Category Archives: Theology Quotes

Bernard Lonergan on Community

A Community is not just a number of men within a geographical frontier. It is an achievement of common meaning, and there are kinds and degrees of achievement. Common meaning is potential when there is a common field of experience, and to withdraw from that common field is to get out of touch. Common meaning is formal when there is common understanding, and one withdraws from that common understanding by misunderstanding, by incomprehension, by mutual incomprehension. Common meaning is actual inasmuch as there are common judgments, areas in which all affirm and deny in the same manner; and one withdraws from that common judgment when one disagrees, when one considers true what others hold false and false what they think true. Common meaning is realized by decisions and choices, especially by permanent dedication, in the love that makes families, in the loyalty that makes states, in the faith that makes religions. Community coheres or divides, begins or ends, just where the common field of experience, common understanding, common judgment, common commitments begin and end.

from Method in Theology (Univ. of Toronto Pr, 1990 [Originally 1972]), 79.


Know Thyself…

Am I right to catch a pattern or convergence of logic between these three comments?

  • Theologian

Someone rightly said, “A person either has character or he invents a method.” I believe that and have been trying for years to trade method for character.

from Hans Frei, Types of Christian Theology, Eds. Hunsinger and Placher (Yale Univ. Pr, 1994), 19.

  • Church Leader

It [this study] will encourage leaders to focus first on their own integrity and on the nature of their own presence rather than on techniques for manipulating or motivating others.

from Ed Friedman, A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, Rev. Ed. (Church Publishing, 2017), 14.

  • Preacher

This book suggests that one answer to the question of what is wrong with preaching is that preachers are working with inadequate metaphors of identity, what we will call “homiletic identities,” that fail to encourage a more faithful preaching in the image and practice of Christ. Identity shapes practice; if you know who you are, you know what to do. If you do not know who you are as a preacher, then your preaching suffers.

This book asks not what is the right technique to master, but rather what is the right homiletic identity to be mastered by.

from Trygve Johnson, The Preacher as Liturgical Artist (Cascade, 2014), xii. The metaphors of identity Johnson proceeds to unpack are those of the preacher as teacher, herald, and liturgical artist — for those wondering.

Darren Sarisky on Webster-style theological theology

…operating theologically entails that the discipline cannot frame an account of its own procedures without direct recourse to theological categories…

This requires, first, that theologians grant God priority in their study, rather than allowing a philosophical account of the subjective conditions of the enquirer to determine their method. The problem with a transcendental anthropology is that it grants only the slightest formative role to theology in conceiving of the nature of the human knower, and, among other things, this obscures the way in which theological reason is caught in the dynamics of the fall and regeneration. Taking one’s cue from a theological ontology, by contrast, sets the discussion of theological inquiry into an entirely different register. In this case, who the human inquirer is is spelled out by recourse to a theological anthropology; the proximate objects of study, written texts, are understood as part of the deposit of ecclesial tradition; and the practice of intellectual reflection can be unpacked as an episode in the history of the reconciliation of God and human beings, one in which inquirers together form the company of the saints. What makes the crucial difference is that each of these topics is viewed sub specie divnitatis.

from Theological Theology: Essays in Honor of John Webster, Eds. Nelson, Sarisky, and Stratis (Bloomsbury, 2015), 3.

Gilbert Meilaender on when curiosity can be vicious

Many possibilities may pique my curiosity — I may wonder how … human beings respond to experiments harmful to their bodies, or even to suffering; how the development of a fertilized egg could be stimulated to produce a monster rather than a normal human being; how to preserve a human being alive forever. I may wonder, but it would be wrong to seek to know. Not, in every case, because I cannot know, but because I cannot possess such knowledge while willing what is good. … To love the good and to possess what we love are, in this life, not always compatible. Hence, to seek always to love the good is to commit ourselves to a life that seeks to receive, not to possess.

Although Augustine does not outline for us any general principle by which we can always distinguish a proper desire for knowledge from the vice of curiosity, we can learn from him the attitude which may at least make virtue possible — an attitude characterized by a reverent desire to understand creation rather than a longing to possess the experience of knowing.

from The Theory and Practice of Virtue (Univ. Notre Dame Pr., 1984), 140.

