From 1518 to 1520, Martin Luther addressed the public on questions of Christian practice in over twenty pamphlets. These writings sold extremely well and made Luther a popular public figure, yet modern scholars typically use the intermittent instances of public conflict to tell the story of his early development. The project of this dissertation is to analyze these pamphlets for Luthers critique of piety and to assess its importance for his early theology.
By tracing his proposals for Christian practice, this dissertation presents a narrative of Luthers early years that illumines the intervals between controversies.-Chapter one outlines the historical background and surveys relevant secondary literature. Chapter two examines Lent 1518, when Luther attempted to shift the focus of confession from having proper contrition to having proper faith.
Chapter three covers the contentious summer of 1518 and concludes that Luthers exposition of practice remained remarkably consistent. In early 1519, the subject of chapter four, Luther modified several late medieval practices to encourage reliance on grace, restraint from sin, and love of neighbor. Chapter five considers late 1519 and early 1520, when Luther began to include polemical discourse in the pastoral writings and explicated the sacraments principally as ways to strengthen Christians consciences.-The narrative that emerges over the course of this study is that of a pastoral reformer who was consistently concerned about religious practices and their effects on believers.
Throughout 1518-1520, Luther judged practices according to their ability to engender sincere devotion, willing suffering, and complete dependence on Gods grace. The remarkably consistent themes in these diverse writings demonstrate that Luthers pastoral theology was highly-developed at this early stage of his career. In addition, the correlation between his recommendations on practice and his early polemical emphases indicates a practical orientation to Luthers early theology.