Showing posts from October, 2016

Eberhard Jüngel on Moderntiy, Theism, and Atheism – As told by Archie Spencer

Part of what Archie Spencer is up to in his recent book—The Analogy of Faith: The Quest for God’s Speakability—is to argue that Barth, as followed up by Jüngel, provides an account of the analogy of faith that solves a number of knotty theological problems. Along the way to this more constructive contribution he takes some time to explicate pertinent aspects of Jüngel’s thought. One of the bits of this explication that caught my interest, and that I suspected would likewise interest you, gentle readers, is his discussion of the logic of theism and atheism under the conditions of modernity. He also ties this into the medieval period. Here’s the set-up (as usual, italics, bold, etc.):

If the Middle Ages was an exercise in the unknowability of God, modernity follows it with an affirmation of his unthinkability, and atheism/agnosticism, or the unknowability of God, becomes the only alternative. (251–42)
Got your attention? Good. Hang on…

The shocking thing about this state of affairs is th…

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

…or, Something to keep you busy over the weekend…

…or, The Past Fortnight in the Theoblogosphere.

*coughs nervously*

So…it’s actually been more like four weeks since the last link post. Oh well. We’ve been too busy providing you with top-shelf content to worry too much about slowing down for a link post. But I wanted to make sure that I fit one in before November 8th because I have a lot of interesting reading on the election to share with you. So buckle up—this is going to be a long one!

As usual, I’ll start with some major notices.

First, my theological partner in crime (David Congdon) and I had an article run on the front of the Christianity Today website a couple of days ago: "10 Reasons Why Theology Matters." We've been working on this piece for quite a while, and we actually finished it a number of years ago. It has languished since then. But a few weeks ago CT showed some interest in it so we edited it down (you couldn't possibly be surprised that something…

Why Not Weiss? The Historical Jesus vs. the Paul of Faith

Perhaps it's my roots in evangelical Protestantism. Or maybe it's a certain Anglican penchant for both/and thinking. Whatever the reason, Johanness Weiss gets off on the wrong foot with me in the introduction to his monumental little book on the apocalyptic preaching of Jesus.

Jesus' Proclamation of the Kingdom by Johannes Weiss. Ed. R. Hiers & L. Holland (Fortress, 1971).

But before I lay into Weiss' work, I must preface my gripe with words of praise. Overall, this is a superb, tightly argued biblical-theological tract that has borne portentous historical significance since the first edition was published in 1892. As the editors of this edition demonstrate, Weiss is not merely intent to critically engage historical Jesus research, but he also is keen to integrate this historical spadework with contemporary systematic and constructive interests. Put another way, Weiss explores the problem of how the Jesus of history, in his message and vocation, might continue to be…

Archie Spencer on the Dangers of Reading Karl Barth

One weighty volume published in 2015 was Archie Spencer’s treatment of the analogia fidei: The Analogy of Faith: The Quest for God’s Speakability. It is a dense volume that took me a long time to work through. Spencer engages in a number of different specialist conversations to provide both an analytic account of how analogy functions in the Christian theological tradition and a constructive proposal based on his reading of Barth as vectored through Eberhard Jüngel. Although I cannot competently comment on all Spencer’s specialist engagement, I can vouch for the volume as a thought-provoking piece of exposition.

In any case, there are a couple places where Spencer stops and reflects on reading Karl Barth. In particular, he reflects on the dangers of reading Barth. Now, he doesn’t mean that reading Barth is dangerous to your faith. Far from it, in fact. Spencer means that there are certain pitfalls that readers of Barth must be aware of if they are to read him aright. So I thought that…

The Love of Christ vs. the "Leap of Faith": Once More with Barth on Calvin's Catechism

A few weeks ago, I offered an introductory post on Karl Barth's fascinating little book on Calvin's Geneva Catechism.
The genre is a little misleading, as is often the case in Barth's works of historical theology: The catechism often seems more like a convenient vehicle for Barth to articulate own critical and constructive commitments rather than simply an object of historical interest in its own right. We find this early in the text, where Barth offers a critical gloss on Questions 13-14. The topic: How do we attain certainty that God loves us?

Karl Barth. The Faith of the Church: A Commentary on the Apostles' Creed According to Calvin's Catechism, trans. Gabriel Vahanian (Wipf & Stock, 2006).

Unsurprisingly, Barth highlights the Christocentric focus of Calvin's answers, and spurns an abstract approach rooted in natural theology:

Calvin clearly indicates the origin of our knowledge of God's love. Note well: it is not a question of a general and abstract a…

Kathryn Bradford Heidelberger - New DET Contributing Author

“I hold to theology because only theology embraces the true,
tenable, and flawed as reality holds them.” – Marilynne Robinson

Hi! My name is Kathryn Bradford Heidelberger and I’m thrilled to be a new contributing author here at DET. I was born and raised in Oklahoma, the state with the nicest people and most breathtaking sunsets. I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition, and I'm grateful for the ways in which that tradition taught me to love Scripture, modeled how to seek God in prayer, and encouraged me to take my profession of faith in Christ seriously.

