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Vigilant Faith

Vigilant Faith: Passionate Agnosticism in a Secular World

Daniel Boscaljon
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Vigilant Faith
    Book Description:

    InVigilant Faith: Passionate Agnosticism in a Secular World,Daniel Boscaljon takes up the contemporary challenges to faith by skepticism and secularism. He proposes a model of faith for believers and unbelievers alike-a passionate agnosticism-that is rooted in a skeptical consciousness. Skepticism and faith are structurally similar, he writes, in that they share an "unknowing" quality. The author argues that vigilance-the act of keeping watch, a spiritual practice in its own right-is as necessary a precondition for the structure of faith as it is for the structure of skepticism. A suspension in uncertainty and an openness to possibility require vigilance, he attests, if faith and skepticism are to avoid the often dogmatic tendencies of both theism and atheism to cling to their own brands of certainty and knowledge.

    Boscaljon has three aims: to expand the current, post-theistic definitions of God for greater relevance to human beings on an individual and existential level; to integrate skepticism into faith so that it will restore the importance of faith to current theology and recover it from anti-intellectual bias; and to conceptualize the vigilance of faith in such a way that can provide a vocabulary for distinguishing "good faith" from "bad faith." He offers a variety of cultural examples ranging from film to poetry to represent a life of faith and to show how its components come together in practice. As an alternative to the prevailing fundamentalisms in today's world, his book proposes a paradigmatic understanding of faith in which theism, atheism, and agnosticism refuse to differ.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3465-5
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Opening the Domain of Presymbolic Faith
    (pp. 1-18)

    Our current existential terror has taken the form of brokenness; tragically, we remain unable to name this terror and thereby defend ourselves against it. Bob Dylan prophesied the onset of this struggle in 1989 and fittingly re-released his song “Everything Is Broken” in 2008. The song catalogs the disintegration of the world through the dissolution of things: “Broken lines, broken strings, broken threads, broken springs/Broken idols, broken heads, people sleeping in broken beds.”¹ As the song continues, Dylan attends to how tools (cutters, saws) and humans (bodies, bones, voices) are broken and testify to the loss of what had once...

  5. Part I. Skeptical Faith

    • 1 The Model of Absolute Faith
      (pp. 21-50)

      Religion satisfies both the human drive to forge communities using ritual and history and our longing to transcend them. Traditions point backward toward our pasts and reveal possibilities for better futures, arranging time in a fashion that grants comfort and consolation. The tension inherent in what academics identify as a “religion without religion” arises in religious contexts that grasp the mere form of comfort and simultaneously forsake the content mythology provides. Absent this mythology, we lose the foundation for ritual and community. Theologians debate the nature of God because it seems that faith has little to say in this situation,...

    • 2 Skepticism as a Ground of Faith
      (pp. 51-76)

      In the twenty-first century, those for whom skepticism has become a primal impulse no longer need to be shocked away from the openness of their first naïveté; instead, they refuse the possibility that a new moment may provide something of value. Without conscious or malicious intention, these skeptics reject the world of hyperbolic description where no sale can be missed and each election defines history. Native, naïve skeptics shrug off such appearances, disregarding the consequences. Relative to the world of marketing and advertisement, this strategy allows them to thrive without accumulating goods that fail to live up to what was...

  6. Part II. The Function of Vigilance in a Skeptical Faith

    • 3 Skeptical Consciousness and the Dynamic of Faith
      (pp. 79-108)

      Having disclosed how skepticism provides a viable ground of faith by revealing the faith inherent in skepticism and the equipollent tensions present in theology, I will demonstrate how to sustain this experience of faith through an analysis of human consciousness. Unlike other theological frameworks, which presume the existence of a spirit/matter dualism through an emphasis on the soul, an emphasis on consciousness is germane even to those who adhere to a framework of material reductionism. Because any analysis presupposes the ability of consciousness to experience and think, and because consciousness does not require a prior acceptance of a particular historical...

    • 4 Anonymous Hierophanies and the Mundane Possibilities of God
      (pp. 109-136)

      When we listen, the world sometimes whispers secrets that we cannot understand. Things reveal themselves with unrelenting meaningfulness in ways that violate the language-based and controlling dictates of reason. Reason cannot contemplate the fleeting pleasures and riches of the sensory world. The comfort provided by feeling a hard ground beneath one’s feet or a soft pillow behind one’s head are not rationally accountable. Our intuitions regarding the reverence appropriate to particular sites, the awe inspired by the sight of a lonely tree’s profound struggle to touch the sun or a weed’s tenacity in making a home between slabs of concrete...

  7. Part III. The Works of a Vigilant Faith

    • 5 The Work of Vigilance
      (pp. 139-160)

      Enlarging the domain of prebelief, the initial space of all faith, has revealed a model of faith suitable for native skeptics (who instinctively reject appearances and thus lack the initial suspension of disbelief required for unlocking symbolic worlds) and rigorous skeptics (who mindfully make equipollent arguments with an eye toward finding an eventual truth). While believers who choose a particular symbol to mediate their faith exit this domain, a skeptic with vigilant faith can intentionally dwell in this domain.

      The practice of a skeptical faith requires vigilance. As the underside of consciousness, vigilance is the reflexive awareness that grants awareness...

    • 6 Vigilance as the Work of Faith
      (pp. 161-180)

      A vigilant vigil straddles the shared world of calculating efficiency and the approaching world of theeschaton,and I undertake it as an end in itself. Maintaining a skeptical orientation, a vigilant faith holds both worlds in tension as counter-appearances of a “truth,” persisting in a third world (relating to the nonsymbolically mediated absolute) produced through the work of vigilant faith.

      This chapter explores how a vigilant vigil concretizes itself in ways more permanent than watching—in works of creativity, construction, and cultivation that, like Dickinson’s poems, promote a doubled vision for others who dwell in only one world. Interpretations...

  8. CONCLUSION: Vigilantly Undergoing Faith
    (pp. 181-194)

    Heidegger’s theory that truth emerges in the event of revealing and concealing implies that truth occurs through a dynamic tension instead of “existing” in an independent, abstracted way. The truth of faith, disclosed in full with an initial revelation, becomes hidden in and by the symbolic world. Thingspreservetruth as a gathering potential, activated (occurring) when I participate in its gathering. In addition to preserving truth, I mustperformit in my re-creation of the world. The human preservation of truth requires activity—shifting from the absolute future into the future present, shifting from the infinite into the finite....

  9. Notes
    (pp. 195-200)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 201-204)
  11. Index
    (pp. 205-211)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 212-212)