The post-secular situation implies an active involvement of theology in various social practices, which are traditionally known as secular. This involvement demands from the theologians to assimilate secular languages and styles of thinking. The dialogue with the academic science so implies the assimilation the academic thinking. It seems natural, that the theologians can speak with the scientists as colleagues. As distinct from other modern social practices, theology has its own tradition. The theology can consider itself as an academic activity with rich and developed language and conceptual base.
In many respects theology is similar to academic science. This similarity is, however, connected with some danger: applying academic standards to theological discourse can distort it and transform theological concepts into ideological simulacra. It is rather difficult to avoid the danger not only for academic theology but also for all kinds of intellectual activity. It is necessary to consider, how scientific and theological concepts are generated, what exactly can be similar in the process and what the difference is. Probably this consideration will not show us what must be academic theology, but it will give us understanding what it must not be.

 Let us consider first the generating of scientific concepts. There exist two mutually complementary methods: hypothetical-deductive and constructive. First of them is connected with the empirical aspect of science, second - with the theoretical one. Hypothetical-deductive procedure consists of: 1) observation of some fact; 2) forming a hypothesis for an explanation of the fact; 3) a prognosis, i.e. prediction of another observable fact, that is logically inferred from the hypothesis under certain conditions; 4) real observation in these condition and comparison the real fact with the prognosis. If the real fact differs from the predicted one, the hypothesis is wrong and we must find some alternative. This procedure is traditionally considered as the main method of getting knowledge in the natural sciences. I suppose it has an analogy valid also for human sciences, however it is not the subject for this paper.

