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Missio shaped by promissio: Lutheran missiology confronts the challenge of religious pluralism

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2011
Dissertation
Author: Jukka Antero Kaariainen
Abstract:
Contemporary missiology has been engaged with two central concerns: 1) how to relate the missio Dei , the reign of God, and the church, and 2) given our global context of religious pluralism, what resources Christian theology has for building a constructive relationship with the religious other. These two concerns, while distinct, are intimately related and find their practical outworking in the important practice of interreligious dialogue. Utilizing resources from Martin Luther's theology and the Lutheran confessional writings, this study offers an understanding of the Christian gospel as promise as key to addressing the above mentioned missiological challenges. In its construction of a confessional Lutheran missiology, it critically retrieves and constructively reappropriates four resources from the Lutheran tradition: the gospel as promise, the law/gospel distinction, a theology of grace as promise of mercy fulfilled, and a theology of the cross utilizing the hiddenness of God. The law of God as accusing, yet webbing humanity to its Creator; the gospel as the comforting promise of vulnerable, loving mercy; and the hiddenness of God as elusively mystifying form the overarching framework within which a contemporary Lutheran missiology seeks to engage the religious other by dialectically relating gospel proclamation and dialogue. Such a Lutheran view of "mission shaped by promise" constitutes an alternative voice within the contemporary missiological landscape, dominated by an understanding of grace as human nature fulfilled and an approach to the missiological task as identifying traces of divine grace and truth in the midst of interreligious work toward human peace and justice. While humbly receiving the deepest witness of its dialogue partner, such a Lutheran approach boldly offers the paradoxical revelation and hiddenness of God in the cross as a distinctively Christian contribution to an interreligious dialogue centered on the ambiguity and hiddenness of God in daily experience.

Contents Acknowledgements Table of Contents 1 Introduction 4 Chapter One. The Gospel as Promise.... 38 Preliminary Matters The Word of God: God's Speech Creates Relational Reality Promise as "Linguistic Rule" for Gospel-Talk The Gospel as Promise in Luther The Gospel as Promise in the Lutheran Confessions: Issues at Stake The God of Promise Humans as Trusting Creatures The Logic of the Lutheran Argument Faith as Trust in the Gospel Promise Pastoral Concerns of Lived Christian Experience How the Law/Gospel Distinction Serves the Gospel as Promise The Law/Gospel Distinction in Luther and the Lutheran Confessions Critical Appraisal of the Law/Gospel Distinction Chapter Two. A Lutheran Theology of Grace as Promise of Loving Mercy Fulfilled 97 Luther and the Lutheran Confessions on the Nature of Sin Inflation of the Concept of Revelation A Confessional Lutheran Theology of Mercy as Promise Realized The Interpersonal Dynamic of Divine Grace and Human Faith 1

The Divine Dilemma Resolving the Divine Dilemma: the Centrality of Atoning Reconciliation Jesus as Sacrifice "For Us" Fundamental Convictions Resolution of the Tension Between Law and Gospel The "Inclusive Exclusivity" of Christ Letting God's Problem Be God's Problem Chapter Three. Karl Rahner's Theology of Grace as Nature Fulfilled 137 Historical Background to the Doctrine of Grace in the Western Christian Tradition Karl Rahner's Theology of Grace as Nature Fulfilled Rahner's Theological Method Rahner's Theology of Grace Rahner's Theology of Redemption and Reconciliation Confessional Lutheran Critical Engagement with Rahner Methodological Concerns Necessity of Actual Atonement The "Anonymous Christian" Rahner's Challenge to Confessional Lutheran Theology Chapter Four. A Paradigm of Missio Dei: Jacques Dupuis' Theology of Religious Pluralism.. 184 Theological Method: One God- One Christ- Convergent Paths The Christ Event at the Center of Salvation History The Interpretation of Scripture and Tradition Constitutive Christology 2

