Re-examining Martin Luther’s response to the Problem of Evil: A Project of Theological Revisionism and Construction.
Date: 17 April 2023
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
MbyRes in Theology
This research attempts two things. Firstly, it seeks to demonstrate that dominant interpretive models have held sway in Luther scholarship, and that these readings significantly mar and frustrate attempts to explore and construct Luther’s theodicy. Secondly – and free from these interpretive prisms – this research will embark on a ...
This research attempts two things. Firstly, it seeks to demonstrate that dominant interpretive models have held sway in Luther scholarship, and that these readings significantly mar and frustrate attempts to explore and construct Luther’s theodicy. Secondly – and free from these interpretive prisms – this research will embark on a project of theodicean construction that redresses the gaps in the literature, offering a hitherto unexplored aspect of Luther’s work. The problem of evil is the human aporia; confronting its nature leads to a riddle that touches every individual. Given Luther’s lasting influence today, if scholarship has ‘missed’ Luther’s response to the problem of evil, much may be gained through such a re-examination. Furthermore, recent scholarship now lends itself to a ‘Martin Luther: Theodicy Construction’ project. A recent scholarly trend elevates Luther’s engagement with the experiential and existential dimension of being human (the ‘Pastoral Luther’). Reorienting Luther’s message in the service of others is a vital new perspective on Luther. But the ‘pastoral’ Luther has not been taken far enough: this interpretive prism has not been explored in relation to Luther’s response to evil. A suspicion exists that philosophically abstract theodicies are, today, theologically bankrupt. Yet reading the ‘pastoral’ Luther with an original interpretive lens that asks the reformer one central question – ‘given that evil exists, how should I live and ‘be’ in the world?’ – speaks directly to this need for practical responses to suffering. It will be argued that far from an attitude of passivity and resignation, Luther’s theodicy was rooted in active participation in this life as the very means of combating and resisting evil. This research will show that 3 Luther’s overlooked theological approach to the problem of evil is illuminating and enriching, even and especially as a practical, twenty-first-century guide to evil in our midst.
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