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Boersma, Hans 1961–

Boersma, Hans 1961–

PERSONAL:

Born 1961, in the Netherlands; immigrated to Canada, became a naturalized citizen; son of a pastor; married; wife's name Linda (a teacher); children: five. Education: Christelijke Academic, B.Ed.; University of Lethbridge, B.A.; Theological College of the Canadian Reformed Churches, M.Div.; University of Utrecht, M.Th., and Th.D., 1993.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Langley, British Columbia, Canada. Office—Regent University, 5800 University Blvd., Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 2E4, Canada.

CAREER:

Theologian, professor, and pastor. Pastor, 1994-98; Trinity Western University, Langley, British Columbia, Canada, professor, 1999-2005, endowed chair for the Geneva Society for Reformational Worldview Studies, 1999-2005; Regent College, Vancouver, British Columbia, James I. Packer Professor of Theology, 2005—; Association of Theological Schools, Henry Luce III Fellow in Theology, 2007-08.

WRITINGS:

A Hot Pepper Corn: Richard Baxter's Doctrine of Justification in Its Seventeenth-Century Context of Controversy, Uitgeverij Boekencentrum (Zoetermeer, Netherlands), 1993.

Eating God's Words: The Life of Jeremiah: A Study Guide, CRC Publications (Grand Rapids, MI), 1998.

The Visions of Zechariah: Lighting the Darkness: A Study Guide, CRC Publications (Grand Rapids, MI), 1999.

(Editor) Living in the Lamblight: Christianity and Contemporary Challenges to the Gospel, Regent College Publishing (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), 2001.

Richard Baxter's Understanding of Infant Baptism, Princeton Theological Seminary (Princeton, NJ), 2002.

Violence, Hospitality, and the Cross: Reappropriating the Atonement Tradition, Baker Academic (Grand Rapids, MI), 2004.

(Editor) Imagination and Interpretation: Christian Perspectives, Regent College Publishing (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), 2005.

SIDELIGHTS:

Hans Boersma was born in the Netherlands and lived there into his twenties, training to be a teacher before moving to Canada to begin his religious studies. The son of a pastor with four siblings, Boersma became a pastor with five children of his own. In Canada, Boersma earned his B.A. from the University of Lethbridge, his M.Div. from the Theological College of the Canadian Reformed Churches, and his M.Th. and Th.D. from the University of Utrecht. After earning his final degree in 1993, Boersma went on to teach at Trinity Western University before becoming James I. Packer Professor of Theology at Regent College in 2005. A pastor, theologian, and professor, Boersma is the author of several theological studies and bible study guides. The latter include Eating God's Words: The Life of Jeremiah: A Study Guide and The Visions of Zechariah: Lighting the Darkness: A Study Guide.

Boersma's first published book, A Hot Pepper Corn: Richard Baxter's Doctrine of Justification in Its Seventeenth-Century Context of Controversy, was released in 1993. In 2001, he edited Living in the Lamblight: Christianity and Contemporary Challenges to the Gospel. However, it was Boersma's 2002 book, Richard Baxter's Understanding of Infant Baptism, that was first reviewed widely. The book is a follow-up to A Hot Pepper Corn.

Richard Baxter's Understanding of Infant Baptism traces the evolution of Baxter's thoughts and practices surrounding baptism, drawing on pamphlets that Baxter published throughout his life. The book also explores the arguments of Baxter's opponents. Although reviewers felt Boersma overlooked some details in his historical examination, they were nonetheless positive in their overall assessments. Indeed, Bryan D. Spinks, critiquing Richard Baxter's Understanding of Infant Baptism in the Journal of Ecclesiastical History, noted that the book is "flawed by the omission" of some of Baxter's philosophies on the baptismal rite. Nevertheless, Spinks called the book "a detailed treatment of Baxter's contribution to the mid seventeenth-century debate on infant baptism." William Lamont, discussing the book in the English Historical Review, had a similar assessment. Lamont acknowledged that although Boersma makes Baxter's "direction" clear, "what we miss is a sense of what was pushing it." Regardless, Lamont called the book a "clever discussion of old theological quarrels" even despite the "faintly surreal quality" that, Lamont felt, results from a lack of detail. Lamont even said of the book that Boersma's "theological grasp is good; his reading list is comprehensive; [and] his exposition is lucid."

