Monday, April 29, 2013

New Center for Barth Studies Book Review

Paul Nimmo reviews 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!


Friday, April 26, 2013

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 attention in the earliest Christian communities shifted from the message that Jesus proclaimed to a sense that Jesus himself was the message that needed proclaiming. Bultmann’s way of navigating that issue is central to his development of what we might clumsily call his existential christology. The following material helps to get at that issue.

Konrad Hammann, Rudolf Bultmann, 180–82. Bold is mine.
Bultmann asserts the inner connection between christology and Paul’s teaching on justification. As a form of direct address, christology is the proclamation of the eschatological deed of God that occurred in Jesus Christ, while as a form of indirect speech, christology makes explicit the new self-understanding of the believer that is made possible through the salvation-event. Thus, justification proves to be the explication of christology, just as talk of Christ is conversely understood as implied by the event of justification. Since Paul emphatically unfolds christology after the manner of a doctrine of justification, he makes clear that an understanding appropriation of the Christ-occurrence “is a matter not of speculation, but rather of self-reflection, a thinking-through of one’s new experience.”

. . .

In essence . . . the proclamation of Jesus has no significance for the theological views of Paul. The evident similarities and differences between the preaching of Jesus and the theology of Paul with regard to the law and eschatology cannot be explained in terms of the history of ideas—that is, as if one had developed out of the other. Rather, the decisive difference consists in the fact that “Paul regards as present what for Jesus is future—which is to say, as something in the past breaking into the present.” Bultmann now views two stages as significant for the emergence of christology. Jesus understood himself as bearer of the word of God in the end times. His call to decision in the face of his person implied a christology. Thereupon, with its confession of the crucified Jesus as the Messiah, the earliest community understood the cross as the eschatological deed of God and understood itself anew on this basis. What was implicit in the kerygma of the earliest community, Paul made explicit in his theologia crucis, namely, the meaning of the cross as the decisive fact of salvation for the self-understanding of the believer. But since Jesus Christ encounters a person solely in the proclaimed word, one may “not go back behind the kerygma . . . in order to reconstruct a ‘historical Jesus.’” . . . In his theology, therefore, Paul interprets the new self-understanding of those who believe in the Christ present in the kerygma as Lord over their existence.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

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 with Marxism and its criticism of religion, Gollwitzer can serve as a guide for our own sometimes painful but always necessary efforts to rethink theology and Christian social responsibility—indeed, to rethink the gospel in its manifold significance—for our own time and place.


Monday, April 22, 2013

God’s Phallus: A guest post by Collin Cornell

[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 Yhwh? Or the circumspection of Israel’s writings about Yhwh’s body and sexuality – in such contrast to, say, writings from Ugarit about their embodied and graphically sexual gods?

Another very different set of unanswered questions exists about the effects of a male god on male worshippers. Feminist critics have shown the deleterious effects of belief in a divine male on women, i.e., the ways that a male god reflects and reifies male domination of women. But what they have not probed is the question, how does a divine male also destabilize the masculinity it serves to legitimate? How does a male god, by dominating his male worshippers, place a question-mark over their own status as dominant?

Howard Eilberg-Schwartz in his book God’s Phallus: And Other Problems for Men and Monotheism (Beacon Press, 1995) presents a thesis that engages both sets of questions. In short, he proposes that monotheism caused problems for men in ancient Israel. Because of Yhwh’s solitude on the divine plane, he had no goddess to love erotically. The human Israel took the place of wife to Yhwh – an Israel, notably, headed by men. To avoid the incipient homoeroticism of this arrangement, Israelite religion made two tacks: first, it sought to efface God’s body, especially his (male) sexual parts; second, it feminized Israelite men.

