"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Friday, July 31, 2020

Theology and Psychology

Princeton University Press recently put into my hands a collection I am looking forward to reading: On Theology and Psychology: The Correspondence of C.G. Jung and Adolf Keller, ed. Marianne Jehle-Wildberger (PUP, 2020), 336pp.

Before I get around to reading and reflecting on this new book, let me point out to those who didn't see it my interview late last year with Pia Sophia Chaudhari about her wonderful, insightful book on Jung and Orthodox patristic theology.

This new collection of correspondence, the publisher says, offers us
Jung's correspondence with one of the twentieth century's leading theologians and ecumenicists.
On Theology and Psychology brings together C. G. Jung's correspondence with Adolf Keller, a celebrated Protestant theologian who was one of the pioneers of the modern ecumenical movement and one of the first religious leaders to become interested in analytical psychology. Their relationship spanned half a century, and for many years Keller was the only major religious leader to align himself with Jung and his ideas. Both men shared a lifelong engagement with questions of faith, and each grappled with God in his own distinctive way.
Presented here in English for the first time are letters that provide a rare look at Jung in dialogue with a theologian. Spanning some fifty years, these letters reveal an extended intellectual and spiritual discourse between two very different men as they exchange views on the nature of the divine, the compatibility of Jungian psychology and Christianity, the interpretation of the Bible and figures such as Jesus and Job, and the phenomenon of National Socialism. Although Keller was powerfully attracted to Jung's ideas, his correspondence with the famed psychiatrist demonstrates that he avoided discipleship. Both men struggled with essential questions about human existence, spirituality, and well-being, and both sought common ground where the concerns of psychologists and theologians converge.
Featuring an illuminating introduction by Marianne Jehle-Wildberger, On Theology and Psychology offers incomparable insights into the development of Jung's views on theology and religion, and a unique window into a spiritual and intellectual friendship unlike any other.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Religion and Patriotism in Russia

The field of post-Soviet religious studies is an ever-expanding one, as books noted on here recently continue to show. Here is another recently published scholarly collection: Religion, Expression, and Patriotism in Russia: Essays on Post-Soviet Society and the Stateeds. Kaarina Aitamurto, Sanna Turoma, and Slobodanka Vladiv-Glover (Ibidem Press, 2019), 220pp.

About this book the publisher tells us this:
The 2010s saw an introduction of legislative acts about religion, sexuality, and culture in Russia, which caused an uproar of protests. They politicized areas of life commonly perceived as private and expected to be free of the state's control. As a result, political activism and radical grassroots movements engaged many Russians in controversies about religion and culture and polarized popular opinion in the capitals and regions alike.
This volume presents seven case studies that probe into the politics of religion and culture in today's Russia. The contributions highlight the diversity of Russia's religious communities and cultural practices by analyzing Hasidic Jewish identities, popular culture sponsored by the Orthodox Church, literary mobilization of the National Bolshevik Party, cinematic narratives of the Chechen wars, militarization of political Orthodoxy, and moral debates caused by opera as well as film productions. The authors draw on a variety of theoretical approaches and methodologies, including opinion surveys, ethnological fieldwork, narrative analysis, Foucault's conceptualization of biopower, catachrestic politics, and sociological theories of desecularization.
The volume’s contributors are Sanna Turoma, Kaarina Aitamurto, Tomi Huttunen, Susan Ikonen, Boris Knorre, Irina Kotkina, Jussi Lassila, Andrey Makarychev, Elena Ostrovskaya, and Mikhail Suslov.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Solzhenitsyn and American Culture

The great University of Notre Dame Press just sent me advance page proofs of a book set for release in October: D.P. Deavel and J.H. Wilson, eds., Solzhenitsyn and American Culture: the Russian Soul in the West (UNDP, October 2020), 400pp.

