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The Pastoral Luther as Guide for “Experience-Near” Theology: Reflections from Sabah, Malaysia

Eric J. Trozzo

English Abstract

While Lutheran theology is often framed as a set of core theological principles or commitments, Martin Luther’s theology functioned pastorally, engaging specific needs and situations he encountered, with the experience of faith being central. In the terminology of missiologist Robert J. Priest, Luther’s theology is “experience-near.” Thus in seeking to develop a sense of Lutheran identity with the Lutheran churches in the “new” context of Sabah, Malaysia, this essay argues that the pastoral dimension of Luther’s theology should be enlarged, using the process termed “transfiguration” by theologian Vitor Westhelle, rather than starting with theological first principles. This approach allows the theological questions and concerns that emerge from that context to be fore-grounded, rather beginning from an assumption that Luther’s own questions and concerns are universally relevant.


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