Thursday, March 29, 2007

Ninth Annual Abraham Kuyper Prize Lecture: Dr. Richard J. Mouw

Note: The below are my notes from Dr. Mouw’s lecture. Hopefully they are an accurate representation, but I’m sure that I have shaped the content a bit with my reception. I hope that you find the material stimulating. For more information on the Kuyper Consultation going on today and tomorrow here at PTS, check out the Kuyper Center website.


Princeton Theological Seminary, Miller Chapel - Thursday, March 29, 2007 at 7:30 PM

“Culture, Church, and Civil Society: Kuyper for the New Century”

David Novak compared Barth to those who want Christianity to retreat into sectarian enclaves, and sees this as a weakness in Barth. He wished Barth had read Abraham Kuyper and learned from him, although Novak admits that Kuyper wasn’t in Barth’s theological league, witch is true. But there are other theological leagues, and Kuyper stands out as a giant in the league of public theology. Most of his output was produced on the run and his theological work was done closely with his public work in government and denominational controversy.

Two key themes that Kuyper held in tension: (1) radical antithesis between Christian and non-Christian thought, and (2) common grace. This antithesis was a vital part of his politics, using the first to rally his base and the second to urge support for political alliances.

Kuyper’s understanding of God’s lawful ordering of the universe was a very dynamic sort. Barth may not have gotten much out of this. Kuyper’s God is ever-present to his creation. These emphases are grounded in a robust theology of creation and a theology of redemption that takes seriously the notion of ‘creation regained.’ Christ’s mission is a kind of cleaning operation that concerned the full range of cultural reality.

Mouw is interested in a ‘Neo-Calvinist aggiornamento.’ We ought to work to appropriate the ‘Kuyperian impulse.’ We cannot forget that culture, civil society, government provide many valuable and life-supporting services that we cannot simply disregard. There is a difference between saying ‘fallen, but created’ (Kuyper) and ‘created, but fallen.’ God has not given up, even in the midst of a fallen world, on restoring creation. Christians work as agents in this restorative program. It is true that we run risks of becoming to intertwined with the broken systems of the world and of past church / state relationships, but at the same time, we cannot forget about God’s purposes for the whole world, including the state. Is the proper response in light of past errors to wash our hands of all engagement with civil society and government?

For Kuyper, even politics is grounded in God’s creative purposes and that it is not simply a remedial measure after the Fall. Though the family is the basic civil unit for Kuyper, he thought that this was intended to naturally extend into a broader hierarchical pattern, although one without sin. Some sort of collective decision-making would have been necessary for the advancement of a large group of people. Which side of the road would be driven on? When might one practice the tuba without fear of disturbing those who take a nap? God wants to give order by government.

‘Sphere Sovereignty’ needs some reworking but maintenance of two themes: (1) God has programmed the creature to display a marvelously complex diversity including a complex array of spheres of human interact, and (2) especially in sinful conditions we need to pay attention to the differences between these spheres.

‘Multiformity’ was necessary for creative life to flourish, as per Kuyper. In Genesis God wills that all life should multiple in keeping with its kind, and thus, the diversity of nature is to be upheld. This is part of God’s generosity. A healthy, God-honoring culture will be characterized by diversity, as well as diverse mediating structures that can nurture social identity and interaction between the individual and the state. These are a safe-guard both against individualism and a state-ism. Mediating structures, however, are not merely to be valued for their function, but God built these patterns into the very fabric of creation. The plurality of the spheres is ordained by God.

But, we must keep clear about the boundaries of these diverse spheres. One occupies different places in terms of authority or status and relationship in the various spheres, and relates to other people in those spheres in light of that status and relationship. But, these should be kept distinct, that is, one relates differently to you sibling in a business and a church than one does at home. At home, one must love and care for one’s sibling, but at church, one may need to excommunicate them. However, when one sphere is severely weakened, the others must fill in the gap and seek to repair the floundering sphere. For instance, in industrializing China and in our own culture these days, the church should take seriously the need to fill in for some of the functions of the family.

Some of Kuyper’s view on the family needs some rethinking. In Kuyper’s day, there were a handful of thick, coherent worldviews upon which families were based. In our day, worldviews are falling apart. Coherence and consistency seem not to be valued traits, especially in terms of worldview. People think that it is appropriate to move in and out between the various worldviews, holding to many and none at the same time, and switching frequently. Church-shopping is part of this problem. Whereas Kuyper put emphasis on parental choice to establish children in these various ‘pillars’ (worldviews), this breaks down in our day of fractured families. We should focus on fundamental issues. We are experiencing sphere-shrinkage and worldview deterioration. What we need is sphere-repair and worldview nurturing. This will require a lot of concerted engagement with society in terms especially of educational policy.

We must ask three question: (1) What is God doing in the world? (2) What must the church do to align itself with what God is doing in the world? (3) What must the church’s schools do to align themselves with the church who aligns itself with what God is doing in the world?

