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Showing posts from 2012

Bruce Gordon on the Relationship between Calvin and Bucer

I posted on Calvin and Bucer in the not too distant past. This relationship has sort of been on my mental back burner for the past year or so since one of my colleagues is working on a Bucer dissertation. So I was happy to come across the below discussion from Gordon’s book. I have redacted it a bit – i.e., you can look it up for yourself and learn still more than I have reproduced here. The end of what I have given you here is particularly good, I think. It is at least an interesting way to think about and characterize Calvin’s relationships with the other major reformers of his day. One also gets a sense in this material of just how much Calvin owed to Bucer, not only intellectually but career-wise as well.

Bruce Gordon, Calvin, 86.
Calvin was not really needed in Strasbourg. Bucer took him under his wing to teach him how to be a pastor, but his purpose was ultimately missionary. Calvin was to return to Geneva and resume his work.Gordon highlights here both how Bucer went out of his…

The Theologian's Almanac: December 10, 2012

In my research for today’s almanac, which aimed at honoring one individual in particular, I learned that this date marks not the death of one, but “The Death of Two Extraordinary Christians.” The December 20, 1968 issue of Time Magazine honored them thusly:

“One was a Protestant theologian who labored quietly in university towns of Switzerland and Germany for half a century. The other was a Roman Catholic monk who worked hermitlike on his writings in the hills of central Kentucky. But while Karl Barth gave his life to scholarship and Thomas Merton to contemplation, both men were Christian activists who found in the Word a command to do. Barth stood courageously against Nazi totalitarianism. Merton drove himself endlessly in championing the cause of the poor and oppressed. On their journey toward their deaths last week, each brought to his age, and to his fellow man, a message of love that was ardently Christian.”
“To believe in Christ has always been, as Kierkegaard put it, an inexplica…

Reckoning With Death: Humanity, Mortality, and the Ends of Life - Call for Papers

A friend from Virginia asked me to post this notice. It looks like a good event. Graduate student conferences are always fun. So be sure to submit a proposal if it's up your alley!


Virginia Graduate Colloquium on Theology, Ethics, and Culture
University of Virginia

April 5-6, 2013

Plenary Speakers:
Jeffrey P. Bishop, St. Louis University
Andrea C. White, Emory University
The 2013 Virginia Graduate Colloquium welcomes submissions of original research from graduate students on the topic “Reckoning With Death: Humanity, Mortality and the Ends of Life.” At once a subject for the loftiest theological and philosophical reflection and a pressing practical concern, death intrudes, eventually, into every human life. With this year’s theme, the colloquium organizers hope to foster a robust interdisciplinary discussion about how the fact of mortality structures our understanding of what it means to be human.

To that end, we welcome papers that approach death from a variety of different angles…

Bruce Gordon on Rhetoric in Calvin’s Theology

One of the things that I have always appreciated about Calvin is his rhetorical sensitivity. For my money, he developed this in both his humanist and legal studies – in the former with respect to rhetorical interpretation of texts, and in the latter with respect to his preaching and polemic (i.e., his argumentation). In the below quote, which is something of a summary of Calvin’s 1536 Institutes (i.e., the first edition: I have held an original in my hand, it was rather small – a true handbook! – and the title page had “heretique” written across it in red [unless memory deceives] ink), Gordon has occasion to reflect on this rhetorical side of Calvin’s work.

Bruce Gordon, Calvin, 61.
[Calvin’s] understanding of what it meant to be a theologian was in place in Basle. God has spoken to humanity in scripture, opened a relationship in which women and men should know and worship God – a worship not confined to religious services, but which embraces every aspect of human existence. The Word o…

Brandy Daniels on Gender and Theology

Greetings, faithful readers.

