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Glossary - Tradition-Based Rationality
July 24, 2012 | Andy Saur
Glossary - Tradition-Based Rationality
Glossary - Tradition-Based Rationality By Dr. Brad J. Kallenberg July 24th, 2012 The term “tradition-based rationality” derives from the works of Alasdair MacIntyre. Human reasoning, argued MacIntyre, is both tradition-constitutive and tradition-constituted. By the first phrase he means that all reasoning, especially moral reasoning (i.e., thinking about what “good” means), involves people sharing a conceptual language (rather than a natural language like English or Chinese). For example, think of how widely three persons may differ on their use of the word “good” when applied to their jobs. The driver of a beer truck will claim his job is “good” because he is paid well, he is resoundingly welcomed wherever he goes, he has predictable hours, time off, perhaps even pension benefits and discount on beer. In contrast, imagine a woman who has surrendered a lucrative upper management job to become the coordinator of tutoring and after-school programming in an urban school district. The job is tough, the hours are long and the pay is poor. But she insists, “I have a good job.”[div id="callout-left"]One learns a conceptual language not by reading a dictionary but by immersion in a way of life.[end-div]In strong contrast with both of these stands Mother Theresa whose “job” neither paid well nor, truth be told, made predictable differences in the lives of the dying lepers whom she hugged (sometimes yes, sometimes no; hard to tell). Still, Mother Theresa would also insist on having a “good” job. Each of these persons can compose a sentence in English, “I have a good job.” But they do not speak the same conceptual languages. Nor could these three settle among themselves whose job is “most good” by using the word “good,” because “good” means something radically distinct in each case. The driver’s pursuit of personal perks cannot be compared with the coordinator’s goal of “making a difference,” neither of which can be compared with Mother Theresa’s quest “to resemble Jesus come what may.” The driver and the coordinator may come to appreciate Mother Theresa’s meaning, but that will require of them a radical change in outlook (called “conversion”). One learns a conceptual language not by reading a dictionary but by immersion in a way of life. One comes to read music with comprehension while learning to play an instrument (or sing in a choir) with other musicians. So too for the language of theology. By participating with others in those activities in which the word “God” is at home—activities such as praying, confessing, thanking, evangelizing, worshiping—one will slowly become fluent in the language of God. To share a conceptual language is to share a form of life. To share a form of life is to be a community, (Latin, co-munus, co-world). Being a community involves, among other things, perpetually teaching the children which goods are real, and therefore worth pursuing. Getting this pursuit right takes more than a single lifetime. So in a very real sense the living community needs to include those former members who are no longer living. Such a multiple-lifetime community is what MacIntyre calls a “tradition.” In After Virtue, he defines tradition as “an historically extended, socially embodied argument.”[1] The “argument” he refers to is none other than the ongoing discussion over what words like “good” (and “good news”) mean. Adherents to a living tradition show their understanding of such terms by the way that they 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 for outsiders to recognize it in the pattern of Christian interactions. (Likewise, Christian communities that are devoid of such daily acts of forgiveness display that their concept of forgiveness is empty.) In MacIntyre’s terms, the Christian concept of “forgiveness” is “socially embodied.” Because this discussion and living out of the “Good News” carries forward from one generation to the next, the argument is both “historically extended” and “socially embodied.” In sum, human reasoning is tradition-constitutive, because the entire web of conversations across time, conversations which employ the same concept of “good,” comprises or constitutes a living tradition. MacIntyre’s second phrase, namely tradition-constituted, follows from the first. Human reasoning is always (can never but be) located within some tradition or other. Of course, this fact poses challenges for a tradition like Christianity whose good includes sharing a message to adherents of rival traditions. To recall the earlier example, the three uses of “good” in “I have a good job,” cannot be translated from one conceptual language to the next. One can only understand a rival concept by being an insider to the tradition that uses the term. (In a later book MacIntyre explains how becoming an insider may be aided by employing the kind of imagination an anthropologist uses when studying a new tribe.[2] But notice that imagination is not translation. Incommensurable terms [like “good1” and “good2”] have no synonyms in the other tradition. So understanding is not achieved by translation. The message of “Christ crucified” remains pure lunacy to Greek thinkers (1 Cor 1:23). Nevertheless, one may possibly, if slowly, become fluent in the rival conceptual language.) The conclusion is this: living conceptual traditions are themselves the “the repositories of standards of rationality…which are crucial to moral deliberation and action.”[3] Said negatively, apart from the shared life within some particular tradition, “there is no standing ground, no place for enquiry, no way to engage in the practices of advancing, evaluating, accepting, and rejecting reasoned argument.”