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Flotsam and jetsam (11/10)

As ironic as it might seem to anyone who would dare read his 14 volume Church Dogmatics, Karl Barth’s entire theology stood as a testament to his time as a parson. Barth was first and foremost a preacher and felt all theology should be done from the viewpoint of the preacher.

For my part, I tend to think of Original Sin socially and systemically. Basically, you can’t ever get clean. Systemically clean. The human condition is to be complicit, to have blood on your hands

To me, these are symptoms of a beginning fundamentalist posture towards culture: We have the answers, we distrust everything about everything that is not us.

  • There’s an interesting discussion on how to translate pistis Christou going on over at BibleGateway’s Perspectives on Translation forum. Tom Schreiner and Mike Bird have both weighed in with helpful comments (along with a very brief one from Darrell Bock). I particularly liked this comment from Bird:

The problem is that I am familiar enough with Greek grammar and syntax to know that a genitive modifier restricts the head term but does not fill it with radically sophisticated theological content.

Flotsam and jetsam (11/8)

He did, in fact, have more to say about the Trinity than most people would expect, and following the lead of what he said on the subject, it is easy enough to connect the dots in his practice. The trinitarian presupposition is there to be seen, just below the surface. Graham is a perfect example of an evangelical who is focused so much on being trinitarian in practice that he somewhat under-explains the theological presuppositions of what he is doing.

For Barth error is expected of humans—it’s built into their fallenness.  From my point of view it’s simply a truism that humans can and do err but this doesn’t necessitate that they will or must err.  More on this in my next post.

One cannot underestimate the importance of 1 Timothy 2:12 in the intra-evangelical debate over gender roles and women in ministry. There is a reason why countless articles and even an entire book have been written on the interpretation of this single verse. In many ways, this verse is the most disputed text in the debate. It is clear that Paul is prohibiting something, but just what he prohibits has been fiercely contested.

Ferrett Legging is a sport that originated in Britain, in which contestants tie their trouser leg closed, place two ferrets in their trousers (it’s Britain, people!) and then tighten their belt closed. The ferret must be fully teethed, undrugged, and the contestant cannot wear anything under their trousers. I read the wikipedia entry and laughed myself silly.

Who are the “must reads” in theology? (part 1)

Brian LePort sparked quite the discussion yesterday with a question about “must read” theologians.

So what makes someone a bonafide “must read if you are serious about biblical/theological studies”? Who would you say is a must read, why, and what is your criteria? Also, is given “must read” always a must read (e.g. I don’t image Barth matters to those who spend their days in textual criticism or the Gospel of Thomas)? Is there anyone who is always a must read?

From there, the discussion ranged rather far afield, with most of the discussion focusing on whether people like Barth and Torrance qualify as must-read theologians. I commented early in the discussion and started to comment again toward the end. But, my comment got too long. So, I decided to turn it into a post of its own. Then that got too long. So now I think I’ll end up with a short series on what it means to say that someone is a “must read” theologian.

Reading the comments on Brian’s post, I was intrigued by how difficult it seems to be to keep separate the question of whether someone is a must-read because of their historical significance and whether they’re a must-read because of the inherent value of their theology. In this post, then, I’m going to comment on what I think makes for a must-read theologian in the former (historical) sense. Tomorrow, I’ll comment on what it means to be a must-read theologian in the latter sense. And, I’ll try to follow that up with a third post offering my list of must-read theologians (in both senses).

For me, determining whether someone falls into the former category (historical must-read) really has to do with the extent to which understanding that person is necessary for understanding a significant portion of Christian theology. For example, one simply must have some understanding of Augustine and Aquinas to have any real grasp of what’s been happening in Western theology pretty much ever since. The same would hold true in the East for theologians like Athanasius, John of Damascus, and Gregory Palamas (to name just a few). For me, people like these constitute the “giants” of theology – people we must read to have a deep understanding of entire Christian traditions. (This isn’t to say, of course, that their theology is necessarily better than that of other, lesser-known theologians; only that their theology has had a level of historical influence that places it in a distinct category.)

After these giants, there is a secondary level of historical must-reads, those people who are necessary for understanding their generation, and certainly had significant influence on later thinkers,  but never rose to the level of defining an entire tradition. In this category I would put people like Tertullian, Ambrose of Milan, Bonaventure, Melancthon (depending on how you understand his impact on the Lutheran tradition), and others. These are important figures and well worth studying in their own right. But, for me, they are only must-reads for people specializing in their era of church history or who want a more thorough grasp of the particular tradition they represent.

