Thursday, December 17, 2015

Was the First Christmas Night Really So "Silent"? Revisiting a Scholastic Debate

FIRST ARTICLE: WHETHER THE EVENING OF THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST WAS REALLY SILENT

Objection 1. It seems that the evening our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was born could not have been so "silent" after all.
We know that the cattle were "lowing," whatever that means (we're just theologians, not farmers; theology is queen of the sciences, not animal husbandry) and this noise was sufficient to awaken the Christ child from slumber.

Objection 2. Further, an infant roused on the middle of a cold night by barnyard animals must have been disturbed enough to cry; I mean, cows are scary enough in movies, but imagine if one were breathing down your neck because you're occupying her feeding trough.

Objection 3. Further, we learn from the classic spiritual that angels' feet make a "shuffling" sound and, if their feet make noise, mutatis mutandis, surely the noise of wings flapping as the angels dive-bombed and encircled the creche must have been even louder.

Objection 4. Further, an entire host of angels with flapping wings would have made a stupendous noise. (You know, the Hell's Angels often drive Harleys, which tend to be loud indeed. Relevance, you ask? Well, even a Scholastic has to throw in a non sequitur now and then, to keep the Zwinglians appeased.)

Objections 5 Further, neither the weekend haunts of shepherds nor delivery rooms are known to be particularly quiet, and if the two elements were combined in one location, one imagines there would have been a cacophonous roar.

On the contrary, It is a commonplace of all the relevant Christmas hymns -- "Stille Nacht," "Stille, Stille, Stille" and virtually all the carols with "Stille" in the title, which are legion -- the night of our Lord's nativity was "silent" while everything around was "calm" and "bright."

I answer that, The tradition of the church gives ample and unanimous testimony that all of creation greeted the incarnation of the Son of God with an awe-filled and respectful hush. In addition to a harmony of the hymnody, this is attested in countless greeting cards and living nativity scenes, wherein animals and people normally at each other's throats or, at the very least, braying and bantering incessantly, in this special case can be seen intently staring at the Christ child in rapt attention. As Philips Brooks reminds us, the little town of Bethlehem lay "still." Moreover, "How silently, how silently the wondrous gift was given."

It is our contention that "The Little Drummer Boy" is a wretched calumny created and perpetuated by the Averrorists to discredit the faith of the church and disturb the faithful. And as for this preposterous notion that "the ox and lamb kept time" -- Non possum ego non etiam!

Reply Obj. 1. The "lowing" of the cattle may have been so low -- or of such a low frequency -- that it would not have registered in any sound recording equipment, should there have been any on site, which presumably there was not -- that TV show with the time-travelling kids and the robot notwithstanding.

Reply Obj. 2. As the children's carol confirms, the Christ child "made" no crying -- though as the Creator of the universe he might presumably have made anything cry he wished, including the rocks or clay sparrows manufactured for that purpose.

Reply Obj. 3. If one grants that lowing may be a kind of subsonic purring that did awaken Christ, he would have "made" no crying as his imperturbable god-consciousness suffused his every waking moment (So Schleiermacher).

Reply Obj. 4. Another carol confirms that the nativity occurred "in the bleak midwinter" and "snow was falling, snow on snow, snow on snow" (so presumably, that's a lot of snow: blizzard levels -- which might seem implausible, on the face of it, given that this happened in Palestine -- except when one considers that, in view of the other details of this story, the intrinsic implausibility of a blizzard kind of pales by comparison). This much snow likely would mute most noises; furthermore, as one expects the municipal authorities of Bethlehem would have lacked the vehicles and equipment necessary for proper snow removal, most townspeople would have been stuck indoors anyway.

Reply Obj. 5. Zechariah was struck dumb by the angel Gabriel upon learning Elizabeth would conceive a son. Joseph, after he learned that his betrothed was with child, resolved to put her away "quietly." Likewise, the blessed virgin developed a preternatural capacity to ponder things "in her heart," rather than blather them all over Galilee on social media. The magi slipped out of the country by a back road -- hastily and at night, one imagines.

