With an Emphasis upon the Consistency in his Position on
the Peasants' War
Dept. of Political
Science & Diplomacy
Sung Kyun Kwan University
The primary purpose of this dissertation is to refute the assertion that the Reformer Martin Luther did not have any clear and consistent idea about the Peasants' War and to prove that we can easily distinguish, in his words and deeds, a consistent posture on the subject.
This research notices that we in his country did not pay him a due attention he deserves. However, Martin Luther's influence on the history of modern political thought does not need any verification. At the dawn of a new millenium, this researcher contends that Luther's political ideas can offer an alternative paradigm for those "human-centered, mechanical, atomic" worldview and expansionist history we have witnessed. At the core of his idea on the Peasants' War lies a crystallization of his views on religion and politics.
Such an awareness led this researcher to the conclusion that it is time for us to shed a new light on Luther's ideas for a better understanding of relations between politics and religion in our society. At the same time, this researcher hopes that this dissertation induces a renewed interest in the study of Luther and also ignites a rigorous debate on the subject, overcoming various sectarian, ideological, or egocentric defamation.
Structure and contents of this dissertation is as follows. Chapter II(The Christian Bases of the Political Thought of Luther and the Peasants' War) shows the Christian bases of Luther's political thought and his understanding of the Peasants' War with an emphasis on three conception, and the Eschatology, all of which have been unjustly ignored by most of Marxist and other contemporary non-Christian researchers.
In Chapter III(The Consistency of Luther's Writings on the Peasants' War) the researcher tries to prove the consistency of his views on the Peasants' War as appeared in his main writings on the subject such as "Ermahnung zum Frieden auf die zwolf Artikel der Bauerschaft in Schwaben" and "Auch wider die rauberischen und morderischen Rotten der andern Bauern". In fact, the two seemingly separate articles have been originally published as one. The researcher tries to show the consistency in Luther's view on the Peasants' War manifested in the form as well as in the substance of those articles. It is to be proved here that the Two Kingdom Theory, which had already been established by him before the Peasants' War and is thought quintessential in his views on the Peasants' War, has been applied in both articles with the same manner and intensity.
Chapter IV(The Consistency of Luther's Deeds on the Peasants' War) further proves the consistency in his deeds by tracing his attitude and behavior from the Wittenberg unrest of 1521 to the aftermath of the Peasants' War of 1525.
Based on the proofs found in the previous chapters, Chapter V(The Fallacies of the Lutherschmahungen at the Time of the Peasants' War) points out the fallacies in slanders against Luther at that time. There are three general and fundamental errors in the arguments against Luther, which are refuted by the historical facts.
Emphasis on the following five points are in order in the concluding chapter. First, facing the most urgent problems arising in relations between politics and religion, Luther maintained and practiced according to the Will of God as is believed to be written in the Bible, without any consideration for his popularity or interests. Throughout the Peasants' War Luther retained the same posture he had established at Worms. This consistency could be recognized throughtout his writings and deeds.
Second, Luther has established an independent realm for politics with its own goals and limits. He emphasized that the politics should be managed by God's Justice and Love as taught in the Bible.
Third, Luther has extended the realm of religion to all the spheres of human existence, including the politics. According to Luther, the realm of Christianity should not be confined to churches, cloisters and seminaries. Luther maintained that we should let the Sermon on the Mount, the Gospel of Christ, the teaching of the Bible, and the Will of the living God function in all realms of human existence.
Fourth, Luther has firmly distinguished respective realms and roles of religion and politics, and he has opposed the confusion, interference, illicit connections, or exploitation of each other by the two realms. He disapproved the Peasants' War as an embodiment of the medieval mix of gospel and temporal politics.
Fifth, Luther has criticized the abuse of violence as the means of attaining the goals of politics or religion. He maintained the tolerance towards those who held different political or religious views.
Many historical evidences prove that Luther's position was correct. Firmly based on our own experiences, we now should decide how to embrace the coming millenium and to make the 21st century the age of peace and hope. Luther's Reformation broke through the spiritual and religious crisis in Europe in his time, which his political thought broke through the political crisis. If religion and politics have been the most important part of the human existence throughout our history, Luther's Reformation and political thought will be able to break through the crisis of the 21st century.