Martin Luther’s pastoral practice of instructing consciences proves illuminating for thinking through the relationship between the conscience and political action. Specifically, Luther saw a clear and assured conscience as enabling free political action, while political tyranny operates, in part, by oppressing the conscience. As such, Luther’s understanding of the political efficacy of the clear conscience is remarkably close to Hannah Arendt’s insight in her early work that totalitarian terror aims to make the conscience doubtful and equivocal in order to foreclose the possibility of genuinely new action. However, Arendt’s later writings demonstrate a view of the conscience as subjectivist, and therefore unpolitical. Luther, in contrast, reads the conscience in a more intersubjective manner dependent upon instruction in the Word of God, thus narrowing the gap between politics and the conscience and revealing a practice of pastoral care that is at the same time an empowering of political agency.
|Number of pages||19|
|Early online date||19 Sep 2020|
|Publication status||Published - Sep 2020|
- Martin Luther
- Hannah Arendt
- civil disobedience