Original Research - Special Collection: Gateway to the Future from a deconstructed past

(Confessional) Lutheran perspectives on the unity of the church

Dieter H. Reinstorf
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 73, No 1 | a4708 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v73i1.4708 | © 2017 Dieter H. Reinstorf | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 19 June 2017 | Published: 31 August 2017

About the author(s)

Dieter H. Reinstorf, Evangelical Lutheran Immanuel Congregation, Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod (FELSISA), South Africa and Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria, South Africa


From personal experience, this article shares to what degree the Faculty of Theology at the University of Pretoria was and continues to be a gateway to the future, challenging among others the divisions that characterise the Church of Christ worldwide. The article argues that for the 16th-century Reformers the unity of the church was a given and that the  (Lutheran) confessions were written to establish such a unity through agreement in confession and joint rejection of false doctrines. However, such statements of faith did not overcome the divisions, but institutionalised them, leading to a divided Church of Christ. Political intervention to work unity between Lutherans and Reformers deepened divisions more than ever, leading among others to a break of fellowship at the Lord’s Supper. Applying Luther’s hermeneutical principle of was Christum treibet (what drives Christ), the author seeks to rediscover a way of interpreting Scripture by focusing not on literal differences, but on that which is foundational to Scripture, namely the Christ event. This is applied in particular to the topic of table fellowship and divisions in Corinth with regard to the Lord’s Supper, addressed in 1 Corinthians 11, culminating in a critical deconstruction of past practices in confessional Lutheran churches. In view of doctrinal differences, a hermeneutics of conversation is proposed that can vigorously debate differences of understanding, without threatening the unity that is worked by Christ himself.


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