Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Reviews of "Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire

Here are a couple of interesting reviews of Hardt/Negri's Multitude.

The first is over at Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory and is a fair summary of the book concluding with a mild questioning of the ontology of the multitude based in a "strong event." Great introduction if you haven't and/or won't ever read the book.

The second over at The New Left Review. This is a very good introduction into the current issues over resistance to sovereign capitalism. It proceeds as a historical critique of sources concluding that the geneology of the multitude is wed to that of Adam Smith and free market capitalism, the very enemy the multitude is meant to resist. A great read.

Why am I posting this? Because I'm writing my own paper on the political use for Augustine's Eucharistic theology, and I'm using this book as a foil. We can see part of the paper below.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Introduction to Speech and Theology

From the first chapter of Speech and Theology.

Here are a sting of quotes with my comments interspersed as a summary of the Introductory chapter of Speech and Theology, a great book I’m reading through (James K. A. Smith is a Reformed Evangelical writing in the Radical Orthodoxy series). (If you are the type of person who wants to know why this is important before you read it, then skip to the bottom, and then start over. Also, while I'm not referencing Husserl and Heidegger in this post, this discussion bear on the one we are having over at generousortodoxy). So,...

"How can one speak without betraying the object of speech, giving it up and delivering it over to be manhandled by the interlocutor as something present-at-hand? How can language, and more particularly theoretical concepts, communicate without doing violence to the "objects" which is exterior to language? Do not concepts always already signal the violation of radical alterity?" (4)
These questions frame the horizon of Smith's inquiry. How might we speak of God, who is transcendent otherness? The question of violence is particularly telling, and opens up Smith's dialogue with contemporary French phenomenology (Levinas, Derrida, Marion), and how he might rehabilitate the understanding and use of the concept.
"In modernity--and marking a significant break from the late ancients and medievals--knowledge and comprehension are no longer distinguished; rather,
knowledge is only knowledge insofar as it comprehends." (5)

Comprehension is a total knowledge of an object of inquiry. So in modernity, the indistinguishablitiy of comprehension and knowledge leaves no room for a partial, or ad hoc, tacit knowledge of things, or knowledge by faith.

"Inheriting the modern penchant for comprehension and certainty (what of faith?), modernist (and, unwittingly, antimodernist) theology is marked by an employment of language and concepts which seeks to define the divine, to grasp the essence of God...[But] if the "object" of theoretical articulartion is in some way radically exterior to language (God), then every unveiling of it within language will fail to produce the object; the phenomenon will fail to appear, precisely because of the failure of the concept to grasp that which necessarily exceeds its comprehension...It would seem that either one treats all objects as present-at-hand (a positivist kataphatics), thereby denying their alterity and unwittingly engaging in violence; or, one gives up any possibility of non-violent description and thereby give up theory (an apophatics which ends in silence)." (5-6)

But what if violence weren’' the necessary condition of the concept? What if there were a third way between a positivistic theology (one I would, but Smith does not mention in this text, equate with many fundamentalist, and even evangelical systematic theologies), and a silencing of theology (or reducing theology to merely the status of us talking about ourselves in the third person of 'god', a typically liberal approach).

"The construction (or recovery) of just such a third way is precisely the task of this ook: to provide an alternative interpretation of concepts which do not claim to grasp their object, but rather signal the phenomenon in such a way that respects its transcendence or incommensurability rather than collapsing the difference and enying otherness. Such a reinterpretation of concepts will open a philosophical space for a reconsideration of theological method."

So the purpose of this book is to recover a way of speaking about God that is full of knowledge, yet doesn't not attempt to comprehend, to understand yet not domesticate, essentially, a speaking that "points" or "indicate" toward God truly, but does not grasp or hold. To do this Smith will investigate the early Heidegger and Augustine to outline a non-violent concept as praise and confession.

Why is this Important?

Well, for those in the emerging church, the church that is emerging,...for those post- and/or progressive evangelicals who are increasingly uncomfortable with the confidence of which some speak of God (preacher, teachers, professors), seeing in this speech the domestication of the mystery of God for the purposes of the speaker, Smith's is attempting to show us how we might speak of God without doing violence to Him, and therefore to our relationship with God in Christ Jesus. But also, to those who have drunk more deeply of postmodern tributary, for whom it is increasingly difficult to say anything about God for fear that all our speech is inadequate and (self) deceiving, which is also an emerging church aliment, Smith is trying to help us speak again, and not lapse into silence or perpetual disclaimers. So, if you have trouble speaking of God, read this book, or just read my summaries is your book budget is too slim.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

notes from Speech and Theology

James K.A. Smith, in Speech and Theology: Language and the Logic of Incarnation, agues for an incarnational account of language as formal indication (younger Hiedgger) through praise and confession (Augustine) in order to provide a non-violent (conceptual, linguistic, imminent) means of speaking of God (who is transcendent). I want to affirm this.

But it also occurred to me that this non-violent means of speaking of God arises from the very preaching of the early church, esp. the apostolic preaching which always connects speaking/hearing of the gospel, with the content of the gospel. From this rise the problematic use of gospel as verb and gospel as noun (proclaiming the gospel is part of the gospel). Or we could look at the term 'faith.' In the NT is frequently is both the act of faith (trust) and the Faith toward which our faith is ordered.

I was reminded of this while reading through Agamben's recently translated commentary on Romans, where he says, "The term [euaggelion=gospel] signifies both the act of announcing, and at the same time, the content of the announcement"(89)...and quoting a theological lexicons, "'the euagelion, understood as the promise of salvation, unites both the theological conception of a word which promises with a good which is the object of the promise'...Coming to grips with the euaggelion thus necessarily means entering into an experience of language in which the text of the letter is at every point indistinguishable form the announcement and the announcement from the good announced”(90).

In a sense we could argue the doctrine of the incarnation (as formulated by the early church in response to the Jesus, Crucified and Risen Messiah) is already prefaced by the proclamation of the apostles in their conjoining of preaching and promise, a proclamation within language which speaks on the model of the incarnation because God already spoke His Word into flesh.

