Friday, July 13, 2012

If Theologians Were Beers: The Second Round

"I wish I had a great lake of ale for the King of kings, and the family of heaven to drink it through time eternal."
-St. Brigid of Ireland
We Catholics seem to love our beer, given that the previous entry has been featured on a lot of sites and has started some fairly lively discussions.  But it seems, and the most honorable Fr. Z himself has recommended some along with many others, that there must needs be a second round of pints served, as I have obviously not mentioned many, many figures that deserved it.  Whilst I figure out which beers would be akin to St. Augustine and St. Bonaventure, I nonetheless offer up another serving of theologians for your reading pleasure. 

I debated on whether or not to serve up this second round of theological pints, but when the discussion is this fun, why wait?  Without further ado, the second round of "If Theologians Were Beers..."

1.  St. Bernard of Clairvaux
St. Bernard, the most admirable Doctor mellifluus, reminds me of the rich Trappist ales produced by Chimay.  Incredibly rich, powerful, and quite potent, the taste of Chimay ales (especially that of the blue label variety) very much mimic the intoxicating words of this great Cistercian saint.  Harsh, surely at times, but ultimately satisfying and ever rich.



2. Hans Kung
In the interest of charity, I omitted my original entry on Hans Kung, but since people are asking (even Fr. Z himself!), I will give my answer.  Hans Kung's theology is the Colt 45 Malt Liquor of the theological world - cheap, low quality, and harsh.  At once appealing to the rebellious as a one-way ticket into thrill-seeking dissidence and James Deanery, Hans Kung's theology may seem at first to be a kind of forbidden fruit to the dissident crowd, but ultimately can only ever leave one with a brutal spiritual hangover.

3.  C.S. Lewis
I must be careful here, for C.S. Lewis is not only one of the most beloved of all Christian writers the world over, but also one of the most respected.  Indeed, who does not frequently return to the simple bread-and-butter wisdom contained within Mere Christianity from time to time?  But we must note the simplicity especially; not only this, but we must also note the smoothness with which even the most bitter of Lewis' words (such as those in A Grief Observed) go down into the spiritual stomach.  Hence, I stick my neck out and declare that I myself find Lewis to be very similar to Tiger Beer from Singapore, of all places.  In all my years, I have yet to taste a beer with the impeccable smoothness of this lager that still boasts so much in terms of full flavor.  Verily, Tiger Beer goes down like water.  And so it is that it's goodly flavor, smooth liquid texturing, and drinkability make it akin to Mr. Lewis.

4.  Karl Rahner
I am trying to cover much ground here and endeavor to continue "blazing a trail through pathless tracts of the Muses' Pierian realm, where no foot has trod before"1.  But I must confess that I am entirely unsure as to why anyone is curious as to what Karl Rahner, the influential 20th century Jesuit, would be if he were a beer.  Assuredly, his writing is more dense than concrete.  He seeks to give new names to things, but in doing so, changes their meaning.  And so Rahner must be a beer that labels itself as something it is not.  Here, we could speak of Alexander Keith's India Pale Ale, which is not exactly an India Pale Ale at all, but this would do a disservice to Keith's which is actually a decent and crisp beer.  So it is that we must compare Rahner with Hobgoblin by Wychwood Brewery.  Impenetrably dark, complex in flavor, and decidedly strange after some examination, Hobgoblin ruby ale is exciting at first, but ultimately leaves on with an upset stomach, much like Rahner ultimately leaves one with an upset and questioning heart.  "Transignification"?  No thanks.


5.  Jurgen Moltmann
Jurgen Moltmann, one of the true greats of 20th-century Protestant theology, reminds me at once of Old Speckled Hen.  Incredibly flavorful and smooth, the taste of Old Speckled Hen ale is comforting in its essence.  And yet, much like Moltmann's theology of the cross, it ends in a peculiar bitterness.  A paradoxical drink and paradoxical theologian that one will either enjoy or dismiss outright.

