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American Academy of Religion The End of Theology Author(s): Carl A. Raschke Source: Journal of

American Academy of Religion

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

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Journal of the American Academy of Religion, XLVI/2,


The End of Theology

Carl A. Raschke


In this article I argue that we have arrived at the "end"of theology. By

the "end"of theology I do not mean that theological reflectionand inquiry as

an academic undertaking

a widespread occupation theological discussions

historical and metaphysical moorings, which have rotted away. The article

of the crisis

of the radical verdict

concerning the

been enunciated in the past century by Nietzsche and, more strictly, by

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.

on the insights of the later

Heidegger, but does not merely "apply"Heidegger to a conventional set of

Heidegger'sphilosophy has been

unfortunately slurred over

"Heideggerian"theology is no more cogent than a squaring

been "onto-theo-

ontotheology, which at

as a discipline. The

transcendence of

concerned with the ens

realissimum and has based its

a subject, or as

the transcendental subject.

corresponds to the collapse of

with the removal of the


certitude from that

of this division. The Cartesian revolution shifted the foundations of

of the "constant presence" of the metaphysical object to

grounds of metaphysical certitude implicit in the

subject-object division in thought along

Heidegger holds that the end of metaphysics

language that serves to re-present the divine

deliberations on a particularmetaphysics of

manner whereby theological thinking has been

theology amounts to a passage beyond the traditional

the same time implies the transcendence of theology


and thus a of the circle.

Heidegger. However, the essay seeks to confront the exhaustion

"end"of the Graeco-Christian metaphysical tradition that has

of Western thought as a whole, especially in light

attempts to analyze the dilemma of theology from the standpoint

in the familiar sense have been cut loose from their

it will not persevere as simply that significant

has abruptlyceased, or that

in the foreseeable future, but

The line of argument draws


theological issues. The radicalcharacterof

by contemporary theologians,


Heidegger contends that Western thinking has

in nature. He calls for the "overcoming" of

as an object for


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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CarlL. CarlL. Raschke Raschke

the self-validationof the subject as arbiterof truth,implied in the cogito. Modern empiricism translatedtheCartesian cogito intowhatI havetermed

still kept intactthe subject-object distinctionentailedin

the experior. Butit

with the frame of referencefor


positionHeidegger dubs "subjectist." The article concludes with a review of some

theologicalwriting, including

WolfhartPannenburg, in


of theology, and considers what Heidegger means by thinking the

in the

aftermathof God'sdeath.

"unthought" as the "veiledarrival"of a new

theology. Italso inquires aboutwhat might lie beyond the"end"

theologico-metaphysicalpoint of view,

about changing to reflectionon the structuresof consciousness, a

samples of recent

that of David Tracy, Louis Dupre, and

illustrate Heidegger'ssuggestions about


presence of divinity

We nevercome to thoughts.They come 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

theologizing churchmen and academics alike?


when the business of

still thrives in the



multifarious "theologies"

of women, liberation theology, etc.) would seem to attest to the perdurance of

the occupation. Whoever blazons theology's "end"is apt to be singled out and be numbered among those familiar critics who bemoan the passing of the last


cacaphony of popularizers and special pleaders, or among those who hawk

some kind

talk"/ 1 /. But the end of theology signifies an historical eventuality which runs

deeper than either style or subject

the way in which the highest

object of thought, God, is represented and from the character of the subject who does the representing.

the "end"of theology we do not necessarily mean simply

Nevertheless, by the termination, or

which has been plied by theologians in the Occident for centuries. An equable



even the actual demise, of the kind of reflective activity

the crisis of Western thinking as a whole-from


Western culture-among

the propagation of "theological" books, not to mention the

of such-and-such (e.g., theology of play, theology


great systematic theologians and the consequent rise of a

of mystical or purely experiential alternative to traditional "God-

matter. The end of theology springs from

of labor toward theological clarification and inquiry will undoubtedly in various forms and guises, from time to time sparking new "insights"

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The Endof Theology


concerning the vocation of theologians. But such activity may be describedin terms of the familiar metaphor from Indian literature with respect to the continuation of the effects of karma:the potters wheel goes on spinning from its own momentum, despite the fact the potter himself has released his foot 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.

