Disputed Questions in Theology and the Philosophy of Religion


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As we have discussed, natural knowledge of God is mediated by our knowledge of the created order. The observable facts of that order reveal an efficient cause that is itself uncaused—a self-subsisting first mover that is uncreated and is not subject to any change. But as the ultimate cause of our own existence, God is said to have all the perfections of his creatures ST Ia Whatever perfections reside in us must be deficient likenesses of what exists perfectly in God. Consequently, Aquinas thinks that terms such as good and wise can refer back to God.

Moreover, denying certain properties of God can, in fact, give us a corresponding albeit incomplete understanding of what God is like. In other words, the process of articulating what God is not does not yield an account of the divine that is wholly negative. If this is so, there can be no potency or unrealized potential in God.

For if something has the potential or latent capacity to act, then its activity must be precipitated by some prior actuality. But in this line of reasoning, there is no actuality prior to God. It must follow, then, that God is pure actuality, and this in virtue of being the first cause ST Ia 3. So although this process denies God those traits that are contrary to what we know about him, those denials invariably yield a fairly substantive account of the divine life. Other truths necessarily follow from the idea that God is pure actuality. For example, we know that God cannot be a body. For a characteristic feature of bodies is that they are subject to being moved by something other than themselves.

And because God is not a body, he cannot be a composite of material parts ST Ia 3. Not only does Aquinas think that God is not a material composite, he also insists that God is not a metaphysical composite Vallencia, In other words, God is not an amalgam of attributes, nor is he a being whose nature or essence can be distinguished from his existence. He is, rather, a simple being. The doctrine of divine simplicity is complicated and controversial—even among those who admire Aquinas' philosophical theology.

But the following account should provide the reader with a rough sketch of what this doctrine involves. Consider the example human being. Of course, a human being is also material being. In virtue of materiality, she possesses numerous individuating accidents.

These would include various physical modifications such as her height or weight, her particular skin pigmentation, her set of bones, and so forth. According to Aquinas, none of these accidental traits are included in her humanity indeed, she could lose these traits, acquire others, and remain a human being. They do, however, constitute the particular human being she is.

In other words, her individuating accidents do not make her human, but they do make her a particular exemplification of humanity. This is why it would be incorrect to say that this person is identical to her humanity; instead, the individuating accidents she has make her one of many instances thereof. But what about substances that are not composed of matter? Such things cannot have multiple instantiations since there is no matter to individuate them into discrete instances of a specific nature or essence. An immaterial substance then will not instantiate its nature.

Instead, the substance will be identical to its nature. This is why Aquinas insists that there can be no distinction between 1 God and 2 that by which he is God. For example, we often say that God is supremely good. But it would be a mistake on Aquinas' view to think that goodness is a property that God has , as if goodness is a property independent of God himself.

What he is God is indistinguishable from that by which he is his divine essence. Presumably other immaterial beings would be simple in precisely this way in virtue of their immateriality. Consider, for example, the notion of angels. That there is no matter with which to individuate angelic beings implies that there will not be multiple instantiations of an angelic nature.

Like Aquinas' notion of God, each angelic being will be identical to its specific essence or nature ST Ia 3. But God is obviously unlike angelic beings in an important way.

In order to see what this means, consider the conclusions from section 2. There, we noted that the constituent members of the causal order cannot be the cause of their own existence and activity. Thus the constituent members of the causal order must exist in virtue of some other , exterior principle of causality. We are now in a position to see why, according to Aquinas, God and the principle by which he exists must be the same. Unlike the constituent members of the causal order, all of whom receive their existence from some exterior principle, God is an uncaused cause.

If it was, then God and the principle by which he exists would be different. Yet the idea that God is the first efficient cause who does not acquire existence from something else implies that God is his own existence Ibid. Brain Davies explains this implication of the causal argument in the following way:. The conclusion Aquinas draws [from the five ways] is that God is his own existence.

He is Ipsum Esse Subsitens. But with God this is not so. He is his own existence and is the reason other things have it Davies, So far, this article has shown how and to what extent human reason can lead to knowledge about God and his nature. Aquinas clearly thinks that our demonstrative efforts can tell us quite a bit about the divine life. Yet he also insists that it was necessary for God to reveal to us other truths by means of sacred teaching. Unlike the knowledge we acquire by our own natural aptitudes, Aquinas contends that revealed knowledge gives us a desire for goods and rewards that exceed this present life SCG I.

