Posts

Showing posts from 2017

Living Humanly: Stringfellow on the Power of Resurrection

Image
In last week's post , I touched upon William Stringfellow's conception of resurrection as the exercise of freedom from the power of death under the conditions of fallen human existence. Today I ask: What does this resurrection life entail for the churches, for the communities of the ones baptized into such an "awful freedom"? He writes:
It is a freedom to live in the present age, during the remaining time of death's apparent reign, without escaping or hiding or withdrawing from the full reality of death's presence, bearing the brunt of its powers, yet jubilantly confident at the same time of Christ's victory over death and all the powers of death (p. 75).
Free in Obedience, by William Stringfellow (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2006)

As I noted before, I would like to hear more about the character of that victory and its broader implications, in terms of Christ's unique person and vocation as Savior. At any rate, Stringfellow clearly is more interes…

A Glimpse at the Life of Moses ben Maimon (Maimonides / Rambam)

Image
Since my teaching brief now includes more sustained instruction in the Jewish tradition, I’ve been further familiarizing myself with some of its significant contributors. To that end, I read Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Maimonides: A Biography. As you no doubt deduced from the title, if you didn’t know already, Maimonides’s proper name is Moses ben Maimon. And if you throw the title of Rabbi on the front (it is accorded to him as an honorific although he was never “ordained” as a rabbi and refused the opportunity because he didn’t think he should earn a living off the Torah), take the first letters, and throw a couple vowels (two ‘a’s) in there to help you pronounce it, you get “Rambam,” which is how he is referred to in the rabbinic tradition.

If you need an analogy to help you understand how important Maimonides is for the rabbinic tradition, just think of him as the Jewish Thomas Aquinas. Or, perhaps think of Thomas as the Christian Rambam, since he was born 21 years after the second M…

Leaping Like Calves: A guest sermon on Malachi 4:1-5, by Lauren Larkin

Image
The message of Malachi is as follows: God knows those who fear him and those who do not, and He desires his people to repent and turn back to Him and Torah (Mal. 3:7). If the people do not do as God desires, God will come with judgment as destruction on the people and on the land.

Malachi ends his book with a word of Judgment: utter destruction hangs in the balance if the people do not turn. For all intents and purposes, Malachi cries out: “Pay attention!” He pleads with his audience: “Take heed; this is serious!” “Judgment is coming!” Malachi shouts. The question that Malachi leaves us with at the very end of the book is: on whom will judgment fall?

"For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall…

God in the Void: Reflections for Holy Saturday

Image
“When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. At three o'clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’”

(Mark 15:33-34)

A God that is simply all-powerful,
All-knowing,
Unchangeable,
And immovable—

Can this sort of God have any credibility for us today in the real world?

While unabashed prejudice, hatred, and violence
Threaten to become the new normal,

While trucks come barreling down the sidewalk,

While bombs rain down from the sky,
When they shatter the holy silence of our places of worship,

In a world with sarin gas,

The unchanging, unaffected, immovable god, who dwells in unapproachable light, can have no credibility for me.


What, then, of the Void?

Does nothing at all lie beyond the world we see in the news?

The hope offered up by our deeply ambiguous lives,
And our deeply ambiguous world,
Hope that is so scant and intermittent,
So often too little and too la…

Stringfellow: A Naked Christ Strips the Powers

Image
The year was 1964, at the height of the Civil Rights struggle. William Stringfellow, the young attorney and lay theologian who had recently practiced street law in East Harlem, penned a set of reflections on the vocation of the church in the face of the oppressive principalities and powers of the world. The essay was framed by passages from the "Epistle" to the Hebrews.

Free in Obedience, by William Stringfellow (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2006)

In the passion story, as Stringfellow reads it, Jesus bears the full brunt of condemnation from (if I may be a little anachronistic) the secular Roman authorities and the religious priestly caste that collaborates with Empire.

