Critical and Confessional Responsibility in Theology

Andrew P. Porter,, web-page
written for the autumn Pacific Coast Theological Society meeting, 1996 November 1-2
this html version may have to be debugged some,
and it may eventually appear on PCTS's web site as well as my own web-page.

Therefore, every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven
is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.
(Matthew 13.52)

1. The assignment is theological responsibility. I assume that we are doing historical-covenantal religion, that is, that life in this world and not some other is to be affirmed, and that it is to be affirmed as history and not just nature. I take theological responsibility to be of two sorts, responsibility to the confessional traditions and to contemporary critical challenges. These first four parts of my brief will be barely more than definitions in support of their claims. The remainder is a thesis that academic theology today has treasures which could both enliven the covenantal traditions as we have them from history, and also meet the critical challenges as they come today. All too often, these treasures are neglected or squandered. I shall not entirely be pampering my audience.

2. The argument consists of several parts:

1. Theological Responsibility in History and the Present

3. Let me begin with the heart of my claim, barely more than a definition. In a moment, I shall review an argument that demonstrates the importance of history for biblical religion. It goes without saying that this is not a new claim. Nevertheless, recent work radicalizes it profoundly. The central commitment of biblical religion is that human life is history, not just part of nature, and it is to be affirmed as history, in this world and not some other. The understanding of historical religion has been radicalized because the understanding of history has been radicalized, and this process of new understanding continues into the present. History is one of the things that makes historical religion be what it is; attention to it is essential.

4. That conduct of human life as a historical project entails a certain responsibility to history should then be intuitively plausible. Revelation is the events in history that provide light to make sense of the rest of history and human life in it. Revelation is then in one aspect the human activity in which people turn to history for light in their lives. It is in another aspect a responsible activity, for having turned to history, they have to abide by its light. It is not just a turn to history in the abstract, or to any and all history, but to certain particular events that are taken as constitutive and central, because these events do work to illuminate and guide the rest of history and life within it. This is a circular logic, as hermeneutical thinking always is.

5. Questions will naturally arise: am I, are we, are you living in the way that follows from the implications of the events chosen as revelatory? (The Exodus and its sequelae, to be concrete.) This is responsibility to the past, to the revelatory events. One would think this rubric might suffice to cover all questions of responsibility in historical religion, but it does not. For what it would mean to be responsible to revelatory events changes as history unfolds. This is, I suppose, an example of the second dimension of iteration around the hermeneutical circle, not the iteration between parts and whole of the thing to be interpreted, but the second iteration by which the first iteration is conducted within larger and larger contexts of experience.

6. There will inevitably be disagreements here, and covenanters are notorious for these disagreements second only to their ability to complain to God about the conduct of his side of the covenant. I return to this in the next section.

7. These are brief definitions of historical-covenantal religion and theological responsibility. I hope I am not reckless if I take them to be unproblematic in their general shape, and proceed to labor the implications of how they work out in practice.

8. We may get help from the example of the thirteenth century, in some ways analogous to our own situation. The constructive theology and philosophy received by way of Augustine and neoplatonism met Aristotelian philosophy newly available from Islamic sources.[1] Aristotelian thinking was experienced as critique, even if out of the encounter came a new constructive synthesis. Although I was never a Barthian, H. Richard Niebuhr's nod of respect to the constructive thinking of Karl Barth in encounter with the critical thinking of Ernst Troeltsch was the clue that led me to try to identify the salient constructive and critical resources for theology today.

2. Historical-Covenantal Religion and its Alternatives

9. Look then at the differences between historical-covenantal religion and the alternatives. They result from the answers to a few simple questions. Is human life just part of nature, or is it history also, something beyond nature? How much of this life is to be affirmed as good, or put another way, is the good to be located in this life or in some other? Who is (or may be) included in the community of the "saved"? I am following Merold Westphal at some remove here, in the last three chapters of God, Guilt, and Death.[2] He characterizes the religion that affirms this life as nature as mimetic; the religion that affirms this life as history as historical-covenantal, and the religion that locates the good in human life someplace other than in this life as exilic; One should add the possibility that the ultimate focus of meaning, loyalty, and sustenance is not in nature and also not in a covenantal or exilic transcendent, but is instead to be located in some human institutions: I think this is one of the central features that H. Richard Niebuhr intended in his use of the term henotheism. One could elaborate some, but this inventory captures the salient choices. Westphal's thesis has been independently approximated in a few other places,[3] and his sketch of historical-covenantal religion matches fairly well the monotheism of H. Richard Niebuhr's The Meaning of Revelation and Radical Monotheism and Western Culture. In practice, actual religions tend to appear as mixtures, and Westphal reveals the extensive involvements of Christianity with exilic religion in his pains to show that the New Testament is susceptible of a fully historical-covenantal reading.

10. A historical orientation appraises life as non-repeating, a unique narrative that is open-ended and not determined. It is then a stage for human action with a kind of freedom and responsibility that is not possible in nature. Naturalistic philosophical bias today assumes that responsibility is a property that people might or might not have, depending on whether they have freedom or not. But Responsibility is an activity, like baseball; it is not a property, like having blue hair (or hair at all).[4] It is the activity of telling one's story, and doing it well is to get the story right. This is in contrast to all attempts to subsume life under the categories of nature, which is in some sense predictable, determined, and frequently cyclical as well. Both ancient and modern naturalistic religions exhibit these features, and the contrast with history is worth some emphasis. One of the central cultural challenges for Christianity today is to articulate merely what it is doing, as different from its alternatives. That alone would suffice to meet many of the criticisms it faces. As Westphal has it, the covenanter sees his community and God in covenant together living through history. Human life is made sense of then in terms of history, and the conduct of the covenant is advanced by telling how it has gone up until now, with a defensible program for continuing it in the unique situation of the present. You will see already here my claim of two kinds of responsibility.

11. This is as good a place as any to extend Westphal's treatment and note one feature of covenantal religion that emerges from its history, a feature that has been rejected from the beginning. In as much as the future is open and offering many possibilities, often difficult to estimate, there can be more than one defensible program for advancing a covenant in the future. Herein lies the problem: Covenanters cannot agree on how to conduct a covenant. They have all too often assumed that there can be only one way; each party then concludes that the others are outside the covenant ("damned", in polite American Christian parlance). But the history of the Exodus covenant in its various forms also demonstrates a rich openness to pluralism: a recognition precisely that it is possible to conduct a covenant in more than one way, and that differences based on shared covenant commitments are a feature, and not a bug, in the life of a covenant. The best short review of this that I am aware of is Edward C. Hobbs paper for this Society, "Pluralism in the Biblical Context."[5] The issue of pluralism takes on a dimension in covenantal religion that I think goes beyond the mere observation from sociology of knowledge that different cultures and subcultures vary in their openness to plurality. Plurality is here not just a matter of being right or wrong where only one option is permitted, or having multiple options whose differences do not matter. It is grounded in the freedom that is essential to history, a freedom that is missing in nature even where nature is open and indeterminate.

12. Westphal is dependent upon Mircea Eliade's The Myth of the Eternal Return. In Eliade's view, naturalistic religion sees history as terror, the incoherent, the uncontrollable, and meaningless suffering. History can be faced open-eyed only with the support of a covenant. Until recently, the dominant religions of western culture were supposedly historical-covenantal. The alternatives are very much available today as they have not been at any time before this century. Their history explains to some extent what is happening.

13. In the ancient world, aboriginal religion was naturalistic, it was in a qualified way deterministic, but it was not materialistic in the sense we understand materialism since nineteenth century science. It knew a rich pantheon of gods, afterlife, and other invisible extensions of visible nature, but its emphasis was always on fitting into nature naturally, even when nature was to be continued in another body or a revived body after death. Modern naturalistic life-orientation does not always have the features that mall rats or valley-talk would call "religious." But then the term "religious" has been restricted to the inheritors of historical-covenantal religion, and modern exilic and mimetic living get called other things. It is life-orientation that we are interested in, how to characterize awe, wonder, approval and disapproval, admiration and disgust, as the emotions and commitments and appraisals that shape human life as a whole. Modern naturalistic religions appear as pagan revivals[6] or, purloining the authority of science, as scientific atheism and variants thereon.[7] And one can find lively modern analogs of the hellenistic mystery religions.

14. The ancient western exilic religions, the gnosticisms, have to some extent come back also.[8] They all locate the desirable state of human existence someplace other than in this life, taking the pains of this life as grounds for rejecting parts or even all of it on the way to some other. Traditionally, exilic life-orientation has required a metaphysical dualism of body and soul, locating the good in man in the soul, and treating the body as either evil or irrelevant. (If evil, it should be mortified; if irrelevant, it may be indulged. In neither case is it what St. Paul called a temple for the Lord.) Modern variants of exilic religion are not always dualistic; the goal of life may be located in a future society to be achieved intramundanely by human effort.[9] In moving the desirable state of life to an intramundane future location, you can see borrowing from historical-covenantal themes. The utopia to be achieved here and soon is I think something quite different from either the Kingdom of God or tikkun olam. The features of exilic religion that matter centrally for our purposes derive from its denigration of the given human world we find ourselves in. One has permission to exploit it and indulge oneself, or to seek escape from it, also a kind of self-indulgence. In its sunniest and most winsome forms, as we have it in Asian religions, it can sound like the wisdom literature in the Common Documents.[10] Its emphasis on getting clear about one's own self, one's desires, activities, and the limitations on those desires and activities is good advice in any age or culture. But the attempt to get clear about oneself as it appears in Asian religions leaves out much that is essential if clarity means telling a story well. The Asian religions and western exilic analogs are seldom interested in history or responsibility in history, and almost never in covenant, the attitude that life in history is at bottom good, despite its pains. (Chinese religion, especially Taoism, comes close to being an exception.)

15. It is an index of the degree to which Christianity has been compromised lately that attacks on it from the point of view of mimesis (Adler, Mander) blame it for features that are borrowed from exilic religion, and do not see its interest in history at all. Here are the libido dominandi, the lust for power that shows itself in the exploitation of nature and other people, and also the project of escape to another and better world. Both of these attitudes denigrate the world we find ourselves in.

16. At the same time, one feature of covenantal religion is commonly borrowed wherever it has been seen: the covenant is open to all, all have a place within it. That this entails some responsibility along with membership is less often seen. And this borrowing is not universal; when the obligations of a covenantal community of moral obligation are seen, they are sometimes rejected explicitly. For example, Peter Singer's "practical" ethics is in some ways a revival of Stoic ethics, for which by no means everybody has rights within a community of moral obligation.[11]

3. Confessional Obligations to the Traditions

17. If one would see covenantal religion's confessional obligations to its history, my instinct is to turn back to the narrative. It began a good many years ago, when a band of riff-raff and lower class transient laborers and their families escaped from Africa into Asia. They were many riff-raffs, actually, a point which is of some importance. The management in that corner of Africa had changed, and the new management was not sympathetic to the people whose story we are interested in. In any case, they got out, and as some read their literary executors, what struck them most about that escape was anomalies in the weather that accompanied it. It has even produced some interesting computational physics.[12] A more attentive reading of their story focuses on the history, and the key to it is just autobiographical:

"A wandering herder was my father, few in number, and he went down to the Big City, and there became a great and mighty nation; and the management in those parts treated us harshly. Then we complained to El Jeffe, the Boss, and he brought us out of the frying pan, through the fire, with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, on wings of eagles, into this, the promised Land."
I tell the story without the familiar gilded vocabulary, in order to see it as a human process.[13] The point was to remember the history in order to put present-day life in perspective. That was radically new.

18. Some seven lessons (as I count them) were drawn by those riff-raffs as they became one people.[14] (1) They had no use for governments that arrogated to themselves divine power, and this is the reason to desacralize all human institutions. Here is the root of civil and political freedom, for the move to desacralize human institutions at the same time was a move to hold governments responsible. (2) They could not become one people if they were to retain their previous ethnic- and nature-based senses of identity and allegiance. The companion principle to the desacralizing of governments was a community of moral obligation which was in principle open to all and from which none could be excluded who wished to join. This is familiar in the commandment to love one's neighbor as one like oneself. (3) The move to turn from nature to history enabled them to look open-eyed at their changing human circumstances, with freedom to act appropriately in each new age. To make such a move to history, they had to desacralize nature. This move is not entirely obvious today, for many would precisely re-sacralize nature in order to protect it, a move which forgets that to desacralize nature is not thereby to trash it. Nature is neither to be worshiped nor trashed. The turn from nature to history, is, by the way, the root of personal freedom, for the radical difference between history and nature is that the openness and indeterminateness of history affords a freedom that cannot be found in nature. Even indeterminateness in nature is not the same thing, for historical freedom is not consumated until its story is told, and that move to narrative escalates freedom in an ontological way. (4) Human life necessarily has some focus of loyalty, confidence, and meaning (at least it does if it is coherent), and that focus had to be placed outside of the forces and phenomena of nature and beyond human institutions: in something transcendant. The Shema is implicitly present at this point. (5) That transcendant is to be welcomed into the world, and not fled to as a way to escape from the pains of the world. In somewhat different words, human life is history, and it is this life and not some other that is to be affirmed as good, in a good that transcends nature and human institutions. (6) A project such as this one must in order to work have some kind of behavioral standards which inculturate these loyalties. These standards will be inculturated somewhat differently in different times and places. (7) Last, but not least, there was to be continuing attention to past history in order to keep this confidence for future history in perspective, with its hazards, obligations, and promises. Other items could be added, but I think these are among the most important.

