Brad East Pays Tribute to Robert W Jenson RIP (1930–2017)

Jenson passed away yesterday, having been born 87 years earlier, one year after the great stock market crash of 1929. He lived through the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, Roe v. Wade, the rise and fall of the Religious Right, the fall of the Soviet Union, September 11, 2001, the election of the first African-American U.S. President, and much more. He also lived through, and in many ways embodied, a startling number of international, ecclesial, and academic theological trends: ecumenism; doctrinal criticism; analytic philosophy of language; Heidegerrian anti-metaphysics; French Deconstructionism; the initially negative then positive reception of Barth in the English-speaking world; the shift away from systematics to theological methodology (and back again!); post–Vatican II ecclesiology; “death of God” theology; process theology; liberation theologies (black, feminist, and Latin American); virtue ethics; theological interpretation of Scripture; and much more.

Jenson studied under Peter Brunner in Heidelberg and eventually spent time in Basel with Barth, on whose theology he wrote his dissertation, which generated two books in his early career. He was impossibly prolific, publishing hundreds of essays and articles as well as more than 25 books over more than 55 years.

Initially an activist, Jenson and his wife Blanche—to whom he was married for more than 60 years, and whom he credited as co-author of all his books, indeed, “genetrici theologiae meae omniae”—marched and protested and spoke in the 1960s against the Vietnam War and for civil rights for African-Americans. His politics was forever altered, however, in 1973 with Roe v. Wade. As he wrote later, he assumed that those who had marched alongside him and his fellow Christians would draw a logical connection from protection of the vulnerable in Vietnam and the oppressed in America to the defenseless in the womb; but that was not to be. Ever after, his politics was divided, and without representation in American governance: as he said in a recent interview, he found he could vote for neither Republicans nor Democrats, for one worshiped an idol called “the free market” and the other worshiped an idol called “autonomous choice,” and both idols were inimical to a Christian vision of the common good.

Read it all (my emphasis).

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, Lutheran, Religion & Culture, Seminary / Theological Education, Theology