Boersma's 2004 book, Violence, Hospitality, and the Cross: Reappropriating the Atonement Tradition, is his most widely reviewed work to date. The book centers around crucifixion as an act of atonement above all else, and it attempts to set that idea above competing theological beliefs surrounding the crucifixion. Boersma offers a comprehensive overview of the theological implications of the crucifixion, with an emphasis on violence and hospitality and their role in atonement. As part of his argument, Boersma also discusses the theories of other theologians. Indeed, the topic is central to all Christian rhetoric, a fact that Interpretation contributor J. Todd Billings pointed out. Billings stated: "If one were to choose a topic that is vital to the church's teaching, but contested on almost every level in contemporary scholarship, the atoning work of Christ would be high on the list."

Aside from Billings, most reviewers focused on the academic nature of Violence, Hospitality, and the Cross. George Westerlund, writing in the Library Journal, noted that although the book is "well structured and readable," it is also "scholarly in tone." Given this, Westerlund commented that the book is "recommended for scholarly theological collections." Christopher Ruddy, writing in Commonweal, observed that "Boersma writes that the cross is best understood as an expression of God's welcoming hospitality toward humanity." Ruddy further explained: "To this straightforward argument, Boersma adds a twist: the Crucifixion involves a form of divinely ‘redemptive violence.’ Ruddy's overall reaction to the book was mixed, though he did acknowledge that "when exploring polarizing topics … [Boersma] writes with a generosity of style and understanding that always situates his criticisms within a broader appreciation for an author or even for a movement's strengths."

Alex Abecina, writing on Is There a Meaning in This Blog?, made several observations regarding Violence, Hospitality, and the Cross. Like other reviewers, Abecina conceded that Boersma handles other theologians' arguments with respect, further noting that Boersma sets forth "an insightful prelude on theological method which further underscores his postmodern sensitivity." Abecina also felt that "Boersma humbly welcomes metaphor as basic and beneficial to our apprehension of God and the world." Indeed, Boersma's humility shines through elsewhere as well. In a profile posted on the Regent University Web site, Boersma has said "that throughout his life of faith he has had ‘questions about a lot of things, but, through God's grace, he always brings me back to himself and the foot of the Cross. He brings me back to prayer, and to the Church, which is the place of prayer.’"

Boersma told CA: "Over the past few years, my research has focused on the French Catholic renewal movement known as nouvelle théologie, which included scholars such as Henri de Lubac, Jean Daniélou, Marie-Dominique Chenu, and Yves Congar. Nouvelle théologie was interested in a ressourcement of the Great Tradition, which caused much controversy within the Catholic Church during the 1940s and 1950s. I look to what I call nouvelle théologie's ‘sacramental ontology’ as the key to their writings."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Commonweal, January 28, 2005, Christopher Ruddy, "Crime & Punishment," p. 38.

Currents in Theology and Mission, June 1, 2007, Daniel M. Bell, review of Violence, Hospitality, and the Cross: Reappropriating the Atonement Tradition, p. 221.

English Historical Review, April 1, 2003, William Lamont, review of Richard Baxter's Understanding of Infant Baptism, p. 510.

Interpretation, July 1, 2006, J. Todd Billings, review of Violence, Hospitality, and the Cross, p. 352.

Journal of Ecclesiastical History, January 1, 2004, Bryan D. Spinks, review of Richard Baxter's Understanding of Infant Baptism, p. 196.

Library Journal, October 15, 2004, George Westerlund, review of Violence, Hospitality, and the Cross, p. 67.

Theology Today, April 1, 2007, Lois Malcolm, review of Violence, Hospitality, and the Cross, p. 114.

ONLINE

Is There a Meaning in This Blog?,http://is-there-ameaning-in-this-blog.blogspot.com/ (May 20, 2008), Alex Abecina, review of Violence, Hospitality, and the Cross.

Regent University Web site,http://www.regent-college.edu/ (May 20, 2008), author profile.

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