Archives For Norman Wirzba


A Brief Review of
Transforming Philosophy and Religion: Love’s Wisdom,
Norman Wirzba and Bruce Ellis Benson, eds.

by Chris Smith.

Transforming Philosophy and Religion: Love’s Wisdom, a new book from Indiana University Press edited by Norman Wirzba and Bruce Ellis Benson, is a fine collection of essays that “call our attention back to the fundamental role that love plays in being wise” (10).  The essays here explore the role of love in philosophy, theology and a host of social issues from justice to gender to bioethics.  Norman Wirzba opens the collection with a compelling argument for the “primacy of love” in philosophy (lit. the love of wisdom).  Consider his poignant conclusion:

“The history of Western culture demonstrates that philosophers have wanted to be rulers far more than they have wanted to be lovers.  Rather than offering ourselves up in a loving response to the world – in ways that would promote mutual flourishing – we have instead sought to bring others within our control.  The result has been the world’s and our own destruction or disfigurement.  More than ever before, what we need is a transformation of philosophical practice so that an affirmation of others in their integrity can take place” (25).


I was pleased to see that a number of these essays engaged Kierkegaard’s works, most notably Amy Laura Hall’s “You’d Better Find Somebody to Love,” which maintains that Kierkegaard’s Works of Love may shed some light on the bioethical quagmires of the present.  Two other excellent pieces were that of John Caputo, who examines the meaning of the biblical concepts of “love” and “law” in the present age of postmodernity, and that of Tyler Roberts, who addresses the question of whether Christianity embodies Slavoj Zizek’s notion of a “militant love.” 

            However, the best piece in this collection is Edward Mooney’s “Love, This Lenient Interpreter,” in which he examines the possibility of a hermeneutic that is characterized primarily by love.  Taking as an example, two recent studies of Kierkegaard’s life and works, Mooney contrasts these two works to illuminate the importance of how we read a text (love vs. suspicion or mistrust).  This piece is one that should be read and discussed early on in the academic career of any aspiring philosopher or theologian in the Church.

            Taken together, these essays in Transforming Philosophy and Religion offer a resounding affirmation of St. Paul’s proclamations about the emptiness of knowledge without love (I Corinthians 13).  Given its contributors (esp. Caputo and Wirzba) and the topics that they engage (e.g., Paul, Zizek, etc.), it will be of particular interest to the aspiring theologians of the emerging church.

Transforming Philosophy and Religion: Love’s Wisdom,
Norman Wirzba and Bruce Ellis Benson, eds.

Paperback: Indiana UP, 2008.
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“Moving Us Toward Better Possibilities.”

A Review of

The Essential Agrarian Reader,

edited by Norman Wirzba.

By Chris Smith.

[ The Essential Agrarian Reader is one of the recommended preparatory books for our upcoming conference on the Church and agriculture. Registration for the conference is now open at: ]


The New Agrarian Reader:
The Future of Culture, Community and Land.
Norman Wirzba, editor.
Hardcover. Univ. Press of KY. 2003.
Buy now from: [ Doulos Christou Books $14 ]
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The EAROver the last 30 years, momentum has been gathering around a set of specific ideas and practices related to land, food and community that has been called the “new agrarianism.” (I hesitate to refer to this trend as a movement, since Wendell Berry – perhaps the most well-known voice of the new agrarianism – has pointedly detailed his “distrust” of movements). This new agrarianism is summarized well in Norman Wirzba’s introduction to The Essential Agrarian Reader: “As we begin to understand that food is not simply fuel, but is in fact a natural, social, cultural and spiritual product, we will also make the effort to foster the practical conditions necessary to protect and preserve ecological and social health” (16). Of course, we, as communities of Christ’s disciples, are interested in the spiritual aspects of food, but to the extent that we trust that God is redeeming a fallen creation, we are also committed to bearing witness to that redemptive work by discerning a way of life together that promotes increasing degrees of “ecological and social health.”

The literature of the new agrarianism is compromised of two rhetorical streams: the first is the critique of the industrial, or to borrow a term from Ragan Sutterfield, the immanent economy that rapes the earth and tends toward the destruction of humanity and all creation; the second stream is the recommendation of a way of life that fosters the health of humanity and all creation. In the writings of those associated with new agrarianism, these two streams are often tightly inter-woven with one another; however, it will be useful for us to split them apart for the purpose of understanding the dual mission of the new agrarians. Continue Reading…