Saturday, January 28, 2012

Thoughts on Jeff Keuss' "Freedom of the Self"

Jeff Keuss teaches at SPU and at the Fuller NW campus, and I was his TA for his Christian Ethics class a couple years ago. His book, "Freedom of the Self," came out in 2010 and I wrote some thoughts down after reading it. I haven't done anything with them yet, so I decided to post them here. Read on if interested in what is essentially a theological book review...

Keuss' book is a response to his impression that, like the account of the procrustean cropping of a Rembrandt painting with which he begins, theology is often guilty of "favoring doctrinal method and form that delimits and at times violates the very thing that theological method is hoping to adequately 'frame' and celebrate." (p. 2) Perceived as a corrective to one area of improper delimiting, Keuss' book "is concerned with the loss of the self amidst what is happening in the emergent and missional discussions." (p. 2) He believes this loss of the 'kenotic self' potentially undermines these otherwise valuable trajectories within contemporary Christianity. He wants to provide "a deep model for authentic personhood" that reflects "the full canvas of our humanity." (Ibid)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

more thoughts about hope...

I've been thinking about what it means to be hopeful.  We often hear, especially in Christian circles, about 'faith, hope, and love' but while faith and love get lots of attention, hope seems to be more often an undercurrent that is mentioned abstractly, but without knowing exactly where it fits or what to do with it.  We are told to keep hoping, or how important hope is, but what is it exactly?  I'm becoming more and more convinced that the order should be reversed (love, hope, faith) and that dialectical relationships (where all three influence and modify the others) are the best way to conceive these concepts.  But I won't get into all that here.

For now, I want to suggest that hope is intimately and necessarily related to possibility. Without possibility, there can be no hope.  What I mean is this: hope seems to entail that a person's existence might turn out differently.  If nothing can turn out differently, then there does not seem to be any reason for hope.  So, in a sense, we might say that as long as there is the possibility of genuine change (which I think most people would agree is the case), then there is the potential for hope.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

too funny not to re-post...

Here's a humorous, modified-for-2012 version of a quote by Pascal I recently discovered on the Faith and Theology blog:

"All of man's misfortune comes from one thing, which is not knowing how to sit quietly without an iPad."

Addendum: Insert iPhone, Blackberry, or whatever else you want... the point is, many of us are losing the ability to simply enjoy our lives with simplicity.  I'm not against technology at all, but I do think it has profoundly affected - especially in the last 50 years or so - our levels of comfortability with ourselves as biological, spatio-temporally limited, finite, human beings.  Human beings are, it appears (at least in the Western 'first-world'), less content than ever with ourselves as humans.

In fact, given current thinking on transhumanism and post-humanism, bioethics, etc, I think a strong argument could be made that one of the primary uses of technology has become precisely the attempt to change, 'fix', or transcend ourselves as humans.  Essentially, humanity has, in many ways, become determined to use technology to overcome what we dislike about our human-ness.  In that sense, technology has become, for many, a very real religious force.

No wonder some young people are claiming that the internet is their religion.  I believe the quote is "humanity connected is God."  While I disagree with that statement theologically, the point here is simply this: given what we appear to be using technology to accomplish, I believe this quote may someday be nonsensical.

What I mean is this: if we get to the point where technology really becomes the means by which we are able to remove all of those aspects of our humanity that we dislike, it seems very difficult to determine whether or not what remains really is still 'humanity'.  So, if technology, including the internet, is slowly changing humanity into something else, something post-human, then it makes no sense to say that humanity connected is God, because there is no 'humanity' to connect.  Whatever is connecting at that point, it will be something else.

Some people, like Ray Kurzweil, seem to welcome that idea.  Me, I'm not so optimistic.  Obviously, it goes against my own theological beliefs.  But aside from that, it's hard for me to be excited about any trend that seems to anticipate the demise of my species.  I suppose there are arguments supporting such an idea, but I can't help wonder whether those who are excited about the idea of a post-human world are naively assuming that they will somehow have a role to play in that world.

Which, of course, is completely illogical.  There is no reason to think the post-human world will privilege computer technicians or quantum physicists over anyone else.  Humanity will have fulfilled its evolutionary role and will most likely become extinct, or will be used by higher species in a manner somewhat similar to the way we currently employ other animals.  Call me crazy, but that's not really a future I feel excited about.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

back in Oxford...

Well, it's a new year, and time to get focused on the research and writing again after a nice three-week break (although, as with most vacations, I need some time to recover from my break!).  So, I'm turning my attention again to focus on some articles I need to write, and begin to prepare myself for the next term, which will include in-depth readings of Aristotle's Metaphysics and Hegel's Science of Logic.  Yikes! :-)  I hope to blog more regularly this year, and I will probably be including a lot of ruminations on what I'm reading, so stay tuned for more philosophical ramblings in 2012...