Inclusive Pluralism and the Salvific Value of Other Religions The Reign of God and the Church Complementarity and Convergence Appreciation of Dupuis Chapter Five. Missio Shaped by Promissio: Confessional Lutheran Engagement with Dupuis.216 Missio Dei: One Mission or Two? Critical Engagement with Dupuis Meta-Questions and Overall Theological Framework Revelation of Law and Gospel Theology of Grace Dupuis' Pneumatology: the Role and Work of the Holy Spirit The Reign of God and the Church A Theology of the Cross: God Hidden and Revealed Chapter Six. Proclamation and Interreligious Dialogue: a Dialectical Relationship 276 Definition of Terms Models for Relating Proclamation and Dialogue Methodological Framework for Engaging in Dialogue A Confessional Lutheran Approach to Relating Proclamation and Dialogue Jacques Dupuis on Relating Proclamation and Dialogue Conclusion Bibliography .....311 Abstract Vita 3

Introduction: In Search of a Lutheran Missional Hermeneutic Statement of the Problem and Background to the Question The term "Lutheran missiology" is viewed by many as an oxymoron. Historically, ever since Gustav Warneck's (the founding father of modern missiology) stinging critique of Martin Luther for lacking a theology and awareness of mission, conventional wisdom has dictated: to the extent that Lutheran theology derives its impetus and motivation from Luther, to that extent it will be missiologically weak and inadequate. In other words, Lutheran theology provides no real resources for a contemporary, relevant Christian missiology and engagement with the world religions and religious pluralism.' The late David Bosch agreed with the main thrust of Warneck's critique of Luther, claiming: "We miss in the Reformation not only missionary action 'but even the idea of missions, in the sense in which we understand them today.'" Beginning with Kar) Holl in 1928 and Werner Elert in 1931, a school of Luther scholars arose, opposing and rebuffing Warneck's criticism of Luther's theology, claiming that to judge Luther's theology as lacking a missionary vision "is to misunderstand the basic thrust of [his] theology and ministry."4 Warneck anachronistically imposed a very particular, nineteenth century understanding of mission upon the Reformers. Describing missionary outreach in terms of organized missionary societies sending career missionaries to foreign lands, he judged the 1 The distinction between Luther's theology and writings and the theology of the Lutheran confessional writings as expressed in the Book of Concord is important. However, as I will argue in this project, I believe Luther's theology and that of the Book of Concord are best understood as offering fundamentally complementary, rather than alternative, positions, centered around the notion of the Gospel as promise. 2 David Bosch, Transforming Mission (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1996), 244. 3 Ingemar Oberg, Luther and World Mission (St Louis: Concordia, 2007), 3. This group of scholars includes, but is not limited to, Karl Holl, Werner Elert, E. Danbolt, Wilhelm Maurer, Walter Holsten, Johannes Aagard, James Scherer, Juhani Forsberg, Eugene Bunkowski, Volker Stolle, P. Peters, and Ingemar Oberg. Bosch, Transforming Mission, 244. 4

Reformers "guilty for not having subscribed to a definition of mission which did not even exist in their own time."5 While historically speaking it is true that the Reformation resulted in very little missionary outreach, the real issue and question is whether this is due to historical context or to theological deficiency. It is one thing to say that Luther and other Reformers viewed their main theological challenge as reforming the existing Church rather than mission outreach; it is quite another to charge their theology with missiological deficiency. In contrast to Warneck's pessimistic assessment of Luther's theology, I agree with and wish to develop an argument in support of James Scherer's contention that "For Luther, mission is always pre-eminently the work of the triune God-missio Dei-and its goal and outcome is the coming of the kingdom of God.... [T]he rich but untested potential of Luther and the Reformation for mission practice comes down to the present, not as definitive guidance, but certainly as inspiration and challenge for missiology today. It becomes a calculable 'benchmark' for testing today's missiological axioms."6 Among Lutheran theologians, Richard Bliese has issued a call for Lutheran missiology to move from "reactive reform" to "innovative initiative."7 It is the modest, yet ambitious, goal of this project to make a contribution toward such an innovative, missiological initiative. In addition to the question of whether or not Lutheran theology has missiological potential and, if so, what resources it has to offer, this project will also address a second, closely related question: In light of the missio Dei (mission of God), how should the Church's mission be 5 Bosch, Transforming Mission, 244. 6 James Scherer, Gospel, Church, and Kingdom: Comparative Studies in World Mission Theology. (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1987), 55,66. 7 Richard H. Bliese, "Lutheran Missiology: Struggling to Move from Reactive Reform to Innovative Initiative." In Viggo Mortensen, ed., The Role of Mission in the Future of Lutheran Theology (Aarhus: Center for Multireligious Studies: University of Aarhus, 2003): 13. 5

