Firstly, I must apologize to any reader for what one may argue to be my preoccupation of late with the single issue of homosexuality in these pieces, especially as there is much outside of the issues–however much this issue among the many in Christendom’s problems accentuates the conflicts Christians feel–which remains to be discussed and even those who stand on the opposite sides of the spectrum from me theologically, politically, socially, hemeneutically, epistemologically, ontologically (?), ontically (??), philosophically (???) etc. will, I shall assume, agree on at least this much, that we live in a time of great uneasiness, be it economic, political, theological, what have you. Late in the previous century, Professor Francis Fukuyama declared with characteristic humility that history had ended–in the sense that we have tried all the social experiments (socialism, communism, fascism) and they have all failed, we have learned that liberal democracies are the best thing we have come up with so far, and that we must therefore give up our chimeric narratives, be they political (Marxist, fascist, socialist, anarchist, etc.) or religious (Christianity, Islam–to these I might add statism and scientism, though surely a liberal like Fukuyama would not), and embark on our new post-ideological, post-metanarrative, purely pragmatic enterprise. Contrary to this, the world it seems has not been quite so intent on consigning history to a forgotten yesterday. Quite the opposite: history, as Professor Terry Eagleton argues, has seen an opening up, as if the very act which tried to close down on it somehow violently pried it open, like the Freudian id or the Nietzschean blond beast or the Marxist proletariat breaking through the superficial valences of the superego, the Apollonian, and the superstructure, respectively. Not only is there history to be had, but one might even say history in surplus, too much history, so much history that theory is having a hard time keeping apace with it: from the revolts of the Arab Spring to the protesters in Spain to the new populisms in the United States (the Tea Party and Occupy), history has resurrected. Just as when Hegel thought history had culminated between his two ears, Marx, Freud, and Nietzsche appeared–almost like systemic eventualities, like an antivirus to a virus–on the continent to rebel against Hegel’s apocalypse of consciousness (which happened only in his head, to be sure). In the very act of trying to close down on the spiritual and material narratives which preceded him, it seems, Hegel summoned Kierkegaard and Marx simultaneously, Kiekegaard declaring the spiritual credo of man’s absolute relation to the absolute and Marx declaring the materialist’s with the end of the bourgeoisie, both turning things over on their heads, turning to liquid all that seemed solid before, especially the Logos which Hegel baptized Geist. This age was over, and in the next, one from which we can consider ourselves neither separate nor disconnected, a great rebellion of consciousness was to come, with Marx proclaiming the death of capitalism, Nietzsche proclaiming the death of God, and–never ungenerous–Foucault proclaiming the death of man. In a single age, the subject, the objects, and the discourses between them had been shaken from their foundations.
THE TASK OF THEOLOGY
Thus is our predicament: we live in uneasy times, whether with reference to religion, politics, philosophy, metaphysics, epistemology. Our questions are big and our anxieties bigger yet. Given this, Christianity cannot, if it wishes to remain something more than a relic of a bygone age of men, keep silent on the issues, but must confront them squarely. Paul Tillich, the great Protestant theologian of the twentieth century, in the sense that he most understood the anxieties of the twentieth century (and greatness in theology as in all other forms of writing, including literature and philosophy remains to those who will understand man in his situation)–Paul Tillich called for a theology of culture, for if in culture we find the expression of an age, its hopes, fears, anxieties–in short, its Geist–then it is from culture that the mediation with God may be attempted, and subsequently a theology of culture articulated. This is conditionally of course, if theology is to be understood as that which mediates man and God across what Kierkegaard calls the absolute distance, even if it is merely to state the absolute distance. However, given presuppositionally that God has already crossed the absolute distance once (qua incarnation) it is not wholly unwarranted to speculate that God should wish to remain a something on this side of the absolute as meaning for men. Unless we capitulate to Nietzsche’s announcement of the death of God, God must remain something for all men at all times. It is thus the work and highest aim of a proper theology to aid men in this explication of meaning from a God whom we refuse to mark ex post defacto or fait accompli, a God who merely came, saw, conquered, and left. God, contra-Kant, once entered into history, into the universal forms of time and space, not only–as Christian tradition would have it–as a possibility within history, but also as a particularity: he appeared to particular people in a particular time and particular place, well within a particular culture–which is to say, following Professor Clifford Geertz, a integrated system of meanings and symbols–as well. As such we might postulate another of theology’s proper aims–mostly an extension of the first–that it is to aid us in distilling God from his paritcularity and then re-appropriating him into our own particularity, much in the tradition of a Gadamerian hermeneutical oepration in which the historical horizons of past and present (particularities) may be mdiated. Only in this way and in no other can the gospel remain the Word of Life or God the living God. The duty of theology is to respond to the psalm “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42) as an aid to the subject, presuppositionally conceived of as being toward God. Only in this way can Christianity remain–or, some might argue, become–the way, the truth, and the light, though I should hope not in any way so as to idolize and divinize our contingent truth-claims or situated subjectivity into a hegemonic discourse, which in any event would be open to a radicalized extension of the critique qua doctrine of original sin. What requires a re-appropriation is, it bears repeating, the truth, and not the fact, for it is fact which is consigned, historical ornament as it is, to the historical dustbin there to attract the interests of a handful of academicians, whereas truth, inasmuch as it is the truth and not a mere particularity as fact, never dies, or if it does, is thereupon risen. Theology too, is a resurrection: a resurrection by semiotic re-appropriation of a truth which for Christians has a name, an incarnation: Jesus.