Know Thyself…

Am I right to catch a pattern or convergence of logic between these three comments?

  • Theologian

Someone rightly said, “A person either has character or he invents a method.” I believe that and have been trying for years to trade method for character.

from Hans Frei, Types of Christian Theology, Eds. Hunsinger and Placher (Yale Univ. Pr, 1994), 19.

  • Church Leader

It [this study] will encourage leaders to focus first on their own integrity and on the nature of their own presence rather than on techniques for manipulating or motivating others.

from Ed Friedman, A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix, Rev. Ed. (Church Publishing, 2017), 14.

  • Preacher

This book suggests that one answer to the question of what is wrong with preaching is that preachers are working with inadequate metaphors of identity, what we will call “homiletic identities,” that fail to encourage a more faithful preaching in the image and practice of Christ. Identity shapes practice; if you know who you are, you know what to do. If you do not know who you are as a preacher, then your preaching suffers.

This book asks not what is the right technique to master, but rather what is the right homiletic identity to be mastered by.

from Trygve Johnson, The Preacher as Liturgical Artist (Cascade, 2014), xii. The metaphors of identity Johnson proceeds to unpack are those of the preacher as teacher, herald, and liturgical artist — for those wondering.


Darren Sarisky on Webster-style theological theology

…operating theologically entails that the discipline cannot frame an account of its own procedures without direct recourse to theological categories…

This requires, first, that theologians grant God priority in their study, rather than allowing a philosophical account of the subjective conditions of the enquirer to determine their method. The problem with a transcendental anthropology is that it grants only the slightest formative role to theology in conceiving of the nature of the human knower, and, among other things, this obscures the way in which theological reason is caught in the dynamics of the fall and regeneration. Taking one’s cue from a theological ontology, by contrast, sets the discussion of theological inquiry into an entirely different register. In this case, who the human inquirer is is spelled out by recourse to a theological anthropology; the proximate objects of study, written texts, are understood as part of the deposit of ecclesial tradition; and the practice of intellectual reflection can be unpacked as an episode in the history of the reconciliation of God and human beings, one in which inquirers together form the company of the saints. What makes the crucial difference is that each of these topics is viewed sub specie divnitatis.

from Theological Theology: Essays in Honor of John Webster, Eds. Nelson, Sarisky, and Stratis (Bloomsbury, 2015), 3.

Robert Joustra on the false ultimacy of politics

[Reviewing Nick Spencer’s The Political Samaritan: How Power Hijacked a Parable]

Maybe our politics has become so ultimate because it’s one of the last things we have in common. Public narrows to mean political. The state, the last public project, exhausts our collective imagination, when it’s really only one institution, a specifically political one to exercise the good of justice, but hardly all goods. It thus has an essential but deeply limited function. The American solution, so far, has been to enforce a kind of commonness via those same mechanisms, spiraling the existential stakes of the normally banal routines of political stewardship into a kind of moral, cultural, and spiritual winner-takes-all. The better solution, probably, is to have more things in common, to branch out from the winner-takes-all hysteria of modern politics and rediscover other facets of human life, art, music, literature, sports, family, and so on, whose goods can never be exhausted by something as rude and mundane as politics. By making everything political, we’ve ruined everything, like the good Samaritan, who ends up as a stand-in for just the most fashionable debates on the size of government, a political problem so far removed from the actual parable that an outsider would have to do considerable study to learn how we got here.

from “The Politics of the Good Samaritan,” Comment (Jan 2018)

See also an earlier post on this same theme HERE

Gilbert Meilaender on when curiosity can be vicious

Many possibilities may pique my curiosity — I may wonder how … human beings respond to experiments harmful to their bodies, or even to suffering; how the development of a fertilized egg could be stimulated to produce a monster rather than a normal human being; how to preserve a human being alive forever. I may wonder, but it would be wrong to seek to know. Not, in every case, because I cannot know, but because I cannot possess such knowledge while willing what is good. … To love the good and to possess what we love are, in this life, not always compatible. Hence, to seek always to love the good is to commit ourselves to a life that seeks to receive, not to possess.

Although Augustine does not outline for us any general principle by which we can always distinguish a proper desire for knowledge from the vice of curiosity, we can learn from him the attitude which may at least make virtue possible — an attitude characterized by a reverent desire to understand creation rather than a longing to possess the experience of knowing.

from The Theory and Practice of Virtue (Univ. Notre Dame Pr., 1984), 140.

