The Evangelical Aesthetic

September 30, 2015

Vince Gill and his father, Jay Stanley Gill, an administrative law judge and country music enthusiast who gave Vince his first guitar lessons.

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As is often said, the Catholic aesthetic is visual and material; the Protestant aesthetic is verbal and aural. Even Catholic novelists — in a verbal medium — are basically imaginative (image-making) in their orientation. Tolkien is an obvious example.

Protestants do preaching; Catholics do cathedrals. Both proclaim the gospel. It is only the small-minded Protestant who cannot admit the deficiency in the Protestant aesthetic; it is only the small-minded Catholic who cannot admit the deficiency in the Catholic aesthetic. But the purpose of this post is to highlight the Protestant — or evangelical Protestant — aesthetic in word and song. I only have one example. It is sufficient: “Go Rest High on That Mountain.”

Vince Gill wrote the now-classic gospel song, “Go Rest High on That Mountain,” which he recorded with Patty Loveless. It’s a stunning song, beautiful in a crippling sort of way. Most songwriters would die happy if they had only written, “Go Rest High on That Mountain.” Even for Vince, one of the all-time greats, this is special.

Vince Gill and Patty Loveless performed the song at George Jones’ memorial service at the Opry, a couple years ago. If this is not heaven on earth, I don’t want to go to heaven:

Let the tears flow. George Jones is crying tears of joy in heaven.

A Protestant could have never written The End of the Affair, but a Catholic could have never written “Go Rest High on That Mountain.”

This is why Catholics and Protestants need each other.

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Image: Vince Gill and his father, Jay Stanley Gill, an administrative law judge and country music enthusiast who gave Vince his first guitar lessons. (source)

Recent books of interest

September 22, 2015

Here are noteworthy recent releases — and upcoming releases — for the theologically-inclined. It has been a while since my previous entry for “recent books of interest,” which has now become a semi-regular feature here. As usual, they are in no particular order.

Woodrow Wilson is reported to have said, “I would never read a book if it were possible for me to talk half an hour with the man who wrote it.” I’ll have to consider that.

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Theo-Poetics - Anne Carpenter

Anne M. Carpenter, Theo-Poetics: Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Risk of Art and Being (University of Notre Dame Press) — due Oct. 15

Louis Bouyer, The Memoirs of Louis Bouyer: From Youth and Conversion to Vatican II, the Liturgical Reform, and After (Angelico Press) — also, read Francesca Murphy’s effusive praise for this book

Mary Frances McKenna, Innovation within Tradition: Joseph Ratzinger and Reading the Women of Scripture (Fortress Press)

Andrew Purves - Exploring Christology and Atonement

Andrew Purves, Exploring Christology and Atonement: Conversations with John McLeod Campbell, H. R. Mackintosh and T. F. Torrance (IVP Academic)

Stephen N. Williams, The Election of Grace: A Riddle without a Resolution? (Eerdmans)

Robert Sherman, Covenant, Community, and the Spirit: A Trinitarian Theology of Church (Baker Academic) — due Oct. 20

Ingolf Dalferth - Grammar of Christology

Ingolf U. Dalferth, Crucified and Resurrected: Restructuring the Grammar of Christology (Baker Academic) — due Nov. 3

Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works — Reader’s Edition Set (Fortress Press) – due Nov. 1

Jacques Ellul, Islam and Judeo-Christianity: A Critique of Their Commonality (Cascade Books)

Jennifer Newsome Martin - Balthasar and Russian Religious Thought

Jennifer Newsome Martin, Hans Urs von Balthasar and the Critical Appropriation of Russian Religious Thought (University of Notre Dame Press)

Servais Pinckaers, Passions & Virtue (Catholic University of America Press)

Cardinal Sarah - God or Nothing

Robert Cardinal Sarah, God or Nothing: A Conversation on Faith (Ignatius Press)

John M. G. Barclay, Paul and the Gift (Eerdmans)

Chris Tilling, Paul’s Divine Christology (Eerdmans)

Jensen, Steven - Knowing the Natural Law

Steven Jensen, Knowing the Natural Law: From Precepts and Inclinations to Deriving Oughts (Catholic University of America Press)

Thomas Joseph White, OP, The Incarnate Lord: A Thomistic Study in Christology (Catholic University of America Press)

