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Posts tagged "Robert Jenson"


Robert Jenson (1930-2017) on the Proclamation of the Gospel

Scott Jones has already posted an article worth your time on Robert Jenson who died last week. He is, as Scott also pointed out, likely the most brilliant American theologian since Jonathan Edwards. My seminary professor, Piotr Małysz, lent me his Systematic Theology, Volume 1 while I was still in school, and I could tell immediately that I was reading one of the greats. If you have yet to read him, start with “How the World Lost Its Story” or with his latest book, A Theology in Outline. Here is an early writing from Jenson on the mind-blowingly profound, yet simple, Gospel that tells me about Jesus’ future and thus about my future as well:

The word of proclamation narrates what happened with Jesus and asserts that what happened with Jesus will happen to you as your death-certain destiny, that the achievement of love-out-of-death which he enacted will fulfill your lives also. The word of proclamation is the assertion that you go to meet him, and will therefore conclude your lives by total involvement in his. It is the assertion that you have a destiny and that he is it, that his story tells of it.

In the word of proclamation, the story of the past Jesus is addressed to me as my future, as my possibility. If then it occurs that as an event in my life I enact this story as and when it is so proclaimed, then what happened with Jesus is not only the past which my action recalls, it is also the future in which my action will eventuate. Then this enacting is the event of my being destined to this destiny. In the context of the proclamation and not otherwise, our speaking and acting-out of the gospel story is, precisely as an enacting which is an occurrence in our lives like any other, our choosing and being chosen to this destiny which is real to us as the story of Jesus. It is, therefore, the event of our having Jesus’ story as our story.

In the context of this proclamation, worship is the effective hearing of the proclamation, by which I am given love-out-of-death as my chosen future. As such it is the being done to me of what Jesus suffered himself and did to his followers. It is when Jesus’ story is enacted as not only past but also future that the enactment and not merely the enacting is a present event in our lives—and it is the word of proclamation that the past can be future.

A Religion Against Itself

Can These Bones Live?

Can These Bones Live?

The greatest American theologian since Jonathan Edwards died this week. His name was Robert Jenson. But to his friends he was “Jens.” Jenson wrote scores of books. His impact on Christian theology will be felt for generations to come. He was a theologian’s theologian with a pastoral heart and a subtle missiological eye. He was […]

Riding Bikes with the Mitford Sisters, Six Feet Under.

Riding Bikes with the Mitford Sisters, Six Feet Under.

The training wheels came off at the cemetery. That sounds incredibly macabre,  like a snippet from an Edward Gorey book, but the reality is much more prosaic. With the cemetery a couple houses down from where I grew up on a busy state route, it was the safest place to learn to ride. My great-grandfather, […]

Living <del>in Denial</del> in Victory

Living in Denial in Victory

If you read enough popular Christian books, listen to enough Christian sermons, radio shows, or podcasts, you could reasonably get the idea that Christians are like the Black Knight in Monty Python and The Holy Grail. With cries of, “I’m invincible!” the Knight continues to fight, even after King Arthur has relieved him of all of […]

God as a Magnifying Mirror of Me: On American Folk Religion

God as a Magnifying Mirror of Me: On American Folk Religion

At the end of August, I shared a quote from sociologist Zygmunt Bauman in which he described social media networks and various communities in our day as reflections of the individual. That is, we contemporary Americans tend to seek out communities and people that help express our inner selves more visibly to the wider world. Like […]

Surviving the Albatross of a Disgustingly Perfect Christmas

Surviving the Albatross of a Disgustingly Perfect Christmas

Billboard’s Top 100 Holiday Songs for the week of December 26, 2015 is an interesting piece to ponder. On the surface, it’s a mere summary of what’s happening around the holidays at a radio station nearest you, a glimpse into the pop culture of a standard American holiday. Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas […]

But Which God?: Revisiting the Law And Gospel Debate

But Which God?: Revisiting the Law And Gospel Debate

A few months ago, I wrote a brief piece entitled “When John Locke Turned Gospel into Law”, one that I considered to be true to the classic Mockingbird message: the unmistakably clear articulation of grace. Trying to connect that message with the philosopher John Locke’s vision of Christianity, I challenged his version of “the covenant […]

Robert Jenson on the Unconditional Kingdom

From the Lutheran theologian Robert Jenson in his short book entitled Story and Promise:

41x-PVfnmzL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_Jesus took away from his hearers the possibility of neutralizing God’s futurity, of mitigating its threat and challenge by cutting out a time of their autonomous own in which to plan and prepare for it, and getting it—even a little bit—into present control. He asserted God’s future as uncontrollable and free—as God’s and so as true future….

That is, Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom unconditionally; he left no time to fulfill “if…” clauses. This is what got him into trouble, for it made his message socially and religiously revolutionary. If there are no conditions to be fulfilled for participation in humanity’s fulfillment, then in the end the righteous man has no advantage over the sinner, the respected man no advantage over the proletarian, the believer no advantage over the unbeliever….

Jesus did not merely proclaim to the poor, the publicans, and the sinners that in God’s future they would be new men, he treated them then and there as the new men they would be. His message had nothing in it of ‘pie in the sky by and by.’ This is the point of one of the most pervasive recollections about Jesus’ actions: that he ‘ate with publicans and sinners.’ In all cultures, eating together is an expression of fellowship; in oriental cultures, it creates permanent brotherhood; and in Israel, because of the table prayers, it creates brotherhood before God. Jesus’ chosen brothers before God were the outsiders.

We regulate our relations with our fellows by what they have been; if a teenager is hooked on dope, we do not encourage our children to make him a friend. Jesus did the opposite: he brought his fellows into his life not in terms of what they had been, but of what they would be. And not in terms of what it could be predicted they would be, on the basis of a ‘little bit of good in everyone’ or of what he planned to reform them to, but in terms of what they could be only by God’s miracle. He enacted God’s future as his brothers’ own present.

It's Not Easy Being Green (or Totally Depraved)

It’s Not Easy Being Green (or Totally Depraved)

Maybe it is because I’m still recovering from my 2 ½ hour, 3D cage fight with Mother Earth (to the right), but I was pleased run across an article on the Chronicle of Higher Education blog entitled “Green Guilt” that is helping with my deprogramming. Additionally, since it so closely mirrors one of my earlier […]