ND   JMC : History of Medieval Philosophy / by Maurice De Wulf


443. General Outhine. -- The theological controversies of the Reformation were inevitably bound to influence philosophy. The leading principle of Protestant theology was private judgment in interpreting the Scriptures and determining dogma. Now, when each decides his own dogma, he can have little difficulty in harmonizing it with a philosophy chosen no less freely. This accounts for the varied and often contradictory forms of the philosophical systems of the earlier Protestants (Neo-Platonism, Stoicism, Aristotelianism, pantheistic mysticism).

LUTHER (1483-1546) was not a philosopher. He preached an irreconcilable opposition between reason and faith, the former being a work of the flesh (caro), the latter of the spirit (spiritus). He forbade philosophy to meddle with theology and bitterly reproached scholasticism with having profaned theology with its "sophisms". The main work of his life was the founding of a new dogmatic system, with a theory of justification as its basis. According to this theory, original sin corrupted the whole man in the very depths of his being; faith in the Gospel can alone restore him to justice and sanctity. This redeeming faith, springing from individual inspiration, unites man with God and conducts him to his final happiness, passively, without any effort of his own, nay, without the concurrence or assistance of any works of his whatsoever. If Luther was not a philosopher, this reformed dogma of his implies a philosophy. The distinction between the "flesh" or the natural faculties on the one hand, and the "spirit" or Divine element in our being on the other, involves a psychological dualism that recalls the teachings of the Cabala. The passivity of man under grace and his subjection to an absolute predestination, lead directly to determinism. Some of Luther's disciples, more anxious than their master to justify their religious beliefs before the bar of reason, sought in one way or another to harmonize philosophy with the reformed dogma. The leading philosophers of the new religion were Zwingli, Melanchthon and Böhme.

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