Saturday, January 31, 2009

Newly released from Chemnitz's Works...

Concordia Publishing has offered Martin Chemnitz's works in translation for some time, but his Loci Theologici have been a little bit more difficult to find.  As far as I know they could only be had in what tended to be rather expensive used sales of Concordia's out-of-print paperbacks.  Newly released, however, are the Loci Theologici as hardback volumes 7-8 of Chemnitz's Works (8 vol).  There is also quite a discount available if you buy the two volumes together (or the entire set together, or volumes 1-4 together).

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Updates on the Russian patriarch election

An update on the election of the next Russian patriarch-- the least popular of the three candidates for the patriarchy has withdrawn and thrown his support beyond Metropolitan Kirill. A new patriarch could be named as early as Tuesday evening.

UPDATE: Kirill has been elected the next patriarch.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A few items...

  • I have been cataloging a number of Wheaton dissertations lately and thought that I would mention them here. Our doctoral program is relatively new, with the first PhD being granted in 2005. Here at the library our focus has been on improving the collection to accomodate these students. We've seen a marked improvement in our biblical studies collection since Dr. Daniel Block joined the faculty in 2005, and this past year we've greatly improved our primary sources in theology (especially modern theology in German), largely the result of Dr. Stephen Spencer joining us as collection development head. I was going to go the trouble of linking the dissertations that have been published so far, but our doctoral program website has done the job for me. You'll find new work from Wheaton graduates at Brill, T&T Clark, Walter De Gruyter, and Wipf&Stock.
  • The new issue of Scottish Journal of Theology is out, with free online fulltext. Articles on the debate over theological ontology in current Barth scholarship, Moltmann's connection with the Blumhardts, and Newton's interaction with Locke over his work on the Pauline epistles are included. Also worth reading (and full of fun polemics!) are reviews of William Stacey Johnson's book on same-sex marriage, and Johnson's response. The exchange was good; while Gagnon turns many people off with his abrasive style, I wish that Johnson could have found it in himself to interact a little more with Gagnon's criticisms. But the exchange was good, his punt to hermeneutical differences was fair enough, and at least some interaction went on.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Cardinal Pio Laghi, 1922-2009

Amidst the death of Richard John Neuhaus earlier this month, the passing of another significant Roman Catholic has received less attention in the United States press. Cardinal Pio Laghi († Sunday the 11th) served as a Vatican nuncio for almost six decades to countries in North and South America and Asia. In the United States he was also close with the Bush family, and because of this was sent in 2003 by John Paul II to attempt to dissuade George W. Bush from starting the current Iraq War.

Here is a wonderful article from the NY Times.

Here is an article from Zenit speaking of Benedict XVI's relationship with Laghi.

Here is the statement released by George and Laura Bush upon news of his death.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

John Locke on the true foundations of morality

"Our Saviour found mankind under a corruption of manners and principles, which ages after ages had prevailed, and must be confessed was not in a way or tendency to be mended. The rules of morality were, in different countries and sects, different. And natural reason no where had, nor was like to cure the defects and errors in them. Those just measures of right and wrong, which necessity had any where introduced, the civil laws prescribed, or philosophy recommended, stood not on their true foundations. They were looked on as bonds of society, and conveniences of common life, and laudable practices. But where was it that their obligation was thoroughly known and allowed, and the received as precepts of a law, of the highest law, the law of nature? That could not be, without a clear knowledge and acknowledgment of the law-maker, and the great rewards and punishments, for those that would or would not obey him."

John Locke, The Reasonableness of Christianity, par.243

Some of Locke's comments in Reasonableness of Christianity sound surprisingly familiar to someone working in a general framework of "ecclesial" theology or ethics. There is frequent critique of the abilities of "natural" (secular?) reason. Here he discusses the coming of the Messiah as an ethical reconfiguration according to "true foundations", claiming precedence even over juridical or philosophical orders that have at least got something right in what they state. There is also a typical emphasis on universality, which is presumably necessary to establish an ecclesial vision that is not simply one more sectarian polis.

