Modern radical theology
From David Lodge’s novel Paradise News. The protagonist is a theologian who was once a believer but is not any more.
‘He sat at his desk and took out his notes on a book about process theology he was reviewing for Eschatological Review. The God of process theology, he read, is the cosmic lover. “His transcendence is in His sheer faithfulness to Himself in love, in His inexhaustibility as lover, and in his capacity for endless adaptation to circumstances in which his Love may be active.” Really? Who says? The theologian says. And who cares, apart from other theologians? Not the people choosing their holidays from the travel agent’s brochures…It often seemed to Bernard that the discourse of much modern radical theology was just as implausible and unfounded as the orthodxy it had replaced, but nobody had noticed because nobody had read it except those with a professional stake in its continuation.’ [p 29]
That’s good, isn’t it? The quoted bit sounds exactly like Terry Eagleton drivelling away about his left foot and Chekhov and toasters, and the commentary sounds exactly like – well, me, asking how the hell Terry Eagleton knows all that about ‘God’ and what it’s supposed to mean anyway.
And the good news is that now somebody has noticed, lots of people have, because Terry Eagleton and Karen Armstrong and Madeleine Bunting and other windbags have been telling us about it.
A bit more, later on. He’s musing on the Penny Catechism and reciting it to himself then gets creative.
‘When did you cease to believe in this God?
Perhaps when I was still training for the priesthood. Certainly when I was teaching at St Ethelbert’s. I can’t remember, exactly.
You can’t remember?
Who remembers when they stopped believing in Father Christmas? It’s not usually a specific moment – catching a parent in the act of putting your presents at the end of the bed. It’s an intuition, a conclusion you draw at a certain age, or stage of growth, and you don’t immediately admit it, or force the question, is there a Father Christmas? into the open, because secretly you shrink from the negative answer – in a way, you would prefer to go on believing in Father Christmas…
Are you equating belief in God with belief in Father Christmas?
No, of course not. It’s just an analogy. We lose faith in a cherished idea long before we admit it to ourselves. Some people never admit it.’ [p 47]