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Luther, Martin (1483–1546)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-K045-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved April 24, 2024, from

Article Summary

Martin Luther was an Augustinian monk who found the theology and penitential practices of his times inadequate for overcoming fears about his salvation. He turned first to a theology of humility, whereby confession of one’s own utter sinfulness is all that God asks, and then to a theology of justification by faith, in which human beings are seen as incapable of any turning towards God by their own efforts. Without preparation on the part of sinners, God turns to them and destroys their trust in themselves, producing within them trust in his promises made manifest in Jesus Christ. Regarding them in unity with Christ, God treats them as if they had Christ’s righteousness: he ‘justifies’ them. Faith is produced in the sinner by the Word of God concerning Jesus Christ in the Bible, and by the work of the Holy Spirit internally showing the sinner the true subject matter of the Bible. It is not shaped by philosophy, since faith’s perspective transcends and overcomes natural reason. Faith, through the working of God’s Holy Spirit within the believer, naturally produces good works, but justification is not dependent upon them – they are free expressions of faith in love. Nevertheless, secular government with its laws and coercion is still necessary in this world because there are so few true Christians. Luther’s theology brought him into conflict with the Church hierarchy and was instrumental in the instigation of the Reformation, in which the Protestant churches split from Rome.

Citing this article:
Higton, M.A.. Luther, Martin (1483–1546), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-K045-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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