Tim Hiller

"How Long, O Lord": Sin, Suffering, and the Structure of Faith in Martin Luther and H. Richard Niebuhr

For Martin Luther, theology itself is a form of care of the soul—it consoles the conscience attacked by sin, guilt, suffering, death, and the devil. This consolation is not ‘cheap’: it requires a profound change in one’s own self-understanding and opens one up to a realistic view of the suffering in the world. Luther’s insights into the structures of faith provide a way to maintain radical hope in the face of the tragic aspects of existence; yet his thought is in many ways foreign and in some ways inimical to the contemporary, pluralistic world we inhabit. My dissertation investigates how to recover Luther’s pastoral insights concerning the nature of theology and subjectivity by placing it in conversation with a number of current discourses on vulnerability, tragedy, and radical suffering.

Receiving the Martin Marty Fellowship is a true gift. I hope my arguments will be sharpened and new insights gained through the intellectual camaraderie with this group of scholars. The public nature of religious discourse occurs in many contexts and before many publics: for this reason, I am particularly thankful to the Marty Center for giving me the opportunity to teach Systematic Theology at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. This course will give me the opportunity to situate my own work in the church, while the seminar will allow me to adopt the rigor of the academy. For this I am grateful.