I bring up this line of thought for the purpose of keeping theological speculation close to the Christian community and practice. For all of Christian theology is based, not merely in the claim, but in the pro(claim)ation that the man, Jesus, is the Risen Lord.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

recent reads

I preached (and organized worship) this last week, so I was bit out of time for blogging. But I have still been reading. Here is the short of it.

A bit ago over at generousorthodoxy we were talking about objectivity and truth, and it turned toward phenomenology, and Ken Archer's great post on Husserl. After reading it I thought of all the connections between phenomenology and Wittgenstein and then I came across Wittgenstein and Phenomenology. A great read comparing Later W. with Husserl, Heidegger, and Merlou-Ponty.

But that was all just on a whim. I've also been reading Speech and Theology: Language and the Logic of Incarnation by James K.A. Smith, and also his edited Radical Orthodoxy and the Reformed Tradition. The latter is a great volume. Most of the summaries of RO are fair, and it really lays out what is at issue between the two tradition. Very refreshing, although currently I'm leaning more toward the RO side because some of the Reformed emphases on creation lean toward natural theology and sustaining the status quo. One author put the matter well: while the RT worries about secularization (fallen/sinful tendencies or directions of creational orders), RO promotes sacralization (bringing all nihilisms back into connection/suspension with the divine (1440).

I'm reading the former volume with great interest for two reasons. He has this great reading of Augustine (Ch.4) that will help with the paper I'm writing. But also he presents an incarnational account of language contrasted to Pickstock's Eucharistic account in After Writing. Smith also (in RO&RT) criticizes RO Platonism (and offers an alternative, creational account in his Introducing RO) which I find very interesting. I'm trying to figure out if RO participatory ontology is necessary for their larger project, as well as the connection between Christianity and Platoism, both of which effects our understanding of language, knowledge, and how God and creation, and so ultimately redemption. So right now i'm thinking that Pickstock account in much too determinate (relying on the Hight Roman Rite) while Smith's is too indeterminate (Incarnational, but without any determinate theory of the incarnation [which isn't really possible], but also w/o any historical, scriptural, ethical, sacramental connection to the Church, except Augustine/Kiekegaard).

anyway, i'm still working through it and this is all off the cuff. I'll write a really paper about it when I'm done. But hey, this is all for fun anyway. I'm not even in school.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Realism, not Empiricism

“Not empiricism and yet realism in philosophy, that is the hardest thing.” RFM VI S. 23.

Below is a summary reflection on Brad Kallenberg’s Ethics as Grammar: Changing the Postmodern Subject, particularly in regard to the above quote from Wittgenstein. These four propositions are Kallenberg’s attempt at showing W.’s pedagogical spiral of conceptions from primitive reactions, to language-games, to form of life, and aspect-seeing. The bold are quotes from Kallenberg.

“P1: Agreement in primitive reactions constitutes a community’s for of life.”
A baby’s crying in a primitive reaction; so too the mothers response in feeding the baby. The patterns of these reactions (from eating, sleeping, sex, etc.) create a general form of life, differing from community to community. Language-games are based in these reactions, so…

“P2: A community’s form of life conditions the shape of its language-games.”
From PI. S. 23, “He the term ‘language-game’ is meant to bring into prominence the fact that the speaking of language is part of an activity, or of a form of life.” These forms of life extend from gathering/hunting food and cooking, to building houses, to marriage rituals, to economic contracts, to political systems, with each form having diverse, yet related language-games.

“P3: The language-games a community plays determine the way it conceives the world.”
As a child, learning a native language and/or language-game becomes the conceptual hardware necessary for sorting out their world. Their world is organized at the same time that as they are learning these language-games. Language and the world are coterminous, and coextensive, as Kallenberg likes to say. One is not before the other. This goes along with W.’s claim that there are no private or ideal languages, but that experience is produced by language.

“P4: The way a community conceives the world shapes the primitive reactions.”
This brings us back to where we started. A communities conception of the world (conception in the sense that it is practices daily on the ground of forms of life) shapes how we react to primitive phenomena, even pain sensations and/or emotional responses. What we first might of thoughts of as pre-linguistic is in fact already penetrated words.

Not any one of these theses individually constitute where W. begins or ends, but according to Kallenberg they expressed what he calls W.’s understanding of language’s ‘internal relation’ to the world. There is no world outside of language that we can get to by which we can compare the accuracy of our statements. This doesn’t mean that categories of Truth and Objectivity are abandoned, but they are radically transformed and communally situated.

This, I submit, it a meager attempt at W.’s realism w/o empiricism. Entering into this process going round and round there propositions, such that each is transformative of the other, is W.’s attempt at realism, without relying on a positivist, empirical view of language.

But is this then merely Idealism of another stripe?


Coming Soon: Wittgenstein’s ‘Saying vs. Showing’ distinction.
And how these relate to Lacan.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Great new Blogger

Just wanted to let everyone know about a great new blogger (yes, I'm partial, he's my pastor). David M. Fitch is now blogging over at the great giveaway, which is also the title of his new book, which really is fantastic, and I'm not just saying that. It is the best new book coming out.

Check out the book and keeping checking out the blog.

Multitude, People, or...

this is from a larger paper I'm working that explores Augustine's Eucharistic theology and its relation to politics. this is an introductory summary of people/multitude as hardt/negri see it. i will then move on to describe how the Eucharistic community enters into ethical/political practices that move beyond these two options. It is still however a rough draft I finished last night, and the footnotes reflect it.


Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri have recently proposed the concept and political project of the "multitude” in their recent collaboration by the same name.[1] Their main objective is to propose and produce an alternative to the currently emerging global social body. Their story goes as follows. The beginning of the modern age is marked by the rise of the nation-state attended by theories of the “people” and the social body. The ‘people’ often serve as the middle term between the consent given by the population and the command exerted by the sovereign power,” giving rise to a conception of a single, unified social identity. This sovereign power, be it democratic or despotic, imagines itself as a social body, transfiguring the multiple, individual bodies of the ruled into the one cohesive body of society, embodied in the one who rules.[2] All this occurs to end and protect against the threat of internal civil war, opening the path toward international politics. Yet according to Hardt and Negri, our situation has changed again into a new state of civil war. We live not in a state of constant wars between sovereignties, but of a new civil war across a global terrain, a territory created by capitals Empire.[3] In light of these circumstances, their question can be summarized, “As the body of the modern nation-state formed out of the caldron of civil wars, what new body might arise from our global civil war, a war between the regime of global capitalism and its resisters?”

Their answer is the multitude. Transitioning from their discussion on war in the first part to a description of the multitude in part two, Hardt and Negri offer this helpful summary:

“To understand the concept of the multitude in its most general and abstract form, let us contrast if first with that of the people. The people is one. The population, of course is composed of numerous different individuals and classes, but the people synthesizes or reduces these social differences into one identity. The multitude, by contrast, is not unified by remains plural and multiple…The multitude is composed of a set of singularities—and by singularity here we mean a social subject whose difference cannot be reduced to sameness, a difference that remains different. The component parts of the people are indifferent in their unity; they become an identity by negating or setting aside their differences. The plural singularities of the multitude thus stands in contrast to the undifferentiated unity of the people.[4]

So, unlike the social bodies of the modern era, the multitude is an alternative social body of difference is proposed to quell the global civil war. But even the term ‘body’ as a description becomes problematic because it signifies an organically unified, cohesive social totality. “A democratic multitude cannot be a political body, at least not in the modern form. The multitude is something like singular flesh that refuses the organic unity of the body” (162). The multitude is a living[5] and monstrous[6] flesh, escaping the logic of bodily hierarchy between the ruling head and subjected members, and able to resist capital’s violent integration into the global social body. The multitude, being numerous and diverse, resists the concept of the people as “one”, and as such can never be assimilated into the social, political, economic body of global capitalism. For Hardt and Negri, only the multitude will lead us productively beyond our global civil war into a time of peace and true democracy. For them, “the multitude is the only social subject capable of realizing democracy, that is, the rule of everyone by everyone. The stakes, in other words, are extremely high” (100).

But is this so? Are there no other option than either the people or the multitude? And even if there are no other options, how will the multitude come about? For even Hardt and Negri know better than to offer too much, and only claim suggest the multitude as a concept rather than a political directive.[7] However, they certainly hope that the ontological concept of the multitude might produce “a political project to bring it into being on the basis of these emerging conditions…If the multitude were not already latent and implicit in our social being, we could not even imagine it as a political project; and similarly, we can only hope to realize it today because it already exists as a real potential. The multitude , then, when we put these two together, has a strange, double temporality: always-already and not-yet” (221).[8] This, of course, constitutes Hardt and Negri’s Marxist, utopian, and we might say, heretical eschatology. This eschatology, as Karios, “is the moment when the arrow is shot by the bowstring, the moment when a decision of action is made…We can already recognize that today time is split between a present that is already dead and a future that is already living—and the yawning abyss between them is becoming enormous. In time, an event will thrust us like an arrow into that living future. This will be the real political act of love” (357,8). This ‘real political act of love’ constitute the end (or beginning) of the multitude, and are literally the last words in Multitude. But, again, is the multitude, offered in contrast to the people, that last word, the last concept concerning our global civil war.

[1] Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire (New York, NY: Penguin, 2004).
[2] ibid., 160-162. See also Zizek, Sublime Object of Ideology, 145-149, and Agamben, Means without End, “What is a people”, 29-25.
[3] See Part One of Multitude entitled ‘War’, and Empire () . Also Welcome to the Desert of the Real() by Slavoj Zizek. For a similar, yet theological account, of the emergence of modern nation-states see Chapter One of William Cavaungh’s Theopolitical Imagination.
[4] ibid., 99.
[5] ibid., 100. “Rather than a political body with one that commands and others that obey, the multitude is living flesh that rules itself”.
[6] ibid., 190-194.
[7] ibid., 220.
[8] Interestingly, much of this section draws on a disavowed Pauline “already/but not yet” eschatology and a Johannine “in, but not of” ecclesiology. See especially 219-227.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Culmination-Culture, not Counter: of temporal refugees

Posted below is part of a presentation I gave at the Ekklesia Conference last summer concerning the possible relationship between the Emerging Church and the Ekklesia Project. I'm reposting it because of an interesting conversation over at generous orthodoxy. For those in the Emerging Conversation or others who either use or dispise the phrase "counter-culture" in reference to the Church, please let me know what you think.


Introduction: I originally had two parts to this talk, the first part was more directed at the Emerging Church and those who are tempted by too much relevance. In that part I was going to discuss the shift from relevance to identity. And the second part is geared for those in danger of too much resistance. Without rehearsing all the various arguments concerning gospel and church, and their relations, and really instead of an introduction, I'll just jump in and reposition a familiar image, that of the Church as Exile or as Refugee, shifting from an emphasis on space to that of time.

From Space to Time: Refugees

When we use the terms 'contrast-culture' and 'counter-culture' too often spatial conception begin to creep in when we start talking about the church. Instead of this we need to move from space to time: not spatial relationships discussing borders and permeability, but temporal trajectories and destinations. The question is not who is in and how do they cross the border, but who is traveling with us, and have they joined the processional of God's kingdom between his first and second advents ? We shouldn't ask about the overlapping nature of church and culture, as complementing or contradicting, but whether each culture, and/or which parts, are marching toward the ends which the Church is eternally ordered, and time fully processing. The Church does not merely have its own social space, but rather has its own time and trajectory.

As William Cavanaugh says, (also printed in Theolopolitipal Imagination)

The Church "does not depend on establishing its own place, its own territory to defend. Instead it moves on pilgrimage through the places defined by the map and transforms them into alternative spaces through its practices. The City of God makes use of this world as it move through it on pilgrimage to its heavenly home."

