Ankersen, Andrew - Pseudo-Religion in the Dune Universe: Frank Herbert’s Vision of a Post-Secular World
Frank Herbert’s Dune and its sequels are replete with complex, multifaceted worldbuilding. The books contain all the Sci-Fi tropes we have come to know and love from galaxy-spanning empires, warring planets, and laser guns. Unlike most fiction set in the far-distant future, religion is central to almost every aspect of the plot. Rather than imagine that religion will vanish once we reach the stars, Herbert sees a future where religion retakes its primacy in people’s lives.Herbert also fills his world with organizations that are stated explicitly not to be religious but appear for all intents and purposes to be. By examining these pseudo-religious groups through Derrida’s lens of globalatinization and ideas from performance theory, we can probe the dividing line between religion, secularism, and pseudo-religion. This analysis will speak to the current religious milieu and the murky border of religion as a category. Dune is the perfect medium for this type of analysis due to its renewed popularity and intentionally allegorical nature. For the sake of brevity, this study will confine itself to the first two books in the series, Dune and Dune Messiah, due to their particular focus on the creation and maintenance of religion.
Boakye-Yiadom, Kwasi - Displacing the Father and Son in Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons: Nihilism and the Erosion of Transcendence Among Millennials
This paper explores the driving forces that challenged transcendence in nineteenth-century Russian and Western thought. I argue that whereas Ivan Turgenev’s work Fathers and Sons had a towering influence on nihilism as a worldview, nihilism itself did not displace the conception of transcendence per se but rather a reconfiguration of its meaning and experience. This involved the displacement of the existing Judeo-Christian conception of transcendence for a fascination with mysticism. The approach was to analyze the influence of Fathers and Sons on nihilism as well as use it as a metaphor for how succeeding generations seek to jettison old ideas of transcendence for apparently new nihilist consciousness. The paper further uses this model to construct a growing reality among millennials: the rejection of the traditional Christian conception of transcendence and (even though they describe themselves as secular and non-religious) are increasingly describing themselves as “spiritual.” Ultimately, I argue that rather than viewing secularist millennials as abandoning the pursuit of transcendence, the reality is that they are increasingly becoming ambivalent about it, choosing to retain secularism, on one hand, and their own individual terms of transcendence, on the other hand, to find meaning in the post-modern context.
Boerger, Jonathan - Christ is Communion: A Non-Transactional Approach to Sacrifice, Supper, and the Eucharist
This paper explores non-transactional sacramental access to divine presence in the Eucharist. The invitation to commune with God in and through Christ is as necessary in the hyper-individuality of the postmodern secular world as it was in the pagan-plurality of the ancient Greco-Roman world. Since the sacraments are irreducibly mysterious yet operationally efficacious and not irreconcilably obscure, the presence of God in the Eucharist is at once transcendent and immanent. In conversation with modern Orthodox liturgical theologian Alexander Schmemann regarding worship in a secular age and by considering early Christian celebrations of the Eucharist in the historical and theological context of ancient meals and sacrifices, this paper demonstrates that rather than humans satisfying supposed divine needs (as many ancient worldviews supposed sacrifices satiated the gods), God graciously saves and sustains humans with the body and blood of Christ. Accordingly, this paper argues that the giving of Christ’s body and blood is a divine action that transcends transaction through the superabundant self-giving love of the Trinity. As such, the body and blood of Christ are the salvific incarnational substance of God’s mutually-giving, eternally-communing being of love. In short, the person and work of Christ are communion, not currency.
Bowen, Deborah - Creation Still Speaking: Contemporary Poetry and the Everyday Voice of the Divine
Environmentalist Rachel Carson wrote lyrically in 1941, “To stand at the edge of the sea, to sense the ebb and the flow of the tides, … to watch the flight of shore birds that have swept up and down the surf lines of the continents for untold thousands of years, … is to have knowledge of things that are as nearly eternal as any earthly life can be.” Seventy years later the preeminent Canadian ‘nature poet’ Don McKay writes, “Geopoetry…is the place where materialism and mysticism, those ancient enemies, finally come together, have a conversation in which each hearkens to the other, then go out for a drink.” These are “secular” writers whose interactions with the natural world encounter something of the transcendent. What does this suggest about the everyday voices of Creation? Referring to my research of the last couple of years, I will consider poetry by several local poets who, while claiming no specific spiritual grounding, nevertheless experience transcendence in the natural world.
Bush, Peter - Wonder in Community Newspapers in Canada: Seeking to Open Conversations about Transcendence
This paper explores how “Minister’s reflections” columns (and similarly named columns) in local community newspapers engage readers to wonder and awe. Many community (frequently published weekly) newspapers across Canada continue to carry weekly columns written by local clergy and others in the community. These columns are read both by people who attend religious gatherings and those who have no religious connection. The writers of these columns do a variety of things to engage readers: education about religious practice, engaging in apologetics, and inviting wonder. It is this last category that is the focus of this paper.Experiences of wonder open the imagination to reflection on transcendence. Wonder opens human beings to see beyond the limits of the expected and the normal to encounter a world of experience which cannot be measured by the tools of secularity.By analyzing these columns which invite wonder, we gain insight into the ways these ministry practitioners in Canada are seeking to open conversations with a secular audience transcendence. Examination of these attempts at engagement opens the door to deeper reflection on the place of wonder in conversations with secularism.
Chung, Paul Seungoh - Recovering God: Translating and Mapping out the Journey
Our “secular age” did not emerge by simple “subtraction” of the religious from our lives, but by centuries-long “construction” of very particular conceptions of ourselves, of the natural world, and even of God that it would eventually displace. The implication of this thesis is that those who pursue transcendence in the context of the secular is confronted with a task that is fundamentally different from simply finding reasons for religious belief in the midst of unbelief. They must instead cross the space between what has essentially become incommensurable worldviews. This paper sets out from my previous book, God at the Crossroads of Worldviews, to describe this predicament and to explore a possible way forward through two metaphors. First metaphor is that inhabiting a different worldview is like speaking a different language, and thus, our initial task is that of “translation.” Second metaphor is that worldviews undergo changes in a manner akin to that of a “journey”—a process that produced the current secular age. The task of translation locates us on that journey as immigrants; but, then we must “map out” the next course of this journey along a path where transcendence is progressively revealed.
