Thursday 11 January 2007

Robert W. Jenson: A Large Catechism

Rummaging around in a dark corner of the Princeton library, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a little book by Robert W. Jenson that I hadn’t seen before: A Large Catechism (Delhi, NY: ALPB, 1991), 62 pp. Drawing on Luther’s Larger Catechism, Jenson discusses the main topics of a traditional catechism: the ten commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the sacraments. Here are some highlights:

“In our fallen religion, we think salvation would be escape from temporal existence, from the threats and opportunities of an open future…. But the true God is the one coming as the future rushes upon us; he is life rather than release from life. His very identity is set by what he does in time” (p. 8).

“God, according to all the Scriptures, is above all the great Speaker; he is his own Word, and never relates to others by mere force, but always by personal address. That he creates something new means that he expands the field of his conversation…. That he creates, means that Father, Son and Spirit among themselves mention others than themselves: they speak together of … the great sea beasts, and so there are the great sea beasts for them to discuss. God converses the world into being” (pp. 21-22).

“The Spirit is the Power of the End, God as his own and our Fulfillment rushing upon us” (p. 30).

“‘Sanctification’ … is often misunderstood as a progress, kicked off, as it were, by baptism. This has obviously to be false. Baptism initiates into the life which God’s three persons, Father, Son and Spirit, live among themselves; what would we progress to from that? Rather, sanctification is the continual return to baptism…. Baptism is always there as a fact in my past; I can always, as Luther said, ‘creep’ back to it and begin anew” (p. 50).

“The bread and wine are … the appetizer of the great Wedding Supper. Let the bread therefore be hearty and the wine the best affordable” (pp. 58-59).


Anonymous said...

The Trinity having a natter about whales and walruses; the Christian life as getting the hang of one's baptism; a big hunk of fresh Italian bread and a Chianti classico at Supper - how lovely! And look at Jenson - you want to hug the huge teddy, don't you?

Thanks, Ben - and keep rummaging!

Halden said...

Awesome. I'll do what I can to see to it that Wipf and Stock brings this back into print.

Jon said...

He does need a haircut though doesn't he...

Ben Myers said...

A haircut? I myself stick strictly to three haircuts per annum, so I'm on Jenson's side here!

Halden: I actually thought of Wipf & Stock as I was reading this, and I was wondering whether it might be something you'd be interested in. I'll email you about it -- it would be great to see it back in print with a wider circulation. At the moment, there's only one copy listed on Abebooks -- and they're asking $140 for it!)

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