“Globalized, modern societies are characterized by their inability to reconcile the seemingly black and white univocity of scientific rationality with the ambiguous equivocity of post-modern pop-culture. This is not, however, despite its modern dimensions, a new development. It can be argued (as my new book, The Analogical Turn: Rethinking Modernity with Nicholas of Cusa, does) that this impasse between science and culture originated in the Early Renaissance. But this is only half of the story that needs to be told, since Nicholas of Cusa (1401–1464) also developed an alternative vision of the Age to Come. In contrast to his mainstream contemporaries, his appreciation of individual subjectivity and scientific rationality was deeply rooted in the analogical rationality of the Middle Ages, making him especially relevant for our time. [...]“
Read the rest here.
Now available in the Veritas series, and also now available at the book stall at the AAR/SBL:
Gift and the Unity of Being, by Antonio López, with a foreword by John Milbank (Wipf & Stock, 2013, 368pp).
Starting from both our originary experience of being given to ourselves and Jesus Christ’s archetypal self-donation, Gift and the Unity of Being elucidates the sense in which gift is the form of being’s unity, while unity itself constitutes the permanence of the gift of being. In dialogue with ancient and modern philosophers and theologians, López offers a synthetic, rather than systematic, account of the unity proper to being, the human person, God, and the relations among them. The book shows how contemplation of the triune God of Love through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit allows us to discover the eternal communion that being is and to which finite being is called. It also illustrates the sense in which God’s gratuitousness unexpectedly offers the human person the possibility to recognize and embrace his origin and destiny, and thus he is given to see and taste in God’s light the ever-fruitful, dramatic, and mysterious positivity of being.
“I believed I was simply opening a brilliant, but also a routine comment on Giussani’s thought. But what I discovered here was a masterpiece! This book is no more than one of the most complete expressions of the . . . paradigm of ‘gift’ in present Catholic thought, embracing the neglected polarity of gift and to-be-given.” —Emmanuel Tourpe, Institut d’Etudes Théologiques
“Gift and the Unity of Being ranks among one of the most impressive reflections on the nature of gift, ranging from deep reflection on the nature of birth to the Trinitarian God as the agapeic giver of all that is. It importantly stresses the reciprocity of giving and receiving, with due deference for the disproportion and asymmetry of the divine superiority. This book accomplishes this in both philosophical and theological registers, drawing especially on the work of Luigi Giussani.” —William Desmond, Villanova University
“In this wonderful book Antonio López offers a profound metaphysical interpretation of the gift of existence that is at once rigorous, systematic, and systemically dialogical. López engages all the contending views of the gift out there, and especially those of Derrida, Marion, Milbank, and Guissani, [and] he offers his own alternative, which is embedded in the tradition of Aquinas and his theological and philosophical precursors and heirs. . . . A true tour de force!” —Cyril O’Regan, University of Notre Dame
Also now available:
Parsifal, Wagner’s final opera, is considered by many to be one of the greatest religious musical works ever composed; but it is also one of the most difficult to understand and many have questioned whether it can be considered a “Christian” work at all. Added to this is the furious debate that has surrounded the composer as an anti-Semite, racist, and inspiration for Hitler. Richard Bell addresses such issues and argues that despite any personal failings Wagner makes a fundamental theological contribution through his many writings and ultimately in Parsifal which, he argues, preaches Christ crucified in a way that can never be captured by words alone. He argues that Wagner offers a vision of the divine and a “theology of Good Friday” that can both function as profound therapy and address current theological controversies.
