About me wee self

Well, I guess I’ll actually get around to telling a little something about myself. My name is Kevin (I’ll leave the last name off for now in case I write something really stupid, and people say, yes, it was that Kevin). I’m from North Carolina and very white, anglo-saxon (as is every dogmatics student at Aberdeen, by the way).

Who do I read: Karl Barth (what a shock!), Emil Brunner (who I like better in many respects), Simone Weil (obscure French gnostic-Christian), T. F. Torrance (Greek-Reformed), people who write about Barth (Webster!), Nietzsche (sheep in wolves clothing?), von Balthasar (not human), Kierkegaard and a bunch of other existentialists that I’m trying to get over (Sartre, Camus,…), and I actually do try to read stuff before the 19th century, especially St. Thomas Aquinas and Luther. For some inexplicable reason, I find patristics largely boring apart from historical interest (E. Jüngel and I apparently are like two peas in a pod), but Thomas Torrance is starting to alleviate this deficiency. Oh, and I read Kant (because I have to as a self-proclaimed “thinker”).

Well, there’s my little intro to myself. I’m sure more will be divulged along the way.

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17 comments

  1. I do once in a while get to Calvin, but Luther is clearly more fun to read. I appreciate Luther’s erratic-existentialist genius. I know, this isn’t going to make me a very good systematic theologian.

  2. Eclectic can be electric! Welcome to the blogosphere. I’ll look forward to reading more.

    A couple of names seem conspicuously absent from your reading list, and I wonder whether you have deliberately chosen not to read them or whether you “just didn’t” list them. I refer to Juergen Moltmann and to Robert Jenson (whom the late and mourned Colin Gunton considered important enough for a Festschrift, which he edited).

  3. A belated welcome to the blogosphere from another relative newcomer. I’m doing a doctorate in Old Testament Theology and I’m interested in the cross-over between systematics/dogmatics (is there a difference?) and biblical exegesis. Do systematic theologians spend time looking at biblical theologians such as B. S. Childs and Christopher Seitz (my two role models)? I’m also glad to see someone’s mentioned Robert Jenson. He’s worked with Seitz, I believe. Despite my intentions to try and cross the two disciplines, I haven’t nul training in systematics, so I hope to get some nuggets of wisdom from this site. Can you recommend Jenson?

  4. Dwight,

    Yeah, I certainly couldn’t list everyone. I’ve read Moltmann (the Crucified God at least) and I hope to read more, but, for now, he hasn’t been terribly important for my studies. As for Jenson, I just haven’t gotten around to him yet. There’s too much to read! Perhaps there should be a 5 year moratorium on theological publication, so everyone can catch-up a little.

  5. Phil,

    Actually, Childs was brought-up by one of our Phd students in our systematics seminar on Pannenberg (whether P. should have a clearer defined canonical approach). There’s certainly an overlap of systematics and bilblical studies but its usually the former utilizing the latter. Biblical studies, as a “historical science,” usually frowns upon theological, much less canonical, approaches. Otherwise, so they say, you’re doing theology, not history. Now, I think that’s b.s., since I’m a total nonbeliever in the ability of scholars to work in an objective, ideology-free mode, e.g., skeptics read materialist theories into the texts and believers read supernatural theories (or, at least, possibilities of such) into the text (well, unless you’re Bultmann, then you side with the materialists). Of course, there’s much that can be agreed on by both types of scholars (and there’s different grades on the materialist-supernaturalist spectrum), I do believe these to be fundamentally different approaches that should be owned to from the get-go.

    I certainly do recommend you delving into dogmatics. An ill-formed Christian faith can cause the exegete to posture illegitimate theories from the texts. You can call this eisegesis all you want, but we do this anyway. It’s a moving back and forth — between what you bring-out and what you bring-in (or, as a dogmatician would say, a subject-object dialectical-realist epistemology). I’d particularly recommend Barth to warn you against anthropologizing, Brunner to warn you against objectivizing (Barth?), and Balthasar to teach you how to be a “kneeling” exegete.

  6. That’s really helpful, thanks. I’ve pretty much read through Robert Reymond’s Systematic Theology, which I found fairly appalling. Seeing that Seitz is such a fan of Jenson, I’ll try and get into him at some point. And of course, for some one into Childs, Barth is indespensible. If you ever fancy seeing a biblical theologian interacting with systematics, Childs’ Biblical Theology is worth checking out, especially the final chapters where he deals with things topically (Gospel/Law, ethics, Christ, etc.). He interacts with Moltmann, criticising and affirming in terms of his own approach.

