The Trials of Desire and the Possibility of Faith

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It is not clear in some quarters whether and how Christian faith remains possible. This experience takes a variety of forms: within the academy, the reverberations of Kant's critiques may yet be felt; in popular discourse, the aggressive scientism of the new atheists looms large; for practicing Christian communities, religious and cultural diversity problematizes the role of Christian commitment in the public sphere. This conference will reflect upon contemporary belief and practice in light of a suggestion that emerges from the expansive oeuvre of Denys Turner, that the possibility of faith begins as a question of desire.

After Turner's early work on analytic moral philosophy, he shifted to consider the lessons of Marx’s critique of moral and political ideology for traditional Christian theology. Suspicious of ideological illusion while dissatisfied with the narrowness of skeptical rationality, Turner began to explore the intimate relationship between knowledge and desire articulated in medieval Christian theology as a way to clarify the character of a Christian life that might continue under the sign of critique.

Turner's work advances the view that theology is properly animated by desire for a God who eludes mere reason. Whereas some take this for futility, Turner argues that the dynamic interplay between speech and unsaying rigorously articulates love for the living God. While disrupting the attenuated theologies represented by fundamentalist atheism, analytic theodicy, and an ossified Thomism, Turner insists that theological reflection begins in a desire that outstrips itself, reaching into darkness in search of the transcendent God.

Contributions will include perspectives from philosophy, theology, and the history of thought, with the focus centered squarely upon constructive treatment of the mutual implication of desire, faith, and the darkness of God. In keeping with Turner's exemplary intellectual promiscuity, contributions will treat the wide range of themes that relate to this central concern. The papers will be circulated before the conference so that time may be devoted to substantive discussion rather than exposition; if you intend to attend, please register so that you can receive the papers in advance.

Please contact David Newheiser and Eric Bugyis with any questions at turnerconference@gmail.com.