Dogma without Dogma--except not! (or, how Theology Today told me to drop their subscription)

Providing a bit of a break from the multi-page metaphysical discourses today. Consider this a practical application quiz.

I.) "Buddhism has the characteristics of what would be expected in a cosmic religion for the future: it transcends a personal God, avoids dogmas and theology; it covers both the natural & spiritual, and it is based on a religious sense aspiring from the experience of all things as a meaningful unity" - Albert Einstein

Question 1.) Identify the blatant topical contradiction in this statement. (5 pts)

Question 2.) Analyze the final 'characteristic' (beginning at "and it is based") in comparison/contrast to the notion of 'meaningful unity' developed in the progressing argument of my Eth&t3rdPers series. Hint: pay special attention to the contrast between the positions/conclusions of that argument and Einstein's first 'characteristic of Buddhism'. (70 pts)

(Disclaimer: this quiz does not necessarily involve affirming that Albert Einstein was competent to speak on characteristics of Buddhism, or any other religion/philosophy/metaphysic/worldview for that matter.)

II.) "Eschatology's integrative power weakened [for me], first of all, as I reflected on the deconstructionist warning that all universal claims are inherently hegemonic, particularly those offered from the standpoint of privilege and power, a position I surely occupy. Even universal claims from below are suspect, though morally privileged, from this view." -- Clyde Steckel, emeritus professor of theology at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities, ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, explaining his grounds for fideism in the guest editorial for _Theology Today_, "Confessions of a Post-Eschatologist", Vol 64, No 2, July 2007, p 139.

Question 1.) If deconstructionists offer, from their standpoint of privilege and power (positions they surely occupy in the academic elite where they help train tomorrow's thinkers and teachers, including in seminaries whose graduates will go on to be pastors, professors of pastors, etc.), the universal warning that all universal claims are inherently hegemonic, particularly those offered from the standpoint of privilege and power; then should their own universal claim be trusted, accepted and applied as a ground for theologizing (or anti-theologizing, or whatever)? (5 pts)

Question 2.) Explain on what ground, assuming I bothered to accept the warning affirmed by Steckel, I should pay anything other than a priori suspicion to his own subsequent critiques of right-wing and left-wing socio-religio-political behavior? (His article is fascinating in several ways, though not necessarily in the ways he intended. A deconstructionist would doubtless have a field day with that, too.) (10 pts)

Question 3.) Explain on what ground, assuming I bothered to accept the warning affirmed by Steckel and/or his subsequent division of religious belief-content from the arena of reason ("and science"), I should continue to pay my own money to _Theology Today_ to send me essays written with some ostensibly theo-logical 'meaning'? (Such as Sally Brown's essay "Speaking Again of the Trinity", the next essay in the same volume, which I thought was quite good.) (10 pts)

Bonus question: explain how the rejection of dogmatic positions and/or the rejection of reason as an arena for religious belief, will be likely to improve and/or protect the reasonableness of the specific worldview-elements (i.e. the dogmas) of whatever notion it is you are trying to promote. (The use of truth-claims or reason in this explanation will be grounds for failure.) (100 pts)

The class may use the comment section below for sending in their answers. Good luck! (You'll need it on some of those questions...)

Jason Pratt


JD Walters said…
Nice job, Jason! I just couldn't believe that I actually heard an educated theologian endorse that deconstructionist nonsense. Talk about 'conforming to this world'!
Jason Pratt said…
UCC. Explains a lot. {g}

To be fair, he adds shortly afterward that it would, of course, be silly to simply dismiss all universal claims. But he never explains (other than sheer as sheer fideistic assertion I guess) why someone should bother to accept any universal claim, either. The end result is that his caveat kind of seems like a sop-defense thrown out to those who immediately picked up on the ridiculousness of the universal deconstructionist claim against universal claims: oh, well, of course it would be _silly_ to just throw out all universal claims. (Guess we can keep the suspicion-of-all-universal-claims claim of the deconstructionists, then, huh.)

The moral is this: those who will not have logic for their theology, will probably increase their level of meaningless foofaraw. (Most of the time _Theology Today_ manages to do better than this. Though on the other hand they spent the better part of two years on a negative-theology jag, too, recently. Not my cup of tea: I don't suffer the pain I continually suffer, for the sake of a cloud of unknowing... {grimace})


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