Monday, October 01, 2007

New Radiohead album!

I knew they were up to something!

This appeared on the Radiohead blog today:

Hello everyone. Well, the new album is finished, and it's coming out in 10 days; We've called it In Rainbows. Love from us all. Jonny
Radiohead has been without a recording contract since the last album, and there has been much speculation on what they would do with this new album. Well their sollution is quite radical.

There are two options. Either you chose to download it from the "In Rainbows" site. Hear this: You decide what to pay for it.

Or you order the "Discbox" which includes two cd:s and vinyls, a book with artwork and lyrics, and the download. Price 40 pounds.

So this is Radiohead's bid for the future of the musicindustry then.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Why Bush Invaded Iraq and How it Went Wrong

Ok, this is a long speach, but it is really the best account of the US occupation of Iraq that I have come across. Naomi Klein deals with the motives for the occupation - military bases and a free market economy - and tells how the Amercan administration did anything but bring democracy to Iraq. They actually fought every tendency towards democracy in Iraq with everything the had.

It's a fascinating story, and it makes one quite angry. Hopwfully it will make some angry enough to act.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Muslim Creationism - A Case of Interfaith Dialogue?

Just as some Christians feel the Theory of Evolution stands in conflict with the Bible, some Muslims feel it is in Conflict with the Quran. This is perhaps not so odd in itself, but I at least was surprised to find out that these groups actually stand in contact with each other.

During a visit to the University of Göttingen in Germany last week, I was given a publication in which Dr. Martin Riexinger tells the interesting story of Turkish Creationism. The history goes back to the 19th century, but gets interesting during the 1980's, when the school books in the (until then?) rigorously secular state schools were modified so that not only were creationism introduced as an alternative to evolution in biology, but fierce anti-evolution polemics was introduced in the books on religious education (a subject introduced at the same time).

The Turkish found inspiration among American Evangelicals, who were often cited as western scientists. The reason that evangelical protestants were noted in Muslim circles in Turkey also had to do with the fact that US creationists repeatedly visited Turkey to look for Noak's ark on mount Ararat. However, the evangelical argumentation for a young earth was of no interest to the Turks, since the Quran does not contain any narrative comparable to that of Genesis regarding the early generations of humans.

Even more fascinating is the fact that the contacts have also gone in the other direction, from Turkey to the US. In 2004, Mustafa Akyol, who teaches an Islamic variation of the "Intelligent Design"-theory, was invited to a hearing at the Kansas Department of Education, at which the question if ID was to be taught in Kansas Schools was discussed. The idea was to bring in a Muslim in order to rebut the argument that ID is based on Christian Theology.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Monbiot sums up the Cliamte Camp

Here.

(Note: I will post some religion-relevant material soon, I promise...)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Heathrow Climate Campaign

So far the protest against the building of a new terminal at Heathrow Airport, London, seems to have gone well. Read the news coverage at indymedia.org. Don't miss this amazing video of a successful non-violent confrontation with the police.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Monbiot and Reducing Climate Change


I read George Monbiot's Heat last week (which makes this post very outdated indeed...). Its very good, everybody should read it. The thing is that it deals with how it is possible to, with a decent amount of probability, prevent that global warming goes into the beyond tolerable. It will be hard but doable.

The effect this book had on me is that I now feel ready to act. Monbiot basically shows what needs to be done, now we have to get about doing it. It won't be enough just to change one's own life, we have to start putting pressure on those in power.

Here is a good interview that will give you a good idea about what needs to be done (and why for those of you who do not know that). My favorite line is the one comparing what is required from us to face this crisis compared to WWII.

You say that flying less is a sacrifice too great for the people of this country to bear. But the last time the world was faced with an existential crisis - the rise of the Axis powers - millions of people were asked to sacrifice their lives to prevent it. Now, we are being asked to sacrifice our holidays in Florida and Thailand.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. (YouTube)

Now, there are some things about which I do not agree with Mr. Monbiot. They are not central to the argument. He essentially says that the controversy over what the scientific position on climate change is cause by people not understanding what science is. This I think is only part of the problem. Climate change reveals problems in the very scientific method itself. It clearly seems to be beyond what is possible for todays scientists to reach a scientific conclusion about the entire phenomenon. All the experts deal with small aspects in which the method works, but it seems that when it comes to compiling all this data it is no longer possible to keep the same methodical stringency. Hence the controversy over IPCC:s reports.

While there certainly does not exist any better tries as assessing the entire phenomenon then IPCC, it is still open to criticism, which sadly is used to prevent the needed the decisions to being taken.

Oxford Patristics Conference

Last week I attended the biggest conference of my academic career, the fifteenth International Patristics Conference in Oxford. For those of you outside the field, this is a conference that is held every four years and had about a thousand scholars from around the globe attending.

It was fun to see the faces of all the people whose books I have been reading, and also the possibility to talk to some of them. Over all the social aspect of the event was what inspired me. To be perfectly honest, I did not find the actual papers and lectures that exciting, except four a couple that have direct relevance for my work. I guess I had hoped for more discussion on methods and the relation between Early Christian Studies and our present situation, which is what I am interested in. Now we had mostly very historical papers from the lesser scholars, while the giants presented overviews and synthesis of ancient thought. Impressive, but not exciting.

However, to meet these scholars was still interesting. Discussions of meals in St Edmund's Hall cover very interesting areas, and here I felt I was not alone in trying to seek contemporary relevance in the early Church. Somehow this interest, clearly present in the people I met, just did not seem to translate into the official proceedings. It was also interesting to see that - generalizing here - to most radical papers came from mostly female scholars of some maturity. There has been for some time a group of great women scholars in patristics, and the same group still is very good. But among the younger presenters, regardless of sex, it seemed people were dealing mostly with quite safe subjects.

This experience of mine could be caused by me not actually attending the right kind of conference, but I do not think this is the case, especially since I so much enjoyed spending time with these people. Rather, I have a feeling many shared my experience, which tells me that the problem seems to be in the general academic atmosphere at the moment, which seems to shy away from the radical and new.

Still, it was a great conference, well organized, and I especially appreciated again to meet my friends and colleagues in the now quite sizable group from the Nordic Countries.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Direct Action against SUV's

A new activist group in Stockholm has today been able to publish an article in one of Sweden's biggest newspapers about why they go around letting the air out of the tires of big 4WD's in the inner city.

A great initiative if you ask me. I would join the group (they call themselves "Asfaltdjungelns Indianer" (a bit difficult to translate that one - asfalt jungle native americans?) if I had the courage.

The article in swedish is here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

More on Peak Oil and Climate Change

Here's a good article on the subject, by David Strahan. He discusses why Climate Change campaigners don't want to discuss Peak Oil and vice versa, despite the obvious interdependence of the two subjects.

Peak oil could also sabotage attempts to fight climate change by paradoxically increasing greenhouse gas emissions, if oil depletion forces us to exploit the wrong kinds of fuel. The alternatives to crude oil are all resource constrained and unlikely to fill the gap – at least not in time – but they still have the potential to do enormous climate damage. Burning rainforest and peatlands to create palm oil plantations for biofuels releases vast amounts of CO2, and has already turned Indonesia into the world’s third biggest emitter after America and China.[4] Synthetic transport fuels made from gas using the Fischer-Tropsch chemical process emit even more carbon on a well-to-wheels basis than conventional crude. When the feedstock is coal the emissions double. So in the unlikely scenario that we manage to replace more than half the yawning conventional deficit with coal-based fuel, but not all of it, we would still suffer fuel shortage while emitting even more CO2 than in the current business-as-usual forecast - the worst of all possible worlds.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Climate Change and Peak Oil

I'm no expert on neither Climate Change nor Peak Oil. However, The more you look into the two issues, I have to say that the more convinced I become that global warming is something we can do quite little about, while peak oil is something that is very real indeed. To be clear, it seems clear that the climate is changing, and that greenhouse gases play a role here (though probably not a decisive one). That we could make decisive changes to the climate in the coming decades by changing our behavior now (short of going cold turkey on fossil fuels) seems improbable.

But, it seems to be clear that energy prices will rise a lot in the coming years and that this will have effects on our lives comparable in gravity to those thought to be caused by climate change.

Still, it is climate change that has become a big issue in politics lately. Now, so far I have been of the opinion that this actually is not so big a problem, because the two problems are so closely related. Most sane actions taken to counter climate change reduces use of fossil fuels.

However, it seems that the politicians really can't do anything right when it comes to the environment. Rather than taking sane actions, like supporting the development of alternative - clean - sources of energy, we see Nuclear Power coming back on a big scale. We hear that it is carbon neutral and safe and clean. Obviously it is none of these things. Energy is used for transports both of Uranium and the waste. It is not safe nor clean: especially the mining of uranium is increasingly messy because it is found in so difficult places. And obviously the waste will be with us forever.

