Showing posts from February, 2016

“Let some Christian answer this”: Heath Carter’s “Union Made”

I recently spent a weekend reading through Heath W. Carter’s recent book entitled Union Made: Working People and the Rise of Social Christianity in Chicago (OUP, 2015) . It is a wonderful book that traces a complicated history in a manner that brings it to life and works to give new life to important voices from the United States’s religious past. And these are voices that it is important for us to hear, as Carter notes as the book concludes, in a time when we are once more approximating the socio-economic dynamics of the Gilded Age, which is the focus of the book. The story that Carter tells leaves itself open to multiple interpretations, but he frames the struggle of the late 19th c. labor movement in Chicago not as a struggle between moderate and middle-class Christianity on one side and radical socialist atheism on the other. Instead, he explains that “the battle was not between Christianity and secularism, but rather between competing interpretations of the Christian gospel” (p

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

…or, Something to keep you busy over the weekend… …or, The Past Fortnight in the Theoblogosphere. Hey, look at that! This post is only a week overdue, since the last link post was three weeks ago. That’s doing pretty well, considering my track record lately. There’s been lots of stuff going on as usual at DET and across the theo-blogosphere, and this post is your one-stop-shop to catch up on anything that you missed. So kick back with your beverage of choice, flip your brain into “theology blog” mode, and enjoy some stimulating reads! Here’s what we’ve been up to here at DET: Luther on the Thievery of “Secular Leaders” What Am I Reading? Kevin Schel on "Embedded Grace" - Schleiermacher on the Supernatural-Become-Natural Guilty Pleasure Theologians – Fun with Twitter Thou Art Dust: An Ash Wednesday Sermon Analogy, Demythologizing, and Eberhard Jüngel: Once More with David Congdon Karl Barth, Scripture, D. A. Carson, and the Gospel Coalition What Am I Reading?

Did C.S. Lewis Invent the Concept "Atheology"?

Well, things have been hot and heavy around here at DET this week with two dynamite posts from Our Illustrious Leader (see here  and here ). Our Marketing and Communications departments have been working round the clock to keep up with the traffic and I figured these folks deserve a little time off. So please allow me, dear readers, to switch things up a bit with a post on ... wait for it ... C.S. Lewis. You heard that right. Is Lewis in fact the Big Other elephant in the postmodern atheologian's linguistically- constructed closet? The guy who introduced our readership to Walter Rauschenbusch and Teilhard de Chardin (see Shameless Self-promoting Plugs Nos. one  and two , respectively) is now squaring the circle by inserting into this venerable blog a post about the beloved children's author, Renaissance lit critic and Oxbridge don. The veneration that Lewis has garnered among conservative evangelical and Roman Catholic readers, especially, is certainly inestimable. Th

What Am I Reading? Andrew Purves, “Exploring Christology & Atonement”

I’m sorry to say that I’m not familiar with Purves’s work, although I know that he thinks a lot about the intersection of pastoral ministry and systematic theology. So I was excited to read this book as much to become more familiar with its author as to learn about its subject matter. Purves is an engaging writer, and his deep personal concern for the Scottish Reformed tradition’s theology – exemplified here by John McLeod Campbell, H. R. Mackintosh, and T. F. Torrance – comes through on every page. His goal in this work is to think alongside these figures about the intersection of Jesus Christ’s person and work, christology and atonement, as a way of sounding the depths of “the great and central mystery of Christian faith” which is “the central message of Christian proclamation” (9). To this end, his preface includes a ‘theological reflection’ on Colossians 1:15–20 as a way of setting the scene for this inquiry. There he speaks movingly of reconciliation as “restoration of peace and l

Karl Barth, Scripture, D. A. Carson, and the Gospel Coalition

Earlier today the Gospel Coalition put up a post on their website (I won’t link it for you) quoting D. A. Carson at some length on Barth’s doctrine of Scripture. While Carson’s comments are very gracious to Barth overall, he nonetheless lodges a number of criticisms against Barth. His critical remarks are exactly what you would expect from someone who elevates a collection of ancient texts as the equivalent of a second or secondary divine incarnation. Another way to put this is to say that these comments are what you would expect from what I have come to think of as an Islamic doctrine of Scripture, given the similarities to Muslim thinking about the Qur’an. Anyway, the Gospel Coalition supplements Carson’s comments by providing links to folks that they consider reliable sources of Barth interpretation. Not one of their sources is a first-rate Barth scholar. If you want to get a real look at Barth’s doctrine of Scripture, here are the secondary sources that you need to engage:

Analogy, Demythologizing, and Eberhard Jüngel: Once More with David Congdon

I provided an introduction of sorts to Congdon’s tome in an earlier post . Today I want to return and highlight a piece of his text that seems particularly valuable to me. David W. Congdon, The Mission of Demythologizing: Rudolf Bultmann’s Dialectical Theology (Fortress, 2015). One of the tasks that Congdon undertakes in this work is to clarify just what sort of a thing Bultmann gives us with his “demythologizing” business. He accomplishes this in manifold ways, but one of the most helpful ways that he does so – in my humble opinion – is by connecting the dots between demythologizing and the doctrine of analogy. What I give you below comes primarily from a footnote and puts Bultmann into touch specifically with Jüngel’s account of analogy as an “analogy of advent.” I will, however, begin with some of the main text that elucidates Jüngel’s discussion of “the Christ-myth.” As usual, italics are from the original text and bold is from me. I will also remove the bibliographic informati