Constructive method is much more seldom discussed. Two Russian philosophers, V. Smirnov and V. Stepin described it as a valid cognitive procedure. The latter introduced the term “constructive” (or “genetic-constructive”). Nevertheless the first developed description of the constructive procedure in science was made in Neo-Kantian philosophy. Science never deals with the real physical objects. It deals only with their idealizations, or the ideal objects. The latter are some concepts in our mind and we can operate with them by means of logical and mathematical schemata. In the course of these operating we establish the links between different ideal objects and construct new ideal objects. Some objects we operate with may have analogues in physical reality, but some have not. They may be taken from mathematics, metaphysics, or constructed in mind before. In the frame of ideal constructions we can put and solve different theoretical problems. Ernst Cassirer demonstrated that scientific theories are the systems of logically linked concepts. These systems are generated and developed not through generalizing of the observations, but through expansion of prior logical function. Logical and mathematical constructing is not subsidiary to empirical observations and experiments. On the contrary, it is rather the main way of cognition because empirical methods are developed only in the frame of prior conceptual schema. Theoretical development of science may so be independent on the experience.
Nevertheless these two ways of cognition cannot exist separately. We can solve theoretical problems and construct the ideal objects practically without any limitation. However, doing so we are in a danger to lose any link with the reality. It is the hypothetical-deductive method that gives the link. To be more exact it provides the science with the procedure of falsification, which allows rejecting false propositions or even the whole theories. We can construct an abstract proposition concerning ideal objects. It is quite possible that these objects have not any observable analogues. Nevertheless there are some logical consequents of the proposition that concerns some other object that are observable. In other words any abstract scientific proposition allows making some prognosis verifiable by means of the experiment or the observation. Hence abstract theories of the modern science have some connection with the observable reality and with the bodily human practices.
Nevertheless a doubt can arise whether this connection is sufficient. In spite of regular empirical verification the science becomes more and more abstract. Husserl in 30-th years wrote about a crisis of natural science. The crisis was caused by the fact, that science created the artificial universe of abstract objects that appeared to be very far from human “life world” (“Lebenswelt”). According Husserl, scientific concept have their origin in the human everyday practices, but the development of European natural science resulted in the loss of these roots and transforming science into the kingdom of mere abstractions. Now, however, we can see the next stage of this development: scientific abstractions are implemented in technique and technologies and transform human “Lebenswelt”.
Let us return now to the notion of “academic science”. Taking modern natural science as an example, we can say that the important attribute of “being academic” is the fundamental theoretical base. The latter implies the system of the logically ordered idealizations, created by means of the constructive method. “Being academic” means the possibility of the developed and logically consistent discourse. However the academic activity must include some tools of verification. Constructing of ideal objects always implies a risk to lose the connection with the reality. Keeping this connection is the crucial point for any theoretical academic discourse. If academic community (or some other community developing such discourses) fails to solve the problem, its discourses degenerate and become monstrous. For better understanding what the academic theology is we must before be quite aware of this danger. So we shall describe now in some details these degenerated discourses.
There are two kinds of them. The first is bare intellectual game that is producing consistent conceptual construction only for this constructing sake. The second is ideology. The first is rather harmless, but it transforms into the second quite easily. Consistent (or having an appearance of consistent) conceptual constructions are quite suitable for manipulating of consciousness and forming desirable way of thinking. Let us so consider in some details what ideology is.
First of all ideology is a developed conceptual system which has (as we say before) an appearance of consistent theory. As a matter of fact it can be really consistent, i.e. to have no internal contradiction. That is why it often seems rationally invulnerable. Such intellectual constructions are irrefutable because they do not imply the procedure of falsification. Every fact can be interpreted as its justification. Ideology has boundless explanative possibility. Charles Popper mentioned Marxism and Freudism as examples of such conceptual systems. The first can explain every event of the social life from the point of view of class struggle and the change of social-economic formations. The second can explain every psychic phenomenon as a result of a sublimated unconscious desire. However all these explanations are made after the events. Both doctrines do not make any prognoses and so they have no risk of the refutation.
So ideology has a universal explanative function. The ideological explanation pretends to disclose the essence of phenomena. Any description of phenomena (of history, human life, nature etc.) which made in the terms of the other theory (or in the everyday terms) is considered as superficial or even false.  Only the ideal objects of the ideology are considered as real. Genuine understanding of other objects is possible by means of reducing to them. This reducing allows saying about everything what it is in reality. A person trained in ideology is attributed with special insight. He/she is able to penetrate through the surface of phenomena and see their true core. So the most innocent event of social life can be disclosed, for example, as “bourgeoisness” (for Marxist ideology) or as “masculine chauvinism” (for Feminist ideology).
So ideology realizes its explanative function by means of constructing of ideal essences of phenomena. However ideology has also a normative function. Ideology controls language behavior and way of thinking. This control has two aspects: ideology produces new vocabulary and forms new meanings. The former aspect is more evident. Specific ideological terms, which describe concepts of the ideology, penetrate into the everyday language and into the languages of other conceptual systems. Using of ideological terms in public discussions becomes the linguistic norm. However the usage of the terms implies the thinking in the frame of the conceptual schemata, which are relevant to these terms. Thus ideology forms rules of thinking and, ultimately, the image of world. The other aspect of ideological control is less evident. It is connected with the change of meaning of the usual language expressions. The conceptual schemata are used not only for constructing essences of the phenomena, but also for constructing meanings. Usual word or expression, which traditionally refers to some objects, phenomena or situations, gets new referent. This referent is artificially constructed as an ideal object by means of some ideological concepts. The usual meaning of the word is declared inexact, superficial or false. The word is recommended for public usage only in the new “true” meaning. Words of the everyday language have rather wide range of meanings. It is impossible to give strict description of the meaning, because it determined by the use of the word in various language games. Ideological meaning is rather narrow. Ideology ignores real life of linguistic community and tries to dictate its own rules. No surprise that the ideological meaning can be contrary to some aspects of the traditional use of some expression. This ideological transformation is often produced with words, which refers to main human values (such as freedom, peace, love, justice). For example the Bolsheviks Party in Russia declared that its main aim the freedom of working classes. The true meaning of the word “freedom” was constructed in the terms of the Marxists economical theory. This new understanding led to conclusion that in some historical conditions the freedom implies strict submission the working class to Party administration.
