Philosophical Theology for Interreligious Dialogue

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A Philosophical Theology for Interreligious Dialogue by John N Veronica on Friday, 03 June 2011 at 22:22 Overview of a Pneumatological Philosophical Theology by John Sobert Sylvest 2011© the Spirit woos creation forth• makes this way south & that way north• invites each blade of grass to green! horizons, boundaries, limits, origins• perimeters, parameters, centers, margins• we're given freedom in between! thus truth & beauty & goodness grow• thus lizards leap & roosters crow• and dawns break with each new day! good news is ours to be believed• love freely given if received• the Spirit in our heart will stay! WHERE FAITH IS CONCERNED - there is something elegant in Kung's rendering of faith as a justified fundamental trust in uncertain reality. What needs heavy nuance is the concept "justified" and just how broadly or narrowly it might be variously conceived by different folks. I will defend a broad conception that includes both epistemic and prudential criteria but also relational norms. We must go beyond conventional rationality but we mustn't go without it; we must be transrational but not arational (re: our ultimate concerns - cf Tillich). Where one begins on the faith journey vis a vis belonging, desiring, behaving & believing or community, cult(ivation), code & creed (and I believe we can begin in media res - in the middle or anywhere) and to what degree one aspect is emphasized or de-emphasized, may not only be influenced by religious & cultural differences but may quite often depend on developmental and temperamental differences (such as ordinarily lead to different spiritualities within the same faith). And these aspects are not either-or dichotomies but 1
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Transcript of Philosophical Theology for Interreligious Dialogue

  • 1. A Philosophical Theology for Interreligious Dialogueby John N Veronica on Friday, 03 June 2011 at 22:22Overview of a Pneumatological Philosophical Theologyby John Sobert Sylvest 2011the Spirit woos creation forthmakes this way south & that way northinvites each blade of grass to green!horizons, boundaries, limits, originsperimeters, parameters, centers, marginswere given freedom in between!thus truth & beauty & goodness growthus lizards leap & roosters crowand dawns break with each new day!good news is ours to be believedlove freely given if receivedthe Spirit in our heart will stay!WHERE FAITH IS CONCERNED - there is something elegant inKungs rendering of faith as a justified fundamental trust inuncertain reality. What needs heavy nuance is the concept"justified" and just how broadly or narrowly it might bevariously conceived by different folks. I will defend a broadconception that includes both epistemic and prudentialcriteria but also relational norms. We must go beyondconventional rationality but we mustnt go without it; we mustbe transrational but not arational (re: our ultimate concerns- cf Tillich).Where one begins on the faith journey vis a vis belonging,desiring, behaving & believing or community, cult(ivation),code & creed (and I believe we can begin in media res - in themiddle or anywhere) and to what degree one aspect isemphasized or de-emphasized, may not only be influenced byreligious & cultural differences but may quite often depend ondevelopmental and temperamental differences (such asordinarily lead to different spiritualities within the samefaith). And these aspects are not either-or dichotomies but 1
  • 2. present, rather, in varying degrees.We do not reason, feel or will our way into believing that thepasture where the Shepherd leads us is green; that comes to usas one of realitys givens? Neither do we reason, feel or willour belief that lifes path is safe; that realization, too,comes only as pure gift? Ignatius prayed:"Take, Lord,receive, all my liberty, my memory, understanding,my entire will. GIVE me only Your love and your grace" ...So, faith, would be neither intellectual nor emotional norvolitional in origin, but holistically (existentially or withones entire being) and integrally (drawing on each humanfaculty as would be proper to its role) would respond (insofaras it is performative) to our changing expectations as theyare dynamically (re)conditioned by realitys GIVENness?It has the character of an existential-disjunctive, a livingas-if ... as if, despite realitys being awfully ambiguous forus and, apparently, terribly ambivalent toward us, love will,somehow and finally, orient, sanctify, empower, heal and saveus?And all can "expect" that such efficacies will also berealized proleptically (in anticipation) to various degrees intheir lives? Further, it can be "expected" that a few willeven realize them to a remarkable degree (liberated/unitivelife)? All of reality seemingly participates in ever-increasing degrees of autonomy, freedom increasing up anontological hierarchy, up a phylogenetic ladder, up atransformative trajectory (variously conceived acrosstraditions)? This generates a paradoxical situation whereby,ironically, it may precisely be that a kenotic surrender ofthis very growth in freedom just might free us to embrace theintra-objective identity of all determinate reality (Creator-creature-creativity as One;absolute unitary being) without anyoverwhelming fear of loss of the values we may have alreadyrealized (and/or expect to realize) through theintersubjective intimacy weve come to enjoy (Creator-creature-Creator Spirit as the Many; unitive love)?Sorting Truth Claims 2
