Wild Boar in the Vineyard: Martin Luther at the Birth of the Modern World

Theology: Academic and Vernacular

In the years immediately following 1517, Luther took up other causes and controversies, some of which stemmed from concerns raised in the Theses (penance, confession), as well as a broader palette of subjects (marriage, prayer, preparation for death). These often arose in context as responses to particular challenges, rather than as extended or systematic treatises. 1520 in particular was a crucial year for Luther, during which he published works that would develop key elements of his evolving theology and hasten his break with the Church. The papal bull Exsurge Domine of June, 1520 had threatened Luther with excommunication if he did not recant within sixty days of the heretical claims in various of his early works. Over the remaining months of that year, Luther extended and intensified his criticisms of the authority and teachings of the Church, articulating his new understanding of Christian faith and life, of the relationship between secular and ecclesiastical power, and of the centrality of individual will, conscience, and freedom. He would be excommunicated as a heretic in January of 1521 and declared an outlaw under the “Ban of the Empire” later that May.


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