In many circles of scholastic theology, the theological discourse can take on an entirely dry and mathmatical flavor. As if, in perfect neutrality and impartiality, one is disclosing the secrets of the world. However ‘true’ some of these types of treatise’s might be, it can be understandable that I might lose interest. I’m certain of the fact that had I been tested as a child I would have been diagnosed with ADD.
I myself enjoy bombastic rhetoric. Rhetoric need not imply sophistry or veiled-falsehood. It can be coupled with precise argumentation and imagination and it can put joy into reading scholarly works. This is why Gordon D Fee can be much more enjoyable to read than many other exegetes. The man doesn’t pull any punches.
In the theological/philosophical world of today we have been blessed with a movement bravely entitled “Radical Orthodoxy.” Feasting as they do on modern Continental thought and mocking the false safety of analytical philosophy, RO, and many who could broadly fall under its banner, have given us royal treats in John Milbank, Catherine Pickstock, Graham Ward, Stanley Hauerwas and David Bentley Hart (among others).
But who among them can claim to reign supreme as lord of language?
There is of course Stanley Hauerwas. A feisty Texan-high church methodist (though I do believe he is Episcopalian these days) known for his powerful testimony against liberalism and for the Church. He has given us such treasures as
(in reference to “Atonement theories”)“If you need a theory to worship Jesus go worship your fucking theory” and
“Fighting violence with bombs is like screwing for virginity”
But I don’t think he can take the cake.
We might also point to the honorable ‘high-church Anglican’ John Milbank, student of the ABC Rowan Williams. Turning randomly into his “Theology and Social Theory” (an absolute must read) we can see him at work.
“Parsonian sociology attempts to conjoin the ‘liberal Protestant meta-narrative’ as articulated by Weber and Troeltsch. . . with the evolution of Herbert Spencer which was part of his English adaptation of Comtean positivism. In the Parsonian niew, society evolves through a process of gradual differentiation into separate social sub-systems: gradually art is distinguished from religion, religion from politics, economics from private ethical behaviour and so forth. The upshot of this process is (as for Weber) that it is now possible for something to be beautiful without being good or true, and possible for there to be a valid exercise of power without it having a bearing on either goodness or truth. At the same time, a realm of ‘pure’ science emerges which (as in Spinoza’s ideal of intellectual freedom) can pursue truth independently of coercive pressure, or of practical consequences.” TST, 2nd ed, Blackwell p128
But still he cannot out-maneuver the Eastern Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart. From his stunning “The Beauty of the Infinite” to his devestating “Atheist Delusions,” Hart, it is often complained, cannot be read without the Oxford English Dictionary as his vocabulary is composed of so many odd and normally unused words (not counting his own neo-logisms) that it takes ages just to get through a book. Be that as it may, he is never shy on vitrolic attacks on bad ideas and unbounded praise of the God who is God-in-Trinity. Here are two quotes taken at random from his “The Beauty of the Infinite”
“But Nietzsche also reminds theology how great is its rhetorical burden. The story of being that Christianity tells, of creation as a word of peace whose ultimate promise is also peace, looks so very frail standing alongside the imposing figures of “history” and “nature,” in their blood-dyed robes, trailing their clouds of contingency, cruelty, and ambiguity; the protological and eschatalogical tensions within the Christian story leave it vulnerable to the accusation of irresponsible idealism, or of an unwillingness to rein its narrative in when its messianic horizon threatens to engulf the clarity of “realist” thinking in a night of mythical abstraction (theology, not always unaware of this, even occasionally attempts to construct one or another kind of political “realism” of its own, even though this can be accomplished only through a series of tactical apostasies).127 – please note that that is one single sentence!
“What is truth?” – “If Christ, the eternal Word, is the Father’s “supreme rhetoric,” then the truth of his evangel is of a very particular kind. As soon as one ventures appreciably past the bounds of logic’s unadorned and uncontroversial claims (and sometimes before one gets that far), one finds that what is called truth is usually a consensus wrested from diversity amid a war of persuasions, the victor’s crown of laurels laid upon the brow of whichever dialectical antagonist has better (for the time being) succeeded in rendering invisible his argument’s own ambiguities and contradictions (has better, that is, concealed the more purely rhetorical moments of his argument in the folds of his apparently unanswerable “logic”); and into the tumult of history Christ comes as a persuasion among persuasions, a Word made entirely flesh, entirely form, whose appeal lies wholly at the surface…”331
Take up and read.