Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011 Top 10 DET Pages Viewed

I felt inspired today, noting the inexorable march of the calendar toward a new year, to check and see what you all have been reading here at DET over the past year. Then, having checked, I thought: “Hey, this would make a good post!” So, there we are… The posts are listed in descending order of traffic (i.e., #1 has the most traffic).

  1. Types of Theology - This one is a pleasant surprise. It has always received respectable traffic, but it was far and away the most traversed page at DET this past year. I should probably go back and update it…
  2. So, You Want to Read Karl Barth? - A perennial top-performer, this post is approximately 4.5 years old! I could think of a couple newer secondary resources to add, but I still stand by the advice given there.
  3. DET: 1 Year Blog Birthday - No surprise here. I wrote this post to mark the first year of this blog’s existence, and it functions as a sort of manifesto for the whole enterprise. Although it is also approximately 4.5 years old, it still adequately captures what DET is about. But now that I’m thinking about it, it could probably stand to be redone…
  4. Recommended Reading - Wondering what theology book you should buy and read next? Check out this page for some recommendations. It appears that quite a few people have done just that over the past year.
  5. Index: Book Reviews - Wonder what I think of a particular book? Check this page to see if I’ve offered an opinion on it here at DET. I need to expand this page, and cross reference it with my (traditionally) published book reviews.
  6. Karl Barth on Eberhard Jüngel’s “God’s Being Is In Becoming” - from a new book by Eberhard Busch - Woah…quite the title on this one. But that hasn’t stopped people from finding it, it seems. This post includes some DET exclusive translation of interesting German literature on Barth, so I understand why it is popular. If you haven’t read it yet, now is your chance!
  7. Curriculum Vitae - My redacted CV also made the most traffic list. I’ve recently updated it to include more information about my dissertation, so take a(nother) look.
  8. 2010 KBBC: Week 1, Day 2 - Karl Barth and Herman Bavinck on the Deus dixit - This one is the page that surprised me most in making this list. It is an entry from the most recent Karl Barth Blog Conference (check out the index page for complete proceedings), with a plenary by Andrew Esqueda and a response by Joel Esala. It didn’t lead the pack in traffic when the conference was underway, but it appears that this particular post has some staying power. I keep meaning to read more Bavinck. A New Year’s Resolution in the making? I doubt it…
  9. Reading Scripture with John Calvin: 1 Peter 5.8-11 - This was another pleasant surprise. The post comes from my favorite serial, Reading Scripture with John Calvin (indexed with the other serials), so I’m glad that folks are reading. I’m at a loss as to why this post in particular would draw more traffic…
  10. Popular Posts - Coming in last is the index page to the most popular posts here at DET. These are posts that attracted unusual amounts of traffic when they were first posted, or have demonstrated staying power since then. The posts linked there are some of my favorites, so take another look.

Honorable Mention:

  • What is theology? Who is a theologian? Why should theology persist? - I include this post as an honorable mention for two reasons. First, it barely missed making the top 10 despite being posted only this last July. If it had been around another month or two, I’m convinced that it would have placed. Second, I’m rather fond of it.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

DET Update: Doctoral Edition

The big news from DET is that its proprietor now holds a PhD in systematic theology from Princeton Theological Seminary. That’s right, gentle reader, yours truly defended his dissertation on December 16th, thus giving himself what is perhaps the best Christmas present ever. Here is a picture of my setup in the PTS Center for Barth Studies as I prepared on the 15th for the defense.

For related images, click here, here, and – of course – here.

Anyway, what does all this mean for you, the faithful DET reader? Allow me to enumerate…

  1. You can expect a post about my dissertation early in the new year. I’ve kept it pretty well under wraps as far as the theo-blogosphere goes, but there is no longer any reason for that. So I plan to throw up the abstract to let you all catch a glimpse of what I’ve been preoccupied with for a very long time…
  2. My dissertation isn’t the only thing that I recently finished. I also finished my first semester of teaching. That semester was incredibly busy (remember that dissertation thingy?), and a bit boring since I was spending my time plowing through introductory religion and history of Christianity material. But my coming assignments are more interesting: a 12 day intensive course on Augustine’s Confessions in January and an introductory theology course in the Spring term. I’m sure my investment in such pursuits will bear fruit here.
  3. Work on the KBBC book is progressing, although rather slowly. It is incredibly difficult to get so many authors moving in the same direction and at the same time. I feel like I’m trying to herd cats which, as some of you will no doubt know, is virtually impossible. So there may be some posts in the future aimed at shaming those who are dragging their feet… You have been warned!

See you all in the new year!


Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Misconceptions about Christianity and Politics / Economics: or, Why Perkins is Wrong about Jesus

The conservative religio-political propaganda has been flying today. Various initiatives are underway to combat it. But I could not resist throwing up something brief on one of them...

Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council. The "Belief" blog on CNN.com published a piece from him today entitled, My Take: Jesus was a free marketer, not an Occupier. I could spend ages taking this article apart, but I think the best thing to do would be to juxtapose a few pieces of text.

First, Perkins highlights the parable of the servants in Luke 19 who are given resources by their lord and left for a time to oversee them. From this parable he draws the following conclusion: "Jesus rejected collectivism and the mentality that has occupied America for the last few decades: that everyone gets a trophy – equal outcomes for inequitable performance. There are winners and yes, there are losers. And wins and losses are determined by the diligence and determination of the individual."

Second, consider the parable of the workers in the vineyard, found in Matthew 20. The vineyard owner goes out at different times of day and hires workers. Here is the payoff:
When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his supervisor, 'Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.' The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 'These men who were hired last worked only one hour,' they said, 'and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.' But he answers one of them, 'Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?' So the last will be first, and the first will be last.

It is clear that this passage is not about money. Jesus teaches here about God's grace, which comes to all equally regardless of their effort. The point is to undermine usual ways of thinking about earning and compensation, even if the narrative context suggests a certain economic free-dealing. Clearly this passage isn't trying to teach us that we have to honor contractual terms or that those who control capital should be given free reign to take advantage of those hired earlier should economic conditions change. It is trying to teach us that just as God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10.34), God is also no respecter of productions.

Perhaps the most important thing that putting these two texts side by side suggests is that folks like Perkins need to be more sensitive to the hermeneutical challenges involved when one interprets scripture. Perkins not only neglects other relevant passages in other gospels (as I highlight), but he also misses things like important clues in the immediate context (Zacchaeus was moved mere verses previously to give half of his money away to the poor and to repay 4x the amount that he cheated people out of with questionable business practices, whereupon Jesus declares that "Today salvation has come to this house"), and the broader context (Luke's gospel is predisposed to support of the poor and oppressed, and consistently pictures Jesus as such; cf. Lk 4.18-19). He is also rather tone-deaf to the rhetorical force of the parable he cites: Jesus' point is not to promote capitalism, but to spur his followers on to faithful service of God and neighbor while waiting for the kingdom of God's coming.

Jesus was neither a Free-marketer or an Occupier, but he did have very specific things to teach those who profess him as Lord about how to live in the world, and there is no question that the Occupy folks have a better handle on that than do the conservative Christians running around trying to convince each other that Jesus would prefer for society to be set up to favor the rich and powerful rather than the poor and helpless.

[UPDATE: 12.22.11]

P.S. A friend e-mailed me the following in response to this post, and it was too good not to share:
I love the fact that your post flies in the face of what is often called "a politics of envy." In Matthew 20, it's the "hard-worker" who God accuses of envy because of God's generosity.

Life isn't fair - life is struggle. God isn't fair - God is mercy.