"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, December 8, 2017

C.S. Lewis and Orthodoxy

My friend, the always delightful Edith Humphrey, has a new book out: Further Up and Further In: Orthodox Conversations with C. S. Lewis on Scripture and Theology (SVS Press, 2017), 301pp.

I have interviewed her on here before about previous books, and hope to arrange an interiew about this newest study of hers, about which the publisher tells us the following:

Drawing on Lewis's broad corpus, both his beloved classics and his less well-known writings, Humphrey brings Lewis into conversation with Orthodox thinkers from the ancient past down to the present day, on subjects as diverse and challenging as the nature of reality, miracles, the ascetic life, the atonement, the last things, and the mystery of male and female.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Is Islam a Christian Heresy?

Next month, in their hugely important History of Christian-Muslim Relations series, Brill is bringing out a book that will revisit a long-standing debate going back almost to the beginnings of Christian encounters with, and analysis of, Islam:  John of Damascus and Islam: Christian Heresiology and the Intellectual Background to Earliest Christian-Muslim Relations (English and Greek Edition) by Peter Schadler (Brill, 2017).

The publisher supplies the following blurb about the book and then a detailed table of contents:
How did Islam come to be considered a Christian heresy? In this book, Peter Schadler outlines the intellectual background of the Christian Near East that led John, a Christian serving in the court of the caliph in Damascus, to categorize Islam as a heresy. Schadler shows that different uses of the term heresy persisted among Christians, and then demonstrates that John’s assessment of the beliefs and practices of Muslims has been mistakenly dismissed on assumptions he was highly biased. The practices and beliefs John ascribes to Islam have analogues in the Islamic tradition, proving that John may well represent an accurate picture of Islam as he knew it in the seventh and eighth centuries in Syria and Palestine.



1 Heresy and Heresiology in Late Antiquity
 Problems in Associating Islam with Heresy
 Manichaeism: The Exception that Proves the Rule
 Heresy as Opposition to the Church
 Other Understandings of Heresy in Late Antiquity
 Early Christian Use of Heresiology
 The Demonic Nature of Heresy
 Heresy as the Result of Philosophical Speculation
 Other Typical Traits of Heresiology

2 Aspects of the Intellectual Background
 The Encyclopedism of Christian Palestine
 Heresiology as History?
 The Sociological Imperative to Institution Building as a Force for Islam’s Inclusion
 From Heresiology to Panarion and from Panarion to Anacephalaeosis: The Shifting Nature of Heresiology
 John of Damascus and non-Christian Philosophy
 The Definition of Heresy in John’s Works
 Demons and the Heresiology of John

3 The Life of John of Damascus, His Use of the Qurʾan, and the Quality of His Knowledge of Islam
 The Life of John of Damascus
 John of Damascus and Arabic
 The Qurʾan and its Apparent Use Among Christians
 John of Damascus and the Qurʾan
 Anastasius of Sinai and the Qurʾan
 The Alleged Leo-Umar Correspondence
 Lives of the Prophets and Other Sources

4 Islamic and Para-Islamic Traditions
 Scholarly Accounts of Early Islam
 Revisionist Islamic Studies and its Antecedents
 Contemporary Islamic Studies
 John of Damascus, the Black Stone, and the Ka’ba
 The Ka’ba, the Black Stone, and the Maqām Ibrāhīm in the Islamic Tradition
 An Untraditional Perspective
 The Damascene’s Observations Given the Untraditional Perspective
 Rivers in Paradise
 The Monk and an-Nasara
 Female Circumcision
 Pillars of Faith

5 John of Damascus and Theodore Abu Qurrah on Islam
 Problems Authenticating Abu Qurrah’s Greek Corpus
 Theodore Abu Qurrah on Islam
 Theodore, the Qurʾan, and Muhammad
 The Arian Monk
 Theodore and Heresy
 Theodore and John: Some Differences and Conclusions

Appendix 1: Greek Text and English Translation of ‘On Heresies 100’
Appendix 2: Potential Qurʾanic References in ‘On Heresies 100’

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Russian Orthodox Church and the United Nations

In grade 7, I won the school debating championship and went on to the regional finals. Again in gr. 9 I lead the team; and on both occasions we were pretending to be members of the UN Security Council debating the merits, first, of the US bombings of Libya in 1985; and then whatever was in the news two years later. As children of late modernity, we thought we were just debating international politics and doing so with a kind of strategic ruthlessness; but what became obvious to me was that each position also made certain moral claims as to what was the best thing to do in circumstances of international terrorism. It would, however, take me many more years to be able to see--thanks to both Alasdair MacIntyre's After Virtue and John Milbank's Theology and Social Theory--how successfully and how often modernity's moral judgments are disguised, and how artificial its distinctions between the undefined "religious" vis-a-vis the political and the moral.

These thoughts came to mind in coming across a recent book by Ann Stensvold, Religion, State and the United Nations: Value Politics (Routledge, 2016), 200pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
This volume approaches the UN as a laboratory of religio-political value politics. Over the last two decades religion has acquired increasing influence in international politics, and religious violence and terrorism has attracted much scholarly attention. But there is another parallel development which has gone largely unnoticed, namely the increasing political impact of peaceful religious actors.
With several religious actors in one place and interacting under the same conditions, the UN is as a multi-religious society writ small. The contributors to this book analyse the most influential religious actors at the UN (including The Roman Catholic Church; The Organisation of Islamic Countries; the Russian Orthodox Church). Mapping the peaceful political engagements of religious actors; who they are and how they collaborate with each other - whether on an ad hoc basis or by forming more permanent networks - throwing light at the modus operandi of religious actors at the UN; their strategies and motivations. The chapters are closely interrelated through the shared focus on the UN and common theoretical perspectives, and pursue two intertwined aspects of religious value politics, namely the whys and hows of cross-religious cooperation on the one hand, and the interaction between religious actors and states on the other.
Drawing together a broad range of experts on religious actors, this work will be of great interest to students and scholars of Religion and Politics, International Relations and the UN.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Transgenerational Trauma in Armenia

Over the last three years, as I have been reading (and re-reading) in a lot of the literature around historical memory, and the psychoanalysis of trauma, it has become clear that an emerging theme in both bodies of literature is an awareness of how trauma does not die when those who endured it do. It can often live on unconsciously in subsequent generations. Several of the articles of scholarly clinicians such as Jeffrey Prager have been helpful to me here; and so too several articles and books of Vamik Volkan have also been very illuminating.

In this light, then, it should not surprise us that while all those who would have experienced the Armenian Genocide first-hand are now dead, that event lives on in the descendants of those who survived the horrors of 1915. A new book takes us into this world: The Transgenerational Consequences of the Armenian Genocide: Near the Foot of Mount Ararat by Anthonie Holslag (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), 287pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
This book brings together the Armenian Genocide process and its transgenerational outcome, which are often juxtaposed in existing scholarship, to ask how the Armenian Genocide is conceptualized and placed within diasporic communities. Taking a dual approach to answer this question, Anthonie Holslag studies the cultural expression of violence during the genocidal process itself, and in the aftermath for the victims. By using this approach, this book allows us to see comparatively how genocide in diasporic communities in the Netherlands, London and the US is encapsulated in an historic narrative. It paints a picture of the complexity of genocidal violence itself, but also in its transgenerational and non-spatial consequences, raising new questions of how violence can be perpetuated or interlocked with the discourse and narratives of the victims, and how the violence can be relived.
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