Time for a Summer Blogging Holiday

I’m going to slow down my blogging over the next two months.  I’d like to read some books that have nothing to do with theology, as well as some theological books that are difficult to blog on. Blogging can be a wonderful discipline—it forces me to read and then at the very least summarize what I’ve read and perhaps even learned—but it can also be a prison, for the same reason.  To be a successful blogger, one has to blog regularly, week after week. What this means is that you will probably notice less “substantive” articles until after Labor Day, as well as some reblogs of previously published material.  Of course, I’ve said that in the past and then ZAP! I get inspired and find myself writing a new series on something-or-other. So who knows.

I’ve already started reading a novel on Arthur and Merlin—The Pendragon by Catherine Christian. I first read it thirty years ago or perhaps even longer than that. I remember enjoying it at the time and have wondered if it was worth a revisit.  I’m very much enjoying it. I had never heard of Christian, but apparently this was the last novel she published. After I’m finished with Pendragon, perhaps I’ll read a detective mystery or start Moby Dick (not likely!) or play some chess. Eventually I want to find my way back to St Gregory Nyssen’s Life of Moses but without the pressure of having to blog on it. And after that I want to tackle Pseudo-Dionysius and the Metaphysics of Aquinas, but I definitely don’t want to blog on it. Talk about being out of my intellectual depths! If I can understand a tenth of the book, I will judge myself blessed.

I will also be commenting from time to time on Dale Tuggy’s on-going series on the Trinity, if only to keep my blogging oar in the water. I really do think that Dale is going about this the wrong way. One just doesn’t rip the Scriptures from the creedal, sacramental, and pastoral life of the Church and then ask, Does the Bible teach the Trinity?  The doctrines of the Church aren’t read off the pages of Scripture like that.  Nor will it do to blame the flourishing of the trinitarian dogma on imperial coercion. If that is all the Nicene homoousion had going for it, it wouldn’t have survived the intrigues of Byzantium or the barbarian invasions.  But more importantly, it does not explain why important theologians in the Church invented the doctrine to begin with. Why not just stick with the mediating theology of Eusebius of Caesaria?

So if you are an Eclectic Orthodoxy fan, don’t worry if you don’t see an article for a week or two. I’m still here—just chilling out and enjoying a little down-time.

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16 Responses to Time for a Summer Blogging Holiday

  1. tgbelt says:

    If you’re jumping into O’Rourke this summer, also check out: Negating Negation: Against the Apophatic Abandonment of the Dionysian Corpus by Timothy D. Knepper.

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  2. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    Haha! I think one incomprehensible book on the incomprehensible Dionysius is sufficient. 🙂

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  3. Are Judit Polgar and Paul Keres on your reading list?

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Nope.

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    • I recommend David Bronstein’s The Chess Self-Tutor. He’s an excellent writer who describes the thought processes of a chess master with wit and elegance. He truly was an artist of the chessboard. I’m only a mediocre chess player but I’ve found much to help me in this little book.

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  4. Jonathan says:

    Fr. Aidan, are you a fan generally of Arthurian/Celtic literary stuff? I have a couple of doorstoppers in that vein on my own “beach reading” list (I live in Chicago, so it’s genuine beach reading without my having to take a vacation): Evangeline Walton’s novelization of the Mabinogion and Mary Stewart’s Arthur/Merlin tetralogy, which I actually read in my early teens and look forward to discovering if I still enjoy it as I did then. It’s a very curious experience re-reading a book after a long interval (very different from reading the same thing over and over again for teaching purposes). I don’t know about you, but I seldom feel I have the leisure to indulge in re-reading, self-illuminating as it can be. There’s too much I haven’t read yet for the first time! Anyway, I wish you happy summer reading.

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Jonathan, I read the Mary Stewart books right about the same time as I read the Christian novel, as well as the Stephen Lawhead trilogy (which I gather he later expanded). I’ve been away from the Arthurian fiction since then. I am unacquainted with Evangeline Walton’s books, but you may have me hooked. I need to investigate further. 🙂

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      • I own all of the E. Walton Mabinogion books: Prince of Annwn, The Children of Llyr, The Song of Rhiannon, and The Island of the Mighty. Since I bought these in the mid 1970s, I’ve been carting them with me every time I’ve moved, but I have never read them a second time. I remember really enjoying them at first read. Hopefully, they are still in print, because I think you would like them, too.

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      • Jonathan says:

        Twenty bucks on Amazon will get you a new copy of the softcover omnibus edition of Walton’s Mabinogion from the excellent folks at Overlook. Used copies (of the omnibus, early 2000s) much cheaper.

