Thomas C. Oden is a fascinating figure in the history of 20th Century theology, and his new autobiography, A Change of Heart, is a fascinating read. Known for The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture and Agenda for Theology, Oden writes a riveting tale about his early commitment to liberal theology and socialism, and then a 180-degree turn as he embraced classic Christianity and conservative thought in the early 1970s. Truly a remarkable story, Odenâ€™s work is well worth the time. [Read more…] about Book Review: A Change of Heart, by Thomas Oden
In the process of completing theÂ Christian Devotional ClassicsÂ series, I was inspired to digÂ into material which I wrote on the prayer life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer forÂ Theology and Practice of Prayer[footnote]SF/ST 777: Theology and Practice of Prayer.Â Laurie Mellinger, Ph.D. Evangelical Seminary. Summer 2012.Â Course Description: This course explores various aspects of the interplay between theology and prayer. What we believe about God determines how and why we pray; this has also been true for Christians throughout the history of the Church. We will examine both historical persons and methods of praying from a variety of Christian traditions, and discuss their potential for deepening our own relationships with God. This course provides the opportunity for students to study and experience a variety of Christian prayer forms, and to discern the theological foundations upon which they rest. We will take a historical approach, discussing prayer in the Scriptures and its application in the lives of persons of prayer throughout the Christian era. We will also consider the place and practice of prayer in the contemporary church, both for individuals and for corporate gatherings.[/footnote] Click here forÂ Who Am I? Dietrich Bonhoeffer as a Historical Mentor in Prayer: Part 1.Â As you read Part 2, reflect uponÂ how you respond to your
- upbringing: familial — including expectations and educational/cultural power (or lack of it), cultural, educational, ethnic, religious, socio-economic . . .
- your international/cross-cultural relationships
- academic mentors and gatekeepers, particularly when one’s conscience is challenged.
- community — how do you understand/define your closest/deepest community?
- Lord (i.e., Jesus the Christ) with your head, heart, and hands in all aspects of life (including vocation).
- “legacy” as you perceive it to be developing.
Who Am I?Â â€“ A Glimpse of Dietrich Bonhoefferâ€™s Context
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)Â was born into a â€œmiddle-class,â€ aristocratic Prussian family which moved to a Berlin suburb when his father Dr. Karl Bonhoeffer (1868-1948) was appointed Professor of Psychiatry and Neurology at University of Berlin, the most highly-regarded chair in Germany at the time. Karl and his wife Paula (1874-1951) valued education, the arts, the state, the church as an institution, the family, and the Protestant work ethic. The childrenâ€™s early schooling began with Paula and was continued by governesses from the Herrnhut community. Paulaâ€™s mother was a German countess. Her father was a practical theology professor and a military chaplain, who briefly served Kaiser Wilhem II. She had a grandfather who had been a famous church historian at the University of Jena. [Read more…] about Who Am I? Bonhoeffer as a Historical Mentor in Prayer: Part 2
In the process of completing theÂ Christian Devotional ClassicsÂ series, I was inspired to digÂ into material which I wrote on the prayer life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer forÂ Theology and Practice of Prayer.Â My intention had been to do such last fall, but I found my time too pressed with transitioning into my new role as Associate Director of the Emerging Scholars Network. I will begin the series with the introduction toÂ Who Am I? Dietrich Bonhoeffer as a Historical Mentor in Prayer. I am very interested in your thoughts/insights regarding the life, ministry, and academic writing/study not only of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but also of the people of God whom he served (and/or tried to serve) during a significantly challenging period of German (and international) history.
How Dietrich Bonhoefferâ€™s (1906-1945) â€œtheology is interwoven with the course of his lifeâ€ (Eberhard Bethge 1997, viii) and the various influences upon it attracts attention from many circles. In addition to his writings, libraries abound with publications by popular biographers, family who survived World War II, close friends and acquaintances, pioneers of the liberation movements, members of the â€œdeath of Godâ€ movement, advocates of religionless Christianity, and those engaged in dialogue with patriotism, pacifism, and resistance. A number of movies, plays, and television shows attempt to act out the drama of Bonhoefferâ€™s involvement in the resistance to the Nazi party before and during World War II, which ultimately led to his hanging 23 days before the surrender of Nazi forces.
