Theology as Eucatastrophe

I posted yesterday on “theology as fantasy.” Related to this, there is also a respect in which theology as our discourse about God is also a kind of “eucatastrophe” of all our other discourses. Milbank writes:

while insisting that no human discourse has any ‘secular’ or ‘scientific’ autonomy in relation to theology, I seek to recognize equally that theology has no ‘proper’ subject matter, since God is not an object of our knowledge, and is not immediately accessible. Instead, theology must always speak ‘also’ about the creation, and therefore always ‘also’ in the tones of human discourses about being, nature, society, language and so forth. A ‘theological’ word only overlays these discourses…in a certain disruptive difference that is made to them. Here, also, there is a ‘making strange’. (Word Made Strange 3)

Milbank’s account of theology may be compared here to Tolkien’s The Lord of the Ringswhich Tolkien describes in one place as being “basically about God,” yet God is never actually mentioned in it. This is deliberate, however, since by not making God a character or “subject” within his narrative, Tolkien thereby frees God to more dramatically “disrupt” (to use Milbank’s term) the narrative with his acts of eucatastrophic intervention and deliverance. Here we have a metaphor for how Milbank sees theology working as a discourse: it talks about everything “except” God, and in that way equips us to always be talking about him. To adapt another statement by Tolkien, theology is that discourse that frees all our other discourses to have God be “that one ever-present Person who is never absent and never named” (Letters no. 192). Theology is the eucatastrophe, in other words, of every discourse.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s