Response to Hinlicky’s “Paths Not Taken”

[1] In Paths Not Taken: Fates of Theology from Luther to Leibniz1 Paul Hinlicky seeks to retrieve a number of features from Leibniz’s (1646-1716) philosophy for today’s theology, particularly his metaphysics, his doctrine of the compatibility of divine freedom and human freedom, and his theodicy (this world as the best of all possible worlds) in order to address current theology’s loss of public and theme. He does this through the lens of Karl Barth’s theology and for the sake of offering a natural theology as a support to contemporary Trinitarian theologies, especially as they are presented in Wolfhart Pannenberg, Robert Jenson, and Eberhard Jüngel. Hinlicky’s work shares the Paths Not Taken: Fates of Theology from Luther to Leibniz by Paul Hinlickyconcerns of a number of contemporary theologians who oppose the rise of an irrational approach to theology seen for instance in movements like Existentialism or Deconstruction. Similar to Thomistic defenses of the use of reason in theology, Hinlicky appeals to Leibniz as a “Thomistic Lutheran” offering a path which harmonizes faith and reason.

[2] For the sake of clarity, I will endeavor first to present a general overview of Hinlicky’s ideas and second to offer a critique. Hinlicky’s book is written not in a linear approach which builds on historical analysis of conceptual themes in a systematic way but instead cyclically interweaves Leibniz’s (and Barth’s) views of metaphysics, compatibility, and theodicy throughout, making a straightforward presentation of his work challenging. Nevertheless, this review will present his ideas as cogently as possible, not as a walkthrough of chapters but as an overview of his basic themes. Hinlicky’s writing is complex in that no thinker he presents goes unchallenged. So, at places Leibniz, Barth, Melanchthon, and others are affirmed and in other places they are challenged and corrected.

Retrieving the Metaphysical Enterprise
[3] Throughout the volume, and as a surprise to the reader (since it is nowhere indicated in the title), Hinlicky presents Leibniz in constant conversation with the theology of Karl Barth. In a word, Hinlicky sees Leibniz and Barth as able to mutually correct each other. A Barthian interpretation of Leibniz expands Leibniz’s thinking beyond a “Platonic rationalism” and situates him as a distinctively Trinitarian thinker, serviceable for the theologies of Pannenberg, Jüngel, and Jenson, while a Leibnizian interpretation of Barth unveils an expanded Barthian “ontology of act” as able to engage philosophy, break free of any Kantian “dualism,” and thus no longer suffer the stigma of fideism.2 Barth’s Trinitarian dogmatics undergoes a kind of reality check through Leibniz’s work and Leibniz gets a Trinitarian aura so that his view of God cannot be mistaken with that of his follower, the Deist Christian Wolff (1679-1754). Hinlicky justifies his use of Barth since Barth is the major Protestant twentieth century theologian, one who pioneered a “postcritical” critique of Kant, in which theology remains nonapologetic, nonspeculative, and autonomous. In a word, it remains non-foundationalist. Hinlicky sees the current malaise of theology as due to its being grounded in Kantian “dualism,” in which reality as such, the noumenal realm, is bounded by an impenetrable wall between it and the phenomenal realm, which is what the human can only actually know, since knowledge must be accountable to sense experience.3 Since for Kant God always transcends finite human capacity for rational inquiry, we are left to associate the doctrine of God with other factors, such as ethics or feelings. It is this latter option, that of Schleiermacher4 (not emphasized as much by Hinlicky) and the Existentialists, which undermines the current dogmatic enterprise. In this mode, theology no longer deals with doctrinal truth but with subjective experiences. Hinlicky wishes to challenge Kant and weed out his influence in Protestant theology, especially as it has been adopted by Lutherans. In Kantian-inspired theologies, rational inquiry is eclipsed by feelings, and the dogmatic enterprise of theology is lost. Hinlicky believes that dogmatic inquiry from a nonfoundationalist perspective, such as Barth’s, is possible when supported by Leibniz, seen no longer as a Rationalist but as a practitioner of hermeneutics.

[4] Hinlicky notes that the antagonist whose thought leads to these theological ills is not first of all Kant, but Spinoza. Kant adopted Spinoza’s stance of a theology free of anthropomorphism. Spinoza opposed the imago dei doctrine, which in the Melanchthonian trajectory of John Gerhard (1582-1637) affirmed that the mind, consisting of intellect and will, could mirror image reality as such. This perspective about the human mind was appropriated by Leibniz’s “monadology,” in which each monad (fundamental metaphysical reality) as such is a mind. Spinoza critiqued this perspective as chock full of anthropomorphisms, an illicit projection of human attributes onto the infinite. Kant appropriated this critique as a part of his dualism between phenomenal and noumenal. For Hinlicky, Kant’s attitude here parallels that of Zwingli in his dispute with Luther over the omnipresence of Christ’s resurrected body. Since for Kant, as for Zwingli, the finite is not capable of the infinite, we are never privy to reality as such, the noumenal realm, and the idea of “God” remains only as a regulative idea in philosophy, the aspiration of the unity of all human knowledge, but unknowable as such.5 Likewise, Spinoza’s views contribute to theology’s current loss of theme and public. For Spinoza, we deal not with Leibniz’s God who chooses the “best of all possible worlds” as selected from amongst all compossible worlds (hypothetical worlds logically compatible with other such worlds), but instead we have an infinite play of all possibilities,6 the source of an endless plurality of perspectives in the academy. Although Leibniz is preferable to Spinoza, even he needs correction since what makes our world the best possible one is specifically that it is redeemed by Christ and perfected by the Spirit.7 That Trinitarian affirmation is not always as explicit as one wants in Leibniz (but is more so in Barth).

[5] Hinlicky wants to reclaim philosophical theology by disarming Kant’s critique of metaphysics, particularly as it is expressed among Lutherans which, in his judgment, includes the work of Rudolf Bultmann, Gerhard Ebeling, and Gerhard Forde.8 Hinlicky takes the lead from postmodern ways of thinking to relativize Kant’s perspective of dualism and influence. In the wake of the archetypal “masters of suspicion,” Ludwig Feuerbach, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud, Kant’s work is no longer privileged, unchallenged, and protected. It too undergoes a critique: it is unmasked as an expression of self-interest and power. In light of this critique, the playing field of theology is relativized; Kant no longer predominates as a hegemonous figure. Likewise, Hinlicky notes that in contrast to Lutheran appropriations of Kant, Kant simply does not fit with Luther. For Luther, the distinction between appearance and reality is perspectival and not ontological.9 And, for Hinlicky, if that is the case, then a harmony between faith and reason is in principle possible and desirable for apologetics and doctrinal clarity.

[6] Kantian “dualism” is passing away. But, how do we move beyond the current maelstrom of theological pluralism? This is what Hinlicky seeks to address. In Hinlicky’s judgment, today’s theological issues are prefigured in early modern philosophers such as Hobbes (an early modern Epicurean), Spinoza (an early modern Stoic), and Leibniz (an early modern Augustinian). As an early modern Augustinian Leibniz can help the Lutheran theological tradition move forward. Likewise, since Leibniz sought a reunified church for Western Europe by retrieving the common Augustinian heritage in both the Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions, he has an ecumenical scope that demands our attention. Ridiculed as Dr. Pangloss in Voltaire’s Candide, Leibniz has, in Hinlicky’s judgment, received unfair treatment. Scholars wrongly evaluate Leibniz’s character rather than deal with his truth claims. Hinlicky will have nothing to do with such ad hominem approaches.

[7] A second important theme of Hinlicky is that of compatibilism. Compatibilism seeks to avoid a kind of “logic of disjunction” between divine and human agencies. If God has all power, does that mean that the human has no power? Does God’s glory come at human expense? Bypassing Luther’s vita passiva, and thus any actual new creation, Hinlicky believes that a proper understanding of grace can address this conundrum. With respect to the issue of compatibilism, sometimes God’s foreknowledge is presented as incompatible with human freedom. Based on his read of Leibniz, Hinlicky suggests that God’s foreknowledge is not absolute but “modal or hypothetical.”10

[8] What Hinlicky most desires is that nature and grace be situated so that they cannot be pitted against one another. In this light, Hinlicky claims to offer a “Cyrillian Christ to Augustinian man” in contrast to a “Nestorian Christ to Pelagian man” (4). Hinlicky sees his work as identifying a harmonious relation between nature and grace, especially in light of nature’s corruption by sin. A “Cyrillian Christ” honors the exchange of attributes between the divine and human in Christ, in contrast to the Nestorian tendency to separate them. He argues that this Christology has the potency to contend with the predicament of “Augustinian man,” who unlike Pelagius (the ancestor of Kant), needs liberation from sin and its consequences, in order to be free, and genuinely love God and serve others. In Hinlicky’s Augustinian perspective, God and humanity are compatible because they are not two rival agents on an equal playing field. God provides the context in which humans can become and be liberated. As Hinlicky, along with Augustine, repeatedly insists, God is “the cause of all causes but not the maker of all choices.” For Hinlicky, the differing view of grace in Lutheran and pre-Reformation theologies is a tension and not a contradiction. Properly understood, the will is not somehow neutral or arbitrary. It is always configured by its desires. Creatures cannot “will to will” but only do what they already will. Their desire is formed by their perceptions.11

General Pneumatology
[9] Hinlicky notes that Kant positioned Leibniz as a “Rationalist.” However, Leibniz is best seen in a trajectory of Trinitarian theology running from Melanchthon through Gerhard and which offers a “general pneumatology.” Pneumatology is the innate capacity of the rational human mind to recognize God as God and the self as an agent in relation to God.12 Repeatedly Hinlicky appeals to the Lutheran conviction, derived from Luther’s sacramental theology in opposition to Zwingli, that the “finite is capable of bearing the infinite.”13 In Hinlicky’s view, the human mind is capable of a mirror reflection of divine being and truth, and can offer a metaphysic that encompasses an outlook on God, souls, and simple substances in general. Hinlicky corrects what he sees as a misguided view of Leibniz as attempting epistemologically to ground science. Rather, Leibniz hermeneutically views the mind as able to interpret its discoveries to other minds as works of God. Such a hermeneutic is offered in place of Kantian dualism. Such thinking “reflects, but never comprehensively or with utter transparency or with perfect harmony, the divine perfections of power, wisdom, and love.”14 As Hinlicky notes, “To be sure, faith that is not yet sight confesses as still inscrutable the mysterious conjunction of divine power, wisdom, and love….”15 But, in faith, we are opened to this mystery.

