Posts

Showing posts from September, 2014

Rosemary Radford Ruether on Counterrevolutionary Latitudinarianism

I believe I told you before, gentle readers, that I’ve been buying and reading a lot of used theology books from the mid 20th century. Well, the below passage is another fruit of such labor that I thought you might be interested in. So without further ado…

Rosemary Radford Ruether, The Radical Kingdom (Harper & Row, 1970), 39-40:
The earliest school of rationalism arose in England after the Restoration when, wearied of religious controversies, she tried to pull herself together around her traditional religious and national institutions. The mood was summed up by the term “latitudinarian”; a mood not so much of toleration as of narrowly rationalistic prejudices about what was, in fact, “tolerable.” What was intolerable was the enthusiasm and fanaticism, the bickering over points of religious doctrine, the apocalyptic messianism that had characterized the period of the Puritan revolution. What was cultivated was a pedestrian sort of Christianity in which the watchmaker God, who was t…

Why the Niebuhrs Still Matter (Part 1)

Image
Scott R. Paeth, The Niebuhr Brothers for Armchair Theologians, Illustrations by Ron Hill (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2014).

Toward the end of 2009, after less than a year in office, President Barack Obama was caught off guard, or so he claimed, when the Nobel Committee tapped him as recipient of its Peace Prize for his efforts in world diplomacy. The new President, rightly I think, interpreted the award less as a celebration of his accomplishments and more as an admonishment for him, the Commander in Chief of the U.S. military, to somehow beat the swords of a miserable decade of strife into plowshares. Nonetheless, attentive hearers would have caught a more somber tone in his Nobel acceptance speech. After invoking the examples of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, patron saints of nonviolent resistance, Obama reiterated his role as chief protector of the nation and offered this sobering caveat:

[M]ake no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A nonviolent movement c…

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

…or, Something to keep you busy over the weekend…

…or, The Past Fortnight in the Theoblogosphere.

Ok, so it’s been nearly a month since the last link post. I’ve been busy with a new semester, and am enjoying introducing my students to “Religious Upheaval in 16th Century Europe.” This past week was on Erasmus, who I think deserves more attention these days. But that’s another story . . .

There have been a lot of interesting and thought-provoking posts here at DET in the past month. Here’s the list in case you missed any:

Theology is Women's WorkJan Hus the Eastern Christian: Greek Missionaries and Common LanguageWhy I Am not an Angry, Post-Conservative, Post-Evangelical (But I don't Judge You if You Are)Early Years in Wittenberg – Hendrix on LutherOn Remembering Wolfhart Pannenberg & the Future of his TheologyReading Scripture with John Calvin: Malachi 1.14–2.5Covenant vs. Cultural Religion - Paul M. van Buren’s “Austin Dogmatics”Eichmann the Kantian?
And here’s some of w…

Eichmann the Kantian?

Image
I'm no expert on Immanuel Kant, but I have enormous respect for his work; I typically bristle when some theologians or ethicists run him down -- often placing the great 18th century German philosopher in a special slot within a litany of (putative) modernist declension in Christian thought. The moral chaos of our world drives me to seek some sort of categorical foundation for affirming goodness, a basis for justice that transcends the brutal rapacity of human history and the blind self-interest that typically distorts even our best efforts to make moral judgments.

Kant, as I understand him, is sensitive to these issues. It's not so much that I'm wedded to his particular formulation of the categorical imperative (for an overview, read this). Nor do I wish to get embroiled in debates about the autonomous modern subject; any appropriation of Kant today, certainly, would require a bit of critical revision. My concern, simply put, is to find some basis for affirming a universal…

Covenant vs. Cultural Religion - Paul M. van Buren’s “Austin Dogmatics”

One thing that I really appreciate about van Buren in these lectures is the way he constantly refers back to the religious dynamics of his socio-historic location, i.e., late 1950s USA. Given that, it’s just gravy when the issues that he saw so clearly then happen still to be significant issues in our own time and place. We already saw a bit of this in my post on PMvB and the necessity of prolegomena in North American theology. Well, here’s another bit.

These paragraphs come at the end of PMvB’s discussion of “Creation and Covenant” as part of his larger doctrine of creation. This whole section is well worth your time to read, but I’ll tap in here at the end to the payoff. Bold is mine.

