From Le don et la dette, ed. Marco M. Olivetti (Biblioteca dell’Archivio di Filosofia = Archivio di Filosofia 72). Padua: CEDAM, 2004, pp. 579-89.
In what way does the anthropological and philosophical discussion of gift and debt solicit Christian theology? What ‘gift’ does it bring to theology and what ‘debt’ of reflection does it exact of theology? It seems to me that it does not merely provide neutral elements of reflection, which might enrich and improve theological methods, but that it also troubles theology at the basic level of judgement, which concerns its most intimate orientation toward its subject-matter.
Judgement and Method in Theology
First let me sketch the relations between judgement and method in theology. Theological thinking is not simply a matter of deploying methods. In the last resort the faculty of judgement must come into play, and at this level one has to orient oneself on the basis of seasoned instinct. In addition, judgement is at work all along, implicitly or explicitly, in the way the methods are deployed. Judgement is a free, creative activity, not the mere ‘application’ of insights gained by more methodical ways of thinking. Beyond the data and their treatment in a variety of methods, judgement intervenes as the ultimate sovereign authority. A theology which renounced the sovereign activity of judgement would no longer be theology, but at best an incomplete preparation for the properly theological task. A theology which compromised the sovereignty of judgement, allowing it to be pre-empted by conclusions decided in advance, would be as inauthentic as any other science proceeding in this way. Theology has perhaps more than any other discipline betrayed itself by such compromises, on seemingly virtuous pretexts of humility and obedience. The freedom of judgement is the supreme intellectual gift of the theologian, but the gift brings with it a debt: one must use that freedom without fear.
Theology, unlike amateur religious reflection, proceeds on the basis of a methodical investigation of its sources and questions. But the play of reflective judgement remains free and takes responsibility for its decisions. If theological judgement is impeded by extrinsic factors, such as a misunderstanding of the role of authority, which becomes intrusive rather than enabling, then, bereft of the free play of reflection, theology shrivels to the mechanical application of dogmatic principles, or treads a mill of threadbare speculation, or mulls around among edifying lore with no sense of perspective. A theology that is not challenged and sharpened by the most vital questions of its time, or that envisions and addresses these questions only in terms of its own pre-given schemata, is an exercise in pseudo-judgement, shadow-boxing with stale issues or within outdated frames of reference. Such self-parody marks a time of ‘atonie théologique’ (Henri Tincq), and presents theological judgement with the extra task of cutting through a culture of pseudo-judgement.
Judgement enjoys sovereignty in every field of reflective thinking. (This kind of thinking is the theme of Kant’s third Critique; it lies beyond the determinative thinking analyzed in the first Critique, which concerns the certitudes of basic empirical experience, a matter of automatic and non-reflective judgement.) In the moral sphere judgement takes the form of conscience, which is informed by laws and their methodical analysis, but which itself proceeds in the free realm of reflection from which decision is born. A moral thinking that would make conscience the mere application of laws that are placed above criticism, would be a betrayal both of morality and of thinking. In the aesthetic realm judgement is taste, which is instructed by the principles of the arts and the experience of many works of art, but which is exercised in free response to the work before it, and which is accountable only to itself. Threats to the freedom of aesthetic judgement come from the pressures of fashion, pedantism or ideological correctness. A greater threat lies in the divorce of art from history and from the life of the spirit, so that aesthetic judgement shrivels to a connaisseurship of trivial sensations.
The gift and debt of judgement cannot be transferred to an authority or a method that could relieve us of them. Many swear by the phenomenological ideal of returning to the phenomena themselves, zu den Sachen selbst. But phenomenology, too, is a method, and it cannot supplant the role of judgement. In practice, phenomenology is not a pure science, but is initiated and guided by decisions and evaluations that belong to judgement. Phenomenology, in its various forms, has the status of an auxiliary set of techniques at the service of paths of thought that construct, in an endless plurality of styles, what are to count as the essential phenomena. Within theology, a phenomenological orientation acts to keep the discourse in touch with its alleged subject matter. What role and weight the theologian should accord to the phenomenological quest is itself a matter of judgement.
