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In Praise of Wisdom: Literary And Theological Reflections on Faith And Reason [Paperback]

By Kim Paffenroth (Author)
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Item description for In Praise of Wisdom: Literary And Theological Reflections on Faith And Reason by Kim Paffenroth...

"You are taken to task more for your lack of wisdom than you are praised for your harmful mildness" -- King Lear
Kim Paffenroth's book examines several major aspects and developments of the Biblical concept of Wisdom. He focuses on Wisdom as it evolves through the works of Shakespeare, Goethe, Melville, and Dostoevsky.
The getting of Wisdom--the ultimate expression of joining of head and heart in search of God -- is a key theme not only in biblical Wisdom literature but one of the major themes in Western literature. Lear, Ahab, Ishmael, Ivan Karamzov -- all are in search of that meaningful combination of head and heart that brings a real knowledge of the world and of God tothem. Wisdom is therefore the basis of a relationship with God, and the foundation of human happiness, freedom, and fulfillment.
Paffenroth examines wisdom under four broad categories: the destructiveness of folly; the feminine side of Wisdom; the folly of Christ as Wisdom; and the problem of suffering, especially as it highlights the inadequacy of reason.
"This is a major contribution to the study of literature and theology." --David Jasper, Professor of Literature and Theology, University of Glasgow.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Continuum
Pages   160
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.56" Width: 6.54" Height: 0.45"
Weight:   0.58 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Mar 17, 2006
Publisher   Continuum International Publishing Group
ISBN  0826418546  
ISBN13  9780826418548  

Availability  107 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 28, 2016 01:56.
Usually ships within one to two business days from La Vergne, TN.
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More About Kim Paffenroth

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Kim Paffenroth is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Iona College in New Rochelle, New York.

Kim Paffenroth was born in 1966.

Kim Paffenroth has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Augustine in Conversation

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > General
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Bible > General
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > General
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Spirituality > Inspirational

Reviews - What do customers think about In Praise of Wisdom: Literary And Theological Reflections on Faith And Reason?

Praiseworthy, indeed  Oct 14, 2005
I first became familiar with Paffenroth's work through his work on Augustine ('A Reader's Companion to Augustine's Confessions' and 'The Heart Set Free: Sin And Redemption In The Gospels, Augustine, Dante, And Flannery O'Connor'), and continued to follow his writing with ' Judas: Images of the Lost Disciple' and this book, 'In Praise of Wisdom'.

In this text, Paffenroth develops the interconnections of literature and biblical concepts of Wisdom, similar to what he did in the 'The Heart Set Free' with particular literary figures and theological concepts. The pursuit of Wisdom is a ubiquitous theme in Western literature as well as the biblical texts. Paffenroth writes, 'All of these thinkers finally think of wisdom as an expression of the positive interaction of faith and reason as mutually dependent ways of human knowing, as well as fundamental elements of human fulfillment.' From ancient sources such as Augustine and the Bible to later writers such as Pascal, Shakespeare, Goethe, Melville and Dostoevsky, the idea of separating faith and reason is an unsatisfactory one - the idea that theology is fides quaerens intellectum, faith seeking understanding, is one that resonates with Paffenroth's development of the text.

In Paffenroth's preface, he discusses what I have come to take as a truism hard-learned from several years of teaching theology - many theologians (Paffenroth mentions Barth, Bultmann, Tillich and Troeltsch by name, but I might add Rahner, Schillebeeckx, Maritain, and many others) are simply inaccessible to even well-educated people, but novels, stories and other such works are much more comprehensible, and much more appreciated. Paffenroth recognises perhaps why Jesus preferred to teach using parables rather than dogmatic treatises. The use of characters such as King Lear or Captain Ahab to draw out the elements of suffering that are found in Job does nothing to detract from the power of Job, but shows different dimensions of complexity and a better sense for how things can be understood.

Paffenroth explores five primary issues - folly and its destructiveness (personified in Wisdom literature, and played out in literary works); the feminine side of Wisdom (again personified in Wisdom literature, and often coupled with the idea of the Holy Spirit in later Christian tradition); the problem of suffering (a perennial question, not only in Christian thinking, but in religious thinking of all varieties - think of Rabbi Kushner's 'When Bad Things Happen to Good People'); the inadequacy of reason; and the folly of Christ as Wisdom (a theme noted as early as the writings of the apostle Paul).

Paffenroth sets up compare-and-contrast situations with key literary works and the Bible, but the analysis goes much deeper than this. While Christ in the biblical text and Cordelia in King Lear both exhibit points that can be dealt with in a simple way, Paffenroth draws these elements together to drive home the same troublesome point of the difficulty of understanding, and the difficulty of working in world in which wisdom is seen as something often at odds with what is true. How is it that the cross could be anything other than foolishness? How is it that the fool in King Lear seems to be the most sensible character, and those who are the most mad end up being the most wise, but also suffer tragic fates?

In my own teaching experience, many students come to theology classes with an attitude that the bible has all the answers, and there is little to be gained from a reasoned approach to theological study. They may in fact be right about the limitations of reason (both Ecclesiates and Pascal bump up against this, as shown in Paffenroth's chapter devoted to this topic), but perhaps for the wrong reason. To understand the limitations of reason and thus be aware of its folly is very important. The next time I teach theology, I shall use this chapter very early in the course.

Paffenroth's analyses and synthesis of ideas is nothing short of remarkable, and this is a wonderful book for those seeking after wisdom, wisdom of discernment about how to live one's life in an examined and conscious way. Paffenroth is an engaging author, and his creative insights into the material are quite remarkable.
Spirituality for the thoughtful  May 26, 2004
In a world where self-help books, classes, seminars, and workshops seem to be proliferating, I hope I might be forgiven for asking what they can be worth. Increasing numbers are looking for answers to their unhappiness. When the first book of common-sense advice and simplistic rules fails, they turn to another (equally shallow) book for a different prescription. Many, I suspect, do incorporate the rules and "habits" into their lives, and yet find the hollowness in their lives barely alleviated, their search for meaning unmet.
Paffenroth's book does not offer easy answers or a quick recipe for happiness. Instead, he invites the reader on a journey with some of the most profound and fascinating writers who have ever lived. Starting with the wisdom literature of the Bible (which can itself be rather simplistic), Paffenroth shows how the call of happiness has been heard differently by diverse thinkers. The first chapter shows Dostoevsky rejecting the cheap substitute for freedom he found in western Christianity, and revealing the complexity of our ties to our families. The second chapter takes up the feminine imagery used for wisdom in Proverbs and traces the responses to women and wisdom in St. Augustine and Goethe. In the third chapter, he uses the example of King Lear to show how confusing and even violent the discovery of wisdom can be. The final two chapters are the most probing and discomforting as Paffenroth explores with Pascal and Melville the ways in which we try to use pat formulas as an excuse not to face our own uncertainties and frailty.
This is a book that draws the reader in while it gently yet insistently calls each of us to make a serious commitment to genuine happiness and grow beyond our attempts to find short-cuts. It brings wisdom to life through great works of literature, and it gives those works new relevance by illustrating with humor and insight how they can enrich our lives even if (or perhaps, just because) they resist final answers.

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