Out of the Closet: Theological Confession Meme

Taking my cue from Ben Myers, here are my “theological confessions”:

I confess: A majority of the books that I own I have not read.

I confess: I really do think universalism is integral to the gospel. I don’t know if I could believe the Christian faith without it.

I confess: I was first captivated by theology when I read Eberhard Jüngel’s Theological Essays in the fall of 2004.

I confess: I feel more comfortable explaining Barth’s theology than I do explaining the gospel to an unbeliever.

I confess: I often think the best theology can be found in poetry and film.

I confess: I get an inordinate amount of pleasure out of using academic lingo.

I confess: I often lean more in favor of gay marriage and gay ordination than against—always swinging back and forth while never able to take a position.

I confess: I doubt the existence of God on an almost weekly basis, it seems. The prayer of the father in Mark 9 has existential significance for me: “I believe; help my unbelief!”

I confess: When Bruce McCormack came to Wheaton to speak on justification in 2003, I justified skipping one of the lectures by saying to my roommate, “I don’t see the significance of the doctrine of justification.”

I confess: I wrote my very first theological essay in 2001 on the doctrine of the Trinity and perichoresis in response to a lecture by Paul Louis Metzger. I had no idea what I was talking about.

I confess: I often would rather watch movies all day than read theology.

I confess: I think Henri de Lubac, Karl Rahner, Colin Gunton, and Jürgen Moltmann are the four most overrated theologians of the 20th century.

I confess: I think “postmodernity” is both a complete waste of time and an illusion.

I confess: I often wish I could be Eastern Orthodox, but if I had to pick a denomination today, I would be Anglican.

I confess: I have seriously considered dropping out of grad school and becoming a bartender.

See other memes here, here, here, and here.


Halden said…
I'm with you on the doubting the existence of God confession. Glad that's not just me!

But come on, David, reading Webster on de Lubac isn't the same as reading de Lubac himself! I agree about Rahner and Moltmann, though.
I have read de Lubac! It's not just second-hand. I agree with him on the category of the supernatural and his critique of "pure nature," but in the end, I don't see much else that I really care for.
Dustin said…
I'm relatively new to your blog, but I find your posts to be incredibly honest, extremely well thought out, and down right fun to read. I have to say that I'm with you and halden on the doubting God's existence thing--it's almost a daily occurrence for me! But luckily that grace thing always draws me back...

I've also discovered your dogmatic sketch of Universalism and have enjoyed it very much. Are you planning on finishing it? I'm methodically drawing near to where the posts stop, and I must confess I don't want it to be over ;)
Halden said…
Ok, fair enough. I thought you hadn't read much de Lubac...maybe I'm remembering a conversation wrong. I'm sure his proto-communion ecclesiology isn't too attractive for you. I'll have to send you the essay I wrote on his and Barth's ecclesiology sometime.

But as far as being overrated, I don't really think so. I don't know how either de Lubac or Gunton could be overrated as they are on precious few theologian's radar screens. I'd say that Kung and maybe Grenz are much more in the overrated category. But it is a matter of preference, I suppose.

Thanks for your very kind words. I do hope to finish the universalism series!


I like Gunton, but I probably hang around people who talk about him more than the average person does. I actually think Küng is underrated, but I'm right there with you on Grenz.
I hear you on the Mark 9 phrase, I find myself saying it a lot too. And disturbingly also a lot on many other ones as well. I really should: read more of my books, stop watching so many movies and cut out feeling too spiffy for working in the terms praxis, eschatology, dialectic and dialogical all into one sentence.

But on Karl Rahner, his anonymous Christianity basically got written into Vatican II and any Catholic I read here at Union always uses Rahner to jump off of - whether its agreeing with or disagreeing, he is quoted and cited a lot. Maybe some of his popularity is justified?
Halden said…
David, is Gunton popular at Princeton? I would have that his semi-social Trinitarianism would have been out of fashion there.
There are a lot of fans of social trinitarianism here, at least among students -- but mostly via Moltmann. Not too many fans among professors. I'll grant that most students don't interact with Gunton, but his name comes up often enough.
D. W.,

Rahner certainly is important, no question about that. But when I compare him to Balthasar, there simply is no comparison.
dw said…
Postmodernity is way better than postmodernism. Sure, a construct. Sure, a version of modernity/modernism extended. Sure, an easy target for conservatives and an easy panacea for the left. But what descriptors of late 20th century intellectual and cultural experience would you prefer? And why is it a waste of time to offer temporary descriptions of the socio-linguistic cultural soup in which we bob like carrots?


p. s. liked the confessions rubric a lot, though i didn't need it to know the bit about poems and movies being more primary to you than a lot of other means of apprehending God.

