Posted by: Dan | November 17, 2008

Theological Confessions

I confess: I frequently wonder if I understand or retain anything that I read, and worry that I’ve got a lot of people fooled because, in actuality, I’m a total blithering idiot.

I confess: Moltmann has been a huge influence on me and I’ve read more of his writings than any other theologian… but I stopped talking about him for about a year because I thought it was more scholarly or impressive to talk about Barth and von Balthasar.

I confess: I am often totally baffled as to how many of the scholars who inspire me can remain rooted in the Academy, while simultaneously writing what they write, and affirming what they affirm.

I confess: I believe that the single greatest and most transforming theological book I have ever encountered is not some massive tome full of five dollar words — it is Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen.

I confess: I distrust theological aesthetics and am suspicious about the popularity of Christian interactions with ‘the Arts’.

I confess: These days I prefer post-Marxist and anarchist philosophy and social theory over pretty much any theology.

I confess: I spend way more time reading biblical scholars than I do reading the bible (and I am quite happy with this state of affairs).

I confess: I often wonder if I should just spend my time rereading the (excellent) books that I’ve already read, instead of constantly trying to read new things.

I confess: I often think about walking away from theology (and all other theory) and never looking back.

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Responses

  1. I often wonder if I should just spend my time rereading the (excellent) books that I’ve already read, instead of constantly trying to read new things.

    That’s actually not a bad idea. Sometimes I find that the second (or third) reading yields a totally different experience. I think this is in no small part due to the fact that we as readers continue to change.

  2. Dan,
    I find myself confessing with you on several of these. As to the first I felt that way until I left grad school. It was then that many of the things that I read began to actually make coherent sense. I began to put things together and remember them in ways that were difficult to do previously.
    I sometimes wonder if the arts are used for some ulterior motive by evangelicals instead of for whatever art is for. Course I don’t know what that is so I can leave that where it is.
    I very much thought I should be worried about the disparity between my bible reading and my academic reading. The worry dissipated when I left Regent and was much more rooted in a church community where scripture was read and I could hear, that is an important distinction for me. I also found that I though a lot more about the Bible after school, and that it permeated more of my thoughts then ever before.
    So my opinion is that you just need to get out of school. Not that you should walk away and never look back, but that if you do some of the things that you confess may not need confessing any longer.

    Grace and Peace

    Eric

  3. As part of my never ending quest for philosophy/theology podcasts, I was listening to one in which John Frame babbled on about the history of theology.

    He spent about ten minutes on Moltmann, bashing him for not loving Jesus enough. At the same time, he made the guy sound fascinating. Do you have a suggestion?

  4. Mike:

    I certainly do have some suggestions (and who is this John Frame guy? Some Calvinist epistemologist? Why you wasting time on him?) but it depends on what you found fascinating about what was said.

    If you’re looking for an entry into Moltmann’s theology of hope and history, then Theology of Hope is the place to start. If you’re looking for Moltmann’s work on suffering then go to The Crucified God (Moltmann’s most famous work), and if you’re looking for more of his political theology then I would recommend starting with The Trinity and the Kingdom (that was the first book I read by Moltmann and it made me fall in love with him).

    That said, Frame is clearly wrong about Moltmann and his love for Jesus. You can question Moltmann on a lot of things, but not on that point (well, I guess you can question him on that point but you’ll make a fool of yourself). Love — both of God and neigbour — suffuses Moltmann’s work.

  5. Usually when one philosopher/theologian is trashed by another, that’s just added incentive for me to read the one being trashed.

  6. “I confess: I distrust theological aesthetics and am suspicious about the popularity of Christian interactions with ‘the Arts’.”

    What distresses you about “the arts”? Obviously you know my position (cuz I’m a christian graffiti writer) Is it the blatantly ulterior motives? Help me out here.

  7. John Frame is one of Cornelius Van Til’s acolytes, so not even as respectable as Plantinga’s crowd. I listen to the guy because I spend a lot of time on the subway and walking around Seoul, and often I prefer lectures over music, so I take what I can find.

    Frame was saying that Moltmann has God as the future. He didn’t explain much about it, but given that I like all things related to temporality, it sounded interesting. I’ll put the books about hope and politics on my “tomorrow” list, which I suppose is fitting.

  8. (in whinney kid voice)

    Dan? DAN!? DAAAAaaaaaNNNN! I’m sorry I cut our last conversation short and didn’t want to talk to you! I’m sorry! I really want to talk to you now! But really I’d like to hear your thoughts on christian art, I’m open to learn and put my presuppositions aside for a minute to evaluate your viewpoint, honest! please respond… danny…?

  9. Battle:

    I’ve twice tried to write a reply to your comment, and I ended up deleting what I wrote both times. It’s actually not very easy for me to give a simple straight-forward answer to your question.

    However, I will say this: (1) I’m not ‘distressed’ by the Arts, per se. I’m more suspicious of Christian engagement therein. (2) I don’t really have your type of art in mind… perhaps because you’ve taken a number of steps in your own work to counter things that I would flag as potential problem areas.

    Anyway, I’ll try to sort my thoughts out on this some more, and get back to you.

  10. Thanks Dan.


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