. Otherwise the authorities needed to be convinced to help. To mount a violent campaign to reform the church and the society forfeits the grace of the Gospel, by long Christian tradition. Arnold Toynbee states
But the conversion of the first generation of Christians from the way of violence to the way of gentleness had to be purchased at the price of a shuttering blow to their material hopes.
Perhaps the historical considerations which I have included along with Luther’s harsh reactionary statements will soften our judgment upon him somewhat. To be able to see through the chaos, a new communal order proposed by the revolutionary peasants, was not given to him.
Luther tried to make a distinction between material and spiritual power. The gospel aligned with the latter, and laws, rationality, compromise, and negotiation were appropriate for the former. Where reason is a whore before God, according to him, it was a queen of regal majesty in temporal affairs. Luther assigned the temporal rule of material conditions to the secular governing authorities, but himself still felt in charge of the spiritual affairs around him. Call him a pope, if you will, but he tried to separate his spiritual power from coercion – not very consistently in this chapter of his life, however.
But then in threatening the Erfurters with an invasion by the Elector of Saxony, he contradicted his own highest principle. In calling the ruling militia to smite stab and slay the raging peasants in a holy war, as he did in his harsh little book against the radical peasants, seems very much to show him well outside the Kingdom of Love in which he was to be the spiritual head. Granted he had a precondition. There had to be some semblance of order, or the Gospel could not be preached. He also argues that in his Oculi Sermon. But that then mandates a political order as a precondition of promulgating the Gospel, and that may contradict his division of the two governments, spiritual and temporal.
Often Luther had Anfechtungen in which he ran through horrendous doubts. Could he be the only one right and all the believers before him wrong? And he would overcome it – but if he had understood communalism, perhaps he could have a complementary horizontal aid to his lonely vertical doubts. Not that Luther was not a man of the people. But sadly, he here withdrew from the people.
But after a poignant sermon pleading for an end to the hostilities on Oculi (March 24, 1525), he published in a pamphlet entitled, “A Lesson Against the Gangster Spirits and what position the Worldly Authorities should take to them from the First Epistle of St. Paul to Timothy,” Luther says nothing can be done unless Christ does it through us. We are but the masks of God. The fighting by the peasants is the foolishness of hard gangster spirits. They are pretentious and do not know themselves. They are puffed up in their own eyes and don’t have a good conscience. They are suffering shipwreck in their faith, and are not accomplishing anything, because they want to propel this cause with their understanding alone.
Now their pretentiousness is dangerous in an external way, but much more so in a spiritual way. Pray God that you do not overrate yourself by Scripture – because God wants a humble and crushed spirit for Christ to strengthen and encourage. They think they have to accomplish it, or it will be lost. They should give it over to God and commit their cause to him…throw the keys at his feet, i.e. put him in charge and say: “Lord, if you don’t do it, then it is undone. Lord, if you don’t do it then I will go down in shame – the cause is not mine, so I will not have my honor in it. I will gladly be your mask, so that you alone go to battle and fight.
This is something that the bands never want, but insist on banging their head through the wall now – according to their reason, and no one has called them, they force their way in as if they were mad, as if God needs them and has to have them – that’s why they have lost their faith. Learn knowledge before God, commit everything to his care, and watch that you cleave to Christ your head.
The gangster spirits have become our enemies: the closer the friend, the more nasty an enemy he has become. God does not give power of coercion (Gewalt) to everyone – but alone to great spirits who know how to use it. Because should everyone have it, then one would eat the other, and you would give me the devil, and I give it back to you.
Pray for them in authority – because the world cannot be governed with the gospel, because the world is too little and too narrow, grasps little, even the thousandth man refuses it too – therefore one cannot arrange an external government with it. The Holy Spirit has a small band, the others are all whores and knaves, who need a worldly sword. Where worldly government does not use its office strictly and firmly, everyone grabs what he can, and murder, war, rape of wife and children follows, so that no one can live in security. The common man is not a Christian. The king, ruler and lord must use the sword, take off the head, punishment must be, so that the others are held down by fear, and the pious can hear the gospel and await their work, so that everyone becomes quiet and at rest. The apostles had great awe and fear for the temporal sword.
