Postmodern Theology and Jean-Luc Marion (a brief opening move)

Postmodern Theology and Jean-Luc Marion (a brief opening move) June 10, 2009

I would like to spend some time expounding on postmodern approaches to theology beginning with Jean-Luc Marion and ending up at my own position on the matter where I will argue that a move to the “post” in Catholic thought is not an optional thing: it must be engaged with and, at the very least, taken very seriously.

I also want to say that, as we all know, ‘postmodern’ is a thorny and ugly word that has been mangled by postmodern supporters and detractors alike, so, please don’t get caught up with the word, plain and simple.

If Marion needs any orthodox street cred, then, know that Franciscan University of Steubenville (who many consider to be very orthodox for some reason; I plead the fifth) dedicated their annual conference on Christian philosophy to him last year. Add to that, their own English professor and local leader in Communion and Liberation (hardly heterodox, by most standards), Dr. Stephen Lewis, is the translator of his most recent book, The Erotic Phenomenon, and a scholar of his important work in philosophy, theology, and literature.

Let me begin here, briefly, by citing a passage from the foreword of Marion’s book, God Without Being, written by David Tracy, that is very descriptive:

One classic modern theological strategy wants to correlate the claims of reason and the disclosures of revelation. The other strategy believes that reason functions best in theology by developing rigorous concepts and categories to clarify theology’s sole foundation in revelation. On this second view, since revelation alone is theology’s foundation, any attempt at correlation is at best a category mistake–at worst, an attempt to domesticate the reality of God by means of reason and being. As the title God Without Being suggests, Professor Marion embraces the second, revelation based strategy for Christian theology.

I will resume by laying out Marion’s genealogical argument against being rooted in the history of the phenomenological concept of giveness (suprisingly rooted in analytic, not continental, philosophy) and the earlier error of the Cartesian cogito. From there I will explain the useful distinction of idol and icon that he uses to make his argument for a God Without Being.

Please let me know if this sounds like a good idea or not, or if I should try a different approach. After all, I am kind of just making it up as I go along.

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