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« James McGrath calls me a liberal: my response (1) | Main | The Knoppers-Ristau Volume on Israelite Historiography: A Review of the RBL Review »

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smijer

Surprised to find no comments on this post. I'm also a tad surprised to see McGrath characterize you this way... but I think I know where he is coming from.

I'm a very analytical person myself. I think that maybe he is, too. You, on the other hand seem to take a more "holistic" or syncretic approach.

I think I've read you enough to guess that you would not insist that the details of Luke's nativity can be fully harmonized with Matthew's nativity. That, for instance, you believe Herod was King, but Qurinius was not actually prelate of Syria at the time of Jesus' birth. Correct me if I'm wrong.

Analytical thinkers like myself would then stop, before going on to your wider view of scripture, and say that this is enough to make your specific view of these passages not "inerrantist" by the modern conservative definition of same. I might have said it was consistent with a "moderate" view if I had lived when "moderate" was still a viable designation.

It seems you go on to say that read together and with the remainder of scripture, read in proper poetic tension, etc., etc., these passages create a broader message that it is true even if they are not technically true in their details.

So, it is hard for us to overlook the more moderate view on one level of reading and focus exclusively on the conservative view on the other level of reading.

I that many conservative inerrantists would agree with the notion that the moderate view you seem to hold on one level is not an "inerrantist" view by their standards. I think that many of *them* would characterize your view as liberal on that account.

Labels are odious. I often find it difficult to know where you are coming from, but you clearly make an effort to communicate your unique perspective, and in the end it matters very little how that perspective is named. It matters whether that perspective is well-conceived, but that's up for you to decide, not me.

smijer

Ha - this comment was intended for post (1)... I hadn't read post 2 when I pasted it out of text editor. Post 2 kind of anticipates it I see.

JohnFH

Smijer,

I'll copy over your comment to the other thread and reply there.

Robert Minto

This is not entirely related to the content of the above post, but I have to say it anyway.

I followed your link to the original "discussion" at McGrath's blog, and ended up reading the entire epic thread. I confess that I am absurdly addicted to blog flame wars of the you-vs-Thom variety. But generally I don't read all the way through them. What kept me enthralled was your continuing good humor through the whole thing --- utterly rare. In the flame wars I have observed (and, alas, participated in) things usually tip toward mutual recrimination. I kept waiting for you to come back with a stinging insult. But you didn't and it was a great experience for me to see that such patience in the face of trollish behavior is possible. Thanks!

JohnFH

I confess to enjoying a flame war once in awhile myself. God I miss Italy. In seminary, among students, we used to have them all the time. One minute we were at each other's throats. The next we were embracing.

G. Kyle Essary

Barth (according to Torrance) continued to affirm a literal, physical resurrection throughout his life. Of course, so did Brunner, Berkouwer, Torrance, Jungel, etc. who are all fully neo-orthodox. Furthermore, modern theologians like (Alister) McGrath would fall in this Torrance/Barthian camp and he clearly holds to a literal, bodily resurrection.

The neo-orthodox are a mixed group, but I don't think the resurrection is an area where they should be grouped with theological Liberalism.

JohnFH

I could be wrong but of the original "Zwischen den Zeiten" crowd, Bultmann, Gogarten, and Tillich are the ones who left behind belief in the resurrection of the flesh.

The others did not, and in the Swiss-German and Swiss-French areas (think of the great Oscar Cullmann), it was rare for a long time.

I do wonder what's the point of being a Christian if resurrection of the flesh is taken away.

G. Kyle Essary

I wonder that as well...fortunately, it hasn't been taken away by a long stretch and it's one of the bedrocks of my faith.

In your listing I don't really associate Bultmann, Gogarten or Tillich with neo-orthodoxy. All three were much more influenced with the early Heidegger and seemed to try and build an entire theology around his being-unto-death...yet using quasi-Christian terminology. I'd add Macquarrie to this list...he seems more a "Christian" Heideggerian than a Christian theologian (theology assuming the necessity of Theos) in my opinion.

JohnFH

The trouble with the term neo-orthodoxy is that it is not very descriptive historically speaking.

There was a group of intensely creative theologians who saw themselves as more or less on the same page in the 1920s and published a journal entitled Zwischen den Zeiten. If one studies the history of theology on the Continent (which I did) one speaks of dialectical theology. Barth, Brunner, Thurneysen, Bultmann, Gogarten; on the periphery, Tillich. Except for Barth and Thurneysen, they all ended up going their separate ways.

It is a fascinating, fascinating story which Moltmann tells in Anfänge Der Dialektischen Theologie, which hasn't even been translated into English except for the first volume (I read it in Italian! The Catholics in Italy, believe it or not, are careful to translate all the best stuff).

The fact is, they were united more by what they were against (the Protestantism of Harnack and the like) than what they were for. It was only later that Tillich found his own voice so to speak (though a friend and Tillich scholar, J. Mark Thomas, claims otherwise, at least for his social thought). Gogarten fell for Nazism and so, after the war, though he continued to write, was not really forgiven. Anyway he headed in the direction of seeing secularization as the true vocation of Protestantism, a thesis which is brilliantly true in both good and bad ways.

The reason why Barth was for a long time a theologian laypeople and not just other professors read (not any more) was because he combined crisp kirchliche dogmatik (churchly dogmatics, and boy did he take that seriously, which meant he returned to orthodox dogma [already an out-of-fashion word] in loci in which all of Protestantism had gone the way of either revivalism, pietism, spiritualism, scholasticism, or liberalism) with an anti-fascist stance.

Anyone who was street-smart was an anti-fascist, or later, when didn't matter any longer, wished they had been, and tried to make up for it by becoming socialist or even communist.

Nobody writes theology today like Barth did in his day. [I don't agree with plenty of things in Barth; that's not my point here.] Nobody. He wrote for doctors, lawyers, politicians, and other intellectuals who wanted to read the Bible with all of their geistliche faculties and were already reading the equivalent of the New York Times including the book reviews.
Imagine reading the volumes of the Dogmatik as they came out one by one as you went about your business as a lawyer, a doctor, a public servant, all the while attending church assiduously of course, and reading your Bible.

The closest thing to that in America was Reinhold Niebuhr.

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