Two years ago, in a surge of publicity, the Western Churches, Protestant and Roman Catholic, marked 500 years since Martin Luther wrote ninety-five theses to dispute the power of “indulgences”: instruments by which the Church claimed to reduce or eliminate the penalties imposed after confession in this life, and even in the hereafter. Martin Luther, a relatively young theologian in an obscure university in North-Eastern Germany, challenged authority in the name of Scripture and “evident reason”. Yet his theological innovations held far broader and more sweeping implications. Luther reinterpreted key biblical passages to invalidate the whole medieval system of purification through ritual practices encouraged by the Church. An extraordinarily creative thinker, and at the same time an intensely problematic personality. Luther’s comments about theological rivals, political authorities, the peasantry, women, Jews and Muslims are all immensely troubling, not least for those who in other ways revere his legacy. This course seeks to get under the skin of this complex and challenging figure, to trace his impact and address the difficulties which he presented in his own time, and still does.

Note: Identical to ST 359.