Every generation has its “buzz words”—words that carry the magic of reducing the complex to the simple and the intricate to the plain. The world of philosophy and theology is not exempt from the power of such prestidigitation. Say “Abracadabra” (we shun the more traditional “hocus-pocus” out of respect to its theological etymology)—use the right incantation—and Ali Baba’s cave is laid bare.

I was initiated into the esoteric art of buzzing as a young seminary student in the early sixties. I quickly learned the key to essay exams, or, “how to score well on an essay test when you don’t know the content.” The formula was easy. For a B, add seven doses of “reconciliation,” four shots of “encounter,” and three drops of “paradoxical dialogical relationships.” For an A, it was necessary to spruce up the essay a bit with “existential inauthenticity,” “ultimate concern,” and by all means a couple of “Heilsgeschichtes.”

I soon discovered, however, that the “context of the continuum” is not static and that lesser-grade buzz words lose their potency in a short time. Nineteenth-century thought was dominated by the concept of evolution. But our century brought a new buzz word more closely related to the epochal breakthroughs wrought via the advent of the atomic age. From Einstein to Hartshorne the magic word in our times is “relativity.”

For the most part, twentieth-century philosophy has been fiercely anti-metaphysical and in some cases militantly antirational. The dominant schools of positivism, existentialism, and analytical philosophy all share a common antipathy to metaphysics. (The internecine struggles they exhibit do not vitiate their alliance against this common foe.)

This virtually monolithic opposition to the metaphysical, inevitably ...

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