Even hermeneutics is a method that is auxiliary to judgement, and does not determine it or pre-empt it, though it is perhaps the most capacious of methods and the one that provides the ripest context for judgement, as it takes into account all the subtleties of historical understanding. Those who say that ‘theology is hermeneutics’ must define hermeneutics so broadly that it no longer offers a counter-balancing check to the free exercise of theological judgement. The identity and function of hermeneutics are better preserved if we confine it to the realm of interpretation, on which judgement supervenes. Interpretation is a subtle art and can be short-circuited by the rush to judgement. Or one can say that the exercise of interpretative judgement is enriched by proceeding under the sign of a suspension of final judgement, that is, of the evaluative decisions that are made on the basis of interpretation. Hermeneutics, like phenomenology, serves to recall theology to its basis, and the degree to which the theologian will invest in hermeneutical inquiry is again a matter for judgement.
A clear division of labour may not be possible here, since hermeneutics culminates in the actualizing of past traditions for present understanding. Moreover, the hermeneutics of tradition is always guided by some prior judgement, for instance, by the choice whether to preserve the texture of doctrinal tradition in all its encrustations or instead to drive the glaring boulevards of modernity through the accumulations of a musty centro storico. Harnack’s Deutung of the history of dogma, for example, is not only interpretation but critical assessment at every point. No method can remain unaffected by the theological orientation of the one who deploys it, except at the most positivistic level of establishing textual and historical fact (and even at that level, the governing orientation leads one to note some facts rather than others). Still, in strengthening the methodological musculature of theology, we check the licence of opinion and save theology from being merely essayistic, so that it becomes a reproach even to major theological thinkers such as Barth or Rahner that they enunciate sweeping theological judgements without paying due tribute to the constraints of the various methods that would add ballast to their thought. The exercise of judgement will always be in tension with the weight of professional methodologies and will struggle to master the latter instead of being stifled by it.
A thousand factors have to be weighed in applying theological judgement on any particular issue. The polyvalent witness of Scripture and the voices of church authority demand their tribute of respect, which must always be a critical respect, and which can be mature only if these sources are mastered with hermeneutical finesse. The voices of contemporary faith and of modern or postmodern questioning must also be attended to with critical respect. Movements such as liberation theology and feminism will give judgement a new orientation that even at the level of basic exegesis will provide new questions and new focusses of attention to the methodologies deployed. The dialogue between tradition and modernity has lurched into new gear with the discovery that it can no longer be solely a Christian affair but must take into account the perspectives of Judaism, Islam, Buddhism. As a result we have entered a transitional period of fluctuation and indeterminacy, in which dogged defence of traditions co-exists inharmoniously with daring but undeveloped suggestions sketching new perspectives. Theological judgement in this context may not be able to arrive at substantive conclusions and may take the form of developing a culture of tolerance, openness, flexibility, with a view to forming judgements, eventually, on the richest possible basis.
Gift and Debt: Uneasy Themes
In reflection on gift and debt, likewise, a suspension of conclusive judgement may be necessary, as we take cognizance of the new material coming in from anthropological studies. The notions of gift and debt are pervasive in traditional dogmatic and moral theology, though they are not thematized and analysed for their own sakes. They surface in the play of theological reflection, as they do in everyday life, at a level that comes before methodical, systematic thinking. Indeed, it seems that complete methodological mastery of the rhetoric of gift and debt and its bearings is unattainable, because these topics keep on emerging in new forms with each new situation of giving or receiving, obliging or being obliged, that we encounter. Even if all the methodological consequences of anthropological study of gift and debt and of philosophical reflection on this study had been fully taken aboard by theology, the topics would still continue to offer a challenge to our finesse as we seek to deploy them in a seasoned theological judgement. A preacher will play with the harmonics of gift and debt in various styles, and it might be thought that they are notions best left to the tact of the preacher as he or she addresses a concrete occasion, rather than being reduced to some single standard account. Certainly a general theory of gift or debt, like the general theories of such topics as grace, merit, atonement in classical theology, can be no more than a rough guide to the intelligent use of these motives in concrete contexts. The role of theological judgement lies between formally constituted theories and the spontaneity of the preacher, critically reassessing the former and seeking to provide more reflective horizons for the latter.
