Showing posts from May, 2007

"Reading the Bible, Making Moral Decisions" by Shane Wilkins

(As is made perfectly clear by the first few lines of text, this is a guest post by my good friend and co-conspirator Shane Wilkins. Shane runs a blog about medieval and scholastic theology and philosophy, has recently completed his masters thesis at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, and is an incoming PhD student in the department of philosophy at Fordham University ( David and I are very excited to have him so close by).) Reading the Bible, Making Moral Decisions Shane Wilkins 29 May 2007 What relation does the text of the Bible have to the individual moral decisions Christians make? The question is disarmingly simple, but in reality it covers over a multitude of theological and philosophical problems. For the purposes of this paper, I will sketch out my own position on the matter by interacting critically with Gerald Hughes's article “A Christian Basis for Ethics” (Heythrop Journal, 1972). There are two primary philosophical difficulties I see with relatin

Karl Barth Reading Group - Week 3

(Below you will find the third installment of my notes prepared for the Karl Barth reading group that I am co-leading here at PTS.) § 4. The Word of God in its Threefold Form [1] The presupposition which makes proclamation proclamation and therewith makes the Church the Church is the Word of God. This attests itself in Holy Scripture in the word of the prophets and apostles to whom it was originally and once and for all spoken by God’s revelation. 1) The Word of God Preached Barth opens this paragraph by continuing to describe the event of proclamation, and thereby the Church’s being, according to a sacramental analogy. But, he quickly moves on to talk about what the necessary presupposition of all this is, namely, the Word of God. This is elucidated through four sub-points cast in terms of concentric circles, moving from the outside in. (88-89) (1) “The Word of God is the commission upon whose givenness proclamation must rest if it is to be real proclamati

Jürgen Moltmann on Theology and Barth

The following quotations are self-reflective comments made by Jürgen Moltmann in the preface to his Experiences in Theology: Ways and Forms of Christian Theology (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000). These comments illuminate Moltmann’s work, even if one disagrees with their content. “For me, theology was, and still is, an adventure of ideas. It is an open, inviting path. Right down to the present day, it has continued to fascinate my mental and spiritual curiosity. My theological methods therefore grew up as I came to have a perception of the objects of theological thought. The road emerged only as I walked it. And my attempts to walk it are of course determined by my personal biography, and by the political context and historical kairos in which I live. I have searched for the right word for the right time. I have not written any theological textbooks. The articles I have contributed to various theological dictionaries and encyclopaedias [sic?] have seldom been particul

Thinking Blogger Award

David Congdon recently declared me a Thinking Blogger . It is an award given by peers in order to recognize the quality of one’s blogging efforts. It was started here back in February of 2007. As much as I appreciate this award, and I truly do, it puts me in a bit of a tough spot. You see, a recipient of this award is obliged to pass the award along to 5 bloggers of similar distinction. The trouble is that almost all of those whom I would like to recognize with this award have already received it. So, I am going to do something a little different by granting one award and then by granting a challenge. And the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ goes to… Matthew Milliner ! Someone, and I can’t really comprehend this, Matt has yet to be granted this award. (At least, that is what he told me when I asked him.) Anyone who has visited his site will readily grant that he deserves it, and I would argue that he deserves it much more than I did. Matt and I spent some time together here at PT

Blog Series You Should Be Reading

There are currently three series going on in the theo-blogosphere that are more than worthy of the time it takes to read them. So, I bring them to your attention here in order to do just that. The Spirit of the Lord by DW Congdon David, as is fairly well known, is a friend of mine whom I have known since our days at Wheaton College (IL) and with whom I have had the privilege of attending classes the past two years here at Princeton Theological Seminary. This series was sparked by a particularly bad Christmas Eve sermon . While we definitely need to stamp out bad preaching wherever it is found, in this case we have David’s series as a consolation prize. David describes his project in this series: "The overall work originated as a response to a version of modern pietistic gnosticism which is views the gospel in terms of a clean separation between body and spirit, between “internal” peace and “external” peace. Against such a notion, I offer these reflections as an inchoate atte

Francis Turretin’s Ecclesiology: 18.12

Twelfth Question: The Marks of the Church – Is the truth of doctrine which is held in any assembly, or its conformity with the word of God by the pure preaching and profession of the word, and the lawful administration and use of the sacraments, a mark of the visible church? We affirm against the Romanists. This section is significantly longer than the preceding, and on the basis of my flipping forward through a few sections, it looks like these sorts of lengths will become standard. What this means is that my treatments of the material will be far less comprehensive than they have been, so those of you who are following along (if you exist!) might want to pull out your own copies of Elenctic Theology V. 3 and take a closer look for yourselves. It is hard to know how to get into this material, so I’m just going to start and hope that something worthwhile emerges. Turretin begins this section but making a point that he returns to frequently, namely, that the present consideration of th

Karl Barth Reading Group - Week 2

(Once again, here are the notes that I prepared on the material covered by the Karl Barth reading group that I am currently co-leading.) § 3. Church Proclamation as the Material of Dogmatics Talk about God in the Church seeks to be proclamation to the extent that in the form of preaching and sacrament it is directed to man with the claim and expectation that in accordance with its commission it has to speak to him the Word of God to be heard in faith. Inasmuch as it is a human word in spite of this claim and expectation, it is the material of dogmatics, i.e., of the investigation of its responsibility as measured by the Word of God which it seeks to proclaim. 1. Talk about God and Church Proclamation Although all human talk could and should be about God, all human talk is not about God. Life is simultaneously secular and sacred. There are two distinctions: first, the distinction between what intends to be profane and what intends to be sacred speech, and second the distinction between

