Philosophy and Theology

By White, Andrea C. | Anglican Theological Review, Winter 2007 | Go to article overview

Philosophy and Theology


White, Andrea C., Anglican Theological Review


Philosophy and Theology. By John U. Caputo. Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press, 2006. 84 pp. $12.00 (paper).

John D. Caputo's Philosophy and Theology is at once a concise history of philosophy and a fervent prayer. Despite the deep chasm that has often marked the distinction between them, the relationship between the two disciplines hinges on the "and." "God bless the 'and' and keep it sale" (p. 36), he prays. The conjunction may imply contest or collaboration, a war or a wedding, but ultimately, Caputo argues, the two cannot get along without each other. Philosophy and theology are not separate and distinct, but in fact two kinds of faith. Both pose questions about ultimate meaning; and both are enterprises for wounded souls, companion ways to nurture what Caputo calls "the passion of life." The believer thinks and the thinker believes. Eventually the "and" becomes an "as," philosophy as theology, as Caputo tests the presupposition that philosophers are free-lance thinkers that speak from neutral space to a constituency free of context.

This brief essay is enormous in its scope as Caputo skillfully maps the historical development of the relationship between philosophy and theology from Socrates to Jacques Derrida, offering examples that function like good sermon illustrations. In one quick stroke. Caputo gives an intellectual history lesson on God, ethics, and anthropology with language that is accessible and ideas that are never overwhelming. With pervasive reference, only sometimes veiled, to a multitude of heavy hitters in the debate, Caputo gently places ideas into the mind of the novice learner in religions studies, but in such eloquent manner that he simultaneously speaks to the learned scholar without ever becoming tedious.

The relationship between theology and philosophy in both the premodern and modern periods is a matter of hierarchy and hegemony. In the pre-modern "age of faith," theology holds all the power. The agenda of modernity simply inverts the power dynamic whereby the Enlightenment grants all authority to reason. By the standards of modernity, even Cod is subject to the principle of sufficient reason. The vulnerability of theology emerges indirectly from Kant, perhaps even Descartes, and each subsequent "new philosophy-under-attack." eventually leading to the atheistic critiques of religion lrom the well-known troika, Marx, Freud, and Nietzsche. The result is the death of Cod, but the antidote to the religious crisis is the postmodern critique that puts into question hegemony and any totalizing system and reductionist theory. Postmodern critiques of modernity make space for alternative discourses and thereby unwittingly allow religious discourse to regain legitimacy. …

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