Steve Duby is a contributor to this blog and recently published his second book, God in Himself: Scripture, Metaphysics, and the Task of Christian Theology (IVPAcademic, 2019). I was asked several months ago to endorse the book, and without a moment’s hesitation I agreed. But, alas, the manuscript languished in my inbox until the semester wrapped up and I could clear some time.
Having now read it, and happily written my endorsement, I struggle to express the impression the book made upon me. It is stunning. Here is what I wrote.
This rich and rewarding study demonstrates how the contemplation of God himself, theologia, is not some idle speculation—a distraction from the Christian life or descent into abstraction—but is in fact a spiritual exercise that fuels our communion with God and affirms the shocking nearness of God to us in Jesus Christ. God in Himself is a courageously scriptural work of theology, for Steve Duby dares to let Scripture lead where some have supposed that only metaphysics will take us: to gaze upon the resplendently complete life of the triune God.
God in Himself is at once beautiful and rigorous (in the best sense). Beautiful in the sense that Steve is a great writer. His prose carries you along as the argument unfolds through his intuitive structure and organization. It is rigorous in the sense that Steve fulfills the very difficult task of doing Christian theology in the classic tradition. By “classic tradition” I mean this: Steve is attentive to the life of faith, centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ, trained on Scripture, and he situates his theological work squarely within the Great Tradition of orthodox Christian reflection about the life of God. Beautiful and rigorous.
Let me say one last thing before I interview Steve. God in Himself is dedicated to a region of Christian theology we have far too little being written about today: God. Yes, I mean that. I don’t believe enough theology trains itself specifically on God. Continue reading
“There is revelation not because paths have been made straight, the valleys filled, the hills made low, and everything straightened that was winding (Lk. 3:4, quoting Is. 40:3-5), as just so many preliminary conditions to be filled before God can manifest himself. No: there is Revelation precisely while these paths remain twisted—or even so as to show they are.”
Jean-Luc Marion, Givenness and Revelation, p. 59
Slowly, I am wading through a dense little book called Givenness and Revelation by Jean-Luc Marion (Oxford University Press, 2016). Marion is delightfully and unashamedly verbose. He expects of the reader a solid working knowledge of phenomenology and Aquinas, so I’ve put Google to work defining terms. I feel like I’m always several steps behind. So I read, and read again.
Despite my shortcomings, I have found myself scribbling notes, underlining phrases, and putting exclamation points next to striking sentences. The quote above received two exclamation points. Continue reading
For about a month this spring we (Kent and Zen) got together over lunch and wrestled with that question by discussing the book, The Pastor-Theologian: Resurrecting an Ancient Vision by Heistand and Wilson (Zondervan 2015). We come at the topic from slightly different angles, a college professor and a pastor respectively, but we both long for pastoral ministry that is theologically rich and pastorally wise. I (Kent) help train young theologians to envision their ministry along those lines, and Zen is trying to live it out in his congregation. So, what kind of theologian is a pastor?
Our conversations were rich and the book was rewarding, though it left us with some questions and a few critiques. We’re going to interact with the book in the form of a dialogue.
Zen: I remember reading Stanley Hauerwas’s essay “The How of Theology and Ministry” for the first time during my years at Duke. In that essay, Hauerwas gives a brief history of the fragmentation of theology from ministry. I was neck deep in academia and maintained a snooty disinterest in working in a parish. Hauerwas’s essay forced me to reconsider what I thought theology was and, more importantly, for whom it was practiced.
Now I’m a pastor. (God’s ways are higher than our ways!) Reading The Pastor Theologian gave me an opportunity to think about the fracture of theology from ministry again. This time, however, I read it with a deep interest in finding some way to help heal the fracture.
So what can I, as pastor for one hundred people in Huntington, Indiana, do to work toward healing? Continue reading
“Isn’t God awesome? I mean, God is three and one!” Imagine, if you can, hearing someone say that for the first time. Wouldn’t it strike you as odd? It isn’t immediately clear why that is awesome. In truth, the person hearing it for the first time probably isn’t very impressed, because they’re not at all sure why it matters and less sure of how it works. The person might be tempted to ask “How is it so?”
Don’t answer that question. Not yet. Continue reading
As an intern at Anchor Community Church (United Brethren), I have the opportunity to plan an Ascension Thursday service. This is something new for this community and, quite honestly, for me. Several things make this a tricky service to plan. Some of them are practical: the church never gathers on Thursday evenings. Others are theological: many of the congregants aren’t sure why the ascension matters. I have a few ideas to draw folks to the service and a few others to help them leave praising God for presiding as the Church’s heavenly priest.
One way that I hope to do this is to encourage the church to see the bizarreness of the ascension. This, I hope, will not leave them confused, but help them to experience the wild reality that Christ’s ascension, similar to the incarnation, unites creatureliness within the divine mystery. To do this, we will reflect together on Salvador Dali’s The Ascension of Christ (see below).
In the first two posts of this series, I have tried to think about who can do theology and the importance, for a Christian theologian, of knowing God through the faith community. In this post, I argue that a Christian theologian is “called” to the task of doing theology.
In yesterday’s post, the first of this series, I suggested that anybody — whether holy or horrible — can say a theologically true statement. All theology done by humankind (or Balaam’s donkey) is “secondhand” because it is only ever responsive to the “firsthand” theology that is done by God. We do our “secondhand” theology thanks to God’s self-revelation.
This post begins to describe the Christian theologian as a specific kind of person. Yes, anyone can say a theologically true statement; but only a certain kind of person is a Christian theologian. What makes them different? Why should they be different? Read on and weigh in with your own opinions in the comments.