Zwinglius Redivivus

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Wittenberg vs Geneva…

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wittenI’m pretty sure Luther could take Calvin.  The former was a pudgy monk and the latter was a skinny and frail sickly lad.

What are the differences between Lutherans and Calvinists, and do they really matter? In Wittenberg vs. Geneva, Brian Thomas provides a biblical defense of the key doctrines that have divided the Lutheran and Reformed traditions for nearly five centuries. It is especially written to help those who may have an interest in the Lutheran church, but are concerned that her stance on doctrines like predestination or the sacraments may not have biblical support. To get to the heart of the matter, Pastor Thomas focuses solely upon those crucial scriptural texts that have led Lutheran and Reformed scholars down different paths to disparate conclusions as he spars with popular Calvinist theologians from the past and the present.

I’ve been sent a review copy and have spent the last couple of days reading it (though to be fair it can easily be read in a day).  Thomas handles the material he does handle well enough but he makes the same mistake that too many make when they talk about something they call ‘Reformed Theology’ – they only mean ‘Calvinism’.

Indeed, there seems to be some absurd notion out there that Reformed theology equals Calvinism and Calvinism equals Reformed Theology.  And that is historically totally inaccurate.

To be sure, the title of the book leads readers to believe that Luther and Calvin’s views will be the core of the work but then Thomas insists, pathologically, on talking about ‘Reformed Theology’ without so much as referencing Zwingli or Oecolampadius even though he does mention Leithart and Melanchthon.  Melanchthon, of course, is worthy of mention but Leithart?  While excluding Oecolampadius and Zwingli?  Ridiculous.

Even the sources which Thomas utilizes for his explication of Calvinism (I shan’t call his explication and explication of Reformed Theology because it isn’t) are quite narrow.  Horton and Sproul are, by and large, good scholars.  But no one believes, do they, that they are the standard bearers of Reformed thought.  And if they do, they shouldn’t.

Thomas’s problem is that he left Calvinism (Presbyterian type) and adopted Lutheranism.  He has an ax to grind and grind it he does.  Regularly throughout we are informed that the Lutheran viewpoint is the more scriptural viewpoint.  And, naturally, Thomas is free to believe that if he wishes.  He is not, however, justified in saying that the Lutheran viewpoint is more scripturally oriented when he ignores Zwingli and other founding Reformed thinkers with the aplomb of a blonde cheerleader ignoring the hapless chess club geek at the school prom.

I would very much like to recommend this book, but I cannot.  Unless the potential reader is a Lutheran apologist.  Then, and only then, will it be found useful.  Otherwise, it has been placed in the scales of theological enquiry and found wanting.

Written by Jim

06/02/2016 at 1:09 pm

92% of Students Prefer Real Books

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E-books may be convenient and cheap, but they aren’t displacing paper just yet, at least in the hearts and minds of college kids. That’s what Naomi Baron, linguistics professor at American University, found out as part of the research she conducted for her new book, “Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World.”

She and her fellow researchers surveyed over 300 university students from Japan, Germany, Slovakia and the U.S., and found that 92 percent preferred to do serious reading in paper books — rejecting e-readers, laptops, phones and tablets.

“There really is a physical, tactile, kinesthetic component to reading,” Baron said in an interview with New Republic. “In the Slovakian data, when I asked what do you like most about reading in hard copy, one out of ten talked about the smell of books.”

Read it all.  Real books are just better.  They just are.  Better.

Written by Jim

06/02/2016 at 10:46 am

Posted in Books, Modern Culture

Farewell, Johannes Gutenberg

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J.G. died on this day in 1468.  His invention is probably the most important ever.


Written by Jim

03/02/2016 at 5:11 am

Rebecca Giselbrecht, Ralph Kunz (Hg.) “Sacrality and Materiality Locating Intersections” – Download NOW, Free

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978-3-525-57043-2Thanks to V&R for offering this volume free for download.

Christian theology traditionally regards the sacramental as the polar opposite of the profane. The polarity is a memorial of contemporary desacralization, profanization, and sacralization that stands as a portal to the story of modern reality. In our liminal space, we neither de-sacralize our environs nor re-sacralize the world. The lines are blurred and our perception of spirituality is neither immanent nor transcendent. While words fail to articulate the condition, stories are told and tales of experiences come together to form new theoretical nets, systems and categories.

The conference volume, “Sacrality and Materiality: Locating Intersections” seeks to reply to the questions: Where does the sacred intersect with the material? What happens when they meet? First, however, does the sacral even exist? Would it be more productive to ignite sacramental discourse at the intersections of a new matrix?
Historically, materiality is other than spirituality— an intersection of the two is an intangible event of the intellect and spirit. We must engage a bipolar setting in the context of its own history in order to speak about the unspeakable.

Despite that spirituality and materiality refuse to assume the categories assigned to the initial polarities of sacrality and profanity, the volume addresses the constrictions. Sacral materialism and sacral spiritualism both exist in their own right, and Christian theology has more to offer than polarities. The sacral is the meeting point for the fission of thought.

Is the sacramental a topos for telling a postmodern story of spiritual experience? Is Evangelical sacramental theology relevant? Does theological talk about holy materiality belong in denominational and inter-religious dialogue?

“Sacrality and Materiality: Locating Intersections” inaugurates a dialogue about these issues.

Written by Jim

02/02/2016 at 5:58 pm

Posted in Books, Theology

The Free Book for February from Logos

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Written by Jim

01/02/2016 at 3:55 pm

Posted in Books, Modern Culture

Otto Scheel

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978-3-525-55776-1This is for those of you who enjoy biographies and learning about folk you’ve most likely never heard of, but should: Otto Scheel (1876–1954) – Eine biographische Studie zu Lutherforschung, Landeshistoriographie und deutsch-dänischen Beziehungen.