Theodicy of Faith
[10] With respect to theodicy, when Leibniz is seen as a “Platonic Rationalist,” evil is admitted in order to serve the greater good of this “best of all possible worlds.” However, Hinlicky reviews problems here. If this is the best possible world, then was God powerless to have made a better one? And, if this isn’t the best world, then is God love?16 Hinlicky contends however that this critique ignores the question of God’s wisdom. With respect to “metaphysical evil,” the limitations and finitude that make us vulnerable to pain, Hinlicky notes that for Leibniz finitude is the possibility but not the necessity for sin.17 Between the extremes of either divine despotism that subjects everything to fate on the one hand, or a moralizing Pelagianism on the other, the wisdom of God is such as to affirm that good can come from evil.18 In this light, Leibniz is best seen not as a Rationalist philosopher but as a Melanchthonian theologian for whom the ultimate kingdom is the best of all possible worlds and to which the Spirit is leading us. The incarnation is itself the sufficient reason for the plentitude of being as well as the permission of evil in the world. This theodicy “of faith” is not meant to proffer a rational demonstration of the wisdom of the world’s engineer, such as it might appear to a neutral observer (clearly a misreading of Leibniz for Hinlicky).19 Instead, Christ is the world’s ultima ratio.20 And, even though Barth attempts to distance himself from Leibniz with his concept of a radical nothingness as the basis of evil, Barth’s work is of the same “Augustinian vintage.”21 While evil seems purposeless to us, a “surd,” it is not so to God.22 God endured evil,23 and God thinks that it is good that we exist as if God had not mastered evil.24 Creation then is not a cosmic force or a cruel tragedy but the best possible world,25 in which God accomplishes the harmony of all things. For Hinlicky, Leibniz’s failure was not in his offering a metaphysic based on the principle of sufficient reason, but that his Augustinian Christianity and attempt to re-Christianize philosophy with respect to Spinoza and Locke was covert and not explicit.26

Two Models of Justification
[11] While Hinlicky clearly appreciates Melanchthon’s imago dei doctrine, he faults Melanchthon (and Barth’s uncritical appropriation of Melanchthon) with respect to the doctrine of justification. Melanchthon traded Luther’s “joyful exchange” model of justification in which our sins are exchanged for Christ’s indwelling righteousness for an “exclusively forensic” model, in which God synthetically judges the sinner just for Jesus’ sake. The Trinitarian implications of the forensic approach reduce the dynamics within the Triune life to a binitarianism of sacrificial exchange between the Father and the Son, giving short shrift to the agency of the Spirit, which in reality imparts participation in the divine life to the believer. While for Hinlicky the two models are by no means incompatible, the advantage of Luther’s is that his can present the shattering of the self-positing ego and the birth of the new, eccentric self.27

Engaging Hinlicky
[12] The following is intended not as a refutation of Hinlicky, since he raises important questions in an erudite fashion. Instead, it is offered as one Lutheran response to the issues he raises. As we have seen, Hinlicky attempts to reclaim a philosophical theology by means of overcoming Kant’s dualism between appearance and reality. As he admits, much of this work has already been done by means of the pluralism which itself ironically resulted in the wake of Kant. Undoubtedly this pluralism is due to more than one factor, however, not least of which is Schleiermacher’s grounding of theological matters in feeling. Hinlicky’s solution is to exchange non-rational, existential feelings for theory, a specific approach to metaphysics which he thinks can be traced to Melanchthon.

The Nature of Promissio
[13] In response, more than anything, theology needs to be accountable to the gospel as promise.28 This means that our proposals for doctrinal systems and our theorizing about the nature of reality as such must be seen through the lens of the gospel as a promise, not a command. On this matter, Oswald Bayer can be helpful. The gospel is not primarily a word that describes reality, or directs our behavior, or gets us in touch with our feelings. While these three activities are valuable, and have their role in our work, they are something different from “promise.” The promise as promise cannot be reduced to or transformed into a knowing, doing, or feeling. This stance of course does not entail that the promise eradicates knowing, doing, or feeling. It is only making a distinction between words that describe or direct reality or experiences and words that generate reality. Making a promise belongs to this latter. It is a verbal action whereby the one making the promise holds him or herself true to that promise.29 Promises are not a general category of rhetoric or logic but are made under the conditions of historical contingency; they are not promises until actually made in concrete times to real people who experience them as contingent. It leaves them saying, “It could have been otherwise.” The people, places, times, and content of the promises are always surprising.

[14] In the Christian faith, promise is not merely a word about new life or directives about how to live the new life or even how this new life feels, but a word which actually grants new life. No doubt this promissory word is intertwined with the narrative of God’s action on behalf of people — tied to the story of scripture. Scripture repeatedly speaks of God as faithful to God’s promises made to people, as judging them for their infidelity, and as comforting them when they are in need. But the promise is not merely a descriptive word or an ethical directive or an expression of feeling, but a word which grants its gift — the favor and even the very being of the one who promises — in the very speaking of this word. As with God’s words everywhere, and unlike human words, God’s words from “In the beginning” forwards create what is not yet created.

[15] Promises generate faith. They originate in the divine faithfulness, and they result in actual trust, not in a general, but in the specific word of promise. This is not compatibalism. The promise is entirely active justification on God’s part, and entirely passive justification in humans, and so it is not the vita activa or the vita contemplativa that promise generates, but the vita passiva. The withdrawal of free will that occurs when a promise is made is not the imposition of fate, but the freedom granted to the new being, who is freed from bondage that tries to secure God in thought, deed, or feeling. This then opens up not only the possibility, but also the actuality of definite acts of infidelity on the part of those who have received the promise. Were it not for this, Christ would not have been crucified. But he was, and so it is in the cross that all God’s promises find their “yes” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

[16] That theology is for proclamation is no existential slogan, nor a mere Melanchthonian doctrine of forensic justification — if that is even fair to the Reformer — as if in making the promise of the forgiveness of sins, God is merely pretending that his word is true, imagining or perceiving it to be. God is not looking through a lens of forgiveness when he says such things, nor is he taking in a horizon of meaning for his words. Unlike existentialism, proclamation is not given for the self to fully come to itself. Just the opposite: the self comes to its demise. “The remedy for curing desire does not lie in satisfying it, but in extinguishing it. In other words, he who wishes to become wise does not seek wisdom by progressing toward it but becomes a fool by retrogressing into seeking folly.”30 Desire is not simply disordered, as Augustine hoped. Desire must be ended. That God is love is not a goal which the ordered will seeks above all others; it is Christ who came down, all the way to the cross. And, that is all for God’s proper work to claim sinners. Doctrinal systems are devised so that we can teach the faith, so that proclamation will be true to faith. For the same reason, we look to yesterday’s proclamation as the necessary preparation to preach, but we do not end the task there. When the distinction of promise and law emerges as central to justification and Lutheran theology, it is not the case that first order language displaces second order. It is not that proclamation takes over and destroys the place of dogma. It is certainly not the case that proclamation is existential, leaving the choice of accepting or not accepting to the decision of one who has been confronted with the divine so that pure faith is in that which is not known, not felt — nevertheless believed. Nothing could be further from the truth. Like a gift, truth must be given, and that is exactly what proclamation does. By the same token, even our doctrinal positions, whether we intend it or not, are vehicles of God’s eschatological work. We are never in a neutral position with respect to God but are always either under God’s scrutiny or God’s favor.

[17] Hinlicky believes that if faith fails to achieve an intellectually satisfying metaphysical theory about God, then faith can never claim to be offering truth. And, if the faith fails to offer truth, then we have no basis to persuade people to believe it. Indeed, faith always claims to be true. But its truth always remains problematic to old beings. The particularity of a crucified Messiah squares neither with the Jews’ quest for “signs” or the Greeks quest for “wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:22-24).31 And, this means that our quest for common ground with non-Christians remains ambiguous. It remains at most a preparation for hearing the gospel, but not the gospel itself. On the one hand, we can appeal to a general revelation as we see in Romans 1 and Acts 17. However, such truth never comes across to the unbeliever as neutral information to which one can freely assent. It always conveys accusation — that we fail to fear, love, and trust in this God who is testified to in nature (Psalm 19:1-2)32 — and comfort — in the providential order through which God provides for creation (Genesis 8:22). The persuasive power of the gospel cannot be reduced solely to intellectual assent, notitia in Orthodox scholasticism. The gospel appeals to the whole person — heart, mind, and hand. True, we are called to love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, reason, and strength. But, clearly the heart beats before the brain ever activates its “waves.” Our knowing, doing, and feeling grow out of the receptive life, which is itself defined by God’s justifying word.

Why Metaphysics Today?
[18] Hinlicky’s reasoning parallels that of another, Schubert Ogden, whose metaphysics — Whiteheadianism — is quite different than that of Hinlicky’s. Many who seek a metaphysic as part and parcel of their doctrine of God share this trait: the secular, modern world seems to have no place for God in the public square. Metaphysics, the task of articulating the nature of reality in its most general terms as such, shared by all, is employed to secure God’s presence in the public realm. Likewise, both Leibniz’s metaphysics and Whitehead’s are geared towards a theodicy.33 If we are going to persuade the public of the reality of God, then we need to articulate a metaphysic, since metaphysics deals with the nature of reality itself. Having moved out of the existentialism that Hinlicky deplores, Schubert Ogden in the early 1960s argued that “the reality of God has now become the central theological problem.”34 Ogden situated the problem of theology — the loss of public and theme — in a place similar to that of Hinlicky. While the youthful Ogden did not confront the current maelstrom of theological perspectives and methods, he saw that theology could not be grounded in existential feelings alone, but required a metaphysic in order to support a proper theme and public. Hence, if theology is to deal with God, it must deal with a metaphysical view of being congenial to our current sensitivities and scientific knowledge.

