JIS IX 1997
THE QUEST FOR THE HOLY GRAIL
JIS IX 1997: 1-18
LIBERALISM WITHOUT TRANSCENDENCE
William R. Marty
University of Memphis
John Hallowell’s seminal study, originally published in 1943, treats modern Western thought since the Renaissance and the Reformation as, in its core, liberal, and its foundations as based on an uneasy synthesis of potentially warring elements: On the one hand, the primacy of the will as embodied in the autonomous individual; on the other, the ability of these autonomous wills to bind themselves together freely, by contract and consent, on the basis of their acknowledgment of transcendent moral truths discoverable by reason. Conscience, then, enabled independent wills to acknowledge and submit to justice as found by reason or revelation. But Hallowell described also the gradual decline in the confidence in reason to find transcendent truths, and the subsequent decline in the ability of autonomous individuals to find grounds for genuine community. Where will alone reigns, all standards collapse, and increasingly the arbiter between wills becomes force. Western civilization, even as it approaches becoming world civilization, increasingly manifests symptoms of dissolution and an inability to provide the foundation for genuine communities.
JIS IX 1997: 19-38
BEYOND RICHARD RORTY’S PUBLIC:
RELEGITIMIZING THE QUEST FOR TRANSCENDENCE
Richard Rorty argues that various metaphysicians have attempted to fuse the private and the public. These philosophers and religious thinkers posit rules of justice which apply to both spheres, thereby establishing a moral link between the individual and the community. Rorty claims, however, that these universalist traditions have been discredited and that the private/public connection should be severed. This essay contends that Rorty’s strict separation of private and public spheres is flawed, that his “private” actually subverts his “public.” The philosophical and religious foundations cannot be detached either theoretically or practically from public principles of justice. Also, the boundaries of Rorty’s public square are not neutrally drawn, but betray an anti-liberal hostility to experiences of transcendence.
JIS IX 1997: 39-62
THE GRAIL QUEST AS ILLUMINATION
Christine Brown & Lynne C. Boughton
Oakton Community College
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, a popular motion picture, offers a modern version of a Quest for the Holy Grail. Although this grail legend is new, a survey of medieval through nineteenth-century stories of heroic quests for a grail reveals that grail legends have always differed from each other in significant ways. The grail itself has been identified in some legends as a cup or chalice, and in others as a dish, platter, book, stone, or, possibly, a reliquary. Also profoundly different are the ways in which legends describe the purposes and effects of a quest for the grail. What these diverse legends have in common, however, is their association of a quest for the grail with a hero’s attempt to reverse the evils that endanger a particular society. This essay traces various grail legends to determine how these popular tales, including the film version, present man’s quest for transcendence, and moral and spiritual renewal (View Art).
JIS IX 1997: 63-90
THE ANTHROPIC PRINCIPLE:
A POSTMODERN CREATION MYTH? *
Eastern Nazarene College
The Anthropic Principle suggests that the universe may have been designed for human life. This anthropocentric, anti-Copernican, notion elicits a variety of responses from scientists, including some elaborate attempts to invalidate it by trying to show that there may be an infinity of alternative universes. These attempts may be challenged as unreasonably speculative and presumptive. What emerges is the suggestion that cosmology may at last be in possession of some raw material for a postmodern creation myth. If the Anthropic Principle can be integrated with biological explanations of human origins, and the result joined to the traditional Biblical Creation story, what emerges is a possible recovery of a religiously traditional, yet scientifically coherent, creation story for our generation.
* Oleg Zinam Award for Best Essay in JIS, 1997.
JIS IX 1997: 91-104
POSTMODERN CREATION MYTH?
Southern Wesleyan University-Columbia
Is the Anthropic Principle science, theological speculation, or a potential new “creation myth” for a postmodern world? According to John Barrow and Frank Tipler, the strong Anthropic Principle holds that the Universe “must have those properties which allow life to develop within it at some stage of its history” (1986: 21). Barrow and Tipler cite a leading interpretation of the Anthropic Principle, which confirms that the latest findings in cosmology provide a new lease on life for classical design arguments: “There exists one possible Universe `designed’ with the goal of generating and sustaining `observers'” (1986: 22). While some scientists embrace the Anthropic Principle (Barrow & Tipler 1986; Ross 1991), others are acutely uncomfortable with its having any place in science (Weinberg 1992; Sagan 1994).