One lesson the infancy narratives teach is that human agents tend to say the wrong thing at the wrong time when deep, mysterious events are afoot. The moral is that, unless one happens to be an angel or doing something fairly innocuous like reciting a canticle, one is well advised to zip it. Really, at the end of the day, the best thing I can come up with here is the stuff about snow (see previous reply). Did I mention there sure must have been a boatload of it? To be more precise, three ships full.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

What Am I Reading? David Congdon’s “The Mission of Demythologizing”

David and I have been friends for a long time. We became acquainted as undergrads who spent two years living on the same dorm floor, and then we went and spent all our graduate study in the same programs. In other words, David and I spent a decade being less than a mile apart. Now we are quite a few miles apart, but we continue to be key influences on one another’s intellectual lives. Well, I shouldn’t speak for David: he continues to be an important intellectual influence and stimulation for me, at the least. Consequently, I was perhaps uniquely pleased to see the publication of his tome (indeed, that is the only word for it…):

David W. Congdon, The Mission of Demythologizing: Rudolf Bultmann’s Dialectical Theology (Fortress, 2015).

I had read chunks of this work in development, and worked over the whole in conversation, but now I have introduced back-end to chair for a considerable period of time and read the whole. It is a stupendous work. David has—and I say this in all seriousness—reconfigured the historical picture of dialectical theology’s development and persistence, and he has breathed a new life into it as well.

This work is far too large and intricate for me to attempt a neat summary. In its place, I offer three brief comments about what Congdon has accomplished and why anyone interested in 20th century Protestant theology should read this volume carefully.

  • Congdon gives us a new Bultmann - This is perhaps the most important thing that Congdon accomplishes. Reception of Bultmann, and especially of demythologizing, has been obscured by polemics from the very start, and this problem is especially pronounced in English-language scholarship. This problem is further compounded by bad translation, as well as overshadowed by Barth’s own misunderstanding of Bultmann. David cuts through all this noise (he does this throughout, but see especially section 8.5 where he addresses the criticisms that Moltmann, Bayer, and Jenson lodged against Bultmann), drawing upon the best German scholarship but also going beyond it, to articulate a compelling account of Bultmann’s thought. And it is an approach that (1) maintains continuity with the dialectical theology movement of the 1920s, and (2) is driven by the engine of mission. That Congdon has given us a new Bultmann is especially important for all those, particularly those of the “Barthian” persuasion, who have heretofore written-off Bultmann. These folks have rejected a bogeyman (bogeywoman? bogeyperson?) that does not exist. The only proper response is to tolle lege! anew.
  • Congdon gives us a new Barth - Barth scholars will perhaps find this point most surprising, but I’m convinced that it is now impossible to discuss Barth’s development without recourse to Congdon’s work. His excursus on Barth’s development (p. 123ff) is valuable on its own, but his most important contribution is to clarify the impetus for Barth’s turn from the liberalism in which he was trained. The usual story is that an “Appeal” of 93 German intellectuals, including many of Barth’s teachers, in support of World War 1 gave Barth the critical nudge. Congdon, however, identifies another “Appeal” that appeared a month earlier, also signed by Barth’s teachers in support of World War 1, and that proved more critical. This appeal made the case for war on missionary grounds, which repulsed Barth. Consequently: “Dialectical theology, in the sense defined by Barth, was forged in the crucible of a theopolitical dispute between the pseudo-mission of Germany and the genuine mission of God, between the mission of a ‘No-God’ and the mission of Jesus Christ” (p. 258; see all of 3.1, beginning on page 237).
  • Congdon brings Barth and Bultmann together - I don’t mean to suggest that Congdon argues for the position that Barth and Bultmann are identical, because he does not make that argument. Real differences remain. However, Congdon does show that they are much closer together than even Barth ever recognized. Barth famously likened their relationship to that between a whale and an elephant who can never meet and, if they could, would have nothing to say to one another. Congdon calls this “The Myth of the Whale and the Elephant,” and he sets out to demythologize it and gain a proper picture of where Barth and Bultmann disagree. I can’t tell the whole story here, obviously, but I want to highlight a piece of it. See the below.

