Friday, May 29, 2009

Liturgy & Theology: thoughts from Aidan Kavanagh

A while back I posted some thoughts on Aidan Kavanagh, the great liturgical scholar whom I came across quite by accident in writing a paper that was indirectly related to some of his work. I've been digging into some of Kavanagh's essays today and thought I'd share some more of his thoughts. The following comes from a 1967 article in Worship, "How Rite Develops: Some Laws Intrinsic to Liturgical Evolution":

One has only to look at the violence of the Reformers' rejection of the mass as it was then popularly regarded and celebrated, and at the radical attempts many of the Reformers made in bringing the liturgy into line with the scriptural data as then understood, to appreciate the position Trent found itself in as far as the liturgy was concerned. The council indeed initiated some reforms, but in the long run a consensus prevailed in the council itself and in the counter-reformation church that the problem was so emotionally charged and so vast as to require serious action only at some later and more propitious date. This date, infelicitous though it may seem to some, is our own era- an era that has, due to its own tenor and needs, precipitated the unresolved problem of liturgical evolution in even more critical terms than in the sixteenth century.

This was written in 1967, just after Vatican II and towards the beginning of the massive postconciliar liturgical reform that occured in Roman Catholicism... this was also Kavanagh before his substantial disappointment with how the reform of the rite of initiation played out and some of his more controversial writings about the origins and reform of confirmation. Even here, however, his aggressive style of identifying areas of Church life in need of reform, along with the historical trajectory to vividly contextualize current problems, is present. This is what has impressed me the most about Kavanagh since discovering his work. Whether or not he convinces me in all of his historical arguments, there is a sense of coherence in thought about the structures of the Christian life, an awareness of various strands of tradition that is often absent in other scholars. Josef Jungmann is another liturgical scholar that I think displayed the same sort of acumen.

Kavanagh is also goad to theologians. He wrote at one point with regard to Geoffrey Wainwright, "Dr. Wainwright is without doubt our most articulate and graceful evangelist to that tribe of intelligent people usually called systematic theologians." The evangel presented to that tribe, of course, was that liturgical theology is first theology, and systematic only second. One can disagree with that sentiment, but there's no question that the careful work of liturgical scholars like Kavanagh should be taken with the utmost seriousness by those of us who are engaged in more systematic aspects of theological reflection. Theoria can often subsume the complexities of life and practice with the aesthetic smoothing tendencies of its systemic grasp, and we would do well to pay attention to where we might be guilty of these liturgical... or other... abuses.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

From the cataloger's desk...

Some interesting books that I'm cataloging right now:















  • Manichaeism, by Michel Tardieu. Translated from the French by M. B. DeBevoise.















Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Obama & abortion again... critique of a hollow commentary

Adam Darlage writes in last week's Sightings, discussing the phenomenon of a litmus test for Catholic identity and comparing the current U.S. abortion debate with sixteenth century disputes over eucharistic doctrine. According to Darlage, Catholics who are making noise against Obama today are similar to those conservatives who objected to serving communion under both kinds (serving bread and wine rather than simply bread) to the laity. In the sixteenth century, the concern of the "liberals" was that doctrine was being enforced too strictly and that parishioners would jump ship to Protestantism. In the current situation, I guess, Darlage is trying to say that some Catholics are fearful of parishioners jumping ship over too much rigidity on the abortion issue, and that conservative Catholics see leniancy as unacceptable in the same way that the Jesuits did during the post-Reformation period.

Even given that there is a disagreement about the moral seriousness of abortion (really, because there is disagreement), it's extremely unhelpful that Darlage doesn't try to tackle the subject of whether... just maybe... abortion as a doctrinal issue is categorically different than eucharistic administration as a doctrinal issue. He uses the empty labels of "conservative" and "liberal" but doesn't for a moment discuss the sort of dispute that is taking place, beyond recognizing that 1) there is one, 2) that it could believably be divided along conservative/liberal lines, and 3) that it has been tied to the question of Catholic "identity".

