Author: Ray Shelton

Date: June 12, 1952.

Revised: June 24, 2004.

Note: This paper was originally written for a course in Medieval Philosophy at Wheaton College that I took during my senior year in the spring of 1952.


    The importance of the Reformation in the history of the western world cannot be strongly emphasized. It was the turning point of this history. If the important men who have most influenced western history were to be listed, no doubt the two great Reformers, Martin Luther and John Calvin, would be included among them. One aspect of the Reformation which is so often neglected is the relation of the Reformation to Medieval and Modern philosophy. The interest in the Reformation mostly centers upon the religious aspect as an event in the history of the Christian church. The value of this aspect is not to be underestimated. We Christians are especially interested in the results of the rediscovery of the gospel of justification by faith in the life and history of the Christian church. But the relation of the Reformation to philosophy in the history of western thought is not to be minimized or neglected especially by Protestant theologians and Christian philosophers.

    "The Reformation turned against rationalism before it attacked superstitution. It proclaimed the rights of God before it lopped off the excrescences of man. It was positive before it was negative. This has not been sufficiently adverted to, and yet, if we do not keep it in mind, it is impossible to appreciate this religious revolution and it true nature." [1]
    If a Christian understanding of the events of history is to be gained, the Reformation must be studied and its relation to Medieval and Modern Philosophy indicated.

    In the space of this paper it will be impossible for me to treat the vast subject of the relation of the Reformation to Medieval and Modern Philosophy. This is a task I will have to leave until some other time. I will be able only to treat one reformer, Martin Luther, and his relation to Medieval thought. Martin Luther is important because of his rediscovery of the gospel and because the Reformation as well as the Lutheran tradition began with him. His relation to Medieval thought is not only treated because this paper is to meet the requirement of a college course but also because of the importance of Luther as an example of a Protestant theologian opposing Roman Catholic thought. This gives contemporary interest to the thought of Martin Luther in the light of increased strength of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. Roman Catholicism must be met today as Luther met it in his day with the gospel of justification by faith and all its implications. Our task and pleasure is to show the relation of Martin Luther to Medieval philosophic thought and to indicate the outlines of a Protestant polemic against Roman Catholic thought. I have attempted to be as thorough a job as could be done. As I have already said, this particular subject is of importance to Prostestant theologians and Christian philosophers because of its implications for Christian theology. Luther's insight into the gospel and its relation to philosophy is of great value to us. But I was hindered from doing as comprehensive a piece of work as is possible because of the works unavailable or in German dealing with this subject, and most of all, a number of works of Martin Luther are unavailable in our library, especially the theses of September, 1517, "contra scholasticam theologiam" and the Heidelberg theses of 1518. These two theses would have given me very important material concerning his attitude and arguments against Scholasticism. [2]


    "Previous to the Council of Trent (1545-1563) the Roman Church had no common system of dogma universally accepted by all the members of that Body. In fact, the Roman Church might be compared to a huge edifice under whose roof a number of theological systems flourished." [3]
    With the growth of the Medieval university, there arose different schools of thought centered around outstanding theologians and teachers. Many of them differed with Rome as well as with each other. In general, there were the Scholastics, the Mystics and the Humanists. The Scholastics were the oldest with the Mystics as a sort of reaction to their intellectualism. The Humanists had newly arisen in the late Middle Ages. But closer examination will reveal many subdivisions within these three groups. The followers of St. Thomas and William of Occam opposed each other within Scholasticism. The Mystics stressed inwardness but they were by no means in agreement with one like Thomas a Kempis. The Humanists all wanted the return of some "golden age" but could not agree upon what age. Even though housed under one roof there was considerable disagreement among those who called themselves Roman Catholics.

    It was into this intellectual world of differing opinion that Martin Luther came with the gospel of justification by faith. There can be little doubt of the originality of Luther. For in him there was a rediscovery and rebirth of Biblical Christianity. In the medieval period of philosophy his insight had few antecendents. But it is impossible to separate Luther from the preceding theological and philosophical development, let alone understand him apart from it. It is a mistake to consider Luther and the Reformation as a return to the Bible, to Paul, and to primitive Christianity as though the intervening century did not exist, did not make any contribution to his understanding of Christianity, or leave its mark on Luther's thought. "Luther makes use of medieval languages and ideas. He could not well do otherwise. He worked with the materials with which his age provided him. All the diverging medieval schools made their contribution." [4] Luther cannot be represented solely as "the new hearld of the old gospel," coming after a long age of darkness.