How can theological schools equip the church, which should equip its people, which should equip society? The church must compensate for the weakness of the family sphere at the moment, as it must with reference to other spheres and areas of concerns that are not strictly speaking items in the church’s original sphere responsibility. The problem is not simply that the church was too closely aligned to the state, but with the ecclesiology that enabled it. It was an assumption that the church could only express itself in one form and one institution. Thus, it was necessary to break the church into many fragments. For all the problems caused by a divided Christianity, Kuyper thought it necessary for the vitality of Christian life and societal life. In this form, each group engages from its own strength. It also helps to ensure that the church does not become too powerful. Keeping with this, Kuyper wanted the theological schools to be independent of both state and ecclesial structures.

What Kuyper understood to be the ecclesial sphere is remarkably weak today. Those Christians these days who seem to be Christian leaders are not church leaders – what body has commissioned them? There is room to strengthen ecclesial structures in our society. Lacking Christian social groups and political parties, the church can pick up some of the slack in this area. The church should take on an intentional sphere-spanning ministry of nurture. There is not now a solid base of those who knows what it means to be a Christian on which other Christian social organizations to draw upon, and it is the task of the church to address this. Much of our ecclesial work must be concerned with spiritual formation.

Kuyper recognizes that we cannot function in the various spheres as Christian without a sense of nearness to God that is grounded in the nurturing life of the local church.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Schleiermacher on Natural Religion

Schleiermacher on Natural Religion

Friedrich Schleiermacher, On Religion: Speeches to its Cultured Despisers (Edited by Richard Crouter; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

“In the actual realm of religion, in its particular forms, in the positive religions that you decry as merely negative, among the heroes and martyrs of a specific faith, among the enthusiasts of specific feelings, among the worshipers of a specific light and individual revelations; there I shall show them to you at all times and among all peoples. Moreover, it is only there, nowhere else, that they can be met. Just as no human being can come into existence as an individual without simultaneously, through the same act, also coming into a world, into a definite order of things, and being placed among individual objects, so also a religious person cannot attain his individuality without, through the same act, also dwelling in a determinate form of religion. Both are the effect of one and the same moment, and therefore one cannot be separated from the other. If a person’s original intuition of the universe does not have enough strength to make itself the focal point of personal religion around which everything in religion moves, then neither is its attraction strong enough to initiate the process of a unique and vigorous religious life.

Now that I have given you this account, tell me how it is with this personal development and individualization in your celebrated natural religion. Show me among its adherents an equally great multiplicity of strongly delineated characters!…Religion plays far too paltry a role in their mind. It is as if religion had no pulse of its own, no unique vascular system, no unique circulation, and thus also no temperature of its own and no assimilative power for itself and no character; it is everywhere intermingled with their ethical life and their natural sentimentality; in combination with these, or rather, meekly following them, religion moves indolently and sparingly and as a sign of its existence it is only occasionally separated out from them drop by drop. To be sure, I have encountered many a noteworthy and strong religious character whom the adherents of the positive religions, not without being astonished at the phenomenon, passed off as an adherent of natural religion. Yet upon closer inspection the adherents of natural religion no longer recognized this individual as one of their own; he had already swerved somewhat from the original purity of rational religion and had taken up something arbitrary and positive into his own religion, which the former adherents simply did not recognize because it was too very different from their own. Why do they immediately mistrust every person who brings something unique into his religion? They simple want them all to be uniform – I mean only contrasted to extreme on the one side, the sectarians – uniform in indeterminacy. Particular personal development is so unthinkable in natural religion that its most authentic devotees do not even like the religion of a person to have its own history and begin with a notable event. That is already too much for them, for moderation is their chief interest in religion, and a person who is able to say such things about himself immediately comes under the suspicion of being disposed toward a loathsome fanaticism." (Speech 5, 108-9)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Annual PTS Used Book Sale - 2007 Edition

Each year, the Stewardship and Mission Committee here at Princeton Theological Seminary organizes a used book sale, the proceeds of which go to benefit seminaries around the world. Check out the official PTS press release about this year’s sale.

Anyway, the book sale is one of the highlights of my year. The prices are great, and, the PTS community gets a special ‘preview’ of the goods. What that means is, before the used book dealers show up, all we students get to snatch up the best volumes. I only bought one or two volumes my first year here at PTS. Last year I picked up three or four. But, this year was different. While I didn’t go nearly as crazy as some of my colleagues, who were eagerly filling boxes with God knows what little gems they were finding, I did score a nice batch. Here they are in the order that they were stacked when I paid for them:
  • Hans Kung, The Church
  • Gerhard Ebeling, Luther: An introduction to his thought
  • Paul Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther
  • Hans Kung, Christianity: Essence, History, and Future
  • Ludwig Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity
  • Christopher Elwood, Calvin for Armchair Theologians
  • St. Augustine, City of God
  • Timothy Renick, Aquinas for Armchair Theologians
  • Max Thurian (ed), Ecumentical Perspectives on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry
  • Max Thurian (ed), Churches Respond to BEM, vol. 2

As you can see, it was a Roman Catholic theology, Lutheran theology, and generally ecumenical theology haul for me. But, that’s fine with me. In fact, I’m quite excited about the two volumes dealing with BEM. These titles have been added to my online library catalog at LibraryThing, a great service that I recommend to you all. So, go browse my library and post in the comments here to let me know what you think of my library in general or of this particular set of books.

