Showing posts from June, 2016

Tom Oord is a Nazarene, and I’m a Presbyterian – A (slightly) more critical engagement

I previously posted about Oord’s recent book (bibliographic information below) in which he undertakes a reconception of divine providence. Furthermore, he reconceives providence by reconceiving the doctrine of God on intellectualist ground in an attempt to take seriously what it means to say that God is love in the sense of kenotic self-giving. Oord's book is a stimulating work that is accessible to laypeople and should be one of the first recommendations made for the theologically curious fellow church-goer. That said…

Thomas Jay Oord, The Uncontrolling Love of God: An Open and Relational Account of Providence (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2015).
…Tom Oord is a Nazarene, and I’m a Presbyterian. Now, I get it: we live in an increasingly post-denominational world. I don’t know Oord’s ecclesial biography, and I’m not a cradle Presbyterian, so chances are that we’ve got quite a few different traditional influences kicking around between us. But at the very least it is significant t…

"Game of Thrones," Baptism, and the Drowned God

*spoiler alert

If you’ve been watching this season of HBO’s Game of Thrones you might remember that visceral scene from episode five where Euron Greyjoy (the new king of the Iron Islands) is held under water by the priest until his lungs are filled with water and he loses consciousness.

This is the “drowning” ritual practiced by worshipers of the Drowned God in George R.R. Martin’s world. When I first came across this ritual in the books I was immediately reminded of Christian baptism.

Christians have never held baptizands (those who are being baptized) under water to the point of drowning, but the meaning behind the two rituals is strikingly similar.

In the first chapter of A Feast for Crows, Aeron Greyjoy, priest of the Drowned God, holds a thrashing boy named Emmond under the water, saying: “Lord God who drowned for us…let Emmond your servant be reborn from the sea, as you were.” [1]

“Finally, it was done. No more air was bubbling from his mouth, and all the strength had gone out of…

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

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

…or, The Past Fortnight in the Theoblogosphere.

It’s been nearly a month since the last link post, to be perfectly honest. A lot has happened. Here’s a quick recap:

Right on the heels of losing John Webster (index of tributes / my tribute post), the theological world suffered the loss of Elisabeth Moltmann Wendel (here’s the piece from the EKD). Does anyone know if there’s a collection of tributes to her out there?

Also, the Karl Barth Conference in Princeton happened this past week, on the topic of Barth’s pneumatology (doctrine of the Holy Spirit) and global Pentecostalism. DET brought you a guest post by J.T. Young on one of the papers, and David Guretzki posted discussions of a number of them as well. Here’s a quick index for those:


When a Jesuit Evolutionist and a Religious Existentialist Cross Paths; (Or) Why Won't the New Humanity Emerge Already?

Caveat: This piece is chock full of non-inclusive language. That's the least of what's troubling about it.

In the aftermath of World War II, Paris was teeming with intellectual life. The most dominant schools of philosophy were Marxism and existentialism -- or better, Marxisms and existentialisms. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) engaged in vigorous conversations with representatives of both groups -- who also, of course, were in spirited engagements with each other (See Novak). By this point, late in his career and life, the Jesuit geologist and paleontologist was world-renowned, especially for his field work in China, where, among many other accomplishments, he worked on the research team that discovered "Peking Man" (Sinanthropus pekinensis); he also helped establish the fact that pekinensus was homo faber, a tool-maker.

Established professionally by his theories of the earth's past, though, Teilhard's company was more broadly in demand for his views …

“Karl Barth’s Pneumatology and the Global Pentecostal Movement” - A report on Christian T. Collins Winn's paper at the 2016 Princeton Barth Conference, by J. T. Young

[Ed. note: J. T. Young is an MDiv student at Princeton Theological Seminary, and a graduate of the Lindenwood University Religion department. He attended the part of the 2016 Karl Barth Conference at Princeton Theological Seminary, currently underway at the time of writing, and sent in this report from the scene.]

The theme of the 2016 Karl Barth Conference at Princeton Theological Seminary was “Karl Barth’s Pneumatology and the Global Pentecostal Movement.” One of the speakers at the conference was Christian T. Collins Winn, Professor of Historical Theology at Bethel University and contemporary theology’s authoritative voice on the Blumhardts: the 19th century father-and-son German pietist pastor-theologians who would become extremely important in the development of the young Karl Barth in his years as a pastor in Safenwil, Switzerland from 1911-1921.

Collins Winn offered a paper titled “Barth, Pentecostalism, and the Cry for the Kingdom” in which he laid out a comparative study of p…

Christology in the Key of Middle C (pt. 3)

If a "high" Christology emphasizes Jesus' identity as God incarnate while a "low" Christology mitigates or denies this emphasis for faith and theology, what might a "middle" option look like? (To follow the thread of my discussion so far, click here and here). In exploring this issue, I'm drawing upon an essay by George Hunsinger, in which he reviews a critique Hans Urs von Balthasar leveled against Karl Rahner (see "Baptized into Christ's death: Karl Barth and the future of Roman Catholic theology (See Disruptive Grace: Studies in the Theology of Karl Barth, Eerdmans, 2001, chapter 11). Hunsinger does not attempt a full assessment of this critique, and nor do I.

