Monday, November 02, 2009

Philosophia Reformata

There is now a website for the journal Philosophia Reformata published by the Association for Reformational Philosophy. If you explore it a little you will find a few articles on-line and the contents for the next edition apparently due out now.

Paul has also pointed out to me that Roy Clouser and others have published a special edition of the journal Axiomathes dedicated to Herman Dooyeweerd. See here and here. Reason to celebrate.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Links of interest

An interesting article articulating a communitarian conservative response to the global economic crisis called Rise of the red Tories.

Some videos of Alvin Plantinga on God and arguments among other topics and among lots of other interesting people at Closer to Truth.

Loads of great philosophy cartoons at chaopet.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A little more than nothing

I owe Bruce Wearne thanks for coming across this quote. It expresses well the insight that we should avoid unbridled optimism because we are not the answer to the worlds problems, we cannot solve everything, at the same time the pessimism that we cannot do anything is equally misguided.

The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God's word. Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us. No statement says all that should be said. No prayer fully expresses our faith. No conversion brings perfection, no pastoral visit brings wholeness. No programme accomplishes the church's mission. No set of goals and objectives includes everything. This is what we are about. We plant seeds that one day will grow or maybe die. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities. We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something and do it very well. It may be incomplete but it is a beginning. A step along the way. An opportunity for God's grace to enter and do the rest. We may never see the results. But that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are the workers, not master builders. We are ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future that is not our own.

Archbishop Oscar Romero, El Salvador (1917-1980)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Religious reasons in public discourse

Theos a think tank for public theology has published a report by Jonathan Chaplin called Talking God.

The reformed philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff has made significant contributions to this topic and can been seen explaining his view in conversation with Miroslav Volf in the video below.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Sermon on Money

Grace Church Hackney puts their sermons on-line. I've just caught up with one we missed on Luke 12:13-34. It is well worth a listen as Giles Fouhy gives a perceptive and challenging reading of the passage.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Elaine Storkey on the Bible and Gender

Storkey’s fascinating and well written book on the gender debate Origins of Difference ends with a useful summary of how the Bible deals with issues of gender. Her main point is that the Bible does not offer a simple one-dimensional response, in the terms of the debate it is not ‘essentialist’. Instead the Bible can be seen to present four dimension to the issue, Storkey calls them paradigms however since they are not opposing options it seems more appropriate to speak of dimensions.

The first dimension is that of difference, this is seen in the different creation accounts of Adam, from the dust, and Eve, from Adams rib. It is also apparent in their different confrontation with temptation and the different curse that they receive for their disobedience. This ties in with the different gender roles that men and women find themselves involved with in different cultural contexts, though Storkey notes that these roles are not fixed.

The second is that the Bible also incorporates the idea of sameness or similarity. Both are made in the image of God, Adam recognises the women as “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh”. They are both given the cultural mandate with its authority and responsibility for God’s creation; both receive the curse and look towards the promise of redemption. Paul even goes so far as to say that there is neither “male” nor “female” in Christ suggesting at least that the difference should not be divisive or decisive.

Thirdly the Bible points to the complementarity of women and men, they fit together designed as co-helpers. Just as women came from man so now man comes from women (1 Corinthians 11:11).

Lastly the Bible shows that men and women were made for union. No other creature was suitable for Adam and the gospel of reconciliation draws all together in the unity of the body of Christ as his church.

Storkey also points to the occasions where Jesus challenged traditional gender roles and prejudices in the way he acted towards women, such as his interaction with the Samaritan woman (John 4), the woman who suffered from bleeding (Luke 8:43-48), and the episode with Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-41). Her conclusions seem to be that (1) men and women, being different, will tend towards some differences in roles, but that these can change over time, there is no fixed ahistorical framework, (2) These differing and changing roles should be judged according to the norms set out in the Bible for loving relationships such as the fruits of the spirit (e.g. Galatians 5:16-26, Colossians 3, Romans 12:9-21). In this way Storkey finds a way out of the sterile debates about “created or constructed”, our creaturely sex/gender nature is both given with creational order and called to faithful cultural response.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bach's Partita in D minor for solo Violin

