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”

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”

CHRISTIAN APOLOGETICS AND THE ENLIGHTENMENT: READING ALISTER MCGRATH AND BENNO VAN DEN TOREN

What is the best way of defending the Christian religion today? And do we really need yet another apologia in the form of an intellectual argument? Both Alister McGrath and Benno van den Toren are alert to these questions. Mere Apologetics and Christian Apologetics as Cross-Cultural Dialogue make clear that an intellectual defense of the beliefs of the Christian religion divorced from an account of its practice can no longer be sustained as an “answer” for today’s world. And both authors appeal to what they call our current postmodernity as evidence of the need to frame Christian apologetics in a compelling story, one that clearly presents the truth of the Gospel in a sensitive way and addresses the whole person in their own context. While these two books address themselves to all Christians, their confessional viewpoints are not difficult to determine. Both authors are writing from the Protestant perspective, and where McGrath invokes C. S. Lewis and Anglican evangelicalism, van den Toren invokes Karl Barth and the Dutch Reformed tradition. Continue reading “CHRISTIAN APOLOGETICS AND THE ENLIGHTENMENT: READING ALISTER MCGRATH AND BENNO VAN DEN TOREN”

A GRAND STORY: READING PETE ROLLINS

Pete Rollins writes what is basically an engaging form of deconstructionist theology under the aegis of someone who wants to effect practical change in the Christian church. How (Not) to Speak of God, The Fidelity of Betrayal, and The Orthodox Heretic are short, punchy, and demanding works of philosophical theology done within the context of and for practicing Christians today. The crux of the matter, at least for a historian like me, lies in the background story which gives Rollins’ parables, paradoxes, and jokes their meaning and force. And this story is basically the story deconstructionists like Jacques Derrida have put forward, where the history of western philosophy is bedeviled, among a series of other spectres, by the something called the metaphysics of presence. Continue reading “A GRAND STORY: READING PETE ROLLINS”

FAITH IN PUBLIC: READING MIROSLAV VOLF

Should religion be monitored in our politics through a separation between the public and private sphere? Is such a division even possible? Do liberal constitutional democracies depend on this division? In A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Shape the Common Good Miroslav Volf addresses these and related questions, challenging the idea that religion should retreat or be restricted to the private sphere, diagnosing where religion malfunctions when it does, and outlining what an engaged public faith might look like for and from a Christian perspective. Continue reading “FAITH IN PUBLIC: READING MIROSLAV VOLF”