Luthers reformatorischer Durchbruch. Zur auseinandersetzung mit Oswald Bayers Promissio-verständnis

Translated title of the contribution: Luther's reformatory breakthrough. On the argumentation with Oswald Bayer's Promissio-understanding

Dirk Martin Grube*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In this contribution, I focus on Bayer's interpretation of Luther's concept of justification as promissio. In part I, I sketch Bayer's central idea that this concept is to be understood as a performative speech-act in Austin's sense, i. e. as an act constituting novel 'facts' while being performed rather than registering already existing ones. The words of the absolution do not only register that the sinner is justified but, when being spoken in the proper circumstances, actually do justify him. In part II, I evaluate the consequences of this interpretation of justification. On the one hand, I suggest that Bayer's interpretation captures the aspects of the concept of justification which are characteristic of Lutheranism and should be defended. On the other hand, however, I criticize Bayer's contention that his concept of justification as promissio undermines all attempts to verify theological claims. I summarize the tension between the religious, pro-Lutheran perspective and the philosophical, Luther-critical perspective in a dialogue between Lutheran heart and philosophical mind. In part three, I suggest that there is no easy way out of the tension between Lutheran heart and philosophical mind since both are valuable in their own way. Nevertheless, I offer two cautious suggestions by way of conclusion: The first is that the idea of 'verification' should be reconstructed in a (broadly) pragmatic spirit in order to be acceptable from a Lutheran perspective. The second is that the non-relational background which is presupposed by construing justification in a relational fashion (as is the case with the concept of promissio) should be construed as a Gadamerian 'prejudice', i. e. as being presupposed in every act of understanding, yet, as always being open to revision.

Translated title of the contributionLuther's reformatory breakthrough. On the argumentation with Oswald Bayer's Promissio-understanding
Original languageGerman
Pages (from-to)33-50
Number of pages18
JournalNeue Zeitschrift fur Systematische Theologie und Religionsphilosophie
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2006


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