    "Neither can the Reformation be understood in terms of a process of reduction in which the accretions and perversions of preceding centuries are eliminated. There were others besides Luther who were interested in freeing the Church of its abuses, but these soon separated from him. They were in agreement with the negative aspects of the Reformation, but had little sympathy with the positive affirmations which it involved." [5]
    There is a continuity as well as a discontinuity between Luther and the many differing schools of Medieval thought.

    The chief school of Medieval thought and the backbone of Roman Catholicism was Scholaticism. It was both a system and a method of thought. The name was derived from the proponents of this system and method who were called doctores scholastici.

    "This term, in turn, came from scholazein, which originally meant to have leisure or spare time but later, as in Xen. Cyr. 7. 5, 39, took the meaning to denote oneself to pupils or, conversely, to a master. The term Skolastikos is used for the first time by Theophrastus as recorded by Diog. L. 5. 37 (or V. 50 according to Ueberweg). From Roman antiquity the expression was handed down to the ninth century, when doctores scholastici came into general usage and was applied indifferently to those who taught the seven liberal arts or theology in the cloister and cathedral schools." [6]
    Around these different doctores scholastici there arose different schools of thought that were all known as Scholasticism. This period is known as the Age of Schoolmen. In Luther's day Scholasticism was divided into the Via Antiqua, or the Old Way, and the Via Moderna, or the New Way. The Via Antiqua had flourished from the beginning of Scholasticism with St. Anselm and reached its peek in the system of St. Thomas, ending with John Duns Scotus. The followers of St. Thomas and Duns Scotus made up the two schools of the Via Antiqua in Luther's day. The Via Moderna began with William of Occam, a Paris professor, and was carried on by his disciples Peter d'Ailly and Gabriel Biel. We will consider Luther's thought first in relation to the Via Antiqua and then in relation to the Via Moderna. We will not at this time consider Luther's relation to the Mystics and the Humanists.

    1. The Via Antiqua or the Old Way.
      1. Augustinianism.
        1. Anselm
          St. Anselm of Canterbury (1035-1109) with whom Scholasticism and the Via Antiqua began was basically Augustinian in his theology and philosophy. The Swedish theologian, Anders Nygren, in his book Agape and Eros, a study of the Christian Idea of Love, has pointed out the basic systhesis in the thought of Augustine. It is well known that there are Neoplatonic ideas in the theology of St. Augustine. "The Platonic influence was kept alive throughout the Middle Ages by the study of Augustine, who was powerfully influenced by the Platonic philosophy and had read Plotinus in a Latin translation,..." [7] But Nygren in carrying his research for basic motifs [8] shows that a synthesis has been effected by Augustine between the agape-motif of the New Testament and the eros-motif of ancient Greece. [9] This new synthesis Nygren calls caritas-motif. It came into Scholasticism through Anselm and was one of the dominant influences shaping the concept of love against which Luther protested. We will discuss this concept and protest later in this paper. The Golden Age of Scholasticism and of the Via Antiqua came with the discovery and translation of Aristotelian literature from the Arabian, Jewish and original sources. This brought a fresh infiltration of the eros-motif. About this same time (13th century) the University of Paris was organized and the founding of the Franciscan and Dominican orders. These did much to bring in the Golden Age of Scholasticism.
          "Scholastic philosophy has now reached the systematizing and formularizing stage and so on the introduction of Aristotle's works breaks up into two camps: Augustinianism, comprising those who favor the master theses of Augustine and look upon Aristotle with varying degrees of hostility; Aristotelianism, comprising those who favor Aristotle, without altogether abandoning the Augustinian framework. [10]
        2. Bonaventure.
          The outstanding representative of the Augustinian group was Bonaventure (1221-1274) who combined great contructive ability with profound psychological and mystical insight. Because of these mystical strains we prefer to consider him as a Mystic.

