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Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings. Adherents of the Christian faith are known as Christians. The internet has a myriad statements and overviews, studies and specialist investigations of this 2000 year-old religion. A good overview is found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity This sub-section of my website does not make any attempt to deal in detail with the history and teachings, the theology and the cosmology of this major relgion of the West, a religion with its roots in the Middle East. Readers will find here some personal perspectives, perspectives gleaned from my reading, as readers will find in all the sub-sections of my site in which I draw on the writings and knowledge of others in our world of print-and-image glut.
CHRISTIANITY: DOMINANT FORCE IN WESTERN CIVILIZATION: A BAHA'I PERSPECTIVE
A dominant force, perhaps, the dominant force in the last several 1000 years in creating a common culture is religion. The famous poet T.S. Eliot (1888 to 1965) emphasized that "the tradition of Christianity has made Europe what it is." If I was writing a story of my life in the context of the history of the last two thousand years I would write drawing heavily on that Christian paradigm. But I write in the context of both an emerging global culture, and the context of a set of values, beliefs and attitudes--in a word---a religion which I have been a part of for more than 60 years. My comments, then, about Christianity are from the perspective of my religion, the Baha'i Faith. Balancing what I see as the unity and the diversity, as the unity in diversity, of different religions and cultures is a key to an understanding of my autobiographical, my personal, conception of religion, nation and world. I have grown-up, as one of the millions of war-babies, the generation born between 1939 and 1945, in what one writer calls "an era of a 1000 Christianities." This webpage on Christianity at my website, a site which now has over 100 different sub-sections, draws together much of my reading and thinking on the subject of Christianity since, say, 1955, a period of 60 years.
For a discussion about Christianity and the Baha'i Faith go to this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agVfSJdKGl4
CHRISTIANITY: THE FIRST 1000 YEARS
If an anthropologist from the star system Sirius were to teleport to earth to conduct a field study of Christianity, where would she go? A Greek monastery on Mount Athos, a papal mass in St. Peter’s, a convent hospital for the destitute in Calcutta, a Quaker meeting, a snake-handling service in the Appalachians? The figure of Jesus of Nazareth lies somewhere behind them all, but it would be hard to say exactly how, or what else they might be deemed to have in common. And if our extraterrestial anthropologist should decide to turn historian, & trace the pedigree of the Christian religion from its roots, what story would he or she tell?
History is written backwards, hindsight is of its essence, and every attempt to characterize any great and complex historical movement is an act of retrospective construction: what is left out of the story is as significant as anything included. Is Christianity one movement or many, one story or a host of divergent narratives with few if any unifying threads? Go to this link at The New York Review of Books for a recent review of The First Thousand Years: A Global History of Christianity by Robert Louis Wilken( Yale University Press), and Trent: What Happened at the Council by John W. O’Malley(Belknap Press & Harvard University Press) at: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/jun/20/staying-power-christianity/
CHRISTIANITY: THE FIRST 3000 YEARS
In March 2010 Frank Kermode wrote a review entitled "Our Supersubstantial Bread" in the London Review of Books. It was a review of A History of Christianity: The First 3000 Years by Diarmaid MacCulloch(Allen Lane, 1200 pages, 2009). The review begins, thus: "Eamon Duffy, whose opinion of this book will not be lightly disputed, remarks on its jacket that ‘everyone who reads it will learn things they didn’t know.’ Most lay reviewers will think this an understatement; yet the scope of the project, its distance from anything that might be described as parochial, may persuade them that the records of Christianity, preserved and interpreted for the most part by assiduous priests and scholars, deserve a few moments of their attention. Consider, as one instance among a thousand, the words "I’ll come back to them". If you prefer, consider the decisions and definitions of the ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451 CE. Even if we have never heard of these words, and these decisions they are valid today. In addition, the words of St Augustine, issuing eloquently from North Africa in the fourth and fifth centuries, were debated as matters of life and death more than a thousand years later. They were debated in Calvin’s Geneva, and in the American colonies, and even in some modern Nonconformist churches.
We may envy a tradition so firmly established, though cruelty and fanaticism seemed inevitable adjuncts of theological certitude. It is well known that this history contains many instances of virtue and sanctity, enough perhaps to rival or outdo those of folly & wickedness. Both belong equally to the record. The material documenting these achievements and delinquencies is presented to the historian as an enormous quarry of data inviting further refinement. Few readers will underestimate the achievement of a historian who is willing to take on what he himself calls a ‘risibly/visibly ambitious project.’ MacCulloch provides readers with many instances of his intellectual pleasure, as he controls a narrative that runs from the histories of Greece and Rome to the Culture Wars of the last half-century. He deals generously with the bewildering profusion of enthusiastic and schismatic variations on the 2000-year ground-base of Christianity.
Sir John Frank Kermode(1919-2010), the author of this review, was a British literary critic best known for his work The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction, published in 1967 and revised in 2000, & for his extensive book-reviewing & editing. He was the Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature at University College London, & the King Edward VII Professor of English Literature at Cambridge University. Kermode was known for many works of criticism, & also for his editorship of the popular Fontana Modern Masters series of introductions to modern thinkers. He was a regular contributor to the London Review of Books and The New York Review of Books. For more on Kermode go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Kermode For more of this review go to:http://www.lrb.co.uk/v32/n06/frank-kermode/our-supersubstantial-bread
Christian philosophy is a development in philosophy that is characterised by coming from a Christian tradition. This philosophical tradition could be divided into the following sections:
1 Hellenistic philosophy and early Christian philosophy
2 Medieval Christian philosophy
3 Renaissance and Reformation Christian philosophy
4 Modern Christian philosophy
4.1 17th century
4.2 18th century
4.3 19th and early 20th century
4.4 Contemporary philosophy
For more go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_philosophy
A U-TUBE ITEM ON THE HISTORICAL JESUS
Reza Aslan(1972-) is an Iranian-American writer, scholar of religious studies, a professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside; and a member of American Academy of Religion. His books include the international bestseller No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, which has been translated into 13 languages, & Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, which offers an interpretation of the life and mission of the historical Jesus. Abby Martin interviews Reza Aslan, historian and author of the best-selling book 'Zealot: the Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth', discussing how he arrived at the conclusion that Jesus was a revolutionary political leader rather than the peaceful prophet characterized by mainstream culture. For more on Aslan go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reza_Aslan For the u-tube video go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6Jivan2MPQ&feature=em-subs_digest-vrecs
The “most embarrassing interview Fox News has ever done,” in which anchor Lauren Green challenged the legitimacy of author Reza Aslan for writing Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, seemed to be popping up everywhere on social media back in August 2013. The absurdity of the spectacle was multifold: Why—why?!—would a Muslim want to write about Jesus, Green kept asking, as though a nefarious plot to undermine Christianity were somehow afoot. Meanwhile, Aslan made a show of insisting that he possesses not only the academic credentials, but also the professional duty to do so (“My job as a scholar of religions with a PhD in the subject is to write about religions”). The story was quickly framed as a battle between the right-wing Islamophobes of Fox News and Aslan, the defender of intellectual life and scholarship. For more on this controversy go to: http://www.thenation.com/article/175688/reza-aslan-historian
For an essay in the NYRB(24/9/'15) on Christianity in the USA by Marilynne Robison go to: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015/sep/24/marilynne-robinson-fear/ "America ," she begins, "is a Christian country. This is true in a number of senses. Most people, if asked, will identify themselves as Christian, which may mean only that they aren’t something else. Non-Christians will say America is Christian, meaning that they feel somewhat apart from the majority culture. There are a large number of demographic Christians in North America because of our history of immigration from countries that are or were also Christian. We are identified in the world at large with this religion because some of us espouse it not only publicly but also vociferously. As a consequence, we carry a considerable responsibility for its good name in the world, though we seem not much inclined to consider the implications of this fact. If we did, some of us might think a little longer about associating the precious Lord with ignorance, intolerance, and belligerent nationalism. These few simple precautions would also make it more attractive to the growing numbers among our people who have begun to reject it as ignorant, intolerant, and belligerently nationalistic, as they might reasonably conclude that it is, if they hear only the loudest voices.
