On Wednesday, 9 April, I was able to present a paper at the Church, Theology and Ministry seminar at the Society for the Study of Theology conference, held this year in Durham. To be honest, I sent an abstract off at the urging of my supervisor thinking I didn’t have much of a chance of being selected. As we can see though, I was wholly mistaken about this. The folks responsible for selecting papers basically called my bluff as it were. The title and abstract are below, to give you an idea of what it was about, but first here are some more generalized thoughts on my time at the SST.
First, due to some family obligations I only went down for the day of my paper. The conference itself was three days long. But despite my short time there, it really felt like I talked to about a few thousand people (obviously an exaggeration, but you get the point). This is where an awareness of my introversion becomes important. I love people dearly, and love to chat theology with folks, especially if I get a chance to talk about Stan Grenz and Paul Ricoeur. But that doesn’t change the fact that crowds drain me of energy. Couple that with the fact I was going at best on four hours of restless sleep the night before due to nerves, and I was wiped out by the time I got on the train back home to Edinburgh.
Second, I toured Durham Cathedral during some off time. Absolutely breathtaking! I was going to take pictures, but there was a sign to put away all phones and cameras and I thought it best to comply.
Third, one of my goals was to meet Paul Fiddes, who is a leading Baptist scholar that teaches at Regent Park College of Oxford University. I did, quite literally, bump into Prof Fiddes near the refreshments outside the room where I read my paper and was able to introduce myself. However, after turning just briefly to get some chocolate chunk cookies (what can I say), when I turned back around he was gone. I looked for him the rest of the day but to no avail. That was a bit disappointing, but we’re going to be here for awhile, so I’m sure I’ll bump into him again.
Fourth, there were a couple questions during the Q&A that I wasn’t really sure what the questioner was trying to ask. One thing I’m going to have to get better about is requesting a succinct restatement or clarification from the questioner about what they want to know. At this point I felt my nervousness get the better of me and the Q&A I think upon reflection suffered as a result. I also had the experience of potentially having very good answers at hand, but freezing up as it were. At least two other questions related to some form of a combination of Grenz’s ideas of eschatological realism, proleptic triune participation, and his stuff on theosis in his later writings. While on the tip of my tongue, in the moment I ended up ‘drawing a blank.’
Fifth, I met a professor from Canada who knew Grenz. He spoke of his sadness at the sudden death of Grenz as well as fondly of his friendship with Grenz. And he spoke also of his very critical stance toward and disagreements with Grenz’s overall project, and recounted issues that, in his words, he went “tooth and nail” with Grenz. Now, I’m not surprised he had disagreements with Grenz, even rather pronounced disagreements. While I don’t share them myself, that sort of thing comes with the territory. What continually heartens me though, is the ability Grenz had to disagree with others and receive critique and yet maintain friendships with his critics (a generous posture not shared among many of his more strident and uncharitable interlocutors). I personally think we can learn much from Grenz's posture. His was truly a generous orthodoxy.
But without further ado, below is the title and abstract, which is material and research on Grenz I condensed down into a seminar length paper (what I read at the conference took about twenty minutes and actually came from a piece about twice as long):
Theology as Participation: A Trinitarian, Narrative, and Missional Proposal
Drawing on the thought of Stanley Grenz, along with others such as Paul Fiddes and Kevin Vanhoozer, this paper advances a proposal for theology as participation that can be described as trinitarian, narrative and mission in shape. While Stanley Grenz as a social Trinitarian advances the idea of an imitation of the Trinity, this paper argues that he also, very much in line with Paul Fiddes’ partipatory approach to the Trinity, envisioned a theology of triune participation. The claim is made that the ideas of imitation and participation are both important and can work together in ways hold the immanent and economic Trinity together establishing a participation in and with the triune God in the theo-drama. The paper also sets forth that the church’s narrative and missional participation in the triune theo-drama is rooted in and extends from the perichoresis of the Father, Son, and Spirit. Theology in this sense helps persons, as those who are created in the image of God, to see life not only as an imitation of the Trinity, but also as a participation in the life of the Divine Community – a participation with God and in God that is trinitarian, narrative and missional.
So, now I’m onto doing edits on the full version of my SST paper based on some of the good feedback I received as well as finalizing the edits on my Ar.tic.u.late paper from earlier this term. As well, I now have confirmation of the date and time of my first year ‘come to Jesus’ meeting – ie, my review board. The idea of a ‘come to Jesus’ meeting was a favorite of my grandfather's when I was very young to describe when someone faced a big test or trial of some sort. I think a PhD review board counts here. I will have my board on 6 June at 11:30 am. Until then, aside from the weekly post with prayers and lectionary texts, there won’t be much activity as I’ll be busy finalizing my materials for the review board. Prayers are appreciated.