Monday, November 29, 2010

Marion lecture on Christian Philosophy

I mentioned Jean-Luc Marion's lecture "Is there a Christian Philosophy?" a few weeks ago, and it was suggested that I discuss the talk here at clavi non defixi.  Apparently the lecture is now online, so now you can see it for yourself and I don't have to worry about pulling together some sort of debriefing from my complete lack of note-taking that evening.  (and thanks to Kyle for posting this)

"Is There a Christian Philosophy?" from The Lumen Christi Institute on Vimeo.

Friday, November 19, 2010

And then there were two...

Our second child, Becket Gilead Kuehn, was born this morning.  I'm home with our daughter Sophia and about to get some rest.  The blog may rest a bit as well over the next few weeks (although I suppose it's been slowing for a while now) as the semester ends and as we take Becket home.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

James Matthew Wilson on academic freedom

Jack Stripling has a short article in IHE discussing the ongoing work of applying Ex corde Ecclesiae, and James Matthew Wilson of Villanova University has offered the following response in the comment section:
To speak of "balancing" adherence to Catholic teaching and the privilege of academic freedom at once conceals and decides in advance the central question Catholic universities face.

It conceals it, because the competition is not between freedom and faithfulness but between the freedom to seek the True and mere absence of purpose. Catholic universities are committed to the contemplation of the Truth, the human capacity for which is the source and purpose of freedom; the modern conception of academic freedom assumes "freedom" to mean the simple absence of a specific end to human inquiry. It is a kind of functional nihilism that reduces the intellectual life to a procedure.

But, of course, this specious terminology of "balance" also decides the question in advance. Most of your readers, and most academics, will think of "freedom" in terms of procedural liberalism -- in terms, that is, of the mere absence of coercion. Any commitment will automatically be deemed a species of coercion and, in that light, any effort to "balance" freedom with faithfulness will be judged a violation of freedom.

Catholic universities continue to grapple not with how to balance two competing goods, but whether to remain real universities or to settle in with the rest of academe as listless buffets for those who believe that power alone informs the human condition and that the pursuit of truth is just one more oppressive ideology.

As I have said following R.R. Reno's rankings, I don't think that accusations of academia as "listless buffets" or "functional nihilism" are always accurate.  A unified and worthwhile academic vocation can be well nurtured in a non-confessional environment as well as it can in a university adhering closely to the norms of the churches (and I don't see Wilson denying this).  This fact, however, should not mislead one to think that "faithfulness" and "freedom" in an academic context are thus opposed, and Wilson rightly points out a false dichotomy that I would venture to say is even more prevalent than the sort of false dichotomy that Reno's sectarianism represents.

This doesn't mean that one can't raise objections about the administration of religious institutions- that doing so would be to falsely pit "freedom" against "faithfulness".  Just as certain false conceptions of freedom enjoy some currency in academia, so do some false conceptions of faith, and it is appropriate to raise critical objections to ecclesiastical control when doing so is appropriate for the academic task within the context of faith.  I've raised such objections during my time at Wheaton College, and doing so never represented a call for "functional nihilism" opposed to the institution's evangelical roots.  Andrew Chignell's essay "Whither Wheaton?" is another more prominent example of such faithful critique.

My sense is that strong dichotomies between free inquiry and dogma are perpetuated more by simple laziness than by any sort of militant secularism.  It is easy enough to remain empirical and realize that provocative and creative academic work is done in a confessional context just as well as in a non-confessional context.  This should be proof enough of its legitimacy, as far as I'm concerned; otherwise we venture into the territory of ideology.  What is less empirically justifiable is... not just the superior academic results... but even the mere existence of this ideal-type of a completely unencumbered situation of free inquiry.  I just don't see how such a thing could exist on an institutional level, much less function properly.  There will always be orthodoxies, religious or not, and that's not a bad thing.  Unalloyed freedom simply isn't something that communities of inquiry do.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Jared Wicks on communio and ecumenism

I just bought an old copy of Ludwig Hertling's Communio: Church and Papacy in Early Christianity at O'Gara & Wilson and was reading through the introduction by Jared Wicks on my way to campus.  His thoughts (and this is 1972... certainly a lot of ecumenical import has transpired since then) were worth quoting, I thought, and support a lot of what I was trying to get at in my "'Fullness of the Spirit' and 'Fullness of Catholicity' in Ecclesial Communion."

To begin, it's noteworthy that Wicks references the Anglican Communion as a "church" in the introduction rather than simply an "ecclesial community" (p. 6).  He goes on to say of the ecumenical task:
The great gain afforded by the ecclesiology of communio becomes apparent when we ask what is the goal of Christian ecumenical efforts.  Ecumenists are not striving for the eventual transfer of masses of Christians to some system of doctrine, worship, and church polity other than their own.  The goal, rather, is the extension of bonds of communio between these churches now existing as separated communities of faith and worship.

