Why I am (not exactly) a theological realist

I find myself being a theological realist, but not in the way of certain schools of theological realism. More to the point, Barth and Luther compel me toward theological realism of the sort that refuses to be theologically anti-realist, but cannot therefore assert other realities ahead of God. I can't do process in the Whitehead or Hartshorne veins, much as I appreciate the scientific realism of their theological universes. If I confess God, if my politeuma really is from above, I am obliged to question the world's truth as it intersects God's truth. But the trouble with that perspective is that I don't see it used to go far enough. My truth is the world's truth. My interpretation of God's truth is also the world's truth. My theology is inevitably infected by metaphysics. All theology, indeed all thought of any sort, is infected by metaphysics. Theologies which claim their truths as God's truth have simply forgotten they have a metaphysic. In Heideggerian terms, it has never been revealed to them as not ready-to-hand, so they have never questioned its presence-at-hand.

Theological realism seems to be essentially incompatible with fundamentalism and foundationalism. As Barth said of the historical critics, however, it is often simply not critical enough. It seems to me that if you wish to do it, you cannot stop short of the aseity of God and its inscrutability. A Lutheran theological realist must find herself hove to by the deus absconditus precisely in the facts of revelation. The articula fidei steady us, but even they are only true in a derivative sense.

Does this make me an antirealist? No. God is true. Because God is true, then many things follow. And many other things do not follow. And I will not always know which are which. Theological language is not true simply because God is true. Its claims about the world are likewise contingent. Lindbeck is not wrong about doctrine just because God is true -- indeed, he believes as firmly in God as any man. This is related to his misgivings about theological language and its descriptiveness. The whole process of dialogical translation across sectarian barriers of religious culture is fuzzy precisely because neither of us is talking about God in terms which are absolutely true. And yet both of us are talking about our true faith in the true God. Fault linguistic relativism only when it truly is in conflict with theological realism -- don't assume that the two are in conflict.


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