Clarke, Emma - “What’s In A Name?”: Reconciling Self-Transcendent Experiences and Transcendence in “Play”
What have self-transcendent experiences to do with transcendence, and vice versa? Do they share anything other than a name—and if so, what does this mean for the church as it seeks to contextualize its theology?Studies exist on accessing some sense of the “beyond” in playful, leisure activities. When paragliding, Diana Leskelä shares, “pilots navigate the invisible in a dance of total attention that engenders flow, communitas with other pilots, and a spiritual sense of union with a higher natural order” (Leskelä, “Beyond Risk,” abstract). The same may be said of golfing, acting, and similar secular endeavours.These are often termed self-transcendent experiences (STEs). Are they different from transcendence in a theophanic sense? Can the anthropological and spiritual perspectives be brought together for a holistic definition of the word, as it relates to play?Peter L. Berger considers play a “signal of transcendence” (Berger, A Rumor of Angels, 78) that grants God still accessible despite the secularization of modern culture. Using his “argument from play” (83) this paper interrogates studies on self-transcendent experiences in leisure activities to propose a contextual theology of play as a means to commune with God.
Crozier, Natasha - Follow the Child: A Path to Transcendence
Theologians over the centuries have argued that children are a gift, a means of grace, a model for life defined by “infinite openness.” If adults long to experience transcendence in a world that seems stripped of all enchantment, maybe it is time to follow the child. The habits and practices of children engaged with a world they do not yet recognize as secular give adults signposts in their search for transcendence. This paper will explore children’s curiosity, wonder (both as delight and as question), and embodied exploration of the world, to see what these practices offer adults in their search for transcendence. It will also investigate the need for mutuality in this search, as exemplified through children’s literature and the meaningful engagement between adults and children in this genre. This posture of mutual giving and receiving creates the environment that allows us to perceive the glimpses of God’s transcendence threaded through creation and community.
Csinos, David - The Stones Cry Out: Unexpected Transcendence and Public Spectacle in Secular Spaces
Over the past fifty years, sound-and-light shows have grown into a phenomenon in parts of the Western world. These shows utilize the facades of historical buildings—many of which are ecclesiastical—as canvases on which to digitally project videos and images that dance across the stonework to synchronized music and sound effects. While religious services within churches on which these shows are projected may attract a handful of people, crowds flock to the public squares outside of them in order to watch the shows shine colourful lights against the night sky. This paper relies on original qualitative research with over sixty spectators at sound-and-light shows in four countries in order to consider how these shows evoke experiences of transcendence. By using this research as a case study of transcendence in contexts marked by secularity, this paper describes Charles Taylor’s insights in A Secular Age through the real experiences of ordinary people. Such experiences evidence how sound-and-light shows can unexpectedly form gaps in the immanent frame that marks Western secularity, haunting even unbelievers by the possibility of something beyond the here-and-now.
Dickinson, Christian - Industrial Realism and the Advent of Modern Fantasy: Transcendent Tensions in Victorian Literature
In A Secular Age, Charles Taylor argues that all of Western history can be interpreted as a move from Transcendence to Immanence, Spiritual to Secular. This shift has been discussed most actively in the disciplines of Religion, Philosophy, and the Social Sciences. However, I will argue that this shift is also evident in the field of Literature. The tensions between transcendence and immanence can be seen in small ways throughout literary history, but is most evident in the works of the great novelists of the Victorian Era. In Victorian Fantasy (1979), Stephen Prickett argues that the advent and growth of the modern fantasy genre in the nineteenth century is a direct reaction against the encroaching, stifling urbanization of the Industrial Revolution and rise of the Middle-Class. Taking Prickett’s analysis as a foundation, I will demonstrate how nineteenth century ‘Realist’ and genre fiction (particularly the novels of Charles Dickens) present both transcendence and immanence in a single narrative, and successfully navigate the tensions produced by the simultaneous existence of these appositional modes. I will demonstrate how Victorian Literature adeptly allows “God … to break through the mundane”, demonstrating worlds in which transcendence and immanence can co-exist harmoniously.
DePhillippeaux, Brendan - Melodious Order: Clement of Alexandria’s Musical Analogy as a Model for Re-Enchantment in Christian Worldview Formation
Modern secular societies share in common a worldview that assumes a disenchanted conception of nature. In contrast to the porous understanding of nature and selfhood that was operative in premodern societies, the universe is now a closed system of immutable natural laws, entirely immanent and impervious to the influence of external spiritual forces. While ushering in an era of increasingly ordered and industrious modern societies, this conception of nature also brought with it a loss of meaning that is incompatible with a Christian understanding of creation. By contrast, second century theologian Clement of Alexandria in his Exhortation to the Greeks used the analogy of music to portray the universe as an ordered whole in harmonious relationship with its creator. Clement here models a kind of imaginative theology that is capable of integrating both immanence and transcendence within a distinctly Christian theological worldview that can serve as an enchanted alternative to reductive modern social imaginaries. In this paper I will argue a) that Clement’s musical analogy demonstrates a distinctly Christian use of theological imagination, b) that this epistemology allows for a “thick” metaphysical concept of nature, and c) that Clement’s imaginative theology has implications for Christian worldview formation and cultural renewal.
