According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Radical Theology as a Language of Critique of All Normative Theologies and Religious Traditions of Hermeneutic Knowledge


As lead in to the article below here is my generally positive reaction to Radical Theology if used arightly in form, method, thought, and dissent as a counter-balance to the analytic traditions of Westernism. And especially, for our purposes here, as Continental redactor to Westernized Christian theology, dogma, and religious thought, as institutionalized through the church and within its cultural-political structures of Western society:


"Continental Philosophy is the philosophical arbitrator between Western and non-Western
traditions as well as philosophical foundation for all non-Western Analytic thought and
discussion. As such, Radical Theology has become the essential face of the Continental
tradition speaking into all sacred and religious spaces of normative cultural thought and
expression. Especially within a post-modern, post-secular, post-Christian, societal and
political context. Commonly described as a language of dissent, it is more than this, by
presenting a context for positive evaluation and critique of secular modern culture
and religion uplifting the inherent reductionism of humanity so naturally engraved
within the heart of Westernism's capitalistic excesses, economics, and government."

- R.E.Slater, October 25, 2015


* * * * * * * * * *




Radical theologies
http://www.palgrave-journals.com/articles/palcomms201532

Palgrave Communications 1, Article number: 15032 (2015) ​doi:10.1057/palcomms.2015.32

Received 07 September 2015
Accepted 07 September 2015
Published online 13 October 2015

Abstract

Radical theology as a field encompasses the intersections of constructive theology, secular theology, death-of-God theologies, political theologies, continental thought, and contemporary culture. It expresses an inter-disciplinary engagement and approach dedicated to redefining the very terms of theology as a concept and practice. This article provides an introductory overview to a multi- and inter-disciplinary thematic collection dedicated to thinking in this area.

It used to be social science orthodoxy that [stated] that "not only was religion in decline but that there was no place for theology or allied religious discussion and critique." Religion was something that could be explained—and explained away. Theology was to be relegated to seminaries and kept within very strict disciplinary boundaries. The future was to be secular—and more importantly, secularist. The humanities were more open to religion, especially within historical and literary studies, most often as a means of understanding texts and historical events. There was of course Religious Studies, an area that as a “studies” strove for disciplinary authenticity, but in intention and focus was often misunderstood by other areas in the university and the wider public. Also, the growth of Religious Studies as a post-war, Cold War field cannot be ignored, and here the study and the support of the study of religion arose often as counter to communism. Yet this was a field that was far more diverse within Religious Studies or Religion departments than many outside could ever hope or wish to understand. Politically it ranged from hard left to hard right. The areas of specialization within such departments often meant colleagues had far more in common with those in other departments than within their own. But one thing was usually a constant: there was no place for theology.

Furthermore, even if there existed a combined department, there was Theology and then there was Religion or Religious Studies and the boundaries between them were often strictly policed. The same types of demarcation tended to occur within combined programmes of Philosophy and Religious Studies; philosophy of religion was allowed but theology was usually forbidden. Therefore, even if religion was allowed, albeit often grudgingly, theology was viewed, at best, with suspicion, especially within the Anglosphere. In this I am speaking primarily of state-funded tertiary institutions. Of course, in privately endowed universities and colleges theology could be undertaken, but then most usually within the limits of faith traditions and a confessional ethos

The dominance of analytic philosophy in the Anglosphere also viewed with suspicion the claims and arguments of theology, preferring to allow, if anything, the limitations of a strictly policed philosophy of religion which was most often undertaken to serve the ends of analytic thought. This is, of course, a broad-brush caricature, but for those of us who undertook most of our academic study and training in the last century, it is one that we can understand.

Towards radical theology

However, in the twenty-first century, theology is increasingly back and making its presence felt in a number of disciplines via the influence of continental thought. It is interesting to note that the American theologian Van Harvey identified this as a possibility back in 1970, where, in reassessing what was now opened up in the wake of the 1960s Secular Theology and the Death of God he argued for a new home and possibility for theology in Religious Studies. In particular, for Harvey (1970) this included the possibility of “a new and probably non-Christian theology of some sort” being developed that is “more strictly philosophical and does not at all understand itself as a servant of a church or a tradition” (28). Referencing Victor Preller of Princeton, Harvey terms this a “meta-theology” (Harvey, 1970: 28) or “a genuinely secular theology” (Harvey, 1970: 29) that is to be thought, critiqued and argued in departments of Religion.

