[Common Places]: Ecce Homo: A Christ-Shaped Vision of Ourselves
With this post we begin a new series attending to Marc Cortez’s Christological Anthropology in Historical Perspective: Ancient and Contemporary Approaches to Theological Anthropology (Zondervan Academic). While other posts will follow in short order this month and next, we begin with a word of orientation from the author.
Looking down on this scarred and bleeding body, head adorned with thorns and body draped in purple, Pilate exclaimed, “Behold, the man” (ecce homo). But what did he see? Was it only a miserable example of a human life crushed by a fallen and jealous world? Or was there something more, something only vaguely glimpsed and inadequately understood?
At one level, Pilate’s statement was almost certainly intended to point out Jesus’ miserable condition, either…
[Common Places] In Memoriam John Webster
As we mourn the death of a leading figure in our discipline and dear friend to many, we invite those impacted by the life and writings of John Webster to add their comments below.
The Reverend Professor John Bainbridge Webster (1955-2016) died on May 25, 2016. While family and friends, neighbors and fellow congregants will each observe his passing in ways which befit his private manner, it is appropriate to mark his departure from this life in the wider sphere of theological scholarship, for he was both a leading light and a generous friend and teacher to many around the globe. He was educated at Cambridge University and taught at Durham University, Wycliffe College (Toronto), Oxford University, the University of Aberdeen, and, until his death, the University of St. Andrews. He held the prestigious Lady Margaret Chair of Divinity at…
[Common Places]: Reading Notes: Theological Epistemology
One feature that will appear regularly this year will be a monthly series entitled Reading Notes. In these posts, editors and contributors will lead readers to significant literature related thematically to our other ongoing series. This month Kevin Vanhoozer introduces classical and contemporary literature related to theological epistemology as a fitting conclusion to our engagement of James K. A. Smith’s Cultural Liturgies project (see here).
Epistemology studies the nature, method, sources, and norms of knowledge. Theological epistemology thinks on these things in relation to the knowledge of God. The qualifier “theological” highlights a key question: is the knowledge of God a mere subset of other kinds of knowledge (i.e., general epistemology), or does…
[Common Places] A Conversation about Cultural Liturgies: An Interview with James K. A. Smith
As a conclusion to our series of engagements with James K. A. Smith’s Cultural Liturgies project, Michael Allen and Scott Swain interviewed him regarding the series thus far and concerning its concluding volume. In so doing Smith addresses anthropological, liturgical, formational, and pedagogical matters.
James K. A. Smith: A big impetus was an invitation and prodding from my colleague, John Witvliet, who directs the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Around here, at Calvin College and in the Kuyperian tradition more broadly, we’ve been talking about “worldview” for a hundred years. John’s challenge to me was to reconnect worldview to worship, and thereby reconnect the college—and…
[Common Places]: Reading Notes: Theology of Worship
The Christian tradition has ever regarded worship worthy of theological reflection. Though the formal theological sub-discipline of “liturgical theology” did not emerge until the twentieth century, the Christian church has always exhibited an awareness of the significance of exercising theologia secunda—second order reflection—on theologia prima—first order encounter of the living God in worship. When the apostle Paul (1st c.) spoke sharply to folk in Corinth about their lack of Table manners, he was doing liturgical theology (1 Corinthians 10-11). When Basil the Great (4th c.) argued in On the Holy Spirit for the divinity of the Spirit based in part on Trinitarian liturgical tropes,…
[Common Places]: Toward a Liturgical Anthropology: Helps from James K. A. Smith
Introduction: a philosophical handmaiden to liturgical anthropology
How might theological anthropology benefit from James K. A. Smith’s Cultural Liturgies series? I suggest that Smith’s project offers theology a philosophical handmaiden to the liturgical anthropology of Romans 6:17: “Thanks be to God that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the pattern of teaching to which you were delivered.”