Dvorak, Celeste - Music that Transcends: Exploring Spirituals Composed by Florence B. Price
The spiritual is a timeless example of how music can help humans rise above the daily and connect to the divine. Some spirituals were written as prayers for deliverance from slavery, some were written as songs to help make the work of a slave more bearable, and some were even written to provide direction when seeking escape on the Underground Railroad. Spirituals can be deeply moving expressions of anguish, pride, and prayer to God. I will present four spirituals arranged by the Black American composer Florence B. Price: “I’m Goin’ to Lay Down My Heavy Load,” “Some o’ These Days,” “Words for a Spiritual,” “Feet o’Jesus.” The first two of these pieces are traditional spirituals that Price has arranged; the others are original compositions by Price bringing new literature to the spiritual genre. Price, a female, Black American composer adds her unique voice to the body of work for classical recital singers. I hope to showcase not only the beautiful tradition of spirituals, but also the music of Florence B. Price.
East, Melanie - “Glittering Hills of Scrap Aluminum”: Viewing the Secular in Contemporary Canadian Poetry
If one definition of the secular is “of the world,” then the dichotomy between secularity and transcendence is a false one. Since the moment of creation, the Holy Spirit has infused the world with His active presence. Too often, Christians seeking transcendence look beyond this world and into the next. Paradoxically, my paper will examine how literature that challenges attitudes of contemptus mundi leads us closer to the transcendent. One way to reorient our attention is to contemplate the Spirit’s work in maintaining and repairing the created order under the conditions of the Anthropocene. The practice of “noticing” this world and the repair it needs is often carried out by poets—those gifted with the Holy Spirit’s creative impulse. Attending to the work of poetic “noticing,” then, is a way to experience the transcendent in the secular. My paper will examine contemporary Canadian poetry that reveals the effects of the Anthropocene on the created order. Specifically, I will look at poetry by Karen Solie and Ken Babstock to suggest that seemingly “secular” poems can actively re-orient our gaze to the Spirit’s restorative work in the world.
- Flatt, Kevin - Transcendence and Social Order: Philip Rieff on Sacred Order, Social Order, and the Secular Condition
Greene, Merrill - Drunk in the Spirit: Charismatic Expression, Divine Revelation, and World Evangelism
Despite North American and European societies seemingly becoming less “religious” or “churched,” enthusiasm for the supernatural has increased exponentially on both continents. Interest in the psychic industry, New Age philosophy, and New Religious Movements (NRMs) are on the rise. One feature of these movements is the common place that ecstatic experience, trance, and spirit-possession play to transcend typical sense-perceptive models for understanding the world. These altered states of consciousness have likewise become staples of the modern Pentecostal-Charismatic movement. One particularly striking example is the manifestation of being “Drunk in the Spirit,” a term used to denote various states of consciousness in which the individual falls, acts incoherent, slurs their speech, laugh uncontrollably, and other atypical behavior. These strange bodily phenomena are viewed by some etic observers and critics as a form of group psychosis (or hypnosis), the work of demonic activity, or acting. Yet, those within these movements understand it to be tangible evidence that God has either overshadowed the individual or taken control of their mental or physical faculties to some extant. In this paper I look at the biblical evidence for altered states of consciousness as a means of divine revelation and its practical use in world evangelism.
Hill, Jesse - Here I Raise My Ebenezer: The Miracle, the Event, and the Temporality of Sacred Space
What makes a space sacred? My thesis is that there is an intense, holy temporality that distinguishes certain spaces as sacred, and that this temporality extends in three directions: forward (to the future), backward (to the past), and side to side (in the present). That is to say, sacred spaces function as immanent markers of something transcendent that has happened, is happening, or will happen. These spaces thus exist in reference to what Charles Taylor describes as a “miracle”: the brief, unexpected punching-through of the transcendent into the immanent world. Taylor’s miracle is closely related, however, to Jean-Luc Marion’s “event”: a saturated phenomenon that arises unexpectedly in time, outside of the horizon of intuited possibility. Some events are so intense that they are transmuted from time into space, marking a place as the site of some transcendent breaking-through. Thus, a site can be marked as holy ground based on what has happened there, or what will happen there, or perhaps, what is happening there now. In this paper, I argue that sacred spaces relating to Christian worship testify to the possibility of extra-temporal transcendence even in their immanent existence, offering concrete theological challenges to the modern social imaginary.
Hu, Yadi - Recognizing and Holding on to the Transcendence of God: Prayers in the Midst of the Secularizing World of Ancient Israel
In ancient Israel, two forms of “secularism” may be observed. First, the “”structural secularism”” began alongside the establishment of monarchy, as the nation sought to be somewhat institutionally independent of divine rule. Second, the “”ideological secularism”” was signaled by the “practical atheism”—the “reserved skepticism” toward God’s involvement in human affairs.
This paper argues that the secularization process of ancient Israel was accompanied by the changes in the Israelites’ theological perception of God—manifested in the language of their prayers. Following the structural secularism, as the distance increased between God and humanity, the perception of God’s immanence shifted to an emphasis on His transcendence. Thus, spontaneous and conversational prayers evolved into more elaborate and formalized forms (e.g., 2 Kgs 19:14–19; cf., Exod 32:11–13). In response to the ideological secularism, especially in the midst of suffering, the Israelites also supplemented prayers of lament with penitential prayers, as they held on to the transcendence of God, while appealing for His eventual immanent presence (e.g., Ezra 9:6–15; cf., Ps 83).
This paper will examine the OT prayer texts (especially the four listed above) and demonstrate how the transcendence of God was understood by ancient Israel within structural and ideological secularism.
Hubschmid, Thomas - False Starts in the Pursuit of Transcendence: Michel Henry and Immanent Life as Ordinary Transcendence
Is there an extraordinary crossing of the boundaries of immanence by either the self or God? This paper argues that this now common-sense question in the pursuit of transcendence for “a secular age” is a false start. It discusses French Phenomenologist Michel Henry’s chief contention that the scientific orientation of knowledge in “a secular age” fails to account for its condition of possibility. That condition of possibility is what Henry variously names the manifesting, appearing, generating, or revealing of existence, which is the sui generis appearing of the human self within and as itself from a source of existence absolutely prior to any intention, cause, or thought belonging to either the immanent self or the immanent world. This paper therefore argues that before any extraordinary event of transcendence is thinkable, the always prior appearing of the self and its world from a source other than itself must be regarded as an ongoing event of ordinary transcendence. The thinking, feeling, and even automatic moments of everyday life are never not an event of immanent life’s transcendental appearing.
