2013 AAR SBL ASOR Upper Midwest Regional Meeting

This past week Luther Seminary hosted the Upper Midwest joint regional meeting of the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature. Though I didn't present a paper I attended a few sessions, mostly of current or recently completed PhD students at Luther. So, in this brief "sampling" you can get an idea not only of how AAR went, but of the various projects some students are working on at Luther.

  • My good friend Alex Blondeau offered a paper he (re)titled "Riding a Bike Through a Black Hole," which dealt with "Analytic Theology." (On the off chance you are interested in learning more about this approach in general, or want to see a specific example Alex was critiquing in his paper, click here.) These thinkers, as Alex described them, are wary of forms of "radical transcendence," which in their view ruins their discipline. As Alex noted, he was qualified to help them re-think this, as he used to run in more analytically minded circles until turning to the work of Paul Tillich. Drawing primarily on Tillich and Aquinas, Alex attempted to show how radical transcendence can co-exist along side more analytically inclined thinkers. Or put another way, that analytic thinking has a valuable role to play in theology - if they come to terms with it. Knowing Alex as well as I do, I suspect that this paper is a step alongside a bigger project he will likely pursue on faith and reason with a focus on Paul Tillich.
  • David Stewart (a sharp science and theology student here) presented his paper, "The Emergence of Consciousness in the Garden Narrative: Thinking Theologically with Depth Psychology," which was in some respects a paper on hermeneutics. In it he developed what he called (I think) a "psycho-theological hermeneutic." Drawing on what he called "Jungian Archetypes," David argued that Genesis 1-3 is about human "differentiation." In approaching Genesis 1-3 this way the text is about how these "Archetypes... erupt into human consciousness" out of humanity's "collective unconscious." As David made clear in the Q&A, this approach to scripture is not all-encompassing, but offers another helpful place from which to engage the Bible.
  • Finally, in "The Role of Repentance and the Virtues towards the Christian Fulfillment of Ecological Vocation," Kiara Jorgenson discussed ecological ethics, a central concern for her. In her analysis she used a multi-faceted approach, including feminist theology, Aquinas, biblical scholarship, and virtue ethics. Guided by congregations and scholarship, she turned to a discussion of repentance within the context of virtue ethics and the worship of the church. Working off of Gebara's understanding of sin ("sin is a relational... destruction of life processes"), Kiara argued that repentance, when understood within Aquinas' structure of "prudence, temperance, contentment, and fortitude," leads one to understand repentance as the church's "ecological vocation." According to Kiara this is a never-ending process for the church, in that repentance leads to "fulfilling our eco-calling," which will push an individual and/or church to think again about the importance of prudence, thus starting the "cycle" anew.

Finally, I'd like to emphasize again that this is just a small "sampling" of what went on this weekend, and obviously even these summaries are pretty simplified. Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable and stimulating weekend.

UPDATE: Kiara sent along the following comment to clarify and expand on her project.
"In this paper I don't attempt to situate repentance within a virtue approach, but rather argue that virtue approaches to ethics help us realize repentance. Tillich correlative approach applies here. I don't think ecological ethics is possible without a posture of repentance, which in turn is only possible (I argue) through attention to character, as opposed to classical utilitarian or deontological approaches."
For more from Kiara, check this out: Repentance and Ecological Vocation



Thanks for preparing this sampling, Derek. It is always fun to hear what people are working on, especially the up-and-comers.

Why didn't you give a paper? ;-)
Derek Maris said…
You're welcome Travis! It was fun to see my peers and friends present. Sadly, I don't have a great excuse for why I didn't present. Next year!

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