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Welcome to Season 3 of Queen of the Sciences!

To kick off the most welcome new year in recent memory, we tackle the question of the certainty of faith. What does it even mean to be "certain" where something like "faith" is concerned? Can we have the same certainty as, say, apostles and early Christians, or as folks before various revolutions in science and historical study? Where does doubt fit in, or hard questions? Is faith something that you have or something that has you? All this and more!

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1. Relevant previous episodes include Justification by Faith, Faith to the Aid of Reason, and The Freedom of a Christian.

2. Here's the Council of Trent criticizing what it took to be the Reformation doctrine of faith.

3. For Tillich on faith as being grasped by ultimate concern, since his Systematic Theology, vol. 3, pp. 129-134

4. For Barth on prayer, see the Church Dogmatics III/4:87-115 and Karl Barth: His Life from Letters and Autobiographical Texts

5. See Dad's Beloved Community for an example of "critical dogmatics" in action, and also his forthcoming article "Retrieving Luther on Prayer" in The T&T Clark Companion to Christian Prayer

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In which Dad and I read aloud a series of questions I put to him in a notebook on Christmas 1990, and discover that the more things change the more they stay the same. You can read the transcript on my website. Merry Christmas!

This is Dad's talk for the Virginia Synod's annual Power in the Spirit conference, from July 2020. You can also watch the video version with questions and answers from Pr. David Drebes on YouTube.

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To wrap up season 2 of Queen of the Sciences, not to mention wrapping up an exceptionally fraught election year (at least for those of you in the U.S.), we tackle St. Augustine's magnum opus, The City of God against the Pagans. Turns out there isn't actually very much about the two cities at all, but we range with Augustine across a wide assortment of issues: theodicy, providence, human community, the uses of history, and the nature of evil.

Fun fact: the Roman empire never actually fell, and certainly not due to barbarian invasions. It just sort of petered out due to its own stupid infighting. Food for thought, eh?

By the way, we had a technical glitch, so my audio track is pretty muffled, but Dad's is fine, and fortunately he did more of the talking on this one anyway.

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1. I quote from Dyson's translation of The City of God; this is the abridged one Dad mentioned; you may want to check out newer translations by New City Press; and this is the audiobook version I listened to, which was pretty well narrated except for the occasional pronunciation error, as in "the tropical interpretation of Scripture." Pretty sure he meant "tropological."

2. For a mind-blowing take on what really happened to the Roman empire under Christianity, check out Peter Brown's The Rise of Western Christendom.

3. Dad discusses the nature of evil in his Beloved Community, pp. 783–790. See also his forthcoming Joshua commentary on the nature of human community.

4. The accounts of evil that aim not only to harm the body but to destroy the soul that I mention toward the end of the episode are Endo's Silence, Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago, and Orwell's 1984.

5. Earlier in 2020 I did an issue of Theology & a Recipe on Augustine, called "Late Have I Loved Thee," imagining a late-in-life encounter between Augustine and his concubine. I didn't realize at the time John Updike had already done this; if I may so, I think my version is a lot more faithful to the principals and ultimately the more compelling. Judge for yourself, and then sign up for Theology & a Recipe on my website!

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The eponymous unlikely marriage is that of marriage—with Christianity. After assembling an impressive number of reasons why we should have expected the Christian faith to want nothing whatsoever to do with exclusive sexual pairing, we then change directions and show why, after all, Christianity opted for marriage, and in so doing once again engaged in a doctrinal revision of inherited notions of God. In light of which, we then engage a contemporary Catholic theologian's take on Christian marriage. Spoiler alert: we don't even go near the usual hot-button topics. If you feel the need for outrage, Twitter is waiting for you.

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1. Some relevant stuff I've written: "Marriage Matters," "Blessed Are the Barren," and "Luther's Hagiographical Reformation of the Doctrine of Sanctification in His Lectures on Genesis"

2. See also Dad's Luther and the Beloved Community, ch. 8 on "The Redemption of the Body: Luther on Marriage"

3. Kant ruined Christian ethics with The Critique of Practical Reason

4. For the range of Luther's take on the nature of divine and Christian love, see the Heidelberg Disputation (esp. #28) and his explanations of the Fourth and Sixth Commandments in the Large Catechism

5. Sarah Ruden, Paul among the People

6. Matthew Levering, Engaging the Doctrine of Marriage

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From a Tokyo street parade advertising the services of a shady prosperity church to the global pandemic, with pit stops in pain, death, suffering, and theodicy, this episode is sure to be a real crowd pleaser. Also, why you should go to the emergency room for a broken bone or infected wound but try Jesus for chronic conditions, death being the most chronic condition of all.