Hurtsellers, Alexander - Sobornity, Catholicity, and the Recovery of the Truly Transcendent in Modernity: The Theological Anthropologies of Sergei Bulgakov and Henri de Lubac as Responses to Modernity
This paper brings together the voices of the Orthodox theologian, Sergei Bulgakov, and Roman Catholic theologian, Henri de Lubac, by examining the thematic of theological anthropology in their thought to better understand the individual and their role in community, amidst the anti-communal and anti-transcendent aspects of modernity. Bulgakov’s articulates an Orthodox theological system rooted in the decisive Incarnate realities of Creation. Bulgakov’s theological anthropology is bound to the proclamation of the tethering of the creature to the Creator, whereby the recognition of grace in creatureliness is a disclosure of Divine communion. To recognize the dignity of the individual in modernity, Bulgakov argues for a recovery of the transcendence of the subject actualized in ecclesial communion. De Lubac, in the Catholic tradition, argues that neo-scholastic theological anthropologies support the disenchantment of the individual in modernity. He contends that the authenticity of the Catholic tradition rests in a natural orientation of the individual towards the Divine, as realized in ecclesial communion – a conclusion not dissimilar from Bulgakov’s. The decisive voices of these figures can be brought together, across the lines of tradition, to argue forth the importance of proclaiming a natural sense of transcendence in the individual, as a response to secularity.
Kim, Jihyung - Jesus, the Incarnated Transcendence on Behalf of His People
How is divine transcendence understood, experienced, and articulated in this twenty-first century amidst competing secular interests? This study aims to address this comprehensive topic from a biblical perspective by exploring Hebrews 3:1–6 from the social memory perspective.
The corpus discusses how the transcendent God, the creator and the revealer of his word, is communicated to and experienced by the audience, the sharers of a heavenly calling, through remembering Jesus, the faithful apostle, and the high priest. In order to clarify what to remember about Jesus, the author summons a socially shared memory of a prototypical figure, Moses, and his story (cf. Num 14). Hence, the main task is to identify how Moses and his story were remembered as reflected in the late Second Temple Literature. Once the remembered Moses is determined, the specific aspect of Jesus that the audience must remember becomes explicit. It is to this aspect of Jesus that the audience was called to solidify their identity.
Ultimately, this study attempts to show how both the original audience and modern Christians can learn and experience the transcendence of God through their act of remembering Jesus, despite the hostility of the world in which they live.
Konkel, August - Pursuit of the Holy
Contemporary secularism has become bullish in moral demands sometimes referred to as woke. Some of these demands are maintained despite contradictions, such as the rights of women and the right of a woman to abort her baby just because it is female. In Canada this right is fully protected by law until the time the infant is born. C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity described the human race as “haunted by the idea of a sort of behaviour they ought to practice” (1952, 13). Humans have never agreed on what is right but always assert that other must conform to what they believe to be right. Lewis persuasively argued that this points to a reality which transcends the material universe.This paper will seek to explore that transcendent reality through the pursuit of doing what is right. In theological terms this is the pursuit of the holy. The semitic word qdš refers to transcendence in both a static and dynamic sense. The paper will develop that distinction with the goal of understanding what is meant by the phrase “be holy for I am holy” (Lev 19:2; 1 Pet 1:16) or “be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect” (Matt 5:48). The paper will seek to show that secularism can deny but not escape the reality of this transcendence.
Lee, John (Leland) - Reason Beyond Nature: John McDowell and the Possibility of Seeing Reason within Supernatural Order
John McDowell has exercised a wide-ranging influence among Anglophone philosophers in metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of mind. A consistent critique running through McDowell’s work is his thesis that reductive naturalism cannot account for the working of human minds. That is, the laws that govern nature fail to describe adequately how human minds operate. Instead, according to McDowell, reason “transforms” minds in such a way that human minds are an important exception to the (naturalistic) rule. McDowell proffers in the place of reductive naturalism his non-reductive naturalism that can metaphysically house the working of human minds as governed by reason. What is foreclosed for McDowell is the possibility of a supernatural metaphysics that can ground reason and workings of the human mind. In this presentation, I argue for the possibility that a supernatural metaphysics can provide such grounding. Furthermore, I argue that McDowell’s non-reductive naturalism is itself self-referentially inconsistent in that the causal properties of reason must be ontologically grounded – but these properties must be grounded in a reductive, naturalistic way – if naturalism is said to provide the ultimate metaphysical housing. Left with a choice between reductive naturalism and supernaturalism, I argue that we should consider the latter.
Lee, John (MDC) - Paul on God’s Transcendence and Immanence: Reading Romans 3 Grammatical-Metaphorically
The notion of divine transcendence and immanence has caused—and is still causing—much debate and controversy among modern Christians. The past century has thus witnessed a slew of views concerning whether God is transcendent or immanent, e.g. Kierkegaard (and Barth), traditional views, Tillich, liberalism, and even the so-called “Death of God” theology. Romans 3 shows, however, that the question on God’s transcendence and immanence is nothing new. Therefore, this research reads Rom 3 in light of the modern linguistic notion of grammatical metaphor to elicit linguistic data with which to discuss how Paul corrects the interlocutor’s misguided immanentism by bringing his attention to the Jewish “fixation” on law and circumcision. This study concludes that the linguistic data point in the direction that Paul presents “God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (v. 22) as the ultimate remedy for the interlocutor’s—and our—confused notion of God’s transcendence and immanence.
