The Promise Of Critical Theology: Essays In Honour Of Charles Davis (editions Sr) by Marc P. Lalonde

505698bd2598968.jpg Author Marc P. Lalonde
Isbn 9780889202542
File size 8.5 MB
Year 1995
Pages 158
Language English
File format PDF
Category religion


EDITIONS SR Volume 16 The Promise of Critical Theology Essays in Honour of Charles Davis Marc P. Lalonde, Editor Published for the Canadian Corporation for Studies in Religion/Corporation Canadienne des Sciences Religieuses by Wilfrid Laurier University Press 1995 Canadian Cataloguing in Publication Data Main entry under title: The promise of critical theology (Editions SR; 16) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-88920-254-0 1. Davis, Charles, 19232. Theology Methodology. 3. Theology, Doctrinal - History 20th century. I. Davis, Charles, 1923II. Lalonde, Marc P. (Marc Philippe), 1961III. Canadian Corporation for Studies in Religion. IV. Series. BT78.P76 1995 230'.01 C95-932215-9 © 1995 Canadian Corporation for Studies in Religion / Corporation Canadienne des Sciences Religieuses Cover design by Leslie Macredie, using a photograph by Claire Davis. Frontispiece photograph by Michael Manni. Used with permission. (po) Printed in Canada The Promise of Critical Theology: Essays in Honour of Charles Davis has been produced from a manuscript supplied in camera-ready form by the author. All rights reserved. No part of this work covered by the copyrights hereon may be reproduced or used in any form or by any means—graphic, electronic or mechanical—without the prior written permission of the publisher. Any request for photocopying, recording, taping or reproducing in information storage and retrieval systems of any part of this book shall be directed in writing to the Canadian Reprography Collective, 214 King Street West, Suite 312, Toronto, Ontario M5H 3S6. Order from: WILFRID LAURIER UNIVERSITY PRESS Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 3C5 Contents Acknowledgements vii Congratulatory Roll ix Contributors xi Introduction Marc P. Lalonde 1 One Theology for Tomorrow Charles Davis Two For Whom Do We Write? The Responsibility of the Theologian Paul Lakeland 23 33 Three The Path Marked Out by Charles Davis's Critique of Political Theology Dennis P. McCann 49 Four Pluralism, Conflict, and the Structure of the Public Good Kenneth R. Melchin 75 Five Welcoming the Other: The Philosophical Foundations for Pluralism in the Works of Charles Davis and Emmanuel Levinas Michael Oppenheim Six Charles Davis and the "Warm Current" of Critical Theology: A Feminist Critical Appreciation Marsha A. Hewitt 93 117 Charles Davis: A Selected Bibliography of His Work Compiled by Daniel Cere 137 Index 143 This page intentionally left blank Acknowledgements This publication is made possible thanks to the most generous support of Concordia University, Montreal. From the beginning to the end, Concordia's commitment to this project has been unfailing. This support overwhelmingly attests to Concordia's appreciation of Dr. Charles Davis and all he has contributed to the University over the years. In particular, I would like to express my appreciation to the Office of the Dean of Arts and Science; the Office of the Vice-Rector Academic; Internal Grants Services; and the Department of Religion. I also gratefully acknowledge the participation of those individuals who contributed much to the successful completion of this volume: Florence Henderson-Davis, Michael Oppenheim, Jack Lightstone, David Howes, Abrahim Khan, Mary Eastham, Loretta Gillis, and Bill James. I would also like to thank Linda Chernabrow and Mercy Isaac for their careful preparation of this manuscript throughout its many different phases. Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to the Canadian Corporation for Studies in Religion; its Publications Officer Martin Rumscheidt; and Wilfrid Laurier University Press for their affirmation and support for this volume in honour of Charles Davis. Marc P. Lalonde July 28, 1995 Montreal vii This page intentionally left blank Congratulatory Roll The following individuals wish to express their best wishes to Charles Davis, and to acknowledge, along with the participants in this volume, the achievement and contribution of Charles Davis to Christian theology and religious scholarship. Gregory Baum, McGill University Robert McAfee Brown, Pacific School of Religion Mgr. James F. Coffey, The Parish of Saint Patrick, New York Rev. John Coventry, S.J., Manresa House, England Harvey Cox, The Divinity School, Harvard University Mary Daly, Boston College Terry Eagleton, Linacre College, Oxford University Jens Glebe-Moller, University of Copenhagen Antonio Gaultieri, Carleton University Jiirgen Habermas, University of Frankfurt Douglas John Hall, McGill University Adrian Hastings, University of Leeds Rosemary Haughton, Wellspring House, Gloucester, MA John Hick, Claremont Graduate School A. Alistair Kee, The University of Edinburgh Ursula King, University of Bristol Hans Kiing, Tubingen University Nicholas Lash, University of Cambridge