One of the things that soured Barth on Bultmann was the former’s intuition that the latter engaged in some clandestine (and sometimes not-so-clandestine) natural theology. Congdon often uses the phrase “fog of war” to refer to Barth’s thinking in the very late 1920s and early 1930s as the dialectical movement fell apart, and I think this is apt. What Congdon does in the following paragraph is show that Barth’s intuition was wrong with reference to Bultmann, and that – in fact – what Barth call’s natural theology is what Bultmann calls “objectification,” the very thing that the program of demythologizing is aimed at combatting. As usual, bold is mine and italics are not.
What Barth variously identifies as abstract speculation, natural theology, metaphysics, or the analogia entis is identical with what Bultmann calls “objectifying thinking.” Barth and Bultmann share the same overarching concern, namely, the need to differentiate responsible theological speech from those forms of God-talk that implicitly annul the creator-creature distinction. For Barth such God-talk occurs when God is brought to speech in a way that is not controlled by the concrete reality of God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ. Similarly, for Bultmann, inappropriate analogical God-talk occurs when God is objectified as something worldly and immanent, that is, as “an existing thing, an object of knowledge.” Objectifying God-talk fails to speak responsibly of the God who is absolutely transcendent; it forgets that “God remains a mystery in revelation and is never rationally knowable, because God remains the Thou.’ When Bultmann thus interrogates the mythical “analogy” between the world’s creation and the work of an artist, or when he criticizes the way myth presents divine power as “analogous” to immanent powers, he is criticizing as myth what Barth criticizes as natural theology or the analogia entis. Where Bultmann critiques myth for speaking about the gods “as human beings . . . endowed with superhuman power,” Barth critiques liberalism for speaking about God by “saying ‘humanity’ in the loudest tones.” These are all modes of expression that confuse the divine with the realm of human beings. In each case God is brought to speech as a mere extension of the world and not as a transcendent agent who graciously and savingly comes to the world from a genuine beyond. [623–24]
You can be sure, gentle readers, that I will highlight other aspects of this important work in later posts. But you should really go get it and read it for yourself. Or, if this volume is too overwhelming or too expensive for you right now, at least consult Congdon’s even more recently released - and much more manageably sized - handbook from Cascade: Rudolf Butlmann: A Companion to His Theology.

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Karl Barth among the (Lesser) Saints

The Episcopal Church (of the United States) has welcomed Karl Barth. Sort of. How will he return the favor?

Today is Barth's 47th death anniversary of Karl Barth, an event the Episcopal Church -- my denominational home -- now marks in its daily liturgical calendar.
In point of fact, he shares a death anniversary with Thomas Merton (see this post ), so celebrants of weekday services have to choose which of these towering 20th century Christian thinkers to commemorate. Without conducting a formal poll, I'm going to hazard the guess that most celebrants chose the American Trappist over the Swiss dogmatician. Merton certainly is fascinating and worthy of the honor; it's rather a pity one must choose. The Mission of St. Clare offers a superb website for those who wish to read the Daily Office according to The Book of Common Prayer. That website opts for Merton over Barth.

(The Episcopal Church's official daily liturgical resource book, which is published with proper readings, prayers and commentary, is titled Lesser Feasts and Fasts. Several years ago, the Standing Commission of Liturgy and Music offered a supplemental, expanded calendar in a trial volume titled Holy Women, Holy Men, for use on a trial basis: This is the text that includes the Barth commemoration. The current plan, as I understand it, is to replace this supplemental text with yet another one. For more about this, read this article.)

