BA Books & Authors on the Web – November 8, 2013

Cover ArtThis month’s Christianity Today cover article “How Lewis Lit the Way to Better Apologetics” is taken from Michael Ward’s essay in Imaginative Apologetics.

“Lewis’s conversion was sparked (humanly speaking) by a long nighttime conversation with J. R. R. Tolkien and Hugo Dyson. They were discussing Christianity, metaphor, and myth. In a letter to Arthur Greeves (dated October 18, 1931), Lewis recounted the conversation. It is clear that questions of meaning—that is to say, of imagination—were at the heart of it.

At that point, Lewis’s problem with Christianity was fundamentally imaginative. ‘What has been holding me back . . . has not been so much a difficulty in believing as a difficulty in knowing what the doctrine meant,’ he told Greeves. Tolkien and Dyson showed him that Christian doctrines are not the main thing about Christianity. Instead, doctrines are translations of what God has expressed in ‘a language more adequate: namely the actual incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection’ of Christ.”

Jonathan Watson at the Logos Academic Blog interviewed Michael Allen, author of Justification and the Gospel.

Larry Hurtado briefly reviewed Craig Keener’s first two volumes on Acts.

Don Garlington reviewed Warren Carter’s Seven Events That Shaped the New Testament World, for RBL.

At Near Emmaus, Brain LePort reviewed The World of the New Testament, edited by Joel Green and Lee McDonald.

Byron Borger reviewed Journey toward Justice by Nicholas Wolterstorff, for the Hearts & Minds blog.

At For Christ and His Kingdom, Jordan Barrett reviewed Millard Erickson’s Christian Theology, 3rd edition.

Amanda MacInnis recommended The Suffering and Victorious Christ, by Richard Mouw and Douglas Sweeney.

Trent Nicholson reviewed Why Study History?, by John Fea.

Also, John Fea wrote an article titled “Here’s why we’re losing our democratic soul” for PennLive.

Brian at Right Lane Reflections reviewed Desiring the Kingdom, by James K.A. Smith.

At NT Exegesis, Brian Renshaw reviewed the Handbook of Women Biblical Interpreters, edited by Marion Ann Taylor and Agnes Choi.

Interview with Andrew Davison about Imaginative Apologetics – Part 2

This is the second part of our interview with Andrew Davison, editor of Imaginative Apologetics: Theology, Philosophy, and the Catholic Tradition. Read Part 1 HERE.

How are the essays in this volume representative of “imaginative apologetics?” What role does imagination have in Christian apologetics?

I can pick up here where I just left off. An account of reason worthy of the name does not stop with mathematics, logic, and the natural sciences. Reason is a feeling thing, and it is also intimately bound up with the imagination. So much so, that even my invocation of mathematics and the natural sciences just then is unfair to those disciplines; the mathematician and the scientist use their imaginations, at least if they are up to their job. This is where the philosophy comes in: the “New Atheists” and their like are hopelessly behind the times when it comes to epistemology—the theory of knowledge—and are living in a time warp of discredited logical positivism. We are among those people pointing this out.

The book presents apologetics as a matter of the imagination in at least three ways. The first is perhaps the most obvious: apologetics can, and often should, draw on works of the imagination: literature, film, and so on. Alison Milbank addresses this, as does Michael Ward in his chapter on C. S. Lewis’s apologetic method. The second point picks up the thought I have just mentioned. Imagination is not the isolated preserve of the “creative” person; it is part of what everyday reason always involves. As I remember, the poet Coleridge called the work of the creative imagination as we know it today—the sort that produces poems or novels—the “secondary imagination.” He reserved the term “primary imagination” for the sense in which all thought requires elements of exploration, sympathy, and creativity. As for the third way in which the book is imaginative, I’d point to some of the more unusual angles we take on apologetics: “imaginative angles,” we could say. These include getting at apologetics through its history, a chapter on unbelief that asks what Christians have done that has made the faith unbelievable, and a chapter on “Christian Ethics as Good News”: an approach that I think is good for both apologetics and Christian ethics.

In your essay in Imaginative Apologetics, you discuss Christian reason as distinct and attractive and then relate it to community. What is the role of Christian community in reason and apologetics?

