Saturday, March 31, 2012

Help Me Spend $$$

Here's the deal. I have $35 in gifts cards from Amazon, but my book wish list is well beyond that. Try as I might, I cannot decide what books to get. In my despair I thought that I would turn to you, gentle readers, for guidance. So leave a comment with your suggestion of how I should spend these gift cards. You can check my library to see if I already have a book you're thinking of suggesting. As added motivation, feel free to use your Amazon Associates links to suggest titles and if I go with your suggestion, I'll follow your link when I make the purchase.

Any suggestions?


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Oswald Bayer and the Personal Shaping of Mystery

A guest post by Timothy Butler

Last week, as part of its festivities leading up to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis hosted a lecture by Oswald Bayer on “a Public Mystery,” concerning the mystery surrounding the Gospel. In the lecture, Bayer, who is Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology within the Evangelical Faculty of the University of Tübingen, spoke of three mysteries: the mystery of faith, the mystery of God’s love and the mystery of evil.

Of these three, the mystery of faith is the central matter to what Bayer terms a “Public Mystery.” Christian faith is public, since the Gospel is intertwined with proclamation, but it is a mystery, Bayer suggests, because that proclamation is often misunderstood and left unheeded by many who hear.

Building a framework that echoes Barth, Bayer argues that the mysterious nature of faith relates to the referent of that faith. Pilate’s encounter with Jesus fails to lead to understanding on Pilate’s part because of the Roman prefect’s inability to even comprehend the precise mystery he was trying to unravel. His questions focused on what is the mystery when he needed to ask who is the mystery. By misunderstanding the nature of God’s mystery and thinking it was a mere thing, the mystery was obscured from his sight.

This “personal shaping of the mystery,” as Bayer termed it, presents the greatest difficulty in the communication of the Gospel. In our marketing driven culture, we are prone to think along the lines of Charles Finney and expect that the Christian message can be package and “sold” like any other commodity that appears in the ubiquitous advertising we face each day. Bayer rejects this approach as inevitably prone to failure. One can market a thing or an idea as a “commodity,” but one cannot market a relationship with a person in that way.

Christ is the sum of the revealed mystery that the Christian is called to confess. As Karl Barth put it, “Revelation in fact does not differ from the Person of Jesus Christ, and again does not differ from the reconciliation that took place in Him” (CD 1.1, 134). Hence it is that the Christian kerygma is public: it concerns a very public person’s life and death, but that life and death only make sense in the context of the Holy Spirit’s illumination.

Though he did not cite John Calvin, he very well could have at this juncture. As Calvin noted in the Institutes, when speaking of argumentation in support of Scripture, “These [reasons to accept the authority of Scripture], however, cannot of themselves produce a firm faith in Scripture until our heavenly Father manifest his presence in it, and thereby secure implicit reverence for it. Then only, therefore, does Scripture suffice to give a saving knowledge of God when its certainty is founded on the inward persuasion of the Holy Spirit” (1.8.13).

Bayer asserts that the eschaton will usher in a time when the scandal of the Gospel’s message of a savior who suffered and died for the salvation of humans will no longer be obscured by humanity’s tendency towards hardness of heart. Just as Barth notes that God’s mystery is his veiling of himself that he might unveil himself to us (CD 1.1 188), the eschaton marks the time when the veil of unbelief will finally be torn aside in toto.

As Concordia’s Dr. Leopoldo Sanchez observed in response to Bayer’s presentation, “Bayer’s discourse on the Word is placed in the context of the critique of modern European thought, which has no room for the Holy Spirit and is partial towards the secularization of spiritual realities.” This again shows Bayer’s parallels to Barth: in emphasizing the inability to escape the mystery of the Gospel and insisting that therefore the Gospel cannot be commoditized, Bayer provides a sharp critique to more anthropocentric views of God’s Word, much as Barth famously did as he reacted against the early 20th century German theologians.

While the critique is helpful, it by no means yields as clean and complete of answer as we might desire. Bayer openly acknowledged the great problem with his presentation of the mystery of faith in the present age: the ever-present question of why God chooses to illuminate some with his Spirit and chooses not to illuminate others. Bayer is realistic enough to realize that he cannot resolve the issue, ultimately conceding “we cannot understand this on this side of the grave.”