Bravo. So now we have a 700-word column that says "people are disagreeing about stuff". What it doesn't say is anything substantive about what it means for Catholic identity or what the relative merits are of the those arguing on either side of the debate. And my suspicion is, because communion under both kinds has been the norm for some time, that the implicit argument behind this explicit non-argument is that opposition to pro-choice legislation will and even should fall away as a serious defining characteristic of Catholic identity.

News from T&T Clark on the Barth prefaces...

Hopefully I'll have more substantive posts in a few weeks... Chicago's trimester system goes late so I'll still be pretty busy until mid-June. This is worth a read, in the meantime:


Church Dogmatics Prefaces:

Dear all,

there has been some discussion going on in the blogosphere about the new Study Edition of the Church Dogmatics. Ben Myers had a very friendly post on his blog about the new set. The main criticism was that the prefaces and forewords both by the editors of the old set and by Karl Barth himself were not included in the new Study Edition.

In response to this we will make all prefaces available as pdf-files to all who have bought the Study Edition. In order to get access to the website, please send the postcard back to us which you had in the set or go to www.continuumbooks.com/dogmatics to register for the update service. You will then receive an email with a password which will give you access to the forewords (and eventually to the indexes for all individual volumes).

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Michèle Lamont on philosophy amongst the disciplines

There is some lively discussion about philosophy departments coming out of an interview on Michèle Lamont's recent book, How Professors Think. No mention of theology at all, but there is some interesting commentary on different humanities disciplines. Quoting from the interview,

Philosophy is a problem discipline [for inter-disciplinary proposal reviews], and it's defined as such by program officers. Philosophers do not believe that nonphilosophers are qualified to evaluate their work. Perhaps that comes out of the dominance of analytic philosophy, with its stress on logic and rigor. Philosophers think their discipline is more demanding than other fields. Even its practitioners define the discipline as contentious. They don't see that as a problem; argument and dispute are the discipline's defining characteristics.

All that conflict makes it difficult to get consensus on the value of a philosophy proposal — or to convince people from other disciplines of its merits. The panels I studied are multidisciplinary. Nonphilosophers are often frustrated with the philosophers. They often discounted what philosophers had to say as misplaced intellectual superiority.

The Crooked Timber has an ongoing discussion on this, and Ben Alpers is asking how philosophers interact with intellectual historians in particular, who are often in conversation with the history of philosophy on some level.

I wonder what a similar discussion about theology and philosophy might look like. It may of course depend on which crowds we're talking about... I think the observation that continental philosophy tends to be more on speaking terms with historians would carry over to theology, though in analytic philosophy the relationship might be more strained. Analytic philosophy of religion, so I gather, is probably either actually being done by the analytical theists themselves or is not a matter of much interest (except for people who publish in Philo).

I have for some time been intrigued by the lack of concern for history in philosophy. Of course there are exceptions, but even where they present themselves, I can't get over the huge gaps in consideration, exemplified by a line of demarcation between the "modern" and "everything else" (the aspiring medievalist in me just screams... I can't imagine what the bona fide medievalists think). A number of philosophy journals are simply not interested in anything that is not part of current discussion; in contrast, my sense is that most of the flagship systematic theology journals could just as well be historical theology journals, considering how much interest they tend to show for historical thinkers as conversation partners with current constructive theological inquiry.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Some books...

  • I'm not a huge fan of Moltmann, but he's one of those folks whose status necessitates at least a marginal awareness, even from detractors. Without further ado, then, I duly note that Fortress Press has released his On Human Being: Christian Anthropology in Conflicts of Present. There's scant information on the book, but I'm assuming it's somehow related to his earlier study by the same subtitle and less gender-neutral title, translated in 1974. It would be interesting to see how much the book has changed over the past few decades, because as I understand he significantly engages with political aspects of theological anthropology. The new edition is a good 25 pages longer, as well.



