The End of Theology

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The End of Theology Author(s): Carl A. Raschke Source: Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. 46, No. 2 (Jun., 1978), pp. 159-179 Published by: Oxford University Press Stable URL: . . Accessed: 10/02/2015 10:20 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .

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Journal of the American Academy of Religion, XLVI/2, 159-179

The End of Theology Carl A. Raschke

ABSTRACT of theology. By In this article I argue that we have arrived at the "end" "end"of and inquiry as the "end"of "end"of theology I do not mean that theological reflection reflectionand an academic undertaking has abruptly ceased, or that it will not persevere as undertakinghas abruptlyceased, persevereas a widespread occupation in the foreseeable future, but simply that significant theological discussions in the familiar sense have been cut loose from their historical and metaphysical moorings, which have rotted away. The article attempts to analyze the dilemma of theology from the standpoint of the crisis of Western thought as a whole, especially in light of the radical verdict of the Graeco-Christianmetaphysicaltradition that has "end"of concerning the "end" been enunciated in the past century by Nietzsche and, more strictly, by Heidegger. However, the essay seeks to confront the exhaustion of the genuine possibilities for theologizing in a broader systematic and philosophical manner than was offered by the death-of-God movement during the previous decade. The line of argument draws heavily on the insights of the later Heidegger, but does not merely "apply" Heidegger to a conventional set of radical characterof of Heidegger's theological issues. The radicalcharacter Heidegger'sphilosophy philosophy has been unfortunately slurred over by contemporary theologians, and thus a "Heideggerian"theology "Heideggerian" theology is no more cogent than a squaring of the circle. Heidegger contends that Western thinking has always been "onto-theological" in nature. He calls for the "overcoming"of ontotheology, which at the same time implies the transcendence of theology as a discipline. The transcendence of theology amounts to a passage beyond the traditional manner whereby theological thinking has been concerned with the ens realissimum and has based its deliberations on a particular metaphysics of language that serves to re-present the divine as an object for a subject, or as the transcendental subject. Heidegger holds that the end of metaphysics corresponds to the collapse of the subject-object division in thought along with the of removal of the grounds of metaphysical certitude foundations implicit innsthe of thinking this division. The Cartesian revolution shifted the foundatio certitude from from that of the "constant presence" of the metaphysical object to Carl A. Raschke is Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Director of Graduate Studies at the University of Denver. He is author of Moral Action, God and

History in the Thought of Immanuel Kant, and coauthor of Religion and the Human Image. Two other books, The Interruption of Eternity and The Breaking of New Wineskins, are scheduled for publication in 1978.

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L. Raschke CarlL. Carl arbiterof truth,implied n the cogito. the self-validation f the subjectas arbiterof whatI have ermed Cartesian ogito nto whatI heCartesian ranslatedhe Modernempiricismranslated it still keptintact he subject-objectistinction ntailed n Butit the experior.But oint of view, with the frame of reference or theologico-metaphysicaloint theologico-metaphysical o reflectionon reflectionon the structures f about talking changing consciousness, dubs "subjectist." Heidegger positionHeidegger position The article concludes with a review of some samples of recent theological writing, includingthat of David Tracy, Louis Dupre, and WolfhartPannenburg,n order o illustrateHeidegger's uggestions bout Heidegger'suggestions he"end" "end" It also nquires bout boutwhat whatmight ie beyond he the careerof careerof theology.Italso of theology, and considers what Heidegger means by thinking the "veiledarrival"of a new presenceof divinity in the "unthought" s the "veiledarrival" death. aftermath f God's God'sdeath.

We nevercome nevercome to thoughts.Theycome to us. -Martin Heidegger

ave we reached the end of theology? The question, if it does not perplex us, at least rankles. How is it possible to speak of the end of theology when the business of theologizing still thrives in the emporium of Western culture-among churchmen and academics alike? Certainly the propagation of "theological" books, not to mention the multifarious "theologies" of such-and-such (e.g., theology of play, theology of women, liberation theology, etc.) would seem to attest to the perduranceof the occupation. Whoever blazons theology's "end" s apt to be singled out and be numbered among those familiar critics who bemoan the passing of the last generation of great systematic theologians and the consequent rise of a cacaphony of popularizers and special pleaders, or among those who hawk some kind of mystical or purely experiential alternative to traditional "Godruns

which runs an historical 1 But the end of talk"/ than . signifies matter. The end of eventuality or subject either style theology theology springs from deeper the crisis of Western thinking as a whole-from the way in which the highest object of thought, God, is represented and from the character of the subject who does the representing. of theology we do not necessarily mean simply "end"of Nevertheless, by the "end" the termination, or even the actual demise, of the kind of reflective activity which has been plied by theologians in the Occident for centuries. An equable quality of labor toward theological clarification and inquiry will undoubtedly persist in various forms and guises, from time to time sparking new "insights"

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The End of Theology


concerning the vocation of theologians. But such activity may be described in terms of the familiar metaphor from Indian literature with respect to the continuation of the effects of karma: the wheel on from spinning its own momentum, despite the fact thepotters has released his foot potter himselfgoes from the treadle. Theologians will continue to theologize even though the customary impetus for theological work has been scotched. The end of theology, therefore, refers not to the cessation of theological activity, but to the onset of a fundamental questioning of the raison d'etre for what historically has been known as "theology." When we talk about the "end" of theology, of course, we are using the word in its double-edged sense. The word "end" (as in the German Ende) connotes not just a terminus, but a completion or fructification of an aim (cf. the German Endzweck). Thus the end of theology implies, inter alia, the consummation of a track of within the Christian to the rounding relatedto addition, the end ofdevelopment history of the West. Inparticular theology is related out of other signal trends within the Western historical epoch. As may be obvious to some by now, the expression "end of theology" is integrally associated with the phenomenon which Martin Heidegger has tabbed the "end of philosophy" in our age. And we shall appeal in large extent to Heidegger's own metahistorical analysis in determining how both Western philosophy and theology share a common destiny / 2/. On the other hand, it is not merely our intention to "apply" Heidegger as a resource for definitive theological problem. The later Heidegger, in particular, has been respectfully cited and appropriated by certain religious thinkers during the past decade or so as a frame of reference referencefor for a hermeneuticof hermeneutic of the essaying theological "Word of God" / 3/. The issues raised both however, call into question by Heidegger, the topics and procedure of "theologizing" with the same force as it jars the foundations of current philosophical objectives and methods. The end of or final "end"or theology, together with the end of philosophy, derives from the "end" realization of what has

