In all senses of the word: The authority of scripture in contemporary theology

Charles Duane Valenti-Hein, Marquette University


As Christians have gathered throughout the centuries, the writings of the Hebrew and Christian Scripture have been constitutive of the life and identity of the community of faith. What is less clear is precisely how these avowedly sacred writings attained and maintain such status within the believing community. The purpose of this dissertation is precisely to bring some clarity to the intersection of Scripture and theology and its import for contemporary faith. The goal is to map adequately the various ways in which Scripture crosses the roads of faith and theology, and to suggest the most important points at which this crossing has become most dangerous. More specifically, it is the thesis of this dissertation that a careful recovery and reappropriation of Martin Luther's multifaceted understanding of Gospel and the Word of God provides a helpful model for the critique of contemporary uses of Scripture and for a constructive, systematic approach to the biblical writings. Following introductory chapters on both the roots and effects of what has been identified as the divide between the world of the text and the modern world, this study focuses on an exposition of Luther's understanding of the Word of God. It explores Luther's notions of Written, Spoken and Incarnate Word, as well as the centrality of preaching as the moment in which the Word is most fully present. Further chapters are dedicated to developments in both theological and philosophical hermeneutics which Luther could not have anticipated, but which have a marked effect on the way in which Luther's work can be received into late 20th century thought. The final chapters seek to combine Luther's insights with contemporary thought, to create specific criteria on which an understanding of the authority of Scripture can and should be grounded. Finally, it is suggested that perhaps the real source of the problematic of Scripture for contemporary theology rests, not in our attempts to straddle the divide between ourselves and the text, so much as in our inability to accept the inexorable nature of the text as both the context and the pretext of both theology and Christian life.

Recommended Citation

Valenti-Hein, Charles Duane, "In all senses of the word: The authority of scripture in contemporary theology" (1996). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9719096.