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Showing posts from January, 2011

Adam Neder, “The Humanness of Calvin” – Part 6 / Conclusion

[Ed. note: Adam Neder is associate professor of theology at Whitworth University, a graduate of PTS, an author, and a friend of DET.]

Concluding Observation
OK, I’d like to wrap up with one final observation.

The longer I reflect on Calvin’s personality, the clearer it becomes to me that he was, above all, a man of truth. And the more I think about it, the more convicted I become by the possibility that at least part of the reason we’re not attracted to him is because, unlike us, he simply refused to fake friendship for political reasons. He was so repulsed by duplicity and hypocrisy that he resolved never to pretend to be someone’s friend when he really wasn’t.

The drawbacks to that way of relating to people are perfectly obvious, but the motivation for Calvin’s honesty is entirely praiseworthy. It was because he regarded friendship as such a great gift and blessing from God that he refused to degrade it with insincerity and feigned kindness. In most Christian contexts, that way of op…

Adam Neder, “The Humanness of Calvin” – Part 5

[Ed. note: Adam Neder is associate professor of theology at Whitworth University, a graduate of PTS, an author, and a friend of DET.]

Calvin’s Friendship with Martin Bucer
Bucer was born into a German-speaking family of craftsmen in Alsace, and at 15 he entered a Dominican monastery. The Dominicans sent him to Heidelberg to pursue a doctorate, and there he came under the influence of Erasmus. Then, in April of 1518, he had an experience that made a profound impact on him. He was allowed to sit in on Luther’s famous Heidelberg Disputation, where for the first time he encountered Luther’s theology of the cross. The experience blew his Dominican doors off.

And after a personal meeting with the great man, Bucer became convinced that Luther’s teaching on grace was true. So in 1521, he left the Dominicans and promptly married a former nun, Elisabeth Silbereisen. After a few moves, the couple settled in Strasbourg, and when the town decided to embrace the Reformation, they chose Bucer and Wol…

Adam Neder, “The Humanness of Calvin” – Part 4

[Ed. note: Adam Neder is associate professor of theology at Whitworth University, a graduate of PTS, an author, and a friend of DET.]

Calvin’s Friendship with William FarelThe two closest friendships that Calvin developed during his first stay in Geneva were with Pierre Viret and William Farel who had been laboring alongside one another in the Genevan reform. Calvin joined them in 1536, and the three men quickly became so close that people in town nicknamed them “the tripod” and “the three patriarchs.” Calvin dedicated his commentary on Titus to them, and after comparing their work together in Geneva to St. Paul’s work in Crete, he says this:“I do not believe that there have ever been such friends who have lived together in such a deep friendship in their everyday style of life in this world as we have in our ministry. I have served here in the office of pastor with you two, and there was never between us any appearance of envy. It seems to me that you two and I were as one person.”Int…

Adam Neder, “The Humanness of Calvin” – Part 3

[Ed. note: Adam Neder is associate professor of theology at Whitworth University, a graduate of PTS, an author, and a friend of DET.]

Calvin’s Friends: Preamble
Perhaps a more obvious way to try to humanize Calvin would have been to give you a glimpse into his warm relationship with his wife, Idelette de Bure. Idelette was a member of Calvin’s congregation, the widow of a converted Anabaptist, and the mother of two children, a boy and a girl. When she and Calvin married, Calvin became the father of these two children, and during their marriage she bore Calvin three more children, all of whom died in infancy. When Idelette herself died after only nine years of being married to Calvin, it came as a devastating blow to him.

Here’s an excerpt from a letter he wrote to his friend Pierre Viret soon after Idelette’s death:“Although the death of my wife has been bitterly painful to me, I restrain my grief well as I can. . . . You know well enough how tender, or rather how soft, my mind is. Had…

Adam Neder, “The Humanness of Calvin” – Part 2

[Ed. note: Adam Neder is associate professor of theology at Whitworth University, a graduate of PTS, an author, and a friend of DET.]

