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The Lutheranism of Thomas Hobbes

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Since a comprehensive assessment of the ideological reasons, authenticity and role of Hobbes's explicit adherence to Luther's teachings is missing up to this day, the present essay attempts to address the important issue of Hobbes's Lutheranism afresh in three successive steps. First of all, it is necessary to make out at what particular time and under which specific circumstances Hobbes made the most substantial use of Luther's theology. Only if the historical context of Hobbes's most emphatic display of Lutheran doctrines becomes firmly established can we hope to understand what the strategical point of his Lutheranism might have been. Secondly, it is indispensable for an evaluation of the authenticity of Hobbes's Lutheranism to explore whether Hobbes quoted Luther correctly or whether he, perhaps deliberatedly, misrepresented Luther's teachings to further his own cause. Thirdly, a comprehensive appraisal of Hobbes's allegiance to Lutheran doctrines ought not to overlook how his coevals reacted to his claims. Since, among his contemporaries, both philosophers and theologians responded to his Lutheranism in a highly critical manner, the most relevant of their opinions have to be carefully examined.

Keywords: Hobbes; Hobbes's Lutheranism; Luther; Lutheran doctrines; coevals; theology

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Christ's College, Cambridge.

Publication date: 1997-04-01

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