So now we have dire need to pray for the authorities, because we have neither king nor emperor. The authorities are lazy and withdrawn. The overlords do not punish the lower lords. All the rulers are at loggerheads and with that the uproar is growing. It seems as if God is mixing us all up into one batter and is about to fix us a piece of cake so that we all swim in blood. So we should pray God that peace is restored. That God gives the emperor so much grace that he bridles the rulers, the rulers the nobility and the cities, and so on the overlords take control of the lower lords, and visit them until their thick skins squeak (die Schwart krachte), and so on, also with the officials – that peace spreads everywhere – it is a lamentable situation that so much domestic uproar has arisen. What we need to do, we who are called Christians, is the earnestly beg God that the authorities carry out their office correctly, the prayer is big, but our God is bigger, and he will also hear us. If the sword were stern enough, and a right regiment prevailed, then the Gospel could well be preached, but it can’t be helped. Amen.
The Erfurt “Peasant,” Articles, 9th of May, 1525
[The Erfurt Articles are one of the most important documents of the urban popular movements in the Saxon-Thuringia area, and were composed at the beginning of May 1525 by a committee drawn from the urban opposition and the peasantry in the Erfurt territory. Although called “peasant articles,” they reflect predominantly urban concerns. At the request of the town council, Luther wrote his opinion of them on the 21st of September, here indicated in italics after each article. Some articles have been omitted.]
Here follows the list of articles that all quartets of the city of Erfurt, and the guilds belonging thereto, have discussed for further improvement.
1. Concerning the parishes, it is thought good that these should be re-divided into parishes [of a size] more suitable to the town, and that the community of each parish should appoint and dismiss its own pastor. These appointed pastors should present the pure Word of God clearly and without addition of any human commands, regulations, or doctrines affecting the conscience.
But the town council should have authority over who holds office in the town.
2. On intolerable interest payments, by which we mean the redeemable loans or usury, where the sum repaid often exceeds the capital: these we will pay no longer. Where the capital sum has not yet been repaid, the balance outstanding shall be settled within a period to be agreed, so that a fair mean may be found. We also request that the exchange rates and coinage be investigated.
Indeed, nothing better than that one should pay interest on the sum with which it is secured in Erfurt.
4. On property removed from the commune, such as wood, water, etc. this should be returned to the use of the commune at once and a control instituted so that nothing further can be done without the consent of the commune.
That is not to be, but [if so] the authorities should do it, or purchase it for the common good of the town.
5. On legacies and endowments of altars. Where these are already established, the clergy should no longer receive them, but the heirs and the descendants of those who founded them. Where the heirs and descendants can no longer be traced, such endowments should be placed in a common chest.
The persons who now hold them should be allowed to enjoy them until they die, where such persona and monies stand under the town council’s control, or else let one entrust them to God [i.e. put them in the common chest], [except] in so far as the heirs are quite poor and needy.
6. On the town council: we should have an eternal council, which should present an annual accounting to the guardians [acting] on behalf of the quarters and the commune, in so far as this can be seen as useful.
If one does not trust the council, why set one up? Why have one at all?
7. The current council should present an account of all income and expenditure.
Indeed, that the council should not be a council, but that the mob should rule everything.
8. All forms of commercial activity should be free to every citizen who so desires.
So that no poor man should [be able to] stand before the rich or able to nourish himself.
9. Every citizen who has a house and home and resides therein should be free to brew.
So that the rich alone can be brewers!
10. The full quarter-measure [of beer and wine] should be given for the money.
Has that not always been the case?
11. Each person who fulfills civic duties and who conducts himself honorably and decently should be permitted to work at his trade unhindered by the guilds.
I leave that to the decision of the town council.
12. All matters placed before the town council for judgment according to the town statutes should be settled without delay within fourteen days, at the citizen’s plea presented in person. Where the citizen is unable to plead his own case, the town council should appoint someone from its own ranks to plead his case, without further cost to the citizen.
