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The Christian Humanist

Damian Tharcisius

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Hello Everyone. Welcome to the Christian Humanist Podcast. I am Damian. If you're interested in culture, religion, history, liberty, society, and above all humanity, then you are in the right place. The focus here is on the intersection between these realities, and how they pertain to questions that affect you and me: The minds who are left to live in this challenging but promising, tough but rewarding world. One that is ever-changing. Best D
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Taken down to their etymological components, scriptures are any written texts and literature is any human craft involving letters, usually of some alphabet or another. But etymological roots don’t go far making sense of the fascination and the division and the devotion and the emotion that literature and scriptures bring forth in readers of all sor…
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What is education for? The oldest grand library of which I have any knowledge is the tablet-collection of the Assyrian emperor Ashurbanipal, and as far as I can tell, it’s mainly a collection of magic spells for the court sorcerers to draw from when they need this or that kind of wizardry. And on the other end of things, in our little corner of the…
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If you don’t spend much time around Biblical-studies people, the neologism “parallelomania” might be a new one on you, so let me explain: for different reasons, some writers in Biblical studies seem bent on discovering, naming, and insisting on a particular significance for any text that looks like, sounds like, works like, and otherwise resembles …
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History as a practice examines the contingent. Everything that leaves evidence of having-happened might have happened otherwise, and nothing that has come to be except that it displaced other things that might have been. In the realm of Black religion in the United States, the what-if questions and counterfactuals wonder about a seventy-year-old Dr…
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What is Baptism and its significance? Fr Schmitz, a popular YouTuber has some interesting things to say on this subject. Problematically, they seem to be on the exclusionary (reductionist) side. In this episode (taken from my YouTube channel - The Christian Humanist) I dissect some of the problems that afflict Fr. Schmitz's take on the first Cathol…
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Some of us first encounter them as the wicked city that Jonah eventually visits. For others they’re one of the Asian empires that Herodotus surveys on his way to the grand showdown between the Persians and the Greek-speaking city-states. Some of us have run into their legendary figures Sardanapallus and Semiramis in Dante or Byron. And of course so…
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You have heard that it is said: love your neighbor and hate your enemy. Translations might differ, but what follows comes across well in most translations: Jesus enjoins those hearing the Sermon on the Mount to love enemies and pray for persecutors. Those unsettling commandments never stop scandalizing those who spend time meditating on them, and t…
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Theology and literature have always seemed a natural pair to me. In fact, I’ve written a Master’s Thesis examining Ezekiel with the help of William Blake; another digging into Christology through Aemelia Lanier and John Milton; and a doctoral dissertation arguing that Spenser, Shakespeare, and Milton were making moves in theological ethics that the…
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The stereotype, whether we want to dismantle it or acknowledge it, holds that those who teach college English begin a quest in graduate school to be rid of teaching writing. As early as the mid-twentieth century Richard M. Weaver told the same story, and Weaver was among the first to take that stereotype not as an acknowledgment of rerum naturem bu…
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With Theology Beer Camp 2023 just around the corner (alas, I won’t be here, as I’m trying to be judicious taking days off during year one of my career change), I wanted to get Myron Penner’s talk from last year’s camp, along with our conversation that happened a spell later, out to you. Here’s the backstory: Myron and I did a live podcast back in O…
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Genesis–Bereshith in the Hebrew–opens with grand narratives of beginnings and generations, and the New Testament starts with four distinctive narrative accounts of Jesus, the anointed one. For traditions that consider theology an interpretive endeavor at the outset, then, stories are the start, and Psalms and hymns and prophetic verse follow close …
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Philoctetes is not the best-known Sophocles tragedy, but its questions stick with me. When the title character insists on his dignity as a man of war, he runs afoul of the Odysseus of Sophocles, who could not care less about the wounded warrior’s sense of being wronged, so he enlists Neoptolemus, son of Achilles, who insists that abstract virtues o…
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What’s on the table when we claim that a newly-discovered text came from a Biblical author? To answer that question might take an investigation that spans the Roman Empire, desert monasteries, New York City apartments, the academic publishing industry, and the libraries and universities that change hands during wars and elections and all sorts of o…
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Tell me where you spend your Sunday mornings, and then where your grandmother spent her Sunday mornings, and I’ll venture a guess at what you think Christian art looks like. In the realm of Christian art that involves basilicas and mosaics the icon holds a special place: by some accounts mainly a window through which one looks upon divine reality, …
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“I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom.” When I first read those words from St. Paul, they inoculated me against certain kinds of inquiry. St. Paul must not have been an orator the way we think of orators, because he didn’t rely on eloquence when he spoke. His education, therefore, must have been irrelevan…
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The one who saves his life will lose it. The one who sows to the spirit will reap life. I am the way and the truth and the life. Life is like a box of chocolates. Ways of life and forms of life and such matters concerning life have occupied sages and philosophers and poets and preachers as long as human beings became word-slingers, and yet attempti…
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Somethin’s brewin’ on the podcast. I wonder what it could be? If you’ve seen the stage musical version of “The Cotton Patch Gospel” you know what and whom we’re talking about, but just in case you’ve never heard that musical, or if you’ve not read The Cotton Patch Gospels, or if you have no idea about anything I’ve mentioned up to this point, you’r…
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The book I expected to read would present all the ways in which human communities in the digital age are dealing with a decentralized authority structure, how any given woman or man might jump on the Internet, either through a browser or a social-media program or by some other means, and encounter half a dozen figures, all competing for status as a…
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Walter Brueggemann did not only teach me to read the Bible: he taught me to read. In the twenty-two years since I first read A Theology of the Old Testament I’ve been bringing the questions that book poses to Biblical texts over to every literary text I’ve come across: in what ways am I reading primary testimony or counter-testimony as I take on To…
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I don’t often talk about my own high-school years on this podcast, but I remember in high-school jazz band playing a Christmas medley called “Heaven and Nature Swing.” It led with a “Caravan”-inspired arrangement of “We Three Kings”--if you don’t know “Caravan,” hit YouTube post-haste–and when I hear the hymn, these thirty years later, I always fee…
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Some intellectuals are famous, and some are intellectual-famous. N.T. Wright appeared on The Colbert Report, and Reinhold Niebuhr testified before Congress, and Cornel West was in a couple Matrix movies. George Lindbeck didn’t do any of those, as far as I know, but in certain circles of Christian theologians, he’s indisputably intellectual-famous, …
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“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” I pray those words every Sunday morning at Bogart Christian Church, and I think I have a basic idea of what I mean when I do. But that sense of solid knowledge conceals philosophical and theological disputes not only what the verb “to forgive” and the noun “forgiveness” mean b…
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Every ethics presumes a sociology. That formula has followed me through nearly twenty-five years of study, and its source text, After Virtue by Alasdair MacIntyre, has been a constant conversation partner as I have studied and taught. What I haven’t attended to nearly enough is the life of the human being behind After Virtue, but Nathan Pinkoski is…
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When we set several theologies next to each other, naming their core claims helps us to make sense of their relationships, even as we grant that more complexity rewards careful reading and study. So without necessarily reducing them, we can speak and write about Calvin’s theology of sovereignty, Schleiermacher’s theology of experience, Bultmann’s t…
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As a student in a good Old Testament Introduction class will be able to tell you, Genesis 1 borrows structures and symbols and maybe even vocabulary from Babylonian texts like Enuma Elish to paint its particular picture of creation. Likewise Proverbs 8 casts world-making in terms of international wisdom traditions, and John 1 appropriates Greek phi…
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When my students ask me–and soon enough they learn not to ask me–I always tell them I’m an unrepentant left-winger; after all, I’ve never thought that a Capetian monarch should rule France, so once that question is settled, I’m pretty well in place on that question. Of course, the seating arrangements in the Estats General have come down to us as o…
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Some truths seem self-evident once somebody has spoken them, but someone needs to make that move. So here goes: whenever any of us teaches, that teacher teaches something. Teaching a mechanic how to maintain an automobile’s engine involves things that teaching differential calculus doesn’t, and neither of those is quite the same as teaching Shotoka…
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I’ve had a working hypothesis for quite a while now that stories about the devil tell us about as much about an author’s priorities as anything else. Milton’s devils and especially his version of Satan lead a reader into some profound worries about the powers of rhetoric and reason. Goethe’s Mephistopheles can’t seem to keep up with the ambition of…
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When I started my undergraduate years at Milligan College in 1995, its interdisciplinary Humanities sequence was already a well-established hallmark of its educational project. In each of my first four semesters we read history and theology and literature and philosophy and all kinds of texts from different eras, always letting each inform the othe…
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I’m still a young enough professor that I don’t remember a time before “critical thinking” was a buzzword in the profession. Back in the fall of 2000, when first I started, John Bean convinced me that the goal of core-curriculum classes should be to introduce novices to the practices and standards of the university disciplines, and I still think th…
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