Going through some old files tonight, I came across this personal note from early December, 2001. Reading it now, it seems like good grist for the mill (meaning, good for blogging.)
This morning, while reading the preface to Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, I hit upon the idea for a new form of communicating theology. This form employs a style analogous to Wittgenstein's remarks, in that it is composed of short paragraphs. These follow one another in a long chain clustered around the same subject. The chain can also be broken by a sudden leap from one topic to another.
My intuition says that this form would respect the apophatic nature of Christian spirituality. It would suggest that Christianity is not simply a religion of texts but also of prayer, which exists outside definition. Its patron saint is the German mystic and priest [name illegible], and the various form of table talk popular since Luther. A helpful metaphor is also a scrapbook. When viewing a scrapbook, there is a sense of story, of movement, of life, but there are no pretentions about capturing the entire dimensionality of that life itself. Rather, the life is attested to by photographs. People sharing the experience of viewing the scrapbook together tell stories and reminisce, making connections between people and events in the past and present. Indeed, the best photos draw these connections from the viewer. Like loosely formed poetic images, imposed and creative meanings are welcome. The hope is that by stimulating dialogue, the remarks become a vehicle for theological impulses. They are midwives for theological contemplation.
I wonder if even the construction of these remarks is not done in a different way than is university theology today. University theology is thesis, body, conclusion held together by argument and adorned with bibliography and footnote.
This style, avoiding such ornaments, would be minimalist. The writer wants to only provide enough--and no more--to evoke and stimulate the reader. Footnotes and citations are too intrustive. They restrict interpretive power to the past.
This is not to say that this form is the only method for theology. For most types of theological argumentation, it doesn't work--but it may work for some.
I propose a system of doctrinal remarks stretching to no more than thirty pages.
[This proposal reminds me very much of remarks made in my post on Emile Cioran's use of aphorism.]
theological method; aphorism.