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Essays

15. "Bonhoeffer's Anti-Judaism." Political Theology vol. 17 no. 3 (2016): 297-305. On July 2, 2000, Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Authority, deferred action on the petition to have Dietrich Bonhoeffer named a righteous gentile. My contention is that critics of this decision conceal a more pernicious difficulty that arises in Bonhoeffer’s Lutheran legacy. David Nirenberg's recent Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition, demonstrates the history and development of such categories with particular attention to Luther. What goes unnoticed is the ongoing operations of anti-Judaism in later theologians such as Bonhoeffer. Although Bonhoeffer may not have been anti-Semitic, the degree to which his theology remained bound to centuries old anti-Judaism is another matter. 

14. "Faithful Codex: A Theological Account of Early Christian Books." Heythrop Journal. vol. 57 no. 1 (2016): 9-28. This essay advances an interpretation of early Christian codex books, which goes beyond Catherine Pickstock’s critique of Jacques Derrida. Firstly, it summarizes Derrida’s deconstruction of Plato’s Phaedrus and introduces his understanding of writing as différance. Secondly, it outlines Pickstock’s After Writing in order to understand her emphasis upon the liturgical nature of platonic dialogue. It is here that an ambiguity emerges between writing and codex books in Pickstock’s account. In response, the insights of book historians such as Roger Chartier will be brought to bear in order to understand the longer history of the codex, which sees the printing press as a continuation of the early transition from roll to codex in the second century of the Common Era. It has long been noted that Christians of this period were early and pervasive adopters of codex binding for their sacred literature. By summarizing the reasons why, it will be shown how the codex expressed early Christian religious concerns.

13. "Utopia and the Public Sphere." In Religion after Secularization in Australia, 191-210. Edited by Timothy Stanley. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2015. Although the question of religion did not feature prominently in Jürgen Habermas’s early political theory, his more recent work has continuously addressed the topic. This later interest in religion is grounded in what one commentator in a volume on The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere, cited as the urgent need to integrate religious voices in the workings of public reason in order to avoid social disharmony and to thwart potential violence. However, the following paper argues that the hermeneutic procedures Habermas develops for the public sphere cannot bear the weight that his later understanding of religion demands of them. Such an insight validates Paul Ricoeur’s earlier argument that Habermas’s “depth hermeneutics,” were themselves utopic in nature. It is from this vantage point that a return to Ricoeur's thought is justified, through which a more productive understanding of the public potential of religious discourse can be understood.

12. "The Early Codex Book: Recovering its Cosmopolitan Consequences." Biblical Interpretation: A Journal of Contemporary Approaches vol. 23 no. 3 (2015): 369-98. In 1933 Frederic Kenyon was one of the first to note the early Christian addiction to codex books. As later scholars confirmed, Christian communities reproduced their sacred literature in a way that differed from the largely scrolled Greco-Roman as well as Jewish bibliographic cultures of the first centuries of the Common Era. Book historians and scholars of biblical literature alike have developed a range of competing theories in order to better understand this peculiarity. By evaluating their claims, a number of clarifications can be made in order to demonstrate the codex's sensitivity to Jewish scribal practices as well as its capacity to include a cosmopolitan diversity of texts. Through these clarifications the codex book form itself can provide vital interpretative insights into early biblical literature and the longer history of the book today.

11. “A Serious Man.” Bible and Critical Theory. vol. 9 no. 1 (2013): 27-37. The film A Serious Man cinematically deconstructs the life of a mid-twentieth century, mid-western American physics professor named Larry Gopnik. As it happens, Larry is up for tenure with a wife who is about to leave him, an unemployed brother who sleeps on his couch, and two self-obsessed teenage children. The film presents a Job-like theodicy in which the mysteries of quantum physics are haunted both by questions of good and evil as well as the spectre of an un-named God, reverently referred to as Hashem. The following paper examines the broader set of philosophical, theological and ethical concerns which arise from the film’s themes, using it to illustrate those concerns. Just as Newtonian physics underwrote Kant’s evocation of the image of starry skies above and moral law within, quantum physics underwrites a new set of ethical anxieties, which the film narrates as a key facet of contemporary western culture’s postmodern re-enchantment. Although some, such as Slavoj Zizek, see this as a positively charged opportunity to rethink metaphysics and ethics, the film leaves the audience with more sinister conclusions. 