JIS IX 1997: 105-120
KARL HEIM AND JOHN POLKINGHORNE:
THEOLOGY AND NATURAL SCIENCES IN DIALOGUE
University of Regensburg-Germany
During the last two decades, the dialogue between science and theology has begun to yield fruit. This is partly due to the initiative of scientists like Stephen Hawking and Frank Tipler, and pioneering theologians like Karl Heim and John Polkinghorne. Heim and Polkinghorne propose two of the more credible models for dialogue. Heim’s model is that of a transcendent God Who is revealed not only in the world, but also in the person of Jesus Christ. Polkinghorne proposes a new natural theology which is less interested in proving the existence of God than in seeking signs of God’s hand in Creation and expanding one’s knowledge of God by a close examination of the cosmos. Yet Polkinghorne’s model points to Heim’s assertion that the ultimate cannot be found within our world, even as it reaches into our world. Science and theology need each other in order to make human life meaningful and rewarding. Science can teach theology about the “how” and “what” of God’s creative activity, while theology can teach science the “why” and “what for” of God’s Creation. Recognizing their autonomy, theology and science can complement their respective quests for truth.
JIS IX 1997: 121-140
THE SHROUD OF TURIN:
A PARABLE FOR MODERN TIMES?
Thaddeus J. Trenn
University of Toronto-Canada
The Shroud of Turin, a linen cloth with but a faint image, continues to capture the interest of many people of diverse beliefs. Although the measured age of the cloth is relatively recent, other scientific findings indicate an earlier provenance. Any firm conclusions regarding the cloth’s history remain premature. No satisfactory explanation has been found as yet for how the image on the cloth was produced structurally or stylistically. Iconographic evidence suggests that the image was the source of facial peculiarities found in early works of religious art. The body image bears a striking yet preternatural correlation with Scriptural accounts of wounds. Curiously, the image on the cloth functions as a photographic negative, exhibiting a high degree of resolution, as if the original were produced in pixels. Despite serious efforts to discover some artistic origin and medium, scientific evidence points in the direction that it was not produced by hands. If it is true that the medium is the message, as Marshall McLuhan wrote, then the Turin Shroud may be a parable for the modern age (View Art).
JIS IX 1997: 141-154
CHRISTIANITY AND CONCEPTUAL TRANSFORMATION *
Kuk Won Chang
Soonshin University-South Korea
The modern age reflects a pluralistic mentality of norms and regularities assuming a dualistic polar character. Man lives in this dualistically conditioned time and space–topos gaios (earthly sphere). In ancient times, attempts were made to transcend this situation via distinct temple cultures involving colorful sacrificial systems. Eventually, there was a transition from empirical temple cultures to mental and metaphysical ones involving laws, norms, and ascetic practices. However, the human heart, the source of all contradictions and cravings, remained unchanged. There is a perennial impetus to overcome human bondage to all the laws of dualistic world structures and return to the original primeval state of the universe–topos ouranios (heavenly sphere). Yet there is no bridge between the earthly and heavenly spheres other than Jesus Christ Who was the first to proclaim the arrival of the Kingdom of Heaven. Christ removed the barrier between “above” and “below” by pacifying the wrath of the transcendent, and introducing the heavenly sphere to man whose heart is opened by the Holy Spirit and cleansed by grace. This represents Christianity’s conceptual transformation.
* David Morsey Award for Best Biblical Exegesis, 1997.
JIS IX 1997: 155-172
THE QUEST FOR TRANSCENDENCE
Institute for Interdisciplinary Research
The Quest for the Holy Grail is symbolic of man’s quest for transcendence. In a post-modern world, this quest is more important than ever, since postmodernity questions the significance of all quests, values, ethics, morality, purpose, personal responsibility, and community, and thus the very essence of what it means to be human. The resulting desert of the soul reflects postmodernity’s radical discounting of all human aspirations. Yet the two most basic human passions–the love of freedom and the yearning for salvation–may be reconciled within a larger conceptual framework which seeks to preserve the essence of each in harmony. The recovery of a teleological conception of the human soul or self as purposeful human action informed by the moral imperative could bridge the epistemic gap between liberalism and fundamentalism. The vision of the Holy Grail as a quest for self-transcendence and an encounter with God represents also the fulfillment of the perennial human quest for meaning, redemption, and perfection.
JIS IX 1997: 173-178
TAOISM IN CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE
Jun Ki Chung
Kwangshin University-South Korea
Lao-tzu: Te-Tao Ching. By Lao-tzu. Trans. Robert G. Henricks. New York: Ballantine Book, 1989.
Paper. 283 p. $19.95.
Lao-tzu: Tao Te Ching. By Lao-tzu. Trans. Victor H. Mair. New York: Bantam Books, 1990. Paper.