Thursday, June 23, 2011

BBKL no longer open access

I was a bit distressed last night to go into the Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon and find that all of the articles are chopped off after a brief view and require subscription for full access.  This database is a great resource for bibliographic assistance, and the online version keeps up quite well with the recent literature.  Apparently the Lexikon couldn't afford to keep up open access, and tried out a system of voluntary donation at the beginning of 2011, to no avail.  Now there is a system of individual registration tiered by extent of use, with prices getting rather steep rather quickly.  The publisher makes reference to an access for libraries, but I'm not clear on exactly how that works.  This option must be new with the closed access; the Free University of Berlin just started a free trial of it last month, and the University of Chicago doesn't even seem to have it at the moment.

Some of the articles remain rather long before loss of access, while others offer only a few lines.  Speaking for myself, I only ever really used the bibliographies at the end of the entries, which in all cases seems to be cut off from open use.  Your library may carry print volumes of the BBKL if you don't have access to the online database, and a new volume is put out yearly for this version (rather than updated on an ongoing basis).

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Griffiths on ecclesiology

Paul Griffiths has found the History of Religions analogue to the ecclesiological analogue to the theological idea that God is not a being among other beings in a passage from Simone Weil. 

Charitably, one might applaud the fact that Griffiths rejects the evolutionary account of religions common in the 19th century that charts a course from primitive forms to the conveniently supreme exemplar of Christianity.  Realistically, though, one might well wish for a return to the frying pan of such earlier false starts in comparative studies.  Griffiths gives new meaning to the concept of ecclesia sui iuris!

With regard to the communitates ecclesiales that Griffiths presumably does not take to be ecclesiae sensu proprio, I worry that he is leaving himself precious little ground upon which to affirm Lumen Gentium 15 when he says of the Catholic Church that "it is an institution unlike all others, to others as the Lord is to creatures."  Most of the bases for coniunctio offered by the Council strike me as pretty "institutional" in nature.  On the other hand, the Roman Catholic Church takes the Reformation churches to be inadequate precisely at the point of the efficacy of the sacraments (viz., the priesthood and by extension the Eucharist).  But Griffiths denies that the one, true Church is such on the basis of the fact that "its sacraments are more efficacious than those celebrated by others"!  He can't seem to hit the happy medium between going too far and not going far enough.

With regard to the "other religious traditions" (by which I mean those traditions that are religious but neither ecclesiae nor communitates ecclesiales), I worry about Griffiths' eagerness to adopt what seems like an understanding of the nature of the faith that is divorced from an affirmation or denial of the truth of its witness.  Why would it be an insult to the faith to understand it as something that we affirm or deny?  What else is our confession but an affirmation of the truth of the Gospel and a denial of any purported way, truth, or life outside of Christ?  And what else is the Church but the communion of this confession?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A few items...

  • Markus Vinzent (who recently took up a post at King's College London), has done an awful lot of work to set up Oxford Patristics- the Conference Blog, which features all of the abstracts for the 2011 meeting.  Note the papers by Prof. Willemien Otten, Romulus Stefanut, and David Newheiser of the University of Chicago Divinity School.  
  • Some shifts of leadership in Hyde Park seminaries... Frank Yamada has been elected as the next president of McCormick Theological Seminary, and James Kenneth Echols has ended his 14 year tenure as president of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Chicago.  Philip Hougen has been appointed as the acting president during the presidential search process.
  • The International Yearbook for Tillich Research has moved from LIT Verlag to De Gruyter.
  • The latest issue of Modern Theology features a symposium on Stanley Cavell's work as it relates to theology and religion. 
  • Interesting to note: the Tillich Yearbook mentioned above has more than doubled in price now that it is published by De Gruyter.  Thankfully, at 90 USD it still remains one of the most affordable theology journals out there.  In contrast Modern Theology, also mentioned above, charges more than any other major theology journal that I know of for institutional subscriptions.  Your library could buy the six volume backlist of the Tillich Yearbook almost three times over for the price of one volume of Modern Theology (Modern Theology graciously offers a discounted price for institutions in the "developing world," at which a year's subscription would only pay for the entire backlist of the Tillich Yearbook one and a half times over).  Moral: Frustrated that your library can't afford to own the theological literature that you need to do your work?  Let the editorial boards know how you feel.
  • Terrence Tice has revised his translation of Schleiermacher's Brief Outline of Theology as a Field of Study and published it with Westminster John Knox.  The translation began with John Knox in its first edition (1966) but was published in a second edition (1990) with Edwin Mellen.  It's good to see the volume back at a reputable press with better prices, cover designers who aren't asleep at the wheel, and bookbinding jobs that don't make you cringe.

