Let’s mentally immerse ourselves in the Germany of the early 19th Century. The Holy Roman Empire was falling apart; the authority of the Church had already lost in the years of modern education; Darwin’s insights have had disproved the creation story of the church; Bayern imported the steam engine from England; then the 1848 revolution marked a new private sector revolution.
Never before had a mine-shaft been able to go so deep to pump water up; never had you been able to transport goods via land as fast and cheaply. The massification and mechanization of goods and production methods were advancing everyday .
Everywhere, factories produced and consumed more and more goods. More manpower was required but they were degraded as those who used to be farmers were now part of a workers’ army, languishing between chimneys and sooty tenements. The living conditions of the common man were changing for the worse.
This raises new ethical questions to which the philosophers of the modern age are looking for new answers. In the Far Eastern philosophy, as is the case with Arthur Schopenhauer. In nature and its relentless preferential preservation of the more powerful, as it prescribes Nietzsche. In the inevitability of a proletarian revolution, as Marx and Engels predicted.
Finally, two World Wars and the mass destruction of human lives in the concentration camps have concluded the achievements of the industrial age in a sad way. The survivors were appalled to ask: Which « universal soul » and which « Absolute Spirit » that Hegel proclaimed, could still stand behind these facts? Or, phrased more specifically: the corollary of the Enlightenment, is it ultimately disastrous ?
Modern thinkers in the 20th century fault the western system for the downward moral developments that created the colonizing behaviors and propose that we must now consider the worldviews from other cultural blocks as [at least] equally valid as the great Western one. The common sense and the scientific method behind the western developments is no longer THE way to guide us forward.
But as we come to terms with this intellectual milestone called post-modernism, a new problem ensues: if we are to predicate our Zeitgeist upon so many truths at the same time, we should find ourselves in dilemmas and doubts all the time.
With exemplary thinkers of the past 200 years, let’s encourage more philosophizing.
Chad Wellmon, Becoming Human: Romantic Anthropology and the Embodiment of Freedom, The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2010, 326pp., $84.95 (hbk), ISBN 9780271037349.
The 19th century German Romanticism‘s reception of Kantian Anthropology includes an important response (by positively viewing Kant‘s inherent tensions and paradoxes as bases for « different forms of knowledge ») to the empirically informed Kant that is gaining prominence today.
They include Schleiermacher, Novalis, Goethe, Fülleborn, Platner, Wezel, Pölitz, and Schmid.
The continental tradition must resist empiricists‘ predisposition to read Kant’s Affective Ethics » as purely formal. They hold the tenet that « freedom is not a metaphysical discovery but a practical disposition that needs anthropological insights to guide and cultivate individuals » (10).
Gerrit Neven, ‘The Time that Remains: Hans-Georg Geyer in the Intellectual Debate about a Central Question in the Twentieth Century’ in Theology as Conversation: The Significance Of Dialogue In Historical And Contemporary Theology: A Festschrift For Daniel L. Migliore, Bruce McCormack and Kimlym J. Bender eds., Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2009, pp. 67-81
Whereas initially Nietzsche and Marx only proclaim the death of God, Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze proclaim with equal force the death of a man (cf. Michel Foucault, The Order of Things, 1994, esp. the last chapter, and Gilles Deleuze, The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque, 1993).
Following Barth, Geyer gives the Parousia the determinative role concerning various theological aspects of reconciliation. The Messiah’s having drawn near is the precondition of a future-oriented and therefore a dialogical mode of thinking. The Parousia points to a nearness of salvation that does not supernaturally demolish time and history, but rather breaks open time and history from within [messianically] by turning to the risky expectation of the Messiah, for whom each moment in time is an open entrance.
This expectation leads to intensive forms of discussion and debate with not just theologians but also with [critical and phenomenological] thinkers like Nietzsche, Husserl, Heidegger , Horkheimer, Bloch, Sartre, and so on. The focus is the humanity of Christ.
(Hans-Georg Geyer [1929-1999] studied in Frankfurt during 1950-1954 with Hans-Georg Gadamer, Max Horkheimer, Theodor W. Adorno, and Wolfgang Kramer before he turned to the study of systematic theology (at Gottingen, Berlin, Wuppertal, and Bonn.)
As early as 1962, Geyer declared his agreement with Walter Benjamin’s Theological-Political Fragment. According to Benjamin, only the Messiah himself will consummate all that is happening historically, in the sense that only he himself will redeem and consummate the creation in its relation to the messianic. Therefore, nothing historical can relate itself to something messianic on its own account. With this, he distanced himself from the idea that historical convictions, scientific achievements, or political opinions have in themselves the potential to make “the jump-ahead” to a time which is qualitatively new and different. Our knowledge is determined by economic and political factors. The desire to know is driven by a force consisting only of what can be [pragmatically or in a utilitarian manner] calculated. This [social/structural] force and the history of freedom contradict each other (analogous to the tension between poststructuralism and structuralism/rationalism).
