Traditionally, religion was
the supplier of meaning. It is often said that the quest for meaning is at bottom a quest for God, a quest that can only find an adequate answer in religion. But then what is the alternative for those who reject religion? Emptiness and meaninglessness, as Nietzsche succinctly formulated it: We have killed God. Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing?
In the meantime, non-believers have found a solution for the crisis in meaning. People are not (usually) nihilists but live their lives and consider them to be meaningful without religion.
This study is concerned with determining once again the place of the ascription of meaning from the perspective of the Christian faith in its relation to the non-religious ascription of meaning. For this purpose an analysis is given of contemporary theological and philosophical views of the problem of meaning. The crisis of meaning as it has arisen in Nietzsche and the theatre of the absurd is examined. Stoker also discusses contemporary forms of the ascription of meaning without religion such as self-actualization and functional rationality as sources of meaning.
Stoker rejects an 'apologetics of need'. He posits that the Christian faith does not have an exclusive right to the ascription of meaning, but this obtains also for secular forms of the ascription of meaning such as humanism. Is God then the 'ultimate concern' of each person? From the perspective of the Christian faith, yes, but this does not mean that the non-religious ascription of meaning as such must be viewed negatively. Stoker illustrates how the religious and the non-religious ascriptions of meaning are similar and how they differ. Both are intended to be the source of meaning for human questions of life and death. With respect to their differences the author demonstrates that the ascription of meaning from the perspective of the Christian faith does not entail a disqualification of a non-religious worldview but is intended to make people more human.
Art has always been important for religion or spirituality. Secular art displayed in museums can also be spiritual, and it is this art that is the subject of this book.
Many of the works of art produced by Wassily Kandinsky, Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol, and Anselm Kiefer are spiritual in nature. These works reveal their own spirituality, which often has no connection to official religions. Wessel Stoker demonstrates that these artists communicate religious insights through images and shows how they depict the relationship between heaven and earth, between this world and a transcendent reality, thus clearly drawing the contours of the spirituality these works evince.
In this volume, fourteen philosophers of religion reflect on religious views of the good life. Some authors focus on positive religion and its specific religious representations of the good life, while others abstract from these and focus on philosophical religion and its conceptual articulations of the good life. The tension between positive religion and philosophical religion, between representation and concept, is itself also analyzed.
This volume is a result of the co-operation of the philosophers of religion who are senior members of the Netherlands School for Advanced Studies in Theology and Religion NOSTER.
Religion and the Good Life
Religion and the Good Life: Introduction - Marcel Sarot (Utrecht) and Wessel Stoker (Amsterdam)
PART I – THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN REPRESENTATION AND CONCEPT
The Tension between Representation and Concept as a Challenge for Philosophy of Religion - Peter Jonkers (Utrecht)
Beyond Representation and Concept: The Language of Testimony - R.D.N. van Riessen (Kampen)
PART II – THE TENSION BETWEEN REPRESENTATION AND CONCEPT
Seduction and Guidance: Some Remarks on the Ambiguities of Reason and Reflective Thought in Connection with Religion and
the Good Life - W. Dupré (Nijmegen)
The Good Life is Historical - Ben Vedder (Nijmegen)
The Quality of Life: Comic Vision in Charles Dickens and Iris Murdoch - Henry Jansen (Amsterdam)
Narrative, Atonement, and the Christian Conception of the Good Life - Gijsbert van den Brink (Leyden)
Myths and the Good Life: Ricoeur’s Hermeneutical Approach to Myth - Wessel Stoker (Amsterdam)
Bhajans and their Symbols: Religious Hermeneutics of “the Good Life” - Hendrik M. Vroom (Amsterdam)
PART III – REPRESENTATIONS OF THE GOOD LIFE
Models of the Good Life - Marcel Sarot (Utrecht)
The Highest Good and the Kingdom of God in the Philosophy of Kant: A Moral Concept and a Religious Metaphor of the Good Life - Donald Loose (Tilburg-Rotterdam)
Jacques Derrida and Messianity - Victor Kal (Amsterdam)
Skepticism and the Meaning of Life - Michael Scott (Manchester)
Ultimate Happiness and the Love of God - Vincent Brümmer (Utrecht)
Human Being and the Natural Desire for God: Reflections on the Natural and the Supernatural - Eef Dekker (Utrecht)
Religion is undergoing a transformation in current Western society. In addition to organized religions, there is a notable movement towards spirituality that is not associated with any institutions but in which experiences and notions of transcendence are still important. Transcendence can be described as God, the absolute, Mystery, the Other, the other as alterity, depending on one’s worldview. In this book, these shifts in the views of transcendence in various areas of culture such as philosophy, theology, art, and politics are explored on the basis of a fourfold heuristic model (proposed by Wessel Stoker). In conversation with this model, various authors, established scholars in their fields, explain the meaning and role, or the critique, of transcendence in the thought of contemporary thinkers, fields of discourse, or cultural domains.
Looking Beyond? will stimulate further research on the theme of transcendence in contemporary culture, but can also serve as a textbook for courses in various disciplines, ranging from philosophy to theology, cultural studies, literature, art, and politics.
Christianity exists in relation to and interacts with its cultural environment in a number of ways. In this volume authors from a wide variety of backgrounds explore various facets of the relationship and interaction of Christianity with its cultural environment: politics, society, esthetics, religion and spirituality, and with itself. Divided into three main sections,
Crossroad Discourses between Christianity and Culture looks at the interaction of Christianity with culture in the first section, with other religions and spiritualities in the second, and finally with itself in the third. The contributions engage in a critical examination of not only the culture in which Christianity finds itself but also in a critical examination of Christianity itself and its interaction with that culture.
The editors hope that teachers, students, and readers in general will profit greatly from the critical articles contained in this book.