August 29, 2010

The Passing of Theologian Donald Bloesch

Michael Bird at Euangelion notes the passing of theologian Donald Bloesch. I am very saddened to hear of his death. I have greatly appreciated his thoughtful theological writing. Bloesch, most notably for me, was an evangelical who remained within his mainline tradition (United Church of Christ), and wrote out of that context. This helped produce, I think, a wonderful blend of the biblical, historical, and theological. He drew heavily, though not uncritically, on Karl Barth. His great 7-volume systematic theology, Christian Foundations, contains some real jems: I especially appreciate God the Almighty, Holy Scripture,  and The Holy Spirit. I found great solace in his writing, especially as I myself was seeking to do theology out of a mainline context throughout Seminary while maintaining my evangelical sensibilities, and in fact seeking to enrich my thinking in both ways (drawing on the wonderful riches of the mainline heritage, i my case Lutheran, while also preserving the great and deep evangelical currents and especially the close ties to the Bible). Bloesch served as a great encouragement in this sense as this is precisely what his project accomplishes.

I recall one particular enlightenment I gained from him, on how to think through the meaning and purpose of the sacraments. It was through Bloesch that I gained an appreciation for the great nourishment and value of the sacraments, and how they could and would be a locus of the activity of the Holy Spirit, without at the same time falling prey to a view that attributes some type of automatic or salvation-giving power to the action in and of itself.

In all, I owe a great debt to Bloesch, and will continue to gain great insight from his work, which I richly commend. May he rest overjoyed in God's gracious presence.

August 08, 2010

M. Daniel Carroll R., Christians at the Border

Christians at the Border is a thorough and timely study of the issue of immigration in America. Written by an Old Testament scholar who is a Guatemalan-American, and who lives and teaches on both sides of our Southern border, the perspectives Carroll R. brings are essential. He carefully looks at the situation today, showing the great complexity which must be comprehended as we look at immigration (including things like where people come from and why the come, the economic pressures on both sides of the borders, and the broader history of immigration in America). He then looks back into the Old and New Testaments to see how their witness can be brought to bear. In both of these areas, carefully looking at today's context and exploring the biblical context and teaching, the book shines.

The fundamental insight that Carroll R. uses to reframe the debate, and one that I think is essential as we move forward, is to recognize that the debate today must be shifted from one about "immigration" as a concept to a debate and discussion about immigrants, human beings made in God's image who deserve our respect, care, and concern. Especially as Christians, we must come to grips with the sojourners among us (who are often, incidentally, fellow Christians), and must seek both temporary and long-term solutions that create and maintain justice as well as express and embody our identity as God's agents on earth.

The discussion in America today about immigration is a great opportunity for the body of Christ to exemplify what it means to love God and neighbor. There is no doubt that we must get beyond entrenched political positions and party alignments, as well as beyond oversimplifications and false dichotomies and seek new ways of of living and acting as Christians in the world. As Carrol R. concludes, "The decisions that are made and courses of action that are recommended [in a Christian approach to immigration] should be commensurate with the life of Jesus—his actions, his teaching, his cross."

I highly and unreservedly recommend this book. It is very readable, just as it is also thorough and careful. First-hand experience is melded nicely with research, and careful biblical reasoning is brought to bear with wisdom on a divisive issue with an always irenic yet prophetic tone. Read this book and be challenged!