  • The newest title in Baker's wonderful Texts and Studies in Reformation and Post-Reformation Thought series is out next month. I've been waiting to post this news for some time, but figured I should have some patience and let the release date get a little closer. Willem J. van Asselt, J. Martin Bac, and Roelf T. te Velde act as editors for Reformed Thought on Freedom: The Concept of Free Choice in Early Modern Reformed Theology.

    There is no table of contents readily available, and apparently only one contributor to the volume keeps their CV online and up to date. This is all I could dredge up of what will be inside: Andreas J. Beck has a paper titled, "The Will as Master of its Own Act: A Disputation Rediscovered of Gisbertus Voetius (1589-1676) on Freedom of Will".


Monday, May 18, 2009

Obama, Notre Dame, and Civil Religion

I don’t really have much to say (here) about abortion, but what gets me about this whole commencement controversy is the extent to which people were so flustered by a robust protest movement by Notre Dame students, professors, clergy, and the surrounding community. I am generally supportive of Obama, though I do find his stance on abortion law rather barbaric. I don’t know what I would have done in Mary Glendon’s shoes. But I’m sort of shocked that this has become such a big deal. It was easy to dismiss crazy Palin supporters as… well, crazy. And I’m sure it would have been easy enough to find similarly uncharitable or prejudiced reactions at Notre Dame this past weekend. But I think, because there have been reasoned critiques of Obama from law professors, bishops, and other leaders, people don’t know quite what to do with the opposition to his Notre Dame commencement honors. There’s a squeamishness about the reaction, and perhaps a half-hearted attempt to brand the protestors as right-wing extremists. But it’s as if the strong opposition to Obama’s visit has violated some unwritten code of respectability that, even if it applied during other administrations, has currently reached a more exaggerated status.


Whether or not one disagrees with those who protested Obama’s honors, I don’t see why it’s such a big deal that a college campus is up in arms about this. Institutions of higher education have always been places of lively debate, from the 13th century Aristotelian revolution to 1968. Given the university’s history of dispute and critique, it’s a little disorienting to suddenly see educated, progressive folks become scandalized by this sort of thing. On a similar note of nauseating messianism-lite, The Immanent Frame has started a new discussion series “to honor and interrogate this moment—generated by the event of Obama’s presidency (and its corollaries “the Obama generation” and “the Obama era”).” …really? Like I said, I like Obama. I voted for him. But I’m struck by the extent to which our collective imagination has been swept off its feet by this World-Spirit on horseback. Get a grip, folks. He'll make a fine president. No need to swoon precisely when you could do more good letting him know that, with all due respect, he's wrong.

Friday, May 15, 2009

two books...

A quick post before I head home for the weekend.

  • Prosblogian alerts us to Wipf&Stock's reprinting of The Many-Faced Argument, the significant 1976 book of essays on Anselm's ontological argument edited by John Hick and Arthur C. McGill.
  • The latest volume is out from a wonderful looking Brill series that I've had the pleasure of cataloging lately. A Companion to Paul in the Reformation is the newest addition to Brill's Companions to the Christian Tradition. Granted, you could buy the recent edition of Barth's Dogmatics for less than two volumes from this Brill series... but do, email your campus library to buy them if they don't have them already. There are some very good looking essays in these volumes.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Free fulltext for Revue d 'Histoire et de Philosophie Religieuses

I just discovered this and thought I'd mention it, since we're discussing the perilous state of funding and research in the academy. It's always good to find these resources more easily accessible online... for me it's simply a matter of convenience since I don't have to steer my way through a maze of databases and SFX bullcrap, but I work at a college library and have access to another (very, very big) research library as a student. For those who aren't so tied to institutional resources, however, I realize that finding these sources readily available is more than just a matter of convenience... it can be a matter of whether you find them at all. RHPR is a pretty widely circulating journal, but issues from 2002-present are apparently available fulltext.

Not that this helps me very much, as I need an article from 1937... beats me why the old stuff isn't up- usually it's the latest 5-10 years that isn't available, rather than the stuff that's been around for a while. In any case, thanks to the Faculté de Théologie Protestante de Strasbourg for putting this up.

