Showing posts from September, 2009

Types of Philosophy: A Serioues Jest?

I’m no philosopher, and I am happy to proclaim my philosophical ignorance to any who will listen (although, truth be told, I’m slowly trying to remedy this and, as it turns out, I can claim the pedigree of Socrates for such proclamations). But, one of the joys of being involved in teaching introductory courses on theology is that one often gets asked questions that one does not expect and has not prepared for, and that force one to do one’s best to give answers, which in turn forces one to organize whole heaps of information on the fly, the result of which is to produce gross overgeneralizations like the following. So, I present to you my gentle readers, four types of philosophy. Once-upon-a-time I presented some types of systematic theology , in case you are interested. Type 1 The British are, by history and – perhaps – by natural inclination (whatever that means), mercantile in orientation. Thus, their philosophy bears a striking resemblance to accounting: ledgers must be balance

Bonhoeffer on Genesis 1.1 – “And God said…”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall: A Theological Exposition of Genesis 1-3 (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2004): 40-1: “[T]he God of the Bible remains wholly God, wholly the Creator, wholly the Lord, and what God has created remains wholly subject and obedient, praising and worshiping God as Lord. God is never the creation but always the Creator. God is not the substance of nature. There is no continuum that ties God to, or unites God with, God’s work – except God’s word …That is, ‘inherently’ [‘an sich’] there is no continuum; were the word not there, the world would drop into a bottomless abyss. This word of God is neither the nature nor the essence of God; it is the commandment of God. It is the very God who thinks and creates this word, but as One who chooses to encounter the creature as its Creator. God’s creatorship is not the essence, the substance, but the will or commandment of God; in it God gives us God’s very self as God wills. That God creates by the word m

TF Torrance on Calvin

Being officially out of coursework, I'm such a glutton for punishment that I am nevertheless auditing a seminar on John Calvin this semester offered by George Hunsinger. So, I thought I would throw this up as kind of a kick-off to the semester. I wish that I had more to say about this extensive quote I’m about to show you, whether comments of criticism, clarification, construction, or addition. But, the fact is that I don’t quite yet know what to do with the notions that TFT relates here. Some of them resonate, and some of them chafe. There are certainly things that I would want to criticize, clarify, use to construct further positions, or add. For instance, some of the dichotomies that TFT sets up for how Calvin ought to be understood seem a little forced, that is, there are certainly other options for viewing Calvin than those offered here. But, TFT’s vision of Calvin here is so much a whole that I want to be very careful before beginning to pick it apart. It is one of tho

Hans Frei, “Types 1 & 2,” and a Rhetorical Flourish

I’ve been reading Hans Frei’s Types of Christian Theology (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992) and, coming across the following spunky paragraph, I just had to share it. As for context, this paragraph comes at the end of a section of the book where Frei is considering whether one’s theological ‘type’ makes a hermeneutical difference concerning how one handles the literal sense of Scripture. He has considered types 1 (Gordon Kaufman / Immanuel Kant) and 2 (David Tracy and, implicitly, Paul Tillich - although Frei suggests that Tillich belongs in type 3) independently, but is here drawing these two threads together. Frei’s basic contention is that these two types have no real use for a literal sense, and it is this conclusion that lies behind the following invective. The following paragraph is written sarcastically in the voice of a member of the second type, meanwhile lampooning academic theological bureaucracy and, to add injury to insult, hypocrisy when it comes to social

My Most Recent Publication

Ecclesiology has just published (online; I think the hard-copy will take a little more time to get out) an essay of mine. Those of you with the proper permissions can likely access it. The essay deals with Barth on infant baptism, and it does two things: first, it traces the development of Barth’s doctrine through the Church Dogmatics period; and, second, it concludes by hinting at the line of thinking I intend to pursue in my dissertation. Here is the bibliographic information, and below is the abstract: W. Travis McMaken, “Authority, Mission, and Institution: A Systematic Consideration of Matthew 28.18-20 in Karl Barth’s Doctrine of Baptism,” in Ecclesiology 53 (2009): 345-61. ABSTRACT: Many of Barth’s most faithful and devoted interpreters have taken issue with his unapologetically non-sacramental account of baptism in CD IV/4 and his attendant rejection of infant baptism. While many questions have been raised concerning the veracity of the exegesis that Barth produces in sup

Barth on Church Growth

So, I’m reading through Barth’s ecclesiology paragraphs in volume 4 of the Church Dogmatics , and I’m finding – as usual with Barth – some really good stuff. Here is one bit that I thought I would share. Barth is talking here about what it means to speak of the church’s growth. He has already explained that the church is not one organism, but that the metaphor of organic growth is helpful insofar as the church does extend itself out of its own internal resources (it being the body of Christ) rather than by means of external resources. Next comes the question of whether the church’s growth is extensive or intensive. Although Barth certainly affirms that the church adds new members, he is wary of what happens when this becomes a church’s focus. And so he gives us the following. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics 4.2, 648. “The true growth which is the secret of the upbuilding of the community is not extensive but intensive; its vertical growth in height and depth. If things are well—an

Certified Calvin Scholar

Oh, yeah! H/T: David Guretzki See how you score on the Calvin quiz .

T.F. Torrance on Barth, Mozart, and Beethoven

This is from Torrance’s introduction to Barth’s Theology and Church: Shorter Writings, 1920-1928 (Louise Pettibone Smith, trans.; New York: Harper & Row, 1962): 9-10. One more aspect of Barth’s humanity we must note is its genius . That is to say, it is a humanity that is full of surprises. Here, although no doubt he would resent it, we may compare his theological thinking to the music of Beethoven with its breath-taking turns rather than to the predestined texture of Mozart’s inimitable compositions. Mozart may well be the greater genius, but when he has announced his theme and swept you into the skies like a lark, he creates in you the power of anticipation and you can hear the music from a long way off, and Barth certainly has this quality, too; but again and again Beethoven’s music suddenly breaks in upon your ear with astonishing novelty that startles you, and you protest that he has shattered the logic of his composition, but before you can recover your breath you find th