Tuesday, 16 January 2007
Thursday, 24 August 2006
Steven Harmon's book, Towards Baptist Catholicity: Essays on Tradition and the Baptist Vision, begins in Chapter 1 with a taxonomy of the main features of recent work from American and British Baptist theologians, all of whom fall into the broad category of "catholic Baptists". The seven features are:
1. Tradition is seen as a source of theological authority
2. There is a place for the historic creeds in Baptist liturgy and catechesis
3. The liturgy is the appropriate context for formation by tradition
4. The authority of tradition lies in the community and its practices
5. A sacramental theology, broadly understood
6. The contructive retrieval of the tradition
7. A commitment to thick ecumenism.
This opening chapter is only a review of recent scholarship and is helpfully detailed (I was familiar with the British work, but less up to speed on some of the more recent North-American contributions. Harmon's own constructive contribution to the catholic Baptist vision is offered in the chapters that follow.
One point struck me in particular, and that is the suggestion that Baptists might want to consider signing up to the 'Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification', signed in 1999 between the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation. The Methodists are apparently considering signing the Declaration. See here. The suggestion for Baptist involvement has been made by T. Toom, 'Baptists on Justification: Can We Join the Joint Declaration on Justification?', Pro Ecclesia 13 (2004), 289-306 and is affirmed by Harmon on p.199. It is probably worth noting that Jüngel believes that in the Declaration "decisive insights of the Reformation were either obscured or surrendered" Justification: The Heart of the Christian Faith, trans. Jeffrey F. Cayzer (Edinburgh / New York: T & T Clark, 2001). For an exposition of Jüngel's views see this excellent summary series by D. W. Congdon.
Thursday, 10 August 2006
See the theses and counter-theses adumbrated by Travis at Gaunilo's Island (no God does not suffer) and D. W. Congdon at Fire and the Rose (yes God does). If you have never managed to work your way through the major texts on this topic (Fiddes, Weinandy, Molnar, Hart, Moltmann etc) then you will find a good summary of the arguments for and against in these two posts.
Thursday, 20 July 2006
The excellent series published by Paternoster, "Studies in Baptist History and Thought" now has a further volume, Stephen Harmon's, Towards Baptist Catholicity: Essays on Tradition and the Baptist Vision. It looks like it furthers the kind of vision of Baptist identity being argued for by Paul Fiddes, John Colwel and others. Here i the blurb:
Towards Baptist Catholicity contends that the reconstruction of the Baptist vision requires a retrieval of the ancient ecumenical traditions.
Themes explored include catholic identity, tradition as a theological category, the relationship between Baptist confessions of faith and the patristic tradition, the importance of Trinitarian catholicity, catholicity in biblical interpretation, Karl Barth as a paradigm for evangelical retrieval of the patristic theological tradition, worship as a principal bearer of tradition, and the role of Baptist higher education in shaping the Christian vision.
I get the feeling that Jim West disapproves. I am much more favourably disposed to this kind of Baptist vision. Review copy anyone?
Update: 23rd August 2006 - many thanks to Anthony Cross, Series Editor of SBHT, and to the nice people at Paternoster for sending me a copy. In the last few weeks several others have spoken to me about the importance of Harmon's work. The blurb on the back and inside the book are equally impressive: Timothy George states that Harmon's proposal for a Baptist equivalent of the Oxford movement "has revolutionary possibilities, in the Copernican sense of the word, and deserves to be taken seriously". Over the next few weeks as I read it, I plan to post some summaries etc.
Monday, 17 July 2006
Another example of how blogging can offer much more than just personal ruminations and reflections on the meaning of life. If you have ever tried to read the work of Eberhard Jüngel (he's not called "hard" for nothing) and struggled, then you may like to know that over at the blog devoted to his work a new series has started to guide and accompany readers through Jüngel's seminal God's Being is in Becoming. The first two posts are here and here. Even if you don't have a copy of the book on your shelves, you should take a look in order to get a feel for what seem initially to be obtuse doctrinal debates, but which turn out to be fundamentally significant doctrinal questions about the nature of God and God's relationship with the world.
Monday, 12 June 2006
Ben Myers has been running this series over at Faith and Theology for some time now and the latest contribution (on Why I Love Stanley Hauerwas: because he "may be a son-of-a-bitch—but he is our son-of-a-bitch") prompted a gathering of links to the series thus far for those who haven't seen them. The series consists on personal reflections on contemporary and not so contemporary theologians and are listed below in alphabetical order:
Why I Love...
No, I haven't heard of all of them either but there are some great tributes and encouragement to read and learn. Ben's introduction to the series can be found here.
