Boersma_Square_2.jpegDr. Hans Boersma

This week we'll meet Dr. Hans Boersma - J.I. Packer Professor of Theology at Regent College.

Before coming to Regent in 2005, Hans Boersma taught for six years at Trinity Western University in Langley, BC (1999–2005). He has also served as a pastor for several years (1994–1998). He is the author of several books, including Violence, Hospitality and the Cross: Reappropriating the Atonement Tradition (Baker Academic, 2004), Nouvelle Théologie and Sacramental Ontology: A Return to Mystery (Oxford, 2009), and Heavenly Participation: The Weaving of a Sacramental Tapestry (Eerdmans 2011). In February 2013, he published his latest book, Embodiment and Virtue in Gregory of Nyssa: An Anagogical Approach (Oxford Early Christian Studies). Among Hans Boersma's main theological interests are Catholic thought, the church fathers, and spiritual interpretation of Scripture. Hans Boersma and his wife Linda live in Langley, BC, where they attend the Immanuel Christian Reformed Church.

We're delighted to have Dr. Boersma sharing a "view from the academy" in his lecture "Reconnecting the Threads: Theology as Sacramental Tapestry".

Check out this video to learn why Dr. Boersma is excited about his job and loves doing theology:

Quotes from Dr. Boersma

Participation in heaven changes life on earth: paradoxically, only otherworldliness guarantees proper engagement in this world.

The full reality of heavenly participation far transcends the categories of the earthly city. Heaven—the places of Christ's eternal dwelling place—is the place where the church finds both her origin and her destination.

"Sacramental tapestry" . . . speaks of a carefully woven unity of nature and the supernatural, according to which created objects are sacraments that participate in the mystery of the heavenly reality of Jesus Christ.

Created matter is meant to serve eucharistically.

The purpose of all matter . . . is to lead us into God's heavenly presence, to bring about communion with God, participation in the divine life.

The call for a purely "biblical" theology seems to me terribly naïve. Whether consciously or subconsciously, we all work with a particular ontology; unfortunately, usually the ontology of those who plead for the abolition of ontology turns out to be the nominalist ontology of modernity.

The insistence on a sacramental link between God and the world goes well beyond the mere insistence that God has created the world and by creating it has declared it to be good. It also goes beyond positing an agreed-on (covenantal) relationship between two completely separate beings. A sacramental ontology insists that not only does the created world point to God as its source and "point of reference," but that it also subsists or participates in God.

Platonic philosophy allowed the church fathers (as well as the subsequent medieval tradition) to argue for a christological anchor that is not caught up in the narrative flow of history and in the vicissitudes of human life. The Platonic connection allowed Christians to say that the eternal Logos—infinitely transcending the created order—provides the foundation and stability of the created order and of human history. The fragmentation of postmodernity witnesses to the fact that once we lose this christological foundation, natural realities end up drifting anchorless in the raging waves of history.

If the church fathers and medieval theologians sometimes sound otherworldly to us, it is because that is exactly what they were: the source and grounding of the value of the created order was otherworldly, shrouded in mystery. And if they sometimes seem to us unable to acknowledge the goodness of the created order, we should probably first ask ourselves whether the problem might lie with ourselves: our (post-)modern point of view disposes us to insist on the value of creation in and of itself rather than to recognize that its goodness stems from its sacramental sharing in the mystery of Christ.

Christ himself, we could say, is the great sacrament, the mystery par excellence. In him, the eternal Word enters into the temporal succession of events, thus allowing time to participate sacramentally in eternity.

Interview with Dr. Boersma

1. How do you define “sacrament”?
Something created that points to God and renders him present to us. 

2. How would you explain our sub-theme, “The World as Gift”, i.e. how is the world a gift?
Traditionally, the Holy Spirit is called God's "Gift."  And it is through the mission of the Holy Spirit ad extra (to the outside) that God creates life as the generous outflow of his love, in order that we might gift it back to him.

3. What is your favorite food and drink?
Dutch "stampot": sausage, potatoes, and kale.

4. What is your favorite novel and why?
Flannery O'Connor, The Violent Bear It Away: a remarkable and in some way gruesome story of the life of a young "prophet" who "baptizes" an "idiot child" by drowning him.  It raises profound questions of the relationship between nature and the supernatural, between drowning and baptism, between human violence and divine grace.  Plus, the story is just gripping as a story.

5. Who is your favorite musician and why?
Bach because his music is truly sacramental: it draws us into the divine presence. I believe the Neoplatonists were right that music is as objective as mathematics, and Bach must have been pretty good at detecting cosmic harmony.

6. Do you have any hobbies, or what kind of things do you do in your free time? 

I have no real hobbies. I used to do dog training, but I have allergies, so, sadly, I had to give away our golden retriever. Last year I got into beer brewing, but I'm away from home now for two years, and so I don't do that anymore either. My wife and I love to go for long walks

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