Even worse, the other solution now getting much more political momentum is coal plants that collect the carbon emissions. This is a solution typical of the generation that has always felt that problems out of sight are solved. There are no good solution for storing these emissions, and there are good reasons to believe such deposits will become new environmental hazards.

But putting real effort into developing real renewable energy sources or encouraging people to save energy, that is to much to expect.

The problem here is that future historians - if such will exist - will have a great problem of understanding why we put so much effort into a problem that we was not sure existed while at the same time ignoring a problem plane to see for anyone who cares to look, thus destroying our civilization ourselves.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Yes Men Strike Again

While we're on the oil theme... You might have heard of this already:

June 14, 2007
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

EXXON PROPOSES BURNING HUMANITY FOR FUEL IF CLIMATE CALAMITY HITS
Conference organizer fails to have Yes Men arrested

Text of speech, photos, video: http://www.vivoleum.com/...
GO-EXPO statement: http://newswire.ca/...
Press conference before this event, Friday, Calgary: http://arusha.org/...
Contact: mailto:fuel@theyesmen.org
More links at end of release.

Imposters posing as ExxonMobil and National Petroleum Council (NPC)representatives delivered an outrageous keynote speech to 300 oilmen at GO-EXPO, Canada's largest oil conference, held at Stampede Park in Calgary, Alberta, today.

The speech was billed beforehand by the GO-EXPO organizers as the major highlight of this year's conference, which had 20,000 attendees. In it, the "NPC rep" was expected to deliver the long-awaited conclusions of a study commissioned by US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman. The NPC is headed by former ExxonMobil CEO Lee Raymond, who is also the chair of the study. (See link at end.)

In the actual speech, the "NPC rep" announced that current U.S. and
Canadian energy policies (notably the massive, carbon-intensive exploitation of Alberta's oil sands, and the development of liquid coal) are increasing the chances of huge global calamities. But he reassured the audience that in the worst case scenario, the oil industry could "keep fuel flowing" by transforming the billions of
people who die into oil.

"We need something like whales, but infinitely more abundant," said "NPC rep" "Shepard Wolff" (actually Andy Bichlbaum of the Yes Men),
before describing the technology used to render human flesh into a new Exxon oil product called Vivoleum. 3-D animations of the process brought it to life.

"Vivoleum works in perfect synergy with the continued expansion of fossil fuel production," noted "Exxon rep" "Florian Osenberg" (Yes Man Mike Bonanno). "With more fossil fuels comes a greater chance of disaster, but that means more feedstock for Vivoleum. Fuel will continue to flow for those of us left."

The oilmen listened to the lecture with attention, and then lit "commemorative candles" supposedly made of Vivoleum obtained from the flesh of an "Exxon janitor" who died as a result of cleaning up a toxic spill. The audience only reacted when the janitor, in a video tribute, announced that he wished to be transformed into candles after his death, and all became crystal-clear.

At that point, Simon Mellor, Commercial & Business Development Director for the company putting on the event, strode up and physically forced the Yes Men from the stage. As Mellor escorted Bonanno out the door, a dozen journalists surrounded Bichlbaum, who, still in character as "Shepard Wolff," explained to them the rationale for Vivoleum.

"We've got to get ready. After all, fossil fuel development like that of my company is increasing the chances of catastrophic climate change, which could lead to massive calamities, causing migration and conflicts that would likely disable the pipelines and oil wells. Without oil we could no longer produce or transport food, and most of humanity would starve. That would be a tragedy, but at least all those bodies could be turned into fuel for the rest of us."

"We're not talking about killing anyone," added the "NPC rep." "We're talking about using them after nature has done the hard work. After all, 150,000 people already die from climate-change related effects every year. That's only going to go up - maybe way, way up. Will it all go to waste? That would be cruel."

Security guards then dragged Bichlbaum away from the reporters, and he and Bonanno were detained until Calgary Police Service officers could arrive. The policemen, determining that no major infractions had been committed, permitted the Yes Men to leave.

Canada's oil sands, along with "liquid coal," are keystones of Bush's Energy Security plan. Mining the oil sands is one of the dirtiest forms of oil production and has turned Canada into one of the world's worst carbon emitters. The production of "liquid coal" has twice the carbon footprint as that of ordinary gasoline. Such technologies increase the likelihood of massive climate catastrophes that will condemn to death untold millions of people, mainly poor.

"If our idea of energy security is to increase the chances of climate calamity, we have a very funny sense of what security really is," Bonanno said. "While ExxonMobil continues to post record profits, they use their money to persuade governments to do nothing about climate change. This is a crime against humanity."

"Putting the former Exxon CEO in charge of the NPC, and soliciting his advice on our energy future, is like putting the wolf in charge of the flock," said "Shepard Wolff" (Bichlbaum). "Exxon has done more damage to the environment and to our chances of survival than any other company on earth. Why should we let them determine our future?"

About the NPC and ExxonMobil: About the NPC and Exon Mobil
About the Alberta oil sands: About Alberta oil sands
About liquid coal: Sierra club on liquid coal

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Expensive Oil

Higher oil prices was supposed to lead to the development of cleaner technology, right. Well, why would the oil industry suddenly develop morals?

Naomi Klein's got the story.

It has become fashionable to predict that high oil prices will spark a
free-market response to climate change, setting off an "explosion of
innovation in alternatives," as New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote recently. Alberta puts the lie to that claim. High prices have indeed led to an R extravaganza, but it is squarely focused on figuring out how to get the dirtiest possible oil out of the hardest-to-reach places. Shell, for instance, is working on a "novel thermal recovery process"--embedding large electric heaters in the deposits and literally cooking the earth.

And that's the Alberta tar sands for you: The industry already contributing to climate change more than any other is frantically turning up the heat.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Arcade Fire Early Demo

If there is anyone else out there who feels that one classic album (Funeral) and one great album (Neon Bible) and on maybe not so great EP is enough Arcade Fire, do check out these early demo's from 2001. Some of the songs are really good, others rather mediocre, as you would expect from a band like Arcade Fire.

Apparently Mr. Butler went through a C.S. Lewis period at some point, too:

Oh my God, a winter for a year
Oh my God, a winter for a year
And I cleaned out the back of my wardrobe for a year
Jackets never turn into branches
Not while you're not here
Winter for a Year

Female Theology Bloggers

I have from time to time commented on how few women feel the need to blog on theology, especially when it is time to create a list of some kind. Well Michael L. Westmoreland-White has gathered together a list of the actually-not-so-few exceptions.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Nationalism and Patriotism

There has been some discussion recently in the blogosphere about nationalism and patriotism, and either's relation to Christianity. Read in particular this posts by Michael J. Iafrate (and the follow-up), this post at Vox Nova and this one by Halden.

Coming from a small country like Finland, nationalism and patriotism clearly means something else than in the US, for example. Patriotism here means honoring those that took part in Finland's wars against the Soviet Union, but there is little notion of what Finland should be like today. Very few Finns have any concept of some glory of the Finnish nation, and no idea of any special status of our country compared to others.

Still, as I wrote in my post on Gutierrez last week, there is also an ugly flip side to the comparably weak Finnish nationalism, and this is I think true of all forms of nationalism. Nationalism will be used as an excuse to limit solidarity to our group. I mean, it is natural to have special concern for your family, relatives, the people who live in you home town, because you see them quite often and share much with them. In general we could say that we identify with people we share an experience with.

The problem is that identification with the nation is manufactured. My life resembles that of PhD students in other countries much more than that of a farmer in Carelia or some suit in Helsinki. What binds Finns together is the created common narrative of history taught to us in school and through media. Nothing else.

The point is, national narratives are created by the state ultimately for one purpose. To make it possible for the state to recruit people for the army. (Ok, they are some added "benefits" like shared experience of watching hockey and, but that's about it). This is the historical background to nationalism (to create empires) and it is still true today. Support for a nation's army is strongly correlated to the prevalence of nationalist ideals in that country.

The idea that something has a special value because it is Finnish is fake. One could argue that we need a Finnish culture to withstand "American" culture, but here too nationalism leads us wrong, since the problem is not about creating a Finnish alternative to for example the American, but about creating a local alternative to the global or commercial and upholding cultural diversity in general.

An identity based in real experience do not have sharp borders. The further away from Me we move, we share less experience but we can probably find something that connects us even if we move very far. But manufactured identities draw sharp lines, creates us vs. them scenarios. Finns against Russians, Christians against Muslims, Humans against nature. This is the mindset nationalism fosters. If we avoid nationalism we can learn to recognize what we share rather than what separates us.

(BTW, Our neighbours the Swedes celebrate their national holiday today. Since nationalism is very weak in Sweden (they have not fought a war in almost 200 years) they don't really know what to do on their national holiday. Very refreshing that. Hoppas ni njuter av vädret, vänner!)

Monday, June 04, 2007

Lost in the Flood

There's a new song up on my band's MySpace-site. I'm rather proud of it, so you might want to give it a listen.