That is also a secular matter, and does not fall within my competence.
13. The city chancery should be investigated, so that no one will be deceived, as has hitherto occurred.
14. Negotiations should be held with the house of Saxony to obtain a gracious remission of protection fees [paid to the princes of Saxony in return for the military protection of the town].
Indeed, so that no one will defend the city of Erfurt, or that the princes should outlay cash in its defense. I should like to know if Erfurt will then spend the money to buy peace and protection!
15. Since the citizens and country folk are heavily burdened with the safe-conduct [fees], the matter should graciously be reviewed.
Indeed, may God allow us to injure princes and cities, as long as we have our own way!
16-17. Henceforth notorious knaves and wenches of all classes should no longer be tolerated, nor the house of common women. Also all those who are in arrears to the town council, whoever they are, should be firmly requested [to pay up].
Both go well together!
18. In all earnest we request and desire, as do the country folk, that no sworn citizen should be imprisoned without a hearing, unless it be for a capital offense.
Where the town council sees that as desirable.
19. All citizens held in Erfurt should be released on verbal sureties.
According to the pleasure of the town council.
20. Where some citizens have been exiled during and after the rebellion, and protest their innocence, they should be allowed to put their case.
That is fair.
21. The town council should henceforth levy no imposts without the will and knowledge of the entire commune and country folk.
It would then be necessary to pay the people!
22. Those living [in the suburbs] before the gates request the permission to sell their home-grown wine in the suburbs.
The town council will see to whatever is best.
23. It is our request that one should consider whether the illustrious university, such as it was until now, might not be revived.
That is best of all.
24. No one should be placed in jeopardy by this [revolt].
That is also good, for many perhaps mean well; the others should be given the benefit of the doubt and should be admonished to desist from their designs.
25. Although all excises and impositions are [declared to be] abolished, the council should see to it that meat and bread are sold at fair prices.
The council should normally do this as a duty of their office.
26. Foreign bakers and butchers should be allowed to sell twice weekly.
The council will see to it.
27. All properties taken from the common city and town council – i.e. taxation, rents, labor services, or whatever – should be returned to the city as before, namely, such as [those from the village of Melchendorf, Gispersleben, half of Kiliani.
God help the council thereto.
28. Every citizen should be able to use the common without hindrance to his neighbor.
That is up to the town council.
But one article was left out, that the council should do nothing, have no power entrusted to it, but must sit there like a ninny and kowtow to the commune like a child, govern with hands and feet tied, and pull the wagon like a horse while the driver reins in and pulls the horse [back]. Thus it would be according to the illustrious model of these articles.
Blickle, Peter. Gemeindereformation. München: R. Oldenbourg Verlag, 1987.
______________. Communal Reformation. New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1992.
Conrad, Franziska. Reformation in der Bäuerlichen Gesellschaft. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, Wiesbaden, GMBH, 1984.
Franz, Günther. Der deutsche Bauernkrieg 1525. Berlin: Deutsche Buch Gemeinschaft,1926.
————–. Der Deutsche Bauernkrieg. 4. Auflage. Darmstadt: Hermann Gentner Verlag, 1956.
Fuchs, Walther Peter. Akten zur Geschichte des Bauernkriegs in Mitteldeutschland, Zwei Bände in 3 Teilen, Vol. II Aalen: Scientia Verlag, 1964.
Haendler, Gert. Luther on Ministerial Office and Congregational Function. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1981.
Kirchner, Hubert. Luther and the Peasants’ War. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1972.
Kirn, Paul. Friedrich der Weise und die Kirche. Habilitationsschrift vor der Philosophischen Fakultät der Universität Leipzig, 28. April 1926.
Köhler, Hans-Joachim. Flugschriften des Frühen 16. Jahrhunderts. Microfiche Serie 1978: 41 Nr.109 in 8/Box No 1.
——————–. 144 Nr. 121 ” .
