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.

CCH Update

Sadly, the CCH hasn’t gotten off the ground yet. BUT, I’m determined that neither circumstances nor laziness will kill this series. I think I’m ready to go now, so check back tomorrow evening for the first post in this series.

Summer Series: Compendium of Christian Thought

Hello Patient Readers!

As I mentioned recently, one of my primary tasks this summer is to prepare for my entrance exams.  After doing a bit of reading and lots of fiddling with how to best attack all that I need to review and learn this summer, I want to try something new here at ST.  Roughly seventy questions have been sent to me to aid in my preparation, all of which I should be able to answer to sufficiently demonstrate a “Master of Divinity or Master of Arts degree level” response.  I am going to attempt to use these question to create a “Compendium of Christian Thought.”

Obviously, attempting to create a Compendium of Christian Thought (hereafter CCH) often veils as much as clarifies, and this will be no different in this case.  First, due to the genre of theoblogging and the amount of material I have to work through, all my posts will aim for 800-1000 words in length*, which will help capture the salient features or sufficiently inventory the main themes under discussion in each post.  While this will make for helpful cheat sheets for me to look back on (for this fall and for hopefully longer than that), no doubt I will leave aside certain issues or reject certain positions others would deem vital and true.  To this I say: convince me!  You really might be right, and the discussion will be helpful for me.  My hope is that while the CCH will of course be primarily my creation, it will also be one shaped by others who visit here.  My one special guideline  in this vein is this: if you want to argue a point with me, please be able to make some mention of any specific sources you’re drawing  on, even if by memory.  This way I can briefly review those too, either way helping my preparation and keeping above reproach as it relates to integrity issues on my actual exams.  Sustained reflection without mention of sources won’t be responded to and likely will be deleted-this makes it less tempting to cheat, even if by accident :).

Second, certain editorial decisions are unavoidable.  In particular, certain fields and thinkers will be excluded since they are outside the focus of my exams.  In a similar vein, some questions encourage choosing a particular subtopic or particular thinker(s) to write on out of numerous options.  Here more than anywhere my distinctive interests and concerns will be evident.  Again, if you think there is a more fruitful way to approach the topic convince me, just have sources at hand.   Finally, some entries will amount to merely recounting commonly accepted information, while others will be more constructive in nature, depending on the question I’m responding to.

Well, this is probably more than enough by way of introduction.  The first post will hopefully be up by late tonight, and be sure to periodically check the CCH page to conveniently access all posts as the summer moves along.  I look forward to hearing from you this summer to work on creating a “Master’s in a nutshell!”

*Update 6/25/11: My first post has already made clear how off my initial word count would be.  I am going to try to write several (hopefully) smaller posts instead, and see how that goes.

Resource for Pneumatology Studies

The Holy Spirit is one of my primary interests, so I was happy to learn about Duquesne Universities’ Annual Holy Spirit Lecture & Colloquium.  Several lectures are available, by notable scholars like Geoffrey Wainwright, Kallistos Ware, & Elizabeth Johnson.  I’m not sure how I missed this until now, but definitely worth checking out.

Summer 2011 Plans

So, as is customary in the theo-blogging world, I thought I would mention my summer academic plans.  For me it basically boils down to three primary tasks:

  1. Getting ready for my PhD entrance exams.  They have suggested 24 books for the summer, of course doing more is always welcome.  I’m planning on sitting for the OT & NT exams in addition to my two required ones, History of Christianity & Systematic Theology.  While it is not a deal-breaker if I don’t pass, it would be a real bummer to try to get them done during my 1st year of PhD work.  Best to just get them done now.
  2. Getting Latin under my belt.  I fiddled with it a bit this past semester, but it will basically be an all out blitz this summer making sure I’m ready for my late August exams.
  3. My earlier impulse to begin reading novels/poetry has remained, & I’m determined to work through at least a few classics this summer.  Inspired in part by this list, I have decided that this will be the “Summer of Camus.”  I am going this route because I think I may be able to get through all his primary fictional works this summer, while still throwing a couple additional tiny classics in as well.  The goal of getting a good handle on one author in just a few (focused) months seems the best way to go, and the length of Camus’ primary works appears manageable.  Regardless of how well this plan works, literature/fiction is a real gap in my reading, so I’m excited to start remedying it.  I do ask for patience, my dear readers, when I play the amateur critic at times this summer.  Finally, as I mentioned in my initial post, suggestions are MORE than welcome.
So that’s what’s cooking here at Stubbed Toes; what’s everyone else up to?

The Big Exhale: I am a PhD Student!

Well, it’s official.  I’ve been admitted into Luther Seminary’s PhD program in systematic theology, to begin next fall.  As anyone can imagine I’m ecstatic about getting in, since this is been something I’ve been working towards for several years now.  On top of that, moving to MN for the MTh without any assurances that I would get in at some point was difficult at times, to put it modestly.  Thankfully, it appears that the dice roll paid off.  It’s still a bit surreal, but with entrance exams now on the horizon my mindset is shifting quickly.

So, it is with great excitement that I retire the “MTh” tag & begin using “PhD” instead.

Suggestions Wanted

Hello Dear Readers,

The end of Spring semester is approaching fast, & like most aspiring academics I am swamped. That said, I am wanting to read something to give me a change of pace, a novel. It needs to be fairly short, yet a “must read.” I am sure I could find a few on my own, but I want to hear suggestions from you-what should I read?

The Theological “Instinct”

Recently more than one professor has said something like “I think your instinct is right on this point,” or “you have good instincts, so follow them,” to me in relation to doing theology. This, as far as i can remember, is a novel compliment.

While I think these types of statements are meant as genuine affirmations and/or encouragement (which I’m always grateful for), I am still troubled a bit by them. Instincts can be vague after all, so I wonder if this encouragement also implies that the ability to speak with clarity on certain concepts, topics, etc still eludes me. On the other hand, the skill of discerning important issues or relevant connections in theology cannot be developed by being able to merely ascertain and explain a theological view. So if they’re complimenting  me for having a “theological 6th sense,” this could be the greatest compliment of all.

Or it could be that I’m over-thinking this and should just be pleased with the compliment.

Theology: Both/And

‎If theology were to lose its freedom to criticize, it would turn into the ideology of the church in its existing forms. If it were to lose the fellowship of the church, it would stop being Christian theology & turn into a kind of science of religion. As Christian theology, theology has to remind the church of the lordship of Christ and has to insist that the church’s form be an authentic one.

~Moltmann, The Church in the Power of the Spirit, 7.