Posts Tagged ‘theology’

June 29th, 2017

Questioning territory: A Jewish reflection on holy land*

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Jerusalem_Dome_of_the_rock_BW_14Thinking of territory as a patrie, a motherland or homeland, makes use of metaphors that hope to capture a primal relationship between territory and citizenship. It is this meeting that founds the very concept of nation as more than merely a linguistic derivative of natio, birth. Pre-modern and pre-statist intuitions of indigeneity undergo a modern schematisim that issue forth in citizenship.

Territory thus invigorated is the depth interpretation of the hyphen in the couplet “nation-state.” It is rendered sacral by political theologies that seek to invest it with the status of the divine hearth, consecrating thereby not only the claim to a sovereign right to it but also the demand of sacrifice of life to retain its integrity. In their quest for the aura of majesty we may consider civil religions as the republican version of monarchic divine right theories.

March 9th, 2017

The End of Theology

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The End of TheologyThere is an important ambiguity that attends the philosophical use of the term “end.” On the one hand, it can mean the termination of something (terminus). On the other hand, it can also mean the aim, goal, orientation, or purpose of something (telos). Whereas the terminus names the point of cessation for something, the telos, to some degree, names its projected essence.

With this conceptual background in mind, when I received the invitation to review the new edited volume by Jason S. Sexton and Paul Weston entitled The End of Theology, I fully expected that it would play on this ambiguity occurring in the term “end.” Indeed, the subtitle seems to anticipate this very dynamism: “Shaping Theology for the Sake of Mission.” Surely, I thought, the point of the text would be to show that theology as currently practiced needs to come to some sort of “end” (terminus) in order to return to its appropriate missional “end” (telos). However, I was surprised to discover throughout the volume that really the only notion of “end” in play was in the sense of telos.

This book is important in a lot of ways, but it is most important for highlighting what is needed in order for the book to be even better. When we confront the “ends” of theology, we should run up against the “ends” of ourselves.

February 17th, 2017

Theologies of American exceptionalism: Marshall and Morgan

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In this second installment in the series, Winni Sullivan and M. Cooper Harriss find theology of American exceptionalism in documents that are less conventionally theological.

First, Sullivan examines the US Supreme Court decision Johnson v M’Intosh from 1823, claiming that in Chief Justice John Marshall’s opinion to the court, you can find “the fancy legal footwork at the heart of the American project, one that claims fidelity to the rule of law and to the law of nations while acting as an outlaw—an outlaw whose justification in subjugating savages is in her claim to being Christian and civilized in a new and very special way.”

Then, Harriss reflects on the theology within the concept of the “Great American Novel” through examining recent writings from C. E. Morgan, who “unabashedly” defends the canon of literature, despite its shortcomings.

February 13th, 2017

Theologies of American exceptionalism: Winthrop and Cavell

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“Among the many possible ways of figuring, interpreting, and receiving the problem of American exceptionalism, Cavell pursues a line of thought discernible in Winthrop, Alexander Hamilton, Emerson, and Lincoln. Putting it plainly, the claim here is not that Americans are an exceptionally blessed, virtuous, or accomplished people. Much to the contrary, the point of these interventions is to spur the American people to transcend their all-too-compromised circumstances. In its basic outlines, the idea is that the people at large must be converted to a new set of values, a new way of life, a new world. The idea is not to praise Americans as an exceptional people, but rather to press Americans to take exception to their present shortcomings in order to begin amending them.” -Scherer

This is the first installment in this series of paired posts. Constance Furey and Matthew Scherer have a conversation about American exceptionalism as depicted in John Winthrop’s speech, “A Model of Christian Charity,” and Stanley Cavell’s essay, “Finding and Founding.”