The entire second part, consisting of four chapters, explicitly looks at the relationship between Solzhenitsyn and Russian Orthodoxy. About this collection the publisher further tells us this:
For many Americans of both right and left political persuasions, the Russian bear is more of a bugbear. On the right, the country is still mentally represented by Soviet domination. For those on the left, it is a harbor for reactionary values and neo-imperial visions. The reality, however, is that, despite Russia’s political failures, its rich history of culture, religion, and philosophical reflection―even during the darkest days of the Gulag―have been a deposit of wisdom for American artists, religious thinkers, and political philosophers probing what it means to be human in America.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn stands out as the key figure in this conversation, as both a Russian literary giant and an exile from Russia living in America for two decades. This anthology reconsiders Solzhenitsyn’s work from a variety of perspectives―his faith, his politics, and the influences and context of his literature―to provide a prophetic vision for our current national confusion over universal ideals. In Solzhenitsyn and American Culture: The Russian Soul in the West, David P. Deavel and Jessica Hooten Wilson have collected essays from the foremost scholars and thinkers of comparative studies who have been tracking what Americans have borrowed and learned from Solzhenitsyn as well as his fellow Russians. The book offers a consideration of what we have in common―the truth, goodness, and beauty America has drawn from Russian culture and from masters such as Solzhenitsyn―and will suggest to readers what we can still learn and what we must preserve. The book will interest fans of Solzhenitsyn and scholars across the disciplines, and it can be used in courses on Solzhenitsyn or Russian literature more broadly.
Contributors: David P. Deavel, Jessica Hooten Wilson, Nathan Neilson, Eugene Vodolazkin, David Walsh, Matthew Lee Miller, Ralph C. Wood, Gary Saul Morson, Edward E. Ericson, Jr., Micah Mattix, Joseph Pearce, James F. Pontuso, Daniel J. Mahoney, William Jason Wallace, Lee Trepanier, Peter Leithart, Dale Peterson, Julianna Leachman, Walter G. Moss, and Jacob Howland..

Friday, July 24, 2020

Original Sin? Guilt? Neither?

Is there a topic more prone to abuse at the hands of tendentious pamphleteers and apologists than original sin? Is there a figure more prone to being turned into a theological grotesque than Augustine of Hippo, whether by Calvinist or Orthodox apologists? I confess I have no patience with these games. Nor do I have the least patience for those denying belief in original sin, evidence of which is manifestly available as soon, far, and near as the eye can see.

Along comes a new book that puts Christians of different traditions into dialogue with one another on this topic, and it includes (as you would expect) strong reflections and rebuttals from the venerable Orthodox scholar Andrew Louth alongside several others in Original Sin and the Fall: Five Views, eds. J. B. Stump and Chad Meister (IVP Academic, June 2020), 200pp.

About this book the publisher tells us this:
"What is this that you have done?" Throughout the church's history, Christians have largely agreed that God's good creation of humanity was marred by humanity's sinful rebellion, resulting in our separation from God and requiring divine intervention in the saving work of Christ. But Christians have disagreed over many particular questions surrounding humanity's fall, including the extent of original sin, the nature of the fall, the question of guilt, how to interpret the narratives from Genesis, and how these questions relate to our understanding of human origins and modern science. This Spectrum Multiview book presents five views on these questions: Augustinian-Reformed, Moderate Reformed, Wesleyan, Eastern Orthodox, and a Reconceived view. Each contributor offers both an articulation of their own view and responses to the other views in question. The result is a robust reflection on one of the most central―and controversial―tenets of the faith. Views and Contributors:
  • An Augustinian-Reformed View (Hans Madueme, Covenant College)
  • A Moderate Reformed View (Oliver Crisp, The University of St. Andrews)
  • A Wesleyan View (Joel B. Green, Fuller Theological Seminary)
  • An Eastern Orthodox View (Andrew Louth, Durham University)
  • A Reconceived View (Tatha Wiley, University of St. Thomas)

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Orthodox Revivalism in Russia

My students, being American, always comment on their puzzlement at Russians who identify as Orthodox but rarely if ever darken the door of a church, frequent the sacraments, or indeed have themselves or family members baptized at all. That phenomenon is front and centre in a book set for release this fall: Milena Benovska, Orthodox Revivalism in Russia: Driving Forces and Moral Quests (Routledge, October 2020), 240pp.