A few items, mostly on academia...

  • The New England Review looks like it will lose subsidies from Middlebury College, its sponsor, if it isn't able to become self-sustaining by 2011. Not that this is a big deal for theology in particular, but I think it signals a wider problem that is occurring in the academy, and that effects the humanities disciplines especially. The awkward question of justification... "now why, exactly, is poetry or history or theology essential to our institution?"... rears its head, and threatens either to fit certain disciplines into a foreign utilitarian, market-based model or into marginalization. This is also where some of our self-perpetuated myths about education and culture are exposed. Because really, scholarly work isn't a populist or democratic enterprise... always useful and available to society at large, always able to hold its own in the marketplace. It's really quite elitist and often dependent upon the patronage of the leisure class. In this instance, the patrons don't seem to realize that they are patrons, and probably the scholars have taken for granted a bit too much that they ever did see themselves as that, at least for the past several decades.
  • More from Inside HigherEd, a lot of doctoral programs are cutting their incoming classes by significant percentages. Difficult news to swallow, I think, but not necessarily bad news. As difficult as it is for a grad student to get a rejection letter, it's even more difficult to come out of the process without employment prospects because PhD candidates have been overly accepted. It's not as if there was any smarter decision for these departments to make, and hopefully this trial by fire will raise the caliber of institutions with new hires over the next decade or two. (although do read the important point from Chicago's history department about the loss in specialization when the doctoral field is narrowed).
  • From the Emerging Scholar's Network, a response to the much-read Chronicle article of Jan. 30th, "Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don't Go". One of the responses is from Alan Jacobs, a Wheaton prof.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Special Issue of Religion, State and Society

The latest installment of Religion, State and Society is about twice as thick as normal, combining issues 1&2 of 2009. Lucian N. Leustean and John T. S. Madeley act as guest editors on the topic of "Religion, Politics and Law in the European Union."

Following is a table of contents for the volume. Note especially the two contributions on "Religion and Law in the European Union". Norman Doe and Mark Hill are two of the best Protestant canon lawyers writing today. Doe is at the Cardiff Centre for Law and Religion, and Hill edits the Ecclesiastical Law Journal.



I. Religious Identity and the European Union


European Integration, Laiumlciteacute and Religion, p. 23–35
Author: Jean-Paul Willaime

Religion: a Solution or a Problem for the Legitimisation of the European Union?, p. 37–50
Author: Franccedilois Foret

A European Battlefield: Does the EU Have a Soul? Is Religion In or Out of Place in the European Union?, p. 51–63
Author: Carin Laudrup

From Hammer and Sickle to Star and Crescent: the Question of Religion for European Identity and a Political Europe, p. 65–80
Author: Benoicirct Challand

European Enlargement, Secularisation and Religious Re-publicisation in Central and Eastern Europe, p. 81–97
Authors: David Herbert; Max Fras


II. Religious and Political Leaders in the Construction of the European Union

Cracks in a Faccedilade of Unity: the French and Italian Christian Democrats and the Launch of the European Integration Process, 1945-1957, p. 99–114
Author: Linda Risso

Alcide De Gasperi and Antonio Messineo: a Spiritual Idea of Politics and a Pragmatic Idea of Religion? p. 115–129
Authors: Giulio Venneri; Paolo O. Ferrara

Papal Thought on Europe and the European Union in the Twentieth Century, p. 131–146
Author: Blandine Chelini-Pont



III. Religion and Law in the European Union


Towards a 'Common Law' on Religion in the European Union, p. 147–166
Author: Norman Doe

Voices in the Wilderness: the Established Church of England and the European Union, p. 167–180
Author: Mark Hill


IV. Religious Lobbies in the European Union

Religious Lobbies in the European Union: from Dominant Church to Faith-Based Organisation?, p. 181–191
Author: Martin Steven

The European Union and the New Religious Movements, p. 193–206
Author: Sabrina Pastorelli

The Logic of Structured Dialogue between Religious Associations and the Institutions of the European Union, p. 207–222
Author: Kenneth Houston

Friday, May 8, 2009

A few items...