Herein lies the greater mystery for Bayer, the mystery that provides the foundation for the mystery of faith and which triumphs over the mystery of evil and unbelief: the mystery of God’s love. Eventually, God’s desire to redeem will no longer be obscured by unbelief and evil, but we ought not confuse God’s eschatological dissolution of the mystery of faith as being equivalent to vanquishing all the mystery surrounding God.

Bayer’s eschatological expectations for knowledge are realistic and, importantly, appropriately humble: God’s love will remain a mystery even in the eschaton. After all, how could one hope to explain the “mystery of the rich and inexhaustible God”?

[Ed. note: I met Tim butler years ago through his blog, As I Said. It turns out that he is an alumnus of my institution, as well as a doctoral student at Concordia Seminary here in St. Louis, and he has been doing some adjuncting for us this past year as well. It has been fun getting to know Tim better this past year, and I am glad for the opportunity to post some of his thoughts here at DET. Thanks also to Tim for taking me down to Bayer’s lecture!]


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

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

…or, The Past Fortnight in the Theoblogosphere.

Well, not exactly “fortnight” – my last link roundup post was three weeks ago. But close enough. Here’s some highlights of what’s been going on.

New Karl Barth Website

As you may have heard, there is a new Barth website in town: This site was developed by one of Karl’s descendants and offers a number of interesting picture galleries and video introductions to Barth and his work. One of DET’s contributors, Kait Dugan, features on a number of the site’s videos.

Princeton Theological Seminary

Two interesting tidbits out of Princeton recently:

First, the library has launched Theological Commons, a digital text service. There’s some really interesting stuff accessible through this service, which contains over 50,000 titles. Darren Sumner posted about this earlier, highlighting some interesting pieces.

Second, registration for May’s Barth conference at PTS is now open, and if you follow that link you will also find a list of conference speakers. Unfortunately, yours truly will not be in attendance this year, but there are more than enough interesting speakers lined up to make up for even so serious a deficiency as that (*removes tongue from cheek).


Closer to home, there are two recent DET posts that I want to highlight:

First, Collin Cornell provided a guest post on the 2012 Alexander Thompson Lecture at PTS. More on Collin shortly.

Second, Derek Maris continues his exploratory blogging about Wolfhart Pannenberg, this time focusing on Pannenberg on God and ontology. There is some discussion going on in the comments thread, so head over and be a part.


So, back to Collin Cornell. He has been doing some very good and interesting work recently at his blog, Kaleidobible. I mentioned a number of posts from him in my last link roundup. Two more posts deserve mention:

First, he gives us some more material from the Bächli book that he has been working through. This time, the post has to do with Karl Barth and the canon of scripture. Collin very kindly opens the post with some summary bullet-points, before going on to a further engagement.

Second, Collin posted a paean to Lesslie Newbigin that is worth your time.

Inhabitatio Dei

Halden Doerge makes a splash from semi-retirement with a pair of solid posts this month:

First, he reflects on a certain hardening of the theological arteries in response to some contemporary ecclesiological rethinking that he and others have undertaken. Would it be bad form to suggest that my dissertation does some work in sorting out the sort of relation between divine and human agency that Halden advocates in contesting such hardening of “church practice” ecclesiologies?

Second, just yesterday he posted what he calls A Sermonic Midrash on Ephesians 2:1-10. It is an exercise in exegetical / homiletical paraphrase that highlights some important things in that text.


Truth-Out had a couple articles worth reading lately.

First, they have a piece worth reading on how fundamentalist psychology plays into certain political impulses, especially those focused on proselytization.

Second, did you know that Occupy Wall Street (#OWS) is back? Perhaps you remember my previous posts… In any case, here is some coverage from earlier in the month on the police reaction, although more has happened since then.


Jon Coutts as an interesting post on Karl Barth and gender roles in the church. He looks at some of the records from Barth’s time as pastor in Safenwil.

Adam Nigh asks, Did Jesus’ death satisfy God’s wrath?

Jason Ingalls offers some very interesting thoughts on how Skype helps us understand Christ’s presence in the Supper.

Nathan Maddox posted his sermon entitled, The Life-Giving God and the Death-Dealing Prophet.

