Noted theologian Douglas Ottati joins the show to discuss his new book A Theology for the Twenty-First Century.
Welcome to Jessup think I’m your host Mark Moore and your co host Rex Gurney. And on the show today we have Dr. Douglas o Tati, who is the Craig family distinguished professor of Reformed theology and justice at Davidson College in North Carolina. In fact,
he actually was teaching at Union Theological Seminary in Virginia when I was getting my doctorate and he was one of my professors about 29 years ago. So it’s gonna be an interesting show today.
Thanks again, Dan, for joining us on the podcast all the way from North Carolina. Well, thank
you, Mark. It’s a beautiful spring in North Carolina is probably not as dry heat as you have in California. But it’s beautiful out here right now. We have blue birds flying around. I mean, it’s it’s a great picture of God’s world. You enjoy it.
Yeah. That I’ve always told my wife if we moved anywhere. It would be North Carolina, America.
That’s a good spot. It’s got mountains. It’s got a beach. It’s got Sandy stuff. It’s got a lot of things.
Yeah, that’s that’s grabs I’m good friends and kind of the Chapel Hill and Durham area. And I think I’ve been through Davidson is it is the city, called Davis is a little town. Charlotte isn’t?
Yeah, it’s exit 30 offer route 77. So we’re about I want to say we’re about 17 miles, 20 miles from the city of Charlotte. We’re in the same county as they are. But we’re in the northern part of the county. And it does, the town now has a lot of nice different things. They’ve got a nice little Italian restaurant. I’m really pleased about that. Because I grew up on a little Italian family. So I like to get something good to eat. They got a really good proprietor over there and all that kind of stuff. But I hear that some time ago, a dog could have gone to sleep on Main Street not been disturbed. A little bit since then.
Right. Right. But and you have a connection with Rex, that I actually didn’t know that when I emailed you to set up this interview. And then seminary Virginia.
Yeah, yeah, a long time ago, but 21 years. Since I was there, I actually dug I don’t know if you are aware of it. But without mentioning your name, because you know, frankly, would mean anything to anybody. I do actually use my first day in the first seminar I ever had at Union, which was with you, in theological method where we had to deal with trash, but I use it as sort of an example when I’m talking about the fundamentalist modernist controversy. And so the story I sort of tell and I have to say that I was so intimidated, actually, by you that that very first seminar, but so I went to a Southern Baptist evangelical seminary and got an M div a number of years before that. And for some inexplicable reason, they had given me the annual theology award when I graduated, which I don’t understand why they did that, because I was a church history guy anyway, but whatever, whatever. I’m feeling pretty proud of myself. Because, you know, I got an award, and I, you know, and so five years later, I am in your seminar, and the very first day, I had never heard of anyone that you were talking about. And this little light bulb comes on above my head. It’s like, Oh, it’s like, there’s two different worlds out there. And they don’t even talk to each other. And they sometimes don’t even act like each other exists. And so real, real kind of steep learning curve. For me to start off there.
I bet I bet. And ours troughs, you know, that’s, yeah, there you go. That’s a reference thing. And he and he’s got certain questions in mind, and they hold up really well, for the modern period, they never go away. Right, you know, like, what do you want to make out of historical criticism in the Bible? And does it make you less confident and what you prefer to believe? Because you’d like to believe it? Right? Maybe what you like is precisely the criteria was not true. And so he’s got a lot of stuff like that. He’s got a, you know, an instance where a student comes into his office and is having a crisis. Neither Well, what do you know, what’s your crisis? So well, because, you know, I’m not I want to believe that Jesus did XYZ. So okay, so what’s the crisis is? Well, because I don’t know, I think precisely because I want to believe it. It might not be true. And this sort of stuff, and then you know, schleiermacher and all those Yeah, yeah. And trolls on religious pluralism, I mean, it doesn’t go away. And so can you really claim absoluteness for Christianity, and do you want to, in relation to World Religions is a real nice theological question like
Yeah, yeah. stuff is perennial particularly particularly now, in fact, I’ve sort of seen in an evangelical Ria reappropriation of schleiermacher lately, actually, because stuff he’s dealing with his his his
stuff that everybody’s dealing with guy cares about piety. He cares about religious experience. He cares about conversion. He cares about your orientation in the world. What’s nice about that, what’s not to like about that? Right? I mean, he’s pretty good on that. And then traulsen on the stuff about absoluteness. I mean, in a way, if you really want to be a follower of Christ is the first thing you do is claim absoluteness. A lot of possibilities. Right. Right. Yeah. Right. And who knows what the answer will be. It’s worth exploring,
right? Definitely. Yeah. Well, I wanted to ask first for you, before we get into your book, I would love just to to know a little bit more about your background that like kind of how you got into theology and kind of build or build a life and a career in the theological world?