This is what I term the American strand of origin of radical theology: a theology that, arising out of the American encounter with modernity, arising from secular theology and the Death of God theologies, sought to express a theology not held captive by the church. Such a radical theology aimed to express a theology of radical critique not only of the institutional expressions of religions, but also of the society where those institutions often held sway. Radical theology therefore existed and was expressed as a language and grammar of critique, a voice from within the western tradition that proclaimed a counter-narrative, a prophetical tradition of dissent.

The other strand within radical theology is the one that has risen to prominence in this century, a radical theology arising from within what can be termed continental thought, from within an intellectual history whereby non-analytic philosophy and theology intersected with each other. This is from an intellectual tradition open to the use the language of theology as a political and social counter-claim, a grammar and language that holds within it both the excess and limit of possibility. This means that “god” within such a radical theology is first and foremost a noun that operates as that uttered as a claim as to the excess and limit of possibility. A claim uttered in relation to human activity, a claim that seeks to overcome human actions of limitation and exclusion, a claim uttered against our acting inhumanly to others. In this tradition, theology continues as:

  • a necessary problem within both modernity and post-modernity, the necessary problem that holds within it a counter-narrative to the enlightenment-derived claims of the triumph of rationality, reason and logic.
  • But also in its central claim of the necessary value of the human being, theology exists as a counter claim to the economic reductionism of capitalism and especially neo-liberalism and occurs increasingly therefore as a counter-claim to the instrumentalist reduction of an uncritically technologically-triumphalist society.

Out of these two traditions arises what can be termed radical theology, a theology that is type of nomadic mode of thinking and action, unsettled and unsettling, wandering across, within and against both institutional religion and the surrounding secular, pluralist society. Radical Theology is not a singular activity, nor is it stable, and it rejects both orthodoxy and orthopraxis. Rather it is, via the plurality of the saeculum, a plurality of theologies. Therefore, rather than being a defined body of knowledge, radical theology is an activity of intent and a hermeneutics of critique of all that taken to be normative. Radical theology is where we get, where we claim, where we demand the space, language and the tradition to talk, think, critique and re-imagine human value in a world where value is too often consigned to function and economic value. Radical theology also exists explicitly as part of a rupture and reassessment of the Western project. Radical Theology is therefore a way of writing, thinking and talking against the limitations of both secular and confessional authorities. This can be understood when we acknowledge that Radical Theology as a field encompasses the intersections of constructive theology, secular theology, death of god theologies, political theologies, continental thought and contemporary culture.

Thematic collection

Just as Rhizomic thought engages with multiplicities and counters dualistic and prescriptive approaches, this thematic collection issue offers a timely outlet for an expanding field of “breakout” radical theologies that seek to redefine the very terms of theology. This thematic collection engages with an ever-multiplying radical expression and critique by theologies that have entered or seek to enter the public sphere, arising from the continued turn to religion and especially radical theology in politics, social sciences, philosophy, theory, cultural, queer and literary studies.

All share the aim and expression of breaking out of walls previously ideologically invisible. The article collection covers the engagement of radical theology with culture, society, literature, politics, philosophy and the discipline of religion. Providing an outlet for those writing and thinking at the intersections of these areas with radical theology, radical theology expresses an inter-disciplinary engagement and approach dedicated to redefining the very terms of theology as a concept and practice. This can be seen in the papers included in this launch of the thematic collection:

Bray (2015), in The Monstrosity of the Multitude critically engages with the issues of disability and work; Grimshaw (2015) traces a different possibility of secular theology, despite the death of God, via Gabriel Vahanian; Robbins and Crockett (2015), who we can think of as this century’s “Deleuze and Guattari” of radical theology, outline Five Theses for a Radical Theology for the Future; Wigg-Stevenson (2015) brings an Ethnographic Disruption to theology; Dubilet (2015) articulates the messianic possibility of non-philosophy along with a central proclamation of justice; Kelley (2015) considers hermeneutics and genocide. Further essays in thematic collection will engage with divinations of neo-liberalism, amongst other possibilities.

Central to all radical theology is an engagement with the limits of authorities and their limits on the world. One way it does so is by talking seriously both the limits and failures of modernity. As stated, radical theology is part of a post-enlightenment critique that situates and acts versus the instrumentalism and pathology of the hegemony of the Enlightenment. Radical theology is also political in the sense that it critically engages with issues of power, participation, order and structure. Radical Theology is therefore a theology of transgression: writing and thinking within - and yet against - what is taken to be normative in a tradition, a hermeneutic and a culture.