We have tended to think of gift and debt as simple, self-evident notions, but the anthropological and philosophical debates have revealed unsuspected complexity in them. A first question for theological judgement is to decide how important it is for theology to take account of these complications. It might be thought that a simple understanding of gift and debt is quite sufficient for the purposes of theology. However, given the tangled history of discussions of such themes as sin, grace, atonement, justification, merit, sacrifice in theology, it looks as if a basic clarification of the notions of gift and debt is needed in order to sift and renew this heritage. René Girard’s reflections on sacrifice, though widely questioned by anthropologists, have had a wholesome effect on thinking about the Atonement, enabling this doctrine to be reanchored in the realm of social, anthropological dynamics. Luminous anthropological discoveries about gift and debt should have a similar impact within theology.
Whether such luminous discoveries were in evidence at the 2004 Castelli colloquium is not clear. But the very exercise of rehearsing the philosophy and anthropology of gift and debt could not fail to touch a theological nerve, at a level more intimate than theory or dogma, reaching into that realm in which we muse uneasily (though perhaps without much sense of urgency), on the roles of obligation and gratuity in human and Christian existence. It was hard to know what were the important questions to ask, and how to orientate oneself in theological thinking about these elusive topics. Among the questions that arose in the discussions and that remained undecided, some were questions of philosophical anthropology: Is human being primarily a condition of debt or of gift? Does ‘you ought’ always imply ‘you can’, or do we face demands whose fulfilment is not at our free disposal? Others touched on the theology of grace: Can God give grace without some prior disposition of the will, be it only a mere ceasing to will evil? Is the demand represented by ‘the face of the other’ itself a grace which it is impossible to resist? Should we meditate first on the superabundance of divine gifts, which cannot be measured by human lack or need, or should we rather start with our condition of need and of default before the requirements of the Law so as then to understand the grace of Jesus Christ as the solution of our problems? Can philosophy found itself or does it always remain obliged to a religious datum and to a religious goal; that is, is it legitimate or possible to conceive an autonomous natural order of philosophical reasoning, or should we rather insist that philosophy is always a quest for wisdom led by grace? .
Our discussion of these issues alluded in a rather desultory way to the classical loci of dogmatic theology: the themes of creation, nature and grace, original sin, predestination, atonement, Law and Gospel, faith and reason. The topics of gift and debt are confusing for students of anthropology, in our own daily lives, and in our reading of Scripture. In a Christian reflection on them we reach automatically for dogmatic points of reference, though with a growing sense that their value is merely provisional, or even that to invoke these topics is a question-begging move, for a radical thinking of gift and debt should jolt our thinking out of these ruts. Though useful and unavoidable, the dogmatic references fell short of the human and religious experiences of gift and debt, to which theology can do justice only by thinking through and beyond the dogmatic heritage in order to reconfigure the landscape of theological reflection.
‘All that we have is the gift of the Creator; in particular we enjoy the gift of salvation; for both we owe a debt of gratitude’. Such representations are jaded, and difficult to repristinate. Dogmas and theologoumena serve to map what is called ‘the economy of salvation’, but the notion of salvation has itself become difficult to define, and our inherited maps presuppose definitions of salvation that no longer impose themselves as self-evident. The refocusing of our ideas of salvation, or whatever we may now choose to call it, will call for new modes of mapping the economy of salvation, and in these new mappings dogma may no longer be the primary frame of reference.
When, today, we seek to orient ourselves within the economy of Christian revelation as exhibited in the New Testament, we may be led to place the emphases in different places than in past accounts. The text offers no firm dogmatic landmarks, but a congeries of stories and sermons of great theological density. One might master the contents of Denzinger’s Enchiridion Symbolorum in a few weeks, but one has never mastered the implications of the New Testament. It is a text that lays claim to us by a thousand forms of gift and a thousand reminders of debt. Often it combines gift and debt in the same sentence: ‘He was delivered for our sins and rose for our justification’ (Rom. 4:25). We seek a map that will master the economy of these texts and allow us to situate the various claims they make on us. Aquinas, building on dogma, offers an objective, ontological map of the procession of creatures from God and their return to him with all the aids of redeeming grace. Luther, taking Galatians and Romans as the key to the structure of the New Testament economy, maps the existential shape of salvation, in which we are first condemned by the Law (the opus alienum Dei), and then granted the free gift of forgiveness (the opus proprium Dei), and in which we are first justified by faith alone and then sanctified and empowered for good works. The practical use of these maps leaves a lot of room for the exercise of judgement, amid ongoing Christian quarrels about the details of the maps and non-Christian scepticism about the value of any such map. Reading the New Testament, we continue to be affected by utterances that do not seem to fit neatly into any map. Even the Sermon on the Mount poses problems to the Lutheran map, which is forced to take this cornerstone of the Gospel as an intensification of the Law. Part of the art of judgement is to recognize the limited and relative value of any maps of the world of spirit.
Gift and debt are strenuous themes for discussion, because they both refer to actions requiring moral judgement and a creative response, actions that cannot be acquitted by some automatic procedure. It is much more relaxing to discuss the economy of salvation in terms of historical events or in terms of a metaphysics of substances and natures. But the themes of gift and debt for that very reason bring us to closer grips with the process or event of salvation. Instead of seeking to map the economy of salvation, we seek to relate to the New Testament events along the paths of gift and debt. Here again judgement comes into play. If we relate to the salvific events in the mode of debt, we end up trapped in a calculus of fear, or even a ‘logic of terror’ as Kurt Flasch calls Augustine’s theology of grace and predestination. Because we live in time and because our projects always outstrip their fulfillment, we are always falling short, always failing to realize our potential. Some interpretations of Christianity acerbate the unease and discontent this situation causes. But the sense of unpaid debt (Schuld) built into the temporal structure of existence should not be confused with guilt (Schuld) in the sense of sin. The struggle to prove oneself by achievements is one form of the insidious Pelagianism that has always impeded reception of the Gospel. The impediment is double: a servile attitude that seeks to placate an internalized super-ego and misses ‘the glorious liberty of the children of God’ (Rom. 8.21); a Promethean closedness against filial dependence and against dialogue with the divine Word. Servility and pride are the two sides of the same coin. But if salvation is a free gift, and if good works are not the means of salvation, anxiety about their quantity is misplaced. The free gift of justification releases us to produce, in creative liberty, ‘something beautiful for God’ and to be sovereign givers rather than slavish debt-payers. If the most creative disciples nonetheless characterize themselves as ‘unprofitable servants’ (Lk 17.10), this is not in a masochistic spirit of self-denigration, but in recognition that all they have achieved is a gift.
In handling the New Testament, we make the practical judgement that in order to receive the gift of salvation we must think of its first and foremost as a gift. This judgement is put forward in opposition to previous judgements that have had distorting effects. It is a judgement that rests on faith in divine generosity. The best warrant of this judgement, apart from that basic faith, is the splendour of what it allows us to see, for the first time, in the biblical texts. Paul’s exposition of the economy of salvation in Romans begins, like Buddhism, with the diagnosis of a painful state, to which it brings the remedy. Indeed, sin and death are to the fore in almost every part of Scripture. But as we allow these themes to touch us, we must keep in view that they are always accompanied by their obverse, the presence of healing grace, and indeed of ‘eternal life’ (Rom. 2.7; Jn 3.16). If the Law shows us in a state of moral debt, debt that cannot be paid, and if our bodies are forced to pay a debt of pain and decay, the salvation that overcomes these conditions does so not in a neat balancing of accounts but in an excess that shifts us to a new horizon. ‘Where sin abounded, grace has superabounded’ (Rom. 5.20).