There is something I have felt the need to say, that I have spoken about in various settings, extemporaneously, because my thoughts on the subject have not been entirely formed, and because it is painful to me to have to express them. However, my thesis is always the same, and it is very simply stated, though it has two parts: first, contemporary America is full of fear. And second, fear is not a Christian habit of mind. As children we learn to say, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.” We learn that, after his resurrection, Jesus told his disciples, “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” Christ is a gracious, abiding presence in all reality, and in him history will finally be resolved.
A. The Gregorian calendar, also called the Western calendar and the Christian calendar, is internationally the most widely used civil calendar. It is named for Pope Gregory XIII, who introduced it in October 1582. Below I discuss Easter and leave it to readers for more information. For more on this calendar go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregorian_calendar
Good Friday is the day Christians remember the suffering, torture and crucifixion of Jesus. A man victimised, tortured and killed, the object of crowd violence, scapegoated, his family and friends forced to watch. It's a story that in different ways features in the belief systems of millions. Easter, also called Pasch or Resurrection Sunday is a festival and holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, described in the New Testament as having occurred on the third day of his burial after his crucifixion by Romans at Calvary c.30 AD. It is the culmination of the Passion of Christ, preceded by Lent(or Great Lent), a forty-day period of fasting, prayer, and penance.The week before Easter is called Holy Week, and it contains the days of the Easter Triduum, including Maundy Thursday, commemorating the Maundy(1) & Last Supper, as well as Good Friday, commemorating the crucifixion & death of Jesus.
In western Christianity, Eastertide, the Easter Season, begins on Easter Sunday and lasts seven weeks, ending with the coming of the fiftieth day, Pentecost Sunday. In Orthodoxy, the season of Pascha begins on Pascha and ends with the coming of the fortieth day, the Feast of the Ascension. Easter and the holidays that are related to it are moveable feasts which do not fall on a fixed date in the Gregorian or Julian calendars which follow only the cycle of the sun; rather, its date is determined on a lunisolar calendar similar to the Hebrew calendar.
B. The First Council of Nicaea (325) established two rules, independence of the Jewish calendar and worldwide uniformity, which were the only rules for Easter explicitly laid down by the council. No details for the computation were specified; these were worked out in practice, a process that took centuries and generated a number of controversies. It has come to be the first Sunday after the ecclesiastical full moon that occurs on or soonest after 21 March, but calculations vary in East and West. Easter is linked to the Jewish Passover by much of its symbolism, as well as by its position in the calendar. In many languages, the words for "Easter" and "Passover" are identical or very similar. Easter customs vary across the Christian world, and include sunrise services, exclaiming the Paschal greeting, clipping the church, & decorating Easter eggs, a symbol of the empty tomb. The Easter lily, a symbol of the resurrection, traditionally decorates the chancel area of churches on this day and for the rest of Eastertide. Additional customs that have become associated with Easter and are observed by both Christians and some non-Christians include egg hunting, the Easter Bunny, and Easter parades.There are also various traditional Easter foods that vary regionally.
(1) Maundy Thursday (also known as Holy Thursday, Covenant Thursday, Great & Holy Thursday, Sheer Thursday, & Thursday of Mysteries) is the Christian holy day falling on the Thursday before Easter. ..Go to these 2 links for a short video and more information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter and
CHAOS AND THE VOID: The desperation to believe
In the final chapter of his magisterial biography of Oscar Wilde, Richard Ellmann(1918-1987), American literary critic, recounts the last moments of Wilde’s life, and his being received into the Church. The story of T.S. Eliot’s(1888-1965) unexpected conversion to Anglicanism is a long and well-documented one. Eliot’s early poetry, certainly up to The Waste Land, betrayed an allegiance to art, not religion. But with the poems Journey of the Magi, Salutation, and the sequence Ash-Wednesday, it was clear that the direction of Eliot’s poetry was changing. Peter Ackroyd(1949- ), the English biographer, novelist and critic, writes that Eliot, like so many modernists, was “aware of what he called the void in all human affairs: the disorder, meaninglessness and futility which he found in his own experience. Human affairs were, at their heart, inexplicable intellectually; his skepticism taught him that they could only be understood or endured by means of a larger faith.” –Nebula, Vol. 2, No. 3, September 2005.
Evelyn Waugh’s(1903-1966) conversion from what he called the “absurd caricature” of modernity to the “real world” of Catholicism was, Joseph Pearce(1961- ), Professor of Literature at Ave Maria University, writes, “greeted with astonishment by the literary world. It caused a sensation in the media. Given the controversy surrounding his decision, Waugh succinctly explained the reasons for his conversion in his essay, “Converted to Rome: Why It Has Happened to Me.” The modern world faced a choice between Christianity and chaos, said Waugh.
Reminiscent of the French poet and essayist Charles Baudelaire’s(1821-1867) formulation, his take, on modernity, Waugh felt he had to choose between the eternal and the immutable or the transient, fleeting, and contingent. Like Eliot, Auden, and Wilde, Waugh chose the eternal and the immutable which he found in Christianity. In the final passages of Brideshead Revisited(1945), a novel of redemption, we see what can be read as the narrator’s second conversion. At the same time, we see Waugh subtly renouncing the idea that art will lead us to paradise.
