Tag: books

Eagleton on Materialism

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At the moment, I’m reading Terry Eagleton’s latest, Materialism. It’s a useful setting out of a particular account of what it is to be human, drawing on Aquinas, Marx, and Wittgenstein and amongst others. As you might imagine, I’m a sympathetic reader. Like much of his recent work, it engages with theological topics at some length. One passage in particular struck me:

The doctrine of the Incarnation means that God is an animal. He is present in the Eucharist as the everyday stuff of bread and wine, in the mundane business of chewing and digesting. Salvation is not primarily a matter of cult and ritual but of feeding the hungry and tending the sick. Jesus spends much of his time restoring damaged human bodies to health, along with a number of deranged minds. Love is a material practice, not a spiritual sentiment. Its paradigm is the love of strangers and enemies, which is unlikely to generate much of a warm glow.

The kind of materialism in which Eagleton is interested is not the belief that nothing exists other than material entities, which would obviously be incompatible with Christian faith. Rather, he espouses what he calls somatic materialism, the taking seriously of the embodied, fragile, historical, and conditioned nature of human beings. His immediate target is, I suspect, the tendency to overlook these aspects of ourselves on parts of the contemporary left. But Christians too need reminding of the materialism at the heart of our faith, and I commend this book warmly.

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My Lent books 2016

I always try to have a book or two on the go for Lent, which I read at bedtime. This time I’ve chosen Mark Allan Powell’s What are they saying about Luke? Contrary to some peoples’ experience, I’ve always found that knowing a bit about biblical scholarship helps me engage with scripture better. The ‘What are they saying’ series is generally good, and since it’s Year C, Luke seemed a good choice. I suppose that, having been written in 1989, the book should probably now be renamed ‘What were they saying about Luke’, but nevertheless I hope to get something from it.

The second is Paul Murray OP’s The New Wine of Dominican Spirituality. Much though I dislike the modern coinage ‘spirituality’ (I think I’d use ‘charism’ as an alternative here), things Dominican are a great love of mine. In fact I hope to be accepted as a Lay Dominican later in the year. Here’s some of the blurb from the back:

One of the things that has characterized the Dominican spirit from the beginning is a sense of openness to the world. Dominicans such as Thomas Aquinas, Jordan of Saxony and Catherine of Sienna were not only impressive celebrants of grace – they were also defenders of nature. After the example of St Dominic himself, they learned to drink deep from the wine of God’s Word, and became witnesses not only to certain great moral and doctrinal truths, but also witnesses of an unimaginable joy.