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Systematic Theology is the capstone of Robert Jenson's long and distinguished career as a theologian, being a full-scale systematic/dogmatic theology in the classic format. This is the second and concluding volume of the work. Here, Jenson considers the works of God, examining such topics as the nature and role of the Church, and God's works of creation. Systematic Theology is the capstone of Robert Jenson's long and distinguished career as a theologian, being a full-scale systematic/dogmatic theology in the classic format. This is the second and concluding volume of the work. Here, Jenson considers the works of God, examining such topics as the nature and role of the Church, and God's works of creation.


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Systematic Theology is the capstone of Robert Jenson's long and distinguished career as a theologian, being a full-scale systematic/dogmatic theology in the classic format. This is the second and concluding volume of the work. Here, Jenson considers the works of God, examining such topics as the nature and role of the Church, and God's works of creation. Systematic Theology is the capstone of Robert Jenson's long and distinguished career as a theologian, being a full-scale systematic/dogmatic theology in the classic format. This is the second and concluding volume of the work. Here, Jenson considers the works of God, examining such topics as the nature and role of the Church, and God's works of creation.

30 review for Systematic Theology: Volume 2: The Works of God

  1. 5 out of 5

    Vagabond of Letters, DLitt

    Jenson, 'Systematic Theology Vol II: the Works of God', (New York: Oxford University Press 1999). viii+369. $39. This collection of lucubrations from American ecumenical Lutheran theologian and Edwards scholar Robert Jenson could have been four stars even with the thick heresy - there are contained between these covers unique and thought-provoking ideas insofar as I can understand them, but presented more dimly than a poor ranslation of Heidegger, yet in English from a native Anglophone - but it Jenson, 'Systematic Theology Vol II: the Works of God', (New York: Oxford University Press 1999). viii+369. $39. This collection of lucubrations from American ecumenical Lutheran theologian and Edwards scholar Robert Jenson could have been four stars even with the thick heresy - there are contained between these covers unique and thought-provoking ideas insofar as I can understand them, but presented more dimly than a poor ranslation of Heidegger, yet in English from a native Anglophone - but it gets two on balance, zero for the terrible writing style and vastly inflated page count and smug artifice of false modesty and the faux-German sentence structure which effectively hides all of the thought, and makes one wonder if even the author knew what he was trying to say to couch it in such incomprehensible terms such that the reader can not tell whether the author got his point across, even when that point is discernible. Contents: quite a few piercing thoughts (generated by the reader from the opacity, I think, missing from the text) alongside great heresy (the author does not affirm the empty tomb; he is a universalist; close to social Trinitarian; extremely semitophilic to the point of championing salvation for the unbelieving Jew) along with a laundry list of heterodoxy in every locus, the author locates heaven as not a place (though humans are a place inside of God [sic]), but as God using his presence in the future to take the saints there in our present, so that heaven and the eschaton are collapsed. It is true enough that heaven is in the future of this book for any saint, for unlike the first volume, Jenson repeats himself ad nauseam ad infinitum ad nauseam (yes, it's that bad), and is completely incapable of expressing a clear thought, using so many opaque neologisms a Continental philosopher would blush. The writing style actually drove me to anger regardless of the content, the author writing as if hellbent to prove everything the positivists said about religious language and Wittgenstein about language-games. I can't really express how almost-good this book was on the one hand and how absolutely frustrating, annoying even unto anger it was on the other. Definitely crap compared to the first volume, though, like the author had spent five lifetimes in an especially recondite Department of Quantum Hermeneutics between the two writings. Random quote (p. 365): 'As this work's possible contribution to understanding, it offers the following small observation: with respect to the baptized, and the children of Israel, and those simply outside the covenant, in each way differently, "Exclusion is possible" is perhaps a true theological, that is, second-level, proposition, to which, however, no first-level believing discourse corresponds, so far, as the present work sees, a unique situation [these 'unique' special pleadings are endemic when Jenson refuses to follow the argument], for the church must think damnation is perhaps possible, but must not make it an article of faith, believe it, proclaim it, or threaten it in except in such way as to obviate the threat [which itself is]. [Sic, German sentence] So then what sort of truth does "Damnation is possible" then have? This work thinks that God perhaps does not want us to know.' What does that even mean? 'Damnation is a theoretical possibility for all three groups but hell is empty and the church must reassure those who think it is not'? if so, why not just say it! That one example may be unfair: even with the theologically-liberal, Bultmann/Pannenbergian neo-idealist ecumenical Romanizing meaninglessness, in many passages a glimpse of light shines through, if only from the effort of the mind in refuting the novelty, but the book is written - though incogently and incoherently argued in detail, it is clear enough in broad vistas - by an obviously intelligent man with much to teach and the ability to do it (see vol 1). His editor should have let him know when he drifted so far away from his comfort-zone or specialty that he ended in incoherence: the book would have been clearer, more enjoyable, and half the length. Spending 250 years in the Department of Post-Quantum Critical Theory of Theology really does a number on clarity. For a 350pp book, it seemed like at least 1050pp. **1/2