The Reasonableness of Christianity is our first reading for Kathryn Tanner's winter course in the history of Christian thought sequence, so I imagine I'll be posting more from this period (we're reading Locke, Hume, Pascal, Spinoza, Lessing, and Kant) just as I had a succession of quotes and comments on the 19th century this past autumn semester. This post is scheduled for publication on Thursday, so as you read I am very likely battling -27°F windchill on my way to Tanner's lecture and more good commentary to relate at clavi non defixi.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The election of the new Russian patriarch

My sister-in-law sent me this post on the election of the next Russian patriarch, and I thought it would be worth re-posting here. Knowing nothing myself about Russian Orthodox polity, it was interesting to read about the make up of the electing body- apparently they use a synod of some sort with delegates that are a mix of clergy and laity. The post-Soviet context has also made things much more confusing, as many representative members are no longer in Russia; the rivalry between Russia and the Ukraine in particular is well known, and Ukraine will offer a large portion of the bishops. The Russian Church Outside of Russia will also play a role, as will an assortment of businessmen, politicians, and other laity. On top of all this, the Kremlin always looms as a possible kingmaker, though no one appears sure about exactly how all of this will play out.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Roger Haight, Richard John Neuhaus, and Vatican discipline (and my 100th post!)

Roger Haight has been ordered not to teach on Christology or systematic theology by the CDF, a decision some time in coming and preceded by a number of previous statements and examinations. It seems that a committee of three American Jesuits, as yet unnamed, will move forward with further investigation of Haight's work in order to get this whole thing sorted out. The controversy primarily concerns his book, Jesus Symbol of God.

Carl Olson over at Ignatius Scoop offers a decent commentary on another commentary on the issue. Couched in a comparison between Haight and the late Richard John Neuhaus, I don't agree with everything Olson says (I think the Ignatius blog can be rather rigidly neo-conservative/culture-war-apologist), but most of the critique of Haight and some of the defense of Neuhaus is praiseworthy. All of it is worth reading.

The tired idea that ecclesiastical censure is a threat to good scholarly work has surrounded the Haight investigation over the past few years. While in certain instances such discipline certainly does restrain legitimate work, ecclesiastical ruling in itself is simply the hierarchical counterpart to what peer-review is in a system of scholarly work not restricted methodologically by authoritative institutional strictures. When inquiry is determined by particular norms, structures of reinforcement of those norms do not harm inquiry, but rather further it. And while such reinforcement can be too overzealous, this is a particular rather than systemic shortcoming. Such shortcomings are absent, however, from the particular case of Haight; the investigation has been going on for some time and is quite clear, accommodating, and non-judgmental in its treatment. One could only hope for as careful attention as Haight has received.

On Neuhaus, I think that it's quite right to point out- as Olson has done- that a political critique of the man should not cloud his underlying Catholicism or the importance of his work for the faith. The picture of John Courtney Murray as some brave democratic prophet compared to Neuhaus as the Establishment's yes-man is a rather cheap shot (and a rather odd one, for commentary which also tries to acknowledge liberation theology against Neuhaus). But Olson, if not in this particular post, does in a number of other places pursue quite the same line of argument, simply in the opposite direction. If Neuhaus' ministry and scholarship can't be dismissed because of its political commitments, neither can it be beatified because of them.

Here is a good piece remembering Neuhaus- a little more balanced, with a little less hagiography than Ignatius Press.

An old post from Flying Farther discusses Haight's Christology, with which I'm personally not very familiar. (hence my attempts to not nail down anything particular about the case of Haight except my general impression of the tenor of the Vatican's response)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Two new books from OUP

Two new books from Oxford University Press worth looking at:

  • Thomas Aquinas' Compendium of Theology was a late writing intended to summarize and introduce the teaching of his Summa Theologiae. Cyril Vollert translated it into English a number of decades ago and it has been printed a few times since under various titles, but a critical edition has been lacking. Richard Regan, who has translated a number of Thomas' works, has now offered his own translation from the Leonine edition, with critical apparatus. The Compendium of Theology will be out in May.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A few items...