What happens in the collision? Stringfellow writes:

Through the encounters between Christ and principalities and between Christ and death, the power of death is exhausted. The reign of death and, within that, the pretensions to sovereignty over history of the principalities, is brought to an end in Christ'…

On Christianity and Socialism

Image
By now, DET readers know that David Congdon (who needs no introduction at DET) has begun an initiative called #TwitterSeminary. This is a great project that brings together serious and sustained reflection on important theological topics with the (perhaps unlikely) medium of Twitter. Unfortunately, some people don't have Twitter accounts and are unable to access the goodness that is #TwitterSeminary. That's why I've been posting my #TwitterSeminary guest lectures here at DET in their entirety. Perhaps you saw my first on Karl Barth, Pacifism, and Just War. I'm pleased now to bring you another on Christianity and Socialism.

It was wonderfully gratifying to see the response to this material from folks on Twitter, so thanks to everyone for their kind words.

And if you do have Twitter, you can access all this as a moment.


#TwitterSeminary founder and president @dwcongdon asked me to present a guest lecture on #Christianity and #socialism. I'm glad to oblige.— W. Travis…

What Am I Reading? Charles Marsh’s “Strange Glory”

Image
I’ve been wanting to read Marsh’s Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Vintage, 2015) since it was first published in 2014. Now that the paperback is out, and selling for ~50pp/$ at a certain online retailer, I knew the time had come.

When I started reading the book I, quite naturally, sent out a Tweet about it (see it here if you want) in which I described it as “the only one worth reading by an author whose name starts with ‘m.’” One or two of my friends and colleagues who are Bonhoeffer specialists got in touch to point me to resources that identify flaws in Marsh’s presentation. It’s true, this book is not perfect. However, I stand by my statement—which, admittedly, probably isn’t saying much.


To be perfectly clear, however, Marsh’s book is worth reading. There are some shorter treatments of Bonhoeffer (see a review of one here), and there’s the tome from Eberhard Bethge, and Marsh’s treatment falls nicely between the two. He writes well and is a good storyteller, which…

What I Am Also Reading: Knitter on "Unitive Pluralism"

Image
Lately I've been ruminating on John E. Sanders' book No Other Name: An Investigation into the Destiny of the Unevangelized (Eeerdmans, 1992) (Check out last week's post to get up to speed).
Sanders' work, clearly, is in part a rejoinder to Paul F. Knitter's paradigmatic proposal for religious pluralism -- a "theocentric" approach that claims the great world religions represent diverse paths toward one goal, communion with God. How do I know this, apart from reading the footnotes (recommended)? Well the almost identical titles sort of give it away, for starters. Knitter seems, in his own idiom, to have anticipated the grammatical wisdom of the United Church of Christ: Never put a period where God has put a question mark. As one progresses toward the end of the book and Knitter's own constructive proposal, one might suggest he retitle it something like Yes, Other Names!

As for Sanders' work, the period in the title may be implied, but it is soterio…

Karl Barth, Pacifism, and Just War

Image
I imagine that many DET readers have, by now, realized that David Congdon (who needs no introduction at DET) has begun an initiative called #TwitterSeminary. This is a great project that brings together serious and sustained reflection on important theological topics with the (perhaps unlikely) medium of Twitter. Anyway, in addition to his lectures (index here), I did a guest lecture as well (most likely the first of many). So I thought that I would share that material here as well in order to give those of you who aren't on Twitter (click here for the moment if you have Twitter), or who don't follow it closely, to access this material as well.

Earlier today @dwcongdon inagurated his #TwitterSeminary initiative with a tweet storm on #tradition. https://t.co/wIkkRliaY6— W. Travis McMaken (@WTravisMcMaken) March 8, 2017
Now I will claim the privileges of friendship and offer a #TwitterSeminary Guest Lecture on #KarlBarth and #JustWar.— W. Travis McMaken (@WTravisMcMaken) March 8…