properly understood, in terms of its distinctive shape, content, and emphases? This project will answer these two questions by interrelating them, using four distinctive resources from the confessional Lutheran tradition in addressing both questions: 1) the Gospel as promise; 2) the law/Gospel distinction; 3) a theology of grace as promise of mercy realized; and 4) a theology of the cross utilizing the hiddenness of God. An introductory remark on terminology is in order before proceeding further. The creedal Christian tradition, as expressed in the classic Christological and Trinitarian dogmas, has always recognized the sin/ grace dialectic as a central theme of Scripture. The confessional Lutheran tradition further nuances this classic dialectic, offering the terminology of law and promise (Gospel) as a more precise formulation of this dialectic. A Lutheran terminology seeks to avoid the connotations of the classic "nature/grace" paradigm, whereby grace can potentially be viewed as something quantifiable which fulfills sinful or defective human nature. In seeking to avoid views of grace as either quantifiable or internally enhancing human nature, a confessional Lutheran perspective views grace as a fundamentally relational reality, offer, and external word of surprising mercy. While contemporary missiology is a multifaceted discipline, embracing many concerns and emphases such as evangelization, inculturation, the promotion of justice, liberation, and peace, and interreligious dialogue, I believe that mission as missio Dei is the prevailing, dominant paradigm for missiology today. While it can be variously interpreted, its key features include emphasizing the Trinitarian origin of mission, God's shalom as the final, eschatological reign of peace and justice, and the Christian/human participation in that reign. Karl Barth, with his 1932 essay entitled "Theology and Mission," inaugurated contemporary Protestant reflection on mission as missio Dei by grounding the theological foundation of mission in the doctrine of the 6

Trinity. Theologically, mission came to be seen as a divine activity and attribute, originating from God himself, rather than the Church's activity.9 Francis Oborji clarifies the ecclesiological ramifications of this affirmation: Mission is not primarily an activity of the church but an attribute of God. The church is the movement of God toward the world. The church is an instrument of mission. The church exists because there is missio Dei, and not the contrary.10 While the phrase missio Dei has been widely accepted and used by virtually all mission theologians, its actual meaning and content is vigorously contested. Wilhelm Richebacher describes the current quagmire: "It seems that everyone reads into and out of this 'container definition' whatever he or she needs... Is such a term of any use at all, if it does not help us establish a clear single interpretation of the central concept? Should we give up this formula altogether...?"11 The title of his article bluntly asks: "Missio Dei: the Basis for Mission Theology, or a Wrong Path?" While I believe missio Dei to be a helpful category, the very "structure of Lutheranism" (Werner Elert) would insist that this term requires nuancing: Does God have one or two missions to the world? This question directs us to the nature of the Gospel as giving Christian mission a 1"? distinctively dual or "duplex" shape (Ed Schroeder). A confessional Lutheran contribution to understanding the missio Dei insists that the divine mission is bivocal. The triune God, rather 8 Francis Oborji, Concepts of Mission: the Evolution of Contemporary Missiology (Maryknoll: Orbis, 2006), 134. 9 Oborji, Concepts of Mission, 134. 10 Oborji, Concepts of Mission, 135. 11 Wilhelm Richebacher, "Missio Dei: the Basis of Mission Theology or a Wrong Path?" International Review of Mission Vol. 42, No. 367 (2003): 589. 12 A debate about the twofold nature of mission is often conducted in terms of the mission of the Son and the mission of the Spirit. This debate will be explored more in-depth in chapter five, in the section entitled, "Missio Dei: One Mission or Two?" 7

