Sunday, August 08, 2010

Contra Critchley @ The Stone

Over at The Stone, Simon Critchley obliquely argues for the faith of the faithless under the rigors of love. In a rather Derridean fashion, he seems to suggest that somehow "traditional" believers have it easy, and that those who have faith but lack a transcendent object are somehow more faith-full, more radically trusting, because they lack "security" and "guarantee" for their (faithless, "nondenominational") faith.

But tell me again: how is it, exactly, that, say, the Christian's faith is "guaranteed" and "secured?" How does doctrinal specification take the heat off the undecidability of faith? Do you simply mean that they have hope? That seems quite a bit different than a secure guarantee. Even the hope for a "reward" (which, let's note for the record, is not generally the way Christians talk, despite what you might guess from journalistic sketches)--such a hope would be constantly subject to undecidability, even if it holds out hope for a kind of eschatological verification. But in the here-and-now, such verification is not forthcoming.

And it's not at all clear that doctrinal specification somehow lets faith off the hook of undecidability. It can, in fact, raise the stakes. Given the daily deluge of both horrendous, global evils and local, close-to-home heartbreak, faith that God is in Christ reconciling the world to himself is a belief that requires a certain madness, Kierkegaard would say. I don't see how some generic faith in "love" is any more difficult.

Critchley's argument, while rightly noting that those without "denominational" faith are nonetheless believers, bites off more than it warrants when he attempts to then valorize "faithless" faith as somehow more faith-full. He continues to work with a tired dichotomy and straw man: the faithless are portrayed as more faithful because they're less secure, they take more risks. But nowhere is this claim warranted; and I think one could straightforwardly argue that the opposite is true.