The Blessed Virgin, Purity and Divine Parenting

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


Early Church Theology Month

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.

Experimental Theology in America

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

Latest issue of SBET

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.


Reading the Decree

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

Theological Anthropology: Embodied Souls, Ensouled Bodies

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