“It is impossible to overstate the profundity, insight, and illumination of this extraordinary study. Richard Bell combines his detailed knowledge of Wagner’s music and writings with his professional expertise as theologian to offer a series of theological reflections on the composer’s last masterpiece, culminating in a view of its revelatory nature. The book represents a major contribution to Wagner studies and is simply a must for all lovers of the composer.” —Robert Pascall, Honorary Professor of Music Philology, University of Cambridge
“Richard Bell has done Wagner scholarship an enduring service. Wagner’s theology is an aspect of the composer’s intellectual universe that is seldom even acknowledged, let alone researched or understood; yet as Professor Bell demonstrates beyond any doubt, it is crucial to an understanding of Parsifal. . . . Bell is an eloquent and sure-footed guide through the labyrinth of theological and philosophical discourses that nourished Wagner’s final opera.” —Roger Allen, Fellow and Tutor in Music and Dean of St Peter’s College, Oxford
“Whoever may be interested in Richard Wagner’s music will appreciate this book, full of biographical, historical, philosophical, and musicological background information on the origins of his final stage work, Parsifal. But for a theologian interested in Wagner . . . this book can be an eye-opener. It demonstrates convincingly how many of Wagner’s literary motifs and musical/dramatic ideas have been deeply rooted in biblical tradition and Christian faith.” —Karl-Wilhelm Niebuhr, Professor for New Testament Studies, University of Jena, Germany
The Department of Theology
Heythrop College of the University of London
THE PRACTICE OF THE PRESENCE OF GOD
THEOLOGY AS A WAY OF LIFE
Saturday, January 11th, 2014
The Loyola Room, Heythrop College
9am to 6.30pm
£50 (includes lunch)
For further details and to book (booking is essential):
contact Sheelah Treflé Hidden at firstname.lastname@example.org
Cheques to be made out to:
Heythrop College of the University of London,
Kensington Square, London W8 5HQ
Seminar followed by a book launch with refreshments
St John’s College Research Centre, 45 St Giles
26 November 2013 at 4.30pm
It would be helpful if you could RSVP to email@example.com.
Download and distribute the flyer for this event here [PDF].
Merleau-Ponty and Theology:
An Afternoon Colloquium
Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge 12th December, 12.30–5.00
On Thursday 12th December we will be joined by four plenary speakers – Rowan Williams, Spike Bucklow, Orion Edgar and Oliver Soskice – each of whom will invite discussion on a different area of Merleau-Ponty’s work, with particular reference to themes in theology and philosophy of religion.
Interdisciplinary conversation will be encouraged. The event will be followed by a wine reception.
Attendance is free but will require registration. To register, contact co-organisers Ruth Jackson and Simon Ravenscroft at “merleaupontycambridge@gmail.
Full details, including the colloquium timetable, are available at:
PDF Flyer may be downloaded here.
Johannes Hoff’s The Analogical Turn: Rethinking Modernity with Nicholas of Cusa is available for pre-order in the UK through Alban Books. To purchase, click here. To download the Alban Books flyer, click here [PDF].
In the face of the late modern crisis of Western science and culture, The Analogical Turn recovers Nicholas of Cusa’s alternative vision of modernity and, in doing so, develops a fresh perspective on the challenges of our time. In contrast to Cusa’s mainstream contemporaries, his appreciation of individuality, creativity, and scientific precision was deeply rooted in the analogical rationality of the Middle Ages. He revived and transformed the tradition of scientific realism in a manner that now, retrospectively, offers new insights into the “completely ordinary chaos” of postmodern everyday life. Johannes Hoff offers a new vision of the history of modernity and the related secularisation narrative, a deconstruction of the basic assumptions of postmodernism, and an unfolding of a liturgically grounded concept of common-sense realism in this original book.
Johannes Hoff, Author
Johannes Hoff is Professor of Systematic Theology at Heythrop College in the University of London.
To purchase, click here.
Now available: The Analogical Turn: Rethinking Modernity with Nicholas of Cusa (Interventions), by Johannes Hoff (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., November 2013, 267pp).
Societies today, says Johannes Hoff, are characterized by their inability to reconcile seemingly black-and-white scientific rationality with the ambiguity of postmodern pop culture. In the face of this crisis, his book The Analogical Turn recovers the fifteenth-century thinker Nicholas of Cusa’s alternative vision of modernity to develop a fresh perspective on the challenges of our time.
In contrast to his mainstream contemporaries, Cusa’s appreciation of individuality, creativity, and scientific precision was deeply rooted in the analogical rationality of the Middle Ages. He revived and transformed the tradition of scientific realism in a manner that now, retrospectively, offers new insights into the “completely ordinary chaos” of postmodern everyday life.
Hoff’s original study offers a new vision of the history of modernity and the related secularization narrative, a deconstruction of the basic assumptions of postmodernism, and an unfolding of a liturgically grounded concept of common-sense realism.