Also, my wife, a kindergarten teacher, scored a nice haul of childrens’ books as well. The book sale has everything from theology to biblical studies to history to childrens’ books to fiction and literature, etc. If you are in the area and like to score cheap used books, come check it out. Maybe you’ll see me doing further rummaging in the days to come.

UPDATE: I swung through the sale again on this beautiful Tuesday morning and picked up the following two gems:
  • William Lazareth, Growing Together in Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry: A study Guide
  • Richard Jungkuntz, The Gospel of Baptism
  • Paul Empie and James McCord (eds), Marburg Revisited: A Reexamination of Lutheran and Reformed Traditions

Thursday, March 22, 2007

2007 Warfield Lectures: Lecture 6 - "Workings of the Spirit"

It is finally over. Chris' notes and comments on Dr. Tanner's final Warfield lecture, entitled, "Workings of the Spirit", are avialable over at Disruptive Grace. Be sure to check it out.

This week has been tiring, but very stimulating and very rewarding. I'm glad that David, Chris and I were able to blog the whole of the series. Hopefully we can pull off a similar feat next year.

2007 Warfield Lectures: Lecture 5 – "Death and Sacrifice"

Lecture Notes

In this lecture, Tanner intended to develop the claims made in her Jesus, Humanity, and the Trinity. Her intent is to show how incarnation helps us revise traditional explanations of the cross’ significance in ways that do justice to womanist and feminist citicism of traditional atonement theories.

The first third (or so) of the lecture was a sketch of traditional theories of the atonement (moral influence, Christus victor, penal substitution, vicarious satisfaction, and happy exchange), and the critiques leveled against them by womanist and feminist theology. Most readers of this blog are familiar enough with contemporary theology that I need not repeat all this. Tanner proposes an incarnational view of the atonement, such that the incarnation becomes the mechanism of the atonement, replacing the satisfaction and substitution mechanisms, and providing a mechanism for the victor and exchange models.

It is in virtue of the incarnation that humanity is saved, first Christ’s humanity and then those united to Christ. The life-giving powers of Christ’s own nature are brought to bear on humanity’s sin through the incarnation. It is easy to see a connection to the exchange model here, and thus its connection to penal substitution is broken. As a result of the incarnation the properties of human life become the alien properties of the Word, and the properties of the Word become the alien properties of human life in a way that saves humanity from sin and death.

Legal and contractual understandings of the mechanism of the atonement are removed. God’s saving act doesn’t follow Christ’s death the way release follows the payment of a debt. This is to make God active only after the important point. Instead, God is taking saving action from the very first. What happens on the cross does not evoke God’s acting to save, but those saving acts flow to the humanity of Christ by virtue of communion with God, and this communion is prior to the meeting of any conditions. What happens on the cross is a precondition for salvation in some sense, but not in legal or contractual means. If the powers of the Word are to reach humanity in the condition of sin and death, the Word must enter into those conditions.

This also undercuts the sense of vicariousness in the substitution and vicarious models. Jesus acts on our behalf but does not take our place. Christ is our substitute because of the kinship established in the incarnation. Jesus does not take on the condition of guilt before the law – this is not what ‘died for us’ means.

Feminist and womanist theological concerns are addressed because no value is placed on suffering, and no ultimate value on self-sacrifice. God’s gift-giving nature is emphasized. There is something saving about the cross, but not in death and suffering per se. Death and suffering is clearly recognized as what we are saved from, and we can give real attention to the political and religious circumstances of Jesus death as conditions which he came to heal. Nothing specific to the character of Christ’s going to the cross is a real condition for what is saving on the cross in any sense that the rest of Christ’s life is a condition.

What about images of sacrifice in particular? Sacrificial imagery in the NT is very complex and contains material based on OT and Jewish cult. This cultic connection with Jesus’ death is quite understandable, and Christ’s death can be understood as communion sacrifice. There is also reference to non-cultic but moral sacrifice. Many of the standard atonement models distort the notion of sacrifice. Contractual models are a case in point. There is no legal connotation of the sacrificial act – the point is not the change God’s wrath to mercy but to remove sin in a way that God who wants fellowship provides. The rite trades on God’s unbroken faithfulness to be with us. Propitiation is not the point – God simply wants to reinstate God’s people to full communion and this is what God tells them to do to that end. Sacrifice is about the establishment of communion and how community is to be organized.

