THE PHYSIOLOGY OF FAITH: A Theory of Theological Relativity by

THE PHYSIOLOGY OF FAITH: A Theory of Theological Relativity

Email this review


A brilliant, baffling, impossibly concentrated essay on the structure of religion--a sort of prologomenon to any future (Christian) theology. Actually Dixon spends more than half the book talking about non-theological subjects: language, culture, the imagination, etc. The thinking behind this is that since God can only be known within the framework of human symbolism, religious discourse must grow out of a broad interpretation, what Dixon calls a ""physics,"" of our symbol-making activity. Like all other intellectual disciplines, theology in the modern age presupposes the truth of ""relativity"" (not relativism), i.e., the fact that no object or event exists in itself or is in any way definable outside of its relations. Thus, everything we say about ""that great metaphor,"" God, derives from irreducibly symbolic encounters--with a nonetheless genuine reality. This, as Dixon admits, ""dissolves Christianity into the reality of all the gods."" Christ (and Yahweh too, for that matter) is as real as other gods, and no more real than they. A theology of this sort, unsurprisingly, strives to exorcise the ""demon of the absolute."" It abandons the ""declarative and imperative modes"" of more traditional religious thinkers. It recognizes no other authority except its own commitment. So far, so good (although one wonders what, specifically, a Dixonian preacher would tell his congregation, of a Sunday morning). But Dixon expounds his often rich and allusive message in a series of knotty aphorisms (e.g., ""Love is the greatest virtue because it is the means whereby time is translated into space"") that strain the reader's patience. Appallingly abstract, absurdly ambitious, but a bold creative effort nonetheless.

Pub Date: Sept. 5th, 1979
Publisher: Harper & Row