Monday, April 29, 2013


Writing is the thing I most looked forward to with my academic hiatus. Writing, and the reading that would inform the writing. There has been plenty of both, so on that count this has been the hiatus I hoped for.

This is the final week of classes in my M.A. program at Wheaton Graduate School. Today I will write a 2500-word essay on Dietrich Bonhoeffer's "Christology" lectures (Berlin, 1933). Tomorrow I will finish an independent study paper on the practical theology of music of Luther and Bach. That will be the longest paper I have produced . . . to date.

But all the writing this year has been but a prelude to the writing I have in front of me this summer. This past week my thesis proposal was approved, and I will be writing what is titled (for now at least): Pious Hymns: J. S. Bach, Religious Devotion, and the Lutheran Liturgy. I am bringing  theology, rhetoric, and liturgy into a conversation to demonstrate that Bach's musical treatment of Pietist hymns re-framed the theology of those hymns. It's kind of labor-intensive, but in the end I think there is a persuasive argument to be made. (Not a new argument, perhaps, but a conclusion that has not been explored with the Pietist hymns.)

And if you understand none of the preceding, well, bear with me! On this space my writing will be a bit more diverse. Or you may get enough in bits and pieces to be able to follow along.

Historical theology (my academic discipline du jour) traces theological themes through church history, and/or examines some theological topic in a specific time and place in hopes of finding wise answers to modern issues. Doing the historical and theological work well, looking back, should help when applying the wisdom of the past. (Or, as often happens, heeding the warnings of the past!) The issue behind (or in front of) my thesis is a nagging concern that the modern church considers music in worship a largely subjective matter, about which theology has little bearing. And note that I am talking about music not words. Yes, I want to say, the church should be thinking theologically about the notes.

Today's writing on Bonhoeffer has nothing to do with that. It's just a really engaging assignment. The paper I am finishing tomorrow - that has lots of material that will find its way into the thesis. Here's hoping I have the write stuff!