In light of the 400th anniversary of the King James, I thought it would be fruitful to bring up an interesting argument that Eugene Peterson makes in his book Eat This Book. Furthermore, Ben Myers has recently put up a blog post about his love for the King James so I thought this would stand as an interesting contrast. Myers provides something of a personal apologetic I first heard when I was in an undergraduate Bible class – that there is just something special about the King James. I never used the King James so I was intrigued by this line of logic. The person in my class talked about how the language of the King James was sufficiently “high” for the Bible, and how that language helped to push the Bible into a more spiritual register (my language, not his). In light of this argument, I would like to note some of Eugene Peterson’s reasons for thinking that the King James Version, for these very reasons, is an inadequate translation (I should note that I don’t have this book with me and I read it a year ago, so I will only outline the broad contours of his argument).
The first thing to note about Eugene Peterson’s argument is that he denies what tend to be two assumed premises. First, that the King James was written in an older form of English which was used in everyday conversation. Rather, Peterson argues, the language of the King James was never conversational in any age. It was, even in its own day, an attempt to spiritualize language to a higher order fitting for the Bible. As ink marked the page it was, at it were, “arcane,” or, better, “foreign.” Second, based on the Greek language of the New Testament, the King James fails to provide a proper translation of the language that the apostles used to convey the gospel. It was, in fact, common language that was invoked for the New Testament and not a higher-level spiritual grammar. Continue reading
Kent and I have been doing some research for a project we are working on together and we decided to read D. Stephen Long’s chapter “Moral Theology” in The Oxford Handbook of Systematic Theology. This is an area I have wanted to pour myself in to but always seem to be pushing off this research for other projects that get in the way (who will save me from this body of death!). Here, I thought it would be fruitful to start a conversation about Long’s thesis.
Long starts with the dividing line that one would normally think of when they hear the term “moral theology” in distinction from “Christian ethics” – Catholic and Protestant. Both traditions have a demarcation between dogmatic theology and moral/ethical thought, even though, in the case of moral theology, there is a tighter relationship of independence. “The main difference between them,” Long asserts, “is that moral theology recognizes Christian dogma as essential to the moral life, while Christian ethics sees dogma as less important for its task” (457). Moral theology, therefore, “assumes an explicit doctrinal context.” In light of this distinction, these approaches produce distinct audiences – moral theology speaks primarily to the church, while Christian ethics understands its scope to be at the broadest level of society (universities, nations, corporations, etc.). Long characterizes these various inclinations by delineating the “universal category” for each discipline – for moral theology: doctrine; for Christian ethics: ethics. Continue reading
Well, I am not nearly as far in my Patristic reading as I had hoped to be at this point, but I am making progress. I wanted to provide some brief thoughts about Mary, since I am reading more about her than normal! What I find interesting about Mariology is that it tends to blossom with time. Once the virgin birth began to be read in terms of purity, it seems, there was a tendency for that purity to overflow as far as the church would let it. But as I think a bit more about the virgin birth, it seems to me that Cyril of Alexandria, building upon Athanasius’ Christology, had the right resources to talk about this in a different, and, in my mind, more fruitful way. The virgin birth, it seems possible, is meant to highlight the singular personhood of the Son of God. Gregory of Nazianzus is helpful here: Continue reading
Hey everyone, I am making January “early church theology month” and would like some recommendations. Here is what my reading entails thus far:
- Anthanasius’s On the Incarnation (It has been too long since I’ve read this)
- Athanasius: The Coherence of His Thought by Khaled Anatolios
- Basil the Great’s Asketikon and his On the Holy Spirit
- Augustine’s The Enchiridion on Faith, Hope, and Love
- I hope to get, but probably not yet read, Ayres newest volume on Augustine on the Trinity
- Irenaeus of Lyons’ On the Apostilic Preaching
- Cyprian of Carthage’s On the Unity of the Church
- Cyril of Alexandria’s On the Unity of Christ
- Gregory of Nazianzus’s On God and Christ
- I will also be working through the four volumes of the “Sources of Early Christian Thought” series put out in the 80′s by Fortress for some shorter readings.
In terms of more secondary literature, I plan on reading Fairbairn’s Grace and Christology in the Early Church and Rowan William’s book Arius: Heresy and Tradition. Is there anything that is a must read that I should try to cover as well. I have a couple of books floating around that I’ve been meaning to read, but January is only so long! I would love some recommendations.
For those of you who haven’t read Halden’s post, you should. This is an issue I tried to raise with Jamie Smith’s book, but wasn’t able to do so as well as Halden. After reading the post, my initial thought was: Liturgy is the fruit, and not the root, of devotion. The church, in my mind, continually makes the mistake of getting this backwards.