In his youth the Anglo-American poet, W.H. Auden(1907-1973), was interested in Freudian psychoanalysis and Marxism, interests that waned with age. According to a web page sponsored by The Academy of American Poets, while Auden never entirely abandoned these early interests, Christianity, and especially Protestant theology, had become one of his primary preoccupations by the 1940s. The best book-length study of literary figures who converted to, or were influenced by, Christianity is by Joseph Pearce, Literary Converts: Spiritual Inspiration in an Age of Unbelief, Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1999.
Can some fortuitous conjunction
of circumstances make it possible
to bend the conditions of human
life into conformity with a set of
prevailing human desires? Such
hopes are merely illusory, & they
entirely miss the nature & meaning
of the great turning point we have
passed through during what is this
climacteric of history since, say, the
1840s, 1850s, the entire 20th century,
and into this third millennium...Great,
how very great…is the magnitude of
the ruin, the catalogue of horrors-----
unknown in the darkest of past ages.1
1 The Universal House of Justice, Century of Light, Foreword, and p.1, Baha’i World Centre, Haifa, Israel, 2001.
31/5/'12 to 25/12/'13.
It once seemed obvious to everyone concerned that the script of history had been written by God. The chronicle of events and persons of this world had significance only in figural relation with the ideal Biblical types they reflected. The Book in turn was organized such that Old Testament types of the fallen world were sublimated into New Testament anti-types of the world saved and consummated in the risen Christ. To Bossuet in the seventeenth century this schema was still compelling and evident, though he perhaps had to work harder for his faith than his medieval fathers. But in the following century, the rationalist critique of religion relegated Bossuet's ideal Biblical history to the status of a quaint and obscurantist fable.
Scientific rationalism has only tightened its grip since the eighteenth century, until today the rationalist technocracy has nothing but contempt for (and mostly ignorance of) religious leftovers, "superstition". And yet we are becoming increasingly uneasy. Why, if the Bible is all made of nonsense and phantasy, at best grounded in an idiosyncratic, perspectival (European) history--why does it seem that the more rational and probabilistic our epistemology becomes, the closer the actual current of historical events comes to approximating or converging with exactly what was predicted in the New Testament Apocalypse? For this essay entitled "Jesus Christ Holocaust: Fabulation of the Jews in Christian and Nazi History" by Peter Canning in the Journal of Culture and Religious Theory, spring 2000, go to:http://www.jcrt.org/archives/01.2/index.shtml
CHURCH COUNCILS: ESPECIALLY AD 381
Charles Freeman's book AD 381: Heretics, Pagans and the Christian State is still a much neglected and thus little-known subject for the most part, and the year in question is even more obscure. But as Freeman shows, it is central to the development of western culture in general and the development of church-state relations in particular. For it is in that year that the move was made by the Roman emperor Theododius to codify, not just a particular religion as the only licit religion of the empire, but a particular flavor of that religion as well. As Freeman demonstrates, placing the imperial might behind one sect of what had been a broad stream of early Christian belief had profound consequences both inside and outside of the church. Go to this link for more on Freeman's book: http://www.politicaltheology.com/blog/quick-and-dirty-review-ad-381-pagans-heretics-and-the-christian-state-by-charles-freeman/ For more on the Council of 381 & church councils in general go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Council_of_Aquileia,_381 and to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_church_councils_%28pre-ecumenical%29 and:
BRIDESHEAD REVISITED, WAUGH AND CHRISTIANITY
Revisiting Brideshead was televised last night.(1) I had seen this 11 part series on television back in the 1980s or early 1990s after it first came out in 1981. I had not read the novel, Brideshead Revisited, The Sacred & Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder by English writer Evelyn Waugh which was first published in 1945. In 2015 I had the pleasure of seeing the 2008 film version.(2) I wrote about the TV series and the film after I had retired from my 50 year life-experience as a student and in paid employment, 1949-1999, and after I had seen the series a second time in Australia.
The Flyte family who lived at Brideshead symbolises the English nobility, and Waugh's marvelously melancholy elegy brings that nobility to life. One reads in the book that Brideshead has "the atmosphere of a better age." Viewers, millions, enjoy the opulent and aristocratic edge, the glitter and gloss, the grandeur and the glamour of this wealthy family estate, and of a time in our history now quickly dying-out, if not long gone. In this one house, as one reviewer put it, is a fading, a dying, empire; or is it just sublime real estate. For many, in the millennial and generation Z, I can just about hear them clicking on the remote and uttering a now familiar word, a word especially familiar to people like me who retired after more than 30 years in classrooms: borrrring!
There's room for more than one Brideshead in this far less glamorous day and age, though, room at least for the baby-boomers and for the silent generation among the viewing public, with the glitter and gloss of society now often tarnished beyond repair in our complex 21st century.-Ron Price with thanks to (1)ABC2TV, 11:55-12:45, 19 & 20/9/’11, and (2)ABCTV, 8/2/'15, 10:05-11:30 pm.
1981 was a bad year in the UK
with 2 & ½ million out of work
and a list of bad news to fill all
those English heads to the top.1
There was nothing like this bit
of escapism from the real world
into a nostalgic, a romanticized
past, homoerotic suggestiveness,
Evelyn Waugh’s WW2 vision.2
I’ll let all you readers find out
what it all meant to Waugh, to
his critics & to modern viewers
whose views are available for us
to see on that new source of info:
the internet, the world-wide-web.3
1 See Wikipedia for all the bad news in 1981.
2 Waugh wrote in the preface to the 1959 edition of the book that he was appalled by his book, and that he found rereading it distasteful. I was only 15 at the time, and had read none of Waugh. I lived in Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe, had just joined the Baha’i Faith, and was in love with sport and at least 3 girls. The plot of the book was set in 1943-1944, in the months when I was in utero.
3 I was particularly interested in Waugh’s defence of Catholicism, his critique of secular humanism, and his emphasis on the many forms of conversion that take place in peoples’ lives.
20/9/'11 to 12/2/'15.
In the six months between December 1943 and June 1944 the novel Brideshead Revisited was written in England. In those same months I existed in utero on the other side of the Atlantic in Canada. When Evelyn Waugh, the author of this novel, wrote his preface to a revised edition of the book in 1959, and Fr. Ronald Knox published his biography of Waugh in that same year---I was 15 and had just joined the Baha’i Faith, and was in the middle of my adolescent baseball and ice-hockey careers. By my 20s my sport-playing days had ended, although I have remained a Baha’i all my life. Waugh converted to Roman Catholicism in his late 20s and remained a Catholic although, as Martin Stannard the author of a two-volume biography of Waugh noted, “he struggled against the dryness of his soul”1 In the end, this is a common experience for believers of all Faiths and non-believers of all philosophies alike, especially in our troubled-age. Stannard saw Waugh as “the greatest novelist of his generation.”2
Waugh saw this novel, Brideshead Revisited, as his magnum opus but, on reading it later in life, he found what he called its "rhetorical and ornamental language.....distasteful."3 Readers with the interest in this film and this novel should surf-about on Wikipedia and other internet sources for all sorts of bits-and-pieces of information and analysis.-Ron Price with thanks to 1Martin Stannard, "Evelyn Arthur St John Waugh(1903–66),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edition, 2007; 2Evelyn Waugh: The Early Years 1903-1939, and Evelyn Waugh: The Later Years 1939-1966, W.W. Norton & Co., NY., 1987 & 1992, resp., V.2, p.492; and3 Wikipedia.
