The God Who Saves: A Dogmatic Sketch (Cascade Books, 2016)

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Ever since Karl Barth breathed new life into the field of theology, systematic theologies have tended to follow the order of the creed—placing the doctrine of God, and especially the doctrine of the trinity, at the beginning. The God Who Saves presents a novel approach to Christian dogmatics that makes soteriology the first and normative word in theology. The result is a consistently soteriocentric theology.

The work is additionally distinguished from other systematic approaches to Christian doctrine by the fact that the soteriology in question derives from a fresh hearing of the apocalyptic message of the New Testament, drawing constructively on the insights of Rudolf Bultmann, Ernst Käsemann, Eberhard Jüngel, and J. Louis Martyn. The God who saves is the God who invades and interrupts the cosmos in the death of Jesus. Human beings participate in salvation through their unconscious, existential cocrucifixion, in which each person is interrupted by God and placed outside of herself. This saving event, which embraces each person without remainder, is definitive for God’s identity as the triune Christ, Spirit, and Creator. The result is an account of theology that is postmetaphysical, existential, and hermeneutically critical.

Finally, The God Who Saves is a uniquely interdisciplinary work of theology, drawing on contemporary philosophy, history of religions, intercultural studies, hermeneutical theory, and popular culture. Here is a bold, constructive work of dogmatic theology for the twenty-first century.

Endorsements for The God Who Saves:

“David Congdon and I grew up together theologically. It has been my privilege to watch his penetrating insight grow and develop into a creative theological program. Rumors of dialectical theology’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. If you are interested in a glimpse of what a fresh dialectical theology for the twenty-first century looks like—and you should be!—you need look no further.”

—W. Travis McMaken, Associate Professor of Religion, Lindenwood University

“While the idea of universal salvation has long been a minority report in the Christian tradition, it has found an increasing number of advocates in recent times. This volume provides a rigorous, creative, and comprehensive dogmatic account of this belief from one of the brightest young scholars at work today. Even those who are not in agreement with Congdon’s line of argument and conclusions will be challenged and enriched by the detail and scope of his engaging theological vision.”

—John R. Franke, Theologian in Residence, Second Presbyterian Church, Indianapolis; Author, Manifold Witness: The Plurality of Truth

“Congdon has authored a sophisticated and ambitious dogmatic essay full of insight and bristling with provocation. He invites us to join him in a sustained experiment in radically soteriocentric thinking: what if the work of the God of the gospel on the cross were truly the Archimedean point from which all things are moved and so saved? Congdon’s aim is to limn the revolution in Christian theology that should follow when Christian imagination and intelligence are animated and disciplined anew by faith in the God whose very being is at stake in his advent ‘for us and for our salvation.’ The God Who Saves is an important intervention in contemporary doctrinal debate.”

—Philip G. Ziegler, Chair of Christian Dogmatics, Professor, University of Aberdeen

“This is a bold, clear, and stimulating articulation of the good news. While few will follow Congdon at every point, his account of eschatological theo-actualized universalism provokes in the places where it matters most, and reminds us again why the advent of Jesus Christ is the first article of faith, and the ground that makes Christian dogmatics possible, intelligible, and profoundly hopeful. Dorothee Soelle once insisted that ‘when we ask ourselves what God is like, we must answer first by looking at what God does.’ This essay takes up that momentous task admirably.”

—Jason Goroncy, Senior Lecturer in Systematic Theology, Whitley College, University of Divinity, Australia

“A powerful and provocative work. In prose that is simultaneously critical, polemical, and constructive, Congdon articulates in outline a distinctive theological vision of the apocalyptic gospel of God’s gracious salvation. Though many will disagree with the proposals found herein, none can afford to ignore the searching questions that Congdon puts to contemporary theological discussions. To do so would impoverish our discourse and impair our witness to the expansiveness of God’s embrace.”

—Christian T. Collins Winn, Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology, Bethel University

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Congdon-Bultmann-Cascade-CoverRudolf Bultmann: A Companion to His Theology (Cascade Books, 2015)

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Rudolf Bultmann is one of the most widely known but least read theologians of the twentieth century. He is famous as the one who “demythologized” the New Testament, but very few understand what he meant by this or how his hermeneutical program connects to the other areas of his theological project. Bultmann presents a unique challenge to readers, not only because of his radical theological inquiry but also because of the way his ideas are worked out over time, primarily through short, occasional writings that present complex issues in a disarmingly straightforward manner. In this introduction to his theology—the first of its kind in more than twenty years—I guide readers through ten central themes in Bultmann’s theology, ranging from eschatology and dialectic to freedom and advent. By gaining an understanding of these themes, students of Bultmann will have the necessary tools to understand and profit from his writings. The result is not only an accessible guide for those encountering Bultmann for the first time but also a cohesive, systematic presentation of his thought for those wondering how his work might speak to our current context.