Given this consideration, I suggest we move the Image of the Church in Exile, as Sojourner, from attending images of Resident Aliens, Colony and Outpost, to those of Refugee and Pilgrimage.

We inhabit a particular place according to our trajectory within it, not according to the place's particular features or well worn paths. Sometimes we will critique and contradict the ordering of a place, while other times we might correspond and compliment the dominant features of a place. But this doesn't happen b/c we are seeking to be relevant or resistant, but depends rather on our trajectory as we traverse various places, ordering each place according to our telos.

Consequences: Culmination-Culture
And through this shift we can make better sense of the relevance/resistance dichotomy. Instead of thinking of the Church as a contrast- or couter-culture, we should think of it as a culminating-culture, a culture of culmination, or culture of fulfillment.

We should take the perspective of the Church as the fulfillment of any particular culture, rather than merely an antagonisticly within that culture. It is not that we will change for you (relevance), nor will we stand against you (resistance), but we accomplish or fulfill what you desire to be. As we look at the careers of some of the Church Fathers we notice that they were not attempting to fuse Greek metaphysics within the Christian narrative, but desiring to show that best and brightest of the Greek philosophical tradition, in thoughts, and in persons, pointed toward Christ and the Church. So, instead of appropriating postmodern elements/forms (whether practically for evangelism or philosophically for theology), we look to where they these elements point and show that in Christ (in his body the church) they are fulfilled.

In light of this, the Church should compare for compatible trajectories joining them for a time on our pilgrimage, but also critiquing ability to that other culture and narrative to arrive at its destination.

Instead of talking about out narrating other stories, or throwing other narrative sinto epistemic crisis, maybe we could out narrating other stories through epistemic fulfillment?

And we do this principally through the Eucharist, which again as Cavanaugh says,

The Eucharist not only tells but performs a narrative of cosmic proportions, from the death and resurrection of Christ, to the new covenant formed in his blood, to the future destiny of all creation. The consumer of the Eucharist is no longer the schizophrenic subject of global capitalism, awash in a sea of unrelated presents, but walks into a story with a past, present, and future (p. 188).

So, we are all refugees on a long pilgrimage, sharing all we have with each other, a meager meal together, the Body and Blood of Christ.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

With Friends like Rorty, who needs Enemies.

Now I would call myself part of the Emerging Church Conversation (whatever that is) and recently there has been quite a bit of conversation around Hauerwas and Stout. And while I have yet to work through Democracy and Tradition, it have heard from several at Princeton that Stout was not attempting to privatize religion and that in fact Stout conservative conversation partners (Rorty and Rawls) were also making more room for public religion.

Well, because i’m a primary source kind of guy I thought i would track down Rorty and Rawls and see what they have to say about religion.

Today is Rorty.
Religious Faith, Intellectual Responsibilities, and Romance from his Philosophy and Social Hope, pp. 148-167, written in 1997.
In this essay Rorty positions pragmatism between two totalizing discourses, that of religion (or those who feel a responsibility to Truth) and science (or those who feel a responsibility to Reason). But pragmatism replaces these discourses with a responsibility to others, instead of some non-human transcendence. All beliefs/justifications gratify some sort of desire or need. The justifications of science gratify the needs of reason and control, and the beliefs of religion gratify the needs of emotions and hope. Science and religion need not conflict in this view because they gratify different hopes and desires.

But does this entail that religion is privatized? Well, yes, for Rorty it does.

He says, "So its [a utilitarian philosophy of religion] principal concern must be the extent to which the actions of religious believers frustrate the needs of other human beings, rather than the extent to which religion gets something right" (p.148). And also, "The quasi-Jamesian position I want to defend says: Do not worry too much about whether what you have is a belief, a desire, or a mood. Just insofar as such states as hope, love, and faith promote only such private projects, you need not worry about whether you have a right to have them" (153), and back to science and religion, "Both scientific realism and religious fundamentalism are private projects which have got out of hand" (157) because they have romanticized a responsibility to the True or Real and made it obligatory to the public. So if a theist wants to continue in his belief he must adopt a demythologized/symbolic view of doctrine (here Rorty mentions Tillich).

The basic move in this essay is to a post-foundationalist, pragmatic policing of science and religion (making them both fideistic projects), and then offers up the concept of Romance (which can be directed toward a trade union, a novel, a congregation, or a doctrine) as a fuzzy overlapping of faith, hope, and love.

Now, the essay "Anticlericalism and Atheism" written in 2002 from The Future of Religion, continues his anti-foundationalist/metaphysical project of overcoming positivist conceptions of science and religion. Here he makes a tactical shift and recants of his rhetoric centered on atheism (which is as foundationalist and fideistic as theism) and outlines his anticlericalism, which for him is the necessary shift to the political from the epistemological and metaphysical. "On our view [anticlericalism], religion is unobjectionable as long as it is privatized- as long as ecclesiastical institutions do not attempt to rally the faithful behind political proposals" (p. 33). This is preferable because we all have the right to be religious but not the right to ask that everyone should believe. Rorty then talks about Vattimo (who has an accompanying essay in the book) and Vattimo's view of the religion as kenosis (emptying). God, in Christianity, has emptied himself, all his powers, all his authority, all of his otherness into the human community. Religion as kenosis is divine love (which is the only positive doctrine religion is left with) and all else empties into the secularized field. This anticlerical view boils down to deciding not to talk either about atheism (unjustifiable hope in future) or theism (an unjustifiable gratitude for past)because they are private projects, but we should rather muster these unjustifiable projects for the common good of social cooperation, toward which pragmatism is the only sure guarantee.

Now, I don't see how this is much of a movement toward allowing religion in the public square, or having in any way lessened the need for religion to be privatized. He has only changed the terms slightly from his more combative rhetoric of "Religion as a Conversation Stopper" (1994). I don't see how any theist would think that Rorty is coming around.