      2. Aristotelianism.
        The second group, and by far the most important group to us as Protestants and in our consideration here, is Aristotelianism. There are in this group two broad streams of thought. The first, later Averroism, is of minor importance to us. This current of thought accepted Averroe's interpretation of Aristotle and his doctrine of separate orders of truth and gave birth to the two-fold-truth which evidentually led to rationalism and which, together with nominalism, brought about the decline of Scholasticism. [11] The second stream of thought attempted to harmonize Aristotle with St. Augustine and Church dogma. The founder of this stream of thought was St. Albert the Great (1193-1280) who gathered the then known Aristotelian literature but failed to construct any coherent synthesis. His pupil, St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), was successful to a remarkable degree in constructing such a synthesis. St. Thomas marks the apex of medieval scholasticism from the standpoint of degree of clarity and formulation. [12]

        The philosophy of Aristotle became so important in the Middle Ages that it dominated almost all of the Medieval universities. It provided not only the forms for the expression of theological and religious truth, but also the basis for all scientific study in every field. If a man didn't know Aristotle he was considered an ignoramus. [13] It was in such universities dominated by Aristotle that young Martin Luther received his education. After finishing his pre-university training in the Trivial schools at Mansfeld, Magdeburg, and Eisenach, it was only natural for Luther to attend the University of Erfurt. It was the only institution of general learning in Germany between Cologne and Leipsic. [14]

        "After the middle of the fifteenth century Erfurt had a larger registration than any other university on German soil, although at the time of Luther's entrance the intellectual life of the institution had reached a certain stagnation which was not broken until the reformatory and humanistic movement of two decade later. In any event, the young student entered an institution of great prestige and wealth, with all the guarantees of a sharp personal and individual control of student life that belonged to the discipline of the late medieval German university." [15]
        His early training in the Trivial schools had almost been exclusively linguistic in character. At Erfurt, Luther's studies began with a review of Latin grammar and further practice in literary forms, based on the Doctrinale of Alexander, which no doubt he memorized while in the Trivial schools. These were followed by lectures on rhetoric and on introduction to logic through the Analytics of Aristotle. The requirement for the baccalaureate degree was a minimum of one and a half years of study, and Luther applied for this degree in the shortest possible time. [16] In the second and third semesters, the candidate for the bachelor's degree studied Logic; the material for the lectures was furnished by Aristotle and his medieval interpreter Porphyrius (Isagoge). Logic taught the young student the laws of demonstration and proof and, together with Aristotle's Refutation of the Sophists, gave him the tools for the disputational exercises which were required for every candidate. A series of lectures on the Physics of Aristotle, including his books On the Soul, and a series on spherical astronomy completed the bachelor's preparation. [17] In these one and a half years of study the student had been introduced theoretically to the implements of knowledge -- grammar and logic -- and to the use of these in presenting thought through logic and rhetoric. After Luther received the baccalaureate degree there came a year of preparation for the master's degree, which introduced him to the elements of the medieval system of knowledge of natural and moral philosophy. He received additional training in logic. He studied mathematics and received a month of lectures on music as certified by the oath required of the candidates for the master's at Erfurt in Luther's day. About one-half of the time seems to have been given to topics in moral philosophy, including Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, his Apologetics and Household Economy.
        "All of this formed only a part of the work of the young candidate. The medieval system, as is well known, presented the student with a highly unified system of knowledge, based in the main on Aristotle as interpreted and arranged by the schoolmen of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The aim of all instruction was by no means a preparation to add to this body of knowledge or correct it, but a training in the efficient and scholarly use of the weapons which it supplied for a further interpretation of the body of knowledge itself. Thus from the first constant practice was required in the disputation. Here the student learned to fence and parry, always in Latin, within the rules prescribed by masters like Lombard and Aristotle. The disputation introduced him to the laws of pure thought without relation to content and trained him in finding the road to final proof through the syllogism. Luther was obliged from the beginning of his course to take part in these exercises and they formed a part of the day's work in the Bursa and in the hall of the faculty of the university until his master's examination." [18]
        Thus in his early education, Luther became acquainted with the system and method of Aristotle.

        There can be no doubt as to the influence of these years at Erfurt upon Martin Luther. He learned well these studies. The evidence of the university records and the testimony of at least one contemporary scholar, Johann Jager, better known by his humanistic name of Crotus Rubeanus, indicate that Luther was able and industrious student. The university records show that he received the bachelor's and master's degree within the briefest time permitted by the statutes. Crotus Rubeanus was three years older than Luther and during the latter's years of study was engaged in teaching at the University. He knew the young Mansfeld student well, and declared in a letter in 1520 that Luther passed as an "erudite philosopher" (philosophus eruditus) among his fellows. [19] His studies at Erfurt set their stamp ineradicably upon his method of presentation and terminology. For anyone reading even a little in Luther's writings knows that philosophical terminology and philosophical categories play an important role in much of what he wrote and said.