than saying and doing only one thing, has a dual mission: God's mission always manifests itself in the dual form of judgment and salvation, of condemnation and forgiveness, of wrath and promised mercy. These dual missions roughly correspond to the Lutheran dialectic of law and promise (Gospel), respectively. While these missions are complementary, with the first clearly serving the second, they are also in dialectical tension. In other words: missio Dei is shaped by promissio Dei, or the promise of God is the secret to mission. Such is the Lutheran claim. Barth's immense influence is evident in the fact that most of the missiological discussion surrounding missio Dei assumes God's mission to be largely unitary, that God is doing and saying basically one thing (God's loving salvation universally present). Most contemporary missiologies arising from the basis of missio Dei, whether employing a "nature/grace" hermeneutic (traditional Roman Catholic theology) or a "sin/grace" hermeneutic (traditional Reformed theology), end up talking about the Gospel and grace in such a way that it seems that God has only one word to say, a word of loving grace. Lutherans find this problematic as addressing only half of the story, half of revelation, half of what needs to be confessed, trusted, and proclaimed. Confessional Lutheran theology insists that, to the extent that the first mission of divine judgment is ignored or marginalized, or to the extent that the two missions are conflated under one rubric, to that extent the divine mission as a whole is misconstrued. This project will demonstrate how a clear understanding of the divine, dual mission, expressed in terms of wrath Robert Bertram, "Doing Theology in Relation to Mission." In The Promising Tradition: a Reader in Law-Gospel Reconstructionist Theology (St Louis: Concordia Seminary in Exile, 1974): 41 ff. 8

and promise, law and Gospel, leads to a nuanced. dialectical relationship between mission as proclamation and dialogue.14 Viewing the Gospel as promise is gaining some appreciation beyond Lutheran circles. For example, Roman Catholic theologian William R. Burrows notes: The Gospel is not a new law, not even a new law of love, nor is it a social program. The Gospel of the New Covenant is, rather, an intensification and realization of the dominant theme of the Gospel of both Testaments — God is a God of promises. Concretely, God promises to save his people, and in Jesus we Christians believe we have the clearest revelation, indeed, the accomplishment of that promise, in the paschal mystery of Jesus of Nazareth — his transitus or passage from life through death to new life as he becomes the sender of the Holy Spirit, who is the inner witness to us that our sins indeed are forgiven and the first fruits of the realization that God's promises to us will be fulfilled.15 This project's view of the missio Dei, stated in terms of an "economy of salvation," 16 will draw from the work of Oswald Bayer, Robert Bertram, Robert Kolb, Gerhard Forde, Edward Schroeder, and other confessional Lutheran theologians. As an alternative to the prevailing missiological models, an "economy of salvation" model situates itself between and contrasts itself with an uncritical acceptance of the salvation history model (epitomized by fellow Lutherans who see no need for missiological renewal and vision), on the one hand, and the My use and contrast of the terms "wrath" and "promise," "law" and "Gospel," may cause some to wonder whether I am designating and caricaturing all religions other than Christianity, especially Judaism, as "religions of the Law." While I will offer a more in-depth and comprehensive definition of law, its implications, and its relationship to the Gospel, in chapters one and two, some preliminary remarks at this time serve to clear up any misunderstandings and to give a working understanding of how I intend to use the term "law." First of all, in addressing concerns related to a Christian caricature of Judaism as a religion of the law and a Christian supercessionist view of Christianity fulfilling Judaism by replacing it, the Easter event (the resurrection of Jesus) is the culmination, intensification, clearest revelation, and final realization (using William Burrows' terminology) of the same promises that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob made with the people of Israel. The theme of God's promises runs throughout both testaments of Scripture, unifying them. Second, while some Christians would understand the promise of God fulfilled in Christ in supercessionist terms, it need not be taken that way. Compelling arguments, centered on interpreting Paul's argument in Romans 9-11, have been made for both one covenant and two covenants in Scripture. 15 William R. Burrows, "Participation in and Transformation by the Promise." Address given for the Third International Crossings Conference, Belleville, IL, January 27, 2010 16 Bradford Hinze, "The End of Salvation History," Horizons 18 (1991): 242. In contrast to my proposal, Hinze emphasizes that fragments and traces of the economy of salvation and destruction are found in the diverse voices of the Christian Scriptures and beyond. 9

