Temple Tracts are accessible e-books of 8,000 words analysing key debates in religion and public life. Written by both established and up-and-coming authors, they engage theology with contemporary social ethics, politics, ecology, digital technology and philosophy. Given their recent success (over 14,000 downloads and counting), our Temple Tracts are now being published as three distinct series:
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In this tract, Paul Woods provides introductions to both theological reflection, and the life and thought of the Russian literary scholar Mikhail Bakhtin. Although Bakhtin’s work has often featured in biblical studies, Woods argues that his ideas are also pertinent to theological reflection. In particular, Bakhtin’s emphasis on embodiment, dialogue and unfinalisability helps to refine and inform the practice of theological reflection.
On August 7th 2020 the sad news came through that the French philosopher Bernard Stiegler had died the previous day. In the third of our series Temple Continental: Philosophers for our Time, John Reader illustrates why he was one of the leading thinkers of his generation. From his formative time in prison to his voluminous and inventive philosophy, Stiegler had much to say about our contemporary situation, and especially our use of digital technology. Here, Reader provides an accessible introduction to his thought via the categories of technics, knowledge and the human.
In this instalment of our new series Temple Continental: Philosophers for our Time Tim Middleton introduces the “spherical philosophy” of the provocative thinker Peter Sloterdijk. From bubbles and eggs to globes and foam, much of life can be imagined as the inhabiting of spheres. Middleton then turns to what theology might learn from this philosophy in an era of ecological breakdown. Considering our current crisis, can we really contemplate a literal or metaphorical escape capsule? As our planet comes back to bite us, how might we seek protection from and simultaneously learn to live within our morally ambiguous earth? And can theology help us to inhabit our local and global spheres concurrently?
In this first tract of our new series—Temple Continental: Philosophers for our Time—Tim Howles hones in on a specific twentieth century debate between the political theorist Carl Schmitt and the theologian Erik Peterson which arguably lies at the heart of contemporary interest in political theology. Howles introduces the protagonists, and outlines the debate, before going on to explore how the work of Schmitt and Peterson is relevant to issues as diverse as totalitarianism, voter apathy, the post-secular public sphere and critiques of capitalism.
In this Temple Tract, Tom James seeks to counter the notion that those who self-describe as ‘Spiritual But Not Religious’ (SBNR) are simply theological individualists. Drawing on the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, James characterises the SBNR phenomenon as a considered rejection of specific religious ‘territories’. SBNRs are not simply inventing their own religion, but responding to a variety of well-founded desires within themselves. The tensions between these desires could lead us to madness, says James. And yet there is an integrity to those spiritual journeys that involve a persistent ‘becoming-other’.
In the second of our Temple Ethical Futures series, John Reader and Adrian Evans draw on the philosophical resources of the contemporary New Materialisms in order to propose a new, modest form of ethics. Including thinkers such as Gilles Deleuze and Bruno Latour, and focussing particularly on ethical praxis in an age of information, Reader and Evans make the case for greater humility in both science and religion. This tract forms part of the ongoing work of the Ethical Futures group, which is hosted by the William Temple Foundation.
In the first of a new series of Tracts, Temple Ethical Futures, Maggi Savin-Baden and John Reader offer both practical examples of ways in which digital technology is impacting upon church activities and then reflect upon the philosophical and theological resources that could assist in developing appropriate concepts. This is the first Tract to emerge from a workshop held at Trinity College, Oxford in February 2018 entitled “Theological Futures: Ecological and Digital” at the heart of which is the issue of how humans are both shaping and being shaped by the new challenges we face and for which we are ourselves largely responsible. It is hoped that the publications in this series will address this question at both a practical and theoretical level.
