Catch Up & a Question

Hello Readers, it has been too long.  Quickly catching up: I spent a large chunk of last semester trying  to get acquainted with Moltmann.  One of the prevalent issues I encountered and that was in my mind at the outset (primarily because of this) was the need to make sense of how Moltmann’s theology has changed.  While I am still wading in the waters here I think I’m beginning to understand why this somewhat common “problem” among major theologians is especially vexing when it comes to Moltmann.  In my final essay for my independent study I began to flesh out my understanding of whether/how Moltmann changed through examining how he related certain elements in his thought throughout his career-a type of test case essentially. Since that essay is still pretty raw and I hope to develop it for publication, I will hold off for now on that and simply turn to you readers: what do you think?

Moltmann on Identity, the Cross, & Discipleship

Hopefully tomorrow I will start posting outlines of Moltmann’s works, starting with The Crucified God.  These will be nothing fancy, just lightly edited and adapted entries from my academic journal.  I’m hopeful that if formatted properly they will stimulate some interesting conversation.  In anticipation of that, here is a quote I found quite moving:

Anyone who does not put himself to the test is hardly tried or tested at all.  Only when, with all the understanding and consistency he possesses, a man follows Christ along the way of self-emptying into non-identity, does he encounter contradiction, resistance and opposition.  Only when he leaves behind the circle of those who share and reinforce his opinions in the church, to go out into the anonymity of slums and peace movements, in a society ‘where the absence of peace is organized’, is he tempted and tested, inwardly and outwardly.    Then the crisis inevitably comes, in which the identity of that for which he involves and commits himself comes into question, and a decision has to be made about it [18].


Maybe There’s Only One Topic Off Limits …

Apparently even among renown theologians some topics are off-limits at the proverbial dinner table:

Whereas he knew that I was on the side of the Latin American Liberation Theologians, he [Pannenberg] fought vigorously against them … with the aim of silencing liberation theology.  Since then we have preferred to talk about problems of the immanent Trinity rather than about politics.

So if you’re scoring at home, theology yes (if you must), but politics no-avoid at all cost, even at the cost of discussing the immanent Trinity instead.

Jurgen Moltmann, A Broad Place, 107.

Fall 2011 & Catching Up

Fall semester is here, my first as a PhD student.  It has been a couple weeks, and so far I am enjoying it quite a bit.  This is b/c, in addition to the excitement that comes with finally starting, I am starting to feel a bit more comfortable on campus, and think the other newcomers to the program will be a pleasure to interact and work with.

Although my grandiose vision for blogging through my entrance exam prep quickly revealed itself to be too much extra work, I’m happy to report that I’m cautiously optimistic that I did well, and hopefully I will never have to think of the final week of prep again.

All in all, it is an exciting time, and I look forward to seeing how this first year plays out.  While it is clear that I shouldn’t make any promises when it comes to the future here, & thus will refuse to make any, I’m hopeful to post here and there on subjects related to my fall schedule: (1) American Theology in the 20th Century, (2) God and the Doctrine of the Trinity, & (3) the Thought of Jürgen Moltmann.

On Edit: (1) I will also be taking up Latin again (another summer task that was punted in light of entrance exams), so I may mention that as well, and ANY tips in learning the language are much appreciated.  I get the sense that the language requirements may be the most difficult aspect of this process for me. (2) I have updated the “my reading habits” widget to reflect my week’s work-be sure to check it out over the semester to see what I’m working on, as I hope to update it weekly.

CCH – ST – Pneumatology – Major Methodologies

So, what was initially supposed to be a week hiatus turned into roughly 3.  Without further delay, let’s resume by shifting gears to pneumatology, where Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen has provided a helpful typology to survey major “contemporary approaches” in pneumatology, each illustrated by a representative theologian:

  1. According to Kärkkäinen, Moltmann’s Spirit of Life represents the trend of blending traditional and novel approaches to pneumatology.  Moltmann brings pneumatology into conversation with pressing social concerns like “the environment, justice, and equality” while also seeking to deal with “traditional topics, such as the Trinity.”  While this approach may not seem especially provocative initially, what makes Moltmann’s approach interesting is the level of integration he seeks between current and traditional questions.  As Kärkkäinen writes, Moltmann “is in search of a ‘holistic’ pneumatology in which the doctrine of the Spirit encompasses areas that are often left behind in older pneumatologies, such as the human body and the earth.”  Thus Moltmann is not merely trying to apply traditional dogmatic inquiries and answers to pressing concerns, but rather seeks to cast a wider net of investigation throughout the process of theological construction.
  2. In Michael Welker’s book, God the Spirit, Welker makes two methodological moves in developing his pneumatology worthy of attention.  First, Welker attends to the biblical witness, and does so not in the interest of proof-texting, but rather “to discern the patterns and leading themes that emerge from the biblical discussion of pneumatology.”  Second, Welker does not try to systematize the diverse perspectives, but rather “allows the plurality its own witness.”  It is this second move that grants significance to the first, because while Welker has attempted to develop a “biblical theology of the Spirit,” it is one that departs from the normal meaning of that term.
  3. Finally we turn to the late Clark Pinnock, and his Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit.  Simply stated, in this work Pinnock “endeavors to construct a full-scale systematic theology from a pneumatological perspective.”  Traditional theological loci are treated in light of “pneumatological foundations.”