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1. Here's a short article I wrote on the International Lutheran-Pentecostal dialogue's meeting in Madagascar in 2019, where we discussed the topic of healing and deliverance. God willing and the creek don't rise, the final report will be released in 2021. You may also like the chapter on "Prosperity" in my book A Guide to Pentecostal Movements for Lutherans

2. A whole slew of OT studies by Claus Westermann

3. Becker, The Denial of Death

4. The first of Luther's 95 Theses issues a call to lifelong repentance

5. Dad takes up the theme of "purgatory now!" in Luther vs. Pope Leo

6. On the Blumhardts, father and son, see respectively Ising's Johann Christoph Blumhardt: Life and Work and Zahl's Pneumatology and Theology of the Cross in the Preaching of Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt

7. Not a whole lot on Nenilava just yet, but I'm working on it—look for the first-ever full-length work on her next year. Meanwhile, check out the entry on the fabulous online Dictionary of African Christian Biography.

8. Dad refers to the "service of the word for healing" in the Lutheran Book of Worship—it's actually in the companion to that hymnal, called Occasional Services

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After a lonnnnng delay, we finally finish up the Acts of the Apostles! Check out our previous episode on the First Two-Thirds of Acts, then dive in to this one for the riveting topic of... wait for it... rule of law and due process. No, really, it's good stuff. Plus, why Paul appeals to Caesar but never actually meets him, or, how to avoid soteriological confusion.

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1. Ferdinand Christian Baur on Acts

2. This is my favorite map of the missionary journeys of Paul

3. We refer to this excellent article by my friend the NT scholar Troy Troftgruben, "Slow Sailing in Acts: Suspense in the Final Sea Journey (Acts 27:1–28:15)” JBL 136/4 (2017). See also James R. Edwards, “Parallels and Patterns between Luke and Acts,” Bulletin for Biblical Research 27/4 (2017).

4. I double-dipped on this topic... it was the subject of my e-newsletter Theology & a Recipe earlier this year. Check it out (and then subscribe!).

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Dad talks to Sarah about the inspiration for and design of her new translation of Luther's Small Catechism, specifically intended for memorization.

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Friedrich Nietzsche demolished the traditional foundations of religious belief. Does that make him a foe—or possibly a friend? One way or another, we can't get away from him. In this episode Dad walks us through Nietzsche's tirades against all forms of fake religious assurances and insidious social control to find, surprisingly, compelling reasons to embrace the crucified and risen one.

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1. You can find translations of everything Nietzsche wrote without any trouble online. In this episode we talked in particular about The Birth of Tragedy, Beyond Good and Evil, The Genealogy of Morals, and The Antichrist.

2. Dad and his co-author Brendt Adkins engage with Nietzsche's philosophy in their book Rethinking Philosophy and Theology with Deleuze.

3. The book about saints and their radical will to power that I mentioned is E. M. Cioran's Tears and Saints.

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Dad talks to me about my "weird little stories" in Pearly Gates: Parables from the Final Threshold.

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Possibly the best thing Luther ever wrote (for my money only the Large Catechism offers the best competition for that claim), "The Freedom of a Christian" turns 500 this year and accordingly merits even more attention than usual. In this episode Dad and I explore the two halves of the treatise, one each for "A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none" and "A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all," drawing out the powers of faith and joyful exchanges that illuminate the apparent contradiction—and how to live as both a lord and a servant half a millennium later.


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1. You can find older public domain translations of "The Freedom of a Christian" online (often under the title "On Christian Liberty"). In print, try the Luther's Works translation (which is what we read from in this episode) or the newer translation by Mark Tranvik. We also discuss in passing the Large Catechism, Small Catechism, and 1519 Galatians commentary.

2. This is the Luther seminar I teach every November in Wittenberg

3. Dad's one and only work of fiction: Luther vs. Pope Leo (I admit I was skeptical at first, but it's actually really good—and if we have any Methodist listeners out there, you'll be amused to learn that John Wesley saves the day... sort of)

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I talk to Dad about his book Luther for Evangelicals: A Reintroduction. (Non-Evangelicals warmly invited to eavesdrop.)

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Last time we talked about the job of the pastor, so this time we're discussing the job of the congregation, which is a bit like the old Atari video game Pitfall—look out for those alligators, especially if you're one of Jesus' sheep. But most of the time it's just the sheep learning to bear with one another, and bear one another's burdens: a whole zooful of grace, evidently. Also, what to think about the roof, and how to navigate the inevitable requirement these days of being a church shopper.


