Showing posts from 2018

“God Likes Diversity” - A Primer on Multicultural Ministry from a Metro Atlanta Church

I’m no expert on multicultural ministry. As a white male who migrated from the deep South through the Midwest to New England, I still struggle to come to terms with the racism encrypted in my own spiritual DNA and in the broader U.S. history and culture. Nor am I an ordained minister, but as one who has held lay leadership roles in congregations over the years, I’ve witnessed both the opportunities and the challenges of trying to live a life of faith within multiethnic and multicultural contexts.

All that said, I’ve been reading with keen interest a profile of Oakhurst Presbyterian church (USA) that Nibs Stroupe and his wife Caroline Leach pastored for nearly 35 years in Decatur, Georgia, a teeming and ever-gentrifying first-ring suburb of Atlanta. This historic parish was all-white through the Jim Crow area and struggled to come, first, to an acceptance of nonwhite members and eventually came to embrace a multiracial identity reflective of the changing general population. In more re…

The Praxis of Empathy - Michael Jimenez on Theology as Biography

The spirit of critique that dominates much work in the humanities and social sciences often leaves basic human empathy by the wayside. Michael Jimenez seeks to retrieve fellow feeling for the other through an ambitious project that bridges the disciplines of systematic theology and cultural history. For the teacher or researcher enmeshed in academic institutions in the United States and Western Europe, following the author’s lead means embracing the narratives and perspectives of writers across the two-thirds world -- those hailing, say, from Asia, Africa, or Latin America -- as well as those writers who emerge from marginalized communities within the one-thirds world. The author’s compass is quite broad -- spanning fields like black and mestizo liberation theologies, postcolonial theory, and Protestant dogmatics. Some specialists might balk at such an ambitious scope, but I find here a provocation that can inform and enrich an interdisciplinary approaches to theological and historica…

What’s the Deal with Wolfhart Pannenberg? A guest post by Andrew Hollingsworth

[Ed. Note: Andrew Hollingsworth, PhD, is an adjunct professor of theology at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He tweets: @andrewh_mc11. He writes at Theology and Stuff, and Trinityhaus.]

Wolfhart Pannenberg was one of the most important theologians of the 20th century. Most students (and hobbyists!) of theology will have come across his name in their reading. Some of them may have stopped and looked twice. But by that time they may have noticed that he published a lot, and his writing can be dense, so they may have decided to circle back to him later. Sometime. Maybe. It’s a shame, though, because that would mean missing out on some of the richest theology written in the last century.

But what if these folks just need a little encouragement? A nudge to help them take a leap of faith into the Pannenbergian sea? That’s where this post comes in. I’m going to give you a brief overview of the life and work of Pannenberg, and show you why you should take the plunge!

A Religious Exp…

Communicating Solidarity:
Romero's Final Ecumenical Gesture

The last person to receive communion from Óscar Romero was an Episcopal priest from the United States. The Rev. William Wipfler (as we learn here) served many years as a social justice activist with the National Council of Churches, heading consecutively its Caribbean and Latin American Department and its Human Rights Office. Wipfler was part of a U.S. delegation, who met with the archbishop and participated in Romero's last Sunday mass, on March 23, 1980, before he was killed the following day while celebrating the Eucharist in the chapel at the hospital where his modest residence was.

Assassination of a Saint: The Plot to Murder Óscar Romero and the Quest to Bring His Killers to Justice, by Matt Eisenbrandt (Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2017).

I was struck by Wipfler's emotional account of meeting Romero found in Matt Eisenbrandt's gripping, yet harrowing book. Assassination of a Saint narrates how an international team of civil rights lawyers and investig…

“We must become the prayer”: an anonymous missive on the pastoral task after the death of God

Note from the editor: You may recall, gentle readers, a previous anonymous missive published here at DET. The full title of that post was “‘Jesus was a failure: an anonymous missive on the possibility of faith in the modern world.” That same anonymous author has once again been in touch to submit a second missive, which you will find below. It is a powerful re-conception of pastoral work after the death of God. Consequently, we have once again decided to publish the piece in accordance with the author’s wishes. – WTM

There is only one Messiah who redeems us from the irony, the travail, and the
limitations of human existence. Surely he will come. He is the Angel of Death.
Death is the true Messiah and the land of the dead the place of God's true
Kingdom. Only in death are we redeemed from the vicissitudes of human existence...Only
death perfects life and ends its problems.
- Rabbi Dr. Richard Rubenstein

We're all alone. There's no one up there listening to the prayers we utt…

New Review: Undomesticated Dissent by Curtis W. Freeman

The Christian Century has published my review of Undomesticated Dissent: Democracy and the Public Virtue of Religious Nonconformity by Curtis W. Freeman. This superb study of the religious and political dissent in radical English Protestantism ends with a constructive proposal about how this heritage continues to inform protest movements, for the good of the commonwealth, today. Here's a teaser:

In the 1580s, religious dissenter Henry Barrow languished in London’s Fleet Street prison, taunted by Anglican divine Lancelot Andrewes for his stubborn refusal to acknowledge the spiritual headship of King James I. Across the pond and the centuries, Baptist farmer-preacher Clarence Jordan endured derision and threats in the rigidly segregated rural Georgia community where he founded Koinonia Farm, an experiment in Christian communal living.

