Archive for the ‘James D. G. Dunn’ Tag

Feast of George B. Caird (April 21)   Leave a comment

Above:  Three of the Volumes to Which Caird Contributed

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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GEORGE BRADFORD CAIRD (JULY 17, 1917-APRIL 21, 1984)

English Congregationalist then United Reformed Minister, Biblical Scholar, and Hymn Writer and Translator

Also known as G. B. Caird

INTRODUCTION

George Bradford Caird comes to this, A Great Cloud of Witnesses:  An Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via The Interpreter’s Bible and two translations of the Bible.He wrote the introduction to and the exegesis of the Books of Samuel for Volume II (1953) of The Interpreter’s Bible.

Caird was one of the great Biblical scholars of the twentieth century.  He, a protégé of Charles Harold (C. H.) Dodd (1884-1973) and an influence on Nicholas Thomas (N. T.) Wright, was, depending on one’s perspective, too conservative, too liberal, or about right.  Fans of Burton Mack, John Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg, and other members of that school that argues for discontinuity from Jesus to the early Church consider him too far to the right.  However, fundamentalists think he was too far to the left.  Caird accepted the Sources Hypothesis regarding much of the Hebrew Bible  and did not try to harmonize divergent voices in the New Testament, for example.

I argue that Caird was usually about right.

I using knowledge I have gained from belonging to a Historical Jesus-early Church reading group for a few years, place Caird on the spectrum.  I position him to the right of Borg, Crossan, and Mack, and slightly to the right of Luke Timothy Johnson, an effective critic of Borg, Crossan, and Mack.  Caird belongs in the same camp as his mentor, C. H. Dodd.  Most of Dodd’s endnotes in The Founder of Christianity (1970) are merely scriptural citations.  Caird’s influence is evident in N. T. Wright’s Jesus and the Victory of God (1996), my copy of which I insist on keeping, even as I reduce the size of my library.  Caird’s works are slightly more optimistic regarding the Gospels as sources of information about the historical figure of Jesus than James D. G. Dunn‘s Jesus Remembered (2003), my copy of which I also insist on retaining.

BIOGRAPHY

George Bradford Caird belonged to the Reformed tradition.  He, born in Wandsworth, England, to Scottish parents on July 17, 1917, grew up in Birmingham, England.  He graduated from King Edward’s School, Birmingham; Peterhouse, Cambridge (B.A., 1939); and Mansfield College, Oxford (M.A., 1943; doctorate, 1944).  Our saint, ordained a Congregationalist minister, served as pastor of a church in Highgate, London.  In 1946, he and his wife, Viola Mary “Mollie” Caird, moved to Canada.  Our saint spent the rest of his life in academia.

Caird spent 1946-1959 in Canada.  He was initially Professor of Old Testament at St. Stephen’s College, Edmonton, Alberta.  By 1951 he was Professor of New Testament at McGill University and Principal of the Theological College of Montreal, Quebec.

Caird spent 1959-1984 at Oxford.  He was a senior tutor (1959-1969) at then the Principal (1970-1977) of Mansfield College, Oxford.  One of his more noteworthy students was the Reverend Brian Wren (born in 1936), one of the greatest hymn writers of the twentieth century.  From 1977 to 1984, Caird was the Dean Ireland’s Professor of the Exegesis of Holy Scripture.  His successor was E. P. Sanders, author of Paul and Palestinian Judaism (1985), Jesus and Judaism (1985), and The Historical Figure of Jesus (1993).

Caird translated portions of the Bible.  He translated part of the Apocrypha/Deuterocanon of The New English Bible (1970), a project over which C. H. Dodd presided.  Our saint also worked on the The Revised English Bible (1989).  Caird preferred the dynamic equivalency approach to translating the Bible.  He criticized the Revised Standard Version (1952, 1971) for being overly literal, to the point of awkwardness in places.  Our saint’s preference for dynamic equivalency was consistent with his literary style, which was graceful and succinct.

