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‘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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The Many Lives of Idealism

A review of Gary Dorrien, Kantian Reason and Hegelian Spirit: The Idealistic Logic of Modern Theology (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012); it is the early version of an essay submitted to The Expository Times.

If his Romantic critics are to be believed, Immanuel Kant ‘neither had a life nor a history’. Gary Dorrien challenges this claim by recounting the transmission of Kantian and Hegelian idealism with vivid biographical detail. Following the reception of his eponymous pair through the Protestant movements of German liberalism and British modernism, he argues that ‘modern religious thought originated with idealistic convictions about the spiritual ground and unifying reality of freedom’—convictions that remain necessary to any ‘vital progressive theology’ (p.1).…
 
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© David Robinson, 2017