21 Suggestions for Theological Study

OxfordSome time back, Joseph Torres published “30 Suggestions for Theological Students and Young Theologians” by John Frame. Below, I offer 21 suggestions for theological study, admittedly from the perspective of someone who could only be called a theological student and/or young theologian.

  1. Make God revealed in Christ the focus of your theological work. The fundamental work of theology is “faith seeking understanding”, to seek God and communicate His reality to humanity. If your theological project is not furthering God’s Kingdom, you’re not doing theology.

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Book Review: Richard John Neuhaus (Boyagoda)

Richard John Neuhaus - A Life in the Public Square, BoyagodaBiographies are intensely personal affairs, filled with the often mundane details purporting to tell the life story of some person of alleged importance. Occasionally, however, a figure of true influence will come along and change the world. In the American context, such figures have often been religious or political leaders, those two realms of discourse which seem to influence all others. Indeed, few can deny that Washington, Lincoln, King, and Graham do not continue to play important roles in shaping our context. Yet few characters of history have simultaneously transformed both religion and politics. One such person was the late Father Richard John Neuhaus, whose public advocacy—for both political left and right and for Christian faith in the public square—continues to influence our world. Continue reading

C. S. Lewis on Myth (Part IV)

This post is the final in our series examining C. S. Lewis’s view of “myth.”

C. S. Lewis (2)Lewis gives perhaps his clearest exposition on myth in his essay entitled “Myth Became Fact“. Lewis begins this essay with the idea that he is going to refute his friend Corineus and his assertion that no one who calls themselves a Christian is actually a Christian in any meaningful sense. To Corineus, Christianity is something horrible that no modern man could accept in its totality, and thus those who confess Christianity are really confessing modernism using Christian jargon. Lewis seeks to dispel the idea that Christianity is a “system of names, rituals, formulae, and metaphors which persist although the thoughts behind it have changed” (“Myth Became Fact, 138). Lewis asks Corineus, and those like him, “Why, on his view, do all these educated and enlightened pseudo-Christians insist on expressing their deepest thoughts in terms of an archaic mythology which must hamper and embarrass them at every turn?” (Ibid., 138) Continue reading

Predestination and Freewill: N. T. Wright

This post is part of our ongoing series examining Romans, Predestination, and Freewill.

N. T. WrightIn The New Interpreter’s Bible, N.T. Wright begins by writing that, “Romans is neither a systematic theology nor a summary of Paul’s lifework, but it is by common consent his masterpiece.”[1] Wright describes the main theme of the letter as “God’s gospel unveiling God’s righteousness,” which describes “Paul’s own summary in 1:16-17, and the letter does, indeed, unpack this dense statement…. The phrase ‘the righteousness of God’ summed up sharply and conveniently, for a first century Jew such as Paul, the expectations that the God of Israel… would be faithful to the promises made to the patriarchs.”[2] With this understanding of Romans, Wright argues that, “The flow of thought through the letter as a whole makes far more sense if we understand the statement of the theme in 1:17 as being about God and God’s covenant faithfulness and justice, rather than simply about ‘justification.’ It brings into focus chapters 9-11, not as an appendix to a more general treatment of sin and salvation, but as the intended major climax of the whole letter….”[3] For Wright, much like Dunn, there remains room within the larger theme of covenant faithfulness for other readings of major subjects, especially the salvation of humans.[4] However, “Paul’s [overarching] aim, it seems, is to explain to the Roman church what God has been up to and where they might belong on the map of these purposes.”[5] Continue reading

Christmas Letter 2014

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With Sam, Noah, and Madalyn at HillBilly Hideaway in NC

Merry Christmas from Jake and Hayley Prahlow! We hope that this missive finds you warm, well-fed (though not overly so, of course), and celebrating the joy of the Savior’s birth this December. 2014 has been another year of tremendous change for our family. Throughout everything that has happened this year, we have been reminded of our need to rely on the mercy of our gracious God and trust in Him, no matter where the path of life leads us. Continue reading

Book Review: The Body and Society (Brown)

The Body and SocietyIn the updated 20th anniversary edition of his classic work, The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity, Peter Brown examines the “practice of permanent sexual renunciation—continence, celibacy, life-long virginity” that developed in Christian circles from the first through fifth centuries.[1] In this work, Brown examines a vast array of perspectives within the early Christian context, purposing to clarify notions of the human body and society within Christian renunciation and to examine the effects of those ideas among Christian writers.[2] This review will summarize Brown’s work and offer an assessment of the strength of his claim that there was no mainstream perspective on sexuality and the body in early Christianity.[3] Continue reading

Reflections on the Present Age

This article originally appeared at Conciliar Post.

from the blog www.stuckincustoms.comSome authors make a lasting impression on one’s mind, for good or for bad. For me, one such writer is Søren Kierkegaard (1813-55), whom I first engaged while an undergraduate at Valparaiso University. While reading Kierkegaard, one cannot help but be flummoxed by large portions of his prose—there’s simply too much there to engage in its fullness. You are like a kindergartener, who is desperately trying to make sense of a chalkboard filled with Einstein’s equations but helpless to do so. But—and this is the glory of Kierkegaard—amidst the haze, one finds moments of brilliant sunshine. An image or idea breaks through the swirling clouds and, suddenly, it makes sense. For moments such as these, I find myself returning to Kierkegaard again and again. Continue reading

Reflections Upon a Move

Out with the old...

