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George Herbert, the Church, and the Self

Posted by on May 31, 2016 | 0 comments

  George Herbert was a Welsh poet and priest born in 1593 to landed aristocracy. His mother, Magdalene Herbert, was the Gertrude Stein of the 17th century English literary scene; Herbert grew up associating with the best and the ablest writers of his age. He could count as friends John Donne, Lancelot Andrews, and Francis Bacon. His brother Sir Edward is known as the father of English deists, whose book de Veritate sought to prove that true religion was composed of five “common notions,” as any more would be excessive.[1] Edward was a hot-blooded monarchist who once fought off six assassins with a broken sword.[2] George Herbert was the opposite of Edward. He was one of the brightest Latin minds of his generation. He was elected orator at Cambridge. He gave speeches in Latin before King James and Prince Charles. He taught rhetoric. By all accounts George Herbert should have become Secretary of State. So, how he ended up becoming...

Pacifism and Politics: The Tank and the Letter

Posted by on May 3, 2016 | 2 comments

Dieser Artikel auf Deutch One has to be careful not to project onto the past what is known to have occurred later, as if, in those days, people had before them two alternatives, with full knowledge of their consequences. We have to admit that certain choices were made in a kind of fog.[1] The most famous pacifist whom Hitler prompted to change his mind was Dietrich Bonhoeffer. As is well known, Bonhoeffer concluded that pacifism, while almost always the right approach, could on rare occasions become a way of avoiding responsibility for the hard decisions politicians have to make. But Paul Ricoeur had a similar trajectory. Years before becoming famous as a gentle and irenic philosopher, Ricoeur was a militant pacifist and Marxist, writing revolutionary tracts in French socialist journals.[2] In the 1930s he and his circle demanded that France lay down her arms and not engage in any warfare. We should learn our lesson from the First World War,...

The Myth of the Christ Figure

Posted by on Apr 26, 2016 | 3 comments

  Mythological embodiment is a common allusion used in everyday English. A Herculean task is something that is difficult to accomplish, an Achilles’ Heel is a weak spot, and if someone has a Midas touch then she is able create success out of anything she sets out to do. Allusions are used in order to maintain a distance between the subject and the thing that gives the allusion meaning. For example, if I were to call you my nemesis I am not actually calling you a Greek goddess sent to punish me, what I am saying is you are my bitter enemy who will do everything within your power to cause my downfall. In doing so I am doing two things. The first is I am acknowledging the gap between the language and the object that gives the language meaning. The second thing I am doing is stripping the mythology from the allusion; I am, in a sense, humanizing...

Physician-Assisted Death: A Few Thoughts About the Canadian Situation

Posted by on Mar 29, 2016 | 2 comments

In this blog post I am going to make a variety of observations about physician-assisted death (PAD), physician-assisted suicide (PAS), and euthanasia, in no particular order. Note that each observation will be necessarily compact and incomplete; these are not to be taken as definite statements but pieces of a puzzle to be mulled over as I (we, I hope) reflect on Canada’s situation.

Behold your wickedness

Posted by on Mar 8, 2016 | 0 comments

100 years ago, two miles from my house, seventeen-year-old Jesse Washington was lynched just outside the courthouse in downtown Waco, Texas.[1] What came to be deemed nationally as “The Waco Horror” was caught through gruesome images of Washington’s charred body hanging from a tree with a crowd of thousands in their Sunday-best encircling the scene. One of these images (warning: this image is graphic) captures the face of a young man smiling a benign smile that could just as well be made in a school photograph or at the sight of one’s crush on a first date. The smiling young man beams out from the bottom right corner of the image. Just to the left of him, there is a tree and hanging from it is the barely recognizable remains of a man. It would be easy to stand apart from the appalling joy of this young man before such a horror. Evil is always easier to swallow when...

Murder and Moral Notions

Posted by on Jan 19, 2016 | 0 comments

In Towards Zero, one of Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries, Mr. Treves, a retired solicitor and specialist on criminology reflects on how we often begin murder mysteries in a mistaken fashion. We think of the murder as the beginning of the story when rather it is the end. “I like a good detective story,” reflects Mr. Treves. “But, you know, they begin in the wrong place! They begin with the murder. But the murder is the end. The story begins long before that—years before sometimes—with all the causes and events that bring certain people to a certain place at a certain time on a certain day.”[1] Murder is the end of a series of events, thoughts, plans, and intentions. The novel itself is a reversal of the standard murder mystery story, the actual intended murder does not happen until the last pages of the book.[2] A similar misconception is attached to moral inquiry: in many accounts of moral inquiry, the...

How Should We Do Apologetics?

Posted by on Jan 12, 2016 | 3 comments

Throughout my life I’ve been simultaneously fascinated and repulsed by apologetics. As a teenager I wanted to help people (including myself) who had sincere questions about the Christian faith. But many of the apologetics books I read seemed overly confident and simplistic in their approach. They gave the impression that their answers were conclusive and final, that nothing more needed to be said on the subject. If that was the case, then why did so many people find these answers insufficient? Should we even want irrefutable answers to every question? Furthermore, I grew up in an environment that often treated “faith without evidence” as a virtue, as if it was commendable to believe something without good reasons. To me, this seemed to obliterate the difference between Christianity and any cult that keeps control of its members by praising blind obedience and punishing honest doubts. But neither could I ignore the way the Bible praises faith as a virtue. What...

Safety is not a Christian virtue

Posted by on Jan 5, 2016 | 6 comments

In 1934, Dietrich Bonhoeffer addressed the ecumenical peace organization World Alliance for International Friendship through Churches in Denmark.[1] Centrally in this address, Bonhoeffer argues that the World Alliance must function as the universal Church by working for peace with the aim of not only ending war but finding victory over it. Victory over war involves understanding war “as the work of evil powers in this world, enemies of God.”[2] As Christians, Bonhoeffer reminds his audience that the work of peace is a mandate for the ecumenical Church, not an optional problem that needs to be dealt with. The mission of peace among Christians transcends and unites across any and all societal boundaries, be they “national, political, social, or racial.”[3] In this address, Bonhoeffer highlights the confusion of safety with peace: “There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared. It is the great venture. It can never be made safe. Peace is...