Friday 18 January 2008

Theology highlights of 2007

Best theology book (academic): Rowan Williams, Wrestling with Angels: Conversations in Modern Theology (Eerdmans, 2007) – an extremely important collection of essays; this is Williams at his best.

Best theology book (popular): Rowan Williams, Tokens of Trust: An Introduction to Christian Belief (WJKP, 2007) – a beautiful, compelling and exquisitely elegant account of Christian belief, all organised around the very simple and very beautiful idea that God is the one whom we can trust.

Best book (New Testament): Susan Eastman, Recovering Paul's Mother Tongue: Language and Theology in Galatians (Eermans, 2007)

Best book (Old Testament): Rudolf Smend, From Astruc to Zimmerli: Old Testament Scholarship in Three Centuries (Mohr Siebeck, 2007)

Best theology journal: Modern Theology. This journal really stood out from the rest in 2007; it published an impressive range of groundbreaking articles, e.g. Philip Ziegler on Bonhoeffer; Kenneth Oakes on Barth and de Lubac; Kevin Hector on pneumatology; Jeffrey McCurry on Rowan Williams and Augustine; Merold Westphal on Jean-Luc Marion; Frederiek Depoortere on Žižek; Oliver Crisp on Robert Jenson; and Daniel Barber on John Howard Yoder.

Best journal article: Hugh Nicholson, “The Political Nature of Doctrine: A Critique of Lindbeck in Light of Recent Scholarship,” Heythrop Journal 48:6 (2007), 858-77.

Best conference paper: Douglas Harink, “The Time of the Gospel and the History of the World” (a brilliant SBL paper presented in San Diego, November 2007 – a copy is available online here)

Best theology blog: Inhabitatio Dei

Best new blog: The Immanent Frame

Best TV episode: The final episode of The Sopranos

Best new TV show: East West 101 (a terrific new Aussie crime show)

Best comedy scene: the Chasers’ APEC motorcade stunt (I adore these guys: wonderfully anarchic Aussie comedy)

Best film: I’m Not There (admittedly I didn’t get to see many new films in 2007 – but I loved this one)

Best novel: Khaled Hosseini, A Thousand Splendid Suns (Riverhead, 2007)

Best song: Bob Dylan, “Huck’s Tune” (2007) – from the Lucky You soundtrack; you can hear the song at YouTube. This is such a great song that I’ll end with an excerpt from the lyrics:

        “I count the years and I shed no tears,
        I’m blinded to what might have been.
        Nature’s voice makes my heart rejoice;
        Play me the wild song of the wind.

        I found hopeless love in the room above
        When the sun and the weather were mild;
        You’re as fine as wine, I ain’t handin’ you no line,
        I’m gonna have to put you down for a while.”


Lumière et Possibilité said...

i am afraid i might have to agree with you on the immanent frame choice. while taylor and the duke school and the RO crowd are all a little different, it has been fruitful to see how such a daring critique of modernity can be sustained and where it may really have holes. it has been good to see taylor's responses to criticisms and some of the critiques on other books, e.g. the stillborn god.

Anonymous said...

Wow, thanks for the high marks! If my blog's any good it's only because this one is the standard we all must measure ourselves by.

Anonymous said...

I have just read Harink's paper. Ben is right - it is excellent. Of course, given its content - Romans as a witness, a performative witness, to "the great messianic interruption" - Ben - and I - would say that! I am even in formal agreement with its conclusion, viz. that the "outcome" of "the great messianic interruption" is worship.

But a question: Am I right in thinking that Harink is referring to what goes on in church from 11:00 to 12:00 on a Sunday morning? Perhaps, more specifically, when the Lord's Supper is celebrated? If, not, ignore what follows. If so, however, does Harink have in mind what William Cavanaugh calls a "a eucharistic counter-politics"? If so, would he allow, as Cavanaugh allows (referring to I Corinthians 11), that eucharistic worship might in fact constitute a betrayal of Christ?

Again, Harink refers to to Bernd Wannenwetsch's Political Worship: Ethics for Christian Citizens (the price of which, by the way, is quite unethical!) as "Crucial in this regard", and quotes the book in a footnote to the effect that worship itself is a political act, not a liturgical means to a political end, that "it cannot be cashed in for some political good like liberation or welfare," that "The liberation experienced in worship is aleady political," and so on. But again, does this go for, say, the Joel Osteen Show? And if not, why not, by what criterion? Surely by the criterion of the justitia Dei, which Harink himself mentions. So then is it not false to say - as Wannenwetsch says - that "No higher end can be imputed to the worshipping community" than - worship?

In short, I am concerned that (eucharistic) worship, is becoming a Hooray Henry word, deracinated from what actually goes on in worship, from what people acually experience in worship, and from, yes, liberation and welfare, from human well-being and flourishing, before and after Sunday morning from 10:00 to 11:00. I am worried, if you like, about a docetic understanding of worship. If worship means more than just listening to sermons and breaking bread, etc., fine. If not, however, the old saying becomes pertinent: "When the worship is over, the service begins."

Yes? No?

Anonymous said...


I too have a question about Harink's paper, and I hope you (or someone) can answer it: Harink assumes something that he calls "apocalyptic time", which he differentiates from historical time, and he assumes that Paul's theology is to be understood within the framework of this "apocalyptic time". In fact, he treats this idea as so self-evident that he doesn't provide any sort of argument for its existence, and he thinks that merely mentioning it is enough to detract from Jewett's commentary (which has no trace of this idea).

My question, of course, is where is this idea coming from? If it comes from Barth, where does Barth get the idea? I ask this because I don't see anything in either Paul or in the Jewish/Christian corpus of apocalyptic texts to support such an idea. In fact, all the apocalypses that I have read envision God as acting on the stage of historical time. There is no thought of any other kind of time at all.

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