Posts Tagged ‘Richard Holloway’

Hiatus

March 25, 2022

As I haven’t posted for several weeks now, a brief explanation: we have moved house, all the books are still in boxes, mild chaos surrounds us. Normal service will begin to be resumed sometime next week when the arrival of carpets will allow my desk to be rebuilt, and some of those boxed to be emptied…

It has been weird to be deprived of my library. Of course, I made some preparation and left a small pile of books easily accessible, so I’d have something to read. The time and energy for reading disappeared. And then, when the opportunity finally re-emerged, those weren’t really the books I wanted to be reading at that moment. So I have been using the library, which is most unusual for me. And I’ve read a lot less. But there are a few books that I shall be reviewing over the coming week or two: the first volume of Norman Davies’ massive History of Poland, a Philip Pullman mystery, another thought-provoking book by Richard Holloway. And the hiatus has stopped me writing too much about the horrendous situation in Ukraine, and the unbelievable ignorance of so many commentators in the West about it. Read Timothy Snyder and try to understand, avoid simplistic analysis…

As they used to say, “Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.”

Daphne Hampson: After Christianity

February 11, 2021

     Feminist theology is not part of my normal reading agenda, but I think it was Richard Holloway’s recent book that pointed me at Daphne Hampson’s very difficult and challenging read. Her approach, as one might expect, is very radical: is Christianity truthful? is it ethical? Hampson repeatedly emphasises that she does not consider herself a Christian, and at times her manner seems aggressive or angry, as well as inevitably reflecting a rationalist approach to spiritual matters which necessarily must completely exclude the notion of faith.

She structures her arguments and presents her case very clearly and logically, in the manner of a Spinoza or a Robert Barclay, which is helpful; she spends considerable time debunking the ‘specialness’ or particularity of the ‘Christ event’ as she calls it, as well as locating the significance and importance of feminist theory for the future of theology as she understands it. I repeat, it was not an easy read, although I was very glad I persevered. There is a good deal of dense psychoanalytical and structuralist theory (in the manner of Lacan and Derrida) and at times I felt we had lost sight of religion, spirituality and Christianity. However, the centuries of structuring and conditioning which all feminists are challenging must be acknowledged, and her case is cogently presented and convincing, as well as connecting with what has gone before in fields other than theology. She establishes her parameters, and then sets about demolishing. As a feminist she rejects the submissiveness required in Christianity, Judaism and Islam; her lengthy unpicking of the implications of Abraham’s agreement to sacrifice Isaac is quite shocking. She shows how the Trinitarian God as male in all three aspects sidelines, marginalises, excludes or seeks to annex women.

So much of this work is about defining the terms of the debate and unpicking implications which have been intentionally and unintentionally glossed over through the ages, and I found this very refreshing. When the actual meaning of the Creed and the Trinity are laid bare, so much does seem utterly defiant of logic and common-sense: true Christian believers will of course speak of their faith, as they have the right to do, whereas I found myself following her argument and thinking, do we actually need all/ any of this? I had thought of myself as pretty liberal in matters spiritual – deluded male that I am – until I read this eye-opening book. Her arguments about the nature of God draw much from an 18th century German theologian, Friedrich Schleiermacher, of whom I’d never heard, but who is now on my ‘interested’ list. I suppose what I have really derived from this book is much matter for further reflection and contemplation, as well as what feels like a long-needed shaking-up of complacency.

But, for all her constant urging and wishing for a new, feminist, individual-centred spirituality which acknowledges one’s autonomy and the idea that God lies within, I found the concluding chapter curiously empty and unsatisfying; what is not satisfactory is very clear indeed, what must come to replace it, not so much…

%d bloggers like this: