R.R. Reno to give public lecture at Eastern on Sept 6

If you live in the Philly area, this may interest you:

You are cordially invited to come hear a public lecture by scholar, author and editor of First Things magazineR. R. Reno, PhD. Co-sponsored by the the Agora Institute for Civic Virtue and the Common Good, Eastern University Office of Development, and the Templeton Honors College, this lecture will examine Religious Voices in Public Debates.  The lecture will begin at 8 p.m. in Warner Libraryon the Eastern University campus at 1300 Eagle Road in St. Davids, PA.

Dr. Reno will address the fact that too often we hear that theological themes and religious terms are sectarian, and thus inappropriate in public debates. This view is based on the myth of public reason, a myth that seeks to silence religious voices. A more forthright view of democratic politics in a pluralistic society must recognize that religious ways of thinking and arguing rightly seek to convince a variety of fellow citizens and thus contribute to a governing consensus in a pluralistic society.

Dr. Reno is the author of several books, including, In the Ruins of the Church, andRedemptive Change: Atonement and the Cure of the Soul.  He has also co-authored two books, Heroism and the Christian Life and Sanctified Vision: An Introduction to Early Christian Interpretation of the Bible. His scholarly work ranges widely in systematic and moral theology, as well as in questions of biblical interpretation.  Reno earned his Ph.D. in Religious Ethics from Yale University.  Since 1990, he has served as a professor of theology at Creighton University, and is currently on sabbatical while working as editor of First Things magazine.

Richard Hays’ Critique of the Critics

We can teach our students Greek and Hebrew. We can teach them logical fallacies to avoid and proper ways to diagram the text. However, we don’t want them to become cold-hearted “technicians” of the text. How do we teach our students in a way that fans the flame of their love for Scripture and the Godhead at the center of it, rather than forcing a dark veil of methodology to smother the flame?

With this concern in mind, I have decided to include a lecture on “Reading the Good Book with Faith, Hope, and Love” for my intro courses. What better source to turn to for guidance in the research for this lecture than Richard Hays? Have you read his outstanding essay, “Salvation by Trust? Reading the Bible Faithfully”? If not, it can be found online here. Here is a choice penultimate paragraph:

My concern that distrust may impede our reading of the Bible leads me to my final point. The real work of interpretation is to hear the text. We must consider how to read and teach scripture in a way that opens up its message and both models and fosters trust in God. So much of the ideological critique that currently dominates the academy fails to foster these qualities. Scripture is critiqued but never interpreted. The critic exposes but never exposits. Thus the word itself recedes into the background, and we are left talking only about the politics of interpretation, having lost the capacity to perform interpretations.


This is why theological interpretation of Scripture has made such an impact on scholarship recently. Scholars, young and old, abhor the drudgery that has become “Biblical Scholarship” and desire to move interpretation towards a constructive goal – wisdom, worship and mission.


Teaching about Bible translations – the fun way!

So, I am preparing a lecture on Bible translations and why there are so many. I am lecturing to freshmen for the general curriculum requirement mostly so they aren’t really ready or interested in the nitty gritty details of this and that translation. Rather, they just want to know- why are there dozens of translations and why are they so different?

One way I am going to introduce this subject is by showing them just how tough it can sometimes be to translate something from one language to the next. On that topic, I found this great example – English movie titles, when they get translated into other languages, often get changed to some pretty strange things!!

I tried checking if these are legit, and they appear so. If you know better, do let me know.

Pretty Woman = “I Will Marry A Prostitute and Save Money” (China)

The Matrix = “The Young People who Traverse Dimensions While Wearing Sunglasses” (France)

Thelma and Louise = “An Unexpected End” (Mexico)

Hot Shots! = “Warm Shots” (Czech Republic)

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs  = “It’s Raining Falafel!” (Israel)

Grease = “Vaseline” (Argentina)

The Dark Knight = “Night of the Knight” (Spain)

If you want to see a few more, see here.


My Recent Book on the Gospel of Thomas Reviewed over at RBL

I have now had an opportunity to read the first of two reviews of my book, What Are They Saying About the Gospel of Thomas? posted today at the Review of Biblical Literature. The first review was written by Ian Brown, a graduate student of John Kloppenborg at the University of Toronto. For the majority of his review, Brown is sympathetic to what I do in the book but levels this critique toward the end of the review:

[T]here are sections of Skinner’s book that are somewhat problematic.While it is true that questions of Thomas’s date and relationship with the New Testament are important, Skinner somewhat exaggerates the degree to which they still dominate the field. Skinner’s book gives the wrong impression that, because there is so much disagreement over Thomas’s date and relationship with the New Testament, other questions about Thomas are not being asked. In fact, with some notable exceptions, a great deal of recent scholarship on Thomas has dealt more explicitly with questions of Thomas’s sociohistorical location, Thomas’s parables, Thomas’s ideology (theology), and Thomas’s potential for our redescribing of Christian origins. With these questions in mind, it is a shortcoming that Skinner did not include the more recent work of Ron Cameron, Risto Uro, John Kloppenborg, and William Arnal. Many, if not all, of the studies that address these questions say something about Thomas’s date and relationship with the New Testament, but these are not the questions that drive inquiry. So while it is true that we are far from a consensus on Thomas’s date, relationship with the New Testament, or theology, this does not mean that these are still the questions that propel scholarship (p. 4).