Eilberg-Schwartz follows through in some detail on both halves of this argument. His intellectual resources are broad, though in the main, his approach is psychoanalytic; he aims to pick up where Freud left off in Moses and Monotheism. Eilberg-Schwartz’s explanation for Israel’s resistance to images of God does not rely on new material evidence. Rather, he takes in hand the familiar data about the development of monotheism in Israel, and re-reads it. He rejects the standard scholarly understanding, borrowed from ancient Greek admirers of Judaism: that Israel came to worship an incorporeal and singular god for philosophical reasons. Eilberg-Schwartz shows from a spread of biblical texts that, in fact, ancient Israel and early Judaism probably believed in a corporeal god, and even wrote freely about his extremities, his backside, his personal presence – but prohibited pictures of him; exercised restraint in describing his front and his mid-section; and never mentioned his sexual deeds. So also, Eilberg-Schwartz reviews the ways that Judaism initiates males by injuring their sexual member; demands sexual renunciation of them; and in general problematizes their relationship to their bodies. Eilberg-Schwartz interprets these symbolic actions as attempts to resolve the latent homoeroticism that monotheism brought upon on Israelite men.

Eilberg-Schwartz’s claims are bold; his prose is lucid and readable; his project is sincere, though also somewhat puckish. I don’t know if the book has had much influence on the study of Israelite religion. Eilberg-Schwartz has the credentials (PhD from Brown), but he also draws together conversations that usually remain apart. (Historians of religion don’t usually know much about psychoanalysis or gender theory, and theoreticians of gender don’t usually care much about the intricacies of ancient Mediterranean religion.) I picked up the book for this very reason – because, as someone who studies the Hebrew Bible, I want to stay abreast of fresh and original perspectives, often to be found at the disciplinary margins. I also saw the book as another in a growing tide of voices calling for more attention to the startling fact that the God of Hebrew scripture is in some way bodied. Eilberg-Schwartz has the virtue not only of noting this fact but making a theoretically beefy foray into its implications for thinking about religion.

A few further, brief notes in response to the book:

  1. First, for me and probably for most readers of this blog, reading history of religions (here with a psychoanalytic bent) requires thick theological skin. Many of us come from more conservative backgrounds. We know the objections to “the god of the gaps”: we shouldn’t assert God’s activity as a causal explanation for places that science can’t yet exhaustively explain (the soul, the beginning of the cosmos, etc.), because those places are always receding. But what we may not be used to is the fact that the history of God itself is explicable more or less “scientifically,” as a complex human process. There are few gaps even in God for a God of the gaps to go. There are resources in modern theology, I think, for reflecting on this. Dialectical theology especially abolishes the direct readability of God off any surface in the world. Nothing directly attests to God – even God’s own history as a developing human concept. But it takes a rugged faith to really think like this.
  2. Second, I looked for what is falsifiable in Eilberg-Schwartz’s thesis, and a few areas stick out. He assumes that the move towards monotheism in ancient Israel logically precedes their resistance to iconography: the prohibition of images is a consequence of Yhwh’s solitariness. But these two phenomena (monolatry and aniconism) developed in tandem. The historical facts in this regard are murkier than Eilberg-Schwartz admits. He also requires marriage and sex as the pervasive trope for Yhwh’s relationship to Israel, such that it threatened homoeroticism for the men of Israel – but this, too, is far from clear to me. Warrior, shepherd, king – these images seem to be of at least equal weight, and perhaps even more so in early times. The more loving, marital images of Yhwh and Israel may even come from a later and more monotheistic time, which would complicate (if not undercut) Eilberg-Schwartz’s proposal. I am also unsure about the explanatory power of psychoanalysis for understanding religious change in an ancient culture. Freud received criticism for making time-bound cultural neuroses into human universals. And I wonder if reaching back into Israel’s past with heurisms like “homoeroticism” similarly trivialize historical differences and particularity.
  3. Third, in a lot of literature I read, the contrast is strong between a “Hellenistic” and “incorporeal” god and the “corporeal,” “Hebrew” god. Besides the historical sloppiness of this binary, I also often wonder just how dematerialized and deanthropomorphized a God we (modern Christians) confess. Our theologians may have stopped referring straightforwardly to God’s “hands” or “right arm” or “backside” – but oftentimes notions about God’s “speech” or God’s “action” play a pivotal role in our theology, even of the most reconstructed and philosophical kind. And surely these and others like them are concepts that, ultimately, carry bodily traces. What is an immaterial word, or a wholly non-physical intervention? This to say, divine corporeality may be a more ecumenical problem than we have acknowledged, exceeding the province of arcane Hebrew Bible specialists. We modern Christians may not be as far beyond ancient Israel as we think.