Lim, Jason - Faith as a Pursuit of Transcendence: Tabernacles and Faith in the Book of Hebrews
The Book of Hebrews mentions two tabernacles, earthly and heavenly, as places where the sacrifier is becoming or recovering holiness. Both tabernacles made people living in secular times to pursue transcendence through purifying rituals. However, the readers of Hebrews, including the original readers and ourselves, are unable to physically access both tabernacles. My thesis is that, in the midst of our secular everyday life, Hebrews presents “faith” as the essential tool that enables us to continuously pursue transcendence, the salvation given to us through Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice.Platonic dualism has shaped the interpretation of Hebrews’s tabernacles in two ways. First, the Platonic view overlooks the earthly tabernacle, where human high priests served, because materiality is inferior to spirituality. Second, those who oppose the Platonic perspective frequently view the heavenly tabernacle as a metaphor. In opposition to both positions, I will utilize critical spatial theory to argue that the earthly and heavenly tabernacles are equally valued by the author of Hebrews in light of the illustration of the tabernacles in Heb 8 and 9. Subsequently, an alternative space based on faith introduced in Heb 10–13 will be examined based on the trialectics of critical spatiality.
Martin, D.S. - Poetry and the Transcendent
Our society seems to say you can attach any explanation to the phenomena our universe presents, except one that includes God.
When an audience engages with the arts, however, their defences are not activated in the same way. With a novel, for example, they rarely weigh their own world view against that of the protagonist, because the world of the novel and that of the reader are not the same. Artists present another person’s perspective. Because the artist doesn’t argue for anything, the audience is free to participate in what Samuel Taylor Coleridge called “the willing suspension of disbelief.” Instead of arguing against the supernatural world Shakespeare presents in The Tempest, they imagine his propositional world along with him. The audience becomes open to weighing insights which they might not have otherwise been willing to hear.
In this session through my poetry I will share how the arts gets at truths, even transcendent truths, without forcing people into arguments about what to believe. Each person is free to engage with the poems on the level of “things to think about” leaving them free to wrestle with ideas they otherwise might not be open to.”
Middleton, J. Richard - Ascent or Incarnation? Reconfiguring Transcendence via Biblical Theology
Scripture portrays the world as God’s intended sacred domain, a realm that God desires to inhabit with humanity and all creatures. This portrayal begins with Genesis 1, which envisions creation as a cosmic temple; it continues with the coming of God to dwell in Israel’s tabernacle and temple; it finds its central manifestation in the incarnation of the Word; and culminates in a new creation where God will be “all in all” (1 Cor 15:28).
Yet long before our secular age, Christians have had a problem envisioning this world as God’s intended dwelling. Soon after the New Testament, a theology of ascent began replace the incarnational theology of the Bible. Many church fathers clothed the Christian faith in the garments of Middle Platonism to contextualize the gospel for a Greco-Roman audience. After Plotinus, Christian theologians (especially Augustine) began to utilize Neoplatonic metaphysics to articulate a distinctive vision of life, focused on transcending earthly matters for heavenly union with God.
This paper will explore key moments in the incarnational pattern of Scripture (the coming of God into our earthly existence) as an alternative understanding of transcendence. It will conclude with implications of the incarnational model for the sanctification of earthly life.
Millar, Elizabeth - The Incarnation as the Great Connection: Awakening Us to the Presence of God in Everyday Life
Even though we live in the post modern age, dualism continues to persist, particularly in the Evangelical faith tradition. Dualism falsely divides reality into two independent, often opposing, sides. Practically, only what we can see with our own eyes is deemed real, the divine seems out of reach, most of ordinary life is considered secular, and reason is upheld as the primary and preferred way of knowing God. Tragically, we miss out on the fullness of life. However, the Incarnation is a major event in the biblical narrative that opens the door for us to notice and experience the transcendence of God. Using Helen Collin’s theological reflection method, this paper will explore the practical implications of the Word becoming flesh and blood. An Incarnational understanding of reality will be proposed as a way to awaken us to the presence of God in ordinary life. This paper will approach the Incarnation as the Great Connection, as the Incarnate Christ connects the invisible and visible, divinity and humanity, the sacred and the secular, and, finally, faith or imagination and reason. These connections lead to sacred storytelling as we articulate and bear witness to the presence of God in our everyday lives.
Morelli, Michael - Transferrance of the Transcendant in the Post- Christendom West: A Critical and Constructive Engagement with Jacques Ellul's New Demons
In New Demons, Jacques Ellul advances his thesis that the post-Christendom West has not become wholly secular, but has transferred its senses of the sacred onto two immanent material phenomena: technology and the nation-state. As a part of this provocative thesis, Ellul argues the myths of science and history have generated this transference of transcendence.
In this paper I outline the contours of Ellul’s thesis to clarify analyses of what is meant by ‘transcendence’ in ‘a secular age,’ but I also respond with a constructive critique of Ellul’s work to offer resources for thought and action that go beyond those presented in this and other of Ellul’s texts.
If Ellul calls for iconoclastic responses to what constitutes new and dangerous sacred forms in the post-Christendom West, I likewise call for iconoclasm, but I also call for a (re)discovery of the sacred forms already given to the world to properly, safely, and fruitfully locate its senses of and responses to what—or better yet, who—is transcendent: a Wholly Other God whose immanence is, despite appearances to the contrary, revealed in the unlikeliest places at the unlikeliest of times, like speech, water, bread, and wine.