  • 3. Whether embedded in discursive analysis or mythopoeticnarrative -Is this a claim that can be safely abstracted from its contextwithin the whole without doing violence to its integrity?rather than, to paraphrase C.S. Lewis, being wrenched from itscontext in the whole and swollen to madness in its isolation?And the general default stance would be that most truth claimsshould have some interreligious, intercultural significance ashuman beings are, for the most part, vis a vis the humancondition, similarly situated and, furthermoreDespite any pretense to the contrary, individual truth claimsare not going to be inextricably bound within or to systematicformulae because they are otherwise ordinarily going to berelated as individual strands of cable that collectivelyimpart strength and resilience one to the other (via theirintertwining) in a way that is much more informal. And thedistinction in play, here, is that between foundational andnonfoundational epistemologies, between deductive reasoningfrom a priori, apodictic propositions and a form of reasoningthat otherwise cycles through abductive and inductiveinferences in a cumulative case-like approach.Further, one must consider the distinction betweenpropositional claims and nonpropositional posits.As one moves within and across various communities of value-realizers, one must consider the nature of the concepts beingemployed vis a vis to what extent such concepts enjoytheoretic (negotiated), heuristic (still-in-negotiation),dogmatic (non-negotiated) or semiotic (non-negotiable) status.One must further distinguish between articulations of anygiven theory of truth (correspondence & congruence) versus aproposal for a test of truth (coherence, consilience &consonance) next between nomological(descriptive/interpretive) & axiological(normative/evaluative) truth claims and then furtherdistinguish between prudential (moral/practical) norms andrelational norms (unitary/unitive), the latter which foster 3
  • 4. realizations of absolute unitary being and/or intersubjectiveunitive intimacy, distinct realizations, to be sure, but bothfrom 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 leadto phenomenal experiences that do not so much lend themselvesto phenomenological descriptions (much lessMetaphysical/ontological hypotheses?) as they will otherwisebring about a practitioners affective attunement with realityvis a vis how friendly and safe it is notwithstanding allappearances to the contrary (ridding folks of angst, perfectlove driving out all fear)?These relational norms are discussed here in the context of apersonal God but certainly apply to degrees of intimacy inhuman interactions.There is a "Taste and See" approach to such truth claims thatengages our participatory imaginations more than ourconceptual mapmaking?This is not to say that empirical, logical, moral andpractical propositions are unimportant, only to realize thatmarital propositions are far more engaging and meaning-giving, inviting what I like to call an existential-disjunctive: "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 robustlyperformative, even transformative?Our existential responses can be mapped along either the axisof co-creativity(formative and redemptive poles) or the axisof codependency (a/pathetic poles)based on their frequency andamplitude, revealing behavior to be existential or neurotic,life-giving and relationship-enhancing or their opposite.THE PNEUMATOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE 4
  • 5. The pneumatological perspective engages an outlook that isincarnational, liturgical and sacramental. It embraces theessential Christological and pneumatological approaches ofAnglican, Orthodox, Roman and other catholic traditions whileemphasizing nonhierarchical vehicles in the practice of thefaith (not over against but as a complement to institutionalmodels of church). It enjoys an increasingly global P2P (peerto peer) interactivity among the worlds catholics.It is described using an indefinite article (a not the)because normative philosophical and interpretive theologicalmethods are autonomous.Furthermore, these methods employ falsifiable hypotheses andnot a priori positions.A metaphor that mixes both manufacturing and natural processesmay be helpful in understanding this perspective.References to a phenomenology, ontology or metaphysic may bereconceived in terms of raw materials. In this pneumatologicalarchitectonic (group of basic categories), these raw materialsare described as different types of relationships(intraobjective identity, intersubjective intimacy,intrasubjective integrity and interobjective indeterminacy).An inventory of these raw materials considers realitysgivens, its basic furnishings.What is called an axiology (think values) refers, then, to thesought-after products. These include end-products (intrinsicvalues), by-products (extrinsic values) and waste-products(disvalues and evil, which invite transformative processes).The end-products and by-products represent higher and lessergoods. The category of waste-products invites both theodicyhypotheses (why is there evil?) and questions of soteriology(what to do about evil?).Any discussion of methodology, including epistemology, may bethought of as processes. 5
