Archive for the 'books' Category

Performing the faith

I took a big break from theology following the masters. Now it’s lovely to come back to it as a ‘non-productivity’ based activity.

From performing the faith by Hauerwas

what it means to be ethically well formed is having one’a imagination trained to regard the world not as a given but as truly a gift from God. A better way to describe Christian ethics then is not as a choosing or deciding what is the right thing to do but being educated in the art of rightly accepting gifts.


Grapes of Wrath Quote

Just as the family have sold up everything and ready to hit the road for California.

“How can we live without our lives? How will we know it’s us without our past?”

Grapes of wrath p88

The drugs still don’t work

“the pharmaceutical invasion leads him to medication, by himself or by others, that reduces his ability to cope with a body for which he can still care.”

Ivan Illich
Medical Nemesis

(cheers to Dave Knowles for the tip off to this book a year or so ago…)

From “can a pacifist think about war”

“christians have never killed as willingly as when they have been asked to do so for ‘freedom'”

dispatches from the front
Stanley hauerwas.

And a bit from dogmatics

“if we face the fact of the church’s humanity, we cannot release it from the task of pursuing academic theology and we must thus accept in principle the task of a regular dogmatics.”

Dogmatics I.1 p277
Karl Barth

A little bit from After Virtue

“but, unlike charity, benevolence as a virtue became a license for almost any kind of manipulative intervention in the affairs of others”

Alasdair Macintyre
After Virtue 3rd edition

The Dignity of Difference

God is universal, religions are particular. Religion is the translation of God into a particular language and thus into the life of a group, a nation, a community of faith.

Sacks J. The Dignity of Difference : How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations. London: Continuum; 2002. p55

Any thoughts on that? It seems that Sacks is suggesting that the universal is the key part and the particular less so. Though he may be saying quite the opposite, I’m working this out as I go…

This, I think, is his key premise.

God, the creator of humanity, having made a covenant with all humanity, then turns to one people and commands it to be different in order to teach humanity the dignity of difference.


Volf on Embrace

in the presence of the divine trinity, we need to strip down the drab grey of our own self-enclosed selves and cultures and embrace others so that their bright colours, painted on our very selves, will begin to shine.


Volf, J. M. G., & Volf, M. (1997). A Spacious Heart Essays on identity and belongingHarrisburg: Trinity Press International.

A little more Vonnegut

Back in 1931… the Great Depression was going on, so that the station and the streets teemed with homeless people, just as they do today. The newspapers were full of worker layoffs and farm foreclosures and bank failures, just as they are today. All that has changed, in my opinion, is that, thanks to television we can now hide a Great Depression. We may even be hiding a third world war.

Kurt Vonnegut

Bluebeard p82



A little Vonnegut

“the human condition can be summed up in just one word: embarrassment.”

Kurt Vonnegut
Paladin 1989

Hippocrates shadow

I’ve just finished reading this (in a rather frenzied 8 hour marathon) fascinating book by David Newman, a damn fine educator and researcher in emergency medicine

It covers all the problems with medicine that i’ve been torturing my poor friends over for donkeys now.

There’s lots of great stuff in it but I think my personal favourite is chapter 4 on communication with patients.

Lack of communication begets lack of communication. a downward spiral closely ties to medicine’s movement away from contact toward technology, a movement embraced by patients and doctors alike. Both groups crave the safety and the seemingly unimpeachable science represented by blood tests, x-rays, and pills

If you’re fed up with me ranting to you about the problems inherent in the medical world then read this. It’s much better articulated than I’ll ever manage to be.

It’s written for a lay audience so it’s fairly accessible to everyone

More from yer man

For Christians do not put their hope in their children, but their children are a sign of a hope, in spite of considerable evidence to the contrary, that God has not abandoned this world.

Stanley Hauerwas

Community of Character

P 191

A community of character

Just started reading this (though it was first published the year I was born…) and right there paragraph 1 page 1 is this:

though this book touches on on many issues it is dominated by one concern: to reestablish the social significance of the church as distinct society with an integrity peculiar to itself. My wish is that this book will help Christians that their most important social task is nothing less than to be a community capable of hearing the story of God we find in the scripture and living in a manner that is faithful to that story. The church is too often justified by believers, and tolerated by non-believers, as a potential agent for justice or some other good effect. In contrast, I contend that the only reason for being Christian (which may well have results that in a society’s terms seem less than “good”) is because Christian convictions are true; and the only reason for participation in the church is that it is the community that pledges to form its life by that truth.