Francis Turretin’s Ecclesiology: 18.10

Where was our church before Luther and Zwingli, and how was it preserved? In this ecumenical day and age, it is easy to forget that questions such as this could and were asked with great seriousness in the past. When I saw this question in the table of contents, I knew that I had to read it and let you all in on what Turretin has to say. He discussed in 10.9 the ways in which the church (true church, mind you) can be obscured from visibility for a time. Still, Catholics keep asking where the Protestant church was in the years before the Reformation, so Turretin will give them an answer. What he is looking for is not the visible, concrete order of Protestant ecclesiology nor is he concerned with certain disciplines or opinions. Instead, he will show that “true and catholic doctrine” (p. 57), such as the Protestants affirm, was present but obscured in the preceding age. Now, before Turretin can really get going on answering this question, he has to be perfectly clear that it is abs

An Introduction to St. Thomas’ Method in “Summa Theologica”

The following comes to us through the courtesy of Timothy M. Renick, author of Aquinas for Armchair Theologians (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002), which I have recently finished reading. Although I am no Thomas specialist – more like a Thomas novice – this little volume was very easy to read and at least seemed to me to be enlightening. Moreover, as the lengthy quote below will amply illustrate, it is written with a great sense of humor. For all these (an potentially other) reasons, I recommend this volume. Below is reproduced Renick’s attempt (pp. 147-9 of the volume mentioned above) to provide an illustrating and orientating example of the methodology and form with which Thomas argues in the Summa Theologica : Question 7: Proteins (in Thirty-Seven Articles) First Article Whether chunky or smooth be the more perfect form of peanut butter? Objection 1: It would seem that chunky is the more perfect form of peanut butter. For Plato argues that a thing is more perf

Karl Barth Reading Group - Week 1

I mentioned in the post dealing with my Summer Plans that I would be co-leading a Karl Barth reading group for six weeks in May and June. The group had its first meeting today in the Center for Barth Studies here at PTS. Lively discussion quickly developed about topics such as Barth’s interpretation of Schleiermacher, analogia entis / analogia fidei , theological science, and the relation of Christ and the church. One point that we didn’t get a chance to delve into directly but that I hope we come back to is the place of Scripture in Barth’s conception of dogmatics. Below I have included the notes that I prepared for this first meeting. It is basically a summary of what Barth does in these two paragraphs. Hopefully they will be interesting and / or helpful in to someone in some way. Also, if you are in the Princeton area and would like to attend the reading group, feel free to contact me. § 1. The Task of Dogmatics As a theological discipline dogmatics is the scientific

Karl Barth Society Newsletter: Spring 2007 (#34)

I was presented with a present surprise when checking my mail yesterday (coincidently, it was Karl Barth's birthday yesterday), namely, I had received my copy of the current Karl Barth society newsletter. Although I do maintain membership in the Karl Barth Society of North America, I often forget about this benefit of membership. The newsletter is always a wealth of information on the current state of Barth scholarship, and is a resource that anyone interested in Barth would appreciate. That said, I heartily recommend membership in the society. With annual dues of only $15 USD ($10 USD for students), it is a great value. Below I offer a table of contents for the current newsletter, in hopes that its exemplary content will encourage those who might find it here to apply for membership in the society. The dues of the society membership help to facilitated the society meetings in conjunction with the AAR, as well as contribute to the funding of the Barth Conferences held here at

Francis Turretin’s Ecclesiology: 18.8

Is the true church indefectible, which always was and always ought to be in the world until the consummation of the ages? We affirm against the Socinians. Our explication of Turretin in this section will proceed in three parts: first, introductory matters; second, seven reason why the church cannot fail; finally, a concluding quotation. Introductory Matters Employing a pattern that is quickly becoming familiar to us, Turretin distinguishes between “a twofold aspect” (p. 41) whereby this question can be considered, one that is visible and one that is invisible. He is interested in the invisible aspect, as usual. Noting this, Turretin makes some distinctions so that we know precisely what he is getting on about. First, the church is not perpetual on the basis of its own strength, which would all to easily fail, but on the basis of God’s sustaining activity. Second, although the church (remember, invisibly conceived and thus concerning properly only true believers – cf. 18.3) is perpe

Summer Plans

I just turned in my last MDiv papers. One was on Schleiermacher and the other was on Yves Congar, in case anyone is interested. But, now that this whole seminary thing is over (at least academically - we still have the commencement thing), I can’t help but look ahead to the summer and to the next academic year. You’ll notice, if you look at my profile, that it no longer makes mention of my MDiv status, but now proudly proclaims that I am an entering first year PhD student in systematic theology here at Princeton Theological Seminary. The admissions committee in their collective wisdom (or folly!) offered me a position (not before first putting me on a waiting list just long enough for all my other schools to reject my applications). Since my status changes as of today (not technically, but go with me here), I’m expecting to witness a categorical leap in my academic skills and my capacity for clear thinking, although this might not show up until after graduation. There is really n