Year 10 of the Karl Barth Reading Group!

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This fall marks the beginning of the 10th straight year that I have run a Karl Barth Reading Group here in Caronport. Each week from September to April or May, a group of students, staff, and pastors get together once  a week to discuss a small portion of Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics. On average, it’s taken us three years to complete a single volume. I’m convinced of the value of “slow reading” of Barth. You can only process the material from 5-10 pages at a time, and we’ve rarely (though occasionally!) found it difficult to get a discussion going from these few pages.

In 2005, we began with the famous Doctrine of Election (II.2), in 2008 proceeded to the Doctrine of Vocation (IV.3.2), and we just finished the first part of the Doctrine of Creation (III.1) this past spring. At that point, we decided together as a group to “begin again at the beginning” so this year we will be reading the first volume of the Church Dogmatics, the Doctrine of the Word of God (I.1).

Our format is simple: We open with a reading from Scripture (I usually work our way through a biblical book throughout the year). We then spend just a few minutes sharing prayer requests and we pray together. Then we launch into the discussion of the week’s assigned reading, usually about 6-10 pages. When we are done (about 75 minutes later), we close in prayer, go our separate ways and begin our day.

From the start, I’ve loved the Barth group. It is a bit of a respite from the busyness of the week. For me, it is a kind of a middle ground between work and rest. It isn’t quite work because of how enjoyable it is, and it isn’t quite rest because it takes a degree of dedication to arrive at a 7 am meeting in the dead of winter in Saskatchewan!

But I suppose the surprising thing is this: 10 years of reading Barth together hasn’t yet brought me to the point where I wanted to quit or do something new. Barth has a way of getting us thinking, getting us back into Scripture, and keeping us growing in our intellectual and spiritual lives.

Now here’s my question for the day: How does one properly celebrate 10 years of a Barth reading group? (I’ve dreamed of having a little reunion of all the past and present members of the group, though I suspect we are all a little too far flung to make that happen). Any suggestions?

P.S. If you are local and want to join the group, we begin September 11, 7:00 am, in Seminary S104! Bring a copy of CD I.1 and have the preface (xi to xvii) and pages 3 to the top of page 10 read.

P.S.S. You can still get a great deal on a complete set of the Church Dogmatics from Christian Book Distributors here.

What’s a blog to do?

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This past month my role at Briercrest shifted back more closely into the Seminary as Dean. Although I remain in an administrative post, I am hoping to be able to spend just a bit more time writing. Indeed, I am working on a little book with IVP on Barth (keep posted) that hopefully will see completion sooner rather than later.

In the meantime, I’ve realized that Theommentary has suffered. So today I am attempting to begin afresh with a redesign. I don’t know if I will like it long-term, but for now, let me know what you think.

More importantly, I would love feedback from anyone who might still be following (though I wonder how many are!). For those who know me a bit more or who have read lots of my previous postings, I would appreciate hearing what you think Theommentary could accomplish in the months to come. What kinds of topics or ideas would you like me to tackle?

Secondarily, if anyone wants to talk about it, I guess I’d be curious to know if the “theo-blog” is even going to persist in the coming months and years. Is anyone reading them? I know my own blog reading time has been seriously limited, but that could just be me. Do you see any patterns or trends I should know about?

Thanks for sticking with me. Hopefully

The Divining Blog

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Well, vacation 2011 is over and hopefully I’ll be back to getting some things posted on Theommentary in the near future. In the meantime, I thought I’d get you caught up on a few things going on in my professional world.

First, as of August 1, I’ve started a new post here at Briercrest College and Seminary. I officially completed 6 years of being seminary dean this past academic year and have now transitioned to the post entitled, “Executive Lead for Strategic and Ministry Partnership.” My academic title has also changed to “Associate Professor of Theology, Church and Public Life.” What does this all mean?

Practically, it means that I will have a bit more time devoted to research and writing (which was in short supply as a dean) and will also be travelling a bit more for Briercrest. In my travels I’ll be exploring new partners and partnerships with people and organizations that are likeminded about what we do at Briercrest. In this regard, if you have ideas about ways that you or your organization might want to work together with Briercrest College and Seminary, be sure to drop me a line.

Beyond that, I will be focusing my writing to explore more intentionally issues of theological interplay between the mission of the Church and its presence in the public square. I’m just beginning a reading programme for myself to catch up in some of the literature.

Finally, about the title of this post: I was pleased to receive an email from Catherine over at “The Divining Blog” that Theommentary was included in their “Top 50 Blogs by Divinity and Theology Professors” list. Thanks, Catherine! You might want to mosey on over there to see who else was listed. I found some interesting blogs that I wasn’t familiar with myself.

Hope to see you all a bit more in the coming months.

Tolle Lege lectures @ Prairie

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If you happen to be in or around Three Hills, Alberta next Tuesday night, I’d love to see you at Prairie Bible College’s annual Tolle Lege lectures. Yours truly will be giving a lecture. Details below.



A new look!

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While waiting about 9 hours in the airport today for a flight out of foggy, foggy Regina, I decided it was time for a face-lift for Theommentary. What do you think? I scanned through quite a few themes, but really liked this one.

What think ye?

 

Theommentary is Two! (PLUS, a Contest!)

