THE HUMANITIES AND THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
“Slaughters and Miracles: A Christian View of History as Cyclic in Gregory of Tours” by Mr Benjamin Wheaton
In the late sixth century Gregory bishop of Tours wrote a large history of Gaul that remains for modern historians an important source for the period it covers. Focusing on his own times, Gregory has been seen in the past as a naïve observer who reported the brutal state of affairs in Gaul after the Fall of Rome. This impression was caused by his episodic narrative style and lurid descriptions of Frankish politics. Lately, however, scholars such as Walter Goffart and Martin Heinzelmann have challenged this perception and pointed out Gregory’s careful construction of and thoughtful purpose behind his Histories. Rather than a naïve observer reporting a barbaric time, Gregory was a serious historian who sought to place in apposition to each other the cycles of the worthwhile work of the saints and the futile struggles of the world.
Gregory’s approach to writing his Histories is instructive for the Christian historian. He made use of a significant strain of early Christian historiography characterized by the Augustinian juxtaposition of the intermingled City of God and City of Man, pioneered by writers like Orosius. This approach allowed Gregory to craft an episodic and cyclic narrative that by force of example brought out moral implications for his royal audience. Gregory made use of the cyclic nature of many biblical histories to import their motifs and message into his own history. Gregory sought by this means to show how God continued to act within history to promote virtue among humanity even amidst great evil.
“Christian History as ‘Anti-History’” by Professor William Van Arragon
This paper will consider how historians might write from an explicitly Christian perspective through an analysis of and reaction to the thought of Catholic theologian Johann Baptist Metz. Taking Metz`s concept of antihistory as a point of departure, I will ask what a historically-minded theologian might have to say about the theory and practice of Christian historians.
History, we are often told, is written by the victors, but Metz’s theology subverts this notion and suggests alternative narrative theories and priorities that might be fruitful for Christian historians to consider. Our idea of history, Metz argues, is distorted by the screening out of the importance of suffering; we tend to view history in a Darwinian sense as the history of what has prevailed through struggle. “It is of decisive importance,” says Metz, “that a kind of antihistory should develop … [and] an understanding of history in which the vanquished and destroyed alternatives would also be taken into account.” From this kind of sacramental counterfactualism or antihistory, Metz offers a definition of history “in which the vanquished and forgotten possibilities of human existence that we call ‘death’ are allowed a meaning that is not cancelled or recalled by the future course of history.”
This paper is written in conversation with Dr. Mark Sandle’s submission, ‘Writing the Antihistory of Communism.’
“Writing the ‘Anti-History’ of Communism” by Dr Mark Sandle
This paper will explore how one might go about writing a history of communism explicitly from a Christian historical perspective. The paper will set out initially some of divergent ways in which the history of communism is currently being written, before turning to sketch out an approach to writing this history which weaves Christian themes and perspectives into a narrative of “anti-History” or sacramental counter-factualism.
The paper will focus primarily on the experience of communism in the modern era, but will include a longer historical perspective too, including a discussion of early communist movements from antiquity, medieval and early modern times. The history of modern communism affords and interesting and intriguing example of the difficulties and befits of seeking to write “christian history” rather than writing about Christian History, especially in dealing with system which was explicitly and avowedly atheist, materialist and secular utopian in outlook. Particular emphasis will be placed upon the history of communism in the USSR, both communism as system and communism as idea.
In conclusion, the paper will reflect on the process of writing Christian history, of how (if at all) it differs from the currently existing narratives, the choices of inclusion/exclusion and beginning/end, the language and ideas deployed and the plot-lines and characters that take centre-stage. The ideas of “vanquished and/or destroyed alternatives” will also be incorporated.
This paper is written in conversation with Dr Will Van Arragon’s submission.
“Christian Theology of Religions as Applied to the Teaching of World Religions in Higher Education” by Dr Linda Darwish
This paper will address the issue of Christian theology of religions as applied to the teaching of world religions in higher education. How does a Christian reconcile the study and teaching of religious ideas and phenomena that do not belong to his or her identity as a Christian? One common typology that has dominated Christian thought since not long after its inception in the mid-1980s is that of exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism, to which some add universalism. Each of these positions may be expanded or contracted to accommodate a more textured approach. Although its primary point of reference is Christianity, the typology has also served the field of religious studies more generally. It may be inferred that due to its sharing of basic categories of thinking about the religious Other this approach can easily function independently of the Christian context. In its new home of the secular academy, exclusivism and inclusivism have been largely discredited and thus, for a ll intents and purposes, been rendered redundant in favour of pluralism as the new orthodoxy for a tolerant inter-religious society.