Justus George Lawler, Academic Editor, St. Charles, IL Herbert McCabe, O.P., Blackfriars, Oxford University S.E. McEvenue, Concordia University Joseph C. McLelland, McGill University John C. Meagher, St. Michael's College J.B. Metz, Miinster University John Milbank, University of Cambridge Richard Rubenstein, Florida State University Edward Schillebeeckx, University of Nijmegen IX x The Promise of Critical Theology Francis Schussler Fiorenza, The Divinity School, Harvard University Rudolf J. Siebert, Western Michigan University Charles Taylor, McGill University David Tracy, University of Chicago Maurice Wiles, Oxford University Contributors Daniel Cere completed his PhD with Charles Davis in 1990, and is currently director of Catholic Studies, Newman Centre, McGill University, Montreal. Charles Davis, one-time professor of Fundamental and Dogmatic Theology at St. Edmund's College, Ware, England, taught in the Department of Religion, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, from 1970 to 1991. Charles Davis was also Principal of Lonergan University College, Montreal, beginning in 1987. He is now Professor Emeritus at Concordia University, and resides in Cambridge, England, with his family. Marsha Ailleen Hewitt is a former student of Charles Davis, and now teaches at Trinity College, University of Toronto. She is the author of From Theology to Social Theory: Juan Luis Segundo and the Theology of Liberation and Critical Theory of Religion: A Feminist Analysis. Paul Lakeland is Professor of Religious Studies at Fairfield University, Fairfield, Connecticut. A former member of the Society of Jesus, Professor Lakeland is the author of two works on political theology, as well as Theology and Critical Theory: The Discourse of the Church. He is also coeditor of the new Fortress Press series, Guides to Theological Inquiry. Marc P. Lalonde is a former student of Charles Davis. He has published articles in Journal of the American Academy of Religion and Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses, among others. He has been undertaking postdoctoral studies at the Catholic University of Leuven, Concordia University, and St. Paul University, Ottawa. Dennis P. McCann is the author of Christian Realism and Liberation Theology: Practical Theologies in Creative Conflict and New Experiment in Democracy: The Challenge for American Catholicism. He teaches at De Paul University, Chicago. XI xii The Promise of Critical Theology Kenneth R. Melchin of St. Paul University, Ottawa, previously studied with Charles Davis in Montreal. He is the author of History, Ethics and Emergent Probability: Ethics, Society and History in the Work of Bernard Lonergan. Michael Oppenheim teaches modern Jewish philosophy at Concordia University, Montreal, and is the author of What Does Revelation Mean for the Modern Jew? Rosenzweig, Buber, Fackenheim and Mutual Upholding: Fashioning Jewish Philosophy through Letters. Introduction Charles Davis and the Promise of Critical Theology MARC P. LALONDE I The essays in this volume have been written for the purpose of honouring one of North America's most impressive religious thinkers, Charles Davis. The occasion is Professor Davis's retirement from active teaching at Concordia University, Montreal, where he served with great distinction for over twenty years. Prior to coming to North America, Charles Davis was professor of dogmatic theology at St. Edmund's College, Ware, England. It was during this phase of his career that Davis established himself as one of the foremost Roman Catholic theologians in the English-speaking world. Together with contemporaries such as Hans Kiing, J.B. Metz, and Gregory Baum, Davis contributed much to the spirit of reform that came to a head during the second Vatican Council. In view of these details, Davis's decision to leave the Roman Catholic Church and its priesthood in 1966 came as a great shock to many, precipitating a fury of public debate and academic discussion.1 Each of these discourses received a provocative response from Davis in his 2 monumental text A Question of Conscience. Here Davis endeavoured to explain and justify his particular course of action at that time: a course which eventually brought him to Canada. After establishing the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Alberta, Davis accepted an offer to teach at Concordia University in 1970. During his tenure there, Davis produced his most creative and challenging works: Temptations of Religion (1973), Body as Spirit (1976), Theology and Political Society (1980), What Is Living, What Is Dead in Christianity Today? (1986), and most recently, Religion and the Making of Society (1994). It was also during this period that Davis acted as the Secretary and President 1 2 The Promise of Critical Theology of the Canadian Society for Studies in Religion, as well as serving as editorin-chief of Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses from 1977 to 1985. The basic intent of this volume, however, is not so much to relay the facts and