Sabbatical Reading and some thanks to you all

Today is the first day of my sabbatical and I won't be returning to explicitly church related work until Sunday 4th September. However, a sabbatical is (or at least should) always be connected in some way with one's work and that's certainly how I see it. It seems worth publishing this post to give members of the congregation (and other regular readers) some idea of what I'll be up to during the next four months. I won't just be resting, walking and cycling — though I hope there will be a good deal of that too!

In my Sunday addresses since my last sabbatical I've tended to concentrate particularly upon what I see as the need to cure ourselves of the metaphysical illness that our culture silently bequeathes us —  the almost pathological desire to discover some assured foundations, especially of the kind that we have labelled as "God". But the foundationalist God of monotheism seems to me, as regular readers will know, a very problematic and often highly dangerous idea/belief and, in my opinion, if we are going to keep using the word then I remain convinced it has to be used in a very weak ways indeed ("weak" in the way Gianni Vattimo articulates it). It is worth saying that this essay of Vattimo's was hugely influential on my own thinking.

Anyway, listening to my congregation (whose support, encouragement and appropriately made criticism I value highly), it seems to me clear that I need now (and indeed can now) shift the emphasis to an exploration of morality/ethics.

To this end in the next four months I'm planning carefully to revisit the work of two authors whose ethics have struck me over the last eight years not only as worthy of the most serious consideration but, in my case, adoption.

The first is Simon Critchley and especially his Infinitely Demanding. Ethics of Commitment, Politics of Resistance (Verso, 2007) and The Faith of the Faithless: Experiments in Political Theology (Verso, 2012).

The second is an author whose work was introduced to me by reading Critchley, Knud Ejler Løgstrup.  I want to re-read Løgstrup's The Ethical Demand (Notre Dame Press, 1997) and read for the first time a series of his own later ethical essays, Beyond the Ethical Demand (Notre Dame Press, 2007) and the two volume set called Metaphysics (Marquette University Press).

Lastly — but connected intimately with the above — I'm going to be working carefully through the wonderful recent scholarly edition of the Complete Works of Gerrard Winstanley published by Oxford University Press. I came across Winstanley via Christopher Hill's work when I was studying for my "O" levels and we did a project on the English Revolution — it was love at first sight. Many years later in my 30s whilst studying theology at Oxford I finally got access to photocopies of Winstanley's original publications and, over the years, I have slowly made my way through some of them. Now I have both the time and inclination to finish that pleasurable task. Winstanley's work connects with Critchley's and Løgstrup's because he was a man highly alert to the ethical demand and he had an understanding of God that is very this worldly and naturalist.

So, I'll be blogging now and then about various things and I hope you all have a good and fruitful summer.

Thank you once again for taking the time to read this blog and, in various ways, join in the conversation.

Warmest wishes to you all.


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