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Showing posts from April, 2013

New Center for Barth Studies Book Review

Paul Nimmoreviews Matthew Rose's, Ethics with Barth: God, Metaphysics and Morals (Ashgate, 2010). This is a very substantial review, both in terms of size (over 4000 words) and depth of engagement, and is therefore a must-read for those who work in Barth or ethics. The review is currently set to be republished in the ZDTh later this year, but you can read it first by following this link!

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Bultmann on Jesus, Paul, and Existential Christology

As I teach undergraduates, I continue to pile up examples of folks for whom basic Christian theological convictions seem like nothing more than mind games. For instance: classical christology, with its talk of natures and hypostases and such, seems more like a mildly interesting word-game at best, rather than the sort of critical exercise is faith-seeking-understanding that the church fathers understood it to be. Grasping why this language and these concept games are important ultimately requires that they be placed in soteriological perspective, and it is certainly the case that soteriological concerns drove the development of classical christology. It is this integrated christological/soteriological dynamic that Rudolf Bultmann seems so intent on capturing and communicating, albeit in an entirely different time and place than did the fathers.

Part of Bultmann’s work involved elucidating this dynamic in the New Testament, and this comes down to a question of how it came to be that a…

My most recent publication: Helmut Gollwitzer & Marxism

This has been in circulation since Monday, and it is time to acknowledge it here as well.

The Other Journal has published a short essay I wrote for them entitled, “The Blame Lies with the Christians: Helmut Gollwitzer’s Engagement with Marxist Criticism of Religion.” This essay discusses a touch of Gollwitzer’s biography dealing with his interaction with Marxism, before spending most of its time elucidating both what Gollwitzer made of the Marxist criticism of religion (as I describe his thinking, “Marxist criticism of religion is the weaponization of Feuerbach’s criticism”), and what impact it had on Gollwitzer’s theology.

Here is the conclusion to wet your appetites. Be sure to surf over and read the whole thing!
Helmut Gollwitzer’s work is a timely and invaluable resource in the contemporary North American sociopolitical climate, which is dominated by economic hardship for the many while the moneyed elite amass ever-greater hordes of wealth. As one who engaged deeply and critically…

God’s Phallus: A guest post by Collin Cornell

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[Ed. note: Collin Cornell writes the always interesting blog, Kaleidobible, which I have featured previously on link posts here at DET. This will hopefully be the first in a semi-regular series of guest posts from Collin.]


Mysteries litter the history of Israelite religions. Even if we accept something like Mark Smith’s account of “the early history of God,” outstanding questions remain. Long before the monarchy, Yhwh, a god from the area southeast of Canaan, merged with El, the old Canaanite high god. The centripetal pull continued in the monarchic period. Yhwh absorbed aspects of Ba’al and vestiges of the goddess Asherah. But why did the cult of the goddess play so little a role in Israel? Why was Yhwh, a male god, without a goddess consort? Statehood encouraged the worship of one god, a single divine king paralleling his earthly suzerain – but what motivated the drive towards divine singularity from even before this time? What inspired Israel’s peculiar prohibition on images of Yh…

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

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

…or, The Past Fortnight in the Theoblogosphere.

Well, it has only been a week since the last link-post. But, as I have repeatedly commented, my back-log for this has been rather deep and I want to clear it out a bit. Not much has gone on here at DET. There was a post about a talk I heard from Stephen Prothero, and a Book o’ the Month post about Bultmann, Otto, and the “Wholly Other.” So check those out if you haven’t yet. And now on to other the other interesting stuff around the theo-blogosphere.

Word for WortWhat do Barth, Paul, Wesley, and German Protestantism all have in common?Wheaton Theology Conference: Mark Noll on “The Peril and Potential of Scripture in Christian Political Witness”What if Barth’s Commentary on Romans had Been Published in the Age of Twitter? - This is pretty funny…Dipsy doodlingsBook Watch: The Westminster Handbook to Karl BarthPsychology and Suicide in the Church"You Wonder Where the Spirit Went"Fr…

Rudolf Otto, Rudolf Bultmann, and the “Wholly Other”

So, two guys named Rudolf walk into a bar…

Ok, so that phrase usually signals a corny joke. But in this case, it might have been true! Bultmann and Otto used to take walks together in Breslau and, being good Germans, at least one of those walks had to include popping in for a stein. In any case, on one of those walks in 1916 Otto explained to Bultmann the contours of the project that would become The Idea of the Holy, published the next year. Otto’s text is well known in both theological and religious studies circles, and its primary concern is to elucidate the concept of the “numinous”—also referred to as the “Wholly Other”—and how it encounters humanity through religion (which it does either as mysterium tremendum or mysterium fascinosum).

God’s status as “Wholly Other” is something that often gets associated with early 20th century Dialectical Theology. I have seen this phrase used as a primary descriptor of Barth’s theology, for instance. But it is important to remember that it a…

Stephen Prothero: “Our Uncommon Creed”

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Last evening I had the distinct pleasure to hear Stephen Prothero, Professor of Religion at Boston University, give an address. Given the events of yesterday and Prothero’s home institution, the evening began with the observation of a moment of silence.

