a summer of truthful conversation

One of the things I’m most thankful for about summer is the way it affords lots of opportunities for conversation.

Sporadic conversation while watching the cricket. Intensive conversation on long drives with visiting family. Immensely gratifying conversation with old friends who drop by — no minor feat when they mostly live in Sydney and we live in Melbourne.

In between the various conversations this summer, I’ve been meandering my way through Christ The Stranger — Ben Myers’ masterful and generous exposition of the theology of Rowan Williams.

It’s a terrific book!

It helps that Williams massively interesting. But Myers expertly teases apart the dense weave of his thought.

And I find myself wanting to post almost every second sentence of it online.

(I seem to have this experience with pretty much every book I pick up lately. Whether it’s Marilynne Robinson’s lyrical and vigorous defense of Calvinism, When I Was A Child I Read Books. Or Doug Harink’s densely theological commentary on 1 & 2 Peter. Or a book on bristling Marxist-Lacanian philosopher Slavoj Zizek’s curious relationship to theology. Or — most recently — Francis Spufford’s acerbic and insightful manifesto for Christianity, Unapologetic.)

I’ve refrained, however. For which you may well breathe a sigh of relief.

But I couldn’t resist sharing this little gem about the fruit of Williams’ reengagement with Hegel (page 54):

Authentic social exchange occurs wherever different persons mediate meaning to one another. Just think of the way understanding emerges from conversation: in a good conversation, something new appears which is not reducible to any of the individual speakers. For Williams, truth is that new thing that springs into being when different selves engage in the hard work of sustaining their differences. Openness to truth, therefore, is an experience of dispossession. We must give up our desire to possess the truth, in order to receive it and share it freely with others.

I think I can gratefully say that my summer has had an ample supply of this kind of conversation…

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2 comments

  1. And what Williams says about individuals can also be true about cultures — what I keep saying here is how important it is to read the Bible with people from other cultures because they will see things we don’t, and vice versa.

    1. Thanks, Greg. I suspect that sometimes we don’t have to look very far to find those ‘other cultures’ — I’ve been living in one south of the border for the past three years!

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