How does one receive such a gift? Not, surely, by clarifying the logic of the Atonement and of how Christ has paid our debts, nor by speculating on conditions in oneself that make it possible for God to grant the gift. (Such theorizing does not grow organically out of the experience of salvation, but characterizes it from the outside according to a logic of debts and conditions whose appropriateness would have to be called in question.) The free gift of salvation is received by faith. To receive it, one must first be convinced of its reality, and then one can appropriate it gratefully. A religious education will produce these attitudes of faith and thanksgiving on command. But faced with the doubt which suggests that the entire rhetoric of salvation is inflated and illusionary, it becomes necessary to reground one’s conviction in a broad experiential basis. For this one looks beyond the drama of sin and salvation to its wider context in the general experience of created being. The gift of salvation is more credible when related to the fundamental gift of being itself. How do I receive the gift of my being from the hands of a gracious God? How do I give thanks for the being of all creation? These again are questions that offer a wide field of play for theological judgement.
‘Creation’ is the first and fundamental datum in the economy of salvation. Forgetfulness of creation lies at the root of much of the literature of alienation, the philosophy of existential guilt (including perhaps Sein und Zeit), and a Jansenistic theologizing obsessed with sin. To affirm the fundamental goodness of creation, or, with Augustine, the convertibility of being and goodness, and to affirm the gift-quality of creation, under the slogan ‘all is grace’, is a basic Christian instinct, which makes for happiness. But there is something facile about it, which leaves us dissatisfied. We sense that it needs to be translated into more modern language, by confrontation with the often harsh realities of an evolutionary cosmos or by engagement with modern poetic responses to nature. A full-scale development of a Christian doctrine of creation without reference to the texture of the universe as currently known was attempted by Barth in the four fat volumes of the third part of his Dogmatics. It fell dismally flat, all the more so because of its imposition of Christocentric patterns on the creation. In contrast, Teilhard tackled the empirical, evolutionary shape of things, and conjured from them a far more engaging, though equally Christocentric vision.
Above all, celebration of the goodness of creation needs to be confronted with the texture of temporal existence. Against a beatific, quietist metaphysics of divine presence, even the Bible, in the Book of Job or in Ecclesiastes, protests the absence and otherness of God. ‘All is grace’ cannot be a self-evident proposition to be used without further ado as the foundation for further construction. To give thanks for the wonder of being is a wholesome exercise, but it is not a speculative comprehension of the totality of things. Our speech does not stop, and cannot stop, in the posture of such contemplative celebration of what is: ‘As soon as we open our mouths, we speak words that ache with messianic longing, words whose power derives from the fact that they are hollowed out and emptied by the expectation of things to come, words that are “filled” only with “promise”’. The referential nature of language, always pointing beyond itself, as well as its temporal structure, thwart the capacity of Denken to remain in the key of Danken. ‘All is grace’ has a different sense when uttered amid the human condition of lack and deferral, as a act of faith.
Trust in the creator and in providence is the core of biblical faith (and the basic platform for understanding between Judaism and Christianity). It is not an esoteric revelation but consists in the most down-to-earth religious insight. Can the same perhaps be said of the revelation of God in Christ? Rather than thinking of revelation as a beyond of reason that transmits obscure mysteries, we should return to its basic character as recognition of phenomena, notably of the impact of the teachings, deeds and fate of Jesus. The inflated career of ‘revelation’ in twentieth century theology and of ‘mystery’ in older theologies is checked by a renewed acquaintance with ‘Jesus the Jew’ (Geza Vermes) and with the human texture of the Hebrew Bible. Appreciation of these common realities is the beginning of a grateful reception of the gift of God. Our commerce with God, along the pathways of gift and debt, cannot be an unintelligible tissue of miracles and paradoxes, but is simply the realization of basic relationships of humans to the divine, relationships rooted deep in our nature. The superabundance of divine gifts and the awesome revelation of divine glory do not descend on us from a mystifying outside but lodge in the depths of our being. The summit of the New Testament revelation is that the divine dwells in us (Rom. 8:9-17; Jn 15:4-10; 17:21-3), a supreme gift which leaves us with only one debt: ‘we have a debt, but not to the flesh’ (Rom. 8:12), the duty to follow the indwelling Spirit, which is a Spirit of freedom.
