I remember it like it was yesterday. I was a completely green seminary student sitting in a class on research methods. It was being taught by the seminary librarian, and he happened to mention a theologian I hadn’t heard much, if anything about. His name (the theologian, not the librarian) was Franz Bibfeldt, and the only available book in the library on him was a collection of essays interacting with his work.
Now, Eerdmans has done us all a favor and published the Revised 18th (or perhaps 19th) Anniversary Edition of that collection of essays. This is the definitive work on Bibfeldt’s theology, which is simultaneously groundbreaking and ground affirming. Bibfeldt, the eminent theologian of Both/And rather than Either/Or, takes seriously the need to be all things to all men in order that he might win some (but mostly likely alienate most others). What this collection of essays does is chronicle his theological development as well as interact deeply with the contours and crevices of his thought.
Readers are taken on a journey through five parts:
- The Quest for The Historical Bibfeldt
- Bibfeldt’s Postmodern Theology
- The Pastoral Theology of Franz Bibfeldt
- Culture and Art in Bibfeldt
- Landmarks and Landmines in Bibfeldt Scholarship
Each of these sections is rich with rewarding essays digging into Bibfeldt’s complex upbringing and background, his constant issues with time (especially seen in his life’s work on The Problem of the Year Zero), and his innovative theological hermeneutic of Bullsgeschichte. Readers are also introduced to Bibfeldt’s principle of reversism (“Any saying that is too hard to understand or too hard to follow is to be understood to mean the opposite of what it literally says” p. 32) which revolutionized Gospel studies in some circles.
There are also several lengthy appendices, which is appropriate since Bibfedlt’s work is like the appendix in Christian theology, a role in the body of Christ he relished. There in the vestigial organs of the book, readers can encounter several short speeches given in Bibfeldt’s honor, primeval historical documents, and several additional short essays that are new to this publication.
In short, if you fancy yourself a theological reader, but you have not been introduced to Franz Bibfeldt, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this book. Bibfeldt was truly a theologian ahead of his time (in a literal sense) and this collection of essays is just the kind of thing to pay homage to such a theological innovator and sensible purveyor of all kinds of theological Bullsgeschichte.
- Editors: Martin E. Marty & Jerald C. Brauer
- Title: The Unrelieved Paradox: Studies in The Theology of Franz Bibfeldt
- Publisher: Eerdmans (December 6, 2012)
- Paperback: 286pgs
- Reading Level: Bible School/Seminary
- Audience Appeal: Only the most serious scholars of theology will be interested in this work
- Gratis Review Copy: Yes (courtesy of Eerdmans)
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