About Providence, Divine Action and the Church


In this blog, Terry J. Wright posts thoughts and shares research on the Christian doctrine of providence. This doctrine testifies to God’s provision for all things through creation’s high priest, the man Christ Jesus. However, the precise meaning and manner of this provision is a perpetually open question, and this blog is a forum for discussion of the many issues relating to providence and the place of the Church within God’s action.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

A New(ish?) Book on Barth, Calvin and Schleiermacher on Providence – and a Forthcoming Book on Providence and Disability

It’s amazing what a quick browse through Amazon reveals. Here are two newish books on providence. Barth fans will particularly want the first one, I’m sure. I hadn’t seen it listed before, but Amazon says the paperback’s been out since January! Anyway, to business:


This dissertation stages an intervention in Reformed readings of the doctrine of providence, particularly around Barth's critical interpretation of the tradition stemming from Calvin and Schleiermacher, and provides a critical and constructive assessment of Barth's contribution. The author argues that while Barth advances the discussion in key ways, his reading of Calvin in particular is significantly hampered by his running challenge to Schleiermacher. Following an assessment of Barth's critique of the Reformed position, the author provides an extensive reading of Calvin's writings, demonstrating that Calvin is far more concerned with the Christological basis and Christian meaning of providence than Barth's theology recognizes; as well, Schleiermacher's theological construction problematizes aspects of Barth's reading. The upshot of this work is that each of these theologians provide critical safeguards and soundings that need to be heard in concert and mutual correction for a robust doctrine of divine providence.

And here’s the second one:


Human disability raises the hardest questions of human existence and leads directly to the problem of causality – the underlying intuition that someone, divine or human, must have been at fault. Christian theology has responded with almost singular attention to Providence, the expression of divine will in the world as the cause of all things. This preoccupation holds captive the Christian imagination, leaving the Church ill-equipped to engage the human reality of disability. Theological reflection, argues Hans Reinders, can arise only as a second-order activity that follows after real attention to the experience of disability. This book offers a more excellent way to address this difficult subject. Reinders guides readers away from an identification of disability with tragedy – via lament – to the possibility of theological hope and its expression of God's presence. In particular, Reinders reconsiders two of the main traditional sources in Christian thought about Providence, the biblical text of Job and the theological work of John Calvin. Throughout the book, first-person accounts of disability open up biblical texts and Christian theology–rather than the other way around. In the end, a theology of Providence begins with the presence of the Spirit, not with the problem of causality.

Reinders’s volume immediately catches my eye, though I’ll be interested to see what Kim has to say about Calvin. Sigh. . . I wish the providence of God would so arrange for me to have both of these books. And the time to read them.

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