19. The implications that I would draw from one item, (5), should be extended some. The clearings in which you can see what people are doing with their lives are the disappointments that come along the way. That the transcendent is to be welcomed into this world is in other words a way of affirming life in this world instead of seeking refuge from it. The disappointments are to be integrated into a master-story in which life is affirmed despite its disappoinments. One could cite Isaiah 45.7, or the Bavli at Berakhot 60b (Soncino edn., p. 379), or Romans 8, in support of such an interpretation, but these are just passages where it is focused. The re-appropriation of disappointments as blessings runs through all Jewish and Christian literature. Indeed, tikkun olam, the repair of the pains of the world, is the labor of faith, the labor of that re-appropriation. I suppose for Christians, tikkun olam can be approximated in the phrase "walking in the way of the cross."

20. And these seven points are only the constructive obligations. Critical challenges are so far as I can see unpredictable, even by analogy, for they are new in every age. They come as exposure, and must be met, as exposure is always to be met, by coming clean in face of them. But that is hard, because at first, exposure is usually incomplete, and its grace is the last aspect of it to appear.

21. One feature of this list of seven points that ought to be striking is that one can arrive at such a list only with contemporary resources in critical history, for the history of the Exodus appears quite different today from how it looked a century and a half ago. The critical and constructive moments in theology are each implicit in the other.

4. Critical History as Challenge

22. Look at the critical challenges to theology (and with it Christian living) today. It is an old story that they began with modern science, but I would like to tell the story with a little different ending. It begins with the "literal" meaning of the historical record in the Bible. I think you will not have trouble appreciating that the literal meaning changes with changing culture. A culture that has no scientific concept of the regularity of nature would see nothing scientifically problematic in the Special Effects in the Common Documents, the New Testament, and the Talmuds. But when scientific description is added to the world-view, problems arise, and indeed, the literal import of the texts has changed. If one wants to do serious science and also serious historical-covenantal religion, one has to do serious critical history as well. (Indeed, the meaning of responsible history changed greatly in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This is old material, and the members of this Society have been patiently teaching it for decades now.) Thus the most serious challenges to Christianity and also its best help have come not from the sciences but from critical history.

23. A principle that guides this thinking was explored somewhat instinctively[15] in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; I'm not sure whether it was ever spelled out as I would state it. God is not an explanation of nature in the sciences. That is, the sciences are a search for intelligible intramundane connections between intramundane phenomena. And `intelligible' means in some sense regular. Ruling God out of order as an explanation in the sciences serves to protect the transcendance of God, though I believe this motive really was instinctive and was never spelled out. Indeed, transcendance was understood in the seventeenth century quite differently from how Calvin or Luther or Aquinas would have characterized it, but that is to get ahead of my story.

24. The principle that God is not an explanation in the sciences was transfered to history, as it should be, but the application there is a little different. For some purposes in history, God is not an explanation; and this once again serves to protect the transcendance of God. But for other purposes, God is indeed an explanation. H. Richard Niebuhr called these external and internal history. Paul Ricoeur has seen a parallel distinction in explanation of human experience and action in Freedom and Nature.[16] What is experienced as existentially significant in the human body serves as information for a diagnosis of what is happening in biological terms significant to a doctor. This is analogous to Niebuhr's distinction between the two sorts of history writing. The two kinds of explanation speak in different modes of discourse, with different rules and canons of meaning, and this is seldom appreciated. They accordingly have different kinds of responsibility attached to them. A degree of analogy, figurative speech, is permitted to existential history told "from the inside" that is out of order in "scientific" history, history told from the outside. I would estimate that Ernst Troeltch understood one side of historical explanation extremely well ("external" history), but his feel for the other ("internal" history) leaves room for improvement. Let me first treat his critical project, whose focus is external history.

25. I have in mind of course his canons of historical research: criticism, analogy, and correlation. These are accepted as a matter of course in outsiders' ("secular") history, and there one would not dream of compromising methodological standards. And why should insiders' ("sacred") history insist that secular history, when looking at the same events, operate by standards that are just shoddy? Confessional history asked for exemptions from the canons of secular history because of the "literalist" worldview inherited from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, a worldview that crystalized only in the light of science and scientific naturalism. It foreclosed any distinction of different modes of historical thinking. Confessional history accordingly attempted both to live within the canons of secular history and also to obtain the necessary variances from its code in order to do so. This was a failure to appreciate the different kinds of responsibility incumbent on the two kinds of history.

26. You will of course detect the distinction between "Historie" and "Geschichte" here. It could be argued against me, that the varieties of historiography are all in some sense historical-covenantal, when the horizons are broadened sufficiently. They are obviously historical, and covenantal questions are implicit if history is to make sense. That would take some showing, more than I can do at present, and so it must remain a speculation. For the time being, I have framed my argument in the terms of the twentieth-century problematic. It may or may not be adequate to the task. Eric Voegelin's The Ecumenic Age would be an interesting point of departure from which to try to reframe the account of the various kinds of history writing.

27. In any case, the canons of criticism, analogy, and correlation were seen as a threat to traditional religion, by virtually everybody, including Troeltsch himself. Criticism deprives faith of the certainty it needs; analogy renders miracles impossible, and correlation renders acts of God impossible. I would claim, to the contrary, that criticism puts the responsibility squarely on the believer, where it belongs, and if the responsibility of confessional commitment to religion is understood, this is not an onerous burden. Analogy, though it renders "miracles" impossible, also makes the biblical narrative relevant to the modern world as it could not be if the events it relates were alien and foreign. And correlation protects the transcendance of God acting in history, by preventing acts of God from being treated as just like other intra-mundane acts and events. If one is to speak of acts of God at all, language must here mean something different from its usage in regard of human acts and natural phenomena. So far as I am aware, Troeltsch did not see the good in his methodological canons that I do, yet he was passionately commited to them in terms that could only be called religious: it was a commitment to truth. His classic statement is in "The Dogmatics of the History-of-Religions School."[17] One of the reasons his critical thinking seemed so destructive I would venture is that he was entangled to the end in a host of commitments from the Baroque and the Enlightenment. To those presuppositions, a synthesis of philosophy and confessional ideas, it was destructive, and he was unable to separate the philosophical from confessional components.

5. Critical History as Treasure

28. Many members of this Society have been patiently breaking the news of critical history to beginning students for quite some time now, and all are familiar with it. It has assumed the proportions of the short historical creed --

A wandering critical scholar was my father, few in number, and he went down into the eighteenth century, and while the ontological and hermeneutical management there changed for the worse, he became a great and mighty nation, and in the nineteenth century, we cried to El Jeffe, the Boss, and he brought us out of that century and into this one, on the wings of source criticism and form criticism, through the scorn and disbelief of cynics and Fundamentalists, into this, the promised land, where we can do hermeneutics in peace. (Well, almost in peace; the unconvinced and scoffers are never far away; but so it was after the Exodus, too.)
Or, in another vein,
These are the generations of Valla: Origen begat Jerome, Jerome begat Lorenzo, Lorenzo begat Erasmus, Erasmus begat Spinoza. These are the generations of Simon: Mabillon begat Simon, Simon had five sons, Astruc, Lessing, Semler, Griesbach, and Reimarus. Astruc begat Eichorn, Eichorn begat Wellhausen, Wellhausen had four sons: Gunkel, Mowinkel, von Rad, Noth, and some say Bultmann. Reimarus begat Wrede, Wrede begat Schweitzer, Schweitzer begat D. F. Strauss, and Strauss had twelve sons: Ferdinand, Fenton, Foss, Wilhelm, Johannes, Ernst the lesser, Ernst the greater, Adolf, Albrecht, Alfred, Karl, Rudolf, Hans
Thus were students introduced to the mysteries and wonders of "JEDP and all that." But the news has not gotten out much to the general public. This may be changing some for the better, for critical history was a thing of graduate schools before World War II, and of seminaries training parish clergy afterwards. Though pastors can't do much to spread critical history from the pulpit, in the changed structure of undergraduate education these days, it does get out through religion departments, even at state-supported schools.

29. Among scholars in the humanities, it is clear enough that the greater challenge to theology has come not from the natural sciences, but from critical history, at the same time as the conceptual paraphernalia of critical history have brought also the greatest means of progress. Critical history brought greater challenges to the "literal" account of the events in the Bible that was received from the Baroque period, in ways that went well beyond what mere disqualification of the impossible from the standpoint of the sciences could do. But better historical reading of biblical texts and the cultures they came from also opened up in the texts a dimension of meaning that was not suspected until recently. And critical hermeneutics has turned suspicion into certainty that the riches of the problematic texts are not in the modern "literal" meaning, but rather are to be found a reconstructed history or in rhetorical and figurative meanings. When the foundational role of the events of the Exodus is understood, figurative language, where it occurs, can be understood as explanation of the existential significance of those events. This has been one example of a tale often told in this century, of the escape of historical thinking from the domination of the sciences.

30. Nevertheless, in the public imagination, science still poses the only serious threat to Christian faith and to theology.[18] History, when it is not just invisible, may be noticed, but does not assume any ontologically interesting features. Other things be, history tells about them, but historicality is not interesting in and of itself, as historicality. Historicality is not for most people a mode of being, let alone an interesting one. Ahem, let's try that again, without the Heideggerese: Having a history is seldom seen as the thing that makes anything interesting be what it is. Some things be simply by having (or better, being) a history. The most interesting of them bees what it is by knowing its own history. To garble the words of a bishop in Canticle for Leibowitz, spoken to a skeptic materialist, it is not that you are a body that has a history, but rather (if you still must be a platonist), you are a history that has a body. This, if pursued, would open up a way to understand human bodies without being forced to choose between reductive materialism and the ontological impasses of dualism (bodies with detachable minds or souls). That, of course, is to shift the meaning of body from sarx to soma and then advance it some.

31. Alas, the history of western philosophy did not unfold that way in the Baroque and Enlightenment, even as history was discovered in ways it had never been seen before. For the Baroque became a period of intense naturalization of metaphysics and hermeneutics, and its heirs continue that thinking well into the present. Too little of history was seen in the eighteenth century, and naturalism had already gotten itself well entrenched. Today, that age seems to be the critical period that sowed the seeds of theological trouble for three centuries afterward (and counting). Several accounts of it are available. Michael Buckley's, At the Origins of Modern Atheism, is well known and fairly widely read, and I shall not labor it. R. M. Burns, The Great Debate on Miracles; From Joseph Glanvill to David Hume, is less well known.[19] Burns's constructive position still buys into "miracle" as a category that resists critical history, but his analysis of the period he studies is more helpful. It might well be called "At the origins of modern fundamentalism." Instead of Fundamentalism with a capital "F", I mean something more like the literalist instinct that is widespread throughout English-speaking Christianity, an instinct that understands the debate about miracles but does not really see any way out of it. In Burns's account, some would-be apologists for Christianity in the late seventeenth century took the miracle texts as reports of phenomena that could be used as empirical evidence for the truth of Christianity, and attempted an apologetic built on this assumption. While others saw through the logic of the argument, few (if any) questioned the planted naturalistic presuppositions. Thus was born an enduring feature of modern literal reading of scripture. Nobody read the texts as Special Effects.

32. There is a more recent account that has a broader horizon, and in particular, includes not just the historical question of miracles, but the philosophical problems hidden beneath it. William C. Placher's The Domestication of Transcendance carries its thesis in its title.[20] Where in Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin, transcendance was respected as something irreducibly mysterious, before which the human mind would always have to remain silent, acknowledging its unknowing, in the later seventeenth century, people began to calculate about transcendance. ("Calculated" is my word, not Placher's, but it is close enough.) And with calculation univocal language displaced analogy, and transcendant concerns were domesticated -- and naturalized. This move appears in the concepts of God, grace and human action, and providence and evil. There are parallels also in metaphysics and hermeneutics. Looking back on the changes in those centuries, one could say from the standpoint of present philosophy that, if human life is essentially historical, then one would have to lament something like

By the waters of naturalism we sat down and wept,
when we remembered you, O sacred history;

As for the song of our hearts,
we hung it up on the trees of naturalism.

For those who led us away captive asked us for a song,
and our oppressors called for mirth:
"Sing us one of the songs of history."

How shall we sing a song of history,
upon the soil of naturalism?

33. The parody is not just retrospective. In many ways, history still lives in a time of naturalism, one in which naturalism is consolidating its hold on contemporary culture. But to see the plight of history captivated by naturalism is also to look for a way out, and Placher's book is surely a plea for that. It is also an indictment of theological calculation about things that are not logically susceptible to calculation. Once seen, the problem is almost amenable of solution, though it will still take a lot of work. Look at what we know now about the Exodus, the radicalizing of covenant and the focus on history implicit in the Exodus, what we now know about history itself. We have immensely greater resources for a theology of living in history than were available a mere hundred years ago. Resources then were much greater than those of, say, 1560, at the consolidation of the Reformation, in the twilight on the way into the darkness when transcendance was domesticated. Mircea Eliade's little book, Cosmos and History, or the Myth of the Eternal Return, was possible for the first time when it was written, a mere few decades ago. It poses the religious problem as one of living in history, if history is seen at all. It opened the way to a radical re-posing of all basic religious questions.