Out with the old…

It’s that time of the year again: time for school to start again after a few glorious months of fun, relaxation, and vacation time. Or at least, that’s how it used to be. In recent years, summer has meant work, as in, “Time to make money so you don’t die during the school year.” In addition to work, however, two of my past three summers have involved some a bit more time consuming (and expensive) than taking a vacation: moving.

Two years ago I left home, along with my wife a few months, and deposited myself in Winston-Salem (NC) in order to pursue a master’s degree in religion at Wake Forest University. While experiencing several long-distance moves whilst younger, there’s nothing quite like loading all of your worldly possessions (or at least those you don’t leave in boxes in your parents’ basement) into a car and moving twelve hours away from what has been your life.

We learned lots during our time in Winston-Salem. There were good times and bad times, fun experiences along with heartache, moments of celebration and periods of uncertainty and pain. We made some great friends and grew closer to extended family during our time in the South, and (I believe) emerged better, more balanced people as a result of our two years in North Carolina. Yet all good things must come to an end, and it was truly with a mix of sadness and expectation that we loaded up our moving truck last week (with the help of my brother Sam) and trekked some twelve hours west to Saint Louis, Missouri.

Twelve hours gives one lots of time to talk, and Hayley and I reflected upon our time in Winston-Salem during many of those hours. It was sad to leave yes, less for the place than the people whom we had grown to love. Friends from work and school will be sorely missed, though Facebook and (hopeful) return visits help dampen such pain. Having been born in North Carolina, there are family connections that will be missed as well. We began our time in Winston with one wedding of Hayley’s cousins and departed mere hours after another wedding, two bookends to some great times with family. Winston-Salem was, in many ways, the ideal place for Hayley and I to begin our life together, and we are thankful for all of the memories that were forged there.

... In with the new.

… In with the new.

Twelve hours in a moving truck also gives one lots of time to think, at least when one’s wife is napping. Moving offers opportunities. Chances to start fresh, forge new habits, meet new people, experience things not possible at the old place, form new friendship, and learn new lessons about life. There’s something exciting about moving to a new city to start a five-year journey to a PhD, complete with all the reading and research. it entails It will also be nice to be much closer to our immediate families – five hours is very (very) different than twelve.

But moving is challenging too. You have to learn where the grocery store is, figure out the place with the least expensive gas, navigate new traffic patterns and rush hours, find new internet service providers which are a pain to deal with (or is that just me?), find a new church family, and form a new community of friends. New jobs must be secured, new habits formed, and new experiences had, all of which can be rather daunting.

We are glad to be in Saint Louis safely, and excited to see what God has in store for us hear over the next several years. Thank you for journeying along with us here at Pursuing Veritas.

Book Review: Varieties of Religious Experience (James)

The Varieties of Religious Experience by William JamesIn The Varieties of Religious Experience, a work based on his delivery of the Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh, William James sought to examine from the perspective of psychology the subject of religious experiences, seeking to understand man and his consciousness concerning religion.[1] Varieties has become a classic work in a number of fields, but especially so in the study of religious experiences and psychology of religion, a fact to which The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church attests.[2] In this work, James examines an enormous amount of data concerning religious experiences and concludes that religious experience constitutes a positive saving experience that appears to be literal and objective insofar as he can determine.[3] In this paper, we will review and examine James’ book, paying particular attention to facets that may need rethinking or revision in the current 21st Century religious and academic contexts. It should be noted that James provides in this work an astounding amount of evidence and that the scope and depth of his work remains such that we cannot consider every nuance of his presentation. Thus only major points, both for James and for our current consideration, will be examined. Upon reviewing this work, we will find that James has a great deal of insight and evidence to offer concerning religious experiences, but that his perspective needs revision and expansion before it can be considered normative for argumentation today. Continue reading

Immediate Reaction: SCOTUS and Hobby Lobby

hobby_lobbyBy now you’ve likely heard: the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled 5-4 in favor of Hobby Lobby’s (and other companies) contention that it should not be forced to provide certain types of contraception for its employees due to the religious beliefs concerning abortion (click here for the full text of the ruling). Below are some immediate thoughts on this ruling:

First, this is a victory for those in favor of religious freedom. While certain media organizations and the Oval Office have tried to frame this discussion in terms of ‘healthcare’ or ‘basic contraceptive care,’ that’s not what this case is really about. The health insurance which Hobby Lobby already provides its employees actually includes most of the ‘contraceptive’ and birth control options required under the Affordable Care Act. Yes, you read that right: Hobby Lobby already provides its employees with ‘birth control.’ This case was therefore about whether or not the United States government can force companies to provide medical care which may lead to the death of a human being, an important, long-standing issue for people of many religious persuasions across our country.

Second, there will be much said in the next few days (weeks, months, years) similar to this piece by Richard Cizik in the Huffington Post. Pro-life and pro-freedom advocates must take these concerns seriously and respond appropriately. There has already been enough rhetoric surrounding this case; it’s time for sustained clear thinking about how we may continue to defend human life and freedom.

Third, this case is yet another in a long-stream of SCOTUS cases in which the Obama Administration has been on the losing side. There have been exceptions, of course (namely the ruling on the Constitutionality of the ACA itself). But the White House has not had a ton of good news lately, and it will be interesting to see how our President and his supporters respond to this setback.