But I'm not saying that pragmatism has nothing to offer. Far from it. I still need to learn more (who knows when that will be), but for right now it seems particularly deficient in its ability to conceive of religion outside of a strictly Enlightenment perspective. Rorty's anti-foundationalism, while rightfully iconoclastic of modern ideologies (positivist science and fundamentalist religion), his anti-foundationalism has yet to move toward narrative or the recovery of history (which is exactly what he doesn't want) and therefore is thoroughly Enlightenment and modern with its view of progress, no matter how post-metaphysical he claims to be. So I'm looking forward to Stouts book to see how he handles these issues.

And too often Rorty sounds a little too cozy with a Male-Eurocentric perspective that distains all those backward developing nations. I'll end with this: Speaking for the dark ages and religion:

"To be imaginative and to be religious, in those dark times, came to almost the same thing--for this world was too wretched to life up the heart. But things are different now, because of human beings' gradual success in making their lives, and their world, less wretched. Non-religion forms of romance have flourished--if only in those lucky parts of the world where wealth, leisure, literacy and democracy have worked together to prolong our lives and fill our libraries. Now the things of this world are, for some luck people, so welcome that they do not have to look beyond nature to the supernatural, and beyond life to the afterlife, but only beyond the human past to the human future."


If I have time this week I'll post on Rawl, but he is so boring I might not find the desire. Open his books are like walking into a white, sterilized room, with tables and little objects stacked neatly and orderly, with a sign that says, "Please be quite, we don't want to really know you, and please no music."

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

d. stephen long an 2 augustinianisms

d. stephen long- Two Augustinianisms: Augustinian Realism and the Other City. Faculty and Student presentation at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary.

notes by geoff holsclaw (as lecture notes there are gaps and paraphrasing)


Introduction: Theology and politics can be related in two fashions. There are the 'political theologies' where what concerns 'the political' is known and the theological is brought to bear. This is political realism. Then there is 'theological politics' where Christ is known initially and politics becomes informed by theology.

1) Political Theology: Augustinian Realism.
The Augustinian Realism, which Niebuhr self-consciadoptsdoptes, reads Augustine selectively through a Machiavellian rhetoric with its emphasis on and necessity of self-interest, power, and violence. The political realm is such that violence and power must be accounted for otherwise it just is not considered politics. The Augustinian doctrine of original sin is read into this politics (as power, violence, self-interest), but the theory of the political is therefore supplement (but not supplanted) by theology. In this way, we receive Augustinian arguments that it is necessary to dirty one's hand if we are to enter the political arena. Another advocate, Paul Ramsey, claims that Augustine even advocate this approach, and that the Heavenly and Earthly cities are in fact inseparably connected, and that in fact there is so much agreement between the two cities that it would be sinful abdication cooperate with the Earthly city. Ramsey quotes Augustine as follows from City of God, Book 19.17.

"This heavenly city, then, while it sojourns on earth, calls citizens out of all nations, and gathers together a society of pilgrims of all languages, not scrupling about diversities in the manners, laws, and institutions whereby early peace is secured and maintained, but recognizing that, however various these are they all tend to one and the same end of earthly peace. It therefore is so far from rescinding and abolishing these diversities, that it even preserves and adopts them...Even the heavenly city, therefore, while in its state of pilgrimage, avails itself of the peace of earth, and,...desires and maintains a common agreement among men regarding the acquisition of the necessaries of life, and make this earthly peace bear upon the peace of heaven."
Ramsey takes this as indicating that Augustine fully endorses the earthly peace and that the heavenly city ought to, in every way, participate and ensure this earthly peace. But his referencing of Augustine is selective, and his ellipses are telling. The full quotation is below with formerly ellipsed portions in bold :

"This heavenly city, then, while it sojourns on earth, calls citizens out of all nations, and gathers together a society of pilgrims of all languages, not scrupling about diversities in the manners, laws, and institutions whereby early peace is secured and maintained, but recognizing that, however various these are they all tend to one and the same end of earthly peace. It therefore is so far from rescinding and abolishing these diversities, that it even preserves and adopts them so long only as no hindrance to the worship of the one supreme and true God is thus introduced. Even the heavenly city, therefore, while in its state of pilgrimage, avails itself of the peace of earth, and, as far as it can without injuring faith and godliness, desires and maintains a common agreement among men regarding the acquisition of the necessaries of life, and make this earthly peace bear upon the peace of heaven."
Ramsey tellingly omits the conditions within which the early and the heavenly city enter into peace bearing relationships, namely, only as long as the early city does not 1) hinder true worship of God, or 2) hinder the practices of faith and godliness.

So a realistic politics, or Augustinian Realism, exempts worship and godliness from it purview, and merely grafts on a doctrine of original sin to a theory of the political that could survive without it.

2) Another City
The first creation of the secular (by Augustine) reference the TIME b/w the two advents of Christ and functions as a way of discussing the overlap of the two cities. [In modernity the secular became a SPACE outside the church].

If "political theology" refers to Book 19 as a source text, then "theological politics" turns toward Book 18 and the realization that every politic is ordered around worship, and is therefore, already theological.

"The earthly one has made to herself of whom she would, either from any other quarter, or even from among men, false gods whom she might serve by sacrifice; but she which is heavenly and is a pilgrim on the earth does not make false gods, but is herself made by the true God of who she herself must be the true sacrifice. Yet both alike either enjoy temporal good things, or are afflicted with temporal evils, but with diverse faith, diverse hope, and diverse love, until they must be separated by the last judgment, and each must receive her own end, of which there is no end." (emphasis added).
In this way the heavenly city is already political in that it is oriented around the worship of the true God such that it does not need to become political, nor does it need to bring its theology into politics.