Lindsay, Thomas M. A History of the Reformation, Vol. I, Edinburgh: T & T. Clark, 1922.
D. Martin Luthers Werke, Kitische Gesamtausgabe, Band 18. Weimar: Hermann Böhlaus Nachfolger, 1908.
Martin Luther, Ausgewählte Werke, Calwer Ausgabe, Vol 3, Stuttgart: Calwer’s Buchhandelung, 1933.
Luthers Werke, Vol. 5. München: Chr. Kaiser Verlag, 1936.
Möller, Bernd. Imperial Cities and the Reformation. Durham, North Carolina: The Labyrinth Press, 1982.
Robisheaux. Rural Society and the Search for Order in Early Modern Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.
Scribner, R. W. Popular Culture and Popular Movements in Reformation Germany. London: The Hambledon Press, 1987.
Scribner, Bob and Benecke, Gerhard. The German Peasants’ War: New View Points. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1979.
Toynbee, Arnold. A Study of History, Abridged vols. I-VI. New York: Oxford University Press, 1946.
Weiss, Ulman. Ein fruchtbar Bethlehem. Berlin: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 1982.
Williams, George Hunston. The Radical Reformation. Philadelphia: Westminister Press, 1962.
 The best interpretation here is that the “Admonition” is to the peasants under Zwingli’s influence, and the other peasants are those under Thomas Müntzer, or very radical like his.
See Walther Peter Fuchs, Akten zur Geschichte des Bauernkriegs in Mitteldeutschland, Zwei Bände in 3 Teilen, Vol. II, Aalen: Scientia Verlag, 1964), p. 252, document #1390a and page 261, #1404. The council wrote directly to Luther and Melanchthon on May 10, 1525. They requested a Gutachten, which is an approval for the articles.
 D. Martin Luthers Werke, Kritische Gesamtausgabe, Vol. 18, (Weimar: Hermann Böhlaus Nachfolger, 1908), p. 531 – 540. Hereafter this edition of Luther’s Works will be referred to as Weimar Ausgabe or W.A.
Thomas A. Brady, Jr., “The Protestant Reformation in German History,” with a comment by Heinz Schilling, Occasional Paper #22 of the German Historical Institute, (Washington, D.C., 1997), page 26. This paper is in the Internet.
 Peter Blickle, Gemeindereformation, (München: R. Oldenbourg Verlag, 1987), p. 205.
Now I have misgivings about the concept of the magisterial reformation. It is a term that makes sense from the point of view of the peasants and Anabaptists, but not for the Reformation as such. See Bernd Moeller, Imperial Cities and the Reformation, translated and edited by H.C. Erik Midelfort and Mark U. Edwards, Jr., (Durham, North Carolina: Labyrinth Press, 1982), page 61: “For the most part, however, the magistrates were anything but the motive force behind the Reformation. They were more of a brake.” (A note added to this paper on April 27, 2012.)
 Hans-Joachim Köhler Flugschriften des Frühen 16. Jahrhunderts, Microfiche Serie 1978: 41 Nr.109 in 8/Box No 1. “Ain Lectiõ wider die Rottengayster/ und wie sich weltlich oberkayt halten sol/ aus der ersten epistle S. Pauli zu Timotheo/ an Freytag nach Oculi.” See the appendix at the end of this paper for a translation of the end of his sermon. It provides a look at Luther’s mentality during this time. (WA To be determined.)
 WA, Vol 17, Part 1, xxxi.
 Thomas M. Lindsay, A History of the Reformation, Vol. I, (Edinburgh: T & T. Clark, 1922), p. 336. Lindsay gives an itinerary for Luther in this campaign placing Luther in Erfurt on April 28th, which is the day the councilman, Huttener, let the peasants into the gates of the city. Because this visit is not at all mentioned, not even in the letter the eternal council wrote to Luther shortly thereafter on May 9th, it must be based on an erroneous source: see W.A., Vol 17, Part 1, xxxi f. Perhaps there is a confusion with a journey of Luther’s to Orlamünde of the year before.
