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Essays in Honor of Denys Turner
In the face of religious and cultural diversity, some doubt whether Christian faith remains possible today. Critics claim that religion is irrational and violent, and the loudest defenders of Christianity are equally strident. In response, Desire, Faith, and the Darkness of God: Essays in Honor of Denys Turner explores the uncertainty essential to Christian commitment; it suggests that faith is moved by a desire for that which cannot be known. This approach is inspired by the tradition of Christian apophatic theology, which argues that language cannot capture divine transcendence. From this perspective, contemporary debates over God’s existence represent a dead end: if God is not simply another object in the world, then faith begins not in abstract certainty but in a love that exceeds the limits of knowledge. The essays engage classic Christian thought alongside literary and philosophical sources ranging from Pseudo-Dionysius and Dante to Karl Marx and Jacques Derrida. Building on the work of Denys Turner, they indicate that the boundary between atheism and Christian thought is productively blurry. Instead of settling the stale dispute over whether religion is rationally justified, their work suggests instead that Christian life is an ethical and political practice impassioned by a God who transcends understanding.
Reason and Philosophy in the Lutheran Tradition
Martin Luther's disdain for philosophy is well known, and the Lutheran theological tradition has been wary of its constructs. Yet the tradition also includes philosophical giants-from Melanchthon to Schleiermacher to Kierkegaard and even Nietzsche. This volume assumes that such skepticism about reason actually opened up new ways of doing and seeing philosophy.
Philosophers, theologians, and historians assess the paradox and achievements of philosophy in the Lutheran vein. In their important exploration in the history of ideas, they not only probe the roots and branches of Luther's own ambivalence toward philosophy, they also draw illuminating connections between his revolutionary theology and the development of European continental philosophy.
An Introductory Exposition
In Dialectical Theology and Jacques Ellul, Jacob E. Van Vleet argues that the work of Jacques Ellul is frequently—and deleteriously—misread on account of inattention to the theological underpinning that governs Ellul’s thought. In a penetrating analysis, the first of its kind, Van Vleet provides a substantive account of the theological structure of Ellul’s work and demonstrates the determinative role that theology, especially dialectical theology, plays in a proper understanding of Ellul.
Van Vleet offers a major introduction to Ellul’s thought, his contribution to theology and philosophy, and how his philosophy of technology is both theologically informed and culturally relevant. As well, this work situates Ellul’s theological and philosophical thought within an important genetic context, from Kierkegaard to the dialectical theologians of the twentieth century.
The Death and Return of God in Modern German Thought
The contemporary theologian Hans Küng has asked if the "death of God," proclaimed by Nietzsche as the event of modernity, was inevitable. Did the empowering of new forms of rationality in Western culture beginning around 1500 lead necessarily to the reduction or privatization of faith? In Dialogues between Faith and Reason, John H. Smith traces a major line in the history of theology and the philosophy of religion down the "slippery slope" of secularization-from Luther and Erasmus, through Idealism, to Nietzsche, Heidegger, and contemporary theory such as that of Derrida, Habermas, Vattimo, and Asad. At the same time, Smith points to the persistence of a tradition that grew out of the Reformation and continues in the mostly Protestant philosophical reflection on whether and how faith can be justified by reason. In this accessible and vigorously argued book, Smith posits that faith and reason have long been locked in mutual engagement in which they productively challenge each other as partners in an ongoing "dialogue."
Smith is struck by the fact that although in the secularized West the death of God is said to be fundamental to the modern condition, our current post-modernity is often characterized as a "postsecular" time. For Smith, this means not only that we are experiencing a broad-based "return of religion" but also, and more important for his argument, that we are now able to recognize the role of religion within the history of modernity. Emphasizing that, thanks to the logos located "in the beginning," the death of God is part of the inner logic of the Christian tradition, he argues that this same strand of reasoning also ensures that God will always "return" (often in new forms). In Smith's view, rational reflection on God has both undermined and justified faith, while faith has rejected and relied on rational argument. Neither a defense of atheism nor a call to belief, his book explores the long history of their interaction in modern religious and philosophical thought.
Exploring the subject of Jewish philosophy as a controversial construction site of the project of modernity, this book examines the implications of the different and often conflicting notions that drive the debate on the question of what Jewish philosophy is or could be. The idea of Jewish philosophy begs the question of philosophy as such. But "Jewish philosophy" does not just reflect what "philosophy" lacks. Rather, it challenges the project of philosophy itself. Examining the thought of Spinoza, Moses Mendelssohn, Heinrich Heine, Hermann Cohen Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Buber, Margarete Susman, Hermann Levin Goldschmidt, and others, the book highlights how the most philosophic moments of their works are those in which specific concerns of their "Jewish questions" inform the rethinking of philosophy's disciplinarity in principal terms. The long overdue recognition of the modernity that informs the critical trajectories of Jewish philosophers from Spinoza and Mendelssohn to the present emancipates not just "Jewish philosophy" from an infelicitous pigeonhole these philosophers so pointedly sought to reject but, more important, emancipates philosophy from its false claims to universalism.
