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Faith, Ethics, And Communication-Some Recent Writing in Philosophical Theology

Faith, Ethics, And Communication-Some Recent Writing in Philosophical Theology

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Journal of Religious History Vol. 31, No.

4, December 2007

Author FAITH,running head:Asia ORIGINAL ARTICLES JournalOF Religious History XXX © 2007 ETHICS, AND COMMUNICATION 0022-4227 Journal of Religious JORH Association for the Melbourne, Australia JOURNAL of RELIGIOUS HISTORY Blackwell PublishingHistory

JOHN D’ARCY MAY

Faith, Ethics, and Communication: Some Recent Writing in Philosophical Theology

Four very different books on the relationship between faith and ethics are reviewed from the point of view of coping morally and intellectually with difference. Marty focuses on the stranger in pluralist societies and finds that more than mere tolerance is needed as a response to religious difference. Humility and hospitality draw more deeply on the resources of the religions as a basis for true civility. Muers explores the communicative possibilities of silence: how can one speak of God’s self-communication without silencing others? She draws conclusions for sensitive questions such as the right to privacy. Schweiker identifies “spaces of reasons” in which the religions can be moral resources in a “time of many worlds.” Burrell sets up an inter-religious dialogue across the ancient world, bringing thinkers as diverse as Aquinas, al-Ghazali, and Maimonides into conversation about the relationship between creator and creature.

Martin E. Marty: When Faiths Collide (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005); pp. ix + 193. Rachel Muers: Keeping God’s Silence: Towards a Theological Ethics of Communication. Oxford: Blackwell, 2004; pp. viii + 246. William Schweiker: Theological Ethics and Global Dynamics in the Time of Many Worlds. Oxford: Blackwell, 2004; pp. xxv + 239. David Burrell: Faith and Freedom: An Interfaith Perspective. Oxford: Blackwell, 2004; pp. xxi + 266.

The way religions — religious people, but also the faiths as great complex “propositions” — communicate has emerged as one of the most intractable problems facing both philosophy and theology in the West. Each of these very different books tackles it in its own distinctive way. Marty’s When Faiths Collide offers a timely critique of liberal tolerance and argues for a “realized” or “civil” pluralism that would stop trying to pretend religion doesn’t matter and pay heed to the religions’ ways of dealing with the “stranger,” themes he shares with Schweiker’s Theological Ethics, which advocates the rediscovery of the religious sources of moral thinking and the struggle for human wholeness in a time of global reflexivity. Muers’s Keeping God’s Silence
John D’Arcy May was formerly Associate Professor of Interfaith Dialogue at the Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College, Dublin, where he is now a Senior Research Fellow.

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© 2007 The Author Journal compilation © 2007 Association for the Journal of Religious History