 WA, Vol 17, Part 1, xxxi f. Luther is here quoted concerning his trip from “A Warning to My Dear Germans.”
 Walther Peter Fuchs, Akten zur Geschichte des Bauernkriegs in Mitteldeutschland, Zwei Bände in 3 Teilen, Vol. II, Aalen: Scientia Verlag, 1964), p. 163.
 Günther Franz, Der deutsche Bauernkrieg 1525, (Berlin: Deutsche Buch Gemeinschaft,1926),p. 277.
Paul Kirn, Friedrich der Weise und die Kirche, (Habilitationsschrift vor der Philosophischen Fakultät der Universität Leipzig, 28. April 1926), p. 162.
 Ulman Weiss, Ein fruchtbar Bethlehem, (Berlin: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 1982), p.7.
Günter Franz, (1956), page 246.
 R. W. Scribner, Popular Culture and Popular Movements in Reformation Germany, (London: The Hambledon Press, 1987), p. 195.
 WA, Vol XVIII, p. 531.
 Ulman Weiss, Ein fruchtbar Bethlehem, (Berlin: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 1982), p.71. Weiss is quoting WA Letters, Vol. II, No. 406. On pages 68-70 Weiss tells of Luther being fêted by the city and describes the students looting and destroying 44 houses of the curia in the conflict afterward.
R. W. Scribner, op. cit., p. 197.
Ibid., p. 198.
R.W. Scribner, op. cit., p. 201.
 George Hunston Williams, in The Radical Reformation, (Philadelphia: Westminister Press, 1962), p. 77; finds that such a council might have an eschatological character referring to Peter Kamerau’s book entitled, Melchior Hoffman (Haarlem, 1954), 85,88; which book was not yet available for this paper. But Kamerow speaks of a “Council of the Endtime” as opposed to an “eternal council.” Thomas Müntzer and Heinrich Pfeiffer named their new council in Mühlhausen an “eternal council”. G. Franz relates that this was also the case for Nordhausen.
T. A. Brady, Jr., in responding to my paper, finds Williams’ suggestion unconvincing. He argues that the term “ewig” often meant “perpetual,” as opposed to having a limited term. Thus a perpetual rent (“ewig“) is one that is not limited to the life of the debtor. The term “ewig,” he argues, “has nothing to do with apocalypticism or eternity.” It would be interesting to see whether in other regions of the conflict, cities taken by the peasants, or city councils toppled by the peasants, were given such a designation.
 R.W. Scribner, op. cit., p. 202.
 G. Franz, (1956), op. cit., p. 247. also see Blickle, Communal Reformation, op. cit., p. 90. He notes that another set of articles representing the peasants’ interests may have become lost.
 R. W. Scribner, op. cit., p. 202.
 Ibid., p. 202.
 According to Günther Franz, Der Deutsche Bauernkrieg (1956). See pages 245-248 for an account of how the Peasants’ War transpired in that city and how the 28 Articles were written.
Günther Franz, Der Deutsche Bauernkrieg, (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1956),p.247-8.
 WA, Vol XVIII, p. 531.
 WA, op. cit.,p. 534. These following remarks are translated from the WA pages 534-540.
 “That a Christian Gathering or Community has the Right and Power to Evaluate All Teaching, call teachers, to elect and also to dismiss them: the Basis and Reason taken from the Scripture,” January, 1523. Hans-Joachim Köhler Flugschriften des Frühen 16. Jahrhunderts, Microfiche Serie 1978: 144 Nr.121 in 8/Box No 1. Also see WA 11: 408-416 and LW 39: 303-314.
Gert Haendler, Luther on Ministerial Office and Congregational Function, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1981), p. 57. Ruth Gritsch translates G. Haendler i. e., Luther: “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.” At this early date in 1523, a communal principle cannot yet be differentiated from a congregational one. G. Haendler is distinguishing a congregational principle from the higher authority of the office of ministry represented by the priests, bishops, abbots, archbishops, and popes, i. e., the hierarchical principle.
Peter Blickle, Communal Reformation, op. cit., p.101.
