Blog Archives

New trailer for “The Power” (sequel to “The Secret”)

Did you know that you have unlimited, untapped potential within you? Did you know that the power permeating everything that exists lies deep within you? And, did you know that you can find out how to tap into this mysterious well of semi-divine being for a mere $23.95 ($11.98 from Amazon)? That’s a pretty sweet deal.

Rhonda Byrne’s latest book The Power follows up on her earlier best-seller The Secret, and looks like it will be equally well-poised to tell people exactly what they want to hear. Check out the trailer. It’s quite well done. (If only my books had cool trailers like this. I’m sure that a book on the christological anthropology of Karl Barth as it relates to contemporary philosophy of mind could have been a bestseller if it just had a cool trailer.)

Eccentric Existence 4 (a trinitarian framework)

We are looking at David Kelsey’s Eccentric Existence.  In the last post, we saw that Kelsey argues that what makes an anthropology distinctively Christian and theological is the fact that it begins with the claim that the triune God as revealed primarily in and through Jesus Christ relates to human beings in creation, redemption, and consummation. Thus, Christian theological anthropology is Trinitarian, christocentric, and oriented around these three relations. Before we move from the introductory material into the main argument of the book, it will be helpful to understand the four main ways in which this Trinitarian framework shapes the content of a theological anthropology.

Relations and Community

Kelsey spends a fair amount of time discussing the shift that takes place after Nicea from an emphasis on the economic Trinity to the immanent Trinity. In the process, theologians began to spend much more time reflecting on the perichoretic nature of the triune relations. And, this has implications for the way that we develop a theological anthropology guided by these Trinitarian reflections.

The character of God’s eternal life privileges a distinct set of images for the type of existential ‘how’ that constitutes human flourishing. The communion in self-giving love that constitutes God’s life presupposes and requires that the beloved is an irreducibly other reality than the lover. Indeed, such communion nurtures the flourishing of the beloved precisely as other. (72)

So, even without predetermining the actual content of a theological anthropology, this Trinitarian framework indicates that its basic shape will privilege relationship and community in its vision of human flourishing.

Mystery

Kelsey is actually rather cautious about introducing the idea of mystery into his discussion of theological anthropology. He warns,

 Although Karl Barth grumped that ‘transcendence’ is the most tedious concept in theology, ‘mystery’ is surely a close runner-up, so loosely is it commonly used. (72)

Tightening up the definition significantly, he argues that properly used “mystery” refers exclusively to God himself. He alone is the true mystery. But, insofar as a Christian theology begins its understanding of the human person by looking to this essentially mysterious God, there will always be an element of “openness” and “transcendence” in theological anthropology. Since he’s written over 1,000 pages on the subject, this obviously doesn’t mean that Kelsey doesn’t think we can say anything constructive about the human person. But, as we will see, he does think that there is a lot about our understanding of human beings that must remain “open.” Indeed, we will see that he thinks we can say a lot about the shape of human flourishing in the world, but he is quite reticent to offer much in the way of particular content. And, much of that is driven by the fact that God himself is ultimately mysterious.

Human Flourishing

And, that segues nicely into the third feature of his Trinitarian anthropology. For Kelsey, the Trinitarian relations provide the key for understanding human flourishing.

Therein lay its anthropological implications, for it defines human flourishing. By such engagement humans are called to analogous life which is their flourishing. Their flourishing lay in a community in communion analogous to that of the triune God, marked by mystery – that is, by analogous glory, incomprehensibility, and holiness, analogous to that of the triune God. (77-78)

As we’ll see throughout the discussion, Kelsey does not think that everything we need to say about the human person can be derived directly from Christology or the doctrine of the Trinity. He indicates at the very beginning of the work that he has a high view of what non-theological anthropologies can provide to our understanding of human beings. But, he does think that the Trinity offers the only legitimate starting point for a Christian understanding of human flourishing.

The Three Relations that Constitute Theological Anthropology

As I’ve mentioned several times, the entire shape of Kelsey’s theological anthropology is driven by the three ways in which God relates himself to humanity—creation, redemption, and consummation. A proper understanding of the Trinity, though, nuances these relations in two important ways.

First, each of these three relations involves all three persons of the Trinity, but with their own distinct pattern.

Formulated abstractly, these differences of pattern are the following: It is the Father who creates through the Son in the power of the Spirit; it is the Spirit, sent by the Father with the Son, who draws creatures to eschatological consummation; it is the Son, sent by the Father in the power of the Spirit, who reconciles creatures. (122)

So, as Kelsey unpacks the significance of each relation for understanding anthropology, he will need to pay close attention to these distinctive Trinitarian patterns.

