Tuesday, June 22, 2010

On David Kelsey's "Eccentric Existence"

While I will have much more to say about this in an upcoming review essay in Christian Scholar's Review, my enthusiasm for David Kelsey's Eccentric Existence: A Theological Anthropology requires a more immediate outlet. So here's a little snippet of praise from the forthcoming essay:

David Kelsey’s magnum opus, Eccentric Existence is a stunning work of profound wisdom, theoretical boldness, and architectonic beauty, hearkening back to the best of magisterial German “systematics” of the 20th century (complete with long, technical sections in a smaller font)—though Kelsey’s approach is also marked by a deep engagement with Scripture rather than arid abstractions. The architectonic is governed by Trinitarian faith and the Scriptural narrative, not abstract philosophical systems. This is a systematics that resonates with recent developments in “the theological interpretation of Scripture” (developments not unrelated to some of Kelsey’s own earlier work). Indeed, once I began to appreciate the scope and craft of the book, I read with nothing short of critical awe. It is required reading for anyone working in theology. (The six chapters of the Introduction [!] constitute a careful treatise on theological method and might be taken as the most mature statement of “the Yale school.”)

But it deserves a much wider readership than that. As I have lived with the book over the past month, I have imagined a generation of Christian scholars, looking to deepen and “thicken” their understanding of Christian faith and human personhood, devoting themselves to absorbing this book. I can imagine a scholar reading then re-reading Eccentric Existence in order to mine its wisdom; but I also dream of interdisciplinary groups of Christian scholars from across the disciplines (especially in the social sciences) spending a few years meeting for lunchtime discussions, working together to absorb the theological insights and wisdom it contains. Such an investment would unquestionably deepen and mature the level of discourse in Christian scholarship. Eccentric Existence is a deep, deep well from which we could drink for a very long time.