Public Theology in the Post-Secular?

Martin Marty in full regalia.
Martin Marty in full regalia.

I recently read/pillaged an article by Linell Cady which calls for a re-evaluation of the role and methods of public theology in light of our post-secular context (brill.com/ijpt).

The term “public theology” appears to have been coined by Martin Marty. It was a liberal Christian response to a growing religio-political fundamentalism. Of course, religio-political fundamentalism (i.e. the religious right) was itself responding to secularization. So, in a way, public theology attempted to be a better, more “right” kind of response. Think of it as the “B” side of Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority, but with a smaller PR budget. Continue reading “Public Theology in the Post-Secular?”

Hidden Holiness

When you review a book, you are supposed to summarize it, say what you liked about it, then offer some critical commentary. By those standards, this is about to be a terrible review. I have read Fr. Michael Plekon’s Hidden Holiness, and I am utterly, hopelessly in love! I wish I could stick to the formula and offer a level-headed response, but I am just too giddy.

Icon of All Saints
Icon of All Saints (via Wikimedia Commons)

Fr. Plekon is a priest and scholar, with an expertise the “Paris School” – a renaissance in Orthodox theology occurring in and among the emigres who were expelled from Russia after the triumph of the Bolsheviks. Plekon is especially interested in new criteria for saintliness for the modern world (see my summary of his presentation at the 2012 Sophia Institute Conference). For instance, he was a major advocate for the canonization of St. Maria (Skobtsova) of Paris, a woman who ministered the poor, saved Jewish children from the Nazis, and was herself a martyr of the concentration camps. But she was also a controversial figure. She lived in the world and was an outspoken critic of pious religiosity, who could regularly be seen sharing a drink and a cigarette with her poet friends in Paris’ bars. Continue reading “Hidden Holiness”

Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality

20130609-104815.jpgI have been reading John Boswell’s Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality over the past couple of weeks. Picking through it, mostly. According to my Kindle, I am 38% of the way through the book. So I thought it might be good to take a moment to offer a brief, initial reflection. Continue reading “Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality”

Christianity against Ethics

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[T]he human being must be able to rise above even ethics.

Fr. Sergius Bulgakov

I tend to work my way through several different texts at once. Lately I have been picking my way through Bulgakov’s Unfading Light. This was the book that got Bulgakov accused of heresy by some in the Orthodox Church, the outcome of which was a split-decision in Bulgakov’s favor. History seems to be on the side of Bulgakov, especially since those who continue to insist on his heresy typically have read very little of him, whereas those who read him “get” what he is doing. Unfading Light was Bulgakov’s first attempt at a philosophy of divine-human communion in the idiom of a school of thought known as “sophiology,” which attempted to understand how the absolute God could relate to that which is not God. In his mature theology, you might say the question of sophiology is, “How is Christ possible?” To some, this question is hopelessly speculative, but for Bulgakov and his “fans” (a word that never means 100% agreement) this question is essential for an Orthodox theology of culture.

Continue reading “Christianity against Ethics”

The Public Role of Church and Theology

This morning I came across six theses by Pantelis Kalaitzidis on the role the church should play in public life. They are in his book, Orthodoxy and Political Theology, which was recommended by my friend Brandon Gallaher. When the book arrived, I flipped it over and read the following question on the back cover, “Why has Eastern Orthodoxy not developed a full-throated political theological voice?” This is the same question that drove my dissertation and drives my book. (Once again, Brandon hits the nail on the head!) Continue reading “The Public Role of Church and Theology”

Review: Lifted by Angels

 

 

Lifted by Angels
Lifted by Angels

Joel J. Miller, Lifted by Angels: The Presence and Power of our Heavenly Guides and Guardians (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012).

When I was 13, I read This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti. The story is about the spiritual warfare that takes place between angels and demons in a small town. I was riveted. Only later did I realize how Manichean the whole thing was. In college, I questioned the very existence of angels. I asked myself, “Why does God need them?” If my flirtations with partial unbelief shock you, I just want to remind you: Frank Peretti! According to Joel Miller, the way angels have been packaged and marketed and, consequently, misrepresented in popular media is one reason people abandon belief in them (I do feel obliged to note the irony of the author’s statement juxtaposed against other products from his publisher. Continue reading “Review: Lifted by Angels”

Ancient Faith Continued: Elastic Tradition

I was in the library last month, looking for something from Fr. Dumitru Staniloae when I came across a book by David N. Bell. It’s title immediately caught my attention: Orthodoxy: Evolving Tradition. I had been thinking about what it means to be a modern member of the so-called “Ancient Faith” (read more here), so I picked it up. It reads a lot like an introduction to Orthodoxy, except that it is more frank about our warts than some other primers.

One of the things I loved about Bell’s book was that he constantly stresses the internal diversity within Orthodoxy. The church is not monolithic either in terms of belief or practice. This gets personal for me in the last chapter of his book. Continue reading “Ancient Faith Continued: Elastic Tradition”