[4] Said positively, the sharing of a conceptual language enables sharers to understand each other about what things are good, about what human life is for.   [1]Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, 2d ed. (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984), 222.. Cp. Alasdair MacIntyre, Whose Justice? Which Rationality? (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1988), 12, 354-5. [2] Alasdair MacIntyre, Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry: Encyclopaedia, Genealogy, and Tradition: Being Gifford Lectures Delivered in the University of Edinburgh in 1988 (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1990). [3]John Horton and Susan Mendus, "Alasdair MacIntyre: After Virtue and After," in After MacIntyre: Critical Perspectives on the Work of Alasdair MacIntyre, ed. John Horton and Susan Mendus (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1994), 11.. [4][MacIntyre, 1988 #2601350]   For Further Reading: Virtues and Practices in the Christian Tradition: Christian Ethics after MacIntyre, edited by Nancey Murphy, Brad J. Kallenberg and Mark Thiessen Nation. 7-29. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 1997. After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, 2d ed. Alasdair MacIntyre, Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984 Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry: Encyclopaedia, Genealogy, and Tradition Alasdair MacIntyre, Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1990.   Brad J. Kallenberg is Professor of Theology and Ethics at the University of Dayton (Ohio). His books include Live to Tell: Evangelism for a Postmodern Age (Brazos, 2002), God and Gadgets: Following Jesus in a Technological Age (Cascade, 2011), Ethics as Grammar: Changing the Postmodern Subject (Notre Dame, 1998), and By Design: Theology, Technology and the Practice of Engineering (Cascade, 2013). Other publications can be found by poking around on his webpage.  
Glossary - Friendship in Virtue Ethics
July 12, 2012 | Lori Wilson
Glossary - Friendship in Virtue Ethics
Glossary - Friendship in Virtue Ethics David Burrell, C.S.C. July 6, 2012Aristotle, the classical proponent of ‘virtue-ethics’, brought his ethical treatise--Nichomachean Ethics—to a climax with two remarkably perceptive chapters on friendship. Since his ethics focused on ‘the good’, he insisted that we could not find a good more durable or nourishing than friends. Moreover, as a person would have no way of becoming good or staying faithful to the good outside a supportive society, these chapters also form a segue to the next treatise on politics. What makes the good of friendship indispensable is his conviction—parallel to Genesis—that it is not good for human beings to be alone! We are born into families, nourished by them if we are fortunate; and if not, condemned to spend inordinate energy making up for what we have missed. So the bonding between friends builds on and extends the primordial community of family, as a serendipitous way of extending its reach into a wider society. Yet in order to extend the natural affinities of family, friendship has to be intentional. That means it is built on and contributes to our inbuilt desire to grow in appreciating what is good and true. Yet Aristotle is always down-to-earth in recognizing that ‘good’ will mean many things to us; indeed, different things at different times in our lives. So ‘friend’ will function like ‘good’—analogously; that is, meaning different things in different situations. We have friends with whom we party and friends with whom we study, yet beyond pleasure and utility, there is a more exalted bond of friendship which crowns the other two, and serves as a paradigm for our aspirations in seeking friends. Now this elasticity signals the analogous reach of the term ‘friend’, and lets Aristotle allow us to call drinking buddies or study partners ‘friends’ even if those liaisons may not last. For they each can give us a taste of the real item—friendship which binds us to one another as to another self—‘in the good’, as Aristotle puts it. For that bonding cannot depend on anything outside either of us, except for the normal amenities of human intercourse. Let us call such friends ‘authentic’, for what brings them together is nothing short of an embracing good. As a sign of this, notice that though the union is intentional rather than natural, as we have noted, it would be misleading to think that means we choose our friends. For we are rather drawn into friendship, not unlike ‘falling in love’. And here is where we need Aristotle’s image of an ‘embracing good’ to correct more romantic notions of friendship as a bond beginning and ending between two individuals. So the saving grace of Aristotle’s embracing image is that it can save us from the wrenching act of ‘breaking up’ with our boy/girl friend. For it is rather that individuals will find themselves no longer embraced by a shared good, so can respect both what originally attracted them as well as what now separates them. The saving difference lies in regarding the entire adventure as gift rather than choice. And we will make that transition once we cease to think of ourselves as ‘individuals’ and recall how much we need one another. In this sense, then, 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. As a result, we tend to rely on friends as though they themselves were the good of which Aristotle speaks, so can easily smother the bonding as it is budding. In contrast, one of the advantages we possess, with faith in Jesus’ revelation of God