While there are other important approaches to pneumatology today (which we will survey in the future), Kärkkäinen believes these to be the major ones; holistic, realistic, and foundational.  Obviously, typology can be a dangerous tool to theological work, being useful primarily as an object of deconstruction once the preparatory service it provides has been rendered.  So, how would you poke, pull, and blur the edges of Kärkkäinen’s typology?  Is there anything he is missing that borders on criminal?  In trying to explain contemporary approaches to pneumatology to a first year M.A. student, what, if anything, would you change or amend?

While interacting critically with Kärkkäinen’s typology is valuable what interests me more is how each approach illuminates a major concern in contemporary pneumatology.  That will be the subject of the next post.


Kärkkäinen, Veli-Matti.  Pneumatology: The Holy Spirit in Ecumenical, International, and Contextual Perspective.  Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002.

Weekend Quote

This week has been consumed by work & preparing to see my family this weekend for the first time since moving to MN.  The CCH will return next week after they are gone, but for now here is a quote that despite it’s apparent banality struck me this morning:

‎No religion can survive which does not know where it is. And current religion does not know where it is, and it hates to be made to ask. It hates theology.

~P.T. Forsyth

CCH – OT – Genesis – “Diversity and Continuity”

In this inaugural post (for more info on this series click here), I will attempt to outline and to hint at an answer to a fundamental concern in reading not only Genesis but the Pentateuch as a whole; dealing with the composite text left to us.

To properly understand the difficulties in reading the text of Genesis left to us, a brief historical examination is in order.  A primary reason behind the current struggle to interpret Genesis (and indeed much of scripture) stem from the watershed publication of Julius Wellhausen’s Prolegomena to the History of Israel in 1878.   As Marvin Pate has documented, it was this work among others in the “Religionsgeschichte approach” that “dealt the deathblow” to biblical theology in the 19th century (15).

According to Pate, Wellhausen’s Prolegomena made its splash by taking the (1) composite author theory of the Pentateuch and (2) Darwinism and combining them in a “popularized and integrated” way.  It is the composite author theory, or the “JEPD theory,” that is of lasting significance for studies of the Pentateuch, and our specific concern here (Ibid).

Basically, each letter of the JEPD theory stands for a specific “author” of the text, each of which had unique theological (and political) concerns that informed their memory/presentation of Israel’s history and it’s interaction with their God.  To note one popular example, in the Pentateuch God is called, among many names, both Yahweh and Elohim.  These different names are significant, because the actions and descriptions of God when named as Yahweh seem to present a fairly consistent picture of God, but one much different from the also relatively self-consistent Elohim.  This suggests that two different authors wrote these two depictions of God, one where Yahweh (the “J Source”) is portrayed with very human characteristics and one where the otherness and transcendence of God is emphasized (the “E Source”).  Each perspective was cut and pasted together over the centuries, leaving the composite text of the Pentateuch today.

The upshot of all this is that we are left with a diverse and composite text (even after the return of biblical theology as documented by Pate), “consisting of a patchwork quilt of traditions from various periods (Birch et al, 38).”  Despite the relative lack of attention given to the “documentary hypothesis” today, as Birch writes, “general agreement continues that Genesis 1-11 is a composite work (Ibid).”  The situation for the Pentateuch as a whole is no different.

At this juncture the problems of the Scripture’s authority and its ability to present a coherent understanding of God and humanity come into view.  Birch and company are right caution against a mere grab bag approach that would encourage the creation of an idol, but then how is unity maintained (29)?  A more complete answer to this question will come in a subsequent post that deals with the nature and tasks of systematic theology, but for now let me gesture at the concept of witness.  Briefly, this approach can be understood through Jesus’ rebuke in Jn 5:

You search the scriptures because you think in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf.  Yet you refuse to come to me to have life (39-40, NRSV).

By seeing the scripture as a witness, its unity is found in the One it points to, despite the diversity of ways it does so.

In sum, as we begin to examine Genesis, and much of the rest of scripture for that matter, we take from this initial inquiry into the composite nature of Genesis that one must have the courage to deal with the text as it, and often it turns out to be a great deal messier than probably all would prefer.  This however, is not an invitation to despair, but instead to look towards the “common focus on the character, activity, and will of Israel’s one God (Ibid, 30).”

*With that, off to bed for a couple hours rest before the weekend camping trip.  I will be checking the post on my mobile, so feel free to comment suggestions, pushbacks, questions, spelling/grammar checks, etc etc.  The CCH continues Monday, see you then!  


Birch, Bruce C., Walter Brueggemann, Terence E. Fretheim, and David L. Peterson.  A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament.  Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1999.

Harris, Stephen L. and Robert L. Platzner.  The Old Testament: An Introduction to the Hebrew Bible.  2nd ed.  New York: McGraw Hill, 2008.

Hartsfield II, Wallace.  Lecture Notes, “Hebrew Bible I.”  Fall 2008.

Pate, Marvin C., J. Scott Duvall, J. Daniel Hays, E. Randolph Richards, W. Dennis Tucker Jr., and Preben Vang.  The Story of Israel:  A Biblical Theology.  Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004.