Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My Talk at CTSFW is on the Web.

Here it is. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed giving it!
http://media.ctsfw.edu/3690

11 comments:

  1. Thanks, Jack. I viewed the entire lecture.

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  2. As I stated elsewhere I enjoyed the lecture. For those interested you can purchase Jack's doctoral dissertation here

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  3. Dr. Kilcrease,
    When Paul says that Christ died for our sins, would Forde then understand this merely as Christ dying as a result of sin, since sinful men killed Him? Or did he simply see this language as picture language, as it were, that Paul used for the sake of making his other points?

    I enjoyed watching it. Symposia was a lot of fun.

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  4. Thanks Kermit for the question.

    My feeling is that Forde would probably say the former. Also, he might acknowledge that Paul is actually saying that Christ died to atone for sin. Nevertheless, he would attribute this though to the influence of Hellenistic Jewish Christians who developed early creedal formulas that Paul is drawing upon. Paul, says Forde, simply repeated these formulas without actually agreeing with them. Nice trick!

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    1. Do you think that it is really fair to say that Forde DENIES substitutionary atonement? It seems to be that he no more 'denies' it than he does the moral example theory or the victory motif. Rather, Forde seems to accept much of substitionary atonement theory--as well as much of the others--and instead asserts that all of these theories do not capture, and are indeed incapable of capturing the full reality of Christ's crucifixion, i.e., they cannot finally wrap themselves around the cursed and dying Christ on the cross. This seems to me to be a part of Forde's basic understanding of the nature, place, and purpose of theology, namely, of not explaining God's works via theory, but of being teleologically structured toward the actual proclamation of the Gospel: that Christ has died for our sins (and Forde had no problem saying that).

      Furthermore, in regard to the accusation that Forde's theology of the atonement is somehow indebted to Kant for its emphasis on the phenomenal rather than the noumenal, I find this to be a bit silly. Forde's attempt to disregard any encroaching 'celestial payment' which occurs beyond our vision of the bleeding and dying Christ for us is due to his reading of Luther, not Kant. In the Heidelberg Disputation, as I am sure you recall, Luther calls us to be theologians of the cross, and to 'call a thing what it is', rather than theologians of glory 'who claims to see into the invisible things of God'. I believe that this is a fair interpretation of Forde's theology, irrespective of whether or not one agrees with it.

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    2. Jerome, First thanks for reading my blog.

      "Do you think that it is really fair to say that Forde DENIES substitutionary atonement? It seems to be that he no more 'denies' it than he does the moral example theory or the victory motif."

      We'll, yes, he claims that all don't really capture the full reality of the atonement. This doesn't mean that he doesn't explicitly deny them. What is somewhat comical about his treatment is that he says that you can't really capture the atonement in a theory and then he gives a theory, which, pretty much is the a combination of the moral influence and victory ones.

      A couple of points I think should be made about this. First, I'm not really certain what we're supposed to gain by saying that the content of the atonement can't be verbalized in a dogmatic formula. It seems to me that like so much modern theology that this basically sounds good and mysterious to people, but a person really gains nothing by it and actually loses much by it.

      Secondly, Forde is just taking over a claim from Aulen here (like much of his treatment). Again, I would attribute this to a Kantian belief that we can know the effects of things (redemption) but not what things are in themselves. Being a philosophical/theological realist, I find this claim to be absurd.

      "Furthermore, in regard to the accusation that Forde's theology of the atonement is somehow indebted to Kant for its emphasis on the phenomenal rather than the noumenal, I find this to be a bit silly. Forde's attempt to disregard any encroaching 'celestial payment' which occurs beyond our vision of the bleeding and dying Christ for us is due to his reading of Luther, not Kant. In the Heidelberg Disputation, as I am sure you recall, Luther calls us to be theologians of the cross, and to 'call a thing what it is', rather than theologians of glory 'who claims to see into the invisible things of God'. I believe that this is a fair interpretation of Forde's theology, irrespective of whether or not one agrees with it."

      Well, but the fact of the matter is that Forde's whole treatment is rather strongly rooted in Kant. The studies of Luther that Forde draws upon are very heavily influenced by Kant, as was the whole Luther Renaissance. Moreover, I would not dispute that in terms of knowing God, the knowledge of the crucified Jesus for Luther must temper our will to ascend to the hidden God. Nevertheless Luther never denies and in fact insists that God in Christ has paid for sin. Nor does he, as Forde does, deny talk of God in himself. He neither does he speak in the actualistic terms that Forde does, which really is borrowed from Karl Barth, who is channeling both Kant and Hegel. Hegel probably could also be considered another major source for Forde, since he describes the hidden God is something akin to Hegel's "bad infinite."

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    3. Dr. Kilcrease,

      Thank you for you blog, as well as for your thoughtful response to my comments.

      Here are some thoughts I had about your response:

      1. It is true that Forde does propose a 'theory' of atonement in attacking the shape of the tradition of atonement theories. The crucial difference, however, lies in the nature and function of Forde's theory in contrast to the others. All three of the major theories attempt to capture the full reality of the atonement within themselves, whereas Forde's theory orients itself toward the proclamation of the Gospel, whereby the work of Christ on the cross is actually done, i.e., Forde does not attempt to resolve the matter of God's wrath via dogmatic formulation, but rather through a clear and radical proclamation of the Word of promise in Christ. As Forde says, "The only cure for the Absolute is absolution!"

      2. I still find the labelling of Forde as 'Kantian' (and now 'Barthian' and 'Hegelian'[!] as well) to be absurd and unnecessary. Forde's theological approach and method is ground firmly in the Scriptures, the Confessions, and in the writings of Luther. It appears to me that you are attempting to associate Forde's theology with Kant's and Hegel's philosophies in order to discredit him, rather than addressing the texts of Scripture, Luther, and the Confessions that clearly--at least to my mind--shaped and informed the content and structure of this man's theology.