  • Some news on academic happenings... Robert Pippin is elected to the American Philosophical Society, and Leon Kass will deliver the 2009 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities. Both Pippin and Kass are at the Committee for Social Thought here at Chicago. Also, Terry Eagleton (who recently published a much discussed book) will give a Gifford Lecture in March 2010.
  • an updated bibliography on Albert the Great is made available.
  • For those who are interested in political theology, the journal Hebraic Political Studies has just been brought to my attention. It's also worth checking out the Shalem Center from whence it comes, as they have other resources and conferences listed that may be of interest.
  • The new edition of Barth's Church Dogmatics is out... my set came in the mail the other day and I haven't really had time to look through it, but an unfortunate omission has been discussed at Faith & Theology. Apparently Barth's prefaces to the volumes are not included in the new edition. Read through the comment section for details, especially where Tom from T&T Clark explains the reasons behind the decision.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Translation of Anglican theological works at the ACC

This was an interesting resolution from the Anglican Consultative Council meeting currently taking place in Kingston, Jamaica. The breadth of universality often assumed by the Anglican sense of "mere Christianity" is also quite defined within an anglophone reality, which, of course, reminds of the original identity of the Communion... to correct Gregory the Great, non angeli sed angli.

Reported by the Anglican Communion News Service, although the link currently seems to be giving some trouble:


Le Réseau francophone de la Communion anglicane/
Resolution of the Francophone Network of the Anglican Communion
Resolved, 05.05.09

(en français)
Le Conseil Consultatif Anglican demande au Comité Ad Hoc d'explorer les
moyens d'encourager la traduction de travaux théologiques anglicans
fondamentaux dans des langues autres que l'anglais ainsi que leur
dissémination, de même que de soutenir la formation de professeurs pour
les collèges théologiques de ces provinces et diocèses dont la langue
nationale est autre que l'anglais.

(in English)
The ACC requests the JSC to explore ways of encouraging the translation
of basic Anglican theological works into languages other than English,
and their dissemination, as well as supporting the formation of teachers
for the theological colleges of those provinces and dioceses whose
national language is other than English.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Two journals in European Intellectual History...

I have some more familiarity with History of European Ideas, which is a great resource for post-Renaissance intellectual history. There tends to be special topic issues once or twice a year (out of four issues yearly), and the spread of research covers a good deal of philosophy, politics, religion, and literature.






I have only just learned of The European Legacy from a recommended reading list for a class, so I can't really evaluate it at this point. The journal is a bit newer (currently in vol. 14), but has been publishing 7 issues a year since 2005. It is the official journal of the International Society for the Study of European Ideas.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

ACC joint standing committee rejects replacement delegate for Uganda

I am outsourcing this post a bit... haven't had too much time to pull too much together this week. The Anglican Consultative Council is meeting and making some important decisions on the new Anglican Covenant that will determine to a large extent how things move forward. Following is a summary of some thorny developments that have taken place since the start of the ACC meeting and hinging on some of the canonical ambiguities of the current Anglican situation. I've cut & pasted from an email update that I receive regularly... I've also included some accompanying links, though I haven't read through all of them. I've received permission to repost this but didn't bother posting attribution for the sake of anonymity, in case that's a concern for the author...


