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Showing posts from 2016

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

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

…or, The Past Fortnight in the Theoblogosphere.

Well, this is embarrassing. I’m so ashamed that I nearly decided to trash these posts altogether so that I wouldn’t have to admit that is has been nearly two months since the last link post. And they have been an eventful nearly two months! We had a presidential election, those of us in the religious studies / theology / biblical studies fields had the annual joint meeting of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature, and there was a holiday in there too…oh yeah, Thanksgiving! So, this post is going to be jam packed with all manner of goodies. Before we get deeper in, I need to highlight some things.

After this post, DET will be on holiday hiatus until the new year. Never fear! We shall return to provide the thought-provoking grist for your intellectual mill that you’ve come to expect us to provide. The intrepid Scott Jackson is even ahead of the game, with…

Paging the Real Jesus: Why Kähler Still Matters

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Like many of you, I love old books, and Martin Kähler's theological critique of 19th century historical Jesus quests is a classic. But I'd argue this is not the sort of venerable work that one tosses in the dustbin of a footnote. Rather, this is a book those of us interested in the intersection of constructive theology and biblical studies should continue to read. Kähler -- whose work casts an enormous shadow over the work of Barth, Bultmann, Tillich and many other 20th century theologians -- still speaks to us as a contemporary.

Martin Kähler. The So-Called Historical Jesus and the Historic Biblical Christ, trans. Carl Braaten (Fortress, 1966).

Of course, as with any great thinker of the past, we can't be expected to swallow the project wholesale. Much has transpired in theology and biblical studies in the thirteen decades since this short of volume of addresses to German pastors was published. Carl Braaten's superb introduction in this volume helps both to situate Kähl…

Announcing the Society for Dialectical Theology

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"Dialectical theology is the consistent and systematic development of the missionary (i.e., hermeneutical) insight that forms the condition of possibility for modern theology. . . . Dialectical theology thinks within historical consciousness without reducing faith to history, that is, without reducing kerygma to culture. . . . Dialectical theology is essentially an anticonstantinian theology of mission." (Congdon 2015, xxvi, xxviii)
Last week, David Congdon and I announced the formation of a new Society for Dialectical Theology. The SDT was announced publicly through a YouTube video that serves also as a brief introduction to Dialectical Theology (DT). Here's the video:



If you are devotee of DT, conduct scholarship on one or more of the members of the DT movement in the 20th century, or are simply interested in learning more, I encourage you to complete this form to join the SDT and be added to its mailing list. The SDT is in its infancy, and there are no dues or other o…

This Shall Be a Sign: Stringfellow on the Politics of Advent

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Some time ago, I reviewed a superb anthology of writings by Willian Stringfellow, the Episcopal lawyer-activst and lay theologian, in the Anglican Theological Review (Summer 2015; unfortunately, it's not avaiable online). The book, edited by a close friend and mentee of Stringfellow's, offers a incomparable entree into the life and work of an enigmatic, yet original voice figure in theology and ethics who, it seems to me, is still not not widely enough read and understood (See William Stringfellow: Essential Writings, ed. Bill Wylie-Kellermann, New York, Orbis, 2014).

Let's do something to help remedy that situation, shall we? A great place to begin is with Wylie-Kellerman's section of texts that explore Stringfellow's unconventional perspectives on Jesus. Today, apropos of the season of Advent, I want to look at a short passage excerped from a 1977 work of political theology (pp. 50-53), that explores the politically pointed, if hidden, aspects of the Gospel infan…

Advent and Eschatology at the Dawn of the Trump Era

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Another Advent season is now upon us.

We in the United States are living in a time when overt bigotry is once again on the rise. We all seem to live, and move, and have our being in our respective titanium socio-cultural bubbles, separated as much by digital geography as physical. Our new President-elect has won his title by preying on the fears and anxieties of white Americans who feel their economic and cultural hegemony slipping away. A year ago today, we were a nation still very much in healing from our past sins. Now, a year later, our scabs have been torn off and salt has been thrown in the wounds. What comes next is anything but predictable (a concern, not only for us domestically, but for the world at large).

There is no question: we are a people who walk in darkness. And we live in a land of deep darkness.[1]

My prayer this Advent is that, in the midst of it all, we would also see the Light.
In Advent, we join in the longing of expectant Israel for its promised Messiah—for “th…

Martin Luther’s Illnesses, with Andrew Pettegree

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Anyone who has read DET for an extended period of time knows that I have a soft spot for the theology and theologians of the Protestant reformation. And very often it is the complicated humanity of these figures that most draws me. I wrote a post on John Calvin’s humanity back in 2010 in which I – among other things – briefly discussed some of his illnesses. It is time now to address this topic with reference to Martin Luther.

The passage below comes from Andrew Pettegree’s excellent and relatively recent book: Brand Luther: 1517, Printing, and the Making of the Reformation (New York: Penguin, 2015). It is a fascinating study of the symbiosis between Luther’s reforming achievement and the printing industry that, in addition to being a real scholarly contribution, is well written (and printed) itself. I can’t say enough nice things about it. Go buy it.

Anyway, Pettegree properly situates his discussion within its broader context, including Luther’s biography. And a portion of that bio…

Solus Christus: Once Again with Barth at Bremen

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And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up on the mountain alone to pray. Now when evening came, he was alone there (Matt. 14:23).
What are the practical implications of proclaiming the Lordship of Jesus? In his Bremen sermon of 1934, Karl Barth depicts the church as the sphere of Christ's sovereignty and of the believer's obedience to him. As he probes the passage further he asks: Is this situation unique to the church or is it duplicated elsewhere -- that is to say, in the civic and secular world?

