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Manifesto / Audio Series
August 11, 2012 | Matthew Dodrill
Manifesto / Audio Series
Someone asked me this week where she can find the most definitive statement on the intentions of The Colossian Forum. I told her to go to our website and read through our Manifesto. We invite you to take a look at it, too, if you want to know more about what we're doing. We would also like to draw your attention to a brief audio series we will run on the blog soon. Graham Tomlin and Jane Williams will discuss Richard Dawkins on their GodPod, which is brought to us by St. Paul's Theological Centre in London. Stay tuned!
Book Reviews and Recommended Reading
August 7, 2012 | Matthew Dodrill
Book Reviews and Recommended Reading
Are you hoping to end the summer with some good reading? If you would like to see what our writers are saying about the latest books, take a look at the book reviews section on our website. And for recommended reading, see our bibliography.
C. Ben Mitchell on "Science, Faith, and the Stakeholders"
August 1, 2012 | Matthew Dodrill
C. Ben Mitchell on "Science, Faith, and the Stakeholders"
C. Ben Mitchell: Science, Faith and The Stakeholders from The Colossian Forum on Vimeo. Do you believe that understanding what's at stake for your interlocutors might change the way you frame your questions? Dr. C. Ben Mitchell, philosophy professor at Union University in Jackson, TN, sat down with us to discuss the significance of “stakeholders” participating together in the conversation on science and faith. Mitchell says that understanding the diversity of views helps us to frame our questions properly. If what’s at stake for us is primarily our common pursuit of truth and our Christian witness, our questions typically will not be framed in such a way that assumes the superiority of one view over another on a partisan culture war spectrum. Furthermore, appreciating and respecting the diversity of views among Christians on, say, the origins of humanity, implies an appreciation of what’s at stake for the Christian who holds a different view than you on this issue. This appreciation of what’s at stake obliges us to frame our questions with the utmost discernment. For the evolutionary creationist, this might mean asking a young-earth creationist what fears prevent her from accepting evolution rather than framing the question in such a way that assumes her blatant refusal to accept something “plain and clear.” It might also be worthwhile to ask about her concerns regarding the relationship between evolution and the problem of evil and death. For the young-earth creationist, this might mean asking an evolutionary creationist why he believes accepting the evidence for evolution implies an appreciation for embodiment and God’s good world. See the entirety fo the video here, and check out our "films" page for more videos.
Brad Kallenberg on "Tradition-Based Rationality"
July 28, 2012 | Matthew Dodrill
Brad Kallenberg on "Tradition-Based Rationality"
Dr. Brad Kallenberg has recently written a glossary item for us on “tradition-based rationality,” a term derived from Alasdair MacIntyre. Kallenberg begins the essay by explaining the sense in which conceptual language is shaped and shared by communities. The explanation assumes a view of the “makeup” of humanity by which the embodied practices and immersion in a way of life develops the vocabulary of the community that shares in the given way of life. The vocabulary of conceptual language is not vacuous, in other words; it does not “correspond” to things and concepts that are “out there” somewhere. Rather, as embodied and desiring creatures aimed at an end (a telos), our conceptual vocabulary is shaped by the desire for the internal goods of the community aimed at these ends. When I played collegiate baseball, one goal (telos) of playing was to bring college students together, and winning often helped achieve that end. But winning was not an end in itself. An internal good of this team (a community) was the friendship of college students, so the conceptual language of “victory” meant something different to us than it would for teams that thought winning was an end in itself. As an example of the acquisition of conceptual language, Kallenberg says that one “comes to read music with comprehension while learning to play an instrument (or sing in a choir) with other musicians.” The “language” of music is acquired in, through, and by the whole choir or the whole group of musicians. The same is the case for the language of theology, says Kallenberg: "By participating with others in those activities in which the word “God” is at home – activities such as praying, confessing, thanking, evangelizing, worshipping – one will slowly become fluent in the language of God." Indeed, theological language is not something we can learn about merely from good books (although