Guests on Volume 134
• CHRIS ARMSTRONG on what C. S. Lewis knew (and we need to know) about the culture and faith of medieval Christianity
• GREVEL LINDOP on the unique poetic imagination of poet, novelist, and theologian Charles Williams, “the third Inkling”
• MICHAEL MARTIN on how the experience of Beauty in Creation and art can enable an encounter with divine Wisdom
• WILLIAM T. CAVANAUGH on why Christians should think about economics theologically, not just as a science or an ethical discipline
• PHILIP TURNER on why Christian ethics has the health of the Church at its center, not just personal obedience or social justice
• GISELA KREGLINGER on wine, the culture of wine, and the superabundant goodness of God made manifest in the gift of wine
“[Readers hear C. S. Lewis] say something that deeply affects them or that strikes them as being deeply true and they assume . . . that he’s simply telling them in a clearer way what Scripture already says and ‘isn’t it good that he’s such a good rhetorician . . .’ What they don’t know is that what he’s doing is actually channeling the Tradition to them.”
— Chris Armstrong
Church history professor Chris Armstrong talks about the “cultural nestorianism” of modern evangelical Christianity. In the same way that Nestorius thought that the two natures of Christ went on and off, but never existed simultaneously, so likewise do many modern Christians separate their spiritual lives and God’s influence from their ordinary lives and the material world. Armstrong argues that one means of correcting this error is to “contemplate” and “enjoy” the theological and cultural mindset of medieval Christianity. For evangelical Christians, says Armstrong, there is no better guide for this task than C. S. Lewis.
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“For Williams there was no boundary between the natural and the supernatural. Williams had a living consciousness of the spiritual world all the time and he didn’t see this as being separate from what we would think of as the natural or the material world. And so his challenge in his writings is to try and make us also see our everyday world as being penetrated by spiritual energies.”
— Grevel Lindop
Poet and writer Grevel Lindop discusses the life and imagination of third Inkling member, Charles Williams. Though Williams is one of the more esoteric and theologically contestable of the Inklings, Williams’s literary output and spiritual pursuits reveal a person grappling for an adequate articulation of a reality that is — to quote Gerard Manley Hopkins — “charged with the grandeur of God.”
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“One of the repercussions of modernity is that nature is not something we have a relationship to. . . . [Before the modern period,] you had that kind of intuition or assumption about the sacramental nature of ‘what is’ and to reject that is a big paradigm shift. And I think it’s an impoverishing paradigm shift, because then you have to make your sacredness.”
— Michael Martin
Poet and professor Michael Martin explains how the pursuit of Wisdom, or Sophia, in scripture and in the Christian tradition is not merely the pursuit of prudence. In his book, The Submerged Reality (2015), Martin examines how the Wisdom of God is a figure embedded and discovered in Creation. In this sense, Wisdom is an aspect of reality that we are often blind to, but which during occasions of loving attention, we stumble upon in flashes of insight or moments of transcendence. But are we right to call these illuminations “transcendent,” suggesting that we somehow depart from or rise above the stuff of this world? What would it mean to consider them “moments of immanence”?
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William T. Cavanaugh
“The irony of course is that in the whole discussion around this move [in the economics department], the language of orthodoxy and heterodoxy kept getting used, which I thought was a really interesting indicator that what was actually at stake is not just science, but what is at stake is in some ways belief. . . . And so, there is a right belief and a wrong belief and what masquerades as science might not be on the same level as physics or math.”
— William T. Cavanaugh
In this conversation, theologian William Cavanaugh criticizes the belief that economics functions scientifically the same way that physics or math functions. Far from being a “neutral science,” — a phrase that is itself problematic — economics carries with it ethical and theological presuppositions that are not value-free, but which significantly determine our definitions of economic behavior as well as how we imagine the purposes and ends of that behavior.
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“I worry about once you begin to say, first of all, “How am I doing? Am I getting more and more holy?” All sorts of things begin to go wrong. But if you say, "What are my relationships like? How am I contributing? . . . Why am I in this conflict, how do I get out of this conflict?" — that changes the location of one’s struggle to become Christlike.”
— Philip Turner
Ethicist and priest Philip Turner reflects on how Christian ethics is misplaced if it has as its central concern individual moral behavior or social justice. While individual sanctification and service to society are inseparable relationships in Christian ethics, they are more appropriately understood as subordinate to the primary social relationship for the Christian, which is the Body of Christ. Using St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians as his central text, Turner argues that the purpose of the Church is to become a community in which Christ is taking form. Paul’s governing metaphor that members of the Church are members of Christ’s body requires that our questions of obedience and moral behavior must always re-member this central identity.
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“Wine became a very important symbol for the Kingdom of God and God’s redemption. So when Jesus transforms water into choice wine at the Wedding of Cana, it’s not ordinary wine, it’s beautiful wine that has an abundance, a surplus of meaning, because the Kingdom and God’s life is a life of abundance. His redemption is so beautiful that we cannot comprehend it. It’s so hard to put it into words and so to capture it in the beauty and richness of a wine is a way of saying ‘Look what God’s done!’ . . . I think we have to just come to terms with the fact that God uses beauty to reveal himself.”
— Gisela Kreglinger
Theologian and vintner Gisela Kreglinger who joins us to discuss the spiritual and cultural significance of wine. Over the centuries, the craft of winemaking has fostered a tradition that connects people to the land, encourages practices of contemplation and attentiveness, and celebrates shared table festivities. But these cultural achievements are endangered by today’s industrial and economic habits and we run the risk of missing the rich theological significance of craft wine and what it can reveal to us about Creation.