[19] Of course, Hinlicky would eschew Ogden’s unorthodox, less than full-bodied Trinitarian approach to God, seen for example in Ogden’s contention that “We are justified not in rejecting God as such, but in casting aside the supernaturalistic conception of his reality, which is in fact untenable, given our typical experience and thought as secular men.”35 To be sure, Ogden’s approach is not wholly separated from a Schleiermacherian feelings-based approach: “…we must obviously take the further step of seeing the essential connection between the reality of our existential faith in the worth of life and what is properly meant by the word ‘God’.”36 But, the word “God” must be grounded in reality, thus in a metaphysic. “I hold that the primary use or function of ‘God’ is to refer to the objective ground in reality itself of our ineradicable confidence in the final worth of our existence. It lies in the nature of this basic confidence to affirm that the real whole of which we experience ourselves to be parts is such as to be worthy of, and thus itself to evoke, that very confidence.”37 Ultimately a Whiteheadian “dipolar” God who is both supremely relative and supremely absolute squares with the liberal assumptions which Ogden holds.38

[20] The metaphysics of Leibniz is different from that of Whitehead and Hinlicky is no Whiteheadian. Leibniz’s view of God, as Hinlicky argues, has roots in Augustine, and is amenable to Trinitarian theism, unlike Whitehead’s view of God, which is similar to Plato’s demiurge in the Timaeus.39 And, Hinlicky, unlike Ogden, wants metaphysics not to play a presuppositionless, foundational role in theology, but instead to help us articulate the dogmatic truth of the Christian gospel, the substance of faith. For Hinlicky, the paradoxes of Luther — God as hidden and revealed, preached and not preached, demanding and promising and the human as simultaneously saint and sinner, bound and free, in not of the world — need to be placed in a wider narrative context in order for them to make sense doctrinally. Hinlicky makes an important point with respect to the didactic role of expounding discursive truth in the Christian faith. The role is important so that one can discern truth from error as one attempts to present Christ as gift (a work of the Holy Spirit to inculcate faith) or grow in knowledge of God. But the paradoxes need not be seen as at odds with narrative. This is a “both/and” matter and not “either/or.” The paradoxes are situated within narrative and, conversely, narrative conveys the paradoxes.

[21] The decisive opposition (not dualism) acknowledged in the scriptures is not that of appearance and reality, as we see in Kant’s epistemology, but instead old and new. “Old” or “new” configures what is the case about reality, not our perceptions of what is or appears to be the case. For lack of a better word, Luther’s theology is decisively “eschatological.” In Oswald Bayer’s interpretation of Luther, we live between the old and new aeon.40 We live as the new era encroaches upon the old, extinguishes its opposition, and opens nature to be creation: God’s address to us in and through the spiritus creator. The truth of the promise which opens the horizon of the new era is not grounded in a description of reality, nor in directives for living, nor the depths of one’s experience, but instead in the word, and in the word alone.41 This word of promise is chartered from the narrative of God’s dealings with Israel as God enacts a new people through the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the agency of the Spirit in the church to incorporate both Jews and Gentiles as the new creation. The basis of our doctrinal and dogmatic reasoning is found in this narrative history (the Bible as “historical a priori”42 as Oswald Bayer interprets Hamann’s attitude towards the scriptures). However, God’s work of establishing a new creation is so inescapable that even Christian doctrine, like everything else in creation, conveys law or gospel or hiddenness and revelation in some way, shape, or form. “Christology” cannot be discussed neutrally, as if the conscience isn’t affected in either accusation or promise, that is, falling short of Christ as example [exemplum] or Christ being your forgiveness and new life [sacramentum]. The key is to teach doctrine so that faith is nurtured, and this can happen only when the teacher discerns law from gospel in his or her doctrinal excursions. That, in turn, happens only when teachers have become theologians by truly suffering divine things.

[22] Hence, it is not as if metaphysics, the question about the nature of reality, has no place in Christian faith and life. After all, the Nicene dogma of the homoousios between the human and the divine in Jesus is metaphysical talk. But the metaphysics employed in Christological dogma is at the service of scripture and to clarify doctrine. It is employed, shall we say, on an ad hoc basis. In light of Hinlicky’s critique of Gerhard Forde, it is important to note that Forde, like George Lindbeck, referred to himself as “postliberal.”43 Hence, we do not do our theology in terms of the perspective of traditional correlationalism in which we seek to revise traditional teachings in light of contemporary knowledge. God’s reality through the word situates metaphysics44 and not vice versa. Instead, being, at least created being, is mediated by address. And, God’s reality is unavoidable as it is mediated in all things and addresses us in all things. In every created thing we encounter a mask of God (larva dei), and thus we are always being addressed by God. There are grounds for pursuing a “natural theology.” The fact, as Luther notes in his Commentary on Jonah, that “all…cry out to God…” is a good starting place in apologetics to speak of God to those skeptical of Christian faith. But as we noted from Paul’s position on the foolishness of the cross in 1 Corinthians, the scandal of particularity cannot be avoided in Christianity. That Jesus is a great teacher is acknowledged by thoughtful people. But that his death effectuates eternal life is counterintuitive.45 No wonder we confess, “I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but instead the Holy Spirit has called me though the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and makes holy the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one common, true faith.”46

Compatibilism: A Second Look
[23] Earlier I mentioned human passivity coram deo as ruling out compatibilism; more needs to be said. The late William Placher can help clarify the question of compatibilism between God and creatures. He notes that premodern thinkers, such as Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin, recognized that, ultimately, all metaphysical categories are inadequate when applied to God. Late seventeenth and eighteenth century thinkers, however, disagreed. Instead, they were confident of being able to situate God within a metaphysical system. In speaking about God’s relation to the world, they followed Francisco Suárez’s [1548-1617] (and Scotus’) favoring of the “analogy of attribution” over that of the “analogy of proportionality” and this led to their “domesticating transcendence,” making God one other being within the horizon of being. This requires further explanation and I will follow Placher’s wording closely.47

[24] Suárez’s distinctions about analogy are based on Thomas de Vio’s (Cardinal Cajetan’s) (1469-1534) systematization of Aquinas’ views of analogy, which distinguishes from one another the analogy of inequality, the analogy of attribution, and the analogy of proportionality. In the analogy of attribution, the same term is applied to two subjects, and its meaning is the same with respect to the term but different with respect to the subjects’ relationship to this term. For example, “health” means the same when applied to animal or diet or urine, but each is related to health in a quite different way, as either the subject of health, the cause of health, or the sign of health. By contrast, in the analogy of proportionality, the term itself is used with different meanings, but in a way “proportional” to the things to which it is applied. For example, “seeing” can be understood in both a corporeal and an intellectual sense, such as seeing a stop sign or seeing how to solve a problem in physics. Both of these forms of analogy are to be distinguished from the analogy of inequality where the same term is applied to two subjects with exactly the same meaning, but it is “unequally participated in.” Thus “fire” and “the heaven” are both “bodies” in the same, three-dimensional sense but are different sorts of bodies.

[25] Cajetan believed that only the analogy of proportionality really counts as analogy. He ruled out analogy of inequality as not really analogy at all, but instead a kind of univocity, i.e., different physical objects are “bodies” in the same sense. Analogy of attribution, on the other hand, did not seem to him even a form of analogy, but just equivocation. Diet may cause health, and urine may signify health, but neither is really itself “healthy.” Suárez, by contrast, thought that it is the analogy of attribution rather than analogy of proportionality that provides the key for understanding our language about God.48 It offers a greater precision than the analogy of proportionality. “After all, the way in which the heart is the principle of an animal is not really the same as the way in which the foundation is the principle of a house, and we cannot specify the difference with precision.”49 Suárez, ironically (since his aim was to interpret Thomas Aquinas) incorporated Scotist assumptions in his interpretation of analogy. For instance, creatures and God share the property of being with respect to nothing because both God and creatures have being. This is in contrast to Aquinas who affirms that God simply is while creatures have being (sharing this attribute via participation in God). In Placher’s interpretation, Luther’s and Calvin’s views of God share such “Realist” assumptions as Thomas’ about the relation between God and being and are less Scotist, whose work on this question is more in keeping with a later Nominalism.50 For Placher, Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin are able to honor God’s transcendence, since God is beyond being, in a way that the early moderns could not do, since for them, God is situated within the sphere of being already. Certainly the Nominalist theme of the centrality of the divine will over divine intellect colors Luther’s theology but it is clear that for Luther it is God who positions being and not being that positions God, since God sustains every created thing in being out of nothing.

[26] The upshot of Suárez’s work was that in the milieu of Leibniz and other early modern thinkers the attitude developed that we can understand God because God is not that utterly different from us.51 Placher notes, for example, “God acts according to reasons we can understand, Leibniz said, to create a world that combines the greatest variety together with the greatest order. Obviously, none of us can grasp the details, but we can understand the principles at work. We cannot prove that this is the best of all possible worlds, but we can understand what ‘best’ means, for God’s standards have to be, in the new strong sense, analogous with ours. The God of Aquinas, Luther’s hidden God, the object of Calvin’s faith — those haunting reminders of the limits of our understanding when we turn to God — were not the sort of thing for which most seventeenth-century thinkers had much patience.”52

[27] Placher is alarmed by the tendencies of early modern thinkers, such as Leibniz, who seem to incorporate Scotus’ shift to univocity — structuring divine attributes onto the plan of human comprehensibility, provided that they are clear and distinct. In Placher’s approach, the quest for compatibilism can be seen as a theological invention, a move untrue to the scriptures or to theologians like Aquinas, Calvin, or Luther. God is not an agent working alongside us as other agents. Thus, to pit our agency in competition with God’s is a category mistake (which sinners habitually make). To illustrate, Placher draws this comparison: Just as the author of a play is not one of the characters of the play, so God is behind all agency in the cosmos, however grand or small, but not himself one of the agents.53 This would appear to be an interpretation of the Augustinian affirmation that God is the cause of all causes but not the maker of all choices, an important theme for Hinlicky but, in light of Placher’s critique, not one that Leibniz is able to deliver well.