Franziska Conrad, Reformation in der Bäuerlichen Gesellschaft, ( Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, Wiesbaden, GMBH, 1984.) p. 115.
In a response to my paper, Thomas Brady wrote: AConrad is talking about villages in southwestern Germany, whereas…urban communes and regimes [are the issue here]. The point is that a commune elects its magistrates (council), but a village does not select its own seigneur. Further, at Erfurt, with its immense number of parishes, no parish is identical with the commune (at Ulm, not much smaller, there was only one parish). [Comparing] the rural example [with] the Erfurt situation, it would suggest that each parish ought to select its own pastor. In a sense, Luther’s rule is similar to the seigneurial right to nominate to a parish. [This connection needs to be thought through.]
Even today only a powerful congregation attains the privilege of choosing its own pastor independently. Some denominations have a stronger congregational principle, but most congregations have to negotiate with a bishop or even accept his or her appointment.
 Gert. Haendler, op. cit., p. 55-56.
 Gert Haendler, op. cit., p. 64.
Gert Haendler, op. cit. page 72-73.
Martin Luther, Ausgewählte Werke, Calwer Ausgabe, Vol 3, (Stuttgart: Calwer’s Buchhandelung, 1933), p.167.
 Tom Scott and W.R. Scribner in The German Peasants’ War, (New Jersey: Humanities Press International, Inc., 1991), p. 174.
 The first article itself has grammatical problems which makes it difficult to translate and understand. It speaks of parishes (pfarner), parish (pfarr), parson (pfarrer), and that the community (gemein) should have the right to appoint or dismiss the parsons (pfarrer) of the said parish (pfarr). It reads:
Concerning the parishes, it is deemed good, that they should be divided into particular parishes (Pfarr) (of a size) most suitable for the town, and that an assembly (gemein) of each parish should elect and dismiss its own pastors. These appointed pastors should present the pure word of God clearly and without addition, for any and all human commands, regulations and teachings, affecting the conscience.
Walther Peter Fuchs, Akten zur Geschichte des Bauernkriegs in Mitteldeutschland, Zwei Bände in 3 Teilen, Vol. II, Aalen: Scientia Verlag, 1964),p. 250. My translation is helped by that of Tom Scott and W.R. Scribner in The German Peasants’ War ( New Jersey: Humanities Press International, Inc., 1991), p. 174.
 It would be interesting to know how Luther would have reacted to a catholic city council electing its priest over the wish of a community for an evangelical pastor. He would certainly have upheld the communal principle in such a case. I wonder if Luther would have upheld the communal principle if an evangelical city council wanted to overrule a community of old believers? Would Luther have helped force this change on the community? I wonder.
 Scott and Scribner, op. cit., p. 175.
Peter Blickle, Communal Reformation, translated by Thomas Dunlap, (New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1192), p. 89, endnote 21.
Siegfried Hoyer makes the interesting point that when the towns people were mobilizing for battle, “The armed men of the towns were organized by quarters or districts (Vierteln).” This may well be the explanation for the term here used. Siegfried Hoyer in Bob Scribner and Gerhard Benecke, The German Peasants’ War: New View Points, (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1979), p. 101.
W.P.Fuchs, Akten, Vol. II, op. cit., p.250.
 Ibid., p. 211. Peter Blickle in Communal Reformation (New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1992), p. 66 explains that the “countryside” always referred to the peasants.
WA, Vol. 18, p. 535.
 Tom Scott and Bob Scribner, editors and translators, The German Peasants’ War, (New Jersey: Humanities Press International, 1991), p. 145-6.Because they themselves wanted seats on the eternal council, when Thomas Müntzer and Heinrich Pfeiffer deposed the old council of Mühlhausen, they had a vote in their church but only on the question whether or not to depose the old council. This won by 660 to 204 votes. Then the preachers, along with the committee of Eight, took the offices of the old council and named themselves life-time council members of their new eternal council. But no election is mentioned for them.