I think the only accurate descriptor of the late 20th and early 21st century is "late modernity." The whole interest in postmodernity and postmodernism is a dead-end, in my opinion. As much as I like John Franke as a person, and as much as I respect Stanley Grenz, the whole project is misguided, as I see it.

I probably should have put the confession this way: "Postmodernism is a waste of time and postmodernity is an illusion."
Halden said…
I couldn't agree more about Postmodernernity/ism. Terry Eagleton really beats the shit out of that idea. And besides, all the "pomo" thinkers like Derrida, Foucault, Levinas, Lyotard, et al pretty damn modern. Late modern, sure, but postmodern? Yeah right.
::aaron g:: said…
Most theologians are overrated.
Fred said…
Mr. Congdon,

the question is have you read de Lubac's collection Theology in History? Skimming that tome is like previewing John Paul II's topics for encyclicals before they were written ...

To de Lubac goes the credit for reclaiming Origen.

David Schindler gives de Lubac the credit for making the definitive shift that made Balthasar's greatness possible.

I really loved the Drama of Atheist Humanism also. Beautiful book!

Ben Myers said…
Crikey, my head is spinning after reading this exchange between "DW" and "D.W." -- I kept forgetting which DW was which!

If anyone else with the same initials tries to join this discussion, he should be banned immediately....

Anonymous said…
These "confessions" make you so likeable (not that you weren't before!) I wish all theologians were as honest. (One thing, though: you're dead wrong about Rahner, of course...) :)
Anonymous said…
If you promise not to drop out, I'll forgive you for your views about Moltmann. :-)

I don't have the problem with doubting God. My attempt to be an agnostic in high school was a total flop. I have the Job/Jeremiah problem of constantly being ANGRY with God, but even more with the church.

On postmodernism, I think it depends on definition--I'm with you if we are only thinking about Derrida and the weird French dudes. But if we include what Nancey Murphy calls "Anglo-American Postmodernism," I think it represents both risk and gain for the church and the gospel.
Apologies to lovers of de Lubac, Rahner, and Moltmann! I've read enough Moltmann to know that I don't like him. I have not read enough of Rahner and de Lubac to be as sure about my opinion. Deep Furrows, I have not read those books you mention, so I'll try to give those a look sometime.

Re: postmodernism, I actually like the French philosophers. I read and enjoyed Derrida and Foucault and Barthes in college. But I see these figures as products of modernity, not the start of a new era. In terms of cultural shifts, I certainly see changes but not enough to warrant the title "post-" something. There's just so much that we have not left behind that the changes come off as minor variations and not as dramatic breaks with the past. At least that's how I see it.
dw said…
Whatever the era's moniker, an emphasis on social construction over existential isolation, a focus on embedded practice over abstraction, and the distrust of power/meta-narrative distinguish the postmodern for me over modernity. Still, though, your point about late modernity is well taken. Frankly, as a writer, I don't think about the categorization at all. Increasingly, I am in conversation with poetry, music, theology and place in ways that make these critical theory debates fade into the background more and more.

Anonymous said…
No need to apologize for differences in taste. But I owe too much to Moltmann--including my realization of the importance of the Trinity. I believed it beforehand because the alternatives (tritheism or modalism) were worse. But not until I read The Crucified God did I understand that the crucifixion could not even be understood properly except from a Trinitarian perspective. That did it; the dime dropped and light went on: Now I FELT the importance of the Trinity for the first time.

I also appreciate Moltmann's deep social passion and his dialoguing with liberation theologians, Mennonites, and Jews in a fashion that no other European Reformed theologian ever has.

On switching from one era to another: This can only really be understood by later historians. And Modernity carried much from the late Medieval and Renaissance eras with it.

But these confessions have been fun. I hope you checked mine out.
Anonymous said…
Haldane: Eagleton on postmodernism: can you make any recommendations? Thanks!
Halden said…
After Theory. That's definitely the best and most readable book on postmodernity from Eagleton.
Halden said…
Oh, and the one thing I definitely meant to say about overrated theologians. The one whe should really be on that list is John Milbank. That man is overrated.
Yes, Halden! Milbank should definitely be on that list. Consider Gunton replaced by Milbank -- make that all of R.O. :)
Halden said…
We will always be united in our disdain for that particular movement.

But, not all books in the RO series are created equal. Dan Bell's book and Jamie Smith's book are both excellent. But if the author is across the pond and in the RO series, don't waste your time.
I agree. I have Dan Bell's book, and I greatly respect both Cavanaugh and Hart, who are both at least honorary members of R.O.
Shane said…
I confess: I think “postmodernity” is both a complete waste of time and an illusion.


still--jackie D's good people.