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Showing posts from 2013

Markus Barth, Sacraments, and Mysteries - Mondays with McMaken

Time for another self-serving installment of this “please go buy a copy of my book” series.

This time, I want to highlight a very interesting argument that I found in the work of Markus Barth, Karl’s son and noted NT scholar. Markus seems to have arrived at a full-blown rejection of sacramental baptism sooner than did Karl, and Karl acknowledges the role that his son’s work played in his own development on the question.

One of the arguments that often gets made in support of a sacramental understanding of baptism is what might be called “appeal to mysteries,” that is, the idea that the New Testament pictures baptism in a way consistent with how ancient “mystery cult” rituals are pictured, especially with reference to efficacy to produce the thing represented. Below is my attempt to communicate Markus’ argument for why that appeal is misplaced.

W. Travis McMaken, The Sign of the Gospel: Toward an Evangelical Doctrine of Infant Baptism after Karl Barth, Emerging Scholars (Fortress, 2…

"The God who has a history" - Hauerwas, Jenson, and Theological Sentences

Stanley Hauerwas wrote a piece back in September entitled “How to write a theological sentence.” I skimmed it then, but more recently I sat down to read it carefully. It is very interesting for a number of reasons. But I want to highlight here part of Hauerwas’ discussion of the sentence that he takes as exemplary of theological writing, a sentence that comes from the first volume of Robert Jenson’s Systematic Theology:
I believe . . . that Robert Jenson’s sentence, “God is whoever raised Jesus from the dead, having before raised Israel from Egypt,” took a lifetime to write. I do not have the gift of exposition Stanley Fish displays, but I need at least to try to show why I think Jenson’s sentence is such an exemplary theological sentence. The crucial word is “whoever.” With that word Jenson resists the commonplace assumption that when someone says “God” they know what they are saying. I suggested above that the problem with much of modern theology is too often we confirm the familia…

A Theology of the Holidays by Chris TerryNelson

My good friend and friend of the blog, Chris TerryNelson (he wrote for both the 2007 and 2008 KBBCs, and collaborated in some other endeavors as well), has written an engaging series of theological reflections on holidays – specifically: Christmas, Halloween, Easter, and Thanksgiving. So, as we are in the throes of a holiday season, I wanted to pass these on to you for contemplation. He has a nice index post up for quick reference, so just surf over to his blog and check them out.

One thing that I really like about these reflections is that he has brought together the more obviously theological holidays of Easter and Christmas with the less obviously theological holidays of Halloween and Thanksgiving. Chris’ reflection on Halloween is especially stimulating, I think. He tackles the issue of horror in the world from a pastoral angle, even offering this bit of counsel which I wish was more obvious to more people:
Just a note of caution: if your friend is suffering from something, an il…

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

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

…or, The Past Fortnight in the Theoblogosphere.

Actually, it’s been over a month since the last link-post installment. AAR, end of semester grading, finals grading, holidays, etc. But I need to get another one of these out there for you, gentle readers, for a couple of reasons. First, I have about 300 theology blog posts sitting in my reader that I need to look at and sort into what I want to share with you and what I want to ignore, and perhaps I would be more motivated to do that if my hopper of already sorted posts was depleted . . . Perhaps . . . Second and more importantly, however, I want to highlight once more for you an exciting opportunity here at DET – the book giveaway contest!

That’s right! You might be eligible to compete for the change to get a copy of the new Westminster Handbook to Karl Barth for free!

Check out the announcement post for all the details. Be sure to spread the word far and wide around the interwebs, and …

Troeltsch’s criticism of Schleiermacher

Once more into the Troeltschian breech!

Hans-Georg Drescher, Ernst Troeltsch: His Life and Work (Fortress, 1993), 205.
The crux of Troeltsch’s criticism of Schleiermacher is that because he came from Herrnhuter pietism and was close to the world of Romanticism in his early years he expressed his theological programme in a fantastic and unworldly way. In particular his ideal of the church seems to Troeltsch to be utopian and alien to the world. In the mature Schleiermacher Troeltsch criticizes above all his assimilation to current circumstances, to life in the Prussian church. For Troeltsch, Schleiermacher’s programme, particularly his definition of the “essence of Christianity,” is dependent on a dogmatics which puts the emphasis on the concept of redemption and which allows itself to be directed by church thinking, by an accentuation of the concept of the church.What intrigues me about this is how Troeltsch’s criticism of Schleiermacher is almost the mirror image of what one usually …

First Amazon Review of my “The Sign of the Gospel”

You will remember when I posted about the first review that my book received, written by Jim West. It is now my pleasure to bring to your attention the first Amazon review for my book, this time written by John Flett. Readers of DET will know John’s work from my posts (here’s one) about it. Anyway, this is what John had to say about my book:

“Fine treatment on a difficult subject. Well researched, well written, and, perhaps most noteworthy, it develops a positive conclusion. The relationship of baptism to the vocational core of the church's existence is a question worth considering, and McMaken's answer is one worth hearing.”
Surf over and read the original for yourself if you like. It will be easy for you to order a copy while there but, if your conscience is alive, surf on over to the Fortress site to do so.