Modern atonement theories read modern notions of sacrifice into the NT. Sacrifice for us is a primarily non-cultic act involving self-renunciation. Ancient sacrifices end in communion with God. The point is not giving up something (the ones sacrificing tend to eat the animals offered) but the return to God of a prior gift from God. Expiatory cult is concerned with the reinstatement of fellowship with God. Atonement theories tend to overemphasize the death part of sacrifice. Death is not the center of the rites. When sacrifices are viewed as establishing and maintaining community with God, killing an animal has the sense of killing an animal in order to be eaten, and when the animal is not eaten but burnt this is God’s portion of the food. What expiates in these rights is not death per se, but the blood poured out in the sacrifice. The blood is important for its life-giving power, which reinstates fellowship.

One must also be mindful of how the cross is not a sacrifice. It was a political execution of a subversive. When sacrificial language is applied here, it means something novel. We must pay attention to the differences in meaning between Christ’s sacrifice and normal sacrifice. Understood as an act of redemption following from God’s decision to be incarnate, which is understood in turn as a correlate of God’s wanting communion with us, God’s saving action takes center stage. God is sacrificing there for us and our salvation. It is not a work done by humans directed to God, but is an act from God directed to human existence. The whole activity is God’s. God’s substitution of himself undercuts human self-renunciation. We don’t have to sacrifice something of ourselves.

Of course, the one who is killed is the human being Jesus. The right is performed to and for the human in its circumstances of suffering and death. Any sacrifice addresses sin or impurity. God rather than human beings performs the rite of expiation for our sake. The humanity of Jesus is the sacrifice, but to sacrifice is to make sacred or holy. This is the point of the right, directed at humans in the ugliness of their sinful existence. This sanctification is not identified with death but with life. The ‘how’ of this sacrifice is the life-giving power of the Word, not death. This is the power that sanctifies Jesus’ humanity, raising him from the dead and establishing community with his disciples. Death / sin / rejection / conflict are all transferred to God in and through the incarnation.

Sacrifices are acts done in order to have human union with God. It gives us access to God. But here God in virtue of the incarnation cleaves to us before the performance of any expiatory sacrifice on the cross. The sacrifice is not a condition of communion with God.

Conclusion: Humans are not to offer sacrifices to God. Instead God makes gifts to us for use on our behalf to which we are thankful through sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Jesus’ life is such a sacrifice. By putting these gifts to use for ourselves and others, we become living sacrifices sanctified in the lives we live for life. Since God needs nothing but wants to give all, humans make a proper sacrifice by using what God gives us (life enhancing powers of the Word) for human benefit. Service to the neighbor becomes the reality of sacrifice to God.


Again, I will be brief, even though the criticism that I will offer here are very serious in my mind.

The first of my concern has to do with the themes of expiation and sin. Tanner at one point discusses expiation to some degree, but primarily in order to nudge it away from any notion of God’s wrath. While it is true that God acts lovingly toward us from the very first, this love takes the form of wrath when met with sin on our part. The expiatory work of Christ is, then, to bear this wrath and bear it away such that, in him, we no longer live under God’s wrathful judgment. What Tanner seems to lack is a strong sense of sin as human hostility toward God (as opposed to sin as lack of fellowship) and of Christ’s work as expiatory in the strong sense of bearing God’s wrath against sin and sinners.

Tanner’s lack of attention to the expiatory work of Christ in this strong sense leads me into my second concern, which has to do with the righteousness of Christ that secures salvation for us. For Tanner, it is God’s activity in Christ that is important. Christ’s human activity doesn’t seem to secure anything for us in the active sense. It seems to be present only for the sake of being acted upon. Traditionally, this is spoken of as Christ’s passive obedience. But, we have to remember Christ’s active obedience. This is key because, for Calvin and for the dominant strand of the Reformation, it is Christ’s active obedience that vicariously earns salvation on our behalf. This need not be understood in a contractual or legal sense (indeed, TF Torrance gives us this conception in an ontological sense), but it guards against a very specific problem that Tanner seems to be flirting with, namely, the notion that the righteousness that we gain from Christ is ‘essential righteousness’ in the Osiandrian sense of our being granted a part in the ontological righteousness that belongs to Christ’s divine nature. It is one thing to say that we have communion with Got through the Spirit’s uniting us to Christ’s human nature, which the Spirit has united with the divine nature, which naturally participates in the Trinity. It is quite another thing to argue that we in some sense come to possess, even through grace, some facet of divine essence. Tanner seems to get very close to this with all her talk of the divine life-giving powers becoming our own alien properties.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

2007 Warfield Lectures: Lecture 3 - "Trinitarian Life"

David has posted his notes and comments on Dr. Tanner's third Warfield lecture. This is the half-way point. Stay tuned for the rest!

