Announcing New Multimillion Dollar Aid-for-Adjuncts Grant

From First Thoughts

In what is being hailed as a revolutionary solution to the overpopulation problem of adjuncts in higher education, the Bench Foundation has announced a multi-year program called Aid-for-Adjuncts. The program is the result of a ten-year study of the rapid proliferation of part-time instructors in college, university, and seminary classrooms. For the first time, administrative centers will be established across America, helping school officials formulate proper guidelines for the use and abuse of adjuncts. Continue Reading »

Dean Potter Would Have Made a Great Saint

From Web Exclusives

One of the most accomplished extreme athletes of his generation, Dean Potter died last week in a BASE jumping accident at Yosemite National Park. He and a jumping partner were attempting to navigate a narrow passage notched into a steep and spiny ridgeline. They smashed into the rock before they had time to open their parachutes.By all reports, Potter was methodical in preparing and executing his jumps. That he was driven to court danger is, of course, an understatement. He climbed granite rock faces without ropes and traversed tightropes without safety nets. His daily life was as frugal and simple as his athleticism was passionate and spectacular. He feared controversy as little as he feared death. He solo free-climbed in parks where it was illegal, and he had a fondness for strapping his dog on his back while skydiving in a wingsuit. Continue Reading »

Rethinking Theology and Matter with Ibn Gabirol

From Web Exclusives

Solomon Ibn Gabirol (1021–1058) was the first Jewish philosopher in Spain, but medieval Christians knew him only by his Latinized name, Avicebron, and they assumed that he was either a Christian or a Muslim. Most scholastics also thought he was a deeply misguided thinker. Gabirol was identified with the doctrine of universal hylomorphism—the idea that everything God creates is composed of form and matter—and treated as a precursor of the nominalist emphasis on the absolute freedom (and thus inscrutability) of God’s will. Some of his poetry remains in liturgical use in Judaism to this day, but his philosophy was all but forgotten. Even experts in medieval theology typically treat him as little more than a footnote to scholastic debates about how angels can be individuated without being embodied. Continue Reading »

Hoosiers Unite Against Connecticut!

From Web Exclusives

There is only one reasonable response to Gov. Dannel Malloy’s executive order banning state-funded travel to Indiana. Because he thinks Indiana’s religious freedom law opens the door to discrimination, he forbids any Connecticut state employee to travel on official business to the state of Indiana. “We are sending a message that discrimination won’t be tolerated,” he declared. Hoosiers are agreeable people, so I want him to know that I hear his message loud and clear. We, too, will not tolerate discrimination. For that reason, I urge all Hoosiers to support a ban on any publicly funded travel to Connecticut. Continue Reading »

Saving Punishment

From the April 2015 Print Edition

Jim was holding his one-year-old son while smoking meth freebase when the oily liquid spilled on the little boy, badly burning him. Technically, it was an accident; the proximate cause was the breakdown in the electrical signals between his besotted brain and his fumbling fingers. Even in that moment, however, he knew that his bad choices were the ultimate reason for this senseless horror. Once in prison, he came to accept that he had loved drugs more than his own life, but how could he live with the knowledge that he was willing to sacrifice his son on the altar of his addiction?When he attempted to describe that day to me, his anguish made me dizzy. We sat on plastic chairs, our knees touching, and I reached out to hold his large, hard hands as he spoke. I had been volunteering at this medium-security prison for only a few months when he asked for individual prayer. Hunched over, he lifted his eyes to mine, and I could see that the dry institutional air had made his black skin break out with large ashy blotches. He was still waking up from the nightmare of his actions, and he welcomed incarceration. He saw it as the chance to beat the drugs that had nearly destroyed him, and he prayed that his imprisonment would bring some comfort to the victims of his disordered life. But he feared, too, that no punishment would be enough to compensate for what he did to his son. His guilt reached depths that even the law does not dare to plumb.“They’ll never let me see him again,” he said. “No matter how much time I spend here, it won’t take away his scars. I know God forgives me, but I can’t forgive myself. When will I know that I’ve been punished enough?” Continue Reading »

Is God Really Infinite?

From Web Exclusives

Classical theism, with its identification of God with infinity, has developed a reputation for emphasizing divine transcendence to the point of making God nearly unknowable. The problem with this judgment is that infinity—as in, God is infinitely unknowable—does not admit to degrees. Continue Reading »

The End of the Analogy of Being

From Web Exclusives

The new translation of Erich Przywara’s Analogia Entis is a theological landmark that should go a long way toward clarifying the centuries-long debate about the relationship between analogy and metaphysics. Far from being a rhetorical trope or a philosophical tool, analogy for Przywara is the style of thought that best corresponds to the way in which being makes itself known. Not only is analogy, for Przywara, built into every level of Catholic theology. It is the glue that holds those levels together. The analogy of being is nothing more than the philosophical form that the Roman Catholic Church takes as it embodies God’s presence in the world. Continue Reading »

The Theology of Patti Smith

From Web Exclusives

Patti Smith is known as the “godmother of punk,” but she always had higher goals than trying to make rock sound dangerous as the hippy era came to an end. I once almost lost a friendship because I suggested that her voice was not strong enough to sustain the passion of her angrier songs. “She’s too frail to be a punk Janis Joplin,” I said. “And too New Jersey.” Maybe that wasn’t fair, especially the part about New Jersey, but I do think she sounds better when, like Bob Dylan, she works with her vocal weaknesses, not against them. She’s sometimes called the female Bob Dylan, but Dylan is a songster whose lyrics are poetic, while Smith is a poet who also sings rock and roll. Because she’s not a natural singer, melancholy fits her tonal range, and when she goes for pretty, without erasing the edginess of her tone, she sounds downright sublime. Continue Reading »