The Foundation for Reformed Theology is looking to start a new study group in Pittsburgh! The Foundation, which was founded to honor the memory of John Leith, provides funding for individuals to gather and study Reformed Theology.
This group, based in Pittsburgh, would focus on reformed theology in the emerging/missional/post-modern/post-colonial era, selecting from authors such as Lesslie Newbigin, David Bosch, NT Wright, Miroslav Volf, Jurgen Moltmann, Darrell Guder, John Franke, William Stacey Johnson, Walter Brueggemann, Nancey Murphy, Kendra Creasy Dean, etc. as well as inviting featured guests to guide our conversations.
If you are interested in being part of such a group, please email Brian Wallace (email@example.com) for more information.
About the Foundation for Reformed Theology:The Foundation for Reformed Theology was founded to honor the legacy of John Leith. Dr. John Haddon Leith, was professor of theology at Union-PSCE from 1959 to 1990 who was named the M.E. Pemberton Professor of Theology in 1972. At retirement Leith became professor emeritus and died in 2002. He is the author of a number of books, including Introduction to the Reformed Tradition: A Way of Being in the Christian Community” and “Basic Christian Doctrine”.
About the Foundation’s Financial Support for meetings:The Fund pays up to $300 for travel expenses, $40 per night for five nights in seminary rooms or $50 per night for five nights for hotel rooms, and a $25 per diem for five days for meals. Individuals pick up the rest of the expenses, usually from continuing education money. Normally, each participant turns in an expense voucher and is reimbursed.”
My friend, mentor, and co-worker Frank Stricklen has set up two new sites that will be of definite interest to readers of this blog, both related to “Reformed Spirituality”. As Frank notes at the top of his site
“Many would agree with T. Hartley Hall of Union Seminary that reformed spirituality is an oxymoron. It is certainly true that people of reformed faith have historically been very suspicious of any sort of individual spirituality. But, taking a cue from Eugene Peterson, we belive that spirituality is nothing more than the Christian life. So it is the goal of our site is to provide seekers with tools to enhance their walk with God. “
I was listening to the Emergent Podcast today (get it here) and Miroslav Volf was asked about the ever-contentious issue of homosexuality in the church today. Volf didn’t directly address what the church’s response should be, but rather commented that his book, Exclusion and Embrace, discussed how those who disagree on the issue should relate to one another. He then made the following comment:
“And in any case, relate to those with whom we disagree not as Pittsburgh Steelers’ fans relate to Seahawk fans in the Super Bowl or in the way in which Democrats and Republicans have related to one another in recent years, which is a mirror image of how the fans relate to one another and not much more subtle than that”
Volf’s point is both comical (It looks like the reputation of Steelers’ fans is widely known) but I think his comments are quite insightful about the way we deal with these issues, particularly in the PC(USA).
So this past weekend I was faced with a choice – I could either have A) Attended a conference in Baton Rouge, LA that focused on the theology of the Torrance clan B) Gone on a retreat with our high school students from church. I opted for the second, and didn’t regret it a bit.
This retreat was a collaboration of about ten churches, whose youth workers all knew one another in college. It was aimed at training students for discipleship and helping students discover their “Spiritual Pathway”. The retreat was centered on Gary Thomas’ “Sacred Pathways” book. While I appreciate what Thomas is trying to do, his approach concerned me going into the weekend (by the way, any approach to spiritual development has numerous pot holes in it). Basically what he did was develop different ways in which people connect to God (traditionalists, contemplatives, ascetics, intellectuals, sensory, naturalists, caregivers, etc.) and came up with a quiz that the kids took to discover what their top two pathways were. Then they went to a workshop for each of their top two. I was leading the “traditionalist” workshop, which as you can imagine drew exactly zero kids across the two sessions. But, some of the other sessions were extremely well done and the kids absolutely loved them. I think what was important was that the leaders of the sessions emphasized that just because you’re a naturalist (one who experiences God through nature and the outdoors) or an intellectual (one who experiences God by learning) that isn’t an excuse to skip out on things such as worship services, bible studies, etc. Rather, it’s a way to enhance your spiritual life. Since I had no one show up for my workshop, I sat in on the intellectual workshop (which is the area I scored highest in anyway) and had a whole lot of fun. The rest of the retreat was an absolute blast, and our speaker, Dr. Terry Thomas (A professor at Geneva and a Grove City/Pittsburgh Seminary grad) was absolutely incredible. He honestly spoke for an hour and held every single person’s attention in the room. He was authentic, funny, engaging, and most importantly, challenging. No matter where you were on your journey with Jesus Christ, his talks were relevant because he talked about discipleship.
So, the workshops, the speaker, the free time activities, etc. were wonderful. And although I came home with no voice and had to preach on Sunday night (check out the audio here or the video here) it was a great weekend.
Ah the start of a new term… and term III none the less, which seems like the only normal term all year, but turns out not to be normal in the least.
So this term I had planned on taking Dr. Purves class, Theology and Pastoral Care, for credit and auditing Dr. Cole-Turner’s class, The Doctrine of the Trinity. Well, those plans got reversed this week and I’m now taking Doctrine of the Trinity, and auditing Theology and Pastoral Care. Why you might ask? That’s a great question.