[28] Amongst other matters, this line of reasoning about divine causality has profound implications for the relation between science and religion. Placher notes, “There is not an independent causal continuum in which it is puzzling how God could intervene. The only causal continuum is one whose every event God sustains. Divine action is not an interruption in or a violation of the normal course of things, but precisely is the normal course of things. The circling of the planets, the leap of a squirrel outside my window, and my own writing of this book are all also results of divine agency, and to claim that this is so at another level of agency does not come into conflict with natural science’s accounts of causal continua.”54 Placher’s commentary helps us better understand Luther’s description of human cooperation — in both the ungodly and the redeemed — with God. “What I assert and maintain is this: that where God works apart from the grace of His Spirit, He works all things in all men, even in the ungodly; for He alone moves, makes to act, and impels by the motion of His omnipotence, all those things which He alone created; they can neither avoid nor alter this movement, but necessarily follow and obey it, each thing according to the measure of its God-given power. Thus all things, even the ungodly, co-operate with God. And when God acts by the Spirit of His grace in those whom He has justified, that is, in His own kingdom, He moves and carries them along in like manner; and they, being a new creation, follow and co-operate with Him, or rather, as Paul says, are made to act by Him (Rom. 8:14).”55 Thus, as Joseph tells his scheming brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good. . . “(Genesis 50:20).56

[29] The whole issue of compatiblism is not merely theoretical. It carries pastoral freight. It raises the specter of a bound will — the fact that sinners simply will that they are self-sufficient enough to be their own gods. In other words, as sinners, we are not compatible with God though we wish to affirm this. Indeed, finally, we wish to rid the world of God — put him on a cross if need be. When Melanchthon despaired of achieving his desired outcome at the Diet of Augsburg, Luther regarded him as putting himself in God’s place. Thus, in his letter to George Spalatin (June 30, 1530), Luther wrote, “Be strong in the Lord, and on my behalf continuously admonish Philip (Melanchthon) not to become like God (Genesis 3:5), but to fight that innate ambition to be like God, which was planted in us in paradise by the devil. This [ambition] doesn’t do us any good. It drove Adam from paradise, and it alone also drives us away, and drives peace away from us. In summary: we are to be men and not God; it will not be otherwise, or eternal anxiety and affliction will be our reward.”57 Hence, Luther’s insistence that coram deo we are wholly receptive and coram mundo we are ever active alters the terrain with respect to the question of compatibilism. The question is unmasked as the sinner’s covert claim to a status with God which simply does not square with the sinner’s reality.

[30] Few theologians have understood the dynamics of a bound will as well as has Paul Zahl. Zahl notes, “The point for theology is that we are not subjects; we are objects. We do not live; we are lived. To put it another way, our archaeology is our teleology. We are typically operating from drives and aspirations generated by our past. What ought to be free decisions in relation to love and service become un-free decisions anchored in retrospective deficits and grievances. This is the message of tragic literature. It is the message of diagnosis that sees into the animating engine of the unconscious.”58 Zahl further states that “Free entities are subjects. Un-free entities are objects. Christ Jesus, the body of God on earth, was free. The world to which he came was un-free. It is un-free still. There is therefore only one subject in the world today, and he is surrounded by countless beleaguered objects.”59 There is a sense in which we are properly ordered to the divine, but it is not the path of exercising virtues which establish habits leading to character and ultimately deifying us. Rather, it is the result of God’s alien work which breaks down our defenses such that we can live by faith, and thus be opened (Ephphatha60) to God as our good and restored to this creation as created good. It is the foolishness of preaching which accomplishes this divine ordering.

The Foolishness of the Cross
[31] God on a cross is “foolish” to the Greeks (as well as a “stumbling block” to the Jews), and the unbeliever will never see its logic. Christianity deals with a tension between the legitimacy of a natural theology and the scandal of particularity. Of the latter, we need only remember the Roman graffito found in a guardroom on Palatine Hill near the Circus Maximus, “Alexamanos worships his God,” where the crucified one has an ass’s head. A Hegelian-inspired “natural theology of the cross,”61 as Oswald Bayer names it, in which God must externalize himself in the otherness of death in order ultimately in the throes of alienation (symbolized as the cross) to find himself in such reconciled otherness (symbolized as the church) misreads the genuine theology of the cross. When actually encountered, the cross is no theory about how God achieves ultimate self-expression through overcoming otherness — even if such a theory seems to serve Trinitarian theology — but is our death, our end, as thinkers, feelers, doers, or all three. This conviction does not rule out theorizing about atonement. But, for the sake of proclamation we need to discern approaches that convey God’s alien and proper works. Such theorizing has its limits in light of God himself working his death upon the old metaphysician and his work to raise the new person of faith. We ever deal with wonder and mystery when we speak of Christ’s death and resurrection. Even a general knowledge of God in nature as testified to in scripture only serves to accuse the sinner to death. We are never capable of a neutrality with respect to metaphysical matters — a self-justifying Adam or Eve always lurks behind the “scientific” lingo of metaphysics.

[32] The limits of faith on theorizing are not the outer limits of the extremes, stretching to grasp the noumenal but failing for the limits of human categories. Instead, faith reaches its limit in the particular promise. It is not faith in general, and finally not faith in faith itself. It is faith in this one thing, this particular promise, so that “I know of no other God except the one called Jesus Christ.”62 And I have him in no other way than in the promise which came to me in no other instrument than in the proclamation of this preacher and in no more exalted form than the simple word in the water of baptism applied to me from the outside. This is the “limit” of human knowing, where it comes to an end. Its limit is not above me, but beneath me, and so routinely overlooked. Then, through the efficacy of the promise, we are created anew and proceed in faith with no boundary, no limit, as Lord of all subject to none, and as servant of all subject to all. Kant be damned, along with Hegel, who was surely right that to name a limit is already to be beyond it. The reason faith cannot be seen is not that it supersedes human categories, but that we will not see it, we do not desire to come to this end.63

[33] Limits? Isn’t that Kantian? Surely St. Paul was no Kantian and he recognized such limits. Not only is the gospel “foolishness” to the Greek, whose wisdom can never square with that of the wisdom of God who exercises power in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9-10), but as Paul says, and as Hinlicky recognizes, we walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). This side of the eschaton, faith can never be sight. As Paul says, we “see in a glass dimly, then face to face” and “we shall know even as we are known” (1 Corinthians 13:9-12). So, from a Pauline perspective, it’s not that the finite is incapable of the infinite (though a rationale for applying a doctrine from sacramental theology to theological anthropology should be justified), but that such capacity will never reach its fulfillment until our beatification. Until then, it is God setting limits for us (and not merely the limitations by which we are unable to apprehend the noumenal or the sublime), so that we can actually live by faith. And, those limits are not those of appearance and reality but old and new. The old Adam and Eve are metaphysicians who seek a seemless metaphysical garment, but the cross will do nothing other than “fracture” all such attempts.64 Undergoing such fracture, the human knower can still gather fragments of knowledge but must forgo metaphysical omnicompetence.65 But, how does that square with the academy? Faith is not enough for most academic disciplines. People want either signs (prove it) or wisdom (wow, isn’t that cool?). The truth is that we all live by faith. The question is: in what do we put our confidence? Can it be a mere word, the “nothing” of a promise in this old world?

Two Models, Really?
[34] With respect to the “two models” of justification by grace through faith, Hinlicky’s position is dependent on Robert Jenson and the Mannermaa school. It is not that the early Lutheran orthodoxy of “forensic justification” somehow departed from Luther since Luther was theologically active, setting the agenda and standards, at its earliest beginnings. The Mannermaa viewpoint plays favor off donum in ways not appropriate to the early Reformation tradition. Luther gained his Reformation insight through inquiry into the sacrament of penance, which deals with the conditions under which we have God’s favor.66 It has inherently “forensic” overtones. In the Mannermaa school, a seemingly subjective “Christ present in faith” is established from the first by God’s objective forgiveness of sinners, his imputing of Christ’s righteousness for the world’s sin in the actual, historical death of Jesus Christ. But this leads to a dilemma: favor is construed as objective while donum is somehow subjective. The truth, instead, is that we are dealing with a two-fold objectivity. A spoken, “external word,” which is God’s favor in the form of a gift, grounded both in the objectivity of the cross and the proclamation to sinners as a benefit that requires such distribution, imparts both death and life to its hearers. Just as God’s will is an active word ordering creation in Genesis, God’s favor here is not a possession or essence of God’s own, but is precisely the gift, applied to the unrighteous while and as they are unrighteous. Only on this truly objective foundation of imputation as forgiveness on account of the cross of Christ which once and for all is the gift (donum) of the present Christ preached for one and so given — not to the old creature as old, but to the new creature as the act of new creation itself.

