This post is in honor of a theologian and author I think you should know about. I started following David Congdon on twitter a while back and have since found him to be the consistent fount of intelligence and wit one expects in the realm of academic twitter, but he also seems to be a spout of genuine wisdom, especially in matters of theology and culture. I’ve now completed 2 of his monographs (his smaller book on Bultmann and now, TGWS) and have been consistently impacted by the penetrating, pervasive scope and bold scholarly rigor contained therein. As a recent Evangelical expatriate, and graduate of an evangelical seminary, this book could not have found me at a better time. I am thankful for David’s work and I think to ignore it would be both languid and privative (two unbecoming characteristics for a theologian!). In lieu of an in-depth analysis I’m not yet ready to write, this will honestly serve more as an advertisement or endorsement… a mere Amazon review, however glowing, didn’t seem like enough.
The God Who Saves is 100% dynamite. Congdon’s “dogmatic sketch” is an exercise in postmetaphysical dialectical theology that posits a universalist soteriology by way of a soteriocentric Christology heavily indebted to a fresh and very nuanced synthesis of Barthian and Bultmannian dialectical theologies. Is hermeneutical theology becoming cool again? Perhaps.
Congdon’s reevaluation of apocalyptic tradition within Christianity allows him to collapse the distinction between God’s being and God’s action, thus also effectively identifying the repeated (although always paradoxically novel) event of salvation in apocalypse with God’s actual self. In other words, God’s radical transcendence is such that nothing can be said about God outside of God’s saving action in history, i.e. Christ, thus any objectifying metaphysical system religious minds have constructed within history are shown to conditioned, provisional and often simply idolatrous. God is the event of salvation.
Finally, TGWS is a remarkable feat in 21st century Christian dogmatics, both because of its content and methodology. Congdon’s work shines as an authentically wissenschaftlich theological treatise, complete with Prolegomena, Trinitarian reflection, references from patristic, medieval and modern theologians, a theory of intercultural hermeneutics, extended deliberation concerning pastoral matters such as life after death and a theology of religions. In my opinion, Congdon is at the cutting edge of contemporary theology, if there is such a thing; TGWS is state-of-the-art, a theology that promotes the historically-ignored theological value of women and LGBTQ people while insisting on the abnegation of an out-of-date mythical-religious world-picture. TGWS presents a model of Christian self-understanding worth believing in.
Now, here’s a list of my favorite quotes:
“Long before Constantine, it was the abandonment of the eschatological consciousness of the apostles and the corresponding conflation of Christ with the church that constituted the true fall of Christianity.” (166)
“God is the existential and eschatological event of the Christ-Spirit that places us outside ourselves. To put it another way, God is not a discrete personal agent who then enters into relationship with creatures; rather, God is the relationship—a specifically saving relationship—with creatures.” (210)
“Apocalyptic creaturehood is queer creaturehood: a plastic, praxical, performative being-in-becoming. The apocalypse does not free the creature for just any becoming, however, but for modes of becoming that place the creature outside of itself and so place it in solidarity with others. The apocalypse queers the creature by interrupting the creature.” (230)
“The cross is the existential “twilight of the gods,” the Gotterdammerung that emancipates the world from its bondage to the old order—its gods, religions, social norms, economic systems—so that the world is free to be the unnatural creation and human beings are free to be unnatural creatures. The dedivinizing of the world is not the opposite but the very actualization of God’s saving presence. Only a thoroughly secular world, liberated from its enslaving idols and elemental powers can thus exist in truth as God’s creation.” (236)