Monday, May 30, 2005

So. Whatcha Doin'?

Happy Memorial Day sounds wrong, so I'll just say, thanks to the nice posters out there.

Dawn is off on her traditional birthday weekend road trip, this time to the southwest. It's a mom-daughter thing this time, with Beth, since school is out.

What is Mark reading in the intermission between semesters? Ah. Glad you asked.

Just finished Lord Norwich's A Short History of Byzantium, which is a one thousand-year-long meditation on two things: how horrifically immoral Christian leadership can be and God still not destroy the church in a place; and, how people will substitute meaning for reality any chance they get. Meaning is found in visions that interpret the world that is in terms of how it might or should be, and that this hope-which-grants-meaning is not the food of an aspiring culture on the rise, but also the crust of bread upon which the people of dying civilizations subsist even as their countries subside.

Just finished Frederick Turner's Beauty: The Value of Values, a programmatic statement of his theory of biocultural evolution. He's basically a Chardinian, I think, which I am not; but unless Tom Torrance did so or Alister McGrath just has, no one resembling an evangelical has constructed nearly so comprehensive a synthesis of the sciences and the humanities.

Just started Ian Barbour's Ethics in an Age of Technology, parts of which will be the common text for an ethics and technology group that has started at the med school here. (It evolved out of a discussion of the most problematic areas in a theology of healing.) The medical types are most interested in the ethics, the rules. I think this will drive them back to a theory of human being, to a philosophical or theological anthropology, as every ethics is rooted in and incomprehensible and unlivable without, a base metaphysics. But we'll see.

I'm halfway through Julius Weinberg's A Short History of Medieval Philosophy, because even a guy like me has got to be allowed some beach-frolicking, frisky and playful, bodice-ripping fun every now and then.

I'm writing a long engagement, longer than is deserved, probably, with Slavoj Zizek's On Belief, which is a recovery of the biblical meaning of belief as not intellectual assent but existential commitment, although he is recovering this for...he's not sure what. Marxism? One can hardly say so any more, even if he thinks it.

I'm almost finished with Donald Davidson's Subjective Intersubjective Objective, and recently finished John Searle's Rationality in Action. These are part of a project to fill out my dissertation with Anglo-American philosophical positions that Habermasian philosophy would have to address if it were to be pushed forward here. Davidson is a pragmatist of a sort, and Searle is trying admirably to develop an analytic systematic philosophy, which has not been even so much as attempted so far as I know. Habermas used Searle a lot in his early post-Marxist works, but there was no dialogue actually with Searle, and Searle and Habermas both moved on. So I'm looking to write something on how the mature Searle's system might interact with the mature Habermas's. Davidson is really a technician, and I just need to make sure my critical realism passes technical muster.

At night I'm reading Robert Bretall's selection called A Kierkegaard Anthology, which is wonderful. What's not to like about a philosopher who hoped people would keep thinking of him as a wealthy, philandering, dilettantish playboy, and so would attend the opening of every theater and art performance, just so he could sneak out the first chance he got to get back to writing seriously Christian philosophy?

There's a bunch of "emerging church" literature coming out. I can hardly bring myself to read it. It matters enough to me that I get angry when people get it wrong. I'm incredibly frustrated, embarassed, and mad at myself for not being, as I could have been, the first practitioner to publish in this area. There's a bunch of it, which is daunting from a time-allocation point of view. And it's the latest punching bag for the more literate illiterati in evangelicaldumb. Yet I am writing and speaking, and do intend to do more of both, in this area, so I need to stop whining, buy the books, and read them quickly.

More substantively, I have had real conversations with a couple of people over the doctrine of the atonement, which I consider the key to sorting out Christianity for the emerging, postmodernizing culture. So I'm to read Grant Hill's edited anthology (actually a festschrift for Roger Nicole) called The Glory of the Atonement, the latest state-of-the-field report within evangelical circles and squares.

