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Document Details :
Title: Theologie im Zeichen des Nihilismus
Subtitle: Herausforderungen der katholischen Theologie zu Beginn des 21. Jahrhunderts
Author(s): APPEL, Kurt
Volume: 1 Issue: 1 Date: 2010
Although religion has increasingly become a subject of discussion, theology is rarely mentioned in public discourse. Theological discussions in the public sphere are often held within a philosophical framework, whereby what characterizes these discussions is the erosion of the traditional distinction between theism and atheism and the fact that the crisis of the former is also taking hold of the latter. According to the author, seemingly unbroken approaches to theodicy – as they appear to arise in Islamic contexts, but stand out against theism via brusque polemics with the return of naturalistic atheism – conceal a more fundamental phenomenon, namely a nihilism that dominates the mindset of modern Europe and expresses itself, inter alia, in naturalism, and against which Islam and other religious fundamentalisms can be seen as a backlash. The main part of the essay is devoted to determining, as a central task of theology, the challenges that nihilism poses for theodicy, the issue of time, and the inquiry concerning man in society. The point of departure in this paper is the view that human existence is fundamentally characterized by ‘deprivation’: All attempts by man to find a perfect identity of one’s own subjectivity in this world are doomed to fail. In the end, man’s mortality signifies the essential impossibility of any final fulfilment and self-identity. Mythological attempts try to fill this privation with fixed images. The ‘metaphysical’ attempt of a certain interpretation of Parmenides represents the ultimate of mythologies, which, by filling this deprivation with ‘complete’ being and by its radicalization and perpetuation of nihilism, replaces deprivation with an empty and totalitarian nothingness. This becomes especially visible in the care of the dead, where, in modern times, their absence is ‘filled’ with the image of absolute emptiness. Significant ways of expressing this crunching nihilism can be found in the conception of a perfect machine world, determined by and consisting of atomic moments that allow no ‘exits’ or individual meanings of their own, as well as the chronological concept of time, which loses itself in the infinity of nothingness and renders history meaningless. The ambition to fill this ‘deprivation’ finds its political parallel in the claim to power of the ‘Baale’ (masters) of this world, which escalates within nihilism to the totalitarian claim of an all-disintegrating power of economic coercions. In contrast to this, the task of theology consists in the attempt to show that the passing of JHWH (Ex 33,17-34; Mk 6,45-52) in the Bible denotes exactly this deprivation of absolute conspicuousness and identifiability, which is first and foremost capable of opening up a spiritual dimension. In this manner theology has to introduce into the societal discourse the name of God as a taboo for and a critique of any human claim of totalitarian power and to disengage the ‘nothingness’ of being and meaning disclosing deprivation from the nihil negativum of nihilism.