procrastination, heresy, and navel-gazing.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

the life-blood of the historian

Just as Odysseus found on his visit to Hades that the dead seer Teiresias could not speak to him until his inarticulate ghost had been brought to life by the blood of a sacrifice, so from the life-blood of his own sympathy the historian gives a blood transfusion to the ghosts of the past.
G.B. Caird, The Language and Imagery of the Bible, 202-3, 1980 (1997).
the task of the historian is tough. it depends on what questions one asks of the past, and in some cases (of necessity?), creating the past. here is the understandable response:
It has been said that though God cannot alter the past, historians can; it is perhaps because they can be useful to Him in this respect that He tolerates their existence.
Samuel Butler, Erewhon Revisited, ch 5.
it is clear that sympathy is required, empathy even better. it doesn't make doing history any easier, but it surely helps.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Tom Frame :: Losing My Religion

the moore college library lecture this year was given by Tom Frame.

his lecture, entitled The Apologist's Anguish: publishing Losing my Religion : unbelief in Australia, was great. not only great, but heartfelt, and obviously tough.

the book (available here), looks at the history of Australia, considering who we are as a nation, and what our attitudes towards religion are. there are many great things about this book. there are many books written about the 'four horsemen' (dawkins, hitchens, dennett, harris), which he did do, but he also looked at outspoken australian atheists. the disappointing thing is that the australians are generally no better than the rest. in a empistemically humble manner, Frame carefully examines their arguments, and acknowledges fault where fault is due. however the atheists generally turn out to be nothing more than anti-theists, resorting to unfounded (and inaccurate) statements in lieu of an argued position. that is to say, where a discussion, or even an argument, could begin, there is no interest on their side.

as Frame shared the aftermath of publishing this book as well as his earlier one, 'Evolution in the Antipodes' (which, he said, incidentally came as a result of research connected with LMR), it was saddening, if not completely surprising, to hear of the metaphoric 'bucket of bile' he received in response. while i like feedback (any feedback!), what you receive when you suggest that unbelief isn't as reasonable as it may seem, or at least no more reasonable than belief, is a torrent of abuse.

i remember looking at a video put out by CPX once, and finding out that it had been linked to by a dawkins fan site. the unreasoned, abusive, bigoted messages ('comments') on youtube were appalling. listening to Frame, you saw the toll that these unreasonable anti-theists take on a man.

finally, it was good to read the last chapter of the book, and hear how, while not losing his religion, he definitely, like all of us, thinks long and hard, from time to time, about whether to lose his religion. this is not to say he has lost it, far from it. but as we seek to live in a world where respect and honest discussion are valued virtues, it would be nice to hear that sort of honesty from the other side of the ring from time to time.

warner brothers won't let me embed the clip, but the title of his book, said Frame, comes primarily from the film clip

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Jesus :: Man or Muse?

Something i was thinking through last year was how the theology of the gospels affected their historicity. it was interesting to read of the recent NT Wright conference via Mark Thompson's blog, particularly Richard Hay's criticism that Wright's approach makes the individual voices of the evangelists disappear (see the third paragraph of this summary of the conference).

and this was exactly my issue with the attention on the historical followed by Schweitzer, re-appropriated by Wright and even Paul Barnett - we can continue on our 'Quest'*, but what are we truly seeking to find?

the Jesus we are presented with is at once the historical man who lived, died, rose, and ascended; but we also meet him as the apostles knew him and convey him to us. and this is no tension, but elements that amplify each other.

image from schweitzer's book

*the abbreviated title of Schweitzer's 'Quest of the Historical Jesus' - also an abbreviated title for a longer English, for an even longer German title!

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

the catechist

so i haven't blogged.
but i have been doing stuff.
this is one:

the catechist was published online earlier this month. i wrote an article for it: a book review of Miroslav Volf'sExcusion and Embrace.
the book is great. hard work but great.
briefly, it's thinking about reconciliation and forgiveness.

have a read, tell me what you think.
and i'll try and post a bit more.

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