Saturday, April 20, 2013

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.

Alright! My hopper is officially empty. Happy reading, until next time…


Thursday, April 18, 2013

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 actually comes from Otto, and that when the DT guys use it they do so in a very particular way.

It turns out that Bultmann read Otto’s book and wrote a letter (in 1918) to the author asking some pointed questions. Here is how Hammann describes the contents of the letter. This discussion contains some very important lessons for those who would properly understand Dialectical Theology. Of course, it also comes from early in Bultmann’s career.

Konrad Hammann, Rudolf Bultmann, 122–23. Bold is mine. Quotes are to Bultmann’s letter to Otto.
First, Bultmann complains that Otto has passed off merely psychic phenomena as presumably genuine religious states of feeling, but that in so doing has clearly not grasped the essence of religion. Over against such a psychological misunderstanding of religion, it must be insisted that religion consists in an inward and personal experience that knows itself constituted through the relation “th an otherworldly reality of life.” The religious individual experiences this reality, as Bultmann formulates it following Schleiermacher, “in the feeling of absolute dependence.” However, this feeling does not, as Otto believes, correspond to a psychic state, nor does it denote “the faculty of judgment of the aesthetic reason.” It is rather to be characterized, following Schleiermacher, as a form of self-consciousness. Bultmann locates Otto’s understanding of religion in the area of Paul Natorp’s neo-Kantian philosophy of religion. But Natorp’s idea of religion as “a registering of an otherworldly world,” a concept that strongly affected Otto, represents a projection of psychic states, and therefore Bultmann must reject it as a denial of the transcendental reference of religion. Contrary to such a dissolving of religion into illusion, Butlmann’s interpretation of the feeling of absolute dependence leads him to assert the validity of its “objective relation” to otherworldly reality. To be sure, it may not be possible to comprehend this relation to its object rationally; but viewed from the opposite direction, the otherworldly reality may reveal itself as mysterium—mystery in the positive sense, inasmuch as such a revelation opens up an ever-increasing appreciation of existence. Accordingly, what Otto sees as the psychic states in which a person’s sense of being rises to a feeling of self-realization would not be significant for the understanding of religion. What remains decisive is the dual orientation of the religious self-consciousness. On the one side, it “consists in relations to the this-worldly world and in the participation in formulating the material of experience through the faculties of reason.” On the other, it is experienced precisely in this relation to this same world, so that “into one’s individual life” there pours a content that grounds one the certitude of a life grounded in the transcendent.”


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Stephen Prothero: “Our Uncommon Creed”

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 evening was entitled, “Our Uncommon Creed: Reflections on the World’s Religions and American Politics.” To begin, he described his work on a forthcoming project addressing culture wars in United States history, and how this project led him down an expected rabbit trail that became his most recent book, The American Bible-Whose America Is This?: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation. I have not (yet) read this book, but I now intend to as a result of hearing Prothero talk about it. The basic point is that he realized that Americans have a canon of national texts that we treat as sacred in interesting ways. This book collects and comments on 27 of those texts, which he organizes according to a broadly biblical (Judeo-Christian) pattern. Indeed, Prothero remarked that he originally wanted to title the book, The American Talmud, but his publisher would not let him.