The Anglican Consultative Council began its first day of deliberations with a rather dramatic turn of events. Over a week ago, Archbishop Henry Orombi had informed the Anglican Communion Office that the priest scheduled to be Uganda's clergy representative at the ACC was unable to attend and there was insufficient time to secure the necessary visa and travel permits for another representative to get from Uganda to Jamaica in time. Therefore, ++Orombi sent the name of a replacement delegate who would have less trouble getting travel clearance to Jamaica, Fr. Phil Ashey. The head of the ACC, Kenneth Kearon, replied that ++Oromibi should by all means send Fr. Ashey and he would be seated as Uganda's clergy delegate. So it stood until this morning, when the ACC got down to work. The Joint Standing Committee then overruled the ACC officials and said that Fr. Ashey was not "qualified" and therefore would not be seated. ++Orombi countered that Ashey+ was indeed a Ugandan priest in good standing and the determination of "qualified" is the prerogative of the province, not the ACC and not the Joint Standing Committee (as per Section 4e of the Constitution of the Anglican Consultative Council). The JSC still refused to seat Ashey+ and ++Orombi has now appealed to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Below you will find media coverage, the press release announcing the JSC's decision and ++Orombi's letter to ++Rowan, followed by discussion from Ephraim Radner, Graham Kings and others on what it all means and what implications it will have. I suspect that how this situation is resolved will perhaps have far more impact on the future unity of the Anglican Communion that any decisions the ACC might make about implementing an Anglican Covenant.

If the decision not to seat Ashey+ is strictly because he is connected with Uganda through a Global South border crossing, then one might also ask why Bp. Catherine Roskam is being seated as TEC's representative, since she was a co-consecrator of Gene Robinson in 2003. It would seem that she is just as much in violation of the Windsor Report as is Fr. Ashey.

One can only wonder how prophetic ++Drexel Gomez' remarks from this morning's opening session will yet prove to be:

"The Communion is close to the point of breaking up", Archbishop Drexel Gomez told ACC-14 in Kingston Jamaica this morning “If we cannot state clearly and simply what holds us together, and speak clearly at this meeting, then I fear there will be clear breaks in the Communion in the period following this meeting. Many of our Churches are asking to know where they stand – what can be relied on as central to the Anglican Communion; and how can disputes be settled without the wrangle and confusion that we have seen for the last seven years or more.”
Pray for the whole state of Christ's church.

Saturday, May 2, 2009


Our daughter, Sophia, celebrates her first birthday today.

Friday, May 1, 2009

CV updates...

A quick note... I've done a bit of updating on my CV. It's now available through a simple Google sites format, linked on the right under my "personal info". I've (finally) gotten a hold of a pdf for my last article, so there are links to fulltexts for everything I have in print right now. I have some forthcoming work too, and I'll be sure to mention it here when it's out.

Two translations of Isidore of Seville

I don't know if anyone would be able to help me on this, but I was curious. There have been two recent translations of Isidore of Seville's Etymologies into English, one by a team of translators (S.A. Barney, W.J. Lewis, J.A. Beach, O. Berghof), and one by Priscilla Throop (v.1, v.2). Throop's translation was self-published through LuLu in 2005 and 2006, and the other was published through Cambridge University Press in 2006. I've seen nothing of either of them beyond online previews, and I'm not an Isidorian scholar by a long stretch.

I'm assuming that the Cambridge translation is a better bet. The editorial process involved in a CUP work versus a self-published work is simply worlds apart, whatever the merits of the scholar. That said, Throop's translation is much cheaper, with two volumes costing less than half of what the single Cambridge volume costs. She also seems to be a prolific translator, with a number of works up on LuLu.com. Note especially her translation of Abelard's Sic et Non... as far as I know this is the only English translation of the entire work... much like Lombard's Sentences (now thankfully offered by PIMS), it's rather odd that such an important work hasn't been translated already. All that's to say that Throop's translation work is surely good, though it doesn't bear the (sometimes helpful, sometimes burdensome) imprimatur of a press like Cambridge.

This is somewhat reminiscent of Jasper Hopkins' work on Anselm- a wealth of resources, but we're trained to hesitate when names like Edwin Mellen pop up- again, for better and worse in different instances.

I'll probably put both translations of the Etymologies on my wishlist, and if you aren't in a field that requires the standard text, I'm sure Throop's is the one to get. All I can find about her is that she's a homeschool teacher and active in the Vermont Classical Language Association. Certainly a name to keep in mind.