and that in the New World we (Europeans) are all immigrants and boat people. 6.7 in order to be realised. not hostility. 15. Burrell. and more reliable than mere tolerance must come into play when dealing with the menace of the stranger. is the appropriate response to the stranger.175. When Faiths Collide. 8. 7.”9 The incommensurable 1. it would involve the practical compromises and negotiated solutions that arise. Marty. not to mention the wide spectrum of Jewish thinkers in the US). 107. 11. When Faiths Collide (Oxford: Blackwell. 5. 2. Faith and Freedom. 9. Keeping God’s Silence. Marty. We Hold These Truths: Catholic Reflections on the American Proposition (New York: Sheed & Ward. is both to receive sustenance and to exercise violence. one must advance to the awareness that the self is also a stranger. 1960).8 though I am sure Rabbis Jonathan Sacks and Norman Solomon could pass muster in the UK. 85. postmodern collages or assemblages that reject rootage in traditions and seek no warrants in authoritative texts”. The Ethos of Pluralization (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 3. When Faiths Collide. he re-emphasises his theme: “Something deeper. and that the stranger can become a “belonger” (Georg Simmel) in contexts of religious practice.4 Turning to pluralism as the political philosophy he wishes to affirm. for example. . Such a theology takes us beyond “bureaucratic rationality” to the “demands of the heart. Connolly: “To occupy territory . are better placed to meet than liberalism. Noting that Australia is the country with the highest percentage of foreigners. but civil discourse in the public square has its limits when “we have no common universe of discourse. When Faiths Collide. To become territorialized is to be occupied by a particular identity”. Quoting William E. even when the stranger metamorphoses into the terrorist (a word which for him connotes both terra and terror 3). 2005). indeed is. A civil pluralism would mean more than “free-form. Hospitality. Hospitality implies acceptance. . interfaith achievement”2 by setting up a dialogue across the centuries between some of the world’s great religious traditions and modernity at a deep philosophical level. xxii. Martin E. 70. a theology and could be shared with Islam. Marty.” namely humility and hospitality. drawing on her Quaker tradition and Bonhoeffer’s explorations of silence as “the creaturely reality that is least unlike God. John Courtney Murray. 1995). Muers.”1 whereas Burrell in Faith and Freedom celebrates Aquinas’s “intercultural. in medical practice.452 j o u r na l o f r e l i g i o u s h i s to ry approaches the need for “communicative non-violence” obliquely. and this is already a step too far for many religious people. Hospitality also presupposes civility. 142. including theologians (Marty asks why there are no Jewish pluralists apart from Dan Cohn-Sherbok. 66. Marty. if they would only exploit their own resources for peacemaking. Marty. © 2007 The Author Journal compilation © 2007 Association for the Journal of Religious History . Marty identifies the stranger as a challenge that the religions. richer.”6 Doing away with religion is no solution. Marty envisages a “religiously informed civic pluralism”5 which arises from. nor is the rigid laicité which has led to such an impasse in France. When Faiths Collide. The threat posed by the stranger cannot be kept at a distance or neutralised by pluralism. 4. whose limitations become apparent in a post-9/11 world of global insecurity.

that the resurrection is God’s hearing of God’s own Word.16 For Bonhoeffer. does so in a very indirect way.” so it is understandable that there is a single-mindedness about it that eschews protracted debate on underlying issues.”15 This implies that the silence of God as thought from the resurrection is the silence of a listener. . When Faiths Collide. Marty. Christ.” the “point from which” one can live in a new creation discontinuous with the old. Ostensibly. 11. Marty. 159. 73. 2004). Rachel Muers.” The passive — in many cultural settings. what makes 10. however. Keeping God’s Silence. some of which are taken up in the other books under review. though nothing like this is alluded to. the resurrection as event for God. silence can “make sense. One senses here the paradoxes of the “dialectical” or “crisis” theology on which Bonhoeffer drew. Dialectical theology is in the background when Muers draws somewhat startling inferences such as “[t]he resurrection is . a n d c o m m u n i c at i o n 453 stories of the religions can spawn “lethal theologies. e t h i c s . are all challenged to become “belongers” in the emerging global public sphere. 12. which Muers characterises with Nelle Morton as “hearing to speech”12 — just as a child will speak because someone is listening — is God listening to God’s own Word. but not to the extent that either remains unaffected by the act of listening. 57. Listening is practised in a “communicative environment” in which “the relationship between speaker and listener is asymmetric. and the point from which God’s hearing of the whole creation can be understood . Muers. Rachel Muers. because the silence of the resurrection excludes “principles” by which any ethical question could be assessed. the resurrection is the “place to stand. . before we are. © 2007 The Author Journal compilation © 2007 Association for the Journal of Religious History . 14. Marty’s book appears in a series called “Manifestos. giving us what we are. 15. 72. Keeping God’s Silence: Towards a Theological Ethics of Communication (Oxford: Blackwell. Keeping God’s Silence. 16.”10 yet “[n]ot to decide about religion in public life is to decide”:11 the strangers. Muers.fa i t h . It leaves us with a fresh vision but also many questions. . When Faiths Collide.” unites the ultimate and the penultimate. she is not concerned with inter-religious relations at all. reminiscent of the Madhyamaka dialectic of Mahayana Buddhism. 50. Keeping God’s Silence. but also God — can be silenced when refused the courtesy of listening. Silence is neither speech nor the absence of speech. God’s silence. but according to who is keeping silence in relation to whom. women. indeed her book barely touches on any religion other than Christianity. . the “form of the world.162. though it begins with a passing reference to Buddhist and Daoist conceptions of silence as both closure and disclosure. if they only realised it. 13.”13 This raises the question which leads Muers to solicit the help of Bonhoeffer: “is it possible to speak of God’s communicative action in a way that does not perform some further act of silencing?”14 even in response to a situation of “distorted communication. 75. Keeping God’s Silence. Muers. Muers. Bonhoeffer can therefore reject both world-affirming and world-denying ethics in the penultimate.

