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Title: Ironic Imagination and Luther's Mystical Bridal Imagery
Author(s): PEMBROKE, Neil
Journal: Studies in Spirituality
Volume: 26    Date: 2016   
Pages: 249-262
DOI: 10.2143/SIS.26.0.3180810

Abstract :
It is argued that there is clear evidence of a mystical strand in Martin Luther’s theology. In particular, Christ mysticism, expressed through bridal imagery, held a central place. The way in which ironic imagination features in Luther’s depiction of Christ as the spouse of the spiritual person is also discussed. The aim is not simply to highlight his (undoubted) creativity as a theologian. More importantly, the discussion shows that Luther fully grasped the fact that the life of faith has an ineradicable ironic structure. He was strongly opposed to any suggestion that it is possible to live without the polar tension. Christ the bridegroom abides in the heart of the Christian; through this union he exchanges his righteousness for her/his sin. But, paradoxically, while the new being in Christ is wholly righteous, s/he remains wholly a sinner. For this reason, Luther saw very clearly that the spiritual life of the Christian is lived in tension between freedom and bondage, law and gospel, gemitus and raptus, faith and love. A parallel is drawn between Luther’s approach and that of William Lynch in his work on faith and the analogical imagination.

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