What thread ties these two together? Ac­cording to Curtis Freeman, both Barrow and Jordan stand in a living stream of faithful religious dissenters who…

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

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

…or, The Past Fortnight in the Theoblogosphere.

*maniacal cackle*

Ok, ok. So it’s been nearly three months since the last link post. One of the things that university professors rarely see is just how much administrative work happens over the summer. Even if things haven’t been as hectic, I’d say that I’ve been pretty much as busy this summer as I was over the past academic year.

Anywho, there has been a trickle of DET – and DET-related – happenings this summer, and this post will catch you up. Does this mean that you can expect an immediate uptick in activity?

I’m not making any promises.

Before we get to the links proper, I want to highlight two things in particular.

First, Kim Fabricius died over the summer. Ben Myers has written a nice reflection on Kim’s life. Kim was like a playfully cranky and ridiculously insightful uncle for my generation of theology bloggers, and I was privileged to meet him once (in company with David C…

Preaching the Scandal: Romero on Agrarian Reform

Lately, I've become increasingly engrossed with the life and legacy of Óscar Romero (1917-1980), the martyred Archbishop of San Salvador soon to be beatified by the Roman Catholic Church. I am finding this material both inspiring and challenging, and am moved to ponder what this recognition means for the history of Christianity in the Americas -- indeed, for the Christian churches worldwide. In that vein, I've been ruminating on a short volume of excerpts from Romero's diary entries and homilies, which were broadcast from the archdiocesan radio station and served as a life-line of prophetic critique, journalism, and resistance in the months leading up to the civil war in El Salvador.

The Scandal of Redemption: When God Liberates the Poor, Saves Sinners, and Heals Nations, By Oscar Romero (edited by Carolyn Kurtz) (Walden, NY: Plough Publishing House, 2018).

This highly portable volume is more devotional and hagiographical than academic -- not that there's anything wrong…

Brief Book Note: Froese & Bader’s “America’s Four Gods”

Here's a book that was on my shelf for about three years before I finally read it. It was one of those situations where I’d wanted to read it but didn’t really have a reason until I needed to put together some lecture material for a new class on Christianity and politics. So I read it, and I was glad that I did.

Paul Froese & Christopher Bader, America’s Four Gods: What We Say About God—& What That Says About Us (Oxford, 2010).

This book isn’t especially dense, but it is very interesting and sheds fresh light on how religion and politics interact in the United States. It’s geared especially toward analyzing Christian God-talk, although the other Abrahamic traditions would fit more generally, but that accounts for the bulk of the US population. It also has interesting findings with regard to folks who describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious,” or as belonging to no religious tradition (i.e., the “nones”), or as agnostic. Basically, those folks tend to fall unde…

Brief Book Note: Jane Dawson’s “John Knox”

I’ve been interested in Knox for a while. There’s a set of framed woodcuts in my office: Luther in the middle, flanked by Calvin and Knox. And I recently read a book about him.

Jane Dawson, John Knox (Yale, 2016).

I read a bit about Knox a few years back. At the time I was finishing my theology class with a unit on the Scot’s Confession, and I put together some lectures on its background – and that included Knox. Come to think of it, I wrote a review of one of the books that I read at the time: Rosalind K. Marshall, John Knox (Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2000). I enjoyed that book but it isn’t really a scholarly source and ever since I’ve been waiting for a proper, scholarly, thickly footnoted critical biography of Knox from an academic historian.

Suffice it to say that I was very excited when Dawson’s book came out, even if it has taken me a couple years to read it.

Now, I’m not a professional reformation scholar, but I do play one on TV…or in my undergraduate classroom. When it comes do…

Dialectical Theology Q & A

For those of you who don’t know this, students are awesome. I’ve been blessed to have had some really good ones during my years as a professor. And it’s always bittersweet when they graduate.

Stop it. I’m not crying. You are.

Anyway, some of said students did me the great honor of reading my book on Gollwitzer and then, as if that wasn’t enough, they emailed me with a bunch of questions for me to clarify about dialectical theology. And because they asked such good questions, I secured their permission to reproduce them here along with my answers.