We play Springsteen songs. We're not aiming for the note-perfect xerox-copies of the originals but try to play the songs the best way we can. This song I think we succeeded pretty well. It's one of Springsteen's best songs in my opinion with somewhat cryptic but very strong lyrics. Though what he means by "Nun's run bald through Vatican Halls, Pregnant, pleading Immaculate Conception" is anybody's guess.

New Blog of the Month at Theology Blogs

Check out who Lawrence chose.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Gustavo Gutierrez: We Drink from Our Own Wells

Let's get one thing straight right away: I think liberation theology is great and feel very strongly that all theology needs to be contextual to be relevant. That said, this book didn't do much for me. There are several reasons for this. I am familiar with most of the ideas central to liberation theology, so there were few "new ideas" here. More importantly this really is "spirituality of Latin America". It s not even supposed to be particularly relevant for me.

This is not criticism then, but rather an effort to clarify the major differences between the Latin American outlook of Gutierrez and my North European outlook.

Of course, poverty is a rather abstract thing for me. There is very little poverty in Finland, because we still have a great social security system. It is being torn down as we speak, but still extreme poverty is not something you encounter here. This means that I can agree in principle that God has a preference for the poor, it is not something that has much existential meaning for me.

This does not mean that all is well in the Republic of Finland, because the solution to poverty is not more money, but liberation. People in Finland, too, needs liberation, but not so much from poverty as from the tyranny of the accepted opinion, as one might call it. Sure, people in Finland are free to express their opinion (if they have one), and to live their life in any way (within reasonable limits), but most people still live a rather destructive life, destructive not only for the environment (only USA and some other country (was it Australia?) produce more CO2 per capita than Finland) but also for their own souls.

In a way - and I do not say this to in any way downplay the atrocity of extreme poverty - we are little better off, because most Finns have no idea they are oppressed, because we are oppressed by a system so efficient that it has made itself nearly invisible. Why use violence when there is television? Still, we are forced to live a life centered of producing value for the system, by working way more than is healthy and to put any creativity we still have after what is commonly called education to the service of that same system. What this means is that there is way too little joy in our lives, way too little beauty. Instead of joy we have entertainment.

Surely this is a situation where salvation is deeply needed.

Another thing that is difficult for me with Gutierrez book is that is so much a spirituality of a people. I just cannot relate to that. Here again our situation is so different. If they are a people oppressed by an elite, then we are oppressed in part by the idea of being a people. Nationalism is still strong in Finland, as in the rest of Europe, and it seems to be even worse in the US where it is called patriotism. Nationalism is clearly the most destructive idea in the history of mankind (only religion comes close in the amount of blood shed), and even though we have few wars today in this corner of the world, people still argue with this completely abstract notion of the nation as a basis. For example, we hear people argue that "we" must work so that "all Finns" will have a better life. How about all humans? All lifeforms? Why draw any line based on who belongs to this made up concept the Finnish nation? Well, of course the reason is to make it OK to exploit the others, ow wage war against them if need (such as high petrol prices) arises.

I really like how Gutierrez lifts up death as the central symbol for evil, in part replacing for example sin, that is always transformed into some abstract form of spiritual aids. Death is real; it is there. We can be made aware how poverty (in their case) or compliancy (in our) is death. You do not live when you're working 14 hours a day, be it because you have to to put food on your family's table or because a bigger car seems to be a good idea. That is death. From that we need salvation.

Gutierrez is in this book also concerned with dispelling the idea that liberation theology is merely thinly veiled Marxism. Of course it is not. I doubt anyone who believes that has read this far, but if this is the case, do read the book. For the rest of us, we need to keep on working on a liberation theology of our own.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Another Excuse for not Posting

This time the bass is even audible. Slightly loud in fact.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Theology Blogs reaches 100 listed blogs

My other blog, Theology Blogs now lists 100 blogs that deal with theology. Not bad, huh? I bet there are some that you have missed!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Elizabeth A. Johnson: She Who Is

Johnson's book was the only one written by a woman that featured in the list of the fifteen most important books of the last 25 years. That's just sad. I hope it says more about who writes and reads theology blogs than about what is really the state of theology today. At least in my own field, the study of Early Christian Asceticism, there are lot's of great female scholars. In fact, from the top of my head I could probably mention more female scholars of note than male.

In any case, this just makes a book like Johnson's all the more important. The book tries to sum up the main insights of the first few decades of feminist theology in a systematic manner. Of course it cannot be complete, it focuses mostly on theology and Christology, and does not treat for example ecclesiology or the ministry. This has the clear advantage that she can avoid much disputed areas and that what she says is applicable in any church regardless of confession.

Johnson presents the case for the need of a feminist theology very convincingly and in a manner I think most people would find reasonable. There are still people out there who think feminism is dangerous (it is, but not in the way they think!), but Johnson writes in a way that is more likely to convince than anger.

I had a fair knowledge of feminist theology prior to reading the book, but I still learned a thing or two of great importance. For example, I was not aware of how sentimental my image of the symbol "Mother" actually was. I guess many a reader would be surprised at the multitude of female symbols for God found in the Bible. But more important is that I have tended to see the value if feminist discourse in theology mostly as criticism: the necessary pointing out of a deeply rooted problem in the Christian tradition. While Johnson does present this criticism, she spends more time in showing in what ways womens perspective actually helps moving the theological discussion forward. Particularly in the area of Christology I found many inspiring insights.

In conclusion, this book should be mandatory reading for all theologians. It (or another one like it) should be on every curriculum. It clears up so many misconceptions and brings home so many significant insights. It is not the best theology I've ready, but it may be among the most important.

Friday, May 04, 2007

One year, 25 000 visits

Yes, this blog is one year old (and two days). Appropriately enough, today visitor number 25,000 found her or his way here.

Also, there is a new blog of the month over at Theology Blogs. A personal favourite of mine, I might add.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Naomi Klein on Wolfowitz

I signed some internet petition to sack Paul Wolfowitz today, because they guy stands for everything I am against.

Naomi Klein has better arguements:

The more serious lie at the center of the controversy is the implication that the World Bank was an institution with impeccable ethical credentials--until, according to forty-two former Bank executives, its credibility was "fatally compromised" by Wolfowitz. (Many American liberals have seized on this fairy tale, addicted to the fleeting rush that comes from forcing neocons to resign.) The truth is that the bank's credibility was fatally compromised when it forced school fees on students in Ghana in exchange for a loan; when it demanded that Tanzania privatize its water system; when it made telecom privatization a condition of aid for Hurricane Mitch; when it demanded labor "flexibility" in the aftermath of the Asian tsunami in Sri Lanka; when it pushed for eliminating food subsidies in post-invasion Iraq. Ecuadoreans care little about Wolfowitz's girlfriend; more pressing is that in 2005, the Bank withheld a promised $100 million after the country dared to spend a portion of its oil revenues on health and education. Some antipoverty organization.

Tillich Review

In the recently published issue of the Princeton Theological Review there is a review I wrote on Theology at the End of Culture by Russell Re Manning. It is a book about Paul Tillich's theology of art, and gave me a reason to take a look at this aspect of Tillich's theology. It eventually resulted in my series on "Paul Tillich's theology of Indie Rock".

There are lots of other blogger invovled in the same issue, for a full list check out this post over at Disruptive Grace.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Thinking Blogger Awards

krister of theoblogia has awarded me a "Thinking blogger Award". Read his nice motivation here.


The honour involves naming a few other thinking bloggers. Easy! In no particular order:
  • Elizaphanian - Rev. Sam has not written that much lately (like me!) but if one goes a bit further back one will find insightful post on films, theology and Peak Oil. Lots of post on Peak Oil. He also has a deeply honest attitude to things that moves me deeply.
  • revolt in the desert - It's a very special blog and I have to admit that I read a lot less at it than I look, because Lawrence usually illustrates his posts with beautiful images, mostly paintings, that usually manages to kick me out of my usual lines of thought. Also, lots of good thoughts on Islam.
  • Sandalstraps' Sanctuary - Although Chris apparently plays Bela Fleck to his poor two-year old son, his blog is filled with thoughtful posts on theology, religion and politics.
  • On Journeying with those in Exile - Dan's blog is informed by his experience of life among the home-less, the drug addicts and the prostitutes on the streets of Vancouver. It makes his theology all the more relevant.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Worst theological inventions!

Ben is holding a vote on the "Worst theological invention" and is now accepting nominations.

I nominated (in no particular order)
  • Double predestination
  • Sola Scriptura
  • Male-only priesthood
  • cuius regio, euis religio
  • Just war
Double predestination not only turns God into a demon, but it also, according to Max Weber is responisble for capitalism. That's hard to top.

Sola Scriptura is just silly, there where Christianity long before the NT existed. I like to see the new testament and all subsequent theology as a commentary to the Eucharist.

Male-only priesthood, a case of the Church mirroring earth rather than heaven. Mary Magdalene was the first apostle, and Pete was the first man who didn't get it.