The shortcomings of the three-fold typology have led Christian scholars to develop approaches that honour the theological integrity of the Christian message in its encounter with other religions and peoples of other faiths while also respecting diversity. One approach, exemplified in the work of Luke Bretherton, is the Christian praxis of hospitality. Bretherton presents an exposition of the Christian tradition of hospitality as expressive of vulnerability, self-offering, and witness and suggests that this tradition-specific framework offers greater potential for meaningful engagement with the Other than does the tolerance anticipated by pluralism. In this paper, I wish to examine and expand upon the application of Bretherton’s work to the Christian encounter with other religions, particularly Islam, in teaching and scholarship.
“From Marilyn Manson to Amos: A Theology of Religious and Cultural Tolerance from Amos 2.1-3” by Dr Bill Anderson
Amos 2.1-3 is a bizarre text which deals with an act of desecration: The King of Moab burning the King of Edom’s bones. The shocking question this text raises is: Why would YHWH the One True God and Savior of Israel care about how one pagan king treated another dead pagan king? This is especially problematic when YHWH is so condemnatory of all other religions and cultural practices—both in the Book of Amos specifically and the Old Testament generally.
This paper attempts, on the basis of exegesis and theology, to balance an uncompromising Christian exclusive monotheism and soteriology with religious and cultural tolerance. It begins with a detailed exegesis and translation of Amos 2.1-3. The paper then makes a careful analysis of the text in the context of the Book of Amos and in the wider context of the Old Testament as a whole. It will demonstrate the Old Testament position of exclusivism in relation to YHWH as the One and Only True God and Savior in the context of false idolatry all around Israel (as Amos and the OT see it). This paper will, in both the context of the Book of Amos and the wider context of the Old Testament, demonstrate the theological principle of religious and cultural tolerance without compromising the exclusive monotheism and soteriology supported by them.
A theological application of a theology of religious and cultural tolerance will then be demonstrated in a 21st Century Western context—where Pluralism, Political Correctness and Inclusivism threaten the boundaries of orthodox Christianity—from without (Postmodern Philosophy) and within (Liberal Theology). In turn, this paper argues that orthodox Christianity with its exclusive monotheism and soteriology must be tolerated by justice.
“Towards Recovering a ‘Full-Bodied’ Eschatology in the Funeral Liturgy Through Hymnody” by Mrs Ruth McDonnell
This paper addresses the concern that the modern Christian funeral has lost its eschatological thrust. As cultural influences have crept into the Christian funeral service, it has become for many a remembrance, a commemoration of life, and a time to cast off the body and allow the spirit or “the true self” to escape. Rather the purpose of the funeral liturgy is to proclaim promises of God, particularly the resurrection, in the face of death. Hymnody may either support or detract from this proclamation. In the funeral rite four hymns are indicated. They should fit into the particular flow of the service—remembrance of baptism, the Word, and the promise of resurrection. In order to provide context for the discussion of the way that hymnody contributes to or subtracts from the message of the funeral liturgy, the paper describes some of the burial practices as recorded in scripture as well as the funeral practice of the early church.
These demonstrate that the care provided for the body in these rituals may be interpreted as a result of the eschatological hope for the resurrection of the body. The modern funeral liturgy is also examined for its liturgical movement and eschatological outlook. Suggestions are made for ways to further highlight the eschatological focus of the funeral liturgy. Finally the function of hymnody in the service is discussed, and several common funeral hymns analyzed theologically. Recommendations are made for hymn selection and their placement in the funeral service as a way to strengthen the eschatological vitality of the service.
“The ‘Two-Edged Sword’ – The Epistle to the Hebrews as a Counter-Culture Protest” by Dr Steven Muir
Scholars who try to estimate the first-century audience of The Epistle to the Hebrews usually consider the abundance of Jewish (particularly ancient Israelite) motifs and come to the conclusion that the audience is best labeled “Jewish-Christian.” I suggest, as have a few other scholars, that the arguments of the text might equally be addressed to a Gentile Christian audience, particularly the sort known as “Gentile God-fearers” (those who were sympathetic to the monotheism, ethics and community sense of Judaism and who had affiliated to some extent to a synagogue or Jewish assembly).
