‘Publishing a system of theology is an irremediably hubristic enterprise’ (Robert Jenson, Systematic Theology, vol. 1, p. vii).
Our friend Myk Habets, of Carey Graduate School, Auckland, New Zealand, has been gracious enough to provide us with a guest post on early career academic publishing. If anyone does not know Myk, you should know that he is incredibly prolific. I personally found this post to be really helpful and insightful, and would love to know your thoughts.
In the current environment it is often said that an academic’s motto for survival is “publish or perish.” And there is truth in the claim. Full-time tertiary level educators are expected to hold higher degrees (the PhD preferably) and continue to contribute meaningfully to their respective academic disciplines with original research, published for critical interaction and dissemination. Theological educators, and by ‘theological’ I mean the broad list of disciplines associated with the modern seminary, also have theological reasons for publishing, amongst which we may include: witness, public reasoning (a form of apologetics), discipleship, the guarding of sound doctrine, sanctification, and the advancement of pursuing God with all our minds. Each generation seeks to stand on the shoulders of the giants who preceded them in order to leave the next generation with a greater legacy of Christian convictions, tools for Bible reading, and resources for the advancement of Christian knowledge. In short, taking rational trouble over the content of the Bible is an act which issues out of worship, is worship, and leads to worship. There are other reasons to publish; of course, not least of which includes the excitement and immediacy which recently published work gives to the lecturer entering their respective classes at the forefront of current Christian thinking. Academics publish and Christian academics publish with a purpose. This may be taken as a given. Continue reading
As you may know from Kent’s interview posted here, my new book Charity and Its Fruits: Living in the Light of God’s Love (Crossway, 2012) has now been released. Charity and Its Fruits was a sermon series through 1 Cor 13, and is, therefore, a theological exposition on love. So, why does it matter? First, I think it is important to see Edwards put his incredible mind to work on 1 Cor 13. As much as this passage is thrown about at weddings, few have really sat with how difficult a passage it is. Therefore, secondly, let me explain why I think it matters through two key theological moves Edwards makes.
The first key theological move Edwards makes is his exposition of the “nature” of God. God’s nature, as we know from 2 Pet 1:4, is communicable, and therefore God’s nature is not the same thing as God’s essence. Furthermore, God is love, therefore love, in some way, is God’s nature. Edwards runs this through his trinitarian theology to grasp the reality that God’s own life is a life of loving consent and union. It is God knowing himself and loving himself fully as perfect beauty and holiness. Therefore, God becomes the archetype by which our own journey of love is etched.
The second key move is to pick up on Paul’s comment that whereas faith and hope fade away, love never will. Love is eternal. Love is the only currency in heaven, as it were. The vision of God known in heaven, therefore, serves to orient our lives now. Just as the vision of God will create a perfect loving society, so should the sight of faith create a society of love here. These two lines come together since God is the God of love and the telos of our histories. As we journey towards heaven we journey towards God. Love, therefore, is proleptically provided to us from heaven. It is not of this world. Love, therefore, actually is the Holy Spirit given in regeneration. It is only as we know God that we can love him and love our neighbors as ourselves. Continue reading
I opened an unexpected package from Crossway today and was thrilled to see Kyle’s new book, an updated edition of Jonathan Edwards’ Charity and Its Fruit. My lakeside reading list is now set for next week, and I will post a short review of Kyle’s book sometime after returning.
Read the ringing endorsement of Timothy George: “This new edition of Charity and Its Fruits is a most welcomed addition to the growing library of books by and about the great Jonathan Edwards. For those who mistakenly think that Protestant theologians overemphasize faith at the expense of love, these classic sermons by Edwards will be an antidote to a stereotype. But even more important, this deep mining of 1 Corinthians 13 is a pathway into spiritual theology that will draw every believer closer to Christ.”
I was invited this spring to give the address at the pinning ceremony for the graduates of our nursing program at Huntington University. I chose to speak on the vocation of Christian nursing as “vulnerable compassion in the name of Christ.” I am posting the address in full and would enjoy some feedback and discussion.
Nurses are present with us in many of those times that are most important, memorable, and vulnerable. When our children are born, nurses are often close at hand. When we or someone we love becomes ill, nurses are present throughout our diagnosis and treatment. And when our lives draw to a close, they do so many times in the close proximity of a nurse.
However, to say that nurses are present says nothing of the nature of their presence. Is it possible that one’s presence could be just as beneficial as harmful? We know this is true. And we also know that the proficiency or skill of one’s performance of tasks does not fully describe the shape and character of their presence. We know the truth of this even if we are unsure how to describe it. We are aware intuitively that the presence of one human being with another transcends the fact that we happen to share the same physical space. The nature and character of one human being’s presence with another is within our perception but beyond our naming: one evokes unease, another comfort; one evokes manipulation, another, compassion; one catalyzes despair, and another hope.