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 particular track of development within the Christian history of the West. In addition, the end of theology is relatedto the rounding 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/.

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 referencefor essaying a theological hermeneuticof the "Word

of God" / 3/. The issues raised by Heidegger, however, call into question both the topics and procedure of "theologizing" with the same force as it jars the foundations of current philosophical objectives and methods. The end of theology, together with the end of philosophy, derives from the "end"or final realization of what Heidegger has termed "objectifying" or "representational- calculative" 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 "placed"with the end of philosophy as a correlativemanifestaton of the end of Western thinking in what Heidegger has delineated as its historical, "metaphysical" mode. But, before we examine the signs of theology's "ending" that are evident today, we must review the general project of Heidegger's own thought which he has designed at the "overcoming [Uberwindung] of metaphysics."

The word "end" (as in the German Ende)

On the other hand, it is



envisaged the primary objective of his thought as the "overcoming" of metaphysics (cf. Mehta: 34). But why does metaphysics need to be overcome?

As soon as he had written his magnum opus Sein und Zeit,

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CarlL. Raschke

According to Heidegger,"metaphysics is a name for the pivotal point and core of all philosophy" (1969: 14). Metaphysics is the ancient science which asks


fundamental question about Being, about the "ground" or ultimate reason

for "beings"(Seienden) as they appear in the world /4/.

Yet, ever since the

early Greeks, who firstcultivated the science, metaphysics has been concerned

primordial "meta-"

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 ultimately be understood by referenceto other beings, or the highest being or 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 properlythought 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 particularway of thinking that has gained ascendancy for Westernman and is responsible for his current amnesia toward Being, evidenced in the end of philosophy and theology

exclusively with questions of "physics"/ 5/ ratherthan the


"representational"(vorstellend). Representational thinking is not so much a falsification of reality as a "limitation"in human experience which acquires an

unconditional character. Historically, 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 whereby a thing is "presented" as a "what"in "its sameness and constancy"

(1973: 60). This re-presentation is a movement of logical thought (i.e., thought as praedicatio, as judgment, as determination of a "what") away from the


manifestation which Heidegger describes as simple "presence"(German =

immediate revelation of the














primitive manifestation,

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The Endof 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


"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 datum"which can be utilized as a concept or sign for theoretical purposes, and 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 "standsover against"(Gegen-stand) the subject who poses as its master


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 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 represented not 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 searchfor the "being" which would explain the existence of other beings, as a quest for the supreme "cause"or

archP. Aristotle,

Anaximander, and the other Greek "scientists"as individuals engaged in the 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 God (God being understood as the Creator or Supreme Cause of the universe) /9/; whereas what is now understood strictly as "science"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.




and appears as

something "fixed" or

Representational thinking becomes "calculative"in its use and comes to






describes Thales,

Representational thinking in its theological and scientific


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

contrasts truthas aletheia with "theconventional

the representational thinking of metaphysics. In the latter instance truth is

regarded as "propositional truth," which "is only possible on the basis of

in its very essence. Heidegger

concept" which grows out of

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CarlL. Raschke

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 way in which beings "are"in 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, ratherthan 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/. 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

at bottom is simply

"thought about thinking"(1969: 21), ratherthan the "essence"of thinking, or thinking itself. But whatever certainty is established in the mapping of logical

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 ambiguity of mutual expressions. Heidegger traces the transition in Western thought from the recognition of truth as aletheia to truth as "certainty." This transition, Heidegger writes,



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

objectsfor subjects which are certain of the criteriafor 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. Initially, the subiectum does not refer to what modern

philosophy terms the "subject," but to the

"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"all phenomenal changes. Metaphysics endeavored to comprehend these irreducible elements and, especially, to

"logic"-the primary method

of ascertaining truth in Western philosophy-which








appear, but strictly as

"object"-what endures and is

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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

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

The genuine meaning of the subject in any act of predication is the self- reflective "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

science, which Heidegger ascribes to the

standpoint of Christian theology. Christian theology takes "faith"as its object (1976: 11); but faith really implies the self-legitimation of the subject. "Infaith 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 self-

guaranteeing (willing oneself)," or in other words,

distinctive subiectum whose esse

whom "certainty is self-consciousness in its self-knowledge" / 13/.

self-certainty of

iustitiaas the justification of the relationto

ustificatio in thesenseof theReformationandNietzsche's concept of justice as trutharethe same thing.(1973:97)


beings andof theirfirst

The genesis of the autonomous rationality of Descartes' cogito in the free self- determination 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.

IntheChristian religion Iamto retain myfreedom, or rather, init

I am to becomefree.In it the subject, the salvationof the soul, the

redemption of theindividualasan

is an essentialend.This

subjectivity, this selfness(not selfishness), is

just the principleof rational knowledgeitself.(1970:143,emphasis mine)

individual, andnot only the species,

Faith as self-authentication is transformed into the touchstone of rational

certainty, since truth is tantamount, as Hegel discovered, to the reflectiveself- unfoldment of the subject as the "notion" (1929: vol. ii: 234 ff.). German idealism, therefore, stands as the historical fulfillment under the rubric of

"logic" and "science"of Christian

secular phase of development. Theology stands on the

theology in its "extreme,"


It is



subjectivity, which in the final summation accords man as "the measureof all

things." Theology not only becomes anthropology, as Feuerbach proclaimed,

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CarlL. Raschke

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 but "the will to Power" / 16/. In Nietzsche the primacy of the subject as the

and unblushingly affirmed. Thus


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.

by Heidegger's reckoning constitutes one facet of the


"truth" is


In short, theology

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"the 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 statistical laws. The "end"of metaphysics in the modern world is visible in the

preemption of philosophy by science. Philosophy, which once subsisted in a 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 techno- scientific 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

"self-willing" or the "will

indubitable representations" which Heidegger dubs

to will" (1973: 48). Without the achievement of subjective certitude, 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 experience concurrent with the drive toward technological dominance. The pure representation of existing things by modern thought enables man to shape the world as completely amenable to

his will and thus gain total power over it. Thus, Heidegger comments, 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

the transcendence of onto-theology, whether it poses

metaphysics amounts to as "objectivist" science

or the "subjectism"[Subjectitat] inherent in theology.



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The Endof Theology


The Endof


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 subjectivewill, which "revaluesall values." One need only note the words of Nietzsche's madman:

"Whitheris God?"he cried; "Iwilltell

and I. All of us are his murderers."(1974:181)


Wehavekilled him-you

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 termsthe 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 self- distancing 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

However, the passing of the overtforms 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.

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


interpretation, it has sought to craft a hermeneutic based on the self-

metaphysics altogether.

Theology in the 1970s,

particular social

or cultural aims as the prius of theological

evidencing states of consciousness

especially the more "irrational"or "ecstatic"kinds. Descartes' cogito has been

superseded by the latter day experior.

of contemporary secular men and women,

noteworthy theological writings which

have appeared in the last ten years will underscore this

of course, within the scope of this essay to examine

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

A review of some of the more

trend. It is impossible,

fully the complex

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CarlL. Raschke

book by David Tracy, Blessed Ragefor Order. Tracy's book is an ambitious effort to chart a "revisionist 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 "pluralist context." 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 Christiantradition" (14). The "adequate

criteria"for doing this sort of theology are specific "representative facts" of history and culture (i.e., enduring myths and symbols from our Western religious legacy) which can be somehow brought into mediation by "critical correlation"with the meanings ascribedto our presentexperience of ourselves 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 contemporary secular (and, by extension, "religious")self-understanding, or in another sense "the genuine values of modernity" such as "openness," "autonomy," and "change"(175). The business of theology is not to come up 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'sdiagnosis of the subjectivist revolution in modern thought when he insists that theology must follow the "turnto 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, "forour experience'] today" (240). Another book which recurs to the experior in order to cement a new

foundation for theology is Louis

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"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 transcendencein the "self"- not the everyday, conscious self to be sure, but the "immortal"self which is the

matrix of the mystical experience. Such a self-the one apprehended in total

"inwardness"which the classical mystics named the "soul"-surpasses

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


determining subject"(6). For Dupre seems to misunderstandthat it is the very

Dupre's Transcendental Selfhood. Dupre




subjectivity "without rethinking the




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The Endof Theology


critique of subjectivity which lies at the heart of Heidegger'sprescriptionfor "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

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 metaphysics established the on e on or the "highestbeing" as first cause of an objective universe. Dupre's intention to coordinate the self- declaration of faith with the language of the mystics simply raises to a higher

(e.g., cf. Miller; White). The identification

level of comprehension the theological experior.

in this

context is Wolfhart Pannenberg's Theology and the Philosophy of Science.


Pannenberg undertakes in this lengthy and well documented

A third, and highly insightful, work that requires consideration


find a middle ground between the modern division of science as the method of empirical truth-testing and theology as the self-elaboration of Christianfaith.

Pannenberg cites "the disintegration of the traditional metaphysical doctrine

but still construed

in various degrees in other circles of postliberal thought, to mend the damage

by validating theological statements in terms of some privilegedrevelatory or

Theology's propensity to shun the objectivist science by qualifying its assertions as noncognitive

does nothing to justify the work of theological inquiry in the secularclimate of

the twentieth century. Theology

science of God," but not the same

sort of science implicit in the natural

the lead of Dilthey and the earlier

falling into the quantificatory

pitfalls of the contemporary social sciences. Theology as the "scienceof God" must occupy itself with a systematic and thematic account of all human

special attention to "religious

experience"which, for Pannenberg, involves "aform of explicit awarenessof

the total meaning of reality" (333). At this level theology can still conserve

all-determining reality"

immanent in the

defines itself as the "science of God," but only in the sense that is concerned

with the ground of

discloses God as the

specification of the individual

particular,theology does more than

in contemporary experience.

totality of human experience, future as well as past.

of God" and the tendency, preeminent in Neo-Orthodoxy,



epistemology of modern

must be restored, Pannenberg insists, as "the

sciences. Rather, theology should follow

architects of the "human sciences" without

experience, sacred and profane, but with

God as its central object, because God is "the

totality of finite reality and experience.



human experience in its historical fullness. Theology



human experience, yet without

subject. By appealing to religious experience in

legitimate the basic elements of meaning

experience "anticipates" the

For religious

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. 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-determiningreality," 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

notion of man as a res experiens, which provides the point of departure for

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


connection 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


appeal to "experience" is essentially an assertion of the primacy 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 re-







highlighted the

presentational thinking in its final, subjectistphase. Theology today stands as the living token of Nietzsche's prophecy that we have "killed" God, inasmuch

as it contrives its last defense by referring to the divine as an "object" that 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 referentor "thing in itself," but an "imaginative construct" adequate to our contemporary needs and experiences /19/ simply makes self- consciously explicit the historical fact that theology has come to be the self- projection 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 The Endof Endof

Theology Theology



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

A critic of a draft of this article has raisedthe 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'spremises can be expected to make the kind of "Heideggerian" moves the articledemands. The 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


"discourse"can invoke him as a muse for its deliberations /21/. The first objection that contemporary theology and Heideggerianontology 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 abjure this allegiance, since it would no longer be theology any more. But that 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.



or by attenuating him so that conventional



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

as we have maintained, with the terminal stage of Western metaphysics, which in turn implies the exhaustion of the meaning of its representations. One