as Father, is that we can forge our friendships ‘in Christ’, as Paul keeps reminding us. For we are privileged to name the good that binds us to others as to another self, so that we can be honest with one another and with ourselves in that embracing good. In that way, friendship can succeed in showing us a path when everything else may fail. Listen to St. Paulinus of Nola in fourth century France: [div id="blockquote"]This love [which you have shown to me] is inspired by him who has predestined us for himself from the beginning of the world and in whom we were formed before our birth. … [So] we were bound together in love before we knew each other. … This thought fills me with joy and I exult in the one Lord whose love is at work in all his children everywhere through the Holy Spirit.. … But I rejoice still more that God has given me a place in your heart and united me so intimately to you that I feel assured of your confidence and your love.[end-div] What a gift to be able to name Aristotle’s embracing good!   David Burrell, C.S.C., Theodore Hesburgh C.S.C. Professor emeritus in Philosophy and Theology at the University of Notre Dame, served there from 1964 to 2007 and currently serves the Congregation of Holy Cross District of East Africa, as Professor of Comparative theology at Tangaza College, Nairobi, Kenya.  His work since 1982 in comparative issues in philosophical theology in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.   For Further Reading: Aristotle (1976) The Nichomachean Ethics, London: Penguin. 383 pages. Books Eight and Nine. C. S. Lewis (1960) The Four Loves, London: HarperCollins Hauerwas, S. and Pinches, C. (1997) Christians Among the Virtues. Theological Conversations with Ancient and Modern Ethics, Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press. David Burrell (2000) Friendship and Ways to Truth, Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press. 128 pages    
Glossary - Charity
May 9, 2012 | Andy Saur
Glossary - Charity
Glossary - Charity   By Rev. Dr. John Wright May 9th, 2012 The Colossian Forum emphasizes, above all else, that in Jesus Christ “all things hold together” (Col. 1:17).  To participate in this unity in Christ, we also highlight the importance of the Christian virtues.  The Christian virtues form us to become the right type of persons to participate in the Mystery of all things in Christ (see James K. A Smith’s excellent glossary entry, “Virtue Ethics:  A Primer”).  Such formation is not always easy.  In order to engage the hard discussions on the relationship between the faith once delivered to the saints and contemporary science, The Colossian Forum stresses that we must be empowered by the core virtue of “love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Col. 3:14).  Without love such discussions become a noise like clanging cymbals – a noise no one wants to hear and that has some young adults running from the life of the church. It is not an accident that Colossians, the same letter that confesses that all things hold together in Christ, also proclaims that love provides the bond of perfect unity.  To speak of the virtue of love, we can’t start with human love and project it upon God.  In our current context, such a move in the United States would immediately surrender love to sentimentality and sensuality or, on the scientistic side, to biochemistry. Rather, “[T]his is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10). What we experience as love within creation participates in the Love that God is, a Love revealed to us in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit. Love is the virtue which binds all the virtues together in perfect unity because we participate in how this Love holds all things together in Jesus Christ, the Beloved of the Father.  In sum, Love is nothing less than our participation in the Holy Spirit who graciously takes us to the Father through the Son—one God, forever and ever:  “[W]e also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Rom. 5:3-5). And the Greatest of These is Love The Colossian Forum’s emphasis on the centrality of the virtue of love is not, of course, particular to this forum.  In response to the rivalries that had emerged in the Corinthian church, the Apostle Paul gave us the beautiful description of love in 1 Corinthians 13 which culminates in Paul’s statement:  “Faith, hope, and love remain, these three.  And the greatest of these is love.”  Jonathan Edwards in his Treatise on the Affections writes, “The same apostle speaks of love, as the greatest thing in religion, as the essence and soul of it; without which, the greatest knowledge and gifts, the most glaring profession, and every thing else which appertains to religion, are vain and worthless. He also represents it as the fountain from whence proceeds all that is good.” Participation in the virtue of love provides the basis for friendship with God and with other human beings.  Friendship is more than “I’m okay; you’re okay;” friendship requires joint participation in a common good.  We cannot speak of genuine love without speaking of friendship.  We must again protect ourselves from the sentimentality and sensuality that relates love and friendship to simple affirmation, “inclusion,” or therapeutic support for responsible individuals to chose their own “values” or “positions.”  Thomas Aquinas can help us here:  "[W]e love someone so as to wish good to him. . . . Accordingly, since there is a communication between man and God, inasmuch as He communicates His happiness to us, some kind of friendship must needs be based on this same communication, of which it is written:  God is faithful:  by Whom you are called unto the fellowship of His Son.  