05 July 2002

What three questions have haunted my life the most? Not an easy question, but a good one to ask oneself, no doubt. Instead of single questions, I'll suggest three areas of interest and the sets of questions they each produce:

Suffering and redemption. I've never been able to shake off the wrenching conversations between Ivan and Alyosha in Dostoyevski's The Brothers Karamazov or the redemptive suffering of the pastor in Bernanos' Diary of the Country Priest. By faith I know that Jesus Christ has entered into every human suffering and remains there present by his Spirit with those who find themselves there too, in order that suffering might be redeemed. Christ has been gassed in Auschwitz, raped in prison, left weeping as a widow, and lost in the darkness of Alzheimer's.

But what does this mean for me and for those whom I love? How can the presence of Christ be made known more clearly? How can I re-tell my own story and narrate the stories of others so that Christ might appear as an actor in those stories, as the one who was there all along? How can I more effectively be one manifestation of that divine-human presence in suffering, whether in the touch of a hand, the caress of a cheek, or the sharing of tears? How can I seek to know and make known the truth that, in the words of St. Therese of Lisieux, "grace is everywhere"?

The fragmentation and sectarianism of Christ's church. The Christian church is in shambles, new denominations and sects popping up all the time, many of which have little understanding of the historic Christian faith and deny themselves the gracious presence of Christ as he has promised to make himself known in Word and Sacrament. This is scandalous.

How have things gotten so bad? Is there any path to greater unity? How can the Gospel of reconciliation be known when we all break bread at separate Tables? How are we to be known by our love, when vitriol and invective are our stock and trade? Why is it that so many Christians seem to fear other Christians and resist any attempts to build bridges or refuse to hear what others are trying to say?

The interstices between trinitarian theology, ontology, epistemology, covenant, word, and sacrament. This is probably my primary professional interest as a philosopher. Post-modernism provides a unique space, beyond the "modern", in which the riches of the Christian tradition--patristic, medieval, and reformational--can be retreived and renewed in order to speak the Gospel more clearly and make Christ known among and through his people.

How can philosophy, together with theology, assist in this task? How can the history of the descent into the modern be narrated in order to better read the past and strip theology of its modernist accretions? How does the doctrine of the Trinity--which says that ultimate reality is relational and that divine truth exists in only in community--generate an ontology and epistemology? How is this trinitarian contribution to philosophy worked out properly among the covenant people, particularly in language (Word) and action (Sacrament)?

These three sets of questions, I think, would be those which have "haunted me" the most.