Monday, January 30, 2017

Abortion, Authoritarian Self-Deception, Evangelicals, and Trump: a collected Twitter essay from Christopher Stroop

I was kickin' it on Twitter last Wednesday night while doing some grading and then some editing, and I caught a Twitter essay from Christopher Stroop in my feed that leaped off the screen at me. It pulls together a number of issues that have been bouncing around in my head, many of which I fit in the title. Stroop's reflections merge political and psychological analysis, and helps us understand how there could have been "good Germans" and how we might end op with "good Americans." Let us hope that we do not, and work to make that hope a reality.

Anyway, I wanted to share this Twitter essay with you, gentle readers, because there are enough people who read DET or follow me and DET on social media who are within or close to evangelicalism and will be aided by this analysis. Stroop was gracious enough to allow me to collect his tweets and make them available. If you've made your way here on a mobile device, however, you would probably prefer to read this material in its Storify form.

Since we're talking about Stroop, here are a couple other things he's written that you may find to be worth your time:

--another Twitter essay, this time on the similarities between Russians and Americans.

--this article at Political Research Associates: Russian Social Conservatism, the U.S.-based WCF, & the Global Culture Wars in Historical Context.

Now, here's the tweets.


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Saturday, January 28, 2017

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

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

…or, The Past Fortnight in the Theoblogosphere.

Well, the last link post was well over a month ago. DET went on hiatus for the holidays and one thing lead to another. But now we’re back. And even though we’ve only been back for the past week, I wanted to get a link post out there to catch you up on anything you might have missed while we were on hiatus. That’s right! Just because DET wasn’t posting doesn’t mean I stopped collecting links. And not I’ve got a deep backlog just begging to get cleared out a bit. So, enjoy!

Here are the DET post from the past week:

And here’s good stuff from elsewhere:


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Thursday, January 26, 2017

All on Our Own: Yet More from Barth at Bremen

But the boat was now in the middle of the sea,[a] tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary (Matt. 14:24).
Christ in the Storm on the Lake of Galilee
by Rembrandt.
(Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.)

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)

I was once touring the nave of a lovely Episcopal parish. The tour guide pointed to the rafters and noted how they resembled the inverted hull of a ship. With a whiff of pride, as it seemed to me -- though he was not, in my experience, an arrogant person -- he suggested this structure symbolized the church as a ship sheltering it's passengers from the chaos of the outside world.

Karl Barth, I'm convinced, would have none of this.

As Barth marches through the text and the exposition in his Bremen sermon, he explores the profound isolation of the community that follows Jesus as Lord -- those who journey through a hostile world "without weapons" (a phrase elsewhere applied to Barth's distinctively anti-apologetical theological method). The source of this alienation, it so happens, is Jesus himself. In the uniqueness of his divine-human identity, Jesus stands utterly alone, and this very singularity abolishes any claim of superiority over others that his disciples might wish to assert.

In what does this isolation consist? It certainly does not subsist in the moral goodness or uprightness of believers, as if they could stand about other worthy human endeavors, aloof and superior. The very boldness, the starkness, the uncompromising intensity of its proclammation is what sets the community apart; but in pronouncing this word, the community of faith enacts the sign of judgment upon itself. In and through this very proclammation, paradoxically, the very brokenness of the church itself is manifest. This communion of the Crucified becomes an icon and a bearer of the curse of the whole world.

How could humankind in all its dubiousness (or "questionableness" --Fragwürdigkeit) and all its defenselessness (Bedrohtheit) emerge any more clearly than it does here? And how could this venture not secretly be afflicted, and in a particularly intense and severe way at certain moments in time such as this one such as the one in which we are now living? Where should it turn? (p. 49)

The mystery and paradox here is that within its supreme isolation, followers of Jesus share profoundly in his radical solidarity with the human condition in its fallenness and alienation.

What is to become of Jesus' disciples when they find themselves in exactly the same boat as the rest of humanity? They are no better off or stronger than the rest, no less lost and helpless than the world as a whole; indeed, more lost and helpless, perhaps, than all the rest. (ibid.)

A distinguished contemporary school of Christian ethics, claiming Barth as an inspiration and authority, conceives the community of believers as a kind of school of character, a body of "resident aliens" who bear the mark of their distinctive and saving story. I will not attempt to assess that ecclesiology here; suffice it to say, that this is not the sort of construct I read off from this particular sermon. Rather, what we find depicted here is a community that cannot fall back upon the sanctity of its practices and the richness of its communal life. Rather, what marks this community is desparation. Not even the religious consolation of a triumphant Christology allows the church to avoid drinking the cup of bitterness. All the beleagured band of followers can do is cling to the bare word of the promise -- even if they cannot see or feel it. All they have is a memory of their master, a trace.

What else can we do, then, but to cling to what has been given us, cling to the word, and, in spite of our weak attempts at remebering and hoping, to be obedient as far as our ability and understanding allow! (ibid.)