[35] Properly understood, the gift of this divine favor can alone comfort the conscience which otherwise is always trying to participate in divinity without rightly belonging there.67 When this favor/gift is bestowed, the old creature does not see or feel it, and in fact it feels the opposite, but God’s own justification of the ungodly is present in faith itself as a new creation. God is so for us that he becomes one with us, not only incarnate as the man Jesus Christ, but as killing and creating anew. Christ is the resident alien present in the believer. The “I” is no longer I, but Christ in me (Galatians 2:20). Thereby new life and salvation from death, the devil, and our own sinful selves is based upon, mediated through, and accomplished by the proclamation of the forgiveness of sin. As we read in the Small Catechism, it is applied to us in baptism and thus we are simultaneously righteous and sinful (simul justus et peccator), two, not one: dead in ourselves, alive in Christ. This means that as the cross was Christ’s actual death, the basis for forgiveness, so as it is applied to us, it works death to the old, and the only thing that matters then is a new creation. God’s favor and gift are not distinguished as object and subject; they are both objective and external to the sinner, and they both work the only truly subjective change that matters for sinners — the end to the old and the beginning of the new, which is a more radical participation in Christ — in both human and divine natures — than any theologian could have expected prior to its arrival through the preacher. Form (forma) is completely dependent on word (verbum), specifically a word in which sign (signum) and reality (res) correspond, a gift-word that does what it says and says what it does. Thereby, life and salvation, as based upon and mediated through the forgiveness of sin, are offered.

[36] Hinlicky fails to acknowledge the “Augustinian imperfection”68 in which Augustine never fully understood that the law properly kills sinners and is not a mode to move from vice to virtue but rather works in tandem with the gospel to move us from virtue to grace. The newness of the gospel does not fit into the ontology of the law, but recreates a whole new way of being in the world — through appropriating Christ and his righteousness through faith. Even the affirmation of our union with Christ, so well affirmed by Hinlicky, needs to acknowledge that we are united not merely with Christ’s divine nature (by which we are made immortal), but also his human nature, whereby we are conformed to the crucified, dying to self-righteousness, even spiritual ambition, and living to God alone. Hence, we have no “divinization” apart from a “humanization” in which the old being dies and the new lives. God became human not simply that we might become divine, as Athanasius put it, but so that we might become truly human as well (as opposed to ambitio divinitatis).69

The Clarity of Theology
[37] Hinlicky favors Jüngel’s description of Nachdenken, our thinking after God once God journeys into his own creation for his own self-identification (and the world’s salvation) as what theologians are to do. But, if we are to find value in the notion that we are to reflect on God’s actions after God has done them, Nachdenken must be delivered from its Hegelian metaphysical trappings. We can affirm that there is a sense of thinking after (in faith), a discipleship of the mind, what the triune God has done and does. Such thinking is ex post facto of God’s creative and re-creative work with humanity and the world. It is never a foretaste, as Hegel would have it, of an apotheosis of human reason with divine reason.

[38] If we would avoid the cacophony of positions so prevalent today, due not only to the grounding of theology in experience but also metaphysicians’ inability to articulate a credible metaphysic, and be true to the gospel, with Luther we would agree that the subject matter of theology is the justified sinner and the justifying God.70 Even a theodicy must recognize that, if we refuse to live by faith, we will encounter God’s wrath or hiddenness, a God who actually inflicts what the sinner perceives to be evil so that he or she will be the creature of trust that God wants him or her to be, a view not even remotely close to the Kantian sublime. The quest for compatibilism must recognize that conflict in theology and with God is unavoidable. “Israel” means one who contests with God. Such conflict marks the relationship between sinners and God. But it is not conflict which ultimately defines this relationship but the promise which enables the human to cooperate with God in care of creation.

[39] So, how does theology do its job in light of law and promise? What kind of clarity can theology have? In conversation with J. L. Austin’s speech act theory, Bayer can shed some light here. Both relying on and contesting Schleiermacher, Bayer answers the question about the nature of theology as “what makes theological science theology is its relation to those elementary speech acts in which law and gospel are concretely at work in the binding and liberating of the conscience. This relation is seen in theology’s confession to be absolutely dependent on them and in its will to be active in them.”71 And, in order to situate theology in relation to the other sciences he counterposes a second thesis to his first, “what makes theological science a science is its use of contemporary scientific methods. These methods do not legitimate or constitute the subject matter of theology, but rather they regulate our reflection on it. This reflection is necessary especially in order to work through and overcome heresy.”72 As helpful as these definitions are, they can be supplemented by Reinhard Hütter’s critique that the promise is grounded in a doctrinal system. “The gospel as doctrina of Jesus Christ, one making quite distinct statements about him, possesses a promissory power that is part of its essence. Saying that the gospel is a promissio is not to say anything about its form, but rather about its illocutionary quality. That is, speaking properly about who Jesus Christ is, what he said, did, and suffered, necessarily also — qua object — issues a promise, a promissio, to those listening. The illocutionary quality, however, depends entirely on the locutionary content, namely, who this Jesus is.”73 Agreeing with Hütter on this point, to say, ego te absolve, without telling who Jesus is as the one in whose name forgiveness is granted, is no preaching of the gospel. If you tried it, people would demand to know who you think you are saying such things “out of the blue.”

[40] However, while Hütter may well be right that the illocutionary depends on the locutionary, it is just as right to affirm that the locutionary simply must issue in the illocutionary, if it is to be true to itself at all. As a preacher with half a heart you could never tell the story of Jesus Christ as St. Mark does, and then leave off at “and they all fled.” The whole reason for the story or doctrine in narrative form is to get to the point where you “do the text” to people. You talk about the promise in order finally to give it. Truth, like a gift, needs to be given. The locutionary and illocutionary should not be pitted against one another. Proclamation is intertwined with the scriptural narrative and the doctrinal truth of the ecumenical Councils of Constantinople and Chalcedon, and vice versa. But as intertwined, they do not become confused. Even the devil knows the story of Christ, and knows that every bit of it is true — metaphysically, historically, and experientially. You could say the devil is doctrinally pure or even has an historical faith, as Melanchthon says. But it is not justifying, since he does not believe that the promise of Christ for the forgiveness of sins is for him. Rightly so, since no preacher has been sent to him and as far as we know, as Luther surmised, never will be.

[41] The fact that law and gospel penetrate even our doctrinal convictions by no means results in the disparagement of doctrinal inquiry. Just the opposite, if we are to be true to the faith. Hence, it is no wonder that Lutherans have always been so concerned for doctrinal clarity and truth. The preached word is true since it is mandated by the Risen Lord and is based on the testimony of eyewitnesses to the resurrection,74 even the eyewitnesses who come after the fact, like Paul, to those who are least. The promise itself cannot be transformed into a description but it is certainly tied to a description grounded in apostolic testimony: we have seen the Lord. And it conveys truth to us — foreign to the eyes of the world — by delivering an eschatological word of God’s judgment and God’s mercy. In a word, as a “theology of the cross” it refuses all appearances and actually gets to things as they are.75 But faith does not cling to this testimony: we have seen the Lord. It clings to this promise: I forgive you.

[42] Hinlicky reminds us that there is a didactic, catechetical, or doctrinal component to faith — specifically that faith is grounded in truth if it is to be the faith.76 This concern is important if our proclamation is to stay true to apostolic witness. Hence, in worship, our congregations recite the Nicene Creed on a regular basis. But the didactic component of the faith should not be played off the promise. Instead, the two work in tandem. But it is the promise — given as promise — which Christian teachers and preachers are most anxious to guard and deliver; guard, in the sense of not transforming this promise into something other, such as morality, metaphysics, or moods, and deliver, in the sense of distinguishing law from gospel in proclamation and pastoral care.

[43] Since law and gospel are conveyed in the scriptural narrative and must likewise be true to this narrative, doctrine is a crucial concern of Evangelical theology. And, such a concern for truth in doctrine cannot and should not avoid metaphysical articulation — as seen for example in the homoousios doctrine of the Nicene Creed. However, we should be wary of most metaphysical systems. As Placher notes, modern ones (since Descartes) tend to fit God into our ways of thinking rather than naming the limits of our reason — our “seeing through a glass dimly” — in light of God’s being and work. Additionally, God himself is working to end old metaphysicians when they use metaphysics to justify themselves. With respect to the question of securing God’s “reality” in the naked public square, if the public realm so summarily wishes to secularize itself and place God on its margins or in a private sphere, it is only because God’s threatening presence to human autonomy is perceived as so very real.

[44] In that light, old beings who assert compatibility with God’s freedom will ultimately and finally find themselves accused, challenged, and impotent. Nevertheless, God who raises the dead allows this creation as both old and new to cooperate in his ever generative and regenerative activities. All people, things, and events function as God’s masks, whereby God is ever shaping this world, and new beings, enlivened and empowered by God’s Spirit serve as “little Christs” to those neighbors in need of spiritual, social, economic, or bodily help. Preaching is so crucial because it delivers those very words which comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

[45] The gospel will ever remain foolish to old beings; but to the new, it can be seen as God’s power and wisdom. Even so, it is likely that we need to be converted before we can acknowledge this wisdom and power. We are too enamored with building a Tower of Babel that could withstand the divine confusion of our tongues rather than be guided by the Spirit who gives the gift of interpretation. Even though all people can and do know something of God in nature — and apologetics of God’s existence on the basis of natural reason are not futile — the fact that all sinners find themselves at odds with God diminishes the ability of natural reason to comprehend the gospel, let alone fit it into a comprehensive metaphysical scheme. Part of the problem with using Leibniz as an apologist is that he himself needs an apology, given the fact that he has few adherents and that his thinking fails to square with that of the classical Reformers.

[46] Finally, the gospel is most clear when it is acknowledged as promise and understood from its narrative context in scripture. The development of doctrine must seek to be true to the gospel and the gospel must seek to ground itself in faithful doctrine. Grounded in a theology of the cross, the offense of the gospel can never be tamed, nor as Placher says, can God’s transcendence be domesticated. As fools for Christ (1 Corinthians 3:19), the most important question we can raise to the contemporary publics of society and the academy, when they are blinded in their own superbia and biased against the pursuit of truth is: whose fool are you? Christ remains a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Greeks. Even so, we are called, like Paul, to teach and preach the faith as persuasively as we can.