a “quasi-‘speech-act’ conveying a predetermined message. It is not mere muteness. is to ask about communicative non-violence. 22. Muers. Muers. 82. . Keeping God’s Silence. . . 23. and actions to satisfy them. the “invasion” of privacy is wrong most fundamentally. Keeping God’s Silence. by which a self is produced. 148– 49. 201. privacy is never solitary and non-dialogical. Keeping God’s Silence. 107. the transformation of privacy involves being freed from the self-judging or self-justifying dialog with oneself. “To ask about keeping God’s silence . and that one’s inner life can be shared only with one “who knows how to keep silent as God does. but because it treats the person as one who can be known about without the acceptance of a corresponding responsibility.454 j o u r na l o f r e l i g i o u s h i s to ry responsible life possible. 19. which was to “take the questioner more seriously than he takes himself . not because it steals knowledge-property that belongs to somebody else. Theology needs to ask about its own ethics of communication. .” the absence of signification can function as the sign of “liminality. It interrupts the succession of supposed wants. . Muers.”23 Privacy as “forgiveness in advance”24 thus has a political dimension. is the focal point of communication. . .”18 The active listening of the wise contrasts with the fool’s inability to listen. for knowledge of one another .”19 As an “interruption to patterns of expectation. Silence.25 These are extremely suggestive reflections. in which Bonhoeffer’s axiom that “telling the truth” entails not just a proposition but a situation is developed into a warning against separating “information” from persons knowing and known.146– 47. There follows an extremely interesting chapter on God’s omniscience and the invasion of privacy. . Muers. Keeping God’s Silence. Muers. Muers. 209. in guarding against the imagined self taking over. Muers. Muers.”26 It 17.” “its truth happens only in community. is inseparable from responsibility for one another . 20. 25. 26. in other words. as evidenced in worship. 159 — as good a paraphrase as any of Buddhist karma. 212. Keeping God’s Silence. to accept responsibility for the self.22 This suggests that the public sphere is intimately related to the private. Keeping God’s Silence. Keeping God’s Silence.”20 Silence was fundamental to Bonhoeffer’s conception of Seelsorge. Muers. which while not explicitly addressing the problems of inter-religious dialogue can easily be applied to it. 24. entails the surrender of power and opens the way to experiencing the other as a oneself and oneself as an other (referring to Ricoeur). Keeping God’s Silence. On this view. especially regarding the silencing of women in Christian scripture and tradition. © 2007 The Author Journal compilation © 2007 Association for the Journal of Religious History . 18. 215.”17 But she also goes on to develop Bonhoeffer’s idea of the silence out of which Christology emerges as an interpersonal act. Keeping God’s Silence. In the case of what Bonhoeffer calls “the word as address. a performative speech act whose illocutionary force passes over into the perlocutionary force of personal encounter.”21 Silence. Muers. 205. Keeping God’s Silence. 21.