Caird also translated and wrote hymns.  He translated “Shepherds Come, Their Praises Bringing” (1951) and wrote “Not Far Beyond the Sea, Nor High” and “Almighty Father, Who For Us,” for example.  Hymnal committees that possess good taste include at least some of his hymns in the volumes they produce.

Caird wrote books plus many articles and book reviews.  His books included:

  1. The Truth of the Gospel (1950);
  2. The Apostolic Age (1955);
  3. Principalities and Powers (1956);
  4. The Gospel of St. Luke (1963);
  5. Jesus and God (1965), with D. E. Jenkins;
  6. Jesus and the Jewish Nation (1965);
  7. The Revelation of St. John the Divine (1966);
  8. Our Dialogue with Rome:  The Second Vatican Council and After (1967); and
  9. Paul’s Letters from Prison (1976).

Death prevented Caird from completing New Testament TheologyLincoln Hurst completed this work, published in 1994.

Caird held some scholarly and theological opinions that would have made him anathema in some of the communities in which I grew up in rural southern Georgia. U.S.A.  He admired St. Paul the Apostle without crossing the line into hero worship.  Caird thought of St. Paul as a social revolutionary, including vis-à-vis equality for women.  Caird also disagreed with the great apostle sometimes.  Our saint, like his mentor, C. H. Dodd, argued for Realized Eschatology.  Caird wrote in his commentary on Revelation that the author (“John”) did not expect an imminent end of the age.  Caird would not have pleased anyone at a fundamentalist prophecy conference.

Caird was a social progressive.  He openly supported equality for women and opposed racism.  He, as the Moderator of the United Reformed Church  in 1975-1976, visited South Africa on denominational business.  While there, he confronted his pro-Apartheid counterparts in the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa (DRCSA).  (The Congregational Church in England and Wales and the Presbyterian Church of England had merged into the United Reformed Church in 1972.)  The DRCSA eventually recanted and apologized for its theological defense of Apartheid.  Caird did not live to see that day, however.

Caird, a scholar and a preacher extraordinaire who used either few or no notes, died in Wantage, England, on April 21, 1984.  He was 66 years old.

CONCLUSION

The Bible shaped George Bradford Caird.  He combined intellectual rigor, cautious scholarship, and Christian faith into a synthesis that challenged institutionalized social injustice and individual obliviousness to the (not unanimous) chorus of voices in the Bible.  Our saint, a scholar’s scholar, loved God with his heart, soul, and mind.  His articulate, graceful prose and poetry survives him, fortunately.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 4, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES SIMEON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND PROMOTER OF MISSIONS; HENRY MARTYN, ANGLICAN PRIEST, LINGUIST, TRANSLATOR, AND MISSIONARY; AND ABDUL MASIH, INDIAN CONVERT AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF HENRY SUSO, GERMAN ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC, PREACHER, AND SPIRITUAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN EDGAR PARK, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEN CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF PAUL CUFFEE, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY TO THE SHINNECOCK NATION

THE FEAST OF THOMAS HORNBLOWER GILL, ENGLISH UNITARIAN THEN ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

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O God, you have endowed us with memory, reason, and skill.

We thank you for the faithful legacy of [George B. Caird and all others]

who have dedicated their lives to you and to the intellectual pursuits.

May we, like them, respect your gift of intelligence fully and to your glory.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Psalm 103

Philippians 4:8-9

Mark 12:28-34

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 6, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHRODEGANG OF METZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF EDMUND KING, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF LINCOLN

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Feast of Peter Taylor Forsyth (November 11)   2 comments

Above:  Peter Taylor Forsyth

Image in the Public Domain

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PETER TAYLOR FORSYTH (MAY 12, 1848-NOVEMBER 11, 1921)

Also known a P. T. Forsyth

Scottish Congregationalist Minister and Theologian

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Revelation is redemption.