6.  Lactantius
I know that Lactantius is probably not on the list of major theologians to think about - but then again, neither is Scott Hahn or Karl Rahner (no offense to Scott Hahn meant).  But in Lactantius, I find the taste of Tusker Lager, a beer from Kenya.  At once, for us Westerns, it is an exotic purchase, and Lactantius is an exotic read.  It is named after a raging elephant that killed the brewery's founder, and in this sense, mimics the fiery rhetoric of Lactantius as well.  But Lactantius is notorious for his theology falling short of brilliance when one looks past the adept rhetoric of this well-meaning figure, and Tusker, too, falls a little short.  The soapiness and sort of weak flavor remind one of a North American macrobrew, and yet one cannot ignore the subtleness of its sour and corn flavors hidden within its pale body.  Just like Lactantius, it should be approached with caution, but nevertheless, enjoyed for what it is.

7. Theophan the Recluse
A major saint for the Eastern Orthodox, Theophan the Recluse simply demands to be compared to Hermannator Ice Bock, a local beer for myself, brewed by Vancouver Island Brewery.  It is a rich and flavorful brew, rife with the dense tastes of rum, spice, plum, and raisin, all mixed with the pure orthodoxy that dark beers are known for.  It is aged in the cold, much like a Russian starets, if you will, and provides a very powerful medicine for the soul.  Indeed, Hermannator is a beer of 9.5% strength, making it one to be enjoyed in more moderation than usual (some of us Catholics need to be reminded of this word, moderation, from time to time!).  But when it is sipped, when those sweet raisin and spice notes lace themselves across the palate, oh! what goodness is to be had!

8.  Origen
Origen - I rarely go a day without mentioning this genius of the early Church in some form or another.  But given his very nature as being so unique, I thought to myself, "Surely, this man deserves something different when it comes to the matter"
And so, it is with great admiration and fanfare that I declare Origen to not be like a beer at all, but rather akin to Hendrick's Gin.  Impossibly deep and complex in flavor, able to be mixed into other drinks or drunk on its own, this gin, adorned with wreaths of rose petals and infused with the flavor of fresh cucumber, is an acquired taste and yet ever so well worth it.  It is not surprising to find that some consider Hendrick's Gin to be an heretical variety of gin - but we must not listen to the carping of ignorant critics, and instead turn to the luxurious flavor of Hendrick's and the honeyed words of Origen in order to learn to deepen our appreciation of both gin and of theology in general. 

1 - Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, Book IV

41 comments:

  1. Excellent! These posts are a two-fold triumph. They introduce me to new beers which, if attached to an admirable theologian, I have resolved to sample. (Old Speckled Hen is the first on my list.) And they introduce me to new theologians, which I'll read on the recommendation of beers I already know and appreciate.

    Of course, the correlative is also true. I know now to avoid Hobgoblin. These are the important things they don't teach us in the seminary!

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    1. Thank you Father! Old Speckled Hen is quite a good drink - I do recommend it. Similar to Caffrey's and Kilkenny, but more bitter...
      And Hobgoblin...well, give it a whirl if you have the inclination - I just note that its appearance and excitingly different nature are a mask for a very disappointing and stomach-upsetting drink...

      God bless Father - Slainte!

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  2. Another great post Jason; trouble is.....am I more interested in the beers than the theologians? I believe that I am. Mea culpa.

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    1. Hi Richard,
      Haha...thanks. But do not neglect Origen sir - so very good. And St. Bernard too. :)

      Yours,
      Jason

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  3. Love this post. Any suggestions for how we should approach Origen? I know that some of his stuff is a little... out there.

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    1. Ryan,
      I don't think Origen is as "out there" as people say. Much of his bad reputation lies in the misinterpretations of the so-called "Origenists" later on.
      I would start with either Balthasar's anthology called "Spirit and Fire", or get the Origen book in the Classics of Western Spirituality series.

