Friday, May 28, 2010

Rowan Williams Pentecost Letter

Rowan Williams has published a Pentecost Letter to the Bishops, Clergy and Faithful of the Anglican Communion. In it he outlines the way that consequences for breaching the Windsor moratoria will move forward.

I have some thoughts on this, and may comment more extensively in the future.  In brief, I have been concerned that the three primary offenses/moratoria identified by the Windsor Report (“moratorium on the election and consent to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate who is living in a same gender union”, the “moratorium on all such public Rites [of Blessing of same sex unions]”, and the “moratorium on any further [cross-provincial] interventions”) have been unduly viewed as equally upsetting to church unity. In fact, the first two offenses have made the third necessary as an unfortunate and temporary recourse.  Williams recognizes, however, that no absolute equivalence of faults should be interpreted from his statements:
...when a province through its formal decision-making bodies or its House of Bishops as a body declines to accept requests or advice from the consultative organs of the Communion, it is very hard (as noted in my letter to the Communion last year after the General Convention of TEC) to see how members of that province can be placed in positions where they are required to represent the Communion as a whole.  This affects both our ecumenical dialogues, where our partners (as they often say to us) need to know who it is they are talking to, and our internal faith-and-order related groups.

I am therefore proposing that, while these tensions remain unresolved, members of such provinces – provinces that have formally, through their Synod or House of Bishops, adopted policies that breach any of the moratoria requested by the Instruments of Communion and recently reaffirmed by the Standing Committee and the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) – should not be participants in the ecumenical dialogues in which the Communion is formally engaged.  I am further proposing that members of such provinces serving on IASCUFO should for the time being have the status only of consultants rather than full members.  This is simply to confirm what the Communion as a whole has come to regard as the acceptable limits of diversity in its practice.  It does not alter what has been said earlier by the Primates’ Meeting about the nature of the moratoria: the request for restraint does not necessarily imply that the issues involved are of equal weight but recognises that they are ‘central factors placing strains on our common life’, in the words of the Primates in 2007.  Particular provinces will be contacted about the outworking of this in the near future.

Members of ACNA, AMiA, and other renewal movements seem to be provided space for making their case, although the continued reality of consequences for their actions remains.  I think that this is appropriate, and that a spirit of repentance should pervade the Anglican work that is currently going on in North America.  I do not believe it is appropriate to call our work "schismatic", but it has certainly proceeded against the requests of global Anglican bodies, and I don't think that we need to be afraid of affirming this tragedy and taking responsibility for it, even as we affirm the Gospel work that is being accomplished in it.

One reason why I take the cross-provincial ministry to be appropriate is because it is reactive to a situation of disunity, and it stands as a temporary effort with the goal of moving towards further unity in the Gospel. This also leads to a consideration of the fact that offending provinces will be restricted from the official ecumenical dialogue of the Communion.  In a conversation with Tony Hunt and Mike Dagle on this, I mentioned the fact that, really, ecumenical dialogue has already been stalled for years because of the Anglican crisis.  The ARCIC suspended dialogue with the Anglican Communion soon after Robinson's consecration, in order for the Communion to sort out necessary discipline issues.  The Russian Orthodox Church has made explicit statements about its willingness to work specifically with "the members of the Episcopal Church in the USA who clearly declared their loyalty to the moral teaching of the Holy Gospel and the Ancient Undivided Church."  And as the ACNA has taken shape, other communions have indeed retained ecumenical connection with these Anglicans apart from official Anglican Communion channels.  In many ways, it seems that all of the provisions Rowan Williams now offers for ecumenical bodies has long since been, more or less, common practice. This leaves out consideration of ecumenical discussion with other Protestant denominations,* of course, but my rather limited sense is that these sorts of talks go on at a number of different levels, and global Anglican policy for official ecumenical dialogue will not especially impede other ongoing engagements. 

All that said, this seems to be an important development as the Anglican Communion continues through the process of discernment and discipline.  The next moves will come (less importantly) from the global reaction to the letter and (more importantly) from the Anglican governing bodies as they incorporate this call into future policy.

