Friday, September 23, 2005

Gay penguins

Anyone aware of the current movie selection knows the popularity of March of the Penguins. It is the second-highest grossing documentary in history (behind Moore's last film), and all over the country, conservative family-focused commentators are touting the film as an example from nature of how humanity ought to behave. Some are even drawing the conclusion that the film reveals Intelligent Design. In the wake of all this, we have Andrew Sullivan to thank for his review.

(Thanks, Mark.)

Contra "fides quarens intellectum"

Yesterday, professor Ellen Charry spoke at the first Theological Student Fellowship (TSF) gathering to give her lecture, "Why a Theological Education?" Her response to this question was provocative, to say the least. Essentially her thesis is that Christians must seek no less than a radical overturning of the modern concept of education as the pursuit of knowledge apart from any relation to spiritual and moral formation. Her argument had two enemies: (1) the modern isolation of factual knowledge from practical training education, and (2) Anselm's famous phrase, "faith seeking understanding."

The first is readily understood. Contemporary education is divided between theoretical/systematic education and practical training. In the former, a professor is communicating a corpus of material, a subject matter, to students who must then "know" this information. In the latter, a professor becomes a trainer in practical skills, e.g., group and social skills, money management, organization, speech & rhetoric, leadership, team-building, etc. These two groups are clearly separated (especially at PTS, where systematic theology and "practical theology" are entirely different departments), and their separation results in the need to do much more in the span of three or four years than was previously necessary. In the realm of seminary education, pastors need these practical skills in order to run a church. Prior to this modern dichotomy, it was expected of students that they would come already having such skills from youth. In other words, the home is where one learns such skills. And it's no surprise why educational institutions must supplement students' education in these areas.

Her second target is the much-beloved phrase by Anselm. Prof. Charry blames "faith seeking understanding" for leading Christians down the path of this modern segregation between knowledge and praxis. She argues that this phrase has led Christians to emphasize the accumulation of abstract knowledge apart from their proper spiritual-moral sphere of influence. She proposes we return to a forgotten phrase from Augustine: "the knowledge of God seeking the wisdom of God in love." Here Augustine makes a direct and important connection between knowledge and wisdom, and in fact the two go hand in hand. What we learn in theology should affect us personally and corporately in the pursuit of wisdom -- that is, Christ-likeness. And this pursuit of wisdom occurs "in love," which is love of God and neighbor. Working "in love" prevents the seeker of knowledge and wisdom from isolating the educational journey from one's spiritual formation in relation to God and other persons.

Prof. Charry's lecture was both stimulating and provocative, but it of course needs further reflection. "Faith seeking understanding" is not in itself harmful. I think it is important to retain the emphasis upon faith as the origin of the theological process. However, her emphasis upon wisdom is much needed. Any responses? Anyone wishing to hear more from Charry will have to wait for her new book on this matter entitled God and the Art of Happiness.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Sad, but true

The good people at larknews.com recently wrote this bitingly satiric "story." It rings with too much truth.

-----------------------

Church celebrates fifty years of peace through irrelevance

CINCINNATI — Rolling Hills Christian Church has spent fifty years diligently cultivating a good neighbor image, and this week they celebrated their spiritual irrelevance and moral acquiescence with a Sunday morning festival.
"We get along perfectly with everybody in the community," said pastor James Doheny before climbing into the dunk tank. "Peace is our value of choice."
During the celebration the mayor lauded the church for being "a friend of the entire city."
"There's not one negative thing that could be said about this church, and the citizens of Cincinnati appreciate that," he said.
Doheny thanked the congregation through tears, and promised to lead the church toward "fifty more years of benign accommodation."

Monday, September 19, 2005

Eberhard Jüngel's Bibliography of Works Published in English

Today is important for a few reasons. I started my job at Special Collections today, which mostly involved an extended tour of the library's collections (which are incredible, I might add). But today is also important for another reason. I have finally acquired every single one of Jüngel's writings that are available in English. The missing pieces were two journal articles only available on microfilm, but a little time in the library today solved that problem. Of course, the number of Jüngel's writings in English is only a fraction of his entire corpus, so the achievement is not all that impressive compared to a collection of almost any other theologian. But it was the sheer obscurity of some of these writings which made them difficult to find. For those of you who may be interested in doing research on Jüngel, or for those who simply wish to read some excellent theology (and by excellent, I mean some of the best theology ever written), I have provided a bibliography of his works in English. If I am, by chance, missing an article, please -- by all means -- let me know.