“The Analogical Turn by Johannes Hoff for the first time locates Nicholas of Cusa without anachronism as a post-nominalist realist, who reworked the inherited analogical vision of Christian theology in a simultaneously late Gothic and Renaissance manner. As Hoff explains, this idiom offers us a new way forward today. . . . Much more than a monograph on a historical figure, this imaginatively crafted and extremely scholarly volume constitutes one of the most significant works of theology in the twenty-first century so far. I believe that it will exert a very considerable influence on future theoretical reflections both within theology and without.” — John Milbank, University of Nottingham
“In this fascinating book Johannes Hoff shows us how Nicholas of Cusa sought to express the insights of the classical and medieval worldview in the conceptuality of the modern. With enormous learning and great insight, Hoff’s Analogical Turn illuminates some of the urgent problems of philosophy and theology today.” — Andrew Louth, Durham University
“With The Analogical Turn: Rethinking Modernity with Nicholas of Cusa Johannes Hoff has given us the most challenging and most readable book on the fifteenth-century cardinal to have appeared in English. But, as the title suggests, at issue is much more — the shape and fate of our modern world. Recently there has been much talk about this being a postmodern, postsecular age. Hoff’s book should make such talk more thoughtful.” — Karsten Harries, Yale University
“This work by Johannes Hoff crucially enhances our understanding of the origins of modernity in the late Middle Ages. . . . He shows how the fragmented and illusory modern world in which we live was not an inevitable outcome of the cultural and intellectual upheavals of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. There is an alternative modernity, centered on a theological symbolic reality, which can be derived chiefly from the work of fifteenth-century theologian, philosopher, and mathematician Nicholas of Cusa. There is a way of radically rethinking our modern cultural and intellectual malaise. This is scholarship of the very highest caliber. Hoff’s book will establish itself as one of the most significant works of Christian theology and philosophy in recent years.” — Simon Oliver, University of Nottingham
“Globalized, modern societies are characterized by their inability to reconcile the seemingly black and white univocity of scientific rationality with the ambiguous equivocity of post-modern pop-culture. This is not, however, despite its modern dimensions, a new development. It can be argued (as my new book, The Analogical Turn: Rethinking Modernity with Nicholas of Cusa, does) that this impasse between science and culture originated in the Early Renaissance. But this is only half of the story that needs to be told, since Nicholas of Cusa (1401–1464) also developed an alternative vision of the Age to Come. In contrast to his mainstream contemporaries, his appreciation of individual subjectivity and scientific rationality was deeply rooted in the analogical rationality of the Middle Ages, making him especially relevant for our time.” Read the rest here.
A discussion on Emmanuel Falque’s Passer le rubicon: Philosophie et théologie: essai sur les frontières with Paul Gilbert, S.J. and Michaël Foessel. [Purchase France (Amazon.fr) | Purchase UK (Amazon.co.uk)]
Becoming Human: Meditations on Christian Anthropology in Word and Image, by John Behr (St Vladimirs Seminary Press, September 23, 2013, 136 pages).
This book reflects upon various dimensions and implications of the astounding fact that Christ shows us what it is to be God by the way he dies as a human being and, in so doing, simultaneously shows us what it is to be a human being. Connecting the end -”It is finished”- with the beginning – “Let us make a human being”-
Fr John Behr challenges us to think again about who we are, as male and female, what we are called to become, and the relation between life and death in this journey. Presented in a poetic and meditative manner, adorned by images and offset quotations, this book inclines the reader towards a meditative reading, weighing, rather than skimming, each word and image.
An audio lecture given on ‘Becoming Human’ by Fr Behr can be listened to here (2013 Lenten Retreat, hosted by St. Justin Martyr Orthodox Church at Jacksonville, FL):
The Literary Agenda is a series of short polemical monographs about the importance of literature and of reading in the wider world and about the state of literary education inside schools and universities. The category of ‘the literary’ has always been contentious. What is clear, however, is how increasingly it is dismissed or is unrecognised as a way of thinking or an arena for thought. It is sceptically challenged from within, for example, by the sometimes rival claims of cultural history, contextualized explanation, or media studies. It is shaken from without by even greater pressures: by economic exigency and the severe social attitudes that can follow from it; by technological change that may leave the traditional forms of serious human communication looking merely antiquated. For just these reasons this is the right time for renewal, to start reinvigorated work into the meaning and value of literary reading.