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  4. I found your posts through my father-in-law, and enjoyed them very much. As a Wesleyan, I can't judge your choice of beers, but your descriptions are vivid enough for a non-drinker to taste. I've linked to you from my blog (http://acts217.blogspot.com/2012/07/wesleyans-just-wanna-have-fun.html).

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    1. Hi! Thanks for the link, and glad you enjoyed the post. Just out of curiosity, as I am not altogether familiar with Methodist practices - do Wesleyans not drink?
      Incidentally, of all the Protestant theologians and major figures, John Wesley has always been one that has commanded major respect from me. Quite an amazing man.

      Pax Christi+
      Jason

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    2. Do Wesleyans not drink? I will say, "Technically, no." Part of our heritage as a holiness denomination is that we were involved in Prohibition. Part of our membership covenant is "To demonstrate a positive social witness by abstaining from all forms of gambling and by abstaining from using or trafficking (production, sale or purchase) in any substances destructive to their physical, mental and spiritual health, such as alcoholic beverages, tobacco and drugs (other than proper medical purposes of drugs)." However, this frequently comes up for debate as we do realize that complete abstinence from alcohol is beyond was is commanded by Scripture.

      Incidentally, we also like John Wesley :-) When my father-in-law tries to persuade me to become a Roman Catholic, I remind him that John Wesley was an Anglican until the day he died, so we are not as far apart as he may think.

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    3. LOL. I'd rather drink ginger ale. I'll leave it to Jason to pick a "theologian" for NearBeer.

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    4. Nearbeer theologian? Hmmmm.......perhaps Joan Chittister; that is, if you even want to call her a theologian...

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    5. Near Beer is a brand of non alcoholic beer, don't know if it's still around anymore. I'll leave it up to someone else to suggest a theologian, I'm at a loss.

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  5. I'd love to see what sort of beer, St. Augustine, my patron would be :-). At once a man so deeply devoted to God in the search of his heart to know only his soul itself and the Lord Himself, and yet that great pastor who's thousands of homilies (few of which survive) were matched only in beauty and skill by the deep truth of his doctrinal works. Yet still a man beset by many troubles and meeting many controversies (original sin, predestination, grace and free will, the Filioque).

    I would love to see what beer my favorite theologian is. Think hard on it! Great post.

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    1. St. Augustine is one that I just couldn't think of a beer for...if you have any ideas, let me know!

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    2. I'll let you know when I turn 21 ;-).

      Your blog is great. I love to browse it. :-).

      St. Augustine is a tricky theologian to capture. Ultimately what sums him up the most I think is his restless heart that simply cannot be at peace in understanding or desire until it rests in God. He had a strong desire to make every bit of Scripture explainable, every part of his soul to bear witness to God, but with every bit of tenderness to try and reach peace.

      If there is a beer out there that has a lot of pep to it while leaving a calm and smooth taste to it, I might recommend that one. But then again, I've never had beer before so I can't quite say much!

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  6. Hermannator Ice Bock-is this available Stateside? I'm RIGHT across the water, and haven't seen it. It sounds so good! And I am writing down Theophan the Recluse to look up later.

    And could you do a list for women?

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    1. Hey Danielle,
      I don't think it is available...you'd have to come up to Vancouver Island to get it. It's worth it though - note that it only comes out around Christmas time.
      Theophan the Recluse - he is very good. Some of the best spiritual writing I have ever read - however, be cautious with him. His polemical attacks against the Catholic Church are pretty nasty, and I think it would be ill-advised to read that side of him without the aid of a spiritual director.

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    2. Oh yeah, and women...I did mention St. Hildegard in the first round of pints...
      Was thinking about listing St. Catherine of Siena as a Lambic Cherry Beer...

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    3. Hildegaard is absolutely delightful but so offbeat that I would suggest she's not a beer at all; I would suggest she is Kopparberg "elderflower and lime" Swedish cider, which is not a typical cider, either. It reminds me champagne filtered though a bouquet of spring flowers. Addictive yet wholesome--makes one want to frolic through midsummer fields wearing a garland of flowers, singing Hildegaard's hymns.

