Date of Award

5-1-2009

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Systematic Theology

First Advisor

Thomas Manteufel

Scripture References in this Resource (separated by semi-colons)

Genesis 6:6; 1 Peter 1:24; 1 Samuel 15:35; 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Chronicles 32:31; 2 Kings 20:1, 5; 2 Samuel 12:10; Deuteronomy 13:1-3; Deuteronomy 30:9; Deuteronomy 8:2; Exodus 16:4; Isaiah 40:6-9; Isaiah 48:3-5; Jeremiah 18:8-10; Jeremiah 9:24; Judges 2:22; Judges 3:4; Psalm 149:4;

Abstract

Roser, Timothy, W. "Can God Be Persuaded? A Discussion of the Immutability of Godin Luther's Catechesis on Prayer." Ph.D. Diss., St. Louis, MO: Concordia Seminary, 2005.197pp.

Different doctrines of God bring different understandings of Christian prayer. Open theism teaches a mutable God who can be persuaded by our prayer, that is, have human will imposed upon His choice and course of action. This study responds with Martin Luther's unique defense of the immutability of God and his perspective on human will's place in Christian prayer.

Chapter one reviews the teachings of open theism involving divine mutability and the consequent practice of prayer. While many modern classical theists have objected and asserted God’s immutability, their responses tend toward fatalism.

Chapter two shows that Luther inherited much from classical theism, particularly via his nominalist education, his studies in Augustine, and his familiarity with medieval catechetics. Examination of Luther's historical context unveils a premodernist/post-scholastic perspective emerging in Luther that informs this issue.

Chapter three examines Erasmus' assertions regarding human free will (similar to those of open theism) which led to Luther's response in De servo arbitrio. An examination of Deservo arbitrio reveals Luther's defense of divine immutability through the Biblical and paradoxical tension between deus absconditus and deus revelatus.

Chapters four and five test Luther's expression of divine immutability by examining his practice of prayer. These chapters consider his Catechisms, A Simple Way to Pray, and anecdotal evidence regarding Luther's personal prayer life.

Conclusions: Open theism does not present a viable alternative understanding of God for those who wish to remain faithful to the entire witness of Scripture. Luther, by contrast, posited an unlimited immutability in God in both essence and attributes. This radical position avoided fatalism by recognizing the distinction between the revealed and hidden God, the key to Luther’s doctrine of immutability. The preaching of Law and Gospel does not express a change in God, but Law and Gospel are twin operations of an immutable God. For Luther, prayer was not man’s opportunity to impose his human will upon and "persuade" God, but a divinely given opportunity to put faith into action and entrust oneself to God's revelation.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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