Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Blogging in the name of the Lord: Jason Goroncy

This is the third in a series of interviews with Christian bloggers. In the hot seat today is....

GD: Hello Jason Goroncy, please tell us a little about yourself.
JG: I'm married to Judy and we have a two-year-old daughter. I was ordained in 1999 as a minister with the Baptist Union of Victoria, served a number of Baptist churches, as a teacher in two SE Asian refugee camps and then had a spell with the Uniting Church of Australia. I support Chelsea Football Club, and love fly fishing, good coffee, loud music, long walks, old books, Scottish whiskeys, home-brewed pilsners and slow cooking. I'm currently finishing off a PhD on the soteriology of PT Forsyth and have recently began a new teaching position at the Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership in Dunedin, the ministerial training college of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand.
GD: Your blog is called Per Crucem ad Lucem. That's Latin for stuff right?
JG: Yes it is. It means 'Through the Cross to the Light', the words appearing on the memorial tablet to Forsyth in New College Chapel.
GD: What prompted you to start blogging?
JG: There were discussions that I wanted to engage in, and things I wanted to say, and saw blogging as an avenue to do both.
GD: What do you find most enjoyable about blogging?
JG: Three things: (i) the people I've met; (ii) the raw theological conversations; and (iii) the discipline of writing.
GD: What bugs you most about blogging?
JG: Again, three things: (i) the pooling of ignorance; (ii) the distraction; and (iii) the time away from 'real' books.
GD: As you mentioned, you are engaged in doctoral studies on the theology of P.T. Forsyth. David F. Wells often quotes from his writings, but I must confes I don't know an awful lot about him. Introduce the theologian and tell us why you were drawn to his work.
JG: Forsyth (1848–1921) was an Aberdeen-born and -educated Congregationalist minister and theologian who served churches at Shipley, London, Manchester, Leicester and Cambridge before becoming, in 1901, Principal of Hackney College (London), a position he held until his death. In 1905, he was honoured by being elected Chairman of the Congregational Union of England and Wales. For me, the initial attraction of Forsyth's thought was the simply the energy and passion with which he wrote. It was quite unlike anything else I'd encountered. Within a brief time, however, I began to most appreciate his conviction that all things are determined by one centre – God's action in Jesus Christ. The pastoral power and ramifications of such a conviction are immense.
GD: What is the most helpful advice that you have ever received on preaching?
JG: Two things: 1. That preaching is an announcement, proclamation, the Word of God itself living and active. It is not the mere imparting of information, biblical or otherwise. 2. Preach as long as you like, but it shouldn't feel longer than 25 minutes.
GD: Sounds like good advice to me. Apart from Forsyth, which theologians have most influenced your thinking?
JG: John Calvin, John Bunyan (his Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners was particularly impressive), Geoffrey Bingham, David Moreland (my pastor for many years), Karl Barth, Jürgen Moltmann, Vincent Donovan, Colin Gunton, Otto Weber, Donald MacKinnon, Frank Rees (my theology professor), Graham Cole (another of my theology professors), Anselm, Martin Luther, James Torrance, TF Torrance, Adolf Schlatter, Jonathan Edwards, Catherine LaCugna, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Thomas Smail, Irenaeus, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Helmut Thielicke, Ray Anderson, Dorothee Sölle, Robert Jenson, James Denney, Trevor Hart, Eugene Peterson and Donald Bloesch – among others – have all had an impact on forming my thinking over many years times. Some of these continue as regular companions. More recent companions have included Hans Urs von Balthasar, Rowan Williams, Joseph Ratzinger, John Webster and James Baldwin Brown.
GD: Quite an ecclectic mix there. What did you like most about living in the UK, and what do you miss most about Australia?
JG: Most like about living in Britain? My wife and daughter were there … and the live football at reasonable hours of the day. Most miss about Australia? The space, cricket on free TV, and cheap Pizza.
GD: The world of theology blogging seems to be dominated by Aussies like Ben Myers. What is it about you people, and have you any tips for the lowly Welsh?
JG: Theo-blogdom has more than its fair share of Aussies because we have an anxiety complex about being so far away from the rest of the world. Blogging makes us feel like we're part of the human race. Tips for the Welsh? Mmm, stick to singing.
GD: Thanks, but contrary to the stereotype I'm not that good at singing either. You have another blog on fatherhood called Paternal Life. Why the dad blog?
JG: I wanted a format to think out loud about some of the things I was learning, and being challenged by, as a new dad. I'm still learning and being challenged, but blogging about it has largely dried up. It may kick back into life at some stage.
GD: Which theological book have you found most helpful in the last twelve months?
JG: I found two books particularly helpful this year. First, Moltmann's The Coming of God. Apart from positing what is quite simply a breathtaking eschatological vision, the book helped bring together, for me, a host of loose threads in Moltmann's thought. It also overlapped with many of the themes I was thinking about at the time concerning Forsyth's own eschatology. In fact, a comparative study of Forsyth's and Moltmann's theology would make a wonderful PhD if anyone would take it up. Second, Scottish Theology by TF Torrance. This is a helpful interpretation of a stream of historical theology which introduces those already familiar with Torrance's work with some of the key historical figures that inform his thinking-in-tradition. That it is not without a definite theological agenda only adds to its appeal. I also thought that Gregory MacDonald's The Evangelical Universalist was a great piece of work that deserves more attention.
GD: Maybe the last suggestion did get the attention it deserved, ie. not a lot. As far as I'm concerned, the wrath and judgement of God against sin are an essential backdrop to the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. It seems that you've been on something of a theological journey from a 'Classic Reformed' position to a more Barth-influenced stance. Am I right? If so, how has your theological understanding has changed over the years?
JG: By way of an answer, I’d prefer to say that my sympathies have broadened rather than moved from one position to another. Sibbes, Owen, Edwards, Whitefield, Newton and Goodwin continue to sit on my bookshelves alongside Barth, Moltmann, Braaten, Brueggemann and Kant, and even Spong and Geering. As a teacher of church history, one quickly learns to appreciate the breath of faithful witness in the tradition, and to rejoice whenever one hears the good news faithfully proclaimed and attended too, even – and perhaps especially – when the grammar and concepts employed is somewhat strange to our ears. Also, what C. S. Lewis once referred to as ‘chronological snobbery’ ought have no place in the thinking of those who believe in ‘the communion of saints’ created, sustained and made one by Jesus’ resurrection.

