Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Reading advice: sin and the powers

A quick request for some reading suggestions: one of my students this semester is taking a guided reading course on “sin and the powers” (his own chosen topic). To start with, I’ve got him reading some of the core 19th- and 20th-century texts on sin (e.g. Kierkegaard, Niebuhr, Barth); then the next component will focus on more recent texts relating to sin, the powers, and ethics of freedom. Anyone want to offer their favourite reading recommendations on this topic?

(By the way, after all the great help I received, I’ve been meaning to post the course outlines for my current subjects on ecclesiology and pneumatology – sorry I haven’t done this yet, but I’ll try to get to it soon!)

41 Comments:

Anonymous said...

I've spent part of the summer with John Cottingham's The Spiritual Dimension. Your student might find it helpful, with emphasis on praxis, then the chapters on heteronomy and the interior journey

RL Muhlnickel

roger flyer said...

Paul.

Andrew Krinks said...

Powers, Weakness, and the Tabernacling of God by Marva Dawn deals in much of this.

Pablo said...

Books:
"Dylan's Visions of Sin" by Christopher Ricks

Selections:
Chapter 31 of "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain
The Wife of Bath's Prologue from the Canterbury Tales
Chapter 11 of "Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas" by Hunter S. Thompson
"The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyburg" by Mark Twain

Tunes:
"Hail Mary" by 2Pac
"When the Man Comes Around" by Johnny Cash


...I might stop back by with more. I know I'm missing something here.

Pablo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pablo said...

huzzah, roger flyer.

Dustin said...

while not a technical theology tome, We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families by Philip Gourevitch is an astounding look at how power structures can enact great, great violence, and is, despite its content, a good read.

Pedro The Lion's Control record is also stellar, and heartbreaking. Probably more about corporatism and sin, but hey...

Rob said...

I think there is some interesting stuff in the 'anti-commentary' "Colossians: remixed" by Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat. Bad title, but done in an interesting Socratic dialogue style that touches on the question of the 'powers' and will probably have a decent bibliography on the issue.

Kevin said...

For the biblical-theological background, the relevant texts by Ernst Kaesemann, Lou Martyn, and Christiaan Beker are a must. I'm also a big fan of the "Lordless Powers" section of Barth's Christian Life.

Matt Jenson said...

Walter Wink's stuff is key and the place to start (along with some good commentaries). I recently read Derek Nelson's "What's Wrong with Sin" (which is just coming out with T&T Clark) which has a helpful survey of 'social sin' in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Lucy said...

Yoder and Stringfellow

Halden said...

Ellul, The Ethics of Freedom

Berkhof, Christ and the Powers

Obviously all the Stringfellow stuff.

myleswerntz said...

What Halden said. Wink's stuff is crap.

Add "Christ and Power" from Politics of Jesus. Also, Sarah Coakley's Powers and Submission.

kcflynn said...

Ellul, _The Subversion of Christianity_ - Ellul's most explicit discussion of the Powers.
Ellul, _Ethics of Freedom_
Ellul, _The Presence of the Kingdom_ (Intro by Stringfellow, if you can find that edition)

Vernard Eller, _Christian Anarchy: Jesus' Primacy over the Powers_, available here: http://www.hccentral.com/eller12/index.html

Dawn is good - draws mostly from Ellul and Yoder but perhaps more accessible for a beginner.

Scott Savage said...

I like Mark Biddle's book Missing the Mark.

Joe said...

Charles T. Mathewes - Evil and the Augustinian Tradition. It's got discussions of people like Reinhold Niebuhr and Hannah Arendt (in addition, obviously, to Augustine), as well as some implications of a privation theory of evil for contemporary theology.

J. A. Frazer Crocker said...

Wesley Howard-Brook and Anthony Gwyther
"Unveiling Empire: Reading Revelation then and
Now" Comes at the questions from a different slant, which is often enlightening

roger flyer said...

myles...
Wink's stuff is crap?

Chris TerryNelson said...

There's also new book coming out soon entitled Original Sin and Everyday Protestants: The Theology of Reinhold Niebuhr, Billy Graham, and Paul Tillich in an Age of Anxiety, which may be helpful.

nwcc said...

Try reading Geoffrey C. Bingham, 'Christ’s Cross Over Man’s Abyss', NCPI, 1987 p. 40-41. Here is a brief excerpt.

"We must see that man is opposed by enemies, which form one powerful complex. These enemies are sin, death, Satan, his evil powers, his evil system called 'the world ' (of which he is 'prince' or 'god '), the flesh, and idols. This whole complex is set against man to bring him to a debased and demeaned state, by which the glory of God is defamed and man becomes a creature of degradation and obscenity. In speaking of Satan's stinging power to accuse and keep man in deep internal hurt, we must also remember that Satan is merely a creature, and that his system is a tempor¬ary one. If God permits it, He also uses it. John speaks of the world system of evil, saying that it is passing away (I John 2: 17). Paul speaks of the so called 'wisdom' of the world (I Cor. 1: 19ff.), and discounts it as not having real (ontologi¬cal) existence or being.