In an earlier published work (Muir 2008), I examined the use of the Greek term karaktēr (impression, image) and found that it had significant connotations of Roman imperial rule and the cult of the emperor. I proposed that the use of this term (unique in the New Testament) in Hebrews 1:3 in part can be understood as a veiled but powerful critique of propaganda of the Roman Imperial system. In my current research, I revisit that issue and consider the broad implications of many features of the text, when the Roman foreground is held as a foil and a Gentile or at least a mixed group is considered as the target audience.
The Epistle of Hebrews is a complex theological work – and a subtle yet highly subversive tract aimed against those earthly powers who would claim absolute power or authority. This issue continues to face Christians today.
“Choosing Christian Drama” by Mr Daniel vanHeyst
Who do we serve? Play choice for production on the Christian campus. Instructors in Drama at Christian post-secondary institutions who select plays for public production are engaged in a delicate balancing act. They are looking for drama which demonstrate that their art form can be a powerful reflection of a worldview that acknowledges the truth about sin’s damage in human lives, while offering the hope of redemption and renewal. They search for excellence in playwright’s craft, knowing that they can find truthful yet hopeful dramatic stories from writers who would not identify themselves as Christian believers (as defined by their particular faith-based educational institution.) These teachers are nurturing the artistic and personal growth of drama students who may need to be challenged by the characters and situations found in the production script. Students performing in the same show may vary widely in their readiness to cope with those challenges. A well-rounded theatre education will involve students in a range of plays differing in style, historical period, and subject matter. In some schools, the music department may be collaborating in production, and those folks will have their own set of teaching, artistic, and academic concerns. Many other possible collaborations with other disciplines are possible by means of a theatre production, and the institution may be actively promoting and rewarding such interdisciplinary initiatives. The interests of the on and off-campus audiences often don’t match well, making it difficult to choose subject matter or stage genre that will have broad appeal. The institution’s leaders and public representatives are anxious to advance the institution’s mandate and protect or enhance public image. Since the public attending the plays will tend to judge these play choices as representative of the institution’s values, a risky choice of script may offend stalwart supporters, or mislead prospective ones.
Last, but certainly not least in the drama professor’s play choice decision factors are heavily influenced by his/her own tastes, research agenda, and abilities. This presentation will take the form of a panel discussion of this complex issue with at least three representatives of Christian post-secondary drama programs. These will include the proposer Daniel vanHeyst of King’s, Maki Van Dyke of Rosebud School of the Arts, Randy Ritz of Concordia University College, with Barrett Hileman of Rocky Mountain College and Angela Konrad of Trinity Western University as alternates.
“‘True Stars in the Firmament of History’: Pope Benedict XVI as Christian Historian and Theologian of History”by Dr Louis Rouleau
From March 2006 to April 2011, Pope Benedict XVI offered a series of weekly catechetical talks highlighting significant figures in the history of the Church. At the outset, he announced his intention to examine “the mystery of the relation between Christ and the Church” by reflecting on the experience of the Apostles. He then continued with addresses on other prominent figures in the history of the Christian tradition, including the Fathers and Doctors of the eastern and western Churches, as well as the most significant women saints.
This paper describes the scope of these addresses and assesses Benedict’s approach to the history of Christianity. Rather than merely excavating the vestiges of a distant past or boasting in its triumphalistic glories, Benedict’s perspective on Christian history is rooted in his theological conviction that Christianity is a present event that manifests itself in history and transforms it. These addresses are thus a significant part of Benedict’s effort to repropose Christianity in the modern world and they reveal important aspects of his understanding of the papal office.
“Is Free Will an Illusion?”by Gary Colwell
It would be grand to be able to prove that libertarian free will is not an illusion, but I don’t think I can accomplish that goal. To do so might be nearly as difficult as proving that God does not exist. What is not out of reach, however, is constructing an argument whose conclusion is that some of the main attempts to show that free will is an illusion founder upon a conceptual confusion. Here again it would be nice to be able to say that this conceptual confusion is itself an illusion, but that would not be an accurate diagnosis of the mistake. The confusion may be seen on two levels: a procedural level and a logical level. First, in order for the argument from illusion to be cogent it is not enough for it simply to pronounce something as being an illusion without being able to say what that something is an illusion of. The proponent of the argument must, in other words, be able to accurately identify the real state of affairs against which the something in question is said to be an illusion.
