Monday, September 7, 2009

Fabricated Luther: Troeltsch

This seems to be the kind of thing Ernst Troeltsch wrote about Lutheranism:

“Thus the conception of a State Church still remains the centre of the social doctrines of Lutheranism” (Ibid., 516). Lutheranism manifests a passive tendency that predisposes it to support whatever power happens to be dominant and makes it vulnerable to being controlled by the governments to which it is connected, even if they are characterized by brutality and tyranny. Troeltsch views these tendencies within Lutheranism as contrary to the progressive spirit he associates with Protestant countries in the modern era.

The impact of such analysis and stereotyping is what Siemon-Netto is trying to examine.

My own reaction to this is:

Certainly, we who were reared after the wars were encouraged to engage in critique. "Critical thinking" was supposedly the highest goal of education, one of our teachers used to say. To this day, Germans are known to be brutally honest, critical and forward in their speech. This can be very annoying, but also highly constructive leading to correction and innovation.

I don't think that this just happened just as of late.

Secondly, I would not describe the State Churches as particularly "Lutheran", in that I never heard anybody discuss documents from the reformation or any of Luther's books.

I was confirmed in the State Church myself, and I certainly did not learn anything about Luther or the reformation, then and there. We in the ev.luth. State Church knew ourselves mostly in opposition to Roman Catholics. We knew what we did not believe and do better than any teachings of Martin Luther, I'd say. I did not get to know Martin Luther, until I bought my own first book authored by him at the secular University of Alberta. I think, actual words and teachings of Luther are almost a bit of a State Secret.


Bror Erickson said...

Many books are coming out now that would challenge Troeltsch's critique. Mark Whitford has a great one "Tyranny and Resistance." the sad fact is it wasn't Lutheranism that compromised with Hitler, but Calvinism, Sasse makes that clear in a few places. Lutheranism had all but been gutted from the State churches of Germany, through the Prussian Union, the history of which shows a lot of opposition to government on behalf of Lutherans. Also you found the resistance to Nazi's being quite great in Lutheran Countries, such as Norway and Denmark, Sweden shamefully rolled over, but there is also the great resistance shown by the Fins against Stalinist Russia. Then there were also some of the heroes of the war, who were deeply influenced by Luther, Bonhoefer, Kai Munk, Bergrav...
These critiques of Lutheranism that are still popular, stating that we tend towards statism, are really nothing but theological slander.
I enjoyed the "Fabricated Luther."

Brigitte said...

I am woefully, inadequately informed on these subjects. Thanks for clarifying and giving some reading directions.

"Theological slander" sounds like a good term. I think one encounters it in a few places. It seems though, Luther has been particularly singled out. He himself could be very polemical. But what matters here is: What is true? What is good and right? What is biblical?