RIP Theology, Part 1
Once upon a time in another life I was fascinated by theology. I devoured the writings of the great theologians of the 20th century: Tillich, Barth, Rahner, and others. This was some deep reading, so when I encountered passages I didn’t comprehend, I always assumed the problem was me. The theologians were surely expressing profound insights about existence that were far beyond my ability to comprehend. But, if I stuck with it long enough, I was sure that I too would eventually understand the mysteries of the universe as they did. When I was an undergraduate at Michigan, I was admitted into a graduate seminar with the famous Catholic theologian Hans Kung. For our final papers we were all assigned topics to address. Mine was “The Shift From Hermeneutics to Praxis as Foundational for Political and Liberation Theologies.” I didn’t understand at all what that was supposed to be about. And many years later I still don’t.
That’s part of the schtick that lends theology the pretense of intellectual credibility. Use intentionally obfuscating language that sounds like insider technical jargon. Throw in a sprinkling of Greek, Latin, and German words.
Here’s a random sample from a standard modern classic by Walter Kasper, who is now a Catholic cardinal, I believe:
“I have found a systematic conception of the doctrine of the Trinity can be aufgehoben (set aside, preserved, and elevated to a higher level) in a higher unity. In principle, this view of the Trinity begins, as does the Greek, with the Father, the unoriginated origin; but insofar as it conceives the Father as pure love, as pure self-giving, it is able to understand the processions of the Son and of the Spirit according to their inner logic, after the manner of Latin theology, and to conceive these processions, in faith, as forms of the one impenetrable and incomprehensible love of God and as expressions of the one mystery of salvation.” (Walter Kasper, The God of Jesus Christ,” p. 309)
Didn’t get it? Don’t worry. There ain’t nothing there to get! The lack of lucidness is intentional. Theology is ultimately all speculation, all assumption. The emperor has no clothes. It’s time to call the question.
More to follow…