David Hume, Friedrich Nietzsche and Richard Taylor, among others, have all said that free will is an illusion; yet none of them has seen what their claim implies; indeed, what it demands. And this leads to the deeper but directly related logical problem: that of failing to see that some concepts are irremediably dependent upon others for their sustenance: they are parasitic concepts. The idea of something being a counterfeit is a parasitic concept; so also is the idea of something being an illusion. The central question of my essay, therefore, will be this: if free will is the parasite, what is the host? The host, it should be noted, cannot be something as dependent or derivative as the parasite itself. It cannot be just an imaginative projection or a fiction of some kind. The most sustained argument for the view that libertarian free will is an illusion appears in the book Free Will and Illusion by Saul Smilansky. I shall take his argument into account as I construct my own.
“Religious Language, Religious Ritual and Rene Girard’s Mimetic Violence in Sheila Watson’s The Double Hook“by Mr Michael Gillingham
Sheila Watson, in her novella The Double Hook, depicts a tiny and isolated community tumbling into violence and anarchy. The community, lacking a shared mythical or religious language and shared mythical or religious rituals, is fracturing into physical and sexual violence. This violence can be examined in light of Rene Girard’s theory of mimetic desire. Religious or mythical ritual, in Girard’s work, serves to curb and contain mimetic desire’s drift into violence as a scapegoat is punished and peace is restored. Girard argues that the death of Jesus, described in the Biblical account, destabilizes the scapegoat mechanism, suggesting that the scapegoat might actually be innocent. Watson’s fictional community, existing in time after the Christ event, is unable to address or restrain violence related to mimetic desire. The Old Lady’s death, at the beginning of the novella, does not restore peace to the community.
Characters in the story like the Widow Wagner and Ara, as they seek to survive in a harsh natural environment, see evidence of abandonment by the judgemental God of the Old Testament. Other characters read in the harsh environment the ambivalent handiwork of the mythical Coyote. It is Felix Prosper, though, who carries within himself memories of both Christian ritual and Christian language. Prosper speaks words of peace and forgiveness. Prosper provides hospitality and help for the pregnant girl Lenchen and the blinded man Kip. Prosper’s move from inaction to service provides an incarnated Christian mythology for the community, suggesting hope.
As Girard argues, the Christ event and the Christian message has destroyed the power of the scapegoat mechanism to restore peace. In these post-Christian times, Canadian society has opportunity to draw upon the richness and resources of the Christian story and Christian ritual. Failure to do so pushes us toward an apocalyptic violence that religious or mythical ritual is unable to restrain. Watson’s novella The Double Hook suggests both the hope and the danger that we live in as we exist in this time in Canada.
“‘Echoes of God’s Voice’: Reflections on the Utility of Christian Paradigms in History”by Dr Kyle Jantzen
Ever since the rise of Enlightenment historiography, Christian scholars have struggled to define what earlier Providential historians took for granted, namely the relationship between their spiritual and theological commitment to the work of God in the world and their historical commitment to accurately reconstructing and interpreting the past. Through much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, historians committed themselves to scientific history, focusing on the ever more limited aims of properly interpreting primary historical sources and reconstructing past events as objectively as possible. In recent decades, however, no doubt under the influence of postmodernity, younger Christian historians have become increasingly disenchanted with the strictures of academic historiography, and have begun to experiment with ways to connect their Christian perspectives to their historical research. This paper explores two such experiments–one rooted in two biblical texts advising Christians how to think about the past and the other emerging out of N. T. Wright’s contemporary theological description of the nature of Christianity and the ways God speaks in the world. Connecting these biblical and theological reflections with historical research on German Protestant Christianity in the Third Reich, the paper will consider how uniquely Christian paradigms might contribute to or constrain the historian’s effort to make meaning of the past effectively.
