Monday, April 30, 2012

Video: 2nd edition of "The Fall of Interpretation"

The good folks at Baker Academic have posted the first of a short series of videos introducing the new, second edition of my book, The Fall of Interpretation: Philosophical Foundations for a Creational Hermeneutic.  In this first one I give a brief overview of the core argument of the book.  Get your popcorn.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Once an evangelical...: On Balmer on Douthat

Gee, so Randall Balmer doesn't like Ross Douthat's new book, Bad Religion?  Shocker.

Yes, this morning's Times confirms what anyone could have known before Douthat even conceived of such a book: the liberal Balmer doesn't like Douthat's thesis.  Balmer's predictability is on full display in this review which is pretty much an adventure in missing the point.

Indeed, what Thomas Kuhn called "the paradigm effect" will make it hard for Balmer and his ilk to properly appreciate what concerns Douthat.  The depth of their difference is signaled in a tiny little sentence late in Balmer's review.  As he announces, "institutions, in my experience, are remarkably poor vessels for piety."  That, my friends, is pretty much the heart of the matter: it is precisely the devaluing of institutions that Douthat decries, and it is just such an anti-institutionalism that has been woven in the warp and woof of American religion--perhaps nowhere more intensely than in the loose fabric of parachurchism that is American evangelicalism.

Which is precisely why we can now see former (or soon-to-be-former?) evangelicals replaying exactly the accommodationist moves that Douthat documents among the mainline in the last century.  Anyone with an analogical imagination will see in Douthat's chapter on mainline accommodation in the 60s and 70s a preview of some current discussions in evangelicalism.  Whether operating under the banner of "emergence" or "post-conservativism" or even "missional," many of these trends are replays of the accommodationist move that are bound up with the freelance Christianity that has come to characterize American Christianity across the board.  (In a proper review of Douthat's book that I plan to publish elsewhere, I will wonder whether the seeds for this are found much earlier in the American experiment.)

It would be disappointing--but not at all surprising--if so-called 'progressives' in evangelicalism took Balmer's predictable review to be an excuse to ignore Douthat's book.  I think Douthat has named what is at stake for the future of Christianity in the United States.  Some, like Balmer, believe that progressive, revisionist, non- and post-denominational, "updated" Christian start-ups are the way the faith will survive.  Others of us, like Douthat, see such ventures as extending something other than Christianity.  In contrast, we're betting on something that will seem almost completely counter-intuitive: that the future of Christianity in the United States depends on the revitalization of orthodox institutions--even (gulp), denominations.  Or, to put it otherwise, we're betting that the future of Christianity in the United States is catholic.

Place your bets.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Making Christianity Sexy Takes Imagination

At the end of his provocative essay, "Sex in Public: How Adventurous Christians Are Doing It," Stanley Hauerwas articulates a crucial point:
"[W]hat the young properly demand is an account of life and the initiation into a community that makes intelligible why their interest in sex should be subordinated to other interests.  What they, and we, demand is the lure of an adventure that captures the imagination sufficiently that for Christians 'conquest' comes to mean something other than the sexual possession of another."
Young people need to see lives lived that are embodied poems which capture their imagination otherwise.  And they need to be captivated by stories which powerfully portray another way.  Perhaps one could see Merton's Seven Storey Mountain as just such a story.  It would be a start.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Review of Enns' "Evolution of Adam"

I have just posted a review of Pete Enns' important new book, The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn't Say About Human Origins (Brazos, 2012) over at The Colossian Forum site.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

What kind of love is this?

Listening to a sermon on Mark 10 yesterday, I was struck by a juxtaposition in Jesus' encounter with the rich, young ruler in Mark 10:17-31. Specifically, after the young ruler has announced--quite sincerely, I think--that he has kept all the commandments from his youth, Mark tells us in his typically direct language:
Jesus, looking at him, loved him...
And because he loved him, Jesus then tells the young man something that shocks and dismays him, homing in on the "one thing" that is lacking.

In an age where love is often reduced to uncritical affirmation and unprincipled embrace, we might be stopped short by a love like this--a love that is strangely willing to grieve and sadden and dismay the beloved, but is not for that reason any less loving. Indeed, it is more so, and shows up "affirmation" as a parody of agape.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Monday, April 09, 2012

Faith, Economics, and Globalization: An Exchange with J. David Richardson

A couple of years ago the editor of Faith and Economics asked me to be part of a published exchange with J. David Richardson, Professor of Economics & International Relations at Syracuse University. Dave and I had some cordial exchanges when I organized a conference on secularity and globalization back in 2005 (which resulted in the book, After Modernity? Secularity, Globalization, and the Re-enchantment of the World) and we agreed that it would be fruitful to encourage further dialogue between Christian economists, theologians, and philosophers. Dave and several other economists who were part of the Association of Christian Economists had been reading folks like Milbank, Cavanaugh, and Dan Bell, were puzzled and/or frustrated, and were looking to extend that conversation. The invitation from Faith and Economics was an opportunity to pick up where we left off.

The full-text of our exchange is now available (for free) as: "Economists, Theologians, and Globalization: An Exchange" (pdf). We each begin with an essay, followed by two rounds of responses. My opening essay, "The 'Ecclesial' Critique of Globalization: Rethinking the Questions," is meant to be a kind of primer on the work of D. Stephen Long, William Cavanaugh, and Daniel Bell for non-theologians, and Christian economists in particular.

It seems that Dave and I thought we were answering different questions, so you'll sense our frustration in the ensuing responses. But as I suggest in my reply, I think that even if we seemed to be talking past one another, it was an oddly productive talking-past-one-another.

Read "Economists, Theologians, and Globalization: An Exchange," Faith and Economics 56 (Fall 2010): 5-63.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

New College Lectures: Poster and Details

Details have been confirmed for my New College Lectures at the University of New South Wales, May 23-26, 2012. And my romantic medievalism (with debts to Ruskin and Rossetti) just loves this poster.