Krey, Peter. Sword of the Spirit, Sword of Iron
This dissertation is a pamphlet investigation dealing with Martin Luther’s ideology and theology of the Word. It studies Luther as a pamphlet writer, whose popular sermon pamphlets addressed the laity with affective, performative language. His “preaching in print” greatly extended the scope of his spontaneous reforming movement. As a self-representation of Luther, this investigation is a prerequisite for his reception. By number of editions and language, this investigation ranks the popularity of almost 70 of Luther’s publications from 1517-1525.This dissertation contains two parts, a handbook on his pamphlets and a thematic section containing the argument.
The Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments transformed America as much as the Civil War did. Well-known Reconstruction era leaders such as Thaddeus Stevens, instrumental in securing the rights of the freedmen, have been credited with the revolution in civil rights that shook the foundations of American federalism and allowed millions of freed blacks to enjoy a battery of civil rights during the Reconstruction period. Lyman Trumbull has not been as well known an influence on Reconstruction as Thaddeus Stevens and the Abolitionists, yet he was instrumental in the crafting of the Thirteenth Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1866. His conception of the civil rights of citizens was eventually incorporated in to the language of the Fourteenth Amendment. However, the subsequent retreat of Lyman Trumbull from radicalism in the late Reconstruction period prejudiced a number of Radicals against him. Since Trumbull began to oppose those Reconstruction policies that tampered with federalism as it had been traditionally understood, namely those bearing on the political question of suffrage in the various States, he found himself branded as a reactionary who renounced the cause of civil rights. Yet, a study of the intellectual development of Lyman Trumbull sheds a far different light on his commitment to civil rights. Trumbull did not abandon a belief in the life, liberty, and due process for individuals even during the late Reconstruction period when he backed away from advocating for political rights. In fact, Lyman Trumbull remained consistent with a powerful sense of the civil rights of the individual throughout his life, even as he vacillated on political questions.
In “The Consistency of Lyman Trumbull and Its Meaning to American Constitutional Heritage”, I discussed the consistency of Lyman Trumbull in his defense of civil rights. Lyman Trumbull was a primary influence behind the Civil Rights Act of 1866. Yet, he gradually retreated from his alliance with the Radicals over the question of extensive Federal protection for the right of suffrage. I argued against the common thesis that Trumbull became a conservative later in life, attempting to demonstrate that Lyman Trumbull had an underlying consistency to his thinking in spite of his many changes. Lyman Trumbull remained consistent with States Rights Jacksonian Democracy in his belief that political rights were a purview of the States, whereas he could embrace an expanded view of civil rights as long as “civil rights” was understood to exclude suffrage. Lyman Trumbull was a Constitutionalist first and foremost. His reasons for temporarily embracing political rights and then stepping back, as disturbing as his decisions were, had more to do with his belief in decentralized government than simple racism. Lyman Trumbull remained heroic in spite of his moral compromises with reactionary politics.
In the course of my readings I uncovered a work praising Lyman Trumbull from an unexpected corner. In Forced Into Glory; Abraham Lincoln’s White Dream, Lerone Bennett, Jr., an African-American popular writer lambasted Abraham Lincoln as a racist whose vision of equality was a vision of white equality and not one of multi-racial democracy. Bennett compared Lincoln unfavorably to a host of other historical actors of his time who were presumably more progressive, among them Lyman Trumbull. Bennett made a compelling case from one standpoint. Lyman Trumbull was consistent advocate for civil rights. Additionally, Bennett was accurate in demonstrating that Lincoln was not above the racism of his time, that Lincoln dreamed of an America free of racial diversity. However, I did not have the chance to respond to Bennett’s broader argument that Lincoln does not deserve the favorable judgment of historians that he has received, since it lay beyond the scope of my previous paper. I intend to address it in this paper.
The fruit of American culture is the belief in natural rights. Most Americans believe, or claim to believe, that human rights are inherent in the individual. It is the one notion that does not seem to divide the political spectrum in America at this point in our history. Whereas at one point opposition to such a notion was prevalent among more reactionary segments of the American population, at this point the mainstream discourse among conservatives affords at least rhetorical respect to notions of freedom and equal opportunity. What does divide Americans is that Americans disagree over the philosophical rationale that presumably justifies our sense of rights. Among believers in philosophical naturalism, rights are seen as inherent in the natural order. Among more religious Americans, rights are seen as inherently granted by God or else they have no meaning. Both claim to believe in the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and the ideals of Locke and Jefferson. Yet, both positions lead to paradoxes that neither can fully escape without further reflection and perhaps revision. If unresolved, the paradoxes of both positions might have negative implications for the very doctrine of natural rights itself.
Luther’s life and thought form a contribution that shares in the ultimate. Luther does not need those who accept all his teachings in a totally uncritical way, as much as he does not need the thinkers who used to reject him and his teachings wholesale. Perhaps the followers of Luther can do him more harm
than the antagonists who used to revile him as a bedeviled, renegade monk. He was a German prophet and very likely the greatest one produced by the German people, but that does not mean that his teaching and his life do not need real honest encounter.That can be figuratively called getting back to the headwaters of his thought, which ends, however, not in a refutation, as Bugenhagen in those days discovered, but in a more meaningful affirmation of his theology.
The points of departure in the historical itinerary of his particular life and thought need to be encountered; they should neither be rejected nor taken in total uncritical acceptance, as an uncritical Lutheran might do. Perhaps in such a way, we can understand Luther historically, and we can experience the real MartinLuther, rather than the one so deftly neutralized and domesticated for us today.Briefly stated in the words of Martin Marty, Luther is a classic person and any serious penetration of the theological field of a Christian in the face of the church and the state, couched in society, has to deal with what Luther said on the subject.
Part 2: Luther and The Niebuhr Brothers
Part 3: Apologists for Luther’s Theology and the Two Kingdom Theory
Part 4: The Great Peasants War: A Little Known Story
Luther and the 28 Articles of Erfurt
The Great German Peasants’ War: a Social-Linguistic Approach
What Happened to the Reformation?
Reading Thomas A. Brady, Jr. 1997 speech, “The Protestant Reformation in German History” as well as Heinz Schilling’s response, I can see that the intensification of the study of the late medieval period, the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries;along with the backward expansion of the Confessional Age, has put the squeeze on the Protestant Reformation, a development that I was not aware of while reading Harm Klueting’s book. What a surprise to hear Heinz Schilling refer to the Reformation as a harmless, foundational myth for the belated German nation! He writes that it is not a sixteenth century historical reality, but one of the great European myths, which will always be studied by European historians, especially German ones as the traditional “Reformation-as-universalist-revolutionary-turningpoint.”
Click this thumbnail for a free preview: