A Brief Reflection on My First National Conference
My blogging pace as been a bit off as of late. The last few weeks have been a flurry of activity (and general anxiety) surrounding a trip to Baltimore to present two papers (one at the the American Academy of Religion and the other at the North American Paul Tillich Society). Happily, the whole thing went off without a hitch, and a wonderful time was had by all.
If you would like to see my photo set of the whole adventure, you can check out my Flicker page here.
The two papers I presented surround the cataclysmic transition in my theological thinking.
The first paper marks the “death of God” in my thought. Here, in the mode of moral ontology, I show how our ability to doubt any concrete answer to the question of moral foundations makes it impossible for God (understood as a being existing apart from us) to anchor the moral good. Such a conception cannot answer the question, “why must God exist for moral goodness to be Good?” If God is thought of as a concrete particular, then, no, God is not necessary for morality (or anything else for that matter). I’m with the atheists on this one, but then again, so is Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and Paul Tillich. You can read the full paper here: “Yes, But Only If God Does Not Exist: A Tillichian Answer to the Question of God’s Necessity for Morality“
The second paper I presented situates “the death of God” within the process of spiritual awakening. Here I argue that the death of God is, in essence, a moment in the emergence of the life of the Spirit. A sort of religious and developmental paradigm shift is pointed to in this paper. As Robert Scharlemann so nicely stated, “…the untruth of the Gods is precisely the essence of the true God, the one who is truth itself.” Awakening to this truth has salvific value, I argue, since it frees us (and those around us) from all our self-saving efforts and death denial strategies by dying to the illusion that our conceptual grasp of God, self, and world offers true security. Instead, I argue that for God to emerge in our lives a continual death to, or, relativization of, our conceptual/egoic grasp is necessary. Beyond that, a continual return to the depth of life as ever-emerging in the present moment is presented as the essence of religious encounter. You can read the full paper here: “Intimacy Through Self-loss: Intersections in the Paradoxical Soteriologies of Paul Tillich and Sebastian Moore”
In short, the conference was a very good experience. Next time, however, I think I’ll stress less, take more walks, and generally try to take more advantage of all the potentially fantastic conversations that are to be had in such a setting.
P.S. Special thanks to Spencer Moffatt, Erik Leafblad, David Stewart, John Fournelle, Kiara Jorgenson, and Paul Greene for being such a wonderful mixture of insightful, encouraging, crude, hilarious, provocative, and kind.