Now we just need the book's first traditionally published review...

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Book Giveaway Contest! “The Westminster Handbook to Karl Barth”

That’s right, folks! This is your chance to win a free copy of the newly published Westminster Handbook to Karl Barth (WJK, 2013) edited by Richard Burnett. This looks like a very handy volume for folks starting out in Barth studies, or who are interested in a more thematic presentation of Barth’s thought.

Westminster John Knox was kind enough to send DET a review copy of the book. Luckily for you, gentle readers, they did so about a week after I had received my pre-ordered copy. So now I’m giving you a chance to get a free book. Here’s how this is going to work…

To become eligible for the prize, you will need to send a short (500-750 word) “essay” (blog post, etc.) in response to the prompt:

Why and / or how (i.e., in what manner) should Karl Barth remain an important theological voice in 21st century theology?
This submission should be original work, not posted on a blog or otherwise made publically available. Send your entry to the DET e-mail address (derevth [at] gmail [dot] com) …

Jesus reveals humanity’s true state: Gollwitzer on Luke 23.1–12

Here’s a nice little bit from Gollwitzer that I thought that I would share. It comes from one of his (relatively few) translated sermons. I always find his sermons to be compelling.


Helmut Gollwitzer, The Dying and Living Lord, 44–5.


So, in His last hours, Jesus was surrounded by people who showed by their behavior what is the real state of man, what that humanity, which He had come to save, is really like, fundamentally. This revelation becomes ever clearer and ever more terrible: first of all there is the fanaticism and the anger of the [Jewish leaders], then the irresponsibility and timidity of the authorities who wield political power; and then finally, as a dreadful climax, the scene at Herod’s palace, where Jesus Christ, the very presence of God upon earth, becomes the sport of Herod and his court. When the Bible wants to show the lost condition of man it does not describe criminals and convicts, but the appalling blindness and unawareness of average human beings, the blindeness …

Reassessing Barth’s Treatment of Baptism in CD 4.4 – Introduction from my AAR / KBSNA paper

Shortly before Thanksgiving I had the honor of addressing the members of the Karl Barth Society of North America at this year’s annual national meeting of the American Academy of Religion. I intend to submit my paper for publication in the very near future, but I also wanted to give folks an idea of what I covered in that paper. So below you will find the introductory paragraph to my paper, which sketches the argument.


DEFINITIVE, DEFECTIVE, OR DEFT?
REASSESSING BARTH’S TREATMENT OF BAPTISM IN CD 4.4
Few subjects within the field of Barth-studies have been so divisive as Barth’s doctrine of baptism and, specifically, his articulation of that position in Church Dogmatics 4.4. Reception of Barth on this point has been divided into those who support his rejection of sacramental and infant baptism, and those who do not. In what follows, I work through a fivefold thought progression in an effort to reassess this portion of Barth’s theological legacy. First, I identify Eberhard Jüngel and…

Infant Baptism and Protestant Theology - Mondays with McMaken

Continuing on in this self-promotional series, I offer you the following paragraph on the question of how infant baptism fits within Protestant theology.

W. Travis McMaken, The Sign of the Gospel: Toward an Evangelical Doctrine of Infant Baptism after Karl Barth, Emerging Scholars (Fortress, 2013), 24.

Of particular interest is how Calvin’s doctrine of baptism provides an especially instructive look at the inherent tension within all reformational doctrines of infant baptism. For both Luther and Calvin, and the mainline of the Reformation as it proceeded from them, baptism is only effective to accomplish what it is said to accomplish insofar as it is joined with faith. This pushed both Luther and Calvin to make assertions about the possibility of faith in infants as well as to argue that those baptized must later fulfill their baptisms with faith. The status of such affirmations is not important here. But they do reveal that for all the bluster in support of infant baptism against th…

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

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

…or, The Past Fortnight in the Theoblogosphere.

