What Am I Reading? Kimlyn Bender on “Confessing Christ for Church and World”

Some of you, gentle readers, may recall that I mentioned Bender briefly here at DET not too long ago. Back in February I noted that the Center for Barth Studies website had published a review of Bender’s book on Karl Barth’s Christological Ecclesiology. Well, it turns out that I’ve been on something of a Bender-binge.

Kimlyn J. Bender, Confessing Christ for Church and World: Studies in Modern Theology (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2014).*

Bender is associate professor of theology at Truett Seminary, which is part of Baylor University. This volume is a collection of essays, some new and some old, dealing with issues in – you guessed it! – modern theology. But the subtitle could easily have read “Studies in Barth’s Theology.” Even if Barth’s name isn’t in the title of a chapter, he is never far away. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

I’ll be posting about this volume another time or two in the coming weeks, but I want to take a moment and introduce you to the book’s content a little further. To do so, I would direct your attention to chapter four: “The End of the Reformation?” Bender’s jumping-off point is the 2005 book by Mark Noll and Carolyn Nystrom entitled Is the Reformation Over?. Long-time readers may recall that I offered some thoughts on this volume once upon a time, and it is interesting to see how some of my thoughts converge with Bender’s own. Bender raises three questions about Noll and Nystrom’s analysis: (1) what sort of agreement actually obtains now between Protestants and Roman Catholics – is it theological or pragmatic?; (2) is this agreement only possible because Protestants have stopped caring about doctrine?; and (3), if there is theological agreement, is this agreement substantive or merely linguistic?

Bender concludes by discussing what he sees as the important remaining distinction between Protestants and Roman Catholics, and he does so by appealing to Barth:
So what is it that makes Barth a Protestant? The heart of the matter lies in the fact that Barth refuses to acknowledge that Christ is absent from the world and that the church has taken his place . . . . For Barth, Christ must remain the center of the church’s proclamation; it cannot proclaim itself. It is precisely this proclamation of itself which Barth sees in Catholicism. . . . [T]he relationship of Christ to the church, the Head to the body, is a major, if not the major, divide between evangelicals and Roman Catholics. (p. 136–37)
Just for fun, see my reflection #6. ;-)

Stay tuned for more on Bender.

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* My thanks to IVP Academic for providing me with a review copy which, in keeping with academic practice, does not predispose me to providing a positive review.

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