  2. 4 out of 5

    David

    As I read through this, the phrase that kept going through my head was “its not you, its me.” I really, really liked Volume 1 of Jenson’s Systematic Theology which is why I was looking forward to Volume 2. But while nearly every page of the first volume hit me in either the heart or the head, this one did not. I am trying to figure out why. Maybe its me? I mean, its a highly rated work by a world-class theologian. Perhaps I was just not in the right space to read it. I loved the reflections on Tr As I read through this, the phrase that kept going through my head was “its not you, its me.” I really, really liked Volume 1 of Jenson’s Systematic Theology which is why I was looking forward to Volume 2. But while nearly every page of the first volume hit me in either the heart or the head, this one did not. I am trying to figure out why. Maybe its me? I mean, its a highly rated work by a world-class theologian. Perhaps I was just not in the right space to read it. I loved the reflections on Trinity and Christology in volume one, so maybe I am just less interested in reading about the church and other topics in this one. At the same time, I found the organization to be odd. The four-part division makes sense for a book titled the “Works of God”: The Creation, The Creatures, The Church and the Fulfillment. The first section, on Creation, was fine. I think I got thrown in the second chapter of part two, “Politics and Sex.” It seemed shoehorned in, not really fitting with the flow. Is the best place to discuss politics between chapters on the image of God and human personhood? The too-brief section on sexuality seemed poorly argued and unnecessary (though a few internet searches reveal Jenson said some truly awful things about LGBTQ folks). That chapter is a sort of microcosm to my struggles with the book. There is no chapter on Ethics, instead any work on ethics is sprinkled throughout. Jenson seems most concerned to discuss homosexuality and abortion. The problem is, his work on homosexuality is all too brief; he simply cites the six verses in scripture against same sex relations and moves on. Yet there is plenty of work out there, and plenty of debate, on what these words actually mean in their context. Even if Jenson had examined all that work and he is correct in his assessment, the fact he doesn’t even mention intersex persons is a gaping hole. He takes for granted there are men and women and that’s it. What about people born who do not fit into these two categories? Intersex persons make up, if I recall, around 1% of the population. Of course, their existence does not mean Jenson’s arguments are wrong. But could he at least address them? This may seem harsh, as some of this work has been done since the book was written. But that’s also kind of my point - Jenson brought up sexuality in chapter seven. Volume 1 seemed more timeless, focusing on the big and deep questions of who God is. Here it seems by choosing some issues to address and not others, the book is quickly dated. The same goes for abortion as the high crime of western culture. I mostly agree with Jenson’s assessment of the failings of western culture, the creation of a culture of death and how a Christian theology values life. Yet reading this book with the work of theologians such as James Cone and Willie James Jennings in mind makes me wonder why racism and justice don’t get more discussion? Jenson’s discussion on church is helpful for what it addresses - eucharist, baptism. Further, he is ecumenical in his work as he writes in conversation with Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Protestant theologians. Yet (another yet!) it does seem kind of ivory tower. Is Systematic Theology ONLY concerned with what goes on in the church on Sunday? Does it say nothing about the life of a Christian in the world, the mission of the church and so on? I wouldn’t even ask this question had Jenson not brought up abortion. In bringing that ethical issue to bear, he sets foot outside the church door. But then why stop there? Why not discuss climate change, consumerism, capitalism, racism, education, policing? Does “the Image of God” or “Human Personhood” only