The Women in Theology blog has a letter written by one of its contributors (Erin Kidd) to the about-to-start-phd-studies version of herself. It gives some good advice, so check it out if you’re in a similar position.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Pannenberg 101: God & Ontology

In addition to blogging through his Systematic Theology, I think it would be fun to provide "mini-descriptions" of Wolfhart Pannenberg's thought, little overview snippets that give one a flavor for his major presuppositions and key formulations, and which help me digest him in manageable bits myself. Without further ado, here is the first installment of "Pannenberg 101," a quick outline of his ontology and its relationship to his doctrine of God, drawn from his key work Theology and the Kingdom of God, (54-61).

A helpful place to begin in this early discussion by Pannenberg is his comments on “unity.” He writes
Unity is a subject of eternal interest to the philosopher. Unity is the most comprehensive characteristic of being … the quest for the ultimate unity which integrates and thus unifies everything is the question reaching for God … For us, too, the way in which we must test any concept of God is by asking whether it can account for the unity of all reality. If an idea of God fails that test, it does not comprehend the power dominating everything and is, therefore, not a true concept of God. (60)
This quote provides an initial touchstone for Pannenberg’s understanding of ontology, noting its fundamental unifying function. In addition to his stress on unity, in this early essay Pannenberg makes clear that his ontology is eschatological, since "this priority of the eschatological future ... demands a reversal also in our ontological conceptions." Here he is following thinkers like Johannes Weiss, who "discovered that ... the Kingdom of God will be established not by men but by God alone." (52, 54). For Pannenberg a key development that follows from this reversal is “the simple observation that God’s being and existence cannot be conceived apart from his rule" (55; this conclusion was also reached in concert with another student and with the examination of other relevant texts). When coupled with “the eschatological understanding of the Kingdom of God” introduced by Weiss, this connection between God’s being and rule entails the judgment that “it is necessary to say that, in a restricted but important sense, God does not yet exist. Since his rule and his being are inseparable, God’s being is still in the process of coming to be" (52, 56).

As noted by Philip Clayton in his preface to Pannenberg's Metaphysics & the Idea of God, this last statement points toward what he calls Pannenberg's "eschatological ontology" (viii). I'm interested to hear from my readers to what extent they believe that Clayton's description of this ontology as "controversial" back in 1990 remains true today, if at all (ibid). Regardless, I'm glad that Clayton pointed me toward this concept and text, as I find them fascinating and potentially loaded with implications for a missional portrait of God, as I hope to research and develop throughout this semester.  For now however, lets further investigate Pannenberg’s belief that when considering God and God’s Kingdom “futurity is fundamental.” As he writes “to put it in the language of the philosophy of religion, the being of the gods is their power.” Thus, “the God of the coming rule is related to all that is finite and is the power determining the future of all that is present.” Believing that this conviction is grounded in “the message of his imminent Kingdom,” Pannenberg argues for the description “God as the power of the future" (53, 55-6).

Pannenberg summarizes the implications of this eschatological and unitive ontology and its relationship to God; “If the Kingdom of God and the mode of his existence (power and being) belong together, then the message of the coming Kingdom of God implies that God in his very being is the future of the world. All experience of the future is, at least indirectly, related to God himself" (61). When taken with the rest of his summary one can begin to discern how Pannenberg’s ontology and doctrine of God imply panentheism.

However, for now we must stop with this quick outline of these two features of his ontology, its unitive and eschatological nature, and its connection to his doctrine of God. While viewing these two components alone as comprising his ontology is almost certainly presenting only a partial picture, and the possibility for misunderstanding lurks given the brevity of the post and the use of a single source, nonetheless from my initial forays into Pannenberg and his interpreters I feel confident that these are dominant elements in his thinking, and deserve careful consideration.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Barth on the Pharisaism of Self-Righteousness and the Pharisaism of Humility

