Ok, I’m going to see if I can get something started here that might be interesting. We all certainly have our favorite theologians, with whom we identify and on whom we draw for our theology. Now, of course none of us want to be uncritical readers, so we admit that our fav has “some” problems, of course. But usually when asked we come up with little surfacy things like “She doesn’t write clearly” or “He doesn’t develop this idea fully”, or “He didn’t embody his theology in his life,” etc. In other words our criticisms are often veiled compliments.
So here’s the challenge. Pick your favorite or most influential theologian. I know this will be hard, but just try to be as honest as you can and think of what theologian has really influenced your thought the most.
Then, write at least a solid paragraph about the most problematic aspects of their theology. And it has to be a real criticism that carries some weight. I’ll see what I can do to get us started, so here I go: Robert Jenson.
Jenson is one of my favorite theologians and his theology is very close to my own. I share his trinitarian and ecclesial instincts very closely. I think he is the most conceptually brilliant and substantive American dogmatic theologian since Jonathan Edwards. But he’s got some major problems. The first one that I would identify is his weak theology of the homoousion. Jenson, unlike Torrance, for example does not really discuss this central feature of orthodox trinitarian and Christological dogma. To be sure, he believes Jesus is fully God, but what this means for him, and how it relates to his understanding of the incarnation and preexistence of Jesus are open questions for Jenson. Secondly, I think Jenson is weak precisely where he is strong: ecclesiology. He is right, I think to closely connect Christ to his body, but he comes to close to collapsing Christ into the church. For him, the eucharistic body of Christ is the only body that the Risen Jesus has. The ascension plays no role in his thought whatsoever. Jenson comes at once perilously close to a complete identification of the church with the trinitarian Son, despite his insistence that the church does not become another hypostasis of the Trinitarian life. In the end he is left simply saying that the church does not become a fourth member of the Trinity, simply because he doesn’t wish to say it. Thirdly, I think again, Jenson is weak where he is the strongest, namely in his connection between the being of the Triune God and the narrative of Christ. For Jenson, the resurrection of Christ defines the being of God. He even states that the resurrection is God’s ousia. The question that is inevitably posed to Jenson is whether God “needs” the world to be himself. To this Jenson always responds, that he does not, but seems bereft of resources to show why this so. While I think Jenson is absolutely right to see such a close relationship between the narrative of Jesus’ death and resurrection and the being of the Triune God, I think there must be a more adequate way of formulating our trinitarian doctrine to safeguard the transcendence of God, while never claiming that God somehow transcends or is other than Christ. All three of these problems seem to pose the question about whether or not Jenson is a theological liberal. The deep connection between God and the historical process, the loss of Jesus as a distinct personal subject over against the church (and with this, his hesitance toward the bodily resurrection) seem to all add up to some the key features of classic liberalism.
Ok, so, now we have begun. I now ask all you theo-bloggers out there to continue this meme and speak freely about your favorite theologian’s weaknesses. Who will join me?