Well, I guess mark, almost everyone who turns out to be a theologian and teaches this stuff Wrexham for you. I mean, the stories are always particular and peculiar. That Yeah, everyone’s a little odd, right? I mean, they got to be that. And for me, I grew up in New Jersey, six miles west of the George Washington Bridge. And my father was from Brazil, and was a doctor and interested in modern medicine, mostly in what you call Tropical Medicine. So I asked him about once. And he said, that was where you had a refrigeration trail. And at the end of the refrigeration trail, someone who could count so he worked on oral polio vaccines is a perfect illustration of that. And what’s going on now, with vaccines in the pandemic is ease of delivery is a really big question. Yeah. How much refrigeration and camp? Does someone also have to be able to negotiate a syringe on the other end? Or can they just be able to count and that that’s one thing. And then my mom was from outside of Ann Arbor, Michigan on a farm. And she was German Lutheran, they got a lot of her relatives buried up there in Ann Arbor on a piece of real estate that I know the University of Michigan I’d love to acquire. But I don’t think they can by law. And then one of them has in frock tour, you know, a picture and description of the death of the guy who never ended up being my great, my great, great grandfather, because he got run over by an ox from New York to Michigan, his brother, Adam, as was the customer in the old country, married his wife and proceeded to have something like eight children. So I, my great, great grandfather was Adam, rather, the other guy whose name I can’t even recall. So these two people get married. I get porn in the apalis and baptized Lutheran. Now we moved to New Jersey when I’m like three, we have a mass family conversion, just like in the early church and all join the Presbyterian Church at Tenafly. And mostly that was because the only Lutheran Church in town was Missouri Senate. A wonderful denomination, I guess, in a way, but it’s a little more virulent than some other Lutheran possibilities. And I think Fernando is my father was not about to take catechism right. But not because he was so Catholic because he basically believed in modern medicine. So we end up being Presbyterian, and that’s how I got that. And and as far as that goes, my mom taught Sunday school. My dad would go with me sometimes stand at the deli after, after church services, Northern Presbyterian stuff where they have inexplicably the church service at the same time as the Sunday school. So you can either go to Sunday school lunches, we can’t do not the world’s greatest arena and southern church better than that. And so then we will go to the deli, he pick up some stuff there. We got sandwiches, we argue over the sermon. And that’s, that’s my earliest theological education is right there doing that with my mom and my dad and she teaching Sunday school. We had some fine ministers and ministers do make a difference even when, even when people don’t get one. They don’t get told that by people immediately. You know, by the time of the by the time I’m willing to tell them I don’t even know where they are.
So, we had one man who delivered a sermon about gun control and stuff in New Jersey at the time. Well, you know, I can’t remember the whole firm and I do know he was for controlling Some guns, and I do know that he caught a bunch of stuff for that. Yeah. And I thought, Well, okay, you know, we got somebody willing to stand up and say something. And then it was another guy who did the youth group. And he was terrific, too. I mean, maybe they just wanted you to ask questions. No, we did have some Bible content in those days. I don’t know if people have as much of it now. And I wonder about that. But we did have that we had questions. So it was pretty good background, and I will go to college, and it’s 1968. And I’m at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. And it’s civil rights and this anti war, and it’s all this stuff, and then the pill, and all this sort of stuff available. And I thought, you know, it’s a time where questions about what you thought was worthwhile. Yeah, we’re big. Yeah. And so I don’t think I did anything more than just kind of go with the program there. I thought that questions about what’s worthwhile, were important. And and so what was helpful to me, some of that Presbyterian stuff was pretty helpful. Confession in 1967, is pretty helpful. The religious thought department, as it was called, was also very helpful as the English department stuff like that. But these were questions on my mind. And it was because of that kind of background at the time, you know? Yeah.