February 13th, 2017

Theologies of American exceptionalism: Introduction

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The one-day workshop which produced these essays focused on “Theologies of American Exceptionalism,” asking participants to expound on an exemplary text (a link to those texts is found in each essay). What followed was an intense discussion of the deeply ambiguous heritage of US exceptionality, both in terms of the stories Americans tell themselves and the stories others tell of them, of what they do at home and what they do abroad—of those excluded and those in charge,—of whether and how the US is or ever was new and innocent—of revolution and the exception,—and of the credibility of the rule of law. Perhaps reflecting the current political climate, much of the discussion, while not centered on the US presidential election, elaborated on the indeterminacy, elusiveness, and provisionality of the US project. Lingering questions concerned the nature and status of sacrifice, sovereignty, and supersessionism in the American context.

November 3rd, 2016

God in the Enlightenment

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God in the EnlightenmentIn a speech before the Brexit vote, Boris Johnson offered a controversial historical pedigree for his campaign to leave the European Union. He insisted that the Leave campaign members were not all backward Little Englanders but rather deserved the reputation as the real upholders of the “liberal cosmopolitan European enlightenment.” He and his colleagues inherited the tradition, he claimed, because they too were “fighting for freedom.” An interview Johnson gave a year earlier, when he claimed that London and Paris shared a commitment to “enlightenment and freedom,” offers some indication about what that “freedom” entailed. He described how these values assured the right to open expression, even when that expression might critique religions and provoke “would be . . . jihadis.”

Johnson’s evocation of the Enlightenment testifies to the continual contest over its political meaning and to its deep associations with anti-religious critique. The contributors to God in the Enlightenment, edited by William Bulman and Robert Ingram, offer nuanced narratives to articulate a “usable” Enlightenment whose meaning can help us arrive at a more sophisticated understanding of the relationship between religion and secularity in public debate.

September 21st, 2016

Calvin’s questions: A response to Jonathan Sheehan

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By You You Xue (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia CommonsIn “Teaching Calvin in California,” a recent piece in The New York Times, Jonathan Sheehan argues that students in secular college classrooms can learn a lot from studying theology. The example he uses to make the case is predestination. Sheehan is not teaching the comfortingly vague idea that each person’s fate is in God’s hands, however, but instead the disturbingly specific version insisted upon by the sixteenth century Christian reformer, John Calvin. According to Calvin’s teaching, often referred to as double predestination, God selects a chosen few and actively damns everyone else, for reasons known and knowable only to God.

Tech savvy students in sun-dappled classrooms in California are not the only ones who predictably find this theology offensive. Even Marilynne Robinson, the acclaimed novelist who has done more to champion Calvin than any non-theologian writing today, emphasizes the offending features of this aspect of Calvinist theology in a scene in Gilead in which her main character, the wise preacher John Ames, is asked to explain predestination. “I hate this conversation a great deal,” Ames’s friend Boughton—also a pastor—says when the topic comes up, “and I’ve never seen it go anywhere.” Ames himself wants to leave it alone: “I’m not going to force some theory on a mystery and make foolishness of it, just because that’s what people who talk about it normally do.” In this scene, as in so many discussions of predestination, freedom has the last word. “A person can change,” Ames’s wife Lila says simply. “Everything can change.” Lila’s reassuring denial of determinism ends the conversation. “Thanks,” the questioner replies. “That’s all I wanted to know.”

John Calvin, by contrast, thought we should want to know more.

June 16th, 2016

The Origins of Neoliberalism: Modeling the Economy from Jesus to Foucault: An introduction

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Traditionally, Western thought framed human life as evolving in a three-dimensional space: the economic, the political, and the philosophical. Nowadays, as in times past, this tradition sets its origins in classical Athens, a time when the happy and self-sufficient public life of politics and the solitary one of philosophy were nourishing on the surplus generated by the economy. The economy was confined to the private sphere of the household and excluded from the public sphere that was occupied by politics. The Origins of Neoliberalism: Modeling the Economy from Jesus to Foucault retells the history of the West following the less traversed economic side of the story by conducting a philological history that traces the meanings that were attached to the notion of oikonomia in Greek speaking antiquity. Doing so, the book offers a twist on the historical narrative of the present: it argues that the rise of the “economy of the mystery which from eternity has been hid in God who created all things” (Ephesians 3:9) in Greek-speaking Christianity of late antiquity plays a decisive role in this history. By reinserting this too-often ignored chapter, the book goes beyond closing a great gap in the histories of economic thought, philosophical inquiries, and political theory. As the research conducted in the book is of a genealogical nature, The Origins of Neoliberalism holds (and demonstrates) that recovering the mysteries of the economy in early Christianity is of great relevance for any critical engagement with neoliberalism, let alone overcoming it.