2007 Warfield Lectures: Lecture 2 – “Grace without Nature”

Lecture Notes

In the opening lecture of the series, Dr. Tanner set about developing a theological anthropology that did away with the notion of a human nature as independent from relation to God, a ‘pure nature’. She tried to show how a self-contained human nature dissolves when human life is understood as created in the image of Christ. This said, What does grace now become? Grace has always been understood in relation to nature, and if we do away with this ‘nature’, then how do we conceive of grace?

Tanner casts her discussion of these manners in terms of a conversation with the work of De Lubac, which Tanner takes to be basically Thomistic. An important aspect of this exploration is the idea of an innate desire for God. This is one way to keep from making grace to be simply an add-on to human nature. However, to frame things in this way is to reintroduce a notion of ‘pure nature’. Grace seems like a requirement for human life and human life looks like nothing without grace. The general response here is a distinction between desire and attainment. However, this returns to naturalism in that it makes desire intelligible on its own terms even if it were never satisfied. It also removes the gratuity of grace because we are understood to be created to receive grace. We could suggest that God might simply withhold this grace that we were created to receive, but this reintroduces a pure nature because we must then be able to conceive of humanity without the gift of grace.

A Thomistic account of natural desire for God, because of its Aristotelian baggage, suggest that humans are moving toward God on the basis of natural capacities. This is naturalism even if the final attainment requires God’s activity. We can know something of God even if not everything of God on the basis of our own power. Thus, the gift of grace (even in knowledge of God) comes off as an appendage. The natural desire for God amounts to a human dynamism moving toward God, and you get the notion of a series of progressive human states. It is hard to see the radical character of the gap between what we are and what we are given in Christ on such a model. The supernatural end is seen as simply the elevation of human nature.

The underlying problem here is the idea that a natural desire from God arises in human nature on its own apart from the gift of grace. Naturalism assumes that these desires, in so far as they are natural, can be satisfied by natural powers. This establishes an unbroken trajectory from creation to grace. But, Tanner wants to argue, that we have no natural desire for God apart from God’s gift of himself to us. We don’t move towards God on our own apart from a prior gift of God’s own self. This is not a secondary addition to human nature but is built-in to how humanity is created. The human nature never exists independently of God’s self-giving.

Retention of a desire for God in a state of sin would thus be the product of the continued existence of the original offer of grace. We turn away from the light without the light being withdrawn from us. Still, this gift of God’s self to us is not natural to us because God is foreign to us precisely because we are not divine. The Spirit of God is proper to humanity only through the gift of Christ’s flesh, which is united to the Logos. It remains alien to us. We are elevated beyond nature in salvation to participate in eternal life, a part of God’s life, which we cannot participate in by nature. This gift of God is ‘naturally’ ours in so far as this gift is to be our state of existence. It is first and constantly offered to us. What it means to be human is to live in the enjoyment of the alien gift of God’s self. The loss of the gift of God’s self creates an unnatural state in us, manifest by the ensuing suffering, i.e., the sinful condition.

We are given the Spirit from the start when we are created, but this does not mean that Christ brings nothing more. Before Christ we were at best spirit-filled humans. After the Word become incarnate, the Spirit becomes proper to humanity in a way that it was not before because humanity has been united to the Logos. The Spirit is still alien to our natures but it becomes proper to us as members of Christ’s body. We are lifted up with the humanity of Christ to enjoy the inter-trinitarian relations. As long as we are united with Christ we cannot loose the Spirit because we have it by nature – but according to Christ’s nature and not our own nature. The grace in Christ’s coming has to do with sin, for through our union with Christ we will finally not be able to sin. We are given in Christ a new constitution in relation to God in virtue of the hypostatic union that keeps us safe from sin. Thus, the integrity of human nature is secured.

In Christ we see perfectly what the divine Spirit means for human life that is conformed to the likeness of the Logos. What Christ has done for us in himself becomes ours insofar as we are one with him. What Christ has in his humanity is given to ours – the Spirit. We are first united to Christ’s humanity through the power of the Spirit. Then, joined to him, Christ gives his Spirit to us as the power by which we are to be made over into the image of Christ’s sanctified humanity. Our own human lives are gradually sanctified as we feed of the Spirit. What is alien to us is nevertheless imparted to us, even as it remains alien. Christ is in us as something other than ourselves.

This is a Christological soteriology. Christ is not the means of benefits, but is the benefits: we don’t gain benefits through him, but have the benefits in him. We never move beyond Christ’s humanity as the ideal for our own lives.


Here, I must necessarily be brief. The truth is that I have heard far too little to be able to make any particularly helpful criticisms, although my colleagues here at PTS will readily admit that I have been making plenty of provisional criticisms over the past few days in the spirit of rousing repartee. There is certainly much in Tanner’s formulations that is alluring. Her anthropology is clearly intended to be Christocentric, even if we might wonder (and on this I’m referring back to the first lecture) if it is not really the divine Logos in an abstract sense that is the image of God which we reflect in a way mediated by the human nature of Christ. Also, although Tanner makes a number of moves to try to avoid the following possibility, it is hard to see how grace can continue to be gratuitous when it is always already given in and with creation.

But, most importantly in my mind, I would like to know whether or not Tanner has an account of election working in the back of her mind. This would lead to the further question of whether she is operating more in keeping with an infralapsarian or a supralapsarian pattern. All of this goes, of course, to the vitally important relation of creation to covenant, nature to grace. Although, to be perfectly fair, Tanner is attempting to overcome this dichotomy – hence the title of this lecture: “Grace without Nature”. But, is she finally simply building grace into nature?

Stay tuned for more!

Monday, March 19, 2007

2007 Warfield Lectures: Lecture 1 - "In the Image of the Invisible"

David Congdon has posted his notes and comments on the first Warfield lecture by Dr. Tanner. Be sure to head over there and check it out – he has done a good job with this first one. Hopefully we can live up to his high standard.

Anyway, I have included a few pictures I took at the first lecture below. I’m sorry for the poor quality, but I was trying not to use the flash and it was a very dimly lit room. The Seminary will undoubtedly post some very high quality photos on their website in the coming weeks, so watch for those. Here are comments on the photos in order of appearance.
  • The podium to be occupied by Dr. Tanner over the course of the week, with Dr. Warfield’s portrait above.
  • An excited student preparing for the lecture.
  • President Iain Torrance introducing Dr. Tanner.
  • David and his wife Amy, both hard at work.
  • An attentive student.
  • Dr. Tanner, lecturing.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

2007 Warfield Lectures: Introduction

Named in honor of Annie Kinkead Warfield, the wife of of B. B. Warfield - the last great member of the ‘Old Princeton School’ of North American Presbyterian theology, each year Princeton Theological Seminary welcomes an esteemed Christian theologian and / or intellectual to present a series of lectures. This year, Dr. Kathryn Tanner will be delivering the Warfield lectures beginning at 7:00 PM on Monday, and continuing until after the final lecture Thursday evening.

About Dr. Tanner (excerpted from the Chicago Div. School webpage): “Kathryn Tanner does constructive Christian theology in the Protestant tradition, with the intent of addressing contemporary challenges to belief through the creative use of both the history of Christian thought and interdisciplinary methods, such as critical, social, and feminist theory.”

It is my pleasure to announce that David Congdon (DC, Fire and Rose), Chris TerryNelson (CTN, Disruptive Grace), and myself (WTM) will be posting notes and comments on these lectures throughout the coming week. These notes and comments will be posted as soon as possible after the lecture in question.

Dr. Tanner’s Warfield lecture series is entitled, “Christ as Key.” Below are the specifics of the schedule, topics, and an indication of which of your dedicated PTS theo-bloggers will be covering a particular lecture. The below will also serve as an index to the lectures as the blog posting associated with each lecture is linked in.

  1. “In the Image of the Invisible” (Monday, March 19, 7:00 PM) – DC

  2. “Grace Without Nature” (Tuesday, March 20, 1:15 PM) - WTM

  3. “Trinitarian Life” (Tuesday, March 20, 7:00 PM) - DC

  4. “Kingdom Come” (Wednesday, March 21, 7:00 PM) - CTN

  5. “Death and Sacrifice” (Thursday, March 22, 1:15 PM) - WTM

  6. “Workings of the Spirit” (Thursday, March 22, 7:00 PM) - CTN

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

McGrath on Torrance on Natural Theology

Alister McGrath, Thomas F. Torrance: An Intellectual Biography (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1999).
“Torrance explicitly critiques the notion of analogia entis - the idea, especially associated with Thomas Aquinas, that there exists some intrinsic likeness between creator and creation arising from the creative action of God. The fact that there exists some form of correspondence between the creator and creation is not due to an inherent relation of likeness, but to the free and gracious decision of God that some such correspondence shall exist. We are thus dealing with an analogia gratiae rather than an analogia entis. There is no intrinsic capacity on the part of nature to convey God, nor is the created element as such part of the content of revelation. For Torrance, revelation must be understood to be self-revelation of God.

"It will thus be clear that Torrance considers a ‘natural theology’ which regards itself as independent of God’s self0revealation as a serious challenge to Christian theology. Natural theology has a place under the aegis of revelation, not outside it. In its improper mode, a ‘natural theology’ is an approach to theology which leads to the introduction of ‘natural’ or ‘commonsense’ concepts into theology without first establishing the warrant for doing so on the basis of revelation. In this sense of the term, Barth was entirely justified in critiquing natural theology…

"In this sense, ‘natural theology’ must be regarded as a serious threat to responsible Christian theology.” (190)
“It will be clear that Torrance’s careful discussion of the manner in which the creation can be said to have revelatory potential opens the way to some very significant developments. Torrance insists that creation can only be held to ‘reveal’ God from the standpoint of faith. Nevertheless, to one who has responded to revelation (and thus who recognizes nature as God’s creation, rather than an autonomous and self-created entity), the creation now has potential to point to the creator. The theologian who is thus a natural scientist (or vice versa) is thus in a position to make some critically important correlations. While the neutral observer of the natural cannot, according to Torrance, gain meaningful knowledge of God, another observer, aided by divine revelation, will come to very different conclusions.” (192)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Dark Energy / Matter and, Can we Reconcile Quantum Theory with General Relativity?