”37 Schweiker continues: “There is no moral order outside human beings making time meaningful. 39. Schweiker. Schweiker. Schweiker. But the primary interest of Muers’s engaging book is its original approach to a theological ethics of communication. 26. Theological Ethics and Global Dynamics. 73. 31. 2004). Theological Ethics and Global Dynamics. Schweiker’s bold attempt to construct a theological ethics for what he strikingly calls “the time of many worlds” is forthright in its demand for a return to the religious sources of moral thinking and the inclusion of the natural world within the scope of ethics. Schweiker. 12.”34 nor of the inclusion of forgiveness and redemption in creation.”36 Whereas modern thinkers like Kant delimited time by making it a form of the mind. Schweiker. Theological Ethics and Global Dynamics. 68. The threat he identifies is what he calls “overhumanization. Schweiker. Theological Ethics and Global Dynamics in the Time of Many Worlds (Oxford: Blackwell. the very question that will occupy Burrell. Schweiker. 7. Theological Ethics and Global Dynamics. 35. Theological Ethics and Global Dynamics. 78. 38.”29 His theme may be summed up in the words of Hans Jonas: “responsibility is about power. aesthetically pleasing in its density and subtlety yet at the price of relinquishing a more readily generalisable logic. 30. Schweiker. “‘time’ is a boundless phenomenon at the interface of nature and culture. 30. 37. 29. the “more than speakable”27 (paraphrasing Jüngel’s “more than necessary”). Muers. 33.”38 illustrating this with reference to the “moral and metaphysical dualism” of the Didache. xiv. how her imaginative reconstruction of Christian discourse would relate to the “silence of the Buddha” on metaphysical questions and the cultivation of inner silence in Buddhist meditation. Theological Ethics and Global Dynamics.” his leading question being: “is there the possibility of forging an awareness of human dignity not apart from or against nature but within the integrity of life?”28 and his basic axiom: “in all actions and relations respect and enhance the integrity of life. Theological Ethics and Global Dynamics. e t h i c s .”33 The prohibition of comprehensive ideals of the good laid down by liberals such as Rawls does not take account of the fact that “[p]luralism and globalization are deeply linked. In a sense the book is a sustained metaphor. William Schweiker. 93. Theological Ethics and Global Dynamics. Schweiker. and here Schweiker links time and responsibility in interesting ways: “people inhabit time like a space in which they must orient themselves by what is deemed worth seeking in life. 27. which “begins immediately to participate in the ongoing event of world-making. xii. Schweiker sees political forgiveness as a stage beyond mere tolerance at which it 27. 34. Keeping God’s Silence. Theological Ethics and Global Dynamics. 33.fa i t h . 32.”35 This involves imagining moral space anew. 36.”30 and in the new situation of “global reflexivity”31 the ethicist must address the “new reach. Theological Ethics and Global Dynamics. © 2007 The Author Journal compilation © 2007 Association for the Journal of Religious History .39 Echoing Marty’s concern with the political dimension of forgiveness. a n d c o m m u n i c at i o n 455 is also to ask about God.”32 the “fantastic expansion of human power. too. Schweiker. 28. Theological Ethics and Global Dynamics. Schweiker. One cannot help thinking. 213–14.

Schweiker. “the ‘world’ is simply a name for the conglomerate of diverse. 46. Schweiker. Each of the books under review exemplifies this problem in its own way. 44. 141. The gratuitous violence of movies such as Natural Born Killers. thus.” which provide motivations for actions. Schweiker. for instance. as the basis of moral comparison across religions. Theological Ethics and Global Dynamics. 41. or Russel McCutcheon). Responsible forgiveness involves restorative justice: “Genuine restorative justice begins the political world anew. 122–23. is not the whole story of moral madness. are “reflexively interacting” in the sphere of “global reflexivity. rather than clashing.” whose ironies Schweiker goes on to illustrate from the Romantic hermeneutics of cultural identity and the human value-creation of ethical anti-realists. Schweiker.”46 Reason has its autonomy. they are.” because “the principles of toleration and restorative justice are not just political. conflicting but also interacting spaces of reasons” which. religious and metaphysical. 45. anticipating the “liberal” agenda objected to by Burrell. © 2007 The Author Journal compilation © 2007 Association for the Journal of Religious History . 42. Donald Wiebe. 157–58. Schweiker. which Schweiker. Schweiker.43 The exemplars of the “followability” of the divine commands offered by the sacred texts are discerned against a transcendent horizon.”44 The diversity of scripture offers a certain corrective to Levinas’s “immediacy of the ought at the birth of moral subjectivity. the result could be “moral madness. 139. The abiding value of such maxims as the Golden Rule is that they continually reassert human worth as an intersubjective 40. asking whether “the form of moral consciousness needed for an age of globalized political existence [is] necessarily religious in depth and reach?” and suggesting that the task “requires a trans-human source of worth that exceeds the drive of overhumanization. Theological Ethics and Global Dynamics. while repulsive. of Robert Segal. which provides the basis for questioning the authority of a moral order based on revelation. Theological Ethics and Global Dynamics.”45 Schweiker proposes the concept “spaces of reasons. 146. 43. 117. politics without reconciliation is impossible”40). though the whole question of the relationship between rationality and religious conviction is controversial in the study of religion (in the thought. for such evil does not simply run its course to the point of sheer exhaustion. it is simply asserted that the religions offer a more hopeful alternative than unaided reason as a source of moral values. Theological Ethics and Global Dynamics. 112.”42 This basic position is not argued for. otherwise. Theological Ethics and Global Dynamics. it comes with a specific moral demand to respect and enhance the integrity of political life. Schweiker. in fact. The sacred texts of the great religious traditions provide images of alternative worlds whose self-immediacy must not be allowed to degenerate into violence.”41 In support of this Schweiker reiterates his basic thesis. “[s]cripture is a sacred but also a profoundly moral space. formulates as “how we fashion concrete moral existence in the light of the multiplicity of possible lives mediated to us” by the traditions.456 j o u r na l o f r e l i g i o u s h i s to ry becomes possible to confront the intolerable (with reference to Hannah Arendt: “reconciliation without politics is impotent. Theological Ethics and Global Dynamics. Theological Ethics and Global Dynamics.