Also, revealed knowledge may tell us more about God than what our demonstrative efforts actually show. Although our investigative efforts may confirm that God exists, they are unable to prove for example that God is fully present in three divine persons, or that it is the Christian God in whom we find complete happiness ST Ia 1. Revealed knowledge also curbs the presumptuous tendency to think that our cognitive aptitudes are sufficient when trying to determine more generally what is true SCG I. Moreover, Aquinas contends that it was fitting for God to make known through divine revelation even those truths that are accessible to human reason.

For if such knowledge depended strictly on the difficult and time-intensive nature of human investigation, then few people would actually possess it. Also, our cognitive limitations may result in a good deal of error when trying to contrive successful demonstrations of divine realities. Given our proneness to mistakes, relying on natural aptitude alone may seem particularly hazardous, especially when our salvation is at stake Ibid. Popular accounts of religion sometimes construe faith as a blind, uncritical acceptance of myopic doctrine. Such a view of faith might resonate with contemporary skeptics of religion.

But as we shall see, this view is not remotely like the one Aquinas—or historic Christianity for that matter—endorses. There are other things that fall under the purview of faith, such as the doctrine of the Trinity and the Incarnation. But we do not affirm these specific doctrines unless they have some relation to God.

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These beliefs are not so it seems things over which we have much voluntary control. By contrast, the assent of faith is voluntary. By will Aquinas means a native desire or love for what we think contributes to our happiness. How is the will involved in the assent of faith? For Aquinas, the mere acknowledgment of this truth does not denote faith—or at least a commendable form of faith that is distinct from believing certain propositions about God.

After all, the demons believe many truths about God, but they are compelled to believe due to the obviousness of those truths. Thus we can imagine that a person who is convinced of certain sacred truths may for any number of reasons choose not to consider or endorse what she now believes. Alternatively, she may, out of love for God, actively seek God as her proper end. According to Aquinas, this love for God is what distinguishes faith from the mere acknowledgement that certain theological statements are true. For faith involves an appetitive aspect whereby the will—a love or desire for goodness—moves us to God as the source of ultimate happiness ST IIaIIae 2.

Stump, But what prompts the will to desire God? After all, Christianity teaches that our wills have been corrupted by the Fall. According to Aquinas, that transformation comes by way of grace. We will say more about grace in the following subsection of this article. According to Aquinas, if a person seeks God as the supreme source of human happiness, it can only be because God moves her will by conferring grace upon her.

How can the act of faith be voluntary if the act itself is a result of God generating a change in the human will? Does the infusion of grace contravene the sort of voluntariness that Aquinas insists is a component of faith? Limitations of space prohibit an extensive treatment of this subject. For this reason, a brief presentation of Aquinas' view will follow. Observing a supernatural act or hearing a persuasive sermon or argument may corroborate the truth of sacred teaching and, in turn, encourage belief.

These inducements, however, are not sufficient for producing faith since not everyone who witnesses or hears them finds them compelling. We must therefore posit an internal cause whereby God moves the will to embrace that which is proposed for belief. But how is it that God moves the will? In other words, what does God do to the will that makes the assent of faith possible?

None of the proposed answers to this question are uncontroversial, but what follows appears to be faithful to the view Aquinas favored for some competing interpretations of Aquinas' account, see Jenkins, ; Ross, ; Penelhum, ; and Stump, and Thus we might think of the inward cause of faith to be a kind of infused affection or, better yet, moral inclination whereby the will is directed to God Ibid. As a result of this moral posturing, a person will be able to view Christian teaching more favorably than she would were it not for the infusion of charity.

John Jenkins endorses a similar account. He suggests that pride, excessive passion, and other vicious habits generate within us certain prejudices that prevent us from responding positively to sacred teaching Jenkins, In other words, faith formed by charity transforms the will by allaying the strength of those appetitive obstacles that forestall love of God.

On this view of faith, the person who subordinates herself to God does so not as a result of divine coercion but by virtue of an infused disposition whereby she loves God. For grace curtails pride and enables us to grasp and fairly assess what the Christian faith proposes for belief Jenkins, In doing so, it permits us to freely endorse those things that we in our sinful state would never be able—or want —to understand and embrace.

