A “self-critical” faith

“The deep roots of self-critical faith in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam present both a gift and an obligation,” Rachel Mikva argues in her new book published by Beacon Press in November. “Our own religious teaching should consistently be processed through the crucible of rigorous self-examination. We need to recognize how our texts, teachings, and practices have implications for others, in themselves and as echoes of historical interpretations,” she writes. The book, entitled Dangerous Religious Ideas: The Deep Roots of Self-critical Faith in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, invites readers to wrestle with what she calls the multivocality, dynamism, and capacity for self-critique in our religious traditions.

Erin VanLaningham and I had a chance to talk with Rachel at length about her new book for a recent episode of the NetVUE podcast series Callings. In the conversation, we discuss the role of self-critical faith in the public sphere and how certain religious ideas can be “good and dangerous.” We hear a little bit about Rachel’s own calling in response to the events of September, 2001, and asked her to tell us more about what vocation looks like “if the world is coming to an end” (picking up on a provocatively titled talk she delivered at a NetVUE gathering in 2019).

The podcast can be accessed through Buzzsprout, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, and other podcast platforms.

Rabbi Rachel Mikva is the Rabbi Herman E. Schaalman Chair and Professor of Jewish Studies at Chicago Theological Seminary and Senior Faculty Fellow of the InterReligious Institute. Readers of this blog will recognize Rachel as the author of several posts, including “The Change a Difference Makes,” which is also the title of her essay in the NetVUE volume Hearing Vocation Differently: Meaning, Purpose, and Identity in the Multi-Faith Academy, ed. David Cunningham (Oxford University Press, 2019); “For Such a Time a This” (about Purim and the book of Esther); a short piece on the merits of “Personal Branding”; and “Optimism vs. Hope – and Other Differences That Matter,” which continues to be one of the most visited posts on this site.


Hannah Schell was a professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Monmouth College in Illinois from 2001-2018. She is the author of “Commitment and Community: The Virtue of Loyalty and Vocational Discernment” in At this Time and In This Place: Vocation and Higher Education, ed. David S. Cunningham (Oxford University Press, 2015). Currently the Online Community Coordinator and the editor of this blog, she is also a campus consultant for NetVUE. Click here to see other blog posts by Hannah.

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