No, that’s fascinating. And I could tell right, when we were starting by your accent, I was like, oh, there’s more. There’s a story here. It’s New Jersey, that doesn’t start in North Carolina. All right, that’s great. Well, when your book came across my desk, I was really struck by the title, this idea of a theology for the 21st century. And, and so that that title really drew me to it. And I wondered just at the beginning, you could paint a little bit of a picture of, of what what maybe is the difference, or what is a theology for the 21st century look like that maybe is different than a theology for the 20th century or, or 19th century?
Well, things keep moving right along. And I think for the 21st century course, we don’t yet know what it will be. Yeah. But the 20th century, I think starts out in the name of the journal, people are hoping in this country that is the Christian century, it’s pretty optimistic. It really was what’s very different from from from Morrison and those guys. And what they mean by that is they’ve got a nation that professes to be Christian, is looking outwards, some it doesn’t look outwardly, as much as one might give it credit for my work. People don’t. And it’s gonna have to go through a bunch of different things. But when it starts out then with the social gospel, and you’re in the United States, it can be the Christian century, particularly if you’re in the United States in some way, I think. Yeah. So the social gospel is great, right? I mean, people care about industrialization, urbanization, and movements of immigrants to cities, they understand that if you’re going to be genuinely Christian, you need to have a social ethic, you need to understand that people are formed by social institutions and, and structures and that their possibilities and their limits are related to that this is all to the good, right? This is all good. Yeah. And then some in some of the bigger articulations of that, around Bush, and so forth. They’re positively evangelical, that guy grows up in a church where conversion is the big thing. But now he thinks he needs to have a new apostolic converted to a social Christianity. Well, so it’s a pretty interesting stuff. They’re rational, which is wonderful. He’s a tad optimistic about how this all might work out and right lever is going to follow up and say, I’m not going to go back on social Christianity, you need to have a social ethic. But yeah, this is too optimistic over here. And we don’t have a sufficiently radical doctrine, assent. We don’t have a self sufficient appreciation for many of these traditional doctrines. We’re off and running. And it’s really interesting stuff with both of them, you get Martin Luther King Jr. shows up, reads both of them, and revises both of them to talk about a beloved community and a kind of non violent involvement that can also reach the conscience of the other person and turn it and can still put pressure on stuff. What’s a great thing and and he’s also drawing of course on a black church tradition that wants to talk about the importance of unearned suffering and wants to talk about getting to the promised land like in his final speed, right. You know, we as a people are going to get there by might not get there. So there’s a kind of idealism and a hope at the same time. It’s great stuff. And this is a great tradition out of this wall. Okay, so you ride this into the 21st century, and a couple of things are going to happen. Well, it’s been a long time since MLK was around, you do have some really important things going around, still, you’ve got john lewis, and people like that. It’s going to tradition. But you go to a Reagan Administration, you go to a country that is increasingly, if you compare it to the social gospel back there, internationalist, somewhat Imperial, you know, and, and, and, and all that kind of stuff involved in a whole bunch of different things. And it gets harder to say that you’re going to have the Christian century. Maybe you’re going to have a century. Yeah. You know, because that’s just counting. But is it going to be a Christian century? Well, that’s tougher to say. And it’s tougher to say not only because you’re involved in the rest of the world, but also because there’s more different people where you are, yeah, right. Right. So it becomes really interesting in that way. And so I think what I think a theology for the 21st century is systematic wants to do is it wants to more or less unapologetically, in one sense, in another sense, I have a lot of apologetics in my stuff. But in one sense, you want to try and articulate a Christian vision in a world, that’s probably not going to be the Christian century say, yeah, yeah. And, and you want to do it, you want to do it unapologetically. And you want to give the whole vision, when it turns out that not everyone is like you, it’s not time to shut up and be quiet. It’s time respectfully and in conversation with other people to articulate what you believe and see if that helps with other people and also helps your own community. And that’s sort of what I think of a theology for the 21st century. A little bit different than Walter rashon. Bush thinking. He’s working for the true democracy in America in the Christian century. Yeah.