*I am not one of those people who feel the need to distinguish Anglicanism from Protestantism.  We are as Protestant as the Evangelical Free Church, regardless of incense, apostolic succession, or whatever else distinguishes us.  We are also perfectly "Catholic", as are all Christians baptized into and adherent of the faith. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

More financial problems at Augsburg Fortress...

A little over a year ago, Fortress Press closed all of their stores.  Now there is more financial trouble... the publisher is shutting down its pension fund, affecting hundreds of retired staff.  While the publisher is connected to the ELCA, the denomination has declined to offer its support.  There is a facebook group that offers a lot of links about the situation as it continues to develop.  The decision was announced at the beginning of 2010, but it's getting a good bit of press right now because of legal action that is being taken against Augsburg Fortress (I first heard about it today through the NPR story, linked above).

Do keep the families that are affected by this in mind and prayers.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Theological Studies 71.2

The June issue of Theological Studies is out, and focuses on Benedict XVI's encyclicals, mostly Caritas in veritate:

Philipp Gabriel Renczes, S.J., "Grace Reloaded: Caritas in veritate's Theological Anthropology"

Lisa Sowle Cahill, "Caritas in veritate: Benedict's Global Reorientation"

Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, S.J., "Caritas in veritate and Africa's Burden of (Under)Development"

Maura A. Ryan, "A New Shade of Green?  Nature, Freedom, and Sexual Difference in Caritas in veritate"

Dominic Doyle, "Spe salvi on Eschatological and Secular Hope: A Thomistic Critique of an Augustinian Encyclical"

Robert Masson, "Interpreting Rahner's Metaphoric Logic"

Kristin E. Heyer, "Social Sin and Immigration: Good Fences Make Bad Neighbors"

Quaestio Disputata

Massimo Faggioli, "Sacrosanctum concilium and the Meaning of Vatican II"

Monday, May 24, 2010

A few items...

  • The third of four volumes in the Philosophy and Theology anthology has been published by Éditions du Cerf, this one focusing on the modern era. The volume is edited by Jean-Christophe Bardout of the University of Brest, and includes an essay by Emilio Brito on Schelling, one by Jean-Yves Lacoste on Catholic thought from 1835-1914, as well as many others.
  • This probably isn't exactly news, but I was looking up Wilfrid Sellars' works the other day and noticed the discounts offered by Ridgeview Publishing for all of their Sellars titles.  Buying cheaper from the publisher than from Amazon is a rare possibility, and at $2-4 cheaper per book, I imagine you make up for any sort of Amazon free shipping rather quickly.
  • Note that the Patristics, Medieval, & Renaissance Conference at Villanova University has paper and panel proposals due this Friday, May 28th.  The theme for the conference is “Mother of Mercy: the Figure of Mary in Theology and Culture”, and Brian Daley and Rachel Fulton will be giving addresses.  The conference website is here.
  • Congratulations to canon law professor and blogger Ed Peters, who has recently been appointed Referendary of the Apostolic Signatura by the Holy See. For those who are interested in canon law, Peters' site is a great place to poke around and find resources.
  •  More talk of full unity between Rome and Eastern Orthodoxy.  I can't imagine this means anything special, but it is a continuing indication of the direction that Kirill's patriarchate is taking on ecumenical affairs. (h/t Kate)
  •  An article on changes to the libraries of Harvard University. It's good to hear that innovative solutions are being reached, cooperative projects with area libraries are being utilized, and that this is being undertaken as an intentional project (headed by a Divinity faculty member, and one who is a William James scholar!) rather than as an ad hoc fix-it job.  I'm plenty old-fashioned about print literature, but I don't see how such innovations are anything but a good thing.  Material constraints can't simply be ignored, and developing a sophisticated interaction between print and digital literature is a much different thing than the rash calls by librarians of ten years ago to pitch all the books and go completely digital.  For those interested in digitization, Against the Grain has recently mentioned a bibliography of some helpful English language literature on digital curation and preservation.
  • UPDATE 1:25 PM: Also worth noting... Brian Hamilton tells us that Francesca Murphy and John Betz have accepted offers from Notre Dame for systematic theology positions.

