Tuesday, June 30, 2009

2009 Barth Blog Conference: Update

I've been very busy with non-blog stuff lately, but that doesn't mean that the 2009 Barth Blog Conference is not making progress. Here is the schedule as it now stands:
  • Day 1: Introduction (yours truly)

  • Day 2: Calvin and Barth on the Exegesis of Romans 1.18-20 (yours truly; response by Jason Ingalls)

  • Day 3: Exegeting Romans 1: A Critical Appraisal (title tentative: Shane Wilkins)

  • Day 4: Barth’s Exegesis of Romans 1 in his 2nd Edition of Romans (title tentative: David Congdon; response by Halden Doerge)

  • Day 5: Resurrection in Barth’s Rejection of Natural Theology: Romans 1.4 in Barth’s 2nd Edition of Romans (title tentative: Nathan Hitchcock, University of Edinburgh; Response by John Drury)

  • Day 6: Barth’s Exegesis in the Shorter Commentary on Romans (title tentative: Shannon Smythe, Princeton Theological Seminary)
I'm planning on holding the conference in late August. But, there are still a couple slots open for responses. If you are interested in supplying a response, please contact me ASAP, whether by e-mail or by a comment on this post. Remember that responses are very minimal commitments - all I ask is 500-750 words - so don't hesitate to sign up.

I'm looking forward to another great Barth Blog conference!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

PTS Barth Conference: Over

And, that's a wrap! Another successful Barth conference. Clifford Anderson and his team of mis-fit conference organizers (who did a great job, despite being misfits!) have done it again, and deserve our thanks. Next year's theme will be Barth and Mission.

In terms of this morning's activities, Boulton's presentation this morning was especially well done, and provocative in its own way. I am looking forward to reading his book (mentioned in the previous post) sometime later this summer. Perhaps Darren will provide some comments on his talk. The closing pannel discussion unfortunately produced no real fireworks, but it did provide a context for the various speakers to address each other (and be addressed by the conference attendance as a whole) and find some common ground.

As has been the case every year, the part of this conference that will endure with me is that time spent with others outside of the organizes sessions (although those sessions are necessary to get such a great group of people together). It is great to have an opportunity like this to meet and spent time with scholars from around the world. Aside from the usual PTS crowd, I was happy to spend some time with Matthew Boulton, Mark Lindsay, Ben Myers, Paul Nimmo, and others.

PTS Barth Conference: Day 4 Dawns

The last day of the conference is upon us. I dropped the ball yesterday in terms of substantive coverage, at least for the most part. Luckily for all of us, Darren as a couple of posts` up covering such things. One thing that Darren wasn’t able to cover was Mark Lindsay’s talk last evening. I was there, but I was in charge of audio recording the talk and so did not take notes. But, here are a few recollections.

Mark’s talk was on Markus Barth’s treatment of Israel, with tangential reference to Karl as well. Mark showed that Markus (fun with alliteration) advocated a position of critical solidarity of Christians with Jews and with the modern state of Israel. Markus held this position for exegetical and theological reasons, which boiled down finally to the fact that Jesus was a Jew. But, Markus’ solidarity was highly critical, and Mark related a number of political and military events in the life of the state of Israel that Markus condemned. The Q&A saw, among other things, an interesting exchange between Mark and Ben Myers, the latter of which pushed the former on whether the holocaust can be considered as the bearer of greater theological significance than any other historical event. Mark thought that it did, considering the theological significance of who this historical event happened to. In any case, this is an important question to consider, and an especially interesting one from a Barthian perspective.

I’m currently in Princeton Theological Seminary’s Cooper Conference room, waiting for the morning session to begin. It will feature Matthew Myer Boulton, who recently published a book on God Against Religion. More to come before all is said and done.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Photos from the Barth Conference

In lieu of another substantive update today, here are some picture that I took this morning after Katherine Sonderegger's session. Time for a rousing game of "Name That Theologian!" It will be a little tricky because some of the shots are from behind or the side, etc. But, let's see what you - the collective readership of DET - can do! I'll tell you when you are right or wrong, or if no one really participates, I'll give out the answers in a week or so. Name tags may help you some if you zoom in.







