Robert Jenson at NTS

Robert Jenson at NTS October 10, 2007

Yesterday I had the chance, along with a bunch of other folks, to sit and listen to one of the greatest living American Theologians of the past ½ century. Robert Jenson is at NTS this week and he’s really amazing. He gave a lecture in Chapel, I’ll post some highlights at the end here. After the lecture a few of us took part in a roundtable discussion. I literally didn’t say a word. I was sitting there thinking, “If you say anything you are going to look so stupid.” Something about theological icons gives me cotton mouth. I’m taking Late 20th Century Theology and Jenson is actually one of the guys we have to learn about so he just came to our class. How cool is that? He just pulled up a chair and told stories about Barth, Pannenberg and others. Amazing…I’ll post some of the cool comments he made:

He was talking about scripture and the concept of inspiration of Scripture. He was lamenting the simplistic ways in which the whole concept is considered.

“We begin with what we think we need from the scripture the recruit the Holy Spirit to get what we need…we cannot recruit God to arrange what we need from scripture.”

His main tack was considering the idea that the word “inspiration” means different things depending on which part of Scripture you are considering. He said “it is highly unlikely that the Spirit’s action through this whole process [of inspiration] is univocal.”

“To call it [any writing] scripture means the church depends upon it for its existence…the church’s dependence upon the Old Testament is absolute.”

“The New Testament only came about as an emergency substitute for the living voice of the apostles.”

“The Spirit shapes the community so that the community come to be, in a sense, ‘one big prophet.’ It is in this sense that we understand the inspiration of the New Testament.”

He made several interesting moves in the lecture, all of which I resonate. The Old Testament is scripture in a strict sense. It forms the people of God and has for much longer than the New Testament. The New Testament is the product of the prophetic community

More later.

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  • Thanks for the invite (and some notes in summary), Tim. I enjoyed these lectures as much as I have anything in quite some time.