Faith Active in Love

On the Theology of Michael Welker

by Henco van der Westhuizen (Author)
©2021 Monographs 224 Pages


Faith Active in Love is a perspective on Michael Welker’s theology – a Biblisch-realistische Theologie from a perspective of the Spirit. Van der Westhuizen argues that it is a multisystemic theology that in multiple tensions and triplexes – held together by the resurrection and resonance, the pouring out and structured pluralism, the reign and emergence – in complex ways cultivates a hermeneutic for faith active in love, a hermeneutic for public theology.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Foreword: Memories of conversations
  • Acknowledgements
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • Theological hermeneutics
  • The Resurrected
  • The Crucified
  • Poured out
  • The law
  • Creation
  • The reign
  • Salvation
  • Conclusion
  • Series index


Faith means becoming familiar with this God, becoming acquainted with this God, or in biblical terms, to search for God and to love God. By the search for God no religious game of hide-and-seek is meant, but the persistent striving for an ever-clearer awareness and knowledge of God, for a deeper revelation of God and the divine will among us. To love God does not mean a romantic being in love with another individual or a mystical absorption into an abyss of a reality that cannot be known; but to love God means to keep God’s [law], to accept God’s revelation, to discover and to treasure God’s intentions for the creation, to be ready and willing to engage in these interests and to work for them on this earth and in its history.1

Faith active in love is a perspective on the theology of Michael Welker.

In this short study I argue that Michael Welker’s theology is a theology from the perspective of the Spirit and that this perspective provides a framework for a theology public, a theology that is public – that deepens the defining link between activity in love and faith.

The title by no means speaks for itself. There are many ways to say why this is so.

The title is taken from the letter to the Galatians, from Chapter Five, inter alia, on faith and on love. It is found in verse 6, where Paul speaks about ‘the only thing that counts’.

The verse of the chapter has been translated in many ways. The New International Version, for example, translates that ‘the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love’. But it has also been translated as ‘faith working through love’, and as ‘faith effective in love’.

Luther translates: ‘der Glaube, der durch die Liebe tätig ist’, that is, faith that is active through love. Faith Active in Love was the title of George ←19 | 20→Wolfgang Forell’s study on what underlies Luther’s theologcal activity (1954).2

But there are others reason why the title doesn’t speak for itself. Another reason would be that the title or its meaning depends, of course, on what is meant by ‘faith’, what is meant by ‘love’, what is meant by ‘active through or in’.

The title suggests a relation between faith and love, between love and faith – in and through activity. What is meant by this reciprocal relation? Where is the emphasis? On faith active in love? Or on faith active in love? Or on the activity? If faith is what we hope for,3 is this the activity? Faith hoping in love? Or is the emphasis on love hoping in faith?

And why select this title for a perspective on the theology of Michael Welker?

Again, there are many ways to say why this is so.

Welker, like Luther, is influenced inter alia by the theology of Paul. When asked which theologian he would have wanted to converse with, he mentions Paul: ‘It would be … Paul, who is in my view the greatest Christian theologian in history. Paul had the education of a Pharisee, but he was also a Hellenistic intellectual and a Roman citizen, as well as a global citizen. He used the media of letter-writing and traveling, and he had a polycontextual sensitivity to different communities with different spiritual and ethical profiles. He had a clear and complex faith in the living God, and he had very rich and realistic perspectives on human existence’.4←20 | 21→

In addition, Welker has throughout his theological career often returned to the question of faith. For him, faith is familiarity, acquaintance, searching, persistent striving, ever clearer awareness, deeper revelation, knowledge.5←21 | 22→

When asked the question of what advice he would give to an aspiring theologian, he relates his answer to faith: ‘Alfred North Whitehead: “Seek simplicity – and distrust it”. For theology, this means: be wary of simple, ultimate, supreme thoughts about God, thoughts intended to spare you the pursuit of the deeper knowledge of God. Also, beware of empty and clouded ideas of God, ideas meant to convince you that not knowing is the truly pious, the humbly believing way to God. The abstract opposites of faith and knowledge, of feeling and understanding, are poison for theology and for any truth-seeking community’.6

Also love – and its many faces7 – is a theme Welker would return to time and time again in his theological ←22 | 23→career.8 For him, love is keeping the law, accepting revelation, discovering and treasuring intentions, being ready and willing to engage in these interests, working.←23 | 24→

For Welker, faith has to do with theology, with the doing of theology, with dogmatics, with doctrine, with the living God. Love, for him, has at least also to do with life, with living in and amongst, with and for others, with ethos.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2021 (December)
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2021. 224 pp.

Biographical notes

Henco van der Westhuizen (Author)

Henco van der Westhuizen is a lecturer in systematic theology, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein.


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226 pages