Thursday, 18 June 2009

A Word and Picture for Mark C Taylor

Mark C. Taylor is little known in the UK, one of the radical theologians in the United States who combines the paradoxes of postmodernism, theology and culture. He is Department Chair and Professor of Religion, Columbia University; he was the Visiting Professor of Religion and architecture since 2003; Chair since Summer 2007.

His topics interweave religion with philosophy, literature, art and architecture, education, media, science, technology and economics. The writing itself is important, and there is more than a little lateral thinking. Some of the podcasts available of his lectures are quite tricky to follow; you have to imagine yourself in the classroom and his moving between students and a wipeboard (or whatever he is using).

...I always tell my students if they don’t come out of my course more confused than they came in, I failed. My point is not necessarily to take away their faith but make them question whatever it is they have faith in.

Q. Do you believe in God?

A. Not in the traditional sense. God, or, in different terms, the divine, is the infinite creative process that is embodied in life itself. As such, the divine is the arising and passing that does not itself arise and pass away. This process is actualized in an infinite web of relations that is an emergent self-organizing network of networks extending from the natural and social to the technological and cultural dimensions of life. Public Affairs Office, Columbia University, interview by Melanie A. Farmer (2008)

I like this, because on the one hand it seems to say a divine exists. And on the other it doesn't: something is realised that is not actually realised; the divine is the arising and passing that does not itself arise and pass away. It is postmodern theology with paradox to the fore. Eventually I hope to introduce some of Mark C. Taylor's ideas locally, which will be an interesting discussion (God died into writing, and all that; religion slipping away and all pervasive), though next up in about a month is an assessment of John A. T. Robinson, another who has used Paul Tillich with a twist - already in my head is that what I want to say about Robinson might surprise one or two of the group.

Mark C. Taylor is similar to Don Cupitt and both have books of similar titles:

Cupitt, Don (1997), After God: The Future of Religion, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

Link / Taylor, Mark C. (2007), After God, Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press; Bristol: University Presses Marketing [distributor].

Public Affairs Office, Columbia University, interview by Melanie A. Farmer (2008), 'Q & A with Religion Professor Mark C. Taylor', Columbia News, Special from The Record: News and Ideas from the Columbia Community; January 2008; Columbia University, [Online], Available World Wide Web, URL: [Accessed: Wednesday June 17 2009, 02:34]


hugh said...

Indeed , an interesting thinker . Another I find stimulating is the mennonite theologian Gordon Kaufman .

To me , he succeeds where Keith Ward fails .

Cheers ....

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

Very briefly, and a lightning read through (takes him some time to get going) it looks like pushing the realism of a non-realist construct.

Brad said...

Interesting, but I don't know if it's worth thousands a year to pay him to come up with it.
Pretty much hear the same thing can be heard at bars all over the world once everyone's had a few and they start to get 'profound'.

laBiscuitnapper said...

Ooh, I like the sound of him! He might be a theologian I can quote without feeling more than a little disingenuous.

Brad said...

It still doesn't answer the question: "Why bother with religion/religious activities when there are many more interesting things to do?"