      Saturday, May 22, 2010

      Library Juice Press

      I first ran across Rory Litwin's Library Juice two months ago when Wayne Bivens-Tatum discussed the book Humanism and Libraries, which was translated and published by Litwin last winter.

      Library Juice began as an online serial in 1998, while Litwin was still earning his MLIS.  In 2006, he shifted to a blog format and also began the Press.  Library Juice is concerned with libraries, politics, and culture from a critical perspective.  In "The Library Paradigm" (a manifesto of sorts), Litfin writes:
      Libraries are special because they are at once communitarian, libertarian, and models for sustainability.
      They are communitarian in the economic sense because they are built on solidarity. A community pools its resources in order to share them.
      Libraries are libertarian in the social/intellectual sense (civil libertarian) because of the ethic of intellectual freedom, which says that all ideas should be included and nothing censored.
      This combination of economic communitarianism and social/intellectual libertarianism creates the ideal support system for a democratic society, because the library provides everyone with access to ideas and provides access to every idea.
      In addition, libraries are models for sustainable systems. By following the “borrow, don’t buy” ethic, libraries provide an alternative to consumerism, an alternative to environmentally unsound overproduction and spiritually unsound overconsumption.
      Library Juice is directed towards librarians and library students, but anyone concerned with the humanities or intellectual life more generally would probably find a good bit of benefit in it.

      In addition to Humanism and Libraries, Litwin has also published some interesting work including Slow Reading, Restoring Order: The Ecole des Chartes and the Organization of Archives and Libraries in France, 1820-1870, and two books of collected essays from Progressive Librarian and from various articles on librarianship written from 1874-1922.  All of the volumes are quite reasonably priced, and Litwin's latest blog post actually gives an extensive explanation of these prices, as well as of the pricing differences in trade and academic book publishing.

      Library Juice, like many small publishers, is important because of the philosophical vision animating its work.  Rory Litwin brings a critical eye to social life from the perspective of progressive librarianship, and is a welcome resource for those who are interested in fostering open and critical spaces where thought and inquiry can thrive.

      Friday, May 21, 2010

      Making oneself at home in the tradition

      Right now I'm waiting on the proofs for my most recent article, to be published in the journal History of Political Thought.  In the article I look at Melchizedek as an exemplar for kingship in some twelfth century political treatises, and discuss difficulties that arise for the idea of non-hereditary kingship over the question of whether Melchizedek was "without genealogy" as the Christian interpretation had it, or was identified with Shem, the son of Noah (and so possessive of a genealogy).

      The paper sounds like useless antiquarianism.  No need for others to be polite about it... I'm happy to admit it.  Few people are looking for biblical arguments in support of monarchy these days, and fewer still would take the political discussions of eight or nine centuries ago to be all that applicable for a political theology of these matters today.  Insofar as my research succeeds as a filler for historical lacunae, it of course serves a real (if small) purpose.  But I'm a student of theology, not of history.  It's worth my asking what exactly the point of such a project might be.

      I have a scholarly interest in the history of exegesis, so this explains some of my attention to these questions.  But beyond research focuses and antiquarian gap-filling (both commendable but pretty limited justifications), I tend to find the explorations of theological dead-ends and  irrelevancies important on a more indirect level to my theological work.

      As an aspiring theologian, I do not simply stand on the crest of advancing research and provide critical input for current expert reflection upon matters of faith.  Nor, on the other hand, am I a high priest of some archive.  The Good Lord gave us an inerrant scriptural canon, the Spirit leads us through rather more errant traditions of orthodoxy, but beyond basic strictures of these sorts there is little for the theologian to protect in some high-strung conservationist sense.  The preservation of a past church or the creation of a present one does not stand or fall on theological legwork.  We do an important job of making sense of the tradition and advancing meaningful structures of thought for the sake of its health, but we're also very much along for the ride.  We are creatures of the subject of our study rather than simply curators of it.