I actually had that book within arm’s reach of my office right now. I’m in my office, I think, which was the route, the Russian bush book. He’s a terrific book.
That’s right. It’s a terrific book. And and it’s a socially engaged and it’s a religiously engaged book. The guy is magnificent, right. I mean, there’s a reason why it worked out so well.
So on our part of the Christian tapestry here, you know, it’s really more conservative evangelical. Yeah. There’s a lot of be moaning and wailing about a supposedly, you know, marginalization, sort of enforced marginalization in greater society. Do you think that that’s, I mean, first of all, you know, is that true or not? But secondly, even if it was true, actually, is that necessarily a bad thing?
There there? There’s a great question right there. Rex, I mean, one, is it true? Wow. Yeah, it’s kind of true. I mean, it’s kind of true to the extent that there’s more different people around, it’s kind of true, to the extent that you’re more engaged in the rest of the world, but cannot go back to that stuff from the early part of the 20th century in this country. might be important, because it’s a little myopic, that we’re so sure we’re in the catbird seat. It may not be entirely true, in a lot of ways. And then, of course, there are different varieties of Christianity, right? And a good evangelicals gonna understand that part of the writing high of liberal and Neo orthodox and Christian realism stuff doesn’t necessarily include them all the time. So that’s important, right. But the other thing I think is true is the other question isn’t necessarily that bad thing. Are there some ways in which being in the catbird seat is not optimal for articulating what you believe in an environment? Right? I think the answer that’s got to be Yes, right, Stanley. Howard Ross is not wrong about everything. But but but, you know, okay, I’m not going to try and make you an alternative to the whole world all the time. I had too much for Calvin, I think God rules what’s God’s world? He’s supposed to engage it see what half Yeah. But on the other hand, it is true that thinking you’re in the catbird seat, sometimes these two kind of grand compromise before even though what’s going on, and it’s not so great. That one last thing though, is Richard Baxter, right. Richard Baxter, he of the Christian directory, and writing all that practical theology stuff, and talking about how people should do stuff. The Puritan who’s also an angle can kind of vacuum. Richard Baxter ends up writing a lot of stuff in prison. So it’s a little hard to argue that he’s some establishment, right? But he writes in prison and he tells you that you should participate in the society he tries to figure out what a doctor should be doing what an educator should be doing whether or not you can be a soldier, he does not back down. Now, he knows that he’s not the only guy in town interpreting this stuff, right? I kind of like Richard Baxter on this stuff. I think that maybe if you’re writing a theology of the 21st century, go ahead and interpret this stuff and say what you believe in conversation. don’t back down. And Don’t be an idiot about it. Dismiss everybody all the time. But you should do that. So I guess what I’d like to say to some of my evangelical friends is I’m not sure we’re always displaced. I think part of it is a hangover from a false understanding of being at the center. Yeah, right. But even if you are displaced part of the time, remember Richard Baxter, go ahead and engage the thing and try and do it the way you think is proper. The big point is to witness to God and the kingdom and to Christ. The big point is not to be the winner all the time. The big points to do that. Yeah.
Yeah, that’s so good. And really, when you look back at even most of the New Testament writers experiences right I’m involves mostly writing from prison, not writing from the position of power. And, and so that that desire for the Christian community to be in a place of power to be able to have a voice doesn’t seem to be aligned with the tradition.