Much of the debate about theological must-reads, though, focuses on a third category – those people who are are still alive or who died fairly recently. This is a debated category because it’s nearly impossible to assess their historical significance yet. Personally, I would not categorize any living theologian (or even any of those who have died recently) as a historical must-read. I think you need to be at least a generation or two removed from a person before you have any hope of making that kind of assessment. Each generation has its larger-than-life theologians who are largely forgotten by later generations. (And, that’s not a knock against their theology. Every generation needs people to rise up and engage the theological task in ways that are meaningful for that generation. Most will not be talked about by later generations, but they still performed a valuable and needful task for the church.) So, for me, if you were alive and writing within the last forty years, you would probably not qualify yet as a historical must-read. Indeed, as we’ll see in tomorrow’s post, even forty years is barely enough time to make this kind of assessment.

So, my main must-read category is reserved for those who are historical must-reads, primarily those who are theological “giants” because they established a theological trajectories for entire traditions.

Flotsam and jetsam (10/18)

Karl Barth Biblioblog Conference (Week 2)

The second week of the Karl Barth Biblioblog Conference is underway. Here’s the lineup for this week:

Flotsam and jetsam (9/28)

2010 Karl Barth Blog Conference

The annual Karl Barth Blog Conference (KBBC) is up and running at Der Evangelische Theologie.

The overarching theme is ”Karl Barth in Conversation with…”, where the blank is filled by some significant thinker or field. Each conference session contains plenary posts and responses that cluster into sub-conversations.

This week will see posts on Barth in conversation with Schleiermacher, Bavinck, Bonhoeffer, Tillich, and Jenson. (You can view the Week 1 outline and author bios here.) Today’s post by Matthew Bruce deals with “Schleiermacher and Barth: On Theology as the Science of the Divine Word.”

If you’re looking to understand Barth’s theology and his location in the broader theological community, this should be a fascinating conference to follow.

Christology and anthropology – a very nice summary of my book

Kyle Strobel has just posted a very nice summary of my book Embodied Souls, Ensouled Bodies: An Exercise in Christological Anthropology and Its Significance for the Mind/Body Debate. This is the published version of my dissertation. So, if you don’t have the time (or the money) to read the whole book, go on over to Theology Forum and check out Kyle’s post. I’d be happy to interact with thoughts/comments/questions there.

By the way, if you’re a Th.M. student involved in this semester’s philosophy and theology class may find this post particularly interesting. My dissertation is really an exercise in philosophical theology and in many ways it displays my understanding of how philosophy and theology interact. When we get a little further along in the class, I’ll be using the mind/body debate to explain my approach to philosophical theology.

A prayer for Sunday…Karl Barth

Our one God, our only God, fierce in your goodness, holy and mighty in all that you do, we come yet again to you as people who have nothing to offer you but the confession that we want to live from your great, free mercy. We thank you that you invite and encourage us to come to such a place. You do not forget us; let us not forget you! You do not tire; let us not grow weary! You choose and desire what is right and wholesome for each one of us; protect us from our willful wants and desires!

But we also want to bring before you the requests, questions, and needs of many others. Consider all those, whether in this house or elsewhere, who are in prison! Consider also our families both near and far! Comfort and quicken all those who are physically and mentally ill, all those in need, and especially those who have no human friends or helpers! Help the refugees, the oppressed, and all those who suffer injustice throughout the world! Instruct those who teach, and rule over those who are destined and called to rule! Make for your gospel joyful and courageous witnesses in all the churches, including the Catholic church and the free communities! Accompany and enlighten the missionaries and the young congregations that they wish to serve! Let all of those who hope in you work while it is day, and give good fruit to the honest concerns of all those who either do not know you, do not know you yet, or do not know you properly! You hear thoseo who have upright hearts. Make us upright, that you may also hear us!

You were God from eternity, you are God, and you will be God. We rejoice that we build on you and trust in you. Amen.

Morning links (9/15)

Okay, I finally got one too many comments from people who either couldn’t figure out what “flotsam and jetsam” means (originally a nautically term referring to the debris left after a shipwreck, it’s also used to refer to “odds and ends” in general), or who wondered if I’m just a big Little Mermaid fan (which, by the way, says more about you than it does me). So, I’m going to drop that title for a while and go with something that will hopefully be a little clearer. But, just in case there’s still some uncertainty out there, let me explain:

  • “Morning” = that period of the day between when I wake up and when my coffee has finally kicked in.
  • “Links” = those underlined/colored/highlighted words on the screen that take you places when you click on them.

Now, that we’ve taken care of that business, here are some links for this morning.