      Because of this, I like to think of my historical pursuits as a sort of making myself at home in the tradition.  I am a part of the tradition, and I will throughout my life make my own contribution to its development.  The more I explore the landscape, however, and the more I provide tools for others to explore the landscape, the better my vantage point will be from which to do constructive work.  Not because I have examined all of the essential aspects of the history for understanding the Current Important Problem, but rather because I have taken in a lot of inessential details that provide a more textured and aesthetically robust backdrop against which to see clearly the speculative and intellectual concerns that most theologians find important.

      John Milbank's sense of Christianity as a "counter-narrative" may be helpful here.  I agree with the general reasons why he uses this approach (although I don't follow his lead in pitting this counter-narrative so decidedly against something like "modernity" or "nihilism").  The point of a narrative isn't primarily polemical, however.  Narratives are things that you live into and out of- they provide conventions for thought.  They are the huge mass under the tip of the iceberg.  There is no urgency to exposing the details of a narrative; no apologetic goals are going to be directly achieved by it.  But the formative effect of forgettable events and unimportant details is what colors our perception of the world with which we engage, and in this sense the useless antiquarianisms are essential to the "real work" of constructive discourse.

      We've been at this a long time, and we'll be at it a long time yet.  I don't see the point in rushing toward the utopia of a comprehensive account of the stuff of theology.  Taking the time to make one's home seems much more conducive to good thinking on these matters, and that's why I find it helpful to resist the seduction of focusing exclusively on various constructive priorities in theological work.  It would be wrong of me to neglect such priorities (or rather, it would be wrong of me to do so and continue to call myself a theologian), but I don't think that's what I'm doing by turning away from them periodically in order to entertain other questions.

      Monday, May 17, 2010

      A few items...

      • A new blog worth following, Studying Friedrich Schleiermacher.  Matthew is a doctoral student in theology and religious studies at Northwestern (and, if I'm not mistaken, also went to Wheaton and the University of Chicago Divinity School).   h/t Philosophy, Lit, etc.
      • Ben discusses Korean Barthian theology and issues of reception.  The question of reception has interested me more generally lately... not simply in cross-cultural situations, but even within a single cultural environment I think the complexities of making a tradition at home with itself can be under-considered.  There are some great resources to follow through here, and Ben is also looking for bibliographical information on Sung-Bum Yun, if anyone can offer assistance.
      •  In an interesting History and Theory article that just came out, Herman Paul draws attention to the fact that the crisis of historicism actually had an intellectual impact a bit wider than simply the university discussions.

        Friday, May 14, 2010

        We simply move forward in a rather unimpressive fashion

        A number of years ago I read Horst Althaus's Hegel: An Intellectual Biography, and I recall being struck by a short passage concerning Hegel's intentions to visit Bamberg.  The episode was relatively inconsequential, but it has been the one point of the book that has remained with me in a very significant way.  In correspondence with Schelling in 1800 he writes,
        "I am looking for inexpensive board, the opportunity of good beer for my physical constitution, the chance of meeting a few people", and then significantly adds: "I should prefer to live in a Catholic rather than a Protestant town; I should very much like to observe that religion at first hand."  What he was looking for, and later avowedly found, in Bamberg was 'Catholicism' as an unadulterated expression of the 'mediaeval world', as one particular stage in the course of 'world history'.  He was willing to expose himself directly to the phenomenon in order to experience it for himself as a still living and experienced reality. (46)

        Taken without too much reflection, this sort of idea sounds perfectly normal.  In the United States, a possible analogy (at least for someone like me who grew up on the East Coast) might be traveling to Lancaster, Pennsylvania to encounter in the Amish an earlier world "as a still living and experienced reality".

        A moment's consideration, however, will present the idea as absurd.  Georg Hegel and the Catholic townspeople of southern Germany were all just as much present at the turn of the 19th century; in the same way I am no more at home in the 21st century than an Amish family that doesn't use electricity.  The corollary can also be affirmed, that the 19th century Catholic is as little "medieval" as is Hegel himself.  Time doesn't eddy for the sake of particular communities, nor is anyone ever "ahead of their time".  We simply move forward in a rather unimpressive fashion, all of us just like everybody else.

