Learning to say…

Eugene Peterson once told some younger clergy to find a theologian or two to keep company with as they pastor. Allegedly, one of his criteria for choosing someone was that they be dead and of course, if you are going to be a pastor a long time you want to pick somebody who has written a lot. When I first heard this I thought it was pretty sound advice and went about buying Church Dogmatics by Karl Barth (somebody who is both dead and has written more than I might be able to handle in my lifetime). Ideally, I think you are supposed to think with this person, be against this person, struggle with them, curse them, love them, and have them lead you. All things Barth has proved more than capable of doing for me.
And while I still love my Barth, I think I have also picked Stanley Hauerwas to walk with me on this journey. The writing of Stanley Hauerwas always manages to keep me engaged and continually pulls on me. Someone who was interviewing author Marilynn Robinson noted that when confronted with question sometimes she would shrug her shoulders and say “Calvin, again” (John Calvin) as if he was standing in the room. I often feel the same way about this combination of Barth and Hauerwas. While Dr. Hauerwas isn’t dead, he has written quite enough to keep someone engaged for a long time.
One of the reasons I am sure I can’t escape his writing is because of paragraphs like the one below. If you have read Hauerwas this line will hardly appear as revolutionary to you, but since reading it Saturday morning I have turned it over and over in my head. It has caused me to consider if I am dependent with a sigh or without regret, that if knowing this has it opened up room for prayer in my life, have I become capable of seeing the beauty of existence, and what would such a thing mean for us?
• Learning to say “God” requires that I learn to acknowledge that I am a “dependent rational animal.” It may be possible to acknowledge that we are rational dependent animals without learning to say “God,” but to learn to say I am dependent without regret at least creates the space the practice of prayer can occupy. To be human is to be an animal that has learned to pray. Prayer often come only when we have no alternatives left, but prayer may also be the joy that comes from the acknowledgement of the sheer beauty, the absolute contingency, of existence.
o Working with Words, Hauerwas, Stanley. xiii. Wipf and Stock.


“The God who is present in Jesus Christ is the one who is enthroned over heaven and earth and therefore the God who is present specially in His work of revelation and reconciliation and generally in the world at large. He does not mere give his creature, as He gives all other creatures, his space, created space, from the fullness of his own un created and creative space. But he also gives him his own space itself. He is with this man. He takes him up to sit at his right hand, to occupy his supra-heavenly throne. And it is in doing this that God is, and reveals himself to be, the one He is, omnipresent in himself and as such outside himself, in his special work, and in his general work which is subservient to his special work, finding its goal and completion and there having its meaning and origin in it, and there in Jesus Christ himself.”

II.1 p.487.

I am not sure if we can declare this blog dead, but it has been dead for awhile. That said I am still plugging along. Maybe I should write something at some point.

This was posted at the Barth blog, but I guess my lack of writing goes for here as well.

This is the ultimate context into which we are born: God’s hospitable generosity, creatively relating, to us, free of creatures in creating and attenively delighting in them in their otherness to God, self-committed to that which is created.
David Kelsey, Eccentric Existence.

“Jesus is Lord”

“This reminds me of a comment I heard Bruce McCormack make about a year and a half ago at a meeting of the Wesleyan Theological Society, in a paper addressing the question, “Why Should Theology Be Christocentric?” In explaining why it is that we must resist the temptation to abstract from the stark claim that “God is what Jesus does,” he paused to say, “Because the church should not stutter when it says, Jesus is Lord.”

Halden’s Interview wit Nathan Kerr

“We need to be people confident that God will help us speak and live appropriately to the speech we have been given. So I hope what we do in the divinity school is give the confidence that you can use the language of the faith “Jesus is Lord” without apology because if you do that God will show up and scare the hell out of you.”

Stanley Hauerwas in an Interview with David Crabtree

Write your truth with your life

“So here’s my own Zen koan: we can do things we don’t think we can do if we don’t about doing them. I also learned that if you can’t write a book, write a lot of essays. If you can’t write an essay, write a lot of paragraphs. If you can’t write a paragraph, write a line or a word. And if you can’t do that on the page, write your truth with your life, which is far more important than any book.”

Parker Palmer, Christian Century, September 7, 2010.

Choose any hour on the clock.

“Choose any hour on the clock. It is possible, then, to conceive that the clock’s purpose is to return the hands back to that time, a time which, from the moment chosen, the hands leave and skate across the rest of the clock’s painted signs and calibrations and numbers. These other markings on the face become irrelevant in the themselves; they are now simply clues point in the direction of the chosen time. It is then possible, too, to conceive of the clock’s gears and springs as each having its own intrinsic function, but within a whole mechanism, the larger purpose of which is to return to the chosen time. In this manner, the clock resembles the universe. For is it not true that our universe is a mechanism consisting of celestial gears, spinning ball bearings, solar furnaces, all cooperating to turn man (and, indeed, what other, unimagined neighbors of whom we are ignorant!) to that chosen hour we know of from the Bible as Before the Fall? And as an ignorant insect crawling across the face of that clock, who see not the whole face, the full cycle of numbers, the short hand and the long (which pass in his sky with predictable orbits, cast familiar shadows, offer reassurance through their very repetitions, but which ultimately, puzzle and beg for the consideration of deeper mysteries), but who merely treads over the surface which hides the greater gear train and the spring without any but the most indirect conception of what lies beneath, so does man squirm and fret on the dusty skin of our earth, ignorant of the purpose of the world, indeed, the cosmos, beyond the fact that there is one, assigned by God and known only to Him, and that it is good and that it is terrifying and that it is ineffable and that only rational faith can soothe the desperate pains and woes of our magnificent and depraved world. It is that simple, dear reader, that logical, and that elegant.”

This quote from The Resonable Horologist  contained within Tinkers by Paul Harding is one of the many joys of spending the short amount of time it would take to read. This past Thursday, I took a trip up to Powell’s in Portland to see Harding read from the book and take questions. There were only about 40 of us in the room and it was an insightful and wonderful time with the author. His reading was a passionate act coming from the book and he was extremely kind in answering our questions.

I asked him about the role Karl Barth and Jonathan Edwards play for him in writing and reading. In response, he talked about his wonderful teacher, Marilynne Robinson (and one of my favorite authors). As a skeptic of faith he realized that if he asked her about where her writing came from and why she wrote one of the most important reasons she would give is her faith. And because of her influence he felt that he should give those writers his time as well. When he did that he found some of the most interesting and beautiful reflections on the world that he had ever read. This, he said, is even clear in the Bible and that its story was ruined by people putting numbers all over it (chapters and verses).

All in all, it was worth the trip and I would recommend taking the time to read Tinkers.

Formulated abstractly, these differences of pattern are the following: It is the Father who creates through the Son in the power of the Spirit; it is the the Spirit, send by the Father with the Son, who draws creatures to eschatological consummation; it is the Son, sent by the Father in the power of the Spirit, who reconciles creatures. These are not merely rhetorical appropriations of different hypostases for the sake of convenience in exposition.

David Kelsey, Eccentric Existence, pg. 122.