  • 6. These represent the means by which we pursue our ends, thestrategies ordered toward our goals. They include ourdescriptive sciences, evaluative cultures, normativephilosophies and interpretive religions. They require prudentrisk management, both attenuation and amplification, orderedtoward the augmentation of value-realization. This prudentialjudgment employs an axis of co-creativity, where one polerepresents the high frequency-low amplitude approach of ourformative influences (think soft power) and the other thelow frequency-high amplitude approach of our redemptiveInterventions (think hard power).The aesthetic teleology (process ordered toward enhancedbeauty) of emergent reality does not forcefully coerce what itcan otherwise gently coax (or at least politely co-opt).Prudence avoids the competing and insidious axis ofCodependency, where one pole represents the low frequency-lowamplitude approach of an apathetic disposition (such asdepression and isolationism) and the other the highfrequency-high amplitude interventions of a pathetic over-involvement (such as codependency and militarism).The products that result from the processing of lifes rawmaterials are ordered toward a consumer, a human being, who isa radically social animal. In this mixed metaphor, then, anytalk of an anthropology refers to the role of the consumer.Different human value-realizations of the truth have beendescribed in various historical narratives that have beeninescapably eschatological (Spirit-oriented).Beauty has been celebrated in cultural (mostly individualized)and social (mainly institutionalized) realities that are,respectively, theological (Spirit-sanctified) andecclesiological (Spirit-empowered). Goodness has been advancedand preserved by economic orders that are essentiallysacramental (Spirit-healed).All of these value-realizations require a context of freedomadvanced by political realities that are soteriological(Spirit-saved). 6
  • 7. None of this is to suggest that truth, beauty, goodness andfreedom are optimally (or equally) realized in everyhistorical, cultural, social, economic and political milieu,only to recognize that it has been the Spirit,Who has gentlycoaxed and, sometimes, more coercively cajoled, reality on ajourney that is unmistakably pneumatological (Spirit-inspired).This is all to suggest that what we call the secular order isno reality from which the Spirit has been either partiallybracketed or fully abstracted but represents, rather,humankinds pneumatological consensus to date, even if such anaccord is somewhat implicit and unconsciously competent andnot otherwise negotiated through explicitly consciousdialogical processes. Other semiotic (think meaning) realitiesare similarly negotiated (our theoretic concepts), non-negotiable (our semiotic concepts without which meaning,itself, would not be possible), still-in-negotiation(heuristic concepts or placeholders) or nonnegotiated(dogmatic concepts) across the human community of value-realizers writ large.Thus we interpret the products of our trialectical axiology,the raw materials of our triadic phenomenology, the processesof our trialogical epistemology, the tripartite anthropologyof our consumer and the trinitarian theology of our Producer.Distinctions & Neologismspansemioentheismpneumatological consensus (the secular as)nomological vs axiological truth claimsprudential vs relational normsunitary vs unitive 7
  • 8. descriptive sciencesevaluative culturesnormative philosophiesinterpretive religionstheoretic conceptsemiotic conceptheuristic conceptdogmatic conceptintraobjective identity (absolute unitary being)intersubjective intimacy (intimate unitive communion)intrasubjective integrityinterobjective indeterminacysimple phenomenal experiencevague phenomenological conceptsrobust ontological descriptionsrisk management, both attenuation & amplification, orderedtoward the augmentation of value-realizationvalue-realizations asimplicit vs explicitintrinsic vs extrinsic rewardsend-product vs by-productaxis of co-creativity (formative and redemptive poles) 8
  • 9. axis of codependency (a/pathetic poles)theoretical theological capitulationpractical pastoral accommodationuniversal ethical norms of justice & ordinary virtue (moralityas 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 sanctifies2) history orients3) society empowers4) 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 afuture fullness. 9
