Friday 28 May 2010

Theological Graffiti: A poetic guide to modern theology

by Kim Fabricius and Ben Myers

Kim and I were talking the other day about W. H. Auden’s Academic Graffiti (1972), a delightfully funny series of clerihews (four-line biographical poems). So we decided to come up with our own Theological Graffiti, a sequence of clerihews on modern theologians. Here they are: forty theologians, in alphabetical order.

Karl Barth
Had to hire a cart
Having no other tactics
To transport his dogmatics.

Phillip Blond
Lives in beau monde,
Which explains the fantastical hunky-dory
Red Tory.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer,
Theological cartographer,
From Tegel, in fetters,
Wrote the Lord letters.

Geoffrey Bromiley
Never tired easily,
But felt a tad weary
After translating a whole German library.

Rudolf Bultmann
One day began
To study the Gospel of John; and found, to his satisfaction,
That pretty much every word was redaction.

Sarah Coakley
Doesn’t care for logomachy,
But waits silently (you can hear it)
For the Spirit.

Don Cupitt
Bid farewell to all stupid
Believers; then with a bow and a nod
He took leave of God.

Mary Daly
Didn’t write gaily
About her bother:
The Father.

Hans Frei
Replied with a sigh
To the liberal lot:
“You’ve lost the plot.”

Wayne Grudem
Had a stratagem
To define the role of women; but neglected to mention
Whether men, too, are allowed in the kitchen.

Colin Gunton
Detected dysfunction
In St Augustine, his nemesis,
Who didn’t have quite enough perichoresis.

David B. Hart
Is not terribly fond of Bultmann, Bonhoeffer, Tillich or Barth,
Crucially not to mention
Balthasar, Jüngel, Lash, Moltmann, MacKinnon …

Stan the Man
Is more peaceful than
A quiet Christmas night.
But he loves a fuckin’ fight.

Robert Jenson,
Lively and fun,
Is known to enjoy a good Barthian feud
And to talk about God as Hegelian fugue.

Eberhard Jüngel
Is king of the jungle
On the being and becoming of God –
Und sein Tod.

Hans Küng,
When he was young,
Rose to the top. Almost.
Now he is toast.

Nicholas Lash
Packs polemical panache:
To the atheist, a bloody pain;
Also to the ultramontane.

C. S. Lewis
Must have smoked cannabis
With Narnia creatures to write the banality
Of Mere Christianity.

Bernard Lonergan,
Lectured on and on;
His critical realism might have seemed boring
To anyone present who was not yet snoring.

Herbert McCabe:
Wise as an asp, pure as a babe.
But he had one fortunate fault:

Bruce McCormack,
As big as a lumberjack:
Felling, with ease,
A whole forest of big metaphysical trees.

Donald MacKinnon:
“His sanity’s thinning,”
Some said. But whom God saves, he first drives mad:
And makes sad.

John Macquarrie
Was awfully sorry
When people lost interest
In all of that blather ’bout human existence.

John Milbank
Some think a crank,
Others well worth citing –
Those who can read his writing.

Paul Molnar
Bid au revoir
To his Princetonian foe, apropos
Of ho logos asarkos.

“Jürgen Moltmann,
The world,” we ask, “live without hope?”

Reinhold Niebuhr,
Bowing to Thor, argued just war
Against Yoder, who, in a different class,
Kicked his ass.

Wolfhart Pannenberg,
Who studied in Heidelberg,
Is quite a stickler
For all things empirical, scientific, geschichtliche.

Karl Rahner,
The top banana,
Wrote hundreds of essays with never a failure:
Cocktails of theologoumena and transcendentalia.

Joseph Ratzinger,
Roman inquisitor,
Cries, with the church in a mess,
“Deus caritas est!”

Rosemary Ruether,
An ecofeminist Luther,
Rails against a male Messiah,
Worships Gaia.

Edward Schillebeeckx
Made some mistakes:
He said, “The church has a human face!” –
Then went home to pack his suitcase.

Jack Spong
Is so very long
That it’s hard for him to kneel.
But then to whom to appeal?

William Stringfellow,
His heart soft as marshmallow,
Fought with each breath
Against powers and death.

Paul Tillich
Had an incurable itch
For God and being and demons and dirt
(And skirt).

Thomas Torrance
A triune alliance:
God, Karl and science.

Simone Weil
Malheureuse, très outrée,
And so severe it hurt:
The Categorical Imperative in a skirt.

Bishop Rowan,
All-knowing, ho-ho-hoing
Like Santa, he’s weird:
Maybe it’s the beard.

Bishop Tom Wright
Stays up all night
Writing and writing (and writing) books about the apostle to the nations.
And a resignation.

John Howard Yoder
Grew sick from the odour
Of Christendom, with its violent caprice
Against peace.

A final note: we tried to talk Oliver Crisp into doing some sketches to go with the post. Alas, he's too busy running a department – so here's one last clerihew to cheer him up:

Crisply Oliver
Decided to follow a
Clean analytical method. But something still seemed left unsaid
So he took up his paintbrush instead.


kim fabricius said...

I think Ben should now be in bed (it's gone 4 a.m. in Sydney, for Pete's sake), so I'm sneaking this one in:

Benjamin Myers,
Like Brian, is a very naughty boy, not the Messiah,
But in blogging - cor blimey! – from Molnar to Milton -
Well, if websites were cheese, his would be Stilton.

geoffrey holsclaw said...

thank you for this. hillarius.

David W. Congdon said...

Incredible! Hart, Lewis, Niebuhr, and Ratzinger are my favorites.