        "The mechanical technique of his logical training appears more or less in all of the works between 1517 and 1521. The Ninety-five Theses against Indulgences, the Heidelberg disputation of 1518, the Resolutions which are his formal defense of his position in the summer of that year, are all cast in the forms in which he had been trained in the refectory of St. George's Burea and the hall of the Erfurt faculty. Especially is this true of the three great reformatory tractates of 1520. The whole framework of the address To the German Nobility, with its attack on the papal citadel guarded by its three-fold ring-wall, shows the result of the author's severe training in logical presentation. This training also evidences itself in the structure which supports the fiery eloquence of On the Freedom of a Christian, while the dialectical subtleties of the Babylonian Captivity of the Church leads back not only to the preparation afforded by the tractates of Peter Lombard and the Categories and Topics of Aristotle, but also by the latter's Refutation of the Sophists (De sophisticis elenchis). For the birth of the Reformation as well as for Luther's own religious thought, it was of importance that he was trained at a university which was especially strong on the side of dialectics, and he carried through life a profound respect for this method of determining truth, as well as for the training which dialectics gives in presenting that which one already knows. So persuaded was he of the value to him of his experience in the technique of the disputation in several important crises of his life that he exerted himself to bring these exercises back into use at Wittenberg in 1532." [20]

        In his suggestions for the reformation of German universities in An Open Letter to the Christian Nobiity of the German Nation of 1520 he said he would retain Aristotle's Logic even though discarding most of all of his other works. But he didn't retain Aristotle's Logic without a reformation.

        "I should be glad to see Aristotle's books on Logic, Rhetoric and Poetics retained or used in an abridged form; as text-books for the profitable training of young people in speaking and preaching. But the commentaries and notes should be abolished, and as Cicero's Rhetoric is read without commentaries and notes, so Aristotle's Logic should be read as it is, without such a mass of comments. But now neither speaking nor preaching is learned from it, and it has become nothing but a disputing and a weariness to the flesh." [21]
        The dialectical tyranny which reigned in many universities like Erfurt is what Luther opposed as in his letter to his former teacher at Erfurt, Dr. Jodcus Trutfetter.
        "To explain myself further, I simply believe that it is impossible to reform the Church unless the Canon Law, scholastic theology, philosophy and logic, as they are now taught, are thoroughly rooted out and other studies put in their stead. I am so fixed in this opinion that I daily ask the Lord, as far as now may be, that the pure study of the Bible and the Fathers may be restored. You think I am no logician; perhaps I am not, but I know that I fear no one's logic when I defend this opinion...." [22]
        Luther's philosophy of nature was influenced by Aristotle only insofar as his teachers at Erfurt absorbed Aristotle's teachings. Bartholemew Arnold of Usingen and Jodcus Trutvetter, two Erfurt teachers who most influenced him, were members of the Via Moderna and we will discuss their influence on Luther under the Via Moderna. On the whole, Luther rejected Aristotle's natural philosophy as stated in his Physics.
        "In this regard my advice would be that Aristotle's Physics, Metaphysics, On the Soul, Ethics, which have hitherto been thought his best books, which boast of treating the things of nature, although nothing can be learned from them either of the things of nature or of the things of the Spirit. Moreover no one has so far understood his meaning, and many souls have been burdened with profitless labor and study, at the cost of much precious time. I venture to say that any potter has more knowledge of nature than is written in these books." [23]

        "Moreover, Aristotle's Physics are completely useless to every age; the whole book is an argument about nothing, and moreover, a begging of the question." [24]

        During the early years of his education at Erfurt, young Luther was not dissatisfied with Aristotle so as to reject the Stagirite's philosophy. No doubt he had some criticism of Aristotle which he had gotten from his teachers at Erfurt. According to them philosophy and human reason had nothing to say in the realm of faith. In the realm of nature, human reason could be used to the fullest extent. Usingen distinguished between Aristotle and the Bible as sources of information in theology and criticized Aristotle in all theological fields. [25] Luther was called from his studies at Erfurt in 1508 to Wittenberg to lecture on Aristotle's ethics and dialectics at the beginning of the winter term (circa Nov. 1) and remained there about a year. It was about this time when his dislike of the Stagirite began. [26] In a letter to John Braun in Eisenach, dated March 17, 1509, Luther indicates his dissatisfaction with philosophy.