The love which is based on this communication is charity:  wherefore it is evident that charity is the friendship of man for God” (ST II-II, 23 1). Friendship requires a common good that pulls friends together in their practices into a common end. Yankee fans and Red Sox fans might find friendship difficult unless they discover a deeper good than their baseball teams rivalry (Cubs fans – well, they are a special case and deeply in need of our prayers!).  Since we find our final and eternal good in God through Jesus, the Holy Spirit infuses love into our hearts by faith that is nothing less than friendship with God – and in God we find friendship with others.  In response to God’s love for us seen in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we love God above all things for God’s own sake, and our neighbor, even if that neighbor is our enemy, in order to love God.   As Truth and Beauty and Goodness find themselves in God, we cannot separate friendship with others from a commitment to truthfulness, beauty, and their temporal and eternal good that is found united in God. It is hard to stress too much the importance of love as it is related to friendship with God – and others, even our enemies, through God.  For emerging adults in the United States today, “friends with benefits” shows the emptiness of friendship as mutual sentimental tolerance combined with sensuality.  Even the contemporary church can inadvertantly reduce love to a type of mutual sentimental tolerance.  We can remain isolated from the good of each other in our congregations, strangers “nice” to each other as we pass in the sanctuary on Sundays or even within “sharing groups” in which therapeutic support, not a common good in God, shapes our lives.  In friendship, love finds our common end in God along with Truth and Beauty. The Core Virtue The recovery of the virtues within the United States can have a certain ambiguity for Christians.  Separated from the supernatural virtues, other virtues like courage or temperance often have an end strictly within the world.  Courage to report embezzlement by the one who has the authority to fire you would help restore the integrity of your organization.  Love, like faith and hope, is different.  Love has its ultimate end in God.  If love does not necessarily have ultimate friendship with God as its goal, it does not participate in love in all its fullness, but needs to be raised, perfected in God.  Because of its supernatural end, love transforms, raises, and perfects other virtues as well to their final end in God. Take courage in the previously referenced case of embezzlement.  Bitterness, resentment, or even ambition to take a higher place in the company could motivate one to have the courage to report the case.  Love, however, takes the virtue of courage and re-forms it.  Courage transformed by love would take into account a deep concern for all suffering from the evil of the embezzlement, even the embezzler, and seek to order all involved to a final end in God – to love redemptively.  Love finds its unity with truth and beauty.  When love finds its end in God, we are empowered to love even our enemy for the sake of God.  After all, God loved us while we were God’s enemies by showing us that God is love in the death and resurrection of Jesus. We can see now why love centers, infuses, and restructures from within all other virtues.  Love, as Paul reminds, “bears all things.”  Love orders all the other virtues to this final end in God as we ourselves have the love of God shed abroad in our hearts.  Love transforms our discourse.  Truthfulness becomes not about winning, but participation with another in a real or potential common friendship in God.  Concern for truth becomes lifted, purified into what is good.  We offer brotherly and sisterly correction, not to lord it over another like the Gentiles, but to deepen friendship with God and therefore each other. Love is not feelings of sentimentality, though even our sentiments become purified, raised and perfected in love. Love in-forms all the virtues.  As said in Colossians, “over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Col. 3:14). Love: Participation in our Telos The virtue of love permits us to participate in God by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Jonathan Edwards again wrote, “The Spirit of God so dwells in the hearts of the saints, that he there, as a seed or spring of life, exerts and communicates himself, in this his sweet and divine nature.  He makes the soul a partaker of God’s beauty and Christ’s joy, so that the saint has truly fellowship with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ, in thus having the communion or participation of the Holy Ghost.”  Likewise, Thomas Aquinas reminds us that “The Divine Essence Itself is charity . . . the charity whereby formally we love our neighbor is a participation of Divine charity” (ST II-II, 23 2 ad.1).[callout title=Callout Title]Love is not a virtue that arises from our practice; it is a gift of God[/callout] Love therefore unites us to God.  In love, partially now, fully in life everlasting, we find our true end in the eternally Triune God who is Love.  Love is not a virtue that arises from our practice; it is a gift of God.  The Holy Spirit infuses love into our hearts:  “God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Rom. 5:5).  We love God, and others in God, only through the love that is the Holy Spirit in taking us to the Father through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Son.   