Theological Anthropology, 500 Years after Martin Luther

Now out, from the inestimable Christophe Chalamet et al,

Theological Anthropology, 500 years after Martin Luther gathers contributions on the theme of the human being and human existence from the perspectives of Orthodox and Protestant theology. These two traditions still have much to learn from each another, five hundred years after Martin Luther’s Reformation. Taking Martin Luther’s thought as a point of reference and presenting Orthodox perspectives in connection with and in contradistinction to it, this volume seeks to foster a dialogue on some of the key issues of theological anthropology, such as human freedom, sin, faith, the human as created in God’s image and likeness, and the ultimate horizon of human existence. The present volume is one of the first attempts of this kind in contemporary ecumenical dialogue.

Readers of this volume are ‘sitting in on’ the conference which birthed it.  They are privileged to ‘hear’ (by reading) the opening remarks by representatives of various faith traditions and the publisher has also made available all of the front matter and the essays which comprise part 1 and part 2.  Persons who purchase the volume or who read a copy obtained from a library are able to ‘take part’ in the other lectures delivered during the conference (although chapters 7 and 14 and the back matter are also available for free download to anyone interested).

Concerning the conference itself,

The present volume owes its existence to His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who wished to see the Centre Orthodoxe du Patriarcat Œcuménique in Chambésy, near Geneva, plan an event commemorating the 500th anniversary of Luther’s reformation. On December 7th and 8th, 2017, sixteen scholars met in Chambésy’s Orthodox Center and at the University of Geneva in order to discuss the topic of Luther’s theological anthropology. This book gathers the texts which were presented during the conference.

Please take a look at the link above for all of the material the book offers.  Read the Preface (the Editors introduction).  Doing so will prepare you to engage a series of essays that take seriously the legacy of Luther and his reception in not only the West, but the East of Europe.  And that is important.  Indeed, it may be the most important aspect of the volume.  I.e., that it is not merely or simply a theological discussion among persons from Germany and America and England (which, frankly, so many things in Theology are); it is a discussion which brings to bear the voices of scholars from Switzerland, Germany, Greece, Lebanon, America, France, and England.  Protestants and Reformed and Orthodox all gather at the table for conversation.

Notice the editorial explanation of the gathering:

The relation between Luther and Orthodoxy is not a frequent topic of inquiry.  Few Protestants have studied it – and even fewer Orthodox. In our ecumenical age, however, such inquiry and dialogue are not optional: the best way to move forward in our quest for unity of all Christians is to learn to know one another better, more accurately and deeply, not just by reading, but also by meeting one another. The present introduction is divided into two sections: first, we provide a brief survey of the history of Lutheran-Orthodox dialogue. Second, we turn to certain key issues which continue to emerge in the course of this dialogue when we address the topic of theological anthropology.

Indeed!

And what a conversation it turns out to be.  The topics range, within the broad framework of Luther’s theological anthropology, from Sola Fide, to the Imago Dei, to the freedom of the will and others.  Each topic in seven of the eight sections is treated by an Orthodox theologian and a Protestant or Reformed theologian.  Only section 8 has a singular voice.  And by carefully reading each part (or section as I’ve called them) those who do so are given a very full picture of some of the chief anthropological ideas treated by Martin Luther.  This work, in short, is an introduction to Luther’s anthropology from the perspective of Orthodox and Protestant/Reformed scholars.

Take, for example Part Three, where Christophe Chalamet brilliantly fleshes out Luther’s notion of the bondage of the will, primarily by examining Luther’s lectures on Psalm 50/51.  This treatment is followed by Stavros Yangazoglou’s ‘Sin, Freedom and Free Will: Hermeneutical Conditions of Anthropology in the Orthodox Tradition and Luther’.  Both scholars use clear and helpful language to make their respective points.  Taken together, a very useful, very succinct, and yet very fulsome picture of Luther’s theology is set forth.

There are very few books like this.  I recommend it.  Especially to scholars in the West who have (like myself) very little first hand familiarity with Eastern theology.  It is an immensely instructive work.  And one of the most interesting that I read in Coronatide 2021.  If you haven’t read it yet, add it to your list for 2022.

1 thought on “Theological Anthropology, 500 Years after Martin Luther

Comments are closed.