34. Coincident with the rise of critical history has been a renewed appreciation for the role of analogy in religious language. This happened in the recovery of Thomistic philosophy over the last century or so, but not only there. That recovery at first went back to the Thomistic tradition in the state it was in when it fell into desuetude, and took Tomaso de Vio, Cardinal Cajetan, as a trustworthy interpreter of St. Thomas. Since World War II, that reading of Aquinas has lost a great deal of plausibility, in regard to analogy in particular. The harvest of scholarship has made it possible to read Thomas himself in ways that are no longer filtered through the nominalists. His defenders conceded too much to them. I was surprised to be corrected by Vince Guagliardo when I mistook analogy to be a species of language unique unto itself: No, it is a species of equivocation, one that nevertheless speaks truth.[21] But even as analogy has become a fashionable concept in theology lately, it is usually taken as a species of univocation, not equivocation.

35. Placher's account makes it clear that there were reasons why analogy was lost in the seventeenth century. Univocation affords an easier way to conduct a dispute, for in univocation, it is easier to get a hold on another's argument. People may wish to settle an argument, or even to prevent settlement, but either way, in univocal language, the goals sought can be engineered, whereas with analogical language, people are ever and again thrust back on questions that involve the speakers in essential ways. I would generalize, and claim that the modes of responsibility appropriate to analogy and univocation are quite different. We know how to settle a dispute about the specific heat of water (you just measure it). Disputes between scientific paradigms are somewhat harder, but not problematic (at least not to scientists, whatever philosophers may make of them). But what do you do about the theological challenges in Monty Python's religious satire? As in The Life of Brian? Some find it offensive, others hear in it a truth that lightens all burdens. There is no means of enforcing control over the language, its meanings, or the things it allows us access to. Nevertheless, one cannot say that analogical language means anything or nothing, because if that were really true, how could it offend, how could it illuminate life so brightly that some cannot bear to look?[22] Analogy is essential to the logic of confessional language.

36. In many ways, it would have been a lot more fun to focus this paper on history and analogy, their relationships, and their promise. Especially for a philosophical theologian. This is the problem that Langdon Gilkey described so eloquently in 1961, a problem that has progressed some since then, but is ripe for a lot more attention than it has received.[23] Today, however, we live in an era some call "culture wars," which I interpret to mean a contest over how to conduct a covenant, with the background of a social fabric that doubts history, covenant, or both. But for what it is worth, and in passing, analogy is an essentially historical concept, for involving its speakers as it does, it takes the form of a historical conversation: we saw A in the light of our experiences of B, subsequently contested on the occasions of C and D, etc.

6. Opportunities Today

37. These resources in philosophy offer a release from the impasses of baroque philosophical theology.

38. They offer relief from the confusions inherited from the Baroque period, first in philosophical thought that can begin to do justice to human phenomena without the calculating instincts of baroque philosophy.[24] But of at least as great importance is the historical perspective that allows us to see how we got into the latter-day bewilderments of baroque philosophy. When human life is at bottom historical, a historical approach to unraveling its problems would seem to be necessary. But baroque philosophy is allergic to history, to individuality, to human freedom as it appears only in history, and seeks to tame that freedom as much as it seeks to domesticate transcendance. History done well is always open to that freedom, and comfortable in the encounter with other people and contested historiography that is implicit in historical thinking. It offers graces that come in no other way: the freedom to reinterpret the past, and an invitation to reconciliation where the past is contested. Here are both the motive and the means to revise the mistakes of the past.

39. Among the fruits of that historical research is a newfound ability to see the differences between historical-covenantal living and its alternatives. This would show how to escape from the sterile apologetic debates of the last three centuries. At the same time, it would enable an evangelical posture that is both intelligible and inviting. The phenomenological philosophy that was born of self-conscious historiography can show that the logic of evangelism is not deductive or inductive (as it is in mathematics or the sciences) but invitatory and kerygmatic. It is not logically coercive because confessional discourse can never find a ground other than its own "we believe"; the attempt to do so merely shifts to (and hides) a new confessional ground.

40. A radicalized openness to history is possible today as it has not ever been before. Historical-covenantal religion has often worked to defend against history at the same time as it acknowledged history. Indeed, covenant has usually been open to interpretation (or misinterpretation) as a promise from God to exempt his people from the pains of history, if only they will do as he supposedly says. The brunt of Mircea Eliade's thesis in Cosmos and History is to try to get a historically conscious culture to understand naturalistic cultures for whom history is terror, when it is not ontologically nihilated entirely. It takes a certain kind of nerve to say that the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike, that the cosmos and history are open and indeterminate, that neither one taken in an intramundane sense is particularly friendly, and then turn around and claim, with profound irony, and in a quite different sense of discourse, that God will provide in history. This is not new, one can find it in the Common Documents (in the prophets), but we have means to recover that nerviness in history today as we have not until quite recently.

41. It is possible to see the history of compromises with exilic religion, the various gnosticisms, in the history of both Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity. Semi-gnosticisms have kept available the conceptual means for gnosticism without spelling out what they might be used for. Body-soul dualism and its accompanying emphasis on immortality of the soul (instead of resurrection of the body) is the most conspicuous example. To have spelled this out would have run into trouble with the judicatory authorities, for to their credit, both the Synagogue and the Church have always repudiated gnosticism when the issues were sufficiently clarified. But to speak only of the Christian side, the challenge of gnosticism in its most seductive form, that posed by Marcion, was not met as well as it might have been. Though the Church did keep the received Bible of the Second Temple as part of Christian scripture (thereby preventing grounds for liquidating Rabbinic Judaism later), it did so with sufficient qualifications on its worth that relations with Rabbinic Judaism were poisoned in subsequent history. Yet, as Yosef Haim Yerushalmi says, "One shudders to contemplate what might have been the fate of the Jews had Marcion been victorious."[25] The encounter with platonism carried all the building blocks for a gnostic universe, even when they were never overtly assembled in Christian circles. But one can find caricatures of gnosticizing platonism in popular Christianity today, especially where people do not head the injunction that God likes to be read to, and so don't know much of the Bible.

42. Recent historiography makes it possible to heal some of the deepest estrangements that have been inherited from history. For example, look at the parting of the ways in the first century, between the Jesus movement and the first tannaim. (It would be anachronistic to call them Christians or (Rabbinic) Jews, they were all Jews of one sort or another.) It now appears in a new light: as a disagreement over how to continue the Exodus covenant, after the disasters of that century and their accompanying changes in Jewish culture. The surviving constituencies were only two among many more who perished. This change of perspective does not force one to abandon a Chalcedonian Christology, though that needs to be shown. It does, I think, make it very hard to continue the Great Exclusive Or, the tacit presupposition on both sides that only one daughter could legitimately inherit from the rubble of Second Temple Judaism.

43. This could be extended to inter-religious dialog, further than I am capable of doing. I will only say that historical-covenantal religion, equiped with an ear sensitized by critical history, can begin to hear nature religions, Islam, and Asian religions with a sympathy that was not possible in any metaphysical, historical, or hermeneutical context before the present day. It is possible to ask, and even begin to answer, how could the commitments of historical-covenantal religion be inculturated in places different from their home?

44. It might even be possible to make progress on the philosophical problem of the ontological status of God. Instead of trying to describe directly what or how God is, a new approach is possible. Somewhat more sensibly, one could follow the advice of the Thomists and treating religious language at this point as analogical, but that approach should be radicalized. Readers of Aquinas usually leap too quickly over the analogy on the way to God. The analogy itself should be examined. So why not ask what is it in human life that leads some cultures to use the analogies of human relationships to explain their relations to whatever it is that they take ultimate reality to be? Assume that the analogy discloses some truth; but how does such analogy work? This is of course analogy as a species of equivocation, yet disclosing how things are: it cannot logically coerce (this is what baroque disputants attempt to do) yet it can appeal, it can shed light so bright some turn away.

7. Social Context (1): Evading History

45. Thus far, I have argued that we live in a time of theological challenge and opportunity, coming principally from critical history. We also live in a time when the culture around us, both covenantal and not-so-covenantal, is inclined to weaken or subvert one or both of history and covenant. The challenge -- even the reality -- of history is denied, or some features of covenant are tacitly deemed too painful, and quietly rendered "inoperative." I take up the turning from history in this section, and covenant in the next. I shall focus the problem of history in fairly familiar philosophical terms, and that of covenant through a lens of questions of social ethics. The ethical questions (all "life" issues) will require somewhat more space than a sense of balance would otherwise give it in a paper of this size. I hope that my readers will pardon the imbalance, and see that it fits not only my own sense of urgency arising from personal involvements, but also admit their own sense that life issues are today the clearing in which wider and deeper commitments are also to be resolved. These issues are an instance of something typical: covenanters frequently cannot agree on how to continue a covenant.

46. Let me back up to the question of responsibility in history, and the logic of responsibility in covenant. Responsibility in history has at least two senses. In one sense, it means admitting the human role in the fabrication of historical-covenantal religion. In another, it means being faithful to covenantal commitments inherited from history. Actually, it means a little more than that, namely, continuing the life of covenant in perhaps new and creative ways that are yet faithful (in analogical ways, of course) to the commitments inherited from history. Problems arise in regard to both of these senses of responsibility. Where people can see the human role (and human liberty) in the arrangements of historical religion, they tend to conclude that all is permitted, and thus become nihilists. (This is the "liberal" (or libertarian) option.) Where people want to reject nihilism, they tend to deny much of the human role in the history of religion, leaving them with apodictic divine commands and prohibitions that offer a way out of nihilism, and give them responsibility in the second sense, faithfulness to covenant. (When done as an attempt to get around critical history, this is the "fundamentalist" option.) It should be possible to have responsibility in both forms. These themes run through the last two or three centuries of Christian theology. They are new, I suspect, in Christian history, because critical history, the occasion for such questions, is new.

47. Much older than this latter-day malfeasance of covenant is a chronic inability to agree on how to conduct a covenant. To notice this would have opened the door to a theology of a responsible liberty of interpretation in the conduct of a covenant faithful to its historical origins. With some exceptions, most children of the Exodus have been unwilling to admit their theological adversaries to the pale of covenant. This is an instance of the desire to have a covenant in history without taking responsibility for one's own conduct in history. That desire shows up in a special way in the light of critical history, but critical history also provides the light which could show the way to accept responsibility gracefully for the continuation of a covenant responsibly when plural ways are possible.

48. With that brief digression by way of a road-map for the coming sections, let me examine the cultural background in attitudes toward history.

49. It has been remarked for some decades that conspicuous parts of western culture have been turning away from Christianity. I am not so pessimistic as to declare a post-Christian (or post-covenantal) society. After all, the Enlightenment was conspicuously and candidly anti-Christian, and historical-covenantal religion has survived the Enlightenment -- whether in resistance, as in the Fundamentalisms, or in lively self-renewal without conceding the anti-covenantal premises in circulation in the larger culture, as in the non-Fundamentalist options. Nevertheless, the phenomenon has never been so overt as recently. It comes in several forms:

50. (a) History denied: This happens in reductive materialism, philosophical naturalism. It is a growth industry in mainstream academic philosophy in America today. This movement is sometimes called "scientism," and its hallmark is the prohibition of any kind of meaning or explanation other than the sciences. In its a-theistic and anti-transcendent way, this entails a human stance that (unless gnostic) seeks to fit into nature naturally, a strange form of mimesis, but mimesis nonetheless. Its technical literature is easy enough to find. Carl Sagan is an evangelistic (if markedly disorderly) popular exponent of this program.

51. (b) History invisible, in nature religions: We see self-conscious revivals of mimetic or nature-focused religion, inspired by ancient forms, and also modern analogs that would not be called "religious" but are nevertheless comprehensive ways of integrating meaning in life, ways of coordinating a basic life orientation. I have mentioned Margot Adler and Jerry Mander already. Interest in pre-contact Native American religion is an example of seeking for religion without history. It typically reacts against elements of Christianity that I would ascribe to gnostic corruptions, and does not see history in Christianity or Judaism at all. History is simply invisible here.

52. (c) History ignored: Most of the hellenistic religions are represented in modern analogs, as are also the ancient gnosticisms. What is new in the last two or three decades, at least from the point of view of historians and theologians who do still nominally reside in the ambit of biblical religion, is that contemporary culture has itself, as a whole, taken on the texture of the hellenistic world. It has a plurality of values that is not a pluralism (pluralism would be plural expressions of some underlying agreements; there are few that go very deep today.) Wildly incompatible values tolerate each other only in the sense that they usually conduct their disagreements non-violently. The more syncretistically inclined even pretend not to have disagreements, averring that at bottom we all agree.

53. (e) Substituting ethics for history: Without any ability to resolve the conflicts of modern society that come from inherited traditions, there are many who would reduce the problems to ethics, and seek an a-historical ethic. They assume that it is possible to do ethics without attention to history, contrary to Alasdair MacIntyre's claim that ethics is at bottom a historical mode of thought. (His argument seems to me at this point, whatever may be said of its other goals, to be a demonstration and not merely an argument. It can be dodged or ignored, but I don't see that it can be refuted.) A moderate version of this position occurs is Joseph Soloveitchik's Halakhic Man, where ethics is admitted to be historical (in halakhah, one stands beside Moses himself), but I am not convinced that this insight is really radicalized. I think the contemporary ethics projects of many philosophy departments do not intend even this much. They view history as the source of intractable problems, and would like to dismiss historical thinking, in order not to have to face those problems. Ethics is to be the substitute, as a way of resolving disputes without having to live with one's neighbors in their grubby human particularity and grabby demands.

54. (f) History defended against: Fundamentalism is historical, in the sense of doing historical-covenantal religion: its partisans will readily admit as much if asked. But it is loth to admit the full implications of this: it is unwilling to think in the terms of the critical history that has developed in the last two hundred years. This is a way of living in history defensively. In Mircea Eliade's terms, we see here a semi-historical stance, for which history is real, and the center of meaning is historical, but its function is to save us from history, only dubiously to affirm life in history. Needless to say, also, the Fundamentalist stance dodges the responsibility that any body must take for its own religious commitments, a responsibility that is worked out in critical history in a way that is painfully radical in comparison to pre-critical history.

55. (g) History escaped in messianism: A leader is sought who will take the covenant people to a promised land (located in some reform of human institutions) where liberation is final, where there is no more need for what H. Richard Niebuhr called permanent metanoia, permanent revolution.[26] Doubtless many varieties of this move could be found. This is a fairly direct abdication of the central Exodus commitment that all human institutions shall be desacralized and held responsible to whatever people and events can shed light on their actions.

56. (h) History subverted: Here, critical history is seen, and with it the liberty of interpretation that is given to historical beings. This contituency misses the responsibility inherent in covenantal history, and sees only the liberty, and thus converts liberty to a libertarianism in which everything is permitted. This is an affluent and respectable nihilism, the besetting temptation of the Liberal positions.

57. As I have said, a dilemma appears in the light of critical history. Where the human role in religious history is seen, but no means for responsibility, what results is a libertarian nihilism. Where responsibility is sought, it apparently cannot be found except by denying the human role in human religion. Arguments in the search for responsibility take a form such as you should do A, believe B, etc. The trouble is that A, B and so forth turn out to be analogical concepts, and when their historical particularities are exposed, only historical individuality is left. And if one has a concept of analogy that requires some univocal core of identity between the phenomena compared, then the analogy has evaporated under the light of criticism.

58. Look at how the problem appears in Troeltsch: Analogies between similar events in the past enable one to estimate their probability, and to infer what is unknown about one by reference to another.

"This omnipotence of analogy implies the similarity (in principle) of all historical events -- which does not, of course, mean identity. While leaving all possible room for differences, however, the analogical method always presupposes a common core of similarity that makes differences comprehensible and empathy possible."[27]
Our problem is not the trial of history in order to establish its facts, but the reference to history in order to hear its covenantal claim on us. Analogy is at the heart of both problems. Troeltsch's assumption, the one I would dispute, is the requirement of a common core of similarity before there can be an analogy. This requirement can be used as a tool with which to minimize analogies drawn across history, and thus to dissipate the claims of history on the present. This is how the claims of history are subverted by a naive critical method.

59. Troeltsch never relents in his polemic against the insidious tendency to assimilate historical reasoning to the logic of the natural sciences. But even he himself fell victim to it in places, for his definition of analogy is susceptible to a reading on which it has a univocal core. If this core of similarity is not itself analogous but univocal, then, while a so-called analogy could still function in a critical way, analogy could not really function in a synthetic or constructive way in the understanding of history, and the structure of the formal logic of history would be undermined. Failure to see this and to pursue it trapped him in the impasses in which he ended. If it were seen, it would raise further questioning especially into how analogies can be responsible and how they can exact responsibility. But Troeltsch is at most ambiguous, and the choice between limited or full development of analogy is never clarified, though his later research works to develop it in ways that go far beyond anything that could reduce it to something built on a univocal core. What I take to be an assumption of univocity in the beginning is at hidden war with the concept of the historical individual that comes out later, and which in the end prevails over all other considerations, as it should. But what holds a historical individual together across time is analogy understood in a way that does not require a univocal core.

60. I would claim that a radicalized concept of analogy is the remedy to these problems. It is typical that we both see and conduct one engagement with life in the light of another, and I would like to take analogy as the languaging of this phenomenon. The companion ontological assumption is that one area of life can illuminate another, and that this light is radical and not superficial.

61. What is not yet obvious is that both the linguistic and ontological sides of analogy are a process of responsibility, a process in which human relationships and their languaging are challenged and adjudicated in a community of moral obligation. Responsibility is an activity, the giving of and asking for reasons for actions, past and proposed. It proceeds in terms of human relationships, not natural causes.[28] What would emerge, if this suggestion were to become a live research project, would be a sense that all the concepts and practices that make up a covenant and its conduct are analogical, and the analogies are a matter of human involvement that may not ultimately be abstracted from. What is said is always a "we see" one area of life in the light of another, and "it seemed good to us and to the Holy Spirit" to conduct our life in such and such a way in the light of this history.

62. The dialectic of responsibility is one in which others are allowed to dissent and go their own way, but if they intend to participate in responsibility, they are obliged to show how their different proposed way to conduct a covenant might satisfy -- for example -- the seven canons which I have seen coming out of the Exodus in my comments above, under "Confessional Obligations to the Traditions." If they cannot discharge this obligation, then eventually, they forfeit their claim to be doing covenant at all. Though this testing may first appear at the level of discourse, disagreement conducted verbally in a covenantal community, ultimately, it happens in living, not in logic. Whether something works out in a way that embraces all of life as good, understood as history and including its pains (this is the essence of covenant), is seen in living. It will become the history that illuminates further history. This is the form of a disagreement that I shall be attempting to conduct one side of in the next and following sections, when I come to issues of social ethics.

8. Social Context (2): Subverting Covenant

63. Look again at the community of moral obligation as it emerges from the Exodus. There is to be no focus of loyalty in nature or human institutions, and however a transcendant focus is to be ontologized, it is to be welcomed into the world, not fled to from the world, because life in this world is to be affirmed as good. A people so committed finds itself in history affirming that human life is good, all of it, even its hard parts. There is an implicit reciprocity in shared humanity that then entails a community of moral obligation that is open to all: if life is good, even in its pains, then those who so believe are obliged to open the covenant to all. I contend in this section that certain practices in society today (contraceptives, abortion, euthanasia) work to downgrade some and exclude others from the community of moral obligation. I shall argue in subsequent sections that because these practices are at home in the same social locations where critical history is also at home, the custodians of critical history compromise their stewardship of covenant when they make compromises with these practices. It is generally agreed in society at large that these practices determine people's entire life orientation: These practices are the place where people make basic life choices. Indeed, when James Davison Hunter expanded his earlier exploration of conflict over social ethics, Culture Wars, in a second book, Before the Shooting Begins, he narrowed his focus from several parallel issues to abortion alone.[29]

64. Practices at the beginning and end of life and in its propagation take on a significance that colors the rest of life. Attitudes that run consistently through all of life show themselves in a particularly clear way in the passages of life, places where life itself is at stake. Here are the acts that determine what shall happen to entire lives, and because they do that, people's intentions with respect to life as a whole can be seen in their intentions displayed in these acts. They are places in life, clearings, where you can see what people are doing with their lives. The Talmud is correct in its instinct that regulation of these cross-roads of life is the way to ensure a covenantal orientation throughout. (It even extends its regulation to the sustenance of life (food and eating), further than we need go, at least here.) And while I suspect that Christian ethics could seem utterly scatter-brained, reckless, and lax to our Rabbinic brothers and sisters, it, too, has known that in the passages where life itself is at stake, there are limits on what one can do and still remain loyal to covenant. Indeed, there is a general sense within the culture at large that these turning points in life -- contraceptives, abortion, and euthanasia -- are at the center and not the periphery of the choices we make. How one decides at these points shapes what kind of life one lives. Everybody knows this intuitively, and few can spell out convincingly why this is so.

65. Practices associated with birth, death, and sex have changed both radically and rapidly in the last forty years. Until the recent availability of easy contraception (to start at the beginning), there was a social ethic that limited sex to the context in which children could be welcomed and safely cared for. That ethic was generally accepted as normative even when it was transgressed. Since the advent of contraceptives, the norms themselves have by degrees been shucked. What is left is the so-called "sexual revolution," in which everything is permitted except what would embarrass the sexual revolution. On Nietzsche's definition, this is a form of nihilism. It carries a sense of despair that comes when there are no real goals that could make sense of life. Goals that are radically optional (as they must be if everything is permitted) do not really count. I think the despair comes from living in a way that is not ordered to the constructive hope of procreation.

66. I would like to consider first the new practices' effect on the human relationships of adults, separately from the killing involved in abortion and its recent sequel, euthanasia. When contraceptives became available and there was no effective opposition, they won their quest for legitimacy, and abortion became necessary as back-up. Contraceptives and abortion travel together. Yet it has been remarked even by some favorable to the sexual revolution that contraceptives and abortion were not entirely a blessing for women:

Sexual liberation in this sense does not free women, it frees male sexual aggression. The availability of abortion thus removes the one remaining legitimized reason that women had for refusing sex beside the headache.[30]
The principal purpose of contraceptives and abortion, at least from the point of view of single men, is to take away a woman's last reason to say No. The easy availability of contraceptives constitutes a bargaining tool for an irresponsible man, by announcing how things are without the need for him to say anything at all. As it happens, once the decision has been made, contraceptives are often not actually used, because their use would spell out to at least one party that he or she is being sexually promiscuous, and people don't like to think of themselves as sexually promiscuous.[31]

67. The point that I would like to emphasize is that turning off a part of the woman's body (or otherwise circumventing the physical consequences of the act) constitutes an attitude of disrespect in the human relationships of the sexual activity. Those relationships are profoundly changed by the presence of contraceptives. Given even my limited experience of opinion around me, I do not really expect to be convincing. It is especially difficult to make sense of how contraceptives change human relationships in a culture whose ontology of human action sees only the physical motions of an act, and hides or takes for granted the characterizations that are essential to human action. I think people can understand that to promise not to engage in activity requiring contraceptives requires a deep respect for other people. What they gag at is the claim that actual use is disrespectful. But respectful conduct towards another does not need contraceptives. People who deny that contraceptives have intrinsic moral implications but still insist on having access to them thereby reveal that they know intuitively, even if they will not spell out, how contraceptives determine the moral color of the lives that use them.

68. The easy availability of such a technology will profoundly affect how all human relationships are conducted, first those having to do with sex, and others then indirectly. Today, an index of the triumph of the irresponsible male is contained in the degree to which he remains unmentioned in discussions about abortion. Pro-lifers are accused of forcing women to have children when they don't want to, but who got them pregnant? That man is invisible. (Pregnancy is spoken of with a circumspection about its causes that likens it to a contageous disease, not something that is supposedly voluntary on the part of two people.) Getting a woman pregnant when she doesn't want to be (as evidenced by a subsequent abortion) strikes me as serious wrongdoing. But in this culture, there is no practical sense in which it is considered wrong at all.

69. There is good reason to suspect that in the 1960s, when contraceptives were first widely available, moral sentiments about them saw intuitively what they implied, although those intuitions were soon effectively overwhelmed. They are captured in the dictionary definition of a term used to describe a man of low character, "scumbag." Its first meaning is a condom; its second is a base or despicable person.[32] Clearly the original meaning was just a physical description of the implement of contraception, and it was then extended to describe the character of the man who uses such a tool. A scumbag (person) is a man who uses a scumbag (equipment) in order to get his pleasure from a woman without the responsibilities of a serious relationship. The older instincts saw the new contraceptives as a technology of disrespect, and said as much in their characterization of those who used condoms.

70. In announcing my interest in life issues, I have implicitly claimed that contraceptives set the moral tone for entire lives. Before attempting to lay out these connections, it will help some if I quote the opposition, who have already stipulated as much. The Supreme Court, in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, opined that[33]

These matters, involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State.
Speaking of any attempt to treat contraceptives as just an occasional tool for transient purposes, and subject to regulation with limited and containable effects on life, the Court a little later in the same opinion said,
But to do this would be simply to refuse to face the fact that for two decades of economic and social developments, people have organized intimate relationships and made choices that define their views of themselves and their places in society, in reliance on the availability of abortion in the event that contraception should fail.

71. I am not advocating the prohibition of contraceptives, but I do claim that they do enormous damage. Where the protection of human life is not at issue, as it is for abortion, my libertarian instincts and a sense of what is practical would make me extremely cautious about prohibiting contraceptives. In this sense, contraceptive technology is analogous to tobacco: what tobacco does to the lungs, contraceptives do to human relationships. You might be George Burns, and live to be 100, smoking cigars everyday, but chances are, you are not. There may be some who can use contraceptives without damage to their relationships, but for most, the damage is at first insidious and later severe. Many will deny that contraceptives do any damage, very much in parallel to the tobacco companies who denied for years that smoking causes a variety of lung diseases. In as much as contraceptives create a demand for abortion, and abortion really should be prohibited (as a species of wrongful homicide, albeit a unique one), I am aware that there is a certain tension between allowing one and prohibiting the other. But in regard to such details this paper is exploratory, and keeping contraceptives legal does not foreclose aggressive efforts to discourage them and to make clear how much damage they do. I would just say that those who choose to permit contraceptives have an enormous burden of proof, one that I for my part do not think can be supported in the long run. In the short run, those who succeed in limiting the damage of contraceptives do so because they devote serious attention to a moral framework that insures mutual respect of spouses and effectively prevents sex outside of marriage; I have in mind Protestant Evangelicals. Without such measures, contraceptives wreak havoc on human relationships, but because they do it insidiously, it is hard to expose the connection.

