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Theology After Reading: Christian Imagination and the Power of Fiction

Theology After Reading: Christian Imagination and the Power of Fiction

by Darren J. N. Middleton

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Acknowledgments viii

Introduction: The Secular Outlook 1

1 Atheism, Agnosticism, and Theism 14

The Alpha Privative 16

Atheism and Liberal Concepts of God 17

Atheism as an Unpopular Position 20

A Definition of Atheism 25

Motives for Atheism 42

Atheist Values 45

Spiritual Excellences and the Liberal Decalogue 47

Agnosticism 50

The History of Agnosticism 55

Huxley and Russell 57

Pascal's Wager 59

Pascal's Insight 62

Atheism or Non-Theism? 63

2 Freethought I: Criticism of Religion 69

"Écrasez l'Infâme" 72

Religion and Evil 76

Religious Violence 77

Father and Daughter 80

How to Discover a Relationship between Religion and Violence 84

Ramadan v. Hirsi Ali 86

Religion "per se" 89

Textual Relativism 91

Can Translation Mitigate All Immoral Passages in Scripture? 94

Can Interpretation Mitigate All Immoral Passages in Scripture? 96

Why Are "Moderates" so Reluctant to Criticize Religion? 98

The Bible on Apostasy 102

Biblical Terrorism: The Story of Phinehas 105

Biblical Violence and Modern Legal Practice 108

The Book of History 112

Some Objections 115

3 Freethought II: Freedom of Expression 122

Mill on Liberty 123

Khomeini v. Rushdie 125

Fukuyama Giving Up on the Arab World 130

The Limits of Free Speech 134

The Deontological and Utilitarian Justifications for Free Speech 138

Clifford on the Duty to Critique 141

Freedom of Speech and Philosophers on the Index 143

Intolerance not Restricted to Islam 147

Giniewski v. France 150

Freethought under Fire 152

People Are not Being Insulted for Having a Religion 155

Racism without Race 161

Social Criticism not Identical with the Urge to Provoke 163

Flemming Rose on Why He Published the Danish Cartoons 164

The Theory of Evolution: Too Controversial to Defend? 168

Is There Another Way to Discover the Truth than by Free Discussion? 170

4 Moral and Political Secularism 172

Pope Benedict XVI on the Apostles' Creed 176

"Who Are You to Tell Believers What to Believe?" 180

What Judaism, Christendom, and Islam Have in Common: Theism 184

Divine Command Theories 188

Abraham and Isaac 194

The Story of Abraham in the Qur'an 196

The Story of Jephtha 201

Adherents of Divine Command Theory 204

Command Ethics or Divine Command Ethics? 206

An Assessment of Divine Command Ethics 210

Kierkegaard and Mill 218

Kohlberg and Moral Education 221

Religious and Secular Ethics 225

Worship 229

Kant's Struggle with Moral Autonomy and Free Speech 234

Kant's Legacy in Nineteenth-Century German Theology 241

Schleiermacher as the Father of Modern Hermeneutics 244

Armstrong's Plea for Liberal Interpretation 248

A New Way to Look at the "Sacredness" of Scripture? 252

Classic Books and Sacred Books 254

Violating the Integrity of the Text 262

Is Hermeneutics the Only Way to Modernize Traditions? 266

Is Islam "Secularization-Resistant"? 272

Two Kinds of Reformers: Liberal Islam and Secular Islam 274

Selected Reading 281

Index 305

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781602582255
Publisher: Baylor University Press
Publication date: 11/01/2011
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 305
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Darren J. N. Middleton (Ph.D. The University of Glasgow, Scotland) is Associate Professor of Literature and Theology at Texas Christian University. He has published five books, including Broken Hallelujah: Nikos Kazantzakis and Christian Theology (2007).

Table of Contents



It’s Fiction: What’s Theology Got to Do with It?

1. God

Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair

2. Humanity

Toni Morrison’s Sula

3. Jesus

Nikos Kazantzakis’ The Last Temptation of Christ

4. Church

Earl Lovelace’s The Wine of Astonishment

5. Eschatology

Paul Thigpen’s My Visit to Hell

Appendix I: An Interview with Paul Thigpen

Appendix II: Further Reading


Selected Bibliography


What People are Saying About This

Eric Ziolkowski

An exemplary, inspiring exploration of what the author calls "the interface of theology and literature." Deeply learned in both the Christian theological tradition and the five, widely variegated literary artists under consideration, Middleton impressively combines careful textual and contextual analysis of their writings. Skillfully and informatively annotated, the book is wonderfully capped off by its "Appendix" consisting of Middleton’s extensive interview with Thigpen.

Peter S. Hawkins

Darren Middleton is in love with stories and the challenge fiction poses to what we too confidently think of as reality. He knows that the best theology is always a story in the making. He also knows that narratives open up worlds that bring God to life, sometimes by the hint of divine presence, sometimes by the sorrow of absence.

Timothy K. Beal

Here is a wonderfully fresh invitation from a gifted writer to explore the storied worlds of great literary theology.

David E. Klemm

In this stimulating and often inspiring book on the interface between fiction and theology, Darren Middleton shows how a variety of novels marked by "a graced search for meaning," provoke imaginative theological reflection on traditional Christian doctrines. Middleton extends a hermeneutics of love to carefully chosen novels, reading them on their own terms. This book should appeal well beyond the Christian community because of its exemplary openness and authentic humility.

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