[47] We can be grateful to Hinlicky for the questions which he raises in Paths Not Taken and the erudition with which he raises such questions. However, certain tendencies in this book should be challenged.


1. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009.

2. Paths Not Taken, 141.

3. In Kant’s famous words, “Thoughts without content are empty, intuitions without concepts are blind. It is, therefore, just as necessary to make our concepts sensible, that is, to add the object to them in intuition, as to make our intuitions intelligible, that is, to bring them under concepts. These two powers or capacities cannot exchange their functions. The understanding can intuit nothing, the senses can think nothing. Only through their union can knowledge arise.” See Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith (New York: St. Martin’s, 1929), B 75/A 51, p. 93.

4.See Schleiermacher’s famous thesis three: “The piety which forms the basis of all ecclesiastical communions is, considered purely in itself, neither a Knowing nor a Doing, but a modification of Feeling, or of immediate self-consciousness” in The Christian Faith, trans. H. R. Mackintosh and J. S. Stewart (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1976), 2.

5. See Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, A 687/B 715 – A 689/B 717, p. 560-561.

6. Paths Not Taken, 32.

7. Paths Not Taken, 33.

8. If a critique of Kantian Lutherans is to be offered, one would take up the line of Karl Holl and Rudolph Hermann and, as with the Finns, philosophers like Lotze. Forde’s own critique of Bultmann’s (existentialist) metaphysics of the subject is expressed, “The basic difficulty with Bultmann’s theological program, aside from the critical excesses, is that he did not go far enough. Like just about everybody before him he thought we still had something going for us. In his case it was the possibility of ‘authentic existence’. He thought he could translate the message into those terms, into that ‘something’ we still have going for us. In that he did nothing more or less than virtually every theology before — and since. But the truth lies, I think, in realizing at last that we haven’t anything going for us. I expect that is what the New Testament is trying to tell us. It is our myth that needs finally to be excised so that Word can save us. Somehow we have to learn how to say that.” See Forde, “Bultmann: Where Did he Take Us?” in dialog 17 (1978), 30.

Few have seen the trajectory from Luther’s opponents in the Radical Reformation to the Gnostic and mystic Kant better than Johann Georg Hamann. “Hamann congenially repeats the insight and struggle of Luther against the fanatics, spiritualists. Luther emphasized that the Spirit, when he comes in the freedom of God, comes in no other way than through the bodily, oral, public, and external word, not immediately. On the other hand, the Enlightenment was entirely possessed by the idea of immediacy, the unconditionality, and purity of the spirit of reason, of a secularization of the old idea of the verbum internum, of the internal word. In a far more acute way than Lessing, whom the problem of mediation and thus this history of reason occupied throughout, Immanuel Kant insisted on immediacy — on the unconditionality and purity of reason: what is not purely rational, but empirical and historical, is not worthy of being a criterion of truth, can never settle claims to validity. Kant’s thesis awakens Hamann’s passionate dissent: ‘pure reason and good will are still words for me whose meaning I am not in a position to arrive at with my senses and for philosophy I have no fidem implicitam’ — ‘still’ means: after four years have passed since the appearance of the Critique of Pure Reason and according to Hamann’s judgment the Prolegomena of Kant which appeared two years later (1783) have not rendered the fides implicita superfluous, a judgment which he does not at all intend to levy against philosophy; he wants to think altogether on his own, to do in his own way what Kant required.” See Oswald Bayer, Zeitgenosse im Widerspruch: Johann Georg Hamann als Radikaler Aufklärer (Munich: Piper, 1988), 175.

9. Paths Not Taken, 140.

10. Paths Not Taken, 267.

11. Of course, we remember from Luther’s “Heidelberg Disputation” (1518) that desire must be ended, not relocated or re-ordered. This concern will be taken up later in this paper.

12. Paths Not Taken, 203.

13. Paths Not Taken, 210.

14. Paths Not Taken, 21.

15. Paths Not Taken, 139.

16. Paths Not Taken, 91.

17. Paths Not Taken, 93.

18. Paths Not Taken, 95.

19. Paths Not Taken, 97.

20. Paths Not Taken, 97.

21. Paths Not Taken, 106.

22. Paths Not Taken, 107.

23. Paths Not Taken, 109.

24. Paths Not Taken, 112.

25. Paths Not Taken, 114.

26. Paths Not Taken, 41-2.

27. Paths Not Taken, 147.

28. Note Oswald Bayer’s view, “Theology, understood as a doctrine of forms is a ‘grammar of the language of the Holy Scriptures’, of the language of the interpreted and interpreting Bible, of the living and life-giving voice of the gospel, which is related to the law that kills and, in a different way, to God’s terrifying hiddenness. Theology therefore is not primarily concerned with morality, as in Kant, or with ‘concepts’, as in Hegel, or even with ‘motivations’, as in Schleiermacher and Feuerbach. It does not try to elevate ‘forms’ into ‘concepts’ or reduce them to ‘motivations’. Rather, theology is a doctrine of forms and as such it preserves the findings of form analysis (Formgeschichte)…Theology and its ethics therefore cannot be made to fit the Procrustean bed of the theory-practice scheme, nor can theology be primarily a theory of action.” See Theology the Lutheran Way, trans. Jeff Silcock and Mark Mattes (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 94-5. As I argue below, we deal with a “both/and” between doctrine and proclamation. Proclamation need not be transformed into a theory for it to be grounded in doctrinal articles, themselves based on the scriptural narratives. By the same token, teaching doctrine will activate matters of law and gospel.

29. Bayer notes, “The term ‘promise’ (promissio) is the center of Luther’s theology. When he says that God promises, he does not refer to something in the future that we may anticipate. The promise is not only an announcement that will only be fulfilled in the future. It is a valid and powerful promise and pledge that takes immediate and present effect. A good comparison is the text of English banknotes: ‘I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of X amount of pounds. London, for the governor and company of the Bank of England, Chief Cashier’. With this understanding of the term ‘promise’ Luther was moving along the lines of medieval German legal thinking that used the word promissio to describe the way a ruler bound and committed himself at his enthronement. This was how God also committed himself in the promissio pronounced in his name. He was bound by it and will stick to it and keep it.” See Living By Faith: Justification and Sanctification, trans. Geoffrey Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 51. With respect to promise-keeping as conveying truth, Bayer notes, “By contrast, the truth of the promise — and no dialectic can get around this — is to be determined only at the very place where the promise was concluded; more accurately, where it was constituted. This means it is located within the relationship between the one who is speaking, who introduces himself for the first time when making the promise, and the one who hears, being linked to that person’s situation, whose entire life history is lived out within world history. If it is correct that the one individual is in the position of hearer in the relationship that is constituted by this promise, and if that is verified, it excludes the possibility that he himself can verify the promise. Luther goes on the attack against those who ‘dream that faith’ is a quality that is latent in the soul’, which one can claim and actualize. ‘What is really true’, Luther continues, ‘is that at the time when the Word of God, which is truth, allows itself to be heard, and the heart hangs onto it in faith, the heart is saturated with this very truth of the Word and the Word of truth is proven thereby to be correct, is verified.'” See Martin Luther’s Theology: A Contemporary Interpretation, trans. Thomas H. Trapp (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 55. The Luther quote from the year 1520 is to be found in WA 6:94.9-12.

30. “Heidelberg Disputation” in LW 31:54.

31. The passage merits quotation in full: “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart’. Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength” (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). The fact that we have the “mind of Christ” as St. Paul later informs us (1 Corinthians 2:16), offers us no basis from which to “instruct” the Lord.

32. Luther’s perspective on natural revelation is presented in his Commentary on Jonah (1526): “Let us here also learn from nature and from reason what can be known of God. These people regard God as a being who is able to deliver from every evil. It follows from this that natural reason must concede that all that is good comes from God; for He who can save from every need and misfortune is also able to grant all that is good and that makes for happiness. That is as far as the natural light of reason sheds its rays — it regards God as kind, gracious, merciful, and benevolent. And that is indeed a bright light. However, it manifests two big defects: first, reason does admittedly believe that God is able and competent to help and to bestow; but reason does not know whether He is willing to do this also for us. That renders the position of reason unstable. Reason believes in God’s might and is aware of it, but it is uncertain whether God is willing to employ this in our behalf, because in adversity it so often experiences the opposite to be true. That is very obvious here. These people indeed call upon God and thereby acknowledge that He can help if He is thus inclined; they even believe that he may help others. But that is as far as they can go; they cannot transcend that…the second defect is this: reason is unable to identify God properly; it cannot ascribe the Godhead to the One who is entitled to it exclusively. It knows that there is a God, but it does not know who or which is the true God. It shares the experience of the Jews during Christ’s sojourn on earth. When John the Baptist bore witness of His presence in their midst, they were aware that Christ was among them and that He was moving about among them; but they did not know which person it was. It was incredible to them that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ. Thus reason also plays blindman’s bluff with God; it consistently gropes in the dark and misses the mark. It calls that God which is not God and fails to call Him God who really is God. Reason would do neither the one nor the other if it were not conscious of the existence of God or if it really knows who and what God is. Therefore it rushes in clumsily and assigns the name God and ascribes divine honor to its own idea of God. Thus reason never finds the true God, but it finds the devil or its own concept of God, ruled by the devil. So there is a vast difference between knowing that there is a God and knowing who or what God is. Nature knows the former — it is inscribed in everybody’s heart; the latter is taught only by the Holy Spirit.” See LW 19:54-55.

With respect to Luther on the use of reason, Wilbert H. Rosin notes that “But what some analysts of Luther and Melanchthon forget is that Luther also was an ontologist. He was philosophically not an existentialist but held the concept of essence prior to existence and experience. He believed that reason tells us that there is a God; Luther did not rule out all use of reason, and to that extent Luther could also make room for an Aristotelian approach to the question of realism. He denied that reason could tell us that God is gracious, a burning cauldron of love — a truth which God revealed in Christ, despite the negative evidence of nature and history.” See Rosin, “In Response to Bengt Hägglund: The Importance of Epistemology for Luther’s and Melanchthon’s Theology,” Concordia Theological Quarterly 44:2-3 (July 1980), 136.

