Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Early Christian theology is inconceivable without the “pagan” Plato, just as the theology of Aquinas is inconceivable without the “pagan” Aristotle

Caputo Responds: In Defense of St. Elsewhere from the church and postmodern culture: conversation by Eric Lee
Today's post completes the engagement series with John D. Caputo's What Would Jesus Deconstruct?: The Good News of Postmodernism for the Church ... below the fold. In Defense of Saint Elsewhere

I am by education and life long habit formed by the Catholic intellectual tradition, by the spirit of Thomas Aquinas for whom being a Catholic did not mean checking your intellectual faculties at the door, the spirit of a philosophy inspired by theology and a theology disciplined by philosophy. Luther’s idea that Aristotle was sent into the world by God as a punishment for our sins seemed to me perfect nonsense. Early Christian theology is inconceivable without the “pagan” Plato, just as the theology of Thomas Aquinas is inconceivable without the “pagan” Aristotle. Theology without philosophy is just Bible-thumping and choir practice.

As a young man, I was ecstatic about the renewal that Pope John XXIII proposed and over later years I was demoralized when it was so cruelly crushed by John Paul II and Ratzinger. I was inspired by progressive Dominican theologians like Schillebeeckx and Jesuit theologians like Teilhard de Chardin, Karl Rahner and Henri de Lubac, by liberation theology and by the tradition of radical Catholic communities like the Catholic Worker movement of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin. To give you an example of where I come from, Villanova is conducted by the Order of St. Augustine, which gave the Church and the world at large both the Rev. Martin Luther, O.S.A., the father of the Reformation, but also the Rev. Gregor Mendel, O.S.A, the father of modern genetics. Both of these fathers took themselves to be loyal sons of St. Augustine, although their followers today from time to time have run afoul of each other.

At Villanova, we do not forbid evolutionary biologists from speaking; in fact, we give them a prize, the “Mendel Award,” one of the first having been given to Teilhard de Chardin. The idea of Christians whose limited imagination prevents them from conceding that God has enough wits about him to make use of evolutionary biology would be a source of merriment to us at Villanova–about two drinks into the cocktail hour before the annual Mendel Dinner. Science and cocktail parties (and dancing) are, you see, eminently Christian where I come from. I had the good fortune to be educated by the “Christian (De Lasalle) Brothers,” who are intelligent and progressive men of the Church. I had the equal good fortune to have spent four years as a member of that religious order, where on Holy Saturday, Clark will be amused to learn, the Brothers got no meat or fish and very little else to eat!

I grew up in pre-Vatican Catholicism, in a city neighborhood in Southwest Philadelphia made up mostly of Catholic blue collar working families. We all lived just a short walk away from our local parish church and school, which was the center of our lives. To this day, when people from the old neighborhood meet, they ask one another what parish they’re from, not where they lived.

1 comment:

  1. This reference is part of the conversation about what would Jesus deconstruct.
    Surely the answer is almost everything to do with the vast edifice of churchianity.
    After all Jesus was scathingly critical of the pharasaical religion of his time and worked and taught completely outside of and essentially in opposition to the eccliastical structures and äuthorities of his time---which is of course why he had to be gotten rid of, because the Truth with a capital T was just as unacceptable then as it is now.

    The entire death and "resurrection"
    (and its "salvation") script is a consoling and destructive lie, which in this day and age should be thrown away with both hands.