Endorsements for Rudolf Bultmann:

“With great clarity and insight, focusing on themes which lie at the very heart of Bultmann’s theological project and placing him in conversation with recent and contemporary trends, David W. Congdon has written the best short introduction to Bultmann’s thought. The point is not to ‘return’ to the great New Testament scholar and theologian—but neither should we bypass him.”

—Christophe Chalamet, University of Geneva

“Who better than David Congdon to take us into the work of Christianity’s greatest interpreter of Scripture in the modern period? With an expert’s grasp of the entire architecture of Rudolf Bultmann’s thought, Congdon leads the reader through its conceptual entry points. Here is a reliable primer, likely a classic, to guide both beginning students and well-schooled theologians away from the misconceptions, even myths, so often bedeviling treatments of Bultmann.”

—James F. Kay, Princeton Theological Seminary

“In these pages, Bultmann stands before us as a difficult but compelling figure, a Christian thinker who took the eschatological vision of the New Testament as his charter and pursued its course with extraordinary tenacity and fearlessness. Congdon sets Bultmann’s thought into critical discussion with contemporary theology, posing sharp challenges to our current preferences for ressourcement and the rule of faith. And he saves the best till last. The book ends with a superb meditation on Bultmann’s Christmas sermons—a glimpse of Bultmann at his most attractive, or most seductive, depending on where you stand.”

—Benjamin Myers, Charles Sturt University

“David Congdon’s lucid and innovative treatment of Rudolf Bultmann is an excellent contribution to scholarship. Those eager to understand, appreciate, and, most importantly, learn from one of the most important (and, alas, most misunderstood) ‘greats’ of twentieth-century European theology have, in this book, an indispensable resource.”

—Paul Dafydd Jones, Associate Professor, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia

“Being master of a subject matter as demanding as Rudolf Bultmann’s theology and a master communicator, capable of introducing that subject-matter to beginning students in a manner both interesting and arresting (!) is rare. David Congdon has that rare combination of skills. This is a wonderful ‘guide’ to Bultmann’s thought. Indeed, it is hard to imagine one more perfectly executed. It is a companion worthy of the thought of one of the real giants of twentieth century theology.”

—Bruce McCormack, Charles Hodge Professor of Systematic Theology, Princeton Theological Seminary

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Congdon coverThe Mission of Demythologizing: Rudolf Bultmann’s Dialectical Theology (Fortress Press, 2015)

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Rudolf Bultmann’s controversial program of demythologizing has been the subject of constant debate since it was first announced in 1941. It is widely held that this program indicates Bultmann’s departure from the dialectical theology he once shared with Karl Barth. In the 1950s, Barth thus referred to their relationship as that of a whale and an elephant: incapable of meaningful communication. This study proposes a contrary reading of demythologizing as the hermeneutical fulfillment of dialectical theology on the basis of a reinterpretation of Barth’s theological project. I argue that dialectical theology was, from the start, a fundamentally missionary theology; that is to say, dialectical theology seeks to interrogate the relation between gospel and culture and prevent the collapse of the former into the latter. Bultmann’s program of demythologizing extends this missionary endeavor back into the biblical text itself. I show that the mission of demythologizing, like the mission of dialectical theology in general, was a political and revolutionary mission that has crucial implications for the pursuit of emancipatory theology and praxis today.

Endorsements for The Mission of Demythologizing:

“This book is one of the most important and perceptive studies on Rudolf Bultmann and his often misunderstood program of Entmythologisierung (demythologizing) ever written in English.”
—Michael Lattke, Emeritus, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

“For two generations theology has ‘gone around’ Bultmann rather than through him. This evasion has led either to scholarly retreats into the false securities of the old historicism or to circling the wagons of Christian traditionalism. In this brilliant book worthy of its subject, a voice from the youngest theological generation now presents a fresh understanding of Bultmann’s daring missional program. David Congdon urges the church to look outward and forward by interpreting the news of Jesus Christ on the shifting frontiers of an emerging world.”
James F. Kay, Princeton Theological Seminary

