The Use Of Linguistic And Relational Ontology In Contemporary Lutheranism -- By: Jordan Cooper

Journal: Conspectus
Volume: CONSPECTUS 27:1 (Mar 2019)
Article: The Use Of Linguistic And Relational Ontology In Contemporary Lutheranism
Author: Jordan Cooper

The Use Of Linguistic And Relational Ontology In Contemporary Lutheranism

Jordan Cooper


Dan Lioy

About The Authors1

Jordan Cooper

PhD student at the South African Theological Seminary (graduating April 2019).

Dan Lioy

PhD, North-West University, The Senior Research Manager at the South African Theological Seminary, Dan has a particular research interest in intertextuality, Biblical ethics and spiritual care in professional settings.

This article:


This essay is a study of the impact of linguistic and relational ontology in contemporary Lutheranism. In particular, the influence of John Austin’s speech-act theory is explained in relation to its adaptation by Oswald Bayer and others associated with Radical Lutheranism. It is argued that though there can be some benefit in the use of the categories of linguistic philosophy, it is inadequate as an ontological system. The goal of this article is to demonstrate both the impact and flaws of linguistic and relational ontology on Radical Lutheran authors, and to validate essentialist ontology as a necessary backdrop for both linguistics and relation as discussed in Lutheran theology.

1. Introduction

Since the nineteenth century, Lutheran theologians have often departed from the essentialist metaphysical convictions of Lutheran scholasticism in favour of other ontological approaches. Authors such as Johannes von Hoffman and Hans Martensen were influenced to an extent by the philosophy of Hegel, resulting in modifications to their understanding of God and other doctrines. Ritschl used the ethical philosophy of Kant in his reading of Luther (Lotz 1974). Later, Rudolph Bultmann adapted Martin Heidegger’s existential views in his approach to Christian theology (MacQuarrie 1955). In recent decades, Lutheran theologians have often abandoned some of the important tenets of existentialism as well as the moralism of Ritschl, and the notions of progress and metaphysical unity in Hegel’s approach. In place of these other systems, writers have adopted a linguistic approach to reality, especially as taught by JL Austin.

Several theologians have adapted Austin’s speech-act theory to various degrees in their doctrinal systems. This has not been limited to Lutheranism. However, some thinkers have placed these ideas in a central position, even to the point of using linguistic phi...

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