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Dr. Jonathan Sorum’s Presentation for the Pastoral Formation Summit: The Fifth City

  • June 22, 2017 - 4:42 pm
  • lutherancore

The Fifth City

By Dr. Jonathan Sorum


Summary:  This paper proposes a new way forward in theological education that is neither an attempt to retreat into a premodern world nor a collapse into postmodern nihilism; instead, it is a way through modernity to a new, more faithful model of theological education based on Luther’s conception of the gospel. Unlike Luther’s gospel, the four existing models of theological education–named for the cities that epitomize them: Athens, Wittenberg, Berlin, and Jerusalem—fail to unite the inner and the outer, the external Word of revelation and the internal human self. Luther taught that, in Christ, the inner and the outer are held together in the union of Jesus’ death with God’s life as communicative event, as the external Word of promise that bring us internally to our end to live in union with him by faith alone. We need to develop a Fifth City that begins with this Word in its contingency, finitude and temporality and trains people to learn to read that Word and to write it—in proclamation and in their work of world-building.  Learning to read means training the senses to receive the God who is received fully and only through the senses.  Students are trained to expose and reject false eschatologies that attempt to protect Jesus and us from the cross.  They learn to interpret the scripture from the middle of time, the present that is full of all times, past and present, disciplining themselves against spatial representations of time that would give them a position above time and a supposed direct access to past and future.  And they begin to learn how to read the book of history and the book of nature by being read by the one Book.  Learning to write means learning  kenotic communication, dying to oneself in going into the other’s language and rationality, where both sides die to the hegemony of their own languages and find common ground in a new language that speaks Jesus here and now.  It means learning a transformed rhetoric that speaks the real presence of Christ as God’s electing Word that kills and makes alive. And it means a renewal of culture and world-building within the time God makes for us for in the interim: the interim takes its shape from the gospel precisely because it is thereby shown not to be the gospel.  The renewal of both the church and society depends upon reforming theological education along the lines of the Fifth City. The way forward toward the Fifth City is through repentance that finds its expression in hard intellectual work and a commitment to institution-building.


Dr. Sorum’s presentation is posted here: The Fifth City


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