Jonathan Edwards again teaches us well: believers “do not first see that God loves them, and then see that he is lovely; but they first see that God is lovely, and that Christ is excellent and glorious; their hearts are first captivated with this view, and the exercises of their love are wont, from time to time, to begin here, and to arise primarily from these views; and then, consequentially, they see God’s love, and great favor to them.  The saints’ affections begin with God.”   God is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End of our life, and therefore of our love. Worship:  The Practice of Love             We find, then, that in worship, we are trained in the school of the Holy Spirit, formed through participation in the love of God.  In worship, believers are “brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:23).  Worship opens us in faith to a formation into the Triune One that we worship.  Rooted in Jesus Christ, worship fosters virtues to see the world, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and ourselves truthfully—as coming from God, living through God, and going to God. We live in a world that fuels its movement through the conflicts of combative self- or group-interests to see who ultimately “wins” through the marketplace.  Worship reminds us that the Love that created the world has ordered all things so that all things come together in Jesus Christ.  Differences fade into the background as what is essential from what is non-essential emerges within the Christian life.  We open ourselves to the Love that God is, the love that binds us “all together in perfect unity.”  In worship, we find friends that we did not know that we had.  We may then have our lives and our virtues rightly ordered in perfect unity so that we are formed by the Spirit so that “the world may believe” that the Father has sent the Son (John 17:21).   For further reading: Jonathan R. Wilson, Gospel Virtues:  Practicing Faith, Hope, and Love in Uncertain Times (InterVarsity Press, 1998). G. Simon Harak, S.J. Virtuous Passions:  The Formation of Christian Character (Paulist Press, 1993). Josef Pieper, Faith, Hope, Love (Ignatius Press, 1997). On-line resources: Jonathan Edwards, A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections. (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/edwards/works1.vii.html) Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica II-II 23-25   Rev. Dr. John Wright (PhD, University of Notre Dame, 1989) is Professor of Theology and Christian Scripture at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, CA and the senior pastor of the English-speaking congregation of the Church of the Nazarene in Mid-City, San Diego.  He is the author of Telling God’s Story:  Narrative Preaching for Christian Formation (IVP Academic, 2007) and the editor of the recently released, Postliberal Theology and the Church Catholic: Conversations with George Lindbeck, David Burrell, and Stanley Hauerwas (Baker Academic), to be released on March 1, 2012.
Glossary - Hospitality
March 20, 2012 | Andy Saur
Glossary - Hospitality
Glossary - Hospitality By Rev. Dr. John Wright February 20th, 2012  “Befriending a Stranger: Hospitality?” “All things hold together in Christ.”   Amid the reshuffling of the world around us that constantly tries to place our own selves, our own convictions, our own choices at the center, we find the eternal Word of God made incarnate, Jesus Christ, as the Center of all things.   The Holy Spirit pulls us by faith into the life of the Son, and therefore into the life of the Father – one God, forever and ever.  God thus allows us to participate in the very eternal Life that is God.   We find ourselves together “in Christ.”  This common life in Christ becomes most visible when we gather in worship. When we look around us in worship, it becomes evident that the community with which we are gathered in Christ is not up to us.  We can invite, but the Spirit gathers. In the church’s worship, we see visibly the Spirit’s constant work of pulling all things together in Christ.  As Stan Hauerwas says, “church is the name of friends that we didn’t know we had.”   To receive strangers as friends, however, takes practice - for it requires certain virtues.  Worship, a bodily sharing of life now in the eternally Triune God, is a human practice that gives us a space to practice and develop such virtues.  Therefore, the Colossian Forum seeks to discover how all things hold together in Christ through a primary practice of worship – a practice that opens us to learn hospitality as well. “Hospitality” names the Greek word for “friendship with or love of stranger” (philoxenia and related words).   In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus lists taking in or gathering with (sunagogeo) the stranger (xenos) as taking in the king himself (Matt 25: 35, 38, 40).  Followers of Jesus accept this practice as central to the king’s ultimate judgment of the sheep and the goats.  We also find the practice of “hospitality” explicitly exhorted in the Pauline letters [see, for instance, Rom 12:13; 1 Tim 3:2; Titus 1:8) and other NT writings as well (Hebrews 13:2 and 1 Peter 4:19). As scary as “friendship of stranger” sounds to modern ears, hospitality is an important biblical practice.  In the practice of hospitality, the Spirit shapes believers in the virtues necessary to make them saints as the church witnesses to God’s redemption in Christ.  If we look at Christian history, we find that certain Christian institutions have at various times and places centered their witness upon the practice of hospitality.  One thinks of the French evangelical parish in Le Chambôn that preserved over three thousand Jews from the gas chambers (see the excellent 2011 Boston University dissertation by Krishana Oxenford Suckau, Christian Witness on the Plateau Vivaris-Lignon:  Narrative, Nonviolence, and the Formation of Character. When one looks at the life of the church in the modern era, we sometimes have to search for such exemplars of hospitality.  