Models of Theological Discourse

As part of a project I’m currently working on, I’ve been thinking through the various presently-existing models for thinking about theological (or more ambiguously religious) discourse.  Specifically, what I have in mind here are ways in which theological discourse is positioned with regard to philosophy.  There are, as far as I can imagine, four models:

(1) Philosophy as condition of possibility for theology.  Here I have in mind the approaches of figures such as Heidegger (especially in his “Phenomenology and Theology” essay) or Bergson.  Theological or religious discourse is admitted, but only when it is understood that that such discourse is a specific borrowing or deployment of a more fundamental and generic mode of thought that is properly philosophical.

(2) The cultural-linguistic model.  The common assumption, following in a Wittgensteinian vein, would be that there is a basic incommensurability between various cultures and their respective discourses.  Theology, in its particularity, is thus granted a specific autonomy that does not need to pass through more generic conditions of possibility or thinkability.  Exemplars would include Lindbeck, Hauerwas, and Barth (and his followers).

(3) Postmodern Thomism.  Shares with (1) the desire to speak generically—i.e. at the level of the ontological or whatever, but also shares with (2) the desire to make theological discourse primary.  This is accomplished, of course, by claiming that it is only (or it is preeminently) with theology that one finds the proper means of thinking being.  Milbank, of course, is the one who has pursued this project most extensively.

(4) Theology as unthought remainder.  This model is distinctive in its unwillingness to position theological discourse at the level of the generic or the particular (or some combination thereof).  It might be best to say that theology functions as a coefficient that enables a paraphilosophical discourse.  Only by encountering theological discourse more seriously does it become possible for philosophy to fulfill its innovative tasks, which have been hampered by a premature jettisoning or overcoming of such discourse.  While their operations are singular, this model is common to Agamben, Žižek, and Derrida.

What do you think?

Christ, History and Apocalyptic released in the U.S.

Christ, History and ApocalypticBack in the summer, I posted an announcement regarding my forthcoming book, Christ, History and Apocalyptic: The Politics of Christian Mission.   I am pleased to announce that the book has now been released in the United States through Cascade Books, in their Theopolitical Visions series. Ben Myers has graciously posted an excerpt from chapter 5 of the book entitled “John Howard Yoder: The Singularity of Jesus and the Apocalypticization of History” on his Faith and Theology blog. Should you wish to have the book ordered for your own personal or institutional libraries, U.S. readers can now purchase the book at a web discount from the publisher here.   Outside of the U.S. the book will be released at the end of this month by SCM Press as part of its Veritas series, and can currently be ordered at a discount here.

Here are the endorsements for the book as provided by Stanley Hauerwas, Graham Ward, and Nicholas M. Healy:

“A rare gift—a critic from whom you learn. Though I do not agree with all of his criticisms of my work, Kerr—drawing imaginatively and creatively on the work of Troeltsch and Barth—has rightly framed the questions central to my and Yoder’s project. We are in his debt for having done so. In this book, Kerr not only establishes himself as one of the most able readers of my and Yoder’s work, but he is clearly a theologian in his own right. We will have much to learn from in the future.”
—Stanley Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics, Duke Divinity School, Durham, North Carolina

“This is a timely book that traverses twentieth century theology to develop a distinctive understanding of church engagement with the world. Finely executed and acutely discerning, it opens up an ecclesiology that is neither culturally accommodating nor counter-cultural. Conceiving the church as fundamentally dispossessive and missionary, Kerr announces a genuinely apocalyptic Christian politics. This is excellent theology for the up and coming generation.”
—Graham Ward, Head of the School of Arts, Histories and Cultures, University of Manchester

“This is a really exciting book: engaging, provocative, and—above all—constructive. Kerr seeks to reaffirm the Christian claim that Jesus Christ is the Lord of history in the face of modernity’s attempts to subsume Christ into our history. In spite of the complexity of its material, this fascinating book is so remarkably clear throughout that I found it hard to put down. It should not be ignored.”
-Nicholas M. Healy, Professor of Theology and Religious Studies and Associate Dean, St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, St. John’s University, Queens, New York

For those interested, I am also reposting the book description and table of contents in hiding.

Continue reading Christ, History and Apocalyptic released in the U.S.”