Monday, December 21, 2009

Quote of the Day

Jn. 2:24-5: "Jesus did not trust himself to them, because he knew all men and needed no one to bear witness of man; for he himself knew what was in man."

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Obama's Christian Realism (2)

For months, the Obama presidency has been unfolding in a way that has disappointed both those who would be predictably disappointed and those whose hopes have been dashed...or at least tempered. David Brooks has chimed in on Obama's perception of international affairs in a column that is characteristically concise and precise. More to the point: as I argued in a 2008 article in the Toronto Star, Obama's worldview is decisively Christian, though not in ways that some Christians will be all that comfortable, both from the left and right.

Whether Obama is informed by the Augustinian sense of existential tension (between the folly and necessity of waging war for example) remains to be seen, although I think that there is something there in Obama that testifies to his reliance on Augustinian thinking - via Niebuhr probably.

What I do know is that there are plenty of reasons for both those on the left and right to resist an Augustinian turn in political theory and practice. The right will resist the contemplative thread in one like Obama, who tends to remark on his own country's temptation to embrace (imperialist forms of) evil. Obama is not alone in that regard, but that is a convenient example, since he is the current target of right wing venom. But the left also feels compelled to resist an Augustinian turn in politics, because that would be an implicit theological and moral turn. Not only that, it would be a theological turn that actually takes seriously the fact of evil, instead of using it merely as a rhetorical prop (in other words, actually believing words such as those used by Bush Jr. in his axis of evil speech etc., even though resisting the association of particular regimes with evil per se - unlike Bush Jr. who saw evil as manifest in that axis of N. Korea, Saddam's Iraq and Iran).


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Evolution, Religion and Natural Law

I'm one of four respondents on a panel at Concordia on Nov. 5. We are taking up the great themes and claims in Craig Boyd's book A Shared Morality (Brazos, 2007). I'm responsible for summing up the last two chapters and offering some comments... which I will keep for the day of.

But, I am impressed with the book. Although I'm not an ethicist or a moral theologian, I am interested in the implications of contemporary interpretations of natural law theory for theological anthropology.

Craig makes the nice move of advocating a necessary mutual interdependence between natural law theory (The Thomist version minus the fuzzy Aristotelian static anthropology) and virtue theory. It's a great argument. I'm going to try to get some points in on how this affects our notion of sin. And maybe I'll try to work in Lonergan, whose own interpretation of ethics involves something of a combined natural law / virtue ethics approach. We'll see. Here's the event poster.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Science and Christianity

It's a long and convoluted historical relationship. And always controversial, especially when it's dealt with stridently. Here is an interesting response to one version of the strident argument that Christianity killed science. Warning: it's lengthy.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Genuinely Disturbing

This story about a Catholic bishop from Nova Scotia who has been charged with possession of child pornography is news most of this week and it's genuinely shocking.

I would imagine that the Canadian Conference of Catholic bishops are involved in serious discussions of contingency plans in the event of massive, angry yet quiet backlash on the part of Canadian Catholics. One would think anyway..

Update: some interesting commentary here

And here, at the comment left on Oct. 2, 10:07 by L. Podles, are startling hints that the RCMP knows far more than the Vatican, to which Canadian Catholics might reasonably respond with astonished outrage over why Lahey was ever appointed bishop in the first place.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Roman Surreal Polanski

Are you in shock over the media's and Hollywood's ho-hum sympathy for a prominent ... rapist? Well, we're not alone apparently.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Checking in

Not so much activity around this blog lately, which I regret, since I want to ramp up the writing here as a series of test run bits for various other more official writing projects. But .... I am Interim chair of our department at the moment, and so I'm preoccupied with the minutiae of department life in addition to teaching and everything else.

However, some things have not gone unobserved!
For starters, have a chuckle at this witty and fairly accurate account of theological dialectics by Kim Fabricius - probably more descriptively true than many of us in the 'profession' care to admit: The Divine Flu

And just now, I have begun to read this serious review of a book on secularism and religion. The reviewer is David Martin whose reviews over at the TLS are often brilliant: Post-Secular? It depends on what you mean and where you look.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A.N. Wilson

If you haven't heard, A.N. Wilson, writer and culture vulture extraordinaire has become a Christian (again) after years of atheist sojourning.

Read his personal account - it's confessional in places. Fascinating.

Notice his rhetoric about the media and the chattering classes? Canada's media outlets are this close to being as deceitful as the UK's... I would say.

Here is something a bit more substantial. Notice how reflection upon God only arises in Wilson's mind once the debate over human beings has really been sorted out. This is like reading a little propaedeutic to a book on theological anthropology. And once he's tackled love, suffering, music, Bonhoeffer, Gandhi and language (themes and exemplars of human uniqueness - in contrast to neo-Darwinism, take note), he goes straight to christology. Incredible.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Crony capitalism, croniest capitalism

I read this article over the weekend, and it is very illuminating, one of the best reflections on the structural problems we face in the ongoing financial crisis. The lack of obvious solutions to the problem of oligarchic capitalism suggests to me that the west is headed in a direction that Latin American societies have known for a long time. The rich grow richer, the poor, poorer.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Pope and Africa

Yes, I know - everyone has been over and over this.... But is there a perspective or two that we haven't heard from?

