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Because God Is: A Tribute to Robert W. Jenson (1930-2017)

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Over 5 years of weekly dinners, ‘America’s Theologian’ became a mentor and a dear friend.

I first met Robert Jenson in the fall of 2007, just after I had begun my doctoral studies at Princeton Theological Seminary. I had become friends with two other students, and one day one of us observed that a world-class theologian, whose books we were strongly encouraged to read, lived a mere half a block from the seminary.

“What if we just went over and talked with him,” one of us asked. “Would he want to talk to us?”

We contacted him and were given a set date and time to come to the Jenson home. So, we went. When our time was up, Jenson asked if we were available at this time every week. We answered yes. “You will come then at this time every week.” I’m still not sure if it was an interrogative or an imperative.

For five years we went to the Jenson home every week for what can only be described as an event, the unifying event of our theological formation. But there was nothing fancy about it. We sat in the Jensons’ living room doing theology.

I say “doing” intentionally. Jenson was never magisterial. From day one he treated us as equals. That prompted sheer terror at first. He did not come down to our level. We had to operate at his. We weren’t there to sit at his feet, we were there to do theology in communion with each other and with the saints, to argue and discuss and reflect on the Triune God and his doings with creation.

We did not have to agree with him. In fact, he sometimes nearly forced us to disagree! But we had to defend our claims, and he was quick to spot flaws. Nothing was free from criticism, most of all Jenson’s Systematic, which we read with him at our initiative rather than his. My copy is full of marginal notes where he remarked that …

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Source: Christianity Today Magazine

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