Sasja Emilie Mathiasen Stopa – New Postdoc at CAS

Since February 1, 2017, Sasja Emilie Mathiasen Stopa has been a postdoctoral researcher in the field of systematic theology at CAS.

29.03.2017 | Camilla Dimke

Since the 1st of February, I have been a postdoctoral researcher in the field of systematic theology at the Department of Theology examining the seemingly paradoxical emphasis on absolute sin and unconditional trust in Luther’s theology and in contemporary Lutheran theology. I am working on the joint research project “Lutheranism and societal development in Denmark,” which is funded by the Danish Research Council and led by associate professor Nina Koefoed. The project is affiliated with the LUMEN Center for the Study of Lutheran Theology and Confessional Societies and seeks to identify traces of Lutheran influence on worldview, culture, and society in Denmark understood as a confessional society.  Methodologically, my research is situated within systematic theology but engages in discussion with philosophical, psychological, sociological, and social scientific research on trust.

In my PhD Dissertation, I analysed the influence of notions of honour and glory on Martin Luther’s theology focusing on his theological anthropology, which defines the human being in relation to God and neighbour. In my postdoctoral research, I will examine how Luther’s emphasis on the human being as an absolute sinner and on faith as a gift of unconditional trust in God translates into his understanding of interpersonal relations in a society divided into the three God-given estates of church, household, and state.

Moreover, I will unfold how notions of sin and trust inform the social imaginary of Lutheran confessional culture and influence contemporary Lutheran theology. Sin and trust are central to the creation theology of K.E. Løgstrup, who explains trust as a spontaneous expression of created life which takes the sinner by surprise. Furthermore, recent interpretations of Luther’s theology have centred on faith as a gift of trust in the divine promise of forgiveness of sin, which has profound consequences for the Lutheran understanding of sociality.

Finally, I will investigate the influence of these notions on the high level of social trust, which characterises contemporary Danish society and preconditions the outstanding Scandinavian welfare systems. As essential components of Luther’s anthropology, the duality of sin and trust informs the Lutheran comprehension of authority, social responsibility, and duty, which might have shaped Danish welfare mentality. Luther expounds the human relationship to God as a relation of unconditional trust rather than a calculating and, thus, essentially distrustful quid pro quo-agreement and unfolds earthly power relations on the basis of this primary relation of trust. The unconditional character of this trust is necessitated by universal sin, which renders human beings unable to fulfil any conditions in order to secure their relation to God. In this way, Lutheran theology seems to paradoxically underline the utter sinfulness of human beings, while encouraging a culture of trust.