–P. T. Forsyth, quoted in Martin E. Marty and Dean G. Peerman, eds., A Handbook of Christian Theologians, 2nd. ed. (1984), 154

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P. T. Forsyth was, toward the end of his life, especially, too conservative for many liberals and too liberal for many conservatives.  The author of twenty-five books and hundreds of articles did, from 1893, anticipate much of the theology of Karl Barth and of Neo-orthodoxy.  Forsyth alarmed fundamentalist by affirming science and critical (in the highest sense of that word) Biblical scholarship while he rejected much of the theology of his contemporary, Adolf von Harnack (1851-1930).

Forsyth, born in Aberdeen, Scotland, on May 12, 1848, graduated from Aberdeen University then, in 1876, became a Congregationalist minister.  After serving in a few pulpits, he became the President of Hackney College, London, in 1921.  Our saint held that office until he died, on November 11, 1921.  In 1904-1905 he served as the Chairman of the Congregational Union of England and Wales.

Stale orthodoxy has inspired overreactions.  Philipp Spener (1635-1705) reacted and founded Pietism, thereby minimizing the sacraments, the role of the Church, and the importance of doctrine, as well as straying into works-based righteousness.  Adolf von Harnack, another German Lutheran, participated in the post-Enlightenment “flight from dogma,” as James Dunn called it in Jesus Remembered (2003).  Harnack argued that,

…true faith in Jesus is not a matter of creedal orthodoxy but of doing as he did.

–Quoted in Dunn, Jesus Remembered (2003), 38

In Harnack’s dogmaless version of Christianity, as Dunn wrote, the presentation was of

Jesus as a good example, Jesus as more the first Christian than the Christ.

Jesus Remembered (2003), 39

Forsyth had been a Harnackian.  Later in life, however, our saint quoted Harnack only while disagreeing with him.

Forsyth, without rejecting modernity, insisted that the church must define itself according to Christ, whom he referred to as “the Word,” knowable only via the Bible.  Biblical criticism has its place, our saint argued, but it must never be destructive, and must serve “the Word.”  In Forsyth’s Christocentric theology, the objective act of God in Jesus Christ is the origin of Christian faith.  Furthermore, the Gospel is always valid, regardless of whether one believes in it.

Forsyth’s break with Harnack was especially evident in his emphasis on deeds over words.  Our saint insisted that divine revelation was more a matter of deed than word, more a matter of act than declaration.  Forsyth argued that, although the words of Jesus are important, his deeds are more important.  In other words, our saint wrote that Jesus was like what he did, that the work of Christ revealed the person of Christ.  Furthermore, as Forsyth wrote, divine revelation in Jesus is an act that costs God much and restores human fellowship with God.  Forsyth’s focus on divine actions was consistent with his disregard for speculative theology–an attitude that led him to ignore aspects of official Trinitarian doctrine.

(Aside:  I do not criticize Forsyth for that last point.  My attempts to understand the orthodox Trinitarian theology lead me to confusion quickly and tie me into logical knots.  For example, if one holds that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are co-eternal, how can one then say that the Father begat the Son and that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and maybe also from the Son, depending on one’s position vis-à-vis the filioque clause?  I choose to think of the Trinity as a glorious mystery, and to affirm that the truth of the nature of God exceeds human comprehension.)

Forsyth’s theology of the Atonement was collective, not individualistic.  He argued that the Atonement was mainly for the human race, not for individuals.  Furthermore, our saint wrote, the cross represent both reconciliation and judgment upon himself.  Forsyth argued that God has objectively redeemed the world and curtailed the power of evil.  Therefore, our saint wrote, no Christian should ever feel overwhelmed by evil, for the battle between good and evil has ended; Christ has overcome the world.

Forsyth’s Christology was orthodox.  He wrote that Jesus was fully human and fully divine, and that the fully human portion of that reality indicated human limitations–the self-sacrifice of God.  Yet, our saint argued, Christ did not sin, despite moral struggles.

