For those of you out there that might be interested in 20% off of Alban Books including free postage, click on this link and check out the special offers on the right.
I have been perusing some of Bloesch’s thoughts on Scripture and wanted to offer a quote for some interaction. I’m quoting from volume 1 of his Essentials of Evangelical Theology in the section where he is railing against rationalism. He states, “The Bible is not directly the revelation of God but indirectly in that God’s Word comes to us through the mode of human instrumentality” (76). This comment is the result of the incarnational analogy Bloesch develops with worries of Christological heresies applies analogously to the various views of Scripture. Bloesch continues by grounding the conversation in his broader analysis of revelation:
Revelation is better spoken of as polydimensional rather than propositional in the strict sense, in that it connotes the event of God speaking as well as the truth of what is spoken: this truth, moreover, takes various linguistic forms including the propositional. Objective intelligible truth is revealed (though not exhaustively), but the formulation in the Bible is one step removed from this truth even while standing in continuity with it. The truth of revelation can be apprehended through the medium of the human language which attests it but only by the action of the Spirit. Those who reduce the content of revelation to declarative statements in the Bible overlook the elements of mystery, transcendence and dynamism in revelation” (76).
Sometime this week I am going to be addressing the question of whether we can talk about Jesus’ faith (through the issues of the subjective or objective genitive – pistis Christou – Rom. 3:22, 26; Gal. 2:16, 20; 3:22; Phil. 3:9; and Eph. 3:12). I wanted to prime the pump a bit and see first where people stand on this issue. I haven’t done too much thinking about it lately, but several years ago when I did I found the arguments for a subjective translation to be convincing. What are your thoughts? Has anyone done a lot of work in this area? I would love to hear your opinions, especially on the implications of this view.
Cultural changes, such as the one that gave birth to the modern age, have a definitive and irreversible impact that transforms the very essence of reality. Not merely our thinking about the real changes: reality itself changes as we think about it differently. History carries an ontic significance that excludes any reversal of the present [...]
We have witnessed the birth of neo-Aristotelians, neo-Platonists (in both senses of the term), neo-Thomists, and, most recently, neo-nominalists. Those who, by updating past thoughts, hoped to neutralize such baneful features of modern thought as the oppositions between subject and object or the loss of a transcendent component underestimated the radical nature of the modern revolution. Its problems cannot be treated as errors to be corrected by a simple return to an earlier truth. That truth is no longer available; it has vanished forever … [P]ast thought cannot solve modern problems. Though eternal in its own way, it does not address conditions that are exclusively our own – such as the fragmentation of our world picture. It may assist us in sorting out modern issues, but it does not provide ready answers. Modern culture has contributed a totally new way of confronting the real.
A genuinely new synthesis, if ever to come, will have to rest on newly established principles [...] Our present task may well be the humble one of exploring how the fragments we are left with serve as building blocks for a future synthesis.”
Louis Dupré, Passage to Modernity: An Essay in the Hermeneutics of Nature and Culture (Yale, 1993), 6-7.
I have mentioned in earlier posts that I think Smith overstates his case with practices, particularly with practices that are done without a real depth of meaning. Here is what Smith says:
I recognize that some might be uncomfortable with this claim, since it seems to suggest that there can be some sort of virtue in ‘going through the motions.’ On this point, I’m afraid I have to confess that I do think this is true. While it is not ideal, I do think that there can be a sort of implanting the gospel that happens simply by virtue of participating in liturgical practices (this is in the ballpark of the principle of ex opere operato)” (167 fn. 29).
I just don’t buy it. You can see my previous post for thoughts. I just don’t see how this meshes with Jesus’ comment, channeling Isaiah, that people honor him with their lips but their hearts are far from him. Any change that does take place in “going through the motions” is superficial. It seems to me that Smith gets a bit alarmist concerning practices, and sets up a philosophical discussion rather than a theological one which ends up naturalizing the topic, but I’ll leave that for my full review.
I’ve been reading (and enjoying) James K.A. Smith’s new volume Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview and Cultural Formation, which is the first volume of three in a series he is doing entitled the “Cultural Liturgies” series. I’ve just started it, but I wanted to throw out what seems to be his main premise for discussion. In short, Smith wants to argue that in both Christian education (often focused on “worldview formation”) and evangelical church practice, pedagogy has sought to utilize a misguided anthropology. The focus, says Smith, has been on persons as thinking-beings or believing-beings, rather than, with Augustine, on persons as loving-beings.
