- The Theologically Formed Heart: Essays in Honor of David J. Gouwensed. by Warner M. Bailey, Lee C. Barrett III, and James O. Duke
The sheer range of topics and perspectives in this Festschrift speaks to the breadth of David Gouwen’s multivalent vocation, interests, influences, and contributions. The volume begins with Newell Williams’s informative and personalized biography of Gouwens. It proceeds to more than a dozen essays, which are divided into three primary areas of Gouwens’s expertise: theological reflection, Kierkegaard studies, and the practice of theology and ministry within the Reformed Church. Many essays combine these areas and cover topics close to Gouwens’s theologically formed heart, such as his expertise in biblical theology, his service to theological education, the theological employment of rhetoric, Kierkegaard’s communion discourses, and religious pluralism. The array of contributors parallels that of the topics and comprises colleagues and friends, students and teachers, scholars and pastors, including C. Stephen Evans, Kenneth Cracknell, James O. Duke, Cynthia Rigby, Don and Nancy Claire Pittman, Paul Martens, and Sylvia [End Page 291]Walsh Perkins. Some of the essays address Gouwens’s direct influence on the progression of scholarship and theological practice in particular areas, while others are developments of topics that interest Gouwens.
Two essays are particularly interesting and represent the style and themes of the book. The first, written by long-time friend and colleague Lee C. Barrett, explores Gouwens’s contributions to the Yale school of thought. Hans Frei, George Lindbeck, and Paul Homer, the initial proponents of post-liberal theology, proclaim that the Bible has its own unique narrative, culture, and grammar by which Christians ought to shape their theology and live their lives. Barrett explains that Frei and Lindbeck emphasize the objective features of the gospels’ stories, which they say make clear claims of Christianity’s unique message as distinct from and counter to cultural norms. Paul Homer, on the other hand, distrusts such claims to objectivity and argues that the significance of the gospels is in the subjective encounter between the reader/believer and the stories about Jesus. Barrett argues that Gouwens uses his extensive knowledge of Kierkegaard to ‘‘point a way to resolve these tensions and integrate the trajectories’’ of both sides of this influential school (2). He integrates two elements of Kierkegaard’s thought: his criticism of Christianity’s absorption into secular cultural norms and his articulation of the uniqueness of Christian passion and faith. Gouwens explicates Homer’s use of Kierkegaard in order to make an integrated argument that includes an objective claim for the reality of faith beyond any individual with a subjective interpretation that can be meaningful for each individual’s expression of faith.
Brite Divinity School colleague Nancy Ramsay offers an essay on theological education, a subject near and dear to Gouwens’s vocation and heart. She makes several suggestions for meeting important challenges faced by Christian seminaries and other educational institutions. Following Charles Taylor’s lead, she names the contemporary age as secular, in which religious faith is optional, fragile, pluriform, and becoming scarce. Given this context of plurality of religious, spiritual, and secular rational and ethical claims and values, she asks two pointed questions: First, how can theological education best contribute to this contemporary context, in preparing religious leaders of ‘‘oldline’’ denominations amidst this secular age in ways that provide information about and experience of other religious, spiritual, and ethical sensibilities? And second, what religious resources can contribute to the common good for the problems and questions of this time?
She argues that theological educators need to develop strategies for guiding future religious and community leaders in formulating connections between their sacred heritages, their distinctive religious experiences, and contemporary practices for ‘‘proclamation, nurture and care in Christian communities’’ (129). Her prescriptions include four elements for student learning outcomes: (1) enable clear articulation of values and hopes for transformation; (2) provide guidance for establishing and maintaining ethical integrity; (3...