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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Luther Congress -- Luther's Use of Philosophy

Today, 7 August 2012, the International Congress for Luther Studies took up the topic of Luther's use of philosophy. At first glance it may not seem there is much to say, as many know Luther's statements such as "reason is a whore." Or Luther's view of Aristotle as expressed in the Heidelberg Disputation of 1518, "Thus it is also demonstrated that Aristotle's philosophy is contrary to theology since in all things it seeks those things which are its own and receives rather than gives something good." Much harsher (and cruder) examples of Luther's view of philosophy can be found. So what else is there to say?

Prof. Dr. Mark Mattes from Grand View gave an excellent presentation titled,"Luther's Use of Philosophy."Dr. Mattes helped explicate Luther's view that philosophy can serve theology. Mattes noted that Luther's "standard for evaluating philosophy is primarily the requirement of clarifying and advancing the gospel to which philosophy is called upon to serve." Dr. Mattes maintained that for Luther the relation between philosophy and theology "is guided by the distinction between law and gospel which construed philosophy as a suitable instrument for service in this world." For Luther philosophy operates in the realm of the Law, while theology properly operates in the realm of the Gospel. Philosophy knows nothing grace. Philosophy knows nothing of the incarnation and is not able to accommodate the truth of the incarnation. "Nominalism and Realism are no longer alternatives for him because their conclusions must each be evaluated in light of the law/gospel distinction."Dr. Mattes' presentation was refreshing, scholarly, and in my opinion the best thus far at the International Congress for Luther Studies in Helsinki 2012.

(left to right clockwise: Rev. Michael Albrecht, Dr. Roland Zeigler, Dr. Albert Collver, Dr. Naomichi Masaki, Prof. John Pless, and Prof. Dr. Mark Mattes)

We had an opportunity to visit with Dr. Mattes and enjoy the mutual conversation of the brethren. The Luther Congress provided an opportunity for old friends to further discuss Dr. Mattes' views on Luther, philosophy, and the distinction between Law and Gospel. Everyone pictured has gotten to know one another at the previous Luther Congress in Brazil in 2007, and at the Symposium at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne. Dr. Mattes has been a frequent guest at the Symposium in Fort Wayne and written for numerous publications, including Missouri Synod journals and books.

(pictured: Rev. Jonathan Mumme (LCMS Missionary to England), Dr. Naomichi Masaki, Dr. Albert Collver, and Prof. John Pless)

This afternoon sectionals on 30 different topics will be held. Topics include Luther and Preaching, Catechesis, Luther's Concept of the Church, Luther as Exegete, Luther on Scripture, and many others. Several LCMS participants will be delivering short papers and making presentations.

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1 comment:

  1. Dear Dr. Collver,

    Thanks for reporting on this trip. I was alerted to the importance of this Congress many years ago, when Dr. Lowell Green and later Dr. Ulrich Asendorf told me about their experiences there. I am very glad to see LCMS so well represented, and with Rev. Mumme too!

    On the topic for the conference, I believe that CPH had in their plans for the new volumes in the American Edition one volume on Luther's early treatises and/or disputations on philosophy. That should be of interest to the participants at the Congress, if they don't know about it already. Dr. Chris Brown at Boston University and Dr. Ben Mayes at CPH could bring you up-to-date on progress on that volume. It will certainly help non-Latin readers understand Luther in this area.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland