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from its context within the whole without doing violence to its integrity? rather than, to paraphrase C.S. Lewis, being wrenched from its context in the whole and swollen to madness in its isolation? And the general default stance would be that most truth claims should have some interreligious, intercultural significance as human beings are, for the most part, vis a vis the human condition, similarly situated and, furthermore Despite any pretense to the contrary, individual truth claims are not going to be inextricably bound within or to systematic formulae because they are otherwise ordinarily going to be related as individual strands of cable that collectively impart strength and resilience one to the other in a way that is much more informal. And the distinction in play, here, is that between foundational and nonfoundational epistemologies, between deductive reasoning from a priori, apodictic propositions and a form of reasoning that otherwise cycles through abductive and inductive inferences in a cumulative case-like approach. Further, one must consider the distinction between propositional claims and nonpropositional posits. As one moves within and across various communities of valuerealizers, one must consider the nature of the concepts being employed vis a vis to what extent such concepts enjoy theoretic (negotiated), heuristic (still-in-negotiation), dogmatic (non-negotiated) or semiotic (non-negotiable) status. One must further distinguish between articulations of any given theory of truth (correspondence & congruence) versus a proposal for a test of truth (coherence, consilience & consonance) next between nomological (descriptive/interpretive) & axiological (normative/evaluative) truth claims and then further distinguish between prudential (moral/practical) norms and relational norms (unitary/unitive), the latter which foster realizations of absolute unitary being and/or intersubjective unitive intimacy, distinct realizations, to be sure, but both from which solidarity and compassion seem to inevitably ensue? and which have profound existential import? The relational norms (ceremonial, liturgical, ascetical & mystical) may, perhaps, be the most interesting when they lead to phenomenal experiences that do not so much lend themselves to 1
phenomenological descriptions (much less metaphysical/ontological hypotheses?) as they will otherwise bring about a practitioner's affective attunement with reality vis a vis how friendly and safe it is notwithstanding all appearances to the contrary (ridding folks of angst, perfect love driving out all fear)? There is a "Taste and See" approach to such truth claims that engages our participatory imaginations more than our conceptual mapmaking? This is not to say that empirical, logical, moral and practical propositions are unimportant, only to realize that 'marital propositions' are far more 'engaging' and meaninggiving, inviting what I like to call an existentialdisjunctive: "I am going to live as if She loves me." And when so many efficacies ensue from thus living AS IF ... perhaps truth will come flying in on the wings of beauty & goodness? as it is not merely informative but robustly performative, even transformative? Our existential responses can be mapped along either the axis of co-creativity (formative and redemptive poles) or the axis of codependency (a/pathetic poles) based on their frequency and amplitude, revealing behavior to be existential or neurotic, life-giving and relationship-enhancing or their opposite. Distinctions & Neologisms pansemioentheism pneumatological consensus (the secular as) nomological vs axiological trut claims prudential vs relational norms unitary vs unitive descriptive sciences evaluative cultures normative philosophies interpretive religions theoretic concept semiotic concept heuristic concept dogmatic concept intraobjective identity (absolute unitary being) intersubjective intimacy (intimate unitive communion) intrasubjective integrity interobjective indeterminacy simple phenomenal experience vague phenomenological concepts robust ontological descriptions 2
risk management, both attenuation & amplification, ordered toward the augmentation of value-realization value-realizations as intrinsic vs extrinsic rewards end-product vs by-product axis of co-creativity (formative and redemptive poles) axis of codependency (a/pathetic poles) theoretical theological capitulation practical pastoral accommodation universal ethical norms of justice & ordinary virtue (morality as end-product) Christian unitive norms of love & extraordinary virtue (morality as by-product) A Pneumatological Consensus? In a pluralistic country, might we perhaps discern how much, on the whole, its people cooperate with the Spirit? Might we observe how well its: 1) culture sanctifies 2) history orients 3) society empowers 4) economy heals & 5) politics save ----------- its people? Might the secular there manifest, for better or worse, a "pneumatological consensus" with its implicit theology (sanctifying), eschatology (orienting), ecclesiology (empowering), sacramentology (healing) & soteriology (saving)? Of course, we are talking about proleptic (anticipatory) realizations of Kingdom values that are yet unfolding toward a future fullness. This would clearly differ from any overly dialectical perspective that would essentially run counter to a robustly incarnational and profusely pneumatological approach to all of reality, even while recognizing significant differences in any degree of cooperation with the Spirit. Of course, failures to cooperate might result from either inabilities (due to poor formation or even deformative influences) or refusals (known to God alone). Also, this might differ, somewhat, from any Niebuhrian realism that would draw too sharp a distinction between the eschatological and temporal significance of Gospel imperatives? For example, nonviolence then but not now? Or from any exegetical interpretations that would too sharply distinguish between our personal vocations and political 3
statecraft? For example, coercion there but not here? Or that would suggest so-called dispensational distinctions? For example, signs & wonders then but not now, there but not here)? And we might introduce a distinction between the Gospel's robustly unitive norms (how to live in loving intimacy with God and others) and general revelation's merely moral norms (how to live in harmony with God, others, creation & self, pursuing what's good and right, avoiding what's evil and wrong), morality realized as a by-product of the former, an end-product of the latter, necessary in any case. Because of our radical human finitude and sinfulness (personal, social & institutional), any sanctioned departures from these unitive norms would represent, then, no theoretical theological capitulations (eisegesis even) but, rather, practical pastoral accommodations (for example, regarding any use of coercive violence). At any rate, these unitive norms - and not any essentially moral norms, which are otherwise transparent to human reason without the benefit of special revelation(s) - differentiate the Gospel brand in the marketplace. Love is a suitable means to the ends of justice but its unitive aims clearly exceed those, even breaking open a new category. The whole point of my exploration is that we might more broadly conceive just when and where and in whom we might encounter the Spirit! The unitive vs moral norm distinction moreso differentiates the Old & New Testaments, as I see it. Keep in mind, though, that 'good people doing good things for good reasons' characterizes moral norms. Our unitive norms entail a striving for loving intimacy, relating as lovers. So, what I am saying is that morality is not what separates the Gospel messages from other messages b/c anyone can do morality, which is transparent to human reason without the benefit of special revelation, which is why we see good people doing good things for good reasons everywhere. The Good News tells us that we are loved beyond imagining by a God, Who wants us to relate to Him as Daddy, or, if one prefers, as Betrothed. To some extent, this unitive striving can be distinguished from those practices of the East that are ordered toward gifting one with an experience of absolute unitary being, which I consider an intuition of intraobjective identity, our great causal connectedness, reality's immense solidarity. The unitive striving gifts us with an 4
intersubjective, interpersonal intimacy. Both lead to compassion. The thrust is that the Spirit just might be at work in every history, every culture, every society, every economy and every political effort, albeit in varying degrees. And the efficacies of the Spirit are being realized not just in the past or future but now, not just here and here but there and there. And that the Spirit's invitation takes us -- not without but -- way beyond mere moral & practical concerns to robustly relational concerns. What is at stake in adopting an interpretive stance toward reality involves relational values & relationships, evaluative posits of various types (truth, beauty, goodness, freedom/love), normative approaches (how to best avoid or acquire dis/values) and descriptive accounts (what is that?). To some extent, we can roughly map these endeavors as science (descriptive-truth), philosophy (normative-goodness) and culture (evaluativebeauty). Religion is an interpretive stance that takes us meta- via creed (truth), cult-ivation (beauty), code (goodness) and community (relational). The Spirit (based on Lukan Christology, too) orients, sanctifies, empowers, heals and saves us and these functions are manifest in our churches, respectively, via eschatology, theology, ecclesiology, sacrament and soteriology, mapping roughly over an otherwise, again respectively, secular history, culture, society, economy & body politic. More commonly, we see the terms orthodoxy (truth), orthopathy (beauty), orthopraxy (goodness) and orthocommunio (community), as applied to our needs for believing, desiring, behaving and belonging. A New Testament emphasis would, in my view, for purposes of formative spirituality/development, while viewing all of these aspects as integral, would accord a certain primacy to belonging, which then forms our desires, which then elicit our behaviors which will nurture our interpretive stance or beliefs. And these beliefs engage our participatory imagination way more than our propositional cognition, being way more performative than informative, much more about practical living than theoretical 5
speculation. This does not correspond, however, to the Old Covenant mindset, which certainly values belonging, desiring, behaving and believing but seems to accord a primacy to believe this and behave like that and then you can belong (and what's a desire?). What we are doing in our dialogue is a theological task. We are unpacking our densely packed jargonistic prose. There is nothing magical about jargon but it is an eminently useful tool of any trade that consists, usually, of a shorthand that is highly nuanced, hence saving time and space. When it is used, no problem, but it needs translating when being taken to a different audience. And that's all that was about. And this is aside from any discussion of ecclesiology or models of church, which, again, I don't see as mutually exclusive. I do see a role for experts in descriptive, normative and theological sciences but that doesn't drive my pneumatology or view of the Spirit at work in the world. We do want to collaboratively pursue the most nearly perfect articulation of truth in creeds/myths, the most nearly perfect celebrations of beauty in cult/liturgy, the most nearly perfect preservation of the good in code/law and the most nearly perfect enjoyment of fellowship in community and this will require our fostering of Lonergan's conversions: intellectual, affective, moral, sociopolitical and religious, all toward the end of optimal value-realization. In that, there are diverse ministries but one mission. I call my own approach a pan-semio-entheism precisely because I choose to prescind from any robustly metaphysical descriptions (an ontology) to a more vague phenomenological perspective, which categorizes our experiences of God in relational terms based on our intuitions, evaluations and performative responses that ensue in the wake of these experiences. Those categories include 1) intraobjective identity – regarding our vague intuitions of an absolute unitary being 2) – intersubjective intimacy – regarding our unitive strivings 3) intrasubjective integrity – think of Lonergan’s conversions & formative spirituality and 4) interobjective indeterminacy – which hints at the methodological constraints and putative ontological occulting that thwart natural theological inquiry, as some claim in-principle (which is too strong a position to defend 6
philosophically) and as I acknowledge (instead for all practical purposes) at least, at this stage of humankind’s sojourn. So, a suitably nuanced panentheism is not an ontology or metaphysic or natural theology but, instead, a theology of nature, which employs metaphor, analogy, myth, koan, song and dance. It does not aspire to describe what remains indescribable, to say more than we can possibly know, does not attempt to prove too much or to tell untellable stories. The abovecategories certainly have ontological implications (which get analytically frustrated) that might flow from those distinct phenomenological categories of our God-experience but they honor, with reverent silence and respectful apophasis, the mysterium tremendum et fascinans. Our panentheism is then saying much more about the value-realizations that grow out of our God-encounters but much less about causal joints and divine mechanics. We affirm THAT values are being realized from experiences without specifying HOW. It is worth noting that in our other metaphysical adventures, nowadays, we know better than to use a modal ontology of possible, actual and necessary but now substitute “probable” for necessary. Confronted with epistemic indeterminacy and ontological vagueness in navigating proximate reality, how much more folly we would engage when attempting to describe ultimate reality? Still, everywhere in reality, necessity suggest itself even as, nowhere in reality, have we found it physically instantiated. Charles Sanders Peirce speaks of our abduction of the Ens Necessarium and I resonate with that inference, weak though it may be. I precisely make the same appeal to the Jewish intuition of God’s shrinking to make room for reality and my own theology of nature then sees emergent reality participating in various degrees of semiotic freedom in an ontological-like hierarchy (crowned by the imago Dei). So, I don’t embrace some neo-Platonic participatory ontology of proodos, mone and epistrophe as a description of metaphysical reality, much less God ad intra or ad extra in a natural theology. But I do believe it is enormously helpful to honor and thereby categorize the many human phenomenal experiences of God that ensue from our subjunctive (as if) encounters of God in creed, cult, code and community in a theology of nature that is self-aware of its metaphorical, mythical, liturgical nature as qualifed 7
by suitable kataphatic, apophatic and relational predication and generally revealed. The Trinity and God’s relational nature is specially revealed as Love, exceeding anything we could otherwise infer empirically, logically, practically or morally from nature. At least this is my attempt to grapple with the same issues. Systematic Theology? Sometimes, to me, it feels like systematic theology is an oxymoron, practical theology is a redundancy and natural theology is a fool's errand. And where natural theology is concerned, I'm talking about the kind that gets all metaphysical using somebody's pet root metaphor, be that being or substance or process or social-relational or flavah du jour. Our realization of life's values just seems a lot more informal, a lot messier, if you will, than all of the otherwise neat formulas that the theo-wonks are fashioning with the aim of shoehorning creation & Creator into some One SiZe FiTs AlL Gospel sandals. But a theology of nature that begins within the faith and spontaneously breaks into lyric and psalm and myth and koan and song and poem with metaphors cascading and collapsing --engenders fascination and mystery, awakens desires and longings, fosters communal celebrations and forms ecological sensibilities, reinforcing how everything belongs. In this belonging our desires are formed such that compassionate behaviors naturally ensue. What we call our beliefs, then, are more so interpretations, less so descriptions, what we might call existential disjunctives that suggest: if we live as if ... then thus and such! So, we participate imaginatively by celebrating with God, other, world and self as if we all really belonged to one another in solidarity and compassionate interactions then ensue toward others and our environment. Finally, since all interpretive approaches are inescapably tautological and all metaphors eventually collapse, one way science can enhance our understanding of God's word and creation is by providing more accurate descriptions for our interpretations such that our metaphors are more robust (last longer before collapsing - as we mine their meanings) and our tautologies are more taut (tautologies do not provide new info but that doesn't mean they are not true or that all are equally true; there are criteria for how well they "fit" reality). The Gospel Brand What differentiates the Gospel brand is an interpretation of reality as both created & friendlier than we could ever imagine. Authentic friendship, however, transcends the need for extrinsic rewards (what's in it for me?) and enjoys the robustly relational intrinsic 8
rewards (truth, beauty, goodness, freedom, trust, love) that are ends unto themselves, their own reward, in no need of apology or explanation. Now, "to transcend" does not mean to "go without" but, rather, "beyond." Still, for some, it might invite a re-EMPHASIS? Another implication is that religion's core mission is to interpret reality and not to otherwise describe, norm or even evaluate it, all activities (e.g. science & moral reasoning) that are already transparent to human reason. This is not to suggest that it would not have moral implications for, if we act as if we really believe the Good News, we will then exceed the demands of justice! An Existential Disjunctive - to live as if Christian faith, as an existential orientation/interpretive stance (Christology/Pneumatology), has normative implications. Beyond our practical and moral norms with their extrinsic rewards, it introduces a new category of norms, the unitive, which are intrinsically rewarding. These unitive norms provide suitable means for moral ends but their aim transcends our practical and moral concerns. As an interpretive stance, Christian faith fosters our imaginative participation in an intimate relationship with the Trinity thus orienting our historical perspective eschatologically, sanctifying our cultural aspirations theologically, empowering our societal institutions ecclesiologically, healing our economic orders sacramentally and saving our political endeavors soteriologically. And what singular reality orients, sanctifies, empowers, heals and saves? Love. Love transforms our ultimate concerns. The norms of Christian love foster our realization of solidarity with all of reality. As an interpretive stance, Christian faith fosters our imaginative participation in an intimate relationship with the Trinity thus orienting our historical perspective eschatologically, sanctifying our cultural aspirations theologically, empowering our societal institutions ecclesiologically, healing our economic orders sacramentally and saving our political endeavors soteriologically. And what singular reality orients, sanctifies, empowers, heals and saves? Love. Love transforms our ultimate concerns. The norms of Christian love foster our realization of solidarity with all of reality. 9
Communal Discernment communal discernment - my favorite redundancy, and it applies in science, philosophy & religion b/c, in my approach, at least, epistemology is epistemology is epistemology (contra any notion of, for example, a religious epistemology vs other types). This is not to say that there is no such phenomenal experience as "hearing from God" but, even then, the individual will be processing (chewing & digesting) it through (self-critical) lenses provided during formation in community & the fruits of same (or lack thereof) are subject to the prudential & theological judgments of community (another source transcendent of one's mere self). We don't want to deny signs & wonders, which may be proleptic realizations of what may some day be an eschatological fullness but we want to resist the tendency to sensationalize them in a way that devalues the splendor of the ordinary and the stupefaction we should all be experiencing in every waking (and dreaming) moment at the ... the ... the ... Church Polity Beyond the difficult to pin down empirical data re: the exact nature, rates, causes & handling of abuse incidents, in one denomination vs another (and some fairly good studies are emerging even as some fairly dubious & facile analyses persist), there is a related issue in play re: church polity vis a vis any question re: a grassroots 'people's reform' of the RCC. It may be that, in theory, the sense of the faithful (sensus fidelium) or "what has been received & practiced by the faithful" is what guides the Teaching Office (magisterium) but it seems pretty obvious to me that, in practice, this process has been seriously flawed. Apparently, this is less the case with the methodologies employed in formulating & articulating social teachings even as it has clearly been the case where church disciplines (e.g. celibacy, women's ordination), liturgical practices (e.g. open communion, sacramental reception by divorced & remarried) and moral doctrines (e.g. contraception, homoerotic behavior) are concerned. Catholic social teaching has experienced three rather seismic shifts in methodology. In Catholic social teaching, Charles Curran describes three methodological shifts in emphasis from: 1) classicism to historical consciousness 2) natural law to personalism and 3) legalism to relationalityresponsibility. This methodological shift implicitly invites & fosters the collegial participation of lay experts & commissions (iow, us anawim - of both genders, even), social & political scientists, academic theologians and so on in a much broader & deeper consultative, active-listening process. The good news, then, is that the seeds of reform are there for the planting if only the church could cross-pollinate its 10
seminal social doctrine cultivation and plant and nurture them in the furrows of its church discipline, liturgical practice & moral doctrine rows. This will require pulling the weeds of patriarchalism, hierarchicalism, clericalism, sexism and so on from those rows as has been done on the others. Or, to change metaphors, one has reason to hope that the seismic shifts that have already taken place already, to the edification of the faithful and the world community writ large, will cause some tectonic reshuffling as their aftershocks emanate out from that epicenter. There are roles to play, then, in ongoing institutional reform and there are end-arounds, too, via non-institutional vehicles (not mutually exclusive). In some sense, it seems to me that the hierarchicalism & clericalism is not just a top-down oppression but that it reflects where so much of the laity remains. We don't want to over-identify THE church with either its institutional form or its clerical leadership but we cannot deny that their re-formation and ongoing transformation would help advance the Kingdom. A significant but marginalized minority continues to voice prophetic protest and live in loyal dissent; others change denominations or employ non-institutional vehicles. Whatever the case, a denomination is but a means and not the end, thank God. The Role of Government In an ideal world, there would be no coercion needed at all. Government is a necessary evil because we are fallible, flawed, finite. Political statecraft, especially at the federal level, must maintain the public order, best it can. To try to accomplish more than that, especially in a pluralistic society, isn't workable and quickly devolves into the counterproductive, precisely because coercive force encroaches on personal dignity & will demoralize "the governed." The government, then, is to be about the administration of justice, leaving the demands of charity to individual initiatives. Even what have traditionally been called "entitlement" programs are not really in place to administer mercy; rather, they are in place to maintain the public order b/c w/o social security, medicare & medicaid, for example, society could otherwise be brought to the brink of chaos and disorder via outright criminality. That's why it is aptly named "social" and not, rather, "retirement" security. I would not go so far as to say that all can meet their own needs b/c, sometimes, due to bad luck, misfortune and other at-risk situations, even life's basic necessities will remain out of reach. I am also not suggesting that the collective resources of our population are so scarce that maybe even all of our population's basic needs might not be met by them. The nuance is that I am saying that the government is in no position to commandeer those resources that we, thru our selfish habits of consumption, are not otherwise willing to freely share via our individual and nongovernmental charitable initiatives. The Goose would selfishly fly away is the 11
problem, I'm afraid. The tax code should be socially & economically neutral & not used to incentivize the allocation of private capital. They can give the collected revenues away to whomever they'd like per the wisdom of their appropriations commitees. Also, I hope they seriously study the practicality of taxing consumption & not income & never both. In the case at hand, erroneously and so-called tax-breaks for Big Oil, the incentives should be repealed for all manufacturers or none. Again, neutrality. To balance the budget, both spending cuts & revenue enhancements are needed & the lionshare of the latter must come from a rising ecomomic tide rather than tax hikes. Spending cannot be based first on society's needs b/c those will always exceed our available governmental resources, which must be defined as a sustainable percent of annual GDP. Needs require, then, some tragic triage decisions. Some always focus on the Goose & some on the eggs. No goose, no eggs!
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