Without Christianity you saw
civilization doomed or, as you
put it in your conversion: “it is
like stepping out of a Looking-
Glass world, where everything
is an absurd caricature, into the
real world God made, and then
begins the delicious process of
exploring it limitlessly.”1..This
is perhaps the most succinct &
sufficient description of process
in the act of conversions that ever
were written in that 20th century.
Waugh's own conversion from the
"absurd caricature" of what might
be called ultra-modernity to that
real world of Catholic orthodoxy
was greeted with astonishment by
the literary world and it caused a
sensation in the media. Do those
who have watched Brideshead in
these last 30 years know of this?
I did not until today and, wanting
to know something about how this
television series and film came into
existence in those last twenty-five
years: 1981 to 2007, I learned that
there was much to learn with a little
research and reading, and not even
reading E. Waugh's book at all.......
“Today we can see it on all sides as the active negation of all that Western culture has stood for. Civilization - and by this I do not mean talking cinemas and tinned food, nor even surgery and hygienic houses, but the whole moral and artistic organization of Europe - has not in itself the power of survival. It came into being through Christianity and, without, it has no significance or power to command allegiance. The loss of faith in Christianity and the consequential lack of confidence in moral and social standards have become embodied in the ideal of a materialistic, mechanized state. It is no longer possible to accept the benefits of civilization and at the same time deny the supernatural basis upon which it rests."
Waugh concluded the above press statement on his conversion by saying that he saw Catholicism as the "most complete and vital form" of Christianity. The article from which the above is taken was written by Joseph Pearce and it appeared in Lay Witness a publication of Catholic United for the Faith, Inc., an international lay apostolate founded in 1968.
14/7/'11 to 12/2/'15.
THE RISE OF CHRISTIANITY
Go to the following two links for more details on Peter Brown's books: The Rise of Western Christendom, Triumph and Diversity, A.D. 200-1000: http://januarymagazine.com/nonfiction/riseofwestern.html , and Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350–550 AD(Princeton, 759 pages, 2012) at: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/oct/11/masterpiece-rise-christianity/
Over the last fifty years there has been an explosion of interest in and study of late antiquity—that previously neglected half-millennium or so between ancient history and the High Middle Ages. In archaeology, old sites have been given deeper scrutiny; new sites have been found and developed. Art historians have been surprised by the quality of the period’s mosaic floors, sarcophagi, and pious objects. Eating vessels have been treated as if in a crime lab. Even bones from mass burials and catacombs have established the dietary conditions of different regions and periods. Generalizing terms like “barbarians” have been articulated into many-layered entities, refining and reversing historical judgments.
Why was this vast field neglected for so long? There were effects lingering from interlinked though discredited myths. One myth was that the Roman Empire, but only in the West, “fell” overnight when barbarians invaded and brought it down. The light of classical times blinked out and we stumbled straightway into the Dark Ages. Myth two, without a neat chronological fit, was that Constantine in the fourth century took Christianity out of the martyrs’ arena into the seats of power, making the persecuted become persecutors. Myth three, again only approximately synchronous with the others, was that a primitive Christianity lost its purity and became rich in its own right. Thin apostles could get through a needle’s eye, but fat bishops, like camels, could not. Those beliefs, previously dislodged, have by now evaporated.
Peter Robert Lamont Brown(1935- ), is the Rollins Professor Emeritus of History at Princeton University. His principal contributions to the discipline have been in the field of late antiquity and, in particular, the religious culture of the later Roman Empire and early medieval Europe. Go to this link for more on this distinguished academic:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Brown_%28historian%29
NORTHROP FRYE AND THE BIBLE
Herman Northrop Frye(1912-1991) was a Canadian literary critic and literary theorist, considered one of the most influential of the 20th century. Frye gained international fame with his first book, Fearful Symmetry (1947), which led to the reinterpretation of the poetry of William Blake. It was in reflecting on the similarity between Blake and Milton that Frye first stumbled upon the "principle of the mythological framework," the recognition that "the Bible was a mythological framework, cosmos or body of stories, and that societies live within a mythology." His lasting reputation rests principally on the theory of literary criticism that he developed in Anatomy of Criticism (1957), one of the most important works of literary theory published in the 20th century.
The American critic Harold Bloom commented at the time of its publication that Anatomy of Criticism established Frye as "the foremost living student of Western literature." Frye's contributions to cultural and social criticism spanned a long career during which he earned widespread recognition and received many honours. In The Great Code: The Bible and Literature(1982), Northrop Frye, greatly influenced by his reading of the apocalyptic poet William Blake, explores in considerable depth the poetic language of the Bible as what he calls “a single, gigantic, complex metaphor”. For an overview of Frye, his life and his work, go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northrop_Frye
For Blake, as for Frye, this gigantic “metaphor” is the total form of the Bible, which Blake calls Jerusalem, at once the city and bride of God that is progressively taking shape throughout the Bible, until in its final book it is seen in vision “coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev. 21:2). The visionary form that the New Jerusalem metaphorically assumes is what Blake calls the “human form divine” which is to say, the human form of the divine creation.
Blake describes the descent of the New Jerusalem more personally as Milton’s twelve-year-old feminine Muse, Ololon. In Blake’s reading of Milton’s epic Paradise Lost, Ololon unites at last with Milton and descends as Christ’s return into Blake’s garden at Felpham, a small village in the south of England where Blake is reading Milton’s epic to his wife. For more of the journal article on which I have drawn, entitled: "Metaphor & the Language of Revelation" by Ross Woodman in the Journal of Baha'i Studies(V.8, No.1, 1997) go to: http://bahai-studies.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/8.1-1Woodman.pdf ...For a review of The Great Code: The Bible and Literature, by Northrop Frye, go to Canadian Literature: A Quarterly of Criticism and Review, Issue #221, Summer 2014 at: http://canlit.ca/reviews/decoding_the_code
RITUAL RELIGION AND POPULAR CULTURE
On 15/10/'98 a review appeared in the London Review of Books entitled "The Vicar of Chippenham" by Christopher Haigh. It was a review of Birth, Marriage and Death: Ritual, Religion and the Life-Cycle in Tudor and Stuart England by David Cressy. Christopher Haigh is a British historian specialising in religion and politics around the English Reformation. Until his retirement in 2009, he was Student and Tutor in Modern History at Christ Church, Oxford and University Lecturer at Oxford University. He was educated at Churchill College, Cambridge & the University of Manchester.
