Hauptseite Dialog H. Paul Santmire. Before Nature: A Christian Spirituality. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014. 272...
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Book Reviews 449 Book Reviews Kenda Creasy Dean and Christy Lang Hearlson. How Youth Ministry Can Change Theological Education—If We Let It. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2016. 309 pages. Into a sea of anxiety about transitions in theological education in North America comes Kenda Creasy Dean and Christy Lang Hearlson’s How Youth Ministry Can Change Theological Education—If We Let It. The book is equal parts report and manifesto. Born from the invitation of the Lilly Endowment to research and assess their High School Theological Programs (HSTP), Dean and Hearlson do the impossible, making a multi-authored report engaging and deeply insightful. HSTPs were programs that were housed at seminaries like Candler and Duke divinity schools (to name just two), in which high school students came for a few weeks of indepth and immersive theological education. The programs were the brain-child of Craig Dykstra, with the hope that they not only would impact the C 2017 Wiley Periodicals and Dialog, Inc. faith-formation of young people, but help them discern a calling into ministry. The Lilly Endowment has since decided to pivot and, using the ground broken by these programs, moved them from seminaries to college/university campuses. This makes it an ideal time to assess the impact of the original programs. Since these programs were Dykstra’s idea, it is only right for him to have the first word, offering a nice foreword that explains the inspiration of the programs and even provides the reader with the first talk given to high school students at the first night of an HSTP. Dykstra calls what will come after his foreword the story of a gift. It is the story of a gift of theological education to high school students, the story of a financial gift to the seminaries that received the grants, and the story of a gift to the church of future pastors and leaders. There is no better person at telling a story than Kenda Creasy Dean, and introducing newcomer Christy Lang Hearlson, the story unfolds with deep insights and nu; merous payoffs for the reader. It then goes without saying that the most engaging (and important) chapters of the book are those authored by Dean and Hearlson. The two chapters of part 1 focus on vocational discernment as a practice of Christian community; both of these chapters are authored by Dean and Hearlson. The first gives the reader a deeper understanding of these programs, showing their impact and reach. The authors use two metaphors to explain the mission of the HSTPs: theological education without frame, and a feast. These programs sought to do theological education free from the historical and institutional frames that often bound pedagogies and theological thinking. And to young people themselves, these programs were a feast of ideas, experiences, and learning that could be found nowhere else. For readers uninterested in these programs, chapter 1 offers some deep claims that will be worth pondering. Dean and Hearlson assert that young people desiring to go deep in their Christian faith will be confronted with two issues: one, most young people are uninterested in religious or spiritual 450 Dialog: A Journal of Theology • Volume 56, Number 4 • Winter 2017 • December concerns; and two, congregational youth ministries are not designed for those interested in going deep; rather they seek to “cast a wide net” (8). The focus on fellowship models of youth ministry keeps the spiritually interested young people on the surface. I personally am not sure I completely agree with this claim, but it is interesting to consider. A critique of both the HSTP, and the take of the authors, is that it is too narrowly focused on mainline churches. It is true that evangelical youth ministries are even more concerned with wide nets and fellowship, and this, in turn, has been copied by mainline youth ministries. But these evangelical youth ministries do this not as a way of watering things down, but because of a deep theological commitment to evangelism. The young people who move into leadership are called to enter these fellowship models for the sake of converting their friends. There is a depth of commitment that the authors seem to overlook—and a nuance between mainline and evangelical youth ministries may have helped the locating of the whole book. Chapter 2 moves deeper into vocational discernment and “the wicked problems” facing theological education. In many ways this chapter alone is worth the price of the book. Here the authors bravely face the loss of leadership in the church, reframing and nuancing the issue. They give us unique insights into how culture plays into the content of vocation, taking us far beyond Frederick Buechner’s beautiful but individualistic concept of vocation. The authors place front and center the wicked problem that theological education is preparing people for a future church we cannot see. But the lesson of HSTP might indeed be good fodder for imagining a future, or at least living in this time of