‘Religion Unbound’: Jeffrey Stout on Emersonian Democracy

This post is written in response to Jeffrey Stout’s fifth Gifford lecture for 2017, entitled ‘Slavishness, Democracy, and the Death of God.’ It is part of his larger series, Religion Unbound: Powers and Ideals from Cicero to King that has just been delivered at the University of Edinburgh (May 1-11, 2017). My colleague Andrew Johnson is hosting the Giffords blog, where he has posted summaries of the lectures as well as links to the lecture videos. 

Professor Jeffrey Stout has offered a compelling account of Emerson’s importance for the pursuit of ‘ethical religion’. Emerson’s worthy provocations include an incisive critique, later adopted by Nietzsche, of slavishness and the herd mentality. He therefore seeks to evoke others’ ‘self-reliance’, characterised by the expression of ‘unauthorised thoughts’. In Stout’s convincing portrayal, Emerson is not thereby calling for atomised self-assertion; rather, non-conformity is the necessary condition for a ‘sociality of reason’ (in Terry Pinkard’s phrase) that can alone support democracy.…
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Confessing Race: Toward a Global Ecclesiology after Bonhoeffer & Du Bois

The fact that today the “black Christ” of a young Negro poet is pitted against the “white Christ” reveals a destructive rift within the church of Jesus Christ.

—Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Protestantism Without Reformation”

Writing as a refugee in New York in the Summer of 1939, Dietrich Bonhoeffer uses W.E.B. Du Bois’s image of the “color line” to critique racial lines drawn between churches. The broader purview of Bonhoeffer’s essay, “Protestantism without Reformation,” places sociopolitical observations about the black church among American denominations into dialogue with German philosophical assumptions and ecclesial memory. His comments reveal that although a great deal of his deliberation during those two months is focused on an imminent return to Germany, he remains compelled by the witness of the Harlem community that had accepted him during his research fellowship at Union Seminary in 1930–31.…
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Our Racist Inheritance

A report from the Kuyper Center for Public Theology’s recent conference on “Faith and Race”. This essay, co-authored with Jeff Liou, originally appeared on May 14, 2015 in Comment Magazine online, a publication of

History can be a harsh judge. A recent conference on “Faith and Race” held at Princeton Theological Seminary invited scrutiny on the legacy of Abraham Kuyper’s theology and political thought when it comes to race. The resurgence of interest in Kuyper among so-called New Calvinists, including hip hop artist Lecrae, raises questions about whether Kuyperian theology today entails the same racialized problems which have initiated decades of objections. Can a theologian who made derogatory generalizations about entire ethnic groups and whose work was taken up by supporters of Apartheid (i.e. some Dutch Reformed denominations in South Africa) be taken seriously by those committed to seeking racial justice? To pose the question from another angle: Can Kuyperians take up the cause of racial justice with the tools they currently have? With these questions in view, theologians and students shared papers about the problems today’s Kuyperians face as well as some signs of hope for moving forward.…
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© David Robinson, 2018