Discerning the Mystery

Feast of Hieromartyr Januarius
Discerning the Mystery: An Essay on the Nature of Theology

PUBLISHED over twenty-five years ago, this book is still the finest critique of the Enlightenment’s ways of knowing, coupled with a winsome description of a distinctly Christian alternative. Responding to what he sees as a “division and fragmentation” both in theology and the larger culture due to “the one-sided way we have come to seek and recognize truth... manifest in the way in which all concern with truth has been relinquished to the sciences,” Louth sets out to describe the source of that fragmentation and to challenge the notion that we must “accept the lot bequeathed to us by the Enlightenment.” He carefully reviews central themes of several precursors who have already forged a critique of the epistemological imperialism of the Enlightenment, principally Giambattista Vico, Wilhelm Dilthey, and Hans-Georg Gadamer, who in distinct ways demonstrated the legitimacy of the humanities’ unique apprehension of truth. Further relativizing Enlightenment claims, Michael Polanyi proposed that science itself depends on non-empirical elements of investigation for its method to function, what he termed “the tacit dimension.” It is here that Louth sees a “pattern underlying the apprehension of truth” that is strikingly similar to that of the Fathers of the Church, who set forth an approach to knowing and experiencing truth that ultimately can be “seen and heard and handled” (1 Jn. 1.1-3), but only by those who reside in the bosom of the Church’s tradition and avail themselves of ways of knowing unique to it. Louth’s rather brilliant rehabilitation of the Fathers’ use of allegory in scriptural interpretation, which interweaves Scripture and tradition seamlessly, illustrates that approach. The matrix of allegory requires and manifests the “tacit dimension” of the guidance of the Spirit, and underlies the theologian’s need to hear Him. Or as Evagrios of Pontus might put it, “Knowledge of God—the breast of the Lord. To recline there—the making of a theologian.”                                     

150 pp. paper $25.00

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