Whether or not Barth's inclusion among our calendar of worthies is permanent, I, at any rate, am grateful that the Episcopal Church has given this nod to the greatest Protestant theologian since Schleiermacher. I'd be even more heartened if more Episcopalians actually read him.

Not surprisingly, the Barth featured in the one-page observance is the anti-Nazi, anti-German Christian Barth -- ergo the collect for the day:

Almighty God, source of justice beyond human knowledge: We thank you for inspiring Karl Barth to resist tyranny and exalt your saving grace, without which we cannot apprehend your will. Teach us, like him, to live by faith, and even in chaotic and perilous times to perceive the light of your eternal glory, Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, throughout all ages. Amen.

Actually, though, for such a concise statement, the prayer is not a bad summary of Barth's major concerns and commitments -- the enveloping mystery of divine transcendence, the ontic and epistemological priority of grace and a radically Christocentric focus. The accompanying brief commentary, overall, is not too bad; it is factual, balance, albeit (to my mind) a bit too safe. For example, the description soft-pedals Barth's radical and revolutionary critique of Protestant European high culture in the early 20th century -- the critique that sparked the dialectical theology movement.

Another thing I might have liked to see is a little more about Barth's challenging socio-political witness -- not only his resistance to Hitler and his German Christian collaborators (wailing on the Nazis is pretty safe), but also his early anticapitalist work and his refusal to theologically legitimate the West "democracies" during the Cold War. Granted, though, these topics require some nuance hard to capture in a one-page summary.

Though I respect what the church is trying to do pedagogically with these resources, I find myself somewhat at cross purposes with the project of hagiography. To me it seems to about painting some diverse but integrated portrait of the communion of saints, for our mutual edification and enlightenment. That's fine. Still -- and perhaps its a holdover from my iconoclastic Baptist background -- but I find myself more drawn to the "saints" as images of the incompleteness and radically eschatological orientation of the church. In other words, the saints are parables of grace. That which is quirky, even disjointed about these pioneers of the faith is what interests me most of all. In that regard, Barth fits right in. His biography virtual brims with awkward clashes -- with the German liberal Protestant intelligentsia (e.g., Harnack) and with fellow dialectical theologians (Gogarten, Bultmann, Brunner), with representatives of the Swiss government and many others.

One of the things that distinguishes "saints" is their proclivity for stepping on toes and pissing people off in the churches. Thus, they often serve the roles of gadflies and prophets, only to be beatified later -- often, much later. Their conflicts and failures are more interesting theologically than their avowed accomplishments. Try to imagine the stories of Augustine, Chrysostom and Athanasius without their obsessions and character flaws. You can't do it. Barth had the capacity to be incendiary and divisive. He and other saints might adopt well as their motto: "Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division."

Of course, in fairness, many of Barth's contemporaries from Bonhoeffer to Busch have related that Barth was also an amazing teacher and mentor -- warm, gracious, funny, catholic in sympathy and demeanor. Fortunately, we don't have to weigh an person's merits vs. demerits and come up with a rating system on some arbitrary sanctity scale. As the Apostle reminds us, we cannot even judge ourselves. In the end, its really all grace -- even, especially amid the incongruities of our lives.

For my part, I think we might still be inclined to treat saints as models for emulation rather than fellow travelers alongside whom we walk. Maybe Barth can help us break the mold just a little bit.

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Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Diller on Barth, Pannenberg, and Fideism

DET readers are occasionally treated to reflections on or pertaining to Wolfhart Pannenberg, perhaps more recently when contributor Derek Maris wondered about “Pannenberg’s ‘Supposed’ Hegalianism.” There’s even a mini-series of admittedly dubious value buried among the other DET Serials. So it is fitting that we gather together and harken unto Diller as he raises the question of Pannenberg’s criticisms of Barth’s fideism.