Karl Barth, The Epistle to the Romans (Eswyn C. Hoskyns, trans.; OUP, 1968), 109-10 (bold is mine).
What can we know of the actions and the works of God? In all this questioning we are threatened by a great misunderstanding. We may think of knowledge of the Last Things as the supreme achievement of human intelligence; or we may think of silence before God as the final leap of human piety – as, for example, when we read the mystical sayings of Angelus Silesius as so many psychological recipes; or we may suppose that a supreme human experience will be ours, if we take up our position at the eschatological ‘Moment’ – which is, however, no moment; or we may perhaps imagine the ‘wisdom of death’ (Overbeck) to be the most up-to-date wisdom of life. But this is the triumph of Pharisaism appearing in a new and far more terrible form; for it is the Pharisaism of humility taking the place of the Pharisaism of self-righteousness. There is no limit to the possibilities of the righteousness of men: it may run not only to self-glorification, but also to self-annihilation, as it does in Buddhism and mysticism and pietism. The latter is a more terrible misunderstanding than the former, because it lies so near to the righteousness of God, and it too is excluded – at the last moment.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Theologian's Almanac: March 17, 2012

St. Patrick

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Each year on the 17th of March we celebrate the "Apostle to the Irish." The traditional dates for Patrick are c. 387-17 March 493, though some place his death c. 460. Born in Britain, Patrick was abducted and taken to Ireland at the age of 16 and made a herdsman. Patrick believed the voice of God had told him to escape, and that one day he would return a missionary. After six years of slavery, he escaped back to Britain. He studied for Christian ministry, and eventually returned to Ireland to be its first bishop. There, he evangelized the Irish, educated youth, and ordained clergy. According to legend, Patrick used the shamrock to teach the Irish the doctrine of the Trinity. Today, we commemorate Patrick by eating corned beef and cabbage, dressing in green, and enjoying a pint of ale, preferably a Guinness.

Alexander Alesius (also Alexander Alan; Alane)

On this date in 1565, the Scottish-German theologian Alexander Alesius passed away. He was born c. 1500 in Edinburgh. Alesius joined the Augustinian order in 1515, becoming a theologian. He vigorously opposed the Reformation until he met the Scottish reformer Patrick Hamilton. Alesius had been called to convince Hamilton of his doctrinal errors before Hamilton's impending execution. But Hamilton won Alesius over to the Reformation through his arguments and courageous martyrdom. After preaching a sermon against clerical immorality, Alesius was forced to flee Scotland. He arrived in Wittenberg in 1532, and there studied with Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon. Alesius returned to Great Britain and supported Thomas Cramner's reforms, but again fled to Wittenberg in 1539 after the passage of the Six Articles. He took a chair at the university in Frankfurt (Oder), and in 1542 became Rector of the university in Leipzig. He refrained from entering the Reformation's doctrinal controversies, including Osiander's doctrine of justification and the conflicts over the Eucharist. He wrote over forty works, including exegetical and doctrinal pieces, as well as commentaries on John and Romans.

Gilbert Burnet

Another native Edinburger, Gilbert Burnet, died on this date in 1715. He was born on September 18, 1643. After studying in Aberdeen, he served as the Minister of Saltoun (1664-1669), Professor of Divinity at Glasgow University (1669-1674), and enjoyed the favor of the Scottish court. In 1674, he moved to London where he supported the Whigs and found favor with Charles II. When the Roman Catholic James II assumed the throne in 1685 and repealed the Test Act, Burnet left England for the court of William of Orange in the Netherlands. Burnet would return to England in 1688 with William and Mary in the "Glorious Revolution," which ousted James from the throne and led to the outlawing of Roman Catholicism in England. Burnet preached the coronation sermon for William and Mary on April 11, 1689. Soon thereafter, on Easter Day, Burnet was consecrated as Bishop of Salisbury.

Peter L. Berger

Today is the birthday of American sociologist Peter L. Berger. He was born in 1929 on this day in Vienna, Austria. Berger emigrated to the United States following the Second World War. He graduated from Wagner College in 1949 with a Bachelor of Arts. He received his M.A. from The New School in New York City in 1950, and completed his Ph.D. there in 1954. Since 1981, Berger has taught at Boston University as Professor of Sociology and Theology. He is also the director of the Institute on Culture, Religion and World Affairs. He is most famous for his work with Thomas Luckmann on the sociology of knowledge. Together, in 1966, they published The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise on the Sociology of Knowledge. With this work, Berger introduced the concepts of "social construction" and "plausibility structures" into the social scientific lexicon. Building on this work and coupling it with the sociology of religion, Berger published The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion the following year. You can read his blog Religion and Other Curiosities at The American Interest. He is 83 today.

