I offer four points by way of conclusion and summary. The first is that it is a pity that most liberation theologians fail to take seriously the implications of Marx's atheism, dismissing the question of atheism itself, and of natural theology in general, as the preoccupation of a tired old European culture. Thereby they forgo the potential of this atheism's radicalness for their own critiques of idolatry. It is for this reason that, from the standpoint of the problematics of Western theology, liberation theologies can look so oddly pre-critical, even epistemológically complacent.
Second, the Vatican and some Western critics are superficially right in detecting a potential reductivism in some liberation theology - 'superficially', because generally they misidentify that potential as deriving from Marxism. Very far from it, indeed, if I am right, quite the opposite: if liberation theology is vulnerable to reductivist temptations, the source lies in a residual Feuerbachianism, curable by a stiffer dose of Marxist atheism. Finding a spirituality which de-mystifies religious experience; finding a non-disjunctive logic of religious language within the apophatic traditions of theology; these, for me the authentic energies of Christian mysticism, help us to see the theological necessity of a truly radical engagement with atheism. But then again, liberation theologians run the risk of neglecting this resource by virtue of what seems to me to be an irresponsible neglect of natural theology.
The third point is that I have, in response to the inadequacies both of liberation theology and of the Vatican's critique of it, been but sketching the case for a line of theological exploration. In this connection I should explain that nothing follows from what I have argued in support of some synthesis or other, still less any identity, between a negative theology on the one hand and Marxism on the other: nothing remotely so fanciful. They possess no common direction of thought and I have implied none. The point is, rather, to capture each movement of thought in our contemporary reception of them at a fleeting moment, as it were, of their intersection with one another, to retrieve them for purposes of our own and to take advantage of them as we address our own theological agenda. And I offer you the thought that it is not mere whimsicality, as one explores within Marxism the potentiality for a Christian critique of global exploitation and injustice, to take a theological interest also in that point of intersection between the negativity of the mystic and the negativity of Marx, for that coincidcnce occurs deep within the heart of any Christian spirituality, indeed of any theistic spirituality - and perhaps even of any spirituality whatever. \Thich brings me to my fourth and last point.
This is the Christian truism that atheism is in any case a crucial dimension of faith. This, though a truism, is, for all that, true. It is not, however, the mere platitude that atheism is a good exercise for muscle-bound Christians to try out their strength on. It is the requirement that at the heart of any authentic spirituality is the means of its own self-critique, an apophatic putting into question of every possibility of knowing who God is, even the God we pray to. In the heart of every Christian faith and prayer there is, as it were, a desolation, a sense of bewilderment and deprivation, even panic, at the loss of every familiar sign of God, at the requirement to 'unknow5 God - as the Meister Eckhart put it, for the sake of the *God beyond God\ For it is somewhere within that desolation and negativity that the nexus is to be found which binds together the Christian rediscovery of justice with the poor and the rediscovery of the God who demands that justicc. For in that bond of action and experience - 'praxis* - is the discovery that, as the liberation theologians say, 'knowing God is doing justice*.
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