Saturday, April 12, 2014

Get access to the Digital Karl Barth Library (thanks PTS!)

Have you wanted to get access to the electronic edition of the Church Dogmatics, but it's too expensive? When you become a friend of the Princeton Seminary Library with an annual tax-deductible donation as little as $50 (!), you will gain access to the Digital Karl Barth Library, which includes his Church Dogmatics in both English and German as well as other digitized primary sources! Check it out here: http://www.ptsem.edu/library/friends/

Oh, Gesamtausgabe, how I love thee!


Heading to Princeton Seminary

This week, I received the happy news that I have been accepted as a candidate for the Master of Theology with a concentration in Systematic Theology in the Department of Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary. Once I complete my Master of Divinity at Oklahoma Christian University this summer, classes at PTS will begin this fall.

The opportunity to study at Princeton Seminary is a dream come true, and for a student of Karl Barth, the culmination of a process that began five years ago when I wrote my first paper on Barth's dispute with Emil Brunner. Since the first encounters with that infamous Nein! I have been intrigued by this great thinker. What an opportunity lies ahead as I study systematic theology at Princeton Seminary!

As I wrote my essay for PTS, I had an opportunity to think ahead (and behind me) about the path that I am walking along. These reflections now comprise the short essays of my application to PTS. I share the answers to these essays with you in case you are interested.

1) Statement of ThM Study: Please provide the equivalent of a one page summary explaining why you wish to pursue the particular THM course of study you have selected in your application.

Having entered into theological education in my 30s after training as an evolutionary biologist and working as a tropical ant taxonomist, there was something familiar and comforting about the systematic act of synthesizing key theological motifs and ideas as they related to the mosaic of Christian belief. I was a systematic theologian before I knew it. 

Despite my early proclivity for theological organization though, I didn’t know this was my path for some time. In fact, my early encounters with systematics amounted to no more than “objective” accounts of theology where proof texts from the Bible were lined up in boring ways that seemed dispassionate and sparing. I knew there had to be something more. Some kind of ‘true theology’—theology in which faith becomes speech right here and now in the present historical moment—as a vibrant and engaging and exciting endeavor that exists in conversation with the Christian Tradition. It took Karl Barth to open my eyes to the true possibilities of systematic (dogmatic) theology.

I remember the day when I first encountered his personal, dynamic description of the theological vocation in his Evangelical Theology. He wrote: “When [one] becomes involved in theological science, its object does not allow him to set himself apart from it or to claim independence and autarchic self-sufficiency. He has become involved in theology, even if his reasons for such involvement may have been very superficial, or indeed, utterly childish. Certainly, he never knew beforehand what a risk he was taking, and he will certainly never fully grasp this risk. But at any rate he has taken this step. He is a theologian because he finds himself confronted by this object. His heart is much too stubborn and fearful, and his little head much too weak, but he cannot merely dally or skirmish with this object. The consequences can no longer be avoided.”

Risk” and “consequences that cannot be avoided.” Here was the fully invested thinker given over fully to his Object. This was an approach to theology I intuitively understood, and Barth had just described my experience (and desire) in terms that were shockingly precise and enviable. “He is a theologian because he finds himself confronted by this object…” Barth’s theology understood itself to be bound, as Bruce McCormack notes, at every point to God and to God’s Self-revelation in Jesus Christ. McCormack suggests that Karl Barth’s theology may be the best hope for a rebirth of genuinely Protestant theology in America. I wholeheartedly agree. 

I want to further my theological education as a Th.M. candidate in systematic theology at Princeton Theological Seminary because I want to participate in the Barth renaissance currently underway in America. More than just that, I want to serve God and the gospel of Jesus Christ through theological scholarship and the preparation of women and men for service and leadership in the worldwide church. Because I have discerned a call to academic theology, with the ultimate goal of pursuing doctoral studies and then teaching and doing research in an academic setting within my tradition - the Churches of Christ of the American Restoration Movement - I need the training in systematic theology as a Th. M. candidate to prepare me for this future when I hope to constructively engage Barth’s theology for the benefit of my denomination.

I believe doing scholarship and constructive work with Barth’s theology will help me participate in an important time of church renewal currently underway in my tradition. Despite our beginnings as a unity movement, some years ago my tradition lapsed into an extreme sectarian exclusivism. Providentially, the Churches of Christ are in the midst of something of a renaissance of grace as our scholars and theologians lead our universities and congregations away from this sectarianism back towards a grace-laden theology and ecumenism inspired and informed by the larger Christian Tradition and the gospel of Jesus Christ. In effect, the gospel and the Tradition are renewing our tradition. As a scholar, I want to be a part of this renaissance in my denomination so I can help train and equip future pastors theologically and continue this exciting time of church renewal. I believe I can serve my tradition best as a scholar trained in systematic theology who is deeply conversant with Karl Barth’s project - because Barth’s theology intends to be so comprehensive in its engagement with the Bible and the history of Christian theology. This is a theological resource deeply needed in my tradition. PTS and the Th.M education in systematics can help serve my scholarly and ecclesial goals.

