Saturday, May 13, 2006

United with Christ-The Finnish Interpretation of Luther

I've been working my way through Union with Christ: The New Finnish Interpretation of Luther (edited by Braaten and Jenson). The book encapsulates the work of Finnish Luther scholar Tuomo Manneraa and his theological protégées. Manneraa and his Finnish colleagues argue that the traditional read of Luther (as represented in the Lutheran scholastic understanding of justification) breaks faith with the strong ontology that is present in Luther’s soteriology. According to the Finns, the strongly forensic, non-ontological articulation of justification that exists in Lutheran orthodoxy reflects the work of Melanchthon and the later neo-Kantians, more than it does Luther.

Arguing that Luther's understanding of justification is grounded in the believer's realistic union with Christ, the Finns are attempting to use this reinterpretation of Luther as a starting point from which to establish ecumenical dialog between Lutherans and the Orthodox Church. Manneraa and company argue that Luther’s doctrine of justification has strong parallels with the Orthodox doctrine of theosis.

I am not enough of a Luther scholar to know if the Finnish interpretation of Luther is accurate, but it does seem apparent to me that Luther often speaks of justification in ontological terms in a way that later Lutherans do not. But, as Robert Jenson writes, "Now of course, the Finnish theses may seem so evident to me because I so want them to be true."

1 comment:

millinerd said...

I had heard the Finnish interp thrown around a lot but never quite got the jist, so thanks for the synopsis.

I'm with Jenson.