Christ's Gift, Our Response
This dissertation forges a conversation between Martin Luther and Louis-Marie Chauvet on the connection between sacraments and ethics. In conducting an ecumenical conversation concerning the nature and implications of this connection, the dissertation strives to name and develop theological resonances between the two thinkers that provide new ways forward in areas where formal Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogues have either been historically quite difficult (sacramental theology) or largely silent (ethics). The first chapter of the dissertation locates the project within the field of liturgy and ethics, especially as it developed through the Liturgical Movement in the United States in the 20th century. The chapter then moves to outlining the philosophical background of Chauvet and the hermeneutical lens through which the dissertation approaches Luther. The dissertation reads Chauvet as a faithful Roman Catholic who nevertheless wishes to re-cast sacramental theology in terms distinct from reigning Thomistic categories, and it approaches Luther through the Finnish School of Luther Interpretation, a movement that, analogously to Chauvet, has re-cast Luther's theology in terms distinct from more traditional readings of Luther. The second chapter moves to Luther himself in earnest. Outlining his sacramental theology and arguing that the way he conceives of the connection of sacraments to ethics is as unification with Christ, the chapter poises Luther for conversation with Chauvet. Likewise, the third chapter summarizes Chauvet's theology in terms of his treatment of the symbol and the symbolic, his theological anthropology, and finally his sacramental understanding of symbolic exchange and its connection to ethics. The fourth chapter builds upon the substance of the second and third chapters by actually conducting the conversation that is the dissertation's ultimate goal. Beginning by arguing that the nexus point between the two theologians is their conviction that gratuitousness and graciousness provide the ground for sacramental theology, the chapter uses that nexus to allow Chauvet and Luther to enrich each other's theologies. Specifically, tensions exist in the theological anthropologies of both Luther and Chauvet that can be eased by allowing each to inform the other. Similarly, the concept of communal ethics and the role of the sacramental community in society provide fertile ground for the theologians' mutual enrichment. The dissertation ends by gesturing toward further implications of the discussion, and by outlining possible avenues for future work.