liminality. Parts 2, 3, and 4 also have their treasures. But these chapters become more directly focused on particular HSTP programs, as authors other than Dean and Hearlson make their appearance (though Hearlson comes back on stage in chapter 6, offering a wonderful chapter on “taking” youth ministry trip experiences home—every youth pastor should read it!). Some of the highlights of these chapters are Anne Streaty Wimberly’s discussion of mentoring and her HSTP Youth Builders Academy, Katherine Douglass’s connection of naming in theological education, Jeffery Kaster’s discussion of the place of tradition and reflection in theological education with youth, and Fred Edie’s beautiful interdisciplinary chapter on neuroscience, worship, and sacramental theology through the Duke HSTP. Depending on the reader, these chapters will have different takeaways. If you are a theological educator, then the chapters in parts 2, 3, and 4 will be valuable, providing idea after idea to reimagine theological education. If you are a youth ministry academic, then these chapters too will be of interest, offering an important tour into how these programs have set the intellectual ground for much of the mainline youth ministry conversation. If you are a youth pastor you may find the first two, and the final, chapters most engaging. It is here particularly that Dean and Hearlson offer their take on the shortcomings and possibilities of youth ministry. And this is nowhere more apparent than in the final chapter. Dean is the sole author of this concluding chapter, and it is a masterpiece. In the first half she takes apart youth ministry, using the analogy of a baseball farm system. She explains that youth ministry always was meant to be about creating a space for young people to begin practicing leadership within the church. Providing a cultural analysis, Dean makes the point that as congregations felt credibility eroding, they used youth ministry to keep the church afloat, turning the focus from the leadership of the young person to the professionalization of the youth pastor. Dean raises a major issue with which we must come to grips— is youth ministry, and the youth pastor more generally, for saving the church, or for something more theological? These questions boomerang to our institutions of theological education. As we enter the sea of anxiety about change, will our focus be on survival and our eroding credibility? Or will we peer into the horizon of new possibilities and attend to the leaders necessary Book Reviews for the church not here yet? We can only do this if we are willing to make our church youth ministries and seminary classroom places of leadership and innovation—which is how Dean concludes. If the reader is ready to sink or swim in reaching for the horizon of something new, they will find How Youth Ministry Can Change Theological Education indeed a gift. Andrew Root Luther Seminary H. Paul Santmire. Before Nature: A Christian Spirituality. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014. 272 pages. Well-known ecological theologian Paul Santmire has contributed another worthy volume to the conversation on the intersection of Christian theology and concern about the environment. Unlike his other treatments of the subject matter that are more systematic in approach, Before Nature takes on a more meditative tone, inviting the reader into a practice-based engagement with the subject, suggesting a christocentric and trinitarian prayer life that not only begins but supports the spiritual journey. The task he lays out in the prologue is to connect with the “Nones and the NonesSympathizers as spiritual seekers” (xiii), which also encompasses believers and their pastors. He sees in a nature-based spirituality a way to establish a “common ground” (xiv), one that brings together both the seekers and theologians/pastors; he calls this approach “bifocal” (xv). Santmire turns to Saint Francis as a model of this approach, especially in Bellini’s painting that appears on the cover of the book—it shows Francis standing with the Bible behind him and creation in front of him, such that the place where Francis stands is where the two foci meet “in a Christian spirituality of nature” (xvi). The book is divided into ten chapters with some concluding appendices. Two overarching themes appear in each chapter: one that is explicitly personalreflective-spiritual, and the other that is concretely theological. Santmire’s style of writing weaves these two themes together. Santmire argues for a theological approach to the topic in the prologue: “If I were not so explicitly theological, I would not be addressing one of the major purposes of this book: to show that a bifocal Christian spirituality is possible, one that arises from a single place but with dual foci, the cathedral of the great outdoors encompassing the cathedral of historic Christianity” (xvii-xix). In the first chapter Santmire puts forward an approach to knowing, one that invites the reader to a place where s/he can know and experience God “in, with, and under every furrow of the soil and every glorious green shoot, both the seedlings and the weeds” (7). This sacramental language is not