I’ve had Dr. Purves for 5 courses in my seminary career (Theology/Practice of Holiness, Pastoral Care, Reformed Dogmatics, Theology of T.F. Torrance, and Scientific Theology) and I’ve benefited greatly from each and every course. In fact, looking at the list I can name one significant insight that shapes how I live my life and how I do ministry (or to put it more appropriately, how I participate in the on-going ministry of Jesus Christ). I had originally decided to take Theology and Pastoral Care for credit and write a paper that would take Dr. Purves framework and apply it specifically to youth ministry, and I’ll admit that in the back of my mind I had thought that someday I might write a book entitled something like “It’s Not Up to You: A Christ-Centered Theology for Youth Ministry.” Honestly, I’d still like to write that book/article/blog entry (I figure it’ll be one of the three) someday because I think what Dr. Purves is proposing is radical, Christ-centered, and would be of great benefit to many burned-out over-worked youth workers. But, I have a pretty good understanding of what Dr. Purves is proposing because I took my first run at applying it to Youth Ministry last year in my philosophy of Youth Ministry paper.
On the other hand, since I was exempted from taking Introduction to Systematic Theology, I never had a course that covered the doctrine of God in any depth until I took Theology of T.F. Torrance and we read his book, The Christian Doctrine of God (which to this day has to be one of the most dense and demanding books I’ve ever read). As I was sitting in Doctrine of Trinity on Tuesday, I saw that one option for being graded in the class was to write a paper that was 3500-4000 words long (roughly 12 pages) on our topic of choice, and Dr. Cole-Turner suggested that we compare Moltmann, who we’re required to read for the course, to another major Trinitarian thinker (he suggested Pannenberg, Jenson, T.F. Torrance, Freddy Zizioulas, or Catherine LaCunga). During break I began reading “Rediscovering the Triune God” by Stanley Grenz and remember this line from the book: “Moltmann, in contrast [to Pannenberg], retains Barth’s focus on the Word as the locus of divine revelation. In this sense, he stands closer to Barth than Pannenberg does” (Rediscovering the Triune God, Pg. 76). This got me thinking that it might be fun to compare Barth and Moltmann, because they choose similar starting points, yet end up in two very different places, to the point where Barth is accused of being a modalist and Moltmann is accused of being a Tri-theist. So my early title is as follows: “The Modalist and the Tri-Theist: The Word of God as Revelation in Karl Barth and Jurgen Moltmann” or something along those lines. Basically what I want to do is test Grenz’s hypothesis and find out why, despite a similar starting point, they end up in such different places.
So yes, I opted to write a paper that I have no idea how to write and will require me to read large sections of Barth’s church dogmatics. Why might I do this? Especially when I have only 8 weeks instead of 10 to write it? Well, because I’m a big dork.
So with the end of a term so comes the changing of my reading. This term for Missiology I was assigned David Bosch’s Transforming Mission which I thought was an absolutely glorious book. Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to finish it during the term and while I was in Mississippi I read a good chunk of it but still failed to finish it. So that’s still on my currently reading list. One book I did finish was Stanley Grenz’s A Primer on Postmodernism which I found to be an excellent introduction to postmodern thought. Perhaps most helpful is that Grenz doesn’t presuppose that all postmodern thinkers are in agreement, and does a good job showing where those differences. I also started reading another book by Grenz, Rediscovering the Triune God where he looks at the major developments in Trinitarian thought during the 20th Century, survey thinkers such as Barth, Rahner, Moltmann, Pannenberg, Jenson, Torrance, and others. I’ve only read the sections on Barth, Rahner, and Moltmann but so far its been a really helpful book. It has also piqued my interest in Jurgen Moltmann and has me even more interested that I am auditing the Trinity class here next term, where we’ll be reading The Crucified God and Theology of Hope. Finally, in my on-going reading I am slowly making my way through Barth’s Church Dogmatics 1.1, Doctrine of the Word of God, where he does his Trinitarian exposition. His “Doctrine of God” is contained in volumes 2.1 and 2.2, but he develops the unity of God emphasizes in 2.1 and 2.2 from the exposition of the Trinity in 1.1.
As a side note, what has been helpful about Grenz’s book on the Trinity was his critique of Barth. Unlike my teacher (Barth) I tend to emphasize God’s threeness over God’s oneness (see my posts on plural pronouns for God), especially given my context in the United States where the word “God” is a loaded cultural term. I think we’re better off talking about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and using phrases such as “Triune God” instead of just “God”. That being said, I have a lot to learn from Barth’s exposition of the Trinity and the Doctrine of God.
Looking ahead to next term my reading will be of top-caliber. I’m taking Theology and Pastoral Care with Dr. Andrew Purves, which will be my 6th full class with him. He’s basically teaching his most recent book, but having us read the sources that influenced his thinking. Included on that list are the following: Calvin, Athanasius, Moltmann, McLoed Campbell, Torrance (James), and Milligan. Needless to say, it’s a pretty impressive list. For Church and Society: Local (which would be more aptly named Theology from the African-American Context) we’re reading a number of books that I’ve never read, and probably wouldn’t if I didn’t have to take this class and that is the good part of this class. I’m auditing Doctrine of the Trinity, which will be an introduction to the Trinity through Moltmann. Finally, I’ll have my last term reading Alister McGrath’s Scientific Theology vol. 3, Theory. All in all, it’ll be a good term of reading.