Indeed, the arguments offered in support of Christian claims often provide us with the motivation we sometimes need in order to embrace them. But does the use of reasons or argument compromise the merit of faith? He also quotes St. In short, human investigation into sacred doctrine threatens to render faith superfluous. For if one were to offer a good argument for the truth of what God reveals, then there would be no need for us to exercise faith in regard to that truth.

What sort of reasoning or argumentation does Aquinas have in mind? He makes a distinction between demonstrative reasoning and persuasive reasoning. Were a person to grasp the truth of sacred doctrine by means of this sort of reasoning, belief would be necessitated and the merit of faith destroyed Ibid. Persuasive reasoning, on the other hand, does no such thing. See In other words, the arguments in which persuasive reasoning consists may provide reasons for accepting certain doctrines, but they cannot compel acceptance of those doctrines.

One still needs the grace of faith in order to embrace them. A closer look at some central Christian doctrines is now in order. And although there are many doctrines that constitute sacred teaching, at least two are foundational to Christianity and subject to thorough analysis by Aquinas. These include the Incarnation and the Trinity. Aquinas takes both of these doctrines to be essential to Christian teaching and necessary to believe in order to receive salvation see ST IIaIIae 2.

For this reason it will be beneficial to explore what these doctrines assert. The doctrine of the Incarnation teaches that God literally and in history became human in the person of Jesus Christ. The doctrine of the Incarnation further teaches that Christ is the complete and perfect union of two natures, human and divine. The idea here is not that Jesus is some strange hybrid, a chimera of human and divine parts. The idea rather is that in Christ there is a merger of two natures into one hypostasis —a subsisting individual composed of two discrete but complete essences ST III 2.

Aquinas' efforts to explicate and defend this doctrine are ingenious but may prove frustrating without a more advanced understanding of the metaphysical framework he employs see Stump for a treatment of this subject. Rather than pursue the complexities of that framework, we will instead address a different matter to which the Incarnation is intricately connected. According to Christian teaching, human beings are estranged from God.

ST IaIIae So understood, sin refers not to a specific immoral act but a spiritual wounding that diminishes the good of human nature ST IaIIae Further, Christian doctrine states that we become progressively more corrupt as we yield to sinful tendencies over time. Sinful choices produce corresponding habits, or vices, that reinforce hostility towards God and put beatitude further beyond our reach. No amount of human effort can remedy this problem. The damage wrought by sin prevents us from meriting divine favor or even wanting the sort of goods that which makes union with God possible.

The Incarnation makes reconciliation with God possible. To understand this claim, we must consider another doctrine to which the Incarnation is inextricably tied, namely, the doctrine of the Atonement. According to the doctrine of Atonement, God reconciles himself to human beings through Christ, whose suffering and death compensates for our transgressions ST III Yet this satisfaction does not consist in making reparations for past transgressions.

Rather it consists in God healing our wounded natures and making union with him possible. From this perspective, satisfaction is more restorative than retributive. This last benefit requires explanation. Only a supernatural transformation of our recalcitrant wills can heal our corrupt nature and make us people who steadily trust, hope in, and love God as the source of our beatitude. This brief description of grace might suggest that it is an infused virtue much like faith, hope, and charity. According to Aquinas, however, grace is not a virtue.

This account helps explain why grace is said to justify sinners. Justification consists not only in the remittance of sins, but in a transmutation whereby our wills are supernaturally directed away from morally deficient ends and towards God. In this way God, by means of his grace, heals our fallen nature, pardons sin, and makes us worthy of eternal life.

Now, remission of sin and moral renovation cannot occur apart from the work God himself accomplishes through Christ. Yet such favor was not limited to Christ. But again, the aim of satisfaction is not to appease God through acts of restitution but to renovate our wills and make possible a right relationship with him Stump, Thus we ought not to look at Christ simply as an instrument by which our sins are wiped clean, but as one whose sacrificial efforts produce in us a genuine love for God and make possible the very union we desire ST III The preceding survey of the Incarnation and the Atonement will undoubtedly raise further questions that we cannot possibly address here.

Instead, this brief survey attempts only a provisional account of how the Incarnation makes atonement for sin and reconciliation with God possible. This section will focus on the doctrine of the Trinity with all the typical caveats implied, of course. Aquinas' definition of the Trinity is in full accord with the orthodox account of what Christians traditionally believe about God.