Pang, Francis - Dying, Friendship, and the Drama of Afterlife: Theological Reflections on Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius
What does it mean to not die well? Many people today consider dying alone to be problematic. Those who consider themselves religious are no exception. Recent media coverage of patients passing away without their loved ones in ICU and long-term care homes during the Covid-19 pandemic has drawn attention to practices of palliative care and reignited conversations within believing communities regarding how to prepare for death. For Christians in the Western world, the end of earthly life is sometimes a rather personal (and lonely) affair. In this presentation, I propose that we can learn about preparing to die from a rather unlikely source: Edward Elgar’s musical arrangement of John Henry Newman’s poem Dream of Gerontius (1900). Gerontius has long been considered a work that brings consolation and comfort to those who are dying or those grieving the passing of their loved ones. Elgar’s work depicts the epic journey of a repented sinner from his final days on earth, into the afterlife, and on to the eventual joy of intimacy with God. Even though the majority of the narration is by Gerontius (in part I) or between him and his guardian angel (in part II), the experience of dying and his journey in the afterlife is portrayed as a communal affair. Facing the terrors of death and judgment, the protagonist of Newman’s poem is strengthened by the prayers and memories of his friends on earth as well as accompanied by a guardian angel. While he is not without anxiety, his words of introspection are full of confidence and hope. By exploring this Roman-Catholic poem and musical arrangement, I aim to provide some practical theological reflections on preparing for death, and also to suggest a framework for evangelicals to articulate confidence and hopefulness in the face of death.
Payton, James - Transcendent in Essence, Immanent in Energies: A Greek Patristic Trajectory
The “secularism” we confront in the contemporary world arose in response to a variety of developments in Western Christendom, which earlier arose—again, through a variety of developments—out of the Latin patristic heritage of Christian antiquity.The path taken in Western Christendom, however, is not the only one offered by the Church fathers. The Greek patristic heritage followed a different trajectory, leading to the affirmation that God is utterly transcendent in the divine essence but always immanent in the divine energies—the “operations” or “activities” of God upholding and directing the creation. In this approach, the Greek Church fathers saw God not as the distant watchmaker of Deist thought, nor as the periodic intervener from the supernatural realm (via miracles) of medieval western thought, but as the One “in whom we live and move and have our being” (cf. Acts 17:28).This paper begins with Athanasius’ comments about God and creation and then considers how Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, Maximus the Confessor, and John of Damascus further unfolded these perspectives, culminating with Gregory Palamas in the confession of faith in God as transcendent in the divine essence and immanent in the divine energies.
Pettit, Kira - Demanding Eternity: Cross-Pressured Stories of Death for a Secular Age
In A Secular Age, Charles Taylor names death as one source of the cross-pressure between faith in the secular present and the “childlike” faith of the past. In this paper, I employ the theme of death in children’s literature in conversation with theologians Donald Mackinnon, Ephraim Radner, and Rowan Williams, to emphasize the myriad ways that death moves us to each other and to God, shaping our lives. The children’s stories examined here contain fragments of the whole that is the Christian narrative, even as they also reflect the growing doubts of their Western context. All are stories of enchantment in some way, and, for a disenchanted modern west, these stories are part of the heritage passed on to children, paradoxically preserving their resonant truths within a context that continues to question them. Thus, as demonstrated in children’s literature, Western culture confirms that we cannot let go entirely of the Christian claims about death. In fact, I will argue that when it comes to the stories we tell about death, culture demonstrates Christian theology in a kind of natural theology, where grief provides a witness to the rejected narrative of Christianity, moving us to desire the transcendent.
Porter, Stanley - Metaphor and Transcendence
Theories of lexical metaphor abound, from the ancients to the moderns. They all try to come to terms with how it is that different wordings relate to similar or different meanings. Metaphors are often understood in relation to simile. However, similes, with their equative constructions (the use of “like” or “as” or similar), invoke an immanent view of the objects and their meanings in context. The simile posits entities or qualities that are equated within the same type of phenomenological experience. These may not be consciously secular, but they certainly limit the range of human experience. The use of metaphor, however, surpasses this immanent confinement and transcends the situational phenomenological experience through its metaphorical wording. This paper will argue that the power of lexical metaphor is its potential for the transcendence of experience and movement into a new range of phenomenological experience. I will primarily draw upon lexical metaphors found within the works of Shakespeare and the New Testament to support my hypothesis.
Porter, Wendy - Mary’s Magnificat and Its Music: From Phenomenology to Transcendence
The Magnificat, traditionally presented as the voice of Mary in Luke 1:46–55, shows Mary’s personal location and provides the phenomenological context for her expression of transcendence. As her song unfolds, she moves beyond description of her own experience into acknowledging “Holy is his name” without reference to herself. Her song of transcendence then focuses on God’s character and work in the lives of those around her. She looks back through liturgical memory of what has gone before and forward to the promise of God’s mercy forever. Some composers of musical settings for this Canticle have used their music to evoke the numinous in their settings, perhaps even hinting at their own experience of transcendence. In this paper, I will look first at Mary’s Song with attention to how her voice speaks phenomenologically but moves towards transcendence that focuses entirely on God—his name, his character, his work, his promise. I will then look at several renowned musical settings of the Magnificat for glimpses of the composers’ perspectives on transcendence. Compositions by Taverner, Byrd, and Bach will provide counterpoint to some later works such as those by Howells, Rutter, and Pärt, and a contemporary hymn setting.
Schuurman, Peter & Angela Reitsma Bick - Deconstructing/Reconstructing Faith in Post-Christian Canada: Secularization and the Religious “Undones”
Although with varying emphasis, what Brad Jersak (2022) has called “The Great Deconstruction,” Alan Roxburgh (2021) “The Great Unraveling” and Andrew Root (2022) “The Crisis of Decline” all point at first glance to a secularizing of North American culture and the church. But deconstruction, unravelling, and decline need to be systematically examined in the qualitative details of what is happening in the lives of individual Christians and their congregations—and particularly in the often-overlooked religious landscape of post-Christian Canada. In 2021 we interviewed 30 Canadians who said they had recently “deconstructed” and to some extent “reconstructed” their Christian faith. While we found evidence of secularizing influences (eg. therapeutic discourse, religious consumer practises, shying away from embodied community) some deep desire for transcendence remained. Deconstruction appears as an excruciating and yet vital moment in a broader process of faith development. We will elaborate on what our research shows about a continued longing for a loving God, while advocating for a broader vocabulary in the discourse on religiosity, beyond the “nones” and “dones” to what we call the “undone.” Furthermore, we situate our qualitative findings in a Biblical theology that we argue demands a season of reckoning for the Christian faith in Canada.