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1. Hari, Lost Connections

2. For background on this episode, have a (re-)listen to One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church: The Worst Thing in the Best Words.

3. Dad has been talking about beloved community for a long time now: see Luther and the Beloved Community and plain ol' Beloved Community

4. Luther, without a trace of irony, calls the church "a little holy group and congregation of pure saints, under one head, even Christ, called together by the Holy Ghost in one faith, one mind, and understanding, with manifold gifts, yet agreeing in love, without sects or schisms" in the Large Catechism.

5. H. R. Niebuhr, The Social Sources of Denominationalism

6. Not discussed here but relevant: The Church Has Left the Building; Rebuilt; Christianity Rediscovered

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Dad talks to me about my "poetic paraphrase" of the Sermon on the Mount.

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Less obvious than you might think! The pastoral office functions like a magnet, attracting an infinity of valuable tasks without knowing how to shed them when it gets to be too much. In this episode we address the distinction between lay and ordained ministries, attempt to clear away some of the aforementioned well-intentioned clutter, and chart out a triage approach to the pastor's true calling. Hopefully helpful to burned-out and compassion-fatigued pastors, lay folks may also appreciate this reminder of what their pastors are actually for.


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1. Dobbs, “The Coming Pastoral Crash

2. Stephen Ministries

3. Forde, Theology Is for Proclamation

4. Heinrich Heine, not Voltaire, said: “of course God will forgive me; that’s His job

5. Jan-Olav Henriksen, Christianity as Distinct Practices: A Complicated Relationship

6. Check out what our gifted friend Pastor Natalie Hall is doing at St. Mary Magadalene Lutheran Episcopal Church as well as her excellent confirmation curriculum.

7. See Dad’s book of sermons, Preaching God's Word according to Luther's Doctrine in America Today, and his discussion of issues surrounding the pastoral ministry in Beloved Community pp. 355–382

8. You might be interested in my essay on “Sources of Authority according to the Lutheran Confessions” and a rather melancholic rumination on my first call in The Church Has Left the Building. My sermons for Tokyo Lutheran Church are on YouTube.

9. We didn’t get around to discussing these, but two of my favorite books for re-envisioning a faithful pastoral ministry in the midst of hugely different cultural settings are Vincent Donovan’s Christianity Rediscovered (lousy title: it should be more like Church Reimagined) and Michael White and Tom Corcoran’s Rebuilt, both by Catholic clergy.

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How could anyone possibly feel "meh" about Isaiah? Well, that was me, before digging in deep to prepare for this episode. I have since come around (whew) and, if not quite as excited as about Leviticus, I'm still pretty jazzed now about both the prophet Isaiah and the book named for him. In this episode Dad and I discuss both the text in its own time and the text in the hands of Jesus and the apostles, and wrap up with ruminations on how not to exploit Isaiah and other prophets as a soapbox for a preacher's pet concerns.


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1. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho

2. Fredriksen, Augustine and the Jews

3. Dad on Divine Simplicity

4. Hays, Reading Backwards

5. Sawyer, The Fifth Gospel

6. Dahl, Jesus the Christ

7. Juel, Messianic Exegesis

8. Witherington, Isaiah Old and New

9. Childs, The Struggle to Understand Isaiah as Christian Scripture

10. The Septuagint (LXX) is the Greek translation(s) of the Old Testament, which took its final form in the first century after Christ’s birth. Here is one common English translation.

11. Stuhlmacher, The Suffering Servant

12. I recently did a short sermon series on: Isaiah 6, 9, and 25; Isaiah 43, 52–53, and 55; and Isaiah 56, 61, and 66.

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I get Dad to talk about his new book, Lutheran Theology: A Critical Introduction. Fact: Lutheran theology is NOT the same as Luther's theology! Shocker, right?


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Generally you should run screaming in the opposite direction when someone starts talking about her dissertation, but we promise this is a good one. French Orthodox theologian Elisabeth Behr-Sigel (1907–2005) knew pretty much every important Orthodox theologian of the 20th century, pioneered Russian hagiography, co-edited a journal, was active in the ecumenical movement, and supported the possibility of the ordination of women in the Orthodox church. Wait, what? Yes—but not until she was 75! And she kept at it until her death at the age of 98. We review her atypical support for women in ministry (atypical in many ways) and draw out some larger lessons for thinking about sex and gender in light of the Christian faith today.


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1. Some useful background to this episode was already covered in our earlier episode on What Is a Person?

