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Down & out : parallels and divergences in structure and method between the theological responses of Martin Luther and contextual theologies to their times.

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The thesis compares the structure of the theological responses of Martin Luther and contextual theologies , especially those of Juan Luis Segundo and Albert Nolan. The structure of the theologies are described using concepts derived from the methodologies of research programmes developed by Imre Lakatos. The social and ideological background of the ruling ideology of Luther's time (medieval Catholicism) and that of contextual theologies (neo-colonial capitalism) are presented . Parallels are found in that the ruling ideology utilises a monopoly on legitimating authority to orientate the life energies of people to achieving legitimation in terms of norms set up by the ruling class. These norms result in a an exchange of work for legitimation, and so exploit people. This constitutes an 'in and up' theology: Resources are drawn in in order to climb up to a position of legitimation . Both Luther and contextual theologies respond by reversing this pattern, decoupling legitimation from the norms of the ruling class and the work of people. They constitute 'down and out' theologies: God, the legitimator, is down with people, and because legitimation is given freely to people down where they are, energies flow out to serve the common good. Dissimilarities between Luther and Contextual Theologies are found in the locus of legitimation (individual vs. social), the role of faith, and the negative heuristic (dialectic of the cross vs. transformation of the system). It is argued that the difference in negative heuristic is mainly responsible for the perennial nature and conservatism of Lutheran Theology versus the rapid demise of South African contextual theology. The results of the investigation show that the conceptual structure of Lakatos' epistemology, coupled with an analysis of the flow of legitimation and orientation, is useful in structuring and evaluating theological systems on the questions where does legitimation come from, where to does the theology orientate, and how are orientation and legitimation linked. These questions may be seen as a new way of formulating the lawl gospel distinction of classical Lutheran theology.


Thesis (M.Th.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2004.


Theses--Theology., Contextual Theology--South Africa., Luther, Martin, 1483-1546--Theology.