inclusive pluralist model of Jacques Dupuis, on the other. A constructive Lutheran critique insists that an insufficient view of the nature of the Gospel as promise, articulated and preserved by the law/Gospel distinction, leads to an insufficient theology of grace, one which marginalizes the centrality of the promise of mercy in Christ and therefore overly optimistically views the saving grace of God as operative throughout the world religions. Rather than a notion of the Gospel and grace which leads to a view of interreligious dialogue as a conversation between those already belonging to the reign of God, attributed to the power of the grace of Christ and the work of the Spirit (Dupuis), a Lutheran proposal insists that an interreligious dialogue, employing the Gospel promise of "loving mercy" in Christ and a theology of the cross utilizing the hiddenness of God, is both more faithful to the broad Christian tradition and Scriptures as well as more honest to our lived experience, accurately reflecting both commonality and difference of religious experience. By articulating four Lutheran resources (the Gospel as promise, the law/Gospel distinction, a theology of grace as promise of loving mercy realized, and a theology of the cross utilizing the hiddenness of God) for constructing a nuanced, "economy of salvation" model of the missio Dei, this project delineates how a particular view of the Gospel (as promise) undergirds a particular model of the missio Dei, culminating in a very particular, dialectical relating of proclamation to interreligious dialogue. The historical lineage of this approach can be traced from the confessional movement within late 16th century German Lutheran theology, through the Erlangen school in the mid- twentieth century (Werner Elert), to contemporary theologians such as Oswald Bayer (professor emeritus, University of Tubingen), the late Robert Bertram (Christ Seminary-Seminex, St Louis). Robert Kolb (Concordia Seminary, St Louis, MO), Edward Schroeder (professor emeritus, Christ Seminary-Seminex, St Louis, MO), Carl Braaten (professor emeritus, The Lutheran School of 10

Theology in Chicago), Richard Bliese, Gary Simpson, Patrick Kiefert, and the late Gerhard Forde (Luther Seminary, St Paul, MN). Luther's Context and Our Contemporary Context; Recognizing the Divide In many ways, Martin Luther's thought and theology stands at the juncture between the medieval and modern eras. It is important to situate Luther's thought within his societal and ecclesial context, in order to properly recognize both the limits and potential fruitfulness of his theology for our contemporary context. Luther's immediate concern and agenda was to "Christianize Christendom," centered on internally reforming the Church, rather than a theology of mission intentionally engaging othei religions.17 This is highly significant for two reasons. First, the issue of religious pluralism and the need to theologically address it never arose for him. In his lifetime, Luther probably met fewer than twenty people who were not baptized Christians. Luther, in step with the Church of his day, viewed Muslims primarily as "infidels" and a political threat to the Holy Roman empiie, rather than as prospective converts to Christianity. This means, secondly, that a theology of religions simply was not on his intellectual horizon in the same way it is in our pluralistic context For a fuller treatment of this point and an excellent overview of the various Christian agendas at play in the Reformation era, see Scott Hendrix, Recultivating the Vineyard: the Reformation Agendas of Christianization (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004). Hendrix addresses Luther's specific context and concerns in chapter two. 18 Some inflammatory statements and prejudicial writings by Luther regarding Muslims and Jews in his latei years are well known and documented. Perhaps the be~>t known such work is On the Jews and Their L tes (1543) I readily acknowledge such problematic writings and condemn them as unacceptable hate speech. Luther s problematic outlooks and hermeneutical assumptions regarding other religions are partly attributable to their being rooted in his limited life experience with those religions. I wish to claim that such statements do not render Luther's theology missiologically useless, but rather that the fruitful missiological resources within that theology are retrievable and applicable in today's pluralistic context, his inflammatory writings notwithstanding. When it comes to Luther's potential as a missiological resource and thinker, I will be cautioning us not to "throw the baby out with the bathwater." For a balanced, insightful study of Luther on these matters, see Adam Francisco, Martin Luther and Islam: a Study in Sixteenth Century Polemics and Apologetics (Leiden- Brill, 2007). 11