By emphasizing persons as lovers, Smith wants to put more weight on the embodied reality of persons, pushing against the prevailing view in certain sectors that we are simply minds trapped in meat. It also means that Smith has grown allergic to Christian discipleship and education as simply information formation – helping people to think according to Christian ideals – rather than a formation of one’s loves to follow the sum of the commandments.
I want to focus on this argument more later, but I thought that this would be a good place to start discussion. I think Smith is right, and I think it is a particularly important point that we are not called to make people lovers, but to help form and direct their loves. In other words, the key question for education is what has formed the students’ love, and what is that love is directed towards. Everyone loves an equal amount, as it were, but that love is often forged in the depths of self-love and cultural assumptions rather than Christian, and therefore necessarily kingdom, visions of reality.
From a recent interview:
I’m amazed at the amount of time people spend on the internet. I’m not against technology, but all tools should be used to their best advantage. We should be spending our time on things that have staying power. Instead of on the latest thought of the latest blogger – and then moving on quickly to the next blogger. That makes us more superficial, not more thoughtful.
Halden has been musing about the divine persons and attributes here and here, and I thought it would be helpful to posit Edwards as a distinctive in the tradition. The two major issues brought up in Halden’s posts seem to be, in the first, the question of relations in the Trinity and simplicity, and, in the second, the question of attributes. In the second post, Halden questions the move to punt difference to procession and spend the rest of the time making sure there is no difference in attributes between the triune three. I think Edwards has a solution.
Using the psychological analogy, Edwards suggests that the Son actually is the Father’s understanding and the Spirit actually is the Father’s will. To be clear, these remarks do not function on the level of appropriation but being. So, how is the Son a person? Edwards runs personhood through the machinery of perichoresis so that personhood obtains only insofar as perichoresis obtains. Continue reading
I will continue our look at Dennis Ngien’s book, Luther as a Spiritual Advisor: The Interface of Theology and Piety in Luther’s Devotional Writings. The chapter we will look at here is entitled: “Gems for the Sick: Proper Meditation on Evils and Blessings,” and is taken from Luther’s work Fourteen Consolations. Ngien summarizes:
In all these consolations the victorious image of Christ looms large, by which we are lifted outside ourselves (extra nobis), and are so caught up into Christ that we might see how, with such eagerness, Christ was willing to suffer on the cross to make death contemptible and dead for us (pro nobis)” (48).
The fourteen consolations are made up of seven evils and seven blessings. Instead of focusing his attention solely on glory, Luther accepts the reality of the cross as forming the Christian life – thereby making this work – as Ngien argues, an exercise in a “theology of the cross.” Luther, Ngien explains, “accentuates the unity of word and Spirit, working together in accomplishing the proper outcome of any act of meditation. The Holy Spirit assigns value and meaning to a thing on which our mind focuses so that whatever he considers as trivial and of no significance will move us only slightly, be it love as it comes to us or pain when it disappears” (49). Continue reading
I am excited to announce that our very own Kent Eilers is now Dr. Kent Eilers! Kent flew over to Aberdeen for his viva and came out on the other side with an hours worth of minor corrections (mostly random footnoting stuff and accent marks). Kent finished his corrections as we watched the fifth Harry Potter in my living room, and went back to the states with Ph.D in hand. To commemorate Kent’s achievement and hear about his project, I’ve had Kent send me an abstract of his work so we can get a glimpse of where his attention has been these last three years.
“Pannenberg on God’s Reconciling Action”
In the course of [his doctrine of reconciliation] Pannenberg’s attention turns time and again both to the saving movements of the trinitarian God in history and to the “commerce and communion” generated between him and his creatures. The task and challenge of marking out these patterns of encounter so that God’s actions are found to include creatures exerts a great deal of force over Pannenberg’s formulations. The study is required therefore to consider how Pannenberg’s presentation shapes one’s understanding of specific, temporal instances of creaturely commerce and communion. Doing so reveals how Pannenberg works to demonstrate that God’s reconciling action includes human activity, how the particularity and independence of human creatures are not set aside but transformed. In short, as Pannenberg’s doctrine of reconciliation marks out God’s action in the world as the true Infinite, it issues an invitation to consider how such a God extends himself in reconciling love to his creatures so that their finite creatureliness is at every turn affirmed and found to be in the end good.
