Common Objects of Love: Moral Reflection and the Shaping of Community
“A people, we may say, is a gathered multitude of rational beings united by agreeing to share the things they love.” So Augustine famously challenged the classical definition of a republic articulated by Cicero, replacing an idealist understanding of organized social life with a realist one, which would allow for radical criticism without dissolving the political phenomenon altogether.
My purpose in this year’s Stob Lectures is not to explore the expository questions surrounding Augustine’s proposal, nor to discuss the merits of realist and idealist political theories. It is, rather, to exploit the understanding that Augustine holds out to us, by reflecting on a range of common moral and social phenomena characteristic of life in late-modern society, and holding them up to the light of his suggestion.
These are audios (RAM) of the 3 lectures
The Augustinian thesis that the primary mode of knowing is loving. Our experience of knowing the world.
Communication as the basis of society. Material and intellectual communications. Representation.
The problem of representation in our age. The eschatological overheating and trivialization of communications
The abstract of Hofreiter’s DPhil thesis on the subject, published by OUP, reads:
The thesis investigates the interpretation of some of the most problematic passages of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, i.e. passages involving the concept or practice of herem. The texts under consideration contain prima facie divine commands to commit genocide as well as descriptions of genocidal military campaigns commended by God. The thesis presents and analyses the solutions that Christian interpreters through the ages have proposed to the concomitant moral and hermeneutical challenges. A number of ways in which they have been used to justify violence and war are also addressed.
For the patristic and early medieval eras the thesis aims to be as comprehensive as possible in identifying and analysing the various interpretative options, while for later periods the focus lies on new developments. In addition to offering the most comprehensive presentation of the Wirkungsgeschichte of herem texts to date, the thesis offers an analysis and critical evaluation of the theologico-hermeneutical assumptions underlying each of the several approaches, and their exegetical and practical consequences. The resulting analytical taxonomy and hermeneutical map is an original contribution to the history of exegesis and the study of the interplay between religion and violence.
The cognitive dissonance herem texts cause for pious readers is introduced as an inconsistent set of five propositions: (1) God is good; (2) the bible is true; (3) genocide is atrocious; (4) according to the bible, God commanded and commended genocide; (5) a good being, let alone the supremely good Being, would never command or commend an atrocity. If proposition (4) is assumed, at least one of the deeply-held beliefs expressed in the other four must be modified or given up.
The introduction is followed by four diachronic chapters in which the various exegetical approaches are set out: pre-critical (from the OT to the Apostolic Fathers), dissenting (Marcion and other ancient critics), figurative (from Origen to high medieval times), divine-command-ethics,(from Augustine to Calvin) and violent (from Ambrose to Puritan North America). A concluding chapter presents near contemporary re-iterations and variations of the historic approaches.
Speaking on the subject, “God, Evil, and Possibility” over the course of a week, Blocher addressed the persistence of the category of possibility in responses to the problem of evil. He gave the example of the popular evangelical theodicy that, in order to create persons who would love him freely, God had to create them with free will, that is, the possibility of sinning, and thus risk their self-alienation from him. Blocher objected to the suggestion that evil could be such a metaphysical possibility, as if God were the author of evil itself by creating the possibility of it. “I deny that there is anything about metaphysical evil in the Bible,” he insisted. “Creation is good.” But he claimed the solution to this conceptual issue was not to reject the argument but to refine the definitions of “the possible.”
Blocher’s major contribution in these lectures was this differentiation of kinds of possibility. He argued that we should not think of evil in the pre-fallen state as a “real” possibility, that is, as something God built into the created order. Rather, we need only posit evil as a logical possibility, the simple negation of the divine command. Only the human commission of evil creates it as a real possibility.
Another argument, potentially controversial, concerned the question of possibility for God, especially whether it was possible for God to create a world that did not entail evil. Rather than attempt an philosophical response, Blocher appealed to 1 Corinthians 13:12, the best translation of which he said was that we see now “in an enigma” (see DLNT). He argued that the mind’s inability to penetrate some mysteries was precisely the hallmark of evil, that it corrupts our organ of understanding.