I think that’s really right. And Paul, on that kind of stuffs really interesting. You got Romans 13. Oh, it’s not my favorite chapter. But you know, you’re supposed to pay your taxes and participate on a revelation 13 empires a piece pieces and pay your taxes. And there may be some possibilities there. But you know, you got to say that Paul is not running the whole show, but he still thinks you’re participating. And that’s a pretty important point. Really, yeah. And I think Baxter is making a Pauline point in the way let’s not say Paul’s making a Baxter. Reverse reverses history. But just because you’re not in the center of things all the time are in control, doesn’t mean that you don’t have something important to contribute, when you witness to the truth. And you know, if you go to Johnny teen or something like that, and Pilate asks, What is truth? cynical question, because he thinks only power map. And Jesus says, Well, you know, I represent a community or a kingdom of truth and not going to fight this, they’re not going to fight, you know. And pilot says, Well, how many divisions that I have is kind of right. And, you know, the point is that, that the church witnesses to the truth, it believes that the light shines in the darkness anyway. And if you think that’s true, and if you think the truth, there is a power of truth, that is not the same as the principalities and powers. Yeah, well, okay, what what why are you so worried about not being in the center of things and then being in the center things as close to this other kind of power? Maybe it’s helpful once in a while as a corrective not to be there, right. CBS of Cesar Rhea thinks that Constantine the Great on the moon, but I’m not sure it’s the best timeout for Christian theology. There’s so other things to say too.
Yeah. And you also taught me another term there and all that and now it’d be the catbird seat. Now, I heard that but I’m gonna use it now. I’m from Indiana. Right. My mom was from Michigan. And that means that you are you’re controlling, yeah, you’re which is good. Yeah. But I did. I grew up in Indiana. And a small town called Marion, Indiana, Fairmount, Indiana, just about an hour north of Indianapolis. Okay. And then I’m talking to James Dean is France. Right. Jamie Dean,
major, major acclaim? I mean, I think that’s great. Because, you know, the levels like the say that when James James Dean rejects modern society, he’s actually rejecting a particular place. It’s a rejection, but it’s not necessarily rejection of everything. Right. I mean, it’s kind of fun.
Yeah. And hey, we Yeah, we it is definitely a claim to fame, our hometown and county. In your definition of theology, I really found it interesting. You’re connect the connecting theology to the articulation of a vision of God and ourselves in the world. And in my systematic class, we always look at a bunch of different definitions of theology. And, and I would say an eight out of 10 of them, they use the term articulation right because that is something we’re doing Were articulating, which I think is really important. But I like i thought was interesting. You connected piety to theology, which I don’t think often happens. So can you explore that for us like that connection between piety and, and theology?
So I’m a I’m a Edwardes in schleiermacher. Gustafson, other sort of characters, H versioni. We’re kind of guy. Yeah. So I think that religious men Oh, right. I think there’s no divorce between the affections and the articulation of a good theology. I think a good theology is secondary to those affections, and it helps to clarify them. And it helps you to orient in a world with conviction, and with a kind of impetus, right, which I take to be the point about piety. So we call it faith, if you want, I mean, there’s a lot of terms you can use their faith sometimes gets construed as believing that something is the case, yeah. And then it becomes reductive. But of course, that’s not the way the tradition has generally understood it. And if you say I believe in God, the Father almighty maker of heaven on earth, you know, saying, I believe that God the Father, hey, believe in there’s a trust. Yeah, and there is an effective resonance. So that’s the way it’s supposed to be. But I like the piety stuff. For me, a systematic and a theology is in the service of the life of piety and the life of faithfulness. And it is, in that sense, pragmatic, right? That is the big test for theology, the big reason it exists, is to help people do the basic work, which is to be faithful and bet their lives referring to God. Yeah, the basic reference to God is in the life, that the theology refers to God. And we can talk about whether it should be highly metaphysical or not. I’m not all that fond of metaphysics in some ways. But But what I really do like is the idea, it’s the person who refers to now Yeah, it’s the faith in the Bible and piety does. So I think that that’s a really big deal. And so then what I think is the reason that you have theology most of the time, other things that people get interested in, but it’s not most of the time purely speculative. It’s because you’ve got a community that’s trying that has a pastoral