72. As the secular argument goes, people would like to live a lifestyle that requires access to contraceptives, yet deny that contraceptives have any connection with the dysfunctions of that lifestyle. In one lifestyle that requires contraceptives, men and women are to be interchangeable in all roles in life, and anything socially imposed to the contrary is an unjust abridgement of equal rights. Practically, this requires freeing women from the biologically imposed constraints of pregnancy. Less obvious is the tacit reordering of values away from the propagation and care of children. Because the need to pass on life would seem to be one of the limitations of life, and because rejection of the limitations of life is a hallmark of exilic living, I take the downgrading of childcare to be a functionally gnostic move. George Gilder characterized it as "sexual suicide," the title of his 1973 book on the dysfunctions of the feminist program for society.[34] It is the gnostic abdication of generative sexuality that unfolds subsequently in a social ethic with libertarian-gnostic features. Modern gnosticisms look on the social world as one with a small minority of the enlightened in a large mass of the un-enlightened. (In the 1970s and 1980s, the terms would have been "consciousness-raisers" and "consciousness-raisees.") Gnostic elites have little basis for regard for the unenlightened, for the unenlightened are not really capable of being saved. They can then be exploited with impunity. It is then no surprise that those who cannot speak out for themselves are eliminated when they become inconvenient.

73. This started with abortion. I shall not review the progress of abortion in America, because both the facts and the conventional arguments are fairly well known.[35] My own contention that the reason to keep abortion safe and legal is utterly male-chauvinist (to take away a woman's last reason to say No) is not much voiced in any debates that I have heard. What goes for male chauvinism goes for male-pattern irresponsibility among women as well.

74. What is not so well known is how the killing has metastasized to neonates, to some of the disabled, and to the very old, in euthanasia. Let me review the facts of euthanasia. The best information is available for the practice in the Netherlands, where a significant fraction of all deaths under doctors' care are by euthanasia. It has attracted enough concern that the Dutch Attorney General's office has done a study, known informally as the Remelink Report, for the name of the Attorney General.[36] About 19% of the deaths in the Netherlands for the years studied were iatricides, euthanasia by doctors.[37] Often the patient has not given consent, and often does not know.[38] In about 14% of the cases of active involuntary euthanasia, the patient was competent, could have given consent, but apparently was not asked.[39]

75. I am not aware of the extent of euthanasia in America, but it has become a public issue, and all the arguments are in place for it, as well as powerful economic interests who would benefit. Whether the courts will follow their own example and legislate in defiance of legislatures as they did in regard to abortion remains yet to be seen.

76. There is a striking contrast between the recent Dutch practice and the German program during World War II, known as Aktion T-4, code for the street address of its central coordinating office, Tiergartenstrasse 4, in Berlin. Perhaps because of recent practice in the Netherlands and America, the history of the T-4 program has attracted a fair amount of attention in the last fifteen years.[40] The German doctors' practice was candid, at least among themselves (however much they lied to the public), it was centralized and organized and methodical, and it had government support. The German doctors knew that they would have to have permission in the form of suspending the law of murder. In the Netherlands and even more in America, the practice of euthanasia is carefully protected by subterfuges, cover-stories, and self-deception, and it is disorganized and decentralized and private. The T-4 program killed between 200 and 300,000 disabled, most of the disabled population in Germany proper, comparable to the Jewish population in Germany proper.[41] It funneled the disabled to a handful of killing centers, ostensibly hospitals. It pioneered the gas chambers disguised as showers that were later scaled up for Auschwitz. The T-4 program was stopped officially in the summer of 1941 when Hitler's generals on the Eastern front complained that it was hurting morale by its treatment of returning disabled soldiers, and because the bishop of Muenster denounced it from the pulpit (his sermon was widely distributed afterwards in the civilian population). It continued unofficially at a reduced pace, and the last killing was not stopped until three months after the end of the war.[42] It was done by the doctors; the National Socialist Party merely removed barriers to the program.

77. The relevance of comparing the German euthanasia program to the Netherlands and to America is not in the style (organized and government-coordinated v. disorganized and private) but in the changed attitudes toward human life that legitimated it in the first place, for that change has come surreptitiously to America in the last thirty years. The German experience merely spells out in a particularly clear way what is at stake socially and theologically. The critical concept has acquired a certain notoriety, "Leben unlebenswert," life not worthy of living. This is a move to displace inconvenient people from the community of moral obligation. Where it was possible to dehumanize certain groups, it was easy to simply eliminate them. Subterfuges aside, human nature is the same in America as it was in Germany. And so the American translation of "Leben unlebenswert" that has acquired legal standing is "insufficient quality of life." Companion to the dehumanizing of those to be eliminated has been a fuzzing of the definition of death, from having no heart-beat, no breathing, and being stiff and cold, to merely having a major cognitive deficit. And the definition of "major" is being slowly relaxed.

78. While the T-4 Program illustrates clearly what can happen when populations are declared to be of unacceptable quality of life, there is a much more chilling history from the English-speaking world. It is more directly relevant to America, for it provides a moral model for us today, in as much as it illustrates how undesirables can be eliminated without ever spelling out what is going on. Richard Rubenstein's article on the logic and origins of covenant in After Auschwitz caught my eye on my encountering that book, but the chapter preceding it, devoted to genocidal policies in English-speaking countries, is more sobering. It is entitled, "Modernization and the Politics of Extermination; Genocide in Historical Context." The elimination of redundant and incovenient populations in England began with social and economic changes in the sixteenth century, rationalization of English agriculture, in which common grazing land was enclosed and its previous users deprived of livelihood. The Poor Laws were intended both to provide for the newly created poor and also to control the criminality that resulted from their displacement downward on the economic ladder.[43] As events developed, the people that the economy had no use for were expelled, first to America, some voluntarily, some involuntarily. When America was no longer available for involuntary expulsion, Australia was used. In America and Australia, natives, those further down on the status ladder, were displaced to make room for those pushed down above them. The case of Ireland was somewhat more overt than the treatment of the displaced in England. It began with Cromwell, and I shall not review all of it; apparently, affluent English spoke of the Irish in tones reminiscent of those later used by Nazis of Slavs, or white South Africans of that land's original inhabitants. Ireland in English eyes was ripe for settlement -- but the natives would have to be reduced in order to make room. And British policy did this fairly effectively.[44] What is striking in contrast to Hitler's later candid, methodical, rapid, and efficient emulation of the British social changes is the degree to which the British policies have been invisible to later history. It is this that makes them such a relevant model for America today -- albeit one hopefully to be avoided and not copied.

79. In this section, I have sketched interlocking recent changes in society that have homicidal implications for many who are displaced by these changes. They have happened in the society "around" the churches, and they have theological implications. A community of moral obligation, at least as we have come to understand it in the West, is itself a creation of covenantal religion. One of the pivots of covenant is the command to love one's neighbor as one like oneself, as I have noted already. When a culture opts out of covenant, what remains of a community of moral obligation is I think greatly restricted, or replaced entirely by some other basis for social relations. This can actually be done with some consistency, and it has been advocated by Peter Singer, whose ethics candidly allows killing for purely utilitarian reasons.[45] What is not possible is to do this in a way consistent with a covenantal inheritance, and so because there is still much sentimental attachment to the "feel" of covenant, the killing is sold under covenantal trademarks. The moral incoherence is concealed with cover-stories and fudged definitions. Such an ethic is consistent with nature-focused mimetic religion, it is consistent with gnosticisms, and it is consistent with what H. Richard Niebuhr called "henotheism," the condition wherein the focus of ultimate loyalty vests in some human community. It is not consistent with covenant or a community of moral obligation.

9. Contesting Covenant

80. I claimed at the end of Section (7) that serious theological controversy within a covenant takes the form of disagreements over whether proposed doctrine or practices are compatible with covenant. I have implied such charges in Section (8), and shall focus them momentarily. First, let me briefly review the progress of the argument so far, in order to emphasize its place in its historical and theological context.

81. The present understanding of history (both in its particulars and how it works, as history) affords theology an opportunity both to radicalize the understanding of covenant and to continue covenant in a way that is robust and sturdy in the post-baroque conceptual world we live in today. The new historiography and its accompanying phenomenological philosophy are a challenge to the baroque philosophy of religion that we have inherited. As covenanters should expect of exposure, history as exposure also offers a means of grace, to continue covenant anew. The social background of these changes is not nearly so encouraging. History and the historicality of human life are widely evaded, and widespread practices undermine the basis of covenant. We are in a time when covenant has come to a cross-roads, there are disputed ways to continue it responsibly. (In this dispute, I would describe myself as quite partisan, but I am not sure there is a coherent party that is commited both to critical history and to a pro-life social ethic.)

82. I contend that establishment or prestige theology is to some degree in collaboration with the anti-covenantal trends that I have sketched, beginning with the subversion of history and covenant, especially in the practices of contraceptives, abortion, and euthanasia, and it is to a degree complicit even in the underlying theological changes. "To a degree": not all, but some. "Establishment theology": the circles in which critical history is taken seriously.

83. I would like to pass very briefly over the theological issues of mimetic religion and then concentrate on life issues.

84. Nature-focused religion is a lesser theological issue than the community of moral obligation that is at stake in the sexual revolution, but the two issues run in parallel, and brief mention of nature-religion is not out of place. Nature-religion in a scientific age takes the form of environmentalism, and it has received a kind of theological attention that goes far beyond the mere sensible rule that nature is neither to be worshiped nor to be trashed. When in the late 1960s or early 1970s, the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine hosted a gaia-and-whales mass, Time Magazine burped that even New York Episcopalians should know better. Twenty odd years later, earth-mother worship is common if not widespread, and it gets no serious opposition in the "mainline" denominations. It travels with feminism, which is not an accident, for in a feminized deity, the deity produces the world out of its own body as a mother produces a child. The world is then made out of god-stuff, as it is in mimetic religion. These ideas are intrinsic to the analogy of a female deity. The asexual masculine analogy for God in the Common Documents was a device to express the radical transcendance of a historical-covenantal God and at the same time to protect against mimetic religion. The connection of environmentalist theology with feminism leads also to connections with the sexual revolution and its social ethic.

85. I have mixed feelings toward mimetic religion. On the one hand, it lacks the conceptual apparatus necessary to conduct a covenant in history, and as a consequence of deafness to history, is unable to understand human freedom and responsibility. It also imitates nature (the meaning of mimesis, after all) in excluding some people for utilitarian reasons; there is no community of moral obligation. So while I do not have quite the violent histamine reaction of the Deuteronomists against their mimetic contemporaries, I come close. (The Deuteronomist had easy antigens by which to identify mimesis: idols. Today the problem is much harder.)

86. On the other hand, mimetic religion affirms life in this world, as historical-covenantal religion is supposed to, and exilic religion most emphatically does not.

87. Having noted contemporary mimetic theological temptations, let me return to my central complaint. Much the most interesting and disturbing issue is the extent to which prestige theology is willing to go along with contraception, abortion, lately euthanasia, and the life-styles they make possible. I contend that this position is not coherent. To hold it requires an act of self-deception. It would help to have a brief anatomy of self-deception in order to recognize the phenomenon. My guide is Herbert Fingarette's book of that name, in its third chapter, "To Say Or Not To Say."[46] Self-knowledge consists in spelling out what is going on in one's life, and this is an active process, not just one of passive perception. It is possible to conduct an engagement with life, some part of one's life, without ever spelling out what is going on. It may not be necessary, and we are quite capable of sizing up a situation to see whether spelling out is necessary. This faculty implies also the ability to size up a situation and come to a policy not to spell out when it is appropriate, as for example, in order to avoid pains that would come from spelling out. (The policy itself has to be left un-spelled out, if it is to work.) Often the engagement is visible to oneself and to others, and it is described in terms that, while true, leave out what is important. (The best lie is the truth edited only by deletion.) This is called a cover-story.

88. I would like to consider an example in a little detail, from one of the more liberal churches, but one committed in its seminaries to critical history and to its implications. It is I think typical of the moral climate in regard of life issues in the academic environments where history is handled with some sense of critical responsibility. Similar texts could be found from other denominations; these are merely the ones I know best. In 1976, the Episcopal Church General Convention passed a resolution tolerating abortion in some circumstances and appearing to question it in others. The Resolution on Abortion offers the advantage of an extended and carefully considered text, one that is not pulled together from oral memories and anecdotes. I include its full text as an appendix.

89. Let me disclose interest at the outset, in two particulars: The Episcopal Church brought the Gospel to me, and me to the Gospel, entailing a debt of gratitude beyond calculation, one that I am happy and proud to acknowledge. Secondly, I am disabled (T-12 spinal cord injury), a point which will bear materially on the issue.[47] As background, it should be known that I eventually left the Episcopal Church rather than try to handle the intense conflicts I have over the issue of abortion within the Episcopal Church. I would not fault others for handling the conflict differently within the Episcopal Church.

