Archives For humanity

 

What it Means to be a Person
(Rather than an Individual)

 
A Feature Review of

Being Human:
Bodies, Minds, Persons
Rowan Williams

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2018.
Buy Now:  [ Amazon ]  

 
Reviewed by Rob O’Lynn
 
 

*** Our Video Intro to 
Rowan Williams’ work

 

Being Human is a collection of five essays that focus on various aspects of theological anthropology that were given over a period of four years.  A brief introduction begins the volume, in which Williams notes that this “unintended trilogy” has been “less about the basics of Christian belief and behaviour and more about the sort of questions in our culture that make us wonder what ‘real’ humanity is like and whether our most central ideas about what is human are under threat in this environment” (vii).  Williams’ argument specifically in Being Human is that answering the question of what defines a human is now more complicated than ever.  “No need to panic,” Williams notes, because “we do need more clarity than our culture usually gives us as to what we think is ‘more’ human” (vii).  The volume seeks to be somewhat apologetic, although in a more philosophical sense, in that “sources of contemporary confusion” regarding what it means to be human will be addressed so that the reader can find herself more “in alignment with the grace and joy of what is ultimately true—with God and with the will of God, as Christians would say” (vii).  In short, Williams seeks to examine some of the different pressures that are pressed upon the human in order to determine how these pressures shape us into or distort us out of the will of God.

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I’ve recently been digging into one of Alasdair MacIntyre’s recent books (that somehow slipped past our radar)
 

Ethics in the Conflicts of Modernity:
An Essay on Desire, Practical Reasoning, and Narrative
Alasdair MacIntyre

Hardback: Cambridge UP, 2016
Buy Now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]
 

Our Intro Guide to
MacIntyre’s AFTER VIRTUE

 
I turned to MacIntyre to help me understand the desires we have has humans and where they come from. Those familiar with MacIntyre’s work will not be surprised to find that his exploration of these questions winds its way back in history through St. Thomas Aquinas to Aristotle. It has been very helpful for me to follow this trajectory, and I thought it might also be helpful for some of our readers. 

[ MacIntyre ]  [ Aquinas ]  [ Aristotle ]

 
 
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What is the Human Being?

 
A Review of 

Being Human in God’s World:
An Old Testament Theology of Humanity
J. Gordon McConville

Hardback: Baker Academic, 2016
Buy Now:  [ Amazon ]  [  Kindle ]
 
 
Reviewed by Nick Jordan
 
 
J. Gordon McConville’s central question, repeated at regular intervals throughout this book, is a Biblical question: “What is the human being, that you [God] should call him to mind; or the son of man that you should pay attention to him?” (Psalm 8:4). He explores this question not only as a Biblical scholar and theologian, but as one who wants to help Christians. As he writes in his Preface, “what follows should be regarded as an essay in reading the Bible in pursuit of oneself, individually and in one’s various communities, as a human being.”

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C.S. Lewis

 

2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the death of C.S. Lewis

 
 

In Praise of Solid People
C.S. Lewis

 

This poem is found in the collection Spirits in Bondage…
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Thank God that there are solid folk
Who water flowers and roll the lawn,
And sit an sew and talk and smoke,
And snore all through the summer dawn.
 
Who pass untroubled nights and days
Full-fed and sleepily content,
Rejoicing in each other’s praise,
Respectable and innocent.
 
Who feel the things that all men feel,
And think in well-worn grooves of thought,
Whose honest spirits never reel
Before man’s mystery, overwrought.
 

*** Books by C.S. Lewis

 
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“Built-in Opportunities for
Human Relationships, Health, and Flourishing

A Review of
Cities for People.

Jan Gehl.

Reviewed by Brent Aldrich.


Cities for People.
Jan Gehl.
Hardback: Island Press, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

In a city like mine, a story which is typical of many US cities has happened: built over the last 200 years, emptied out since the 1960s, and now making a few steps to revitalize the health of what makes cities great; there are hopeful moves of homes rehabbed and occupied, small businesses open, narrow bike stripes painted. And like other cities, we’ve gotten on board with the ‘greening’ of the city – thousands of new trees, some green roofs and rainwater collectors, and small but productive gardens.

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“A History of Our Brokenness”

A Review of
Pandora’s Seed:
The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization
.
By Spencer Wells
.

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

[ Watch two videos of Wells talking about this book… ]

Pandora’s Seed:
The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization
.
By Spencer Wells
.
Hardback: Random House, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

When we, as the Church, think about the Fall of humanity, our minds tend to jump to the Garden of Eden and the familiar story of Adam, Eve, the serpent and the forbidden fruit, and undoubtedly this is an essential part of the biblical narrative.  What we tend to gloss over, however, are the ways in which waves of brokenness surged forth through time and space from the epicenter of Eden toppling and subjugating not only humanity but all creation.  The Fall, of course, brought on the immediate consequences of pain in childbearing and in working the Earth, but it was not long before we encounter murder, lies, and the amassing of people and power in cities, and then Creation forcefully lashing out at itself with a massive flood.  The parallels between this biblical story of the Fall and its aftermath, parallels in a striking way, the scientific account of the development of early civilization presented in Spencer Wells’ new book Pandora’s Seed: The Unforeseen Cost of Civilization.  Wells is a heralded geneticist, and “Explorer-in-Residence” at the National Geographic Society.  His previous two books The Journey of Man and Deep Ancestry, probe aspects of our evolution and development as humankind, as well as our genetic history.   I should be clear before I go any further that any theological parallels that I note in conjunction with Wells’ research are my own and not his.