Either Way

In preparation for my year to come I’ve been trying to work my way through Alister McGrath’s excellent Christian Theology: An Introduction, which I’d been eyeing in the MCC bookshelves for a while now.

Reading it has helped me confirm how hard I find it to feel confident in any particular theological position. Or let me re-phrase that: I find that I read about different theological positions on a certain issue and I find both positions to be eminently sensible.

Not all of them, I’m pretty sure I’m not a Donatist of Pelagian.

Is this just me as a classic fence-sitter or is it a common experience?

Gott mit uns

I’m in a book group, which is perfectly expected behaviour if you read this blog.

Kevin is in it, and some smart people too…

We’re reading the rather weighty A secular age, which feels a tad over my head most of the time, but it’s undeniably interesting and challenging the old brain cells.

On the day that the yanks “got him” I was reading this and thought it appropriate.

Taylor has just been talking about the modern era, and the retreat of Christendom in virtually all north Atlantic societies, and he’s trying to explain the so-called “American exception” to secularity.

America is “exceptional” because the alignment of the religous with the nation-state is seen as unproblematic. Europe is quite different where the phrase “Gott mit uns” makes everyone a little uncomfortable

Quite different is the attitude of the United States. This may be partly because they have fewer skeletons in the family closet to confront than their European cousins. But I think the answer is simpler. It is easier to be unreservedly confident in your won rightness when  you are the hegemonic power. The skeletons are there but they can be resolutely ignored…

A Secular Age

Charles Taylor


The Patient as Person – 1

To continue on Ramsey

He adapts quotes from this article (remember this was a 1970 book)

all of us in the age of enlightenment need to recognise death’s growing remoteness and unfamiliarity, the masks by which it is suppressed, the fantastic rituals by which we keep the presence of death at bay and our own presence from the dying, the inferiority assigned to the dying because it would be a human accomplishment not to do so, the ubiquity of the fear of dying that is one sure product of a secular age

Mark Twain – A Life

I’ve been reading a biography of mark twain. The writer of huckleberry finn and tom sawyer and the innocents abroad.

He had Ginger hair (as did Churchill apparently) and  i find myself repeatedly surprised by such facts, feeling that black and white photography as somehow been telling me lies.

Twain was his pen name and he was known to everyone as Sam Clemens. He was no doubt a literary genius but he could also easily be described as an asshole. Plenty of talent too but still an asshole.



After Virtue – 1

If i’m ever at a loose end in trinity of an evening I tend to wander into the library and slowly work my through Alisdair Mcintyre’s After Virtue. It’s been about 4 months now and i’m only on chapter 4 so it may take a while.

Last night while waiting for a lecture by this guy I came across a fascinating bit in chapter 4 about the origin of the word moral.

According to Mcintyre there was no word in Latin appropriately translated as moral till we translated one backwards into latin.

There is a latin word moralis that is linked (but not the same) as our word moral. But even moralis is another invented word (from Cicero) to translate the Greek word ethikos.

Here’s where the distinction from our word moral comes in: Ethikos is taken to mean “pertaining to character” and was understood as

a set of dispositons to behave systematically in one way rather than another. To lead one particular kind of life

The very idea that we could abstract “the moral of the story” from the character of the person is such a new idea that we had to invent a new word for it.


Suffering Presence – 6

Hauerwas quotes from some folk called Gliedman and Roth in a book called the unexpected minority. They suggest that perhaps it may be better (or more useful) to view those with disabilities as being an oppressed minority rather than those with a medical condition.

Not that they don’t have medical reasons for their disabilities but that they suffer more from social exclusion than they do their “medical defect”.

We (as a society) don’t want to see our treatment of those with disabilities as social exclusion because then we’d know we have to do something about it. When we keep it under the banner of medicine then we can happily exclude them without burden to out consciences


God as a retard

[Apologies for the non-book or song related title for the blog but it was too good not to use.]

Following on from the last post:

Now for some leaps of logic and thought (at least on my part)

If those with the learning difficulties bear the image of god what does that mean for me to know God as someone with trisomy 21? (incidentally – great photo when you follow the link)

God’s face is the face of the retarded

Suffering Presence P178

I confess God’s face is far more like mine. Mine after some ace photoshopping at least.




August 2022