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Religious Reality Claims

Despite their enlightenment critique, metaphysical reality claims persist in religious thought. My research addresses recent developments in philosophical theology.


Protestant Metaphysics after Karl Barth and Martin Heidegger. London; Eugene: SCM Press; Wipf & Stock, 2010. Karl Barth and Martin Heidegger are doubtless two of the most important and influential thinkers of the 20th century. This book investigates how the question of being developed through their respective accounts of protestant theology. Whereas Heidegger suggested a post-onto-theological pathway, Barth inverted the question of being in a thoroughgoing theological ontology. In the end, both reconfigured the relationship between philosophy and theology in ways that continue to shape contemporary debate. 

If I were yet to write a theology—to which I sometimes feel inclined—then the word ‘being’ would not be allowed to occur in it. Faith has no need of the thinking of being. If faith has recourse to it, it is already not faith. Luther understood this.
— Martin Heidegger, "The Reply to the Third Question At the Seminar in Zürich, 1951"
A free theologian does not deny, nor is he ashamed of, his indebtedness to a particular philosophy or ontology, to ways of thought and speech.
— Karl Barth, The Humanity of God

Essays

"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. 

"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.

"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.

"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.

"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.


Presentations

"Job: A Serious Man." Paper presented at the Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts Research Seminar at the University of St. Andrews, May 14, 2010.

"Why Protestant Metaphysics Today?" Paper presented at the Theology Research Seminar at the University of St. Andrews, April 21, 2010.

"Seinsweise in Barth’s Theology." Paper presented at the Society for the Study of Theology Annual Conference, Utrecht, The Netherlands, April 1-2, 2009.

"The Post-Ontological Paul?" Paper presented at the Society of Biblical Literature Annual Conference, Washington, D.C., November 18-21, 2006.

"Barth’s Prolegomena to Any Future Protestant Metaphysics which Can Possibly Pretend to Be a Science." Paper presented at the Belief and Metaphysics Conference, The Centre of Philosophy and Theology at the University of Nottingham in partnership with the Instituto de Filosofia Edith Stein de Granada, Spain, September 15-18, 2006.

"Heidegger’s Hidden Theology: Revisiting Martin Luther’s Influence upon Martin Heidegger." Paper presented at the 16th Conference of the European Society for Philosophy of Religion, Tübingen, Germany, September 1-4, 2006. 


Funding

  • 2004-07, Overseas Ph.D. Research Studentship, British Universities UK and University Ph.D. Research Scholarship, School of Arts, Histories and Cultures, The University of Manchester
  • 2004-05, Richardson Award, North American Alumni Foundation at The University of Manchester (NAAFUM), The University of Manchester