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Scripture on the Edge of God

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

Scripture on the Edge of God

Ephraim Radner

Nothing could be more gratifying and humbling to me than the discussion of Time and the Word offered by this symposium of deeply perceptive and faithful theologians. I am enormously grateful. The breadth of discussion makes my own response challenging. At the outset I will simply offer my genuine thanks for whatever praise has been offered. But for what follows, I will turn to the questions and sometimes clear critiques my colleagues have helpfully laid out. There is a common thread among these, that is, a concern about over-loading the divine nature of Scripture, such that, on the one hand Scripture may seem to take the place of God or on the other, that it may seem to swallow up the distinct singularities of historical existence—creation, events, individuals, persons. I will try to address this under several general headings.

An Experiment

I want to admit up front that many of the specifics related to the general concern just mentioned derive from my own lack of clear understanding about the matters Time and Word addressed! This is due to my own intellectual limitations, no doubt, but also to the fact that the book as a whole was an experiment, one in which I was trying to work something out, without yet knowing where it would end up, or quite seizing the implications of what I was doing. I will explain the particular experiment below, but first I want to make an apology, both in the sense of defense as well as asking for pardon.

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Remembering My Teacher Robert W. Jenson

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

Remembering My Teacher Robert W. Jenson

Rev. Gregory P. Fryer

I met Robert and Blanche Jenson during my first week at seminary, back in 1980 at the Gettysburg Lutheran Theological Seminary. The Seminary hosted a supper in the refectory for faculty and new students, and I found myself seated at a table with the Jensons. I mentioned to Jenson that I had read his recent book back then, Visible Words.1 Jenson asked me whether I understood it. I answered that no, I had not. Jenson broke into a big smile and seemed to have affection for me ever since.

Theologians and clergy across the land might study and be grateful for Jenson’s theology. But unless you have worshiped with him, you might not understand the essential link for him between theology and the liturgy.

I have heard two descriptions of how bishops were selected in the early church. Both descriptions sound great to me. According to one description, the bishop was simply the best preacher and theologian around. According to the other, the bishop was the one who composed the most fitting and powerful Eucharistic prayers. On either of these descriptions, Robert W. Jenson would have been a great bishop. In fact, in my mind, he would have been a great Pope!

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Keeping Time

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

Keeping Time

Human Finitude and Figural Interpretation

Daniel J. Treier

The question of how figural reading relates to human finitude arises from the nearly contemporaneous appearance of two dazzling books from Ephraim Radner—Time and the Word: Figural Reading of the Christian Scriptures and A Time to Keep: Theology, Mortality, and the Shape of a Human Life.1 The intuition explored here is that these books do not entirely cohere in their approaches to time, their common theme. Perhaps, even if this intuition is misguided, exploring it will draw further attention to neglected territory.

Radner uniquely combines existential passion, pastoral experience, and deep learning. These books cover a breathtaking amount of biblical, historical, conceptual, and cultural territory. While Radner is not afraid to speak directly about the churchly problems, he also listens carefully. So I am grateful for the chance to explore these distinctively Anglican pathways, even if I must doggedly make my way back to a Presbyterian home.

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You Shall Love the Lord with All Your Mind

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

You Shall Love the Lord with All Your Mind

Blanche Jenson

1953

We sat in Solomon, his 1939 Packard, engaged in serious debate. Should the Lutherans join the World Council of Churches? I chose the affirmative. He firmly argued the negative. He became an ecumenical theologian.

We sat eating lunch in Dinky Town talking theology. He said, “You know only the froth on the beer.” How right he was.

1954

We sat on the bank of the Mississippi River eating pizza. A decision was made. We would spend the rest of our lives doing theology together. And so we have.

2017

It is Advent. I sit at my grandparents’ table opposite an empty chair. Our conversation has been interrupted. But I am blessed with his words: books, essays, lectures, sermons, verses, and all the memories attached to them.

Above the mantel in his study hangs an embroidered command (a gift from a student): YOU SHALL THE LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR MIND. Although Jens chose to follow his father into the ministry, he knew his gift was not his father’s: the common touch. His gift was thinking and, he soon learned, also teaching. The seminary assigned him not to a parish but to campus ministry at the University of Minnesota for internship. That is where our life together began.

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On Radner’s Time and the Word

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

On Radner’s Time and the Word

Paul J. Griffiths

I’m grateful to have been asked to contribute to this symposium on Ephraim Radner’s book, Time and the Word: Figural Reading of the Christian Scriptures. It’s a real book, by which I mean that it’s the written deposit of concentrated thought about a set of questions as if it were important to approach and answer them rightly. It’s something more than journeyman academic work, and something more, too, than the work of someone who cares for the church and wishes to serve her. It has the unusual virtue of combining wide learning, intellectual passion, and devotion to Christ and his church. In reading it, it seemed to me that I was faced with a mind at work on something that matters. That is rare, and good; I’m grateful to Radner for it.

So, what is the book about? It offers an elucidation and defense of figural reading, exegesis, and preaching of Christian Scripture, together with examples of these activities being performed, and some instruction in how to perform them better. Radner acknowledges that the last forty years or so has seen a massive recovery of interest in figural reading and interpretation of Scripture in the anglophone Christian world; but he also writes that this kind of reading is still under-theorized or badly theorized, and therefore in need of further elucidation and defense. What does he mean by “figural reading”? Here are two instances, among many, of brief attempts on his part to say: “Scripture in particular is . . . the gift of an omnipotent God who has so construed the world and ordered the words of the Bible, that the latter may function broadly in an inter-signifying role to navigate through the former in the direction of salvation’s grasp” (157–58). And: “[F]igural reading is the temporal explication, through the juxtaposition of her multiple texts, of Scripture’s divine ‘allness’” (210). The idea is that the text of Scripture is intended by God to be a text capable of signifying, and being read to signify, everything: all that there is, and everything that has happened and will happen. So reading it is figural reading, and it is reading that assumes a deep and serious claim about the text, the Lord, and what is neither the text nor the Lord.

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