Bibliography of Eberhard Jüngel's works in English arranged chronologically:

Jüngel, Eberhard. "God - as a Word of Our Language" in F. Herzog, ed., Theology of the Liberating Word (Nashville: Abingdon, English Translation 1971), pp. 24-45.

—. Death: The Riddle and the Mystery
, trans. Iain and Ute Nicol (Edinburgh: St. Andrew Press, ET 1974).

—. "The Relationship between 'Economic' and 'Immanent' Trinity" in Theology Digest 24 (1976), pp. 179-184.

—. "The Truth of Life: Observations on Truth as the Interruption of the Continuity of Life" in R.W.A. Mackinney, ed., Creation, Christ, and Culture: Studies in Honour of T.F. Torrance (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1976), pp. 231-236.

—. God as the Mystery of the World: On the Foundation of the Theology of the Crucified One in the Dispute between Theism and Atheism, trans. Darrell L. Guder (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, ET 1983).

—. Karl Barth: A Theological Legacy, trans. Garrett E. Paul (Philadelphia: Westminster, ET 1986).

—. "The Christian Understanding of Suffering" in Journal of Theology for Southern Africa 65 (1988), pp. 3-13.

—. The Freedom of a Christian: Luther's Significance for Contemporary Theology, trans. Roy A. Harrisville (Minneapolis: Augsburg, ET 1988).

—. Theological Essays I, trans. J. B. Webster (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, ET 1989).

—. "Response to Josef Blank" in H. Kung and D. Tracy, eds., Paradigm Change in Theology: A Symposium for the Future (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, ET 1989), pp. 297-304.

—. "What does it mean to say, 'God is love'?" in T. Hart and D. Thimell, eds., Christ in our Place: The Humanity of God in Christ for the Reconciliation of the World. Essays Presented to Prof. James Torrance (Exeter: Paternoster, ET 1989), pp. 294-312.

—. "The Last Judgment as an Act of Grace" in Louvain Studies 14 (1990), pp. 389-405.

—. "Life after Death? A Response to Theology's Silence about Eternal Life" in Word and World 11 (1991), pp. 5-8.

—. "Toward the Heart of the Matter" in Christian Century 108:7 (1991), pp. 228-233.

—. Christ, Justice and Peace: Toward a Theology of the State in Dialogue with the Barmen Declaration, trans. D. B. Hamill and Alan J. Torrance (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, ET 1992).

—. "The Gospel and the Protestant Churches of Europe: Christian Responsibility for Europe from a Protestant Perspective," in Religion, State and Society 21:2 (1993), pp. 137-149.

—. Theological Essays II, trans. J. B. Webster and A. Neufeldt-Fast (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, ET 1994).

—. "Trinitarian Prayers for Christian Worship," in Word and World 18 (Summer 1998), pp. 244-253.

—. "On the Doctrine of Justification" in the International Journal of Systematic Theology 1:1 (1999), pp. 24-52.

—. "To tell the world about God: The task for the mission of the church on the threshold of the third millennium" in International Review of Mission (April 30, 2000).

—. "Theses on the Relation of the Existence, Essence and Attributes of God" in Toronto Journal of Theology 17 (2001), pp. 55-74.

—. God's Being Is in Becoming: The Trinitarian Being of God in the Theology of Karl Barth - A Paraphrase, trans. J. B. Webster (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, ET 2001); previously translated as The Doctrine of the Trinity, trans. H. Harris (Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, ET 1976).

—. Justification: The Heart of the Christian Faith, trans. Jeffrey F. Cayzer (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, ET 2001).

—. "The Cross After Postmodernity" in One Incarnate Truth: Christianity's Answer to Spiritual Chaos, ed. by Uwe Siemon-Netto (Concordia Publishing, 2002).

