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Blake, Byron, and the Adversary
Does the Devil lie at the heart of the creative process? In The Devil as Muse, Fred Parker offers an entirely fresh reflection on the age-old question, echoing William Blake’s famous statement: “the true poet is of the Devil’s party." Expertly examining three literary interpretations of the Devil and his influence upon the artist—Milton’s Satan in Paradise Lost, the Mephistopheles of Goethe’s Faust, and the one who offers daimonic creativity in Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus—Parker unveils a radical tension between the ethical and the aesthetic. While the Devil is the artist’s necessary collaborator and liberating muse, from an ethical standpoint the price paid for such creativity is nothing less damnable than the Faustian pact—and the artist who is creative in that way is seen as accursed, alienated, morally disturbing. In their own different ways, Parker shows, Blake, Byron, and Mann all reflect and acknowledge that tension in their work, and model ways to resolve it through their writing. Linking these literary conceptions with scholarship on the genesis of the historical conception of the Devil and recent work on the role of “otherness” in creativity, Parker insightfully suggests how creative literature can feel its way back along the processes—both theological and psychological—that lie behind such constructions of the Adversary.
The Social Construction of Taint
Dirty Work profiles a number of occupations that society deems tainted. The volume's vivid, ethnographic reports focus on the communication that helps workers manage the moral, social, and physical stains that derive from engaging in such occupations. The creative ways that those who perform such dirty work learn to communicate with each other, and with outsiders, regulate the negative aspects of the work itself and emphasize the positives so that workers can maintain a sense of self-value even while performing devalued occupations.
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.
Meanings, Virtues, and Practices in a Post-Religious Age
In The Ecology of Spirituality, Lucy Bregman surveys the many and varied religious, psychological, and sociological definitions of spirituality on offer. Spirituality has been made and remade many times over in the hope of fitting it to some new cultural need. Bregman argues that a better understanding of spirituality is instead rooted in specific professions and practices, and she demonstrates that it is not an irrevocably ambiguous pop cultural phenomenon, but is embodied in historic virtues and practices of a craft.
Tales of Morality and Meaning in an Age of Global Warming
Our ecological dilemmas provoke powerful emotions and deeply contested views. How should we think about them? And how can we live together, or even talk together, when we cannot listen to people who think differently?
In a lively and at times very funny book, Roger S. Gottlieb (A Greener Faith, This Sacred Earth, A Spirituality of Resistance) explores these questions in a collection of distinct but related philosophical short stories. Fictional characters with personalities, individual histories, and strong opinions wrestle with the meaning of life, the value of nature, animal rights, the roles of science and religion in environmentalism, and political choices facing environmental activists—as well as their own anger, fear, despair, and close-mindedness. Encountering forcefully articulated positions and engaging characters, readers will be moved to reconsider their own beliefs—and to examine personal barriers to truly listening to those “on the other side."
Engaging Voices: Tales of Morality and Meaning in an Age of Global Warming received the Silver Nautilus Book Award for Fiction in 2013.
How Western Culture Uses, Confuses, (and Sometimes Abuses) Adam and Eve
Sex, seduction, and the perfect marriage. Though it may not have been the intent of Genesis 1-3, the biblical first couple has been used for generations to sell consumable goods and strange ideologies—both salacious and holy—to willing western masses. And, Linda Schearing and Valarie Ziegler argue, Adam and Eve have become archetypal figures for secular and religious society alike as they are transplanted from their ancient garden to a more modern Eden, often with eyebrow-raising consequences. Finding common ground between both religious and secular recastings of Adam and Eve, Schearing and Ziegler offer page-turning evidence of just how ubiquitous the first couple has become. From online dating services and promises of God-ordained romance to the advertising and selling of games, bathroom fixtures, and even risqué bloomers, Adam and Eve are a hot commodity in modern culture. These strange, confusing, often humorous, and sometimes shocking accounts testify to the myriad of ways in which Genesis 1-3 has been recycled and recreated in the popular imagination, and moreover, in promotion of the Western worldview.
Truth, Individualism, and the Limits of Belief
Questions of belief, and agency over personal belief, abound as individuals claim to have the right to believe whatever they so choose. In a carefully constructed argument, Bruce Reichenbach contends that while individuals have direct control over belief, they are obligated to believe—and purposely seek—the truth. Though the nature of truth and belief is an oft-debated topic, Reichenbach moves beyond surface-level persuasions to address the very core of what constitutes a human right. These epistemic obligations are critical, as the influence of belief is evident throughout society, from law and education to religion and daily decision-making. Grounding his argument in practical case studies, Reichenbach deftly demonstrates the necessity of moral accountability and belief.
Cultural Pessimism and Its Religious Dimension in Contemporary American Popular Culture
Escape into the Future analyzes the power of pessimism, showing links between present-day religious pessimism and the nihilism of popular culture. Stroup and Shuck rummage through an interesting and eclectic body of pop culture, from Fight Club to X-Files to the Left Behind series, pointing out the presence of pessimistic themes throughout. This volume identifies and illuminates the religious language used in these works to articulate America's need to escape from its present cultural path and, ultimately, provide hope that it might do so.