From Gospel to Law: The Lutheran Reformation and Its Impact on Legal Culture

in Thomas Albert Howard and Mark A. Noll, eds., Protestantism After 500 Years (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016) 52-74

Emory Legal Studies Research Paper No. 14-308

21 Pages Posted: 2 Nov 2014 Last revised: 29 Jul 2019

Date Written: 2014

Abstract

The Lutheran Reformation transformed not only theology and the church, but also law and the state. Despite Luther’s burning of the canon law books and his berating of lawyers as bad Christians, he soon realized that he needed both law and the legal profession to preserve his theological reforms, and to extend them into the realms of marriage, education, social welfare and more. Luther and his colleagues ultimately reconciled the new dialectics between Gospel and Law, church and state, spiritual life and temporal life through Luther’s complex two-kingdoms theory, which remains at the heart of Lutheran thought to this day. They ultimately synthesized their reforms of public and private life in hundreds of new confessions and catechisms, orders and ordinances, which still shape the laws and policies of Lutheran churches and states to this day.

Keywords: Martin Luther; two kingdoms theory; church and state; canon law; civil law; Protestant Reformation; Germany; Scandinavia; church law; Gospel and Law; education; schools; marriage; family; charity; social welfare

Suggested Citation

Witte, John, From Gospel to Law: The Lutheran Reformation and Its Impact on Legal Culture (2014). in Thomas Albert Howard and Mark A. Noll, eds., Protestantism After 500 Years (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016) 52-74, Emory Legal Studies Research Paper No. 14-308, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2517716

John Witte (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

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