      Wednesday, June 15, 2011

      Designations for Anglican groups

      I'm currently editing a chapter manuscript for an edited volume.  In the chapter I compare the Anglican Communion Covenant and the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus.  Because I deal with ecclesial groups that are within the Anglican tradition but outside of the Anglican Communion, some complicated maneuvering is required simply to clarify who exactly I'm talking about.  Opinions are nuanced in the various groups and certain assertions that may be largely correct will not provide an exhaustive account for these churches.  I attempt to boil down the taxonomy of relevant non-Communion Anglican groups for the purposes of this chapter in an early footnote, and I thought I'd post the current version here to see if it seems clear and correct.  I'm thankful to the editors for offering helpful corrections on this footnote already.  If anyone knowledgeable of current happenings in Anglicanism has anything that they would add or change in the following note, please feel free to make suggestions!

      In particular: is the international presence of the Anglican Continuum simply made up of missionary endeavors based in North America, or are there free-standing churches elsewhere?  If the latter, were these churches "founding" members, that is, is a clarification of the origins of the Anglican Continuum necessary? ––or simply of the fact that other non-North American member churches have joined more recently?

      [3] Concise identification of these bodies presents significant problems, as there are dozens of churches that identify themselves as Anglican, but not in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. The term “Continuing Anglican” refers to those churches that broke from the American Episcopal Church and subsequently the Anglican Communion in the 1970s following women’s ordination, in particular. I will use the relevant acronyms to describe those bodies that have broken off from the Anglican Communion more recently, most notably the Anglican Mission in America (hereafter, AMiA) and the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (hereafter, CANA). There is no shared point of origin for these latter groups.  They are most closely associated with the present dispute over sexuality in the Communion following the consecration of Gene Robinson to the episcopate, although AMiA predates this event.  To varying degrees, these groups are working towards creating a new Anglican province in North America, the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). The ACNA is currently in full communion with the provinces of Nigeria and Uganda, but not with the Archbishop of Canterbury. These designations do not exhaust the number of Anglican churches beyond the Anglican Communion, but will suffice for the purposes of this essay. Finally, “Traditionalist Anglican” refers to Anglicans within the Anglican Communion who share many of the sentiments of Continuing Anglicans, the ACNA, etc.

      Sunday, June 12, 2011

      Thoughts on Nietzsche

      I sent in my paper for a course on Nietzsche that I've been taking with Ryan Coyne, thus ending my first year of studies as a doctoral student (and maybe my recent absence from blogging?).  I had read a bit of Nietzsche before, but this course was a good chance to get into a representative spread of his texts and familiarize myself further.  We read Birth of Tragedy, the "Truth and Lying" essay, Daybreak, Gay Science, Beyond Good & Evil, Genealogy of Morals, Twilight of the Idols, and Anti-Christ.  After a more limited personal engagement with his other works in researching for the paper, I think that the course bibliography was well chosen.  Of course there are holes, and one unread text or another might seem to be "essential", but given that we're working with a ten-week quarter system, I think the selections were well made.  There was also ample reference to the notebooks, Ecce Homo, and other works during lectures and discussion, so doors were open to further reading on one's own.

      I thought I'd share a few thoughts on Nietzsche that occurred to me over the semester, with the caution that this spring has been my only extended and solid engagement with Nietzsche, so there is surely more and better to be said on all of these points.