Cuius Regio, eius Religio is together with Constantinism (nominated by Halden) the foundation of the State Church. It is the notion that the ruler decides the faith of the citizens. A bit hard to swallow that one, still, very popular during the reformation. It was always bad, today it still keeps the post-state churches of Northern Europe to be, you know, Church.

Finally, Just war, a natural consequence of the state church, where the church has to be "reasonable" in the eyes of the rulers. Without it, no Crusades, no 30-year war etcetera. For crying out loud, we believe in a God who let himself be killed. Is there anything less warlike than that?

Monday, April 23, 2007

Tracy's Imagination

I've been reading David Tracy's book The Analogical Imagination lately. It came in on a shared 14th place on my list of recent theological works, the oldest work to do so, just making the time frame allowed (it was published in 1981).

The book is a kind of overview of the (then) present state of systematic theology, and as such a very good one. Tracy is balanced, he has a very wide knowledge of different kinds of theology, and he presents the works he cites fairly.

As a person deeply influenced by Tillich, it is nice to read Tracy's appreciation of Tillich which is very high. At least back in -81 Tillich's influence was still strong apparently. Whatever happened then?

I like Tracy's discussion on the public and publicness of theology. Theology has three audiences: the church, academia and society, and it need to be public in all areas. This is an insight that seems to be lost on many writers today, that write for the church, uses the academia and neglects the rest of society completely.

So, Tracy's book is good to read, it might broaden your knowledge in many areas. That said, it seems to me that Tracy's own ideas are not really as important as he seems to think. His talk of classics, religious and otherwise may have some pedagogical value, but beyond that I am unsure... I don't really know what I'm supposed to do with it. He also has a language that is a bit irritation at times. I order to try to communicate the significance of the gospel, he uses words like danger and risk a lot, and it doesn't really work, it just strikes you as odd.

This criticism apart, I tend to agree a lot with Tracy's views of theology and how it should be done. I feel much more at home in this kind of theology than, for example more recent kinds of "post-modern" theology. Does that make me old-fashioned or conservative. Or has theology lost its way? At the moment I'm leaning towards the second alternative.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Monday, April 16, 2007

Internet is for Making Lists

So there is this unspun thing over at amazon. Now we can vote on the top Theology Blogs.

Is this a good thing? Is popular always the best and most in need of recognition. Of course not, but it is still fun.

Yes I put my blog in the top spot. You can do, too.

Of course, You can also make your own list. I did one about theologians and one about Systematic Theologies. Join in! (It's totally silly of course, how do you rank things like this? But I listed the once I found important and that I like...)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

So...

the Muse B-side I stole the name for my blog from, "God of a Shrinking Universe", is used in the trailer of the new zombie-flick 28 weeks later... Wonder what kind of impact that will have on my google hits.

Didn't like the first one very much. But its a good song.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

No Powerpoint

We all knew this, of course, but now it is proven, that PowerPoint is worthless as a pedagogical tool. (HT: Byron).

I am Origen

This, of course, comes as a surprise to no one.








You’re Origen!


You do nothing by half-measures. If you’re going to read the Bible, you want to read it in the original languages. If you’re going to teach, you’re going to reach as many souls as possible, through a proliferation of lectures and books. If you’re a guy and you’re going to fight for purity … well, you’d better hide the kitchen shears.


Find out which Church Father you are at The Way of the Fathers!




Saturday, March 31, 2007

Democracy or Liberty

Lawrence of Arabia has a great post on the failure of American and European foreign policy in the Middle East.
The failure, then, is the inability of the United States, among others, to recognize and articulate that it does not want democratization but liberalization in the middle east: something that is not tied, initially in any case, to a particular form of choosing one's rulers. Monarchies, dictatorships, oligarchies, etc. are all capable of being liberal, and it was only the liberal revolutions in France in and the United States that made democracy something more than the tyranny of the mob (and that only after a great deal of bloodshed at the hand of the mob in France).
I'm a strong believer in democracy, that is, the right and duty of the citizen to be involved in the governing of the society. Of course, elections is a very small part in this. True democracy is about the individual haveing the possibility to control his or her life. This is exactly what liberty is about.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Making Consumers - BBC documentary on Edward Bernays

How did we end up being consumers? Well, it did not happen by chance, and there certainly is nothing natural about it. This fascinating documentary tells the story of Edward Bernays, the man that more than anyone else worked out how to turn people into consumers by tying products to their deepest desires, thus shifting our behavior from buying things we need to buying things we want.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Agressive Peacemaker - Peaceful aggressor? David Bentley Hart

If David Bentley Hart's The Beauty of the Infinite is the best thing theology has to offer at present, I'm not sure that theology is in such a good place at the moment.

Don't get me wrong, large parts of it is brilliant. The Dogmatica Minora at its center is very good, even if I am a bit hesitant about elevating beauty quite to the heights Hart does. In the end of the day, one man's beauty will be another man's porn, and I'm not sure it is ever a good idea to try to contain all of Christian doctrine in just one concept. But the account of the Trinity as Peaceful Difference is a very good idea, I think and it is the one idea I will keep with me from reading Hart.

But there is a lot of stuff here that troubles me greatly. One thing is that Hart does not seem to want to acknowledge his dependence on earlier (academic) theology. He is very critical of almost everyone he mentions except for Milbank, still he operates totally within the framework created by 19th and 20th century academic theology. He does not seem to be aware of the direct continuity between his work and that of the 20th century Germans he looks down upon. Like them, Hart retells the Christian story in the language of contemporary philosophy, as when he calls Christ the Father's "supreme rhetoric".

As I said, the thing I appreciate the most is Hart's location of peace at the absolute center of the Christian dogma. However, the way he does it - in the sense of his attitude and style of writing - all but destroys this achievement. As I said in my last post on this book, Hart's attitude to philosophy (and indeed most theology) is that it is something that has to be violently torn down. I realize this is not original criticism, but I find it extremely important. You can't talk about the beauty of peace and then have this arrogant attitude towards all that think differently. It is that kind of attitude that creates violence in the world, much more than certain ethical or philosophical ideas.

The biggest problem is that most of the trashing that goes on ends up in ad hominem attacks. After several pages of intense discussion, Nietzsche in the end just has atrocious taste. Heidegger is an old Nazi. And the attack on Levinas is so over the top ("I know of no modern philosophy of 'values' more morally hideous than that of Levinas") that one can't help but thinking that Hart must be completely off the mark. If all these great names of modern and post-modern thought are such imbeciles, how come no one has noticed before?

Who does this Hart character think he is?

Some would argue that this kind of rhetorics makes for a more enjoyable read. Well, if you want to enjoy yourself, go watch TV.

I can't help but thinking that Hart's way of doing theology (as opposed to his theology) is the exact equivalent of US Foreign policy. A potential threat from the outside to the peace within should be bombed out of existence. Carthago delenda est.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

13 Letters by St. Augustine


I usually do not advertise books on my blog, but this is a bit special... It is the first book published in my name, and I'm quite proud of it. It is a Swedish translation of 13 of St. Augustine's letters, that I co-edited with Anni Maria Laato. I worked mainly on turning rough translations into nice Swedish and wrote parts of the introduction (on Asceticism and on Pelagianism.)

It is a nice little introduction to Augustine. People who read Swedish and are interested can order the book here for merely 98 Swedish crowns.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

More on Arcade Fire

Somebody left a link to this article in a comment to my post on Neon Bible. It's an article that explores some of the biblical language on the album, some of it very interesting, some of it a bit far-fetched... Turns out Win Butler is a former theology student, which explains a lot of things. Like these quotes:

I wrote that song after our first headlining tour of the States....It was the first time in my life that I felt like I was visiting my own country as some sort of outsider. I had lived in Montreal for a few years at that point, but I didn't realize that I had really made it my home until that trip. In theology there is this idea that it is easier to say what God isn't than what God is, and in a way that song is my trying to say everything about my country that is not what makes it great or beautiful. In a way it makes what is great and beautiful and worth fighting to preserve more clear.
and:
A good percentage of rock bands, when they perform it's a totally sexual thing. But I don't think we're that sexual. At least that's not what we're singing about or acting out. On a good night, it's more like the ecstasy of St. Theresa.
Do we know of any other theologians turned rock stars? The last quote is not only a rather good description (check out these clips on YouTube), but rather funny, since, as most of you know, St. Theresa is known for using quite sexual language to describe her ecstatic experiences.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Arcade Fire - Black Mirror

This is just a post to say that the new Arcade Fire is really really good.

Ok the music is a bit samey as the last one, but the lyrics are so marvelous - especially set to this music. I get a very similar feeling as when Radiohead's Hail to the Tief came out: the music just blends in with the way you look at the world and becomes a seamless whole. This is rock music when it is as its best - rather then being an escape from the world it is takes you in deeper into reality, making the things that happen around you even more real.