This piece was played last Sunday at our church during communion. It is quite sublime. Hopefully the violinist will indeed play the other sections of the partita tomorrow as she suggested she might.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Dooyeweerd's Text

We can now celebrate having both De Wijsbegeerte de Wetisdee and A New Critique of Theoretical Thought I-II and III-IV available on-line, though as Baus remarks we still await affordable copies of his works. Personally I accept that a decent set of the New Critique is going to cost more than your average paperback, but that is no excuse for not making reasonably cheap editions of books like Roots and Twilight available. Unfortunately price is not the only problem, in his article on Dooyeweerd and a reformational theory of truth Zuidervaart makes these rather sobering comments:

Because New Critique is both a translation and a revision of Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee, commentators face tricky questions when they interpret Dooyeweerd’s magnum opus. This is especially so of English passages that seem prima facie to translate the Dutch version. Sometimes there are significant differences in meaning between equivalent passages in the two works. One does not always know whether this is due to the quality of the translation or due to a change in Dooyeweerd’s conception. Although I shall note a number of these differences, to give them a complete interpretation would take me too far afield. Where the English version translates an equivalent passage in the Dutch version, I occasionally use square brackets to indicate nuances in Dutch not caught in the English version. I also silently modify translated passages in other ways, usually to render them in more idiomatic English. What Dooyeweerd scholars really need is a thorough, critical edition of NC, one that sorts out the differences between WW and NC and makes informed judgments about the nature and source of those differences. In the meantime, a careful reader of Dooyeweerd should use both WW and NC, and not assume that everything in NC is a faithful rendering of his own conception.

Perhaps I should add a critical edition of the New Critique onto my list of future reformational book, however it could be that we are still decades away from such a publication I hope not.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Just War Theory

It is sometimes argued that Just war theory (JWT) is of no use because it is ineffective to stop wars and is often used by governments prosecuting war as a moral cover for its actions. A further criticism is that JWT only kicks in at the last minute when the chances of a peaceful outcome is fast receding from improbable to impossible. In other words JWT finds the limelight just as the decision to go to war has been made and the government is looking around for a way of justifying this decision.

These criticisms seem to me me a little unfair. Firstly even if the slide to war has acquired a sense of inevitability the first requirement of JWT is that all peaceful means have been exhausted so there is a chance to pull back and consider other avenues, the government can also be criticised for opportunities missed or deliberately spoiled. This requirement also highlights the properly limited character of JWT because it points to the need for a Just Peace Theory, which is to say that JWT should be understood as only one specific outworking of a broader theory of the states task of pursuing justice. Its ineffectiveness in preventing war is not a failure of JWT so much as a more general failure of governments to seek justice in all its actions, in particular in the international realm.

The use of JWT in trying to give a moral veneer to an unjust war is certainly to be regretted, but appeals to freedom and democracy for ideological purposes are equally to be deplored, and these need not be discredited on account of such abuse. The only other options for a critique of warmongering is an absolutistic pacificism, such a position certainly cannot be co-opted in the justification of war! However by its very absolute character pacificism is unable to engage with the specifics of a particular situation, JWT in contrast encourages a critical evaluation of the situation which can latch onto the concrete realities of states entering into peace endangering scenarios.

JWT, it should be remembered, has a role to play in evaluating the prosecution of war and military hostilities just as much as in the decision to go to war. This is illustrated in this article from the Economist on Israels actions in Gaza. In a more thorough fashion see James Skillen's assessment of the war in Iraq from a while back.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Early Genesis

No not the book the band. I got into 'early' Genesis (i.e. the Gabriel era) while at high school and still enjoy their music. I wouldn't say I'm a typical music lover having a rather small cd collection and being well behind on the whole iPod and download technology. Still I do love music, a smattering of classical - mainly Bach, Jazz - leaning towards later Coltrane and 1960s Miles Davis, and a random collection of more 'popular' music.

What I love about early Genesis is the rich musical textures they create, their wide ranging dynamics making the climaxes more impressive and each band member contributing something distinctive from their instruments. Anyway, here goes for my first YouTube insert. And if you enjoy this, take a look at Gabriel's surreal theatrics in their live performances here.