Robert W. Jenson recently retired as senior scholar at the Center for Theological Inquiry in Princeton. He and longtime colleague Carl Braaten founded the journals Dialog and Pro Ecclesia and the Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology. He has taught at Luther College, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, Oxford University and St. Olaf College.
In February the Jesuit theologian Roger Haight, former professor at Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, received notification that the Vatican had found “serious doctrinal errors” in his 1999 book Jesus: Symbol of God (Orbis) and that he was forbidden to teach as a Catholic theologian. The news did not come as a surprise.
Friedrich Nietzsche once remarked that “Plato was a bore,” but this snooty remark merely confirms the madman’s madness. Alfred North Whitehead concluded, boring or not, that “the safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.”
Paul’s daunting promise to the Romans haunts me: “Suffering produces endurance,” he assures the Romans and us, “and endurance produces character and character produces hope.” Recently I stood in the pulpit of my church and looked over the top of a white, 32-inch-long casket at a young couple from my congregation. Their six-month-old son, who had been happy and healthy just days before, had died in his sleep. The unfathomable suffering of the family was shadowed by a church filled with mourners for whom the scene enacted their most dreaded fears.
After the hectic and holy Christmas season, after the unusual turning of a new century and, wonderfully, a new millennium, the church and the culture will settle back into familiar rhythms. For the church and its calendar, this means the season of Epiphany with its festivals of Magi, miracles, baptism and transfiguration.