Though Hunsinger here does not relate this middle Christology to the low-high dichotomy with which I have been working. But clearly a third way is in view here. Middle Christology is maximal, in a certain sense: Jesus is unique, at least as the only perfect member of the species.…

The Sinful Incurvature of American Whiteness (Part 1)

In a rousing rector’s address,[1] my largely white congregation in Chicago was tasked this year with beginning and sustaining the “life-giving, soul-searing” work of dealing honestly with our white privilege, and its underlying injustices. One of the first steps we took was to have a one-church one-book conversation on Ta Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me. Coates offers a vivid and eye-opening account of what it was like for him growing up black in Baltimore, and I was especially struck by his criticism of the language of “intention”—namely, that it functions more to appease white consciences than to change black circumstances.[2]

In this post, and the one following, I want to consider this criticism from a theological perspective—first demonstrating that our white tendency to focus myopically on our intentions is a symptom of our sinful condition as human beings curved in on ourselves; and second, showing how the gospel has the power to free us from the prison of our self-absor…

Gollwitzer Gold: Some recent quotes from Twitter

If you read DET at all, you know that I’m currently working on a book on Helmut Gollwitzer. Because there are so few of Gollwitzer’s works available in English—especially his more politically oriented writings—my book will include translations of a couple short pieces. I’ve been working away dutifully on those translations and, every now and then when one of Golli’s turns of phrase has gotten me excited, I’ve posted some snippets of my translations on Twitter. Since I’ve got complete drafts of my translations now, I figured that I would collect those tweets for you to enjoy here in a centralized location.

Hopefully this will also whet your appetite a bit for that book I mentioned…

Update: I have published a book on Gollwitzer! Click on the title to order your copy: Our God Loves Justice: An Introduction to Helmut Gollwitzer.

"#Capitalism, the authoritarian state, dictatorship—a disciple of #Jesus cannot “seek” any of this." - #Golli— W. Travis McMaken (@WTravisMcMaken) June 2…

Christology in the Key of Middle C (pt. 2)

In my last post , I explored what difference a "high" Christology makes for Christian faith and theology. To review: A "high" Christology is a position that affirms Jesus' divinity and the doctrine that he is the incarnate Son of God, whereas a "low" Christolgy eschews this construct, focusing exclusively on the humanity of the Savior. Might there be a third option lying somewhere between these two? To delve into this question, I draw out a thread from an essay by George Hunsinger, a contribution to ecumenical theology titled "Baptized into Christ's death: Karl Barth and the future of Roman Catholic theology (See Disruptive Grace: Studies in the Theology of Karl Barth, Eerdmans, 2001, chapter 11). Hunsinger introduces the notion of a "middle Christology" -- a kind of position about which he clearly is ambivalent, to say the least.

In the second section of this essay (pp. 261-267), Hunsinger revisits a debate between the two leading …

Preview of a Series on Charles Hartshorne

At the suggestion of a professor on my committee, I’ve recently begun reading Charles Hartshorne. He was on my scholarly “to do list” so I was happy to have an excuse to begin reading his books. So far the experience of reading his work has been gratifying and I resonate with much of it to a degree which has surprised me. Part of why this has been surprising is because he has an approach that I normally don’t go in for. As Gary Dorrien and Roland Faber have noted, Hartshorne works out of a rationalist orientation and Hartshorne doesn’t reject the label (though as I will possibly discuss in the future, he would also include important explanations and qualifiers in his embrace of it).

What has made Hartshorne so enjoyable for me to read thus far is that he weds this orientation to an acerbic tone, and for some reason I’ve found this combination engaging, humorous, and enjoyable, even though at times I doubt it fosters positive academic engagement. Hartshorne may be wrong sometimes…

Moltmann, Pannenberg, and the Future: Once More with David Congdon

I have posted about Congdon’s book before, and some of those posts have been rather weighty. This one is a little more lighthearted insofar as it deals with the relative merits of Jürgen Moltmann and Wolfhard Pannenberg when measured against the backdrop of Barth and Bultmann. Who’s better, Moltmann or Pannenberg?

David W. Congdon, The Mission of Demythologizing: Rudolf Bultmann’s Dialectical Theology (Fortress, 2015).
I must begin by acknowledging that Congdon makes his comparative remarks about Moltmann and Pannenberg in a particular rhetorical context. At this point in his book, Congdon turns to a set of standard criticisms against Bultmann and identifies Moltmann, Oswald Beyer, and Robert Jenson as exemplars of these criticisms. This extended discussion (pp. 789–823) is one of the most interesting in the book insofar as it has a much more direct – or, perhaps I should say, tangible – bearing on contemporary theological conversations. In any case, while introducing his section on M…

Christology in the Key of Middle C (pt. 1)

In a recent post, I playfully explored the question of what difference a "high" Christology makes for Christian faith and theology. Recall that a "high" Christology is a position that affirms Jesus' divinity and the doctrine that he is the incarnate Son of God.
Though the piece is whimsical, the central claim around which it spins is a serious one: The coherence, perhaps even the validity of Christian thought depends upon the categorical uniqueness of the Savior, a uniqueness that is qualitative and not merely quantitative.

This claim has a corollary: If the uniqueness of Jesus Christ is situated only within some aspect of his creaturely existence -- say, his perfect piety or obedience to God -- then it becomes difficult to affirm his unique dignity in any absolute sense. Whatever his blessedness might mean, in this case, it cannot be utterly unique if it resides merely within a perfection of some attribute(s) that all human beings share. In other words, the cl…