Lecture 1: Introduction: Evil possible—a misleading facility
Lecture 2: Exploring the quasi concept and the area of evil
Lecture 3: Thinkers on ‘possibility’
Lecture 4: ‘Possibility’ in biblical perspective
Lecture 5: Was evil ‘possible” before it arose?
Lecture 6: Possibility and Salvation
Mark Futato, the Robert L. Maclellan professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida on such issues as
- whether or not we should make the Psalms “about me”;
- allowing the organization of Psalms to inform our teaching;
- common mistakes made in teaching Psalms;
- the big three kinds of Psalms;
- how Psalms speaks to our emotions; and
- singing the Psalms about Jesus, to Jesus, with Jesus.
In “How Much is Enough? The Love of Money and the Case for the Good Life” (Penguin, 2012 and 2013), Robert and Edward Skidelsky argue that wealth is not—or should not be—an end in itself, but rather a means to the good life. In this McDonald Centre conference, held at Christ Church, Oxford on 28 February 2014, the Skidelskys debate with theologians Rowan Williams and John Hughes; philosopher Cecile Fabre; economicsts Donald Hay, Edmund Newell, John Thanassoulis, and David Vines; and journalist Diane Coyle.
Session One Video (Robert Skidelsky, Edward Skidelsky, Cecile Fabre, John Hughes)
Session One Audio
Session Two Video (Robin Lovin, John Thanassoulis, David Vines, Rowan Williams)
Session Two Audio
Session Three Video (Edwina Moreton, Diane Coyle, Donald Hay, Edmund Newell)
Session Three Audio
0:48 – What is the relationship between analytic and exegetical theology?
5:11 – What is Perfect Being Theology?
7:49 – Is there anything wrong with someone taking themselves to find the omni-attributes in scripture?
9:49 – How about Natural Theology? Must Natural Theology presuppose Perfect Being Theology?
12:22 – Is there a rough overview of what you (Prof Wright) are hoping to accomplish in your upcoming Gifford Lectures?
16:48 – What is Second-Temple Judaism and where should someone go to learn more about it?
20:02 – Where does the notion of transcendence fit into the historical approach to natural theology?
0:22 – Why did you decide to enter into biblical studies?
3:17 – How did you balance being both a scholar and member of the clergy?
7:36 – How has being a member of and participant in the Logos institute been fruitful for the sort of dialogue it hopes to foster?
9:29 – Can history correct theology? What order of authority should we take them to have with respect to each other?
11:59 – How does the epistemology of love connect with human motivation and divine action?
14:52 – Is Isaiah 53 the only passage from the Hebrew Scriptures that is relevant to understanding the atonement? If not, then in what ways is it significant for studies on the atonement?
The Gospel and Public Life: Cultivating a Faithful Witness in the Face of Challenge
On October 8th, 2013, British moral philosopher Oliver O’Donovan visited America’s capital and participated in a dialogue with Ken Myers and Matthew Lee Anderson. Held a few blocks from the Capitol building, the conversation addressed questions and themes of political theology and was loosely centered around O’Donovan’s 1996 book The Desire of the Nations.
In the inauguration of the Kantzer Lectures series, distinguished Professor John Webster delivers a rich reflection upon the perfections and presence of God. The question at the center of this lectures series is the nature of human fellowship with God. The Investigation of the nature of this fellowship entails for Webster, a comprehension of the divine perfections and their relation to the Trinitarian relations and missions. From the nature of God, the Trinitarian relations and the nature of Divine presence more generally, it can then be understood more clearly what scripture means when it speaks of the Word becoming flesh. Webster offers, therefore, an extensive reflection upon the human history of the divine Word and the nature of his presence in the flesh. Finally, Webster moves to discuss the nature of the resurrected and exalted Lord’s presence, a presence manifest in his Lordship over his creatures and in the practices and Sacraments of the holy church.
Lecture 1: Introduction
Lecture 2: God’s Perfect Life
Lecture 3: God Is Everywhere but Not Only Everywhere
Lecture 4: Immanuel
Lecture 5: The Presence of Christ Exalted
Lecture 6: He Will Be With Them