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John Calvin as Old Testament Interpreter: A Bundle of Contradictions

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The following excerpt hails from T. H. L Parker, Calvin’s Old Testament Commentaries (Westminster/John Knox, 1993), 6–7. By the time Calvin began publishing his Old Testament commentaries, the pioneering work had been done and there was a fairly solid body of material at his disposal – quite good texts of the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin Bibles, some grammars and lexicons and concordances, and several “modern” commentaries, besides those of the Church fathers which had been edited and printed. Even when there were no modern works and scholars had to rely on classical or early Christian authors, these were now available in print. … But we must approach any of these older Biblical writers in a spirit of sympathy and humility, not judging them ignorant and backward because they seem strange to us. To approach them in such a spirit of sympathy will mean, I think, that we shall be surprised, not only at their intellectual energy, their insights, their incredible knowledge of the Bible, but

No Serenity Now? Hunsinger on Philippians 1:2

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Bernardino Mei, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons Thanks to the beneficence of this blog’s editor, I’m now perusing George Hunsinger’s fine commentary on the Epistle to the Phillipians, a volume in the Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible series. (No remuneration, monetary or otherwise, was offered in exchange for blogging about this book.) The distinguished Karl Barth scholar and Princeton Theological Seminary professor offers his text as an “exercise in ecclesial hermeneutics” (p. xvii) and, more specifically, it is also an essay in creedal hermeneutics. That is, he is attempting to honor the integrity and coherence of the scriptural canon within the heuristic framework of the ecumenical Christian symbols of faith. This book also is an homage to Hunsinger’s teachers at Yale Divinity School – Hans Frei, George Lindbeck, and Brevard Childs. Such a confessional orientation for biblical exposition remains contested -- as do all readings of scripture -- but it is salutary fo

Karl Barth: Spiritual Writings - A conversation with the editors

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Join me for a conversation with Dr. Ash Cocksworth ( Twitter , University of Roehampton ) as we talk about our recently released co-edited volume, Karl Barth: Spiritual Writings , in the Paulist Press Classics of Western Spirituality series. During this conversation we talk about how Ash and I got to know each other and came to work together on this volume, what our favorite things about the book are, who should read the book, how politics relates to spirituality, and much more. Marmite even comes up at one point and a brilliant bit of wordplay by yours truly falls totally flat. It was a fun conversation. Ash and I were joined by my friend Dr. Kate Hanch ( Twitter , First St. Charles United Methodist Church ), who functioned as our special guest host and moderator for the conversation. Once you’ve ordered your copy of Karl Barth: Spiritual Writings , head over to Fortress Press to pre-order Kate’s forthcoming book, Storied Witness: The Theology of Black Women Preachers in 19th-Cen

Karl Marx's Mixed Legacy for Democratic Socialism - according to Gary Dorrien

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I'm starting to tackly Gary Dorrien's 500+ page tome, Social Democracy in the Making: Political and Religious Roots of European Socialism (Yale, 2019) and I must say that he's doing a good job front-loading some interesting stuff to motivate his easily distracable readers (like myself) to stick with it. What follows is an excerpt wherein Dorrien reflects on Karl Marx's mixed legacy for democratic socialism. It reonates with me because Helmut Gollwitzer made a distinction between Marxism as an analytical tool and 'dogmatic Marxism' as an ideology, and I think that distinction in how Marx has been applied tracks with Dorrien's comments here. If you want more on Gollwitzer and Marxism, you could do worse than by starting here . But enough of that. On to the excerpt! No definition of socialism as economic collectivism or state control of the economy or any particular ownership scheme is common to the many traditions of socialist thought. Various schools

Conservative Radical? William Stringfellow on Law and Justice

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Pekka Järveläinen, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons In a recent post , I explored William Stringfellow’s ambivalence about the legal profession and, more specifically, toward ideological frameworks (e.g., natural law theory) that obscure the ways law is actually practiced. To reiterate briefly: The legal guild (like all institutions) is a fallen principality subsisting within a complex web of systems; like all the powers that be, the legal profession is enthralled to the power of death and fails in its vocation of promoting human flourishing. Moreover, rather than clarifying this situation, abstract theories (such as natural law theory) tend to mythologize the workings of law in concrete circumstances. All that said, though, there remains another side of Stringfellow’s perspective on the legal profession – a viewpoint more positive and potentially constructive, even if the compliment is delivered rather backhandedly. Some background might be helpful: Stringfellow does not under

"Karl Barth: Spiritual Writings" now available!

