Wonderful new surprises await on the other other side…but there will be no further posts today. Inhabitatio Dei is getting an overhaul.
Author Archives: Halden
David Bentley Hart’s new book on the new atheists is out and, in his usual take-no-prisoners style, Hart pulls no punches. Rusty Reno has a good review of the book on the First Things website. Here’s a taste:
Thus, if we return to the usual Western Civ lecture hall cliché—ancient science was somehow stymied by dogmatic Christians, only to be recovered and given new life by Renaissance free thinkers—then we can see that it is a hopelessly inaccurate cartoon. As Hart points out, “The birth of modern physics and cosmology was achieved by Galileo, Kepler, and Newton breaking free not from the close confining prison of faith (all three were believing Christians, of one sort or another) but from the enormous burden of the millennial authority of Aristotelian science. The scientific revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was not a revival of Hellenistic science but its final defeat.”
Hart goes on to show how equally cartoonish pictures of Christian persecution, intolerance, and lust for religious warfare cannot stand up to judicious historical analysis. To these topics he adds some very important observations about our supposedly modern, rational, and progressive age. “We live now,” he writes, “in the wake of the most monstrously violent century in human history, during which the secular order (on both the political right and the political left), freed from the authority of religion, showed itself willing to kill on an unprecedented scale and with an ease of conscience worse than merely depraved. If ever an age deserved to be thought an age of darkness, it is surely ours.”
I’ve long been a critic of the colloquial use of quotation marks. This is a particular problem in theological writing. Anyone wanting to write something clever or use any form of slang in a theological treatise seems pathologically bound to enclose such phrases in quotation marks. To my mind this nearly always has the effect of making the writer sound like bumbling and silly.
As it turns out Strunk and White have a similar opinion:
“If you use a colloquialism or a slang word of phrase, simply use it; do not draw attention to it by enclosing it in quotation marks. To do so is to put on airs, as though you were inviting the reader to join you in a select society of those who know better.” (The Elements of Style, 34)
Richard Reep makes some interesting observations about how the current economic situation may actually have beneficial effects on smaller farmers:
While the global players deliver discounts due to their enormous volume, local community markets offer low-priced produce, goods, and services due to their microscopic volume. This common ground between individual efforts and enormous buying machines yields an interesting treasure trove of passion and hope.
The rise of these small, open-air markets is an encouraging sign of authentic social interaction, after so many assaults upon our social network by the forces of the Old Economy. It suggests a new role for local entrepreneurs and for the revival of community spirit. At these local markets, producer and consumer traffic in direct interaction, without the army of marketing consultants, business analysts, merchandisers, industrial psychologists, and the rest of the hangers-on who have transformed the agora into an often dispiriting and uninteresting shopping experience.
Now, with the Old Economy in shambles, the New Economy appears to be reviving the community element to our American commercial culture. Even a few years ago the Farmer’s Market was considered an anachronism, something found in rural areas and overlooked by cosmopolitan city dwellers. The fact that these are rising up in our urban and suburban culture speaks to our need for freshness, for authenticity, and for some spontaneity.
As folks cope with financial turmoil, their choices for purchasing venues seem to be driven by the need for saving, as well as the need for a good experience. The middlemen, such as the regional and national chains, seem to be squeezed in between truly global players like Wal-mart, and the rising tide of localism appearing at a grass-roots level in so many communities.
H/T: Rod Dreher
The always interesting and entertaining Terry Eagleton has a fascinating article in the latest issue of Commonweal entitled “Culture and Barbarism.” A couple quotes:
Islamic fundamentalism confronts Western civilization with the contradiction between the West’s own need to believe and its chronic incapacity to do so. The West now stands eyeball-to-eyeball with a full-blooded “metaphysical” foe for whom absolute truths and foundations pose no problem at all-and this at just the point when a Western civilization in the throes of late modernity, or postmodernity if you prefer, has to skate by on believing as little as it decently can. In post-Nietzschean spirit, the West appears to be busily undermining its own erstwhile metaphysical foundations with an unholy mélange of practical materialism, political pragmatism, moral and cultural relativism, and philosophical skepticism. All this, so to speak, is the price you pay for affluence.