In what manner does one find Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whom Eric Metaxas calls Pastor, martyr, prophet, spy (Thomas Nelson,Â 2011), also a prominent figure in the history of Christian prayer for the church? Bonhoefferâ€™s conversion led to his acknowledgement of Christ as the Lord of all of life and the world, even in its â€œreligionless form.â€ He found and taught the historic liturgical practices of the church as vital to daily discipleship and the pastoral vocation. Bonhoefferâ€™s â€œrule of lifeâ€ incorporated the praying of the Psalms with an emphasis on their value at the beginning of a day filled with â€œrighteous action.â€ [Read more…] about Who Am I? Bonhoeffer as a Historical Mentor in Prayer: Part 1
Rosaria Butterfield is the kind of woman she herself once bitterly opposed. The homeschooling pastorâ€™s wife and adoptive mother of four was not raised in the Reformed Presbyterian Church. She was a self-described â€œlesbian postmodernist,â€ (p. 41) a professor of English and Queer Theory conducting research on the Promise Keepers movement, when she encountered Christian hospitality at the home of one of her research subjects, the pastor of a local church. Her hosts, she reports, had a â€œvulnerable and transparent faith. . . . When the meal ended, and Pastor Ken said he wanted to stay in touch, I knew that it was truly safe to accept his open hand.â€ (p. 11) Two years later she gave her life to Christ. In her memoir, she describes her struggle (â€œHow do you repent for a sin that doesnâ€™t feel like a sin?â€ [p. 21]), her prayers, and her ultimate commitment (â€œI asked [God] to take it all: my sexuality, my profession, my community, my tastes, my books, and my tomorrows.â€ [p. 21]) She broke up with her partner, grew out her crew cut, and began looking for new fields of research and teaching. Two years later she left academia altogether to embrace a new role as pastorâ€™s wife, mother, foster parent, and homeschooler. Yet she is still an educator. â€œMy whole life, currently defined as a home-school Mom in the classical Christian tradition, relies daily on my educational training and the discipline and intellectual rigor developed over the course of my life. . . . I like to share with others what all English PhDs take for granted: fluency with words and their origins, the ability to parse any sentence at any time, an appreciation for the grammar of all fields of study, and a fearless embrace of broad reading lists.â€ (p. 139)
Itâ€™s hard to review an autobiography. Who am I to critique someone elseâ€™s story? Whether or not I agree with her, these were Dr. Butterfieldâ€™s experiences, and I am grateful to her for sharing them. Not only does she open up her intriguing life story to her readers, but she shares intensely personal experiences of both faith and sexuality. Dr. Butterfield has my utmost respect and her story challenges me as a Christian, as a woman, as a teacher, and as a member of a local church. Ours would be a better world if more people were like her.
I could comment on any number of themes in the bookâ€”the Christian family, interracial adoption, Reformed Presbyterian theology, Classical Conversations homeschooling, a capella psalm singingâ€”but for the purpose of this blog, I want to respond to those aspects of Dr. Butterfieldâ€™s story relevant to me as a Christian who remains in academia. While I respect her decision to leave research and teaching behind, I canâ€™t help but wish her story had a different ending. Butterfield writes movingly of the conflicts she experienced as a new believer in a field often hostile to Christians. I can only imagine the difficultiesâ€”personal, theological, political, socialâ€”of remaining in her field as an ex-lesbian and a struggling young believer. She felt alienated from friends who could not understand the changes in her life. Students shunned her, feeling betrayed. At times her worlds collided. A highlight of the book for me was when her new church family rallied alongside the LGBT community to support one of her grad students who had attempted suicide. [Read more…] about Review: The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert
Do we enter the fall with the anticipation of colleagues coming to faith? Several years ago, InterVarsity Graduate & Faculty Ministry Staff Christian Anible wrote The Conversion of a Scholar: A Reflection on Augustine’s Confessions.Â Take a few minutes to read his essay and prayerfullyÂ consider who God has called you to be present with in the coming minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, even decades.Â To God be the glory!
we must not succumb to the temptation to impose Augustineâ€™s story as a kind of template for evangelism among todayâ€™s scholars. While some commonalities certainly exist, every individual is unique, and the business of making disciples cannot be reduced to technique. Perhaps the most striking aspect of Augustineâ€™s conversion is that it took time â€” years of time! In this, Monica is our best model. Her patience and faithfulness in prayer reveals a confidence, not in her ability to persuade the one she loved, but in a greater Lover whose wooing would finally win out.