Coming Summer 2014: Galatians and Christian Theology

galatians-and-christian-theologyI was privileged to be able to participate in the most recent conference at the University of St Andrews on Scripture and theology, sponsored by the Institute for Bible, Theology, and Hermeneutics. This event, held in July 2012, engaged the epistle to the Galatians. These conferences take place every three years, with the proceedings published in a volume of collected essays. Past installments have included Genesis, Hebrews, and the Gospel of John.

The details and cover image for the conference volume Galatians and Christian Theology are available now, and you can head over to Amazon to pre-order the book. Mark Elliot, Scott Hafemann, N.T. Wright, and John Frederick serve as editors.

The marquee contributors include John Barclay, Beverly Gaventa, Richard Hays, Bruce McCormack, and Oliver O’Donovan — but you can also find essays from a number of short paper contributors, including myself. My essay is titled “Karl Barth and ‘the Fullness of Time’: Eternity and Divine Intent in the Epistle to the Galatians,” and covers pretty much what the title says. In the essay I take Galatians 4:4f as a starting point, and run through Barth’s notion of eternity on the way to an account of the incarnation as God’s gracious manner of relating to creatures in both God’s time and given, creaturely time.

Baker Academic has taken over publishing from Eerdmans. Amazon lists July 15, 2014, as the official release date.

Book Review: Cross Theology: The Classical Theologia Crucis and Karl Barth’s Modern Theology of the Cross

The Journal of Theological Studies has published the online edition of my review of Cross Theology: The Classical Theologia Crucis and Karl Barth’s Modern Theology of the Cross by Rosalene Bradbury. (The print version may also be out by now.)

Bradbury attempts to offer a coherent definition of just what “theology of the cross” is, including both epistemological and soteriological dimensions. She then traces both of these through the thought of Martin Luther (who she argues did not invent theologica crucis as a method but picked it up as a minority report in the tradition) and Karl Barth.

Read the full review here and find a PDF copy here.

New Publication: Karl Barth on the Extra Calvinisticum

Here’s the abstract for my forthcoming essay in the International Journal of Systematic Theology, which is now available as an online early view and will appear in the print version of the journal later this year. This piece began its life as a conference paper at the Trinity and Christology seminar at the Society for the Study of Theology last April (though it’s doubled in length since then), and will feed into a couple of different chapters in my doctoral thesis.

The aim of the essay is to identify the basic point of disagreement between the Reformed tradition and Lutheranism over the extra Calvinisticum, then to trace Barth’s development on the question and identify his eventual solution to the problem.

The Twofold Life of the Word:
Karl Barth’s Critical Reception of the Extra Calvinisticum

Though the extra Calvinisticum has played an historically important role for Christology, the doctrine has been criticized not only by Lutherans and modern Christologies ‘from below’ but by some Reformed thinkers, as well. This paper examines the place of the extra in dogmatic thinking about the incarnation, viz. Karl Barth’s critical response to his own tradition. After examining the differences between Lutheran and Reformed construals of the relationship of the Logos asarkos to the Logos ensarkos I take up Barth’s views on the extra, which over the course of his career moved from enthusiastic affirmation to a sharp critique. Finally, I suggest that Barth’s mature Christology retains the best of both Protestant positions by correcting a critical inconsistency in Reformed thought. He does not reject the doctrine of the Logos asarkos, but he does suggest a way in which this is related to the life of the Logos ensarkos that marginalizes the former. Barth is right not to reject the extra, but also that it has been misused in how it is deployed in dogmatic theology.

Book Review: Reconciled Humanity – Karl Barth in Dialogue

The Center for Barth Studies at Princeton Seminary has just published my lengthy review of Hans Vium Mikkelsen’s book Reconciled Humanity: Karl Barth in Dialogue (Eerdmans, 2010).  Rather than limiting myself to a standard, 1,000-word book review, I opted to take advantage of the lack of space restrictions afforded by the venue and write a fuller-length engagement with the book.  This is because I find Mikkelsen’s thesis so important: Does the incarnation of the Word touch the inner being of God?  Barth says yes, and Mikkelsen worries 1) that he does not carry this through with full consistency, and 2) that it has negative consequences for other doctrinal loci.  It is important to get Barth right here, particularly because Mikkelsen is rightly attending to the actualist character of Barth’s theology (insofar as he understands it).

Here is an excerpt from the critical section of the review:

The author’s central claim is that Barth thus failed to integrate the incarnation and the being of God because he upheld the doctrine of immutability (cf. 211n15). In Mikkelsen’s judgment, Barth’s actualist understanding of God therefore seems “not to make any major difference at all, as the intention of the incarnation can be traced back to God’s original essence (whether it be in the form of an original being or an original will). Nothing new then has really happened to God in the incarnation” (260). Mikkelsen finally wants to argue against such a hidden God that God’s inner being is “dynamic,” i.e. capable of change, and therefore capable of absorbing Jesus’ experience of death on the cross (157n23). When the Son suffers, “God really suffers in his own inner being; there is no God beyond the God who suffers” (257). This he takes to be contradictory to Barth’s own Christology, despite Barth’s best intentions to allow the life of Jesus to be determinative for God.

It is unfortunate that Mikkelsen successfully identifies the actualist character of Barth’s theological ontology but later fails to apprehend the ways in which this impacts his thought – in areas such as intra-trinitarian relations and God’s relationship to history, for example. Barth insists that the Word’s becoming flesh means that God really has taken humanity into God’s own life, with all the ontological implications that entails. This is a point that Mikkelsen stresses well. But because he has lost sight of the fact that Barth grounds the incarnation in God’s eternal election, the author can only conclude that “one consequence of God’s absorbing of human finitude must be that God not only is able to change, but also that God actually did change during the incarnation” (224). He acknowledges that this thesis contradicts Barth, but he fails to see why Barth could (and, indeed, had to) maintain divine immutability: God’s inclusion of humanity in the divine life viz. the Son is eternal and not merely punctiliar. And so the incarnation, while not excluding God’s being, does not signal a change in God but rather the actualization in history of that which God, by virtue of divine decision, has always been (cf. 224-5, 257). Mikkelsen’s thesis falls apart not so much because he gets Barth wrong as because he has not paid sufficient attention to getting Barth entirely right.

The full text of the review is available on the Center for Barth Studies site.