        Of course, the reason why Catholicism was for Hegel a window to the past is obvious enough... I'm not saying the man made no sense.  Periodization is not strictly the same thing as timing, and someone could conceivably be described as "medieval" on the basis of their culture if it were in some sense true to the culture of their chronological predecessors.  A tradition needs to be identifiable with its origins by some sort of transaction in order to be identifiable at all.  But this shouldn't blind us to the fact that we are all equally up-to-date (in the literal sense) without even trying.  Merely by maintaining a pulse we stand on the cutting edge of the entirety of human history.

        This realization should deflate two opposing tendencies: nostalgia, whereby we seek either a return to the past or a return of the past in the present; and progressivism, whereby we understand the present and posturing towards the future as identifiable with certain particular causes or technologies.  Both of these tendencies conveniently forget that our neighbor occupies the same position that we do, and that this temporal solidarity can't be abrogated by the mythology that we have attached to our understanding of what counts as out-dated or contemporary.

        On the other hand, this realization can open up two possibilities that both oppose these unhelpful tendencies and can stand complementary to each other: we can recognize the continuation of past practices (however quaint it may seem) as coherent and good within the present so long as it contributes to edifying interaction with our circumstances, and we can recognize the break with past practices (however severe it may seem) as worthwhile so long as it is adequate for the preservation of meaning and the fulfilling of work within the world that we now face.

        Monday, May 10, 2010

        A few items...

        • Studies in Eastern European Thought 62.1 is a special theme issue on "Polish Studies in Russian Religious Philosophy".
        • I've just run across the Cambridge Hegel Translations series, the first volume of which was actually released last August.  New translations of the Science of Logic and the Encyclopedia Logic are set for August and September of this year. 
        •  Some may be familiar with, a social networking site for academia.  It's a bit of an odd thing, and at this point more of a waste of time than a useful resource (although it is an easy place to upload papers), but one development to note is that you are now able to follow journals, which will aggregate newly published articles (as if we don't have enough ways to read news feeds already).  Do continue to stop by clavi non defixi for the highlights, though!

            Thursday, May 6, 2010

            News on journals in intellectual history

            LIAS: Journal of Early Modern Intellectual Culture and its Sources, has a new publishing home at Peeters.  Wikipedia actually has a helpful write-up on the history of the journal and recent changes.  Back issues are still available at the previous LIAS website, and I haven't read anything to suggest that there will be any changes to this access.  LIAS is also listed on the Wikipedia page as open access, and I'm not sure whether this policy will continue under Peeters.  They have not been put on the Peeters Online Journals site yet, so I suppose we'll have to wait until the first 2010 issue comes out before knowing exactly how all of this is going to work.  This is exciting news for a valuable journal in intellectual history.

            Less exciting is the fact that Contributions to the History of Concepts will no longer be published by Brill, after only five years of publication.  I have seen nothing about the future of this journal, whether it is being picked up by another publisher or is simply closing up shop.  Any information would be appreciated.

            I also noted a while back that Intellectual History Review will be publishing 4 issues a year, beginning this year.

            Tuesday, May 4, 2010

            Princeton Theological Review-- Mission and Ecumenics

            The Spring 2010 issue of The Princeton Theological Review is available online.  In centennial recognition of the Edinburgh World Missionary Conference, this issue takes "mission and ecumenics" as its theme.  In addition to the articles (listed below), the book review section includes my review of Michael Allen's The Christ's Faith.