There is a lot of paranoia on this album (yes the Radiohead link is not just in my head). This is from Keep the Car Running:

If some night I don’t come home
Please don’t think I’ve left you alone
The same place that I must go when they die
You can’t climb across a mountain so high
The same city where I go when I sleep
Can’t swim across a river so deep

They know my name ‘cause I told it to them
But they don’t know where and they don’t know when
It’s coming or when
Is it’s coming? Keep the car running
A lot of the songs deal with the feeling of living in post 9-11 land, where the state distrusts us and feels it needs to monitor us (A feeling very close to me today as dark forces won the elections yesterday...). One of the most beautiful songs is the thoroughly depressing Ocean of noise. But religion is a really big theme, from The Well and the Lighthouse that seems to be about Christ, to (Antichrist Television Blues) that is about, well, anti-Christ, in the form of a parent that exploits his child for fame. In the next song, Windowstill, we get the other perspective, the kid's:
MTV, what have you done to me?
Save my soul, set me free!
Set me free! What have you done to me?
I can't breathe! I can't see!
But the penultimate song, No Cars Go, is really joyful, that seems to suggest a way out from all this paranoia and violence, in the moment "between the click of the light and the start of a dream".

The last song is a chapter of its own. Stong platonic languge, "My body is a cage, but my mind holds the Key". Several possible interpretations for this one. Like in antiquity (as I argue in my dissertation ;) ) the body is a metaphor for all those things that hold us back, in this case, "from dancing with the one I love".

I've listened to the album about ten times now, and, as you see, my impressions are still very sketchy. There is that feeling that there is still a lot more to discover here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Interview with me

Michael L. Westmoreland-White has posted an interview with me at his blog. Check it out (you can find out the well kept secret of my denominational background, among other things), and support his Christian Peace Blogger initiative!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Hart on Tillich

I'm about half-way through David Bentley Hart's The Beauty of the Infinite, and I will reserve my judgement of the whole book for a later post. Since Hart's criticism of Tillich is, as far as I can see, fairly irrelevant for his intentions, I will treat it separately.

I'm really curious as to what provoked this attack (it comes so surprisingly that an attack is exactly what it is). It can't be Tillich's use of the concept of symbols, since Hart makes no attempt to understand it. Rather than discussing this concept, Hart quickly moves on to a quote about demythologization, which Hart misunderstands completely. Tillich was not really doing demythologization. Hart is reading Tillich through Bultmann, who actually did reduce some myths to existential philosophy - notably the resurrection. Tillich did not do that. When Tillich is defending demythologization, as Tillich understands it, it is because unlike the literalists (fundamentalists as we call them today) demythologization, resists the temptation to reduce myth to propositions. In more modern vocabulary (that did not exist in Tillich's time), Tillich is defending the narrative structure of the biblical texts against those that read the bible as a science-book.

This is really ironic, since this is part of Hart's program as well. And it is not the only area where similarities can be found. Harts ontology is really similar to Tillich's, though Hart does ground his better in the trinity (a real weakness of Tillich's). Both work out their theology in dialogue with the present-day philosophy.

It is often the case when theologians criticising the theologians of the preceding generation, that what is criticised is not so much what they say, but what they do not, i.e. that they do not answer the same questions. Tillich has little to say about theology in the post-modern discussion - as understood by Hart.

I guess this attack is just another example of how Tillich in America has become a symbol for liberal theology - which is odd since he of course was part of the first (real) post-liberal generation.

Of course there are real differences between Tillich and Hart. Tillich used philosophy as a means of communicating theology to the secular. Hart uses theology to do battle on philosophy as a proponent of the secular.

I, for one, prefer Tillich's attitude.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

A Rant on John Milbank

Yes, I have read Milbank's Theology & Social Theory. All of it. My original intention was to write a critical and serious review of it, but then I thought what the heck, I'll just write what I feel about it instead.

To be honest, Milbank lost me even before the "acknowledgments" part. In the dedication. "For Alison (fair enough, that's presumably his wife) and the Remanant of 'Christendom'." How is it possible to get so much arrogance, snottiness and sentimentality into a single line? Ok, here we have a guy that feels nostalgic about a time when dissent from "Christian" faith would mean death by fire.

I won't deny that Milbank's book has its merits. The very first paragraph: "Once, there was no 'secular'" is an important point to make and Milbank's arguing for the invention of the secular is very good. He has a width of knowledge about the history of modern philosophy and sociology that is nothing short of amazing, even though he presents it in a way that seems to be intentionally difficult. The ironic thing is that his sense of Christianity is so puny. First of all, and this really annoys me, he is constantly arguing out of what "Christianity" is and what is "Christian", as if the content of these concepts were given and clear. It gets absurd at times because Milbank nowhere gives his criteria for what is genuinely Christian theology, he just refers to it as if he had a secret knowledge about what this really is. What do we call that, again? Yeah, right: gnosticism.

Here's my favorite example: "Eriugena's ontology, based on God as internally 'maker' and then on different degrees of participation in creation, is therefore more profoundly Christian than that of Aquinas." Incidently I agree with him here, Eriugenas understanding of creation is really good, but how can one just claim that it is more Christian than Thomas? According to what? Who?

The problem for me with Milbank's theology is that is so lacking in religious value. Milbank's entire credo seems to be "I believe in the Church". God Father, Son and (especially) Spirit all play very peripheral roles in his theology. His alternative to a world based on secular reason is the Church, which is not so much a place where the Word of God is preached nor where the sacraments are celebrated and the Mystery is worshiped, but a kind of alternative society. And what kind of society is this? This is again extremely ironic, but it seems that Milbank's vision of a society based on Christian Socialism is essentially a kind of liberal state where some aspects of life are centrally governed but for the most part it is a free market economy. Sounds familiar? That's exactly what we have in the Western world today. Only Milbank would like people to be a bit nicer, because that is more "Christian".

Another problem with this book is that the practical applications of his argument always come as complete surprises, like the half-hearted criticism of capitalism mentioned above, or the championing of non-violence. It has a very loose connection to his over-all line of argument.

An then we have the final chapter. In these few last pages we find out that Milbank actually don't think the Church is such a great place after all. It has failed miserably at what it was supposed to be and do, and created liberalism, nihilism, violence and power-politics in the process. And then it stops with a kind of "but at least it is better than secular reason". And that's it. 433 pages to get to this result?

How about an eschatological perspective on the Church? Nope. How about some notion about the importance of the believers relation to the ultimate? No, not that either. How about the Church as place of overcoming of sin and learning the behavior of the citizens of the Kingdom of heaven? Not in there.

Not much of a point then, really?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Jesus Tomb

Weekend Fisher has devoted maybe a bit more effort than it merits to the "Jesus tomb" hype. But his posts sum up well why this nonsense is - yes nonsense. A strange way to celebrate easter the media has developed...

Post 1
Post 2

Biblicalia: Sayings of the Desert Fathers

Kevin P. Edgecomb has started to post his translations of the Apophthegmata Patrum, one of the most important and interesting of the early Christian texts. If you're not familiar with these sayings, here's you chance.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Eddie Izzard - Mother Nature handing out methods of procreation.

This is the best piece of comedy ever. Ever.

Eddie Izzard on Creationism

Rev. Sam posted a Eddie Izzard clip. I want my own.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Exit Q.

Looks like they finally solved the synoptic problem.

A shame, I was always a "priority of Matthew" kind of guy. You gotta trust the fathers.

HT: Connexions

Friday, February 09, 2007

A day in your life.

Mike Bird has posted his daily routine... I thought I'd do the same. I think this speaks for itself.

6.55 Radio turns on. Lies in bed for half an hour listening to the news and morning, talking to my wife if she is conscious. Pondering what the day will hold.

7.30 gets up, gets dressed, eats breakfast and reads the paper.

8.30 gets on bus. I read theology on the bus that is not related to my PhD.

9.15 at work. Checks e-mail, reads some blogs, checks some internet news pages. Start "working"

10 -10.30/10.45 Tea Break. If something interesting is discussed, might be even longer.

10.30/10.45 - 11.15 Work.

11.15 - 12.30 or longer Lunch. I make it a point never to do less than an hour of lunch. I consider this the most important part of the day. Lunch discussions are on of my main sources of inspiration for work and life. I consider long lunches my most important counter-cultural activity.

12.30-15 Work. I usually need a break at some point here, maybe to go to the library or just surf the net.

15-15.30 Tea break. If work has been good - longer break.

15.30-16.15 Work. Usually ends with ten minutes or so of doing whatever feels interesting at the moment, reading articles on the net and so on.

16.15 - 17 Bus home. More reading.

Evenings consist of Karate practice 2-3 times a week, Band practice now and then, whatever extra projects I have going on. If my wife and I are both at home, we try to spend time together. No tv. Some blogging perhaps. In summer garden work.

In bed by ten. Asleep by eleven. That hour can be spent in different ways.