33. In light of the tragic earthquake in Haiti, we do well to heed the pastoral wisdom of John Pless’ criticism of theodicy: “Jesus does not offer a philosophical explanation for the religious massacre in the temple or the random toppling of Siloam’s tower upon the heads of 18 innocent bystanders. The Lord wastes no time with theoretical distinctions between the malicious banality of the butchery done by the human will of Pilate and catastrophic collapse of stone and mortar. Jesus’ words will not let us go there. His words call for repentance, not speculation. Repentance lets go of the silly questions that we would use to hold on to life on our own terms, to try to protect ourselves against the God who kills and makes alive. Bayer observes that the world is forensically structured, arranged in such a way as to demand justification. We find evidence of this, Bayer says, in the way we defend our own words and deeds. What happens when we are confronted with wrong-doing? We attempt to justify our behavior. It is a rerun of Eden: ‘The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of fruit of the tree, and I ate’ (Gen. 3:12 ESV).” See The Lutheran Witness, “The Earthquake in Haiti: Again the ‘Why’ Question (January 2010), online at: That Luther’s notion of a hidden God evokes pathos is well described by Hans Schwarz. “Yet why would God impel an evil will toward evil? Why would he drive the will of the German National Socialists to attempt to exterminate the Jews? Why would he move the warring parties in the former Yugoslavia to commit atrocities upon one another? And why would he lead the Jews and the Romans toward killing his own human embodiment? Luther does not know the answer to such questions — and he does not pretend to know. He simply concedes that it ‘belongs to the secrets of his majesty, where his judgments are incomprehensible [Rom. 11:33]. It is not our business to ask this question, but to adore these mysteries.’ Luther confronts a mystery in God that he cannot explore but that he nonetheless adores since it is part of the divine majesty; but adoration is not the reason why Luther talks about the hidden God. He introduces the notion of the hidden God in order to avoid seeking God in the wrong place. He rightly distinguishes between what is knowable of God because he has allowed himself to be known and what is and remains inscrutable.” See “The Contemporary Relevance of Luther’s Insistence on the Otherness of God” in The Otherness of God, ed. Orrin F. Summerell (Charlottesville and London: University Press of Virginia, 1998), 81-82.

34. “The Reality of God” in The Reality of God and other Essays by Schubert Ogden (New York: Harper and Row, 1973), 1.

35. Ogden, 19.

36. Ogden, 37.

37. Ogden, 37.

38. Ogden, 48.

39. Plato’s demiurge fashions preexistent matter on the basis of the eternal forms. “Before that time, in truth, all these things were in a state devoid of reason or measure, but when the work of setting in order this Universe was being undertaken, fire and water and earth and air, although possessing some traces of their own natures, were yet so disposed as everything is likely to be in the absence of God; and inasmuch as this was then their natural condition, God began by first marking them out into shapes by means of forms and numbers. And that God constructed them, so far as he could, to be as fair and good as possible, whereas they had been otherwise,–this above all else must always be postulated in our account.” (Timaeus, 53 B). The degree to which Leibniz’s view of God actually is Augustinian will be challenged later in this paper under the section “Compatibilism: A Second Look.”

40. Martin Luther’s Theology: A Contemporary Interpretation, trans. Thomas H. Trapp (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 1.

41. Bayer notes, “The truth of the promise, on the other hand, and no dialectic can overlook this fact, lies only in the realm that is opened up and so first constituted by the promise itself. It therefore lies in the relationship between the speaker and the listener. The speaker introduces himself in the promise and makes himself known. He is not there for us apart from the promise, because he does not want to be there for us in any other way. And we, as listeners, cannot isolate ourselves from our situation, our life history in the midst of world history. If the relationship constituted by this promise makes us into listeners and verifies us, then we cannot verify the promise ourselves. If we could, we would have to presume to be also the secrete subject of the promise in the sense of the idealist premise of identity, which posits the identity of the subject and the object. Then we would hear nothing more than we ourselves could say. Then, as Feuerbach saw, the promise made by the other would be nothing else than the actualization of our own possibilities, or the fulfillment of our own needs. It would be merely a means of self-discovery, a means of becoming identical with ourselves.” See Theology the Lutheran Way, 133.

42. Oswald Bayer, Zeitgenosse im Widerspruch, 83ff.

43. “The Catholic Impasse: Reflections on Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue Today” in A More Radical Gospel: Essays on Eschatology, Authority, Atonement and Ecumenism, ed. Mark Mattes and Steven Paulson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 192.

44. Klaus Schwarzwäller’s critique of metaphysics and hermeneutics merits attention. “Of late metaphysics has become a derogatory label that one can pin on anyone with whom one disagrees. Strictly speaking, however, it is a way of thinking that seeks a vantage point from which one can comprehend the whole of reality in order to grasp and interpret any part of reality. Or, conversely, one can move from any point in reality to its ultimate comprehension. The former path is deductive; the latter is inductive. But whether induction or deduction, it is tantamount to seduction. It makes us believe that our thoughts could comprehend, even match, reality and sum it up in conceptions or definitions. However, think of this: What — for heaven’s sake — is terrorism? Its various forms are found on so many different levels that finally this word lacks any clarity at all. Or, take the concept of ‘revelation’. We have ‘revelation’ by creation and ‘revelation’ by the law and ‘revelation’ in Christ and ‘revelation’ in general, and so forth. Consequently, our dogmatics are occupied with clarifications to try to explain how these various kinds of ‘revelation’ differ among themselves and yet belong together, how they are included in or excluded by each other. Since theology is done within this framework and kept within its own autonomous sphere, it naturally requires a unique approach to reality. This is what hermeneutics aims to do. It flourishes to the degree that theology is less in touch with real life, and is supposed to be better able to lead us to the things of earth. If, however, you step back in order to have a look at the whole from a remote point of view, from a metalevel, it is quite clear that, compared to what is expected from hermeneutics, the change of water into wine is a mere incidental triviality. Well, the only change which I have found so far — with much effort — was the change of wine into water.” See “Theology as Unfolding the Article of Justification” in Logia: A Journal of Lutheran Theology 16:2 (Eastertide 2007), 37-38.

45. Think for example of our third President, Thomas Jefferson, working in the White House in 1804, preserving Jesus’ ethics in his redaction of the Gospels, but deleting the reports of miracles. See The Jefferson Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth (Boston: Beacon, 1989).

46. The Small Catechism” in The Book of Concord, ed. Robert Kolb and Timothy Wengert (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2000), 355:6.

47. Placher, The Domestication of Transcendence: How Modern Thinking about God Went Wrong (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1997), 72.

48. Placher, 74.

49. Placher, 74.

50. It is not clear that Luther fits neatly into either medieval positions of Nominalism or Realism, though aspects of these ways of thinking can be found in him. The “eschatological” dimension of his theology wrecks havoc with philosophical tidiness. Helpfully, Wilbert H. Rosin sees Luther as a moderate realist. “We noted before that Luther is commonly said to be totally opposed to Aristotle. Luther was very much influenced by William of Occam, the nominalist. But when it came to epistemology, that is, how we come to know, Luther was not an extreme nominalist, but a moderate realist. In other words, Luther believed that one could have an abstract concept and also know the particular or individual thing. In that respect Luther was like Aristotle. In his later years Luther relented and came to say that Aristotle was a great philosopher, and the evidence shows that it was not just Melanchthon who reintroduced Aristotle.” See “In Response to Bengt Hägglund: The Importance of Epistemology for Luther’s and Melanchthon’s Theology,” 136. The definitive study of Nominalism in Luther is, of course, Graham White, Luther as Nominalist: A Study of the Logical Methods used in Martin Luther’s Disputations in the Light of their Medieval Background (Helsinki: Luther-Agricola-Society, 1994) which focuses on the relation between Nominalism and the method of disputation in Luther.

We should note that Placher’s work serves as a nice corrective to Michael Allen Gillespie’s supposition that Nominalism, especially as manifest in Luther, is the grandfather of contemporary postmodern intellectual chaos. See Gillespie, The Theological Origins of Modernity (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2008, 101-128. And, Placher’s work is echoed by the Mannermaa student Sammeli Juntunen who interprets the concept of participatio for Luther in light of the fact that God provides a context for creation to exist. In that regard, Luther accepts a framework akin to that of Realism, while Luther’s concept of creatio continua, as Juntunen ably demonstrates, is more indebted to Ockham and Nominalism. Juntunen notes that “The existence of creatures is accordingly dependent on God in a very radical sense; creatures exist alone through God and in God, by sharing in his reality. God is the genuine and true reality, outside of which absolutely nothing exists. If something exists, it must exist within this realm of being, through his being and by participating in him. Without participating in original reality, that is, in God, a creature is nothing when considered in itself. This is the background of the traditional designation of the creature as nihil.” See Der Begriff des Nichts bei Luther in den Jahren von 1510-1523 (Helsinki: Luther-Agricola-Gesellschaft, 1996), 180-181. See also the helpful diagram presenting the relation between God and the world with respect to being on page 177. While I disagree with Juntunen’s critique of forensic justification, his work helpfully situates Luther’s thinking with respect to antecedent theological positions. Ultimately, with Luther, we do not deal with God primarily through mimicking universals as schematized in the analogy of being, but instead as always mediated through an earthly form under which God is masked — all creation as larva dei or instead God grants his favor and presence in, with, and under earthly signs.

