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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Theology the Lutheran Way

I just finished reading the translation of Oswald Bayer's ,,Theologie" which in English is entitled ,,Theology the Lutheran Way". The book is a solid presentation of Luther's theological approach. The first part deals with Luther, and Bayer presents his text via two methods: 1. we passively receive Christ's gifts, and 2. theology is undertaken by Scriptural study, trials, and prayers. Bayer also puts forward the thesis that theology is both academic and liturgical, and therefore both sides of theology must remain together, even if they do so in tension. That is a classic Lutheran approach.

The translation of this work is exceptional. The German language can be verbose (by American English standards), but the translator has treated us to a smooth and easy to read translation of Bayer's text. I highly recommend it.

Two other books written by Bayer have been translated into English: ,,Living by Faith: Justification and Sanctification," and ,,Martin Luther's Theology". I have both of these books as well, and I am in the process of reading his ,,Living by Faith".

Check out this link on Bayer's biography.

Also see the website for the University of Tübingen. Bayer was a professor of systematic theology for many years at Tübingen.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The Philosphy of Identity

While reading through Oswald Bayer's book, ,,Theology the Lutheran Way", I came across this interesting quote:

,,In this sense, the modern philosophy of identity has altogether perverted the promise [the gospel] and made it into a form of self-referentiality [favoredness], directed back reflexively to the human ego, which thus claims to be able to verify itself But this philosophy is pure atheism.... People want to speak the truth about themselves but in the process they make God into a liar: Homo verax -- deus mendax [Humans speak the truth – God lies] (see, on the other hand, Romans 3,4)" (BaYer 133). [»Although everyone is a liar, let God be proved true« (Romans 3,4)].

Essentially, Bayer is saying that the modern philosophy of the ego is nothing else than a philosophy that usurps the First Commandment: You shall have no other gods except Me. Bayer calls this atheism; we can also call it idolatry, for to say there is no God is essentially idolatry, for then the god that really exists is one's self. And that is nothing more than the first temptation into sin that we find in Genesis 3. Adam and Eve were tempted by the serpent to take and eat the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. That tree had been forbidden to them, and it was enforced with the threat of death. The serpent tempted Adam and Eve to become like God, in essence, to take God's place and put themselves as the center of the universe and the lords of what is right and wrong.

Bayer argues that if we get caught up in this modern philosophy of identity, then we will become obsessed with the gift of our individuality and freedom. What then happens is that we end up losing the gift of the gospel and the giver of this gift, namely, God Himself (Bayer 134). Bayer argues that it is the responsibility of theology to challenge such athieistic and idolatrous philosophies and their attack on religion (Bayer 133).

The central object of theology is the gospel, and this is located in the promise that gives freedom (Bayer 134). The subject of theology is the performative word (Bayer 134). The gospel does what it promises and gives what it promises. The Holy Spirit uses the gospel of Christ crucified and resurrected for us and our sins to give us the forgiveness of our sins and our sinfulness. The gospel is a powerful word of God that performs what it promises. In this gospel we find true freedom: freedom from our sin and freedom to live as God's children who love our neighbors and help them.