Daria Spezzano, The Glory of God’s Grace: Deification According to St. Thomas Aquinas (Sapientia Press / Catholic University of America Press)

Stanley Hauerwas - The Work of Theology

Stanley Hauerwas, The Work of Theology (Eerdmans)

Simone Weil, Late Philosophical Writings (University of Notre Dame Press)

Maria Clara Bingemer, Simone Weil: Mystic of Passion and Compassion (Cascade Books)

Lydia Schumacher - Rationality as Virtue

Lydia Schumacher, Rationality As Virtue: Towards a Theological Philosophy (Ashgate) — due Sep 28

Adam Johnson, Atonement: A Guide for the Perplexed (T&T Clark)

Archie J. Spencer, The Analogy of Faith: The Quest for God’s Speakability (IVP Academic) — due Oct. 18

Michael Allen - Reformation Readings of Paul

Michael Allen and Jonathan Linebaugh, eds., Reformation Readings of Paul: Explorations in History and Exegesis (IVP Academic) — due Nov. 2

Janet Smith and Fr. Paul Check, Living the Truth in Love: Pastoral Approaches to Same Sex Attraction (Ignatius Press)

Scruton -- Fools, Frauds, and Firebrands

Roger Scruton, Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left (Bloomsbury) — due Dec. 8

Étienne Gilson,Theology and the Cartesian Doctrine of Freedom (St. Augustine’s Press) — due Nov. 10

Kyle Greenwood - Scripture and Cosmology

Kyle Greenwood, Scripture and Cosmology: Reading the Bible Between the Ancient World and Modern Science (IVP Academic) — due Oct. 3

Leah Libresco, Arriving at Amen (Ave Maria Press)

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Music

Lindi Ortega - Faded Gloryville

Lindi Ortega, Faded Gloryville

Whitney Rose, Heartbreaker of the Year

Kip Moore, Wild Ones

Alan Jackson, Angels and Alcohol

George Jones, Complete Starday & Merc​ury Singles, 1954-62due Oct. 16

Turnpike Troubadours, The Turnpike Troubadours

Is the Psalmist a Protestant?

September 19, 2015

Berkouwer - Faith and Sanctification

I have been re-reading portions of Berkouwer’s Faith and Sanctification, a volume from his dogmatics series. It is superb and easily among my favorite volumes, from the five or six that I have read or consulted. As I wrote a few years ago, “Berkouwer is such a well-balanced theologian that it’s hard to ever find anything to dispute.”

A particularly helpful discussion is about the Psalms, namely those Psalms with a certain “sense of self-esteem” and “in terms almost indistinguishable from those used by the Pharisees” (p. 125). You know them. And hopefully you have been perplexed as well. Berkouwer highlights Psalm 26:

Judge me, O Jehovah, for I have walked in mine integrity…I have walked in thy truth. I have not sat with men of falsehood; neither will I go in with dissemblers. I hate the assembly of evildoers, and will not sit with the wicked. I will wash my hands in innocency.

Yeah, me! Hurray for me! Is that what the Psalmist is doing? Berkouwer repeats the problem, “Is there not a striking similarity here with the words used by the Pharisee in the parable?”

To the Protestant, nothing is more abhorrent than being a Pharisee. In fact, we are at our most Pharisaical when we are being anti-Pharisaical. The most judgmental people I know are the most anti-Pharisaical — always keen to spot the judgmental “splinter” in another’s eye. But that’s another topic for another day. What to do with this Psalm and others like it? Here is Berkouwer’s response:

Let no one jump to conclusions. There is in this psalm a definite center to which all these utterances are related. The poet trusts in the Lord, whose lovingkindness is before his eyes. In God’s truth he has walked. He compasses the altar of Jehovah and loves the habitation of Jehovah’s house. He makes the voice of thanksgiving to be heard and tells of all God’s wondrous works. And finally: In the congregation will I bless Jehovah.

Each of these statements undercuts Pharisaism. The expression of joy over the mercy of God and distinguishing self from others are naturally related; they find their point of convergence on the altar of reconciliation.