This is an important point because he argues that Americans treat their civil religious canon (if you will) more like a Jewish Talmud than the Christian Bible. These texts provide us with a collection of seemingly incommensurable common goods, but little instruction on how to adjudicate between them. Thus they give rise to an ongoing community of interpretation organized by the need to make such adjudications in different times and places. In this way, Prothero suggests, our collective identity is one structured not by orthodoxy—since neither these texts themselves or the fundamental diversity of our nation (ethnic, religious, more broadly intellectual, etc.) allow for a single, authoritative interpretation—but by orthopraxy, namely, the communal interpretive conversation. In this way, our civil religion is more fundamentally Jewish in character than Christian.

The “application” that he made from all this is that anyone who raise an issue for debate over what exactly the whole America thing is about, or what it means to be an American, actually pledges allegiance to America by so doing. Raising such questions is how you function properly as a part of our national interpretive dialog. Well, raising such questions AND engaging in an interpretive dialog that is both civil and well informed. Prothero made a distinction here between arguing to learn and arguing to will, extolling the former. The common good must be maintained before one’s own good, the good of one’s own, or the good of one’s party.

Thus far, description—as best as my meager notes allow for. I do encourage you to pick up his book and engage more deeply with his arguments as he would put them himself. But with that proviso in place, allow me just one semi-critical comment.

Prothero’s interest in raising the level of public discourse and excising unnecessary political vitriol is certainly important and to be welcomed. But there must be limits to the sort of questions about American ideals and identity in interpreting this canon that we as a nation will seriously entertain. For instance, Prothero makes much of how we have historically had to carefully negotiate the relationship between ideals of equality and liberty. But surely there are interpretations of these things that are beyond the pale. There must some way of making a judgment that some accounts of equality are inadequate, and some accounts of liberty or too excessive. Furthermore, while it is important to make room at the table of interpretive discussion for a great plurality of voices, surely there are those who by their committed allegiance to defective interpretations of these values have forfeited their right to a serious hearing. Surely there are those who have become such enemies of equality, using huge amounts of wealth and power to marginalize great swaths of the citizenry, that they have lost all right to comment upon the importance of liberty, for instance (just a random example I made up...honest...ok, maybe not).

Perhaps Prothero has an account of these things in his book. I hope so, and I certainly look forward to reading the book and thinking through matters further.


Saturday, April 13, 2013

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.

But enough about DET. On to the rest!
Well. I even posted more links than usual (35, by my count), but my hopper is not empty, so I imagine that the next installment will be fairly packed as well. No matter. For the time being, happy reading!


Thursday, April 11, 2013

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:

To this very simple test, I received the following reply:

In the midst of my deep and overwhelming disappointment in Rudy's cognitive condition, I composed the following literary masterpiece:

But then, hope appeared on the horizon! An interested third party weighed in and moved things in the right direction:

So allow me, dear readers, to enlighten you - and remind poor old Rudy - as to this episode in Bultmann's life.

The context is the recent publication of Bultmann’s book entitled, Primitive Christianity in Its Contemporary Setting. As Hammann tells the story, Bultmann was staying with his cousin (Fritz Bultmann) in Ganderkese when this book came out in 1949, and upon leaving he wrote the following poem in his cousin's guestbook. In Hammann’s judgment, this poem “expresses the concept of existence that Bultmann regarded as distinctive of earliest Christianity.”

Konrad Hammann, Rudolf Bultmann, 394.
We are born on time’s relentless stream,
Our present passes ever on.
And so is all but a fading dream?
And we, with it, forlorn?

Take heart, for in this flow of time
Our freedom from ourselves we win,
And in what comes we e’er shall find
Ourselves renewed again, again.

Thus says the Word, and if you’re open
And ready for what may come or be,
In faith and love you may find hope,
And find in time eternity.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

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. At the same time, I would hate to lose contact with that deep rss subscriber base once Google Reader shuts down.

Never fear, I hear you - gentle readers - crying out as did the crowds after Peter's Pentecost sermon: "But what should we do?!?!"