If you are widely plugged into the theoblogosphere and associated online theological discussion forums, you may have noticed a bit of a hubbub going on the past few days. But I thought that many DET readers may not necessarily keep track of the places where this discussion has been raging, so I thought that I would post and draw some attention to it. I feel especially justified in this given that one of DET's contributors, Brandy Daniels, has taken a lead in much of this discussion by writing three substantial posts elsewhere. So, here are some links:

This whole thing started with a post by Anthony D. Baker over at the Theology Studio website: "Gender and the Studio"Brandy then responded with her three posts over at An und für sich: "Gender and Theology (and the Theological Academy): A Response to Tony Baker’s ‘Gender and the Studio’- Part One""Part Two: Bodies Matter (A Response to Tony Baker’s “Gender and the Studio”)"&qu…

AAR / SBL in Chicago

Well, it's the time of year when theo-bloggers customarily reflect on their time at the recently held AAR / SBL national meeting(s). Chicago hosted the event this year, which I was happy about because I didn't have to fly. Chicago was, as always, a great town to spend some time in (even if the convention center left much to be desired).

In any case, rather than inflict upon you many generally boring stories of meetings with personages, interesting sessions, and books bought at deep discount, I will instead present you with the abstract to the paper that I presented on Saturday morning in a session conducted by the Ecclesiological Investigations Group on the theme: "The Social Gospel in a Time of Economic Crisis: The Churches and Capitalism Today." So, here are the stats on my paper.

Title:"Helmut Gollwitzer and Economic Justice—A Theopolitical Appreciation"
Abstract:Helmut Gollwitzer’s legacy as a politically concerned pastor and theologian is instructive …

Migliore on Barth, Bultmann, Pannenberg, and Moltmann on the Resurrection

One of the neat things about Migliore’s book are the 3 appendixes in the back which comprise imagined dialogs between various important thinkers on different subjects. The first is on natural theology, and the third is on political theology. This post is concerned with the second, on the resurrection. The bellow is how Migliore ends this discussion, with closing statements (as it were) from the four participants: Barth, Bultmann, and representatives of positions broadly associated with Pannenberg and Moltmann (I think Migliore chose not to put words directly in their mouths because they are still alive). I think it gets at the differences between these four in helpful ways, not least of all by pointing to the bedrock of these various positions in the New Testament.

Daniel L. Migliore, Faith Seeking Understanding, 382–3. Bold is, in this case, part of the original.
Barth: Since that last speech is probably going to require an interpretation as long as my Church Dogmatics [ed., referring…

New Center for Barth Studies Book Review

Calvin to Melanchthon on Luther

The situation for the present piece of correspondence is very much like that in the previous installment: Luther had written polemically against Zwingli on the Lord’s Supper and the Zurichers were up in arms (figuratively, not literally). Here Calvin writes to Melanchthon about the situation. He has enclosed a letter to Luther himself, a very gentle one characterized by all Calvin’s political and linguistic subtlety, but Melanchthon never delivered it for fear of souring Luther on Calvin. In the present letter, Calvin likewise gently but firmly speaks the truth to Melanchthon, urging him to make a statement of his own on the issue. To the best of my knowledge, his wheedling did not succeed. But we get a few fun lines to read out of the bargain. 
Calvin here refers to Luther with the name “Pericles,” an acknowledgement of Luther’s great significance and polemical power. Pericles was an immensely important Athenian statesman / orator who lived between the Persian and Peloponnesian wars.…

October Book ‘O the Month

After taking a month off of this Book ‘O the Month deal due to a general semester slow-down, I’m happy to present to you October’s entry: Bernard Lohse’s, A Short History of Christian Doctrine: From the First Century to the Present. This is quite simply my go-to text for basic history of doctrine needs. Lohse has published two equally valuable books on Luther that have also been translated into English (see here and here), but in this volume he deals with such topics as the formation and function of dogma, the canon, the creeds, the Trinity, the sacraments, christology, soteriology (from a couple different angles), and more. There are also “chronological tables” of important dates in the development of the various doctrinal topics. These are a very handy quick reference. It truly is an excellent work and I like it so much that I will likely be listing it as recommended reading on all my syllabi in the Christian tradition.


I leave you with the following quote from his discussion of ch…

Review of Oliver Crisp's Retrieving Doctrine: Essays in Reformed Theology

I recently had published a book review of Oliver Crisps's book, Retrieving Doctrine. But since it was published in the Koinonia Journal, which does not receive wide circulation, I figured that I would post the pre-production version here for all you - gentle readers - to enjoy. So, without further ado . . .