3) Natural Theology
In The City of God (Book 6) Augustine enters into a dialogue with a philosopher named Varro who had created a typology of theologies. They were 1) fabulous, 2) civil, and 3) natural. The fabulous were the myths and stories that were told to the people and that the state needed to give to the people. The civil served the ends of the empire and the royal cults. The natural were in fact what we call metaphysic and were discussed by philosophers. The philosophers knew that the fabulous theologies were false, and studied natural theology in the hopes of arriving at the highest good. Augustine points out that what the philosophers called natural theology is close to what Christianity was itself. Augustine did not even want to call Christianity a religion because he had not conception of the faith as fabulous. But Augustine also criticized Varro because while Varro knew that fabulous theology was bogus, Varro did not criticize the civil theology in light of his natural theology. The philosopher wanted to worship the natural theology, but were compelled to worship within the civil, and therefore failed even to separate from the fabulous. Augustine, however, realize that civil and fabulous religion are one and the same, and that Christianity had to break from both.

In light of all this there are two conclusions to come to.
1) What goes under the rubric of Augustinian Realism is merely a return to fabulous/civil theology. Instead we need to realize that we must not attempt to politicize theology, because worship is already political.
2) This does not make theology apolitical, but allows it to become truly political as a witness to another city, where peace reign.

Friday, October 14, 2005

another 'beyond universal reason'

I just got Beyond Universal Reason: The Relation Between Religion and Ethics in the Work of Stanley Hauerwas by Emmanuel Katongole, a Catholic philosopher from Uganda. It is part of the reading for my Language and Theology class. It enters into the claims of whether, following Wittgenstein, language games (and ethics/politics) are universally approachable or incommensurable, or perhaps a third option b/w universal reason and fideism, a realism w/o empiricism (which is where our class is going).

I should finish it this weekend, and we'll see where it takes me.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Wittgenstein and Lacan?

now as i've said, i'm in this class on theology and language where we will be reading through Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, among other texts. What about Lacan? Well, here is the direction of my thinking concerning the linguistic turn for a couple of years.

After studying philosophy in undergrad and entering into seminary life (and all its talk about sematics and interpretation, and Ricoeur), I felt that we needed to go somewhere beyond language (but of course not leaving it behind, but moving on by moving through). But where? initially i thought that after emerging through the necessary passage through language (both turns, analytic ancontinentalal, being necessary to get the problem out there) I thought that we could return to division 1 of Being and Time, a phenomenology of life, etc, etc. I still sense this intuition to be correct, and it is being borne out in my research of contemporary political theorist (theoris disgruntled with deconstructive ethics) and their return(ish) to a subject. For many this return to a political subject is conceptualized via the Lacanian Subject ($). And I also read somewhere in Badiou that Lacan was the last and greatest thinker in the linguistic turn (although B. doesn't mean this a necessarily a compliment b/c he see much of the LT as pure sophistry from which philosophy must protect us). All that to say, I decided I needed to read up on Lacan and have been reading through Encrits, Book VII, XI, and XX for last 6 months or so.

Now after reading Lacan I think that badiou is correct, that he is thinking throught the concrete areas of life, and how they are pentitrated by the Symbolic, Imaginary, and the Real, in a way the Division 1 of B&T could never have acheived (although I still love it).

So, in this course, and many (too many probably for most of you) of my blog entries, will focus on the intersection of Wittgenstien (who have been appropriated by both analytics and continentials) and Lacan as both working a type of anti-philosophical therapy curing of mundane philosphy and preparing us for robust theology.

Well, i didn't get to what I wanted to write today (which was going to be a brainstorm about how to begin getting into W. and L. via their critique of idealism), but o well.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Intro to RO by Archbishop Martinez

, and why RO undercuts supposed contrasts b/w liberals and conservatives:

“In the introductive essay to the collective volume entitled Radical Orthodoxy, the three editors of the volume, J. Milbank, C. Pickstock, G. Ward, observe that "the great Christian critics of the Enlightenment (...) in different ways saw that what secularity had most ruined and actually denied were the very things it apparently celebrated: embodied life, self-expression, sexuality, aesthetic experience, human political community. Their contention, taken up in this volume, was that only trascendence, which suspends these things in the sense of interrumpting them, suspends them also in the other sense of upholding their relative worth over – against the void". On the other hand, having recognized that "the Enlightenment was in effect a critique of decadent early modern Christianity", but also, "following the great English literary visionaries William Shakespeare and Thomas Nashe", that the abuses and errors of that decadency were "the result of a refusal of true Christianity", Radical Orthodoxy tries to "articulate a more incarnate, more participatory, more aesthetic, more erotic, more socialized, even more Platonic Christianity". Taking a theological outlook centered around the concept of "participation", they emphasize again the value of tradition and the articulated unity of "fides et ratio", but in the sense that it is "fides" what can save "ratio", and it is theology what can rescue philosophy and intellectual life from the shallow lands. Only this return to tradition ("to credal Christianity and the exemplarity of its patristic matrix"), after all, can adequately offer a true alternative to the "soulless, aggressive, nonchalant and nihilistic materialism" where the ideals of modernity have ended. This is the way this is expressed by these three authors:

The theological perspective of participation actually saves the
appearances by exceeding them. It recognizes that materialism and spiritualism
are false alternatives, since if there is only finite matter there is not even
that, and that for phenomena really to be there they must be more than there.
Hence, by appealing to an eternal source for bodies, their art, language, sexual
and political union, one is not ethereally taking leave of their density. On the
contrary, one is insisting that behind this density resides an even greater
density – beyond all contrasts of density and lightness (as beyond all contrasts
of definition and limitlessness). This is to say that all there is only is
because it is more than it is. (...)
[From Radical Orthodoxy Reader]

This perspective should in many ways be seen as undercutting some of the contrasts between theological liberals and conservatives. The former tend to validate what they see as the modern embrace of our finitude – as language, and as erotic and aesthetically delighting bodies, and so forth. Conservatives, however, seem still to embrace a sort of nominal ethereal distancing from these realities and a disdain for them. Radical orthodoxy, by contrast, sees the historic root of the celebration of these things in participatory philosophy and incarnational theology, even if it can acknowledge that premodern tradition never took this celebration far enough. The modern apparent embrace of the finite it regards as, on inspection, illusory, since in order to stop the finite vanishing modernity must construe it as a spatial edifice bound by clear laws, rules and lattices. If, on the other hand, following the postmodern options, it embraces the flux of things, this is an empty flux both concealing and revealing an ultimate void. Hence, modernity has oscillated between puritanism (sexual or otherwise) and an entirely perverse eroticism, which is in love with death and therefore wills the death also of the erotic, and does not preserve the erotic as far as an eternal consummation. In a bizarre way, it seems that modernity does not really want what it thinks it wants; but on the other hand, in order to have what it thinks it wants, it would have to recover the theological. Thereby, of course, it would discover also that that which it desires is quite other than it has supposed."

