Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Vogue: A Brief Exercise in Naming Things Hip (Some Justifiably So, Others...Not So Much)

1) new creation over disembodied intermediate state

2) voting Democrat

3) high church for historical richness

4) low church against authority structures

5) pitting classical theism against divine love, relationality, and interactivity

6) perichoretic dancing

7) "missional"

8) Christus Victor over penal substitution

9) the pastor as leadership expert

10) green

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Donald MacLeod on God's Aseity and Pastoral Care

"This [the aseity of God], of course, is simply a Latinate and inelegant expression for "self-existence," and at first sight it seems to offer little by way of pastoral application.  But it does remind us of the self-sufficiency and inexhaustibleness of God.  The bush burns and burns and is not consumed.  Age after age God keeps on being and keeps on giving and keeps on loving.  Care does not exhaust him, nor do the passing years render him irrelevant.  For all other existences, there is a law of entropy - but not for God."
("The Doctrine of God and Pastoral Care," in Engaging the Doctrine of God, ed. Bruce McCormack [Grand Rapids: Baker; Edinburgh: Rutherford House, 2008], 253)

Theology continues to show itself eminently practical, though not practical in the sense of always meeting felt needs without requiring much thought as to how it shapes life.  Perhaps we need a better understanding of "practical."

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

On Making Peace with Faith in Our Intellectual Work

One more reason to befriend Bavinck:

"[T]here are objections and conundrums in every science.  Those who do not want to start in faith will never arrive at knowledge.  Epistemology, the theory of knowledge, is the first principle of philosophy, but it is riddled with mystery from start to finish.  Those who do not want to embark on scientific investigation until they see the road by which we arrive at knowledge fully cleared will never start.  Those who do not want to eat before they understand the entire process by which food arrives at their table will starve to death.  And those who do not want to believe the Word of God before they see all problems resolved will die of spiritual starvation" (Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 1, p. 442).  

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Good Collection of Essays

I'd like to commend Engaging the Doctrine of God: Contemporary Perspectives a volume edited by Bruce McCormack and featuring quite a few significant voices in biblical and theological studies.  The volume was published by Baker and Rutherford House in 2008.  I'm still reading through it, but here's a taste of the contents:

"Christian Origins and the Question of God" by N. T. Wright

"The Wrath of God" by D. A. Carson

"John Calvin and the Hiddenness of God" by Paul Helm

"Jonathan Edwards's God: Trinity, Individuation, and Simplicity" by Oliver Crisp

"Life of and in Himself: Reflections on God's Aseity" by John Webster

"God and the Cross" by Henri Blocher

"The Compassion of God: Exodus 34:5-9 in the Light of Exodus 32-34" by Pierre Berthoud

"The Sovereignty of God" by Stephen Williams

"The Actuality of God: Karl Barth in Conversation with Open Theism" by Bruce McCormack

"The Doctrine of God and Pastoral Care" by Donald MacLeod

Some highlights: 

-Carson weighs in on the personal nature of God's wrath, the impassibility of God, and the  implications of the wrath of God for configuring the atonement

-Webster pursues a particular, positive account of God's aseity as plenitude of life of and in himself

-Blocher offers a critique of Moltmann and Jungel's "crucified God" theologies and seeks conceptual  clarity on the topic

Any thoughts?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Translating the Word of God

Francis Turretin handles not a few topics that other systematic theologies might leave out (including the legitimacy of the Septuagint and Vulgate versions of Scripture). I'm intrigued that he relates some thoughts on the nature of Bible translation:

"All versions are the streams; the original text is the fountain whence they flow. The latter is the rule, the former the thing ruled, having only human authority. Nevertheless all authority must not be denied to versions. Here we must carefully distinguish a twofold divine authority: one of things, the other of words. The former relates to the substance of doctrine which constitutes the internal form of the Scriptures. The latter relates to the accident of writing, the external and accidental form. The source has both, being God-inspired (theopneustos) both as to words and things; but versions have only the first, being expressed in human and not in divine words." (Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 1, pp. 125-26)

First, I think Turretin appropriately walks a fine line as to the question of scriptural authenticity. Speaking as someone involved in Greek tutoring, I get concerned both when I sense a student is being flippant about the study of the biblical languages and also when a person who doesn't have the chance to study them says sadly that they've heard about how wide and long and high and deep is the Greek text and how lame our English translations are. To the former I want to say with Turretin, "Study hard 'the fountain whence [the versions] flow!'" To the latter I want to say with Turretin, "[A]ll authority must not be denied to the versions!" (Or, better syntactically, "Not all authority must be denied to the versions!")

Second, what should we make of Bible translation strategies today? If it's impossible fully to capture the "accidental form" of Hebrew and Greek passages (we have no choice if we're going from one language to another), should formal equivalence geeks (including this blogger) lighten up a bit? What do you think?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Calvin Contra Caricatures of Classical Theism

It is quite fashionable in some sectors to claim that the classical Christian description of God inherently renders him immobile and disconnected from the world. Calvin, critical of some aspects of Scholastic theology but operating broadly within the classical theism tradition, has this to say about the thought of an immobile, detached God:

"And truly God claims, and would have us grant him, omnipotence - not the empty, idle, and almost unconscious sort that the Sophists imagine, but a watchful, effective, active sort, engaged in ceaseless activity."

Institutes 1.16.3