The fruit of these measures was the Protestant state-church. As most of the changes in religious practice, personnel, and belief were illegal, the rulers required divine authority for them, which the evangelical clergy happily supplied, as they placed themselves almost without reservation under princely and magisterial authority. In return, the rulers repressed all rivals - Catholics, Anabaptists, Zwinglians. The outcome ofthis bargain was the Protestant state-church, the typical institutional form of German Protestantism. Although Luther had once favoured a gathered church of believers, his experience with radicalism at Wittenberg in 1522 opened his eyes, and in On Secular Authority (1523) he formulated his authoritative doctrine of the Christian's duty to obey a Christian ruler. True, he continued to believe, as he wrote privately in 1535, that 'whoever has been called is ordained and should preach to those who have called him, that is the ordination of our Lord God',4 but the Peasants' War and the growth of the Anabaptist 'false brethren', who wished to serve the Protestants as they had served the Catholics, settled the issue beyond recall. 'If I had never taught or done anything else than I had enhanced and illuminated secular rule and authority', Luther wrote in 1533 (he had said the same thing in 1526), 'this alone should deserve thanks . . . Since the time of the apostles no doctor or writer, no theologian or lawyer has confirmed, instructed, and comforted secular authority more glorious and clearly than I was able to do through special divine grace'.5 Though he had few illusions about princes -'usually the greatest fools or the worst knaves on earth' and 'God's jailers and hangmen' - he taught that 'they alone have authority and power', and the office of priests and bishops 'consists in nothing else than in dealing with God's Word'.6
The central question of the early years was not whether reform could be undertaken without or against the rulers, but whether anything could be accomplished with them. How daunting the task was first dawned on Luther during the Saxon visitation of 1528 (the first under Protestant auspices). 'Dear God, help us!' he exclaimed a year later in the preface to his Shorter Catechism. 'What misery I have seen!' he wrote, 'the common man, especially in the villages, knows absolutely nothing about Christian doctrine, and unfortunately, many pastors are practically unfit and incompetent to teach . . . They livejust
4 Karant-Nunn, Luther's pastors, vol. 69, part 8, p. 56.
5 Luther, 'Verantwortung der aufgelegten Aufruhr von Herzog Georg (1533)', in D. Martin Luthers Werke, vol. 38, p. 102, lines 30-3, and p. 103, lines 4-9. There is a nearly identical passage in 'Ob Kriegsleute' (1526), in Luthers Werke, vol. 19, p. 625, lines 15-17.
6 Rupp and Drewery Martin Luther, p. 111.
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