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Hausvater: /HAUS-fah-ter/
noun (German)
1. Housefather.
2. Spiritually responsible head of household, including the housefather as assisted by the housemother.
>> Example: "As the Hausvater should teach it [Christian doctrine] to the entire family ..."
(Martin Luther, Small Catechism, 1529)

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The Lutheran Reformation

As the church marks Reformation Day on October 31, we share with you some posts from prior years.

Lord, Help Us Ever to Retain

Lord, help us ever to retain
The Catechism's doctrine plain
As Luther taught the Word of truth
In simple style to tender youth.

This hymn points us to the Catechism and reminds us that the Six Chief Parts of Christian doctrine remain important all of life. The presence of all six parts is very clear in the text and invites discussion and instruction:

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Singing the Three (or Four or Five) Solas of the Reformation

Beginning about a hundred years ago, church historians have summarized the Reformation of the sixteenth century in terms of three, or sometimes four or five, solae, or “solas”—the Latin word means “only” or “alone.” Although none of the Reformation theologians grouped the solae together in the concise way we do today, all five of these themes can be found throughout their writings:

  • Sola Gratia (By Grace Alone)
  • Sola Fide (By Faith Alone)
  • Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)
  • Solus Christus (Christ Alone)
  • Soli Deo Gloria (To God Alone Be the Glory)

Hymnwriters also have amplified these same themes. The following examples are far from an exhaustive catalog; rather, they offer some samples for meditation as the church pauses each year to commemorate the Festival of the Reformation on October 31.

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The Reformation and Education: Emphases, Influence, and Lasting Impact

Martin Luther may be best known for his theological reformation of the medieval church, which had strayed from the pure teaching of God’s Word. Luther did not, however, pursue his theological aims in isolation from other concerns; his writings touch upon politics, social life, and the arts. He also recognized the importance of education, both for the church and for the civil realm.

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From Luther’s writings on education, we may derive answers to the following questions:

  • What Should Be Taught?
  • How Should It Be Taught?
  • To Whom Should It Be Taught?
  • By Whom Should It Be Taught?
  • How Shall We Honor Luther’s Legacy Today?

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The Magdeburg Interpretation of Romans 13: A Lutheran Justification for Political Resistance

Martin Luther and, therefore, Lutherans have a reputation for being quietists—for not wanting to “rock the boat” but instead accepting the existing political order. While Thomas Muentzer, a radical Anabaptist leader, was promoting the Peasant Revolt of 1525, Luther called for obedience to the state. In the view of many Lutherans even today, the American colonists committed a sin by declaring their independence from England in 1776. Such, however, is not the only Lutheran way of thinking, nor does this thinking necessarily reflect Luther’s own mature view of the duties of citizens and of Christian magistrates in the face of tyranny.

The Torgau Declaration of 1530

To question whether Luther was a quietist does not, however, lead automatically to the other extreme, as if he must have been either a quietest or else a revolutionary. Luther was cautious and moderate, not radical. Throughout his life, his default position remained obedience to the state. However, by the 1530s he had become more open to political resistance than he had been during the 1520s. One turning point in Luther’s thinking came in 1530, when Lutheran lawyers met with Lutheran theologians in Torgau. The resulting Torgau Declaration acknowledged that under the constitution of the Holy Roman Empire, the emperor was not entitled to absolute obedience by local magistrates or their subjects; rather, political power was to be shared between the emperor and the local magistrates, particularly with those magistrates who served as electors of the emperor. The electors had the responsibility not only to choose who the emperor should be, but also to hold that officeholder accountable to his office. Accordingly, the prevalent doctrine of the divine right of kings had to be adjusted to recognize that no monarch wields power unconditionally, but local magistrates (and even the citizens themselves) have political rights and duties involving a corresponding limitation upon the centralized authority of the state.

Throughout the 1530s, Luther, Lutheran theologians, and Lutheran lawyers continued to unpack the implications of the Torgau Declaration, even as their political rights in Saxony fell increasingly under the threat of Emperor Charles V, who had sided with the Roman Papacy against the Lutheran Reformation. Local princes formed the Schmalkaldic League in preparation for the protection of the Lutheran church. They did so under a principle that came to be known as interposition—the duty of a lesser magistrate to interpose, or place himself between, a tyrannical higher magistrate and the people. Luther’s own life had been spared by an act of interposition following the Diet of Worms in 1521: Frederick the Wise staged a kidnapping of Luther and then hid him away safely in Wartburg Castle to protect him from the Edict of Worms. That edict, adopted by a dubious constitutional procedure, had declared Luther an outlaw and demanded that local magistrates assist in apprehending him; anyone who found him could kill him without fear of punishment. Instead, Frederick defied the emperor and rescued Luther.

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