Date of Award

Fall 2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Religious Studies

First Advisor

Long, Stephen

Second Advisor

Mattox, Mickey L.

Third Advisor

Zemler-Cizewski, Wanda


Contemporary literature broadly presupposes that Luther's Christology represents a definitive course correction within Christian reflection upon the doctrine of God. The hinge point of Luther's innovation, according to this understanding, resides in his apparent endorsement of a mutual transfer of predicates between the divine and human nature of Christ. This mutuality represents a significant radicalization of pre-existing theological opinion, which is content to affirm the statement `God suffers', for instance, only in the carefully restricted sense that Christ (who happens to be divine) suffers according to His human nature. According to this more traditional explanation, it is not the divinity of Christ per se, which suffers, but only the single, acting subject who is both divine and human. Luther's principal innovation in relation to these matters, is widely supposed to reside in his eschewal of such predicational restrictions. For him, God truly suffers in His own nature. He does so by virtue of a reciprocal idiomatic exchange between Christ's divinity and humanity. Such, in any case, is the historical narrative now prominent within studies of Luther's theology.

The point possesses more than a merely antiquarian, or reductively historical interest. Luther's construal of God's suffering is a central feature within contemporary appraisals of his theological vision. His perceived christological innovation has also funded a host of constructive appropriations of his legacy across the many sectors of modern theological inquiry. The prevailing narrative is frequently invoked soteriologically to insist that human redemption relies upon the genuine participation of God's essence in creaturely vulnerability. In its most programmatic expressions, this interpretation of Luther has buttressed the rather generic perception within contemporary theology that Luther engineers a re-conceptualization of the Christian doctrine of God, which is significant primarily because it enables a more radical recognition of God's immanent involvement with the created order. Thus construed, Luther has understandably been mined as an invaluable resource for modern theologies of divine passibility, which tend to stress the `historicization' of God's being as opposed to putatively static alternatives espoused within preexisting theological tradition. It is the intent of this study to critique the interpretation of Luther's Christology used to underwrite this reception, and thus create the conditions necessary for an alternative appropriation of the reformer's thought within contemporary discourse.