Fish and Eagleton

The recent God-debates (Hitchens, Dawkins, D’souza et al.) have, if nothing else, raised again the question: what is Christianity good for? And that is a question any of us who claim the faith ought care about.

Stanley Fish’s recent piece in the NY Times, God Talk, interacts with Terry Eagleton’s book, Reason, Faith and Revolution. Without adhering to any version of Christian orthodoxy, Eagleton has little patience for the triumphant, absolutist pronouncements of those who dismiss faith to the intellectual backwaters, certain that there are more productive ways to find human guidance. Essentially, Eagleton suggests that all other options (capitalism, democracy, modernity, enlightenment, liberalism, science, reason – you name it) simply don’t deliver. “What other symbolic form,” asks Eagleton, “has managed to forge such direct links between the most universal and absolute of truths and the everyday practices of countless millions of men and women?”

Take a read. Tell me what you think. And if you need another teaser:

A society of packaged fulfillment, administered desire, managerialized politics and consumerist economics is unlikely to cut to the depth where theological questions can ever be properly raised.

2 Replies to “Fish and Eagleton”

  1. Gosh I love Stanley Fish. Thanks, Winn.

    In moments of doubt I have often thought that I would leave the faith if there was anything worth turning to. Sometimes I think like Churchill – that Christianity is the worst religion, except for all the others.

    I don’t know what to think about Eagleton’s statements such as “[B]elieving that religion is a botched attempt to explain the world . . . is like seeing ballet as a botched attempt to run for a bus.” I am so tempted to believe that, it would solve so many struggles in my mind and heart. But you can’t get around the fact that our religion describes very specific events which science has done a very good job of drawing into question. I want so badly to compartmentalize away the conflict but it keeps cropping up again each time I try.

  2. I hear you, Justin, and I don’t think Eagleton answers those questions because they aren’t the questions he’s asking – or, as I can tell, has any interest in whatsoever. He wouldn’t get bogged down in the particulars. But, as you hint at, there are indeed a lot of particulars with Jesus.

    What I take from him, though, is a firm critique of allowing every other ism in the book (reason and science top of the list) to be king of the hill, setting the agenda, aligning the questions, providing the boundaries and the paradigms within which we must all be slaves. Sometimes, I think science and reason aren’t really calling into question the faith as much as calling into question the version of the faith that emerged from the enlightenment (as opposed to the faith of the Biblical authors).

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