(Footnote: 1 See I John 2:17 and I Corinthians 7:31 We mean that only what God has created is ontologically so. All that is evil is not of this order. Evil is an attempt to destroy things-as-they-really-are.)

"All evil is ephemeral. Its devastations may appear to be real and permanent, but ultimately it will be shown to have accomplished nothing, "

(Footnote: We may consider evil to have accomplished much, eg. rape, murder, devastation, etc., but in fact it has created or built nothing. One simple, pure act of love will have accomplished more than all evil has ever executed!)

"and in any case to have been under the hand of the sovereign God.

"At the same time, evil is a present reality to sinful man. The human race has been led into bondage. Man's initial excitement of envisaging himself to be 'as God' may have given way to fear ('I heard the sound of thee in the garden, and 1 was afraid, because I was naked; and 1 hid myself', Gen. 3: 10), but he is still stimulated by the mad dream. He still knows ecstasies of ambition. The Scriptures call this syndrome the flesh. Man in his heady ambition still hates God, and scrambles towards the throne of imagined deity and personal autonomy."

Nathan Crawford said...

I'd add Dale Allison's The Joy of Being Wrong. It's an interesting meditation on original sin by looking at it through the Easter event, instead of looking at it through the Adamic fall.

Paul said...

The relevant sections in Stanley Grenz' Theology for the Community of God represent some of the best thinking about the powers from a conservative Evangelical perspective. Grenz arguably broke new grounds for Evangelicals in accpepting Berkhof's and Yoder's exegesis of the language of 'powers' in Paul.

Ben Myers said...

Many thanks for this, folks. I really appreciate it!

Ben Myers said...

Oh, and Pablo, I love your suggestions!

Christopher said...

I really enjoyed Cornelius Plantinga's "A Breviary of Sin".

scott prather said...

Don't forget Barth - "the Lordless Powers", the Nothingness stuff in III.3, and Rechtfertigung und Recht.

myleswerntz said...

I'll say it again: Wink's stuff is crap. He works off a dynamic of 'powers' such that institutions are manifestations, not of spiritual entities, but of an ethos/institution binary. In other words, if we create a better institution, BLAMMO, powers corralled! Gone are the 'mythic' structures of Paul's 'powers and principalities', replaced with something that modern folks can digest, like banal materialism.

Just my three cents.

Brian Lugioyo said...

Ben, It is rare to be moved by a discussion on sin, but Eberhard Jungel's discussion in Justification: The Heart of the Christian Faith was such a case for me. See his chapter "The Untruth of Sin".

Kindly,

Brian

Kevin said...

One more: Jesse Couenhoven (Assistant Professor of Moral Theology at Villanova...and all-around great guy) recently finished a manuscript on original sin and freedom, entitled Determination, Disease, and Original Sin, and it's head & shoulders better than just about anything I've seen on the topic. If you email Jesse, I'm sure he would be happy to share a copy with you.

Tim F. said...

Unless I missed it already, St. Augustine's Confessions is required reading. At the very least book II and the theft of pears, but the whole thing is worthwhile.

I'm a little disturbed that no one else recommended it.

Tim

kim fabricius said...

Go to an AA meeting or a Hep C clinic.

D Morcom said...

How about Cornelius Plantinga, "Not the Way It's Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin". From a psychiatrist, and older (1973), Karl Menninger, "Whatever Became of Sin?" is worth more than a passing glance

Adam said...

"The Fall to Violence" by Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki.

Anonymous said...

I second Cornelius Plantinga's 'A Breviary of Sin'. Plantinga is both theologically astute and a gifted communicator. [I'm a new (and very excited) reader of this blog. Thanks!]

John P. said...

Charles Campbell over at Duke works in this area a good bit. Though, he tends to steer the subject towards homiletics since that is what he teaches! His most recent book is "The Word Before the Powers". I think you may still find it helpful.

Chris said...

Alan Jacobs, Original Sin: A Cultural History

David W. Congdon said...

Chapter 4 in Eberhard Jüngel's Justification: The Heart of the Christian Faith is one of the very best treatments of sin post-Barth. I recommend it very highly.

Matt T said...

David Toole's Waiting For Godot In Sarajevo.
Hauerwas (in Blackwell Companion to Postmodern Theology) writes about how Toole's treatment of Yoder and Focoult present some of the clearest contrasts between the nature of power and Christ's peace. I would imagine the concept of sin could emerge from the juxtaposition of these two--but it's just a hunch.

Andii Bowsher said...

I would suggest two that don't appear to have been posted so far, somewhat to my surprise.
Alistair McFadyen. Bound to Sin: Abuse, Holocaust and the Christian Doctrine of Sin (Cambridge Studies in Christian Doctrine) -
And
James Alison: The Joy of Being Wrong.
Both deal with the way sin and social organisation 'collaborate'.

Anonymous said...

Matt Jenson's "The Gravity of Sin: Augustine, Luther, and Barth on Homo Incurvatus in Se

Anonymous said...

How about Jon Sobrino, The Principle of Mercy, for an accessible account of liberation theology's expansion of sin.

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