I have been constantly ahead of schedule on my PhD project. I consider myself to be very disciplined. People just work too much.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Monday, February 05, 2007

Christian Peace Bloggers

A new webring has been created by Michael Westmoreland-White to bring together bloggers from all kinds of backgrounds who reaced the conclusion that Christian faith means taking a stand against war. A very diverse bunch so far, alway a good thing in matters like this. If you are interested you can join by scrolling down and looking for the webring links on the right side and hit "join".

Great initiative!

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Miroslav Volf on John Milbank

One way to embrace the evildoers would be simply "to act as if their sin was not there", as John Milbank has suggested in Theology and Social Theory. Jesus on the cross would then be our model. Like him we would say of the perpetrators, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing". In an act of sheer grace, justice and truth would be suspended, and reconciling embrace take place. We seriously misconstrue forgiveness, however, if we understand it as acting "as if sin was not there". More significantly , whereas the suspension of truth in an act of forgiveness is meant to help create a new world, a world without deception and injustice. Suspend justice and truth, and you cannot redeem the world; you must leave it as it is. Acting "as if not" in the face of sin might indeed anticipate heaven in which there will be no sin, as Milbank argues. However, the price of such anticipation is abandonment of the world to the darkness of hell; the world will remain forever awry, and the blood of the innocent will eternally cry out to heaven. There can be no redemption unless the truth about the world is told and justice is done. To treat sin as if it were not there, when in fact it is there, amounts to living as if the world was redeemed when in fact it is not. The claim to redemption has degenerated into an empty ideology, and a dangerous one at that.
Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace, p. 294.

I haven't read all of the Milbank book yet (and reading the first hundred pages makes me wonder how many who applaud it actually has), but this criticism of Volf's seem to me to be very apt. I wonder if this is in fact the major division line within modern theology, oh sorry, that is post-modern: between those who feel the gospel should work towards to redemption of the world and those that don't.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The 15 Most Important Theological Works of the Last 25 Years

Here are the most important works in recent theology as voted by the theo-blogosphere. About 50 people participated in the survey, which was made in January 2007. For more about the process see these posts.

1. John D. Zizioulas, Being as Communion (1985) 21 votes
2. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Theodramatik (completed 1983) 17 votes
3. George A Lindbeck, The Nature of Doctrine (1984) 16 votes
4. John Milbank, Theology and Social Theory (1990) 13 votes
5. Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation (1996) 12 votes
6. John Paul II, Theology of the Body (1979-1984) 11 votes
7. Stanley Hauerwas, The Peaceable Kingdom: A Primer on Christian Ethics (1983) 10 votes
7. Wolfhart Pannenberg, Systematic Theology (1988-93) 10 votes
9. Jürgen Moltmann, The Spirit of Life. A Universal Affirmation. (1991) 9 votes
10. Elizabeth Johnson, She Who Is (1992) 8 votes
10. T. F. Torrance, The Trinitarian Faith (1985) 8 votes
12. Gustavo Gutierrez, We Drink From Our Own Wells (1984) 7 votes
12. Robert W. Jenson, Systematic Theology (1997-99) 7 votes
14. Jean-Luc Marion, God without Being (Dieu sans l'être) (1982) 6 votes
14. David Tracy, The analogical imagination: Christian theology and the culture of pluralism (1981) 6 votes

As I said when starting this project, I want to make this list into a source for info on these works, so now I invite those of you that have written something on these works - reviews, comments and so on - on you blogs to list such post in a comment to this post. I will move these links into the original post, so they will be easy to find. I won't be too strict when deciding what goes on the list, but it has to be a little bit more than just a quotation.

A lot of works came in on a shared sixteenth place: Borg, Childs, Cavanaugh, Hart, Newbigin, Ratzinger, Vanhoozer, Williams and Wright all got five votes each. Six votes thus seemed a good place to draw the line.

The full list of works nominated for this list is here.

I for one will do my best to read all the works on this list that I haven't read (the majority of them). It seems like a really good way to expand one's knowing on the current theological climate (in the English-speaking world, one should add).

The list shows commendable ecclesiastic width, and about half of the works are by writers that do not have English as first language. It sadly male-heavy, though, Johnson being the only woman to make the list. There were a number of other female theologians on the long list, but none of them got more than two votes. But then I don't think there were more than two female voters...

I also asked you which one work you find to be the most important. Many decided not to name one such work, but it is still interesting to see that these votes gave quite a different result:

1. John Paul II (6 votes)
2. Lindbeck (5 votes)
3. von Balthasar, Millbank (4 votes)
5. Pannenberg, Zizioulas ( 3 votes)
7. Gutierrez, Moltmann, (2 votes)

A big thank you to all the people who participated in the creation of this list, and since I'm sure theology giants like these also google their name every now and then, my congratulations to all the writers who made the list.

It'll be really interesting to see what kind of a list we'll get in 2012.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Solar Lunar Power Stations

Jonny Greenwood posted this Link on the Radiohead website today. It's a (serious) article about solving the earth's energy problems by building solar power stations on the moon and beaming the energy here as microwaves.

I obviously cannot vouch for the solidity of this research, but since Jonny posted it I think we can trust it. :)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Voting Still Open

I will keep the voting open maybe a day or so more, it would be great to have some more votes. It would make it possible to make the final list a little longer without too much random in the lower regions. I feel I can already announce the top three, since these are right now in a class of their own.

1. John D. Zizioulas, Being as Communion (1985)
2. George A Lindbeck, The Nature of Doctrine (1984)
3. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Theodramatik (completed 1983)

I wonder if an Orthodox theologian could have made it to the top of a list like this even ten years ago. Right now, Zizioluas leads of Lindbeck with two votes, and over von Balthasar with three, so things can still change.

So congratulations to Zizioulas and the others!

And remember, you can still contribute to the list by voting, as well as by linking to bring in more people!

Update: actually, I won't have time to look at this today, so the voting remains open for some time still.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Paul Tillich's Theology of Indie Rock Series

This series is an attempt at applying some aspects of Tillich's theology of art to popular music. The music I have chosen is not particularly indie (what is?), but it sounded good as a title.

In spite of the numerous video-examples, posted lyrical examples and graphics, nothing I have written on this blog has gathered less interest, at least measured in comments... I wonder why this is - maybe the Tillich fans and Indie Rock fans are mutually exclusive groups. :)

Anyway, there are six parts in the series:

  • Part I Gehalt, Inhalt and Form
  • Part II Subjective and Objective attitude, Categorising music
  • Part III Categorising music continued
  • Part IV Some problems
  • Part V "Christian" music
  • Part VI Music and Christian Theology

Paul Tillich's Theology of Indie Rock VI

Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V.

It is time to look a bit closer at the kind of experience we have been exploring in this series. I think most people would agree that we experience something extraordinary when listening to some kinds of music, and many would agree that this experience is spiritual in character. The question I want to ask now is, however, if it makes sense to call this experience Christian?

This is a difficult question, and we would have all kinds of methodological issues to deal with if this was done properly. More recent research on mystical experiences has emphasized the importance of the interpretation of the mystical experience as a central aspect of the experience itself. This means that it makes sense to speak of a Christian mysticism where the mystic interprets the experience using Christian language, especially language associated with central Christian doctrines.

Could Christian doctrinal language be used to describe what we experience listen to music?

I think so. First of all, this experience is a experience of creativity, of creation. It is far from rare that musicians, even those that otherwise shun identification with any religion, claim that they cannot explain the process of writing a song, that "the best tunes just appear". Music - as well as other forms of art - is in a way a celebration of this experience of creation. I think this notion is related to the religious idea of creation on several levels, as I have argued elsewhere.

Secondly, the experience we have when listening to this kind of music is relational. Music is about communication, and the magic, if you forgive my casual use of the word, happens in the contact between the performer and the listener. Music is never about listening to a thing, a product - it is about listening to a person who is giving something to you.

Thirdly, the experience is one of meaningfulness. When listening to something that grabs you deeply you experience that this is something that is of the highest importance, it concerns who you are on a very fundamental level

Creation, relation, meaning - there's some Trinitarian thought for you. Can we go further?

Music is an incarnational experience. I have a home-made theory about music being the source for the original concept of a bodyless existence, because music does seem to have an existence that is not tied to matter: a melody exists even if no one is at the moment singing it, even if no recording of it is made, even if it has not been written out. However, unless the music becomes flesh - in the performer and the listener - there is no experience. Does this not point towards the mystery of the Incarnation of Christ?

These ideas should not be taken as expositions of the Christian doctrine. I just want to show how Christian language can be applied to the experience we are dealing with here.

Why, then, is this important? Why have I bothered to work out this theology at all? Well, for two reasons primarily. First, as someone who loves music, and someone who understands myself as a Christian I want these to aspects of my life to be in unity. I want to be able to express why Radiohead means so much to me, without creating an inner conflict in me.

