On Friendship

Reading on Martin Luther this week, I was struck by a passage in which Luther argues that God’s forgiveness in Christ is not just found in sermons preached but ‘in every corner’; more specifically: They not only find the forgiveness of sins in the congregation but also at home in their houses, in the fields and gardens, wherever one of them comes to another in search of comfort and deliverance. It shall be at my disposal when I am troubled and sorry, in tribulation and vulnerable, when I need something, at whatever hour and time it may be. There is…

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Brief Reading Notes: August 2016 – January 2017

Currently reading: Ian Macfarland, From Nothing; (still reading) Heidegger, Being and Time; Graham Ward, How the Light Gets In. 1, 2, 3. James K.A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom/ Imagining the Kingdom/Speech and Theology. Helpful to see how insights in phenomenology may aid our articulation of revelation, sanctification and anthropology. Sections of these volumes could, in my view, be seen as extensions of Bavinck’s articulation of the unconscious life and the internal life of the psyche.   4. B. A. Gerrish, Christian Faith: Dogmatics in Outline. Brief and elegant – this clarifies how Calvin and Schleiermacher might be read together. A…

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Contentment with Academic Invisibility as True Scholarly Virtue

One recent online article makes the headline claim that “academics write rubbish that nobody reads.” It cites the following data from a recent report that has stirred some discussion on social media: – 82 percent of articles published in the humanities are not even cited once. – Of those articles that are cited, only 20 percent have actually been read. – Half of academic papers are never read by anyone other than their authors, peer reviewers, and journal editors. Suppose this is true. And of course, I am well aware that many academics publish articles just to move up on the professorial ranks–though…

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“Obedience” to your husband is idolatry

A friend wrote to me with a question: “Why do you think the Bible says for wives to ‘submit to’ their husbands instead of ‘obey’? Do you think there is a difference?”   This question came from a young woman who was married for a couple of years and working as a missionary. She is of Chinese origin, and although she grew up in North America, her faith was significantly shaped by the culture of conservative Chinese evangelicalism.   In some conservative evangelical circles in Chinese churches, especially those that identify themselves as Reformed, the concept of submission can sometimes…

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On Kampen and Relationships

I had the privilege of being a fellow for the Advanced Theological Studies Fellowship at Kampen Theological University, the Netherlands, this past month. The premise was simple: PhD students with accepted proposals would come together and live under the same roof and research for a month, at the end of which they would present their findings in front of an academic audience while a local specialist in that area of study provides a response. The program was a brainchild of James Eglinton’s, my doctoral supervisor at Edinburgh. I had a delightful time with the other fellows, each of whom studied…

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Some Reading Notes: 10 (or so) Books.

These books were highlights for me through the past year; some new, some old. Again, I won’t include any Bavinck-related or primary source material. Henry Allison, Kant’s Transcendental Idealism (YUP, 2004) A central book within the so-called ‘third wave’ Kant scholarship (along with Ameriks et al), presenting a ‘non-ontological’ reading of Kant’s transcendental idealism. On this reading, phenomena and things in themselves are two modes of referring to the same objects, rather than denoting two distinct entities. Extremely high level of scholarship here. Sameer Yadav, Theological Empiricism and the Problem of Perception (Fortress, 2015) A monograph that (1) provides a…

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Mid-way through: Reflections on Edinburgh

I am now in the middle of my second year in the PhD program at the University of Edinburgh, and it seems appropriate to reflect on my time here thus far. As I write, I am reminded that undertaking this track in my life is a gift, a calling, a privilege, and a blessing. Currently I am typing this while I am sitting in a house across Kampen Theological University, at which Bavinck was a faculty member before moving to the Free University of Amsterdam. This time last year I was preparing a visa to go to Paris for a…

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Theology, Christian Worldview, and the Seminary

This is a follow-up on Nathaniel Gray Sutanto’s recent post, “Theology, Sphere Sovereignty, and the University.” I completely agree with Sutanto’s view, developed from Schleiermacher and Bavinck, that “the Church needs specialists who would research, investigate, and analyze the ‘essence’ of Christianity in a conducive, scientific (wissenschaftliche) sense,” and that “theology’s role in the university… is not so much to serve the theoretical needs of ecclesial leaders, but to unify the various disciplines undertaken in the university.” On Sutanto’s view, academic theology in the university as such is burdened with a sacred vocation that the seminary cannot fulfil, a view that…

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Theology, Sphere Sovereignty, and the University

In the past several weeks I read on the role of theology in the university – what is its function? Can theology be done in the university? In what way can theology be described as an academic discipline? What is distinctive of academic theology as opposed to ecclesial theology, and should there be a proper distinction that demarcates the two? The questions are complex and the answers are far from obvious. For some, the idea that theology could be done at all apart from the context of the church is an oxymoron at best. To others, associating theology with the…

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On the Literary Form and Content of Kierkegaard’s Either/Or

Note: The page numbers in brackets refer to Søren Kierkegaard, Either/Or: A Fragment of Life, translated and abridged by Alastair Hannay (London: Penguin Books, 1992).   My friend and colleague Nathaniel Gray Sutanto recently wrote an entry on Kierkegaard, a figure much misunderstood in evangelical Reformed circles. I am delighted that Sutanto recognises that “some striking things” Kierkegaard says about faith and hope are at one accord with Sutanto’s own reading of James 1:6-8. One reason why Kierkegaard is so easily misunderstood has to do with his use of pseudonymity in most of his writings. Many Reformed Christians, for example, accuse Kierkegaard of…

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