Telford Work on science, religion, and facing reality

Literalistic creation science must disregard or distort the massive and accumulating credible evidence of humanity’s evolutionary origins and character as well as the signs that the Bible’s creation accounts are not literal chronologies. Intelligent Design theory, already unattractive to scientists as a “science stopper,” cannot match its rival’s elegance and explanatory power. Likewise, naturalistic accounts of “religion” misrepresent traditions such as historic Christianity that do not fit their scientific paradigms. [Daniel] Dennett’s and [Michael] Shermer’s learned speculations on the rise of religious ideas and experiences uncannily ignore two thousand years of insistent Christian testimony that the bedrock of our tradition is not some mystical experience, archetypical figure, or compelling idea, but simply the apostles’ testimony to Jesus’ death and resurrection and the powerful outpouring of his Holy Spirit. In other words, neither side can really afford to take the other side’s evidence seriously. Both of these camps of imperialists are fighting for what all empires treasure: its vision of reality, whose most stubborn enemy is not disbelievers but reality itself.

from “What Have the Galapagos to Do with Jerusalem? Scientific Knowledge in Theological Context,” in Eds. James K.A. Smith and Amos Yong, Science and the Spirit: A Pentecostal Engagement with the Sciences (Indiana Univ. Pr., 2010).

Mark Seifrid on preaching law and gospel

We must avoid the danger of producing by our preaching mere cathartic experiences, which ever only end in the implicit word, “You have been forgiven, go home and feel better.” This preaching finally becomes cheap grace. At the same time we must avoid dispensing mere moral instruction that implicitly ends with the thought, “This is what God wants you to do. Go home and by the help of the spirit, try harder.” This preaching finally becomes cheap ethics. To rightly preach the demands of God and the grace of God in Christ, to rightly preach law and gospel, will mean that we must first preach not merely abstractly and generally, but really and concretely to real sinners concerning real sins. We desperately need pastors and not mere preachers. In preaching the gospel we must announce that the gospel of the forgiveness of sins brings forgiveness and release from real sins to a new life, reminding our hearers that new life has been given to each one of US, according to our needs, in Christ, the gospel brings the fulfillment of the law, the life of the new creation into the present world—into our lives in the present world.

from “Beyond Law and Gospel? Reflections on Speaking the Word in a (Post)modern World,” Concordia Journal (2017), 39-40.

[I do wish Seifrid had more to say about how to navigate the Scylla of cheap grace and the Charybdis of cheap ethics, but either way he’s put his finger on two live threats to be wary of.]

Ephraim Radner on Leviticus

…the details of Leviticus, taken within the sacrificial movement of Christ, demand that we draw into a direct relationship of responsibility with God the range of elements upon which our love, ordered to God, is to be exercised. These necessarily include prayer, disease, sexual relations, moral usage of money, animals, crops and plantings, the poor, civic life, and accountability. Thus, Leviticus provides the theological underpinnings…for understanding the material world of creation in which and through which and for which our Christian lives are to be led: the environment, labor, the use of the human body, property, and so on. It does so by naming these things, but also by placing them particularistically in a relationship to the incorporating love of God—in the character of giving/offering rather than of taking; in the character of cherishing for the sake of God alone rather than for our own sake or for the end of their own denial. That all these things are bound up with the sacrificial acts of the people of God before God means simply that they cannot be rendered subordinate to other ethical matters. They are unavoidable matters of faith. [295]

[…] As its Hebrew title suggests, the book is a calling. The book leads us back into the world—which may seem a strange thing to emphasize as a peculiarly Christian calling. But since that world has, for so long at the hands of Christians, been forgotten, manipulated, or abused simply for lack of love of God, that is, for the negligence of sacrifice, the call is absolutely essential. [299]

[…] So Jesus’s response to the sacrificial calling of the law is to present his own body: “Lo, I have come do to they will,” something accomplished “through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” [288]

from Leviticus, Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible (2008)