MacIntyre on Contemporary Theologian

“We can see the harsh dilemma of a would-be contemporary theology: [1] The theologian begins from orthodoxy, but the orthodoxy which has been learnt from Kierkegaard and Barth becomes too easily a closed circle, in which believer speaks only to believer, in which all human content is concealed. [2] Turning aside from this arid in-group theology, the most perceptive theologians wish to translate what they have to say to an atheistic world. But they are doomed to one of two failures. Either [a] they succeed in their translation: in which case what they find themselves saying has been turned into the atheism of their hearers. Or [b] they fail in their translation: in which case no one hears what they have to say but themselves.”

A. MacIntyre, "God and the Theologians", published in Against the Self-Images of the Age, University of Notre Dame Press: Notre Dame, Indiana, 1978, pp. 12-26. The quote is from pp. 19-20.

(quoted in Beyond Secular Reason)

from 'beyond secular reason'

Archbishop Martinez on the ‘battle’ for power:

And this is my main reason to distrust the urge that so many feel nowadays in certain countries (this is the case in Spain) of bringing the Church as Church into the political arena to fight propositions that utterly offend the Christian understanding of human life (the so-called "marriage" of homosexuals, other obvious destructions of marriage, the experiments with humanembryos, "liberalization" of euthanasia and abortion, etc). The very interest that the proponents of these monstrosities seem to have in the provocation makes me extremely suspicious. On the other hand, I cannot bring myself to imagine the Church of the second or of the third century trying to overthrow and take over the Roman Empire to make it Christian, instead of converting it. For us Christians, that kind of "battle" is always a distraction and a trap. For one thing, it will make us forget how much we have contributed and still contribute to this very state of affairs that now so much offends us. To put just one example, the sexual morality and the so- called "bioethics" of the advanced apitalistic societies is obviously tied up with and depends in many ways on the economic interests of particular industries, and on very deep assumptions about the meaning of human life common in capitalistic mentality. It is pathetic to see some Christians renting their clothes about the propositions about sexual life that come from secular society while at the same time defending wholeheartedly the moral autonomy of modern economics or politics.” (italics added)

“I do not believe, therefore, that any strategy to conquer influence or power in our societies will do any good to the Church or to the cause of Christianity in any sense. We as Christians cannot have any nostalgia of the days of the past and, least of all, for those very conditions that have led to the invention of the secular as a reaction against a decadent and already reductive image of Christianity. A strategy of looking for influence will only continue to hide to most Christians the fact that the real "enemy" is not truly outside us, but within us, in the exact measure (which is a very large measure) we share those very assumptions whose consequences we criticize so sharply in the decisions of some politicians (but in general only of some).”
This perfectly illustrates the problems of the religious right/left’s engagements in current American politics.

“In consequence, that strategy will only distract us from the only "politics" that is needed in the present situation, and the only one can really make a difference in the world: being the body of Christ, living in the communion of the Holy Spirit in this concrete hour of history. In other words, the "politics" we most need is conversion in order to build up of the Church again as a banner among the nations, as "a nation made from all nations". An effect of this distraction is that it allows the immense energy Christianity unlashes to be used instrumentally in the favor of political programs that do not and cannot, in any way, be identified with the life the Lord has given us. That life lives in the Church, and not in a political party, not even in one that would eventually present itself as being at the service of the "Christian values". The circle closes when one realizes that the instrumentality of the Church to a political program becomes by itself – in complete independence of the content of that program – a hindrance to the freedom of the Church and to the faith of the world in Jesus Christ.” (italics added)

It is interesting that Arshbishop Marinez should emphasized conversion as a necessary ecclesial activity. Conversion has fallen out of favor with most, smacking of intolerance and manipulation. But might not it be a necessary concept, if not concrete practice, of the Church if it is truly to be political. Now of course this sounds like good old fashion evangelicalism and its individualized, privatized faith and its outstanding conversion. But that is the whole problem. Conversion has been interiorized and legalized as the turn to Christ to save me from sins. But I’m talking about a political conversion to Jesus as LORD, leading his triumphant procession before the powers of the world, and a public joining him in his purposes in the world that is out there.

I’ll say more about this soon.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

beyond secular reason

I just found this and think it's great.

It is from the same Archbishop who recently called together a larger group of western theologian who he thought are the only hope for theology.
(thanks to john wright and ericisrad for the link)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

between hauerwas and Constantine

I just read this very interesting apprasial of hauerwas and milbank and social action by steve bush : A Stereoscopic Evangelical Political Theology: Between Hauerwas and Constantine (pdf) over at generousorthodoxy.

first of all, I am very excited that emerging theologians are dealing with haurwas, milbank, stout and others so that we might be able to better understand the politicals of the church. So, while i offer some observations and critiques, they are in the spirit of exploration, innovation, and dialogue, as we (young intellectuals) all find our footing.

First off, Steve seems to object that Haurwas and Milbank are not explicit enough concerning the obligation of political action/subversion. Now, living RO aside (b/c i don't know any of them personally), all of the Haurwasians (or those from the increasingly named Duke School) that I know and have meet at the EP conference or deeply engaged in political protest. So it is interesting that Haurwas has given rise to a generation of students who actually protest (often in latin america) instead of merely publish.

Problematic example: "Imagine a situation in which many of the banks in a given region, whether national or local, are regularly engaging in discriminatory lending practices."