I attended Wheaton College in IL where I intended to major in music performance, though I quickly discovered that the kinds of questions I was asking weren’t being answered in orchestra rehearsal. So I found my way to the Biblical and Theological Studies department, where I was challenged to carefully and charitably assess my long-held beliefs and was encouraged to embrace my academic passion - studying theology opened up a ne…

Gollwitzer Gold (part 2): More gleanings from Twitter

Some of you, gentle readers, may remember when I previously posted a collection of Gollwitzer quotes that I had shared on Twitter. Well, Gollwitzer died today 23 years ago, in 1993. And so I have gathered another assortment of #Golli tweets for you all as a way to commemorate his passing into the ecclesia triumphans.

Update: I have published a book on Gollwitzer! Click on the title to order your copy: Our God Loves Justice: An Introduction to Helmut Gollwitzer.

I give you the following without further ado and in honor of Gollwitzer's life and thought.

"Human history is the history of violence. Also all present societies are sustained by violence, by the threat and use of increasingly...— W. Travis McMaken (@WTravisMcMaken) August 19, 2016

"...perfectionized, terrifying means of violence. . . . Violence brutalizes, even though the oppressed cannot avoid it in their struggle."— W. Travis McMaken (@WTravisMcMaken) August 19, 2016

#Golli— W. Travis McMaken (@WTravisMcMaken…

Back to Square One: Weiss on Jesus' Apocalyptic Kingdom Message

Reading David Congdon's seminal work has brought home for me how crucial for Rudolf Bultmann was the turn-of-the-century recovery, within New Testament studies, of apocalyptic eschatology, especially as this development helped bring to a close the first, liberal quest for the historical Jesus. (For a primer on this topic, I recommend Congdon's Rudolf Bultmann: A Companion to His Theology, Cascade, 2015, chap. 1).

The scholarship of Johannes Weiss and Albert Schweitzer, especially, established a revolutionary -- and especially, in those days, jarring -- portrait of Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet who foretold a cosmic, cataclysmic and immanent judgement of the present evil age that would usher in the Kingdom of God. Previous portraits of Jesus, marked by post-Kantian ethical idealism, had interpreted the coming of the Kingdom of God as an internal affair -- or maybe more precisely, a reality that begins interiorly and spreads outward into the social world. That is to say, the ki…

Receiving God's Shalom as a Gift: A Guest Sermon about Peace and Justice by Josiah Daniels

Foolishly taking matters of peace and justice into our own hands leads to death. We can only receive the justice and peace of God as a gift. All that’s left is to live a life of thanksgiving, oriented towards the kingdom.

We as humans are more interested in taking than receiving. Because of this, we are not accustomed to living a life of gratitude. To view justice and peace as a gift, versus something to be established via human ingenuity, is a radical reorientation. But that is just what the Word of God means to do: reorient us. God’s Word provides a counter-text for the community of faith. This counter-text puts a major emphasis on God’s shalom. Shalom is the Hebrew word for the socially and individually restorative peace and justice of God. Our texts today detail how God expects the world to work. But, as is to be expected, humans tend to have “better,” more “efficient” ways to establish peace and justice.

Both the fascists and the neoliberals alike are convinced they are the final …

Prophecy vs. Apocalyptic: Heiko Oberman on the Reformation

Some of you, gentle readers, perhaps remember the brief video tribute to Heiko Oberman that I recorded (also embedded below). One of the books that I spoke about in that video was Forerunners of the Reformation (Fortress, 1981). I wanted to highlight a piece of Oberman’s introduction for you.

Oberman discusses what it means to be a forerunner of the reformation, and how we ought to understand the reformation period and the late middle ages vis-à-vis one another. An important point here is that criticisms of church and clerics are not new to the reformation period; the late medieval period is replete with them. They are a standard feature. But Oberman notes that once you recognize them as a standard feature, you can better identify shifts within these persistent criticisms. And he characterizes the major shift that occurs moving into the 15th century as a shift from prophetic to apocalyptic criticism. Here is how he distinguishes between the two (as always, bold is mine:

[The sources] …

Does God "Exist"? Meh. (With Apologies to my Atheist Friends)

In the coffee shop recently, I noticed that an older man was staring at me. I tried to ignore him and took a restroom break. When I came back to the bar-style table, I noticed he was thumbing through the 1928 Book of Common Prayer I had been reading. Slightly creeped out, I decided I should make verbal contact with this interloper (stalker?). We exchanged greetings. He asked me if my book was a Bible. I explained it was a prayer book, but it contained selections from scripture (As the cliche goes: The Bible quotes The Book of Common Prayer...bada bing).

"Do you believe in God," he asked me.
"Yes," I said, without hesitation. "But it's hard sometimes." And indeed it is. Nonetheless, I didn't balk at answering affirmatively. That's not to say I don't struggle with doubts, for certainly I do. Rather, though, I have to admit the question of whether God exists simply doesn't interest me. Maybe that's because, by temperament and training…