Religious Theology Martin Luther and Immanuel Kant Term Paper

  • Length: 4 pages
  • Subject: Black Studies - Philosophy
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #9499630

Excerpt from Term Paper :


relates man's freedom to his immaturity, with a special focus on man in relation to society. In "Preface to the Epistle of St. Paul" Martin Luther describes man's freedom in relation to Christian religion. These works not only differ in their content, but are contradictory in meaning, the differences stemming from the fact that Kant places society at the center of freedom while Luther places God at the center.

The first restriction on man's freedom presented is that of the law. However, Kant and Luther treat the law in very different ways. Luther argues that the law is more than just an action, and that one is not lawful unless they follow the law willingly, "His [God's] law must be fulfilled in your heart, and cannot be obeyed if you merely perform certain acts" (Luther 20). Luther's statement shows that there is more to law than merely obeying, the motivation for obeying the law is also important. This is described further saying:

to fulfil the law, we must meet its requirements gladly and lovingly; live virtuous and upright lives without the constraint of the law, and as if neither the law nor it's penalties existed" (Luther 21).

Kant treats the law very differently. While Luther argues that a law is not really obeyed if it is only obeyed for the sake of obeying, Kant argues the opposite. Kant differentiates between what one believes and what one does, making his point by using the example of a soldier obeying an officer: "He must simply obey. But he cannot reasonably be banned from making observations as a man of learning on the errors in the military service, and from submitting these to his public for judgment" (Kant 53).

Here we see what one does is actually less important than what they believe. The main difference in the treatment of laws relates to the focus. Luther is focused on laws as they relate to God, where the individual is the most important factor,.".. God judges according to your inmost convictions" (Luther 20). Kant's focus is quite different with the focus on what the laws mean for society as a whole rather than the individual.

This contrast in focus is also seen when we consider the idea of good works. Luther argues that good works are only good when they are driven by faith:

Hence, the man of faith, without being driven, willingly and gladly seeks to do good to everyone, suffer all kinds of hardships, for the sake of the love and glory of God who has shown him such grace. It is impossible, indeed, to separate works from faith, just as it is impossible to separate heat and light from fire" (Luther 24).

Kant argues quite the opposite, separating works from faith. Kant speaks of a priest who teaches one thing while believing another and sees "nothing in this which need trouble the conscience" (Kant 54). Kant gives the reasoning for this saying:

For what he teaches in pursuit of his duties as an active servant of the church presented by him as something which he is not empowered to teach at his own discretion, but which he is employed to expound in a prescribed manner and in someone else's name" (Kant 54).

In this passage we see Kant distinguishes between what one says in a role that he has been given, believing that if said in this role it does not matter, but if said in the public sphere it does. Luther would argue with this point, saying that the work of the faith must be attached to real faith. Relating these ideas to freedom we can see that there are two types of freedom present in Kant's ideas.

Firstly, that one has freedom to act in a role and to carry out this role as they are required. This extends to the idea that while in this role, one does not have freedom to express their own ideas: "in view of this, he is not and cannot be free as a priest, since he is acting on a commission imposed from outside" (Kant 54). Secondly, one has freedom to express their opinions in the public sphere. Again in this, we see the link to society rather than the individual.

In Luther's argument…

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