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Photo: Carolyn Herring

Princeton Seminary’s four systematic theologians have been in the spotlight recently, and with good cause.

T.gif (202 bytes)hey have achieved both international and national acclaim for prizes received and books published. One of these professors, with thirty-seven years of service, has been assigned a new chair. That professor is Daniel L. Migliore, who began his career at Princeton in 1962 as an instructor in New Testament. Since then, Migliore has written numerous articles and books including Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology, which is a widely used textbook in seminaries and colleges throughout the United States.

“Karl Barth called theology the most beautiful of the sciences,” says Migliore, “not because of the beauty of our theologies but because of the intrinsic beauty of the God of the Gospel. After almost four decades of work in theology, I continue to be persuaded and motivated by that beauty.”

Migliore was recently assigned to the Charles Hodge Chair of Systematic Theology, one of the oldest endowed professorships at Princeton Seminary. “I am honored,” says Migliore, “not least because my own beloved teacher, George S. Hendry, was the Hodge Professor for some twenty years.”

The other six occupants of the chair prior to Migliore have included Charles Hodge himself, in whose honor the alumni of the Seminary established the chair in 1872, and Benjamin B. Warfield.

Though his title has changed — Migliore was the Seminary’s Arthur M. Adams Professor of Systematic Theology from 1979 until his new appointment this fall — he stresses that both what and how he teaches and writes theology will remain the same. He will continue to “bring systematic theology and pastoral ministry into conversation with one another.”

Migliore’s forthcoming book, Rachel’s Cry: Prayer of Lament and the Rebirth of Hope, which he coauthored with Kathleen Billman (’77B, ’86M, ’92D), addresses the need for theological

reflection to be both practical and visionary.

“In the Reformed tradition,” he says, “theological reflection is normed by the Word of God in Jesus Christ,…seeks to be responsive to the questions and struggles of people today, and offers its work in the hope that it will serve both the church and its ministry in our time.”

Ellen Charry, who joined the faculty in 1996 as the Seminary’s Margaret W. Harmon Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, affirms Migliore’s views.

“Theology has an obligation to engage the culture we live in,” she says. “In some periods, Christianity controlled the culture; in others, it adjusted itself to the culture. With all the shifts that have taken place in the general culture over the past fifty years, it is time to reexamine the terms of that engagement.”

In her recently published and highly acclaimed book By the Renewing of Your Minds, Charry “swims backwards in time” (her words) and revisits a number of classical theological texts in an effort to understand how their authors engaged their cultural environment and how that might help us today. In the forward to her book, Charry writes, “I worked back from Aquinas to Anselm, to Augustine, to Athanasius, and finally to Paul, and found similar concerns: God did all things for our benefit in order to gain our trust; Christ became human so that we might

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come to know and love God better. I saw that the explanations of God’s actions…were to a practical purpose….

“The theologians of the past,” she continues, “understood God’s goodness to be the foundation of human happiness. Further, they acknowledged that a happy life is a virtuous life.”

In her research, Charry found that such understanding began to change after Calvin. The notion of happiness became attached to material goods rather than to the goodness or wisdom of God. “In the modern secular world,” Charry says, “our chase to accumulate wealth and goods has had both negative and positive effects on us spiritually. Theology may again be able to help us cultivate our souls.

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