Geyer here introduces the topic of faith in the post-liberal sense. He says, “faith, getting involved with and trusting upon the message concerning Christ, is at the same time radically renouncing the desire to discover the truth of the proclamation and past history”.
This criticism of metaphysics (of absolute certainly) is also part of the thinking projects of Moltmann and Pannenberg, for whom the future became the paradigm of transcendence. But both of them have felt that they have to leave Barth behind for they deem Barth’s system closed and ahistorical. Geyer does not share this view.
Geyer inherits early Barth’s dialectical theology. He is convinced that our time is an implication of the Parousia of Jesus Christ. His intensive debate with Moltmann and Pannenberg is concerning the epistemology of hope. That is to say, if God’s new coming in the Parousia is an implication of the concrete identity of Jesus Christ, then how do we find his identity? He doubts whether for Moltmann and Pannenberg “the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ” are constitutive–and as opposed to merely illustrative— of the exegesis of biblical texts and of the practices of the Christian community. For according to Geyer, Moltmann and Pannenberg’s definition of history and Parousia did not clearly distinguish “the future as an end that we should strive for” (the anthropocentric) from “the future as the goal of God’s exclusive act” (the theocentric). His ultimate criticism is that the theology of Moltmann and Pannenberg is enclosed by a metaphysical correlation between God and the world. Transcendence is devoured by immanence.
To solve this problem, Geyer here uses Husserl’s concepts of protention (the succession of the historical accordance and its end) and retention. The protention in Jesus denotes the continuity between the character of Jesus’ conduct and his fate—death. According to Geyer, this historical fate can undergo an intensification or an ontological deepening “only by the event of the meta-historical resurrection in Easter” [out of theological necessity].
By retention, it means when we look back, the attempts to ignore this fact or to place this death within an unduly higher framework can only lead to an idealization of his death or a degradation of it to an empirical fact (which is an unduly anthropologized theology full of liberal residues). Namely, the declaration that this historical death implies a [whether phenomenological, hermeneutic, or ontological] jump-ahead should be fiducially rooted only in the meta-historical domain, in [the post-Easter] remembrance, which runs backwards. This solution does not have to leave behind the aporia of this [historical] death. For at any rate, doctrinal or impersonal statements are not possible in the face of this death. Anamnesis and commemoration of this death can only give us non-metaphysical and personal truth. The redemptive history is inherently incomplete if all we have is this death of Jesus.
On the other hand, knowledge concerning the identity of this Jesus can only be acquired by participation in the process of the actuality of this meaning question in the medium of human language. That is why the question concerning the meaning of the cross is characterized by an infinite openness— as opposed to the enclosure of totalitarian metaphysics. For Geyer, the hope is the qualitative feature of faith, which is a prerequisite for new non-metaphysical mode of thinking.
In accorance with the nature of hope, Parousia concerns the future of which no one has sure knowledge of the time and the hour— it is beyond human calculation: Although we are vitalized by images of the future (e.g., Luke 21:7-33), these do not lead us into the future itself.
There is a remarkable parallelism in the thinking of Geyer and Badiou about metaphysics. Badiou establishes that « the death of God » and « the death of man » go hand-in-hand in the ethos of 20th century philosophy and theology. He calls them “the joint disappearances of Man and God”.
On one hand there is in the 20th century philosophy the movement that radicalizes Kant’s approach by enslaving man in his own emancipation (i.e., German idealism: our [finite] subjectivity creates our world). This line runs from Kant via Fichte and Sartre (man is condemned to freedom; man is programmed to be a man and cannot be freed from this program). On the other hand, there is the way of the radical anti-humanism of Nietzsche and Foucault: the absence of God is one of the names for the absence of man.
As Foucault (he criticizes Levinas and Derrida’s anthropology as religion or theology), Badiou does not think this either or situation leaves room for postmodern thinkers like Levinas or Derrida. For Levinas’ appeal to God’s radical otherness in order to safeguard the otherness of the human other falls short to attest to a radical alterity. (This means that in order to be intelligible, ethics requires that the other should be in some sense carried by a principle of alterity which transcends mere finite experience. cf. Badiou, Ethics , 22). As for Derrida’s deferral of presence (différance), a sort of religion of messianic delay, Badiou sees something too artificial in its ramification upon the relation between philosophy and religion (cf. P. Hallward, Badiou: A Subject to Truth , 157). Postmodernity has become boring.