May 9th, 2014

Pope Francis and liberation theology

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One year into Francis’s papacy, many observers—both inside and outside the Catholic community—are still holding their breath. He has certainly made a good first impression.

February 26th, 2014

Theorizing religion in modern Europe

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On March 7-8, 2014, Harvard University will be hosting an international conference entitled “Theorizing Religion in Modern Europe.”

February 13th, 2014

The theology blind spot

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I have always been puzzled by the fact that Charles Taylor starts his book A Secular Age with a long quote from Bede Griffith in order to describe a religious type of experience. It is the description of a scene experienced by the author as a school-boy: trees are blossoming, birds are singing, the author has the sensation that angels are present and that God is looking down on him. My question is: Why this quote? Why choose an image and a language of sunset, trees and birds in order to describe something for which the different languages of theology have worked out precise and elaborate codifications? I understand, of course, that in the context of the introduction to A Secular Age, Taylor uses this quote in order to make a soft claim to the human openness to experiences of transcendental nature. He uses the rest of the eight-hundred pages of the book to explore why it has become increasingly rare and difficult in our secular age to live these kinds of experiences, let alone to look for them in the context of an organized religious tradition. Most of us, he says, live our lives in an “immanent frame” and religious belief “has become one option among many.”

October 2nd, 2013

CFP: Working with A Secular Age

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On March 6-8, 2014, the University of Bern will host an international conference entitled “Working with A Secular Age: Interdisciplinary Reflections on Charles Taylor’s Conception of the Secular.”

August 14th, 2013

On the passing of Jean Bethke Elshtain

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Well-known ethicist and scholar Jean Bethke Elshtain of the University of Chicago recently passed away on August 11, 2013.

July 24th, 2013

CFP: Varieties of Understanding

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The Varieties of Understanding project at Fordham University in New York is a three-year, $3.85 million initiative that aims to fund groundbreaking work in psychology, philosophy, theology, and religious studies.

July 10th, 2013

CFP: The Religious Turn: Secular and Sacred Engagements in Literature and Theory

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The Western Regional Conference on Christianity and Literature will host its annual conference on The Religious Turn: Secular and Sacred Engagement in Literature and Theory at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, CA from May 15-17, 2014.

June 25th, 2013

Ways of Knowing: Graduate Conference on Religion

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Harvard Divinity School is hosting its annual Ways of Knowing conference for graduate students and young scholars who are studying religion in all different programs and disciplines. The conference will be held at Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, MA on October 25-26, 2013 (more details here). The deadline to submit papers is July 1, 2013.

November 13th, 2012

On the freedom of the concepts of religion and belief

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This short piece attempts to come at the current debate on law and religious freedom from two unusual angles. I end by looking at the strange and revealing positioning of “religion or belief” in current legislation in England and Wales. And I begin by putting a different spin on religious freedom by exploring the terrifying freedom of the concepts of religion and belief. We have never needed the rise of Al Qaeda, so-called Islamicism or a hardline religious right to terrify us with a resurgent specter of specifically religious (as opposed to purely “political”) “terror.” Instead of bearing down on us like some old specter of the Turk or Moor at Europe’s gates, the terror of religion emerges—or insurges (if “insurge” can be made into a verb)—from within the normative conceptualizations of religion in the so-called modern West.

March 16th, 2012

Postdoc fellowship: New Circles of Learning for Engaged Scholars Studying Congregations

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The Boston University School of Theology is seeking a Research Fellow in Congregational Studies for a three-year period, beginning June 1, 2012.