Unlike many Protestants, Forsyth held a high view of the sacraments.  He wrote that they are not merely memorials but actually means of grace.

Forsyth contributed greatly to Christian theology.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 24, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATTHIAS THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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Almighty God, your Holy Spirit gives to one the word of knowledge,

and to another the insight of wisdom,

and to another the steadfastness of faith.

We praise you for the gifts of grace imparted to your servant Peter Taylor Forsyth,

and we pray that by his teaching we may be led to a fuller knowledge of the truth

we have seen in your Son Jesus, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Proverbs 3:1-7 or Wisdom 7:7-14

Psalm 119:89-104

1 Corinthians 2:1-10, 13-16 or 1 Corinthians 3:5-11

John 17:18-23 or Matthew 13:47-52

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 61

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Feast of Karl and Markus Barth (December 10)   17 comments

karl-barth

Above:  A German Stamp Bearing the Image of Karl Barth

Image in the Public Domain

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KARL BARTH (MAY 10, 1886-DECEMBER 10, 1968)

Swiss Reformed Minister, Theologian, and Biblical Scholar

father of

MARKUS BARTH (OCTOBER 6, 1915-JULY 1, 1994)

Swiss Lutheran Minister and Biblical Scholar

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Karl Barth (whose feast day in The Episcopal Church has been December 10) was arguably the most important Christian theologian of the twentieth century.  Pope Pius XII (reigned 1939-1968) considered him to be the most consequential Christian theologian since St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274).  Markus Barth, a Biblical scholar like his father, was a prominent scholar of the Pauline epistles.

Karl Barth was Swiss.  He, a son of Fritz Barth, a Swiss Reformed minister and professor of theology, entered the world at Basel on May 10, 1886.  Our saint’s mother was Anna Katharina Sartorius.  Our saint studied at Bern, Berlin, Tubingen, and Marburg, was steeped in Liberal theology, such as that of Adolf Harnack.  That post-Enlightenment theology was anthropocentric (emphasizing the human experience of God) and optimistic regarding human nature.  (World War I called that anthropocentric optimism into question.)

Towards the end of Liberalism’s heyday came the contribution of the doyen of NT Liberal scholars, equally famous but more enduring in influence.  These were the lectures on Christianity, delivered by Adolf Harnack without manuscript or notes, to some six hundred students from all the faculties in the University of Berlin at the turn of the century, at the height of his own powers and at the self-consciously high point of European and German culture.  In these lectures Harnack deliberately turned his back on the Christ of dogma.  Christianity indeed must be rescued from its dependence on metaphysics and philosophy.  What was needed now was a rediscovery of the simplicity and freedom of the gospel which Jesus himself had preached.  Here for Harnack was “the essence of Christianity”–the “historical Jesus” encountered through the Gospels in his own religion and message.  And what was that essence?  Harnack summed up Jesus’ gospel as centering on the fatherhood of God, the infinite value of the human soul, and the importance of love, regularly popularized thereafter as “the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man.”  These were Jesus’ enduring insights, what was of permanent value when abstracted from the merely transitory.  According to Harnack, “true faith in Jesus is not a matter of creedal orthodoxy but of doing as he did.”

…In this case, the most important hermeneutical principle at work was in effect the conviction that Jesus, the “historical Jesus,” the Jesus stripped of dogmatic accretion, would/must have something to say to modern man, and the consequential desire to provide a mouthpiece for the restatement of that message.

