The Limits of the Thinkable :: Coming Tomorrow!

Late notice here, but if you’re anywhere near New York City tomorrow, Fordham will be hosting its annual Graduate Theology conference. The conference title is “The Limits of the Thinkable: Religious Experience and the Apophatic Impulse between Antiquity and Modernity.” There is a full schedule posted here. The conference will run from 10am to 6pm in Tognino Hall, (the second floor of Duane Library, above the Theology Department). Catherine Keller will be speaking at 5:00, and all are welcome to attend. Folks from the conference will also be headed out to a pub in the neighborhood after the conference to continue the conversation. Hope to see you there!

Sacred Topographies: or, Parks and Revelation


The second rendition of the Fordham Graduate Theology Conference will take place on October 20th, from 9:30AM – 6:00PM at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus (60th and Columbus). Dr. Elizabeth Castelli of Barnard/Columbia will be giving a keynote address at 5 PM. Fellow student John Penniman has done a fantastic job pulling this year’s conference together.

If you are in the area and interested, I would encourage you to come for all or part of the proceedings. The program is available here, and promises a wide range of interesting papers/panels. Here is the conferences official site.

New Book: Genesis and Christian Theology

I was very excited to find a contributor’s copy of Genesis and Christian Theology in my mailbox yesterday. The book has, at long last, been released by Eerdmans and is available for voracious and inquisitive readers everywhere.

Among a host of other fine essays, the volume includes my piece, “Gregory of Nyssa on Language, Naming God’s Creatures, and the Desire of the Discursive Animal.” Here’s an excerpt/summary:

In this paper I take Gregory’s emphasis on Genesis 2:19-20 as a starting point for examining the way in which Gregory’s account of language [in Contra Eunomium] structures his theological anthropology, particularly insofar as language is implicated in Gregory’s articulation of the differences and similarities between humans, animals, and God. I contend that while Gregory explicitly uses language to distance/differentiate the human from the animal and to connect/ compare humanity to God, Gregory’s careful attention to the limits of language sets up a basic structural parallel between human and animal life focused on the orienting and compelling power of desire. In light of this parallel, both God’s image and God’s redemption of humanity can be seen as events that stand open to the animal rather than points of differentiation and exclusion.

Many thanks to Nathan MacDonald, Mark Elliot, and Grant Macaskill for all of their editorial work, and to Eerdman’s for publishing the volume!

Genesis and Christian Theology

In July a group of scholars are gathering at St. Andrews, Scotland in order to share thoughts, papers, and conversation on the book of Genesis and Christian Theology. As soon as I saw the announcement for the conference I was thrilled; my own theological interests always seem to orbit around theologians of various times and places reading the first few chapters of Genesis. 

At any rate, I got some very good news last week. I submitted a proposal for the conference and received and invitation to attend and read a short paper. I’ll be presenting a paper entitled (subject to change): “Naming God’s Creatures: Gregory of Nyssa on Genesis 2:19-20 and Being Human.” I’ll be examining the way that Gregory deals with human language in the interaction between Adam, God (who is bringing all the creatures to Adam “to see what he would call them”), and creation. 

In all honesty, I’m a bit awestruck (not to say terrified) at the opportunity to interact for a few days with the scholars attending. If anyone else will be in the area, I certainly recommend attending what promises to be a inspiring week.

robert jenson on the unity of knowing and loving

In God, therefore, that reality is known and reality is loved are aspects of the one fact of the triune intersubjectivity….We, to be sure, are not God and do not create what we know and love by our knowing or loving it. Thus we do seem to some extent able to be indifferent to something we know, and to be ignorant of something we love. But this “ability” is a character of fallen humanity, and it is our attempt to act on it that posits the gulf between our knowing and what we know, which modernity has otiosely labored to bridge…

There is, as we learned from [Jonathan] Edwards, no “substance” to creatures but God’s grasp of them, whether we think of that grasp as his loving or his knowing. If creatures existed in any way independently of God’s grip on them, they could perhaps be grasped otherwise than as God does it. But as it is, if others than God are to know or love creatures, those others must act in some analogy to the way in which God does this. Thus any attempt to know a creature disinterestedly can at best be only a temporary tactic, such as that for the moment adopted by the sciences, and at worst and more likely a sinful objectification. And any attempt to love a creature ignorantly can at best be only amusing play, and at worst and more likely sinful egotism.
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Robert W. Jenson, On Thinking the Human: Resolutions of Difficult Notions (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003), 54-55.

david bentley hart on theology :: why i’m occasionally overwhelmed

Now, as it happens, theology is actually a pitilessly demanding discipline concerning an immense, profoundly sophisticated legacy of hermeneutics, dialectics, and logic; it deals in minute detail with a vast variety of concrete historical data; over the centuries, it has incubated speculative systems of extraordinary rigor and intricacy, many of whose questions and methods continue to inform contemporary philosophy; and it does, when all is said and done, constitute the single intellectual, moral, spiritual, and cultural tradition uniting the classical, medieval, and early modern worlds. Even if one entirely avoids considering what metaphysical content one should attach to the word “God,” one can still plausibly argue that theology is no more lacking in a substantial field of inquiry than are history, philosophy, the study of literature, or any of the other genuinely respectable university disciplines.

Moreover, theology requires far greater scholarly range. The properly trained Christian theologian should be a proficient linguist, with a mastery of several ancient and modern tongues, should have formation in the subtleties of the whole Christian dogmatic tradition, should possess a considerable knowledge of the liturgies, texts, and arguments produced in every period of the Church, should be a good historian, should have a thorough philosophical training, should possess considerable knowledge of the fine arts, should have an intelligent interest in such areas as law or economics, and so on. This is not to say that one cannot practice theology without all these attainments, but such an education remains the scholarly ideal of the guild

James R. Stoner Jr., Stanley Hauerwas, Paul J. Griffiths, David B. Hart, “Theology as Knowledge,” First Things (May, 2006).