Showing posts from November, 2006

What Am I Reading? Thomas F. Torrance

Thomas F. Torrance, The Trinitarian Faith: The Evangelical Theology of the Ancient Catholic Church , (T&T Clark, 1995). My opinion of this book changed with each passing chapter, registering everything from distrust, to boredom (because of repetition), to interest over some before unseen technicality, to euphoria over a particularly helpful formulation. In other words, reading this book was typical of my experience in reading TFT in general. I greatly appreciate his work and have learned a lot from and through him, but sometimes he weighs on me, and sometimes I wonder whether a better historical account of the early development of Christian doctrine might be found elsewhere. But, all in all, reading Torrance has once again expanded my horizons and has further cemented into my mind some important reflexes. One of these that it is fitting to mention is the importance of thinking in terms of relations, particularly in terms of the distinction between internal and external relati

Thanksgiving Meditation

Princeton Theological Seminary holds an enormous book sale (used, and sometimes even new) each Spring. The books are gathered from a wide variety of sources, and there are always gems among the gravel. The sale starts out at something like $5 for hardbound volumes and $3 for paperback, but that price goes down until, on the last day, you can fill a box with books and walk away for merely $5. Of course, by the time the last day rolls around, there usually isn’t much left. But, this past year I was able to pick up – on the last day of the sale – a little gem entitled Eucharistic Liturgies: Studies in American Pastoral Liturgy (Newman Press, 1969). For what it is worth, it was edited at various levels by three Jesuits. I thought it fitting, it being the eve of Thanksgiving here in the United States, to offer an except from one of these Eucharistic liturgies, specifically the “Canon for a Day of Thanksgiving.” The poetically aware formatting of the volume has given way to simply pa

Reading Scripture with John Calvin: 1 Peter 1.10-12

Note: This was published back in September and somehow managed to get itself erased, probably during the process of switching over to "beta" functionality. So, here it is again. ========================= 1 Peter 1.10-12 (10) Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, (11) trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. (12) It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. ========================== COMMENTARY: Calvin’s material in relation to this passage can be subsumed under the heading of “The Prophets.” There are numerous sub-headings: (1) Antiquity,

Eberhard Jüngel on Karl Barth

Some of you know that I have been spending the vast majority of my time over the last month attempting to read through Eberhard Jüngel's article "Karl Barths Lehre Von Der Taufe: Ein Hinweis Auf Ihre Probleme." This article only appears in German, so it was necessary that I read it in German. And, oh, what an experience it has been. I must say, however, that I have seen my ability to read theological German develop significantly through this project (I went into it having studied German for reading knowledge over the course of 6 weeks this past summer...). Below are some quotations taken from the closing paragraphs of this article, translated by yours truly. I usually don't go in for Jüngel, but I thought that these were interesting sentiments. The page citations are to Jüngel’s Barth-Studien . “Barth’s doctrine of baptism will be disputed more than its dogmatic premises. And, its practical consequences will be fought more than itself.” (285) “The doctrine o

Human Freedom and the God-Time Relation

Dear Friends, There has developed in the past few days a rousing discussion in the comments section of my most recent post , which was itself a response to a comment left in another post. This debate has ranged widely, but has centered upon a few distinct notions, namely, (1) human freedom and (2) the relation between God and time. It seemed to me that the best way to respond would not be to post a series of refutations and clarifications on things already said; rather, I decided to make a positive statement concerning these two points. I sincerely hope that it will be helpful. 1. Human Freedom There are three kinds of freedom: (a) philosophical freedom (b) conditional freedom (c) theological freedom. These will be discussed in sequence. a. Philosophical Freedom Philosophical freedom is that freedom which human persons possess that establishes their phenomenological ability to, when faced with a choice between A and B, chose A and not B, or vice versa. This freedom means that hum

