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  • Lütherische Theologie in aussereuropäischen Kontexten: Eine Zussammenschau aus Anlass des 500. Reformationsjubiläums ed. by Friederike Nüssel and Hans-Peter Grosshans
  • Craig L. Nessan
Lütherische Theologie in aussereuropäischen Kontexten: Eine Zussammenschau aus Anlass des 500. Reformationsjubiläums. Edited by Friederike Nüssel and Hans-Peter Grosshans. Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2017. 246 pp.

The most significant development in Lutheran theology since the 400th anniversary of the Reformation in 1917 has been its expansion from the churches of the North to those of the South. We have [End Page 238] come to acknowledge the dramatic increase in church membership in the Lutheran churches of the South, particularly in Africa (Tanzania, Ethiopia, Namibia). This book represents an effort by German theologians to pay attention to these new realities by listening to voices from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and North America. The chapters originated from a conference held at Heidelberg in January 2017, organized by the ecumenical institutes of the University of Heidelberg and the University of Münster. This forum sought to gather perspectives from beyond Germany to enrich the global theological conversation.

The contributions are strong and clear. Together the chapters identify key issues worthy of reflection as the Lutheran movement enters its sixth century. Three distinctive themes are well summarized by the editors in the concluding chapter: 1) focus on the work of the Holy Spirit and concomitant theological reflection on pneumatology (see the contributions of Kenneth Matata, Wilfred John Sundaraj, Daniel C. Beros, and Cheryl M. Peterson), 2) the relationship between the doctrine of justification and freedom for serving the neighbor (see the contributions of Faustin Leonhard Mahali and Raj Bharath Patta) and 3) an analysis of ecumenical and interreligious relationships within the horizon of a global Lutheranism (see the contributions of Simone Sinn and Kenneth G. Appold).

It is noteworthy that four authors independently cite the influence of Pentecostal theologies on the shape of Christianity in their contexts. Matata (Zimbabwe) analyzes the hermeneutical shift evidenced in the theology of Manas Buthelezi in South Africa from the time of struggle against apartheid to his later focus on sanctification of life in service to the neighbor. Sundaraj (Malaysia) examines the experientially-based charismatic movements in Asia in light of the core themes of a Lutheran theology that centers on the Word as normed by a theology of the cross. Beros (Argentina) engages in prophetic critique of global capitalism's methods of social control, including the ideological role played by evangelical and Pentecostal churches, and calls for the Lutheran church to act as a discipleship community under the sign of the cross. Peterson (USA) contributes an excellent interpretation of the central features of Luther's theology of the Holy Spirit, centered on the mediation of Christ in Word and Sacrament, in juxtaposition to other influential religious [End Page 239] trends in the USA. While perspectives differ, these chapters point toward the need for deeper engagement by Lutheran theology with contemporary theologies of the Holy Spirit.

The chapter by Beros connects with those by Mahali (Tanzania) and Patta (India) in calling Lutheran theology to respond to the need for social justice. Mahali focuses on the distinctive contributions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania to social service on behalf of the entire society. Patta advocates for the necessity of Dalit theology as a vital expression of Lutheran public theology in the post-colonial context of India. Dalit theology is a "collaborative, communitarian, resistance" movement "from below" (109–110). He calls, with Paul Chung, for Lutheran theology to take a "subaltern turn" on behalf of "Dalits, tribal people, women, the transgendered, refugees, children, the creation, migrants, the poor, the homeless, etc." (113).

Sinn (Lutheran World Federation staff) sketches the history of ecumenical and interreligious study processes undertaken by the LWF in relation to Judaism, Roman Catholicism, Islam, and other world religions. Seen in historical perspective, the advancement of ecumenical and interreligious understanding is one of the major innovations in Lutheran theology since the mid- to late-20th century. For this reviewer the final chapter by Appold (USA) articulates the most significant agenda for the global Lutheran communion by posing the question: Is there a world Lutheranism? As...


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