Readers of this excuse for a blog, you are to the first Theological Studies Graduate Student Colloquium at Conrad Grebel University College. During the Fall and Winter terms we will be hosting monthly presentations of scholarly material, by graduate students and other scholars, followed by questions and discussion. Our first presentation will take place on Thursday, October 9th at 12:00 noon in the Paetkau Seminar room (2201). Zac Klassen will introduce the series, and Max Kennel will present on “Anabaptist Revisions: A Call for a Contemporary Reimagining of the Anabaptist Vision”. Coffee and snacks will be provided. Our second meeting will take place on Friday, October 31st at 12:30 pm in the Paetkau Seminar room (2201). MTS student Isaiah Ritzmann will present on “Tradition as Community Tool: A Review of Alexander Blair’s Christian Ambivalence Towards its Old Testament“ followed by discussion and refreshments. Please contact Zac Klassen (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Max Kennel (email@example.com) for further details, or if you are interested in presenting a paper during Fall or Winter term.
Robert Zacharias, a postdoc at the University of Waterloo, has written a new book on Russian Mennonite literature. See my review here: http://www.canadianmennonite.org/articles/retelling-story
If any readers are in Winnipeg this weekend I will be giving a talk at the 6th Biennial Toronto Mennonite Theological Centre Graduate Student Conference at the Canadian Mennonite University on Saturday. The talk is titled “A Proposal for Nonviolent Metaphysics: Examining Ontological Violence” and it extends the Mennonite Metaphysics project that I’ve been working on. The link for the conference is here: https://uwaterloo.ca/toronto-mennonite-theological-centre/events/tmtc-graduate-student-conference-0
My longer review of Marion’s book Givenness & Hermeneutics was just published online with Symposium (the journal is now only publishing book reviews online, and not in print). Take a look here.
Some of my recent writing:
• An update on the Mennonite Metaphysics project, which is no longer my thesis project, but something that I will continue on my own time.
• A reflection on Anabaptist Mennonite Systematic Theology, that arose from a class I took this year.
• An old reflection on Postmodern Theology, posted for the first time.
“Confessions of an Errant Postmodernist, ” a review of For a Church to Come by Peter Blum, Canadian Mennonite, Vol. 17, No. 22 (2013): 32.
For a Church to Come, the newest addition to the Polyglossia series published by Herald Press, is a collection of essays full of gems for those who long to see authentic conversation occur between Anabaptism and postmodernity. Prefaced by theologian John D. Caputo, the book contains seven essays of diverse themes united by the confrontation between postmodern philosophy and Anabaptist Mennonite theology. While the essays themselves may not be accessible to readers without some philosophical and theological education, the introduction, interludes, and appendix may find a wider audience. Blum introduces the book with “Confessions of an Errant Postmodernist” and provides an interlude entitled “Boxes”, a poem entitled “Nine-Tenths of the Law”, and a very thought provoking appendix reflecting on John Howard Yoder. These meditations question common assumptions about absolute truth (in the introduction), offer meaningful reflections on the place of theory in theology (in an interlude), and provide very insightful thoughts on the relationship between the scholarly work and biography of John Howard Yoder.
Blum explains and problematizes the ambivalent and contradictory meaning(s) of the term “postmodern” and shows how the term names a suspicion of finality and closure. This suspicion of ultimate foundations means that, for those with postmodern convictions, nothing is beyond question. The experiments within For a Church to Come follow an attitude in which questions are more important than answers, and occasional interventions are perhaps more authentic than long systematic tomes. In his interlude entitled “Boxes” Blum illustrates the ways in which we theorize about reality (whether theologically or philosophically) by finding categories for our experiences. This is a theme that runs through the essays in the book, along with the very nonviolent and pacifist caution to avoid letting our categories be too totalizing.
The publication of these essays, edited and collected in one place, will be especially helpful for students in the humanities with an interest in both postmodern philosophy (Derrida, Heidegger, Levinas) and Anabaptist Mennonite Theology. In this way Blum joins other Mennonite scholars who are engaging in dialogue with postmodern thinkers, such as Chris Huebner (A Precarious Peace: Yoderian Explorations on Theology, Knowledge, and Identity) and Jamie Pitts (Principalities and Powers: Revising John Howard Yoder’s Sociological Theology). One can only hope that scholarly and popular work of this calibre continues to be published on the relationship between our Mennonite identity and our postmodern climate.
An edited version of my UWO Theory Session, “What is a Compendium? Parataxis, Hypotaxis, and the Question of the Book“, has just been published by the wonderful folks at Continent. Here is their abstract for the piece:
Through his analyses of figures such as parataxis, hypotaxis, compilation, and selection — and a reading of Derrida on Jabès, specifically — Maxwell Kennel plots a reminder — for all of those concerned with fragmentary or hierarchical writing — of the importance of the figure of the Compendium and the figure of the Book as indispensible metonymies for grand theories of anything..