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Quote of the Week

April 19, 2007

One must admit that theology, of all writing, certainly causes the greatest pleasure. Precisely not the pleasure of the text, but the pleasure–unless it have to do with a joy–of transgressing it: from words to the Word, from the Word to words, incessantly and in theology alone, since there alone the Word finds in words nothing less than a body. The body of the text does not belong to the text, but to the One who is embodied in it. Thus, theological writing always transgresses itself, just as theological speech feeds on the silence in which, at last, it speaks correctly. In other words, to try one’s hand at theology requires no other justification than the extreme pleasure of writing. The only limit to this pleasure, in fact, is in the condition of its exercise; for the play from words to the Word implies that theological writing is played in distance, which unites as well as separates the man writing and the Word at hand–the Christ. Theology always writes starting from an other than itself (thus one can indeed speak of a diversion from philosophy with all good theology); it causes him to write outside of himself, even against himself, since he must write not of what he is, on what he knows, in view of what he wants, but in, for, and by that which he receives and in no case masters. Theology renders its author hypocritical in at least two ways. Hypocritical in the common sense: in pretending to speak of holy things–“holy things to the holy”–he cannot but find himself, to the point of vertigo, unworthy, impure–in a a word, vile. This experience, however is so necessary that its beneficiary knows better than anyone both his own unworthiness and the meaning of that weakness (the light that unveils it); he deceives himself less than anyone; in fact, here there is no hypocrisy at all: the author knows more than any accuser. He remains hypocritcal in another, more paradoxical sense: if authenticity (remembered with horror) consists in speaking of oneself, and in saying only that for which one can answer, no one, in a theological discourse, can, or should, pretend to it. For theology consists precisely in saying that for which only another can answer–the Other above all, the Christ who himself does not spak in his own name, but in the name of his Father. Indeed, theological discourse offers its strange jubilation only to the strict extent that it permits and, dangerously, demands of its workman that he speak beyond his means, precisely because he does not speak of himself. Hence the danger of a speech that, in a sense, speaks against the one who lends himself to it. One must obtain forgiveness for every essay in theology. In all senses.

Jean-Luc Marion, God Without Being


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