Augustine and Luther on toleration and coercion


  • Peter Olsen



Toleration, intolerance, blasphemy, coercion, dissenters, church and state, mirror for princes, the Parable of the Weeds


Augustine of Hippo (354–430) and Martin Luther (1483–1546) both argued in favor of toleration and freedom of religion in their younger years, but both changed their policy toward dissenters as they grew older. They also adjusted their reading of the Parable of the Weeds (Matt 13) to varying situations. The older Augustine and Luther both called on the secular authorities to suppress their theologi- cal opponents, using the sword that God has given them (Rom 13) to protect both tables of the law: religion and morals. This article describes and explains their similar development in this regard.

Author Biography

Peter Olsen

Peter Olsen (born 1963) is an associate professor of systematic theology at the Fjellhaug International University College, Copenhagen, Denmark. He has published scholarly articles on the Reformation, Mar- tin Luther (e.g., Luther’s view of Anabaptists and Jews), and contemporary dogmatics.