Heidegger has termed "objectifying"or "representationalcalculative" thinking. Specifically, such an end is the "place in which the whole of philosophy's history [and we might add that of theology as well] is gathered in its most extreme possibility" (1972:57). The end of theology can be possibility"(1972:57). with the end of philosophy as a correlative "placed"with "placed" correlativemanifestaton manifestaton of the end of Western thinking in what Heidegger has delineated as its historical, mode. before we examine the of "metaphysical" But,today, we must review the signs theology's that are evident "ending" general project of Heidegger's own thought which he has designed at the "overcoming [Uberwindung] of metaphysics."

II As soon as he had written his magnum opus Sein und Zeit, Heidegger envisaged the primary objective of his thought as the "overcoming" of metaphysics (cf. Mehta: 34). But why does metaphysics need to be overcome?

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L. Raschke CarlL. Carl

According to Heidegger, "metaphysicsis "metaphysicsis a name for the pivotal point and core of all philosophy" (1969: 14). Metaphysics is the ancient science which asks the fundamental question about Being, about the "ground"or ultimate reason for "beings" (Seienden) as they appear in the world /4/. Yet, ever since the "beings"(Seienden) early Greeks, who first cultivated the science, metaphysics has been concerned ratherthan than the primordial"meta-" exclusively with questions of "physics" 5/ rather question which, for Heidegger, penetrates to the "essence" of metaphysics itself. The essence of metaphysics gives hint of itself in the fundamental ontological question: Warum ist iiberhaupt Seiendes und nicht vielmehr Nichts ("Why are there, in general, beings rather than nothing?"). The question brings to light the basic dilemma of ontology-that beings are not just "there," but that they emerge from somewhere else. They cannot to other beings, or the highest being or referenceto ultimately be understood by reference the abstract and indeterminate concept of being-as-a-whole /6/, but only through Being as it is concealed within the appearance of beings to the degree that it appears to be "Nothing" (or no-thingness). Being is always distinct from any being, or totality of beings, a state of affairs which Heidegger designates the "ontological difference." Yet the ontological difference "as difference"is that which has not been properly thought by metaphysics, which instead has busied itself with discovering the Being of beings, the ontos on, the being which has being "to the highest degree" (1962: 248). In short,

metaphysics has not thought the "unity of its essence," or the genuine relationship between beings and Being, a unity which has remained "unthought" (Ungedacht) at the same time it has been "forgotten." Metaphysics has made a being out of Being; it has turned Being into theprotos arche, the "first principle," the sufficient reason, the primum mobile, or "God." Thus Heidegger speaks of the "onto-theological" character of metaphysical thinking, which is the foundation of all Western thinking, including philosophy, science, and theology. The overcoming of metaphysics amounts to a thorough rethinking of the essence of thinking itself, which in the long range constitutes the most compelling assignment of our age. "Onto-theology," or metaphysics, rests on a particular way of thinking that has gained ascendancy for Western man and is responsible for his current amnesia toward Being, evidenced in the end of philosophy and theology together. This way of thinking Heidegger for the most part calls "representational" vorstellend). Representational thinking is not so much a falsification of reality as a "limitation" n human experience which acquires an unconditional character. Historically, representationalthinking representationalthinking was spawned out of philosophy's original conceptualization of Being as constrained by the prevailing paradigms of logic and grammar inscribed in the structure of the Greek language. For Heidegger, representation consists in a re-praesentatio in "its sameness and constancy" "what"in whereby a thing is "presented"as a "what" (1973: 60). This re-presentationis a movement of logical thought (i.e., thought as praedicatio, as judgment, as determination of a "what") away from the immediate revelation of the being in its primitive manifestation, a manifestation which Heidegger describes as simple "presence"(German =

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The End of Theology


Anwesenheit, Greek = ousia). But it is only such a "presencing"which gives rise to representation, since for a being to be "present"means that it has lost its incidental and fugitive quality and appears as something "fixed" or "permanent"(stdndig). "permanent" (stdndig). "Standing forth" in its fixity, therefore, the being is capable of being re-presented in thought. It is found "ready-made" as "a which can be utilized as a concept or sign for theoretical purposes, and datum"which datum" can be manipulated in a practical manner in accordance with the needs or interests of the human subject (1969: 52). In a word, it becomes an "object" which "stands over against" (Gegen-stand) the subject who poses as its master /7/. Representational thinking becomes "calculative" n its use and comes to serve the subjective will to dominance over the entities of nature. Only so far as beings are abstracted in conceptual analysis from their essential origin (what Heidegger terms their "belonging-together-with") in Being, can they become inventory for manipulation and willful activity. Representational or