Repetition and Identity offers a theory of the existing thing as such. A thing only has identity and consistency when it has already been repeated, but repetition summons difference and the shadow invocation of a connecting sign. In contrast to the perspectives of Post-structuralism, Catherine Pickstock proposes that signs are part of reality, and that they truthfully express the real. She also proposes that non-identical repetition involves analogy, rather than the Post-structuralist combination of univocity and equivocity, or of rationalism with scepticism. This proposal, which is happy for reality to make sense, involves, however, a subjective decision which is to be poetically performed. A wager is laid upon the possibility of a consistency which sustains the subject, in continuity with the elusive consistency of nature. This wager is played out in terms of a performative argument concerning the existential stances open to human beings. It is concluded that the individual sustains this quest within the context of an inter-subjective search for an historical consistency of culture. But can ethical consistency, and the harmonisation of this with an aesthetic surplus of an ‘elsewhere’, invoked by the sign, be achieved without a religious gesture? And can this gesture avoid a tragic tension between ethical commitment and religious renunciation? Pickstock suggests a Kierkegaardian re-reading of the Patristic categories of ‘recapitulation’ and ‘reconstitution’ can reconcile this tension. The quest for the identity and consistency of the thing leads us from the subject through fiction and history and to sacred history, to shape an ontology which is also a literary theory and a literary artefaction.
This book provides a full, contextual study of St Irenaeus of Lyons, the first great theologian of the Christian tradition. John Behr sets Irenaeus both within his own context of the second century, a fundamental period for the formation of Christian identity, elaborating the distinction between orthodoxy and heresy and expounding a comprehensive theological vision, and also within our own contemporary context, in which these issues are very much alive again. Against the commonly-held position that ‘orthodoxy’ was established by excluding others, the ‘heretics’, Behr argues that it was the self-chosen separation of the heretics that provided the occasion for those who remained together to clarify the lineaments of their faith in a church that was catholic by virtue of embracing different voices in a symphony of many voices and whose chief architect was Irenaeus, who, as befits his name, urged peace and toleration.
The first chapter explores Irenaeus’ background in Asia Minor, as a disciple of Polycarp of Smyrna, his activity in Gaul, and his involvement with the Christian communities in Rome. The theological and institutional significance of his interventions is made clear by tracing the coalescence of the initially fractionated communities in Rome into a united body over the first two centuries.
The second chapter provides a full examination of Irenaeus’ surviving writings, concentrating especially on the literary and rhetorical structure of his five books Against the Heresies, his ‘refutation and overthrowal’ of his opponents in the first two books, and his establishing a framework for articulating orthodoxy.
The final chapter explores the theological vision of Irenaeus itself, on its own terms rather than the categories of later dogmatic theology, grounded in an apostolic reading of Scripture and presenting a vibrant and vigorous account of the diachronic and synchronic economy or plan of God, seen through the work of Christ which reveals how the Hands of God have been at work from the beginning, fashioning the creature, made from mud and animated with a breath of life, into his own image and likeness, vivified by the Holy Spirit, to become a ‘living human being, the glory of God’.
Métaphysiques rebelles: Genèse et structure d’une science au Moyen Âge, by Olivier Boulnois (Paris: Puf, 2013).
« Au Moyen Âge, « métaphysique » cesse d’être le nom d’une série de livres d’Aristote pour devenir celui d’une science, la plus haute de toutes. Cet ouvrage explore ses origines, à travers le néoplatonisme grec et la philosophie arabe. Science théologique, la métaphysique conserve pourtant une dimension d’exercice spirituel. Tournée vers la considération rationnelle de Dieu, elle rivalise avec le kalâm musulman comme avec la théologie chrétienne.
Mais la genèse n’est rien sans une interrogation sur les structures. Peut-on ramener le jaillissement infini des métaphysiques au Moyen Âge à une forme d’unité générale ? Comment s’harmonisent leur orientation vers l’être et leur tension vers le divin ? À quelles conditions la métaphysique peut-elle devenir une science transcendantale? Une métaphysique nominaliste est-elle possible ? Comment naît le concept d’ontologie ? Telles sont les questions que cette série d’études explore, sur l’école d’Ammonius, sur les positions d’Alfarabi et d’Avicenne, de Thomas d’Aquin et Henri de Gand, de Duns Scot et Guillaume d’Ockham – mais aussi sur celles des anonymes et des sans-grade, jusqu’à la scolastique protestante.
Ce livre souhaite d’abord faire droit à la « diversité rebelle » des métaphysiques médiévales. Il montre comment se croisent et se diffractent l’ontologie et la théologie. Mais il entend les regrouper autour de trois structures, et proposer ainsi une médiation entre la multiplicité infinie des positions historiques et l’unité abstraite d’une « essence de la métaphysique ».
