This project began nearly ten years ago as an attempt to understand Immanuel Kant's philosophy of religion through the lenses of its religiously- and theologically-affirmative interpreters, but has transformed over the years into something quite different. Those familiar with my early research on Kant will know that I began working on Kant's philosophy of religion by comparing interpretations of Kant with their corresponding theological appropriations. Using a strategy of abductive inference centred on Kant's understanding of the necessary conflict between the disciplines of philosophy and theology, I argued that Kant's philosophy of religion could be best understood by showing how philosophy and theology relate to one another when adopting a particular interpretation of Kant. If, once a particular interpretation of Kant is adopted, philosophy essentially subsumes theology so that no real conflict exists between the two disciplines, then the interpretation in question, however informative, must be considered inadequate. For, as I understand Kant's vision for the Academy, philosophy and theology are to be principal faculties within the university, and together maintain an unceasing conflict over life's most important and difficult questions, always chastening and challenging one another from their respective disciplinary perspectives.
Although I have since adopted an explicitly exegetical method of interpreting Kant, the fruit of my labours early on remains, and is clustered in chapters four, five and six of this volume. Portions of two early essays - namely, 'Kant and Religion: Conflict or Compromise?', Religious Studies, 35:2 (1999) and 'Kant's Two Perspectives on the Theological Task' International Journal of Systematic Theology, 2:1 (2000) - are reproduced in chapters four and five with the permission of Cambridge University Press and Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd., respectively. There was a time when I considered publishing much of the content of these chapters as a book unto themselves, a book on interpreting Kant from a theological perspective. However, during the early days of my research into Kant, Peter Byrne challenged me to deal with the difficulties that surround what Kant himself contends in the writings about religion and theology rather than what interpreters, theologically-minded or otherwise, take Kant to mean about religion and theology. In other words, Byrne insisted that I tackle head-on the challenge of finding the supposed room for faith Kant creates in his philosophy by examining Kant's arguments directly and on their own terms.
I gradually came to see that Byrne was right - interpreting Kant's philosophy of religion well means working directly with Kant's writings, while dealing with the many thorny issues these writings generate in and around them. In hindsight, it seems like a virtual truism: to understand Kant's philosophy of religion as possible grounds for theology means to understand the grounds and warrant for theology in Kant's critical corpus. only then, as Paul Tillich comments, are we ready to go beyond or 'transcend' Kant in order to do theology. For these reasons, it became clear to me that the initial project had to be transformed and divided into two projects requiring two books - one handling the difficult task of understanding Kant's philosophy of religion by offering an interpretation and defence of the relevant texts in Kant, especially the much-maligned Religion, and another dealing with Kant's philosophy and its relationship to theology.
The project of interpreting and defending Kant's Religion is tackled in Chris L. Firestone and Nathan Jacobs, In Defense of Kant's Religion (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008). Jacobs joined me in this work back when one project was turning into two. Little did I know at the time that six more years, rather than months, would be needed to complete this 'preliminary' project. I am happy to report that that work is now complete. Its purpose is to offer an interpretation of Kant's Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason (or Religion) that is both consonant with Kant's critical philosophy and internally coherent - something that to my mind has not yet appeared in English-speaking Kant-studies. What distinguishes our book from others in the field is its sustained optimism over Kant's coherence amid a strict attentiveness to the details of Kant's arguments in Religion and the many attacks waged against the text by Kant's critics. Modelled on a trial format, the book begins with an examination of the case against the coherence of Kant's Religion levelled by key Kant interpreters over the past several decades. We, then, present a defence of Kant's Religion that demonstrates the coherence of Kant's arguments by providing a detailed interpretation of all four Books of Religion and explaining how this interpretation, point-for-point, overcomes the objections levelled against the text. Naturally, occasional overlapping material, though consciously kept to a minimum, can be found in In Defense of Kant's Religion and this present volume. Permission for this overlap, wherever it occurs, has been granted both by Ashgate Publishing Ltd and by Indiana University Press.
Kant and Theology at the Boundaries of Reason, though begun first, has been published second as something of a follow-up or theological companion to In Defense of Kant's Religion. Unlike its forerunner, this book is not strictly speaking for Kant exegetes, although exegesis is necessary throughout. It is, instead, the attempt of a Christian scholar of Kant to show where theology gains a foothold in Kant's philosophy and how theologians have capitalized on these footholds to construct meaningful and robust theological systems. This is the book that I set out to write many years ago, but had to delay in order to handle the very difficult task of 'going through' Kant's philosophy of religion. I trust that my labours have not been in vain and that the road map this book represents is far clearer and more helpful now, following In Defense of Kant's Religion, than it otherwise would have been.