[Faith and Sanctification, p. 125]

Berkouwer then summarizes Eduard Köning’s objection as: “People who talk like the psalmist are the healthy people who need no physician.” Berkouwer then continues with his response:

In this manner an injustice is done to what Psalm 26 says about the mercy of God, about his altar and habitation. The whole is a song of praise. It is possible, of course, for a Pharisee to absorb the mercy of God and the altar into his own nomistic scheme; but it is also possible that in the psalms the voice of a believer speaks of the righteousness which is not subversive of the grace of God. …

Whoever gives an abstract moral interpretation to these Old-Testament expressions of righteousness is bound to distort the Scriptures. He would make of Israel’s religion and the Covenant of Grace a purely nomistic salvation. The holiness of the righteous could then be only an ethical ideal and the mercy of God becomes irrelevant.

[p. 126]

I love that. Earlier in this chapter, Berkouwer criticizes some of Barth’s comments about sanctification in his early writings, being (as Barth was) under the sway of a too strict dichotomy between the eternal and temporal wherein the dichotomy as such holds interpretive sway. I wholly agree with this criticism, and I’m pretty sure that Barth would too. That is also another discussion for another time. Berkouwer closes this chapter with an approving reference to Barth — “Never, according to Barth, can the believer claim his good works as his own possession and contrast them with the non-possession of another man” (Römerbrief, 204) — and then a quote from Calvin:

We are not our own; therefore let us, as far as possible, forget ourselves and all things that are ours. On the contrary, we are God’s; to him, therefore, let us live and die. We are God’s; therefore let his wisdom and will preside in all our actions. We are God’s; towards him, therefore, as our only legitimate end, let every part of our lives be directed. O, how great a proficiency has that man made, who, having been taught that he is not his own, has taken the sovereignty and government of himself from his own reason, to surrender it to God!

[Institutes, III.6.1; Berkouwer, ibid., p. 130]

Amen.

The Future of the Church

September 12, 2015

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El Greco, “Pentecost” (1596)

This past Wednesday evening, I watched ‘The Future of the Church’ seminar from Biola, a successor to ‘The Future of Protestantism’ seminar last year. Peter Leithart’s FT article, “The End of Protestantism,” was the motivation for hosting these discussions.

Here it is, along with my musings below:

I respect everyone involved in both last year’s and this year’s discussion, and I greatly appreciate the work involved by the organizers. However, I have been underwhelmed by both seminars. This may have much to do with my own idiosyncrasies in theology. My biggest complaint, however, is formal and not material. The structure makes no sense to me. We have four talented theologians, invited to lecture and discuss the problems plaguing ecclesiology. So far, so good. But each theologian is given, as far as I can tell, no direction and no guidance on what precisely to evaluate and discuss. They do not know what each other is going to say, and each presentation is a stand-alone monologue — differing in character and content widely from one to the next. This was true of last year’s event, and the same format was chosen this year.

Likewise, the roundtable discussion after the lectures is similarly disjointed. For the most part, the questions are far too broad. Each theologian is speaking, naturally enough, out of his own experiences and peculiar context. If, instead, each was given a common set of questions, preferably with concrete problems and proposed solutions, prior to the seminar, then the results could have been far more fruitful. The dialog could have been far more constructive.

I would love some questions about Protestant iconoclasm, in its tireless pursuit of authentic ἐκκλησία and distrust of forms — to give one example. Maybe the organizers want to appeal to a broader audience, but I doubt the theological neophyte is gaining much under the current format.

Setting aside those complaints, you can still benefit from hearing the various perspectives in each presentation and in the discussion afterwards.

La Sagrada Familia

September 7, 2015

La Sagrada Familia, nativity facade

La Sagrada Familia, nativity facade

It is impossible to capture the experience, either in words or in images, of visiting La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. This strange marvel is incomparable to anything that has come before, although there is a strong Gothic component that has been reimagined.

The devout Catholic architect, Antoni Gaudí, began work on La Sagrada Familia in 1883 and eventually dedicated himself entirely to its construction. He also created the models by which his successors could complete the work, which is still ongoing.

La Sagrada Familia, west aisle

Depending upon what time of the day you visit, different windows filter the sun’s light and project their colors throughout the space. This is the late afternoon sun coming through the western windows. Gaudí, it is said, was obsessive about the windows and gauging how much light would enter the church.

La Sagrada Familia, light from west windows in late afternoon

Above, two friars walking through the nave, near the western windows.