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Today is Theommentary’s second birthday! Ain’t he cute? 

To commemorate the anniversary of the second year of Theommentary, I will first of all bore you a bit with what I’ve learned about blogging in the past two years. Then, to make things a bit more exciting, we’ll have a little contest–which includes a REAL prize you could win for participating!

Three Things I’ve learned about Blogging

1) Good intentions are just that. I originally envisioned Theommentary as an extension of my teaching ministry, and to an extent, it has done just that. But what actually happened probably didn’t even get near as close to my intentions as I’d hoped.  I hope that there is still an occasional nugget that you find interesting, encouraging, or maybe even a good bit of exhortation! But so far, I’ve been unable to keep up the pace or consistency that I would like. Being an administrator and a professor, and now a church elder (not to mention father and husband!) ensures that my blogging is only a sideline hobby. But I still enjoy it when I can get around to it.

2) Shorter is better. I tend to be long-winded. Ask my wife and my students! Blogging has forced me to try to say things a bit more precisely. I’ll stop there on this point. 🙂

(Ok, one more thing: I recently discovered a neato website called “The Khan Academy.” Basically, this one guy has posted hundreds (thousands?) of short tutorials on various subjects (though mostly in math and science). Apparently he is getting hundreds of thousands of hits per month. His secret: The tutorials are short and to the point. Take a look! P.S. When I posted this link, there were over 1500 people on his site! You can also see a CNN article on it here. HT: Kathy Hillacre–thanks, Sis!)

3) I am surprised at how people find my blog most often. According to my Blog stats from WordPress, of the over 25,000 hits to the page (other than the over 14,000 hits that came directly to the top page), three postings ranked in the top. These were posts that supposedly people came to Theommentary directly after a web search, without necessarily coming through the top home page:

  1. Primer on the Church Dogmatics by Karl Barth – 655 unique hits.
  2. Experiencing Bob Dylan – 504 unique hits
  3. The Shack – A Review – 409 unique hits

Needless to say, three very different topics and three very different subjects. My busiest day was November 5, 2008, the day after I posted my Bob Dylan concert experiences. (Apparently, there are a LOT of Bob Dylan fans who troll the net looking for the latest concert reviews…)

The SECOND ANNIVERSARY THEOMMENTARY CONTEST

Since I assume that most of my readers are interested in theology, the following is a good ol’ theological quotation quiz.

WHO SAID IT?

  1. “True gratitude or thankfulness to God for His kindness to us arises from a foundation laid before, of love to God for what He is in Himself; whereas a natural gratitude has no such antecedent foundation.”
  2. “The Christian community is not a spiritual sanatorium. The person who comes into fellowship because he is running away from himself is misusing it for the sake of diversion, no matter how spiritual this diversion may appear.”
  3. “Who is it that expounds the Bible? We answer with the ancient axiom which must be the axiom of all hermeneutics: Scriptura scripturae interprets. With respect to the Holy Scriptures, that means: These writings, as God’s Word in human words, expound themselves, are in themselves . . . everywhere perfectly clear and transparent.”
  4. “I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much.”
  5. “A Christian lives not in himself, but in Christ and in his neighbor. Otherwise he is not a Christian. He lives in Christ through faith, in his neighbor through love. By faith he is caught up beyond himself into God.”

Answer in the comments section below. I will give the answers by Monday morning (September 6).

The Prize: The first correctly to identify all five of the speakers/writers of the theological quotations may choose between one of two books: 1) Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms (by Grenz, Guretzki and Fee Nordling); or 2) The Teaching of the Church Regarding Baptism (Karl Barth). (No, I won’t be hurt if you choose Barth over me!)

Influential Canadian theologian: Alzheimer’s

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An article in the Vancouver Sun recently released the news that Clark Pinnock, the provocative Canadian theologian behind “open theism,” has Alzheimer’s.

I actually wrote my Master’s thesis way back when on Pinnock. The thesis was provocatively and daringly entitled, “The Theological Methodology of Clark H. Pinnock.” (Ok, so it wasn’t so provocative or daring. It’s was a master’s thesis!)

I only had the privilege to meet Pinnock once at an AAR meeting in Orlando a few years back. We had lunch together, and he was kind enough to tell me that he had “learned much” from reading my thesis. He even squeezed in a footnote to my thesis in one of his articles. (Clark H. Pinnock, “New Dimensions in Theological Method,” New Dimensions in Evangelical Thought. IVP, 1998). I also later got invited by Stan Porter to contribute an essay for a Festschrift for Pinnock. (My essay was entitled, “The Filioque: Assessing Evangelical Approaches to a Knotty Problem” in Semper Reformandum: Studies in Honour of Clark H. Pinnock. Paternoster Press, 2003.)

Though I haven’t read much from Pinnock in the past decade, I do owe him a debt of gratitude for my development as a theologian. Though I have situated myself quite a distance from him theologically, I nevertheless have tried to learn from him a dogged determination to keep returning to Scripture for our theology, a godly graciousness in the face of all critics, and an undying commitment to evangelism.

Oh yes, Pinnock is known as being acerbic at times himself, but at a personal level, I found him to be full of curiosity and very gracious to me, a young upstart theologian!