Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Kelsey on Choices that Govern the Deployment of Scripture in Theological Arguments

David Kelsey is here at PTS this week giving this year's Warfield lectures, so it seemed fitting to put up a quote from one of his earlier works.

David Kelsey, Providing Doctrine: The Uses of Scripture in Modern Theology, 169-70.
[T]heologians' decisions about which role in an argument supporting a theological proposal ought to be filled by scripture [ed. aside: Kelsey earlier gives a very complex analysis of how Scripture actually gets used in supporting theological arguments] is largely determined by a decision about how best to characterize the subject matter theological proposals are chiefly to elucidate. But that is to say that they are determined by the particular way each theological tries to catch up the full complexity and singularity of the mode in which God is present in a single imaginative judgment. Theologians' decisions about how to use scripture, like their decisions about how to construe the scripture they use, are determined by decisions that are literally pre-text, i.e., logically prior to any attention to any particular text taken as authority for any particular theological proposal.
Kelsey's analysis certainly gives one pause about too quickly claiming that one's own theological position is scripturally superior to another, given that the relationship between how Scripture is deployed in theology is so complicated. More work needs to be done, I think, in bringing together Kelsey's functional analysis and a more theoretical doctrine of Scripture and revelation.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

DET now on Facebook

I am happy to announce that DET now has a Facebook presence. If you like DET, and you use Facebook, why not put the two together? Now you can keep track of all the most recent happenings here at DET with ease through your Facebook homepage news ticker. Use the script below to officially "like" DET and thereby sign-up for updates, or (if you're reading in a feeder) follow this link.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

…or, Something to keep you busy over the weekend…

…or, The Past Fortnight in the Theoblogosphere.

  • CBS Review of Flett's Witness of God - I've talked about this book in the past, so I was thrilled to get a review of it up on the CBS website. Its a good, lengthy review so be sure to check it out. Meanwhile, if you haven't yet read this book - go buy it now!
  • The End of Ecumenism - Halden Doerge and Ry Siggelkow stir the pot a bit.
  • More Doodlings and Yet More Doodlings - Kim has been on a roll lately. Here are two of my favorites from this bunch: "Are people who pray happier and healthier than those who don’t? Only if they are not doing it right;" "What was God doing before he created the world? I suspect he was doing some forward planning and thinking about Holy Saturday."
  • On Prayer: Fourteen Theses - Ben Myers sets the short stories aside for a bit. Here is #7: "Nothing could be further from the truth than the notion of prayer as a spontaneous inner glow or an uncontrollable gush of sentiment. Prayer is discipline, order, hardship, habit, obedience: whatever it is that makes up a life, that is what prayer requires."
  • Some Holy Humour - Courtesy of David Guretzki.
  • Beyond Binaries - David Congdon responds at considerable length (13,000+ words!) to Mark Galli's review of Rob Bell's Love Wins
  • Clergy as Superheros? - Jason Ingalls reflects on ordination and "ontological change."
  • I've been thinking about... - John Drury reflects on the relationship between the individual and the community.
  • Great Search Keywords - Darren Sumner reflects upon how people find his blog, and try to answer the questions implicit in their searches.
  • Trapped - Learn from others' mistakes: calling 911 won't help you when trapped in Plato's cave. Good, ol' Xkcd.
  • BONUS: 4 Chord Song - A Youtube video from the Axis of Awesome, to which I have been addicted lately.

If all that isn't enough to keep you busy, feel free to explore around DET: click through the recommended reading, browse the Karl Barth Blog Conferences, catch up on DET serials, or explore other popular posts.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Barth on Heresy & Bultmann

It's turning into "Heresy Week" here at DET...
I've been reading through the Barth/Bultmann correspondence this morning, and came across the below in one of the appendices. Given that I posted about Hans Frei's understanding of heresy on Monday, I figured I should throw this up as well.

To set the stage, Barth is writing in response to a letter from a bishop asking whether Barth considers Bultmann's views on the resurrection, etc, to be dangerous things. The bishop was prodded to seek an answer to such questions by a letter he received from a pastor who had heard Bultmann lecture and refer to "the legend of the empty tomb" and the "marvel of the resurrection." This pastor hoped to initiate the founding of specifically ecclesiastical institutions for the training of clergy - a move which puts one in mind of a chapter from the church's history in the United States.

While Barth does not hide his misgivings about Bultmann in his letter, he does note that there are perfectly acceptable (to his mind) ways of interpreting these statements, and thus he defends Bultmann to some degree. But, here is what he has to say about "heresy" (notice the quotation marks in Barth's text - it seems to me that he has his tongue edging over toward his cheek on that point; bold is mine):
In the disposition and direction indicated by the letter of Pastor Bruns no controversy should be initiated between the church and the theology of Rudolf Bultmann. The harm that would be done thereby would be incomparably greater than what is to be expected from Bultmann's writings and teaching—whose original purpose and positive qualities should not be forgotten for a moment because of his “heresy.” A contesting of heresy which misses the essential point, well-meaning though it may be, has always been more dangerous to the church than the heresy in question. The existence of the extreme critic in Marburg, who is himself the occasion of so much criticism, and who works in a rather humorless place that seems to find pleasure in criticizing, will certainly not ruin the Evangelical Church in Germany... I even conjecture that the existence of a “heretic” like Bultmann, who is so superior to most of his accusers in knowledge, seriousness, and depth, might be indirectly salutary to the church as “a pike is in a pond of carp.” On the other hand, the rise of a clerical group that hands out censures or doctrinal judgments with neither true vision nor reflection, no matter how orthodox it might aim to be, can only bring about destruction.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Oversimplified Consistency - Hans Frei on Heresy

Hans w. Frei, Theology and Narrative: Selected Essays (George Hunsinger and William C. Placher, eds.; OUP, 1993): 49.
[A] heresy is often the sign that orthodoxy has sacrificed the elements of mystery, and along with it tentativeness or open-endedness, to an oversimplified consistency.

