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Title: Recovering the Reformation : free will, merit and the Mass in Luther's Reformation
Author: Cox, Genevieve Rebecca
ISNI:       0000 0004 5366 7490
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis argues that Luther’s reaction to Pelagianism within the Scotist tradition led to a decisive break with the scholastic theology of free will, merit and the Mass. However, by identifying the theological crux of Luther’s Reformation, this thesis discovers a rapprochement in the free will theology of early Lutheranism and Counter-Reformation scholasticism. The case is made that Luther’s theology of the passivity of the human will calls for a recovery of the Reformation significance of Luther’s relation to scholasticism and provides the means for recovery in ecumenical dialogue today. The thesis is presented in three parts. The first locates the origins of Luther’s Reformation reaction to Pelagianism in the Scotist developments of free will, merit and the Mass from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries. Chapter One argues that Scotus’s view of free will as autonomous volition had Pelagian repercussions on his teaching on merit. Chapter Two finds that Luther’s charge of Pelagianism could similarly be applied to Scotus’s theology of Eucharistic sacrifice, because the human will rather than Christ’s cross is deemed by Scotus to be the source of merit in the Mass. Chapter Three examines the continued influence of Scotus’s free will theology on the fifteenth-century debates concerning predestination. Scotus’s free will legacy in these debates, gives historical justification for positing a connection between Scotus and Luther’s denunciation of the Mass as a Pelagian work. Part Two argues that Luther’s theology of the passivity of the human will and the Mass as a testament constitutes a Reformation break with scholastic understandings of the meritorious agency of the human will. Chapter Four locates Luther’s Reformation relation to the voluntarism of Ockham and Biel, the German mystical tradition, and his confessor Staupitz, in his denial that the human will attains a meritorious agency under grace. Chapter Five maintains that Luther’s theology of the Mass as a testament reflects his rejection of Pelagianism and his Reformation article of passivity. In consequence, Luther’s testament model is shown to be incompatible with Cajetan’s non-Pelagian theology of the merit of the sacrifice of the Mass. Part Three affirms that Luther’s belief in the passivity of the human will has Reformation significance, by examining the condemnations of Trent. However, by considering subsequent treatments on free will, it is possible to identify a convergence in late sixteenth-century Lutheran and Catholic theology. Chapter Six argues that Trent countered both the Scotist theory of merit and Luther’s theology of the passivity of the human will. Luther’s belief in passivity is shown to cause a Reformation rift in a way that the Scotist reformulation of free will does not, because it led Luther to renounce the meritorious offering of Masses. Chapter Seven shows that in the wake of the Majorist, Synergist and Flacian debates of early Lutheranism and the Catholic de auxiliis controversy, a parallel understanding of the free will to sin can be discerned. The Lutheran Formula of Concord (1577) relinquished Luther’s Reformation article of passivity and offered a position which was in unconscious agreement with Trent. The thesis concludes by applying the results of this historical study to key ecumenical documents on the Mass. It is suggested that the rediscovery of a historical consensus on free will, opens the door to a common understanding of merit as participation in Christ, and thus to a shared Lutheran and Catholic understanding of Eucharistic sacrifice.
Supervisor: Methuen, Charlotte Sponsor: Porticus
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Theology and Religion ; Reformation ; Free Will ; Merit ; Mass ; Luther