February 12th, 2012

John Hick (1922 – 2012)

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An influential thinker in the areas of Christology, eschatology, and the problem of evil, Hick will likely best be remembered for his “pluralistic hypothesis.”

February 10th, 2012

The cry for immanence

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Today begins a discussion series at the collaborative theology blog An und für sich on Daniel Barber’s recent book, On Diaspora: Christianity, Religion, and Secularity. Daniel Whisper from the University of Liverpool makes the start in the AUFS series.

November 18th, 2011

Where religion comes from and leads us

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In seeking to make sense of modernity in the classical tradition of sociology as a field, the body of Robert Bellah’s work spans the social sciences and comparative cultural inquiry to embrace the global diversity and coherence of religion as the key to culture across civilizations and epochs within the framework of human evolution. Formally trained as a student of tribal cultures, East Asian civilization, and Islam, Bellah engages the West, and America in particular, as problematic cases that can only be understood in the broadest comparative perspective on human cultural development. This global perspective informs Bellah’s conceptions of religion and human evolution as they have deepened and grown over a half century.

November 7th, 2011

A response to critics

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I knew that my new book, Political Theology, would be controversial. It covers a lot of ground; it produces odd conjunctions; and its rhetoric can sound extreme. It pays little attention to academic conventions and often cuts against popular, political expectations. Some might think presumptuous its design and method  of “rewriting” Schmitt’s classic. Many readers are startled to find that out of an engagement with Schmitt can come an exploration of freedom in its political, legal, and discursive dimensions. Others are surprised to find that a book about sovereignty and law—let alone a theological inquiry—puts the imagination at its center.

October 6th, 2011

Focus on the funk: An interview with Cornel West

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“I would go with Pierre Hadot and say that the love of wisdom is a way of life; that is to say, it’s a set of practices that have to do with mustering the courage to think critically about ourselves, society, and the world; mustering the courage to empathize; the courage, I would say, to love; the courage to have compassion with others, especially the widow and the orphan, the fatherless and the motherless, poor and working peoples, gays and lesbians, and so forth—and the courage to hope. So, it is a way of life, a set of practices, no doubt, but, at the same time, I call it a kind of focus on the funk.”

September 26th, 2011

Taking theology seriously

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What we need is a bird’s eye view, and that requires taking theology seriously, and considering a longer view of the history of Western civilization than any sociological survey can provide. […] American Grace adopts a position of respectful skepticism toward theology. The authors dutifully reproduce the questionnaire of “measures of theological belief and religious commitment” included in their survey, but they express surprise that many Americans “have stable views on such seemingly arcane theological issues” as whether a person is saved by faith or by their own good deeds. (Calling this fundamental question “arcane” is a bit like expressing confusion at that obscure rule in baseball that allows a player to score a run by crossing home plate.)

July 18th, 2011

The politics of the atonement

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To grasp the deep architecture of the political today, therefore, is to venture into the theological domains of Christology and especially atonement, that area of theology (particularly, Christian theology) that deals with the logic of (redemptive) death. But the journey cannot be simply phenomenological in the way Kahn carries it out. Or, put differently, it may need to be phenomenological, but in a way that Kahn himself has not considered. Atonement thinking, and the “death contract” that binds politics, must, from within a different phenomenology (and therefore from within a different approach to political theology), be redirected. There must be a new future of death and the political.

July 5th, 2011

The Theological and the Political

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From Fortress Press, an interview with Mark Lewis Taylor, author of The Theological and the Political: On the Weight of the World (Fortress, 2011).

March 21st, 2011

The “great sinner” myth

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Confessions re-emerged into floodlit attention in the Romantic era of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, when it was read as a Bildungsroman riding on the popularity of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Confessions (1782) and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Sorrows of Werther (1774) and Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship (1795). In 1888 Harnack would compare Confessions to Goethe’s Faust. The coming-of-age tale and sins-of-my-youth story made Augustine a byword for libertine-rake glamorization. Such is the reputation of Confessions that James O’Donnell said he first took up the book as a boy with the expectation that it had salacious things in it (for which, he added, he is still futilely searching). The “great sinner” myth has no basis in fact.