Lawrence Principe on a species of scientific fundamentalism

The point is that [John W.] Draper [d. 1882] and [Andrew D.] White [d. 1918] were illegitimately transporting the emerging social stratification of their own era backward into earlier times. By constructing the notion that two rival camps – scientists and religionists – had existed throughout history, they set up an inherent and essential rivalry between science and religion that did not exist as such. Interestingly, despite their explicit use of a military metaphor, they implicitly – whether consciously or unconsciously – borrowed the imagery and structure that characterized the history of religion itself. They created a litany of martyrs – most notably Bruno and Galileo, but also Roger Bacon, Michael Servetus, and others – and a hagiography of sinless and oppressed reformers and visionaries that populated the scientists’ camp. They implicitly recast scientists as prophets and priests, the recipients of special favor and enlightenment, who brought forth truth and struggled to spread a gospel of science and progress against the darkness and ignorance of the pagans (i.e., the old priesthood of religion). In this way, they co-opted for themselves all the drama and emotional power of the story of the early Christians persecuted by – but finally victorious over – oppressive Roman paganism. This origin myth of science laid the foundation for setting up science as a religion of its own.

This origin myth of science remains extraordinarily powerful today, and it stands at the core of scientism. It is constantly repeated uncritically by a host of popular books and television programs, and as a virtual shibboleth by the prophets of scientism. Indeed, it has been my personal experience that it is dangerous (or at least foolhardy) to question its orthodoxy around those of a scientistic persuasion. I remember receiving an email from an undergraduate student in the sciences who had recently read some of my publications on early modern science. He was literally distraught because I had demonstrated that the heroes he had been taught to revere – Kepler, Boyle, Newton, and the like – were actually…religious believers. How could this be, he asked. For him, it was a crisis of faith, with all the characteristics of a crisis of religious belief. And indeed it was, his faith in the origin myth and the religion of science had been shaken. I fairly regularly get mail from members of the public who have read my more popular books and lectures, and while I routinely critique the claims of both religionists and scientists, I rarely hear anything negative from the religious side. But when I present well-established historical evidence that undercuts the simplistic warfare version of the Galileo and the church narrative, or enumerate scientific and logical features of medieval theology, or, perhaps worst of all, point out false historical claims or sloppy reasonings made by scientistic prophets like Carl Sagan, then the criticism, the expressions of disbelief, and the declamations of ulterior motives fly freely. Two features emerge: first, any positive statement about historical figures traditionally placed in the religion camp is unacceptable. Second, most such critics rely entirely on the origin myth mentioned earlier, and simply will not accept any evidence to the contrary, responding to such evidence with a simple no or by repeating now-discredited accounts. This is why I must conclude—as others have done—that the strong scientism of the modern day is not merely a religion, but is in fact a kind of fundamentalism.

from “Scientism and the Religion of Science,” in Scientism: The New Orthodoxy, Eds. Daniel Robinson and Richard Williams (Bloomsbury, 2015), 50-51.

Telford Work on science, religion, and facing reality

Literalistic creation science must disregard or distort the massive and accumulating credible evidence of humanity’s evolutionary origins and character as well as the signs that the Bible’s creation accounts are not literal chronologies. Intelligent Design theory, already unattractive to scientists as a “science stopper,” cannot match its rival’s elegance and explanatory power. Likewise, naturalistic accounts of “religion” misrepresent traditions such as historic Christianity that do not fit their scientific paradigms. [Daniel] Dennett’s and [Michael] Shermer’s learned speculations on the rise of religious ideas and experiences uncannily ignore two thousand years of insistent Christian testimony that the bedrock of our tradition is not some mystical experience, archetypical figure, or compelling idea, but simply the apostles’ testimony to Jesus’ death and resurrection and the powerful outpouring of his Holy Spirit. In other words, neither side can really afford to take the other side’s evidence seriously. Both of these camps of imperialists are fighting for what all empires treasure: its vision of reality, whose most stubborn enemy is not disbelievers but reality itself.

from “What Have the Galapagos to Do with Jerusalem? Scientific Knowledge in Theological Context,” in Eds. James K.A. Smith and Amos Yong, Science and the Spirit: A Pentecostal Engagement with the Sciences (Indiana Univ. Pr., 2010).