Sunday, February 21, 2016

"theology need only embrace as absolute its own narrative"

     "Because historical narration is the true mode of social knowledge, theology no longer has any need, like Ricoeur, to concede the foundationalist suspicion of Marx, Freud or sociology, and appropriate this as a supposed mode of the via negativa, or as a way of purifying the true subject matter of theology itself.  For this is not really a path of denial leading to the always yet more unknown God, but a strategy prepatory to a phenomenological reduction which grasps in consciousness the noemata of 'religious' awareness.  Instead, theology need only embrace as absolute its own narrative, which defines finitude in terms of its tension with the infinite source and telos.  In place of (facing up to) the irremovable granite block of a suspicion which appears as the essence of finitude, it needs to take account of the multiple but 'unfounded' suspicions (some, indeed, unthinkable without the work Marx, Durkheim and Freud) which can be raised about Christianity in all its localities:  suspicions which are themselves, as Gadamer so rightly emphasizes, just acts of textual interpretation, and not (as Habermas would have it) appeals to the influence of the forces and relations of production, somehow operating in addition to language or figurative coding.  Such appeals imply that one has naturalized and universalized the realities of work and action.
     "Dealing with suspicion now becomes a matter of complex narrative negotiations (retelling the ecclesial story so as to accept some external criticisms, now made into self-criticisms, and to rebut others) rather than of concessions made at one level to [1] a source of critique which remains external to theology, but made to allow us better to man [2] the impregnable spiritual citadel of 'religious meaning', poised precariously upon [1] the granite outcrop of 'the secular'."

     John Milbank, Theology and social theory:  beyond secular reason, 2nd ed. (Malden, MA:  Blackwell Publishing, 2006), 268-269, all underscoring mine.

"With all this sail, poor Yorick carried not one ounce of ballast; . . ."

     Laurence Sterne, The life and opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gent., I.12 (GBWW, 1st ed., 1952, vol. 36, p. 204).