Through the Tempest: Theological Voyages in a Pluralistic Culture by Langdon Gilkey, and: Langdon Gilkey: Theologian for a Culture in Decline by Brian J. Walsh (review)
- The Thomist: A Speculative Quarterly Review
- The Catholic University of America Press
- Volume 57, Number 4, October 1993
- pp. 717-720
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- Additional Information
BOOK REVIEWS 717 the work of Arthur Danto. Here the stimulus to reflection is those elements in modern art which " make a farce of traditional art and art theories hy giving us artworks indiscernible from objects found on grocery shelves or in lavatories." If, as Danto suggests, whatever is to count as art is simply what an " artworld " decrees, then the distinction between artefact and artwork can disappear completely (except in terms of somebody's bank balance). The trouble with the remaining essays in this collection is that their authors have not appropriated a truth given lapidary expression in Woods' essay on Kant: "Attention to the works of genius throughout the ages cultivates the sensus communis and establishes a community involved in the beautiful." Thus, while Ted Cohen is right to consider television a possible artistic medium, the objects of televisual appreciation he considers usually witness to a breakdown of a community involved in the beautiful, while the frequently nugatory objects discussed in John Brough's "Who's Afraid of Marcel Duchamp? " testify to the disintegration of the sensus communis concerned. Finally, if Paul Weiss is right in his "Creativity and Beauty" not only to designate beauty " the excellence pertinent to the creation of a work of art," but also to house it together with the quartet of truth, goodness, glory, and justice, then we can get a sense of how wisdom in both philosophy and artistic practice might he restored: through a re· discovery of the interdependence of the transcendentals. But perhaps only the Judaeo-Christian revelation now holds the key to this possibility . AIDAN NICHOLS, O.P. Blackfriars Cambridge, England Through the Tempest: Theological Voyages in a Pluralistic Culture. By LANGDON GILKEY. Ed. Jeff B. Pool. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991. Pp. xx + 252. Langdon Gilkey: Theologian for a Culture in Decline. By BRIAN J. WALSH. Lanham, MD: University Press of America/Institute for Christian Studies, 1991. Pp. xii + 324. $47.50 (cloth); $22.50 (paper). With the exception of two mid-1970s papers, Through the Tempest is a collection of some of the addresses and essays written in the 1980s hy Langdon Gilkey, Shailer Mathews Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago Divinity School. Title and subtitle are meant to re· 718 BOOK REVIEWS fleet three elements of Gilkey's temper. First, the tempest corresponds to his dramatic vision of the twentieth-century world, with its wars, up· heavals, and destructive forces. Second, the preposition through expresses the sober hope that for all the darkness that surrounds our century, we are actually moving toward a destination beyond the turmoil . And third, his explorations and assessments of the many facets of contemporary culture are theological voyages. In these pages readers will find many of the themes Gilkey has tackled over the years, such as God, Jesus, Creation, Providence, spirituality , the function of symbols, ethics, suffering and death, Christianity and other religions, faith and science, church and public policy. Among the most original pieces are, to my mind, Ch. 10, on the different attitudes to ethics in Christianity and Buddhism, and Ch. 14, which clarifies many aspects of suffering. The general readership made up of those interested in religion will probably enjoy these lectures, while specialists in theology or human studies are likely to find them merely impressionistic and too vague both in their cultural analyses and in their conceptual discussions. Further, there is a discrepancy between Gilkey's assessment of the human predicament and :the theological solutions he puts forward. On the one hand, the mood and the content of his assessment is neo· orthodox (inspired by his master Reinhold Niebuhr). For instance, chapters 11 and 13, on evil and sin, are typical of an acute awareness of the dark side of human conduct. As he follows this vein, Gilkey raises pertinent, profound, and difficult questions. On :the other hand, his prescriptions do not match the depth of his diagnoses. Despite his efforts at overcoming theological liberalism, he often remains confined within the limits of the Western Enlightenment. For example, like most eighteenth-century thinkers, he rejects "a level of grace beyond nature " (54) . What he repudiates is in all likeliness the modern separation between nature and supernature, and...