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((released 2022-11-30) (handle mh-156-m) (supplement true))
Volume 156
Volume 156
Volume 156
Volume 156
Volume 156
Volume 156
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Volume 156

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Guests on Volume 156

KIMBELL KORNU on how and why theological concerns should not be prohibited within the practice of medicine
PAUL TYSON on how the conventional definition of “science” makes metaphysical claims in the name of excluding metaphysical claims
MARK NOLL on how the Bible shaped American history, and how American ideologies shaped the reading of the Bible
DAVID NEY on how reading the Bible “figurally” opens us to its layers of meaning and to the transforming work it effects
WILLIAM C. HACKETT on the relationships between philosophy and theology, and of both to the meaning embedded in myth
MARIAN SCHWARTZ on the challenges and rewards of translating Eugene Vodolazkin, Leo Tolstoy, Alexsandr Solzshentsiyn, and others

Click here to download a pdf file with the contents listing and bibliographic information about this Volume.

Kimbell Kornu

“[Maurice Merleau-Ponty] talks about lived experience being the base foundation upon which then scientific reflection can even occur, but modernity has inverted that. You know, the advent of early modern science and thereafter that science, somehow, is the standard by which we have to make sense of our lived experience (which is bonkers to me). But if you see that played out in medicine: where patients feel like they’re not being heard, they’re not understood, doctors don’t want to deal with suffering, they don’t want to deal with death. Because these are the actually deep animating questions that drive medicine in the first place. And yet medicine has forgotten its first love — because of its own epistemology.”

— Kimbell Kornu, MD, PhD, on the formation of a new school of medicine at Belmont University in Nashville, and on two published papers

While modern medical orthodoxy considers suffering the ultimate evil, physician and philosopher Kimbell Kornu, MD, PhD, argues that suffering has the potential to be generative. Though he doesn’t exalt suffering and believes that there is a need for pain relief, Kornu does hold that modern medicine has “forgotten its first love” by losing touch with its animating questions of suffering, death, and ultimate meaning. If the goal of modern medicine is a transhumanistic transcendence of suffering, Kornu states, the most efficient way to do this is to get rid of the sufferer. Those physicians who are not willing to go the route of euthanasia or eugenics need a metanarrative to ground the reality of suffering. For Christians, suffering has intrinsic meaning because Christ has suffered and “learned obedience through suffering” (Hebrews 5:8). Kornu argues that this is the metanarrative which enables the physician to provide truly compassionate care.     

•     •     •

Paul Tyson

“The idea that science is not natural philosophy, it's just knowledge, is really an impossible fiction. And this is what [Michael] Polanyi is so good at: okay, it’s always personal knowledge. we always know in communities of knowers. The inner pole of understanding and the outer pole of reality always connect through the mediation of discourses of meaning. So, actually, there is no such thing as just knowledge. It’s all very well to sort of say that knowledge is only interested in facts and applications, but what you apply your knowledge for is always a philosophical or moral concern and a fact is only a fact as meaningful. So, the ways in which we persuade ourselves [that] we have boxes that separate science from religion and knowledge from philosophy are really disingenuous.”

— Paul Tyson, author of A Christian Theology of Science: Reimagining a Theological Vision of Natural Knowledge (Baker Academic, 2022)

As senior research fellow and co-coordinator of the After Science and Religion project at the University of Queensland, Paul Tyson objects to the categorization of science and religion as completely distinct entities in his book A Christian Theology of Science: Reimagining a Theological Vision of Natural Knowledge. The modern discrete categories are only a late invention, Tyson explains, resulting from coordinated effort by 19th-century scientific naturalists to secularize the universities and free scientific inquiry from any stultifying religious limitations. But, as Tyson argues, this causes all sorts of problems and is actually “disingenuous.” In the end, Tyson relates, the disciplines are intertwined: the theologian must be asking how to connect the natural world with theology, while the scientist must be asking about the meaning of the natural world and the morality of technologies.     

•     •     •

Mark Noll

“The Methodist emphasis upon the Bible, the need to protect the Bible because it opens the doors of eternity for all and sundry, for ‘red and yellow, black and white,’ that message is really significant. And in my reading of the history, the Protestant groups that said, ‘Yes, we defend the Bible, but we’ve got to have the Bible if we’re going to have a social order,’ or ‘Yes, we defend the Bible, but we have to have the same liberty of interpreting the Bible as we won against the British,’ those voices are just simply not as influential. The Methodists multiply and multiply and multiply again. . . . There’s nothing in the 19th-century world like the rapid expanse of Methodism between 1790 and 1830 or 1840 in the United States, and that expanse is on the back of an allegiance to the Bible — it’s not entirely non-political — but an allegiance to the Bible that is primarily spiritual, without too many political trappings.”

