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volume II: Synopsis

Part II: A brief history of dynamics

page 12: Martin Luther


An axiom of political dynamics is that uncontrolled power corrupts, and the power of the Catholic Church is no exception. Martin Luther, building on widespread disaffection with high level corruption in the Church, was a catalyst for a revolution in Christianity which moved weakened the power of imperial monarchies in Europe. Martin Luther - Wikipedia, Lammers, Stapel & Galinsky

Three hundred years after its foundation, the Christian Church had become deeply involved in the political affairs of Christian Europe. The political involvement of the Church grew in the Middle Ages, involving it in great expense so that revenue raising for political and military projects became a perennial concern for the Papacy. Constantine the Great and Christianity - Wikipedia

Many saw that the Church had strayed far from its spiritual mission and there was a strong pressure for reform. Luther became a leader who set many of these reforms in train. His particular target was the sale of indulgences (ie remissions of punishment due in the next life) to raise funds for Church purposes.

Luther posted 95 propositions on indulgences to the door of the Schlosskirche at Wittenburg on 12 October 1517. His intention was to invite like minded scholars to a theological disputation on indulgences. Nevertheless his appeal to the laity and his lack of respect for the power of the establishment set him on a revolutionary course. Luther

The result was the Reformation, which led to a major splits in the Christian Church, to major doctrinal reforms, and to war. Ultimately, through the Council of Trent, Luther caused the reform of the traditional Christian Church, now styled the Roman Catholic Church to distinguish it from the numerous 'Protestant' churches that split away from it. Protestant Reformation - Wikipedia

As with many reformers, Luther and his contemporaries were concerned to reconstruct the supposed primitive purity of the Church. Much of the administrative, speculative and theological overhead of the Church was swept away in the search for Biblical authenticity. One of Luther's major works was a translation of the Bible. Many people learnt to see their relationship with God as a personal matter needing no help from any human institution. This new vision of individual responsibility helped to open the way for political democracy based on the equality of all before God. Luther Bible - Wikipedia

The Reformation and its parallel, the Renaissance, led to a wholesale re-evaluation of medieval certainties, not only in religious, political and literary matters, but in the arena we now call science. From this time on, the Roman Catholic Church began to lose its control of public debate and the intellectual pluralism which we enjoy today began to flower.

The Roman Catholic Church nevertheless remains a deeply anti-democratic and unscientific organization. It claims, in particular to have a monopoly on human communication with God and to be the infallible source of true theology. If, on the other hand, the Universe is divine, as proposed here, all human experience is experience of God, and theology can become a real evidence based science. There is no further need for a dogmatic authority. John Paul II, Primacy of the Roman Pontiff - Wikipedia

Luther and the reformers grounded their Christianity in the Bible which has since become openly available to all. They pointed out that there is no need for a dogmatic authority to define an official interpretation of the Bible. Modern democracies are in a position similar to the reformers. The task of government is to guide states safely and profitably through their global environment. This environment is open for all to see, their vision bolstered by good science and good education. We are free to live without the blinkered vision of the Catholic Church and expand our minds to embrace the full glory of our divine Universe.

Luther and his contemporaries began to break the totalitarian grip of the Church on the minds of those in its power. Hannah Arendt writes 'Totalitarian movements are mass organizations of atomized isolated individuals. . . . Compared with other parties and movements, their most conspicuous external characteristic is their demand for total unrestricted unconditional and unalterable loyalty of the individual member.' This is rather contrary to the foundation commandment of Christianity: Love the Lord thy God above all and love your neighbour as yourself. This encourages people to develop independent personalities and communicate with one another. Arendt, page 322.

By publishing the Bible, Luther encouraged literacy and gave Christians a foundation text by which they could judge for themselves on the behaviour of the established Church. Many found it wanting and set in motion a movement for theological and religious reform which continues today. It would solve many of our problems if we could all agree on one theology, and the only way for this to happen is for theology to be based on reality rather than ancient texts. God, is after all, I am (Exodus 3:14). Exodus

(revised 29 March 2013)

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Further reading


Click on the "Amazon" link below each book entry to see details of a book (and possibly buy it!)

