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Lutheran Perspective on Natural Theology

Ilmari Karimies


This article examines Martin Luther’s view of Natural theology and natural knowledge of God. Luther research has often taken a negative stance towards a possibility of Natural theology in Luther’s thought. I argue, that one actually finds from Luther’s texts a limited area of the natural knowledge of God. This knowledge pertains to the existence of God as necessary and as Creator, but not to what God is concretely. Luther appears to think that the natural knowledge of God is limited because of the relation between God and the Universe only one side is known by natural capacities. Scholastic Theology built on Aristotelianism errs, according to Luther, when it uses created reality as the paradigm for thinking about God. Direct experiential knowledge of the divinity, given by faith, is required to comprehend the divine being. Luther’s criticism of Natural theology, however, does not appear to rise from a general rejection of metaphysics, but from that Luther follows certain ideas of Medieval Augustinian Platonism, such as a stark ontological differentiation between finite and infinite things, as well as the idea of divine uniting contradictions. Thus the conflict between faith and reason on Luther seems to be explicable at least in part as a conflict between two different ontological systems, which follow different paradigms of rationality.


Luther, Natural Theology, Platonic Tradition, Henry of Genth

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