“The Christian Historian as an Agent of Christ’s Redemption” by Ms Kara Boda
In a world where a plethora of evils reign, often the very powers of sin that enslave humanity are hidden, so that our blindness is a plague that perpetuates our enslavement. In Ephesians 6:12, Paul describes the Christian’s duty to struggle against these spiritual forces of evil. On this point, Michel Foucault and Paul share common ground, for the French philosopher sees humanity’s task as the unveiling of invisible structures of governance so that coercive and destructive power can be resisted. Taking a Pauline-Foucauldian approach, then, the Christian historian’s task is to study the past in order to illuminate and resist sinful structures of evil that govern humanity in the present. While to many, young Floridian Trayvon Martin’s murder in February was a senseless tragedy, the study of age and race-defined delinquency discourses from the early twentieth century illuminates evil structures of governance in present society and begs the question: In what ways does We stern society today tie together ethnicity and criminal behavior in a manner that cultivates racial discrimination and hatred? The Christian historian’s task is to unveil such structures and illuminate the public so that resistance becomes a possibility. The reality of the human temporal experience is that though Christ has inaugurated the kingdom and is working out his salvation amongst humanity, evil continues to enslave and triumph. Consequently, Christian historians are called to be agents of Christ’s redemption and join the struggle against the powers of this dark world, even as we eagerly await Christ’s return and evil’s defeat.
“Evidence of Things Unseen: Words and the Christian Faith in Contemporary Canadian Poetry”by Dr Neil Querengesser
Tracing Christian Faith in Contemporary Canadian Poetry Despite a popular characterization of our age as a plethora of competing ideologies absent any ultimate truth, the reality is more nuanced. In the Canadian literary context, this reality is engaged by a small but significant number of contemporary poets, such as Margaret Avison, Susan McCaslin, John Reibetanz, Tim Lilburn and others, who invite us to ponder aspects of faith and matters of the spirit in a way that resists even as it welcomes challenges from both the implicit pluralism of post-structuralism on the one hand and the confident tenets of religious orthodoxy on the other. Theirs is not the poetry of platitudes, or of comforting religious cliches. Rather, through paradox, ambiguity, and self-reflexivity, such poets reach out for expression in often challenging syntax, imagery, and metaphors that may even at times appear to belie their spiritual focus. This poetry often embodies reflections on the limitations of its own materials– words–even as it subtly insists on and points toward on a reality beyond those words, a reality signified indirectly but persuasively through a complex appeal to various aspects of the reader’s intellect, heart, and faith. In the best of such poetry, its language, in the words of Northrop Frye, “. . . begins to ripple out into the remotest mysteries of what it expresses and clarifies but does not ‘say’” (Double Vision 83).
“Four Quartets, Apophatic Poetics, and the ‘Intolerable Wrestle with Words and Meanings’”by Jon deTombe
This paper aims to explore the potential for disenchantment inherent in the abstractions of spiritual discourse by exploring the “intolerable wrestle / With words and meanings” enacted by T. S. Eliot in Four Quartets. The spiritual traditions and languages employed by poet acquire meaning within their histories and textual contexts, but risk being emptied of meaning when encountered as text. This risk is increased by the poet’s invoking of apophatic mysticism.
Cleo McNelly Kearns identifies an apophatic poetics at work in Four Quartets, suggesting that the poet, pursuing a type of via negativa, is “quick to juxtapose his invitations to the negative way with equally pressing invitations to a positive alternative.” With such a poetics, the play between positive and negative, which mirrors a similar play between presence and absence throughout the text, serves to destabilize structures of meaning. Locating such a poetics in the mystical tradition, a process of language is suggested analogous to the dissolution of the subject into the divine Other sought in negative theology.
Acknowledging these ideas, this paper argues that Four Quartets attempts to enact the via negativa and that the dissolution of language is meant to reveal the possibility of a farther signified beyond the limits of signification. The reader, then, participates in the apophasis performed in language, being led to the final assertion that “all shall be well, and / All manner of thing shall be well.” Particular attention is given to the poet’s encounter with the stranger in “Little Gidding” Part II, wherein the exchange between the two figures parallels the reader’s engagement with the text.
“A Voice from the Wilderness: The Challenging Call of Margaret Atwood”by Dr Tina Trigg
Since her emergence in the 1960s as a startling new literary voice, Margaret Atwood has become a representative figure of contemporary Canadian society, developing an international reputation as a literary icon. While turning her hand to poetry, short and long fiction, essays, speeches, and cultural commentary, Atwood continues to turn an eerily perceptive critical eye to the world she inhabits.Her work overtly challenges the underpinnings of our society – gender relations, cultural stereotypes, capitalist ideologies,and social roles – while also suggesting a deeply troubling lack of spiritual direction, embodied as Humanism.