Sikkema, Doug - Reimagining the World: Contemporary Fiction is Haunted by Transcendence
In The Myths We Live By, Mary Midgley argues that humans fundamentally depend on narratives to orient themselves in the world. Such narratives provide a hermeneutical framework, telling us where we come from, who we are, and where we might be going. One of the most pervasive narratives that frame our contemporary moment is that of secularization. In my talk, I explore just what is meant, historically, by this contested narrative and then to look at ways in which alternative, (post?)secular options are emerging today in contemporary literature. After the 2007 publication of Charles Taylor’s landmark work, A Secular Age, secularization has framed an emergent critical discourse in contemporary literary studies. In my talk, I will look closely at the burgeoning field of postsecular literary criticism that has been deeply informed by Taylor’s work and transposed into literary discourse by, among others, Amy Hungerford and John McClure. Focusing particularly on the poetry of Christian Wiman and Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, I will offer a brief glimpse into the ways in which competing narratives of re-enchantment offer alternative figurations of the material world, figurations which do not lock the world into an immanent frame, but are haunted by the possibilities of transcendence.
Spencer, Archie - The Reality of God in a God-Forgetting Age: Towards a Recovery of Divine Transcendence as Life
This paper was born out of serious theological reflection on the poverty that culture tended to experience in relation to their God-consciousness, under the conditions of Covid19. It proposes that though secularity has led Western culture to a place where there is a sense of having forgotten God, expressed by Wolff Krotke as Gottesgewissenheit, (God-forgetful-ness), there is, nevertheless, room in the post-secular age to reconsider God’s transcendent reality as “life”. This paper offers a two part description of the current state of affairs in respect to this God-forgetful-ness, with a view to offering new hope for a reconsideration of transcendence under the Biblical concept of the “living God”, as expressed in three related accounts of the vision of God in Isaiah 6, Ezekiel 1 and Revelation 4. Against the backdrop of these visions of the divine it is possible to speak of the being and perfections of God in such a way that we may affirm both His life and ours.
Steinmetz, Israel - Longing for Transcendence: Biblical Apocalyptic Literature, Marvel Comic Universe Movies, and the modern secular longing for eschatological hope
On one hand, biblical apocalyptic literature seems inscrutable to modern eyes, an archaic genre more likely to obscure than reveal. Pop-eschatology misunderstands and misappropriates biblical apocalyptic literature, ignoring genre-sensitive interpretation. On the other hand, something akin to apocalyptic literature has emerged today, indicating an enduring affinity for the key characteristics of the genre. The Marvel Comic Universe (MCU) film franchise has created an immersive world much like that of biblical apocalyptic literature. The symbolism, imagery, and major themes of the MCU and biblical apocalyptic literature parallel one another in both form and function. Ultimately, both anticipate eschatological hope via transcendent intervention.
Since 2008, thirty screen adaptations of the MCU have become the highest-grossing film franchise in history. The films offer a modern corollary to biblical apocalyptic literature that can aid in appreciating and understanding its meaning and themes. Further, the popularity of the MCU franchise reveals an enduring taste for transcendence, particularly as it is expressed in biblical apocalyptic literature. We explore the ways in which the MCU film franchise parallels biblical apocalyptic literature, focusing on the ways in which this parallel demonstrates a secular awareness of, and longing for, transcendence, even-or perhaps especially-in late modern, secular Western culture.
Storbakken, Scott - John's Apocalypse, Transcendence, and the Absence of the Secular
The final book of the NT presents a vision of the world in which nothing secular exists. A narrative critical approach helps to argue that a secular age could never exist in human history. The messages to Asia Minor throughout the book display the author’s urgency to lead his audiences toward the sole worship of YHWH, rejecting the pagan deities that surround them.Heavenly worship names YHWH as the only source of holy transcendence (Rev 4–5). In first century Rome, earthly violence and injustice reflected an unholy transcendence of the emperor and his gods (c.f., Rev 6). Revelation 8 depicts destruction of the elements through which Greco-Roman pagans found spirituality. Evil transcends humanity as indicated through John’s demonic characters with human referents (e.g., 666 as part of its literary manifestation of the Nero redivivus myth).A “secular age” often refers to the decreased influence of the Judeo-Christian worldview. This worldview held no sway in John’s culture. We heed John’s call by turning from the paganism and injustice that surrounds us. If true Christian worship ushers in divine truth, love, and justice and destroys idols, it will confront those worshipping gods of secular humanism with holy transcendence.
Tolentino Garcia, José Adrián - The Silencing of Scriptures in Modernity
A historical process that happened within the development of secularization, and that has received no attention by scholars, was the gradual silencing of the Holy Scriptures. From its origins, like all ancient books, the Bible was read orally, collectively, and performatively. The sacred authority of the Bible was reinforced by these aural dynamics and the meaning of its text was also conditioned by them. This will change when oral reading is gradually abandoned for silent reading in a longue durée process that begins at the late Middle Ages and culminates in the Enlightenment. Oral reading allowed listeners to consider the sacredness of the Bible, through ritual performance. Silent reading does not allow one to discern between a “sacred book” and a “profane book”. Silent reading is the origin of the philological and historical analysis and criticism of the biblical text. It is that moment when biblical sacred authority begins to deteriorate —what Michael C. Legaspi has called the “Death of Scripture.” The present analysis will provide a glimpse of the numerous implications that the silencing of the reading of the Bible had: from its loss of authority to the rise of the modern book culture.
Tughan, James - The Transcendent Artistry of Jesus
One of the most compelling clusters of evidence for God’s transcendent nature is one which demonstrates His imagination, creativity and craftsmanship in the creative order, in other words, His artistry.
