Category Archives: blog

The Best of the Theological Blogosphere in 2009 (and on…)

List that seems to be treated with respect at Resident Theologian– – – – – – –

All That To Say… — Mark Love is the Director of Missional Leadership at Rochester College in Michigan. As a former preacher and professor at Abilene Christian, and having just finished his PhD course work at Luther, Mark’s experience and training give him a wonderfully creative and playful approach to theology in general, and to reading biblical texts in particular. Also, I stole my “Sunday Sabbath Poetry” series from his “Dylan on a Sunday” series, which is hitting two years this summer.

An und für sich — Quite possibly one of the most prolific and thoughtful group blogs around, especially given that the authors aren’t getting paid. Adam Kotsko & co. have created an engaging place for philosophical, theological, cultural, and textual conversations to be had; and Adam in particular is a kind of blogging force of nature, routinely offering innovative and off-the-wall comments and interpretations on any number of subjects. The snark rears its head from time to time, but it’s usually in good fun. And even when it’s not, it’s no less worth the read.

The Church and Postmodern Culture — This one ebbs and flows, depending on recent releases or engagement with particular works, but when it’s going, it’s great. The contributors and books claimed and produced here are especially noteworthy.

Clavi Non Defixi — Evan Kuehn, though a long-time read for many, has been a recent discovery for me. Evan focuses primarily on matters academic, journalistic, ecumenical, historical-theological, and/or library-related. Though often reliable enough as a purely compendious source, Evan also offers constructive thoughts on a regular basis in relation to current events in his fields of interest. I should also add how impressive his levelheadedness is, given the waters he regularly wades into.

David Ayres: Prayers & Poems — David is a friend from Abilene Christian, and he’s just now finishing up his undergraduate degree in Bible, on his way to an MDiv and a rich ministry of the word. He also happens to be one of my favorite poets, and it is a grateful marvel that such a gifted wordsmith is going into full-time preaching.

Experimental Theology — Richard Beck somehow finds the time in his busy schedule as a husband, father, professor, teacher, researcher, speaker, writer, and sometime-preacher not only to post on his blog daily, but to plan and execute complex, long-term series exploring such extensive subjects as purity and defilement, religious experience, and the theology of Calvin and Hobbes. Though I regret not getting to know Richard while in Abilene, it’s been wonderful sharing various conversations back and forth since moving to Atlanta.

Faith and Theology — Ben Myers’ blog is the premier theological entry in the genre for good reason. His easygoing, facilitator style creates space for conversation and cross-pollination, serving as an exemplary model for the medium, while his excerpts from papers and forays into constructive work are exceptional. Not that he needs one from anyone, much less me, but F&T comes with the highest recommendation.

The Fire and the Rose — David Congdon, PhD student of systematics up at Princeton, doesn’t blog a lot anymore; but when he does, it’s worth reading.

God’s Politics — Though the flurry of posts bears weeding through, and I continue to have my worries that Jim Wallis has become a soft spokesman for the Obama administration (and/or thinks first in terms of “values” and “the global context” and not “the church”), there is still a great deal of penetrating thought and extraordinary work being done by, at, and through the Sojourners folks.

Inhabitatio Dei — Halden’s blog is a warehouse of sincere ecclesial concern, rich theological depth, unyielding rhetoric, and constant cultural criticism. As it stands Halden is the regnant gadfly of the theological blogosphere, and even when exaggerating or targeting someone or something he deems blasphemous, his posts not only ensure you know where you stand, but the force of his arguments demands careful attention to one’s own and clarifies the importance of the witness of the church in America. In other words, essential reading.

James K.A. Smith — Though I’ve been exposed to Dr. Smith’s work in myriad ways, I haven’t had the opportunity to sit down and read a book of his start to finish — a lack I hope to remedy soon — but it has been enjoyable to be able to read him in short bursts online. (And it is an overwhelming challenge to realize just how much out of his discipline, including fiction and poetry, he reads!)

Joshua Case — Josh is a fellow MDiv student at Candler, and I enjoy telling him that he is wrong on a regular basis. He is also an immensely talented thinker, writer, networker, dreamer, speaker, minister, and podcaster. Universities and seminaries prove their worth by creating space for people like Josh and I to argue matters out, at the very least with respect, hopefully in love. That has certainly been the case for us, and I’m glad to know the kind of work Josh is doing is being done by the kind of person Josh is.