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  7. Your post does not do justice to early Kung.I would choose Blasphemy (there is such a beer, about $14 a bottle in these parts...) for jim. Really quite smooth and on point, but not what one expects, nor what one should drink constantly. The price is too high. (With thanks to a friend who originally made this suggestion...)

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    1. Blasphemy...haha. Nice. But that's missing the element of "cheap" in Kung's thought. Cheap shots, cheap NY Times Bestseller theology.

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    2. Ah, but cost is not price....

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  8. Replies
    1. Thank you! :)
      Glad you enjoyed it - thanks for taking the time to read it!

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  9. You, good sir, are a genius! However, I'm afraid that the mere thought of Moltmann - by which I mean his theology - may forever taint one of my Top Ten favorites.

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    1. I take it you are not a fan then? ;)

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  10. May I suggest for Pope Benedict XVI the Doppelbock brewed by the good monks of Kloster Andechs near Munich? It is one of the finest Starkbieren brewed in Bavaria--though sadly, only available at the monastery itself and at a few outlets in Germany and Switzerland. Properly, it is the reward for making the several-hours hike from the train station up the mountain to the monastery at its top.

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    1. Nathaniel, you most certainly may suggest it. I am absolutely unfamiliar with the Holy Father's theology, but I have a tendency to avoid reading any current theology, or anything really beyond 1960 anyways, with a few exceptions. So I will have to take your word for it. Next time I am in Germany, I'll have to hunt this beer down.

      Pax+

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    2. Why do you avoid reading new theology? If the Church's theology progresses through history, then to understand her theology one must be up to date on it, wouldn't you think? To purposefully not be familiar with modern theology (and even the Holy Fathers' theology) is, I would say, to choose to walk around with one eye closed (when both are perfectly good) and thinking it sufficient to see the world around you.

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    3. Dear "Anonymous" - Hi! :)
      I suppose the reason is because I prefer to read the greats of the past.
      Most new theology, from what I know of it, simply does not appeal to me. I would much rather read Origen or Palamas or Aquinas than whichever "nouvelle" theologian happens to be the "in-thing" to read. Yes, they were once "new", I know. I'm just saying...most new theology has no appeal for me to study. I do read some - Lewis, Weil, Barth, and even Kreeft, but not a lot.
      As for the Holy Father's theology - the writings of the Popes are something I have yet to delve into. I just simply haven't gotten to it yet.

      Pax+

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  11. Origen....Ori-gin...lol, that took a few hours to sink in.

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  12. I'm Jack from the Philippines and I'm waiting if on the third round you'll include San Miguel Pale Pilsen. Mildly bitter but smooth when cold and after a few gulps.

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  13. You have forgotten the champagne of Beer that is GK Chesterton. A man who fought the Temperance Movement future Doctor and Saint of the church. Patron of theologians, bartenders and journalists, a group people who know what to do with a beer.

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  14. GK Chesterton --- is from St Peter's artisan brewery. Pure quality ingredients. An organic pale ale, the colour will throw you: unexpectedly light for a paradoxically rich, deep flavor with subtle undertones. Balanced yet witty, with a smooth finish; have another! -- a wholesome English classic, this brew makes one sociable and merry, with no hangovers afterwards.

    --Raven Wenner

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  15. St Therese of Lisieux; a theology lyrical yet grounded; refreshing, great by itself, enhances the enjoyment daily life, just like Shiner Dark Beer. This little brew is simple, humble yet satisfying, and commonly available. Appeals to a surprisingly wide range of sophistocated and unsophistocated tastes .

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    1. I like this-- however the Anonymous who equates The Little Flower to Shiner Dark neglected to mention that it is brewed in Texas (not that there's anything wrong with that).

      --RW

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  16. Billy Graham is Bud Light. Popular, inoffensive. no real depth but useful if you are dying of thirst and have nothing better. The advertising and mass promotion is entertaining especially as endorsed by generations of American politicians and b-list celebrities. It's a lightweight American draught ignored by connoisseurs.

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