Plans for AAR in Baltimore

BaltimoreWe’re now three-quarters of the way through the fall semester, and I’m having a great time teaching Church History I (up to the eve of the Reformation) at The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology. This is a remarkable young school that is doing some interesting work in downtown Seattle, and I’m glad to have a chance to be a part of it.

It’s just about AAR time again, and I’ll be trekking to Baltimore for this year’s gathering of some 10,000 scholars and students in religion, theology, biblical studies, church history, and all points in between. I gave a paper at the national conference last year when it met in Chicago, but this year I’ll be cruising the book exhibitor’s hall, looking for interesting people to talk to, and with a bit of luck enjoying a few job interviews.

And, of course, I have my eye on some interesting-looking sessions:

    Karl Barth Society of North America (Friday, 4:00-6:30pm)

      – My friend Travis McMaken will present “A Barthian Case for Infant Baptism,” the subject of his Princeton Seminary dissertation (just published by Fortress Press). Hanna Reichel will also give a paper I’m looking forward to, on Barth and the Heidelberg Catechism.

    Karl Barth Society of North America (Saturday, 9:00-11:30am)

      – “Ronald F. Thiemann in Memoriam,” including a paper on the theologia crucis from the excellent Paul Dafydd Jones

    Eastern Orthodox Studies Group and SBL Development of Christian Theology Group (Saturday, 1:00-3:30pm)

      – This is a book review session on Christopher Beeley’s The Unity of Christ: Continuity and Conflict in Patristic Tradition (Yale University Press, 2012). Thought the book has been in print for a year I’ve just discovered its existence, and will be making a B-line to the Yale book stall to find a copy. It appears to be a significant rethinking of the whole of the development of patristic Christology, and at first glance I think my own reading of the tradition — which I try to summarize in the briefest of ways in the first chapter of my dissertation — runs parallel to Beeley’s work.

    Reformed Theology and History Group (Saturday, 4:00-6:30pm)

      – “Sanctified by the Spirit.” I presented with this group last year and am hoping to get more involved in its annual goings-on. This session will focus on critical issues in the doctrine of sanctification according to the Reformed tradition, with Richard Mouw (Fuller Seminary) and Philip Ziegler (University of Aberdeen) among the presenters.

    Reformed Theology and History Group (Sunday, 3:00-4:30pm)

      – “Holy Spirit and Spiritual Practices.” A couple of Scotland friends will present here: Christina Larsen on Jonathan Edwards, and Timothy Baylor on John Owen and Barth.

    Bonhoeffer: Theology and Social Analysis Group (Monday, 9:00-11:30am)

      – “Contextualizing Bonhoeffer as Preacher.” Aberdeen’s Joseph McGarry will razzle-dazzle us with a paper on Bonhoeffer’s preaching.

There are several others that I have my eye on, but I hope to be able to make these sessions a priority.

If you are at AAR this year and want to chat about theology, church history, doctoral studies, et al, I hope you will drop me a line (darren -dot- sumner -at- gmail.com).

AAR Chicago 2012: Presbyterian History and the Merits of Scrupling

Just one week remains until this year’s meeting of the American Academy of Religion in Chicago. I’ll be on the ground in force, wandering the book aisles and presenting a paper at the gathering of the Reformed Theology and History Group.

The group this year is conducting a session on unity and schism in the Reformed churches, which I think sheds a great deal of light on present disputes and will make for an interesting conversation.  My own contribution to the session (Sunday morning, 9 a.m.,McCormick Place West-194A) examines the theology, history, and polity structures of American Presbyterianism as fundamentally predisposing this tradition toward ecclesial unity.

Here is the abstract:

On the Merits of Scrupling: Unity and Uniformity
in American Presbyterianism

This paper registers an historical and theological critique of the current separation movement in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Three specific elements will be considered: the theological nature of the church’s confessions; the allowance of scrupling for ordinands during similar periods of discord in the history of American Presbyterianism; and denominational polity, particularly with respect to ordination. Together, these three suggest that the unity of Presbyterianism is best served by a certain degree of confessional and practical diversity. When Presbyterians have enforced strict subscription to confessional standards among its ministers, innate differences have led inevitably to division; but when a measure of nonconformity is allowed, the result is a stronger ecclesial unity. I will argue that the Reformed view of confessional authority and the nature of presbyterian polity, in fact, are designed to innately support the unity of the church even — and especially — in light of serious disagreement.

St. Andrews Conference on Galatians and Theology

Image from Wikipedia

If my imminently due third child cooperates and lets me head down to the University of St. Andrews on Wednesday, I’ll be presenting a short paper at the much-anticipated conference on Scripture and theology.  These conferences take place every three years, with past events focusing on John’s gospel (2003), Hebrews (2006), and Genesis (2009) and resulting in some very fine published volumes.

This year’s conference focuses on Galatians, with keynote addresses from Richard Hayes, N.T. Wright, and Oliver O’Donovan.