Als Kirchengeschichtsprofessor in Tübingen eminente Größe der Lutherforschung, ab 1924 fachfremd erster Ordinarius für Landesgeschichte in Kiel, zwischen Weimarer Republik und NS-Zeit Protegé des Auswärtigen Amtes im deutsch-dänischen Kulturkontakt – das Leben Otto Scheels (1876–1954) ist reich an Facetten. Mit Blick auf die drei genannten Themenfelder bietet es einen besonderen Blick auf das „deutsche ‚Zeitalter der Extreme‘“ und dient daher als analytische Sonde, um jenseits eines spannungsreichen und schillernden Personalen übergeordnete Fragen der Wissenschafts- sowie der allgemeinen Geschichte zu untersuchen.

In theologiegeschichtlicher Perspektive steht dabei erstens Scheels Gang aus dem liberaltheologischen Lager in die Reihen der NS-affinen Universitätstheologen im Fokus, der sowohl ein Schlaglicht auf die Genese des kulturprotestantischen Gelehrtenmilieus als auch der modernen Lutherforschung wirft.

Mit der kritischen Vermessung des Landesgeschichtsprofessors wird neben der Geschichte schleswig-holsteinischer Landeshistoriographie zweitens erhellt, inwieweit Landes- bzw. Regionalgeschichte im Norden Deutschlands einer Ideologisierung historischer Wissenschaft im Sinne des Nationalsozialismus Vorschub geleistet hat. Als drittes zentrales Untersuchungsfeld wird anhand von Scheels Position im deutsch-dänischen Beziehungsgeflecht ausgelotet, welche Rolle akademische Interventionsversuche in der Auseinandersetzung nicht nur um Grenz- und Minderheitenfragen spielten.

The link above takes you to a flip-book which opens to the front matter of the volume.  Having worked through the volume I can assert without fear that it is finely written and teaches much.  As with several V&R volumes, which focus on persons scarcely known, especially in the United States, this work is eye opening.  So many unknown theologians worth knowing lie in our past that it simply astonishes.

As the volume opens, Mish writes

Otto Scheels Leben aus der Perspektive der Trauernden Revue passieren zu lassen, soll nicht nur dem Zweck dienen, die außerordentliche Wertschätzung seiner Person zum Zeitpunkt des Todes zu illustrieren. Der frühe Gang ans Grab des Protagonisten der vorliegenden Untersuchung ist ebenso der schlichten Notwendigkeit geschuldet, einleitend die wichtigsten Wegmarken einer Vita abzustecken, deren nähere Kenntnis vorauszusetzen nicht möglich ist. Allen lobenden Worten, Ehrerbietungen und Versprechen des würdigen Andenkens zum Trotz ist Otto Scheel heute weitgehend vergessen. Darüber hinaus sind die für Trauerfeiern charakteristischen Positivbilanzen von wissenschaftlichen Untersuchungen, sofern sie Scheel berücksichtigten, nur in Teilen bestätigt worden.

A spectacular paragraph indeed which leads to many more of like kind. Mish clearly and obviously knows both his subject and his audience and he knows how to bridge the gap between historical past and theological present.

But the chief reason that this book is so engaging is because it discusses the actions and writings of a man who occupied that bit of time called the Nazi era in Hitler’s Germany. For the present reviewer, that period of time and that particular place are endlessly fascinating because the near total capitulation of the Church to the State is an ever recurring fear.

Hinweise auf Scheels Position im nationalen Gegensatz zwischen Deutschland und Dänemark während der NS-Zeit hat die neuere Forschung ebenfalls liefern können. Hier ist in erster Linie eine Reihe von Arbeiten zu erwähnen, die sich unter anderem dem von Scheel geleiteten Deutschen Wissenschaftlichen Institut im besetzten Kopenhagen widmen. Sie lassen keinerlei Zweifel daran zu, dass es sich bei dem Institut um eine Propagandaeinrichtung der Okkupationsmacht handelte.

Scheel’s particular interests, as Church historian, were Augustine and Luther. So, accordingly, not only will persons interested in biography and persons interested in the Church in Nazi Germany find this work important: those who are engaged in Augustine studies and Luther studies will as well.

Wenn Luther in Scheels Darstellung ohne jedwede Außergewöhnlichkeiten Eingang in die Ordensgemeinschaft fand, entsprach dies ganz und gar dem Bild, welches er im vorangegangenen Band vom Werdegang des Reformators gezeichnet hatte. Hier war die Neigung zur Entdramatisierung von dessen Lebenslauf ebenfalls nicht zu übersehen.

Throughout the author makes the thought of Scheel crystal clear and comprehensible. This is a fine volume and a fine addition to the genre of theological biography. I can recommend it without any remorse.


Written by Jim

01/02/2016 at 2:45 pm

The Book of Zechariah

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zechEerdmans have sent a review copy of this very, very new volume without any expectation of either a positive or negative outcome of said review.

Over the centuries, the prophetic book of Zechariah has suffered from accusations of obscurity and has frustrated readers seeking to unlock its treasures. This work by Mark Boda provides insightful commentary on Zechariah, with great sensitivity to its historical, literary, and theological dimensions. Including a fresh translation of Zechariah from the original Hebrew, Boda delivers deep and thorough reflection on a too-often-neglected book of the Old Testament.

It is a massive book.  And that means it will take some time to work through.  Stay tuned.

Written by Jim

01/02/2016 at 11:21 am


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