Wednesday, 1 August 2007

The influence of essays

Sometimes a single essay can change your life. You sit down in a lazy moment to read it – you’re not expecting much. But half an hour later, your entire world has been altered. You’ve got new eyes, and you’re never able to look at things in quite the same way again.

At times, the entire landscape of theological studies can be altered in this way by a single essay. Some examples that spring to mind are:

  • Karl Barth, “The Word of God and the Task of the Ministry” (1922)
  • Gerhard von Rad, “The Theological Problem of the Old Testament Doctrine of Creation” (1936)
  • Rudolf Bultmann, “New Testament and Mythology” (1941)
  • Gerhard Ebeling, “The Significance of the Critical Historical Method for Church and Theology in Protestantism” (1950)
  • Ernst Käsemann, “The Problem of the Historical Jesus” (1954)
  • Wolfhart Pannenberg, “Redemptive Event and History” (1959)
  • Karl Rahner, “Remarks on the Dogmatic Treatise De Trinitate” (1960)
And if you were to look for recent examples, you might think of Rowan Williams, “The Body’s Grace” (1990), or perhaps Bruce McCormack, “Grace and Being” (2000).

So what about you? Have you ever read a life-changing essay?

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