According to that account, God is one. That is, his essence is one of supreme unity and simplicity. By distinct, Aquinas means that the persons of the Trinity are real individuals and not, say, the same individual understood under different descriptions. Moreover, each of the three persons is identical to the divine essence. That is, each person of the Trinity is equally to God.

The doctrine is admittedly confounding. But if it is true , then it should be internally coherent. In fact, Aquinas insists that, although we cannot prove the doctrine through our own demonstrative efforts, we can nevertheless show that this and other doctrines known through the light of faith are not contradictory de Trinitate , 1. It teaches that Christ was created by God at a point in time and therefore not co-eternal with him. In short, God and Christ are distinct substances.

The other heresy, Sabellianism, attempts to preserve divine unity by denying any real distinction in God. Aquinas' account attempts to avoid these heresies by affirming that the persons of the Trinity are distinct without denying the complete unity of the divine essence. How does Aquinas go about defending the traditional doctrine? The challenge, of course, is to show that the claim. In an effort to reconcile 1 and 2 , Aquinas argues that there are relations in God. For example, we find in God the relational notion of paternity which implies fatherhood and filiation which implies sonship ST Ia Paternity and filiation imply different things.

Thus if there is paternity and filiation in God, then there must be a real distinction of persons that the divine essence comprises ST Ia The notion of distinction , however, does not contravene the doctrine of simplicity because according to Aquinas we can have a distinction of persons while maintaining divine unity. This last claim is obviously the troubling one. How can we have real distinction within a being that is perfectly one? The answer to this question requires we look a bit more closely at what Aquinas means by relation.

The idea of relation goes back at least as far as Aristotle for a good survey of medieval analyses of relations, see Brower, For Aristotle and his commentators, the term relation refers to a property that allies the thing that has it with something else.

Analytic theology

Thus he speaks of a relation as that which makes something of , than , or to some other thing Aristotle, Categories , Book 7, 6b1. On the other hand, the notion of relation need not denote a property that allies different substances. It can also refer to distinctions that are internal to a substance. This second construal is the way Aquinas understands the notion of relation as it applies to God. For there is within God a relation of persons, each of which enjoys a characteristic the others do not have. As we noted before, God the Father has the characteristic of paternity, God the Son has the characteristic of filiation, and so on.

These characteristics are unique to each person, thus creating a kind of opposition that connotes real distinction ST Ia Care is required before proceeding here. Each of the aforementioned relations not only inhere in the divine essence, they are identical to it in the sense that each member of the Trinity is identical to God ST Ia From this abbreviated account we see that relation as it exists in God is not, as it is for creatures, an accidental property. For the relation, being identical to God, does not add to or modify the divine substance in any way.

This woefully truncated account of Aquinas' position presents a more detailed articulation of the very claim he needs to explain. Aquinas is aware of the worry. ST Ia In the discourse on science , the debate pivots on questions of determinism vs. Some have referred to the first form of contingency as nomological and to the second as local contingency Robert J.

The alternative is between physical determinism all events necessarily follow from prior initial conditions, so that contingency only refers to a lack of knowledge and indeterminism some events are not determined by prior conditions, hence contingency is an ontological fact. In religion and theology, contingency often marks the fundamental difference between the Creator and creation.

It is used in ontological and cosmological proofs of the existence of God in the sense that all created beings cannot account for their own existence, but—in their contingency—point to a Creator, who is not contingent, but the necessary ground of his or her own being. However, it is disputed whether such a conclusion is valid or itself contingent.

Another divide is between those who argue for total divine predestination God determines everything that happens; again contingency is only a human category regarding insufficient knowledge and insight and those who argue that God leaves some things to chance or to being determined autonomously by created entities. On the other hand, the option of total predestination faces the problem that in its view the Creator seems to be responsible for everything, including all evil.

The distinction between law and gospel served at least two key functions in his thought. First, it kept the story of Christ focused on the benefits to people achieved by his death and resurrection. As a corollary, it provided consolation to Christians struggling with the burden of their sins. Second, the distinction of law and gospel served as a hermeneutical tool for pastors not only to interpret the scriptures in line with their purpose, but also to apply the scriptures in a pastoral way to the lives of their people in order to comfort them and to strengthen their faith.

