Another year -- and we still have terrorism: 9-11-17
Will England 'disestablish' its church? 9-13-17

Farewell to a great theologian: 9-12-17

There was a time in America when at least a few theologians were quite famous. And by theologians I don't mean revivalist preachers or pastors of famous churches. I mean people who study (ology) God (theo) and write about their findings.

JensonWhy, back in 1948, for instance, Rheinhold Niebuhr graced the cover of Time Magazine. (Niebuhr, by the way, was born in Missouri.) And the name Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who spent a few years in the U.S., was widely known after the Third Reich executed him in 1945 for being part of a plot to kill Adolf Hitler.

Not many theologians today are as famous, given that most of them haven't figured out how to describe their theories of atonement or their views on eschatology or soteriology in 140 characters or less. Sad.

So it may not mean much to you when I tell you that Robert W. Jenson just died. But Jenson (pictured here) was quite well known in the world of theology as a brilliant mind. He was Lutheran and brought the sensitivities of Martin Luther's theology to his considerable portfolio of work.

The Jenson book that has been most helpful to me is Systematic Theology: The Triune God, Volume 1. I recall being at Ghost Ranch several years ago to teach a class and spending a lot of my free time there carefully trying to digest Jenson's penetrating insights. There are lots of red-pen marks throughout my copy of the book.

Jenson, though quite capable of dense theological language, also could say things simply. An example: "Asked who God is, Israel’s answer is, ‘Whoever rescued us from Egypt.’ . . . To the question ‘Who is God?’ the New Testament has one descriptively identifying answer: ‘Whoever raised Jesus from the dead.’” Jenson's point was that both religions recognize God as a rescuer and redeemer.

One reason I admired Jenson is that, as the story about his death reports, "Jenson was consistently involved in ecumenical dialogue throughout his career." He sought to bring a divided church together. And as I noted in my most recent column for The National Catholic Reporter, there are some signs of success in that effort.

So today I raise a toast to Robert W. Jenson and invite you to do the same, no matter your faith commitment, if any.

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While keeping track of some of the coverage of Hurricane Irma, you may have heard about a small island called Islamorada. And, like me, you may have wondered whether it was somehow connected to Islam. Well, the answer is no. As this history of the place reveals, "The early settlers came from the Bahamas and New England. They raised and shipped thousands of pineapples to northern markets. One of these ships was the Island Home, built on Plantation Key by Johnny Brush Pinder. It was from this schooner that Islamorada got its name 'Is la morada' in Spanish meaning Island Home." Now you know. But my guess is plenty of Muslims over the years have visited the place.


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