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.

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).

Adjuncting in the Pacific Northwest

SPUThough I grew up in Oregon it’s been nearly 15 years since I last lived here.  Moving our family back from Aberdeen, Scotland at the end of 2012 certainly been a significant homecoming — in more ways than one.

While I continue to surf the job market for full-time employment in higher education, I am of course doing what every self-respecting recent graduate does: trying to get work adjuncting.  There are a decent number of Christian institutions in the Pacific Northwest, so I’ve been knocking on doors.

During the winter quarter I’ve been blessed to return home to my undergraduate alma mater, and teach an introduction to theology course at Seattle Pacific University.  UFDN 3100 is a foundations course required of all undergraduates at this Free Methodist liberal arts college, and my class this term was filled with 50 non-majors from across the university’s disciplines: psychology students, biologists, music majors, and many more.  The course is wrapping up now (only final exams left to grade), and it has been extraordinarily rewarding.

I had planned to try for more work in the fall, but circumstances have allowed me to step right into another very exciting role.  Starting April 1 I’ll teach a course in systematic theology for the spring quarter at Fuller Theological Seminary.  The Northwest extension campus is here in Seattle (actually just down the block from SPU).  This course, on ecclesiology and eschatology, is the third in fuller’s sequence of basic ST courses.  With a full-time position still waiting down the road, I’m hoping to stay on with Fuller next school year.  It’s a tremendous institution that is certainly unparalleled on the West Coast, and I’m thrilled to be a part of its work training ministers for the service of the gospel.

All that, and I’ve just signed my first publishing contract for a new book project (more on that later).  2013 is turning out to be an exciting year!

An Aberdeen Graduate!

Christmas in AberdeenJust a quick and much-overdue update on my status … and availability for hiring, for weddings, and Bar Mitzvahs:

In December I successfully defended my doctoral thesis at the University of Aberdeen, with a terrific and detailed examination of the research by Prof. Tom Greggs (Aberdeen) and Dr. Paul T. Nimmo (Edinburgh). After a few minor corrections the thesis was officially handed in last month.

I have since moved my family back home to the beautiful Pacific Northwest, where this term I am teaching an introductory course in Christian theology at my alma mater, Seattle Pacific University. We are two-thirds of the way through the term and it has been extremely rewarding. I am (still) on the job market, hoping to find a full-time teaching opportunity soon.  The kids are adjusting well, including my youngest — now seven months old, who was born in the throws of the final weeks of writing up the thesis!

The thesis has been submitted to a publisher for review and consideration, which means the time has come to officially let some details fly. Here is the title and abstract of the dissertation version:

Karl Barth’s Critical Appropriation
of the Doctrine of the Incarnation

This work demonstrates the significance of Karl Barth’s Christology by analyzing it in the context of his orientation toward the classical tradition – an orientation that was both critical and sympathetic. To compare this Christology with the doctrine’s history I argue that the Chalcedonian portrait of the incarnation is conceptually vulnerable at a number of points. By recasting the doctrine in actualist terms – the history of Jesus’ lived existence as God’s fulfillment of His covenant with creatures, rather than a metaphysical uniting of ‘natures’ – Barth is able to move beyond problems inherent in the tradition. Yet, despite formal and material differences, Barth’s position coheres with the intent of the ancient councils and ought to be judged as orthodox. His great contribution to Christology is in the unapologetic affirmation of ‘the humanity of God.’

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.

John Webster: The Domain of the Word

T&T Clark has just published The Domain of the Word, the first new collection of essays by John Webster in seven years. Webster is my doctoral supervisor here at the University of Aberdeen, and I’ve had the pleasure of working on this volume with him over the past year.

A second essay collection and companion volume, God Without Measure, will be published early next year.

Please check out my full post on The Domain of the Word now at Out of Bounds!

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.