        "Now I am at Wittenberg, by God's command or permission. If you wish to know my condition, I am well, thank God, except that my studies are very severe, especially philosophy, which from the first I would willingly have changed for theology; I mean that theology which searches out the meat of the nut, and kernel of the grain and the marrow of the bones. But God is God; man often, if not always, is at fault in his judgment. He is our God, he will sweetly govern us forever." [27]

        Some have argued like the Roman Catholic scholar Hartmann Griser that Luther was not capable of philosophical study and therefore he was dissatified with it. There is no doubt that philosophical study in the Middle Ages was rigorous and boring. But it does not follow that that was the cause of Luther's dissatisfaction. Recognizing that it was during this period that Luther was searching for a way of fellowship with God and salvation from sin, we may see the explanation of his dissatisfaction with philosophy. Luther had not found in philosophy that for which he was searching. Theology was closer to providing that and he desired to pursue that study further. This desire for the way of fellowship with God was no doubt the motivation for his entry into the monastery of the Augustinian Hermits at Erfurt in 1505, soon after receiving his master's degree. As he came closer to discovering the way of fellowship with God and salvation from sin, he recognized more the danger of Aristotle, which increased his dislike of the Stagirite. We shall not relate here this search and the final discovery, but only point out the outward events and the rejection of Aristotle which resulted from the discovery of the way. While Luther was at Wittenberg lecturing on Aristotle's logic and dialectics he received on March 9, 1509, his first theological degree leading to the Doctor of Theology, the Baccalaureus Biblicus or lector which entitled him to give elementary lectures on the Bible. Luther was called again to Erfurt in the fall of 1509 and received the Sententiarius degree which entitled the graduate to lecture on the first two books of Peter Lombard's Sentences, the text book of medieval theology. The marginal notes which he prepared for these lectures have been preserved and have been reproduced in the Weimar Ausgabe, IX, of Luther's works. [28] From these notes it has been observed that Luther still considered himself as holding the same views as his Erfurt teachers, Usingen and Trutfetter. Luther taught views about Aristotle much like those teachers. Aristotle was illuminated only "by the light of nature" and was reliable solely in that field. [29] The lectures on the Sentences lasted for three semesters.

        "From November, 1510, to March, 1511, Luther was occupied with the journey to Rome. Upon his return he was recalled to Wittenberg in the summer of 1511. Here Staupitz, Vicar General of the Augustinian Order, suggested that Luther become a doctor and preacher. Staupitz could appoint him as a preacher, but only the University could confer the doctorate, and the necessary fees must be secured. In the fall of 1512 the Elector agreed to supply the funds on the condition that Luther be appointed for life to the chair of lectura in Biblia, formerly occupied by Staupitz. On October, 18, 1512, the degree of Doctor of Theology was conferred upon Luther after five years of graduate work in this most exacting of all disciplines of that day." [30]

        Immediately upon receiving the doctor's degree Luther began to prepare for his first lecture course. In mid-July of 1513 he began his first series of lectures on the Psalms. These lasted until March of 1515. The great discovery was made during the course of these lectures. For the choice of the next book for lecture and the content of that lecture indicate that the discovery had been made. The series of lectures on Romans began November 3, 1515, and was completed on September 7, 1516. On September 25, 1515, Luther's pupil Bartholomaeus Bernhardi defended a set of theses opposing Scholasticism and denying the possibility of a man's fulfilling God's commmands by his free will without grace. The head of the Thomist group at Wittenberg, Bodenstein von Carlstadt, and one of his Thomistic supporters, Lupins, provided the opposition. Luther, who presided over the disputation supported Bernhardi, while the head of the Scotist group, the conservative noble Nicholas von Amsdorf, was inclined to agree with the opposition. [31] A letter from Luther, dated October 19, 1516, to his good friend George Spalatin who was the chaplain of Frederic the Wise indicates his progress in rejecting Aristotle.