The opening chapters of the present volume are devoted to understanding the difficult task of grounding theology in Kant's theoretical philosophy; the middle chapters show how the grounds for theology develop as Kant's critical philosophy unfolds and what theology looks like when it is founded on these grounds, and the later chapters explore the task of theology relative to Kant's philosophy as things stand today. The book as a whole is written for anyone who wants an up-to-date analysis of the grounds for theology in Kant's philosophy and help with determining where theology must go in the future if we are to do theology in dialogue with Kant. In the Appendices, I have included English translations of two articles by Paul Tillich. The articles are 'The Category of the "Holy" in Rudolf Otto' and 'Rudolf Otto - Philosopher of Religion' (published in German newspapers in 1923 and 1925, respectively). These articles provide valuable insight into Tillich's thinking as it relates to the work of Otto. In chapter six, I argue that Tillich's mature theology is very much indebted to an early encounter with the philosophy of Kant through Otto's classic book The Idea of the Holy. The review articles in the Appendices help establish the Otto-Tillich connection and, to my knowledge, are published in English in their entirety for the first time.
Many persons have been involved in this project over the years since its inception. The list is too long to mention everyone by name, but a number of people deserve special mention insofar as this book as it presently stands is inconceivable to my mind without also thinking of their support. Stephen R. Palmquist and Kevin J. Vanhoozer were there at the beginning to introduce me to Kant and make me believe that Kant's philosophy could be understood fruitfully and profoundly as advocating a life of faith in harmony with the life of the mind. Palmquist and Vanhoozer started me down the Kantian road by presenting me with living examples of the very conflict between philosophy and theology that I have come to see as a major contributor to Kant's thinking on the nature of the university in general and the field of philosophy of religion in particular.
Since starting down this road, a host of others have joined me on the journey and become invaluable interlocutors in unpacking the details of Kant's arguments. Jacobs, as already mentioned, partnered with me in trying to understand Kant's philosophy of religion at a formative time in the development of my thinking on the topic, and the fruit of this partnership is In Defense of Kant's Religion, among other projects. More than any other person, he has made me an advocate of joint interdisciplinary research by evidencing a unique blend of intellectual creativity, tenacity and integrity while bringing theological resources to bear on difficult philosophical topics. In so doing, Jacobs helped me see how some of the most tortured and difficult problems in Kant's work on religion might be resolved. In the years it took to develop our reading of Religion, Jacobs has made the difficult passage of going from university graduate to colleague - a truly impressive achievement. In the Appendices, Jacobs joins me in translating the two Tillich articles. Claudia Heilmann and Miijam Schnabel graciously read drafts of that material and helped ensure that the English translations faithfully represented the German originals. Kenneth Nylund and Mike Yoder also read and commented on the articles prior to publication. Jacobs and I, however, assume sole responsibility for any errors or inaccuracies that remain. We warmly thank Dr. Mutie Tillich Farris, Executor of the Tillich Estate, for permission to publish the two articles.
Many others could be mentioned by way of appreciation and each for different reasons. Steve Pointer saw to it that I had enough time to work and was a source of immense encouragement throughout the project. Martin Warner gave many helpful comments on the manuscript and patiently walked me through the process of finalizing it. Christopher McCammon helped me see the value of combining piercing philosophical insight with vivacious metaphor to better capture the true spirit of the philosophic quest. Scott Erdenberg and Brandon Love provided helpful assistance in the creation of the index. In addition, I think of Jeremy Allen, Philip Antin, Nathan and Melissa Castillo, Ann Eberhardt, David Fields, Matthew 'T. F.' Gifford, Nathan Gilbert, David Goetz, Brian Hagedorn, Mike Nowak, Jon Parsons, Mark Pedersen, Andrew Pederson, Ryan Steger, John Van Maaren and the rest of my students who, through the years, have made an impact on my life and thought. I also thank the hidden inspiration of my work, Hannah, Matthew, Emma, Rebekah and Andrew. If this contingent of young minds and hearts is at all representative of the next generation, things look very promising indeed. Finally, my heart-felt appreciation goes out to Larry Stilwell who, though no longer with us, will not be forgotten. Larry not only coached some of the finest high school chess teams in Illinois state history, but also introduced me to the mysteries and profundities of the Christian faith. Larry, I will be forever grateful.
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