"Introducing: Symposium on Imaginative Natural Theology"
Philip Tallon, "Cultivating Ears to Hear Beauty's Call"
Hans Boersma, "Analogy, Sacramentality and the Place of Natural Theology"
Russell Re Manning, "Natural Directions in Natural Theology and the Arts"
Christopher R. Brewer, "Reviews: Bible and Interpretation, and The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology"
On a more personal note, one of the reasons that I came to St Andrews was so that I might be part of the conversation. And what do I mean by that? In Chapter 4 of his To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World, James Davison Hunter outlines "An Alternative View of Culture and Cultural Change in Eleven Propositions." What follows is an excerpt from this chapter.
Proposition Five: Cultural Production and Symbolic Capital are Stratified in a Fairly Rigid Structure of "Center" and "Periphery"
This proposition is merely an extension of Proposition Four [i.e., Culture is a Resource and, as such, a Form of Power]. Let me put it this way: with economic capital, quantity is paramount. In the ways of the world, more is almost always better, and more influential than less. With cultural capital, it isn't quantity but quality that matters most. It is the status of cultural credentials and accomplishment and status is organized in a structure that ranges between the "center" and the "periphery." The individuals, networks and institutions most critically involved in the production of a culture operate in the "center" where prestige is the highest, not on the periphery, where status is low.
And so, USA Today may sell more copies of newspapers than the New York Times, but it is the New York Times that is the newspaper of record in America because it is at the center of cultural production, not the periphery, and its symbolic capital is much higher. Likewise, one can sell a hundred thousand copies of a book published by Loyola, Orbis, Zondervan, IVP, or Baker, and only 5,000 copies of a book published by Knopf, but it is the book by Knopf that is more likely to be reviewed in the New York Review of Books or the New Republic, or the Washington Post Book World because Knopf is at the center and Loyola, Orbis, Zondervan, IVP and Baker are at the periphery. Influence follows accordingly. By the same logic, one may be able to get as good an education at Bluefield State College in Bluefield, West Virginia, as one would at Harvard, but Harvard, as an institution, is at the center and Bluefield State is at the periphery of cultural production. Therefore, someone with a credential from Harvard will find many more opportunities than someone from Bluefield State and will more likely end up in a position of greater influence than the other.
One could give myriad examples, but the point is clear: the status structure of culture and cultural production is of paramount importance to understanding culture and cultural change.It was after reading this section that I knew I had to come to St Andrews for St Andrews is at the center of the conversation that I'm interested in having (i.e., theology, theology/arts, natural theology, etc.). To wit, Peter Barrett has noted: "The case for theological engagement with the arts − a recurring task − was argued notably by Howard Root in the early 1960s and has since been advocated by Polkinghorne (1994:44-45) and others, especially The Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts at St Andrews University (Scotland)."
Having said all this, it's been great to host and be part of this conversation on imaginative natural theology together with folks like Tallon, Boersma and Re Manning, and this gets at Hunter's sixth proposition: "Culture is Generated Within Networks." He explains:
the key actor in history is not the individual genius but rather the network and the new institutions that are created out of those networks. And the more "dense" the network–that is, the more active and interactive the network–the more influential it could be. This is where the stuff of culture and cultural change is produced.And this seems a fine place to end. That said, stay tuned for the next installment … something's in the works.
 James Davison Hunter, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World (New York: Oxford, 2010), 36-37.
 Peter Barrett, "Seeing human personhood through science-religion-arts-ethics: an exercise in new-style natural theology." Online: http://uir.unisa.ac.za/bitstream/handle/10500/4289/Barrett.pdf?sequence=1
 Hunter, 37.
 Ibid., 38.