By Andrew Louth

This booklet examines the effect of the Enlightenment on theology, arguing that its legacy didn't profoundly have an effect on the significance of culture; that the methods of older theology carry a stunning relevance; and that the harmony among theology and spirituality is once more discerned.

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Extra info for Discerning the Mystery: An Essay on the Nature of Theology

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52 ) taken up himself, and which he regards as shedding a great deal of light on the nature of theology. A series of works, beginning with his Theological Science, seeks to develop this insight. What we find is not simply an attempt to assimilate theology to the exact sciences; rather what we find is an attempt to derive some illumination for the theological task from the way in which modern science (and in particular modern physics) has had to grapple with the problem of epistemology, that is, the problem of understanding how knowledge is arrived at and what that knowledge is.

The particular element of Polanyi’s thought we shall concentrate on is his notion of the ‘tacit dimension’. At the heart of Polanyi’s insight here is his recognition of what one might call the mysteriousness of our engagement with the outside world. The kind of empiricism that often underpins the scientific or experimental method assumes that our perception of the external world is relatively straightforward and unproblematic: that we simply register impressions from the external world and organize them by a process of interpretation.

In all these cases we find that a man is able to do something, for instance, riding a bicycle or swimming, by integrating a vast number of particular perceptions, without understanding why what he is doing achieves the desired result. He turns corners on a bicycle without at all knowing that this depends more on the way he tilts the bicycle than on his turning of the front wheel. One learns by experience to behave in a certain way, to respond to what is happening sensitively and effectively. Visual perception too is not a matter of simply registering visual sensation.

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