Does Theology Need Literature?

Does Theology Need Literature? October 23, 2012

Martin Luther seemed to think so:

I am persuaded that without knowledge of literature pure theology cannot at all endure, just as heretofore, when letters [literature] have declined and lain prostrate, theology too, has wretchedly fallen and lain prostrate; nay, I see that there has never been a great revelation of the Word of God unless he has first prepared the way by the rise and prosperity of languages and letters, as though they were John the Baptists. . . . Certainly it is my desire that there shall be as many poets and rhetoricians as possible, because I see that by these studies, as by no other means, people are wonderfully fitted for the grasping of sacred truth and for handling it skillfully and happily. (Martin Luther, Letter to Eoban Hess, 29 March 1523. Werke, Weimar edition, Luthers Briefwechsel, III, 50.)

For those who would argue—as I would—that modern literature has “declined and lain prostrate,” do you agree that theology has also “wretchedly fallen and lain prostrate”? Do you find that reading great works of literature prepares the way for comprehending sacred truth?

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