Placing God: From Garden to ‘Arboreal City-Temple’

A review of God Dwells Among Us: Expanding Eden to the Ends of the Earth, by G.K. Beale and Mitchell Kim (IVP, 2014), the early form of material submitted to The Expository Times.

This book is the result of promising collaboration between a biblical scholar and a preacher. Its ‘substance and basic thesis’ come from Beale’s The Temple and the Church’s Mission (IVP, 2004), which became a sermon series delivered by Alliance pastor Mitchell Kim and was then ‘translated’ back into written form. In its current iteration, the authors aim to introduce a broad church audience to the ‘richly textured interconnectedness of scripture’ with a focus on fascinating portrayals of God’s dwelling place.…
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A Cleaving Mind: Hegel and Bonhoeffer on the Fall Into Knowledge

The following excerpt is taken from my recent article in Modern Theology 32.4 (October 2016), in which I explore how Genesis 3 affects our ethical thinking. The essay also draws on a chapter of my Ph.D. thesis–the current task that’s kept me from posting on this site more frequently!

Tob and ra [good and evil] are concepts that express what is in every respect the deepest divide in human life. The essential point about them is that they appear as a pair, that in being split apart they belong inseparably together.  – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall


Dietrich Bonhoeffer delivered his lectures on Genesis 1-3 at the University of Berlin under the title Schöpfung und Sünde. The course was one of several treatments of Jewish scripture in order to rethink ethical life under the emerging Third Reich, an exegetical habit that led to fines and publication bans in subsequent years. He delivered the lectures in winter semester 1932-33, during which time Adolf Hitler was appointed German Chancellor. A day after that momentous event, Bonhoeffer recounted the irreducible ambiguity of the Fall, which he cast in the ‘twilight’ while reminding students that the name Lucifer means ‘Light-bearer.’

Along with thinly-veiled reference to contemporary events, the term ‘Light-bearer’ is one of several echoes of Hegel’s lecture on the same passage, also delivered at the University of Berlin a century earlier. Bonhoeffer had the three volumes of his predecessor’s Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion at hand, newly edited by Georg Lasson. They contain Hegel’s most explicit and sustained work with biblical text, which is likely why this section is one of the most heavily marked in Bonhoeffer’s set. Along with providing a key secondary text for his Genesis lectures, the volumes serve Bonhoeffer’s preparation for a summer 1933 seminar focused on these texts.…
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Self-Fashioning After Capitalism: Kathryn Tanner’s ‘Protestant Anti-Work Ethic’

This post is written in response to Kathryn Tanner’s third Gifford lecture for 2016, entitled ‘Total Commitment.’ It is part of her larger series, Christianity and the New Spirit of Capitalism, that is currently being delivered at the University of Edinburgh (May 2-12, 2016). I am working as the host for the Giffords blog, where I have posted summaries of the lectures as well as links to the lecture videos. The following combines my summary, which seeks to stay close to her own terms, with a critique I’ve since contributed to the discussion thread.

Kathryn Tanner begins by describing a corporation’s problem with securing ‘total commitment’ from its workers. A company’s controlling interest in maximising shareholder value means that each worker must provide constant, maximal intensity of effort in the pursuit of profit. It is so important to track, and motivate, such worker commitment that a company will even take on the costs of a surveillance system. Such monitoring can contribute to a worker’s motivation in that one fears for the security of one’s position or, alternately, hopes for an award of ‘recognition.’

These attempts fall short of engendering a worker’s entire commitment, however; ‘total’ compliance is required in order to maximise profit. Motivation through fear, or external reward, always leaves a space between the company’s demands and the worker’s commitment: one may prefer not to. The company could, then, try to ‘evacuate’ the will of the worker, creating machine-like responsiveness. Employees become a ‘blank interface,’ reacting only to the need of the moment (the call centre is a prime example of this). In such a scenario, the company pushes out ‘not just thought of anything else, but thought per se.’  …
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© David Robinson, 2017