March 15th, 2011

What we talk about when we talk about the postsecular

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The term “postsecular” is quickly becoming a keyword for scholars of religion and public life. So what is it all about? An overview of its uses and meanings.

March 10th, 2011

Putting hell on trial

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A long-simmering conflict within U.S. evangelicalism came to the fore recently—a conflict which, as Martin Marty points out, may be more significant in the long run than the question of whether evangelicals support Mike Huckabee or Sarah Palin for the presidency in 2012. Partly theological and partly generational, it pits Rob Bell, the 40-year-old founding minister of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan (not to be confused with the equally prominent Mars Hill Church in Seattle), against the likes of John Piper, the 65-year-old theologian, pastor, and author, who has long stood in opposition to newer developments in evangelical theology sometimes called “the emergent church.” Now, the conflict erupted into the public. . . . Bell’s critics are taking advance materials for his forthcoming book, Love Wins, as suggesting a negative answer. According to Bell’s alleged universalist stance, everybody is “saved”; there is no punishment for non-Christians. Since then, various media—online and offline, Christian and secular—have been reverberating with the charge of heresy.

December 1st, 2010

Culture, nature, and mediation

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Matthew Engelke is right: religion is about mediation. Ironically so, because it is about the divine; but because the divine is never directly available, religion must instead be about how the divine is indirectly manifest. . . . Because religion is about mediation, it naturally refuses any duality of nature and culture. Reality, as the true nature of things, is sacred, but it must be mediated by particular human relations and practices. Culture, therefore, can be neither merely arbitrary nor totally opposed to nature, since it is what truly discloses the latter.

November 22nd, 2010

Paul and today’s emerging Christianities

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My sense is that the most important cross-fertilization between contemporary Pauline scholarship and trends, like the so-called anthropology of Christianity, that seek to appreciate salient aspects of the unfolding of global Christianity would not be through the new insights, via Paul, into the supposedly Promethean self of modernity, secularism, and its many post-prefixed after-runners. This seems to be the Paul celebrated by Badiou, Agamben, and Žižek—a Paul that, as Elizabeth Castelli notes, is decidedly not one that biblical scholars today emphasize.

November 19th, 2010

More than politics: An interview with Charles Villa-Vicencio

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As National Research Director for the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Charles Villa-Vicencio was intimately involved in the historic process that followed the collapse of apartheid and paved the way for a new social order. As a theologian, prior to the commission, he had spoken out against the apartheid regime, writing and editing numerous books that helped lead South African Christians out of complacency about their government’s policies. After the commission concluded, he founded the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, in Cape Town, and now advises peacebuilding efforts around the world. His most recent book is Walk with Us and Listen: Political Reconciliation in Africa (Georgetown University Press, 2009). We spoke at the offices of Georgetown University’s Conflict Resolution Program, where Villa-Vicencio serves as a visiting scholar.

October 25th, 2010

Christianity and its others

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In the nineteenth century the new disciplines in the social sciences and the humanities were ‘emancipated’ from Christian theology. To an important extent these new forms of inquiry were connected to the rise of modern, industrial society and the nation-form. They were secular in nature—that is, they were part of a secularization of the mind and a de-clericalization of science and scholarship. The most important aspect of this transformation was, obviously, the study of religion itself. This is perhaps clearest in the development of a “science of religion,” an attempt to create a scientific study of religion without Christian theological suppositions. Its claim to scientific truth was based mainly on comparative linguistics and evolutionary theory. Religion was no longer left to Christian theologians but was now the province of anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, and “scientists of religion.”

