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Within the familiar clash of religious conservatism and secular liberalism Paul Maltby finds a deeper discord: an antipathy between Christian fundamentalism and the postmodern culture of disenchantment. Arguing that each camp represents the poles of America's virulent culture wars, he shows how the cultural identity, lifestyle, and political commitments of many Americans match either the fundamentalist profile of one who cleaves to metaphysical and authoritarian beliefs or the postmodern profile of one who is disposed to critical inquiry and radical-democratic values.
Maltby offers a critique that operates in both directions. His use of the resources of postmodern theory to contest fundamentalism's doctrinal claims, ultra-right politics, anti-environmentalism, and conservative aesthetics informs his engagement with contemporary fundamentalist painting, spiritual warfare fiction, dominionist attitudes to nature, and a profoundly undemocratic interpretation of Christianity. At the same time, Maltby identifies some of fundamentalism’s legitimate spiritual concerns, assesses the cost of perpetual critique, and exposes the deficit of spiritual meaning that haunts the culture of disenchantment.
Classical Themes and Modern Developments
What is secularity? Might it yield or define a distinctive form of reasoning? If so, would that form of reasoning belong essentially to our modern age, or would it instead have a considerably older lineage? And what might be the relation of that form of reasoning, whatever its lineage, to the Christian thinking that is often said to oppose it? In the present volume, these and related questions are addressed by a distinguished group of scholars working primarily within the Roman Catholic theological tradition and from the perspectives of Continental philosophy. As a whole, the volume constitutes a conversation among thinkers who agree in their concerns but not necessarily their conclusions. Taken individually, each essay concentrates on a range of historical developments with close attention to their intellectual and sometimes pedagogical implications. Secular reason, they argue, is neither the antipode of Christian thought nor a stable and well-resolved component of it. Christian thinking may engage with secular reason as the site of profound difficulties, but on occasion will also learn from it as a source of new insight.
The collapse of communism in Eastern Europe has forced traditionally Eastern Orthodox countries to consider the relationship between Christianity and liberal democracy. Contributors examine the influence of Constantinianism in both the post-communist Orthodox world and in Western political theology. Constructive theological essays feature Catholic and Protestant theologians reflecting on the relationship between Christianity and democracy, as well as Orthodox theologians reflecting on their tradition’s relationship to liberal democracy. The essays explore prospects of a distinctively Christian politics in a post-communist, post-Constantinian age.
Insights for Systematic Theological Reflection
Every generation of theologians must respond to its context by rearticulating the central tenets of the faith. Interreligious comparison has been integral to this process from the start of the Christian tradition and is especially salient today. The emerging field of comparative theology, in which close study of another religious tradition yields new questions and categories for theological reflection in the scholar’s home tradition, embodies the ecumenical spirit of this moment. This discipline has the potential to enrich systematic theology and, by extension, theological education, at its foundations. The essays in Comparing Faithfully demonstrate that engagement with religious diversity need not be an afterthought in the study of Christian systematic theology; rather, it can be a way into systematic theological thinking. Each section invites students to test theological categories, to consider Christian doctrine in relation to specific comparisons, and to take up comparative study in their own contexts.This resource for pastors and theology students reconsiders five central doctrines of the Christian faith in light of focused interreligious investigations. The dialogical format of the book builds conversation about the doctrine of God, theodicy, humanity, Christology, and soteriology. Its comparative essays span examples from Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, Jain, and Confucian traditions as well as indigenous Aztec theology and contemporary “spiritual but not religious” thought to offer exciting new perspectives on Christian doctrine.
Esotericism in Jewish Thought and its Philosophical Implications
During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, great new trends of Jewish thought emerged whose widely varied representatives--Kabbalists, philosophers, and astrologers--each claimed that their particular understanding revealed the actual secret of the Torah. They presented their own readings in a coded fashion that has come to be regarded by many as the very essence of esotericism. Concealment and Revelation takes us on a fascinating journey to the depths of the esoteric imagination. Carefully tracing the rise of esotericism and its function in medieval Jewish thought, Moshe Halbertal's richly detailed historical and cultural analysis gradually builds conceptual-philosophical force to culminate in a masterful phenomenological taxonomy of esotericism and its paradoxes.
Among the questions addressed: What are the internal justifications that esoteric traditions provide for their own existence, especially in the Jewish world, in which the spread of knowledge was of great importance? How do esoteric teachings coexist with the revealed tradition, and what is the relationship between the various esoteric teachings that compete with that revealed tradition?
Halbertal concludes that, through the medium of the concealed, Jewish thinkers integrated into the heart of the Jewish tradition diverse cultural influences such as Aristotelianism, Neoplatonism, and Hermeticisims. And the creation of an added concealed layer, unregulated and open-ended, became the source of the most daring and radical interpretations of the tradition.