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Showing posts from October, 2014

Leaves from the Notebook of a Lapsed Barthian

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I have a confession to make: I never finished reading CD I/2. (Do I hear a collective gasp of shock emanating from somewhere deep within New Jersey?).

It's not like I didn't have ample chances. I made my first pass at it in 1997 in a seminar on the Dogmatics at the University of Chicago. But Chicago is on the quarter system, and it's physically impossible to read the CD in ten weeks -- unless, that is, one doesn't engage in such other activities as eating, sleeping, laundry, etc. As it was, it was bloody hard enough to keep up with the reading.


Portrait of the author as a young man, attempting to read CD I/2 for the first time.

Eight years later, while I was dissertating, I made another serious go at it; honestly, I truly did. It was the summer of Hurricane Katrina and everyone was on edge. My mother-in-law had lived in New Orleans back in the day, as had my parents and I, when I was a wee lad, back when my dad was in seminary. I recall riding from Amherst, Mass., to Ne…

The “Social Creed” of the Methodist Episcopal Church, adopted in 1908

Here’s an interesting historical tidbit for you that I came across recently. It is a “creed” adopted by Methodists in 1908 that addresses socio-economic conditions. As such it is part of the Social Gospel movement, which was recently the subject of a series from contributor Scott Jackson entitled “Rauschenbusch and the "Kingdom of Evil”.

When reading this I noticed with gratitude that a number of points in this creed have been achieved, with chagrin that a number of the points are clearly relics of their own historical context, and with shame that so many of these points remain even today the stuff of dreams for social progressives.

As quoted in Rosemary Radford Ruether, The Radical Kingdom (Harper & Row, 1970), 90.

The Methodist Episcopal Church stands:
For equal rights and complete justice for all men in all stations of life.For the principle of conciliation and arbitration in industrial dissensions.For the protection of the worker from dangerous machinery, occupational dise…

Why the Niebuhrs Still Matter (Part 2)

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Modern Christian ethics, like modern Christian life, is riddled with ambiguities. The Christian moral thinker, much like Kierkegaard's knight of faith, is torn between two competing visions of what is really real. On the one hand, her faith teaches her to trust the God of creation and redemption, whose secret providence governs the ultimate course of human history, directing it to its appointed consummation in the Kingdom of God. On the other hand, both her mission of reconciliation and her solidarity with the rest of humanity in joy and suffering plunge her into the conflicted, broken and often violent affairs of the world -- the real world of spirit and matter that God supposedly has created and still loves, though truth be told, it's often hard to find clear evidence of that. Theology and ethics fall into error when they sidestep the tension in that dialectic by choosing one term over the other.

Reinhold and H. Richard Niebuhr understood that dialectic. They wrote about it …

Upcoming Interview with DET Founder & Editor, W. Travis McMaken

Good morning, gentle readers, or good whatever-the-time-of-day-is-that-you-read-this.

I thought that I would post briefly to let you know that on Thursday October 23rd, at 10pm CST, I will be participating in an online interview with the mind behind “Karl Barth for Dummies” (twitter / facebook). KBfD has done a handful of these interviews before, most recently with Kait Dugan who curates the Center for Barth Studies at Princeton Theological Seminary (click here to read that interview).

Long-time readers may recall that David Congdon and I participated in a similar sort of thing (a reddit AMA) a couple of years ago (click here if you’re interested).

It should be a good interview. KBfD will have a set of questions for he and I to work through, and there may also be time for questions submitted “by the audience” (as it were), and I’ll certainly be dropping back around in the following days as much as I’m able to field such questions.

So mark your calendars if you’re interested, and I’ll…

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

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

…or, The Past Fortnight in the Theoblogosphere.

Ok, it has been more like a month since the last link post. It’s a very busy time of year. But then again, what time of year isn’t very busy these days?

Anyway, we’ve had some good posts here at DET, including the beginnings of a pair of new series by contributor Scott Jackson. So be sure to check those out. In any case, here is the full list:

Why the Niebuhrs Still Matter (Part 1)Rosemary Radford Ruether on Counterrevolutionary LatitudinarianismJesus and the Kingdom: Three Paradigms (Part 1)Reading Scripture with John Calvin: Malachi 2.6–9Jesus and the Kingdom: Three Paradigms (Part 2)
Here’s some interesting stuff for you from elsewhere:

Translating Mark DriscollElite Attackers of Public Schools Don't Admit the Impact of Economic Inequality, Racism on EducationNew book series: Religion and RadicalismFaith Without ApologeticsOutsourcing and privatisation: how the bourgeois state grow…

Jesus and the Kingdom: Three Paradigms (Part 2)

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Paradigm 1. Jesus as the proclaimer of the kingdom.

One line of thought holds that Jesus is the key messenger who proclaims the kingdom in life and deed. He might, for example, be best understood in the mode of a Hebrew a prophet. Like Amos, called away from his farming gig, Jesus receives a specific prophecy that may not have much to do with his personal characteristics or previous vocation. In his prophetic vocation, Jesus' message points beyond the messenger to a greater, more encompassing reality, whether that reality is understood primarily in ethical, socio-cultural or eschatological terms. The message itself is what matters; the messenger, not so much. So too if Jesus' significance rests exclusively in his roles as preacher and teacher.

Anonymous Cynic Philosopher
Though this attempt to draw a strong distinction between message and messenger seems fairly marginal in the history of Christian thought, such accounts have been more frequent since the Enlightenment. A fairly s…

Reading Scripture with John Calvin: Malachi 2.6–9

Malachi 2.6–9

[6] “True instruction was in his mouth and nothing false was on his [Levi’s] lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and turned many from sin. [7] For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, because he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty and people seek instruction from his mouth. [8] But you have turned from the way and by your teaching have caused many to stumble; you have violated the covenant with Levi,” says the LORD Almighty. [9] “So I have caused you to be despised and humiliated before all the people, because you have not followed my ways but have shown partiality in matters of the law.”

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COMMENTARY: Calvin is preoccupied in his commentary on these verses to explain the failings of the priests against whom Malachi’s prophetic word comes and, as the flip-side of that indictment, to sketch a picture of what a proper priestly ministry looks like. Implicitly – and explicitly at various points – this material is a criti…

Jesus and the Kingdom: Three Paradigms (Part 1)

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Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me” (Matt. 4:11, NRSV).Scholarly portraits of the life and ministry of Jesus run the gamut from devoutly credulous to the stridently skeptical in terms of how the canonical Gospels and other early Christian sources are handled.
Still, most interpreters seem to agree that the kerygma of the kingdom of God was the central content and focus of Jesus' teaching and ministry.

Of course, debate persists about just what the basilea tou theou might have meant for Jesus and his original audience: Is the kingdom a pious disposition ("within you") or a form of community life ("among you")? Or both? Is coterminous with the visible community of believers itself, the church catholic? Is it an ideal construct that spurs an…