"Patrick, St"   The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Ed F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone. Oxford University Press Inc. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press.  Princeton Theological Seminary Library.  16 March 2012  <>.

Günther Wartenberg, Walter D. Morris "Alesius, Alexander"  The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation. Ed. Hans J. Hillerbrand. Oxford University Press, 1996.  Princeton Theological Seminary Library.  16 March 2012 <>.

"Burnet, Gilbert"   The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Ed F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone. Oxford University Press Inc. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press.  Princeton Theological Seminary Library.  16 March 2012  <>.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Christopher Hitchens on Science and Reason

Christopher Hitchens (ed.), The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever (Philadelphia, PA: Da Capo Press, 2007), xxi.
There is…no special reason to credit “science” as the father or godfather of reason. As in the case of the doctors mentioned earlier [ed. note: e.g., Nazi physicians, etc.], a commitment to experiment and find evidence is no guarantee of immunity to superstition and worse. Sir Isaac Newton was prey to the most idiotic opinions about alchemy. Joseph Priestly, the courageous Unitarian and skeptic who discovered oxygen, was a believer in the phlogiston theory. Alfred Russel Wallace, one of Darwin’s greatest collaborators and progenitors, was a dedicated attender of spiritualist sessions where “ectoplasm” was produced by frauds to the applause of morons. Even today, there are important men of science—admittedly a minority—who maintain that their findings are compatible with belief in a creator. They may not be able to derive the one from the other, or even to claim to do so, but they testify the the extreme stubbornness with which intelligent people will cling to unsupported opinions.

This one kind of goes off the rails a bit toward the end, the paragraph concluding with a point that is tangential to the one with which he began. But one gets the point (or, points, as it were…).


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Franz Leenhardt on Protestant Ecclesiology

Franz Leenhardt [*], Two Biblical Faiths, 90.
The protestant is inclined to apply to ecclesiological matters the text in which the apostle Paul compares the old covenant to the earthly Jerusalem and the new to the heavenly Jerusalem. The protestant’s predilection is for the heavenly Jerusalem. The church is a reality so inward and so secret that it cannot but be invisible; God alone knows who properly belongs to it. The people of God, as a people, is certainly a visible and earthly reality; but the life that it now lives in the flesh, the protestant again would say with St. Paul, it lives by faith in the Son of God; as people of God, it exists only by virtue of faith. God does not establish its foundation sin this world; nothing can guarantee its quality; it is the church only as it turns on the axis of faith. That is why for the protestant the church cannot be an institution, an objective concrete reality which abides in itself. It appears rather, hic et nunc, in the very act which makes it emerge as a reality of faith, when believers assemble to heed in faith the word of God, or when they confess their faith before the world.

Luther set the tone of protestant tendencies in ecclesiology when he discontinued the use of the word church. He chose to recognize only the word Gemeinde, that is, the community of believers, the group of viatores, of pilgrims who pass through this world with their eyes fixed on the distant horizon which has been disclosed to their faith by the promise implied in God’s word. There can be no question of any establishment in this world which would denote a yielding to the temptation to anticipate the last times, the ultimate aeon. In order to remain dependent on the promise and the promise alone, the Christian must resist the temptation to set up in the present age an organized institution in which the human will would have, at its free disposal and exercise, that which can depend only on the sovereign liberty of God.

This passage is simply remarkable for its concision as well as its depth of insight. The bit right in the middle, at the end of the first paragraph, about the church appearing / existing here and now only as an event or act – and the event or act of hearing the word and proclaiming the gospel before the world! – is superb. Then, at the end of the second paragraph we find an indictment not only of Roman Catholicism but also of much of Protestantism. For while certain strands of Roman Catholic thinking can view the church as the sort of institution that Leenhardt describes, it is certainly true that Protestants can act like the church is such a thing, even though they might not believe it. They do so every time they care more for their church building than for the poor, or more for maintaining the high musical caliber of their choir rather than for the proclamation of the gospel to those who have not heard. All of this Leenhardt gives us in a lucid, conversational style.