        "By no means, therefore, is the righteousness of the law or of works to be understood only of ceremonies, but rather of the whole decalogue. For whatever good is done outside the faith of Christ, even if it makes Fabricii and Reguli, men who were righteous before men, yet it no more savors of justification than do apples of figs. For we are not, as Aristotle thinks, made righteous by doing right, execpt in appearance, but (if I may so express it) when we are righteous in essence we do right. It is necessary that the character be changed before the deeds; Abel pleased before his gifts." [32]

        Already in his lectures on Psalms he had charged Aristotle with bringing a profane and bold worldliness into theology. Luther had become more specific in his charges against Aristotle since the discovery. On February 8, 1517, in a letter to another good friend at Erfurt, John Lang, Luther writes that he is occupied with a commentary on Aristotle's Physics. "He hopes to tear away the mask from the 'mountebank,' whose philosophy is a many-headed serpent." [33]

        "Aristotle, Porphyry, the theologians of the sentences," said he....
        "these are the unprofitable study of this age. I desire nothing more ardently then to lay open before all eyes this false system, which has tricked the Church by covering itself with a Greek mask; and to expose its worthlessness before the world." [34]

        In this same letter to Lang at Erfurt, Luther tried to turn his old teachers, Trutfetter and Usingen from Aristotle. The Thomist, Lupinus, who with Professor Carlstadt provided the opposition to Bernhardi's theses was soon won to Luther's new point of view, but convincing the head of the Thomists was quite another matter.

        "On January 15, 1517, Carlstadt journeyed to Leipzig, where he purchased the complete works of Augustine so that he might gather additional evidence for his Scholastic position. His subsequent discussions with Luther finally satisfied him that the Via Antiqua had misrepresented the theology of Augustine and was actually dangerous for the youth." [35]
        Carlstadt then became an ardent supporter and exponent of the new theology and in April, 1517, he posted 151 theses on the door of the Castle Church attacking Aristotle and the Scholastics and asserting the doctrine of determinism. [36] In a letter dated May 6, 1517 to Christopher Scheurl at Nuremberg accompanying Carlstadt's 151 theses, Luther praises them very highly.
        "I am sending you these declarations, which they call Theses, and through you to Father Wenzel Link, and to any others who may care for this sort of tidbit. If I mistake not, you have here not the Paradoxes of Cicero, but those of our Carlstadt, or rather of St. Augustine, which are more wonderful and worthy than those of Cicero, as Augustine or rather Christ is more worthy than Cicero. For these Paradoxes convict of carelessness or ignorance all those to whom they seem more paradox than orthodox, not to say those who, having not read, or not understood, Paul and Augustine, rashly judge them heterdox, blinding themselves and others. They are paradoxes to men of medicore ability, who had not thought of them, but they are good doctrine and fair doctrine to the wise, and to me the best of doctrine. Blessed be God who again commands light to shine in the darkness...." [37]
        On May 16, 1517, Luther wrote to his friend John Lang at Erfurt of the results of his new theology on the University of Wittenberg and its faculty.
        "Our theology and St. Augustine are continuing to prosper and reign in our University through the hand of God. Aristotle is declining daily and is inclining toward a fall which will end him forever. It is remarkable how lectures in the Sentences are despised; no one can hope for an audience unless he proposes to lecture on this theology; that is, the Bible, or St. Augustine, or some other doctor of ecclesiastical authority. Farewell, and pray for me." [38]

        Luther began again to prepare some more candidates for degrees. On July 16, 1517, Luther wrote to Lang again indicating the purpose of his work.

