As part of a project I’m currently working on, I’ve been thinking through the various presently-existing models for thinking about theological (or more ambiguously religious) discourse. Specifically, what I have in mind here are ways in which theological discourse is positioned with regard to philosophy. There are, as far as I can imagine, four models:
(1) Philosophy as condition of possibility for theology. Here I have in mind the approaches of figures such as Heidegger (especially in his “Phenomenology and Theology” essay) or Bergson. Theological or religious discourse is admitted, but only when it is understood that that such discourse is a specific borrowing or deployment of a more fundamental and generic mode of thought that is properly philosophical.
(2) The cultural-linguistic model. The common assumption, following in a Wittgensteinian vein, would be that there is a basic incommensurability between various cultures and their respective discourses. Theology, in its particularity, is thus granted a specific autonomy that does not need to pass through more generic conditions of possibility or thinkability. Exemplars would include Lindbeck, Hauerwas, and Barth (and his followers).
(3) Postmodern Thomism. Shares with (1) the desire to speak generically—i.e. at the level of the ontological or whatever, but also shares with (2) the desire to make theological discourse primary. This is accomplished, of course, by claiming that it is only (or it is preeminently) with theology that one finds the proper means of thinking being. Milbank, of course, is the one who has pursued this project most extensively.
(4) Theology as unthought remainder. This model is distinctive in its unwillingness to position theological discourse at the level of the generic or the particular (or some combination thereof). It might be best to say that theology functions as a coefficient that enables a paraphilosophical discourse. Only by encountering theological discourse more seriously does it become possible for philosophy to fulfill its innovative tasks, which have been hampered by a premature jettisoning or overcoming of such discourse. While their operations are singular, this model is common to Agamben, Žižek, and Derrida.
What do you think?