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By Andrew Louth

This publication examines the effect of the Enlightenment on theology, arguing that its legacy didn't profoundly have an effect on the significance of culture; that the methods of older theology carry a stunning relevance; and that the team spirit among theology and spirituality is once more discerned.

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Additional info for Discerning the Mystery: An Essay on the Nature of Theology

Sample text

At the heart of Polanyi’s insight here is his recognition of what one might call the mysteriousness of our engagement with the outside world. The kind of empiricism that often underpins the scientific or experimental method assumes that our perception of the external world is relatively straightforward and unproblematic: that we simply register impressions from the external world and organize them by a process of interpretation. Polanyi’s point is that in much of our perception of the external world, what we perceive is often unspecifiable in detail.

But Barth is not at all interested in pursuing analogies that might exist between theology and any other sciences; theology ‘cannot allow itself to be taught by them the concrete meaning which that involves in its own case. ’9 For Torrance, however, the suggestion he makes in comment on the theme of Barth’s Dortmund lectures is one that he has (p. 52 ) taken up himself, and which he regards as shedding a great deal of light on the nature of theology. A series of works, beginning with his Theological Science, seeks to develop this insight.

Polanyi gives examples from the performance of skills, the proper use of sensory organs, the mastery of tools and probes, the use of language. In all these cases we find that a man is able to do something, for instance, riding a bicycle or swimming, by integrating a vast number of particular perceptions, without understanding why what he is doing achieves the desired result. He turns corners on a bicycle without at all knowing that this depends more on the way he tilts the bicycle than on his turning of the front wheel.

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