No, really, what does Christian theology want from philosophy?

Back in 2009 I asked the question, “what does (certain) contemporary Christian theology want from philosophy?” No one from among the “certain” Christian theologians answered the question. Hardly surprising, as they rarely do answer questions, or engage outside of their own very closed circles. Perhaps it has to do with something about pearls before swine or, just maybe, something about cockroaches scattering when you turn the light on them (I’ll allow the reader to choose their preferred speciesist insult). Without anyone willing to answer, I still have the question rattling around. Recently a few friends and acquaintances on Facebook have been raving about David Bentley Hart’s recent The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss and exchanging Christian high-fives about how Hart has really given it to those stupid, incoherent (new?) atheist materialists. I admit it, something about Christian triumphalism in a world bleeding under Christian knives means I couldn’t help but make a few jokes and ask a few aggressive questions. Now, I have never enjoyed reading Hart (his prose so often praised by other Christian theologians has struck me as bloated and pompously overblown, typical of an aggressive 16 year-old overachiever) and I haven’t touched his most recent books (after trudging through the burnt husk of a body that was his reading of Deleuze in The Beauty of the Infinite I had used up all the charity I had for his work), but this question is not really one about Hart in general. Rather, the question has to do with the kind of general condition of the kind of contemporary Christian theology that Hart and others do. When I see a book like The Experience of God or a recent article in Modern Theology by Aaron Riches called “Christology and Anti-Humanism” I cannot help but wonder, who are they writing for? Read the rest of this entry »

A vaguely shared sensibility

One thing that has always puzzled me about Radical Orthodoxy is their refusal to acknowledge that they are a school of thought. Recently, this befuddlement has been reawakened by reports that a Theology Studio member regards their group as highly diverse compared to the more homogeneous viewpoints represented here. What could this mean, I wondered? Are we to take such claims seriously, or are they nothing but “I know you are but what am I?”-style provocation?

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The Third Way!

You know how every so often I’ll say that any political ideology putting itself forward as a brave new path beyond the stale opposition of left and right is always going to be either boring old liberalism or else a new variant on fascism? And you know how everyone always gets really really pissed off about that and thinks I’m giving short shrift to the innovative new ideas of communitarianism and subsidiarity, etc., etc.?

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Phillip Blond’s proposal to build the Big Society by means of military academies! Thank you, Mr. Blond, for proving my point for me!

AUFS’s published critiques of Radical Orthodoxy: A beginner’s guide

It has come to my attention that we here at AUFS are famous as critics of Radical Orthodoxy, but at the same time, many people believe we have no substantive critique. It is true that many of our posts here are occasional and underdeveloped in nature (i.e., are blog posts), so that one might come away with the idea that we are solely occupied with scoring cheap points. Yet there is a whole world outside the blogosphere, where we have actually published various books and essays! It is in that extra-blogical world that one can find our substantive critiques of Radical Orthodoxy. Read the rest of this entry »

The Principle of Sufficient Theology: Some Remarks on “Theology and Non-Philosophy”

My copy of The Non-Philosophy:Project: Essays by François Laruelle arrived in the mail yesterday. Up front I will admit that I have been nervous about this volume, since generally I think it is safe to say I’m part of the inner-circle of some kind of non-philosophy cabal and so tend to hear about projects related to non-philosophy. But, I knew basically nothing about this volume other than one of the editors is a theologian and that it was coming out with Telos Press Publishing and this made me very nervous since I consider Telos essentially a right-wing press, often publishing or supporting right-wing Christian political theologians work.  But that said, I was happy to see that Ray Brassier, nowhere near a right-wing Christian and often quite critical of Laruelle’s work, appears to have had a heavy hand in the volume. That suggests to me that the translations are at least excellent and though many of the essays were previously available on-line or in journals, it is nice to have a set of the occasional essays that have been floating around for a bit now. Some readers will be especially happy to see that a chapter from Introduction au non-marxisme is also included, so that will be a preview of the larger book that I’m translating and which should be out in early 2013. Read the rest of this entry »

John Milbank on Blogging: Or, some remarks on why insular gasbags don’t like a public free to speak

In many ways AUFS lasting contribution to on-line theological discussions has been to refuse and end the hegemonic reign that Radical Orthodoxy had for many graduate students interested in Continental philosophy and theology. It goes without saying that this hegemony was, of course, mostly found amongst students of Christian theology, many of them post-evangelical and so suffering from a certain piety inescapable for such damaged individuals. I think what many of these students turned to RO because of a deep sense of the wrong state of things present in their own Christian life. Of course RO only presents, as all forms of apologetics, various theodicies and so this perpetuates the split, the wrong state of things, that these students try to heal by parroting the assumed masters, like John Milbank. But by presenting these often meaningless words to students, whose only knowledge of the figures and forms of life being critiqued by RO comes from those claiming to have mastered them, we’ve been able to move the debate simply by demanding one. Read the rest of this entry »

Audio of “From the Fractured One of Shi’ism: On a Speculative Theory of Concealment and Dissimulation”

I expect that there will continue to be relatively little from me on the blog until I’ve finished my dissertation (the tentative hand-in date is July 1st). On Wednesday, though, I took time out to present a paper on some of the work in Islam I’ve been doing for the “Speculative Philosophies and Religious Practices: New Directions in the Philosophy of Religion and Post-Secular Practical Theology” workshop co-organized by Daniel Whistler. The event was good and it was interesting to speak with practical theologians whose concerns are very different than my own. My talk, “From the Fractured One of Shi’ism: On a Speculative Theory of Concealment and Dissimulation“, was a mix of the personal, reflecting on the environment in which my interest in Islam has grown, as well as the beginnings of some of my speculative re-working of certain Islamic practices. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t really like giving very technical papers and this is the second polemic I’ve given, but I hope to bear out the argument more intentionally in its future written form.

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