From the Dean

News items, published articles, and reading recommendations from Dean Timothy George

The Dean Recommends: An Interview with Charles Raith on Aquinas, Calvin, and Ecumenism - Part 1

By Aaron Anderson

April 2, 2016

Charles Raith II is Director of the Paradosis Center for Theology and Scripture and Assistant Professor of Religion and Philosophy at John Brown University. He received his PhD from Ave Maria University. He is author of the book Aquinas and Calvin on Romans: God’s Justification and Our Participation (Oxford University Press), and the forthcoming After Merit: John Calvin’s Theology of Works and Reward (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht). His articles and reviews have appeared in Pro Ecclesia, Nova et Vetera, Logos, Renaissance and Reformation Review, International Journal of Systematic Theology, Journal for Theological Interpretation, and The Thomist. He is currently working on a book manuscript for Continuum Press entitled Ecumenism: A Guide for the Perplexed as well as a co-editing the Oxford Handbook on the Reception of Aquinas (Oxford University Press).

Chad, thanks for talking to us. To begin, could you explain how you became interested in ecumenical theology?

I can think of two primary influences that gave rise to my interest in ecumenism. One is personal. I came to Christ when I was 21 without much background in Christianity. I was baptized in a Southern Baptist church for no other reason than it’s where my younger sister went. When I went to seminary a few years later—an interdenominational seminary—I met Christians from many other denominations, and that started a personal journey of seeking to understand the underlying reasons for denominations, and how it’s possible with a common source of authority, i.e., Scripture, that we have denominations (and have so many!). I always sensed that our denominations are not merely a reflection of diversity in Christ’s body; they also reflect at times division. And this seemed (and still seems) contrary to the Gospel. But that journey was mostly intra-Protestant. The Catholic component was somewhat accidental. My seminary training was under Dean Timothy George, and this was my first introduction to the Evangelical-Catholic dialogue. He was also Southern Baptist but not of the mold I was used to. He helped me understand that the problematic divisions of the Church stretched beyond the boundaries of Protestantism. After seminary I then sat under Dr. Hans Boersma for my Th.M., which only fueled the ecumenical fire, and lastly under Dr. Matthew Levering for my Ph.D., which sealed my fate as an ecumenist. As you may know, Hans and Matthew are both quite engaged in ecumenical work. But even more, they embody in their lives the combination of deep theological commitment with ecumenical sensibilities—an embodiment that I attempt to follow in my own life. So as you can see, ecumenism is just in my blood. It’s God’s handwriting on the wall for me! Read the rest at Catholics & Calvinists.

Charles Raith is also a graduate of Beeson Divinity School.

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Thursday, April 28, 2016
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The Dean Recommends: Why You Need Augustine

By Coleman Ford
April 11, 2016

After Jesus and Paul, perhaps no other figure in history has defined the Christian faith as much as Augustine of Hippo (AD 354–430). His influence was perceived not only in his own lifetime, but also in church councils that came after him and in the religious thought-world of medieval Western Europe. His authority was cited by Reformers (and counter-Reformers); his theological insight was infused within 17th- and 18th-century Reformed theology and spirituality; his philosophical notions continue to fuel discussion; and his life continues to be the topic of biographical literature. It’s clear that Christians and non-Christians alike are fascinated by the life of Augustine.

Gerald Bray—research professor of divinity, history, and doctrine at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama—has produced an important volume on Augustine’s theology and approach to the Christian life. In doing so, Bray has faithfully represented the spirit of the Theologians on the Christian Life series from Crossway. This volume, though only recently released, should be read before any others in the series. The likes of John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, and others have Augustine to thank for their own theological positions.

Reading Bray’s Augustine on the Christian Life: Transformed by the Power of God is an ad fontes call of sorts, imploring readers to reflect and consider the one so many faithful believers before our time have learned from and leaned on. Read the rest at The Gospel Coalition.

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Sunday, April 24, 2016
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No More Graves

By Kristen Padilla

April 18, 2016

"Behold, the dwelling place is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." Revelation 21:3-4

There’s an ancient tombstone in Rome that reads, “Stranger, hang on a minute. Stop here; take a look down to your left. That’s where my bones are buried. I was a good man. I was a kind man, and I was a lover of the poor. Please traveler, I beg you, don’t mess with my tomb. Traveler, on your way now. Goodbye.”

For Gaius Atilius, the end of his story ended with his grave, and for a traveler to mess with his grave would somehow interrupt his eternal rest. But God reveals to us in Revelation that for the one in Jesus Christ, the end of our story isn’t the grave but an eternal dwelling place with God. We don’t look to an ending where our bones will lay under piles of dirt; rather, we look forward to the day when we will dwell with God in resurrected bodies with no more tears or pain. As my son Philip says, “There will be no more band-aids in heaven.” And this eternal reality is not dependent upon how good we are. For even Gaius Atilius’ best attempt at goodness still ended with him in the grave. Rather, this eternal reality is given to us because of God’s great love for us in Jesus’ death and resurrection. So even in these moments and days of tears, sadness, and pain, remember that it is temporary. Our stories won’t end in the grave because Jesus is not in the grave.

Devotional originally published for Beeson community's weekly Happenings e-mail.
Posted by Kristen Padilla at Monday, April 18, 2016
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