Date of Award

Spring 2003

Document Type





Although Luther’s early concept of saving faith was heavily influenced by the German mystical tradition, Luther moved against the mystical tradition, particularly Johannes Tauler’s optimistic anthropology, in later life to protect himself and his doctrine of saving faith (Sola Fide) against accusations of semi-Pelagian tendencies. Luther’s doctrine of faith shook sixteenth-century Western Christendom. The timeliness and potency of his theological concepts, specifically Sola Fide,1 caused thousands of individuals to break away from the Roman Catholic Church and form what is known today as the Protestant movement. The Biblical roots of this doctrine have been well studied. Luther’s commentary on Paul’s letter to the Romans remains at the center of the faith debate even into modem times. What requires further research within this timely and polemic discussion, however, are the traditional forces that shaped what seemed to be a momentous shift in Luther’s doctrine.2 I will be focusing on two forces that may have affected this change: first, the mystical tradition of Johannes Tauler that shaped Luther’s understanding of faith with an act of humility and, second, Luther’s theological context which precipitated the Reformation, but which, at the same time, brought Luther closer to the dangers of semi-Pelagianism .