90 Chapters
Medium 9781442247789

Gratia Non Tollit Naturam Sed Perficit

Mangina, Joseph Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

Gratia Non Tollit Naturam Sed Perficit

Robert W. Jenson

I

The Thomistic maxim that provides the matter of this essay is conventionally translated in some such way as this: “[God’s] grace does not eliminate nature, but rather perfects it.” The maxim is widely accepted in the West, also among Protestants, yet is also the frequent occasion or context of theological and even ecclesial divergence. Such a situation is often a sign that something is amiss with the language of the proposition in question, or perhaps only that it is more complicated than appears at first thought, or perhaps a bit of each. Thus the matter of this essay is not Thomas Aquinas’s theology, but the possibilities and problems of the maxim taken for itself as a piece of discourse—though Thomas will be instanced along the way. The goal is a plausible exegesis of the maxim.

I will be profligate in the discovery of both opportunities and difficulties, to give a general impression of the mixed-species jungle we enter with our title and without any intent to deal with them all in one essay—or ever. I should note that my current interest in this jungle is aroused by experience with a group of Princeton Seminary graduate students who meet with me: no matter what text we start with, at some time during the discussion we find ourselves entangled in one or another of the jungle’s thickets.

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Medium 9781442274150

“YOU HAVE NOT YET CONSIDERED THE GRAVITY OF SIN”: A KEY RETRIEVAL FOR OUR TIME

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

“YOU HAVE NOT YET CONSIDERED THE GRAVITY OF SIN”: A KEY RETRIEVAL FOR OUR TIME

George R. Sumner

Two generations after Karl Menninger’s Whatever Became of Sin?,1 it is hard to deny the eclipse of this concept on the theological scene. Just as the confession of sin is sometimes omitted from worship, so is the subject of sin in theological circles. The reasons for this in our culture are doubtlessly many, but they include the following: the scorn for sexual repression, the pressure for successful, and hence optimistic, religion, and the whiff of judgmentalism in the word.2 Equally telling is the amnesia about what the theological term used to mean to say. Sin has not been so much rejected as forgotten. People do think, of course, that there are things profoundly wrong with the world, but, lacking the concept of sin as the tradition understood it, their explanations are wanting. We are like speakers of a new language who lack certain parts of speech, and put together sentences as best as we can. My purpose in this article is a modest one, namely to encourage others to make this locus a topic of more earnest discussion in our time.

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Medium 9781538105849

Beggars All

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

Beggars All

A Lutheran View of the 2017 Reformation Anniversary

Sarah Hinlicky Wilson1

One of the newest products from Playmobil, a toy company based in Nuremberg, Germany, is a little figurine of Martin Luther. Playmobil has issued historical figurines before—a series of Dutch painters was a hit, and so was Charlie Chaplin. The Luther toy was developed in conjunction with the German National Tourist Board and the Luther-Decade program of the Protestant Church in Germany (Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland), another fun trinket to advertise the gala events leading up to October 31, 2017.

What nobody anticipated, however, was the immense popularity of these little Luthers. Within three days of their release in February 2015, all thirty-four thousand Luthers had sold out. The factory couldn’t keep up with the demand, and new Luthers didn’t hit the market until late April.2

That’s remarkable in itself, and proof that not only the pious and the scholarly have their eyes on the 2017 anniversary. But what is even more remarkable is what this commercial Luther toy is holding. It’s not the 95 Theses—though of course the Theses are why the anniversary date is in 2017. Instead he’s holding a Bible. The left-hand page says, in German, “the end of the books of the Old Testament” (Bücher des Alten Testaments ende), and the right-hand one says, “The New Testament translated by Dr. Martin Luther” (Das Neue Testament übersetzt von Doktor Martin Luther). Our Luther, smiling blandly like nearly all Playmobil figurines, is no polemical figure, no wrecker of an intact church, no angry young man naming abuses. He’s a translator, giving the Word of God to Germans in their own language.3

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Medium 9781442247789

Frei’s Later Christology: Radiance and Obscurity

Mangina, Joseph Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

Frei’s Later Christology: Radiance and Obscurity

Jason A. Springs

Hans Frei died much too young, leaving behind him a body of published work as compelling in its content as it was slender in its magnitude. Even more so, he bequeathed a trove of materials at least as rich to be worked through, made sense of, and grappled with in their details and implications. The twenty-five years since Frei’s passing has inspired numerous attempts to sift and clarify, explicate and extrapolate, expand upon it, and of course, to critically assess its strengths and weaknesses. Frei’s work evokes interest from so many different directions—theological and hermeneutical, of course, but also sociological, philosophical, literary, and historical. In my judgment, this is one of the reasons that Frei’s work has remained so compelling for several generations of students in the twenty-five years since his death.

The title of my essay gestures toward both the radiance and obscurity of the role of Christology in Frei’s later work. The role of Christology in Frei’s later work has been rightly characterized as its most pivotal dimension. In an article that perhaps most precisely differentiates Frei’s later work from that of his friend and colleague, George Lindbeck, Mike Higton pinpoints the force of Frei’s Christological focus and objectives as one of the points at which Frei and Lindbeck most starkly diverge.1 As Higton has stated it, in Frei’s later work, the Church’s taking the narrative reading of the Bible as primary is not to say that “the Church mastered the Bible,” but rather, precisely by taking a narrative reading as primary rather than an allegorical or purely symbolic one, the Church allowed the Bible to stand over against it as an independent norm which it could not control.”2 Higton continues:

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Medium 9781538105849

Rethinking Calvin and Justification Sola Fide and Reconsidering the Unitive Dimensions of Love (and Why Catholics and Reformed Could Agree on This)

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

Rethinking Calvin and Justification Sola Fide and Reconsidering the Unitive Dimensions of Love (and Why Catholics and Reformed Could Agree on This)

Charles Raith II

Justification sola fide: in its sixteenth-century context, this claim was an important limiting principle in framing God’s work of justification. The phrase was not so much a positive assertion as it was a negative one. No one in the sixteenth century would have denied a role for faith in justification. The problem in the eyes of the Reformers, however, was that the causal basis for justification was not limited to faith but instead included other causes, in particular merit, in accounting for one’s justification.1 Sola fide thus had a specific purpose, which was not to exclude a role for works from the totality of Christian salvation. Noteworthy is the fact that Calvin admits in his Romans commentary that the phrase “faith alone” is nowhere to be found in Scripture. But he reasons for it as an implication of the fact that justification rests on mercy rather than the worth of works; that is, if justification depends neither on the law nor on ourselves, it must rely on God’s mercy alone, and if mercy alone then for Calvin faith alone.2 Thus sola fide was never intended to be in competition with works per se. Instead Calvin intended it as a way of upholding the basis of our right standing with God as being in God’s work in Christ as opposed to the worth of our works. As is well known, Calvin never thought justification was with a faith that is alone because love always accompanies faith just as sanctification always accompanies justification as gifts simultaneously given when one is united to Christ.3 Given the importance of sanctification in Calvin’s soteriology,4 love is thus not excluded from the totality of his reflection on Christian salvation.

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