today. However, this does not mean that Luther's theology, or that of the confessional Lutheran tradition, does not have valuable resources which can be legitimately retrieved and applied to today's context. What it means is that these resources are not self-evident, and that their identitication, creative retrieval, and critical appropriation to our context necessitates a creative critical process. I will outline how I believe this can be done in the hermeneutical section In sharp contrast to Luther's context, our contemporary social, ecclesial, and theological context is characterized by a recognition and appreciation of ambiguity and pluralism. As Francis Schussler Fiorenza notes, our contemporary scene exhibits deep ambiguity in relation to appreciating the nuanced relationships between pluralism and unity, rationality and its critique, and power and its potential oppressiveness.19 This situation necessitates that theological systems and statements be made with greater humility, nuance, and provisional certitude. As Schussler Fiorenza notes, "If one expresses Christian belief in particular philosophical [or theological] categories, then one has not eo ipso made that belief more public or more warranted."20 This means that "theology then seeks to articulate the Christian faith as existing within a pluralistic culture," being unable to "appeal to a particular philosophy as a link between faith and rationality."21 Schussler Fiorenza eloquently articulates the contemporary challenge facing theology: "The task for theology is both to take pluralism seriously and to explore the particularity and significance of the Christian vision without reducing religious language to an isolated language-game that neglects other religious visions and the global situation of 19 Francis Schussler Fiorenza, "Systematic Theology: Task and Methods." In John P. Galvin and Francis Schussler Fiorenza, eds., Systematic Theology. Roman Catholic Perspectives, Volume I (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991). 66-70. 20 Schussler Fiorenza, "Systematic Theology: Task and Methods," 66-67. 21 Schussler Fiorenza, "Systematic Theology: Task and Methods," 67 12

humanity." While deeply mindful of the significant divide between Luther's and confessional Lutheran theology's original context (16th and 17th centuries) and our contemporary social, ecclesial, and intellectual context, a confessional Lutheran approach asserts the possibility and validity of approaching theology's contemporary challenge via responsible, critical retrieval and appropriation of key insights from the confessional Lutheran tradition, especially the Gospel as promise, to today's context. Retrieving the Gospel as promise and articulating its subsequent implications for shaping a contemporary, Christian vision of the Church's mission in a pluralistic setting is a unique offering the confessional Lutheran tradition seeks to make for the sake of the wider Church. Such an approach focuses specifically on reconstructive hermeneutics as a means of articulating the integrity and fruitful authority of a Christian, confessionally Lutheran tradition, employs a theology of the Word of God as a primary background theory, and seeks to ground the theological task within and for the sake of the community of the Church.23 In other words: a confessional Lutheran approach grounds the theological task primarily, while never exclusively, in the "public" of the Church,24 Before turning to elaborate a confessional Lutheran methodology more in-depth, my thesis and its fundamental convictions will be clearly stated. Schilssler Fiorenza, "Systematic Theology: Task and Methods,' 68. 23 While placing primary emphasis and attention on reconstructive hermeneutics, background theories, and engaging the theological task within the community of the Church, a confessionally Lutheran approach is mindful of and recognizes the importance of the hermeneutical role of the oppressed as emphasized by various schools of liberationist theology. However, it maintains that an adequate theological method must seek to balance these various factors, while paying sufficient attention to the hermeneutical significance of the Gospel as promise. For a treatment of these various elements, see Schussler Fiorenza, "Systematic Theology: Task and Methods," 70-84. 24 For a fuller treatment of the tripartite schema of the "publics" of the academy, society, and church, see David Tracy, The Analogical Imagination- Christian Theology and the Culture of Pluralism (New York: Crossroads, 1998), 3-46. 13