Much has been made of the Christian’s duty to practice a pure and selfless giving, but there is a risk in this of confusing the freedom of the Spirit with a sublime ethical performance. If Christians can give selflessly, it is because the Spirit has freed them to do so, not because they have carried out some paradoxical reduction of the giver, the gift and the recipient (Jean-Luc Marion). On this the New Testament speaks in many voices, and does not harp moralistically on a single model of selfless giving without hope of return. The common sense ideas of reward and merit are everywhere in the Gospels. Jesus reproaches the nine lepers with their ingratitude (Lk. 17:17-18), and the parable of the talents suggest that God expects a return on his gifts (Mt. 25:24-7; Lk. 19:21-2). These mundane dimensions of giving well reflect the sense that ‘the earth is the Lord’s’ (Ps. 24.1). If they were banished from Christianity as impure, the entire realm of social justice, of rightly ordered give and take, would disappear as well. Similarly in Mahayana Buddhism the ideal of perfect giving, rooted in the wisdom of emptiness, wherein there is neither giver nor gift nor receiver, co-exists with many other forms of meritorious giving. The issue for theological judgement is not to reduce these various languages of gift to unity and system, but to draw on them in the most skilful and helpful way for creating a culture of generosity and justice today.
Theological judgement is largely a matter of being familiar with the texture of created and redeemed worldhood. There are no dogmatic principles or schemes that can provide that familiarity in encapsulated form. The field of values and creative possibilities that biblically shaped vision of the world opens out invites us to affirmation of grace even amid the tragedies and apparent meaninglessness of life, and this affirmation will always be a novel construction of meaning. When the free play of judgement is stifled, so it the possibility of such creative affirmation. What then replaces it is hollow ideological propaganda, the ill-judged imposition of sacred slogans on the face of redeemed creation.
Philosophy and Theology
Does one need to think theologically in order to give thanks for the gift of being? Can philosophy not discover givenness as the basic characteristic of all beings, and go on to infer the existence of a transcendent Giver? And if philosophy can do this, then it is surely obliged to do it. A philosophy that failed to follow its insight into the givenness of being through to its ultimate theological implications would be a deficent philosophy, as well as lying exposed to the harsh criticism of Paul in Romans 1.21-3.
We recall that in the Middle Ages the groundwork for theological reflection on creation was largely provided by the philosophers; or rather philosophical reflection on the created order was carried out within the space of theological summae or commentaries on the Sentences. But we are not living in the Middle Ages. It is a grace for theology today to have over against it an autonomous philosophy – no longer subordinated as a handmaid, but a true, independent other, inviting to dialogue. The desireable character of this state of affairs is something affirmed in a theological judgement, as is the degree and kind of dialogue with philosophy that the theologian chooses to undertake. (One undesireable aspect of it is that theologians have often preferred to let the emancipated philosophy go its own way, taking no interest in it, with the result that the fabric of theological discourse lacks the conceptual caliber that it possessed in the Middle Ages.)
The scholastic principle of rendering to philosophy the things that are philosophy’s, and to theology the things that are theology’s, is hard to apply at a time of apparently fruitful hybridization (especially in philosophy of religion). A purism that insists on grimly giving to each what is its due and demanding it for each can become an obstacle to insight and flexible thought. One should be conscious of these questions of boundary, which were of more concern to scholastics of the modern period than to the medieval masters, but if one becomes rigid about them one closes oneself to appreciation of authors like Aquinas.
