Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A New Name

As I prepare to retire this summer and move "back home" to Massachusetts, I have thought about possible new names for this blog. The Gospel in ToyTown will make no sense when I no longer am the rector of the Episcopal parish in ToyTown, East Aurora, New York. The new name - The Thin Tradition - is a reference to Douglas John Hall's characterization of the theology of the cross in his book Lighten Our Darkness. I have found Hall's work increasingly important during the past decade and have quoted him frequently in sermons and on this blog.

In The Theology of the Cross: A Usable Past, an essay which can be found on the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America website, Hall describes this thin tradition:
What is the theology of the cross? I have tried on many occasions, in both sustained argument and more metaphoric ways to describe this “thin tradition”—as I called it in my first book on the subject, Lighten Our Darkness. I know that I will never do justice to it because, to begin with, the theology of the cross is not an “it”—not a specific and objectifiable set of teachings or dogmas; not “a theology”—it is, rather, a spirit and a method that one brings to all one’s reflections on all the various areas and facets of Christian faith and life. I have never been able to improve on Moltmann’s metaphor when he says that the theology of the cross is “not a single chapter in theology, but the key signature for all Christian theology.” This is a theological approach that is not easy to pin down, as one can (with care) pin down terms like “orthodoxy,” or “neo-orthodoxy,” or “liberalism,” or “fundamentalism.” But theologia crucis as a spirit and method of theological thought cannot be stated in a formula. It may, however, be recognized when it is heard or experienced, whether in sermon, serious theological writing, or artistic expression.
Hall goes on to identify the Informing Principles of this Theology:
  1. The Compassion and Solidarity of God
  2. The Cross as World-Commitment
  3. Honesty About Experience (Christian Realism)
  4. The Contextual Character of This Theology
  5. The Refusal of Finality

I continue to recommend Hall to colleagues and friends, while continuing to read Hall myself. (I am currently reading Professing the Faith, the second volume of a trilogy in which Hall addresses the future shape of Christian theology and life in North America.) For those not willing to tackle the trilogy, I recommend Lighten Our Darkness and The Cross in Our Context: Jesus and the Suffering World.

1 comment:

Chris said...

Here's to retirement - though I find I'm so busy that I don't know how I ever fitted in full-time teaching! What a great place to call home, though - I loved Massachusetts on the only time I visited there, over 25 years ago.