Showing posts from March, 2017

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

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

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.— 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…

Should We Speculate on the Fate of the "Unevangelized"?

I began this series with an overview of an older but well-worn book by John E. Sanders that contributes significantly to an evangelical theology of religions. To review: Sanders asks what, as Christians, we can say about the fate of those who never hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ explicitly proclaimed, or who through some incapacity are simply unable to receive it?

No Other Name: An Investigation into the Destiny of the Unevangelized, by John E. Sanders (Eeerdmans, 1992).

I have to wonder if this is the sort of theological project that someone like me, tainted by Barthianism as I am, might even wish to engage. Perhaps some of you, gentle readers, might have the same question.
I can think of two reasons why I might demur from such a project: On the one hand, why should I commit to anything that bills itself as an evangelical theology in the first place? Nowadays -- and I scarecely need to point this out to most of you -- the question of evangelical identity is particularly fraught and v…

Moltmann, Barth, Bloch, and Blumhardt (any 'B's missing?)

While reading Moltmann’s autobiography I came across an interesting reflection on his relationship to Barth and Barth’s reaction to his Theology of Hope. And his reflections are too interesting to not share with you, gentle readers. So I have done so below. I’ve taken out some references and such to streamline I a bit, and I’ve inserted some of my own editorial comments. As usual, bold is mine.

Jürgen Moltmann, A Broad Place (Fortress, 2009), 109–11.
Karl Barth read the Theology of Hope together with Eduard Thurneysen immediately after its publication. On 8 November 1964 he wrote to an old friend that he found it ‘very stimulating and exciting, because the young author makes a vigorous attempt to cope better with the eschatological aspect of the gospel than the old man in Basel did in his Romans commentary and his CD. I read him with a completely open mind, but hesitate to follow him because this new systematization, though much can be said in its favour, is almost too good to be true.’…

Marilynne Robinson on Theology

Marilynne Robinson, novelist and essayist, is one of my literary heroes. She is witty, wise, and unabashedly Reformed. In April 2016, Robinson was in Princeton, NJ, giving a lecture as part of the University’s Comparative Literature lecture series. In her lecture, titled “Beauty and Grace,” Robinson made this elusive comment regarding her theological commitments:

“I hold to theology because only theology embraces the true, tenable, and flawed as reality holds them.”
Naturally, this statement shocked me, as I have never in my seven years of theological inquiry heard theology defined as such. Theology, as it has classically been construed, is systematic, ordered, and dogmatic. Mashing together the true and the flawed is a systematic theologian’s worst nightmare. Shocking as her statement may be, I think Robinson is on to something profoundly relevant for the current state of theology, and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about its ramifications. What if Robinson is right? What if theo…

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

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

…or, The Past Fortnight in the Theoblogosphere.

Well, it’s been over a month since the last link post, and there have been quite a few goings on. Here’s some of the most exciting stuff (imho) before we get to the link lists.

First, DET contributor Kathryn Heidelberger published a book review on the Center for Barth Studies website: Spencer, Archie J. The Analogy of Faith: The Quest for God’s Speakability . . . Reviewed by Kathryn Bradford Heidelberger. Well done, Kathryn!

Second, the podcast version of my “Why go Barthian?” conversation with Tripp Fuller was published. Access it here, or wherever you download your podcasts. Just remember, this was recorded back in August 2016, and I was already saying that we needed to revive anti-Nazi theology. Tripp, on the other hand, wasn’t so sure…

Third, it’s been a really busy time on Twitter. I created a Twitter moment on Katy Perry’s “Chained to the Rhythm” music video, for instance. And Da…

If You Died Tonight... Or What Does Salvation Even Mean?

I have been writing on this page, for the past couple weeks, about the question of the fate of the "unevangelized" -- to wit: What might the Christian believer hope for the countless throngs of humanity who have never encountered the explicit Gospel of Jesus Christ or through some incapacity quite beyond their control have been unable to receive it (including infants and perhaps even the unborn). In my review of a superb text by John E. Sanders, I surveyed, in painfully broad strokes, three kinds of answers to this question: 1) Restrictivists hold that no one can be saved without an explicit encounter with the Gospel and response to it in faith; universalists affirm that, ultimately, God will save everyone; and advocates of wider hope theories (including inclusivists) assert that every human being will encounter the Gospel and enjoy an opportunity for -- not a guarantee of -- eternal salvation, whether the encounter occurs in this life or in an afterlife.

Pondering all this …

Francis Turretin’s Ecclesiology, 18.13: Against false marks of the church

Thirteenth Question: Are the name catholic, antiquity, continued duration, amplitude, the succession of bishops, harmony in doctrine with the ancient church, union of the members with each other and with the head, holiness of doctrine, the efficacy of the same, holiness of life, the glory of miracles, prophetic light, the confession of adversaries, the unhappy end of the persecutors of the church and the temporal happiness of those who have defended it, marks of the true church? We deny against the Romanists.

Buckle your safety belts, because this is a long one…

In fact, I thought about splitting it into two parts, but I worried that created a precedent which would ultimately spiral out of control. Oh, and while I’m offering random preliminary reflections, questions 12 and 13 remind me of Calvin’s discussion of the sacraments in book 4 of the Institutes: you get his teaching in chapters 14–17, and then you get his deconstruction of the Roman position in chapters 18–19. But enough thro…

What Am I Reading? No Other Name by John Sanders

In my post last week, I offered a somewhat whimsical entree to John E. Sanders' impressive book on the scope of salvation. I then received a tip that an anonymous interlocutor thinks this book deserves some closer exposition, so I've been reading it carefully during this past week. I have not been disappointed. Sanders did his research and produced a truly fine, and eminently useful, work in historical and constructive theology.

No Other Name: An Investigation into the Destiny of the Unevangelized, by John E. Sanders (Eeerdmans, 1992).

The animating question in Sanders' book is this: What, as Christians, can we say about the fate of those who never hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ explicitly proclaimed, or who through some incapacity are simply unable to receive it?
Sanders writes from a conservative evangelical perspective, and he masterly refutes the caricature that what he calls restrictivist soteriology is the only serious option on the table in the history of conservat…

Gollwitzer Gold (part 3): Twitter Gleanings Trifecta

Many folks know that I am in the late stages of preparing a book manuscript on Helmut Gollwitzer's theology and politics. If all goes according to plan, it will appear before the end of the year. Bits and pieces of it are currently flying back and forth between my editor and I. In the meantime, I thought that I would collect another "Gollwitzer Gold" installment (part 1 / part 2) for you to enjoy, gentle readers. So, without further ado, I give you the tweets!

"...control and yet leave a facade of democracy standing. Hitler's technique was relatively primitive." - #Golli— W. Travis McMaken (@WTravisMcMaken) November 30, 2016

Beware "the unshakable self-confidence of the half-educated." - #Golli— W. Travis McMaken (@WTravisMcMaken) November 30, 2016


"I have just learnt a proof question by which one can test a State to see whether one would like to live in it or not: supposing there..."— W. Travis McMaken (@WTravisMc…