Wednesday, 07 December 2005
Posting has been conspicuous by its absence (end of semester and all that), but I couldn't let Ben Myer's incredible posts summing up Barth's Church Dogmatics go unnoticed. Ben has summarized each volume of CD here (once sentence per volume) and then added a one sentence summary of the whole work here.
Tuesday, 18 October 2005
Tonight I had hoped to be at Manchester Cathedral to listen to John Milbank talk about Radical Orthodoxy to the Manchester Theological Society. However, a lingering coldy type thingy (expert diagnosis), lack of sleep due to a teething 10 month old, and brain-atrophy from spending too much time watching the Wiggles (if you don't understand what that means then God bless you) - these factors have resulted in a no show.
But here is the question I would want to ask John Milbank: when is Radical Orthodoxy going to get round to the Bible? I think I understand now all the stuff about Duns Scotus and how the attribution of "being" to God analogically messed up the whole of western epistemology - but I want to know how he, Catherine Pickstock, Graham Ward et al actually do their biblical interpretation in the light of their reading of the true nature of the theological task. I seem to remember James K. A. Smith in his excellent book on the movement asking the same question - but haven't yet heard what the answer might look like.
And the question I want to ask myself? Given that there have been a number of confessional responses to the Radical Orthodox movement: see the Catholic response; Smith's own reformed reading, plus other critiques by Gavin Hyman and in a forthcoming Ashgate volume entitled Deconstructing Radical Orthodoxy: Postmodern Theology, Rhetoric and Truth - where is a constructive Baptist / free church theological appraisal? Does anyone know of any plans? Surely we have the theologians who can help us to assess the strengths and weaknesses of such a significant theological movement from a broadly Baptist perspective.
Tuesday, 11 October 2005
Ben Myers over at Faith and Theology has been collating quotations from Jüngel on the necessary distinction between God and humanity. They have made me think, not least in relation to my post about what it means when people say that God has "told" them to do something, and in relation to the issue of a covenantal understanding of the hermeneutical task. Here are the quotations (with thanks to Ben for doing the reading - Jüngel is hard work!).
“It is fundamental to a Christian understanding of God and humanity that we neither advance a view of humanity on the basis of a preconceived understanding of God, nor advance a view of God on the basis of a preconceived understanding of humanity.... Rather, judgments about God and humanity can only be made on the basis of one and the same event. For Christian faith, this event is God’s identity with the life and death of the one man Jesus, revealed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.... The event of God’s identifying with this human life grounds eschatologically the distinction between God and humanity.”
—Eberhard Jüngel, Theological Essays I (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1989), p. 152.
“The chief thing in Christian theology is that ... the proper distinction between God and humanity is reached. This is the fundamental distinction of Christian theology. For in the last analysis, the revelation of God which it is the concern of Christian theology to understand means just this: for the good of humanity God himself intends the proper distinction between himself and humanity, a distinction which humanity by itself always neglects.”
—Eberhard Jüngel, The Freedom of a Christian: Luther’s Significance for Contemporary Theology (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1988), pp. 24-25.
“The specific task of theological anthropology ... can thus be defined as denying the divinity of humanity.... To let God be human in Jesus Christ, and for this very reason not to let humanity become God: this is the anthropological task which the Christian faith demands of thinking. Denying the divinity of humanity on the basis of the humanity of God would be the most rigorous interpretation of our humanity.”
—Eberhard Jüngel, Theological Essays I (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1989), p. 152.
“[P]recisely because ‘God’ is the presupposition with which theological anthropology works, every statement in theological anthropology must have universal anthropological validity and therefore also universal intelligibility.... The fundamental unity of the utmost concreteness on the one hand and the utmost generality on the other, which Christian theology claims for God and for him alone, compels theological anthropology to make statements whose universal validity must be justifiable even if God ... is left out of the argument.”
—Eberhard Jüngel, Theological Essays I (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1989), p. 126.
Ben also adds a nice introductory post giving an overview of Jüngel's theological anthropology here. Baptist readers may like to know that Jüngel was one of the key participants in the recent discussions between the European Baptists and and the churches of the Leuenberg Fellowship.
Wednesday, 07 September 2005
Frank Rees has some useful reflections on the trinity in a recent post. I recently preached a doctrinal sermon on the Trinity in my local church, giving a basic overview of the development of the doctrine in the early Christian period, and giving some reasons why it remains (in my view, and Frank's) central to the articulation of Christian faith and living of Christian life in the contemporary context. People in church lapped it up - "why hasn't anyone explained it to use like that before?" etc. etc. In my experience, too many ministers and preachers not only use the Bible badly, but also fail to recognize the power of the central theological categories by which Christian faith and speech is formed. Quite what this says about theological education and ministerial formation is a matter of considerable debate. But at the very least, every Christian should understand what the doctrine of the Trinity is, and why it is important.