La Sagrada Familia, nave near altar

Gaudí was inspired by nature, replicating its forms in all of his works. In this case, the column supports for La Sagrada Familia are inspired by trees in a forest. As you can see, the columns branch-out from the nodes upward. This allowed Gaudí to give the church plenty of support from the inside, instead of having to use buttresses on the outside, and the forest-like design gives an aesthetic wonder to the space, instead of merely several uniform bulky columns. This is considered one of Gaudí’s greatest technical achievements.

La Sagrada Familia, nativity portal

The above photograph is a detail of the Nativity facade, designed and built under Gaudí’s direction. The liveliness to the scene is typical of Gaudí. The Holy Family is in the middle, where the doorway arches come together. The three wise men are on the left, and shepherds are on the right. Angels playing musical instruments are above.

If you didn’t watch it when I first posted it, you should see this short documentary, “God’s Architect,” from CBS News:

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Images: All of the photographs are mine. You are free to download for private use. If you want to republish, my permission is required.

The 1974 Southern 500

September 6, 2015

Cale Yarborough, winner of 1974 Southern 500

Cale Yarborough, winner of the 1974 Southern 500

Tonight marks the return of the Southern 500 to Labor Day weekend at Darlington Speedway, South Carolina! Little known fact: I was born 10 miles from Darlington Speedway.

The 1974 Southern 500 is one of the classic races in this golden age of NASCAR. In 1974, my parents have not even met — I was born under Reagan — even though they are both from the Florence-Darlington area of eastern South Carolina, not far from Myrtle Beach.

In 1974, Dolly Parton is dominating the country charts and Bob Dylan is hitting the road for the first time in eight years. It’s a good year. At the first “super speedway” on the NASCAR circuit, the small town of Darlington is receiving some racing legends: Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, Richard Petty, Buddy Baker, and a young Darrell Waltrip.

This was back when “stock car racing” actually involved stock cars, with working headlights and everything. My dad went to a Darlington race in the late 60’s, and when one of the teams needed a new car soon before the race, they simply went to a local dealership and bought a new car, making some modifications back at the track in their garage. That’s true stock car racing.

Richard Petty is on the pole. Cale Yarborugh is a favorite to win. Cale won the Southern 500 the previous year and in 1968, an epic year for him when he also started and finished the Daytona 500 in first place.

Here is the summary report after the 1974 Southern 500:

I love these retro NASCAR videos. It continues with part two and part three. Throughout the fifties, sixties, and seventies, NASCAR races were not broadcast live. Instead, they were given an official summary report, normally about a half-hour long. The 1979 Daytona 500 was the first NASCAR race broadcast live from beginning to end. Richard Petty won.

You can watch a documentary on the ’79 Daytona 500:

You will not regret watching this documentary!

You can also watch the official race summary of the 1984 Firecracker 400 at Daytona, where President Reagan lands and congratulates Richard Petty on his 200th win! This is one of the greatest moments in NASCAR history. It also involves an “infamous fistfight” between Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison.

Cale Yarborough at the 1968 Southern 500

Cale Yarborough at the 1968 Southern 500

Our Lady of Reims and Paris

September 4, 2015

Reims Cathedral

Reims Cathedral

Previously, we looked at the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres.

Now, I present two more masterpieces of thirteenth century Gothic architecture: Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris and Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Reims. The cathedrals of Chartres, Paris, and Reims — along with Amiens Cathedral and the Royal Basilica of Saint Denis — are all located in northern France, the birthplace of Gothic architecture.

At the end, I briefly recount my experience at a Sunday morning mass at Notre-Dame de Paris.

All photographs are mine.

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Reims Cathedral south ailse

Reims Cathedral, south aisle

What I loved about the aisle windows at Reims is the amount of light they allow. By contrast, Notre-Dame de Paris is incredibly dark, which has its own aesthetic value of course. As you walk into Reims, the warmth of the space is palpable, unique among the cathedrals we visited. The more common iconographic and multi-color windows are along the ambulatory (i.e., behind the altar), as well as the rose windows in the West, North, and South.

Reims Cathedral, ribbed vaults

Reims Cathedral, ribbed vaults

The above photograph allows you to see the brilliance of light that illumines each aisle, in contrast to the chancel and ambulatory.