Reminds me of Ralph Waldo Emerson's, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines."

Friday, March 18, 2011

Misc Update

Sorry for how quiet it has been around here this week. I spent the day up in New Brunswick for the joint meeting of the New England & Maritime AAR region, the Mid-Atlantic AAR region, and an equivalent SBL region. David Congdon and I both presented, in the same session, and both presentations went well. The week was given over to preparation for that.

Now, you might think that's a lame excuse for not posting since, if you read David's blog, you know he has been doing a series on a Christianity Today review of Rob Bell's new book that is causing so much consternation and hand-wringing. I just want to be clear that he has been able to do that AND work on a conference paper because his wife and son are currently away visiting family. So, yeah, I've been working hard too. ;-P

In any case, I'll be back to my usual posting schedule next week, although likely the 2-post model rather than the 3-post model, since it will be time for a rendition of "Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch" on the 26th. But, that's probably more of a peek behind the curtain than you're really interested in...

P.S. For those of you who care about these things, the contracting phase of the 2010 KBBC publication project is now complete. David and I are looking forward to seeing revised and expanded essays start rolling in!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

…or, Something to keep you busy over the weekend…

…or, The Past Fortnight in the Theoblogosphere.

Sorry for the radio silence this past week. It is mid-semester reading week here at PTS and, while that usually means an uptick in my productivity, childcare responsibilities have reversed the trend this year. On the plus side, I got some quality time with my boy. But the rest of the theo-blogosphere kept things ticking along in my absence. Here is some of the stuff I found particularly interesting.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Franz Leenhardt on Divergent Impulses in Latin West and Greek East

Franz Leenhardt [*], Two Biblical Faiths, 76-7.
Eastern Christianity has always emphasized far more than Western Christianity the function and the action of the Holy Spirit. In this way it has endeavoured to affirm and safeguard the “overflowing” of the earthly by the heavenly; it has steadfastly refused to confound the event with the institution, the eschatological with the actual; it has wished to preserve for every mystery an open door to a beyond which should be its glorification. This tendency of its thought was manifested in the maintenance of the epiklesis in the eucharistic liturgy; the church must pray that the Holy Spirit should be outpoured on the gifts and the faithful. The Latin church, on the contrary, attributes to the priest the power of pronouncing in persona Christi efficacious words for the production of consecration. In that context the liberty and the living action of Christ are placed in the power of the historical institution; the Holy Spirit merges with this, which by definition He indwells.

When the Eastern Orthodox Christian utters the prayer of epiklesis he asks God “to give us mysteriously the Christ through the Holy Spirit, to manifest the virtue of the incarnation, to send anew into the world the Son and the Holy Spirit” [ed. note, citing Bulgakov]. The Western Catholic has no need of this deviation through the direct invocation of the Father in order that he may participate in the living presence of the Holy Spirit; he thinks that the church here below has at its disposal the virtue of the incarnation, since the Son has transmitted it to the priestgood.

[*]Leenhardt was one of the interesting francophone Reformed thinkers, from the early 20th century, whose modern Reformed resurgence was parallel to but not in any way derivative of Barth, that deserve more attention.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

2011 PTS Barth Conference

It’s that time of year again – time to make plans to attend this year’s Barth Conference at Princeton Theological Seminary. This year’s conference title is Thomas Aquinas and Karl Barth: An Unofficial Protestant-Catholic Dialogue, and it will take place June 19-22, 2011.

There are numerous web resources that you can check out for further information. For instance, you can check out the conference website, the conference Facebook group, or the conference Twitter account. If you are more old-school, you can also sign up for e-mail updates. If you want further information beyond all this, feel free to write the conference organizers: barth.conference [at] ptsem [dot] edu

Here is a list of conference speakers to whet your appetite a bit:

  • Speaking on Divine Being: Robert Jenson; and Richard Schenk
  • Speaking on the Trinity: Guy Mansini, OSB; and Bruce McCormack
  • Speaking on Christology: Keith Johnson; and Thomas Joseph White, OP
  • Speaking on Grace and Justification: Amy Marga; and Joseph Wawrykow
  • Speaking on Divine and Human Action: Holly Taylor Coolman; and John Bowlin

In addition to these high-quality speakers, a number of other cool and interesting folks will be in attendance: myself, for instance. ;-)

So, come check out Princeton, browse the PTS library (only slightly diminished by current construction projects), hear some good speakers on a very interesting topic, meet students and scholars from all over the place, and even a few bloggers. These conferences are always a good time, and it doesn’t look like this year will disappoint. I hope to see you in June!