—. "Sermon on Matthew 25:1-12" in Toronto Journal of Theology 18:1 (Spring 2002), pp. 13-19.

My theological alignment ... according to some over-generalized survey

You scored as Neo orthodox. You are neo-orthodox. You reject the human-centredness and scepticism of liberal theology, but neither do you go to the other extreme and make the Bible the central issue for faith. You believe that Christ is God's most important revelation to humanity, and the Trinity is hugely important in your theology. The Bible is also important because it points us to the revelation of Christ. You are influenced by Karl Barth and P T Forsyth.

Neo orthodox

100%

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan

79%

Emergent/Postmodern

71%

Roman Catholic

68%

Charismatic/Pentecostal

32%

Reformed Evangelical

29%

Modern Liberal

25%

Classical Liberal

4%

Fundamentalist

0%

What's your theological worldview?
created with QuizFarm.com

Friday, September 16, 2005

A new class and new jobs

I decided to drop my class on Comparative Missiology. The professor decided to change the course from the description, and in doing so, he made the course into a study of Ghanian Christianity in Northeast America -- an extremely specific subject which does not interest me very much. Instead, I will take a pastoral studies class on "The Minister as Counselor." Not a really thrilling subject either, but it's at least something that might prove more beneficial to me in the long run.

In other news, I now have a job in Special Collections at the library. The job will definitely help me and Amy financially, although it looks like Amy definitely will have a job as a youth pastor at a Korean-American Presbyterian church in Philadelphia. This is a big answer to prayer. Jee, a Korean senior here, and his wife are a couple Amy and I met the first day we arrived. His father is the pastor of this particular church, and they have been looking for something to run the youth/English language ministry. This might require some explanation. In Asian-American churches nationwide, the youth are leaving in large numbers because the church seems too old fashioned -- not American enough. Services are traditionally done in the mother tongue of the congregation, but the youth don't speak their parents' language on a regular basis outside of home. Thus, when these churches hire someone to run the youth program, they are in reality hiring someone to head up the English-language services on Sunday morning. Such is the case for me and Amy. The church itself is quite small (roughly 80 members), and so is the youth group (which is around 10-15 including local college students). Amy and I -- it's really a joint effort -- will facilitate the Friday night "youth" program/bible study, in addition to running the English service on Sunday morning. That means teaching a kind of Sunday School program in the morning, doing the actual Sunday service (including giving the sermon), and then facilitating after-church Bible studies with the purpose of helping students improve their English.

The job is pretty well paid ($1400/mo), and the work is exactly what Amy wants to be doing for a living. I really cannot think of a better match for her skills. It would be nice if the church were closer to our apartment; it's about a 50 min. drive. Even so, the longer drive is an acceptable burden for having such an incredible offer given to us so early in the year! I am quite amazed. But now it means we will have a lot of work to do, assuming we decide to take the job. We actually haven't visited the church yet, so this Sunday will help a lot in our decision process.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Missing home

On a more personal note, I should add that Amy is missing home very much, and so far living here has not been the easiest transition. People are not very nice (some are downright rude), traffic and roads are awful, until today not a single friend has called her, her work is frustrating and poorly run, and I am about to start my classes. So, suffice it to say, life for Amy is not peachy at the moment. I am sure she would appreciate your encouragement.

Tomorrow my classes begin

Here are my classes:

Church History 101 - From the early church to the Reformation
Old Testament 101
Intro to Greek
Speech Communication (a year-long course followed by preaching in the second year)
Intro to Christian Education
Comparative Missiology

There isn't a lot to scream and shout about, but I can't expect much more in my first semester of seminary. Next semester is a different story. There is a class on theology and culture through film, co-taught by two professors, one of whom is Ellen Charry. Excellent. There is also a class on the doctrine of justification with Bruce McCormack. I hope he'll have some readings from Eberhard Jüngel.