90. With a nod to the sacredness of new life and human responsibility therefor, the Resolution affirms birth control (other than by abortion). It allows abortion when the physical or mental health of the mother is threatened, or in cases of rape or incest, or when the child will be born disabled. Abortion for reasons other than these is referred to confessional counseling, with a suggestion of options other than abortion. The resolution closes with a clear and unambiguous opposition to any restrictions on abortion in civil law.

91. The Resolution appears to oppose abortion, but it legitimates the reason ("health," especially mental health) that everybody understands is elastic enough to allow any abortion at all, at any time in pregnancy, as a cover for any other reason. The two Supreme Court decisions handled the exceptions in the same way; I believe that Doe v. Bolton contains the infinitely elastic "health" justification. At least some in the Episcopal Church understood this; the Bishops of the Episcopal Church in 1984 said,

The mother's welfare is a wide embracing term. It can mean everything from "being inconvenienced" to "psychotic depression". ... Difficulties arise when the door is opened to a mother's needs. Who knows whether selfish desires might slip through the door under the guise of essential needs?[48]
It is this combination of apparently seeing what is at stake and yet acting incompatibly that cries for a verdict of self-deception.

92. The Bishops were aware of the issues, and they saw that if there was to be even an appearance of consistency, they would have to undermine the human status of the unborn child, qualifying or negating its claims as a member of the community of moral obligation. This they did in their Pastoral Letter of 1984:

The fact that a fetus has the biological life of human beings does not of itself establish that the fetus is a person in the full sense of the word. We know that at the other end of life's pilgrimage a human body can be kept functioning, its lungs taking in oxygen, its heart pumping blood, though the person who once expressed himself through the body can no longer do so as a member of society. The vital question is: When does a fetus become a human being?[49]
They note four answers and then state their own, in which these comments are pivotal:

To think of the fetus on its way toward becoming a person, in process, is to make the whole question harder. One cannot point to any moment in the process when one is sure that the fetus is not a person. Nor can one mark off a moment after which one knows for sure that the fetus is a person, with the same right to life as a child running down the street. ... We believe that becoming a person is a process. But this hypothesis deprives one of clear-cut positions and certain absolutes.[50]

This is where the Bishops introduce their essential premise, and contrary to all the talk about lack of certainty and lack of absolutes, it establishes with an absolute certainty that they can do whatever they want to unborn human life.

93. They focus on the ontological difficulties of recognizing what is human, but as often as not, one encounters the rationale for abortion that it is "complicated," or "more complicated" than the pro-life movement would admit. We are enjoined to respect the complexities of life, show some compassion (but not co-suffering) for those enmeshed in such complexities, and tolerate a little abortion. Indeed, this is true: in a problem pregnancy, to carry the child to birth is complicated. But why, in the name of respect for complexity, are we being told to take the simple solution, an abortion? In a problem pregnancy, the woman faces opprobrium, expense, dislocation, foreclosure of plans and opportunities, and loss of economic prospects and security. Abortion offers the simplest sort of relief -- it can be done on a lunch hour, no one need ever know there was even a pregnancy (avoiding exposure), and all the problems will go away. No dislocation of plans (avoiding limitation), no demands by an unwanted child (avoiding others' need). By contrast, in the short run, allowing the child to live entails many complications: changes of plans, possible embarrassment, support for the child. But in the long run, it affirms life, not only that of the child, but also that of the mother and everyone else involved, and in that affirmation brings moral peace. The quick and easy solution buries grief and incurs a load of guilt that will bring everlasting and bitter remorse -- if its moral implications are faced at all. Otherwise, it entails permanent denial, dislocation and distortion of one's life story.[51]

94. Return from the cover story about the complex and the simple, and look at the ontological distinctions. In different ways, each determines the other. The motive is at the moral level, but the logic of the choices occurs essentially at an ontological level, and that is where the bishops concentrate their analysis (in the process nicely covering up the choices at the moral level.) Their exposition shows fairly clearly the essential error in anthropology. As we have seen, they have earlier called human life a pilgrimage. But when, pray tell, does a process cease to be a process and become a pilgrimage? For all human personhood is a process. They pass by in silence the possibility that the ontology of human existence is the process itself, rather than being something that the process processes toward. The potential for human existence is human existence; this much should have been clear from Heidegger. Potential human life is the ontology of human existence. There is a clear dividing line at conception, for before conception, there are only gametes, without a full complement of genetic material. And before conception, there is no material thing that has human relationships with others. At conception, the child, even only as one cell, has relationships with at least two adults, because it is the living product of their act. It is only because those relationships can be ontologically nihilated that we can become so perplexed about what is human and what is a human act, two confusions that run through the center of these life issues. By contrast, gametes, tumors, and tissue cultures, though undeniably alive and in a genetic sense human, are not human beings, precisely because they are not in the process of being human, because they do not have potential for being human. Process and potential I would submit are the proper marks of being human.

95. No one in the Pro-Life movement is fooled by these arguments; they are intended to give cover-stories to those in liberal churches who want access to abortion or to the life-style which it enables, and who are willing to not spell out what is really going on.

96. Prominent in the General Convention Resolution was permission to abort children who would be born disabled. Sitting where I do, it is striking that the Episcopal Church went out of its way, not once, but repeatedly, to say that it is OK to abort people like me. A T-12 cord injury acquired late in life is not very different from the congenital spina bifida that frequently becomes the reason for an abortion.

97. Now you may say that there's a world of difference between congenital spina bifida and spina bifida acquired late in life at high speed on a toboggan sled. Be careful how you answer; your students have pastoral ministry to the spinal-cord injured, most of whom acquired spina bifida late in life. Could you go onto a rehab ward and tell the recovering SCI patients there, young men and women struggling through inevitable anger and denial and depression precisely to a hope and determination to take life, with its pains, as worth living, could you tell them, "We're not gonna kill you, we're just gonna kill the unborn babies who would grow up to be like you"?[52] "You are completely safe". That is always what Thursday's victims are told on Tuesday. Things are different on Thursday. Indeed, the disabled have already noticed that what is for the able-bodied anti-suicide counseling has often become for them just suicide counseling: suicide is perceived by able-bodied counselors to be a rational choice for the disabled.[53]

98. I don't see much difference between abortion and euthanasia; the reason is the same. Insufficient "quality of life" is deemed grounds first for termination of life in the womb, and then later by extension, for its termination at any stage. Thus was membership in the community of moral obligation so weakened that any who are inconvenient can be expelled from it. One of the primary products of the bioethics industry has been cover-stories for this killing.[54]

99. At the beginning was the technology of disrespect, whereby a man can evade responsibility and arrange his life for pleasure and short-term satisfaction. There need be no effort devoted to passing on life. The desire to pass on life was one of the first marks of covenant, whose first promise, after all, was children. And there need be no concern to respect the other. One disrespect begets another, and as one class of people is displaced downward in the scale of life, the one beneath it must be pushed further down to make room. Those at the bottom have to be eliminated, either by expulsion or killing. Richard Rubenstein documents this in regard to ethnic and economic class, first in the English-speaking world, and later in Germany in this century. We are seeing it in regard to women, children, and the disabled, in America today. Where there is no covenant, people with conflicting interests have no basis for peace, and all moral obstacles to mistreatment are removed.[55] Conversely, where mistreatment is condoned, as it is in the liberal churches, covenant has been implicitly suspended.

100. If I have documented vice from the church of my birth, I would like to exhibit virtue from the same source. Sometime in the 1970s or early 1980s, Bonnell Spencer, OHC, wrote on the monastic charisms.[56] The heart of chastity is remarkably simple, and it is something that is not obvious in today's world. It is not mere abstinence from sex outside of marriage, for that rule, while necessary, would not remotely capture its spirit. Chastity is respect for others. One does not say or do to another something that in the light of respect for the other would harm or take advantage of the other, or lead the other into temptation, or even push the other too far beyond the other's abilities. From another direction, the Book of Common Prayer exhibits the central commitment of covenantal religion in the Collects for Holy Week, of which one asks that "walking in the way of the Cross, we may find it none other than the way of life and peace": i. e., that embracing all of life, including its pains, we may find it good. Abortion subverts this commitment, for in an abortion at least one parent says of an entire human life, it is not good, its worth is negated by its pains. This is a more direct repudiation of covenant than even murder, for it is not sought out of hatred, but by those who supposedly should be most ready to affirm the goodness of new life.

10. Squandering Treasure

101. The treasures of theology today are history and an opening to revitalize covenant in history. History today shows the past, especially in the Exodus, in a dimension of covenantal living that has a human and existential magnificence utterly beyond the power of baroque metaphysics and hermeneutics to comprehend. This is the fruit of two centuries of Common Documents scholarship.

102. Covenant does not just mean a positive appraisal of life in history (this part is relatively easy to sell), for it also entails some obligations on the part of participants if the resulting community of moral obligation is to work satisfactorily. (These were parts (5) and (6) of the lessons of the Exodus, par. 18 above.) The obligations do not sell so easily, and there is great temptation to weaken them -- one of my central contentions in the second half of this paper. When historical relativity emerged as of interest in and of itself, it appeared to undermine the possibility of a challenge from history that could impose such obligations.[57] Historical relativity has been used as a fright-implement by those who would variously attack both covenantal religion and critical history. To this end it has been taken to imply a hermeneutical nihilism, in which all is permitted, nothing can be known, and only power relationships are left. Sadly, this is not just a misunderstanding by the enemies of historical-covenantal religion, for some who should know better have lately used it to subvert it from within.[58] Skill in critical hermeneutics is concentrated in a narrow social location, "liberal" academia. Its inhabitants effectively control it for their own ends, and the social ethics of the "knowledge class" is largely gnostic. It is unsurprising (but also not logical) that Evangelical Christians with no sympathy for that social ethics also have little sympathy for critical hermeneutics.

103. Historical relativity is the companion to analogy, for in the knowledge that comes from both, the one speaking may not be abstracted from, the human presence of the speaker is intrinsic to what is said, in all its vulnerability and fallibility. At the intersection of history and metaphysics is phenomenological philosophy. Bruce Wilshire has argued that philosophy in the last sixty years or so represents a turning from opportunities that appeared in the phenomenology of the 1920s.[59] Yet the revival of baroque philosophy of religion in America is a growth industry. Biblical scholars do enough phenomenology to get by with their own work; otherwise, phenomenological philosophy is marginalized or just languishes.

104. But if the semantics intrinsic to analogical thinking presents its speakers in such a way that the "I contend that" cannot be separated from what it is that is being contended, then we are half-way to biblical religion, because such a semantics is also radically historical. If life in a world of history and analogy is affirmed, then history and analogy are an invitation to covenant.

105. Instead, we still live with the philosophical inheritance of the Baroque, not sufficiently questioned by either Fundamentalism or Liberal theology. Both parties attempt to continue the covenant inherited from the Reformation. It should be possible to show how each succeeds where it does, and why each gets into trouble where it does. In the time of a paradigm shift, this is essential: it happened in physics, when relativistic mechanics was shown to reduce to classical mechanics in the limit of velocities small compared to the speed of light. In hermeneutical terms, it should be possible to show three things: (1) how the second naiveté saves the intuitions of a pre-critical naiveté, (2) how both are faithful in functional terms to the Exodus covenant as it continues in history, and (3) how hermeneutics defensive against critical history (i. e., Fundamentalist hermeneutics) nevertheless gets some things right in the conduct of covenant.

106. I would contend that we live in a rare exception to Claude Welch's observation that people are usually right in what they affirm, and wrong in what they deny. The critical projects of both Fundamentalism and the Liberal theological heirs of the Enlightenment are, I think, sound. They each are correct in identifying the weaknesses of the other party. The respective constructive projects have serious problems.

107. Bruce Lawrence claims that Fundamentalism (all over the world, not just the Christian variety in the West) is a rejection of major features of the Enlightenment. In our context, its claim against the liberal theologies is that the liberal theologies have abandoned the functional heart of biblical-religion. There is much in the Fundamentalist charges that is correct against the Liberals at this point.[60]

108. The Fundamentalist constructive project is, as I say, lamed by its defensiveness against critical history. But it does know that its life is a historical affair, for while it can't quite volunteer the language of "historical-covenantal" religion, it will usually acknowledge it if asked. Such terminology is a functional concept quite beyond the natural instincts of baroque philosophy of religion.

109. The liberal heirs of the Enlightenment (of Schleiermacher?) contend in criticism of Fundamentalism that it is in denial about critical history, and the Fundamentalists's unwillingness to come clean before the exposure of critical history hobbles the entire Fundamentalist project. In this, the liberals are entirely correct.

110. The liberal constructive projects today, however, have all too often bought into a distinctly mischievous part of the latter-day Enlightenment project, the so-called "sexual revolution," in promoting its prerequisite in the technology of disrespect, and then condoning the killing that naturally follows from it.

111. This is only one of my central claims, though it was the occasion for writing this paper. It is corollary to one more important: that history and covenant belong together. It then follows that the proper way to conduct a disagreement about the social ethics of sex is to locate it where its systematic theological consequences can be seen clearly rather than covered up and decided covertly by the implications of sexual politics -- in a paradigm case of self-deception on Fingarette's model.

