Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Aberdeen Studies

If we moved to Aberdeen I'd be taking Systematic Theology in the divinity school and I'd be studying Karl Barth. I'd start out as an MPhil student and progress into the PhD as long as things were going okay.

The topic I proposed and had approved for dissertation research is as follows: "In light of Karl Barth's Doctrine of Reconciliation, how should the objective reality of Christ's forgiveness of sin actualize itself in the subjective experience of interpersonal relationships within the Church?"

Basically the idea is to study how Barth envisioned his lofty and exciting doctrine of reconciliation working out in churches. How would they look? Considering the many things churches (wrongly, I think) rally around now, I'd love to come out of this with a contribution of some kind to make to a different kind of ecclesiology. That would be great.

My supervisor at Aberdeen would be John Webster. He has written and edited books about Karl Barth and also the profoundly interesting Theology of Reconciliation.

I was reading Webster's "Intro to Barth" the other day and it gave me a big heads up on the kind of teacher he is and the kind of student he looks for. He said the ideal Barth interpreter would be one who took him seriously as one of the classics (i.e. read him in his original language) and who went into it with the desire to do church theology. Then he concluded with a quote from Barth which shows his approach to theology:

"Bound to its subject matter ... [theology] enjoys complete freedom of inquiry and doctrine.... It accepts no instructions or regulations from anyone; it even serves the Church in the independence of its own responsibility. And since the God from whom it takes its name is no dictator, it cannot behave dicatatorially. Bound only to its subject-matter, but also liberated by it, the teacher of theology can have and desires to have only pupils who are free in the same sense."

That kind of learning excites me. And when I was at seminary, I won't lie to you: reading Karl Barth was a high. I'm not even joking. I can't imagine enveloping myself in Barthian studies for three years.

Of course, I'd have to learn German. I've started poking my nose into it, but that is somewhat daunting.

This opportunity at Aberdeen offers me the chance to get right in on one of the most exciting and inspiring topics in theology today. It would challenge me, get me thinking about the church, about a more holistic understanding of redemption (reconciliation), and it would (hopefully) prepare me to aptly teach and write about theology in the future.

So, that's what awaits in Aberdeen, best as I can tell.


ErinOrtlund said...

Erin again. Yeah, if you're studying theology, I've heard you can't go wrong with John Webster. Has Eric given you the email address for our cousin who was studying theology with Webster in Aberdeen? We also have a good friend who studied theology at Edinburgh--he is a professor at a seminary in Cairo, supported by the Presbyterian church.

Anonymous said...

Just in case you didn't know, Jon...I'm votin' for Aberdeen... ;)

Matthew A. Wilkinson said...

Aberdeen sounds great. But 5 1/2 hours of sun! Agh!

Dave M said...

Aberdeen has a great footballing tradition as well. They were even european Cup winners.

Bryce Ashlin-Mayo said...

Ich glaube, Sie würden awesome, wohin Sie gehen und werden gut mit der deutschen Sprache! Oder zumindest stark auf "Google Translate".