The Scandal of Religion: Luther and Public Speech in the Reformation

Antónia Szabari

in Political Theologies

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print November 2006 | ISBN: 9780823226443
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823237043 | DOI:
The Scandal of Religion: Luther and Public Speech in the               Reformation

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This chapter claims that Martin Luther's “extreme rudeness”, based on a decidedly biblical war cry, reveals a significant feature of the role that religious speech, during the Reformation and thereafter, acquires in the emerging modern public sphere. It argues that Luther's masterly move is that of satire and a strategic turning of tables. Indeed, Luther's cunning reasoning implies that what was conventionally accepted as pious language is in fact blasphemy and that what appeared to be blasphemy is in fact true piety. The provocative nature of Luther's rhetoric lies in the claim that it is not provocative at all, a claim that is designed to disarm all critics by implicitly accusing them of the error they seek to correct. As it is seen in this chapter, this essentially satirical reversal of positions is intricately tied to Luther's theology of the performative and to his reading of the Bible-based notion of “offense” or “scandal”. The most lasting consequence of Luther's rhetorical practice consists in the transformation of public speech while maintaining its reference to the sacred.

Keywords: Martin Luther; Reformation; public speech; religious speech; satire; blasphemy; piety; rhetoric; theology of the performative; scandal

Chapter.  7425 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Religions

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