Book Review: ‘Flesh and Blood: A Dogmatic Sketch Concerning the Fallen Nature View of Christ’s Human Nature’, by Daniel J. Cameron

Flesh and Blood: A Dogmatic Sketch Concerning the Fallen Nature View of Christ’s Human Nature‘, by Daniel J. Cameron, Wipf and Stock, 116 pp. $17.00

There is something of a resurgence of interest in the theology of Thomas F. Torrance happening in contemporary theology. A number of books and articles have been written on various aspects of his thought, from his eucharistic theology to his use of the patristic tradition to his influence within the context of ecumenical dialogue to his understanding of Christ’s assumption of a fallen human nature. This last point is probably the most controversial aspect of Torrance’s theology which he defended quite seriously, and is the subject of the present book under review. Continue reading

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Book Review: ‘Engaging Luther: A (New) Theological Assessment’, edited by Olli-Pekka Vainio

Engaging Luther: A (New) Theological Assessment‘, edited by Olli-Pekka Vainio, Cascade Books, 272 pp. $32.00

This was a very enjoyable collection of essays, centered around a broad engagement with Martin Luther. Each of the 12 essays in this volume survey Luther’s thought on a given theological topic, and each can be read on its own – this isn’t a systematic presentation or harmonization. What unifies the essays is the perspective of Finnish Lutheranism, which is the topic of the introductory article by Risto Saarinen. This essay serves as a primer on Finnish Lutheranism, which, as Saarinen puts it, ‘sets out to prove that, first, Luther’s theology is ontologically richer and contains an effective view of justification as the presence of things hoped for, and, second, that the subjectivist picture of Luther to a great extent stems from the anti-Catholic prejudices of modern Protestantism’ (p. 15). This serves as the unifying theme of all the various engagements with Luther here. Since there are 12 essays I won’t summarize each here, but instead I’ll note the ones I found to be exceptional. Continue reading

The Only Enchantment Left to Us: Karl Barth and The Unweaving of a Sacramental Tapestry

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‘…the objectively clarified preaching of the Word is the only sacrament left to us.’ – Barth

‘…he [Barth] is the most relentlessly Chalcedonian of all theologians…’ -Nicholas Wolterstorff

It is no secret that Barth was and is a controversial theologian, and within a North American context, it is typically his doctrine of the Word of God that secures his controversial-ness (a close second would be his doctrine of God, which is the subject of The Barth Wars). However, in my estimation, Barth’s most controversial moment is found in his sacramental theology – or, perhaps more properly, his lack thereof. Indeed, it is more than a simple lack of sacramental theology: Barth actively tears the tapestry of sacramental theology and (to be a bit more fashionable) sacramental ontology asunder:

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Book Review: ‘Karl Barth’s Christological Ecclesiology’, by Kimlyn J. Bender

Karl Barth’s Christological Ecclesiology‘, by Kimlyn J. Bender, Cascade Books, 324 pp. $30.40

There are two big takeaways to this study. First, Barth’s entire way of theological thinking was profoundly christological and Chalcedonian – it’s probably not an exaggeration to say that the bulk of this book serves to draw out that central theme in Barth’s thinking. Second, while Barth at first glance appears to neglect the Holy Spirit in his dogmatic thinking, this is an illusion readily dispelled by paying close attention to his ecclesiology. This is a dense, closely-argued and well-documented investigation, but close reading will repay dividends. Continue reading

Notes on Theological Knowledge

There is no small chance that Matthew 16:15-17 contains all that is necessary for a theological epistemology. The knowledge of Jesus that is articulated here is a product of nothing else than God’s own activity, God’s own revealing action, within the context of reconciliation. There are a number of things that can be drawn out here. First, the knowledge of God that is articulated here is a product of grace: God’s own free action to reveal himself. It is only through God’s own action that God is revealed. This first point implies a second point: that if the knowledge of God is had by grace alone, it is a gift. A third point: knowledge of God is knowledge of God, and as such revelation of God is revelation of reconciliation. We can even go a bit further than that and say, with Barth, that revelation is reconciliation. Fourth: if revelation is reconciliation, then necessarily the setting for revelation is the covenant within which God acts towards the world (the covenant is the internal basis of creation and creation is the external basis of the covenant). Continue reading

A Triune Monarchy: T.F. Torrance’s Correction of Karl Barth’s Doctrine of the Trinity

Perhaps the sharpest way to phrase a major difference between Barth and Torrance on the Trinity is that Torrance had no place for the subordination that Barth built into his doctrine of the Trinity. This is, of course, not news to readers of Barth: his understanding of the eternal subordination of the Son is one of the key distinctions of his theology. Torrance resisted this subordinationism on the grounds that Barth had read elements of the economy into the immanent Trinity, and set out to correct Barth on this point. The plainest way to state the differences between the two here is this: Barth follows the Cappodicians in assigning (for lack of a better term) monarchy (or principle of Godhead) to the Father alone, while Torrance follows Athanasius in assigning monarchy to the Trinity as a whole. Indeed, for Torrance, this just is the definition of monarchy, ‘the one ultimate principle of Godhead, in which all three divine Persons share equally, for the whole indivisible Being of God belongs to each of them as it belongs to all of them’ (Torrance, Trinitarian Perpsectives, p. 112) Continue reading