It has been too long since I last managed to post some links (here’s that post). I’ve been collecting them, however, and quite a pile has built up. So I thought that I would pass some on. Here are the few new posts from DET since then:

New Center for Barth Studies Book Review on The Analogy of BeingBarth on the triune relationshipsTroeltsch’s distinction between Dogmatics and Glaubenslehre - Some folks wrote comments on this post and, while I mean to, I never made it back to respond. My apologies. :-/Augustine and the Sacramental Argument for Infant Baptism - Mondays with McMaken
Here are the links from around the theo-blogosphere:

Animals as Religious Subjects :: Book/Chapter AnnouncementFive things Bill O’Reilly flubs in 'Killing Jesus'25 Signs You’re Addicted To BooksJesus Catches Peter - Jason Ingalls on John 21.1-19He finally got it - “A sermon by Kim Fabricius (his second-last…

New Center for Barth Studies Book Review

Jeffrey Skaff, currently a doctoral student at Princeton Theological Seminary, reviewsThomas Joseph White (ed.), The Analogy of Being: Invention of Antichrist or the Wisdom of God? (Eerdmans, 2011). Skaff’s review is quite lengthy, and he does a good job of sketching the various contributions in the volume. He also offers some helpful comments toward the end to help situate this volume and the discussion it represents within the ongoing context of Barth studies. This is definitely a review that you want to read if you haven’t had time to read the volume and, even if you’ve read the volume, surf on over to see if you agree with what Skaff has to say. In other words, be sure to check out this review!

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Barth on the triune relationships

I recently administered midterm exams, and I decided to do something useful with the time that would be on my hands as my students furiously wrote their exam answers. So I read some Barth on the Trinity. This particular passage stood out to me as a particularly powerful expression of the dialectic in Barth’s trinitarian thought between God’s one-ness which is also God’s threeness and God’s threeness which is also God’s oneness, in this case in conceptual contact with patristic thinking about processions. Enjoy!

Barth, Church Dogmatics 1.1, 363:Quite rightly reference has been made here first and foremost to the New Testament names of Father, Son and Spirit. If these three names are really in their threeness the one name of the one God, then it follows that in this one God there is primarily at least—let us put it cautiously, something like fatherhood and sonship, and therefore something like begetting and being begotten, and then a third thing common to both, which is not a being bego…

Troeltsch’s distinction between Dogmatics and Glaubenslehre

So, more about Troeltsch. I found this distinction to be rather interesting and thought-provoking, especially when viewed in terms of Troeltsch’s interactions with Hermann.

Hans-Georg Drescher, Ernst Troeltsch: His Life and Work (Fortress, 1993), 202.
When in 1900 the publishing house Mohr/Siebeck in Tübingen was considering whether to found a new journal for systematic theology, Troeltsch was also asked for his opinion. He wrote: “Systematic theology belongs in general journals. . . I do not believe that anyone will have the courage to devote a special journal to it at a time when dogmatic theology is falling apart.” The fact that Troeltsch had always had the intention to publish a collection of his “positive” views does not contradict these thoughts.

The idea of the dissolution of dogmatic theology is to be seen against the background of Troeltsch’s distinction between dogmatics and the doctrine of faith (Glaubenslehre). In the history of religion Troeltsch sees dogmatics as a disti…

Augustine and the Sacramental Argument for Infant Baptism - Mondays with McMaken

Part of what I do in my volume on baptism is to identify the two primary arguments presented by the theological tradition in support of infant baptism. The first of these arguments, both chronologically and in terms of my presentation-order, is the sacramental argument. Augustine is the primogenitor of this argument, at least insofar as it achieves a theologically robust formulation. Here’s an excerpt to flesh things out a bit more:

W. Travis McMaken, The Sign of the Gospel: Toward an Evangelical Doctrine of Infant Baptism after Karl Barth, Emerging Scholars (Fortress, 2013), 20.
Infant baptism was practiced in extremis in the early Christian centuries, but it was always something of a practice in search of a theology. By pressing it into service in his dispute with the Pelagians, Augustine “provided the theology that led to infant baptism becoming general practice for the first time in the history of the church.” This was not his intent. In fact, he argued that it was already the chu…

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

First review of my “The Sign of the Gospel”

Long-time and well-known biblio- and theo-blogger, Jim West, who currently writes over at Zwinglius Redivivus, recently posted a link to a review of my book that he has written. As far as I know, this is my book’s first review ever!

(In case any of you, gentle readers, have a terrible memory or some kind of amnesia, my book is entitled The Sign of the Gospel: Toward an Evangelical Doctrine of Infant Baptism after Karl Barth, Fortress: 2013.)