speak to babies prior to birth but nothing to the kids they become? But like I said, maybe its me? Maybe my expectations were off. Maybe I’m not being fair. To be fair, I did like much of this book. When Jenson sticks to talking about sin and church and judgment, its generally brilliant. Its when he steps into contemporary issues of morals and ethics, choosing some and not others and not necessarily making strong arguments on any that he lost me. Overall, this is still a good theology book. The final section on eschatology is probably the best (though, if you are a more traditional believer in a literal hell, you may not like it). I’d almost say read Part 1 (The Creation) and most of Part 2 (skip the “Politics and Sex” chapter). Then read Part 3 (The Church) but supplement it with some deeper work on mission, spiritual practice or even liberation theology. Finish with Part 4.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    Jenson's second volume is as refreshingly Christo-centric (and so Trinitarian) as his first. He moves from speaking of creation as that general "other" in God's Trinitarian conversational space, to the spoken creatures themselves, and, finally, to the fulfillment of God's works. While satisfying in most of his conclusions, and unarguably lovely in each of his arguments, Jenson's final comments, both upon the state of unbelieving Israel and the unbelieving Gentile nations, are a heart-wrenching d Jenson's second volume is as refreshingly Christo-centric (and so Trinitarian) as his first. He moves from speaking of creation as that general "other" in God's Trinitarian conversational space, to the spoken creatures themselves, and, finally, to the fulfillment of God's works. While satisfying in most of his conclusions, and unarguably lovely in each of his arguments, Jenson's final comments, both upon the state of unbelieving Israel and the unbelieving Gentile nations, are a heart-wrenching discord within his opus. His address and development of his apocalyptic theology, full of the Prophetic and Pauline discourse on the subject, neglects Christ's gospel statements concerning human judgement and creation's fulfillment, in which all such statements must, if Jenson's Christology is to hold together, find their meaning. If Jenson had facilitated this conversation, he might still have argued to the same conclusions. However, his neglect of these passages (notably Matt 25), in light of his thoroughness in preceding doctrinal arguments, feels more willful neglect than oversight. It is difficult to see such a lively and Trinitarian theologian balk at the finish line. In all the rest of the work, he truly does present a winsome and lovely conversation-- one that is a joy to join.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    Again, as with the first vol of his ST, one can see the genius of Jenson, and, as a consequence, a warrant for the acclaim that he has received as a theologian. No matter if one disagrees or agrees with Jenson on one point or another, it is clear that he is a profound thinker who is deserving of the attention of those who wish to go beyond the introductory level of theology. Especially beneficial, I found, was his treatment of the Trinitarian dynamic of creation and ecclesiology. Though I am som Again, as with the first vol of his ST, one can see the genius of Jenson, and, as a consequence, a warrant for the acclaim that he has received as a theologian. No matter if one disagrees or agrees with Jenson on one point or another, it is clear that he is a profound thinker who is deserving of the attention of those who wish to go beyond the introductory level of theology. Especially beneficial, I found, was his treatment of the Trinitarian dynamic of creation and ecclesiology. Though I am somewhat reticent to give a five star rating for this book for two reasons (1) his lack of thoroughness yet decisiveness on obviously controversial issues (e.g., episcopacy, the sacraments) and (2) the, at times, vague and tacit nature of his writing, due to his depth of thought and profundity of argumentation throughout, this vol. 2 deserves the five star ranking.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jacob Aitken

