- Shredding fish?!
- Gloria Mundi’s Krustian Defenders block the transit
- Oh, yeah: Great Weather App
- Today’s Bread, Circus and 2-Minute Hate
- Culture, not knowledge
Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 121 just arrived, and I had a chance to listen Friday.
A high school acquaintance, Walter Hansen (Senior when I was a Freshman, but it was a small school and he was not standoffish) has become patron of painter Bruce Herman, and they were interviewed about their joint book, Seeing Through Your Eyes.
They talked with host Ken Myers about meaning in art – a meaning that is nonverbal and not reducible to words, though talking about it can enhance appreciation in what the painter describes as a “dance.” They even dabble at the periphery of the theology of icons, from a Protestant perspective, it appears, as the artist is in regular dialog with an Orthodox Priest, Fr. Spiridon, who tells him his portraits are dangerous.
The prior track was an interview of Calvin College philosophy professor James K. A. Smith, who has shaken up the Evangelical/Calvinist world by two books under the rubric “Cultural Liturgies:” Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation and Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works.
I wouldn’t say the Evangelical/Calvinist world is overreacting. These books are light years away in their sensibility from the Calvinist ne plu ultra of 4 bare walls and a 4 point sermon addressed to the left hemisphere of a wet computer.
“Smith seeks to re-vision education through the process and practice of worship” (Amazon book description)! He uses the word “liturgy”! He actually thinks that embodiedness has practical consequences, and isn’t just an interesting thought experiment from which to spin out philosophies! He even thinks that the body may have something to do with what the mind loves and therefore finds plausible!
Those are very challenging ideas for Calvinist especially, as they intrinsically challenge one to go beyond mere ideation, on which Calvinism tends to be strong, into praxis, on which it tends to be weak (and tended to be legalistic when praxis was strong).
Worship “works” by leveraging our bodies to transform our imagination, and it does this through stories we understand on a register that is closer to body than mind. This has critical implications for how we think about Christian formation.
(Amazon book description of Smith’s second of three “Cultural Liturgy” books) Well do tell!
“Emergent Church” strikes me as an unintelligible mish-mash, but it bespeaks a longing for something more, and that something more often involves raids on traditional Christianity to borrow (they can’t steal it) bits of liturgy.
I cherish signs that my former Evangelical and Calvinist co-religionists are waking up to things that Orthodoxy has tacitly known all along, as both items 6 and 7 on Mars Hill Audio Journal Volume 121 seem to me to signal. I keep thinking “the coin will drop” for Mars Hill muse and host Ken Myers soon, and he’ll frankly become the Orthodox Christian that seems to be emerging – but he may be three cars ahead of me on that train of thought.
It’s just not the sort of thing you blurt out while emerging if you want to “work in this town again.”
* * * * *
“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)
After philosophical Nominalism took hold, says Ken Myers of Mars Hill Audio Journal,
[t]he universe lost the intelligibility that Christians had long attributed to it. The voluntarist thinking that accompanied nominalist assumptions reimagined God as irrational Will, not loving Logos. As Michael Gillespie puts it (in The Theological Origins of Modernity), “The God that Aquinas and Dante described was infinite, but the glory of his works and the certainty of his goodness were manifest everywhere. The nominalist God, by contrast, was frighteningly omnipotent, utterly beyond human ken, and a continual threat to human well-being. Moreover, this God could never be captured in words and consequently could be experienced only as a titanic question that evoked awe and dread.”
“Nominalism sought to tear the rationalistic veil from the face of God in order to found a true Christianity, but in doing so it revealed a capricious God, fearsome in his power, unknowable, unpredictable, unconstrained by nature and reason, and indifferent to good and evil. This vision of God turned the order of nature into a chaos of individual beings.”
Likewise, Louis Dupré has written that: “The nominalist theologies which came to dominate the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries destroyed the intelligible continuity between Creator and creature. The idea of an absolute divine power unrelated to any known laws or principles definitively severed the order of nature from that of grace. A nature created by an unpredictable God loses its intrinsic intelligibility in favor of the mere observation of actual fact. Nor does creation itself teach us anything of God beyond what this divine omnipotence has revealed in Scripture. Grace itself became a matter of divine decree unmeasurable by human standards and randomly dispensed.
As the comments to this at Dreher’s blog reflect, Nominalism has its defenders as well as it’s unwitting, reflexive and unreflective adherents, who say “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.” and other such such prostrations before “a capricious God, fearsome in his power, unknowable, unpredictable, unconstrained by nature and reason, and indifferent to good and evil.”
The best defense of Nominalism, it seems to me, is that the arguments against it all seem to flow from its bad consequences. As argument, that’s not “valid,” they say, and my reflex is to agree. But that we can’t see universals doesn’t mean they’re not real, or are mere constructs. Most people in most places in history have believe in universals. We’re the WEIRD ones who take Nominalism as self-evident. That should give pause.
* * * * *