[*]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.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Church Architecture and Mission

I've got a friend who I'm sure will get a certain feeling of satisfaction in my posting this, but oh well...
A friend of mine is pastor of a congregation in northern Germany. The church building is two hundred years old, but there is really nothing unique or extraordinary about it. Yet one thing makes the church special in my eyes. There is a wide square in front of the church that was a marketplace in former times. The square is laid out with cobblestones, some darker and others lighter, which of itself is nothing extraordinary. But when you stand in the middle of the square, you notice something unexpected. The light brown cobblestones form a pattern on the background of the darker cobblestones. Starting at the church door, the lighter stones spread out into the square like sunrays. Walking from the middle of the square toward the entrance into the church, you feel as if you are being guided by the sunrays made from stone. Inside the church, the pattern continues, leading to the center of the church: the pulpit and the table of the Lord's Supper. After the service, when you walk out of the church, the same cobblestones that led you into the church now lead you out of the church into the market square. Those two-hundred-year-old, worn-out cobblestones that have gathered the congregation around Word and sacrament now send the people out into the world. -- Margit Ernst-Habib, "A Conversation with Twentieth-Century Confessions," Conversations with the Confessions: Dialogue in the Reformed Tradition (Joseph D. Small, ed.; Louisville, KY: Geneva Press, 2005), 69.
Would that churches today thought through their architecture in this sort of theological mode, rather than worrying about things like where to put the speakers and projection screen, hang the projector and lights, expand the parking (note well that this particular architectural move would be impossible in our own time and place because we have become thoroughly enslaved to the automobile, John Knox's grave has actually been paved over for parking!), put the vending machine or miniature coffee shop, etc. And that's even before we start in on the missionary orientation , not trying to replicate a distinctly Christian culture but feeding on word and sacrament and then going out into the larger world thus fortified to share the gospel.


Thursday, March 08, 2012

KBBC Book Update

It is my distinct pleasure to offer you, gentle reader, an update on the publication project for the 4th Karl Barth Blog Conference. If you want to donate to help cover the costs associated with this project, click the button below to do so directly (every $ helps!) or purchase a book from the KBBC reading list to do so indirectly.

Anyway, the editors now possess all but the preface, forward, and afterward - in other words, they possess all but a few window dressings. Editing has commenced with the goal of turning the MSS in to the publisher in the very near future. A preliminary table of contents now exists, and I offer it to you below to whet your appetite. Remember that this volume contains the revised, expanded, and supplemented proceedings of the 2010 Karl Barth Blog Conference, the raw proceedings of which (and the hundreds of comments documenting the conversation that those proceedings spawned) are indexed here at DET on the KBBC page (cf. the tab at the top of the page).

Karl Barth in Conversation

Preface - Myers

Foreward - McMaken

Part 1: Past Conversations

  • Chapter 1 - Wesley; John Drury (plenary) and Christian Collins Winn (response).
  • Chapter 2 - Schleiermacher; Matthew Bruce (plenary) and Matthias Gockel (response).
  • Chapter 3 - Bonhoeffer; Matthew Puffer (plenary) and Andrew Rowell (response).
  • Chapter 4 - Taubes; Benjamin Myers (plenary) and Derek Woodard-Lehman (response).

Part 2: Present Conversations

  • Chapter 5 - Jenson; Peter Kline (plenary) and William Barnett (response).
  • Chapter 6 - Hauerwas; Halden Doerge (plenary) and Ry Siggelkow (response).
  • Chapter 7 - Tanner; Scott Jackson (plenary) and David Congdon (response).
  • Chapter 8 - Hart; Keith Starkenburg (plenary) and Han-luen Kantzer Komline (response).

Part 3: Expanding Conversations

  • Chapter 9 - Milbank / Zizek; Paul D. Jones (plenary) and Sigurd Baark (response).
  • Chapter 10 - Apocalyptic; Shannon Smythe (plenary) and Andrew Guffey (response).
  • Chapter 11 - Kegan; Blair Bertrand (plenary) and Katherine Douglass (response).
  • Chapter 12 - Coen Brothers; Jon Coutts (plenary) and Brad East (response).

Afterword - Congdon

Appendix - David Guretzki ("On Conversing with Barth").


Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Machismo Church: The History and Future of Masculine Christianity - PTR Call for Papers

The folks currently running the Princeton Theological Review have asked me to spread the word about their current call for papers. Apparently submissions are lagging despite the rather sensational topic. Although the deadline was originally March 3rd, it has been extended until the 30th. So if you have something interesting to say on this already very interesting topic, consider writing it up and sending it to the PTR. Consult their submissions page for all the nuts and bolts. Here is the poster for the call, and the detailed prompt is included below. Truth in advertising, I was on the PTR's executive staff back in the day (book review editor), and I can't say enough good things about it - where else will you find a theological journal by and for MDiv students of such high quality? Even if you aren't able to submit material, at least surf over and check out the past issues archive.

The call:
Spring 2012 Call for Papers: Machismo Church: The History and Future of Masculine Christianity

The PTR would like to invite you to submit an article, exegesis paper, reflection, or book review for publication in the spring 2012 issue on the topic of Machismo Church. Consider the following: The gendered Trinity, patrimony and patriarchy, missiology and consquest, sexuality and the mystical tradition, the male-ness of Jesus, identity politics and ecclesiology, complementarianism and egalitarianims, the attributes of God, and and gender and theo-politics. To address questions like these, we want you — the seminary student aspiring toward pastoral and theological ministry, the PhD candidate in religion, theology, or society, the up and coming professor or the well-established theological educator. Articles, reflections, and book reviews must be submitted no later than March 30, 2012.


Saturday, March 03, 2012

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

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

…or, What's Been Going On in the Theoblogosphere.

I've meant to write one of these posts for a while, but I've been interminably busy. That hasn't changed, but my notes for this post have piled up to the point where I either need to write the thing or give up on it. So I'm writing it.

What's New at DET?

As regular readers know, DET has gone through something of a format change this calendar year. Starting in January, DET officially became a multi-author blog. There was an official announcement post outlining the change, which included a visual redesign, and then each of the contributors wrote a post introducing themselves. Those introductory posts have now been linked in to the Contributing Authors page, which also provides more streamlined biographical information. I've said it a number of times, but I'll say it again - I'm very excited about this change, and I believe that DET's new contributors have already added valuable new perspective and direction to the blog. For instance, consider the recent posts on Pannenberg and
Berchtold Haller.

For my own part, this year has already seen a number of significant posts. For instance: my dissertation abstract, an open letter to Christianity Today that David Congdoon and I wrote together, an a post announcing the publication of my article entitled "Why I Support #OWS as a Reformed Theologian."

Book Spotlight

I also want to draw attention to the book recently published by my doktorvater: George Hunsinger (ed), Thy Word is Truth: Barth on Scripture (Eerdmans, 2010). This volume comprises the proceedings from one of the Barth Conferences held in Princeton (I want to say that it's the one from 2006, but don't hold me to that). I was in attendance and heard some solid contributions, so I'm excited that the volume has finally made it into print. I'm sure I'll end up posting snippets from or reflections on this volume in the future. Speaking of which, here is a post about the volume from the Eerdmans blog, including a nice excerpt and the table of contents.

What's Going On Elsewhere?

These posts are sort of like "State of the Theoblogosphere" statements, and I'm pleased to stand before you today (go with me here...) and tell you that the state of our theoblogosphere is strong!

For instance, we've seen some good stuff from the folks at the Aberdeen-based collaborative blog, Out of Bounds. Specifically, late January and early February saw a trio of really solid post on Barth over there. Darren Sumner kicked things off with a lengthy and insightful post (which generated considerable comment) entitled, "Revelation and History: Cornelius Van Til’s Critique of Karl Barth." Questions of theological ontology quickly surfaced, and Darren spun off a comment on that subject from David Congdon into its own post: "Actualism: Discussion On Barth and Theological Ontology." Darren then followed up with a post on Barth and the confessional nature of theology: "Barth on the Relative Authority of the Church."

Elsewhere, Collin Cornell (who just provided a guest post here at DET on Thursday, covering an Old Testament lecture at PTS) has been working through (Swiss Reformed Old Testament scholar) Otto Bächli's Das Alte Testament in der Kirchlichen Dogmatik von Karl Barth. Collin has provided two sets of chapter summaries(perhaps there are more forthcoming?)- chapters 1-5, chapters 6-7 - as well as a set of more generalized reflections on the undertaking.