On y lit que le concept d’« onto-théologie » est bien trop vaste pour être éclairant. On y découvre que l’entreprise métaphysique est profondément enracinée dans l’expérience de l’être pensant. En filigrane s’y dessinent quelques pistes pour renouveler la question de la métaphysique aujourd’hui.»
Christian Wisdom Meets Modernity
University of Notre Dame, Dec. 12-14, 2013
This conference will present the great wrestling match between Christian thinkers and modernity. Most of the speakers will perform their lectures in the guise of a heroic Christian thinker. Together they will form a constellation of witnesses who illuminate the contest between modernism and Christian wisdom. The cast of luminous stars includes Josef Pieper, Romano Guardini, Karl Barth, Blaise Pascal, John Paul II and Hans Urs von Balthasar. They will show how Christian thought illuminates modernity and lights the way through it. Key modern thinkers such as Martin Heidegger, Charles Darwin and Hans Jonas will be highlighted. Our speakers will discuss whether Christian philosophy has anything to teach us today, and what are the core constituents of conversion. The audience can expect to discover the basic elements of modern thinking, and how Christian wisdom has creatively engaged with them.
This conference will present the great wrestling match between Christian thinkers and modernity. Most of the speakers will perform their lectures in the guise of a heroic Christian thinker. Together they will form a constellation of witnesses who illuminate the contest between modernism and Christian wisdom.
Call for Papers
Logos 2014: The Atonement
May 8-10, 2014 at the University of Notre Dame
The focal point of the Christian religion is what is often referred to as “the Christ event”—an event that includes the incarnation of the second person of the Trinity in Jesus of Nazareth, as well as his life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. The atonement is a crucial part of this event. But, despite the absolute centrality of the atonement to Christian faith and practice, there are widely divergent theories about just which events constitute the atonement, about what exactly is accomplished in the atonement, and about how the events that constitute the atonement contribute to human salvation (whatever exactly that encompasses) and to whatever other ends were achieved by the atoning work of Christ. These and related issues (e.g., about the nature of atonement, reconciliation, and forgiveness in general) comprise the topic for the 2014 Logos Workshop in Philosophical Theology.
To have your paper considered for presentation at Logos 2014, please submit an abstract of the paper or the paper itself no later than October 15, 2013. Other things being equal, preference will be given to those who submit full papers by the deadline. We will let you know by December 1, 2013whether your paper has been provisionally accepted. Full acceptance will be conditional on submission of the full reading version of the paper by April 1, 2014.
Please send Abstracts or Full Papers to: analytictheology.logos@gmail.
For more information, please visit: http://philreligion.nd.edu/
Now available from Indiana University Press:
A Phenomenology of Christian Life
Glory and Night
Felix Ó Murchadha
“Ó Murchadha makes abundant and timely references to the philosophical tradition from Plato through Heidegger, but also, perhaps more so, to the post-Heideggerian developments sometimes considered together and at once as “the theological turn” in phenomenology. He is equally at home in the Christian theological traditions from Paul to Barth and von Balthasar.” —Jeffrey Bloechl, Boston College
How does Christian philosophy address phenomena in the world? Felix Ó Murchadha believes that seeing, hearing, or otherwise sensing the world through faith requires transcendence or thinking through glory and night (being and meaning). By challenging much of Western metaphysics, Ó Murchadha shows how phenomenology opens new ideas about being, and how philosophers of “the theological turn” have addressed questions of creation, incarnation, resurrection, time, love, and faith. He explores the possibility of a phenomenology of Christian life and argues against any simple separation of philosophy and theology or reason and faith.
Indiana Series in the Philosophy of Religion, 272 pp.
cloth 978-0-253-01000-1 $50.00
ebook 978-0-253-01009-4 $42.99
More information at:
Customers outside the US:
Indiana University Press is marketed by Combined Academic Publishers (CAP) in Continental Europe, the UK, Ireland, Africa, and the Middle East. Visit CAP’s website for more information: http://www.