details of Charles Davis's life and career. Rather, its principal task is to explore his conceptualization of critical theology. While Davis's work in this field of study has certainly made itself felt,4 it is the conviction of the authors of this text that the profundity and acumen of Davis's contribution demands a more extensive analysis and application. The telos which therefore directs the essays assembled here is the perceived need to further scrutinize Davis's version of critical theology and, in so doing, illuminate its promise and the promise of critical religious thought as a whole. Toward that end, this introduction begins by formulating a basic understanding and characterization of critical theology as evinced in the work of Charles Davis and others. What this explication ultimately discloses is a foundational dilemma that seriously challenges the validity of critical theology itself. It is in light of this problematic that the value of Davis's contribution conies to the fore. The third section of this introduction is thus devoted to elucidating the fundamentals of Davis's critical theology. Finally, I conclude with some prefatory remarks about the individual essays which constitute The Promise of Critical Theology: Essays in Honour of Charles Davis. II "Critical theology" is a term which designates those theologies in constructive dialogue with the Marxist tradition of social criticism in general, and with the critical theory of the Frankfurt School (i.e., the work of Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, and Herbert Marcuse) and Jiirgen Habermas in particular.5 It is the theological appropriation of this body of literature which initially establishes the uniqueness of critical theology within the recent history of modern Christian thought.6 What this appropriation presages is an enquiry into the pathologies that mark the development of modernity and religion in relation to the collective and individual emancipation of human beings. Critical theology therefore commences by acknowledging a "dialectic of Enlightenment" as well as a "dialectic of faith."7 That is to say, critical Introduction 3 theology as a theology which intends to augment contemporary human freedom must deal with the serious historical, practical, and conceptual distortions evinced by the project of Enlightenment and the tradition of faith. While both Enlightenment and religion seem to include an interest in emancipation, each tradition has also generated its fair share of human oppression. The critical approach contends that this oppression is not necessarily resolved by a further application of the constitutive principles that figure Enlightened and religious thought. Consequently, the value of these principles are thrown into radical doubt, and the task of the critical thinker is to assess which ones are to be discarded and which ones are to be reconstructed. So initially we can affirm with Dermot Lane that critical theology "is concerned about putting its own house in order by examining the underlying o presuppositions of theology and submitting these to ideology-critique . . . " In other words, critical theology does not presume the validity nor integrity of religious faith, tradition, and praxis merely because they are religious. As finite human creations, they can and have been used to mystify the real sources of human suffering and must be exposed as such. Few religious thinkers have expressed this facet of critical theology as clearly or as forcefully as Charles Davis: "Critical theology acknowledges that the Christian tradition, like other traditions, is not exclusively a source of truth and value, but a vehicle of untruth and false values, and thus must be subject to a critique of ideology and critically appropriated, not simply made one's own in an assimilative process of interpretation."9 What Davis is prescribing here is, of course, highly demanding of the theologian and religious adherent alike. However, a self-aware appropriation of religious tradition is essential for any theology that strives to redress the pathologies of modernity and to make critical claims upon a secular pluralist society. Within such a complex and differentiated socio-cultural context, religious ideas cannot be advanced as if they were ready-made metaphysical facts with certain universal application. Instead, all religious claims to truth, normative validity, and sincerity10 must be publicly justified via an equitable process of open argumentation. Short of this approach, the alternatives commend instrumental strategies that champion the virtues of success rather than mutual respect and understanding. As Jiirgen Habermas contends, "the practice of argumentation as a court of appeal . . . makes it possible to continue communicative action with other means when disagreements can no longer be repaired with everyday routines and yet are 4 The Promise of Critical Theology not to be settled by the direct or strategic use of force."11 In effect, the critical import and constructive value of religious