            Patrick Dunn, "The Priest and the Pauper" pp. 7-9

            Benjamin Heidgerken, "Apologia Pro Ecclesia Sua" pp. 11-15

            John G. Flett, "A Bastard in the Royal Family: Wither Mission?" 17-30

            Peter Kline, "Is God Missionary?  Augustine and the Divine Missions" pp. 31-52

            Benjamin Connor, "The Ministry Section of BEM: Affirmations and Challenges" pp. 53-65

            Joel Estes, "Paul as Teacher, Mother, Father, and Child: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12" pp. 67-77

            Jeff DeSurra, "Converting the West: Examining Lesslie Newbigin's Model for Mission to the West" pp. 79-89

            Cody Lewis Oaks, "The Church's Future Witness and the Necessity of a Dialectical/Historical Self-Appraisal" pp. 91-95

            Monday, May 3, 2010

            Edouard Le Roy and French Catholic modernism

            I'm beginning to put together ideas for a final paper in my seminar, and I think I'm going to write about French Catholic modernism... in particular the work of Edouard Le Roy.  Even though he is not as prominent a figure as other modernists (one most immediately thinks of Loisy or Tyrell), Le Roy will make an interesting test case for my seminar because of his close connection with Bergson, as well as scientists such as Poincaré and Duhem.  Duhem is actually the one that originally led me to an interest in Le Roy, because of his own  now rather decidedly fixed legacy in the philosophy of science.  Almost a half century before Quine extended Duhem's conventionalism into his own philosophical problems, however, Le Roy was using Duhem's conventionalism to offer a new explanation of dogma, with many interesting polemical encounters resulting.

            The seminar is focused on the "production of knowledge", and primarily considers institutional and other sociological factors of intellectual developments.  Because of this, I'm not going to focus on Le Roy's ideas so much as the controversies that surrounded his work.  At this point my plan is to discuss his work as a valuable way of understanding Catholic modernism as not only a controversial movement in opposition to the Catholic hierarchy, but also as controversial for the prevailing schools of French thought.  That is, the institutional critique that presented itself in the modernists was really a two-front conflict, with Pascendi dominici gregis on one side and positivism of various sorts on the other. This juxtaposition works rather easily for Le Roy because of his Bergsonian commitments.  It will be interesting to see whether such a thesis would be similarly appropriate for others.

            The paper idea isn't especially groundbreaking or original (I don't think anyone who really works with the modernists fails to realize my argument already), but I see it as being helpful for presenting theological work of the time as relevant to wider intellectual developments and actually taking an active part in these controversies, rather than simply following after in a sort of retroactive correlationist project that is both irrelevant to non-theological interests and embarrassing to theology itself. There are plenty of examples of religious modernism where such lap dog relationships with intellectual trends is what's happening.  It seems worth looking into an example where theology was actually participating and contributing to some extent.

            As I compile a bibliography for the paper, there's a lot that is detail oriented and not of much wider theological interest, but I thought that I'd note a few volumes of French Catholic modernism more generally that have been published recently.  David Schultenover, C.J.T. Talar, and Stephen Schloesser are the names that I think are most prominent right now in U.S. scholarship, and they seem to have a strangle hold on CUA Press, having published a number of edited volumes in the past two or three years in addition to their own articles and monographs on modernism (most notablyStephen Schloesser's Jazz Age Catholicism)...

            By Those Who Knew Them: French Modernists Left, Right, & Center, ed. H. Hill, L.-P. Sardella, and C.J.T. Talar (CUA 2008)

            The Reception of Pragmatism in France & the Rise of Roman Catholic Modernism, 1890-1914, ed. David Schultenover (CUA 2009)

            Modernists and Mystics, ed. C.J.T. Talar (CUA 2009)

            This study on Le Roy may also be of interest... I've looked at it a bit on Google Books and have ordered it through ILL:

            “What is a Dogma?” The Meaning and Truth of Dogma in Edouard Le Roy and his Scholastic Opponents, Guy Mansini (Editrice Pontificia Universita Gregoriana, 1985)

            Sunday, May 2, 2010

            A few items...

            • The second volume of Jean-Luc Nancy's Déconstruction du christianisme is out.
            • Paul Hinlicky, author of Paths Not Taken: Fates of Theology From Luther to Leibniz, will be following up this volume with two more related studies through the end of this year.  Also, keep an eye out for Tim's review of Paths Not Taken in an upcoming issue of Theological Studies.
            • A (relatively) recent issue of Revue de métaphysique et de morale considers Marion's work on Augustine.