Forthcoming from Mohr Siebeck:
Philosophy, Theology and the Sciences (PTSc)
Edited by Celia Deane-Drummond (Notre Dame), Dirk Evers (Halle-Wittenberg), Niels H. Gregersen(Copenhagen), Gregory R. Peterson (Brookings)
Managing Editor: Dirk Evers
Associate Editors: Conor Cunningham (Nottingham), David Fergusson (Edinburgh), Agustín Fuentes (Notre Dame), Peter Harrison (Queensland), Kristian Köchy (Kassel), Nancey Murphy (Pasadena), Robert J. Russell (Berkeley), Mikael Stenmark (Uppsala), Günter Thomas (Bochum), Wesley Wildman (Boston),Gayle E. Woloschak (Chicago)
Philosophy, Theology and the Sciences (PTSc) is a new peer-reviewed biannual journal which provides a platform for constructive and critical interactions between the natural sciences in all their varieties (from physics and biology to psychology, anthropology and social science) and the fields of contemporary philosophy and theology. It invites scholars, religious or non-religious, to participate in that endeavor. The journal provides the rare opportunity to examine together the truth claims found in theology, philosophy, and the sciences, as well as the methods found in each disciplines and the meanings derived from them. Each issue will have a topical focus. The first four issues will be on “Naturalism”, “Human Nature and Evolution”, “Neuroscience and Morality”, and “Contingency”.
For more information about this journal, and how to subscribe, click here.
My name is Tina Sørensen, I work for the Danish Cultural Institute in Edinburgh and I am getting in touch again to ensure you received the email below, just before the summer break.
This year we are celebrating 200 years since the Danish philosopher, theologian, poet, religious author and social critic, Søren Kierkegaard’s birth, Sunday, 5th May 1813.
The Danish Cultural Institute, Copenhagen has produced a poster exhibition to enlighten and spread the knowledge of Kierkegaard, both in Denmark and abroad.
The exhibition consists of 16 large colourful posters, incorporating some of Kierkegaard’s work and an insight in his life. It includes biographical information, his views on Christian ethics and Kierkegaard as a psychologist in an era where modern psychology had only just taken the first steps.
Text by Joakim Garff, ph.d. professor at the Søren Kierkegaard Research Centre, co-editor of Søren Kierkegaard’s writings and chairman of Søren Kierkegaard Company from 1992 to 1999 and graphics by Kvorning Design & KommunikationKorvning Design & Communication.
Our aim is to share this exhibition with anyone who would be interested, and has the space to hang these posters (size 70×160 cm, please see PDF version). It will be available from now on and there will be no costs involved.
Please get in touch, if this is of interest.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Tina M Sørensen
Now available from Ashgate Publishing…
Relating God and the Self: Dynamic Interplay, by Jan-Olav Henriksen, Norwegian School of Theology, Norway [Purchase from Ashgate Publishing]
By discussing critically different ways the symbol of God functions in the formation of the self, this book develops a nuanced and original approach to the interplay between God and the self. It suggests that play is actually an important metaphor in order to develop a dynamic understanding of religion’s way of relating God and the Self. This approach challenges understandings of religion focussing only its cognitive claims, as well as those who emphasize doctrinal orthodoxy as the most important element in religion.
‘Henriksen’s text is marked with an existential nerve. Drawing on relevant theories from philosophy of religion, systematic theology and psychology of religion he opens up a fascinating, creative space for discussions about the development of the Human Self in its relation to God. His way of analysis and argument is theoretically well informed, sharply critical and constructive. He broadens the interpretation of religion in significant ways by giving serious attention to the meaning and function of emotions and psychodynamic processes in religious experience. I find this especially fruitful. It enriches the discussion about how religion and religious symbols actually “work” in the process of developing a meaningful Self.’ – Leif Gunnar Engedal, Norwegian School of Theology, Norway
René Girard and Secular Modernity: Christ, Culture, and Crisis, by Scott Cowdell
Download this flyer to see how you can get this book for the sale price of $23.00: René Girard and Secular Modernity Sale Price Flyer [PDF]
In René Girard and Secular Modernity: Christ, Culture, and Crisis, Scott Cowdell provides the first systematic interpretation of René Girard’s controversial approach to secular modernity. Cowdell identifies the scope, development, and implications of Girard’s thought, the centrality of Christ in Girard’s thinking, and, in particular, Girard’s distinctive take on the uniqueness and finality of Christ in terms of his impact on Western culture. In Girard’s singular vision, according to Cowdell, secular modernity has emerged thanks to the Bible’s exposure of the cathartic violence that is at the root of religious prohibitions, myths, and rituals. In the literature, the psychology, and most recently the military history of modernity, Girard discerns a consistent slide into an apocalypse that challenges modern ideas of romanticism, individualism, and progressivism.