Retrieving Doctrine: Essays in Reformed Theology. By Oliver D. Crisp. Downers Grove, IL; IVP Academic, 2010, 209 pages.
Oliver Crisp delves into the Reformed theological tradition, now explicating, now tinkering, now defending, in an attempt to enrich contemporary theological discussion with insights from the past. Newly installed as professor of systematic theology at Fuller Theological Seminary after stints at the Universities of Bristol and St. Andrews, and at Regent College, Crisp ranges through the well-traveled work of theologians like Barth, Calvin, and Edwards, as well as the less frequented byways of thinkers like Campbell, Nevin, and Turretin. Such ranging is not devot…

Beza on Calvin’s Workload and Partnership with Farel and Viret

In continuing through my relatively new set of Calvin’s Tracts and Letters, I am now reading Beza’s Vita Calvini in the first volume. Amazingly, I have never read it before. I likely put it off until now because I knew it to contain unreliable biographical information, especially of Calvin’s early life, and didn’t want to fill my head with such things. But I feel as though I have a sound enough grasp of Calvin now to risk it and, besides, it repays in many other ways – not least of which is by providing nice tidbits like the following. 

In this passage, Beza begins by describing what a typical work-week for Calvin looked like. He does so specifically in connection to Calvin’s return to Geneva in the early 1540s, but it may well be that he is describing Calvin’s schedule as Beza personally observed it at some later point since it does not fit exactly with some of the conclusions about such things made by Elsie McKee on the basis of archival research (which I heard about in classes with…

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

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

…or, The Past Fortnight in the Theoblogosphere.

So . . . it’s been more than a fortnight. Oh well. I suspected as much would happen, what with the start of my semester and other sundry concerns. But here I am now, and I have quite a few links to share. So buckle up!

First, what’s been happening here at DET? I put up a couple of tame posts dealing with Calvin – typical dry academic DET fare. The first was a bit of Calvin’s correspondence with Bullinger about Luther, and the second was some stuff from Bruce Gordon on Calvin’s legal education. Then I got a bee in my bonnet and launched a diatribe against creationism. Rounding things out, we had a reflection on Christianity and Labor Day from friend-of-the-blog Scott Jackson, and DET contributor Derek Maris posted briefly about Moltmann and recent Barth research.

The rest of the links are artificially divided into the two categories this time. Of course, proper theology has political conse…

Moltmann on Barth Research

As I’m sure our regular visitors are aware, there has been some significant debate within American Barth studies the last 20 years, thanks in large part to Bruce McCormack’s Karl Barth’s Critically Realistic Dialectical Theology. While there are still discussions surrounding the implications of this and related works for understanding Barth, it is interesting to note other major theologian’s responses. I recently found this footnote buried in Jürgen Moltmann's Experiences in Theology:
The first and best account of the cosmos analogy in Barth’s Church Dogmatics was given by H. Urs von Balthasar. . . . However, in view of more recent studies his analysis of a shift from dialectic to analogy in Barth's thinking (70-94) can no longer be maintained.So it appears that one can count Moltmann among those who find the recent research in Barth studies convincing. What, if any, implications this has for Moltmann’s thought I haven’t a clue, but perhaps in the future some interesting connec…

Science, Theology, and None-of-the-Above (i.e., “creationism”): On the recent flap between Bill Nye and Ken Ham

(Diatribe warning – proceed at your own risk.)

Those of you with a more conservative past (like me) may have noticed a couple of weeks ago when some comments made by Bill Nye “the science guy” elicited a small flurry of response from the Answers in Genesis people, headed up by Ken Ham. Let me be clear at the outset: I’m rather upset about all this. “But why?” you may ask. I’ll tell you. Because polls from a few months ago show that 46% of the USA population believes in creationism – not that God is somehow involved in the process (theistic evolution got 32%), but in straight up creationism. Furthermore, the trend-lines are moving in the wrong direction: over the past 30 years, creationism is up 2% while 6% have moved from theistic evolution to exclusively naturalistic evolution. (source)

“Well sure,” you may say, “those are not encouraging numbers. But why do you care so much personally?” Because I have to teach religion and theology to ~250 undergraduate students each academic year a…