10. “Barth after Kant.” Modern Theology. vol. 28 no. 3 (2012): 423-445. Barth consistently comments on Kant's importance for his early thought in his autobiographical sketches, letters, and even more explicitly in his 1930 lectures on Kant in his Protestant Theology in the Nineteenth Century. Interestingly, however, little attention has been paid to these latter lectures in the secondary literature. In part, this oversight is due to the manner in which Barth's theology has been thought to overcome Kant's influence much earlier on in his intellectual development. Hence, although commentators such as Merold Westphal, Simon Fisher and Bruce McCormack have developed keen interest in Kant's influence upon Barth's early work, even engaging Barth's Neo-Kantian context in great detail, my contention is that Barth's later interpretation of Kant is crucial and gives further insight into Barth's legacy for contemporary thought today. After Kant, Barth did not abandonment or disregard the metaphysical question of being, but rather, faced it all the more rigorously.

9. “Before Analogy: Recovering Barth’s Ontological Development.” New Blackfriars. vol. 90 no. 1029 (2009): 577-601. What is the nature of Barth's development over the 1920s? Barth himself understood this period as his “apprenticeship,” and cites his 1931 book on Anselm as a significant juncture in moving beyond this stage in his thinking. Barth's emphasis upon both change and continuity lies at the heart of the discrepancy between two prominent interpreters of his theology, Hans Urs von Balthasar and Bruce McCormack. On the surface it appears as though their disagreement centers around Barth's employment of dialectic and analogy in his theology. However, my thesis is that this focus conceals the ontological strategies Barth's multifarious uses of analogy and dialectic always implied. Although McCormack is right to suggest that Balthasar's depiction of a shift from dialectic to analogy is inadequate, in the end McCormack's account of Barth's development over the 1920s conceals as much as it reveals. The following essay demonstrates the kinds of insights which can be made of the past accounts of Barth's development which focused on the transition from dialectic to analogy. Far from relegating these accounts to the sidelines, McCormack's work helps us see all the more clearly just what was at stake in figures like Balthasar's work. By looking past McCormack and Balthasar's respective periodizations of Barth's development, a clearer focus upon Barth's theological ontology can begin to take place.

8. “Karl Barth and Jürgen Habermas: Transcendental Aporias of Global Civil Society.” Political Theology. vol. 9 no. 4 (2008): 477-502. Currently, religion and globalization seem to be working towards opposite ends. As Mark Juergensmeyer has noted, while religiously invoked terrorism fragments society, the Internet, cell phones and the media industry foster the formation of an increasingly global social fabric. But religion is not a single faceted phenomenon. As much as there are prophets of violence such as Osama bin Laden, there are prophets of peace and reconciliation such as Bishop Desmond Tutu. How a civil society might be configured in relation to the inherent ambiguity surrounding religious traditions remains difficult to discern. How might Christian traditions make a positive contribution to this context? To answer this question I will articulate a dialogue between Jürgen Habermas's theory of civil society and the political theology of Karl Barth.

7. “Returning Barth to Anselm.” Modern Theology. vol. 24 no. 3 (2008): 413-437. This article focuses on Barth's explication of Anselm's Proslogion 2-4 in his book on Anselm and attempts to show how Anselm helped clarify for Barth the ontological nature of his own early theology, in particular what he meant by the “is” in his affirmation “God is God.” My contention is that Barth's continual pointing to Anselm's Fides Quaerens Intellectum as a vital key to his own theology should not be overlooked. In fact, I argue that only by returning Barth to Anselm in this way is it possible to understand more thoroughly one of Barth's key contributions to contemporary onto-theological debates.