Thou Art Dust: An Ash Wednesday Sermon

When I was a student at Princeton Seminary, I remember coming into a darkened Chapel on Ash Wednesday evening. The Chapel was bare, with just purple paraments on the lectern and pulpit. There was scripture and liturgy, based around Isaiah 58, Psalm 51, Joel 2, Matthew 6, but what I remember best was the imposition of ashes. Kneeling in the front of the chapel with my head bowed, the pastor of the Chapel put ashes on the top of my head, and pressing down with both hands she intoned, “O man, thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.” And when he took the pressure off my head, I thought I would faint. "O man, thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return…O woman, thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return." You can’t get much starker than that. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. It was at the age of 25 that I first actually realized, actually believed, that I am going to die someday. That someday, this light I carry in me will be snuffed out, and I will go down to the dust,

Guilty Pleasure Theologians – Fun with Twitter

Some young whippersnappers in the theoblogosphere have been making really good use of Twitter and other social media engines to drive reader engagement on their blogs through things like polls. That looked like fun. So I went on Twitter and found the button to make a poll and, well, proceeded to make a nuisance out of myself. Blame whomsoever thou willst, but I decided to do a set of three polls to identify which theologians people out there are reading but on the down-low. Furtively. With a sense of shame. Having to wash their hands after turning ever page. You get the idea. Why? Because apparently asking “Who’s your favorite theologian out of these four” just wasn’t going to cut it for my sleep-deprived and caffeine-driven mind. In any case, the results are collected below with some…let us say…brief commentary. Who is your "guilty pleasure" #Protestant #theologian from the 20th century, the one you love...but in secret? — W. Travis McMaken (@WTravisMcMaken) February

What Am I Reading? Kevin Vander Schel on "Embedded Grace" - Schleiermacher on the Supernatural-Become-Natural

I don't win many things. I'm not good at playing the lottery (especially since I never play it), and I've never won a round of Monopoly. But the  Center for Barth Studies made me a winner, at least once: I entered the winning photo caption for a KBC contest on Facebook and, for this willingness to embarrass myself, was rewarded with this superb monograph by Kevin M. Vander Schel. (Neither the shout out nor the review were obligatory, but I always like to give a hat tip to anyone who sends me a free book.) I was rewarded even more when I finally made some time recently to read it. Embedded Grace: Christ, History, and the Reign of God in Schleiermacher's Dogmatics by Kevin M. Vander Schel (Fortress, 2013). It is an academic monograph, of course, based on Vander Schel's doctoral dissertation at Boston College; nonetheless, this erudite -- yet not overly long -- study is eminently readable, even for the non-Schleiermacher expert (of course, some background in moder

Luther on the Thievery of “Secular Leaders”

I’m taking a little bit of a risk in posting this long quote from Luther. It is a compelling quote with important political implications in our contemporary context. But, as you will see, it is possible to interpret this as being anti-government. I am *not* anti-government. And neither was Luther. Luther talks not only about “secular leaders” but also “secular princes” – i.e., what passed for government at the time. However, I’m inclined to agree with Marx on this one: the heirs of the feudal ruling class are not so much politicians as they are those who directly control capital. In other words, the equivalent of a baron these days is a corporate CEO, not your district’s congressional representative. Now, of course, your district’s congressman may well do the bidding of said corporate CEO. There’s far too much private money in politics – dark and light money, so to speak – to entertain the delusion that this is not the case. And your district’s congressman may in fact also be somethi

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

…or, Something to keep you busy over the weekend… …or, The Past Fortnight in the Theoblogosphere. This is just embarrassing. I need to take that line about a “fortnight” off of my template for this post because it has been a long, long time since I lived up to it. In fact, it has been over a month since the last DET link post ! My apologies, gentle readers, for leaving you for so long without both a handy collection of interesting reads with which to while away your weekends (or, let’s be honest, work-weeks), and a convenient index of what we’ve been posting about around here. Fear not! The links you seek draweth nigh. Here’s what you might have missed around here at DET: Reading Scripture with John Calvin: Malachi 3:15–17 Catch-up on What We’ve Been Reading in 2015 What Am I Reading? "Evangelical Postcolonial Conversations" Freedom, Promise, and a Truly Free Society – Some reflections on Jürgen Moltmann What Am I Not Reading? Or...My Annual Post-Yuletide Litany o

That Time When Hunsinger Commended Dutch Neocalvinism

Twenty-one years ago, theologian George Hunsinger wrote an essay titled "What Can Evangelicals and Postliberals Learn from Each Other? The Carl Henry/Hans Frei Exchange Reconsidered." Leiden's east gate, by Erick Zachte (wikipedia) Back in the mid '80s, Carl F.H. Henry, the Christianity Today editor and major architect of the post-war neoevangelical movement gave a series of lectures at Yale Divinity School that offered a respectful but highly critical assessment of the burgeoning postliberal theology movement. Hans Frei responded, defending a his narrative-theological biblical hermeneutics and theology. Hunsinger's essay was printed in The Nature of Confession: Evangelicals and Postliberals in Conversation , edited by Timothy R. Phillips and Dennis L. Okholm (IVP, 1996) -- an important book, though it has been quite a while since I read it. It was later reprinted in Hunsinger's own book Disruptive Grace: Studies in the Theology of Karl Barth (Eerdman

Reading Scripture with John Calvin: Malachi 3.18–4.2

Malachi 3.18–4.2 [18] Then once more you shall see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him. [4.1] See, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, say the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. [2] But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. ========================== COMMENTARY: Calvin begins this portion of his commentary by reprising the discussion with which he concluded the previous portion, and which I highlighted in the last installment of this series, concerning the question of merit. He summarizes succinctly: “We saw in the last lecture that no works of the faithful please God, except through a gratuitous acceptance: it hence follows, that nothing can be ascribed to merits without