Saturday, August 17, 2013

Recent Findings.

I don't have much time to engage in leisure reading these days. Most of my time is devoted to my new job and doctoral applications. However, I manage to squeeze in some time to read theology usually while walking across town to a coffee shop (oddly enough, I do some of my best reading while walking) and I've been finding some great stuff. I am fully aware that this blog has been reduced to a quote machine, but you'll have to indulge that tendency for a bit longer (if I still have any readers out there!). Here are four random excerpts from what seems like a stack of books I've been trying slowly to make my way through this summer:

"A major -- if not the major -- significance of The Theological Declaration of Barmen is its documentation of the church on the way from confessional faithfulness to confessional responsibility. On record, it seems that the confessional story -- from Nicea, Chalcedon and the Symbolum Romanum to Trent; and from Trent, via Augsburg and the Formula or Concord, on the one hand, and the Geneva, Scots and Westminster Confessions, on the other, to the Catechisms: Roman, Lutheran and Reformed, and the unexcelled irenic tonalities of Heidelberg -- seems more preoccupied with the responsibility of faithfulness of the church to its calling to be the church than with the faithfulness of the church to the responsibility intrinsic to being the church in the world for the sake of the world. The watchwords of responsibility for faithfulness have been the formative and authoritative bearing of Holy Scripture upon the content and witness of the Confessions, the proclamation of the World and the celebration of the Sacraments, the grace, faith and obedience by which individual believers receive and express their salvation in this world and the next. The world -- for the sake of which the church is called to be the church -- was largely left to its own devices, under the custodial watchfulness of a power settlement which neatly, if not always smoothly, divided responsibility between things spiritual and things temporal. This arrangement, dubiously ascribed to divine appointment, managed, with less than unexceptional operational effectiveness, to keep the world in tow and on course until the unfailingly anticipated Second Advent, which seemed to have fallen into the awkward habit of continual postponement."
- Paul Lehmann, "On Faithfulness, Responsibility and the Confessional State of the Church," 22-23.

"Like any systematic interpretation, systematic theology attempts to give an intelligible account of the maximum amount of data with the minimum amount of explanatory principles. The primary data to which the theology of the Christian church is committed comprise a tradition of witness in history, through varying cultural contexts, to the God made known in events concerning Jesus of Nazareth. The purpose of such an account is not, as the name 'systematic' might seem to suggest, to reduce the life of the Spirit to categories of rational abstraction. Nor is it to camouflage, and thereby domesticate, the subversive character of the church's mission amidst the sufferings of this world by painting that mission in colors merely conforming to some prevalent intellection (or anti-intellectual!) terrain. What is at stake in this disciple for the church - and I think for the academy as well - is at once a critical and constructive task: a 'testing of the spirits' (1 John 4:1) and an 'account for the hope' (1 Pet. 3:15)."
- Christopher Morse, The Logic of Promise in Moltmann's Theology, ix.

"The central point in Bonhoeffer's critique of religion is the absolute distinction between Christ-centered reconciliation and 'redemption myths'. He could say that 'redemption is at the heart of the Gospel' but, also, more typically, that the idea of 'redemption' has become more difficult and remote in a 'world come of age', which is no longer interested in 'religious questions'. The fundamental problem with 'religions of redemption' is that they draw people out of the world instead of placing them more fully in the world. They treat God as a stopgap for our incomplete knowledge of nature, death, suffering and guilt. They prey on psychological weakness and intellectual ignorance and encourage the idea that faith is an escape from personal, scientific and political challenges. ...

The way in which Christ encounters human beings is developed positively in Bonhoeffer's Christology by focusing on what it means to be truly human. It is not enough to criticize religiosity in the cause of self-affirmation. Nietzsche's disdain for self-sacrifice and the Christian idea of remission of sins must be met by its life-affirming alternative in the self-giving love of Christ for the world."
- Max Champion, "Bonhoeffer: Redemption after Nietzsche?" 99-100.

"Could we wish anything else that this saving hope should always be declared at the cross, should always set a boundary against everything in our world, and should always manifest itself at that boundary. Were we to know more of God than the groans of creation and our own groaning; were we to know a Jesus Christ otherwise than as crucified; were we to know the Holy Spirit otherwise than as the Spirit of Him that raised Jesus from the dead; ... There would be no salvation. *For hope that is seen is not hope* ... If Christianity be not altogether thoroughgoing eschatology, there remains in it no relationship whatever with Christ. Spirit which does not at every moment point from death to the new life is not the Holy Spirit ... All that is not hope is wooden, hobbledehoy, blunt-edges, and sharp-pointed ... There is no freedom, but only imprisonment; no grace, but only condemnation and corruption; no divine guidance, but only fate; no God, but only a mirror of unredeemed humanity. And this is so, be there never so much progress of social reform and never so much trumpeting of the grandeur of Christian redemption. Redemption is invisible, inaccessible, and impossible, for it meets us only in hope. Do we desire something better than hope? Do we with to be something more than [men and women] who hope? But to wait is the most profound truth of our normal, everyday life and work, quite apart from being Christians. Every agricultural labourer, every mother, every truly active or truly suffering man [or woman] knows the necessity of waiting. And we - we must wait, as though there was something lying beyond good and evil, joy and sorrow, life and death; as though in happiness and disappointment, in growth and decay, in the 'Yes' and in the 'No' of our life in the world, we were expecting something. We must wait, as though there were a God whom, in victory and in defeat, in life and in death, we must serve with love and devotion. 'As though?' Yes, this is the strange element in the situation. In our journey through time, we are still men [and women] who wait, as though we saw what we do not see, as though we were gazing upon the unseen. Hope is the solution of the riddle of our 'As though." We do see. Existentially we see what is invisible, and therefore we wait. Could we see nothing but the visible world, we should not wait: we should accept our present situation with joy or with grumbling. Our refusal to accept it and to regard our present existence as incapable of harmony, our certainty that there abides in us a secret waiting for what is not, is, however, intelligible in the unseen hope which is ours in God, in Christ, in the Spirit, in the hope by which we are existentially confronted by things which are not. We can then, if we understand ourselves aright, be none other than they who wait. We are satisfied to know no more than the sorrow of the creation and our own sorrow. We ask nothing better or higher than the Cross, where God is manifested as God. We must, in fact, be servants who wait for the coming of their Lord."
-Barth, Epistle to the Romans, 314-315.

Also, for some reason, I became interested in the topic of boredom a couple of months ago. I think this was probably due to the fact that I found myself feeling boredom to whatever extent. Like the true nerd that I am, I solved my problem of boredom by reading about what other thinkers and theologians wrote about the topic. If I get time in the future, I'll post my thoughts on boredom and some interesting passages I discovered, most notably from Kierkegaard. I found a lot of relief and comfort in Kierkegaard's wisdom in his essay "Rotation of Crops."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing these - all very thought provoking and interesting.

I particularly enjoyed 'the fundamental problem with 'religions of redemption' is that they draw people out of the world instead of placing them more fully in the world'. Whilst I think Christianity is involves redemption, an account which emphases only this leads to a world-denying outlook as Champion rightly contends.

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