Paul M. van Buren, The Austin Dogmatics: 1957–1958, (Cascade, 2012), 151–52.
In Christ, the fullness of the covenant is realized and knowable, and from the knowledge of Jesus Christ we know the Creator. If the Yahwist, the Priestly doctrine, Second Isaiah, and the Psalms all express faith in God as Cr…

Reading Scripture with John Calvin: Malachi 1.14–2.5

Malachi 1.14–2.5

[14] “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the Lord Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations. [2.1] And now, you priests, this warning is for you. [2] If you do not listen, and if you do not resolve to honor my name,” says the Lord Almighty, “I will send a curse on you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not resolved to honor me. [3] Because of you I will rebuke your descendants; I will smear on your faces the dung from your festival sacrifices, and you will be carried off with it. [4] And you will know that I have sent you this warning so that my covenant with Levi may continue,” says the Lord Almighty. [5] “My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name.”

======================…

On Remembering Wolfhart Pannenberg & the Future of his Theology

As probably everyone in the theological world knows, Wolfhart Pannenberg recently passed away. Several people have already written reflections:

Philip Clayton (on Tony Jones' blog)Tripp FullerDerrick PetersonFred Sanders Patrick OdenAlso, First Things tweeted a 2012 piece by Michael Root entitled The Achievement of Wolfhart Pannenberg.These are the main ones I have seen floating around the internet thus far, and all are worth reading. I will offer my reflections in dialogue with theirs.

All the responses rightly point to Pannenberg's towering intellect - others have pointed this out, but Pannenberg's daily work load (as recounted by Clayton) was so large it is hard to believe that anyone could do it. Also, most of them highlight the role Pannenberg's thought played in their lives outside of the academy (Derrick Peterson's post is a must read on this point, as he beautifully tied Pannenberg's thought and his personal narrative together).

My story is very similar…

Early Years in Wittenberg – Hendrix on Luther

So apparently I’m in a bit of a Luther mood these months. After reading (and blogging) on Kittelson, I’ve picked up Scott Hendrix’s book Luther and the Papacy: Stages in a Reformation Conflict (Fortress, 1981). This is mildly perplexing to me as a staunchly Reformed theologian (although my best friend is a Lutheran…), but I assuage my conscience by telling myself that it’s merely background reading for the Reformation class that I’m teaching (again) in the Fall.

In any case, I found the below to be one of those engaging passages filled with interesting historical detail, and I thought that I would share it with you, gentle reader. As always, bold is mine.

Scott Hendrix, Luther and the Papacy, 11–12: On October 19, 1512, the degree of doctor of theology was conferred on Luther by his “promoter” in the theological faculty at Wittenberg, Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt. In his doctoral oath Luther pledged not to teach strange doctrines which had been condemned by the Roman Church and, …

Why I Am not an Angry, Post-Conservative, Post-Evangelical (But I don't Judge You if You Are)

Image
Caveats: The part of the title in parentheses is crucial. This piece is in no way meant as an attack on anyone, living or deceased. Many people have been treated vary badly by individuals or groups identified with evangelical Christianity. You have my deepest empathy, solidarity and alliance, if and whenever that might be helpful. I'd give money to your causes if I had any. By all means, tell your own stories. This one is mine, or part of it, at any rate. I know that as a white heterosexual male I'm a beneficiary of certain privileges. Moreover, I don't claim my own experiences as normative for anyone else or even claim some sort of unique insight into the religious traditions and histories that have formed me. I also don't believe there is only one "right" way to inhabit a particular religious tradition, but I think this point will become clear below.

Why am I not an angry, post-conservative, post-evangelical? First of all, I grew up with a strong religious …

Jan Hus the Eastern Christian: Greek Missionaries and Common Language

Image
As an Eastern Orthodox Christian studying theology, especially having spent the majority of my education in Protestant institutions, colleagues and classmates routinely ask questions about my community off a short list of well-known sources about sistren and brethren to the East. My Big Fat Greek Wedding is, of course, high on this list. Particularly when my now husband was being baptized in the Orthodox Church, hilarious friends would ask about the ritual of using kiddy pools as adult baptisteries, how one blesses such items, and whether or not my now husband would be lacquered in a thick coat of olive oil for his chrismation. One scene from this documentary particularly informs my daily life — the lovely vignette where the father asks for a word, any word, “and I tell you how this is Greek word.” This pride for tradition extends far past a cultural commitment to Hellenism and into the arena of theology such that if I were to put it crassly many Orthodox scholars, myself included, en…