and we can learn to accept diverse ways of arriving at conclusions. Christian God). Hindu God. which is why “[t]he evil will is impervious to moral claims. the only one of the four books under review that is truly inter-religious in conception and execution. and the school as metaphors of the struggle for wholeness. Moral living presupposes the desire to live rightly. Dismissing the attempts of process theology to reinterpret creation as creativity. In Burrell’s view this is bound up with the insight that God is not simply an item in the universe. What interests Burrell in all of them is creation as the setting for freedom. Theological Ethics and Global Dynamics. 192. the garden. The book deserves specialist reviews. we will find that we can employ the skills learned in our tradition to follow reasoning in another”49 (just as Francis Clooney does in his carefully reasoned exercise in “comparative theology”. 202. Muslim. circling again and again the connections between the basic problems of creation and freedom from the perspectives of very different medieval thinkers (Aquinas and Scotus) and their Jewish and Muslim forbears (Maimonides and al-Ghazali. for if creation itself is fully free and not a necessary emanation from a first principle continuous with it. among others). and Christian thinkers. 48. Theological Ethics and Global Dynamics. a n d c o m m u n i c at i o n 457 good. but as one formed in the tradition in which it stands I feel I can at least venture an assessment in the comparative context already established. and he concludes by reasserting his conviction that “the religions are treasure troves of symbolic resources for ethical thinking. which it will surely receive. 213.”47 Human worth is not reducible to human power. e t h i c s . © 2007 The Author Journal compilation © 2007 Association for the Journal of Religious History . Schweiker. 49. Burrell stays with the question that occupied the ancients: how can a creator who is one and eternal be inferred from a creation that is manifold 47. David Burrell. Schweiker uses play.”48 There is something pontifical about Schweiker’s exalted diction. and while those of a theological persuasion will readily give assent to his scenario of the religions as moral resources for an ethic of human and natural integration. showing awareness of comparable Hindu and Buddhist philosophies. and it is at this point that theological humanism reasserts the role of transcendence in guaranteeing freedom — a question which Burrell takes up from a rather different point of view. then the telos of creation as an intentional act corresponds in some way to the telos of human freedom. which is where the medievals unwittingly draw near to Indian philosophers such as Sankara. Faith and Freedom: An Interfaith Perspective (Oxford: Blackwell. “Once the idol of pure reason has been shattered. this reviewer is left with a sense of unease at having been persuaded rhetorically without being convinced rationally. 2004). as the ideology of modernity would have it. Schweiker. Burrell explores the ways in which faith and reason were mutually normative in the thirteenth century. which is thus much more than mere “choice” among possible outcomes. Burrell’s book admirably fulfils this promise. The problem was also implicit in Muers’s use of theology: at what point do — may — religious convictions be brought to bear on ontology and ethics? The question is satisfyingly explicit throughout Burrell’s closely argued yet lightly written analysis of representative Jewish.fa i t h .