"objectifying" thinking requires that oneforget the "essence"(das Wesen in "objectifying"thinking the sense of a verb, the "beingness"or unfolding of "being"as a process) of the beings with which one deals. Metaphysics comprises the primordial event of forgetfulness, inasmuch as Being comes to be representednot as the essence of beings, but as the "highest being," the ens realissimum et perfectissimum. Metaphysics subsists as the cornerstone of "theology" proper. By Heidegger's account metaphysics is the seedbed of both theology and science (and by extension technology), for both theology and science rely on the stabilization and computation of beings as objects. Theology and science arise from the ancient speculations of the pre-Socratic philosophers, who were the first to conceive metaphysics as a search for the "being"which would explain the existence of other beings, as a quest for the supreme "cause" or archP. Aristotle, for example, in the Metaphysics, describes Thales, "scientists"as as individuals engaged in the Anaximander, and the other Greek "scientists" activity of "theologizing" (theologein) /8/. Theology and science are concerned with explicating the objective data of the world. In the Christian era theology developed as the "science"of "science"of God (God being understood as the Creator or Supreme Cause of the universe) /9/; whereas what is now understood strictly as "science" "science"came came to be the method of inquiry into the proximate causes of phenomena as they are "objectively"constituted within the natural order. In both cases the question of Being retreated,enabling man to occupy himself with the reckoning and determination of objects according to their principles and causes. Representational thinking in its theological and scientific applications also revised, according to Heidegger, the notion of "truth." Truth in its primordial sense is aletheia ("unconcealedness," literally "unforgetfulness"), the disclosure of Being through the presencing of beings. Truth is therefore a "letting things be in totality" (1949: 313), a "preserving" for Heidegger, the original meaning of Wahrheit) what is as it is in its very essence. Heidegger contrasts truth truthas as aletheia with "the "theconventional conventional concept" which grows out of the representational thinking of metaphysics. In the latter instance truth is regarded as "propositional truth," which "is only possible on the basis of

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L. Raschke CarlL. Carl

objective truth, the adequatio rei ad intellectum" (1949: 292). Objective or propositional truth is not revelatory, but grammatical, insofar as it is established in keeping with the syntactical relationships between terms and the objects to which they are supposed to refer. Objective truth hinges on the "laid down" way in which beings "are" n their relationship to other beings, as "laiddown" (legein) by the "logic" of propositions. Science, Heidegger says, depends for

its deductive explanations on these logical relationships, but so does theology for that matter. The principal difference is that historically theology has

posited God, rather than nature, as the the provenance of these relationships, and stipulates the intellectus divinus instead of the intellectus humanus as that to which the "thing" or object must be "adequate" (1949: 296) /10/. "adequate"(1949: The task of representational thinking, Heidegger asserts, is the achievement of certainty, an end implicit in the effort at securing the permanence of the object. Certainty can be reached only when thinking dwells not on the "matter" Sache) of thought, but on the representations of thought, which occur as signs along with their taxonomy and rules of use, in other words, the structural properties of language. Truth becomes "grammatical" /11/ and can be accorded certainty through codification of the affinities between signs. By this account thought turns to "logic"-the primary method of ascertaining truth in Western philosophy-which at bottom is simply of thinking, or "essence"of "thought about thinking" (1969: 21), rather than the "essence" thinking"(1969: whatever certainty is established in the mapping of logical thinking itself. But whatever or representational truth-functions can be no more than a subjective certainty, or self-certainty. Objective truth turns out to be subjective truth, since the truth perceived about the object depends on the certitude which the subject elicits in appealing to its own sufficiency of representation and to the self-evidence of its own categories of language and thought. All testing of language necessitates fabrication of an apodictic meta-language (a formalized organon) which draws its authority from the human desire for precision and freedom from the of mutual ambiguity expressions. the transition in Western Heidegger traces thought from the recognition of truth as aletheia to truth as "certainty."This transition, Heidegger writes, proceeds apart with the development of Western metaphysics, yet paradoxically "is an event whose beginning is inaccessible to all metaphysics" (1973: 20). Through metaphysics man loses sight of his primal relationship with Being, yet at the same time obtains "assurance of himself" and "the assurance of absolute dominance." Objects of cognition appear, but strictly as objectsfor subjects which are certain of the criteria for their judgments. The object emerges first in its durability and calculability as the Greek hypokeimenon which gets translated into Latin as substans and means the same as subiectum. the subiectum does not refer to what modern Initially, philosophy terms the "subject," but to the "object"-what endures and is "essential," the subject of the "subject-predicate relationship" (1973: 21). Subjects or "substances" (i.e., objects) are thought to be the irreducible features of reality, which "underlie" "underlie"all all phenomenal changes. Metaphysics endeavored to comprehend these irreducible elements and, especially, to

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The End of Theology


determine the ultimate character of substance, which Spinoza showed to be the proper designation for God. The identity of the subiectum (as "substance" or "object") as "subject" in the modern sense of the word was laid bare by Descartes with his cogito ergo sum. "The ego, the res cogitans, is the distinctive subiectum whose esse . . suffices for the essence of truth in the sense of certainty" (1973: 29). Subjectivity as self-certainty arises as the epistemological linchpin of modern scientific objectivity /12/. And the genuine implications of the cogito as the certification of objective knowledge are finally played out in the philosophy of Hegel, especially in his Science of Logic, for whom "certainty is self-consciousness in its self-knowledge" / 13/. The genuine meaning of the subject in any act of predication is the selfreflective "subject" of all thought, the Cartesian ego taken up into the manifoldness of self-knowledge that Hegel calls the Absolute / 14/. In Hegel's thought "science" and "logic" are ways of describing the certainty of completed self-knowledge, which has gathered into itself the truth of all "representations"(Vorstellungen) or objects / 15/. But there is a second historical factor in the movement of metaphysics toward the self-certainty of science, which Heidegger ascribes to the "faith"as its object standpoint of Christiantheology. Christian theology takes "faith"as "Infaith faith (1976: 11); but faith really implies the self-legitimation of the subject. "In rules certainty, that kind of certainty which is safe even in the uncertainty of itself, that is, of what it believes in" (1973:23). It is "certainty as selfguaranteeing (willing oneself)," or in other words, iustitiaas the justificationof the relation o beingsand of their irst iustitiaas cause .. . ustificatio n thesense the senseof of theReformation the Reformation nd ndNietzsche's Nietzsche's truthare are the same thing. conceptof justice as truth (1973:97) thing.(1973:97) The genesis of the autonomous rationality of Descartes' cogito in the free selfdetermination of Christian faith is brought out in a passage from Hegel, whose view of philosophy as the realization of Absolute Spirit signals the ultimate metaphysical synthesis of science and theology. In theChristian Inthe Christian eligion am amto to retainmyfreedom,or or rather,n it I am to become becomefree. In it the subject, he salvation free.In salvationof of the soul, the ndnot not onlythespecies, redemption f the ndividual s an individual, nd is an essential essentialend. end.This This subjectivity,his selfness not selfishness),s just the principle principleof of rationalknowledge tself. (1970: 143,emphasis (1970:143, mine) Faith as self-authentication is transformed into the touchstone of rational certainty, since truth is tantamount, as Hegel discovered, to the reflective reflectiveselfselfunfoldment of the subject as the "notion" (1929: vol. ii: 234 ff.). German idealism, therefore, stands as the historical fulfillment under the rubric of "science"of of Christian subjectivity. It is theology in its "extreme," "logic" and "science" secular phase of development. Theology stands on the principle of subjectivity, which in the final summation accords man as "the measure of all things." Theology not only becomes anthropology, as Feuerbach proclaimed,