Søren Kierkegaard's 13 communion discourses constitute a distinct genre among the various forms of religious writing composed by Kierkegaard. Originally published at different times and places, Kierkegaard himself believed that these discourses served as a unifying element in his work and were crucial for understanding his religious thought and philosophy as a whole. Written in an intensely personal liturgical context, the communion discourses prepare the reader for participation in this rite by emphasizing the appropriate posture for forgiveness of sins and confession.
Contending for Christian Faith in Today's Academic Setting
Disputed Issues is a collection of essays reflecting Professor Steven Davis’s thinking—developed over a long and illustrious career—on a host of widely-contested issues essential to Christian philosophy, theology, and belief. These thoughtful and highly readable essays explore a range of topics, from those central to basic Christian belief (such as issues about resurrection and the survival of death), to others focused on more specific questions (such as whether Mark copied Homer and whether exegesis should be presuppositionless). Intended as a useful, instructive resource for believers and unbelievers alike, Disputed Issues is essential to understanding what a thoughtful orthodox Christian believes—and why.
Theology usually appears to us to be dogmatic, judgmental, condescending, maybe therapeutic, or perhaps downright fantastical-but seldom enticing. Divine Enticement takes as its starting point that the meanings of theological concepts are not so much logical, truth-valued propositions-affirmative or negative-as they are provocations and evocations. Thus it argues for the seductiveness of both theology and its subject-for, in fact, infinite seduction and enticement as the very sense of theological query. The divine name is one by which we are drawn toward the limits of thought, language, and flesh. The use of language in such conceptualization calls more than it designates. This is not a flaw or a result of vagueness or imprecision in theological language but rather marks the correspondence of such language to its subject: that which, outside of or at the limit of our thought, draws us as an enticement to desire, not least to intellectual desire. Central to the text is the strange semiotics of divine naming, as a call on that for which there cannot be a standard referent. The entanglement of sign and body, not least in interpretations of the Christian incarnation, both grounds and complicates the theological abstractions. A number of traditional notions in Christian theology are reconceived here as enticements, modes of drawing the desires of both body and mind: faith as "thinking with assent"; sacraments as "visible words" read in community; ethics as responsiveness to beauty; prayer as the language of address; scripture as the story of meaning-making. All of these culminate in a sense of a call to and from the purely possible, the open space into which we can be enticed, within which we can be divinely enticing.
Religion, Law, and Criminal Justice
It is often assumed that the law and religion address different spheres of human life. Religion and ethics articulate complex systems of moral reasoning that concern norms, deliberation of ends, cultivation of disposition, and transformation of moral agency. Law, in contrast, seeks to govern human conduct through procedural justice, rights, and public good. Doing Justice to Mercy challenges this assumption by presenting the reader with an urgent conversation between the law and religion that yields a constructive approach, both theoretically and practically, to the complex role of mercy in our legal process.
Authored by legal practitioners, activists, and theorists in addition to theologians and ethicists, the essays collected here are informed by timeless principles, and yet they could not be timelier. The trend in sentencing moves toward an increased severity, and the number of incarcerated people in the United States is at an all-time high. In the half-decade since 9/11, moreover, homeland security has established itself as a permanent fixture in our lives. In this atmosphere, the current volume seeks initially to clarify how justice and mercy intertwine in relation to a number of issues, such as rehabilitation, the death penalty, domestic violence, and war crimes. Exploring the legal, philosophical, and theological grounds for mercy in our courts, the discussion then moves to the practical ways in which mercy may be implemented.
Contributors:Marc Mauer, The Sentencing Project * Lois Gehr Livezey, McCormick Theological Seminary * Ernie Lewis, Public Advocate, Commonwealth of Kentucky * Jonathan Rothchild, Loyola Marymount University * Albert W. Alschuler, Northwestern University School of Law * David Scheffer, Northwestern University School of Law * David Little, Harvard Divinity School * Matthew Myer Boulton, Andover Newton Theological School * Mark Lewis Taylor, Princeton Theological Seminary * Sarah Coakley, Cambridge University * William Schweiker, University of Chicago Divinity School * Kevin Jung, College of William and Mary * Peter J. Paris, Princeton Theological Seminary * W. Clark Gilpin, University of Chicago Divinity School * William C. Placher, Wabash College
The autocratic rule of both tsar and church in imperial Russia gave rise not only to a revolutionary movement in the nineteenth century but also to a crisis of meaning among members of the intelligentsia. Personal faith became the subject of intense scrutiny as individuals debated the existence of God and the immortality of the soul, debates reflected in the best-known novels of the day. Friendships were formed and broken in exchanges over the status of the eternal. The salvation of the entire country, not just of each individual, seemed to depend on the answers to questions about belief.
Victoria Frede looks at how and why atheism took on such importance among several generations of Russian intellectuals from the 1820s to the 1860s, drawing on meticulous and extensive research of both published and archival documents, including letters, poetry, philosophical tracts, police files, fiction, and literary criticism. She argues that young Russians were less concerned about theology and the Bible than they were about the moral, political, and social status of the individual person. They sought to maintain their integrity against the pressures exerted by an autocratic state and rigidly hierarchical society. As individuals sought to shape their own destinies and searched for truths that would give meaning to their lives, they came to question the legitimacy both of the tsar and of Russia’s highest authority, God.