The shape of homo liturgicus (1): inside out
The Apostle Paul’s word of gratitude in Romans 6:17 envisions the baptized human being as a worshipping animal, what Smith calls homo liturgicus. To be human, according to this vision, is to be the kind of creature…
[Common Places]: Reading Notes: Theological Anthropology
Some of the most influential works in theological anthropology are books not primarily about theological anthropology. For example, Irenaeus’s Against Heresies and Athanasius’s On the Incarnation provide overarching narratives that reveal the logic of the gospel from a specific vantage point. A key aspect of these accounts is the anthropological material—they rehearse and interpret the creation of human persons, the fall of humanity into sin, the means and effects of human reconciliation with God, and the union with God that comes from this reconciliation. Both works provide a compelling narration of the Christian gospel aimed at leading readers to the God of the gospel. Irenaeus and Athanasius model theological anthropology in action, showing…
[Common Places]: James K. A. Smith and Augustinianism (Part 2)
As we saw in the previous post, Smith claims an Augustinian starting point. But the phenomenological framework he uses leads to basic differences with Augustine and the Platonist framework he utilizes. These differences compound when we turn to a more detailed examination of Smith’s cultural liturgies project. We see this, for example, in Smith’s use of imagination, which he draws on to replace conscious, rational thought as the primary bridge between our wider reality and our subconscious desires. While Augustine acknowledges that imagination mediates between the world and our experience of it, it is for him as much a liability as a benefit. The imagination can be productive and beneficial as, for example, in his discussions of the incarnation, the goodness…
[Common Places]: James K. A. Smith and Augustinianism (Part 1)
In James K. A. Smith’s rich cultural liturgies series we find an Augustinian voice that on its face resonates in harmony with the fifth-century Bishop but, as one probes deeper, offers a provocative counterpoint to Augustine. Smith claims Augustine as his source of inspiration at various points, going so far as to say that the three intertwined proposals in Desiring the Kingdom on theological anthropology, Christian education, and church liturgy all have their fundamental source in Augustine. On these proposals, however, Smith offers a fascinating blend of Augustinianism and contemporary phenomenology that is at once neither straightforward Augustine nor phenomenology.
Smith’s claims on the nature of the human person are a good place to start because they anchor his wider project…
[Common Places]: Reading Notes: Christocentrism
A theology is christocentric when its method, structure, arguments, and goals are oriented around the theologian’s account of the person and work of Jesus Christ. A christocentric theologian does more than simply talk a lot about Jesus. Rather, he or she proceeds with the hope that every theological claim will live and move and have its being in relation to Christ and his saving work. Since accounts of the person and work of Christ vary across the centuries and traditions, no single type of christocentric theology exists. This brief bibliography points to a few helpful christocentric texts while also accounting for at least some of that diversity.
[Common Places] James K. A. Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom and Imagining the Kingdom: A Gospels Perspective
Michael Allen introduced this series of Common Places on J. K. A. Smith’s Cultural Liturgies project by noting that at its heart, Smith’s project is to show us that it is indeed the heart, not the head that lies at the root of why we do what we do. We are lovers before we are knowers (both chronologically and logically). Our loves are developed in profound ways by our habits, more than just by our thinking. Thus, as Christian educators and leaders we should be cognizant of the liturgies we partake in and that we produce for others, as these are what lie at the heart of people’s way of being in the world.
[Common Places] Reading Notes: Heavenly-Mindedness
One feature that will appear regularly this year will be a monthly series entitled Reading Notes. In these posts, editors and contributors will lead readers to significant literature related thematically to our other ongoing series. This month Michael Allen introduces classical and contemporary literature related to heavenly-mindedness and formation as a fitting complement to our ongoing engagement of James K. A. Smith’s Cultural Liturgies project (see here).
Admittedly heaven isn’t a particularly big place in contemporary culture. But heaven features widely in the Scriptures of Israel and the early church, and heavenly-mindedness has marked Christian theology through the centuries. Theologians ranging from the patristic to the Puritan eras have sought…