112. I know that I have pushed hot-buttons in ways that are not socially acceptable in these parts. If I had been writing for Evangelicals and Fundamentalists, I would have pushed other hot-buttons.[61] I do get along cordially with at least some Fundamentalists, and they will find this paper on the Net and read it in any case. They do understand the implications from covenant for the social ethics of sex, even if to my mind they do not understand the implications for covenant from critical history. The hard task seems to be to hold history and covenant together: the Evangelicals have a strong (if philosophically lame) sense of covenant, but cannot come clean before critical history. Critical folks tacitly subvert in social ethics the covenant that makes history bearable at all.

113. What is at stake on both sides is theological responsibility. The dialectic of a responsible liberty of interpretation is one in which others are allowed to dissent and go their own way, but if they intend to participate in the activity of responsibility, they are obliged to show how their different proposed way to conduct a covenant might satisfy -- for example -- the seven canons which I have seen coming out of the Exodus in my comments above, under "Confessional Obligations to the Traditions." If they cannot discharge this obligation, then eventually, they forfeit their claim to be doing covenant at all. Though this testing may first appear at the level of discourse, disagreement conducted verbally in a covenantal community, ultimately, it happens in living, not in logic. Whether something works out in a way that embraces all of life as good, understood as history and including its pains (this is the essence of covenant), is seen in living. It will become the history that illuminates further history. It is both the form of this disagreement and one side of it that I have been attempting to advance.

114. It will inevitably seem that I have unbalanced this paper in a long digression on contraceptives and life issues, that Monty Python was right, the Catholic Church has a big hangup about practices at the start of life.[62] I hope the logic is clearer than that: We live in a time of real opportunity for a renewal of historical-covenantal living, but that renewal has a poor prognosis if people evade history and then subvert covenant. Without covenant, history is unbearable and must be escaped from (in henotheisms and gnosticisms) or abolished (in modern naturalisms). Without critical history and a covenant radical enough to meet it, history must be tamed. In any case, Monty Python was on to something: practices at the start of life do matter. Covenant is being subverted by a technology of disrespect and the homicidal practices that follow from it. And the custodians of the tradition of critical history are in danger of impeaching their tradition by acquiescence in and collusion with practices inimical to covenant. !page !nofill

Postscript: Foreclosing Responsibility

115. Since the assignment for this paper was "theological responsibility," I would like to append in the form of a Postscript some notice of a very concrete issue, an obstacle to the interchange that is the essence of responseability. It is an obstacle that is easily removed, and it would be a significant start on a path of dialogue in which life issues could be explored. Discussions of social ethics in which dissenters from the sexual revolution could participate on free terms are rendered extremely difficult by the speech codes of academia.

116. Academic freedom is the analog of the freedom of speech supposedly guaranteed in the Constitution. But in different ways, both the Left and the Right think that some kinds of speech are so offensive that they are not protected by the respective guarantees.[63] Since I have devoted much time elsewhere to protecting freedom of speech from the so-called "Religious Right", in the Internet censorship law, now being challenged in the courts, I shall focus entirely here on censorship by the Left, in the form of speech codes.[64]

117. My central claim in this section is that speech codes work very effectively to prevent certain kinds of discussion in social ethics. The Pronoun Police put a crimp on discussions of social ethics, one that serves to prevent open dialog between those who do and those who don't support contraceptives, abortion, feminism, and the sexual revolution. That may have been their intended purpose.

118. Such discussions would explore a world in which the "liberals" see "conservatives" as advocating a traditional moral authority in which women are subjugated to men. My source for this sociological analysis is James Davison Hunter's chapter, "The Distortions of Interest; What the Activists Would Rather Not Talk About."[65] All I can say is that I have no problem with the traditional social ethic; its structure is worked out in many of its details by George Gilder in Sexual Suicide. From the "conservative" perspective, the "liberals" are advocating a social ethic in which husbands are pets and children are a hobby (when families are not simply overwhelmed by the pathologies and dysfunctions of the sexual revolution). In the rhetorical world we live in -- one dominated by the power structures of which speech codes are emblematic -- any voice for the traditional social ethic is put at a disadvantage such that many simply choose not to speak.

119. Any student who writes in -- just to take an example close to home -- the host institution for the Pacific Coast Theological Society, namely, the Graduate Theological Union, is required to conform the "inclusive language policy." The GTU is following the policy of the American Academy of Religion; this is not a local problem, but is typical of all of academia where critical history is taken seriously.

For the purposes of this policy, exclusive language is defined as a consistent pattern of English usage where the male is taken to be the normative human person; i. e., the word "man" connotes both the male and the human being as such. The term "woman" and female pronouns are never used as generic references for human beings, but are exclusive to females.[66]

120. This is flagrantly illogical, but come to that in a moment. I would like to suggest en passant that the Graduate Theological Union is in violation of the law, specifically the California Education Code, section 94367. I append the text. Private institutions of higher learning may not constrain the speech of their students in ways that are more restrictive than the confessional requirements for entrance. More serious than the violation of the law are the constraints on free and open discussion in social ethics that speech codes were designed to effect. (But the purpose of the law, after all, was to prevent just such restrictions on free and open discussion.) Open discussion is possible, if labored, in academic journals. Birger Pearson, in a review of the work of the Jesus Seminar, notes of their translation, "[T]hey also demonstrate their commitment to `political correctness' with irritating manipulations of grammatical gender and number."[67] Established scholars are allowed to say this, and students are not? The speech code, while mandatory for students, works very effectively to chill others' speech as well.

121. The problem begins with an error in logic: there is nothing implied in consistent use of one (or the other) gender where the whole species is intended that entails that that gender is taken to be the normative representative of the species. It is a common linguistic phenomenon that where a set is divided, one subset will be always named, where its complement will in some contexts stand for the whole set, and in other contexts name only itself. A social ethic is being read into a linguistic device where it was not intended, as a means of conducting a disagreement in a way that is less than open and candid. Where it is not arbitrary, this is a literalist reading of generic pronouns, and it is ludicrous that this does not embarrass those who in other contexts preen themselves on their ability to see beyond literal meanings. More serious than the error in logic is the force of academic statute which effectively allows one side of the disagreement in social ethics to enforce upon the other the meanings which will be permitted to the other in the other's own language. If roles were reversed, there would be a howling about domination and oppression that could be heard all the way to the Trojan asteroids in the orbit of Jupiter.

122. Peter Berger has dissected the linguistics and sociology fairly clearly. He presents an example whose analogy shows what is really happening with "inclusive language."

English is virtually alone among modern Western languages in not distinguishing the forms of address appropriate between more or less intimate individuals. Thus French distinguishes between people to whom one says, respectively, tu and vous (and even has the verb tutoyer, untranslatable into English, to denote the former case), Spanish has tu and usted, and so on. In modern Italian the intimate form of address is tu, while more distant individuals are addressed as lei (which happens to be the third person plural). Sometime in the 1930s Mussolini made a speech in which he castigated the use of lei as an effete, indeed effeminate, mode of language. The purpose of the Facist revolution, he said, was to restore vigor and virility to the Italian people. The good Facist was direct in language as in action. The good Facist, therefore, did not say lei; instead he said voi (the second person plural). Now, from a philological or semantic point of view, this was sheer nonsense. The use of lei had never struck anyone as effete or effeminate; it was, quite simply, standard Italian. But, needless to say, the situation changed dramatically after Mussolini's speech. From then on, everybody became highly conscious of the matter (if you will, everone's consciousness was raised). The use of lei became a sign of reactionary, perhaps even subversive, attitudes. The use of voi, preferably in a self-righteous and highly audible manner, was evidence that the speaker (or writer) was a Facist in good standing. Indeed, it became the verbal equivalent of the Facist salute. Put simply, what before Mussolini's pronouncement had been an apolitical and unreflective element of the common language now forced itself on everybody's consciousness as a highly political symbol.[68]

123. On the GTU listserv, it was asserted last spring that the GTU is open and tolerant to all opinions. (This was after a long series of intemperate posts in which one student was made to feel extremely unwelcome because of his social ethics; the fact that he was also a quasi-fundamentalist made the issues intractable.) I protested in private email to the person congratulating the GTU on its openness, contending that as long as the GTU maintains a speech code, it was not really open. The reply to me (I shall not quote it, because it also was by private email) was that the speech code does not restrict the content of what can be said, but only its form. Now this is just precious: in a hermeneutical community like this one, someone could make the mistake of not seeing that form is content?[69] Peter Berger was right: submission to the Pronoun Police is a verbal Feminist salute.

124. Women in the pro-life movement feel excluded by "inclusive" language; they know that in all probability, it comes from those who support abortion and the social ethic that goes with it. The use of pronouns has indeed become exclusive -- but not by reason of the logic intrinsic to the gender-semantics of the language. Rather it includes or excludes on the basis of the social ethics of which it is emblematic, and the choice of emblems is to some degree arbitrary.

125. The reason the divide is such a chasm is that the choices in social ethics, progressing from a technology of disrespect to abortion and the sexual revolution, constitute the heart of a basic life orientation that is radically incompatible with covenant. If this chasm is as deep as I think it is, each side will take the other's stance to be morally repugnant, and the prospects for reconciliation are not very good. I am reminded whenever I use pronouns at all that my social ethics is morally repugnant to feminists. It seems to come as a surprise to them -- tantamount to unthinkable -- that the social ethic of which their pronouns are emblematic is offensive to me. Indeed, I think that the Pronoun Police have been deployed for traffic control at strategic intersections in language in order to prevent serious conversation, because it would spell out things that are too painful. !skip 2 !nofill Acknowledgements

126. I am indebted to Bill O'Neill, S.J., for criticism of this paper. He does not agree with all of it, and of course only I am responsible for its contents. I am grateful for his suggestions.


1. The General Convention Resolution on Abortion, 1976


Whereas, it is important for the Church as a Body of Christ to provide clear guidelines for human behavior which reflect both the love and judgment of God, now therefore be it

Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, that the following principles and guidelines reflect the mind of the Church meeting in this 65th General Convention:

1. That the beginning of new human life, because it is a gift of the power of God's love for his people, and thereby sacred, should not and must not be undertaken unadvisedly or lightly but in full accordance of the understanding for which this power to conceive and give birth is bestowed by God.

2. Such understanding includes the responsibility for Christians to limit the size of their families and to practice responsible birth control. Such means for moral limitations do not include abortions for convenience.

3. That the position of this Church, stated at the 62nd General Convention of the Church in Seattle in 1967 which declared support for the "termination of pregnancy" particularly in those cases where "the physical or mental health of the mother is threatened seriously, or where there is substantial reason to believe that the child would be born badly deformed in mind or body, or where the pregnancy has resulted from rape or incest" is reaffirmed. Termination of pregnancy for these reasons is permissible.

4. That in those cases where it is firmly and deeply believed by the person or persons concerned that the pregnancy should be terminated for causes other than the above, members of this Church are urged to seek the advice and counsel of a Priest of this Church, and, where appropriate, Penance.

5. That whenever members of this Church are consulted with regard to proposed termination of pregnancy, they are to explore with the person or persons seeking advice and counsel other preferable courses of action.

6. That the Episcopal Church express its unequivocal opposition to any legislation on the part of the national or state governments which would abridge or deny the right of individuals to reach informed decisions in this matter and to act upon them.

The Resolution is printed in the Journal of the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church, Minneapolis, 1976, p. C-1. Minor variations on this Resolution were passed 1n 1979 (pp. C-111 of the Journal for that Convention); in 1982 (p. C-155); in 1985 (p. 509-510); and in 1988 (p. 683).

2. The Leonard Law


128. 94367. (a) No private postsecondary educational institution shall make or enforce any rule subjecting any student to disciplinary sanctions solely on the basis of conduct that is speech or other communication that, when engaged in outside the campus or facility of a private postsecondary institution, is protected from governmental restriction by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution or Section 2 of Article 1 of the California Constitution.

129. (b) Any student enrolled in a private postsecondary institution that has made or enforced any rule in violation of subdivision (a) may commence a civil action to obtain appropriate injunctive and declaratory relief as determined by the court. Upon motion, a court may award attorney's fees to a prevailing plaintiff in a civil action pursuant to this section.

130. (c) This section does not apply to any private postsecondary educational institution that is controlled by a religious organization, to the extent that the application of this section would not be consistent with the religious tenets of the organization.

131. (d) Nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize any prior restraint of student speech.

132. (e) Nothing in this section prohibits the imposition of discipline for harassment, threats, or intimidation, unless constitutionally protected.

133. (f) Nothing in this section prohibits an institution from adopting rules and regulations that are designed to prevent hate violence, as defined in subdivision (a) of Section 4 of Chapter 1363 of the Statutes of 1992, from being directed at students in a manner that denies them their full participation in the educational process, so long as the rules and regulations conform to standards established by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and Section 2 of Article 1 of the California Constitution for citizens generally.

134. The California Education Code can be found at, via a link at the bottom of the page to California Codes. It can be found via anonymous ftp at, with somewhat more searching.


[1] Many accounts are available; Gerald A. McCool, The Neo-Thomists (Marquette University Press, 1994), chapter 1, will suffice.

[2] Merold Westphal, God, Guilt, and Death, Indiana University Press, 1984.

