Luther on Reason: A Reappraisal

Jerry K. Robbins

Article Type: Article

Publication Date: 4/1/1993

Issue: Literature (Vol. 13, No 2, Spring, 1993)

In spite of frequent caricatures of Luther as a radical opponent of human reason, the weight of his writings and their center of gravity suggest a more balanced appraisal. Luther is primarily a religious thinker, and his thoughts about human reason emerge from a religious context. Unless this is acknowledged, great misunderstanding of Luther can result. The negative things he sometimes says about reason must be recognized as implications of his religious fervor. His maddening oscillation between praising reason and calling reason nasty names is a product of his singular obsession with the gospel. It is this same religious preoccupation that makes the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus and the obedience and rebirth of the disciple so important in his overall evaluation of reason. In this essay, I want to suggest that it is just that kerygmatic substance in Luther’s thinking that feeds, focuses, and directs his evaluation of reason.

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