• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

How revolutionary were Lutheran and Calvinist theories of authority?

Extracts from this document...


How revolutionary were Lutheran and Calvinist theories of authority? Lutheran and Calvinist theories of authority were revolutionary as they laid the foundations of a radical shift in attitudes towards obeying authority. Political thought changed from a view that it was never legitimate to resist authority to the notion that 'like any other wild animal, a tyrant can be killed.' However it was later Calvinist theories that were more revolutionary than Calvin's own work On Civil government and Luther's On Secular authority. Moreover rather than promoting revolutionary theories of authority, Luther and Calvin were concerned to preserve order. Revolutions occurring throughout Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth century were to an extent legitimised by Lutheran and Calvinist theories of authority but this was certainly not the original intent of the writings. Luther and Calvin were after all theologians, not political philosophers. The Lutheran and Calvinist theories of authority were a radical departure in political thinking in the sixteenth century in terms of an obligation to submit to authority. The tradition of biblical thought suggested that obligation was fundamental and thus, it was not considered legitimate to resist authority. Christian political theory was underpinned by the divine word of God, which stated 'obey the powers that be.' (Romans 13) ...read more.


'I will not obey' if a prince or secular Lord invokes laws which is against their conscience and would not be fulfilling their duty to God. 'The spread of the Reformation led to a general upheaval in political thinking which was the direct consequence of his theology'.7 'It is doubtful how far Luther himself recognised the revolutionary consequences of his teaching at the beginning.'8 On reflection Luther said, I simply taught, preached, wrote God's word: otherwise I did nothing. And when, while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my Philip and Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a Prince or Emperors inflicted such damage upon it. I did nothing, the word did it all.'9 'Luther was first and foremost a theologian. When he addressed political issues he did so as a theologian.'10 'Despite their non-revolutionary aims, Martin Luther and his co-reformers profoundly changed central and northern Europe for good.'11 Luther's arguments were essentially conservative in responding to authority emphasising the duty of not obeying ungodly political authority. Luther preferred the principle of non-resistance. 'Rebellion was, in Luther's eyes, the worst of all possible sins, for it threatened the very foundations of civil society.'12 All the early reformers, including Calvin, shared Luther's belief in the divine character of government and the sinfulness of rebellion. ...read more.


He maintains that it is misleading to look to sixteenth century Calvinist theories as the originators of radical resistance theory. Although Skinner concedes that the sixteenth century European revolutions were led by professed Calvinists, he argues that the justifying theories behind these actions were not specifically Calvinist. 21 For example Skinner claims that Buchanan was restating the ideas of John Mair (1467-1550). Mair was the channel of the radical scholastic ideas to the Calvinist revolutionaries. His pupils included Calvin, John Knox and George Buchanan. Moreover Skinner sees the Calvinist theories as based upon the foundation of earlier Catholic political philosophy of the radical scholastics. Thus Skinner's perspective asserts that Calvinist theories of authority were not as revolutionary as Walzer asserts as their origins were rooted in earlier political thinkers. Although Luther and Calvin broke with the simplicity of Romans 13, the argument developed by Luther and Calvin laid considerable stress on the language of religious duty and the office of inferior magistrates. Emphasis was on inferior magistrates acting on behalf of the people against a tyrant rather than calling private men to arms. They were thus concerned to reinforce authority. Luther and Calvin did not seek to encourage rebellion against authority but were more concerned to preserve social order. They still fundamentally believed that resistance against authority was offensive to God. Nonetheless Lutheran and Calvinist theories of authority were revolutionary to the extent that Europe in the sixteenth century radically changed as a result. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Political Philosophy section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Political Philosophy essays

  1. Ethos, Pathos & Logos in Dr. Martin Luther King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail"

    The conditions under them, therefore, call for immediate action. To communicate effectively, ethos is never enough. People respond to emotions and personality as well. In the following two quotes, Dr. King's vivid details invite readers to experience the daily lives of African Americans under the laws of segregation.

  2. Can feminism be thought of as a theory of law or, otherwise, fundamental in ...

    This is coupled by the notion that parenting is predominantly the female's role, which is highlighted by the "very limited provisions for paternity leave."13 The underlying problem here is that, in order to be treated fairly and without any prejudice women are required to meet a norm set by existing

  1. Compare the views about the nature and development of Carl Rogers and George Kelly. ...

    This may affect the client, as the theory remains relatively more or less as Kelly proposed it in 1955 (Jancowicz, 1987), and would be unlikely to include more recent developments in psychological research that may be imperative to his or her recovery.

  2. Notes on John Stuart Mill's On Liberty

    a) Children and the mentally underdeveloped: The harm principle is not intended to apply to children (the ages included under the term "child" are not clearly defined, nor are they of particular interest philosophically or in debate)

  1. What exactly is Weber's Protestant Ethic Thesis?

    If we are to analyse the above statement of Weber's argument further then perhaps a description of what is meant by capitalism in this context is also required. It is a term that is used often in sociological jargon, and to a certain extent its meaning is sometimes lost.

  2. The development of fascist doctrine.

    Fascist doctrine inherited many conceptions from the sociological traditions of prewar Italy, but it was the conception of the state, which became central to Fascist thought only in 1921, which gave Fascism a specific and determinate character of its own.

  1. Deontology- a theory based purely on obligation or duty.

    Using this reasoning lead Kant to his reckoning that lying is essentially wrong, thus building up to the idea of universal laws. One of his ideas that is central to the theory of deontology explains good will. Good will, according to Kant, must act in agreement with obligation harmonious to its own nature.

  2. To what extent did the key political ideas directly Influence change and development in ...

    However, with hindsight it is noted by major historians that the 1848 revolutions which had seemed so successful were not quite what they were thought to be. Trevelyan writes ?1848 was the turning point at which modern history failed to turn.? Recent historians suggest that 1848 did not bring much

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work