Missio shaped by promissio: Lutheran missiology confronts the challenge of religious pluralism

Jukka Antero Kaariainen, Fordham University


Contemporary missiology has been engaged with two central concerns: 1) how to relate the missio Dei, the reign of God, and the church, and 2) given our global context of religious pluralism, what resources Christian theology has for building a constructive relationship with the religious other. These two concerns, while distinct, are intimately related and find their practical outworking in the important practice of interreligious dialogue. Utilizing resources from Martin Luther's theology and the Lutheran confessional writings, this study offers an understanding of the Christian gospel as promise as key to addressing the above mentioned missiological challenges. In its construction of a confessional Lutheran missiology, it critically retrieves and constructively reappropriates four resources from the Lutheran tradition: the gospel as promise, the law/gospel distinction, a theology of grace as promise of mercy fulfilled, and a theology of the cross utilizing the hiddenness of God. The law of God as accusing, yet webbing humanity to its Creator; the gospel as the comforting promise of vulnerable, loving mercy; and the hiddenness of God as elusively mystifying form the overarching framework within which a contemporary Lutheran missiology seeks to engage the religious other by dialectically relating gospel proclamation and dialogue. Such a Lutheran view of "mission shaped by promise" constitutes an alternative voice within the contemporary missiological landscape, dominated by an understanding of grace as human nature fulfilled and an approach to the missiological task as identifying traces of divine grace and truth in the midst of interreligious work toward human peace and justice. While humbly receiving the deepest witness of its dialogue partner, such a Lutheran approach boldly offers the paradoxical revelation and hiddenness of God in the cross as a distinctively Christian contribution to an interreligious dialogue centered on the ambiguity and hiddenness of God in daily experience.

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Recommended Citation

Kaariainen, Jukka Antero, "Missio shaped by promissio: Lutheran missiology confronts the challenge of religious pluralism" (2011). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3452804.