DIARY: 15 JUNE, 2017

From suburbia to the nearby countryside, we took a little adventure. And that was thanks to Candace’s co-worker Joanne. Her ageing, resilient minivan took us to three notable spots: the new Cotter Dam, the Canberra Deep Space Station Communication Complex (the CDSCC is operated by NASA), and the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. Thankfully, it was a pleasantly sunny day on Saturday (June 3rd). But it’s still winter. There was a chilly, pinching breeze throughout the day, making itself felt every time you moved from sunlight to shade. Although the temperature peaked at something like 15 degrees (Celsius), by the late afternoon you could see your breath. Continue reading “DIARY: 15 JUNE, 2017”

DISREGARD OR DESPAIR? C.S. LEWIS AND ALASDAIR MACINTYRE ON MODERN THEOLOGY

In typical fashion, Nietzsche unleashed the hammer of his polemic on the stand-in figure of George Eliot: in getting rid of God Eliot had nonetheless clung to Christian morality. Nothing could have disgusted Nietzsche more, and he duly fulminated against all she stood for, however unfairly, in righteous indignation. His sharp criticism, delivered in Twilight of the Idols (1888), consisted of the claim that you could not get rid of God and yet retain Christian morality. To fail to see that they were necessarily interconnected was a failure to discover the sickness from which Europe was suffering. For Nietzsche it is quite clearly all or nothing, even if we might wonder today about whether or not Nietzsche successfully shed his religious skin as fully as he hoped. Nevertheless, the “revaluation of all values,” the project to which Nietzsche returned again and again in his mature work, was precisely the attempt to do what he accused so many of his contemporaries of failing to do. It is why Nietzsche eventually turned on both Schopenhauer and Wagner. In order to breathe the aristocratic mountain air of healthy overmen he insisted that one has to leave “flatland.” The Dionysian doctor offers Zarathustra as the philosophical pharmakon. Continue reading “DISREGARD OR DESPAIR? C.S. LEWIS AND ALASDAIR MACINTYRE ON MODERN THEOLOGY”

SEEING “THE CASE FOR CHRIST”

All together there were five of us sitting comfortably in the dark. Truth be told, I was a little surprised I wasn’t the only one there. This movie wasn’t going to break any box office records after all, and it was 10am on Friday.

I first read The Case for Christ as a teenager. My mom worked at an evangelical Christian bookstore in Red Deer, Alberta, for much of her life. It was called “Gospel Books and Music” before it relocated to much bigger premises and strategically rebranded under the banner of an American franchise: “Parables Christian Marketplace.” Thanks to online retailing and digital books, the store is now a shell of its former self, run not so much for profit as for conviction. Continue reading “SEEING “THE CASE FOR CHRIST””

DIARY: MAY, 2017

WEEK 8 – May 1, 2017. TOURISM

You’re supposed to see the main attractions. That’s what you do when you travel to a new city. In the past two weeks Candace and I traveled to Sydney and Melbourne. And yes, we went to see some of the main tourist sites. If you’re in Sydney it’s a given that, from some vantage point or other, you’ll see the Opera House. Yet when we returned to Canberra I found myself somehow slightly dissatisfied. Each time we travel I’m becoming increasingly reluctant to see the trip in terms of a checklist of places to see or things to do. Travelling around for food and drink remains immune to this malaise for now. As Aristotle pointed out long ago, in his discussion of the virtue of temperance, those are needs that have to be met by all human beings. Happily, I can still easily justify searching out Sydney’s best ramen or Melbourne’s most tantalizing nitroglycerin gelato (yes the latter is a real thing). Continue reading “DIARY: MAY, 2017”

DIARY: MARCH, 2017

WEEK ONE – 13 March, 2017. TO CANBERRA

In total the trip from Montreal took more than 30 hours. It was supposed to take 24, or thereabouts. The last leg of our flight was delayed, the shortest part, from Brisbane to Canberra. But we were fine in the end, wiping away the sleepiness with unencumbered expectancy. Our gracious host, a co-worker of Candace’s, picked us up from the airport and settled us in her home quickly and quietly. There we assumed a place among the many others staying with her – her twin adult daughters and their partners, as well as her brother, there to help her settle her deceased mother’s estate and fix up the family home to sell. Continue reading “DIARY: MARCH, 2017”

PHILIP YANCEY’S AMERICA

When asked about evangelical support for Donald Trump in a recent interview, prominent evangelical writer Philip Yancey replies with astonishment. How, he wonders, could Trump be an evangelical hero? But surely (hopefully?) Yancey isn’t ignorant of how race, class, and gender figure into this equation. The reality is that a much more specific subset of evangelicals consider Trump a hero, and presumably a larger subset see him merely as a temporary political ally. Philip Gorski suggests Trump support among evangelicals derives from those whose religion is a form of national identity, which Gorski calls “Christianism”. Such Christianism is often “restorationist”, as Max Perry Mueller observes, which helps to explain why evangelicals might resonate with the phrase “make America great again”. Continue reading “PHILIP YANCEY’S AMERICA”

SMART ALEC

One of the rejoinders I can remember my father giving me as a child was telling me not to be a “Smart Alec”. Evidently I liked to talk back when I thought my parents were being unfair or interfering with something I wished to do or have. In reading Freud and commentaries on Freud this phrase of my father’s popped into my head a couple of times. It seems significant. In one instance it came to mind when I was reading Jonathan Lear’s excellent introduction to Freud and psychoanalysis. Lear describes Freud as under a kind of paternal curse himself, revealed in Freud’s own self-analysis of a dream he had, which Freud concluded to mean something like: “See father, I did amount to something”. Continue reading “SMART ALEC”

NEOLIBERAL JESUS: READING JAMES CROSSLEY

Is all history political? In at least one sense, yes. If we take this statement to mean that all history-writing is political, then it is so because historians write from a particular perspective and so their arguments, however critical and objective, still belie a political orientation of some kind. Some scholars think objectivity is possible, others do not, and much depends on how we understand the historian’s methodological process. To me there is no “ideology free” approach to the past, but there is a distinctive set of practices and a community which constitutes critical history, and which distinguishes it from things like communal memory. But I think both critical history and communal memory are political, in a broad Aristotelian sense. When I approach the topic of atheism in early modern Europe, I’ve done so governed by the norms and practices of critical history, but I still do so in ways shaped by an ideological framework that is itself informed by my personal history, by my beliefs, and by my own social, cultural, and political context. Continue reading “NEOLIBERAL JESUS: READING JAMES CROSSLEY”

SPEAKING OF GOD

This past Sunday I gave a talk at church on the Apostle Paul’s visit to Athens as recorded in the seventeenth chapter of the New Testament book of the “Acts of the Apostles”.  This is the fourth time I’ve spoken at church in the past two years or so. I had a little fun with my talk by trying to summarize the book of Acts as if it was tv series, which I punned by calling it “Better Call Paul”. This was, of course, done in my own layman’s terms, and certainly without any pretense to knowledge of the relevant historical-critical scholarship or deep theological insight. That said, I felt confident enough to speak because I’m partial to the view that being Christian means knowing, living, and retelling the stories about God recorded in Scripture. Continue reading “SPEAKING OF GOD”