The potential of a nurse to evoke such different emotional, psychological, and physical states might illustrate the sacredness of human relationship. There is no word for the experience of holding one’s child in the moments after their birth or overhearing an argument at the table next to us. This is no less true for naming the unique character of a nurse’s presence and the affect it has upon those who share it. This is certainly a glorious mystery. Continue reading
Students normally ask me what I will be reading over the summer, and I usually answer with something like, “This and that.” My goals are most often overly optimistic so I thought to sit down and figure it out.
Summer always starts with total immersion in great fiction. This year I am reading whatever I can get my hands on by John Updike. In the Beauty of the Lillies was amazing, and I now reading a collection of short stories, The Afterlife.
I am presently blogging through Tom Bergler’s book The Juvenilization of American Christianity. You can follow those posts on this site over the next month or so. Our division at Huntington (Bible, Religion, Philosophy, Ministry, and Missions) holds a colloquium in August when we give brief presentations on our current research and discuss a book we had read over the summer. This year we are reading and discussing Christian Smith’s latest, The Bible Made Impossible.
Next week I’m off to short conference on faith and learning put on by the CCCU. They sent me a copy of Teaching and Christian Practices: Reshaping Faith and Learning which was great because I was planning to order it anyway. The book looks intriguing, and it will be interesting to see how they use it at the conference.
A few I am excited to read. Katherine Doob Sakenfeld has written beautiful little study on divine faithfulness. Faithfulness in Action looks to be great! I am also marinating in Barth’s IV.4 at the moment. His account of the Christian life there is simply stunning.
Then several books fall within the category of “I hope I get to them.” We’ll see, the summer always passes faster than I am prepared. Here’s the list of books I hope time allows me to read: Billings, Calvin, Participation, and the Gift; G.R. Evans, The Roots of the Reformation: Tradition, Emergence, and Rupture; Matthew Boulton, Life in God: John Calvin, Practical Formation and the Future of Protestant Theology; Gerald Bray, God is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology.
What’s on your summer reading list – by necessity or by choice?
It has been a particularly busy season for all of us here at Theology Forum, as you can probably tell from the Blog. Steve started a new job, moved back to Denver, and had his first child, all while continuing to write his dissertation. Kent has been pouring himself into teaching, and, I should note, has just been named Professor of the Year at Huntington University. I have met few people, if any, who think so critically and creatively about teaching college students, so it comes as no surprise that his efforts have not gone unnoticed. Kent continues to work on his retrieval project and editing a volume with me on the Christian life.
I have had my fair share of busyness as well, and have, as of yesterday, handed in the draft for my book on Edwards’s Theology: Jonathan Edwards’s Theology: A Reinterpretation (Dec, 2012). I would also like to announce that I have just accepted a faculty position at Grand Canyon University for the Fall. We are very excited to be joining the team there, and slightly less excited to be moving to Phoenix in July.
In any case, we hope to get things moving around here a bit more now that things are (hopefully) slowing down.
I recently peer reviewed an essay for a scholarly journal. Unhappily I recommended the essay be rejected. I would have much rather recommended it be revised and resubmitted, but it failed on so many levels that it was beyond revising – it was really bad! It was so bad, in fact, that I had one of my seniors read a page and asked him what level undergraduate had written it. He guessed third year undergraduate. Ouch!
Still, it is an unhappy job to peer review and recommend “Rejected” because it shuts down the process of improvement in the case of this particular essay being publishing in this journal. Having had an essay of my own rejected last year, I remember what it feels like. With those feelings of rejection close at hand, I sent a lengthy explanation of my rationale in the hopes that the author will improve their methods of research and writing and do better work in the future. I am a theologian, I always hope for redemption!
How many of you have peer reviewed essays and were compelled to recommend “Rejected.” It is a conflicting experience and I would like to hear from some of you. Or, if you are willing to admit it, have you had an essay or book proposal rejected? What did you learn in the process that was useful, or how did you wish it had been handled so that it would be more useful to you?
I have been trying to find your organisations in the Bible, but you are not to be found in the New Testament. I did find you, however, in the Old – in the Book of Judges, chapter 17, verse 6, ‘In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes’ (Iain Murray, David Martyn Lloyd-Jones [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1982], p. 366).
I am participating in a multi-faith dialogue event this Wednesday night in Fort Wayne at Canterbury Middle School (More information here). My role will be to provide an evangelical Christian perspective on several questions: the perspective of Evangelical Christianity: According to your faith what constitutes wrong-doing? According to your faith what are the consequences of our choices? According to your faith how good must I be? How should I live my life?