    I sang the praises of volume 1, for it was truly brilliant and beautiful. It is with much regret that I say volume 2 is not the same. First, the good. Good His theme is the identity of God in the narrative of Israel. It's a strong theme and more often than not, he is successful in anchoring his loci in this theme. While the chapter on Scripture was weak, his narrative-theme does provide the ground for helpful reflection on the nature of canonization. Humor: He is savagely funny. He never fails to r I sang the praises of volume 1, for it was truly brilliant and beautiful. It is with much regret that I say volume 2 is not the same. First, the good. Good His theme is the identity of God in the narrative of Israel. It's a strong theme and more often than not, he is successful in anchoring his loci in this theme. While the chapter on Scripture was weak, his narrative-theme does provide the ground for helpful reflection on the nature of canonization. Humor: He is savagely funny. He never fails to ridicule the NRSV translation, as all of us are morally obligated to do. Great chapter on sexual ethics and the nature of polity. Fairly decent chapter on anthropology. He notes the inherent problems in Rome, the East, and in some inadequate Reformed responses. Bad He adopts Barth's view of election. That is not my specific critique. Others have given better critiques of Barth on that point, so I refer you to them (e.g., Horton). My problem is that his chapter on anthropology (where he basically summarizes Luther's Bondage of the Will) seems inconsistent with his chapter on Election. The chapter on justification was plain bad. It was so bad it seemed like a good chapter on sanctification. I am less optimistic that the Finnish Interpretation of Luther really works. The chapter on church government, while helpful in pointing out to the East where they evolved on some points, basically argues that we need a monarchical patriarch to establish unity. He is aware that V1 made papal infallibility a condition for individual salvation (or damnation), and he admits he is uncomfortable with this language (!), but like other ecumenicists, he does not realize that Rome--even with the liberal pope today--will never budge on this point. This is why Ecumenicism always falls to the Pope's Jesuit Shock Army Troops. Flirts with universalism. To be fair, he doesn't affirm it but you can tell he really wants to. Horton has given other critiques of Jenson on these points, so I refer you to them (cf Lord and Servant: A Covenant Christology and Covenant and Salvation: Union with Christ, esp. pp. 153ff, 174-176,

  6. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    I couldn't help but feel that Jenson did not entirely fulfill the promise of volume 1. There is something to be said for finishing his project and providing a full systematic theology at a readable length, but Jenson is idiosyncratic - in his references and use of different figures from the tradition; and in the way some subjects are so compressed and abrupt, while others receive extended comment. In part, greater familiarity with the tradition (where I could, like Jenson bounce seemingly effort I couldn't help but feel that Jenson did not entirely fulfill the promise of volume 1. There is something to be said for finishing his project and providing a full systematic theology at a readable length, but Jenson is idiosyncratic - in his references and use of different figures from the tradition; and in the way some subjects are so compressed and abrupt, while others receive extended comment. In part, greater familiarity with the tradition (where I could, like Jenson bounce seemingly effortlessly from Aquinas to Gregory of Nyssa to Finnish Lutheranism to Barth to etc.) would probably help me here - i.e. a more well rounded theological reader might not find some the leaps Jenson makes so disorienting. Overall, a challenging, creative theological effort - Jenson's desire throughout to place the triune God at the center of all theology is inspiring.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Dwight Davis

    I enjoyed this volume significantly more than I enjoyed volume 1. Particularly helpful were his chapters on sacrament and his chapters on eschatology.

  8. 4 out of 5

    G Walker

    This is the second volume of Jenson's work in systematics. Cf notes from volume 1 This is the second volume of Jenson's work in systematics. Cf notes from volume 1

  9. 4 out of 5

    Meshach Kanyion

  10. 4 out of 5

    A. Anderson

  11. 4 out of 5

    Steve

  12. 4 out of 5

    Dan Boyce

  13. 4 out of 5

    Yi Shen

  14. 4 out of 5

    Daryn Henry

  15. 4 out of 5

    Garrick Bailey

  16. 5 out of 5

    Chad Grissom

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Goodman

  18. 4 out of 5

    Beth

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Platter

  20. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Hatfield

  21. 5 out of 5

    Brad East

  22. 5 out of 5

    Cameron Combs

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ben

  24. 5 out of 5

    Theolojohn

  25. 5 out of 5

    Len MacRae

  26. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

  27. 4 out of 5

    Vijay Pillai

  28. 5 out of 5

    Graham Hoppstock

  29. 4 out of 5

    Bill

  30. 5 out of 5

    Joseph David

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