How can we live alongside those with whom we disagree? What will it mean to be ‘free’ in multicultural, post-Brexit Britain? In our final Temple Tract of 2018, Sue Lucas, Team Rector of East Ham in east London, writes about a freedom beyond liberalism, drawing on the political philosophy of both Hannah Arendt and William Temple. She argues that Arendt’s notion of politics as relationality, coupled with Temple’s concept of freedom for, can help us to reach past the limitations of purely negative, or economic, understandings of liberty. Together, they offer a new political imaginary that is based on a plural and diverse God.
In a provocative and timely new Temple Tract, Greg Smith provides a sociological and theological reflection on populist nationalism, religious prejudice, xenophobia and racism in the contemporary context of the United Kingdom and especially England, with comparisons with the USA and Europe. Drawing on new empirical research on religion and Brexit voting trends, along with decades of activism in the church, Greg considers how we can better respond to the challenges of xenophobic and racist social attitudes.
What is the role that faith groups can play in creating community cohesion? What does missional pastoral care look like when evangelical Christians relocate into urban communities? Drawing on her research with the Eden Network, Dr Anna Ruddick argues that Christian communities must step back from service delivery as a default mode of engagement, instead prioritising developing mutual relationships and creating spaces in which such relationships can be cultivated across communities.
How can the work of Bruno Latour help us to think about Mission and Practice? How might Latour’s understanding of the relationships between the human and the non-human contribute to a better theological understanding of environmental issues? Pulling together rich practical examples from his ministry and sophisticated theological insights, Revd Dr John Reader offers us a guide to how Latour’s ideas can influence our thought and actions in relation to Mission and the global environment.
How should we navigate the contemporary landscape of the politics of human flesh? Where our bodies are increasingly the sites of hazard, crisis and consumption, how do theological, religious and related images of thought and practice play a role in texturing this landscape? In a new and original Temple Tract, Tina Hearn explores the background to our attitudes to ‘ideal bodies’ and draws upon theologians, activists and philosophers to consider the ways in which we might refigure the ways we think about human flesh more creatively and positively.
Drawing on new research in the Lambeth Palace Archives, Rob Thompson paints a fuller picture of Archbishop William Temple’s role, as co-founder of the Council of Christians and Jews, in drawing attention to the plight of Jews in occupied Europe during the Second World War. Thompson details the background to Temple’s petitions to the UK government to provide asylum to those able to leave enemy-occupied territories, and reflects on the legacy of Temple’s example, courage and moral leadership.
Drawing on his PhD research into Faith Based Organisations, weaving this together with a personal narrative, Matthew Barber maps the landscape of austerity and localism that have led to a new model and pedagogy of the Spaces of Hope movement. Introducing this movement against the background of wider social change and political theory, Barber explains the development of the Spaces of Hope movement, along with some of the examples of the way this movement has found expression in the North of England.
With the failure of the Enlightenment project and the rise of globalisation, religion has powerfully allied itself with ethnic and nationalist identities, creating sharp divisions. Yet in contrast new ‘spaces of convergence’ and creative partnerships also begin to emerge, often led by religious leaders and faith-based organisations. Baker and Reader suggest that there is an increasing desire to build a “more civil” civil society, where religion and belief play a crucial role in developing new opportunities for engagement.
A world-renowned social scientist turns his attention to religion in this thought-provoking new text. Drawing on William Temple’s understanding of what it means to be human, and how this interconnects with notions of family, state and social order, Calhoun characterises public life as involving both commonality and diversity. He suggests that contemporary society lacks the articulacy to build a sense of shared identity, and offers examples of the NHS, the United Kingdom and Europe as case studies of what can go wrong when we see the world through the narrow perspective of individual entitlement.
Following the success of ‘God and Money’ in this valuable new Temple Tract, Eve Poole sets out a theological argument for embracing consumerism as a God-given unquenchable desire. Poole lays out practical suggestions for how readers might consume more ethically. Going beyond simple spending decisions, the book tackles the serious job of developing a more theologically sound consumerism, looking at the five key areas of money, time, relationships, environment and you.