In the first three chapters, Cowdell examines the three elements of Girard’s basic intellectual vision (mimesis, sacrifice, biblical hermeneutics) and brings this vision to a constructive interpretation of “secularization” and “modernity,” as these terms are understood in the broadest sense today. Chapter 4 focuses on modern institutions, chiefly the nation state and the market, that function to restrain the outbreak of violence. And finally, Cowdell discusses the apocalyptic dimension of Girard’s theory in relation to modern warfare and terrorism. Here, Cowdell engages with the most recent writings of Girard (particularly his Battling to the End) and applies them to further conversations in cultural theology, political science, and philosophy. Cowdell takes up and extends Girard’s own warning concerning an alternative to a future apocalypse: “What sort of conversion must humans undergo, before it is too late?”
“Scott Cowdell’s book is the first comprehensive study of modernity and secularity in René Girard’s thought. Cowdell brings Girard’s theory into a fruitful dialogue with leading approaches on secularization like those of Max Weber, Hans Blumenberg, Peter Berger, and Charles Taylor. Scholars and students of theology, philosophy, and sociology will benefit from this wide-ranging overview of the relationship between religion, modernity, and secularization.” —Wolfgang Palaver, Institute of Systematic Theology, University of Innsbruck
“In a stunning analysis, Cowdell shows that Girard’s sustained intellectual pursuit, which began in the 1960s with his mimetic analysis of modern realist fiction, has always been about the (Durkheimian) religiosity of the modern and postmodern social condition, even when it has dealt explicitly with the religious origins of antique culture. Cowdell demonstrates the ‘highly explanatory and predictive’ quality of Girard’s cultural anthropology, within which the ‘secular’ does not (and indeed cannot) escape the ‘religious.’ This is a powerful book.” —Ann W. Astell, University of Notre Dame
“Scott Cowdell is one of the most interesting theological voices of his generation. The themes in Cowdell’s work are always cosmic and vast in scope. This is a remarkable reading of our contemporary situation through the lens of René Girard. Accurate, informed, and illuminating, Cowdell has written a fabulous book. For the person needing a way into Girard and for the person who is already using Girard’s work, Cowdell brings out the implications of Girard for the moment in which we live. An absolutely essential addition to your personal library.” —The Very Reverend Dr. Ian Markham, Virginia Theological Seminary
On November 15-16, 2013, the Washington, D.C. session of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family will sponsor a conference, “Faith, the Fundamental Act of Christian Existence.” With this conference the Institute wishes to contribute to the reflection on the nature of faith called for by Benedict XVI (Porta Fidei, no. 8).
Our hope is to deepen the unity that binds the content of faith in Christ with the act by which we choose to entrust ourselves freely and fully to the Triune God. In light of the wealth of the Church’s tradition, we would like to pursue this reflection bearing in mind that our contemporary culture treasures science as its epistemological paradigm and fosters a division between the human person and his belonging to the Church, on the one hand, and between the truths that constitute Christian faith and the way the Christian orders his or her existence, on the other hand. The conference will thus address issues such as: believing, seeing, and knowing the mystery of God according to Scriptures; faith, the fulfillment of reason; the ecclesial dimension of faith; the historical dimension of faith; and witnessing to faith through the family.
Registration for the conference is now open, and we hope that you will be able to join us for this important occasion. Registration forms and the full conference schedule are available on the Institute’s website.
‘Every doctrine which does not reach the one thing necessary, every separated philosophy, will remain deceived by false appearances. It will be a doctrine, it will not be Philosophy’, (Maurice Blondel, 1861-1949)
The Centre of Theology and Philosophy is a research-led institution organised at the interstices of theology and philosophy. It is founded on the conviction that these two disciplines cannot be adequately understood or further developed, save with reference to each other. This is true in historical terms, since we cannot comprehend our Western cultural legacy, unless we acknowledge the interaction of the Hebraic and Hellenic traditions. It is also true conceptually, since reasoning is not fully separable from faith and hope, or conceptual reflection from revelatory disclosure. The reverse also holds, in either case.
The Centre is concerned with:
The Theology Department of the University of Nottingham, within which the COTP is situated, was awarded the top 5* A grade in the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE 2001). Nottingham was one of only two theology Departments who submitted all its staff and was rated 5* A.
For all enquiries, please email Conor Cunningham:
To return to the Nottingham Theology Department:
(Sculpture by Sara Cunningham-Bell)