Bernd Möller, Imperial Cities and the Reformation, (Durham, North Carolina: The Labyrinth Press, 1982), p. 89. Here Möller states “the essence of the theological evolution of Zwingli and Bucer was the increasingly clear conception of church and civic community as one body.” “In logically linking the concept of church to justification by grace alone and by faith alone, [Luther] had exploded the unity of the medieval town.” Also see page 73 in the same book: “For [Luther] the communal relationship was not the central idea but only one of second rank…..the town in the Middle Ages thought of the individual primarily as a member of the community…..Luther rejected this kind of thinking. For him the Christian, as far as salvation was concerned, stood alone before God. One could not reach God by membership in a town or by an oath of citizenship. Instead, a twofold personal requirement was set: baptism and faith….With this conclusion the ancient and simple identification of the parish with the town became impossible.”
 WA, Vol XVIII, p. 539. I used Tom Scott and Bob Scribner’s, The German Peasants‘ War, page 176, for help with this translation.
Ibid. My translation.
 W.A., Vol 18, p. 540.
 Matthew 20: 25-26.
 The council of Erfurt was rather devious and some consideration has to be given for Luther’s belief that he had to counter them angrily and also with a devious attitude. Remember that the council played off Saxony against Mainz, to whose spiritual/temporal territory Erfurt belonged, striving to become an imperial city. They had the peasants destroy the buildings of the clerical estate of Mainz, in order to get out of repaying their debt. Remember that the high official of the council (Oberstratsmeister Hüttner) let the 4,000 peasants into the city on April 28th, after having given them five kegs of beer and five wagon loads of bread the day before. He quartered the orderly peasants in the courts of the monasteries and had them destroy the signs of the government of Mainz: the customs house, the salt store, and the hangman’s building. The idea was to continue secularizing the wealth of the spiritual estate to get out from under the spiritual dominion of Mainz. The peasants were really manipulated into continuing the policy of the city against Saxony and Mainz. Günter Franz, (1956), page 247.
 Rereading my words from before, I now would see more nuances in my judgment of Luther. Here in California, the legislature passes laws and then all the voters can pass propositions, like proposition 13, that effectively prevents any increase in taxes and decimated educational funding. How does representative democracy and participatory democracy better harmonize together?
WA XVIII, page 539.
Luther uses this term often in his commentary of Psalm 101, but defines it differently from the way this study uses the term: See WA, Vol. 51, p. 239 ff.
Thomas Brady commented on my paper here: “You touch briefly on what seems to me to be the essential point, so far as the explanation of Luther’s positions is concerned. Communalism, as it was practiced in the southwest and was advancing in Thuringia, implied a capacity for uniting common need with sound judgment, which in turn depended on the accumulation of competence through long participation in self-government. That is how self-governing villages worked.”
 Luthers Werke, Vol. 5,(München: Chr. Kaiser Verlag, 1936), p. 428. Today in the Arab Spring, we can see that a popular uprising does not automatically make things better; they can become much worse. [This note was added April 30, 2012.)
 Günter Franz, (1956), page 248.
From Luther’s response to the First Article in “Admonition to Peace…”, WA, Vol 18, p. 325.
Arnold Toynbee, A Study of History (Abridged vols. I-VI), (New York: Oxford University Press, 1946), p. 379.
 Hans-Joachim Köhler Flugschriften des Frühen 16. Jahrhunderts, Microfiche Serie 1978: 41 Nr.109 in 8/Box No 1. “Ain Lectiõ wider die Rottengayster/ und wie sich weltlich oberkayt halten sol/ aus der ersten epistle S. Pauli zu Timotheo/ an Freytag nach Oculi.”
Luther is Thomas Hobbes versus John Locke. Hobbes position: a year of anarchy is worse than 1,000 years of tyranny. John Locke: a year of tyranny is worse than 1,000 years of anarchy. The truth of each depends upon whether the people are wolves waiting for the chance to tear each other up or civilized like sheep, who can’t wait to benefit and support each other.
From Tom Scott and Bob Scribner, The German Peasants‘ War, pages 174-176.