accidental, since Santmire grounds his 451 knowing in his baptismal identity, articulated through Luther’s theology of baptism and understanding of creation. He defines “all things visible” as stated in the Nicene Creed, as “everything material and living that God wondrously creates (sometimes working through human intelligence and human-made machines and human hands)” (1617); and spirituality as “religious experience that is intense and transforming” (17). The second chapter introduces the reader to the practice of prayer, specifically the “Trinity Prayer” that Santmire puts forward as his suggestion for bringing together these foci. The prayer is just three lines: the first is christological, the second is trinitarian, and the third is pneumatological. Santmire notes (and I believe this is correct) that the form of the prayer is new, even though the three lines come from ancient prayer tradition. To enact this spiritual practice, Santmire encourages the reader to just do it: “practice can make possible” (24). Throughout the rest of the book, Santmire provides personal and theological commentary on the three sections of the Trinity Prayer. Drawing on both his former teacher Gordon Kaufman and his own experience, Santmire states that he is “driven by a theology of faith as well as informed by a theology of facts” (46), such that the wholly other God reveals Godself through the light of the world. Santmire’s “Lutheranness” shines through in interpreting John’s 452 Dialog: A Journal of Theology • Volume 56, Number 4 • Winter 2017 • December gospel with Luther as “being given ‘for us’ (pro nobis),” such that Mary Magdalene’s story becomes our story, and Christ is revealed to us just as Christ was revealed to her (59). With this Johannine approach, Santmire cautions the reader against falling into the theodicy trap to justify evil; rather, he recommends that the reader confront “existential trauma of this problem and then, in due course, hold firmly to the revelation of the ineffable God in Jesus Christ—that God is indeed love,” another sentiment he draws directly from Luther (63). Santmire uses the traditional masculine language for the Trinity, noting that all analogies are imperfect but some intentionality goes into that concrete language. These “rough-hewn” analogies, from personal/familial language, provide the reader the precedent for thinking with other analogies, including those drawn from nature. Through describing his personal engagement with nature, Santmire puts forward a nature-based analogy for the triune God, while not negating the traditional language. Yet, Santmire invites the reader to go beyond the anthropocentric/transcendent dichotomy of understanding the triune God and instead broaden the vision so that it “comprehends all things created by God, not just God in Godself ” (130). Drawing upon Luther’s concept of paradox, Santmire affirms “that God is the Beyond but not the Above, and that God is the Beyond who is at once the Immediate” (136). Santmire also sees the interrela- tionship of the members of the Trinity (the perichoretic interpenetration) as modeled in the relationship humans have with nature—one of “ecological interdependence” (145). At the end of the book, Santmire invites the reader to engage in the spiritual practice of the Trinity Prayer upon which Santmire has commented in the preceding chapters. He provides resources and examples for embodying, singing, and “sauntering” to guide one’s Christian spirituality of nature. Throughout my review, I have described Santmire’s approach as inviting, and I think that is one of the main strengths of the book. As I read the text, I felt drawn into the narrative that Santmire was putting forward, based on his own experiences. In this way, I agree with his assertion that the book is a “confessional expression of a particular constellation of experiences. It is not a scholarly study of spirituality” (xxiii). Santmire avoids two potential pitfalls that I could see in engaging this topic. First, he does not “universalize” his own experience by arguing what people should do; rather, in a memoir-like narrative, he describes his Christian spirituality of nature centered on his use of the Trinity Prayer, and then describes how that relates to his theology of nature. Second, his tone throughout the book is non-judgmental and yet realistic; he writes of the “travail” of nature without putting forward condemnations. As he notes about one-third of the way into the text, this whole book is about his prayer life (79). I do have a few concerns about the text. Santmire, along with others who have written on the subject, cites Luther’s Sintflutgebet (“Flood Prayer”) to demonstrate how Luther lifts up creation in the baptismal rite, especially the imagery from Genesis at the beginning of the prayer. Unfortunately, the version of the Flood Prayer cited is the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship’s adaptation of the prayer for Lutheran Book of Worship. Luther’s text (Luther’s Works 53:97) does not contain that imagery at the beginning, although Luther follows the traditions of the early church by interpreting Christ’s own baptism as setting apart all the waters