        "I am preparing six or seven candidates for the master's examination, of whom one, Adrian, is preparing theses to shame Aristotle, for whom I want to make as many enemies and as quickly as I can...." [39]
        One of the candidates preparing for his first theological degree (baccalaureus ad Biblia) was one Francis Gunther of Nordhausen. On September 4, 1517, he debated some ninety-nine theses with Luther presiding. Luther saw very clearly that Scholastic confusion was in part due to the fact that Aristotle had been accorded such an important place in Catholic theology. Thus he attacked Aristotle in these theses.
        "It is false to say that without Aristotle one cannot become a theologian. The opposite is true, no one becomes a theologian unless it be without Aristotle, for the whole of Aristotle is related to the theology as darkness is to light, and his Ethics is the worst enemy of grace." [40]
        Luther considered these theses to be his own as indicated in a letter written to Lang on the very day of the disputations.
        "Greeting. I have sent to you by Beckmann my Theses against Scholastic theology.... But I am waiting with the greatest eagerness and anxiety to know what you think of these paradoxes. Truly I fear that they will seem not only paradox, but heterdox, to your teachers, which can be only orthodox to us. Please let me know this as soon as possible, and assure my truly reverend masters in the theological faculty and in the other departments, that I am most ready to come and defend the theses publicly, either in the university or in the monastery, so that they may not think I am whispering in a corner, if, indeed, they esteem our university so meanly as to think it a corner." [41]
        It is interesting to note that Luther was anxious that his views be known outside the University of Wittenberg. In a letter to Christopher Scheurl on September 11, 1517, Luther requested them to be shown to Eck.
        "I am sending my propositions, which will seem paradoxes, if not heterodox, to many, which you may show to our learned and ingenious Eck, so that I may hear and see what he has to say about them...." [42]
        Scheurl not only sent them to Eck but to other theologians besides as he told Luther in a letter dated September 30, 1517.
        "I will send your Propositions on Scholastic Theology to Eck, and would like to send them to the theologians of Cologne and Heidelberg, for I know several of them." [43]

        These attacks on Aristotle and Scholasticism were the first acts of reformation carried on by Martin Luther. God began the Reformation in the heart of the man Martin Luther and it spread to his immediate environment, the University of Wittemberg and its faculty, and then to the whole Catholic world on October 31, 1517, with the posting of the 95 Theses against Indulgences. This is important. The medieval universities were one of the key supports of medieval Roman Catholicism. Roman Catholic theology has been formed by the doctors of the universities, especially the University of Paris. So the reformation began with a doctor who attacked the basis of Roman Catholicism, Aristotle, and taught the Word of God which converted his colleagues.

        "Like all German universities of the time, Wittenberg had a very strong Scholastic representation. Eight professors taught the Via Antiqua in 1505, four of whom were Thomists and four Scotists. After Trutvetter's return to Erfurt the Via Moderna was not represented. At the head of the Thomist group was Bodenstein von Carlstadt, with Lupinus, Reuter, and Beskau supporting him. At the head of the Scotist group was the conservative noble, Nicholas von Amsdorf, supported by Kannegiesser, Kuechenmeister, and Koenig." [44]
        The heads of the two groups wre converted along with their supporters. [45]
        "The two professore of the Law School, Schurff and Stahelin, were next won to Luther's point of view, as was Thiloninus Philymnus, a Greek and Hebrew instructor. In 1516 his new convictions were published in The Triumph of the Christian." [46]

        "By the time Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the Castle Church, he had the complete support of the whole University. The act was, therefore, not a step taken by a single individual, but the concerted action of the entire institution in opposition to the disgraceful indulgence traffic of the Domiican monk John Tetzel. Nothing more convincing of this fact may be cited than the comparatively recent discovery with a reference to a letter reproduced in Die Deutsche Bible, IV, of the Weimar Ausgabe, 1923. Although this story is in the main an integral part of the later indulgence struggle which Luther waged with Rome, it is also an excellent illustration of how warmly Luther's cause was espoused in the University...." [47]

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[1] J. H. Merle D'Aubigne, History of the Great Reformation, Vol. I, 15th ed.
(New York: Robert Carter; Pittsburg: Thomas Carter), p. 204.

[2] A valuable addition to the Wheaton Library containing these and many other writings would be D. Martin Luthers Werke (Weimar, 1883ff). This is the most up-to-date collection of the works of Martin Luther to be had anywhere. Although in German it is a standard collection of Luther's works and is quoted almost in all of the recent works on theology. It is a handicap not to have this work in checking what men like Brunner say that Luther taught. I do not think that we Evangelicals realize that German Luther research, to which this Weimar edition of Luther's works was the basis, is one of the factors in the rise of Neo-orthodoxy in Germany. They have no doubt gotten many of their ideas from this Luther research.

[3] Ernest Geoge Schwiebert, Luther and His Times.
(St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1950), p. 9.

[4] Edgar K. Carson, The Reinterpretation of Luther.
(Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1948), p. 157.

