Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The Writing on the Wall

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By rejecting the analogia entis, and the paradoxically supernatural destiny of human nature, one still embraces modern liberalism when it comes to the immanentist understanding of human reason and human politics. Both [Barthian] neo-orthodoxy and Protestant liberalism in consequence remained within an unquestioned post-Kantian conceptual space. The sense of crisis and the need for a common Christian defence of basic values of our humanity has led to a far greater Protestant understanding of the Roman Catholic Church and even to a partial acceptance of the need for the kind of authority which it embodies.  

At the same time and just as crucially for theology, a younger generation has come to see that the Protestant legacy cannot, on the whole, offer the kind of "critical mediation" which appears to be needed if theology is to be effective and consequently true to its incarnational witness.  Hence a new willingness to embrace ideas of analogy, participation, sacramentality, phenomenology and metaphysics. Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Anglican theology are now to the fore. In the Anglican case one can speak both of a new impact of Anglo-Catholicism (in poignant contrast to its institutional decline) but also of an Anglican Evangelicalism tinged with a new "post-Protestant" respect for the whole of Christian tradition.

Indeed one of the most striking things about the contemporary theological scene compared with twenty-five years ago is the way in which the "live" names in debate are now not so much Barth, Bonhoeffer, Moltmann and Rahner etc, but rather St. Paul, Gregory of Nyssa, Maximus, Augustine, Anselm, Bonaventure, Aquinas, Scotus, Cusanus . . . and even Cajetan! 

For all the reasons adduced above, contemporary theology tends to look for a more "robust" Christian intellectual account of everything under the sun and its searching tends to be both more catholic in scope and Catholic in its fundamental outlook. Does this mean that theological liberalism has simply expired? Not exactly: it has rather mutated into various modes of academic "religious study" and various pragmatic endeavours to keep the peace between religions and between religion and secularity. But in doing so it has become not so much parti-coloured as rather tinctured with many shades of fading grey.

[The] very refusal of metaphysics remains metaphysical in the pejorative sense of an immanentist, atheological ontology that inevitably turned into a foundational epistemology.
-John Milbank, "The New Divide: Romantic Versus Classical Orthodoxy," Modern Theology, Dec. 2009.