Reims Cathedral, Clovis baptism

Reims Cathedral, commemoration of Clovis’ baptism

In the nave, you can see here a commemoration of Clovis’ baptism. ICI SAINT REMI BAPTISA CLOVIS ROI DES FRANCS, which translates as, “Here Saint Remi baptized Clovis, King of the Franks.” Clovis was baptized by Saint Remigius at Reims, which effectively converted all of the Frankish tribes to Christianity. The French (etymologically derived from “Franks” by way of the Latin, Francia, for the Frankish people) owe their Christian heritage to this moment, historically speaking.

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Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris

Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris

Oh yes, the most famous cathedral in the world: Notre-Dame de Paris! The western facade is breathtaking, and its location on the Île de la Cité in the middle of the river is perfect. There are so many fabulous angles from which you can view this cathedral.

Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris, south rose window and aisle

South rose window and aisle

Since the interior of Notre-Dame de Paris is so dark, I drastically increased the ISO and aperture value on my camera in this photograph, allowing you to see with greater clarity. Trust me, it is far darker, even on a bright and sunny day.

Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris, chapel behind the chancel

Marian chapel behind the chancel

This is more representative of the darkness of the interior. This darkness does, however, draw attention to the brilliance of the stained glass, as you can see in this photograph of a Marian chapel along the ambulatory.

My brother and I attended the 10am “Gregorian mass” on Sunday morning, which was very well-attended. I loved it! During the Gregorian mass, several parts of the service are done in Latin, including the Creed and Our Father. I am terrible at pronouncing French quickly, but Latin is a breeze! And it was great to hear everyone speak this “universal” language. There was a young French woman, probably 16 or 17 years old, next to me, and she was a pro! I was super-impressed. She even kneeled on the concrete floor during the consecration, which is not something that many were willing to do, given the lack of kneelers.

Also, the organ is something to experience! The organist was playing Bach or perhaps theme music from Castlevania — either way, it was great!

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Images: All of the photographs are mine. You are free to download for private use. If you want to republish, my permission is required.

Molnar_Faith-Freedom

Paul D. Molnar, Faith, Freedom and the Spirit: The Economic Trinity in Barth, Torrance and Contemporary Theology. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2015.

I’ve had my review copy of Molnar’s latest book, graciously sent by IVP Academic, for most of the summer. Planning a vacation and other matters got in the way, but I finally finished. It is a dense, technical work of over 400 pages, entirely pertaining to a high-level, intramural debate within systematic theology today, namely among students of Karl Barth’s theology. In other words, this is not for beginners or for those generally curious about Barth and Torrance. It is an important debate, however, to which every student must give attention — with ramifications that extend beyond the fluid borders of Barth scholarship.

The dispute, as I know that many of my readers are familiar, is over Bruce McCormack’s interpretation of Barth’s theology. For McCormack, the key to Barth’s doctrine of God is how — in McCormack’s reading — the divine election precedes ontology, the ontology for both God and man. God’s being is determined in the act of electing man in Jesus Christ. As a primordial act, this should not be understood as a temporal sequence (election and then ontology) but as a singular act where “being” and “act” are bound-up with one another. There is no other God than this God who elects himself to be this God. Here are a few quotes, among many others, that Molnar cites from McCormack:

The act in which God determines himself essentially is election. If then this act is primordial, then election is primordial. There is no triunity in God apart from election, for the two occur in one and the same event. (Trinitarian Theology After Karl Barth, eds. Habets and Tolliday, 114; Molnar, 190)

There is no longer any room left here for an abstract doctrine of the Trinity. There is a triune being of God — only in the covenant of grace. (Trinity and Election in Contemporary Theology, ed. Michael Dempsey, 128; Molnar, 192-193)

God’s being is grounded in an Urentscheidung (i.e., a ‘primordial decision’) in which he gives to himself his own being as God. (Mapping Modern Theology, eds. Kapic and McCormack, 14; Molnar, 194)

God has elected to be God in the covenant of grace and to be God in no other way. This is not a decision for mere role-play; it is a decision with ontological significance. It is a free act in which God assigned to himself the being God would have for all eternity. (Orthodox and Modern, 216; Molnar, 290)

…God gives both to himself and to humanity his and their essential being and does so with respect to one and the same figure, Jesus of Nazareth. (Orthodox and Modern, 228; Molnar, 311).