The idea, touted in particular by some Americans, that Islamic radicals are envious of Western freedoms is about as convincing as the suggestion that they are secretly hankering to sit in cafés smoking dope and reading Gilles Deleuze.
That problem encompasses a contradictory fact: the more capitalism flourishes on a global scale, the more multiculturalism threatens to loosen the hold of the nation-state over its subjects. Culture, after all, is what helps power grow roots, interweaving it with our lived experience and thus tightening its grip on us. A power which has to sink roots in many diverse cultures simultaneously is at a signal disadvantage. A British defense think tank recently published a report arguing that a “misplaced deference to multiculturalism” that fails “to lay down the line to immigrant communities” was weakening the fight against political extremists. The problem, the report warned, was one of social fragmentation in a multicultural nation increasingly divided over its history, identity, aims, and values. When it came to the fight against terrorism, the nation’s liberal values, in short, were undermining themselves.
H/T to Horstkoetter.
“There is in the Holy Scriptures one book that differs from all other books of the Bible in that it contains only prayers. That book is the Psalms. At first it is something very astonishing that there is a prayerbook in the Bible. The Holy Scriptures are, to be sure, God’s Word to us. But prayers are human words. How then do they come to be in the Bible? Let us make no mistake: the Bible is God’s Word, even in the Psalms. Then are prayers to God really God’s own Word? That seems difficult to understand. We grasp it only when we consider that we can learn true prayer only from Jesus Christ, and that it is, therefore, the word of the Son of God, who lives with us human beings, to God the Father who lives in eternity. Jesus Christ has brought before God every need, every joy, every thanksgiving, and every hope of humankind. In Jesus’ mouth the human word becomes God’s Word. When we pray along with the prayer of Christ, God’s Word becomes again a human word. Thus all prayers of the Bible are such prayers in which Christ includes us, and through which Christ brings us before the face of God. Otherwise there are no true prayers, for only in and with Jesus Christ can we truly pray.”
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Psalms: The Prayerbook of the Bible (DBW5), 156-57.
According to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, the Obama administration has essentially discontinued utilizing the language of “war on terror.” This language has, for the past 8 years, served a rallying cry for America’s foreign policy, so its interesting to see the language shift, even though it is, of course not all that unexpected.
I wonder though if this isn’t yet another example of the sort of ideological ricochet that defines America’s international ambitions. The war on terror rhetoric served the purpose of riling the citizenry under the Bush administration, but now that those chickens are coming home to roost we get mad at that kind of rhetoric, so the new administration dispenses with it, showing the volume of the change it is bringing. But all of this is mere window dressing. Dispensing with this rhetoric, ironically has the same effect as its imposition: that of galvanizing the citizenry in their support for whatever foreign policies the government wants to enact.
Not sure what to think about this exactly. Apparently churches across the U.S. are starting up support groups for people who are out of work due to the economic situation. These groups are practical on the one hand–people swap resume and interviewing tips and the like. On the other hand they are also there for the members to support one another “spiritually” in their quest for a job.
Of course, I’m not enough of a contrarian to just slam this notion. Certainly this is a good thing and people have a felt and real need for it, the difficulty of job loss is hard, etc. But I do find it interesting how the church is intervening to put people back to work across America. I wonder also why we aren’t hearing of churches across America sharing their financial resources to care for those that are out of work, in addition to providing emotional support groups…
From Douglas Haddow:
The monolithic notion of a “brand” – an infinitely dependable symbol of prosperity, happiness, comfort and security – is over. For nearly a century brands acted as the definitive medium through which we experienced capitalism. A brand’s strength came from its ability to transmit a consistently identical static message. Brands gave our reality a strong foundation: symbols dotting our mental and physical landscapes that we could use to navigate our way through life. But then brands began to show their age. They started to rust, chip, degrade, fall apart. All of a sudden brands cease to be the impenetrable fortresses of consumer relations we thought they were, and anyone could start a brand and do whatever he wanted with it. Gen X created flexible brands that catered to subterranean audiences, prompting Gen Y to embrace the idea of the “personal brand” – individuality expressed through a marketable system of identifiable signifiers.
