Theology in the postmodern era has encountered various cultural and narrative shifts which have helped shape the Roman Catholic Church and Christianity at large. Negatively, the Church has been affected by external factors (e.g., globalization, immigration/emigration, increased access to technology, etc.) and internal struggles (e.g., reduced church attendance, an aging population, etc.). Positively, postmodernity has ushered in a return to religion through new philosophical and theological ideas (e.g., phenomenology, existentialism, post-metaphysics, etc.). This book aims to contribute to the ongoing postmodern concerns addressed in the cultural and narrative shifts, by focusing on the work of Jean-Luc Marion and Gianni Vattimo. The emphasis of this project focuses on the use of metaphysics as the foundational tool of theology and its corresponding limitations while also addressing the Christian virtue of caritas. Addressing this attribute of Christianity, this project observes the possibility of a ‘return to religion,’ one that reflects the postmodern exploration of religion by the several philosophers addressed herein. While Michael J. McGravey avoids offering a reconstruction of theology or, more specifically ecclesiology, he aims to re-establish the importance of philosophy, metaphysics, and caritas in the postmodern context.
Michael J. McGravey is assistant professor of religious studies and director of the Institute for Theology and Pastoral Studies at the College of Our Lady of the Elms.
Chapter One: Approaching the Theological Narrative Shifts in Postmodernity
Chapter Two: Facing the Church
Chapter Three: Jean-Luc Marion’s Phenomenology
Chapter Four: Gianni Vattimo’s Post-Christian Philosophical Theology
For those who think that postmodernism, spurred by Nietzsche and Heidegger, has rendered metanarratives and metaphysics impossible for Christian theology, McGravey offers a hopeful alternative through the use of Jean-Luc Marion's phenomenology and Gianni Vattimo's pensiero debole. Learned but not abstruse, well-researched but not pedantic, this book makes a strong case for the credibility of Christianity not on the basis of classical metaphysics but on the witness of charity, or to use Pope Francis's preferred expression, mercy. I warmly recommend McGravey's book to readers willing to engage in hard thinking about who God is.
Navigating Postmodern Theology pursues the laudable aim of caring for theological maturation. McGravey traces sociological and narrative shifts that illustrate the societal and intellectual demands for such maturation. Drawing on philosophical resources from celebrated philosophers Jean-Luc Marion and Gianni Vattimo, McGravey provides a refreshed and refreshing account of charity as a virtue and social principle. He fuses sociological, philosophical, and theological research to specify our “(post)secular” situation not to bemoan it, but to specify and to face up to it. Thus McGravey offers an original and much-needed contribution to revitalizing religion in our time.
McGravey’s Navigating Postmodern Theology extracts the theological and religious thought of Gianni Vattimo and Jean-Luc Marion from the ivory tower and resituates them within the vicissitudes of contemporary religious and political life. On his account, these postmodern religious philosophies can only be understood within the broader social and political shifts of secularization and laïcité. McGravey deftly and carefully traces the influence of metaphysical approaches to theology through the history of official magisterial documents, revealing the way in which metaphysics has served the hierarchical authority of magisterial power. He further links this hierarchical approach to trends of declining church participation. As he writes, “authoritarian metaphysics is partially responsible for the contemporary withdrawal of participants from the Church.” Against this authoritarian approach, McGravey mobilizes the postmodern philosophies of Vattimo and Marion as tools for the contemporary secular individual to re-engage with religious and theological modes of life. The result is a cogent argument that finally roots these often arcane deconstructive and phenomenological debates within the concrete social, cultural, and political situation of the contemporary Roman Catholic Church.