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Unit information: The Theology of Martin Luther in 2016/17

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Unit name The Theology of Martin Luther
Unit code THRS30110
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Balserak
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Religion and Theology
Faculty Faculty of Arts


Luther was foul-mouthed, brilliant, and passionately interested in finding a merciful God at the centre of the universe. He ultimately did so, and his discovery turned Europe on its head. But while the significance of Luther is well known, the actual character of his thought is not. This unit will examine that thought in detail, looking at topics like: Luther's notion of the hidden God; his doctrine of human depravity and the bondage of the will; his thinking on the devil; his theology of the cross, his theology of justification by faith, his belief in the priesthood of all believers; his understanding of the Church; his 'two kingdoms' doctrine; his understanding of the Eucharist and of the ubiquity of Christ's body, his eschatology, views on the Jews, and so forth. His thought will be examined within its late medieval context with attention also being given to the larger-than-life character of Luther, the man, and to how Luther's theology develops after his death amongst Lutherans.


  • To provide an understanding of the late-medieval and early modern theological landscape which was the background for Luther's life and thought.
  • To provide an understanding of Luther's theology both in regards to the positions he takes on individual topics and in regards to the shape and character of the whole of his thought.
  • To provide an understanding of some of the scholarly study of Luther and of some of the major schools of thought present within Luther scholarship.
  • To develop analytical skills through the discussion and essay writing.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the unit students will be expected to have:

acquired knowledge and skill to discuss late medieval and early modern theology

acquired knowledge and skill to discuss the life and thought of Luther within its context

acquired knowledge and skill to discuss the shape of Luthers theology and the positions he held on main theological topics

acquired knowledge and skill to discuss early Lutheranism

acquired knowledge and skill to discuss the academic study of Luther, his life, his theology and early Lutheranism.

and additionally (specific to Level H) to:

  • incorporate a strong grasp of Luthers late medieval/early modern context into ones analysis of his thought
  • be able to describe, evaluate and/or challenge current scholarly thinking
  • demonstrate a clear and penetrating understanding of the concepts found in Luthers thought and the relationships which exist between them
  • display a high level of ability in selecting, applying, interpreting and organizing information

Teaching details

Seminars - 3 hours per week

Assessment Details

One summative coursework essay of 3000 words (50%) and one exam of 2 hours (50%).

Reading and References

Luther and Erasmus: free will and salvation (SCM Press, c1969)

Luther, Martin, Lecture on Romans, (Westminster, 1961)

Luther, Martin, Selections from His Writings (Doubleday, 1961)

Oberman, Heiko, Luther: man between God and the Devil (Image, 1989)

Marius, Richard, Martin Luther: the Christian between God and death (Belknap, 1999).

The Cambridge companion to Martin Luther (Cambridge, 2003)