Drawing from a variety of genres, this discussion will propose that the discomfort often elicited by Atwood’s work derives not from a disjunction of perspective between her stark, provocative representation of Canadian society and Christian faith but, conversely, from their startling concurrence. Atwood employs a Bakhtinian model of polyphony whereby the texts inherently compete for authorial voice, highlighting the ambiguity of language in its constitutive power and unsettling our readily expectations of interpretive power. Ironically, Atwood’s work disallows absolute hermeneutic control by the very process of carefully controlling the multiple narrative strands. Simultaneously, the texts in their multiplicity demand our readily engagement and, at times disturbingly, insist on our complicity in the world they critique. Through the criticisms inherent in selected poetry and prose, we will examine how Atwood’s Humanistic representation of Canadian society challenges and yet often confirms Christian views. If Atwood is a voice from the wilderness, what hope does she proclaim and how do we, as readers, responsibly respond?
“Post-Colonial Theory and the Christian Scholar”by Dr Philip Mingay
For all its emphasis on reclaiming the voices lost in the powerful discourses of empire, post-colonial theory and criticism frequently relies on a demonizing, stereotypical interpretation of the colonizer and the Christian in order to pursue its scholarly aims. At first glance, such stereotypes appear obvious, as the conflation between imperialism and Christianity initiated early post-colonial readings of literature in the 1980s, with the Bible functioning as a “source myth in western civilization for motifs of deconstruction and salvation—destruction of the many, salvation of the few” (Ashcroft et al. 98). However, recent post-colonial scholarship quite rightly avoids any theory that can apply to all people with varied colonial backgrounds and encounters; meaningful scholarship lies in the local.
Unfortunately, this well-meaning agenda has led to what John McLeod describes as the post-colonial “ghetto for literature from once-colonized countries within English departments and degree schemes” (249). The teaching of post-colonial literature, then, has become a difficult one, as single courses with selective ‘representative texts” invariably make one text stand for the whole, and the Christian potentially remaining the stereotypical demon that perpetuates the binary of Otherness. Using examples from my own teaching of post-colonial literature, in particular Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, I will ask how the Christian post-colonial scholar can negotiate what has been described as academic neo-colonialism. What role does the Christian scholar at a Christian institution play in the dissemination of post-colonial theory, and how can he or she avoid the various pitfalls of this important theoretical and pedagogical field?
“The Truth about Truth: A case for the Humanities in the Christian University”by Jeffrey Dudiak
In this philosophical investigation I explore a sense of truth that is both more foundational and more comprehensive than the derivative and attenuated sense of the term that predominates in the modern university, and one that opens us to a concern for truth that is the special provenance of the Humanities. My argument will be that facts, that is to say truths in the scientific sense (as claims to matters of fact), always, if tacitly, refer beyond themselves to that which makes them true, toward a concern over what I call the truthfulness of our truths. At this tacit level, truth, most primordially, needs to be thought neither as a noun, nor as an adjective (the predominant employments in our philosophical/scientific tradition), but as an adverb – as qualifying acts (as ways of and to life), not facts. A trace of this sense of truth, I argue, still animates our language. A true friend, like true love, even being true to your school, is not first of all a matter of fact; the issue is not of the head but of the heart. What makes a friend, or a love, true, is a disposition perhaps best called “fidelity.” To act in the truth is not to base one’s life on truths, but to be faithful. The Humanities in the Christian university, I think, might fruitfully be thought of as the domain of experiments in faithfulness, as explorations not “of,” but “in,” the truth.
“Religion and Literature”by Mr Graham Nickel
Many conservative Christians, having established the entire field of literary theory as falling on the “liberal” side of a culture war and sensing the subject to be unnecessary at best and downright dangerous at worst, have largely ceased to speak of a distinctly evangelical literary theory at all. Though it must be noted that scholars such as DavidLyle Jeffrey, Luke Ferretter, Alan Davis and Christian R. Davis have made important contributions to the field in recent years, many Christians today are still left wondering whether they should have anything to do with non-devotional literary texts.
T.S. Eliot, though no evangelical, has begun emerge in recent years as an intriguing entry point into this debate for committed Christians. Though still highly-regarded as a poet, Eliot’s critical theory, in the last decades of the twentieth century, has been dismissed by many scholars as an arch-conservative artifact of a reactionary, new-critical world. In response, he has been embraced by the some on the Christian right for almost the same superficial reasons. Some of the lesser known aspects of Eliot’s theoretical writing, however, describe a far more subtle perspective; the essay so frequently quoted by evangelicals, “Religion and Literature” is a fascinating example. Eliot is able to achieve something in this brief essay that has eluded many scholars since: a theoretical framework that is rooted in an established, confessional reality that not only acknowledges the necessary imprecision of human access to knowledge and truth, but paradoxically finds its greatest strength in that very ambivalence.