2. Among the books by Elisabeth Behr-Sigel, check out: The Ministry of Women in the Church, The Place of the Heart, Discerning the Signs of the Times, The Ordination of Women in the Orthodox Church (with Kallistos Ware), and Lev Gillet: A Monk of the Eastern Church.

3. Olga Lossky has written a wonderful biography of Behr-Sigel entitled Toward the Endless Day, which I reviewed here.

4. My book is entitled Woman, Women, and the Priesthood in the Trinitarian Theology of Elisabeth Behr-Sigel; there’s an interview with me about it here. I co-edited a collection of essays about Behr-Sigel entitled A Communion in Faith and Love, which includes Elisabeth Parmentier’s essay about Behr-Sigel’s education at the University of Strasbourg and one from me on “Behr-Sigel’s ‘New’ Hagiography and Its Ecumenical Potential.” I’ve more recently contributed to Women and Ordination in the Orthodox Church with the essay “Elisabeth Behr-Sigel’s Trinitarian Case for the Ordination of Women.” I created an archive of my collection of Behr-Sigel’s books and articles at the Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg, France.

5. Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine (5 vols)

6. Among the other Orthodox theologians mentioned in this episode are Alexander Schmemann, Kallistos Ware, John Meyendorff, and John Behr.

7. Our friend Michael Plekon is the author of (among other things): Living Icons, Uncommon Prayer, Saints as They Really Are, The World as Sacrament, and Hidden Holiness

8. Paul Evdokimov’s main books on women are Woman and the Salvation of the World and The Sacrament of Love

9. See Dad’s essay “Whose Church? Which Ministry?” in Lutheran Forum 42/4 (Winter 2008): 48–53

10. For further detail on some of the topics discussed here, see my contribution to the Lutherjahrbuch 2017 and also the Lutheran Forum essays “The Epistle of Eutyche,” “The Face of Jesus, Part One” and “The Face of Jesus, Part Two,” and “Where Have All the Women Gone?

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The party never stops at the Queen of the Sciences podcast! Coasting on the generally optimistic, cheerful, and devil-may-care attitude of a world gripped by pandemic and the various cultural and political responses to it, we break out our kazoos and streamers for the wrath of God. In this episode we talk about what it is, why it matters still to talk about it, and why (gasp) it may even be a good thing.


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1. Richard Niebuhr, The Kingdom of God in America

2. The hymn I mentioned is “He Is Arisen, Glorious Word

3. Jürgen Moltmann, The Crucified God

4. If you haven’t already listened to them, you'll find our episodes on Anselm and Kazoh Kitamori deal with some of these same issues. 

5. Lactantius, De Ira Dei

6. See in Dad’s Divine Complexity the subsection entitled, “Theology of Redemption,” chapter 6, pp. 212–222, and in Beloved Community the subsection entitled “God is the Eschaton of Judgment” in the Conclusion pp. 865–878, which take up these topics further

7. See also my final sermon on the Sermon on the Mount and essay “Peace, Peace, Where There Is No Peace” 

8. Oswald Bayer talks about God’s Umsturz in Martin Luther’s Theology: A Contemporary Interpretation, p. 215

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No, not a glam metal band, but a martyr of the second century and one of the first post-New Testament writers whose works survive. In the episode we take a look at the first heresies to erupt in Christianity—first analyzing just what counts as a "heresy" and why the concept remains a useful one—namely, Ebionitism and Docetism. Ignatius en route to Rome as a prisoner elucidates for us just why it matter so much that God really took flesh in Jesus Christ, and that his flesh was really crucified, and that his crucified flesh was really raised... just as Ignatius himself was really in chains and was really going to be devoured by the wild beasts.


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1. You can read the seven extant letters of Ignatius here. Note that only the shorter version of each paragraph is authentic—the longer version is probably an expansion by later authors/editors.

2. Dad's Divine Complexity, ch. 2, discusses the formation of the New Testament canon in light of the martyrological witness, not least of all Ignatius's. If you've been interested in picking up one of Dad's books but don't know where to start (or are nervous about committing to 900 pages), start with this one—it'll give you a great overall read on the development of Christian theology and how it completely remade the way we think about God.

3. For a little taste of my learning about the nature of the church from being a missionary in Japan, take a look at this short piece, "Dispatch from a Bewildered Missionary in Japan."

4. Here's some info on the exchange between Pliny the Younger and Emperor Trajan about the wacky sect of Christians.

5. We talked more about martyrdom's "agency" in the face of suffering in the episode on Perpetua and Felicitas. See also the Martyrdom of Polycarp.

6. William R. Farmer and Denis M. Farkasfalvy, The Formation of the New Testament Canon

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