Friday, December 8, 2006

Philosophy and Theology

"Does anyone know we're here? Or care? Does faith in God relieve us of the horror of this scene once and for all? Or is this scene inescapable, not because it can be firmly established as the final truth, but because it remains a possibility that haunts and menaces faith like a ghost? And in constantly menacing faith, does this eerie scene in fact help to constitute faith as faith, which does not see in whole but only in part?"

What scene? The scene in question is taken from Friedrich Nietzsche and, as described by philosopher John Caputo, goes as follows:
"Once upon a time, on a little star in a distant corner of the universe, clever little animals invented for themselves proud words, like truth and goodness. But soon enough the little star cooled, and the little animals had to die and with them their proud words. But the universe, never missing a step, drew another breath and moved on, dancing its cosmic dance across endless skies".

The cluster of questions brought up by Nietzsche's parable, is, for Caputo "the way the issues of philosophy and theology get raised". Indeed, the two overlap, intertwine and communicate with each other in what is described as "kind of endless contest". Therefore, "philosophers and theologians go for the 'ultimates,' the deepest questions," the questions "that keep imposing themselves on us". This makes philosophers and theologians "slightly unstable types, people who have been knocked off their pins by such questions, who have been drawn into an exploration of the outer and inner space of our lives".

All of this is from the introduction to a wonderful little book (all of 74 pages) by Caputo, part of Abingdon Press' Horizons in Theology series, and entitled Philosophy and Theology. Caputo has made a tremendous contribution to contemporary philosophy and theology through his work on the significance and relevance of post-modern philosophy to theology through such works as Heidegger and Aquinas: An Essay on Overcoming Metaphysics and The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida: Religion Without Religion.

In distinguishing the theology from philosophy, Caputo contends that "theologians belong to communities of faith, and their work is to think through the 'tenets of faith' or the 'contents of revelation,' both the words of the Scriptures and the common faith passed down by the faithful over the ages". One way to define theology, then, "is the place where the community of faith does its thinking, examining, clarifyng, conceptualizing, and updating the common faith over the course of its history". Whereas philosophers, typically, think of themselves as being independent, freelance thinkers- though few are as independent and they think themselves to be . Indeed, theology cannot be done apart from a faith community. Therefore, ecclesial theologian is, in Kantian terms, an analytic statement because the predicate is contained in the concept of the subject. In other words, there is no value added to theologian by appending ecclesial as a descriptor. Anyway, Caputo's book is a great introduction to this relationship. It would be a great textbook. I learned of the book from Fr. Edward Oakes, SJ last summer, acquired a copy and I am just now getting around to reading it.

No comments:

Post a Comment