And so these slick little icons – towering planets that represented entire universes of product experience – were slowly deconstructed to a point of irrelevance. Our daily lives are now inundated by a torrent of dead images and meaningless symbols from a bygone era, leaving us with one very important question to answer: What’s next?
In Romans 6:4 Paul states that “Christ was raised by the glory of the Father.” What would it mean to think a little more about what it means to say that Christ was raised by the Father’s glory? The context of the passage is centered on the theme of the superabundance of divine grace compared with sin (cf. 5:20). In keeping with this theme, the notion of Christ being resurrected by the Father’s glory seems to emphasize the superabundant luminosity of God. Christ descends into the fullness of death, but being the Son of the Father, he embodies the fullness of the divine presence in that very void, suffusing it with the inexhaustible life of God,the kabod of God.
The trinitarian logic that undergirds the Pauline claim here is one in which the glory of Trinity is understood as an inexhaustible plenitude of sheer life which cannot do other than invade the void that is death and transform it into utterly new life. God’s glory cannot do other than end in resurrection.
After many attempts I have finally succeeded at blogging every day for one month straight. My discovery of the ability to schedule posts for automatic publishing certainly helped this, but nevertheless, I still fee entitled to a nerdy, self-aggrandizing pat on the back.
In addition, this month has also more than doubled my previous records for the number of posts made in a single month, and scored more hits than any month prior. Glad people are interested. I’ll see what I can do to keep it coming.
Throughout Romans 4 Paul draws comparisons between the faith of Abraham and the form of faith that Christians are called to in response to the faithfulness of Christ. What is Abrahamic faith for Paul? According to 4:20 it seems to entail at least two things.
First, the text notes that “No distrust made [Abraham] waver concerning the promise of God.” The phraseology is interesting here. It does not simply say that Abraham perfectly trusted God, rather it says that no distrust caused him to waver regarding his commitment to believing God’s promise. Thus, Abrahamic faith is characterized by ongoing commitment in the face of uncertainty.
Second the verse goes on to note that “he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God.” Thus, Abrahamic faith is inherently doxological. Moreover, Abraham’s praxis of doxology is precisely what established and strengthened his trust in God’s promise.
Abrahamic faith is a nexus of commitment sustained through praise that persists in the absence of existential knowledge. This is, appropriately, an apt description of the faith of Jesus as well.
I’m an unapologetic fan of the post-Apatow fallout in American romantic comedies. Paul Rudd, Jason Segal, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill, et al are, in my mind the best and funniest thing that has happened to mainstream comedy in American cinema in years. However, most of these movies (with the notable exception of the unassailable Superbad) seem to end up awfully unsubversive in their endgame. At the end of the day everything comes to its apogee in conjugal or coital bliss (consider if you dare, the abysmally stupid Zack and Miri Make a Porno).
Not so with the latest, and to my mind the best, of these movies, I Love You Man. Rightly described as a bromance, this movie cuts against the usual grain of romantic comedies by focusing on the necessity of friendship in the scope of human flourishing. The oddly subversive message of the movie is that you can have the most perfect smoking hot girlfriend in the world, but you’re wedding day is going to suck and you’re going to feel incomplete if can’t share that experience with a true friend. In a wonderful twist, the movie cuts against the grain of the idolization of marriage and sex in contemporary culture by showing its emptiness, indeed, its pathetic character if it is not shaped and situated within sustaining friendships.
And its the funniest movie I’ve seen in ages.