Monday, July 31, 2006

Undergraduate Papers Now Online


It is my pleasure to announce that I have now gathered together and posted online 5 papers from my undergraduate days at Wheaton College (Ill). These are papers that I still find interesting for one reason or another and I hope that some of you might find them interesting as well. To find them, you need simply look to the right frame and find the heading entitled “My Papers,” which, although it looks like a heading, is actually a link. Here are the titles of my papers. Perhaps some of them will prick your curiosity.

An Evangelical Doctrine of the Eucharist: Sacrament, Gospel and Witness

Melkizedek Through the Testaments

Paul and Apocalyptic: A Look at 1 Corinthians 15 and Romans 5

Final Essays from My Class on Karl Barth's Doctrine of Election

Reading Scripture: A Typology of Denominational Positions on the Question of Women in Ordained Ministry

Friday, July 28, 2006

An Essential Phrase

I came across the following sentance in my German exercises today and thought that it was just too good to keep to myself. It is my goal to use this sentance in a book review someday:

Das Gute an dem Buch ist nicht neu, und das Neue ist nicht gut.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

What Am I Reading? Peter Martyr Vermigli

Peter Martyr Vermigli, “Treatise on the Sacrament of the Eucharist,” pp. 1-125 in The Peter Martyr Library, vol. 7 (Translated and Edited by Joseph C. McLelland; Kirksville, Missouri: Truman State University Press, 2000).

If you are interested in biographical information on Vermigli, here is a decent place to start.

So far I have only scratched the surface of this treatise and this is my first foray into the world of this author, so I do not have very much to say about it yet. However, I am intimately acquainted with the broader eucharistic conflict of the Reformation and with the positions of Luther and Calvin on the matter, so I am not without perspective. Here are just a few points that I have noted so far:

(1) Calvin has been alluded to favorably while, as best as I can tell, Luther has been alluded too with less favor.

(2) Vermigli is adamant that the Holy Spirit does something during the Lord’s Supper, and he speaks of this most often as a form of ‘union’ or ‘joining’ with Christ. Also, I was pleased to note that Vermigli sets forth the logic that since our union with Christ is not corporeal but spiritual, so Christ’s presence in the elements is not corporeal but spiritual (cf. 14).

(3) Vermigli is well aware of the social impact of the Supper, noting that it instructs us to live a common life and that at the Supper we have present not only Christ’s body in the elements but in the gathered community (cf. 12).

(4) In Vermigli’s scheme of things, even though the Spirit is active in joining us to Christ during the Supper, this activity depends on the presence of our faith in a very serious way. This raises some warning lights for me, but given a broader systematic context it is not necessarily problematic (if the presence of faith in us is purely a matter of the work of the Spirit, then we have simply pushed the preceding activity of God back one step). Still, I will be looking for a properly asymmetrical account of the relationship between divine and human agency.

In many ways (but not necessarily in all the things listed above), Vermigli seems to be on the same page as Calvin on the issue. Finally, I will leave you with Vermigli’s own summary of his position:

“I declare that they [Christ’s body and blood] are truly given and offered to us, by both words and symbols, which signify them powerfully and most effectively. We truly receive in communicating when with full and solid assent of faith we grasp those things offered by the signification of words and signs. It follows that we are most closely joined to Christ; and whom we have obtained in baptism by the benefit of regeneration, him we put on still more and more by the sacrament of food, since nature provides that we are nourished by the same things of which we consist” (20).

Frequently Asked Questions, or, in place of an introduction…

(1) Who are you?

My name is W. Travis McMaken and I am entering my third and final year as an MDiv student at Princeton Theological Seminary. Incidentally, I took my BA in 2004 from Wheaton College (Ill) in Biblical and Theological Studies (with a concentration in Theology). I am married and my wife, Jess, recently accepted a job teaching kindergarten in the Upper Freehold Regional school district. If you need to know more about me because you want to award me an honorary degree, offer me a job, or for any other good reason, feel free to e-mail.

(2) What will I find here?

Only God knows. There will be no ranting. There will be no posts (at least I hope there will be no posts) laced with a prophetic posturing or displaying a savior complex. There will likely be little discussion of politics (my grandmother always taught me not to discuss religion and politics in polite company, and since I’m discarding the bit about not discussing religion, I’m going to try to stick to not discussing politics). Also, with any luck, this will be the last mention of ‘postmodernity’ (which I like to call ‘hypermodernity,’ but there won’t be a post on that either).

You can expect to find comments on passages of Scripture, information about books that I am reading or projects that I am working on, links to other helpful resources, etc. Also, links will be provided to an assortment of papers that I have written both in my time as an undergraduate and as an MDiv student. It is my hope that some of you might be bored or interested enough to read them and either give me any helpful feedback that you may have or pursue certain questions with me that have arisen out of your reading of my papers. I also hope that the papers will get progressively better from this moment on, but only time will tell.

(3) Why is your blog’s name in German?

First, one acquires a certain amount of intellectual cachet when one uses another language in conspicuous ways and far be it from me to surrender credibility that might be obtained through academic posturing. Second, I am currently studying German and one likes to show off knowledge that one has recently gained.

Third, and most importantly, the phrase ‘Der Evangelische Theologe’ does not directly translate into English, despite what your cognate-hungry mind may have otherwise suggested. It is true that directly translated into English this phrase reads, “The Evangelical Theologian.” What one must bear in mind, however, that the term ‘evangelical’ means something very different in Germany (and in Europe in general) than it does here in the USA. In the USA ‘evangelical’ has come to be synonymous with the religious right, conservative politics, a brand of spirituality and doctrine akin to fundamentalism, and sundry other (generally negative) characterizations. Yet, in Germany, ‘Evangelische’ means something similar to the word ‘Protestant.’ It refers to those churches, theologians, theologies, insights, etc that come to us out of the Magisterial Reformation. Thus, by naming this blog ‘Der Evangelische Theologe’ I do not proclaim my self-identification with an increasingly mainstream American religious subculture but with the understanding of the Gospel refined and proclaimed in the Reformation.

(4) Which theologians do you most like to read?

The three theologians occupying the bulk of my study are Karl Barth, John Calvin, and Thomas F. Torrance (not necessarily in that order of importance). Other authors abound but are most often read in service of these three.

(5) What theological loci are you most interested in?

My primary systematic focus thus far has been in Ecclesiology, and in Sacramentology in particular. I spent a great deal of time and energy thinking about the Lord’s Supper during my time at Wheaton College, and much of my time here at Princeton Theological Seminary has bee occupied with an investigation of Baptism. Research in these areas readily and frequently spills over into questions of Christology with which I have had cause to spend a great deal of time as well. One late coming interest has been the doctrine of the Trinity and, as one who endeavors to think systematically about Christian theology, most other loci have their place in my thinking as well. One point at which I have done little systematic thinking but much exegetical work is that of Eschatology.


Welcome, and please enjoy.


P.S. You may e-mail me at