Statement of the Thesis and Fundamental Convictions In contrast to much of contemporary missiology, this project will argue for the following thesis. The following features of a confessional Lutheran approach mandate the construction of a missiology as promise formulated in terms of an economy of salvation: 1) the Gospel as promise, 3) the law/Gospel distinction; 3) a theology of grace as the promise of loving mercy realized; and 4) a theology of the cross utilizing the hiddenness of God. Confessional Lutheran theology has unique resources with which to build a robust, dialogicai, Christocentric, Trinitarian missiology. In order to address contemporary missiology, confessional Lutherans believe one must understand God's mission and the Church's mission. This requires understanding how mission is rooted in God's promise as revealed in Scripture. The overall logic for this project's argument is the following. 1) For Luther and the Lutheran Confessions, the nature of the Gospel is pure promise. 2) The nature of the Gospel should determine the nature and shape of Christian mission. 3) Therefore, promise becomes a central category for shaping Christian mission. In other words: a confessional Lutheran approach insists that clarity about the nature of the Gospel is crucial both for shaping Christian mission and constructing a faithfully relevant missiology for the 21st century. As Robert Bertram put it. "Promissio is the secret of missio."" Given this project's goal of articulating a theological foundation for a confessional Lutheran missiology, such a goal will be pursued in two parts: 1) articulating a theologically foundational argument, drawn from Luther and the Lutheran Confessions' interpretation and formulation of key Scriptural themes, and 2) further augmenting this foundational argument in order to apply it 25 Bertram, "Doing Theology in Relation to Mission," 41 ff. 14

to the missiological challenge of approaching religious pluralism, specifically in terms of relating proclamation to interreligious dialogue. Confessional Lutheran Methodology: Approaching the Contemporary Theological Context Before outlining a confessional Lutheran methodology within the contemporary theological context, an important, preliminary observation concerning God's relationship to history and the world prefaces my delineation of such a method. In approaching the issue of how the divine relates to the world, a confessional Lutheran method anchors itself in the traditional dogmatic framework by navigating this question within the framework of immanence versus transcendence. While recognizing that many contemporary theologies "historicize" God and salvation, construing the divine relationship to the world as largely immanent, a Lutheran approach affirms the classical, creedal tradition's emphasis on divine transcendence as a source of God's critical stance, vis-a-vis judgment and wrath, toward the world.26 This fundamental difference of approach has profound implications for understanding what constitutes sin. grace, salvation, and the gospel, among other matters. Exploring those difference sufficiently, however, is beyond the scope of this study. For the purposes of this project, 1 will bracket the issue of the world being in the seriously broken state the Scriptures describe as "sinful" or "fallen." Confessional Lutheran theology does not intend to prove that the need to be saved from the results of a sinful condition is the fundamental problem that the person and work of Jesus Christ are meant to resolve. Instead, it merely stipulates this, as do Martin Luther, Jacques Dupuis, and the respective dogmatic 26 For helpful overviews and insightful treatments of the issues involved in this debate, see Langdon Gilke>, Reaping the Whirlwind: a Christian Interpretation of History (New York: Seabury, 1976), and Peter C. Hodgson. God in History: Shapes of Freedom (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007). 15

Full document contains 342 pages
Abstract: Contemporary missiology has been engaged with two central concerns: 1) how to relate the missio Dei , the reign of God, and the church, and 2) given our global context of religious pluralism, what resources Christian theology has for building a constructive relationship with the religious other. These two concerns, while distinct, are intimately related and find their practical outworking in the important practice of interreligious dialogue. Utilizing resources from Martin Luther's theology and the Lutheran confessional writings, this study offers an understanding of the Christian gospel as promise as key to addressing the above mentioned missiological challenges. In its construction of a confessional Lutheran missiology, it critically retrieves and constructively reappropriates four resources from the Lutheran tradition: the gospel as promise, the law/gospel distinction, a theology of grace as promise of mercy fulfilled, and a theology of the cross utilizing the hiddenness of God. The law of God as accusing, yet webbing humanity to its Creator; the gospel as the comforting promise of vulnerable, loving mercy; and the hiddenness of God as elusively mystifying form the overarching framework within which a contemporary Lutheran missiology seeks to engage the religious other by dialectically relating gospel proclamation and dialogue. Such a Lutheran view of "mission shaped by promise" constitutes an alternative voice within the contemporary missiological landscape, dominated by an understanding of grace as human nature fulfilled and an approach to the missiological task as identifying traces of divine grace and truth in the midst of interreligious work toward human peace and justice. While humbly receiving the deepest witness of its dialogue partner, such a Lutheran approach boldly offers the paradoxical revelation and hiddenness of God in the cross as a distinctively Christian contribution to an interreligious dialogue centered on the ambiguity and hiddenness of God in daily experience.