Arendt, Hannah, The Origins of Totalitarianism, Harvest Books 1973 'Generally regarded as the definitive work on totalitarianism, this book is an essential component of any study of twentieth-century political movements. Arendt was one of the first to recognize that Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were two sides of the same coin rather than opposing philosophies of Right and Left. With The Origins of Totalitarianism Hannah Arendt emerges as the most original and profound—therefore the most valuable—political theoretician of our times" (New Leader).' 
Bainton, Roland Herbet, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, Penguin(USA) 1995 Jacket: 'Here is an authoritative, unforgettable biography of Martin Luther ... . ... Luther spoke out against the corrupt religious practices that then existed. His demand that the authority for doctrine and practice be Scriptures, rather than Popes or Councils echoed around the world and ignited the Great Reformation. ... With sound historical scholarship and penetrating insight Roland Bainton examines Luther's widespread influence. He re-creates the spiritual setting of the sixteenth century, showing Luther's place within it and influence upon it. Richly illustrated with more than 100 woodcuts and engravings from Luthers own time, Here I stand dramatically brings to life Martin Luther, the great reformer.  
Chadwick, Owen, The Reformation (Penguin History of the Church volume 3), Viking Press 1990 Jacket: In this third volume of the Penguin History of the Church, Professor Chadwick deals with the formative work of Erasmus, Luther, Zwingli and Calvin and analyses the special circumstances of the English Reformation, as well as the Jesuits and the Counter-Reformation. 
Friedenthal, Richard, Luther, Weidenfeld and Nicholson 1970 Jacket: At midday on 21 October 1517, Luther launched the Reformation by nailing his 'ninety-five theses' against Papal indulgences to the door of the Schlosskirche at Wittenberg. The world has yet to come to terms with the issues he raised. . . . In this new biography Richard Friedenthal portrays the living human figure behind the accretions of pious and hostile legend. . . . Interwoven with the story of Luther's life is an intricate picture of Europe as a whole undergoing the agony of the Reformation, with centuries old beliefs and customs being turned upside-down in a chaos of furious religious controversy, social upheaval and constant clashes between bishops and princelings, imperial troops and mercenaries. . . .' 
Charlemagne - Wikipedia Charlemagne - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 'Charlemagne (possibly 742 – 28 January 814) was King of the Franks from 768 and Emperor of the Romans (Imperator Romanorum) from 800 to his death in 814. He expanded the Frankish kingdom into an empire that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe. During his reign, he conquered Italy and was crowned Imperator Augustus by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800. His rule is also associated with the Carolingian Renaissance, a revival of art, religion, and culture through the medium of the Catholic Church. back
Constantine the Great and Christianity - Wikipedia Constantine the Great and Christianity - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 'Constantine's conversion was a turning point for Early Christianity, sometimes referred to as the Triumph of the Church, the Peace of the Church or the Constantinian shift. In 313, Constantine and Licinius issued the Edict of Milan legalizing Christian worship. The emperor became a great patron of the Church and set a precedent for the position of the Christian emperor within the Church and the notion of orthodoxy, Christendom, and ecumenical councils that would be followed for centuries after 380 as the State church of the Roman Empire. He is revered as a saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church and Oriental Orthodox Church for his example as a "Christian monarch."' back
Exodus verse 3:14 'God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'"' New International Version back
John Paul II Fides et Ratio: On the relationship between faith and reason. para 2: 'The Church is no stranger to this journey of discovery, nor could she ever be. From the moment when, through the Paschal Mystery, she received the gift of the ultimate truth about human life, the Church has made her pilgrim way along the paths of the world to proclaim that Jesus Christ is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6).' back
Lammers, Stapel & Galinsky Power Increases Hypocristy: Moralizing in reasoning, Immorality in Behaviour 'Abstract: Five studies explored whether power increases moral hypocrisy, a situation characterized by imposing strict moral standards on others but practicing less strict moral behavior oneself. In Experiment 1, compared to the powerless, the powerful condemned other people’s cheating, while cheating more themselves. In Experiments 2-4, the powerful were more strict in judging others’ moral transgressions but more lenient in judging their own transgressions. A final study found that the effect of power on moral hypocrisy depends on its legitimacy: When power was illegitimate, the moral hypocrisy effect not only disappeared but reversed, with the illegitimate powerful becoming more strict in judging their own than others’ behavior. This pattern, which might be dubbed hypercrisy, was also found among low-power participants in Experiments 3 and 4. We discuss how patterns of hypocrisy and hypercrisy among the powerful and powerless can help perpetuate social inequality.' back
Luther The Project Gutenberg EBook of Martin Luther's 95 Theses 'Disputation of Doctor Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences by Dr. Martin Luther, 1517 Published in: Works of Martin Luther Adolph Spaeth, L.D. Reed, Henry Eyster Jacobs, et Al., Trans. & Eds. (Philadelphia: A. J. Holman Company, 1915), Vol. 1, pp. 29-38. back
Luther Bible - Wikipedia Luther Bible - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 'The Luther Bible is a German Bible translation by Martin Luther, first printed with both testaments in 1534. This translation became a force in shaping the Modern High German language. The project absorbed Luther's later years. The new translation was very widely disseminated thanks to the printing press.' back
Martin Luther - Wikipedia Martin Luther - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 'Martin Luther (10 November 1483 – 18 February 1546) was a German priest, professor of theology and iconic figure of the Protestant Reformation.He strongly disputed the claim that freedom from God's punishment for sin could be purchased with money. He confronted indulgence salesman Johann Tetzel with his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517. His refusal to retract all of his writings at the demand of Pope Leo X in 1520 and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms in 1521 resulted in his excommunication by the pope and condemnation as an outlaw by the Emperor.' back
Primacy of the Roman Pontiff - Wikipedia Primacy of the Roman Pontiff - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 'The primacy of the Bishop of Rome is an ecclesiastical doctrine held by some branches of Christianity, most notably the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Anglican Communion. The doctrine concerns the respect and authority that is due to the Bishop of Rome from bishops and their sees.' back
Protestant Reformation - Wikipedia Protestant Reformation - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 'The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to ("protested") the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led to the creation of new national Protestant churches. The Reformation was precipitated by earlier events within Europe, such as the Black Death and the Western Schism, which eroded people's faith in the Roman Catholic Church. This, as well as many other factors, contributed to the growth of lay criticism in the church and the creation of Protestantism.' back
The Economist: Science and Technology The psychology of power: Absolutely 'Anecdote is not science, though. And, more subtly, even if anecdote is correct, it does not answer the question of whether power tends to corrupt, as Lord Acton’s dictum has it, or whether it merely attracts the corruptible. To investigate this question Joris Lammers at Tilburg University, in the Netherlands, and Adam Galinsky at Northwestern University, in Illinois, have conducted a series of experiments which attempted to elicit states of powerfulness and powerlessness in the minds of volunteers. Having done so, as they report in Psychological Science, they tested those volunteers’ moral pliability. Lord Acton, they found, was right.' back is maintained by The Theology Company Proprietary Limited ACN 097 887 075 ABN 74 097 887 075 Copyright 2000-2018 © Jeffrey Nicholls