Stephen H. Webb: Wikis

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Stephen H. Webb is a theologian and philosopher of religion.

Webb graduated from Wabash College in 1983, earned his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago, and has been teaching at Wabash College as Professor of Religion and Philosophy since 1988. Born in 1961 and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, he grew up at Englewood Christian Church, an evangelical church in the Restoration Movement. He recounts his experiences there in Taking Religion to School (Brazos Press, 2000) and in an essay, "Recalling: A Theologian Remembers His Church," in Falling Toward Grace: Images of Religion and Culture from the Heartland, ed. Kent Calder and Susan Neville (Indiana University Press, 1998). He joined the Disciples of Christ during graduate school but soon became disenchanted with their theological direction. He was briefly a Lutheran, and on Easter Sunday, 2007, he officially came into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church.

Contents

Views on vegetarianism and animal rights

He is known for his scholarship and journalism on animals, vegetarianism, and diet. He co-founded the Christian Vegetarian Association (http://www.all-creatures.org/cva/default.htm), but was removed from his position as co-chairman in 2006 after writing several articles in which he admitted to eating meat occasionally, while promoting vegetarianism. He defends the value of animals by reaffirming traditional notions of human uniqueness and human responsibility for nature. Many animal rights arguments are influenced by a leveling of the differences between humans and animals as well as a leveling of the differences between God and the world. This vision of a non-dogmatic and non-legalistic vegetarianism linked to traditional biblical principles rather than the pantheism of the New Age movement or the abdication of human uniqueness entailed in animal rights legislation has been controversial in both theological and philosophical circles. For an example of his work, see his essay, "Theology from the Pet Side Up: A Christian Agenda for NOT Saving the World," in the online journal The Other Journal (http://www.theotherjournal.com/print.php?id=171).

Webb's critique of what he calls the "animal eliminationist" wing of the animal rights movement was presented at the 2008 American Academy of Religion conference in Chicago. It was the primary focus of an article covering the conference by the religion reporter of the Ottawa Citizen: http://communities.canada.com/ottawacitizen/blogs/ideas/archive/2008/11/02/a-compassionate-carnivore-takes-a-bite-out-of-the-animal-rights-movement.aspx

Several books have extensively analyzed and criticized his position, including Laura Hobgood-Oster, Holy Dogs and Asses (University of Illinois Press, 2008) and Stephen M. Vantassel, Dominion over Wildlife? (Resource Publications, 2009). The Encyclopedia of Christianity, ed. John Bowden (Oxford University Press, 2005) lists him as one of the leaders of the animal theology movement (p. 52).

Political views

Most recently, Webb has turned his attention to politics, culture, popular culture, and liberal advocacy. Within this field, Webb has generated positive and negative reviews with his book American Providence (Continuum, 2004) in which he defends the idea that the doctrine of providence has been a crucial ingredient in American history and American identity. Providential interpretations of American national aspirations went into decline after the Vietnam War, but with President Bush's openness regarding the role of faith in his presidency, providence has returned to the public square. Webb argues that even anti-Americanism is dependent upon providential logic, because conspiracy theories about how evil America is grant America a special role in world history. He also argues that the future belongs to the triad of capitalism, democracy, and various forms of evangelical Christianity, not limited to explicitly evangelical churches (a statement concerning Catholicism's role in this mission is forthcoming). One of his controversial essays on politics is β€œOn the True Globalism and the False, or Why Christians Should Not Worry So Much about American Imperialism,” in Anxious About Empire: Theological Essays on the New Global Realities, ed. Wes Avram (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2004), pp. 119–128. William T. Cavanaugh has criticized his connection of providence and politics in his essay, "Messianic Nation," in University of St. Thomas Law Journal (Fall 2005), pp. 261-280, available online at: http://www.jesusradicals.com/wp-content/uploads/messianic-nation.pdf

Books on theology and sound

Webb, widely known to suffer from hearing loss, is also known for his work in what he calls theo-acoustics, or a theology of sound. He wrote a comprehensive history of Christianity and sound in The Divine Voice: Christian Proclamation and the Theology of Sound (Brazos Press, 2004). This book, which was named the Religious Communication Association's Book of the Year for 2005, is divided into three parts. The first part surveys the biblical tradition on the importance of the human voice as a medium of revelation in the Bible. The second part focuses on the Protestant Reformation as the revival of that tradition. The third part discusses the transformations of that tradition in contemporary culture, which is increasingly oriented toward the visual over the auditory. He also discusses the role of deafness in Christian history and various theological debates over the question of how God created the world through sound. He ends that book talking about wordless music and the decline of authentic vocalization in rock and roll, so it was a natural progression to turn Bob Dylan in his next book, Dylan Redeemed: From Highway 61 to Saved (Continuum, 2006). This book, which as been written about in many Dylan blogs, is a reassessment of Bob Dylan's musical career that focuses on Dylan's mid-life conversion to Christianity.

