In a fascinating essay in Sanctification: Explorations in Theology and Practice, Bruce McCormack attempts to bring Wesleyan and Barthian takes on sanctification together in a constructive dialogue. What I want to do is focus on the Barthian side of the house (though the Wesleyan side of the house is just as interesting) and examine McCormack’s historicist reading of Barth alongside George Hunsinger’s own reading of Barth’s doctrine of sanctification, and then register what I take to be a deficiency in McCormack’s reading that is a result of of said historicism. This will be, for the most part, a negative and critical post.
‘The Virtue of Bonhoeffer’s Ethics: A Study of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s ‘Ethics’ in Relation to Virtue Ethics‘, by Jennifer Moberly
Pickwick Publicaitons, 270 pp. $30.00
Dietrich Bonhoeffer has long been one of my favourite theologians. Actually, thinking back on it, he was probably one of the first serious theologians I became interested in, and after reading The Cost of Discipleship, I dove into his Ethics. That book was a paradigm shift for me, and since then I’ve read a good deal of Bonhoeffer’s writing, but always come back to Ethics.
Jennifer Moberly, in this study, seeks to draw out aspects of Bonhoeffer’s ethical vision that fit together with virtue ethics. In between the introduction and the conclusion are five chapters, having to do with whether or not Bonhoeffer thought of himself as a virtue ethicist, a survey of virtue ethics in Christian thought, Bonhoeffer’s ethics as virtue ethics, Bonhoeffer’s modes of ethical discourse, and divine command and/or virtue ethics. Continue reading
‘Construing the Cross: Type, Sign, Symbol, Word, Action‘, by Frances M. Young
Cascade Books, 160 pp. $19.00
Construing the Cross, Frances Young’s Didsbury Lecture, is a slim volume packed with insights theological, anthropological, biblical, and whatever-else-ical. Do not be fooled by the size of this book – there’s more meat here than in many substantially larger tomes.
Young’s goal here is fairly simple and is given away in the title: she’s taking us on a journey through the various ways that the cross was construed in early Christian thought before the onset of ‘atonement theories’ (while not exactly a bogeyman, ‘atonement theories’ function as a bit of negative here). Young’s first look focuses on the Passover as the primary way in which Christians thought of the cross. Patristic and biblical texts are the key sources here, and Young cites Melito as drawing deeply from the Exodus narrative to show that the Gospel itself is a parallel to the Exodus. For Melito, Christ is:
…the one who clad death in shame, and, as Moses did to Pharaoh, made the devil grieve…This is the one who delivered us from slavery to freedom, from darkness into light, from death into life, from tyranny into an eternal Kingdom, and made us a new priesthood, and a people everlasting for himself. (p. 6)
Impassibility as God’s inability to suffer is a well-known pillar of ‘classical theism’ (do I ever hate using that little phrase). I’ve written on it before and have, as far as I can tell, made a complete 180 in my thinking on it. I want to flesh impassibility out a little more here, however, so I’m not going to argue for it but assume it. Click the link above for that kind of argumentation. My main goal here is to present impassibility as a mode of God’s covenant presence characterized by constant, commanding compassion. Continue reading
Consciousness is phenomenal consciousness. By this, I mean that consciousness is characterized primarily by what Searle calls its ‘first person ontology’. Consciousness is fundamentally a ‘what it is like’ kind of thing. Flanagan notes that consciousness may have depths we can’t access, features we can’t grasp, and a good deal more that lies beyond our cognitive capabilities – this is all true. However, if consciousness exists, it is phenomenal, and while this surely isn’t the entire story, it’s certainly the most important part – I’m clearly marking myself out here as part of the tribe who see consciousness’s fundamental nature as qualitative. Continue reading
‘Barth’s Theological Ontology of Holy Scripture‘, by Alfred H. Yuen
Pickwick Publications, 198 pp. $23.00
In this volume, Alfred H. Yuen wants to sketch for us Karl Barth’s answer to the question of just what Scripture is. Over four chapters, Yuen covers a number of themes: Barth’s developing ideas about Scripture, the role of the Holy Spirit, God’s freedom and a number of other related topics.
The first chapter surveys Barth’s views of Scripture from 1906-1915 by way of examining a number of his lesser-known sermons. This was a particularly interesting chapter, since I wasn’t familiar with a lot of the texts surveyed here. Barth’s treatment of Zwingli (who is seen as reversing the priority of institutions over individuals in interpreting Scripture) ends with Barth seeing Zwingli as ‘domesticating’ Scripture (something Barth would always seek to avoid doing), though as Yuen points out at this stage in his development, Barth would appear to fall prey to the same error prior to 1915, since Barth allows for the role of the individual conscience a significant weight in interpretation. Post-1915, however, Yuen sees Barth articulating an ontology where ‘Scripture is the Spirit’s means of drawing us into the “river of life” in the world of God whose will, reign, power, and love, moreover, are antithetical to that of the “dark world.”‘ (p. 45) Continue reading