October 21st, 2010

Global Christianity, Global Critique

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Striking changes are afoot in the way intellectuals address Christianity. Long seen as a largely Western tradition steadily losing its cultural influence in the West, Christianity has recently been re-installed at the center of debates that concern academic specialists and public intellectuals alike. In the last few years, it has suddenly become possible, maybe even fashionable, to ask whether Christianity might be a leading force of change in the contemporary world. Even more surprisingly, scholars who self-consciously stand outside what they think of as religious circles now find themselves promoting episodes in Christian history as key models for the way important social changes ought to occur.

October 19th, 2010

Insurgent Calvinism in the SBC

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The Economist reports on the a schism emerging in th Southern Baptist Convention.

September 22nd, 2010

Journalism and theology

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At The Scoop, Diane Winston sums up and comments on Ross Douthat’s recent talk at USC.

September 16th, 2010

An atheism a theologian can love

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“Strangely enough,” Foucault mused, “man—the study of whom is supposed by the naïve to be the oldest investigation since Socrates—is probably no more than a kind of rift in the order of things.” He is “only a recent invention, a figure not yet two centuries old, a new wrinkle in our knowledge” who “will disappear again as soon as that knowledge has discovered a new form.”

Foucault’s flippant requiem for “man” reflects a midcentury antihumanism in European thought, which, in the wake of two World Wars in the heart of Europe, had become suspicious of the “anthropotheism” of humanism wherein “Man” replaced the God who had died. And it is this story that is told so brilliantly by Stefanos Geroulanos in An Atheism That Is Not Humanist Emerges in French Thought. For these antihumanists, humanistic atheism had never really gotten over its theological tendencies; so the result of the death of God was the divinization of Man.

August 23rd, 2010

Defining “theodicy” (Part II)

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Tradition dictated that one of Immanuel Kant’s responsibilities as professor of metaphysics at the University of Königsberg was to lead the faculty in a march to the college chapel before worship services and other religious functions.  The figurative move from reason to revelation would be thereby embodied in a literal trek towards sacred space.  But according to an old—perhaps apocryphal—legend, Kant would dutifully march to the church door in full academic regalia, stop just before entering, and quietly dismiss himself from the service, content to contemplate the moral law he had so forcefully argued lay within us all. We see this same attitude formalized philosophically in his little-read essay, “On the Miscarriage of All Philosophical Trails in Theodicy.”

August 20th, 2010

Who’s afraid of Pelagius?

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What could Obama’s take on Iranian democracy, early-modern theodicy, and twentieth-century leftist thought have in common? Despite these wide variations in subject-matter, it seems to me that recent posts by Justin Reynolds, Alex Hernandez, and James Robertson nevertheless gesture towards a similar problematic. All three point to the profound tension which marks the relationship between human action in historical time, and the transcendent telos of the Christian salvation narrative. They point, in other words, to the thorny question of how much agency humans possess in the achievement of their own salvation.

August 17th, 2010

Taylor’s Constantinianism

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In the July 2010 issue of Modern Theology, Stanley Hauerwas and Romand Coles reflect on Charles Taylor‘s A Secular Age.

July 28th, 2010

“Theologians seldom write memoirs”

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“Theologians seldom write memoirs.”  This, Stanley Hauerwas concedes in a follow up to his recent memoir: Hannah’s Child: A Theologian’s Memoir (2010).  It is precisely this sentiment that makes the entire project intriguing.  Stanley Hauerwas, named “America’s best theologian” by Time magazine shortly before the September 11 attacks in 2001, “has made himself a very fine career as an iconoclastic ethicist, condemning assimilationist Christianity, academic “respectability,” the military, ill treatment of the differently-abled, and any number of other contemporary issues where Christian mediocrity is laid bare.”  With this description of the author taken to heart, Jack Downey, a doctoral candidate in Theology at Fordham University, reviews this memoir and looks to identify why and how he wrote it.