The review began: "For most of us, rites of passage are chaotic family events, with crying babies, cranky children, bored teenagers, tipsy fathers and complaining grandmothers – an excuse for a party, a reception or a wake. For the clergy, however, ritual is a serious business. They want their ceremonies to be tidy, dignified and meaningful – no photographs in church, no confetti in the churchyard. They prefer not to christen the babies of non-churchgoers, nor to heap hypocrisies on the coffins of people they have never known." Haigh continues as follows:
"This conflict of priorities is not a new one. Bishop Coverdale complained about weddings in 1552: there was too much dressing up, showing off, music, dancing, drinking, flirting, bawdy singing and raucous jollification; not enough sober religion. An Admonition to the Parliament, published twenty years later, similarly complained about guests who threw corn-ears at the bridal pair (no confetti, please), and all who made ‘rather a May game of marriage, than a holy institution of God’. William Gouge, a London minister, was a little more relaxed: in 1622 he allowed ‘all those lawful customs that are used for the setting forth of the outward solemnity thereof, as meeting of friends, accompanying the bridegroom and bride both to and from the church, putting on best apparel, feasting, with other tokens of joy, for which we have express warrant out of God’s word’ – but not ‘gluttony and drunkenness’ or ‘unchaste songs’." For more go to: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v20/n20/christopher-haigh/the-vicar-of-chippenham
The subject of Christian ritual is a burgeoning world of commentary now. A sacrament is a Christian rite recognized as of particular importance and significance. There are various views on the existence and meaning of such rites. Christian liturgy is a pattern for worship used, whether recommended or prescribed, by a Christian congregation or denomination on a regular basis. Although the term liturgy is used to mean public worship in general, the Byzantine Rite uses the term "Divine Liturgy" to denote the Eucharistic service. Christian mythology is the body of myths associated with Christianity. Within contemporary Christianity, the appropriateness of describing Christian narratives as “myth” is a matter of disagreement. George Every claims that the existence of "myths in the Bible would now be admitted by nearly everyone", including "probably all Roman Catholics and a majority of Protestants". As examples of biblical myths, Every cites the creation account in Genesis 1 and 2 and the story of Eve's temptation.
In traditional societies, myth and ritual are two central components of religious practice. Although myth and ritual are commonly united as parts ofreligion, the exact relationship between them has been a matter of controversy among scholars. One of the approaches to this problem is "the myth and ritual, or myth-ritualist, theory," held notably by the so-called Cambridge Ritualists, which holds that "myth does not stand by itself but is tied to ritual."This theory has never been demonstrated; many scholars now believe that myth and ritual share common paradigms, but not that one developed from the other. For more on the subject of ritual go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ritual
MARKETING EVANGELICAL PROTESTANTISM IN POP-CULTURE
The following paper in the Journal of Religion and Popular Culture(Volume 24, Number 1, Spring 2012) examines gender in two forms of mediated contemporary Protestant evangelicalism in the United States: a male-dominated punk network, called Misfits United, and a women’s group studying Beth Moore’s Bible study, It’s Tough Being a Woman (ITBAW). While the appearance and performance styles of these two groups are drastically different, both support gender hierarchies in similar ways. Misfits United and Moore’s ITBAW present the gender of their Christian God as flexible, even transformative, and in effect open up discursive space to conceptualize gender on non-traditional grounds. Paradoxically, however, both reinforce traditional gender roles by emphasizing what distinguishes God from His creation: the gendered constraints of human biology. For more of this essay go to: http://muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&type=summary&url=/journals/journal_of_religion_and_popular_culture/v024/24.1.burke.html
Scholars of Christian popular culture generally focus upon the messages communicated by the objects produced, or the way objects reinforce an evangelical collective identity. This paper focuses on the members of the Christian popular culture industry rather than the objects produced. The author explores how industry members address the tension that occurs when industry members must decide whether to target their marketing efforts toward fellow Christians, or toward those outside the subculture in an attempt to evangelize non-Christians. Data are comprised of interviews with employees at Christian record labels, publishing houses, and so on along with secondary sources devoted to the industry. This paper is found in the Journal of Religion and Popular Culture(Volume 24, Number 1, Spring 2012) at this link: http://muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&type=summary&url=/journals/journal_of_religion_and_popular_culture/v024/24.1.brown.html
WRITERS ON CHRISTIAN HISTORY
There are dozens of writers on Christian history and theology, psychology and philosophy. I leave it to readers to search-out their favorites. I enjoy Diarmaid MacCulloch(1951-), a Professor of the History of the Church in the University of Oxford (since 1997) and Fellow (formerly Senior Tutor) ofSt Cross College, Oxford (since 1995). Though ordained as a deacon in the Church of England, MacCulloch declined ordination to the priesthood because of the church's attitude to his homosexuality. In 2009 he encapsulated the evolution of his religious beliefs: "I was brought up in the presence of the Bible, and I remember with affection what it was like to hold a dogmatic position on the statements of Christian belief. I would now describe myself as a candid friend of Christianity." He writes frequently for the London Review of Books. Here are some of his recent articles: http://www.lrb.co.uk/search?q=Diarmaid+MacCulloch
A LITERARY APPRECIATION OF THE KING JAMES BIBLE
Anniversaries generate memories and also books. The Dickens industry was in production for several years to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the novelist’s birth in 1812. Professor Harold Bloom’s The Shadow of a Great Rock was among the notable celebrations of the 400th anniversary of the 1611 publication of the King James translation of the Bible. Since the Reformation in England, which it must be remembered, was once a Catholic country, Bible reading became essential for Christians; it was important to translate the Hebrew and Greek originals into English. William Tyndale had begun his translation in 1523, but his project was aborted by martyrdom. In 1535 Miles Coverdale published (in Switzerland) the first complete English Bible. Then came the Geneva bible of 1560, a stridently Protestant work. King James, dissatisfied with the Geneva version (which he deemed unsympathetic to monarchy) authorized a group of translators to make a new version.