This is the disruptive function of Radical Theology: as the activity that speaks within and into and against all normative culture spheres, including any rethought and re-imagined religion—or indeed any rethought secularism. Radical Theology is therefore the theology of those who recognize the hermeneutics and claims of western thought and yet speak out with the prophetic voice from the margins. Thus Radical Theology is too secular for theology, too theological for the secular, too theological for philosophy and too philosophical for theology, too social science for the humanities and too humanities for the social sciences. Against all such oppositional dualisms, Radical Theology occurs as a series of activities comprising the rearticulation of that central prophetic voice and thought from within, yet against the western tradition, that reminds us, often against our wishes, of our continually expressed roots (radix) in Judeo-Christian thought and culture.

I wish to position, deliberately broadly, a claim that religion itself is an interpretative frame that is applied to, and used to create, other interpretative frames. According to my analysis, the importance of religion is that it states “there is an alternative” and the grounding of religion in not only the human sciences but also the social sciences arises precisely because of this. We too easily choose to forget that religion is crucial for the self-definition of Modernity. For in religion’s dialectic with Modernity lies the mutually counter claim: “there is an alternative”. I am also always in debt to Charles Winquist’s distinction between theological study and studying theology. If to study theology “treats the theological tradition as data to be learned, absorbed and comprehended” [in effect a version, I would argue, of sui generis], then to undertake theological study “means to think with the desire for a thinking that does not disappoint, to think in extremis, to ask what is real and important” (Robbins, 2003: xv–xvi).

The challenge of the problem of Radical Theology for Religious Studies is, as Jeffrey W. Robbins notes, that of “theology’s insistence that knowledge is fundamentally limited by the gap between the known and the real, while at the same time driven by the desire to think the unthinkable and speak the unspeakable”(Robbins, 2003: 27). From this I position radical theology as the language, the grammar, the talk of this tension between limit and possibility and its resultant activity. Theology is what humans do in our here-and-now, using the language and claims of the possibility of an alternative. So a radical theologian is one who uses theology and theological language as a way of interrogating and critiquing the world we live in, but using the words and ideas as claims that exist as cultural critiques, as the claim of an alternative, not as dogmatic [sic, confessional] claims.

So as the radical theologians Robbins and Crockett (2003) state regarding the role of theology in the work of Charles Winquist: “Theology was a discourse formulation that functioned to fissure other discourses by pushing them to their limits and interrogating them as to their sense and practicality” (ix). In effect, radical theology continually asks of all claims to authority: What does this mean? Are you serious? How does this impact? What is the limit of this? What is its possibility? What is the alternative? In fact I want to argue that this function of radical theology, its fissuring and interrogation, results in what can be called theologyless theology and religionless religion—the difference between what theology and religion could be, and what they are. But more so, as an activity that arises out of the prophetic heritage, the central interrogation, the central fissurring of radical theology is focused on the difference between what the world, what humanity, what our knowledge production and practices could be—and what they are.

Therefore, out of this, arises this special collection whereby Radical Theology is positioned as the thought and discourses that hold that description and comparison cannot be undertaken without value; that an uncritical description and comparison cannot be undertaken and expressed as normative. The papers that follow all their own ways hold true to these principles. They are the expression of a claim of an alternative, the refusal to be domesticated and disciplined, the expression of the excess and limit of possibility, arising from within, yet in critical engagement with, traditions of hermeneutic knowledge.


Additional Information

How to cite this article: Grimshaw M (2015) Radical Theologies. Palgrave Communications. 1:15017 doi: 10.1057/palcomms.2015.32.

References

Bray K (2015) The monstrosity of the multitude: Unredeeming radical theology. Palgrave Communications; 1: 15030.

Dubilet A (2015) “Neither God, nor world”: On the one foreclosed to transcendence. Palgrave Communications; 1: 15027.

Grimshaw M (2015) “In spite of the death of God”: Gabriel Vahanian’s secular theology. Palgrave Communications; 1: 15025.

Harvey V (1970) Reflections on the teaching of religion in America. Journal of the American Academy of Religion; 38 (1): 17–29.

Kelley S (2015) Hermeneutics and genocide: Giving voice to the unspoken. Palgrave Communications; 1: 15031.

Robbins J W (2003) In Search of a Non-Dogmatic Theology. The Davies Group, Publishers: Aurora, CO.

Robbins J W and Crockett C (2003) Foreword In: Winquist C E (ed) The Surface of the Deep. The Davies Group, Publishers: Aurora, CO.

Robbins J W and Crockett C (2015) A radical theology for the future: Five theses. Palgrave Communications; 1: 15028.

Wigg-Stevenson N (2015) From proclamation to conversation: Ethnographic disruptions to theological normativity. Palgrave Communications; 1: 15024.



