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Listening to the past December 6, 2009

Posted by Andy in Idea History, philosophy, theology.
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I feel duty bound to share the information that some wonderful people have seen fit to record complete readings of two of the most elegantly written books in Western philosophy, namely Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus and Augustine’s Confessions.

These two books are examples of how well humans can think. I have at times attempted to emulate their style, and failed drastically. It takes more than a mere decision. They are also models that demonstrate the principle that style and content can not be separated.

Cheers Librivox!


Forget Andy December 1, 2009

Posted by Andy in philosophy, theology.
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Basically, forget ad absurdum. Hard-hitting blog An und für sich have a great book event going on about Philip Goodchild’s striking Theology of Money. Get over there are read. Read the book. Then sit down and have a think.

Goodchild’s work is probably the only set of writings that has persuaded me to signficantly change direction in my thinking. Apart from being my supervisor, he is also the one that makes it most clear to me that doing modern philosophical theology is worthwhile.

And Anthony knows his work better than most, so if you’ve never read Goodchild, this is a good way in.

My Thesis online November 10, 2009

Posted by Andy in Foucault, theology.

I’ve recently discovered that the University of Nottingham have finally uploaded my PhD thesis “The Holy Fools: A Theological Enquiry” so that everyone can take a look. In the final phases of writing, I was tempted into discerning the various reasons I had for writing this stuff.

The boring biographical reason is that immediately before finishing my MA thesis on Augustine and Signs, I had ruled out the idea of taking a PhD because I didn’t have any big idea. The morning after making this decision, I woke up with an idea.

It turned out, however, that the idea was pretty crap. I had read Dostoevksy’s novels and Foucault’s Madness and Civilisation, and wondered how the Christian holy fool tradition would face up to the Foucauldian critique, which I still saw epistemologically, as basically interpreting nonsense (itself conceived in a Wittgensteinian framework).

It is probably impossible to deny, however, that I was attracted to all this because of my charismatic background (to which I said farewell theologically in a contribution to this book), and this was brought home to me when I heard someone play the DC talk song “Jesus Freaks”.

So if anyone is going to be bothered to read my thesis, I would suggest the following soundtrack:

  • DC Talk, Jesus Freak
  • REM, Saturn Rising
  • Joan Osbourne, Crazy Baby
  • U2, Staring at the sun
  • Tom McCrae, Human Remains
  • The Divine Comedy, Your Daddy’s Car
  • The Blue Nile, Family Life
  • Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds (among others), God is in the House
  • Mew, Comforting Sounds
  • Joni Mitchell, Blue
  • Bonnie Prince Billy, I see a darkness
  • Jeff Buckley, Lilac Wine

I’d like to point out that I’m not saying any of these are good songs – the first should convince us of that – but they may have guided my thought for good or ill in the course of writing.

We could go on and mention films (Fight Club, Wedding Crashers, etc.), but that could go on for ever. I think the novels that could accompany the thesis are more enlightening, and they would perhaps include:

  • Dostoevsky, Demons, Brothers Karamazov, the Idiot (obviously)
  • Flaubert, The Temptations of Saint Anthony
  • Iris Murdoch, Under the Net
  • Kafka, The Trial.

But I would be much more willing to stand by the quality of these! Curiously, I barely referred to them in the thesis, for which I was bizarrely criticised in my defence. Milbank wanted more Dostoevsky. But then, I think that’s because he was reading Rowan at the time…

Syllabus and Liberation Theology October 28, 2009

Posted by Andy in liberation theology, theology.

I’ve been given responsibility for a class next semester in Intercontextual Theology that is to prepare MA students for writing their thesis. The course is primarily for international students (in this semester, students from Tanzania, Ghana, Poland, Ethiopia and Norway), and the thesis usually includes a short stay in the student’s home country, during which time they may collect data or something like that.

My question is: what kind of literature should I give them to read? The course should result in a thesis proposal but nothing more. The program in general covers liberation theology, inculturation theology, feminist theology, postcolonial theology and that branch of the discipline. It should be methodical, and should prepare them for taking their first steps into research.

My thoughts so far have included:

Boff, Introduction to Liberation Theology.

Tanner, Theories of Culture.

Something by Sugirtharajah

Maybe some sections of Said’s Orientalism (with a thought to the fact that they will be engaging in data collection).

A chapter or two by de Certeau.

“Can the Subaltern speak?” by Spivak.

But to be honest, I don’t know Tanner’s work very well, and feel a little out of my depth. Any suggestions would be very welcome. They will have already read these books from this course that I am teaching at the moment. So no repetitions. Otherwise, the options are many.