Bloom evaluates not only the relation of King James (KJB for short) to its Hebrew and Greek originals but also to Tyndale, Coverdale, and Geneva. His title, which in Isaiah refers to a shelter from the hot summer sun and is “a great poem in itself,” refers to the sheltering nourishment that the Bible provides to Western literature and civilization. For more of this discussion of Bloom's work: The Shadow of a Great Rock: A Literary Appreciation of the King James Bible, by Harold Bloom(New Haven: Yale University Press. 2011) go to:http://www.algemeiner.com/2012/09/19/the-shadow-of-a-great-rock-a-literary-appreciation-of-the-king-james-bible-review/
A HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY IN AFRICA
It has been nearly 20 years since a review of these three books appeared: The Church in Africa, 1450-1950 by Adrian Hastings(Oxford, 706 pages, 1995), A History of Christianity in Africa from Antiquity to the Present by Elizabeth Isichei(SPCK, 420 pages, 1995), and Religion in Africa: Experience and Expression edited by Thomas Blakely, Walter van Beek and Dennis Thomson(Currey, 512 pages, 1994)
Long-term ‘endings of an era’ tend nowadays to be announced with remarkable confidence. This may even be the case with an issue as controversial as the ending of territorial imperialism, truly a large affair. Yet there is much to suggest that it is ending, and the appearance of two large histories of Christianity in Africa, the first of their kind on any such scale, can be seen as another signal of this: a summing-up has evidently come to seem possible as well as desirable. Christianity will of course continue, and today in Africa there are immensely more Christians than ever before; but its assumptions will no longer be the same. The unconverted heathen, on a missionary perspective, are now resident in Britain, not in Borrioboola Gha. For more of this review go to:http://www.lrb.co.uk/v17/n17/basil-davidson/with-gods-on-their-side
CATHOLICISM: AND SCIENCE
At least since the time of Galileo, the attitude of the Roman Catholic Church toward science has been ambivalent, but by the end of the twentieth century, it seemed that an open-minded and tolerant tendency had definitely prevailed. Now, however, in the early years of the new century, the antiscientific stance has made a vigorous comeback, and sometimes in surprisingly outmoded guises. Although it is probably a position still held by only a minority in the Church, this antiscientific stance appears to have been adopted by members in the highest ranks of the Catholic Church including the pope. This article analyzes the roots, nature, & cultural & political implications of this antiscientific renaissance within Catholicism by looking at two of its main expressions, which concern, respectively, the attitude one should take toward the natural sciences and the social sciences. Go to "Bellarmine’s Revenge? On Some Recent Trends in the Roman Catholic Church Concerning the Relation of Faith and Science" by Mario De Caro and Telmo Pievani. This article is in the online spring 2010 issue of boundary2: an international journal of literature and culture http://boundary2.dukejournals.org/content/37/1/1.full.pdf+html
A BACKLAST AGAINST ATHEISM
The following is a review of: (i) Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense by Francis Spufford(Faber, 224 pages, 2012; and BuyOur Church: A Personal History of the Church of England by Roger Scruton(Atlantic, 199 pages, 2012).
No one can write about religion now without having in mind the new mockery that accompanies the new atheism. The new atheism’s ‘smug emissaries’ – as the blurb of Francis Spufford’s engaging new book calls them, meaning above all Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins – believe in spite of all evidence that eventually the religious will see sense. And yet with their magical belief in the truth of science – their taking for granted a consensus about the value of scientific evidence – and their unspoken assumption that virtually everyone who has ever lived has been out of touch with reality, the evangelical atheists have provoked some quite rational defences of religious faith. Given how much religious believers have achieved – all of human culture up to the end of the 19th century, and most since, including forms of scepticism about religion, as well as ways of evaluating faith and belief – it isn’t entirely surprising that the emissaries of the new atheism haven’t had it all their own way. For more of this review go to:http://www.lrb.co.uk/v35/n02/adam-phillips/talking-about-what-it-feels-like-is-as-real-as-it-gets
THE FRUIT OF SOLITUDE and NEINHOLD NIEBUHR
In order for solitude to bear fruit, Eliot and the famous American poet Robert Frost, as well as many thinkers like the historian Arnold Toynbee (who has influenced my thinking) are convinced of the necessity to both retreat from the world and to return into that world, a world in which the cultural differences and similarities and the ensuing conflicts and sympathies are "favourable to creativeness and progress." At present, I am in my life's major retreat or withdrawal in the early evening of my life, the years of late adulthood(60-80). Within the context of this retreat I do minor exercises of 'return', short involvements of usually a few hours, at most, of social interaction in either cyberspace or real space. I no longer spend 60 hours a week at a job; no longer go to long meetings associated with various forms of community activity as I did for decades; I no longer spend a great deal of time raising children and engaging in the inevitable social and psychological demands involved in family responsibilities, although as a grandfather and husband this is not always the case.
I have become, by degrees in the last decade or so: a writer and author, an editor and researcher, a poet and publisher, a reader and scholar, my own CEO and office-assistant, my cleaner and a retired person from the host of roles I had during my student and working life from 1949 to 2009. "The undiscovered country from whose bourn/No traveler returns," as Shakespeare wrote, impels me to "bear those ills we have/Than fly to others that we know not of." It also impels me to plot a course for myself that has the greatest meaning. Of course, one is always plotting one's course at least from time to time, if not every minute of the day.
That American theologian and commentator Reinhold Niebuhr(1892-1971), the American theologian and commentator on public affairs who started as a leftist minister in the 1920s indebted to theological liberalism, and who shifted to the new Neo-Orthodox theology in the 1930s, is responsible for the aphorism: try to attain that serenity to accept the things I cannot change, have courage to change the things I can, and have the wisdom to know the difference. This aphorism, among others, lies at the basis of my current efforts to achieve the greatest meaning in my life as it heads toward sunset and nightfall in the years ahead. For more on Niebuhr go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reinhold_Niebuhr
Christian theology is the enterprise which seeks to construct a coherent system of Christian belief and practice. This is based primarily upon the texts of the Old Testament & the New Testament as well as the historic traditions of Christians. Christian theologians use biblical exegesis, rational analysis, and argument to clarify, examine, understand, explicate, critique, defend or promote Christianity. Theology might be undertaken to help the theologian better understand Christian tenets, make comparisons between Christianity and other traditions, defend Christianity against objections and criticism, facilitate reforms in the Christian church, assist in the propagation of Christianity, draw on the resources of the Christian tradition to address some present situation or need, or for a variety of other reasons.
