‘When God Hides God’s Face: The End of Religion in the West’ (2011 ISRA Lecture)

McDowell ISRA5

A lecture in 2011 delivered at the Islamic Sciences and Research Academy Australia (Auburn Sydney) entitled ‘When God Hides God’s Face: The End of Religion in the West’ .

Pt 1 https://vimeo.com/29215574
Pt 2 https://vimeo.com/29227798
Pt 3 https://vimeo.com/29

Transcript McDowell-Islamic_Institution_Talk


‘Elie Wiesel’s Night: Losing Hope in Theo-logy’

Elie_Wiesel_2012_ShankboneEvery now and then a book can be so effectively affective that one can even experience a visceral reaction.  Eric Remarqué’s All Quiet on the Western Front was one of those for me.  At many points I felt as if I had been bayoneted in the stomach.  The other book that has left me utterly breathless has been Elie Wiesel’s Night.  The following is a series of notes composed in response way back in early 2001, a therapeutic way of dealing with the experience in many respects.

With the political growth of the right and the burgeoning of a culture of cruelty over at least the Western world, it seemed like a good time for me to dust this off and upload it again.

Click here for paper –> 1.Elie Wiesel’s Night

Jesus ‘the only’ & Star Wars

I understand how rhetoric works, but on occasions it grates.  There was a song I encountered in church some time back in which the congregation was invited to sing the line “Jesus, you are the only one who died for me”.  Ironically the song was on the order of service for Remembrance Day.  Lazy all round, and deeply offensive to all those who had died (whether we want to legitimate the deaths with sacralising language like ‘sacrifice’ or not) that we might live!

Just to change the focus, trawling the web today I came across the following picture.  Apart from my concern over the rhetoric, I can actually think of a good many things better than that trailer (and even more so, the Star Wars: The Force Awakens film itself).  But for that you’ll need to await the 2nd edition of my Gospel According to Star Wars (Louisville: WJK, forthcoming).  It should be in a good bookshop by early 2017.  One of the things it particularly deals with is the issue of how our instincts and beliefs are formed by certain kinds of representations of violence, and of what kinds of reimagining of who we are is required in order to become a peaceable and peacemaking people.

New Karl Barth & Sobernost Publication

9781451480399.jpgThe diaspora of scholars exiled from Russia in 1922 offered something vital for both Russian Orthodoxy and for ecumenical dialogue. Under new conditions, liberated from scholastic academic discourse, and living and writing in new languages, the scholars set out to reinterpret their traditions and to introduce Russian Orthodoxy to the West. Yet, relatively few have considered the works of these exiles, particularly insofar as they act as critical and constructive conversation partners. This project expands upon the relatively limited conversation between such thinkers with the most significant Protestant theologian of the last century, Karl Barth. Through the topic and in the spirit of sobornost, this project charters such conversation. The body of Russian theological scholarship guided by sobornost challenges Barth, helping us to draw out necessary criticism while leading us toward unexpected insight, and vice versa. Going forward, this volume demonstrates that there is space not only for disagreement and criticism, but also for constructive theological dialogue that generates novel and creative scholarship. Accordingly, this collection will not only illuminate but also stimulate interesting and important discussions for those engaged in the study of Karl Barth’s corpus, in the Orthodox tradition, and in the ecumenical discourse between East and West.

Contributors:  Rowan Williams, Paul Valliere, Antoine Arjakovsky, Matthew Baker, Brandon Gallagher, John C. McDowell, Scott A. Kirkland, Andrew Louth, Ashley Cocksworth, D. Stephen Long & Richard J. Barry IV, David J. Dunn & Joshua B. Davis, Ashley John Moyse, Kallistos Ware


Donald MacKinnon Publications

81rMZ-BV6GL.jpgDonald M. MacKinnon has been one of the most important and influential of the post-World War British theologians, significantly impacting the development and subsequent work of the likes of Rowan Williams, Nicholas Lash and John Milbank, among many other notable theologians. A younger generation largely emerging from Cambridge, but with influence elsewhere, has more recently brought MacKinnon’s eclectic and occasionalist work to a larger audience worldwide. In this collection, MacKinnon’s central writings on the major themes of ecclesiology, and especially the relationship of the church to theology, are gathered in one source. The volume will feature several of MacKinnon’s important early texts. These will include two short books published in the Signposts series during World War II, and a collection of later essays entitled The Stripping of the Altars.

71zYU-CrUjL.jpgThis is a collection of writings of one of Britains most prominent theologian and thinker. Donald M. MacKinnon has been one of the most important and influential of post-war British theologians and religious philosophers. Generally eclectic, frequently allusive, usually intellectually generous, persistently richly challenging and always astonishingly erudite, he had a significant impact on the development and subsequent theological work of the likes of Rowan Williams, Nicholas Lash, David Ford and John Milbank. A younger generation largely emerging from Cambridge, but with influence elsewhere, has more recently brought MacKinnon’s normally occasionalist writing to a larger audience worldwide where it is beginning to receive noteworthy attention. In this collection several of MacKinnon’s most outstanding papers not yet published in book format is collected together with an Editorial Introduction by a former student of one of MacKinnon’s own students. They range from his reflections on theology as educational, the nature of moral reasoning, considerations of ecclesial practice, dogmatics and hope. Here is another reminder of MacKinnon’s intellectual brilliance.

New Politics of Cinema Studies


George Lucas spoke about the didactic role of cinema and about his own work being presented through the “moral megaphone” of the film industry. A considerable body of scholarship on the six-part Star Wars series argues (unconvincingly) that the franchise promoted neo-conservatism in American culture from the late 1970s onward. But there is much in Lucas’ grand space opera to suggest something more ideologically complex is going on.  Engaging with Critical and Deconstructive theories this book challenges the view of the saga as an unambiguously violent text exemplifying reactionary politics, and discusses the films’ identity politics with regard to race and gender.

Read the unedited Preface here.

McDowell - Politics of Big Fantasy (cover)Bringing critical attention to a particular set of science fiction and fantasy films–Larry and Andy Wachowski’s The Matrix, George Lucas’ Star Wars saga, and Joss Whedon’s Avengers–this book utilizes a wide-ranging set of critical tools to illuminate their political ideologies, while also examining any resistant and complicating turns or byways the films may provide. What they all have in common ideologically is that they–or at least the genres they belong to–tend to be regarded as belonging to politically conservative frames of sociocultural reference. With the Star Wars saga, however, this idea is shown to be superficial and weak.

Read the book’s Introduction here.