Monday, November 17, 2008

Postmodern Universalization and the Logic of Incarnation

Neal DeRoo, a guy I met in April at the Society for Continental Philosophy and Theology conference in Boston, has co-edited with Brian Lightbody a book called The Logic of Incarnation: James K.A. Smith's Critique of Postmodern Religion. Jamie Smith also contributes and responds.

Here's some blurb and endorsements:

"With his Logic of Incarnation, James K. A. Smith has provided a compelling critique of the universalizing tendencies in some strands of postmodern philosophy of religion. A truly postmodern account of religion must take seriously the preference for particularity first evidenced in the Christian account of the incarnation of God. Moving beyond the urge to universalize, which characterizes modern thought, Smith argues that it is only by taking seriously particular differences—historical, religious, and doctrinal—that we can be authentically religious and authentically postmodern.

"Smith remains hugely influential in both academic discourse and church movements. This book is the first organized attempt to bring both of these aspects of Smith’s work into conversation with each other and with him. With articles from an internationally respected group of philosophers, theologians, pastors, and laypeople, the entire range of Smith’s considerable influence is represented here. Discussing questions of embodiment, eschatology, inter-religious dialogue, dogma, and difference, this book opens all the most relevant issues in postmodern religious life to a unique and penetrating critique."

"This volume brilliantly highlights the importance of Smith's logic of incarnation. It amplifies a new and indispensable voice in the postmodern debate." —Richard Kearney, author of The God Who May Be and Strangers, Gods and Monsters

"The Logic of Incarnation offers the reader a helpful overview and critical discussion of James K. A. Smith's engagement with postmodern thought based on Christianity's central mystery: God's becoming human. In critically engaging Deconstruction, the emergent church, and the role of tradition, The Logic of Incarnation introduces the reader to central themes of current thinking on religion that have especially dominated North American discussions, but it also points, particularly in Smith's concluding response to his critics, toward recovering an ancient incarnational thinking whose radical quality—reaching far beyond modernity and postmodernity—lies precisely in recovering the ecclesial and eschatological nature of Christianity."—Jens Zimmermann, author of Recovering Theological Hermeneutics: An Incarnational-Trinitarian Theory of Interpretation

"It is as testament to James K. A. Smith's career that, even at a relatively young age (academically speaking), his work merits an interaction as robust as this book. The Logic of Incarnation will not only introduce many to Smith's important writings, but it will also spur on conversation about these very significant ideas where, indeed, theology, philosophy, and church meet."—Tony Jones, author of The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Workshop on Internet and Study of Religion

Dr. Abby Day (University of Sussex), who did her PhD at Lancaster University on belief in belonging, and Prof. Gordon Lynch (Birkbeck College, University of London) who I met at last year's Religion, Media and Culture conference and whose recent publication, The New Spirituality, has been central to my thesis methodology, have asked me to run a workshop on the Internet and the Study of Religion at Birkbeck next year. The workshop will be part of a study day for students of religion on May 16, run by a postgraduate training network for London and the South-East which was funded by The Higher Education Academy's Subject Centre for Philosophical and Religious Studies.

The day will consist of a Plenary by Prof. Linda Woodhead (Lancaster University), who is the director of the AHRC/ESRC Religion and Society Programme, on current and future directions in the study of religion. Then there will be two one-hour sessions, the first run by me and the second focusing on how to access and use census data in the study of religion, by Dr. Serena Hussain (University of Leeds). After lunch, there will be a small number of papers presented by other students (presumably following a call for papers which will go out next year). The day closes with a panel discussion by Linda, me, and Serena.

Pretty excited to be asked to be a part of this. But I'm also glad that it's not until May, when (hope against hope) I may have already submitted by thesis. It also means that I won't have to think about it now and risk getting sidetracked back into Internet methodology stuff when I should be firmly ensconced in philosophy!!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Researching Theo(b)logy

Exploring Religion and the Sacred in a Media Age is now available for pre-order at It will be published at the end of February 2009, and contains chapters on a range of case studies from interdisciplinary theoretical frameworks. Edited by Dr. Chris Deacy (University of Kent) and Dr. Elizabeth Arweck (University of Warwick), it collects essays that were presented at the 2007 conference on Religion, Media and Culture. My contribution is methodological, mainly due to the point at which I was at with my thesis, reflecting on the use the global emerging church milieu make of blogs and wikis and suggesting a participatory research methodology for research into the blogosphere. Here's the blurb from

"In recent years, there has been growing awareness across a range of academic disciplines of the value of exploring issues of religion and the sacred in relation to cultures of everyday life. Exploring Religion and the Sacred in a Media Age offers inter-disciplinary perspectives drawing from theology, religious studies, media studies, cultural studies, film studies, sociology and anthropology. Combining theoretical frameworks for the analysis of religion, media and popular culture, with focused international case studies of particular texts, practices, communities and audiences, the authors examine topics such as media rituals, marketing strategies, empirical investigations of audience testimony, and the influence of religion on music, reality television and the internet. Both academically rigorous and of interest to a wider readership, this book offers a wide range of fascinating explorations at the cutting edge of many contemporary debates in sociology, religion and media, including chapters on the way evangelical groups in America have made use of The Da Vinci Code and on the influences of religion on British club culture and electronic dance music."

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Pete in the States

Here's a video of Pete Rollins during his US tour, taken from his blog, talking about the irony of hearing revelation without heeding it, without it "transforming your radical subjectivity."

It would be incredibly interesting to find out more about how Pete's tour and the recent Minnekon gatherings have been received in the States... I sense a possible international research proposal coming on! Here are the few reflections I've been able to find in the blogosphere regarding Minnekon (from Adam Moore here, here, here, here, here, here and here; from Rachel Swan here, here, and here)

Hick on Christianity and Other Religions

Professor John Hick will be giving a public lecture, entitled "Christianity and Other Religions," at the University of Birmingham at the beginning of next month. The event, which is part of the University's postgraduate open day on December 3rd, is hosted by the School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion.

