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.

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