I propose to install the Nine Faces of Christ visual narrative drawings in the new school gallery and speak to how these works give us clues to the span of this eternal artistry. These drawings present a “timeline” series of surrealist portraits of Jesus, from creation (and before) to the end of days in the Lamb’s throne room. These drawings infer that Jesus was an artist first by nature and that this nature spans, animates and energizes all the apparent intersections of His presence with ours. The irony of Christ’s “self-limiting” of ministry, suffering and death in the incarnation, which at first seems to contradict the span of His eternal character, in fact repeatedly points to His artistry as a transcendent motivation in what we call the history of the Biblical revelation.
The drawings reaffirm, in a fresh “original” interpretation of the resurrection, His span of creative thinking as He reassumes His full creative power at His Father’s right hand.
Vissers, John - Friendship with Jesus in a Secular Age
Since ancient times the sacred texts of Jews and Christians have described the spiritual life as friendship with God (e.g., Abraham, Moses, Jesus). This paper explores the pursuit of divine transcendence through the lens of divine friendship. Modern theologians and biblical scholars (e.g., Moltmann, McFague, Schackenberg) emphasize the Christian life as friendship with God within the immanent frame of a secular age. Similarly, contemporary Christian piety and music often speak of friendship with Jesus in individual religious experience (e.g., “What a friend we have in Jesus”). This paper argues that within the Christian tradition there exist more robust understandings of friendship with Jesus to be retrieved in pursuit of transcendence under secularism. Reformed Protestantism – and its doctrine of the mediation of Christ, is one such tradition.
Contra Taylor, who argues that the blame for a secular age lies squarely at the feet of Calvin and his heirs, this paper suggests that the Reformed tradition’s account of the mediation of Christ – and an account of friendship with Jesus based on it, provides a way of understanding the transcendent, centered in the incarnation. Transcendence is God’s eternal decision to be the friend of humanity in Jesus Christ.
Watt, Jonathan & Dvorak, James - When Clouds Rain Transcendence: An Appraisal Analysis of Hebrews 11
The original audience of the biblical Epistle to the Hebrews appears to have been Judean believers under pressure from their ethnic kin to break ties with the Jesus group and return to the faith of their fathers, quite possibly under the shadow of the First Jewish Revolt (AD 66-73). The as-yet unknown author writes to encourage them not to be blinded by immanent pressures of national upheaval but to hold tightly to a transcendent vision of faith and life.We wish to examine the writer’s argument in Hebrews 11 through the lens of Appraisal Theory, which has its taproot in Halliday’s Systemic-Functional Linguistics and its adventitious roots in the social sciences. There will be three steps accomplished in this presentation. The first will describe the ostensible Jewish Palestinian situation of the recipients. The second will provide a concise overview of the contents of Heb.11 in literary context. The third will apply Appraisal Theory to the text in order to elucidate how the author aimed to influence the letter’s recipients.
Wood, James - The Sacrament vs Secular-Religious Bodies: Henri de Lubac’s Ecclesial Humanism and the Pull of Pseudo-Transcendence
This paper will expound upon the unique resources provided by Henri de Lubac’s sacramental ecclesiology and its attendant social vision—which can be described as an “ecclesial humanism”—to resist the pull of pseudo-transcendence in temporal social entities and political projects.Building on Augustine’s “restless heart,” de Lubac develops the theme of humanity’s restless sociality. Humanity is designed for supernatural fellowship, and if it does not locate this its social fulfillment in the divinely constituted social body—that is, the church—then it will seek to satisfy those desires elsewhere, without avail and in ways that produce inhuman results: in ersatz churches and neopagan ideologies.The image of sacrament for the church functions to foreground three essential aspects of salvation. Salvation, according to de Lubac, is social, supernatural, and mediated. Together, these three aspects constitute the church as the indispensable social embodiment of transcendent realities for which humanity ineradicably longs but cannot obtain by its own resources.De Lubac’s approach is two-fold: he critiques secular ideologies for their failure to meet the supernatural social longings of man; and he promotes the church as the unique social body which accords with humanity’s social longings and supernatural common destiny.
Yoon, David - Spiritual but not Religious: A New Kind of Secularism
Historically, religion and spirituality have been equated; being spiritual meant being religious and being religious meant being spiritual. However, in the past several decades, a distinction between these two have become more salient. Being religious means being associated with some religious organization or identity, while being spiritual means being focused on spiritual awareness and even a belief in spiritual forces, including a Higher Power or a personified Universe. What this means for the concept of transcendence is that there are increasing numbers of people identifying as spiritual, most notably younger generations such as millennials and Gen Z’ers, thus believing in some concept of transcendence, whatever form that might take, even if they reject organized religion. This paper seeks to explore how the spiritual-but-not-religious movement developed in North American mainstream culture, and how Christians can approach evangelism to those who consider themselves spiritual but not religious. The paper argues that the common thread of transcendence between Christians and spiritual people can provide a suitable starting point for gospel conversations.
Zylla, Phil - Recovering God’s Nearness in an Age of Anxiety
We have entered an age of uncertainty that stems from the turbulence of dramatic global change. Settled convictions are more difficult to hold on to in this era of anxiety. In the words of Abraham Heschel, a ‘spiritual blackout is increasing daily…the sense of the holy is melting away.’ Yet, tumult has always been part of our lived reality in the spiritual life. This paper seeks to recover the sense of God’s presence and nearness in the midst of life’s contingencies and difficulties. Christian mystics through the ages have chronicled their experiences of God’s nearness in situations of anxiety and turmoil and these provide concrete examples of immediacy of contact with God as expressed in faith. This paper will chronicle the spiritual experiences of notable Christian mystics with interest to their internalized expression of God’s nearness. The paper, following scholars Evan Fales and Bernard McGinn, will focus on Christian mystical practices (CMP) as distinguished from sensory practices (SP) and mystical practices (MP). The aim of this paper is to contribute to a renewed paradigm for encountering God’s nearness in the midst of life’s contingencies. The paper will contribute to the renewal of Christian mystical practices for the contemporary church and to a recovery of the sense of hope in the life of faith.