About this book the publisher tells us this:
Orthodoxy has achieved a large scale revival in Russia following the collapse of Communism. However, paradoxically, although there is a high level of identification with Orthodoxy, there is in fact a low level of church attendance. This book, based on in depth ethnographic fieldwork, explores the social background and moral attitudes of the "little flock" of believers who actively participate in religious life. It reveals that the complex moral beliefs of the faithful have a disproportionately high impact on Russian society overall; that among the faithful there is a strong emphasis on striving for personal perfection; but that also there are strong collective ideas concerning religious nationalism and the synergy between the secular and the religious.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Muslims in Russia

My favourite course to teach focuses on Eastern Christian encounters with Islam. We look at a number of countries with substantial Orthodox presence alongside Islam--both historic and current--and so that includes of course Russia, which presents a very different series of encounters from, say, Egypt or Lebanon. A new book looks especially at the jurisprudence of those encounters in the Romanov empire:  Sharīʿa in the Russian Empire: The Reach and Limits of Islamic Law in Central Eurasia, 1550-1917,
eds. Paolo Sartori, Danielle Ross (Edinburgh University Press, 2020), 384pp.

Some of the virtues of this book, according to the publisher, are that it

  • Studies the formulation, transmission and application of Islamic law under Russian colonial rule
  • Presents the theory and application of Islamic law in the Volga-Ural region, the Kazakh Steppe, the north Caucasus and Central Asia from the 1550s to 1917
  • Draws comparisons between Islamic law in Russia and elsewhere in the colonial world
  • Based upon important, but largely unstudied print and manuscript sources in Arabic, Persian and the Turkic languages
  • Brings together the work of an international collective of scholars of Islam in Russia

Additionally the publisher says this:
This book looks at how Islamic law was practiced in Russia from the conquest of the empire’s first Muslim territories in the mid-1500s to the Russian Revolution of 1917, when the empire’s Muslim population had exceeded 20 million. It focuses on the training of Russian Muslim jurists, the debates over legal authority within Muslim communities and the relationship between Islamic law and ‘customary’ law. Based upon difficult to access sources written in a variety of languages (Arabic, Chaghatay, Kazakh, Persian, Tatar), it offers scholars of Russian history, Islamic history and colonial history an account of Islamic law in Russia of the same quality and detail as the scholarship currently available on Islam in the British and French colonial empires.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Syria in the Crusades

If you have any interest in the history and rise of Islam, and of its encounters with Eastern Christians, and especially of the Crusades, then the name of Carole Hillenbrand needs to be on your bibliography. Her previous works, including her very large earlier book, The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives, are rich in detail.

She has a new book out, an impressive and diverse scholarly collection: Syria in Crusader Times: Conflict and Co-Existence, ed. Carole Hillenbrand (Edinburgh University Press, 2019), 400pp.
About this collection the publisher tells us this:
Presenting numerous interconnected insights into life in Greater Syria in the twelfth century, this book covers a wide range of themes relating to Crusader-Muslim relations. Some chapters deal with various literary sources, including little-known Crusader chronicles, a jihad treatise, a lost Muslim history of the Franks, biographies, letters and poems. Other chapters look at material culture, from coins to urban development, internal relations between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims and between Crusader and Oriental Christians, and the role of the Turkmen. New insights into the career of Saladin are revealed, for example through the work of a little-known propagandist at his court, and Saladin's use of gift-giving for political purposes, as well as neglected aspects of the rule of his family dynasty, the Ayyubids, which succeeded him. Special attention is paid to the Christians residing in the Middle East, from Italians to Melkites and Armenians.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Oxford Handbook of Christmas

I feel very confident in saying that everybody who has lived through 2020 so far would like to rocket forward to Christmas and the end of this horrendous year, when we find under our trees not just vaccines and economic recovery, but many other gifts as well too lovely to imagine at this difficult hour.

Well one such gift is currently slated for January 2021 release, which will likely work for those keeping Christmas on the Julian calendar; but perhaps that date will change. In any event, here at least is a foretaste of The Oxford Handbook of Christmas, ed. Timothy Larsen (Oxford UP, 2021), 640pp.