I don’t very often post links, but I couldn’t pass this one up. The New York Times has recently published an extensive article entitled “Out There” (by Richard Panek) that explores the contemporary condition of cosmological physics and our best understandings of the universe, which – as it turns out – may turn out to be rather misguided. Of course, I am no authority on these matters so I cannot pass judgment. But, you should read this article. Here is a bit of text that I found enticing:
‘Time to get serious.’ The PowerPoint slide, teal letters popping off a black background, stared back at a hotel ballroom full of cosmologists. They gathered in Chicago last winter for a “New Views of the Universe” conference, and Sean Carroll, then at the University of Chicago, had taken it upon himself to give his theorist colleagues their marching orders. "There was a heyday for talking out all sorts of crazy ideas,” Carroll, now at Caltech, recently explained. That heyday would have been the heady, post-1998 period when Michael Turner might stand up at a conference and turn to anyone voicing caution and say, “Can’t we be exuberant for a while?” But now has come the metaphorical morning after, and with it a sobering realization: Maybe the universe isn’t simple enough for dummies like us humans. Maybe it’s not just our powers of perception that aren’t up to the task but also our powers of conception. Extraordinary claims like the dawn of a new universe might require extraordinary evidence, but what if that evidence has to be literally beyond the ordinary?…whatever it is that dark energy involves, we know it’s not “normal,” either. In that case, maybe this next round of evidence will have to be not only beyond anything we know but also beyond anything we know how to know.”

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Karl Barth on the Sabbath

Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics III/4, 69.
“The Church must not allow itself to become dull, nor its services dark and gloomy. It must be claimed by, and proclaim, the lordship of God in the kingdom of His dear Son rather than the lordship of the devil or capitalism or communism or human folly and wickedness in general. It must still see its responsibility towards its members and the world in the fact that when it is assembled there always sounds out the judging, attacking, critical, yet clear and unambiguous Yes of God to man. Who otherwise will believe it when it says that the holy day is made the day of joy for men and therefore the day of God?”

Friday, March 09, 2007

Calvin on Theology and Taverns

John Calvin, sermon delivered on June 19, 1555 on Deuteronomy 5:11, in John Calvin’s Sermons on the Ten Commandments (Edited and translated by Benjamin W. Farley; Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2007), 95.

“Today…do men not give themselves a license when they speak about the name of God in their imagination? And when they enter into dispute with the holy Scripture in the shadow of a mug of wine; in taverns, and by tables, do they humble themselves and acknowledge their ignorance and weakness and ask from God [the gift] of his holy Spirit in order that his secrets might be shared with us as it ought to be? No! Rather their discussions there are a mockery and expose that there is not only a dearth of religion in the world today but scarcely any [feeling of] need for it as well.”


Index: Book Reviews

This post serves as an index for my posts reviewing books. It will contain those posts in my "What Am I Reading?" series, as well as other miscellaneous reviews.


What Am I Reading?

7.27.06 -> Peter Martyr Vermigli, "Treatise on the Eucharist"
8.22.06 -> John Webster, Barth's Moral Theology
9.7.06 -> T.F. Torrance, Divine and Contingent Order
9.28.06 -> George Hunsinger, How to Read Karl Barth
10.19.06 -> Karl Barth, Letters, 1961-1968
11.27.06 -> T.F. Torrance, Trinitarian Faith
1.19.07 -> Eberhard Jüngel, God's Being is in Becoming
2.27.07 -> Eberhard Jüngel, Karl Barth: A Theological Legacy
9.24.07 -> Jürgen Moltmann, Experiences in Theology
9.26.11 -> Rosalind Marshall, John Knox

Other Reviews

- Barth, Karl, Evangelical Theology: An Introduction
- Elwood, Christopher, Calvin for Armchair Theologians
- Forde, Gerhard, On Being a Theologian of the Cross
- Hunsinger, George (Ed), For the Sake of the World
- Noll, Mark and Carolyn Nystrom, Is the Reformation Over?
- Sider, Ron The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Niebuhr on Internal / External History

My next-door neighbor, Justin P. Farrell, is a junior (first year student) here at Princeton Theological Seminary. I have been trying to get him to start a blog ever since I met him, but to no avail. However, he has given me permission to post the short reflection found below. So, meet Justin theo-blogosphere, and welcome to theo-blogging Justin!