In the long history of Christianity theology has many major figures. Erasmus was one I took an interest in during the reformation when I was a student majoring in history and philosophy in 1964/5. For an excellent overview of his life and work go to these two links: http://www.brynmawr.edu/bmrcl/BMRCLFall2011/Erasmus,%20Controversies.htm and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desiderius_Erasmus Go to this link for more on the subject of Christian theology: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_theology
THE BOOK OF REVELATION AND ELAINE PAGELS
The Book of Revelation, which closes the New Testament, describes a nightmare of apocalyptic visions. These famously include beasts, serpents, a bottomless pit, warfare in heaven, wild horsemen, and other horrors that are only partially relieved by the ultimate arrival of the New Jerusalem. (“And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”) The very word “apocalyptic,” which occurs in most modern languages to designate such wild imaginings, derives from the Greek name for the Book of Revelation, Apokalypsis, which literally means unveiling, as does the Latin word from which “revelation” is borrowed. For more on this topic go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/apr/05/apocalypse-then-elaine-pagels-revelations/
ERA OF A THOUSAND CHRISTIANITIES
I don't want to get into all the refinements and divisions, sects and denominations, cults and isms within Christianity. Readers can google all this to their heart's content. Reinhold Niebuhr(1892-1971) is an American theologian and commentator on public affairs. He is but one of literally 1000s now of interpreters whose interpretations of the meaning and purpose of Christianity battle it out for the minds of men. This battle takes place both within Christianity and without. Niebuhr takes on Christianity's religious liberals and their enthusiasm over what he calls their naïve views of sin. He was not impressed with the optimism of the Social Gospel. He battled with the religious conservatives over what he viewed as their naïve view of Scripture and their narrow definition of "true religion." I do not intend to get into all the nuances of belief in the Christian fold. We have arrived in this age, this 21st century, as I say above in the era of a thousand Christianities. For the view of a famous 20th century poet, for the position of W.H. Auden on Christianity go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2007/dec/06/auden-and-god/ For a recent article on Christianity in the USA go to:http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2008/jan/17/taking-the-gospels-seriously/?page=1
SAINT PAUL AND CHRISTIANITY
Tertullian(160-225 A.D.) was a prolific early Christian author from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa. He is the first Christian author to produce an extensive corpus of Latin Christian literature. He called Saint Paul “the apostle of the heretics” and he was right. Ever since Marcion(85-160 A.D.), the second-century theologian who thought Paul taught that the Christian God was a deity wholly distinct from and superior to the Hebrews’ Yahweh, the Pauline corpus has been creatively misread. It is hard to find much in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount to inspire heretical thoughts, but Paul’s epistles, with their powerful intimations about sin, grace, and imminent redemption, are another matter.
As Monsignor Ronald Knox(1888-1957), an English priest, theologian and writer put it in his classic study Enthusiasm, the mind of Paul has been misunderstood all down the centuries; there is no aberration of Christianity which does not point to him as the source of its inspiration, found as a rule, in his epistle to the Romans. Ronald Knox had a mathematical as well as literary mind which enabled him to see historical parallels in seemingly unrelated tendencies. Enthusiasm (1950) was his life's work. It is subtitled A Chapter in the History of Religion with Special Reference to the XVII and XVIII Centuries. Knox traces a tendency to enthusiasm from the first days of the Church into the 20th Century. It contains not only a characteristically charitable analysis of this tendency but valuable lessons for those of us who remain confused by the strange enthusiasms of so many of our neighbors in the21st century.
Paul continues to breed strange enthusiasms, which is why even today many Christians blame him for ruining the simple faith of the Apostolic Church. He has been denounced as a Hellenizer, a gnostic, a hater of the body, of Jews, of women, as the great destroyer of the pristine Gospel, a traitor worse than Judas. Even Nietzsche, who was no fan of Jesus, thought Paul had done him wrong. For more on this subject go to: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2008/oct/23/a-new-political-saint-paul/ and http://bahai-library.com/uhj/apostle.paul.html
CHRISTIANITY AND MY LIFE-NARRATIVE
I draw on the Christian paradigm, the Christian mythology, from time to time, to provide an insite into my life-narrative, my life-history. Malcolm S. Knowles, a very influential figure in the adult education field, a field I worked in for more than 25 years, defines a person's life-history as "a critical epistemological construct illuminating the intersection of human experience and social context." For an mini-biography of Knowles go to the following link: http://www.infed.org/thinkers/et-knowl.htm To put his definition another way: life history is about the intersection of the individual and community, the individual and the group or society. Many of my essays illuminate this intersection, an intersection which draws on many traditions of religion and philosophy as coping tools and meaning constructs, as frameworks for understanding man, the individual, in community and society.
The scientific method, which for me simply means "the systematic use of the rational faculty" as applied to any phenomena, has led social scientists to produce studies that are often rigid, linear, and formulaic. For a more extended definition and detailed perspective on the scienfific method go to this link:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method By contrast, life-historians, historians of the life-narrative(and I make pretensions to be one, at least an amateur in the field and becoming more seasoned with the years) use what might be called an arts-informed approach to convey my representation of human experience. Historians and biographers have been debating the meaning and application of the words objectivity and subjectivity since the days of the Greek historians Herodotus and Thucydides.
More recent studies of the "objectivity question," such as That Noble Dream by Peter Novick and Telling the Truth about History by Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt, and Margaret Jacob are neglected, as are classic works about oral history methodology, like Jan Vansina's Oral Tradition as History. My autobiography does not dwell on philosophical and epistomological issues like objectivity and subjectivity, although from time to time I comment on them when it seems relevant. Readers here should not concern themselves with these names. The field, the disciplines, of autobiography and biography, are worlds unto themselves and, unless readers have some special interest in these fields of knowledge, they should not trouble themselves with my analysis here no matter whether they be Christians or Occultists, Baha'is or Buddhists.
GIVING AND RECEIVING ADVICE
I have been giving and receiving various forms of advice and wisdom for some 70 years now: 2013 back to 1943 when I was in my mother's womb and she was imbibing, as she so often did, the earliest 20th century form of positive thinking linked, as it was, with Christianity from Norman Vincent Peale. Norman had a radio program which my mother first heard in the years before she met my father circa 1940. The radio program was called "The Art of Living" which began in 1935. In 1952 Peale published The Power of Positive Thinking which has now sold over 7 million copies. My life has been spent in two major national cultures: Canada and Australia, both deeply conservative, extensively secularized and increasingly in my lifetime(1943 to 2013) more and more multicultural and complex, industrial and technological, post-industrial and post-modern. The Christianity which was the dominant religion throughout the history of both these countries has gone through massive changes in these seven decades. I don't go into these changes here at this part of my website except in some very general terms.
By the early 1950s my mother began to read passages each morning to me from The Daily Word, a publication of the Unity School of Christianity with its world centre in Madison Wisconsin, if I recall correctly after all these years. I see those readings, with their emphasis on affirmations and a liberal variant of Christianity, in retrospect as part of my initial experience of a type of moderate and common-sensical religious ethos and its mantra-like induction to a powerful and significant old religion.
