Mercy : the compelling dimension of grace in Reformation and contemporary Lutheran writings
This thesis examines the doctrines of original sin, justification, and vocation in the early confessional writings of the Lutheran Reformation. These doctrines proceed with an understanding that "grace" is God's "favor" or "good will" toward humanity. They speak not of a grace infused into human nature but of a different relationship between God and humanity. God's "favor" is not simply an attribute but an action of God on behalf of sinful humanity. God acts mercifully. God withholds nothing, giving himself for sinners. "Mercy," the self-emptying of God in Jesus Christ for a thoroughly sinful humanity, is the compelling dimension of "grace." What is given in justification becomes the fruit of faith in vocation: mercy. It is the motivation and the shape of faithful living. Received from God, it is given to neighbor.
An examination of a contemporary Lutheran document, "Church in Society: a Lutheran Perspective," a 1991 Social Teaching Statement of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, shows that it seems not to grasp that the living foundation of mercy is the motivation and shape of faithful living. It does not bring the "heart " of the Lutheran Reformation tradition to bear in answering the challenge of contemporary theology and parish life. The absence of "mercy" in "Church in Society" implicitly pleads for rediscovery of what God has done in Jesus Christ as the motivation and shape of faithful living.