In the latter part of Chapter Two of H. Richard Niebuhr's The Meaning of Revelation he distinguishes between two ways of looking at history-- internal and external. The goal of this short paper will be to introduce this ‘paradox,’ and then offer one way that we can relate the external to the internal in a manner that is beneficial to one's Christian life.

Niebuhr is concerned with understanding revelation in regards to our lived history (internal), and claims "revelation must be looked for in the events that have happened to us, which live in our memory.”[1] However, he does not simply rely solely on our experiences, he also claims that we must ask "ourselves how this history relates to the external accounts of our life."[2] Therefore, a tension is established between lived internal history and 'objective' external history.

In an effort to synthesize or dissolve this tension (if that is even possible), I wish to purpose a functional relationship that I believe Neibuhr is getting at toward the end of chapter two. External, or 'objective' history offers valuable commentary on our internal experiences. They both work in a system of reciprocation that I believe can work together for one's future progress. That is, a person can in a way internalize external events such as Christian anti-Semitism in order to help shape that person’s future internal experience. In a sense, external histories can become part of our internal history. There is space where they come into conversation. I believe this can begin a healthy process that recognizes the importance of where one comes from in their history, as well as where one should go as they seek out God's revelation for their life.

[1] H. Richard Niebuhr, The Meaning of Revelation, Louisville, KY, 2006, page 42.

[2] Ibid.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Francis Turretin’s Ecclesiology: 18.3

Francis Turretin’s Ecclesiology: 18.3

Third Question: The Members of the Church – Besides the elect, are the reprobates and infidels (whether secret or open) also true members of the church of Christ? We deny against the Romanists.

The fundamental theme to this section, which is hard to miss because Turretin repeats it so often, is that we must consider the church with reference to its external constitution and with reference to its internal constitution. He sets up his discussion by hammering this home:
“On the statement of the question we remark…that the church can be regarded either as to its external or its internal state. The external answers to the external call by the word, upon which depends the external form of the church, placed in a profession of faith or an external and sensible communion of the same sacred things. The internal answers to the internal and efficacious call by the word and Spirit, which constitutes its essential and internal form in the communion of faith or the mystical union of believers with Christ by faith and with each other by love. The question is not whether the reprobate belong to the external state (which we do not deny), but to the internal state (which we do deny)” (p. 11).
In this we see a very fundamental point, namely, that predestination cannot be separated from effectual call. We can tease this out a bit more by leaving Turretin’s linear argument for a moment. Election and effectual call are intimately linked in that the effectual call “is nothing else than the execution and fruit of eternal election” (p. 15). It is interesting to contrast this with Barth, for whom the history of Jesus Christ is the execution (and content) of election. I could pontificate at this point about the products of divergent theological starting points, but I will spare you all that. The interesting thing is that this union of election and effectual call gives Turretin a way of excluding from the church (internally considered) those who may at some future point be identified as elect on the basis of some yet-to-happen moment of effectual call.
“It is one thing for the elect and predestined alone to be members of the church (which we hold); another for election alone to be sufficient to constitute a member of the church (which we deny), since with election is required effectual calling, which is the effect of election” (p. 22).
Back to Turretin’s linear argument. The bulk of this section is given over to arguments for why Turretin’s position is right (not a big surprise), and these fall into eleven categories. First, since the church is the body of Christ, only “those which are animated by the life of the head” can be said to be members (p. 13). Second, the church is the bride of Christ, to which the same logic applies. Also, third, the church is like a sheepfold, and only those who hear and follow Christ’s voice are allowed in. Fourth, the church is the house of God made of ‘living’ and not ‘dead’ stones. Fifth, Turretin elaborates on the relation of effectual calling and election. The sixth argument concerns the images of the day of judgment, and Turretin equates the church that will make it into heaven with the true church. Seventh, the church is the communion of the saints (based on the Creed), and to be a saint requires “a holiness real and internal” such that “a Christian is not said to be holy from his external profession only, but from internal truth” (p. 17), which the reprobate do not have. Eighth, the reprobate belong to the kingdom and body of the devil and thus cannot belong to the kingdom and body of Christ, the church. Ninth, Turretin produces some quotations of Jesus to support his point. Tenth, the true church are those who receive the benefits of the covenant of grace. And, finally, eleventh (!), Turretin produces support from Clement of Alexandria, Cyprian, Ambrose, Gregory the Great, Jerome and “above all others Augustine” (p. 20).

One concluding point of interest is Turretin’s brief discussion of how baptism factors into all this:
“All baptized persons internally and externally are members of the true church because they put on Christ in baptism and are baptized into one body. But there is not the same relation of reprobates and the wicked, who are indeed baptized externally, but not internally (to wit, with water to wash away the filth of the flesh, but not with the Spirit for the purgation of sin; by a visible symbol, but not by the invisible thing signified)” (p. 22).