Finally, Unbound (the same place I published my piece on #OWS) published a reflection from PTS professor, missiologist, and translator extraordinaire - Darrell Guder - on Evangelism and Justice." The teaser line reads: "Con­sid­er­ing what it might take to merge the pri­or­i­ties of evan­ge­lism and social jus­tice into one mis­sional con­vic­tion that embod­ies them both." Go read it.

Whew! I now feel wonderfully unburdened. It's always nice to cross something off the list. Productive procrastination - that's what it's all about!

So, until next time...


Thursday, March 01, 2012

PTS Report: 2012 Alexander Thompson Lecture

A guest post, by Collin Cornell.*

PTS awarded the annual endowed 2012 Alexander Thompson lecture to one of its own, Dr. J.J.M. Roberts, the William Henry Green Professor of Old Testament Literature Emeritus (see the PTS press release for more information). Dr. Sakenfeld introduced the lecturer, firstly and officially rehearsing his ample resume as an OT scholar and Assyriologist, and then more personally as a friend and former colleague, known for his hospitality, abiding Christian faith, and unconventional 3-point shot.

Dr. Roberts began by saying that a superficial reading of the 1, 2 Samuel narratives about David’s ascendancy yields a picture of a king who, despite some faults, was a man after God’s own heart. The Chronicler sweetens this already positive picture and omits even the few dark spots of his source, leaving, in Wellhausen’s opinion, a “feeble holy picture, seen through a cloud of incense.” Dr. Roberts suggested that consultation with ANE materials revealed a much more complex and human portrait of this pivotal biblical figure. His presentation to that end took three parts: public opinion, royal apologetics, and imperial ideology. Throughout his lecture, Dr. Roberts played wittily (but pointedly) off present-day politics.

In the interest of not giving away Dr. Roberts’ entire lecture, I will discuss only his third point: imperial ideology. ANE kings justified their rule in their home countries by appealing to their construction projects and military victories, cancelling cities’ debts, and leading religious processionals and festivals. However, when subjugating other peoples outside their home turf, sovereigns required even further public justification (as today). Assyrian and Amorite records attest to the development of an imperial ideology whereby the gods of militarily subject cities and peoples cede supreme authority to the high god of the conquering king’s home city. Thus a cosmic and theological action preceded and warranted an earthly king’s territorial expansion. The growth of human power mirrored the perceived growth of divine power, and kings shared imperial titles (communicatio idiomatum?) with their god: Tiglath-Pileser became the King of Kings and Lord of Lords at the same time as his deity. Notably, these imperial titles endure even after the disintegration of the political realities that first gave them birth.

In this context, Dr. Roberts gave a brief history of Israelite religion, beginning with the archaic text Dt 32:8-9 wherein El the high god apportions each nation to its god, and YHWH receives Jacob. At the stage of this text’s production, Israel acknowledged that other nations legitimately had their own national deities. However, as YHWH’s authority grew – and his titles became more universal and imperial, the legitimacy of these other gods receded (Ps 47, 95). Dr. Roberts cited here the strange Ps 82 in which YHWH casts down the other gods for not executing justice.

When did this expansion take place? Dr. Roberts argued that this religionsgeschichtliche event occurred in David’s day: “YHWH’s elevation coincided with David’s,” on analogy with other nations’ theological/political histories. Hence a piece like Ps 2, which envisions foreign enemies as vassals rebelling against the imperial sovereign, YHWH. Dr. Roberts directed this history to a twofold conclusion: against minimalists in biblical interpretation who gainsay the existence of David and his kingdom, Dr. Roberts proposed that the ANE provides no analogies for a people who retrojected imperial glory back onto a past era from a present situation of political weakness. Rather, imperial ideologies always date from the reign of their first instigators and no later. This constitutes a strong argument for David’s historical reality and the (relative) expanse of his kingdom. Secondly, Dr. Roberts pointed out the theological longevity and potency of this imperial ideology, long after the era of Israel’s political disappearance – in the prophets, who continued to believe the universal rule of YHWH, but also, finally, in the New Testament’s Christology and eschatological expectation.

[*Note: Collin Cornell is a PTS MDiv student and friend of DET. He runs a blog named, Kaleidobible: Zephyrous. Kaleidoscopic. Biblical., which deserves your attention. Of special interest to DET readers will be a series of posts wherein Collin works through the interaction between Karl Barth and OT scholar Otto Bächli.]