"The object of all good literature is to purge the soul of its petty troubles." ~ P.G. Wodehouse

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Oscar Cullmann on Early Christian Worship

An extended quote from Cullmann's, Early Christian Worship, 1953 (originally Urchristentum und Gottesdienst, 1950):

"Two main features of the purpose of all early Christian gatherings for worship must still be stressed. First, the Lord's Supper is the natural climax towards which the service thus understood moves and without which it is not thinkable, since here Christ unites himself with his community as crucified and risen and makes it in this way one with himself, actually builds it up as his body (1 Cor. 10.l7). Corresponding to this all the other parts of the service have the risen Lord of the Church as their object. For this reason the day of the Lord's resurrection is the Christian festive day...

"The second main Christian feature of the early service is shown to us in the fact that the risen and present Lord of the Church who stands in the centre of the Christian gathering, points at one and the same time backwards to the crucified and risen historical Jesus and forwards to the coming Christ: what makes the service a real act of worship is the Holy Spirit. That is the characteristic of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament view, that he determines the present in the time sequence of God's act of salvation, but in such a way that, on the basis of what has happened in Christ in the past, he anticipates already the future, the last things" (pp. 34-35, emphasis original).

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The ESV Book of Common Prayer for Mobile

At the bottom of the blog, you will find a link to the Book of Common Prayer daily office lectionary from the ESV's website (multiple other reading plans are available). I often read the daily readings on my iPod touch since I can access it wherever there is wifi. The ESV also has made available an audio version of each reading. Today, when I logged in I noticed that they have changed the mobile format. One of the great changes that was made is the ability to listen to all of the readings one after the other. Previously, it was necessary to click each reading separately (1-3 Psalms, OT, NT, & Gospel) in order to listen to them. This morning I listened to all of the readings in 11+ minutes with only one click. Great addition. Thanks, ESV.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Hermeneutical Role of Biblical Theology

Here are some comments by Graeme Goldsworthy in his book Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations and Principles of Evangelical Biblical Interpretation. The comments come from his chapter "The Gospel and the Theological Dimension (II): Biblical and Systematic Theology."

Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations and Principles of Evangelical Biblical Interpretation"The biblical theological dimension in hermeneutics is thus the major way of addressing the question of the gap between the text and the reader. It allows the reader to find where he or she actually fits into the totality of biblical revelation. If done with care, it will then provide the valid links between the meaning of a text in its own context and its application to the modern reader. The offending gap is the theological distance of texts from the modern reader. But, if the gap is uniformly closed by the reader to give an undifferentiated immediacy to all texts, the result is hermeneutical chaos. Some forms of pietism and 'Spirit-driven' subjective theology result in such an approach, which lacks any differentiation of texts. The kind of piety that primarily focuses on questions concerned with what the text says about us and our Christian living lacks Christological depth. This premature desire for immediate guidance ignores the relationship of the text to Christ. If there is one mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:5), then to seek understanding of either God or man without recourse to the mediator is a procedure that is Christologically flawed. If we are truly to understand what a text says about ourselves, we must follow the biblical path that leads first to Christ, for he defines who and what we are in him" (p. 263).

When it comes to the relationship between biblical and systematic theology, Goldsworthy concludes that "doctrinal pre-understandings about the nature of the Bible" should be the starting point of biblical interpretation. Exegesis is guided by these understandings. Biblical theology seeks the unity of the exegesis of distinct biblical passages "by examining the development of ideas in the progressive revelation." The community of faith through historical theology influences each of these steps. Systematic theology then posits what is to be believed into doctrinal statements. Goldsworthy notes that doctrinal formulation may require a shift in the "doctrinal pre-understandings" with which the exegetical process started. Following Osborne, he sees a hermeneutical spiral rather than a linear progression and thus each step influences the next (see pp. 271-72).

