Read Luther's Theology of the Cross: Martin Luther's Theological Breakthrough by Alister E. McGrath Free Online


Ebook Luther's Theology of the Cross: Martin Luther's Theological Breakthrough by Alister E. McGrath read! Book Title: Luther's Theology of the Cross: Martin Luther's Theological Breakthrough
The author of the book: Alister E. McGrath
ISBN 13: 9780631175490
Language: English
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 6.52 MB
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Reader ratings: 6.4
Edition: Wiley-Blackwell
Date of issue: January 8th 1991
ISBN: 0631175490

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(This review was submitted as a class project.)

McGrath plunges into the formidable mass of Luther scholarship to reach his own conclusions regarding the nature and date of Luther’s theological breakthrough and the relation of that breakthrough to his distinctive theology: the theologia crucis. He concludes that the precise point on which Luther broke past the late medieval theological systems was in his discovery of the new meaning of iustitia Dei. McGrath takes upon himself two tasks in this regard. First, he seeks to demonstrate that all of Luther’s thought up to this breakthrough fits within the existing paradigms of late medieval theology. Second, he contends that the later theologia crucis was the natural result of working out the implications of his breakthrough. McGrath dates the breakthrough at 1515, and the terminus of his investigation between 1518 and 1519 with the development of the theologia crucis.

McGrath details three great influences on Luther’s early thought. The first was the studia humanitatis. This is significant because of its rejection of scholasticism and the insistence on returning to original sources, including Scripture. Also, through their efforts, there was a revival of the study of biblical languages and the publication of critical editions of ancient sources. The second great influence was the via moderna. McGrath demonstrates that Luther’s three great teachers at Erfurt and Wittenberg—Nathin, Arnoldi, and Staupitz—were adherents to this school. Their distinctive contribution to Theology was the concept of the two wills of God, the potentia absoluta and the potentia ordinate. From this distinction came the idea that God could impose limitations on himself, particularly important in the establishment of a soteriological pactum with man. This concept of a divine-human pactum framed Luther’s early thought. It meant that God was willing to ascribe merit to human deeds which would otherwise have no merit outside of the pactum. Salvation, then, begins with God who establishes the pactum; then, so long a man does quod in se est, God is obligated to save him. Luther’s existential Andfechtung arises from the inability to know if one has ever truly done quod in se est. Finally, Luther is influenced by the Augustinian Order and the late medieval tendency within that Order to shift back toward the teachings of Augustine himself, such as the depravity of man and the necessity of grace.

Following this, Luther’s Dictata super Psalterium is examines with the goal of establishing when it was that Luther actually broke with medieval theology. McGrath places that break near the end of Luther’s lectures on Psalms or at the beginning of his lectures on Romans. His breakthrough comes when he realizes that the mercy of God is evident in the iustitia Dei precisely because its condemnation causes man to cry out to God for mercy, but this can only be perceived by humilitas fidei. Luther comes to see the humilitas fidei as a work of God and not something the sinner can produce. From this, Luther extracts the principle that God reveals his works abscondita sub contrariis. This thought, abstracted from his breakthrough regarding the iustitia Dei, leads Luther to his theologia crucis, where God is most completely revealed in the one event we would be least likely to look for him. Aufechtung must be viewed as ultimately originating from God, and it finds resolution at the cross.

Luther’s Theology of the Cross is a valuable addition to contemporary Luther scholarship. McGrath brings together a vast body of specialized literature along with his own understanding of the primary sources in dealing with a very focused and important piece of the theology of Martin Luther, and of the Reformation as a whole. It may be argued that he makes no significant new contribution to the field of Luther scholarship, other than his unique reconciliation of the data that has led to division of opinion as to the dating of his theological breakthrough, but it cannot be denied that his work is a valuable introduction and evaluation of current Luther scholarship.

McGrath’s approach is instructive. It is common to take Luther’s later theology and seek to trace it as early into his career as possible. However, the results of this approach can be misleading, since similarities of expression can arise from widely divergent perspectives. McGrath contends that Luther should be studied, not in reference to his mature theology, but in reference to late medieval theology. The burden of the Luther scholar is then to demonstrate at what point Luther broke from that complex matrix.

In this endeavor, McGrath shows himself more than capable, and provides valuable insight into the actual state of late medieval theology. Romanticized pictures of Luther’s break with Rome are shown to be based on too great an overgeneralization of catholic thought and at times are simply falsified. Here, also, McGrath demonstrates his own breadth of knowledge, stepping far beyond the suggested scope of his study as he stretches back into earlier eras of the church. Particularly noteworthy here is his development of the impact of Ciceronian thought and Roman Law on the development of ideas related to iustitia and the difficulty arising from imposing those ideas on the iustitia Dei.

McGrath’s writing can be highly technical, though he does often and quite helpfully summarize what he has argued. His summaries and recalls are arguably redundant, but nevertheless well-placed and intentional. He is sparse but effective in his use of illustrations and his development of aspects of Luther’s story are helpful as well. In all, he is both a skilled historian and a gifted writer.

One point of criticism: while dating Luther’s theological breakthrough to the period toward the end of Luther’s lectures on the Psalter and the beginning of his lectures on Romans, McGrath never introduces the possibility that Luther’s breakthrough at that point could be related to the change in content from one book to the other. It would make sense that his emphasis would be on humilitas fidei in the Psalms, bridging into his theological breakthrough regarding iustitia Dei as he entered the book of Romans. Not only does McGrath not take up this thesis, he, uncharacteristically, doesn’t even address it.

It is interesting to this reviewer that McGrath never breaks away from his role as historian and himself becomes a theologian. While keeping with the intention of his book, the theological substance of the material covered must have provided a great temptation in this regard. As a theologian, this reviewer would have liked to see McGrath indulge himself.

Since the rise of interest in Luther’s theologia crucis after the First World War, Luther studies have continued to multiply. McGrath may be thanked from bringing a new generation of English-speaking theologians and Church historians up to speed with much of the last century’s work.


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Read information about the author

Ebook Luther's Theology of the Cross: Martin Luther's Theological Breakthrough read Online! Alister Edgar McGrath is a Northern Irish theologian, priest, intellectual historian, scientist, and Christian apologist. He currently holds the Andreas Idreos Professorship in Science and Religion in the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Oxford, and is Professor of Divinity at Gresham College. He was previously Professor of Theology, Ministry, and Education at King's College London and Head of the Centre for Theology, Religion and Culture, Professor of Historical Theology at the University of Oxford, and was principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, until 2005. He is an Anglican priest and is ordained within the Church of England.

Aside from being a faculty member at Oxford, McGrath has also taught at Cambridge University and is a Teaching Fellow at Regent College. McGrath holds three doctorates from the University of Oxford, a DPhil in Molecular Biophysics, a Doctor of Divinity in Theology and a Doctor of Letters in Intellectual History.

McGrath is noted for his work in historical theology, systematic theology, and the relationship between science and religion, as well as his writings on apologetics. He is also known for his opposition to New Atheism and antireligionism and his advocacy of theological critical realism. Among his best-known books are The Twilight of Atheism, The Dawkins Delusion?: Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine, Dawkins' God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life, and A Scientific Theology. He is also the author of a number of popular textbooks on theology.


Reviews of the Luther's Theology of the Cross: Martin Luther's Theological Breakthrough


OLLIE

A wonderful piece

FREDERICK

After this book, I look at the world with different eyes!

MILLIE

An interesting book that says more than you can fit

RYAN

Best among ordinary

MADISON

Why is she out! It must be endless!




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