As I read it, Jim’s review is very positive. And that means quite a bit to me because he represents part of the demographic to which I addressed the volume. I am particularly gratified by his following comment:
M., unlike other Barth commentators, actually correctly perceives Barth’s purpose and he understands Barth well enough to ‘get him right’. M., in brief, doesn’t do Barth the disservice of putting words into his mouth. Barth speaks with his own voice and M. interacts with the Basel theologian at every turn: not in an attempt to correct Barth…

The Legacy of Hans W. Frei – Conference Announcement

Folks, I’ve recently been notified of a conference to be held (shortly) at Princeton Theological Seminary – sponsored by the Center for Barth Studies and the Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology – dealing with the legacy of the preferable (imho) of the two post-liberal founders, Hans W. Frei. The official publicity copy on the conference is below, following by a banner image for the event. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend. But maybe you can!

The Center for Barth Studies and the Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology are sponsoring a free one-day conference on the legacy of Yale theologian Hans W. Frei on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of his death. No pre-registration required.

Saturday, October 12th, 2013
9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
(with break for lunch)

Princeton Theological Seminary - Princeton, NJ
Cooper Conference Room, Erdman Center

Speakers:
George Hunsinger, Princeton Theological Seminary
A. Katherine Grieb, Virginia Theological Seminary
James J. Buckley…

Original Sin and Reconciliation in Bonhoeffer’s “Act and Being”

I recently decided to buzz through Bonhoeffer’s Habilitationsschrift. It has been sitting on my shelf for a few years now, staring at me reproachfully. So I took it down and read with what turned out to be rapt attention. It is simply amazing that he wrote this at the age of 24 . . . But, all jealousies aside, it is well worth reading. It is unfortunately neglected because it is (shall we say) a bit more intellectually demanding than (shall we say) some of his other writings. The first half is especially compelling, although the answer that he proposes to the problem he identifies there is less attractive to me than (shall we say) other possible answers.

How’s that for being vague?

Anyway, the bit that I want to share with you deals with the subject of original sin and reconciliation and, more specifically, how the two fit together. Bonhoeffer further develops his thinking on the original sin side especially in his Creation and Fall, which I also highly recommend.

Dietrich Bonhoeffe…

Did the early church baptize infants? - Mondays with McMaken

Time for another appetite-whetting installment of this wonderful new series. Don’t forget to tell your theological librarian to order a copy of the book. Also, Christmas is right around the corner and nothing makes a better stocking stuffer than a theological treatise on baptism! Better yet, it's a healthy and uplifting alternative to candy as an option for handing-out on Halloween...

W. Travis McMaken, The Sign of the Gospel: Toward an Evangelical Doctrine of Infant Baptism after Karl Barth, Emerging Scholars (Fortress, 2013), 16.
Taken together, one must conclude that the church both did and did not baptize infants in the early Christian centuries. It did baptize infants in situations where death threatened; it did not as a standard practice baptize infants who were not threatened by impending death. This state of affairs meshes well with Tertullian’s comments above, as well as those of Gregory the Theologian who argued that parents should wait until their children achieved three…

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

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

…or, The Past Fortnight in the Theoblogosphere.

You all know the drill. Here’s the DET stuff:

Meanwhile, back at the ranch… - The last link post.What makes a doctrine properly evangelical? - Mondays with McMakenOn Reading and Not-Reading BarthGod and the gods: The theological fruitfulness of a history-of-religions approach - A guest post by Collin CornellNew Center for Barth Studies Book Review - Matthias Gockel reviews a couple volumes of Erik Peterson’s Ausgewählte Schriften.Troeltsch’s Understanding of the Historical Relation between Dogmatics and Ethics
And now for the rich offerings of the wider theo-blogosphere:

What Explanations Count?The dangers of apologeticsBIBLICAL STUDIES CARNIVAL: AUGUST, 2013The New Avatar - “Persecutors always claim to be persecuted.”SERMON: God builds a kingdom that cannot be shaken - Jason Ingalls (KBBC contributor and friend of the blog) on Hebrews 12Already Overtaken: A Sermon on Luke 11SERV CONFEREN…

Troeltsch’s Understanding of the Historical Relation between Dogmatics and Ethics

Once upon a time there was an assistant professor who saw a book in his colleague’s office, bought it, and read it. He subsequently found some interesting stuff in it and decided to share that interesting stuff with others.

You get the point.

So this is an account of how Troeltsch understood the historical relationship between dogmatics and ethics in Christian theology. I found it interesting; you might too.