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L. Raschke CarlL. Carl

but foreshadows the very apotheosis of the human individual, who arrogates for himself the role of God as the absolute subiectum, as First Cause. The "objectivity" of reason is at last unmasked as bare self-willing. Hegel is succeeded by Nietzsche, for whom the absolute ground of certainty is nothing In Nietzsche the of the as the but "the will to Power" / 16/. primacy subject Thus and unblushingly affirmed. source of "truth" is unconditionally Heidegger speaks of Nietzsche as the "last" Western metaphysician. In the same vein Nietzsche, notwithstanding his protestations of God's death, can also be considered the last theologian. In short, theology by Heidegger's reckoning constitutes one facet of the devolution of metaphysics as part of "the fatefulness of Being." Theology serves as one of the guarantors of representational thinking by preserving through the concept of "faith" he apodicity of the subject. Science safeguards the steadfastness and fungibility of "objects" which can be relativized, quantified, and "explained" in keeping with hypotheses, formulas, and in the modern world is visible in the "end"of statistical laws. The "end"of science. Philosophy, which once subsisted in a preemption of philosophy bymetaphysics unity with metaphysics and scientific thinking, now passes over into science in its modern technological form. "The end of philosophy proves to be the triumph of the manipulable arrangement of a scientific-technological world and of the social order proper to the world" (1972: 59). But the technoscientific spirit at the same time emanates from the same historical forces which undergirded Christian subjectism. Christian theology is the precondition, according to Heidegger, for the "process of secularization" (1970: 147). Christian theology erects the scaffolding for the truthfulness of subjective will, for the apprehension of Being as "reality in the sense of indubitable which dubs or the "will representations" to will" (1973: of subjective certitude, achievement "self-willing" 48). Without theHeidegger technology as the historical culmination of man's forgetfulness of Being for the sake of managing and controlling the items of his world would not have been possible. Modern science and technology are not so much Greek in origin as they are Christian /17/. The end of philosophy coincides with the end of theology; for the fates of both philosophy and theology are entwined with the larger realization of metaphysical-representational thinking in our technological world culture. Frequently Heidegger speaks of the contemporary period as the "atomic age," not just with reference to the obvious fact of the harnessing of nuclear energy, but also as an allusion to the atomization of human concurrent with the drive toward The pure representation of existing things by technological dominance.experience modern thought enables man to shape the world as completely amenable to his will and thus total over it.

Thus, Heidegger comments, gain power technology arises as "the metaphysics of the atomic age" (1960: 48). Science and technology succeed in atomizing and conquering the universe of entities, theology in isolating as the bare subiectum the human subject by severing it from its ontological foundations. The overcoming of metaphysics amounts to the transcendence of onto-theology, whether it poses as "objectivist"science or the "subjectism"[Subjectitat] inherent in theology.

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The End Endof of Theology

167 III

The plight of twentieth century theology, therefore, is inextricably wrapped up with the historical event which Nietzsche dubbed the "death of God." It should be remembered in this connection that by God's "death" Nietzsche did not mean the vanishing of "belief" in God so much as the replacement of man's traditional worship of the Deity as Creator and source of values with an apotheosis of the subjective will, which "revalues all values." "revaluesall One need only note the words of Nietzsche's madman: "Whithers God?"he cried;"I "Whithers "Iwill willtell you. We Wehave havekilled killedhim-you and I. All of us are his murderers."1974: 181) The "death of God" ensues with the unacknowledged act of "murder,"which for Nietzsche signified a final affirmation of Western man's subjective truth, his Will to Power. In Heidegger's Heidegger'sterms terms the death of God betokens the coup de main of representational thinking, the confirmation of the subject as arbiter, orderer, and governer of a universe of pliable objects. On the religious level God's demise is the triumph of secularity; and it is no wonder that the "death of God" theology of the 1960s distinguished itself by celebrating what Bonhoeffer called man "come of age," the metamorphosis of homo religiousus into homo agens ("man the doer"), the translation of selfdistancing reverence for the divine into a theology of action and will. By endorsing Nietzsche's declaration of God's death, theology thereby allied itself self-consciously with the subjectivist ideology, which according to Heidegger entails the ripening or "end" of Western metaphysics altogether. However, the passing of the overt forms of"death-of-God" and "secular" theologies, which crested during the climate of political activism in the late Sixties, has not at the same time spelled any major shift away from the subjectivist emphasis. The more recent attempt to anchor theological reflection in various modes of contemporary religious "experience" simply illlustrates a further advance of the earlier tendency. Theology in the 1970s, while eschewing the patently secularist or political agendas of the last decade, has still gauged its labors by the plumbline of subjective certitude. Instead of

extolling particular social or cultural aims as the prius of theological interpretation, it has sought to craft a hermeneutic based on the selfevidencing states of consciousness of contemporary secular men and women, especially the more "irrational" "irrational"or or "ecstatic" "ecstatic"kinds. kinds. Descartes' Descartes'cogito cogito has been superseded by the latter day experior. A review of some of the more noteworthy theological writings which have appeared in the last ten years will underscore underscorethis this trend. It is impossible, of course, within the scope of this essay to examine fully the complex arguments found in these various works. But the common thread which runs thoroughout them is a claim that the starting point of future theological investigation must be an assessment of the experiential data of contemporary selfhood. To begin with, we may consider the position laid out in a widely discussed