themes, symbols, narratives, practices, institutions, etc., can only be legitimately secured by openly engaging the claims of other proposals circulating within the contemporary milieu. And as Davis infers, "That indeed implies that moral and religious 1O assertions are always open to counter arguments and revisions.' The core significance and true depth of challenge conveyed by this stipulation for argumentation is clarified in relation to the postmetaphysical conditions of contemporary thought. Following again the work of Habermas, postmetaphysical thinking emerges from various modern developments in social structure, cultural expression, and the accumulation of knowledge which compel the differentiation of metaphysical "Reason" into distinct rationality complexes. Whereas metaphysical reason is rooted in a philosophy of origins (Ursprungsphilosophie} that explains the whole of reality by 1 "7 tracing everything back to the "One," postmetaphysical reason is parcelled out as "three moments—modern science, positive law and posttraditional ethics, and autonomous art and art criticism—but philosophy had precious little to do with this disjunction."14 In other words, postmetaphysical thinking is oriented by a new non-philosophical or, more to the point, non-idealist model of reason. This model instantiates what Habermas calls a "weak" concept of theory based on empirical investigation, the intersubjective validation of objective facts, and insights gathered and interrelated from all the assorted logics which comprise the store of modern knowledge.15 In contrast, metaphysical thinking is tied to a "strong" concept of theory. Here "True knowledge relates to what is purely universal, immutable, and necessary. It does not matter whether this is conceived according to the mathematical model as intuition or anamnesis or according to the logical model of thoughtfulness and discourse—the structures of beings are what is laid hold of in knowledge."16 However, this "laying hold of," says Habermas, falls far below the bar of coherent argument and cogent evidence. It rather represents a purely contemplative claim which harkens back to its mythological point of departure: namely, sacred stories which narrate the beginnings of Being and Time.17 Yet, whether embodied as mythology or metaphysics, the decisive point is that such totalizing thinking that aims at the one and the whole was rendered dubious by a new type of procedural rationality, which has asserted itself since the seventeenth century through formalism in moral and Introduction 5 legal theory as well as in the institutions of the constitutional state. The philosophy of nature and theories of natural law were confronted with a new species of requirements for justification. These requirements 1 ft shattered the cognitive privilege of philosophy. In this passage we come upon the crucial insight which recapitulates the critical import of postmetaphysical thinking: the negation of cognitive privilege. What metaphysics holds to, and what the "new species of requirements for justification" cannot abide, is a privileged or precritical explanation of finite existence which entails the suspension of ordinary interaction between self and world in order to explain that interaction in relation to a reality which stands over and above the finite as its ultimate ground and meaning.19 Armed with the certitude that this foundation is on substantiated by the "purely universal, immutable, and necessary,' metaphysical thought is structurally closed to counter argument and revision. Such closure is by no means inconsequential. In principle it implies opposition to the kind of society that tries to solve its problems and bridge its differences via the practice of open argumentation. By implication, to maintain modes of thought that remain rooted in cognitive privilege and its strong concept of theory is to lend support to "the direct or strategic use of force"21 as an appropriate way to address social disagreement. Against this oppressive alternative, then, a critical postmetaphysical thinking strives to lay bare and eschew any position whose final justification eludes argumentation and radical questioning by taking refuge in an unassailable foundationalism. It is for this reason that Dennis McCann and Charles Strain contend that critical theology "has a promising future only if it avoids any pretence of historical uniqueness, exclusive moral validity, and religious absoluteness. By renouncing these distortions," say the authors, critical theology "will assure a proper place for religious vision in the larger world of public 99 discourse." However, it is not entirely clear to all students of critical theology exactly where the "distortions" lie, on the one hand; nor is it completely certain that theological thought can truly evade the claim to "religious absoluteness," on the other. For example, Randy Maddox has complained that "this critical reflection has gone so far as to call into question all classical expressions of Christian tradition as