chapter  10
16 Pages

Last gods and final things

Faith and philosophy

Of all the limit-experiences which challenge the scope of hermeneuticinterpretation, that of ‘God’ must rank amongst the most perplexing and persistent. For centuries controversies raged about names for God. Some religious movements, from Hebrew and Christian iconoclasticism to the apophatic extremes of negative theology, forbade any attempt to represent the divine. And certain philosophical schools expressed an equally scrupulous reserve regarding our ability to know anything at all about God – an attitude epitomized in the classic question: Aut fides aut ratio (either faith or reason)? One view was that philosophical thinking was a mere ‘handmaiden’ to monotheistic theology, and could at best serve to provide supplementary aids to the great books of Revelation. Another view, particularly strong in the late middle ages, held that there were in fact two truths at issue: one pertaining to the worldly realm of ontology and science, the other reserved for the higher, transcendent sphere of religious belief. As the adage went: quasi sint duae contrariae veritates.