[3] Joseph Soloveitchik, Halakhic Man Philadelphia, Jewish Publication Society, 1983. Samuel H. Dresner and Byron L. Sherman, Judaism: the way of sanctification, New York, United Synagogue of America, 1978.

[4] Cf. Herbert Fingarette, The title essay in On Responsibility, New York, Basic Books, 1967.

[5] The paper was read on November 16-17, 1973. It has been reprinted in Wilhelm Wuellner and Marvin Brown, eds., Hermeneutics and Pluralism, Berkeley, Center for Hermeneutical Studies, 1983.

[6] Cf. Margot Adler, Drawing down the Moon: witches, Druids, goddess-worshippers, and other Pagans in America today, Boston, Beacon Pr., 1979, 2nd ed., 1986. And Jerry Mander, In the Absence of the Sacred; the failure of technology and the survival of the Indian Nations, SF, Sierra Club Books, 1991.

[7] What would one cite? Jacques Monod's Chance and Necessity? The literature of sociobiology? Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene? There is so much. And reductive materialism thrives in philosophy.

[8] Point your browser to Or fire up a search engine and look for "gnostic" -- there's a lot out there on the Net.

[9] Eric Voegelin is the primary thinker who finds non-dualistic analogs of ancient gnosticism in modern social and political movements. The introduction to vol. 4 of Order and History supplies definitions.

[10] I. e., the documents shared in common by the Church and the Synagogue, read somewhat differently on the way to the New Testament or the Mishnah. The term "Hebrew Bible" has overtones that strike me as disastrously Marcionite.

[11] Peter Singer, Practical Ethics, Cambridge University Press, 1979. The word "practical" in the title could be glossed as "utilitarian." This book is mostly a defense of abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia. It achieves a coherence that is rare in pro-abort rhetoric today because it sees clearly that it must base itself on grounds other than a covenant community of moral obligation. Indeed, it excludes all whose lives are not worthy of living, and finds itself in common with most non-covenantal religion at this point (p. 125). Others have seen the parallels between Singer and Stoicism; cf. J. Bottum, "Facing Up to Infanticide," First Things 60 (1996/02) 41.

[12] Cf. Doron Nof and Nathan Paldor, "Are There Oceanographic Explanations for the Israelites' Crossing of the Red Sea?", Bull. Amer. Meteorological Soc. 733 (1992/03) 305-314.

[13] You will of course be familiar with Gerhard Von Rad's central placing of this short historical creed; cf. the title essay in The Problem of the Hexateuch and other essays, London, SCM Press, 1966.

[14] I expand somewhat on Richard L. Rubenstein, "Covenant, Holocaust, and Intifada," in After Auschwitz, 2nd. ed., Johns Hopkins UP, 1992.

[15] And indeed, incompletely; Newton thought God's corrective action necessary to keep the solar system stable. A century later, this was not necessary.

[16] Paul Ricoeur, Freedom and Nature (1950; trans. Northwestern University Press, 1966). My guide to his thesis was a much shorter essay by Charles E. Reagan, "Ricoeur's Diagnostic Relation", International Philosophical Quarterly, 8 (1968) 586-592.

[17] in Religion and History (Fortress Press, 1991), edited by James Luther Adams and Walter F. Bense. It appeared in the American Journal of Theology, but the text there stops at p. 104 of the Adams-Bense edition, at the end of the paragraph that continues from p. 103. The long ending contains the confession of faith that critical thinking will bear constructive fruit, even if it doesn't always appear that way at first.

[18] In a sense, this instinct is correct: it does not see history, but knows intuitively that naturalism is incompatible with biblical religion.

[20] Louisville, Westminster John Knox, 1996.

[21] An account of the changed reading of Aquinas can be found in Gregory Rocca, OP, "Analogy as judgment and faith in God's incomprehensibilty: a study in the theological epistemology of Thomas Aquinas," PhD diss., Catholic University of America, 1989.

[22] Legend has it that when the crew of the sinking HMS Sheffield abandoned ship during the Falklands War, they sang the closing song from Life of Brian, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life." The scandal is in the tradition-history: the Royal Navy was so embarrased that it classified the incident. But British Naval Intelligence was more in sympathy with the enlisted men than it was scandalized, and they told the American intelligence folks, whence the story eventually came by stages even to me.

[23] "Cosmology, Ontology, and the Travail of Biblical Language," Journal of Religion, 41 (1961) 194-205.

[24] With a lower-case "b", I intend "baroque" to refer to the inheritance from the Baroque as it continues into the present, and is today something of a growth industry. It is not a term of endearment. The term "baroque" then indicates a philosophical temperament as much as a period in history.

[25] Cf. his "Response to Rosemary Ruether," in Eva Fleischner, ed., Auschwitz: Beginning of a New Era? (New York: KTAV, 1974), p. 101.

[26] Michael Walzer notes this in Exodus and Revolution (New York, Basic Books, 1985), p. 135-136. I am indebted to Bill O'Neill, S.J., for notice of this source.

[27] "Historical and Dogmatic Method in Theology", in Religion in History, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991), pp. 14. The essay appeared in 1898.

[28] Low serotonin levels in the brain are a common naturalistic explanation for behavioral dysfunction in some quarters today, but real as this cause may be, attention to it alone ignores rather than addresses human relationships, either on the assumption that they will take care of themselves once brain chemistry is corrected, or on the assumption that human relationships really do not ultimately matter for their own sake.

[29] James Davison Hunter, Before the Shooting Begins: Searching for Democracy in America's Culture War, New York, Free Press, 1994.

Roe v. Wade: A Study of Male Ideology," in Abortion: Moral and Legal Perspectives, ed. Jay L. Garfield and Patricia Hennessey (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1984), p. 51.

Homiletic and Pastoral Review (1993/04) 10-18. Smith's claim at this point is based on the research of Kristin Luker, Taking Chances: Abortion and the Decision not to Contracept, Berkeley, 1975.

[32] Oxford English Dictionary (1989). The usage cited is from the period 1967-1977.

[33] I found the text of the Court's opinion (through a search via at the Case Western Reserve University ftp site,, in the directory /hermes/ascii, in files with the helpful names 91-744.*, specifically the file 91-744.ZO.filt.

[34] Sexual Suicide, New York, Quadrangle / New York Times Book Co, 1973, revised as Men and Marriage, Gretna, LA, Pelican Publishing, 1986.

[35] It was legalized by the judiciary, in opposition to the vast majority of legislative and ballot decisions, and it is legal at any point in pregnancy, for any reason. Between one and two million abortions happen per year in America, mostly early in pregnancy. The moral argument centers on (or presupposes resolution of) the question whether or not the unborn child is for moral purposes a person, a member of the community of moral obligation. The question of who should decide about abortion (the community of moral obligation or individuals) is a subterfuge for changing the subject.

[36] Medische Beslissingen Rond Het Levenseinde. I. Rapport van de Commissie Onderzoek Medische Praktijk inzake Euthanasie. II. Het Onderzoek voor de Commissie Medische Praktijk inzake Euthanasie. The Hague, 1991, ISBN 90-39-90124-4 (2 vols). I am not aware that the Remelink Report has been translated into English; its title translates to "Medical Decisions About the End of Life. I. Report of the Committee to Study the Medical Practice Concerning Euthanasia. II. The Study for the Committee of Medical Practice Concerning Euthanasia." A brief English-language account of the findings can be found in Richard Fenigsen, "The Report of the Dutch Governmental Committee on Euthanasia," Issues in Law and Medicine 73 (1991) 339-344.

[37] Fenigsen, p. 341.

[38] Fenigsen, p. 340.

[39] Fenigsen, p. 342.

[40] Hugh Gregory Gallagher, By Trust Betrayed: Patients, Physicians, and the License to Kill in the Third Reich, 2nd ed., Arlington, VA, Vandamere Press, 1995. Michael Burleigh, Death and Deliverance: Euthansia in Germany, 1900-1945, Cambridge University Press, 1994. These are not the only pertinent works.

[41] Gallagher, p. 86.

[42] Gallagher, p. 206.

[43] Rubenstein, p. 125, n. 9, cites J. Thomas Kelly, Thorn on the Tudor Rose: Monks, Rogues, Vagabonds, and Sturdy Beggars, Jackson, Miss., University Press of Mississippi, 1977; p. 83 ff.

[44] Rubenstein, p. 127.

[45] Peter Singer, Practical Ethics, Cambridge University Press, 1979. J. Bottum, "Facing Up to Infanticide," First Things 60 (1996/02) 41, affords a critique of Singer. Michael Burleigh's Death and Deliverance devotes a chapter to Peter Singer as a recent exponent of the ideology underlying the T-4 Program.

[46] Self Deception, London, RKP, 1969.

[47] The designation "T-12" refers to the 12th thoracic vertebra, at the base of the rib cage; i. e., fairly low as cord injuries go.

[48] Their 1984 Pastoral Letter on abortion is reprinted in the Journal of General Convention, 1985; this remark is on p. 370.

[49] Journal, 1985, p. 369.

[50] Journal, 1985, p. 370.

[51] The core of these observations were made by Gregg Cunningham, a pro-life organizer, in 1993.

[52] When John Hockenberry was recovering from a cord injury in a rehab ward in Michigan, he watched Jerry Lewis's crips on TV raise money to develop tests to prevent people like them even being born. He conveys the contempt that the disabled experience watching that TV show: "Society must be utterly convinced that those lives are not worth living." Moving Violations (New York, Hyperion, 1995), p. 34.

[53] Cf. Carol J. Gill, "Suicide Intervention for People with Disabilities: A Lesson in Inequality," Issues in Law and Medicine 81 (1992/Summer) 37; and Paul Steven Miller, Esq., "The Impact of Assisted Suicide on Persons with Disabilities -- Is it a Right Without Freedom?," ibid., 91 (1993/Summer) 47.

[54] They are explored in Richard John Neuhaus's 1988 article, "The Return of Eugenics," Commentary 854 (1988/04) 15.

[55] Cf. Rubenstein, p. 149: "Want of a covenant or its functional equivalent has been a moral precondition for genocide in both ancient and modern times." (He has italicized the entire sentence for emphasis.)

[56] It was in the Holy Cross magazine; I do not have a date.

[57] Actually, that is already to mis-state what is happening: history does not impose obligations, those who choose to continue a covenant undertake obligations. Midrash Rabbah Song of Songs 1.2.2 (Soncino edn., p. 22) has it right.

[58] Cf. Paul V. Mankowski, SJ, "Academic Religion: Plaground of the Vandals," First Things 23 (92/05) 31; "What I Saw At the American Academy of Religion," First Things 21 (92/03) 36.

[59] "Fifty Years of Academic Philosophy in the United States: Why the Failure of Nerve?", Soundings 67 (84/Winter) 411-419.

[60] Even H. Richard Niebuhr voiced similar sentiments in The Kingdom of God in America, ch. 5, Section II, "Liberalism and the Kingdom of God."

[61] Special Effects in the Bible (physical resurrection, virgin birth, etc.); Darwin, evolution, creation, etc.; and the ways that baroque metaphysics and hermeneutics evade critical history.

[62] The Meaning of Life, "The Mystery of Birth, Part II: The Third World (Yorkshire)." It is the second or third skit in the movie. The screenplay (London, Methuen; New York, Grove Press, 1983) is available.

[63] Nat Hentoff, Free Speech For Me -- But Not For Thee; how the American Left and Right relentlessly censor each other, New York, HarperCollins, 1992.

[64] I spent more ink pestering the Ruling Class against the so-called "Communications Decency Act" that passed last year (as part of telecommunications reform) than on any other topic. Guides to it and the opinions from the bench so far can be found at, with a few links; and, with somewhat more. The law, S-652 (104th Congress), can be found at In the opinion of the first judges to hear the case, the law was hopelessly unconstitutional, it would not have abated pornography on the Net, and it was not necessary and would not be effective in protecting minors (its advertised purpose). In my judgement, it would have been very effective in forcing the Internet to become an edited medium -- and an edited medium has centers of power amenable to a ruling class. An anarchistic Internet such as we have today decentralizes power in a way that is quite subversive of many existing power-structures. When I wrote to one leader of the "Christian Right," pleading that we not return to the time of "error has no rights," he responded by asserting exactly that thesis.

[65] In Before the Shooting Begins.

[66] The GTU Doctoral Handbook, p. S-240, quoting the AAR policy statement.

[67] "The Gospel According to the Jesus Seminar," Religion 254 (1995/10) 317-338, p. 328. Compare Robert Sokolowski, "Splitting the Faithful: Inclusive Language is Wrong Biblically, Pastorally, and Doctrinally," Crisis 113 (1993/03) 24.

[68] Peter and Brigitte Berger, "Femspeak and the Battle of Language," in Helen Hull Hitchcock, ed., The Politics of Prayer; Feminist Language and the Worship of God (San Francisco, Ignatius Press, 1992), pp. 63-64.

[69] This point is argued in considerable detail by Alasdair MacIntyre, in "Relativism, Power, and Philosophy", in Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, 59 1 (89/09) 5; APA, Newark, Delaware, 1985. It is reprinted in K. Baynes, J. Bohman and T. McCarthy, eds., After Philosophy, MIT Pr., 1987, pp. 385-411.