that’s important, too!). We must also immerse ourselves in the kind of practices that make such language intelligible in the first place. For example, when I’m immersed in the liturgical rituals that teach me that “freedom” is being rightfully constrained as a slave to Christ, the broader culture’s association of “freedom” with the freedom from constraint becomes unintelligible to me. In both cases there are embodied practices that determine the meaning of the word “freedom,” and they are quite different. The communities in which this conceptual language is formed are shaped over time, and they constitute “traditions.” As Kallenberg points out, MacIntyre defines a tradition as “an historically extended, socially embodied argument.” The argument, he says, is the ongoing discussion over the meaning of the vocabulary used in these communities. The understanding of this vocabulary is shown “by the way that [the adherents] talk and live with each other.” "For example, Christians understand “Good News” to entail daily acts of forgiveness. Christians’ forgiveness of each other ought thus to be regular enough to outsiders to recognize it in the pattern of Christian interactions. (Likeness, Christian communities that are devoid of such daily acts of forgiveness display that their concept of forgiveness is empty.)" Given all of this, Kallenberg says that human reasoning is both tradition-constitutive and tradition-constituted. It’s tradition-constitutive because “the entire web of conversations across time… comprises or constitutes a living tradition.” It’s tradition-constituted because it is always “located within some tradition or other.” This is quite a different understanding of rationality than what’s been offered by the Enlightenment!  
So What Do We Mean by "Worship"?
July 19, 2012 | Matthew Dodrill
So What Do We Mean by "Worship"?
When I try to explain to family and friends what exactly the mission of The Colossian Forum is, I’m often asked what we mean when we say that the virtues are cultivated through worship. More precisely, people often wonder what definition of “worship” we’re operating on when we make such an important claim. “How does expressing gratitude to God as I sing songs of praise produce virtue?” I was recently asked. While this question is an important one, we believe there are some rather problematic assumptions in the characteristic of worship as merely an “expression of gratitude.” Of course, I give the questioner the benefit of the doubt that her philosophy of worship is vaster than this, but the commonality of this particular question leads us to wonder how often Christians reduce worship to an expressive-individualistic practice. In fact, we wonder if this is the case because we at The Colossian Forum are just as predisposed to these assumptions as anyone else. I know I find myself describing worship this way more than I'd like. To clarify what we mean by “worship,” I want to point you to James K.A. Smith’s glossary entry on “Worship: Expression and Formation.” Here Dr. Smith voices a few concerns regarding the reduction of worship to an “expression” of an “interior” devotion. Furthermore, he reminds us that prior to modernity, Christian worship was considered a formative practice, too. For those who want to understand what exactly we mean by “worship” as it applies to the formation of the virtues, take a look at Dr. Smith’s entry. While you’re there, also take a look at the recommended reading provided at the bottom.
David Burrell Writes on "Friendship in Virtue Ethics"
July 17, 2012 | Matthew Dodrill
David Burrell Writes on "Friendship in Virtue Ethics"
Dr. David Burrell, professor emeritus of philosophy and theology at the University of Notre Dame, has recently written a glossary item on “friendship in virtue ethics” for us. Focusing on sections from Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics, Burrell looks at the ethical significance of “the good” in relation to friendship. Indeed, Aristotle “insisted that we could not find a good more durable or nourishing than friends.” What’s more, one’s achievement of the good depends on the communal pursuit of this end, such that (authentic) friendship and the good are intimately bound to each other; friendship is a necessary condition of the pursuit of the good, yet an embracing good is what brings friends together. The dynamic relationship between friendship and the pursuit of the good should lead us to question the common definition of a human being as an “autonomous individual” who “picks and chooses” among options. As Burrell says, “true friends are more like family: they grow on us and sustain us; we did not choose them! Once we are accustomed to think of ourselves as individuals, however, we will hunger all the more for friends, though we may no longer know how to engage in true friendship.” For more on this, see Dr. Burrell’s full glossary entry here.