      3. Forde does talk about God in Himself. He is a strong defender of the absoluteness of God and he strongly objects to the 'new orthodoxy' of patripassianism.

      5. Forde identifies the proper place and purpose of theology, namely, not to operate as though it were an end in itself but rather as a means to the end of proclaiming the Word of promise in Christ. The full reality of the atonement CAN be captured, but not in a dogmatic formulation--only in preaching.

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    4. 1. Orientation towards the proclamation of the gospel for Forde tends to be the reduction of the cognitive aspects of the faith to the existential phenomenon of proclamation. Rejecting the historical reliability of the Bible, or the ability to talk about the ding an sich, Forde is forced to take such a position as all post-Kantian Protestant dogmaticians have.

      2. Claiming that Forde's position are "ground[ed] firmly in the Scriptures, the Confessions, and in the writings of Luther" is ridiculous. Since Luther, the Confessions, and Scripture all directly contradict Forde's theological claims, I hardly think one can saying that his method is rooted in them. If you read my dissertation, I show that Forde's use of the Bible is lamentable. Since it's pretty obvious that no one in the NT supports his view (because they all support substitutionary atonement) he's forced to claim that they were all trying to protect themselves from the harsh existential impact of the cross. Paul got it right, claims Forde. Oh, but he also taught substitution! Well, he was just repeating certain creedal formulas that he didn't really believe in- problem solved! The sections where he deals with Luther are equally bad, if not worse. Forde repeatedly cites Luther teaching substitutionary atonement and then follows the quote by saying something like "wow, look Luther doesn't teach substitutionary atonement!" In my revised dissertation (which I intend to publish), I give about 4 or 5 examples of this. Luther obviously did teach substitutionary atonement. Just a casual reading of the Catechisms demonstrates this. Regarding the Confessions, Forde (like most theologians of his generation) completely ignores them. Nevertheless, the Confessions repeatedly affirm substitutionary atonement- especially in the FC adoption of the distinction between active and passive righteousness.

      The actual source of Forde's view of atonement is the 19th century Erlangen theologian Johannes von Hofmann, whom he wrote his dissertation on. He takes over the whole thing almost directly.

      I'm not trying to discredit him merely by making reference to his reliance on German Idealism. It's what German Idealism says about the divine-human relationship that I find probLematIc. Moreover, part of the point is that his approach is not really historically Lutheran. He's more a child of post-Kantian German Protestant dogmatics. His concept of Christian freedom is Kant's concept of autonomy. His concept of the law is Kant's concept of heteronomy- and as I showed in my article on the subject is explicitly contradicted by Luther (particularly in the Genesis commentary).

      3. I was not saying that Forde rejects God's absoluteness. What I was saying is that he existentializes the knowledge of God. Why is it that he never talks about the Trinity, for example? What he reduces all theological discourse to are the categories of hidden and revealed. What these are are a description of the existential impact of God and not talk about God in himself (i.e. the Trinity).

      4 (you put down 5, I think you meant 4). Well, there you go again! Yes, of course he thinks that. So, atonement cannot be comprehended as a ding an sich, rather really only its effect on us can be dealt with.

      This is kinda my point. Forde likes to dress up his theology in very pious terms of only being concerned with the pastoral impact of theology. But really its simply the result of a loss of nerve on the part of modern theology to talk about real cognitively knowable objects and not just the existential impact of certain performative language. This allows theology to abandon the external world to secularity and give it unlimited rights to narrate reality as it sees fit. Basically this is simply the fulfillment of a process that began at the Peace of Westphalia, turning religion into something private and interior- while leaving the external world to secularists.

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    5. Dr. Kilcrease,

      Thank you once again for your thoughtful response.

      I disagree that Forde's theology is reductionistic. It is teleological, as is all theology. Theology either finds its telos in its own explanations, descriptions, and theories, or it finds its telos in the actual, concrete proclamation of the Gospel. Forde does not reject second-order theological discourse, he only seeks to relocate it to its proper place: as the servant to first-order theological discourse.

      It also does not follow from the premise "Forde DOES NOT talk about the Trinity" that, therefore, "Forde REJECTS talk about the Trinity." His use of the 'categories' of God not preached (Law) and God preached (Gospel) is a use of the most fundamental and basic theological distinction that must be made, and without which Scripture remains a closed book. Without this distinction we are left only with the first half of it: the hidden God. No amount of second-order discourse on the Trinity, no matter how exhaustive, robust, or erudite, can finally deliver one from the hiddenness of God. Without God preached, the Trinity is of no benefit to me.

      Lastly, Forde's rejection of the notion that our theories can fully grasp the complete reality and event of the atonement is because Forde holds that what was accomplished on the cross was the actual, concrete taking away of sins in the flesh of the bleeding and dying Christ. The atonement, then, is an actual 'doing' of forgiveness. Where is this concrete, actual forgiveness 'done'? In the Word of proclamation. Only through the folly of preaching, of actually delivering, performing, and giving the forgiveness of sins, is the atonement fully realized and captured. The atonement is not merely an idea (second-order discourse), but a concrete event of the forgiveness of sins (first-order discourse).

      I do plan on reading your dissertation. Also, best wishes on getting your revised version published.

      In Christ,
      Jerome

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  5. Thanks Dr. Kilcrease. I appreciate your response. Oh, and sorry about my screen name. My real name is Andrew, not Kermit. Once upon a time, I thought it was funny to give myself the pseudonym Kermit for my gmail/blogspot account. I suppose I should change that. Sorry about that.

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