there can be nothing between God and creation. we do not “choose” our ultimate end. Al-Ghazali therefore rejected Muslim mystics such as al-Hallaj who claimed identity with the One (“I am truth”). Burrell. Faith and Freedom. Faith and Freedom. and neither God’s freedom to create nor our fundamental orientation of created freedom can be construed as simply making a choice among “possibles. © 2007 The Author Journal compilation © 2007 Association for the Journal of Religious History . is the “hidden element in the philosophy of St Thomas. however. indeed (in a recurring reference to Josef Pieper). thus ordered from and to a creator. “faith” has been normative for ontology. affirmed that thought cannot retrace the path of becoming to a First. which allows us to understand how for God the future is the present. enhanced by the concept of eternity. The Jewish philosopher Maimonides. by analogy. Faith and Freedom. 52. Burrell. working in an Islamic context. In a fascinating chapter Burrell shows how Maimonides and Aquinas could be said to have bounced ideas off one another over the centuries: for Maimonides. 94.51 The mode of the divine presence is the actuality of “to-be”. Muslim. as freely created free creatures. proposed the superiority of the artisan’s practical knowledge of what he makes as a metaphorical alternative to neo-Platonist emanationism. This is Aquinas’s cue to demonstrate how the order of creatures to a transcendental cause can be captured by the use of words “somewhere between pure equivocation and simple univocity. Burrell. and this in turn helps to solve the problem of God’s knowledge of events before they take place.” in other words. 53. esse. Burrell. therefore. Whereas for Aquinas “intellect aspires to know what is the case” — not “Being” as a “something” — in Scotus we find “the essence taken ‘absolutely’”53 as the “thusness” (haecceitas) of individual things and as such the object of the 50. 116. does not qualify as creation. 51. but he does have something in common with Augustine’s reliance on the heart over the intellect.”52 This is particularly important because. Creation. not just because the Qur’an says it can’t. as a point-by-point confrontation with Scotus shows. though we are free regarding the means to attain it. Aquinas accepted this solution. whom Burrell has translated. but because to posit any such origin continuous with the world would be to make it part of the world. necessary emanation. and Christian thinkers. nor — as the Islamic thinkers insisted — could there be plurality in God. 9.” Not all Aquinas’s contemporaries agreed with this radical approach. The theory of participation cannot sufficiently explain the difference between God’s knowledge and our knowledge. Faith and Freedom. For Jewish. 67–68.458 j o u r na l o f r e l i g i o u s h i s to ry and temporal? Understanding eternity as “simpleness” — in one of many striking formulations by Aquinas: “eternity measures to-be (esse)”50 — Burrell acknowledges that a divinity entirely outside the sphere of becoming must be radically unknowable. dependent beings can be shown to be independent agents. which allows us to make statements about the One which do not distort the creator-creature relation and are compatible with all three Abrahamic traditions. But the medieval Christian thinkers were not the first to recognise this: al-Ghazali. 64.