Barth Conference Day 3: Mid-day Update

I missed Katherine Sonderegger’s session this morning because I was at my son’s 9-month doctor visit, but it must have been good since the Q & A went about 15 minutes over the allotted time. So, her paper will be something in particular to look forward to when the volume from this conference finally hits the shelves. The second session this morning was by Richard Fox Young, a professor of the history of religions here at Princeton Theological Seminary, and opened with some personal reflections on his early interaction with Barth’s thought. Some of this reflection centered on Young’s time in India, where an Irish Presbyterian rekindled his interest in Barth. In general, Young seems to see some development in Barth on the topic of religion, contrasting what Barth had to say in §17 with some later statements in Barth’s Gesprache (part of the Gesamtausgabe). For a fuller account you will, as with Sonderegger, want to consult the published volume when it becomes available.

Young distributed a handout with a number of quotes reflecting on Barth from a number of personages with which he engaged. Here are the first two, which form a nice pair. The first is an anecdote from a Sri Lankan Tamil thinker, and the second explains what Barth was on about in this anecdote, although not addressing this episode in particular (at least as far as I know).

Daniel Thambirajah Niles, “Karl Barth—A Personal Memory,” The Journal of South East Asia Theology 11 (Autumn, 1969): 10-11.
I can recall one item of conversation in this first meeting [in Basel, 1935] which may be of some interest. Barth talked to me about our Christian communities in Asia living in the midst of men of other faith. In the course of the conversation, he said, “Other religions are just unbelief.” I remember replying with the question, “How many Hindus, Dr. Barth, have you met?” He answered, “No one.” I said, “How then do you know that Hinduism is unbelief?” He said, “A priori.” I simply shook my head and smiled.
David Lochhead, The Dialogical Imperative: A Christian Reflection on Interfaith Encounter (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1988): 34.
Barth’s judgment is not about Hinduism but about ‘Religion.’ It applies to Christianity as much as it does to Hinduism and has nothing to do with whether or not there are godly or saintly individuals who are Christians, Hindus, Muslims, or anything else. The point is not an empirical one but a theological judgment about all human activity.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Latest from the PTS Barth Conference

The after-dinner talk on day 2 of the conference has concluded. It was delivered by Charles West, an emeritus professor here at PTS, and was entitled, “Barth, Bonhoeffer, and Kraemer on Religion.” He took as his main task comparing the polemical answers of these three figures to the 20th century question, “What is religion?” This is to be contrasted to the 21st century question of, “How do we engage with the myriad of religious expressions that surround us?” Although his commentary on these thinkers was insightful and thought provoking, I will not go into detail on that portion (read: I was too busy listening to take notes!). Here are some of the payoff points.

What can we learn from these thinkers?
  1. We should recognize, with Bonhoeffer, that it is possible and even natural in our increasingly technological would to be irreligious.

  2. To understand the world in this way is a theological statement. A non-religious world is in reality possible because despite human sin, God in Christ is its judge and redeemer. This is reality whether the world knows it or not. God makes the world secular and gives it historical direction and purpose. Mission is therefore an urgent calling. The world depends on the faith and witness of believers. In this, Kraemer is right.

  3. Barth is the theological powerhouse behind this mission. He provided, and still provides, for Christians the copious exposition of revelation that guides and corrects the church in its encounter with religious temptations throughout the world.
Watch for more from the conference tomorrow.

PTS Barth Conference: Update

So, we are in day 2 of this year's PTS Barth conference. Day 1 was given over to registration, an opening banquet, and Clifford Anderson's brief opening remarks. Day 2 is still in via, but so far we have had a very interesting presentation from Gerrett Green on, among other things, some bits of the material that Barth excised from CD 3.1 before publication. Next came Ben Myers speaking on nature and paganism. I have it on good authority that Ben didn't finish his presentation until shortly before he gave it, although those hearing it would never have known this. One great line that stood out to this author was as follows: "Nature may sound eloquent, but she speaks with a forked tongue."