Now this example, which still occurs in Chicago (my neck of the woods) is overly simplistic. It has two premises that are not explored in the the course of steve's argument: race and economics. Only legal/political factors are discussed. Now, while i am certainly against, and believe that Christians should speack and change this situation, what else needs to be done. Well, red-lining concerns that ability to buy ones own house instead of merely rent. But in a run down neighborhood, where this is likely to occur, there is also the problem of slumlords and gentrification. Gentrification is the process where a poor neighborhood is renovated and all the poor people (blacks/hispanics) are pushed out because of rising property taxes, and the affluent (white) move in. Why does this happen? Because land developors making it happen to make more money by moving people around in the city. More on that: Urban Fortunes. I bring this up because where we live and how we finance it (esp. white folk) is an exeptionally political issues (note also that Hauerwasians are very involved with the house church and simple living movement, who work toward the betterment of their communities in urban contexts).

but, leaving that aside: what about a bank. some ask, "which is worse: robbing a bank or opening one?" The point being that the operating a bank is not nearly as neutral as it may seem. So, it is it better to bring someone out of poverty so that might find meaning in the American Dream (of buying a single-family, detached house,3 car and mountains of debt and chaos--i.e. is our goal really to make all the minorities into miserable white people). My point in this is that the presuppositions of a capitalist (not merely democratic) society where we vote with our dollars (although that is extremely deceptive) complicate the situation. My point here is that helping someone get a loan just does not aim high enough, and that the church (in a local neighborhood) should seek to witness to by helping create a just society block by block.

Problematic obligation: "Numerous passages in Hauerwas’ writings indicate that his stance does not prohibit such actions, but my question is whether an obligation to act exists."

Just framing the debate in terms of obligation regresses the conversation because Haurwas desire to talk not about ethical obligation (either a Kantian imperitival sense or the pragmatic sense of applying a rule), but wants to talk about virtue and character. Obligation can be determined outside of a narrative and without reference to virtue/character. But Haurwas' entire point is that we must move away from discussing ethics as if it were an obligation (against our desire...Kant) and make ethics spontaneously moving from our sanctified character. Obligation is alway according to a Law, but Christian virtue is beyond the Law.

More could be said concerning steve's eschatological move in the paper, but I'll leave of here for now. again, this is all in friendly dialogue over issues that I'm glad the emerging church is working through.

questions still: should/how does one critique/subvert capitalism? what is truly political? why protest?

Thursday, September 15, 2005

a test

is the content messed up now?

Saturday, September 10, 2005

What I'm up to now

Well, the summer has come and gone and here I am moving forward a bit at a time.

Concerning my academic interest (because that's what I write about here), I'm sitting in on a class with Steven Long at Garrett. The class is Speaking of God: Theology and Language. It will be a chance to work through Wittgenstian again (I read the Philosophical Investigations in undergrad, which formed me into a postliberal before I even got to seminary...which didn't go over too well at Trinity). And we'll be going through a bunch of Aquinas (after all he's central to these Radical Orthodoxy types).

I be spending most of my time working on that course work and also (of course) my church work, so I would be writing any post (unless its my notes for the class).

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Where I'll be Going this Spring And Summer

1) In April I'm going (with the whole family) to the WALP (Worship-Arts-Liturgy-Preaching) Conference hosted by Emergent. As they say, it will be a "generative converasation about worship, art, ligurgy, and preaching among Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Mainline Protestant, Anabaptist, and Evangelical/Charismatic leaders, thinkers, and resourcers that will lead to more vital worship..."

2) Also, with Emergent, in May I'm going to the Emergent Convention in Nashville.

3) In July is the very exciting Ekklesia Conference called
"No Other Gods:Keeping the Commandments in the Face of Empire" with
William Cavanaugh (Theopolitical Imagaination) and Sylvia Keesmaat (Colossians Remixed). It should be great. I'm looking forward to this the most.

Monday, March 07, 2005

poverty: inner city and evangelical

I had a very disturbing realization last night. Not only disturbing, but rather produced deep sorrow for evangelicalism.

It is farely well known how poverty effect the family, particularly young women (if you don't know read "when work disappears"). For those women who see no life beyond the ghetto, whose horizon of existence extends no farther than high school, and who recieve little or no affection or sense of importants, it is very common that young woman look to pregnancy and the care of an infant as the only realm where they can excercise control and give care. For many, becoming a mother is the only means of finding significance.

Now, I went to an evangelical seminary attached to an even more conservative college. Now the rumor (but probable fact) is that 85% of all those who attend this college end up inter-marrying, and that the stereotypical women is there only to get married, not to get an education. In fact, it seems that many of the women who attend this college (and I think this is true for most conservative women) assume, or even, desire to have children by the age of 21. In fact it is all they talk about.

Now the realization that deeply saddened me is that is seems that white conservative evangelical women look to pregnancy in a way very similar to poor (minority) inner city women: motherhood is the only road to significance; it is the only means of escape.

Is evangelicalism so oppressive toward women, so poor in opportunities, so impoverished in it care, that the product of evangelicalism looks just like that of the inner city: desparte young women searching for a reason to life?

I think it is. And for all those women, lost within and/or searching to get out, for them I've greiving...

Where Have I been?

Well, it has been about 6 months since my last entry. Since then all my faithful readers have disappear, floating on to the next promising cloud of wisdom, wit, and perhap profundity (sorry about that to all 5 of you).

But let me explain. While i truly loved writing here (and will still continue from time to time) I decided that I really should focus my writing on a larger project. And since I only have so much time for writing (and researching to write) I had to give up this blog. The project that I'm working on currently is a writing sample for a future ph.d program that I'm hoping to start in the next couple of year (a couple years because currently I have two little boys under that age of 2). Since I recieve and M.Div, which doesn't require a thesis, I'm short a writing sample which all graduate programs require for the application.

So that's why I've dropped on the face of the blogosphere.

What else have I been doing since I last posted?
-I've continued working with up/rooted
-I've been working to organize emergent cohorts
-I've become the father of not 1, but now 2 children
-I've jumped from 10 to 20 hours a week working for my church
- and other stuff

what i've been reading...well, i'll try to update the links soon...