Transfiguring Luther: The Planetary Promise of Luther’s Theology

By Vítor Westhelle

A new look at Luther’s theology in the light of the emergence of global Lutheranism, and its rich potential for application beyond traditional Western contexts.

ISBN: 9780227176504


Luther’s theology has inspired many since 1517 when he nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of the Castle Church. It was the trigger of the Reformation, a change in the very fabric of Christianity that is still studied extensively to this day. Much of this work however has been conducted from either a European or North American perspective. With Lutheranism becoming more and more common in the southern hemisphere, new interpretations of Luther’s theology are needed for these emergent and different contexts. In Transfiguring Luther, Vítor Westhelle offers a reading of Luther and his legacy that goes beyond the traditional geopolitics of Luther research, exploring realities where the Reformer’s reception and the latent promise of his theology receive unsuspected appraisal. Westhelle provides both a revisitation of the past and an invitation to a new orientation. By establishing a texture rather than a rigid actuality, Westhelle allows the reader to reach their own conclusions about these seldom examined aspects of Luther’s theology.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 352

Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

Vítor Westhelle is Professor of Systematic Theology at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and the chair of Luther Research at Faculdades EST, São Leopoldo, Brazil. A well-known author and internationally sought-out speaker, Westhelle’s writings on Luther, liberation, creation, the apocalyptic, postcolonialism, hybridity and eschatology are widely acclaimed.


Foreword by David Tracy
Preface and Acknowledgments


Part One – The Genius of Language: Grammar and Rhetoric
1. The Quest for Language: Engaging the Head and the Heart
2. More than Enough: Letter as Solace
3. Stories That Shape the Story
4. Faith and Love, the Space In-Between: On the Beatitudes

Part Two – Theology Matters
5. On the Playground of God: Justification as Event and Representation
6. Beholding the Core: Reading Chalcedon
7. Enduring the Scandal: theologia crucis
8. Cross and Creation
9. The Groaning Mask: Ecojustice and the Human Place in Nature
10. The Church in Eden: On the Priesthood of the Faithful
11. Apocalypse: Yet-Time and Not-Yet

Part Three – The Planet Luther: Transfigurations
12. Globalization and Fragmentation: Lutheran World Federation
13. Transfiguring Lutheranism: Displacing Tradition
14. Lutheranism and Culture in the Americas: A Comparative Study
15. Contextual Hermeneutics
16. A Communion of Teaching and Learning
17. Luther Yet Incomplete: A Global Inquiry
18. Planet Luther: Challenges and Promises

Part Four – Economy and Politics: The Paradigms
19. “The Third Bank of the River”: The Challenge of Modernity
20. Two Kingdoms Doctrine: When the Rubber Hits the Road
21. Works, Law, and Faith: Régimes and Event in Luther
22. Power and Politics
23. Lutheran Social Ethics: A Sketch

Conclusion: Inconclusive Final Notes

Author Index
Subject Index


Endorsements and Reviews

There are more images of Martin Luther than years that have passed since the Reformation, but transfiguring ones are scarce. Moving with Luther and Westhelle beyond the traditional Western paradigm and into new religious, political, economic, and cultural contexts is not only an intellectual exercise. … It is an existential journey that fits the desire born out of the brokenness of life in a broken world. This book is definitely worth the reading effort!
Antje Jackelen, Archbishop of Sweden

With one foot planted firmly in his Brazilian homeland and another in his place of instruction, the United States, Westhelle is well-equipped to capitalise on forty years of engaging Luther’s thought in order to challenge readers around the globe to join him in transfiguring Luther’s insights. Like Luther, Westhelle puts the divine gift of human language to use, catching the clear, sharp tones of Luther’s reading of Scripture and communicating them in a way that effectively bridges the divide to bring Luther’s witness to life today. A significant ecumenical appeal for delivering the biblical message of new life in Christ in our global society.
Robert Kolb, Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis, Missouri

… of great importance for anyone wanting to understand world Lutheranism, and in particular, questions concerning social justice and liberation theology now being addressed by Lutherans in the global South to their communion as a whole. … This is a book full of interesting insights into Luther, well worth reading and re-reading by newcomers to Luther and those already knowledgeable about his life and teaching. It deserves careful attention both by Lutherans and other Christians concerned to learn from them.
David Carter, in The Window, 2017