aim, to train people to be faithful. And then the question is, well, how am I going to do that? How am I going to be faithful in relation to my neighborhood? How can you be faithful in relation to these kids who are adolescent and behaving in these crazy ways all the time, that are gifts of God. So they need to be construed and interpreted. And that’s why I think that the that the pastoral task, the formation of the people of God has an intellectual moment. It has a moment where theology matters, and why theology matters is because it helps you to on the basis of the tradition relation, the Bible and because you have a pious committed piety and commitment to construe and interpret your life and other things you interact with in relation to God, that’s the first deal. So if you’re interacting with the Pentagon, okay, you want to talk with the Pentagon or Russian guy, suppose you’re not really doing that so much. You’re just hanging around with some adolescent kids in Richmond, Virginia, trying to figure out why they sleep in late at night, everything else? Okay, that’s a good place to. And all those things are important. In that sense. I think a theology is a little like a sermon. It wants to address those things. It wants to help people construe those things in a way that’s faithful in relation to God and Christ. It’s not necessarily gonna make them faithful. It’s not the only game in town. But it’s something to help with a Christian life.
So So do you think that the conversation partners in other disciplines or areas of you know, life is different for theology of the 21st century than and then it was for a theology of, say, centuries before? It’s what what disciplines are, is it imperative at this point that we be in constructive conversations with? Well, there
are differences like that, right. I mean, I think that’s really right. Rex, I mean, I think when you when you get to the turn of the 20th century, the big deal is the social problem, sociology and so forth. That has not gone away. Yeah. You’ve got questions of economics and society. Now they are very important is Martin Luther King, Jr. said Walter rashon. Bush articulates a social dimension that Protestantism should never lose. I think that’s right. We don’t want to go down on the Other hand, it’s also true that you and I are in a global environment, right, we have a bigger sense of how people and cultures are embedded in the planet. And that life is a planetary phenomenon. That kind of stuff is a very big deal with a lot of the biology in the astrobiology. So we know that the way we behave, effects a whole bunch of things, or planetary systems. And we also know that life has always impacted the planetary system, we would not be able to be here and breathe, if a bunch of microbial life didn’t release gases in ways that probably is not polite to bring up here. But you know, and that’s why we can breathe, there’s oxygen. Yeah, so life never leaves an environment untouched. We’re now talking about something that’s a little bit different than Darwin, we’re not just talking about an organism, adjusting to a steady state environment, we’re talking about these two things, adjusting to each other going along like this, in a dynamic process, and we’re embedded. Now that’s a big deal. And one of the ways it’s a big deal is with respect to ecological things in the future of the planet. And it’s God’s good creation. That doesn’t mean you’re never supposed to touch it, if that’s not what it means. And in Genesis, either you can be a steward, you have distinctive capacities of action. And with those distinctive capacities come responsibilities that squirrels don’t have, squirrels are great. And they change some stuff, but they don’t do what you and I do state of Indiana, where your mark, it looks like some from the air that a squirrel could never have. So, you know, those are big things. And we know that now, we also know that we have a global environment, socially and economically. That’s not a post of the social gospel. The social gospel has a sense of that at the beginning of the 20th century. But what we’re talking about now is a much more complete globalized system of things that happen and a way in which everyone is displaced. No one is the center of the whole thing, both ecologically or in terms of global politics and economics. I think it’s one of the big confusing things. When people talk about international politics now. Is it going to be the American century we dominate the whole world? I doubt it. But is it going to be the Chinese century they dominate the whole world? Maybe what we got to think of is some other possible models here? When is the world been this interdependently? interconnect? Right? And are we likely to have the same sort of models emerge? So I think the 21st century is different that way. And then I think it’s different in this country, more pluralized, more fragmented in the country, and so forth. And fragmentation means in part, again, Protestantism of a certain source, not in the catbird seat, what should it do, once you try and articulate as best you can, when it believes, as a witness first, and second, a contribution to a wider conversation? That’s good.
