Christian Contradictions: The Structures of Lutheran and Catholic Thought

Christian Contradictions: The Structures of Lutheran and Catholic Thought

Christian Contradictions: The Structures of Lutheran and Catholic Thought

Christian Contradictions: The Structures of Lutheran and Catholic Thought

Synopsis

Catholic and Lutheran thought are differently structured, embodying divergent conceptions of self and God. Roman/Lutheran ecumenism, culminating in the 1999 "Joint Declaration," attempts to reconcile incompatible systems based on different philosophical presuppositions. Drawing on a wealth of material, the author considers these structural questions within a historical context. Kierkegaard is shown, in a complex model, to hold together strengths which historically have been exemplified by the two traditions. This is an important work in systematic theology which considers questions quite fundamental to Western religion. It should interest theologians of all backgrounds and church historians.

Excerpt

Anyone who works on a subject over a period of more than twenty years owes many debts of gratitude. It was in 1971 in his 'Theological Controversies' course at Harvard Divinity School that Arthur McGill proposed that we should study the subject of justification on the one hand in Luther, on the other at Trent. I believe that I was immediately captivated. (The second-hand copy of John Dillenberger's Selections from Luther's writings — which I bought thinking I should only need it for a week - is still with me and in dilapidated condition.) When some years later I came to write a doctoral thesis I had no doubt as to what the topic should be (though I had some difficulty in convincing my teachers). Then there was a day when Arthur McGill asked how Kierkegaard related to all this. I replied, as though it was self-evident, that his was the best solution I had encountered in the history of Western thought to the split between Catholic and Lutheran. 'There', he said, 'is your thesis.'

In the years that I have thought about this topic, first writing a thesis and then more recently this book, many people have talked with me about my work. In 1976 I went to see Philip Watson, whose writing on Luther (at a time when few were interested) remains a landmark. Trained as he was in motif research, he profoundly influenced my own reading of Luther. I was also privileged to talk with Gordon Rupp, who kindly gave me books. Other Luther scholars with whom I have had useful conversations are Timothy Lull and Ian Siggins. More recently Carl Braaten, in correspondence, pointed me in the direction of Finnish Luther scholarship. At an early date James Luther Adams took a real interest in my work. And I had memorable conversations with Krister Stendahl who gave me insights into the Scandinavian Lutheran context.

On the Catholic side various people have been so kind as to read my work and to comment. Responding to an early draft, Herbert . . .

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