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DeRoo, Neal, and John Panteleimon Manoussakis [Eds.]
Phe-nomenology and Eschatology. Not Yet in the Now.
Farnham-Burlington: Ashgate 2009. XI, 216 S. gr.8° = Ashgate New Critical Thinking in Religion, Theology and Biblical Studies. Lw. £ 55,00. ISBN 978-0-7546-6701-8.
This well-timed volume offers a selection of papers from a conference held at the American College of Greece on the eponymous theme of phenomenology and eschatology. As one might expect, the various contributions do not constitute a uniform argument or even tendency. But that is good, since the subject-matter is itself so exclusive (how can what is »not yet« »appear« in »the now«?) and still so significantly under-studied that one would be suspicious of any too precipitate consensus. We are, we may say, not yet in a position fully to grasp the place and effect of the not yet in the now – and the contributors are to be thanked for raising the issue and for doing so in a vigorous and engaged manner. Hopefully, this book will be a stimulus to renewing interest in what has to be one of the key questions for contemporary philosophical theology in the broadly continental tradition. Why in the continental tradition? Because whereas analytic philosophical theology largely abstracts from the actual historical and textual work of biblical and doctrinal theology, the hermeneutical character embraced by the mainstream of the continental approach means taking the outcome of this work seriously – and one finding of biblical scholarship that has stood the test of time is precisely the rediscovery of the radically eschatological character of the New Testament. Moreover, this rediscovery itself played a significant part in the genesis of modern phenomenology, since his lectures on Paul’s eschatology played a key role in Heidegger’s journey towards Being and Time – and whilst his phenomenological interpretation of the human subject as running ahead of itself towards death is significantly non-Pauline, it is hard to imagine it as having been developed without this encounter with New Testament eschatology. The question of phenomenology and eschatology is therefore not simply a question of bringing a philosophical approach to bear on a theological theme but is internal to the history of phenomenology.
The centrality of Heidegger is flagged in the very opening lines of the Introduction, where the editors ask »What does eschatology, the study of the last things, have to do with phenomenology, the study of the things themselves?« before immediately going on to ask »What does Freiburg have to do with Patmos?« (1). He is espe-cially prominent in the essays by Bloechl, Hanson, and Tonning, the last paying particular attention to the peculiar and significant shift in Heidegger’s thought from a Christian to a more nihilistic eschatology. However, Heidegger is not the sole focus. The contributions by Lacoste and Romano offer original approaches that are scarcely footnoted, whilst those of Hanson and Hart reflect on the contribution of Michel Henry (in the case of Hart, setting clear warning signs against any over-easy assimilation of Henry’s thought to Christian theology), and amongst the theologians receiving attention is John Zizioulas. Interestingly, but perhaps unsurprisingly, the Eucharist is extensively discussed by both Manoussakis and Marion – and whilst applauding this, I might note that Geoffrey Wainwright’s important study on Eucharist and Eschatology offer historical liturgical texts that must qualify Manoussakis’ observation that the future lies outside the scope of anamnesis: remember-ing the future is precisely what some ancient Eucharistic prayers invite us to do. Indeed, if I had one single general criticism, it would be that much could have been gained from giving greater attention to the really rather large body of theological writing in which eschatology plays a prominent part. Kierkegaard, Bultmann, and Moltmann get passing references, but they – like the philosopher Bloch – have much more to contribute than one might have gathered from this collection alone (Bloch is not mentioned once, nor is Marx: interesting). However, since – as was said at the start of this review – the collection seems to be more about opening (or re-opening) up the question rather than aiming at completeness, it is perhaps unfair to ask for more than the generally forceful provocation to thinking that these essays achieve. That there is much more to be done is itself indicative of the need for a volume such as this.
Many of the essays are of the standard one might expect from contributors such as Kearney and Marion, and it is also good to see younger scholars included. Some, however, suffer from the increasingly ubiquitous problem of inelegant translation. Of course, the best solution would be for English-speakers to become as proficient in the main three or four European languages as many Europeans are in English. Since that’s not going to happen, translators and editors need to be less intimidated by the texts in front of them and compel continental philosophy to speak good English.