Showing posts from September, 2007

Luther’s Early Theological Studies and Career

NB: Martin Luther joined the Erfurt Augustinians in the summer of 1505. Heiko A. Oberman, Luther: Man Between God and the Devil (Doubleday, 1989) 138-140. Since the summer semester of 1507 [Luther] had been devoting himself to the study of theology under the guidance of Johannes Nathin, the senior Brother, who held the Augustinian chair of theology at the University of Erfurt. Despite intensive research, nothing of significance has as yet been discovered about this theologian who must have been a real influence on Luther in Erfurt. Have all his writings disappeared, or did he really never publish anything? All we know is that he received his master’s degree in Erfurt thirty years before Luther was enrolled there and that he spent four to five years in Tübingen as a younger colleague of Gabriel Biel, holding survey lectures on the whole range of theological fields. Luther thoroughly prepared himself for his first mass with the help of Biel’s comprehensive exposition of the canon of

Shane on Calvin and Catholics: Submission a Virtue?

(Note: This is my 200th post.) My good friend and colleague Shane Wilkins has recently written a post entitled “Is submission to (the Pope’s) authority a virtue? . Go read it. This post will not directly engage Shane. Rather, it will jump off of his concluding citation of Calvin. Shane cites Calvin in the Institutes 3.2.2. What I want to point us toward is Institutes 3.2.7. Here Calvin gives us his well known definition of faith: “Now we shall posses a right definition of faith if we call it a firm and certain knowledge of God’s benevolence toward us, founded upon the truth of the freely given promise in Christ, both revealed to our minds and sealed upon our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” Faith is knowledge? Hold on! That may be all well and good for you cerebral academics, but what about we average people in the pew? Our lives are full of our children’s dance recitals, annoying coworkers, traffic, and all the rest. ‘Knowledge’ isn’t exactly what we need. We need someth

What Am I Reading? Jürgen Moltmann

Jürgen Moltmann, Experiences in Theology: Ways and Forms of Christian Theology (Translated by Margaret Kohl; Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000). Available on Amazon . I am not a great fan of Jürgen Moltmann, but I have spent some time reading him. While I do not consider myself even a budding expert on him, I think that I have a basic grasp of the contours of his thought. This sense has only been heightened as I read this volume, which contains many reflections by Moltmann upon his own work and emphases. This volume is something of a hodgepodge of material and topics. Much of it is autobiographical, which gives it an inviting and intriguing feel. If you have even the slightest bit of historian in you, as I do, you will enjoy hearing Moltmann’s own account of how his thinking developed and especially of his interaction with the emergence of a number of liberation theologies (broadly termed) in the latter half of the 20th century, namely, black theology, Latin American lib

Read This Article: “The World Comes to Georgia, and an Old Church Adapts”

“The World Comes to Georgia, and an Old Church Adapts” by Warren St. John This articles is a must-read, and shows the church – and evangelicals / conservatives no less – at its best (and worst, but mostly best). Here are some quotes to whet your appetites. Mr. Perrin said he advocated for an international church because the Bible told him to. ======== In 2004, the Clarkston Baptist Church adopted the changes proposed by elders like Mr. Perrin, and merged with the Filipino and Nigerian congregations. They renamed their church the Clarkston International Bible Church. That change was too much for many of the older members, like Brenda and Robert White. They left after more than 20 years as members. “I really resented that,” Mrs. White said of the name change. “I know it’s the 21st century and we have to change and do things differently. But I don’t think it’s fair that we had to cater to the foreign people rather than them trying to change to our way of doing things.” “It just wasn’

Webster on Ursinus and Theological Education

John Webster, Holy Scripture: A Dogmatic Sketch (Cambridge University Press, 2003), 120-1. The familiar modern pattern arranges theology by a four-fold division into biblical, historical, systematic-doctrinal and practical theology sub-disciplines. Ursinus himself mapped the theological task in a quite different way. There are, he says, ‘three parts of the study of Divinity’. First, there is ‘Catechetical institution’, defined as ‘a summary and briefe explication of Christian doctrine’. This is followed by ‘an handling of Common places’, which is differentiated from ‘institution’ not in terms of its subject matter, but in terms of depth. The study of commonplaces covers the same ground as ‘institution’ and differs only in that it offers ‘a larger explication of every point, and of hard questions together with their definitions, divisions, reason and arguments’. Finally, there is ‘the reading and diligent meditation of the Scripture, or holy Writ. And this is the highest degre

Beginning Again at the Beginning

Karl Barth’s theological dictum that we must always “begin against at the beginning” is true not only of his work, and not only of the task of theology, but of life as well. Of course, there are certain moments where this is brought home to us in vivid ways. Today is one of those times. Classes begin today for Princeton Theological Seminary’s 196th academic year . Convocation was held last night (not that I attended: instead, I was curled up with the wife watching Jerry Seinfeld tell me for the last time ). This means that today marks the true beginning of my doctoral program. The last couple of weeks, and the last few days in particular, have been spent connecting (and re-connecting) with faculty, colleagues, and administration. PTS has a great faculty and staff, and my colleagues are excellent (I can only hope that they would say the same of me). But, now it is time to begin in earnest. I’m excited. I’m daunted. I’m ready. Bring it on.