Prothero’s talk was hosted by the Lee Institute, an organization associated with Ladue Chapel Presbyterian Church (USA). I first became acquainted with Prothero’s work through his book, God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World. His burden in that volume, in conjunction with introducing and explaining the engine that drives these eight religions, is to argue that the religions are not all different paths up the same mountain: rather, they are each interested in and develop explanations for different aspects of the human condition, with problems and answers to those problems that are fundamentally different from one another. It is a very good and informative book, and I highly recommend it.

Prothero’s talk this even…

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

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

…or, The Past Fortnight in the Theoblogosphere.

Things have been busy here at DET since the last link-roundup. And not only here. The theo-blogosphere has been going at a good hum the past month or two, and it is a challenge to keep up with all the good posts out there. Thankfully for you, gentle readers, I have collected some of the good ones and gathered them here for your perusal. But before we get to them, here’s the local stuff.

The first thing I want to mention is that DET received a link from First Things (see what I did there?), which brought a number of new readers through the site. I hope they / you liked (at least some of) what you saw and will continue to read.DET contributor Derek Maris posted about the 2013 AAR SBL ASOR Upper Midwest Regional MeetingIf you read DET with Google Reader, be sure to read this! Google Reader's DemiseWe have a new Book ‘o the Month: April Book ‘O the MonthI had some fun on Twitter recently …

Rudolf Bultmann, Poet

I thought that I would depart from the beaten path for this installment pertaining to April’s Book ‘O the Month, and present you not with some weighty prose by or about Bultmann. Perhaps my dear readers, I thought, would find a snippet of his poetry both refreshing and engaging.

This was motivated, in part, by the recent appearance of Rudolf Bultmann's zombie on Twitter. When you think about it, it is rather ironic that a guy interested in demythologizing would come back as a mythological creature...but I digress. In any case, after some witty repartee, I decided to discern just how far ol' Rudy's mental capacities had been diminished by his state of advanced (albeit, reanimated) decomposition. Here is what ensued:

@rudolf_bultmann So, Rudy, let's see if this is really you: what informal location did you write the following lines:— W. Travis McMaken (@WTravisMcMaken) April 10, 2013

@rudolf_bultmann "Take heart, for in this flow of time / Our freedom from ourselves …

Google Reader's Demise

By now I'm sure most folks have heard that Google will but shutting down its Google Reader system on July 1, 2013. If you are interested in that sort of thing, here is one piece of analysis concerning this move that I thought was interesting.

"But wait, why are you talking about this on DET, the theoblog known for its dry, boring, but none-the-less incredibly stimulating theological fare?"

I know in my spirit that some of you, dear readers, are reasoning thusly in your hearts. The answer is because DET has always had a substantial Google Reader subscribers list. From very early on I made it a priority to ensure that the DET rss feed publishes the full text of posts here, rather than just a teaser that requires you to click through for the content. My own feeling is that I care less about you coming to my site (which is more important for people who have aggressively monetized, anyway) than I care about making the content available to you in as easy a manner possible. A…

2013 AAR SBL ASOR Upper Midwest Regional Meeting

This past week Luther Seminary hosted the Upper Midwest joint regional meeting of the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature. Though I didn't present a paper I attended a few sessions, mostly of current or recently completed PhD students at Luther. So, in this brief "sampling" you can get an idea not only of how AAR went, but of the various projects some students are working on at Luther.

My good friend Alex Blondeau offered a paper he (re)titled "Riding a Bike Through a Black Hole," which dealt with "Analytic Theology." (On the off chance you are interested in learning more about this approach in general, or want to see a specific example Alex was critiquing in his paper, click here.) These thinkers, as Alex described them, are wary of forms of "radical transcendence," which in their view ruins their discipline. As Alex noted, he was qualified to help them re-think this, as he used to run in more analytically minded …

New Center for Barth Studies Book Review

April Book ‘O the Month

I went to the national meeting of the American Academy of Religion back in November (2012). As those in the academy know, one of the best parts of this conference is the bookseller’s exhibition hall – a huge room full of books from various publishers in the broad field of religious studies, all showcasing their newest titles and offering a deep discount. I bought one book, and only one book. And this was it.

Konrad Hammann, Rudolf Bultmann: A Biography, trans. Philip E. Devenish (Salem, OR: Polebridge Press, 2013).

This volume was hot off the presses, and I didn’t wait for it to cool before I read it (it is on the list of books that I read last year). It was a captivating and illuminating read, and I heartily recommend it to all students of modern theology. Seriously. Scrape together the funds immediate to buy and read this book.

To further whet appetites, I include below part of Hamman’s discussion of Bultmann’s 1925 essay, “What Does It Mean to Speak of God?”


Konrad Hammann, Rudolf…