Here is the abstract for my short paper:


‘The Fullness of Time’:
Time, Eternity, and Divine Intent in the Epistle to the Galatians

The objective of this paper is to explore the theological dimensions of Paul’s use of time in Galatians, particularly with respect to the theme of God’s covenant relation to creatures. Paul’s seemingly innocuous phrase in Gal. 4:4, ‘the fullness of time’, suggests a temporal aspect to God’s covenant intentions. I will begin by briefly surveying the place of time in the epistle, including the chronological unfolding of God’s covenant (e.g. ‘430 years later’, 3:17) as well as the apostle’s pastoral call to the Galatians to live in the recollection of their own history (3:1-3). Second, in this context and in dialogue with Karl Barth, I will offer an account of the relation of time and eternity in order to provide a theological context for God’s enactment of His intention for creatures viz. the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Paul indicates that this enactment involves key temporal moments: the promise to Abraham (3:8), the giving of the law (3:17), the birth of Jesus (4:4-5), and finally the adoption of men and women in their baptism (3:25-27). But is the divine intent that is evident in the history of the covenant itself temporal? I will suggest, third and finally, that the doctrine of God requires that such a covenant has an eternal dimension, as well. If this is the case, the ‘fullness of time’ suggested by Paul is seen to be all the more profound: it is not simply a predetermined date for the birth of God’s Son, but the historical actualization of God’s relationship with creatures that He elected before time began – not a moment in covenant history but the moment. The ‘fullness of time’, in this sense, is the very fullness of creation itself. This is the astonishing scope of the covenant to which the Galatians are summoned as heirs.

San Francisco-Bound: AAR/SBL and ETS 2011

I have some personal updates cooking for the upcoming weeks, but for the time being I am preparing to head from rainy Aberdeen to sunny San Francisco in a week’s time.  That’s the venue for this year’s major guild conferences in religion and theology: AAR and SBL (ah, together again), and ETS.

I won’t be delivering any papers this month, but I will be supporting several of my friends and peers from Aberdeen and Princeton.  I’m still putting together a list of sessions I hope to make it to, but the highlights so far should include:

ETS (Thrs. AM): “Models of God” panel on the eternal generation of the Son.  My friend Josh Malone is presenting, along with Torrance scholar Myk Habets, who I’ve been wanting to meet.

AAR (Sun., 5:00-6:30pm): One of the sessions for the Christian Systematic Theology Group will focus on the Christology of Hans Urs von Balthasar.

The Karl Barth Society will meet a couple of times at AAR/SBL.  Saturday morning’s session is a panel discussion of Paul Molnar’s book on T.F. Torrance, including Gary Deddo, Ivor Davidson and Alan Torrance, with a response from Molnar.

If you are interested in learning about studies in Aberdeen (or Scotland in general), I also hope to stop by the Scottish Universities Reception (Sunday, 9:00-11:00pm).  I’d love to talk with you about my experience living and studying in the Shire.

I’m also looking to meet as many folk as possible — studying in Scotland does make it tough to do any sort of professional networking with faculty and peers at U.S. schools.  So whether you are a student or faculty (or other), and whether you are hiring bright-eyed historical theologians or not, please do grab me and say hello if you happen to recognize me.

Edinburgh Dogmatics Paper: Christology and Sanctification

Just one more weekend to pass through before I hop a train for Edinburgh, to participate in the biannual Edinburgh Dogmatics Conference and present a short paper on Tuesday afternoon. The topic of this year’s event is the Doctrine of Sanctification.

As promised, here’s a little preview of my contribution:

Jesus Christ’s Fallen and Gifted Nature
As The Pattern For Christian Sanctification

Abstract:
This paper aims to explore the human nature of Jesus Christ as the christological ground for the believer’s sanctification. Specifically, I will take up two related matters: 1) the question of whether Christ’s humanity was a fallen nature, like ours, or a pristine nature like Adam possessed prior to the Fall; and 2) the special gifts of grace which the tradition has affirmed this human nature received by virtue of its union with the divine Son (including the gift of Jesus’ sinlessness). The first topic puts into conversation the curious argument of Karl Barth and one recent criticism of the ‘fallenness’ position, that of Oliver Crisp. In the second topic, I will turn to the Lutheran and Reformed orthodox doctrine of the communicatio gratiarum to explore the variety of gifts that Christ’s human nature is said to receive, and how they relate to the believer’s own graced life in Christ. I suggest that these two aspects of Christology – fallenness and giftedness – pattern the human person’s own life of alienation from and union with God. The Son of God becomes completely like us in His state of humility, and utterly unlike us in His glorification – in order that we, being what He was in His fallenness, may become what He is in His glory (though in way appropriate to our creatureliness). Christian sanctification, therefore, is itself a divine gift, rooted in Christ’s own life, necessitated by human fallenness yet made possible by the grace which the Father has already shown to humanity in the life of His Son.