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Jul 26, 2006


Leander Harding+

Gee Wiz, Your critique of my piece is that I am slow and unread. I am devastated. But what can you expect from a professor at an Appalachin Bible School.

Putting Kierkegaard and Schliermacher in the same bin seems extremely curious to me. I that Ks whole project critiquing things that S would have embraced.

Schliermacher is a great thinker but one who takes as a starting point the objectivist, positivist epistemology that Polanyi critiques. It is an attempt to accomodate the dogmatic tradition to a world view which was then seen as a juggernaught and which now has entered a phase of self-destruction leading to nihlism. So though the theology is not itself nihlistic it is based on an epistemology that tends inevitably toward nihlism and what Polanyi called Moral Inversion. Barth set out on his project because he recognized that the liberal Christianity of his teachers S among others did not steel the German churches from syncretism with Hitler's neo-pagan ideology.

Robert Jenson says Schliermacher is not to be despised. He kept theology in the only game in town for a generation. It is just that now the apple in the worm is in full sight.

By the way my Ph.D. work included work on Melanie Klein et al. So we have a common interest there.

John Wilkins

Hi Fr. Harding. I recommend, of course, checking out William's article [found in Moral Luck].

Kierkegaard was a faster thinker than Schleiermacher, but Schleiermacher could think much more systematically. I usually oppose Kierkegaard and Hegel rather than S.

But still, I think reappraisers don't take their cue from the sources you mention. I think the current miasma is still a product of the market more than anything, and I wonder why Habermas and Feyerabend, for example, haven't been relevant sources for you.

Look, I'm just a parish priest.

I did training at Tavistock [the leicester conference] and used Klein for my graduate thesis on mourning.

John Wilkins

by "oppose" I mean "contrast"

Leander Harding+

I think you are missing both the point of Polanyi's critique and of my interest in him for understanding the current impasse in the mainline churches. It is not about official theology or theologians or only to a limited and secondary degree. It is about what sociologist Peter Berger would call "plausability structures" or Polanyi would call fiduciary structures. It is a claim about how popular ideas of truth and what can been known that are pervasive in the culture affect the way in which religous truth is approached in the culture. It is about "what everybody knows." Everybody knows that religious doctrine cannot be a public truth. Well this is the problem, the plausability structure.

I pick Polanyi because I have developed an interest in him through one of the most persuasive theologians of the 20th century, Lesslie Newbigin and because he usess Polanyi to show how the plausability structure of the West is unevangelized and how the penetration of these objectivist assumptions have broken the missionary nerve in the West.

Just coming back from a GC I do find that the rhetoric about mission, mission, mission to be almost completely in terms of social reconstruction with little or no and mostly no Gospel content, or rather than the Gospel is reduced without remainder to a message of social justice.

I also pick Polanyi because his idea of "moral inversion" is a sobering one that makes sense out of the increasing authoritarianism on the part of revisonist bishops against theological dissent. It also suggests that churches who have adapted themselves to the epistemological pessimism of modernity and post-modernity are likely to cooperate with a currents of moral inversion in the society.

What difference would it make if I have read these other authors. I have in fact read Habermas but more for the hermenuetical issues. But I am not talking about those ideas. I am talking about this idea. I think you are saying that there are authors who uphold the objectivist position but are yet not nihlistic.

Polanyi's and my argument is again not about whether any particular author is or is not nihlistic but where the combination of intensified moral passion and extreme scepticism about received wisdom leads as a societal and cultural dynamic. The market as you say has much to do with it but the market exists under the plausability structure that I am critiquing with the help of P.

John Wilkins

The little Polanyi I've started reading is interesting. I think that the notion of "tacit" knowledge may be hard to combine with the reappraising empahsis on democracy and transparency. I recall Steiner's understanding of language as both revealing and obscuring meaning.

I think your psychological studies and a little Marx would explain the authoritarianism you see. After all, the bishops aren't acting any different than a CEO would when it comes to property. I would also say that Fathers, don't like being challenged by wayward sons, who claim the Grandfather's true inheritance.

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