An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

NEO-CALVINISM AND EUROPE Conference, Leuven 29-31 August

5th European Conference on Neo-Calvinism Leuven, Belgium, 29-31 August 2018

The conference organisers would be pleased to receive proposals for short papers that address issues related to Neo-Calvinism and Europe: Religion, Nation, Culture.
Proposals must be approximately 200 words, and should be sent to by 1 April 2018.
Proposals will receive a final response by the conference organisers by 15 April.
At present, Europe - in its modern globalised form - is faced by numerous questions of profound significance. How will its identity and role in the world change in response to the resurgence of populist political leadership both within and beyond its own borders? How should it respond to Brexit, intra-European independence movements, and the ongoing significance of the (largely Muslim) migrant crisis? 
This conference will focus on neo-Calvinism, as a theological and cultural tradition that developed in late-modern Western Europe, and aims to understand it vis-à-vis Europe in both historical and constructive senses. How did the architects of neo-Calvinism - the likes of Abraham Kuyper and Herman Bavinck - view the late-modern European identity? What did it mean to them that humankind consisted of different peoples and races? To what extent did they view Europe, as a culturally Christian continent, to have a unique geopolitical calling? How should those views be understood in our post-colonial context? What is the relation between religion and the idea of the nation? How have these neo-Calvinists, and more contemporary exponents of the neo-Calvinist tradition, considered the place of Islam in Europe? Does neo-Calvinism offer promising resources for human flourishing in a continent marked by a profound diversity of ethnicities, languages, cultures, forms of secularism, and religion?

Plenary speakers
Among others:
Dr. Matthew Kaemingk, Fuller Texas, Houston
Prof. Richard J. Mouw, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Media, Journalism, and Communication by Read Mercer Schuchardt

Media, Journalism, and Communication: A Student's Guide
Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition
Read Mercer Schuchardt
Crossway Books
Pbk; £8:56; 128pp.
ISBN 978-1-4335-3514-7

Media, Journalism and Communication is the latest addition to Crossway’s Reclaiming the Christian Intellectual Tradition.

Schuchardt seems to be channelling Ellul in his critique of media. He provides pertinent and apposite warning of the proliferation and all-encompassing nature of the media. This is a warning that needs to be heard and taken on-board by all students.

It has often been said we can identify someone’s worldview by what they do rather than what they think. As Schuchardt points out:

‘When times are compared, our media consumption habits, in terms of hours spent, are far more holy to us than the Sabbath, by any stretch.’
The aim of the book is ‘ to make you a more conscious user, and a less susceptible usee’. The book certainly does that. He ably demonstrates the ubiquity of media and why it matters, particularly today:

‘In the past, media was something you picked up, used, and then put down to get on with your life. Now media is your life, or at least the way you access everything else necessary to get on with your life.’

So much so that media is shaping us into its image.
‘Emojis are the new hieroglyphics’
‘Txtng is the new Hbrw’
This book will help all who read it to better discern the ideologies and assumptions behind most media (clue: it’s usually mammon).

My only gripe with the book is that it focuses on the fallen aspects of technology. And it seems, following Ellul (?), that Schuchardt regards technology as a product of the fall and not creation.
‘There was no technology in this environment [Genesis 1] because in a perfect world, you cannot improve it by inventing any form of labor saving or time-saving devices.’
What we need then is a complementary book that deals with the creative and redemptive aspects of technology and media. Nonetheless, this is an important book that demands to be read by all students, and not just students of media.

Book website:

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Smith's Awaiting the King - a review

Awaiting the King
Reforming Public Theologies
James K. A. Smith
Grand Rapids: Baker Academic
Pbk, xvii+233, £14.99
ISBN 978-0801035791

This is the third and final part of Smith’s Cultural Liturgies project. As Smith notes in the introduction ’it’s a very different book than the one I envisioned when Desiring the Kingdom was published in 2009’ (xi). Rather than being a ‘Hauerwas for Kuyperians’ it is now more a riff on Oliver O’Donovan as Smith wants to ‘work out the implications of a “liturgical” theology of culture for how we imagine and envision political engagement’ and hopes to ‘“reform” Reformed public theology, offering something of an “assist” to the tradition in order to articulate what I hope, in the end, is a catholic proposal’.

I was pleased to see his avoidance of a natural law approach that seems to be having a resurgence even among Reformed scholars. There is a renewed emphasis on church as institute. He develops a liturgical view of politics. By liturgical he means more than church liturgies. He sees them as communal love-shaping practices. And by politics, he means more than government: he evokes Aristotle's view of polis as our civic life that we share in common. His desire is that the church in its broadest sense embraces the polis, the common civic good.

The book is in one sense a warning against an over-optimistic view that Christians can easily transform culture. Particularly pertinent is his warning of a secularised Kuyperianism. Unfortunately, he doesn’t name those whose approach he criticises and I don’t recognise any of his critique in those of the Reformational stand of Kuyperianism (perhaps that’s my blind spot?). In fact, much of the critique Smith offers is an echo of that provided by some Reformational philosophers and Reformational political theorists. These all advocate a robust confessional pluralism but reject theocracy, see the need for organisations to be unfolded to develop culture, and who see the good in politics. All themes Smith seems keen on.

Smith seems to be moving away from Kuyper to embracing a more Augustinian approach shaped by O’Donovan and Hauerwas. It is a shame he hasn’t engaged more with Dooyeweerd, whose starting point for philosophy is the heart rather than the mind. Smith might have found there other (more) useful resources.