Musically expressed theology, and the golden age of Martin Luther's Reformation




Hough, Adam

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This thesis seeks a reappraisal of Martin Luther’s complex understanding of theology’s place in the social and political reformation of sixteenth century Germany. Here I seek to reintroduce an element of that theology that has been largely absent from mainstream scholarship: music. Building on Robin Leaver’s influential 2007 work, Luther’s Liturgical music, wherein he argues that Luther’s liturgical song-writing ought to be understood theologically, I will demonstrate how the reformer sought to use a musically expressed theology to build a foundation of faith among the German laity- a prerequisite, he believed, to a successful reformation of Christian religion and society. I will place the genesis of this idea both in Luther’s participation in the Indulgence Controversy, and in the failed ‘Leisnig Experiment’, in which he promoted the adoption of a congregationalist model of spiritual self-regulation. Luther’s answer to the failures of Leisnig was an educational program centered on teaching a theology of the Psalms through music. In his teachings, we will see that Luther saw theology as not only a path to salvation, but as a practical remedy to broader social problems arising from greed and false teaching. This discussion will conclude with an explanation of why this educational program of teaching theology through music did not feature prominently in Lutheran pedagogy once the process of confessionalization was begun in the late 1520’s.



Martin Luther, Lutheranism, Reformation