  7. Hey, guess what? I’m from North Carolina, too! Well, if being “from” there means that I lived there from the time I was 19 until the time I was 38. Seems kind of like “paying ones dues” to me, but for some reason a lot of people who were born there thought I was a carpetbagger.

    I was Anglican for a while, too, from 1979-1983. I was brought into the Church by Bob Duncan, now the Episcopal Bishop of Pittsburgh. It’s his fault I went Roman, by the way, because he’s about as Roman as you can get without actually being subject to the authority of the Bishop of Rome.

    And where the hell is my blog in your blogroll? It looks like you’ve got all the other cool kids in there…how could you have left me out…hmmm….it must be some kind of moral failing…..don’t bother checking, yours is already in mine!

  8. Phil,
    I’m interested to know what you found appalling in Reymond. I find classic TULIP Calvinism appalling, so I would presumably fault Reymond on that — but I’ve never read Reymond. As for Childs, I definitely want to get around to the book you linked, but my professors keep giving me stuff to read (like they think that’s how college works or something).

    Scott,
    Hey, a fellow Tar Heel (even if a carpetbagging Tar Heel)! I’ll definitely correct the blogroll; I’ve been meaning to go through and see who I’m leaving out. I’ve never actually been Anglican, mostly because the ECUSA/TEC is a sorry excuse for a church.

  9. I should take care when using big words like “appalling”, as they place a heavy responsiblity on me to defend myself! I think my main problem with Reymond is his starting point, which is a definition of Scripture as containing a string of propositions. These are hiddin in the ‘wrapping’ of stories and metaphors and need to be dug out and realigned on a more logical axis. The propositions thus uncovered give us direct access into the mind of God, such that we can say that we know for certain a certain percentage of what is in his mind (Reymond defends a monological understanding of truth here). Systematic theology is ulitmately about collecting and systematising these propositions.

    I struggled with this approach at university, which was the only one I knew. I often wondered why God had given us a Bible in the form that we have and not a Quran, for example, or simply a revealed Systematic Theology. I’m still trying to figure out an alternative!

    Base on what you say about ECUSA, you would also enjoy reading C. Seitz. He’s Childs’ best interpreter and is passionately critical of the Anglicn Church, while being Anglican himself. Word without End and Figured Out have the most essays on the subject.

  10. Phil,

    Yeah, that definitely sounds classical Reformed, and exactly the type of theology and exegesis that the great Reformed theologians of the last century (Barth, Brunner, Berkouwer, Torrance) strenuously attacked, all the while entirely grounding the church’s proclamation of the Word in scripture. The classic Reformed dogmatics look impressive in their tight, logical systems, but ultimately collapse as major deficiencies are exposed. That is why so many students become TULIP Calvinists at the beginning of their studies, and then move to a more Barthian, Bultmannian (heaven-forbid!), or some other perspective which makes a far more legitimate case in light of contemporary knowledge (not to sound liberal — I’m far from it). Now having said that, there is some impressive and important work coming out of the classic Reformed camp, e.g., Michael Horton’s ‘Lord and Servant: A Covenant Christology’.

    The Seitz books look great; I even added ’em to my Amazon wishlist. Given your interests and concerns, I should have mentioned John Webster (a professor of mine here at Aberdeen) and his book, ‘Holy Scripture: A Dogmatic Sketch’ (Cambridge 2003). The issue of theological exegesis (or exegetical theology) has been at the center of his dogmatic work of which this book is important, but also take a look at his volume, ‘Word and Church: Essays in Church Dogmatics’.

  11. Are you familiar with Baxter Kruger? He’s a former student of Torrance’s (J.B. that is) at Aberdeen. He’s wriiten several books, all heavy on the Torrance theology. They are all pretty thin books, quick reads. He’s got a blog at Perichoresis.org. Check him out. BTW, love you site, very informative and fun. Ben

  12. Really, really enjoying your blog. Thanks for your careful thinking (from what I can gather – Reformed impetus without the ‘Christ-against-culture vibe that often accompanies it) and occasional moments of personal reflection. Keep it up.

    Elizabeth

    • Many thanks, Elizabeth. Yes, I am not overly fond of the Christ-against-culture model, especially the “worldview” style of Reformed apologetics, which has nothing to do with Calvin or any of the Reformers.

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