Michael Gorman — Sitting in Austin’s airport last January, I discovered to my surprise and delight that Michael Gorman — the Michael Gorman, eminent New Testament scholar and hero of my brother Garrett — had added me to his blogroll. I quickly returned the favor, not simply as thanks, but because I had long been reading Gorman’s work (both on and offline) and continue to appreciate his various emphases in reading Paul, admiring his position vis-a-vis the interlaced Hays-Wright-LTJ schools of thought. It is a strange, and if anything a cool academic/ecclesial world we inhabit, where scholars like Gorman take up blogging. Hopefully others continue to follow suit.

Narrative and Ontology — Philip Sumpter is an Old Testament PhD student in Germany with a perpetual flow creative engagement of texts, the Psalms in particular, as well as what seems like a wholesale intimacy with the work of Brevard Childs. Good stuff here.

Paul J. Griffiths — Clearly the most erudite and learned spare-time blogger I am aware of, Griffiths’ every-so-often posts — on Catholicism, on Augustine, on literature, on politics — are simply extraordinary fair.

Per Crucem ad Lucem — Jason Goroncy seems to me the most disciplined and unique blogger on offer: an Australian Presbyterian minister and theologian, with expertise in P.T. Forsyth and interests in cooking, the arts, and more. I enjoy especially his “Monthly Bests” that update us on his reading, watching, listening, eating forays. Fun, different, and always something new.

Peter Leithart — Leithart’s attention to the text and — not here a contradiction! — theological readings thereof are unparalleled, and the quick shots across the bow that constitute his postings are concise, direct, and always on point. How are we so lucky that such a man blogs on a near daily basis?

Preacher Mike — Mike Cope was the preacher at Highland Church of Christ in Abilene for nearly two decades before leaving the position last summer. I had the privilege of being a member at Highland from 2004 to 2008, as well as both being a student in a class taught my Mike at ACU and taking a graduate course with Mike as a fellow student. Though God has graciously not called me to the pulpit, Mike Cope proved to me simply through the patient gracefulness of his own preaching that the proclaimed word continues to have power to shape God’s people over time. My own understanding — and understanding is surely too weak a word — of Scripture, proclamation, women’s roles, new creation, and the mission of the church are all profoundly grounded in four sustained years of attending to the weekly voice of Highland’s pulpit. That Mike is no longer regularly preaching only means his other work, which most certainly includes his blog, has more attention.

Rain and the Rhinoceros — Another excellent blogger who only resurfaces from time to time, Ry Siggelkow (no less fake-sounding than his actual pseudonym, R.O. Flyer) does great work and always commands attention when he posts.

Seeking First The Kingdom — It has been an odd and unique pleasure to have come to know Jimmy McCarty first by way of reading one another, and then in person, and now in friendship. I first read him on Sojourners more than a year and a half ago; we learned of one another’s blogs by way of our respective engagements with torture and with the homeless; then we discovered we each belonged to that strange American tradition called the churches of Christ. Jimmy finished his M.A. at Claremont last May, then moved here to Atlanta to begin his PhD in Religious Ethics at Emory.

Theology Forum — This one is run by Kent Eilers, Kyle Strobel, and Steve Duby, and from what I can tell, attends to various theological topics from a decidedly Reformed/Protestant perspective. There have been some rich discussions here recently, and I always enjoy seeing a new post up, as I know I will inevitably be learning something new.

Theopolitical — Davey Henreckson, PhD student at Notre Dame, keeps things straightforward and on topic: intersections between theology, political theory, and historical practice, usually in the form of reviewing or walking through important books, never without personal or constructive comment. This is an area of which I am supremely ignorant but in which I am extremely interested, so Davey’s blog is an indispensable resource.

Vita Brevis — I came to John Penniman’s blog by way of Evan’s link to his unbelievably helpful guide to applying to PhD programs — which, I will have you know, I printed out and read twice over, with liberal underlining and highlighting. (It is my field guide for this fall’s descent into application hell.) Since then I’ve come to realize that I barely missed John here at Candler (he left a year ago for Fordham), and have come readily to enjoy his entries in historical theology, particularly of late regarding the evolution of Roman primacy in relation to the Catholic Church’s recent troubles.

After 7 and a half months.

Well, I have been blogging for longer than I expected.

I had a medical virus this week and was ill so I did not post but people still showed up. No one emailed to to ask if I stopped blogging the way people did during autumn breaks. So this is good.

Evaluation of posts after almost eight months.

1] I post random clipped items that I read because people ask me what I find interesting on the web  They are almost always from blogs of other faiths or ethics. Now, there are new tools like “read something” to share articles but this seems to work fine. I tend to select lists. This is my cork board.

2] I post interfaith clippings of Jews or Jewish texts. These get steady hits and serve as a repository. These rarely get a publishable comment. (I don’t post the islamophobia and xenophobia.)