Orientation is over! And a special message from Pres. Torrance

With our convocation ceremony tonight, orientation was officially brought to a close. It has been a rather arduous past several days. Not that sitting for hours through sessions entitled "Sexual Harassment and You" and "Seminary Procedures" is by any means taxing on the mind or body. Rather, it was the perceived endlessness of these sessions which had a number of us groaning by the end. Some of the information was important enough to merit our attention, and I am glad that the seminary at least wants all students to be unified in their expectations and understandings of policies.

One of the sessions today involved a panel of professors from the four major departments -- Biblical studies, history of religion, systematic theology, and practical theology. Unfortunately, due to the strict schedule of each session, only several questions were allowed -- and all concerned the quite minor policy of using "inclusive language" (e.g., "humanity" instead of "mankind"). All in all, it was far less interesting than I had hoped. Moreover, they had a professor of Tillich's theology speak on behalf of the theology department, which is far more concerned with Karl Barth and other more worthwhile theologians.

On the plus side, however, President Iain Torrance's convocation message tonight was quite provocative and, at times, rather profound. In his almost dangerously pleasant Scottish accent, he spoke in the vein of Barth: "with a Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other." His talk concerned the July shooting by the London police of an innocent man they (that is, the police) thought might be connected with the recent Underground terrorist bombing. He connected this to a wide range of other issues and stories, including a contemporary sci-fi novel, an old British bill concerning marriage, modern moral philosophy, the letter of the fourth PTS president to the PCUSA churches nationwide, et al. While potentially confusing (for Amy, not potentially but actually), the message centered around this question: Can we, as Christians, be passionately committed to the truth without going to war? In other words, can we believe in the truth without falling into the temptation to back up this truth with violence? Speaking to this questions, Torrance presented a strong challenge to the current political ideology which states: This nation's safety is so important, it is worth dehumanizing and even killing our own citizens (read: the unimportant and unnoticed citizens). Contrary to this, the Christian faith -- because of the life and death of Jesus Christ -- affirms that the most unnoticed and unappreciated drunk on the side of the street is worth valuing and protecting, even if it means refusing to retaliate against our perceived enemies through acts of war. Although Torrance did not actually go on to say this, I add this now as my contribution: When nation-states commit acts of war against their perceived enemies, and by so doing, dehumanize their own citizens for the sake of "safety," these nation-states in fact become their own worst enemy, greater than any terrorist force. When a nation-state is willing to overlook the needs of its own people--in fact, the very lives of its own people--the threat of terrorist attacks becomes almost inconsequential in comparison.

Friday, September 09, 2005

We've arrived!

(A large portion of this post was first printed in my other blog, which can be found at www.xanga.com/poetdc.)

Since this is the first real post on this blog (after over a year of posts on my other site), I need to catch all my readers up regarding my current situation. First, I am now married -- as of July 9. Amy (formerly Amy Fong), my lovely wife, is now stuck with a seminary student and aspiring professor of theology and literature. No one can say I didn't warn her! :) Which leads me to the second major point of interest: I have enrolled as a junior (aka "first year") student at Princeton Theological Seminary, home of the Center for Barth Studies, and a bastion of Presbyterian theology.

That said, Amy and I -- in addition to celebrating almost two months of marriage -- have recently arrived in Princeton, NJ to begin this new stage in our lives. After a grueling four-day trek across country in a 15' Penske truck (with our Honda Civic on a car carrier), with surprisingly few hitches along the way, we are now settling in to our rather spacious one-bedroom apartment. The apartment complex is about three miles from the seminary campus and is situated in a nicely forested area with quick, easy access to all the major shopping retailers -- Wal-Mart, Target, Sam's Club, Best Buy, Home Depot, Borders etc.

Amy is working at Ann Taylor Loft after transfering from her previous store. I, on the other hand, am currently unemployed, though I may end up working at the Borders here. I would like to find an on-campus job, but it looks like most everything is already taken. Orientation begins tomorrow, and classes begin Sept. 14.

Some people are concerned about me becoming "another Barthian." Others are concerned about PTS as some sort of "liberal seminary." Still others are concerned that I may never return to God's country -- i.e., Oregon. If anyone has thoughts about these topics or about this blog, I sincerely welcome your comments. Soon I will post an explanation regarding the quote and the title for this new blog.