“Vampires, from Medieval Monster to Modern Messiah: The Religious Transformation of the Vampire Archetype”by Ms Aleena Pawlik
Vampires have fascinated people from around the world for centuries. It seems however, as if this fascination with vampires has become more prevalent in today’s pop culture. Their presence is found in such mediums as: literature, including novels, short stories and comic books, in movies and TV shows, and even in video games. Vampire culture has become a major commodity. With this increase in popularity of all things vampire, the concept of this character of antiquity is not only very common, but has surprisingly become increasingly more palatable; often being found playing the role of protagonist, as opposed to the traditional role of antagonist. Historically, vampires have been considered evil; however, looking at the modern vampire, more and more frequently, they have been transformed into modern messiahs.
This transformation has been made by attributing to them: souls, morals, the ability to love, and in some cases even guardian or savior characteristics. This paper will evaluate the historical premise of the vampire and how it has changed over time through the comparison of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, and Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series in addition to other traditional and transitional works. From this historical perspective, this paper will seek to understand religion’s role in the transformation of vampires from monsters to messiahs.
“Humanities Future: Learning from South Africa’s Project for a New Humanism”by Dr Stephen Martin
In February, 2010, 25 scholars, poets, and activists representing a spectrum of disciplines from the natural and social sciences, and the arts met in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Convened by noted theologian and Bonhoeffer scholar John de Gruchy, this conference debated the question of a new humanism for South Africa. Its rationale was a common concern that the social revolution that drew the international and South African community together against apartheid, and which culminated in the 1994 election of Nelson Mandela, had stalled. It had done this because of a lack of sustainable vision and a forgetting of the movements that had given the new society birth. The purpose of this gathering was to examine the legacies of classical, European, and African humanism. The fact that this was convened as a gathering of artists, scholars, and activists under the leadership of a theologian was not insignificant. Neither was the fact that representatives of the so-called “hard sciences” were sitting alongside scholars in the humanities to be taken lightly. Nor was the fact that the gathering included Christians and Agnostics, Muslims and Marxists. What was the significance of a theologian being involved in such an enterprise? What did it say about the reconciliation of the disciplines to each other, and the university to the everyday? Finally, what does it say about the contemporary fragmentation of the Canadian university, and its alienation from humanistic concerns?
“Human Affirmative Statements about God”by Mr Daniel Benjamin van den Bosch
The thesis of this paper is to assert that it is possible for human beings to make affirmative statements about God. We will discuss how it is that our language, which necessarily arises out of our experience of finite, created things, can be applied to the infinite God, and still retain truth and meaning. Initially, we will establish how it is possible to gain knowledge of God. We will then discuss the application of words to things, and distinguish between the thing which is signified by a term, and the mode in which the term signifies. We will discuss three ways in which a term can be applied to multiple subjects, namely by equivocation, univocation, and by analogy. The approaches of various thinkers to this question will be considered and evaluated, notably Maimonides, Scotus, Aquinas, McInerny, and Alston. The position of Aquinas will be defended, namely that it is possible to speak truthfully of God by way of analogy.
Analogy can be broken into at least two distinct types, that of attribution and that of proportion. We will support the view that it is by way of analogy of proportion that it becomes possible to speak about God. We apply the same terms to God as we do to creatures when we speak about Him, but we should understand that these statements are true only because they refer to a perfection of being which exists in both God and creature, though it exists in God in a higher way. We will discuss the role of God’s simplicity as it relates to our argument, and how we can get around the fact that all affirmative statements about God seem to entail a false distinction between God and one of His attributes.
“The Connection Between Critical Thinking & Ethical Reasoning (and Why We Should Care)”by Dr Joanne Neal
There exists an intimate connection between the skills of critical thinking and ethical reasoning. But what, exactly, do we understand “critical thinking” and “ethical reasoning” to be? How does this understanding potentially impact the Christian Church and society in general? What is the imperative for post secondary educators to develop these skills in their students? This paper considers these questions at the post secondary level and includes suggestions for curriculum, instruction, and assessment.