MARS HILL AUDIO Journal

Volume 56

Guests on Volume 56: Miroslav Volf, on Practicing Theology: Beliefs and Practices in Christian Life; J. Judd Owen, on liberal democracy and the taming of religion; David Jacobson, on citizenship and belonging to a place; Belden Lane, on Landscapes of the Sacred: Geography and Narrative in American Spirituality; Alister McGrath, on the doctrine of Creation and the tasks of culture; Don W. King, on the poetry of C. S. Lewis; Edward Norman, on the logic of secularization; and Peter Augustine Lawler, on the proper meaning of postmodernism and “Bobos” and the end of history.

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Part 1

  • Description

    Miroslav Volf on Practicing Theology: Beliefs and Practices in Christian Life

    Practicing Theology: Beliefs and Practices in Christian Life (Eerdmans, 2001)

    "Much of the. . . Gospel account is about God's hospitality to a broken world."
    Miroslav Volf

    Professor Miroslav Volf discusses theology and spirituality. Volf is author of Practicing Theology: Beliefs and Practices in Christian Life. Christians, he says, are often content to segregate their beliefs from how they live their daily lives, practicing their faith more intensely when they are wounded. Volf advocates a more integrated approach to life and faith, explaining that beliefs ought to inform a way of life; in other words, theology informs spirituality. He explains how God's hospitality to a broken world is a model for integrating beliefs and practices.

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    J. Judd Owen on liberal democracy and the taming of religion

    Religion and the Demise of Liberal Rationalism: The Foundational Crisis of the Separation of Church and State (University of Chicago Press, 2001)

    Professor J. Judd Owen discusses the postmodern suspicion of reason and debates about "first things." Owen is author of Religion and the Demise of Liberal Rationalism: The Foundational Crisis of the Separation of Church and State. Postmodern thinkers, he explains, both affirm that people cannot rationally justify their beliefs about right and wrong to others, and believe that discussions about such things are a sign of immaturity. Owen compares these assumptions to those of the nation's founders who established America's separation of Church and State. He explains that both postmodern thinkers and the nation's founders—whose positions are at odds with each other—have understood themselves and their positions as the means for promoting unity and toleration.

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    David Jacobson on citizenship and belonging to a place

    Place and Belonging in America (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001)

    Professor David Jacobson discusses the role of place in the classic understanding of citizenship. Jacobson is author of Place and Belonging in America. Citizenship, he explains, has traditionally been understood in terms of membership and rights; if one were a member of a specific community in a particular place, one would benefit from the rights derived from participation in that community. But now, thanks in part to the increasing number of global institutions, citizenship is no longer equated with loyalty to a place. Now people do not need to participate in the life of a place in order to have the benefit of rights.

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    Belden Lane on Landscapes of the Sacred: Geography and Narrative in American Spirituality

    Landscapes of the Sacred: Geography and Narrative in American Spirituality (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001)

    Professor Belden Lane describes the difference between the Greek terms choras and topos. Lane is author of Landscapes of the Sacred: Geography and Narrative in American Spirituality. Choras, he states, are sacred places where people feel a particular sort of energy and power. Topos are mere locations. Lane explains how topos become choras.

Part 2

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    Alister McGrath on the doctrine of Creation and the tasks of culture

    A Scientific Theology, Volume 1: Nature (Eerdmans, 2001)

    "Natural theology is not something we do independent of scripture, we're always looking at nature from a biblically informed and nourished worldview."
    Alister McGrath

    Professor Alister McGrath discusses the first of three volumes in a project that encourages dialogue between theology and science. The book, A Scientific Theology, Volume 1: Nature, attends to the doctrine of creation ex nihilo. The idea that God created the cosmos out of nothing has important implications for thinking about who God is in relation to material. McGrath describes what those implications are and what natural theology is. He explains why it became unpopular in the twentieth century and why it ought to go hand-in-glove with a study of scripture.

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    Don W. King on the poetry of C. S. Lewis

    C. S. Lewis, Poet: The Legacy of His Poetic Impulse (Kent State University Press, 2001)

    "An understanding or an appreciation for [C. S. Lewis's] religious verse helps supplement our appreciation for his apologetics."
    Don W. King

    Professor Don W. King discusses C. S. Lewis's aspiration to be a poet and the different types of poetry he published. King is author of C. S. Lewis, Poet. Lewis is best-known for his prose, but he was also prolific with poetry. King notes that Lewis addressed themes in his poetry that he otherwise did not address; he wrote religious poems along with comic and satiric verse. King describes the subjects of the religious verse.

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    Edward Norman on the logic of secularization

    Secularisation (Continuum International Publishing, 2001)

    "It can be quite a dangerous thing. . . If the growth of the machinery of the state. . . Is taking place simultaneously with the decaying away of rival and alternative, i.e. in this case religious, competitive ideas about how people ought to be."
    Edward Norman

    Chancellor and writer Edward Norman discusses how the Church of England seems to be espousing ideas from secular and worldly sources and offering them as the true teachings of the Church. Norman, author of Secularisation, says that this reinterpretation of Christianity in terms of secular moral values is modern secularization. He notes that the Church has come to expect other institutions to intervene in its affairs, and that concomitant with this increase of intervention is the idea that material welfare is more important than developing beliefs about life and culture. Norman explains what kind of government this belief encourages. He also describes why this situation is problematic.

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    Peter Augustine Lawler on the proper meaning of postmodernism

    Aliens in America: The Strange Truth about Our Souls (ISI Books, 2001)

    "Just because you have a big brain doesn't mean contentment is yours, any being with a body is going to have problems that the brain can't simply solve for them."
    Peter Augustine Lawler

    Professor Peter Augustine Lawler discusses the difference between modern and postmodern mentalities. Lawler is author of Aliens in America: The Strange Truth about Our Souls. The modern mentality he says, believed nature could be conquered in order to create a world in which people were completely at home; the postmodern mentality, however, believes that people are limited and can never be fully at home in the world. He explains what it means that people are both aliens in the cosmos and lost in the cosmos. He also notes what writer Walker Percy wrote about being lost aliens, how he encouraged people to try to be at home with their homelessness.

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    Peter Augustine Lawler from the bonus track of the CD edition, on "Bobos" and the end of history

    David Brooks' book Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There was published in 2000.

    "When your life is so over-organized in such a . . . Success-oriented way, it seems like there's no need for transcendence because the real challenges of life . . . Are hidden from you."
    Peter Augustine Lawler

    Professor Peter Augustine Lawler, author of Aliens in America: The Strange Truth about Our Souls, discusses the works of Francis Fukuyama and David Brooks. He notes the range of Fukuyama's latest works and states that his most recent work, Our Posthuman Future, is in favor of preserving the mysterious nature that distinguishes people from other animals. Instead of establishing a definition of human nature, says Lawler, Brooks offers a critique of a class of people—a class he calls "Bobos" (short for bourgeois bohemians) in his book Bobos in Paradise. Brooks describes Bobos as indifferent to the truth and without courage, with children whose lives are so organized that there is little room left for passion or questions about transcendence. When lives are so carefully controlled, Lawler asks, where will all the real poets come from?