Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Towards a New Lutheran Graduate School

It has been far too long since I have posted. What is the reason for this delay? It is, of course, that the Institute of Lutheran Theology has taken up far too much of my time. But what is this Institute of Lutheran Theology and why would I let it take up so much time?

I have been graced to be able to lead this new Lutheran theological educational project, a project that attempts to analyze the current intellectual and cultural waters, to chart a theological course through them, and to train the next generation of Lutheran pastors and church leaders in these navigational techniques. We are uncompromisingly committed to thinking through the philosophical presuppositions that have determined, (and will continue to determine) the theological moves that are available in our context. We believe that the intellectual and cultural situation is sufficiently complicated today as to demand a rather deep pastoral preparation - - if pastors are today to function as theologians, as those who have been called to preach the kerygma of the life, death and resurrection of the Christ to a world which has forgotten why it is that such a Christ is necessary.

In his Kingdom of God in America, the American theologian, Richard Niebuhr wrote:

"A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross."

His words remain profoundly a propos today. A necessary condition for the possibility of divine wrath is otherness, it is the possibility of confrontation from that which is other than what one is. When God remains a noble sentiment for us, He/She/It still is our sentiment. A God without distance cannot be a God who drives one to the Cross. The Institute of Lutheran Theology knows well that it must recover and teach the alterity of the divine.

Such alterity is, of course, connected to the ontology of sin. If sin is not to degenerate into a moral notion, then it must continue to connect conceptually to the distance between God and human beings. Divine judgment of human being is a judgment of this distance, of the infinite qualitative fissure that has opened between the infinite and the finite. The necessary condition of human sin and divine judgment is thus the wrath of God; it is, finally, the ontological rift that opens between divinity and mortality. It is the Cross that finally reconciles the two irreconcilable orders. The truth of this Cross must, moreover, be communicable and relatable to other truths, otherwise the truth of the Cross becomes the experience of the Cross, and theology gets locked up again within the province of the subject.

The Institute of Lutheran Theology presupposes that God has wrath, that human beings have sin, that God's kingdom includes judgment, and that Christ is not Christ without a Cross. Moreover, it proclaims that the divine is real, that are assertions about the divine make truth-claims, that the divine is not causally disconnected from His creation, that the divine is at work not only at the level of the subject and in idea, but also within the objectivity of the world itself! Finally, it claims that the Scriptural witness has something very clear to say about the sojourn of the Divine within time.

Please visit us at www.instituteoflutherantheology.org. We want students willing to think with us what an engaged Lutheran theology must look like in the early 21st century!