Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Shout-Out

Here's a shout-out to Dr Walt Lowe, Professor of Systmeatic Theology, Emeritus from Emory, who taught a four-week seminar at our church this past month. (See the course description below.)

I had several "aha" moments throughout the course, but Dr Lowe's description of "how we know the Messiah has come" [as the 13th Century Jewish scholar said, "the world will smell different."] just spoke to me loud and clear.

One of the final thoughts Dr Lowe left us with was a quotation from Thomas Merton, whose icon I included here, by my favorite religious artist, Robert Lentz:

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
Thomas Merton, "Thoughts in Solitude"

Here's what the course was about:

The first session begins with a brief introduction to two major revolutions in twentieth century theology. These are the confessional theology of Karl Barth, who drafted the church's statement against Nazism, and the liberation theology of Jurgen Moltmann, many feminist theologians and a variety of other champions of the dispossessed. We sketch the present unfortunate situation in which each of these theologies views the other with considerable suspicion. Finally, to better understand this situation, we focus on how the two movements deal with the problem of evil and the good news of redemption.

The second session takes up the natural question, given the relationship above--namely "Where do we go from here?" The instructor's view is that a situation in which Christian theology constantly finds itself with one hand or the other tied behind its back is simply unacceptable. Fortunately, a new perspective currently in the process of opening up may point beyond the impasse. This is the new scholarly discovery of the formative role played by apocalyptic in the message and ministry of Jesus, and the writings of St. Paul. We will consider how many modern assumptions are challenged and transformed by this new development.

There is always a risk of getting carried away by the latest fad. Therefore the last two weeks will ponder some remarkable parallels between the possibilities just described and the greater orthodox tradition. We will do this through close reading and discussion of portions of Thomas Merton's marvelous summation of the tradition, entitled New Seeds of Contemplation. Members of the class are encouraged to obtain a copy from a library, local bookstore, or an understanding friend. Toward the end of the last session we will draw our thoughts together, with special reference to the life of the church and the presence (or absence) of Jesus.

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