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).