Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Discovering Joe R. Jones, "The Best Unknown Theologian in America"

As I find myself plowing through Bill Simmons' newly released, glorious 700+ page tome The Book of Basketball, I'm also discovering ways to delay assigned reading through checking out books I come across while discharging books at the library. One of these books today was Joe R. Jones' On Being the Church of Jesus Christ in Tumultuous Times. The cover, description, and contents from flipping through it all caught my eye, but what especially grabbed me were the recommendations on the back. Steve Long, Mark Nation, Janet Hoover, and Stanley Hauerwas all commend the work, and Hauerwas goes so far as to say, "Joe Jones is the best unknown theologian in America."

Does anyone out there have further information on Jones? I only recently encountered his work at all, when while researching for a brief assignment on baptism I came upon his two-volume systematic theology, A Grammar of Christian Faith. After skimming and learning a bit more, I find out not only that the twin emphases of his work are the discourses and practices of the church (the two areas I am most interested in for doctoral work), but that he belongs to the Stone-Campbell Restoration tradition, namely the Disciples of Christ!

Apparently Jones is now in retirement with his wife in a cabin in Oklahoma, being Professor Emeritus of Theology and Ethics at Christian Theological Seminary (Indianapolis, Indiana). If he were 10 or 20 years younger, I would be calling him up this very moment asking if I could come do my PhD under him.

But regardless, does anyone out there know more? Am I unfashionably late to this great "unknown theologian"?

Anyway, to conclude, I thought I would share the following, which are his controlling definitions for the church and for the gospel (pp. xvi, xvii):
The church is that liberative and redemptive
community of persons
called into being
by the Gospel of Jesus Christ
through the Holy Spirit
to witness in word and deed
to the living triune God
for he benefit of the world
to the glory of God.

. . .

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Good News
that the God of Israel, the Creator of all creatures,
has in freedom and love become incarnate
in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth
to enact and reveal God's gracious reconciliation
of humanity to Godself, and
through the Holy Spirit calls and empowers human beings
to participate in God's liberative and redemptive work by
acknowledging God's gracious forgiveness in Jesus,
repenting of human sin,
receiving the gift of freedom, and
embracing authentic community by
loving the neighbor and the enemy,
caring for the whole of creation, and
hoping for the final triumph of God's grace
as the triune Ultimate Companion of all creatures.
Sounds good to me.

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[Postscript: As I lament my inability to make it up to Montreal for AAR, my brother emailed me to inform me that the next meeting will be exactly a year from next weekend here in Atlanta! I am already looking forward to being able simply to be present, but even more so to meet and even host friends and acquaintances in this new-but-now-home of ours. Should be good.]

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[Post-Postscript: Just as I posted this, I saw Jason's extensive review from a couple years back. Of course!]


  1. You've sold me on this book. Hurry up and finish it! You know where it's going when you are done :)

  2. Just added it to my Amazon cart. Thanks for the suggestion.