I'm also trying to get back into reading Habermas. During my dissertation writing, I read 4,500 stinking pages of the guy, and yet I still have 1,500 to go just to get to all his stuff that's in English. So I'm desultorily picking at Toward a Rational Society, Legitimation Crisis, and On the Pragmatics of Social Interaction. I also need to get the secondary literature under my belt, and so I'm starting with Johanna Meehan's Feminists Read Habermas, not least because I'd like to contribute something worthwhile to the Damaris conference this fall.

I also do dishes, stay up til Jonathan comes home from cleaning up Cafe Brazil after hours, and avoid balancing my checkbook. So I stay busy. Summer school at El Centro starts on D-Day, June 6.

It's getting to be summer, so Italian cream sodas and gelatto all around,



Blogger Julie said...

Well, as for most of your reading list, I must say better you than me. I also feel the need (although without your level of dread or angst) to read a lot of emerging church type stuff. We should compare lists and share since these titles are of course not found at the library. Meanwhile, I have been enjoying a library book, Reclaiming Judaism as a Spiritual Practice, and yesterday I spent all of Paul's B&N Christmas gift card on Lauren Winner's new book, Real Sex, which I hope leads to many interesting conversations, and Homeschooling Your Child For Free, which is probably an exaggerated reaction to my irate disgust at our school's lousy ending of the school year.

11:02 AM  
Blogger Danny said...

that's a lot of strands in old duder's head. for the less literate among us, I was wondering if, in your free time, you could write a play based on your disseratation? I was thinking Percy and Habermas at a deli in the Bardo playing practical jokes on the customers and chatting about life, the universe, and everything. Habermas's catchphrase could be "It's Modernity, stupid." To which Percy could always reply, "Yes, but Type I or II?" What do yah say?

12:42 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

In the spring at DTS library I read Claudia Setzer's Jewish Responses to Early Christianity, as part of trying to be well-grounded in my history on Jewish and Christian developments and relations. I thought that what we call Judaism was created out of Old Testament Hebrew religion by surviving rabbis after the Jewish revolt against Rome failed. They read the OT mostly based on Pharisaism, which had been less obliterated than the other 'schools' of Judaism extant in Jesus's day. Then, once a consensus of sorts was reached on that (85AD), there were thirty years, maybe, of sharp Jewish persecution of Christians (reflected in John's distinction in Revelation between true Jews (i.e., Christians) and the "synagogue of Satan," his irenic and winsome term for the rabbinical group that eventually won the battle for hearts and minds in ethnically Jewish settings.)
Then Christian vilification of Jews begins alongside the last serious attempts (by Justin Martyr and the like, ca. 130AD) to evangelize any of them, initially as an understandable but unedifying and unsanctified retribution for the expulsion by Jewish authorities of Jewish Christians from synagogue worship and Jewish life in general.
Setzer basically confirmed the story I'd gotten. For me, this is the intro to the centuries-long tragedy of forgetting our Jewish roots, the rise of mindless antisemitism (I just saw the new Merchant of Venice movie--great), and now our need to recover these connections. By the way, Mary Howe (formerly of Wilshire and of LGBC's manna arts group) got so into Jewish stuff she ended up converting (to a Reform congregation, of course).

Also, enough real sex and one might end up with a lot of homeschooling to do, free or not...


as it happens, Habermas has a cleft palate and therefore a definite speech impediment. so not sure how he'd sound next to Percy's liquid-smooth upper-crust Southern accent. But they would have fun picking alternately at deconstructionists and scientistic dogmatists.

3:12 PM  
Blogger Lorenloo said...

can we deconstruct in order to reconstruct?

send me some writing to read! i miss you and i am impressed with your reading list. douglas coupland has a new(ish) book out too. i'm reading some stephen jay gould and some anne lammott, and am going to try and find a copy of this article i skimmed in which a conceptual artist uses kant to critique racism (with jokes!).

you still have plenty of time to become the published voice of reason and kindess in the emerging church literature.

4:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have recently published the authorized biography of Roger Nicole, entitled Speaking the Truth in Love: The Life and Legacy of Roger Nicole. It is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or the publisher, Solid Ground Christian Books.

8:42 PM  

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