2) In one paragraph, comment on a theological book, issue, or idea that has engaged your attention lately.

I recently have been studying the anhypostatic-enhypostatic Christological dogma in Protestant Scholasticism and its particular effects upon the theology of Karl Barth. I first encountered the idea in Barth’s Church Dogmatics (1.2 §15.2.3) in the discussion of the unity of God and humanity presupposed in Jesus Christ’s “becoming” (egeneto). Using Bruce McCormack’s intellectual biography of Barth (Karl Barth’s Critically Realistic Dialectical Theology), I researched Barth’s May 1924 encounter with the an/en-hypostasis couplet when he read Heinrich Heppe’s great work of Protestant Scholasticism, the Reformed Dogmatics. I read Heppe’s work as well and found it very helpful. The couplet formula aims to express the doctrine that the human nature of Jesus has no subsistence (anhypostasis) apart from the union with the Logos, but that it has its being only “in” the subsistence (enhypostasis) of the incarnate Son of God. According to Professor McCormack, this Christological formula (together with Barth’s elaboration of the doctrine of the immanent Trinity) provided the material conditions needed to set free the elaboration of the analogia fidei from which Barth’s whole methodology flowed. My intellectual work with the an/en-hypostasis couplet has helped me further understand the development of Barth’s theology, particularly in the 1920s, as well as TF Torrance’s work on the mediation of Christ in our human response to God. I am excited to continue my exploration of this Christological formula and its importance in Protestant theology, particularly in the theology of Barth and Torrance.

3) In one paragraph, describe how your pursuit of theological education would help you to be of benefit to the greater church.

My theological education at Princeton Theological Seminary will help equip me to serve God and the gospel of Jesus Christ through theological scholarship and the preparation of women and men for service and leadership in the worldwide church. Because I have discerned a call to academic theology, with the ultimate goal of pursuing doctoral studies and teaching and doing research in an academic setting within my tradition - the Churches of Christ of the American Restoration Movement - I need the training in systematic theology as a Th. M. candidate because it will help prepare me for later doctoral studies. Importantly, the education at PTS will prepare me to serve my denomination at a very important moment in our tradition’s development. Let me explain. The Churches of Christ have a fascinating history as a unity movement in American Restorationism. Despite our roots as a unity movement though, during the period between the 1880s and the Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy of the 1920s and 1930s, my tradition lapsed into an extreme sectarian exclusivism. Providentially, the Churches of Christ are in the midst of something of a renaissance of grace as our scholars and theologians lead our universities and congregations away from this sectarianism back towards a grace-laden theology and ecumenism inspired and informed by the larger Christian Tradition and the gospel of Jesus Christ. In effect, the gospel and the Tradition is renewing our tradition. As a scholar, I want to be a part of this renaissance in my denomination so I can help train and equip future pastors theologically. I affirm the renewing power of the Word and the Spirit in all areas of the life of the church in the midst of this renaissance, and I believe the academy has a vital service to render to the Church and its renewal, particularly the Churches of Christ, whose renewed vision is to stand within the larger Christian Tradition as witnesses with it for Jesus Christ. I hope my education at PTS will bolster my future academic ministry so I can serve the Church with work that stands in relation to God’s revelation and its proclamation, and the clarification and correction of the Church’s witness to Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

NT Wright: 2014 McGaw Lectures at Oklahoma Christian University (Video)

On March 24th and 25th, 2014 - NT Wright spoke at Oklahoma Christian University, part of the American (academic) tour for his new book, Paul and the Faithfulness of God. He spoke as a lecturer in Oklahoma Christian's McGaw lecture series. Oklahoma Christian has uploaded the videos of that visit, and there's much to view here and enjoy. The following videos are not listed in chronological order.

Dr. Wright's Monday evening McGaw Lecture: "The Strange Challenge of Truth" (Approx. 1 hr. 12 min.)




Dr. Wright Q&A with OC students following the McGaw lecture (approx. 57 min.):



Tuesday's Academic Review of Paul and the Faithfulness of God with panelists N.T. Wright, Professor Richard Hays, Professor Jerry Sumney and Professor James Thompson. (Approx. 1 hr. 55 min.)




Dr. Wright's Monday morning talk in OC chapel:



Dr. Wright Q&A with OC President John deSteigeur:




As if that's not enough NT Wright for you, Houston Baptist University hosted Wright several days before the McGaw Lectures and they have made those videos available. Here they are...

Lecture: "Israel in Pauline Theology"




Convocation: "Paul in his Jewish World"