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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Wolfhart Pannenberg (1928-2014)

Wolfhart Pannenberg—In Memoriam

by Philip Clayton

Wolfhart Pannenberg

Wolfhart Pannenberg in 1983

Wolfhart Pannenberg has often been called the greatest theologian of the second half of the 20th century. With his death Friday, the world has lost a brilliant interpreter of Christianity, and I have lost the mentor who molded me as a scholar, theologian, and person.

In the 1950s, when Pannenberg was a doctoral student in Heidelberg, Karl Barth dominated the theological stage. In order to counteract Barth’s overemphasis on salvation history (Heilsgeschichte), Pannenberg redefined revelation as “universal history” (Universalgeschichte). A few years later he published a major Christology (Jesus—God and Man) that established him as the world’s leading defender of “theology from below.”

Over the next 30 years, Pannenberg extended this program to philosophy, the religion/science debate, the dialogue across the world religions, and to every corner of theology. He had the most encyclopedic mind I have ever encountered. You need only to read around a bit in his multi-volume Basic Questions in Theology to be stunned by the range and depth of his scholarship. John Cobb once quipped, “I saw that Pannenberg was able to encompass the entire range of knowledge within his own mind. Realizing that I could never match this achievement, I decided it would take a lifetime of working with my doctoral students to cover as many topics.”

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Almost Christian: Missional Imaginations

I’m blogging through Kenda Creasy Dean’s new book, a theological follow up to Christian Smith’s Soul Searching. I hope you’ll join me. Find all the posts here.

In chapter five, Kenda continues a theme that she’s already introduced: cultivating missional imaginations in teens is a strong antidote to moralistic, therapeutic deism.  But what, exactly, is a missional imagination?

Well, what it’s not is a week-long summer mission trip to an Indian reservation.  In fact, Kenda argues that the fact that we’ve had to find an adjective — basically, to invent the word, “missional” — “testifies to the American church’s frayed ecclesiology.”  Be that as it may, missional is here to stay, and she finds it a helpful term.

Kenda’s definition of a missional youth ministry parallels her understanding of the gospel, and she uses some of the same characterizations: messy, indecorous, risky.  “Missional churches,” she writes, “ratchet up expectations by consciously striving to point out, interpret, and embody the excessive nature of God’s love.”

A ministry that exemplifies missionality for Kenda is Outreach Red Bank, a one-time youth ministry that has “blossomed into a multigenerational church.”  ORB and other missional ministries fashion their life on the cruciform pattern of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection:

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