— Mark Noll, author of America’s Book: The Rise and Decline of a Bible Civilization, 1794–1911 (Oxford University Press, 2022)

In America’s Book: The Rise and Decline of a Bible Civilization, 1794–1911, historian Mark Noll argues that the Bible held a unique preeminence in the years after the Revolutionary War into the 1830s and 40s. While the Bible was frequently invoked in the Colonial era as a rhetorical prop, it was really only a “reservoir of tropes;” it was not used as a foundation for reason. By contrast, in the early years of the 18th century, specifically as Americans responded to Thomas Paine’s devastating critique of the Bible in The Age of Reason, the Bible became the wellspring for argument and reason. This unique authority of the Scriptures held until the 1830s and 40s when the issue of slavery came to the forefront, and those both for and against passionately argued from the Scriptures for their position. While Noll doesn’t necessarily see this “rise and decline” of the Scriptures as a terrible thing for modern Christians, he suggests it “may have been worse for the country than for Bible believers.”     

•     •     •

David Ney

“At its broadest, figural readers are interested in exploring and teasing out the connections that exist between different Scripture words. Figural readers refuse to atomize biblical texts and, in fact, they’re convinced that the meaning and specifically, the divine meaning of words, can only be understood in light of the whole canon of Scripture. Ultimately, the promise of figural reading is being able to see the world through the lens of Scripture; and therefore, somehow, if only in an attenuated, impartial way, through the eyes of God himself.”

— David Ney, co-author of All Thy Lights Combine: Figural Reading in the Anglican Tradition (Lexham Press, 2022) 

Church historian David Ney explains how the figural reading of Scripture promises to help readers inhabit the Scriptures and see the world through the lens of Scripture. Ney is the co-editor of All Thy Lights Combine: Figural Reading in the Anglican Tradition, which presents case studies through church history of those who exemplify figural reading. Figural reading contrasts with a grammatical-historical method because it refuses to atomize the text. Nonetheless, it does not endorse making the text into abstractions so that Scripture can become a free-for-all of meaning. Instead, figural reading means taking seriously the Scripture words for individual objects, recognizing, as Ney states, “There is a divine meaning attached to each object in the Scriptures and the only way we can similarly attach a divine meaning to the objects we encounter every day is to inhabit the Scriptures.”     

•     •     •

William C. Hackett

“Narrative intelligence — storytelling — is older than theoretical intelligence. . . . Theoretical intelligence emerges out of the milieu of mythic intelligence. That’s one indication that storytelling — narrative understanding — is not only the condition of the emergence of theoretical intelligence but also its the permanent condition for theoretical intelligence. That means that all theory and the formulation of concepts based on the perception of fundamental distinctions in the world (so we’re talking about what philosophy is there) is only possible within a framework of narrative understanding.”

—William C. Hackett, Author of Philosophy in Word and Name: Myth, Wisdom, Apocalypse (Angelico Press, 2020) 

Philosopher William C. Hackett reflects on the integral relationship between narrative and theoretical intelligence in his book Philosophy in Word & Name: Myth, Wisdom, and Apocalypse. In the High Middle Ages, theology and philosophy were deliberately divided in the universities by faculty consensus. Hackett sees this encapsulating moment as “framing the history of modernity itself.” Because modernity prioritizes theoretical intelligence above mythic or metaphorical intelligence, then myth, wisdom, and apocalypse become fragmented. But Hackett argues that they are each integral and that they must not supplant each other. Ultimately, Hackett says, “myth never goes away” and in some way apocalypse itself includes a “recovery” of myth and wisdom.     

•     •     •

Marian Schwartz

“What it really comes down to in translating is being so intimate with the language that you understand what is standard and what deviates from the standard and why it does and how it does and what the implications of that are. So if something is completely standard and unmarked in any way, then it has to be translated by something unmarked. And obviously, you’re looking at register; you’re looking at types of vocabulary; you’re looking at approaches to word formation.”

— Marian Schwartz, translator of Eugene Vodolazkin’s Brisbane: A Novel (Plough Publishing House, 2022)

Translator Marian Schwartz discusses intricacies and fashions in the translation world as well as her recent work on Eugene Vodolazkin’s Brisbane: A Novel. Schwartz explains that the fundamental part of translation is an intimacy with the language that attends to what is standard and what deviates. The role of the translator is to be able to artfully mark what is non-standard. Schwartz draws attention to matters of syntax that most readers overlook (for example, that “said Mark” is word order from a century ago and all modern books would use “Mark said”). Since, in a translation, one will always be reading both the original and the translator, ultimately, Schwartz states, “There is no translation that is not interpretation.”