Monday, August 15, 2011

Quintilian and the Liberal Arts

Dorothy Sayers essay "The Lost Tools of Learning" (see the link under "Liberal Arts Resources" on the right), gives a thoughtful critique of the academic learning of her day. She echoes some thoughts found in Quintilian's preface to his Institutio Oratoria. In explaining why he is finally writing his view of oratory, Quintilian (b. c. 35 CE; d. before 100) says that he had declined his friends' requests to write because he "was well aware that some of the most distinguished Greek and Roman writers had bequeathed to posterity a number of works dealing with the subject" (1.1). However, Quintilian says that he came to the conclusion that these other authors expected their readers to know all other branches of learning before reading their work.

Quintilian disagrees with this approach and claims that the early stages of education, while not being as flashy, are invaluable. He states: 

"For almost all others who have written on the art of oratory have started with the assumption that their readers were perfect in all other branches of education and that their own task was merely to put the finishing touches to their rhetorical training; this is due to the fact that they either despised the preliminary stages of education or thought that they were not their concern, since the duties of the different branches of education are distinct from another, or else, and this is nearer the truth, because they had no hope of making a remunerative display of their talent in dealing with subjects, which, although necessary, are far from being showy: just as in architecture it is the superstructure and not the foundations which attracts the eye.  I on the other hand hold that the art of oratory includes all that is essential for the training of an orator, and that it is impossible to reach the summit in any subject unless we have first passed through all the elementary stages. I shall not therefore refuse to stoop to the consideration of those minor details, neglect of which may result in there being no opportunity for more important things, and propose to mould the studies of my orator from infancy, on the assumption that his whole education has been entrusted to my charge." (1.4-5)


"The elementary stages" of education must be passed through, and their importance for further learning cannot be underestimated. Unless one can read, write, think critically, debate, and argue, there is not much that can be done with other subjects. This view of Quintilian's is what the liberal arts is all about. A strong foundation in various disciplines, although often not exciting to learn or "attracting the eye", is necessary for solid future learning. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Imitation of Christ

The Imitation of ChristThe Imitation of Christ by Thomas 'a Kempis is a Christian classic. In the preface to "The Christian Classics" series published in 1940 (reprinted as the Preface of the 2005 Ignatius Press edition), R.A. Knox noted that few books in the history of the world are known by one name as is the Imitation. Knox also states: "The whole work was meant to be, surely, what it is--a sustained irritant which will preserve us, if it is read faithfully, from sinking back into relaxation: from self-conceit, self-pity, self-love."

I have begun rereading the Imitation in this beautiful edition, and I didn't get very far before I needed to pause.

Here is one brief quote of 'a Kempis from 1.1.5: "There is one proverb of which we cannot remind ourselves too often, Eye looks on unsatisfied; ear listens, ill content. Make up your mind to detach your thoughts from the love of things seen, and let them find their centre in things invisible."

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Theology, University, Humanities

Theology, University, Humanities: Initium Sapientiae Timor DominiI recently saw this book listed in the Wipf & Stock new releases email. The book is a series of essays on the relationship of theology and the humanities in the university. The editors of the volume, Christopher Craig Brittain and Francesca Murphy both have ties to the University of Aberdeen. Brittain currently is a lecturer in theology there, while Murphy has only recently left her post as Reader in Theology at Aberdeen to take the post at Notre Dame. (The subtitle Initium Sapientiae Timor Domini 'Fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom' is the moto of the University of Aberdeen). These essays with their Aberdeen connection and also the topic of the place of theology in the humanities and the university are of interest to me. I hope to soon read this volume.

The description of the the book is as follows:
"This book discusses the relationship between theology and the humanities and their shared significance within contemporary universities. Taking up this complex question, twelve scholarly authors analyze the connections between theology and philosophy, history, scholarly literature, sociology, and law. Cumulatively, these essays make a case for the importance of reflecting on what binds the humanities and theology together. By meditating on ultimate, theological questions, this book brings the issue of the meaning and purpose of university education into a new light, exploring its deep significance for academic pursuits today."

Christopher Craig Brittain is Lecturer in Practical Theology at the University of Aberdeen. He is the author of Adorno and Theology (2010) and is writing a book titled Religion at Ground Zero.

Francesca Aran Murphy is Professor of Systematic Theology at the University of Notre Dame. Her books include God is Not a Story (2007) and a commentary on I Samuel (2010).