The Newest Foucault book around February 16, 2009

Posted by Andy in Foucault, Idea History, philosophy, theology.
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OK, so the French Amazon has just sent me a couple wonders. Foucault’s last ever lectures are the most important ones. These are referred to by Agamben in his Time that Remains (p60) for their rundown of the various types of truth-telling, and by Bernauer in Michel Foucault and Theology, where he claims that Foucault is basically for mysticism and against asceticism. Having recently re-read Security, Territory, and Population, this seems wildly unlikely, so I’m really looking forward to getting to the end of these lectures where he’s meant to make that claim. I note in passing that Foucault seems to have been reading the sayings of the desert fathers in his final months. Crazy. Finally we now have something more than McGushin’s frankly self-indulgent comments to go by as regards the final lectures on parrhesia and asceticism.

The two other books are perhaps of secondary interest, and I’m not gonna read them quite so immediately as the above. They are Veyne’s two books on Foucault and Christianisation in the fourth century respectively. Definitely must-reads for anyone looking into Foucault’s relationship to Theology.

I may post some conclusions after reading these lectures, although I’m doing final changes to my PhD and teaching relation and epistemology (two different classes) at a sixth form college at the same time, so don’t hold your breath!

Thanks to Jeremy for updates on the lectures (although he seems blissfully unaware of the Veyne book). I get so lazy when other people are that vigilant! Sorry for the long silence. I have viva’d and started teaching practice since last time.

Screencast lectures November 28, 2008

Posted by Andy in Idea History, pedagogics, philosophy, theology.
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Ok, so here comes my first attempt at screencasting a lecture. I hope to record shortened versions of all my ethics lectures (but none of my NT stuff, which is a smaller class, so it’s more discussion based). This will all be in Norwegian, but it’s useful to take a look anyway, if you’re interested in student resources: it’s basically a combination of a powerpoint with a lecture. Let me know how you think it works, whether you are a student or a teacher!

Introduction to Ethics (13th November):

Mill and Biblical Ethics (19th November):

The ethics of proximity (20th November):

Det Nye Testament: ressurser November 20, 2008

Posted by Andy in pedagogics, theology.
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Here comes my powerpoint presentation for the introduction to the New Testament in pdf and powerpoint formats, for Jesus, again in pdf and powerpoint formats, and for Paul, only in pdf. That should be about it!

Mill and Biblical Ethics November 18, 2008

Posted by Andy in Idea History, pedagogics, philosophy, theology.
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Ok, here comes my powerpoint presentation for Wednesday the 19th November, both in powerpoint and in pdf formats. Of course, it’s all in Norwegian…

Abstract October 31, 2008

Posted by Andy in Foucault, philosophy, techniques, theology.
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I thought I’d put out the abstract for my thesis so you guys can prepare me for the viva. So here it is: Holy Fools: A Theological Enquiry.


1st Sunday after Trinity May 19, 2008

Posted by Andy in lectionary, theology, Uncategorized.
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Here come this week’s readings. Hope to say something a bit earlier this week. Sorry for jumping over Corpus Christi: I’m not that ambitious!

OK, some comments in lieu of a sermon.

I’m told that my local flower shop makes a lot of money in summer, and it’s difficult to see why. If I was attempting to charm my wife or win a heart this week, I would feel completely upstaged by the apple and cherry. It’s the blossom season in Fredrikstad, and there’s no reason to hoard flowers. No reason to take them or  argue over them. They’re extravagantly lavished by every street I walk in.

That’s basically what the week’s readings are all about: the abundance of life, and the corresponding evils of pettiness. And if there is one verse worth meditating on among these, I would say it’s probably from the Psalm: Turn my eyes from looking at vanities, give me life in your ways.

It’s a natural step from last week’s apophatic readings that taught us not to know. This week we are told what it is we don’t know: what no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love Him. We do not know the abundance of life, we can’t see where God’s generosity stops.

This is what Paul is trying to drill into his churches: everything is yours! Why are you in a panic to fill requirements? Why are you frenetically seeking after knowledge? There is space for madness and foolishness and ignorance in God’s holiness: you are already full of God! Hence the Christian tradition’s negative theology as regards entry requirements – not by works, not by ritual, not by spiritual experience, not by knowledge.

And this is what Christ is using to drive his sermon on not resisting evil. We do not resist evil because that evil is essentially based on a stingy economy of desire and lack. People require us to carry their goods because they don’t manage to. But we do. We have all the time and all the strength in the world, because we have its Creator. There are plenty of cheeks to go around! So don’t grasp after belongings, don’t harvest right up to the edge of the field, as if you were worried whether God will provide this year. Don’t be petty.

Be perfect, you are God’s temple already. Christ is risen, death is defeated. Everything is yours, because you are already complete, as God is complete. So share it around, and don’t bother grasping for it. It’s already yours, and you can’t possess it in any deeper sense than that.

Now I thought of some other illustrations earlier, but they’ve gone from my mind at the mo. A kind of political version of this has been written by John Milbank, based on a rather shaky reading of Agamben, called “Paul and Biopolitics”. But it’s famous for being inscrutable, so take some time over it if you read it.