“There is a triune being of God — only in the covenant of grace.” “There is no triunity in God apart from election.” These and similar expressions are the focus of contention. If it is true that God is only triune — that is, who God is in his very being — in the covenant of grace, then the covenant of grace is necessary for who God is, which is to say, necessary for God. McCormack sees this as Barth’s most significant contribution to theology and is the basis upon which theology today should move forward. For McCormack, this is the consistent and thoroughgoing application of Barth’s rejection of natural theology and classical metaphysics, and Barth only fully discovered the decisive move (election determines ontology) in his volume on election (CD II.2) and illustrated in the doctrine of reconciliation (IV.1), as with Barth’s treatment of the logos asarkos, most famously, even though McCormack does not see Barth as always consistently applying this revolutionary insight.

Molnar disputes all of this. There is no change in Barth’s doctrine of God in II.2. Rather, Barth’s pointed insistence in II.1 resonates throughout the subsequent volumes:

God is who He is in His works. He is the same even in Himself, even before and after and over His works, and without them. They are bound to Him, but He is not bound to them. They are nothing without Him. But He is who He is without them. He is not, therefore, who He is only in His works. (CD II.1, 260; Molnar, 308; also cited by Alan Torrance, The Cambridge Companion to Karl Barth, ed. John Webster, 90, n.28)

God is not bound to his works. He is God without his works. And later in his dogmatics, Barth writes of God becoming man, “God did not owe it to man. He did not owe it even to the man Jesus. He did not owe it either in His eternal counsel or in its execution. He did not owe it even to himself to an inner dialectic of His Godhead” (IV.2, 41; Molnar, 306). “Its occurrence cannot, therefore, be perceived or understood or deduced from any ontology which embraces Himself and the world, Himself and man, or from any higher standpoint whatever [than his ‘gracious good-pleasure’]” (Ibid.). This is one example of where Molnar attends to Barth in disputation with McCormack. It is beyond the scope of a blog review to lay-out all the merits and demerits of McCormack’s work on Barth. Suffice it to say that I found Molnar to be persuasive on these critical matters.

The debate over Barth’s “actualistic ontology,” as some like to say, does not begin until the third chapter, and Molnar covers a great deal more than my quotations above would indicate. The first chapter covers the pneumatological basis of Barth’s epistemology. In this chapter, Molnar uses Karl Rahner extensively by way of contrast with Barth. Rahner, unlike Barth, “attempts to validate knowledge of faith from the experience of self-transcendence” (22). However, “Any attempt to know God that seeks some form of direct knowledge of God (a knowledge without the mediation of his incarnate Word), in Barth’s view, always would mean the inability to distinguish God from us; and that would mean our inability to speak objectively and truly about God at all” (23). Rather boldly, Rahner claims that “the hope that a person’s history of freedom will be conclusive in nature…already includes what we mean by the hope of ‘resurrection'” (Theological Investigations 17:16; Molnar, 54) and “knowledge of man’s resurrection given with his transcendentally necessary hope is a statement of philosophical anthropology even before any real revelation in the Word” (TI 9:41; Molnar, 55-56). As a result, man is innately disposed toward God, in Rahner’s theology, not opposed to God, as we find in Barth. Molnar then shifts to a consideration of Tillich and Bultmann’s non-conceptual knowledge of God, which bears similarities to Rahner.

In the second chapter, Molnar continues discussing how the Holy Spirit yields knowledge of God. Now, John Courtney Murray and Wolfhart Pannenberg are his interlocutors, making contrasts with Barth and Torrance. The remainder of the book, chapters three to eight, pertains directly to the debate with McCormack. The third chapter notably includes some interesting discussion of other theologians who have appropriated aspects of McCormack’s theology: Benjamin Myers, Kevin Hector, Paul Nimmo, and Paul Dafydd Jones.

The seventh chapter is significant because it marks the one area of disagreement with Barth’s trinitarian theology. Favoring T. F. Torrance’s account, Molnar criticizes Barth for subordinating the Son to the Father in the immanent Trinity. For Barth, this is the basis for the subordination of the Son (for our salvation) in the economic Trinity. This chapter was previously published last year in the Scottish Journal of Theology, which is where I first read it. I am still undecided on precisely where I land in this debate about subordination in the Trinity, and you can read my previous posts on this topic here and here. I will need to postpone this particular discussion until another day.