I'm particularly interested in Hick's work on the philosophy of religion because it relates to the first philosophical strand that I am drawing from my research data. (For an overview of the two strands, see my post on my thesis structure - particularly chapters four and five). This first strand, whose chapter I am currently giving the title "Inaccessibility," acknowledge human finitude, revere subjectivity of experience, and therefore encourage humility in religious knowledge. An example of this strand's Hickean approach is the story of Indian origin in which blind men have access to different parts of an elephant, each believing they know what they have (a tree, a snake, a rope, etc.) without being able to access the entirety of the elephant to know it to be such, told to me by several participants. The story suggests that, while there is absolute truth (it is an elephant; God exists), that truth is inaccessible to us in its totality; we have, instead, subjective or relative truths.

Hick's work on pluralism, universalism, and interreligious dialogue is (or rather, will be, once I've read some more of it!!!) pertinant here. Hick describes God as 'transcategorial,' and argues that beliefs about God are shaped by available categories in our culture(s). There is therefore a plurality of ways of understanding and experiencing God, none of which (like our blind men) have a monopoly on religious truth.

Along with Hick, participants in this first strand conceptualise truth within a paradigm which one participant describes as 'inaccessible Absolutism,' wherein truth exists on 'a kind of universal level,' independently of our stumblings after it, but no 'one person or group can access it' fully.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

'Nother Conference

St Chad's College, Durham University, are hosting the 2009 British Sociological Association Sociology of Religion study group conference, "Religion and Knowledge." Maybe I'll be sleeping on my cousin's floor a lot in the coming months?

The call for papers makes these suggestions for themes:
  • The sociology of Religious Education
  • Clandestine knowledge and religious identity
  • The legitimation & de-legitimation of religious knowledge
  • Guardianship and control of religious knowledge
  • The legacy of the sociology of knowledge
  • Epistemological challenges facing the sociology of religion
  • Resurgent secularism and the 'New Atheism'

Confirmed speakers include Professor Steve Fuller, University of Warwick (the sociology of the intelligent design movement), Professor Elizabeth Cooksey, Ohio State University (the Amish), and Professor David Chalcraft, University of Derby (sociological approaches to Biblical texts). The conference organiser is Dr. Matthew Guest, a Lancaster grad and alternative worship kinda guy - see also his 2006 emerging church article written with Steve Taylor in the International Journal for the Study of the Christian Church. The deadline for abstracts is January 12... Hmm, mulling it over...

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Reading Spiritualities Published

Stemming from a Lancaster University conference a couple of years back, my supervisor Dr. Deborah F. Sawyer and fellow PhD student Dawn Llewellyn have collected several papers together to form a publication entitled Reading Spiritualities: Constructing and Representing the Sacred.

Here's some blurb: "The phenomenon of 'sacred text' has undergone radical deconstruction in recent times, reflecting how religion has broken out of its traditional definitions and practices, and how current literary theories have influenced texts inside the religious domain and beyond. "Reading Spiritualities" presents both commentary and vivid examples of this evolution, engaging with a variety of reading practices that work with traditional texts and those that extend the notion of 'text' itself. The contributors... open up understandings of where and how 'sacred texts' are emerging and being reassessed within contemporary religious and spiritual contexts; and make room for readings where the spiritual resides not only in the textual, but in other unexpected places... [The book] offers a unique and well-focussed 'snapshot' of the textual constructions and representations of the sacred within the contemporary religious climate - accessible to the general reader, as well as more specialist interests of students and researchers working in the crossover fields of religious, theological, cultural and literary studies."

And the table of contents:

  • "Introduction," Deborah F. Sawyer and Dawn Llewellyn
  • "Getting a/cross god: An Interview with Michèle Roberts," Michèle Roberts, Dawn Llewellyn and Deborah F. Sawyer
  • "The Sacred in Caribbean Literature: A Theological Conversation," Michael N. Jagessar
  • "Dramatic Improvisation: A Jazz Inspired Approach to Undertaking Theology with the Marginalized," Anthony G. Reddie
  • "‘Gendering the Spirit’: Reading Women’s Spiritualities with a Comparative Mirror," Ursula King
  • "Our Sacred Texts: Literature, Theology and Feminism," Heather Walton
  • "The Desire for Interactivity and the Emerging Texts of the Blogosphere," Katharine Sarah Moody
  • "Spiritual Themes and Identities in Chicana Texts: The Virgin of Guadalupe as a Role Model for Womanhood," María Antonia Álvarez
  • "Bihishti Zewar: A Text for Respectable Women?" Raana Bokhari
  • "Forming Community in the Third Wave: Literary Texts and Women’s Spiritualities," Dawn Llewellyn
  • "Solomon’s Narrative: Architecture, Text and the Sacred," Ozayr Saloojee
  • "Reading Texts, Watching Texts: Mythopoesis on Neopagan Websites," Maria Beatrice Bittarello
  • "Word and Image: Burgess, Zeffirelli, and Jesus the Man of Nazareth," Graham Holderness
  • "Do Not Hide Your Face From Me: The Sacred and Profane Body in Art and Modern Literature," David Jasper

My chapter, "The Desire for Interactivity and the Emerging Texts of the Blogosphere," focuses upon the ways in which the UK emerging church milieu (when I wrote the paper I was using the language of "emerging Christian communities") use online texts, particularly blogs, from the perspective of recent literary theory. I've blogged about it before - here - but wanted to draw attention to it again now we've gone to print!