Yeah. And I could see for, like, my students in looking at theology, in taking this approach, bringing in piety and bringing in their lives, I think, is actually something within maybe now the 21st century that they are looking for, like they’re looking for a theology that actually influences their life now, not just a set of propositions or a knowledge and, and looking towards, especially in, you know, kind of the evangelical worlds where we’ve been in there have some ways separated society and, and religious knowledge. bringing those together, I think, is really important.
I surely hope so. I mean, propositional form and systematic theology is very old. And it’s in Thomas Aquinas and another formats, and Bart said a bunch of stuff, nothing to matter with it. It’s trying to be clear, it’s trying to give somebody the reason why Thomas adopts quite steel method is because he thinks it’s the latest instructional stuff of the day, and you can follow the argument and that’s what you want to do with a student as opposed to just have a marginal notes and commentary Glassell glug, right, right. On that evil Tex. Well, so that’s a great thing he wants to be able to follow. The argument is good, I’m all for that. On the other hand, if you get it articulated certain ways, it’s dry intellectual stuff, which I actually think that a lot of the Scholastic Orthodox people were not as dry as they appear to us. Those are their lecture notes, and I think they had other things going on. Yeah, but okay. So you want it to relate to live life. That’s the big deal. The only reason the propositions even exist is if they’re helpful to care that clarify, the lived life, the lived life is the deal. And the big question in life is not, are you going to conquer the world? The big question is like in life is not? Are you going to rule the whole shebang? The big question is life. And life is how are you where you are going to be faithful to God and Christ and to God and neighbor, you know how you plan on doing this, that’s a meaningful life, you may not be able to plan it all out and understand what’s going to be who could do that. But you want to try and be engaged and do that. So that you can say, that’s what you’re trying to do. Now, trying to do that does not save you. grace alone saves. Yeah, you want to be and you want to have a good theology for that too. Because if you start out down this road and try to do this, you will end up relying on grace more often than you first the first thing. And that’s important, but the theology is supposed to help you do that. So the theology is not supposed to help necessarily, the church run everything or something like that, or be the dominant social force, maybe he is, maybe it isn’t. It’s supposed to help you witness is supposed to help you leave a lead a faithful life, one that you think is meaningful, and then that intersects with your heart a little bit, you know,
we probably need to read the transcript of our conversation right here, right at the beginning of every theology class at the beginning of the semester, because I’ve found that most students here, even though it’s a faith based institution, are positively allergic to theology, which is, you know, a shame and a misunderstanding, as you’ve pointed out of what of what the theological enterprise is all about.
I think that’s important or excellent, I think, of course, it’s not really simply their fault. The theology has been presented to them in a certain way. 1234 This is what it is really fighting for. Retail, that’s what it looks like. But you don’t have to go retail here. You can go with some good theologians. They’re there all over the place. You’re not just the big ones that you remember from the history, plenty of places, plenty of ministers, plenty of preachers, plenty of everyone else who’s a really fine theologian, and what you’re going to see is they care about where the breath touches the blood, they care about the light. Yeah, that’s a good thing to say that a lot of Kierkegaard I mean, of course, I headliner, and look, if you refer too much when you’re 18 it’s probably bad for your house. Too much iron Rand, although Kira vastly superior for a while you’re gonna no one was actually the plot of a novel actually, someone started reading Kierkegaard to, like ruin his life. He cares about the stuff he cares, he cares about right? In the heart. Yeah. And and he’s right to do that. And so schleiermacher right, is that is two very different thinkers a lot of ways. Carl Bart, who I know has his problems, which firewall. But if anyone tries to argue that Carl, Bart doesn’t care about a commitment, they’re not Yeah, because he does care about a commitment. And you can read it in a whole bunch of different things of his writings, including the humanity of God, which is a nice little compact essay for someone to look at, or, you know, some of his sermons called release to the cactus that he preaches at prisons in wherever he is in Switzerland. They’re terrific. Yeah. Okay.