Jason Goroncy said...

The perfect post to accompany Saturday's toast. Thanks guys. Great stuff.
Time for coffee.

Anonymous said...

Friedrich Schleiermacher,
against cultured mockers
sent the orthodox keeling
with religion as feeling

Ben Myers said...

Thanks, Kim, for your comment! Let me return the favour:

Kim Fabricius
With a wit so delicious,
From Swansea to Hell's Kitchen
Cooks up propositions.

Pamela said...

There are two scholars who live worlds apart
One is Oz the other in the old dart
Over our cornflakes we've been treated
To mutual admiration requited

Nick said...

The banality of Mere Christianity? Please tell me that is an error...

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Kim Fabricious,
May seem capricious,
But he's not. Just a (mildly theological) dead- ringer...
To Pete Singer.

Anonymous said...

If websites were cheese, we would need something to go with them.

kim fabricius said...

@ Anonymous II - I hope you mean Pete Seeger the singer (which still preserves your rhyme-scheme).

John Hartley said...

Dear Kim and Ben,

These are wonderful. My only question is why you have limited yourselves to "modern theology" and not included Patristics. Some of us would really value some aide-memoires when we're trying to remember which Father said what.

Augustine of Hippo:
in youth he let rippo.
Did chastity tempt him? You bet!
"Lord give it me, please ... but not yet."


Justin's apology
not just tautology:
logical well-written prose!
Pity Trypho's still morose.

Must shut up and write my sermon for Trinity Sunday tomorrow. Now there's a thought ...

Gregory of Nyssa
refutes a dismisser:
"The Father, the Son, the two are yet one -
The Cause and the Caused together belong."

Every blessing, yours in Christ - JOHN HARTLEY

Scipio said...

Great post!!

Quoted some on my blog and added two German ones on two guys which I felt were missing:

Hans Urs von Balthasar
der Größten einer war,
schrieb wie besoffen
übers Hölle-leer-hoffen.

Henri de Lubac,
patristisch voll auf Zack,
drang vor bis zur Quelle
der theologie nouvelle.

Jon said...

*beats himself around the head*

I enjoyed the one that rhymed...

Anonymous said...

A Barthian thinker named Myers
put out theological fires
being in action
not essentialist distraction
imaginative creation inspires.

John Squires said...

Hey Kim, and hey Ben:
re these words from your pen
(which to me, show a touch of the weirds) --
just what do you have against beards?

(re: poor old Rowan)

roger flyer said...

I notice my country is not well represented on this world blog.

Rick Warren in California
Theological porn Ya
Know us Yanks
Don't just run banks.

Ben Myers said...

Thanks for all these entertaining responses! And here's another one for Kim:

Kim Fabricius
Once ate a delicious
Foie gras. By the third mouthful he'd already written
About it in dix délicieux propositions.

kim fabricius said...

Wait for it, Roger, wait for it...

Mark Earngey said...

Ben, these are hilarious! Made my night.

Have you seen the brilliant theological Cartoon book (now out of print): "Wildlife in the Kingdom Come: An Explorer Looks at the Critters and Creatures of the Theological Kingdom" by Ken Johnson and John Coe?? It's pretty old and needs an updated version. But it's hilarious!

I've blogged a few samples:
The Process Thought (Sliddus Withe Tidus)
The Radical Feminist: Nailus the Maleus
The Neo-Orthodox: Bartis Bovine
The Calvinist: Consumus Tulipius

Hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed these! :)

J said...

comedy, the divine butcher (Fr. Corso).

aka the Anglican's defense

roger flyer said...

God's chosen sniper
Is a man called Doc John Piper
Who knows which way the wind blows
and who to hell goes.

Emerson Fast said...

Cornelius Van Till,
Couldn't swallow the pill
of neo-orthodox theology,
yet he responded with goofology.

Twas the Jewish Martin Buber,
Who was drunter und druber,
about Barth's theological labor,
still he settled for the seder.

Anonymous said...


kim fabricius said...

Emerson, Auden himself beat you to Buber:

Martin Buber
Never said "Thou" to a tuber:
Despite his creed,
He did not feel the need.

And lest anyone take on Kierkegaard, here is Auden on the great Dane:

Soren Kierkegaard
Tried awfully hard
To take the Leap
But fell in a heap.

And in response to Ben:

Ben Myers
Is one of the great versifiers,
But if he does yet another Kim curlihew,
He should know what with it I will tell him to do.

Anonymous said...

Hunsinger, George
Would like to forge
A "confessing" alliance..and I suppose he did,
secundum quid.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Fabricius,

I wasn't aware! Haven't read a word of Auden, and don't expect to for some time.

Maurice Wiles,
prone to beguile,
with his deistic model,
confined God to a hovel.

Alfred Whitehead,
made God as good as dead,
who could only lure,
and (on occasion) demur.

Thomas Oden,
grew tired of abodin'
in all things modern or new;
to the creeds he flew!

Anonymous said...

Here's one for Charles de Koninck:

Charles de Koninck, despite ending in Quebec
helped the Pope's dogma not to end in a wreck:
"After all, I can live in this country
and still think about the assumption of Mary!"

Anonymous said...

Why you have limited yourselves to "modern theology".

Rudolf Bultmann
One day began
To study the Gospel of John; and found, to his satisfaction,
That pretty much every word was redaction.
I like this modern theology.

webhost1234 said...

Why you have limited yourselves to "modern theology".

Rudolf Bultmann
One day began
To study the Gospel of John; and found, to his satisfaction,
That pretty much every word was redaction.
I like this modern theology.

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