Kevin Diller, Theology’s Epistemological Dilemma: How Karl Barth and Alvin Plantinga Provide a Unified Response (IVP Academic, 2014), 72–73 (italics is original; bold is mine).
Pannenberg determines that Barth’s rejection of an earthbound scientific epistemology must leave Barth hopelessly mired in subjectivism. Pannenberg believes that if human reason and experience are subjugated, only two options remain: subjectivism and fideism. In explicit agreement with the Enlightenment, Pannenberg states that “a ‘positive’ theology of revelation which does not depend on rational argument can rely only on a subjective act of will or an irrational venture of faith.” It is clear, moreover, that for Pannenberg these two alternatives collapse into each other. Both are an indication of wholly arbitrary and irrational positivism that stifles intersubjective dialogue. [Pannenberg cannot] understand Barth’s “from above” as anything other than making an arbitrary human start. For this reason, Pannenberg sees rejecting Barth’s “from above” as crucial for theology “if it does not want to fall into the hopeless and, what is more, self-inflicted isolation of a higher glossolalia, and lead the whole church into this blind alley.” But this conclusion only follows if one rules out a priori that God has acted to give himself in Jesus Christ by the Spirit as the ground of theological knowing. This a priori ban on the givenness of divine revelation is the arbitrary assumption driving Pannenberg’s conclusions. He writes, “Barth’s apparently so lofty objectivity about God and God’s word turns out to rest on no more than the irrational subjectivity of a venture of faith with no justification outside itself.” But dependence on faith becomes fideistic in Pannenberg’s sense only if that faith is an arbitrary human choice. The tables turn dramatically if that faith is the gift of divine self-revelation. Barth would agree that it has no justification outside itself. But what justification could be more secure than God’s own self-attestation? Far from fideistic, this alternative, invisible to Pannenberg . . . , offers what Barth would see as the only escape possible from the ghettos of human reason.
It seems to me that perhaps the most basic question is: What do you want or expect theological knowledge to be good for?

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Thursday, December 03, 2015

Read More Kant, for Barth's Sake!

I'm no academic philosopher; I've mostly encountered the work of Immanuel Kant indirectly, through my studies in modern theology. Still, if I were to characterize my philosophical position, I'd probably say I am a Kantian at the very least. Some theologians have pegged the great German Enlightenment philosopher as the very archetype of modernist dissolution and the evisceration of all standards of objectivity and realism in theological thinking. The assessment of orthodox Calvinist Michael Horton, though a bit trenchant, is not atypical:
As soon as reason turned against the supernaturally revealed knowledge of God by modern rationalists, Kant announced that rational knowledge of God was blocked. Kant "saved" religion from the jaws of a non-Christian idea of theory only to surrender it to an equally non-Christian idea of practice. He was already prepared for this move by having been reared in evangelical pietism, with its emphasis on the inner life and practical morality over doctrine. God cannot be the object of our theorizing but only the presupposition of our practice. This is not a universal truth of reason but a dogma derived from the story that the West has told itself since the Enlightenment (Horton, pp. 99-100)

So in listening to Kant, Horton hears a heretic? If that's the case, he certainly is not alone; others have faulted Kant's philosophy of religion as leading to a dead-end for modern systematics. I, on the other hand, to the extent I understand Kant's general position and his placement in the history of Western thought, consider him a useful, self-critical hedge against the more radical versions of epistemological and moral relativism, utilitarianism and pragmatism. And I've said as much here and here (if perhaps a bit awkwardly).

A contributor to a Facebook group I follow recently posed the question (I'm paraphrasing): "I'm getting into Karl Barth's stuff: Should I read Kant as well? And where should I start?" This elicited myriad responses: Some were quite helpful, a few led to non sequiturs and a couple, frankly, made me groan just a little. Be that as it may, I think the questioner raised a key question for theologians of evangelical, Reformed or dialectical inclination to ponder: Just what, as theologians and as readers of Barth in particular, are we to make of Kant? Should we be afraid of him? Should he make us mad? Should we give him a miss? As you might already expect, my answers would be: "Nein! Nein! Und Nein!" For my part, I prefer to think of Kant, as Barth himself did, with respect -- as a thinker who hones in upon central problems incisively and as a most worthy opponent and teacher (Protestant Theology, chapter 7). In other words, if we were to read Kant well, it should help keep us honest -- which is more than I can say, sadly, about some works of theology.