As some of you may have noticed, I have been off the blog for a while now. My wife and I (more her than me!) had a baby girl on Oct. 31st – Brighton Angelina Strobel. We are very excited and very tired. All that to say, I’ve been meaning to write a review of a fantastic book but am only getting around to it now. The book, written by Patricia A. Ward, is entitled Experimental Theology in America: Madame Guyon, Fenelon, and Their Readers (Baylor University Press, 2009).
For those who have been following this blog for a while now, you know that we have an interest in the nature of evangelicalism. I was taken in by Bruce Hindmarsh’s claim that evangelicalism is best understood as a school of spirituality – a school that borrows heavily from other schools. Towards this end, Patricia Ward’s book goes a long way to justifying that claim (though this is my own interest and not her stated goal). This book is an excellent example of intellectual history, focusing its attention on the mystical writings of Madame Guyon and her defender Fenelon. As interesting as that is, you might wonder, why do I find it interesting? In my studies of early American theology, focusing on Edwards, I noticed what seemed to be a influence of Fenelon. Edwards did, in fact, read Fenelon, and Edwards’s spirituality does reflect some of Fenelon’s spirituality. That is what originally made me curious about Ward’s work, but now, after reading it, I am amazed at how ubiquitous Guyon and Fenelon’s influence actually was. Wesley appropriated, with caution, some of Guyon, as did figures like A. W. Tozer. Samuel Hopkins, Edwards’s protegé, was compared to Fenelon, and Fenelon became something of an ecumenical spiritual figure (as did, in her own right, Guyon). Continue reading
The latest issue of the Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology has appeared. Reviews of recent literature on Calvin, T.F. Torrance, and Scripture along with reviews of recent biblical studies appear; it features reviews by Kevin Vanhoozer, Darrell Bock, Craig Blomberg, I. Howard Marshall, Kelly Kapic, Paul Nimmo, and Paul Helm. The reveiws by fellow bloggers Davey Henreckson and Brad Littlejohn are very much worth a read. The articles discuss issues of globalization, Calvin, union in Luther and the possibility for an evangelical appropriation of Hans Frei. The full table of contents can be found here.
Here are some excerpts of Vanhoozer’s review of Peter Leithart’s book Deep Exegesis:
Deep exegesis is like getting a joke whose meaning is often a function of what is not explicitly stated. [...] Interestingly, Leithart does not read under the banner of theological interpretation of Scripture, but chooses instead to speak in more general terms about entering into the depths of the text. Some readers may thus regret Leithart’s decision not to define meaning. To these he would no doubt say, ‘Here’s spit in your eye’, preferring, like Jesus, to rub his hermeneutical clay-and-spittle on our mind’s eye, thus enabling/anointing us to see and hear all the riches of Christ in the music of the text.
I am going to be taking a look at the doctrine of election through a couple of recent releases – the first, by David Gibson, is Reading the Decree: Exegesis, Election and Christology in Calvin and Barth (T&T Clark, 2009). This book has been out for a little while now, but I am also going to be looking at Suzanne McDonald’s new book Re-Imaging Election (Eerdmans, 2010). Here, I will focus my attention on Gibson’s read of Calvin and Barth on election. I think that this volume is particularly interesting because of the exegetical emphasis – putting Calvin and Barth’s exegetical considerations in parallel with their doctrinal development. Or, better, that for both thinkers, doctrine and exegesis are not two discrete tasks, but are united around, in one way or another, their “christocentrism.”
Utilizing Muller’s distinction between “soteriological christocentrism” and “principial christocentrism” Gibson invokes a corresponding hermeneutical distinction – extensive and intensive. A hermeneutic is christologically extensive when the center of christology “points outwards to other doctrinal loci which have space and scope to exist in themselves at a measure of distance from Christology and from each other” (15). Christology does not “dictate” or “control” but “shapes” and “influences” them. Likewise, a hermeneutic is christologically intensive when the center of christology “defines all else within its circumference” (15). This christology draws everything to itself, so that all other doctrinal material is read with an explicit reference to christology. Calvin and Barth represent these two facets respectively. Continue reading
I am continuing our look at recent theological anthropolog texts with another post on Marc Cortez. We addressed his intro text to theological anthropology in the “Guide for the Perplexed” series, and now turn to his dissertation turned monograph, Embodied Souls, Ensouled Bodies: An Exercise in Christological Anthropology and its Significance for the Mind/Body Debate. This volume appears in the T&T Clark Studies in Systematic Theology series, which has continued to pump out really well-crafted dissertation/monographs.
