We may hasten to escape from the regions of transcendental philosophy and theology, to start on a more hopeful journey over more practicable grounds … It is with a sense of attempting an investigation which bears very closely on the current theology
The Authority of God
There are two theses that are intimately related to the idea of authority. One is political theology. It is associated with the name of Carl Schmitt. The second is moral theology. It is associated with Elizabeth Anscombe (though she never used the expression ‘moral theology’). Political theology is the claim that key notions in modern and secular political doctrines are unwittingly moored in theological and teleological world views. These notions in their secularized versions make no sense and can be validated only within a theological frame for which they were designed. ‘Sovereignty’ and ‘authority’ are paradigmatic cases of such key notions. Moral theology is a parallel claim. Key moral notions in modern moral doctrines are moored in a theological and teleological frame. They gain their currency only in such a frame. Unmoored, as these notions are in a current secular frame, they have lost their sense. ‘Obligation’ and ‘duty’ are paradigmatic examples of such notions anchored in the old idea of God the law-giver. Without God the law-giver these notions make very little sense. Secular morality is like the famous explanation of what wireless is. Well, you know what wire is. It is like a dog: you pull its tail in Jerusalem and it barks in Rome. Now, wireless works like wire, but without the dog. Morality without God is like wireless without the dog.
A Theological Recollection
Drorah O'Donnell Setel
This article discusses the significance of Rabbi Lionel Blue's theological work through the author's recollections. It examines his teachings about the nature of God, the purpose of human life, interfaith engagement, religious authenticity, the role of humour and optimism.
The article explores Shakespeare’s secularized retelling of the Christian theological narrative of deceiving the Devil, with Antonio playing the role of Christ and Shylock as the Devil. The article argues that recasting the contest between Christ and the Devil in the world of Venice sets the stage for Shakespeare’s larger exploration of the pervasive nature of deceit in human affairs. Although it seems that Shakespeare’s characters are resigned to live in a fallen world where truth is obscured, Portia’s invocation of mercy may be Shakespeare’s attempt to offer some hope of an earthly salvation. The article argues that this portrait of a world filled with deception resonated with Shakespeare’s audience. Men and women in early modern England lived in a world where they often had to hide their religious identities and loyalties. This interpretation challenges more recent attempts to see the play as primarily concerned with race and tolerance.
Jens Bjelland Grønvold
This article attempts to draft the constructive role religion can play in a rich, oil-producing Western country. The article presents a brief history of environmental commitment within the Church of Norway, and shows how this commitment is making an impact both theologically and politically. Theologically, the result is a reorientation of classic, anthropocentric theology toward a more biocentric theology in which all of creation is viewed as equally important. As a concretization of such a theology, this article looks to the circle of life advocated by the Sami theologian Tore Johnsen. Bridging theology and politics, this article also presents the commitment of Bishop Tor Berger Jørgensen in the political debate about oil exploration in certain areas off the coast of his diocese. Jørgensen's commitment and Johnsen's work are examples of how Christian churches can address the global ecological crisis using their best tool: theology.
Christianity and the Return of the Sacred
This article argues a case against the theory of the sacred put forward by the French anthropologist René Girard. In particular, Girard seems to have obliterated one of the tenets of Christian theology, namely, the doctrine of Christ's ascension, in accord with his critical reading of Paul's letter to the Hebrews, which contains a rare emphasis on Christ's departure from the world. This article adopts a 'neo-Hobbesian' perspective in understanding the return of the sacred and fosters a 'political theology of the empty tomb', where the doctrine of Christ's ascension is called upon to again play a major theological role as a workable antidote to the contemporary resurgence of the sacred.
Law and Religion in the Twenty-First Century
John L. Comaroff
Religion has always been intimately connected to law. Conversely, modern secular law, born of the separation of lex naturae from lex dei, has always been deeply theological. However, with transformations in the construction of the nation-state and changes in the sociopolitical scaffolding of the global order, the mutual infusion of law and religion appears to be extending both in scope and in substance—not-withstanding the ever more strident assertion of secularism by some nation-states. Counter-intuitively, the law itself appears to be ever more suffused with the sacral, while, across the planet, the sacral is reconstructing constitutional jurisprudence, administrative law, and much more besides. How do we account for this, for the rise of expansive cultures of theo-legality? Where is it leading? And with what implications?
Jesus in the Apocryphal Infancy Gospel of Thomas
This article presents a survey of research on childhood in antiquity and describes briefly the position of children in late antiquity and early Christianity. Special attention is given to the relationship between childhood and gender, with a focus on boyhood. The article analyses the apocryphal Infancy Gospel of Thomas, which tells the childhood story of Jesus from age five to twelve. This brief story, which consists of miracle stories and discourses, originated in Greek in the 2nd century CE and became widely popular. The article shows that its depiction of Jesus conforms to current ideas of gender, gender relations, and gender socialisation. A central claim in the article is that boys were not expected to show the same degree of self-restraint as were adult males, but that as children they were allowed to behave more emotionally and unpredictably. Rather than being literarily inferior or theologically aberrant, the Infancy of Gospel of Thomas in its depiction of Jesus gives a lively and credible glimpse into the world and development of a late antiquity or early Christianity male child on his way from boyhood to male adult life.
In the past, land agitations have had a clear spiritual and theological dimension. The morality of ownership over land itself is often questioned. Many see land as a community resource, and community ownership is an emergent 'model' of land tenure, both in word and in practice. This project on the role of spirituality and theology in Scotland's modern land reform is linked to research into the spirituality of community regeneration, supported by WWF International in Geneva. The findings show that for contemporary Scottish land reformers spiritual and theological dimensions are very important.
As Christina Howells notes in ‘Sartre and Negative Theology’, it is easily assumed that Sartre was ‘a God-haunted or Spirit-haunted atheist, one haunted if not by the god of Christianity then at least by the god of idealism’.1 Sartre himself, as the above epigraph suggests, was all too aware of the spectre of idealism that haunted—or better, tainted—his early philosophical endeavours.