Then, in those same early fifties, when my mother began to take an interest in the Baha'i cause, I was exposed to Baha'i prayers and teachings, Baha'i activities and history. Baha'i was a religion that had been in Canada, by 1953, for more than fifty years. The books my mother read from were English translations of Persian and Arabic Baha'i writings. These writings had been translated and published by Baha'i publishing houses since early in the 20th century. I found these words beautiful and intellectually attractive then, and I still do after the slow, sensible and insensible evolution of sixty years.
THE CONSPICUOUS AND INCONSPICUOUS:
Christianity on an Historical Timeline:
President Kennedy's Speech in September 1962
Nine days after I began my pioneering-travelling life in Dundas Ontario the then President of the United States, JFK, made a speech at Rice University. On that day, 12 September 1962, he said: "We choose to go to the moon in this decade….not because it is easy, but because it is hard." Kennedy cited accelerating scientific progress as evidence that the exploration of space is inevitable and argued that the United States should lead the space effort in order to retain a position of leadership on earth. I was also part of another inevitability associated with the great drama in the world's spiritual history, an inevitability given voice by the Central Figures of the Bahá’í Faith and Their successors.
In order to get some perspective on where I and others stood on that September day in 1962 Kennedy said: "No man can fully grasp how far and how fast we have come, but condense, if you will, the 50,000 years of man's recorded history in a time span of but a half century. Stated in these terms, we know very little about the first 40 years, except at the end of them advanced man had learned to use the skins of animals to cover themselves. Then about 10 years ago, under this standard, man emerged from his caves to construct other kinds of shelter. Only 5 years ago man learned to write and use a cart with wheels. Christianity began less than 2 years ago. The printing press came this year and then, less than 2 months ago during this whole 50-year span of human history, the steam engine provided a new source of power. Newton explored the meaning of gravity. Last month electric lights and telephones and automobiles and airplanes became available." Go to this link for the rest of this post:http://cosmoquest.org/forum/archive/index.php/t-49705.html
ONE OF MY PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGION PROFESSORS IN 1963/4
The Canadian philosopher George Parkin Grant(1918- 1988) was a professor and political commentator whose popular appeal peaked in the late 1960s and early 1970s, just after I left university in 1967. Grant founded and led McMaster university's religion department from 1961 to 1980. During his early tenure, in 1963/4, I was a first year arts student and he was one of my professors in an introductory philosophy and religion course. From 1963 to 1967 I was exposed to a wide variety of subjects in the arts and humanities, the social sciences and education studies. In some ways those four years determined the overall direction of my academic interests for the rest of my life.
Grant's first book, Philosophy in the Mass Age was published the year I joined the Baha'i Faith, 1959. The book began as a series of CBC lectures, and in it he posed the question of how human beings can reconcile moral freedom with acceptance of the view that an order exists in the universe beyond space and time. I may come back to this issue at a later date; for now, though, I will simply mention chaos theory, a field of mathematics with applications in several disciplines including physics, engineering, economics, biology, and philosophy. Chaos theory raises several complex questions in relation to free will; go to this link to discuss some of these issues: http://mh.bmj.com/content/28/2/78.full
Grant saw history as the progressive development of humanity's consciousness of freedom and Canada's unique combination of British traditional institutions and American individualism put it at the forefront of this final stage of history. Although I did not know it at the time, many of Grant's views had a remarkable parallel with those of the Baha'i Faith which claimed to be the latest of the Abrahamic religions and which I had been a member of for four years by the time I came into Grant's lecture halls. In fact, the international Baha'i community regarded April 1963 as the beginning of the final stage, the 9th stage of history, in the same year I first heard Grant speak in one of McMaster university's many lecture theatres.
In 1965, the year I transferred from history and philosophy to sociology to graduate in 1966, Grant published one of his most widely known works, Lament for a Nation, in which he deplored what he claimed was Canada's inevitable cultural absorption by the United States, a phenomenon he referred to as 'continentalism'. He argued that the homogenizing effect in current affairs during the period when it was written would see the demise of Canadian cultural nationality. Of his many views, one was a moral criticism of the technological society which by the 1960s was providing a cornucopia of scientific, material and technological advancements to the society I was just entering as an adult.
Grant did some impressive work on the subject of technology, and he often arrived at similar conclusions to Jacques Ellul, a Christian moral and political theorist with an expertise in the study of the political implications of technology. In Grant's book Technology and Justice he suggested that technological absolutism has a way of incrementally imposing itself on our civilization in a manner that left society as a whole almost powerless to defend against it. For Grant the main reason for this danger was that technology carried with it a peculiar language of liberation that very successfully masks its relentless quest for absolute mastery over all nature, including human nature.
Jacques Ellul(1912-1994) was a French philosopher, law professor, sociologist, lay theologian, and Christian anarchist. He wrote several books about the technological society, propaganda, and the interaction between Christianity and politics, including Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes. He authored 58 books and more than a thousand articles over his lifetime in all. For more on Ellul go to:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Ellul. For more on Grant go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Grant_%28philosopher%29
Much of Grant’s work exhibited a pessimism reminiscent of Jacques Ellul. In Technology and Empire: Perspectives on North America, published in 1969, the year I began working as a primary school teacher in Prince Edward County, Grant wrote at length and in a somber tone about the North American technological “wasteland.” The “corrosions of nihilism” have taken hold in “all parts of the community,” he wrote. Grant refused, however, to allow his own recognition of the power of modern technological existence to push him toward a radical public apoliticism or escapism as it did in the case of Ellul. For this reason, followers of Ellul might do well to consider Grant’s perspective. It is true that Grant lived a somewhat reclusive private life; it is true that he never published any lengthy treatises on political philosophy; and it is true that much of his published work carried with it an unmistakable tone of despair. But if one looks closely at Grant’s arguments one does not find the same sharp Manichean-like distinction as one finds in Ellul. See, for instance, Grant’s essay entitled “Thinking About Technology” in Technology and Justice (South Bend, Ind.: Notre Dame Press, 1986), pp. 11-34.
Upon close examination one discovers that Grant actually sees the dismal civilizational “destiny” of the West as an important context for his own search for wisdom. In Time as History, Grant was explicit about his rejection of those who take refuge in a “past which inoculated us from the present.” Indeed, the Grant of Time as History saw the necessity of actually embracing the concrete conditions of the present, however dismal they may be. Life in the Platonic cave, for all its tragedy, may produce in us a spiritual awakening of sorts, a longing for the brightness of eternal good that is known fully only in its relation to what it is not. In this sense Grant, unlike Ellul, tends to be willing to see the providential hand of God in the advent of modern technological existence. For more on the issues involved here go to: http://www.nhinet.org/humsub/butle7-2.pdf
Some of my internet posts on the subject of Christianity and related subjects:
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