Les Discours Édifiants et la connaissance liturgique : Kierkegaard and a phenomenology of theological language
Wardley, Kenneth Jason
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All theologians are hypocrites. Such is the inescapable conclusion of phenomenologist and theologian Jean-Yves Lacoste's reading of Kierkegaard. Theology attempts to trap God inside an impossible prison of propositional language; Lacoste seeks an alternative in the Upbuilding Discourses, where ‘theology loses all of its didactic ambition and instead attempts to offer only an introduction to the knowledge of God’. The Discourses, suggests Lacoste, teach us how get to know him rather than telling us about God. Since the God-man, as Kierkegaard stated in Practice in Christianity, is a sign of contradiction, this truth – contra Hegel – can therefore never be directly transmitted through any human system or even be theologically “exact”. Truth (and crucially, its telling), therefore hinges upon the question of the appearance of that God-man, of his phenomenality. This paper looks at the extent to which Kierkegaard informs Lacoste’s discussion of the phénoménalité de Dieu and how it motivates Lacoste's own “liturgical reasoning” and to a move away from the conservative paganism of the Geivert of Heidegger towards the radical Christianity of Kierkegaard. And while Lacoste has been persuaded that Heidegger might be useful in developing a constructive liturgical theology, where the logic of love, and its affect upon us, is crucial, that same logic forms the basis for a disagreement with Kierkegaard: whilst for Kierkegaard the human-God relation occurs almost exclusively through love, Lacoste is sensitive to the partiality and plurality of our affective lives and their capacity to obscure as much as they reveal. For Lacoste, speaking about God demands that we have to enter into the field of the indirect communication, and allow that someone else had an experience of Him about which we speak – “liturgically” – (to Him) in order to have that experience ourselves; therefore to allow that words lead to a way of existing, and not simply to a manner of speaking; in short, to use language to go beyond language, reminiscent of the Philosophical Fragments, where – amongst the emphatic declarations by ‘Johannes Climacus’ that the hypothetical Guden is completely unknown – he concedes that God’s purpose ‘cannot be to walk through the world in such a way that not one single person would come to know it. Presumably he will allow something about himself to be understood’. Lacoste, it seems, exposes the tension between Kierkegaard’s own direct and indirect communication, between the Discourses and the Fragments.