Archbishop’s lecture in Swansea

by Richard on October 17, 2007

You can watch a media stream from the University’s website here. A transcript should soon be available at Rowan William’s website, but that may take a little while — he delivered the lecture without a script, so it will have to be typed from the video.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1

Gary Paul Gilbert 10.18.07 at 7:34 am

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s lecture seems full of clichés, such as the idea that all religion is about a sense of dependence, a response to a gift, etc. He did not discover this but seems rather to be regurgitating texts he has read. He also seems to have confused values with facts, “ought” with “is.” I don’t understand how he can speak of recognizing that one is not the center of the universe. When he says this he seems to be prescribing a particular ethics or way of living in the world. Facts have nothing to do with it. Like Dawkins he seems to think that religion is about evidence and that is possible to make mistakes.

Worse still is his cliché that when one communicates one must trust that one will understand something. He forgets that, as a Maurice Blanchot would argue, language makes understanding possible and impossible in an irreducible aporia. One can never be sure whether one has really understood a text. The act of reading, if it be an act rather than a kind of daydreaming or swimming/drowning in words, cannot be reduced to interpretation or understanding without remainder, as Williams assumes.

Gary

2

PamBG 10.18.07 at 5:48 pm

language makes understanding possible and impossible in an irreducible aporia.

Oh yeah, that’s much easier to understand than the phrase ‘when one communicates, one must trust that one understands something’. Thanks for translating into plain English.

3

Richard 10.18.07 at 6:06 pm

I find it slightly amusing that someone should accuse Dr Williams of merely regurgitating texts. He has been, after all, a professor at Oxford University. I think we’re on safe ground to say that the Archbish has a reasonable grasp of both theology and philosophy. And I dare say he’d understand the comment about aporia. But I can’t say that I did.

4

dh 10.18.07 at 7:16 pm

I’m with Richard on this one. I will say that Dawkins tries to prescribe what he says as “facts” in prescibing his “unbelief” in religion. To me that is a “double standard” with regard to his understanding. When I read “Evidence that Demands a Verdict” I SEE the “evidence” you so readily “reject”. So Gary I question your understanding of the “evidence” that there IS a God, there IS a Savior that loves you with all His heart, He created you with the free will to accept Him or reject Him like it appears you are doing now, He IS alive today with the evidence of the resurrection of Christ, etc. You says “Like Dawkins he seems to think that religion is about evidence and that is possible to make mistakes.” Well with God all things are possible and the evidence is clear about the “evidence” you are so quick to dismiss.

5

dh 10.18.07 at 7:26 pm

I meant to say here “So Gary I question your understanding of the “evidence”. FOR there IS a God, there IS a Savior that loves you with all His heart, He created you with the free will to accept Him or reject Him like it appears you are doing now, He IS alive today with the evidence of the resurrection of Christ, etc.” I added the “for” so you can clearly understand what I’m trying to say. Sorry, for the confusion.

Gary, I care about you. i don’t want you to miss out on something that is so wonderful and special as a “relationship with Christ”. I know it is scary to think about placing one’s entire life into something one physically cannot see. However, when one does that one WILL be able to see how God works in our lives today. I’m sure you know that one can’t see the wind yet it is there. I’ll leave you with a statement that really had an impact on me before I made the decision to give my life to Christ. “Blessed are they who have not seen and yet Believe.” and “Faith is the substance of things hoped for the “evidence” of things not seen.”

There is more to the concept of understanding than just “sight” like you appear to address with reference to your statements of “evidence seen”.

6

Gary Paul Gilbert 10.18.07 at 8:08 pm

I am neither with Mr. Dawkins nor with Mr. Williams. Theism and atheism both assume the question “Do you believe in God?” makes sense. I also don’t like church people who want to convert others to their theology. I take this to be a very violent gesture or even a sign of insecurity that your tradition may not be so great after all. I also happen to be a churchgoer, so some of you have misunderstood me, which makes my point about a necessary misunderstanding in any understanding.

Gary

7

dh 10.18.07 at 9:34 pm

Is it insecure to do what Scripture says? “Go ye therefore and make disciples, Baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you and lo I am with you even unto the end of the age.” Also, going to church doesn’t make one a Believer so your misunderstanding about understanding doesn’t make sense in light of that. (I say this in that I don’t know your heart one way of the other, I was just saying this in general in that I know many people who went to church who had a “conversion experience” after going to church for years who would say they were not “Believers” while going to church before their “conversion experience”.)

Now I will say if a person is harsh in their statements of Truth with regard to sharing ones Faith then I would agree to a point with the “violent” thing. However, it makes sense to me that if a person has received a changed life and has experienced a freedom that only God can give that it makes sense to share the “Good News” with people who might not have experienced it not because one is insecure or being hostile to people but because God wants us to and we care about people. If some people hear the Gospel reject that it is between them and God but at least they heard. No one is forcing them to change but are giving as much information to make an “informed decision” to either reject or accept and therafter receive heart, soul and mind the Good News made available to all.

8

Kim 10.19.07 at 10:10 am

Hi Gary Paul,

Presumably you cannot be sure that you understand Blanchot? :)

Lest you think that Williams is unaware of the problematics of aporias, differance, ruptures, and the like, and is insensitive to the dangers of premature closures and oppressive totalisations, you might want to check out, inter alia, his essay “Hegel and the Gods of Postmodernity” (recently reprinted in Rowan Williams: Wrestling with Angels: Conversations in Modern Theology [2007], ed. Mike Higton), where he actually refers to Blanchot’s aesthetic of “non-absent absence”. Williams is completely conversant with contemporary philosophical and hermeneutical explorations, as well as with their background in the history of ideas. And while he would be the first to admit that he stands on the shoulders of his predecessors and has learned much from postmodernist thinkers, only someone who does not know his work, with its incredible depth and range, could accuse him of cliché and regurgitation.

Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>