Badiou searches for what is empty and open in a time when the [human and divine] subject has disappeared. There is no other possibility than to accept this aporia, this emptiness, and to retain a prospect to point beyond death. For Geyer, this means the resurrection and the coming of the Messiah— within the perspective of time. Biblically speaking this is the time that remains, a time of intense expectation (cf. Isa 21:11). 
Giorgio Agamben, Benjamin’s disciple, in The Time That Remains: A Commentary on the Letter to the Romans declares “what remains is what separates us from the Messiah”. More than the Messiah’s coming close is the Messiah himself.
 The polemical context which Geyer (and possibly Benjamin) set out to argue against includes the following features (i.e., wrong assumptions):
3) the totalitarian features of modernity in the 1960s (for which Geyer thinks Horkheimer’s treatment in the 1930s is exemplary. He lost faith but has not abandoned the project of human transformation of the society into a utopia).
4) reciprocal freedom: the promises that somebody gives to someone else are ruled by a relationship of absolutely free reciprocity and by a reciprocal freedom.
 Here one may become somewhat apologetical over against Badiou. Badiou teaches with Nietzsche that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is dead. According to Nietzsche, faith in God as a supernatural power in general will no longer have any real influence, since God is not ascribed any power anyway. There is no such metaphysical God. However, it is precisely this faith that would be necessary to determine the convictions and the actions of man. This may be the case, Geyer answers Nietzsche. But even if God has lost his power over man and that super-sensual heaven has no meaning for the sensual earth, it does not necessarily follow the death of Christian theology.
Through Barth, Geyer has found a way forward: Christian theology has the task to lead faith out of its dogmatic identification with the concept of religion that is still metaphysically determined. Geyer rejects Nietzsche’s analysis that lumps together the God of metaphysics and the God of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Unlike the metaphysical God, the God of the Bible can die.
On the basis of this God’s death, people in faith received the power to be really earthly finite and to be able to die. In the Christian faith, God’s identity can only be thought of appropriately when we take as point of departure the view that the death of Jesus Christ on the cross is God’s act on behalf of all.
The occurrence of cross in history demands remembrance and mimesis: the imitation of God in the praxis of love for one’s neighbor. God is a name that has to be continued in a passionate plea to practice love, as opposed to a concept that asks for ideological representation. Remembrance implies mimesis, through which we anticipate the coming of God in the Parousia.
但是在近代許多人看來，這個把聖經當「百科全書」和「律法書」來貼聖俗標籤的做法是過時的。更正確地說，道成肉身的耶穌基督，既聖也俗。被人類作者用人類文字系統和人類文明記載方式留下來的「聖經」，既聖也俗。如果按照John Milbank的看法，根本就沒有什麼「講道中不能講哲學、心理學、社會學、歷史這些『人學』」，也不會說「John R. Stott 味如嚼蠟、完全排斥後現代解構理論、不偏不倚的宣講才是百分百按照正義分解上帝的道這種說法」。他甚至更大膽地說，只有在教會中才能做出真正的政治學、社會學、經濟學等等。重點是靠神的智慧與聖靈，叫一些的知識—考古學、生物學、數學—都能被用來闡明聖經，引人歸向聖經中所指示的那位耶穌基督。
確實，今日的傳道人在聖經上所下的功夫必不可少。我們從前的華人教會界資源不足、篳路藍縷。前段所提的林道亮前院長也是忠心主僕，告誡我們不可在無法清楚透析上帝旨意之下貪圖人間學問的捷徑，在講壇上引證失敗又類比錯誤，導致上帝的話語受虧損、福音的信息被稀釋、甚至扭曲。甚至，對普世基督教有相當關懷的今日基督教雜誌（Christianity Today）資深主任編輯Mark Galli，也在近日一篇文章中提及：當前天主教講壇的「缺少福音靈魂的泛道德化信息」是他所難以接受的（“moralistic, lift-yourself-up-by-your-willpower motivational speech, combined with a fair bit of guilt”）。
我們的釋經學更勢必要變得堅固嚴謹，不囿於亞歷山大學派（The Alexandrian approach to exegesis）或安提阿學派（Antiochene methods of interpretation）的極端。慢慢我們就會發現「字面與寓意」、「一般與特殊」、「字義和句法」、「信仰的基督—歷史的耶穌」這幾組概念之間，更多時候不是二元辯證的對立關係，而是存在著詮釋螺旋（hermeneutical spiral）這樣交叉解釋的向心性關係，甚至是不可分割的附隨關係（supervenience）。