Posted by: Johnold Strey | June 26, 2008

Luther on Legislation

Here’s another interesting contribution from Luther. I’m still reading through “The Babylonian Captivity of the Church” (1520). Luther is dealing with the abuses of the seven “sacraments” (though he would prefer two or three sacraments) in the church, and this quote comes from the medieval abuses surrounding marriage. Luther is referring to a book called The Angelic Summa, a handbook on cases of casuistry published some 31 times between 1476 and 1520. A section in this book was devoted to impediments to marriage. A section of this popular theological handbook listed 18 reasons why a person could/should not be married. Rather than relying on a handbook of laws and governing the church that way, Luther would have preferred a different approach for ruling church and state, as seen in the following quotation. When I think about some of the ridiculous legislation and court decisions that have come out of our own country, Luther’s words have newfound application. I don’t want to give the impression that Luther was primarily about social or political change, but I find it interesting that his quote has tremendous contemporary application. So here’s some Luther food-for-thought to chew on:

“This I do know, that no state is governed successfully by means of law. If the ruler is wise, he will govern better by a natural sense of justice than by laws. If he is not wise, he will foster nothing but evil through legislation, since he will not know what use to make of the laws nor how to adapt them to the case at hand. Therefore, in civil affairs more stress should be placed on putting good and wise men in office than on making laws; for such men will themselves be the very best of laws, and will judge every variety of case with a lively sense of equity” (LW/AE, Vol. 36, p. 98).

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