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I'm sorry to say, gentle readers, that I have been a bit remiss of late in not making this announcement sooner. The word has gone out via some other avenues before now, but that is no excuse. Regardless, it gives me distinct pleasure to share with you that a volume that Ash Cocksworth and I have been working on for some time is now available: Karl Barth: Spiritual Writings , Classics of Western Spirituality (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2022). As I noted, Ash and I have been at work on this volume for some time. A quick search of my email records traces our collaboration back to April of 2017, but - honestly - I think we started up before that. The manuscript has been done for a little while as well, and we had to wait out some production delays. But now the finished product is in our hands. And it can be in your hands as well, should you wish. Or in your e-bok reader of choice. Entirely up to you. The volume contains a foreword by George Hunsinger , a ~40-page introductory e

Stringfellow Contra Natural Law Theory

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Sang Hyun Cho, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons William Stringfellow – Episcopal lay theologian, activist, and gadfly – was, by profession, an attorney – credentialed by the Harvard Law School, no less, though (I suspect) no bust or image of him bedecks any walls within its 19 campus buildings. Though he was a member of the legal profession by trade, nonetheless, he categorically refused to consider this work to be his “career.” In fact, he deemed dying to career as integral to his ongoing Christian conversion and vocation. Radical Christian and Exemplary Lawyer: Honoring William Stringfellow , Edited by Andrew W. McThenia, Jr. (1995, 2007). Still, Stringfellow’s toil as a lawyer – from advocating for addicted, dispossessed, and oppressed clients in East Harlem to representing the first women ordained “irregularly” to the presbyterate in the Episcopal Church --offered fertile grist for forming his distinctive theological and ethical vision. Stringfellow’s relationship with th

Adult Spiritual Formation Class - Reflecting on the Lectionary Texts for the Third Sunday in Lent (RCL Year C)

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This is the third of what has been a three part series of adult spiritual formation / education (Sunday School) classes that I recently finished teaching at St. Charles Presbyterian Church (USA) , here in March of 2022. The date for this particular recording was March 20, 2022. During this series, I lead discussion of the Revised Common Lectionary texts for these Sundays in Lent. Many thanks to my sisters and brothers who joined in the conversation. This Sunday's readings were: Isaiah 55:1-9 Psalm 63:1-81 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 Luke 13:1-9 You can access these readings here . We discussed things like: Spiritualizing vs eschatological / apocalyptic approaches to the Judeo-Christian tradition in these texts More on Judaism, Christianity, and the perils of supercessionism A God-inspired vision of what the world could be if we could "buy...without money" and not "labor of that which does not satisfy" God's people as attracting the interest of the na

Adult Spiritual Formation Class - Reflecting on the Lectionary Texts for the Second Sunday in Lent (RCL Year C)

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This is the second of what should be a three part series of adult spiritual formation / education (Sunday School) classes that I'm currently teaching at St. Charles Presbyterian Church (USA) , here in March of 2022. The date for this particular recording was March 13, 2022. During this series, I will be leading discussion of the Revised Common Lectionary texts for these Sundays in Lent. Many thanks to my sisters and brothers who joined in the conversation. This Sunday's readings were: Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18 Psalm 27 Philippians 3:17-4:1 Luke 13:31-35 You can access these readings here . We discussed things like: Abram / Abraham's 318 "trained men" and what he could possibly have to be afraid of Suzerain treaties Genesis 15:6 and its influence on the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) Depictions of Jesus's relationship with the Pharisees and the place of Jesus-following Pharisees in the early days of what would become Christianity T

Adult Spiritual Formation Class - Reflecting on the Lectionary Texts for the First Sunday in Lent (RCL Year C)

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This is the first of what should be a three part series of adult spiritual formation / education (Sunday School) classes that I'm currently teaching at St. Charles Presbyterian Church (USA) , here in March of 2022. The date for this particular recording was March 6, 2022. During this series, I will be leading discussion of the Revised Common Lectionary texts for these Sundays in Lent. Many thanks to my sisters and brothers who joined in the conversation. This Sunday's readings were: Deuteronomy 26:1-11 Psalm 91:1-2, 9-16 Romans 10:8b-13 Luke 4:1-13 You can access these readings here . We discussed things like: My complicated relationship to the liturgical year and lectionary Lent, Zwingli, and the origins of the Reformed tradition How maybe Ash Wednesday should come before Mardi Gras. How we should treat "aliens" / immigrants How observation of the Sabbath is explained differently in Exodus 20 compared to Deuteronomy 5 How the Jewish and Christian tra

Part 4 - Scots Confession, History & Theology

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This is Part 4 in a series of adult education (Sunday School) classes that I taught at St. Charles Presbyterian Church (USA) in the early months of 2020. It provides a fairly thorough discussion of the Scots Confession's history and theology targeted (hopefully, effectively so) at the generally educated churchgoer.   Part 4 continues exploring the background of the Scots Confession. It deals with life and times of John Knox, the principal author of the Scots Confession, from the history of Scotland leading up to his birth to Knox's departure from England in 1554 to avoid the reign of "Bloody Mary" Tudor. It also explores chapters 16 - 20 in the confession itself, addressing topics like the marks of the church, universal salvation, the supersessionism in Reformed ecclesiology, the afterlife, and the authority of Scripture. This is Part 3 in a 5-part series. You can  find the series index here . Here are some quotes from the episode: "Today, finally, I&#