July 21st, 2010

Atheism and antihumanism as intellectual-historical objects

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I begin this post by posing straightaway the questions that will guide my argument. In what way can atheism and antihumanism be posed and understood in intellectual history? In what sense do they constitute objects of study? How does one go about weaving and articulating for them an adequate intellectual-historical approach that may facilitate an understanding of texts, concepts, and systems of thought? I want to thank Martin Kavka, Sam Moyn, Judith Surkis, and Gil Anidjar for taking the time to read and address my book with the very encouraging care that each of them has taken. In what follows, I want to take into account a number of issues that they have raised, not so much to respond as to elaborate, in relation to their stances, some of the positions I have adopted in the book and in my introduction to this discussion. I thus frame this post as an attempt to tend first and foremost to methodological questions and critiques that have been raised directly or indirectly.

July 20th, 2010

Au contraire, Mr. Beck

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On July 13, 2010, Glenn Beck made liberation theology—and especially Black Theology—the subject of his televised program. The real subject of his complaint was twofold: liberation theology is “a perversion of God” that mistakes Marxism for the plain meaning of the Gospels, which, for Beck, are self-evidently about individual salvation, and liberation theology does away with the language of merit, convincing the down-and-out that they are victims deserving of a handout instead of hard work. The inconsistencies of this message, along with Beck’s misreading and simplification of the various complex traditions of Christian liberation theology have not gone unnoticed in rebuttals and reprisals.

July 13th, 2010

Can greed be good?

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In the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s new Religion and Ethics section, renowned American theologian Stanley Hauerwas asks, “Can greed be good?”—a question obviously prompted by the ongoing economic crisis. Hauerwas argues that greed is more than just an (individual) desire to be rich. Instead, it has to be understood in the context of wider economic relations. Greed can appear a virtue only in an economic system that is premised upon unlimited economic growth.

July 8th, 2010

Making sense of the emerging church movement

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Two recent contributions from the United Kingdom shed some light on the elusive phenomenon knows as the “emerging church” or, alternatively, the “emergent church” movement.

July 8th, 2010

Commentaries on our age

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Varieties of Secularism in a Secular AgeEach contributor [to Varieties of Secularism in a Secular Age] delivers a reading of Taylor’s work, helping to evaluate its significance, critical flaws, and lingering questions. They are companion pieces, then, and work best with a knowledge of the book. Their strength as a whole lies in the seriousness with which they address Taylor’s grand narrative and the sprightliness with which they point puzzled readers to related topics and avenues. Does Taylor’s book deserve such scrupulous attention? I am inclined to weight this question from the opposite side. Some of the essays in Varieties are so thought-provoking that I feel grateful to Taylor for having occasioned them, even if his own book is rather more exasperating than, as some of his readers would have it, major or magisterial.

July 7th, 2010

Waiting for Godot, who is either late or not coming at all

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I wondered how long it would take DPDF participants to undo what I thought I had carefully assembled in my opening post on “Secularism, secularization, and why the difference matters.”  Not very long at all, it seems.  And so, I will try a response here to Justin Reynolds and Alex Hernandez, both of whom have questioned what I actually mean by saying that “secularization” is a conceptual improvement over “secularism.”

June 30th, 2010

Secularism by eschatology, deferred

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It’s hard to say how Hans Blumenberg would have responded to recent data troubling the secularization thesis other than to see in such revisionist accounts further confirmation of precisely this contingency in the future of the secular. Still, I can’t resist pointing out the irony implied by a confrontation between the Blumenbergian and the priests of secularization theory in light of our post-secular moment.  For isn’t the problem of the classical secularization thesis—its failure to deliver, both empirically in frustrated sociological models, and ideologically in the killing fields of various nationalisms—that of an eschatology deferred?

June 29th, 2010

The “inter-religious” university and the Christian right

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In early June, the Claremont School of Theology announced that it would merge with its local Jewish and Muslim counterparts to form an inter-religious university this coming fall.  Philip Clayton discusses the controversy this has aroused in conservative Christian communities.

June 4th, 2010

God, science and philanthropy

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Nathan Schneider profiles John Templeton and the Foundation he built, in The Nation.