To be sure, we must always strive to be both charitable and critical readers, no matter the stature of the writer in question. No contemporary readers will find aspects of Kant questionable, perhaps even downright troubling. For example, I recently read a piece in which Teri R. Merrick exposes the racist presuppositions woven through the writings of Kant and Hegel -- a sobering critique of the Enlightenment project that must be taken seriously. (This piece is published in the Evangelical Postcolonial Conversations volume which the kind publicist at IVP Academic sent me for review and which, no doubt to her relief, you will be reading more about on this blog soon).

I don't feel myself qualified to write a post in the genre "So, You Want to Read Kant" at the level of the DET posts on Barth, Calvin and Bonhoeffer. But maybe I have at least a few general things to say on the topic.

The significance of Kant for the history of modern theology is inestimable, and he should not be lightly dismissed.

I believe it was Hans Frei who wrote (though I can't remember where) that if he were stuck on a desert island, he'd want to have with him the philospher's late work, Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone -- presumably, one hopes, alongside the essential classic, How to Survive on a Desert Island with Very Few Books: A Guide for Theologians.

But once we've graduated to Barth's mature dogmatics -- that sketchy second edition of Romans is another matter! -- maybe we can put away the childish ways of modern philosophy? Not so fast, meine Freunde. I recall how one of my seminary professors, back in the day, complained about students of Barth who neglect to read Kant with some care. On a side note, that teacher, though quite astute, seemed not to never have heard of Cornelius van Til, the Dutch Calvinist and rather hapless interlocutor who accused the Swiss theologian of selling out to Kantian subjectivism. (If that "debate" interests you, check out the very fine volume, Karl Barth and American Evangelicalism.)

I have some of my own hunches as to why reading some Kant might profit us:
  1. To gain a broader understanding of 19th century Protestant theology, the milieu within which Barth's major teachers were formed.
  2. To flesh out Barth's own narrative account of his intellectual development. Barth claims the first book that galvanized him during his student days was The Critique of Practical Reason. In fact, he worked through the second critique thoroughly at least twice before tackling the much longer and more famous Critique of Pure Reason (See Green, p. 67)  So for the young Barth, the interest in ethics preceded the concern with epistemology and metaphysics. I have a hunch this fact may prove to be somewhat significant.
  3. To help us understand some of the moves in Barth's early theology. In the preface to his Romans commentary, Barth claims that Kant -- through the influence of Karl's brother Heinrich, a philosopher -- significantly impacted the rewrite the commentary (p. 4). "But I'm a late-Barthian. I don't do early Barth," a couple of you curmudgeons might be sniffing. Tush! We'll have none of that kind of talk anywhere near this website.
  4. To help elucidate the character of Barth's break with the Ritschlian school of liberal Protestant theologians, who were so inflected by a Kantian ethical construction of religion and theology, as well as the Kant-influenced historicism of Troeltsch and others in the Religionsgeschichtliche Schule (History of Religions School).
  5. To help us the reader situate Barth vis-a-vis his erstwhile friends in the early dialectical theology movement of the 1920s -- especially in terms of the torturous and strained relationship with Rudolf Bultmann. My hunch, then is that reading some Kant on our own will help us profit more from the excellent revisionist work in dialectical theology that has emerged in English scholarship of the past two decades -- executed, for example, by such thinkers as Bruce McCormack, Christophe Chalamet and, most recently, David Congdon.

So then, if a little Kant is what the Doktor orders to take (if even in moderate doses) along with one's reading of Barth, where does one begin?
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Works Cited:

Barth, Karl, The Epistle to the Romans, trans. Edwyn C. Hoskins (New York: Oxford, 1933).