  • 10. This would clearly differ from any overly dialecticalperspective that would essentially run counter to a robustlyincarnational and profusely pneumatological approach to all ofreality, even while recognizing significant differences in anydegree of cooperation with the Spirit. Of course, failures tocooperate might result from either inabilities (due to poorformation or even deformative influences) or refusals (knownto God alone).Also, this might differ, somewhat, from any Niebuhrian realismthat would draw too sharp a distinction between theeschatological and temporal significance of Gospelimperatives? For example, nonviolence then but not now?Or from any exegetical interpretations that would too sharplydistinguish between our personal vocations and politicalstatecraft? 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 nothere)?And we might introduce a distinction between the Gospelsrobustly unitive norms (how to live in loving intimacy withGod and others) and general revelations merelymoral norms(how to live in harmony with God, others, creation & self,pursuing whats good and right, avoiding whats evil andwrong), morality realized as a by-product of the former, anend-product of the latter, necessary in any case. 10
  • 11. Because of our radical human finitude and sinfulness(personal, social & institutional), any sanctioned departuresfrom these unitive norms would represent, then, no theoreticaltheological capitulations (eisegesis even) but, rather,practical pastoral accommodations (for example, regarding anyuse of coercive violence).At any rate, these unitive norms - and not any essentiallymoral norms, which are otherwise transparent to human reasonwithout the benefit of special revelation(s) - differentiatethe Gospel brand in the marketplace. Love is a suitable meansto the ends of justice but its unitive aims clearly exceedthose, even breaking open a new category.The whole point of my exploration is that we might morebroadly conceive just when and where and in whom we mightencounter the Spirit!The unitive vs moral norm distinction moreso differentiatesthe Old & New Testaments, as I see it. Keep in mind, though,that good people doing good things for good reasonscharacterizes moral norms. Our unitive norms entail a strivingfor loving intimacy, relating as lovers. So, what I am sayingis that morality is not what separates the Gospel messagesfrom other messages b/c anyone can do morality, which istransparent to human reason without the benefit of specialrevelation, which is why we see good people doing good thingsfor good reasons everywhere. The Good News tells us that weare loved beyond imagining by a God,Who wants us to relate toHim as Daddy, or, if one prefers, as Betrothed.To some extent, this unitive striving can be distinguishedfrom those practices of the East that are ordered towardgifting one with an experience of absolute unitary being,which I consider an intuition of intraobjective identity, our 11
  • 12. great causal connectedness, realitys immense solidarity. Theunitive striving gifts us with an 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 economyand every political effort, albeit in varying degrees.And the efficacies of the Spirit are being realized not justin the past or future but now, not just here and here butthere and there. And that the Spirits invitation takes us --not without but -- way beyond mere moral & practical concernsto robustly relational concerns.What is at stake in adopting an interpretive stance towardreality involves relational values & relationships, evaluativeposits of various types (truth, beauty, goodness,freedom/love), normative approaches (how to best avoid oracquire dis/values) and descriptive accounts (what is that?).To some extent, we can roughly map these endeavors as science(descriptive-truth), philosophy (normative-goodness) andculture (evaluative-beauty).Religion is an interpretive stance that takes us meta- viacreed (truth), cult-ivation (beauty), code (goodness) andcommunity (relational).The Spirit (based on Lukan Christology, too) orients,sanctifies, empowers, heals and saves us and these functionsare manifest in our churches, respectively, via eschatology,theology, ecclesiology, sacrament and soteriology,mapping roughly over an otherwise, again respectively, secularhistory, 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 andbelonging. 12