The second reason is that I see an tendency in modern theology to make religion this separate compartment in the world - a neat post-modern haven with its own rules and reality, without any connection to the lives of a wider public. I think Tillich's theology is needed to counter this.

Christian theology needs to interact with culture to be relevant.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Keep those votes coming!

Man, this is fun! About fourty people have voted so far, and right now, three title share the top spot, and these three seem to be pulling away from the rest. I won't tell you which titles these are, it would affect the result of the vote.

Right now, the votes indicate that about ten titles seem to be more popular than the rest. But the more votes we have coming in, the more titles will pull ahead, so we can make the list a bit longer. I'd like the final version of of the list to have 20-25 titles on it, so keep spreading the word that the vote is open!

The voting takes place here.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Byron on Peak Oil

Byron has posten som thoughts on theology and Peak Oil.

The problem is that we have artificially inflated our needs to include cheap transport, easy energy, comfort and inordinate and ever-expanding wealth. And so the primary theological 'solution' to Peak Oil is thankfulness, which is the key to contentment. Listen to the Apostle Paul: I have learned to be content with whatever I have.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Best Contemporary Theology: Final Vote

Ok, here is the list we will no vote on. Using the form below you can vote for as many of these titles you like (ok, if you vote for more than, say, 20 titles it is already a bit silly). Of course, you may vote only once. Asking for name and e-mail is only for the purpose of making it at least a little bit harder to cheat. I won't spam you.

My thanks to everyone who has participated so far! It has been fun, the meme, though not a perfect tool for gathering data, proved to be a lot fun - many people wrote small essays on theology in the last 25 years, well worth reading. If your nominations do not appear, I am sorry, I must have missed them (except in the case you nominated Dan Brown. That I ignored).

  1. James Alison, Faith Beyond Resentment: Fragments Catholic and Gay
  2. Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative (1981)
  3. Gil Bailie, Violence Unveiled: Humanity at the Crossroads
  4. Hans Urs von Balthasar, Theodramatik (completed 1983)
  5. Carl Bangs, 'Arminius: A Study in the Dutch Reformation' (1985)
  6. Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the eyewitnesses: the Gospels as eyewitness testimony (2006)
  7. Oswald Bayer, Living by Faith - Justification and Sanctification
  8. Kwame Bediako: Christianity in Africa: The Renewal of Non-Western Religion
  9. Stephen B. Bevans, Models of Contextual Theology (2002)
  10. Michael Buckley, At the origin of modern atheism
  11. Brevard Childs, Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments
  12. Leonardo & Clodvis Boff, Introducing Liberation Theology (1986)
  13. Marcus Borg, The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith
  14. Ion Bria, Liturgy After the Liturgy
  15. Benezet Bujo, African Theology in its Social Context
  16. D. A. Carson, The Gagging of God
  17. William T. Cavanaugh, Torture and Eucharist
  18. Louis-Marie Chauvet, Symbol and Sacrament: A Sacramental Reinterpretation of Christian Existence
  19. Carol Christ, She Who Changes: Re-Imagining the Divine in the World.
  20. James Wm McClendon, Systematic Theology
  21. Sarah Coakley, Powers and Submissions: Spirituality, Philosophy and Gender
  22. John Cobb, Christ in a Pluralistic Age
  23. James Cone, A Black Theology of Liberation (1981)
  24. Catherine Mowry LaCugna, God for Us: The Trinity in Christian Life.
  25. Marva Dawn, Reaching Out without Dumbing Down
  26. John Dear SJ, Living Peace: A Spirituality of Contemplation and Action
  27. Oliver O'Donovan, Resurrection and Moral Order: An Outline for Evangelical Ethics (1994)
  28. Gary Dorrien, The Making of American Liberal Theology: Imagining Progressive Relgion 1805-1900
  29. Vincent J. Donovan, Christianity Rediscovered
  30. Marc H. Ellis, Ending Auschwitz: The Future of Jewish and Christian Life
  31. Sallie McFague, The Body of God: An Ecological Theology
  32. Douglas Farrow, Ascension and Ecclesia: On the Significance of the Doctrine of the Ascension for Ecclesiology and Christian Cosmology (1999)
  33. David Ford, Self and Salvation: Being Transformed (1999)
  34. Gerhard O. Forde, On Being a Theologian of the Cross (1997)
  35. Matthew Fox, A New Reformation: Creation Spirituality and the Transformation of Christianity, 2006.
  36. Graeme Goldsworthy, Gospel and Kingdom (1981)
  37. Stanley Grenz, Theology for the Community of God, 2000
  38. Bede Griffiths, Return to the Center, 1982.
  39. Colin Gunton, The One, The Three, and The Many
  40. Vigen Guroian, Ethics After Christendom
  41. Gustavo Gutierrez, We Drink From Our Own Wells (1984)
  42. Douglas John Hall, The Cross in our Context
  43. David Bentley Hart, The Beauty of the Infinite (2003)
  44. Stanley Hauerwas, The Peaceable Kingdom: A Primer on Christian Ethics
  45. John F Haught, God After Darwin: A Theology of Evolution, 2001.
  46. J. Daniel Hays, From Every People and Nation: A Biblical Theology of Race (2003)
  47. Richard B. Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul (1989)
  48. Carter Heyward, Touching Our Strength: The Erotic As Power and the Love of God
  49. Larry Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: devotion to Jesus in earliest Christianity (2003)
  50. Robert W. Jenson, Systematic Theology, 2 vols. (1997-99)
  51. John Paul II, Theology of the Body (1979-1984)
  52. Elizabeth Johnson, She Who Is
  53. Luke Timothy Johnson, Scripture and Discernment: Decision Making in the Church
  54. Serene Jones, Feminist Theory and Christian Theology (2000)
  55. Eberhard Jüngel, Justification: The Heart of the Christian Faith
  56. Mark Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind of God (2003)
  57. Walter Kasper, Der Gott Jesu Christi (1982)
  58. Emmanuel Katongole, The Future of Africa
  59. Hans Küng, Theologie im Aufbruch
  60. Harold Kushner, When Bad Things Happen to Good People
  61. Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy
  62. Robert Letham, The Holy Trinity
  63. George A. Lindbeck, The Nature of Doctrine (1984)
  64. Jean Marc-Ela, African Cry
  65. Jean-Luc Marion, Dieu sans l'être (1982)
  66. Johann Baptist Metz, Faith in History and Society
  67. John Milbank, Theology and Social Theory (1990)
  68. R.W.L. Moberly, Prophecy and Discernment
  69. Jürgen Moltmann, The Spirit of Life
  70. Richard A. Muller, Post Reformation Dogmatics, Volumes I-IV. 2003
  71. Lesslie Newbigin, The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission (1995)
  72. John T. Noonan, A Church that Can and Cannot Change (2005)
  73. Henri J.M. Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus
  74. Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism (1982)
  75. Heiko A. Oberman, The Dawn of the Reformation. 1992.
  76. Mercy Amba Oduyoye: Beads and Strands: Reflections of an African Woman
  77. Wolfhart Pannenberg, Systematische Theologie, 3 vols. (1988-93)
  78. Catherine Pickstock, After Writing. On the liturgical consumation of philosophy.
  79. William Placher, The Domestication of the Transcendence, 2000
  80. Jeffery Pugh, Entertaining the Triune Mystery: God, Science, and the Space Between
  81. Joseph Ratzinger, Werte in Zeiten des Umbruchs: Die Herausforderungen der Zukunft bestehen (2004)
  82. Stephen G. Ray, Jr, Do No Harm: Social Sin and Christian Responsibility
  83. Rosemary Radford Reuther: Sexism and God-Talk (1983)
  84. Peter Rollins, How (Not) to Speak of God
  85. Hieromonk Seraphim Rose: The Soul After Death
  86. Jonathan Sacks, The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations
  87. Lamin Sanneh, Translating the Message
  88. Edward Schillebeeckx, Pleidooi voor mensen in de kerk. Christelijke identiteit en ambten in de kerk (1985) (The Church with a Human Face)
  89. David L. Schindler, Heart of the World, Center of the Church (1996)
  90. Harold Senkbeil, Dying to Live: The Power of Forgiveness (1994)
  91. Stephen Sizer, 'Christian Zionism: Road Map to Armageddon?' (2004)
  92. Archpriest Seraphim Slobodskoy, The Law of God
  93. Jon Sobrino, The Principle of Mercy
  94. John Stott, The Cross of Christ (1986)
  95. Dorothee Sölle, To Work and To Love: A Theology of Creation
  96. Kathryn Tanner, Jesus, Humanity, and the Trinity: A Brief Systematic Theology
  97. Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: a commentary on the Greek text (2000)
  98. T. F. Torrance, The Trinitarian Faith (1985)
  99. David Tracy, The analogical imagination: Christian theology and the culture of pluralism (1981)
  100. E. Frank Tupper, A Scandalous Providence: The Jesus Story of God's Compassion
  101. Denys Turner, The Darkness of God
  102. Kevil Vanhoozer, The Drama of Doctrine
  103. J. Danny Weaver, The Non-Violent Atonement
  104. Rowan Williams, On Christian Theology
  105. Clark Willimanson, Way of Blessing, Way of Life: A Christian Theology
  106. Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation.
  107. Telford Work, Living and active: scripture in the economy of salvation (2002)
  108. N. T. Wright, Simply Christian
  109. John Howard Yoder, Body Politics.
  110. Yogananda, Paramahansa, The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ Within You, 2004.
  111. John D. Zizioulas, Being as Communion (1985)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Church and World