Blogs

Webb's blogs appear frequently on the First Things "On the Square" Blog. He has written about Harry Chapin (http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/?p=1268), science and religion (http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/?p=1154), and multiculturalism (http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/?p=1062). On March 5, 2009, he posted a humorous, satirical article, "How Soccer is Ruining America: A Jeremiad" (http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/?p=1329) that was subsequently published at the Wall Street Journal online edition (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123680101041299201.html) and then picked up by numerous blogs, newspapers and websites, creating a storm of criticism from soccer fans. See, for example, http://www.mouthpiecesports.com/blog/2009/03/13/stephen-h-webbs-soccer-column-is-pretty-much-the-greatest-thing-ever/.

Books on literature

Webb has written about C. S. Lewis in The Chronicles of Narnia and Philosophy (ed. by Jerry Walls, Open Court Publishing, 2005), Indiana small town basketball in Basketball and Philosophy (University of Kentucky Press, 2007), and eschatology and politics in The Oxford Handbook of Eschatology (Oxford University Press, 2008). He also wrote the commendation for John Updike for the Presentation of the Christianity and Literature Lifetime Achievement Award at the Modern Languages Association Meeting in December, 2006. His remarks, and Updike's generous response, appear in Christianity and Literature, vol. 56, No. 3 (Spring 2007), pp. 481–485.

Lectures

He has given invited lectures at Aberdeen University, Calvin College, Wheaton College, Bangor, Maine, Arizona State University, Pepperdine University, Butler University, Hartford Seminary, Creighton University, Wilfrid Laurier University, Hope College, Kalamazoo College, Purdue University, Elmhurst College, and Loyola University in Baltimore.

Other books

He has also written many essays on the intersection of rhetoric and religion, including "Reviving the Rhetorical Heritage of Protestant Theology," in A Companion to Rhetoric and Rhetorical Criticism, ed. Walter Jost and Wendy Olmsted (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004): 409-24, and "Theological Reflections on the Hyperbolic Imagination," in Rhetorical Invention and Religious Inquiry, ed. Walter Jost and Wendy Olmstead (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000). The SAGE Handbook of Rhetorical Studies, ed. Andrea Lunsford (2008) lists him as a leader in the field of religious rhetoric (see p. 555).

His current book, The Dome of Eden: A New Theory of Creation and Evolution will be published by Wipf & Stock in late 2009. He is also a frequent contributor to First Things and Books & Culture,

Personal

Stephen Webb lives in Brownsburg, Indiana with his wife, Diane Timmerman, who is an Associate Professor of Theatre at Butler University, and their three children.

Bibliography

  • Dylan Redeemed: From Highway 61 to Saved (Continuum, 2006)
  • The Divine Voice: Christian Proclamation and the Theology of Sound (Brazos Press, 2004)
  • American Providence: A Nation with a Mission (Continuum, 2004)
  • Good Eating: The Bible, Diet and the Proper Love of Animals (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press/Baker, 2001)
  • Taking Religion to School: Christian Theology and Secular Education.(Brazos Press, 2000, 253 pages with notes)
  • On God and Dogs: A Christian Theology of Compassion for Animals (With a Foreword by Andrew Linzey) (Oxford University Press, 1998)
  • The Gifting God: A Trinitarian Ethics of Excess (Oxford University Press, 1996)
  • Blessed Excess: Religion and the Hyperbolic Imagination (SUNY Series in Rhetoric and Theology) (Albany: SUNY Press, 1993)
  • Refiguring Theology: The Rhetoric of Karl Barth (SUNY, 1991)

External links

Stephen H. Webb, American Theologian: http://www.americantheologian.com/

For an article on Intelligent Design that received numerous critical posts, see

For an essay about dogs that was commissioned by the National Humane Society, see

For two articles about liberal arts education by Webb from LiberalArtsOnline, see

For a review of American Providence in the journal First Things, see

For an article about Dylan, see

For a review of Dylan Redeemed, see

For an interview of Webb on Dylan in the UK's The Guardian, see

For the Mormon community's interest in Prof. Webb's reflections on Mormonism, see from the Mormon Times

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