Readings on Robert Jenson

A Bibliography Bound to Grow

As the dissertations on Robert Jenson continue to roll-out (a happy circumstance!), I thought it might be worthwhile to start tracking the secondary literature already available on his work. Though there are numerous book chapters and journal articles engaging parts of Jenson’s theology, scattered throughout various sources, here I’m only interested in recording monographs. Here, then, in chronological order, is what I’m aware of at present (feel encouraged to point out omissions):

  • Colin Gunton, Ed. Trinity, Time, and Church: a Response to the Theology of Robert W. Jenson. (Eerdmans, 2000).
  • Russell D. Rook, Rhyming Hope and History: Theology and Culture in the Work of Robert Jenson. (Pickwick, 2012).
  • Scott R. Swain, The God of the Gospel: Robert Jenson’s Trinitarian Theology. (IVP Academic, 2013).
  • Stephen J. Wright, Dogmatic Aesthetics: A Theology of Beauty in Dialogue with Robert W. Jenson. (Fortress, 2014).
  • Andrew Nicol, Exodus and Resurrection: The God of Israel in the Theology of Robert W. Jenson. (Fortress, 2016).
  • Eds. Wright and Green, The Promise of Robert W Jenson’s Theology: Constructive Engagements, (Fortress, 2017)
  • Chris E. W. Green, The End is Music: A Companion to Robert W. Jenson’s Theology (Cascade, 2018).
  • Lincoln Harvey, Jesus in the Trinity: A Beginner’s Guide to the Theology of Robert Jenson (SCM, 2020).

Robert Jenson on the conclusion of our lives

Robert Jenson on the conclusion of our lives

We have called Jesus the “Son of God” or the “Revelation of God” or straight out “God” in order to say of him: What happened in his life is what is going to happen at the end of our stories. If “God” means “the one who will settle our fate,” then “Jesus is God” means “Jesus is the one who will settle our fate.” When we hear his story, we are told of the conclusion of our lives, we are told that utter self-giving of one man for another is what will finish and conclude our struggle or lack of struggle. When I get hooked on Jesus’ story, it is decided that “died for his enemies” will be the last line in my history.

from A Religion against Itself, (John Knox, 1967), 31.

Robert Jenson on resurrection

Robert Jenson on resurrection

We must ask, What are we necessarily affirming about Jesus when we say that he, unexpectedly, lives? What is the basic difference between a living person and a dead one? And surely we must say: the decisive difference between a living person and a dead one is that the former can surprise us as the latter cannot. Socrates, although he remains dead, is still powerful. But if I am surprised by him, this is because of previously inadequate knowledge. Whereas if Jesus lives, he is an agent in my life, and one whom I must expect to act freely, whom I could know perfectly and yet not always anticipate. […]

That Jesus lives means that his love, perfected at the cross, is now active to surprise us. That Jesus lives means that there is a subject who has us as his objects, and who wills our good in a freedom beyond our predicting.

from Systematic Theology, Vol. 1, (OUP, 1997): 198-9.

On scripture’s role as theological authority

On scripture’s role as theological authority

A. Robert Jenson

There is no mandate to reproduce all apostolic theologoumena. Indeed, they are not guaranteed to be especially felicitous; we turn to the apostolic church not for the certainly best thought-out instances of gospel-speaking but for unchallengeable instances. … apostolic reflective activity — however profoundly or superficially done — must have been the right sort of thing to be doing.

from Systematic Theology, Vol. 1 The Triune God, (OUP, 1997), 32.

B. David Kelsey

As its “authority,” scripture is “normative” for a proposal’s Christian aptness, not for its origin.

from Proving Doctrine, (Bloomsbury, 1999), 193.

C. John Webster

Scripture is not so much a source or norm of theology as its idiom.

from “Authority of Scripture,” Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible, (Baker, 2005), 724.

D. Rowan Williams

Revelation is addressed not so much to a will called upon to submit as to an imagination called upon to ‘open itself.’

from “Trinity and Revelation,” Modern Theology vol 2, no 3, (1986): 209.

The New Testament is less a set of theological conclusions than a set of generative models for how to do Christian thinking.

from On Christian Theology, Oxford, Blackwell, 2000, 22.

Robert Jenson on humanization

Robert Jenson on the enterprise of humanity

[…] men are those of God’s creatures who have their own true selves not as possessions but as challenges. My humanity is not a set of characteristics that I may be counted on to exemplify: like being vertebrate or brown haired or sapient. My humanity is rather something that happens, and happens exactly as the event of choice and action in which I become something that I was not before. […] that I am not yet myself and must become it, is after all something I cannot very well say to myself. Where would I get the location from which to say it? If I am to discover this peculiar sort of fact, if I am to discover that my selfhood is an opportunity and not a given, somebody else will have to tell me. The challenge to find what I am by becoming other than I am can only come from someone other than me, by some person who is new and strange to me and communicates that strangeness. My humanity is our mutual work. […] Being man, therefore, is an enterprise rather than a condition. It is, moreover, an inescapably joint enterprise. I am man only in that I become it; and this enterprise requires more than one in the same way as marrying and playing football requires more than one. Moreover, the enterprise of being human is also a fearsome enterprise — again like marrying or playing football. For who, after all, is to speak this word that can call me to my true self? You are — and that is what is fearsome. I am dependent on you. I am dependent on your sensitivity to perceive when I need your word; on your judgment to find the right one; on your compassion to risk speaking it. That is, I am dependent for my humanity on yours. And that is a risky bet. There is not only risk here, there is mystery. For if I am dependent upon your humanity for mine, on whom are you dependent for yours? On me. No matter how many members we bring into this circle, it remains a circle. How does it ever begin to turn? The common enterprise seems to hang in time by its own bootstraps. It is obviously impossible that it should ever have begun, and yet it happens.

from “On Becoming Man; Some Aspects,” in Essays in Theology of Culture, (Eerdmans, 1995), 28-29.