What has been your experience with multi-faith events? This is my first participation in a public dialogue about religion and I am interested to hear about your experiences with similar events. Did it foster mutual understanding? Was it a debate? What was the tenor of the interaction? I have the impression that many evangelical Christians are skeptical of events like this because they fear it promotes relativism. Has this been your impression?
This event is organized by a group in Fort Wayne with the purpose of fostering mutual appreciation of different beliefs in order to promote peace in the community. It is very intentionally not a debate nor does it attempt to create a common theology. Here is an excerpt from the event website:
The premise of the Multi-faith Events is the theologies of the various faiths are different. The purpose of the events are not to find a common theology. As Rick Love of Peace Catalyst International has written, “Multi-faith dialogue is based on common ethics and the common good rather than common theology.” At the Multi-faith Events the common ethic is discovered but the goal is not to create a common theology.
The mission of [Haven Interfaith Parents] is to, “encourage an understanding and appreciation of all beliefs and faiths, with the goal of promoting peace in our community.” With the goal of promoting peace, dialogue is what must occur at the events. I recently heard someone say dialogue is listening to someone as if your life depended on the information. In order to survive everything must be remembered. That is intense listening. When I have truly listened to others I find that they are more likely to listen to me. This is the basis of all relationships. For us to understand each other we must be in relationships and we must listen to each other.
There is a passage in the Bible that tells me how to dialogue. I Peter 3:15 states, “Always be prepared to give an answer for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” It is in dialogue that we can be honest and with gentleness and respect say what we believe. Being in dialogue says we care about the relationship.The Multi-faith Events are intentionally designed to be a dialogue because I desire for those in our community to be in relationship with each other.
I have been reading a beautiful and challenging collection of sermons by Fleming Routledge, The Undoing of Death. Here is an excerpt from her 1991 Palm Sunday sermon titled “The New World Order.”
Of all the days in the Christian year, this is certainly the most disconcerting. Even the most seasoned churchgoers tend to forget, each year, exactly what we are in for when we come to church for this occasion. We start out in gala mood; Palm Sunday has always been a crowd-pleaser. The festivity of the triumphal procession, the stirring music, the palm branches, the repeated hosannas all suggest a general air of celebration. It comes as a shock to us, year after year, to find ourselves abruptly plunged into the solemn, overwhelmingly long dramatic reading of the Passion narrative. It’s a tough Sunday. Its begins in triumph and ends in catastrophe. We come in prepared to part, and we leave as if we were going to a funeral. We come in joyful and we go out stricken. All in all, it is a most perplexing day – and for those who are unprepared, it can be downright threatening.
It would be tempting, on this day, to follow good American practice and tone down the depressing parts – “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative.” Many American congregations have attempted this. Were it not for the ancient liturgical wisdom given to the church, it would be perfectly possible to go to Sunday services two weekends in a row – Palm Sunday and Easter Day – without ever having to face the fact that Jesus of Nazareth was abandoned, condemned, and put to death as a common criminal on the Friday between. Our historic liturgy, however, guards against this fatal misunderstanding. [...] In this way, the church announces for all the hear that the Crucifixion of Jesus is the main event. There is no passage from Palm Sunday to Easter without Good Friday. [...]
This week, the church of Jesus Christ gathers around the heart, the center, the guts of its claim to know the truth. Continue reading
Hello all, Kent and I had a wonderful time at ETS/AAR in San Francisco. We had a great dinner with Myk Habets, met up with old friends and some new ones, and talked extensively with publishers. In light of all of that, I wanted to put a question to all of you. Kent and I were trying to start a list of the great doctrinal treatises that deal directly with the Christian Life, and we wanted your help. What texts are the “must read” texts from the entire tradition and why?
I’ve been reading Keith E. Johnson’s fantastic book, Rethinking the Trinity and Religious Pluralism: An Augustinian Assessment, and I came across this quote from Augustine:
This Trinity of the mind is not really the image of God because the mind remembers and understands and loves itself, but because it is also able to remember and understand and love him by whom it was made (De trinitate 14.15).
Johnson notes that Augustine is affirming here the idea that the divine image is actualized only in the context of redemption. This, however, made me reflect on the fall a bit. If Augustine is right, that when God said, “Let us made man in our image,” then that image must reflect the “our” in that passage, and is therefore trinitarian (as opposed to Christological), then there is link between that point and the one made above. Satan, in other words, was right when he seduced Eve, telling her that eating the fruit would make them like God. This likeness is a mind remembering, understanding, and loving itself, because, in the life of God, he is perfect beauty (not to mention all that is prior to creation). What Satan left out was the fact that for creatures, this is a fallen reality. Being “like” God, in this sense, is not a good thing, but is turning in on oneself as the greatest good when that is not true of who you are. It is an attempt to grasp God’s inner-life without his goodness, truth, or beauty.
This is just some musing on this passage in Augustine. Any thoughts?