Thinking Blogger Award Challenge – Results

A while back, upon being awarded the Thinking Blogger Award , I challenged three other theo-bloggers to make the commitment and earn the award for themselves. A fourth was later challenged. These bloggers ( Michael Pailthorpe , Jon Mackenzie , Alex Abecina , and Darren Sumner ) have impressed me in the past, and I hoped that this challenge would encourage them to shift their blogs into the next gear by increasing their output and participation in the blogosphere. I am pleased to endow two of these bloggers with the award. Congratulations, Michael and Alex! Michael has really upped his game over this summer, despite the recent birth of his daughter and other ministerial business. His series, “Barth: A Person of the Book” , which is actually an interaction with Vanhoozer, is well worth your time. Alex has likewise stepped up to the plate. He has posted a number of illuminating series this summer that you should check out. One tip, Alex: put up some index posts for your serie

Systematic Theology, or, An Homage to Paul Tillich (What? At DET?)

Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology vol. 3 (University of Chicago Press, 1963), 3. The question “Why a system?” has been asked ever since the first volume of my systematics appeared. In one of the books that deals critically with my theology…the fact of the system itself, more than anything stated within the system, is characterized as the decisive error of my theology…There are many reasons for aversion to the systematic-constructive form in theology; one is the result of confusion of a deductive, quasi-mathematical system…with the systematic form as such… For me, the systematic-constructive form has meant the following. First, it forced me to be consistent . Genuine consistency is one of the hardest tasks in theology (as it probably is in every cognitive approach to reality), and no one fully succeeds. But in making a new statement, the necessity of surveying previous statements in order to see whether or not they are mutually compatible drastically reduces inconsistencies. Seco

The ‘Red Pastor of Safenwil’ on the Sinking of the Titanic

Karl Barth, The Word in this World: Two Sermons by Karl Barth (Vancouver, British Columbia: Regent College Publishing, 2007), 40-41. After speaking about the way in which icebergs float down from Greenland, how the captain of the Titanic threw caution to the wind in moving so quickly through iceberg fields, and how the captain was compelled to do this by the ship’s investors who were vitally interested in the Titanic achieving the shortest Atlantic crossing yet to date, Barth writes the following: "Yesterday in the “Freier Aargauer” newspaper the sinking of the Titanic was referred to as a crime of capitalism . After everything that I have now read about it I can only agree. Indeed, this catastrophe is a crude but all-the-more clear example to us of the essential characteristics and the effects of capitalism, which consists in a few individuals competing with each other at the expense of everyone else in a mad and foolish race for profits. Exactly the same course of events has

Blog Triumvirate Gathers in Princeton

Pictured above, from right to left: the infamous Shane Wilkins , the revered David Congdon , your humble servant , and James – a recent graduate of our alma mater and new colleague (with his wife, not pictures – or, better, taking the picture!) here at Princeton Theological Seminary in the MDiv program. For those of you who want some kind of scale, I’m 6’1’’ and about 200 pounds. (I probably feel compelled to say that because I feel very small next to James…) Present earlier in the day but gone by picture-time: Chris and Peter . James is not yet a blogger, but hopefully we'll be able to change that.

Calvin a Marxist or Marx a Calvinist?

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion , 4.10.12 - Their [Rome's] Mysteries are Mockeries "So today not only the untutored crowd but any man who is greatly puffed up with worldly wisdom is marvelously captivated by ceremonial pomp. Indeed, hypocrites and lightheaded women think that nothing more beautiful or better can be imagined. But those who more deeply investigate and, according to the rule of piety, more truly weigh the value of so many and such ceremonies understand first that they are trifles because they have no usefulness; secondly, that they are tricks because they delude the eyes of the spectators with empty pomp . I am speaking of those ceremonies under which the Romanist masters would have it that great mysteries exist; we experience them to be nothing but pure mockeries. And no wonder that their authors have slipped tot he point of deluding themselves and other with trifling follies! For they have partly taken their pattern from the ravings of th

Barth contra Bultmann via Molnar, including some thoughts on 'world-views'

Paul D. Molnar, Incarnation and Resurrection: Toward a Contemporary Understanding (Eerdmans, 2007), 20-21. First, can the resurrection of Jesus, as an event in history, be proven to be a historical fact in the modern sense? And if it cannot, does that mean that it was not a historical event? That is of course Bultmann’s view since he rejects the idea that there was a real history of Jesus in the forty days. But Barth argues that such history “may well have happened. We may well accept as history that which good taste prevents us from calling ‘historical fact,’ and which the modern historian will call ‘saga’ or ‘legend’ on the ground that it is beyond the reach of his methods, to say nothing of his unavowed assumptions” ( CD III/2, 446). Barth compares the Easter history to the creation narratives of Genesis 1 and 2 as history in the higher sense because, while it speaks of history, its aim is to speak of an occurrence that escapes “historical proof” and Barth contends that “It i

Theological Humor: Barth, Tillich and Bultmann Fishing on Lake Geneva

Here is something to laugh at over the weekend. ========================== Karl Barth, Rudolf Bultmann and Paul Tillich are taking a break together, fishing on Lake Geneva. They are having a lovely time, smoking their pipes, chatting idly. It's hot and they are getting thirsty. So Karl Barth gets up, steps out of the boat, and walks across the water to the shore, gets some beers and returns. It's quite hot so the beer doesn't last long. Barth tells Bultmann: "your turn, Rudy". Bultmann gets up, steps outside the boat, walks across the water, and fetches some beer. It is getting really hot now, and the beer is finished once again. Tillich is beginning to sweat particularly profusely... and finally Barth asks him too: "Come on, Paul, your turn now." With a slight tremor in his knees, Tillich gets up, steps out of the boat, and sinks like a stone. Fortunately he is a good swimmer; he drags himself back into the boat and sulks at the far end. Bul