Luther on the concept of knowledge
Der Erkenntnisbegriff bei Luther
Is the knowledge of God according to Luther attainable only in Christ the Crucified (cf. Heidelberg disputation, proof of thesis 20), or does the international light of faith imprint on the mind actual, direct and immediate knowledge of God (cf. Dictata super Psalterium, glosses to Ps. 26)? Is the light of faith a sign of absent things, or a divine light making God present (cf. Ps. 4:7 in Dictata super Psalterium and Operationes in Psalmos)? What is the relationship of belief, trust and experience in faith? Why does the reason only understand visible things, and how does it understand them? What kind of theory of sense perception does Luther have? Why does Luther call faith the theological intellect? Are the moral principles known only by faith, or do they reside inobscurably in the mind of everyone (cf. Ps. 4:7 in Operationes in Psalmos vs. Romans 1:19 in the Lectures on Romans)?
Where is the light motive of Luther’s theories of knowledge derived from? Does Luther follow the direct illuminationist epistemologies of Augustine and Bonaventure, or the nominalist epistemologies of Gerson and Biel? How do the lights of reason and faith differ? What about the light of grace and light of glory? Is God the immediate object of cognition now, or in the Heaven? What does the knowledge of God in faith have to do with Pseudo-Dionysius and the wings of the Cherubim? Or should one forsake the medieval and late medieval framework and seek to understand Luther’s concept of knowledge through the concept of person and his existential relations? Does Luther’s concept of Glaubenserfahrung constitute an antithesis to any kind of mystical experience? Is the knowledge of God attained only in the deepest self-rejection of the extreme Anfechtung?
In this seminar we will be examining the models of Luther’s anthropology, philosophical and theological psychology as well as ontology in regard to the concept of knowledge, and the theories and assumptions behind them. The working methods will include an introduction to the questions by the seminar leader, and presentations of the seminar participants based on their own research. Contributions are welcome both in English and in German. The focus of the seminar leader will be on the roots of Luther’s theology as manifest in his biblical lectures between 1514 and 1521 and the epistemological theories to faith as knowledge of God, but papers and presentations related to whole Luther corpus and all areas of the concept of knowledge are welcome.