A Critical Appraisal of the Erlangen Contribution to the Orders of Creation
The Lutheran doctrine of the orders of creation specifies fundamental forms of human community. Grounded in God’s structuring of the universe, these institutions acquire their expression in human history. Although they are fallen and distorted under sin, they remain God’s good creation. Illumined by the witness of Scripture, their ontology exists independently of ideological conceit.
The tradition is a specifically Lutheran consideration of natural law theory and plays an important role in two-kingdoms theology and the law/gospel dialectic. Historically, the doctrine has suffered significant abuse, specifically with the extra-scriptural elevation of Volk and race as inviolable institutions in support of Nazi ideology. Consequently, many have dismissed the doctrine as a static worldview that disallows critique of the status quo. In its orthodox biblical formulation, however, the doctrine remains a powerful safeguard against what Walter Künneth calls "the ideological alienation of the gospel" that invokes the name of Christ to justify sinful desire.
Nathan Howard Yoder evaluates the variant orders of creation models of the Erlangen theologians of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Concentrating specifically on the work of Paul Althaus, Werner Elert, and Walter Künneth, he lifts up Künneth’s christological/trinitarian focus and appeal to sola scriptura as essential correctives to the tradition. He makes the case that the doctrine remains imperative to moral theology, specifically in the Church’s efforts against the rampant antinomianism of the postmodern era.
This book will serve well as a reference for graduate and post-graduate level courses in systematic theology, Christian ethics/moral theology, and the Lutheran Confessions.
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This study was originally submitted as a dissertation at the University of Regensburg in the summer of 2011 to the Faculty of Protestant Theology. It would not have been possible were it not for the generosity of a good number of people. First and foremost, many thanks are due my Doktorvater, Prof. Dr. Hans Schwarz, for his guidance and patience throughout the course of my research and writing, as well as for his continuing example to me that whoso would be a theologian, must also be an adventurer. I also wish to thank my second reader, Prof. Dr. Matthias Heesch, for the gift of his time and insightful critique, and Dr. David Yeago, who as my STM advisor introduced me to the work of Adolf von Harless and the 19th century Erlangen school. My work with Dr. Yeago informed much of the first chapter of this volume. Frau Hildegarde Ferme deserves many thanks for help above and beyond all expectation in the technical areas of this project, especially in her efforts to format and print my work from a continent away. I also wish to thank Dr. Paul Hinlicky, Dr. William Rusch, and Dr. David Nelson for their insights and advice prior to publication. Burl McCuiston and Vicki Woodrich, reference librarian and inter-library loan officer, respectively, at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, NC, helped me tremendously in acquiring the texts I needed on this side of the Atlantic. I am very grateful to Michelle Salyga and Jackie Pavlovic,...