Friday, January 23, 2009

Notes and a Paradox

Last Sunday morning I watched EWTN's Bookmark, on which Richard M. Hogan was interviewed about his book, The Theology of the Body. I learned that John Paul II had taken an existential approach to theology to make it more relevant to contemporary culture. That could also be said of Tillich's theology, which he framed as a "reinterpretation" for our time. But the outcome of John Paul II's thought was very different from Tillich's--though I say this as a person who knows very little about John Paul II's thought (I've got his Fides Et Ratio on a shelf somewhere, and have intended to read it).

Hogan neatly divided the intellectual orientation of those over 45 years old from those under this way. Those under tend to be inductive, subjective, and experiential in their thinking, whereas those over tend to be deductive, objective, and principled. The phenomenological/existential approach, according to Hogan, appealed to John Paul II, because it was a way for an older person to frame his thought in a way that would work for reaching younger minds. Since a second, more conservative take on the existential approach would be worthwhile, I plan to read Hogan's book, and will share it with you, if in fact it complementsTillich.

But in thinking about this, I realized something. I'm neither conservative nor liberal. If a conservative is one who concedes little or nothing to religion's (or culture's) critics and a liberal is ones who accedes much or all, theologically I am neither. I am, rather, an intellectual Christian who thinks that Christianity is not about the intellect, and yet thinks that to be intellectually honest one must have a good intellectual justification for that stance.

Paradoxically, this allows me to be both an intellectual and a non-intellectual when it comes to faith. Intellectuals tend to accede to faith's critics, not realizing that an intellectual approach to a conceptually transcendent object is impossible; conservatives tend to to define their approach to faith in contrast with faith's critics, making faith into a determination to concede nothing to faith's critics, and thus also not realizing that an intellectual approach--in their case an intellectual approach based on an anti-intellectualism--to a conceptually transcendent is impossible. Therefore, both conservative and liberal approaches to faith are fundamentally in error. In fact they make the same error.

Well, this week was very difficult at work and I must start work on a prototype this weekend, so these off the cuff comments take the place of the Tillich post I had intended to do. Nevertheless, I think it is a good thing to have revealed a little bit about the larger context I use to frame my thoughts. I look forward to continuing the posts on Tillich next week.

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