Calvin as he Exists in Popular Imagination
To most people, Calvin’s name is synonymous with the doctrine of predestination and the execution of Michael Servetus. And to the extent that people think about him at all, they think of him as a kind of bloodless misanthropic dictator, a sadistic genius, a sad and lonely man who never loved nor was loved in return. And there’s never been a shortage of critics ready to reinforce the caricature. To take just one influential example, in The Story of Civilization, Will Durant offers this little gem: according to Durant, “we shall always find it hard to love the man who darkened the human soul with the most absurd and blasphemous conception of God in all the long and honored history of nonsense.” And as far as Calvin-bashing goes, that’s pretty mild.

As for the Servetus trial, let me mention just a few things. The f…

Adam Neder, “The Humanness of Calvin” – Introduction / Part 1

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[Ed. note: Adam Neder is associate professor of theology at Whitworth University, a graduate of PTS, an author, and a friend of DET.]

I’d like to begin with an anecdote. Two weeks ago, I sat next to a French Dominican priest on a flight from Minneapolis to Spokane. We struck up a conversation in which he told me that Martin Luther had no interest in sanctification. Luther’s doctrine of justification, he said, was nothing more than an attempt to justify his own sinful patterns of life. As he put it, “Luther wanted to eat, drink, and be merry, so he figured out a theology that would allow him to do that.” When I suggested that Luther’s teaching concerning the law in the Large Catechism seemed to me essentially identical to Calvin’s teaching on the third use of the law, his response was, “Ah yes, Calvin. Very sad. Hardly even a human being.” And when I told him about this lecture – that I was going to try to open a window into Calvin’s humanity – his response was as simple as it was emph…

Upcoming Mini-Series on Calvin by Special Guest Author, Adam Neder

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That’s right, folks – January seems to be turning into Guest Author Month here at DET. Earlier in the month we had a sermon for Epiphany from Nathan Hitchcock, and it is now my distinct pleasure to announce that Adam Neder has graciously consented to my publishing here a talk that he gave on Calvin back in the summer of 2009 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Calvin’s birthday. The talk focuses on Calvin's personal humanity rather than his doctrine, and provides a lively and engaging glimpse of Calvin the man.

Adam teaches theology at Whitworth University, and is a graduate of the doctoral program here at Princeton Theological Seminary. A revised version of his dissertation was published relatively recently under the title, Participation in Christ: An Entry into Barth's "Church Dogmatics," which is exactly what it sounds like - an introduction to Barth presented through the lens of what he has to say about participation. It is an especially concise, well-written …

Limited Coverage of Bruce McCormack's Croall Lectures

Darren over at Via Crucis has a post up about Bruce McCormack's Croall Lectures, currently underway at the University of Edinburgh. While he won't be posting full summaries and such, watch Darren's site for further discussion of and reflection upon these lectures.

As Darren explains, "The title of the lecture series is 'Abandoned by God: The Death of Christ in Systematic and Historical Perspective,' and the overarching agenda is to offer a new typology for the doctrine of the atonement."

Catholics Take Notice of Keith Johnson's Work on Barth and the Analogy of Being

Those of you who have noted my persistent promotion of Keith Johnson’s book, Karl Barth and the Analogia Entis, might be interested to know that a Roman Catholic blogger has now engaged with Johnson’s work. Actually, I should say that this blogger has engaged with a very fragmentary aspect of Johnson’s overall argument, namely, that portion set forth in Johnson’s recent Modern Theology article. There is much, much more in the book.

That said, this blogger’s response to Johnson (and Barth) is by turns puzzling and problematic:
In terms of puzzling, we have this blogger’s insistence that RC theology is interested in denying that sin “goes ‘all the way down.’” To anyone who has read Augustine, such a claim sounds scandalous, even without considering one’s possible Protestant sensibilities.In terms of problematic, this blogger seems not to have paid sufficient attention to Johnson’s whole essay, and therefore does not deeply engage with Barth's position. He quotes from one of Johnson’…

DET Re-design

Greetings faithful DET readers,

Some of you may have noticed that DET underwent a re-design yesterday. All your favorite bits and pieces are still around, but some of them have moved. Aside from a general aesthetic change, the biggest change is that some of the 2010 KBBC materials that had remained on the sidebar have now been moved to the KBBC index post (accessible from the menu at the top of the page). I suspect that most people read DET through aggregators, but all this should make it easier to navigate the site if you're going back to look for something, leave a comment, etc. The last template was something that I had struggled to adapt, and I just got tired of the rough edges.

