Did You You Know that Dietrich Bonhoeffer Was a Youth Pastor? [Book Week]

bonhoeffer

Last Friday I was wandering through my old stomping grounds, the National Youth Workers Convention, in Sacramento. Beside me was Andrew Root, a friend since we were both Ph.D. students at Princeton Theological Seminary. Later that day we would sit together on a theological panel considering the state of the science-and-religion dialogue, but at that moment we were wandering through the conference book store.

Andrew Root

Andrew Root

Root is among the top rank of theologians working in youth ministry today, and he is undisputedly the most prolific author in the field, often publishing two books per year. Virtually an entire table was committed to his books, but one book was no where to be found. Root’s latest book, Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker: A Theological Vision for Discipleship and Life Together was sold out, and the conference wasn’t even 24 hours old.

The popularity of Root’s new book is testament to a couple things, not least of which is the ongoing interest in Bonhoeffer, a 20th century theologian, activist, and martyr. Root has long studied Bonhoeffer, and he’s used the content of Bonhoeffer’s unfinished masterpiece, Ethics, to argue that relationship is not a means to an end in Christian ministry — relationship is the telos of ministry, since that’s where Christ enters the human situation.

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Moltmann’s Masterpiece [Book Week]

In completing my forthcoming book, Did God Kill Jesus?, I was driven back time and time again to the masterpiece by Jürgen Moltmann, The Crucified God. Moltmann is my theological muse, and, as Miroslav Volf says to him the in the above video, The Crucified God is his most important book.

For one thing, Moltmann followed up on his earlier Theology of Hope by continuing what today we’d call theopoetics. That is, Moltmann broke away from the staid German prose of theologians like Karl Barth and Wolfhart Pannenberg, choosing instead to write in a more freeform and experimental style. This, I think, set the stage for many Western theologians — particularly feminist theologians like Catherine Keller and Kathryn Tanner, who have written in even more open, experimental ways.

Most significantly, CG emphasized the pathos of God. For Moltmann, the Trinity is a dialectical event, and the death of Jesus causes a rupture in the eternal relationality that defines the godhead. In turn, “we participate in the eschatological life of God by virtue of the death of Christ. God is, God is in us, God suffers in us, where love suffers.”

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Balance at the Top of Fuller Seminary [Book Week]

called

I’m going to focus on books this week — some that I’ve read, some that I am reading.

When Richard Mouw announced his retirement from the presidency of Fuller Theological Seminary, I was nervous. I’m both an alumnus and a part-time employee of Fuller, and I’m very much a product of that place. In face, I’d say that who I am as a theologian is much more a reflection of Fuller (M.Div.) than of Princeton (Ph.D.). That’s as much because of my time of life (mid-20s vs. mid-30s) when I matriculated at each school.

Mouw was an emissary of evangelicalism, establishing dialogues with Mormons, Muslims, and others. He engaged in the religion-and-science debates, and he regularly debated fellow PC(USA) leaders who were more liberal than he. Although Mouw is fiercely Reformed (in the Kuyperian sense), he was always relatively generous and civil with his evangelicalism (marriage equality being one notable exception).

So when he was leaving, and Fuller was looking for his successor, I wondered who could fill that chair with the same generous spirit. Because, honestly, a moderate evangelical leader is hard to find these days.

As I reported at the time, I was pleased to hear that Mark Labberton was chosen to lead Fuller. In my previous encounters with Mark, he was just the kind of generous, centrist evangelical who embodies what Fuller should be on the landscape of American Christianity. And now, with his first book since assuming that job, we know a bit more about Labberton’s vision.

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The Art of Events

Putting together the roster of speakers for an event is an art, not a science. I’ve been working with Sarah Cunningham to put together Christianity21, coming to Phoenix in January. Of course, we strive to invite speakers who have something to say and are good at saying it. But one of the things that we most desire is that the 21 leaders who grace the main stage will represent the widest swath of the church. I’m very proud of the list we’ve put together for this year. It’s surely not perfect, for I’m sure we’ve missed some constituencies. Nevertheless, I think when you look at the names in the graphic below, you’ll see various diversities represented — theological, racial, gender, demographic, geographic, denominational.

If you’ve been hoping for a leadership conference that is truly committed to reconciliation among various factions of American Christianity, I hope you’ll join us.

C21PHX Banner

Click on the image to learn more.


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