My solution has been to switch over to The Old Reader, and rss subscription system patterned on an older version of Google Reader that was a bit more versatile than the one we have for a little while longer. I'm still getting the feel for it, but I was able to export my subscription list from Google Reader (even if it a little more complicated than it really had to be, and I had to wait a while in the queue on the The Old Reader side as they are doing quite a bit of importing these days...) and am now happily reading away. But if you want more options, I would direct you to this handy list of options (The Old Reader tops the list, just FYI). Of course, you can always use the buttons at the end of this post to keep track of DET by subscribing to my Twitter stream or the DET Facebook page.

So I hope that you will be proactive and that you'll keep on reading here at DET even after July 1st!


Monday, April 08, 2013

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 circles until turning to the work of Paul Tillich. Drawing primarily on Tillich and Aquinas, Alex attempted to show how radical transcendence can co-exist along side more analytically inclined thinkers. Or put another way, that analytic thinking has a valuable role to play in theology - if they come to terms with it. Knowing Alex as well as I do, I suspect that this paper is a step alongside a bigger project he will likely pursue on faith and reason with a focus on Paul Tillich.
  • David Stewart (a sharp science and theology student here) presented his paper, "The Emergence of Consciousness in the Garden Narrative: Thinking Theologically with Depth Psychology," which was in some respects a paper on hermeneutics. In it he developed what he called (I think) a "psycho-theological hermeneutic." Drawing on what he called "Jungian Archetypes," David argued that Genesis 1-3 is about human "differentiation." In approaching Genesis 1-3 this way the text is about how these "Archetypes... erupt into human consciousness" out of humanity's "collective unconscious." As David made clear in the Q&A, this approach to scripture is not all-encompassing, but offers another helpful place from which to engage the Bible.
  • Finally, in "The Role of Repentance and the Virtues towards the Christian Fulfillment of Ecological Vocation," Kiara Jorgenson discussed ecological ethics, a central concern for her. In her analysis she used a multi-faceted approach, including feminist theology, Aquinas, biblical scholarship, and virtue ethics. Guided by congregations and scholarship, she turned to a discussion of repentance within the context of virtue ethics and the worship of the church. Working off of Gebara's understanding of sin ("sin is a relational... destruction of life processes"), Kiara argued that repentance, when understood within Aquinas' structure of "prudence, temperance, contentment, and fortitude," leads one to understand repentance as the church's "ecological vocation." According to Kiara this is a never-ending process for the church, in that repentance leads to "fulfilling our eco-calling," which will push an individual and/or church to think again about the importance of prudence, thus starting the "cycle" anew.

Finally, I'd like to emphasize again that this is just a small "sampling" of what went on this weekend, and obviously even these summaries are pretty simplified. Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable and stimulating weekend.

UPDATE: Kiara sent along the following comment to clarify and expand on her project.
"In this paper I don't attempt to situate repentance within a virtue approach, but rather argue that virtue approaches to ethics help us realize repentance. Tillich correlative approach applies here. I don't think ecological ethics is possible without a posture of repentance, which in turn is only possible (I argue) through attention to character, as opposed to classical utilitarian or deontological approaches."
For more from Kiara, check this out: Repentance and Ecological Vocation


Monday, April 01, 2013

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 Bultmann, 232:
[I]t is necessary to recognize that man’s sinful nature makes it impossible to speak correctly of God and of one’s own existence, for only thus can the concept of God as the wholly other have its true meaning.

And as with God, so also with our existence: we cannot speak about it. This is the case especially from the perspective of the modern worldview, by virtue of which the human being distinguishes himself as subject from other objects, thus observes himself from the outside as object, and so is effectively unable to grasp his own true nature. Accurate speaking of God, however, would always have to be speaking at once of our existence as one that is grounded in God and vice versa. . . . Faith, as the free deed of obedience, affirms the doing, the word of God to us. Thus “faith becomes the Archimedean point” from which vantage the individual can forever speak anew of the justifying God and at the same time of his sinful and grace-filled existence.