Best of 2009 – theology

Here are selections from list from a blog of a Protestant theology instructor. I like lists of good books.  I do not know if all the links carried over to this page.
Best theology books of 2009 from Faith and Theology by Ben Myers

Anyone have any recommendations in Jewish thought?

11 responses to “Best of 2009 – theology

  1. Do you have an opinion on the Oxford Radical Theology movement, and in particular the work of Catherine Pickstock and John Milbank? How would this carry over to Jewish theology? It might help Orthodox high church -Tory Jews.

  2. I have a lot of sympathy to it. I will probably do a post(s) on it it at some point.
    I like the idea of a return to Maimonides and Zohar.
    And I like the idea to grasp that our social sciences are ideologies of the modern age.
    I see it as another important form of post-liberalism along with Lindbeck, Conger, or Hans Jonas.
    But it is too intellectual for modern orthodoxy. First, the Orthodox are deeply committed to thinking Weber, Mannheim, and Barth is the mesorah of Torah. And the community lacks any sense of historic difference – they live with a sense of present- ism So, to then to get them to treat Maimonides or Maharal as social science would be too difficult.

    What is a “Orthodox high church -Tory Jews.”? and why only them? It might help the Rav Shagar follower more.
    EJ- You might enjoy Analytic Theology volume. Also the last item: by Sarah Coakley connects directly to the pdf.

  3. I read Pickstock’s excellent book with my mouth open. It takes a certain chutzpah to say that the turn to nominalism and the denial of essences during the high middle ages created secular liberalism and it’s even worse offspring post modernism. Pickstock is part of the Radical Theology movement where the rosh chabura is John Milbank. In the Wikipedia article it says that this group has now aligned itself with the right-wing conservative “Red Tory” movement in the UK.

    I’ve wondered for some time why MO or actually any religious Jew of any denomination doesn’t take up this sort of very conservative Catholic line. Thinking in terms of images, why not a Jewish version of T.S. Eliot’s cultural politics and that entire tradition of Waugh (Brideshead Revisited), Chesterton, Cardinal Newman. Just because Trilling sided with Matthew Arnold, or just because the T.S. Eliot types had anti Semitic impulses, need not be an overwhelming negative. And now here comes this theological movement that is a late 20th century version of that sort of vision.

    Think of your Rabbi Wurzberger or a Rabbi Leo Jung… if they had taken up conservative cultural positions, coupled with some serious reactionary philosophy. If they could have instilled a sense of snobbism in their readers, who already believed in bildung, the current charedim would be seen as cultural barbarians. Instead of being overshagowed by Hirsch-Breuer and Soleveitchik- Brisk this type of MO wouldn’t be caught in the impossible pathetic position MO finds itself today.

    • Nominalism as the creation of modernity is Heidegger and many others. Personally, I like medieval essences.
      Rav Aharon Lichtenstein was going in that direction in the 1960’s -1970’s. You may want to read his Leaves of Faith. Some of his students who started in that direction got hijacked by the culture wars.
      There are indeed fans of Chesterton, Arnold, and Elliot at YU but there are many social factors that did not let it develop.
      Jews have trouble even distinguishing nominalism from realism, those who reject essences usually run quickly to Rav Nahman of Breslov.
      There is so much to say about your comment that I do not know which to develop.

      • i don’t know who evanston jew thinks is, “caught in the impossible pathetic position MO finds itself today.” wake up. we are all in the same boat… where it’s morally and logically untenable to assert a centralized affinity to a deity and at the same time to try to justify a political opposition to big government – that is beyond “impossible” and “pathetic” but hey, let the rhetoric fly.

  4. tzvee…i didn’t think i was saying anything so wild in my description of the strains on mo. How do chareidim who disregard science , refuse to be educated and are not willing to make any change in the status of women manage to intimidate so many Jews who think of themselves as modern?

    The Breuer yekkes betrayd their heritage when they send their young to Lakewood. Normal people like Slifkin are still rejected. The MO look for charedi approval and play by charedi rules. Not necessarily you, but many others. I feel this is a result of the Soloveitchik legacy which the MO can neither reject nor fully replicate. In my opinion MO are neither unified, modern or effective in keeping their best and their brightest. It need not be this way.

  5. evanstonjew–I wish you would have answered your own outcry with your own proposal of Radical Orthodoxy. Milbank and company would have said the reason they intimidate people is because MO is not grounded in metaphysics. If one does not have a metaphysical basis then religion is about personal whim and sociology.
    You give me the bad sociology of the other blogs discussing orthodoxy of the need for “unified, modern, or effective.”
    You could have answered with Milbank or Pickstock on the need for Orthodoxy to have a new metaphysics.
    If you are going to talk about “modern” what is that?
    you should have said something on the post below on Webb- where one needs an aspiration.
    Also, I know that you think torah and science are separate realms and you dont need a rabbi teaching you almanac science. So why ask it as science?
    And since you treat science as secular = why turn to Milbank who would want a medieval religious science?

  6. I saw you mentioned Milbank, said the little I know and asked you for more info. As background, I wondered why MO doesn’t take a TS Eliott line that high culture is of great importance; and secularism ,democracy and liberal churches are anathema to high culture. It seems to me it would be more impressive than what they have now. Their ambivalence to scholarship, the de facto acceptance of popular culture while being suspicious of high culture combined with right wing politics makes them vulnerable to charedi attacks, and is really a difficult position to defend with confidence. Read this against the background of your natural law essays and discussion of Rabbi Wurzberger.

    You ask about me. Besides lacking the capabilities to ground any version of Orthodoxy in a new metaphysics, my politics are left and I think more about dystopias and apocalypses than redemption. I am just a blogger rowing as fast as I can go.

  7. I have often thought that one of the differences between Orthodoxy in Germany and in the US is that there was a vibrant tradition of high culture in Germany, while there isn’t one in the US.

    • I am not sure and few have looked at the evidence. Yes, there is bildung and geist but not necessary philosophy or academe. Breuer was unique, Nechemia Nobel was a lone figure and authors like Urbach and Heinneman went to Breslau. We need to study 1888-1938 to actually evaluate it. The German journals are now all on line. Feel free to quote from them in response. Part of our perception of the German Jews has to do with the countries they settled in- there is a lot to analyze in the role they played in the new countries and the perception of German Jews as intellectuals in the 1950’s.
      If you are commenting on Radical Orthodoxy, then you are correct- German Jewry still had a metaphysic that Centrist Orthodoxy lacks. In fact, that is one of the major critiques that Breuer has of the Zionists.

  8. I was thinking, for examle, of Rabbi Schwab’s comment that when he was bar-mitzvah, baale batim would give him a set of Goethe’s or Schiller’s works. What would be the American equivalent. Shakespeare, I suppose. But what of distinctively American literature? Henry James?

    I agree with you that bildung is neither philosophy nor,more significantly. wissenschaft. Witness both RSRH and Yitzhak Breuer.

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