  • 13. A New Testament emphasis would, in my view, for purposes offormative spirituality/development, while viewing all of theseaspects as integral, would accord a certain primacy tobelonging, which then forms our desires, which then elicit ourbehaviors which will nurture our interpretive stance orbeliefs. And these beliefs engage our participatoryimagination way more than our propositional cognition, beingway more performative than informative, much more aboutpractical living than theoretical speculation.This does not correspond, however, to the Old Covenantmindset, which certainly values belonging, desiring, behavingand believing but seems to accord a primacy to believe thisand behave like that and then you can belong (and whats adesire?).What we are doing in our dialogue is a theological task.We areunpacking our densely packed jargonistic prose. There isnothing magical about jargon but it is an eminently usefultool of any trade that consists, usually, of a shorthand thatis highly nuanced, hence saving time and space.When it isused, no problem, but it needs translating when being taken toa different audience. And thats all that was about. And thisis aside from any discussion of ecclesiology or models ofchurch, which, again, I dont see as mutually exclusive. I dosee a role for experts in descriptive, normative andtheological sciences but that doesnt drive my pneumatology orview of the Spirit at work in the world.We do want tocollaboratively pursue the most nearly perfect articulation oftruth in creeds/myths, the most nearly perfect celebrations ofbeauty in cult/liturgy, the most nearly perfect preservationof the good in code/law and the most nearly perfect enjoymentof fellowship in community and this will require our fosteringof Lonergans conversions: intellectual, affective, moral,sociopolitical and religious, all toward the end of optimalvalue-realization.In that, there are diverse ministries but one mission.Pan-semio-entheismI call my own approach a pan-semio-entheism precisely becauseI choose to prescind from any robustly metaphysical 13
  • 14. descriptions (an ontology) to a more vague phenomenologicalperspective, which categorizes our experiences of God inrelational terms based on our intuitions, evaluations andperformative responses that ensue in the wake of theseexperiences. Those categories include 1) intraobjectiveidentity regarding our vague intuitions of an absoluteunitary being 2) intersubjective intimacy regarding ourunitive strivings 3) intrasubjective integrity think ofLonergans conversions & formative spirituality and 4)interobjective indeterminacy which hints at themethodological constraints and putative ontological occultingthat thwart natural theological inquiry, as some claim in-principle (which is too strong a position to defendphilosophically) and as I acknowledge (instead for allpractical purposes) at least, at this stage of humankindssojourn.So, a suitably nuanced panentheism is not an ontology ormetaphysic or natural theology but, instead, a theology ofnature, which employs metaphor, analogy, myth, koan, song anddance. It does not aspire to describe what remainsindescribable, to say more than we can possibly know, does notattempt to prove too much or to tell untellable stories. Theabove categories certainly have ontological implications(which get analytically frustrated) that might flow from thosedistinct phenomenological categories of our God-experience butthey 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 lessabout causal joints and divine mechanics.We affirm THAT values are being realized from experienceswithout specifying HOW.It is worth noting that in our other metaphysical adventures,nowadays, we know better than to use a modal ontology ofpossible, actual and necessary but now substitute probablefor necessary. Confronted with epistemic indeterminacy andontological vagueness in navigating proximate reality, howmuch more folly we would engage when attempting to describeultimate reality? Still, everywhere in reality, necessitysuggest itself even as, nowhere in reality, have we found itphysically instantiated. Charles Sanders Peirce speaks of ourabduction of the Ens Necessarium and I resonate with thatinference, weak though it may be. I precisely make the sameappeal to the Jewish intuition of Gods shrinking to make roomfor reality and my own theology of nature then sees emergent 14
  • 15. reality participating in various degrees of semiotic freedomin an ontological-like hierarchy (crowned by the imago Dei).So, I dont embrace some neo-Platonic participatory ontologyof proodos, mone and epistrophe as a description ofmetaphysical reality, much less God ad intra or ad extra in anatural theology. But I do believe it is enormously helpful tohonor and thereby categorize the many human phenomenalexperiences of God that ensue from our subjunctive (as if)encounters of God in creed, cult, code and community in atheology of nature that is self-aware of its metaphorical,mythical, liturgical nature as qualifed by suitablekataphatic, apophatic and relational predication and generallyrevealed.The Trinity and Gods relational nature is specially revealedas Love, exceeding anything we could otherwise inferempirically, 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 anoxymoron, practical theology is a redundancy and naturaltheology is a fools errand. And where natural theology isconcerned, Im talking about the kind that gets allmetaphysical using somebodys pet root metaphor, be that beingor substance or process or social-relational or flavah dujour. Our realization of lifes values just seems a lot moreinformal, a lot messier, if you will, than all of theotherwise neat formulas that the theo-wonks are fashioningwith the aim of shoehorning creation & Creator into some OneSiZe FiTs AlL Gospel sandals. 15