Without contemporary exemplars of the practice, we easily lose the wisdom and the virtues required to sustain hospitality in various contexts.   The often-fragmented life of the church as the visible body of Christ can complicate trying to retrieve the practice even more.   Having lost the centrality of hospitality with each other as members of the body of Christ, and no longer exposed to those whom Jesus names in Matthew 25, the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the naked, and those in prison, we struggle to find adequate ways to differentiate the Christian practice of hospitality from its post-Christian caricatures. This raises many questions that demand careful and prayerful reflection.  How do we distinguish hospitality from its post-Christian parody, “tolerance”?   What is the relationship between the practice of hospitality and “co-dependency”?  How does hospitality relate to the Christian commitment to the integrity of the faith once delivered to the saints, the need to give an account for the faith that is within us?   What is the relationship between hospitality, the truthfulness of the Scriptural witness, and our responsibility to give a truthful account of the latest empirical results of scientific work?   How does the responsibility to initiate our children into the Christian practice of hospitality relate to our responsibility to raise them to a vital faith in Jesus so that they can find that all things hold together in Christ? These questions provide no immediate answers – at least from me.  Perhaps by gathering to listen, talk, struggle, pray, listen to the Scriptures together, and worship the Triune God who has showed us the greatest act of hospitality—granting our world and us the gift of existence and then, even after we made ourselves strangers and aliens to God in sin, becoming human for us in Jesus, even to death, even death on a cross, and raising from the dead to grant us life eternal —we might muddle through to adequate responses.  The virtues don’t necessarily come easily.  We will need forgiveness from God and each other along the way, and pray that our blunders don’t undermine our witness.   But at least by embedding our quest to retrieve hospitality among those practices that are central to living as the body of Christ in the world, we come to an interesting question:  what virtues or fruits do we need the Spirit to infuse in our hearts to make us wise practitioners of genuine hospitality that make such discernments well? To place our own selves at the center to try to hold things together will make it difficult to find strangers that God has given us as friends. In such a setting, discernment must lead us to discover what is essential, to distinguish true hospitality from its cheap parodies in the modern and postmodern “virtue” of tolerance. “All things hold together in Christ.”  Hospitality names the practice that allows the Holy Spirit to form us to find ourselves as part of “all things” held together in Christ.  In receiving God’s hospitable charity for us in worship, we find ourselves taken up into the very same love, the Holy Spirit.   Rev. Dr. John Wright (PhD, University of Notre Dame, 1989) is Professor of Theology and Christian Scripture at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, CA and the senior pastor of the English-speaking congregation of the Church of the Nazarene in Mid-City, San Diego.  He is the author of Telling God’s Story:  Narrative Preaching for Christian Formation (IVP Academic, 2007) and the editor of the up-coming volume, Postliberal Theology and the Church Catholic: Conversations with George Lindbeck, David Burrell, and Stanley Hauerwas (Baker Academic), to be released on March 1, 2012.  
Glossary - Natural Theology
February 26, 2012 | Andy Saur
Glossary - Natural Theology
Glossary - Natural Theology James K.A. Smith, Senior Fellow February 26th, 2012  The term “natural theology” is used in a number of different ways.  In Christian theology, it has been rooted in biblical affirmations that God can be known in and through his creation—through what we now often call “nature.”  As the psalmist puts it, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1).  Or Paul declares in his epistle to the Christians in Rome: “Since the creation of the world God’s invisible attributes, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made” (Romans 1:20). The basic intuition behind “natural theology,” then, is that something can be learned about God by studying his handiwork—that one can learn something about the cause by studying its effects. In ancient and medieval thought, this was sometimes described as the “book of nature” through which God spoke, alongside the book of Scripture.  Thus the book of nature was sometimes described as a source of “natural” revelation whereas the Bible was a source of “special” revelation.  Natural theology, then, was what could be known about God merely on the basis of reasoned observation of the cosmos.  For example, the intricacy and design of the creation was taken as an “effect” that points to a personal Designer as the only efficient “cause.”  Such “natural” theology didn’t require that one believe the Gospel and accept Scripture as God’s divine revelation.  In fact, natural theology was seen as a way to lead people to the Gospel—a “preamble to faith.” So now “natural theology” is generally aligned with a certain kind of apologetics.  