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Understanding as Love: Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Pastoral Theology

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Understanding as Love: Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Pastoral Theology

Jean-Pierre Fortin

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s ministerial activity and preaching do not constitute subsidiary adjuncts to his theological career and research; they rather embody the pastoral expression of his theology and bear witness to his personal journey of faith. Bonhoeffer’s practice and understanding of theology so evolved—through the influence of both its own inner dynamism and through external conditions and circumstances—that it was progressively transformed from an almost purely intellectual endeavor into a radical witnessing to Christ in the concrete form of liturgical and pastoral ministry, itself culminating in a martyr’s self-sacrifice to and for Christ. Bonhoeffer’s liturgical and pastoral ministry, far from ceasing when he could no longer act as pastor in parishes or as teacher and minister in the Finkenwalde seminary and subsequent pastorates, did in fact continue to the very end of his life, even flourishing and bearing its greatest fruits during his imprisonment. The careful study of the contents and evolution of Bonhoeffer’s preaching sheds new light on the theology he elaborated during his seclusion.

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Jewish Scripture for Gentile Churches: Human Destiny and the Future of the Pauline Correspondence

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Jewish Scripture for Gentile Churches: Human Destiny and the Future of the Pauline Correspondence

Part 2: Colossians

Christopher Seitz

Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.

—Rom 15:4

Many peoples shall come to seek the LORD of Hosts . . . in those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”

—Zech 9:22–23

Anyone presuming to reflect on human nature and destiny using Paul’s letter to the Romans faces an avalanche of commentary and a long and complicated history of interpretation. The preceding essay showed how pivotal Rom 7 is, and yet questions have hounded interpreters. Is Paul speaking in his own voice, as a Jew (a past-tense perspective), about his experience of the law? Is he deploying what rhetoric calls prosopopoeia, creating a sufficiently nonautobiographical voice that we can all be drawn in (a present-tense perspective)? Does the “I” refer to humankind in general (Adam) and the law any species of “thou shalt not” that confronts the human will (the universal perspective)? If the last of these, human nature and destiny are fraught at the deepest level, making any effort to say yes to what is good and right only provoking a countervailing no.

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On the Relationship Between Sanctity and Knowledge: Holiness as an Epistemological Criterion in St. Thomas

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On the Relationship Between Sanctity and Knowledge: Holiness as an Epistemological Criterion in St. Thomas

Jessica Murdoch

I. Introduction

St. Thomas and the Thomistic tradition that follows him distinguish between natural theology and supernatural, or revealed, theology, a distinction that corresponds to the one that obtains between nature and grace. Natural theology forms both the end and apex of metaphysics, the science of the “wise man”—that is, the science of certain knowledge via knowledge of the causes.1 Thomistic metaphysics is commonly understood to be divided into two parts: general metaphysics and special metaphysics, which includes natural theology. The former considers the meaning of being qua being; the latter takes up the ens Supremum, the highest being or the causa sui, the cause of all being, that is, God. Though metaphysics with its inner moment of natural theology is the science of the wise man, wisdom itself pertains primarily to revealed theology. Sacra doctrina, Thomas notes, is “wisdom above all human wisdom; not merely in any one order, but absolutely,” precisely because it is the highest cause and because it is the knowledge of divine things.2 There is a natural order of knowledge that corresponds to human wisdom and a supernatural order of knowledge that corresponds to revealed truth, which is embodied in the person of Christ, the Wisdom of God.

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Virgin Territory?

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Virgin Territory?

Daniel J. Treier

Andrew Lincoln’s Born of a Virgin? Reconceiving Jesus in the Bible, Tradition, and Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2013) is important for its courageous, holistic, monograph-length treatment of a relatively neglected subject (relatively—if, that is, any subject qualifies as neglected in contemporary biblical and theological scholarship!). Lincoln’s book is important beyond its subject matter, however: it offers a distinctive test case for today’s complex interactions between historical and so-called theological interpretation of Scripture. Recent intrigue over the latter has helpfully raised questions about whether Christian doctrine informs—rather than solely being informed by—biblical interpretation. Lincoln’s attempt at a “postcritical” approach to historical inquiry along with serious doctrinal engagement inserts his work into the current conversation about theological exegesis.

Yet Lincoln departs from a traditional embrace of the virgin birth by rejecting older concepts of the unity of Scripture and, accordingly, refusing to “harmonize” various scriptural texts or biblical and dogmatic theology. Lincoln makes these moves as a committed Trinitarian Christian, so his project deserves careful attention on multiple sides. According to some who are wary of theological interpretation, historical inquiry proceeding from faith should be able to duplicate (or deny) creedal dogmas from Scripture without appealing to their distinct epistemic authority. According to others who are interested in some version of theological interpretation, ecumenical creeds offer a substitute benchmark entirely replacing older doctrines of Scripture—allowing freer historical inquiry while preserving dogmatic fidelity, unfettered by the policing of biblical inspiration and related standards. Lincoln’s book illustrates problems with both of these tendencies.

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Revelation according to the Rules

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Revelation according to the Rules

Peter J. Leithart

That the Bible can bear multiple interpretations is hardly a modern insight. It is an ancient conundrum, addressed directly by Augustine in book 3 of De doctrina Christiana. What is one to do if a text has the potential to mean two or more things? If grammar and punctuation fail to resolve the ambiguity, Augustine recommends recourse to the rule of faith (regula fidei).

What is the rule of faith? In Irenaeus, the content of the rule of faith is difficult to pin down. At times it is a narrative summary of the Bible, at other times a set of doctrinal constraints on interpretation. For Augustine, the rule is substantively equivalent to the creeds.1 For both Irenaeus and Augustine, the rule functions hermeneutically as the hypothesis or argument of Scripture, the answer to the question, what is the Bible as a whole about?2 Because it informs readers that the Bible is a mosaic revealing the face of a handsome prince, the rule of faith helps readers figure out where bits of the Bible fit in the larger pattern.3 The rule is like the box of a jigsaw puzzle: you know where the green and blue pieces go because you can see the hillside and sky in the cover photo. Augustine illustrates the point by reference to John 1:1. The rule of faith tells us that the Persons of the Trinity are equal; we know that this is the overall picture. Arian readings of John 1 violate this rule and so mislay the pieces of the puzzle (3.2.2–3). The product is distorted, ugly.

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