And the result?  A Jesus portrayed and understood as a teacher of timeless morality, Jesus as a good example, Jesus as more the first Christian than the Christ–a flight from the Christ of dogma indeed!  At the same time, we should not decry the Liberal focus on the moral outcome of religion as the test of its character; such concerns had brought the slave trade to an end and achieved political, social and industrial reforms, although the Liberal tendency to understand morality solely in terms of personal and individual responsibility was the stronger influence, and the laissez-faire economics and imperialist hubris of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries seem to have been little affected.  Moreover, the reassertion of the importance of feeling in religion, of faith as a deeply rooted passion, was surely an important correction to a Protestantism still inclined to be too word-focused and still overly dependant on the Enlightenment paradigm of science and reason.  Not least Liberal scholarship deserves credit for its concern to speak meaningfully to its own age.  Here too the motivating force in life of Jesus scholarship was not unfaith but desire to speak in the idioms of the time, desire to be heard.  The trouble was, we may say, it allowed the spirit of the age to dictate not simply the language but also the agenda.

–James D. G. Dunn, Christianity in the Making, Volume 1, Jesus Remembered (2003), pages 37-39

Barth, ordained a Swiss Reformed minister in 1909, served at Geneva (1909-1911) then Safenwill (1911-1911) before teaching at the University of Gottingen (1921-1925).  Then he became Professor of Dogmatics and New Testament at the University of Munster (1925-1930) and Professor of Systematic Theology at the University of Bonn (1930-1935).  In 1913 our saint married Nelly Hoffmann (1893-1976).  The couple’s children included Markus (1915-1994) and Christoph (1917-1986).

Barth changed his theological mind more than once.  One break with his training occurred in August 1914, when, much to his dismay, he learned that 93 German intellectuals (including all of his seminary professors) had signed a manifesto endorsing imperial German war efforts.  The church was too close to the state, our saint concluded.  Barth’s break with his training deepened in 1919, with the publication of the first edition of his commentary on the Epistle to the Romans.  The Neo-Orthodox phase of Barth’s theology had begun.  Eventually he changed his mind again, becoming, in the estimation of Professor Phillip Cary, in his Great Courses series The History of Christian Theology, simply orthodox, in line with St. Augustine of Hippo and other giants of Christian theology.

Barth’s discomfort with the church being too close to the state deepened in 1933, after Adolf Hitler rose to power.  Hitler sought (quite successfully, overall) to co-opt German churches.  The Confessing Church, of which our saint was a founder, formed in opposition to this effort.  As the first of the Duseldorf Theses (1933) stated,

The holy Christian church, whose only head is Christ, is born from the word of God; in this it abides, and it does not harken to any alien voice.

–Quoted in Linwood Urban, A Short History of Christian Thought, Revised and Expanded Edition (1995), page 346

Barth was among the authors of the Theological Declaration of Barmen (1934), which condemned Nazi ideology.  The following year he had to leave Germany because he refused to pledge allegiance to Hitler.

From 1935 to his retirement in 1962 Barth was Professor of Systematic Theology at the University of Basel in Switzerland.  He completed his 13-volume Church Dogmatics (more than 9300 pages long), which he began at Bonn.  Our saint also delivered the main address at the World Council of Churches (1948).  During the 1950s Barth spoke out against the nuclear arms race and for Christians living behind the Iron Curtain.  Our saint followed his conscience, regardless of what was politically popular and acceptable.

Barth, aged 75 years, visited the United States in 1962, with the encouragement of his son Markus, then a professor at The University of Chicago.  For seven weeks the great theologian toured, speaking at Princeton Theological Seminary, The University of Chicago, Union Theological Seminary (New York City), and San Francisco Theological Seminary.  Barth met the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., and considered the encounter to have been too brief.

Barth died at home in Basel on December 10, 1968.  He was 82 years old.

Barth’s theology was optimistic and rooted not in human experience but in the love and sovereignty of God.  His theology was Christocentric, about divine purposes, not anything human.  The Trinity, Barth insisted, is the basis of divine revelation; God the Father is the speaker, God the Son is the spoken word, and God the Spirit is the response in the hearts of people.  All of the above are inseparable and essential parts of the act of divine revelation, Barth wrote.  Furthermore, the theologian insisted, God speaks uniquely via Christianity and God reveals the Word of God (Jesus) via the word of God (the Bible).