but act. 135.” an “act. can be likened to Sankara’s notion of nonduality: the distinction does not amount to a separation.” It is esse which accounts for whatever similarity can be had between creator and creature. is a logical. as Ibn-Sina (Avicenna) supposed. on the other hand. Faith and Freedom. any kind of “predestination” that would imply the withholding of foreknowledge of decisions not yet made is incoherent. then. esse) is not an accident. Being this precise individual is not the same as being precisely one of a kind. freedom is not constrained by divine aid. just 54. 58. freedom is simply the uncaused agency of “self-starters. For Aquinas. interpreted as judgement. for Aquinas the will is an intellectual appetite. lifedecisions. 109. 107. Thus it is that for Scotus the possible has priority over the actual. 59. just as creation implies the practical knowledge that arises from making.”59 can determine that existence (“to-exist”. 55. Burrell. Faith and Freedom. Suarez. For Scotus. a view Scotus bequeathed to modern thinkers. there is a “concurrence” of intellect and will to “elicit” a free act. nor is it deterministic. Faith and Freedom. prepared for by the isolation of the will from intellect by Scotus.56 hence. which subverts the Thomistic “analogy of being” by inverting it. as though God could be pictured as one more being over against the universe. According to Maimonides’s criteria for “participation. which is participated being.58 That creation is the unconstrained act of a divine artisan is known only by revelation. for we have already consented to our orientation to our ultimate end. Burrell. in this “fragile synthesis. Analogy for Aquinas. too. this means that “analogical discourse needs no univocal ground”.” in the tradition favoured by Burrell freedom is essentially response to the free and intentional act of creation. and Kant. It is this question of “created freedom” that occupied al-Ghazali. Faith and Freedom. Faith and Freedom. Burrell. For him. 56. implying that freedom is a kind of indifference. whereas for Aquinas it is the other way around. 100. Faith and Freedom.”54 Aquinas is interested in the use of language over and above its structure. nor is creation a “choice among possible scenarios”.fa i t h . 105. not a metaphysical category. Indeed. Burrell. in a way that bears comparison with those strands of Indian philosophy that are not strictly monist. 120. a n d c o m m u n i c at i o n 459 intellect. Freedom is not merely auto-determinism. created esse brings them so close that the non-reciprocal relation of dependence. 57.”57 “Willing” is not a separate act. involve discernment over and above mere choice. Burrell. existence is not a property but a “perfection.55 if they are to be used accurately. “one’s view of human freedom parallels one’s view of creation. but reason. e t h i c s . then. such as the option for a vocation or the commitment to a partner.” the assertion of which adds the dimension of “judgement” to the descriptive proposition. © 2007 The Author Journal compilation © 2007 Association for the Journal of Religious History . on the other hand. both “being” and “true” must be used analogously. Burrell. rather. For Aquinas. Whereas for the worldview of modernity. He is thus able to formulate “the difference which existence makes without having to locate it as a feature of things.

for Aquinas. the free act of creation does not require an initial moment. Faith and Freedom.”63 Even after its masterly transposition into contemporary terms by Bernard Lonergan. and Muslims wrestled with God as the unitary source of all-that-is. At the level of understanding. not in the form of our expressions. which would direct [the will] to its true end. But Christians are dealing with “creation-cum-redemption.” but is discerned as “the primary ‘grace’ or gift. requiring a separate act of the autonomous will to affirm existence. 171. but in the ways we use them. Burrell.” the irreducible difference between creator and creature. 65. Aquinas’s realism is not of a conceptual sort.’”62 but it allows us to understand how “[w]e can locate the act of judgement. it means that creation cannot be understood as necessary emanation. Burrell. Faith and Freedom. 185. but the intellectual act of judgement. Burrell. the act of intellection terminates in the essence. Faith and Freedom. 64. they not only manifest surprising links with contemporary philosophies but also represent “a community’s experience with revelation. for whom the act of creation is orientated to esse. Esoteric as these medieval discussions may seem. 208.61 For Aquinas. but one which demands an act of the intellect subsequent to understanding: judgement. For al-Ghazali. Burrell.”60 For Scotus. Burrell. Faith and Freedom. After the Enlightenment’s pretensions to resolve religious differences by reason alone have been shaken by the demise of Eurocentric “universality. Burrell. © 2007 The Author Journal compilation © 2007 Association for the Journal of Religious History . Burrell.460 j o u r na l o f r e l i g i o u s h i s to ry as human and divine will “cooperate” to produce “a fully free act. 67. 62. “the effort cannot be solely intellectual” if this is to be grasped. his epistemology is compatible with the most far-reaching historical and hermeneutical criticism. 236. 66. for creation ex nihilo is not the same thing as creation de novo. This is a level of reflection comparable to Sankara’s non-duality. Faith and Freedom.” in such a context.” prompted by revelation: being is being-related. for Aquinas.” for “the doctrine of creation envisages far more than origins: the very meaning and destiny of the universe are at stake.”65 Drawing on Sokolowski. Faith and Freedom. Faith and Freedom. 63. Burrell.66 for Maimonides. Burrell dwells on what he simply calls “the distinction.”64 Precisely this is the context in which Jews.”67 and it was the Christological controversies that forced them to clarify “the distinction. In short.” “Creation. the “notion of being is ‘irreducibly analogous. is not reduced to a “mere given. 184. 61. Christians. this subtle yet powerful epistemology is easily misunderstood.” this mode of argument becomes interesting again as an alternative to mere relativism and at the same time a bridge to Hindu and Buddhist “theologies. 199. 225. Neither liberal theology nor process theology nor the theology 60. Faith and Freedom. grasping the existing individual involves not only the “insight into image” (conversio ad phantasma) which progressively yields conceptual knowledge. 186.