But whereas the latter focuses on a description of anthropology, law and gospel focuses on the works of God by which he brings about two kinds of righteousness in the life of a person. But whereas the latter focuses on how God rules with his left hand for the well-being of creation and with his right hand for the well-being of the church, law and gospel deal with the two works of God by which he brings about his goals for creation and the church.

The Eucharist is a liturgical meal of bread and wine, which is almost always preceded by a service of reading the Scriptures. Christians attribute the origin of the Eucharist to Jesus Christ himself at the Last Supper on the night before he died. Many Christians regard the Eucharist as a sacrament and as their central ritual, and many celebrate the Eucharist weekly or even more often. The most common name in the early 21st century, however, is Eucharist, which derives from the Greek word Eucharistia , a thanksgiving.

What we know since the 3rd century as the basic form of the Christian Eucharist is most probably the result of a number of trajectories from the first years of Christianity coming together, including: fellowship meals in remembrance of Jesus, celebrations of his passion and resurrection, and the tradition of his significant meals such as the Last Supper and the Supper at Emmaus Luke The most sophisticated explanation of that presence transubstantiation was provided by Thomas Aquinas in the midth century. The Protestant reformers of the 16th century made various criticisms of traditional Roman Catholic theology and practice.

They insisted on using the language of the people, giving communion in both bread and wine, and dismissing the language of Eucharistic sacrifice. The Church of England was reluctant to take sides in this discussion and its own theological position on the Eucharist remains a matter of debate. The liturgical movement of the 19th and 20th centuries, combined with renewed interest in biblical and patristic scholarship, has produced a remarkable convergence among various Christian churches, and it has led to Eucharistic liturgies among Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, and Methodists that bear a notable similarity to one another.

God is the sovereign source and origin of all that is, and Luther develops his understanding of God in a manner that tries to safeguard this position in such a way that the personal relationship to God becomes the focus point for all he says. The doctrine of God as creator and as savior is modeled in a parallel way in Luther, as he sees God as the source of everything positively in both contexts.

God is the sole giver of the gifts that human life requires. As creator, God is omnipresent, omniscient, and sovereign. Nothing can determine God. God is accordingly also the only instance in reality that has free will.

In contrast, a human who puts her trust in herself and her own works or merits makes herself a god and will not be able to stand justified coram deo in the last judgment. Thus, Luther develops an ambiguous element in his understanding of God. The insight that Christ is at the same time true human and true god is something Luther holds as relevant to salvation. On the other hand, he refers to the concept of the Virgin Birth in order to show that God was born a real human being.

Luther describes the union of God and man in Christ principally as a reciprocal exchange of the respective divine and human characteristics. With the incarnate God, the sin that Christ has taken upon himself for the salvation of humankind is defeated on the Cross, since by virtue of his human nature the characteristics of being able to suffer and to die were proper to the incarnate Son of God. Accordingly, God himself suffers and dies on the Cross in Christ for his own creatures under the burden of their sins.

On the Cross, the God who died in Christ and with his resurrection has overcome the death of sin meets his creatures so that they attain faith and ultimately eternal life in community with God. The saving effectiveness of Incarnation, Cross, and resurrection presupposes Christian proclamation, according to Luther.

The preaching of the incarnate God is needed, so that through the operation of the Holy Spirit the truth of the proclaimed event can be recognized and faith can thereby arise. In faith in the Son of God who has become man, the believer himself experiences a most intimate connection with Christ. In celebrating them, the believers experience the real presence of the incarnate God in Christ, through whom they are bound in faith based on the communication of properties between the human and divine natures. When Martin Luther began his academic studies at Erfurt, Renaissance humanism and skepticism had become well entrenched in the German academic world.

He also found them at Wittenberg. Starting with Petrarch, humanists appeared in Italy who acquired the skills necessary to find solutions to their needs in the content of ancient pagan classics and Christian writings.

Disputed Questions in Theology and the Philosophy of Religion

Two major groups of humanists existed after the midth century with distinct solutions for the needs they felt: rhetorical humanists epitomized by Valla and Neoplatonic humanists led by Ficino and Pico. Rhetorical humanism appealed to the heart and exempted the truth of Christian teachings from skepticism.