Wells’ thesis is that our development of agriculture about 10,000 years brought with it many “unintended consequences” that have plagued humanity over the intervening millennia, and he narrates a very different story than that put forth by modernist champions of “progress” over the last two centuries.   In his words: “The biggest revolution of the past 50,000 years of human history was not the advent of the Internet, the growth of the industrial age out of the seeds of the Enlightenment, or the development of modern methods of long-distance navigation.  Rather it was when a few people … decided to stop gathering from the land, abiding by the limits set in place by nature, and started growing their food.  This decision has had more far-reaching consequences for our species than any other.”  While I realize that discussions of dates and timelines in relation to the earliest eras of human development are open to some degree of leeway and interpretation, I suspect that most people could accept 10,000 years as a possible length of post-Fall human history, so for the sake of this review let us assume that what we know from the biblical narrative as “the Fall,” occurred essentially simultaneously with the development of agriculture as Wells describes it here and see how the consequences he describes fit with those noted in scripture.  Wells makes his case with chapters that focus on specific consequences, each of which begins with a relevant story from his global travels.

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“Specific, Strange and Special”

A Review of
Sun of Righteousness, Arise!
God’s Future for Humanity and The Earth.
By Jürgen Moltmann
.

Reviewed by Bob Cornwall.


Sun of Righteousness, Arise!
God’s Future for Humanity and The Earth.
Jürgen Moltmann
.
Paperback: Fortress, 2010.
Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]

Sun of Righteousness, Arise!  Jurgen MoltmannToo often we’re presented with theological “choices” that are either so narrow that they exclude a vast number of those who call themselves Christian, or so broad that there is little substance left.   Jürgen Moltmann walks down a middle path, not too light or too heavy, not to narrow and not so broad as to leave the faith empty.  For many modern Christians, Moltmann has been and continues to be a faithful theological companion, opening new vistas, offering new ways of seeing God and God’s relationship with humanity and the world.  His is a theology that is both evangelical in the truest sense of the word and ecumenical.  It recognizes the suffering present in the world, but it also foresees a time when God will be all in all, so that suffering will be no more.  When a new book emerges from his pen, many gravitate toward it, hoping to find something that will help sustain one’s faith journey.

In The Sun of Righteousness, Arise! Moltmann takes up many of the issues that have been close to his heart over the years – the future of the world, the resurrection of Christ and humanity, justice, the Trinity and creation.  The chapters in this book, seventeen in all, are not original creations; rather this book is a gathering together of lectures, meditations, sermons, and essays that were either presented at the meetings of the Gesellschaft für Evangelische Theologie or published in the journal Evangelische Theologie over the past the past ten years.  They may have previous incarnations, but they are available for the first time in English translation (ably provided by Margaret Kohl).

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Gerontion
T.S. Eliot
[Found in T.S. Eliot – THE WASTELAND AND OTHER POEMS ]

Thou hast nor youth nor age
But as it were an after dinner sleep
Dreaming of both.

Here I am, an old man in a dry month,
Being read to by a boy, waiting for rain.
I was neither at the hot gates
Nor fought in the warm rain
Nor knee deep in the salt marsh, heaving a cutlass,
Bitten by flies, fought.
My house is a decayed house,
And the jew squats on the window sill, the owner,
Spawned in some estaminet of Antwerp,
Blistered in Brussels, patched and peeled in London.
The goat coughs at night in the field overhead;
Rocks, moss, stonecrop, iron, merds.
The woman keeps the kitchen, makes tea,
Sneezes at evening, poking the peevish gutter.

I an old man,
A dull head among windy spaces.

Signs are taken for wonders. “We would see a sign”:
The word within a word, unable to speak a word,
Swaddled with darkness. In the juvescence of the year
Came Christ the tiger

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Living on the Edge of Believing
(A Poem for the Season of Easter)
Michael J. Bowling

Living on the edge of believing ,
Where we have glimpses of a New Jerusalem
Where the shadows dance teasing our doubt,
Where fear of failure mocks our every halting step,
How do we move forward without slipping,
                                    tumbling
                                    falling?

Living on the edge of believing,
Where the fog of self hides the path ahead,
Where the blur of busyness distracts our attention,
Where the din of noise drowns out all thought,
How do we move forward without slipping,
                                    tumbling,
                                    falling?

Living on the edge of believing,
Where death fades into life,
Where despair gives way to hope,
Where fear cowers in the presence of love,
How do we move forward without slipping,
                                    tumbling,
                                    falling?

 

ON RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION
G.K. Chesterton

When Adam went from Paradise
He saw the Sword and ran;
The dreadful shape, the new device,
The pointed end of Paradise,
And saw what Peril is and Price,
And knew he was a man.
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