Blog Archives

Why Augustine’s “City of God” is still relevant today

How can a book written by a North African bishop nearly 1,600 years ago possibly have any relevance today? As Jason Goroncy points out, that’s precisely the question that ABC’s Encounter program sought to answer as it brought in a panel of experts to discuss the contemporary relevance of Augustine’s City of God.

The ABC’s  recently aired a worthwhile discussion about the contemporary relevance of Augustine’s The program, titled ‘Grace and the City’ can be read here, listened to via a stream here, or downloaded here.

The guests on the program include Charles Mathewes (Associate Professor in Religious Studies, University of Virginia), John von Heyking (Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Lethbridge, Alberta), Lawrence Cross (Associate Professor, Faculty of Theology and Philosophy, Australian Catholic University), John Milbank (Professor in Religion, Politics and Ethics, The University of Nottingham) and Thomas Smith (Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Villanova University).

 

Top Ten Spiritual Films of 2010

Patheos has posted a list of ten spiritually or theologically significant films from 2010. You’ll have to read the  post to see their explanation for why they selected each film, but here’s the list:

As I mentioned  while back, this has not been a big movie year for me. So, I haven’t actually seen any of these films (not even Harry Potter or Tron, though I hope to rectify the latter failure soon). If you’ve seen any of these and would agree that it is “spiritually or theologically significant,” let us know.

Flotsam and jetsam (1/3)

Ten years is a very short time. As I reflect on the world in 2011 compared to the world in 2001, I’m less struck by how much has changed than by how much is the same. Terror, war, new technology, economic boom and bust, surprising political triumphs followed by sudden changes of fortune—yup, sounds like the 1990s, 1980s, 1970s, and 1960s to me. It’s almost axiomatic that any change big enough to shape an entire nation or society happens in long waves spanning generations, not a mere ten years.

Do these findings have any particular theological significance? It is difficult to know why this should be the case. In the Judeo-Christian tradition humankind uniquely is made “in the image of God”. The suite of capabilities that emerged during human evolution is necessary but not sufficient to do justice to this much discussed theological insight.

That’s why, despite all the technology that makes communicating easier than ever, 2010 was the Year We Stopped Talking to One Another. From texting at dinner to posting on Facebook from work or checking e-mail while on a date, the connectivity revolution is creating a lot of divided attention, not to mention social angst. Many analysts say it’s time to step back and reassess.

Flotsam and jetsam (12/29)

Much of what medical researchers conclude in their studies is misleading, exaggerated, or flat-out wrong. So why are doctors—to a striking extent—still drawing upon misinformation in their everyday practice?

How much has the evangelical movement changed in the past 100 years? A quick review of The Fundamentals suggests that evangelicals 1) have shed some unfortunate biases of those bygone days, 2) continue to struggle with similar intellectual issues, most notably evolution, and 3) retain a common message of grace through Christ.

  • In a Wired editorial, “Wake Up Geek Culture. Time to Die,” Patton Oswalt argues that the internet makes it to easy to be a geek and that is detrimental for creativity and culture.

I’m not a nerd. I used to be one, back 30 years ago when nerd meant something.

forgiveness is neither just a therapeutic technique nor simply self-regarding in its motivation; it is fundamentally a moral relation between self and other.

Flotsam and jetsam (11/26)

In my judgment, however, the claim that Wright has changed his view on justification is misguided and results from the misreading of Wright that has been rampant in the Reformed world for quite some time.

  • John Byron offers a good thought on celebrity-ism and the academy.

What are we doing? Our scholarship has become, in some ways, a celebrity sport. We stand in awe of speakers who are introduced as the author of twenty books, over one hundred articles and three video series. Bart Ehrman and NT Wright appear on the Colbert report, and while I admit I found their performance entertaining, I wonder why it is that these people are held up as the representatives of scholarship in our field?

it is worth wondering if Christians (or anyone for that matter) might be attracted to artwork that portrays a world “without the Fall,” a sweet, shiny, untroubled and Disneyesque existence.

Flotsam and jetsam (10/19)

Flotsam and jetsam (10/15)

  • John Armstrong offers some interesting reflections on postmodernism and Christianity. (I noted this post particularly because he references Merold Westphal’s “Overcoming Onto-theology,” which some of us are reading for a class this semester.) HT
  • Over at Per Crucem ad Lucem, Jono Ryan discusses the importance of having a transformative encounter with truth, reflecting on Paul’s counsel to Timothy in 2 Tim. 2:18-19.
  • Russell Saltzman deals with mean Lutherans. (Actually, he’s talking about civility in online theological discourse, but “mean Lutherans” sounds so much more interesting.)
  • The Guardian has an interview with Insane Clown Posse, which may be among the more disturbing things I’ve read in a while. The two rappers confirm that although they’ve been producing some of the most violent rap music in the industry for the last 20 years, they actually claim to have been active (closet) Christians the entire time. As Gangster J explains, “You have to speak their language. You have to interest them, gain their trust, talk to them and show you’re one of them. You’re a person from the street and you speak of your experiences. Then at the end you can tell them: God has helped me.” Oh, so the rampant violence, profanity, and misogyny in their songs, were just ways of gaining access to and credibility in the world of gangster rap. I guess that makes it all okay then.

Flotsam and jetsam (9/13)

Flotsam and jetsam (9/10)

Bloody bedtime stories

I was going to try and post something thoughtful and intelligent this evening, but then I ran across this article in Ten of the Bloodiest Bedtime Stories. That’s just not fair. How am I supposed to resist a title like that? Sure I still need to finish preparing my lectures for my Philosophy & Theology class tomorrow (don’t tell my students), but this is critical research that absolutely cannot wait. If I really thought about it, I know I could come up with a way of integrating this material into our philosophical ruminations. So, I’ll get to kill two birds with one stone. (See, the bloody imagery is everywhere.)

Obviously, I succumbed to the temptation and read the article. It was fun. Stupid Little Red Riding Hood stays inside the wolf’s belly where she belongs, two of those three whiny pigs get eaten, Belle’s father actually sells her to the Beast in exchange for his own freedom, the Little Mermaid dies and her beautiful prince marries someone else, and Pinocchio smashes Jiminy Cricket with a hammer. That’s outstanding. Why doesn’t Disney make these stories? They’d be so much better.

One question that comes to mind after reading these other endings: Do we coddle our kids too much or were the kids of an earlier era a complete emotional/psychological mess?