How Churches Fail…

Churches fail people when they give them what they want instead of what they need.  And Christians fail churches and their neighbors when they demand that churches give them what they want rather than what they need.

I’ve Always Wanted to be A Lumberjack

Local worship leader Jimmy “Page” Johnson reported Monday that he’s still working nights at a nearby logging operation, manning a chainsaw to help cut down trees, all without ever changing his outfit.

“It’s really ideal for my situation,” Johnson said, clad in long-sleeved flannel and sipping a mocha after service as he prepared to make the trek out to the woods for his night job. “The church is a part-time thing, so this helps me pay the bills.” “Plus, my uniform is the same for both jobs, which is nice: button-up flannel shirt, beanie, oversized eyewear, blue jeans for protection, faux combat boots, and a large beard to keep me warm during the grueling winter months.”

Taking on two demanding jobs isn’t without its dangers, however: Johnson reports that on more than one occassion, he’s accidentally brought his chainsaw to church and his guitar to the logging work site. “Haha, Butch, Chief, Thumper, and the gang really had a good laugh over that one,” Johnson said sheepishly. “Bringing the wrong equipment. Man, was that silly.” “The construction workers at the job site laughed too when they saw the guitar that night,” he added.

Karl Barth als Lehrer der Versöhnung (1950–1968): Vertiefung – Öffnung – Hoffnung

9783290178338Das Buch dokumentiert das dritte Internationale Symposium zum Werk Karl Barths. Im Mittelpunkt stehen Barths Arbeiten zur Versöhnungslehre. Ihre Innovationen vor allem auf den Feldern der Christologie, der Soteriologie und der Rechtfertigungslehre werden vorgestellt, aufgearbeitet und auf ihre für Theologie, Kirche und Gesellschaft orientierende Kraft befragt. Aber auch Barths Bemühungen um Ausgleich zwischen den Fronten des Kalten Krieges, in der Absage an einen ideologisierten Antikommunismus und in der Suche nach einem dritten Weg zwischen Realsozialismus und Kapitalismus werden analysiert.

Ausgewiesene Autorinnen und Autoren präsentieren die neuesten und wichtigsten Erkenntnisse und liefern so ein repräsentatives Gesamtbild des aktuellen Forschungsstandes zur Theologie Barths zwischen 1950 und 1968.

With thanks to TVZ for the review copy.  The TVZ website doesn’t include the table of contents, so below, please find photos of said pages:




Astute readers will note right off that the languages of the essays are German and English and that they cover a wide range of Barthian topics. Most interestingly, there are essays about Barth and Bultmann; Barth’s understanding of preaching; the suffering of God; Barth’s eschatology; Barth and Schleiermacher; and the universality of grace to name only a few.

This is a prime example of the standard conference volume and the great benefit of such volumes (that is, the making available of cutting edge academic papers to people unable to attend every Conference they wish they could) in the service of the academy.  The papers are all generally good and some (like that concerning Bultmann and Barth) are utterly exceptional.  Every conceivable subject receives at least a passing glance, so that at the end of the day, this volume can easily be considered a compendium of Barthian theology in dialogue with his modern interpreters.

The cream of the crop, as hinted at above, though, is the stunningly interesting essay by Konrad Hammann, one of Bultmann’s most gifted, well informed, and intelligent interpreters.  In his relatively long and extremely informative essay, Hammann explicates Barth’s understanding (and at many points misunderstanding) of both Bultmanns’s methodology and intention.   Other notables also come into focus and Barth’s penchant for name calling is on full display.

In spite of Barth’s various disagreements with Bultmann and others, though, Hammann rightly points out the various interests and ideas they had in common and most importantly their common faith and membership in the household of God.

Here, then, we have a useful reminder of the fact that what separated Barth and Bultmann was never sufficient to divide them from their common faith.

Persons interested in Karl Barth will wish to read this volume.  And they should do so.


The Bee Stings the ‘Pastor’ Who Doesn’t Know Anything About Theology

Fact is, there are actually too many of this sort in the ministry

Contorting his face into a pained expression and covering the word in exaggerated air quotes, pastor Evan Duncan of Journey of Grace Church uttered the word “theology” Sunday morning as though it were some sort of bizarre obscenity, sources reported Monday. The event reportedly occurred as Duncan was explaining how “At Journey of Grace, we like to keep things simple,” during his sermon series titled “Knowing God.”

“I’m not a fan of churches that like to complicate things. I don’t know why pastors spend so much time worrying about things like . . . ‘theology,’” the preacher told his flock, the word immediately inducing Duncan to quietly clear his throat while shaking his head, as if he has a terrible taste in his mouth after uttering such a dirty, strange word. “Ugh. Sorry for saying that.” “Here at our church, we’re going to keep focusing on loving God and loving people—that’s it,” he assured congregants. “We’ll leave all the little details to the . . . ‘theologians,’” he declared, immediately pausing to frown and take a long drink from his water bottle.

When You Really Look Around…

You can easily understand Jeremiah’s lament-

My grief is beyond healing, my heart is sick within me. Hark, the cry of the daughter of my people from the length and breadth of the land: “Is the LORD not in Zion? Is her King not in her?” “Why have they provoked me to anger with their graven images, and with their foreign idols?” “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” For the wound of the daughter of my people is my heart wounded, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold on me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of the daughter of my people not been restored?  O that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!  O that I had in the desert a wayfarers’ lodging place, that I might leave my people and go away from them! For they are all adulterers, a company of treacherous men.