In the final chapter, Molnar ties together the epistemological considerations in the first two chapters with the metaphysical considerations in the subsequent chapters. All together, this chapter serves as a nice summary presentation of Barth and Torrance’s theological program. It also serves as a nice testimony to the theological vision that inspires Professor Molnar.

This is an excellent book. I recommend it highly. This review is, obviously, not sufficient to demonstrate the depth of analysis involved. Let me quote from Ian Torrance’s blurb on the back cover: “The best studies of Karl Barth have moved well beyond mere exegesis of his text and now probe the fundamental assumptions on which exegetical perspectives have been based.” And D. Stephen Long, author of my favorite Barth book from last year, writes, “Few Protestant, let alone Catholic, interpreters of Karl Barth read him with as much skill and conviction as does Paul Molnar.”

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Disclosure: I received this book from IVP Academic for purposes of review without any obligation to endorse the product.

Chartres Cathedral

September 1, 2015

Chartres Cathedral

Chartres Cathedral

I am back from Paris and Barcelona! There is so much that I could write about, including pedestrian observations — such as how every Parisian smokes cigarettes, like it’s the 1960’s.

Instead, I will write a few posts about specific places that I especially enjoyed. First is Chartres Cathedral, or The Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres, southwest of Paris. Chartres is easy to access by train, about 60 miles from the center of Paris.

All pictures are mine.

Chartres is a much-beloved and storied cathedral, with its present construction dating to the early 13th century, including most of the stained glass. It was a very popular pilgrimage site in the Middle Ages, and its popularity as a pilgrimage site is returning, at least according to one book that I read. The cathedral emerges over the rolling hills of golden wheat fields, with the beneficence of the Virgin Mother awaiting the faithful.

Madonna and Child chapel

Madonna and Child Chapel

Every church we visited has a side chapel dedicated to the Madonna and Child. The one at Chartres is especially lovely, and you can see (click the image to enlarge) some people praying. All of these cathedrals and basilicas are active churches. There is a wedding occurring in the central nave, as I am taking this picture.

Chartres Cathedral, woman carrying a candle

Along the North side aisle

And here is a woman carrying a candle as a votive offering. As you turn around, this is the view of the South rose window:

South Rose Window

South Rose Window

As you can see from this picture, the cathedral is undergoing an extensive interior renovation (or “restoration,” depending upon your point of view). The purported aim of the restoration, which began in 2009, is to restore the interior to its original appearance. The only possible way to do this is through plaster and paint. The white is the new; the brown is the old. Here is another picture that vividly displays the difference:

Rib vaults

Rib Vaults

That’s a significant difference. The deterioration of the interior has been rather severe, much more so than the other cathedrals we visited, such as Reims or Notre-Dame de Paris. But the renovation is rather severe too. It entirely erases the marks of time. As you could have guessed, this renovation has received some harsh criticism, such as from Martin Filler writing for NYR Daily. Filler makes some good and important points, but I will reserve judgment until the renovation/restoration is complete. It will certainly give an entirely new atmosphere to the cathedral, and perhaps it will serve to even better showcase the marvelous windows.

La Belle Verriere window

La Belle Verriere Window

This is one of the most renowned windows, La Belle Verriere, along the South aisle. The Virgin and Child are surrounded by angels in the adjacent panels. In the lower panels (bottom-up) are the temptations of Christ and then the wedding at Cana.

Nave and South Aisle

Nave and South Aisle

Here is another spectacular view, which also allows you to see the contrast between the renovated nave and unrenovated portions of the southern aisle.

Charles Péguy memorial

Charles Péguy memorial

Charles Péguy is an important literary figure who immortalized Chartres in his writings at the beginning of the 20th century. The plaque above says that Péguy walked here to entrust his children to the Virgin Mary and, following his example, students from France and abroad make pilgrimage here by the thousands.

That’s the end of my tour of Chartres Cathedral! As with any of these sites, the pictures only capture a small glimpse of its wonder and majesty.

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Images: All of the photographs are mine. You are free to download for private use. If you want to republish, my permission is required.