of creation as baptismal water. Interestingly enough, this latter text is missing from the prayer in Lutheran Book of Worship. A much larger concern for me is too quickly connecting Luther’s concern about the creatureliness of the sacraments with nature in general. Santmire references Russell Kleckley’s dissertation at Munich in stating that “Luther could say that all creatures are sacraments” (141). Santmire also brings in Luther’s use of the “in, with, and under” prepositions to parallel Christ’s presence as the sacrament with God’s presence in the world. Although I agree with such sentiment, I worry that it can reduce the sacraments to being primarily about presence rather than promise. It may be that nature has sacramental characteristics, Book Reviews but the sacraments, at least in Luther’s thinking, are also about the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation, being efficacious because of the sacramental union. I would have appreciated more in the endnote about how Kleckley arrived at his conclusion. At the outset of the book, I appreciate how Santmire lifts up the divine initiative in spiritual practices; it is not that we can call God to us but rather “the Holy Spirit works to channel the self-disclosure of God to us through our practices” (23). I also appreciate the liturgical emphasis in Santmire’s suggested spiritual practice, grounded in the traditions of the church and based on his own liturgical formation. In the end, I believe Santmire accomplishes what he sets out to do in the book by weaving together theology and practice in a way to which seekers at all levels (“nones” to seminary professors) can relate. For the more advanced seeker, Santmire provides useful and critical endnotes for each chapter. Even though my piety is not one that engages in such overt spirituality, I found myself drawn into the practice Santmire suggests; thus, I recommend this book to all. Kyle K. Schiefelbein-Guerrero Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary Jonas Jonson. Nathan Söderblom: Called to Serve, trans. Norman A. Hjelm. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2016. 461 pages. Swedish church leader Nathan Söderblom (1866-1931) was an important figure in world Christianity during the first three decades of the twentieth century as an ecumenical leader and churchman (as they would have put it then). From his position first as professor at the University of Uppsala, and then as archbishop and leader of the Church of Sweden, he worked tirelessly to promote peace and Christian unity among Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Orthodox Christians. The culminating point of his efforts was the 1925 Conference on Life and Work, held in Stockholm, and regarded as one of the most important ecumenical gatherings of the interwar years. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1930 for his efforts in healing the divisions in Europe after World War I. This is a comprehensive biography of Söderblom, written by retired Swedish bishop Jonas Jonson. The boundless range of Söderblom’s interests, and the sheer energy with which he pursued them, are truly remarkable, and certainly make it difficult for any biography to capture. The reader of this biography will no doubt marvel, too, at everything Söderblom did in his 65 years. First as a pastor in France and Sweden, then as a professor of the history of religions at Uppsala, and finally as archbishop, he constantly was in contact with church leaders in Europe and North America, working for the common good of all. His multitude of efforts 453 and activities did not, however, mean that he neglected his duties toward the Church of Sweden. During his tenure as archbishop, he made important contributions to the reform of this church at a time when political secularism sought to dislodge its place in the Swedish kingdom. Interestingly, Söderblom seems quite a bit similar to many of his contemporaries, the other leaders of liberal Protestantism in the early twentieth century. Raised in a strict and pietistic household by his father, a priest in the Church of Sweden, he maintained a strong personal piety that never seemed to fade, even though his own journey of faith took him quite a distance from his initial upbringing. His embrace of European liberal Protestantism was genuine, it seems, but he continued to infuse it with the warm piety of his beginnings in Swedish pietism, and seemed to think that this was possible for everyone. But Söderblom did not specialize in the study and writing of Christian theology (his dissertation was on preIslamic Persian religion), and his writings, though interesting and voluminous, do not indicate that he was wrestling with the fundamental, existential questions raised by World War I, at least to the extent of Barth and the other Neo-Orthodox theologians of his day. Söderblom embraced a form of universalism even as in his own piety he was deeply Christian, and he worked strenuously for that church. At times, the reader is more than slightly 454 Dialog: A Journal of Theology • Volume 56, Number 4 • Winter 2017 • December confused as to the essential core of the theology that he held, beyond his own, very