   This ideological transformation of language results in some duality of meaning. Ideology uses words in its own context with its own (i.e. ideological) meanings. However it is impossible to abolish usual meaning and replace it completely with new artificial one. Old meanings of words are preserved in the ideological context because any ideological reforms of language cannot overcome the tradition of its use. Language has its own power. As a result some connotations arise. Ideology derives great benefit from these connotations. Habitual words are used in ideological contexts. They are understood in their habitual meanings. Nevertheless new ideological meanings accompany the traditional ones. They are delivered into consciousness as contraband. When one hears about peace, justice or freedom, he/she usually has confidence to the message, which appeals to these concepts, because they express traditional human values. Thus he/she easily assimilates ideological schemata, which are implied in the message. It is interesting that it is not deception. An author of the ideological message is always able to say quite honestly, what he meant. However he is seldom asked.
Let us return now to theology. I believe it can easily satisfy the standard of “being academic”. Theological doctrines have as a rule fundamental conceptual base. Christian theology obtained reach conceptual apparatus from the Greek philosophy practically in the very beginning of its existence. Theologians of the first Christian ages used the constructive approach for the development of their doctrines. Such categories as substance, essence, physis, energy, hypostasis and other made up a good framework for interpretation of the texts of Bible. Step by step logically consistent theories was created. In doctrines of the Ecumenical Councils and especially in works of the Latin Medieval theologians special theological concepts were developed and logical links between them constituted. So theology can now produce consistent conceptual systems. A theological doctrine, as such system, constructs its intelligible objects and produces theoretical schemes as well as scientific theories do. Many centuries ago the theologians became proficient in the constructive method of developing of the theories. However the hypothetical-deductive method is alien for theology.
So the question arises: what can preserve theological doctrine from the degenerating, first of all from the transformation into ideology? Moreover the above signs of ideology can be indicated in theological doctrines. As we have already mentioned, theologians do not use the hypothetical-deductive method. In other words the falsification of the theological doctrines is hardly possible. However they can successively realize the explanative function. In fact they can explain everything: an action of Almighty God is the ultimate explanation for all phenomena in the Universe. So it is possible to find theological justification for Big Bang, evolution or uncertainty principle. Doctrine of the initial sin allows explaining all negative aspects of the human being: wars, poverty, violence, economical exploitation, adultery, physical deceases etc. On the contrary, great achievements of human mind and virtues of human nature we can describe as the action of the Grace.
The normative function is also evident. One can find the special theological meaning for many expressions of the natural language. Thus theology gives its own interpretation of such words as love, peace, freedom. In some cases this interpretation is apparently ideological. For example some Christian community may develop very strict codex for its members. Their behavior, their relations to each other and to other people can be submitted to strict control. This system of relation and this control can be indicated as “love”. The word “love” will so have the dual meaning in accordance with the mechanism, which we have already described.
Is it possible for theology to avoid this degeneration? Unfortunately there can be no guarantee. However we hope that true academic theology exists. We shall again use an analogy with natural science for clearing what this means. Scientific theory must have the link with reality. Hypothetical-deductive method and the possibility of refutation provide this link. Mere constructive procedures can be the subjective activity, which has nothing in common with reality. That is why, the falsification is impossible for them. Dealing with reality implies the risk of refutation. Reality does not depend on the conceptual construction of the subject. The subject however must be dependent on reality, when he/she is seeking for truth. In other words, genuine scientist must follow something, that is superior then he is, that is more important, then his personal or group interests. We can say also that the possibility of refutation, facing us with reality, restrains our subjective arbitrariness.
As distinct from science, ideology is completely arbitrary. Those, who produce ideological constructions, do not deal with reality, but try to subdue it. In other words, they do not recognize anything superior to them.
Special conditions in the scientific community are relevant to the orientation to truth. Popper indicated them as critical rationalism. The latter implies permanent seeking for the refutation of any theory or hypothesis. We saw already that this seeking for the refutation means the removal of the subjective arbitrariness. Rational critic of scientific theory helps to maintain the link with reality. Critical rationalism is, in other words, the permanently renewed communication, which seeks to reveal something superior, something much more important, them the personal interests of a researcher, collective interest of a scientific institute, or even common interest of the community.
We can extract from this consideration some properties of intellectual activity that must be valid not only for science, but also for theology. They are the following: dealing with reality, the demand for a thinker to recognize something superior, and removal of the subjective arbitrariness. Theology, certainly, deals with the Reality absolutely other, then reality of science. This Reality is given not through the observations, but through the Revelation and faith. The latter do not allow the falsification of the theological doctrines as it is possible for science. The link with the Reality can hardly be found by means of any regular procedure. Nevertheless some analogy with science can be indicated. It is the permanent communication in seeking The Superior which is the only worth to follow. Not only theologians but any believer can participate in this communication. In more traditional terms it means that any theological thesis is valid only after the Church reception. This communication is necessary not only for the verification of the theological theses and doctrines, but also for their producing and developing. So the community of thinking and good educated Christians is urgent for the modern Churches. The processes we discuss here are possible only in the proper milieu.
It is however important, that the communicative efforts must form the tradition. Such efforts are being made in the Church in the course of all its history. Renewing of the efforts must imply the reactivation of the initial sense, which makes the tradition really Christian. The unity of the tradition is another factor, which preserves intellectual activity of theologians from being subjective and arbitrary.
 
 
Paper delivered at the conference "Academic Theology in Secular Age"
Lviv, Ukraine, November 9-13, 2011

 

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