----- Protestant Theology in the Nineteenth Century: Its Background and History, trans. Brian Cozins and John Bowden (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002).

Green, Clifford, ed., Karl Barth: Theologian of Freedom (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1991).

Horton, Michael, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011).

McCormack, Bruce L., and Anderson, Clifford B., Karl Barth and American Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2011).

Merrick, Teri R., "Tracing the Metanarrative of Colonialism and Its Legacy," in Evangelical Postcolonial Conversations: Global Awakenings in Theology and Praxis, ed. Kay Higuera Smith, Jayachitra Lalitha and Daniel Hawk (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2014), pp. 107-120.

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Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Martin Luther’s chapter-by-chapter summary of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans

I noticed a neat feature while working through Luther’s commentary on Romans – Luther offers a one-sentence summary of each chapter of the epistle!

I’ve always appreciated this sort of exercise. Back when I was precepting at Princeton Seminary (i.e., leading weekly small-group discussions), I did something similar with Gregory of Nyssa’s Great Catechism . . . although I freely admit that my exercise was arguably not as compelling as Luther’s. But I think this way of sketching a text helps give you a sense of the text as a whole while at the same time orienting you to each part. It also teaches you to think in terms of the progression of an argument. So, given that I find such things so useful, I thought that I would share Luther’s with you, gentle readers.

Martin Luther, Lectures on Romans: Glosses and Scholia, Luther’s Works volume 25 (Saint Louis: Concordia, 1972). If you want to find these, just turn to the first page of each chapter’s section in the “Glosses.”
  • Chapter 1 – The apostle shows that he loves the Romans and then reproves the faults of those who follow their own lusts.
  • Chapter 2 – The apostle refutes the faults of the Jews, saying that as far as their guilt is concerned they are the same as the Gentiles and in a certain respect even worse.
  • Chapter 3 – The apostle shows in what way the Jews were better than the Gentiles, demonstrating that the Gentiles as well as the Jews are in need of the grace of Christ.
  • Chapter 4 – Through the example of Abraham the apostle demonstrates that faith is required for salvation, and that the old law does not suffice for salvation.
  • Chapter 5 – The apostle demonstrates the power of faith in the justification of believers, because death reigned from Adam to Christ.
  • Chapter 6 – The apostle declares that we must not continue in our sins but must do what is good.
  • Chapter 7 – The apostle establishes the cessation of the old law, which is the law of death; and he is dealing here with the law of the tinder. [Ed. note: Luther does not here refer to the currently popular smartphone app.]
  • Chapter 8 – He shows that we must cling firmly to the law of Christ, since His law is the law of life and the law of the Spirit.
  • Chapter 9 – The apostle grieves over the obstinacy of the Jews; he shows that the Jews have not been deprived of the promise of the fathers, and he reminds us that the Gentiles have been called.
  • Chapter 10 – The apostle prays for the Jews, showing that the righteousness which renders a man worthy of eternal life comes alone from the law of Christ and faith in him.
  • Chapter 11 – The apostle turns back the insulting of the Jews by the Gentiles and describes the present blindness of the Jews; he concludes concerning the depth of the wisdom of God.
  • Chapter 12 – The apostle instructs the Romans both in the things which pertain to God as well as those things which pertain to our neighbor.
  • Chapter 13 – The apostle is teaching that subjects should obey their superiors by assisting them and loving them.
  • Chapter 14 – The apostle encourages those who are greater (stronger in faith) that they not despise those who are less (weaker) and that they should not cause them to stumble but should edify them in peace.
  • Chapter 15 – The apostle encourages the strong to uphold the weak and promote their good; and he excuses himself for not visiting the Romans in person.
  • Chapter 16 – The apostle sets forth certain examples of good people to be imitated; and he urges us to persevere.
If only Luther had thought to introduce more variety into how he started these sentences . . .

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