These two articles are among the best I've seen: social, even left-wing liberals who want us to take Pope Benedict XVI very seriously:

1) Edward Green, the now famous Harvard medical researcher.

2) Michael Czerny, a Canadian Jesuit and former head of the Faith and Social Action Office here in Canada , and now Director of the African Jesuit AIDS Network (AJAN).

Read and enjoy the calm, reasonable but not utterly defensive analysis, as opposed to the rest of the "commentary" out there.

Update: Here is a nuanced response to responses by Ross Douthat. Again, balanced and not defensive.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Odd Passion of Bart Ehrman

Never heard of him? Think of Christopher Hitchens working in a Religious Studies department with a promotion agency working full time on his behalf, and that's more or less Ehrman. Well, here's an unbridled critique that is worth a good chuckle even if it could be more substantial.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Title & Abstract for May Conference

For this conference:

Pride, Envy and Human Nature: Beyond Darwinian Conservatism

This paper outlines a theological anthropology that responds to an evolutionary portrait of human nature in dialogue with Darwinian conservative moral theory and natural law theory. This paper outlines an approach with affinities to Darwinian conservatism, a contemporary political natural law theory. However, it offers a corrective to this and other moral theories which rely too readily on human desire instead of value. Through reference to the work of Pope, Porter and Lonergan, this paper claims that a theological interpretation of human nature is both a plausible and a necessary supplementary account. The acknowledgement of human sin, especially pride and envy, is the key connection between natural law theory and a theological anthropology. Sin is a theological category that responds to traditional and Darwinian natural law without being an imposition on evolutionary theory. Christian redemption is founded as a response to sin, mindful of the need to critically assess any natural law theory in the light of God’s revelation.

I'm finishing it up in April. Any comments?

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Lowest of the Low

In Journalism, that is... Canada's "national" newspaper, The Globe and Mail, went haywire the other day in a screed against Canada's Minister for Science and Technology, who apparently gave some vague indication or other that there is a problem with the theory of evolution. While he has since clarified his agreement with the theory (me: whew... good), the anti-religious 'journalism' that unleashed the predictable online torrent of atheist attacks was appalling. Despite his otherwise untrustworthy editorial line on a range of issues, this piece by David Asper, he of Canwest Corp., is absolutely bang on.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Stem Cells...

Time does not permit me to begin the necessary analysis of Obama's lifting of restrictions on U.S. government funding of embryonic stem cell research. This was inevitable for all the reasons that others have mentioned in the political press. But, I could not see any analysis in the tv / newspaper reports on the advances in adult stem cell research that have made embryonic stem cell research redundant, or at least overstated. The media coverage of the past few days appeared to overlook 5 years of exponentially more important advances in adult stem cell research. But maybe you saw analysis that did take this into consideration.

At any rate, here is Ross Douthat, America's most articulate young political conservative on the matter, in characteristically sharp style.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Understanding the recession. Take 2.

Can't resist Tom Friedman's post on the links between the recession and the ecological dimensions of its' causes. Read it yourself. It's not depressing, not panic driven and well done. It simply sums up what many of us have been noticing for years.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A must buy

I'm reviewing this book by Peter Harrison for a Canadian journal. It is clearly one of the most important books dealing with science and religion in recent years. Its argument is essentially a historical one: science did not emerge as an experimental activity conceived in opposition to Christianity. On the contrary: especially in England, science emerged as a bulwark enterprise against the growing sense of human falleness. Adam, the original human, is the figure who stands in contrast to the vicious, petty and prideful human condition. Primarily, this interpretation of theological anthropology arose within Protestantism, with few exceptions. In short, an excellent book, not despite the 740 footnotes.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

3 Weeks too late

This story would have meant so much more had it happened and been reported 3 weeks ago. The Vatican's communications people and other curial officials got this one wrong, badly wrong.

Update: signs that sage advice was ignored - from the highest of levels...

Update 2: more indications (see Cardinal Lehmann & Rabbi Rosen's remarks) of the same...

Friday, January 30, 2009

Atheist re-thinking

I don't know what to make of this article. I think what prevents me from labeling it as insightful is its simplistic cause-and-effect logic. Though the willingness to acknowledge the good in Christian theology is refreshing.

So, according to this British journalist: Problem: African poverty
Solution: Christianity as utilitarian worldview bringing prosperity
//Cause: Protestant individualist work ethic . Effect: wealth. Hmmm...

What do you think?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Mirror, mirror on the wall

Who is the fairest of them all?
Whom should I pay attention to in order to stay ahead of the curve - Niebuhr or Planned parenthood? Augustine or Clinton? Plato or the briefing book on Canada that just landed on my desk?
Are you wondering what Obama's reading list consists in these days? Well, maybe not this week, since he had no time to read. But next week and the week after?
What will he do? To whom will he pay attention?
It's a bit like the economy... no one knows.
Could go in some of many directions...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Mes Aieux @ First Things

My piece on a Quebec folk group and their song, Degenerations, and its significance.