fundamentally distorted."23 Hardly representing a mere conservative reaction to the subversive character of critical thinking, 6 The Promise of Critical Theology Maddox's comment underscores an issue which no "Christian" thinker can ignore. Namely, "For Christian theology, the definitive criterion of truth lies in the revelation of Jesus Christ. This revelation is not just a future ideal, but has taken historical expression. Thus any attempt to formulate a critical theory for reconstructing Christian tradition," he argues, "must find some way of grounding this theory in the historical revelation of Jesus Christ."24 According to Douglas Sturm, though, it is precisely this unique "grounding" which eclipses the attempt to "assure a proper place for religious vision in the larger world of public discourse."25 Sturm calls critical theology to task for its overreliance on technical theological issues (e.g., ecclesiology, christology, and eschatology), and for employing a too-esoteric language in general. "There is, to be sure," Sturm concedes, "nothing intrinsically wrong with these characteristics, but they have the unfortunate result of obscuring one of the basic intentions o f . . . [critical] theology, namely, to present an understanding of the world that is of public OA significance." To summarize, it seems that Maddox censures critical "theology" for unnecessarily—indeed, wrongly—substituting a criterion of truth extraneous to the revealed truth of God Incarnate. Or to put it in postmetaphysical terms, Maddox emphasizes that the Christian truth as historically revealed by the one and only true God represents the definitive cognitive privilege. To dismiss this privilege as if it were detrimental to the tradition of faith is to dismiss the tradition itself. For his part, Sturm suggests that "critical" theology is not quite critical enough, for it fails to achieve an authentic public discussion which coherently addresses participants who are neither Christian nor religious. He therefore submits that outside of the circle and community of faith, critical theology can have no sustained effect. What this juxtaposition of views insinuates is that the effort to construct a comprehensive critical theology which neither contradicts the logic of its critical theory nor negates its theological content remains a highly tenuous enterprise. This tenuity reaches us in the form of a dilemma. Can critical theology as theology secure its critical operation without forsaking the logos of the theosi11 Similarly, can critical theology as critical sustain and cultivate its theological content without renouncing its reliance on critical theory?28 Otherwise put, is "critical theology" simply an oxymoron when viewed from both sides of its equation? This particular problematic has not gone unnoticed within extant reviews of the material in question. Dennis McCann's study of Christian Introduction 1 Realism and Liberation Theology?* for instance, deals with it as a basic contradiction between the method and content of liberation theology. In reference to Gustavo Gutierrez's influential work A Theology of Liberation?® McCann argues that its bid to logically correlate the Marxist dialectical view of history with an orthodox Catholic reading of the Incarnation ultimately comes to naught. While liberation theology emphatically advances a dialectical vision which "pictures the whole of history as a struggle for liberation,"32 its theological thematization as "Christ the Liberator"33 simply does not lend itself to such a framework.34 "No dialectical tour de force" writes McCann, "can integrate the epiphany of the Absolute in time with the vision of history as an ongoing struggle of the oppressed. . . . This is so because the Incarnation makes God the primary agent or 'Subject' in human history, while the dialectical vision makes 'it possible for men to enter the historical process as responsible subjects.' ' Thus, if it is necessary—as Maddox would have it—that " any attempt to formulate a critical theory for reconstructing Christian tradition must find some way of grounding this theory in the historical revelation of Jesus Christ,"36 then McCann's analysis suggests that this condition remains insufficient by itself. Given this impasse, it may prove helpful to examine a more complex methodological and systematic appropriation of critical theory. Here we need look no further than Helmut Peukert's important treatise, Science, Action, and "57 Fundamental Theology: Toward a Theology of Communicative Action. In this work, Peukert argues that the theory of communicative action as developed by Habermas demands a theological foundation if this theory is to maintain its rational coherency and critical rigour. In this way, Peukert extends the validity and legitimacy of contemporary models of scientific rationality to the discipline of theology. He thus attempts to establish two main points. As the author has expressed it elsewhere: Both projects, theology as well as Enlightenment, need to enter into public conversation with each other to continue. This is clear for the project of theology insofar as it makes a claim to speak in a way that is understandable and reasonable to all. And, to my mind, this claim constitutively belongs to theology which then, however, must become engaged in the argumentative discourse. But my thesis is that the Enlightenment also handicaps itself if it does not face the challenge of the religious traditions of humanity and their reflective formulations in The Promise of Critical Theology theologies in which the basic human condition has been reflected upon in a radical way. •30 In effect, Peukert aspires to demonstrate via a process of open argumentation how theology can justify itself as critical and, in doing so, maintain itself as preeminently "theo-logical." Though it is beyond the scope of this introduction to give a detailed exposition and critique of Peukert's complicated proposal, it is possible to indicate its principle line of argument so as to clarify exactly what is at stake in "the promise of critical theology." Peukert commences his argument by suggesting that "The convincing claim of scientific critique led to the fact that its standard did not remain external to theology itself but, by way of historical-critical inquiry, has even carried the day in theology itself. Modern theology is unthinkable without this solidarity in critique."40 In keeping with this insight, Peukert undertakes an extensive dialogue with the most recent theories of science "in order to develop a proposal for a 'fundamental theology,' that is, a kind of foundational theory of theology. It is in my view" continues Peukert, "that a certain convergence can be established between contemporary reflection on the fundamental principles of theology on the one side and the results of research into the theory of science on the other. It seems to me that the point of convergence lies in a theory of communicative action."4 Communicative action, according to Habermas, is human action mediated by speech acts aimed at reaching mutual understanding and agreement. It serves to establish a nonviolent, noninstrumental procedure for justifying and coordinating interpersonal relations based on rational consensus. This consensus is attained by complying with the implicit universal validity claims of communicative competence. This theory holds that there are three universal validity claims signified within every ordinary speech act: truth, normative Tightness, and truthfulness. Each of these is matched with an appropriate mode of argumentation: scientific discourse, practical discourse, and aesthetic discourse respectively.42 The structure of communicative action and its rationality then, advances an intersubjective paradigm and framework for social critical theory: one which accents the primacy of our interactive partners for the creation of a reflective selfunderstanding and identity.43 The specific "point of convergence" between communicative action and theology that Peukert eventually discloses is actually an aporia in the

Author Marc P. Lalonde Isbn 9780889202542 File size 8.5 MB Year 1995 Pages 158 Language English File format PDF Category Religion Book Description: FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrDiggMySpaceShare Written in tribute to one of the foremost Catholic theologians in the English-speaking world, the essays in The Promise of Critical Theology address the question: Can critical theology secure its critical operation without undermining its foundation in religious tradition and experience? Is “critical theology” simply an oxymoron when viewed from both sides of the equation? From Marc Lalonde’s introductory essay which delimits Davis’ fundamental position, that the primary task of critical theology is the critique of religious orthodoxy, the essays examine Davis’ distinction between faith and belief and build upon the promise of critical theology as inextricably bound to the promise of faith. They ask: What is its promise? What particular religious ideas, themes, stories are appropriate for its concrete expression? How can the community of faith receive its transformative message? What might be the contribution of other religious traditions and philosophies? Essays by Paul Lakeland, Dennis McCann, Kenneth Melchin, Michael Oppenheim and Marsha Hewitt respond to these and other questions and critically relate Davis’ work to ongoing developments in modern theology, critical theory, philosophy and the social sciences. Their diversity attests to the comprehensive scope of Davis’ thought and exemplifies the progressive character of contemporary religious discourse. They honour Davis and illuminate the promise of critical religious thinking in itself.     Download (8.5 MB) Beyond Obedience and Abandonment Thinking about Faith: Speculative Theology Nationalism, Positivism and Catholicism A Reader in Latina Feminist Theology: Religion and Justice The Poetry of Religious Sorrow in Early Modern England Load more posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *