Showing posts from September, 2015

Yale, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Academic Culture, and Africa: Some Highlights from Thomas Oden’s “A Change of Heart”

As I told you before, gentle readers, I’ve been reading Tomas Oden’s memoirs, and in this post I want to briefly highlight some of the bits that I found most interesting. Thomas C. Oden, A Change of Heart: A Personal and Theological Memoir (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2014). Yale Oden tells the story of his doctoral student days at Yale, where he worked under the supervision of H. Richard Niebuhr. These were the days when “Hans Frei, George Lindebeck and James Gustafson were all young faculty members at Yale” (p. 64), and David Kelsey “ran the divinity bookstore” (p. 65). Still, Oden felt bored there compared to Perkins, where he did his masters work, and considered making a switch to Drew. He finally decided to stay at Yale, primarily because he didn’t want to squander the opportunity to work with Niebuhr. Of that experience he writes: The individual tutorial with Niebuhr on Augustine and Calvin was timely for me, ending all doubts about my purpose at Yale. Niebuhr prov

T. F. Torrance on Karl Barth and “the temptation of orthodoxy”

It has been a long time—altogether too long!—since I’ve posted about Torrance here at DET. (For interested parties, the last post on TFT was from 2010 and was entitled “Torrance on the Church’s Relation to Christ” .) Well, I’ve been reading Torrance intensively again lately in preparation for a paper that I will give at a conference before too long. (Never fear, gentle readers: I will indubitably post an abstract of that paper before its presentation.) Rather predictably, I’ve found a gem from Torrance that I want to share with you. (Coincidentally, what’s with all the parenthetical comments today?) Torrance is concerned in the following passage with Barth’s “dogmatic turn,” so to speak, and specifically with Barth’s engagement with Protestant scholasticism. Indeed, he is concerned with how Barth’s own work takes on certain scholastic characteristics. So Torrance endeavors to provide a little differentiation so that his readers will understand that there is, nonetheless, an important

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

…or, Something to keep you busy over the weekend… …or, The Past Fortnight in the Theoblogosphere. Three weeks this time, to be precise, since the last link post . That’s a lot better than a month and a half, which was the gap last time. There hasn’t been a ton happening here at DET to warrant another post, but the truth of the matter is that I have a huge pile of links to share and I want to unload some of them on you, gentle reader. And while DET posts have been few, there is at least one excellent one awaiting you (if you have not yet read it). Here are DET’s most recent posts: What Am I Reading? Thomas Oden, “A Change of Heart” Martin Luther on Being a Pastor (or Professor?) Teaching While White - A guest post by Collin Cornell Karl Barth’s Three "Words" to Atheism – More from Kimlyn Bender And here are some interesting posts from around the interwebs: Roland Boer – “What has Marxism to do with Religion?” Preliminary Announcement: China Road Conference 2016

What Am I Reading? Thomas Oden, “A Change of Heart”

I’ve always been a sucker for biographies. So when IVP published an autobiography by Thomas C. Oden, I was interested. To be clear, I had a very limited idea of Oden’s identity and significance. From my Wheaton days, I remember seeing his systematics on shelves, and I knew his name in association with the Ancient Christian Commentary series (also published by IVP). My subconscious had associated the term “paleo-orthodoxy” with all this as well. So with these associations in mind, and in view of some hints that the work revealed interesting aspects of mid-20th century North American academic culture, I seized the opportunity to learn more.* Thomas C. Oden, A Change of Heart: A Personal and Theological Memoir (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2014). There are a number of interesting parts of this book, and I don’t intend to short-change it. I’ll be posting another time or two to give you glimpses of some of those parts. But I feel compelled to say at the outset that I developed a ra

Martin Luther on Being a Pastor (or Professor?)

In those rare and fleeting chimeras that I call “moments of spare time,” I have been ever so slowly working through Luther’s 1515–16 lectures on Paul’s epistle to the Romans. I know, I know. No one could ever sustain against me the accusation that I lack ambition . . . In any case, I plan to share snippets of Luther’s text with you along the way, as is my wont. Martin Luther [Public domain / {{PD-US}}], via Wikimedia Commons Luther remarks in the below passage on what he thinks it takes to be a pastor, and he also identifies some of the pitfalls of navigating this vocation. What he has to say is obviously interesting to me on that level, but it was another level that jumped out at me. Much of what Luther says about being a pastor here also applies – as I see it – to being a professor. So long as you make some appropriate substitutions, much of the dynamic translates. Consequently, it seems a fitting piece upon which to reflect near the beginning of another academic year. But don’

Teaching While White - A guest post by Collin Cornell

"The greatest impediment to racial justice [is] well-meaning White people who would rather maintain injustice than risk the decentering of our Whiteness and White comfort." [1] This language of "centering" black lives and "decentering" whiteness is provocative. It works by a spatial metaphor: Our way of life as white people enshrines one governing concern (maintaining white power), but that concern stands in urgent need of replacement. The picture reminds me of Gideon: There was an altar to Ba'al and an Asherah pole on the high place of his hometown – idols and abominations to the Deuteronomistic writer, but beloved to Gideon’s fellow villagers. But Yahweh commanded Gideon to cut them down, and to replace them with an altar to Yahweh (Judg 6). By contrast, the language of many a seminary syllabus assigned this fall will configure curricular concerns and black lives quite differently. The latter will be "included." Perhaps a reading by a sc

Karl Barth’s Three "Words" to Atheism – More from Kimlyn Bender

Kimlyn J. Bender, Confessing Christ for Church and World: Studies in Modern Theology (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2014). One of the chapters that I want to highlight from Bender’s volume is chapter nine, “Karl Barth and the Question of Atheism.” Atheism isn’t exactly an untouched topic here at DET. We’ve had a letter To my deconverted friend , an answer from Paul M. van Buren to the question “Is God dead?” , reflections from Gollwitzer on Christianity, Atheism, and the Existence of God , and even a post about Barth that addressed the question “Is atheism evil?” In this chapter, Bender takes up a number of the themes that appear in those posts and weaves them together by thinking about what “words” that Barth’s theology might speak to atheism. The first “word” is “The Word of God in Jesus Christ” (p. 272). This has to do with Christian particularity. Bender reminds his readers – by way of Barth – that any Christian response to atheism must be properly Christian, and not vague