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CarlL. Carl L. Raschke

book by David Tracy, Blessed Rage Ragefor for Order.Tracy's book is an ambitious effort to chart a "revisionist "revisionisttheology" theology" which confers a new depth of meaning on traditional religious symbols and theological constructs by fleshing out the fundamental modes of experience that coalesce together in the modern "pluralistcontext." As Tracy announces in this first chapter, such revisionism endeavors to indicate those kinds of theological operations "which will be appropriate to the central meaning of the secular faith we share and to the central meanings represented in the Christian tradition" (14). The "adequate for doing this sort of theology are specific "representativefacts" of criteria"for criteria" history and culture (i.e., enduring myths and symbols from our Western religious legacy) which can be somehow brought into mediation by "critical to our present experience of ourselves ascribedto with the meanings ascribed correlation"with correlation" as beings in the world. Theology thus consists in an ongoing "hermeneutic" which adopts as its touchstone not the "original" or primordial meanings supposedly locked in the cultural facts, but the consistent structures of "religious")self-understanding, self-understanding, or contemporary secular (and, by extension, "religious") in another sense "the genuine values of modernity" such as "openness," (175). The business of theology is not to come up "autonomy," and "change" "change"(175). with a transcendental guide for life in the world, but "really to make our Christian self-understanding meaningful in our own life styles and our own reflection" (177). The canons of "meaningfulness," as well as "truth" for theological deliberation, according to Tracy, are "the 'conditions of the possibility' of the experiencing self in its full multi-dimensional radicality" (173-74). Tracy confirms Heidegger's diagnosis of the subjectivist revolution in modern thought when he insists that theology must follow the "turnto "turn to the

subject" characterizing modern metaphysics by concentrating on our "primary experience of ourselves." The theologian's use of the tradition compasses no more than adjudicating "how and why such past meanings either are or are not meaningful and true [we might add, "for "forour our experience'] today" (240). Another book which recurs to the experior in order to cement a new foundation for theology is Louis Dupre's Transcendental Selfhood. Dupre wants to go beyond a hermeneutic of secular consciousness, even one which takes into its purview the "religious" or ecstatic dimension of such consciousness, and find a pure region of "transcendence" "transcendence"within within which one can trace a framework of meaning for both past and present. As the title of his book intimates, Dupre locates such a region of transcendence in the "self"not the everyday, conscious self to be sure, but the "immortal" elf which is the matrix of the mystical experience. Such a self-the one apprehended in total "inwardness"which "inwardness" which the classical mystics named the "soul"-surpasses the given, empirical self of simple subjectivity and exists as the ganglion of a special kind of "experience" which contrasts with ordinary ego-awareness. Yet Dupre's ultimate self, as the Archimedean point of a new theological articulation of sacred "experience," still represents the bare metaphysical subiectum. It is interesting that Dupre criticizes Heidegger for having refined the principle of subjectivity "without rethinking the content of the determining subject" (6). For Dupre seems to misunderstandthat it is the very subject"(6).

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The End Endof of Theology


critique of subjectivity which lies at the heart of Heidegger's Heidegger'sprescription prescription for "overcoming" the onto-theological nature of metaphysics. Dupre, in fact, pursues the subjectivist rendering of ontotheology to its logical limit, insofar as he sets about to ground all theological positions in a revelation of the transcendental self. His analytic of transcendental selfhood parallels some recent efforts to ally theology with depth psychology, to postulate God as the unity of the collective unconscious (e.g., cf. Miller; White). The identification however, of God with transcendental selfhood, with the underlying source of mystical experiences, merely succeeds in hypostasizing the transcendental subject as the indwelling ground of reality as experience, much in the same way classical established the on e on or the "highest "highestbeing" being"as as first cause of an metaphysics objective universe. Dupre's intention to coordinate the selfdeclaration of faith with the language of the mystics simply raises to a higher level of comprehension the theological experior. A third, and highly insightful, work that requires consideration in this context is Wolfhart Pannenberg's Theology and the Philosophy of Science. Pannenberg undertakes in this lengthy and well documented exposition to find a middle between the modern division of science as the method of

ground Christianfaith. faith. empirical truth-testing and theology as the self-elaboration of Christian Pannenberg cites "the disintegration of the traditional metaphysical doctrine of God" and the tendency, preeminent in Neo-Orthodoxy, but still construed in various degrees in other circles of postliberal thought, to mend the damage by validating theological statements in terms of some privileged privilegedrevelatory revelatory or experential content. Theology's propensity to shun the objectivist epistemology of modern science by qualifying its assertions as noncognitive does nothing to justify the work of theological inquiry in the secular secularclimate climate of the twentieth century. Theology must be restored, Pannenberg insists, as "the science of God," but not the same sort of science implicit in the natural sciences. Rather, theology should follow the lead of Dilthey and the earlier architects of the "human sciences" without falling into the quantificatory pitfalls of the contemporary social sciences. Theology as the "science of God" must occupy itself with a systematic and thematic account of all human experience, sacred and profane, but with special attention to "religious awarenessof experience" which, for Pannenberg, involves "a form of explicit awareness experience"which, of the total meaning of reality" (333). At this level theology can still conserve God as its central object, because God is "the all-determining reality" immanent in the totality of finite reality and experience. Theology thus defines itself as the "science of God," but only in the sense that is concerned with the ground of human experience in its historical fullness. Theology discloses God as the subiectum of human experience, yet without specification of the individual subject. By appealing to religious experience in particular, theology does more than legitimate the basic elements of meaning in contemporary experience. For religious experience "anticipates" the totality of human experience, future as well as past. In fine, theology in Pannenberg's estimate remains "empirical," but it also serves to enlarge the horizons of what counts as "experience."Experience