  • The new issue of the Ecclesiastical Law Journal is out.
  • Ignatius Press is having a significant New Year's sale on a number of items
  • I recently discovered a great blog that's worth visiting. Historical Theoblogy is run by a PhD student at Calvin Theological Seminary, and is devoted primarily to 16th and 17th century reformed scholastic theology. There is also a wealth of information on research tools, digitized texts, and library holdings that in itself makes the trip worthwhile.
  • Sadly, Fr. Richard John Neuhaus has passed away. Neuhaus had gone to the hospital around Christmastime and since grown steadily weaker. Here's a statement from First Things, but I don't think any substantial obituaries are up yet.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Christ's Faith

Keep an eye out for an upcoming volume in T&T Clark's new series, Studies in Systematic Theology. Michael Allen's anticipated study The Christ's Faith is coming out in June. The book is a revision of his dissertation at Wheaton. Below is a description from the publisher:
The Christ’s Faith coheres with orthodox Christology and Reformation soteriology, and needs to be affirmed to properly confirm the true humanity of the incarnate Son. Without addressing the interpretation of the Pauline phrase pistis christou, this study offers a theological rationale for an exegetical possibility and enriches a dogmatic account of the humanity of the Christ.

The coherence of the Christ’s faith is shown in two ways. First, the objection of Thomas Aquinas is refuted by demonstrating that faith is fitting for the incarnate Son. Second, a theological ontology is offered which affirms divine perfection and transcendence in qualitative fashion, undergirding a Chalcedonian and Reformed Christology. Thus, the humanity of the Christ may be construed as a fallen human nature assumed by the person of the Word and sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

The dogmatic location of The Christ’s Faith is sketched by suggesting its (potential) function within three influential theological systems: Thomas Aquinas, federal theology, and Karl Barth. Furthermore, the soteriological role of the doctrine is demonstrated by showing the theological necessity of faith for valid obedience before God.
Allen will be a significant voice in constructive theology, particularly in the reformed tradition. Be on the look out for new work by him in the coming years-- In particular, I've heard that he is working on another book for T&T Clark, on the reformed tradition (I believe for their "Guide for the Perplexed" series).

Monday, January 5, 2009

An interesting denominational family tree

I was looking through some books of mine over the holidays and ran across an interesting diagram in an old catechism. The image below is from my great-grandfather Peter Kuehn's textbook, I assume for his confirmation class or something of that sort. (Peter Kuehn went on intending to study for the ministry in Ohio, but was rejected from seminary because of a physical handicap from a street trolley accident. The physical rigors of ministry at the time must have been deemed too much for him.)

This denominational family tree offers some interesting commentary on ecclesiology. The Lutheran Church stands prominent in the central stream of the Christian faith, while other traditions branch off here and there. The "Mediaeval Church" ends precisely at 1517 AD, no surprise there-- the "Roman" Catholic Church branches off at this point, rather than holding a more ancient beginning.

Perhaps even more interesting, if somewhat odd, is the close of the "Ancient" Church and the beginning of the Mediaeval at 692 AD. This is a not-so-subtle exclusion of Nicea II, which condemned iconoclasm and was thus ignored as legitimately ecumenical by many Protestants. The Quintisext Council was held in 692, amending Constantinople III and IV (the quinti and sext) with disciplinary canons. Why a Lutheran catechism seemingly accepted the ecumenical status of a council usually dismissed in the West, I'm not sure- perhaps a slap in the face of Roman Catholicism? In any case, an interesting piece of the family tree.

Quakers and Anabaptists are distinguished from "Protestantism", which includes the Lutheran and Reformed churches (with all manner of Anglicans, Methodists, and "All Other Sects" swept into the Reformed branch). The Jesuits maintain the honor being a hump on the back of the Romans, while the "Greek Catholic Church" presumably stands in for all Eastern churches as a split during the Mediaeval period and away from the central branch of Christendom.

You may need to click on the image to pull up a more readable version. From An Explanation of Luther's Small Catechism, by Joseph Stump (Philidelphia: General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America, 1907), p. 106: