Sunday, October 28, 2007

Oswald Bayer | Theology the Lutheran Way

Theology the Lutheran Way is a great book. The Lutheran Quarterly Books series has concentrated on publishing works from two crucial Lutheran theologians- Gerharde Forde and Oswald Bayer. One easy way to summarize the thesis of Bayer's book is to say that, just as Forde stated that "theology is for proclamation," Bayer here argues that "theology is for divine service."

What does he mean by this? His basic thesis is that theolog has two inseparable sides- the "monastic" side, its liturgical spirituality, the first order discourse of worship. And then it has an "academic" (wissenschaft) side, the secondary discourse on the primary texts (forms of speech and worship). The two are inseparable, just as in Forde's thought, theology drives and leads to proclamation, but also emerges from proclamation and so leads to further proclamation.

The book is also an excellent resource because Bayer summarizes and introduces Luther's understanding of theology. He focuses especially on Luther's three "rules", rules Luther learned from his repeated praying of Psalm 119. In his introduction to the New Testament translation, Luther offered three rules for theology: Oratio (reading out loud), meditatio (praying or contemplating), and tentatio (suffering or undergoing the text).

Along the way, Bayer addresses issues in the philosophy of science, the study of speech acts, and critiques the main modernist proposals- Schleiermacher, Kant, Hegel, and Bultmann.

Anyone could read this book as a fascinating introduction to theology the Lutheran way. Lutherans will be edified, and will be pushed to clarify their own assumptions and reading of Luther.

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