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CarlL. Carl L. Raschke

is more than the coherence of any individual or collective set of perceptions at a particular historical moment, since it refers to unrealized future and mediated past structures besides. Similarly, the organizing subject of experience is not the individual agent of knowledge and volition, but the divine "all-determining reality," the sufficient reason for the concrescence of all subjective cognitions. In affirming God, theology secures an auxiliary footing for its experior, just as Descartes relied on the notion of God to shore up the certainty of his quod dare et distincte perciptur, resulting in the notorious "Cartesian circle." But as in the case of Descartes' cogito, it is actually the "indubitability" of the subjective experior, translated into the of the notion of man as a res which for

departure experiens, provides point theologizing nowadays. The crisis of contemporary theology, nevertheless, has to do with an uneasiness concerning the alleged certitude of "experience." Modern empiricism has always harbored within itself a hidden metaphysical agenda, beginning with Locke's epistemological principle of sense impressions as the building blocks of understanding. The irreducibility of the meaning-contents of sense impressions (which the British empiricists called "simple ideas") was later challenged by Kant, who located the formative process of human experience in the synthesis of sense data and transcendental concepts in conformance with the "unity of apperception." In the twentieth century the contingency of empirical claims on the whole has been recognized profoundly in the philosophy of science (e.g., cf. Popper; Kuhn) as well as in the literature of post-Wittgensteinian philosophy, which has highlighted the interconnection between the "grammar"of the language we use and the makeup of our experience /18/. It is the dependency of our means of empirical verification on the "logic" or rules of predication peculiar to our language which contends most seriously against the certitude of our experience. Just as there cannot be any necessary priority given to the "experience" of secular man, so experience itself cannot be considered the bedrock of knowledge, since what is shaped as experience is in itself problematical. Indeed, the theological appeal to "experience" s essentially an assertion of the primacy primacyof of the language and forms of thought which have come to predominate in the modern period. Theology thus betrays itself as an unwitting apologist for representational thinking in its final, subjectist subjectistphase. phase. Theology today stands as the living token of Nietzsche's prophecy that we have "killed"God, inasmuch as it contrives its last defense by referringto the divine as an "object" hat can be re-presented and manipulated in accordance with the strictures of the experiencing subject, or the teleology of the will. The disclaimer, for example, of Gordon Kaufman, that God is not an "object" in the strict sense of an available referent or "thing in itself," but an "imaginativeconstruct"adequate to our contemporary needs and experiences /19/ simply makes selfconsciously explicit the historical fact that theology has come to be the selfprojection of the subject. Moving in the opposite direction of science, theology has climaxed the reifying career of Western metaphysics by pinning down the certitude of the subject as hypo-keimenon of all experience, and has

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The End of Theology


world-conjuringagency agency of the deftly displaced God from the heavens into the world-conjuring self.

A critic of a draft of this article arti cle has raised raisedthe the objection that perhaps a fair number of the theologians previously indicated are actually grappling in their own fashion with the same dilemmas Heidegger outlines. The same critic also questions whether theologians who do not grant Heidegger's premises premises can be articledemands. demands. The expected to make the kind of "Heideggerian"moves the article second objection can be easily dispensed with, as it is rather fatuous. Naturally, a partisan of realist metaphysics will predictably balk at the whole twentieth century enterprise of ordinary language philosophy, but that does not neutralize the critical advances of the latter method over the former. Heidegger's views on theology are not apt to be easily metabolized, since they are in themselves quite radical and discomforting. Contemporary theology has too readily misrepresented Heidegger, either by making a straw man out of him /20/, or by attenuating him so that conventional theological "discourse" can invoke him as a muse for its deliberations /21/. The first objection that contemporary theology and Heideggerian Heideggerianontology ontology have a tacit kinship can only be upheld, therefore, if Heidegger is benignly domesticated. Assuredly, contemporary theology has followed Heidegger in his dismissal of the classical metaphysical conception of God as object. But contemporary theology has not seen through his thorough critique of the metaphysical prioritization of the subiectum. Indeed, it has remained spellbound by the categories of thought appropriate to this "last" phase of the career of ontic thinking. So long as theology clings to the need for the "idea" of God in the traditional sense, even though it qualifies the status of this being as a "representation," an "imaginative construct," or as a "symbol" of our common experience, it persists in a crumbling allegiance to a thought experience that has reached its closure. It is unlikely that theology is willing to Butthat that abjure this allegiance, since it would no longer be theology any more. But is the radical step of "crossing the line" (as Heidegger puts it) which the overcoming of metaphysics (and pari passu the "end of theology") requires.

IV But what might lie beyond the "end" of theology? Can theology be reconstituted in some form that overreaches its historical collapse into the bare experior? The quandary of theological self-scrutiny at present is coupled, as we have maintained, with the terminal stage of Western metaphysics, which in turn implies the exhaustion of the meaning of its representations. One popular alternative to theology, at least in the religious domain, has been the kind of ecstatic experimentalism and syncretism that turns away from all normative traditions or determinate symbols and probes toward the dissolution of language and thought in the mystical flight to the depths of the mind. The force of such introvertive ecstasy depends on the quelling of the ego-consciousness which merely functions according to one noted

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psychologist, as a "data reduction system" that screens the massive flow of impressions and schematizes them in concert with our linguistic and conceptual (i.e., "logical") anticipations of reality (cf. Ornstein). Once the data reduction process is minimized, or even eliminated, in the mystic leap, the "truth" of all our experience is putatively fathomed within the cosmic dimension. Mystical insight thus can be retailed as a therapy for the rigidities of theological doctrine and threadbare piety. Yet mysticism, or "religious experience" in some allegedly primordial or preconceptual manifestation, can never suffice historically as a stand-in for theology. Popular m mysticism ysticism today is a symptom of the debility of religious thought, not a cure. As Heidegger notes, irrationality and rationality are merely different visages of the metaphysical Janus. The "overcoming" of new kind of radicalnew metaphysics demands not the abdication of thought, but a radical thinking-a thinking that has heretofore been "unthought."Such "originative thinking" must penetrate behind the the structures of onto-theological thinking, which entails at once the transcendence of the subject-object perspective or representational thought /22/. The way into the "unthought" "unthought"begins begins not with logic (not even theo-logic), but with "thinking" n the truest sense of the word. For Heidegger, originative (Denken) is "poetizing" (Dichten), which does not re-presentBeing "thought"(Denken) "thought" "poetizing"(Dichten), as it discloses itself, but "allows" what is to present itself in its most "appropriate" ashion. Heidegger terms this act of "appropriation" "appropriation"Er-eignis, Er-eignis, which also means more loosely "event."Thought as poetizing is not an event of speaking, but of being spoken through and to. Man does not "speak,"but is "bespoken."The poet is one who "undergoes with language," inasmuch as he is "properly concerned by the claim of language by entering into and submitting to it" (1971a: 57). To undergo with language as Er-eignis requires that one give up representational thinking and "hear" the word in its originative power and meaning. And to free ourselves from representational thinking requires at the same time the abnegation of subjective willing. Heideggerspeaks Heidegger speaks of "weaning ourselves away from will," which leads to "nonwilling" or, more precisely, to "releasement" (Gelassenheit), whereby our subjective will no longer stands in the way of letting things be as they are. But modern man finds it exceedingly difficult to curb his habit of willful thinking. "Modern man ... is called the one who wills" (1971b: 148). He has become the master of a manner of "thinking"which, "understood mannerof in a traditional way, "understoodin as re-presenting is a kind of willilng" (1966: 58). His "will to will" inhibits authentic releasement, which keeps him from a direct stance toward the face of Being Beingthat that might reveal revealthe the very veryessence essence of the language he speaks. But, if he is ever to think with all his being the unthought, he must learn to think differently, and that thinking involves an unprecedented receptivity to the creative word of poetry. The call for poetic inspiration in the making of theology, of course, has been alluded to in some recent literature. Amos Wilder has suggested a

"theopoetic," whereas the marriage of theology and "story" has also been proposed (e.g., cf. Wiggins; Crossan). But a genuinely radical program of

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The End of Theology


poetizing would embrace something more than finding dramatic or narrative analogues in the contemporary setting for certain religious ideas. The assimilation of what has heretofore been known as "theology" to literature would be like squaring the circle. For both theology and literature must ultimately draw their sustenance from a more profound and pre-thematic disclosure of the world, one which both grips and overcomes man in his essential condition. The dilemma of both theology and literature today is that they seem to have lost touch with their own roots. Over a century and a half ago Goethe wrote that "men continue to be creative in poetry and art only so long as they are religious" / 23/. Yet the "religious"dimension, in the sense of an unmediated and incalculable encounter with the very depths of life that is not merely an "empirical" construct, has melted away in the facile preoccupation with the forms of contemporary experience. Thus any diversion toward a theo-poetic must prove vain, so long as the reunion with poetry rests merely on a self-conscious and artificial method of correlation. Theology instead must surrender its will to re-presentation to the primal poetic, which in the strictest respect may be called "revelation" On the other hand, any opening to revelation at a primordial level does not at all mean the same as the earlier Barthian sacrificium intellectus for the sake of "faith" in the Christian kerygma. As Heidegger notes, a presuppositionless listening for the Word surpasses any deliberate attempt to put an orthodox or formatively "Christian"stamp on such a revelation. Such a theological enterprise would be simply another mode of re-presentational thinking. Rather, the "way"of which we are speaking must be, in Heidegger's "venture"back back into the pre-Christian (which is at the same time a terms, a "venture" post-Christian) meaning of our being-in-the-world. Heidegger remarks that we must search out "the pre-Christian pre-Christiancontent content of basic theological concepts" (1976: 20). But such a searching points at the same time toward a wholly new, and perhaps perhapscomplete, complete, manifestation of the truth as contained in the historical Word. In the beginning resides the end, and in the end the beginning. Thus Heidegger refers somewhat cryptically to the parousia (which is interestingly the New Testament word for the Second Coming) of Being (1975: 18), which implies the revelation of the ontological "perfection"or "completeness"of all that is, the event of "being alongside" or encountering "face to face." The reception of the parousia through the event of poetizing does not annul the meaning-content of previous theologies, but consists in their final "grounding"or "filling out." On the other hand, the reception of the parousia

does not allow (at least immediately) to begin blithely a "reconstruction" of the theological task along Heideggerian lines. Heidegger cannot be used to "do" theology, only to point up the radical limitations of the theological undertaking. In their craze to legitimate their own trade theologians are invariably quick to fetch philosophical support for their positions. But Heidegger's philosophy does not reassure or support. "Meditative" (andenkenden) thinking, which Heidegger prescribes, aims toward a "listening"rather than a glib habit of "saying."It demands of the theologian unconditional and fateful humility in his formulation of a response to the

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L. Raschke CarlL. Carl

holy, a humility which is perhaps too severe and taxing for theological professionals to bear. of the "default" or writes that we live in the Heidegger "absence," he goes on: rather than the final "death" of God. Andage which But absence s not nothing;rather t is precisely he presence,which hidden ullness ullnessand andwealthof wealthof what mustfirstbe firstbe appropriated, f the hidden has been and what, thus gathered, s presencing, f the divine n the of the Greeks, n prophetic udaism, n the preaching f Jesus. worldof world arrival of its This no-longer is in itself a not-yet of the veiled arrivalof inexhaustible ature. 1971b: 184) 1971b:184) The "veiled arrival" perhaps remains out of sight to the extent that we theologians willfully cling to the mere form and not the substance of the To that have been our for two thousand concepts guideposts in the years. go beyond the form requires an act of "thinking" deepest sense of letting-be that which is. "Few," Heidegger observes, "are experienced enough in the difference between an object of scholarship and a matter of thought" (1971b: 5). Theology today has lost its "matter of thought" because it has become estranged from the essential language through which bonafide thinking is possible. Or, as Thomas J. J. Altizer observes in his most recent and appreciably prophetic book: Theology today is most fundamentallyn quest of a languageand mode whereby t can speak. Above all it is in quest of a language whereby t can speak of God. Ever increasingly nd decisively his quest s becoming quest or orlanguage languagetself, tself,and andfor fora a new anguage, can we and languagewhereby language (1) whereby actually fullyspeak. fully speak.(1) Theology, however, can only attain to such a language when it, instead of clamoring to speak the word, lets the word be spoken.

NOTES / /echoed In in Inthe thevarious lattercase lattercase I have n mind minda a bookby bookbyAlan AlanWatts Watts 1964). 1964).Watts'approach Watts'approach is variousand and sundrypopularor semi-popularwriters,such as Jacob Needleman r HarveyCox, who callfor a return o primary religious religiousxperience" xperience"n placeof conventional heological tatements. neverdiscusses ystematically /2/ Heidegger, f course,even n hislaterwritings,neverdiscusses the"end" the "end" f theologywith withthe the sameattention sameattentionhe he gives o philosophy.Heidegger's Heidegger'swn remarksabout remarks about theologyare ratherscattered ratherscatteredand and somewhat obscure see his essay somewhatobscure "TheThink" 1971b: "Phenomenology nd Theology" 1976)and his "Epilogue"o "TheThink" "end"of theology is clear in both his clearin 183-86). Nonetheless, he suggestionof the "end" criticisms f Western hilosophy nd his broader iscussion f the"onto-theological" character f metaphysics.

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The End of Theology

/3/ The locus classicus for essays on the theological application of the later Heidegger is the volume edited by James M. Robinson and John B. Cobb, Jr. There are essays in German as well, which are too numerous to be cited. Another essay of interest here is Heinrich Ott, "Hermeneutical and Personal Structure of Language," (169). The term das Seiende ("being") is a technical word used by Heidegger that /4/ cannot be straightforwardly ranslatedinto English. I have used the more conventional translation "being," rather than the neologism "essent" "essent"devised devised by Ralph Mannheim which seems to be preferred by Heidegger scholars, in order to avoid confusion for readers not steeped in the subtleties of Heidegger's thought. /5/ "From the very first 'physics' has determined the essence and history of metaphysics" (1969:14). metaphysics"(1969:14). The idea of Being as that which is most indeterminateand indeterminateand abstract is advanced /6/ by Hegel: "Being is indeterminate immediacy" (1929: 93). Cf. ". . . the beingness of beings is thought as presence for the guarantee of /7/ representation.Beingness representation. Beingness is now objectivity" "Overcoming Metaphysics"[ 1973:88]). See, for example, /8/ xii.6.1071b27, xiv.4.1091a34.





/9/ For an interesting endeavor to revive the notion of theology as a "science," "science,"see see Pannenburg (fn. 46). The notion of the divine intellect as the touchstone of truth, of course, is most /10/ fully elaborated in its modern version in the idealism of Bishop Berkeley. The view of truth as grammatical, or dependent on syntax, was inspired, of / 1I/ course, by Wittgenstein, who saw verification as a function of the particular particular"language "language game." For example, "the use of the words 'true' and 'false' may be among the constituent parts of this [propositional] game" (1953: #136, p. 53e). /12/

For a meticulous and exhaustive study of the principle of scientific certainty as

implicit in Descartes'cogito, see Caton. Caton does not discuss Husserl's Husserl'sversion version of the cogito as the basis of scientific certitude. 154.See See also "For Hegel Philosophy is at hand only when the /13/ Heidegger, 1970: 154. self-thinking of absolute knowledge is reality itself, and simply is. The self-perfecting elevation of Being into the thinking Spirit as absolute reality takes place in and as speculative logic" (Heidegger, 1975: 83). For an excellent analysis of the way in which Hegel determines the thinking /14/ subject as the ground of certainty in "subject-predicate" anguage see Surber. See Hegel's discussion of "absolute knowledge" in his Phenomenology of /15/ Mind. "Thus, "Thus,then, then, what was in religion content, or a way of imagining (Vorstellen) (Vorstellen)an an is here the action proper of the self. . . . For this notion is, as we see, the other,

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Carl L. Raschke

176 76

knowledge of this Subject as Substance and of the Substance as this knowledge of its action. . . . This last embodiment of spiriti-spirit which at once gives its complete and true content the form of self ... is Absolute Knowledge" (1967: 797). world is the Cf. the last line of Nietzsche's The Willto Power (1967: 550): "This "Thisworld /16/ will to power-and nothing besides " /17/

". . . the originally Greek nature of philosophy,

in the era of its modern-

European sway, has been guided and ruled by Christian conceptions" (1958: 31). A thorough historical-culturalaccount of the way in which the Christian world view has techno-scientific scientific spirit is Van Leeuwen. undergirded the Western technoConsider Wittgenstein's comment that "is what is linguistic not an /18/ (1953: #649, 166e). experience?"(1953: experience?" /19/


is laid out

Gordon Kaufman in his An Essay in Theological

/19/ Method.





Cf., for example, Tracy constantly stereotypes Heidegger, without ever doing /20/ carrier of "the justice to him, as being "anti-technological," "anti-scientific," or as a carrierof individualist tradition" (1975: 12, 243). /21/ Heidegger, of course, himself warned against being used by theologians for their own purposes. Some recent comme commentators ntators have stressed the decisive separation between Heidegger's ontological thinking and theology (See, for instance, Joseph Kockelmans "Heidegger on Theology.") The most comprehensive study of the relationship between Heidegger and theology, which ends up with the same verdict (though not quite as strong a one) as Kockelmans', appeared a few years ago in German. (See Annemarie Gehtmann-Siefert.) /22/ Heidegger argues that the essential metaphysical problem transcends the duality of subject and object, which becomes a unity in the disclosure of Being (1962: 171ff.). /23/

Letter to Riemer (July 1810), included in Weigand (45).

WORKS CONSULTED Altizer, Thomas J. J. 1977 Caton, Hiram 1973

The Self-Embodiment of God. New York: Harper & Row. The Origin of Subjectivity. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Crossan, John Dominic 1974

Dark Interval: Towards a Theology of Story. New York: Argus Communications.

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The End of Theology Dupre, Louis 1976


Transcendental Selfhood. New York: Seabury Press.

Gehtmann-Siefert, Annemarie 1974 Das Verhaltnis von Philosophie und Theologie im Denken Martin Heideggers. Freiburg-Munich: Karl Alber.

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