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Title: The Question of Universality
Subtitle: A Response to Francis Schüssler Fiorenza
Author(s): DE MAESENEER, Yves
Journal: Louvain Studies
Volume: 39    Issue: 2   Date: 2015-2016   
Pages: 141-154
DOI: 10.2143/LS.39.2.3159733

Abstract :
In this response to Francis Schüssler Fiorenza’s 'Foundational Theology as Political and Sacramental Public Theology', we will investigate from a contemporary theological-ethical perspective what exactly is to be identified as the key question for theology in the public sphere today and which way forward is to be pursued. While Fiorenza, coming from a Habermasian universalist background, calls public theology to direct its orientation towards the importance of particularity, embodied in concrete narratives and symbolic praxis, our contribution, written by someone belonging to the postmodern generation, argues that the challenge we are currently facing is rather the opposite: how to discern any dimension of universality amidst all diversity and differences we now take for granted? First, we will introduce a provocative essay by the French philosopher Alain Badiou to state the problem we see with a public theology tending towards a form of particularistic identity politics – practical corollary of the narrative turn. Second, we will illustrate the current theological generation’s different point of departure and concerns by presenting the recent moral-theological retrieval of natural law thinking, which in Fiorenza’s perspective is discredited in favor of a turn to symbolic or sacramental praxis. A tentative comparison of thematic issues of the journals Communio and Concilium, brings to the fore the question of which shape this retrieval of natural law might take and suggests how the quest for a complex notion of universality is a necessary complement to sacramental or symbolical praxis for a renewed foundational public theology.

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