[Common Places] Pro-Nicene Theology: Entryways and Ineffability (Part 1)

Michael Allen on 2 years ago. Tagged under ,,,.

CPThe doctrine of the Trinity serves as the fundamental lodestar of all Christian belief, the shining center of all Christian truth and the focal point of every instance of our trust and hope. God is. More particularly, God—the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit—is, and in, through, and to this one are all things. What light is shed upon life and being, then, flows forth from this fiery being. It must be admitted, however, that the Trinity has overwhelmed due to the power of its beam. Its very brilliance is the source of its difficulty. Theologians from Anselm to Sonderegger have reminded us that the divine mystery is not owing to a lack of revelation but a preponderance of it. This the hymn-writer attested so beautifully of the immortal God, of whom we…

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[Common Places] Reading Notes: The Soul

Christina Larsen on 2 years ago. Tagged under ,,.

Open book on wooden deck

While Christianity is by no means the only faith—nor theology the only discipline—concerned to know the soul, it is because the Christian church confesses the goodness of creation, the incarnation, and the resurrection of the dead that her enquiry is vitally concerned to know the soul as the soul of the embodied saint seeking eternal communion with God as part of the body of Christ. Much of the church’s discussion takes the form of critiques of Greek and Hellenistic conceptions of the soul, though these critiques often remain appreciative in their dissents, recognizing their debts to the Greek and Hellenistic conceptions at a number of points. Here are some key sources for entering into the…

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[Common Places]: Christological Anthropology: An Interview with Marc Cortez

Michael Allen and Scott Swain, editors of Common Places on 2 years ago. Tagged under ,.

For the concluding post on christological anthropology, we offer an interview with Marc to further explore some questions and issues related to his recent book Christological Anthropology in Historical Perspective: Ancient and Contemporary Approaches to Theological Anthropology (Zondervan Academic).

cortezWhat is a “christological anthropology”?

I explored a few ways of defining this in the book. From one perspective, almost all Christian anthropologies are “christological” in the sense that we think Jesus was fully human and is, therefore, relevant to understanding what it means to be human. We also have the imitatio Christi tradition, in which Jesus serves as an exemplar of a human life well lived, and the imago Dei discussions in which Christology often features prominently. So you could define the concept rather broadly and include many kinds of theological…

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[Common Places]: Reading Notes: Christological Anthropology

Marc Cortez on 2 years ago. Tagged under ,.

Open book on wooden deck

Trying to identify the most significant works on christological anthropology can be a little tricky. On the one hand, since incarnation and atonement both involve some connection between Christology and anthropology, we should not be surprised to discover an almost countless number of works on the relationship between these two loci. Nearly all theological anthropologies draw on Christology at some point in their discussion of what it means to be human. If that’s all we mean by a christological anthropology, then it would seem that the following list should just include a few of the more influential theological anthropologies.

But that’s not quite what I have in mind when talking about specifically christological anthropologies. Instead, the label refers more to those anthropologies that draw on Christology to…

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[Common Places]: Ecce Homo: A Christ-Shaped Vision of Ourselves

Marc Cortez on 2 years ago. Tagged under ,,.

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.

9780310516415Looking 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 to express pity for this poor figure of…

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[Common Places] In Memoriam John Webster

Michael Allen on 2 years ago. Tagged under ,.

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…

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[Common Places]: Reading Notes: Theological Epistemology

Kevin Vanhoozer on 2 years ago. Tagged under ,,.

Open book on wooden deckOne 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 theological epistemology refer to a way of knowing God, and perhaps other…

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[Common Places] A Conversation about Cultural Liturgies: An Interview with James K. A. Smith

Michael Allen and Scott Swain, editors of Common Places on 2 years ago. Tagged under ,,.

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.

Were there any autobiographical factors (which you’d be willing to share) that led you to write Desiring the Kingdom and Imagining the Kingdom?

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…

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[Common Places]: Reading Notes: Theology of Worship

Sue Rozeboom on 2 years ago. Tagged under ,,.

Open book on wooden deck 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, he was doing liturgical theology. Example after example could be offered. Worship…

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[Common Places]: Toward a Liturgical Anthropology: Helps from James K. A. Smith

Scott Swain on 2 years ago. Tagged under ,,,.

Holy_Grail_Tapestry_-The_Arming_and_Departure_of_the_KniightsIntroduction: 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 that is moved from the inside out. Christian obedience flows “from the…

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[Common Places]: Reading Notes: Theological Anthropology

Ryan Peterson on 3 years ago. Tagged under ,,,.

Open book on wooden deck 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 why the most compelling Christian anthropologies have been developed in works focused…

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[Common Places]: James K. A. Smith and Augustinianism (Part 2)

Matthew Drever on 3 years ago. Tagged under ,,,.


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 of material creation, and the vital role of…

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