Barth wrote about dialectical theology.  God says both “yes” and “no,” the theologian taught.  Furthermore, Barth insisted, the divine “no” always serves the divine “yes.”  He wrote that faith is an “impossible possibility;” that is, we cannot reach God yet God can reach us.  Divine revelation, not human perception of God, is the proper basis of faith, the great theologian wrote.  Divine revelation, Barth taught, is a shattering event; the institutional church is the crater the event created.  Furthermore, our saint wrote, there is no need to turn to human experience, nature, consciousness, or existence to hear or relate to God, for God can, metaphorically, give us ears to hear.

Barth redefined the Augustinian and Calvinist doctrine of election, thereby incurring the criticism of many staunch Calvinists.  According to our saint, God chose incarnation.  Furthermore, according to Barth, election is not a hidden decree; it is really about Jesus, is good news, is the basis of the Gospel, and precedes creation.  Our saint explained that the question is the election of Christ, not people.  He taught that Jesus Christ is the covenant in one person and that the covenant is the purpose of creation.  The great theologian insisted that, in Christ, God is for, not against, humans.

Barth also redefined Double Predestination.  It applies only to Christ, he wrote; God the Father has predestined Christ to death on the cross (God’s “no”) and resurrection (God’s “yes”).  Therefore, according to Barth, election always serves blessing, not condemnation.  Barth also taught that God has predestined certain people to Heaven, for the benefit of those not so predestined.  Grace, the great theologian insisted, was crucial.

Some critics of Barth’s theology have detected universal salvation in it.  Barth did not state that explicitly, but he did not think that God saving everyone would be terrible.

Barth, aware that many people identified themselves as Barthians, stated that nobody should think of himself or herself as a Barthian.  People should be and think of themselves as Christians, the theologian insisted.

Two of the sons of Karl Barth became scholars of the Bible.  Christoph Barth (1917-1986) was a scholar of the Old Testament.  He taught in Indonesia then at Mainz, Germany.  At Mainz he organized his lectures on the Old Testament into publishable form and published them in the Indonesian language; the first volume debuted in 1970.  Christoph’s widow, Marie-Claire, also a teacher of theology, supervised the condensation of the four volumes of the Indonesian text in English translation as God With Us:  A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament (1991).

Markus Barth, born at Safenwill, Switzerland, on October 6, 1915, was a Pauline scholar and a Lutheran minister.  In 1940 he married Rose Marie Oswald (1913-1993); the couple had five children.  Markus studied theology at Bern, Basel, Berlin, and Edinburgh before receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Gottingen in 1947.  From 1947 to 1953 he served a church at Bubendorf, near Basel.  For 19 years (1953-1972) Markus taught New Testament at, in order:

  1. The University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa;
  2. The University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois; and
  3. Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Then, from 1973 to 1985, he taught New Testament at the University of Basel, in Switzerland.

Markus wrote about baptism, Holy Communion, the Pauline Epistles, Jewish-Christian dialogue, justification, and the resurrection of Jesus.  His books included the volumes on Galatians and Ephesians for The Anchor Bible series and a posthumously published commentary on the Epistle to Philemon.

Markus died at Basel on July 1, 1994.  He was 78 years old.

The legacies of the Barths glorify God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 23, 2016 COMMON ERA

PROPER 25:  THE TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES OF JERUSALEM, BROTHER OF JESUS

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O God, you have endowed us with memory, reason, and skill.

We thank you for the faithful legacy of [Karl Barth, Markus Barth, and all others]

who have dedicated their lives to you and to the intellectual pursuits.

May we, like them, respect your gift of intelligence fully and to your glory.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Psalm 103

Philippians 4:8-9

Mark 12:28-34

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 6, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHRODEGANG OF METZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF EDMUND KING, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF LINCOLN

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