Second, he also argues that although all three of these relations are fundamentally important, we do need to notice several important “asymmetries” in these relations.

  • God’s relating to create is ontologically prior to and logically independent from the other two relations. The idea that God creates human beings does not necessarily entail that he will need to redeem them or consummate his creation in any way. But, for there to be anything for him to redeem or consummate, he must already have created. So, stories of creation will have a certain primacy in developing a theological anthropology. Though never in a way that undermines the significance of the other two.
  • God’s relating to consummate and God’s relating to reconcile as “complexly interrelated” (122). In other words, there is a sense in which stories about the redemption of humanity and the consummation of God’s redemptive plans for humanity are intertwined and inseparable. This means that the two will be mutually informing in the context of a theological anthropology.
  • Nonetheless, stories of redemption and consummation remain distinct stories, and neither should be subsumed under the other. There is a sense in which the idea consummation is logically independent of redemption. That is, it is conceptually to tell a story about bringing creation to its proper consummation without implying that it has fallen and is in need of redemption. On the other hand, stories of redemption seem necessarily depending on stories of consummation. That is, a story about redemption would seem to imply some story about the completion of that redemptive process.
  • So, although each of these stories needs to remain independent of the other and should be told with its own narrative logic, there is a complex pattern of relationships among the three stories that influences the way each will function in developing a theological anthropology.

Flotsam and jetsam (6/22)

Flotsam and jetsom (6/16)

Why is there no UK team in the World Cup? Why do the various “provinces” enter as nations?

North Carolina man claims to have seen Sasquatch. I wonder what I should do to get on the news?

– Learn how to be a good thinker.

– Philip Sumpter explores Brevard Childs’ principles of exegesis.

– More Karl Barth: This time on writing theology.

– Halden is rereading Bonhoeffer’s Life Together and has shared some thoughts.

Flotsam and jetsom (6/15)

A statue of Jesus was destroyed by nature. Some claim Zeus is coming out of retirement. Pat Robertson will have a fun time explaining this one!

Marriage can be subversive!

– Koinonia list their five favorite Bill Mounce blog post.

Barth addresses our current political situation?

– While we are at it, Barth addresses commentaries as well.

Nick Norelli begins “Tuesdays with Torrence”.

Remembering the Barmen Declaration

On May 31, 1934 the leaders of the German Confessing Church movement issued a statement denouncing the theology and practice of the German Christians and articulating a set of theological convictions that they felt needed to be the driving factors in determining the relationship between Christian churches and the German state. Although the declaration itself, largely written by Karl Barth, is too long to post in its entirety (you can read it here), I thought I would highlight the specific doctrines they were rejecting. Several of them bear an unfortunate resemblance to our modern context:

  • 8.12 We reject the false doctrine, as though the church could and would have to acknowledge as a source of its proclamation, apart from and besides this one Word of God, still other events and powers, figures and truths, as God’s revelation.
  • 8.15 We reject the false doctrine, as though there were areas of our life in which we would not belong to Jesus Christ, but to other lords–areas in which we would not need justification and sanctification through him.
  • 8.18 We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church were permitted to abandon the form of its message and order to its own pleasure or to changes in prevailing ideological and political convictions.
  • 8.21 We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church, apart from this ministry, could and were permitted to give itself, or allow to be given to it, special leaders vested with ruling powers.
  • 8.24 We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church, over and beyond its special commission, should and could appropriate the characteristics, the tasks, and the dignity of the State, thus itself becoming an organ of the State.
  • 8.27 We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church in human arrogance could place the Word and work of the Lord in the service of any arbitrarily chosen desires, purposes, and plans.

Flotsam and jetsam (5/17)

  • Faith and Theology has a fascinating post on the somewhat surprising connection between Barthian theology and Korean theology.
  • The New York Times has a piece on historical Jesus studies that is worth reading if you want to see what the broader public is saying about this whole discussion.
  • The latest edition of the Princeton Theological Review is now available online, with a focus in this issue on mission and ecumenics.
  • I’m not entirely sure how to comment on this one, but there is a site out now called churchrater.com that presents itself as a Yelp-like church rating service. So far both NPR and the Chicago Tribune have done pieces on it. It looks like we’re taking church consumerism to an entirely new level.
  • And, just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, YouTube has announced that it now exceeds two billion views per day.