Neoplatonic humanism sought to establish absolute truth by synthesizing the wisdom of all religions and philosophies. It is well-known today that ultramontane Renaissance humanism was imported from Italy by large numbers of students from the north who studied there. German and other northern humanists mostly followed either in the path laid by Valla or that of Ficino and Pico. Luther was a beneficiary of the Christian humanism and biblicism of the rhetorical path, which also led to the development of the loci method of learning and the educational work of Melanchthon.

The Neoplatonic path led to further development of logical solutions based on both Plato and Aristotle. This path developed remarkable syntheses of Christianity with ancient and medieval philosophies and religions, mostly meant to improve Christian life. Though familiar with the Neoplatonic path, Luther did not accept its basic views. These questions are here reviewed through the writings and arguments of Muslim scholars, and general conclusions are drawn about why rejectionists find it impossible to address those issues in a manner that is consistent with their religious principles and methods, and why more progressive, less literalistic scholars are able to fold those issues within a less rigid conception of God and the world.

The result is a distinctive albeit not systematic Christology that is focused on the paradoxical unity of divine and human in Christ. In this, Luther often appears close to the teaching of the Alexandrian fathers, but with a much fuller emphasis on the concrete humanity of the savior. Liturgical theology studies the meaning of Christian worship. Although it is a relatively recent approach, it is solidly anchored in the Christian tradition. Its present shape, fame, and impact would not be what they are and its major representatives would not be able to do what they are doing without the lasting influence of the Liturgical Movement and some inspiring figures that helped shape its theological profile.

Their ideas and writings were widely received beyond linguistic and denominational borders and continue to be influential in the early 21st century. Therefore, liturgical theology is not so much a subdiscipline corresponding with a specific object of research and requiring a set of specialized methods, but rather a way of theologizing pertaining to the entire scope and content of the Christian faith and religion. Liturgical theologians interpret the liturgy as the normative horizon for any theoretical theological reflection and take the liturgy not as the only but definitely as the primary source for theology.

Because liturgical theology is still a field in full development, it faces a lot of challenges for the future—both within the Church and in the academy—but at the same time entails a promising ecumenical potential.


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A teaching of Martin Luther that has had great historical effect is his teaching on vocation. Protesting the Roman Catholic arrangement in which the clergy had callings of higher religious and moral significance than the laity, Luther taught that all Christians have callings or vocations, and that all callings are equal in moral and religious seriousness. They only differ in function. This teaching unleashed unprecedented commitment and energy to worldly work in the Western world. Paralleling his teaching on the priesthood of all believers, Luther taught that all Christians are called by God through Christ to be his beloved and forgiven children, and that they need no mediators to receive that graceful call directly.

They do that very concretely in their vocations. For Luther, Christians do not need to cast about for places to exercise their obedience; they were given in the orders of creation into which each Christian was inevitably placed—marriage and family life, work, citizenship, and church.

Each person—lay and clergy alike—is called to work in the world. In fulfilling their work gladly and conscientiously, they serve their neighbor. Plain ordinary work is transformed into a Christian vocation as the Christian exercises his faith-active-in-love. Work is no longer simply a job or occupation; it is a calling, a vocation.

It is a summons from God.

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While Luther thought there were some occupations that were off-limits to Christians, he accepted most worldly roles as useful to the neighbor. The Christian could be a soldier in a just war and even a hangman in a just cause. One alleged weakness of the classic Lutheran teaching on vocation, however, was that it tended to accept uncritically the roles prescribed by the world. In such teaching, the Christian willingly does what the world prescribes. However, recent Lutheran interpretations of vocation are more dynamic. For example, Gustav Wingren, in Luther on Vocation , argued not only that the orders of creation are dynamic and call for constructive change, but that in Christian vocation the two ways that God reigns in the world intersect.

Love has a transformative effect. It functions critically and constructively. Lutheranism at its best has incorporated more dynamic elements into its great teaching on vocation. The Luther Renaissance is the most important international network for Luther research, as well as an ecclesial, ecumenical and cultural reform movement between and in Germany, Scandinavia, and Finland. It was the first exemplary attempt to construct theologically, under the conditions of modernity, a coherent unity of Reformation thought, based on various national discourses and with a focus on the person and experience of Martin Luther.

For European Luther studies between and , the impact of the Luther Renaissance is essential in regard to heuristics, methodology, and scientific results, as well as its ecclesial, cultural, and ecumenical applications. This impact, though declining since , is still vivid, even in critiques and in the shift of paradigms in Luther research.