As announced previously, I had the pleasure and honor of introducing Ben at the conference. What follows is my introduction:
Good morning. My name is Travis McMaken, and I am a doctoral student here at Princeton Theological Seminary. It is my distinct pleasure this morning to introduce to you my friend Benjamin Myers. I first made Ben's acquaintance via e-mail after having come across his blog, Faith & Theology, which is one of the highest regarded and most frequently visited theology blogs out there in what some of us call the "theo-blogosphere." Having met in person a couple of years ago during a research trip Ben made to the Barth Center here at PTS, Ben and I got to know each other better last Fall when Ben was again in Princeton, this time as a resident scholar at the Center for Theological Inquiry. Ben is the author of articles on Barth's theology as well as that of related thinkers like Rudolf Bultmann, Tom Torrance, and Wolfhart Pannenberg. In 2006 he published a book on Milton's Theology of Freedom, he has a project on Rowan Williams forthcoming with T & T Clark, and his subject of study during his time at the CTI had to do with discerning the influence of Paul's apocalypticism on Barth's doctrine of election. Please join me in welcoming Ben Myers.
More to come as the conference continues!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Recent and Upcoming

So, as you might have gotten a sense of from my last post, it has been busy around DET headquarters. Things are continuing apace. Here are some things you might want to note and look forward to:
  • On Friday I added three new bits of content to the Center for Barth Studies Website:

    1. A review of Mangina’s Karl Barth: Theologian of Christian Witness by Jason Ingalls.
    2. A conference report on the 2007 PTS Barth Conference.
    3. A conference report on the 2008 PTS Barth Conference

  • The 2009 PTS Barth Conference is starting tomorrow. The schedule is available online, although there have been some minor changes. I’m planning to blog some bits and pieces of it, so stay tuned for that.

  • One tidbit from the upcoming conference that may interest some of you is that I will be introducing illustrious theo-blogger Ben Myers. I’ll be sure to post my introduction once I’ve had a chance to do it live. Ben, if you’re reading this and didn’t know this yet, surprise! :-)

  • Also, shortly after the conference you can expect an update on DET’s own Barth Blog Conference. So, stay tuned for that!

Lot’s going on - keep an eye on your DET RSS feed!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Quick Update

So, its been an interesting few weeks.
  • My Wings lost, and I had a very pleasant discussion about it with Derek.

  • I finished the first 2 of 4 qualifying exams for my department. Two more in October, then an oral, then hello dissertation proposal!

  • After finishing those two exams, I've been taking care of my son full-time. Anyone who has done such a thing knows that it is simultaneously immensely enjoyable, rewarding, and tiring.

  • Along the way, I've been doing what little I can to help get things ready for the upcoming Barth Conference here at Princeton Theological Seminary. It starts on Sunday. Maybe I'll see a few of you there...maybe...

  • I've got a huge back-log of book reviews to write for various publications, and along the way I hope to post some interesting tid-bits here. So...stay tuned for that.

  • If I ever get my feet under me this summer, I hope to write the next batch of posts on Reading Scripture with John Calvin, with help from my good friend and occasional DET contributor, Jason Ingalls.

  • Finally, and very importantly, this year's Barth Blog conference is still in the works. Stay tuned to hear what to expect and to learn of opportunities to be involved.
Wish me luck!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Summer is Here

Spring semester 2009 was a hard one for me. I took my last required seminar (on Paul Tillich, hence the recent series) as well as my first two qualifying examinations (one in ethics and one in history of doctrine). On top of that, I served as preceptor for the intro to theology course. As if this demanding schedule wasn’t enough, I ended up needing to spend my afternoons at home taking care of my son (which I loved, though it took a lot of time away from work) and – even worse – I spent about half the semester under the weather with one illness after another.

But, all that is over. Summer is here. I get to spend a couple weeks at home with my son, tinkering away on various projects and – most importantly – watching the Red Wings try to win another Stanley Cup. So far, so good! For my money, as long as the Pens have Crosby running away from Zetterberg - trying to get ice-time away from good ol' #40 - it is an implicit concession concerning who is the better player. But, enough about hockey...for now...except to say that the Pens better hope that Datsyuk doesn't finally get healthy.

Hopefully I’ll generate some more material to post, as well as post an update about how the 2009 Barth Blog conference is coming along. So, stay tuned.