Just How Big is the Universe? - 11 images that capture the incredible vastness of space


11 images that capture the incredible vastness of space
http://www.vox.com/2015/4/17/8432733/space-maps

Updated by Joseph Stromberg
September 3, 2015

1) The sun is incomprehensibly huge


We all know the sun is big. But this image, part of a great series on the size of astronomical objects by John Brady, underscores that it's vast on a scale that's simply impossible for our puny human minds to understand. We think of the Earth as a big place: flying around the equator on a 747 at top speed would take about 42 hours. Flying around the sun at the same speed, by contrast, would take about six months.


2) Even the moon is really far away


Compared with the overall vastness of space, the moon is very close to us: it's just 238,900 or so miles away. But compared with our daily experience, absolutely everything in space is absurdly far apart. In the gap between us and the moon, you could neatly slide in all seven of the other planets — with a bit of room to spare. That includes Saturn and Jupiter, which are about nine and 11 times as wide as Earth, respectively.

3) From Mars, Earth looks like a tiny blip in the sky


If you traveled just a little ways away from Earth — say, to Mars, the second-closest planet to us — our home planet would become a tiny blip in the sky. This photo, by NASA's Curiosity rover, was actually taken when the two planets were relatively close together: about 99 million miles away (at other times in the planets' orbits, they can be five times farther apart).

4) What North America would look like on Jupiter


Jupiter is famous for being big. But this image, another one of John Brady's great astronomical size comparisons, will overwhelm you with just how big. Jupiter's Great Red Spot — a cyclone that was first spotted in 1655 — is shrinking, but it's still many times wider than North America. Jupiter and the other gas giants are so big because their colder temperatures allowed them to hold on to lighter gases such as hydrogen and helium, which floated away from the hotter, rockier planets closer to the sun.

5) If you replaced the moon with Saturn


Another way to understand how big the gas giants are is to picture what they'd look like to us if they replaced the moon. Illustrator Ron Miller did this with a photo of a full moon over Death Valley, replacing it with each planet in turn. In this location, Saturn would blot out a large swath of the sky, and solar eclipses would last hours. (Of course, the gravitational consequences of having Saturn that close to us would also be devastating.)

6) Even a single comet is pretty darn big


This is the comet 67P/C-G — which the Philae probe landed on in November 2014 — superimposed on Los Angeles. In terms of space, the comet is absolutely tiny: just 3.5 miles wide. But once again, this image shows how most things in space are way bigger than you realize.

7) All of US history has occurred within a single Pluto orbit


It's not just the size of objects in space that boggles the mind — it's the vastness of the timescales on which events in space occur. Pluto takes 248 Earth years to orbit the sun. To put it another way, the entirety of US history has occurred during a single Plutonian orbit. When Pluto was last in its current location, we hadn't invented aviation, let alone spaceflight. This map was released by NASA's New Horizons team in anticipation of the probe becoming the first spacecraft to visit the dwarf planet in July.

8) Pluto isn't even at the edge of the solar system

(NASA)

Many of us imagine cold, little Pluto to be at the outer edge of the solar system. But that's far from the truth. Pluto's orbit fits inside the tiny blue box at the center of this map. Beyond it is the Kuiper belt, then the Oort Cloud — which is believed to extend a thousand times farther out than Neptune, about halfway to the next closest star to us.

9) Other stars are utterly gigantic


Once you leave the solar system, you once encounter objects — other stars — that dwarf our sun in the exact same way the sun dwarfs Earth. And even bigger stars (like Antares and Betelgeuse, in pane 5) dwarf those stars in the same way. Over and over, as we've looked out at the universe, we've found it exists on a scale that basically makes no sense to the human brain.

10) Every star you can see is in the yellow circle


Sure, stars are huge. But the Milky Way is, once again, mind-bogglingly bigger. This rendering, which shows the galaxy in its entirety, is a way of seeing that. The yellow circle likely encompasses every individual star you've ever seen in the sky without the aid of a telescope. It's based on the fact that under ideal conditions, the farthest star system visible to people in the Southern Hemisphere is the especially bright Eta Carinae — but in most places, the yellow circle would actually be much smaller.

11) Our galaxy is one of billions


For all its vastness, the Milky Way is just one of billions of galaxies in the universe. Recently, scientists mapped the 100,000 or so galaxies near the Milky Way and found that it's part of a broader supercluster called Laniakea. This supercluster is made up of several forks, with the Milky Way lying on one distant fringe of it. What's more, it borders another supercluster (called Perseus-Pisces) that's moving in the opposite direction, and both seem to fall in a broader web, made up of dense supercluster networks alternating with relatively empty voids.