Tone Check

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One of the more telling points that Peter Leithart makes against desiccated theology is this one:

“Theology is a ‘Victorian’ enterprise, neoclassically bright and neat and clean, nothing out of place. Whereas the Bible talks about hair, blood, sweat, entrails, menstruation and genital emissions . . . Ponder these questions: Do theologians talk about the world the same way the Bible does? Do theologians talk about the same world the Bible does?” (AC, p. 47).

This is preeminently a fair question. And it is a question that needs to be asked whenever the high thinkers get control of the plane and depressurize the main cabin for the rest of us. Here is Merold Westphal.

“Heidegger’s account has obvious affinities with speech act theory. He speaks the language of assertion (Aussage) and judgment (Urteil) rather than the Platonizing language of proposition (Satz). The foundation of language (Sprache = langue = language as system) is discourse (Rede = parole = language in use) and not the reverse” (Westphal, pp.55-56).

The point is not that this is gibberish to most readers. The point is whether the voice is the same or radically different than the voice of Scripture when talking about the permanent things. And in evaluating the voice here, we are not talking about a different planet or world here but rather a lumpy rock about three miles across in the middle of the asteroid belt.

Neither is it the point that it is a sin to use an arcane language that is opaque to most — say, the language of calculus (very different from that of Scripture) — when undertaking to build a bridge or a skyscraper. The engineers doing that have authority over their discipline, and they are not trying to prove to me that God can’t really tell me stuff plainly.

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