Sunday, July 09, 2006
(1:34 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
How could this happen?Jodi Dean mentions a conversation about heresy, specifically Arianism. She was surprised by the degree to which it fit with the situation.
That post reminds me of something completely different that I have been thinking about of late: how Christian thinkers deal with new ideas that have sprung up since the advent of Christianity. (Interestingly, Rosenzweig is the one who got me really thinking about this -- so it might not be right to limit this to Christianity. I just don't know enough about Jewish thought to feel comfortable speaking on behalf of it in this case.) My general impression is that they don't really know what to do with them. Apparent innovations by an "orthodox" theologian or party can be explained away as having been always implicit assumptions of Christian practice or teaching -- it wasn't necessary to state it explicitly until these damn heretics came around. The heretics can be explained as falling backward from Christianity, usually either into Judaism or paganism.
The problem arises when something substantially new comes about -- it seems to me that this first occurs with the advent of Islam. I haven't studied this in detail, particularly the initial responses, but it does seem like they tried to fit Islam into the already-existing scheme of heresies -- by that point, one could say that not only was orthodoxy basically written in stone, but all the options for deviating from it had been codified as well.
What's interesting in the modern period is that the reaction to modernity has been to compare it either to a resurgence of paganism -- or a kind of variation on Islam. And this isn't limited to the early modern period, either -- in Being Reconciled, Milbank tries to pull off the exact same comparison. (Interestingly, Rosenzweig appears to be pretty close to the Radical Orthodox line in terms of tying together late Scholasticism [Scotus] with modernity and with Islam.) It's as though we've now reached a point where obviously Islam isn't going away -- but the idea of yet another genuinely new thing arising (i.e., modernity) is just too much to bear. Troeltsch is the only person I've read so far who seems to genuinely allow the modern world any kind of "ontological consistency."
Anyway, since I have to write a paper for the 20th Century Theology course (in addition to doing the exam, which is separate from the issue of course credit), I'm thinking about doing something about the role Islam plays in modern Christian (or Judeo-Christian, since I'd want to do Rosezweig as well) thought -- tracing that thread through five or so different thinkers seems likely to turn up some interesting patterns. Virtually everyone with a sufficiently broad project seems to mention Islam, and there are even some elements of concensus -- for instance, everyone agrees with Hegel that Islam is the religion of fanaticism (presumably there's some earlier source where Hegel got that idea).
So, for comments -- can anyone track down the Westerner who claimed that fanaticism is part of the essence of Islam? More specifically -- does anyone know of a passage where John Wesley talks about Islam?