Category Archives: Epistemology

An Epistemology of Peace

Incompleteness is not a temporary human state while we engage in figuring out how to do theology and ethics; incompleteness is the human condition. That is why it does not matter where we begin or what language we use, provided we do not exclude other languages, but it does matter whom we listen to and whether we are able to learn to walk the word…. Continue reading An Epistemology of Peace

Imagination, Epistemology, and Embodiment

The crisis of contemporary theology, I believe, is in the final analysis not a crisis of imagination. That is, it is not at bottom only an epistemological crisis. Today’s crisis of Christian faith is even more so one of embodiment. After all, what it is that we can know has to do with what we see, and what we can see has to do with the place from which we look. When we look from within the shroud of contemporary Western liberal rationality, we will have a hard time seeing the God of the Christian tradition. We will instead see a tribal god, one of our own creation, albeit one very different from any preceding tribe. And a god whom we create cannot save us. Such a god must be saved by us and by our intellectual strategies. Ironically the outcome of a tribal god is the very one the whole constructive imaginative project was intended to repudiate.

However, when our imagination is located within the rich Christian tradition we are not enslaved to the repetitions of archaic images and dehumanising practices. Human rationalities and human experiences change over time because we are living, pulsating, creative beings. Theological constructions must change because the God of Abraham and Sarah, of May and Paul, the God of Jesus Christ, is a living being who grounds and inhabits life itself. And this God who lives within the lives of human beings today has always lived. Unless our theological imaginations can ‘explain’ the ‘continuity of God-language’ convincingly in light of the biblical text and the tradition which has given us our understanding of God to begin with, it cannot meaningfully be said to be Christian theology. Perhaps even more important, the ‘explanation’ ought to be sought not only in the imaginative works of our best intellectuals, but also in the lives of the ones who have remained traditional enough to be able to open themselves to the transforming power of God – the God who has spoken through texts that the church considers authoritative, through the one whom the church calls Christ, and to the community which gathers regularly in worship. – Echoes of the Word, 46

The sentimental is and is not

Stanley Hauerwas begins a recent post at ABC Religion and Ethics with the provocative statement that “nothing is more destructive to the Christian faith than the current identification of Christianity with love.”  Part of what seems to be going on here involves Hauerwas’s long battle against Christians’ temptation to sentimentality. For there is nothing sentimental about the cross and much that is sentimental about Christian proclamation of an easy and tolerant love, a “love,” for example, that makes Christians great customer service personnel for destructive corporations.

At the same time, to again follow Hauerwas’s lead, we should not think that this calls for some sort of emotionless obedience. Indeed, one of the problems with sentimentality is that it deflects and hides us from the emotion and desire that marks a true engagement with the self, others, the world, and God. In the interests of pushing towards a deeply emotional and fully desiring faith that does not stray into I have decided to present of list of examples of what sentimental is and is not.

The sentimental is:

  • “There is so much bad news these days. It’s a good thing that a vague feeling of goodwill towards all humanity means that the church breaks down the barriers of nationality, race, and gender. If I think it, then I know that I am a part of a global fellowship.”
  • “No, dear, I did not clean the house while you were away as I promised I would do. What matters, though, is that I love you very much.”
  • “Yes, I will help you to escape from this fire in a moment, but first I must find my wedding ring, which brings back so beautifully the perfection of my wedding day.”
  • “I don’t care what my baby sister says, Dad. I will not allow you to move into a nursing home. I’ve been in one once and I know what it is like. You mean too much to me. Now, if she doesn’t do a good job taking care of you this week, you be sure to let me know when I see you next.”

The sentimental not:

  • “The many stories of Syrian refugees that I’ve been able to hear over the last few months has deeply impacted me. I am quitting my job and initiating conversations to see what I can do to plug into relief and support for the current refugee crisis.”
  • “Thank you for making me smile now when everything seems so bleak. I just really appreciate having you around.”
  • “I weep uncontrollably for the loss of my friend. I am at a loss in the face of my grief.”
  • “This really good book has me in emotional turbulence.”

With both of these lists I could have gone on and on. But now, reader, it is your turn to flesh out the distinction between the sentimental and the emotional. What should be added to either or both lists? Be as snarky or as heartfelt as you like.