6. "Speaking Credibly? Communicating Christian Particularism in Postmodern Contexts." International Review of Mission. vol. 97 no. 384-385 (2008): 21-30. This essay explores the cultural and philosophical subtext of religious pluralism in order to discuss religious particularity in a more credible way. Though modernity's quest for political and social emancipation is not a novel thesis, the elucidation of how emancipation in modernity has been radicalized in postmodernity offers new insight into the cultural context within which Christian traditions now find themselves. 

5. “Heidegger on Luther on Paul.” Dialog: A Journal of Theology. vol. 46 no. 1 (2007): 41-45. When it comes to how Heidegger understands theology, Martin Luther was instrumental in his early formulations. Heidegger's interpretation of Luther leads him to descry theology as a discipline best left unfettered by metaphysics and this attitude is carried right through Heidegger's career. By explicating Luther's influence upon Heidegger's early Freiburg lectures from 1919-1923, we can raise important questions about the nuanced way Heidegger construes Luther's theology in the hopes of inspiring key insights for Luther's appropriation in current post-Heideggerian philosophical theology.

4. “Urban Surveillance: The Hidden Costs of Disneyland." International Journal of the Humanities. vol. 3 no. 8 (2006): 117-124. Urban centers are being transformed into consumer tourist playgrounds made possible by dense networks of surveillance. The safety and entertainment however, come at an unseen price. One of the historical roots of surveillance can be connected to the modern information base of tracking individuals for economic and political reasons. Though its antecedents can be traced via Foucault's account of panoptic discipline which walled in society's outcasts for rehabilitation, the following essay explores the shift to the urban panopticism of today where society's outcasts are subtly filtered out of public view. Juxtaposing a sociological account of the concentration camp with urban Disneyization fosters a greater understanding of how surveillance creates certain categories of citizenship. In particular, how urban surveillance intensifies Walter Benjamin's description of the flâneur who often experiences the brunt of the new urban panopticon's filtering power.

3. “From Habermas to Barth and Back Again.” Journal of Church and State. vol. 48 no. 1 (2006): 101-126. What role does religious transcendence play in liberal democracies? In Jürgen Habermas’s early political theory of the bourgeois public sphere, religion was downplayed if not dismissed completely. In the past several years however, he has developed a greater interest in religion. Habermas seems to like the positive solidarity-forming effects religion can have on communities that mediate in a public sphere between private individuals and state authority. However, in light of continuing terrorist activity, he is deeply critical of any sort of other worldly transcendence that is too open to violent cooption. Nonetheless, Habermas relates his renewal of a critically engaged public sphere of debate to universalized rational procedures which he discusses in light of a philosophical notion of “detranscendentalization.” However, if it is the case that the solidarity of communities is being eroded by the influences of mass media and free market globalization as Habermas claims, then a further reflection on the way religious communities form around shared transcendent beliefs is required. Are his detranscendentalized rational procedures of critical debate adequate in inspiring the critical power communities need to solidify themselves against state authority? It is in light of this question that I develop the thought of Karl Barth.

2. “Punch-Drunk Masculinity.” Journal of Men’s Studies vol. 14, no. 2 (2006): 235-242. Written and directed by Paul-Thomas Anderson, Punch-Drunk Love exposes the complexity and kitsch superficialities of masculine gender constructions. The following essay provides a summary of gender theory in order to uncover and better understand the film's post-patriarchal vision of masculinity. 

1. “Redeeming the Icons.” Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory. vol. 6. no. 2 (2005): 39-62. Computer technology has become an integral part of daily life. From online banking and shopping to email and instant messaging, cyberspace is increasingly woven into the fabric of our everyday lives. The mouse, the monitor and keyboard are all a part of the interfacing devices that over time become extensions of our bodies as we “surf” through graphical user interfaces. Icons patterned together in a mosaic on our screens link to infinite possibilities. We can visit museums, chat with family and friends around the world, not to mention shop to have virtually anything we want shipped to our door. What happens to notions of infinity and transcendence when they are conflated with cyberspatial matrices? Does cyberspatial disembodiment allow us to transcend ourselves or does it blind us from the notion that transcendence in a box is not transcendence at all?