In such a catholic outlook the entire problem of the relationship of the Church to the world receives a different perspective. The separation and juxtaposition of the two can have no essential meaning because there is no point where the limits of the Church can be objectively and finally drawn. There is a constant interrelation between the Church and the world, the world being God's creation and never ceasing to belong to Him and the Church being the community which through the descent of the Holy Spirit transcends in herself the world and offers it to God in the eucharist.
John D. Zizioulas, Being as Communion, p. 162.
This bold statement seems to point in the same direction as my thoughts in this post.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Best Contemporary Theology Meme Update

After arriving at one title per writer these are the 108 titles on the list. If there are any comments that you want to make, you still have on day before I will finalize the list and start the voting. I would especially appreciate it if titles that do not fit the timeframe (1981-2006) are pointed out. Also, I someone notes a title that is missing, it is still possible to add it.

  • James Alison, Faith Beyond Resentment: Fragments Catholic and Gay
  • Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative (1981)
  • Gil Bailie, Violence Unveiled: Humanity at the Crossroads
  • Hans Urs von Balthasar, Theo-Dramatik (completed 1983)
  • Carl Bangs, 'Arminius: A Study in the Dutch Reformation' (1985)
  • Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the eyewitnesses: the Gospels as eyewitness testimony (2006)
  • Oswald Bayer: Living by Faith - Justification and Sanctification
  • Kwame Bediako: Christianity in Africa: The Renewal of Non-Western Religion
  • Stephen B. Bevans, Models of Contextual Theology (2002)
  • Leonardo Clodvis Boff, Introducing Liberation Theology (1986)
  • Marcus Borg, The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith
  • Ion Bria, Liturgy After the Liturgy
  • Walter Brüggermann, The Prophetic Imagination
  • Benezet Bujo: African Theology in its Social Context
  • D. A. Carson, The Gagging of God
  • William T. Cavanaugh, Torture and Eucharist
  • Louis-Marie Chauvet, Symbol and Sacrament: A Sacramental Reinterpretation of Christian Existence
  • Carol Christ, She Who Changes: Re-Imagining the Divine in the World.
  • James Wm McClendon, Systematic Theology
  • Sarah Coakley, Powers and Submissions: Philosophy, Gender, and Spirituality
  • John Cobb, Christ in a Pluralistic Age
  • James Cone, A Black Theology of Liberation (1981)
  • Catherine Mowry LaCugna, God for Us: The Trinity in Christian Life.
  • Marva Dawn, Reaching Out without Dumbing Down
  • John Dear SJ, Living Peace: A Spirituality of Contemplation and Action
  • Oliver O'Donovan, Resurrection and Moral Order: An Outline for Evangelical Ethics (1994)
  • Gary Dorrien, The Making of American Liberal Theology: Imagining Progressive Relgion 1805-1900
  • Vincent J. Donovan, Christianity Rediscovered
  • Marc H. Ellis, Ending Auschwitz: The Future of Jewish and Christian Life
  • Sallie McFague, The Body of God: An Ecological Theology
  • Douglas Farrow, Ascension and Ecclesia: On the Significance of the Doctrine of the Ascension for Ecclesiology and Christian Cosmology (1999)
  • Gerhard O. Forde, On Being a Theologian of the Cross (1997)
  • Matthew Fox, A New Reformation: Creation Spirituality and the Transformation of Christianity, 2006.
  • Graeme Goldsworthy, Gospel and Kingdom (1981)
  • Stanley Grenz, Theology for the Community of God, 2000
  • Griffiths, Bede. Return to the Center, 1982.
  • Colin Gunton, The One, The Three, and The Many
  • Vigen Guroian, Ethics After Christendom
  • Gustavo Gutierrez, We Drink From Our Own Wells (1984)
  • Douglas John Hall, The Cross in our Context
  • David Bentley Hart, The Beauty of the Infinite (2003)
  • Stanley Hauerwas, The Peaceable Kingdom: A Primer on Christian Ethics
  • Haught, John F. God After Darwin: A Theology of Evolution, 2001.
  • J. Daniel Hays, 'From Every People and Nation: A Biblical Theology of Race' (2003)
  • Richard B. Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul (1989)
  • Carter Heyward, Touching Our Strength: The Erotic As Power and the Love of God
  • Larry Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: devotion to Jesus in earliest Christianity (2003)
  • Robert W. Jenson, Systematic Theology, 2 vols. (1997-99)
  • John Paul II, Theology of the Body (1979-1984)
  • Elizabeth Johnson, She Who Is
  • Luke Timothy Johnson, Scripture and Discernment: Decision Making in the Church
  • Serene Jones: Feminist Theory and Christian Theology (2000)
  • Eberhard Jüngel, Justification: The Heart of the Christian Faith
  • Mark Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind of God (2003)
  • Walter Kasper, Der Gott Jesu Christi (1982)
  • Emmanuel Katongole: The Future of Africa
  • Hans Küng, Theologie im Aufbruch
  • Harold Kushner, When Bad Things Happen to Good People
  • Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy
  • Robert Letham, The Holy Trinity
  • George A. Lindbeck: The Nature of Doctrine (1984)
  • Jean Marc-Ela: African Cry
  • Jean-Luc Marion, Dieu sans l'être (1982)
  • Johann Baptist Metz, Faith in History and Society
  • John Milbank, Theology and Social Theory (1990)
  • R.W.L. Moberly, Prophecy and Discernment
  • Jurgen Moltmann, The Spirit of Life
  • Richard A. Muller. Post Reformation Dogmatics, Volumes I-IV. 2003
  • Lesslie Newbigin, The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission (1995)
  • John T. Noonan, A Church that Can and Cannot Change (2005)
  • Henri J.M. Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus
  • Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism (1982)
  • Heiko A. Oberman. The Dawn of the Reformation. 1992.
  • Mercy Amba Oduyoye: Beads and Strands: Reflections of an African Woman
  • Wolfhart Pannenberg, Systematic Theology, 3 vols. (1988-93)
  • William Placher, The Domestication of the Transcendence, 2000
  • Jeffery Pugh - Entertaining the Triune Mystery: God, Science, and the Space Between
  • Joseph Ratzinger, Werte in Zeiten des Umbruchs: Die Herausforderungen der Zukunft bestehen (2004)
  • Stephen G. Ray, Jr, Do No Harm: Social Sin and Christian Responsibility
  • Rosemary Radford Reuther: Sexism and God-Talk (1983)
  • Peter Rollins, How (Not) to Speak of God
  • Hieromonk Seraphim Rose: The Soul After Death
  • Jonathan Sacks, The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations
  • Lamin Sanneh: Translating the Message
  • Edward Schillebeeckx, Pleidooi voor mensen in de kerk. Christelijke identiteit en ambten in de kerk (1985)
  • David L. Schindler, Heart of the World, Center of the Church (1996)
  • Harold Senkbeil, Dying to Live: The Power of Forgiveness (1994)
  • Joseph Sittler: The Care of the Earth.
  • Stephen Sizer, 'Christian Zionism: Road Map to Armageddon?' (2004)
  • Archpriest Seraphim Slobodskoy: The Law of God
  • Jon Sobrino, The Principle of Mercy
  • John Stott, The Cross of Christ (1986)
  • Dorothee Sölle, To Work and To Love: A Theology of Creation
  • Kathryn Tanner: Jesus, Humanity, and the Trinity: A Brief Systematic Theology
  • Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: a commentary on the Greek text (2000)
  • T. F. Torrance, The Trinitarian Faith (1985)
  • David Tracy, The analogical imagination: Christian theology and the culture of pluralism (1981)
  • E. Frank Tupper, A Scandalous Providence: The Jesus Story of God's Compassion
  • Kevil Vanhoozer, The Drama of Doctrine
  • J. Danny Weaver, The Non-Violent Atonement
  • Rowan Williams: On Christian Theology
  • Clark Willimanson, Way of Blessing, Way of Life: A Christian Theology
  • Miroslav Wolf : Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation.
  • Telford Work, Living and active: scripture in the economy of salvation (2002)
  • N. T. Wright, Simply Christian
  • John Howard Yoder, Body Politics.
  • Yogananda, Paramahansa. The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ Within You, 2004.
  • John D. Zizioulas: Being as Communion