Theologians may continue to claim that philosophy, ideally, should discover the mind’s orientation to God and its incapacity of finding the way to that goal without the assistance of theology. According to Gilson:
Aristotle did not claim that the human intellect was adequate to being qua being and naturally capable of grasping it. He even held the exact opposite since, according to him, being is directly accessible to us only through sense experience and the only being who fully deserves the title, namely, the intelligible, eludes us by its very purity. There would then be matter for revelation in the world of Aristotle.
Philosophy, the theologian may insist, owes it to itself not to close off this ulterior horizon, not to refuse this gift. This scenario is perverted when philosophy reaches out to appropriate the themes of theology as proper to itself. Then revelation is no longer a gift, or is a gift in much the same sense as the other givens of sensible and intellectual experience. Philosophy aspires to generate those givens from its own resources, to grasp them rationally or as embodiments of reason, and it applies the same method to the data of revelation. A naturalistic account of religions as humanly fabricated responses to ultimate mystery leads directly into an historicist rationalism that can master the sequence of religious representations as imperfect forms of the mind’s encounter with the absolute, which can be fully expressed only in purely rational, conceptual terms.
Theologians warn that this imperialist outreach of philosophy threatens not only the integrity of theology but that of philosophy as well. Even at a humbler speculative level, philosophers who use the Gospels or the Torah as a source of insight into such themes as gift and debt should try to recreate that insight in purely rational terms, just as they should if they received similar insights from literature. This is in order to preserve the integrity of philosophy, which is not exegesis or literary criticism. But insofar as religious texts carry authority and the claim to convey divine knowledge, philosophy as such can lend no weight to the claim. It takes from the texts only what philosophical reason can legitimately take, and leaves the rest to theology. The Christ of the philosophers is an inherently problematic construct, for philosophy has no business speaking of Christ qua Christ.
These protocols are more often breached than observed, and no protests can stop a Leibniz, a Hegel or a Schelling from trespassing on theological ground when they have a mind to it. Perhaps this, too, is a situation that theologians can welcome. For when they find their themes taken over by philosophy they are challenged to identify what is irreducibly theological in them. Of course what is not irreducibly theological can be yielded with relief to secular scholars: to historians who trace the development of Christian ideas about such matters as sin, death, and purgatory; to philologists who take charge of the patristic literary heritage; to critics who deal with the Bible and Christian classics as literature; to sociologists and anthropologists who study Christian history in terms of such issues as gender, the body, power, and institutions of gift, debt and sacrifice; to analytical philosophers who deal not only in natural theology but in the logical problems involved in classical theological conundrums. But a troubling rivalry arises when philosophers or literary critics, with no formation in exegesis and historical theology, launch into theological discourse as they seek to fill a void they sense in the theological world. This has a stimulating effect, but it does not establish truly comprehensive horizons within which to exercise the play of theological judgement. When such lay theologizing is done under the title of philosophy, the integrity of two disciplines is at risk. But instead of merely countering this risk with a nervous insistence on what is owed to the proper identities of theology and philosophy, theologians should first welcome the element of gift in these performances, and then seek to draw from their own resources the return gift that the philosophers, by the audacity of their ‘theological turn’, reveal them to owe to a questioning world.
 John D. Caputo, ‘Derrida and Marion’, in Jeffrey Bloechl, ed., Religious Experience and the End of Metaphysics (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003), pp. 119-34; here pp. 130-1.
 Étienne Gilson, Jean Duns Scot (Paris: Vrin, 1952), p. 17.
 As Jean-Luc Marion does; compare his ‘Esquisse d’un concept phénoménologique du don.’ (Archivio di Filosofia 62 , pp. 75-94), with the later treatments in Étant donné: Essai d'une phénoménologie de la donation (Presses Universitaires de France, 1997) and ‘La raison du don’ (Philosophie 78 , pp. 3-32). The latter essay betrays a certain exhaustion of the phenomenological approach to gifts and gifthood; see my critique, ‘The Gift: A Trojan Horse in the Citadel of Phenomenology?’ in a forthcoming volume on Marion’s theory of the gift, edited by Ian Leask.