And then it becomes Divine speech-

They bend their tongue like a bow; falsehood and not truth has grown strong in the land; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they do not know me, says the LORD.
Let every one beware of his neighbor, and put no trust in any brother; for every brother is a supplanter, and every neighbor goes about as a slanderer.
Every one deceives his neighbor, and no one speaks the truth; they have taught their tongue to speak lies; they commit iniquity and are too weary to repent.
Heaping oppression upon oppression, and deceit upon deceit, they refuse to know me, says the LORD.
Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts: “Behold, I will refine them and test them, for what else can I do, because of my people?
Their tongue is a deadly arrow; it speaks deceitfully; with his mouth each speaks peaceably to his neighbor, but in his heart he plans an ambush for him.
Shall I not punish them for these things? says the LORD; and shall I not avenge myself on a nation such as this?
“Take up weeping and wailing for the mountains, and a lamentation for the pastures of the wilderness, because they are laid waste so that no one passes through, and the lowing of cattle is not heard; both the birds of the air and the beasts have fled and are gone.
I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins, a lair of jackals; and I will make the cities of Judah a desolation, without inhabitant.”
Who is the man so wise that he can understand this? To whom has the mouth of the LORD spoken, that he may declare it? Why is the land ruined and laid waste like a wilderness, so that no one passes through? (Jer. 8:18-9:12)

Through the Bible with Michael Langlois

You should check this out:

This year again, I teach a course of Introduction to the Bible and to exegesis at the University of Strasbourg. This is a first-year course for students preparing a bachelor in Protestant Theology or a University Degree of Initiation to Religions. We will study the history of the Bible, the world in which it was born, and each book that Jewish and Christian Bibles have in common. To register at the Faculty of Protestant Theology, please visit the Faculty’s website; you can also watch the course (live or replay) here.  The first class will take place on Tuesday, September 13, 2016 at 2pm, at the University Palace, Tauler Hall.

You’ll learn a lot.  Michael is a genius.

Right Now in Zurich… They’re Discussing Emil Brunner’s Influence…

So here’s a post from the anniversary of his death- to remind you why he matters still-

barth_brunner_bult“Barth’s letter arrived on the morning of 5 April. Vogelsanger cycled to the clinic at Zollikerberg, and informed Brunner that “Karl Barth sends his greetings!” He then read Brunner this letter by his bedside. Brunner smiled, pressed his hand, and shortly afterwards lapsed into an uncon­sciousness from which he never reawakened. He died at noon on Wednesday, 6 April 1966 at the Neumünsterspital at Zollikerberg, near Zurich. His funeral at the Fraumünster in Zurich on 12 April 1966 was led by Vogelsanger. ” – Alister McGrath

And a brief bio by  Kelly van Andel –

brunner[Brunner] studied at both Zurich and Berlin universities and received his doctorate in theology from Zurich in 1913. His doctoral dissertation was entitled ‘The Symbolic Element in Religious Knowledge’. In 1916–1917. Brunner served as pastor in the mountain village of Obstalden in the Canton of Glarus. In 1919–1920, he spent a year in New York studying at Union Theological Seminary.

In 1921, Brunner wrote what he considered his second dissertation, Experience, Knowledge and Faith. Another book soon followed, Mysticism and the Word, a critique of the liberal theology of Friedrich Schleiermacher. Such work enhanced his academic reputation, and he was rewarded in 1924 with an appointment as professor of systematic and practical theology at the University of Zurich, which he retained until 1955. In the late 1920s, his reputation continued to increase with the publication of two more books, The Philosophy of Religion from the Standpoint of Protestant Theology and The Mediator.

brunner_tvz3In 1932, having fulfilled invitations to visit and lecture across Europe and the United States, Brunner wrote God and Man and The Divine Imperative. Later, in 1937, he published Man in Revolt and Truth as Encounter. In 1938, he again returned to the United States to accept a visiting professorship at Princeton Theological Seminary.

He returned to Europe prior to World War II. Following the war, Brunner was invited to give the Gifford Lectures at the University of St Andrews in 1947–1948. His lecture series, ‘Christianity and Civilization’, was divided into two parts, ‘Foundations’ and ‘Specific Problems’.

Brunner’s teaching career concluded in 1953–1955 at what was then the new International Christian University in Tokyo, Japan. In the meantime, he published his three-volume dogmatics, including The Christian Doctrine of GodThe Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption and The Christian Doctrine of the Church, Faith, and Consummation. On the return journey from Europe to Japan, Brunner suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and was subsequently physically impaired, which weakened his ability to work productively. For the next nine years, Brunner suffered from further strokes. He died on 6 April 1966.

brunner8Other books by Brunner include: Theology of Crisis (1929); Word and the World (1931);Divine-Human Encounter (1943); Justice and the Social Order (1945), Revelation and Reason: The Christian Doctrine of Faith and Knowledge (1946); Scandal of Christianity (1951);Misunderstanding the Church (1952); Eternal Hope (1954); Great Invitation: Zurich Sermons(1955); Letter to Romans: A Commentary (1959); I Believe in the Living God: Sermons on the Apostle’s Creed (1961).

And that barely touches the tip of the Brunnerian iceberg.  Other volumes you need to obtain are

  • Emil Brunner. Theologe im 20. Jahrhundert,von Frank Jehle
  • Gott und sein Rebell. Eine theologische Anthropologie, Emil Brunner
  • Theologie und Ökonomie. Symposium zum 100. Geburtstag von Emil Brunner, Ruh Hans

brunner3It’s impossible for me to express sufficient appreciation for this brilliant man. The very least I can do is remind others of him and his work. It would be evil for him to be forgotten.