Anyway, enjoy!

- Management

Who Said It? Installment, the First.

I've seen these sorts of posts on other blogs, and I've enjoyed them, but I never tried it here at DET. Well, today I correct that oversight. Feel free to leave comments trying to guess who said the following line, and I'll post a comment revealing the mystery writer on Monday (or something like that). Unfortunately I can offer no prize except satisfaction of a well nigh impossible feat accomplished. So, without further ado, I ask you: Who said it?
"Of all accusations against Christians, the most terrible one was uttered by Nietzsche when he said that Christians had no joy."

(P.S. Some attentive RSS feed readers may have gotten a head start on this task, so don't waste any time - register your guess right now!)

My Most Recent Publication

David Congdon & Travis McMaken, “Theo-Blogging and the Future of Academic Theology: Reflections from the Trenches” in Princeton Theological Review 17.2 (Fall, 2010): 91-100.

That’s right, your favorite theo-blogging dynamic duo are at it again, this time reflecting on theo—blogging itself! David and I offer a proposal for how blogs should be incorporated into the landscape of academic theology, discuss the medium’s strengths and weaknesses, and offer some suggestions for what might make your blog better. The PTR website has not yet been updated with this issue, but you may want to keep an eye on it to read our piece, as well as other interesting essays – including a pair on the virtual church (the issue theme is “The Church After Google”). Here is the conclusion to David’s and my essay, to whet your appetites:Christianity is, of course, a “religion of the book,” and theology is the ongoing reflection on ancient and modern texts. But the challenge today is to understand how the chu…

2007 Karl Barth Reading Group Notes – A Belated Index

Some folks are reading through Barth’s Church Dogmatics - a worth undertaking if ever there was one. Some of you may remember my 3.5 week blitz through CD 4 earlier this year, after which I posted some reflections. In any case, back in the summer of 2007 I convened a reading group here at PTS to read the first half of CD 1.1. I prepared notes for the purpose, and posted them here on DET. Given that these notes cover the material through which the above-mentioned valiant adventurers are currently slogging, I wanted to bring them to their attention. But, given that I never indexed them, there was no easy way to do so. Thus, I am posting this belated index. Enjoy!

Notes to §1-2Notes to §3Notes to §4Notes to §5Notes to §6Notes to §7

Ellen Charry on Two Types of Divine Commands

Ellen Charry, God and the Art of Happiness, 170:Biblical commands are of several kinds… (1) single-occurrence or rarely occurring punctiliar orders that test obedience, and (2) guidelines that commend an ongoing way of life. Tests, the first type, are voluntarist rules that God lays down in particular situations for a specific purpose or around specific events. Voluntarism holds that the divine will defines morality. Even if a command looks arbitrary or even immoral to us, it is good because God commanded it. Divine power defines goodness. The assumption here is that blind obedience is praiseworthy either for its own sake or because it cultivates humility. The second type of command is moral guidelines that cultivate wisdom: they embody broad humanist principles that shape a salutary life for the well-being of both the individual and the community. They are asherist commands that are conducive to wise living. While voluntarist commands require blind obedience, asherist commands promot…

The Magi and Theological Method - A Sermon for Epiphany-eve

(Editor’s Note: The following sermon was delivered by Nathan Hitchcock at Sioux Falls Seminary on January 5th, 2010. It is presented here one year later on, once again, the day before Epiphany. Nathan is known to DET readers through his contribution to the 2009 KBBC. Having completed his dissertation at Edinburgh on the resurrection of the flesh, Nathan is now an assistant professor at Sioux Falls Seminary. Finally, the story of the Magi was recently enlisted by my friend and co-belligerent in support of something like an analogy of being on his Christmas podcast, and one might find it interesting to compare these two interpretations of the passage.)
The Magi and Theological Method
Mt 2:1-12

Kai krēmatisthentes kat’ onar mē anakampsai pros Hrōdēn,
di’ allēs hodou anechōrēsan eis tēn chōran autōn.


Following the western Church calendar, tomorrow is epiphany. Christians have generally associated this festival with the arrival of the magi in Bethlehem, bringing frankincense, gold and myrr…