Congratulations again Kent!
(Not to take the attention off Kent at all, but I would like to add that our own James Merrick has become the youngest theologian, nay, human being, to write 100 book views. Well done indeed).
INITIUM SAPIENTIAE — THEOLOGY AND THE HUMANITIES
August 23rd-25th, 2009
King’s College, University of Aberdeen
A conference examining the place of Theology in relation to the Humanities Gathering scholars from North America and the United Kingdom, this conference will explore such questions as:
- What is a realistic idea of the relationship of Theology to the Humanities in the modern university?
- Is the development of a ‘theological humanism’ one of the tasks of theology?
- If so, how should theology go about it?
- If not, should one look to interdisciplinarity to ‘humanise’ theology?
- Does theology have something unique to say about interdisciplinarity?
- Is pursuit of interdiscipinarity a properly theological vocation, or is it a distraction?
To address these issues, a number of invited speakers will tackle the relationship of theology to particular disciples—e.g., politics, law, philosophy and literature—while others investigate the theology’s relationship to the humanities in more general and comprehensive terms.
In this chapter, Vanhoozer continues his look at Scripture by working through Barth and Wolterstorff, merging the “best” of each to “set forth an evangelical, gospel-centered account of the Trinity and Scripture” (51). Initially, Vanhoozer addresses issues related to God and language, claiming that “God both creates and covenants by speaking” (51). Language functions to convey information, but not merely to do so; language establishes relationship. In the incarnation, finite discourse truly does assume the infinite, because God as infinite can assume the finite. In a telling claim, Vanhoozer states:
…by examining the economy, we see that God’s being is in conversing, and whatever we say the Bible is, it must, precisely as the word of this God, relate to this God’s triune conversation. God communicates himself – his love, knowledge and life – through himself. This conversational analogy depicts God’s being as essentially communicative and the three persons as a dialogue between communicative agents” (58).
The way Vanhoozer parses the concept of divine discourse in a trinitarian fashion is by invoking “unified action” with “three dimensions.” This sounds nice, but how does this trinitarian grammar function? Continue reading
My friend Henry, a former Ph.D student in New Testament at the University of Aberdeen, published an article on St. Paul and Torture (click to read) at Religion Dispatches.
What are your thoughts? My initial thought was Paul’s comment at the end of Galatians where he talks about the real brand marks of the Christian being stigmata, the brand marks of Christ (namely, Paul’s beatings). Torture belonged, it seems, to the realm of worldly and fleshly opposition to the way of Jesus.
This issue is increasingly becoming a major topic of concern among Christians, particularly after hearing how the conservative side tends to be fine with a little torture now and again. How as Christians should we engage, both theologically and socially, with this issue?
This is my last post looking at David Ford’s book Christian Wisdom. Of the many interesting features of this volume, I was particularly intrigued by the subject of chapter 10, entitled: “An Interpersonal Wisdom: L’Arche, Learning disability and the Gospel of John.” For those of you who don’t know, L’Arche is, to borrow Ford’s explanation, “a federation of about 130 residential communities around the world. The basic pattern is that of a household in which people with learning disabilities live together with assistants, some of whom are there for a year or two while others are committed in a long-term covenant relationship with L’Arche” (351).
I suppose that L’Arche’s true claim to fame is through the writings and ministry of Henri Nouwen. Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche is the same person who convinced Nouwen to leave the plush live of the Ivy League and pastor one of these communities. Vanier, who is often known because of Nouwen or L’Arche, deserves to be read much more than he is. His book Community and Growth is a storehouse of wisdom on living in community. Tim Kearney, an editor of a volume put out by L’Arche on the spirituality and healing that takes place in their communities, puts it well:
They cry out to us and there is a vulnerability in their cry. They need us to walk with them, to support them, to believe in them, and to reveal to them their gift. There is an immense power in their cry, which is a cry for friendship, for recognition and for acceptance. In listening to their cry and in responding to it by becoming their friends and companions on the journey, we discover that, in reality, we need them as much, if not more, than they need us” (350). Continue reading