In other words, most who affirm “natural theology” today see it as a means of demonstrating basic assumptions of Christian faith without appealing to Scripture or special revelation.  And in the wake of scientific exploration of the natural world, many “natural theologians” see the sciences as an ally in “reading” creation. Thus some Christians eagerly embrace the sciences as a way of reading the book of nature and marshaling the findings of science to demonstrate the existence of God. However, there has always been a persistent internal critique of natural theology within the Christian tradition, of two sorts.  One line of criticism points out that while Scripture affirms that the Creator is revealed by creation, the Scriptures also point out that sinful humans suppress that truth and thus can’t properly “recognize” what’s in front of them (following Romans 1:21-31).  This is sometimes described as the “noetic” effects of sin—the impact of sin on the mind (nous) which hampers humanity’s ability to rightly “read” creation.  So while creation speaks—yea, shouts! —for those who have been illuminated by the Spirit, this natural revelation is not effective for those who don’t already believe. A second sort of critique of natural theology is more pointed.  As Blaise Pascal put it, the “god of philosophers” is a far cry from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Demonstrating the existence of a "first cause" seems quite different from knowing the personal God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We know God, not through an independent “nature,” but through the Son who is the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15).  Read “Christologically,” we can see nature as the theater of God’s glory, as John Calvin put it; but independent of that Christological lens, the god yielded by natural theology is slim to the point of idolatry.  These criticisms of natural theology do not undercut the importance of the natural sciences.  Instead, they reframe the importance of the sciences as part of our cultural mandate to tend and till God’s good creation.   For further reading: James F. Sennett and Douglas Groothuis, eds., In Defense of Natural Theology (InterVarsity Press, 2005). Alvin Plantinga, “The Reformed Objection to Natural Theology,” Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 15 (1980): 49-63. Stanley Hauerwas, With the Grain of the Universe: The Church’s Witness and Natural Theology (Brazos, 2001). D. Stephen Long, “The Way of Aquinas: Its Importance for Moral Theology,” Studies in Christian Ethics 19.3 (2006): 339-356. ___________________________ James K.A. Smith is a Senior Fellow of The Colossian Forum and professor of philosophy at Calvin College.
Glossary - Virtue Ethics
November 9, 2011 | Andy Saur
Glossary - Virtue Ethics
Glossary - Virtue Ethics: A Primer James K.A. Smith, Senior Fellow November 9th, 2011  The Colossian Forum emphasizes that before Christians can engage in a constructive, life-giving conversation about faith and science, we first need to acquire the requisite virtues to be able to have such a conversation.  Before we can grapple with contentious issues, we need to be a people who reflect the virtues of Christ: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience (Col. 3:12).  We describe these as “virtues” for a specific reason.  A “virtue” approach is an ancient Christian heritage that reframes our approach to these issues.  This brief essay provides an introduction to the basic elements of virtue ethics.  Think of it as “Virtue Ethics for…well, not Dummies—for Newbies!” Asking the Right Question Virtue ethics is a way of approaching Christian ethics and related matters of morality and sanctification.  Virtue theory differs from other approaches to Christian ethics that tend to focus on laws, rules, and moral decisions.  These other approaches are sometimes described as “deontological” approaches because they focus on matters of obligation and duty (the Greek word deon means duty or obligation).  You can think of the difference this way: deontological approaches generally ask, “What should I do?”  A virtue approach instead asks: “What kind of a person should I be?”  Whereas deontological approaches fixate on identifying the relevant rules and laws, a virtue approach focuses on character.  Deontological approaches tend to emphasize the external role of laws and rules, requiring the ethical agent to make a decision in accordance with the law.  Virtue ethics emphasizes the formation of people who have an internal disposition that propels them toward the good, growing out of their character. Thomas Aquinas, one of the great doctors of the church, actually suggested that external “law” is necessary only to the extent that a people lacks internal character.  So there is a kind of inverse proportion between law and virtue: the less virtuous a people (or person) is, the more the external force of law is necessary.  The more virtuous a people (or person is), the less the “stick” of law is needed to get them to do what is right.  Anyone who has raised children will immediately understand this point!   Good Habits At the heart of virtue theory is a notion of “habits.”  These are not unthinking or merely mechanical habits like brushing your teeth a certain way, or a baseball player’s routine in the batter’s box.  Instead, virtue theory is concerned with habits that are rooted in our character, the fabric of who we are.  Habits, in this sense, are internal dispositions that incline us in a certain direction—toward a certain end.  Our action often grows out of these dispositions that we have.  Depending on the sorts of habits we’ve acquired, we’ll tend to lean in a certain direction.  “Good” habits are called virtues; “bad” habits are called vices.  