The Freedom of a Christian: Martin Luther's Reformation of Law & Liberty

Evangelische Theologie 74 (2014): 127-135

Emory Legal Studies Research Paper No. 14-316

10 Pages Posted: 2 Nov 2014

See all articles by John Witte

John Witte

Emory University School of Law

Date Written: 2014

Abstract

Martin Luther described each person as at once sinner and saint, priest and lord. We can do nothing good; we can do nothing but good. We are utterly free; we are everywhere bound. The more a person thinks himself a saint, the more sinful in fact he becomes. The more a person thinks herself a sinner, the more saintly she in fact becomes. The more a person acts like a lord, the more he is called to be a servant. The more a person acts as a servant, the more in fact she has become a lord. This is the paradoxical nature of human life, and this is the essence of human dignity, in Luther’s view. Luther used this dialectic theology to level the traditional divisions between pope and prince, clergy and laity, aristocrat and commoner in his sixteenth-century world. And he helped to shape ongoing Protestant teachings about the need to balance authority and liberty, hierarchy and equality, rights and duties in all spheres of life, not least the church and the state.

Keywords: Martin Luther; religious liberty; equality; human rights; human nature; servanthood; priesthood of all believers

Suggested Citation

Witte, John, The Freedom of a Christian: Martin Luther's Reformation of Law & Liberty (2014). Evangelische Theologie 74 (2014): 127-135, Emory Legal Studies Research Paper No. 14-316, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2517769

John Witte (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

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