3] I post pieces on Jewish meditation, Zohar, and kabbalistic ritual. These are intermittent but always generate the most comments and the most personal emails.

4] I post long reviews of the most important theological works of the year. This has been the most surprisingly successful for determining if I have a book review to pitch to a journal and to determine if I have 1k or 8k words.  These are the works that usually don’t get reviewed on blogs because the book was too complex for this format.

5] Finally, I post sociological observations on the Orthodox community in comparison to the other faiths as it appears on my feed. These generate the most links on other blogs and the massive influx of temporary readers but are not my major concern. However, when I feel I have come up with something, then I do theme and variations for a while.

6] Every 2 months I look at the wide range of Jewish academic journals and download the pdfs. I do this to professionally keep up with the field but have not had time to comment on more than a few articles.

Evaluation of the technical aspects of the blog

a] I could arrange this in magazine format as five topics, wordpress allows that but this is working OK.

b] If anyone has any suggestions for widgets or plug-ins, then let me know. I have not found a good widget for finding old posts yet. The cloud does not yield a sufficient index.

c] I have gotten used to receiving my best discussions and comments by email. I did not think it would. On the other hand, phone calls are a bit much and I do not then have a printed record of the comments.

d] I have not upgraded yet for a memory increase to allow mp3s and video. I am debating if I want to do file hosting here or at itunes u channel.

e] I get the most hits on snow days. I get the least before Hag.

f] Only a handful of readers ever click through to links.

g] When you are kind enough to send me typos, I correct them in the text. I do not bother posting the list of typos.

Any Suggestions?

On Book old and new

I will be speaking and having a book signing at NYU-Bronfman Center this Monday April 26th at 6:30.

I will be speaking at DAVAR in Teaneck on MAY 8th after musaf, shalos seudot, and then book signing after havdalah.  Order book in advance at $48 and you can pick it up before shabbos.

Finally, my first volume had an orange color on top; I will make the second volume light blue, magenta, or green. But should I change the text at the bottom of the cover? Rambam hilkhot AZ had 4 font sizes and was attractive on the page. None of the standard Talmud editions for AZ have the same eye appeal.  Do any Rishonim have an attractive first page of AZ? Neither Meiri, Yeraim, nor anything by Mosad Harav Kook has better typography. Does it pay to switch? Should I keep the Rambam and just change title and color?

List of Top Relgion Blogs

People regularly ask me what I read on the Web for these Evangelical, Catholic and Muslim trends.  The SSRC just published a study of the top relgious blogs, where most people are getting their information, which gets the most hits, and which have the most authority. For those looking to to expand their blog horizons, it is worth looking at the list. The article itself is less interesting for those already online.

Here is a list of the top blogs with one line descriptions and links.

Here is a discussion of how to judge what is on top- authority, hits. But at he bottom it has the blogs arranged by topic: Academic, Cultural, News, Political. It also has a list of which blogs get the most comments.

Rules for Comments

I have received hits by the thousand this weekend that I did not expect because of two very different posts. I am posting some rules for comments and will eventually create a page for the rules. I have tried to write these rules without getting anyone upset and have tried to avoid an overly harsh tone.

I aspire to an informed discussion that stays on topic as much as possible. I like comments that clarify the ideas, correct details, and offer important parallels. I also like comments that discuss the application of an idea to life.

Also since many of you have just showed up after three months, feel free to give substantive comments to older posts. I am still engaged with most of these topics.

First, I like the quote from Eleanor Roosevelt that goes like this: Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people. So please comment on the ideas.

Second, I have little tolerance for basic questions: if you could answer your question with a quick trip to Wikipedia, a Google search, Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophy, or opening the Mishneh Berurah, then do so. I am not teaching a class here.

Third, the blog assumes that you read academic works, social theory, and Jewish texts. If you’re not an insider to the various discourses we participate in and you’re still interested in the topic, figure out a way to become more of an insider.

Fourth, no comments with an overly harsh tone, snark, or condescension to major authors. And no snappy reactions to the title of a post that has little to do with the content of the post.

Fifth, do not parachute in with a personal agenda or think that this is another place for  graffiti tagging with your 1 millionth comment of your personal view of the world. If you want a venue with unrestricted free speech where you can comment indefinitely and be cherished for the unique intellectual snowflake you undoubtedly are, then you definitely shouldn’t comment. (I admit this one is a bit harsh; I got caught in the string of similes.)

I allow comments in the hope that reader input will spur thinking in interesting directions. Answering basic questions or fielding snarky comments do not stimulate thinking.

If you find that the blog posts have spurred your thinking and believe you are able to return the favor in some way, then you should definitely comment.

