Robert Kolb and Hans Kung: Debate about Martin Luther’s Reform

There was an argument between two great scholars, Robert Kolb and Hans Kung on whether Martin Luther’s reform improved the lives of European Christians. Kolb agreed that martin Luther made a positive impact on European Christians and he concluded that Luther was a prophetic hero, teacher and that Luther brought change and hope to the people. Kung on the other hand believes that Luther was a great orchestrator of change in the Christian church but also an indirect instigator of the violence and oppression that erupted among the people.

In other words Luther had some positive effects but left more negative consequences on the people. This essay’s main focus is to identify which argument appears to be more convincing and persuasive but for better understanding of the subject of argument, this essay will first begin with a summary of the main points proposed by the scholars. Kolb a religion and history professor drew his conclusions about the effects that Luther had on European Christian from various sources of the sixteenth century such as biographies of some writers, study texts of historians, Luther’s books and other similar materials.

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He’s conclusions were founded on what he called the three images of Luther. According to Kolb, the first image perceived of Luther was that of a prophet and that was because at a time when people began to question their beliefs he was the one who stepped forward to challenge the church authorities to rethink their roles in the church. Luther was then perceived as a teacher and that happened due to the continuous influence that his books had on people even after his death. The Third image was that of a hero and that was perceived because Luther brought hope and change to the Christian people in a time of crisis.

Using Kolb’s words, “Luther symbolized the divine-Word which brought God’s judgment upon the old papal system, and he embodied the hopes of the people and the comfort of the gospel which brought new heavenly blessings upon the faithful children of God”. On the contrary, Hans Kung a theologian doesn’t believe in the idea that Luther was a prophetic hero or teacher that helped improve the lives of European Christians but he accepted the fact that Luther played a major role in the reformation process that took place. Kung believes there were other factors that contributed to the reformation.

Events like the fall of the papacy, rise of the nation states, the rapid development of the press, the huge demand for education and other similar events paved way for the revolution to occur. As positive as a reformation or revolution may sound, Kung suggested that Luther’s reformation created numerous unpleasant consequences like the religious wars, the formation of various radical sects, the subordination of peasants to rulers and so many other similar events. After analyzing both arguments, Hans Kung’s argument appeared to be more persuasive on so many levels.

I didn’t really believe in what Robert Kolb was arguing about because he was very focused on the positive effects of Luther’s reformation. Kolb seemed to suggest that since Luther’s intention was for good, all other events that do not reflect Luther’s intentions were irrelevant. However, Kung on the other hand was able to give a broad explanation of the events that took place before and after the Lutheran reformation which gives the reader a better understanding of the effects of the reformation. What I agree with the most in kung’s argument was the fact that Luther’s reformation left more negative consequences on European Christians.

Events like the religious wars between the Catholic and Protestant Christians that continued for a hundred years, the oppression and subordination of peasants by their rulers which resulted to a brutal war that took the lives of almost all the peasants involved are all bitter memories to hide away from the effects of the reformation. As a result of the reformation the church that was meant to be free from wrong popes where now in custody of the kings and princes which meant more oppression to the common European Christians

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Robert Kolb and Hans Kung: Debate about Martin Luther’s Reform. (2017, Jan 25). Retrieved from