In light of Placher’s research, John Milbank’s consistent designation of Luther as a Nominalist seems exaggerated. “Luther’s nominalism will not really admit the Thomist paradox of righteousness that is entirely supernatural, yet also entirely ours since it is our deification. Instead, the younger more ‘participatory’ Luther is in fact developing the consequences of an almost monophysite Ockhamist and nominalist Christology which cannot really think two universal ‘natures’ in a single personal reality, nor think this reality other than on the model of a single finite thing ‘within which’ God has somehow entered. . . Within such a perspective, the participation in Christ by which we are justified edges too closely towards mere identity and subsumption. . . Luther’s nominalist univocalism finds another solution in his later extrinicist, imputational account of grace, which is more obviously alien to that of Aquinas.” See Being Reconciled: Ontology and Pardon (London: Routledge, 2003), 110-111. Milbank is so obsessed with a semi-Pelagian view of grace that he runs roughshod over where Luther and Aquinas are similar as much as where they are different. Milbank is so guided by the notion that grace perfects nature instead of liberating nature, that he must include human cooperation coram deo. The problem with his perspective is that the only community compatible with his theology is that of a Platonic form, the res publica, and not the real church, composed of real sinners, or the real world, where it is precisely sinners (not the righteous) who are the recipients of God’s love. It is less the notion of grace — where Luther and Aquinas share much — and more the notion of faith — which for Luther is purely receptive and never a theological virtue — that the differences between Aquinas and Luther become clear. While Aquinas’ view of teleology is undermined in Luther, since our telos has already come to us in the faith that appropriates Christ, both Aquinas and Luther share an Augustinian view of God where God is “always greater,” the very notion of transcendence to which Placher is referring. However, it is this very Augustinian view of God which undercuts the metaphysical systematization that Leibniz (and Hinlicky) is attempting.

51.Placher, 87.

52. Placher, 87.

53. Placher, 125.

54. Placher, 190.

55. Luther, The Bondage of the Will, trans. J. I. Packer and O. R. Johnston (New York: Revell, 1957), 267-268. Overall, in The Bondage of the Will, God brings nothing but evil as he drives us to do what we want to do. So, here, “compatibilism” is the awful truth of the “repugnant thought” that God commands what is impossible and drives us forward to accomplish nothing but pure evil so that we deserve the destruction of God’s wrath on what we could not but do. “Cooperation” in this passage is nothing but good in the new creation without any reference to a neutral will choosing by the guidance of law with God limiting the evil that comes or trying to increase the good. In other words, in heaven we cannot help but do good despite whatever independent will we have.

56. In this regard, think of Luther’s view of prayer which “dares to name what it wants, asks God boldly for it, and trusts God to make our will his will.” See Mary Jane Haemig, “Prayer as Talking Back to God” in Lutheran Quarterly 23:3 (Autumn 2009), 287.

57. “Letter to George Spalatin” in LW 49:337.

58. Paul Zahl, Grace in Practice: A Theology of Everyday Life (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2007), 113.

59. Zahl, 113. Zahl follows up this last sentence with, “St. Paul famously wrote, ‘Faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love’ (1 Corinthians 13:13). I would describe an obverse trio this way: original sin, total depravity, and the un-free will abide, these three; and the root of the thing is the un-free will” (114).

60. On “ephphatha,” see Bayer, Martin Luther’s Theology: A Contemporary Interpretation, 106-112. See also Mark Mattes and Ron Darge, Imaging the Journey. . . of Contemplation, Meditation, Reflection, and Adventure (Minneapolis: University Lutheran Press, 2006), 50-51.

61. Theology the Lutheran Way, 110.

62. WA 31/1:63.

63. Steven Paulson’s clarification of preaching is helpful here. “There is no other rhetoric in the world that assumes bound wills who cannot hear because they will not to hear and so willing cannot hear. Preaching is therefore utterly unique as categorical speech, not as some supernatural form of communication called ‘revelation’, but precisely because it does the impossible in the most down-to-earth way — it gives something that cannot be heard unless God creates a new person to hear it. Preaching also raises the dead.” See Paulson, “Categorical Preaching” in Lutheran Quarterly 21:3 (Autumn, 2007), 288.

64. Roy A. Harrisville notes, “If one expects Paul’s theology to exhibit not simply a ‘coherent core’ but a fully integrated system, an architectonic structure with all pieces in place and interrelated, a system to rival any other, its absence will obviously defeat expectation. Leaving to debate whatever Paul may have intended, since every vehicle he used to convey his gospel suffered fracture, it was inevitable that whatever emerged as his own had to suffer the same fate. The ‘minus sign’ he drew over what others had said or thought required drawing the same over what he himself had said or thought. The apostle could not master his theology in any ultimate way because it never existed as a system; in fact, it could not, since the event at its core spelled the death of system. If it corresponds to the theology of the cross that ‘it cannot be contained in a final theological system, but continually puts all systems into question, no other option was left to Paul’s own conceptuality. He may well have been the first to affirm this, for it was he, after all, who said, ‘For now we see in a mirror, dimly. . . ‘ (1 Cor. 13:12a).” See Fracture: The Cross as Irreconcilable in the Language and Thought of the Biblical Writers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 108-109.

65. “Fragments” is the word Hamann uses to shatter both Aristotle’s and Kant’s attempt towards a “monarchic reason.” As Bayer notes, “Monarchic reason is afraid of the polyphony of the manifold. It fears it as anarchy, as chaos. Reason is monarchic both as the ancient ontology of substance and as the modern philosophy of subjectivity.” See Zeitgenosse in Widerspruch, p. 63. Likewise, Hamann criticized Leibniz’s Principle of Sufficient Reason. His “grudge against the talk about a sufficient reason lies in the fact that he ‘without Manichaeism’ — hence without being or becoming a Manichee — ‘has everywhere found contradictions in the elements of the material and intellectual world.’ For that reason, Hamann loves the principium coincidentiae oppositorum, which he has ‘always opposed the principiis contradictionis with rationis sufficientis.’ Behind this philosophical disposition stands the Christology of the communion of the two opposite natures, affirmed by Hamann: the divine and human natures of Jesus Christ in one and the same person. The condition of communion is reflected in such a Christology, in which the sinful human and the justifying God are intimate, are able to come together again — right through deathly dissociation.” See Zeitgenosse im Widerspruch, 64-65.

66. See Oswald Bayer, “Luther as an Interpreter of Holy Scripture,” trans. Mark Mattes, in The Cambridge Companion to Martin Luther, ed. Donald McKim (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 75ff.

67. Again, thoughts from Klaus Schwarzwäller merit our attention. “Since Adam was sent away from paradise we are always looking for back doors, as it were, in order to realize our aim to be able to boast of participating in God himself and his thinking! I’d prefer Adam, for he was honest and did not try to hide his aim! What answers the question: What does this have to do with me? We know and confess two things: first, that God, the real God, became human, really human, according to Constantinople and Chalcedon. This is true and is a fact independent of any philosophical answers, principles, axioms, or whatever, and second, that nobody in the whole world would be as bold as to fancy, state, or wish that our salvation and lives are dependent on this very child, born in a manger, brought to death on the cross, and resurrected the third day. This is the topic, at least of theology — and we are busy enough to tell this and to spell out the meaning of it! Mr. Hinlicky, however, is two centuries late in rehashing a position of idealistic philosophy. What confusion to transform in terms of philosophy what God has done, and then ask questions God has already answered, and then try to solve the questions we raise as if there were any necessity of asking them. On a meta-level this means to subdue theology and theological questions under the leadership and control of our brains. Wow, aren’t we shrewd and smart?” Personal letter to the author, January 4, 2010.

68. “Preface to Latin Writings” in LW 34:337. See Steven Paulson, “The Augustinian Imperfection: Faith, Christ, and Imputation and Its Role in the Ecumenical Discussion of Justification” in The Gospel of Justification in Christ: Where Does the Church Stand Today?, ed. Wayne Stumme (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 104ff.

69. A helpful essay in this regard is Eberhard Jüngel, “On Becoming Truly Human: The Significance of the Reformation Distinction between Person and Works for the Self-Understanding of Modern Humanity” in Theological Essays II, ed. and trans. John B. Webster (Edinburgh: T &T Clark. 1995), 216-249.

70. “Commentary on Psalm 51” in LW 12:311.

71. Theology the Lutheran Way, 180.

72. Theology the Lutheran Way, 182.

73. Suffering Divine Things: Theology as Church Practice (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 85.

74. “We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life — this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us — we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete” (1 John 1:1-4).

75. “This theology of the cross is not, as has been suggested, one of many options at a grand academic buffet. On the contrary, it claims to be the only rightful bearer and steward of the Gospel of God, to the exclusion of all the many forms of the ‘theology of glory’. Unlike the theology of glory, which flatters the sinner and his fleshly, worldly wisdom (1 Corinthians 1-2) — and therefore ‘calls evil good and good evil’ — the theology of the cross glorifies Christ and therefore ‘calls the thing what it actually is’. The point is that theologies of glory are victims of appearances, distortions and illusions. It is just the theology of the cross which goes beyond appearances, even against appearances, to things as they really are.” See Kurt Marquart, “The Sacramentality of Truth” in And Every Tongue Confess: Essays in Honor of Norman Nagel on the Occasion of his Sixty-fifth Birthday, ed. Gerald Krispin and Jon Vieker (Ft. Wayne: Lutheran Legacy Press, reprint, 1990), 92.

76. In this regard, the concern Hinlicky shares with Dennis Bielfeldt is well taken: “Much Luther research has simply supposed that Luther wholly rejected a theology of lifeless, abstract propositions in favor of a theology of lived experience. But with this emphasis on human experience, Luther becomes almost a proto-Enlightenment figure, a man more at home 250 years after the time in which he lived.” See “Luther’s Late Trinitarian Disputations” in The Substance of Faith: Luther’s Doctrinal Theology for Today, ed. Paul Hinlicky (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2008), 99. The answer, of course, is a path that does not pit propositions against experience but that can and does incorporate both. Luther’s is surely an experiential theology — as is probably all theology — along with being didactic and concerned above all with establishing truth, as best as we can discern it in light of the cross.