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Dominus Mortis

Dominus Mortis: Martin Luther on the Incorruptibility of God in Christ

David J. Luy
Copyright Date: 2014
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  • Book Info
    Dominus Mortis
    Book Description:

    Modern interpreters typically attach revolutionary significance to Luther’s Christology on account of its unprecedented endorsement of God’s ontological vulnerability. This passibilist reading of Luther’s theology has sourced a long channel of speculative theology and philosophy, from Hegel to Moltmann, which regards Luther as an ally against antique, philosophical assumptions, which are supposed to occlude the genuine immanence of God to history and experience. David J. Luy challenges this history of reception and rejects the interpretation of Luther’s Christology upon which it is founded. Dominus Mortis creates the conditions necessary for an alternative appropriation of Luther’s christological legacy. By re-specifying certain key aspects of Luther’s christological commitments, Luy provides a careful reassessment of how Luther’s theology can make a contribution within ongoing attempts to adequately conceptualize divine immanence. Luther is demonstrated as a theologian who creatively appropriates the patristic and medieval theological tradition and whose constructive enterprise is significant for the ways that it disrupts widely held assumptions about the doctrine of divine impassibility, the transcendence of God, dogmatic development, and the relationship of God to suffering.

    eISBN: 978-1-4514-8959-0
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    Contemporary appraisals routinely allege that Luther’s theology marks a watershed moment in the history of dogma, specifically as it pertains to the doctrine of God. Luther is supposed by many to espouse a conception of the divine being that departs in fundamental and portentous respects from his theological forebears. The contents of the alleged departure are variously elaborated. As a general point of consensus, however, the shift is taken to signal nothing less than the inception of an alternative dogmatic trajectory within Christian thought. At its root, the cusp of the departure consists in a single, positive affirmation, which Luther...

  5. 1 The Road Oft-Taken A Thematic Anatomy of the Divergence Thesis
    (pp. 9-60)

    This chapter sketches a thematic anatomy of the divergence thesis; that is, it organizes and bibliographically documents the governing interpretive claims that reside within this thesis. The literature survey provided in the pursuit of this task does not purport to provide a comprehensive treatment of modern scholarship on Luther’s Christology. It seeks, far more modestly, to call the reader’s attention to the various interpretive claims, which collectively account for the presumption of plausibility that passibilist appropriations of Luther now enjoy in contemporary theology. These isolated claims are significant because they furnish the core basis for the divergence thesis’s self-avowed legitimacy....

  6. 2 Detractor or Debtor? Luther on the Late Medieval Metaphysics of the Incarnation
    (pp. 61-108)

    The “divergence thesis” has at its axis the contention that Luther executes a substantive reconfiguration of prevailing medieval accounts of the hypostatic union. This claim is the operative premise for all subsequent tiers of analysis, because it furnishes the conceptual point of departure that establishes critical divergence. It is the seam at which the fabric of antique metaphysics starts to tear apart, thus clearing space for a radically different alternative. Luther’s “new” Christology is the stone that disrupts the placid waters of late medieval dogma. The significance of the initial impact becomes clear only as its embedded implications radiate steadily...

  7. 3 The Suffering of God in Christ A Sixteenth-Century Breakthrough?
    (pp. 109-162)

    We now turn our focus to the second stage of the divergence thesis’s first tier of analysis. The issue directly in question throughout is Martin Luther’s conception of God’s participation in the sufferings of Christ. A specific appraisal of this conception is crucially important to the divergence thesis as a whole. The core of this appraisal is an emphasis upon the uniqueness of Luther’s treatment of the communication of idioms. Unlike the preceding theological tradition, Luther is alleged to insist upon a “reciprocal exchange” between Christ’s natures. This means that there is a direct participation of humanity in divine properties...

  8. 4 Only the Impassible God Can Help Luther on the Sufferings of Christ and the Invigoration of Human Frailty
    (pp. 163-194)

    The doctrine of divine impassibility seems an obstruction to Luther’s soteriology, in the appraisal of many scholars. His is a theology of redemption saturated with divine immanence. In Christ, God enters into radical solidarity with the vulnerable. He shares in their suffering and forsakenness. He absorbs humanity’s death and alienation as his own. This chapter will not minimize the importance of these themes within Luther’s soteriology. The question is whether these points of emphasis require, as their condition of possibility, a God capable of ontological vulnerability. On the divergence account, the matter is relatively straightforward. To the extent that salvation...

  9. 5 Deathless Might in the Form of Mortal Weakness Toward a Renovated Appropriation of Luther’s Christology
    (pp. 195-218)

    In light of all that has been argued to this point in this study, we turn now to a question of constructive theological import: How is Luther’s Christology significant for modern reflection upon the immanence of God in Christ? Taken as a whole, the divergence thesis represents an attempt to provide a substantive response to this question. Despite its widespread appeal, this proposal fails because it builds a constructive edifice upon an illusory historical foundation. The passibilist symmetry, which stands at the base of a divergence reception, represents a mistaken specification of Luther’s christological views. In its association of Luther...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 219-244)

    The preceding chapters of this study defend a thesis that possesses far-reaching implications for the analysis and contemporary appraisal of Luther’s Christology. This conclusion will provide a retrospective overview of the main argument, and suggest a few lingering questions that warrant future inquiry.

    This study has focused upon a prevalent reception of Luther’s theology, to which it has referred generically as the “divergence thesis.” The distinguishing feature of this reception is its consistent tendency to identify in Luther’s Christology the seeds of a far-reaching conceptual reconfiguration of the classically developed doctrine of God. It supposes Luther, above all, to bequeath...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 245-260)
  12. Index of Names
    (pp. 261-264)
  13. Index of Subjects
    (pp. 265-266)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 267-267)