In yesterday’s Commencement Address, President Obama suggested that regular readers of the New York Times might occasionally scan the Wall Street Journal. Having subscribed to both for a good number of years, I heartily endorse the President’s proposal.
Transferred into a religious context (though, as another thread has suggested, the Times does tend to don an ecclesiastical mantel), one might invite readers of Commonweal to dip occasionally into First Things. (And, certe, vice versa.) Even more daringly, the partisans of dotCommonweal might intermingle (at least in cyberspace) with the proponents of First Things Online.
There they might chat amicably about a recent post by R.R. Reno. He reflects upon the influence exerted on him, and other graduate students of his era at Yale, by the work of the Jewish philosopher and theologian, Michael Wyschogrod. Here is some of what Reno writes:
Therein, perhaps, lay Wyschogrod’s more subtle influence over young Yale theologians of my generation. As did Robert Jenson, the Christian theologian most similar to him in style and substance, Wyschogrod performed postliberal theology rather than theorizing it. The Holy One, Blessed be He, is not a God of Particularity, not a God committed to History, not a God with narrative identity. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Therefore, according to Wyschogrod, “Jewish theology arises out of the existence of the Jewish people.” Such a theology cannot be theory-driven, because the specific gravity of the Jewish people is more primitive and primary, and the career of that people in the flesh remained open and finished. This does not prevent Wyschogrod from undertaking an ambitious analysis of basic concepts in theology and philosophy. But it means that all his reflections are constellated around the thatness of God’s choice of the children of Abraham as his beloved people.
Christians believe that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead. It is our Easter faith, a conviction invested in the carnal realities of life, perhaps to a degree even greater than the Jewish doctrine of the election of Israel. After all, what could be more frightfully fleshly than the hungry worms awaiting us in the damp soil of our death-darkened graves? Where and how does this carnal reality make itself seen and felt in Christian piety and practice?