Is God back? Whether one sees religion as declining or experiencing a resurgence, in 2016, questions of religious beliefs and actions are more present in public life than they have been in recent times. From politicians publicly professing their faith, to France’s infamous ‘burkini ban’, to legal disputes over icing cakes with slogans supporting same-sex marriage, religion is far from a silent elephant in the room. Conversely, at the same time, religious literacy appears to be declining. Greg Smith takes up the challenge of explaining ‘what on earth is religion?’ writing specifically from the UK’s globalised, post-Christian context. Smith suggests that the best way to understand it is through looking at what he coins as the ‘seven pillars of religion’, which are distinct yet overlapping in nature. In doing so, Smith highlights and clarifies what this increased visibility of religion in public life might actually mean, both in terms of how we perceive modern society, and how we understand the changing nature of religion within it.
Public debates remain dominated by the notion that all religion is inherently hostile towards homosexuality. Within these debates, the spotlight is frequently turned upon Islam, construing the religion as exceptionally violent and homophobic. In this Temple Tract, scholar and activist Shanon Shah examines how some LGBT Muslims are reinterpreting Islam to expand notions of equality, diversity and social justice, as they rethink notions of sinfulness. Shah demonstrates how, when faced with anti-LGBT sentiment, some LGBT Muslims are addressing these challenges by incorporating their personal experiences and insights into wider debates on religious interpretation.
Greg Smith has 40 years’ experience working in urban mission and community development. Smith’s pre-election (2015) analysis of the British welfare system takes a candid look at the role of faith-based organisations, and asks how and why these groups try to plug the service gaps created by government spending cuts. ‘Faith, Progressive Localism & the Hol(e)y Welfare Safety Net’ explores the relationship between Local Authorities and faith-based service providers, through a combination of revealing case studies from the North West of England, and strong theoretical analysis.
In this engaging collaboration, John Atherton and John Reader argue that traditional theology has struggled to understanding the contemporary relationship between religion and a secular public sphere. Developing an interdisciplinary approach, the writers suggest the need for genuine dialogue, communication and negotiation between the different belief and value systems in our society. Taking examples from their respective research, the writers share an insight into how mapping the material might contribute towards a discourse illustrating how faith still plays its role in the public sphere.
How does the Church of England approach the “secular” concepts of equality and diversity, and what is the role of power in these debates? Combining critical theory and theology, Grace & Power: Sexuality and Gender in the Church of England argues for an increasingly nuanced debate, centred on notions of hospitality and inclusion. Author Hayley Matthews’ research gives voice to many homosexual clergy who report feeling fundamentally constrained from being ‘fully themselves’ due to prevailing attitudes within the Church.
In contemporary times, with technology making ‘money’ an electronic process, money is the information flows that reckon balances all around the world. And because of the relative wealth of the world’s rich, money is also about power and politics. Indeed, because so many people seem to worship it these days, it now seems to function rather like a religion. But where is the Christian God in all of this? In ‘God and Money’ Eve Poole explores the accounts of economists and academics, alongside Biblical interpretation, to deepen the Christian understanding of money and wealth.
In the fifth book in this first Temple Tract series on religion and public life, Philip Lewis and Charlotte Dando offer a critical introduction to the “Interfaith Movement”. The authors track the historic development of interfaith work at both institutional and grassroots levels, with a special focus on Anglican-Muslim relations in England. From reflecting on successful interfaith work the authors move on to asking difficult questions about the role and sustainability of the interfaith movement, and propose a series of recommendations aimed at ensuring that this significant work has a strong and positive future.
One important way of describing what happens in a society – and a basis for evaluating that society – is to show how its citizens spend their time. Taking a broad economic approach, Steedman and Opocher introduction’s to the study of time-use raises a number of questions about society’s allocation of time, and what this says about priorities and principles. Combining theories from renowned Economists with contemporary research, the authors consider productivity, work satisfaction and the output imperative, in this new contribution to an ongoing debate on how to live well.