So here you go.

Their text is plain font while my interspersions are bolded.

Is there a main goal of dialectical theology? To speak as responsibly as possible about God. In your book you talk about how all theology is contextual. How God becomes an object of human knowledge through faith. You tie it to liberation theology. It is clear that we shouldn't objectify God. But is the goal to prove we can't understand God fully? Prove is …

Brief Book Note: James Cone’s “Martin & Malcolm & America”

I haven’t been reading as much as I used to, what with this administrative appointment, but I’m still reading and I still want to share something about what I’m reading with you all, gentle readers. However, I don’t have time to write up a proper review that could go into the “What Am I Reading?” series, so I’ve decided to write up a few shorter “Brief Book Notes.” Here’s the first one. (And yes, some of my students may have got me going with bitmojis...)

James H. Cone, Martin & Malcolm & America: A Dream or a Nightmare (Orbis, 2012).

Sadly, my education was incredibly light on the African American experience, much less black theology, so I knew very little about Malcolm X and not much more about Martin Luther King, Jr. before I read this book. I did know, however, that James Cone (now, sadly, of blessed memory) would steer me right, having read a number of his books previously to my great benefit. And he didn’t disappoint.

In addition to simply learning a great deal about bo…

Join Me at Homebrewed Christianity’s Theology Beer Camp!

I’ve been long overdue posting about this. Many of you have, perhaps, already picked up on this news by seeing the odd tweet here or there, listening to my most recent appearance on the Homebrewed Christianity podcast, or – maybe it’s a bit old fashioned at this point - by browsing the relevant website. But here it is in plain English:

I’m going to camp: Homebrewed Christianity’s Theology Beer Camp!

I’m super excited to join Tripp Fuller, Robyn Henderson-Espinoza, and others at the camp to enjoy good brews, conversation, and theology nerd fun. I know Tripp’s angling to get me to sing karaoke, but I’m not making any promises…

Tripp also assures me that there will be excellent custom brews to enjoy. I’m much more of a whiskey man than a beer man, myself, but Tripp has promised to put together a tasting menu for me to induct me into his world of hoppy delight.

What’s that? What will I be talking about at Homebrewed Christianity’s Theology Beer Camp? I’m glad you asked!

I don’t know.


"Helmut Gollwitzer: Forgotten Left-Wing Barthian" – Video of my AAR / KBSNA Presentation Now Online

Some folks around Twitter have noticed that the most recent issue of the Karl Barth Society of North America newsletter contains extensive notes from my presentation to the society at the meeting of the American Academy of Religion in Boston in 2017. I’ve been sitting on video of that presentation since then, but didn’t want to publish it until the notes appeared in the KBSNA newsletter. But now you can view the video and hear me present the paper as if you were in the room (which a number of Tweeps were), growly voice and all.


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Latest Updates on “Our God Loves Justice” (#OGLJ)

Just because DET has been unnaturally quiet for a while doesn’t mean that I haven’t been up to other of my usual tricks or that there hasn’t been stuff happening. Quite the contrary, in fact. And this post will get you back up to speed on my book, Our God Loves Justice: An Introduction to Helmut Golwitzer.

I present the following in no particular order:

One: I appeared on Liam Miller’s podcast – “Love, Rinse, Repeat” – to talk about Gollwitzer, and the true socialism of the kingdom of God.

Two: I joined Dean Dettloff and Matt Bernico on The Magnificast. Click here to listen!

Three: I returned for another appearance on the Homebrewed Christianity podcast. Click here to listen! See you at theology beer camp?

Four: #OGLJ was “briefly noted” by The Presbyterian Outlook.

Five: Stephen Waldron reviewed #OGLJ for Reading Religion, an online publication from the AAR.

Six: David Roberts included #OGLJ in his list of “things I’ve read recently that you should read too.”

Seven: I discussed Gollwitz…

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

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

…or, The Past Fortnight in the Theoblogosphere.


More like “The Past Five Months in the Theoblogosphere.”

What happened? I couldn’t even tell you at this point. My intrepid associate editor, Scott Jackson, and I simply ran out of steam. Or hit a brick wall of other work. Or whatever mental picture you prefer. At this point I’m trying to come to grips with the reality that it’s unlikely we’ll be able to mount a regular posting schedule again, perhaps ever. Time will tell.

So DET is not over, but it has become and will continue to be more of an ad hoc thing.

That said, I still have a bunch of links to share. But before the links I want to highlight one of the highlights of my activities on the interwebs during the aforementioned five months – namely, Juan Torres’s interview of David Congdon and me. I commend it to you, if you haven’t seen it yet, as an excellent place to begin if you want to get a peek behind the McMakenian…