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Top Ten DET Posts of 2016

That’s right – it’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for, gentle readers: DET is back for 2017!

Stay tuned for all the fun, thoughtful, and sometimes dorky (let’s not deny it…) posts to come over the next year. And to kick it all off, let’s revisit 2016 and see what posts y’all were reading the most. Long-time readers know that we do this every year, and I encourage you to check out last year’s post (and fall down the rabbit hole of links into bygone ages).

This year I’m going to do a Top 10 based on traffic, a few honorable mentions that were knocking on the top 10 traffic list door, and another set of honorable mentions of posts that . . . well . . . I happened to like for one reason or another. #1 has the most traffic and #10 the least. Here we go!

DET 2016 Top 10

  1. So, You Want To Read Karl Barth? - This one is usually on the list in some capacity. It’s a classic, and (I like to think that it) has helped crowds of people to make a start with Barth. Eschew imitations – this is the guide you are looking for!
  2. Tributes to John Webster (Index) - In addition to all the other things that we’ve been giving 2016 a bad rap for over the past few weeks, it also marked the loss of John Webster. I put together a list of tributes to his life and thought.
  3. Demythologizing the Divide between Barth and Bultmann - David Congdon wrote this post back in the day for the 2008 Karl Barth Blog Conference and it usually ends up on these lists. That means a lot of you have read it. But, if you haven’t, head over the now.
  4. Karl Barth, Scripture, D. A. Carson, and the Gospel Coalition - I wasn’t in a particularly good mood back when I wrote this post early in 2016. I had seen something on the internet . . . and, well . . . you know how that goes.
  5. So You Want to Read….Dietrich Bonhoeffer? - Another reading guide made the list! Brandy Daniels put this guide together for us, and I’m a big fan of it. So if you’ve been wanting some instruction on where to start with Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Don’t be fooled: there’s a very popular book on DB that you should not start with. Or finish with. Or read at all, really. So let this guide light your path.
  6. Brief Reflection on the Suicide of a Pastor - Henry Coates wrote this post in the wake of what was a shocking and unsettling event for many of us who know lots of pastors, studied with them, taught some of them a few things here and there, etc., especially within the Presbyterian Church (USA). I really appreciated it, and it looks like I was not alone.
  7. John Webster (1955-2016): Requiescat in pace - In addition to indexing memorials to Webster, as I mentioned above, I also wrote one of my own.
  8. Vestigia Trinitatis: More than a Hermeneutical Problem - This is another oldie-but-goodie from the 2008 KBBC that pops into these lists from time to time – seemingly without rhyme or reason. Honestly, that’s one of the most interesting things about having a blog as long in the tooth as DET: you get to ponder over why on earth people dip into the things that they do at any given time.
  9. Read Barth and Get Over Yourself - I’m very pleased to see that my intrepid, long-suffering, and sometimes insufferably droll associate editor, Scott Jackson, appears on the list this year. If I may be frank with you, gentle readers, I often thing that Scott’s post are woefully under-read. *tsktsk* At least you got it right with this one.
  10. Moltmann, Pannenberg, and the Future: Once More with David Congdon - Finally, at least for this category, we have this post of mine reflecting on a passage from David Congdon’s big book on Karl Barth, Rudolf Bultmann, mission, and dialectical theology. And since it also has Moltmann and Pannenberg’s names in there, the search engines seem to like it.

Honorable Mentions (based on traffic):

Honorable Mentioned (based on my whims):

  • Does God "Exist"? Meh. (With Apologies to my Atheist Friends) - I’m not entirely sure that Scott actually has any atheist friends, but if he did, well, ahem, I’m sure he’d buy them a round down at the local watering hole from time to time. He seems to want some atheist friends, at least. And, really, aren’t we all atheists deep down? Or idolaters? I mean, after all, there are no atheists in foxholes, “they” assure us, but I suspect those things are full of idolaters. Give me a good atheist, especially a good Marxist sort, over the idolaters any day of the week and twice on Sundays!
  • "Game of Thrones," Baptism, and the Drowned God - Alex DeMarco reflecting on baptism and GoT? Sign me up! I mean, I read it, liked it, and you should too! Remember, winter is coming. And I’m not sure what we’ll do once the fonts freeze over . . .
  • On the Sinful Incurvature of American Whiteness: Lessons from Ta-Nehisi Coates, Karl Barth, and Martin Luther: Part 1, Part 2 - More by Alex DeMarco, who turned in a strong showing in his rookie year at DET. Also be sure to check out his Christmas reflections: Advent and Eschatology at the Dawn of the Trump Era.
  • Michael Servetus as Pastoral Theologian? - Another DET contributing author in his rookie campaign, J. T. Young, wrote this piece on Michael Servetus that brings a unique perspective to the story of his life and clash with Calvin in Geneva.

That’s it, folks! Will any of these posts be back on next year’s list? What new posts will arise to wrest from them a place in this vaunted company? Only God knows and she’s not telling. So we’ll all have to find out the hard way. Don’t touch that dial!

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