Aristotle would describe these habits as “second nature.”  They are not hard-wired; instead, they are acquired dispositions that are formed in us.  (We’ll address this further below). So the virtuous person is someone whose character has been shaped in such a way that she has acquired good habits—these have gradually become part of her “second nature” so that she is now the kind of person who tends to “naturally” act in that direction, toward “the good.”  So in an important sense, the virtuous person doesn’t have to “think through” every ethical decision; doing the right thing grows out of her character.  For example, the person who is compassionate—who has acquired the virtue of compassion—doesn’t have to constantly assess every situation and decide whether or not she will be compassionate.  In some sense, if she has really begun to acquire the virtue of compassion, she will be the kind of person who can’t help but be compassionate.  It flows out of her heart and character.  That’s who she is.    In contrast, the vicious person is someone whose (mal)formation has made him the kind of person who is inclined toward vice—his internal dispositions make him lean away from the good and toward evil.  He is the sort of person who is inclined to “miss the mark” (the Greek term for sin, harmartia, has this sense of missing the mark).  Greed or violence or strife is something woven into his character: he acts this way without having to think about it.  It comes “naturally.”  This is why formation in virtue requires re-formation and counter-formation: to acquire good habits requires undoing our bad habits. Excellence: Action toward a Telos We can see, then, that what counts as a “virtue” is relative to a goal or an end that is envisioned.  The Greek term for this goal is a telos (which is why virtue theory is sometimes described as a “teleological” account of ethics).  The point is simply this: if a habit is a disposition toward a certain telos, an inclination to act in a certain “direction,” then we need to determine the telos in order to be able to determine whether a habit is a virtue or a vice. This is why virtue is bound up with a sense of “excellence”: a virtue is a disposition that inclines us to achieve the good for which we are made.  Or, in other words, a virtue is a good habit that inclines us toward the telos that is best for us.  Not unless we specify that end can we know whether something or someone is functioning well.  Take a non-moral example: Let’s say I have a flute and I’m using it to roast marshmallows over a campfire (it’s a long story—don’t ask).  As you can imagine, it doesn’t work out very well, and I throw down the instrument in frustration: “This is a terrible flute!”  Well, no, not really: that’s not what the flute was made for.  Roasting marshmallows is not the proper telos for a flute. You can see how deep disagreements about the telos of humanity could generate radically different accounts of what is virtuous and what is vicious.  This is because different narratives (different “worldviews,” we might say) envision very different ends for humanity.  For example, a narrative or worldview that values power and domination and violence will see Christ’s meekness and humility as a vice; in contrast, Christians see Christ as the very exemplar of virtue, and so we evaluate his meekness and humility as virtues to which we aspire. Indeed, the telos for Christians is Christ: Jesus Christ is the very embodiment of what we’re made for, of the end to which we are called.  This is just another way of saying that love (or “charity” in some medieval accounts) is that which ultimately orders all of the other virtues.  This is why Paul’s exhortation to “put on love” (Col. 3:14) is equivalent to the exhortation to “put on Christ” (Romans 13:14). Imitation and Practice All of this raises an important question: How do I acquire the virtues?  Historically, virtue theory has emphasized two principal means for habit formation—both of which resonate with biblical wisdom. First, we follow the model and example of the virtuous person.  In other words, we imitate exemplars.  We follow the example of those who exemplify the virtues.  This framework gives us a new way to appreciate Paul’s exhortation in 1 Corinthian 11:1: “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” Second, we acquire virtue and re-form our habits by immersing ourselves in practices that train our hearts on the telos of Christ and his kingdom.  In other words, acquiring virtues takes practice.  It is through our immersion in rhythms and routines that are primed toward the telos that we become the sort of people who are inclined in that direction.  So if we are going be the sort of people who “put on” Christ’s virtues (Col. 3:12-15), Paul says, we’ll need to immerse ourselves in the sorts of practices that inscribe those habits in us.  And for Paul, those practices especially include the practices of worship (Col. 3:16).   For further reading: Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ (NavPress, 2002). Brad Kallenberg, “The Master Argument of MacIntyre’s After Virtue” in Virtues and Practices in the Christian Tradition (University of Notre Dame Press, 2003), 7-29. Alasdair MacIntyre, “The Nature of the Virtues” in After Virtue, 3rd ed. (University of Notre Dame Press, 2007), 181-203. Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung, “Resistance to the Demands of Love: On Sloth” in Glittering Vices (Brazos, 2009), ch. 4.   Online resource: The Character Project, Wake Forest University __________________________________________ James K.A. Smith is a Senior Fellow of The Colossian Forum and professor of philosophy at Calvin College.