Hans-Georg Drescher, Ernst Troeltsch: His Life and Work (Fortress, 1993), 180:
For Troeltsch, the course of the more recent history of theology since the Reformation went like this. Originally an understanding of Christian faith and religion which was not discussed further included a bent towards action; the result was that the methodological question of the relationship between dogmatics and ethics went unanswered. Rather, ethics retreated behind dogmatics and stood in its shadow. That changed with the Enlightenment and its concern to develop a universal theory of morality. Kan…

New Center for Barth Studies Book Review

KBBC contributor Matthias Gockel reviews - Erik Peterson, Ausgewählte Schriften, vol. 9 – Theologie und Theologen: Texte (9/1), Theologie und Theologen: Briefwechsel mit Karl Barth u.a., Reflexionen und Erinnerungen (9/2), edited by Barbara Nichtweiß (Würzburg: Echter Verlag, 2009). Matthias’s review helps to make this very interesting material more accessible to English-language Barth scholars, and we hope to offer a German version of his review in the future as well. Check out this window into one of Barth’s formative conversations and conversation partners! Be sure to check out Scott’s review!

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God and the gods: The theological fruitfulness of a history-of-religions approach - A guest post by Collin Cornell

[Ed. note: Collin Cornell writes the always interesting blog Kaleidobible, as well as semi-regular guest posts here at DET.]


Theological scholars have texts to which they return time and again; passages and pages that bear the telltale thumb-smudging of high traffic. What chapters and articles these are depends on our particular disciplines and the problems that each of us find compelling. Theologian friends of mine have chapters from James Cone or Helmut Gollwitzer on speed-dial; for the range of issues I think through, I suspect Pat Miller’s article “God and the Gods: History of Religions as an Approach and Context for Bible and Theology” may come to have such a “(deutero-)canonical status” for me (orig. pub. in Affirmation, 1973; reprint in Israelite Religion and Biblical Theology, Sheffield, 2000). Why?

In short, Miller’s piece makes an apology for the theological fruitfulness of a history-of-religions approach: that is, a study of Israel’s religion that maps its features comprehe…

On Reading and Not-Reading Barth

I’m sure DET readers have been clued into this developing conversation for a while, but I wanted to formalize DET recognition of it – especially since none of the posts made it into the link post on Saturday (didn’t get that far in my queue). I also wanted to wait until a further post was available and, now that it’s online, I can draw your attention to it. So here are the links in chronological order, including what we can see as the precipitating post for this reflection:

Manly Me (Theology Edition) - from DET contributor Brandy Daniels.On Not Reading Barth: my measly resistance - from Janice Rees.On Reading Barth: Another Form of Feminist Resistance (A Response to Janice Rees) - from DET contributor Kait Dugan.On not reading Karl Barth anymore: a white male's perspective - from KBBC contributor Peter Kline.On still reading Barth: some sympathetic reflections - from long-time friend of the blog, David Congdon
Update: Here are three most related posts that have come to my attentio…

What makes a doctrine properly evangelical? - Mondays with McMaken

What’s the point of having a blog if you don’t occasionally engage in some shameless self-promotion? With that in mind, I’m starting a new shameless self-promoting series entitled “Mondays with McMaken.” In these posts I will highlight small snippets from the book that I recently published on Barth and baptism (see below). If you find this stuff interesting, tell your friends about it. If you find it really interesting, buy a copy. If you find it epically interesting, buy 10 copies!

W. Travis McMaken, The Sign of the Gospel: Toward an Evangelical Doctrine of Infant Baptism after Karl Barth, Emerging Scholars (Fortress, 2013), 5.
What makes a doctrine properly evangelical? In the most formal sense, such a designation refers to doctrinal positions that are deeply reformational in orientation. Barth himself defined evangelical theology as “that theology which treats of the God of the Gospel.” What does it mean for a theological position to be governed by such an attention to the God that …

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

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

…or, The Past Fortnight in the Theoblogosphere.

Well, that was refreshing. The short blog hiatus, I mean. But it’s time to rev up the DET engine once again. At least there was plenty of good stuff out there to read in the meantime. Here’s some of the best of it since the last DET link post (hang on, it’s a long one!):


To begin, however, read this from George Hunsinger: Don't Attack Syria: No Justification by Just-War Criteria


Political Theology and Islamic Studies Symposium: Contemporary Islamism and the Sacralization of DemocracyBook Review: Harvey Cox’s The Future of FaithPost-Protestant? (a response)Funded New Testament / Christian Origins Ph.D.Jean Bethke Elshtain, scholar of religion and political philosophy, 1941-2013Karl Barth the Civil War buffWhy We Call God Father: a response to Simon ChanThe art of writing negative book reviewsThe Christ of North American Evangelicalism: A word on my Ecclesiological-Identity CrisisLuther v…