I’m not sure that I ever felt fully comfortable in what you describe as the ‘Classic Reformed’ position. I will always be grateful to those who introduced me to Spurgeon and Tom Wells, though certainly I read less Banner of Truth stuff now, for example, than I once did. Having just unpacked my books, most of which have been in storage for about 4 years, I was struck yet again that something akin to Fowler’s Stages of Faith goes some way to adequately describing the journey that I’m on. I’m changing, growing, appreciating more, seeking different ways of being human, and, I hope, faithfully seeking understanding.
GD: Embracing the 'Classic Reformed' vision of the Gospel as a young believer gave a new-found stability and reality to my Christian life. Through reading the likes of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Jim Packer and Jonathan Edwards I found a theology that was faithful to Scripture and that made sense of my Christian experience. While I hope that my understanding of the Truth has grown and developed over the years, I still remain gripped by the 'Classic Reformed' vision of the triune God of sovereign grace and judgement. Now tell us your top three songs or pieces of music.
JG: That's always an impossible question for me to answer. But if pushed, I'd have to include Bruckner's Violin Concerto, Bach's St Matthew's Passion, Britten's War Requiem, and probably War by U2, or Johnny Cash's American IV: The Man Comes Around, or Iris DeMent's The Way I Should, or Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited, or City Streets by Carole King, or The Beatles' Abbey Road, or Paul Simon's Graceland, Springsteen's Nebraska , or Sinéad O'Connor's Theology, or John Mellencamp's Life, Death, Love and Freedom … or So by Peter Gabriel, or Porgy and Bess by Gershwin, or anything by Kate Rusby, Dar Williams, Brahms, Andrew Peterson, Eric Bogle, Tracy Chapman, The Eagles, Lucinda Willams, Pink Floyd, Paul Kelly, Don McGlashan, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Third Day, ... why did you have to go and ask me that? [I wish I hadn't!] Oh did I mention any Beethoven symphony?
GD: No, but that's quite enough on the music front thank you very much. Lastly, which theology blogs do you most enjoy?
JG: Again, a difficult one to answer, but here's a few:
Confessing Christ (Richard L. Floyd)
Faith and Theology (Ben Meyers)
Inhabitatio Dei (Halden Doerge)
Living Wittingly (Jim Gordon)
Kai Euthus (Mike Higton)
Creating in Love (Makoto Fujimura)
Naked Pastor (David Hayward)
Nothing New Under the Sun (Byron Smith)
Prodigal Kiwi(s) Blog (Paul Fromont & Alan Jamieson)
Shored Fragments (Steve Holmes)
The Blogging Parson (Michael Jensen)
Theological Scribbles (Robin Parry)
GD: Thanks for dropping by, Jason. Bye.

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