The Word in this World: Two Sermons by Karl Barth, trans. Chrisopher Asprey, ed. Kurt I. Johanson (Regent College, 2007). Fürchte Dich nicht! Predigten aus den Jahren 1934 bis 1948 (Munich, Germany: Chr. Kaiser Verlag, 1949), pp. 18-31)

Indeed, there are hierarchies in the outside world, there are powers that be, there are laws, and there is submission to them. Why is Christian discipleship different from all that? What -- or who -- guarantees that the way of obedience in t…

Christian Responsibility to the New Creation: a sermon on Isaiah 65:17-25

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Holocaust scholars and historians released a new study of concentration camps and ghettos in 2013. Contra the previous estimates of between 6 and 11 million deaths, the new study suggests that that number is actually much higher; likely between 15 and 20 million. Those numbers are absolutely staggering. Imagine the horror that these people had to face: being separated from their children, knowing they are going to their certain deaths; alone and scared; the torture and slavery these people were subject to for no other reason than their ethnic identity or religion or sexual orientation. Now imagine, yourselves, going through this as someone who believed in God. What kind of toll would this take on your faith? For some of us, our faith would be completely annihilated; obliterated by our horrific suffering which completely strips us of our freedom and agency. Some of us would, no doubt, maintain our faith to the very end, hopeful that God is still working.

And I think a few of us would s…

Francis Turretin’s Ecclesiology, 18.7: The Invisibility of the Church

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Seventh Question: Is the true church rightly said to be invisible? We affirm against the Romanists.

Turretin seems a little put out in having to answer this question. He makes it clear that it is a question that arises in a primarily polemic context. Roman theologians of his time claim that Protestantism is false because it did not exist prior to Luther; Protestants retort that it existed, just not visibly. This is because “the true church [is] not to be measured by an external profession or subjection to the Roman pontiff, but by faith and internal piety alone” (18.7.2). He even has a nice quote from Bellarmine that seems to show agreement!

For Turretin, the church’s two-fold condition as both visible and invisible arises from the two-fold nature of God’s call: the external call made through visible instruments, and the internal call of the Holy Spirit (18.7.4). This is an interesting move because these are overlapping sets that are nevertheless unable to be reduced to either side. On…

Eberhard Jüngel and Helmut Gollwitzer on Socialism and Solidarity: The Full Mon...I mean...Intro...

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Something of a love-hate relationship exists between the liberation and “Barthian” theological movements. On the one hand, some proponents of the latter claim that Barth’s theology is not only contextual but liberationist, going so far as to argue that “it is indisputable that a direct line goes from [Barth] to the liberation movements and liberation theology.” On the other hand, some proponents of the former see Barth’s approach to theology as an impediment to contextual and liberationist theological approaches. James Cone is perhaps the most significant voice in this camp.

In his relatively recent book The Cross and the Lynching Tree, Cone criticizes Barth for disconnecting theology from experience, and especially the experience of marginalized peoples: “Unless we look at the ‘facts of experience,’ . . . what we say about the cross remains at the level of theological abstraction, like Karl Barth’s Word of God, separated from the real crosses in our midst.” Cone’s criticism of Barth…

Coda on the Kingdom: Beginning at the Ending with Weiss' Eschatology

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Johannes Weiss is justly famous for his role in bringing and end to the naivete of 19th century historical Jesus research. He constructed a plausible and compelling portrait of Jesus as an uncanny apocalyptic prophet that contrasted sharply with the Jesus of the liberal Protestant Zeitgeist -- that is, the popular image of the Nazarene as a conveyor of timeless wisdom and an enlightened ethical ideal based on the fatherhood of God and the siblinghood of all people (so Harnack).

Jesus' Proclamation of the Kingdom by Johannes Weiss. Ed. R. Hiers & L. Holland (Fortress, 1971).

In his conclusion, Weiss conveniently sumarizes his findings (pp. 129-131). My interest here is not to analyze his historical argument in detail, but a brief summary will help sharpen the constructive theological challenge his short work poses: According to Weiss, Jesus believed that the messianic end-time was imminent, and the signs of the future-yet-inbreaking Kingdom were manifest in supernatural victorie…

Christiane Tietz’s "Theologian of Resistance: The life and Thought of Dietrich Bonhoeffer" - A guest review by Lauren Larkin

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Christiane Tietz’s book, Theologian of Resistance: The life and Thought of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, is a great addition to the current landscape of American Bonhoeffer scholarship. It’s also a much-needed correction to current misconceptions and misappropriations of Bonhoeffer in American evangelical Christianity. Tietz’s economical discussion of Bonhoeffer’s life makes writing this book review difficult. I very much just want to say, “It’s 121 pages, just go read it. Trust me, you’ll love it.” But that would be the “cheap” rather than “costly” path…

Tietz’s approach is to track Bonhoeffer from birth to death while documenting how his life and thought fit his historical context. She deftly pulls three threads with equal tightness to give the reader a complete picture of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: the historical facts of Bonhoeffer’s life, the socio-political events of Germany from 1933-1945 (the rise of Hitler and the Third Reich), and Bonhoeffer’s intellectual / theological development. Bonho…