I wonder whether the standard view of apologetics as the work of the individual—which I accept—needs to be broadened to include a sense of the church as an apologetic community. I stand by the idea put forward by figures such as Ludwig Wittgenstein, Michael Polanyi, and Alasdair MacIntyre that particular forms of reason are bound up with particular forms of community. If that is true, then an invitation to think in a Christian way cannot be separated from an invitation to live in the Christian community: the church. It seems quite possible that certain Christian claims—on forgiveness, for instance—might make no sense outside an experience of the Christian community that makes those claims. We are not asking people to adopt new abstract ideas, argued based on what they already take to be obvious; we are asking them to take on a new sense of where to start, a new sense of what is obvious, of what makes sense. This makes some fairly strong demands on the church and how her communities work on the ground. They are demands worth making, since they are what Christ already asks of us.

Andrew Davison (DPhil, University of Oxford) is the tutor in doctrine at Westcott House, University of Cambridge, in Cambridge, England. He has taught theology at St. Stephen’s House, Oxford, and is known for his writing on doctrine, mission, and the church. He is coauthor of For the Parish: A Critique of Fresh Expressions and joint editor of Lift Up Your Hearts.

For more information on Imaginative Apologetics, click HERE.

Interview with Andrew Davison about Imaginative Apologetics

This is the first part of our interview with Andrew Davison, editor of Imaginative Apologetics: Theology, Philosophy, and the Catholic Tradition.

The subtitle to this volume is “Theology, Philosophy, and the Catholic Tradition.” Why was this chosen, and how is it descriptive of the contributions in the volume?

As one reviewer commented, it would be fair to say that I mean “Catholic” in the subtitle in a sense quite close to C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity: not sectarian apologetics but rather apologetics rooted in the spacious ground of the “great tradition.” However, most of the authors in this volume are members of the Church of England who have been inspired, unashamedly, by the “catholic” roots of our Church: by the church fathers and Aquinas in particular. We’ve come across something that means something to us, and we want to share it. Five of us, in fact, are associated with the radical orthodoxy movement, which started in Cambridge at the end of the last century. To some extent the volume could have been subtitled, “Radical Orthodoxy Does Apologetics.”

For those unfamiliar with this movement, radical orthodoxy represents a new and forceful confidence in Christian doctrine, rooted in the Scriptures, which contrasts with the predominant liberalism of English theology in the decades before. It also represents a quite philosophical approach, but much more in the lyrical and “Continental” style rather than the analytic, logic-chopping tradition, which seems—unfortunately—to be growing in influence in both the United States and the United Kingdom.

Those comments already bring us to the question of philosophy. I think two comments are in order. The first is that we do not subscribe to “philosophy of religion,” by which I mean the sort of approach that puts philosophy in the driving seat, but rather to “philosophical theology,” where theology picks up philosophy and bends it into new shapes. Not all the essays are equally philosophical, and where they are, I think they’re mainly very accessible. Where they are philosophical, however, they illustrate the principle that in order to “take every thought captive to Christ,” it is necessary to attend to thought. I am convinced about this: if we ignore philosophy, then our unquestioned philosophical assumptions will set the running, and some of them will have been picked up from outside the faith. By being more philosophical, at least with the right approach, we can be more theological. (I have a book coming out in the UK later this year on this theme, called The Love of Wisdom.)

The second comment is a point I make in my contribution to this volume: an account of reason is part of the Christian heritage and therefore part of what we hold out with the gospel. In previous generations, the way Christians thought may have been more generally held across our culture than it is today and therefore less obviously something to which to draw attention. Today, there is a crisis over what it means to think; reason is sick. A theological vision of reason is therefore part of the medicine that the church has to offer.

This is worked out in the book in at least two ways. First, I am not enthusiastic about apologetics that start with rational foundations that we supposedly all share. I wish that certain ideas were more widely shared (such as confidence about causation), but since they are not—since we live in a philosophically pluralist age—we need to offer both conclusions and the very idea of a Christian frame of rational reference. Secondly, I think we make some important points about how mainstream Christian thinking and writing has absorbed some unhelpful, and actually very secular, assumptions. For instance, we allow the claims of the faith to be judged according to a very thin, pseudo-scientific, attenuated scheme of what it means to reason. I don’t think we need to defend ourselves on these terms; we can say that there is more to thinking than this. After all, even atheist critics employ a deeper sense of how we might establish truth when it comes to the question, for instance, of whether their spouse loves them.