About this collection the publisher tells us this:
The Oxford Handbook of Christmas provides a comprehensive, interdisciplinary account of all aspects of Christmas across the globe, from the specifically religious to the purely cultural. The contributions are drawn from a distinguished group of international experts from across numerous disciplines, including literary scholars, theologians, historians, biblical scholars, sociologists, anthropologists, art historians, and legal experts. The volume provides authoritative treatments of a range of topics, from the origins of Christmas to the present; decorating trees to eating plum pudding; from the Bible to contemporary worship; from carols to cinema; from the Nativity Story to Santa Claus; from Bethlehem to Japan; from Catholics to Baptists; from secularism to consumerism.
Christmas is the biggest celebration on the planet. Every year, a significant percentage of the world's population is draw to this holiday--from Cape Cod to Cape Town, from South America to South Korea, and on and on across the globe. The Christmas season takes up a significant part of the entire year. For many countries, the holiday is a major force in their national economy. Moreover, Christmas is not just a modern holiday, but has been an important feast for most Christians since the fourth century and a dominant event in many cultures and countries for over a millennium. The Oxford Handbook of Christmas provides an invaluable reference point for anyone interested in this global phenomenon.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Religion and National Identity in Eastern Europe

This collection, set for release in early August, features the respected historian Barbara Skinner and a series of other international experts looking at the complicated relations between various Eastern Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches and their respective and often changing national homelands--especially Lithuania, Russia, and Ukraine: Entangled Interactions between Religion and National Consciousness in Central and Eastern Europe, ed. Yoko Aoshima (Academic Studies Press, August 2020), 220pp.

About this collection, whose table of contents you can read here, the publisher tells us this:
This book elucidates the complicated relationship between religion and national consciousness in the modern world, highlighting various cases within Central and Eastern Europe. Through these analyses, contributors demonstrate how religion, far from disappearing, strongly impacted the emerging national consciousness. Starting with the pre-modern era, essays examine the long-term transformation of religious, political, and social situations of the region. In addition, the book considers the impact of imperial powers, which tended to be linked with a universal religion. Light is also shed on the multifaceted nature of nations, which contribute to a new vision of the historical transformation of the region that enriches the general theories of nationalism.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Herbert McCabe's Legacy

I have previously on here, and elsewhere, talked about what I have learned from the English Dominican Herbert McCabe, who died nearly two decades ago now. In a time when, in this country, too much of Catholic Christianity has veered rightward and in some instances become little more than a capitalistic cult around that vile figure in the White House, McCabe keeps alive hope for some of us that it is possible to be perfectly orthodox in theology and perfectly radical in working for justice, peace, and the integrity of creation. (Dorothy Day, of course, is the other hopeful and helpful model here.)

So I am very cheered indeed to report the recent publication of Franco Manni's new book, Herbert McCabe: Recollecting a Fragmented Legacy (Cascade, 2020), 300pp.

About this welcome new work the publisher tells us this:
Herbert McCabe struck those who met him (Alasdair MacIntyre, Anthony Kenny, Terry Eagleton, Denys Turner) or those who read his writings (David Burrell, Stanley Hauerwas) for his high intelligence. He was the most intelligent philosopher after the death of Karl Popper. His philosophical inquiries on God and the Human Being have yet to be properly understood, not because they were abstruse (clarity was McCabe’s inexorable sword!) but because of their dizzying depth, for which many are not yet prepared.
This is the first comprehensive study of McCabe, a person who preferred speaking to writing and left only the short—fragmented and dispersed—texts of his lectures and sermons. But in this book, to use David Burrell’s words, Manni has “managed to get inside McCabe’s mind” and assemble together for the first time the disiecta membra of a powerful system of thought.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Islam and Christianity: Politics and Scriptures

The new Paulist Press catalogue landed here the other day and there I spied a new book that will be of interest to those who want to explore both the similarities and the differences in Islam and Christianity: Christopher Frechette, How the Qur'an Interprets the Bible (Paulist, 2020), 208pp.

About this book the publisher tells us this:
Non-Muslims are often surprised to learn that the Qur'an relates episodes and events from the lives of multiple characters who are also found in the biblical text. While the ways the two traditions present these stories often have much in common, they are never identical. Sometimes the Qur'an includes elements or themes that are not present in the biblical account. Such details point to ways in which the Qur an interprets prior traditions, and such interpretations are similar to how Jewish and Christian Scriptures also interpret prior traditions. Focusing on the lives and roles of a number of well-known characters, this introductory book explores and compares the interpretive dimensions of Islamic, Jewish, and Christians Scriptures.
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