A Theology of Nonsense (Hardcover)
There is within all theological utterances something of the ridiculous, perhaps more so in Christianity, given its proclivity for the paradoxical and the childlike. Yet, few theologians are willing to discuss that consent to the Christian doctrine often requires a faith that goes beyond reason or does not exclusively identify with it. There seems to be a fear that the association of theology with the absurd will give fuel to the skeptic's refrain: ""you can't seriously believe in all that nonsense."" This book considers the legitimacy of the skeptic's objection and rather than trying to explain away points of logical contradiction, the author explores the possibility that an idea can be contrary to rationality and also true and meaningful. The study involves the systematic analysis of central stylistic features of literary nonsense using Lewis Carroll's famous Alice stories as exemplar. The project culminates in the setting up of a nonsense theology by considering the practical and evangelical ramifications of associating Christian faith with nonsense literature; and conversely, the value of relating theological principles to the study of literary nonsense. Ultimately, the research suggests that faith is always a risk and that a strictly rational apologetic misrepresents the nature of Christian truth. ""If this doesn't disturb the frowning unibrow on our pallid hyper-rationalist foreheads, nothing will. I read it as an extended meditation on Chesterton's insight that a maniac isn't someone who has lost his reason, but someone who has lost everything except his reason. Gabelman, reminding us how there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in a world of iron logic, shows the value of nonsense without taking refuge in nonsense."" --Michael Ward, Fellow of Blackfriars Hall, Oxford, and Professor of Apologetics, Houston Baptist University ""Josephine Gabelman exhibits a high-spirited belief that theological redescriptions of the world can disclose that world to us more fully. She combines a Wildean delight in pointing out the failure of narrowly conceived 'realism' as a literary method (because of the way it starves the human imagination's innate and essential striving for mythopoetic meaning) with a performance of something like what Dietrich Bonhoeffer once called 'hilaritas': in her case, a confidence that, in its radicalness, a Christian mythopoesis discloses the world's truest and surest goods. It is a bold and exhilarating book."" --Ben Quash, Professor of Christianity and the Arts, King's College London ""A provocative and probing exploration of the senses in which Christian theology, by being faithful to its central premise and point of departure, is bound always to appear 'nonsensical' to those wedded not just to particular rationalities, but to 'rationality' as such as a primary desideratum and aspiration to be privileged above all others. The author demonstrates persuasively that reason in its highest mode may be something rather different, and better suited to the theological circumstance."" --Trevor Hart, Professor, University of St. Andrews ""This book begins with an invocation of Jane Austen at her wittiest, on the matter of balls and boredom . . . One might say that Josephine Gabelman has more boldly suggested than anyone hitherto that the Christian life, if it is true to the Christian vision, should be more like a ball than a conversation--however fascinating."" --John Milbank, Author, Theology and Social Theory Josephine Gabelman teaches Philosophy and Religion at Eastbourne College, East Sussex. She received her doctorate from the University of St Andrews after completing a degree in Theology at the University of Cambridge, Peterhouse.
Josephine Gabelman teaches Philosophy and Religion at Eastbourne College, East Sussex. She received her doctorate from the University of St Andrews after completing a degree in Theology at the University of Cambridge, Peterhouse.