Comments Brought to Light

The other day a gentleman named Ron left a comment on my post about TF Torrance’s Divine and Contingent Order . This post was provocative, dealing with open thesis and TFT’s possible relationship to it. I wanted to bring his comment and my response out into the open, not because I think that I do a good job of dealing with the TFT question, but because I am pleased with some other points that I made in relation to providence and God’s foreknowledge. Below is Ron’s comment, followed by my response. I ask my dear philosopher friend to be kind with my discussion of causality as, of course, any generalization of the tradition, even if implicit, is going to fall short. Well, is Torrance one of the first open theist? His cosmology and ontological relationships between Creator and creation sure look like he knew that God knows what might or might not be instead of what will or will not be. Not a trick question. I am an open theist and loved the book. What do you think? Peace Ron Sirkel Ro

Choice Quotations: George Hunsinger on Karl Barth on Scripture

George Hunsinger, How to Read Karl Barth: The Shape of His Theology (Oxford:OUP, 1991). The biblical narratives, as Barth understood them, functioned as “witnesses.” Their imaginative, legendary form – far from being damaging (as literalists feared and historical critics readily assumed) – was actually intrinsic to their theological content. The form was appropriate to the subject matter, because the subject matter was beyond ordinary depiction. Events like the creation, incarnation, and the resurrection were, by virtue of their legendary narration, aptly and profoundly depicted for what they actually were claimed to be: events real though inconceivable and inconceivable though real. The work of divine inspiration in the formation of the narratives was not precluded by the work of human imagination, nor did the inventiveness involved in the work of human imagination necessarily preclude divine inspiration. Human imagination, disciplined by the mystery of the subject matter (in an

An Evangelical Call and Response

Back in September of this year, Christianity Today published a piece called “A Call to an Ancient Evangelical Future” . This “call” was a passionate plea to evangelicals to move into their future from out of a grounding in ancient Christianity. When I read this call, I had a few images of “Canterbury Trail” evangelicals sitting in the corner of a dark pub and drawing up this document. But, to be honest, it was like water off a duck’s back. Why? Because, although I am evangelical by progeny, I am a Reformed theologian who is deeply committed to the Protestant Reformation as well as to the broader Christian tradition. This is not even to mention the time that I have spent reading such early fathers as Augustine, Athanasius, Gregory Nanzianzen, Tertullian, Irenaeus, etc. I told you that to tell you this; I thought that the document was interesting, I took note of its existence, and then I moved on. More recently, I’ve found a collection of reflections on this “Call”, published by

“The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience” by Ron Sider

A strange thing happened to me about a week ago. I went out to get my mail and found a package inside my mailbox. “Interesting,” I thought. “I’m not expecting anything. What could this be?” Opening the package, I found what I can only describe as a promotional packet and a copy of the book The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience: Why are Christians living just like the rest of the world? by Ron Sider (Baker, 2005). I haven’t really pinned down why on earth this package would be sent to me. But, being one who does not despise free books, I threw out the packet and took the enclosed copy of the book back up to my apartment with me. The book sat off to the side on my desk all through reading week, until I decided that I had to do something with it. So, I have decided to write up something of a review to share with you all. Note to Baker Books: If you are reading this, please send me more free books and I will be happy to post little reviews of them. But, try to send me stuf

The Rules of Reading Week

Here at Princeton Theological Seminary, we have a “reading week” instead of a Fall or Spring break. Classes are suspended for a week with the assumption that students will catch up on their course reading, get a start on their term papers, etc. Of course, it is entirely up to the student as to the best location for getting this work done, be it the sunny beaches of Florida, the comforting environs of “home” (wherever that may be), the powdery slopes of Aspen, etc. Because of my wife’s work schedule, and because I kind of like to spend a week reading and watching a movie of two, I never go anywhere on reading weeks. So, I thought that I would compose a set of rules to help those who, like me, prefer to stick it out in Princeton. Incidentally, some of these rules are best intended for men, although they do have interesting cross-gender implications. Enjoy! Thou shalt not shave unless you absolutely have to. There is nothing like a few days’ growth to make you feel relaxed. Thou sh