Friends of mine who have been subjected to a deluge of my depressive emoting will already be familiar with my current existential-academic crisis: I no longer know why my current research project gives any credence to theology as such. It is important that my point is clear here, for I do not mean that I know how the position, as some philosophers do, that theology is pointless in and of itself or that we must finally free ourselves of theological presuppositions in order to create a truly adequate and emancipatory mode of thought. That said, I never began my research with the intention of doing theology, meaning my work is not a matter of dogmatic, systematic, historical, or any other kind of theology. Obviously my MA is in philosophical theology, but it has never been clear to me what that would actually mean in the context of the program I’m in. For some members of staff it means something akin to apologetics or working out the philosophical kinks to make way for theological dogmatics. I tried to approach it as akin to something like a transcendental empiricism of the phenomena of theology, but then ended up writing an MA thesis on the metaphysics and ethics of environmental restoration through the philosophies of Bergson and Deleuze/Guattari! Certainly not a recognizable form of philosophical theology. (I’m digressing already. Try to focus.)
My current project began with the intuition that what could be called “ecological reason” (used in considering questions of relationality, the being of nature, environmental ethics, etc.) has its roots in both philosophical and theological debates concerning matters of religion (what is the status of creation in relation to the Creator) and nature (what is the status of the being of nature? what constitutes nature? is it self-causing?). Thus I undertook the task of a series of perverse readings of related figures (Aquinas/Spinoza, Bulgakov/Schelling, Bergson/de Chardin, Whitehead/Bergson, etc.) where I’d treat my own work as an ecosystem of thought where I’d introduce these divergent thinkers as organisms forced to interact with one another. My job was to facilitate these artificial ecosystems (which is not to call them unnatural) in an attempt to curtail the invasiveness of one species over the other, while, of course, recognizing that my own facilitating was another aspect of the ecosystem as a whole. The end goal would be something like a critique of ecological reason using a (always towards) meta-ecosophia.
All of this requires a great deal of investment in theological debates far removed from my own immediate topic. It seems that is the only way to be truly fair to the theological sources and can I really understand Aquinas without understanding the debates surrounding his dogmatics? Yet, as I went to a theology department seeking asylum to complete such a strange project, I’ve found that I’ve been sucked into a whole world of theology that is not only interesting to me, but seemingly insane! A rather uncomfortable position for someone like myself to be in, as giving quarter to the positions of one Dick Dawkins is quite distasteful to me. The problem seems to be, whereas I began with the idea of giving theology an inch it then demanded of me not just a mile, but a pound of flesh.
Whenever one is faced with such a demand they are surely to ask themselves what the fuck they got themselves into. Theology is one of those weird academic disciplines where you constantly have to prove that you’re not just an academic. Theologians are supposed to do theology for the the Church despite the fact that, as near as I can tell anyway, “the Church” doesn’t really give a fuck what theology does. When philosophers get so uppity as to think their work has any actual social or political relevance they are generally derided in the public sphere. My own work is quite consciously not for “the Church” or, perhaps, any determinate group of people other than those who are thinking and considering similar problems. Of course I have strong political commitments and live them out as best as I can and my own work is directed to a large degree by those commitments. I would hope it may even be helpful for people when they consider how to live a more gracious life upon this earth, but obviously less technical and more emotive groups will have greater efficacy in saving the planet than another book. But, yeah, back to theology. Frankly, or so it seems, I’m not really all that interested in my supposed Christianity. In some ways I’m a Christian by default, in so far as I am religious, rather than by ascent, meaning there is little interest in re-Christianizing Europe (My God!) or defending the faith. If the whole became Sweden maybe that wouldn’t be so bad, perhaps it would even be good.
So, I suppose this is a fine place to conclude, in so far as I have developed a real aversion to theology as such, why should I consider it? Seriously, that’s a question.