  • 16. But a theology of nature that begins within the faith andspontaneously breaks into lyric and psalm and myth and koanand song and poem with metaphors cascading and collapsing ---engenders fascination and mystery, awakens desires andlongings, fosters communal celebrations and forms ecologicalsensibilities, reinforcing how everything belongs. In thisbelonging our desires are formed such that compassionatebehaviors naturally ensue.What we call our beliefs, then, aremore so interpretations, less so descriptions, what we mightcall 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 oneanother in solidarity and compassionate interactions thenensue toward others and our environment.Finally, since all interpretive approaches are inescapablytautological and all metaphors eventually collapse, one wayscience can enhance our understanding of Gods word andcreation is by providing more accurate descriptions for ourinterpretations such that our metaphors are more robust (lastlonger before collapsing - as we mine their meanings) and ourtautologies are more taut (tautologies do not provide new infobut that doesnt mean they are not true or that all areequally true; there are criteria for how well they "fit"reality).The Gospel Brand 16
  • 17. What differentiates the Gospel brand is an interpretation ofreality as both created & friendlier than we could everimagine. Authentic friendship, however, transcends the needfor extrinsic rewards (whats in it for me?) and enjoys therobustly relational intrinsic 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 religions core mission is tointerpret reality and not to otherwise describe, norm or evenevaluate it, all activities (e.g. science & moral reasoning)that are already transparent to human reason. This is notto suggest that it would not have moral implications for, ifwe act as if we really believe the Good News, we will thenexceed the demands of justice!An Existential Disjunctive - to live as ifChristian faith, as an existential orientation/interpretivestance (Christology/Pneumatology), has normative implications.Beyond our practical and moral norms with their extrinsicrewards, it introduces a new category of norms, the unitive,which are intrinsically rewarding. These unitive norms providesuitable means for moral ends but their aim transcends ourpractical and moral concerns.As an interpretive stance, Christian faith fosters ourimaginative participation in an intimate relationship with theTrinity thus orienting our historical perspectiveeschatologically, sanctifying our cultural aspirationstheologically, empowering our societal institutionsecclesiologically, healing our economic orders sacramentallyand saving our political endeavors soteriologically. And whatsingular reality orients, sanctifies, empowers, heals andsaves? Love. Love transforms our ultimate concerns. The normsof Christian love foster our realization of solidarity withall of reality. 17
  • 18. As an interpretive stance, Christian faith fosters ourimaginative participation in an intimate relationship with theTrinity thus orienting our historical perspectiveeschatologically, sanctifying our cultural aspirationstheologically, empowering our societal institutionsecclesiologically, healing our economic orders sacramentallyand saving our political endeavors soteriologically. And whatsingular reality orients, sanctifies, empowers, heals andsaves? Love. Love transforms our ultimate concerns. The normsof Christian love foster our realization of solidarity withall of reality.Communal Discernmentcommunal discernment - my favorite redundancy, and it appliesin science, philosophy & religion b/c, in my approach, atleast, epistemology is epistemology is epistemology (contraany notion of, for example, a religious epistemology vs othertypes). This is not to say that there is no such phenomenalexperience as "hearing from God" but, even then, theindividual 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 theprudential & theological judgments of community (anothersource transcendent of ones mere self).We dont want to denysigns & wonders, which may be proleptic realizations of whatmay some day be an eschatological fullness but we want toresist the tendency to sensationalize them in a way thatdevalues the splendor of the ordinary and the stupefaction weshould all be experiencing in every waking (and dreaming)moment at the ... the ... the ...Church Polity 18