[...] The commitment to ecumenism means striving toward the day on which churches can turn toward each other and in the light of faith perform a mutual and corporate act of ecclesial recognition.  This is the Christian unity we seek: churches acknowledging each other as valid articulations of what it means to be the church of Jesus Christ.  Then the bond of communio can be extended between the bodies which have recognized in each other a total complex of genuinely Christian belief, worship, and polity.  With full communio established, no further assimilation or organizational merger need be sought.  (p. 6-7) 
I think it's also worth noting the way that Wicks discusses "belief/doctrine, worship, and polity" here.  On the one hand, he says in the first quoted paragraph that there does not need to be any shift to a new form of doctrine, worship, or polity for the churches.  On the other, he says in the second quoted paragraph that ecclesial recognition involves an assessment of belief, worship, and polity as "genuinely Christian".

I've found this to be the difficult balance in ecumenical considerations.  To turn back to my own work, my 2008 article on the Church of Nigeria and the Anglican Communion offers a much more restrictive and exclusivist approach to church unity... lines in the sand are drawn and certain beliefs/worship/polity are recognized as unacceptable.  This presents clear difficulties for an ecclesial situation where one's fellowship with Christ through baptism and eucharist would supposedly be adequate for unity.  On the other hand, my 2009 article on Protestant and Roman Catholic relations went quite far in an inclusivist direction... the work of the Spirit is adequate to establish unity, and to cite reasons of polity against recognition of the Protestant churches as veritable churches is to inappropriately pit one work of the Spirit against another.  In this case, though, how does one decide where to draw the line determining belief, worship, and polity as "genuinely Christian"?  And in the case of my 2008 article on the Anglican Communion, when does drawing a line become the sort of insistence on a "transfer of masses of Christians to some system of doctrine, worship, and polity other than their own" that Wicks denies as the goal of ecumenism?

Clearly both tasks are needed, so a judgment of legitimacy in one case and a recognition of what Walter Kasper calls "pluriformity" in another case doesn't need to be hypocritical or contradictory.  But disagreement over discernment between the two in any particular situation is, I take it, the main source of disputes in ecumenical dialogue.

A few items, from journals...

I had some time to browse through the current periodicals section yesterday afternoon, something that I haven't really done since leaving Buswell Library this past summer.  The University of Chicago's collections were obviously a good bit more extensive than Wheaton's, so I had the added bonus of finding some periodical literature with which I was not previously familiar.  Following are a few highlights.  I've only included stuff from continental Europe, under the assumption that this would be of greater assistance to readers.

  • Todd Statham of McGill University has an article in Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte 121.1, '"Landlouping Students of Divinity": Scottish Presbyterians in German Theology Faculties, c. 1840 to 1914'.  The article argues against stereotypes of liberal 19th century German theology and discusses evangelical Presbyterians who attended German faculties because of conservative or evangelical reputations there.
  • The spring issue of Revue Thomiste is devoted to "L'Herméneutique de Vatican II".

    Monday, November 8, 2010

    Fellows in Residence Program at St. Paul's Parish

    Nathan Humphrey (who blogs at Covenant and Communion in Conflict) has passed along information to me about the Fellows-in-Residence Program at St. Paul's Parish in Washington DC.  Anglicans in the anglo-catholic tradition or those interested in anglo-catholic formation should look into this opportunity.

    As far as I can tell, Anglicans from continuing churches, AMiA, CANA, ACNA, etc. would not be allowed to take part in this program, so a good deal of Anglican readers of this blog may not qualify.  But do read the FAQ on this to see if yours is an exceptional case of some sort.

    The Fellows-in-Residence program provides a unique opportunity for clergy and laity to live and work temporarily as part of the St. Paul’s community. The Fellows program has two goals: sharing St. Paul’s rich liturgical, musical, human, and pastoral resources with clergy and lay colleagues, and receiving their gifts in return.

    Thursday, November 4, 2010

    A few items...

    • In honor of Reformation Day, Adam Myers (of the Wheaton College Archives, Buswell Library, and the MA program in Church History) has posted three plenary addresses on Luther given by Heiko Oberman at Wheaton College in 1983.
    •  Issue 17.1 of the Journal for the History of Modern Theology is out, and has an unusually long list of articles that all look quite interesting (I suppose when you wait until September to publish Issue #1, the article list does probably pile up).  Shawn Colberg of Notre Dame has an article on Cajetan, Simon Gerber on Schleiermacher, Paul Rasor on Channing, and CJT Talar on Loisy.  Finally, Paul Dafydd Jones and Bryan L. Wagoner each have articles on Barth.
        • The picture below was taken by microbiologist Justin Kern, AB'04, PhD'10, and is part of UChicago: Strange Reflections.  Thanks to Kyle for pointing this out.  Consider this an extension of my last post, and further (more aesthetic) arguments for studying theology at Chicago.