evident, ecumenical commitments. This is a person, however, about whom one easily can be impressed, especially by his vision, relentless energy, and practical skills as a church leader and church politician (in the very best sense of this term). He was working at a very difficult time, during and after World War I, and still managed to get many of the European Christian churches to work together, even though the wounds of that terrible war were still fresh in the minds of many. His triumph, the successful Conference on Life and Work at Stockholm in 1925, was a major international event, and helped prepare the way for the eventual formation of the World Council of Churches in 1948, something he would have been pleased to have seen. But for all his vision, he seemed to continue to assume the continuation of the form of state church Christendom of previous centuries, with its close cooperation of church and state. However, this form was destroyed in many places by the war, and where it was not destroyed, it was under intense attack by secularism, such as in Sweden. This tide of secularism would, by the end of the twentieth century, eviscerate European Christianity and dethrone it as the arbiter of civilization on that continent. One gets the sense that Söderblom simply did not see the extent of this challenge, or fully prepare the church for it. To what end, therefore, the ecumenical project for which he worked with such energy? The writing of a good biography is a difficult thing, and especially with a person as complex as Söderblom. This is a good biography, and it helps that the biographer and his subject were both bishops in the Church of Sweden, although separated by time. In organization the book has thematic chapters arranged in rough chronological order, which seems to work fairly well, except that it is difficult to see, at times, the totality of things Söderblom was working on at any given time. But this comment does not detract from the biography at all, and we are indebted to Bishop Jonson, and translator Norman Hjelm, for making this work a reality. Mark Granquist Luther Seminary Jarvis Streeter. God and the History of the Universe, ed. David J. Lull. Eugene, Ore: Pickwick, 2016. 500 pages. While science is providing a clearer understanding of the astounding nature and evolution of the universe, the functional theology for many Christians remains unaware or even increasingly dismissive of these insights. Jarvis Streeter, longtime professor of religion at California Lutheran University, found this situation unacceptable. This book is his attempt to integrate a comprehensive scientific understanding of the world’s origin and development with a thoughtful Christian expression of God’s relationship to the universe as a whole, because “failure to tie Christian theology to the world of our lived experience makes Christianity appear irrelevant to people who are not themselves Christian, and less relevant than it might be to some who are” (xx). The first three chapters explore how science and theology each claim to “know” things. Streeter demonstrates that science and theology actually share much in their processes, assumptions, and goals. The conversation between the two should not be the common compartmentalization in which science is concerned only with “what” and religion is concerned only with “why.” That is too superficial. What is needed is bringing the two together into an integrated worldview. The procedure Streeter adopts is unusual. Rather than producing chapters that include a superficial look at some bit of the universe’s story as a platform (or a pretext) for theological reflection, or structuring the conversation topically (both of which are common approaches among books addressing science and theology), the author writes twelve detailed chapters about the evolving universe in chronological order, stretching from the Big Bang through the story of stellar nucleosynthesis, galactic formation, and the evolution Book Reviews of life on Earth. Rather than including illustrations, pages include QR codes which, when scanned by an app on a smartphone, will bring the reader to various online images and charts. This seems like an effective solution for not being able to get copyright permission or to accommodate the cost of printing this rich set of resources within the book. Given the nature of the Internet, however, one must wonder how long many of these links will function. Streeter aims for a worldview that takes science seriously enough to know what science actually says about the cosmos. For this, at times Streeter provides a brilliant narrative. The crucial story of the first few seconds is clear and detailed. At other times, the discussion becomes bogged down, as with his description of the Standard Model of subatomic particles (of course, this assessment may arise purely from the inclinations of the present reviewer). The descriptions of stellar and galactic formation and of the evolution of myriad life forms in each epoch of earth’s history construct a fascinating story, and Streeter displays a remarkable grasp of the state of science in a number of fields. Still, with such detailed descriptions, some readers will