Post is the name of a breakfast Cereal

Post is the name of a cereal company that makes Raisin Bran, Honey Combs and Shredded Wheat. In 2006, they discontinued Post-Toasties, the brand of choice in summer camp. When I hear the prefix post-, I think of cereal.
The latest infection of language is to call everything is post- and post-modern. People who want change apply it to every change they want and people who are against change call all change as post –modern. Simply things like the modern poetry of Rilke or the thought of Hegel can be called Post-modern by those who have not read/heard of them.
People throw around terms indiscriminately. I do not like the term right and left- there has to be a description.  Right and left differ between decades and countries. I do not like it when the word existential is used as a synonym for emotional or important. Nor do I like it when hermeneutic, which means the horizons and assumptions that allow for interpretation, is used for exegesis. And I do not like when the word “unique,” which in Rav Soloveitchik means revelatory and outside of culture, is used for special.
So here is a little screed from another blog inhabitato dei, with the expletives removed.

You’re not “post-“ anything so shut up!

If there was one term I could actually effect a moratorium on I think it would have to be the phrase “post-”. But, since I can’t effect a moratorium, allow me to propose an axiom instead:
Any conceptual position (theological, philosophical, etc.) that describes itself using the modifier “post-” is never actually “post-” anything in anything other than a temporal sense (and usually that’s not the case either).

Postmetaphysical? No. Postfoundationalist? No, you were never foundationalist to start with. Postliberal? No, you’re still liberal. Postmodern? Shut up, that’s just stupid. Post-postmodern? Kneecaps, meet baseball bat.

The only possible places where I can think of the term “post-” having any real usefulness are in the realms of architecture and art history. Insofar as it gets used by philosophers and theologians its just an attempt to short circuit an argument by pretending that the views you are attacking were a developmental stage you  went through when you were young and not quite as well read as you obviously are now. To call any view “post-” anything is just a masquerade alloying one to define your adversary as wrong, arcane, and naive from the outset.

In short, adopting the language of “post-” is unforgivably cheap and masks a lack of ability to actually make good arguments against things you want to criticize.

There are indeed large cultural changes afoot. Gen Y- the Millennial are the most liberal generation alive and their immediate seniors gen X is the most conservative. And more importantly- Since the 1730’s, every 30-35 years American culture has dramatically shifted from liberal to conservative and back again. But describe it. Calling it post-modern is like the 1958 person saying “we cant kept kosher outside the house- we are modern” or the 2000 person saying “of course we are libertarian and not interested in high culture, are we dont seek religious experience, we are Orthodox.”

Best of 2009 – theology

Here are selections from list from a blog of a Protestant theology instructor. I like lists of good books.  I do not know if all the links carried over to this page.
Best theology books of 2009 from Faith and Theology by Ben Myers

Anyone have any recommendations in Jewish thought?

Two Months

Well, I have managed to still be here after 2 months.

I have learned that when I go away for a few days, I need to place a notice that I am away.

I have learned that many people show up Saturday night -after shabbat. Most people visit in the weekday evenings. I cannot usually guess what get the most hits. I expected the Trude Weiss Rosmarin post to get many hits and a friend even transcribed the entire article. But I would have not expected that the David Nirenberg article on Jewish-Muslim relations in Christian Spain to be one of big hits. On the other hand, I am quite surprised that no one is looking at the Novak posts here and here. I learned that three book reviews from Haaretz in a single post is too much. I also learned that if I announce a public event, I find that readers will show up.

I will be teaching contemporary Jewish thought in the Spring, thinkers of the last 15 years. So even if people are not interested in Novak, you will hear more about Fishbane, Halbertal, Boyarin and others. And more on Sacks and Benedict. There will also be more Kabbalah and spirituality.

If you want to comment on a post then post it, dont send an email. But if you want to comment on the general content or to let me know you are out there,  and you are not already on weekly (or monthly) email contact feel free to drop me a line.

One Month of the Blog

I have been doing this for one month.

I have posted more than I thought I would.  I received 80 hits after yom tov from 8-12 Sunday Oct 11. Most of my readers look at the blog in the early morning 6-9:30, or dinner time 5-8, or then nighttime 10-2Am. I have more hits on Saturday nights than on all day Friday.  I do not have a large office contingent looking at it during a cubicle lunch break- 1-2 PM.   Most people do not go to the links to look at the full versions of articles but are happy with my citations. But people do look at the related material not summarized on the site. Jewish posts get more hits than posts on general religion. More people are getting here through a wordpress product than a google product.  Finally, if you want to comment, then write a comment, not a personal email.