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  5. A cheap, easy read that reframes a lot (eg Tuggy’s project) is Daniel Boyarin’s Jewish Gospels. Boyarin, a Jewish historian of early Judaism, argues that much doctrine about God that is assumed to have developed after Jesus’s Resurrection (eg Bultmann, Ehrman, Tuggy) was in fact the matrix of the apocalyptic Judaism into which Jesus was born. Jesus did not live a strange life whose meaning had to be invented with great creativity after the fact; Jesus stepped into– and doubtless reshaped– a role that had been waiting for him in circles that closely studied Daniel 7, Isaiah 53, Psalm 110, etc. This would induce paradigm shifts in several conversations, if true. Obviously, all speculations about how the Church’s faith evolved from easy belief in a heavenly Monad to hard belief in a blessed Trinity would be tossed into Lenin’s dustbin of history if some Jews believed before Jesus’s birth that there were two or more thrones in heaven. Seen through the eyes of this Berkeley talmudist, Jesus himself is not a romantic railing against loveless rules, but a Torah conservative and a brilliant halachist. Most subversively, this account makes it much harder to draw a line through the ancient world dividing Christians from Jews. Is Boyarin right?

    He makes his case. But given the uncertainties that we have not overcome, Boyarin was wise to claim the high ground by appeal to Occam’s Razor: we suppose less in thnking that the post-Resurrection Church was reshaping a rich Judaic language around Jesus than in hypothesizing with Bultmann that they were inventing some wholly new God-language that only Hellenism could have inspired. Tom Wright has been saying this for years, and Richard Bauckham’s work on the OT pseudepigrapha is building a more substantial case for a similar notion.

    But Boyarin’s book is more fun to read– a popular study of Mark with the perspective and finesse of an eminent talmudist. Because he has no dog in the fight between evangelicals and the history of religions school, he affably engages both the Early High Christology Club and the scholars of suspicion.

    Scribd has the book. I found this old talk by Tom Wright to be a good prologue and epilogue to it– http://ntwrightpage.com/Wright_JIG.pdf

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    • Agnikan says:

      “we suppose less in thnking that the post-Resurrection Church was reshaping a rich Judaic language around Jesus than in hypothesizing with Bultmann that they were inventing some wholly new God-language that only Hellenism could have inspired.”

      Wasn’t the Judaism before Jesus already influenced by Hellenism?

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      • The Judaic apocalyptic precursor to both Jesus and the Pharisees believed in ‘two thrones in heaven’ (Daniel 7, Alan Segal). To the apostles, the second throne was occupied by Jesus (Mark 14:62); to the early rabbis who transformed merkabah apocalypticism into kabbalah, it was occupied by Metatron. (Some argue that what ultimately forked the two traditions was not disagreement about Jesus himself but his followers’ belief in a third throne in heaven– the Holy Spirit.) In Daniel Boyarin’s view, this plurality of identities in a single God was a vestige of the effort to unify the creator-gods of Canaan into the single, anti-idolatrous cult that Richard Bauckham views as precluding the god-identity of any non-creator. Neither scholar’s project has any need of the hypothesis that plurality was introduced into an originally monadic god (eg Allah) from Hellenistic polytheism, because the god-language of ancient Israel was never monadic in the first place (Proverbs 8), and because the Judaic narratives of divine identity have nothing much in common with the Hellenistic metaphysics of divine nature. It has not escaped the notice of these scholars that the idea that the Jews were incapable of thinking complexly about God without Gentile help originated in a modern milieu notably hostile to their existence. But we can simply rely on Occam’s Razor here.

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  6. Will says:

    Pseudo-Dionysius is really fascinating, I hope you do blog a bit about the topic, even if only a little bit. Enjoy your vacation!

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  7. “Methinks we have hugely mistaken this matter of Life and Death. Methinks that what they call my shadow here on earth is my true substance. Methinks that in looking at things spiritual, we are too much like oysters observing the sun through the water, and thinking that thick water the thinnest of air. Me thinks my body is but the lees of my better being. In fact take my body who will, take it I say, it is not me.”

    Herman Melville – “The Whale”

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  8. Agnikan says:

    Heads up: A fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse has arisen, and his name is Jerry A. Coyne. His new book, “Faith vs. Fact: Why Science and Religion are Incompatible” (2015), briefly mentions David Bentley Hart on p. 49.

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  9. Enjoy your summer “vacation”, especially the reading. Come back to us fully recharged and loaded for blog. 😉

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