get fatigued and wonder “where is the theological payoff?” This is a risk that comes with Streeter’s insistence that science’s account of “the history of the universe” is important for its own sake, and should stand alone in such chapters. Interspersed in this cosmic history are six insightful chapters that pick up the theological questions. Here, Streeter wants to ask not simply how, but why God creates. His fundamental answer is this: God’s essential nature is “Perfect Agapic Love.” This means that God always is in relationship with all things. Streeter finds profound congruence here with a universe that science shows to be dynamic, evolving, and fundamentally interrelated. Perfect Agapic Love also always grants freedom to the other; thus God always works by persuasion and invitation rather than coercion. This is reflected well in the basic openness of quantum probabilities and of the whole process of biological evolution. Streeter explores what implications this fundamental freedom has for how we ought to think about “miracles,” what we imagine petitionary prayer is good for, and the potential for intelligent life (or, more importantly, loving life) elsewhere in the universe. This divine relationship with the universe also means that “God suffers all the suffering of every creature just as that creature feels it . . . That is the magnitude of God’s love” (159). It is that love that is the only theologically adequate explanation for the existence of the universe. Because Perfect Agapic Love grants freedom to the other, we should not imagine God to be controlling evolution in a strict sense. Instead, evolution is better pictured as “influenced by God at the level of individual 455 creatures in their freedom” (441). Streeter suggests that God may do this by “observing” subatomic particles (and thus collapsing their quantum uncertainty) within brain cells in order to influence neurons and thus thoughts (337). This might seem like too much “tinkering” by a controlling God. However, it does avoid imagining either a God who regularly violates the very physical laws of the universe that God established, or a Deist God who set up those laws and then stepped back, forever uninvolved. Throughout the whole cosmic narrative, Streeter sees God working toward the emergence of a creature that can reflect God’s own agapic love and thus can help fulfill God’s intent for all the other creatures. This is the life that Jesus lived. The contribution of Christology, however, is one place where Streeter’s work may fall short for some. Here, Jesus seems to be someone who was unusually able to sense God’s quantum suggestions (i.e., revelation), and who actually lived out God’s love. However, there is little reflection here on what might be contributed to this worldview by christological claims about such things as the incarnation or the cross. Streeter’s helpful reflections on God’s loving choice to suffer with all living things would be enriched if he brought the cross of Jesus as the central embodiment of this divine love into the conversation. That would give Streeter a way to explore the theological significance of Jesus’ crucifixion apart 456 Dialog: A Journal of Theology • Volume 56, Number 4 • Winter 2017 • December from the concept of original sin, which he rejects as scientifically and historically nonsensical. Likewise, the incarnation could have provided a place within the theological tradition for Streeter to ground his claims about God’s deep commitment to the whole evolutionary world, as the Word became evolved flesh. The other theological consideration that needs further development has to do with eschatology. Streeter’s story ends where current cosmology ends: perhaps a multiverse that propagates new universes forever, but certainly a cold, dark death at least for our universe in the unimaginably distant future. Streeter rightly takes this scientific projection seriously, but here theology’s contribution to the conversation seems too minimal. Streeter’s mostly agnostic but hopeful discussion of life beyond death remains exclusively focused on the possibility of a post-physical individual, which is rather puzzling in a book so extensively honoring the whole physical universe as the object of God’s love. Is there not something more, something about resurrection and renewed creation, that Christian theology must contribute to the conversation at this point? Unfortunately, Streeter did not explore what such traditional claims might mean in the context of our current knowledge about the universe. Without minimizing the concerns raised in the preceding two paragraphs, this book is abundant and dependable in its telling of the universe’s history, and provocative in its reflections on what that universe means about the God who is its Creator. Such informed and integrating reflection is something the church needs. Streeter knew he was dying of cancer as he attempted to finish this book. His friend and colleague, David Lull, promised to see the book through publication. That was a work of love, perhaps even agapic love, for which we can be grateful. Brian Peterson Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary Lenoir-Rhyne University