Monday, April 10, 2006

an interview with louis dupré

Because I had dinner with him last night, here is an interview with Louis Dupré that is well worth reading. I excerpt a bit from the beginning and a bit from the end below. But do read the whole thing here.

Even today ties still exist between Christianity and culture in Europe and more so in the U.S. But on a more fundamental level the West appears to have said its definitive farewell to a Christian culture. Little of the old hostility remains. Our secular colleagues are happy to recognize the debt our civilization owes to the Christian faith to the extent that the faith, having been absorbed by culture itself, has become simply another cultural artifact. Christianity has become an historical factor subservient to a secular culture rather than functioning as the creative power it once was. The new attitude of benign atheism was, I think, prepared in the late 19th and the early 20th centuries by the three most prominent secularizers of the time, Marx, Freud and Nietzsche.

. . . . .

To speak of the religious experience may lead them into the most dangerous corner of all. The communication of personal feelings or the appeal to the feelings of the congregation subjects the divine message to the constantly changing tides of the human heart. The pastor’s task is an objective one: to preach the Word. But what the minister preaches is not an objective fact, a moral exhortation or an intellectual doctrine. It possesses an inner, radiating beauty that illuminates the objective message and warms the heart of the believer. To bring out this aesthetic quality of the Word requires more than eloquence or a solid acquaintance with theology. It summons the pastor to be a spiritual person, penetrated by the encompassing presence of the Word, by its mysterious force and by its sublime symbols.

The pastor ought to be a person acquainted with that inner silence in which alone the Word can resonate. Pastors should also be capable of detecting the symbolism both of words and of earthly events—the analogies of faith—through which the deeper meaning of the divine mystery discloses itself. This, I suspect, may be far more important than being timely or relevant. Those who attend services come to hear what is different from ordinary life: what is the same they may learn far better from journals at home.

Louis Dupré was for many years T. Lawrason Riggs professor of the philosophy of religion at Yale University. A graduate of the University of Louvain in Belgium, he has received honorary doctorates from Loyola College, Sacred Heart University and Georgetown University as well as the Aquinas medal from the American Catholic Philosophical Association. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a foreign member of the Royal Academy of Belgium. Besides studies on Hegel, Marx and Kierkegaard, he has published works on religion (notably The Other Dimension: A Dubious Heritage and Transcendent Selfhood) and on modern culture (Passage to Modernity).

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