Christianity & Labor Day: A Guest Post by Scott Jackson

Guest post by Scott Jackson.
Almighty God, you have so linked our lives one with another
that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives: So guide
us in the work we do, that we may do it not for self alone, but
for the common good; and, as we seek a proper return for
our own labor, make us mindful of the rightful aspirations of
other workers, and arouse our concern for those who are out
of work; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Amen. -- "Collect for Labor Day", Book of Common Prayer
Being a "good Christian" means being a "good worker", right? Aren't believers exhorted in the New Testament to "do their work quietly and to earn their own living" (2 Thes. 3:12; all biblical quotations taken from the NRSV)? At the outset of my remarks, I want to fully affirm the importance of work within God's created order. Nonetheless, I'm posing here, in the …

Bruce Gordon on De l’Estoile, Alciati, and Calvin's Legal Education

In addition to re-reading Cottret, I have now read for the first time Bruce Gordon’s Calvin book. Let me just say briefly and by way of general comment that although by no means antagonistic to Calvin, Gordon is less sympathetic than I would like. He also focuses much more on the interpersonal and social history rather than the theology – this is fine if you, like me, enjoy that stuff but it makes the volume less serviceable than Cottret as a general introduction to Calvin.

Anyway, I came across this passages about Calvin’s two law professors. Pierre de l’Estoile was French and taught at Orleans, an established seat of legal scholarship. Calvin studied with him first. Andrea Alciati was Italian and taught at Bourges, the up-and-coming scholarly contender. Calvin studied with him second. Gordon here lays out their differing ways of going about legal interpretation. Anyone who knows Calvin will see him in Gordon’s description of both his professors. That said, I’m not sure exactly how …

Calvin to Bullinger on Luther

Continuing with excerpts from Calvin’s correspondence, today’s tidbit comes from a letter that he wrote to Heinrich Bullinger in 1544. For those of you who don’t know, Bulliner was the chief pastor at Zurich, taking over after Zwingli’s death in the battle of Kappel in 1531. Bullinger was about 5 years older than Calvin, and he outlived Calvin by about a decade. He was the more established and influential during their lifetimes, although Calvin has eclipsed Bullinger in the most recent centuries. 

In any case, in this letter Calvin writes to Bullinger in an attempt to sooth the Zurich pastors. Why are they upset? Because Luther was being himself. Luther had written another treatise on the Lord’s Supper, criticizing Zwingli severely post mortem. The Zurichers took this as quite the insult, as one might expect given that their church’s faith and order was built on Zwingli’s foundation (although, we must remember that Bullinger and Calvin managed to get the Consensus Tigurinus together i…

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

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

…or, The Past Fortnight in the Theoblogosphere.

Hang on, this is a long one. With my academic duties resuming next week, it may become more difficult to keep this segment regular and thereby cover all the good stuff out there. So I’ll see how much I can squeeze into this one.

Of course, we’ve had 4 posts here at DET since the last link post, and all of them are significant. First, we had a post from DET contributors Scott Rice and Matt Warren. They added to the reading guide series with their post, So, You Want to Read John Mackay? Then, just a few days ago, contributor Derek Maris posted about Moltmann's “Political Hermeneutics”. Finally, I posted two things. The first is a Defense of Theological Blogging and Belligerence wherein I attempt to stoke the theo-blogging fires for all of our continued betterment. The second is a brief post highlighting a Q&A session that David Congdon and I did with and for a particular Christian d…

Moltmann's "Political Hermeneutics"

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My upcoming fall classes will be my final ones. With my official coursework finished in January I will completely turn towards the final major pieces of my program; language and comp work, with the dissertation looming. One of my final two classes is a seminar in theological hermeneutics. Since I work at the campus bookstore I have been able to sneak a peek at the booklist, and when compared with my other doctoral seminars, I have to admit that the course looks particularly "ambitious." I’m actually looking forward to the challenge though, in part because it is already evident that some readings will fit nicely within potential areas of dissertation interest. For example, I will be reading a “healthy” amount of Anthony Thiselton, and in his 2007 book The Hermeneutics of Doctrine he acknowledges at the outset how important Moltmann and Pannenberg are for his work (see xxi). Furthermore, in more than one of his works he engages frequently with Bultmann, another thinker who has…