      § I won't get into my paper topic too much, but I decided to write on Nietzsche's philosophy of science through the lens of some paragraphs from The Gay Science.  I had three main reasons for writing on a topic like this.  First, I wanted to avoid any discussion of Nietzsche and theology/God/religion/etc..  There is obviously a lot for a theologian to write on Nietzsche, and theologians should surely be doing this, but I wanted to get out of that mindset and write more about Nietzsche on his own terms.  I didn't want to just come at him with issues that I had because of my own theological concerns.  Second, I wanted to avoid the doctrines that Nietzsche is best known for, that overtook his later works, and that have created a thicket of various opinions on The-Meaning-Of-Nietzsche.  Again, it's not that these doctrines are unimportant or that a complete picture of Nietzsche's thought could be achieved without them.  But I wanted simply to think alongside Nietzsche in a more mundane way and draw out some themes that were less liable to distortion at the hands of their own importance.  Third, I wanted to pick a topic that could seep out into his wider oeuvre rather than pinpoint a single problem for a surgical encounter.  I find that I can quite readily identify problems in texts and play with them, modify them, "solve" them, etc.. This approach, I think, comes naturally to the genre of the research article, and when article-length engagements are the bread and butter of scholarly writing, one's mindset is shaped much more according to article-length problems.  I wanted to resist that approach and write on something that could expand to a more widely interpretive scope as an exercise in engaging with a thinker rather than just being a wonk of theoretical puzzles.

      § On Nietzsche as a theologian (to indulge, since I actively tried to avoid the theological cookie-cutter throughout the semester): it is impressive how much Nietzsche lends himself to theological considerations, and how much he himself acted as a theologian.  By way of preface to a reflection on God and the devil in Ecce Homo he writes the following warning: "Theologically speaking -- listen carefully, because I do not speak like a theologian very often --" The only problem is that this simply isn't true.  I found that Nietzsche quite often spoke like a theologian.  I daresay one could guess that Nietzsche's father was a Lutheran pastor without any biographical familiarity; simply by knowing Nietzsche's thoughts on morality or the Crucified, it was obvious enough. 

      § An interesting paper, if someone hasn't already written it, would consider the move from "nay-saying" to "yea-saying" made by both Nietzsche and Barth over the course of their respective careers.  The comparison could draw some unexpected and provocative connections between the two thinkers. The identity of the Anti-Christ might also play heavily into this comparative intellectual biography, though obviously in very different ways when one man self-identified with what the other man feared around many corners.

      § While I found a good bit of Nietzsche needlessly bombastic and was at times unsure that his aphorisms went much deeper than a certain cleverness of style, I am convinced that Nietzsche deserves all of the shelf space he is given in the philosophy section of the average Barnes & Noble, or all of the naive enthusiasm he meets in the freshman student taking Philosophy 101.  Nor can his scholarly reception be explained away as mere postmodern trendiness; he belongs in the pantheon, and far from one of its lower seats.

      § Two articles that I enjoyed reading for my paper were Werner Stegmaier's "Nietzsche's Doctrines, Nietzsche's Signs", and R. Lanier Anderson's "Nietzsche's Will to Power as a Doctrine of the Unity of Science".  Both were published earlier and are here found in their most recent versions.

      § As I mentioned in my last post, I have really benefited from the online material on Nietzsche, especially Nietzsche Source, which made working with the primary texts a good deal easier than having that many more physical volumes piled around my desk.  Besides simply referring back to the German as I worked through the primary passages for my research, I found myself making use of a technology that was unavailable to many past interpreters of Nietzsche, even of the relatively recent past: a full text search function.  The ability to search Trieb nach Erkenntniss (to give one example) across Nietzsche's corpus was terribly useful, but I found myself questioning exactly what implications for scholarship were inherent in such tools.  It is likely that I ran across a textual connection or two that has remained unexploited, even by a Nietzsche reader of Walter Kaufmann's caliber.  Is this right?  One almost feels fraudulent citing a range of texts that is much wider than what one has worked through from start to finish.  It obviously wasn't my depth of familiarity with Nietzsche that earned me this knowledge, nor my superior interpretive skills.  Yet the knowledge sits in my lap and surely shouldn't be dismissed simply because I didn't get a hold of it the old-fashioned way.  Best, I think, is to make use of these tools as far as possible while still retaining a humility about the task.  A rule of thumb:  If I have a good sense of the limits of my abilities to contextualize a passage that I run across in a text search, then I likely also have a good sense of the extent to which I can responsibly employ that passage within an argument that I am trying to make.  A rule of thumb on Nietzsche with regard to the preceding: his use of aphorisms and paragraphs makes the question of contextualization simpler in some ways because of their fragmented nature... but in other ways deceptively simple.