“Comprehensively researched and clearly written, this volume provides a convincing reinterpretation of Bultmann’s thought as well as a compelling account of its constructive significance for the future of missional theology and hermeneutics. This is an impressive interdisciplinary contribution to the literature of modern Christian thought by one of the most promising young theologians at work today.”
John R. Franke, Evangelische Theologische Faculteit, Leuven, Belgium

“In this substantial work, David Congdon has produced the most creative and scholarly study of Rudolf Bultmann’s theology for more than a generation. In refuting the standard charge of a capitulation to modernity, he shows how Bultmann’s demythologizing project is rooted in a robust set of convictions about God as subject and the act of faith as existential and practical. This reassessment of Bultmann as a dialectical theologian is long overdue. In an increasingly secular culture which too readily dismisses Christian faith as ‘believing six impossible things before breakfast,’ Congdon’s work promises to rehabilitate Bultmann as an important resource for theological understanding.”
David Fergusson, University of Edinburgh

The Mission of Demythologizing systematically deconstructs the slogans with which New Testament scholars have long caricatured Rudolf Bultmann’s hermeneutic. Yet this is no mere demolition job, as David Congdon replaces the stereotype with a Bultmann fully invested in a missiological hermeneutic on behalf of dialectical theology. This book and the discussion it generates will be with us a long time.”
—Beverly Roberts Gaventa, Baylor University

“David Congdon’s work is essential reading for anyone interested in Rudolf Bultmann, Karl Barth, or Christian theology in the modern period. Meticulously researched, lucidly written, and brimming with constructive energy, this is a work of enormous sympathy, intelligence, and creativity.”
—Adam Neder, Whitworth University

“This is a quite remarkable volume. It seeks to overturn two generations and more of scholarship on the theology of Rudolf Bultmann, not only revisiting and reconceiving the relationship between Bultmann and Karl Barth, but also revisioning and rehabilitating Bultmann’s program of demythologization. . . . The result is a painstakingly researched and lucidly presented work that is both compelling and a joy to read, one which evidences the kind of depth, insight, and passion that are the hallmarks of the very finest research in theology. This volume will make an immediate and significant contribution to the reception of the work of Bultmann (and of Barth); but more than this, the constructive and generative agenda which it sets suggests that the work of Protestant theology is far from done and that tales of its demise may be somewhat premature.”
—Paul T. Nimmo, University of Aberdeen

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Cited in 8 Works

Syndicate Symposium:

  • Philip Ziegler
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Karl Barth in Conversation, edited by W. Travis McMaken and David W. Congdon (Pickwick, 2014)

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Karl Barth was an eminently conversational theologian, and with the Internet revolution, we live today in an eminently conversational age. Being the proceedings of the 2010 Karl Barth Blog Conference, Karl Barth in Conversation brings these two factors together in order to advance the dialogue about Barth’s theology and extend the online conversation to new audiences. With conversation partners ranging from Wesley to Žižek, from Schleiermacher to Jenson, from Hauerwas to the Coen brothers, this volume opens up exciting new horizons for exploring Barth’s immense contribution to church and world. The contributors, who represent a young new generation of academic theologians, bring a fresh perspective to a topic—the theology of Karl Barth—that often seems to have exhausted its range of possibilities. This book proves that there is still a great deal of uncharted territory in the field of Barth studies. Today, more than forty years since the Swiss theologian’s death, the conversation is as lively as ever.

Endorsements for Karl Barth in Conversation:

“This book is an exciting and important contribution to Barth studies. It breaks open the potential cul-de-sac of Barth scholarship to new conversation partners and thinkers. The result is a fascinating collection of essays that brings out new accents on Barth’s work and offers constructive insights for the future of theology. . . . Let us hope this book sets an agenda for the future.”
Tom Greggs, Professor of Historical and Doctrinal Theology, King’s College, University of Aberdeen, Scotland

“In this welcome collection of colorful and stimulating input from young scholars, we get to eavesdrop on some new ‘conversations’ surveying a diverse range of themes, and in the wake of the fresh questions raised, we are invited to hear again what Barth and others have heard and misheard.”
Jason Goroncy, Dean of Studies, Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership, New Zealand

“This is a fascinating and instructive set of essays by a group of talented young theologians. These studies offer fresh perspectives on the thought of Barth and his dialogue partners and suggest new pathways for further exploration. Here we see both the ongoing power of Barth’s theology to stimulate new conversations and the creative potential of a new generation of Barth scholars.”
Adam Neder, Associate Professor of Theology, Whitworth University, Washington

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