Jacob L. Goodson
College of William & Mary
We are pleased to publish this Symposium on Nicholas Adams’ Habermas and Theology. Nicholas Adams serves as Senior Lecturer in Systematic Theology and Theological Ethics at the University of Edinburgh, and he is an active member in The Society for Scriptural Reasoning. In his book, Adams treats the work of the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas. He concludes his book with a consideration of how the practice of Scriptural Reasoning (SR) relates to Habermas’ philosophy, as well as how SR helps negotiate the more general question concerning the role of religion within public debate. Because of Adams’ accomplishments, we are excited to publish these substantial engagements with several different dimensions of Adams’ book.
In her essay, Elizabeth Newman considers how Adams’ book relates to certain trends within contemporary Christian theology. With clarity and precision, she places Adams’ arguments into the context of debates concerning post-liberal theology and public theology, as well as the question of hospitality within Christian ethics. Newman provides a quite helpful orientation to both the key themes and potential scholarly contributions found within Adams’ book.
Tommy Givens closely examines the specifics of Adams’ presentation of the practice of SR, and he provides both appreciative commentary and critical evaluations of Adams’ understanding of SR. While Givens finds much promise within Adams’ account of SR, Givens remains unconvinced that SR serves as the type of “public” practice that Habermas envisions within his own political philosophy.
Brad Stone continues the analysis and evaluation of Adams’ presentation of SR. Rather than engaging Adams on his own terms, as Givens does, Stone turns toward the neo-pragmatist philosophies of Richard Rorty and Cornel West. Stone uses Rorty’s and West’s work as a framework for making judgments on Adams’ vision for SR within the modern world. Stone concludes that SR passes the test of West’s prophetic pragmatism but fails the standards of Rorty’s “liberal ironist” pragmatism because of SR’s “continual use of religious language to explain its motives.” Stone believes that this means SR “still has some work to do if it is to become a model for the use of religion in the public sphere.”
After treating several aspects of Adams’ book – particularly modernity, normativity, and religion – Jonathan Trejo-Mathys comes back around to clarifying what Adams accomplishes within his final chapter on SR. Trejo-Mathys claims that Adams demonstrates “that scriptural reasoning is a practice that seems to bear the mark of a reasoning discourse, and yet it is not aimed at translating the ‘semantic content’ of religious discourse into anything else.” Adams makes explicit that SR “aims at mutual understanding between different faith traditions (mainly Abrahamic ones).” Trejo-Mathys concludes from this: “SR is not directly serviceable for this political task.”
Observing that Nicholas Adams and Peter Ochs seek to develop the notion of reparative reasoning, Jacob Goodson addresses the question of how reparative reasoning actually works. Goodson does not explicitly discuss the practice of SR. Instead, he considers (a) how Adams’ presentation of Habermas’ philosophy improves upon other recent treatments of Habermas’ hermeneutics and (b) how Habermas’ conception of practical reasoning makes more room for Scripture than Adams maintains. In this sense, Goodson suggests that Habermas’ conception of practical reasoning allows a place for Scripture within public debate.
We are pleased, also, to include in this issue a new feature of The Journal of Scriptural Reasoning. Because the literature and scholarship has become so vast within the areas of Abrahamic hermeneutics, inter-religious dialogue, and scriptural reasoning, we now include book reviews. We seek to provide our readers with evaluative judgments – from perspectives within SR – of any new books addressing the questions that are of deep scholarly concern for readers of The Journal of Scriptural Reasoning. In this issue, Rebekah Eklund reviews David Ford’s Christian Wisdom while Jason Byassee examines Steven Kepnes’ Jewish Liturgical Reasoning. If there is a new book in an area of study that relates to the interests and purposes of SR, then notify the General Editor of The Journal of Scriptural Reasoning for an opportunity to review the relevant book.