Actually, this is a little bit of a blast of past here, but on Donald da, who was one of your colleagues back at Union in his semester long schleiermacher class that I essentially did my final paper, more on Kierkegaard than on schleiermacher and still seem to pass my way through that.
Right, I mean, they both air about affections right and stuff. And they both understand despite the critiques the schleiermacher that there is a kind of an object that defines the piety. If you ask schleiermacher what the object is, the first thing you’re gonna get is a phenomenological denial of objects. Those think there is a God Right. Yeah. And he doesn’t want to make her an object alongside of other objects. Well, good for him. I mean, he’s probably right about that. So yeah, I think it makes perfect sense to do that kind of thing, Rex. I think it also makes perfect sense. If you want to know the truth talk about cure Gar and evangelicalism, schleiermacher and evangelicalism. ration bush evangelicalism, Jim Gustafson and evangelicalism. Obviously Jonathan Edwards and even Joe’s, every one of these people cares about affections and how they go. Yeah. And it’s important.
Yeah. And that kind of connects, and maybe they’re in our kind of final wrap up here. You, you bring in really early in, in your first kind of defining theology, you bring in that role of wonder and mystery. And, and our, again, maybe going back to our experience of the world in our experience of that man’s sense of the Divine that draws our shirt and draws us in.
Well, you know, Jim Gustafson, my teacher wrote a book called The sense of the Divine any claim that there are a number of scientists that have this to that which I think is right. I think that there’s no such thing as an uninterpreted, unmediated experience, right, by the time you and I have, right, right. There’s something going on, right. But that doesn’t mean there’s no content, no experiential content to what you’re talking about. So what we have is we have interpreted or construed experiences. That’s what’s ensconced in a fair amount of the biblical language and everything else, like Genesis one, like Genesis two, or like Psalm 104. I mean, you know, the point of Psalm 104, is not that God literally stretches the heavens out like a tent. That’s a great metaphor. So the point is that everything has its place and what God is. And that’s a reflection of experience. It’s, but it’s a construed experience. And I think that there, you want to say that you do want to go back to experience without reducing it to trying to go back to something before in language before you thought of anything. There’s some kind of crazy idea, you need to do that. But you do want to go back to experience and so you can talk to someone like Abraham Heschel, or read Abraham Heschel, wonderful theologian and no one thing he will tell you that the beginning of knowledge is not radical doubt, it’s radical amazement. It’s that the world really has some compelling stuff going on. You want to be in touch with it. That is a magnificent, magnificent theological thing to say. And I think it’s true. And so you don’t want to lose that. When you’re talking about theology. In, in somewhere in the beginning of all this, people have experiences that they want to track down that have are compelling to them. Sometimes it’s nature. Sometimes it’s another person, you know, you meet somebody, and you talk to them. You talk about where you’re from, they talk about where they’re from. It’s a person, and there’s no one else like that. Quite. Yeah, well, that’s pretty remarkable. Yeah, we can start talking to snowflakes or something except that person there. And you know, you were in an environment you grow up in Indiana. Yeah, look at the countryside. It’s there. It’s not anywhere else. It’s there. And you were in North Carolina and grew up here, but it’s here, you know, it’s that those things are compelling. The compelling presences of things in God’s world that help pull you out from yourself, are in fact an introduction to how to be faithful. That’s great. Yeah.
That’s so good. And that’s a great, I think that’s a great ending point for us pitches. right thing, right. Thank you so much for joining us on the podcast.
But thank you guys so much. I really do appreciate it and you know, blessings on teaching theology and ethics and Bible in the world. Like a Scott, definitely.
Thank you. Thank you for listening to Jessup. Think Be sure to follow us on Twitter at Jessup think we would love to hear your thoughts on the episode and engage with any questions you have. Our aim is to provide a framework for further reflection in deeper exploration of these important topics. You can also help the show by leaving a review on iTunes these reviews help the podcast reach new listeners. Until next time, I’m Mark Moore and this is Jessup.
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