[5] Ibid., p.157.

[6] Dagobert D. Runes (ed.), The Dictionary of Philosophy.
"Scholasticism," by Hunter Guthrie.
(New York: Philosophical Library, no date), p. 280.

[7] James Mackinnon, The Origin of the Reformation.
(London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1939), p. 344.

[8] "In its simplest form, the search for the motif is a search for the meaning behind the terminology or form of expression. It is an attempt to arrive at the affirmation that gave rise to the particular statement of doctrine. The statement itself is determined by the thought-forms of the day and by the positions that it seeks to exclude." (Carlson, p. 39).

The "basic-motif" (grundmotiv) is the basic or central affirmation in light of which each particular of a historical statement of faith is to be understood and in which the unity of the whole consists. It is this which gives to the whole system of ideas coherence and structural unity.

"Without it, no single motif -- or the form in which it expresses itself -- can be understood. Nygren defines the basic-motif as the fundamental answer to a fundamental question." (Carlson, p. 39).

[9] "For Christianity, and for any religion from which it needs to be distinguished, the fundamental question is, How does man come into fellowship with God? The Christian answer cannot be arbitrarily chosen according to the preference of the individual theologian. It must arise out of the nature of Christianity itself, as historically revealed and empirically known. It must be that which stamps the Christian answer as Christian in contrast to rival answers. According to Nygren, the various answers given to the question by all religions that can be regarded as religions in the same sense as Christianity can be reduced to three. They are the 'nomos-motif' in Judaism, the 'eros-motif' in Hellenism, and the 'agape-motif' in Christianity." (Carlson, pp. 40-41)

[10] Runes, p. 282.

[11] Runes, p. 283.

[12] Runes, p. 283.

[13] Works of Martin Luther. Vol. II.
(Philadelphia: A. J. Holman Company, 1915), p. 146, n.2.

[14] Robert Herndon Fife, Young Luther, the Intellectual and Religious Development of Martin Luther to 1518.
(New York: The Macmillan Company, 1928), p. 52.

[15] Fife, p. 54.

[16] Fife, p. 57.

[17] Fife, pp. 57-58.

[18] Fife, pp. 58-59.

[19] Fife, pp. 59-60.

[20] Fife, pp. 61-62.

[21] Works, p. 147.

[22] Preserved Smith (trans. and ed.), Luther's Correspondence and other Contemporary Letters.
Vol. I (1507-1521)
(Philadelphia: The Lutheran Publication Society, 1913), pp. 83-84.

The accusation that Luther was no logician was probably due to his use of logic as a result of the New Theology. So much is indicated in Luther's comments on Dr. Trutfetter's letter in Luther's letter to Spalatin after the Heidelberg debate in 1518. Some of the Erfurt Professors were present at the debate.

".... Dr. Trutfetter especially condenms all my propositions; he wrote me a letter accusing me of ignorance even of dialectic, to say nothing of theology. I would have disputed publicly with them had not the festival of the cross prevented." (Smith, p. 85).

Luther had previously sent a letter to John Lang, February 8, 1517, in which he enclosed some propositions criticizing the prevalent logic and especially Aristotle, which he desired to have communicated to Trutfetter and Usingen. (see Smith, p. 55, n.2).

[23] Works, p. 146.

[24] Smith, p. 169.

[25] Schwiebert, p. 135.

[26] Smith, p. 23, 169 n.1.

[27] Smith, p. 24.

[28] Schwiebert, p. 172.

[29] Schwiebert, p. 172.

[30] Schwiebert, p. 149.

[31] Schwiebert, p. 294.

[32] Smith, p. 45.

[33] Fife, p. 222.

[34] d'Aubigne, p. 178.

[35] Schwiebert, p. 295.

[36] Smith, p. 41, n.9.

[37] Smith, pp. 58-59.

[38] Schwiebert, p. 296.

[39] Smith, p. 60.

[40] Schwiebert, p. 296.
(Author's footnote: This is a free translation of Theses 40 to 45 inclusive, W. A., I, 226).

[41] Smith, pp. 60-61.

[42] Smith, p. 69.

[43] Smith, p. 65.

[44] Schwiebert, p. 294.

[45] Schwiebert, p. 295.

[46] Schwiebert, p. 296.

[47] Schwiebert, pp. 500-501.