  • 19. Beyond the difficult to pin down empirical data re: the exactnature, rates, causes & handling of abuse incidents, in onedenomination vs another (and some fairly good studies areemerging even as some fairly dubious & facile analysespersist), there is a related issue in play re: church polityvis a vis any question re: a grassroots peoplesreform of the church.It may be that, in theory, the sense of the faithful (sensusfidelium) or "what has been received & practiced by thefaithful" is what guides the Teaching Office (magisterium) butit seems pretty obvious to me that, in practice, this processhas been seriously flawed.Apparently, this is less the case with the methodologiesemployed in formulating & articulating social teachings evenas it has clearly been the case where church disciplines (e.g.celibacy, womens ordination), liturgical practices (e.g. opencommunion, sacramental reception by divorced & remarried) andmoral doctrines (e.g. contraception, homoerotic behavior) areconcerned. Catholic social teaching has experienced threerather seismic shifts in methodology. In Catholic socialteaching, Charles Curran describes three methodological shiftsin emphasis from: 1) classicism to historical consciousness 2)natural law to personalism and 3) legalism to relationality-responsibility.This methodological shift implicitly invites & 19
  • 20. 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 muchbroader & deeper consultative, active-listening process.The good news, then, is that the seeds of reform are there forthe planting if only the church could cross-pollinate itsseminal social doctrine cultivation and plant and nurture themin the furrows of its church discipline, liturgical practice &moral doctrine rows. This will require pulling the weeds ofpatriarchalism, hierarchicalism, clericalism, sexism and so onfrom those rows as has been done on the others. Or, to changemetaphors, one has reason to hope that the seismic shifts thathave already taken place already, to the edification of thefaithful and the world community writ large, will cause sometectonic reshuffling as their aftershocks emanate out fromthat epicenter.There are roles to play, then, in ongoing institutional reformand there are end-arounds, too, via non-institutional vehicles(not mutually exclusive). In some sense, it seems to me thatthe hierarchicalism & clericalism is not just a top-downoppression but that it reflects where so much of the laityremains.We dont want to over-identify THE church with eitherits institutional form or its clerical leadership but wecannot deny that their re-formation and ongoing transformationwould help advance the Kingdom. A significant butmarginalized minority continues to voice prophetic protest andlive in loyal dissent; others change denominations or employnon-institutional vehicles.Whatever the case, a denomination 20
  • 21. is but a means and not the end, thank God.The Role of GovernmentIn 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 thefederal level, must maintain the public order, best it can. Totry to accomplish more than that, especially in a pluralisticsociety, isnt workable and quickly devolves into thecounterproductive, precisely because coercive force encroacheson personal dignity & will demoralize "the governed."The government, then, is to be about the administration ofjustice, leaving the demands of charity to individualinitiatives. Even what have traditionally been called"entitlement" programs are not really in place to administermercy; rather, they are in place to maintain the public orderb/c w/o social security, medicare & medicaid, for example,society could otherwise be brought to the brink of chaos anddisorder via outright criminality. Thats why it is aptlynamed "social" and not, rather, "retirement" security.I would not go so far as to say that all can meet their ownneeds b/c, sometimes, due to bad luck, misfortune and otherat-risk situations, even lifes basic necessities will remainout of reach. I am also not suggesting that the collectiveresources of our population are so scarce that maybe even allof our populations basic needs might not be met by them! Thenuance is that I am saying that the government is in noposition to commandeer those resources that we, thru ourselfish habits of consumption, are not otherwise willing tofreely share via our individual and nongovernmental charitable 21
  • 22. initiatives.The Goose would selfishly fly away is the problem, Im afraid.If the government were really about administering charity andmercy, dont you reckon wed have done such a long time ago?The tax code should be socially & economically neutral & notused to incentivize the allocation of private capital. Theycan give the collected revenues away to whomever theyd likeper the wisdom of their appropriations commitees. Also, I hopethey seriously study the practicality of taxing consumption &not income & never both.In the case at hand, erroneously and so-called tax-breaks forBig Oil, the incentives should be repealed for allmanufacturers or none. Again, neutrality.To balance the budget, both spending cuts & revenueenhancements are needed & the lionshare of the latter mustcome from a rising ecomomic tide rather than tax hikes.Spending cannot be based first on societys needs b/c thosewill always exceed our available governmental resources, whichmust be defined as a sustainable percent of annual GDP. Needsrequire, then, some tragic triage decisions.Some always focus on the Goose & some on the eggs. No goose,no eggs! 22
  • 23. See Reasons and Values of the Heart in a Pluralistic World:Toward a Contemplative Phenomenology for InterreligiousDialogue, John Sobert Sylvest & Amos Yong, Studies inInterreligious Dialogue, Volume: 20 Issue: 2 Date: 2010 Pages:170-193 23