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Drew Theological School Celebrates Professor’s Literary Success

Chris Boesel launches In Kierkegaard’s Garden with the Poppy Blooms

March 2022 – The Drew Theological School community of theologians, scholars, and students gathered for a virtual event to celebrate the release of In Kierkegaard’s Garden with the Poppy Blooms: Why Derrida Doesn’t Read Kierkegaard when He Reads Kierkegaard, the latest book by Chris Boesel, associate professor of Christian theology at Drew Theological School and Graduate Division of Religion.

The event was moderated by Drew PhD student Scott Ostlund.

Boesel read a passage from the book, which offers both a deconstructive and philosophical outlook and a theological and confessional outlook on Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling.

“On one hand, the book is very simple,” said Boesel. “It’s basically a commentary on Derrida’s The Gift of Death. But within that commentary opens up another commentary on Fear and Trembling, which is read by Derrida in The Gift of Death.

“On the other hand, I’m trying to make the case that a relatively traditional Christian faith can be a ground and source for a progressive social vision and commitment,” said Boesel. “I am trying to make a case for the weird possibility that a traditional Christian faith actually calls for a radical progressive ethical and social vision.”

A panel of esteemed colleagues and theologians responded to Boesel’s reading, including Catherine Keller, George T. Cobb Professor of Constructive Theology at Drew Theological School and Graduate Division of Religion; Jason A. Mahn, professor of religion and director of the Presidential Center for Faith and Learning, and Conrad Bergendoff Professor in the Humanities at Augustana College; and J. Aaron Simmons, professor of philosophy at Furman University.

“I think that Chris’ theological reading of Kierkegaard is similar to walking through gardens in the summer. The poppies are in bloom and we just have to put our phones down in order to see them,” said Simmons. “Faithfulness is not exclusively a theological thing, it can also be philosophical.” And when it is, Simmons noted, it is more “like walking through the garden in winter.”

“I don’t see myself escaping from your poppy garden, at least not with my head still on,” exclaimed Keller. “As Kierkegaard at the end of the epigraph of Fear and Trembling makes clear, faith does not come to a standstill, not ever—but neither does it go further on to something else.”

Boesel’s other publications include Reading Karl Barth: Theology that Cuts Both Ways (forthcoming), Apophatic Bodies: Negative Theology, Incarnation, and Relation (co-edited with Catherine Keller), and Risking Proclamation, Respecting Difference: Christian Faith, Imperialistic Discourse, and Abraham.

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