living through death

"The only way that you can accept life is if you can accept death.” –Leo Buscaglia

My Academic Papers

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The following is a selection of papers I have written in academic contexts.

Prayer Does Not Work: Paul Tillich and Centering Prayer

Abstract: This is a paper for those for whom prayer has become a problem. Part of growing up is learning how to work in this world. Work is the effort and skill put to the service of applying means to some end. Almost anything we do in life can be conceived of in terms of work, it is natural then that one’s life of prayer might be thought of thusly as well. However, this is a mistake that will guarantee that the spiritual lifeblood of one’s prayer life will soon run out. Prayer does not work. I conclude that “living” is a better metaphor for what happens in prayer. To get there I utilize the framework of Paul Tillich and suggest that Centering Prayer can be a practice suitable to reconnecting the surface of life, ecstatically, with its depths. Read the Entire Paper

Paul Tillich, Salvation, and Big, Unnecessary, Crazy, Travel Adventure

Abstract: Paul Tillich stated that salvation has as many meanings as there are negativities to require salvation from. A contemporary negativity is the profanization of life resulting from efforts to attain fulfillment by way of technological control. In response to this, a movement has developed that champions the spontaneity and risk of adventure as a road to fulfillment. This paper makes use of Tillich’s concepts of “structure” and “depth” to argue that in a culture dominated by merely structural awareness, adventure, though not without its own ambiguity (the demonic), does serve as an opening to the depth of life, and therefore the possibility of salvation. Read the Entire Paper

Intimacy Through Self-loss: Intersections in the Paradoxical Soteriologies of Paul Tillich and Sebastian Moore

Abstract: This paper studies intersections in the paradoxical soteriologies of Paul Tillich and Sebastian Moore. Tillich’s soteriology will be seen in its philosophic mode, as viewed through his conceptualization of reason and revelation. The question will be, on this point, how does salvation relate to knowing? On the other hand, Sebastian Moore’s desire based soteriology will be seen in its psychotherapeutic mode. The question here will be, how does salvation relate to human desiring? By exploring the paradoxical dynamic operating in each of these thinkers it will be shown how they establish the possibility of intimacy by way of a drive toward union that is characterized by a radical form of detachment. In light of this, a final section will be devoted to exploring the possible role of centering prayer as a means of growing into a life thusly shaped. Read the Entire Paper

Yes, But Only If God Does Not Exist: A Tillichian Answer to the Question of God’s Necessity for Morality

Abstract: This paper shows how the question “Is God metaphysically necessary for morality?” is asked from a framework that makes an affirmative answer impossible without positing God as a wholly arbitrary stopping point. The trouble lies in the way this tradition conceives of God as a concrete particular. As a concrete particular there is no necessary relation between the essence of God and the exemplification of God’s attributes (goodness, kindness, faithfulness, etc.). It is shown how this conception makes any assertion of metaphysical necessity ultimately arbitrary. As an alternative to this way of thinking, Paul Tillich and Thomas Aquinas are put into conversation as representatives of the classical ontology of divine simplicity. It is shown that if God’s essence is identical with God’s existence, then the question “Is God metaphysically necessary for morality?” doesn’t even make sense. Such a God is not a particular nor a universal, but the ever-emerging power of Being-itself. As such, radical doubt in the moral realm is therefore a path to moral goodness, and not the manifestation of mere autonomous self-assertion. Read the Entire Paper

Riding a Bicycle Through the Big Bang: Paul Tillich’s Paradox and Analytic Theology

Abstract: A recent movement in analytic philosophy of religion has attempted to explicitly enter the discourse of theology in the analytic mode. This presentation attempts to show the promise and danger of analytic theologizing. It is argued, by way of Paul Tillich, that the conceptual tools of analytic discourse provide one way that human thought can arrive at the doorstep of revelation. But this is so only if it is able to avoid the temptation of equating its logical object with the ‘object’ of theology. A trinitarian pattern of reasoning is proposed in the conclusion in which human reasoning is both conceptually incarnate, yet broken in its attempts to reveal the Father. In this paradox the Spirit is present. Read the Entire Paper

Is God Necessary for Morality? An Exploration in Moral Ontology

Abstract: In this paper the question of God’s necessity for morality is examined from an ontological perspective. Two ways of answering “no” to the question are explored in section one: reductionistic ethical naturalism, and non-theistic ethical non-naturalism. The former is found to end with a reduced conception of morality, while the latter, though remaining non-theistic, posits a ground of reality somehow capable of making ethical facts true without providing an account of what it is about that reality that achieves this. Three ways of answering “yes” to the question are then explored in part two: a combination of theistic Platonism and divine command theory, theistic essentialism, and a non-theistic religious theory. The first theory vacillates between understanding God as a concrete particular and ultimate value in a problematic way. The second theory attempts to root morality in God’s essence but is found not to succeed. And finally, the third theory is found to be the most satisfactory by being able to assimilate many of the insights of all prior theories while avoiding their pitfalls. This theory does so largely because of an understanding of God not as an existing being—one that is either the source of morality or subordinate to an ultimate value—but being-itself. Read the Entire Paper

Written by Alex

November 7, 2013 at 11:52 am

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