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Medieval Byzantine debates regarding icons included fine distinctions between image, prototype, and symbol as these terms related to personhood. Iconodules and iconoclasts differed regarding the ability of art to represent the person. Must artistic representations of a person, to be justified, be consubstantial with the person represented and thus circumscribed, as iconoclasts believed? Or is it sufficient to refer to artistic representations as being symbolic of their human subjects? Embracing the victorious iconodule distinction between a person and artistic representations of the person raises questions regarding the manner in which an image can reveal a human being. Post-structuralist philosophers Maurice Blanchot and Kevin Hart have inverted this problematic. They begin the interpretation of icons and personhood not from the traditional understanding of the honor or worship paid to Christian icons. Instead, they examine the icon's deconstruction of the viewer. What results is an iconodule defense of a post-Cartesian “anthropological iconoclasm.”
After decades of optimism, interreligious dialogue is now confronted with a considerable amount of skepticism. In theology, this skepticism is primarily being fed by the cultural-linguistic theory of religion. This theory seems to be in keeping with what the Babel narrative has always said: people belonging to different “language” communities can do no more than babble at one another. The author asks, first of all, whether the story of Babel indeed affirms the cultural-linguistic argument for the end of interreligious dialogue. After showing that there are theological and exegetical reasons to doubt the classical interpretation of the Babel narrative, the author demonstrates how a renewed hermeneutic of this story actually challenges the cultural-linguistic discourse concerning the incommensurability of religions. Indeed, she argues, ultimately, the Babel story is not a narrative about the end of communication, but about its beginning.
In the wake of Karl Rahner, a range of theologians have made a compelling case that theology cannot afford to dismiss popular fascination with “the End-times,” nor downplay the apocalyptic tenor of the New Testament itself. Nevertheless in Catholic theology apocalypticism remains something of an oddity, a message in search of a credible form. This essay explores the apocalyptic tenor of Thomas Merton's mature period (1957–68) in order to propose some crucial distinctions between apocalyptic in an authentically “Catholic,” “analogical,” or “ironic” mode, and other, more dialectical forms of apocalyptic that have long dominated American religious and popular consciousness. Bringing Merton into dialogue with Russian sophiology, William Lynch, Johannes Baptist Metz, and others, the author highlights Merton's contribution to the difficult question of form: that is, how apocalypticism might be communicated in a way that seizes on the historical urgency of the gospel but also refuses to cede to a mythological, dialectical, or dangerously idolatrous imagination.
In recent years, concern for “modesty” has become more prominent in American religious circles. Recent advocates of modest clothing for women voice important concerns, but also perpetuate problematic attitudes toward women, especially poor women and women of color. Thomas Aquinas' description of modesty corrects this error, because it includes modesty of the mind. Contemporary developments in moral theology then enable us to relate both mental and physical modesty to the cardinal virtue of justice, where modesty decenters the self and makes room for other people to flourish. Findings from social psychologists illuminate the dynamics of social power, and clarify specific ways that mental and physical modesty work under the rubric of justice. These findings suggest that men and women may face different challenges in the practice of modesty, and so Christians must attend to all types of modesty in order to adequately address the question of appropriate clothing.