The Culture of Fear / Miroslav Volf, Matt Croasmun, Drew Collins
28 min

For the Life of the World is produced by the Yale Center for Faith & Culture. For more info, visit

Follow Miroslav Volf on Twitter: @MiroslavVolf

Show Notes

-0:12 Introductory Teaser

-0:57 Summary and introduction to the topic of this podcast—fear. 

-3:35 Miroslav begins. 

-3:40 Thoughts from Kierkegaard’s The Concept of Anxiety

-4:15 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” Proverbs 9:10 

-4:50 The two questions we should have toward fear: 1. What do we fear for? 2. What are we afraid of? 

-6:21 Miroslav Volf: “... we are not just afraid of the virus, we are afraid potentially of everyone and almost everything. A carrier of the virus and, therefore source of danger, is everyone and  everything. Between us and much of what we see and touch there is something like an invisible aura of danger and therefore also an invisible source of fear.”

-7:15 Kierkegaard, The Concept of Anxiety

-7:28 “Fugitives and wanderers” Paraphrase, Genesis 4:14

-8:10 Miroslav: “And, of course, the more we fear, the more we are focused on ourselves and the less we are capable of caring for others. Fear diminishes our other-directedness; fear diminishes our civic mindedness, which is precisely what we need in pandemics.”

-9:10 New section: fear of infecting others, Miroslav joined by Matt Croasmun.

-9:22 Volf and Croasmun, For the Life of the World: Theology that Makes a Difference 

-11:27 Matt Croasmun: “...I’ve found myself thinking about to what extent Christian ethics are good at thinking about moral actions that you can only ever evaluate in terms of the statistical likelihoods of causing harm. It’s one thing to think ethically about I take an action and I see that someone is harmed and here it is I am taking an action, and I don’t know if someone is harmed and the best I could do would only ever get me to a probabilistic estimation of harms that I could be causing people that I’ll never see. That somehow runs around some of the psychology of the Christian ethic of love of neighbor—a neighbor that I can see.”

-14:23 New section: Miroslav on living in a culture of fear. 

-14:45 Frank Furedi, Culture of Fear: Risk-Taking and the Morality of Low Expectation and How Fear Works: Culture of Fear in the Twenty-First Century

-16:13 “Like people, saying, ‘peace, peace,’ when there is no peace” (Ezekiel 13:10)

-16:30 “Unnecessary products that promise protection from imagined or exaggerated harms” Bader/Baker/Day/Gordon, Fear Itself

-17:20 Reference to Psalm 137:4

-18:28 “The Black Death” [1346-53], which killed 75-200 million, or the “Spanish Flu Pandemic”        [1918], which killed 20-50 million.

-20:05  Risk Societies by Ulrich Beck 

-21:00 Miroslav: “When a bacterial or a viral pandemic like COVID-19 breaks out, the social pandemic of fear is not far behind.That’s partly because when we see others fearing, we catch the malady of fear ourselves; fear is infectious; that’s partly also because the culture of fear has weakened our immunity to fear.”

-22:20 New Section: Miroslav and Drew Collins on the location of God in the midst of fear. 

-23:21 Drew Collins: “When I think about the contagiousness of fear, we could also describe it as coercive—there’s a way in which our fears are foisted upon other people. Even when in more and more spots, misperceptions of potential dangers and in some ways, making those invented dangers real and making people grapple with them as well.”

-24:30 1 Kings 19

-25:30 Drew: “And what I take from that is we often expect of ourselves to respond to fear with action. We expect God, we pray to God to alleviate our fears by acting, changing something. But what if the passage suggests that God’s promise in the midst of fear—real, genuine fear—is first and foremost not some grand gesture or grand action or even a response. But just the promise of God’s presence. A promise and trust that God is real and present in a direct way but hidden.” 

-26:20 Endnotes.

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