After addressing some introductory matters, Cortez jumps into Barth’s exposition of a Christological anthropology with specific focus on CD III/2. Cortez offers six criteria which, for Barth, are necessary conditions for true humanity:
(1) being constituted by the ontological priority of Jesus in his relationship with God; (2) being conditioned by the salvation enacted by Jesus; (3) having its ‘true determination’ in the glory of God; (4) existing under the Lordship of God; (5) freely corresponding in its proper action to the divine deliverance; and (6) freely rendering service to God as a being who is for God” (38).
Furthermore, these six criteria are the standard by which Barth engages and criticises other approaches to anthropology – three are highlighted: the biological, ethical and existential. Continue reading
In his essay, “The Place of Theosis in Orthodox Theology” Andrew Louth suggests that theosis or divinization has a specific doctrinal location in Orthodox theology and that it cannot simply be abstracted away from those doctrines. In this sense, it might be helpful to follow Hallonsten’s distinction between a theme and a doctrine of deification, emphasizing that many (if not most) of the recent proposals claiming to find a doctrine of deification in a historic Protestant figure is probably more of a theme than a doctrine. So, what are these doctrines? I will let Louth summarize:
…I have suggested that deification, by the place it occupies in Orthodox theology, determines the shape of that theology: first, it is a counterpart to the doctrine of the Incarnation, and also anchors the greater arch of the divine economy, which reaches from creation to deification, thereby securing the cosmic dimension of theology; second, it witnesses to the human side of theosis in the transformation involved in responding to the encounter with God offered in Christ through the Holy Spirit – a real change that requires a series ascetic commitment on our part; and finally, deification witnesses to the deeper meaning of the apophatic way found in Orthodox theology, a meaning rooted in the ‘the [sic] repentance of the human person before the face of the living God.’” Continue reading
For those of you who have been visiting the blog for a while now, you will know that I have been trying to find a series of books for use in the classroom. Along those lines, I want to say a bit about Frances M. Young’s volume From Nicaea to Chalcedon: A Guide to the Literature and Its Background (2nd Edition) and its possible use as a textbook. Young has updated her work from 1983, with help from Andrew Teal, and there are several features which would make it, in my mind, a great classroom text. First, I think this volume is particularly interesting because of its focus on texts. I will let Young explain:
…the period from Nicaea to Chalcedon is one of the most significant in the formation of the doctrine of the Chruch. Yet the average student of Christian doctrine rarely gets to grips with the background or the literature of the period, let alone the theological argumentation to be found in the texts. The book set out to be a companion to standard textbooks, providing background material, an introduction to the characters involved in the disputes, to the literary sources and critical questions which they pose” (vii). Continue reading
I am reading through A. T. B. McGowan’s volume on scripture, and he argues that we should jettison the term “inspiration” from our theological vocabulary – thinking it does not do justice to the original Greek, the appropriation of the term, or the contemporary usage. He prefers “Divine Spiration”. What do we think? It has the advantage of pushing back the discussion on the doctrine of God and focusing the questions on the sui generis reality of the Scriptural text, rather than starting, as many have, with natural parallels. What would be the advantage to holding on to inspiration over divine spiration? Any thoughts?
After my reviews of Jamie Smith’s work here and here, I’ve decided to do something of a series of book reviews here on theological anthropology, culminating in the new two volume Eccentric Existence by Kelsey. I have already looked at Cortez’s book on the subject in the Guide for the Perplexed series (here), and I will return to Cortez with a look at his dissertation-turned-monograph Embodied Souls, Ensouled Bodies. Here, I am looking at a new volume from Baker Academic entitled God’s Many-Splendored Image: Theological Anthropology for Christian Formation by Nonna Verna Harrison.
Harrison’s work follows along similar contours as many new volumes, which seek to bring Patristic teaching to the church today. The best example of this I have seen thus far was Fairbairn’s volume Life in the Trinity, which I reviewed here, here and here. I say best, because Fairbairn does not simply seek to offer tidbits from the Patristics, but to grasp the center of their theology and utilize their insights, in a holistic fashion, for modern theology. Harrison’s book, on the other hand, takes on a different feel. Throughout, one is left wondering if she is merely wielding her own thoughts and proof-texting Patristic sources to make her point. In the end, one is never sure, since her interaction with the Patristic material is used to answer specific questions outside the contours of their own work. Continue reading
I began to notice that a lot of our ruminations around here revolved around the classroom – either looking for books to use now, or else thinking about books to use in the future. In light of this, I thought it would be helpful to have a master list of posts on books that are user-friendly, especially for introductory courses, which can be hard to find. This list will also help us to round out areas we might not have talked much about. You can find the list on the tab at the top of the Theology Forum homepage. We’ll keep it updated, so hopefully it be a helpful resource.