255. while Schweiker acclaims the religions as moral resources without specifying where their resources lie. My main criticism is that. e t h i c s . Faith and Freedom. a n d c o m m u n i c at i o n 461 of the cross proposed by Moltmann and Jüngel do justice to this: the “philosophy” of creation is not just a preliminary. © 2007 The Author Journal compilation © 2007 Association for the Journal of Religious History . narratives shaped by lives that embody different doctrines yet resonate with one another across the ages and the traditions. It was at this point in writing this review that news came of the terrorist attacks in London on 7 July 2005. Theology. Muers’s sensitive exploration of silence only hints at dialogue with Buddhist and Daoist experience. 256. has an agenda: his frequent deprecation of “mere choice” as no substitute for genuine freedom and his nods of approval to advocates of “radical orthodoxy” such as John Milbank are pointers to his distinctive stance. Marty. demonstrates how hard-won real complementarities are.fa i t h . and I do so now with added emphasis. for it adds the pragmatic dimension of communication to the semantics of doctrine and the syntax of argument and begins to explain how understanding between religious traditions could be achieved in practice. who unfolds an admirable vision of how ethics could be transformed by the religions in an age of global reflexivity. as Burrell shows from the autobiographies of Augustine and the Jewish Holocaust victim Etty Hillesum. Burrell. but even he has only brief references to Jewish. despite their occasional abstruseness. sets the scene by reconceiving what a pluralist society could be in a time of global religious interaction. is continually transformed by communities and their languages. Faith. Faith and Freedom. of course. who as a Catholic theologian learnt Arabic and spent time in Muslim countries to equip himself for the task. and Schweiker. Burrell. But his sense of humour and the lightness of his style do as much as the rigour of his thinking to recommend his approach. certainly. but is guided by faith. what differentiates them and under what conditions they could be deployed without creating further problems. faced with new tasks which outstrip its present resources. Muslim. of course. Only Burrell. is not explanation but conviction. with the exception of Burrell’s sub-plot of dialogue with Zen and Advaita. and Buddhist thinking. they give only a passing nod to elements in traditions other than the Christian which could challenge and complement their own thinking. even among traditions as closely related as the Abrahamic. This is not to abandon truth. 69. as philosophers in all three monotheistic traditions affirmed. secure in her Jewish identity. rather intellectualist discussion in the light of it. each make important contributions to the clarification of practical problems of mutual exclusion and global injustice at the beginning of a new (some would say: “post-9/11. who was invited to write a manifesto. just as the subtlety of Muers’s use of language enhances her equally rigorous 68. writes cheekily: “Yes. Like Marty. I had intended to conclude by saying that these books. only “a monocultural attitude of certainty in which we know that we are right.” others “post-modern”) era. and why ever not?”69 It is a great pity that Burrell does not develop this insight and rework the foregoing.”68 Etty. Burrell. Christianity.

Marty’s book deserves wide dissemination and could stimulate discussion in any reasonably informed seminar or reading circle. inevitably contain overlaps and repetitions. Albeit for different reasons. but could be tackled with great profit by senior semester and graduate students.462 j o u r na l o f r e l i g i o u s h i s to ry conceptual analysis. but apart from becoming very familiar with the authors’ favourite references and turns of phrase the reader is actually helped by this inbuilt redundancy to come to grips with some very demanding trains of thought. as in the cases of Schweiker and Burrell. the other three presuppose a considerable background in western philosophy and Christian theology. © 2007 The Author Journal compilation © 2007 Association for the Journal of Religious History . Collected papers. each is highly recommended.

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