Recent research has comprehensively evaluated the national trends of the Luther Renaissance in Germany and in Sweden. It also comprised younger theologians such as Hans Joachim Iwand — or, in his early work, Dietrich Bonhoeffer — After international cooperation within the Luther Renaissance disintegrated because of contradictory theological, ecclesial, and political positions in conformity with or in critique of the church politics of the German Nazi party, with its militarism, racism, and totalitarianism.

The German Luther Renaissance had lost its international nature by the end of the s. Current and forthcoming research will have to evaluate historically the international network of the Luther Renaissance before , between and , and after , including the function of political theologies within the Luther Renaissance—both the totalitarian, racist, and fascist types, and the liberal-democratic, welfare-state types.

The foci of recent and forthcoming research are overarching topics of the international Luther Renaissance; source strata of the later reception of Luther, methodological constraints and deficits of different national discourses as possible reasons for the shift of paradigms around , and the long-lasting impacts of the Luther Renaissance. Already as a young monk and theologian he struggled with the human incapacity to love God and sought a satisfying answer to this problem. He criticized the views of late medieval theologians such as Duns Scotus and Gabriel Biel and developed his own interpretation on the basis of the distinction between human and divine love.

Nygren made a strong distinction between two kinds of love and called them eros and agape. In his view they were contradictory to each other. Only the latter, selfless and disinterested agape , which gives to the object its value, is proper Christian love. For Nygren, Luther is the main representative of Christian agape , which is directed from God to a human being and from that human being to a neighbor. This led Mannermaa to think about Christian love in terms of real participation in divine love.

When seeking answers to his questions concerning Christian love, Luther used elements of the theological tradition. To love God means to consider him to be goodness itself and the source of everything good, as well as to will the same with him. The self-giving divine love gives to its objects their existence, goodness, beauty, righteousness, strength, wisdom, and wealth. In this sense, everything comes from God.

However, it does not exclude love of good and of things, such as God himself and his beautiful creatures. They may and should be loved because of their divine goodness, not because of some benefit which one may get from them. God is thus hidden within disadvantaged humans, so that his goodness is to be seen only through them. But God may also be loved when one has experienced his love and mercy. The concept of modernity has emerged as a major philosophical, theological, and sociological category of interpretation in the aftermath of the French Revolution.

It was meant to embrace fundamental changes to the fabric of Western culture, including the rise of capitalism, liberalism, democracy, and secularity. From its inception, references to Luther and the Reformation have been a frequent element of this kind of theory. The first major theorist of modernity in this sense was arguably Georg Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel, who set the tone of subsequent contributions by aligning modernity with subjectivity.

For him, the religious dimension of this development was crucial, and he was explicit in his claim that it was the Reformation that brought the turn to subjectivity in the realm of religion. A side effect of the turn to subjectivity was the alienation of the subject from the world. Modernity is thus deeply ambivalent, and so is Protestantism. Later thinkers developed these insights further, but also criticized the identification of Luther with the origin of modernity, pointing to continuities between his theology and earlier, medieval thought. Trained at Erfurt to read Aristotle in the via moderna tradition, Luther did have ontological and semantic convictions that are displayed throughout his work, but especially in his disputations dealing with Trinitarian, Christological and soteriological issues.

Although the Aristotelian categories available to Luther were inadequate for conceiving the paradoxical presence of the infinite in the finite, Luther did not thereby adopt a relational ontology more characteristic of the late 19th century than of his own time. Instead, he simply regarded as true what his philosophical categories could not fully conceive: just as God became a human being while remaining God, so too do humans become God while remaining human.

As a good nominalist, Luther understood that sentential truth presupposes ontology.

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Disputed Questions in Theology and the Philosophy of Religion Disputed Questions in Theology and the Philosophy of Religion
Disputed Questions in Theology and the Philosophy of Religion Disputed Questions in Theology and the Philosophy of Religion
Disputed Questions in Theology and the Philosophy of Religion Disputed Questions in Theology and the Philosophy of Religion
Disputed Questions in Theology and the Philosophy of Religion Disputed Questions in Theology and the Philosophy of Religion

Related Disputed Questions in Theology and the Philosophy of Religion



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