These are fair criticisms. I guess I would respond by saying two things: (1) Given the aims of the series in general and my volume in particular, these areas of recent scholarly inquiry would have taken my discussion far afield from the “introductory” nature of most discussions within the book; (2) These areas of disagreement SHOULD continue to propel scholarship (at least until we arrive at a consensus), even if they don’t. Too often scholars on different continents  speak past one another because they assume a starting point that is not accepted in all areas of Thomas scholarship. Call me crazy, but scholarly exchange requires that we establish (i.e., argue for) rather than assume the validity of our starting points. A lot of scholarship does the latter with respect to foundational issues like Thomas‘s date and relationship to the NT. This is, to my mind, what makes April DeConick‘s work so outstanding (even when I disagree with her). She always makes a solid argument and always attempts to move discussions beyond the traditional impasses that have emerged.

In the end, I am appreciative of Brown’s comments. It is clear that he took the time to digest what I wrote in the book. I am also grateful that he found the book, on the whole, to be a useful introduction to Thomas studies. There is another review at the site but it’s in German, so I’m going to have to work through it later today (alas, the German skills have deteriorated in the past few years). That review was written by Thomas Bergholz. I went to the final paragraph and saw that he ends the review with praise for the strength and merit of my “handy book”: “Und genau darin liegt die große Stärke und das Verdienst dieses handlichen Buches.” I guess I need to go back and read the rest of his comments after my 9:30 class.

High Praise for new Campolo/Claiborne Book about Jesus

Being at Eastern University, you tend to get familiar with the names Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo very quickly (the Eastern motto is “faith.reason.justice.”). Claiborne and Campolo have a new book coming out in October called Red Letter Revolution: What if Jesus Really Meant What He Said? (Amazon is selling this for $13.64).

The authors focus on the words of Jesus in the New Testament and how his voice comes to bear on issues like violence, community, Islam, hell, sexuality, civil disobedience, and dozens of other topcis “for people of faith and conscience today.” Ultimately, Campolo and Claiborne are concerned that there is a kind of Christian culture in America that ignores or domesticates the radical social vision of Jesus.

I am interested in this book, and I might even have my students read it next semester, but what really caught my attention were the endorsements. Who has had a book endorsed by the likes of Jimmy Carter (yes the president), Desmond Tutu, Phyllis Tickle, Eugene Peterson, and Brian McLaren??? And a rabbi!

“This book, by a young and an elderly Christian, will help you decide how we Christians could change the world if we took the ‘red letter’ words of Jesus literally and seriously.” —President Jimmy Carter

“In Red Letter Revolution the uncompromised truth of Jesus’ teachings are given voice by two modern-day Christian leaders who do more than preach this Good News. They walk the talk and lead the way.” —Archbishop Desmond Tutu

“I started reading this book and couldn’t stop. . . . Thank you, Tony and Shane. Thank you for this book. May the movement spread around the world.” —Abuna Elias Chacour,
Melkite Catholic Archbishop of Galilee

“Red Letter Revolution is an adrenaline-producing conversation with prophetic bite.” —Eugene H. Peterson, author of The Message Bible

“I cannot over-emphasize or exaggerate the richness of this book.” —Phyllis Tickle, author of Emergence Christianity

“In this courageous and well crafted book, we have a return to the core message of the Gospel from two Christians who first tried to live it themselves—and only then spoke.” —Fr. Richard Rohr, O.F.M., Center for Action and Contemplation

“Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo are two of the most significant prophetic voices in the Christian world.” —Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun Magazine (tikkun.org)

“This is a must-read book for anyone who is seeking to take Jesus’ call on their lives seriously.” —Jim Wallis, founder and editor of Sojourners magazine

“If you ever wished you could eavesdrop on a conversation with two of the world’s most interesting and inspiring Christians, just turn to page one.” —Brian D. McLaren, author/speaker (brianmclaren.net)

“Christ Alive and At Large” – Previously Unpublished Works by C.F.D. Moule

When I was reading the book reviews in latest Expository Times (Sept 2012), I stumbled across this book I had previously known nothing about:

Christ Alive and At Large: Unpublished Writings of C.F.D. Moule (Canterbury Press, 2010).

The writings in this anthology (edited by R. Morgan and P. Moule) cover a broad range of sermonic and lecture-like literature from the mind of Prof. Moule. The author of the book review in ExpTis David Catchpole and he has a good many things to say about this commemorative collection of unpublished works. Here is one like that Catchpole writes about Moule: “an Anglican clergyman to his scholarly fingertips, but one with a wide vision and deep convictions nourished by liberal Protestant Anglicanism in the best sense of all three words.” 

In the book, Robert Morgan and Rowan Williams both offer reflections on Moule’s spirituality, scholarship, and legacy.